REVIEW: End of Month Reviews #32 - August 2006 [spoilers]

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Sat Sep 2 23:15:50 PDT 2006

Saxon Brenton wrote:
> [REVIEW] End of Month Reviews #32 - August 2006 [spoilers]

> Haiku Gorilla #127 to 172
> A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
> by Tom Russell
>      It probably bears repeating: I don't normally get poetry without
> putting some effort into it.  With that in mind, once I got my
> headspace onto the proper wavelength, the haikus that make up this
> series are quite evocative of both plot and mood.  In this story arc

Thank you very much. :-)

Glad you're enjoying it.

> Haiku Gorilla runs for the Usenetted States senate and campaigns well.
> So well, in fact, that the administration of President Hexadecimal
> Luthor starts a smear campaign against Haiku Gorilla as a deadbeat
> husband, which gets him expelled from the Legion of Net.Heroes.  Haiku
> Gorilla leaves to talk with the one female he did love, Jane, but she
> isn't home and he has talks with her husband instead.

This is the biggest Haiku Gorilla storyline so far, as it will stretch
from August through November.  I'm trying to keep the postings to one a
day, with time off to plot and write the damn thing, while occasionally
posting two or three in a day when the mood strikes me.  I'm going to
start a new thread for each month, though, if only so people reading on
google don't have to wade through a hundred or so posts to get to the
newest installment.

> Jolt City #1
> 'The Paradise Snake'
> An Eightfold [8Fold] series
> by Tim Russell
>      Hmmm.  This one's a lot like ASH #71 in that it has a strong
> setting up shop vibe to it.  Martin has reestablished the Green Knight
> as a superhero in Jolt City, with a good contacts in the police,
> working to eliminate illicit drugs.  Which is fair enough: when he's
> not being troubled with his personal hang-ups the Green Knight is a
> perfectly competent street level four colour -- and as noted, he tends
> to keep the two parts of his lifestyle compartmentalised.

One big thing with this series that I'll be trying to do is to put
Martin out of his element whenever possible.  The whole daylight
four-colour costumed hero thing is one obvious example of this that
will run throughout the series (at least at this stage in the game):
Martin is ambivilant at best and uncomfortable at worst with the more
bombastic and grandiose aspects of his profession-- much in the same
way, I might add, that some fans of the superhero genre are
uncomfortable with certain tropes and styles of writing (for example,
the Giant Typewriter School of Fiction).

One challenge is day-to-day contact with other people, the whole social
element of it, which will be a very important part of his mission to
make the Green Knight a member of the community.  In some ways, Martin
is a solitary person.  Now, he's not prone to introspection, the way
someone like Gregory Dingham or Jason Righteous or even Anders is; he's
very much an exterior person, concerned with physical reality.  He is,
in many ways, a physical hero: while he does have considerable
detective skills, his body is the best and most intuitive weapon he

And while I think he has some of the skills necessary for good social
interaction-- he has a sense of humour, for one-- he hasn't done it in
ten years.  And I think it's telling that he'll be doing most of his
social interaction, most of his reaching-out within the community and
with law enforcement, in the guise of the Green Knight.  This sets up
certain rules, certain external formalities: people have a certain
level and kind of respect and awe for a hero, and I think this makes it
easier to handle.  I think that as Martin Rock he'll have a more
difficult time interacting with people outside of Roy Riddle.

At the same time, in the issue I'm writing, Martin goes to a job
interview, and (as of this draft) he doesn't do too badly.  Maybe it's
because an interview imposes certain formalities and boundaries, just
like the mask does?

Also in the next issue, Martin will be facing a MoRe Fantastic sort of
foe, which will be outside his street-level competency.  I think
weirder villains and more bizarre situations will be the order of the
day for this series: I guess only time will tell.

>      In this story the Green Knight has made enough of a pain of
> himself to local drug lord Samson Snapp that Snap hires a professional
> superhuman assassin, Paradise Snake, to kill the hero.  Paradise Snake
> seems to be more of a fruitloop than normal for a costumed superhuman
> (something that vexes Snapp), with a quite stylised sense of honour.
> Green Knight gets the snot beaten out of him several times before being
> able to manipulate that sense of honour to his advantage.

There are two possible solutions to a story when a hero is on the
losing end of a battle.  One is to have another hero or group show up,
thus turning the tide.  This can be very effective, especially with big
stories-- alien invasions and the like.  <namedrop> Kurt Busiek told me
</namedrop> that it's important that you set up the cavalry before they
ride to the rescue; otherwise, it's kind of a cheat.

The other is the tried-and-true Silver Age story structure of (1)
villain, powered by A, beats hero; (2) hero, using B, nullifies A and
beats villain.  For example:

--in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN # 2, the Vulture is powered by an
electromagnetic harness (A) and trounces Spider-Man (1); Spider-Man
develops a device to emit an EMP (B) and defeats the Vulture (2).

-- in ADVENTURE COMICS # 290, "The Invasion of Bizarro World!", Blue
Kryptonite Monsters kill thousands of Bizarros (1) because the
imperfect kryptonite rays are not stopped by lead (A); Bizarro-Olsen
and the Bizarro Brats use a duplicator ray to create "imperfect lead"
suits to match the imperfect radiation (B), thus driving back the
invasion (2).

-- in JOLT CITY # 1, Paradise Snake beats up the Green Knight (1) and
ends combat whenever Martin seems to get the upperhand, citing some
imagined infraction of the rules of honour (A); Martin, unable to
defeat him in hand-to-hand combat, appeals to that sense of honour (B)
to bring their combat to a conclusion (2).

It's a marvelously handy structure, one which seems to have gone by the
way-side for too many years.  And, really, I think most of my stories
in JOLT CITY are going to be sticking pretty closely to it.  Both of
the non-Russell examples provided above revolve around what could be
termed a "miracle device"-- a pulse emiter for ASM # 2, and the
imperfect lead suits in AC # 290.  In the first case, loathe as I am to
admit it, it is a kind of a cheat-- the fact that it's an
electromagnetic harness (A) isn't actually revealed until after Spidey
has deployed (B).

I think, just as in the cavalry solution, it's extremely important to
set up (A) before you get to (B).  Also, for a miracle device ending to
work, it needs to be clever.  Even if the electromagnetic nature of the
Vulture's harness was properly set-up, it would still have been a
pretty lame ending (the rematch, in which Spider-Man and the Vulture
duke it out in the confines of the Daily Bugle building in ASM #...7?
is much better).  But the way in which the Bizarros destroy the Blue
Krytonite invaders is extremely clever (and that's something the
"Bizarro World" stories have in spades: Bizarro-Olsen is rewarded for
his world-saving idea by having his salary lowered) and it comes as a
welcome surprise.

The surprise in ASM is not a particularly rewarding surprise, because
it doesn't play fair with the reader: it doesn't provide all the
information.  If, perhaps, we had stayed with Spidey as he figured out
the nature of the Vulture's powers and created the device, it wouldn't
have been such a cheat.  The end of the story would not have depended
upon the cleverness of the solution as much as it would the suspense of
the solution: that is, the question isn't, how will Spidey beat the
Vulture, but, will Spidey's device work?

That's one reason why I always advocate, especially in a title about
one character, staying with that character and elliding as little as
possible.  It's easier to skip ahead, or to have the character make a
dynamic and surprising entrance; it's much harder to keep focused on
that character as he plans and makes his entrance.  It's easier to have
the Green Knight step out from the darkness and surprise a foe than it
is to wait in the darkness with the Green Knight.

At the very least, it gives you some measure of suspense, which is, of
course, easier than being a good plotter or needing to be clever.

> Killfile Wars #6
> 'For Evil To Triumph'
> A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] miniseries
> by Jesse Willey
>      The concluding issue of this miniseries and the _Road To Killfile
> Wars_ twelve parter that preceded it last year.  So, in the end it
> comes down to this: Dr Killfile methodically stalking and killing the
> members of the coalition if his relatives, with the heroes of Teenfactor
> getting in the way.  Dr Killfile has anticipated the latter and used
> nanotech to take control of Electra (or perhaps simply had a generic
> contingency plan in place) in order to keep the heroes out of his way.
> Fortunately Dalton intercedes to block Dr Killfile's control of
> Electra, and rather than face an ignominious defeat Dr Killfile flees
> into hyperspace.
>      This creates an interesting structural dichotomy.  On the one
> hand it makes a lot of what has preceded it - with the Killfile Family
> rampaging around and causing mayhem and destruction, and in the end
> being justifiably terrified of the return of Dr Killfile himself -
> basically being a build up to justify and illustrate the fearsome
> reputation of Dr Killfile as a truly major villain.

Well, the one thing I was worried about in reading it was, where is
this going?  For all this build-up, what is the pay-off?  How does it
all come together, in terms of plot, character, and theme?

And I think the thing that disappointed me the most about the KW event
is that it wasn't really about much other than Killfile Is Back,
something which I don't think justifies the "event" storyline.  And as
far as theme-- I don't really think there was one.  Now, granted, a
story doesn't _have_ to have a theme-- but I don't have to like it,
either. :-)

I'll also address one of the points Jesse made in his response later in
this thread: that his treatment of Killfile was meant to redeem him
from his somewhat shabby treatment over the years; I'm not sure if that
charge is entirely justified in Killfile's case, but he compares him to
Darkseid having tea with Oberon.

Well, as it happens, one of the comics I bought last month was the
issue of JLI where Darkseid offers Oberon a cup of tea.  Later, Oberon
comments that "For a fella who wants to be absolute dictator of the
universe-- that Darkseid's not a BAD GUY!  And he sets a mean table,
t'boot!  What a LUNCH he gave me!"  And, you know, it gave me an
incredible case of the giggles.  More than that, it serves to
illustrate three points kosher to this discussion.

(1). IMHO, Darkseid's appearance in JLI # 21 in no way denigrates his
appearances before or since.  Any character that's strongly defined
cannot be harmed by an irreverent appearance.  It's true that some
characters do become defined by a comical treatment of them-- when I
think of Guy Gardner, I always think of Batman punching him in the face
and knocking him out.  But Gardner never had the strong definition of
Hal Jordan or even Jon Stewart.

Man. I just got the image of the GL Jon Stewart hosting the Daily Show,
followed by The G'nort Report.

Darkseid can weather a silly appearance, just as Superman weathered his
guest appearances in THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS and, hell, his
entire universe during the Silver Age.  (And, that's not a knock: the
Pre-Crisis Superman Universe is a wonderful and incredibly complex
place.  Really, it's much more important than his personality or

(2). As an ending, the "Darkseid has tea with Oberon" falls into the
Cavalry category.  And while one can expect Darkseid to show up on
Apocalypse, it's not a really satisfactory use of that ending.  I'm not
sure how that could be set-up, if at all; I think it's easier to
forgive in a comedy, where the stakes are somewhat lower for dramatic
and perilous situations.

(3). Darkseid doesn't actually have tea with Oberon.  The entire scene
is ellided, and it's a damn shame: Giffen-Dematties have an extremely
funnny idea but that's all it is, an idea, completely undeveloped.  If
they had taken the time, even if it was just a page, to show Darkseid
having tea with Oberon and serving lunch, it would have been great:

   "Please pass th' mustard, Darkseid."
   "Here you go."
   "You're welcome.  More tea?"
   "Eh, no.  I'm good.  But, uh..."
   "Have to use the bathroom?"
   "Second door down the hall, on the left.  Make sure you go to the
left; the right will burn the flesh from your bones."
   "Did you flush?"
   "Of course."
   Darkseid sniffs the air. "Was it number one or number two?"
   "Eh, number two."
   "Next time, flush twice."
   "Sorry, I didn't know."
   "I better go light a match."
   "I'm sorry.  It's just, italian food..."
   "I know, I know.  Gives me the runs, too."
   "Do you know what it's like to have diarrhea and an anus made of
   "I noticed the bidet."
   "Well, I can't really wipe, can I?  Rips the paper to shreds.  My
compliments, by the way."
   "What about?"
   "Knowing it was a bidet.  When Superman came by the last time, he
thought it was a toilet."
   "Really, Superman?"
   "Well, that's what he said.  I think he was just thought it was
funny to take a shit in my bidet.  Fucking asshole.  Fucking unsanitary
asshole.  You know, once I get ahold of the Anti-Life Equation and
negate all free will, none of this bullshit is going to happen."

Okay, so that went on a little longer than I thought, and perhaps
violates the RACC charter as it's better qualified as fan-fiction.
But, hopefully this illustrates two of my points: (1) strong characters
can weather irreverent treatments, and (2) it's always better to show a
funny, interesting, or important scene rather than to ellide it.

>      On the other, the RTKW and KW miniseries have been structured
> more like an ongoing comic series rather than miniseries.  That is,
> not everything presented in those two miniseries has related directly
> to the aforementioned buildup or culminates in a neatly tied up package
> of plot resolution and thematic relevance.  There's been a lot of stuff
> that has been about other characters getting on with their lives, only
> indirectly affected by these goings on: Vel's departure to get medical
> aid for his son, or the resolutions of the Ultimate Ninja triplets
> situation for example.

That's a good point, and something I didn't think of.

> Master Blaster Special #7
> 'The Return Of Ven-Dorr'  part 3
> A Legion of Net.Heroes [LNH] series
> by Tom Russell

> Ven-Dorr's plan is defeated although Ven-Dorr himself escapes.  Along
> the way various sillinesses occur (I particularly like the VeMites) but

You'll have to thank Charles Fitzgerald for the VeMites.

Thanks for the reviews!


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