TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Brion Markov. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brion Markov. Show all posts

Saturday, July 21, 2012

DC's Batman Shooter: The Day Evil Won


Cover art for DC Comics' Final Crisis (2008) by J. G. Jones © DC Comics. Image Source: Wiki.

In 2008, DC Comics, publishers of Batman, continued a pattern of pumping dwindling sales by publishing a crossover multi-title event called Final Crisis. The publicity motto for that series was: the day evil won. Top editor and now Co-Publisher of DC Comics, Dan Didio, commented that the series examined the question: "What happens when evil wins?" It is a good question, and an ironic one for Mr. Didio to ask. The answer appears to be: evil wins the day that DC's Millennial virtual fantasies become a reality. What happens on the pulp pages and the movie screen now happens in the cinema itself. Reality has become just like a graphic novel.

In an Aurora, Colorado shooting 20 July 2012 at the Batman: The Dark Knight Rises midnight movie première, 12 people died and 70 were tragically injured. Predictably, America's media have launched into a heavily politicized and polarized debate about the right to bear arms, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

But this election-related argument will take public discussion far off track from the meaning and origins of this tragedy. Guns were not the only weapons used here, since Holmes lobbed tear gas grenades at the crowd, and his apartment is still sealed and under investigation by bomb experts. The apartment is booby-trapped and full of jars of liquid, mortar rounds, trip wires, bombs and incendiary devices, which Holmes likely learned how to make by searching for information on the Web. He also purchased his ammunition over the Internet. Thus, some commentators might begin to ask if we should censor the Internet as we control guns. In this crime, guns and bombs and the information on the Web were not the purpose, but means, to an end.

That end is a social malaise which saw the suspected shooter, James Holmes, tell police that he was "the Joker." And in fact, everything, from the gas lobbed into the cinema prior to the shooting, to Holmes's booby-trapped apartment, is very Joker-like.

The governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, sees this crime as an act of "senseless violence." But labeling 24-year-old Holmes, a graduate student who was in the process of abandoning his PhD in Neuroscience at University of Colorado, as 'insane' does not help to explain this crime. How did someone who was described by his old California neighbours as "clean cut, responsible and studied hard," and who graduated at the top in his undergraduate class in Neuroscience at University of California, Riverside, become someone who said he was "the Joker"?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Death of Heroism and the DCnU Rebirth

The Justice Society of America, the first team of superheroes in comic book history, drawn by Alex Ross. (Hat tip: It's a Dan's World.)

I've written before about comic book superheroes as ancient gods that still survive in our culture.  They represent our most enduring grasp of right and wrong, the archetypes that come to us across the ages (see my post on Ur-memory of those ideas here), incredibly across thousands, perhaps even millions of years.  Looking at Green Lantern on a lunchbox or backpack, that seems an absurd assertion.  Perhaps we tolerate this pantheon of pagan deities in an era of mainstream Millennial religions precisely because the ancient gods have dwindled down to figures in comic mythologies that we tell children and youths; and these myths are not taken that seriously.

Yet the archetypes embedded here still have weight.  They also constitute serious commercial interests. That raises the question of why these archetypes over the past twenty years, and especially in the last ten (when DC has been under Dan Didio's leadership), have been undermined?  Why is DC Comics, the original classic superhero comics company, so preoccupied with the breakdown of heroes and heroism?  Why are their heroes dying?  Why are their characters being wiped from existence or rebooted in ways that taint them?  What does it mean when their core values are stripped from them?  Why are they being benched and sidelinedAnd why are the Outsiders, classic Titans, Justice Society, and Doom Patrol the key casualties in this reboot?  I've commented on the JLA-centric generational and Bat-commercial aspects of the reboot which left the JSA, Doom Patrol and Titans out in the cold here; and my posts on what the Titans and Doom Patrol signify are here and here.  There's a good series of posts this week on what fans are losing as the DCU dies, over at It's a Dan's World (here).

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Titans Dream Cast


It's weird when the publishers of a fictional universe erase a whole era.  This is what DC is doing with the whole Titans comics continuity. Ironically, the New Teen Titans graphic novel Games is coming out this fall.  Originally conceived by Marv Wolfman and George Perez and set in late 1980s' continuity, Games has been delayed for over twenty years. Yet it arrives just as these stories and characters are about to be completely retconned. 

The Games graphic novel finally revisits the heyday of Titans in the 1980s, right at the point when you would expect its revival. Instead, we are seeing an erasure.  For a giant sleeping Gen X fanbase, these comic book superheroes were DC's answer to Marvel's X-men, and Games should awake teen memories. It may get old fans interested in the characters again, even though the classic Titans are being rammed through and obliterated in the DCnU reboots.  DC has shown little interest in rediscovering what made this title great, reviving its superteen soap opera formula that merged so well with sci-fi, space epics, and magical themes.  DC also doesn't seem interested in returning to complex story-telling and characterization that made the Titans title famous.  As one fan on the DC boards remarked:
Funny, I was just reading Jim Shooter's blog (E[ditor] I[n] C[hief] at Marvel from 1978 - late 80's (I think)). Someone had posted something in the comments that reminded me of the current DC way of thinking:

"Steve Englehart has said on his website that around 1990 or so, Marvel editorial decreed that character development should basically stop, since the characters had evolved "too far from their roots."

And I think Marvel went bankrupt in the mid 90's.

Let's see if DC can do better with their version of this idea.
Now that Games will soon be published, the live action Titans movie that Warner is not making is next up.  If they ever do turn to the project, would they consider the Judas Contract for the screenplay?  Or the Terror of Trigon?  Other big storylines are the team's first trip to Tamaran, Titans Hunt, or a Brother Blood film. Below the jump, a post that shows the Titans a little love.  This is my favourite possible cast for a Titans film.  There are other suggestions out there (here, here, here, here, here and here), some of which I've drawn from for this post.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Symbols of Immortality 2: The Blood Countess

Countess Dracula poster image from Wiki, reproduced by Wiki from MGM/Hammer under Fair Use.

In honour of  its 75th anniversary this year, DC Comics is doing a series called DC Universe Legacies, which retells the history of the DC Universe; it's drawn by a host of famous artists and penned by the great Len Wein (preview of #2 here; reviews here and here).  Of course, like any history there is an opportunity to throw in a few retcons.  While reading DC Universe Legacies #2 (August 2010), what did my eagle eyes spy but a plot to steal the Markovian Crown Jewels

If you've been following my comics entries, you'll know I'm writing a history of the infamous character Tara Markov here.  The Markovs were only invented in the 1980s, but with this issue, their family is being inserted into Golden Age DC arcs.  Golden Age stories were originally published by DC in the 1940s; the stories summarized by Wein's DC Universe Legacies have so far covered events inside the DC Universe of the 1920s and 1930s.  And in this issue, a gang of 1930s thieves break into a museum (in Gotham?) to steal the Crown Jewels and a portrait of an eighteenth or nineteenth century Markovian royal - who looks suspiciously like Tara Markov, the Titan who died in a DCU story set in the 1980s.  Many will say this is just a family resemblance to an ancestor.  But these are comic books, where such obvious explanations will never do.  Seeing that portrait, I immediately thought of the old Hammer horror film, Countess Dracula.  That movie picked up on an idea in other Hammer films and in other contemporary horror films, like The Haunted Palace, starring Vincent Price and based on the story by H. P. Lovecraft.  A noble family has a female member of dubious parentage who is introduced as a daughter, niece or cousin.  Yet curious visitors are puzzled to see her exact likeness reappearing in a much older portrait or a statue at a gravesite. It turns out that the obscure, eternally young girl is the immortal founder of the whole family legacy.  This is the kind of mystery that might suit Tara Markov, if her immortality depended on her status as an earth elemental, rather than as a vampire.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reflections on the Revolving Door of Death 2: The Death of the Postmodern Hero

Death of the Flash, COIE #8 (Nov. 1985)

In pulp fiction, character-driven stories, so beloved from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, are now a thing of the past. For many years, but especially since about 2003, DC's comics universe has been awash in death, legacy characters doing the rounds in their fourth versions, dying, and coming back in fifth versions (see my blog entry on this here). DC’s two big events in 2009-2010, Blackest Night and Brightest Day, epitomize the morbid fascination with death and resurrection. Yet the leading lights of the company proclaim that these events in fact will halt the tide of death and reinvest it with meaning, a message that was carried out of Blackest Night. In BN issue #8, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) announces that ‘dead is dead from here on out.’

While we wait for Brightest Day to deliver on writer Geoff Johns’s promise to give death meaning again, it’s obvious that DC and its competitor Marvel have a problem on their hands. During the Modern Age of Comics, which has run from the mid-1980s to the present, the mainstream comics companies painted themselves into a corner when they created the so-called ‘revolving door of death.’ Now, characters die so often in the name of ‘grim drama,’ that readers and critics cynically, or wearily, do body counts at the end of every crossover event. Why has DC killed off more than 650 (at latest fan count here at Legion World) of its characters since 2003? In all this overkill, the 2010 death of the young character Lian Harper aroused outrage at the company for gratuitously manipulating its readers, by taking excess to a new low. There is a deviantART site devoted to the topic here.  Yet DC mistakenly took this emotional response to mean that its creative team had created a dramatic story that moved its readers, rather than comprehending that their audience was expressing annoyance and genuine death trope exhaustion. Why is DC so tone deaf when it comes to hearing what fans are saying? A flood of gore cannot be used to revive the seriousness of already-overused death memes that once were sacrosanct.
 
X-Men #136 (Aug. 1980)

There’s more to this than a vicious circle of commercialism. Let’s go back. The death of a hero in any medium, let alone in comics, was once the height of drama. It grew out of older roots in epics, fairy tales, literature and religious sources. It was a narrative line that was almost never crossed. It carried weight. And because it was a powerful dramatic tool, it was invariably a commercially successful plot device. Practically every comics fan recognizes the famous X-men cover of Cyclops holding a half-dead Jean Grey. The cover foreshadowed her death in the next issue, when she sacrificed herself to save the universe in the Dark Phoenix Saga. According to Marvel wikia, issue #137 from September 1980 was “the first time that a major Marvel Comics super-hero [wa]s killed off on-panel.” Jean Grey’s death might be considered a harbinger of the Modern Age.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unforgiven: DCU Continuity for Terra

Tales of the Teen Titans, Vol. 1 Annual (1984) The Judas Contract, Part 4: "Finale"

I’m putting together a continuity for Terra to place the famous Judas Contract story in the larger context related to Geo-Force, Markovia, Titans and Outsiders, because recently it seems that many readers look at the four issues of the JC story, and only that, to get their whole take on this character.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 1.1 - The Material Girl: Terra in the 1980s


Tara has a postcoital debriefing with Slade Wilson. NTT #39 (Feb. 1984)

The 1980s

In the 1980s, the New Teen Titans plugged into the mood of the decade. The title especially reflected the feel in New York at the time: the city was a background character in the book. In this ‘greed is good’ decade of conspicuous consumption, Wall Street  glitz had a 9 1/2 Weeks and Bonfire of the Vanities dark underside. With Raven’s back story, the title picked up on the events from the receding 1970s like Jonestown, and added early 1980s’ economic stresses that turned into a financial boom, inner city crime waves, vigilantes, terrorist scares, the Iran hostage crisis, the Cold War, and presidential anti-drug campaigns. But from the start, the NTT team members also had 80s-styled dynamism and optimism – and money, accomplishment, power, celebrity, or privilege – that let them float above darker problems. Brought together by Raven, they immediately clicked through old and new interlocking friendships. It looked like they could have it all. Their mutual confidence was shaken by a succession of villains, as well as self-doubt and tragedy, but was not fractured until Terra betrayed them in 1984’s Judas Contract.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 1.2 - The Material Girl: Terra in the 1980s

Terra's first appearance on the Statue of Liberty. NTT #26 (Dec. 1982)

1980s Continuity continued

Terra: First Appearance
-New Teen Titans vol. 1 #26 (December 1982): "Runaways"
Changeling encounters Terra at the top of the Statue of Liberty but she escapes. The Statue of Liberty is an important symbol in relation to her character; the second Terra makes her first appearance there as well.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 1.3 - The Material Girl: Terra in the 1980s


Tara's grave. ToTT Annual #3 (1984)

1980s Continuity continued

Aftermath issues in Titans and Outsiders.
A self-imposed silence descends upon the Titans after Tara’s death. Unlike the Outsiders, the Titans never once (ever!) come together as a team to discuss Terra or her betrayal. There’s no group hug moment here. The Titans publicly state that she died a hero fighting the Terminator. Privately, they later affirm Tara’s betrayal, to Batman and to incoming Titans members. It’s not confirmed whether Tara’s betrayal becomes widely-known knowledge among heroes and villains. In the 2008 Terra mini and the 2009-2010 run of Power Girl, the JSA obviously knows about it.  The Titans’ personal grief over her, like the character herself, becomes a cryptic unknown quantity that comes out in different ways. Aside from Gar, Dick Grayson is the main Titan who is shown thinking of her over time. In issues from the 2000s, he brings her up repeatedly. In the 1990s, he recalls her treachery and death as a moment of personal failure as the team leader. Vic, Donna and Kory sometimes mention her. Three themes appear around Brion and Gar in response to Tara’s death. One is rage at the Terminator. The second is guilt: each blames himself for not loving her enough and not helping her. The third is love: both Brion and Gar indicate that they still love her and always will, no matter what she did. This last theme has been repeated so often over the past 26 years that it has gained a life of its own. Where Brion may not have been especially close to Tara (he says this at her funeral) and Gar had a teenaged crush on her, over time their love for Tara has evolved to near-epic proportions. By 2010, Tara sits at the heart of Brion’s corrosive grief over his decimated family; for Gar, she is his first love, a dead, corrupted soulmate he’ll forever mourn.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 2.2 - The Elemental: Terra in the 1990s

Dick Grayson remembers parallel karmic figures, Tara Markov and Joseph Wilson. NT #113 (Aug. 1994)

1990s Continuity continued

Titans Hunt Aftermath. Karma Karma Karma.
In the Titans Hunt aftermath, Tara Markov I and Joseph Wilson are confirmed as karmically-related characters – for Deathstroke, Dick, Gar and Raven. The post-Titans Hunt arcs repeat the theme that Joe’s death is Deathstroke’s payback for what happened to Tara. The fallout from the Judas Contract and Titans Hunt tie Tara Markov I and Joseph Wilson to Deathstroke’s relationship with Dick and Gar. Raven quickly becomes part of that chessboard of characters as well.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 3.1 - A Remade Reboot of the Original: Terra in the 2000s

Gar meets Black Lantern Terra. Blackest Night: Titans #1 (Oct. 2009)

The 2000s

By 1997-1998, the comics industry had slumped to one of its lowest points ever, although it was revived in the crisis atmosphere after 9/11. The Titans came out of the 1990s reeling, but the team had a hopeful string of reboots. Initial optimism from the turn of the millennium is evident in issues from 1999-2000. This was quickly replaced after 9/11 with hard, grim themes, and even more characters’ deaths in sweeping successive crossover events.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 3.2 - A Remade Reboot of the Original: Terra in the 2000s

Black Adam kills Terra 2. 52: World War III #3 (June 2007)

2000s Continuity continued

Graduation Day.
In the 2003 Titans/Young Justice Graduation Day arc, DC killed off Donna Troy. In fact, they had just sent her on an inter-dimensional exploration of her identity. While reassuring fans that Donna was alive in other dimensions, the impact on the Titans was huge. DC used the opportunity to do a complete overhaul of the Titans franchise, reflecting deep crises in leadership. DC mashed up one half of the NTT with Young Justice and the other half of the NTT with the Outsiders.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 3.3 - A Remade Reboot of the Original: Terra in the 2000s

Working for Deathstroke? Ravager accused by Bombshell of being a Titans traitor. TT #39 (Nov. 2006)

2000s Continuity continued

One Year Later: Interlude.
During the period between Terra 2's death (2007) and Terra 3's Miniseries (2009), the legacy of Terra 1's betrayal runs through several storylines. Terra 1 is a foil for Raven and Jericho, and her lingering influence still hangs over Deathstroke, Gar Logan and Brion Markov.

DCU Continuity for Terra: Part 3.4 - A Remade Reboot of the Original: Terra in the 2000s

 
Terra 3 is a perfect genetic match with Terra 2, who was a perfect genetic match with Terra 1.  Terra #1 (Jan. 2009)

2000s Continuity concluded.

Geo-Force: Walking a mile in his sister’s shoes? 2001-2010.
The seductive injustice of scapegoating goes a long way to explaining why Brion Markov’s unwavering loyalty to his sister is justified. If Brion is still in Tara’s corner after all this, even if it means his destruction as a hero, then we may have to ask again who Tara really was. We may have to look beneath the cardboard-cut-out ‘traitor-who-deserved-to-die’ label that’s been slapped on her, and question the double standard that condemned her, while forgiving others who have done the same or worse. DC is currently making Geo-Force, a clearly heroic character, relive his sister’s hellish descent. We have to go back to Markovia and ask: who are the Markovs and what is their legacy?

Through this period, Brion shows growing signs of mental instability followed by a frightening decline into madness. He has blackouts and acquires Terra’s powers. His wife Denise has already died under unknown circumstances. He begins wearing the same uniform that both siblings wore when they first appeared, signifying his growing identification with Terra 1. The same themes begin to surround him: insanity, drugs, Deathstroke, mental manipulation, brainwashing, memory wipes, and a loss of moral direction combined with a massive increase in his geo-powers.