Wednesday, June 28, 2006

SUMMER OF SUPERMAN: All that's left is the waiting.

By the time you read this, some of you will have already seen Superman Returns. I haven't gotten to see the movie yet, but I've been waiting a long time. A few more hours won't hurt. It seems like yesterday I was looking at a countdown ticker telling me I had a year left before the movie was released.

At this point, I guess the honest question to ask ourselves is this: Can Superman Returns possibly live up to the hype and expectations?

I don't think so.

I don't really expect to be disappointed in the movie, but I'm also aware it's a movie. Possibly a film made by folks with the best of aspirations, but there are going to be flaws. There are going to be portions and performancess that don't quite hit the mark. There are going to be things that don't stick with Superman canon.


After all the opportunity for a movie which was not, in any way, representative of the 70 years of Superman comics, I'll take a flawed movie which at least respects the ideas and ideals behind the character.

Superman, unlike any other superhero and unlike many other fictional characters, is an icon. Trying to capture the wonder and grandeur of any superhero is tough, but some ideas are more easy to translate than others. Capturing an icon, putting them to film, is like lightning in a bottle. When it doesn't work, somehow the disappointment is all the greater. Everyone knows who Superman is supposed to be, and we're unforgiving when he somehow doesn't meet out expectations.

From the trailers I know the screen writers and director have taken the challenge head on. They're well aware that journalists have spent a lot of ink pondering Superman's irrelevance in a world that, they believe, has outgrown the need for Supermen. We need, these journalists insist, our heroes tarnished and barely functional. Who can believe in a Superman who deflects bullets?

I eagerly await Singer and Co.'s answer to that question, especially as the reviews, both good and bad, never raise the question.

I'm looking forward to my time with Jamie tonight, standing in line for popcorn and a Diet Coke. I'm looking forward to the titles and the music. I'm also looking forward to the quiet ride home where we don't say too much to each other.

I have no idea how to make the perfect Superman movie, and even if I did, someone else would find problems with whatever I wanted to do. So all I can do now is end the anticipation and hope for the best.

Up, up and away...!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


and it is frikkin' AWESOME

go here.

You poor Leaguers are probably sick to death of The League rooting on the release of Superman Returns. Well, all that will end before the end of the week when I've seen the movie and begin getting excited about Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, yes. Pirates!

In the meantime, here are some quick bits.

1) Jim D. is scheduled for the 10:00 on Tuesday screening of Superman Returns in the BMT. Due to Jim's terrorist threat to inundate me with spoilers, Jamie has forbidden me any contact with Jim from 12:30AM Wednesday until Thursday morning.

2) For those of you who planned to re-watch Superman: The Movie prior to seeing Superman Returns and are just now realizing that ain't going to happen, Nathan points us to Angry Alien. They've got a featured flash movie retelling Superman in 30 seconds. With bunnies!

Hop over to that site here.

3) I know it's almost $400, but this is what I want for Christmas, Steanso...

4) Here's some marketing madness. WB's marketing arm is projecting the Superman logo onto landmarks around the country. After the jump, there are some photos of the logo on Niagra Falls. Made famous, of course, in Superman II. Because nobody had ever thought to visit before that.

5) If you've got kids, take 'em to see the King. Burger King has Super Toys in their kid's meals. Including a Super Pedometer. Which is great, because if your kid is eating at Burger King often enough to collect all the toys, they're probably going to need that pedometer. And bypass surgery.

The movie, last I checked, is PG-13. If your kid is five, s/he is under half the recommended age for seeing this flick. I know parents pretty much ignore ratings, but it's a bit of interest, I suppose.

Of course, what do I know? Eventually both Rambo and Robocop got their own cartoon series and toy lines.

More Super News as events warrant.

Monday, June 26, 2006


On the eve of the release of Superman Returns, I've decided to try out a little Super Snack. Better living through League of Melbotis.

It's Cap'n Crunch! Now, with real Superman Shield Shapes! Jeff approves.

You can see for yourself the shiny, pretty Cap'n Crunch Box. You can almost begin to imagine my anticipation. Note: It promises to turn my milk blue.

Superman wouldn't steer you wrong! See, free entertainment. Jeff and I have a game scheduled for Thursday evening.

Superman, ahoy! Lookie there. Those are some Super Shields mixed in with the usual Crunch barrels. I confess, I love me some Cap'n Crunch. I'm kind of excited.

For scale, here is an example of a Crunch Shield. Note the color. It is red. Sort of.

Wha..? As advertised, the cereal turns the milk blue. Some of the shields get a little blue or purple, but... but... there's some serious mad science going on here. I'm a litle scared.

Skeptical. Simply skeptical of blue milk.

It smells like The Cap'n. Sweet. Crunchy. Delicious.

I am reluctant to take my first bite.

Sweet. Crunchy...

Not dissimilar to my usual bowl of The Cap'n.

Not dissimilar at ALL. I believe I WILL have another bite.

Yowzah! Now that is some cereal. SWEEEEEEEET!!!!

You'll have to pardon this photo. I'm on a sort of diet. Not much sugar lately.

ARGHHH!!! Crunch scrape. Must slow Crunch eating to a crawl.

Yes, this is a truly Super addition to my Super diet. The League fully endorses this product.

Next up, some Super 4-Cheese pasta.

I was sitting in my cushy swivel chair at work on Friday, just sort of zoning out prior to a video conference I was to man, sort of just flipping my issues around, sort of like when I'm making Jamie's coaster-sized pancakes on a Sunday morning on the griddle. You look at each pancake individually, but there's a common theme there as they cook at about the same rate, some better than others, some needing a little nurturing, some needing the spatula lest they bleed into one another and create an unweildy pancake infinitely more difficult to deal with now that they've merged.

You flip them over, these ideas, to see how the other side is doing, and then at some semi-arbitrary moment you declare those pancakes done. You could wait a little longer, you could have pulled them off a little sooner. It doesn't really matter too much, I guess. Especially when you plan to then smother those ideas in Log Cabin.

I have come to a conclusion. A Super conclusion. A conclusion so colossal and stupefying that I am afraid to say it out loud.

It will take heavy lifting, this idea. It's a matter, now, of lining up the principles and designing a plan for execution. However, that's what they pay me for at my current job. Find the impossible task, figure out what has to happen, what's the timeline, gird your loins and lift. Hold the weight until you're used to it.

No limits.

I am convinced there's nothing we can't do, we two, we just need to put our backs into it and take ourselves a chance. Trying to stay within certain boundaries has not worked up until this point, so it's time, now, to start looking at doing it the hard way. What is it they say about anything worth having?

So I want to do this thing. No one else is going to do it for me.

But one thing I've learned is that The League is not just our little squad sitting out here amongst the tumbling tumbleweeds. We've got connections, and we've got reserves. We've got caped and masked allies everywhere, and this could be the big cross-over event of the summer.

The story will have romance and intrigue, adventure and pathos, I am sure. And unlike so much else, in these monthly comics, I have no idea how it's going to end. This is the sort of "fly through the kryptonite field and on through the red sun" sort of risk-taking that I'm not usually too good at. If only Mogo is there to catch me when I fall.

When we are lucky, we have only the limits we set upon ourselves.

I feel ready to break the chains and leap into the sky.

No limits!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Comics in Review - Week June 21ish

I was going comic reviews over at, but as mentioned last week, I'm moving some of that back here.

Mostly I read and review DC books, but I'm trying to branch out a bit.

Here we go.

Civil War #1 and Civil War: Frontline #1 - Marvel Comics:

Decent story. Overkill on the books I'm expected to pick up. Event fatigue creeping in around the edges.

I think I honestly enjoyed Civil War #1 more than Frontline #1. Frontline seemed to be forcing the square pegs of Marvel's make-believe issues into the round slots of real-world political issues in a way which sort of strained logic. The worst offender was the nebulous story at the end of Frontline #1 which I'm still not sure wasn't suggesting that Japanese-Americans were doing their patriotic duty by being herded into internment camps during World War II. I don't honestly think that's what the writer intended to say, but there were a few lines about patriotic duty, blah blah blah and then the folks entering the camps.

The League doesn't want to get political, but we're also not really sure this was a well executed story.

Also, Spider-Man's "Iron Spider" outfit is lame.

Uncle Scrooge #355 - Gemstone Publishing:

This is so dorky, but I've started picking up Uncle Scrooge comics. They're just genuinely fun and goofy comics. These comics by Gemstone include work by Carl Barks as well as new work, pretty much continuing the Uncle Scrooge comics that have been in print for fifty years.

There's certainly a pastiche for the past, but also a certain "all-ages" quality to the comics that Disney used to hold up as their gold-standard of story-telling.

Due to the amount of content in each issue of Uncle Scrooge, the price is that of two comics, but I'm okay with that.

I'd highly recommend these comics as a springboard for kids. There's plenty going on in each comic, and the characters are very likeable.

All-Star Superman #4 - DC Comics
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

After having just read my way through 500+ pages of Jimmy Olsen stories in Showcase Presents: Superman Family Vol. 1, this issue was a welcome treat. As he's done in the three previous issues of All-Star Superman, Morrison has taken the Silver-Age concept and brought it into the mid 21st Century. Quitely's art is just as astonishing in this issue as the previous three, but his "re-design" of Jimmy suggests a hipster idiot-savant.

For those of you who may not know, Jimmy Olsen carried his own title for decades at DC Comics, routinely falling into as much or more trouble than Lois Lane, and counting on Superman to pull his fat out of the fire. No matter the circumstances, Jimmy would get the story and learn a little lesson about, say, not walking into a hail of bullets just because you've previously signaled Superman with your secret signal watch.

In this issue, Superman discovers the super-dense black Kryptonite, which seems to make him act the opposite of his nature, in this case, evil, and Jimmy is unable to call in Superman to combat the threat as the very threat is Superman himself.

Anyway, highly recommended.

Shadowpact #2 - DC Comics:
Art and Story by Bill Willingham

I have no idea why, but this comic keeps getting good reviews.

During Infinite Crisis, Willingham stated that he planned to re-imagine magic in the DCU, an act which raised The League's eyebrows as magic in the DCU had always been pretty cool. I like Dr. Fate. I like The Spectre and Phantom Stranger. I love Zatanna.

Willingham has pretty much turned magic into a superheroic power battery, like radiation, etc... etc... without really adding anything. In short, Shadowpact is nothing more than a C-List team of superheroes fighting C-list "magical" villains. I could forgive all of that, but the writing just doesn't feel terribly imaginative and none of the characters have been explained or developed from a "power" standpoint, or from who the heck they are.

The villains are unimaginative "magic" characters whose names I can't be bothered to remember who, like in Ghostbusters 1 & 2, seem to be trying to summon an evil power from beyond. Whatever.

I think I realized I gave this comic a shot because I liked the idea of Detective Chimp. There's absolutely nothing else of interest going on in this comic. At that, Willingham put Detective Chimp in combat tights for some reason.

This is a bad comic. I give it 8-12 issues. Issue #2 is my final issue.

Give me Dr. Fate.

Superman/ Batman #27:
Mark Verheiden and Kevin MacGuire

A filler issue if there ever was one. Readers have been patient. DC should have just waited until July for the next storyline. This story was deeply embedded in Earth-2 DC history and ultimately adds nothing.

I'm a pretty big fan of Power Girl and will pick up pretty much anything with her on the cover, but this isn't a good way to treat a flagship title, even if the creators are A or B+.

DC, you've got a lot of people watching you in a post-IC market. This is exactly how to drop the ball.

The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #1
Written by Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson; Art and cover by Ken Lashley

Ultimately, this wasn't a great comic. There's a lot of promise here, but from a structural standpoint, the comic was a mess. If DC was planning to pull in all new readers with their all-new Flash, this was not the way to do it.

The art is good, but not great.

I'll stick with the comic, partly because these things have a tendency to settle themselves, and partly because I think we'll see 6 issues with the current creative team and then an established comic writer will take over.

For whatever reason, DC decided to hand writing chores over to some of the guys responsible for the 1990's era Flash TV show. In my mind, you've just finished one Flash series with some of the top guns of the comic industry writing (Mark Waid, Geoff Johns), and you put on two writers unknown to the industry? That's a misstep.

And I have to vent a little bit here: What is up with every roommate to every super hero being a clueless party-dude? Yes, it does set up a stark contrast between our troubled hero and the care-free youth he'd like to be, but there's got to be another stock character.

Also, I'm not buying the "concerned intern" bit of the pretty, bespectacled girl who is interested in the fate of Bart Allen. To complicate matters, Bart is, if you do the math, somewhere around 10 years-old. There's just something icky about forcing the romance thing where it doesn't belong.

I've enjoyed The Flash on and off since middle-school. I have fond memories of sitting in my bunk at camp and re-reading an issue of The Flash (and sharing it with my bunkmates) over and over until it more resembled confetti than a comic. It was so destroyed, in fact, that it never made it home. I just didn't think a comic with a footprint on the cover was going to look good in my collection.

I was hoping for a re-launch worthy of The Flash franchise, and this one doesn't quite hit the mark. Still, it's The Flash, so I'm hopeful he can outrun some sub-par writing and land squarely on his feet, no matter who is behind the mask.

Eternals #1 - Marvel Comics:
by Neil Gaiman and JRjr
based on some old Marvel Kirby stuff

If anyone at Marvel will understand that Kirby's Eternals are not just another bunch of superheroes, it will be Neil Gaiman. That said, I've never read any of Kirby's Eternals work, and until it's released in a TPB I can afford, I probably won't. So, in a way, I'm walking into this comic completely unsure of what to expect, and for a comic from Marvel or DC, that's a rare and good thing.

The odd thing, the thing I can't shake the feeling of with this comic, is that I've seen this idea somewhere before. Highlander? Highlander 2? Bendis' "Powers"? Gaiman's own work in Books of Magic? Cosmic sleeper agents? There's got to be a precedent somewhere. Maybe in scientology.

There's something utterly recognizable about what I read in Eternals #1 that I just can't shake. Maybe I read a Marvel handbook entry on the Eternals when I was a kid and it's just been sort of buried there in the back of my head. I have no idea.

Still, the comic is good. It's worth a read. The bits and parts about ancient times pop out of the book like fireworks, JRjr handling the switch between mundane NYC and cosmic doings without breaking a sweat.

I'm in for a while. I'm curious about the whole thing.

52 #7 - DC Comics

Man, are other reviewers looking for reasons not to like this book. They've picked on the art even when it was as good or better than the average issue of pretty much any second-tier "Nightwing"-type comic. They've picked on bits of weak dialogue as if comics are known for their believeable parlance.

52 is a mystery, wrapped in an engima and smothered in secret sauce (thank you, News Radio). More has happened in this comic in 7 weeks than happens in the average Bendis book in three years. Of course, this is just the set-up. We've got 45 more weeks to go.

I was surprised that so few reviewers picked up on the "Island of the Lotus Eaters" bit in this issue, and I saw one reviewer actually misidentify the allusion as an Aesop Fable about lazy animals.

It's impossible to tackle all the threads in this comic in what I am planning to be a brief review, but so far I'm interested in all of them to one extent or another. I'm definitely more interested in the Question/ Montoya storyline than other readers. Really enjoying the Booster Gold stuff.

And, of course, the Kathy Kane entrance had that detective novel entrance you like to see.

I'm still recommending this comic, you bunch of unappreciative thugs.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Comic stuff to come back to League of Melbotis

Several months ago I pitched the idea of a collaborative comics review site to several folks, all of whom more or less shrugged, said something about "I don't actually read comics," and then more or less started wandering off.

Undeterred, Jim and I teamed up for a new pitch, and many of the players were roped back in by the promise of a media review site where you could talk TV, movies, comics, whatever...

I think we gave it a good shot. I really do. I have weeks and months worth of comic reviews, several movie reviews, and some TV commentary. But, to be honest, outside of the contributors, I'm not sure if anyone else was reading the site.

Meanwhile, I've been neglecting the actual comics side of things which actually spawned League of Melbotis. So, long story short, I'm going to be bringing comic reviews, commentary, etc... back to the League. It seems sort of hollow to write a 300,000 word treastise on the importance of continuity in comics when all of your other posts are about how you and Jamie spent the weekend cleaning out your toe-jam.

Bringing reviews back to LoM is intended to keep the reviews from feeling like work, which is exactly what it became over at I felt I couldn't go to a movie or read a comic without mentally outlining how I was going to be snarky in the review.

In the end, nobody was reading the gawl-durn reviews, anyway.

The League's gameplan is this: We will not waste time talking too much about comics that are average or bad, unless the comic is so bad, I feel I must vent. We will try to sell you, the Loyal Leaguer, on comics we felt were worth the dough. Meanwhile, expect all the rest of the usual mundanity you've come to expect.

We also will attempt to return to a use of the Royal "We", which was employed for so long at LoM, but which seems to have drained away with the need for expediency in blogging.

We will also, hopefully, be profiling cool comic characters, and generally improving upon the old "Suggestions for Further Reading" bit, which we hope you once enjoyed.

Movie commentary will show up here again as well.

The bottom line is this: We don't really want to spend time managing two blogs. It's a lot of work. The League will not become completely about comics. It never was. I just hope you'll keep coming back (or reading your RSS feed or whatever) and read some of the comic-related material, as well as whatever else is the reason you keep popping back in here.

I'm feeling good about this choice. Hopefully you will be, too. My thanks to all nano contributors. We gave it a shot.

In the meantime, for the love of Weisinger, go pick up All-Star Superman #4.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Summer of Superman: Not a hoax, not a dream....

No matter how bad Superman Returns may be as a film upon it's release June 28thish, The League will still be happy to know that they tried. It's been a long time in the works, this movie, and there have been innumerable directors, casts, budgets and plotlines associated with the film. 95% of those rumors and ideas had The League totally freaked out.

Imagine, if you will, an all new Superman movie directed by Mr. Slow-Mo McG, starring Justin Timberlake as Superman and Cameron Diaz as Lois Lane, in which Krypton never exploded and Superman spends the duration of the movie learning that he is the prophesized "chosen one", destined to save Krypton. Leaguers, this movie almost happened.

Or a Superman who has no powers, but derives them from kick ass body armor, and who weilds knives...

Or a middle-aged Nick Cage in a hair piece in the supersuit, exploring the "darker" aspects of Superman with Tim Burton?

Ashton Kutscher "dude-ing" his way through the movie as a cross-eyes Clark Kent (am I the only one who ever noticed Kutscher is cross-eyed)?

Beyonce Knowles as Lois Lane?

Brett "I Have No Idea How to Structure a Movie" Ratner trying to re-tell the origin?

Lex Luthor as a Kryptonian FBI agent?

And this is going to irritate some people, but Kevin Smith's script is pretty bad. I don't care how many copies of "An Evening with Kevin Smith" he's sold, his feel for the material is clunky at best, and sort of comes off like an episode of SuperFriends with violence.

I'm not sure what relationship producer Jon Peters now has with the project, but it was interesting to see the guy who had held the purse strings for so long appear in the recent documentary "Look! Up in the Sky!" admitting he had no idea what Superman was about for years and years of development.

It could have been a very goofy/bad movie indeed that never even tried to live up to the legacy. It could have been a hack job by a bunch of people who thought the movie just wasn't a good idea in the first place.

Thank goodness, then, for Avi Arad understanding the potential for a serious comic movie franchise, Bryan Singer and his X-Men movies, Sam Raimi and Spider-Man, and the Salkinds and Richard Donner for showing us nearly thirty years ago the way it can and should be done.

For the whole, ugly history, go here.
World Cup Update: US loses to Ghana. Yankees go home.

That's right, we lost to a country where the GDP is less than some American individual's personal income. No, seriously, it was $5.9 billion in 2002. That's what Americans spend on onion rings in a year.

Unfortunately, Mexico was one of my picks for WC finals contention, and they're playing like they've been hitting the biergartens and eating too much schnitzel. All I've got left is Argentina. Come on, you Nazi-harboring bastards!
Getting to Know the Man of Steel

So I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "League, i've already pre-purchased my tickets online. I'm camping out front of the theater. What else can a Superman fan such as myself do to get prepared?"

In this installment, I shall suggest some fun Superman media you can consider enjoying to enhance your Super Summer.


Superman: The Movie

Perhaps the definitive comic-to-film adaptation, Richard Donner's 1978 film Superman: The Movie busted open the post-1960's camp Batman idea of what comic characters were about. The original 500 page script handed in by Mario Puzo (that's about 350-375 pages longer than most scripts, Leaguers) served as the template for the epic films that Donner and Co. would produce between Superman I and Superman II.

The film remains visually stunning with practical effects that today's film-makers wouldn't have the cajones to consider, let alone pull off. A terrific love story, a diabolical villain, space opera, romantic middle America... there's a little something in this flick for everybody.

And it redefined what Superman would be in comics and television for the next 30 years.

Superman II

"The problem with Superman" we are repeatedly told, "is that you can't come up with a reasonable threat." Try three Kryptonian supervillains hell-bent on subjugating the Earth.

The film lacks the epic resonance of the first film and interrupts it's spectacular action sequences with some hammy comedy, but there's a lot to like in this sequel. Questions abound whether the replacement of Donner and subsequent reshoots by Richard Lester made for a lesser film, but we'll have some of the mystery solved this December with a restored "Donner Cut" of Superman II coming to DVD.

I personally like Lois in this film, even if her feminine whiles convince Superman to give up his mojo and have some seriously weak blow-dried hair. It's all worth it, int he end, to see Superman pop open his can of whoop-ass.

Superman: Man of Steel by John Byrne

Post Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne re-told the origin of Superman and re-established the Superman mythos in a model which both reflected the movies and openly rejected other concepts. Krypton took on a new design, but mirrored the cold society of the films. Meanwhile, Clark Kent was no longer portrayed as a goof, instead he was an accomplished journalist and author, and a believable foil for Lois. Luthor was no longer just a scientist, but a corporate mogul using others to do his dirty work (perhaps a combination of Robert Vaughn's villain from Superman III and Hackman's Luthor).

Wonderfully drawn and briskly paced, really the first Superman comics to turn me on to the character.

Superman: Peace on Earth by Paul Dini and Alex Ross

A beautifully told story of Superman's attempt to assist the Earth in overcoming hunger and need. Expertly written by Paul Dini and perfectly rendered by Alex Ross, this heart-breaking tale may be one of the most human stories ever told of The Man of Steel.

The Superman Chronicles #1

DC Comics and Marvel Comics are no dopes when it comes to milking the fan base for more coin. DC has a prestige collection of books, printed in hardcover on archive paper, and dubbed them "Archive Editions". I love these books. But I cannot afford them.

In 2005 DC launched the "Chronicles" editions of their reprints, which are paperback collections, in color, on half-way decent paper. (The lowest tier are the "Showcase Presents", printed on newsprint in black and white. But also $16 for 550+ pages of comics.)

Superman Chronicles has only seen one release, but it's the origin of Superman told in order, reprinting classic Siegel and Shuster work. This is the "circus strongman" Superman, clearly designed to look like an aerialist with a cape, and who spends a lot of time making jokes at crooks' expense while dangling them from atop telephone wires.

Also, Lois is one brassy dame in these comics.


The Adventures of Superman with George Reeves, Noel Neill, etc...

The thrilling 1950's-era TV series which brought a new kind of adventure to a medium in it's infancy. The half-hour program featured the adventures of the crew at the Daily Planet as they uncovered gangs of mobsters, out of control robots and shady mining operations. Fortunately, no matter the danger, Superman is always near-by to save our team of erstwhile heroes.

Superman: A Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

A story set in Superman's earliest career and including scenes from his youth in Smallville. A fantastic take on Superman coming to terms with genuine evil in the world. Sale's art is a wonderful compliment to nostalgic story.

Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu

A recent re-telling of Superman's earliest days in Metropolis, meant to bring Superman back into line with Smallville and certain Silver-Age elements. A bit confusing how it fits into continuity, but beautifully rendered and well told.

Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told by various

A collection of some of the best Superman stories of the past 70 years, pulling from all eras in DC's extensive publishing history. A terrific snapshot of Superman through the years.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness

Probably a good place to check out an all-out action story with Superman and Batman against the world. If you aren't sure how Superman and Batman would work together, here's a good place to check out the World's Finest at their best.

Leaguers, there's 70 years of material out there. I'm sure you can find something to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I don't talk about work all that often, but occasionally, sometimes, you know...

So in a meeting yesterday for my organization's new website someone decided we needed to begin PodCasting. In higher ed, PodCasting is considered the second coming. I don't necessarily have anything against PodCasting, but I don't really see what it brings that a .wav file provides. And nobody ever said a .wav file was going to save higher ed.

As these things tend to do, the idea mushroomed, and then we were discussing video clips of faculty, which, honestly, I think does a better job of what we were discussing in the first place.

So today we sat down and were discussing THAT as a separate project, and it suddenly grew to be 1.5 minute produced videos. Which I am also fine with, and would honestly prefer. But I'm an RTF geek, and so I believe it's all about the pre-production. I started talking about storyboarding, and outlines of scripts, blah blah blah and was met with blank stares and some derision.

My co-worker at the end of the table paused for a moment, repeated pretty much exactly what I'd just said we needed to do, and suddenly everyone was in agreement.

I have no idea why my pitch was so unattractive and his was met with all but cheers, but it took all I could muster not to stand up and shout "HE'S SAYING EXACTLY WHAT I JUST SAID!!! I JUST SAID THAT AND YOU ALL THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY!!!!"

As I've learned, you just let it slide, because nobody remembers who came up with what, anyway. And since the guy is on my team, heck... I can take pride in our team scoring points for taking the project under control. Also, the important thing is that we're all in agreement moving forward.

I think I must occasionally make absolutely no sense in meetings.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Reviews are trickling in of press screenings of the upcoming Superman Returns film.

There's a bit of weirdness in that the official release date of Superman Returns is Wednesday the 28th, but we've got listed screenings starting AZ time at 10:00pm on Tuesday. I did my best puppy-dog eyes last night to try to convince Jamie we NEEDED to go to the 10:00 Tuesday show, but
1) Lucy and Mel both do better puppy-dog eyes
2) Jamie has stupid dialysis at 5:00 Wednesday morning. Apparently she needs it to survive and that trumps her ability to stay up until 1:00 or 1:30 on Wednesday morning.

So, we're now going on Wednesday.

I will probably be writing a summary of my experience. I will not be writing a review. To write a review, one must be objective. I find it unlikely that I will be objective.

We are then slated to head to Houston the week of July 4th, and if I know my folks, we'll be seeing the movie there as well. Possibly on the IMAX. Cousin Susan will be joingin us in Houston and will be fitted with an appropriate muzzle as she likes to let you know when a movie is not meeting her criteria. Susan does not like the superheroes.

Mom and Dad will ALSO be fitted with muzzles. Apparently around 1999, they decided casual conversation was okay in the theater, officially getting that one step closer to becoming crazy old people. KareBear is all about refusing to follow a movie. The Admiral likes to point out things in the movie and try to tell you then and there how "that type of radio was decommissioned from submarines in 1967. There's no way any self-respecting vessel would have a junky old radio like that" in the middle of Crimson Tide.

Steanso is quiet. Sort of. He just tends to knock over Cokes.

Jamie is the perfect movie partner. She's tiny, so I can share an armrest with her, and she is usually willing to do a candy swap in the middle of the movie.

Will Steanso like Superman? The answer is almost certainly a "yes". I know this, because the movie will contain loud, large explosions.

Anyhoo, what are you guys doing? Anyone else have plans to see the movie?
Summer of Superman: Pimping the Man of Steel

You know, in the comics, practically everybody in Metropolis has at least one Superman t-shirt. To be without is like living in NYC and not having a Mets or Yankees shirt. Of course Superman doesn't make any money off of the shirts, mugs, etc... and asks only that proceeds go to charity.

We've also seen the dark side of all of this in an issue where DCU huckster Funky Flashman set up a Superman shop in Metropolis, and as he wasn't sharing the wealth with charity, Lois more or less tricked him into bringing the wrath of the supervillain underground down on his head. The moral: share the profits with Captain Cold.

This summer has seen Superman's face or emblem pastered onto cereal boxes, toothpaste tubes, ice cream pops, and all manner of product in between. Part of me is wildly amused. Part of me is a little overwhelmed. And, in fact, I'd say Jamie is beginning to reach Supersaturation. I'm now making a conscious effort not to pick up Superman-hyping products into the house, turning down items like Superman electric toothbrushes, partly because the vibration from electric toothbrushes makes me want to vomit and partly because I want to stay married to the very sweet lady who has been oh, so patient thus far.

With every product, I sort of stop and think: Gee, would Superman REALLY want his face on that?

For example, would Superman want to contribute to childhood obesity by having his symbol on fatty cheeseburgers at a fast-food chain? I think we can assume he would not.

Would he want kids to drink Pepsi? How about adults? Apparently WB studios thinks so, because Superman and the Daily Planet are adorning bottles of Pepsi at Target.

Bottled water? I guess so.

This summer the AMF Bowling Leagues are putting together "Superman Bowling Leagues". I don't know what that's about, but I think you get a Superman bowling ball when you join. And while a Superman bowling ball is tempting, it's just an odd thought to imagine the most powerful man on Earth hanging out and trying to break 200. But maybe, just maybe, it's at least an activity to get kids away from the Playstation for twenty minutes.

I don't mind a fad of Superman stuff. After all, the Superman emblem has been a bit of a fad with college kids for the past few years, appearing on all kinds of stuff.

I guess I'm just concerned about two things: 1) the cheap and shoddy product that WB will agree to in order to make money now on Superman which may not really support the franchise identity, and 2) the oversaturation of Superman, a la Star Wars Episode 1. Remember not being able to hit a fast food joint without Jar-Jar being printed on your napkins?

Simultaneously, Superman should be out there for the kids. I'd love nothing more than for a dozen Supermans to hit my house this Halloween, to see kids runnign around the park in $4.00 capes and blasting one another with imaginary heat-vision. The cost of keeping those kids in capes can be a bit pricey, so, yeah, sometimes I don't mind the cheaper products.

In two months, Superman Returns will have come and gone from theaters (barring any surprising Titanic like success, which I am not anticipating) . The Superman product will stick around for a while, see a resurgence at Christmas, and then disappear until the inevitable sequel.

We'll be the house still sporting the Superman toys scattered about, the comics littered across every flat surface, and the mvoies and DVD's filling the shelves. So I guess I'm trying to enjoy it while I can. Without driving Jamie insane.

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.