Saturday, March 30, 2013



Listen, I’m a Marvel guy. And because all of the DC posts I’ve been doing lately, I feel I need to regain my Marvel cred. So, I’m just gonna do some posts about some Marvel movie trailers. Wolverine and Iron Man. First off, in the Iron Man trailer we see Iron Man on the ground after an explosion. The Mandarin swears to hurt those closest to him. Iron Man swears revenge, and then finally Pepper Pots shows up in an Iron Suit to rescue Iron Man. So…off-handedly, what does this tell me about the movie?
First, it tells me that the Mandarin is not the main villain. That’s misdirection. I have a shocking theory. This trailer is eerily similar to the Iron Man 1 trailers where he gets injured in Afghanistan and builds the suit. Only this time the suit can’t save him. Who advised him to make a profit from the suits? Obadiah  Stone, who went behind Tony’s back to sell his tech to the very terrorists who captured him. Who did Tony leave as CEO in Iron Man 2? Pepper Pots. You think she’s just gonna give it up that easy? How will she make a profit, with access to Tony’s suits? So…wait for it! Pepper Pots sells Stark technology to a foreign enemy, against the U.S.; the Mandarin. That’s why Tony has to challenge Mandarin 1-on-1; so there’s no nuclear warfare.
But Pepper Pots: Think about it. She’s the ex-CEO, at least. She’s thinking about how to profit. That’s why Tony’s friends (and Stone was his friend!) keep betraying him. He can’t make a profit if he keeps the suit a secret. Also…should I say spoilers? They can repeat the betrayal plot because we’ve all but forgotten about Obadiah. Pepper gets a pass because she’s pretty, and the two were formerly romantically involved, which will make her betrayal sting more. In any case, Tony will have to confront her, unless he wants his tech constantly falling into the hands of foreign terrorists.

I have no clue if Tony will forgive and forget or throw Pepper out a window. But, after selling his suits behind his back “she gonna have some serious ‘splainin’” to do. Also, I think this movie might be based on Warren Ellis’s 2007 Extremis storyline, in which (spoilers?) some female scientist sells Stark tech to a white supremacist. Poor Tony. He just can’t keep friends! And of course, you could go the easy route and say that it’s Mr. Hammer who tried to sell Stark technology to Whiplash, a Russian terrorist, in Iron Man 2! No! If you’re gonna up the stakes, you can’t repeat the same plot! I know there’s betrayal in the works. If they really upped the ante, it just might be Pepper Pots. Maybe not. But, betrayal is in the works!

 Now, The Wolverine trailers don’t give me much to work with. I know he goes to Japan and loses his powers. But, I think at this point we all know it’s some variant of the Japan storyline. Early trailers (6 secs.) show Logan on a pagoda rooftop with a katana. Could this be where he fights Silver Samurai? Either way, the other trailer I saw is an ADHD mess of Wolverine growling and mowing down ninjas like it’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon! Was I excited? Yes! After the disappointment of X-men Origins: Wolverine, I think Wolverine deserves a few canonically accurate action scenes.

  Plus, the 3D shows him busting out his claws while surrounded by ninjas! I think there’ll be a lot of good action here. Ninjas aren’t none to fight alone. They’ll have buddies for Wolverine to mow down with his claws. And, IF Silver Samurai is involved, there’s going to be some fast-paced sword fights! In sum, I don’t expect Wolverine to be a pacifist in this one. There will be blood. And Hugh Jackman has even dropped hints that someone uncovers how to hurt Wolverine! (In some unspecified weakness! No powers?)
 In conclusion, I think these movies will raise the stakes for both heroes. Tony will be betrayed again. Logan will be injured somehow, possibly to where he has to use a sword. (Wouldn’t that be cool? Ok, no, but for a while; yes!) After the Avengers, Marvel’s Phase 2 should be all about setting the bar higher. And I…really hope they have!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Superman - Secret Origin (2010)

Superman - Secret Origin (2010)

    Lois: “Are you an alien or a man?”

Superman: “I’m Superman.”

   I really wanted to read this because it’s supposedly what Man of Steel is based off of. Indeed, the foreword is written by David S. Goyer, a writer for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, who talks about meeting Geoff Johns, the writer. So, it seems to drop hints that this is the comic that inspired it; particularly when young Clark tries to fit in so much with his friends. “I don’t want to be different.” He says to his father upon learning he’s from Krypton. “I want to be your son.”

  So, to fit in Clark Kent hides his powers, which naturally don’t stay hidden for long. This is ironic since I usually think of Clark Kent enjoying being Superman, and Clark Kent as his reason for anonymity. Nonetheless, here we see him break a friend’s arm in football, then, accidentally burn his school down with eye lasers after he’s kissed by a girl. Worse, he can hear his friends talking behind his back with his super-hearing.  John Kent is distraught, and  tells him the truth: He’s from Krypton.
     In comics, part of what makes a good story is conflict of opposites that can be shown pictorially. (Hollywood has caught on.) So, just as we have young Clark struggling to find out where he comes from, we have Lex Luthor, who just pages after Clark’s revelation makes his dad drive off drunk (for being some sort of unspecified know-it-all.) and fall off a cliff road. Superboy (in his full costume.) catches the truck. Thus begins their rivalry.

    Lex Luthor is established as the perfect ambitious rival to Superman. Superman is reluctant to move out of Smallville. Lex Luthor dreams of dominating Metropolis. Superboy wants to have friends. Young Lex considers himself above others, saying: “Glasses mean one of two things…either you’re genetically inferior or you read books.” That establishes his character. Black-and-white perception. No possibility of forgiveness.

While these dynamics are always in play, Lex is always trying to think of ways to thwart Superman, who is a threat to his arrogant selfishness. At the same time, I never saw Superman boast of his strength. (Except for when he reluctantly poses lifting cars or hands-on-hips for Jimmy Olsen, which was not a boast, but a response to polite requests.)

   Indeed, in this comic, Superman displays an almost comical naïveté  about his powers, in favor of not hurting anyone. During a battle with the U.S. Army (who fears he’s here to conquer Earth, per Luthor’s suggestion.) Superman flees into the sewer for fear of hurting innocent people who nonetheless want to kill him. Now, this is a scene I’m sure the Man of Steel movie will use, because it’s so difficult to show Superman visually as a sympathetic character. We’re used to seeing Superman confident; but here we see him torn between his childhood fear of hurting friends, and protecting those he loves. Superman, not Clark Kent, appears emotionally vulnerable.

    So, who is Superman really? The cool answer is usually that his “true” identity is Superman, and that the klutz Clark Kent is a disguise. Here, we realize it’s a false dilemma. He’s both alien and man, which leads to his answer to Lois Lane’s above question. I will avoid spoiling the rest of the comic, for those that want to read it separately, or enjoy the Man of Steel movie without spoilers. Suffice to say, I’m pretty confident General Zod will be a stand-in for Lex Luthor. But, we will see the same conflict between cultural identity: is he a man or an alien (Or, in the case of General Zod, who’s sure to make the U.S. Army nervous, is Superman an alien supremacist like his fellow Kryptonian?) The answer of course is that culture is decided by individuals, and can’t be placed in rigid logical boxes. Superman decides Earth is his home, no one owns it. And so, when Luthor becomes enough of a threat, he decides to stop him from taking over, and spreading lies about him.

   After a fight with the Luthor-created Metallo, Superman explains to the army (out in the streets!) that he’s nobody’s savior, and that Luthor isn’t either. We’re all in control of our own destiny. As cheesy a message as it is in comics, the affect is greatly achieved because it takes a great counterforce to his identity (Lex Luthor…who he lets off the hook many times!) in order for him to fully embrace his Superman identity. When he decides he’s had enough, he finally confronts his fear of hurting others and embraces using his powers for Good! I doubt Metallo will show up in Man of Steel, but this seems like the kind of conflict of opposites that great modern superhero movies are made of, so give it a read, and look for where Zod might fit in!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


  As I was growing up, there were often games I’d watch my able-bodied twin play and consider inaccessible for myself. 1994’s Super Metroid was one such game. The game seemed to require quick reflexes for shooting and jumping I just didn’t have. It was a shame because Metroid seemed like it involved a lot of exploring (rare for side-scrollers, back then.) and looked like an amazing world.  The map is huge!

  Because of these 3 things, (rapid button pushing, huge map, dexterity issues.) I sort of avoided playing this game back in its prime. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible and fun it is! Full disclosure: I use a walk-thru for some parts, but because I want a semi-1994 experience, I only use it when I’m stuck. I’m frequently grateful that walk-thrus exist; at the same time, it’s fun to explore the planet.

   Most of the advantage of Super Metroid’s accessibility comes from the fact that it is a 2D side-scroller, as were previous Metroid titles. What I mean is you can only move left and right, but by the same token, your enemies have the same limits, and from what I’ve seen, they don’t always move too fast or fill up the screen (like in Castlevania.)

   There are a few relics from the 90s, such as in-game save points. Also, buttons are readily re-mappable in the game’s start-up screen, but not in-game. Despite the ease and pace of the game, it is a massive labyrinth. I would say that’s it’s major setback for accessibility, but that’s easily overcome with modern technology. Also, I just can’t resist the game’s foreboding futuristic atmosphere, which seems inspired by Alien. Only replace Sigourney Weaver with the bounty hunter Samus Aran. Not that it effects accessibility but for a 16-bit game, the soundtrack and graphics are, well, super.

   In the modern gaming world, it’s hard to imagine a game as well balanced for a side-scroller. Since a major emphasis of the game is on exploring, I think, you don’t get mobbed. Or perhaps this is a processor limitation or something about the 16-bit era in general. The flipside to that of course, is probably the only reason it’s inaccessible. If it were ’94 still, I’d undoubtedly be lost and have no idea what to do; but since it’s not much of the frustration is removed.

   Modern side-scrollers tend to fill up the screen with enemies or move at breakneck speeds. So far as I can tell, there’s only one timed part of the game; the lab escape in the beginning of the game, but as the game lets you retry as many times as you like, (and that’s the beginning, so yes, you start at the beginning. Save points come a little later after you learn to use missiles.) it’s easy. Overall, I feel the game gives you time to figure out it’s platform-jumping and other logic puzzles. This is something sorely lacking in modern gaming, and also adds to the feel of isolation in the game.

     I’m glad I picked up this gem from the past again, and was happy to discover it wasn’t as inaccessible as I thought back then! But, it is a game of its time. Without modern walk-thrus, I might have never played it again. But, I do like that it moves the game along at a predictable speed, rather than blasting the player through the story with tons enemies and quick draw reflexes. These are the sins of the modern side-scroller (You can actually trace it back to Metal Slug…even Contra.) So, it’s nice to have a game that lets you take time. However, it’s probably because you’d get lost in pre-walkthru times! Double-edged sword.

    In conclusion, while exploration in Super Metroid can be tiresome, it’s still a good game and is well-paced enough to make it plenty accessible for me. There’s a good balance of logic and action, and it actually avoids most the things I thought would make it inaccessible. My 9-year-old self probably wouldn’t have liked it, but now I’m able to appreciate the game’s maze, especially because I have walk-thrus. More importantly, it’s me playing this time. Some games are worth a second look, especially when it’s through your own “alien” eyes.


ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: B (Well-paced action and logic puzzles. Re-mappable buttons. Screen is almost never cluttered. Enemies have predictable patterns.)

FORGIVENESS FACTOR: C (Fairly old-school; you get save points. That‘s it. A game of its time.)

 CONTROL: B (There‘s pretty much a 1:1 action/response ratio; the rest depends on what you’ve configured. )    

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Incredible Hulk Series

The Incredible Hulk Series:


A lot of talk has been going around about “Who’s the best  Batman?” “Who’s the better Spider-Man?” (It’s Andrew Garfield, by the way.) with all this “Who played it better?” going on…why is no one talking about The Hulk? There have been 4 actors for him already! Edward Norton (2008) Mark Ruffalo (2011) Eric Bana…(2003) Wait a minute. The reason there’s no one talking about Hulk is that there’s only been one real Hulk! Lou Ferrigno.

He wasn’t CGI.  He was a real life deaf bodybuilder in the live action Incredible Hulk series. They didn’t really have the budget for Hulk to be this giant thing rampaging through the city, but he’s big and tough and you get the sense that if Hulk were real, this would be him. He’s a little more human in this old series. Which is important, because in the modern movies, he just symbolizes “the monster within”  or is handy whenever they need someone to kick butt and grunt. But, because of Ferrigno’s deafness possibly, I feel that this Hulk attempts more at communication, in contrast to where we, as a hearing audience typically associate communication with verbal articulation.

 For example, in the first episode, Hulk saves a little girl from drowning by tearing down a tree and having her grab on. The girl was scared by Hulk, but he saves her. This returns Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk to his roots in Frankenstein as well as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The “modern” Hulks certainly capture the effect of Mr. Hyde, (Especially in The Avengers; since for the first hour there is no Hulk, and then he shows up to smash.) But, little is done to preserve the idea that the monster is ultimately just as sympathetic as the doctor. Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk is misunderstood and scary-looking, but like Frankenstein’s monster, he is ultimately kind.
As mentioned, the live action Hulk isn’t some 20-foot giant rampaging through cities, but he is strong. He rips up cars, uses trees as clubs, and even tears up houses while fighting an evil version of himself! You see, this Hulk is still trying to do good. I suppose you can make an argument that in modern movies Dr. Banner “doesn’t have control of the Hulk yet.” but in the live action version it’s made clear that the Hulk is David Bruce Banner.

 By the way, why is his name Dr. David Bruce Banner? Isn’t his name Dr. Bruce Banner? In this series though, he’s a medical doctor who’s obsessed with finding out what’s at the root of superhuman feats of strength. This seems to make more sense than a nuclear bomb or accidental overdose of gamma rays or a government scientist working with the military! No! He intentionally doses himself with gamma rays and becomes the Hulk for science! His irrational obsession drives him to superhuman feats. His transformation scenes into the Hulk are awesome, and he’s (Bill Bixby) replaced with Lou Ferrigno as Hulk. Though it’s tacky by today’s standards!

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton. But, Lou Ferrigno adds humanity to the Hulk as well as a superhero! The human aspect is lost in the modern CGI. Curiously, in other iterations of the Hulk, he only speaks in minimal phrases. Lou Ferrigno does not talk. This adds more humanity I think, when he is saving someone, and more intensity when he is under threat, because he can’t explain himself! To be fair, the catchphrase for Hulk at this point was “You won’t like me when I’m angry!” which was left to Bill Bixby. Lou Ferrigno is all action!

    Stan Lee has said that part of his inspiration for Hulk was Frankenstein. The other was Mr. Hyde. Lou Ferrigno revives the possibility that the Hulk still is Dr. Banner; like Frankenstein’s monster he tries to do good but frightens the ignorant townspeople. The thing is Hulk is still Bruce Banner. He just can't talk and is a little scary-looking. Perhaps Ferrigno's deafness added to the effectiveness of him running from people he can't talk to; people he's often trying to save. (or teach a lesson!)

   In conclusion, literally, there’s only one real Hulk. I’m sure there’s motion-capture involved today, but on a purely visual level, Lou Ferrigno is the only real Hulk, and that’s the reason there can be no discussion about who’s better. The other actors did fine as Bruce Banner, but they did not become the Hulk. He was the Hulk.

All that needs to be said of Ferrigno’s Hulk is the catchphrase: “You won’t like me when I’m angry!” but I do! And he seems to be more in “control” when he is the Hulk, because of his pure muscle and focus. No caveman speech. Lou Ferrigno adds such intensity and such emotion without it; to make the Hulk strong and more human! I highly recommend looking at this series!

Monday, March 11, 2013


    Not in chronological order, but, introducing, my favorite bits of the Day of Arts for All! On March 2nd, People gathered at the Westerville Community Center, including myself, in celebration of artists with disabilities throughout Ohio for the Day of Arts for all. Artists of all shades were displayed and given awards for their creations.  The artists themselves came up after a short introduction by the mayor of Westerville. First, came the AEO (Accessible Expressions Ohio) Youth awards. Great to see some representation of accessibility in the artistic arena!

   Then, it was straight on to the Young Soloists category. 3rd place singer Sam Shephard delivered a wonderful Jazz set, including a Michael Buble-ish sounding number, and a rendition of “Yesterday” by John Lennon. Finally, Shepherd, the blind music virtuoso, absolutely stunned on the harmonica, having only 5 months training with it prior, as he sang “Keys to the Highway”!

   Savannah Todd performed a surprising mix of pop vocals from Christina Aguilera to once again, the Beatles! And then, last but certainly not least the awe-inspiring operatic vocals of Brian Michael Moore, who I was blown away by; not only singing in Italian, but German as well! Not every day I hear German opera, but of course it’s a pet subject of mine, so I loved it! Most inspiring to me, was how much talent each vocalist had. Most had been singing since childhood, and had already written songs or been featured on the stage. It was a wonderful testament to recognizing talent and accessibility!

   Next up, Ian Getha in Youth Artists, with his dazzlingly colorful display of confetti and tissues and mixed media stuffed into a box called aptly “Party in a Box”! The finalists in this category ranged from the serious to the surreal in creativity. Party in a box is an eye-popping 3D artistic construction from a Kleenex box, that really has to be seen. Also, placing in this section was “The Bird That Protects Me While I Sleep” a somewhat surreal piece brightly colored with impressionistic undertones that form a bird and give the illusion of sleep, in that it came together only as a whole picture. (Nathaniel Curtis) Truly inspiring, and recalls the power of dreams/myth in disabled life, to me.  Lastly, Lucas Feruito captured a whimsical town populated by pets in Petropolis.

   There was one piece I took one look at and said “Oh, that’s good. That’ll win an award.” Little did I know the painting was “Istanbul Was Constantinople” (Though I initially grinned at the title’s allusion to the song of the same name. This was a work of art done by AEO professional and wheelchair  user Tony Hoover; who’d painted an Istanbul skyline with onion shaped towers in red and black; and used yellow for lights.
 Also in the gallery, I ran into some photographers in the Athens Photography  Project (APP) who won awards, so of course I took them aside to get firsthand commentary on their works. First, Penny Causey’s “The Sun Always Rises”; a view of a foggy sunrise in rural Athens, OH. The gray rises with the blue and pink sky to form lines of silver on the horizon. Penny said, “It was a lucky shot. The fog just happened to be that way.” If the shot had been any later, the silver color might have gone. “Excellent,” I said. “I love it!”

  I had an opportunity as well to speak to Gordon Francoisa about his “Coal on a Spring Evening” which was a photo taken on OSU campus of a big lump of coal right below the single green branch of a tree. It’s message is, in Gordon’s words, “To communicate that coal is very harmful to Ohio.” After that, I indicated that maybe the tree was meant to be a sign of hope. “Maybe,” he said. “But the coal was more photogenic.” he laughs, but in a way he wasn’t lying. OSU’s red and white scheme provided a sort of natural highlight to the lump of black coal that draw the eyes in.

   Afterwards, they had started the singing in the assembly room. (Remember, I’m going by favorites, not chronological order.) I decided to have a coffee, and some good tea that must’ve had some kind of lavender; sat back and enjoyed the show. I will say that this exhibition was by far one of the most diverse displays of creativity I’ve seen by disabled photographers.

   But, if I may venture back into that assembly room for a moment there were a few other paintings I’d like to mention as favorites. One of which actually received “Best of Show”. Charlotte McGraw’s “The Big-Earred Bats of Charlottesville”! I’ve always had an affinity for magical realism, and these bats rendered as enormously-earlobed cartoon creatures hanging upside-down, was I take it; inspired by magical realism…that is, a fantastical depiction of a real subject. Personally, I feel the style represents my own striving to go beyond what “is”, and of course have a little fun, though I don’t know if her disability experience influenced the painting. That’s just my take on it.

    Lastly, regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a fan of sci-fi. I even began this blog with the intention of reviewing “high sci-fi” books; before focusing more on my “alien” experiences with disability. In this regard, I think my last favorite of the bunch was “The Electric City” by another AEO professional, Malcolm J. This picture of NYC lit with yellow and tall skyscrapers invoked an awe-inspiring sci-fi looking landscape.

    The experiences I had at the Day of Arts for All were in one word: amazing. I got to talk to some of the artists, (Even had the chance to thank Brian for his excellent German pronunciation, before he left.) experience their creations, and I even considered submitting my own art for next year. I encourage everyone I know to support VSA and a growing community of Ohioan artists with disabilities. Help make next year as amazing as the last. The moral of this story is that people may have disabilities, but they disappear once art gives their abilities a voice!

 (c) Charlotte Mcgraw -"The Big-Earred Bats of Charlottesville" 

 (c) Ian Getha - "Party in a Box"

(c) Nathaniel Curtiss "The Bird That  Protects Me While I Sleep"