Day 2 (Kinda): The Batman #atozchallenge

batman-wallpaper-034So nothing says commitment like failing to post on the SECOND DAY OF A 30 DAY CONTEST! But I have excuses. First, it’s hot. Second, I’m on vacation. At Disneyland. Trying not to break it. Again. I’m here with the family—you remember this cast of characters, right? The Wife, the Honey Badger and the Boy. This year, we have the Boy’s girlfriend, Pollyanna (*sniff my lil knucklehead is growing up) joining us on the trip and she hasn’t been to Disneyland since she was 8. So you have this wide-eyed girl and the Boy in his full DMFRH gear and the next thing I know, I’m trapped on Teenage Drama Island for 2 days.

Then my battery died.

I’ve discovered that power is an essential component in the successful operation of modern-day electronics. And no sooner do I show up on vacation then the $10,000 battery in my expensive-ass Macbook decides to kick the bucket. I can charge this bitch for an hour and have 15 minutes of mobility. Godammit!

Anyway, I go to Apple to get a new battery and these fuckers say a) yes, I need a new battery BUT they won’t sell it to me; and b) I can’t get a Genius appointment for 2 goddamn days. For something that takes 10 fucking minutes to replace. I have 10 minutes. I can do it. When I question them about it, the Blue Shirt Hipster with the iPad and bad breath says, “Yeah, it’s connected to the logic board. We don’t sell it to customers.”

“But it’s my Mac!” I say. “I can switch it out.”

“Nope, the version of Macbook you have has to be unscrewed. We have to do that.”

“Apple didn’t invent screws. I can figure this out.”



So here I am, back to reality and talking about Batman. And Captain America. And somebody else that starts with D today.

If you remember, in this little blog series, we are looking at our favorite heroes and tearing them apart to find the real villains behind them. Today’s selection is Brice Wayne AKA Batman AKA the Dark Knight AKA the Productive End of the Dynamic Duo.

You know my man has problems, right? Given that Christopher Nolan just made $147 Billion dollars on the Batman franchise and garnered Heath Ledger a posthumous Oscar award and destroyed an entire football stadium on film, I don’t feel the need to rehash the Batman mythos. What I will say is, despite Batman’s bevy of unbalanced miscreants and murderers in his rogue’s gallery (seriously, a murderous clown who thinks death is funny, a Jigsaw-like killer who creates complicated puzzles and riddles for his victims, and a psychotic psychotherapist—and that’s just a couple), the biggest villain in the Batman story is…Batman.


Ok so lemme explain: I am terrified of guns. I’ve had a girl get shot next to me, saw the bloody aftermath of two suicides, had a friend’s child shoot himself when he found the gun, and I’ve been shot at. Twice. I realize the damage guns can do. Despite those jarring experiences, at no point did I say, “You know what? I’m gonna get a cape and a Kevlar vest and get all MacGruff on em!” Never. Did you? Have you ever decided to take the law into your own hands and dive into the fray, armed with a boomerang and a grappling hook? No? Know why? Because you’re not insane.

Revenge is one thing. Revenge makes sense. This isn’t revenge. These are the antics of a disturbed mind who happens to have the resources to support his insanity. And nobody questions it! Not Alfred, not Malcolm Fox. They just roll with it. Oh, you want a car? Cool. And it needs to shoot lasers and have jet engines? No problem! How about a tank? At best, Bruce Wayne is schizophrenic with a multiple personality disorder. At worst, he’s experiencing severe post-traumatic stress, suffering from a psychotic break at the murder of his parents, and is schizophrenic with a multiple personality disorder. My man needs meds and a straightjacket not a mask and a cape.

Not only this, Batman actively thwarts the law. Like shits in its face. He’s a vigilante (which is wholly illegal), routinely destroys personal property to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, is a consistent perpetrator of assault, denies people due process, and constantly engages in torture. Batman dedicates his life to fighting crime but is a criminal himself. There is little that separates him from the people he hunts.

In the end, Batman is a force of escalation: he pushes everything forward and, in my opinion, does more harm than good. The movies attest to this idea as well. The whole point of the trilogy was to show the logical conclusion of his actions. He wants to learn about criminals to better fight them, so he effectively becomes one of them. What starts as local vigilantism eventually spreads to an open mob war with horrible consequences, the release of chemical weapons, international events, and ends with the siege of an entire city. Batman’s very nature is escalation: he raises the bar and his enemies continue to rise to the occasion until the populace is held hostage by the combined depravity of a man of who a villain trying to act like a hero.

And that’s my word. I’ll be back later today with Cap. Until then, I’m going to Disneyland!

Festival of Fiendishness – CATWOMAN

I’m no fan of cats. Aside from rampant allergies that make my eyes swell shut like I was popping shit to Clubber Lang, I think cats are assholes. They show love when they want, rip up your shit under the auspices of keeping their claws sharp, and they have no qualms about biting the hand that feeds them (literally). And they’re kinda nasty: “Fuck water,” says the cat, “my spit is juuussstt fine.” Ugh.

But there is one little kitty that I have a soft spot for—and she’s today’s dastardly diva: Catwoman.

Now, this post is not about the horror that was the Catwoman movie—Halle Berry in that outfit was the ONLY good part of that ridiculous piece of cinema (but it was a really good part). This is about Selina Kyle, cat burglar, Batman villain, and the Dark Knight’s friend with “benefits.”

There are a couple origin stories for the femme fatale in the skintight outfit: the Tim Burton/Halle Berry movies have her undergoing a transformation caused by cosmetics and chemicals; Christopher Nolan’s flick with Anne Hathaway doesn’t delve much into details but frames her as Rhianna-style good girl gone bad; the comics give her a much more hardscrabble upbringing: former prostitute who becomes a cat burglar (and a damn fine one at that) to escape that life and make a better one for her sister. One version of the story even has her killing her sister’s assailant and becoming a thief to maintain her freedom. My favorite version has Selina looking to Batman as her inspiration for her feline alter-ego.

Ladies, I don’t care what Cosmo or Vanity Fair or Teen Beat tells you: men like bad girls. And Catwoman is a bad, bad girl. Every time you see her she’s sashaying her sexy tail across the screen, leaving every male smitten with the “lap dance look,” taking what she wants, and, by the time guys snap out of it, she’s gone.

Whether it’s Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer or Anne Hathway, what makes Catwoman special (besides the outfit) is that she’s her own person. Murky morality aside, she’s going to be who she’s going to be; she’s going to do what she’s going to do. And there is nothing anyone—not even the Bat—can do to change that. This character, more than any of the villains I’ve explored, focuses specifically on that one facet that makes all of us unique: none of us all wholly good or wholly evil. The dichotomy (yes, there’s that SAT word again) between Batman and Catwoman is interesting: they are more similar than different. No matter how you look at it, Batman is a good guy who does some questionable things; Catwoman is a bad girl who commits crimes for good reasons. They’re not so different.

More than her self-acceptance and comfort with her moral ambiguity, Catwoman is honest. She doesn’t pretend to be more than what she is: a woman using all her abilities and assets to reach her individual goals. There is no global domination, criminal empire aspiration here. She’s a grassroots, Robin Hood-esque style of anti-hero and her populist, self-serving approach is almost admirable. And this, this inspirational quality, makes her one of the most dangerous villains out there and one of the best villains ever.

Coming up, I’m going all Heroic on ya! Sylar (the villain from Heroes) is next on the Festival!

Festival of Fiendishness Day 6: DOOMSDAY

You probably think I’m a Superman fan, doncha? This is the third Superman villain I’ve looked at; must mean I have some affinity for the Man of Steel, huh? Not necessarily. I mean I don’t have anything against the Bulletproof Boy Scout—he just makes me feel bad. All strong and flying and looking good in that blue suit with that one perfect curl. The guy has no imperfections, right? Somebody has to bring him down to size, right?

Well, that somebody is today’s villain, Doomsday.

In the mid-90s some ballsy comic book writer from my home state of Minnesota came up with the idea that Superman needed to be knocked down a peg. That he needed to be taught a lesson in humility and vulnerability. And mortality. Supe needed to die. And the man to do it was a lil guy named Doomsday. Well, a big guy. With a really bad case of eczema.

Honestly, the whole idea is really screwed up. Seriously. And I like villains. Check this out: the being called Doomsday is a project—a weapon—created by a Kryptonian scientist some 250,000 years before Krypton exploded. This scientist, a dude named Bertron, was trying to create a perfect organism (like the aliens in Alien) so he took a baby, like a regular baby, and dropped him into Krypton’s prehistoric environment. Imagine taking a baby and just dropping it into the Jurassic era. It’s fucked up, right? That’s what this guy did. And, surprise, surprise, the baby becomes a Beggin Strip for whatever dinosaur is lumbering by. This is just the beginning. Bertron scoops up the remains of the baby, clones it and makes it stronger. Now, when the baby comes back, its immune to the thing that killed it. For the next 250,000 years, this little baby was repeatedly killed by a variety of means, coming back stronger and impervious to the thing that killed it.

Did you catch that? Doomsday has died thousands of times, only to be reborn. Stronger.

You can imagine he’s not a happy soul, right?

Doomsday learns how to adapt on his own, kills Bertron, escapes on a ship and kills the whole crew. He goes from planet to planet, wrecking shop, tearing up whatever he can. If he gets beat, no biggie, right? Comes back, $6 Million Dollar Man-style, better, stronger, faster, and beats the living daylights outta whatever took him. He goes to one planet, kills everyone, and the leaders transform themselves into a Voltron-style energy weapon that kills Doomsday. But they don’t trust it so they bind up his body, drop him in a metal tomb, and bury him in stone.

This MF gets out. And makes it to Earth.

How raw is Doomsday? On Earth, he beats the shit out of the entire Justice League (AKA low-budget Avengers. What can I say? I’m a Marvel guy…) and does it WITH ONE HAND TIED BEHIND HIS BACK! Literally. Well, Superman can’t have some no-name dude with crusty skin whopping on his people so he swoops in to help.

This does not end well. Superman is trying to save Metropolis. Doomsday is trying to kill everything that breathes and has a particular disdain for the Man of Steel. These cats literally beat one another to death. In front of the whole world.

Doomsday killed Superman.

I could go on. I could talk about the fact that after killing Superman, Doomsday was strapped to an asteroid and flung deep into space and he woke up anyway! Drifting through space, giggling about the whole thing. I could talk about how Doomsday came back, repeatedly, after being stranded at the End of Time (literally) or being blasted until only his bones remained. Doomsday is raw, unmitigated destruction for the sake of destruction. He’s an incredible villain because everything he does is because he can. And no one can stop him.

But that’s not what makes him awesome. Doomsday is awesome because he gave us this:

Celebration of Wickedness Day 30B: GENERAL ZOD

I already told you that I’m no fan of DC Comics (they have continuity issues I cannot wrap my head around) and everybody is named Something-Man, This-Power-Girl. There’s even a Something-Lad—Lad? Seriously? In 2012? Can’t do it. But that’s beside the point. I am a fan of General Zod as portrayed in the magnificent Superman II by Terence MF Stamp.

No matter how you slice it, Zod’s been pissed for a while: whether you go with the comic version of him leading Krypton’s military and committing atrocities; or him having issues with how the Council did Non…and then committing atrocities; or Smallville’s genetically engineered, then sent back in time nonsensical portrayal—it all ends with Zod doing foul stuff on Krypton, getting imprisoned in the Phantom Zone (which is like the cornfield for you Twilight Zone aficionados—ha! I got to use the word aficionado), escaping the Phantom Zone, making his way to Earth where he gets Superman’s powers with none of the truth, justice and American Way jazz. And then he wrecks shop.

Now, I already told you, I’m looking at the Zod who screamed at Marlon Brando, “You will bow down before me! Both you, and one day, your heirs!” and then made good on it. I’m talking about the Zod who came to Earth and walked on water in front of Buford T. Justice (“Did that son’bitch just give me an order?”) I’m talking about the Zod who got on the news and called Superman out and then proceeded to whoop his ass through downtown Metropolis—which looks an awful lot like Gotham City. And New York. That Zod. He was an awesome Zod.

Here’s why he’s impressive: Zod is the most horrid version of Superman we can consider. He was even too bad for Lex Luthor—and Lex wants to kill Superman. He’s a direct affront to everything that makes us love Superman: Zod has all the powers with none of the humanity. See, that’s what Zod is really about: taking away that thing that makes Kal-El into Clark Kent, into one of us. Because beneath the cape, behind the S, is an individual who was orphaned, different and alone. Alone. There’s nothing else like Superman, not on Earth. Not in the universe. His planet is gone. His people are gone. He clings to the closest thing he can: us. And then only vestige of who he might be, what he could be, is a bulletproof megalomaniac clad in deep V’s and puffy sleeves. It’s only a matter of time before people—human beings—put two and two together and turn on Superman.

Zod isn’t about power (but he uses his so effectively); he’s about alienation. He’s about attacking the core of the Man of Steel. Think about it. He brings out the worst in Superman. Zod makes the world think Superman has abandoned them (when he was just getting some nookie); he beats the living shit outta Superman with powers humans worship him for having; there are instances in the comics where Superman has killed Zod (and the movie implies it). Zod takes this superhero and shows him a horrible mirror—turns a savior into a killer at worst, an apathetic god at best. Anything but human. Anything but one of us. When the dust settles, Superman is still different and alone. And now we all know it.

And one more thing, Zod had this amazing line: “Why do you say these things to me, when you know I will kill you for it?” That’s always been my favorite.

That’s it for the Celebration, at least for this volume. Its been a blast, ladies and gents, Sith and Jedi, wizards and muggles.

Catch ya later!