Friday, January 29, 2010

The live-action debut of the JSA: Smallville's last gasp?

I don't know WHO has been watching Smallville the last few years, but I pretty much gave up on the show once Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) left the series. He was, in my opinion, the best darned Lex Luthor to ever grace film, TV, OR the printed page. I think the series had pretty much jumped the shark before then -- and I pinpoint the killing off of Jonathan Kent as the culprit. Plus, once they started bringing in other heroes from the DC Universe (particularly Green Arrow) to keep things interesting, it became pretty evident that the show's creative team was running out of ideas. I'm really, really surprised, therefore, that Smallville has survived for eight-or-nine seasons.

BUT, over the weekend, I saw THIS advertisement for the February 7 broadcast:

Did you see that? That, ladies and gentlemen, was the JUSTICE SOCIETY. Alan Scott and Jay Garrick were only hinted at, but we DEFINITELY got to see Dr. Fate, Stargirl, and HAWKMAN, complete with wings and mace. Holy cow! Green Arrow was also present, of course. It was also nice to see the Smallville version of Martian Manhunter again.

I'd heard rumors about this episode a while back, including one that it was written by Geoff Johns -- but I pretty much took an "I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it" position on the whole thing. NOW it's here. Hmmm ...

Is this, then, Smallville's last gasp? Is it Smallville's attempt to go out with a bang? Whatever the case, I admit I may very well have to make sure I see this episode. It's the first time I've been interested in watching Smallville in a very, very long time. OF COURSE, they WOULD have to broadcast it during the Super Bowl. Sorry -- my Indianapolis Colts have viewing priority. But, hey, this is what recording devices are for!

EDIT: Someone just emailed me the following photo from this Smallville episode:

Look! Hawkman's beating the hell out of Green Arrow! Or, at least, the threat is certainly there--! Can't ... stop ... LAUGHING! SOMEone got that relationship dynamic right. Take THAT, Ollie! HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA--HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HAaaAAA--! *Cough!* *Cough!* Oh, it HURTS! It hurts--! *Snicker!*

UPDATE: OOPS! I'm getting to watch this episode after all. The episode is being broadcast in CANADA on February 7. In the USA, the broadcast date is February 5.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Helen Jordan, “the Spectre’s niece”

When he first appeared in the comics, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan had just about the largest family ever seen in super-hero comics. Hal’s parents, Martin and Jessica, were deceased, but gatherings of the surviving members of the Jordan family were commonplace in Green Lantern stories throughout the 1960s up through the 1980s. Regular Green Lantern readers quickly became acquainted with Hal’s brothers, Jack and Jim, and a myriad of uncles, aunts, and cousins. Over time, Hal’s brothers were married and had kids, making the family even larger.

When Hal’s hometown, Coast City, became destroyed during DC’s “The Return of Superman” storyline, it appeared (at least for a time) that Hal’s entire family was destroyed with it. Hal became possessed by Parallax, then died and became the Spectre -- and only then were readers clued in as to the fate of Hal’s family members.

In Spectre stories, readers were shown that Hal’s older brother, Jack, and his wife and young daughter had survived the destruction of Coast City -- supposedly the only Jordan family members to do so. Curiously, though, in the Spectre stories, Jack’s daughter underwent a name change. Originally, she was named Jennifer -- but her name suddenly changed to Helen Katherine. Prior to the name change, there had been another Helen in the Jordan family -- the mother of the other Hal Jordan, Air Wave. The first Helen Jordan had been Air Wave herself, briefly, after her husband died; then her son took on the mantle of Air Wave after she died.

(Hal's brother Jack appears to have had a VERY interesting marital history. Jack was originally married to Jan and they had two kids -- Jason and Jennifer. They appear to have been divorced at some point, because in a later Green Lantern issue, Jack was married to someone named Sonja, and the kids were nowhere to be seen. Still later, Jack was suddenly married to Jan again, and they had only the one daughter -- Jennifer, who was suddenly called Helen after meeting the Spectre. This confusion is all obviously the result of sloppy writer research, but there's a [convoluted] way around all of it:
- Jack divorced his second wife -- or she died -- and he remarried Jan.
- Helen is actually Jack's daughter from his second marriage.
- Jason was grown and had moved out before Coast City was destroyed -- and became a Coast City casualty.
- Jennifer was also grown and had moved out, becoming yet another Coast City casualty -- and Jack [being only human] sometimes mistakenly called Helen "Jennifer.")

Sadly, Jack Jordan and his wife didn’t live long after surviving Coast City, and little Helen Jordan was soon orphaned. Being the only relative she had that was surviving (at least in a Spectre-ish sense), Hal Jordan became Helen’s guardian, and Helen came to live in the strange existence Hal had carved out for himself.

It must be noted that, though the Hal Jordan Spectre series was initially much maligned by readers who didn’t want Hal Jordan to be the Spectre, Helen Jordan was very well-liked by the readers who did embrace the series. Unlike most child characters in super-hero comics, Helen wasn’t depicted as super-intelligent or excessively precocious or bratty in any behavioral sense. She WAS gifted with an ability to understand and interact with the Spectre’s metaphysical world, but it was purely on an instinctive level rather than by any conscious or “know-it-all” level. She was a very sweet, likable, and brave little girl who truly loved her Uncle Hal and viewed the Spectre’s world with wide-eyed wonder. And Hal, despite his awkwardness with children and emotions in general, truly loved her in return, and was fiercely protective of her.

A big problem with being a niece of the Spectre, though, is that the Spectre’s existence doesn’t easily lend itself to things like, well, a kid’s birthday. Give Hal Jordan points for trying, though, because in Spectre #24 (2003), he DOES try to give Helen a birthday party. And who does he invite? Why, members of the super-hero community, of course -- including a just recently brought-back-from-the-dead (by the Spectre) Green Arrow, who is still trying to get a handle on how things changed while he was dead. Other party-goers include Superman, Wonder Woman, and the angel Zauriel from the then-Justice League.

The story opens with Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen, who for some reason is driving in search of the Spectre’s “home” -- not an easy feat, considering Hal has set up house in the middle of a desert in the American southwest, AND he has mystically hidden it from sight. Why Ollie decided to drive a Jeep is a bit of a mystery -- but maybe he didn’t want to have Superman carry him.

Ya shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque, Ollie.

The other party-goers meet up with Ollie, who panics slightly upon meeting Zauriel for the first time.

With Zauriel's help, the party-goers are able to finally see the Spectre's "house," which looks like an eclectic collection of temple ruins.

After making their way through a sort-of Spectre version of a funhouse, the party-goers finally find Hal, who is thrilled to see them.

Also present is Materna Minxx, member of a cosmic/spiritual race known as The Risen, who have taken it upon themselves to help Hal raise Helen. Minxx is Helen's self-appointed nanny. Hal likes Minxx well enough and appreciates the help she gives him, but she's very much a Mary Poppins from hell -- and she doesn't at all like Ollie assuming that she's Hal's girlfriend.

One invitee to the party who doesn't show up is Batman, which Hal finds a bit disappointing.

Ollie then pulls Hal aside to grill him about Materna Minxx.

Meanwhile, Superman finds himself having a conversation with a group of Hal's other Spectre selves, including Female Hal (that's right -- FEMALE HAL), and Giant Catfish Hal.

After beating the hell out of Ollie, Materna Minxx gets into an argument with Wonder Woman over just who is more "enlightened," the Amazons or the Risen. Minxx also doesn't approve of Wonder Woman's "separative, sexist nonsense" ("... all of us ... are far more than male or female ... than any limited identification with specific forms--!") Hal intervenes before things can get too out of hand and asks Materna to fetch Helen and bring her to the party.

Helen isn't exactly expecting a party, let alone Hal remembering her birthday -- but, boy, is she EVER thrilled to see Hal's friends.

Then, Helen notices Zauriel: "An angel!" ...

... and THEN she notices Ollie:

His pride wounded, Ollie stomps off in a huff, but Helen is soon busy opening presents. Wonder Woman gives her a snowglobe depicting Themyscira (Paradise Island). Superman gives her figures of the entire, original Justice League that he himself carved out of wood. Zauriel gives her a glimpse into "a beloved aspect of Heaven" and a feather from one of his wings.

Helen thanks everyone for their gifts and then goes looking for Ollie.

"Uncle Hal told me what a great sense of humor you have," says Helen, "so I thought I'd play a little joke on you."

Ollie thinks it IS funny, "maybe a little." He then hands Helen a very badly wrapped package: "You're just gonna rip the paper off!" Of course, his present for Helen a toy bow with a suction-cup arrow.

Helen says, "I love it, Uncle Ollie!!" This, of course, just MELTS Ollie's heart. And, of course, he's very proud after Helen lets the suction-cup arrow fly and it hits Minxx squarely between the eyes. ("Nice job, kid! I couldn't have done better--!")

After everyone has cake and ice cream, Helen notices a small package lying on the floor. Hal panics a bit, wondering who could have snuck it in without his noticing, but the answer becomes apparent soon enough.

So, what becomes of Helen Jordan? Not long after the birthday party story, in the pages of JSA, Hal loses control of the Spectre and it reverts from being the Spirit of Redemption to being the Spirit of Vengeance. Hal is then brought back to life in the Green Lantern: Rebirth storyline, free of both Parallax and the Spectre -- and Helen Jordan, it seems, has disappeared.

Not only has Helen Jordan disappeared, it turns out that Hal's younger brother, Jim, and HIS family, are the ones who have survived the destruction of Coast City -- NOT Jack and his family. Hal also claims that he doesn't remember very much from his time as the Spectre.

So, what has become of Helen Jordan? There's an assumption that the current Green Lantern writer, Geoff Johns, has merely eliminated her via a retroactive continuity change (retcon). However, Helen Jordan HAS appeared in the comics at least once since Hal Jordan was brought back to life. In Action Comics, Superman encountered an older version of her from the future -- and she was a Green Lantern. The character seems to have survived one way or another.

Reader speculation as to the fate of Helen Jordan include the following:

1. When Spectre Hal reverted back into the Spirit of Vengeance, Materna Minxx took Helen away to be raised among The Risen, for her own safety.

2. Helen (along with various other things from Hal's time as the Spectre) was created by Parallax or even by the Spectre itself to keep Hal busy for whatever reason.

3. Hal's entire time and existence as the Spectre wasn't necessarily chronological, and Helen is actually someone from either the Jordan family's past or its future.

Perhaps the Blackest Night storyline will supply the answer -- eventually.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm a BAT!

A friend of mine showed me a Web site called The Animal In You: The original and most accurate personality test on the Web. Calling any site the “most accurate” is just asking for trouble, in my opinion.

Regardless, I took the test, and it appears that, weirdly enough, I’m a BAT:

This is a decidedly nonconformist creature [You don't say. Ha!], for as an airborne personality, the bat tends to look down at the conventions of the ground animals. [I laugh at you, puny ground creatures!] And yet, since it is not a true bird and has not mastered the art of smooth controlled flight, it often appears awkward in social situations (hence the phrase "acting batty"). [Guilty as charged.] But as compensation for this social ungainliness, many bat personalities sport a built-in radar which enables them to intuitively read the motivations of others. [I like to think so, anyway.]

Identifying bat personalities is not difficult. Being nocturnal creatures, they come alive at night and can be spotted in underground clubs or dimly lit bars [or home theater dens]. They prefer the sanctuary of dark clothing and dark corners, and you'll never see a bat sporting a heavy tan. [Yep, despite having visited Florida, California, and Hawai’i many times, I’ve never really had a tan.] These are intelligent, spiritual, creative individuals [Awww, I’m blushing!] who use their full range of senses (other than their poor eyesight) to carefully navigate their way through life. [Hey, my eyes aren’t THAT bad yet.]

Bats have a habit of flitting in and out of social situations, swooping down to interact briefly with others before quickly flying off to resume their bat lives. [Sounds like blogging.] Unassertive and aloof, they'll take flight at the first hint of a confrontation to seek comfort in their personal spaces, generally decorated in unusual but expressive ways. [Yep. How many people have Indonesian “weapons walls” in their homes?]

A sixth sense gives bats a number of advantages in their work, and their insightful nature enables them to understand others better than they understand themselves. This intuitiveness makes bats excellent psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and palm readers. [Being a book editor all too often means playing psychologist for authors.] They respond poorly to direction, however, and function best as sole practitioners in their own business. [Yep, my biggest professional goal is to be left alone to work in peace.] Preferring to work at night and sleep by day [Oh, I WISH], a bat's job must be flexible enough to accommodate these unusual hours. A creative streak often finds them in the design and architectural fields, and their unique relationship with dark caves makes you a natural archeologist or spelunker. [Actually, I have done quite a bit of spelunking. Southern Indiana and northern Kentucky are FULL of caves. I love caves.]

Although the bat's spiritual side is always on display [I have a spiritual side?], they are not overly emotional. Because of their unusual and sometimes awkward approach to life they can sometimes have difficulty finding companions. [Uhhhh, Mr. Sea?!] However, bats respond well to anyone who shares their philosophical perspective, and they love spending long hours in deep conversation. Once they have successfully located a partner, bats prove to be both dependable and committed companions. [Twenty years and counting!]

Careers and Hobbies
Social Worker
Writer [Whaddaya know -- I happen to be a book editor and writer.]

I have to say, that’s a pretty good assessment of my BASIC personality (‘cept Mr. Sea and I have been together for 20 years -- so much for the “difficulty finding companions” part). Also appropriate, considering I’ve been a Batman fan my entire life. Fun test! Recommended to anyone who doesn't take this sort of thing too seriously.


Sunday, January 24, 2010


Indianapolis is going to the Super Bowl again!


EDIT: AND they'll be going up against the New Orleans Saints! THAT's exactly the matchup I was hoping for. I mean, jeez loweez, both teams were undefeated for 13 straight games during the regular season. The Super Bowl SHOULD consist of the two of them going head-to-head. This is gonna be FUN!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kyle (Green Lantern) Rayner's Jiminy Cricket

When Hal Jordan first became the Spectre, it was assumed by many that he would merely continue to be like the Jim Corrigan Spectre -- that is, an all-vengeful, all-powerful wraith hell-bent on bestowing horrific punishments upon evil-doers. Sure, Spectre Hal did that at first; but, after a while, Hal's personality and willpower overcame the vengeful nature of the Spectre. As a result, the Spectre started displaying some traits that were a bit, well, unusual for the Spectre -- at least for a time. Unusual meaning downright friendly. Hal also took it upon himself to help the people he cared about -- which, as you might guess, was a mixed blessing for the people involved.

One person Hal frequently visited -- or pestered, or spied on, or STALKED, depending on your point of view -- was none other than Kyle Rayner. When Kyle first became a Green Lantern, while Hal was Parallax, the two seemed to be linked together in an odd sort of way. This odd link was no doubt partially due to Kyle "taking Hal's place" as a Green Lantern, and probably also partially due to the fact that Kyle's ring was made from Hal's smashed-up old Malvolio ring. Regardless, Kyle and Parallax Hal had a history, and not a pleasant one. So, perhaps Spectre Hal had an interest in Kyle because he wanted to make amends, somehow, for Hal's behavior as Parallax.

Spectre Hal's motives with regard to Kyle weren't immediately obvious -- because, at first, Hal seemed to enjoy just scaring the hell out of Kyle ...

... and scaring the hell out of Kyle ...

... AND scaring the hell out of Kyle:

(Note: As the Spectre, Hal STILL had his dad's old bomber jacket. Now, that is one heck of an impressive jacket. Think about it: Hal has somehow managed to hang onto that jacket all through becoming a Green Lantern, being possessed by Parallax, DYING, becoming the Spectre, and then coming back to life as a Green Lantern. That jacket has supernatural powers, I tells ya!)

When Hal wasn't scaring the hell out of Kyle, he was bestowing sage advice -- which is something Spectre Hal did often to anyone who would listen. All through Hal being the Spectre, it was often hard to tell when Hal was doing the talking, or the Spectre was doing the talking. Now, Hal has never been a terribly philosophical guy, so it's a fair bet that when Spectre Hal was being deep and insightful, it was due to the Spectre's influence. That's probably what led to Spectre Hal becoming the voice of Kyle Rayner's conscience, at least to an extent. Yes, that's right -- for a time, Spectre Hal was the Jiminy Cricket to Kyle's Pinnochio.

First, there's the storyline Circle of Fire, in which Kyle's imagination literally takes on a life of its own. Spectre Hal shows up to warn Kyle that he's going to be betrayed by someone close to him -- and that someone, in fact, turns out to be Kyle himself. In this initial act of Spectre Hal playing Jiminy Cricket, Kyle pretty much blows him off, mostly out of frustration that the Spectre's advice is usually cryptic at best. After Circle of Fire, though, when Spectre Hal shows up, Kyle does a better job of listening to him.

When Kyle first becomes Ion, he's very, very tempted to use his power to "undo" things that "went wrong" in the history of the universe -- especially Hal becoming Parallax. Of course, this attracts Hal's attention:

Hal essentially tells Kyle NO! NO! NO! BAD KYLE! BAAAAD! DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES HAL MADE! Besides, Kyle had to remember one thing:

Of course, Kyle doesn't misuse Ion's power, and he ends up giving it up, at least for a time. However, when Kyle's friend Terry is brutally beaten and close to death, Kyle ends up regretting not being able to use his power to help. When he flies into space to take his anger out on some asteroids ...

... guess who shows up to offer advice?

Spectre Hal then gives Kyle a pep talk and another lecture on using his power responsibly, blah, blah, blah ...


It's a fair bet that Kyle is pretty relieved not to have the Spectre hanging over his shoulder anymore. However, who acts as Kyle's conscience NOW? Guy Gardner?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan and The Spectre before "bonding"

AT LAST, my computer and scanner are speaking to one another. The bulbs on my scanner are starting to go out, though -- so if you see a faint white line through my scans, that's why.

In DC Comics' current Blackest Night storyline, it looks like a showdown between Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan and the Spectre is imminent. Of course, this promises to be VERY interesting considering Hal Jordan was once a host for the Spectre. Hal and the Spectre certainly aren't bonded anymore, and given their history, there's certainly no love lost between them. Who will prevail in the upcoming battle? I think it's pretty obvious that Hal will, based on evidence that he will once again become Parallax to fight the Spectre, and based on some prior history between him and the Spectre BEFORE they were bonded together. My argument is based partly on events from Zero Hour, and partly from a rare little tidbit from Green Lantern Secret Files & Origins #2 (1999), called "Haunting."

(Besides, these two stories present an interesting view of the relationship between Hal and the Spectre before the two become bonded together.)

The Spectre, of course, is one of the oldest characters in the DC Universe. For the most part, it operates as a spirit of vengeance that, hosted by a human soul and supposedly directed by a higher power, inflicts horrific, Old Testament-style punishments on evil doers. Through most of its history, the Spectre's host was Jim Corrigan, and its hero team affiliations were mostly with the Justice Society.

Prior to the storyline Zero Hour -- and prior to becoming possessed by Parallax -- Hal had quite a bit of experience working alongside the Spectre in various team-ups involving the Justice Society and the Justice League. Hal dealt with the Spectre only very rarely outside of those teamups, and when he did, it was obvious he didn't approve of the Spectre's way of dealing with bad guys.

On one occasion, Hal and the Spectre get into a bit of a shoving match over how to best deal with the villain Evil Star. The Spectre, wanting very much to torture Evil Star, seemingly gets the drop on Hal (while reluctantly admitting it respects Hal's power as a hero). Hal fights back with the following argument:

Hal continues: "I'm surprised with all your power and wisdom -- your righteousness and sermons -- you've never heard of redemption."

At Hal's words, the Spectre stops in its tracks and allows Hal to haul Evil Star off to Oa for incarceration.

When Hal and the Spectre next meet, it's during Zero Hour, when Hal has been possessed by Parallax and is on the verge of reforming all of existence in his own image. A band of heroes from various timelines and universes try their best to stop Hal, but not even Superman is a match for him:

THEN, the Spectre shows up:

Hal is not the least bit intimidated by the Spectre, and the two engage in battle:

Hal continues to hold his own against the Spectre AND against the other heroes ...

... including poor Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen, who just can't believe that his best friend has seemingly gone off the deep end:

Hal actually manages to fight off the Spectre, but not without expending a LOT of his energy. This allows Kyle Rayner to get the drop on him.

Hal continues to fight, though, and people are dying -- including Batgirl from an alternate universe. This is the final straw for Green Arrow, who fights back the only way he can:

(Please note: In all of their history together, NOT ONCE has Hal Jordan EVER tried using his power to directly or deliberately hurt Oliver Queen. NOT ONCE, even when possessed by Parallax.)

With Hal finally out of action, the Spectre comes roaring back:

The Spectre then uses Damage's power to "restart" the universe and undo most of the damage done by Parallax. Hal and Kyle both disappear, and Oliver Queen falls into despair, believing he's killed his best friend.

Hal, of course, isn't dead. He reappears on Oa (Kyle does, too, very soon afterward):
Now that the universe is back the way it belongs, the Spectre once again comes after Hal. Hal doesn't back down one bit:

The Spectre hesitates and, remembering their earlier confrontation over Evil Star, halts his attack:

Immediately after this, Hal and Kyle get in a huge fight that results in the destruction of Oa (but that's another story). Hal eventually redeems himself somewhat by sacrificing his life to save Earth during Final Night, and then soon afterward his soul becomes a new host for the Spectre. Hal remains the Spectre's host until the Green Lantern: Rebirth storyline.

SO, based on Zero Hour (and based also on similar events that occur in Green Lantern: Rebirth -- though Hal, Parallax, AND the Spectre are ALL bonded together in THAT story), Hal Jordan as Parallax appears to be more than a match for the Spectre. Hmmmmm ...

UPDATE: By golly, I was right. As of Green Lantern #50 (2010), Hal has become Parallax again to fight the Spectre. Not that the creative team did anything to hide that possibility or anything ...