Sunday, November 22, 2015

Why Fishbach Will Win Survivor: Cambodia

This season of Survivor is called Second Chance, and there's an element here of The Dark Knight Returns. All the castaways are former players who didn't win. They have come back, some after a long hiatus. Some of these guys got close the first time, and have been waiting for a long time for their chance at redemption.

It's about halfway through the season now, and I think a favorite has emerged: Stephen Fishbach. 'Fish' might seem an unlikely favorite at this point, and indeed he's pretty far down in the most recent Survivor power rankings. Other contenders, like Jeremy, are stronger and have idols. But Fish is playing much harder than just about anyone else in the game, as he reveals in this emotional interview. Skip to 1:13 to hear his strategy, or 1:58 to see him melt down.

Fishbach is playing with everything he's got. He showed it in the latest episode, where he publicly articulated his theory that Survivor has 'evolved' past simple alliances into using 'voting blocs'. This ingenious political construct enables Fish to move seamlessly between the two major alliances on the beach. Fish is not a major physical or social threat, but he knows from his second-place showing in Tocantins how important it is to eliminate them. He will blindside the threats, and bring goats with him to slaughter at the final tribal council. When the dust settles, it will be clear to the jurors that Fish has been driving the game for a long time - and he will get his Survivor redemption.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Toast to Harley Quinn

Things are generational, my mother likes to say. And so it is with comic books. An amazing shift has transpired in this generation - the most popular Batman character is no longer the old man, or the Joker. She's Joker's sidekick - our lovable, dysfunctional, crazy-to-daisies Harley Quinn.

Harley wasn't invented in the comic pages. The character was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, and first appeared in 1992 on a great little cartoon called Batman: The Animated Series. Since that time, the Harley Quinn meme has been steadily rising in the Batman rankings. She's headed for movie stardom, and ladies can't quite get enough of Harley Quinn cosplay.

Why is Harley so popular? It's a generational thing. This generation is more comfortable with edgy, weird, "alternative" characters. Harley's slightly on the goth side. She's not a girly-girl, but she can take care of herself. She's not quite pretty, somewhat sexy, and mainly funny. She's insecure, yet confident. She's weird, she's cool, and she's awkward, all at the same time. Like many of today's most popular characters, Harley fits the definition of an antihero.

Harley Quinn is very different from one of my favorite characters, Carrie Kelley. But I can understand how Harley's confusions, contradictions, and overall uniqueness make her a highly appealing character, particularly for female readers. We need more characters like that - females who resonate, who pack more than just a corset. In a medium in which the more things change, the more they stay the same, Harley Quinn is a breath of fresh air.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What Happened to the Justice League?

The story of what happened to the Justice League of America is only hinted at in The Dark Knight Returns. Frank Miller always wanted to tell that story, and perhaps one day he will finish it. But the careful reader can discern most of the details from Superman's soliloquy in The Dark Knight Returns.

From Superman's inner dialogue, we can begin to piece together what happened. As the JLA grew more prominent, a backlash grew in the court of public opinion. First, there were parents' groups - presumably opposed to the 'bad influence' of vigilantes, and the endangerment of child-superheroes like Robin. Then, the JLA was called in for questioning by a Congressional subcommittee.

As pressure mounted, Batman - brash, arrogant, and uncompromisingly idealist - refused to back down. Instead, he laughs. Sure we're criminals. We've always been criminals. Cracks began to form in the leadership structure of the JLA.

Jason Todd died. Batman retired. Things escalated. The government formed a PBI - a Paranormal Bureau of Investigation - to 'hunt down' superhumans. And there was that trouble with Oliver. Green Arrow went rogue, refusing to get with the program. And Superman had to make a choice. Compromise with the public, or go to war with them.

He chose to compromise.

Clark took down Oliver, and retired from public view. And the rest was history. Without Batman, Clark, or Green Arrow - and bad blood between all three - the rest of the Justice League members disbanded quietly. Diana [Wonder Woman] went back to her people. Hal [Green Lantern] went to the stars. Superman continued to operate behind the scenes, as a government agent.

And there you have it - the sad story of what happened to the Justice League of America in The Dark Knight Returns. It is a tale of greatness lost, heroes fallen, and friendship destroyed. The story is told against the backdrop of Superman massacring a Soviet army, and Batman endangering a child while flouting public opinion. Neither man has changed very much, and the two are once again on a collision course.