Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Those Wonderful Toys!

OK, they're not so wonderful.  In fact, it's pretty unanimously agreed upon, at all of the toy collecting forums I visit, that the Green Lantern movie toys are terrible.  Bad likenesses, cheap paints, minimal articulation, mediocre play value -- all of the things that make a good toy or even a great toy seem to be completely missing from the Green Lantern movie toys.

The failures are many.  Here's an example:  The Build-A-Figure.  A few years ago, Toy Biz began something called "Collect and Connect" or "Build a Figure."  If you bought most or all of the toys in a given series, each one of them came with a part that you could connect to the other parts to build yet another toy -- usually a character that was larger than the standard 6-inch action figure.  Mattel continued this with their DC Universe Classics series.  Buying six characters from the first series gave you the parts to build Metamorpho the Element Man, and so forth up to and including the current waves.  (It's up to Wave 16 now.)

There is a series of 6-inch figures from the GL movie called the "Movie Masters."  Movie Masters first started with the Christopher Nolan Batman Begins film.  If you collect 11 of the Green Lantern Movie Masters, you will get the 14 parts necessary to build the movie's Big Bad, the Fear entity called Parallax.  Unfortunately, Parallax resembles nothing so much as a big brown and yellow turd with tentacles:

At fifteen bucks each, it is most definitely not worth spending one hundred and sixty-five dollars to build Parallax, not even by the standards of the most rabid Green Lantern collector.

But all is not lost.

Most of the more kid-friendly toys for Green Lantern are a mere 4 inches tall and come with an "energy construct," the kind of thing that Green Lanterns are able to create with just their will power and their ring.  A couple of the alien Lanterns are so large that they need an "adapter" piece to use the other constructs.  While the figures are kind of, well, crappy, the energy constructs are every GL fan's dream!  And thanks to that beautiful little adapter piece, they work and look great with the better-looking figures from other toy lines and companies, like DC Direct or Justice League Unlimited.   Here's a pic from fellow toy collector "Sector1014" showing off the DC Universe Classics Hal Jordan figure with pieces from the movie toy's helicopter "construct" -- a construct which is sold exclusively by Walmart and which breaks down into twelve separate weapons:

Here's a shot from "funtime3" which shows how well the trap construct that comes with 4-inch crap figure Isamot Kol goes with the DC Green Lantern Classics figures of Medphyll and Dex-Starr:

Here's a great shot from "dah140" showing DC Infinite Heroes Hal Jordan with the full helicopter construct.  The stand is from a Japanese hobby store:

Finally, one of my favorites from "fball13z" -- Ch'p (or Bd'g, depending on whom you talk to, the chipmunk Green Lantern) wielding the mace construct that comes with Abin Sur, as only a furry little rodent Lantern could:

So if, like me, you were deeply disappointed by the movie toys, take heart:  they are well worth it for the "energy" parts alone!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The "Smallville" Finale Review

I've been reading a lot of criticisms of the finale episode of "Smallville," the most common being that they didn't show Tom Welling in a head-to-toe full shot in The Suit.  Frankly, I think this is nitpicking of the highest order.  Who freaking cares?  I'm pretty sure that everybody knows what Superman looks like, gang.

My problems with the finale were that:  
- the first hour was too talky and soap-opera-like.
- while it was great to see Michael Rosenbaum back as Lex, his reappearance ultimately didn't do much to advance the plot or the story.
- when you look up "anticlimactic" in the dictionary, there will be a clip of the final battle with Darkseid aka the Lionel zombie.  While it would have been nice if they had learned their lesson with Doomsday, it appears not to be the case.  It was lame.  Smoke and crows after one flying punch???  And after all that with Apokolips approaching, Supes just...shoves it out of the way?  Off-camera?
- Chloe reading the comic book to her son?  SERIOUSLY???  For a minute I thought they were going with "the last ten years were all a bedtime story." which would have been a huge ripoff.  Even teasing us with it for a moment was poor writing, in my humble opinion.

On the plus side:

- the flashback montage in the Fortress was a real nice tip of the hat for the fans who have stuck by the show since its original shaky "kryptonite monster of the week" days.  

- seeing Pa Kent again was great; it's some of John Schneider's best work; he's the perfect Pa.  

- I never get tired of Terence Stamp as the voice of Jor-El.  

- and finally, I positively choked up when they used the John Williams theme music at the end.

Overall, despite its shortcomings, I have to give the finale a "B."  TV is a little less interesting now that "Smallville" is gone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I've been trying to decide whether or not this essay will be worth the trouble it will cause my family if or when they read it, and I think I have to get it out of my system, regardless of the cost.

There's an especially poignant section in the novella Flowers for Algernon when the protagonist, Charly, realizes that the procedure which vaulted his intelligence from barely functional idiot to super genius is only temporary.  He feels his gifts slipping away like sand through his fingers.  Lately I have been feeling much the same.

Some years ago, when I realized the feelings of cold in my hands and feet that I was experiencing were not accurate reflections of reality, I went to a variety of neurologists to try and figure out what was going on.  After much testing, some of it fairly painful, it was discovered that I had some kind of neuromuscular degenerative disease.  My specialist at the Hershey PA Medical Center likened it to ALS ("Lou Gehrig's Disease") but of the sensory nerves, rather than the motor nerves.  This diagnosis was based on a biopsy of a small piece of nerve tissue taken from my left leg, which showed deterioration of the nerves, particularly in the myelin sheath surrounding the nerve.  It was probably caused by a side effect of one or another of the medications used to try alter or suppress my immune system in the hopes of easing the symptoms of my Crohn's Disease.  It may have been the result of taking Enbrel, or Remicade, or Kineret, or some combination of them; neurological problems have been associated with all three, and I have taken all three at one time or another.

It was disheartening news, to say the least.  While I am glad that my motor nerves were for the most part unaffected, the constant fluctuation of sensations of cold, heat, moisture, pressure and pure pain range anywhere from uncomfortable to unbearable and continue to worsen over time, moving up from fingers and toes through the extremities to my torso.  Of late I have begun experiencing the early warning signs of motor involvement -- jerky movements of the hands and feet, dropping things more often, and so forth.  At the tender age of 58 it's extremely upsetting to see and feel myself losing function like this.  The Crohn's Disease and rheumatoid arthritis are quite debilitating enough; the prospect of yet another form of disability is quite daunting, to say the least.  More and more I am becoming aware of things I can no longer do, usually when I try to do them.  Things like standing on tiptoe, or running, or my speech slurring.  The command center sends out the signals, but the body refuses to respond.  I experience much the same thing with my intermittent stutter -- which is also getting worse -- when I feel the word there in my cortex but cannot find a viable pathway for it to my tongue.

I wish there was a point to this essay, apart from commiseration with any who might be reading it.  I wish I could end it on a positive, Hang In There, This Too Shall Pass, sort of message.  I am just not feeling it, though.  Along with a lot of other things that I'm not able to feel.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Five Weeks

Five weeks from tomorrow, Green Lantern the movie opens around the country.  My favorite poster so far doesn't depict any of the cast, although there are some great posters featuring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard.  My favorite poster is the one that also defines why I love the character of Green Lantern so very much:

ANYONE CAN BE CHOSEN!  As I've said before, the main appeal of Green Lantern, for me, is the idea that to be a hero, you just have to be the Right Person.  You have to have a good and honest heart, and the ability to overcome your fears and act when action is needed.  You don't need to be a billionaire orphan, or be rocketed to Earth as an infant, or be bitten by an irradiated (insert-creature-here.)  You have to have the potential for heroism.  And if you are lucky, the ring may choose you, to defend the innocent and the weak, with your life if need be.

The film is looking to be a really good, knock-down, drag-out summer popcorn movie, on the order of the first Iron Man film.  The toys are out now (of course there are toys) but the biggest seller seems to be the mask and light-up ring that lets a kid BE Green Lantern!  This gives me hope, not only for the success of the movie, but for the kids who, like me when I was 8 years old, all want to be The Right Person.

Good for you!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Counting Down

One month from today, on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, my daughter will graduate from high school.  It's been a long road, what with discovering that she has Long Q-T Interval Syndrome (a heartbeat irregularity that is potentially fatal) and then that she has ADD.  Luckily, both seem to be mild.  Which is good, because her Long Q-T precludes her taking any of the usual medications prescribed for ADD.

It's going to be interesting to see how she copes with both when she is fully on her own, away at college, with no Mom or Dad to play prescription police, or homework police, or deadline police.

I would like to think that she has developed the necessary skills to cope and to function highly in her new academic environment.  Then I walk past her room....  (Ba-dump bump.)

In all seriousness, I hope that she will be okay, but if not, we'll deal with it.  Not many journeys are filled with nothing but success.  I know that in my own case I had a rough first semester at the University of Virginia, nearly losing my scholarship as my sudden independence from home led to sloppy studying, too much partying, and a rude awakening of my first grades in the C- or D level.  Luckily I woke up and pulled out of the tailspin and wound up graduating with U. Va.'s version of Summa Cum Laude ("With High Distinction" is what it's called at Virginia.  Virginia stubbornly has its own language for just about everything, but this is an entire blog entry all by itself.)

Meanwhile her days are filled as the year wraps up, and I am also busy helping where I can -- addressing graduation announcements, helping her study for AP exams, and so forth.  So far I have been more excited as she prepares for the next step on her journey than I have been sad that her journey will take her away from home.

Which is not to say that there haven't been some sad, sad days for me.  I think those first few weeks of just me and the dog waiting for my wife to come home from her work are going to be very, very tough....

On a completely separate note, and in keeping with the "more excited" part of things, today is the last Free Comic Book Day we will be able to have together before she goes away!  If you don't know about Free Comic Book Day, get out the yellow pages, find a comic book store, and go to one today.  You'll get at least one free comic book (duh) and get to see that it's not all just Big Bang Theory geeks who frequent comic shops.  There is usually a wide variety of books from which to choose, and you might just discover why comics are considered to be one of the only two truly American art forms to have emerged into the world.  The other one is Jazz.  Which in my opinion puts comics in pretty good company.