Category Archives: TV

Deep Ice: They don’t die pretty (Ian Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds, Part 1)

It is May 2, 2006. I’m working on building a cat condo for Leah’s cat. Louis Reukeyser, host of Wall $treet Week (How I pray that some day when she gets too old to be cool, Ke$ha discovers a hidden talent for economics and takes over that show), dies. Puerto Rico is forced to close their Department of Education due to an ongoing budget crisis, but I’m sure they’ll turn it around. Silvio Berlusconi resigns as the Prime Minister of Italy, to spend more time with, I assume, sex workers. Surely, he will never be heard from again. Bjoern Hoen, Petter Tharaldsen, and Petter Rosenvinge are sentenced to seven, eight, and four years in prison for their roles in the 2004 theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Madonna. The paintings will be recovered in August. This week also sees the Great American Boycott, also known as the “Day Without an Immigrant”, a protest by US immigrants against the broken and frequently racist immigration policies in the United States. I’m sure that’ll get sorted out soon too.

Well, this has been kind of a bummer. Let’s look to the world of entertainment… Doctor Who wins the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama this week. Saturday, it’ll air “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Steven Moffat tearjerker in which the Doctor romances Madame du Pompadour in 18th century France, but is unable to adopt her as a traveling companion because a faulty time window has him show up after her death. This past Saturday gave us “School Reuinion”, the return of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. The episode would lead to Sladen being given her own spin-off, which would run for five seasons until… Well fuck. Every damn piece of news this week has ominous foreshadowing, and I haven’t even mentioned that this is the week 7th Heaven airs its series finale (Then goes on to get renewed anyway because we don’t yet know about Stephen Collins).

Madeline Albright is Jon Stewart’s guest tonight. Paul Reikoff is Stephen Colbert’s. We’re approaching the Police Procedural Event Horizon, with three CSIs, four Law & Orders, and the first of the NCISes. Power Rangers Mystic Force is off this week, returning next Monday with “The Gatekeeper, Part 1”, an episode in which the actual rangers themselves are tangential at best, a frequent weakness of this season, with its unusually large supporting cast. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse premiers this week, reuniting classic Disney characters in banal, toddler-friendly adventures as creepy, soulless CGI constructs, and forcing parents to learn something called the “Hot Dog Dance”. Mission Impossible III is out in theaters this week. Goodfellas comes on on HD-DVD.

Almost two thousand guitarists converge in Poland to simultaneously play Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”, setting a Guiness world record. Pearl Jam releases the Avocado album. “Bad Day” is the top song on the Billboard charts.

I’m not overly literate when it comes to comics. I never really got past the fact that in terms of minutes-of-entertainment per unit cost, comics fall somewhere between hard drugs and sex workers. But I’m not disinterested. I’ve watched every episode of Atop the Fourth Wall, and studiously never bothered to read my copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.

The upshot of all of this is that my knowledge and background into comics is sort of haphazard and lackadaisical. Which is how I ended up with a copy of the Dark Horse adaptation of War of the Worlds. Because, although this comic is just a very straightforward, very direct adaptation of the novel, it’s also something else: it’s a prequel to Edginton and D’Israeli’s 2002 series Scarlet Traces, about the imperialistic ambitions of an early 20th-century England, bolstered by reverse-engineered Martian technology. Edginton and D’Israeli’s War of the Worlds was published a few months before Scarlet Traces‘s direct sequel, The Great Game, with a fourth series, The Cold War being published a decade later. And I will probably get to those eventually, but it turns out that I’ve got a ton of these comics to get through, and I haven’t worked out what the minimum number of things I have to buy to get the whole thing.

Oh, and remember Pendragon? The folks who put out one of the most painful adaptations I’ve tried to fight through? Well, right after this adaptation came out, they took a stab at insinuating that Dark Horse had ripped them off, putting up a poll on their website comparing art designs from their “movie” to the comic. This was eventually settled, with Pendragon posting an apology on their website for giving the impression that they thought Dark Horse had ripped them off just because they pretty much said exactly that.

So with the ringing endorsement of having been accused of looking too much like a shockingly cheap-looking film, how’s Dark Horse’s adaptation? S’okay. It sticks close to the novel, despite being deliberately positioned to lead into Scarlet Traces. If there are direct references to Scarlet Traces, they’re subtle and don’t really change anything from the book. But I think it makes an interesting contrast to the Saddleback version in how it translates the story to the less verbose style of sequential art. And I find the art style cool in a lot of places, and… interestingly weird in others. So let’s take a look…

I like the art style here. It’s kind of a medium between the oddly over-detailed look we saw in the Saddleback version and the old-timey simplified style of the retro-Superman story. There’s also something unusual about the use of color that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe. It’s a limited palette with a small number of colors and exaggerated contrasts, but it doesn’t have the same harsh flatness of most comic art. Something like a pop art chiaroscuro that has a bit of an art deco quality to it.

It’s good to see the AskJeeves logo guy get work these days.

Whenever space is shown, even the night’s sky, it has this reddish nebula effect on it. It livens up panels which would otherwise have a lot of empty blackness. And if it sometimes seems a little excessive, at least it’s clear that D’Israeli has actually seen the night sky before, which gives him a leg up on both Pendragon and whoever did the covers for Howard Koch’s War of the Worlds II.

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Tales From /lost+found 152: The House-Guest

3×19 April 2, 1999
THE HOUSE-GUEST (Serial 37, Episode 1)

Setting: Seattle, WA, UNIT Time
Regular Cast: Hugh Laurie (The Doctor), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Lizzie Thompson)
Guest Cast: Jonathan Frakes (Agent Blackwood), Ron Canada (Agent Fesick), Malcolm McDowell (Mr. McMaster/Sam Tether/The Master)

Plot: The Master describes Earth, a place of great natural beauty, abundant mineral resources, and strategic location. While derisive toward human intellect, he grants that humans are prolific and highly adaptable. At UNIT, Agent Blackwood is finishing the clean-up after the Cyb incident. Lizzie has gotten settled in her new apartment when the Doctor surprises her by materializing in her living room and asking to stay for a few days. He tells her about seeing the man they know as McMaster in eighteenth-century Europe, and that he believes McMaster has been using Seattle as his base of operations. He works with UNIT to trace McMaster’s endeavors in the city, leading him to realize McMaster may have been involved with []. McMaster, now operating under the alias “Sam Tether”, discovers the Doctor’s investigation and begins to set a trap. Despite the time they have spent together so far, Lizzie finds the Doctor a difficult roommate, and their friendship becomes stressed. While watching the local news, she gives the Doctor the idea that more mundane local crime might be connected to McMaster’s activities. UNIT is able to correlate a series of unsolved burglaries with business acquisitions to uncover the scope of McMaster’s empire. The Doctor concludes that McMaster is building a hyperspace transmitter, and this might be a prelude to a return of the Nestene consciousness – or something worse. The Doctor wants to confront McMaster, but Blackwood is unable to act, as they can’t even prove that Tether and McMaster are the same person. After a fight with Lizzie, the Doctor decides to confront McMaster/Tether alone. Lizzie improves the computer search UNIT used to discover the Sam Tether identity and finds older activities under another alias, “Matt Shere”, which suggest that he had already completed the hyperspace transmitter months ago. She realizes that the Doctor is walking into a trap, and convinces Blackwood to put together a rescue. At the headquarters of Tether’s company, the Doctor confronts his enemy, who introduces himself as the Master. He claims that he and the Doctor knew each other long ago, though the Doctor does not remember. He offers the Doctor a partnership, though is careful not to give away his plan, beyond the fact that it will yield unfathomable wealth and power. The Doctor rebuffs the offer and promises to prevent the Master from completing his transmitter, but the Master laughs this off; he isn’t building a transmitter, but a weapon which will destroy a large part of the city. He sets a countdown and challenges the Doctor to defuse the device. The Doctor attempts to trap the Master in the room with him, forcing him to disable the weapon to save himself, but the Master overpowers him and knocks him unconscious. UNIT arrives minutes later, having located the Doctor with the life-sign scanner he built for them previously. The Doctor refuses to leave without defusing the weapon, but is unable to. When the timer runs out, instead of activating, the weapon plays a taunting message from the Master, forcing the Doctor to admit he’s been outmatched. Lizzie asks about the Master’s accomplice, confusing the Doctor. The scanner had detected two heartbeats in the office in addition to his own, causing the Doctor to realize that the Master must be a fellow Time Lord. The Master completes his narration about the riches of Earth, now revealed to be the message he had broadcast months earlier. He ends the transmission by declaring bidding for the planet open.

Deep Ice: Cut across their lines of magnetic force (Elseworlds: Superman vs The War of the Worlds, concluded)



Clark wakes up weeks later to find himself a Martian prisoner. He finds himself restrained inside a Martian prison camp, where Lex Luthor is conveniently present to deliver some exposition. Stalin, Hitler, Roosevelt and the British royal family have all been killed by the Martians, who have completely conquered the Earth.

Predictably, Luthor has sold out, offering his services to the Martians in exchange for his life. Despite their victory, the Martians are dying. Luthor quotes Wells, but also gives their affliction the cute nickname “Earth Flu”. Of course, the logic here is a little dicey; Luthor’s agreed to serve as the Local Knowledge for the invaders, helping them cure the Earth Flu, because he reckons the human race is finished and working for the invaders is his only chance. But… He also knows that the Martians are dying. So… Wouldn’t it make more sense to just, like, not help them? You’ve got to figure that Luthor would stand more to gain by making a grab for power as humanity tries to rebuild after the Martians are defeated than he would as a Martian Quisling. Even if he’s focused on his short-term survival here, there’s no hint that he’s planning to double-cross the Martians, and he is earnestly working on the cure. The only hint we get is, admittedly, a nice one: it’s a challenging scientific problem, so perhaps it’s imply his vanity pushing him to prove he can hold his own against these otherworldly intellects.

I have an irrational love of this image of Luthor Dope-Slapping himself.

Luthor has Lois brought to them, not for any clear reason, and asks Clark about his extraterrestrial origins. Because of the golden-age setting, Clark knows nothing about it, but easily admits that, yeah, he might well be an alien, having been found as a baby in a crashed rocket. When Lois mentions that the Martians in the lab are the only ones she’s seen that aren’t afflicted by disease, Luthor realizes that Kent’s alien immune system is protecting the Martians. We get the comic’s one and only use of the word “Superman” when Luthor compares Kent to a Nietzschean ubermensch, a comparison which doesn’t actually hold water since Kent’s value system is pretty staunchly opposed to Nietzsche’s, but I don’t consider that a writing flaw since pretty much everyone badly misunderstands Nietzsche and the ubermensch.


Lois is predictably horrified by Luthor’s villainy, and rejects his amorous advances, though Luthor takes it in stride. Within a few hours, he’s isolated Kent’s antibodies and developed a cure for the Martians… Whereupon they suddenly but inevitably betray him, as he is of no further use to them. Lois saves Luthor by stabbing the attacking Martian, and Luthor, declaring himself to have been “temporarily mad” to have sided with the invaders, frees Kent just in time to beat the crap out of more Martians, telepathically summoned to assist.

Okay, I’ll take destiny into my own hands. Just so long as you don’t expect me to spell “Clark” with an “S”

Escaping the lab, Clark dispatches the Martians to whom Luthor had given the cure, hoping they haven’t yet telepathically communicating it to the others. He also frees the humans imprisoned in the camp, pausing to explain about the S on his shirt to a bystander whose most pressing concern is why he spells “Clark” with an “S”. They also pause for Luthor to reflect on the humans who refuse to flee, preferring to be “tended to” as livestock than to take control of their own fate — way closer to Nietzsche than anything to do with Clark.

When Clark tries to shepherd Lois away, she instinctively recoils from him. I like this response, and even more, I like that she owns it. “I know I shouldn’t feel that way, after all, you just saved our lives, but I can’t help it!” She qualifies her instinctive discomfort in light of the fact that, y’know, fifty percent of the alien races she’s met this month have tried to exterminate humanity, and hopes she might be able to get past it in time. She’s genuinely ashamed of herself, and Clark, though clearly hurt, clearly gets it.

Also, it’s the thirties, so technically it’s illegal for me to love an alien.

One thing that’s really interesting about this exchange to me is that while Lois is repulsed by Clark on learning he’s an alien — the exact reaction Pa Kent had cautioned young Clark about — Luthor never shows any such revulsion. He never shows any animosity toward Clark that’s greater than the general disdain he shows toward everyone else in the world. If anything, this Luthor seems oddly trusting.

A few Martians are still healthy enough to operate their tripods, and they rain heat rays on the escaping prisoners. Luthor and Lois are shocked when Clark picks up a wrecked car to defend them, Lex remarking, “The man isn’t human! But if he isn’t, then what is he?”

The answer comes in the form of a half-page spread recreating one of the most iconic images of the golden age.

“Guy in the lower left who loses his shit at the sight of Superman picking up a car” is one of the most unsung visual icons of comic book history.

Clark smashes one machine with a car and destroys a second by throwing its own black smoke rocket back at it. But when he tackles the third machine’s legs, the hood of the machine separates from them, hovering in the air. Luthor speculates that the tripod legs were akin to training wheels, assisting the vehicles while they learned to compensate for Earth’s gravity (Later, it’s implied that the tripod legs can’t even hold the machines up on their own, but are purely to assist with balance).

This is one of the few adaptations to keep the detail of the heat ray being held in the tripod’s manipulator arms rather than mounted on the fuselage. Though it kinda makes it look like Mr. Burns saying “Excellent…”

Clark takes two direct heat ray shots leaping at the flying machine, but makes a key discovery, which Luthor conveniently explains to us: when something passes between the flying machine and the ground, it interferes with their anti-gravity. Clark takes a third hit tossing one of the disabled tripods under the flying machine and it crashes to Earth. Though mortally wounded, Clark proceeds to hammer on the crashed machine, but suddenly holds back, realizing that “war fever” is taking hold of him. He collapses, and as he lays dying, he explains that he recognizes the basic similarity between himself and the Martians: that he too comes from a dead world (he’s guessing), and Lois’s reaction earlier demonstrates how easily it might be him and not the Martians that has humanity running in terror.

I like the sentiment, but maybe he’s laying it on a bit thick here? This is like all those scenes in Doctor Who where they set up this moral challenge between the Doctor and the Daleks, like, “But isn’t the Doctor on some level just as bad as they are?” Actually no, because they’re the Daleks. And here too, though the narrative does a good job of setting up the fact that it’s natural and reasonable for humans to fear Clark the same way they fear the Martians, and though the first few pages do set up the basic similarity between Krypton and Mars, only one of the alien species in this story has actually attempted genocide. Moreover, the moral arc of the narrative seems to land firmly on the side of “Humanity is right to fear the Martians, but wrong to fear Clark.” Yet it almost seems like the narrative isn’t quite clear on why. It seems at times implicit that it would be natural and entirely justified for a Kryptonian to look down on humans exactly the same way Martians do, so it’s hard to justify a message of “Fearing aliens because they’re different is wrong,” in the face of it actually being the right thing to do half the time. It’s even worse when you consider that no one acted with immediate fear and revulsion toward the Martians; they only freaked out later once the Martians had demonstrated hostility. So the good message of not rushing to judge Clark is in some sense twisted into a bad message of “Don’t learn from your mistakes.” (That’s not the only message you could take, and there’s a perfectly good “Don’t let bad past experiences lead you to misjudge someone else later,” but the comic doesn’t put in the work to take the moral the rest of the way there).

We have a… moral? I guess?

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Tales From /lost+found 148: Because 2018.

Did you know John Mahoney was English? Weirdly, I learned this by mistake somehow; I was watching something British, and there was this guy, and I’m like “Hey, is that Frasier’s Dad? It looks like Frasier’s Dad.” So I looked up John Mahoney’s filmography… And it turned out that no, that wasn’t actually him in the British show I was watching, but yes, John Mahoney was in fact born in Blackpool.

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Tales From /lost+found 147: “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks

Oh heck. I set the publishing time to PM instead of AM. Oops.

Merging my normal art project with my recent meme of fake sitcom title cards gave me this idea: a random assortment of Doctor Who title cards.

0x01: The Last Time Lord (1996)

1×02 Ghost in the Machine (1996)

4×18 Invaders From Mars! (2000)

4×19 Centennial (2000)

5×01 Deepwater Black, Part 1 (2000)

Brought To You By the Letters P and G, and the Number 13

I am a dad of small children, so we watch a certain amount of Sesame Street. The most complex sentence my daughter can say right now is, shouted at the television, “I NEED ELMO!”

So I was thinking, now that Sesame Street is on HBO, they can up the ante a little. I’m not talking about going all Breaking Bad or anything. But just a little more edgy. In fact, I feel like there’s a pretty obvious Sesame Street movie plot that could be elevated just a bit.

Here’s the plot: through some unlikely contrivance, Elmo, the lovable, hirsute preschooler with an inexplicable inability to master pronouns, switches places with South American revolutionary El Moe. The film alternates between Elmo bringing his particular brand of childlike wonder and charm to the harsh world of guerilla warfare, while El Moe learns the value of friendship and happiness and how to count to ten.

Plus, here’s the twist: This isn’t some rehash of Muppets Most Wanted, where the swapped characters are identical. El Moe and Elmo don’t look alike. El Moe isn’t even a muppet. He’s a dude.

But no one notices. Not even the camera. When they’re both on-screen at the same time, there’s a visible seam down the middle like it’s a cheaply done process shot. El Moe wanders around Sesame Street as an adult man dressed like Che Guevara, but everyone treats him like Elmo.

Maybe right at the very end, the gang from Sesame Street reveal that, actually they knew the whole time but just assumed it was a game or something and were humoring him.

Or maybe the reason no one notices that Elmo and El Moe are so different is that El Moe isn’t real: that in fact, Elmo was El Moe the whole time; back in the early ’80s, the famous South American Muppet Revolutionary had suffered a psychotic break and disappeared, reinventing himself as an innocent child to silence the demons of his past. Of course he is, that’s why Elmo hasn’t learned to use pronouns in thirty-five years; the trigger phrase that will bring out his suppressed personality is “I am El Moe.”

So what do you think? This ridiculous “Not Elmo; EL MOE,” thing has been bouncing around my head for a long time, and I think it’s high time to make it real.