Monday, May 31, 2010

Some Memorial Day reading

It’s Memorial Day in the United States, the day when we particularly pay respect to those who have given their lives in military service to our country. I’ve never served myself, but my grandfather was a medic and my uncle is also a vet, plus I’ve got several friends and acquaintances still in the military today. Like so many, I’m eternally grateful for what they do to preserve our safety and way of life and try to display my appreciation every chance I get.

Speaking of doing just that, a Memorial Day reading list of comics that honor or highlight military service is a pretty paltry offering in the grand scheme, but hey, you stick with what you know.

(Speaking of what I don’t know, I’ve never gone back and familiarized myself with the war comics of yore, but if anybody feels like recommending some in the comments section, I’d be curious to know which ones were the cream of the crop in your mind)

I tend to think of the origin of Steve Rogers, the original and iconic Captain America, as being the best and most quintessential story about what it means to serve your country and possess that drive to be a part of something more than yourself (and again, I myself have never been in the military, so please take statements I make like that one with your preferred helping of salt). It’s a tale of a young man possessing inadequate physical capabilities to be a hero, but a relentless heart and spirit that would not quit and propelled him all the way to being not only America’s greatest symbol for liberty, but the most inspirational hero within the Marvel Universe. Though it’s a story that has been told many times by many great creative teams over the past seven decades, I don’t believe any two folks captured the majesty of Cap’s humble beginnings better than the quintessential team of Roger Stern and John Byrne in this special 40th anniversary issue.

In 1999 as DC prepared to re-launch the Justice Society franchise with JSA, they tested the waters first with the “Justice Society Returns!” event, set in the Golden Age and showcasing the old school heroes in a series of one-shots bookended by two chapters. It was a pretty awesome and underrated little event that I need to get more in-depth into another time, but the gist was that a bunch of Nazis during World War II use Doctor Occult to summon a mystical baddie named Stalker who the JSA battles in Washington DC, but then he splits his power all over the globe, leading the team to pair off in classic fashion to go after the bad guys. Some of the one-shots were of a higher quality than others, of course, but I include it here because among my favorite chapters were those set in the theater of war with the military playing a strong supporting role, in particular National Comics #1 where Mark Waid and Aaron Lopresti place The Flash and Mister Terrific behind enemy lines as well as Smash Comics #1 where Doctor Mid-Nite tries to put up with Hourman against a similar backdrop in a story by Tom Peyer and Steve Sadowski.

Another oft-overlooked gem (yeah, I should get to this one too), it’s a mix of straight-up action with some spiritual overtones and pretty heavy metaphysical questions as a crew of WWII grunts end up with an angel in their ranks and get propelled into a quest to protect a heavenly artifact from falling into demonic hands who happen to have allied from the Nazis. On the one hand, it’s not exactly light reading from writer Peter Tomasi as I alluded to above, but on the other, the themes of brotherhood, commitment, and why soldiers do what they do are really the driving stuff behind this story; the angels and the flaming swords and the unkillable Nazis are just window dressing. This really is a story about the willpower of the human spirit, particularly in those who serve in the military, with jaw-dropping art by Peter Snejbjerg lighting the way.

A still-recent story that we’ll have to see whether or not it stands the test of time, but I was genuinely moved by Marc Guggenheim and Barry Kitson’s account of Peter Parker’s tormentor-turned-friend Flash Thompson’s time in Iraq and I don’t think there’s much question he’s perhaps a more interesting character now than he has been in years as a result of this story and the glimpses that have followed. In part it’s a story about how Spider-Man inspired Flash to try and be a hero, but really it’s more about how that heroic drive resides in normal people who can’t fly or lift cars, and how they exist in the real world. I’ve heard and seen praise of this issue by actual military folks and their families, which of course is a far greater stamp of approval than I could ever give it.

Happy Memorial Day and to those men and women serving my country, thank you so much for what you do.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Linko! XLVI

* So Kevin joined the blog this week...or is joining I guess (post some shit, bro!). While Ben's introduction was lovely as usual, I thought I'd point out that K-Smooth has been a busy bee of late elsewhere including where he took over my old Tuesday Q&A gig and at CBR. To help acclimate you to the finer points of his style, here are three links from each site that you might want to check out:

On the Marvel side, we've got a really nice Jonathan Hickman Q&A about S.H.I.E.L.D. (by the by, it feels like I've been waiting forever for issue #2), a sufficiently goofy Q&A where Dan Slott dodges Kevin's most ardent attempts to pry info on Amazing Spider-Man #600 (it was Aunt May that got hitched!) and one of a series of profiles of the upcoming Young Allies team with Sean McKeever, this one on Firestar (who I always liked as a kid).

On the CBR side, don't miss Matt Sturges on JSA All-Stars, an engaging report on the C2E2 panel that for some reason paired Mark Waid with Jeff Smith and a Francis Manapul Flash interview that you'd never be able to tell was conducted by Kevin last minute on my couch with me standing over him going "Oh, and ask him about Geoff Johns' big plans" in crappy fake sign language.

* And this isn't a link, but with Kevin joining, it's really apparent that I'm the only dude on the blog who's not looking like a total goof in his photo on purpose. Best comment suggestion for what my photo should be instead wins one back issue I find in my apartment, free shipping included.

* The one link you should all TOTALLY click on this week: apparently some Sirius radio show did a tribute to Alex Chilton this week featuring the insanely satisfying Sondre Lerche and perhaps my favorite power pop frontman of the past 20 years, John Davis of Superdrag. It replays on the Sirius site Sunday evening and Monday evening. I know I'll be listening.

* It's Memorial Day this weekend. Fortunately for me at least, I don't have any close relatives who had to give their lives for this country, but I do have two vets that are very close to me: my brother and my grandfather. The former is blogging about the latter at One Pilot's War. It's mostly a transcription of grandpa's love letters to grandma during WW2 with some other info thrown in.

* Speaking of my family, I spent last weekend checking out Robots Need Love Too, a robot-themed art show featuring my homeboy for life Tony Purcell. I'm going to try and get some photos loaded up from that in the next few days, but in the meantime you should not hesitate to bookmark Tony's new art blog where he'll be posting works like the full pitbull painting you see at the right.

* OK, back to comic book nerd shit. All praise to Tom Spurgeon for pointing me in the direction of this post on forgotten Captain Marvel ripoffs both because it was awesome and because it introduced me to Charlton Vs. MLJ, which is a blog about exactly what it sounds like which for me is total nerd porn.

* Speaking of MLJ/Might Crusaders posts pointed out by Spurge, this post highlighting the original appearance of the Fox made me laugh out loud for real. I'd show you, but I don't want to take hits from Booksteve, so click through, huh?

* This bummed me out for some reason I can't explain because it's not like I ever watched him on TV, you know?

* Comic book homework Link: Reading the first issue of Secret Avengers this week, I realized I had no idea what the Serpent Crown actually was. Thanks, Wikipedia!

* Bryan Lee O'Malley Tweeted this pretty complete list of Scott Pilgrim video game references. It's thorough, for sure.

* Finally, Jim McCann introduced me to "Premakes" which I'm sure are pretty fun across the board, but the following "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Ghost Busters" ones stood out in particular:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lynn Phegley Watches "Lost" - "Dumb Ending"

My mom's name is Lynn Phegley. She teaches music to elementary school kids in Grand Blanc, Michigan. She likes classic Hollywood musicals, trashy romance novels and "Sex In The City."

And for some reason she's seen damn near every episode of "Lost."

This week, our ongoing "discussion" comes to an end, and as one of several texts mom sent me during the finale declared it simply "dumb ending" (another said "I think it's Atlantis"), I bet you can guess what she thought. Though in a way, mother was strangely vindicated with the whole parallel reality thing.

Thanks one last time to this site for the screencaps.

Let's begin.


"I don't know what to think about 'Lost.' They're just going to kill everyone off until they solve their story. That's not a very good ending. 'Let's kill everyone off so Jack can guard the light!' Whatever that is. And I told you there is no such thing as a parallel universe! That's the problem with it. This is just someone's dream or nightmare. I don't know what. The whole thing is a nightmare!

"There was nothing really shocking this week except those idiots going into the closet. That was stupid! I thought there was a tunnel in there they were getting to. And Ben is just goes 'I've been waiting for you...blah blah blah...they're in my closet.' He's like a zombie."

[Me: "Well, he's been through a lot."]

"[Laughs] You're making excuses! He has no motivation. He's just a follower. A zombie. He's devoid of emotion."

[Me: "What about in the parallel reality where the French woman told him he was the only father Alex ever had and then he teared up? What was that?"]

"That was a weirdo-ism. It wouldn't be anything if you didn't know about the island, so that was nothing-ness. There's no connection. That's just to throw you off course. This reality has nothing to do with the island. They're not really trying to tell a story. What they're really trying to sell a TV show and keep everyone hooked. If there was a real ending, they'd have lost their audience long ago.

[Me: "That's unfair. If they were just out for money, they'd have run it over eight years right into the ground."]

"No. I think when they decided to only do so many seasons, they said, 'Let's make it as twisted as possible so that we can throw everybody off.'"

"With Jack, it was like Indiana Jones. You drink out of the goblet and you're all-knowing. And what happened to those temple people? They all got scattered! That's another weird thing. Maybe they killed them all off, though. But where'd Locke's people go. He must've smoked 'em. He smoked 'em!"

"I don't think anyone's going to live happily ever after. Here's my thing: they kill the Smoke Monster, and then they fix up the yellow houses. Then they have to get rid of Ben.

"And with Kate, they might as well kill her off so she can rest in peace. Maybe on Hurley will have a happy ending. And you think Sawyer and Juliet will meet in the parallel reality? That would be stupid!"

[Me: "What if they get to the end and Desmond gets them all together and goes, 'You've got to realize that none of this is real'? Would that make you happy?"]



"Well, they were in Purgatory all along! Purgatory is limbo where you wait to get to heaven, and that's where they were. They didn't even know enough to wait."

"And I told you Jack didn't have a son! That was a stupid ending. And what was with that woman who was what's his name's mother? She knew where Desmond was going. Desmond was like that one character in...what's the movie about the angel in the body of the football player?"

[Me: "Warren Beatty. 'Heaven Can Wait.'"]

"Right! Desmond was like in 'Heaven Can Wait.' She wants to know if he'll take the son with him, and he says, 'Not tonight.' Do you think Ben knew they were in Purgatory? I don't think he knew. None of them were in the church. I think he's still living somewhere.

"They did have some snappy dialogue in there. There were like three lines that were unbelievably dumb. 'I've got a bad feeling about this.'"

"It was kind of predictable in a way. Even I predicted that Hurley was the all-knowing one. But Ben must have still been alive because he didn't go in. I think they all died and waited for Jack, and he died last. They just didn't age in heaven."

[Me: "I don't think so. I think the people on the plane made it out, and over the years the moment they each died was the moment before they woke up on that plane that landed."]

"I don't think so. In fact, I don't even know what you just said. Well, whatever. It was like a big love story at the end. All the couples got back together, which was weird too. They reached far for an ending. The whole thing was far-fetched! The good stories are about emotion."

[Me: "This story was brimming with emotion!"]

"That's what kept it from being dullsville."

[Me: "But that's the one thing you liked. And the fans online have been saying 'We want to know about Walt! We want answers!' But the creators said, 'People don't care about all that. They care about the characters.' So in the end, you were the winner, not the nerds."]

"Oh yeah, I feel like I'm a winner." [Sarcasm watch!]

"They dragged it out. It could have been two hours. And the worst commercial was the one for Target with the smoke detector. Did you see that? That was stupid."

"I feel disappointed. It was anti-climactic I guess I would say. When they were in that church, they should have had a ceremony or whatever. They should have walked through that door and came out on The Island in its restored splendor. That church should have been on The Island, and Hugo had built it. That's what was wrong with that. They should have said, 'Come on, Jack' and gone out the door to the little yellow houses where the water always runs. [Laughs]"


In February of 2007, a ray of sunshine entered my, Kiel and Rickey's collective life (yes, even then we were sharing some bizarre amalgam existence like we do on Twitter) when Kevin Mahadeo began interning at Wizard.

Seriously, for us kinda-jaded comics industry "vets," Kevin was like a breath of fresh air; a person who genuinely loved comics and reminded us why we did too. The kid took to every task assigned to him with enthusiasm and vigor, going on seemingly non-stop about why Superman was so cool or how excited he was the new issue of Captain America.

Yeah, of course we had to put Kev through the school of hard knocks, nicknaming him "Tyler" and then calling him that whenever he screwed up (he can explain that one better) and I may have given him one or 30 tasks under the guise of "breaking him down to build him back up," but it must have worked, because he developed into a fine writer and a real credit to our biz. Kevin has been working with me over on at least a year or so now and continues to be both one of my favorite folks to work with and a guy who constantly works to up his game. Creators love him and so do we.

So it's with great pleasure that for the first time since we started this crazy gig, me, Rickey and Kiel welcome a new Cool Kid to the Table as Kevin Mahadeo joins our ranks. Can't wait to read his first post coming soon! Welcome aboard, Kev!

(Also, Kevin dressed up as Harry Potter one day back in '07. Not because it was Halloween or anything, just cos. Gotta love that. Here, he appears to be a cat.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Five Favorite Avengers

Ok, so the Lost fervor has died down a bit and it’s time to cash a check I wrote over a week ago.

Yes, you can say goodbye to those sleepless nights, because I’m finally set to reveal…

…my five favorite Avengers.

In last week’s Avengers #1, after Kang gets blasted across several roofs via a blast of mystic lightning from Mjolnir, Hawkeye says, “And that’s what it’s like to be on the Avengers with Thor” (or something similar enough for me to get away with it)—and that right there pretty much sums up why I love Thor as an Avenger: He’s the ultimate powerhouse bruiser in the Marvel Universe (excepting The Hulk, who is more a force of nature) and thus it’s number one team is just cooler when he’s on it. Thor makes both the best cavalry as well as the best way for a villain to score a quick belt notch and thus make whoever takes them down seem like more of a badass. It’s also always rad to see Thor with his Shakespearean speak dealing with reporters or standing eight feet tall with a smile or sneer over the rookie Avengers or enjoying mead and mutton feasts provided by Jarvis. Thor is such a crazy, unique character that everything about him and a group of mortal heroes just gets better when the two get mixed.

For my money, the best addition to the Avengers in the last decade and Brian Bendis’ greatest triumph as godfather of the franchise. Luke Cage was a character who had been around for decades before he got roped into New Avengers, and during at least half that time I’d say no way he qualified as A-list material, but it was like the hometown boy making good and getting into the majors or something, so we dug it at first. But Bendis was bound and determined to show that Luke belonged, and I’d say he succeeded. The nice thing was, though, that Bendis didn’t have Cage become some out of nowhere world-beater dispatching cosmic level threats in a feverish attempt to prove he wasn’t wasting a roster slot, he just slowly but surely became the quiet conscience of the team, the guy who steered everybody else in the right direction, and yes, was still one bad sonuvagun. When Luke became de facto team leader with no official proclamation post-Secret Invasion, it felt totally natural and totally earned because his maturation process had been a joy to experience—well done, Mr. Bendis.

Janet Van Dyne grew up in the Avengers, entering as a flighty young woman and ultimately becoming perhaps the gutsiest heroes male or female to ever serve. The thing is, I liked The Wasp in all her incarnations, and her versatility was one of her best assets. She was ridiculously Silver Age as the original Avengers’ flirtatious airhead, but unlike a lot of other female characters of the time, she kinda seemed in on the joke, whether Stan Lee and others wrote her that way intentionally or not, and that made her cooler than The Invisible Woman or Wonder Woman. But no doubt Janet Van Dyne’s finest moments came after in the fallout of her messy domestic dispute with and divorce from Hank Pym, rather than curl up in a ball somewhere, she marched into Avengers Mansion and told no less than Captain America and Iron Man in no uncertain terms that she was the team’s new chairperson and they’d better just deal with it. I dug that Jan was a damn effective team leader and held the group together during the darkest days of “Under Siege,” yet didn’t suddenly become so uptight she wouldn’t come on to Paladin shamelessly—this balance of bold and bubbly made her a great character for the remainder of her days.

The Avengers weren’t really the Avengers until Captain America came along; they were just a loose-knit group of bickering demigods trying their best to work together until they thawed Steve Rogers out of this iceberg and he decided the team was a good idea and threw his considerable talents towards making it work. The heart and purity of Captain America was what inspired the bulk of the Avengers to be Earth’s Mightiest Heroes over the years, and placed them several notches above the Defenders, Champions, etc. Only Superman can boast the same symbolic value as Captain America in terms of his effect on his several heroes, but Cap trumps the Man of Steel by also being one of the best team leaders in comic book history and certainly the finest the Avengers have ever seen. To continue the DC shorthand, Captain America has the strategic genius and quick-thinking of Batman, but with Superman’s charm and winning personality. I don’t think anybody believes in the Avengers quite like Cap does—they gave him a reason to continue on in a world that had left him behind, after all—and nobody works as hard towards keeping them in fighting shape. A good ol’ fashioned “Avengers Assemble!” charge doesn’t give you nearly the chill if Steve Rogers isn’t racing at the fore.

So you’ve got gods, super-soldiers, billionaire geniuses and uber-powerful mutants making up the Avengers, and then you’ve got Clint Barton: the guy with the bow, the arrow and the attitude. That to me was always one of the coolest thing about the Avengers: that a dude like Hawkeye could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest and not seem out of place in the least. He’s the guy who questioned whether Captain America was leadership material; the guy who managed to found an Avengers team in California. You can say there was already a precedent for an archer fitting in amongst the powerhouses with Green Arrow in the Justice League, but as much as I am a GA fan, it always seemed like he either was just another square-chinned cipher in the JLA’s fledgling days, and then later more the rabble-rousing square peg than anything else; Hawkeye would mouth off, sure, but at the end of the day he was integral to what the Avengers were all about and very much the heart of the team in a way his DC counterpart never quite was. Despite starting out as a questionable Iron Man villain, Hawkeye was a true blue good guy with a romantic streak who was made to be one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I absolutely love when the rest of the team has been taken out and it’s Hawkeye who has to beat the odds and make the impossible shot against a rampaging She-Hulk or omnipotent Collector to win the day—and that’s why he’s my favorite Avenger.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: Figuring Out the Others

This isn’t going to be “Lost Week” or anything on The CKT (or at least I don’t intend it to be, though like the rest of you I am eagerly awaiting Lynn Phegley uncut and uncensored in the blog post six years in the making), but I must say I’m finding the after-finale dialogue with fellow fans and observers (particularly over on Sean’s blog) to be in many ways just as enjoyable as watching the show. In this regard, I think we owe thanks to the program’s creators not just for bringing to life something so discussion-provoking and layered, but also—and part of me can’t believe I’m saying this—for indeed leaving so much open-ended so these chats and debates can continue with such gusto.

So if you’ll indulge me, while some of my peers are choosing to veer clear of online chatter and just let the series sink in, I’m really enjoying picking stuff apart and trying to connect the dots that were left somewhat free-floating. I am certainly an amateur when it comes to theorizing what meant what and that whole bag and I’ve got far-less than encyclopedic/photographic recall on six seasons worth o’ mythology, but I have started piecing together in my head some of the nagging mysteries of Lost—and now that the show’s done, I can’t really be “wrong,” so why not put it out there?

To begin with: the Others.

I’ve seen more than one place where a major dangler that bothered folks is why exactly the Others—specifically Ben—did some of the stuff they did in the early seasons, like kidnapping kids or holding Jack, Kate and Sawyer hostage. Particularly, why were they such dicks if they were working for Jacob, ostensibly the ultimate “good guy”? And was Charles Widmore a hero, a villain or what?

I don’t have answers—or really theories rather—for all of that, but I have worked out some thoughts on at least some of it, because yeah, it was bugging me too.

So we know that in the beginning (well, after their Mother went goodbye), there was Jacob and his brother, the dude in black he inadvertently transformed into the Smoke Monster. It’s an important piece of the puzzle to remember that Jacob was hardly infallible—the Smoke Monster being unleashed was ultimately his fault—and had a pretty poor role model—Mother killed a village full of people to prevent her other “son” from leaving the island—as his being kind of a prick, albeit generally well-meaning, has bearing on the later behavior of the Others.

Richard Alpert comes to the island, and after briefly flirting with joining up with Smokey, he becomes Jacob’s right-hand man, with the latter realizing he could better achieve his goals of protecting the island and thwarting his brother if he had followers. Richard becomes Jacob’s indirect pipeline to other people who turn up on the island; their interactions wax and wane depending on what other stuff Jacob is up to.

At some point and for some reason, enough folks now populate the island for the Others to be formed with Richard as their constant guide and a leader picked from within. I’m not sure if the initial Others ended up on the island by chance like (I believe) Richard did or if Jacob guided them there—possibly via Richard, who we know travelled off-island to test people like John Locke—because he needed troops, but that’s not all that important anyhow.

The Dharma Initiative sets up on the island; at this point, Jacob is still taking a relatively strong hand in leading the Others from afar through Richard, so his fear of people he can’t control being on the island inherited from Mother kicks in and he has his people position themselves as “hostiles,” a policy that ends up becoming ingrained in the Others right up through when the castaways show up. They don’t trust outsiders because Jacob doesn’t trust outsiders because Mother didn’t trust outsiders, although Jacob doesn’t clue them in that there are outsiders they should trust…but we’ll get there.

Around this time, Charles Widmore becomes leader of the Others. I don’t believe that Widmore is a fundamentally evil guy, more just a weak man. As a young man, he kills a fellow Other rather than allow the group to be compromised by taking Locke, Juliet and Sawyer to Richard; his fear of being booted from his “family” trumps any loyalty to a single member. Later, Widmore tries to get Ben to kill Rousseau and Alex; I’m not really too sure on the why of this one, but I feel like he may have just been trying to break Ben with a task he knew would weigh heavy on him because he felt threatened (again, Widmore is extremely insecure about his much-valued power). Finally, Widmore is ultimately expelled from the Others and exiled from the island by Ben in large part because he has been leaving frequently and during one excursion fathered Penny with an outsider (who, remember, the Others don’t trust).

Interestingly there were elements of both Ben and the Man in Black in Widmore: he was extremely paranoid about losing his power and place and was ruthless in his attempts to secure them, but at the same time felt somewhat restless on the island and sought to exist outside of it. I also don’t think Jacob ever communicated directly to Widmore, using Richard as a proxy, which contributed to his inferiority complex.

Still, under Widmore the Others were relatively tame and didn’t do much more than rattle the cages of folks like the Dharma gang, keeping true to Jacob’s isolationist doctrine but not crossing the line into mass murder. They had a truce and everything.

Then Ben became the leader.

We know that when Ben Linus was young, a time-travelling Sayid shot him and Richard took him to the temple to be “reborn.” Prior to that, Richard had already approached Ben, which says to me Jacob saw some sort of potential in him. Also at some point, Ben’s deceased mother appeared to him; this was likely the Smoke Monster in disguise, meaning both brothers took an interest in the boy. When Ben was healed by the temple, I think Jacob was asleep at the wheel—he may have been off-island scouting candidates—allowing Smokey to slip in and corrupt Ben at least in part as he would years later with Sayid in the same fashion.

This is a tipping point as Jacob has amassed a group of followers, but because he is imperfect and by all indications a bit flighty, he took them for granted and turned his focus to his candidates, allowing Smokey to slip in and begin manipulating them to his own ends, using Ben as his entry points to gain the pawns he has waited centuries for.

We know Ben never spoke to Jacob until he eventually killed him, but I think Smokey was influencing him from the moment he was healed in those waters. I think Smokey pushed Ben to oust Widmore recognizing him as a potential thread back to Jacob; with Ben in charge and bluffing that he could speak to Jacob; Richard stopped asking questions and accepted that the orders being given by Ben were Jacob’s orders.

This is when the Others start really becoming nasty folks because they are being led by Ben, who in turn is being played by Smokey (I think Ben knew in his heart the guy in the cabin wasn’t ever Jacob, but didn’t realize it was the Smoke Monster; as he says in the second-to-last ep, the Smoke Monster was “summoning him” or something like that). They wipe out the Dharma Initiative—because that’s an x-factor Smokey doesn’t need—and move into their digs.

Jacob doesn’t really notice any of this is going on because he is completely occupied by moving the people he needs into place to crash on the Oceanic flight. Jacob does not strike me as a multi-tasker—he’s quite childlike and probably in a bit of an arrested development state—so it’s not hard to believe he got outmaneuvered by his brother here.

The Others start tormenting the castaways pretty immediately because Smokey knows that these are the people who his brother has earmarked as the island’s protectors and also that he needs them eliminated in order to get away from the place, still his ultimate goal.

We found out in the finale and the build to it that Desmond had abilities that would enable him to either destroy or liberate Smokey. I believe Walt had these same capabilities, which is why Smokey wanted him either under his control or gone, hence why he initially has him abducted by the Others and then later sent away. Heck, this could be why they wanted Aaron as well.

In season two, we learn that the Others have a list of names—much is made of it, but we never really learn what it is. I think it’s safe to say now, knowing what we know, that this was the list of Jacob’s candidates and again, Smokey wanted them under his control, thus he had the Others on retrieval duty. I don’t think, however, Smokey fully understood what role the candidates had to play at that point, he just knew that his brother wanted them, thus so did he. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Hurley are the four people abducted by Ben and the Others at the end of season two as well as the final four candidates later on—Smokey was catching on, he just lacked some final bit of intel.

But this is where Jacob comes back in the picture.

Ben develops a tumor on his spine and needs Jack’s help in order to survive. This ultimately ends up being how Jack, Sawyer and Kate are able to escape the Others with their lives.

I think Jacob had something to do with that tumor; I think he finally caught on to what his brother was up to and needed to save his candidates without directly intervening. Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch, but for whatever reason, it makes total sense to me.

You also notice it was around this time that Richard started being more of an active presence in the Others again after being absent the first two seasons; I don’t think Jacob spoke to him directly or at least not at length—not sure why not—but I think he gave him enough indication that things were spiraling and he needed to reel Ben in.

Not long after this is when Widmore re-enters the picture, searching for the island. His first gambit is Desmond, a strategy I’d wager he was fed by his far more attuned former lover Eloise, who definitely knew the score to a greater degree than he did. Eventually, he does find the island again. I think Widmore’s initial Ahab-esque pursuit was fueled by those old feelings of inadequacy as well as a deep down realization that he bobbled the ball during his time leading the Others, and of course a healthy desire for revenge on Ben.

However, I think after Widmore’s initial freighter plan failed and after Ben visited him and threatened Penny, he was indeed approached by Jacob, either for the first time or at least the first time in awhile; I believe Widmore was on the level when he said right before his death that Jacob had guided him back to the island. I think when Widmore was helping Locke try to get back he was indeed on the side of angels and working on Jacob’s behalf. I also think he brought Desmond back to the island at Jacob’s behest when the end game was approaching and he knew he needed a failsafe. I think in the end Charles Widmore was indeed one of the good guys; a deeply flawed and broken man who embraced his chance to make good after a lifetime of screwing up not totally unlike Jack did in the finale.

So I think that pretty much covers the Others, their leaders, and why their motivation was all over the place: they started out as Jacob’s enforcers, but when he was focused elsewhere, Smokey took over via Ben and made them his hit squad to take out his brother’s chess pieces.

Oh, and why was Dogen special? Because he was the only one Jacob was actually communicating to in the years leading up to the castaways’ arrival; not Richard, not Widmore, not Ben, not even Locke—Dogen, like Ilana, was one of the few people Jacob trusted with setting up what he needed in order to ultimately defeat his brother.

Make sense? I know, probably not, but it was fun to try and puzzle out. Tell me if I’m a moron or not in the comments if you wish and I may give this another go in the future.

A Dozen Thoughts on Lost

Comments courtesy of Sean's blog, image courtesy of TJ's.

1-From just a standpoint of emotional impact, it was an impressive and well-done finale for my money. Scenes are still repeating in my head now and haunting me a bit, so that tells me they accomplished something. Those final two scenes, both the gathering of the extended cast and the inevitable Jack eye-closing close-up, those will stick with me.

2-I resigned myself a few episodes ago that we simply weren't going to get that many answers tonight (as I think you and many others did as well, Sean), so that wasn't crushing for me...but I do feel for the people who held out until the end and are pissed. I don't think they're necessarily wrong, we're just coming at it from different angles.

3-Shannon was the great love of Sayid's life? The thing that snapped him out of the haze? Really? They couldn't figure out any other way to work Maggie Grace into the finale?

4-For some reason Jimmy Kimmel's "The show was Jack's journey" theory that he threw at Matthew Fox during the post-show really both made sense for me and helped me appreciate the episode a lot more.

5-Do we really buy that when all that stuff with the castaways vs the others and the kids being stolen and women not having children and so on and so on was going down, the writers/producers *never* had any notion that the show would end any other way than how it did? It doesn't really matter, I'm just curious.

6-The big unanswered question for me that I don't actually think needed to be answered but I'm looking forward to seeing people's theories on is how Desmond accessed the sideways dimension if it really was purgatory or whatever when Widmore zapped him there. I mean, he did access it, right? Also, did Juliet get a glimpse of it too when she died and that's why she said her line? Did everybody peep the sideways when they died? And what event in the real world triggered it being time for folks in the sideways to "wake up"? Did the last Lostie die?

7-Kimmel also nailed a good one, I thought, with pinpointing the moment in the season premiere where the turbulence on the plane stopped and Rose told Jack "You can let go" as being the moment Jack died.

8-Why did some folks who weren't on the original flight (Desmond, Penny and even Ben seemingly had the opportunity) get to "move on" while Miles, Charlotte and Faraday did not? Why wasn't Ana Lucia ready? Is there any reason Eko didn't show up aside from the actor not wanting to appear? And how exactly did sideways Eloise know what was up? Again, questions I just want to see theories from other people on.

9-How did Hurley get Boone to "wake up"? For some reason, and I can't tell you why, that's the one that stands out for me. The only person he seemed in love with was Shannon, and obviously she was meant for Sayid, so what would have gotten Boone to snap out of it?

10-I don't think Ben got enough play this episode. I thought his story deserved more closure and that was one of the legit fumbles.

11-For somebody who was consistently "eh" on Jack and Kate, I gotta say, this episode did a tremendous job of convincing me in retrospect why these two were ultimately the focus of the show for six years. Well done there, both writers and actors.

12-After writing all this out, I do realize that there is some level of frustration for me out of not getting a lot of stuff I wanted spelled out for me spelled out, but also in writing this I realize that I'm kinda grateful for the open-ended nature of things as a springboard for theorizing and discussion that's going to outlive the show itself for years to come.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Linko! XLV

* You know, to me the most interesting thing about Hope Larson's survey of 198 female comics readers wasn't the idea that many girls and women are uncomfortable visiting the majority of male-run comic shops (because...fucking DUH, you guys) but that so many of the young women who become fans of comics at a young age said they were introduced to the medium by either their dad or a male friend. I wonder how that percentage would skew if the sample was taken from an entirely younger/teen audience or how much different the response will be in ten or even five years from now.

If the point of Hope's whole survey is to find better ways to get her books and other comics made for younger girls into the hands of their ideal readership, then it sure feels like creators are going to need to push like all hell on their publishers to really advertise outside of pre-existing comics circles. I mean, that's probably a given too, but I'm sure many have the view that there is some kind of stronger comics community through which young women can be reached, and I just don't believe that idea will hold up under scrutiny if Hope keeps trying to collect more and better data (which it looks like she is!). It's great that the best elements of the traditional, male-dominated comics readers are passing their love for comics on to their daughters, but the potential audience dwarves those efforts.

And I know manga will probably change how all that happens as the next generation of comics readers comes up, but just looking at how women have been introduced to comics so far, the idea that we've got one method that's inadequate for what we'd all like to see in terms of readership expansion and another method (TV tie-ins) that's either shrinking (anime) or being pushed more and more boy-centric (superhero 'toons) is really disheartening and scary to me.

Oh, and I should note that Hot Gimmick has very little to do with Hope's survey, but I think it has some of the best design of any girl-specific comics in recent memory (even if it is SUPER fucking pink), so I used it to illustrate. La de da.

* Not exactly related: this group of women who love "Smallville" have made their own TV commercial to show their support for Chloe staying on as a character in the final season, which apparently aired in LA last week. Its CRAZY to me that there are people out there so dedicated to that show and that so very few of them follow that love back to comics in some way. Then again, there's no DC Chloe comics, are there? *sigh* Anyway, whether it was because of those ladies or not, looks like Allison Mack will return as the character for part of the next season, so I hope that makes them happy.

* I'll admit that I never knew "Love Is All Around" from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was by The Troggs originally until I found this Husker Du cover of the song [EDIT: Check our comments for the full story]:

Do you think they ever played that live back-to-back with "Diane"? That would be pretty fucked up.

* Tom Spurgeon links to updates on the Danish cartoons controversy all the time, but occasionally I come across stories like this one on my own, and I'm reminded how crazy and scary and upsetting that whole thing is and how much bigger than comics it became and continues to be.

* Like I've said in the past, I know squat about video games, but enough people have talked up this Portal thing that when I noticed Mac users can get it for free until May 24, I downloaded it.

* Am I the only one who things this Tokyopop "Ride on a bus with Stuart Levy" contest/"reality show" is just FUCKING ABSURD?

* I've always thought of "fanboy" as a real comics-specific term both in terms of its meaning and its usage, but I've had to get used to the idea that its really become more of a general "nerd" label. Either way, this piece on the origins of the word credited fanboy to comics in a way that felt strangely accurate to me if that makes sense. Also: Freakazoid nod, FTW!

* My boy Pauly and I both want to play drums like this dude:

* If you're on the Facebook and have been worried about privacy settings as long as I have, this chart is both helpful and yet somehow super annoying.

* Check out two fun Crossword Puzzle comics here and here. (Thanks, Scott McCloud!)

* My friend Slayer really nailed the description of the London 2012 Olympic Games mascots when she called them "Teletubies x Gumby x Anime." They're SOOOOOOOOOO ugly.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Comic Shop Stop: What I Bought This Week

Sometimes it's new stuff. Sometimes it's old stuff. Sometimes it'll be back issues or the same ol' thing I got 4 weeks ago. Whatever the case is, here's what I got at the shop this week (lemme know if you wanna borrow anything):

SATURN APARTMENTS VOL. 1 - This Viz Signature title's personal hook is that a young boy's father has died and now he'll have to take up the family vocation at an early age. The sci-fi hook is that the family vocation is window-cleaning the stellar ring of impossibly expensive apartments that now encircle the Earth since humanity evacuated it. This neato book is from writer/artist Hisae Iwaoke and it's the first manga Dave gave me a heads-up about this week...

I'LL GIVE IT MY ALL...TOMORROW VOL. 1 - ...this is the second. The plot of writer/artist Shunji Aono's tale of an unfulfilled family man who gives up his corporate career in favor of trying his hand as a manga artist really caught my attention. Also from Viz Signature, this book has the potential to break my heart.

DEATH TRAP - Lane Milburn's graphic novella first came to my attention when Sean reviewed it, and I'd planned on borrowing it from him down the line before a flip-thru in the store yesterday showed me something that prompted me to get it. That THING was a group of kids getting brutally murdered by a clan of nightmare-demon monsters. Maybe it was the nuts amount of '80s horror DVDs I've bought over the last week (more on that here SOON), but I felt more compelled to pick this up today than ever before.

STITCHING TOGETHER - I dunno a whole lot about Jim Henson, the man, but I've kinda always wanted to know more about how the ideas for the kinds of sprawling, genius designs and concepts he developed were birthed. This mini from Ed Choy Moorman (the above image is of a prior version of the book I bought – click here for info on its new printing and name-change) looks like it zooms in on intimate, specific scenes and the individual moments inspirations may have sparked for Henson as a young boy. Side note: Tom Hanks should produce a Henson bio directed by Ron Howard. Yeah, I said it.

HENRY & GLEN FOREVER - I didn't realize this was an anthology of 1-page gags featuring mostly cute, tongue-bursting-through-cheek depictions of rock icons Henry Rollins and Glen Danzig when I first heard about it here. I just thought it was a Tom Neely joint through and through. Even though I was mistaken and even though I don't really know dick about the music these bros created, I still giggled while flipping through. Go get it!Link

(Quick disclaimer: I borrow a LOT of stuff from Ben each week from Marvel, so I don't always buy single issues of the Marvel books. And I get everything from DC, WildStorm, Vertigo, and Zuda for free, so I never really buy anything from them unless I'm picking up for somebody else. So don't take my exclusion of DC stuff as a sign that the books aren't good enough to buy. They are. So there.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Best Analogies of the Week (thus far)

"Chuck gets gunned down in Crime Alley, surely soon to be born again as the billionaire crimefighter he already more or less became this episode. Nate's playing Dick Grayson to Chuck's time-lost Bruce Wayne, inheriting the Mantle of the Bass ... It's sort of like Gossip Girl Season Three Part Two was Dark Reign, the finale was Siege (with better fight choreography), and now hopefully Season Four will be the Heroic Age."

-Sean T. Collins on the Gossip Girl season finale

Art Attack: August 2010's coolest covers

Can you believe the summer's almost over?

Oh, no it's not, it hasn't even started yet...but in the land of comic book solicitations, August's already peeking its foreboding little head out at us!

To lessen the impact of our summer of love ending before it has even begun, let's take a gander aty 25 slick covers that will blow our collective mind!

AGE OF HEROES #4 by Jae Lee
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #640 by Paolo Rivera
BATMAN BEYOND #3 by Dustin Nguyen
BLACK WIDOW #5 by Daniel Acuna
BUZZARD #3 by Eric Powell
DC UNIVERSE LEGACIES #4 by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Dave Gibbons
DEADPOOL #26 by Dave Johnson
DMZ #56 by John Paul Leon
DOOM PATROL #13 by Matthew Clarke
GREEN ARROW #3 by Mauro Cascioli
HELLBLAZER #270 by Simon Bisley
HIT-MONKEY #2 by Dave Johnson
NEW AVENGERS #3 by Stuart Immonen
RAWHIDE KID #3 by Mark Brooks
R.E.B.E.L.S. #19 by Kalman Andrasofsky
SECRET AVENGERS #4 by Marko Djurdjevic
S.H.I.E.L.D. #3 by Gerard Parel
SUPER HERO SQUAD #8 by Leonel Castellani
SUPERGIRL #55 by Amy Reeder
TINY TITANS #31 by Art Baltazar
That's right, Steve Rogers, you know you want Nova's helmet! Now give it back before Richard Rider catches a nasty head cold!