Saturday, May 7, 2011

Give Aquaman a Chance

Aquaman is essentially the Rodney Dangerfield of the super-hero world. He's a great hero and a great character, but he never gets any measure of respect. Everybody makes fun of Aquaman... even nerds. He gained his reputation as the most useless member of the Super Friends back in the 1960's, and he's never since been able to live it down no matter how hard people try to give him credibility. There's a reason he can swing with the best of them in the Justice League even on a bad day.
He came from the depths of the Ocean
 to deliver the message of "shut up."

The two biggest misconceptions are that his only power is talking to fish and he can't go on land... neither of those are true. He's an Atlantean and he has the strength and physiology to withstand pressure at the deepest depths of the ocean like it was a breezy summer day. In addition to being one of the strongest beings on Earth, he's also the de facto ruler of most of the planet. This is a guy who doesn't take shit from anyone because he doesn't have to, and even if he did he could use mind control on the part of the human brain that evolved from marine ancestors. He doesn't just talk to fish... he controls all sea-life. Since Brightest Day this has included dead creatures. That's right... Aquaman literally has an army of fucking killer zombie sharks at his disposal to ultra-murder people, and his very own private Kraken at his disposal. That's if he doesn't beat the shit out of you with his bare hands. He fights worse than simple criminals or muggers on the mean urban streets... his nemesis is a crazed super-terrorist who murdered his baby because he hates the abstract concept of the Ocean. Add to that tally a sadistic half-brother bent on usurping his throne, and a loving wife from another dimension sent here to kill him.

But beyond being a credible and incredible super-hero, he's also a great and versatile character. Chris Sims has called Batman comics' most versatile character, and the legend of Aquaman is a similarly great story. Half-human and half-Atlantean, he's constantly trapped between two worlds, never completely accepted by either of his people but destined to live as a leader and savior to both. It's the classic story of a noble hero driven hard to protect the world that's forsaken him and prove himself, even though he might hate their guts. Growing up from ostracization in his youth, he becomes a grim hardened warrior driven by anger but with a deep sense of personal morality that transcends his more brutal and aggressive instincts. At his heart he's still a passionate family man who takes care of those closest to him while managing a massive under-sea empire, and struggles with love for multiple beautiful women. The relative unpopularity despite such great potential has made him incredibly under-used. He's at home as a regal diplomat or an animalistic barbarian, knocking alien heads together in space, dueling political assassins, or brawling his way through great monsters of the deep.
I am of course really looking forward to the upcoming new Aquaman series supposed to be written by Geoff Johns, but it's great that we're starting to see him become more popular even in other media. Appearances in Smallville and especially the amazing work being done in Batman: The Brave and the Bold have made great strides towards legitimizing the character the way he deserves to be.

I also want to make it clear that I could read literally nothing else but Kate Beaton's Aquaman comics for the rest of my life and I would be a happy man.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Speak Ill of the Dead

In the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, I've found myself shocked by people's reactions and their lack of perspective. I'm a New Yorker born and raised, I was in 4th Grade when the towers went down. Ten years later, I'm walking out of a college improv show and I hear they finally got the guy. I texted my friends and we had a party until the wee hours of the morning with Wings Over and loud music, because amidst finals and the end of the school year we had something that really needed celebrating. They got him. What disturbed me was the condemnation that seemed to be everywhere the next day... dozens of people I liked and even respected were horrified that our nation had come together overnight to celebrate a man's death. I can understand that on a personal level, the belief that human death should never be celebrated. In 999,999,999 cases out of a billion I would even agree them. But what really got to me was the rampant accusations that anybody who does celebrate or take pleasure in the death of Osama bin Laden is a sickeningly disgusting terrible human being, symptomatic of exactly what is wrong with America. He's the greatest mass-murderer in our country's history, responsible for the tragic deaths of literally thousands of innocent people... our friends, our neighbors, our family members, gone for the sake of a mad crusade against democracy and homosexuality. Did everyone I know turn into Batman while I was asleep and nobody told me? Where could people possibly be getting off calling us sickos for taking pleasure in his death?
"Quick, somebody get him to the hospital!"

Perhaps people don't understand the gravity of the situation. Literally thousands of innocent civilians who worked hard every day to make the best lives for themselves and their loved ones, who asked for no war, were brutally murdered and died horrible deaths. People had to jump out of skyscrapers and splatter  themselves on the sidewalk just to avoid burning to death. These weren't statistics... every single individual was a human being, a son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister, and everything they ever were or would be was taken from them and their loved ones. You don't get to do that to people. You lose your right to have people not celebrate your death when you cause that much pain.

The strength of the character Batman makes a powerful moral statement, but he's ultimately undermined by the medium he resides in. Batman doesn't kill, and there's been a huge effort by many creators throughout history to explore, define and justify this decision. There are a lot of strong moral reasons that have been given for this oddly Kantian maxim held by arguably the greatest Utilitarian hero ever created, but it realistically comes down to one thing at the end of the day... Batman can't kill the Joker because he's too good of a character to get rid of. In reality, if there's a mass murderer who's killed thousands of innocent people, and would gladly do so again given the chance, you end that person. Because there is no place for people like that in a world where we are trying to do the most good with what we have available. In comic books, with their lack of real world consequences, Batman is a stoic champion of objective morality in a world of grays. In the real world, he'd be the dog-faced cunt who allowed for the brutal senseless death of your daughter because he couldn't squeeze a little tighter on someone who deserved it.

I'm aware that the death of Osama bin Laden was mostly a symbolic victory at this point, and I'm aware that it probably won't even change anything. But he was undeniably a truly evil man. No shades of grey, just right and wrong. There was a piece of true evil in the world, and now there isn't one where there was before. That's always something to be celebrated.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Worst Hour of the Morning

It's way worse than it sounds. 

It’s that dreadful bloody awful hour or so of the morning where the night-owls have gone to bed and the early-birds have yet to rise. The whole world seems to be empty, pristine and untouched, like the software exists for reality but the files haven’t completely rendered yet. I hate it. It would be almost sort of beautiful in its odd virginity if it wasn’t so terrible and lonely. The breath of fresh air is at first calming and relaxing, without the collage of sound and flurried faces mucking it up, but then the uneasiness sets in. A lone car rolls by in the distance like it knows more than you do, or think it’s better than you are because it’s supposed to be there and you aren’t. If the car had a face you would stab it. Not that stupid looks-like-a-face with its headlights and front bumper, a real one that could feel pain. The landmarks are all familiar, but there’s no life to them without people. It’s a sort of calm serene void usually reserved for the dead or worse, like walking around a giant scale-model mausoleum of all your memories and familiarities. You want to scream for help but there’s not a single person in the entire world who would hear you. They’re all dead… like your parents. Go back to sleep and wake up when things will seem better. Eat something for breakfast that involved killing an animal to make it. Blast loud rock music and wake up your roommate. You won’t be forgetting this anytime soon, but the least you can do is distract yourself. If you ever have to go outside between the hours of 5 and 6am again, bring a loud gun in case nature gets any ideas