Haiku #308 - Goodbye 2009


Written on 7:10 PM by Jack B.

Calendar changes
Winds of time gently pass by
A breeze hardly felt

Look for better days
Or just hope things stay the same
Turning day will tell

Haiku #307


Written on 11:07 AM by Jack B.

Working's not easy
With so many distractions
Try to tune it out

Haiku #306


Written on 11:00 AM by Jack B.

A proverb once said
Gamble not with your money
Use someone elses

Haiku #305 - The Day After...


Written on 12:29 AM by Jack B.

Invited to go
But had to work so I missed
Champion’s Parade

Haiku #304


Written on 12:03 AM by Jack B.

On All Hallow's Eve
Some dress up in strange costumes
Some just watch TV

Haiku #303 - World Series 2009 Begins Tonight


Written on 11:07 AM by Jack B.

Winning the pennant
May prove to be easy part
Team still in the way

Haiku #302 - The 2009 A.L. Champions


Written on 3:46 PM by Jack B.

Who would have guessed it?
Free agent gambles paid off
Yankees win! They win!

Haiku #301


Written on 6:13 PM by Jack B.

Things that I have seen
That I wish I never had
Too many to name

Haiku #300


Written on 6:57 PM by Jack B.

Eight years ago now
Many seasons have passed since
Seems like yesterday

Haiku #299


Written on 7:19 PM by Jack B.

Autumn has arrived
But the weather is still heady
Ninety and rising

Haiku #298


Written on 6:45 PM by Jack B.

Victory is sweet
But not easy to achieve
Prosper with patience

The New Batgirl Debuts aka DC Comics Shows Us Their Idea of Diversity


Written on 10:25 PM by Jack B.

So the new much-hyped Batgirl debuted today in Batgirl #1. DC had kept the identity of the new Batgirl a secret, hyping the mystery of who it was to get readers interested in the book. Favorite canditates included the former Batgirls: Barbara Gordon (the paraplegic computer whiz & information broker now known as Oracle) or Cassandra Cain, the Eurasian daughter of master assassin David Cain who was raised mute, knowing only the language of body language. After her first kill as a child, she resolve d never to kill again and with Batman (and Barbara's) blessing became Batgirl. In that role she had a series that lasted over 70 issues. Then DC Editorial decided to turn her into a Dragon Lady Asian-stereotype killer, Head of the League of Assassins and arch-enemy of Robin (who knew now could read and write fluent Navajo despite previously not knowing how to read at all). The writer DC assigned to her admitted he didn't much about the character before writing her with just the instructions to turn her into Robin's enemy. So he turned a girl who was agonized over the training her father brought her through, terrified over her first and only kill, and resolved never to kill again into a STONE COLD KILLER. Yes, really. When this storyline backfired Geoff Johns ret-conned the idea that she had been brainwashed by Deathstroke to explain her actions and then DC gave Adam Beechen (the man who had written Robin and destroyed her character) the task of writing a mini-series that would bring Cass Cain back to hero status - in other words the guy who did the damage in the first place was able to do more. Needless to say, the mini-series did poorly and when the Batgirl series was announced, few really thought it would be Cassandra back under the cowl.

So the other options were Charlotte "Charlie" Gage-Radcliffe, a teenage orphan Barbara Gordon took in who had super-powers (teleportation, super-healing). Charlie was a possibility other it would have meant giving a super human a "Bat" cowl - not something usually done in such a usually street-level "realistic" series.

And so we come to Stephanie Brown, the former heroine known as the Spoiler, daughter of a D-level super-villain (the Cluemaster), former girlfriend of Tim Drake (aka the third Robin) and herself the first and only female Robin (it was all a gambit by Batman to get Tim back as Robin). She supposedly "died" in the Batman War Games storyline but was ret-conned (by writer Chuck Dixon) to have been alive all this time (living in Africa). So now she's back in Gotham, Tim is mad at her (and the world), Bruce Wayne is "dead" (long story), Dick Grayson is Batman, Bruce's demon-seed son Damien is Robin and her best friend, Cassandra Cain, is Batgirl. Or at least she was. In yet another out-of-character-action Cassandra just dumps the Batgirl suit on Stephanie (who had promised to give up being Spoiler) and walks away (despite being devoted to the idea of the "Bat" and Batman's mission).

and so....
Behold, the new Batgirl:
As many expected it was indeed the ex-Spoiler, Stephanie Brown. Don't get me wrong. I really like Steph. She's a good character. But ... when you combine the new Batgirl with Superman's cousin, Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl:
And combine them both with Wonder Woman's protegee, Cassandra Sandsmark, Wonder Girl:
See any similarities? Yes, indeed. The three female protegees/namesakes of DC Comic's "Big 3": Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are now ALL white blonde teenagers. DC Editorial Head Dan Didio always says he wants to bring more diversity to the DCU's heroes. Well, way to go, Dan. Some of your more high profile and well-known characters are now all versions of what appears to be Jessica Simpson - now that's diversity!

Meanwhile in another corner of Gotham, the now-former Batgirl Cassandra Cain still waits - for a good writer:

Haiku #297


Written on 3:33 PM by Jack B.

Vacation's over
Now back to the daily grind
Sometimes I hate life

Haiku #296


Written on 12:15 AM by Jack B.

Same man as before
Sings the theme from "Love Story"
Then starts to nod off

Haiku #295


Written on 8:10 PM by Jack B.

Exercising man
In suspenders and t-shirt
On a moving bus

Haiku #294


Written on 8:05 PM by Jack B.

Where did it all go

Time is not on our side now

Little things must pass

Haiku #293


Written on 1:30 PM by Jack B.

Headaches in the night
Preventing me getting sleep
Pills work too slowly

DC Comics & The Destruction of Mary Marvel


Written on 8:37 PM by Jack B.

I know this is long after the fact, but I just sat down this week and read (in one sitting) DC’s mega-crossover “Final Crisis”. As long as it was fresh in my mind, I had to write down what I thought (just a reminder to myself perhaps not to buy any more crossovers). I started with a paragraph and pretty much ended with an essay.

As a whole, while Final Crisis did not appeal to me, one thing in it just APPALLED me - the treatment of one the heretofore sweetest, nicest, most innocent characters in all superhero comic history - Mary Marvel. Not since Emerald Twilight (which for all its faults was to build up Kyle more than tear down Hal) has DC been so determined to completely undo a long-standing character’s core persona so drastically and apologetically - for no purpose seemingly than shock value - what’s more “edgy” and “cool” than to corrupt than the purest and most innocent hero in your company’s pantheon? Right?

To start with, and I think it be being kept in mind in going over what was done to her is that is Mary Batson/Marvel was one of the youngest Superheroes in the whole DCU. Depending on if she's Billy Batson's twin or younger sister she would be 15-16 years old, making her younger than most of the "Teen" Titans and younger than the new Supergirl. Maybe the writers and DC forgot this but the reader can't (and certainly the characters within the comic shouldn't have).
Considering that she's that age the fetishization and sexualization of an innocent 15-ish girl by (largely) middle-aged male comic writers was distasteful at best, just sick at worst.

From the the many "Dark Mary" preview shots highlighting her bust or the numerous panty shots within Countdown, the "Darkseid Mary" outfit in Final Crisis which was as revealing as possible (even it looked nothing like Mary Batson), Keith Giffen jokingly stating how he wanted Mary to lose her virginity to Ambush Bug, Kurt Busiek calling the new Mary "a tramp" at the Baltimore Con in 2007 (I don't know if he said in disgust or just another joke, it may have been a bit of both), to the female models dressed as "Black Mary" that DC had set up at Con Presentations, all served to sexualize a teenage character whose ethos had been opposed to that since her creation in 1942.

Going back to the words of those who engineered this change In an FC interview, Grant Morrison in a an interview about FC said: "Supergirl and Mary Marvel are in it. They have a big climatic battle to decide how femininity should be portrayed in superhero comics!" and I guess we know who's side we're supposed to be on - the new midriff baring Kara, Morrison also said "Mary Marvel…we’re going to take what’s been happening to Mary Marvel beyond all acceptable limits. I think fanboys should enjoy that one. There’s going to be a big definitive battle between Supergirl and Mary Marvel. Some seriously badass super-animals." Beyond all acceptable limits. Super-animals. Talking about two 15-16 year old girls. OK. Can anyone tell me what “fanboys” enjoyed that?

Then we have Paul Dini (who was the credited head writer on Countdown) saying "A character who stays cute, charismatic and funny isn’t very interesting. So, it’s better to put that character through some tests and see if they come out the way they came in, or if they undergo some changes that ultimately make them a stronger, more interesting character.".
WTF? So a cute, funny character isn't interesting? This from the man who brought us the DCAU character of Kara Kent/Supergirl, the animated Barbara Gordon/Batgirl and Harley Quinn? Exactly how did Countdown or FC make her stronger? She came out as de-powered as she went in and is now dealt with differently (based on Zatanna and Supergirl's reaction) by the other characters in the DCU.

I think it's telling that DC never did character destruction this to either of the male Marvels, in fact Freddie had his own mini-series where he did indeed become a "hero" and will be a member of DC's flagship book, JLA. One would think DC wouldn’t do this so soon after the Batgirl backlash where they ruined another character (one who had spent her entire comic series run being horrified of the idea of killing) into a stone cold killer so the male Robin would have an antagonist. The hurried ret-con that she was brainwashed by Deathstroke (and made no sense) was basically DC admitting they screwed up...yet here they do it to another female teenage hero right away? Was there anyone who asked for a darker, edgier Mary Marvel? Anyone? I can't find a single reader who liked the Countdown or Final Crisis Mary Marvel storyline.

Dini also said Mary would go through a "Hero's Journey" kind of story in Countdown but what did we get - at the end of Countdown she is redeemed by the Gods only to suddenly accept Darkseid's offer of power. What? Mary was always presented as naive but she was never stupid.

Then in FC, she is basically made into an unrecognizable character to make Supergirl look good, and saved by Freddy (who abandoned her in the first place). So now she was back to Mary Batson, but no, in JSA she's back to Black Mary (and yet is still drawn as Darkseid Mary) in a story we know to be set after FC because she mentions her corruption by Darkseid. Then she is saved by the JSA. She basically ends the whole process where she began, accept now she is looked on differently and with suspicion by everybody in the DCU (if present continuity remains intact). This sounds like no version of the "Hero's Journey" (see the writings of Joseph Campbell for details) I've heard of . In the time span Countdown and FC supposedly take place (either days or weeks DCU time) Mary wakes from a coma, is abandoned for no reason by her loved ones, is kicked out by Zatanna when she goes to help, corrupted by Black Adam, by Eclipso, by Darkseid, falls into the ocean, is made a quasi-slave by the Amazons, taken over completely by DeSaad, de-powered, re-powered, de-powered again, beaten up by Donna Troy, Wonder Woman, Black Adam and Supergirl. Mary is corrupted no less than 4 times, if you count her JSA appearance (by Eclipso, Black Adam, Darkseid and Black Adam again) and saved by others, never by herself.
There is nothing “heroic” about this story.

Also, in order to destroy Mary Marvel and make her "dark", they also had to have several other characters behave out of character as well. Let's look at the sequence of events, Mary falls into the sea the minute she is de-powered and is in the hospital in a coma. She is abandoned by the brother who has not only loved and protected her but looked for her for years - would Billy really do this? She is then told basically to "get lost" (was paying her hospital bill a consolation prize?) by her oldest and best friend, Freddy, so he can do his own hero-ing. Would Freddy really do this? Despite being a minor with parents (unlike Billy she was not an orphan but adopted by Nick and Nora Bromfield), she comes out a coma and no one is there (!) and she leaves the hospital alone. Would her parents really do this? She travels to Gotham alone and seeks help from Zatanna. Now Zatanna has been established as one of the nicest and soft-hearted people in the DCU, the friend to all, even post the ret-conned Identity Crisis mind-wipes. Since then we’ve seen Zee guilt-ridden, ashamed and apologetic (particularly to Batman and Catwoman). Yet in Countdown we have a Bizarro Zatanna (written in part by Paul Dini of all people!). Zatanna takes Mary in to her “secret home” and starts teaching her in magic. Mary, influenced by Eclipso, goes nuts on Zee and she is tossed out of Zatanna’s house and not allowed back in - ever. Zatanna, one of the Sentinels of Magic, one of the few people in the DCU who (presumably) know who Billy Batson and Mary Batson really are, tosses a troubled 15 year old out without finding out what’s up with her. Yeah, OK. Then we have a bizarre scene where at a super-hero shindig Zatanna is talking trash about that ungrateful “brat” Mary Marvel, and at the same time magics away some alcohol the underage Supergirl and Wonder Girl had sneaked into her glasses. We are expected to believe that Zatanna of all people cares more about the drinking habits of Supergirl and Wonder Girl (both older than Mary) more than she does the "bratty Mary" - a lost 15 year old girl who just got out of the hospital, who was once one of the most powerful beings on Earth, who is (in Zatanna's words) a magical savant in how fast she learns and who is being influenced by the Spectre's opposite number, Eclipso (how else would the supposedly powerless Mary have the power to overwhelm Zatanna?). Would Zatanna really do this? We also have Donna Troy (who knows something about confused identities) calling Mary "evil" and trying to beat her down (rather than reason with her). Once Mary overcomes Eclipso (and how many heroes could do that?) she is washed up on Themyscira and is basically turned into some kind of drudge to be ordered about by Catwoman's former sidekick, Holly, and the Joker's former moll, Harley Quinn

Then, we have Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons clucking her tongue at Mary's "decision" to go back to the darkside but we had nothing more than a single panel of Hippolyta and Mary together in all of Countdown, despite the fact that Mary once (as Hippolyta herself) had the "strength of Hippolyta" as one of her powers. No, except for that one panel, the Queen ignores someone who had such a close connection to her - until after the fact. Would the Queen of the Amazons really do this? We have Jimmy Olsen (no stranger to superheroes and monsters) calling Mary a "monster". We have Wonder Woman (the least offender) saying she had heard about some of Mary's problems (before cracking her arm). So the word about Mary is out, other heroes (including Freddy) have heard a teenager who is as strong as Supergirl is out there and troubled and no one, NO ONE, tries to talk to her - until she become possessed by Darkseid. This point is highlighted in one scene in FC where Supergirl tells Mary "it's not too late to talk" at the exact same time as she's blasting Mary with her heat vision. Why would anyone getting blasted in the face by heat vision want to talk - even if they weren't possessed by one of Darkseid's minions? This is followed by Supergirl (a character who spent much of her own book running from her cousin because her mind is pre-programmed controlled to want to kill him and she's disgusted with herself because of it) saying that she IS going to “break” Mary’s neck (even though she supposedly knows its not Mary). Would Supergirl as written in her own book do this? Black Adam, yes. In FC, Freddy stops him from trying to kill Mary but BA knows it's not Mary, he's the first one to say "she's possessed" and that DeSaad is controlling her. It's entirely in BA's character to kill Mary rather than let her be controlled. But it's not in Supergirl's. Nor is in Supergirl’s character - one that wears a somewhat revealing costume and makes jokes about being jailbait in her book - to say the line “You? Calling ME a slut?”, meaning “How dare Slutty Mary say anything about me?” But why would Supergirl say this, she knows this is not Mary, she knows Mary was not a slut, who is she talking about - who does she think she is talking to?

Then, all of a sudden, we have Freddy save Mary. She's returned to normal, crying she'd never say the word again .... only to have Black Mary/Darkseid Mary (it's tough to know which) be all "dark" again in JSA, as if Mary had learned nothing. And now she has to be saved by outside forces again. At least this time we have Stargirl say out loud that she knows Mary is not in control - to be offset by the opening narration in JSA #25 where Atom Smasher wonders at the fact that afterwards Billy would not criticize or say anything bad about his sister - why should he? She was possessed! Is this the new DC status quo - Mary, as a creature to be judged by other characters?

So how, lacking DC not even acknowledging the damage, can the character of Mary Marvel salvaged? I’m sure a good writer could do but I don’t think one will be given that great an opportunity. Something tells me sooner rather than later that Billy Batson will return to his place as “Captain Marvel” and we know that Freddy seems to have high-enough fans that he’s getting used more in books than Billy is. But Mary? Based on her recent treatment I don’t think DC cares enough. Sure, this may be one of those story lines like Evil Hal Jordan, Assassin Batgirl and the slaughter of the JSA in Zero Hour (for the crime of being too old) which DC slowly starts to back away from and where the people responsible start to say they had been fans of the character “all the time” and it had just been X (some recently fired editor) who made them do it. But unlike Hal or Cassandra or even the JSA, Mary is not part of a franchise DC cares enough about to make any ret-con change.

I know what some people would say: "You're lucky she's appearing any where at all". But I don't feel that way. I would rather she never appeared, or was moved out of the DCU or was killed to become a "Black Lantern" than for a character who has represented goodness and light, a role model for teenage girls for over half a century (pre-dating almost all of DC's other female superheroes) turned into some kind of "edgy and dark" male fantasy. It's ironic that in light of Infinite Crisis, which was kind of a promise by the superheroes to the dying Superman, that the kind of hero that he believed in still existed, that DC would do this to a heroine I think we can all agree Kal-L would have admired. Mary’s not even my favorite character (that would go to Hal Jordan and Supergirl), but I always liked the idea that a character with the personality and sweetness of Mary could co-exist in a world with the Batman and the Joker. And now that's gone.. and for what ...character-wise she's right back where she started before the first issue of Countdown shipped, except now she's been tarnished - in the eyes of the other members of the DCU at least. Most readers, however, smarter than DC Editorial, will probably just pretend the Mary Marvel in Final Crisis never happened.

Haiku #292


Written on 2:34 PM by Jack B.

If the light is green
It means do not cross the street
If run over - your fault

Haiku #291


Written on 11:05 PM by Jack B.

Let's strike up the band
Month of May is at an end
Hope weather changes

Haiku #290


Written on 11:11 AM by Jack B.

Just embarrassing
Yankees beat by the Red Sox
Turn the TV off

Haiku #289


Written on 11:13 PM by Jack B.

The taxman cometh
Taking all my hard earned cash
Yet have none to spare

Haiku #288 - Let's Play Ball!


Written on 9:39 PM by Jack B.

Start of the season
Every time has a chance
Hope reigns for a change

Haiku #287 - April Fool's Day


Written on 8:49 PM by Jack B.

On April the first
Try to always tell the truth
Believe it or not

Haiku #286 - On St. Patrick's Day


Written on 11:53 AM by Jack B.

Stiffness in the neck
What happened to all my luck
Need a blarney stone

Apophysis: Red & Gold


Written on 7:59 PM by Jack B.

Haiku #285 - Snow Day


Written on 6:49 PM by Jack B.

Was snowing today
It makes me wish it was May
Sadly, months away

Haiku #284


Written on 9:44 PM by Jack B.

Some people drive well
Some drive better than others
Some stink at the wheel

Apophysis: Hypnotic


Written on 11:02 PM by Jack B.

Haiku #283


Written on 11:46 PM by Jack B.

PayRod on the juice
All of baseball is tainted
Lost generation

Apophysis: Heartshorn


Written on 10:15 PM by Jack B.

Haiku #282 - How We Name Holidays


Written on 10:12 PM by Jack B.

Why Valentine's Day?
Can only assume because
Chopped off heads bleed red

Apophysis: Sky Center


Written on 11:31 PM by Jack B.

Apophysis: The Flame Still Burns


Written on 8:27 PM by Jack B.

Haiku #281


Written on 9:01 PM by Jack B.

Do I feel older?
Body not mind tells the tale
Despite what some say

Haiku #280


Written on 9:43 PM by Jack B.

New year same as old
What difference a day makes
In real life not much

Haiku #279


Written on 10:49 PM by Jack B.

Water leaking down
Drips from ceiling, stairway blocked
Taken at the flood