REVIEW: A Comparision of Superfreaks Season 2 # 6 and Encyclopedia Brown

Tom Russell milos_parker at
Mon Aug 6 21:59:51 PDT 2007

On Aug 6, 11:14 pm, Martin Phipps <martinphip... at> wrote:
> On Jul 30, 11:19 am, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:

> And yet in Columbo mysteries, you already know who the killer is and
> how the crime was commited and the only element left is watching
> Columbo solve the crime.  Law and Order similarly, by its own
> admission, spends half the time dealing with points of law as opposed
> to solving crimes.  These are not good examples.

They *are* good examples, because information is not withheld from the
audience unless it is withheld from the detectives.  Of course it's a
gradual process-- not all the facts are available on the onset.

But there are facts-- details-- leads-- things that are interesting to
a reader or viewer.  If there's no clues, or not enough clues-- no
possibility for the audience to really "play along"-- then it's less
rewarding, at least for me.

> > I like my police procedurals to play by the rules.
> Nonsense.  Jolt City is remiscent of Beverly Hills Cop with an albiet
> gifted detective working out of his jurisdiction and performing
> actions that, in the real world, would do more harm than good.

But, since Jolt City is not a police procedural, nor has it ever
pretended to be, your point is invalid.  Jolt City is a superhero
story.  Faulting it for failing to live up to the tropes and
expectations-- whether mine or yours-- of a police procedural is like
faulting "Friday the 13th Part Four: The Final Friday" for not being
romantic.  They're two different things.

> > I like to have all
> > the information that the detective has.
> The whole point of a mystery is that the detective doesn't have all
> the imformation to begin with.  The detective doesn't just solve
> riddles: the detective detects.

Yes, but when the detective has gathered all the evidence, I'd like to
be privy to that evidence.  Perhaps you missed my point, because what
you say has nothing at all to do with what I said.
> > All the clues one needs to
> > solve the puzzle need to be at one's feet-- something you can put
> > together logically.  If the writer plays fair _and_ is good at what
> > they do, I don't discover the solution but curse myself when I fail to
> > do so.
> Then curse yourself and not me.

When, exactly, did I curse you?

> Let's face it, Tom, all those old mysteries for kids were lacking in
> the sense that criminal investigations should be left to experts.
> There's a reason why police use the yellow tape that says "Crime
> scene: do not cross".  Did you ever see Encyclopedia Brown testify in
> court?

He doesn't make arrests; only deductions from the existing evidence.

> > Often, the solutions to the miniature puzzles turned on a
> > piece of information I didn't have access to-- for example, that all
> > pizza is cut into an even number of slices, or that a blow to the
> > stomach will cause someone to fall backwards but never forwards, or
> > that buttons on girl's shirts rest on one side and on boy's shirts,
> > the other.
> There's no reason why you shouldn't have access to such information.

Well, when you're eight years old... :-P

> Then you didn't read very carefully.  Mary had met Scott before.  He
> and his wife were students of Doctor Javier.  That's an important
> clue, assuming you didn't remember him from Superfreaks season one
> (#'s 16-18) and remember what his powers were.

A more important clue would have been letting us know what his powers

> > Perhaps he was introduced earlier in this season or the last.  I
> > honestly don't remember him.  (One problem with the literally dozens
> > of characters Martin has introduced and expects us to remember without
> > the benefit of a telling or compelling detail.)
> Again, not true.  About a dozen characters are reintroduced in the
> opening every issue and then characters are often refered to by their
> full names and titles precisely so you won't forget who they are.

Those are regular characters who you name-- I wouldn't call it
"reintroduced"-- which is not the same thing and not my point.

If you look at Dickens, he gives each character a tic-- a telling
detail-- that is reiterated when that character is reintroduced.  It's
not great characterization, but it's memorable and helps keep the
scoreboard straight.

> > And I don't remember
> > what his powers were.  And so, when it was revealed that he had
> > committed the crime, it reeked of being unfair.
> What I smell right now is bullshit.

That was uncalled for, sir.

> And there it is.  Tom, you completely and utterly missed the point
> here.  Mary was looking for a speedster because she assumed that a
> speedster had commited the crime in question but she uncovered
> evidence that the crime was, instead, commited by somebody with the
> ability to stop time.

Yes, I got that; if only I had been told IN THIS STORY that Scott was
able to do so.

>  It
> hadn't occured to Mary earlier on that Scott's powers could have been
> used to rob a bank so it didn't occur to her to question him about

My point is that you should have reminded us about his powers in this

> it.  It's that simple.  I'm so sorry you weren't able to pick up on
> that.  I honestly thought you were smarter than that.  Clearly I was
> wrong.

That, too, was uncalled for, sir.

> By all means, Tom, provide an example where two characters are
> completely interchangable.  Using a lot of chracters does not mean
> that each character is exactly the same.  Indeed, I always pride
> myself on giving each character a unique voice.  So please provide an
> example of where you feel I failed to do that.

To provide an example, I'd have to remember at least two of your
characters besides Mary and Edward.  Which I can't do, because they
all seem to blur together for me.

Maybe you do provide a "unique voice" for each speaker-- but they're
not particularly memorable.  And characters are not defined by speech
patterns or vocal tics.

Two things, to my mind, matter when it comes to characterization-- one
is behaviour.  The other is the relation the character has to other
characters in the story.

This is one reason why I feel Mary and Edward are extraordinary
characterizations-- particularly Edward: Edward's behaviour is unique,
memorable, and real; Edward has a relationship to another character
beyond working professionalism.

It's also the thing that made the uneasy alliance between cop and hero
so compelling during the first season; they didn't seem to exist in a

And, no, robbing a bank/killing someone/capturing someone does _not_
count as behaviour.

>  Why on
> Earth did he promise to help Snapp back in Jolt City #2?  Yes, I know
> it was because he wanted information about the Crocked Man but Martin
> has to realise that his actions have resulted in Snapp continuing to
> operate and people dying as a result.  He puts his needs ahead of
> others and I don't consider that particularly heroic.

Neither do I; Martin made a mistake.  The point now is that he's
trying to make up for his mistakes-- and I think he's been doing that,

> As a matter of fact, even with only a few main characters to work
> with, I find your characterisation in Jolt City to be piss poor.  Not
> only does Martin Rock not act the way we would hope a hero would act
> but he doesn't even have a unique voice.  Indeed, to maintain a secret
> identity, he should sound different as the Green Knight.  The Green
> Knight may not swear but Martin Rock has been living on the street for
> ten years and before that he was in the military.  His speech patterns
> make no sense whatsoever under the circumstances.

I try not to give my characters "speech patterns".  I just let them

>    He smirks right back at here.  And even though she
> can't see it through the mask, she knows that it's
> there.  "Because we live in a phallocentric
> patriarchal society."
> Oh come on!  Who talks like that?  Who talks like that when they've
> woken up in a hospital with a head injury?  What ex-sidekick ex-
> soldier homeless person is going to tak like that _ever_?

It's a joke.  Said tongue-in-cheek.  He's snarking a bit. (Hence the
smirk!)  Maybe it just isn't funny.  But it's not out-of-character;
it's an intentionally ridiculous and deadpan statement.

> What the Hell was that all about?  Who are Dickens and Thurber


Did you just ask me who fucking Dickens and motherfucking Thurber
are?  Did you miss the part where it explains that Dani's apartment is
lined with rows and rows of stacks of books on the floor?

You don't know who Dickens and Thurber are?

(head explodes)

and why
> is Martin Rock going on about "Injuns"?  Is this supposed to be
> funny?  It would have made more sense if Danielle didn't get it.  Or
> perhaps this is a case where one has to be there.

It's a bad joke, and admittedly it doesn't work.

>    "Two objects-- two atoms-- cannot occupy the same
> space, right?"
>    "That's basic physics," says Dani.

> I'm sorry, Tom, but this is nonsense.  First of all, the idea that you
> can vibrate and end up in a parallel world is not real world physics
> but comic book physics so it's annoying to have Dani claim that this
> is "basic physics" but, worse, neither Dani nor Martin are

Dani's claim about basic physics applies only to the statement about
two things not being able to occupy the same space, as that is what
she makes it in reply to.

>  Basically, Tom, your
> problem is that your stories only feature a few main characters so you
> need to make your characters say things completely contrary to their
> established character in order to advance the plot.


> I'm sorry, Tom,
> but having been a superhero sidekick, a soldier and a vigilantee,
> Martin should not be a particularly well educated person and should
> even be a bit confused about pop culture references.

1. Could you point out _any_ pop culture references?
2. Why would his career paths make him uneducated?

Granted, you would expect a man who teaches for a living-- regardless
of the subject he teaches-- to know who the fuck Charles Fucking
Dickens is, but not everyone falls into stereotypes.

I think Martin Rock is a highly intelligent and well-educated
character-- that being part of his very training as a superhero
sidekick, and as a soldier.

> This then brings up the question of how Martin can function as a
> detective.  Really they shouldn't let him anywhere near a crime scene
> unless he is willing to provide a mask statement and testify, but
> that's beside the point because Martin hasn't had any opportunity in
> all the years he was a soldier or a vigilantee to solve actual crimes
> (ie present evidence to the police for the purpose of convicting a
> criminal).  Basically the only reason he goes to crime scenes and
> finds evidence is because the plot requires him to.

Martin only goes to crime scenes that would be within his
jurisdiction-- i.e., the capture of a supervillain or something Snapp-

I'm also following genre convention here-- for when was the last time
you saw Batman testify in court?

> Instead of going to all the trouble of trying to pass off your
> opinions as professional literary criticism, perhaps you should pay
> more attention to your own writing and it wouldn't suffer so much.

I never pretend to offer anything but my opinions.  If you don't want
them, don't ask for them.

And, no offense, but I don't think anything I've ever said in any of
my reviews of your stories has ever matched this recent post of yours
for pure, nasty, unwarranted malice.

I bear you no ill-will; I have no intention of escalating this into
some kind of flame war.  Let's let by-gones be by-gones, and get back
to something close to friendly terms.

As a wiser man than me once said, "Let us not look back in anger, nor
forward in fear, but around in awareness."

That man was James Thurber.  Maybe you should look him up.


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