Vexatious Nonentities?

Wash that birdbrain’s mouth out with soapstone

Was going to use the word ‘nebbishes’ but online dictionary objected (wrongly, as it happens) but even when it’s defined as “a pitifully ineffectual, inept, and timid person” it still implies they exist.
As this telltale sequence from “Decimation Damnation” reveals, that’s not necessarily so in the case of Stone Gnomes:
The girls had been terrified of Dervish Furie, with his horns and fangs, but had taken an immediate liking to Jervis Murray, he with his darkish, though not altogether jet-black skin and still thick but now trimmed beard. They were in charm mode; were competing with each other trying to tell him how matter transducers kept working despite the fact no one in Cabalarkon knew how to make, let alone service, one anymore. He was distracted, was forever looking around for Wilderwitch, who had yet to show up, and missed most of what Harry’s youngest, Athena, was saying.
“What was that again, Tina? What’re stone gnomes?”
“Gnomes made of stone, silly,” the 6-year old repeated.
“They’re what keeps everything going, Uncle Monster,” elaborated 12-year old Helen, who liked to sound superior and could be quite rude. “Tinny thinks she saw one this morning in the old palace.”
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Which, since she thought she saw it in a refrigerator while ‘stealing’ ice cream as well as for those of you don’t follow Phantacea Publications on Facebook (pHantacea on pHacebook), brings us to this, a variation of which also appeared recently on Serendipity and …:

A mite nippy out there, eh? And not just in the dying days of what’s been passing for summer in Vancouver. Great start, though … in May.

Phantacea Publications's photo.
Phantacea Publications's photo.
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 And this, also from (pHantacea on pHacebook):

Is that a stone gnome on the cover of JLA 15?

Image may contain: 1 person
Neither of which tells us that stone gnomes actually exist. Something does, though, hence — hopefully without giving too much away — this sequence, also from DecDam:
Wilderwitch was still silently cogitating … when they arrived at Raven’s digs. She wasn’t as swift as Johnny or Raven were to realize the walls were no longer the mess she and Furie had made of them; were in fact back to being as good as new. Was barely swift enough to pick up on the significance of Raven’s exclamatory squawks. Wash that birdbrain’s mouth out with soapstone she was thinking when Sundown made another observation.
“And if they’re demons, they’re shape-shifters.”
“Wait a minute there,” the Witch protested. “You’re suggesting I’m a demon?”
“Not at all,” said Sundown, regarding her querulously, through Raven’s eyes and with her perspective. “Should we have been?”
“Of course not. What were you saying then? I must have missed it.”
“Only that stone gnomes must have fixed the walls and stone gnomes have to be demons. Demons are shape-shifters.”
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Much more on Stone Gnomes can be found by using the search engines on www.phantacea.com and pH-Webworld
Screen shot from the Welcoming Page of phantacea.com as of Saturday, August 4, 2016

Wilderwitch goes into labour with “Decimation Damnation”, the first mini-novel extracted from the open-ended saga

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“Infantilize”, “infantilized” and “infantilizing” are words, apparently

How do I know that? From the National Post, Canada’s argument against freedom of the press. See, to put its title succintly: “Infantilized” nature of genre fiction

I looked up “infantilize” on the Free Dictionary and got this:

in·fan·til·ize

(ĭn′fən-tl-īz′, ĭn-făn′-)

tr.v. in·fan·til·ized, in·fan·til·iz·ing, in·fan·til·iz·es

1. To treat or condescend to as if still a young child: The Victorian physician infantilized his patient” (Judith Moore).
2. To reduce to an infantile state or condition: “It creates a crisis that infantilizes them—causes grown men to squabble like kids about trivial things” (New Yorker).

in·fan′til·i·za′tion (-ĭ-zā′shən) n.
Logo reads Phantacea Anheroic Fantasy Illustrated

Anheroic Fantasy Illustrated – Phantacea logo

The article that inspired such simply scintillating research is actually, if awkwardly, entitled:

Simon Pegg is right, geeky genre fiction usually IS childish, even when it’s also something more

While I’ll admit to having heard his name before, I’d have to resort to Google to find out what movies Pegg’s appeared in. Can’t say I’ve ever heard of the article’s author, Daniel Kaszor, though.

However, a couple of his lines struck me as apropos considering some past pHantaBlog posts, notably here, here and here.

Flyer prepared for April 2014 launch of "Cataclysm Catalyst", the second Phantacea Revisited graphic novel

Flyer prepared for April 2014 launch of “Cataclysm Catalyst”, the second Phantacea Revisited graphic novel

One that stuck out, since it seems to apply directly to the National Post’s living saint, the Tar Party’s Chief Blue Nasty, is as follows:

“… in the superhero genre … characters are very explicitly given almost god-like powers. It’s a very simple fantasy to want to just be able to punch the world better.”
Which isn’t to say the article’s about Canada’s current and, sadly, stunningly long-serving Prime Minister. It’s (nominally) about the fantasy genre, if not explicitly the grimdark aspect of it.
covers for Damnation Brigade graphic novel

Front and back covers for the upcoming Damnation Brigade graphic novel; artwork by Ian Bateson, 2012; touch-up by Chris Chuckry, 2012; prepared by Jim McPherson, 2013

And that derives almost entirely from the celebrity celery pandered to by today’s mainstream media, genre television, video games and society’s seemingly resultant need for instant gratification to go along with a severely reduced attention span.

Here’s the Pegg quote that tops the article:
“I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science-fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and thinks we’ve been infantilized by our own taste.” — Simon Pegg
And here’s the writer’s gravy atop the article’s meat and potatoes:

“… more modern fans of genre fiction want to read … “realistic” heroes through a childish mindset.

“And that’s part of what Simon Pegg was griping about — even when presented in an adult manner, genre has a way of being pre-chewed and regurgitated back in such a way that renders much of the nuance moot — signifiers such as brutal violence and grey morals reinterpreted as being cool instead of troubling — making the end product even more childish than the sanitized basic version.”

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

Which echoes Point #4 in the pre-Mithramas Mistletoe Miscellanea posting, the reference being to two of the Gun Porn TV shows made in Vancouver that have since been renewed:

“As to using arrows as implements of torture, using arrows for anything except killing and target practise, there are such things as arteries. Pierce a Captain Boomerang where Arrow hit him, evidently just because he deserved it, and, sorry Flash, it’s not a joking matter.”

So, go to any of the lynx highlighted in blue above and spend some quiet, unhurried, but satisfying time having a read or re-read.

Ian Bateson's full colour, wraparound cover for The War of the Apocalyptics, 2009

Ian Bateson’s full colour, wraparound cover for The War of the Apocalyptics, 2009

Just don’t doubt for a minute that Jim McPherson is above infantilizing his characters, if hopefully not his readers:

In the midst of the mad, the dead, and the dying squatted Mars Bellona. His mentality reduced to that of a low-grade simpleton, the presumption of immortality manifestly did not preclude the onset of insanity. The once tremendously powerful Apocalyptic was playing toy samurai with an even more demented Lord Tornado.
“So sorry, Bellona‑sama. I killed your man first.”
“Seppuku-fie yourself, Tornado-san. I killed you before you killed me.”

… from “The War of the Apocalyptics“, 2009

Welcoming portal for pH-Webworld as of Spring 2015

Entry port for pH-Webworld, first appeared in the 2015 Spring update

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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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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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