Thursday, September 28, 2006

Smallville: Not Totally Sucky

The premier for the sixth season of Smallville is airing tonight. Six seasons, if you can believe it. I hear a lot of feedback when I casually mention that I enjoy Smallville. Usually things like "That show is terrible" or "I've never seen it, but isn't it supposed to suck?".

Yes...and no.

There didn't used to be shame in liking Smallville. Season one, two, and three it was a giant hit with a lot of fans. Some of them comic fans, some never having any previous interest in comics. After season 3, and specifically after the crapfest that was season 4, the show lost a lot of fans. Smallville fandom used to be massive. At its peak, it was damn near Buffy-sized. Now it's looking a little more, er, Enterprise-sized.

I'm here to make a case for the little show that I still enjoy despite all the reasons it has given me not to. I'm going to start by examining four major points of the Smallville mythology, and rate how well they work.

1. The Meteor Shower - Superman came to Earth as a toddler in a space ship. Smallville adds a massive and destructive meteor shower to this event. The shower took out a lot of buildings in Smallville and killed some people, including 3-year-old Lana Lang's parents. Because of the meteor shower, there are fragments of Kryptonite all over town (called meteor rocks on the show because no one knows any better).

Rating: This actually makes a lot of sense. In comic canon Kryptonite just randomly appears on Earth. This gives a decent explanation as to why it's there. It also gives an excuse for the zillions of mutant villains that Clark has to fight. Kryptonite messes people up in many, many different ways. The downside is that, compared to some of the mutants and their crazy powers on the show, Clark's powers seem almost boring. You would think it would be easy for him to 'come out' in a town of super-powered mutants. The meteor shower also causes Clark a huge amount of guilt, because he knows he is responsible for all the death and destruction, including the death of the parents of the girl he loves. Angst!

2. Lex Luthor (and his dad) - Lex is exiled to Smallville at the age of 21 by his father to run the local LuthorCorp plant. Lex carelessly drives off a bridge and into a brooding Clark. The car, Lex and Clark go over the bridge and into the river. Clark pulls Lex out of the car, gives him mouth to mouth, and saves his life. Lex becomes instant friends with Clark, but also instantly obsessed with him.
Lex has an evil father named Lionel, who is a character made up for the show. Lionel is amazing. I would gladly watch a spin-off called "Lionel" for all eternity. So Lex is actually a nice guy, who just wants to be loved. He also is what the internet kids call "teh sex." He's got hot cars and hot clothes and he is always looking at Clark with sex eyes. He is bald from the meteor shower, which occurred when he was visiting Smallville with his Dad at the age of 9. Since then he has an enhanced immune system, but they don't really mention it much on the show. His entire body is hairless, save his eyebrows (lots of internet theories about the eyebrows, believe me). The Clark-causing-Lex's-baldness is rooted in canon Superboy comics, but this is in a more subtle way. Lex doesn't know about Clark being an alien, and thus he can't blame Clark. As the seasons went on, Lex starts to get less and less patient with Clark simply because Clark won't stop blatantly lying to him. No one who watches the show can blame Lex; Clark is a real ass most of the time. What we are learning, whether we are supposed to think this or not, is that the reason for Lex turning evil is Clark being a shitty friend.

Rating: Lex is the best part of this show and everything they have done with him has been great. Kudos to Michael Rosenbaum for making the character funny, tragic and sexy. And kudos to John Glover for making Lionel so damn awesome.

3. The Caves - Sadly a lot of the Superman mythology on Smallville revolves around some stupid cave drawings. In mid-season 2, Clark discovers some underground caves. They have a crazy language and drawings all over them. It turns out to be Kryptonian, but he doesn't learn that until the end of the season when he learns that he is from a planet called Krypton, thanks to info given to him by Christopher Reeve. Basically the caves are a major plot device that the writers have been using for the last 3 seasons to move shit along. Season 4 (aka - the horrorshow that was season 4) mostly revolves around Clark, Lex and Lionel all trying to collect 3 ancient relics which they know will do something when joined together in the caves. It's like a video game, but not fun or satisfying. When they are finally joined together, they transport Clark to the North Pole and form the Fortress of Solitude. Sometimes it takes something like that to remind you that the show is about Superman.

Rating: Booooooo. The caves are ridiculous! If I never see another cave scene again, it will be too soon.

4. Chloe Sullivan v Lana Lang v Lois Lane - Chloe Sullivan is Clark's long-time pal, editor of the school newspaper, and the original Veronica Mars. She also harbours undying love for Clark. Viewers tend to like Chloe and hate Lana because Lana is boring, self-centred and whiny. She lacks all the pluck of the important comic character, or of Annette O'Toole's Superman III portrayal. Lana and Clark have a drawn out, chemistry-free, on-again-off-again relationship for much of the series. Meanwhile super-awesome Chloe gets the shaft.
Lois Lane is Chloe's cousin. She debuts at the beginning of season 4. She has a strong start, but quickly wears out her welcome. Mostly she has giant breasts and she and Clark don't get along. It's supposed to be amusing that they fight all the time, but it's really forced and viewers constantly ask what the hell she's doing hanging out in Smallville anyway. It's going to ruin everything that happens in the future. First of all, she's seen Clark Kent as a rugged young man without glasses and a geeky suit. So she knows what he's going to look like when he's Superman. That's a problem. Also, she calls Clark 'Smallville' even though she is also living in Smallville, and everyone else in town also lives there. It makes no damn sense.

Rating: Chloe is an awesome original character that makes Lois obsolete. Lana is awful and should be killed off, canon be damned. Lois should just go away for another ten years or so. And have her memory wiped.

Let's look at 5 specific reasons why Smallville is enjoyable:

1. Lex Luthor. He's fantastic, and his obsession with Clark makes for fun and sexy scenes. He clearly has a giant crush on Clark. Beyond that, all scenes with Lex and his father are amazing. We also get to watch the evolution of Lex as a somewhat bratty, but mostly tragic young man who lost his mother at a young age. His father is evil, and Lex tries to distance himself and do good. In season 3 (the best season by far) he goes insane. We'll chalk it up to mental strain of having an evil father, a dead mother, and a lying best friend that won't just admit that he has super powers.

2. The Occassional Appearances by Canon Superman / DC Characters: So far on Smallville, we have seen these Superman/DC canon chracters:
Clark Kent, Lex Luthor, Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Pete Ross, Jonathan and Martha Kent, Morgan Edge, Jor-El, Lucy Lane, The Flash (Bart Allan), Aquaman, Cyborg, Mxyzptlk (I'm not kidding...he was a hot Eastern European guy and the episode made no sense), Brainiac, Zod, and Perry White. Some of these have been pretty good (Perry White, Flash, Morgan Edge, Brainiac, Jor-El) and some have been totally pointless and confusing (Lucy Lane, Mxy, Aquaman). Jonathan and Martha Kent are younger on this show than in the usual canon, which was a great idea that makes a lot of sense. We've seen a lot of good (and fun) actors pass through this show too, including: Michael McKean, Rutger Hauer, Michael Ironside, Margot Kidder, Christopher Reeve, Carrie Fisher, Jane Seymore, Adam Brody, John Schneider, Tom Wopat, Annette O'Toole, Jensen Ackles, Terence Stamp, Ian Somerholder, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, James Marsters, and Shawn Ashmore). Next for season 6....Green Arrow and Jimmy Olson!

3. Red Kryptonite: What a beautiful plot device. On Smallville, Red K makes Clark go bad. Which, as a side-effect, makes him sexy. Red Kryptonite has only made its way into a few episodes, but man they were good ones!
On this same note, there are many episodes that involve personality-alteration for one reason or another. It's always a good time. Body-switching, weird Kryptonite-infused drugs, parasites, mind-control, magic, body-posession, shape-shifters...all good.

4. Jor-El: Jor-El is on Smallville only as a voice (specifically, the voice of Terence Stamp). But he is able to torture his son by burning Krytonian symbols into his chest (sexy) and by forcing him to choose which loved ones will live and which will die.

Jor-El is a prick. Asshole dads are something that Clark and Lex have in common (not that Clark could ever tell Lex that). Jor-El would like Clark to embrace his destiny and rule over Earth like a god. Clark isn't so much into that idea. Jor-El isn't so much into Clark's attitude. They have many an argument and at one point Jor-El erases Clark Kent and replaces him with Kal-El. Kal-El is more like the son that Jor-El always wanted. He's keen to rule over Earth, and he can fly (which is the only time we see Clark fly on the show). He's also naked, so...thumbs up!

5. Clark develops powers: Clark doesn't have all his powers yet. In the pilot he learns the extent of his invincibity, which continues to develop as the series goes on. Also in season one he gets his x-ray vision. In season 2 he gets his heat vision in the most hilarious way imaginable (he shoots fire out of his eyes when he's aroused. How embarassing). He later develops super hearing, and gains the ability to leap buildings in a single bound. Still no super-breath or flight as of yet on the show.

So overall an entertaining show which is better than Lois & Clark, but not as good as Justice League Unlimited. It's the only show about Superman on television right now, so I'm obviously going to watch it. The promise of Green Arrow, Jimmy Olson, superbreath for season 6 has reeled me in for another year. Plus there is going to be an episode that is Justice League-esque that will have Clark team up with young Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and Green Arrow. Good enough for me!

Oh, and this show has slight homosexual overtones.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Justice League Photos: Collect Them All!

I love everything about the new Justice League series. I love watching the big three choose the new team in the "In or Out?" scenes. But seriously...



Where are they getting these photographs?

Who took them? They are all action shots. Did the heroes pose for them? Some of them were taken in space! I can't begin to list the impossibilities of taking that picture of The Flash. And that photo of The Atom would have required a pretty good lens.


Monday, September 25, 2006


There are misleading teaser covers, and then there are just plain lies.

I think it's safe to say that most comic covers exaggerate the content of the issue to sell copies. Sometimes they pick-out what turns out to be a non-event and blow it up on the front cover (Good example: Catwoman #19).

Sometimes it's something that's really more of a misunderstanding, or something that sort of happens, but not really (usually involving a shape-shifter, or some sort of mind-control, or a hero purposely acting like an ass because it's the only way to save a bunch of people). (Good example: Astonishing X-Men #14).

Sometimes it's more like an artistic summary of what happens. So the scene on the cover never actually happens, but it's figurative (Good example: the latest crappy issue of Detective Comics, #823).
But then there are just plain lies.

I bought this comic yesterday because the cover is completely awesome:

Here are some things that do not happen in this issue:

1. Superman does not ever try to pull Batman's mask off for any reason, or imply that he is thinking about doing it.

2. There is no mention of the fact that people will die if Batman's face is revealed.

3. Superman and Batman are never in their costumes at the same time.

4. Though they are in a castle for much of the issue, neither it, nor the people in it, look so medieval.

5. Superman and Batman don't even disagree once in this story, let alone end up in a position where Superman has Batman in a headlock and is forcing his mask off.

Is that not the most haunting facial expression you've ever seen? I can barely stand to look at it. And yet, I cannot look away.

Jesus. Now I've got the jeeblies. *shudder*

Monday, September 18, 2006

Batman: Year Two is Terrible and Anyone Who Thinks Otherwise Is Wrong

I re-read Batman:Year Two recently because someone whose opinion I respect told me that he really liked it. I was pretty sure it was as bad as I remembered, and I was right.

It starts out ok. You have Batman doing his thing and Bruce Wayne falling for a girl named Rachel Caspian. Unfortunately for Bruce, she's going to become a nun. Meanwhile, a Gotham City blast-from-the-past villain/vigilante, the Reaper, is making a comeback. Batman has a very exciting fight with him, I'll admit. It ends with Batman getting his ass handed to him.

I think the book takes its first serious wrong turn at the end of chapter one (click to enlarge):

WHAT?! Ridiculous. Why would Bruce even have that gun? And as if that's the only way to avenge his parents. "Bruce, son. Listen to my dying words. Obtain the gun of this random mugger. ..somehow. Save it in a secret compartment beneath a giant, creepy portrait of your mother and I. Then, one day, you must take this gun and bring down a vigilante much like the one you will become, but more extreme and brutal in his methods. His name will be The Reaper. You must kill him with this mugger's gun, Bruce. Only then will your parents be avenged. Avenge us...Bruce..."

And thus ends chapter one. I guess this was supposed to be a huge, exciting, unexpected cliffhanger when this book was still in serial format. Unexpected? Yes. Exciting? Nope. Just stupid.

So who is this Reaper character? He's pretty bad-ass. And he wants you to forget everything Blue Oyster Cult ever taught you:

He loves to say this. He says it so many times I started laughing out loud each time. It made me think of Spinal Tap when they're like "She should be made to smell the glove."

This one is my favourite:

It's almost adorable. He just wants so badly for Batman to fear the Reaper.

Anyway, back to the absurd plot. It gets much worse. Not only does Batman feel the need to tote the Gun That Took Their Lives, but he also feels that to defeat the Reaper, he needs to team up with some criminals. Which leads to him getting paired up with a criminal. You'll never guess who...

No way! Joe Chill?! The very criminal who killed Thomas and Martha Wayne?! What are the odds?! It's just...stupid. It's totally and completely stupid.

But Batman is still pretty much convinced that this is what he's gotta do. He visits his parents' grave and asks an easy question:

No, Batman. The answer is no. You don't have to do that at all. Don't be ridiculous.

But according to Batman, and the writers, he does. So we endure another few chapters of McFarlane art and overly-angsty inner-monologues.

And Batman wearing a delivery man disguise. Hilarious!

And YOU will soon know to sign here to accept your package, Reaper!

Comm. Gordon gets all confused when he sees Batman sort of fighting on the side of the criminals against the Reaper. He's hurt that Batman isn't being his BFF anymore. He takes it like a 14-year-old girl:

Breaks the pipe that Batman gave him as a gift! Awwww. Suck it up, Gordon.

And then there's the stupid romance plotline. Rachel is dedicated to becoming a nun. Right up until she takes in the full heat of Bruce Wayne eating an ice-cream cone in a bomber jacket.

Ugh. I hate that. She was a woman totally dedicated to her faith and her goal of becoming a nun and helping people. Then she pulls a 180. Whatever.

Also, this is the single creepiest panel I have ever seen. Ever:

EW! When did Bruce Wayne = Guy Smiley? Actually, it's worse than that. It's the exaggerated face that I make when I am considering making a banana split. Check it:

Sorry about my lazy photoshop work. But already I have improved the comic ten fold.

Anyway, I think I've made my case. Now I invite anyone to try to defend this book. Good luck!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Doctor, Doctor.

In the 1960s life was simple. There was only one doctor costume available, and if you didn't like it, you could go pound sand.

Here we have Superman sporting the doctor costume:

In another comic, Bruce Wayne:

In yet another comic, one of Luthor's men:

And, finally, some other criminal wears the same get-up in another comic:

Does this costume fool anyone? Everyone owns one. And can you blame them? That is an excellent beard and moustache combo. Bruce Wayne really made it his own by switching up the lab coat for medical scrubs (PS - the nurse is Supergirl, and I thought she was drinking a soda, but I guess that's a roll of gauze).

And since we are talking about that panel, it's also a great example of how Superman solves simple problems with needlessly complicated solutions. Did he really need to bother Batman for this? Even better is in the next panel when the "doctor" tells Clark in front of Lois that he needs to keep the bandages on for two weeks. I think that was Bruce's pay-back for being dragged out during daylight hours to be a part of this absurdity.
Also...if Superman is so worried about getting those bandages on in a hurry, why doesn't he do it himself in a split second before Lois arrives?

Eventually I'll stop talking about Showcase Presents Superman. But who can really resist this stuff?

...And I Feel Fine

This has to be the calmest, most matter-of-fact reaction to something absolutely horrifying that I have ever seen.
It's always all about you, isn't it Superman?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Total Bullshit

Since Steph is never going to reveal her promised photoshop surprise, I may as well post.

The DC Superheroes Jumbo Color and Activity Book should be nothing but lazy, rainy day fun. Instead it belittles the adult puzzler with impossible challenges like this one:

You can't do it, can you? (The menacing imprint of Batman looming in the background doesn't help, but I couldn't scan this page without that. Sorry).

There were no less than five adults trying to solve this. Even when we surrendered and flipped to the back pages for the answer, we remained stumped. Here is the answer:

You still can't tell what's different about him, though, can you? You've checked the hair, the boots, the gloves, the stripes, the muscles. No dice.

I'll show you what the difference is:

On this one the bottom of the mask points upwards, instead of down.


Thanks to Ben to figuring this one out so I could sleep again.