Facts Are Stubborn Things

“Facts are stubborn things and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

— John Adams, 1770

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Review: Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham

Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham
Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham by Mike Mignola

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am amazed by the seemingly infinite flexibility of the Batman mythos. I’ve read Batman stories set in the Victorian era and the far future, seen him teamed up with (or placed in opposition to) characters as offbeat as the monster from the film Predator, and of course he’s been interpreted through cinematic visions as wide-ranging as Adam West’s, Tim Burton’s, and Christopher Nolan’s, and yet, somehow, it almost always works. In The Doom that Came to Gotham, the Caped Crusader and his rogues’ gallery of regular sidekicks and villains are transplanted into an HP Lovecraft story, and it works very well indeed.

The year is 1928, and the globetrotting adventurer Bruce Wayne has just discovered the remnants of the overdue Cobblepott Antarctic expedition… as well as the tentacled thing they found in the ice that apparently drove them all mad. Wayne destroys the monster with explosives — or so he thinks — and returns to Gotham City, the home he hasn’t seen in 20 years. But he soon encounters a talking dead man and a demon called Etrigan, who warns him that an old debt is coming due. An ancient evil from before the time of men is waking up, and if Wayne can’t find a way to stop it, humanity is doomed…

One of the pleasures of an “alternate history” tale like this is seeing how familiar characters and tropes get reworked in service of a new framework, and in this case, the reworking is clever, organic to the story, and frequently surprising. (This story contains the most logical explanation behind The Penguin that I’ve ever encountered!) But I suspect this story would also be effective if you didn’t know a thing about Batman or his usual sidekicks and adversaries. Co-writer Mike Mignola is the creator of Hellboy, another series that draws heavily on Lovecraft’s dark tales of Elder Gods and cosmic dread, and this story is an effective pastiche of those. It’s a taut, spooky yarn that effectively ratchets up the dread panel by panel until the climax, which casts a whole new light on the eternal question of whether the Dark Knight’s true identity is Bruce Wayne… or the bat.

Mignola did not do the artwork in The Doom that Came to Gotham, but the general look will nevertheless be familiar to fans of Hellboy, although it’s less stylized. Rendered mostly in a subdued palette (except where fire is involved), with nice detail overall and a suitably squirmy look to the creatures, the art contributes greatly to the final effect of the story.

Overall, a highly satisfying read.

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Stronger Together

“I will never apologize for saying that the future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us [into] conflict. We don’t realize our potential as a country when we’re preventing blacks or Latinos or Asians or gays or women from fully participating in the project of building American life.”

— President Barack Obama

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Friday Evening Videos: “Dancin’ in the Ruins”

Blue Oyster Cult is best-known, of course, for the 1976 masterpiece “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” which became the band’s highest-charting single. With one of the most recognizable opening riffs in rock-and-roll history, “Reaper” remains a staple of classic-rock radio, frequently turns up on movie and TV soundtracks, and was the basis for the revered Saturday Night Live sketch “More Cowbell.” In 2004, Rolling Stone named it one of the top 500 songs of all time.

Ten years after “Reaper,” BOC was still around, but like a lot of other bands that peaked artistically and commercially in the ’70s, they were struggling to figure out how to adapt to changing tastes in the synth-heavy MTV era. They finally scored a minor hit in 1986 with a song called “Dancin’ in the Ruins,” their biggest success since “Burnin’ for You” five years earlier. I don’t have any particular memories of “Dancin’,” but I do recall liking it quite a bit back in the day. And then I more or less forgot about it for a few decades.

Well, I’ve been thinking about it again ever since early Wednesday morning. The song’s generally upbeat sound overlaying its fatalistic lyrics seems to match my post-election emotions, which have been a weird rollercoaster between existential dread, weary resignation, and fuck-it-all euphoria.

And that’s really about all I’ve got to say right now. So just crank the volume and enjoy as we head into the weekend. Everything crumbles to dust in time, so we may as well have a party, right?

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Election Day

Surely I can’t be the only one who has an anxious voice droning in their heads this morning, repeating over and over, “The Death Star has cleared the planet… the Death Star has cleared the planet… ”

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Nearing Midnight…

Those of you who may still be out on this All Hallow’s Eve, still flitting from shadow to shadow in search of candy or mischief, or maybe just a tingle down the spine to break up the monotony of your tame and fenced-in little suburban lives, so modern, so clean and above all, so predictable, had best be making for home soon. But be wary… even in this modern 21st century, you may encounter something you do not understand… out there… in the dark…

“If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash—he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.

 

The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle, and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at his master’s gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at breakfast—dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled at the schoolhouse, and strolled idly about the banks of the brook; but no school-master. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading to the church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of horses’ hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.

Happy Halloween, kids…

"The Headless Horseman" by Chris Beatrice

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The Evolution of The Face

I think it’s pretty common knowledge that the face of Michael Myers, the unstoppable boogeyman of the Halloween films, is actually William Shatner’s.

According to lore, the makers of the original Halloween bought a Captain Kirk mask at the local drugstore for a couple bucks, modified it a bit, and spray-painted it white. The rest, as they say, is Hollywood history, as that film went on to become one of the most successful horror flicks ever made (it was the most successful for several decades), spawning a slew of sequels, imitators, and outright rip-offs, while the Michael Myers character became an icon. Personally, I think part of the reason why Michael is so unsettling is because that blank, expressionless visage is so weirdly… familiar. But even knowing why he looks familiar, I’ve had trouble actually seeing my boyhood hero in that face of evil.

Not any more:

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It’s even more unsettling now.

Just something to ponder as Halloween 2016 winds down…

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The Drawing of the Three

Evidently, there was a meme floating around a few weeks ago (which I totally missed because I was on vacation) that asked you to choose three fictional characters that you feel somehow represent yourself. (Kelly did it here.) I’m always a sucker for a good meme, of course, but me being me, I started wondering about things that weren’t explicitly spelled out in the premise. Are these avatars supposed to reflect your self-image or is it about how you think others perceive you? And are we talking your idealized self, i.e., what you want to be like, or is the point of the meme to be honest about what you think you actually are? In other words, do I indulge in a little wishful thinking (Thor! Yes, he’s so much like me!) or go for total self-deprecation (Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons… because he’s… also… so much like me)? Do you see how difficult these supposedly simple games actually are?

Well, after wracking my brains and struggling with a lot of deep self-reflection for, oh, 45 seconds or so, I finally decided on three options, which I will now present for your approval and/or shouts of derision:

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I started writing explanations for each of my choices, but decided they might all end up sounding narcissistic and ridiculous, so I’ll just leave these here. Thoughts, anyone?

 

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