Friday, June 29, 2012

Secret Identities

I recently wrote about Spider-Man's wisecracks. This got me to thinking about the differences between a costumed hero and his secret identity.

Back in the Silver Age, you got the feeling that a DC character really was his costumed version and that his secret identity was a disguise. This was certainly true for Superman. His real personality was the guy in the cape. When he put on Clark Kent's glasses he assumed a different personality. He was timid and clumsy. I was never sure why he would want to be Clark. It was a lot of work with little return.

Batman was rich but he never spent any time in his mansion or enjoying his wealth. He was always out patrolling with Robin. The Flash pretended to be slow (and always arrived late for dates).

Contrast that with Peter Parker. That was who he was. When he wore a costume he acted a little differently, mainly by being more assertive and making wisecracks. That was perfectly normal. Most people act like this when they know that they are anonymous. That is why Internet trolls and flame wars happen.

Daredevil was similar. He really was a blind lawyer. He just downplayed his additional senses. When he was in costume he was acting by pretending that he could see.

The Fantastic Four didn't even bother with secret identities. Neither did the Sub-Mariner or Doctor Strange. The X-Men kept their identities secret from the outside world but they spent most of their time at the school. They were unique in the lengths they had to go to to hide their identities. Cyclops had to wear special glasses. The Beast had special shoes. Angle strapped his wings to his body, something that he compared to wearing a strait-jacket.

Thor and the Hulk really were different people. When they changed identities they gained several inches height and spoke differently.

Captain America went out without his costume but never established a life outside of the Avengers (until the 1970s). Even then, he never changed personalities. Giant Man and the Wasp wore masks but didn't seem to have a life outside of crime-fighting and research. At some point their identities became known but no one commented on it when it happened.

Back at DC, Green Lantern had the most fully-developed secret identity as a test pilot with a (small) supporting cast.

Then there were the Metal Men - robots who didn't need secret identities (they tried establishing them in a last-ditch effort to escape cancellation but failed). Metamorpho, the Element Man was a freak whose identity prior to his transformation was publicly known.

Martian Manhunter was a shape-changer and took on different identities. The Specter was separate person from his host body although he still needed to merge with it to rest.

Anyway, my original point was that Silver Age Marvel heroes "real" identity was the person behind the mask. In many cases they didn't even bother to wear a mask. DC heroes, especially hold-overs from the Golden Age, put on an act when they took off their mask.

This was part of the appeal of Marvel heroes. You didn't have to become a different person.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting Spider-Man Right

There were problems with the first three Spider-Man movies but they got a lot right. Tobey Maguire was perfect as Peter Parker. He embodied the everyman quality that made the character so popular.

Watching trailers for the new version, I keep wondering what they were thinking?

The guy playing Peter Parker doesn't come across as an everyman. He seems more like a character from Twilight. He isn't picked on, he is angst-ridden over his parents. And he already has a girlfriend.

But what really seems wrong is Spider-Man himself and his mouth.

Stan Lee's comics were full of wisecracks but these came across as Groucho Marx style commentary. Sometimes the villain seemed puzzled by Spider-Man's quips. That was ok. The reader knew that he was talking to us. Here's an example:

Green Goblin: After I finish you there will be no one to stop me!
Spider-Man: There's always Irving Forbush!
Green Goblin: Who?
Spider-Man: It's an in joke.

Prior to this, Stan used the name Irving Forbush as a recurring joke in the credits.

So, in the trailers for the new movie we hear Spider-Man making a joke about "You found my secret weakness... a small knife!" before disarming a petty crook. In a different trailer he makes some comments about how people are dressed.

I couldn't put my finger on what seemed wrong about this until I saw an article about the reboot including a lot of sarcasm. There is the problem. Someone with super powers makes some sarcastic comments then beats you up. That isn't how Stan's hero acted. That's how a bully acts. Stan's version didn't use sarcasm, he made jokes. It's the difference between Groucho Marx and Don Rickles.

The trailers may be misleading but I suspect that the new team doesn't understand Spider-Man at all.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Smart Phones

Verizon announced changes to their plans that would have seriously increased by monthly phone charge. I was eligible for an upgrade anyway so I got a new phone and (hopefully) grandfathered my current rate for another two years.

I had been using a Droid Incredible which was top of the line when I got it. It still did everything I need from a phone although an operating system upgrade left it with a serious bug. It didn't recognize all available memory and would give me out-of-memory errors. When this happened some things like Gmail stopped updating. There is a fix for this but my phone complained that it did not have enough memory to install the patch.

Anyway I got an LG Lucid. By current standards this is considered an entry-level phone but I mainly use it for email, Facebook, driving directions, photographs, and occasional web searches so it does everything I need. I'm not thrilled about the battery. My Droid had an extended battery which was good for 2-3 days. I have had to charge the new one twice in a day. I have an extended battery on order. I will see how that helps.

One nice thing about this phone is that everything except the case from my old phone still works. I moved the memory card from the old phone to the new one and had all of my pictures and music. You can't do this with an iPhone or Windows Phone - they don't even support memory cards. Also, the rumor is that the next iPhone will have a new connector that will be incompatible with the old one. Worse, Microsoft announced that the current line of Windows 7 Phones will not be able to run Windows 8. My Lucid is supposed to be upgradable to the next release of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich) although nothing has been announced.

This is my second Android phone plus a couple of Android tablets so I know my way around the operating system. LG made a few changes, mainly cosmetic. One I like is that the wallpaper changes when it is charging. This is an easy way to be sure that your phone is solidly connected to the power supply.

I did have trouble connecting with my Roadrunner email. I could not get the native email client to do it. Eventually I downloaded one called K9 (after Doctor's Who's assistant) and this works just fine. I can get both to connect to my work email.

One complaint I have with the Lucid is the lack of an indicator LED. This is useful for seeing when a new email has arrived and for seeing when the battery is fully charged. Other than that and the battery, it is a nice phone. Considering that the current iPhones and Windows Phones are about to be made obsolete, I'm glad I stuck with Android.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Addams Family and the Munsters

A new Munsters movie is in the works. The Addams Family had its turn at the movies two decades ago. Originally, they competed with each other.

The 1960s was a time of high concept TV. Several shows included leading characters that can only be described as unusual. This included the Addams Family and the Munsters. There was also My Favorite Martian (also made into a movie), Bewitched (another movie), I Dream of Jeanie, The Living Doll (about a life-like female android), The Ghost and Mrs. Muire, and My Mother the Car. In addition, Gilligan's Island and the Monkeys had occasional supernatural episodes. On top of that, there were the straight, hour-long science fiction shows, Star Trek, Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants.

Some of these did a better job than others at finding an audience and none were huge hits.

The Addams Family was based on the cartoons of Charles Addams. The Munsters were inspired by Universal's monsters.

The two shows had some similarity. Both featured unusual families that did not seem to realize that they were anything but normal. On the other hand, the Addams Family was higher class in every way. The family itself was rich. Morticia was the embodiment of the genteel matron and one of the sexiest mothers on TV. The family had some quarrels but in general they went out of their way to support each other. They also had a large extended family.

The Munsters were working-class. They were often quarrelsome and could be petty. Herman was childish and given to tantrums. Herman and Grandpa didn't seem to like each other but regularly conspired with each other because they didn't have any other friends. A standing joke was that their niece (who looked normal) thought that she was plain. The Addams never let a woman think that she was plain. If it came up, they whipped out some X-rays to show that her beauty was on the inside.

Previous attempts have been made to revive the Munsters as a TV show.  They never worked.

I suspect that the new remake will have more in common with the Bewitched movie than the Addams Family.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Gays in Comics

DC announced that a Allan Scott, the Green Lantern from an alternate Earth is gay.

So far DC has had a black Green Lantern, a Hispanic one, a few women, and various humanoid and non-humanoid aliens. Why not a gay Green Lantern?

At least they didn't decide to mess with Hal Jordan again.

Having a gay comic book character isn't really news. Captain America had a gay friend in the 1980s.

The first openly gay superhero was Northstar, a member of Alpha Flight although they danced around the issue for a long time. At first they dropped some fairly broad hints - he didn't like women. Later he came down with an acquired immune deficiency syndrome although no one used the acronym (AIDS). Northstar is going to be the first gay superhero to get married this month.

Cat woman was probably the first openly gay lesbian but Wonder Woman and her supporting cast dropped a lot of strong hints in the 1940s including swearing by Saphos, the Greek poet from the Isle of Lesbos (which is where we get the word Lesbian). But, Wonder Woman's sexuality in the 1940s was pretty racy, even by 21st century standards.

Archie made the news recently with the introduction of a new gay character. It would have been more interesting to have had an existing character come out - say Moose.

Considering how often DC reboots their continuity, this is really a meaningless gesture. Not long ago Allan Scott was older and had a gay son. Now it is Allan himself who is gay. Next year he could be older again and it is his granddaughter who is gay.

I cut way back on the Marvel characters I follow but I stopped caring about DC completely a long time ago. None of the characters I grew up with exist any longer. They have been written out of existence multiple times. Why get attached to a character if he will be rebooted later with a different personality?