Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Ideal Justice League Lineup

Comic book nerds like me often have their favourite team line-ups, often based on the team's composition during the golden age, i.e., the golden age of the comic-loving kid, between ages 6 to 12 or so. For me, my team was the Justice League of America and my line-up was the 1970s league, or as it's often called the "Satellite League" because they operated out of the Justice League satellite orbiting Earth. At this time the League included most of the icons: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and secondary favourites including the Atom, Black Canary, the Elongated Man, Red Tornado, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Green Arrow, and, later, Firestorm and Zatanna. 

I grew out of comics in my very early teens but then returned to them in my late teens, thanks mostly to Stephen Fitzpatrick and his steadfast refusal to shun certain pursuits just because some people regard them as childish. I started reading comics again in late high school and continued reading them throughout university up until...well, now, basically. So I've seen quite a few different Justice Leagues, my second-favourite almost certainly being the hilarious yet dramatic Giffen/DeMatteis League of the late 1980s/early 1990s. It's weird to think of this team as updated and modern considering their adventures are now decades in the past, but this was the first JLA since the Crisis on Infinite Earths that had upset the DC universe's status quo. This new League had a couple of old mainstays like Batman and Black Canary, but also brought aboard New Gods like Mr. Miracle and Big Barda, new-ish character Booster Gold, Earth-4 transplants the Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, Earth-2 transplant Dr. Fate, a new and churlish Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, former Global Guardians Fire and Ice, and an evolving assortment of new and rebooted characters. 

As enjoyable as those stories and teams were, though, I always felt that they could be improved upon with the addition of certain characters and the subtraction of others. Like any fan, I imagined how awesome it would be to have a Justice League composed only of my favourite characters without the distractions of the ones I found annoying. (Mature readers understand the importance of not being pandered to, but this thought experiment is about wish fulfilment.) Think of it as fantasy football or fantasy baseball, but for geeks. 

So, without further ado, the JLE, or Justice League of Earl: 

Of course Superman is going to be on my team. He's the prototypical superhero, the embodiment of truth and justice. His boy scout attitude is both inspirational and provides more pragmatic team members with a source of frustration and amusement. Plus his powers are fun to explore - always versatile and interesting, if written properly. 

Wonder Woman
The prototypical superheroine is a great match for Superman, with a fascinating mythological backstory and a compelling dichotomy between loving compassion and ruthless warrior instincts. 

Green Lantern
As in the superb Justice League animated series, I'd go with John Stewart rather than Hal Jordan or one of the other Earth Lanterns. But I'd make sure to return him to his roots as an architect with a love of Streisand, rather than the stereotypical US Marine he's characterized as these days. 

The Atom
Every team needs a brilliant scientist, and Ray Palmer not only fills that role, he's a great catalyst for adventures at the subatomic level, for that, of course, is the Atom's super-power. He's also Jewish, which adds a touch of diversity. 

Green Arrow
Angry 1970s diehard liberal Green Arrow was the social conscience of the League, and he could be again. 

Black Canary
She has guts, brains, she's tough, sexy, determined, incredibly skilled and passionate, and her bickering with the Green Arrow is often a lot of fun. 

The Elongated Man
I like Ralph because he's often underestimated. His stretching power is a little goofy, but people forget that he's a fine detective. He also has a public, rather than a secret, identity, and he's married, which has, in the past, led to some fun domestic drama. 

Every team needs a mystic, and Zatanna has an interesting backstory, a funky gimmick (the backwards spells), and a tragic past. She's the gateway to stories of myth and magic. 

As a composite of two people - a young jock and a middle-aged scientist - Firestorm combines atomic angst with the pressures of growing up and a very interesting surrogate father/son dynamic. Plus his powerset is very cool and unusual. 

Red Tornado
Red Tornado's 1970s look is one of the great character designs of the era, and like Firestorm, he has a versatile and interesting powerset. He's also an android built by a League enemy, which offers fertile storytelling possibilities. 

Black Lightning
Schoolteacher Jefferson Pierce is one of my favourite characters, an angry black man straight out of the blaxploitation era. Another hero with a great costume design and cool powers, Black Lightning comes with a tragic past to rival Batman's. 

Blue Beetle
Ted Kord was a great source of humour in the 80s League; he's also a rich guy with a lot of high-tech toys. He's sort of like Batman, but less troubled. 

Doctor Light
The first Doctor Light was a villain, but Kimiyo Hoshi took the name (and a similar costume) during the Crisis, and joined the 80s League a few years later. She's a single mother and a medical doctor, as well as a healthy dose of offputting arrogance. 

Captain Atom
Great powers, fantastic "costume" (really a shell of alien metal), excellent supporting characters and a military mindset, which works nicely in opposition to liberal characters like Green Arrow and Superman. 

Tomorrow Woman
Another android created by the same villain who built Red Tornado, Tomorrow Woman appeared in only one issue of JLA in the 90s - but it was such a great story that I'd find a way to bring her back. Fun, upbeat, heroic and self-sacrificing, she'd make a great counterpoint to the more dour Red Tornado. 

Bronze Tiger
A fearsome martial artist and reformed member of the evil League of Assassins. 

The Question
Faceless conspiracy theorist and a great foil for some of the more naive characters. Fantastic character design and great for the urban milieu. 

Jonah Hex
Yes, he's from the Wild West, but he's no stranger to time travel, and he'd be hilariously out of place in the Justice League. 

So that's my list. I think I could get a pretty solid two or three year run out of these guys. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ascension Anticipation

Now this looks interesting. In a few weeks the SyFy channel will premiere Ascension, a new SF miniseries presenting an alternate reality in which the United States launches a secret interstellar voyage. I'm particularly taken by the goofy and yet amazingly cool starship, which features nothing less then a Saturn V rocket as its centrepiece. The show could turn out to be amazingly dumb, but I'm a sucker for both alternate history stories and space opera, so I'll be tuning in. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Therapy Dogs Could Send Me to Therapy

The Edmonton International Airport has introduced "therapy dogs" as a means of calming passengers stressed out by air travel. This is framed as a good-news story and so far the comments are all overwhelmingly positive.

"My spirits are up for sure. It just brings me happiness," gushes one interviewee. "And my face is cleaner because she licked all the things off."


I understand that people who don't like dogs are viewed with the same sort of suspicion and unease as, say, supporters of ISIS. What sort of monster could possibly object to our furry friends, these adorable creatures who offer nothing but unconditional love?

We exist. And I really don't object to the program so much as I do to the blithe assumption that everyone is going to LOVE this idea. The newspaper story is completely unbalanced - there's not even a word about allergies, for example, never mind people who simply don't like dogs.

I don't expect to be pandered to, and generally speaking I agree that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. If therapy dogs will genuinely help 99 percent of travellers reduce their stress levels, then by all means therapy dogs should be welcomed at our airports.

But as a person who is both severely allergic to and scared of dogs, this program will make my travel more stressful. I don't like it, but I'll live with it. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fast Company, Familiar Faces

Today I watched David Cronenberg's 1979 drag-racing movie, Fast Company. I watched it for two reason: Cronenberg is a great director and I hope to one day see all of his films (I've seen about 75 percent of them at this point), and I heard that it was filmed in Edmonton.

Fast Company is a solid B-movie and worth watching just to see well-known character actors John Saxon and William Smith deliver their typically passionate performances, but it's especially interesting for Albertans, who will recognize Highway 2, Jasper National Park, the old Edmonton International Speedway, a Western Drug Mart (remember those?), Doug Main playing himself as an ITV newscaster, Michael Bell (from those annoying Brick commercials) playing a reporter from Spokane, Chuck Chandler as the race announcer, and Whyte Avenue circa the late 1970s, with the Princess Theatre prominent (doubling as a street in Spokane). There are also glimpses of 630 CHED's old logo and an Edmonton Oilers sign.

What's even more interesting is that Alberta isn't just a shooting location, but most of the movie (aside from a side trip to Washington state, still shot in Alberta) actually takes place in Edmonton and environs. It's kind of a kick to imagine that John Saxon hung around, and neat to hear Michael Smith say "Wouldn't you rather come back to Edmonton and race with me?" The exciting climax features a funny car chasing a light plane, which crashes into a semi-trailer right on the raceway. If something like that really happened in Edmonton, it would stay on the news for a decade.

On a related note, I followed Fast Company with Cronenberg's other 1979 feature, The Brood. Talk about a complete whiplash in tone, content and impact. Zowie. Let's just say if you're going to run a double bill like I just did, be prepared for some strange dreams afterwards. I certainly am.