The thing about not growing up as a comic book geek is not being hugely invested in the various continuities of the Marvel & DC universes. I didn’t grow up with a certain Green Lantern so it wasn’t traumatic when he went crazy and destroyed the universe (or whatever). I also knew most of my Marvel history from the cartoons, but I knew somehow those weren’t the “real” versions (even if Kevin Conroy is the voice I hear when I read Batman). They’re all just characters with stories being told about them.
So I kind of really like the Ultimate line of Marvel comics. The idea is to strip these long running stories down to a more manageable and modern history, so Peter Parker hasn’t been 16 for 50 years. This Saturday I settled into reading volumes 4-8 of Ultimate X-Men, the more recent Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk and Ultimate Human. I got them all from the library but there’s at least one of them I would buy.
I like the young X-men you’ve got in the Ultimate ‘verse, and the classic storylines (Cyclops and Wolverine really don’t like each other and Jean Grey is in the middle of it) mesh interestingly with stuff like Beast and Storm (Hank and Ororo) having broken up after a teen romance. Magneto was much more villainous than my preferred interpretation (Magneto as a slightly more radical version of Xavier): at one point he’s threatening to reverse the entire planet’s magnetic fields. And I suppose Beast, my favourite X-Man, is better in Astonishing X-Men than this young Ultimate version, but whatever. This Nightcrawler (my second-favourite X-Man) is pretty awesome.
But I really like the Ultimate Tony Stark who appears in a couple of these books (most notably Ultimate Human, which is written by Uncle Warren and has some good batshit science fictional stuff in between Hulk smashing the shit out of things). He’s funny in the way that 1970s Tony Stark wasn’t allowed to be. I also like the idea that he’s been infused with nanomachines and thinks of the Iron Man suits as a product, a product humanity will use to go out into space and elsewhere.
The best of these books though, was Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk. Wolverine starts the story off by getting ripped in half by Hulk. There’s a meeting between Logan and his spirit animal (not a wolverine), an answer to how the man with an adamantium skeleton makes it through airport security, loads of angst from Bruce Banner over the hundreds of people he’s killed as Hulk, and Nick Fury (the other thing I love about the Ultimate ‘verse is that it’s the Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury) being enough steps ahead you’d think he was the goddamned Batman.
So yes. Superhero comics can be pretty fucking awesome. Even when they’re silly and basically just excuses for things to explode and get punched. In the middle of one of the Ultimate X-Men volumes there’s a great story about a young mutant who accidentally destroys a town and Logan has a talk with him, offers him beer and murders him in a cave because a mutant like that is terrible PR and Logan is the mutant who does what needs to be done.
I didn’t start reading comics until I got to university. So I didn’t know a lot about all the superheroes beyond what made it to the cartoons (and that the goddamned Batman was awesome). I had the same sort of baseline knowledge of a lot of these stories as I do of most mythology. Gilgamesh had an owl and he killed a bunch of people? The Monkey King journeys to the west with a magic stick for some reason? Loki fucks 8-legged horses? You know, basic knowledge.
So in the last few years when the Iron Man movie made him into a top tier character, I knew some stuff about Tony Stark. I knew he was on the Avengers. I knew he was on the government’s side in the Marvel Civil War when they “killed” Captain America. And I knew he had a drinking problem.
The other day I spotted the Demon In A Bottle trade paperback on the shelf at our branch. “Aha! Those are the comics where we learn of Tony Stark’s alcoholism. I shall read them!”
I’m really glad I wasn’t reading comics in the 70s.
I’m not saying that Demon In a Bottle is bad, but it definitely suffers from the limitations of its times. Everything is so simplified and ridiculous. He has to tell the audience in narration that his plexiglas shields slid over his eye and mouth holes when Sub-Mariner drags the fight underwater. The dialogue is inane and there are pages of him beating things up in his testing facility and on Justin Hammer’s manor-boat for no reason other than to give him something to fight.
I recognize that things were different then and that even today not everything in comics is going to be Shakespeare, but yeah. It’s not tremendously enlightening stuff to read.
I read an excellent post by Danah Boyd on privacy and Facebook, and in it there’s a quote from Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.
You have one identity… The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly… Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity” – Zuckerberg, 2009
Hm. This played really well with the Jenka Gurfinkel article I just read about Iron Man being the first superhero for the Facebook generation.
The need for a secret identity is gone. The entire world knows — and not because some tabloid uncovered the mystery man behind the mask, but because he just straight up told everyone. In the comic books, it took Stark 40 years to make this move. For Superman or Spiderman or Batman or virtually any other superhero from the prior century (save some like the X-Men) their secret identities were their most sacred possessions, the keys to their undoings, and they fought as hard to protect them as to save humanity itself. But in the 21st century, Tony Stark’s approach to privacy reflects how Millennials now think of the concept.
And I bring this up here because last week our library created new Facebook Guidelines for Staff, to go with the library’s new presence on the Book. These policies say that we’re welcome to become a fan of the library page, but we must remember that even if we’re on our own time, people might be able to find out we work for the library, so we aren’t allowed to say anything about patrons or coworkers or our employers, nor talk about anything that isn’t “in the public domain.” (Our library is a public one, run by the city paid for by tax dollars so I believe that anyone has a right to know if they’re paying for incompetents and fuckups along with awesome people. But that’s my journalist talking.)
I was a little unhappy with how these policies erode staff private expression, but after my fiasco with the administration in December/January I’m glad there is a policy to argue with. In my disciplinary hearing I asked for them to point to a rule I had broken. They couldn’t. Now they could point to this. That’s a step up from being disappeared for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. Hooray.
The other great thing about there being a policy is I can point to it and show my fellow staffmembers what the administration is trying to do, which is erode the distinction between our work time and our personal time. (I have maintained that if my library wants me to never say anything critical about it, they should not be paying me by the hour.) This erosion is kind of interesting, especially when dealing with people who haven’t tweaked their Facebook privacy settings. On Thursday, just to show my coworkers why I wouldn’t become a fan of the library, we went to the library page without signing into Facebook. On that page you can see some people who are fans of the library. Some of them, if you click on them, nothing comes up because they don’t want to be visible to any Joe Schmoe off the internet. But some people show up. As do their friends lists, and their taste in music, and other things they like (one library person we found is a fan of Jello Shots). My more Luddite coworker was appalled that people would put this information on the internet at all, but I pushed them both to considering another case.
Imagine I’m a fan of something entitled “Our mayor is a fucking douchebag.” If I don’t have my Facebook privacy settings locked down and I am a fan of our library’s page, anyone could read what I thought about my boss. And the administration could deem that disrespectful and I could be disciplined. I want to remain a fan of “Our mayor is a fucking douchebag,” so I decide not to become a fan of our library on Facebook. Problem solved. But wait! In our new Facebook guidelines it states “Please remember that you may be identified as a library staff member even if you are participating on your personal time.” If I don’t have my privacy settings locked down and a Facebook friend of mine is a fan of the library page, then I and my opinions of my douchebag mayor are two clicks away from being identified, and possibly disciplined for being disrespectful. This isn’t just an embarassing situation; it’s a situation that could lose some asshole his job (probably not the asshole who’s mayor, though).
That whole “may be identified as a staff member” gets me paranoid. When I got disciplined for my blog being disrespectful, my blog did not have my full name on it, though I mentioned branches where things happened. I never made any claims that I was speaking officially for the library, though on individual posts I mentioned where I worked. It didn’t take a lot to identify me, and it didn’t need to. My personal life isn’t a secret identity, it’s just the one I use when I’m not at work. It is just different. My administration told me that makes me a liar. They are right on board with Mark Zuckerberg’s radical devaluation of privacy so that they can maintain a nice clean professional image. They want things to be nice and clean and safe always. Which is completely appropriate for their official stuff. I don’t want anything to do with the official site. But these policies encroach on my ability to appear disrespectful on my own time, and I think that’s wrong. Tony Stark can get away with his bad behaviour being public because he’s obscenely rich and talented and has a fucking suit of power armour. These are advantages I do not have. Not being fictional and all.
Obviously, one solution to all of this would be for me to stop being such a jerk. If I didn’t have anything to hide, then keeping my personal and professional lives separate wouldn’t matter. But I am what I am, and I’ll write what I write. I can even change things, admit when I’ve made a mistake and everything. True fact! The Opinions page up at the top there talks a bit about the steps that I’ve taken on this blog. They still don’t put me in line with our official policies, but they’re what appear reasonable to me. That’s about as close as we get to integrity around here.
I saw Iron Man 2 and enjoyed it. All the performances were pretty great, but man, Sam Rockwell is awesome. He does these fast-talking guy a bit out of his depth roles so well. I rewatched The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy a while back and had new appreciation for his version of Zaphod Beeblebrox. Probably completely tainted by me loving Moon and then seeing him with me “actor I really like” beam, but whatever.
I did miss the Iron Man/Pepper “You complete me” bit from the trailer. And it isn’t really very clear how Vanko knew Tony Stark’d be driving in the race. But whatever. The lacklustre Thor reveal was more than made up for by the Captain America shield. Stuff blew up good. And DJ AM laid down some fat beats for two power-armoured best friends to beat each other down to. And then later they made up and it was all okay after they blew up a pile of robots.
There were people in the theatre who obviously haven’t been watching any hockey recently because they killed themselves laughing at that commercial with the guy addressing the ladies and he’s on a boat and a horse and the tickets are now diamonds. They thought it was the pinnacle of commercial hilarity. But they also laughed at the appropriate parts during the movie so it all worked out.
I worked on the main floor yesterday, and the stories are true: you get to say “that’s on the fourth floor” a lot. This is the desk on the main floor by the fiction section. But a kid came in with his mom doing research on Dungeons and Dragons and I did some searching for him and when the D&D for Dummies book was checked out I gave him my favourite local game store’s address, since they know stuff and would be able to help without being too “buy buy buy.”
I saw a couple of our patrons while down there and felt a little disillusioned that they have their own repartee with the staff of other departments. The schizophrenic woman was down there complaining about how slow the second floor is to find stuff for her, and adamant man who must be autistic from before they knew what autism was spent twenty minutes arguing with the people down at the Memberships desk. It was like being a kid and seeing your teacher at the grocery store.
On Friday I saw Star Trek and liked it. In the top three Trek movies. There were holes (see this review) and yeah it wasn’t particularly deep, but it was fun. Kind of like Iron Man was last year. The thing I was happiest with was Karl Urban’s portrayal of McCoy. I was worried McCoy, easily my favourite Original Series character, would get short shrift and he didn’t.
I have no idea how that fleshy prolapsed rectum monster could possibly survive on an icy moon though.