Mollycoddling Millennials

Herewith carrying on from previous pHantaBlog submission(s) by Jim McPherson, creator/writer of the Phantacea Mythos.

Don’t call him cynical; he’s just sensitive about the unimaginative deterioration of his chosen genre. Perhaps if he played video games or went to the movies more often he might sound more approving.

As a public service, the Free Dictionary defines millennial as “a member of the generation born from the early 1980s to late 1990s, especially in the United States and Canada; a member of Generation Y.”

And if you’re wondering who or what Generation X is, well, from the same source comes this very disturbing definition:

1. (Sociology) members of the generation of people born between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s who are highly educated and underemployed, reject consumer culture, and have little hope for the future


The Free Dictionary has no definition for grimdark but ‘Know your meme’ does (too bad it doesn’t say what ‘meme’ means):

Grimdark is an adjective used to describe a setting or situation in a fictional work that is considered dark, depressive, violent or edgy”


http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Grimdark presents a lengthy entry on ‘grimdark’ whereas Wikipedia’s entry is only slightly shorter.  One of the definitions found therein brings to mind Freespirit Nihila and the pHanta-pHavourite term ‘anheroic‘.

“Liz Bourke considered grimdark’s defining characteristic to be “a retreat … into a kind of nihilism that portrays right action (…) as either impossible or futile”. This … has the effect of absolving the protagonists as well as the reader from moral responsibility.”

All in all, very discouraging. At least, as a kind of happy news counterweight, Queen Elizabeth just turned 89.

Too bad, since clearly she’s actually a lizard, Lizzy’s ever so appropriately named.

The Queen of England is secretly a lizard according to Fortean Times in 1999

Slightly altered cover from Fortean Times #129; more covers are here: http://www.theguardian.com/media/gallery/2013/nov/11/fortean-times-covers#img-7

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Millennial Checklist for Super Grimdark Fantasy TV

  1. OMG variations: minimum 3 times per episode;
  2. Hugs: minimum twice per episode, preferably more; always after a massacre;
  3. Smiles: guys only smile to appear goofy; gals only smile when they greet their guys;

    3 comic book covers incorporated in ad for Phantacea Publications

    Covers for pH-2 (Gordon Parker), pH-3 (Richard Sandoval), and 4-Ever&40 (Ian Fry, Ian Bateson), all of which figure in “Helios on the Moon”

  4. Embrace the stereotype; series can be cancelled at any time so why waste authorial brain cells seeking to rise above the tried and true;
  5. Recall consequential importance of cookie-cutter characters; gals who look good in tight dresses should be interchangeable between action series;
  6. Since scolds are mandatory in suchlike invariably deadly serious affairs, scowls and frowns must be practised endlessly in mirrors; it’s called acting because, OMG knows, the only other thing that counts besides good looks is an ability to give good grunts;
  7. Shirts off: buff men once an episode, fit women as often as possible; bras uplifting, cleavage-enhancing, coloured, but opaque, and reinforced (presumably with Kevlar, given short lifespan of girlfriends in most series), the better for nipple-suppression; suck in those abs, guys, flex them biceps; emphasize the tattoos, the brighter the better;
  8. Heart-to-heart talks essential, at least twice an episode; that’s what motherly and fatherly characters are for, but only if they’re hot; recall, they’re likely to be killed earlier rather than later for purposes melodramatic, as well as budgetary, so make the most of them while you’ve got them;

    Black and white promo ad for The War of the Apocalyptics as part one of the Launch 1980 story cycle

    Black and white promo ad for “The War of the Apocalyptics” as the opening entry in the Launch 1980 story cycle

  9. Best friends can be boy and girl – really (super TV is Fantasyland after all); as such they’re allowed to heart-to-heart, usually after one says to other: “Want to Talk about It?” (hopefully not while texting);
  10. No matter how frequent, heart-to-hearts must be kept short — or not, dependent on budget (despite how lousy they sometimes look, SFX are expensive);
  11. Heart-to-hearts act as important breathers between action sequences, allow opportunity to maintain hugs quota and either aren’t readily available in video games or else get in the way of the next kill-for-points moment; be sure to end with: “I’m always here for you”;
  12. Humour not allowed in actioneers; if attempted, make sure it’s American-style, which by definition isn’t funny anymore (and probably hasn’t been since before Reagan, whoever that was);
  13. Laughter frowned upon, literally — see above point re practising in mirrors; laughing not cool, though occasional chortle permissible; almost always attempts at making jokes must be dismissively deemed as “Lame”;
  14. Kill, yes; best with NRA-approved weaponry; but don’t gloat — only villains gloat (when they’re not sneering, snorting or, OMG-forbid, scorning the good guys guff-awfully); unless it’s after a keyboard-battle, that is, see next point;

    Collage and covers indicative of action recounted in "Nuclear Dragons"

    Mr No Name collage prepared by Jim McPherson, 2014; pH-7 cover, incomplete, by Ian Bateson, 1980; pHz1 #1 cover, the Mighty Eye-Mouth in the Sky by Ian Bateson, 1985

  15. Cell phones, yes; tablets, yes; computers, of course, but concentrate on how fast fingers flash across keyboards; never show what’s on screen because numbers are boring;
  16. Hacking’s dead easy – but any yob can hack, N Korea proved that, so don’t overdo it;
  17. When fighting by electronic proxy, ball fists and pump often; say “Yes” & “Gotcha” a lot; when win, stand up, point trigger finger at screen and spout “You lose, dirt bag!” like big macho bully you are when it comes to ’puters;
  18. Use sparingly, though, as even ad-target Millennials find keyboard battles, when filmed, tedious; never forget: in real world keyboards are meant to be played; they’re not shot, let alone used to write anything (men and, occasionally, women of action never write anything anyhow; don’t read, either, unless it’s about “celebrity celery”);
  19. Sex, good; pregnancy, impossible; condoms, who needs ’em? – hence why “dirt bag” always preferred to “scum bag”; bare backs, sexy; only for Millennials, though; over thirties having sex is yucky, over forties positively obscene, cause for cancellation;
  20. Ridiculousness never ridiculed, given whole situation is likely ridiculous to start;

    Covers and/or splash panels reflecting action recounted in "Helios on the Moon"

    Front covers for pH-2 and pH- 4Ever&40 graphic novel bracketing splash panel from pH3; artwork by Gordon Parker, 1978; Peter Lynde, 1978; and the two Ians, Fry and Bateson, 1990

  21. “America!”, must be said with pride, chest-thumping optional, once or twice an episode (lest anyone think show’s filmed anywhere else, even if it is); never the US or the States; only use USA lightly, as in “good old U S of A”;
  22. Never acknowledge Canada or Mexico, implicitly they’re part of America!; when not entry points for drug dealers, super villains or terrorists, that is;
  23. Secondary characters are cannon fodder; don’t get too attached to them; minorities die first, that’s what they’re there for; blacks get done away with straightaway but don’t single them out overly much, plenty of Hispanics and Asians available; native Indians not allowed, except as supplemental bad guys;
  24. Heroes never real heroes until after first kill; always make a big deal about not wanting to kill but, you know, sometimes it can’t be avoided since heroes never walk away from a fight for fear of having their series cancelled too quickly;
  25. For heroes, killing should appear to be in self-defence, me or them, didn’t have a choice — but that’s mostly so you don’t have to agonize about it for too many minutes, let alone episodes, afterwards;
  26. Heroes can never be brought to justice because they are just that, Justice; anyone can get away with murder so long as they’re recurring characters; villains should always be referred to not as evil (too religious?), but by that truly offensive Americanism ‘the bad guys’;
  27. Just to be doubly confirmatory, make sure that’s how they’re depicted: as unequivocally, over-the-top, irredeemable;
  28. Recall, the only time the US wins a war on anything is on TV, in the movies or in the occasional book (which Millennials don’t read anyhow, perhaps due to writers using too many syllables), so don’t disappoint.

    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

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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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