Okay. First, I’m not going to say that ARROW is a great tv show. It’s not. It’s flawed in some pretty glaring ways, unconvincing in others, and not exactly brimming with complex insights into the human condition.
However, it is a compelling show, and I think there’s something to be learned from it.
First, let’s contrast Oliver Queen in the comics and in the show. They have similar origins: billionaire playboy asshole is marooned on an island for five years, where he’s forced to learn how to survive and learns to shoot a bow and arrow with inhuman accuracy.
In the comics, Oliver Queen is blissfully unaffected by this. He puts on a green suit and little Robin Hood cap, then heads out with his bow and trick arrows to play superhero. Worse, most everyone writes him as an old, annoying hippie. I guess there’s a New52 version that’s a bit different, but let’s come right out and say that, according to Science, Green Arrow sucks worse than Aquaman.
The show handles it differently: The pilot opens with his rescue and BOOM, he’s immediately returned to a hospital room in his home city. His mother stands anxiously at the door while the doctor explains that he’s covered with scars and has obviously suffered numerous broken bones. Whatever happened to Oliver Queen while he was marooned, it was really, really bad. The doctor warns her that he won’t be the same guy who vanished five years before.
As Jim Butcher would call it, Oliver Queen has exotic position in this world. He’s famous and infamous. Every new character he meets recognizes him instantly and most think they know everything they need to know about him. Also, the story slowly builds up “the island” as Hell-on-Earth and deliberately does not go into much detail about it. Oliver refuses to talk about it with his family, and as he pursues his plan in the current timeline, flashbacks cover his time on the island where he learned all the skills (and earned all the scars) he brought home.
So he’s a ninja, he’s Robin Hood, and he’s the Scarlet PTSD-pernel (except he targets the upper class instead of rescuing them). Who he is sets him very much apart from the other characters on the show. Exotic position.
If you followed the “exotic position” link above, you saw a note about “Exaggeration,” too. Oliver Queen isn’t just regular guy, he’s heir to billions. And he wasn’t just a spoiled jerk before being marooned, he was a complete asshole: When his ship went down, he was in bed with his girlfriend’s sister. Not only did he cheat on her, it was her kid sis and he’s responsible for her death. Also, the dead sister? Her dad is the detective who ends up investigating the vigilante.
It’s not just one thing working against him, it’s several all woven together. The vigilante isn’t just pursued by the cops, he’s pursued by the cop with a deep hatred of Queen’s family. Queen isn’t just pining for the girlfriend he betrayed (who’s picture he mooned over on the island) he’s forced to keep his distance from her because he’s got the whole vigilante thing going, and she has no respect for him because of the Scarlet Pimpernel-ish playboy act he puts on, and his best friend is in love with her and trying to make it work, and the more she learns about the vigilante the more she admires that dude, who’s trying so hard to help others.
Every complication is multiplied as much as possible. It’s deepened and made more complicated so that the relationships between the characters are incredibly twisty. (More on that in a minute)?
Another smart choice is that rather than just follow the usual model and creating a character who fights whatever generic crime appears, the show’s creators have given him a list of bad guys to take down. In fact, it’s was his father’s dying wish that Oliver undo Papa Queen’s wrongs.
Comic books are generally bullshit when it comes to portraying families. Bendis manages it pretty well, if you can stand the dialog tics, but most comics are all about jumping and kicking and massive battles. In the midst of all that, hashing over family drama is trite as hell.
On TV, the most cost-effective screen time you can get is two characters talking to each other on a pre-built set. There is no better special effect than an actor’s face. There just isn’t.
Of course, there are a lot of shows with friends and family squabbling at each other, but Arrow is really well cast. What’s more, although the dialog is trite and the drama is too often “Second Act Shouted Accusations/Fourth Act Reconciliation”, the actual drama itself is pretty fresh.
There’s a love quadrangle with Laurel, the woman Oliver loved like crazy but betrayed and hurt, his best friend who loves her, too, and the vigilante, who has all the traits (basically, acting like he cares what happens to people) Laurel wished Oliver would show but never does.
Oliver’s little sister grew up into a teenager while he was away, and now she’s becoming the party girl asshole that he was before he disappeared and still pretends to be in his Scarlet PTSD-pernel persona.
What’s more, that list his father gave him of bad guys to take out? Oliver’s mother has the same list, because she’s part of the conspiracy. In fact, it’s clear very early on that there’s a real conspiracy here, not just a catalog of assholes, and it takes a long while for Oliver to catch up.
Finally, the main villain is motivated by revenge for the loss of someone he loved very much.
Back when I was still trying to figure out how to be a successful writer, one of the earliest skills I mastered was the exciting action scene. I could make them inventive and weird, full of unexpected twists and odd moments.
What I couldn’t do was assemble them into a story. I couldn’t connect them.
Once, my friend and (although he might not know it) mentor Bill Martell talked about using theme to create character. Actually, I think he meant the lesson to be “using character to explore theme” but we take our lessons where we can grab them.
As an example: an author is writing a mystery about a wife suspected of killing her husband in a marital dispute. Marriage, amiright?
So, in creating a cast of characters, the author consciously explores every facet of marriage she can think of: maybe the detective is still mourning the loss of their own spouse, who died of Spouse To A Sad Cop Syndrome. The bride’s parents have been happily married for thirty years. The groom’s parents refuse to divorce even though their relationship is a DMZ. The bride’s best friend is in the middle of a divorce. The groom’s BF never married and is ecstatic about it. The neighbors are ooey-gooey newliweds. The detective’s partner is bored with his wife.
And so on. It doesn’t have to be obvious (in fact, better if it isn’t) but it gives the story unity.
On ARROW S1, the theme relates to (as Helena Bertinelli says) “going through a crucible.” Oliver was shipwrecked, watched his girlfriend and his father die, and struggled for five years to stay alive. When he returned home, he was transformed.
The other characters in the show reflect that theme: Thea responded to the pain of losing her father and brother by trying to grow up just like Oliver. Worthless billionaire bf Tommy had never gone through any kind of test or transformation, and he starts the show as the same boy-man he was five years before. Moira Queen, for her part, mourns and moves on with her life, marrying again. Diggle can’t get past the death of his brother. Finally, there’s Malcolm Merlin, the season’s villain, who can not get past the pain of his wife’s death.
Yeah, there are problems. Too much of the dialog is trite and on the nose; people complain about the actors, but I think the scripts are the real problem here. The first two episodes have a really unfortunate voice over, which doesn’t work at all. And the pilot introduces the Queen’s house maid, who was supposed to… actually, I’m guessing here, but I think she was supposed to humanize our good-looking billionaire hero by showing he could be friends with a poor, but it was really weird to see him be so warm with the maid when he was so cold to his mother and sister.
Also, if you can’t get past the idea of a ninja archer who can’t be hit with machine gun fire while he nails baddies with arrows, this ain’t the show for you.
There are also shallower pleasures. I showed my wife a video compilation of all the workout scenes from S1 and she was all “When is this show on again?” Fit, muscular dudes with their shirts off. It’s a feature.
Another thing they’re doing right: integrating existing DC characters and concepts into the show, after retooling them for TV, which is something I said AGENTS OF SHIELD should have done but they haven’t. Deadshot is an obvious addition, and The Huntress, too, (although I thought they miscast the father). They even retooled the Royal Flush Gang, cutting the budget so much the gang only had four members.
(Of course, the head of the Royal Flush Gang had his own crucible, and he made his own choices because of it. More unity.)
So, yeah. There are clumsy flourishes in the execution, early missteps, and action scenes that require reinforced scaffolding for your disbelief.
But! The show handles the lead character’s exotic position really well, and ties everything back to it in a unified, intelligently exaggerated way. That’s why a show I expected to be a dime-store BATMAN BEGINS is one of the few must-watch programs on my schedule.
This will have to cover two weeks because I didn’t do one after the session on 10/20. It will also be somewhat abbreviated compared to previous writeups, which I’m sure will be a relief to those of you scrolling past big blocks of text.
At the end of the last writeup, the team (which was down a member because a player was out sick) managed to lure one of the alien bad guys out to a remote location and overpower him, taking him prisoner. For those who don’t remember from previous updates, the alien is called a Shailun and, as we only recently discovered, they are the innocent aliens who have been taken over by a conquest-minded parasite called the Shinkara. In fact, the entire alien invasion was an attempt to destroy humanity to deny the Shinkara their next hosts, as the Shailun are just about all used up.
But! The first step in defeating the parasites is to learn more about them, so trickery and kidnapping.
Our missing character from that previous session was Evan, our degree-less mad scientist and anti-alien
terrorist resistance-fighter, so we wrapped the alien (named Gerlik) in an impromptu Farraday cage (during his abduction he showed a distressing ability to do Ego attacks and it was thought the cage might block them) and rushed to Evan’s secret lab. Unfortunately, upon arrival we discovered that someone had broken in and, judging by the security footage, used gen-en superpowers to overpower and kidnap him.
(This is what the GM does to you if you miss a session around here.)
Travis gets a call from his brother. Chandler has become a bigwig in the Roman Industries hierarchy, and he smugly reveals that he has a Shinkara parasite inside him and feels pretty sweet. He reveals (unnecessarily) that he has Evan and wants to trade him for Travis. Travis reveals that he would rather trade Gerlik for Evan, and Chandler agrees so readily that he confirms Travis’s suspicion that Chandler is a big fibber.
It’s unclear how much of the host’s memories the parasites have access to, but if the Shinkara knows what Chandler knows, Travis is the kind of guy who says “Let’s order Thai food” when he actually wants pizza, so nobody is trusting anyone here.
The party and the narrative split. Evan was held prisoner inside an extremely well-guarded Ex-Agg facility, getting alternately questioned and punched. Finally, he was put into a cell, where he used a metal spork to dismantle the light fixtures and turn them into a magnetic something or other to break the secure keypad. After overpowering the guard outside the door, he stole the dude’s uniform and began to sneak out.
Cut to the kidnapper portion of the party (as opposed to the kidnappee), where Finlay is using her underworld contacts to find a mob doctor (not that there’s a mob) with illicit imaging equipment so we can get a look at this parasite. Before we “trade” Gerlik, we might as well get everything we can from him. While searching, we discover that Walt, our gen-en soldier, has been framed as a terrorist. The Ex-Agg assault on his home (that nearly killed his daughter) is being sold to the public as a terrorist attack that killed way more people than were actually affected by the firefight. Travis and Finlay immediately get to work on a disguise for him, since there is a big fat reward for him, dead or alive.
Of course Finlay knows a guy (it’s one of her stunts) named Lynch and the only thing he wants in return is a date with her: he doesn’t even ask for movie and a dinner, just coffee. Of course, that was his offer before he saw who we’d brought to his door.
Turns out the mob doc has a deathly fear of aliens, but we pressure him into running the scan.
And we see the alien we’ve been fighting against. It turns out to be made of energy, in that Star Trek:TOS alien sort of way.
Lynch is thoroughly freaked out. We assure him he has good reason to be, and Travis shares the link to the Video That Explains It All with him, asking him to spread the word as much as possible.
At that moment, Walt, in a spirit of full and friendly disclosure, takes off his disguise and reveals himself as the guy who’s been all over the news because nothing says “Join Our Resistance” quite like “I am the man everyone blames for the deaths of several hundred people oh, and also, Mr. Criminal and his several bodyguards, my cooling corpse is worth six figures.”
You know, sometimes I tease my buddy Jim about the in-game choices he makes, but I think everyone reading this will realize that I’m completely justified in doing so.
Luckily, Lynch is too freaked by the alien to realize what a profit center his new visitor would be and we carry the still-unconscious Gerlik out of there before the light bulb switches on.
In the meantime, Evan is searching for an exit when he passes a pair of guards speaking Shinkara-ese. It would cost a Fate point to pass them by without incident but he opts to accept a Fate point for spinning and shooting them both in the back. The gunfire draws a bunch of Ex-Agg baddies, including the two gen-en supers, but Evan remembers that he has a sturdy +2 Deceive and sends them on a wild goose chase.
Eventually, he makes his way to a hangar bay and steals a hoverjetcopterthing.
The kidnappers are in the midst of planning the quintuple-cross that will rescue Evan without losing Gerlik when Evan calls them. He is, obviously, the self-rescuing sort of kidnappee. Unfortunately, he was unable to recover his two Extras, although he probably can whip up spares.
Evan has yet another secret lab (the last one without a stunt or something, our GM assures us) and we carry Gerlik down a secret hatch, through a long dirt tunnel, into Evan’s last (absolutely last!) secret lab.
He finally wakes up in the lab. Travis tries to use Empathy, Deceive and Rapport to control him, but Gerlik is no mook. He also reveals that, rather than being the glorified shipping clerk we’d originally been told, he was actually in charge of security for everything shipped to the space station. So, he’s actually an important dude.
Then Gerlik gives Walt a hard look and Walt staggers back with a sudden nosebleed. Travis has been on the sharp end of Gerlik’s mind powers before, so he doesn’t buy Walt’s assurances that nothing was wrong. Unfortunately, his Empathy roll is a huge pile of ass, and he is forced to succeed at a serious cost, which is that Gerlik panics and triggers the mental suggestion he’d just planted into Walt’s mind.
Hey, everyone on the team is pretty competent, but Walt is built for fighting. His duplication powers return and he cuts Gerlik free.
Fight scene! Gerlik is a difficult opponent on his own, but with the hardest hitting in the party on his side (not to the point of murdering his former teammates, but punching is allowed) we’re in for some trouble. Finlay moves to the door and draws her pistol. My notes are unclear on what she’d planned to do, but her roll was so terrible that she just couldn’t bring herself to squeeze the trigger.
Walt had no such hesitation and he “sweeps the leg”, putting Finlay on the ground. Gerlik, rather than kick Travis’s ass (again) bolts for the exit, making it as far as opening the door. Travis shouts at Walt that he’s fighting the only people who are willing to help him with his daughter, which pushes one of Walt’s aspects and breaks Gerlik’s hold.
Evan decides this is a good time to throw a grenade. I have to admit I facepalmed this harder even than Walt stripping off his disguise in front of Lynch–Gerlik was standing right beside Walt, with Finlay on the ground beside them–but it turned out the grenade was for the dirt tunnel outside. Evan rolled well (luckily) and the grenade bounced down the long tunnel and blew it, collapsing Gerlik’s escape route.
So, that turned out to be a better move than it seemed at first. Walt and Finlay turn their aggressions on Gerlik and put him down again.
At this point, Travis becomes pretty much useless, especially since he failed the Empathy role that would have downgraded Walt’s Will consequence. Walt gets busy digging out the tunnel with his duplicates, which Finlay and Evan get to work separating the Shinkara parasite from its Shailun host. Travis plays Candy Crush or whatever.
Actually, I stepped away from the computer to get my kid some food at this point, but Evan and Finlay work together to give themselves serious boosts and make some stupendous rolls. Not only do they remove the Shinkara parasite, but they manage to save the Shailun host’s life.
Oh, actually, Travis did have a role to play in that last part; he had to convince Evan that saving the Shailun was worth the effort.
The session ended with the Shailun comatose and the captured Shinkara, bereft of a host body, died. At this point, we need to figure out a way to weaponize the process Finlay and Evan created to separate parasite from host, then mass produce it.
Also, will the Shailun still go by Gerlik when he wakes or was that his Shinkara name? Hey, as long as he can resume his post as head of security so he can sneak some fun gadgets into that space station stronghold, we’ll all be happy.
The outside world: comics film funny games interesting things people publishing
by Harry Connolly
2) Steve Rogers: Premature Anti-Facist. h/t James Nicoll
6) Pacific Rim in the Power Rangers style! Video.
7) Want to deter pests without using chemicals or traps? Try an automatic lawn sprinkler with a motion-sensor attached.
Let me start with this: I think THOR (the first movie) was underrated. No, it’s not a great movie, but the performances were solid and there was a human story buried under all that cgi and hammer-swinging. Two brothers, a father disappointed by them both, an heir disinherited and forced to live among common folk where he learns humility, the bond of love and resentment between the brothers… Strip away all the stuff about frost giants and being worthy of Mjolnir, and you have a basic story that anyone can relate to.
In T:TDW, you don’t get any of that. You have a villain trying to destroy the universe with a hidden superweapon that was taken from him, like The One Ring, in a long ago battle. Now the weapon has attached itself to the humblest of creatures, a Jane Foster, and the Big Bad Villain is hunting for her so he can reclaim it.
Except that The One Ring was a ring you could wear that had magic power in it. Everyone has heard of magic rings. In T:TDW the deadly weapon is a cgi liquid that flows through the air like a movie special effect.
And the baddie has to get the weapon in time to use it during The Convergence, when the nine worlds are aligned, and he has to use it in a special place…
Look, I’ve written my share of climaxes that take place at the site of a magic ritual, and the big danger is that the whole thing can seem so arbitrary and artificial. It’s not a conflict between members of a family, it’s a race to stop a guy from doing a thing in a place that looks good on camera.
So, the visuals are cool. The dark elf masks are creepy as hell and Asgard, while not as beautiful as the first movie, is still eye candy.
But where are the complicated relationships? Thor and Loki still have their thing, although it’s evolved to be less complicated than it was.
There’s nothing that hooks the stakes into a real-world concern we can relate to. It’s not an invading army. It’s not lost love (a theme that gets toyed with but not taken seriously). It’s not family drama (seriously, the first THOR could have been moved to a mundane corporate setting without too many changes).
It’s just a bad guy who wants to take the universe back to the state it was in before there was light, which is a thing you can do with magic/superscience floaty liquid, apparently.
Another thing I can’t say I’m fond of is the decision to make the Asgardians and the other members of the Nine Realms aliens. In the comics, Thor is the Thunder God, and what that means cosmologically is whatever the story needs it to mean. He controls the weather, he’s super tough, he comes from a distant place.
In the film the dark elves are given ray guns and space ships with fancy readouts. Yeah, they fight Asgardians with glowing not-light-sabers, but the Asgardians have ray gun anti-aircraft emplacements and flying Viking boats with missile launchers.
It’s a deeply odd set of design choices, especially since the villains have a major advantage with their powerful ranged weapons. Honestly, it would have been better if they’s stuck with magic and pre-gunpowder war-making; Odin would have seemed like less of a tool sending his soldiers into combat with spears and shit.
If you like spectacle, there’s spectacle. Hemsworth, so winningly cheerful in the first film, is mopier here. Yeah, it makes sense that he’s missing Jane but come on. The guy is incredibly charismatic. Let that show. And since this is the spectacle paragraph I’ll mention that he only goes shirtless once, which seems like a missed opportunity.
Anyway, I should have waited for other peoples’ reviews. I wish I had. I liked THOR but THOR: THE DARK WORLD did not live up to expectations.
Okay! The jack o’lanterns are lit, making a path from the top of the stairs to my apt door. Spooky lights are lit. Dracula is on the Netflix, but it won’t load because I can’t imagine why a horror classic would be slow to load on Halloween seriously can’t imagine.
I also have a candy bowl with four Butterfingers, four Snickers, four Nestle’s Crunches, and four (meh) Milky Ways.
There is also a cold beer in the fridge, waiting for my kind attention.
I’m going to live blog the number of kids who come, what treats they take, and what costumes they have. Assuming any show up at all.
Anyway, movie’s playing. I always liked swapping out Renfield for Harker at the start of Lugosi’s Dracula. It simplifies things.
6:28: HOORAY! A tiny little girl dressed as “a rabid raccoon” selected a Crunch candy bar. One kid, at least, has come by.
7:00: No other kids have come by.
7:39: No other kids. Should I just give up? Shut out the light and stuff the candy into the freezer?
7:59: Seriously considering the freezer now.
The outside world: a blessing of monsters internet publishing
by Harry Connolly
Avert your eyes if you can’t bear to read it!
First of all, we broke through the $34,000 mark and made Stretch Goal: Image. That means I can afford Chris McGrath covers for all three books.
I don’t need to tell you how HUGE that is.
I’ve just posted some new stretch goals if you want to check them out: Desktop wallpaper for the Chris McGrath art, another FATE Core supplement, and my upcoming short fiction collection, which will include a new Twenty Palaces short story. Follow the link to find out more.
The first episode of AGENTS OF SHIELD was passable but the followup was downright boring. For one thing, the rebels coming out of the jungle with their machine guns? Dull. If you want me to give a shit about the rebels, they need to be capturing one of the team, hopefully someone that matters. Even better, one of the bad guy soldiers so there’s actual conflict regarding the Mysterious Device. Making it about a coup in a country we don’t know anything about is boring.
But I’m sure the jungle set was limited and the plane set was already there, so they moved the action into the bottle.
Anyway, Coulson continues to be fun and interesting (Note: when punched in the face he bled red blood, so I’m losing hope that he’ll become the Vision).
Here’s a list of things I’m already over:
Ward insisting he’s a solo operative who blah blah blah.
May’s secret past and her unwillingness to kung fu a bunch of people even though she totally does.
Science geeks enthusing about science.
Anything regarding team dynamics.
Skye and her secret group.
The make-believe that Coulson is fooled by Skye’s willingness to work with him. Is there anyone who doesn’t recognize that he’s using her to expose and ruin Rising Tide?
Destroying powerful resources that would be useful in the next alien invasion, like, say, launching a death ray into the sun.
Things I want more of:
Conflicts that direct outward. When the stakes of a show are high I don’t want to see squabbling. Fire the squabblers and bring in new people.
People with superpowers. Pilot ep, yay. Weird device in the second ep, boo.
A sense of actual changes to the world in the wake of an alien invasion. Politics. Culture. Show me what’s changed.
Characters from the Marvel Comics setting.
About that last thing: I realize that Whedon has said he’s not going to turn the show into an Easter Egg hunt for fans of the comics. And he’s right not to do that. You don’t build a successful TV show by driving fan discussion into obscure trivia. If your Twitter hashtags are full of people talking about how some minor character in the second act is Jonathon Hart who would later become Jack of Hearts, you’re not getting a second season.
However, that doesn’t mean the show should use generic death rays and villains cribbed from the Marvel U movies. The comics are full of wacky, interesting ideas from five decades. Many of them aren’t appropriate for this setting and many can’t be done in a TV budget, but for god’s sake rummage around in that treasure chest and pull out something good because death rays and South American coups are not making full use of the property and it’s not going to cut it.
So the word is out that the Fox Network won the bidding for a Warner Bros. TV series about Gotham City before The Batman shows up. It’ll focus on newly-arrived honest cop Jim Gordon and the Gotham PD, and Fox is so high on it they went straight to the series without ordering a pilot first.
Hey, cool. It’s a good idea for a show, and if the run of Gotham Central is any indication, there are great stories to be mined from a police procedural set in a city full of strange and deadly criminals.
There will be gangsters, yeah. A great many of them. As long as they’re genuinely odd characters, I’m for it. There will also be street gangs; the mutants have apparently been adopted into the continuity, and Gotham City has a long-standing history of street gangs of one kind or another.
But what everyone wants to see are the super-villains and the master criminals. (As a totally fake distinction between them, lets say that the villains are the ones with superpowers or monstrous forms, like Poison Ivy, Man-Bat, Killer Croc, and Mr. Freeze, while the master criminals are the ones who plan elaborate crimes according to their odd quirks, like The Penguin, Riddler, and Joker).
The Joker: This may seem counter-intuitive, but I think they should leave the Joker out of the first season. I really like a Joker who is accidentally created by Batman himself, and there has simply been too much of him. However, I think the show could get a lot of mileage out of Jack Napier.
The Penguin: If there was going to be a villain for a season-long arc, this is the one I’d go with. He’s brilliant, he’s really weird and off-putting, and he kills people. Give the part to Patton Oswalt; he showed he could pull off a creepy, scary Penguin in that one parody film. As long as the writers could create brilliant crimes for him to pull off, he would be fantastic.
Riddler: Riddler would seem to be a perfect enemy for a modern procedural, wouldn’t he? He’s like one of the endless taunting serial killers who litter crime scenes with obscure clues, except he’s not a serial killer. He’s a thief. What’s more, the character hasn’t always gotten the respect he deserves. As a kid, Frank Gorshin scared the heck out of me. Is there someone who can bring back that out-of-control delight? I want that creepy thrill again. This character also needs to be brilliant if he’s really going to work. You can’t let the audience get ahead of him or the cops look like dullards.
Catwoman: Yes, please. The casting on this might be tricky, but a great Catwoman would be out solely for herself… except when she helps someone who needs it.
Mr. Freeze: Too outre for the tone of a procedural, and frankly I think his ice effects would be a budget-buster. Maybe if the show is a hit, he can come in next season when they’re ready to spend some money.
Clayface: There have been a number of criminals who went by this name. Some were shapeshifters with bodies made of living clay. At least one was an actor with an uncanny ability to change his appearance. The latter would fit but the former would not.
Solomon Grundy: This may seem like a counter-intuitive choice, but if the show is going to introduce villains with powers and establish a setting where the impossible isn’t, it’s going to need a transition episode to set an X-Files-ish tone and bring out the freakier occult history of Gotham. Grundy can do that: he’s a zombie who is different every time he awakens. Sometimes he’s strong but dumb. Sometimes he’s weak but intelligent. Sometimes he’s gentle, sometimes violent. If you’re going to bring on some of the freakier villains, a zombie is a good place to start.
Mr. Zsasz: They’re going to need to do a serial killer episode eventually. Victor Zsasz fits the bill.
Killer Croc: Is there an alligator living in the Gotham sewers, or is there a man down there, murdering people and robbing them? Frankly, Croc has usually been treated pretty shabbily in the DC continuity. If the show wanted to do something interesting with him, they could make the show about his lost humanity, turn him into a tragic figure the way B:tas did with Mr. Freeze.
Kite Man: Like Stilt Man in my Agents of SHIELD writeup, Kite Man is absurd on his face. Basically, he’s a hang gliding villain. The reason I’d introduce him is because he would make a welcome change of pace, playing a criminal who frustrates Gordon and the other cops and makes them the object of ridicule when they can’t catch him.
Hugo Strange: We can all agree that evil psychiatrists are super creepy, right? Strange ought to be introduced early when Arkham is established but at some point one of the villains or criminals should dose Gordon with some sort of drug that gets him committed for observation, and forced to undergo Strange’s unique form of therapy.
A short list of bad guys the show should avoid: KGBeast, Hush, Man-Bat, Killer Moth, Bane (as the wrestler, not the terrorist), Catman, and Cluemaster, mainly because they are redundant, refer too closely to Batman, or because they suck. Also: Batman’s numerous martial arts villains like Lady Shiva, Silver Monkey, and King Snake.
A short list of bad guys the show could pull a cool storyline out of: Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Ventriloquist, Red Hood (not the Jason Todd version, the thing where the hood is passed from guy to guy), Mad Hatter, The Terrible Trio (with their YOU’RE NEXT-style masks), Ra’s al Ghul (but not the silly city-destroying League of Assassins stuff).
I’d also like to see Bullock, Montoya, and a whole host of corrupt Gotham cops. What I’ll be happy not to see is a guy in a rubber bat suit. Batman in the comics is fun. An actor in a Batman suit trying to throw a punch, not so much. I think it’s interesting that Warner Bros is going old-Batman in the Man of Steel sequel but going pre-Batman in this series. I’m guessing they’re worried about over-exposing the character, maybe?
Anyway, as long as they cast a strong Jim Gordon and surround him with strong personalities, and as long as they hit the right tone for the show, this might become my favorite show of the last few years.
As I mentioned last night, the Lego book trailer for The Great Way made by my son (with only a little help from me) has been posted in update 3 on my Kickstarter. The music is all him, and I think he’s getting pretty good.
You know what’s fun? A government empowered to steal your personal belongings (your car, your house, your cash, your jewelry) for trumped up reasons, and makes it impossible to get them back. And it’s all perfectly legal.
Even better, if you’re curious about a real-life villain that would be too smarmy for fiction, just read through to the very end. Team Drugbust! Team Jesus! If you’re on those teams, you can do anything at all and you’re still a virtuous person.
Since everyone else is doing it, why not me? So, going by the simple criteria of: are they fun/are they doable for TV/would they fit, Here are the characters that I think appear on AGENTS OF SHIELD:
1) Morbius, the Living Vampire:
Hey, he’s not a real vampire, he’s a science vampire. He’s also a tragic figure, a good man with a terrible thirst for blood. He’s also a brilliant scientist. Cast Matthew Gray Gubler, let him be all tortured, brilliant, and dangerous, and you’ll have viewers swooning. Plus, you can bring him back a few times a year to be a scary consultant scientist to milk the concept.
Besides, viewers get the concept of the vampire, and he’s not quite a real one. So it’s easy to translate to TV.
2) Stilt Man:
Yeah, the concept is ridiculous, but that’s part of its charm. He’s a thief in bulletproof armor, and the stilts can do tremendous damage when they kick something. So you have the confrontation with the ridiculous armor that runs super-fast because of those long legs, and you have the protagonists of the show taking a ribbing because they couldn’t catch a guy in stilts in rush hour traffic in New York.
But the fun thing is that it’s just a suit of armor that can be passed from one person to the next–or stolen–just as it is in the comics. Stilt Man doesn’t even have to be a man after all.
So, everyone knows that comics do a terrible job with women’s costumes, and Tigra’s is especially bad. Basically, she saves the world in a bikini that shows off her tiger stripes. Worse, her official origin in the comics is an unholy mess.
However, her enhanced senses and other powers would be excellent for TV and the storyline where she hunts for her husband’s killer is a fine traditional TV plot. Add to that the fact that, for the longest time, she’s had trouble controlling the animal urges that come with her cat powers, and you have a great counterpoint to Morbius. There might even be a scene between them, in which they talk about difficult it can be to control the dangerous parts of themselves, and you have a winner.
As long as you leave out the bikini.
4) The Scarlet Witch:
Wanda Maximov hasn’t been well treated by the comics lately. She’s gone crazy and altered the world. She’s had magic powers and then she didn’t. For the show, I’d take her back to the lost young woman who had the ability to manipulate probabilities. Have her be on the run, robbing ATMs and casinos while also helping people who need it with what are essentially luck powers.
5) Jessica Jones:
She’s a private investigator with superpowers she barely knows how to use. Enough said.
How nineties is that picture?
Bushwacker is a trained government assassin who has two cybernetic arms. Most of the time, they look perfectly normal, but he can transform them into guns. Basically, his hand becomes shaped like a pistol or machine gun, with his skin stretched over it.
In the world of comics, this is scarcely better than being a guy with a gun in his duffel bag, but on TV that makes him an assassin who can sneak in anywhere, shoot someone, and be led out with all the other witnesses. No one is ever going to find the weapon, after all.
So, instead of being a mutant-hating spree killer (which is so boring) he should be a former Hydra agent gone freelance, and make him at least as capable as the SHIELD agents tracking him.
7) Power Pack:
Hey, everyone knows pre-teen kids can be a handful, but kids with superpowers? I’d suggest they show up trying to mimic the Avengers, but being kids they screw up in a big way and reveal their identities. When SHIELD goes to the house to talk with them (and bring them in) the kids have already vanished. Who took them and what will they do with their abilites?
8. The Blank:
This guy is pretty obscure, but bear with me: his only “power” is a gadget, a belt that projects a force field around him that also obscures his face. You can’t hurt him, you can’t grab him (force field) and if he gets into a crowd and shuts the belt off, you won’t recognize him either. Plus, it would be easy to do on TV.
Besides, the truth is that a guy with powers like Cyclops’s–energy blasters–are like gunmen who can’t have their guns taken away from them. And what happens to gunmen when they’ve been in enough fights? They get shot.
Defense is where it’s at.
Oh, god, that freaking picture.
Okay. Ahem. Forget the portentous way this character is always treated, and the goofy telekinesis and translation powers: Devil-slayer is cool because of his shadow cloak. It acts as a dimensional doorway to other places and times: he can step into it and teleport, or he can reach into it and pull out all sorts of things, like futuristic ray guns and battleaxes.
Drop the monster-hunting angle and he can be a deadly thief the team can never catch.
10) Typhoid Mary:
Okay. Um. All right. Oh Christ.
So, one thing the show is going to have to deal with, if it’s a show about superpowers spreading through the population, is what happens when those powers end up in someone violently mentally unstable. Mentally ill gunmen keep popping up every few months, and the show just can’t ignore it.
Now, you can’t count on Marvel itself to handle the issue with dignity. I mean, look at that fucking picture. Can the TV show handle this well? Can the folks behind AoS show a person who is superpowered but not neurotypical without turning her into a fishnet former prostitute karate ninja?
Christ, I hope so.
There’s still time to donate to the Kickstarter (unless you’re reading this a month after I wrote it.)
This is something I read about a few years ago but never forgot.
It seems there was a day care center that had a problem with parents who picked their kids up late. The center was supposed to close at 6:30, but inevitably someone would get held up in traffic or stuck at work, and so maybe once or twice a week the young woman minding the kids always had to linger behind with one of the kids. Sure, the parents always apologized profusely, but the woman who owned the center wanted to fix things.
So she decided to start charging the parents money for being late.
Immediately, late pickups increased.
What the manager of the center didn’t understand was that the parents liked the day care workers and cared about the inconvenience they caused them. When a parent was late, Angela might miss the start of her night class, or her second job, or even just her dinner. The day care workers looked after their children, after all. There was a bond there.
But the bond was wrecked by putting a charge on it. Suddenly, being late to pick up your kid was not a harm you caused to someone you knew and liked, it was an entry on the balance sheet. Trying to close a big sale? Well, the commission will be 1500 bucks if you finish tonight. Picking up little Timmy 30 minutes late will only cost you ten dollars. That’s totally worth it.
Worse, once the social connection was broken it was difficult to reestablish it. Yeah, they took away the fees, but the late parents just didn’t feel sorry any more. What’s more, this isn’t something that’s happened only to on child care center. This is a pretty common phenomenon that shouldn’t surprise people as much as it does.
Why tell this story? Well, as Scott Lynch points out the latest World Fantasy Convention is trying to reduce no-shows to their Kaffeeklatsche events (essentially, coffee with an author and 19 other fans) by charging five pounds for the event. Sure, it’s also supposed to cover coffee and biscuits, but come on, 100 pounds for a coffee urn and some baked goods? Psh.
A much more powerful incentive to having people show up is to say that, if the number of no-shows is too small, the author will be sitting there at their table with a handful of fans while the other writers may have full tables. You don’t want to make your favorite writer feel bad, do you?
Not that it really matters to me; I’m not a convention person. But there’s no denying that a nuisance charge is likely to have the opposite of the intended effect (unless the money is not about no-shows at all…)
Last night, my Kickstarter blew past the 250% mark. This is wild, you guys. Also, I’m pretty much spending all my time away from the internet sending emails and answering messages. Stretch goals are coming, I promise.
Multi-millionaire hedonist drug addict heir raises kids about as well as you could expect. It’s a #Longread, but it’s horrifying; the system failed these kids because the system can not stand up against money. Awful.