Greetings, post-apocalyptic postal service users! I heard you all are experiencing the "polar vortex," and there's some debate about whether it's a result of global warming, or proof that global warming is bunk, or whatever. As a person living in the future, I feel you all should know two things: 1) global warming is real, and 2) The vortex is being caused by space yetis. Use that information as you see fit.
Nerd Is the Word
What is the nerdiest branch of all possible nerdlinesses? I could offer some possible examples but I think you know what I mean… wink wink nudge nudge say no more.
Some of you know I used to work at Wizard Entertainment, which put out a variety of nerd-based magazines — comics, toys, anime, and CCGs, to be specific. There was very much a hierarchy of nerdiness going on there that informs my thoughts on this, but you folks let me know if you disagree.
The comics guys were at the top of the chain, partially because Wizard was the flagship magazine of the company, but also because of all the comic book movies that were beginning to come out (I was hired in 2001) and because comics themselves were on quite a resurgence of quality from the dark days of the '90s. A close second to them were the toy guys of ToyFare, of which I was initially one; toys were a bit less cool than comics, in that most of the toys folks collected were still sold alongside Fisher-Price and Barbie and such. But the collector's market had begun in earnest, toys were being stocked in comics stores, and if you liked certain comics characters there was at least a 50% chance you'd want to own action figures of those characters.
Third in the social stratum were the Anime Insider guys, which I became. There were lots of reasons for this, but partially because anime was a pretty new fandom, partially because it was foreign, and partially because a lot of the comics guys had no desire to learn anything about those crazy comic books with the big eyes that people had to read backwards. It's silly to think that comics about super-powered people in tights were inherently better than the wide variety of manga available, even then, but more than a few people at Wizard felt that way, and I'm sure some still do. The fact that superhero movies are big business nowadays while major anime movies get the occasional small theatrical release before hitting DVD indicates to me that this can be extrapolated to all of nerd-dom, even now.
At the bottom of the hierarchy was the collectible card guys. They virtually never interacted with any of the rest of the groups; while all the other magazine editors would go eat lunch together, the CCG guys would sit off by themselves and play CCGs. Every. Day. I don't want to disparage them, they were perfectly nice — well, some of them were perfectly nice, and a few did indeed embody the socially awkward stereotype of nerds that many people have — but the fact of the matter is, generally any of the anime, comics or toy guys could pick up one of the other magazines and understand what was being written about and why the other group was so excited about it, but none of us could pick up Inquest, the CCG magazine, and understand a single fucking word in there. It was all crazy proper nouns and crazy terms and crazy rules, none of which made any sense to us whatsoever. It might have well been written in Wingdings.
Again, I don't want to knock these guys for their passions, but there's something about CCGs breeds kind of an insularity of nerdiness. Maybe because people can be somewhat into comics, buy the occasional collectible, or maybe check out a well-known anime series on Netflix, but with CCGs you're sort of required to be passionate. You have to learn the rules, if you want to have any chance of competing you have to have certain cards, and to get those you have to spend a certain amount of money. With CCGs you're either all in or you probably shouldn't bother, and the people who tend to go all in often seem to do so to the exclusion of most everything else. And those that play them do seem to be the most obsessed nerds, the ones that other nerds can least understand or relate to, and that's why they end up at the bottom.
At any rate, that's my answer. I'd genuinely love to hear everybody's thoughts below.
Reboots Are Made for Walkin'
Hey Mr. Postman, I'm a big fan of your column.
I finally watched Man of Steel the other day. I thought it was kind of good, but not great. It was... watchable. But it got me thinking, why did Superman have to kill and didn't that ruin the movie and the character? No, just kidding. It got me thinking, does every "reboot" have to start with an origin story?
I don't own any comic books, and have never read any. But I know the origins of all of the major comic book heroes thanks to cartoons, movies, TV, and the Internet. Part of the reason I only found Man of Steel okay, was that I KNOW the first half of the movie. Sure, it was slightly different I guess, but not enough to make it interesting for me. I have no interest in seeing the new new Spiderman 1, because I have seen the old new Spiderman (and various cartoons) and new new Spiderman 1 is just an origin story with a different first villian (than some, same as others).
So is it possible to have a reboot without an origin? Like the next Batman without a lengthy intro into how and why Bruce Wayne becomes Batman? Would any movie, cartoon, TV show ever even change the origin of popular superheroes anyway?
You see, Man of Steel was terrible because Superman does not kill—oh, wait. Sorry, I read "Man of Steel" and just went into my regular diatribe. Sorry!
Obviously, origin stories are useful if not necessary anytime a superhero first graces the screen, like Captain America, Thor or Green Lantern. That's obvious. But there are two reasons why Hollywood keeps retelling origin stories: 1) when making a reboot, it's super-fucking easy to start over from the beginning — seriously, letting Peter Parker get bit by a radioactive spider is an easy 40 minutes of screen time, right there; and 2) Hollywood thinks we're all idiots who can't possibly remember how Spider-Man became Spider-Man, even though his origin been recounted in countless mediums hundreds of times, including one of the most popular movies of 2002. People know it, or at least they know it enough that they could watch Spider-Man swing into a movie frame and not scream, "Wait a second! Who is this guy, and how has he received such amazing powers?!"
Here's my criterion for whether an origin story needs to be told: Does my completely non-nerdy mom know this superhero's origin through its prevalence in pop culture? If so, then Hollywood never needs to fucking tell it again. I'd say Spider-Man and Superman are definitely on this list. Maybe she couldn't remember that Batman watched his parents get gunned down by a mugger as a kid, but at the same time, he's the goddamned Batman. He hates crime. She knows that, and that's really all she needs to know.
A League of Their Own
I recently caught up with Arrow, having previously dismissed it after the third episode. To my surprise I genuinely enjoy this show - it's not perfect, and there's still plenty stupid, but there are more pros than cons. Also, the recent appearance of Grant Gustin as Barry Allen made me cautiously hopeful for an enjoyable Flash series.
Suddenly I had an idea - could CW be building up their own Justice League? We've already got Green Arrow, Black Canary and the Flash. Considering what happened in Central City we suddenly have several metahumans running around alongside the Flash, some of them heroes, some villains. Arrow is turning Roy Harper into Red Arrow or Arsenal. We already know that Nightwing is coming. And what better place to try reintroducing Green Lantern than the Flash show - which could in turn lead to a GL show. Even if the Hourman show, Brimstone pretending to be about Constantine and Young Gordon show end up being not connected to the Arrow-verse, we could still unite all those characters into a team similar to the Justice League and give them a miniseries or a TV movie.
So what do you think - plausible or just wishful thinking?
Totally wishful thinking. I mean, there technically is a CW DC TV-iverse now, but it's never going to include Batman or Superman, because DC/WB is going to keep them on the big screen, and the SFX needed to make a half-way decent Green Lantern TV series is cost prohibitive for the big networks, let alone The CW. (The reason The Flash is at all doable is that The Flash basically needs one special effect — to look like he's running really fast — which they can then repeat ad nauseum.)
Sure, I can easily see The CW managing to make a special event mini-series crossover between Arrow, The Flash, whatever other DC shows they manage to make, along with the rest of Arrow's expanding super-cast. And maybe they'll call it the Justice League, but if so it would be a Justice League consisting of Arrow, the Flash, Nightwing, Black Canary, and a few others. Does that really count as the Justice League for you?
Why not an American Doctor? If a woman could play the Doctor than surely an American actor could. I suppose you can argue that being British is integral to Doctor Who. But following that logic others can argue that being a white male is integral to the character of the Doctor. And it's canon! Eric Roberts portrayed the Master (admittedly poorly) in the Doctor Who TV movie. I can think of a number of American actors who would be great for the role: Michael Emerson, Zachary Levi, Kristen Schaal, Ron Glass, just off the top of my head. And with Doctor Who more popular than ever in the U.S. I think that it would be a great time to do it (after Capaldi of course).
Let me first say that as a guy who is clearly all for a female and/or non-Caucasian Doctor, the idea of a non-British Doctor appalls me. I understand the hypocrisy here, but it's not something I can just dismiss, so I'd like to think there has to be a reason behind it. Let's see.
I feel the Doctor isn't intrinsically male or white, but I do feel he's intrinsically British. I don't think swapping the Doctor's gender or race would fundamentally change the character at all, but changing his nationality would somehow be a betrayal. I'm not saying the Doctor can't be American — the story-telling mechanism of regeneration that would allow the character to become a black woman certainly allows for a nationality change — but nationality is almost a matter of personality, and while the Doctor can switch personalities, there's a broader aspect to it that becoming an American would just seem untrue to the character to me, in a way that race or gender does not.
Some things can be adapted to any culture; there are plenty of foreign shows that are remade in America and are excellent, and there are some American shows that get adapted for foreign countries that take on new life. But some things can't be transposed without losing something in the process, and I think Doctor Who might be one of those things. That's to say, sure, the Doctor can be an America, but I really don't want him to be.
Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe it's pure hypocrisy on my part. Or maybe since white male Americans pretty much dominate the world's pop culture landscape, that I would hate for something as unique and individual as Doctor Who to get amalgamated by the machine.
Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the email@example.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!