Nov 4, 2016

The Five Boy Wonders of Batman Comics

If you think Superboy has a confusing pedigree, wait until you hear about Robin, Batman's teen sidekick.  There have been five, not including one-shots, fantasies, clones, and Infinite Earths versions.

1. Dick Grayson

In Detective Comics 38 (1940), Batman takes in eight-year old Dick Grayson, a circus acrobat whose parents were murdered by crooks, and grooms him to become his sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder (not named after the bird, but after Robin Hood).  Comic sales doubled, as Robin mediated the grim harshness of the Caped Crusader and gave the kids someone to identify with, and soon every superhero in the business had a young boy tagging along.

Robin soon became a teenager, and fought crooks alongside Batman.  During the 1960s he founded a superhero coalition, the Teen Titans, who listened to rock music and said "groovy" a lot.

In the 1980s, all grown up, Dick Grayson decided to set off on his own as the superhero Nightwing.  Thereafter he and Batman occasionally worked together, and in at least one storyline, he returned temporarily to his Robin persona.

2. Jason Todd

After Dick Grayson moved on, Batman needed a new sidekick.  He chose Jason Todd, a troubled kid who he had been mentoring since 1983. Unfortunately, fans never took to the new Robin; after a reader poll in 1988 called for him to be dropped, the writers obligingly had him murdered by the Joker.  He later was resurrected as the superhero Red Wing.

3. Tim Drake

Never at a loss when it came to finding young boys to mentor, in 1989 Batman brought in Tim Drake, who had been a fan of the original Dynamic Duo.  But this Robin was not satisfied with merely hanging out with an old guy; he formed his own teen superhero coalitions, Young Justice and then the new Teen Titans full of millennials.

You may have noticed that all of the Robins look pretty much alike.  Batman definitely has a type.

In 2011, Tim Drake left Batman to become the superhero Red Robin, and retconned his past to insist that he had never been just plain Robin.

4. Stephanie Brown

A Girl Wonder?

Yep, Tim Drake's girlfriend (not shown) took up the mantle of Robin briefly. Then she became the Spoiler, then Batgirl.  Then she was retconned to have never been any of them.

5. Damien Wayne

The next Robin was Batman's son, raised by the murderous League of Assassins, and thus quite a handful when he came to live with Dad.  Eventually he settled down to fight crime as Robin, then Red Bird, before being murdered.  Or, in an alternate reality, becoming the new Batman.

But the thing about being a twink magnet is, there's a new crop every year.  A few hours of cruising at Gotham City Junior College, and Batman will be soon be taking the next Boy Wonder by

Nov 3, 2016

The Naked Icelandic Artist in a Box

Artists often pour their souls into their art, but 23-year old MFA student Almar Atlason put his body on display.

 For a week in December 2015, Atlason sat naked in a glass box at the Iceland Academy of Art in Reykjavik, in a performance open to the public and live-streamed on youtube.

Other artists have appeared in boxes before.  Tilda Swindon hung in a box at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013.

But this was the first performance artist to be boxed naked, and with no supplies, completely vulnerable.  "It's about total loss of control," Atlason explained.

And isolation.  Able to see other people, but not hear or touch them, for a week.

On display, a public exhibition of acts that are usually very private -- reading, sleeping, defecating -- and other things.

Completely vulnerable.

Some spectators provided him with gifts of food, books, playing cards, and toilet paper.  Others were not impressed.  He got angry confrontations, even death threats.

The Academy had to hire a 24-hour guard.

At the end of the week, Atlason emerged, smoked a cigarette, had a shower, and put his clothes back on.

Leaving us wondering if it was really art, or just an excuse to show us his willy.

I'm fine with it either way.

The uncensored photos are on Tales of West Hollywood.

Nov 2, 2016

Superboys: 70 Years of Beefcake Boys of Steel

To the non-comic book fan, it's easy.  There's Superman, the Man of Steel, disguised as Clark Kent, a reporter for the Daily Planet in Metropolis, and there's Superboy, the teenage Clark Kent, going to high school in Smallville.

But in fact there have been many incarnations of the Boy of Steel.

Superboy first appeared in New Fun comics during World War II, when every superhero in the business had a teenage sidekick to appeal to the younger readers.  He's the one who got the traditional origin story of the infant Kal-El being sent to Earth from Krypton, and being adopted by elderly farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent.

Originally around ten years old, Kal-El became a teenager for the Superboy comic title, which lasted from 1949 through 1977, with a new series through 1984.  Although his adventures should technically take place years ago, no one paid much attention to the timeline until the 1970s, when DC comics made the rule that Superboy stories should always be set about 15 years before the current date..

In 1985, as you may know, the many discontinuities in the DC universe were resolved through the "Crisis on Infinite Earths."  Turns out that the various storylines were actually about superheroes from different alternate universes, which were all destroyed.  In the new timeline, the only Superboy is Superboy-Prime, from Earth-Prime, whose "S" seems to be on his chest, not on his costume.

But that wasn't the end of the Superboys.

In 1993, a clone of Kal-El appeared, Kon-El, with the secret identity Conner Kent, Clark's cousin.   Later he was explained as a hybrid of Superman and archnemesis Lex Luther.  Clones, of course, must grow up at a normal rate, and this one promptly became a teenager, dubbed Superboy again.

He and Superman occasionally interacted for adventures, but generally he hung out with his teenage superhero teams, Young Justice and the Teen Titans.

He died after a fight with Superboy-Prime in 2005, was resurrected in the 31st century, returned to the present, and settled down to civilian life in Smallville.

Next, Jon Lane Kent, Superman and Lois Lane's son from another timeline, takes over the role.

Then Jonathan Samuel Kent, their son from yet another timeline.

But, according to Wikipedia, "Kon El's consciousness is pulled into a pocket universe (dimension) when Jon Lane Kent touches his Psycho Future Self with all other Kons and Jons of the multiverse."

Um....maybe we should just look at the pictures.

Oct 31, 2016

Glitch: Resurrection and Gay Subtexts in the Outback

Another tv series with a gay character showed up in my Netflix recommendations. Glitch (2015-) is set in the small outback town of Yoorana, Australia, where six people inexplicably crawl their way out of their graves in the local cemetery.

It's a lot more "realistic" than the suddenly reappearing dead people of Les Revenants and The Returned:  They're naked (rear nudity, no frontal) and covered in dirt and grime.  And at first no one realizes that they've come back from the dead.

They have amnesia, but gradually they remember some details of their lives, including how they died -- usually by violence.

1. Paddy (Ned Dennehy), the town's first mayor, a hard-drinking, scrappy pioneer who was murdered in 1860.

2. Charlie (Sean Keenan, left), a gay soldier who died in World War I.

3. Carlo (James Monarski), who speaks only Italian, and saw his brother murdered.

4. Maria (Daniela Farinacci).

5. Sarah (Emily Barclay), the deceased wife of the town constable, James Hayes (Patrick Brammell).

6. John Doe (Rodger Corser), who never remembers his past, and may be the key to everything.

The main plots involve James and town doctor Elishia (Genevieve O'Reilly) trying to keep the Risen safe from various threats, especially Vic (Andrew McFarlane), who wants them back in the ground "where they belong."

Meanwhile alliances form, romances blossom, and unfinished business from the lives of the Risen get squared away.

Charlie doesn't get a boyfriend; instead, he buddy-bonds with a lady.  His gayness appears only in a subtle confession about a man he loved before he died.

But there's a gay subtext buddy-bond between Paddy and the aboriginal teenager Beau (Aaron L. McGrath).  I can't see why -- Paddy is exceptionally ugly.

But they exchange smoldering looks, and have conversations dripping with innuendo.

Paddy: You're so skinny!  You're all dick and bone.

Beau:  What do you want?

Paddy:  What do you think I want?

Unfortunately, there's never any explanation for why these people rose from the dead.  Lots of clues, including supernatural intervention and secret experiments, but no resolution.

But there's ample beefcake, and Aaron L. McGrath definitely gives off a gay vibe.

As does Sean Keenan.

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