Hillbillies, Dracula and Quentin Tarantino

This post won’t be nearly as cool as it sounds. I just wanted to write down that title.

Recently I’ve finished off a few things that I’ve been doing on my spare time. A couple of projects that I’ve been making my way through. These are Bram Stoker’s novel called Dracula, Red Dead Redemption and Pulp Fiction.
I’ve finally finished Dracula after what must be close to eight years. See, long ago, when I was fourteen, I was digging through the book, loving it, and then it fucking disappeared without a trace. This year I found it, and now I’ve been reading it again to finish this chapter (sorta-hurr). I still like the book and the characters, but the ending is really disappointing. Two thirds of the book spent building up suspense, showing the immaculate way the undead Count operates, and then it ends so abruptly reading the whole thing feels like a waste. It’s like a deflating balloon; you build up a lot of excitement blowing up the damn thing and when it blows out you barely get farting noises. In addition it got really cheesy near the end and the misogyny was un-fucking-bearable. Both of these things are to be expected given when it was written, certainly, but that doesn’t make them any less tedious. Or annoying. Or frustratingly misguided and poisonous. “A-ha! She’s got a woman’s gentleness, but a man’s head,” exclaims professor Van Helsing several times. And many times Mina Harker writes about those bold, brash, strong men in her diary. And every single time I frown, get angry and nautious. I’ve heard similar expressed and opined enough times to hate it and loathe it, and no matter the time period, disdain is the only thing this deserves.

My sister bought Red Dead Redemption for me when I was seventeen, I think, and I never played it until now. Why? Because back then I bought games after what friends and video game critics recommended for me, regardless of whether or not these games were my style. It turned out that I really didn’t like an open world where everything was to your own choosing, with vast spaces and mini games. A friend of mine says to this day that where I saw an overwhelming amount of time-consuming options, he sees possibilities. But at the time it was a limitation to me, because I didn’t want to roam endlessly in search for one measly object that might be worth looking for. Now that I’ve aged and matured somewhat, I now have the patience for that sort of thing and can even find it fun. Far Cry 3 broke a few barrieres for me in that department, and after playing the whole thing, man, I do so wish I got to see more of these characters. Whether they’re hicks or gangsters or farmers or utter lunatics, there are sooooo many fun characters to meet in this game. I really wish we got to see more of Bonnie MacFarland, and Seth, and that US marshall who’s name escapes me, and Irish, and so, so many more. Not to mention John Marston; he’s just so likeable that I enjoyed every minute playing him. Downside is that the game has it’s fair share of flaws. 18 unlockable outfits, several of which you can only use near the end of the game or after the end of the game. Damseling females. A bit of racism. A kinda-sorta moral choice system that makes no sense given the story and it’s theme. I mean, John Marston makes it clear so many times that he tries to seek out of the life as an outlaw and sounds sincere and firm on the subject every time it’s brought up. There is nothing that really indicates to me that he wants to return to his old ways even breefly to achieve his goal of freeing his family. Why should he just randomly start assaulting diligences and the like, especially considering that the government is watching him closely? There are also a couple of occasions where John seems far to mercenary and indifferent. It just doesn’t seem like him, and he also strikes me as someone who dislikes being in the company of slimy people. It seems off, all of it.

Pulp Fiction is a movie I saw in my teenage years, late at night and with too low an attention span to really get anything out of it. Therefore I haven’t thought that much of Tarantino for the longest time. The general impression I got from the snippets I saw of his movies here and there was that he had style, but the movies themselves seemed so bloody insubstancial and pointless that it wasn’t anything for me to really like. This impression got put to the test, however, because as a birthday present a year ago a friend of mine bought me every single Tarantion movie out there. Everyone. Eight movies, now standing in my shelf. I have been slooooowly working up the nerve to watch them. I want to give these movies a fair chance; more than once I’ve pretty much decided that something is bad from the get-go without ever seeing it, but without any real justification for deeming it bad. I’m pressed to think that everyone does this sometimes. Refusing to see a film because someone said somewhere that one scene was offensive or something isn’t really based on much, better to see it for yourself and judge. I saw Reservoir Dogs and found it surprisingly well structured. Good acting, shot pretty good, excellent use of music. A little bit boring and pointless, but this is the guy who people laud as the ultimate example of “style over substance” in a good way or sumthin’. Yesterday I decided to give Pulp Fiction another shot, and I sat down like: ‘Okay, impress me.’ Eyebrows raised, arms crossed. But at the beginning of the movie I thought: ‘You know what? That’s not really an attitude to have when giving something a second chance. I have to be open for impression.’ So I gave it a chance with a less judgmental outlook, and what I found was that three scenes were great…
And the rest was totally boring.
Look, the scene at the diner, Vince Vega and Jules Winnfield’s visit to Marcellus’ underlings and the scene with the, uhm, father’s watch was funny, greatly written and engaging. Hooked me in. But the rest of the movie was such a drag. The finale at the diners was longwinded as hell. Butch’s plot was completely uninteresting. The story of Vincent and Marcellus’ wife was okay, but not enough to make up for the amount of nothing coming afterwords. I once had a brief talk about Tarantino with Mothy, and from what he told me this is somewhat symptomatic for his longer movies. And I still got six movies to go.

Welp, better brace yourself, Cheesus. We’ve got a lot more to cover.

"Hothouse" by Francis Moore and P. Craig Russel

It just now occurred to me how scary Poison Ivy’s powers really are.
Like, in every story I’ve seen so far her victims seem to walk away more or less unscathed, be it Batman or innocent civilians. When the effects of her toxins wear off, people might get pissed for a little while and that’s it. Even in the most extreme case of her meddling with romance (not counting her drones from Knightfall, which is horrible but not related), she seems to manipulate people in a way that leaves little visible impact. In the episode Chemistry from The New Batman Adventures, for instance, the emphasis is less on the victims reactions as much as Ivy’s overall plan, which was to make sweet, sweet, mon-aaaaaay. In fact, I don’t think the victims reacted much at all.

This time, however, I think I got a good view into what she does. She is able to turn your own emotions against you with such power that you can barely tell what’s what. Batman spends the entire story questioning himself, because the effect she has is just that powerful. Even if she’s been gone for a long time her presence alone is enough to affect you; and what she does can result in your personal life taking a lot of damage. One thing is her initial victim, another is a moment in which she makes James Gordon completely forget his wife’s name. God, just imagine what that power could do in the hands of, say, an abusive parent or an obsessive partner? You’re emotions could be turned against you in a moment’s notice, making you forget how you could ever find these people disturbing at all. Your emotions become jumbled and unintelligible and your faculties made mute. I’ve come to experience how it is when a parent is manipulating me, and I shudder at the thought of what he could make me do with powers such as Pamela’s. It’s a bit like the Mad Hatter’s mind control in that sense. And if you’ve watched Batman TAS, played Batman: Arkham City and possibly read his story in Gotham Central, I think you could understand how I could find that so unsettling.

Another things is Pammy’s character. A couple of my comic senseis have commented about Poison Ivy’s problem. Which is to say, what is her deal? What does she do and why? What are her characteristics? I think that I may have gotten a little glimpse that might vaguely describe what that is.
See, at one point in the story Batman has an internal monologue where he says this:

There’s a no man’s land between love and hate —between passion and obsession, where it’s easy to lose all sense of reality and in doing so, lose yourself. Somewhere in that emotional minefield, Pamela Isley wanders… And I wonder is she’ll ever find her way home.

This may be something that only I see, but… does that mean that whatever tricks she pull on others, she is herself a victim of her own emotions? That she herself can’t tell what emotions are real and which aren’t? If so, that is… that is pretty fucking sad. It’s like a reverse mister Freeze, only where he can only feel apathy towards the world Ivy’s emotions are so strong that she only wants to keep company with creatures that are devoid of such. Things that can’t confuse her as people do.

A possible complaint is that Ivy herself don’t stand out in this tale. To that I say the following: Does anyone in this tale? Does Gordon really leap out and grab you? Does Batman? Does the criminal duo? No. And the reason why in this instance is that it’s the overall story that is the focus. The story is a meek and quiet one, but it is pretty rock-solid as comics go. The emotions are there, they’re just not as up in your face. Though I will admit that among the roster of characters Ivy is not the one who is the “spiciest” one, it wouldn’t really say much if she was. Not a single one of them is soul-rendering drama bombs in this piece and they don’t need to be.
In addition, I think it fits with her persona that she doesn’t leap out at you because part of the deal is that she is a reserved person. She wants to have as little as possible to do with the world outside, which would fit rather well if my thoughts about how her powers work on herself hold truth. Her affections towards Batman might be because she has suffered several poisonous (hurr) relationships in the past, with him standing out because he just wants to help. I can understand why such a figure could leave an impact on someone who’s tired of hurt.

The artwork certainly doesn’t hurt either. None of the characters are expressionless, and Russel really knows how to play with the comics medium. There’s also that artistic flair to his work that I adore; in the pages where she kisses Batman to its full effect, he just lets the imagination flow and the result is gorgeous. He did a couple of Oscar Wilde adaptations some years ago (I think it was after he did this, but I’m not sure), and I definitely see a little of his Spring in here.

Overall a damn good comic. Definitely worth a read.
...which makes me wonder, why is there no scans of this online? Seriously, I couldn't find a single page floating around, not even on scans_daily. You'd think people would talk a little more about pieces like this.

The killing dollar

about-faces, a guy with considerable knowledge in comic books, says that Harvey has had not one but two Killing Joke-worthy tales. I think he may have had at least four.

Four tales with at least one or two important aspects of TKJ, scattered among several talented authors and artists. The first two are pretty obviously worthy candidates. One explains the madness that would later manifest itself, building up for years until, during highly stressful circumstances, it led to the breakdown of Harvey Dent and the beginning of his career as Two-Face, including how he could’ve risen to power in the criminal underworld; something that was even used for a sort-of, semi-good sequel by Doug Moench. That story is Andrew Helfer’s/Chris Sprouse’s The Eye of the Beholder.

The other uses another of the chore “events” of TKJ (testing a person to see if that person could’ve become oneself) in a way that makes sense only to/with Two-Face, including a brilliant biblical reference that apart from the Batman/Joker dynamic couldn’t have fit anyone else. That is J. Michael Straczsynski’s/Patton’s/Tanghal’s Face to Face to Face to Face.

The ones not mentioned by mr. Hefner are Greg Rucka’s novelization of Batman: No Man’s land (or rather, his entire Harvey-Renee saga) and Frank Miller’s/Klaus Janson’s The Dark Knight Returns.

That first one may be a bit of a stretch. The reason that I mention it is that, well, it plays with something that was Joker’s main reason for going to the steps he did according to the version of himself he thinks he remembers in TKJ: Love. He turns to crime in a hopeless situation to finance a new life for him, his wife and soon to be born child. Rucka’s Harvey is a man (or two?) completely alone. None of his old friends and allies support him. They don’t offer him much attention or hope due to his actions (which, to be fair, is a pretty damn appropriate response), save for the occasional hunt-down and beat-down. Renee is something different: for one thing, both sides of Two-Face grows fond of her; very fond of her. That in itself is rather extraordinary. But love is one of the things Harvey needs if he is gonna have any hope for redemption, which is an aspect both TEOTB, FTFTFTF and TKJ share. A fundamental one, at that. But this story doesn’t have too much in common with TKJ, so maybe I should’ve mentioned the original Two-Face trilogy instead, golden age silliness be damned.

That leads me to the fatalism of TKJ. All hope is long gone, as the Joker exclaims at the end. In the first chapter of The Dark Knight returns, an older Harvey returns to his old ways and forces a long-retired Bruce Wayne back to the Batman-mantle. There, Harvey (and Batman) try to ignore and repress their other sides, sides they can’t quite reconcile with: themselves. Their struggles leads in utter futility, and deep in their hearts, I think they both know what has to be done if their to end the dance: kill themselves. Bruce uses a lot of time thinking about a “good death”, and almost dies twice in the first chapter. Two-Face, due to recklessness and trusting a former associate of Joker with his tools (if you’ve read it, you might remember a few panels where J asks, “What kind of bombs?”), his final heist goes south. Now, earlier on, Harvey was supposedly cured from his ailments. His face repaired, moving on from crime and so forth. But he couldn’t do anything but succumb to his inner demons. Maybe that’s why he, as Batman explains, cares so little for self-preservation: “I think he wants to die.” But does that make Harvey go as far as to do it himself? No. *And the dance continues.*

One could argue that Batman’s (not Bruce’s, but Batman’s) own demon is the Joker. That goes so far that Batman attempts to kill the Joker, but just can’t quite bring himself to do it, even though Joker continues to ruin his life with his mere existence. Batman/Joker is, in other words, like Harvey in that sense. One side sabotaging the other until the other has no choice, and even then can’t make itself take the necessary step; unless the other does what needs to be done for the other side. (And, like I said, Joker’s partly to blame for Harvey’s scheme falling to pieces.)

Someone once said that TKJ is more suitable for a Two-Face story. I can’t help but think that Alan had that in mind when he wrote it. At least that he remembered TDKR.

Zero Points

I used to watch Zero Punctutation until he started talking shit about super heroes.

Criticisms wouldn’t be so bad hadn’t it been for that a video game he undoubtedly loved, a game that moved him emotionally, is whether he wants to admit it or not something that could have come right from DC or Marvel. That game is Infamous 2.

I haven’t played its sequel, but I have played the original Infamous game. It involves an ordinary man getting extraordinary powers of electricity under extraordinary circumstances (a city being declared a no man’s land under questionable circumstances, both government-wise and story-telling-wise) and what he does with his powers. You can choose to become a hero or an ass-hole as the story (mode?) progresses depending on how you behave.

Point is, he’s talking about a genre with snarky comments, saying he doesn’t like it, when he probably does.

And I have this feeling that it is to some extent representative for quite a few critics of this kind of characters. For seriously, so much of any genre of storytelling, fantasy, noir, sci-fi, crime drama, heck, regular drama, can be found within the realms of super heroes. They can be all of those things, and when executed well, they do them good.

Maybe I’m overreacting. And it’s not like his thoughts doesn’t have its basis SOME-where. But I have doubts the guy has knowledge enough to properly dismiss these things.

My first (and possibly only?) post

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been hanging around the excellent about_faces for quite some time and visited the probably-equally-excellent-but-just-haven’t-gotten-to-her-yet dr_von_fangirl a time or two. I am quite the Batman-fan, an interest that despite being seriously challenged by DC comics violent insanity won’t seize any time soon. There is, ultimately, a catch: I have pretty much no one, no one, I can talk Batman with. Not friends, not family, no one. Most Bat-fans around here base their fandom almost solely on the recent movie trilogy by Chris Nolan (sometimes ONLY Dark Knight) and bits of dubbed JLA, JLU and B:TAS. Because of that, their knowledge isn’t as extensive as mine have eventually become.

This post, therefore, will serve as an apology if I end up saying something rolling-your-eyes kind of stupid, and a request to put up with me. Because, well, it’s god damn infuriating to have gathered so much useless info about something that nobody cares about and have no one to share this useless information with. Who actually give a damn. One of my closest friends, for instance, thinks that everyone who isn’t Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Poison Ivy or Joker is a complete waste of time, and hates Watchmen with a passion (mainly because everyone that she knows have read it or seen the movie completely misunderstood both). Another one despises Catwoman, no matter what potential she might have as a character; an impression he has solely from Catwoman in other media.
Doesn’t leave me much of a foundation to hash this out, does it?

As such, I hope I don’t get at your tits. Because I really need to talk about this with someone, and this seems like the best place to start.
Peace to all of you on the international HIV/aids day.
akselavshalom out.
(Oh and, fanatics of English grammar beware, I tend to slip up. A lot. Yee be warned.)