Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bears' Gonads, Wonder Woman's Pants

I’m not sure how much of the comedy value here was intentional, but my former employers at the American Council on Science and Health have created probably the funniest thing the organization has done, by plugging a dialogue about the (harmless but nonetheless feared) chemical BPA into this personalizable cartoon of talking bears.

In other cartoonish news, my drawing of the superbeing Fondue-head (a monster who skewers his enemies and dips them into the vat of bubbling cheese in his skull) got me first prize in the Raspberry Brothers’ create-your-own-suphero contest last night. Victory is mine, and this makes up for Evan Dorkin’s response to Fondue-head when I presented the character to him years ago as a suggested foe for his characters Milk and Cheese, which was to send me back a letter simply showing Fondue-head skewered with his own fondue forks (for which I’m quite grateful, in all seriousness).

The most exciting thing going on involving comics this summer is arguably something that has nothing to do with new or changing characters, though: It’s the family whose home was saved from foreclosure because they found a copy of Action Comics #1 as they were cleaning out their stuff to move. Now they’re loaded.

J. Michael Straczynski, much as I love him for creating Babylon 5, sounds like he may not be bringing the same level of excitement to the Superman and Wonder Woman comics he’s now writing for DC. After fighting a vast, complex war in space, JMS is now depicting Superman deciding, I kid you not, to go for a very long walk. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman’s entire reality has been altered by time travel-type shenanigans, with the primary headline-getting result being that in the new reality, she wears pants. I guess if JMS combines the walking and the pants-wearing plotlines at some point, we’ll really have something. (A more beautiful walkabout idea, it seems to me, is Steve McCurry’s quest to make fitting use of the very last roll of Kodachrome film, with which he was entrusted.)

I think this ad for one of the Superman comics in question sums up how much the stories may resemble bad heartbreaking-dilemma-of-the-week “traveling loner” TV shows. One good thing to come of the Wonder Woman pants is that DC executive Dan DiDio, called upon at a comics convention to sum up what he thought of the change, uttered the funniest (intentional) thing I think I’ve ever heard him say, which was: Wonder Woman’s pants are “the epitome of where we’re standing at right now as a people.”

Two superpowers I’m not feeling enthusiastic about lately are (a) veganism, which is amusingly depicted as a source of psychic abilities in the swell Scott Pilgrim but still doesn’t tempt me to try it (much as I admire those disciplined enough to do so), and (b) combining Rainman-like data-sorting abilities with a trade-off in the form of lost emotional, empathic, or moral sensibilities, which I gather is for some reason a real mental tension, valorized to some degree in that popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series (not to mention House to some extent, etc.). There is no math score high enough to give you license to be a jerk, please recall. We wouldn’t want the bi punker sociopath genius of the Tattoo series becoming an across-the-board role model, much as we like some of those qualities.


jenny said...

i’m of two minds about JMS. i really enjoyed babylon 5, but jeremiah was a ham-handed non-re-thinking of The Stand painted in brush strokes broader than a barn. although that may just be because it was canceled too soon; B5 was pretty awful for the first season, IIRC.

fondue-head sounds yummy. i think i should get some lunch.

Ali T. Kokmen said...

Strange as it may sound, walking seems to be a recurrent JMS theme. On Babylon 5, Dr. Franklin takes several episodes to go on a self-finding walkabout after his drug addiction. His earlier (pretty good, IIRC) comics work “Midnight Nation” is built around a guy who has to walk from LA to NYC to reclaim his soul. I’m sure there are other examples, too, so it’s not that big a surprise that the theme recurs in his Superman.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I would dispute jenny’s comment that the first season of B5 was “pretty awful,” by the way. Sure, there was a lot in the first season that didn’t pay off in terms of B5’s overall arc until much later, which might be frustrating. But even on an individual episode basis, a lot of the first season’s episodes were more nuanced, more daring, more interesting that most episodic TV science-fiction at the time. (That said, I’ll give you B5’s episode “TKO”–about a galactic mixed-martial-arts competition as a low point of the season.)

If you want to point to a weak point in B5, I’d say it’d have to be the final season, but that had more to do with the fact that the series wasn’t renewed for that season until late in the process (switching networks in the process) which caused some rejiggering in storytelling. Or, even weaker, the spin off series Crusade, whose troubles eventually came to be so great that they’re only now being detailed in series of behind-the-scenes books called, tellingly, “Crusade: What The Hell Happened?

Todd Seavey said...

A show has to be troubled indeed to last only thirteen episodes and inspire multiple books on what went wrong.

Ali T. Kokmen said...

And speaking of talking cartoon bears, mention simply must be made of the incredibly disturbing poster for the forthcoming live-action-and-CGI “Yogi Bear” movie