Monday, November 23, 2015

Sympathy for Raquelle

I've been watching a show called Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse lately. And you could say I've thought a little about it. In the same way that Newton thought a little about Calculus. It's a show about Barbie, living but also still a doll, with her family and friends, where every incarnation of the Barbie doll is canon.

The closest this show has to an antagonist is Barbie's frenemy, Raquelle. She, like every other character, seems to be fabulously wealthy with supermodel good looks. And yet, she's always trying to steal Barbie's spotlight (or boyfriend). Why? Isn't a life free of labor enough for her?

Let's begin by examining the object of Raquelle's ire, the very doll herself, Barbie. Barbie has had over 126 careers over her lifetime, and not because she gets fired a lot, she just gets bored. Nothing seems beyond the scope of her purview. Supermodel, racecar driver, even astronaut are just things Barbie did before she got tired of them. She has a network of devoted friends, a brand of clothing shops, impeccable judgement, loving sisters, and apparently the best boyfriend ever created. Despite being filthy rich and talented, Barbie retains her gracious nature, always willing to help a friend (or frenemy) in need. Barbie is the √úbermensch, surpassing the limits of human development, never even deigning to seek reprisal for wrongs done against her. The next stage of humanity, a paragon of valor, ingenuity, and fashion.

Let me ask you something: How do you compete with the √úbermensch? The short answer is: You can't. The rest of Barbie's friends are content being her cronies, ready at her whim to shower her with praise or bask in her glory. All except Raquelle. She's not content with her station in life. She wants more, she needs to surpass everyone's favorite polymath. But that's impossible. Barbie is perfect in every way (except for baking) and Raquelle has few, if any, skills. During Barbie's brief absence due to super fashion heroics, Raquelle was left to fill the void, but failed in every aspect. She can't act, be a runway model, or even advertise perfume.

The only time Raquelle seemed to prevail over Barbie was when Barbie let her. Having a bad hair day, Barbie decided to let Raquelle win for once, but her ever-adoring fandom refused to recognize Raquelle until Barbie faked a compliment. Barbie can't lose, the most Raquelle can hope for is a consolation prize. For poor Raquelle, this isn't close to a fair fight. Barbie's the dealer, and Raquelle knows the house always wins.

If only achievement were enough for Raquelle. When she found her way into an alternate dimension with a dull, self-deprecating Barbie, Raquelle quickly made her way to the top. A profitable boutique, zealous fans, the works. But it wasn't enough. Without the real Barbie to triumph over, it was all for naught. Raquelle doesn't want to be Barbie, she needs to beat Barbie.

So what recourse does she have? Raquelle can't submit herself to the will of Barbie, to her mass of weak-willed sycophants. She's unable to even enjoy simple companionship, Barbie's boyfriend Ken being really the only guy in town apart from Raquelle's brother, Ryan. Thus, bitterness. Scheming. Trying to find the one chink in Barbie's armor, the only specialization the queen has overlooked.

Can you blame her? She has her eyes set on stardom, but is destined for mediocrity. Nothing she tries ever succeeds, so she's stuck, mired in Barbie's gargantuan shadow. She seems full of herself, but it's just a front, a facade to convince herself life is still worth living. She's tired, and angry, and alone. All she wants is someone to acknowledge her existence, to stop looking in a mirror to prove she's real. She can't escape Barbie any more than she can escape her own inadequacy.

We may hate Raquelle. We may scorn and ridicule her. But what she represents is a fundamental part of the human experience. Through her spite and envy, she's the most human character in Malibu. She has foibles, tribulations, and nearly every single one of her enterprises ends in abject failure. Her far-fetched dreams remain unfulfilled, until all that is left is a sneering cynic who only longs for some attention. When we watch Raquelle, who's really looking into a mirror?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Making Movies Into Comics (And Vice Versa)

Movies used to be so simple. You're 11, you go grab some popcorn, watch a couple hours of Spider-Man being sad and punching dudes, then you go home and you don't have to think about it anymore. If something didn't make sense in the movie, it was the filmmaker's fault. You could speculate on things if you knew the source material, try to figure out what was next in the franchise or explain an inconsistency, but at the end of the day, everything you really needed was in that 2 hours of footage. Then Marvel Studios happened.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Amalgam Comics: Speed Demon

Sometimes I want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern living and transport myself to a simpler time, when human proportions didn't matter and editorial decisions made little to no sense. Of course, what I mean is the 90's. It seems every day I find something else that completely astonishes me by the fact it was made at all. You remember Spider-Boy? That was the tip of the iceberg. Today we enter the fel world of...

Comic Review: Speed Demon

Holy shit. That looks amazing. It looks like Ghost Rider mixed with the Flash. But he's got a weird demon skull instead of a normal human skull? I'm sure it'll make sense, these comics were known for their concise and easily digestible stories.

Oh wait... they were the opposite of that. So what's happening here is Uatu the Guardian is going to kill Hal Jordan and-- Okay, it really doesn't matter. What matters is who shows up next.

Listen, I don't even care about anything else, this guy is fucking METAL. Anyway, that whole scene goes nowhere because Speed Demon incinerates everyone with his fire breath. While... rhyming.

...He's still metal as shit.

From there we go to Wally West, nephew of Blaze Allen, at the circus where Blaze apparently works. All the circus folk try to warn Wally that his uncle is an unstable crackpot trespassing in the domain no man was meant to tread. Wally just says, "Nah, whatev's" and goes to his uncle's spooky trailer. Wally quickly finds out Blaze is actually Speed Demon, becoming such by making a pact with the eternal demon Etrigan to find the stolen soul of his late wife. I'd put some panels in here, but I had a hard enough time parsing through them without picking out the ones that make sense. Long story short: The Night Spectre is collecting souls, Speed Demon wants to stop him, or something.

As it turns out the next soul is Green Goblin, who is... Harvey Osborne? This quickly turns into a fight between Speed Demon and Night Spectre, who for some reason has Red Arrow as a minion.

Speed Demon is immobilized! Will this turn the tides of battle?!

...I guess not.

So Spectre captures Green Goblin and brings him to his extradimensional hell realm of infinite despair.

Metal bands, I'm just saying, they pretty much wrote the lyrics for you already.

So Blaze and Etrigan are separated, and Spectre gets the drop on them. I hope some hardcore miracle comes out of nowhere!

Nevermind, I want THAT airbrushed on my van.

Turns out Wally was worried about Blaze, so he called up Merlin and ordered a demon-bonding, post-haste. Once he shows up he burns Spectre to a crisp. Huh. That easy? Okay then. After freeing the trapped souls, they ride triumphantly into the night. Metal screaming.

So it seems like everything is wrapped up in a nice little chainmail bow. Or is it?

Oooh Night Spectre, you stinker!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Secret Wars? More like SECRET BORES

Here we friggin' go goddamn again.

If you follow this crap at all, you're likely already aware that Marvel comics is planning to reboot its universe in the upcoming crossover event, Secret Wars. No no, not the good one they did in the Spider-Man cartoon, this is a new one that makes a lot less sense. In this, all the disparate universes of the Marvel uh, universe are being smashed together, so then there's only one. You know, nothing at all like that one famous DC story where the exact same thing happens.

You all know how I feel about reboots. Especially ones of this sheer scale. After regarding this announcement with indignation, I began to wonder: Why? Was continuity really a big problem for Marvel? It seemed in lieu of reboots, they just launched different initiatives, like Marvel NOW! or All-New Marvel NOW! Is this really a problem that couldn't be fixed by restarting all the issues' numbers and labeling it All-New Absolutely Original We Mean It This Time Marvel RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW! Well, speculation on why Marvel is undergoing a Crisis of Infinite Bullshit is already underway.

The Ultimate Universe, the rebelling younger sibling of Marvel, has been on, shall we say, a downward trend lately. And by that I mean it went from quite a few titles, like X-Man, Iron Man, Ultimates, and Spider-Man, to pretty much just Spider-Man. This is more than likely because nobody bought anything that wasn't Ultimate Spider-Man, so titles routinely got axed. Now they've come up with a way to just do away with the separate publishing line and jam Miles Morales in with everyone else people know from movies. I would say this misses the point of the Ultimate Universe, a way to just retell stories with a new lens and different inspiration, but that went out the window the moment Spider-Men became a thing.

Other sources of speculation say this is just to turn the comic universe into the movie universe, so everyone can taste that sweet, sweet blockbuster money. Publisher Dan Buckley has said this would be virtually impossible, and I guess he's right. There is, however, one thing people have mentioned that certainly seems more likely, if not more reasonable. That is: to get rid of the X-Men from Marvel Comics.

If you don't obsessively follow this stuff, you might not be aware that as far as film licenses are concerned, Marvel doesn't own the X-Men. Fox has the rights and seems very recalcitrant in bids to relinquish them. One would think that comics and movies could exist independently, without a comic publisher making any rash moves because the studio branch can't access certain characters. But no, Marvel is pretty mad. So mad, in fact, that writers are banned from making new X-Men characters as Chris Claremont revealed last year.

Rumors have surfaced of a kind of X-Men embargo within the publisher, which seems supported by the recent Death of Wolverine and Inhuman stories. Death of Wolverine makes sense, kill the cash cow character so Fox can't turn that into movie-bucks. The whole Inhuman thing is a bit more complex. In-story, the terragen mists responsible for giving the original Inhumans their powers were released on earth, giving random people various superpowers. These (un)fortunate individuals were quickly seen as a menace, distrusted by their families and communities, and have to hide their powers to keep their normal lives. Sound familiar? They can have their persecuted superhero cake and eat it too. Once they've banished X-Men from current canon, Inhumans can fill in the slack.

Of course, the most reasonable explanation for this is that it will garner the most treasured asset a publisher could hope for, the fabled New Readers. Any reboot is really aiming for that, when you get down to it. The problem is, I think Marvel is trying to lure in old readers too with some continuity porn in the process. It's a chicken-or-egg question at this point, but it looks like this is going to be a whole lot like Spider-Verse, but with everyone. Cap-Verse, Thor-Verse. Universe-Verse.

So yeah. Marvel wants to revitalize its line by copying something DC did back in 1985. It really doesn't matter much if it's good or not, a shitload of people are buying it no matter what. At the very least it'll be interesting to see what really motivated this. Man, I sure can't wait to read all the new #1 issues of comics I don't care about anymore!