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Posted by Jean Valjean , in Superman, Michael Phelps, Music Dec 02 2017 · 219 views
Iowa, music, Michael Phelps
:kaukau: I have on occasions considered getting a degree in political sciences just so I can run for Governor of Iowa just so I can write an executive order changing the state anthem. But that's a hassle. Much rather, I would elect someone else who's smarter than me and will put up with the terrors of public service who promises me that she will change the national anthem. I'm currently brainstorming a letter, at this very moment, that I can send to governor Kim Reynolds, and to the Senator of my district, Randy Feenstra. I actually kind of know Feenstra, though not as a personal friend. I might also send a letter to my representative, Skyler Wheeler (of no relation to Nancy).

But not quite yet. Among other things, people will start going on recess soon enough, and they're all celebrating Christmas, but I'm thinking that right around New Year's Day, I might be sending out these letters, and additionally, the emails of all of the rest of Iowa's state congressmen are publicly available on the the government website. Until then, I will be thinking through my case so I can build it into something compelling. Iowa has every reason to change its anthem. The main challenge to changing it (and I must admit, my real-world experience tells me that it will be significant) is that people really don't like to change things. Politicians, amirite? Stodgy people who don't take their constituents seriously if they're not petitioning for something that fits into a readily recognizable political narrative. Pfaah!

Anyway, I'm pretty sure it should be self evident to y'all why Iowa's anthem needs changing. Here it is:

Wait, sorry, I had a technical error. This is Iowa's state anthem.

Ho. ly. Cow. I'm sorry if that gave you whiplash. And no, this isn't a joke. I'm not jigging your leg. That's actually Iowa's official anthem. There is literally onely one good thing about that song, and it's Maryland also rips off its tune from "O Christmas Tree", so we don't have to feel so bad. And Maryland has Michael Phelps, Savior of the Universe, King of the Impossible, Medals Be Upon Him, so by a very distant stretch, I guess I could say that Iowans have something in common with The Phelps that most other Americans don't.

But seriously? "O Christmas Tree"? Iowa already has a reputation for being bland and forgettable, and continuing to use this song that nobody cares about only contributes to that. Look at the Kansas theme: "Home on the Range". See? Isn't that much better? People actually know that one and like it! It gives Kansas a good reputation. Plus it's the home of Dorothy Gale and Clark Kent, so they're cultural legacy is set.

Here's an idea: ifi you're going to borrow music, at least borrow music that has something at least tangentially related to their state. West Virginia made "Take Me Home, Country Roads" their national anthem, because they were sensible and realized that people love John Denver and that it basically was the song that best represented their state. West Virginia would be cool if it used that song, so it did. Because why settle for something else when you already have something perfect wrapped and packaged for you? Oklahama is likewise wise, picking what else but the titular song from "Oklahoma!" to be their state standard. Do you see how easy that it?

It might be tempting to give Indiana a similar treatment by paying John Williams some royalties to use that one march of his as their anthem, but as it happens, Indiana already has a decent ballad from the 19th century.

Iowa, however, does not have a decent original ballad, so what are Iowans to do? What piece of music out there is indispensably associated with Iowa?

Ah, remember that Star Trek theme that I just shared? As every Iowan knows, the future Captain James Tyberius Kirk was born in Iowa. Ergo, Star Trek is a quintessential part of the Iowa's state mythology. This is what I personally would make Iowa's anthem. I just need Kim Reynolds to call Jerry Goldmith's estate, and Paramount Pictures, and basically whoever else she needs to sweet talk and pay off in order to get permission to use it when representing the state of Iowa. Aaaaaand BOOM! You have a great national melody. All you need to do from there is replace all of those nonsense "O Iowa! You're so pretty! Ain't we nice? Don't we all like our state? Iowa! O Iowa!" lyrics with something more sensible and imaginative so that you aren't singing about the exact same things as all of the other states. Create lyrics that actually describe what makes Iowa unique! Tell us about how Iowa was founded! Give people a sense of history and identity!

There you go. Except when I write my letters, I will probably have to drop all references to Star Trek if I want to be taken seriously by the politicians who may or may not bother reading them. Which is why I need to take some time to think through a serious proposal and maybe come up with a draft for a song myself, even though I'm not a musician. So by that, what I really mean is that I need to write up some poetry having to do with Iowa's history and then ask a friend who's a musician to compose a hopefully good proposition for a melody to go with it, and then my friend can be a co-signer in my petition. I'm thinking of a march, definitely in major. Hopefully Goldsmith or Williams-esque without overtly lifting anything from them.

And then I'm going to fail, but when I inevitably try again sometime down the road, I will be far more researched and have a serious game plan for changing Iowa's anthem. Because as small and as trivial as it seems, at least I will feel that I made a difference as one person, and I can confidently say that this would be something in history that wouldn't have inevitably happened without me.



Justice League Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies, Superman Nov 22 2017 · 330 views
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and 2 more...

Posted Image

:kaukau: Justice League stays true, for the most part, to what it advertised: a movie about five iconic superheroes who need little-to-no introduction getting together (right now, over me) in order to stop a villain who wasn't noteworthy enough to show up in the trailers, that may or may not have anything to do with Superman. There has been several different marketing tools employed domestically across the world that both imply that he is in the film, and things that imply that he isn't, and a lot of it is fake and deliberately misleading in order to get people speculating. So, out of respect to Warner Bros., I won't reveal whether or not Superman comes back or if they were gutsy enough to keep him dead.

With that in mind, what do you have?

Batman. Everyone knows who this is. The only difference to this Batman that I think needs introduction is that his main schtick this time around doesn't seem to be his batty obsession with his dead parents, but a sense of guilt over Superman's death. This is the first time that I've ever seen Batman depicted on film with friendship being a major part of his identity.

Wonder Woman. Everyone's favorite character at this point. The movie acknowledges some important parts from her origins movie earlier this year.

These two decide that they're going to start a team based off of cameos from previous films, consisting of the following three:

Aquaman: A bigger outsider than Batman ever was, and with a complicated backstory with Shakespearean family drama that's complicated enough that he's naturally the next one to get his own film. He reminds me a bit of the brooding Superman from Man of Steel, but it does fit the character a little better. However, he's the character who will probably endear people the least.

Cyborg: The most obscure of these characters, but at the same time can be summed up in one sentence. His father tried fusing him with alien technology to save his life, and now he's afraid of the technology that's taking over his body and possibly his mind.

The Flash: Barry Allen, everyone. Probably the most famous superhero outside of the Big Three. He says it as briefly as possible, that be got struck by lightning. Now he's fast, can go into some alternate dimension, and has the Speed Force. He doesn't have any friends, and it the most eager to join the Justice League. It should be noted that he is responsible for all of the movie's best moments.

They must fight Steppenwolf, a cool-looking villain played by a Shakespearean actor who delivers his few lines very well. He's of the Marvel variety, a forgettable villain; however, I personally really enjoyed him, if only because I really enjoyed the actor's performance. Steppenwolf's plan is to gather the Mother Boxes, an all-powerful force, and transform Earth into that red place that you saw in the trailers, which he would get away with if it wasn't for the Justice League.

That's it. That's the film in a nutshell. I think that it does a fairly decent job, and will keep people entertained. It doesn't have the gravitas and level of excitement and payoff that The Avengers did five years ago, but I think that people will be more satisfied if they go in thinking of it as a pilot episode for a DC animated show, since it has about a similar feel. There were certain moments that took me back to these kind of shows. Even Steppenwolf, as underdeveloped as he was, reminded me of villains who show up in a pilot episode to get introduced as a larger series villain who will get more development later.

I would also recommend this movie especially to people who haven't seen Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, on account of this film deciding to ignore major issues from them. It's very clear that DC wants to do a course-correct and wishes that they never made the first two films the way that they did, meaning that they're not only changing tone, but they're changing characters to fit their beloved comic-book counterparts with no in-universe reason.


Other pros and cons:

Great cinematography. Everything directed by Zack Snyder looks gorgeous. In fact, I don't say this too often, but it looks even richer in 3D.

Poor sound editing. There were times when sound played an important part in storytelling, and it really should have been edited to make the film far more immersive.

The editing! This is where most people complain. It's very obvious that there are quite a few deleted scenes, because the scenes that remain, especially in the beginning, don't directly flow into each other and interrupt the momentum that the film is trying to build up. However, each scene on its own is pretty cool. The other editing problem is in Warner Bros.'s mandate to keep the film under two hours, including the credits. So the film feels like it's about an hour and a half long (hence why I compare it to their animated pilots), and that just wasn't long enough to build up some important conflicts and play off of character chemistry. I feel that the second act in particular could have had several extra scenes to help build up to several key character choices. The inevitable extended cut of this movie will probably drastically improve on this. However, it would have been nice to see all of these extra story on the big screen.

The music pleased me. Greatly. They distanced themselves from everything having to do with Hans Zimmer and embraced a lot of their more classical music that I hear from their television shows and their video games, and it took me to a nostalgic place. You hear hints of the original Batman theme, and the original Superman theme, and Wonder Woman's theme gets a makeover so that instead of playing on an electric cello, she makes her entrance to trumpets, which I think takes her good theme and makes it great. The best new piece of music easily belongs to the Flash. It plays whenever he goes into speed mode, and I truly loved it.

The costumes were great. The Flash once again gets my praise, because his costume is almost exactly what I always imagined that it would look like.

I will defend this film against comparisons to The Avengers, since most of the comparisons being made stem from similarities in the comics. Steppenwolf is compared to Loki on the basis of them both having horned helmets, but they both had those in the comics. The Parademons have been compared to the Chitauri, but the Parademons have been in the comics longer. The Mother Boxes as a generic source of power has been compared to the Tesseract, but again, this is ancient comics stuff. Most other comparisons after that come off as stretches, for me. Like, the fact that Wonder Woman knows who Steppenwolf is, and Thor knows who Loki is. Ahem, that's lame.



Upcoming Justice League Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies, Superman Nov 17 2017 · 230 views
Justice League, DC, superheroes and 2 more...
:kaukau: I'm working on it right now. The spoiler-free review should be up tomorrow. Due to the nature of this one, I think that I will write up a spoilers review as well shortly thereafter. The trailers left a lot up to speculation, and there are certain specific details in what they did stylistically and tonally that fundamentally affect how I want to review this film that can't be addressed in a completely spoiler-free review.

Before I write up my post here, I'm working on a video review of the film. I haven't done one of those since May, but I figured that this one is worth it. I'm definitely going to do a video review of STAR WARS in a month.



Superman Reference

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Events, Superman Sep 24 2017 · 153 views

:kaukau: I didn't know that Terence Stamp was at Wembley.



Wonder Woman Review

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Reviews, Movies, Superman Jun 09 2017 · 143 views
Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, DC and 2 more...
Wonder Woman Review :kaukau: When Superman starred in his first tent-pole production, it became a beloved classic. As the first major superhero film, it set the tone for all future superhero films. It became the gold standard against which all other superhero films are measured, either by how well they capture the classic comic book atmosphere, or by how they break from comic book movie lore. Superman: The Movie wasn't only a classic because it was the first, though. Director Richard Donner knew exactly what tone to give to this previously unexplored genre, crystallizing the concept. John Williams bestowed the film with one of the most iconic scores in film history. Mario Puzo scripted a story that told a modern myth. Christopher Reeve played the character as uplifting. Everything about the movie had an optimistic, wish-fulfilling personality that also longed for simpler times filled with old-fashioned American citizenship and Norman Rockwellian values.

Batman, likewise, nailed his first outing. It continued to define the feel of the superhero genre. It established an atmosphere quite unlike anything felt in any other movie. To this day, there are people who prefer the original Batman to the Christopher Nolan films, which went out of their way to make comic book movies feel no different from any other film.

Spiderman managed to nail the comic book genre perfectly on his first major swing at the big screen as well. It's optimistic, exciting, colorful, and feels exactly like a comic book movie. It entirely nailed the feel of an origin story. It captured many of the dramas inherent to the myth of the superhero, such as the relationship between power and responsibility, and the moral conflict of being able to pursue one's romantic interest but finding that all of the responsibility that comes with the wish-fulfilling power carries the realistic burden of putting those that you love in danger.

These are some of the greatest comic book heroes of all time. Their names are synonymous with the genre.

So is the name of Wonder Woman.

She is a giant. A titan. Kids buy t-shirts with her symbol on it. Nerds dress up like her at comic con. In any standard lineup of iconic superheroes, she will be included. Everybody knows her costume, and whenever anyone makes changes to it, expect controversy. People know her powers, that she has a magical lasso of truth, and gauntlets that deflect bullets. She is one of those foundational characters who was there as the beginning of comics. Wonder Woman is so important to the superhero genre that her, Superman, and Batman are called the Holy Trinity in comics.

And now, after every other superhero film under the sun has been made, she finally gets her own film. This is a huge event in comic-book history. On those merits, it will be remembered.

There are two ways in which I will be judging this film. First, I want to know if this is a good representation of Wonder Woman. Does this correctly represent the character? Second, is this film worthy of Wonder Woman's grace? Is she not only in a good Wonder Woman film, but specifically a great film? Is it a good enough example of film making to be considered a classic? It is important for this film to fulfill both functions. As the first Wonder Woman movie, all future Wonder Woman movies will be compared to it. It will set the tone for all future Wonder Woman films.

First of all, I think that I should get this out of the way for anyone who's a fan of movie-making, I don't think that it lives up to the standards that will make it a classic. It is breaking records as the first high-grossing and positively reviewed comic book movie with a female lead, and it will be go down in history for that. But that's not necessarily because of the film itself, so much as it is because of what it achieved.

I'm a little disappointed, because I was told that Patty Jenkins was brought on board not because she was a woman, but because she was the best person for directing this movie, and that she had a vision. While she certainly did have enough vision for it to not suck and for it to live up to the standards that have been set for superhero movies lately, I don't really look at it as a visionary film, and as a matter of fact there were better directors who could have done this film better. Unfortunately, those directors were male, such as Spielberg and Peter Jackson. I'm not saying that I disagree with hiring Patty Jenkins as a director, since she's talented and it was fitting to hire a woman to direct this film, but because Gal Gadot built her up to be this amazing director, I was expecting something that a cinemaphile could really look at and appreciate on the same level that people appreciate the Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, and Joss Whedon forays into the genre and say, "Only they could have pulled that off the way they did."

None of this is to say that she did a bad job. As many people have noted, the movie is actually good. It does its job, and it entertains. It even has an awareness for the genre that the other DC movies haven't had. There are some callbacks to older tropes in superhero movies that have dropped out of mainstream superhero movies. My favorite moment is when Wonder Woman acts like a hero for the first time, saves the day, and has an audience of witnesses to applaud her for her general awesomeness. There's also smaller moments, like the costume reveal, which actually felt a little special and that I didn't expect to show up in a film like this. She also managed to make this more fun and superhero-y than other DC movies. DC is rediscovering the genre and realizing that no, they don't have to give all of their heroes the Christopher Nolan treatment. Patty Jenkins finds her own way with Wonder Woman. Of course, I wish that her own way was even more distinct than this, but it's she has her own feel nonetheless. I especially like that it's an adventure film and that there are daring uses of color and contrast.

What are some things that I would have liked from this movie that would have made it, in my opinion, a classic? There were certain things on my wish-list that went unchecked, and so I'll list them in the order in which I think they are the easiest for the Patty Jenkins to implement.

1. Have the Germans speak German. This is the easiest creative decision to change. There is a little bit of foreign language use in this film, since it's one of Wonder Woman's cool superpowers. Having there regularly be German dialogue would have really driven that point home. In addition, it would have sold the atmosphere and setting. My guess is that the creative powers that be decided that it would have taken away from the comic book feel, which if that's the case I respect the reasoning behind their decision, but overall I think that it would have done better to have actual foreign languages in it, for the two reasons I mentioned earlier, enhancing the atmosphere and making Wonder Woman more sophisticated and enviable. On a personal note, I simply love foreign languages, German in particular.

2. The cinematography could have been better. I mentioned its colors as a positive, but on the flip side, sometimes things look slightly over-saturated. There are times when I'm definitely aware that the production consists of a green screen as well, which might actually be more of a production design critique than a cinematography critique, but in this particular instance they're related because of of the issue of lighting. Nighttime scenes in particular look a little off, and don't have that same magic that other classic night-time scenes from the 70's and 80's and 90's had. Many times it's obvious that the great colors are due to special effects and filters. I'm aware that many of the battles have to be computer generated, but I would have liked it if the lighting itself could have been more practical. One movie that really got this right was La La Land, and also the original Batman and Superman, which had amazing image quality that didn't have to rely on filters to get a rich feel to them. All of those examples bring to mind very classic film-making, the type that's a little self-aware, the type that really wants you to revel in the production. I think that Patty could have also looked to Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, and especially James Cameron when it came to dictating the look and lighting of nighttime scenes.

3. The directing style could have evoked a lot of nostalgia for older styles of film-making and storytelling, especially with respect to this genre. It did a little of that, but I think that it could have got away with more. I like it when movies show a deeper awareness of film history. Again, I must bring up examples like La La Land, and how it managed to capture the feel of older examples of its genre while simultaneously being updated for modern audiences and carrying a deep story. Am I saying that Patty Jenkins needs to direct something as artistically particular as La La Land? No, but I definitely think that she could have stylized the film more and borrowed from some older styles in order to make the film feel timeless, and therefore stand out from the crowd enough to become a classic on the merits of its directing.

4. While its music was good and dared to be expressive, as a comic book movie ought to, I do wish that there were three or four additional memorable themes on top of Hans Zimmer's screetching thirty-second theme, which really only works for action scenes. It would have nice is some basic story pieces had their own themes to really make the story of the film memorable. A theme for Themyscira, a love theme, a theme for Diana's gentility and not just her warrior training, and maybe a memorable theme with the lasso. There could have also been a theme for the villain and the basic ideas that she's struggling against, which would have really driven the story home, and which feeds into my next point. Overall, this is all very hard to do, and to do it memorably and magically in the same way that movies like Forrest Gump, Home Alone, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban do it, so I don't hold that as an expectation for this film, but I know that such a score is possible, but I do hold that as a standard, especially since John Williams made that standard a very real one when he composed for Superman: The Movie.

5. I mentioned that the themes of the movie could have been represented through music, which takes me to the next point: the themes of the film were actually pretty good and rather fitting for the character, but not everyone has been talking about them. I know enough about audiences that the themes are going to go over their heads or that they'll entirely forget about them. How many times does a critic write a review where they miss the entire point of a movie's story? One of the things that Patty Jenkins, and also the writers, could have done was to get the audience emotionally invested in the themes of the story before they're even aware of what the themes are. That's actually pretty hard to do. The people who are able to do that are masters. Robert Zemeckis, Chris Columbus, and Alfonso Cuaron come to mind, but the folks who do this better than anyone else are the creative minds behind Pixar, the masters of storytelling. Somehow they get people eager to care about the themes of their stories every single time, and their stories leave a lasting, memorable mark. They do this in part simply from good stories, but also through very good storytelling. I didn't expect Wonder Woman to feel like a Pixar film, but I'm just giving examples of what really good emotional investment in a theme looks like in order for people to understand the point. I would have liked a movie where people couldn't help but care about the theme of the story and discuss it afterword. Some of the best Superhero films have done this, in particular Superman: The Movie and Spiderman.

6. This last point may sound simple to some, but it's actually incredibly difficult. Basically, the film could have been a tearjerker. There was one moment that I think was meant to be sad, but it didn't necessarily break my heart or make me even that emotional. Patty Jenkins isn't talentless because of that. That just means that she's in the top 1% of directors, but not the top 0.001% of directors. I think that very few directors can make true tearjerkers. That talent is so rare that people who can make movies well enough to succeed in that department are freaks. True tearjerkers are fairly rare, and they're the types of masterpieces that, when you look at them, you have a lot of respect for them and understand that it's unrealistic to expect all movies to be that good. We all want movies to be perfect, but we're generally forgiving when films don't match the examples set by nearly perfect movies, such as: It's A Wonderful Life, Life Is Beautiful, Schindler's List, Dead Poets Society, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Stand By Me, Ghost, Home Alone (oddly enough), Requiem for a Dream, Forrest Gump, The Fox and the Hound, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Up, the Toy Story movies, Inside Out. You may be noticing that these last several have all been Pixar films; as I have said, they are the masters, the best of the best. For superhero films, there's Logan, although that required eight films of buildup to make it work, plus a leading performance in Les Miserables. That wasn't much of a superhero film like Wonder Woman and more of a drama and a Western, though. For more action-packed movies, there's T2: Judgment Day. For adventure films like this one, there's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And if I really wanted to give an example of how a classic superhero movie is a tearjerker, I personally tear up a little when Jor-El sends baby Superman off in Superman: The Movie, although that's just me. Manipulating people's emotions of happiness and sadness on such a level takes utmost mastery. It wasn't something that I expected out of the director, especially not with the way that the film was advertised, but I can tell that there were some moments that looked like they wanted to make people emotional. If she had made those moments as emotionally real as any of those movies that I had mentioned, that would have been amazing. How could she have actually achieved that? I don't really know. I'm not one of those elite storytellers. Perhaps she could have looked at any one of those movies that I mentioned, for example The Lion King or Ghost, and used that as a specific inspiration. I don't know. I don't know how much she intended to control the emotions of audiences. If that wasn't something that she constantly thought about, I think that she definitely should have thought thought more about that with every single scene. I she was indeed trying, than I don't have any actual advice for her, although I commend her for not coming off as pretentious. She could have easily gone down that direction.

Alright, now I've talked about the reasons why this isn't a classic, and why it isn't perfect. I'm done with my nitpicking. Now it's time for me to talk about the things that I like, and particular the things that are great about Wonder Woman.

There was a lot they could have got wrong about a Wonder Woman movie, especially after they betrayed the essence of Superman's character and literary history in Man of Steel. Fortunately, Wonder Woman doesn't follow the trend that it's been setting with other DC characters. She hasn't been entirely modernized. This is actually a fairly classic Diana of Themyscira. Apparently, since the story hasn't been told to larger audiences before, there was no need to put a spin on it to add any novelty. The original, unedited idea for Wonder Woman is novel enough. So for the devoted fan, they got that right. They delivered a classic Wonder Woman. She's ENFJ, compassionate, devoted to truth and peace. She's a warrior who's willing to achieve peace through strength. She deflects bullets with her gauntlets, makes people tell truth with her glowing lasso.

Probably the only thing missing is the star-spangled swimsuit bottom, but her look still essentially sticks to the classic image, and I hardly noticed the changed. It looks Amazonian and practical for fighting in. There's also a special moment when she first gets the suit, and the film is self-aware enough that this is an important moment.

Probably one of the best things that the writers and director did with Dianas character is that she felt old-fashioned. I don't know whether to credit the writers, the director, or Gal Gadot, but there's something about Diana that makes me nostalgic for some older values from simpler times. Her morality is pretty straightforward, and I appreciate that it makes me think of Superman. You get a good idea of what she stands for, and she's pretty idealistic. Gal Gadot plays this side of her wonderfully. She captures a sense of innocence and good-naturedness that we innately want to see in our heroes in a similar way that Christopher Reeve does.

Her relationship with the men surrounding her was healthy and functional. She learns to appreciate men, and even grow to have affection for them, just as the men (her love interest in particular) learn to appreciate her in return. I love, love, love that she's a loving person who uses her strength to build up the people around her. This is Wonder Woman as I know her. I love this.

The only real area where they fail as a Wonder Woman movie is in the villain. I won't give away who the villain is, since he/she isn't shown in any of the trailers. He/she is a classic from Wonder Woman's mythology, and very important in the comics, and truly the quintessential villain to start her out with. For such a huge villain, I wish that there was more interaction between him/her and Diana. I understand that due to the nature of the plot the villain couldn't have much screen time, but there are plenty of examples of villains who have very little screen time and yet dominate their respective movies with their presence. They aren't seen, but they are felt. Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is one such villain who only appears at the end, and yet the buildup to him made his minimal screen presence all that more awesome and not disappointing at all. The Emperor from Return of the Jedi is another example. Most people wouldn't be familiar with this, but BIONICLE fans might be pleased if I brought up the Makuta, and how he had an amazing presence both on-screen and, briefly, on-screen. The villain here could have been like that, and indeed really had the potential to and rise to the level of being very, very cinematic, but I think that he/she was merely okay. There were definitely things that I liked about him/her, though, and I'd say he/she is better than the average Marvel villain.

However, this leads into perhaps my favorite thing about the movie. The defining thing about DC's storytelling is that they focus on a character's beliefs and values, and they become symbols for these things. Heroes each stand for something, have to be someone's ideal. DC gets us to ask "Why does society need Superman? Batman? Green Arrow? Captain Marvel? Wonder Woman?" Diana grows and develops in this film, at first assuming that mankind is inherently good and merely the victims of corruption. She naively believes that mankind can be cured of evil, and that she can bring mankind back to peace. I absolutely love this because it gives us a true origin story that shows us how the character develops from merely being Diana of Themyscira to being the wise Wonder Woman that we know. Starting off with these basic, Rousseau-like assumptions, she has them challenged when she meets the villain, who gives her a counter-thesis that she must disprove, and yet at the same time forces her to grow beyond her old assumptions. What she learns is that mankind is inherently evil, at which point she's forced to take on a level of wisdom and maturity that truly makes her Wonder Woman: she's going to love humanity in spite of its wickedness, and save and serve people anyway. She decides that though nobody deserves love, this won't affect her loving nature.

This is, if you pardon the expression, a wonderful moral. It sets Wonder Woman apart from Batman and Superman, and is makes her vitally important to the DC Holy Trinity. It makes her an important figure on our culture. Although not many people will be talking about it upon leaving the theatre, I encourage encourage people to do so.



Zack Snyder's Daughter Died

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Superman, Events May 22 2017 · 309 views
:kaukau: I feel guilty for initially celebrating, because the news reported it with the headline that he had stepped down from directing DC movies. And then it revealed the tragic news. I don't want to do what the other news articles are doing, so I gave a much more honest title to this blog entry.

I feel sorry for his loss. She was twenty years old, and took her own life. No family should ever have to deal with that kind of darkness.



Manly Man #5

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Superman, Hierarchies Dec 21 2013 · 463 views

:kaukau: The greatest man anyone can ever encounter is his father, and let us pray that our fathers are good men.  In these men rest the foundations of every future adult.  For no one was this sacred duty more important than Jonathan Kent, and few could have qualified for the tremendous task at hand for him and his wife, Martha.  His son was no ordinary boy, who would grow up to become no mere man.  There are good fathers and bad fathers, terrible fathers and extraordinary fathers, but there are few words for the type of father Jonathan Kent had to be in order to raise Superman himself.  In order to be a father figure to that kind of man, to be Superman's Superman, he had to be a man of the ages.
There were certain things everybody knew about Jonathan.  He was old-fashioned in his approach to many things.  He was the idyllic Midwestern farmer, with classic values from an age long past.  he held true to the type of things that never get old, no matter how often society looks the other way the more impersonal it got.  He believed in truth, and assuming the best in people.  He was also intensely loyal to the people in his life, to the point where he threw away a future to help his father on the farm.  He was also incredibly stubborn, to a fault, but he did all these things for a good reason, and it was really quite simple why.
He loved people.  He knew who he was and wasn't ashamed of it, which is always manly, but what makes him extraordinary is that he knew exactly how much he loved his son, his wife, his friends, and the common man.  He knew what his obligations to them were and he would sacrifice himself to be a strong figure for them.  He was an everyman, and everybody's man, and yet nobody owned this man except God.  He would never sell himself to anyone and abandon what he believed.  He was never higher than morality.
These values and more he imparted on his son, and in doing so was perhaps one of the most important figured in the DC Universe.  He gave the most powerful man in the world a vision, and he gave him love.  Not once did Clark ever feel unloved under Jonathan.  Because Jonathan was stubborn, his stalwart demeanor could sometimes be frustrating.  He was, after all, overprotective, and he also knew when to hold Clark back when Clark was being impatient or reckless.  Yet, he was also always just gentle enough so that his son knew that this stubbornness came only from the deepest love he could give.
When I began watching Smallville, I began to really appreciate the first several seasons when Clark had both of his parents at home.  Coming from a divorced household, I always liked to imagine what it was like to have two loving parents who I could always talk to, who could be my counselors when my heart was troubled, and who I could be open and honest with.  Jonathan Kent was such a parent.  Clark could always seek out the wisdom and love of his father, and always count on him to be stronger than him when he was week in spirit.  Call that too good to be true, call that poor storytelling, but I soaked it all up, because I've seen enough stories where the household is torn, divided, and corrupted by dysfunction.  I wanted to see a family as a family ought to be, a home that could give me hope and an ideal to strive for if someday I ever became a father.  By God, Jonathan Kent was a father as fathers ought to be.  I want him as my dad.



Gravity on Krypton

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Nerd, Superman Nov 13 2013 · 3,305 views

:kaukau: According to the first pages of Action Comics #1, Clark Kent's "physical structure was millions of years more advanced" than the ordinary human's.  His strength was explained right away as being analogous to that of an ant's, which "can support weight hundred of times its own."  His strength was, therefore, explained to be more a part of his "advanced" genetics rather than being tied to the physical demands of living on Krypton, which his species would have adapted to even when they were in their primitive stages.  The current theory behind his strength is that it is, in part, the result of Krypton's gravity.
There is still something to be said for his genetic structure being more advanced than ours.  The very first panel of Action Comics #1 says that Krypton died of old age.  It is now universally accepted into the Superman mythology that Krypton had an old, red sun.  Life in Krypton probably started out with a yellow sun like our own but eventually had to become more "advanced" after millions of years in order to survive under the sun's gradually less life-giving rays.  With weaker sunshine, plants would not be able to photosynthesize as well.  The ecosystem in general would have less nutrients.
According to Superman: The Movie, Earth people "are primitives thousands of years behind [Kryptonians]."  Thousands, not millions.  Therefore, we can assume that Kryptonians did not begin to evolve technologically until several thousand years ago.  Let's assume that they were technologically equivalent to us ten thousand years ago, wen we were still writing The Epic of Gilgamesh.  This would make sense, as it would be difficult to create any advanced structure that could endure Krypton's gravity.  They would need to invent materials as endurable as themselves, so technological advancement for them would probably need to first happen in one giant leap in order to overcome the challenges inherent in raising a society on Krypton.  It is reasonable to assume that they had invented electricity and other technologies long, long ago, but they probably hit a technological plateau as they would have likely been unable to raise buildings and other large constructs, due to the gravity of their planet.  Ergo, Kryptonians might have had Earth-level technologies for thousands of years but had almost nothing, as it would have been almost impossible for them to have an industrial revolution.

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This is a size comparison between Krypton and its sun, Rao, taken from Smallville.  It is very similar to the size comparison in Superman: The Movie, and in fact directly homages the Christopher Reeve legacy.  In the film, the sun is closer to the viewer and the planet is behind the sun.  Therefore, this is not a trick of the camera where the planet looks bigger due to optic illusions.  It really is quite big compared to its red giant sun.
The size of a red-giant varies, but let's assume that Krypton was once much like our own sun.  In approximately 12 billion years, our sun will have a maximum radius of 1.2 astronomical units, or a diameter of 2.4 astronomical units.  This is is considerably more than "millions of years advanced" of our timeline, however.  Let's assume that Krypton isn't that old.  Besides, in the first comic it states that Krypton died because of the planet's old age, not the sun's.  Besides, the size comparison between Krypton and Rao is considerably less contrasting than the size comparison between the sun's present and future self in this Wikipedia image.  If Rao was 1.2 AU in radius, then Krypton by comparison would have to be larger than our current sun, both in radius and certainly more in mass.  In that hypothecal scenario, the planet would be the center of the solar system and the sun would have revolved around Krypton, which isn't a bad idea for science fiction, but it doesn't seem to be in keeping with how Krypton has been depicted.
Therefore, we will assume that Rao is a red star, but not necessarily a gas giant.  For the sake of these calculations, Krypton will have a radius estimated to be equivalent with either Jupiter's or one lunar unit.  Jupiter's radius is 43,441 miles.  One lunar unit (the distance between Earth's center of mass and the moon's center of mass) is 238,900 miles.
First, however, let's calculate the gravitational pull of Earth, which pulls with a force of 1 Newton per kilogram of mass at its surface.  The radius of Earth is 3,959 miles at the equator.  The volume of Earth is therefore approximately 260,000,000,000 (260 billion) cubic miles.  The mass of the earth is approximately 5.972x1024 kilograms.  The average density of the Earth, therefore, is 22,970,000,000,000 kilograms per cubic mile (yes, I'm mixing metric units with English units, which would be a no-no in a formal paper, but practically speaking it won't make any difference in the end conclusions given here).
Therefore, let us assume that Krypton's average density is equal to Earth's.  In reality, it would probably be even denser on average, due to intense amounts of pressure creating a larger solid core, but I do not have the math to calculate the internal makeup of Krypton anyway, and there's no guarantee that it has the same metals in its mantle as Earth does.
If Krypton was the size of Jupiter, it would have a volume of 343,390,000,000,000 cubic miles and a mass of 7.887x1027 kilograms.  That's over a thousand times that of Earth's mass, but the distance from the surface to the center of mass is greater.  Therefore, the gravity should be less than Earth's.  Thus, we look again at the radius, 43,441 miles.  For the sake of the ensuing calculations, this will have to be converted into metric, so it's 69,911,513 meters.
To double-check our work here, the mass of Earth is 5.97x1024 kilograms.  The mass of Jupiter is 1.90x1027 kilograms.  Earth's density is 4.15 times that of Jupiter's.  If Jupiter had Earth's density, it would be approximately 7.885x1027 kilograms.  This alternative way of calculating the mass of Krypton renders a result almost exactly the same as the previous calculation.
If a mass of 1 kilogram is on Krypton's surface, 69,911,513 meters away from the core, and Krypton's total mass is 7.887x1027 kilograms, then we have enough information to "plug and chug" the data into the formula given in Newton's Law of Gravity:




G is the gravitational constant
G = 6.67x10-11 m3kg-1s-2
M1 = 1.000 kg
M2 = 7.887x1027 kg
R = 69,911,513 m

(6.67x10-11 m3kg-1s-2)(1.000 kg)(7.887x1027 kg)


(69911513 m)2

First, let's cancel out the units.  (kg-1)(kg)(kg) becomes kg.  The top has m3 while the bottom has m2, which cancel out to become just m.  The rest is easily solved with a calculator, and the end result becomes

1.08x102 kg m s-2

A kilogram-meter per square second is the definition of a newton.  Therefore, the gravitational pull of Krypton, if it was equivalent in average density to Earth and in radius to Jupiter, would be 108 G.
This is truly monumental.  To put this into perspective, some humans can survive up to 9 g continually if they are in special suits that force blood to the brain, and if they strain their muscles.  These, however, are trained fighter pilots.  The typical person can survive up to 5 g before passing out.  Meanwhile, the rapid negative acceleration of a racecar crash is about 100 g and lasts only for a moment.  People do not always survive these.
However, let's think like Siegel and Sushter, who needed to compare Superman to existing specimens of life already found in nature.  According to them, he was comparable to an and, which could lift hundreds of times its own weight, not a mere one hundred and eight times its own weight.  This is somewhat of an overstatement on the creators' part, since an ant can really only sustain up to fifty times its weight, but this is where they estimated Superman's natural strength to be nevertheless.  There are other remarkable examples in nature of living organisms enduring extreme conditions.  For example, bacteria has been cultivated in an ultracentrifuge subjecting them to over 400,000 g, and they not only survived, but thrived (source).  What if not only single-celled organisms, but larger members of the animal kingdom could endure similar extremes?  Clearly, we're limiting Kryptonian life by assuming that its natural habitat exhibits only 108 G.
Therefore, let us not assume a conservative estimate of Krypton's size as being equivalent to Jupiter's but instead place its radius as equivalent at that of one lunar distance.  Pulling from earlier data, this is approximately 238,900 miles (or 384,472,282 meters).  The volume of such a planet would be 57,113,000,000,000,000 (approximately 57 quadrillion) cubic miles.  This is about 219,750 times Earth's volume, so assuming equivalent density, its mass would also be 219,750 times that of Earth's, or 1.312x1030 kg.  It should be noted that this is only about two thirds the mass of our sun.
Let us revisit the formula for gravity to find the amount of pull on a one-kilogram object on Krypton's surface, assuming these variables:
G = 6.67x10-11 m3kg-1s-2
M1 = 1.000 kg
M2 = 1.312x1030 kg
R = 384,472,282 m

(6.67x10-11 m3kg-1s-2)(1.000 kg)(1.312x1030 kg)


(384472282 m)2


5.93x102 kg m s-2


593 Newtons

Ergo, the gravitational pull would be 593 G on Krypton should it be the size of the moon's orbit around the Earth.    While hardly over 400,000 g, it's closer to what Siegel and Sushter imagined when they said that Superman's natural strength was comparable to the ant that could lift hundreds of times its own weight.  This is indeed several hundred times Earth's gravity, close to six hundred times our everyday experience.
There is little to compare 593 g to.  It is far more than a car crash.  If a person was subject to 593 g for even a thousandth of a second, he would surely die.  The highest recorded g-force ever survived was 214 g.  This 2.77 times that.
Before we move on to some of the further implications of the gravity, it would be useful to create an expanded formula to make any further computations easier, if one wants to find the gravitational pull of Krypton at any given radius, assuming average density consistent with Earth's.
M2 = (5.97x10^24 kg){[(4/3)Rπ]/[(4/3)(6378100 m)π]}

(6.67x10-11 m3kg-1s-2)(1.00 kg)(5.97x10^24 kg){[(4/3)R3π]/[(4/3)(6378100 m)3π]}






R(1.53 kg s-2)



There we go.  Every variable is taken care of for us except for R.  Therefore, if we wish to quickly calculate the gravity of a terrestrial planet of density equivalent to Earth at any given radius (measured in meters), simply place the radius into this equation.
 Likewise, if we wanted to learn the inverse and know what the radius of such a planet would be given a specific gravitational pull, the formula can simply be rearranged.  Radius would be equal to:



(1.53 kg s-2)

Returning to the bacteria experiment mentioned earlier, how large of a planet would they have to be on in order to experience similar forces?  Plug and chug: G = 400,000, therefore R = 261,437,908,496 m, which is about 40,990 times as wide as Earth.  Converting this into miles, the radius is approximately 152,000,000 miles, the circumference is approximately 325,000,000 miles, and the surface area is approximately 332,000,000,000,000,000 (332 quadrillion) square miles.  That would be one big planet.
Since it's difficult to determine exactly what Krypton's radius or gravitational pull is, however, we will settle for the assumption that its the size of a lunar orbit and has a gravitational pull of 593 G.  This could also be expressed as there being an acceleration of downward movement of 5,800 meters per square second, but this might not be entirely accurate, since wind resistance could mess with that figure.
With a gravitational pull as heavy as that, Krypton must have dense atmosphere consisting mostly of hydrogen.  It would be very difficult to breath in.  Perhaps the Kryptonians are forced to be able to break the triple bonds of N2 in order to breathe (we humans only break up double O2 bonds).  In any case, their environment is harsh for more than just the gravity alone.  Not only is the atmosphere hardly breathable, but it should provide plenty of resistance to movement.  Imagine being at the bottom of a very deep swimming pool trying to do aerobic exercises.  At the same time, it would not make the body feel any lighter or buoyant.
There would be less atmosphere, of course, if the planet was closer to the sun, in which case the solar winds would blow most of it away.  In the case of it being further away from the sun, the atmosphere would be so strong that it would prevent most of the sun's rays from getting to the surface.  It would be very much like living at the bottom of the ocean.  How does an ecosystem thrive under these conditions?  An organism must adapt to be able to function off of the least nutrients possible.  Kryptonians would have also needed spectacular sight in order to see in the thick atmosphere, which would have been like an impenetrable fog to them.  Perhaps, when these acute senses are enhanced, they could lead to x-ray or cut-away vision.
Furthermore, it must have taken ages before Krypton could develop technology that could generate over 5,800 m/s2 thrust necessary in order to escape Krypton's gravity, or accelerate an object so that it reached the planet's escape velocity, which can be calculated this way:


          Which is

[2(5800 m/s2)(384472282 m)]1/2




2,111,842 m/s

2,112 km/s

4,724,000 mi/hr


It is entirely possible that Krypton's first space mission utilized a method similar to the one used in Superman Returns, in which a rocket shuttle was lifted high into the atmosphere using a plane.  Krypton's dense atmosphere would have made this fairly feasible.  Over the course of time, however, the most likely means of propulsion into space was anti-gravity rockets, which slip by the problem altogether.  It's possible that this technology would have been easier for Kryptonians to develop, since Lex Luthor theorized that Superman's flight came from a Kryptonian biological development that allowed them to manipulate the gravity waves around them to make life on Krypton more durable (Superman could develop this into total defiance of gravity due to his enhanced health under Earth's sun).  Given that it might have been part of their natural ability in the first place, such technology would be easier to study in nature.
After Krypton became industrialized, its conditions may or may not have changed over a long period of time.  In order to industrialize, they needed a major technological breakthrough in order to create structures that could endure Krypton's gravity.  In order to do this, they needed to create a new substance.  This would be the crystal seen in Superman: The Movie and Smallville.
What we know is that this crystal can seemingly produce matter out of nowhere.  We also know that it covers almost all of Krypton.  It would be reasonable to assume that it also grew into Krypton and infested the mantle until it worked all the way down to the core.  If the planet was converted into this crystal, which was strong enough to form large free-standing (sometimes diagonal!) structures under 593 G, then its density might have changed, and therefore so would its gravitational pull.
The density of Earth is 5.52 times that of water.  The density of a (pure) diamond is 3.52 times that of water.  Therefore, the Earth's average density is 1.568 times as dense as a pure diamond, or a pure diamond is only 63.77% as dense as the Earth.  If Krypton was as dense as a diamond, it will have lost mass.  If we were to assign an arbitrary density to these crystals, however, and give them a density equivalent to steel, for the namesake of Krypton's last son, which has a density of up to 8.05 times that of water.  If that was the case, Krypton would have grown to be 145.8% its original mass.  Since any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic, we will not ask where that matter came or went from (though I'm assuming it's the Phantom Zone).
The interesting part in all this is that this crystalization might have been what destroyed Krypton in the first place.  By "dying of old age," the original authors implied that it was a natural death.  Since then, of course, we have come to accept that Krypton has died of unnatural, man-made reasons that were long in the making.  It is more like the mistakes of Kryptonian society reached an old age where they finally came to fruition.  Therefore, after ages of making its way down to the Kryptonian planet core, the crystals probably changed under intense pressure.  Under these pressures, it is my theory that Kryptonite formed and created an unstable planet core, primed for destruction.
My theory for thy the destruction happened in one fast instant instead of gradually was because of the Phantom Zone, which may or may not have used technology closely related to the technology that allowed the crystals to develop.  By opening the Phantom Zone, it is possible that Jor-El or the counsel (probably the counsel, using the technology against Jor-El's wishes), causes a rift in space-time that affected the crystals on their planet and made them become hyper-active on an atomic level, which expotentially sped up the process in which Kryptonite formed and even caused it to stat acting on its instability.
It is difficult to say how Kryptonite destroyed the planet.  From a human standpoint, Kryptonite is a seemingly innocent substance.  Yet, it reacts destructively with other Kryptonian materials and has an askew relationship with the very laws of physics that, according to Smallville, allows people who come in contact with it to develop abilities that defy said laws.
Therefore, my theory concludes that Kryptonite affected space-time until either one of two things happened.  Either it created a black hole, sucking the planet in, or it reversed the law of gravity, causing the planet to explode, as is traditionally depicted.  Or it somehow managed to do both, thereby sucking the rest of the planet in while creating an alternative plane of existence where gravity pulled the Kryptonite outward.



Superman's Weaknesses: The Next Generation

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Superman Jul 23 2013 · 337 views

:kaukau: We have justified his most famous weaknesses.  We have examined the downsides to his abilities.  Now it's time to invent some new problems for the Man of Steel.  Considering that the Silver Age Superman was a bastion for creativity, it only seems fitting to be creative here and come up with some of the wildest things.
First, however, there's a weakness that has been in the running for a while but has long gone unmentioned, something that just might be his next Kryptonite if authors choose to go all the way.  I might as well expose it now and bring it to light first as I delve into the next generation of possibilities with Superman.
In his New 52 relaunch, after he got knocked out by a train, the government had Lex Luthor interrogate Superman while he was in an electric chair.  For a while, Superman was trapped, and Luthor ruthlessly sent currents through him every few seconds.  This actually affected Superman.  In Superman: Secret Identity, which is one of my favorite Superman comics ever, the government assaulted him with electric weapons and they actually put him down.  In The Dark Knight Returns, Batman held off Superman temporarily with heavy-duty electrical gadgets, albeit this being a Superman who had recently used up a ton of his energy chopping up Soviet naval ships and taking the impact of a nuclear bomb (all during the nighttime).  As an alternative to kryptonite and magic, Superman's new weakness is electricity.
This significantly broadens his spectrum of weaknesses to a point where many people can exploit them.  The authors don't have to rely on fictional devices that only certain individuals could access.  A lot of people have access to electricity.  Perhaps Superman has a higher resistance to its affects, but I can see it disrupting the chemical bonds that make him so powerful.
I don't know why I'm so fine with that.  Of course, I still love the truly invincible Superman who was untouched by just about anything, but electricity is just plain cool.  Ever since I was a kid, raised on Pikachu, I used to think that electricity was a real cool power.  It was that sly thing that could get past brute strength.  It was that crazy ninja power that couldn't be seen and yet had a surging, sharp kick to it nevertheless.  I mean, electricity was this thing that wasn't necessarily physical, but pure energy, so it was above the lowly physical powers of the other pokemon/superheroes.  It had this really advanced, futuristic feel to it, and if Superman is going to be weakened by anything it's going to be something that feels advanced and futuristic.
Oh, and electricity always makes for a really cool special effect.  Rule of cool dictates that it should actually affect Superman.
This opens the door for all sorts of opponents who could actually have a chance of taking him on in a creative fight that would be far more balanced.  I'm not explicitly pulling from DC comics here, so bear with me: Captain Marvel, Black Adam, Pikachu, Tahnok Kal, Thor, Dr. Doom, Storm, Electro, Azula, Uncle Iroh, Nikola Tesla, and Darth Sidius.  The fights would actually look cool.

For those who didn't know that electricity has been used as a weakness before, well, now you know.  I didn't invent this myself, though now that I've seen it pop up a few times I see no reason why it shouldn't be mainstream.  Then, if DC Comics does that, why stop there?  I have plenty of other ideas.  Where to start?  Well, I might as well tap into the creativity that made the silver age so magical.

Out of my love for 2001: A Space Odyssey, I really wish that a weakness to red-eyed computers with an ego would make sense for Superman.    Although I love the Monolith.  It has to be one of my top ten favorite characters in sci-fi.  Like really, it has a personality on its own, so I consider it a character.  That being said, perhaps that's the reason I loved the Phantom Zone from the Superman: The Movie so much, because it reminded me of the Monolith.  I really wish that the Phantom Zone could be as mysterious as the Monolith, and I would love there to be a reason for Superman to have an extra sense of dread when confronted with it.  So I think that whenever Superman teleports or comes near a wormhole, something about his Kryptonian backstory puts him at risk of getting sucked to the Phantom Zone.  Forget for a moment that I'm about to mention Marvel characters, but imagine that Loki's portal above New York City suddenly turned into a portal to the Phantom Zone at some point after Superman joined the fight.  It would affect him and specifically him, and he would get pulled in.  There was actually a comic book, Last Son of Krypton, where something similar to this happened, and a Phantom Zone portal would suck in anyone who had ever been there before.  Except I want to take it a step further, add a sense of mystery and suspense, and the feeling that this could happen with any old portal or teleportation device.  Something about Superman's presence could potentially reroute the wormhole and strand him in a prison dimension invented by his father himself.  And I would like it if no other Kryptonian characters had this specific thing to worry about.  Any good science fiction writer could easily justify why this only happens to Superman.  It would add a certain element of suspense that I would enjoy, and an sense of adventure and fantasia.
Next, when we consider the source of his powers, we know that his Kryptonian body is capable of extrordinary things but it wasn't made for those powers.  Kryptonian genes didn't evolve with a yellow sun in mind.  All that power must be a lot for his body to handle, so perhaps Superman really needs his rest.  I can see a Superman who needs to sleep 12 hours a day.  Not that it would be absolutely necessary, but that would be his average time spent sleeping.  Besides, I base this in actual fact, where in Superman: The Movie Jor-El revealed that Krypton had 28 hours in a day.  I think a Kryptonian's sleepign clock would naturally be different and they would usually get much more sleep.
Taking this idea of sleeping much further, imagine a Superman who must hibernate during autumn.  The new movie, Man of Steel, actually provides a background that would give much justification to this idea.  Krypton began biologically engineering its people and growing them in genesis chambers to control its population.  While I am not a fan of the unnatural births, since families are very fun to write about and would play a large role in my ideal origin story (especially when humanizing the villains), I can still see Krypton messing with its population and creating a gene that would cause people to hibernate during one of the seasons so that they would require no resources.  I would choose fall for Superman because I would want him to sleep during a colder season associated with the recession of the sun, but not winter because I would like to see him associated with Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, and other wintertime events.  That, and I have a fondness of the images of him fighting the Soviet Union and Batman in the snow in The Dark Knight Returns.  The winter seems enough like a time when the world needs hope and the sun the most, so naturally he would be there.  Whereas the autumn...I guess that can be what DC would call a long Halloween.  Sorry, Bats, you're all on your own.  It seems that there should be three months out of the year where the world would be without Superman.
Of course, some nerd might throw out the technicality that "Superman could just fly to another part of the Earth where it's spring so that he doesn't have to hibernate!"  I'd agree with you, but then, I think his biological clock necessitates that he spends a quarter out of every year sleeping nonstop, and that biological clock was first set when he spent up to eighteen years of his life in Smallville, Kansas.  Once the pattern got started, it didn't matter where he was in the world.  The hibernation would come upon him anyway.
What would be the consequences of him skipping his necessary sleep intervals?  Well, he carries with him Kryptonian bacteria, which I can only imagine would have a devastating effect on the human population if they were unleashed.  It always seemed too good to be true that he never infected anyone.  So therefore,
if Superman loses enough sleep, he will infect mankind with disastrous diseases.  I personally would prefer it if they weren't merely deadly diseases.  This is, after all, a comic book character.  However, I can see them having interesting effects like turning people into quasi-zombies or making them hyper-paranoid, or causing terrible mutations or inducing madness.  These are pretty good motivations for Superman not to defy nature.
So therefore Superman, the man who goes around without a mask and gloves, is not too good to be true, but that got me thinking: if Superman isn't the one who's too good to be true, what about the other way around?  What if Earth is too good for him?  Let us put ourselves in Krypton's shoes and fast-forward Earth a billion years or so, where we are a weak planet, timid and fragil.  Our sun is inhospitable.  Our world has little to offer us.  Our society has become cold.  Yet, we humans are still the salt of the Earth, still believing and hoping for a greater destiny.  Then imagine one of our children freed from the chains of our mundane world and sent off to a paradise.  Perhaps Krypton isn't the paradise we thought it was, but we are.  Krypton may be his heritage and it may have prepared him for Earth, but Earth is what gives him his strength, and Krypton is what holds him back and weakens him.  Or rather, perhaps, maybe it is Krypton that humbles him and humanizes him than anything else.
Keep this in mind with these next two points.

Looking back at history, I found it interesting how Julius Caesar, a figure of such great power who was worshiped like a God, ironically had epilepsy.  What if Superman had epilepsy?  I know that normally he parallels Jesus Christ, who has more to do with American culture than Julius Caesar does, but I can see him having parallels with any historic figure of great presence.  However, since Julius Caesar parallels would potentially take away from his all-American aura, I can think of another figure of immense power from which Supeman writers could take inspiration.
What if, like Franklin Roosevelt, Superman was secretly paralyzed from the waist down?  I can just imagine it: the unseemly Clark Kent, bound to a wheel chair, would be the last person anyone would suspect to be the flying man who can crush coal into diamonds with his bare hands.  Nobody would have to know that Superman couldn't use his legs, since he usually flies.  His legs would still appear muscular, since his Kryptonian biology, adapted to a planet with gravity several times that of Earth's, has made him rather well-endowed, even when he never uses those muscles.  Perhaps this paralysis is a genetic defect passed down from his biological parents.  Maybe he had it since birth, or maybe it struck with a sudden stroke when he was just finishing up high school and looking forward to independence in his life.  Perhaps it was what made him believe a man could fly.
He would, of course, eventually overcome this Kryptonian defect.  That's what Christopher Reeve would have believed in.


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Superman's Weaknesses: Technicalities

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Nerd, Superman Jul 22 2013 · 400 views

:kaukau: One of the things that makes Superman so fun is that a science geek can dissect his abilities and ruined everyone's fun by bringing up all the technicalities.  It's also fun to try and explain how his powers should work, and there's even an entire book dedicated to that.  Back in the day, the only explanation for his powers was that he came from a planet with greater gravity, which was all that was necessary for explaining his initial set of powers, which were limited to merely strength and speed.  Nowadays, his abilities need more analysis as they get more complex, and perhaps making them more sensible would make them seem less generic.  Upon closer inspection, many of his powers also have natural drawbacks that have long been ignored due to bad writing, which created a stereotype that I believe has really been creating the long-held prejudice against Superman.  Behold the downsides to some of Superman's powers.
First, let's look at his speed.  Superman cannot safely use his speed to its fullest extent.  He can cause a powerful air current if he goes too fast that can damage nearby objects and knock people off their feet.  He can create shockwaves when he goes at supersonic speeds.  What happens when he hits a solid object going at ten thousand miles per hour?  Considering that that's over ten times the speed of sound, there's going to be a lot of destruction.  He simply can't do this on a regular basis if he's saving people in a populated area.
Then if he goes even faster, he'll ionize the air.  Even faster, and he would actually cause the molecules in the air to undergo nuclear fusion.  That little stunt he attempted at the end of Superman: The Movie would have destroyed the biosphere with radiation and burnt all life to crisp.  He simply couldn't fly at velocities near the speed of light unless he was in the vacuum of space.
Furthermore, at one point or other I think we all know that if he were to save someone, whether by pushing/pulling them aside from an oncoming disaster or catching them while they fell, he would have to decelerate to be very gentle before he did it.  And if he attempted to come in at ten thousand miles per hour and then slowed down, the person would still get his or her teeth knocked out by the blast caused by his sudden air displacement.  From experience, I know what it feels like to be next to the gust of wind caused by an oncoming semi-truck along the highway.  It really throws me off, and I can only imagine what the same force time a hundred would be like.
I must say, these particular scenarios have always been fun when doing problems in collision physics.  In fact, my physics teacher would often use him to describe an unexplained, hypothetical force acting on an object.
Continuing on, I also believe that Superman would not have the ability to go into "bullet time".  While I believe that to some extent his reflexes are much faster than a human's due to the advanced biology of the Kryptonian brain (perhaps their neuron signals travel at a dozen times the speed of a human's), and therefore he could be coordinated enough to run real fast and carry out other automatic motor functions with superhuman reaction time, I can't see him carrying out complex tasks at bullet-time.  It seems that the new Man of Steel movie went with this particular depiction.  I still think that time appears to go slightly slower for him, though.  I mean, if his neurons send signals, as I say, at a dozen times the speed as those of humans, then his perception of time might appear to go one twelfth of the rate at which we see it.  Sure, you might say that he could get bored with that, but I would imagine that his Kryptonian neural biology is hardwired to have a long attention span, and I think that he would instinctively see the slow passage of time as normal.  I mean, it's all relative.  Perhaps there are really slow beings that think our time goes by like a blur and that days go by like seconds.  In any case, I don't think that this should be something that he can turn off.  Biologically, that doesn't make sense to me.
So basically, I see his superspeed as being sort of a cross between the original movie and the new one.  In Superman: The Movie, Perry White had to say that Clark Kent was "the fastest typist I have ever seen!"  To me, that suggests that he can think fast enough to type at that speed, but I also like Man of Steel's emphasis on how he can move at extreme speeds, but usually for flying long distances in straight lines and not necessarily for carrying out complex tasks.

He's not the Flash; he doesn't have all of the required secondary powers to fully utilize his speed.  The Flash is the one hero I look at who uses superspeed who I imagine that all of the technicalities are accounted for, since his entire persona is organized around it.  He can move at the speed of light without dilating time.  He can manipulate objects at lightspeed without damaging them.  He can accelerate to his maximum velocity almost instantaneously in spite of insufficient friction.  He can run at the exit velocity without flying off the face of the Earth.  He can swiftly change directions and doesn't have to worry about centrifugal force.  He doesn't have to worry about creating sonic booms, ionizing the air, or creating nuclear fusion.  And, of course, he can carry out complex tasks while operating at full speed.  That's the Flash, and I'll have to admit that makes him quite the force of nature, perhaps more than even Superman.
Even though it's no longer as rosy as it used to be, Superman can still use his speed.  There's one power, however, that I think he should be completely stripped of.  That's right, I'm talking about the ridiculousness of his superbreath.  I understand that if he sneezed, he could blow your face off.  It would be the ultimate air cannon.  That being said, I never bought the proposition that he could inhale indefinitely and compress as much air into his lungs as he liked.  How do his lungs compress the air?  How does the air work its way into a compressed space?  You can't do that simply by inhaling.  It beats the principles of thermodynamics.  I think he should be able to contain as much air as any normal human can.  You can tell me that he can hold his breath longer, and that his diaphragm has a kick to it that could send the Wicked Witch of the East all the way back to Oz, but I really can't see him using his superbreath in anything but short, deadly bursts.
The only way I would change my perception on this is if his powers were explained by saying that the laws of physics were different inside of his body.  Perhaps within him, entropy works in reverse.  Which would actually explain a lot about his powers.
Back in the day,
Superman's x-ray vision could give innocent bystanders cancer.  The George Reeves Superman actually got that bit about his powers scientifically accurate.  However, his powers didn't have the visual affect that they should have.  His x-ray vision was simply an ability to see through whatever layers of matter he wanted.  His x-ray vision wasn't treated like an actual x-ray until Smallville, as far as I was aware.  However, that depiction never explored the effect the x-rays would have on people and never mentioned their danger.  That would have been interesting.
I'll confess: I honestly don't mind that Superman can see through objects inexplicably.  That's really cool, and it's fun fantasy.  It's also real fun to try to come up with a scientific explanation.  However, for this highly flawed version of Superman that I'm painting, a sketchier x-ray vision is more appropriate.  Let his x-ray vision put people at risk of cancer, and let the images he gets not be very clear.  Perhaps he could learn to control it later on to be more like the x-ray vision seen in all of the movies thus far, but I'm fine with the Smallville-type vision crossed with the health concerns of the George Reeves Superman being his starting point.
Speaking his vision abilities, let's move on to what is arguable one of his coolest powers.
Recently, I also noticed certain innovations touched upon by the Man of Steel movie, and I appreciate where it goes with his heat vision.  It's subtle, but it appears that
the new Superman needs a cool-down period after using his heat vision.  That would explain why he didn't use it too often, since it would potentially distract him for a split second.  In other variations, his reason for not using this ability as often as he should has been suggested to be that heat vision drains his powers fast and exhausts him if he overdoes it.  However, I would like to take this all further.  I believe in the two downsides mentioned before, but the implications of the heat vision interest me.  First of all, I don't quite understand how anything about his Kryptonian biology would have prepared this side-affect of living under the sun.  I really would like to know how Kryptonians evolved that would lead to this symptom of yellow sun exposure.  That's a discussion for another day, however.  What I would assume, however, is that using heat vision would hurt.  I know he's supposed to be godlike and all that, and heat normally wouldn't hurt him, but this is the power of the sun in his eyeballs.  It's something he's producing, so I assume he would feel it.  So I have to imagine how much pain this would cause him.  Maybe it would be like giving birth or passing a kidney stone.  Maybe even worse.  Who knows - maybe his Kryptonian neurons pick up more pain than we humans can imagine?  Sure, if he were to do this often enough, his brain would neurologically rewire itself to build up a tolerance to this pain, and his eyes might eventually adjust and build a resistance to the damage, so like many of his abilities, this is a downside that would probably grow less significant as he grew old.
Yet, I can think of another effect that his laser vision could have, and one that would make it impractical and risky in certain situations.  Imagine looking into the sun.  That would, of course, have no affect on Superman, but perhaps his own heat vision could give him similar results.  
Using heat vision could temporarily blind him. Depending on the intensity and the duration, the after-effects could range from having spots in his eyes that last for a few minutes or being completely without sight for the full duration of a fight.  I also doubt that he could even see while using his heat vision.
Therefore, he would want to be careful about when he was using it.  It is certainly something he would want to avoid in close-quarter combat against another superbeing or someone with kryptonite, magic, or electricity, and save for those occasions where he would want to strike from a distance.
I still definitely appreciate the heat vision.  It says a lot about who he is.  Batman once said that "Clark is ironically the most human of us all.  Then he shoots fire out of his eyes, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god.  We are fortunate that it does not occur to him."  Heat vision is to Superman as lightning is to Zeus.  I mean, this is a guy who has the power of the sun running through him, and if the eyes are the windows to the soul, then I would think that when he truly pulls back the curtains you'd see the sun behind them.  I think of the cover for Superman: Earth One, where he's surrounded by destruction and his eyes are glowing red, and that's a pretty powerful image that can send chills down you.  It's just plain cool, so I definitely wouldn't take it away.

If anyone can think of other technicalities, go ahead and mention them.  I am convinced that this analysis is incomplete, and hardly definitive in spite of how thorough I attempted to be.  Meanwhile, tomorrow I will return with my final entry in this series, which will consist of proposals for new weaknesses altogether that are both in keeping with his character while also adding whole new dimensions to him.  Tune in!



Username: Jean Valjean
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