My Thanos and Darkseid Mashup

I met my friend Frank last Sunday for lunch and the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, and then his wife Ruth invited me to stay for dinner (yummy enchiladas!). And I did my usual thing of blabbing about my Super Holly characters (if you get to know me, you’d better get used to that).

Backstory: In my Batman fanfic His Biggest Fan, I created a supervillain who is a combination of Darkseid and Thanos: Darknos. Darknos does not exist in Super Holly’s dimension, so he will not be a regular character. I will just use him when I want to poke fun at Darkseid/Thanos. Recently, I wrote another story that is my take on the Infinity Glove (and Cosmic Cube) stories. That story starts when Super Holly, during her weekly comic book run, is annoyed with Darknos on the covers of several Marvelous Comics comic books.

Anyhow, I talked about that story during dinner. Frank laughed when I mentioned Darknos. So the name works. To me, it sounds pompous, perfect for a villain who is full of himself.

This story also led to changing my mad scientist’s name from Stephan (bleh, boring) to Lionel Evilmore (a take on that old and wonderful actor, Lionel Barrymore, who played Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life).

Lil’ Abner‘s Al Capp said he liked names for his incidental characters that would render further description unnecessary. Some of my faves: Earthquake McGoon, Moonbeam McSwine, Stupefyin’ Jones, General Bullmoose, Nightmare Alice, J. Roaringham Fatback, Evil Eye Fleagle, and Lena the Hynea.

I am inspired to write similar character names. I have stories with Harry Headbutt, Billington Stumpfinger, the Karate Queen, the Smiling Samurai, Cal Critbert (based on movie critic Roger Ebert), Fran Lee (gender-flipped Stan Lee), and John Glutt (my take on Allas Shrugged‘s John Galt, with Comic Book Guy mixed in). Coming up: Bart Boofalugg (Brett Kavanaugh, anyone?).

My play-by-play of Synder’s Justice League

Justice League

Okay, I have a big plate of Mongolian Barbecue, a Vanilla Coke, pomegranate cider in reserve, mocha ice cream and blackberry Chardonnay sorbet, and my MacBook Pro in my lap. I have Zach Snyder’s Justice League on my Roku TV. I am ready to write my play-by-play. To borrow a line from Alan Moore, I am gonna get out there and make trouble!

What is with the 4×3 aspect ratio? Is this some sort of snooty cinema thing? Star Trek: Picard was wonderful, but I wondered why it needed the black bars on the top and bottom, this is NOT gonna be shown on a movie screen! FILL UP THE DAMN TV SCREEN, ALREADY!!!

Starts with a replay in dark dank gritty slo-mo of Superman screaming at the moment of his Doomsday death.

And here’s Cyborg, seeing his mother box get all throbby and popcorny. He delivers a look to the side. Here is Lex Luthor, looking at what looks like Borg cubes, and he delivers a look to the side. And here is Mera, looking all the way behind her to another mother box, and her facial expression looks… like it is not going anywhere.

And here are the Amazons surrounding another mother box, and they draw their swords. I wonder if I’ll see Amazon abs again. Uh, nobody in this movie has said anything yet. Zach, you know modern movies are talkies, just because you have an old-time aspect ration… oh, here goes the talking. “Alert the queen.” And cue up the sad violins. Again. And all the grey, grey, grey, grey ice, grey rock, grey music trying to convince me this is important. No, grey mountains are not important.

I chew more yummy Mongolian BBQ, this is gonna be a long night.

And nobody is talking again. Sigh.

Here is a title screen: PART 1. Bom, bom, bom!

The Whedon version had a more fun and interesting Aquaman. Now everyone talks like they are in The Walking Dead. Remind me to tell you that joke sometime. And Batman pulls out his ultimate weapon: a wad of cash.

I note I have to turn up the volume more than usual. 

What’s with the sad Swedish ladies? No subtitles, maybe they are mourning that they have to eat lutefisk… and here is Martha. Reminding me of that sucky “Martha” line in Bats vs Supes. Note to Zach: sons do not call their moms by their first names. Foreclosure sign on the farm.

And slo-mo Lois in the rain with sad singers and organ music (no dancing monkey). She is standing, staring at memorial. Back to Metropolis, rain has stopped, grey has not.

Oh boy, scary white vans at the museum. Lotsa guns. So, now that killer villains show up, time to make the music more exciting? Wonder Woman is cool! But even that music sounds a bit sad. She has a terrorist in her lasso, and the idiot smiles at her. Ah, at LAST, the cool WW music when she is mopping up those annoying terrorists. She throws the bomb, and slo-mo AGAIN? And a terrorist laughs AGAIN? Super Holly woulda knocked out his teeth by now and told him to stop being happy to be a butthead. Wonder Woman does the bracelet bang that shatters a lot of the building. But at least no one got hurt, except insurance rates will go up.

I see some Amazons have enough sense to armor their bellies. And it is boom tube time. Here is, oh, what’s his name, in shinier armor, and a deeper and more macho voice. You know, the Amazons had plenty of time to build really huge cannons, 16 ton weights, Moby Dick harpoons around that box. They shoulda thought ahead.

Okay, there’s the Amazon abs. Again. Seal up the cave! Let the fortress slo-mo fall over a cliff! Um, the sealing and falling, you might think about starting with that next time.

And speaking of starting, sad chorus music starts again. Sigh. And here comes the annoying bug men, I guess it is hard to crush a cockroach, the Amazon shoulda used Raid. And Steppenwolf, yeah, that’s his name. He says, “The great darkness begins.” Oh really, yuh think?

PART 2 The Age of Heroes

Steppenwolf at the nuclear plant. Best not to use the one in Springfield, you don’t want Mr. Burns mad at you.

Barry Allen on the monitors, he shoulda had a movie before Justice League. Not nearly enough buildup for this flick. Marvel did that right, DC was playing catch-up.

Back to that lab where Cyborg’s dad works. I am seeing the same scenes, but these are darker, grittier, ominous songier, and yes, sadder. Another bug man? I want Super Holly to stomp on one and scream, “I hate cockroaches! I’ll smoosh every last one of you!” STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP!!!

Oh, the Amazon lit a fire. Um, there is this thing called the Internet. I shot an arrow in the air, where it lands, I know not where. Oh, in some stone building in the city where we get a 360 degree pan around it. Ooo, cinematic! And WW sees that fire on the television news. I still think email would have been more reliable.

Cyborg, as shiny as he is, is dark and gritty, especially his voice. I miss the BOO-YAH!

WW has the arrow, reads the writing on its shaft. And she jumps down another shaft. With a flaming torch, even though she knows what a flashlight is. Oh, the arrow is a key, how clever! Now let’s stare at wall paintings for a while and let scary music build up in musical slo-mo. And is that a Darkseid painting? When the heck did he visit Earth? if he was there before, why didn’t he take it over then?

Aquaman saves a sailor on a sinking ship. And now, Aquaman walking down a pier in slo-mo (can never have enough cinematic slo-mo, huh?) with sad male singer, “There is a kingdom, there is a king,” and I guess this royalty does not know what happiness is.

Oh, Aquaman won’t pick up the trident? I have to check if Aquaman came out first, I though he’d done that already.

Stepenwolf and Desaad are talking. Desaad looks like a metal glowing coal man, a effect of the weird walkie-talkie they use, cuz a display and speaker would not be cinematic. Steppenwolf owes 50,000 somethings? He either killed a bunch of the wrong people or he maxed out his credit cards.

Batman built a troop carrier? is he gonna put anything in it? Um, there are these things called the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

Okay, now we are getting direct exposition. Which is not telling me anything that I needed to know. Oh, here is Darkseid on Earth. Again, why not take it over then? Ah, the mother boxes! Mysterious living objects that turn planets into Darkseid worlds. (Making the boxes alive adds nothing to the story, didn’t Zach know that the Star Trek Next Gen Exocomp episode sucked?) Darkseid carving worlds into the shape of his head. Super Holly would answer with, “We do NOT need planet-size UGLY!”

You are fighting Darkseid with arrows? Where is Princess Leia and her thermal detonator when we need it?

Aaaaaaand, more exposition. Okay, Darksied tried to invade and failed, and the three mother boxes were left behind. On Earth. And they left them there. Still not clear if Darkseid created the boxes or not. I’m not caring much.

PART 3 Beloved Mother, Beloved Son

Okay, it’s about time we saw some Flash. He lightens the mood, and brother does this movie need that! A lot of buildup for the oncoming truck cliche. And Barry super-speeds. In slo-mo (which works here, for a change), to the sound of sad singing and piano music. Now, kindly let him save the girl, Zach. “Here I am, waiting to hooooooold you.” Yeah, I like that shot of the Flash and the puppies!

Steppenwolf grabs an Atlantean and ask where the mother box is. Super Holly would tell him. “I know where it is going, cuz I’m gonna shove it UP DARKSEID’S STONY FAT ASS!!!”

Batman and WW again. Out of uniform, of course. Looking at Bat-monitors, studying Atlantans. Pre cyborg Cyborg playing football in the snow. In more frakkin’ slo-mo and more frakkin’ sad violins. I don’t care for football, but I never though of football as sad. Victor (Cyborg) scores a touchdown. And afterward, he is sad. I guess because his dad was not there. And they get smacked by a car. More sad. And back to the present. 

Wow, this Mongolian Barbecue is really good, but so much of it. I might have to finish the rest tomorrow. (Editing note: I did. Such a deal.)

Um, Cyborg playing a Walkman? Too retro, failing to be cinematic. Cyborg flying a bit like Iron Man’s first flight. And no firewall can stop his mighty super-hacking! That is exposition that is not needed, just show him hacking sometime. SHOW, DON’T TELL! And now you say he can manipulate currency? Yeah, but can he pick a winning stock? “The question, no, the challenge, will not be doing it, but not doing it.” How about NOT giving us a line that claims to be exposition, but does not give any information? Ooo, Cyborg in Cyborg-space, making a stack of money. And gives it to someone in need. Okay, that is nice of him. And he squishes the Walkman.

Barry’s dad in jail, just like in the Whedon version. Dad tells Flash to stop coming to see him. Barry is now at the train station, I’d pay to see Mr. Incredible bench-pressing a train right now. Ooo, Barry has a Flash-cave, and Batman is in it (out of uniform again)! I still like their interaction here. I like this because it is much like the first JL movie scene. I love the line, “I am a snack-hole.” And Bruce has the same answer to what his superpower is: “I’m rich.” That line still works.

WW and Alfred. A gauntlet that absorbs/dissipates energy. Exposition again. JUST SHOW IT WORKING, maybe Bats says he picked up a trick from WW.

And WW goes to meet Cyborg on a dark street cuz Cyborg ominously turned off the lights. Cyborg: “F—k the world.” I still want “BOO-YAH!” Cyborg punching his grave. I guess that is supposed to be cinematic. 

Cyborg’s lab assistant makes a piece of Krypton metal heat up, “It’s the hottest thing on Earth.” My friend Casey Wickstrom would say, “Super Holly is hotter.”

Ah, I like J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon. A touch of class.

Here’s the Bat-signal. 

And back to Atlantis. And the mother box. And Steppenwolf, I guess he has gills. Underwater fight with Aquaman. Not slo-mo, thank goodness, even though it is underwater.

Okay, this movie takes a heck of a lot longer to get to where it is going. Longer is not better, regardless of what porn ads might say.

Well, now, good thing Cyborg was within eye-shot of the Bat-signal.

Steppenwolf: “They will tell me, or I will rip it from them.” Super Holly (who really hates bullies): “I’m gonna break every bone in your body! And after I’ve broken them, I am gonna feel so good about it that I will sit by your hospital bed until they heal up, and then I’ll break them all over again!”

PART 4 Change Machine

That title makes me think of Squidward saying, “Spare change, spare change?”

Ooo, heavy-metal going-into-battle music! Batman and friends going to rescue the Steppenwolf hostages. More pumpy music. 

Little spider brain-thought extractor. Super Holly hates spiders. Good WW music when she goes toe-to-toe with Steppenwolf. Nice fighting from Batman, nice moves from the Flash. And more heavy metal music with the nightcrawler. 

Steppenwolf o WW: “You have the blood of the old gods in you!” If he’d said that to Super Holly, she’d blow steam out her nose and grind out menacingly, “What did you call me?!?!” And then she would punch him through several thick steel walls.

Um, when Steppenwolf was holding the missile, why didn’t Cyborg make it go off? The old Hawkeye trick.

Um, Batman still does not know about that big fat glowing force-field fortress thingy in the Russian backwoods? Isn’t he The World’s Greatest Detective?

The Anti-Life Equation! Ooo, Darkseid is gonna kill us all… with MATH!!!

Darkseid: I have turned 100,000 worlds to dust looking for Anti-Life. Super Holly: “I knew you were a murderer. Now I know you’re a stupid murderer at that!” Benny the Rubber Cop: “Yeah, and there is no statutes of limitations on murder.”

And we see Cyborg created from the mother box. In a flashback. I kinda knew that from the previous version. And more stuff on how the mother boxes work. Look, you don’t need to explain all that. Just say how the bad guy will use them. On the old Gunsmoke TV show, they never, not once, told us how Matt Dillion’s gun worked. They just showed it working.

Sad Lois and sad Martha and sad music. And the sound is turned way down. I guess Zach thinks if sad gets too loud, it turns into happy, can’t have that. This Lois and Martha scene is not moving the story forward. Oh, she is the Martina Manhunter! Doing what, exactly? Setting up Lois for, um, what?

The mother boxes are scared of Superman? Really? 

PART 5 All the kings men

Grave digging. Where’s Marty Feldman when you need him? “What hump?”

WW is 5000 years old? How did Cyborg know that, Amazons don’t have internet!

And now Batman is operating on FAITH?!?! NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!! Batman is the smart one, he operates on BRAINS, and ZACH IS STILL TOO WILLFULLY STUPID TO KNOW THAT!!!

Cyborg just hacked into the military computers, so that previous exposition was NOT needed. I repeat: don’t explain how Matt Dillon’s gun works!

In the kewl Kryptonian ship. Oh, now we see Lois’ bedroom again, Lois sitting up in bed. sad music. Looks at the Clark pic. And… what? Suddenly she decides to get up at 3AM and do something stupid?

Suddenly I want Cyborg to say, “Resistance is futile. Supers will be assimilated.”

And Barry is explaining that he generates electrical power when he goes really fast. Really, we needed that exposition after we saw lightening flash around him every time he sped up?

Okay, why are we getting these pics of Earth burning up, and a bonfire of the Amazons? And Darkseid putting his hand on Superman’s shoulder? Dream sequences? NOT NEEDED!!!

Run, Barry, run!

Why is the mother box rising up? I guess so it can shoot up through the street and into the sky and then crash into a taxi. And there is Superman alive again. I want Trapper John to say, “He got better.”

Wait, why is shirtless Superman getting used to his super-senses all over again? Didn’t he already do that in Man of Steel? Do pecs-of-steel rewind super-senses?

Same JL and Supes fight. And Supes fries army vehicles. And this Batman doesn’t carry kryptonite. Zach, don’t you know what Blue Beetle said in Batman: The Brave and the Bold: “Batman always carries Kryptonite!”

This battle is taking a lot more time. That does not make it cinematic. Martin Scorsese, remember Woody Allen’s advice: “Make it shorter.”

Oh, there is Lois! She will make him remember! And no, Martian Manhunter was not needed to set that up, she’s a reporter, she’d watch the news, she would know! If you are gonna add Martian Manhunter to the movie, why not add him to the team?

And the boom tube again. Can’t the JL make it suck up a bomb?

Um, Cyborg’s dad sacrifices himself to, um, do nothing? The mother box was not destroyed. What the point of that, just make Cyborg feel bad? Oh, his father marked the box for thermal anomalies. Really? Couldn’t Batman have just stuck a Bat-tracer on it so that Daddy could live? Even 1960s Spidey knew how to do that! I repeat: BATMAN IS THE SMART ONE!!!

PART 6 Something Darker.

Darker? Do we have to? Any darker and I will spray Windex on my TV.

Back to Smallville, where Superman finally puts on a shirt, making ladies and gay men sad.

Okay, I am saving the rest of my Mongolian Barbecue for tomorrow. Time for some mocha ice cream and blackberry sorbet. Yum.

In the Bat Cave, which Barry likes. Geeks like this Flash. (Later edit: He seems to be liked in the autistic community, and that is a nice thing. Move over, Drax, you got company.)

And even more mother box exposition! WILL YOU STOP WITH THE FRAKKIN’ EXPOSITION ALREADY?!?! Alfred Hitchcock: Exposition is a pill that must be sugar coated. Hitchcock said that because he knew his cinema.

And how does Barry know that Darkseid has fought 100,000 other worlds? Wrong guy to say that.

Well, well, Superman in a cornfield. I admit it, that feels right. Lois is there. And now Martha, and he calls her Ma. LIKE HE SHOULDA CALLED HER IN THE PREVIOUS FRAKKIN’ MOVIE!!! Oh no, not more exposition, “They wanted me back for a reason.” No s—t, Sherlock!

Bat-cave again. And Batman discusses his dream of the Flash saying Lois is the key, hmm, it might mean something darker. Really, Bats? Now I know exactly why I prefer milk chocolate over dark, and I always will.

Steppenwolf: At last! I have my three Rubik’s cubes, gotta get ’em all! WHen’s Pikachu gonna jump outta one?

Ooo! Ooo! Amazon belly!

Ooo, the JL has a plan. And now we have sad Supes in his ship, sad music, seeing the JL in holograms, supposedly convincing him to fight. Really? Hasn’t he made up his mind yet? Or was this just an excuse to stuff him into a black Supersuit? What the frak was wrong with red and blue? HOW MUCH FRAKKIN’ DARK DO WE NEED?!?!

And the heavy metal music for Cyborg, and a pause for the Flash, and Batty music, and back to heavy metal for the whole JL gang again. 

I am getting my ice cream. For real this time, I did not before.

Batman again says, “C’mon, follow me, you damn insects.” But I would’ve loved for him to deploy a big can of Raid. Same scene of Batmobile attacked by bugs, and WW saves with a touch of Amazon opera.

Aquaman riding the dead bug like a surfboard is still cool. But we don’t need the slow-mo later. Too much slo-mo ruins the broth.

Okay, what’s with the “puny lives” speech? Is Steppenwolf dumb enough to think Wonder Woman will switch sides? Or lose her warrior mojo? And later he does it again? Why is that moron trying to piss off the super-strong, super-skilled warrior?

And Superman can pound on Steppenwolf. But again, he does not need to do that dressed in black, unless we, the wimpy audience, need to see that he is darker and thus can be lots more grimly bloody. And here, when the boom tube opens up, is where Batman should have said, “Hello, Darkseid. Have a nuclear warhead.” After Bats checked to be sure no civilians will be Hiroshimaed, of course.

Barry is so fast, why had he been delaying his run? And the run has more slo-mo, and ground forms under his feet for no reason, and it is taking forever to get to where he is going. Hmm, did he go back in time? Now, I finally see the need for a little exposition.

And we are back in Cyborg-space. Why? Is it moving the story forward? These spooks are the three mother boxes? Do they think they are fooling anyone?

Supes punches a defeated Steppenwolf, Aquaman stabs him, WW beheads him, and they grimly and toughly toss the dead body at Darkseid’s feet. I sigh. The JL should not have been judge, jury, and executioner, I hate the Gods-above-humans thing, I hate it, hate it, hate it. Instead, they should’ve hauled Steppenwolf off to jail, and in the epilogue, he is in a puny human courtroom, convicted of multiple murders, and he howls that these puny mortals have no hold on him, but oh yes they do! And by the way, maybe the JL shoulda called the Marines?

And again, I hate Superman in black.

The five stand, GODLIKE! Flash smiles, Superman sorta smiles, WonderWoman is hot. Okay, Aquaman is too, but I say that in a totally hetero way.

EPILOGUE: A father twice over.

Cyborg’s dad tells Cyborg he is proud of him. And we see Aquaman wants to see his father. But Superman had Johnathan Kent, and the Zach version was into Objectivism (do not argue with me, I will fight you on this). Hmm, now Batman is setting up a nice hall of justice? And Flash gets a “job job.” Okay, and Bruce is getting the old Smallville house back for Supes.

Hey, Cyborg smiled a little. He should smile more!

Batman poses on the Bat-Tank.

WW holds a spear. And Super Holly just growled at me, “Don’t touch that metaphor.”

Barry runs. Now THAT’S a smile!

And Supes is still in black? Why?

And here is Luthor. In the prison. Guard: “I am gonna have to come in there.” Why is Lex laughing, I repeat, Luthor should NOT be the Joker! Oh, I guess that was the Joker, Luthor is on a yacht meeting Deadshot. I liked Will Smith better, I am so SICK of gritty Walking Dead voices, it is why I stopped watching Arrow.

And how did Luthor ever figure out Batman was Bruce Wayne from inside prison?

And MORE bug people? Again? Is this another frakkin’ dream? WAY TOO MUCH EPILOGUE!!!And stop with the Lex-doing-Joker thing! STOPPIT!!! Or is it Lex? Or is it Joker?Or do I even care? Why isn’t the frakkin’ movie over yet? Roll the credits, already. Is this an alternate timeline? And Batman says he will kill the Joker slow? WHY? Batman is smart, and that means efficient. He would not play with his food. (And he is a LOT more interesting when he will not kill. Making him a killer makes him less interesting.) Oh no, Superman has switched sides! AND YES, IT IS YET ANOTHER FRAKKIN’ BAT-DREAM. This is not cinema, it’s pretentious feldercarb. This Batman has no detective ability, so he gets super-dreaming powers? As Cartman would say: Lame!

A little meeting between Martian Manhunter and Batman. This is okay, but it still feels stapled on. Give MM more screen time in a later movie. He deserves it.

This is not “A father twice over,” it is “The Energizer Bunny Epilogue. It keeps going, and going, and going, and going…”

I never thought I’d be grateful for the ending credits. The Alleluia song is played over the ending credits. I read that it was Zach’s late daughter’s favorite song. So I’ll give Zach that.

When I started watching this, I was wondering if it would be what some wrote about a similar-length version of the Heaven’s Gate movie: “It was deadly at that length. You really needed a transfusion afterwards.” Well, I feel okay. But I do not feel this was much of an improvement. (Later edit: I slept badly that night, I guess that need for a transfusion kinda snuck up on me.)

My quickie review: Longer, bloated, expositiony, greyer, grimmer, blacker, sadder, bloodier, slo-mo and dreamier, and not an improvement. I am amazed my bladder held out. I did not drink a 32 ounce cola like I did with Malcolm X. Spike Lee taught me that the brain can be fooled into thinking a 3 hour movie is 2 hours, but not the bladder.

Martin Scorsese tweeted that this movie was cinema. Um, no. The Marvel movies are better cinema. Heck, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” was sometimes better cinema cue it got the point across without stuffing in lotsa slo-mo and dream sequences! And FYI, “The Last Temptation of Christ” was mindless pap. I know, I saw it. The “I’m your heart, Jesus” line made a silly young lady in the audience giggle. That line was delivered by a lion, cut this Jesus has all the charisma of a wet napkin. I half expected a Macintosh computer to announce, “And I’m your brain, Jesus.” Sometimes supporting the arts hurts. To paraphrase Squidward Tentacles: Martin, go be pretentious somewhere else!

P.S. Okay, here is my Walking Dead joke. The problem with that show is all the men (dark gritty sore-throat-Batman resonant voice) TALK LIKE THIS. And all the women TALK LIKE THIS too. And all the children TALK LIKE THIS. As for the babies, they do not talk like that. But when they cry, they do not go, “Wah!” They go, (dark gritty sore-throat-Batbaby resonant voice) “WAHHH!!!”

P.P.S. I watched it on HBO Max, which I like. Hence the image. Good stuff on that channel, like Citizen Kane and Rocko’s Modern Life. Consider it.

Nothing Ruins Writing More Than Objectivism!

Mr. A by Steve Ditko. Really.

The proof is in the pudding! Or rather, the writing.

In the biography Abraham Riesman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee, Abraham Riesman spends a lot of time saying Stan Lee was pretty much just a teller of tall tales, that all he did was fill in those little dialog boxes, hey, who cares how characters talk? This gets into the old Kirby-Ditko-Lee debate about who created what, whose ideas were original, who deserves credit, who created what. I say, so what?

I also say that ideas are a dime a dozen. If you spend any time writing, you will run into people who think they have a GREAT idea to be the next J.K. Rowling! I say, think about being the next Stan Lee. As in, write human characters. (Oh, and credit the writer. Kirby and Ditko did have to nudge Stan Lee about that. Credit! The! Writer! ALL OF THEM!!!)

I have posted about Jack Kirby. Kirby churned out decades of good writing and fantastic artwork. For me, when I hold Kirby and Lee side-by-side, Lee usually wins. But I found a Kirby fan’s essay about Kirby’s writing that I think is worth reading. Click here for the Dialog section of that essay.

I also posted how Steve Ditko deserved praise as a writer as well. I still think that Shade the Changing Man being cut off after nine issues is one of the great tragedies of the comic book world. (Batton Lash, the late artist and writer who drew the cover of my book, once told me to skip the DC Vertigo version.)

But Ditko got way too into Ayn Rand’s objectivism (virtue of selfishness, rational self-interest, look it up). Ayn wrote Atlas Shrugged, where super-industrialist John Galt genocided civilization because he didn’t want to pay taxes, but he did want to have his butt kissed, and he spent 40 pages in that book monologging about it. That book sucks.

An objectivist superhero is an oxymoron if there ever was one. George Carlin said, “The term Jumbo Shrimp has always amazed me. What is a Jumbo Shrimp? I mean, it’s like Military Intelligence – the words don’t go together, man.”

Ditko once refused to draw a dream sequence of a DC hero having a nightmare of being a villain, because he believed that a hero would not even subconsciously flirt with the idea of being evil. Ditko said of superheroes, “They are perfect in overcoming the flawed supervillains, saving the world, the universe, yet helpless to solve their common, average, ordinary personal problems. It is like creating a perfectly physical adult with the reasoning limits of a six-year-old.”

So Ditko created, drew, and (unfortunately) wrote his objectivist superhero, Mr. A. In his first story, Mr. A tells a weepy woman, “I don’t abuse my emotions!” His emotions, mind, and what passes for his morality are just one thing: MY-PERFECT-RATIONALITY-PUTS-ME-ABOVE-ALL-OTHER-LESSER-MINDS-EVERYWHERE!!! Mr. A tells the weeping woman that he can save only her, or the EEEEVIL (and gleeful, but not in a fun Emperor Palpatine way) punk who stabbed her in the tummy and now hangs several stories high from a convenient flagpole. Problem is that Mr. A then flooded most of the next several panels with Objectivist blah-blah-blah pontification (for a guy who has no internal conflict, he does that a lot). If he had just shut up, he’d have had time to save both the whiny woman and the nasty punk. There is a reason that the only issue of Mr. A I can read without grinding my teeth is the one with no dialog, just artwork.

I bought Ditko/Lee Spider-Man comic books when they first came out (yeah, I’m that old). A friend of mine said he liked Spider-Man better than those DC supers because Spider-Man had girl troubles, money problems, stuff that regular people worry about. The reason Marvel Comics leaped over DC Comics is because Marvel superheroes had “common, average, ordinary personal problems” that readers identify with, not (at the time) DC’s practically-perfect-in-every-way superheroes (Mary Poppins excepted).

With Spider-Man, Stan Lee wrote superheroes who talked like regular people, and he got the everyman. With Mr. A, Ditko tried to write the ubermensch, but got the uber-schmuck. Read one issue of Mr. A and you will know what the A really stands for. (Yes, that line is in my stories.)

P.S. In my Super Civil War novel (I’m still writing it), Super Holly Hansson will be sick and tired of saving people who might not be so nice. Maybe she’ll think about having people sign an ARE-YOU-SEXIST-RACIST-UNWORTHY-BULLY form before she saves them? I’ll try to make her blabbing about that more humorous than Mr. A’s stainless-steel deadpan.

P.P.S. Mr. A likes to hand people a business card; half white, half black, are you good or are you evil, CHOOSE!!! Super Holly Hansson would toss that card and hand Mr. A a card with a big * (asterisk) on it and say, “I made this especially for you, butt head!” Mr. A would look at the card and announce, “I am not an asterisk!” And Holly would yell back, “Haven’t you ever read Kurt Vonnegut?

Claudius the God’s 4 extreme character types

I have wanted to write this for a long time. It is about old topics: Star Trek the Next Generation, and the Robert Grave book, Claudius the God.

In this book, Claudius the cripple and stutterer become emperor of Rome. Yes, that Rome, and Claudius, being a historian, wrote some background on his old friend, King Herod Agrippa. (The King Herod whom God struck dead in the Bible (death by maggots, yuck). Anyhow, Claudius said that “Most men – it is my experience – are neither virtuous nor scoundrels, good-hearted nor bad-hearted. They are a little of one thing and a little of the other and nothing for any length of time: ignoble mediocrities. But a few men remain always true to a single extreme character: these are the men who leave the strongest mark in history.”

His friend Herod was a scoundrel with a golden heart (more on that later). Claudius described four extreme character types. I will describe those types with STNG characters.

1: Scoundrels with stony hearts. Every changeling except for Odo of Deep Space 9 fits that. Really, the old “We were oppressed, so now we’re gonna be genocidal jerks to everyone else”? That’s just being a bully, and a stupid one at that, getting everyone else in the galaxy mad at you is a rotten way to avoid getting beat up. Hopefully, when Odo finally gave them the cure to the disease ravaging them, he also gave them a little of his moral code. Those changelings really needed some of that.

2: Virtuous men with equally stony hearts. The closest to that would be Odo. He did not let feelings get in the way of enforcing the law, he would slap the cuffs on friend and foe alike (although he liked slapping cuffs on Quark more than most). Worf comes in a distant second; his heart was not so much stony as burning with the Klingon moral code. Worf made exceptions, like when he refused to kill the son of Duras because the son had done nothing to harm him. 7 of 9 started out with a heart of Borg, and that nicely tripped her up as she later tried to do the right thing. I love watching a flawed hero (especially when she sashays down a starship corridor).

3: Virtuous men with golden hearts. The heroic and goody-two-shoes (yawn!) hero! Of course, Picard and Riker fit that. So do Sisko and Janeway. Something about the captain’s chair makes people into Superman, I guess. Fortunately, these captains have enough other personality quirks to be more interesting than the big blue boy scout.

4: Claudius writes that last and most rare are the scoundrels with golden hearts. I say that Quark and Garak of Deep Space 9 are the best instances in the STNG universe. Quark gambles, loves money (although he is not always a miser), and throws his money at get-rich-quick schemes. He associates with drunks, gamblers, and crooks, but you never see him any worse the wear for drink. He would never consort with a woman against her will; he will lust, but he will respect. He once tried to make money off the innocent (selling nasty weapons of war), but he quickly saw the error of his ways; I think there is likely a rule of acquisition that says when you fleece someone, fleece someone with lots of wool (also, Quark told Garak that he is a “people person”). As for Garak, his heart started out black (considering his profession before he was a tailor), but he ended up working for the side of good, likely because that is where his heart led him. If Garak arranged an assassination, the jerk almost certainly had it coming. Whenever you have something that you absolutely must have done in the STNG universe, it is the Quark or the Garak that you come to and plead, for God’s sake, PLEASE, you’ve got to do this for me! And they will almost certainly do it, not because it is a good thing to do, but because it fits in with their own crooked plans, MOOHAHAHAAA!!!

So, what Claudian category do the characters on your favorite shows, books, etc. fall into? For the characters in my stories, Super Holly is the bravest and boldest virtuous woman with a golden heart, Ice Cream Guy and the upcoming Ricardo (my Doctor Doom) are scoundrels with golden hearts, Stumpfinger is a scoundrel with a stony heart (and a pea of a brain). Maybe I need a virtuous man with a stony heart. Holly’s soulmate, Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert, might have become that, except for the power of true love. “Oh, Holly. You can fly, I cannot. But yet, you keep my feet on the ground.”

P.S. Ice Cream Guy has not shown a golden heart yet. But I am planning on it.

Six letters, same vowel three times.

Tucker Carlson, I am so writing and voicing you into my Super Civil War book. One of my most heroic characters is based on Anita Van Buren from Law & Order. Smug suicidal idiot that he will be, your character will willfully mispronounce the name of a woman who can out-stare Doctor Doom.

You hate being called out for willfully mispronouncing Kamala Harris’ name? Kamala = Kah-Mah-Lah. Six letters with the same vowel used three times. Does your tongue cramp when you sing Doe-Ray-Me? I will pause a moment for you to practice saying “ah.” [One minute later!] Did I give you enough time to do it? Okay, so what is so hard about doing it three times in a row with three different consonants? Or is that your bullying sense of humor never grow out of grade school?

Tucker, you remind me of two twin brothers from my college days. In the TV room, every time the Muppet Show was on, they pronounced it, “Duh Muffets.” Their brains could not generate enough power to make their big, fat, perpetually smiling mouths make the “P” sound. Until you install new batteries in your dead-battery brain, I will generate ways to mispronounce your name. Like this.

Bucker Smuglyson
Sucker Tiresum
Krapper Turdybum
Kooky Cookiecrum
Pooper Poopyson
Trapper Wappyson
Frakker Frakkydum
Pricker Dickydum
Smugger Punchablefaceyson
Dumber Dummydum, dah dum, dah dum dum dum
Big-fat-stupid-hateful-racist-misogynist Mouthyson
And it’s too easy, don’t tell me you didn’t think of it first: F-cker F-ckerson.

P.S. Mr. Carlson, I’ll look into doing a horrible, nasty, mean, and fun voice for you. Normally, I like doing voices that are already distinctive, like Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, or The Hulk. But I think your voice has enough smug bullying smirk for me to work with.

P.P.S. You don’t like that? So what?

News Flash: Stumpy Mob Fills Plot Hole!

Sometimes reality is crazy enough to fill in plot holes.

My Super Civil War outline was missing a little something. In Chapter Zero (like Issue #0 in comic books), Super Holly Hansson visits her hometown the Thanksgiving after she became the most powerful superhero on Earth. Can she really go home again? Especially after the recent U.S. Presidential election won by that vilest of supervillains, Billington Stumpfinger (BOO! HISS! BOO!!!)? And after she spots orange Stumpfinger cowboy hats on some of the Hillpatchers?

And a year later, in Chapter 1, Stumpfinger is in Congress giving the state of the union address.

Did I just fall into a plot hole? A big theme in the book is Holly getting mad at the nationwide jerks who put Stumpfinger in office (with the aid of a little vote-hacking from an angry red planet)? Why did they do it? What is their motivation? Is Super Holly getting sick of saving civilians whom she is getting really annoyed with? HOW DO I SHOW ALL THAT?

Why, by having a mob of Stumpers overrun the capitol! (Gee, where’s I get that idea?) And having reporters interview them. And superheroes tangle with them, fight and save and argue with them. And Super Holly Hansson is really sick of saving a bunch of loudmouth hateful jerks… who are citizens too. Superheroes save everyone, don’t they? What if heroes get sick of saving?

Ah, the character voices I can do (yes, I will perform this)! The performance I can perform! Loud rude Stumpers! Cops not doing their jobs (and skyrocketing Holly’s super blood pressure)! Bennie the Lennie-Brisco-like rubber cop rounding up the usual suspects! A reporter with the arrogance, bravery, and LOUDNESS of Howard Cosell! How about a Stumper who runs a pillow-making company (gee, where’d I get that idea?), whose pillows Super Holly loves (Holly likes what I like, and I love my MyPillow), but Holly is REALLY MAD at him! Will Pillow Guy talk Stumpfinger into declaring martial law? Will the capitol fall into the biggest, nastiest, fluffiest, head-comfy-cradling-est superpowered pillow fight of all time?

I have outlined this new Chapter 1. Or Chapter one-half. Or Prologue. I’ll see if I can write it by Friday night. Saturday morning is my critique group meeting.

Guest Blog: Get Organized the “Spooky” Way

(Another guest blog post from horror author and FIEND, I mean FRIEND, Emerian Rich!) So, you’re a writer and you want to get organized? But how?

Maybe you’re new to all this and need a good marketing plan or maybe you’re not even that far. Maybe you just need some good character sheets and world building tools? Do you need a place to keep track of submissions, publications, or reprint dates? How about charting your research or what movies and tv shows you need to watch to inspire you in your current work in progress. Want to keep track of your “To Be Read” list or expenses you hope to claim on your taxes as a “real” writer?

Well, with the help of my friend and colleague, Loren Rhoads, I’ve put together the Spooky Writer’s Planner. This book is a godsend for all of us who have been trying to keep records but either didn’t know how or couldn’t keep them organized. Now you have a way to keep them together all in one place. You can either use the print version, where everything will be bound in one book, or get the digital version where you can print and reprint the pages that are most helpful to you and keep them in a binder.

We present to you the Spooky Writer’s Planner, a writer-dedicated planner that addresses the pains and worries of the everyday writer, whether you be a bestseller or just starting out.

Are you spooky?
Do you write horror, speculative fiction, dark fantasy, paranormal romance, or fairy tales?
Are you a spooky blogger, macabre non-fiction columnist, or haunt travel vlogger?
Are you ready to stop dreaming and be a writer?
Are you an author who wants to take your career to the next level?

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13 months of monthly and weekly spreads
Monthly goal and recap sheets
Weekly check-ins and note pages
Writing challenges, planners, and instructions
Submissions, published works, and contacts trackers
Marketing, newsletter, and blog planners
Check-off sheets for website maintenance, social media profiles, and expenses
Fun sheets to generate writing ideas, track your favorite TV series, or to be read and watched lists.

Authors Loren Rhoads and Emerian Rich share the tricks they’ve learned over the course of a combined 50 years in publishing, from working with traditional New York publishers, small presses, and as indie publishers themselves.


PRINT: The Spooky Writer’s Planner is perfect-bound with a glossy cover, printed on high-quality 8.5 x 11-inch paper. Everything you need is included in one handy book you can grab and go! Have book, will travel!

DIGITAL: The quick-download version gives you a digital copy so you can print the pages you want, print multiples of those you think you’ll use the most, leave those you won’t use, and create your own Frankenstein’s Monster of a planner! These pages are designed to be printed on 8.5 x 11-inch paper. You can put them in a three-ring binder, bind them with disks, or a spiral, as you choose. You can print different sheets on different colors. 

Click here to find out more about this planner, see pictures, and spreads for each version.

Story Café: What Goes Up!

Watch me perform my story, What Goes Up, for the San Mateo Library’s Story Café! Super Holly Hansson has been saving the day all day, and she is on a big high as she performs at a children hospital, until she meets someone she cannot save. The story is in Fault Zone: Uplift.

The California Writers Club (CWC) SF Peninsula branch partnered with the San Mateo County Library for video-storytelling from its Fault Zone anthology series. Story Café is in the “Between the Lines” section of the library’s homepage. Click its YouTube link to see me and lots more storytellers!

You can watch my Story Café video below.

Music Credits: The First Noel performed by Jay Man
Super Power Cool Dude by Kevin MacLeod (, Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0,
Artist Credits: R.K. Mulholland, Tobe Daranouvong, Matt Hebb, Joel Stokes, Dave Law, Amber Padilla, Batton Lash

My interview on FAE Productions!

As in Fantasy Arts Entertainment Productions. I was interviewed by Fairy Princess Lolly for one hour, and boy did it go fast! Time flies when you’re having fun. I read The Intellecta Rhapsody, and the ending of The Malevolent Mystery Meat. And I answer questions about myself, Super Holly Hansson, Tucker and Wrigley (the Puppy Brothers), and the music I use in my audio stories. And I had a great time!

P.S. Although the music I used for these stories does not require attribution, I will do it anyhow. It will be a good habit to get into.

Music Credits: YouTube Audio Library

The Intellecta Rhapsody
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (by Liszt), Our French Cafe by Jimmy Fontanez/Media Right Productions

The Malevolent Mystery Meat
William Tell Overture by Rossini, The Whistler and His Dog (1925) by Arthur Pryor’s Band with whistling by Billy Murray & Margaret McKee

Story Café: The Sinister Soul Surfer!

Watch me perform my story, The Sinister Soul Surfer, for the San Mateo Library’s Story Café! Cal Critbert (Batman-esque hero) must rescue his beloved Holly Hansson (mighty superheroine) from possession by Bobby Breaker (annoying surfer dude). 

The California Writers Club (CWC) SF Peninsula branch partnered with the San Mateo County Library for video-storytelling from its Fault Zone anthology series. Story Café is in the “Between the Lines” section of the library’s homepage. Click its YouTube link to see me and lots more storytellers!

You can watch my Story Café video below.

Music Credits:
Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Super Power Cool Dude, Killers, In Your Arms

Artist Credits:
Batton Lash, Dave Law, Chuck Whelon, Robin Holstein, Robert (BigRob) Beltran, Tobe Daranouvong, Chloe Dalquist, Amber Padilla, R.K. Mulholland