George RR Martin gets top billing — as an editor

Lowball (Wild Cards, #22)Lowball by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not sure what number this is in the Wild Cards series … 22? 23? Over twenty anyhow. I’ve read most of them. They seem to come out in trilogies so I suspect this is the start of another threesome featuring the same group of central characters. Which isn’t to say it’s altogether free of prehistory.

I certainly remember DB (Drummer Boy), Curveball, Earth Witch, Rustbelt, Ghost and a couple of others from the unfortunate sequence based on Survivor or some such. Almost turned me off Wild Cards. Do seriously get tired of giggly, yet somehow ever so sensitive (melodramatic?, sanctimonious?) millennials giving each other hugs and kisses, spouting OMG every third sentence and basically being indistinguishable from one another, nor any of their other equally shallow, hollowed-out “friends”.

Fortunately that doesn’t happen as often as it did in the last threesome. Indeed, it mostly sticks to Carrie Vaughn’s bottom of the foot contribution.

Yes. it’s another ensemble piece in the form of a mosaic novel. Has contributions from at least six different writers, none of them named George RR Martin despite his top billing on the cover. Second billing goes to his longtime co-editor Melina Snodgrass, who does contribute a sequence that’s copyright by Lumina Enterprises LLC.

Presumably they get together, draw up story ark then bring in Wild Card writers to flesh it out according to preset parameters. I’m guessing that it falls to Snodgrass to oversee the project, tying it together and filling in the inevitable gaps with her contribution to the whole enterprise, the ten-part “Galahad in Blue”.

There’s a great deal of yawn-inducing soap opera in this book. That may pass as character development these days but most of it just seems perfunctory, uninspired and not particularly relevant to the storyline. The Ghost character, for example, hardly does anything but what she does do, well …

It’s a shame about Ghost really. She only appears in one sequence, and then only as a secondary character, but she has lots of potential. How can you not be intrigued with a psychopathic preteen with nifty abilities and a thing for sharp blades.

Hers is arguably the best story in a not bad batch. One hopes Ian Tregillis, a writer I’ve appreciated previously, is holding out for a great whack of an upcoming installment featuring her. Too bad Rustbucket isn’t the best lead, though he did good work in an earlier Wild Cards book, set in Africa, where-in he met and ending adopting Ghost.

Overall a bit of a police procedural set in Jokertown. Typically, in addition to incompent copes and their idiotic supervisors, that means guns, lots of them. Some of the writers come up with a few nicely grotesque Jokers with some decent ancillary talents. The pacing is lively and variations of a couple of the chase sequences will probably appear in the next Captain America or Batman movie.

Seems to me the Aces are mostly recycled, though. We’ve seen teleporters before, almost everywhere we go in the grim-dark, fantasy sub-genre these days. Plus, the shape-shifting, paranoiac Sleeper, Croyd Crenson, does a couple of cameos as a presumed tribute to Jack Kirby’s Thing from Marvel’s Fantastic Four. (Which for many started the whole superhero/supervillain bandwagon  that my own Phantacea Mythos jumped on in 1977.)

Have to say I’m looking forward to what I assume will be two more books in this threesome. There’s something very familiar about one of the unnamed characters who survives Lowball and if it’s who I think it is I may have to go to the library for some some early Wild Card books as my collection has suffered from two many moves and trade-ins at the secondhand bookstore.

Three out five stars but nevertheless recommended if only for its promise of what’s to come.

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A good review, considering McPherson didn’t write the book

The Apocalypse Codex (Laundry Files, #4)The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I’ve now read all of the Laundry Files novels. They all have their quirks, including a few excellent lines, but I think this one works best, though I’m still a tad shaky on the whole notion of an Eater of Souls and the True Religion. It does have one of those annoying splits, however: partially written in first person and partially in third. Stross has done this before but seems to have a better grasp on how to handle mixed POVs now than he did before. It’s actually conceivable that he (his first person narrator) could have known enough about what the third person characters are thinking and doing to have written about them with a large degree of, um, believability if that’s a word, credibility if it isn’t. Harkens back to the first book in the series in a few respects, though some of the grotty bits strike me as more David Cronenberg than HP Lovecraft. Don’t want to give anything away but here’s a Brit writing about American evangelists as if they’re evil incarnate. Take that for what it’s worth.

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Disney did know what ‘Tonto’ meant in Spanish after all

Months fly by. Apparently Silver does too — albeit onto collapsing houses and mine shafts, not to mention moving railway cars.

Original artwork from Phantacea Five, drawing by Vince Marchesano et al, 1980

Original artwork from Phantacea Five, drawing by Vince Marchesano et al, 1980

Kirby Sattler's Raven on Head, image taken from web

Design by Kirby Sattler used by Johnny Depp as model for his version of Tonto

Might she be a psychopomp? If so, they don’t outright say so in the Lone Ranger movie.

Don’t tell you what ‘tonto‘ means, either; not explicitly. But at least they did refer to it, albeit not till the end.

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Made mention of the Lone Ranger movie a few months ago on Serendipity and Phantacea (http://www.phantacea.info/seren.htm#manOya). Did a ditto on pHantaBlog. Have now seen it.

Recall at the time virtually every reviewer I read said it was unadulterated crap. Beg to differ. It isn’t unadulterated, as in ‘ Not mingled or diluted with extraneous matter; pure’.

Not sure it’s adulterated crap either: ‘To make impure by adding extraneous, improper, or inferior ingredients.’ The filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing and it wasn’t crap.

Drawing ascribed to Lakota Sioux chief Black Hawk of Wakinya Thunder Beings, c 1880; scanned in from August 2015 issue of Fortean Times

Drawing ascribed to Lakota Sioux chief Black Hawk of Wakinya Thunder Beings, c 1880; scanned in from August 2015 issue of Fortean Times

At least, though it is Disney, they didn’t intend to make it crap. Did intend to make it rollicking good fun along the lines of that other Johnny Depp franchise they produce. The one where he plays Keith Richards as a buccaneer.

Movie ends with a question: “Do you know what Tonto means in Spanish.” Have wondered about this for decades, as it happened. And I knew what it meant.

Kirby Sattler's design side by side with Johnny Depp's Tonto in Lone Ranger movie released by Disney Studios

The two Tontos, images taken from Web after reading an article on Lightning Beings in Fortean Times, August 2015

Straight out of the Serendipity article cited in above ditto link, here’s a different take on subject:

“Guess now I’m going to have to assume the creators of the Lone Ranger weren’t really racist twits when they named him thusly. They meant that Tonto was a highly respected tribal heyoka — a Thunder Cloud Clown.”

Collage prepared by JIm McPherson, 2014, utilizing artwork by Verne Andru and Ricardo Sandoval

Collage prepared by Jim McPherson, 2015, made up of Ricardo Sandoval space backdrop and female sphinx from the cover of “Helios on the Moon”, plus Verne Andru’s Freespirit Nihila, 2012, and old King Cold, 1980

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PVR Perversions — Grimdark Supercreeps

pHantaBlog NOTE: Jim McPherson, the creator/writer of the Phantacea Mythos, doesn’t do confessionals. He does McPhersonals. Sometimes they’re rants. Fortunately those are few and far between. That said, here’s another one.

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Grimdark – NRA-approved Fantasy Genre

Some months ago (November 2014), I prepared a piece for pHantaBlog entitled “All-American Gun Porn – Shot in Vancouver”. (Revisited late last December in Mistletoe Miscellanea.)

In the original I mostly raged on about three ‘superhero’ or ‘fantastical’, albeit not particularly fantastic, TV shows filmed in Vancouver: “Arrow”, “The Flash” and “The 100”.

I’m only moderately surprised to note they’ve been renewed for another season. (Have to say that, given the grimdark death toll in the last specious specimen in particular, it might have to be renamed “The 20”.)

Phantacea Publications logo utilizing a Sun-Moon wooden Carving spotted and shot by Jim McPherson, 2014

Phantacea Publications logo utilizing a Sun-Moon wood carving spotted and shot by Jim McPherson, 2014; taken to represent the Dual Entities during happy times

Also renewed, according to the Web, are two others I mentioned in the same essay: “Gotham” and “Grimm”. They’re gun porn, too. Except their ‘heroes’ are, for the most part, policemen.

The police, in Canada and the USA anyhow, are allowed to carry guns as well as use them; television-typically with deadly force. Unless of course the recipient of said riveting attention might be needed for subsequent episodes.

Or, in the TV-titular case of both Arrow and Flash, who seem to get shot or otherwise incapacitated a lot, albeit without much in the way of repercussions, they’re either immune to lead poisoning or supranormally gifted with a Wolverine-like knack for extremely quick recoveries.

In that regard, without recourse to the Resurrection Pit Arrow even survived Ra’s al Ghul driving a sword though his chest, and out the other side, missing both heart and spine, since the last time I wrote about the show. The explanation, besides ratings, seems to have something to do with cold air and frozen ground.

Good thing al Ghul had the common courtesy to pull out the sword before dropping him onto a cliff’s edge only a few dozen feet down from where he ‘killed’ him. (Dropped him undamaged any more than he already was, I should add. No cracking bones or snapping neck for our hero; not even a mild concussion.)

Whereupon Ra’s left him exposed to kindly elements and Himalayan vultures; ones that turned out to be human good Samaritans who just happened to be in the vicinity. (One of whom had also been thousands of miles away in Vancouver, er Starling City, in the previous scene.)

Be that as it may, back to Grimm and Gotham. According to the lazy logic of television fantasies, cops not only can get away with killing, the shows are set up such that their be-badged protagonists can do just that, get away with what amounts to murder in sensible conversations.

Killing is part of their job description, don’t you know. And, as mentioned in the previous article(s), super — not to mention invariably supercilious — villains in television are best dealt with both deservedly and biblically. (With the same proviso re subsequent episodes.)

Poster to accompany Helios on the Moon press release; utilizes cover from both Phantacea Revisited graphic novels and the three full-length novels making up the Launch 1980 story cycle, prepared by Jim McPherson, 2014

Poster to accompany Helios on the Moon press release; utilizes cover from both Phantacea Revisited graphic novels and the three full-length novels making up the Launch 1980 story cycle

I was prepared to let “Gotham” escape the dreaded (or not), NRA-approved, gun-porn denigration if only because I reckoned there was a lot of Chester Gould’s quirky “Dick Tracy” about it. After all, Tracy got shot a lot too, albeit usually in the left shoulder.

(As recorded in a Wikipedia article, Mad Magazine once counted up 47 times that Gould’s Dick Tracy had been shot in that very same, supposedly non-lethal place.

(In a similar vein, ha, ha, Al Capp famously ventilated Fearless Fosdick, his parody of Tracy in the Li’l Abner strip, much more, um, holistically – as in holey – on a regular basis.)

Rather, Gotham started out that way. Nowadays it seems more about lesser, as in secondary, characters and a few others invented solely for the series (as opposed to those taken from the comics).

Which is understandable given the likes of Jim Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, Harvey thus-far-only-One-Face Dent, Detective also-Harvey Bullock, Selena Kyle, Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, et al, have to live long enough to meet Batman once he gets all brave and bold big enough to don the cape and cowl.

Still, they’re a dull lot. Wouldn’t have made the DC Universe in the first place. Or wouldn’t have lasted long if they had.

BTW, Bruce Wayne appears to be 12 or 13 whereas Selena, the future Catwoman, and Ivy look to be in their slightly later teens, albeit no more than 14 or 15. The expectations, therefore, are obviously for a long series.

Good luck with that. Unless its producers, show-runners and, especially, its writers come up with some much better, as in far more original and intriguingly villainous, cannon fodder, it’ll be gone by Christmas.

The colour side of a postcard Jim McPherson prepared in 2012 as a handout; artwork taken from cover of "Goddess Gambit"; artwork by Verne Andru

The colour side of a postcard Jim McPherson prepared in 2012 as a handout; artwork taken from cover of “Goddess Gambit”; artwork by Verne Andru

(That they made 14 or 15-year old Selena a wanton killer in a recent episode should mean its renewal is cancelled with immediate effect. Should also mean, as a consequence, that its producers are put in jail for deliberate child abuse via role model perversion.

(Too bad neither is very likely to happen. Where’s the Comic Code guy – Fredric Wertham – when we need him?)

In addition to gun porn, these series sadly share what strikes me as a distinct lack of inspired storytelling. When bullets solve everything, that’s to be expected.

Cops are as craven as they are corrupt. (In both Arrow and Gotham lunatic jerks swagger imperiously into cop-shops, pull out their penile pistols, shoot the place up and simply walk away unscathed.) Except when they’re tenacious, that is.

The same batch of boys in blue who cower underneath tables when the really bad guys are popping off, bullets-wise, suddenly gain cojones in Arrow once the overarching plot demands they go after our grimdark hero for being an, um, lawless vigilante. This for the second time in the series.

(And, talk about unimaginative, in a recent Flash chest-zapping CPR is applied not once but twice in the same 40-odd minute episode. Same producer, same stories, I guess. Not hiring creative talent does save on the overhead.)

Overarching plot is Grimm’s saving grace; that, plus some genuinely interesting characters, ones who don’t just use their guns to kill monsters, though they do that too, once in a while. Grimm also has some decent makeup, this despite not much in the way of a special effects budget. Which, in its own way, is a saving grace.

Launch 1980 promo for "Helios on the Moon", artwork by Ricardo Sandoval, 2014

Promo using the cover for the print version of “Helios on the Moon” as digitally tweaked by Jim McPherson, 2014; artwork by Ricardo Sandoval, 2014; based on front cover for pH-3; that’s All of Incain (Ginny the Gynosphinx) beside Helios and Lord Order sneaking up on him from behind;

Contrast that with another superhero-type series I PVR: “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”. It does have a decent budget, apparently, and it’s Marvel-inspired, not DC, which should make for more imaginative fare.

And for the most part it does. Plus, Joss Whedon, the guy behind Buffy, is behind SHIELD as well as the related Avengers’ movies. Yet it hasn’t been renewed for some reason.

Not enough guns and guts (spilled) perhaps? Or maybe it hasn’t got the NRA’s stamp (or stomp) of approval.

Shall have more to say re the relatively recently proclaimed Grimdark Fantasy genre in a future instalment of pHantaBlog.

In the meantime, in terms of my very own Phantacea Mythos anyhow, it doesn’t get much grimmer and darker than “Goddess Gambit”, where it could be (and has been, albeit not by me) argued that the impression’s left no one survives. (Until “Helios on the Moon“, that is.).

Doubt it’d get a stomp of approval, let alone a 21-gun salute. from gun owners, though. That’s due to the pHanta-pHact they’re given the treatment they deserve.

Which is mostly mockery.

8 collages against the back drop of the Louvre's Dual Entities

The Dual Entities are two thousand years old. The ‘Launch 1980’ collages were prepared in 2014.

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Too bad most have to be victims before they can become dangerous

Dangerous Women 2Dangerous Women 2 by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Needing a break from Terry Brooks I took a chance on a collection of short stories. I tend to avoid the format but this one was in part edited by George RR Martin so I bought it anyhow.

He wrote the best vampire book I can recall reading, “Fevre Dream”, and “Armageddon Rag”, which I seem to recall combined Jim Morrison with Robert Johnson in terms of having one of those perhaps spurious crossroads connections. Plus, he’s the main man behind the Wild Cards series, which I’ve been reading since its inception howsoever many years ago now (1987, according to his website).

None of his stories are in this collection but there is a Wild Cards sequence. It features the Amazing Bubbles, Hoodoo Mama and the former’s daughter Pumpkin. (Sorry, Adesina, who seems to an insectoid version of Gustave Moreau’s Sphinx in New York’s Met Museum.) Too bad it lacks a proper ending but, hey, that lack leads me to suspect it’s deliberate, a teaser; that there’s a new series of Wild Card books on the way, which I’d welcome.

The title suggests what I’m loathe to repeat for fear of spoilers. However, one theme seems to be that before they became dangerous women they had to have been victims. This can get a little tiresome as it’s very Biblical. Do bad to me and I’ll do bad to you; except that’ll make me a hero whereas you’ll deserve what you get, you swine. No less than 5 of the 7 stories involves rape, so be warned.

Even the novella-length Diana Gabaldon Outlander prequel, the best of not a bad lot, loses its oddly good-natured, semi-swashbuckling, having a romp in pre-revolutionary France, quality by resolving some unfinished business that I didn’t realize was unfinished until it got finished.

There are a couple of misses. I’d forgotten I’d come across S.M. Stirling’s work before. He’s a competent writer but his attitude toward capital punishment is appalling. Can never be justified, as far as I’m concerned. The Sam Sykes story strives too hard for a twist ending and the contribution from Sharon Kay Penman is mostly a straightforward rendition of Britannica history, more essay than story.

I might consider picking up Dangerous Women 1 someday. Lev Grossman’s Magicians might also be worth looking at judging from the humourous piece in this collection. Not sure the world needs an American Harry Potter, though, albeit one written by a man and featuring a female college student studying magic at an Unseen University, but if the tone holds it might not hurt it either.

Not a high recommendation, somewhat disappointing given it’s got Martin’s name on the cover, but might be worthy of a purchase at a used bookstore.

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Oh, Shannara — Let the Quest Qommensss

Ilse Witch (Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, #1)Ilse Witch by Terry Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve a mental category for books that make for reliable reading on the beach or at least outdoors when you’re having a lazy day. They’re the kind of books I probably wouldn’t use to read myself to sleep because they work so well I’d never finish it. But if you’ve ridden your bike to a park or somewhere with a view, walked to a beach or perhaps rented a cabin with lights but no U-Tube or TV, they’re ideal.

Among the Canadians I consider reliable reads in the fantasy genre I include Guy Gavriel Kay (although he’s been going through a bad patch of late with Ysabel and his China fantasy Under Heaven), Steven Ericson, Dave Duncan and, even if he was only born here, Stephen Hunt.

Internationally I particularly like Mark Chadbourn and Paul Doherty, though I stay away from his historical novels if they’re written in the first person. Although somewhat of a guilty pleasure, I’ve often turned to Terry Brooks for summer or vacation reading.

Mostly I’ve read his Magic Kingdom of Landover series. They’re light, not too moralistic, slightly quirky and standalone. I’ve been reluctant to take on his Shannara series, though For one thing there are so many of them. For another they’re put out in threesomes or foursomes.

“Isle Witch” is first book in “The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara” trilogy. The titular character is a bad person but she’s young and obviously been misled. If redemption is in store for her, which it probably is, well, it’s going to take some doing. (Guess that’s why it’s a trilogy.)

You can tell the real bad guys because they’re cold-hearted lizard sorts who speak with seriously serpentine sss-sibilance. You can also tell who the good guys are going to be straightaway, who will be providing the cannon fodder (usually the good guys. best buds) and who might survive for at least one book (they’re usually female and/or noble warriors).

It’s a creature-feature, full of predictable confrontations but the monsters are well realized and hungry. It’s magic-laden, hence also full of the seemingly mandatory elves, dwarfs, witches, warlocks and the occasional flawed precog seer, a character and an ability I generally disapprove of. Still and all it’s unchallenging entertainment; perfect for a relaxing read so long as you’re not looking for anything you’ve never seen, or read, before.

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Return of the Crazy White Ugly Ones, with Tentacles

The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files, #1)The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have to admit I much prefer the fantasy or historical mystery genres to science fiction. Quite frankly I distrust the “science”, or more accurately “pseudo-science”, so often presented in the genre. And that’s the main drawback of this novel and the accompanying novella, “The Concrete Jungle”.

It’s a stretch to suspend disbelief when the author strives ever so earnestly to get us to believe he isn’t writing a load of rubbish. Perhaps that’s why he writes at such a pace. Hard of get bogged down when you’re traveling at speed.

Nevertheless, while mixing the so-called hard science of nuclear physics with Lovecraft shouldn’t work, it kind of does. Even relying on Lovecraft, never a personal fave, shouldn’t appeal but it’s familiar territory so doesn’t require great swathes of back story. The crazy white ugly ones, with tentacles, are expected and even welcome.

In my view using first person narrative should have automatically disqualified the book for purchase but I heard about it from a reliable source so I succumbed — and made it to the end, of both novel and novella, with a fair amount of enjoyment. Which almost qualifies it for a fourth star. Almost, not quite.

It also purports to be Horror and in a way it is, but it doesn’t wallow in disgust by overdoing the gore and hasn’t too many stomach-churning Alien moments. No barf bucket by the bed or beach chair required.

By declaring a debt to Len Deighton, whom I haven’t read in decades, it additionally wants to fit into the Spy genre. Seems, all-in-all, an invitation to a car crash but while it does at times tip-toe along the precipice it somehow manages to avoid falling into a morass of yuck.

What contrarily saves this ambitious mishmash is the humour. It’s British, so it can get somewhat obscure — I missed a lot of the references — but the tone seems about right. Not too snarky or even overly smart-ass. Plus some truly heinous sorts get properly put paid to along the way. Almost a cheery moment.

I guess there are advantages to having a Demogorgon of the Depths type as your boss after all. So long as he’s on the side of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, that is.

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Discworld Valedictory Novel? Not a bad way to go out

Raising Steam (Discworld, #40)Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have to admit I might be a tad generous in the stars. This book feels like a valedictory, a tragicomic ending to one of the most enjoyable series ever written. Steam trains on Discworld work, I’m happy to report, but I’m not sure how dwarfs would feel about being equated with Islamic extremists. Seems a bit rude, to the dwarfs.
A lot of the good old boys are back (the ramrod-straight copper who only looks the other way when it’s convenient, the adrenalin-charged scoundrel Pratchett seems so fond of, the mucky capitalist, the tyrant who really has to be allowed to kill once in awhile just to keep him happy). Their wives get mentioned but other than the Muck-Meister’s prissily proper Victorian Age type, they don’t play much of a role.
True as well, some of Pratchett’s good old girls are completely absent (Lady Death Susan, the three witches). The tyrant’s lady friend, a vegetarian vampire of some sort, makes an appearance, as do a few of the Watch and wizardly favourites but Rincewind only gets a mention. No soccer playing orcs this time but plenty of golems, albeit mostly for plot resolution purposes.
The flippant tone is there for the most part but somehow the always eagerly anticipated, laugh-out-loud moments got left behind in just about every other book in the series. Nevertheless it is a Discworld novel and there’s no place quite like Discworld. I wanted more but I got enough, so I’m recommending it.

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Not all that secret anymore

The Secret DoctrineThe Secret Doctrine by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For many years folks have said there was a lot of H.P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine in the Phantacea Mythos. Since I’d never read it I always poo-poohed the notion. Some time ago, while on a book buying quest for something a least ostensibly non-fictional I spotted this version, which was abridged and annotated by Michael Gomes.It’s relatively short at 255 pages and has a decent index so I picked it up and recently finished it.

Have to say that, as far as this sort of thing goes, it’s no Manly P Hall, whom I have used as a reference. No Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends either. It certainly didn’t strike me as all that insightful but that could be the abridgement, too much sacrificed for brevity. As for the annotations, there could have been a whole lot more.

Then again Blavatsky herself spends most of the second part of the book providing her own annotations in the form of commentary. It’s actually more interesting than the Secret Doctrine itself, which certainly traffics in admittedly unknowable, ages ago and far, far from now speculation. I’ll keep it on my shelf but don’t expect it’ll need to be chained there. It’s all bit ho-hum.

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All-American Gun Porn – Shot in Vancouver

pHantaBlog NOTE: Jim McPherson, the creator/writer of the Phantacea Mythos, doesn’t do confessionals. He does McPhersonals. Sometimes they’re rants. Fortunately those are few and far between.
That said, here’s another:

 

 Screen Psychos Purportedly of the Superhero Persuasion

Have to admit that, with the exception of a few Green Lantern collections, it’s going on a quarter century since I last bought a superhero comic book. Sooth additionally said, though I’ve produced a couple of my own latterly, albeit of the anheroic variety and not always supranormally populated, I’ve purchased only a couple of dozen, if that, graphic novels in that time and them mostly to give away as presents.

I still love the comic book medium, do most of my shows at comicons, and spend most of my fiction-reading time immersed in the fantasy genre. However, like most folks, I get the majority of my superhero fix watching television. And most of that is on what we in Canada know as the CW network, a couple of which also show up on MuchMusic, SPACE and Showcase.

CW combines the first letters of CBS and Warner in its logo; they’re the network’s corporate backers. I gather it targets a mostly male audience, though its predecessors, WB and UPN, did manage to produce Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: Voyager, which weren’t just for nerdy men IMHO.

I first came across CW because it showed Smallville and Supernatural. Since both series were made in and around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, I got an extra visceral kick out of identifying the locales of various scenes. I gave up on Supernatural once it got religion a number of years ago, but have often started watching a series just because it shot locally.

Some didn’t last, mostly because they weren’t very good. (No names please, we’re Canadian.) Then again some did last despite the fact they weren’t very good. (Ditto.) To my mind a few successes or semi-successes that came and went include the aforementioned Smallville, Battlestar Galactica, Sanctuary, Continuum and the various Stargate incarnations.

Three that are with us today are Arrow, The Flash and The 100. Ask me, each and every one of these last are gun porn.

So the Arrow has turned over a new leaf. He’s not going to kill anymore. Rather, he’s not going to kill anyone anymore with arrows. Send him to some Caribbean hot spot — more opportunities for even more skin — and he’ll happily kill with a gun, though, and by the dozen.

He jokes(?) about it: “I never said I couldn’t use guns, just that I didn’t.” Then, since today’s heroes have to be NRA-approved killers at heart, there are flashback sequences wherein he’s some sort of assassin working for the Suicide Squad’s head honcho, unless it’s honchess.

Over in The Flash, Weather Wizard and Multiple Man get shot dead, both casualties of lazy writing. How else can you end a TV show featuring superheroes except biblically? Can’t put them in jail on account of they’re so awfully powerful they’ll just escape and that would never do.

And I do mean awfully, as in awful. Captain Cold is a heartless, mass murderous, career criminal. He seemingly uses regular guns, as well as a gadget gun, for no other reason that super-villains in the USA have to be, you know, irredeemably evil in order to qualify for our hero’s invariably reluctant attention.

Heat-Wave, or whatever his name is going to be, is no doubt on the way. Maybe he won’t use a gun but, boy, I bet you can CGI some truly gruesome burns these days. My only hope is he melts bullets so the producers will have to come up with a better way to dispose of him.

A flash flood, perhaps, ha-ha. Make that a tsunami. Should provide a super-spectacular, season (if maybe not series) ending finale. Look out, Downtown Vancouver. You may have survived the end of Arrow’s first season – or was that Chinatown? – but The Flash promises to fix you up good and proper this time.

Hopefully it’ll cost him a couple of his (not so) terrific team members. But, hey, that’s what’s bound to happen to loyal, howsoever good-looking, not to mention goody-two-shoes, cannon fodder. There’s always more where they came from; ones cut from the same mould, too, from the looks of them.

Got to find work for a few visible minorities in this enlightened day and age don’t you know.

Speaking of a second Great Flood, how about The 100? True, its ending was nuclear, not watery; rather, its beginning was nuclear. But its setting is post Apocalypse. So is that of Falling Skies, which is also shot in Vancouver: post-apocalyptic, though its end-beginning is/was alien invasion.

Their characters – if that isn’t a misnomer – aren’t superheroes per se, at least not yet, but their antics are definitely intended to be super-heroic. Plus, there’s a superfluity of gun porn common to both … and gratuitous torture … and untrustworthy adults, baby baby-boomers for the most part … and beautifully buff, young people who wear tatters very stylishly.

Over-wear tatters, put better, since their underwear always appears very well, um, maintained; not to mention uplifting, designed to flatter. Very impressive in the mud and blood, tats and persistent scarring departments, too. Quality makeup, if nothing else.

Which is also what they are character-wise — nothing else, least of all interesting. Or, to be less dismissive, how about wooden, humourless, and oh, ever so sincere. Which means they hug a lot, either before of after they go on a killing spree, fancy weaponry blazing loud and rapidly.

Good thing there’s no more shortage of ammunition in post-apocalyptic times than there is of supportive smalls, to use a strange George RR Martin word I’d never come across before Game of Thrones. Must make the NRA as happy as End-of-Days Evangelicals.

No time to get going on Hellraiser or Dominion or Gotham or Grimm, though the latter two are still on my PVR list. They’re not shot in Vancouver but that won’t stop me from rave, rage, ranting about them at some other time should the urge hit.

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