Saturday, February 27, 2010

Star Trek/A-Team

Makes a great companion to that Star Wars/A-Team credits mashup I posted a week or so ago.

No Memes, Mr. Bond

Meme found on Tumblr.

01) Are you currently in a serious relationship?
Yes, married. Yesterday was our one year anniversary, actually.

02) What was your dream growing up?
I wanted to be a writer and a film director. I didn't work hard enough.

03) What talent do you wish you had?
As always, I wish I could play the piano.

04) If I bought you a drink, what would it be?
Got any Pepsi Throwback back there?

05) Favorite vegetable?
Green beans.

06) What was the last book you read?
I've been reading old Marvel issues of Conan the Barbarian. The last novel I read was The Lightning Thief.

07) What zodiac sign are you?

08) Any tattoos and/or piercings? Explain where.

09) Worst habit?
Grinding my teeth. And overeating.

10) If you saw me walking down the street, would you offer me a ride?
I hardly know you, sir!

11) What is your favorite sport?
Imaginary football. I have a football (soccer) team online, and that's the only sport I'm into.

12) Do you have a pessimistic or optimistic attitude?
Depends on how long ago I took my Lexapro.

13) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?
Again, who are you? It really depends.

14) Worst thing to ever happen to you?
My sister dying.

15) Tell me one weird fact about you.
I separate Smarties by color and eat them in a particular order; white first, purple last.

16) Do you have any pets?
My rabbit.

17) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?
I might call the police. I don't know you!

18) What was your first impression of me?
I'm starting to wonder if you have pictures of me with my eyes cut out all over your apartment.

19) Do you think clowns are cute or scary?
I think clowns are funny. I don't know why people think clowns or anything circus-related is scary, honestly.

20) If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be?
Well, I sure would like to be thinner.

21) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?
Depends on how fun the crime sounds.

22) What color eyes do you have?

23) Ever been arrested?
Yes, when I was a teenager, for shoplifting.

24) Bottle or can soda?

25) If you won $10,000 today, what would you do with it?
Make a dent in my student loans.

26) What's your favorite place to hang out at?

27) Do you believe in ghosts?
No, although my family swears there was a ghost in my Grandma's house in Des Moines.

28) Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Watch movies.

29) Do you swear a lot?
Steady stream.

30) Biggest pet peeve?

31) In one word, how would you describe yourself?

32) Do you believe/appreciate romance?
Yes, but I don't believe that romance is for showing off to other people so they can judge the health of your relationship by it.

33) Favorite and least favorite food?
Pizza, and... I don't know. If I have a least favorite food, I don't ever eat it, do I?

34) Do you believe in God?
No. But only because there isn't one.

Godzilla Haiku #2

80s Revisited: Dick Tracy

Dick Tracy (1990)
Produced and directed by Warren Beatty; screenplay by Jim Cash & Jack Epps Jr. based on the comic strip by Chester Gould

In a way I can't describe, this movie feels like the end of the cinematic eighties to me, and not just because it came out in 1990. This feels sort of like the end of the 80s blockbuster aesthetic. This qualifies as one of those big, expensive blockbusters the 80s is always accused of inventing; but compare this film to one from just a few years later, Last Action Hero, and Dick Tracy almost feels smaller in scope.

I like this movie. I've always liked this movie. I haven't seen it in years, and I ended up catching it today on Turner Classic Movies. It made me a little nostalgic for my teenage years. I was just a month shy of turning 14 when this flick hit, and I remember the storm of hype that led up to the release. As a regular reader of Comics Scene, I knew that Dick Tracy was a long time coming to the screen. After the success of the previous year's Batman, the marketing of Dick Tracy was similarly gigantic in the hopes that Disney would have the same kind of success that Warner Bros. had with their comics-based movie. (It didn't, but Dick Tracy wasn't a box office failure; it just wasn't, in the end, a blockbuster.) I think I saw this movie about five times in the theater.

But it also makes me nostalgic now for a period of filmmaking that I think is full of treasures and wrongly dismissed as "the commercial decade." (Though I grant you that you'd would have a hard time convincing people that Dick Tracy is a classic--this is one of those comic book films that I love while fully acknowledging that no one else could possibly enjoy it very much.) For a time when Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman even being in a film at all, much less together, was treated like an event. This movie really seemed like such a big deal just before it was released.

But how about the film itself? It's a stylized homage not only to the comic strip, but to 1930s gangster movies. It captures the tone perfectly, but doesn't always execute it as well. It's reminiscent for me of The Spirit or Speed Racer in the way it creates its own fantastic world and purposely tries to emulate the look of a comic strip (or cartoon or whatever). For some reason, this kind of artifice continues to go unappreciated in cinema; for everyone who genuinely liked 300 or Watchmen or the Star Wars prequels, I seem to know 12 who despised them for not being realistic enough, as if realism works for every story the cinema tries to tell. It's actually disappointing to me the number of people who will seriously criticize a movie for not looking like every other movie. But I digress...

One of the things I love about the way this movie looks is the bold color palette. Beatty and his crew limited themselves to six basic colors to replicate the look of a comic strip. Unfortunately, this great device is completely let down by the lighting design. It's like someone saw a screen test and thought it was too bright and too sparse, so they decided to mute everything by throwing shadows all over the place. Even now, 20 years later, it's frustrating watching this movie and having to deal with all of the darkness. The darkness itself should be bold and deep and actually enhance the color, but instead it just looks murky. There's no artfulness to it, and that's a real disappointment, especially since there's so much the film does right: the gruesome makeup and silly voices of the villains, the Stephen Sondheim songs, the fantastic Danny Elfman score, the composite backdrops and matte paintings that create an idealized, cartoon version of a 1930s city (never named, but sort of like an amalgamation of New York and Chicago).

It's also off-putting to some people, in my experience, that Beatty doesn't spend much time on establishing shots or close-ups, instead trying to replicate the look and composition of comic strip panels. I think he mostly succeeds, but it does allow for some actors to get lost in the shuffle.

One issue for me, too, is the last 20 minutes or so of the movie, where Al Pacino just goes completely over the top as the film's villain, Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice. This is one of the few films where Pacino's big, bold screams work, because this villain is so cartoonish. But by the end, with a panicked Caprice running off with Tracy's kidnapped girlfriend, Pacino's got nowhere else to go, and starts excitedly spouting a lot of nonsense like he's having some kind of breakdown. It becomes exhausting and, frankly, tedious, so that the film's final showdown between Tracy and Caprice (and then the Blank) becomes something you just want to hurry up and get past. It muffles the ending, sadly. It's something that holds the film back from being a true visionary delight.

But, like I said, I dig this film. I like it a lot. It's not a classic, but it is a lot of fun.

Meco: Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk

Last summer, I did a guest series of Listening Posts over on Allen's Septenary blog. I'm going to be cross-posting these this week.

Meco - Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk - 1977 (Buy)

Meco's career in theme disco starts with his most famous work, a disco take on John Williams' theme from Star Wars. As an album, it makes a great single.

There are only two tracks on the album (and it really does sound better on vinyl), the first of which is a priceless relic of the much-maligned disco era. People are pretty familiar with the three and a half minute single version, but the "album" version of "Star Wars" runs nearly 16 minutes long, but it doesn't waste any of that time on repetition. Meco basically takes you through the entire story of the movie, starting with the Main Title, going through instantly recognizable themes from the score, and ending with that iconic Throne Room music. But it's not just a medley; he's linked all the pieces dramatically and creatively, with a lot of interesting, enjoyable instrumentation and pretty well-replicated sound effects (to evoke laser blasts, R2-D2, lightsabers, etc.)

Apparently, Meco was impressed with the movie when it came out (he claims to have seen it 5 times in the first two days), but thought the score wasn't commercial. What was commercial was setting the themes to a dance beat and cashing in on the disco craze. And why not, eh? The resulting music is pretty powerful. And surprisingly more funk than disco, I think.

Seriously, you need to hear the main Force theme played on electric guitars.

The B-side of the album is "Other Galactic Funk," which is five high school kids Meco spotted in Central Park playing drums. It made me lose the will to live. What starts off as funk just becomes an endless series of drum exercises with occasional horn intrusions, and it insists on going on for 12 and a half minutes. You can live a longer, happier life if you never listen to it; it's obviously just filler for the B-side. All of the creative work went to the real treasure.

The CD comes with a couple of extra tracks: a 7" version of the single (the radio version, which I've decided is just too darn short), and a 12" version that is indistinguishable from the "album" version.

Grade C+ (A- if you never, ever flip the record over)
A Side: "Star Wars"
BlindSide: none
DownSide: "Other Galactic Funk." Just skip it.

Originally posted here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Defending Meaningful Children's Programming

I came across this incredible clip of Fred Rogers appearing before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications in 1969. President Nixon had proposed making significant cuts in public broadcasting, and in this appearance, just under seven minutes long, Rogers was instrumental in changing the minds of the committee. Rogers' passion and conviction are very moving.

As a footnote, the next appropriation for public broadcasting was increased from $9 million to $22 million.

Godzilla Haiku

Random Thoughts

Sadly, there are politicians who would probably like to scale that one back, too.

:: You know, when it came down to Joe Munoz or Tim Urban to get eliminated from American Idol last night, I turned to Becca and said "Tim is the worst singer here, but Joe will get eliminated because he's Latino, and Latino is too ethnic for America right now." And I was right. Oh well, at least Fake Jim Morrison is gone, even though he blamed his failure on the judges (who have been inconsistent and mostly useless, Ellen included, sadly) and not his shitty performance.

:: Don't tell me The Crazies is "the best film of 2010 so far." It's February. It may be a great movie, but when you say shit like that so early in the year, it sounds like idiot hyperbole and then I can't take your opinion seriously.

:: Utah passed a bill that goes so far as to criminalize miscarriage? Under this bill, a woman who experiences a miscarriage in her first trimester could potentially be prosecuted for murder if she engaged in "reckless behavior." Check this link for a much better explanation: For all these years the anti-choice movement has said ‘we want to outlaw abortion, not put women in jail, but what this law says is ‘no, we really want to put women in jail.'

I don't expect this is the kind of legislation that could really hold up for very long, but it's really disgusting that it was even introduced, let alone passed. This country is backsliding as fast as it can, as though the talk of "socialism" in this country has people embracing more and more fascism. Some people really get off on the idea of a moralistic police state.

:: I see some legislative buzzing (from Utah--of course it's from Utah) about possibly abolishing the 12th grade. And apparently in some places they're talking about letting kids test out of the last two years of high school. Because the country doesn't have enough ignorant, aimless 16 year-olds driving around. I've been wondering lately if in America, given our economic crisis and the way this crisis is being met with a panicky rush back to conservatism (which has been co-opted by teabagging nonsense) instead of a bravery to try something new, we're not going to run across the idea that finishing high school is some kind of a luxury. This is based on my assumption that those kids, with nothing else to do, will be put to work. Too bad we don't make anything in this country...

:: GM is discontinuing Hummers. So at least there's that.

:: I couldn't watch the health care debate very closely. Far too frustrating. Something so critical and it's been so badly mishandled. President Obama's proposed health care bill has some good changes in it, but it also increases the mandate penalty. It's a slight increase, but it's still an increase. It also has no public option. I won't go as far as some have and suggest this is "definitive proof" that Obama is now "against" the public option, but it is a disappointment that he's unwilling to throw his dwindling political credibility behind it and support a public option. I can live with not getting universal health care (I'd be surprised if we ever do in this country), but Obama campaigning on it, watering it down, and then not including it in his bill makes him look dishonest and ineffectual.

Now, all of that said, I do appreciate some of the clips I've seen today where Obama basically calls out the Republicans for their recalcitrance and their apparent effort to make sure the bill goes nowhere to ensure political disaster for the Democrats. It remains to be seen whether the Dems will continue to be little bitches or not, but I saw a lot more evidence there of the Obamapologists' usual defense that Obama is doing a rope-a-dope or somesuch than I usually do.

But I still can't look at the individual mandate as anything more than yet another punishment for the unforgivable sin of poverty. Because that's what poor people with sick kids need, right?

Theodore Roosevelt said the whole point of a government is the welfare of its people. Most don't see it that way. And with the appointee hold and 290 bills passed in the House that are stalled in the Senate, 2009 was a lost year. I don't know if we can afford another one.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Completely Arbirtrary Banner Change

Akihabara Majokko Princess

I'm not sure how or why this came about, but here's Kristen Dunst in a blue wig as some kind of anime cosplay character dancing through the streets of Tokyo and singing "Turning Japanese." Directed by McG or not, I am so on board with this it's sick.

(Restored... for now.)

Alright, I'm Transmundane!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dr. Bunsen Honey-Who?

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

BIG FAN (2009)
An interesting study of fanaticism. Patton Oswalt stars, in a performance that should have generated more attention, as a Giants fan who works as a parking lot attendant and lives to call in to sports radio and taunt Eagles fans. He lives with his mother and his family looks down on him for it. The only thing that gives his life meaning is not the football, but being a fan. Fandom is the only place he finds any fellowship, and he indulges in it to the exclusion of everything else. What really twists this around is meeting his favorite Giants player and following him into a strip club. There's a misunderstanding, and the player beats him so bad he's put in the hospital. But rather than sue the player, as his family wants, Oswalt tries to move on. He even defends the player to other fans. He would rather take the beating and pay the hospital bills than put his favorite player in jeopardy, and what he's eventually moved to do is surprising. I respect is when movies are willing to take it all the way instead of copping out at the end, and this movie was surprisingly fearless. ***1/2 stars. Written and directed by Robert D. Siegel, who wrote The Wrestler.

PREY (2007)
Silly, over-directed, badly shot movie about a woman (Bridget Moynihan) who goes out on a safari tour with her stepkids and is trapped in a jeep without food or water by man-eating lions. Not as funny, scary, or exciting as it should have been. * star.

A wonderfully odd movie with George C. Scott as Justin Playfair, a judge who believes he is Sherlock Holmes and acts accordingly. Sure that his brother's attempt to commit him and a blackmail letter are the work of Professor Moriarty, Holmes sets about solving a case that really only exists in his mind. Joanne Woodward plays a psychiatrist, Dr. Mildred Watson, who is fascinated by his case and becomes, naturally, Dr. Watson to his Holmes. The ending was a real surprise. It's written by James Goldman, the same playwright who also wrote the magnificent The Lion in Winter, and directed by Anthony Harvey, who also directed that film. They Might Be Giants is a somewhat softer, less urgent film, but no less philosophical. Here, Holmes and Watson engage each other (and the people around them) in ruminations on vision, identity, and the enigmatic nature of visible reality. The film owes not just to Sherlock Holmes, but also to Don Quixote, from which the film takes its title. This really held me until the end; the performances of Scott and Woodward are compelling and assured, and as their relationship blossoms into romance, things may end the only way they realistically can. **** stars.

WHIP IT (2009)
Strong directorial debut from Drew Barrymore. Ellen Page stars as a high school girl who joins a roller derby team. Of course, she gains confidence and finds her inner strength while coming of age. Granted, there are no surprises here, but I had fun with this movie. Great cast, too, including Barrymore and Zoe Bell on the team, Alia Shawkatt as Page's best friend, and Daniel Stern and Marcia Gay Harden as her parents. Excellent soundtrack. I'd like to see Barrymore direct again. ***1/2 stars.

This is a complex tragicomedy about family relationships. Nicole Kidman, in one of the best performances I've seen her give, plays Margot. She takes her son, who is trying desperately to come of age, to New England to attend her sister Pauline's (Jennifer Jason Leigh, marvelous) wedding to Malcolm (Jack Black), who is drifting through life. Margot has made no secret of her disapproval, but seems to come in order to repair the strained relationship she has with her sister. There's obvious family tension; their parents are only spoken of, though Pauline rather self-consciously lives in their childhood home, and there's a lot of mentions of a third sister who is never seen. Margot is the the only one who comes to celebrate the wedding, but the two sisters are awkward, never entirely comfortable with one another, each nursing a deep-seated pain that they can't overcome. It can be hard to watch at times, as their relationship is much more like negotiating a minefield than anything else. Kidman and Leigh are both excellent and play their parts perfectly, never descending into histrionics, making both characters sympathetic even at their most selfish. An intense film at times, even to the point of being uncomfortable, but very rich. **** stars.

Hard-to-watch documentary about teenage prostitutes in America. It's not poorly made, it's the subject matter I had a hard time with. Actually, I did think in its attempt to portray the larger picture of the illegal sex industry in America, it moved around too fast sometimes. There were people I wanted to see a little more of, like the woman who was looking for her missing daughter and was ignored by the police. I didn't realize that the majority of prostitutes in America are between the ages of 13 and 16, which is sickening. There's a court case in highlighted in the film that shows a teenager who was essentially held prisoner and forced to have sex with 30 men for money within five days, and who was being charged for prostitution when, really, she's the actual victim. It's disgusting and infuriating. There's a moment when a roomful of johns who have been busted and now must take a one-day course are clearly not taking their "punishment" seriously. What's worse is that the law enforcement representatives in the room clearly aren't, either. Like I said, hard to watch. *** stars.

This was so panned by critics. For my part, I sat there engrossed in the film, so rapt with interest... and then... and then... The last 10 or 15 or so minutes of this movie just destroy everything that has been building and building and then goes up its own asshole with self-delusion and ridiculousness. I remember when everyone was reading this book a couple of years ago; I never read it, but is this really how it all unfolds? I was emotionally invested, not so much in the story of a teenage murder victim (though Saoirse Ronan continues to be a very talented actress) as I was in the parents whose relationship was sundered by the murder. Rachel Weisz is very good and Mark Wahlberg, at least, is used right. Apart from the genuinely amazing special effects sequences, I was caught up in a simple emotional drama that is, frankly, abused and comes, in the end, to nothing very much. The performances are mostly good; Susan Sarandon is excellent and funny, but Stanley Tucci is really nominated for an Oscar for this mannered, obvious performance? This is the first time I've ever been disappointed by one of Peter Jackson's films, but... well, what's the point here, Peter? What is the frigging point? *1/2 stars.

A disappointment. That's a lot of talented actors going to waste on a movie that just never finds its tone. It has this weird, off-putting tendency to insist upon how funny and quirky it is, and that quickly becomes annoying. Jeff Bridges is good in it--surprise, he's good in everything--but what a misfire. ** stars.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't Say Betty White Is Hosting SNL

Because, honestly, that's not what it would be.

There's apparently a Facebook petition to have Betty White host Saturday Night Live, and in a complete reversal of everything we know to be true about internet petitions, this one actually worked. Lorne Michaels took notice and, apparently, took a break from checking out the box office numbers to see which movie is popular with tweens to cull the next host from and decided to approach White about hosting the show.

Now, I think it would be fantastic to see Betty White host SNL. She's hilarious, and I think it would be a joy to watch. I think that she could host that show and be funny even if the writing were as shitty as it so often is. I would love to see Betty White host SNL.

But I was reading about it over on Michael Ausiello's column (a column so fawning--it stops just short of outright cocksucking--that it makes Onion columnist Jackie Harvey look like the Mencken of entertainment news) that Lorne Michaels wants Betty to have co-hosts.


He's saying he wants to do some sort of "women of comedy" type of episode, and he's going to drag back Molly fucking Shannon along with Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler and have them shore up the hosting duties because, you know, Betty White is 88 and apparently that makes her too darn frail to host the show by herself.

At least, that's how he seems to be portraying it. Ausiello's column says that doing it this way will "allow Lorne Michaels to appease White-on-SNL zealots (half a million and counting!) without making the 88-year-old shoulder the burden of all 90 minutes on her own."

Let's just call this what it is. It's a way for Lorne Michaels to garner ratings by courting over 500,000 people who want to see Betty White host, but throw in some younger women for the hip audience he's always so desperate to be relevant to. And he's disguising his lack of confidence in his own show by claiming he's doing it for White's own benefit because, you know, she's so old and frail that she's incapable of performing on 90 minutes of television. After all, it's not like she's been a professional actress for decades, right?

It just seems really disrespectful to me. I mean, how much work does the host really do? There's something like 30 minutes of commercials, so that leaves an hour. There's around ten or so minutes of music, and there's about ten minutes of Weekend Update, so Lorne's essentially saying that Betty White can't host 40 minutes of live television. He needs to pad it out with people who have moved on and, in Molly Shannon's case, someone I never want to see do live comedy again.

Why doesn't Lorne Michaels just be honest about it and say that he thinks Betty White won't bring in any ratings because she's not third-vampire-from-the-left in the new Twilight movie? Sure, he has supreme confidence in Taylor Lautner, host of this season's unfunniest episode so far (which is really saying something after the job January Jones failed to do), but when it comes to Betty White, a true comedy vet who is sharply funny in everything she does, he needs to get Tina Fey to do her Sarah Palin impression again because otherwise no one would watch?

I don't get it.

Well, no, I do get it, and it sucks. It's extremely disrespectful. And it sucks for half a million people who have created their campaign to get her on the show that she's basically being relegated to a guest appearance.

And it also sucks that Lorne is hiding behind this "women of comedy" bullshit. If he were really committed to that idea, why isn't he talking about Carol Burnett? Oh, right, she's old. She's funnier than almost anyone alive, but she's old.

Ageism at its finest, SNL.

Great Moment in TV History, or Greatest Moment in TV History

Star Wars meets The Muppet Show. Luke Skywalker, Artoo Detoo, and See Threepio on the Swine Trek. Gonzo as Darth Vader -- erm, Dirth Nader. Tap dancing by a droid. Chewbacca awkwardly swaying on the planet Koozebane. Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels very clearly having a great amount of fun while remaining barely in character. Gargling Gershwin. The Muppets singing Arthur Freed. A Magic Kingdom ending complete with fireworks.

I can't think of a single other reason why television was invented.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Is Me

Over at Byzantium's Shores, Jaquandor has taken a whack at a meme going 'round in which one simply lists 10 things that makes one happy. I thought I'd do the same, considering how much complaining I know I do here. So, 10 random things that make me happy (and like Jaquandor, I've excluded the obvious answers of wife and family--and Star Wars, which would also be on mine).

1. Really, really well-executed cartoons

2. Classical music that is sweepingly dramatic or delicately beautiful

3. Go-Go!

Scoff if you want; Selena Gomez makes me inordinately happy.

4. Getting engrossed in a really great novel or comic book

5. Sweet, sweet nudity. Got to be honest.

6. Being busy doin' nothin'.

7. Pachyderms!

8. Laughing really, really hard.

9. Rowlf the Dog and "Cottleston Pie."

10. Naps.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Song of the Week: "I Second That Emotion"

It was Smokey Robinson's 70th birthday a couple of days ago, and that gives me a good excuse to post my favorite song by the Miracles. From 1967, this was a Top 5 hit, and it deserved to be. By the way, the sound is LOUD on this video.

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Thanks to Some Guy for bringing this to my attention! I can't wait to see this documentary about the Disney Renaissance.

Comic Book Blues

I'd recommend anyone who's interested head on over to Once Upon a Geek and read Shag's post about his love/hate relationship with the DC Multiverse. He articulates a lot of what I've been feeling over the past half-decade or so and why I don't buy new comics anymore but simply check collections out of the library. He and I have very similar stories and got into the DC Universe at a very specific time, became emotionally invested in that universe, and were disappointed to see the recent changes in the DC Universe. His reasoning isn't mere sour grapes reasoning; I felt just as betrayed as he did by several prominent writers coming in and pressing the reset button on the DC Universe so that things could be more like they were when those writers were younger and first reading comics.

What this really does, I think, is show you why comic book continuity is so problematic. Look at Superman: you're talking about a character who has been in comic books now for 72 years. If DC and Warner Bros have their way, Superman will go on appearing in comic books for another 72 years. Any writer who works on one of the regular series, like Superman or Action Comics, is stuck with a challenge: you have to keep Superman in a constant stasis, always fighting the same fight, always meeting the same requirements, always maintaining the basic status quo of the character. Because Superman is a media property and not a character, you can't change him or his world very much. And that becomes dramatically boring when each issue is supposed to build on the next. So, basically, the stories just repeat themselves over and over and over without an ending. And that's very tiresome after a while, because it makes Superman look indecisive at best, and trapped in a Sisyphean cycle at worst. A story without an ending becomes pretty worthless.

Now imagine a comic book universe comprised almost entirely of such characters. And a mandate from the publishers that every single character in this universe must adhere to the same overriding continuity. The possibilities become more and more limited, because the DC Universe exists in a contradiction: to even have a continuity, it has to move forward and tell stories dramatically, but to keep everything the same way it's always been, it just can't move forward. So it gets to the point where you either have to accept that readers will more than likely outgrow your product (and no business wants that) or keep piling on more and more stunts to gain attention. DC has gone the latter route.

But, like Shag, I feel betrayed, because I spent nearly two decades in the DC Universe, getting to know the place inside and out, and enjoying my time. I devoured back issue collections to see where the characters came from. I especially loved series like Starman and, eventually, JSA, Hourman and Star-Spangled Kid, which were so concerned with cementing this legacy of the Golden Age characters and firmly cementing their place in the continuity. How good a writer did Geoff Johns used to be? Read the issues of JSA where he is actually able to take all of the myriad continuities of Hawkman and bring him back into the DC Universe and have it make actual sense. I thought no writer would ever be able to do that.

Yeah, I felt betrayed. Betrayed that this tapestry ultimately led to the sheer, brutal cynicism of Identity Crisis. Anyone (and there were a lot of people) who said that treating Sue Dibney that way didn't matter because no one cared about her didn't spend the eighties reading Keith Giffen and JM DeMatties' Justice League of America, and therefore has never experienced fun. But what most offended me about that series was this hard edge where we found out that all of those fun stories from the past had this sinister ambiguity lurking beneath, where members of the Justice League essentially brainwashed their villains into being ineffectual. If that was the case, why not just go the whole nine yards and murder them? That would stop them from being villains, wouldn't it? As far as I was concerned, that ruined the entire DC Universe. It turned it from a place of fun to a place of cynicism.

Then it just kept getting worse and worse. Writers kept unraveling the entire universe. Countdown to Infinite Crisis was even more offensive to me. This was the one where we discovered that Max Lord was trying to cripple the Justice League all along. So, Keith Giffen's Justice League wasn't simply funny, DC decided, but actually a secret attempt to make superheroes useless. Yeah, fuck you too, Dan Didio.

Infinite Crisis was self-justifying crap. It billed itself as the event that would change everything, but all it did was use what the writers saw as a plot hole from Crisis on Infinite Earths to basically serve as a preview to the wallet-murdering 52, along with a bunch of other Countdown specials that were pure shit. The whole thing laid the groundwork for Final Crisis, which I just threw up my hands and read last week. It is terrible. Just... just awful. It is a Holocaust of the DC Universe. It is all set-up and no payoff. It is indecipherable garbage. It makes no sense whatsoever and tells no story at all. It's not even up to the task of being a Crisis on Infinite Earths retread. It can't even do that. And the worst aspect of it is the way it, like Identity Crisis, tries so hard to make things realistic and threatening, which only serves to make it more obvious how silly and stupid the DC Universe really is. Because the more you try to force a hard edge on something soft, the more obvious the fluffiness becomes.

That was the last shred of any connection I felt to the DC Universe. If they don't care anymore, then neither do I. Why bother when they're never going to tell a story? Instead, they're going to spend their time fiddling with everything like obsessed hobbyists making sure that every little thing lines up in a new continuity with everything else until it's time to destroy it all again in another self-justifying conflagration that, no matter all the talk of pressing the reset button and starting things over again, will never have the courage to just stop everything and start all over. Because what else is there to do at this point? I'm not spending my time watching writers like Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison--who should know better--stroke themselves off anymore.

(And Marvel did the same thing to their universe, too. That's why I don't read Marvel anymore, either.)

Lately, I've been reading a lot of old comics online. Not just older DCs and Marvels, but lots of kids' comics. I remember when I was younger and used to hear older guys talk about how their favorite comics where Bob Bolling's Little Archie and Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge and think, gosh, how could you enjoy that kiddie stuff more than the Flash or Spider-Man? But I totally get it now. There's a real joy in a Little Hot Stuff or Dick Briefer Frankenstein Comics story, as there is in a Golden Age All Star Comics or even a 1970s Marvel Team-Up, that you just don't find in the comics of the Big Two. It's the joy of being episodic, of not trying to build up a larger story that will never have a resolution. If you're going to maintain a property, that's the way to do it. There's much more charm and enjoyment for me in a John Stanley Woody Woodpecker or a Sheldon Mayer Sugar and Spike than there is in any Batman comic published in the last 7 years. At least for me.

This is why I'm sticking now to old comics or self-contained miniseries. It's why I've gone to the Marvel Essentials and will get to the DC Showcase series. Because serious comics are great, but comics that take themselves seriously are just terrible.