Justice League review: it’s humor and humanity, stupid.

I saw Justice League. Alone. I did not want to inflict it on anyone else. My expectations were low, like they were when my friend Brian “Mondo” called me up and wanted to see Dude, Where’s My Car? But I liked it. It was funny! (“We are hot babes.”)

I liked Justice League too. Sure, it grated on my writer brain. Some scenes felt glued together with library paste, I believe there was a payoff without setup, and too much dialog was blabby moody exposition. (Alfred Hitchcock said that exposition is a pill that must be sugar-coated.) Plenty of room for improvement. But this movie had two story elements that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman lacked: humor and humanity.

The Flash’s geeky, gawky enthusiasm and Aquaman’s heroic beer-chugging macho were especially fun. (The original Aquaman and Barry Allen Flash in DC Comics had the personalities of Macys mannequins, so this movie was right to revamp that.) Wonder Woman was again the fearless, ferocious fighter with a heart (although some of her fellow Amazons should not bare their bellies when going into battle). Batman showed his after-battle ouchie bruises and he stated his true superpower: “I’m rich.” When Superman stepped up to the villain, his voice was purehearted Christopher Reeve (it made my heart sing). Cyborg got to say his favorite line from Teen Titans Go (starts with a “B”). This movie gave the DC supers humanity to build upon. (Except Wonder Woman, she and her most excellent movie were slopping over with humanity to start with, even considering the goddess thing.) And its photography avoided a lot of the black bleak depressing sad angsty moody sepia dark tones of M of S and B v S.

Speaking of gods, a YouTube video that I saw (and lost) said it best: In the Marvel movies, the supers are human. In Man of Steel and Bats v Supes, they are gods above men. YUCK! My advice for DC movie makers: keep losing the Ayn Rand crap and you’ll keep improving.

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In a super-fight, who wins?

Which super-strong superheroes would win in a fight with Super Holly? Superheroes fight a lot when they first meet. I am assuming that neither Holly or her fighting partner is under evil mind control, else the one not under control wins.

 

Wonder Woman: WW wins. Diana has many decades of warrior training, she HAS to win!

Supergirl: Probably Holly, provided that incarnation of kryptonians does not have them pushing planets out of their orbits. Holly is a better hand-to-hand fighter, and she is older and tougher, but she would feel awful about fighting a young girl.

Superman: Superman wins. Why? Because he’s Superman.

Power Girl: They would fight, but verbally.

Power Girl (pointing to Holly’s chest): “Copycat!”

Super Holly (pointing to Power Girl’s chest): “Get a logo!”

Thor: Thor would call it a draw once Holly picks up the hammer. She is worthy, although she does not think so. She would give it right back to Thor, of course. She has issues with being called a goddess: them’s fightin’ words, and that would likely be the cause of the fight in the first place.

The Hulk (Bruce Banner / Hulk Smash version): The fight would go like this:

“HULK SMASH YELLOW HAIR!” Big green fists hit Holly: THOOM BAM BOOOOOM!!!

Holly staggers. “OUCH! Oh yeah? Well, Holly smash you in the schnoz!” Super boxing fists belt Hulk’s nose: POW POW POW POW POW!!!

The Hulk staggers. “OW! YELLOW HAIR HIT HARD! LIKE STUPID ARMY GUNS FROM STUPID ARMY MEN THAT ALWAYS HOUND HULK! MAKE HULK MAD!!!” The Hulk raises his fist.

Holly grabs that big green fist with her super-strong blue telekinetic fist. “Tell me about it! Stupid paparazzi hound me! They zoom stupid telephoto lenses on my chest, and when that gets on the six o’clock news, supervillains laugh at me for days! I HATE THAT!!!”

The Hulk lowers his fists. “YELLOW HAIR HOUNDED TOO?”

Super Holly lowers her fists. “Yeah.”

The Hulk says, “HULK NOT MAD ANYMORE. YELLOW HAIR KNOW HOW HULK FEEL.”

Holly smiles and holds his hand. “Poor thing. Wanna talk about it over coffee?” Holly flies the Hulk to the nearest coffee shop, where they quaff gallons of iced mochas and talk and laugh and Tony Stark pays the bill because the Hulk does not have a wallet, and because Super Holly’s cash, not being from the Marvel Universe, would not be legal tender.

Old sci-fi and the test of time.

I recently spent a week at my cousin’s, house and doggie sitting. My cousin has cut the TV cable, but not the internet cable. So while I wrote and worked, I binged-watched My Favorite Martian on Hulu. Also, last year, I was at a LitQuake event in Palo Alto, and I was talking with a couple guys about old TV shows. One guy talked about these old sci-fi shows, and how wonderful they were, but his shining example was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I joked about how it was not a good show. He got pretty huffy about that.

So I got to thinking about which old sci-fi television withstand the test of time. Old like within or close to the black and white era of TV.

THE GOOD:

My Favorite Martian. Smart and sharp and silly humor, and perfect performances from Bill Bixby and Ray Walston. Ray is perfect as the super-intellectual martian, Bill every bit as perfect as the goofy young sidekick. Listen to them deliver snappy dialog and watch their slapstick stunts, and you will know why they kept getting work for the rest of their lives.

Lost in Space. It would not have lasted so long in reruns if not for Jonathan Harris as that most hammy of villains, Doctor Smith. Oh, the pain, the pain, I mean the joy, the joy, the utter rapture of watching an old vaudevillian-type pro at work.

The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. To borrow from Comic Book Guy: Best anthology shows EVER!

THE CHEATING.

Batman (Adam West) was always in color, but it came in right at the end of black and white TV. Adam West GETS IT. Perfect straight-face performance for a witty super spoof. And the villains! A parade of high calibre Hollywood talent: Vincent Price, Frank Goshen, Cliff Robertson, Julie Newmar (DEEPEST SIGH!!!), and on and on, that show attracted talent like ants to a sugary picnic.

Wonder Woman. Yes, this was always in color as well, but I HAVE to mention it. The first season had tasty, nasty, love-to-hate Nazi villains. When Wonder Woman was brought into the present later on, the stories and the villains dried out and the writing could get downright painful. But Lynda Carter brought such GLEE to the role! She did pretty big stunts too, like twenty foot jumps, lifting cars, and running while looking gorgeous but not girly-goofy. There are a few actors who wink at the viewer and say via actor telepathy, Hey, it is fun up here, and if you watch, I’ll send some of that fun your way! Lynda Carter did that every time she strode onto the screen. Oh, did I mention she looked great in the costume, and that is an achievement? TV superhero costumes did not always work well back then!

THE BAD.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. An endless line of white males, followed by white males, followed by more white males. Can you say bleached sausage fest? And the writing? Aliens from another planet learn American English on the theory that sound never dies. NO, human voices cannot travel millions of miles through hard vacuum! (The writers were too dumb to have the aliens listen to our radio and TV broadcasts.) Then there was the bad guy backing up while holding the crew at gunpoint, and a good guy says one of the worst lines in TV history: “Don’t go in that corridor, it’s full of plankton!” Now, I want SO BAD for Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants to be in that corridor and say, “Yes, come in here and I shall RULE THE KRUSTY KRAB, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!” But what was in the corridor? A bunch of quivering rubber tentacles that the bad guy backs into without even glancing over his shoulder. Do all villains have stiff necks? I now know why Harlan Ellison tried to kick one of those executives in the face.

The Time Tunnel. James Darren was wasted, instead catch him in Star Trek Deep Space 9 as the holographic Vegas singer Vic Fontaine, your ears will thank you forever. Anyway. The plot done over and over every single week is two time travelers go to different time periods, usually to great moments in history. Can you imagine the lust of those old fat white male TV executives? “Yeah, lissen to dis, it’s an hour show, but we only gotta shoot half of dat, cuz dah rest can be old stock movie footage of Vikings and knights and cowboys and dinosaurs! And a giant beehive, cuz bees was giant in duh dinosaur days. Ooo, duh money we’ll save! Haw haw haw!” (With each “haw,” balloon-bloated steak-stuffed bellies bounce and ripple.) And did you know that in the future and on all alien worlds, everyone is painted silver?

Land of the Giants. Also in color, but too awful not to mention. A cheap clone of Lost in Space. Without Jonathan Harris, it falls flatter than a Swedish pancake. (Well, he did show up as the Pied Piper, and only he—no one else—could do that without looking ridiculous.) The heroes were handsome and dull, the stories range from slightly watchable to rubbing a cheese grater on your frontal lobes. The kid on that show gives the kid in Star Wars 1 a run for his money on the that-dog-won’t-hunt scale. Will Mumy he ain’t.

Notice a pattern here? Irwin Allen shows. To borrow a line from someone who wrote about one really bad story in the sad puppies Hugo controversy, Irwin made shows that are exactly like what people who never watch sci-fi think sci-fi is like.

THE AIMLESS. (I formerly said “THE UGLY, and doing that to Julie Newmar is quite an accomplishment!” But I changed my mind. Or rather, Julie changed it.)

My Living Doll, take 2. I watched a few other shows on Hulu. And Julie Newmar was funny. She played her dancer’s body and smooth voice like musical instruments. And she played a tune to get laughs. The flourish of her arms when she played classic piano (episode where she was entered in a beauty contest, and Julie knew how to play classic piano, so it could have been her belting out that tune). Her in a courtroom hurtling her amazon long legs over that little wall between spectators and the judge and jury, instead of using the silly little door. Her throwing a pseudo tantrum when purposely missing the eight ball in the seventh pocket and breaking the pool cue. Her intense face when reciting long tech exposition. Her goofy happiness when her robot character is learning something new. So I did enjoy her performance. A lot. Problem was that no one else on the show held much of a candle to her. The lead actor was just a tad this side of bland, his goofy guy friend (or relative, whatever) was supposed to be funny, but just came off as selfish and goofy sidekicks MUST have a redeeming virtue! I think that when I watched the pilot, I was irked that Julie was not front and center. Julie was great in post-pilot episodes, but the show was cancelled in the first season. That freed Julie to play Catwoman, where she had a great guy to play off of: Adam West. Ah, the campy fireworks!

My Living Doll, take 1. (I leave this paragraph here to show that I can change my mind when I am mistaken. The first episode was awful, but the show got better.) Even Julie Newmar, whose Catwoman in the Adam West Batman helped me get through puberty, could not save this. (Yeah, I’m that old, sue me.) My cousin’s Hulu cued up the pilot of My Living Doll after an episode of My Favorite Martian. I was used to sharp witty LOL dialog, then I got every single line being about how hot Julie the robot is. After the twentieth line about ogling Julie, it gets really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really tedious. To steal a line from my friend Valerie Frankel, that is pretty much the whole plot. Julie is not given much to work with, you’d think writing robot dialog would not be hard. Look at Julie’s energetic sexy slinky purring and FUNNY performance as Catwoman, and then watch this, and then try not to claw out your eyeballs with a fork. You just TRY not to do that!

P.S. ONE MORE THING! To the gentleman (I use the word loosely) from a year ago who thinks Irwin Allen made great TV, and who got hot and huffy when I did not bow and WORSHIP your cheesy boring whiter-than-bleached-vanilla-ice-cream rubber-tentacled creature-from-the-bottom-of-the-slush-pile pseudo-sci-fi, your taste in sci-fi SUCKS. Speaking as a geek and a nerd who has watched and loved and hated over half a century of sci-fi and cartoons and comic books, who has dined upon plenty of Asimov and Clarke and Niven and Brown and Ellison and Stan Lee and Peter David and J. Michael Straczynski, who for over a decade has seriously studied writing AND has been seriously writing AND has performed my writing at open mics, who has had my writing critiqued by dozens of other writers and a few professional editors, who has critiqued other writers for years to often grateful results, and thus who earned every scrap of my considerable sci-fi fanboy cred, I am telling you:

I am schooled by Trina Robbins!

trina-wizard-sac-2015At Wizard Con in Sacramento, I met writer and HERstorian Trina Robbins again. I told her she ought to meet Valerie Estelle Frankel, who wrote that Empowered Wonder Woman book that I reviewed. I told Trina about Valerie mentioning in that book the fight where Wonder Woman and Cheetah rip each other’s clothes.

And Trina said that Wonder Woman’s costume is super tough, and Cheetah is covereed in fur! She firmly asked me if I could think of any superheroines whose super-costumes get ripped. I said, um, maybe Supergirl in Crisis on Infinite Earths? And Trina met Valerie later, and said that Valeries said “Huh?” when she told Valerie about the ripping thing.

I reread that part of Valerie’s book. Valerie said that Wonder Woman bends and twists to reveal as much skin as possible. No clothes being ripped off. I consider myself SCHOOLED!

However, this could be a story idea for Super Holly Hansson, along the lines of the story that would-be writers send to Marvel again and again and again: Sabertooth and Wolverine meet in a forest, they fight, Wolverine wins. Holly would not do the bendy thing during a fight, she fights like a heavyweight boxer (and hits like one, too). Maybe Holly is in a forest in her street clothes, and then she meets a very annoying villain named The Ripper? I’ll think about it. Trina, thanks for a nice goofy idea. Another way to get short-fuse Holly mad.

I bought a couple books from Trina. One was the Miss Fury book she is holding up, she edited it. Miss Fury beat Wonder Woman to the costumed heroine thing by six months. The art is fun, a panel of a big cross-dresser with lots of perfume-smelly lines sold me on it.

 

Empowered: The Symbolism, Feminism, & Superheroism of Wonder Woman

WWI first met Valerie Frankel (check out her author page) through the South Bay Writers Club. Or maybe at BayCon. Anyhow, she has churned out many books, from spoofs of Harry Potter to scholarly studies such as From Girl to Goddess, a study of the heroine’s journey done by literary heroines. Since I am writing a superheroine, I bought it. A good read, well researched. But I wanted something else. Something more SUPER!
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Valerie goes super in her new book, Empowered: The Symbolism, Feminism, & Superheroism of Wonder Woman. She gave me a beta copy. I sent back a few comments. Now you can read it too.
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I did not realize that Valerie had comic book geek girl cred. She does not shy away from how Wonder Woman’s costume often gets skimpier, and what parts of Wonder Woman often get thrust toward the camera. She discusses in depth Wonder Woman being reinvented over the decades, like WW’s feminist start, and WW staying behind to type up the meeting notes and wishing the Justice League boys good luck as they run out to fight, and that long stretch where WW was depowered and wore totally mod bell bottoms, and Josh Whedon’s lost WW movie, right up to the latest animated Justice League movies, you know, where WW has a sword and is not afraid to use it a lot.
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Do you want to learn about Wonder Woman? Do you want to laugh with lines like, “an extended fight scene that lets Wonder Woman twirl upside down and stretch into unlikely poses to show off all her skin. This is the entire plot.”
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P.S. My beta comments? I agreed with SO MUCH, but I thought Valerie was a little tough on the Justice League animated series Flash, the team cut-up. Also, I did not find the violence in that series “off-putting.” But The New 52? Yeah, I too was off-putted, so much grittiness I had to floss my teeth!