It's official — I hate winter

So guess what I got for Christmas.

A cool new game system? A rare import? My very own real-life Rainbow Dash?

Try a fucking snowstorm so huge it knocked out the electricity of the ENTIRE STATE for a week straight. So I had to sit in the dark for like, six days and nights. The power only came back on a couple hours ago.

I hate power outages. They always make me think “this must be out people in the middle ages lived” and then I wonder why they didn’t all just commit suicide and save themselves the misery. Without electricity you literally can’t do anything, not even take a bath unless you’re into the samurai-style cold ones (if this were summer, that wouldn’t be a problem).

Anyway, I think next year I’m gonna look into getting solar panels for my house, and converting cooking and water heating into ones that don’t need electricity… or just get a third solar panel for those particular things.

Here’s hoping this is the last power outage this winter.

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Ten Reasons He-Man is the Best Cartoon Ever

So yesterday (December 17th) was my birthday. Coincidentally, a package I had been waiting on arrived just on that very day.

I had pre-ordered the 30th Anniversary Box Set of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which includes every episode of the original Filmation cartoon, every episode of the 2002 series that played on Cartoon Network, and the “top 20 best episodes” of The New Adventures of He-Man from 1990. It also includes a Soundtrack CD, and a bonus disc containing documentaries (one of which is brand new).

Now, I’ve said in the past that the original Filmation version of He-Man is the best cartoon ever made, and I still stand by that. I feel, however, like I never really adequately explain why its so good. To be completely honest, it’s hard to say anything definite. This is one of those cartoons where every time I watch it, I come away with completely different thoughts–I like things I hated before, and hate things I liked before–so its literally a new experience each time.

However, there are a couple of near-definites I can latch on to. These are those near-definites.

So, without further ado:

Ten Reasons He-Man is the Best Cartoon Ever

Reason 10 – The company behind it. While I am by no means a Filmation fanboy (honestly, I find most of their non-He-Man shows kind of lame), the company simply deserves respect. Filmation used in-house, union animators at a time when their competitors outsourced to Japanese or Korean studios. They focused on a small, core cast of characters who they developed over 130 episodes when most other toy-based cartoons of the decade (such as the original version of My Little Pony or Transformers) constantly rotated their casts out just to name-drop as many toys as possible. Predating Lauren Faust by a couple of decades, the people at Filmation (including executive producer Lou Scheimer) acknowledged that just because its a cartoon does not mean it has to be vapid or moronic, and it shows.

Reason 9 – The soundtrack. When you say “He-Man,” almost assuredly the first thing that comes to your mind is the theme song, and that’s if you don’t think of the other background songs, the incidental music, the character themes. Every song is emotive, and many of them are almost as memorable and iconic as the theme song itself. Simply put, He-Man wouldn’t be the show it is without its soundtrack (in fact, that’s one of the 2002 revival’s biggest weaknesses–its music is bland and forgettable).

Reason 8 – There’s only one two-part episode in the whole run. One reason I don’t watch a lot of TV is because I just can’t be bothered to keep up with all the intracate storylines these modern shows have going, where if you miss even one episode you’re completely lost. While He-Man by no means lacked continuity, it was and still is wisely written so that every episode (save for “House of Shokoti, Part 2”) can be watched in whatever order you want. You don’t have to worry about keeping up with details, you can just have fun.

Reason 7 – Body language. Despite budgetary constraints, He-Man really showed off the advantages of animation over, say, comic books. If you watch closely, a lot of characters in the background are usually reacting with subtle looks and gestures to what others are doing or saying. One thing I really like, is that when He-Man is doing a feat of strength, it looks realistic–he heaves and grunts. There’s a great example of this in the very first episode, when he’s trying to widen a chasm so he can grab the Diamond Ray–it actually very well conveys how much he’s exerting himself to do that. Stuff like this helps make the show more “real,” and gives it depth.

Reason 6 – Eternia. There are a lot of episodes (particularly in the first season) that involve villains other than Skeletor. I used to consider this a bad thing, but after watching She-Ra, I realized something. See, in she-Ra, every episode save one involves the Horde, and it almost feels like Etheria didn’t exist until the Horde conquered it. He-Man’s Eternia, on the other hand, really does feel like a rich world full of undiscovered mysteries and secrets, and the presence of characters such as Game Master and Zodak give you a feeling that the clash between He-Man and Skeletor are just one of the many things going on in this world.

Reason 5 – Intelligent morals. I gotta admit, when I see the stuff that passes for “educational content” in cartoons nowadays, I shake my head and fear for our culture. Today we dumb down political issues into soundbites, while at the same time never teaching kids stuff that will actually help them. Funnily enough, He-Man is as relevant today as it was in 1983, and the lessons the characters teach at the end of each episode are far more practical than the fluffy, pat and vacuous stuff you hear today. Sometimes they even say stuff that television studios today would be too pussy to handle, such as the episode “Double Edged Sword” (a kid who thinks lasers are cool tries to be a hotshot, ends up crippling his dad for life) or “Trouble in Arcadia” (while on a drive, Teela rants to Adam about male chauvinists… and then they’re both captured by a city of women who treat men like pack animals. The ideal embodied in this episode is closer to Susan B. Anthony’s philosophy than the garbage that passes for feminism nowadays). Granted, there are episodes that are preachy or heavy-handed, but at least we don’t have the heroes’ personalities flip-flopping just to showcase an anti-bullying story (right, MLP season three?) I gotta admit, when I pick an episode at random, the message I get seems to always be something I needed to hear at that exact moment. Truth is truth and wisdom is wisdom, regardless of decade.

Reason 4 – Everyone has a story. Most cartoons, then and now, were satisfied to just introduce a bunch of faces and get on with it. In any other cartoon, Mer-Man would’ve been just an aquatic-themed servant. But instead, he has a personal grudge against Man-at-Arms and makes several solo attempts to conquer the underwater kingdoms. In any other cartoon (including the 2002 remake of He-Man), Queen Marlena would be just a name and a face, no personality. But this is He-Man, so instead she’s an astronaut from Earth who is also a trained fighter pilot and wishes her people took her seriously, and may also be the only person sharp enough to see that Prince Adam is He-Man. Or there’s the wizard Malik… I could go on.

Reason 3 – Nobody is a “type.” And it just gets better. I mean, any other show, if you had an episode where the lead female and the villain’s woman were stranded in the desert together, they’d fight and trust each other uneasily. In this show though, they wind up getting to know each other better and developing respect for each other. And Orko, the comedy relief, actually does useful things in each episode and is instrumental in resolving conflicts. He, too, has feelings and insecurities that he sometimes acts on. And what about Adam? Is he just pretending to be useless or is he actually useless? The portrayal is nuanced enough that its open to either interpretation. I was honestly surprised that there’s an episode where Cringer gets on Adam’s case about having an argument with Teela–things like that just don’t happen in cartoons (except maybe MLP: Friendship is Magic).

Reason 2 – A consistent universe. Despite the stand-alone nature of the stories, the writers all clearly had the same or similar visions of what Eternia was like, which gives this shared universe a cohesive feel. And, too, they all had a strong grasp of the characters. So you never have instances where “one episode they’re all scrolls and quills, the next episode there’s tractors and movie theaters” (unlike MLP:FIM) nor do you have instances where villains have completely different motivations from episode to episode (unlike Batman: the Animated Series). This helps Eternia feel more like a real, living universe that you’re peeking into and less like a cartoon you’re wasting your time watching.

Reason 1 – It’s just plain fun. I gotta admit though… for all the serious bits, for all the well-done characterization, for all the consistency and escapism and music and animation, what really keeps me coming back to He-Man is just that its a damn good time. And when the episode is over, there’s always the silly or over-the-top parts to joke about–like my favorite game, “what drug was the Comet Keeper smoking, and where can I get some?” Many cartoons try too hard to be dark, brooding or serious, despite having completely implausible premises or laughable plots. He-Man knows its silly, and just runs with it, which gives the show a charm that other, darker shows are just missing.

And that’s that!

Now, as I said the 30th Anniversary set also included the complete 2002 series and twenty episodes from The New Adventures of He-Man. Unfortunately it didn’t include any She-Ra because a different distributor owns the right to that. However, the bulk of the bonus features focus on the 1983 cartoon… and rightly so, if you ask me. Both 2002 and New Adventures have that unfortunate curse of having interesting ideas, but lousy executioon.

I do, however, consider She-Ra a worthy follow-up to He-Man. While it does have a less interesting setting and some more annoying side-characters, I love the Evil Horde, always kinda felt Hordak was more compelling than Skeletor, and honestly kinda feel She-Ra herself is more compelling than He-Man. There’s just something about ass-kicking women that I like (and She-Ra does it without being a hateful bitch, which makes her better than every “strong woman” in every cartoon or movie made nowadays).

One last note, I’m not likely to update my blog again until after December, though I will respond to comments. Merry Christmas everyone!

First Impressions – The Wii U

A couple days back I was in GameStop, and they had a demo unit of the Wii U set up.

The game was Rayman Legends, although I didn’t realize that at first because some little girl had been playing the console and had left it paused in the middle of one of the games. And which game was it? One about a barbarian chick with an axe, running past armies of… things. I played it and realized it was some sort of rythym game disguised as a platformer, and… was surprisingly fun.

I really liked that barbarian chick. She had these cute, cartoony animations–like when she beats a level, she plays her axe like an air guitar. And she always looks just vaguely psychotic. So I was like, “who is this girl?” and then, “what is this game?”

Well finally I exited this level and it took me back to the main menu where I learned the game was called “Castle Rock,” but it was actually a minigame–the actual GAME game was called Rayman Legends.

Now, I’m not exactly up on the Rayman franchise–I played the original and couldn’t really get into it, so I never really felt like keeping up with the series–so my first question was “Okay, so how come this girl is in the same setting as spaghetti-haired, big-nosed limbless dude?”

So anyway, I played another scenario called “Teensies in Trouble,” still opting to play as barbarian chick because she was more fun, but unfortunately the level forces you to switch to Rayman at a part where you have to summon some insect named Murphy.

This is where my opinion went from “I’m actually enjoying this!” to “No, no I don’t like this at all.” See, what happens here is you have to use the touch screen to make Murphy do things. Rayman will move and act on his own, and Murphy has to arrange things so Rayman can proceed. This was okay at first, although I would rather have had direct control of Rayman. But it got really obnoxious at a part where you had to actually turn the Wii U to rotate a platform, which forced me to divide my attention between two screens (the television, and the controller’s touchscreen) and made for a somewhat disorienting experience. I think I remember Yahtzee prophecizing this very thing not long back.

So what happened, Rayman fell to his death a number of times because I didn’t quite grasp the controls or understand what I had to do to proceed. But lives were unlimited so I kept on going until the demo arbitrarily decided to just end (a timer appeared on the screen saying “demo will end in…” right in the middle of the level).

So, in essence:

The pluses:

-that barbarian chick

The minuses:

-The controller.

All in all, I’d recommend getting a PC Engine instead. Then study Japanese and import you a copy of Ys IV.

Last Post about TV Tropes, I Promise!

So I ranted about TV Tropes
Then I ranted again

And I got to wondering if anyone else had the same or similar problems that I had, if anyone else had noticed the things I’m complaining about. An a little bit of Google searching turned up that, yes, some people did!

So for this post, I will put up select quotes, with attributions.

The trope wiki does encourage a form of intellectual laziness when it comes to analysis of literature. It gives the impression that all fiction is made up of interacting tropes, which is basically the only way you can interpret a whole bunch of people making huge lists of of tropes which they ‘picked up’ while reading/watching any particular story. Rather than discuss the themes behind a story or the motivations of characters or whatever, a ‘troper’ looks for devices that have been used in other stories before, no matter how tenuous the connection is. Usually the definition for any trope is quite broad so it can refer to characters who are wildly different but have a few familiar traits, which is how you can end up with Char Aznable and Adrian Veidt on the same list of ‘Well Intentioned Extremists’.

Ford Prefect, Stardestroyer.net

As I’ve said before, TV Tropes is not valid literary criticism. It focuses too much on connection, not actually looking at the story and finding themes, as said in the post above.

Any real literary critic would laugh at the tenuous connections made by the pseudo-intellectuals there. So of course the community is terrible. I can’t call it a “timesuck” as the connections they find and their way of presenting it confuse and irritate me.

Tupin, Digitpress (Note: requires registration)

One of the main issues with the site is this: there is no coherent definition of what a ‘trope’ is. As far as TVTropes is concerned, a trope is a thing that you can make a page around or slot into one of their inane lists. Tropes range from plot elements to game mechanics to popular or clich├ęd lines to random bits of numerology. It’s impossible to talk about what tropes are or aren’t – or what they’re for or not for – because they aren’t anything consistent.

Speaking even more broadly than that, the issue with TVTropes is that it’s really just an example of obsessive list-making and categorisation. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some good pages there, or some things worth reading. There are. Rather, it’s to say that the enterprise of TVTropes is pretty worthless. As a project, TVTropes is an exercise in purposeless and obsessive list-making, predicated on this notion of ‘tropes’ (a nebulous and undefined concept) as the ‘building blocks’ of writing (as if writing even has building blocks!).

The real point of TVTropes is as a community. The TVTropes forums, the YMMV and speculation pages, and so on. People meet, interact, and talk on the site. Just like SB, the community takes on a life of its own. That the enterprise the community is ostensibly based on is worthless dreck is irrelevant to the community. Nonetheless, the community has to defend it, or else lose its reason for existence.

It really is a mess.

Unhappy Anchovy, SpaceBattles.net

I could’ve really filled this post up, but I decided to go with a “one quote per source” rule, and all the other comments I found were of the generic “TV Tropes is a timesink” or “TV Tropes is full of japanophiles” nonsense.

I actually haven’t found “TV Tropes is full of Japanophiles” to be true, to be honest. They seem to be dickhurt about that association, because when I was there they made it their mission to convince anyone who honestly expressed an orientophile bent that they were just blind and didn’t see the true glory of western culture. They came off as nationalists, in other words.

But yeah, let’s end it here. TV Tropes is a website that needs to die, and I’m through giving them the time of day on my site. So next time I post, it’ll be about something I like.


(Edit) I realized upon re-reading this entry that I forgot to mention: why all this focus on analysis? Well, because TV Tropes claims to be a site about analysis… sometimes. Other times it claims to be a resource for writers looking for ideas. Or whatever. The truth is though, that TV Tropes really never had a purpose. Someone just started doing it for shits and giggles, and decided on a “purpose” after-the-fact.

I honestly would not take writing advice from TV Tropes, because they have demonstrated to me that they are willfully ignorant on several subjects. I’ve seen Tropers argue, for example, that the comic book “one writer controls an entire run on a magazine” is exactly the same as how television scripts are written (it isn’t–television has teams of writers who each work on individual scripts, with a head writer who basically establishes arcs and ensures continuity). This is all basic stuff you can find out with Google, or by checking the special features on any DVD season sets you happen to own, and Tropers don’t even know this. And yet they’re a resource for writers.

And the reason TV Tropes isn’t analysis is because “describing something in invented jargon” is not analysis, its just description. Analysis means looking into something, trying to see into its themes and subject matter and really penetrate it. For example, “Naked Snake’s CQC seems reminiscent of Judo. It’s a form of physical technique that revolves around gaining leverage and upsetting your opponent’s balance to give yourself power over him.” That’s analysis. What Tropers do is “Naked Snake’s CQC is a MartialArt where you FacePound peeps and NeckGrab them a lot ForTheKoolz.” You’ll notice that the analysis example is explaining what it is and how it works, while the Troper-analogy is just using a bunch of dumbass terms that don’t tell you anything useful at all.

So I say again: TV Tropes needs to die, and people need to stop taking that site so seriously.

More TV Tropes Simple-Mindedness

I just wanted to tell you about the straw that broke the camel’s back here.

So what happened is, again on Skype, someone had just mentioned getting The Dracula X Chronicles, a PSP disc that collects Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night onto one UMD. He expressed displeasure at the fact that you have to actually unlock Symphony.

I chimed in agreeing with him, and wondering why Konami would even do that considering that Rondo and Symphony were both originally released separately and most people played Symphony before Rondo anyway. I opined that it’s advertised as a compilation and thus the two listed games are basic content, they shouldn’t be treated as bonuses.

Apparently, this is WRONG. The five or six other Tropers in that chat jumped down my throat and told me basically that it was bad that I had these beliefs and that I should just accept that Konami’s way is good and right. Their specific arguments (and I’m going to provide the chatlog on the comments so you can see for yourself) consisted of:

“Konami just wants people to appreciate Rondo!” (My rebuttal: people who buy it have the option of playing Rondo if they want to. They shouldn’t be forced to play it if they don’t want to)

“Rondo was never released in English before!” (see above)

“Symphony can be gotten millions of other ways, so what does it matter if they made you have to unlock it here?” (how is this a point for locking it? If anything, this is a point against)

“You can always just cheat” (the point is, you shouldn’t have to do anything)

“I like unlocking things.” (I do too, but that doesn’t mean always okay)

“Unlocking a second game is no different than being forced to play levels in order.” (Actually, its completely different because the two games were originally independent releases, on different consoles even. Seriously I can’t see why anyone would think this is a valid argument)

“Games have had unlockables for a long time, why does this bother you now?” (Rondo and SOTN were originally released separately, it makes no sense to make one an unlockable feature now. This is not the same thing as an unlockable character or stage or something, which is just a bonus feature in a game you already have access to)

“You’re being unreasonable.” (Konami wants me to pay cash for their product. I worked for that cash. Its you who is being unreasonable)

“You’re attacking anyone who doesn’t agree with you.” (Defending my beliefs is not attacking you)

“Just because you dislike something doesn’t mean its wrong.” (By the same token, being fine with something doesn’t mean its right)

I tried to explain my stance again and again, and how it makes no sense that a compilation forces you to play one game to unlock another. But… Tropers. They just wouldn’t get it. It was like explaining Taoism to a drunken monkey.

Let me explain, the problem isn’t that I had one disagreement… the problem is that this represents how MOST Troper arguments go. They try to blur distinctions so they can claim two unlike things are completely alike. They keep pointing out irrelevent trivia and saying its a major point. They invent “misunderstandings” so they can “correct” you. They keep trying to put words in your mouth or change the debate. Often they don’t understand what you’re trying to say (or pretend they don’t). They act like subjective preferences or their own apathy makes something okay. When all else fails, they fall back on claiming you’re attacking them or forcing your opinions or whatever when you’re actually not, and pull the “everything is subjective” card so they don’t have to think.

This is the final straw. I’ve blocked most of these people, and removed myself from this particular chatroom. I’ve had enough of TV Tropes childish, borderline retarded thought-processes and anti-intellectualism. It’s not good for my health.

Chatlog is in the comments section.

Why Batman Sucks

It’s funny, but I thought my days of dissing Batman (and most comic superheroes for that matter) ended when I left IJBM. But at least twice now my feelings on the character have come up in a Skype chat, and, well… I don’t use this blog enough anyway. So why the hell not?

Now, I want to say going in that I’m most familiar with the Animated Series version, though I have seen the movies, read the comics, watched the old TV series and serials and so on. I’m trying to talk about the character in general, but if it seems like I keep referring back to the Animated Series, you know why.

Anyway, Batman sucks.

The Biggest Reason, and the thing everything keeps coming back to, is… he’s a rich ninja. Seriously I almost think I could end the article there. He’s a rich ninja. This would be fine if all his enemies were also rich ninjas, or space aliens or Chuck Norris or something. But instead they’re usually lower-class people with disabilities. Where I come from, that makes Batman a bully. Specifically he’s that athletic privileged asshole who always gave you wedgies in school. The Mad Hatter, the Ventriloquist, the Joker? Those guys are YOU.

The second reason is He’s for Kids, Seriously. Before you head off to the comments section to rip me a new one, keep in mind that enjoying stuff for kids isn’t bad per se. I mean I love He-Man and Friendship is Magic. But I NEVER claim that those are anything more than above-average children’s cartoons. Your average Batman fan, on the other hand, seriously stipulates that the Batman mythos is for adults, and many of the more recent adaptations have tried to run with that. For that reason, I feel its fair to hold Batman to a higher standard.

So what makes a story “mature?” I stipulate four standards:

One – NO BLACK AND WHITE MORALITY. Good versus evil and the idea that people can clearly be divided into one or the other is a childish idea, one that adults normally hold onto simply to justify a personal choice or bias. In real life, everyone thinks of themselves as the hero, and sees only the corrupt or suspicious parts of their enemies. So a truly mature story will reflect that, that there is no de facto wrong or right–only relative ones.

You won’t find this in Batman. Batman himself, the people who help him, and the law-abiding citizens are always de facto good while anyone who commits a crime or supports criminals is de facto evil, regardless of motivations. In fact many of the criminals have no motivations outside of just “for the sake of being evil.” This actually annoys me because there are so many characters who could’ve been interesting, like Mr. Freeze or the Mad Hatter, but as the stories go on they always get turned into one-dimensional crimaholics.

Two – UNDERSTANDING THE WORLD. A truly mature work acknowledges that our world is a complex and mystifying place. It can’t always be explained in simple terms, or at times even explained at all. Why things happen or why they don’t, how people think or act, what factors can lead to any number of situations, these are all very subtle things that don’t always add up the way we expect. Sometimes, factors at play are simply beyond our control.

Again, you won’t find this in Batman. Batman’s view of the world is set firmly in the teenage “everything is against me” mentality. Politicians are never simply incompetent, over budget or having their hands tied by political controversy, they’re always intentionally making things worse because they’re the puppets of criminals. And since Batman is a corporate character, there are some things his mythos can never touch at all, or can only touch in “acceptable” terms. What is Religion like in Gotham City? If you ever see it at all, it’s the “corrupt church seeking to stifle englightenment” archetype, even though there are religions besides Judeo-Christianity in the world and not all of them are antagonistic towards Science. Batman as a mythology has decided to go for a self-serving teenager’s outlook as opposed to a fully mature one.

Three – LACK OF JUVENILIA. I am pleased to say Batman does not have fart jokes, but that’s only one kind of juvenilia. The other kind is the one teenagers indulge in. The kind where the fantasy is fueled by hormones, the men are always big, manly and gritty and the women are always curvateous all-too-willing beauties who seem to always be shown in angles that perfectly highlight their, umm, “highlights.” It’s a little-known fact that this, too, is a phase. You eventually lose interest in women and sex, and this causes you to see such fantasies as what they are: the hormone-driven dreams of youth.

… Yeah, do I need to elaborate on why Batman doesn’t meet this criteria? Seriously? Let’s move on.

Four – COMPLEX AND NUANCED HUMAN BEINGS. People who can truly be called “people” can not simply be reduced to types. A real person is a collection of little things that add up. Think about your best friend. You might describe him as a “type” if you’re thinking short sightedly, but you would probably feel like something is wrong if he changed his toothpaste, switched from laces to velcro (or vice-versa), or started beating his dog (assuming he’s never done that before). Yes, a person can have more immediate, predictable behaviors like outlooks on philosophy, religion, behavioral motifs and many more, but its the big and little both that make a person.

I’ve already said that in the case of Batman, there’s a strict “good and evil” duology in play and those on the “evil” side are usually just one-note criminals with a gimmick. At best, they’re given a backstory or motif which is pretty much the extent of their character. I mean look at Two-Face. He’s so bound up in the “two-face” motif that he decorates his room that way. He literally has no personality outside of this. And Clayface is just “I used to be an actor, so I sometimes do acting-related things.” And Mad Hatter is just “I’m a walking Alice in Wonderland reference.” Imagine if in Metal Gear Solid Revolver Ocelot was so obsessed with revolvers that his room was decorated with pictures or engravings of them and his bed was an enclosed space meant to resemble the barrel of a revolver. That’s a Batman villain in a nutshell.

The good guys don’t fare much better. Commissioner Gordon is defined only as “the one cop who isn’t corrupt.” His daughter is such a blank slate that she could be any teenage girl you know–in fact that’s kind of the point. Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, also, could be any straight-edged young men you know. They really have no definition or personality outside of the personas they take up. I think most of the handles on X-Box Live have more personality than this. And Batman himself? Umm… he hates guns, has a gruff voice and likes to brood. Okay, but does he have a favorite toothpaste, any hobbies or anything? No, in fact the various stories make a point of showing that he basically has no life outside of being Batman. So, the entire universe is populated with one-note characters.

I’ve been holding back one thing this whole time. If I really wanted to be a dick, I could point out that Batman is a franchise, which makes it not-for-adults by default. You see, when you’re an adult you tend to have responsibilities, and these demand most of your time and attention. You don’t have the money to spend on comic books, or the time to enjoy them. Maybe you can squeeze one in every once in awhile, but for the most part your days of obsessively buying every Space Quest game on release day are over. You just don’t have the resources anymore. That torch has been passed on to the younger generation. I’ve actually got to give Warner Bros. credit and continuing to market Batman as what he is–a children’s character. Some people thought it was weird that Burger King offered toys based on The Dark Knight, but to me it made perfect sense. Batman’s whole attempt to be “mature” is, itself, a marketing scheme, because what kids think of as “cool” is often bound up in their idea of what they think teens and adults like. It’s actually genius, if you think about it.

So, bottom line, Batman is really no different than My Little Pony, He-Man or Ninja Turtles. It’s for kids, it just happens to have an adult fanbase.

Lower Standards. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “So you’re saying Batman doesn’t really suck, he’s just got an overzealous fanbase.” Well, now that we’ve lowered our standards and brought Batman down to the level of a children’s story where it belongs… even then, I feel like Batman just doesn’t measure up.

Okay, first of all, earlier I talked about two-dimensional characters. Some might say that’s common for children’s media, but then you look at G1 Transformers and the weird relationships between the Decepticons. Megatron appears to simultaneously be annoyed but also encouraging Starscream’s ego-driven antics, but at the same time he treats Soundwave in a subtle way that gives you the feeling Soundwave is the one Decepticon ol’ Megs is truly on the level with. Keep in mind, these are the bad guys. Considering that Transformers is meant to sell toys, the writers could’ve gone with just “hahaha we’re evil.” But they didn’t.

Batman’s writers did, and continue to do so even in the graphic novels that are obstensibly aimed at adults.

And what about heroes? There’s no end of examples of “those who did it better” there. The cast of Final Fantasy VI, Dante from Devil May Cry, the cast of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe… these guys have lives outside of being heroes. You could do personality profiles on them. Again, Batman comes up short.

A part of the problem is that Batman’s writers like to use artistic shorthands and copouts. I discussed that with villains, they think motifs replace personalities–a holdover from the campy days, no doubt. With the heroes, they often just turn up the angst dial, which fools a younger audience into thinking its deep because kids are used to heroes who are positive and idealistic and they’re wowwed by something different. But angst is easy to write. Anyone can do it. It requires no thought. Look, I’ll show you:

A cold wind blew, and I barely felt it as it chilled my already-shattered spine. Blood, red as roses, was creeping from the newly-opened gash in my arm. See the pool, it took the shape of the star. I stared into that star, and thought about all the misery and pain I had felt. Curses and damnation were my domain, the betrayals of humanity threatening to sink my heart to hell. In the distance, I heard a Pink Floyd song. How appropriate. My vision blackened, and I smiled at the thought that I would soon leave this rotten world…

I did that entirely in one shot, without even having to stop to think about it, and none of the emotion is genuine. Maybe I should go to DC Comics and apply as a writer.

And so far this is just characterization, but good stories are more than just having a fascinating cast of characters. Is the setting interesting, what about the actual situation, does it play out in a compelling way that doesn’t rely on cop-outs or heavy uses of Deus ex Machina. Even here, your average Batman story falls short.

Just off the top of my head, I remember an Animated Series episode where a guy founds a Joker-themed casino, knowing Joker is gonna wreck it. The whole thing is an insurance scam. Already the premise is faulty–it probably took the owner as much money to make that casino as he’ll get from the insurance settlement, and what happens if Joker likes the casino? Said casino seems to be popular anyway, why not just run it as a legitimate business? Already, the premise of the story is braindead stupid. But I’m not even done.

So right off the Batman has suspicions, investigates, at one point confronts casino owner dude in his office. There, the dude just happens to have the very tile Batman is standing on wired up to an electricity trap. Batman blacks out and awakens as the Joker’s prisoner. He explains to the Joker what is going on, which causes the Joker to get mad and go after owner-guy, leaving Batman to get loose. Every step of the way here, we’ve depended on things happening a very specific way that no earthly power could’ve predicted that allowed the plot to play out. It comes off as exactly what it is–a scripted drama–when a good story should make the events more plausible so we could believe something like this could really happen.

There’s other stories I could pick on as well. “Zatanna” features a magician being antagonized by a guy who “made a fortune debunking magic acts” apparently just for the sake of being a dick. Again, implausible concept–no stage magician ever pretends they’re doing real magic and many will gladly reveal their tricks (in fact, revealing the trick is part of Penn and Teller’s routine!) and how can you get filthy rich by being a debunker? You’d think people would instead toss the asshole out because he’s spoiling their fun, and hey I don’t see the Mythbusters being able to afford the kind of Hayao Miyazaki aircraft this guy is later seen in! Oh, the plot of the episode is that debunker-dude frames Zatanna for a robbery that he actually committed. If he’s already rich, why would he steal money? Just for the lulz?

That’s just the cartoon. Here’s one from the comics. Bane is (supposed to be) characterized as being really smart. In the Knightfall arc, he deduces that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Sounds great, except… the way this scene actually plays out, all he does is see a picture and says “that’s Batman.” No explanation, no fact-gathering, no deductive process. The way it plays out, he could just as easily have gotten psychic intuition, or spun a bottle that happened to land on Bruce’s pic, or just made an extremely lucky guess. But we’re supposed to take this as proof that Bane is a genius.

I could go on forever, but really, I think the point has been made.

Summary and Conclusion. Batman is characterized by:

-Childish outlooks and philosophies
-one-dimensional characters
-stories that at the same time ask to be taken seriously but then actually can’t be because they use so many cop-outs.
-and an extremely questionable core premise of a rich ninja beating up poor disabled people.

But you know what, its not even Batman itself that bothers me. It’s more that Batman is a go-to example for everything that is wrong with comic books, long-running franchises and western media. The standards for all three are just so low, and they tend to develop a lot of the same problems once they get worn down enough. I’m not saying Batman causes this, just that he’s a good representative. It’s not that I dislike Batman, it’s that I dislike the way the western world is now, and if I ever need to explain why I can point at Batman and say “pretty much that.”

WTF is Akismet?

So I logged onto WordPress, went to my Dashboard and, I don’t know why I never saw this before but I saw it now:

“Akismet has protected your site from 15 spam comments already
There’s 1 comment in your spam queue right now”

This worries me. So some automated service I didn’t ask for is filtering comments. If any of my regular readers left a comment that didn’t get posted, then now you know why.

Personally, I’m a very do-it-yourself guy and I hate automated services, especially ones I wasn’t even informed I had. I and I alone should decide what stays and what goes. From now on I’ll be keeping an eye on my dashboard.