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The Greatest Comic Cover Ever!

Alright, class, let’s settle down. Everyone take your seat, thank you. It’s time for today’s lesson.

Namely, our lesson concerning HOW AMAZING THIS OLD COVER IS!

That’s Super Friends #16, cover dated at January 1979, and from the looks of it, art by the impossibly great Ramona Fradon herself!

I’ve never read this comic, but BAHGAWD, we can talk about what a fantastic cover this is, right?

We’re not going to talk about the fact that the old Super Friends art style, based on the old cartoons, is outdated, because the job of the artist was the replicate the limited animation style of the cartoons. No style points are lost here, and anyone who complains is getting their eye poked.

So let’s start off with the image that dominates the cover — that amazing superhero trap formed from an Impossible Cube, as imagined by artist M.C. Escher.

I’ve never seen anything like this in any other comic book, and I’m honestly furious about that. It’s such a perfect concept — how do you confine demigods with incredible powers? Well, you put ’em somewhere that has no ups or downs or lefts or rights, somewhere where they can seem to be right next to each other but still be absolutely isolated and alone. It’s a mathematical optical illusion — it can’t exist. But you make it solid or at least multi-dimensional, and it becomes the best way to capture and imprison four-color superheroes. This should be a way more common superhero trope just because of its glorious weirdness.

The last thing I want us to talk about on this cover is the alien’s word balloon. It reads:

“The Earth’s greatest super heroes are helpless to stop us… FROM STEALING THE SKY!!”

I think the only time I’ve seen a similar phrase is from the title of a book in an old Ace Double, namely “Tonight We Steal the Stars” by John Jakes.

I’ve read summaries of both of these stories, and big spoiler alert — no one literally steals the stars or the sky in either book. How could they? The stars are giant balls of gas millions of light years away, and the sky is, well, it’s everywhere. If it’s above your head, it’s the sky, and you just can’t steal that. But what if some villain… figured out how to do it?! You must buy this comic, reader! Or this book! Buy it and read!!!

Obviously, it’s a killer hook, and comics and science fiction could both use those kinds of fantastic, irresistible hooks.

So there ya got it. That’s a quick look at what may be the greatest comic book cover of all time. No gimimcks, just great art and great imagination.

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For Mercies’ Sake

Here’s a little piece of brilliance I just can’t believe I haven’t blogged about yet. Let’s review The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke.

Our setting in this very loose retelling of Beowulf is Vorseland, a generic medieval/fantasy version of the Scandinavian nations. And our lead characters are a small group of teenagers who are members of the Boneless Mercies, freelance mercy killers who roam Vorseland granting quick, merciful, painless deaths to the old and the sick — and sometimes to the healthy and abusive and cruel, if their victims will pay the fee to hire their blades and their poisons.

The Mercies are:

  • Frey, the leader, is a compassionate girl who has grown tired of the death trade and dreams of better things. She was apprenticed by an older woman named Siggy who died a few years ago.
  • Ovie, the oldest of the Mercies, maybe 19 or 20 years old. She’s also the quietest, and she wears a patch over her lost eye.
  • Runa, angry, skeptical, independent, the most likely to dissent and seek conflict.
  • Juniper, at 15, the youngest of the Mercies, comes from the Sea Witches, where she gets her magic skills and her pale, sea-green hair.
  • Trigve is not a Mercy because he’s not a woman. But he travels with them, the most light-hearted in the grim business, with his mind on matters of healing, not death.

But spending your life dealing out death, even if it’s welcomed, and spending decades shunned because of your profession — it wears on you, and the Mercies would kinda like to stop being Mercies someday. And when news starts circulating about a monster roaming the jarldom of Blue Vee, slaughtering warriors and innocents alike, and prompting Jarl Roth to offer a generous reward for anyone who can slay the Blue Vee Beast, Frey starts thinking she’d like to try her hand at fighting a monster, being a hero, and grabbing the glory she’s always dreamed of. But can a Boneless Mercy become a celebrated hero?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a fantastic book, and if you love heroic fantasy, kickass heroines, fantastic characters, cold and snow, and a constant sense of impending doom, this is something you’ll want to read.

The book is filled with beautifully realized settings, from the various inns and forests where the Mercies sleep piled together like dogs, to the Merrows, where the Sea Witches live atop their giant witch trees, to the Red Willow Marsh, home of the terrifying Cut-Queen and her fanatical army of murderous girls, to the desolate beauty of the snowbound and horror-stricken land of Blue Vee, to the lonely cavern where the Blue Vee Beast hides.

I absolutely love the characters in this book. Tucholke could’ve stopped with giving us our five outstanding lead characters and filled the rest of the book up with boring placeholder characters — but she didn’t. As the Mercies travel around Vorseland, they meet fellow Mercies like Sasha, Gunhild, and Aarne, facing terrible life-changing challenges; Mother Hush, wise leader of the Sea Witches and weaver of magics; Elan Wulf, the Cut-Queen, an utterly terrifying spell-caster and conqueror, whose power and charisma is contrasted with her surprising youth; Leif and Vital, members of the forest-dwelling archers called the Quicks; Indigo, a fierce, passionate warrior wandering through her life; Jarl Roth, watching over the slowly dying Blue Vee jarldom, strong and proud, but melancholy to find himself surrounded by death; Siggy, who we never even meet, but whose wisdom and kindness is reflected in everything she’s taught Frey and the other Mercies; and even the Blue Vee Beast herself, who has secrets no one suspects.

This is a beautiful and sad book, filled with glory and magic and blood. Every page — nearly every paragraph — reads like a lyric from an epic Norse ballad. You will dread the coming end of the tale almost from the first chapter, because quests that end in glory must also end in heartbreaking loss, but you will read the end more than once, and your heart will fill with pride and sorrow every time.

Go get this book, read it, love it. It’s going to be part of you forever after.

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Pure Pepper Power

When I heard this book was coming out, I got excited. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, rejoiced when it finally arrived in the mail, and had to practice a lot of discipline to avoid reading the entire thing in a single sitting. Did it live up to the hype? Let’s look at Pepper Page Saves the Universe! by Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones.

First of all — Walker and Jones — weren’t they the creators of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade? Yes, indeed, they were, and when the team behind one of the most fun superhero comics in ages gets back together, you get whatever they’re making. This isn’t a pure clone of the Supergirl comics, no matter how much we might like to see that series continue, but it has some fun similarities.

We start out in the distant future where Pepper Page is a lonely 15-year-old orphan. She’s an awkward nerdy kid with only a couple close friends, Tally and Zola, and a deep, obsessive love for ancient comic books, especially about the superheroine Supernova.

But she’s got angry rivals, particularly the jock Strona, who’s furious with Pepper for constantly missing games of Holo-Ball. And she has to deal with an unfriendly teacher, Professor Killian, who’s pompous and sneering and maybe a liiiiiittle bit shady. So Pepper just doesn’t enjoy school at all. The only thing she wants to do is hang out with her friends and read her Supernova comics.

Things start to go really wrong one night when Pepper and her friends escape Strona and her bullies by hiding out in the school. They soon find Professor Killian in the midst of some sort of strange hyper-tech project — and cruelly experimenting on a stray cat! Pepper tries to intervene, but finds herself — and the cat — caught up in a field of quantum energy. Killian only expresses disappointment that she’s ruined his experiment, kinda proving that he’s a lot past just kinda shady — and then Pepper vanishes into the timestream.

And things get really weird at that point, what with the blasts of light, the gigantic voice of the cosmos, the furious blobs of evil eyeballs, and the all-seeing glowing heads — which tell Pepper that she herself is Supernova, that she always has been, that she always will be. But that couldn’t possibly be true, right? Right?

That’s right around the mid-point of the story — and beyond that be spoilers, so we won’t get into it.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Such a big thumbs up. This comic is just fantastic from beginning to end. I loved pretty much everything from first page to last.

The plotline is plenty of fun. It starts out with low-stakes, high school melodrama stuff, sometimes even moving downright slowly to make sure everyone gets the idea of how miserable Pepper’s life is, and by the time it crescendos up to the cosmic scale, things have gone way beyond high stakes — and it’s still a story of Pepper’s struggles. It’s just her struggles writ on a much wider scale. Plus there’s energy blasts and super-powered punches, so that’s pretty great, too.

Characterization is excellent, too, though the best developed characters are (obviously) Pepper and Mister McKittens, the hyper-intelligent, utterly droll cat who serves as Pepper’s personal sounding board and infodump generator.

The artwork by Eric Jones (and colors by Michael Drake and Pannel Vaughn) is absolutely spectacular. It’s got a lot of appealing cartoony qualities, but when it comes time for someone to get rocketed through space, to get blasted by quantum energy, to transform themselves, or to get thunder-punched clear across the city, that’s when the art jumps up to another level entirely, full of energy, motion, and power. It turns a thoroughly excellent and fun comic into a joyously, thrillingly exciting one.

Looking for a great comic to share with a younger reader? Looking for a great comic to share with a grownup reader, too? You’ll definitely want to pick this one up.

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Destination: Lagos

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to reviewing this, ’cause it’s been something that’s really stuck with me ever since I read it. Let’s take a look at Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.

Okorafor published this Africanfuturist sci-fi novel back in 2014. The basic premise is: What if first contact between humans and aliens didn’t take place in a large, rich Western nation? What if it took place in Lagos, Nigeria?

Our lead characters are Adaora, a marine biologist whose husband’s religious devotion is pushing him into abusive rage; Agu, a soldier on the run after he attacked comrades attempting to rape a woman; and Anthony, best known to the world as Anthony Dey Craze, a hip hop superstar from Ghana. These three strangers find themselves on Lagos’ Bar Beach one night and end up getting startled by a tremendous sonic boom and then pulled out to sea by a strange wave.

And then a few minutes later, they get pushed back out of the ocean, accompanied by a woman who calls herself Ayodele. She looks perfectly normal — as long as you don’t look close enough to fall into the uncanny valley — but she’s not human. She’s not even biological. Ayodele is more like a collection of shapeshifting alien glass nanites, and her mission is to learn what she can about humanity, make friends, and decide what happens after that. So the four go to Adaora’s house, which she shares with Chris, her Christian fanatic husband, and her two children, so they can decide what to do.

It’s not long before word gets out. And all hell breaks loose in Lagos. While one bunch of goons decides to kidnap Ayodele, Chris’ church members, including the manipulative Father Oke, decide to hold an intervention to either convert her or kill her. And Anthony has announced an impromptu concert at Adaora’s house so they can tell everyone in the city about Ayodele and her people. And once a trigger-happy soldier shoots the alien, the biggest riot in the city’s history erupts.

Can the trio of humans escape the violence, convince Ayodele not to give up on or destroy humanity, retrieve Nigeria’s dying president, placate the monstrous human-eating highway that’s been roused to life by the chaos, discover the secrets that brought them together, and survive attacks by the ocean’s newly intelligent and upgraded sea life so they can meet with the aliens in person?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Okorafor is the American-born daughter of Nigerian parents, and she’s spent much of her life in Lagos. So she knows the city and the people there very well. She knows their strengths and their weaknesses, their nobility and less-than-nobility. She knows what makes the city succeed and what makes it fail. She brings all of this to this novel, giving us a strong but broad overview of life in Nigeria’s largest city.

And what we see is something very much unlike what we see in Western nations — except for all the ways it’s really, really similar. Yeah, it’s a different culture on a different continent. People think differently about life and death, gods and religion, money and jobs, law and crime, government, entertainment, poverty, and more. But it’s also been heavily influenced by the West. Nigeria isn’t Wakanda, an African paradise untouched by the decadent West — it’s a nation that’s grown up being told it should be more like the West, even while trying to hold on to the old traditions.

There’s also a lot of Nigerian slang and pidgin, which can be a little difficult. You can generally figure out the gist of what’s being talked about through context. However, Okorafor does provide a glossary of Nigerian language and slang in the back of the book, which I didn’t discover ’til I’d finished reading. So if you find yourself stumped, you can go check the glossary.

I often feel that Okorafor’s characters are a little touch-and-go — some of them are very strong, some feel more like they’re placeholders. In this novel, Adaora gets the most screen-time, but often feels like one of the least developed characters. Agu is pretty interesting and well-developed, but I most wished we could spend more time with Anthony, who felt like someone with a very interesting story to tell but no time to tell it — we barely even get to hear him rap, fer cry-eye. Ayodele is a mystery from beginning to end — we never learn much about her or the aliens, and often what she says once is contradicted by something else a few pages later.

But many of the best characters are less important ones. Chris and Father Oke are basically strawmen, but they do offer a look into the over-the-top evangelical mindset that seems to rule much of Christianity in Africa. Fisayo is a minor character with a fascinating backstory — office worker by day, prostitute by night, and with the coming of the aliens, a newborn proselytizer about the end of the world. A mute beggar boy gets a chapter of focus, just to make sure you really care about him before he runs into serious trouble.

Once the riots really get cooking, several chapters are devoted to individual Lagosians who witness the chaos and interact in some way with something strange or frightening, and these interludes are some of the best short character studies in the book.

And some of the most fun — and often most tragic — characters aren’t human or alien — namely, a furious and dangerously upgraded swordfish, a handicapped but admirably optimistic tarantula, and the most enlightened bat in the world.

And a few deities show up for the festivities, too, specifically Papa Legba, a god of languages and crossroads in a few different cultures, appears in more than one disguise, including a 419 scammer, and Udide Okwanka, an Igbo spider spirit who serves as a trickster, a master storyteller, and the bedrock of Lagos itself. Plus there’s the Bone Collector, a highway given monstrous life and an endless appetite for tasty humans.

And the biggest non-human characters in the book are the city of Lagos itself and the ocean — it’s the first place the aliens visit, the place where they offer the creatures there all the enhancements they can dream of, the place our heroes must travel through to speak with the aliens.

So is it worth reading? Heck, yeah. It’s a rapid-fire thrill ride through science fiction, fantasy, and a real city you’ve never heard of but probably won’t forget. There’s lots of action and excitement, short chapters so it’s easy to burn through, and a host of cool and weird characters, all wrapped around a crash course in a culture you’ve probably never experienced. Go check it out!

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Living After Midnight

It was just a few months back that I reviewed Jane Yolen’s story collection “The Emerald Circus,” and it was while I was writing that one up that I discovered there was a sequel to that book! (Actually, a couple of sequels, but I haven’t gotten the other one yet.) I grabbed it up as fast as I could, and now it’s time for a review of The Midnight Circus by Jane Yolen.

If you’re not familiar with Yolen, she’s one of the most prolific and admired authors around. She’s been writing for at least 50 years and has authored at least 400 books, ranging from fantasy and science fiction to children’s books, from nonfiction to poetry — and even a few comic books.

While “The Emerald Circus” featured Yolen’s short stories that were more fairy tale-focused, this book is considerably darker. Very few outright horror stories, but definitely many more dark fantasy tales.

Some of Yolen’s stories in this book include:

  • The White Seal Maid – A very well-told tale of a man and a selchie.
  • The Snatchers – Who is the strange stalker following a young man? And what’s his connection to a dark corner of Jewish history?
  • Wilding – When future technology allows young thrillseekers to change their shape, who will be the predators hunting them? And who will be the protectors keeping them safe?
  • Winter’s King – The bittersweet tale of the hard, cold life of a small boy born into hardship and dreaming of his lost people in the snow.
  • Inscription – A young woman turns to magic to ensnare her love, but doesn’t reckon with the toll she must pay.
  • Become a Warrior – The story of a princess who flees her fallen kingdom for the wilderness and eventually takes vengeance on her enemies.
  • An Infestation of Angels – A reboot of the Biblical Exodus, complete with a plague of genuinely dreadful angels.

And like Yolen’s previous collection, the book is rounded out with a section on “Story Notes and Poems,” which include her notes on how the stories were written, along with one of her poems on the same general theme.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a really wonderful collection of stories, again holding to a general fairy tales theme, just with a bit more violence, a bit more blood, and a bit more sorrow.

No story collection is perfect, of course. I think I may have preferred “The Emerald Circus” — this edition had at least one story I thought was weird in all the wrong ways. But for the most part, these are thoroughly excellent tales, and they more than drown out the stories I didn’t enjoy as much.

Particular favorites of mine included the beautifully sad “Winter’s King,” the brutally downbeat “Dog Boy Remembers,” the twisty “Little Red,” the filthy but still powerful “Infestation of Angels,” and “Become a Warrior,” which lures you in with a princess fairy tale and then jams a hatchet through your sternum.

If you enjoy stories that put the Grim into the Fairy Tales, you’ll certainly want to pick this one up.

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Preacher Comforts

Ah, my wee fair ones, I’ve been sitting here pondering what I wanted to write about, and there ain’t nothing. Truly does the power of absolute laziness hold me in its grip. Shall nothing go on the blog? Shall none of ye wonderful bastiches receive my mad leet wisdoms?

Or shall I, mayhap, just say feckit and post an RPG character?

Aye, my wee fair ones, let’s do a GURPS thing.

Before we get too far, let’s review the usual GURPS background material.

GURPS is a point-based character system — stats over 10, advantages, and skills cost you points; stats under 10 and disadvantages get you some points back. Quirks are worth a negative point each (and limited to five) and must be roleplayed. Numbers in the square brackets are how many character points were allocated to each item. This is all done in GURPS 3rd Edition, ’cause 4th Edition was garbage.

In GURPS, 100 points is considered a good starting point for beginner-level, unpowered characters, being significantly above the average person, but not strong enough to power through every obstacle. Some campaigns, particularly those dealing with high-level fantasy or superhero games, can be much stronger, up to 500 points, 1,000 points, or even more.

This is Father Frank Franklyn, a Catholic priest.

Name: Father Frank Franklyn
Points: 100 Points
Appearance: White male; Age 32; 5’9″, 195 lbs.; thinning black hair; blue eyes; always wears his priest collar.

Statistics:
ST: 10 [0]
IQ: 13 [30]
DX: 11 [10]
HT: 11 [10]
Speed: 5.50
Move: 3
Dodge: 5/3
Parry: 8

Advantages:
Clerical Investment 1 [5] (Reaction: +1)
High Pain Threshold [10]
Strong Will +1 [4] (Will: 14)

Disadvantages:
Gluttony [-5]
Overweight [-5] (Extra body weight: 45)
Stubbornness [-5]
Vow (Catholic Priest) [-10]

Quirks: Gets angry with people who litter; Likes big-budget action movies; Loves to talk about philosophy; Tries to get bookish students to learn boxing; Loves to eat Mexican food. [-5]

Skills: Area Knowledge (Detroit)-15 [4]; Bard-14 [4]; Bicycling-12 [2]; Boxing-12 [4] (Parry: 8); Brawling-12 [2] (Parry: 8); Chess-14 [2]; Computer Operation-14 [2]; Detect Lies-13 [4]; Driving/TL7 (Motorcycle)-12 [4]; Exorcism-11 [1]; Fast-Talk-13 [2]; First Aid/TL7-14 [2]; History-12 [2]; Interrogation-11 [½]; Leadership-13 [2]; Philosophy-13 [4]; Streetwise-13 [2]; Teaching-14 [4]; Theology-15 [8]; Writing-13 [2]

Languages: English (native)-15 [2]; Latin-11 [½]; Spanish-12 [1]

Biography: Frank had a rotten life growing up, and had been abandoned by his parents by the time he was five. He grew up in a few better-then-average orphanages and foster homes in Detroit and was eventually enrolled in a Catholic boarding school, which led to a Catholic college education, and by then, he was happy to sign on as a priest. He admits he enjoys being a priest because it’s not hard work, and he retains a love for the city and a fondness for hard-luck kids.

Design Notes: Father Frank is a 100-point character. He was designed for modern-day settings, though he can be adapted to other settings and genres with little effort.

Honestly, I feel like he’d fit best in a horror campaign. But there ain’t no way he’s gonna live to see the final credits. He’s almost guaranteed Monster Chow.

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Convention Invention

Well, it’s been a year of lockdowns and quarantines and Zoom meetings and sourdough bread — and I know a lot of people have been missing going to conventions. So let’s take a look at a new novel about sci-fi conventions — with a few twists. Here’s The Con by J.D. DeLuzio.

This is the story of a convention. Two conventions, actually, both booked into the same Canadian hotel on the same weekend. One con is a very traditional science fiction convention; the other is a weekend-long meeting of the Jane Austen Society.

And because you can’t write about conventions without writing about people, this book is about a large-ish group of people attending one or the other con.

There’s Telfryn Tyde, a middle-aged geek with a history of mental illnesses; Brian and Augusta Slesak, married nerds with secrets; Patti Washington and Chelsea Ashe, supergeeks supreme; Thomas and Mark, nerd brothers chasing girls; Denise Moon, frustrated musician; Kate the Athlete, attending a con she doesn’t understand solely to chase her love; and Lady Susan Vernon — or rather, the hardcore roleplayer cosplaying as the minor Austen character.

Oh, and also Azogo of Uirtkauwea’ki, who might be someone wearing a stunningly complex costume… and might not be.

The book starts out a bit confusing, as a lot of characters are dropped on the reader in the space of just a few pages, and some of them are more important than others. But soon enough, all the characters get sorted out, aided by short spotlight chapters that let us get acquainted with everyone quickly.

It actually comes as a shock when the plot suddenly barrels onto the scene. Telfryn gets a couple sudden shocks that unexpectedly re-awaken the mental issues he thought he’d conquered long ago, and a chunk of the rest of the cast is enlisted in one way or another in locating him and helping him get back on a more even keel.

The story wraps up as the cast members make new connections, new friends, new relationships, ponder the nature of conventions, cons, and truths, and pack their cars to return to their normal lives.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A slow starter, but a book I came to enjoy a lot.

Far and away the most fun part of this novel is the characters — which was a little surprising because there were a few of these folks who I really disliked! Thomas and Mark, the nerdy girl-chasing brothers, were infuriatingly familiar, at least initially, though they got a lot more bearable as the story went on. And I never got to a point where I liked the Slesaks at all.

Lady Susan Vernon was also someone I had a hard time liking. All of her spotlight chapters were told through Lady Susan’s internal voice, which was entirely in-character as a scheming, shallow, seductive, judgmental Regency-era woman — in other words, it’s almost exactly as if Lady Susan Vernon were plucked out of Jane Austen’s unpublished novel and dropped into a modern sci-fi convention.

And I want to emphasize that my dislike of some of the characters was not in any way a bad thing! They were all fully realized and detailed. They felt like real people — it’s just that some of them had personalities I disliked, just like other real people.

The plot itself isn’t the most complex one in fiction, but it’s well-described, engrossing, even intense. And intensely weird, too, as that’s the point where we start to see something that might be science fictional going on — if we can believe our senses, that is.

And outside of the main plot, there are plenty of wonderful moments. The impromptu battlebot tournament in the garage. Kate’s meeting with the Doctor Who cosplayer. The genuinely moving, even glorious, Anglican evensong performed by Denise for the Janeites (and possibly a visitor from another planet).

It’s a great book about real people, even if they’re technically fictional. Go pick it up, okay?

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Time for a Black Superman

So you may have heard the news that there’s a new Superman movie in pre-pre-pre-production, with J.J. Abrams producing and Te-Nehisi Coates writing the script.

Details remain sketchy — particularly as there’s no director yet, and Coates probably hasn’t even started writing — but there are rumors that the Man of Steel may be played by a Black actor.

So the usual suspects — the racist Comicsgate dimwits — reacted the way they usually do when there’s a chance for any diversity in comics, film, or any sort of geek-friendly media.

“B-But Superman’s white! Superman’s always been white! It’s a betrayal of the character if he’s not white! MY CHILDHOOD IS BEING DESTROYED!”

These people are so very tiresome.

So there are lots of reasons a movie with a Black actor playing Superman should be made. If it’s got a good script and good director and good actors, obviously, yes, it’d be a great movie, and that’s enough. Wouldn’t it be great to tell the story of the Man of Tomorrow and how he deals with the prejudices of yesterday?

But to be honest, I want them to make that movie with a Black actor because it will infuriate the racists.

I’m tired of Hollywood — and the entertainment industry in general — tiptoeing around these racist (and sexist and homophobic and transphobic) creeps like they’re actually an important audience. These dudes scream every time there’s gonna be a geeky or action movie starring women or Black people or any non-white, non-Christian non-male, and all too often, Hollywood acts like their backwards opinions need to be listened to.

It’s not so. They’ve been wrong about “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman” and “Into the Spider-Verse” and more. Their opinions are shit. And Hollywood should relish it when racist dumbwads get angry at them. They’re angry, stupid, racist, and impotent, so fuck them and their backwards, moronic beliefs.

So yes, we need a Black Superman (and a Black Batman, Black Wonder Woman, Black Spider-Man, and Black Captain America) because Hollywood (and the comics industry) have been catering to racists for much too long — and because pissing off stupid racists is all the reason anyone should need.

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Fridge Logic

Hey, it’s about time we threw down another book review, right? And let’s make it a good one — time to take a look at The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente.

So this book takes much of its inspiration from a specific bit of pop culture. Way, way back in 1999, comics fan (and future comics writer) Gail Simone, along with a larger group of comics fans, set up a website dedicated to “Women in Refrigerators” — women characters in comic books who got killed off, maimed, and abused solely as a method for giving male superheroes angst and drama. Gwen Stacy, Karen Page, Alex DeWitt — all killed off so the lead character would get a chance to grit his teeth and swear vengeance.

That brings us to this book, published in 2017, where author Catherynne M. Valente introduces us to a group of women, some superheroes, some girlfriends, some a combination of the two, who all end up in Deadtown, filled with dead people and gargoyles, where all the food comes from extinct animals and you never get to change out of the clothes you were buried in. These members of the Hell Hath Club meet and tell the stories that never managed to make it into the comic books.

So we meet Paige Embry, girlfriend of (and accidental creator of) Kid Mercury. She gets between her beau and an angry supervillain and gets thrown off a bridge.

We meet Julia Ashe, massively powerful mutant who gets edited out of the universe because her power scared her teammates and mentor.

We meet Pauline Ketch, high-spirited and psychotic girlfriend of the murderous Mr. Punch.

We meet Bayou, princess of Atlantis, shipped off to an undersea mental hospital because she dared to mourn her child.

We meet Daisy Green, promising actress driven to destruction by her relationship with a hero called the Insomniac.

And we meet Samantha Dane, the newest member of the Club, butchered by a manipulative villain and stuffed into a refrigerator to get back at her superhero boyfriend.

They’re all stuck in Deadtown for the rest of eternity, unless some superhero decides to get off his butt and restore them to life, and they’re not very happy about that.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The book is wonderfully written and grand fun. It’s great to see these characters — who are normally remembered almost entirely as “That One Superhero’s Girlfriend Who Got Killed by that One Supervillain” — given the opportunity to tell their own stories, explain their own viewpoints, and vent their own anger about being killed off and forgotten. It’s very much like reading “The Vagina Monologues” for the goddamn furious superhero set.

And yes, with enough comics knowledge, you can recognize nearly all the characters in the book as the characters they’re supposed to represent from the comics. But that isn’t necessary to enjoy the book.

In fact, there are plenty of fun changes made to the personalities. For example, in the Aquaman comics, Mera is an Atlantean of human appearance, fully comfortable with her roles as both a warrior and a queen; Bayou, her counterpart in this book, looks much less human and has a much more punk rock attitude, preferring to escape from her palace so she can raise hell with her band in sleazy Atlantean nightclubs.

If you love superheroes — and especially if you crave an enthusiastically angry and funny antidote to the Women in Refrigerators phenomenon, you’ll certainly want to read this book.

Also, they say Amazon Studios is working on an adaptation of this book, to be called “Deadtown,” so keep an eye out for that somewhere down the road…

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The Chilling Sound of Your Doom

Hello, kids, I live in Texas, and if you’re paying any attention to the news, you’ll note that we’re having one of the biggest cold snaps on record! The entire state is under a winter storm warning — from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, from East Texas to El Paso!

We hit -15 degrees last night. It was genuinely horrible. No power outages for us — yet — and not much snow, but it’s almost impossible to get warm when the weather is this bad.

And it’s really hard to get much writing done on the blog, because my computer is right next to the coldest window in the house.

So I’m getting a quick blog post out right now, featuring a few people who feel even colder than I do right now.

Now I’m off to put on another two coats and cover up with another three blankets. Everyone stay warm!

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