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

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Thu Aug 9 02:01:39 PDT 2007

On Aug 7, 12:59 pm, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> 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.

I did not withhold information either, Tom.  You really need to grow

> 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.

There was enough information for you to follow the course of the
investigation, Tom.

> > > 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 was watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon yesterday with my son and it
had Jerry open the refrigerator to cool down the room so that he could
go ice skating in the kitchen.  I shook my head in disgust.  Yes, I
know Tom and Jerry cartoons are not science fiction and cartoons often
flaunt the rules of real world physics for the sake of a gag but it is
a valid criticism to say that you can't cool down a room by opening
the refrigerator door and that the cartoon is, effectively,
misinforming the viewers by implying that they can.  By the same
token, even though you don't consider Jolt City to be a police
procedural nor science fiction, the fact remains that if you use poor
logic in either the areas of law or science that you can be faulted
for it.  To put it another way, it doesn't make sense for you to try
to criticize my writing and then consider your own writing to be
somehow exempt from the same sort of citicism.  I don't mind criticism
but I do ask that you be specific and constructive and not just simply
continue to make sweeping statements that can actually be shown to
apply to your own writing and not mine.

> > > 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.

You don't have a point, Tom.  You're just full of hot air.  Well, full
of something anyway.

> > > 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?

This is usenet, Tom, and on usenet your posts are archived so you
can't get away with this sort of dishonesty.  You said "When the
writer doesn't play fair, I curse the writer".

> > 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.

You completely missed my point.  In the real world, amateur detectives
wouldn't even have access to the original evidence: it would be sealed
awaiting trial and the only people who would have access to it would
be the police, the district attorney's office and the defense team.
Evidence that is tampered with, whether it be at the crime scene
itself or any time after it is collected and before it is presented as
an exihibit in trial, can be thrown out of court.  Encyclopedia Brown
would then have to be called as a witness to explain what he was doing
handling police evidence in order for the evidence to be brought back
in.  When you realize this, it is hard to take kid's detective stories
seriously.  It's sad but true that a little knowledge of the real
world can take the fun out of such stories.

> > > 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

To be honest, I don't get a chance to read much fiction here in Asia:
I usually read whatever I get my hands on, newspapers, magazines and
internet articles, but I don't bother with most fiction because I'm
limited to waht I can find in local libraries and book stores.  When I
was in high school, though, I read a lot of Issac Asimov.  Some people
criticized Issac Asimov for writing mysteries because, as a scientist,
he knew a lot more than the average reader and he could solve crimes
using techniques that the average reader had never heard of and the
reader would consider that a cheat.  Now, my question is why should a
reader curse a writer for being smarter than he is?  Isn't that a
little bit unfair?

I realize that this isn't what you are talking about here: you're
saying that you didn't know that Scott Grey had time related powers so
you couldn't have known that he would have been the one to rob the
bank.  But, again, that wasn't the point: the point was for the reader
to have realized that there was another way that somebody could rob a
bank without being seen and that the fact that the clocks had been
slowed down was an important clue, not so much as to who had commited
the crime (because I admit that I didn't exactly say "LOOK!  SCOTT HAS
THE ABILITY TO SLOW DOWN TIME!  CLUE!" in the narration), but
certainly to enable readers to catch on to the fact that Quick Kid
wasn't the only possible suspect as Quick Kid running in and out of
the bank wouldn't have had any effect on the clocks on the wall, let
alone people's watches.  Anyway, the Encyclopdia Brown analogy was
yours, not mine.

> > 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
> were.

Except you're not eight years old any more, are you?  You might have a
point arguing that Encyclopedia Brown mysteries are too difficult for
eight year olds to solve but now, frankly, you're just being

> > > 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.

Dickens was also paid by the word.  (His novels were originally
written as newspaper serials.)  In was in his best interest to
reiterate such details every time he reintroduced a character.

In any case, the fact that I don't typically provide a characters life
story every time I reintroduce them would mean that it would have been
a massive giveaway if I had mentioned what Scott Grey's powers were
then it would have been a massive giveaway.  Are you at least capable
of admitting that much?

(I admit that I wish I had thought of a better name for this character
rather than just borrowing names from X-Men characters but hindsight
is 20/20.)

> > > 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.

I call it as I see it.

> > 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.

This is the part you deleted: "Martin is frankly allergic to
exposition and recapitulation.  But if he had taken a moment-- a
sentence-- to tell us a little more about the character and his
powers, it would have been a step towards being fair."  I stand by my
previous statement: this is camplete, utter bullshit.  Being fair, to
me, means giving the reader a chance to work things out for
themselves.  All I am guilty of here is being subtle.  Sue me.

> >  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
> issue.

You admitted yourself at the begining that Jolt City is not a police
procedural.  Perhaps you need to get some practice writing such
stories before you presume to tell me how to write mine.

Frankly, Tom, this is the problem we had a year ago when you were
_supposedly_ considering whether or not to allow Superfreaks stories
into 8FOLD: it wasn't that I was "allergic" to editting but rather
that, quite frankly, a bad idea imposed by you can ruin what would
otherwise have been a good story.

> > 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.

Again, I call it as I see it.  Besides, Tom, where do you get off
trying to act like the victim here?  You didn't think that the tone of
your "review" was uncalled for?  You didn't think I'd find it
insulting?  Have you ever heard the expression "If you can't say
anything nice then don't say anything at all"?  There have been times
when you've posted stories for 8FOLD and, even though I read them, I
didn't post a review.  Why do you suppose that was?

Yes, I asked you to read Superfreaks and tell me what you thought but
this was _after_ you had already told me you were going to.  Honestly,
as you had already read and commented on most of the first "season" it
was not unreasonable to ask you what you thought of "Season 2".
Besides, it's not as if you've never e-mailed me and asked me what I
had thought of a story you had written: I'm thinking of Speak here.  I
liked Speak but I had certain criticisms that, as it turned out, you
didn't like to hear.  The fact that this was private e-mail and not
posted all over the net makes a big difference, however: frankly, my
impression is that you are less interested in reviewing my writing
than in trying to make yourself sound clever.

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

I never said it did.  At the same time, however, I don't feel it is a
valid for you to go back and criticize the first "season" if you
honestly don't remember it very well: all you can do is say whether or
not you remember liking it ot not but the fact that you now don't
remember it very well precludes you from providing any constriuctive
criticism.  So let's stick to Season 2 then, shall we, most of which
you still apparently haven't yet read.

> >  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,
> yes?

No.  I haven't read Jolt City #10 yet.  Don't know yet if I'll even
bother.  Certainly won't have time to read it today.  The point is
that as far as I know Danielle is really dead and it seems to me that
Martin is partially responsible for that.  Even if Danielle is not
really dead, surely there have been others who have died as a result
of Martin's decision to not make a mask statement and testify himself
against Snapp.  Even if he somehow manages to put Snapp behind bars by
the end of #10, how does he excuse the fact that he allowed Snapp to
operate for so long when he could have put a stop to him much sooner?
Let's face it, Snapp asked the Green Knight to tamper with an on going
investigation.  That's a crime.

> > 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
> talk.

And that's why your characters all sound the same.  In real life, a
physicist sounds different from a lawyer who sounds different from a
medical doctor who sounds different from a police officer who sounds
different from a soldier and so on.  How a charcter speaks should be a
reflection of who they are.

> >    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.

A good story should satisfy two criteria: internal consistency and
believability.  I wasn't criticizing your internal consistency so much
as your believability.  Perhaps Martin Rock has some healing factor
that you've never previously mentioned that allows him to wake up in
hospital fully awake and fully recovered.  I still fault your
dialogue, however: perhaps this is a case where your dialogue is
overwritten where you thought a joke should be inserted here for comic
relief whereas you should really have been thinking about what Martin
Rock would most likely have said first thing after waking up in a
hospital bed.  You should have just "let him talk".

> > What the Hell was that all about?  Who are Dickens and Thurber
> Did you just ask me who fucking Dickens and motherfucking Thurber
> are?

Now THAT was uncalled for.

> 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?

I've never heard of James Thurber.  Sue me.  The exact quote was "They
come to an entrance-way: guarded by Dickens on one end and Thurber on
another."  It didn't say "books by".  You've often criticized people
for being obtuse.  Is this how you react when people are confused by
something you've written?

> You don't know who Dickens and Thurber are?
> (head explodes)

Grow up.

> > 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.

That's twice you've made the "joke" excuse.  Please don't go over your
stories looking for places to insert jokes as if you were writing a
bad sitcom.  If the joke didn't flow naturally out of your first draft
then it probably isn't a good idea to go back and insert one.

> >    "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.

But look at what else she says.  ("I know that," snips Dani.)  Here
Dani comes across as a know it all.  You knew you were going to have a
cliff hanger ending with Dani supposedly dead and presumably you
didn't want the reader to react with "Good riddance".

> >  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.
> Example?

Stop being so damned dishonest, Tom, and reread the part you snipped:
"neither Dani nor Martin are physicists
so even if what they were saying did make sense then there's the
question of how they would know about it."  There's no shame in a
police detective not being familiar with comic book style technobabble
so why does she have to come across as Miss Know-It-All-Smartypants?
Why can't she accept that there are experts out there who know more
than she does?  After all, the reader has to accept that Fay is
precisely such an expert in order for the reader to accept this
technobabble as real physics long enough to suspend disbelief.

> > 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?

Um, Dickens and Thurber? :)  Obviously I meant _modern_ pop references
but if Thurber isn't part of popular culture then why in God's name
would you have expected me to know about him!

> 2. Why would his career paths make him uneducated?

There's educated and there's educated and it is more realistic to have
well educated detectives.  That's another reason why my general
response to Hardy Boy's / Nancy Drew mysteries is "Yeah, right."

Besides, it goes beyond how well educated Martin Rock is: he still
can't perform magic; he's not psychic.  I'm thinking in particular of
how Martin Rock was able to determine that the Crooked Man was a man
with twelve foot arms with very little evidence or how Martin and the
Speedster were able to follow a car on a city street hours after it
had already passed by.  You criticised me for having Edward make what
you considered to be wild deductions based on the evidence he saw but
at least he is a trained forensic expert.  Martin Rock isn't.  That's
my point.

> 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.

Again, Tom, this is completely uncalled for.

> 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.

(shakes head)

How well educated is the average soldier?  Is it the sort of education
that will help him to solve crimes?  You may accuse me of envoking a
negative stereotype of soldiers but you already did that yourself with
the Willis character.

> > 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-
> related.

He's a frickin' vigilantee.  He has no official jurisdiction, not in
Pepperon and not anywhere.  Hence the Beverly Hills Cop comparison.

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

Don't you realize, Tom, that one of the reason's Tony Stark gave Peter
Parker for coming out as Spiderman was precisely so he COULD testify
in court should the need arise?  Of course, that conversation happened
in the Amazing Spiderman and not in Civil War proper where it belonged
but you're wrong to claim that the issue has never been touched upon
in mainstream comics.  The bottom line is that, under current real
world law, Batman wouldn't be able to testify in court without coming
out and saying who he really is.  More than any other hero in the DC
Universe, Batman is essentially a man in a mask and anybody could walk
into a courtroom and say he was Batman.  It wouldn't wash.

> > 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 if you don't like reading Superfreaks then, fine, don't bother but
if you DO read Superfreaks and you DO choose to criticize it then I
expect you to make constructive criticism and that means actually
backing up what you have to say with actual examples.

> 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.

Do you live in the same world as the rest of us?  I dare say it is
obvious that you have some axe to grind.  Perhaps you can explain what
the point of this was: "Some of these were good, some of these were
bad.  Sometimes I found
the stories to be quite clever; other times, I found them lacking."
That was supposed to be a review of Superfreaks Season 2 #'s 4-17.
So, now, Tom, tell me, did you actually read all those issues before
posting that "review" or not?  If so then what did you mean when you
said "I hope the rest of the season fares better"?

> 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.

You must be joking.  Your "review" of Superfreaks Season 2 was
bullshit as I call it like I see it.  Now perhaps you'd like to
enlighten us all as to what this is really all about.

For the record, adults don't use words like "motherfucking" and then
claim that they aren't trying to start a flame war.


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