Friday, September 4, 2009

Uncomfortable Comics Truths 2

Yes, comic books objectify women. Look, I'm willing to cede that they also objectify men as being at once hypertrophic and yet sexless, smooth crotched aliens, but come on, women in comic books? Even the women who managed to be portrayed as strong, heroic and independent instead of hostage fodder have boob windows half the time. I'm amazed there's no super hero woman named Rackelin with big red arrows on her costume pointing to her amazingly round, drawn with a compass and a protractor, inhuman breasts. The arrows can come up from her 3 inch waist.

The real issue is not that Batman has a ward in short pants. The issue is that Batman has run through three (four?) of them at this point. Not to mention ancillary hangers on: Batman, the dude who lost his parents in an alley, spends a tremendous amount of time trying to build a new, surrogate family made up of himself, his ridiculously competent zen master commando medic butler, and a legion of angsty teenagers. Wayne Manor is second only to Xavier's School as far as putting teens in costumes at this point.

Last time I said Superman was lazy. Well, here's how that works: this is a dude who has, at points in his career, been shown to move planets around. Even if you ignore that, in a recent comic book he blew up an object the mass of Earth's Moon before it crashed into us. We're talking ridiculous, near godlike power. Which he does nearly jack with, if you think about it. It's not surprising Zod in Superman II thought we were his pets. If anything, it's Superman's hands off policy that allows the people of Earth the illusion of free will, I suppose.

Even ignoring things like friction (yeah yeah frictionless aura) how does the Flash avoid killing everyone and everything around him? Mass increases as you approach C (the speed of light) and it's been shown in at least two comic books that the Flash can approach light speed in order to increase his mass enough to punch out a Kryptonian-class enemy. Does he have the ability to control his mass? Because otherwise every footstep he takes at near light speeds should crack the planet in half as his mass approaches infinity. How does he manage not to cause the atmosphere to follow him around? Seriously, thinking about the Flash for any length of time could actually drive you into a Lovecraftian gibber fit.

Spending more than five seconds worrying about the physics of a comic book character means you're goddamn horribly broken somewhere in your head, by the way. The Flash isn't real. Calm the hell down.

But he should cause shockwaves that would pulverize cities!

He's. NOT. REAL.

Almost all supervillains have really, really stupid plans. Granted, they can't all be as bad as when Chuck Austen had exploding communion wafers cause the Rapture, but even guys like Luthor and Dr. Doom come up with some astonishingly ridiculous plans from time to time. (My favorite Doom plan is the one where he took over the world using neuro-gas, only to expose himself to the gas and forget that he had absolute control over everyone. Seriously, right now, if Doom realized it, he could just tell everyone to obey him and they would. We'll assume that the gas has worn off by now because Doom tends to give people orders all the time and you think he'd get suspicious the second time Spider-Man said "Yes sir!" and left.) Frankly, if all the super heroes were busy that week, it's likely that Darkseid would be foiled by, say, a cat.

Cerebus is a marvel of independent comics publishing. Many of the stories Dave Sim chose to tell were masterful. That being said, a lot of them suck, are insanely overwritten, boring, or even trite, and the guy's thesis on gender relations sounds almost as insane as Oscar Kiss Maerth's theories on human evolution. Most comics fans know this already, but I've had six people now come up to me with a shellshocked look after having discovered Cerebus for the first time and then being exposed to Sim's essays. So in case you haven't read him yet,he's a genius, and he's written an absolutely painful essay.

Seriously, the Flash isn't real, stop worrying about the planet collapsing into his gravity well as he approaches infinite mass.

Yes, I do actually worry about that from time to time. How fast, exactly, does one have to be going before one's mass is greater than the planet Earth?

It's a comic book it's not real!

Can someone explain to me why the Punisher is still being published, by the way? Are comics readers just that hungry for Mack Bolan pastiche?


  1. A good way to get around the Flash's problem: the Speed Force temporarily absorbs any extra increase in mass as the Flash approaches light speed.

    Why yes, I am cracked in the head, why do you ask?

  2. But that doesn't work, because the Flash has USED this property of light speed to punch out an alien, so even if we say he can control it for the second he was supermassive he would have killed every living thing on Earth.

  3. "Can someone explain to me why the Punisher is still being published, by the way? Are comics readers just that hungry for Mack Bolan pastiche?"

    As long as there are teenage boys and would-be tough guys who see nothing wrong with being out in public wearing a wife-beater, all signs point to yes.

  4. The changes in mass due to relativity effects is actually really small until you start to add a lot of 9's after the decimal place. For example, going half the speed of light only gives you a relativistic mass increase of 15%. Since the earth is about 10^23 times as massive as the Flash, he'd have to be travelling within a gnat's whisker of the speed of light to start to approach it with his relativstic mass. Note, too, that time dialation would affect him to the same extent, so the entire life of the universe would flicker by him in a heartbeat.

    The Flash has problems, yo.