Archive for January, 2011

DCU Online

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Braak, comic books
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I have started playing DCU Online, which is a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game that takes place in the DC comics universe. So, you make a superhero or a supervillain, and you fly around and start punching people. It’s pretty cool, but there are some caveats.

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Against Purity

Posted: January 27, 2011 in Braak, poetics
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Purity is pretty good for water and I suspect metallurgy, but I’m starting to think that it’s a waste of time when it comes to everything else.

Kurt Busiek recently Twittered (not recently, this essay is from a while ago -ed.), in a conversation with Colleen Coover: A story that readers hate but is in continuity is more valued than a story they’d love that isn’t. On a related note, I got into an argument with a friend of mine that began with a discussion of Whit Anderson’s upcoming re-interpretation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and somehow segued into a discussion of Sherlock Holmes, and about the purity of interpretation.

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A couple months ago, DC released the first in what will be a series of standalone Superman graphic novels designed for audiences that aren’t steeped in decades of DC continuity or beholden to previous reboots.

They titled this series “Superman: Earth One.” Because when you’re trying to start with a clean slate, it’s best to use a reference to the DC universe’s multiverse structure that only long-time comics fans will pick up on.

This isn’t the least of the book’s problems…but it’s up there. But before I get into the Huge Crushing Issues, I will point out the one thing I really kinda liked about it:

J. Michael Straczynski, freed up from the “standard” continuity, finally gives Krypton something to do.

SPOILERS AHOY

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Amazon.com has declared that Richard Kadrey’s Kill the Dead is one of the ten best SF/Fantasy books of the year.  Pursuant to that, I decided to finally sit down and read Sandman Slim, the precursor to the aforementioned Kill the Dead, and see how it is.  Sandman Slim is fairly good; in case by some mischance you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t encountered it yet, it reads as a mash-up of the (sadly) little-watched TV show Brimstone and the movie Payback (which is one of the best movies that Mel Gibson has made in, oh, let’s say fourteen years?), with some Spenser for Hire and Dresden Files slathered on top.

The supernatural-noir, or supernatural detective fiction subgenre is pretty wildly popular these days (actually, it’s been going strong for several years), and I think it’s a really interesting kind of a splice of genres, so I want to talk about some of the things that I’ve noticed on the subject.

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A less catchy motto, but still pretty good.

One of the more baffling ideas in “The Cape” – the one that makes everyone assume the creators have probably not read a comic ever – is that the hero of the fictional comic has a motto: “One man, one fight, one right.”Which doesn’t actually mean anything, but…hey, “The Cape,” everybody.

I sat on the couch racking my brains trying to think of other heroes who had a well-known motto, let alone a catchphrase encapsulating their views (even as obtusely as The Cape’s). But while it’s not exactly a staple of superhero comics, it’s actually more common than I’d initially thought.

Superman’s got “Fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way.” And I suppose you could make a case for Batman’s “Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot.”

The DC trinity motto is unfortunately rounded out by Wonder Woman’s battle cry… (more…)

The Many Villains of The Cape

Posted: January 20, 2011 in Braak
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I don’t think I’m ever going to stop talking about The Cape.  I don’t know if this should make NBC optimistic for the show’s future — I also don’t think I’m going to buy anything advertised on The Cape — but there it is.

Anyway.  NBC is soliciting fan’s to send in ideas for villains for this show.  Heheheheh.

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With its third episode, The Cape has pretty well established the kind of show it is going to be, so grousing about its relative quality seems to be a waste of time. It is going to be at times silly, at times corny, usually a bit stupid, and most of the time not exactly sensical.

But the sense of whimsy and “Let’s just have a good time, huh folks?” sincerity is hard to ignore.

And occasionally – occasionally – there will be moments where you think, “Wow, they actually did some nice writing there.”  (more…)

Using the power of TECHNOLOGY!, I have made a new short story collection available, electronically, ON THE INTERNET.  All you need is PayPal, or access to PayPal, a willingness to read PDF files, and eighty-three cents!

That’s right, just EIGHTY-THREE CENTS!

Troubled by the fact that my many fans — the ones who purchased the first edition of The Translated Man — couldn’t read the extra short stories in the new edition without buying the whole thing again, I have done something kind of amazing.

I have made a collection of six short stories available to you, the internet.  Second Errata (the name of the collection) contains the three short stories from The Translated Man and Other Stories:  “The Hangman’s Daughter” (first published by Black Gate Magazine), “Beckett’s Job” (available also here at TQP) and “Cresy and the Sharpsie” (so far only available in the book).

As a bit of a bonus, I’ve also thrown in “We Are Shepherds,” “My Heinleins Crumble to Dust in My Hands,” and “The Locked Eye.”  All of these are available here on the site, but whatever, now you can get them all in one place, or easily share them with your friends.

HERE IS WHAT YOU MUST DO!  Send $0.83 USD via PayPal to

threatquality (at) gmail (dot) com

That’s it, you suckers.  Then enjoy some short stories.

SUCKERS.

Were you having fun spotting all the different parts of the pilot that were cribbed from other TV shows and movies? Comics Should Be Good’s Greg Hatcher was.

I wanted to draw attention to this bit, though, since it really does seem to be the central flaw in “The Cape”:

Homage is something creators do when they’ve already established their own thing, and it’s an earned privilege. When The Middleman did a version of the Star Trek Mirror Universe, yeah, that was homage. When Hustle did a Bollywood musical number in one episode, that was homage. Human Target is clearly working the same turf as the action shows of the 1970s and 1980s and the creators have said up front that this is their intention, so when they cast Lee Majors as “the first Christopher Chance,” that’s a nice little homage. All those folks clearly established their own bona fides before slyly referencing things that came before, and those homage references were asides. They weren’t the load-bearing pillars of the entire enterprise.

It also reminds me, you guys all saw The Middleman, right? Because you really should if you haven’t.

You know it’s a slow TV month when I see a show that’s easily described as “Sexy Doctors in the Jungle” and I think, “Well…I do have an hour to kill.”

That is how I ended up watching “Off the Map,” a show whose noncommittal shrug of a title I forgot three times while watching.

And yet at the end of that hour, I was pleasantly surprised. It was Not Bad. Not great – you could live a long happy life without ever knowing this show existed – but a charming enough diversion.

The show did for doctor shows what “The Unusuals” did for cop shows: Nothing crazy, just a couple minor tweaks to the formula and some decent acting. So naturally I expect it to be off the air by the end of February.

Obviously there’s a ton of “This is what our show is” going on here (to borrow from the AV Club’s Rowan Kaiser, “This is Pilotville, and Mayor Exposition has a speech he’d like to give you”), but I’ve learned to accept it as a requirement and try to find the show’s merits, even when it’s sitting next to some head-bashingly stupid moments. Walk with me and I’ll show you what I was thinking as the show went by.  (more…)