Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Batman's World

Let’s babble a bit about Batman, OK? OK! 


Over in the main DC Comics title, Batman is off to find Bane or more to the point, the Psycho Pirate who is working for Bane. In the previous arc, eager young super heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl got their heads messed with by the Psycho Pirate who was in turn doing dastardly things for the Suicide Squad. Gotham, alas, got dead for his trouble. Gotham Girl is alive but really deep into some serious psychosis and the only one to get her out of it is that bad ol’ Psycho Pirate. 

So Batman assembles a team from Arkham Asylum including Arnold Wesker, the erstwhile Ventriloquist who is currently bereft of the Scarface dummy who usually runs that particular criminal show. Also joining the team is Punch and Jewelee because every team need some Harley Quinn level crazy. And also signing up is Bronze Tiger, former brainwashed pawn of the League of Assassins. Finally, Batman recruits Catwoman who it appears while I wasn’t looking killed 237 people. Apparently she had a really good reason for doing that but still… 237 people? That’s a lot to answer for. And in fact, Selina Kyle is facing the death penalty for her role in those deaths. 

A well adjusted bunch Batman has pulled together. 

Anyway, the plan appears to be for Batman to get shot out of the sky and tossed by Bane into the cell that Bane himself occupied for most of his childhood. OK, not sure where this plan is going but Batman gets out of the cell in a few hours because he’s that awesome. And everything’s going OK until someone betrays Batman and the plan. The nutcase bereft of the dummy that calls the shots, right? No. OK, the crazy couple with weaponized attention deficit disorder then. No, not them. Brainwashed assassin? Nah. 

Well, it can’t be Catwoman. She loves Batman, she wouldn’t betray- 

Oh, never mind.

Tom King’s 2nd story arc is a twisty labyrinth of the mind and the soul as Batman goes all out to save a young girl’s sanity and her life. It’s the kind of layered, complex storytelling that made King’s reputation on DC’s Omega Men and Marvel’s Vision. 

King’s sequence of Bane’s time in his cell is particularly jarring. Bane is trapped in a cell over the course of his life from age 4 to age 17 which floods each day with the incoming tide and pushes the captive into the iron grate that covers the top of the cell. It’s a brutal, horrifying sequence. 

Mikel Janin provides the art for this latest arc, proving a marked dynamic stylistic contrast to David Finch’s solid pencils and layouts.



While Tom King and Mikel Janin are presenting a very intense and dark Batman, it bears noting that 2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Batman TV series which sits at the other end of the Batman spectrum. Nothing in comic book pop culture has been so universally loved and loathed at the same time as the iconic ABC TV series that debuted in 1966. It was bright and colorful and fun which is a good thing unless you were an obsessive fanboy who thought Batman should be less Caped Crusader and more Dark Knight Detective. 

The thing is, the Batman that we know and love from the words and art of teams like Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, Doug Moench and Kelley Jones, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo and more may never have seen the light of day if not for the boost in attention the Batman TV series brought to the character. 

And let's get real here, as absurd as things may have gotten on that program from 5 decades ago, stranger things have happened to Batman in our beloved comics, even the especially dark and gritty ones. 

At its peak, the Batman TV show was a program with a specific point of view, a world beset by the most bizarre villainy defended by two crime fighters who took their work seriously. Playing it straight is what made the sillier aspects of the show more palatable and helped it to stand the test of time to remain a fondly remembered creation from a simpler time. 

Kudos to Adam West and Burt Ward for bringing their version of Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder to life and in doing so, paving the way for some many other versions of their legend to persist and flourish in comics, movies, games and more.





One significant way the TV show influenced the Batman comics was the introduction of Batgirl. Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, would not make her debut on the Batman show until the 3rd season but producer William Dozier was looking ahead to the future when he asked comics editor Julius Schwartz if he could introduce a new Batgirl character in the comics to lay the groundwork for her television debut. 

So Batgirl made her first appearance in Detective Comics 50 years ago this week. 




So happy birthday, Barbara, AKA Batgirl! 

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And that's a wrap on another day's post. I'll be back tomorrow with another one. Until then, remember to be good to one another.















Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Are You Still Paying Attention?

Sorry, guys and gals, today's topic is politics.

I know, I know. "The election is over, a bunch of stupid people voted for the least competent man ever to be President of the United States. What's done is done. Can't we just leave it be? Wake me up when it's 2020." 

I understand the weariness and the resignation but as I noted in Friday's post, we can't let our political interest vanish just because the election has come and gone. Are you still paying attention? Because there is much to still pay attention to. 


One big concern going into this election was Donald Trump's temperament. Donald has displayed an extremely thin skin and an inability to let any real or perceived slight go by without comment. Unfortunately the predilections of Candidate Trump did not disappear with Nominee Trump and so far, they are still very apparent for President-Elect Trump. A prime example was on display with Trump's reaction to the requested recount in Wisconsin.


Green Party candidate Jill Stein raised enough money to request a recount of votes in that state and has indicated she may pursue recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan as well. What Stein hopes to gain from all this is unknown; her vote count in these respective states was like in the 1% range. But these are states where Hillary Clinton was expected to win per most of the pre-election polling and would likely benefit if there was any significant widespread discovery of any improprieties. 


The Clinton campaign has agreed to participate in the recount even though spokespersons for the campaign have made it clear that they are aware of no voter fraud and do not expect any change in the outcome. But while this is a recount that the Clinton team did not ask for, they kind of don't have much of a choice but to be a part of it, just in case.


It must be particularly hard for Clinton and her supporters as the gap between her and Trump widens in the popular vote count. So far, Clinton has 2.2 million voters over Trump in the popular vote and that number keeps rising. But it's the Electoral College that selects the President and that's where Trump is the winner, like it or not.


For its part, the Obama administration has issued several statements indicating support for the election results and the integrity of the electoral process. I'm sure that deep down in their hearts, Obama's team really wishes really hard that a miracle could happen and America could be delivered from the unfolding horror of a Trump administration. But for at least another couple of months, Obama is still the President and he has to put the best face forward and stand up for how our democracy works.


It is a lesson that his successor has not learned yet.


In response to the recount, Donald Trump has Tweeted that the recount is a scam, the election is done, Trump won and Clinton conceded so it's over, OK? He describes his Electoral College win as a "landslide" and is now claiming victory in the popular vote as well. How the hell can he do that? By dismissing over 2.5 million votes as being cast illegally, specifically votes cast in California, Virginia and New Hampshire. And what is the basis for this accusation? As with most things that comes forth from Trump, nothing based in fact. Fuel for the fire of this particular conspiracy comes from notorious nut case provocateur of the alt-right movement, Alex Jones. Yep, our future President is still getting his "news" from right wing conspiracy websites and talk radio.


He's not getting his news from intelligence briefings. Incoming Presidents have access to daily reports on what's going on in the world but Trump has only availed himself of this information twice. The Candidate begat the Nominee who begat the President-Elect and nothing has changed: Donald Trump still has an aversion to facts.


And while Trump is undermining the very electoral process that he won and avoiding intelligence briefings on what is really going on in the world, Trump continues to build his government with cronies adhering to hard right conservative ideologies. His nomination for Secretary of Education has never attended public school nor have her kids. His choice for Secretary of Energy is a major player in the oil industry. His choice for the Secretary of Defense is vehemently anti-Muslim with a "shoot first, don't even bother with questions later" mind set.


Yes, the election is over but the work to resist the efforts of those who would undermine our country and its government is far from done.


Are you still paying attention? You should be.
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That's all for today's post. I'll be back tomorrow with a post about comic books, specifically what's up with Batman.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Moana

Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, a small sailboat blog on the great ocean of the internet. I'm Dave-El and I know the difference between rocks and food... mostly. 

As I noted here on Saturday's post, the El family ventured forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude to go see a movie on Thanksgiving Day, the first time we've ever done that. The movie in question was one my daughter Randie wasn't going to wait one more day to see, the newest animated feature from Disney called Moana. 




That the film features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (yep, the guy who brought us Hamilton) would be a big enough selling point for Randie to be really excited to see this movie. But as a lifelong fan of Disney movies but with a changing sensibility that's come with her teenage years, she was particularly interested in Moana. 

A lot of Disney's animated catalog is based on the princess concept. A young woman must overcome an obstacle to find true love. The young woman in question may be a princess or her true love may be a prince. It's a concept that's been there from the beginning with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella. The denouement of such stories involved some variation of the prince character or others acting on his behalf saving our female protagonist. The concept got a bit of a makeover in the 1980s and 90s when the woman was less passive and more proactive in her quests but nonetheless romance found its way into the story. There have been some significant deviations from that norm with Tangled and Frozen. But the element of a prince or a prince stand in with a romantic interaction for the respective princess characters is present in both films. 

Even as Disney movies have evolved and have provided stronger, more self-assured female characters, the  mission of finding romance, of finding true love still remains a significant factor. My daughter's view on this is, "Why does it have to be that way?" 

Moana promised a profound break from the Disney princess formula. Yes, Moana is the daughter of royalty and she even comes with a goofy animal sidekick. But that's as close as Moana gets to being a typical Disney princess movie. 

Moana is a teenage girl being groomed to one day succeed her father as chief of her Polynesian tribe and the island on which they dwell. Moana has a longing to explore the ocean but her father is adamant that the island provides all they need and they are safe there. 

But then the fish start disappearing from the shores of the island and the coconut trees begin to rot. Moana's grandmother attributes this to the legend of Maui, a demigod who a thousand years before stole the heart of Te Fiti, an island goddess who created all life and became an island . Moana heads out into the ocean to find Maui, convince him to return the heart to Te Fiti and restore balance to life, saving her people. 

Maui is located on an island which he shares with his own ego. Maui has no interest in returning the heart to its original owner but Moana convinces him otherwise. After risking all in an epic journey and devastating battle, the heart is returned, life is restored to as it should be and Moana's people are saved. The end. 

And no, that does NOT begin to convey the depth of feeling and the scale of wonder that is on display in this amazing movie.  

Let's start with the title character. Moana is voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho who imbues her character with a sense of heartfelt realism. Moana sounds the most like a real teenager than I ever seen in a Disney movie. 

Moana's design is also unique; yes, she is what may be described as traditionally beautiful with soft features and expressive eyes. But she lacks that fragility that often defines the design of even the most self assured Disney princess. With her brown skin and the intricate curls of her black hair, Moana is beautiful on her own terms in a way that is different from all the Disney princesses that have come before her. 

Moana's story arc is rooted in a Disney convention, the young woman pushing against the boundaries set forth by her father. But even here, the story takes on different directions. We learn that Moana's desires to explore beyond the shores of her island are rooted in a magical encounter she had as a toddler with the ocean. We also learn that her father was once prone to exploring the ocean as well until it cost the life of his best friend. Moana's own experience trying to push against her father only proves the rightness of his concerns; Moana realizes going so far out is very dangerous. However, when Moana does finally leave the island, it's not for a selfish reason to explore or to seek out her true love or anything like that. No, she leaves to save her people. What may be viewed as an irresponsible act, leaving the island and her people, is the ultimate act of responsibility. She's taking this action not for her own self-fulfillment but for the salvation of those she will one day lead, even if means risking her life. 

Moana is not perfect. She struggles with the weight of this responsibility she has assumed to return the heart to Te Fiti. In one heartbreaking scene, she pleads with the ocean that has guided her and protected her to get someone else to do this. But she rises up to meet the challenge but it takes considerable courage. 

Her companion on this journey is the demigod Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson. It's still a bit weird to think of this former pro-wrestler known as The Rock as an actor but Dwayne has gotten better with experience and delivers a very effective voice performance (including singing!) as a dude with all the ego of a demigod but also a human heart that has known hurt and loss.  Maui's relationship with Moana is like that of an older brother or uncle as it grows over the course of the film from annoyance to acceptance to respect. If there is any love there between Moana and Maui, it is one born of friendship, almost family. 

A discussion of Maui is not complete without talking about the tatoos. Maui's body is covered with them and rendered in 2 animation, they are an amusing addition to the story. Sometimes the tatoos corroborate Maui's stories but more often, they call him out for embellishing his feats and not being honest with Moana. 

There's a lot more ground that I could cover in Moana. It is a complex and rich tapestry that invites consideration and thought through almost every part. But instead of addressing all of that, let me turn my attention to the chicken. HeiHei the rooster is... just plain stupid. This bird pecks away at rocks thinking its food. This is one dumb chicken! And that dumbness produces some of the best laughs.  

Oh, and the music. Lin-Manuel Miranda strikes again with a number of songs that capture the spirit of movie and moves the story along.  

Story, acting, visuals, music and more, Moana is an extraordinary achievement. 

Now the question is, how long can we hold off on seeing it again? Trust me, Randie keeps asking. And I don't blame her. I hope we get to see it again real soon.
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That's that for today's post. I'll be back with another tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Doctor Who: 53 Years and Counting

Hi there! 

I've mentioned for the past couple of Sundays about posting a review of Power of the Daleks, the animated adaption of the long lost story that introduced Patrick Troughton as the 2nd Doctor. Well, it ain't happening today and this may wind up not getting posted until next year at this rate. I hear its really great but there just hasn't been time for the family to sit down and watch it. Looking ahead through the rest of the year, I don't see it happening before 2016 is done. 

We are ready to the 2016 Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio with all sorts of chances to see it. My wife purchased tickets last week for us to see it in the theater on December 27th. And we will probably already seen it 2 days earlier at Geeksboro. And I'll have it on the DVR at home. Somehow, someway, we've got this Doctor Who Christmas special covered.  

Speaking of Doctor Who and special appearances, click here for the link to this year's Children In Need feature which spotlights Eddie Redmayne from Fantastic Beasts but the Doctor does make a rather significant appearance at the 2 minute mark.  It's really cool! 

My wife Andrea and I are still watching The Crown with former Doctor Matt Smith. It is an engaging series about a young woman who must ascend to the throne of England on the early and unexpected death of her father. By the way, in January 2017, PBS will begin airing the series Victoria starring another Doctor Who alumnus, Jenna Coleman who plays a young woman who must ascend to the throne of England on the early and unexpected death of her father. That's what I like in my entertainment options:variety. 

The headline for today's post references Doctor Who now being 53 years old as of this past Wednesday, November 23rd. "What started off as a curiosity in a junkyard..." continues "to be quite a spirited adventure" indeed.  Happy birthday, Doctor Who! I'm anxiously looking forward to what happens next. 




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Tomorrow's post is a review of the new Disney animated feature Moana which the family saw Thanksgiving Day. Yes, it was AWESOME! But how? And why? We'll cover that tomorrow.

And heads up Whovians! Doctor Who takes over this blog in a big way starting next Sunday. More about that in the days to come.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Pretty Good Day


Thanksgiving was a pretty good day.


We woke up in the Fortress of Ineptitude to enjoy some chocolate chip waffles and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. A lot of the celebrities in the parade were frequently acknowledged by me with “Who’s that?” I mean, seriously, who are most of these people? Ah who cares? I’m just waiting for the Rockettes to show up. I get a real (wait for it!) KICK out of them. (Ha. Ha. Ha.) 




This Thanksgiving, we were to dine at my brother in law’s house. This is not always an easy experience. My wife’s brother has a very (to put this politely) powerful personality with strong views on living, working, health, child raising and so on. He and his wife are doing very well for themselves which I honestly do not begrudge them one bit but sometimes I wish they could be a bit cooler about it. Still, they are very nice to serve dinner and welcome the family into their home at the holidays and they serve me booze which helps me go with the flow. 

On our way there, we ventured forth to pick up my wife’s great aunt Emily as we often do for such get togethers. Emily is a dear, sweet woman and she has a ball riding in the back of the car with my daughter. And Randie enjoys having Emily along for the ride, whether she was six years old and showing off her latest toy or nearing 16 and showing off a cool video she found on the internet.


I got to play pool with Charlie, my brother in law’s wife’s father. I like playing pool with Charlie because he’s not that good at it which is great because neither am I. This time, our equal lack of skill actually had us clear the table with just the 8 ball waiting to determine the winner. I had a great shot where I just tapped the cue ball which just tapped the 8 ball which rolled gently towards the corner pocket I had called and stopped right on the very lip of the hole. Charlie taps it in and wins the game. Early Merry Christmas, Charlie.


Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. I noted here before that my brother in law tends to eschew traditional turkey for other meats. This year was roasted chicken and ham and quite frankly, I didn’t miss the turkey. In addition we had a squash casserole, a sweet potato dish that was so good it should be illegal and starring as always, fried dressing, a longtime tradition of my wife’s family.


I got to catch a lot of the Detroit Lions – Minnesota Vikings game. Me, what I know about football could go into a thimble and still have room for your thumb. But hey, I’m an American man on Thanksgiving and by God, I’m watching football! I was a little confused when the sports guys put up a graphic on possession times.



Apparently, I missed Aretha Franklin’s rendition of the National Anthem which lasted over 4 and half minutes.


It is kind of funny but weird listening to the older people in attendance with their very cavalier attitudes towards death. I guess when you get to a certain age, you make peace with it but do we really have to bring up the time Emily’s husband was crushed by a car while we’re enjoying fried dressing? Well, apparently once you're past 70, you're OK with it.  


We said our goodbyes to our gracious hosts and I’m not saying that ironically. I had a really good time in their company and in their home. My wife, daughter and I took Emily back to her home. Emily is a friendly, gregarious person full of love and kindness but the years are taking their toll on her physically. Both Randi and I had to guide her halting footsteps into her house.


After we made sure Emily was safely ensconced in her home, the three of us made our way not to our own home but to one of our favorite movie theaters where we saw Moana. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out to a movie on Thanksgiving day but Randie was really, really anxious to see this movie and I wasn’t about to make her wait another day. I will have more of a write up on the movie itself in Monday’s post. Suffice to say, Moana was awesome and was a perfect way to cap what turned out to be… a pretty good day.



That’s all the news for this blog post. I’ll be back with another one for Sunday which, of course, means Doctor Who stuff.


And Monday’s post will provide a full write up on Moana.


Until next time, I hope you have plenty more pretty good days to come and remember to be good to one another. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Trump As President: Oh My God! What Do We Do Now?



So what DO we do now? 

That's a subject of some debate and I'm not just talking about all the people out there. I'm talking about the voices in my head.

On one hand, there is the option of acceptance. As screwy a concept as it is to still contemplate after this past few weeks, the reality is that Donald Trump is going to be the next President of the United States. Vox populi has spoken and America's core democratic ideals demand we accept this transfer of power graciously and with respect. 

On the other hand, fuck that! We just can't accept that this is normal! Because it isn't! This may have been done under the guise of the voice of the people but make no mistake: we're witness to a complete takeover of the American federal government by one segment of the political spectrum that presents a real danger to this country and our future. We have a Republican President-elect who is stacking his administrative leadership posts with hard line conservatives who will set the pace and tone of the Republican dominated House and Senate. And don't forget the open seat on the Supreme Court; the Senate refused to hold hearings on Obama's nominee but you better be damn sure the Republicans are prepared to roll over and suck the balls of whoever Trump sends up to fill that seat. Given his predilection for filling posts with extreme hard right conservatives, there is little to no doubt a person of a similar persuasion will be Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. 

So what does this mean to you? 

Health insurance that cannot be denied due to pre-existing conditions? Gone! 

Protection of voting rights for minorities? Gone! 

A woman's right to choose what happens with her own body? Gone! 

Progress to combat global warming? Gone! 

Advances for the rights of the American LGBT community? Gone! 

Everything that advances America to the future is going to be fought against with a large and passionate force, self-satisfied by the righteousness of their cause leading the way.

Oh my God! What do we do now?  

As always, so it seems, the solution lies between either side of the chasm that divides this country.   

God help us, Donald Trump is going to be President. We just need to... deal with it. But... BUT...

I like big butts and I cannot lie! 
Other brothers may deny!

Sorry. 

But we as Americans have to do something that usually doesn't come easy to use. We need to remain politically engaged. We need to be aware of everything that Trump, the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court does that undermines the freedom and liberty of any of our citizens. And we see something wrong, we need to make our voices heard. 

It's easy to be engaged during a Presidential election year with candidates and their helpers begging and pleading for your love. But the minute the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November goes by,poof! Our political interest just plain vanishes. 

We can't let that happen this year. 

No, every day from here on out has burn within is with the same fervor and interest we reserve for election day. A series of most unfortunate events indeed have conspired to create a government that is completely at odds with half of the citizens of this country. With no checks or brakes on the Republicans, a lot of stuff can now get done that couldn't get done before and let's be firm here: you're not going to like much of what get's done.  

What do we do now? We don't give up, that's what we do.

Thanks for dropping by and remember to be good to one another.   

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What Do We Have To Be Thankful For?


Hi there! Welcome to I’m So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, a giblet blog in a Butterball turkey internet. I’m Dave-El and I’m doing the Mannequin Challenge but not on purpose.


So today is Thanksgiving where we set aside a day to overeat, watch sports and try not to engage family members in conversations that may pertain to politics or religion. Oh, and give thanks.


One of my favorite bloggers, Ken Levine, had this to say for yesterday’s post:


This year I feel so let down by my country that it’s hard to be in a celebratory frivolous holiday mood. It’s hard to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy when I fear they’ll be taken away.


I do understand Ken’s concerns about the future but I do have to take issue with his statement of feeling “so let down by my country”. Dude, this country is always letting me down.


  • In 15 years, only once did voters actually pick the best singer to win American Idol.
  • American TV viewers kept Two and a Half Men on the air way too damn long!
  • Back in the 1970s? Disco music and leisure suits! What the hell, America?
  • And racism! Don’t forget racism!


I think it’s easy to be thankful when things are going well. But when life’s throwing you curveballs or maybe even rocks, being thankful for things is pretty tough.


And it has been a tough year.


We’ve lost a lot of talented people this year; it’s a hard world where both David Bowie and Prince no longer walk among us. And there have been losses in the comic book industry that have been hard to take; two top of their game artists in the prime of their lives, Darwyn Cooke and Steve Dillon, passed away this year.


Gun violence is still an ever present fear. This spring in Orlando, a single weekend saw the spectrum of violence go from the murder of a single young woman at the start of a promising career to the slaughter of over 4 dozen innocents at a nightclub. And not just ordinary citizens but police officers who put their lives in harm’s way to protect us have become targets for madmen with guns.


On a personal level, I’ve had to contend with some of the most emotionally wrenching decisions of my life as I watched my mother spiral downward and further downward still into the abyss of Alzheimer’s.


Yeah, it’s hard to be thankful.


But there are things to be thankful for. For example, I’m thankful for the care my mother is currently receiving. Not everyone is so fortunate to get the help they need. But the staff at the Alzheimer’s unit where my mother now resides has been incredibly professional and compassionate.


I’m thankful for my daughter whose wit and intelligence delights and challenges me.


I’m thankful for my wife who stayed by my side when no one else did.


I’m thankful for my job which provides good pay for good work. And I’m thankful for my current manager who has been so supportive and encouraging.


I’m thankful for peanut M&Ms and Mountain Dew.


I’m thankful for Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and John OIiver, voices of humor and reason in a world that frequently isn’t funny and makes even less sense.


I’m thankful for shampoo.


I’m bummed we didn’t have any new Doctor Who episodes this year but I’m thankful there’s a Christmas special on the way in a few weeks and a new season next year.


I’m thankful for Lin-Manuel Miranda. Why? No reason. He’s just cool. 


I’m thankful for cheese. What can cheese not make better?


And I could go on. And I will! For example…


I’m thankful for comic books.   


I’m thankful for French fries. And sweet potato fries.


I’m thankful for Netflix. And by extension, I’m thankful for Stranger Things and The Crown as well as binging on 30 Rock.


Of course I’m thankful for Tina Fey.


I’m thankful for the large sweet tea at McDonald’s.

I'm thankful for A Prairie Home Companion, for Garrison Keillor (fare thee well!) and Chris Thile (well met, good sir!).

I'm thankful for butter.

I'm thankful for headphones. 

And I’m thankful…

Well, when you think about it, there is so much to be thankful for. Small things and big things. Things of serious import and things that are just silly. But in a world that seems filled to overflowing with fear and hate, it’s more important than ever to remember what we’re thankful. And we realize all that we have to be thankful for, we realize that fear and hate are outnumbered and we can overcome them.


And we should be thankful for that.


Thank you for reading today. Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Superman's Family


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving which means it’s time for family which may be cause for celebration or condolences, depending on whether or not crotchety old Uncle Travis is sufficiently inebriated to stay docile or is riled up to tell you just how Donald Trump is going to fix this country, by God!


Family is the subject of today’s comic book post, specifically the family we’re getting to know over in Superman.


Just to bring you up to speed a bit:

  • Lois Lane and Clark Kent were happily married until the Flash tries to keep his mother from getting murdered, fracturing time and creating an event known as Flashpoint.
  • In the world created by Flashpoint, the plucky investigative reporter and the mild mannered alter ego of Superman were not married.
  • But in 2015 during the Convergence event, we find out that the Lois and Clark we knew and loved were  alive and well.
  • They also have a son named Jon.
  • Lois, Clark and Jon are stuck on post-Flashpoint Earth so they keep their heads down and try to stay out of trouble.
  • But the Superman of post-Flashpoint Earth dies so our Clark decides to put on the cape once more and be Superman for this world.


Yes, Superman is pretending to be Superman even though he really is Superman. And if that ties your brain stem into a knot, just relax and roll with it. It seems the DC Universe has done pretty much the same. Everybody’s interacting with this Superman as if he’s always been their Superman.


Meanwhile, Clark and Lois Smith (Yes, Smith) and their son Jon are living on a farm in Hamilton County so there’s that. How long is that going to go on?


Issue #7 is a fun once and done story with the family getting together at the county fair. Lois gets Clark to promise no super hero stuff. But some punks looking to rob the ticket booth have other plans. Clark thwarts the thieves pretty much off camera and it looks like Lois may be none the wiser. Except for a mishap at the ticket office with a loudspeaker microphone that squirrels the whole deal.


This story is followed by a special 2 parter where Superman and Jon wind up on the island of the War That Time Forgot, fighting off dinosaurs and other beasties. The story links up nicely with Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier where this island is instrumental in launching the story line for Cooke’s masterwork. It’s a fun and thrilling adventure and a worthy tribute to the life and work of Darwyn Cooke who we lost way too soon.





The next two part story has the son of Superman meet the son of Batman. Poor innocent Jon has the deal head on with Damian Wayne, aka Robin. Superman and Batman decide that Jon and Damien should learn to play nice and work together. So in plot right out of a 1960’s issue of World’s Finest, our two heroes put their sons through a serious of exercises to force the boys to cooperate. Nothing works. Until Jon and Damian are convinced Superman and Batman are in real danger so they work together. It all ends with Bruce and Clark picking out Christmas trees, Clark inviting Bruce and Damian to dinner and, oh look: Jon and Damian are beating the crap out of each other.


<sigh>

If I overlook what a muddle of continuity that the current Superman mythos are in, I find I'm enjoying the adventures of Superman as Super Dad teaching his young Super Son the ways of the Super Hero world. But only feeling that at an objective level, like this whole thing is some alternate reality Elseworlds project. Perhaps if the readers had been there from the beginning, Lois and Clark the power couple of the Daily Planet suddenly finding their world changing with the discovery that Lois is pregnant. I hate that fans missed those days, those adventures. Instead my favorite couple in the DC universe got shunted aside without a proper farewell and then they're brought back as refugees from another Earth while Lois pops out a baby. And in the blink of an eye, Jon is 10 years old and beginning to manifest super powers.

Whoa! Hold up! I'm glad to have my Superman and Lois back but... slow down, huh? And they're still not quite my Superman and Lois, are they? Clark and Lois living under an assumed last name on a farm miles and miles away from Metropolis. It's a nice life, a nice dynamic for the super hero who still has Smallville in his veins and a go-getter reporter from the big city making adjustments to a different way of life as a wife and mother in the country. Yes, a nice life but part of me wishes it was a life we could've seen Clark and Lois earn, not just thrust into.

But maybe I'm over-analyzing this. Maybe I should just accept that Lois and Clark are back together again as they always should've been and should always be.
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Tomorrow, it's Thanksgiving. Is there anything to be thankful for? I'll give it some thought and I'll get back to you on that.

In the meantime, remember to be good to one another.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them


Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, a Muggle worthy blog in a magical internet. I'm Dave-El, writer of Fantastic Beets and Where To Hide Them.

Two days ago, the El family ventured forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude to go see something new and familiar at the same time. The familiar part of that is rooted in the wizarding world we came to know in the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. The new part comes from everything else: the characters, the location and even the time. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is set in the 1920s in America where the wizard community operates under different rules and expectations. Entering this world from England is Newt Scamander, an expelled student of Hogwarts who is nonetheless regarded fondly by Albus Dumbledore. Newt is a soft spoken but powerful wizard tasked with the rescue and care of magical creatures. It is this mission that has brought Newt to New York City where through a sequence of events, a few of Newt’s creatures have escaped his suitcase. (It’s bigger on the inside. A lot bigger on the inside.)  But there appears to be another creature on the loose in New York, one that Newt did not bring with him; instead it is a dark, malevolent force of chaos and death. One of the New York contingent of wizards is determined to secure this power for his own. It is a quest that leads to an explosion of supernatural energies, exposing the existence of wizards to the world. 

Visually, Fantastic Beasts is astonishing to look at. The look of 1920s New York alongside the magical world that exists just beyond the corner of her eye are beautifully constructed. And the fantastic creatures that Newt cares for strike a balance of otherworldly strangeness with a sense of magical wonder and beauty. The most endearing creature from Newt's magical menagerie is the Niffler, a quasi-platypus with an inordinate attraction to shiny things. Although the green bug-like creature who hangs out in Newt's coat pockets is very interesting and very helpful.  

The core protagonists are likable and engaging. Newt Scamander is clearly more comfortable and confident when in the company of this fantastic beasts than he is with other people but he does manage to develop a rapport with American wizard Tina, her sister Queenie and Jake Kowalski, an ordinary human factory working sucked into a world of magic and strangeness.

The main plot of the movie is where the cracks begin to show. Early on we're shown a montage of headlines that tell us that a dangerous wizard named Gellert Grindelwald is on the loose and up to nefarious things. But given that we are supposed to regard him as a serious threat, Grindelwald carries little weight throughout the narrative. The revelation that one of the main American wizards is really Grindelwald in disguise doesn't really have a very strong impact.

The view of Americans from the point of view of the British Isles is pretty negative with the American wizarding authorizes quick to shoot first and ask questions later and even quicker to employ a death penalty. To be fair, the Ministry of Magic over in the United Kingdom can be very pedantic and obtuse to a most annoying degree but The Magic Congress of the United States seems to have perfected the ability of inserting one's head up one's own posterior.

But whatever shortcomings the story may have, it was still a lot of fun to follow Newt and his friends, whether they be wizards, human or fantastic beasts. Kudos to Eddie Redmayne who brought Newt Scamander to life with a unique collection of odd quirks but always with a heroic attitude towards protecting the creatures he cares for and ultimately, to fight for his new friends in America. And Dan Fogler imbues Jake Kowalski with a perfect blend of emotions as he moves from fear to wonder, from doubt to acceptance of his adventures with his new found wizarding friends.

The word is that there are 4 more movies to come in this new series of films spinning off from J K Rowling's Harry Potter universe. I'm not sure where we're going from here. Fantastic Beasts tells a fairly complete story but I won't mind seeing Newt and the gang again in this newly discovered part of Rowling's world of magic.


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Tomorrow, it's comic book time as I look at the latest issues of Superman as part of DC's Rebirth. As we approach Thanksgiving, I take a look at the family at heart of this new series of Superman adventures.

And speaking of Thanksgiving, looking for a post based on the theme of the day on Thursday.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Miller Time?

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