Posts Tagged ‘DC Comics’


Image result for doom patrolI always chuckle loudly (it escapes my inner monologue) when I see fanboy-girls of comics clamour that they were never meant to be societal commentary, meta-narratives or vehicles of social justice…oh how we have missed the point of the medium that carries the message. But this post is not about our own narrow minded echo chambers and an inability to think beyond the literal (I do detest how religious and political ideological extremism has dumb downed our society in less than a generation).  Then you get a show based on a comic book that turns it all on its ear. It is a dark humourous ride into the soul of society using the vehicle of super heroes. The Doom Patrol which started as a band of quirky heroes in Great Adventures #80 (1963), their original run would end with an destructive nuclear blast on an island and Chief, Rita Farr, Larry Trainer, and Cliff Steele would be thought dead…Gar Logan The Beast Boy would go on to join the New Teen Titans as Changeling (and we shall not speak of the Titans television show and what they did with amazing source material–for shame). For more on the twisty-turn world of Doom Patrol, read here, with a grain of salt much like you enter their comic book world curated in the show by Mr. Nobody.

Then the wonderfully weird Grant Morrison would take over the title, and it would shift into Mature Readers territory, and become part of the new sub-universe Vertigo and these heroes would truly shine. This is the fun dark style adventures that the DC Universe streaming Show, Doom Patrol, has taken to the screens. Now think Morrison, and then Pollack was writing late 1980’s through mid-late 1990’s and a character like the gender-queer Danny the Street was created (yes a sentient street where all are welcome), but remember according to fan culture, comics are just stories with no other commentary (Gerard Way with the Young Animals Imprint would keep up this great style of Doom Patrol story telling). But let’s look at the other characters that now grace the television screen. Each episode of season one unveils the traumas that the team must face in their search for Niles Caulder, the Chief. Not only unpacking who the man was that gave them sanctuary and safety from the world, but also what it means to not only be a hero, but a full person.

Larry Trainer (in the comics, Negative Man). A courageous test pilot who has cosmic radiation invest a spirit within him. A man with a wife and kids, a hero, but in 1935 as a child coming home from school his parents are in crisis because a teacher is saying their child is queer. We can so easily forget how far we have come as a society and Trainer’s story shows the fear and inner turmoil he faced when the love of his life stated that he had resigned from the Air Force and wanted Trainer to come with him before the accident. It took Trainer 60 years to come to even a sort of resolution and closure over the incident, as he battles the entity within him always asking whey the entity wants to torture him, but in a seen in Parraguay and the entity echoing Trainer’s words back, is it possible Trainer is the one torturing himself and the entity is attempting wholeness and closure if only Trainer would accept?

Rita Farr (in the comics, Elasti-Girl) is a Golden Age of Hollywood Starlet. Groomed by her parents not with an education, but with only music, dance and acting lessons as it is her looks that will carry her forward. Then her powers emerge and she becomes a blob. The inner struggle is the showing of nurture having stripped her identity of anything other than looks, and the use of the “casting couch” to get ahead. When Rita looses these abilities, her new abilities leave her seeking something else that she had never had to worry about. Who is Rita Farr? It is the stage name that her parents gave her, stripping her of the family ties…so who is she meant to be now? 70 years on she is finally coming into her own, having trauma have frozen her, like Larry, at the time of the change…

Vic Stone, Cyborg is the only known “super hero” on the team, and with the vanishing chief this young adult becomes defacto leader. He first has to overcome who he is? His family system relationships with his father, Silas, and still grieving his deceased mother. Can he become whole and the person he is meant to be? Or will be become the person that outside forces and experience is going to cause him to become?

Cliff Steel (in the comics, Robotman) is a race care driver, witness of domestic violence as a child, who has become a drunken philanderer whose actions wind up killing his wife, leaving his child in the care of a reprobate, and his brain in the body of a robot. Now unable to feel, he must process his emotions, and come into his humanity as a non-human. Cliff meets, Jane, another member of the Doom Patrol…and has a second chance…

Jane has 64 personalities within her, and each personality has a different power. The Underground is where they all live, her mind…well not Jane’s because in Dissociative Identity Disorder there is primary identities and that is what Jane is…not the true person, that is Kay…and it is the story of what happens with Adverse Childhood Experiences, and the psyche. Can Jane become whole?

Oh Cliff don’t take responsibility for the therapy it was probably the rat (Admiral Whiskers).

-Rita Farr

The series episodes all use the title format (blank) Patrol. The Eighth episode of season one is “Jane Patrol” and thanks to the Negative Entity, Cliff is able to travel into Jane’s Underground to find her.

I wish we could shrink down and enter her mind like Magic School Bus Style.

-Vic Stone, Cyborg

As Jane has gone catatonic after the previous episodes marriage shenanigans of her personality Karen. It is an opportunity to meet the personalities as they exist in the Underground for the viewer. Those that surface, and those that exist simply to protect from memories. As one goes deeper into the Underground more darker memories are locked away. The goal is Jane has to choose to re-emerge as the primary, or to cease to exist as a previous primary Miranda had. Cliff is journeying with Penny Farthing (the one that avoids all risks) to find and save Jane.

It’s not my story to tell.

-Cliff Steele

It is a visual and artistic journey that illustrates how Trauma echoes exist, cause pain, and that even how good memories can be suppressed as so dark. For the first meeting of Cliff and Jane is witnessed and Cliff asks Penny why it is there… Penny responds there is nothing more dangerous than giving hope.

As the episode draws to resolution it appears Jane has dealt with the control monster of her rapist-incest father…only to have her laying on her bed smiling and the echo of his voice to be heard…

Each era has created its own challenges and traumas for people depending on their life. Some we have learned from and strive to change and correct. Most we just shake our heads at and state, get over it and move on. The repression cycle does not help anyone, just creates cycles of violence, pain and trauma. The show is fun (I mean a donkey tunnel, a talking grass hopper, a rat seeking vengeance on Cliff for running over his mother to name but a few–oh and beard hunter)…but it raises questions on what it takes for healing and wholeness, and what we as a community need to do differently so as not to be making the same mistakes.

 


Image result for Heroes in Crisis #6How do you go forward when your world says you have brought hope, but your lightning rod is missing? This is the question Wally West raises in Heroes in Crisis #6 as he works through his trauma of returning to a world where his wife and kids do not exist. Where many of his friends remember him and the hope his return brings, he is empty inside.

The mystery deepens as to who has taken the Sanctuary for healing, into a web of murderous destruction. The psyche of many heroes and villains is explored in looking at what is holding them back from being whole.

It opens with questions around how many lives saved. Reflect on that, how does one judge a heroic life? How do you judge your own success in life? Is it through numbers, money, things, people?

What spells out success for you?

It is through this line of questioning that the character of Roy Harper Image result for Heroes in Crisis #6(Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow) emerges. The former young sidekick of Green Arrow; former heroin addict, single dad, former member of the Outlaws and Teen Titans. He is at Sanctuary working through his stuff, when this questions arises.

His answer speaks to the simplicity within my own life as to why I help:

“None of this, not one ounce is counting who you save. This all of it, is about doing what you can. It’s about getting off your couch. That’s all. Just get the &*#@ off the couch.”

-Roy Harper (Heroes in Crisis #6)

Like contentment, success and self-worth are intrinsic and discovered within. Not due to external factors. We do what we are called to do, we also need space to heal and be who we are meant to be. Heroes in Crisis is an in your face look at the toll of being on the front lines making this world better, and could easily be the story of many front line helpers that the world far too easily discards. The statement most heard when a helper needs aid from the world is, “its your job, do it or get out.” Instead of, “it’s a journey, let’s take a break and learn to heal so we can help others better.”

Image result for Heroes in Crisis #6

Where is your journey taking you?

 

 


Related imageThe Heroes in Crisis mini series has been excellent. Well paced with the super hero action, and the crime mystery noir feel of mystery to it. Who invaded Sanctuary? Who did the spree killing? Who removed the safe space for heroes to heal? These are the underlying questions.

But then the questions erupt even more as the mysterious Puddler has leaked the story to the media of Sanctuary. Lois Lane can only sit on the story for so long, and as issue 4 came to a close, it was revealed the story was going out.

This is the opening to issue 5. As Booster Gold and Harley Quinn, partnered with Blue Beetle and Bat-girl respectively seek out answers. Flash and Batman deep dive into this weird mystery.

Superman and Wonder Woman address the press. It is a timely tale within the week of Belle’s Let’s Talk, a social media initiative to remove stigma of mental health. It reveals that there is much more needed than simply social media awareness raising. It is a concerted effort by governments around the world to appropriately fund mental health care equally, and as part of universal health care. It is understanding what is happening, that it is shifting how one experiences the world. It takes courage to live differently, but it also takes courage to understand when one needs help, to seek that help out and to heal.

This is what Superman addresses to the world. The fear that they human citizens are feeling knowing that metas are struggling with trauma, and PTSD. The thoughts of someone that can level cities now being afflicted with what has been mistaken for violence trigger. It is a key piece of Superman’s press conference, and something everyone needs to understand with any first respondents, front line workers:

“The nightmares, the nightmares they will forever endure. Yes Sanctuary exists. It exists to help these heroes recover from this pain, to help them recognize themselves under these scars, to help them wake from these nightmares. But its existence, it should not scare you. On the contrary it should comfort you. This suffering, is needed for healing. It is not the mark of a madman. It is the wound of a warrior. It’s a sign. A sign of their love…”

-Superman, Heroes in Crisis #5

Will you live in fear of the unknown, or know that by someone opening up they will discover whey they are under the scars, and discover love of life once more.

 


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Internalized trauma. We know it is a reality in soldiers, abuse survivors, first responders. Now King and Mann bring this reality to the world of super-heroes. Some will toss it aside as yet another hero deconstructed story. There is more to it than that however. For it is also about the hero as person. Understanding that their decisions, lives and experiences craft who they are.

Welcome to Sanctuary. A specialty location built by the Trinity (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) for the utmost privacy in debriefing, and healing. It is  a place with a computer therapist that allows for complete autonomy. Supposedly no recordings, it is there for health. We are 2/9 issues in and so far it is a strong character driven story.

It is also a super hero story. As Sanctuary is not safe, someone has attacked and murdered those who sought healing. There are two suspects who survived of those that were supposed to be there. Was it an outside attack? Did the missing survivors have a psychotic break and kill?

Within those that are now dead, there are chilling full page confessionals sharing the effects of the life. These that show how out of control Blue Jay’s shrinking powers have become during his flashbacks. Truly showing how internalized trauma affects the whole self, whether it is convulsions, sweats, hypertension…the list can go on as no one patient is identical, same with the stories of the heroes seeking aid. Coming to the place that is supposed to be safe to decompress.

The heroes lay themselves bare.

Then the idea of stigma is so well handled. As even the big 3, the Trinity, use Sanctuary. Guard down, masks off. Who is the ones that use it for help? Who are the ones that continue to squash and avoid emotion? The answer may surprise you as tears flow.

Then the hack and the revelation that someone has the stories. The double standard is shown as the first story leaked is Arsenal (formerly Speedy), a recovering addict. The shock and dismay of the public on the hero laid bare.

Stigma.

Why someone would not seek help for trauma?

Laid out well in the shock of the public that a hero would have demons to battle. Even as walls come down around mental health support, old stigmas, internalized dialogues still persist.

The greatest fear of seeking help:

What if someone finds out?

What will the world think?

Will my loved ones see me as weak?

What will I lose by diagnosis?

 


Image result for DC Comics Heroes in CrisisYesterday it finally arrived, Tom King and Clay Mann’s first issue of DC Comics’ next big event- Heroes in Crisis. Yes, another crisis arrives at the DC Universe (a title tagged onto big events since the end of the original multi-verse in the 80’s Crisis on Infinite Earths). This crisis brings the real to our fictional heroes, and perhaps demystifies and removes stigma– for it is set in a place called Sanctuary Trauma Centre.

You read that right. A place for Super Heroes to go to deal with the mental chakra sludge of life. I also hear there is a murder mystery (as you can see, I have yet to pick up, but it is on the read list).

It hits home, as readers know my Bionic Knight Pulps have been taking the Great Crime Fighters through a similar loop  as complex post traumatic stress disorder set in on the big three remaining in that universe. That being Rick Saturn, The Original Bionic Knight; William “Shotgun” MacKay; and Supra Agent Louis Regis. Three characters that have been travelling within my stories from the perspective of Rick for 33 years; Shotgun about 30 years and Regis, 14 years. Many adventures, many times when the old model of they are heroes doing heroic things, so it does not wear one down. Much like our world still looks at many, including charity workers who have rising rates of C-PTSD yet help falls through the cracks because the industry and individuals have a troubling time wrestling with it, but also when help is sought it is wait listed. This is due to the repercussions of Klein’s Third Way of health care having gutted what should have been on track by this point to be where European health care is, that being holistic and multi-pronged at once, not triage one symptom while forgetting or putting off the others.

In the Alberta system some choices can be removed due to heavy stigma, waitlists, or simply being constantly bombarded by the unhealthy Americanization of our heart-thought patterns to simply “buck up” or “white knuckle through” for it is all simply in your head.

That is what led to (spoilers ahead) the three outcomes for our long term heroes. One with their family vanishes without a trace and no one knows what happens. Another’s tipping point in the loss of his son, and saving the world one last time to protect the future pushing him beyond what the Working Mind Workplace Mental Health training would term “the red zone” (great system for usual office work)…and taking of his own life…and another simply resigns and walks away.

Neither outcome really looks like healing yet they are the choices made constantly in the vacuum.

Perhaps, our world will find compassion, and look to those who are in need and realize that when we debate costs it may look like a drain on the system. Yet that “drain” or rather INVESTMENT in our neighbour, grows a healthier Post Traumatic world.

Stories like Heroes in Crisis matter for it challenges the existing paradigm.

Perhaps challenging will cause fracturing.

Fracturing breaking.

From those pieces, a new reality of healing and belonging.

What do you think?


Dr. William Moulton Marston (pseudonym for comics Charles Moulton). The unpatented creator of the lie detector test. Theorist of DISC. One of 2 Professor Marston’s at Harvard, the second his wife Elizabeth, whom the patriarchal system of the time refused to credential… and the other Mrs. Marston, Olive (daughter and niece of two matriarchs of the radical feminist movement, raised by nuns).

William, also after losing his teaching gig due to the polyamourous relationship with Elizabeth and Olive, seeks out work that can use his skills, Wonder Woman, is his love letter of discovery. It is based on the women in his life, their journey, and also challenging societies patriarchal constructs. The message of independent power of the feminine bound by the patriarchal society. Targeted by the decency league (as were all comics during this era) for what the fundamentalist Roman Catholics stated were unnatural themes.

But what does this all have to do. Ancient history. What does a psychologist turned comic book writer, former OSS agent, and his two women (and their children) have to teach us at all in our 21st century world? As any good psychologist worth their salt they pushed the boundaries of their times for how to grow the inclusion/belonging base. Perhaps they will realize where ever they are, that we are getting closer.

The movie is Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Trailer here).

I am sure the movie will raise many discussion points  Here are some key questions for you to ponder, and discuss:

  1. What is love?
  2. What is a normal relationship for consenting adults?
  3. Can you love (Eros love) more than one person at once?
  4. If you were to leave one lasting legacy to tell your core values to the world, what form would it take? What would be that legacy?

The CW tends to start super hero shows out well, the new Black Lightning series is no different. Two episodes in and Jefferson Pierce’s life is being laid out. The lead is much older than most, if not all, of the CW heroes brought to the small screen. In comics, he first launched as a black-ploitation hero; then was a member of Batman’s team the Outsiders; onto the Justice League (before that, many forget the President Lex Luthor time when he was in Luthor’s cabinet as Secretary of Education). Milestone Comics Static (Shock) was a very visible nod to the hero as it was a teenager taking up the power.

Jefferson Pierce is a principal (in original comics a teacher) using the investment in education to hopefully lay new paths away from the 100-gang life for his community. Within Pierce’s body courses the power of the lightning, but he has chosen a path to make a difference when offered a choice by his wife Lyn. A choice he has stayed the path on while the darkness overtakes his city without his alter-ego out being the light. Hoping to save his marriage—yet still separated. Not re-dawning the costume until his daughters are taken into sex trafficking to rescue them—at Lyn’s insistence.

Which brings us to the question of addiction Lyn raises in Season One, Episode 2: Lwanda: Book of Hope. She states that he can’t go back for he was addicted to the power. Even with his community calling upon him out of the shadows as a rallying cry to freedom.

The statement on addiction made me think of 3 other stories that dealt with addiction in superheroes:

  • Roy Harper (Speedy, the Green Arrow’s Sidekick) during the awesome ripped from the headlines style run of Green Lantern-Green Arrow it is a 2-parter that reveals Roy’s heroin addiction. It delves into the orphan now abandoned by his adoptive father. The story was prophetic for its time in that it spoke to the lack of belonging that fed into addiction. The lack of belonging, and feeling no control leading to the one thing that can be controlled. It is through belonging he finds a path out of the darkness. A risk taken.
  • Hourman (Rex Tyler). This may be a long shot for anyone to remember, but Hourman was a golden age super hero, Member of the Justice Society, All-Star Squadron. His son took up the mantle later on. Why Hourman? Simple, he took a pill that for one hour gave him super powers. Miraclo. This was the story of a heroic man, who succumbed to the habit of popping the pill to transform his life from what he saw as the mundane to the heroic. The adrenaline rush not only of doing good, but literally of the magic pill serum coursing through his body. Never believing he could be a hero without the drug, never believing his life had meaning without. Pushing away his life for everything but Miraclo and the adventures that came.
  • The final one, is from Captain America in the early 1990’s I remember buying them from our local Ma’s & Pa’s convenience store every two weeks when each part of the 6 parter came out “Streets of Poison”. It is the basic war on drugs story from the streets. Yet Cap (Steve Rogers) shows great insight that his powers are a result of drugs. Cap had the super soldier serum drained from him, and continued being a hero. He may not have been as “super” as before, but he was still a well trained, hero hearted person driven to make a difference. Shining through that heroes will even strive to be heroes with or without the power source.

Which brings us back to the episode of Black Lightning and Lyn’s assertion the Pierce has an addiction to the life. Yes there is an adrenaline rush when it comes to combat, same as what comes with doing good works. Yet if it was the addiction he would not have been able to walk away so easily, and stay away from it. Perhaps as my wife pointed out in talking about it, this is a case of projection in that Lyn was addicted to being the girlfriend/wife of the super hero but disenfranchised by not being able to scream it from the rooftops, so she finds a new addiction—the ability to control someone.

The story could take other twists, that is the fun of the many forms the heroic meta-narratives can take. It is also part of the fun to watch these shows with friends and discuss what ifs, what you think, what may be a deeper underlying message.

For me, up to the end of episode 2 the Black Lightning is showing that heroes are those that struggle to be the light in the darkness. Heroes are those that work to change the tide. Will Pierce and Lyn’s debate on addiction fit one of the 3 noted above or something else entirely.

Is it an addiction? Or is it being a good citizen?


So yeah, I have now read and thoroughly enjoyed 6 volumes of the DC Earth One Graphic Novels. I have mentioned in other posts some of them. From the re-imagining of Superman into a young adult, social justice crusader out to better the world and Lex Luthor as the surviving part of the original L2 Duo of geniuses out to destroy him, to Batman to the Teen Titans, Earth One is what the New 52 should have been about.

Stripping away years of baggage, getting to the core of the character, the icon and presenting them freshly for the 21st century. If DC did their movies this way, they would be bankrupting the super hero wing of Disney Corp.

Anyway, today thanks to the wonders of the Calgary Public Library, I got to read Wonder Woman Earth One Volume One, and Grant Morrison and the crew hit it out of the park. This was not the dark murderous-Goddess of War B.S. of the new 52, it was truly re-imagining the origin/struggle of Princess Diana discovering a world outside of Paradise Island, and bridging two worlds, much like creator William Moulton Marston imagined. It is a story to show the error of gender stereotyping, show that violence is not the solution, but also the wonder of the world we usually ignore.

This may provide some spoilers, but know this as you enter in.

Steve Trevor re-imagined as an African-American Air Force Pilot is brilliant, especially with the subtle commentary on being sent on the weird mission into the Bermuda Triangle ( I will let the reader connect the dots on that one).

Queen Hippolyta’s PTSD/Fear of men working to victimize her daughter coming out of adolescence and wanting fear to be thrown off to enter into the world.C’mon one word: MEDUSA.

The chilling opening where Hercules has the Queen chained and degrading her, alluding to the abuse before, and the victory of Hippolyta breaking her bondage, ending her victimization.

The new take on Wonder Woman’s origin that shreds patriarchy.

The first time Diana steps into a U.S. Hospital and she is faced with the horrors of a medical system based on $$$$ money! Not compassion, need and healing…

To her sisters bringing her to trial for what they see as a crime in entering Man’s world…

To the final choice…Which world? Or Both?

So the question that is left open with this story, like our own lives, are we willing to take the leap of faith into the darkness knowing that our light will confuse it and transform it?

Are you ready?


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I will admit it was a weird purchase today. Conway’s 2009 Trade Paperback of the 6 issue mini-series from DC Comics, The Last Days of Animal Man. Animal Man A.K.A. Buddy Baker was not a hero high up on my radar, vaguely familair due to his stint in the bwahahahaha era of Justice League Europe, and having read some of his New 52 adventures, but for $5.95 on the bargain shelf at Phoenix Comics and the art on the cover it did drag me in today after church. Looking for some cheap escapism of the  four colour literary variety this afternoon.

What lay between the covers was a unique synchronistic story. For the morning speaker at the Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living was Dr. Badri Rickhi from the University of Calgary speaking on Spirituality vs Mind Games . Buddy Baker’s story of losing his powers in the not so distant future (the storyline is a great DC Comics storyline of the future in 2024 San Diego). For the talk dove into how our own mind separates us from our true core being. This is the hero journey that Buddy must go through as he discovers what it truly means to be a hero, a father, a husband, and at the very core, what it means to be Buddy Baker.

The self that his wife and kids see was lost with the super powers, as a part time hero, not seeing the good that all his roles had cast, for he was letting guilt over where he had not been strip him away. So as his powers fade over the story, he becomes more obsessed with discovering the false self, the shadow self if you want to go Jungian. In the journey he almost looses himself, deciding that to be one with his family would mean separating himself from one life over another…

When the truth is one’s true vocation will emerge in true alignment with their loved ones and moving forward in spite of trials or apparent loss of abilities.

This is the day where more clarity or ideas began emerging on our family’s journey to make our home a hub for positivity and inclusion within our community. It began to take form for contemplating seeking sponsors and partners to clear out and convert an under used back yard to a community garden and possibly see if someone with carpentry skills would be willing to make and install a little free library within our front yard.

Putting it out to the universe for discernment and discovery. A day of things on the bargain level coming together with the cosmic…