Tag: Storytelling

Go, Ken, Go! -- Part 1: Sonic Fandom ca. 1996

I'd like to talk about Archie v Penders, because it fascinates the hell out of me. In fact, I've got enough to say about it that I'll be on the subject for most of the week, if not longer.

But I should probably get some disclosure out of the way first.

First of all, my feelings on creators' rights are pretty well known.

And second, I corresponded with Ken Penders for years in the mid-1990's and he was pretty cool to me.

It may be hard to remember in these days where I can just get into a political debate with Ethan van Sciver or ask Kurt Busiek about his unpublished Final Fantasy comics, but it wasn't so long ago that most people didn't have the Internet and it wasn't common for fans to connect directly, personally, and regularly with comics creators.

The first cartoonist who I ever knew to directly engage his fans online was Ken Penders. (Not the first person, and not even the first person who worked on Sonic the Hedgehog at Archie -- that honor goes to editor Paul Castiglia, who likewise was a class act -- but the first person who was actually writing, drawing, and inking the things.)

In those days, the main place where I participated in Sonic fandom was on a mailing list run by Ron Bauerle. And when I say "mailing list" I mean something less sophisticated than an automated majordomo system; I mean people E-Mailed Ron and he forwarded those E-Mails to a list of addresses, manually, with some edits and comments of his own.

Ken was kind, engaged, patient, and forthcoming. He took the credit or blame for ideas that were his, and he was entirely candid about decisions that were forced on him by Archie or Sega.

I always liked the guy, though I grant I often had a funny way of showing it. I was thirteen, fourteen years old, and behaved about like you expect an angry, entitled, teenage member of comic book fandom to behave. And Ken was always patient and polite with me (and others), even when I didn't earn it.

In my defense, there were times when he actively and transparently trolled the fans. The biggest thing that ever happened on Ron's mailing list was when one day Ken posted -- in a fake casual, "oh by the way" manner -- that he'd just written a script where he killed off Princess Sally.

He may not have deserved all the vitriol he got for that -- but he did very clearly and deliberately invite it.

(And while I remember being nastier than I should have been, I won't recant the substance of my criticism of the story -- if possible, my disdain for the "women in refrigerators" and "revolving door of death" tropes has only deepened in the intervening years. It was a terrible idea, a terrible execution, and, all right, at least the "Director's Cut" reissue of #50 shows that editorial meddling made the comic even worse than if Ken had done it the way he wanted to.)

But again, I always liked Ken -- he was a nice, friendly, forthright guy, who made time for his fans. Even when I didn't like the comics he was writing or drawing, I still liked him.

And, nontrivially, I also think he's a big part of why Archie's Sonic comic is still out there.

The mid-1990's were a weird time for Sonic fandom. The cartoon had ended, and the games were going through what would become the longest dry spell in their history.

Nobody expected, fifteen and twenty years ago, that Sonic the Hedgehog would still be running in 2013, zooming toward issue #250. (And that fact is essential to understanding the current legal disputes. It looks to me like Archie got sloppy with its paperwork, precisely because this was a licensed comic that they didn't think would last. But more on that tomorrow.)

Indeed, Ken didn't tell us at the time, but there was every possibility that the book was going to end with #50. I mean, given that the story arc was called Endgame, that should have been obvious, in hindsight.

But Ken, more than anybody else, is the guy who kept the book afloat. He's the one who took the wheel in the teens (#16?) and decided the book should depart from the slapstick roots of the Scott Shaw/Mike Gallagher/Dave Manak era and generally start to look more like the Saturday morning cartoon. He wrote more complex, character-based stories. That's how the comic attracted an audience outside its 8-to-12-year-old target, how it managed to keep its 8-to-12-year-old target, and generally the reason there's still a Sonic comic at all. Ken believed in the book, he took it seriously, he made it the best he could. It wasn't always great -- in fact, there were times it was downright lousy. But a Ken Penders story was still usually better than anything printed in the first 15 issues.

And look, I quit reading Sonic comics ages ago. People say Ian Flynn is great and I take them at their word. I definitely acknowledge the possibility that he's writing better comics than Ken ever was. I don't know.

But I am pretty confident that Ian Potto would never have gotten a job writing Sonic the Hedgehog if not for Ken Penders. Firstly, because there wouldn't have been a Sonic comic if Ken hadn't shepherded it through some of its most turbulent years, and secondly, because it was guys like Ken, Paul, and Karl Bollers who interacted directly with the fandom and created an environment where fans like Flynn and Dawn Best could actually make the step to pro.

So anyhow, that's my bias in all this. I like Ken Penders as a dude. I like a lot of what he did when he wrote and drew Sonic and Knuckles. I don't like a lot of what he did, too -- and while a lot of that's down to editorial meddling by Archie and Sega, some of it is indeed down to decisions made by Ken himself.

But that's not why I think he's right and should win the case against Archie -- indeed, when he first announced he was pursuing legal remedies I thought he must be crazy, and said so, rather rudely.

But as the facts have come out, I've found myself believing Ken isn't just morally in the right, he's legally in the right.

And that doesn't have anything to do with whether I, or anyone else, actually like him, as a person or as a writer or as an artist.

That's a point Sonic fanboys just can't seem to grasp in this case: whether or not you personally like Ken Penders's Sonic and Knuckles comics is completely irrelevant to the merits of his legal case.

Free Comic Book Day Musings, 2013

A highlight reel from the last couple days on Brontoforumus:


The Tick

(Originally posted yesterday, 2013-05-05.)

The free Tick is pretty great but makes a basic storytelling mistake in not introducing the supporting cast. I know who Tick and Arthur are, but Bumbling Bee and Rubber Ducky aren't referred to by name until pages 12 and 13, and they never say Cod's full name, unless Cod is his full name.

I know there's a general backlash against techniques like the 1960's era of characters all addressing each other by name on the first couple of pages, and the 1990's method of just having each character's name appear in a caption when they first appear, but there are still ways to integrate it organically in the story. Arthur addresses Bumbling Bee as "Bee" several times in the first few pages, and she later tells Cod she wants to "meet up with Ducky". Those could trivially be changed to the characters' full names without seeming out-of-place.

And again, Cod is referred to as "Cod" exactly once in the story, and I assume that's one more shortened name.

For all that it's still a perfectly fun Tick comic. Arthur gets a vacation, Tick gets an undersea adventure, there are hijinx with the other heroes, and eventually Arthur gets to save the day. It's enjoyable. I would buy more Tick comics if they didn't charge seven bucks for 20 pages. And I heartily recommend the Complete Edlund collection, even though it is really pricey for its quality of materials. ($35 for B&W on newsprint -- but you will definitely get $35 worth of enjoyment out of it. I keep meaning to do a full writeup of it.)

The backup stories and prose sections aren't bad either. But given the latter's repeated reference to how this is bound to be some people's first Tick comic and be introducing people to these characters for the first time, it's that much more baffling that they dropped the ball on actually introducing the characters.


Superman

(Originally posted yesterday, 2013-05-05.)

DC, of course, has spent the past two years on a big relaunch, where its continuity is fundamentally changed and all the characters are redesigned.

And so, for the Free Comic Book Day issue of Superman, which is likely the first Superman comic many people have picked up in years, if not ever...

...they reprint the Donner/Johns/Kubert issue from, what, 2006, 2007, that introduces Chris Kent.

Lois still knows Superman is Clark Kent. They're still married. His costume still has red trunks on it. And the story is best-known for the introduction of a character who was written out pretty soon after, who nobody really remembers, and who sure as hell doesn't exist in the New 52.

But we can't have Stephanie Brown appear in Smallville, because that might confuse people.


Star Wars

(Originally posted earlier today, 2013-05-06.)

The Free Comic Book Day issue is pretty much the perfect little Star Wars story: somebody for some reason decides it would be a great idea to fuck with Darth Vader, and then learns that it really isn't after all. Also Boba Fett gets to shoot some dudes.

I think it's Wood's best Star Wars comic yet; all of my complaints about the pacing-for-the-trade present in the main series are gone here, it's over and done in pretty short order.

It's so easy, after the last 4 movies, to think of Vader as a gigantic pussy. This comic doesn't just play him as a stone-cold badass, it actually uses his engineering talent cleverly too (spoiler: as he's crawling around the outside of the ship, his would-be assassin tries to jump into hyperspace -- but Vader's already destroyed the hyperdrive with his light sabre).

Anyway. It's free (though you've gotta sign up for an account); it's well worth reading. It comes with Avatar (the Last Airbender) and Captain Midnight, too; haven't gotten around to reading those yet.


Digital Freebies

(Originally posted earlier today, 2013-05-06.)

Anyhow, for those who missed FCBD, Bleeding Cool has a list of freebies available at Comixology, the Dark Horse store, and elsewhere. No Tick, sadly, but definitely check out Star Wars.

The Thing About Grimm

You know, I like Grimm, mostly. I like its oddball setting and I love its supporting cast.

But it's got the Star Wars problem: the dullest, most tedious, least charismatic person on the show just so happens to be the main character.

Actually, the two dullest, most tedious, least charismatic people on the show are the main character and his girlfriend.

So really that makes it more like Episodes 2 and 3, I guess.

They've spent, what, twenty episodes now on this fucking amnesia plot? But they forgot the part about giving it any kind of stakes or giving me any reason to give a fuck. Oh no, Juliette might leave Nick? Oh no! Because I am so emotionally invested in their characters and their relationship!

She can leave on a bus or get hit by a bus for all I care, and take Nick with her. I'd watch the hell out of a show that made Hank or Wu or even Captain Renard the main character. And if Monroe and Rosalee were the leads? ... honestly, why aren't they? There's a couple I've developed some genuine affection for.

That one the other week where Nick, Hank, Rosalee, Monroe, and Bud all pulled off a caper together was really Grimm at its best, for reasons Les Chappell at AV Club pretty much nailed. The show diverts itself from the monster-of-the-week formula for a bit to acknowledge that oh yeah it's already got a whole bunch of monster races to work with already, and it ropes in most of the best members of the supporting cast to generally be charming and clever. Even Nick is pretty inoffensive, and Juliette...well, Juliette is barely in the episode, which I guess also counts as a win.

I really like parts of the show. I just wish they wouldn't pad them out with so much bullshit.

History of the Doctor

What we know for sure about the Doctor's origins -- and I'm going to go ahead and put this in chronological order for his timeline, though of course it's instructive to look at the order in which these facts were revealed on the show, too:

He's a Time Lord from Gallifrey. He has two hearts, and when he dies he regenerates into a new form. He's currently in his eleventh incarnation of thirteen.

He and the Master went to school together. When they were children they looked into the Total Perspective Vortex; the Master went mad and the Doctor ran away.

The Doctor and the Master chose their own names.

The Doctor stole the TARDIS and fled Gallifrey. Until he finally gives himself up in The War Games, he is a wanted man, both for the theft and for violating the Time Lord equivalent of Star Trek's Prime Directive and constantly interfering in affairs of the universe instead of just standing by and watching.

When we first meet the Doctor, he's parked his TARDIS in a scrapyard in 1963 London. He's an old man traveling with an apparently teenage girl who goes by the name of Susan Foreman and calls him Grandfather. (We reasonably assume that he is in fact her biological grandfather, though this is never stated unambiguously.)

The reason he's in London in 1963? He's got a powerful Time Lord artifact called the Hand of Omega -- a device which is capable of destroying planets across time and space -- and seeks to hide it.


I don't know if that's an exhaustive list, but those are the key points of what we know about the story before the beginning of the first episode, off the top of my head.

Other than that, there are hints, and things expressly stated as the intentions of the writers (and, in some cases, novelized), but nothing really concrete on the show itself.

First, there's the nature of the Hand of Omega. It's the device that Omega used to perfect time travel by collapsing a star for fuel. Omega was blasted into the antimatter universe, and his partner Rassilon became the first Time Lord.

The Doctor later says of the Hand of Omega, "And didn't we have trouble with the prototype?" Pressed by Ace, he corrects himself and says "They." Script editor Andrew Cartmel has stated explicitly that his intent was to imply that the Doctor himself was a third founding Time Lord, alongside Rassilon and Omega (and there are further seeds to this end in Silver Nemesis, which I've never actually seen), but this plot never reached fruition.

Not on the show, anyway. There's a novel called Lungbarrow which lays the whole thing out; I haven't read it but it sounds immensely complicated, implying that the Doctor is a reincarnation of the Other, retaining his memories through the Time Lords' technological method of asexual reproduction, the Looms. It all sounds frankly quite complicated and is absolutely not the sort of thing I would ever expect to see on the TV show.

But the idea of the Doctor as the Other? Still a possibility. Especially since I expect we'll be seeing Omega again soon.

The Omega symbol's been cropping up on the show for several years now. The clerics who kept River as their prisoner in Time of the Angels had it on their uniforms. It cropped up again in A Good Man Goes to War.

Now, obviously that shit's there for a reason. It's not just there because some costume and set designers think omegas look cool. And while certainly there's a religious connection, this is Doctor Who; there's no way they threw it in just as a Revelation reference.

So I'm comfortable in assuming Omega is going to figure into the coming story arc somewhere. If Omega himself doesn't put in an appearance, then his legacy's going to be relevant, and I bet we'll be hearing about the Hand of Omega again.

Last night I ran across the possibility that the Doctor's name was a mathematical formula. What if the secret of time travel itself is encoded in his name?

Again, that would make it tough for him to be one of the three founding Time Lords (short of a paradox where he travels back in time and becomes one of them) -- but I can easily imagine that Time Lords might name their children after founding principles of their society. Like naming a child after a religious figure or a king or a lord.

It would also explain why the Doctor had to change his name before going out into the wide universe -- if his name holds the secret to time travel, well, that wouldn't be a secret among the Time Lords, it would be common knowledge. But sharing it with somebody outside Time Lord society would be a big no-no.

We've seen, of course, over the series, that there are other races and cultures capable of time travel -- but theirs is always rudimentary, limited in some fashion. Dangerous and unpredictable (moreso than the Doctor's TARDIS). The Doctor, as last of the Time Lords, guards his TARDIS and its secrets closely -- and maybe that includes keeping his name a secret.

It's an elegant theory and I like it -- but it creates its own problem: barring a copout where his name is never actually spoken onscreen, he still needs to have a name. And, if this theory is correct, it needs to be a name that's not just satisfying to the ear but also sounds like plausible enough technobabble that the audience will buy that it's some fundamental secret of time travel. And you've only got a short space to work with. (My full name is nine syllables. And it's pretty long.)

Alternately, maybe it's something far more prosaic. Or maybe Moffat's got something much more interesting in mind. Guess we'll find out in three weeks.

Time Lord Names

Some Time Lords have names -- like Rassilon and Romana. And some have descriptions -- like the Doctor and the Master. And, presumably, the Rani; I don't know what the fuck a Rani is but she's a the.

And then there's Omega. Omega's important and I expect we'll be seeing more of him very soon. But his name is sort of an interesting exception in that it's not a the but it's still more description than name.

Of course, Doctor Who's mythology is patchwork. Time Lord society is built across decades of retcons -- hell, nobody uttered the words "Time Lord" for the first six years of the show, or "Gallifrey" for the next five. Time Lord social customs aren't mysterious and inconsistent by design, they're mysterious and inconsistent because they're making it up as they go along. Present tense; they're still making it up.

So I'm sure there's a reason some Time Lords have names and some have descriptions. Maybe it's out there in the books or audioplays somewhere. Or maybe nobody's come up with one yet and it'll be up to some writer to handwave a reason at some point. Hell, maybe both; books and audioplays aren't canon and the show is free to contradict them.

And of course the names operate on another level besides the in-universe one. I'm sure that, in-universe, the Master didn't choose his name because of a double-meaning implying he's second-best after the Doctor; I'm sure that, in-universe, he chose it solely on its primary definition and not its academic one. But even if Letts and Dicks didn't have that double-meaning in mind when they named him -- and Wikipedia says they did, though there's no citation -- then certainly later writers made the connection.

...

...oh my.

So while I was looking over that Wikipedia entry, I clicked on over to the page for Terror of the Autons, the Master's first appearance. And it's got this bit about the novelization of the episode:

The Master and Doctor are revealed herein to have names that are mathematical formulae

Hmmmmm.

Again, the books aren't canon -- but if the Doctor's name is a mathematical formula, that could certainly be pertinent to the current storyline, now couldn't it?

Doctor Who?

Spoilers for Doctor Who episodes new and old follow.

So Steven Moffat's been teasing the revelation of the Doctor's real name since 2008's Silence in the Library, and built it up as his major arc last year. I figured this year was a break from that plotline and we'd probably get an answer next season -- but the BBC's just announced this season's finale will be titled The Name of the Doctor. So while there may be fallout next season, it looks like the big answer is coming in just three weeks.

So I've got some thoughts. What could the Doctor's name be? Some possibilities:

  1. It's a fakeout. We never hear his name. Even if it's spoken, it's spoken offscreen, or whispered so we can't hear it, like in Silence.

    This strikes me as unlikely. Moffat's been building to this for five years. He's big on misdirection and on things not meaning exactly what you think they do -- but when he teases something big, he eventually delivers on it. Even if it is exactly what it appears, like last season when we found out that yes in fact River Song is the Doctor's wife, which we'd pretty much all assumed since Silence in the Library anyway.

  2. It's an homage. To somebody real. Like in Human Nature when he says his parents are named Sydney and Verity.

    Of course, if his name is a reference to a real-life person, then the name itself won't have any in-universe significance -- see #4, below.

  3. It's a name we've already heard.
    1. It's a name we've heard before, either on the new series or the original, either a famous Time Lord, some other august personage, or hell, maybe he was faking it that very first time he said "Doctor Who?" and his name really is Foreman.
    2. It's a name that's been referenced that we don't even know is somebody's name -- like when we heard "Silence will fall" and only later learned that "Silence" was the name of an evil alien religious cult. The Doctor's name could be hidden in any of the catchphrases we've been hearing -- The Fields of Trenzalore, The Circle Must Be Broken, etc.
  4. It's just some random name. It's not the Doctor's name that's actually important, it's his identity.

    This is a possibility -- a little Moffat-y misdirection -- but I doubt his name will be selected completely at random. If he goes this route I expect it'll be a combination of this and #2.

#3 seems the likeliest option to me.

There have been hints that Moffat intends to revive what's been called the Cartmel Masterplan:

The overall plan for Cartmel was to reveal that the Doctor was some form of a reincarnation of The Other, a mysterious figure from Gallifrey's past who helped form the Time Lords' society and perfect the time travel technology of the Time Lords.

Of course, "the Other" is no more a name than "the Doctor". It might tell us his significance, but it's not his name.

There's another problem: Moffat's view of the Doctor as a wanderer who stole a TARDIS when he was young seems incompatible with the idea that he's one of the three founding Time Lords. That is, short of some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey paradox where the Doctor is born in an already-established Time Lord society, steals a TARDIS, and at some point travels back in time to become one of the three founding Time Lords.

Which would be a workable plot, but might also tell us too much about the Doctor. Moffat, like most of the Who showrunners, thinks that a little bit of the origin story goes a long way. (For example, Neil Gaiman tells us that Moffat asked him to pare down his description of the Corsair in The Doctor's Wife because the original pitch implied that the Doctor patterend himself after the Corsair -- Moffat's response: "Answers too many question that should be left alone. He's the Doctor, he does what he does for reasons too vast and terrible to relate.") Obviously whatever the Doctor's name is must work toward some big reveal that leaves its mark on his origin story -- but it also needs to walk a fine line that doesn't tell us too much about where he came from and why he does what he does.

Indeed, in some ways it's better that the original series was canceled before Cartmel could spell everything out -- this way we got hints, in serials like Remembrance of the Daleks, that the Doctor was more than he seemed, but he still got to maintain his mystery.

If all goes according to plan, I'll have some future posts coming up dealing with Time Lord names and what we actually know about the Doctor's origins.

This Week on "Nobody Involved with Bones Gives a Fuck Whether Computers Behave in a Remotely Rational or Coherent Fashion"...

...somebody gets an E-Mail -- "probably spam" -- and it allows Angela to decrypt every encrypted E-Mail she's ever gotten.

This somehow manages to be the stupidest thing in an episode about a mutant virus injected into a blogger with a microneedle that, still attached to her skeleton, then manages to jab one of the interns and infect him too.

Well maybe next week's episode will be less stupid.

...wait. Season finale? Fuck. That means another Pelant episode.

Well, maybe they'll finally just fucking shoot him and next season's premiere will be less stupid.

The Big Little Moment in Batgirl #19

Expanded from a Brontoforumus post I wrote yesterday. Spoilers follow.


I haven't been reading Batgirl ('cept one issue a couple months ago). I don't really know Alysia Yeoh. I knew enough to know she was who everybody was figuring would be the trans character.

But y'know, coming into it as a new reader, I think Simone really nailed it. It's the wonderful little moment of "this is a big deal to this character but it doesn't really change anything". It's that peculiar mix of something that really matters and simultaneously doesn't matter at all.

That's Simone's strength: these little human moments.

I've been on the other end of an "I have something to tell you" coming-out moment a handful of times in my life. It's just like that. The moment of "I'm glad you're comfortable telling me, but from where I'm sitting it doesn't change a thing." Or, in some cases, "Well Jesus, dude, I knew that within five minutes of meeting you" or "Yeah, I just assume every woman on the Internet is physiologically male." It's something that's so big and so small, all at once.

And superhero secret identities as a metaphor for the closet is hardly a new idea, but I've rarely seen an actual superhero comic commit to it so fully and unambiguously. Alysia reveals her secret to Barbara, but Barbara doesn't reveal her secret to Alysia -- and indeed, while her brother and her mother know, she hasn't told her own father. Subtle it ain't, but deft and nuanced it is. Simone takes on a great tradition here, what the masks and the cowls really say about people -- and it bears remembering that superheroes are rooted in the American Jewish tradition. Taking on an assumed name, hiding your identity from all but a trusted few -- the experience of the oppressed outsider is deeply encoded in the DNA of the superhero. Simone pays homage to that heritage here, in a way that never distracts and always serves the story.

As for that story, as for the rest of the book -- well, it's more of the "Barbara's brother is a sociopathic serial killer" arc that I don't care much for. I think Gail does a fantastic job with it but it is so very much not my cup of tea.

She's promised things are going to get lighter in the coming months, but next month's cover has a super-creepy new version of the Ventriloquist on it and I'm not holding my breath.

Still, I expect I'll be along for the ride for a little while to come, at least. Even if the big stories don't interest me, the little ones do -- and there are few other writers working in mainstream superhero comics right now who are Gail Simone's equal at those.

Saga: Sexy, Funny, Thrilling, and Sad

Spoilers for Saga #11 follow.

When I first opened Saga #11, I was sitting in the lobby of Big-O Tires waiting for an oil change.

And I was like Wow, that sure is a giant splash page of two people fucking right on the first page.

So I quickly flipped to the next page. And on page two, it was naked people talking about how they'd just finished fucking.

So yeah it wasn't a very good comic to be reading in public so I put it back in my bag and read Bravest Warriors instead.

But when I did get around to reading Saga, in the privacy of my own home, it was a legitimately great comic.

First of all, that sex scene? Pretty hot. Not just because of the graphic first page (not the most graphic thing Fiona Staples has shown us in the book to date), but because of the banter afterward. Alana acknowledging she lost control, with a few choice dirty words -- it's a side of her we haven't seen before, and it's sexy.

But it's also funny. Vaughan's good at witty dialogue -- and it bears adding that these characters have their own voice. There may be a whiff of Y in the deadpan lines that make me chuckle, but it doesn't feel like Yorick Brown arguing with Agent 355 and Dr. Mann. It's most definitely Alana and Marko talking -- it feels easy and natural from these two warrior fugitives in love.

But that's a flashback. Specifically, to Hazel's conception. Back in the present, we pick up at last month's cliffhanger: the Will has found the fugitives, there's a hatching baby Timesuck about to wipe out both ships, and the Will's ship's hull's been breached and Lying Cat's been sucked out into space. The end of last issue strongly implied Lying Cat was dead, but it was a fakeout; the Will is having none of it. He leaps out into space without a suit, saves Lying Cat, and gets the fuck out of Dodge. It's the strongest Fuck Yeah! moment in the issue; the Will lives up to his name and rescues a beloved character, Hazel's narration and the laws of physics be damned.

But while the Will's party makes it out unscathed, Marko's doesn't.

Marko's mother urges him to take the crash helms and teleport out with Alana and Hazel. Marko instead throws them into the ship's reactor, thinking that this way his parents won't have to sacrifice themselves. He's half-right.

It turns out the peaceful, pastoral image of Marko's father threading flowers on the cover is foreshadowing -- because he doesn't make it out. He uses the last of his strength casting a spell to hold the ship together. And, barring any further unreliable-narrator shenanigans from Hazel, he's really gone. We've known it was coming for months, but we didn't know it would be so soon.

This book, man.

I'm not sure when the last time was that I read a comic that put me through this wide a gamut of emotions -- quite possibly The Love Bunglers. Vaughan and Staples sing here; it may be the best issue yet of what's already become one of my favorite series.

If you're not checking out Saga -- and you read this far down anyway -- give it a look. #1 is free on Comixology.

And if you dig Brian K Vaughan, check out The Private Eye, his new DRM-free, pay-what-you-want comic with Marcos Martin on art.

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Originally posted Brontoforumus, 2009-12-05.


The Talons of Weng-Chiang is commonly referenced as a fan-favorite episode, so I gave it a look. It probably didn't live up to the hype, but it was still pretty good. It's a Fourth Doctor/Leela story in Victorian England, where they face off against the eponymous villain, who's a gestalt of Fu Manchu, Jack the Ripper, Dracula, and the Phantom of the Opera. The Doctor plays a Sherlock Holmes-y role.

It's got a great setting, sets, and costumes, good characters, and fantastic Fourth Doctor dialogue. The main thing working against it is its stereotypical portrayal of the Chinese -- some of this, like comments made by the English characters, is simply an accurate portrayal of the time the story's set in, but the character of Li H'sen Chang, played by an Anglo in heavy makeup, is damned awkward.

Those blemishes aside, it's a great story, with nice visuals and writing, and one of the Fourth Doctor's best, which is to say one of the series' best.

The special edition is currently $25 at Amazon, while the non-special edition has inexplicably shot up from $15 to $28.14. $25 seems a bit much; I'd suggest waiting for a sale or for it to become available for streaming.


Aaaand I think that's the last of my old Who reviews. Guess I'll have to find something else for my phoned-in posts when I can't come up with anything new to write. Course, I've written plenty else over at the forums over the years that I'm sure I can plunder.