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May 12, 2011

Why Brainiac 5 is awesome

Mightygodking.com -- THURSDAY WHO’S WHO: Brainiac Five
But also it's appealing because you understand where Brainy is coming from. After all, his NAME is Brainiac Five: most incarnations of the character have established that he's the only good Brainiac, with all of the other ones being evil universe-conquering android dictators.2 Despite being the engine for most of the team's plans and ideas -- when Brainiac Five is stumped, you know the team is really, really in trouble, because he's their go-to guy for having a solution to whatever evil they have to beat -- he's always proven himself to be absolutely balls-awful at being the leader of the team. It's interesting, because most other characters who become most popular among fans and Brainy is, at this point, far and away the most popular Legionnaire ever eventually become the de facto leader of the team: see how Wolverine has grown from being just the team berserker into the respected elder statesman of the X-Men, to the point where the next X-crossover has him OPENly challenging Cyclops for leadership of all mutants everywhere.3 But despite the fact that the Legion's greatest successes are all more or less driven by Brainiac Five and he's the most popular character, he's definitively not the leader of the team. You can of course explain his popularity pretty easy: he's the Batman of the Legion in terms of style, the thinker, the planner. Nerds always love thinkers and planners, because the idea of not having any superpower other than -- I'm smarter than you-- is one most nerds imagine themselves to already have.4 But he's usually also the idealist: the guy who refuses to exploit the Metal Men once he realizes they're sentient. Nerds like that too. He's surpassed being a bit of a social outcast, but is still clearly his own man: nerds like that as well. And he gets to be a bit of a sarcastic dickhead and get away with it because his smarts are so necessary, and you'd better believe nerds love that idea. You can make an argument that Brainiac Five is in many ways the ultimate mirror for nerd self-flattery -- except, of course, that he's got a history of mental instability. And his greatest failure -- being unable to save Supergirl, the woman he loved -- puts the lie to his "I can solve any problem" reputation. And he's quite clearly unhappy most of the time. That's why Brainiac Five is such a great character: he takes all of those nerd fantasies, embodies them, and then destroys them by demonstrating their irrelevance. It doesn't matter that he once temporarily destroyed the embodiment of a conceptual end of the universe by smashing it in the face with a different conceptual embodiment of the end of the universe: at the end of the day he's still, all things considered, a very sad person. And that's a pretty great thing.

May 04, 2011

This is the first time I've found a New Yorker cartoon funny in a decade

Joe. My. God.: Heather Knows Punctuation

April 29, 2011

Chris Sims on Jack Kirby's New Gods

Now I am unabashed fan of Sims' writing. Hell, he has a blurb I wrote in the sidebar on his site. It's not a secret. But there are good things he writes and great things he writes. This is one of the great things. Ask Chris #54: The Mythology of Jack Kirby's 'New Gods' - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews
Of all the Fourth World characters, Mr. Miracle is probably the easiest to read on a metaphorical level, because it's all right there in front of you: The son of Highfather, he was exchanged for the son of Darkseid to seal a non-aggression pact between the idyllic planet of New Genesis and the dystopian Apokolips, and as his greatest attempt to prove the superiority of Evil, Darkseid imprisoned him and raised him to be a mindless drone, stripped of all individuality and made into an unthinking soldier who lived only to serve those in charge of his society. There's even the fact that the plan was carried out by Granny Goodness, a monster wrapped in the name of something pleasant, the living embodiment of lies and propaganda. But instead of succumbing, he escaped, literally removing himself from the very idea of evil. And not only that, but in doing so, he spread the idea of freedom to others, even luring away Barda -- the deadliest of Darkseid's Female Furies -- through the simple, enduring idea of love. She is shown a better way, and rejects the horrors she has been conditioned to both accept and perpetrate in Darkseid's name. That alone would be a beautiful story, but it seems to rely on the idea that goodness is inherent, and that if you possess it, you can resist the crush and temptation of evil. That's part of it, but there's an equally important aspect to the story that comes from Orion. If Good and Evil were inherent properties, then Orion would've just been Mr. Miracle in reverse -- he would have remained evil despite Highfather's best efforts, and returned to his father unchanged. But he doesn't, and that's one of the most important statements that Kirby makes in the entire New Gods saga: Orion resists Evil simply because he's been shown a better way to live, which means that in the exchange of children between Highfather and Darkseid -- between Good and Evil -- Darkseid loses three times. From the beginning of the saga, there's no question about which is more powerful. . . .