Sunday, June 18, 2006


Hey, Leaguers. If you go to the League of Melbotis store at, you will see a few items have been changed to include the official LoM artwork.

We suggest you get an item for every single person you know.

Go to the store now.
Go Maroons!

I was going to post on this and forgot. See, I took the GRE on Friday, so most everything else sort of dripped out my ears from Thursday until Friday night.

Austin High Teacher in trouble for topless internet photos.

Front page of CNN, man. It's hard to keep that kind of stuff on the QT when CNN is splashing it across the front page out of prurient interest. The Statesman ran an article on this last week and included pictures of the teacher. I think it's worth noting that Ms. Hoover appeared qualified to pose topless.

Art and high school are an odd combination. Despite all evidence to the contrary, high school administrators are in a never-ending battle insisting that they are in charge of children, not young adults with working brains. Parents would like for art classes to be all clay ash-trays and pictures of posies in a vase. The students, meanwhile, are in a crucial stage of self-discovery and expression. We had a photo of a skinny male torso taken down out of our display case at KOHS because a caoch deemed it "gay".

Now, you sort of have to have a background in art in order to teach art in high school. And that may mean that the teacher may have had an educational background not steeped in the education department while receiving their degree. It may also mean that the teacher has a life outside of the classroom.

I'm not exactly certain what's contained in the photos of Ms. Hoover, but the description was "topless". At no point was "simulated sex acts" or anything of that nature brought up. Further, according to the Statesman's article, Hoover had no idea the artist would post the photos online.

I know I know I know... we must protect the children. Whatever. Those kids are going to be adults someday. In fact, the day they turn 18 and/ or graduate from high school, expectations sure do change, don't they?

I think it's absolutely worth noting that Ms. Hoover was not the one who showed the photos to her students, nor did she participate in them in order for her students to see them. She was a model. It was, in fact, a different teacher who viewed the photos in the classroom with other students present.

In viewing art, even in public school, students are exposed to nudity. Whether viewing slides of The David or Venus de Milo. And, no, the argument that those are "classic" works doesn't hold up. You either accept all of it as art or you accept none of it.

Now, with national attention, the district is going to find itself at the center of a lot of controversy regarding the private lives of underpaid school teachers. No doubt, the district's decision to quickly slap Ms. Hoover with her scarlet letter and get her out the door will be applauded by the PTA. I think it's kind of sad that they're quick to fire someone so quickly when they did nothing wrong in the classroom or on school grounds, and which, in all fairness, probably had no adverse effect on any student.

AISD has been a problem school district for well over a decade, and has much bigger fish to fry than a couple of photos. I'm sure they know this. What I find interesting is that you really didn't hear much about people in the district getting fired for manipulating TAKS scores, but this firing wasn't even in question.

Still, you gotta protect those innocent, innocent kiddies from the preeeverts.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Well, the KareBear and Admiral are off to Italy for several days. The Admiral has some sort of business meeting there, and then they're headed to Rome. I managed to call to wish the Admiral a Happy Father's Day, so I guess I've done my sonly duty for the year.

Two big items:

1) Jim D. got the Site Feed going. You can now get an Atom or Feedburner link. Just look over in the chaotic space on the left for the Site Feed links.
<---------------------------------------------------------- 2) Jim also sent a 30 pound box to the house full of comics, magazines, a CD, flyers, his old driver's license (now available to any TX kids who need a fake ID), and an autographed picture of Noel Neil.

Noel Neil is the woman who played Lois Lane in the original Superman serials and in the Adventures of Superman TV series. She later appeared as Lois's mother in a cameo in Superman: The Movie. This summer she will appear in Superman Returns as an aging millionaire.

As you can imagine, for The League, having a signed picture by Ms. Neil is huge, especially as Jim D. secured it for me on his recent trip to Philadelphia. Ms. Neil was signing photos at Wizard World Philly where Jim wound up the day after he saw Radiohead play. According to Jim (I've been waiting years to use that) Ms. neil is a little hard of hearing, which is indicated by the fact that the picture is addressed to "Bryan". You know what? I could care less. I'm just pumped to have the photo and autograph.

That said, I now have 30 pounds of stuff to sift through. However, Jim did include some issues of DC Presents I'm excited about (including Superman assisting Santa) and the only issue I was missing of the current run of JSA.

I've been watching World Cup all day. The Italy v. USA game was pretty brutal, and I think is aw my first instance of really biased reffing in a game. I saw a BS red card go against the US and a goal called back that probably should have counted. That said, I am impressed with the Italian team. They aren't the bunch of whining babies I remember from the past World Cups.

Lunch at work has turned into World Cup central. We've set up a laptop in the conference room and spend lunch every day watching a good chunk of the 3rd game. We occasionally go a little long on lunch, depending on how exciting the game turns out.

I've been trying to add the "League of Melbotis" image to Cafepress for T-Shirts, but cafepress has me in some kind of legal limbo. Apparently they think the picture may pose some sort of copyright violation. I'm not entirely certain why that's the case, but it's been going on since Thursday. In the past my pictures were approved almost immediately, so something odd is going on. I assume it's that the "SteanzMan" colors are a little close to the official Man of Steel. HOWEVER, you will notice I am wearing gloves, have goggles and gold trim on my outfit. VERY different from Superman. Different enough, indeed, that no jury would ever believe this to be copyright infringement.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Special congratulations and thanks are in order for LoM's Bay Area rep, Doug. Doug once again took to the winding roads of California, peddling his way into our wallets as he rode for charity.

The past few years Doug has participated in the AIDS LifeCycle charity bike ride. He rode from San Francisco to LA. All on a unicycle. No, not really.

Here is Doug standing beside a really large pond.

Well done, Doug. I hope you kept the chafing to a minimum. We are infinitely more proud of you than Steanso, who spent last week trying to see how many saltines he could eat before drinking a glass of water.
The Secret Identity Post

Well, if you hadn't heard by now, a fairly popular comic book character unmasked himself in the Marvel comic "Civil War #2" yesterday. It's been in the papers, and I went ahead and showed Jamie the page last night (I know! I'm totally reading a Marvel comic. Go figure. Plus, I'm a becoming a big fan of McNiven.), so you'll probably know who the person was who unmasked themself on TV. But, given the hoo-hah that's gone on around here in the past, I didn't really want to spoil it for you guys who did the unmasking.

Since Superman first hopped over a building in a single bound, a dual identity has been key to the basic format of the superhero comic. When Superman first appeared, we were to understand that he was working outside the law, and for that reason above probably any other, he didn't give away his civilian identity. It's fairly well documented that the original take on Superman (pre-heat vision and flying) is most an amped up version of the lead character form the novel Gladiator, by Philip Wylie, mixed with some Tarzan and Amazing Stories features.

The conceipt of Gladiator is that the character can't live a normal life thanks to his power and others' knowledge of that power. Taking a page from the popular Zorro pulps and films, as well as The Shadow, and teaming that with the interest in the business of journalism. Siegel and Shuster came upon the idea of seeming weakling Clark Kent.

As any Zorro fan can tell you, the idea behind Don Diego's dual personality (perhaps, in itself lifted from The Scarlet Pimpernel) was to give our hero a way of moving about in society without constant fear of arrest, as well as being able to gather information that others might not readily hand over to Zorro. In that manner, Superman's early stories centered on his ability to be first to hear of disasters or potential good locations for a character of his abilities. To this day, Clark Kent still disappears abruptly when there's trouble on the wire or coming in online.

Moreover, there is the notion that Superman cannot have a private life, but Clark Kent very much can. From his earliest appearance, Clark Kent was hitting on Lois while Superman acknowledged her only with a wink and a nod, but a promise that he was there to help. As the comics progressed, the idea grew that Lois was in enough danger just being associated with Superman (while simultaneously also being someone crooks wanted to avoid lest they tangle with Superman). Meanwhile, Superman carefully guarded his secret identity in order to maintain a basic life among other human beings, rather than being basically exiled to the Fortress of Solitude.

Batman, upon the character's premier, established Bruce Wayne as having a fiancee and other trappings of a normal life, giving Bruce Wayne a bit more of a split personality. As Batman was a mere mortal, the suggestion in the comics seemed to be that the secret identity (a) kept the cops off his back, and (b) helped Batman maintain the element of suprise. It's sort of tough to get the jump on crooks if they know every time you leave the house. As the rogues gallery grew, it was logical enough to understand that Batman didn't really want these guys to be able to ring his doorbell while he was in the tub.

Of course the exposure of a character's secret identity has always been a mainstay of superhero comics, especially going back to Silver-Age Superman comics where it seemed every fourth story was dedicated to the topic. A good chunk of Superboy stories were centered around nosy Lana Lang trying to prove that Clark Kent was the Boy of Steel.

Some characters have famously not bothered with secret identities. For example: Aquaman is pretty clearly Aquaman as he lives in the sea. For years, at least the government has known Banner is The Hulk. The Fantastic Four have always had public identities (and are regularly attacked in their home). At one point Wally West's persona of The Flash was public, but they reversed that decision (see Flash: Blitz and Flash: Ignition) when terrible consequences befell The Flash's family. The prime example of late, of course, is Ralph and Sue Dibny from DC's Identity Crisis.

A few years ago, Marvel decided to reveal Captain America's identity as Cap took on Al Qaeda stand-in terrorists in the wake of 9/11. The decision was prompted by a narrative choice that neither the US nor Cap had anything to hide. I thought it was the right choice then, as I do now. Also, Cap doesn't really have a supporting cast and is more or less a career soldier, anyway. His real family is all dead and his line of girlfriends is mostly comprised of super-folk and SHIELD agents. In a story I didn't read, Iron Man revealed his secret ID.

But for some of these comics, it just didn't matter. Captain America is a perfect example. The character WAS Captain America. Steve Rogers was just a name. Other characters' dual identities are so integrated into the comics that the series would change not at all for the better if the identity were revealed. Fantastic Four has always done a good job of spinning the FF as superhero celebrities, like the Beatles living in Manhattanand they happen to have a dimensional portal to the Negative Zone (which may make a great name for a blog for Steanso or Jim D. I must pitch it.).

In my opinion, of late Brian Michael Bendis has had one of the firmest grasps on dual identities. With his excellent creator owned "Powers," featuring the homicide cops who show up when a "super" is found dead, Bendis has done a great job of exploring the dual face of celebrity and private life and public and private in a world where superheroes run rampant. Moreover, Bendis's Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man is unmasked by his foes with alarming regularity. The joke being, of course, that nobody knows who the heck this fifteen year old kid might be. So why would he wear the mask? Because he doesn't want his Aunt to know what he's doing, and he wants, despite the fact that great power comes with great responsibility, to be able to escape from the insanity of being Spider-Man for most of the day. That, and when a super-villain figured out generally where he lived, they killed his best friend.

There's a sense in the Ultimate Spidey books that, eventually, all of this is going to catch up with Peter. He's one camera-phone away from having his picture plastered all over the internet.

The best look at all of this, of course, was Bendis's recently concluded run on Daredevil where Daredevil's identity was published in a tabloid paper. He managed to fill three years with that concept, and the idea never got old. But it also couldn't sustain a series forever.

So, why why why would Marvel choose to unmask this one when it's just been done?

The option that Marvel has given their heroes with Civil War is to either (a) be conscripted into SHIELD, give them your name and work for "the man", (b) sit home and don't use your darn powers, or (c) use your powers and go to jail.

I think thus far from the little I've read, Marvel has handled the topic more intelligently than I'd expected. They've started at a very good point, by demonstrating the negative side-effects that can befall the public when super heroes run around without any supervision or anybody they answer to. There's a legitimate argument to be made. On the other hand, there's a legitimate argument to be made for not wanting to be forced to do the dirty work of a government organization that doesn't have the best record of keeping the public's interest in mind.

A lot of things can be changed in comics. There's plenty of science fiction, magic and what have you. As was done in Flash, the memory of the character's public ID can be wiped from the mind of the public in general. But, as we saw in DC's stellar miniseries, Identity Crisis, all that mind-wiping and concern about loved ones can cause a lot of havoc.

Marvel is now looking at either a very large change in the structure of one of it's strongest properties, or else they're planning a "Death of Superman" style cop out. Either way, they're going to irritate a lot of readers. I'll be keeping my ear to the ground to see how this one pans out.

Personally, I find the idea of the secret ID to be a great element of comics. I dig the idea of the everyman having unknown potential. There's something a little liberating about the idea that a hero isn't, literally, a cop or a soldier (although comics are littered with their fair share of excellent versions of those as well). Perhaps it was my early take on a compromised Superman having to play the dutiful soldier against his will in Dark Knight Returns that made me see the potential issues with losing your identity. Or perhaps Batman's unwillingness to play along with any whim of others that had forced him to quit (and just as much to return) as seen in that same volume.

My concern is this: for all their bravado about their edginess, Marvel is married to the status quo in a way DC is not (with the exception of Superman and Batman). DC's recent mini-seires was about change, and real change took place. By creating the idea of legacy in the DCU, people DO, in fact, die. New characters come and go.

How far is Marvel willing to go with this idea for the sake of short term sales gains? Especially when they stand to risk alienating lifelong readers? It's just a bit difficult to swallow that this whole deal isn't a bait-and-switch for some other change Marvel is going to try to pull. I strongly suspect that they are not planning to follow Bendis's well-worn Daredevil track.

Marvel's given itself quite the job. We'll see how they deal with it as a company. At the end of the day, for me, it's about the company. Given how they wrapped up House of M, Age of Apocalypse, etc... and how often their sprawling mini-series/ cross-company events land the reader exactly where you started, something leads me to believe there's going to be a magic "reset" button somewhere.

All I'm saying is: I see one clone show his face and I'm out.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Spoiler of a Spoiler...

Because The League fears not when reading spoilers, we went ahead and read this one...

You know, there's risk-taking in the comics business, and then there's huge things you can do that it will take the next folks in charge literally a decade to clean up.

Well done, Marvel comics. Well done.

This shall probably be as permanent as The Death of Superman, but am I really curious enough about how they plan to carry this off? No. Joey Q and company spent a lot of time devising this trap and they certainly have an escape route.

Wake me when the Scarlet Witch returns everything to the status quo.
Last one on the nerd train

I like Firefly. I mean, I really, really like Firefly.

I went and saw Serenity last summer without having ever caught an episode of Firefly, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I dug the "aw, screw it" mix of sci-fi and western genres. The cast was good, the dialogue sharp, the menaces the sort of thing you suspect are going to wipe out a good chunk of our band of heroes...

Anyhoo, during Christmas, Doug got us the Firefly boxed set. TV boxed sets intimidate the hell out of me. It's an awfully huge committment to say "I will now watch all of the programming contained in this box", especially when it's a gift. I've been busy with my Adventures of Superman, Batman the Animated Series, Superman the Animated Series, Wonder Woman and Clone High box sets, so I wasn't really looking to pick up any new shows. No matter how much I liked the movie.

Well, I'm sold on all this Firefly business. I think I have a particular fondness for Whedon's choice to remind us occasionally that these characters may be our protagonists, but they aren't necessarily heroes.

Also, Gina Torres.

She's lovely, but she will shoot you...

Next up, I am told that as Nerd Citizen #0045987xAZ, I am required to now watch the new version of Battlestar Galactica (including the pilot episodes). Too many noteworthy folks have stepped up to the plate to recommend this one to me. I cannot ignore the request much longer.

I'd avoided the series for a few reasons. Where the hell was the daggit? Why did Cylons have to look like sexy models? Where was Boomer? That's Boomer? You've gotta be kidding me...

But even in the ultra-conservative world of the sci-fi fan, more than 20 years and the addition of girls in tight pants will cause a rift in the mood and fans will begin to take notice. Ask any guy and they prefer the new Starbuck to Dirk Benedict.

I guess I have to watch to see if the 4 eyed disco singers are there, and if Imperious Commander is still chilling on his super-high bar stool. I'm told the new show is better. I guess you can't tell unless you watch, but I like my Cyclons sleek and shiny, looking like the love child between KITT and C3PO.

I have also heard rumors of a new Star Trek show about a "fresh out of The Academy Kirk".
Just after he won the Kobayashi Maru exercise, I would presume (boo-yah! How's that for dorky?).

I don't buy into all that many sci-fi based TV series, partially because there's a certain similarity between too many of them. Does this ring any bells?
-implausible characters causing implausible character interaction
-scenery chewing villains played by English actors
-bad, bad FX

I will be trying out the new Blade TV series on Spike TV. Aside from that, I dunno. NBC is pushing some new program for the Fall season called Heroes which sounds a LOT like The 4400, which I don't watch, but which they advertise during reruns of Monk. (Yes, I've started watching Monk re-runs, much to Jamie's chagrin. Yes, it's pretty much Murder, She Wrote.)

I guess I feel like I get what I need for my sci-fi from movies and comics, so I don't actively seek it out on TV. Steanso, on the other hand... Let's just hope he's not spending too many nights watching Tripping the Rift.

Lost probably qualifies as Sci-Fi, but I don't watch that anymore. I just get re-caps from magazines and my office mate.

I was never much of a Buffy or Angel guy. I petered out on Smallville when I simply quit caring about what happened to any of the characters. I hear the ratings are higher than ever. Go figure.

Stargate, Charmed and lots of other shows have always left me cold. I tried both and didn't make it past the fifteen minute mark of a single episode. There's usually some "true crime" programming on City Confidential or something on Discovery or History that will get me to stop further up the dial. On TV, reality is always stranger than fiction.

But, then, I've never been much of a series TV guy. I dislike feeling as if I have to keep up with any programming for fear I might miss something. I like to sort of like to wander into TV shows, which may be why I've turned to sports. I can always flip on a game and within a few minutes know exactly what's going on.

Firefly is nice. It's only one season of shows to worry about. There was no "jumping the shark" moment for the show, no point where I felt the characters were causing problems with themselves when the writers ran out of ideas and still needed dramatic tension on the program. The principles never left the show (cough... X-Files... cough).

Maybe there's a lesson there for producers as media formats converge and change. We know shows can make it on DVD, even enough to return to air (Family Guy). But maybe it's time English Language TV went the way of the Telenovella and only produced 13 episodes, making sequels only when the audience was there and the right story came along.

Anyway, it's a thought.

Oh, the new WB/ UPN network was decided NOT to pick up Aquaman in the Fall. I feel it's a blessing in a lot of ways.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Quick bits

I had a totally weird dream this morning that Jamie was going to leave me for some dude in a a Camaro wearing a tanktop. I was so disappointed.

In order to get revenge, I told he she had to take Lucy.

Also, the world was ending and I fell off of one of those electric carts at the grocery because the EMP from a nuclear strike made the cart suddenly jerk to a halt.

Poll Position:

Here's how the last poll fell out

My reaction to the new Superman movie is best described as:

-Super excited: 39%/ 13 votes
-Afraid to tell League movie may be disappointing. He may crack. 15%/ 5 votes
-Judging from his trunks, he really is a super man... 3%/ 1 vote
-Not the same without Ned Beatty. But, hey, what is? 6%/ 2 votes
-They really missed the boat by not casting that "Kelso" guy from "That 70's Show". To me, Ashton IS Superman. 6% / 2 votes
-So stunned I silently pee'd my pants. Usually I do this while shrieking. 6%/ 2 votes
-Screw that! I'm waiting for the new Lohan movie "Just My Luck" 3%/ 1 vote
-The portrayal of Krypton is entirely inaccurate. As we all know, Jor-L lived in a city of wonders, not glass. Also, I have never kissed a girl. 21%/ 7 votes

33 votes total

Well done, Leaguers. The next poll is now available.

Funny because it's true...

In case you missed it in the comments section, Maxwell sent along this link to an eerily accurate cartoon...

Holy Entrepreneurship, Batman!

Joanne P. sent this pic in, along with the following dialog...

Batman: Robin! What have you done!
Robin: Holy inflation, Batman! Giving tours of the Cave was our only option.

Batman Fan Film

Speaking of Batman, here's another very, very nice Batman fan film.

Superman Returns Reviews

It seems Warner Bros. had a press screening of Superman Returns over the weekend and spoiler-free reviews are beginning to trickle in. The reviews I've seen have been very positive, with even one troll from AICN bringing in a grudging "Good, but not great". The movie clocked at 2 hours, 37 minutes. So, you know, the inevitable director's cut is going to be Lord of the Rings sized.

Possible RSS Feed

Jim D. may be given free reign over LoM for a little while as he attempts to implement an RSS feed. I've had zero success with implementing such a feature, but Jim D. believes it can be done.

The Dark Knight Lego

Jamie has constructed both the Lego Batmobile and Batwing. I shall take some photos.

World Cup Fever

I am now down in the office pool, falling somewhere behind Tom. For some reason I picked Japan over Australia.

Why Superman

Wow. You know, you guys have been asking for years for that one, and it sort of went over like a lead zeppellin.


Why must we spell it "dood"? Stop it. Stop it now.

What's on TV Programming Announcement:

Hey Leaguers,

If you have basic cable, you probably have A&E. On Monday, June 12th, A&E is playing an all new documentary about Superman. The doc is part of the media blitz tied to Superman Returns and has Bryan Singer as a producer.

I can't vouch for the quality of the documentary, but it's a Monday in summer. What are you going to watch? Reruns of Deal or No Deal?

To learn more,
read here.

You may want to check your local listings. It's playing at 8:00 ET, but that doesn't mean too much when it comes to basic cable scheduling on a local level.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Summer of Superman: Why The League is a Superman Fan

When I was working on the League of Melbotis Awards, I asked for some possible blog topics. Almost half of the respondents asked "Why Superman?"

With the movie coming, I'm hoping to put things in the right context and possibly shed a little light on why I became a fan of Superman as a character, Superman as an industry, and Superman in general.

One of the oddities of being a fan of the Man of Steel is that everyone feels a bit of ownership. As a pop culture icon, Superman is up there with Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus for recognizability. You can chop through Peruvian rain forests for two days and find yourself face to face with a local wearing a Super Hombre shirt who knows, at minimum, Superman can fly, he's invulnerable to most harm and that he's very very strong.

A lot of folks have pegged my comic obsession and interest in Superman as a juvenile interest, primarily due to the marketing of Superman to children. I doubt anyone who has bothered to read a Superman comic over the past several years would feel as if the material were not geared towards children. While the comics of today are simed at adults and "all-ages", there certainly exists a "gee-whiz" aspect to Superman that's undeniable, and perhaps it's that fantasy element which is deemed "childlike". I will be interested to see if these same folks will retain their opinion if the new Superman movie attracts millions of viewers upon it's release, all suddenly Superman fans.

That's okay. From a critical perspective, most pop culture can appear a little silly on the sruface. I personally find the adulation of professional sports to be juvenile, the insistence of celebrity culture to shove starlets down our throats entirely infantile, and the fanboy obsession with trainspotting music and hanging out in garage bands dreaming of "making it" to be a little silly. It's curious that sci-Fi, in all it's many forms, has somehow become an excusable time waster. So has fantasy writing, to an extent. Meanwhile romantic comedies and soap operas are perfectly excusable for millions of people. The truth is: It's all pop culture of one form or another, and all of it just as guilty of flights of fancy.

That said: I've seen the folks who take themselves seriously and consciously behave in a mnner they believe to be "adult". They believe that adulthood means the ending of interest in silly things. I'd rather not turn off the switch in my brain that lets me crack open a comic and peer into another world, simply because some boring life-accountant decided I wasn't spending my time in a way they liked. Just as surely as sports fans would refuse to give up on their games simply because someone pointed out what a collosal time-sink it is to watch people throw around a ball (and, honestly, how much to season tickets cost to professional sports?).

Still, even among comic readers, a Superman fan might not be safe.

Among the fanboys, Superman hit a point of creative stagnation in the 70's that began to make the character less popular for collectors. Superman was not unpopular, but at the time Marvel was having it's triumphs and Batman went from being nearly cancelled to being revived with the Dark Knight work of the late 70's. The release of the first two Superman movies certainly helped the franchise regain a stint of Supermania. In the 1980's, "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and the resulting "Man of Steel" limited series should have put Superman back on top with readers, but an odd thing happened. Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" appeared with it's Clint Eastwood 80's sensibility and painted Superman as a patsy. For many readers appearing during the 80's comic boom, the powerful, naive boy scout was the definitive Superman. For years, DC didn't bother to counter their own image. Instead of giving the world a Superman which comic fans could get behind, DC seemed a victim of their own success and went with Miller/ DKR's take on The Man of Steel.

A generation of comic fans wanting to identify with the hard boiled Dark Knight saw Superman as the old, unwelcome man at the party and believed that the image of Superman was what was behind all those "Bam! Pow! Comics not just for Kids!" headlines they suffered through. Ironic then that it was Batman, the yardstick for comic superhero legitmacy, who had been the one who cemented the idea in the baby-boomers' heads that comics were for dullards.

Anyway, that was the context with which I approached Superman as a comic character. Sort of.

Like everyone else, I'd seen the movies in the theater as a kid. I remember being afraid for Superman when Luthor put the chain with Kryptonite around Superman's neck and kicked him into the pool. That's really my only memory of seeing Superman: The Movie when I was very little. I remember seeing Superman II with Jason, John, Jim and my Dad and Wayne. I remember thinking Superman was sucker for giving up his powers for some dumb girl. I even remember seeing Superman III and being terrified of Robert Vaughn's sister when she melded with the giant computer. Superman IV I wouldn't see until college on a sunny Sunday when I was avoiding doing any homework and my roommates were MIA.

In a lot of ways, I preferred Superman as a movie and cartoon character to the comics. I liked seeing him in action, zipping across the sky, using his superbreath to freeze a lake or flying out of the sky to save school buses. The few Superman comics I picked up off the shelf at the drug store didn't match what I saw in the movies. Superman was often in space with various pastel colored aliens. Luthor had his own planet. Mxyzptlk seemed less like the annoying imp from the cartoons and more like a sinister, near omnipotent genie.

When I was becoming a full-blown comic geek in the mid-80's, I have a firm memory of hanging out with a non-comic collecting classmate and explaining to him, in detail, why Superman could never be interesting. Every comic reader has the same litany of responses on the topic, passed down from geek to geek. In a way, it's an attempt to legitimize one costumed superhero over the other, and maybe, in the process, gain literary credibility for their superhero of choice.

Superman is invulnerable. There's no getting around that one. Bullets bounce off of him. grenades are an incovenience. A lightning strike will wind him, but nothing short of a tactical nuclear strike (or a hand full of kryptonite) is going to put him down.

He has too many powers. How can any character who can do anything the writers dream up possibly be of interest? He could resolve any conflict in the time it takes for him to pick from his catalog of abilities (right down to Super Ventriloquism), and defeat anyone in his path.

Superman is a boy scout. There's no danger to him as a character. There's no chance he'll make the wrong decision.

His secret identity isn't believable. How can a pair of glasses make for a disguise? How could Lois not see through the disguise?

His costume is stupid. He wears his underwear on the outside. He has a cape and shiny red boots.

He's got old fashioned ideas. His rogues gallery is lame. He's a government stooge. He's a fascist. He's a thug in tights. Who could ever believe such a guy would make the choice to help people?

I could.

I don't know when, exactly, it clicked with me. I think it started in high school when I stayed up too late on a Saturday night in 9th grade watching Superman: The Movie with The Admiral. I still recall watching that last shot of Superman in orbit, our hero pretty pleased with the end of the movie and having a good look at his adopted home planet. I turned to the Admiral and said "That was a lot better than I remember it being."

"Yeah," nodded The Admiral. "I always liked that one."

I picked up a few issues of Superman after that, and the same confusion set in. The DCU, at the time, was a little bit of a tough place to just wander into. They weren't as locked into the Marvel formula of having every character explain themselves in every panel.

I picked up some back-issues of "Man of Steel" at some point and understood what Byrne was doing with Superman, although at the time, I think Roger Stern and Co. had already taken over the regular Superman comics. Like the Superman movie, "Man of Steel" humanized Superman in a way I hadn't expected. Superman wasn't some Super Dad there to slap the wrists of wrong-doers. He wasn't a government stooge. Like in the film, Superman was a guy given incredible power, power he could use any way imaginable, and was trying to make the world a better, safer place to be. Perhaps a bit naive in the beginning (taking the boy off the farm, but not the farm out of the boy), but learning fast enough that the bad guys don't always wear the black hats, and that sometimes a victory isn't as clear as it seems.

No movies were coming out by this point, of course, and I'm not sure the syndicated "Superboy" program ever even showed in the two markets I might have lived in during that time. If it did, I was oblivious. Besides, I was into plenty of comics and didn't need to add Superman to my list of titles.

I was still reading X-Men. I was picking up Batman from time to time, depending on the villain (I was a big Two-Face fan), and I had just started picking up these Sandman comics toward the end of high school. At the time, I didn't even know anybody else who read comics. The internet was still something in a Robert Silverberg book (so there certainly weren't any newsgroups about comics), and I hadn't been to a convention since 7th grade.

They killed Superman my senior year of high school, and I remember having to explain to everybody "No, they aren't really killing Superman." Funny how that works. People still ask me once in a blue moon if that was the end of Superman. Of course the big revelation out such a dramatic turn was that Superman got some really outdated glam-metal hair. Even then I knew the worst thing you could do was try to update an icon to "appeal to the teens".

At some point in college, I picked up a few new issues of Superman, but what piqued my interest once again was the amazing Bruce Timm/ Paul Dini animated Superman series. The show delved deeply into Superman's silver age trappings, updating them perhaps stylistically, but never in spirit. All the villains I could remember from a Superman Flipbook my mom got me out of a Troll book order when I was five popped up sooner or later. Only now Toyman was a creepy little bastard with a plastic head instead of a goof on a pogo stick. Bizarro was full of pathos I'd not realized he might contain while destroying the tables at the Legion of Doom HQ on Superfriends. The Animated Luthor was cunning and brilliant, and utterly believable as a foil for the Man of Steel in a way Gene Hackman's Luthor never appeared to be.

What impressed me once again in the cartoon was the rich origin of Superman.

One of the complaints about Superman by comic fans is that unlike, say, Batman, Superman was born to his powers. But that isn't quite true. The explosion of Krypton, the loss of not just a family he would never know, but a planet he would never know, sent by parents who refused to give in to loss and send forth their only son into the cosmic void... Yes, Superman's powers are not derived from years spent training, any more than that of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man or any others of hundreds of comic book heroes (see: X-Men).

The pained conversation in Superman: The Movie between Jor-El and Lara deciding upon the fate of their child tells you all you need to know. In vague, knowing terms the dialogue establishes that they know their son will never, ever truly belong, as cursed by his abilities as he is blessed.

It's a theme that's been explored in dozens of motifs in comics, probably most prominently in Spider-Man. Perhaps it's the grounding and relatable loss of Spider-Man's Uncle Ben rather than the catastrophic and unimaginable loss of your birth planet that seems somehow more sympathetic. But the idea that the super powers came at a price came from Superman, Batman's origin appearing well after his initial appearances. And, of course, Spider-Man and Marvel's complement of heroes came along decades after Superman's first appearance.

And, of course, the goodly Kents appeared in the cartoon as they had in the earliest episode of the George Reeves series, the Christopher Reeve film, the Silver Age comics and the Byrne comics. Guidance and honest discussion of the life his powers might bring him were the gift from his earthly parents.

So what was the difference? Why Superman?

There's the cultural archaeology of a character who has survived 67 years of the expanding American media world. There's the core of characters (friend and foe) who have made the trip alongside Superman in virtually every media from radio to internet shorts. In short, the character has thrived like none other over since the invention the super hero comic with Superman's first appearance.

He's a character everybody has some knowledge of, and who can spark conversations with just about anyone. On Wednesday I found myself standing in my sweltering house talking to the 60 year-old air conditioner repairman about George Reeves as the repairman eyed Superman floating above the Daily Planet globe (a newspaper name probably as widely known as any actual paper shy of the New York Times). Little kids point to the license plate on the front of my car in busy parking lots. More than once when I've worn a Superman shirt to work (under an oxford) someone in the elevator has looked to me and said "now I know your secret identity" with a knowing nod.

Of late it's been trendy for trucks to sport Superman stickers, perhaps suggesting that the truck is as powerful as the Man of Steel.

Seinfeld dedicated a whole episode to the comic geek friendly notion of "Bizarro".

So if Superman is all of those things that people equate with him, what is there to like?

Superman is the original superhero, and whether the average guy on the street knows that Superman was the first costumed super-powered character of his ilk is almost irrelevant. He's the most imitated, satirized and flat out copied comic character. The concept has been refined and splintered into thousands of new characters since Action Comics #1 saw print, some of whom have existed alongside Superman for almost the same amount of time (and others who pre-dated Superman and were co-opted into the world of super heroes). But all of them have some hint of Superman about them.

It's no doubt the longevity of the character and the various strictures of the time and company have often left Superman looking like a goofy do-gooder. The tendency to mistake brainless entertainment for children's and all-ages entertainment has too often affected the ace of action. With as much Superman product as has existed over the years, not all of it was going to be brilliant. Yet the character continues to find an audience, his career outlasting Sinatra, Elvis, and dozens of other icons of the 20th Century.

At the character's heart, Superman has managed to symbolize many things to many people. As often as Superman is invoked as a sign of invulnerability, his one weakness is brought up just as often. "Kryptonite" has become a synonym for a sure weakness for the seemingly strong.

However, it's in Superman The Movie that we learn that Kryptonite may be what weakens Superman, but it's his humanity that is his greatest vulnerability. No man, no matter how Super, can be everywhere at once. And with the (temporary) death of Lois Lane, we see Superman wounded to his absolute core in his grief, just as he was at the loss of Jonathan Kent. "All these powers" Clark Kent reflects at the loss of his adopted father, "and I couldn't save him."

For me, that's the weakness I can understand. Too many powers? Not enough, we're led to believe. Not enough if you can't save the ones who matter most.

If there's no danger to him as a character, I'll accept that as a criticism. The story of Superman is not the story of a character constantly compromised, nor a character who wishes to be seen as frightening to any but those caught in the act. He's the embodiment of trying to make the right choices and trying to live at the assistance of others. Rather than a sign of lack of will, Superman's character is reflective of what can be achieved by someone who has decided to live selflessly at the aid of others.

We throw around the term "super powers" in relation to governments, but just as often, Superman's dangerous potential is treated with the same cautionary wind reserved for our states of unimaginable power. In the comics, the Luthors of the world see the power and are jealous, seeing in Superman the power to topple mountains. They refuse to believe in a man who could have all of that power and not use it for personal gain, not turn upon his fellow man. How can he weild such power and not choose to enforce his will, not choose to become the single-minded fascist who crushes his will down upon the world? How can a man not reflect what they see in themselves?

Just as often, there are the readers of the comics and the viewers of the movies who turn their nose up, raising the same questions. But these readers and fans are missing the point. The story of Superman is a story of hope.

Superman is about what can be done when we not only turn away from those desires to control and destroy, but when we use that power for the right reasons and in the right way. The actual stories in the comics, in the movies, in the TV series and radio show are about that never ending battle to not only combat the endless tide of the strong over the powerless, but the struggle to know the right choice.

They can be a great people, Kal-El. They wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way.

Does this make the character less relatable? Perhaps to some. To me, it's a wonderful story. It's a reminder of the potential of everyone to do the right thing, and to remember that everyone has the opportunity to make the right choices. I think that inherent message is what's kept Superman flying for seven decades.

As longtime readers of this blog will know, things aren't always peaches and cream at League HQ. There are the times I wish I could spin the earth backward or lift the bus off the bridge if it could help in the smallest of ways. I don't mind cracking open a Superman comic to remind me that the good fight is a never-ending battle, that it's worth it, and it doesn't hurt if you do it for the woman you love (even if she doesn't recognize you when you're wearing glasses).

Saturday was okay.

I got up early, ran (without being chased) got home, mowed the lawn, weeded the purple flower tree and trimmed the other tree so people don't have to fight off wild monkeys and such as they reach our front door.

Went in, tried to find the end of the England/Paraguay game, realized I'd missed it, and watched some Headline News. Ate some bagels, played with some dogs.

Eventually the Sweden/ Trinidad & Tobago game came on. Watched a good chunk of that. Cheered wildly for the final, tied score of the game. I love an underdog doing well. I also watched the Ivory Coast/ Argentina game. I was happy to see Argentina playing well for reasons which will become apparent below.

Every four years I show an interest in soccer. Since watching Cameroon play in the 1990 World Cup, I've been a fan of the tournament. This year at work I've got two soccer nuts in my office and a guy from Poland who believes that Poland has a chance. Such is the insane nationalism that goes along with the tourney.

Despite the fact that I know absolutely nothing about soccer I'm currently ahead in the office pool, having called the Germany/ Costa Rica score (and victory) and assuming Poland might lose in their first game (which made our Polish guy very unhappy). Everybody else did this thing called "research" before entering the office pool, but me, I went all Colbert and went with my gut. I've got Mexico and Argentina in the final game. The reason I've selected Mexico to win: They're our neighbor to the South. That's it. That's what I'm going by.

In the afternoon we took in the new Altman/ Keillor film "A Prairie Home Companion", which I highly recommend. The movie will never be remembered the way some of Altman's other pictures will be remembered, but it's a heck of a movie. Fans of the radio program may be waiting for certain items to be included, but the movie does well without them. I sort of thought Meryl Streep stole the show, but the movie is filled with an all-star cast that all turn in excellent performances, even Lindsay Lohan (who I will now be able to say I've seen in a movie).

I got home, read the latest Ultimate Spider-Man trade (Silver Sable), played with the dogs, and rested up. After all, we had AZ Rollerderby tonight.

While my beloved Surly Girlies were not playing, we still had a heck of a good time. The Bad News Beaters took on the undefeated Bruisers, and the Bruisers pretty much stomped them. There were a large number of people at the game, far more than at the last game, and we managed to snag some chairs despite the crowded building.

I ran into the guy who manages our building. Apparently his daughter plays for The Beaters. You learn something new every day.

Oh, and since I'm talking about AZ Rollerderby, here's that link to Brickhouse I post every time.

It was a good day, all in all.

Hope everyone else is having a good weekend.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Jim D. has suggested I welcome all of you folks good enough to drop by. In case there's any confusion, Jim D. also suggested I post a link to the post Dave referred to on his page.

Here you go.

The League of Melbotis is not a comics blog in the strictest sense, but I'm a fairly avid comic reader, and thus, a lot of comic related discussion goes on here.

You may note I am a fan of Superman and DC Comics. I also read other comics, too, so don't worry about me drawing some line in the sand over that topic.

Feel free to drop in any time, put your feet up and leave some comments. We'd love to see you back here again some time.

Things have been a little wonky for us this week, so I recommend also hitting Nanostalgia for some media reviews by a little collaborative team we've got going on over there.

Also, feel free to click on the e-mail link if you have any questions. We're here to help.

Good to see you. Hope you can stick around.

Today is the second day back from our nightmare day. Between the time at the ER and my time of revelation in the Indian styled sweat lodge, I had much time to think. I am turning over a new stone. My plans for the day are as follows:

Get up around 5:30 and run and extra half-mile more than I normally do (so that's .75 miles to all of you out there keeping score at home). I will take Lucy and Mel with me, so it may take a while longer than usual.

When I get home, I will make breakfast for Jamie, possibly french toast or eggs benedict. I will also make my own lunch, in a Target bag, of course, consisting solely of ants on a log. 13 logs, exactly.

After I get done making breakfast, i will do the dishes, and head off to work. At work, I will go out of my way to be kind and courteous to all my co-workers, and to share a log of ants with each of them. Should they decline my ants on a log, I will throw it at them in a fit of rage. Afterwards, I will apologize and blame the whole incident on "my inner demons."

After work, I will come home and clean the entire house. Since lately I have come to realize how Superman comics are ultimately pointless, due to his invincibility, I will begin my phase out of Superman figurines from the house. I won't get rid of all of them, and they won't be thrown away, (they will be meticulously wrapped and stored in one of the closets). I will begin to replace my Super-Man memorabilia with that of Spider-man and Batman, whose mortality make
them much more interesting anyway.

I will work some more on training Lucy, and play with Mel, since she feels a little neglected with Lucy around.

During my hiatus, I had some time to think as well as read (and misplace) books. I am going to make the following amends as well. I will apologize to my parents for the many many shenanigans I pulled (including the Clyde and Roundball incidents). I will apologize to
Steanso for the beatings I passed out to him over the years, both emotional and physical. I will apologize for calling his bands "jam bands," and will attempt to appreciate those bands on a new level.

Finally, I will take Jamie out to Barcelona for dinner, as she is the best wife in the world. Any woman willing to put up with my crazy comic obsession deserves no less. (I'm sure you comic collectors out there know as well as I do that collecting comics is really a very small form of Peter Pan syndrome, grasping to hold on to our youth, and attempting to glamorize that youth by confusing it with super heroic actions. I am trying to get away from that and face my
reality. )

Thus will end my day. Wish me luck Leaguers. Change is often hard, but well worth it in the end.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Jim D., I guess, sent my link to comic geek website Dave's Long Box.

Normally I wouldn't have thought too much about it, but I guess people really read Dave's Long Box. I know this because my old roommate Kevin B. saw me and e-mailed me.

For good or ill, Dave's Long Box misidentified me as Jim.

I am beginning to rethink this whole "ha ha, I like Superman" thing.

Hello to MySpace people. I think you might see Michael and a few other people pop by. Welcome them.

Melbotis Store update. Since Natalie thinks I should make money off the store, I jacked the prices up by a dollar or a dollar fifty or something on the items in the store.

I do plan to swap out items in the near future, so if you really, really liked something on the page, order soon.

We got our shirts in today, and the quality of the images is pretty good. I was pleasantly surprised.

That's it for today for updates. I'm a little tired.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

living la vida loca

(editor's note: this is not written to illicit sympathy. Rather, Jamie and I sort of just had a bad day, and I thought I'd share.)


Last night Jamie and I spoke on the phone before I got home about how all we were going to do was watch TV and and read.

When I walked in the door, Jamie was already working on some fajita ingredients. "Do you hear that?" she asked. There was a loud hissing sound coming from outside the sink window. Not a snake hissing, like compressed air escaping.

Sure enough, when I stepped outside the sound was coming from the direction of the air conditioner. Immediately we called an air conditioning repair service, hoping that, at best, we could make it through the night and the air wouldn't fail until the temperatures fell outside.

The first company informed me that they weren't even taking on any new customers, thanks to the busy, busy season. Luckily the next company was able to send out a repair person (the next morning). With Jamie scheduled for dialysis in the morning and myself scheduled for meetings in the morning, we had to put off the repair until any time between 10 and 1.

So... about twenty minutes after dinner and dishes, I was reading a book when I realized "gee, it's getting pretty warm in here..." The blower was still on, but the air was no longer cool.

It was getting pretty warm pretty fast, and as we're often a little overly cautious with Jamie, I started calling hotels to find Jamie a place to sleep. My gameplan was to get her a hotel near her dialysis location (where she has to be at 5:15 MWF), and then I'd get up with her, shower at the house, feed the dogs (who would spend the night outside), and go to work as early as possible. Jamie would be able to wait for the air conditioner guy for a while, and when I was done with my meetings, we'd tag team, and I would send her back to the hotel.

It took me four hotels to find a room. And checking into a hotel (without vibrating beds) the same night you call is an expensive proposition.

We ended up at a very nice Holiday Inn just South and West of the house. I watched the Mercury on TV, read a few pages and went to sleep.

At 2:00 in the morning Jamie was yelling for me from the bathroom with the complaint that "I need to throw up and I can't. And I can't breathe."

For those of you who haven't had a silent heart-attack, these symptoms may indicate that Jamie was doing some wicked after-hours partying. As far as I know, that wasn't the case. She was more than a little weirded out, and for maybe the first time in our adventures, she requested EMS help.

The front desk was pretty helpful, and within, literally, five or ten minutes four burly firemen/ emergency responders were standing in our hotel room. Now, I've spent a lot of time in ER's, and the stuff you see on TV is mostly horse-hockey. These guys, however, had the coolest system of testing and report-out that I've seen, with two guys checking things on the wife, one guy doing all the questioning, and one guy overseeing the operation to check for mistakes.

For good or ill, in that five minutes between placing the call and the burly firemen showing up, Jamie threw-up. A lot. Her fajita dinner came back for all to see.

We immediately theorized that a recent chnage in her meds was probably the culprit, but once you set the wheels of Emergency Medical Services in motion, it's best to just them do their thing.

In the middle of all the medical fiddle-faddle, I sort of had a 2:15AM out of body experience. There were four strange men in my hotel room, the room that I really shouldn't have been in, and one of them was wearing his baggy fire fighter pants.

Because Jamie had a heart-attack in 98 or so, her EKG's are always a little off. We had to promise the firemen that we would be headed to the ER, so off we went.

The ER had some folks waiting around who had obviously been there for a while, so I was beginning to wonder exactly how long we would be stuck watching re-runs of "Cheaters" on late night TV. One gentleman who had a hurty elbow was yelling at the nurses that he had been there for a long time.

Note to people who go to the ER: Hurty elbows will not get you seen quickly. Today we learned that a possible silent heart attack gets you the Gold Member Treatment. Jamie was seen almost immediately, and we got a room within half an hour. Unfortunately, the room was in the "Crash" area, where you're almost guaranteed to see a dead person or two before the end of the visit.

And, sure enough, I was sitting there for all of five minutes before some poor soul under a sheet was wheeled by.

Meanwhile, the guy in the next room was "crashing", which understandably draws the attention away from the non-crashing patients. Such as Jamie, who was feeling much better at this point, and me, who was trying to immerse myself in my "JLA: Greatest Stories Vol. 1".

Here's another important life-lesson, Leaguers... yes, you went to the ER because you felt poorly. But when someone just died and someone else is working on it, it is NOT the time to cause a scene because your discharge paperwork is taking a few extra minutes.

One charmer in our ER, who was decidedly not ill enough to actually be in the ER, started walking down the hallway shouting about "Where's my nurse? They said they was coming back in five minutes, and it's been fifteen!" When a nurse tried to explain that they were having a critical situation, she, being well trained as an American to expect instant gratifcation at the expense of everyone else, began shouting about how she "didn't care". And how she was "going outside for a smoke and they needed to come find" her.

When it was expalined that a patient had just died, and could she please lower her voice for the families that were around, she suggested "get him a body bag" loud enough for the entire ER to hear. At this point security was called, which made her grab her items and head for the exit. I'm not really sure what happened after that.

You don't often see ER staff that angry, but, man, yeah... they were all pissed after that. But they LOVED us, for not screaming in the hallway.

Jamie was released at 4:45, so we dashed to get her to dialysis. I drove back to the hotel, slept for a few hours, picked her up, and went to drop her off and grab the free breakfast at the hotel. Apparently, the breakfast wasn't free, we learned, when we were handed a bill.

Returning to the room, the phone immediately rang and the front desk called.
"Did you call for emergency services."
"And what was this regarding?"
"My wife wasn't feeling well, but she's been to the ER and stuff, and she's okay now."
" just called for Emergency Services."
"No, I called at 2:00 this morning."
"I have emergency services on the line, and you just called for assistance. I have them on the line."
"No. I called at 2:00 this morning."
"Let me put them on."
"Sir, do you need assistance?"
"No, we're okay. Your people already came out here at 2:00."
There was sort of a bit of dicussion going on at the front desk that I could hear on the line. "We have the wrong room."
"Okay then," I said. "I'm going to hang up. Thanks."

By 9:50 I went to sit in the house and wait for the air conditioner repairman (from 10 - 1, if you're checking facts). So, anyway, I waited. And waited and waited. It was pretty hot, but I brought in a fan and sat pretty still and watched "The Roaring Twenties."

At 1:15 the company cut me off at the pass and called to let me know my repairman was en route. He showed up about twenty minutes later, sweaty and disheleveled, and honestly, looking pretty tired. He got cracking, located a freon leak (that hissing), told me he was going to gauge me, I agreed, and he went to work.

Being the smart guy I am, I went out to his truck with a glass of water, neglecting to put on shoes in the 110 degree heat, burned my feat, handed off the water and went to clean up the plotch of cat barf Jeff the Cat had deposited in by the bedroom door.

Jamie called and announced "My car won't start. I tried to go get some lunch, but my car won't start."
"Of course it won't," I replied.

The gentleman was done fairly quickly, ran through the bill with me, I paid, and changed my air filter (helpful league tip: don't use the solid, nice 3M air filters. Apparently they're too good and make your air conditioners work overtime, shortening the life of your air conditioner).

I drove back to the hotel, started Jamie's car on the first try, retrieved Jamie and checked out. And they didn't even bill us for a second night when they well could have.

Anyway, I'm a little pooped. And poor.

Jamie's feeling better and, in fact, is playing with Lucy right now. We have AC, and things are, for better or worse, back to normal.

But in the past several weeks, Jamie's car has had some minor problems, my tires and radiator needed to be replaced, Lucy was in the doggie ER, Mel had some very minor problems from his surgery, Jamie's been in and out of teh ER three times, and the AC died on the house. I'm just waiting to be diagnosed with a brain cloud.

At this point, you sort of have to be optimistic. I figure we're due for things to balance out.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Post-Hiatus Post 2

It was a nice, quiet week away from blogging. Here at League HQ, peace and quiet is a welcome thing, and rarely gives way to actual boredom. That may change quickly as temperatures have already crested 110 F, and will just get worse through August. These days we're getting up early on weekends so we can get errands done before it hits 100.

I'm reading too many books, which usually means I won't finish any of them. I finally started reading "In Cold Blood" after having seen the film two or three times and having seen Capote. At some point, I need to see what the fuss is about. I started (and then misplaced) Augusten Burroughs second memoir "Dry". Jamie got me started reading ANOTHER memoir called "The Glass Castle", which I then misplaced. Plus, I picked up a non-fiction book about Pirates. There's never enough time to read, and my books always seem to disappear.

Finished "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck", and I'm now officially a Scrooge McDuck fan. The Walt Disney comics are a weird comic-reading subculture as the stories are not simple "funny animal" strips, but rather fairly detailed adventure stories incorporating painstakingly researched real-life historical details. No, seriously. It's sort of like "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles", only less stilted and with talking ducks and dogs.

Unfortunately, the Disney Comics get a lot more play over-seas than they do in the US. Here, those comics are relegated to the juvenile section, when in fact that argument could be applied to a hell of a lot of comics that are marketed for teens and adults. I'll be picking up more of the Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck stuff. It's a fun read.

Suns lost in 6, which is about what I'd predicted. What I didn't predict was that the Suns would be unable to hold onto a lead when the Mavs decided to get serious. I can now, at least, respect the Mavs. If Cuban can keep his mouth shut and Dirk can continue to play like he has while simultaneously keep his comments to himself, I can give the Mavs credit where credit is due.

That said, if we can keep the current Suns line-up together and get Amare healthy, next year we may be able to finally win a Western Conference Championship.

With the Suns's loss, at some point CrackBass will be guest blogging here at The League. I don't plan to edit a word he says, so God knows what Wilson will write about. I don't usually open the door for Guest Blogging as I ultimately feel responsible for the content here. It's a bit like having your buddy fill out your diary while you're away on vacation. As you all know, if you really want something posted, for the love of mike, just e-mail it to me and I'll post it in nice italics.

As I often do, I'm reviewing the sort of content I post to the site. Between you, me and the wall, has made me feel a bit split in loyalties as a lot of what once went here now winds up over there. The end result is that I occasionally feel as if I have to post more inane stuff to this site just to ensure I post regularly. I guess it would help if I felt folks were making the jump from here to Nano, but I really don't get that impression. If you are, in fact, reading Nano-based reviews of comics, TV and movies, it would be nice to know. Right now I suspect it's me, RHPT, Jim D. and CrackBass all talking to each other.

On the political front, you can tell it's an election year. The GOPers are making a fuss again over the Gay Marriage Amendment. Voters should be far more offended by the GOP's insistence on dwelling on what is essentially a divisive non-issue instead of the many actual issues of the day. Some folks may not like the fact that two dudes can rent out a reception hall, spend too much on a cake and get health insurance through someone other than themself, but it's hardly as pressing as the massive deficit, NSA wiretaps, Iran's nuclear ambitions, North Korea's nuclear ambitions or the many, many aspects of "the long war."

I've yet to hear a logical reason for including secondary-citizen status for a minority group into the constitution, but it's an election year. People do start acting a little daffy.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

...and we're back!

The League enjoyed our time away from the hussle and bussle of the blogging world, but we're also happy to be back.

Of course the week I decide to take off, a lot of things happen.

1) Superman Returns release date is pushed up to Wednesday, June 28th. This will give Warner Bros. the world's longest weekend to try to really hit a home run at the box office. We're travelling Saturday after what was to be teh Friday opening, so I'm pretty pumped about being able to catch the movie opening day and not worrying about missing an early flight.

2) The new Batwoman Post Post Crisis is slated to be a lesbian. And, of course, before anyone's read a word or seen anything more than two drawings, DC went on a media blitz to promote the new character. Yes, I'm embarrassed at the DC PR/marketing machine. Anytime they go hat in hand to the news, pleading for attention, it's a little bit silly. But, that same idea has done wonders for Marvel of late.

Despite the giddiness in the announcement, DC's editorialship and stewardship has been able to handle gay characters for years. In the late 80's/ early 90's, Superman's police captain pal, Maggie Sawyer was gay. The Golden Age Green Lantern's son, Obsidian, is gay. The Vertigo line has been handling gay characters since I was in high school. Green Lantern under Judd Winick had a GLAAD-Award winning storyline.

Can DC avoid tokenism in their Post Post Crisis world as they strive to make the DCU reflect the real world a bit more? The All New Atom is slated to be a Chinese-immigrant academic (which sounds like a stereotype, but I've worked in two Universities. I assure you, we've got our fair share of Chinese-immigrant scientists working in universities). The new Spectre is former Gotham Central cop Cris Allen, an African-American dude. The new Blue Beetle is an Hispanic kid from El Paso (superheroes in El Paso? That's awesome.).

It's kind of nice to have DC giving it the old college try giving roles to folks who aren't just straight, WASPy dudes. The key will be: Will readers give new characters a try? Of late, few new characters of any type have been readily embraced by comic fans.

I guess it's a waiting game on sales.

Here's an article on This ridiculous bit of trivial minutia sat on the FRONT PAGE of for two days. We have a war going on, possible war in Iran, NSA wiretaps on American citizens, a new CIA Chief... and lesbians in batsuits and frikkin' Paris Hilton sat in the headline news section for 48 hours. I think America has officially jumped the shark.

Oh, the new batsuit was designed by Alex Ross and based on the Batman Beyond suit in color scheme. The original Batwoman was also named Kathy Kane, and also a fellow socialite with Bruce Wayne. However, she wore a sort of goofy, brightly colored suit and instead of a utility belt, carried a purse full of high-tech ladies' products (I recall in particular an "expanding hair net" she used to capture crooks). So, yes, she may have needed a bit of a make-over.

Here's a picture of some recent toys of Silver Age Batgirl and Batwoman. Here's a pic of Batwoman from a straight-to-video Batman movie release from a few years ago. Notice any familiar elements?

Oh, Jim, Manhunter was cancelled and then un-cancelled in the past two weeks. That is related to nothing in this issue accept that Obsidian appears sometimes in Manhunter.

3) Alex Toth has passed. Creator of Space Ghost and several other animated legends. Read more here.

4) X-Men 3 made a boatload of money. I mean, a LOT of money. I guess that's one franchise that has really grown on cable and DVD.

I finally saw it this afternoon after getting bumped by a sold-out show last Monday.

It was okay. I think Ratner still can't direct his way out of a bag and certain aspects of the screenplay made no sense. The movie demonstrated one of the flaws of the actual comics. The more the humans throw at mutants, either by enslaving them, experimenting on them or trying to chemically "cure" them the more one starts to wonder if Magneto isn't the realist. While written, perhaps, the most over the top of any of the three films (and making some unbelievable tactical errors) Magneto was given the moral higher ground in this movie about half-way through.

I didn't understand why the movie was so short when so much more could have been done with the newest X-Men (I mean, Colossus got about three lines and was an X-Man)? Jean's ascension to Phoenix sort of just went nowhere, and folks seemed able to travel from San Francisco to suburban New York and back in about twenty minutes.

Luckily, the movie was cut short enough, was loud enough and moved along fast enough that you were never really given much of a chance to think about some of the movie's flaws. Ratner seems like a capable technical director, but he's not winning any extra points for his direction of actors.

The "let's throw everything in the mix" attitude to the film should have been ultimately disappointing to comic fans. It's fine to get a glimpse of established aspects of the comics, but I would rather have seen the storylines touched upon played out for maximum effect. X-Men is unique among comics as the origin of each character is not what defines the character. Thus, the characters tend to develop in a soap-opera method, exposing who they are in their relationships with the other players. Here, we're given black hats and white hats and just sit back and watch events unfold like watching that old magnetic football game.

This was supposed to be the final of a trilogy of X-Films, but if anyone believes that after this movie, I have some beach front property in CHandler, AZ I can sell you. Oh, and for those of you who've never read the comics. Nobody in X-Men is ever dead for long. They'll pop up again one way or another.

5) The Melbotis Store isn't selling too much stuff. I'm a little disappointed.

6) Steven G. Harms is now in Austin. You guys in the Live Music Capital of the World need to invite him to your next cook-out.

7) Lucy was a very sick little girl last weekend, but she's all better now. Today she and Melbotis both got a much needed bath. I no longer feel the need to immediately wash my hands simply because I've touched them.

8) I hope to have a small package sent out to anyone who participated in the 2006 Mellies. If you've updated your address since March, please send me a new mailing address.

9) A special howdy to anybody who has popped in thanks to my recent attempted expansion of my friends list. If you want to be a friend to The League, we're in there. I was delighted to find Amy C. on MySpace, and Esther E. Hello to anybody who pops by.

That's about it for now. We're back.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Random Comments, May 1 - June 1

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Friday, May 26, 2006

Quick Links:

A site dedicated to saving the Britney that was.

Also: The wax museum doll of Britney, on a stripper pole. The new one at Madame Tussauds in NYC is supposed to have an animatronic heaving bosom.

Jodie Foster really, really did this. At first I was embarassed. Now I think I love her all the more.

See Jodie rap from 8 Mile.

New Zealand Acoustic Hip-Hop Geniuses (courtesy of Jim D.)


Don't forget to hit the League of Melbotis STORE for all your clothing needs.

And the funniest thing I've seen in quite a while (courtesy Cowgirl Funk)

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Hey, Leaguers,

We at League HQ are perfectly aware that many of you feel constrained by the fact that The League is mostly some pictures and words floating in the internet. We know you want to take The League of Melbotis with you no matter where you go.

Thus, we've decided to sign up with and dream up a League of Melbotis store.

Next time you're looking for a great gift idea for your kid or Mom & Dad, why not pop on in and buy a bunch of stuff? We've even got stuff for your dog.


Jamie thought I had been negligent by not mentioning that all the images of "Robot Planet" have some minor nudity. Yes, you can see a cartoon booby. Beware.

Also, Jamie mentioned that I should vary the pictures some. I'm going to add some pics that Jamie requested. And then probably leave them. Long story short, beware the booby in "Robot Planet" and don't order anything until I say it's cool.

****end update****

***Update Update***
Well, go nuts. I changed some images around. Now Jamie can get the shirt she wanted.

Yes, some shirts go up to Steans Boy sizes.

I checked the terms of use, and there's nothing in there about CafePress owning my images, which doesn't surprise me, considering their business model. They are much more concerned about covering their own interests and making sure their clients aren't breaking any laws.

CafePress gives you an option when you're setting up your store to basically bump up their base price if you want to make a profit. I've chosen not to do so. Now, if I suddenly see all the hip kids walking around Tempe with LoM shirts, we may see me trying to get a dollar or two per shirt. In the meantime, I've not adjusted anything.

***end update update***


Here's a link to the site of the new Ghost Rider trailer.

It looks pretty bad. It looks like Ghost Rider is wearing some sort of polyester outfit instead of leather, and that maybe his head is a Halloween ice cream/ liquer confection (a flambe!).

I am neither pro nor anti-Ghost Rider, but this movie doesn't look very promising. Perhaps most telling is that it was due to be released this summer and they didn't even dump it in the August C-Grade movie junklot. It's not coming out until February.

So, sweetie-pie, you know what we're doing for Valentine's Day..!

Well, Wednesday was just an oddly decent day. I got a lot done at work, it wasn't as mind numbingly hot out as I'd suspected, Dan called me at work to fill me in on some Blackboard updates (and life updates), and I got to leave work at a decent time.

Also, of course, Jamie is home from the hospital. She went in to the ER on Monday around 1:00 AM and was admitted, so she was sort of hanging out without much to do at Chandler Regional until Tuesday evening.

She's going to see a pulmonologist (outpatient) to check up on some breathing stuff she's had going on for a while, but otherwise she seems okay. Jamie, of course, took the opportunity in the hospital to tell Dr. Chang I'd been running. He didn't exactly praise me for my astounding transformation, but it was kind of funny how he was more than ready to switch gears and discuss that instead.

So, this evening was kind of nuts with the finale of Lost (which Jamie taped, and which I will not be watching), the Suns/Mavs game and finale of American Idol. I'm kicking myself now, but since we assumed the Suns were sunk, we tuned in to AI. Obviously a very, very bad call.

That said, American Idol turned out to have, arguably, its most entertaining episode to date. Pairing contestants with showbiz success stories, it made for a pretty good variety show without all the self-congratulatory hoo-hah of an established awards show. I mean, where else will you see Mary J. Blige, Live, and Burt Bacharach under one roof? Where?

But, of course, they also had Prince, who reminded us EXACTLY what a performer can be. Thank you, Prince, I had almost forgotten. How have I never seen him live? I'm not living right.

And the show was funny. AI gave in to it's inner dorkiness for the AI Awards, giving some of the not-so-lucky contestants an opportunity to take the stage. And while Clay Aiken may now look like the lost child of Barry Manilow, it was funny to see him as a seasoned performer.

We tuned over to the Suns/Mavs game with three minutes left, saw our boys were down and tuned back. We were more than a little stunned to see the news after the show announcing a Suns victory. I am, I admit, more than a little surprised. Winning Game 1 at Dallas didn't seem to likely. Now for Game 2 the Mavs are really going to be looking for blood.

New comic day brought a conrnucopia of good stuff which I didn't get much of a chance to read. 52 is turning out to be a very interesting read thus far. I guess it's on my recommend list. It's fun to have a book to look forward to every week, so, sales willing, I'll be curious to see what lessons DC takes from 52 as far as marketing strategy.

I still have a stack of other stuff to read, including two Gail Simone written comics (Birds of Prey and the new Secret Six book).

No Superman books this week. Trimming it down to two regular titles is leaving me feeling a bit high and dry, and with JLA on hiatus until July, All-Star Superman a bi-monthly and Superman/ Batman on a wildly irregular schedule, it's just not always as easy to get my Superman fix as I'd like.

Also: Parents called. New Frescata sandwich at Wendy's was okay for what you pay, and Lucy was able to entertain herself all night with a tennis ball.

Hope your Wednesday was a good one.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No post? Not so.

Check out my review of Da Vinci Code over at

I think you'll find that I am a genius.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mavs v. Suns = silly betting

Despite the fact that he is not an amoral moron, CrackBass is a Mavs fan. For those of you keeping track of the NBA play-offs, the Mavs beat my San Antonio Spurs last night in game 7 of round 2. It was a feirce battle, and had we fouled the evil Dirk with a few seconds remaining, Spurs would be up for the Western Conference Championship rather than Mark Cuban's evil minions.

Your Phoenix Suns finally decided to play as they do in the regular season and blew out the LA Clippers in game 7.

So, next up, the Suns v. Mavs in the Western Conference Champeeeship.

So, me and CrackBass are putting our money where our mouth is.

Says CrackBass:

Well dear readers, the Mavs won their series over the evil empire that is San Antonio. They overcame themselves and thanks to some horrific officiating (even I think Duncan was fouled at the end of the game), the Mavs will be facing the Suns of Phoenix for a 7 game series beginning Wednesday. The League, Steanso's younger, more distinguished brother, currently resides just outside of Phoenix, in the burgeoning metropolis of Chandler, AZ. Since The League was stripped of his super hero status four years ago after an unfortunate and misunderstood incident with a baby giraffe, The League has been forced to take an interest in such mundane things as pro sports, and therefore, the Suns. I care for the Mavericks a great deal. A bet has been suggested between The League and I. If the Mavs win, then The League shall be forced to do something foolish (mowing the yard in a dress, a la The Simpsons, if only Chandler supported the growth of plants); if the Suns win, I shall do something. We are open to your suggestions. We will take submissions and will choose before tipoff on Wednesday.

Now, the problem is that I don't think the Suns will make it to Game 6, but I have to stand with my local sporting franchise. After all, I have two Suns shirts and no Mavs shirts.

We are now taking requests for what should be the result of this little wager.

You see the comments tab. Go nuts.

Personally, I think whomever loses the battle should have to give Steanso his annual bath.
RIP Lloyd Bentsen

I don't make note of the loss of too many politicians, but I think Mr. Bentsen's years in public service and interesting career are certainly worthy of reflection.

Read more here.
The International Trailer for Superman Returns

Far more spoilery than prior trailers, but a lot of fun.

Go here.

Thanks to Jim D. for the hyperlink.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Summer of Superman/ Melbotis Mailbag

Randy writes:

I always thought Supes got "beat up" too easily. For a creature with god-like powers, he gets knocked around a lot. This is what always frustrates me when watching a Superman cartoon (JLU; Superman TAS). If Supes was so powerful, couldn't he just destroy people at will? Sure, folks like Doomsday and Darkseid would give him problems, but a guy in spandex with a ray gun? Yes, he has to be careful so that he doesn't kill human beings, but why should he let them push him around? It's like he doesn't fully utilize all his superhuman skills.

Dear Randy,

Point well taken, Randy.

In issue #1 of New England Comics' The Tick, The Tick explains that he is "nigh invulnerable". That's his power. He's exactly as invulnerable as the story dictates. A lot of these sorts of questions don't really bug you when you accept that nigh invulnerability is more or less the status quo of the average superhero in comics or any medium.

The creators of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited TV programs have gone on record about their decision to de-power Superman in the cartoon. The point being, if Superman were operating at full capacity, would he really need the Justice League? If one watches over the course of the series, it's pretty clear they either couldn't agree on Superman's power (he stops a hurricane but is having trouble with a truck falling off a bridge?), or they simply didn't know what was appropriate to make the show work. I remember screaming bloody murder at the TV in the first episode where Superman is overcome by some alien knock-out gas. Supes can fly in the sun's corona. I think he can handle a little chlorophorm.

All things being equal, I think the same argument regarding "de-powered" superheroes can be made regarding Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern or Wonder Woman. However, nobody seems too concerned that J'onn doesn't have his "Martian Vision" or, seemingly, his telepathic powers. There's barely a snort that Wonder Woman's magic lasso is just super-strong and doe snot force anyone to tell the truth. And I've heard barely a peep that Green Lantern appears limited to lasers and bubble shields in the cartoon.

On the flip side, nobody seems concerned that Hawkgirl can destroy otherworldly atomic drills with a swing of an electrically charged mace.

I guess what I'm saying is: It's all about managing expectations. Everybody more or less has an idea of what Superman can do. It's possible the show's creators misstepped in not meeting those expectations.

If Supes was so powerful, couldn't he just destroy people at will?

He could, but he doesn't. If he did, I think you'd see someone named "Zod" and less of someone named Superman. The idea that Superman would "destroy" people is sort of anathema to the concept of the superhero. Simply because you have the ability to destroy somebody doesn't mean that you utilize it.

Sure, folks like Doomsday and Darkseid would give him problems, but a guy in spandex with a ray gun?

Well, it depends what's in that ray gun and whether Superman was braced for the punch it delivered.

Yes, he has to be careful so that he doesn't kill human beings, but why should he let them push him around?

I think what you're asking is: Why does Superman allow himself to be put in harm's way? Or, are you asking: Why does Superman let himself take the first hit?

Look, some of it is just bad writing. If you have telescopic vision and heat vision and some guy down the block is shooting the place up, you could, in theory, melt the weapon before he ever notices you. I think this is the approach you'd see in the comics but which seems to have missed the JLU writers.

If you're asking why Superman doesn't just pound everyone who is a threat to him... You're kind of missing the point of Superman.

One of the things I dig about Superman is that it's not like Superman is stupid. He KNOWS he can beat most other folks on the surface of the planet. So when he shows up, he can always give crooks of all stripes a chance to drop their weapons and surrender peacefully. He can also afford to take the first shot in a fight, knowing it's entirely likely that he will be able to walk away from a fight.

Does he fully utilize his powers and skills? I guess it depends on your definition. Comics are full of characters who believe they are fully utilizing their powers and/ or skills in order to make the world a better place (ie: the world according to them.) Part of the point, again, of the superheroic ideal is that simply because one has the power, one doesn't necessarily force others (and most likely cannot force others) to abide by their notions of right and wrong. What they CAN do is step in to protect people who stand in harm's way or protect those who are at risk because someone else is "fully utilizing" their powers in a way which is detrimental to the powerless.

But what I think you're really asking is: Can't Superman open a greater can of whoop-ass than what I've seen?

The answer is: I guess it depends where you're looking. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Superman really cut loose on JL and JLU, but that just wasn't in the cards. I did feel like the producers might not even have really liked Superman all that much as a character in the first season, maybe because he can be a pain in the ass to write as he's the swiss army knife of Superheroes.

I think by the end of the show, they really had come to like him a lot more, and had become more comfortable using him in stories.

You do hear some writers complain that Superman is too tough to write as the hero who can do anything, but the fact is that successful Superman stories have only infrequently been about Superman slogging his way, video game like, through low-level villains to the big boss. And, in fact, I don't personally find those sorts of stories terribly engaging anymore in any comics (not just my Superman stories).

Superman comics usually present a far more logical view of what Superman might do. The editors know who their readership is, and they're far more likely to ensure that they don't receive bags of letters asking why Superman let, say, The Rainbow Raider get the drop on him.

I think when you see characters of more limited power, it's easier to chalk up their actions to a "real" effort. Everyone's favorite example: Wolverine. Wolverine is, for all intentions, a guy with a few knives. Wolverine is portrayed as hacking and slashing his way through piles of ninjas, etc... each issue, often with his mouth hanging open, drooling. THAT, is effort. That is a guy fully utilizing his abilities. Superman isn't usually portrayed in this sort of light. And when Superman DOES demonstrate effort, it's usually shown at such a scale that it's less relatable (such as "charging up" by flying through the corona of the sun before smashing through the invading alien army.).

I'm not sure this actually answered your question. What I would say is: in all the media where you see Superman appear, rarely is he portrayed the same way from media to media or even program to program. And, yes, Superman fans also get frustrated with the seeming lack of consistency, too.