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Your Obedient Serpent
18 November 2019 @ 06:15 pm



Originally posted 18 February 2010 at 18:15.
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Your Obedient Serpent
24 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
23 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
22 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
I am home sick today, my third round with a stomach bug in a four-week span, so let's talk Superhero Movies.

Recently, Time Warner announced that they were ramping up their slate of DC Comics-based movies in a desperate attempt to play catch-up to Disney’s unprecedented success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
  • Suicide Squad (2016)
  • Wonder Woman (2017)
  • Justice League Part One (2017)
  • The Flash (2018)
  • Aquaman (2018)
  • Shazam (2019)
  • Justice League Part Two (2019)
  • Cyborg (2020)
  • Green Lantern (2020)


Needless to say, this prompted some discussion ‘mongst my social circle … and some eye-rolling that followed the last entry on that four-year, ten-movie extravaganza: Green Lantern.

Long-time readers will recall that GL was once Your Obedient Serpent’s very favorite superhero, but even he will admit that the last attempt at translating the Emerald Gladiator to the big screen was, to be generous ... unimpressive. Nevertheless, while its descent into mediocrity was the end result of bad creative choices, one should not fall into the trap of assuming that the first of those bad choices was "let's make a Green Lantern movie!"

The first and biggest Bad Choice was to cram far too many elements into the first movie, all from different periods of the comic, without really giving any of it a proper build-up.

The second Bad Choice was Hal Jordan.

Okay, let me rephrase that. No, I am not Happy Hal's biggest fan; of all the different characters who've worn the ring and claimed the title, I'd have to say that there were three or four ... thousand ... I like more than Hal Jordan. And if the movie had actually given us Hal Jordan instead of Stock Character #438, I'd have been middlin' pleased.

Look, here's the Secret Magic Ingredient that Marvel Studios stumbled across that turned their movies into both critical and box-office successes: superhero movies need distinctive characters and strong character arcs.

The character arc in the Green Lantern movie? "Look, the slacker screwing up his life gets a magic ring, straightens out, and turns his life around, proving that he's not such a screw-up after all." No surprises there: that's about as trite and unimaginative as Hollywood gets these days.

It's also not Hal Jordan.1

Please note that I am not saying "oh, they aren't faithful to the character, so this movie sucks." I'm also aware that they've been trying to shoehorn "reckless maverick who's always in trouble" into Hal's backstory since they did Emerald Dawn back in '89, but that's never really clicked.

I AM saying that Hal Jordan's character arc in the comics is a lot more compelling and unusual than the story of Yet Another Man-Child Growing Up.

When we first meet Hal in 1959, he's got it all. He's a test-pilot, competent, confident and successful in a career that demands highly-honed skills and steady nerves. He's fearless, not reckless: having him on the Ferris Aircraft payroll is an asset. He's a jet-setting ladies' man who has his sights set on the woman who runs the company, and lives a life of martinis and tuxedos that James Bond would envy.

The magic ring that falls from the sky doesn't straighten out his screwed-up life; quite the contrary. It gives him amazing power and opens the entire Cosmos up to him ... but little by little, it sends his personal and professional lives into a tailspin. The responsibilities of protecting Sector 2814 as a member of both the Corps and the Justice League take more and more of his time from his life on Earth. By the mid-'70s, he's gone from a high-prestige test pilot to someone who can't hold a steady job, his resume including such gems as travelling salesman for a toy company.

He spent a good chunk of the mid-'80s having resigned from the Corps, trying to figure out what had happened to his life, wandering around as a drifter trying to figure out just who Hal Jordan was apart from being Green Lantern.

And yet he keeps going back.2

Now, that's a character arc that we haven't really seen on the big screen. In the Spider-Man movies, Peter Parker can't hold a steady job because because of his extracurricular activities, but it hasn't really dragged him down -- at worst, it's held him back. In the Iron Man series, we watched Tony Stark go from a reckless genius billionaire playboy asshole who didn't give a damn about anything to ... um ... a reckless genius billionaire playboy asshole who really does want to do the right thing, mostly. By the end of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Bruce Wayne is a battered, broken semi-invalid, but really, he was always a broken man: his body just caught up with his soul.

So far, we haven't had a superhero movie where the "Guy Who Has It All" finds his true calling ... and loses "it all" because of it.

As much as I can see the potential of a good Hal Jordon movie, though, I think they could get a lot more mileage out of John Stewart. Really, as much as it pains the Silver Age Stagnation Squad to see it, John is familiar to a lot more people than Hal, thanks to his headlining role in three brilliant seasons of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

I would love to see a movie that really took advantage of John's two primary background elements: he's a Marine Sniper who became an Architect. Seems like writers who eagerly adopt the Marine backstory (first introduced in the above-mentioned animated series) completely ignore the Architect (the vocation he's pursued in the comics almost since the beginning), but that dissonance between Warrior and Builder has a LOT of untapped potential.

John was the protagonist of Green Lantern: MOSAIC, a brilliant, surreal early '90s series by Gerard Jones that DC shows no interest in reprinting or even acknowledging. At one point, Jones scripts him a scene -- almost a soliloquy -- that manages to reconcile Warrior and Builder as two aspects of the same principle:

"What I do," John says, "is redistribute violence."

After this this startling proclamation, he clarifies: the job of an architect is to balance all the forces acting on a structure, and redirect them to make it stronger instead of tearing it apart.

That's John Stewart, particularly when Jones writes him: he's intelligent. He's erudite. He's philosophical.

John Stewart is the Warrior Poet.

We've had a lot of "smart" superheroes on the big screen ... we haven't really had an intellectual up there.

I will also note that John has another quality that is important for entirely different reasons: he's African-American.

And yes, dammit, that's important. Ask my friend kolchis, a school teacher who does a lot of substitute work in a lot of different areas, about the black kids who immediately zero in on the Green Lantern keychain the middle-aged white guy carries.

Rest assured it's not because they're Ryan Reynolds fans.

No matter how hard they try to push him as one of their Iconic Characters, Cyborg is the odd man out in that slate of movies. Sure, he's been around for more than thirty years now, but when push comes to shove, he's a Teen Titan. When they try to shoehorn him into the Justice League, it feels like they're desperate to dig up just one character in their roster who isn't Upper/Middle Class White Guy Man.

Do I think they should leave him out? Hell, no! I want to see Victor Stone up there on the screen with John Stewart. I want to see Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson playing Captain Marvel Shazam instead of Black Adam, and Billy Batson played by a kid with an equally-diverse heritage.

Representation and diversity is not tokenism.


1 "It's Kyle Rayner." "YOU SHUT UP. JUST SHUT UP."
2 This is directly related to why I am one of the few people who thought that Emerald Twilight was perfectly in character and was the logical culmination of three decades of storytelling ... but that is a story for another time.
 
 
Your Obedient Serpent
21 October 2014 @ 12:00 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
20 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
  • Mon, 07:10: I had my car's alignment checked over the weekend. It was Chaotic Neutral.
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Your Obedient Serpent
19 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
18 October 2014 @ 01:52 pm
On my morning commutes, I shift between the local jazz station, two different classic rock stations, and the news-weather-and-traffic station on the radio. A classical station or two will sometimes make its way into the mix, depending on my mood and how recently my mechanic has unplugged my battery and wiped my presets.

(Hush, you whippersnappers; I'll stop listening to the radio when they figure out how to cram traffic updates into podcasts.)

This eclectic morning mix has revealed a deep and hitherto unsuspected facet of my personality:

I can hear the William Tell Overture without thinking, "Hi Ho, Silver!"

I can hear Also Sprach Zarathustra without picturing black monoliths.

For the life of me, though, I cannot hear Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" without thinking of Watchmen; I grew up on top 40 stations in the '70s rather than any decent rock venues, and thus my first real exposure to the song was Moore and Gibbon's invocation in the climax of the miniseries. Zack Snyder's cinematic adaptation may have been uneven in its execution, but its translation of that scene was perhaps the high point.

I must confess, however, that while nothing can equal the classic Jimi Hendrix rendition as a rock anthem, I still harbor an affection for Bear McCreary's haunting interpretation for the rebooted Battlestar Galactica:





I would be honestly pleased if that version got the occasional radio airplay. It needs more love.


 
 
I hear: Bear McCreary: All Along the Watchtower
 
 
Your Obedient Serpent
18 October 2014 @ 12:00 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
17 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
16 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
  • Wed, 13:00: RT @Iron_Spike: The worst thing about nerds who become bullies is you'll never convince them they're anything but victims.
  • Thu, 05:46: Am I the only one who remembers Burt Reynolds' '90s sitcom, #EveningShade? I loved that show, and it doesn't even have a #TVTropes page.
  • Thu, 05:58: Did the #Boomers really betray '60s values, or were the Love & Harmony types a minority? Maybe most #Boomers were ALWAYS tools.
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Your Obedient Serpent
14 October 2014 @ 12:07 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
13 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
11 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
10 October 2014 @ 12:40 pm

I confess that I often prove socialy maladroit, but yet, I am not entirely without diplomatic skill -- however, those skills were most finely honed whilst I portrayed a Renaissance nobleman in a tabletop role-playing game.

This means, alas, that sometimes, the most tactful and reasonable response I can muster is to demand that the offending party be horsewhipped, or to petition for my satisfaction with rapiers at dawn.

Unfortunately, such options are frowned upon in the white-collar office culture of the 21st century.


 
 
Your Obedient Serpent
10 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
10 October 2014 @ 11:51 am
A week or so ago, I finally got a proper eBook reader: a waterproofed Kindle Paperwhite from WaterFi.

Being an aficionado of older literature ... and cheap ... one of the first things I did was to download a number of things from Project Gutenberg, including several by Robert W. Chambers, author of The King in Yellow.

I am currently reading In Search of the Unknown, which is about a Zoologist from the Bronx Zoo c. 1900 (when the Zoo was at the forefront of zoological research), who keeps getting pulled into encounters with supposedly-extinct animals and outright cryptids.

It is … really surprisingly funny. The first story is pretty much an encounter with a Deep One, but even as the creature shuffles and flails onto their boat accompanied by every eldritch adjective one would expect from the man who gave us lost Carcosa, our eternally upbeat protagonist is still more focused on his banter with the cranky old invalid he’s befriended, and his flirtations with the old man’s pretty young nurse.

Imagine, if you will, P.G. Wodehouse writing H.P. Lovecraft. The unnamed, girl-crazy protagonist has been firmly cast in my head as Hugh Laurie.


 
 
Your Obedient Serpent
10 October 2014 @ 06:18 am

The other day, I got fed up with trying to express myself in 140 characters, and updated the LiveJournal app on my cellphone.

I've been catching up on my friends list. Despite regular assertions that LJ is dead, it seems pretty active to me - and a lot more cogent than Twitter.

I am going to make a concerted effort to get back to posting regularly. I've missed you guys!

-----

 
 
Your Obedient Serpent
09 October 2014 @ 12:00 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
08 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
07 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
  • Mon, 15:19: Photo: docshaner: James Garner by Bernie Fuchs. Uhhhh-mazing. I’ve been watching first-season Rockford on... http://t.co/OZiWCZWfBf
  • Tue, 05:22: I don't think I approve of the way @LinkedIn sends contact requests to my emails that don't have a @LinkedIn account.
  • Tue, 06:16: At 03:51, heading N on 101 to 280/680 in SJ, I saw the biggest #meteor I've ever seen, going W to E. White trail, green head, FLASH.
  • Tue, 10:20: My current mantra to keep perspective at work: "Nobody's bleeding, nothing's on fire." I've had jobs where both were regular things.
  • Tue, 10:25: RT @KatRushall: "Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it." ~Lloyd Alexander
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Your Obedient Serpent
06 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
04 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
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Your Obedient Serpent
03 October 2014 @ 12:01 pm
  • Thu, 13:03: It'll be a while before I can watch Columbo on Netflix again. My entire day has been clients saying "Oh, just one more thing!"
  • Thu, 13:07: "Why's the revision number 20141002?" "I use the date." (it only FEELS like we've gone through 20 million versions.)
  • Fri, 07:52: ... I find it far too easy to relate to Dr. Bowman in #Freefall.
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