Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Buffy's Mr. Trick Discovers Gunpowder

Mr. Trick Discovers Gunpowder
Mr. Trick Discovers Gunpowder

Date: 7:12pm, January 24th, 1999
From: MrTrick@earthlink.net
Newsgroup: alt.vampires.iguess
Subject: It's called an Uzi, chump

Okay, okay. I gotta admit that my plans have met with pretty limited success so far. Maybe Slayerfest ’98 was a bad idea. And that Ethan Rayne guy was a huge disappointment with that weak ass band candy shit.

But hey, at least I’m trying new things. You all ain’t tried nothing new in ages. Before I got to town, ya'll just ran up on the slayers, yelling “Die!” and doing some karate shit at them. And where did that get you? It got you nowhere. Why? Because the Slayer’s better at karate than you. Yeah, yeah, I see ya'll in your subterranean Tae-Kwan-Do classes, thinking you're all badasses with your yellow belts and shit. But I don't care how much karate you think you know, 'cause the Slayer’s always gonna know more karate than you. That’s just a fact of death.

You know what they call a vampire who tries the same plan time after time, expecting a different result? Dust on the ground.

And yeah, none of my plans have worked so far, but I gotta lay a lot of that blame at right on ya'll's feet. Because—and try to keep up here, ‘cause this is gonna get real technical—I WAS EXPECTING YOU BRAINLESS MOTHERFUCKERS TO BE CARRYING GUNS.

And don’t even tell me that none of ya'll thought of it before now. None of ya'll's that old. Every one of you was sired after gunpowder was invented, so ya'll know what a motherfucking gun is. And, ya know, I don’t expect you to carry the latest model Glock, but even if you showed up with some moldy old arquebus or some shit, it would be better than nothing.

Because—and I'm gonna get technical again—if it’s a contest between karate and some moldy old arquebus? That fucking arquebus is gonna win four times outta five. 'Cause there’s no amount of karate that can stop a bullet. If any of this seems unclear, just repeat that to yourself until it sinks in: no amount of karate can stop a fucking bullet. And karate is hard, whereas guns are easy. Shit, I bet some weaselly little nerd could bag himself a Slayer, if he had a gun. I mean, theoretically.

And hey, did it never occur to any a' you assholes that you can make as many new vampires as you want? So when I tell your dumb ass to, “dig up as many vampires as you need to, to get this job done,” I don’t mean that shit metaphorically. I don't mean, “call up your two most incompetent friends to help you out.” I mean, go out, sire a bunch of new vampires, dig them up, then take your new army into battle with you.

Now, I didn't set out to be this patronizing, but ya'll have proved you can’t add two and two to get four, so I'm going to lay out your next step nice and clear: YOU GIVE EVERY ONE OF THOSE NEW VAMPIRES YOU JUST DUG UP A GUN. There’s a fucking gun store right on the edge of town. Go there, steal ALL THE GUNS, and pass them out to your brand new whelplings. Even a bunch of idiots like you Sunnydale vampires ought to realize that you've just created a force to be reckoned with, no matter how green they are.

I understand why some of ya'll are understandably scared to go up against the Slayers. Even with an army of gun-toting mooks in front of your dumb asses, those Slayers still seem pretty dangerous.

I get that. I really do.

What I can't understand, is why that natural fear doesn't translate into an equally natural impulse to protect your dumb ass. I mean, shiiit people. An aversion to guns I can almost understand. Even if you're young, they seem kinda newfangled, they got all them triggers and hammers and safeties and shit and maybe that's just too complicated for you dumb motherfuckers to understand.

But when it comes to protecting yourself, it ain't that hard to understand. You got this heart, see? And if you get staked through it, you’re dust. And you got this head, see? And if it gets cut off, you’re dust.

Are you with me so far? Good.

PUT SOMETHING IN BETWEEN THOSE MOTHERFUCKING LOCATIONS AND THE SLAYERS' MOTHERFUCKING WEAPONS.

Hell, how come I gotta explain all this shit to you? It's like those retractable fangs of yours displaced your goddamn brains. So let me break it down into two easy steps, that even you dumb chumps ought to be able to follow:

1)    Make armor that protects those vital spots.
2)    Wear it when you’re fighting the slayer.

Now, when I mentioned this to some of ya'll earlier, you were like, “but armor slows me down.” Well, you know what else slows you down? Crumbling to dust because your dumb ass just got staked. That slows you down a whole fucking lot.

Shit, if you’re still worried that wearing armor will slow you down, here’s another idea. Take a sheet of plate steel about a foot square, and just jam it up under your ribcage, all the way to the top. Don't stop until you hear it crunch. Leave it for a night or two so the flesh heals up around it and locks it in place, and et fucking voila, motherfucker. You just made yourself stake-proof!

YOU’RE WELCOME.

Now get out there and shoot me some fucking Slayers, okay? 'Cause if I don't see some results pretty damn soon, I tell ya, I'm giving up on you idiots. Really, I'll quit. Hell, let one of the Slayers have my job, for all I care.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In-Laws

Fifteen Wolf Moon

I used to think that my in-laws were less insane than my blood relatives.

And then I started paying attention, and realized that they’re as nuthouse crazy as anyone else in the family. I have two theories as to why. One, only crazy people are willing to marry into the family. Two, family members actively seek out nutjobs. Either way, the in-laws are nearly as bad as the… wait, is it out-laws?

Yeah, actually, that sounds about right.

Aunt Patsy (Uncle Curley’s ex-wife) was recently bragging about her new hydroponic garden and tilapia pond, and I was momentarily intrigued, because I have this nasty habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt. My eyes opened wide and I said in an excited chatter, “Wow! That is the coolest thing ever! Are the hydroponics just herbs or are you doing food crops too? I wrote a story about a hydroponic farm once, so I did a little research on them. Are you using a substrate or doing aeroponics? Oh wait, tilapia too, so it must be aquaponics, right? Is it just as a hobby or is…”

This is around the point that reality started to catch up with me. “… is… it… more… of… a… Oh. You’re doing this because you think civilization’s going to end, aren’t you?” By now, all the excitement had drained from my face, and I resumed the typical expression of dull resignation that I wear whenever I’m around my family.

She nodded, not recognizing the cynicism. Or maybe, after all these years, she just thinks that that’s what I look like all the time. She said, “You’re smart, Robyn. You must know what’s coming now that he’s been reelected.”

The “he” in that sentence is, of course, Hillsborough County Comptroller Ned Serkis, who promised to immanentize the eschaton within eight years and then leave office without seeking a third term.

Okay, not really. It's Obama.

Whatever your politics may be—whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, centrist or extremist—Aunt Patsy is sure we can all agree that President Obama is literally the son of Satan, born not in Honolulu but on the 6th Circle of Hell in the malignant City of Dis, sent to Earth as a harbinger of the end times, destined to lead the armies of Gog and Magog in the final battle between good and evil.

I mean, that’s just common sense, right?

Presidents Obama and Bush 43
 Presidents Obama and Bush 43

Or perhaps you think that Aunt Patsy is a little on the unstable side. Bear in mind that she divorced Uncle Curley because he was “too muddleheaded” for her.  Yeah. Stare into the depths of that horror, why don’cha.

Of course, the out-laws are no better. Uncle Wilkins is adamant that each of his many ex-wives, like all women everywhere, are gold-digging, no-good, dirty bitches. Of course, Uncle Wilkins' preferred mode of picking up chicks is to get drunk and toss his rent money around at the nearest redneck bar. It is not, perhaps, an exceptional coincidence that every woman who's fallen for that has been rather shallow.

Shallow and—let’s be honest here—pretty fucking stupid. Still, a few of his marks have managed to wise up and run away as fast as they could. Some of them got a shove in the right direction from my grandmother, who’s skilled in the art of accidentally dropping incriminating information into ordinary conversation. The twin phrases, “back in his coke days” and “around the time he was living in that cave in Colorado,” have each ended their share of Uncle Wilkins' relationships.

But my all-time favorite engagement-breaker from grandma has to be this gem, said to the father of the putative bride after the engagement was announced:

Aye, wonderful! Are ye plannin’ a big ceremony? It’s her first wedding, and it ought tae be special.

I’ll know I’ve arrived as a writer, when I can invent dialogue that’s half as delightful and awkward as the shit that comes naturally to my grandmother.

Bride of Frankenstein: "Honestly? I think I'm having second thoughts."
"Honestly? I think I'm having second thoughts."
And then there’s Uncle Hunter. Whoa boy. Uncle Hunter’s ex-wives are…

Okay, I actually don’t know anything about Uncle Hunter’s ex-wives, except that they have better taste now than they did when they were married to him. I mean, that’s just a truism. But he rarely brought his wives around to visit with my grandparents because, while he lacks class or dignity, he’s sensible enough to notice a pattern when he sees one.

And you know another class of in-laws that I knew almost nothing about?

My mom’s husbands.

Weird, huh?

Since I was living with my grandparents, mom's various husbands had very little contact with me. This, even though one lived about a mile away. Why did I never see them? You probably won’t believe me, but I swear I am not making this up: it's because they weren’t allowed in my grandparents' house.

Once again, I wish to stress that I am not making this up. My mother’s husbands were not allowed in her own parents’ home. It wasn’t a spoken rule, as far as I know, but everyone understood it, and I never saw one of her husbands inside the house. Although, strangely enough, some of her boyfriends were allowed on the back porch. I have no explanation for that. I was only an objective observer.

My relations with the people who were technically my stepfathers were therefore somewhat… chilly. In fact, I’m not even 100% sure of how many husbands she had. I think it was three, but it might have been four, depending on whether or not she ever married that guy from the David Koresh type walled compound in Corpus Christi. It seemed like she was married to him (or high priestess, or whatever,) but I never found out for sure.

So, yeah. Chilly. Then again, none of them tried to win me over with sappy shit, and they never resented me for not accepting them. Oh, and not one of them ever asked me to call him “dad”.

So, you know, win win.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tips for When You're a Kid Sleuth (Part 2)

Penny and Brain discuss Inspector Gadget's mediocrity

So you're back, are you? Still think you've got what it takes to be kid sleuths? Well then, let's get to it, maggots, by memorizing these important tips.

You Might Want to Put Some Aloe on That

Here’s the thing: you’re going to get knocked out a lot. Whether it’s a blackjack to the back of the head, a tranquilizer dart, or the ever-popular chloroform-soaked cloth, something’s going to render you unconscious about ten times a year.

This is, medically speaking, a really, really, really bad thing. Or “res perquam, perquam, perquam mal,” in the Latin. You see, the human brain is not a lightswitch that you can turn on and off without consequence. It’s a series of tubes. (Ordo de angustiae.)

For one thing, tranquilizer dosing is tricky. The dosage that puts me into a comfortable nap might well kill you, and it might do nothing to a larger person but make them groggy. There’s a reason that you have to spend ten years getting licensed to keep an eye on an anesthesia machine that administers sedatives with practically unfailing precision. So, do you really think the idiot thugs you’re investigating are going to get the ketamine dosage right on their first try?

Nuh-uh. You wouldn’t trust those morons to tranquilize a stray dog, let alone a person. And as a kid sleuth, you probably have a lower than average body weight, raising your risk of death-by-dart even higher. Given these risks, you might be tempted to hope for chloroform, but that’s even worse. Chloroform is just as dangerous and even harder to dose. Plus, it’s a carcinogen.

Being knocked out is even riskier. A total loss of consciousness after being hit on the head indicates a traumatic brain injury traumaticus cerebrum owie,) which is especially damaging to children and teenagers. Given the rate at which they’re knocked out, it’s sheer luck that the average kid sleuth isn’t lying comatose with a tube up their nose, trying to solve the Mystery of the Persistent Bedsores.

So, no matter how often it happens to you or your friends, treat every loss of consciousness as a bona fide medical emergency. Immediately arrange transport to the nearest emergency pediatric snooping facility.

As a consolation, any villain who tries to knock you out is guilty of premeditated assault, so you can have the police and/or your dad add that to their rap sheet.

Some Miscellaneous Advice

Encyclopedia Brown meets Se7en - Bugs Meanie has a gift

Never step foot inside a lumber mill, or any industrial space that features a conveyor belt of any kind, for that matter. Just don’t, because everyone you investigate, no matter how trivial their offense, will prove to be an opportunistic murderer. The perp’s big crime could be having his car double parked, and he’d still be willing to kill you to stop you from exposing him.

You can be a kid sleuth even if you’re an idiot. Hell, some scholars argue that it could even make you better at it. Just make sure you have a highly competent friend, and unconditionally forbid them from helping you.

If you’re between cases, get a hobby. You’ll be shocked at how often it’ll be critical to solving the next case you’re on. Any hobby is fine, as long as it’s not the same hobby you had before your last case. In fact, never mention that old hobby again, because it’s against Sleuth Union rules, and you could lose your insurance coverage.

Making an adult disguise by standing on your friend’s shoulders and wearing a large trench coat is ALWAYS an option.

Purchase a pair of tactical door wedges and take them with you whenever snooping in a haunted castle, pyramid, Aztec temple, or etc. It’ll save your bacon when you inevitably get trapped in a room and the walls start closing in. Make sure you get a wedge that’s rated for both spiked and unspiked walls of doom.

Never try to figure out what state your hometown is in. You may be the world’s greatest detective in the under-15 category, but this is one mystery that no one will ever solve. Thinking about it will only give you migraines.

Office hours are critical. Have a time and a semi-public place were other kids can consult you, even if it’s your mom’s garage after school. Because, if you don’t have boundaries, you’re setting yourself up for trickery and kidnapping. And if you ever get a message from someone asking you to go to a remote location after dark, so they can hire you for an important case? That is so a trap. Immediately hand the message over to the police. Believe me, this is one time they’ll actually listen to you.

If I Listen Twice as Long, They’ll Say Something Twice as Incriminating!

Know how long to snoop. We’ve been over this already in the Superhero’s Girlfriend guide, but it bears repeating. When you come across a couple of goons who are—fortunately for you and unexplainably for them—discussing their plans in intricate detail, eavesdrop long enough to learn their plan and not a second longer. Then exit the area in a careful manner. Do not under any circumstances back blindly away from your hiding place, because perps surround their most sensitive sites with ankle-high pipes and tree roots for exactly this reason.

And One Last Thing...

I don't want any messages saying “I'm contemplating the clues.” We're not contemplating a goddamned thing. We're snooping the perpetrator constantly. We’re going to snoop him by the nose and we’re going to kick him in the ass. Our plan of operation is to sleuth and keep on sleuthing. We will sleuth through the perpetrator like crap through a goose.

Thirty years from now when you're still the same age you are now, someone will ask you, “What did you do in middle school?” You won't have to cough and say, 'Well, I shoveled bullshit on the essay portion of my history tests.”

All right, you sons of bitches. You know how I feel. I'll be proud to lead you wonderful guys in sleuthing anytime, anywhere. That's all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Proterozoic Eon, Part 5

Full Linear Timeline of Life on Earth
You may remember that we started our journey through the Proterozoic Eon two and a half billion years ago. After a hell of a lot of Monopoly, we now arrive in the still-Proterozoic of only one billion years ago.

We've come more than half of the way home, watching 1.5 billion years of the Earth's history. The continents have shuffled around a lot, volcanoes have come and gone, and we've suffered a couple devastating meteor impacts.

Life has undergone a few major changes, all on the microscopic level. Cyanobacteria destroyed the environment. Complex cells called eukaryotes evolved, then invented sex. At some point along the way, multicellular organisms evolved—we can't say when with any certainty—but they're not much to look at. In fact, from where we're standing along the Toronto coastline, life still looks pretty much like pond scum.

Cyanobacterial fields forever
"You guys had a billion and a half years to evolve, and this is the best you can do?"
Adapted from an image Copyright and CC Martyn Gorman

And if life in the oceans isn't looking all that evolved, life on dry land has gotten absolutely nowhere. The coastlines, rivers, and lakes of Earth are teeming with life, but go any distance inland and it's the same sandy regolith we saw when we got here, with nothing but the odd desert crust to prove that life exists.

Land in the Proterozoic Eon

Now let’s play a couple more games of Monopoly, which will bring us to an even billion years ago. Something funny is happening now. Remember the supercontinent Columbia, which broke up, just like the Eagles?

Well, it’s getting back together, just like the Eagles. The ocean off the coast of Toronto is narrowing. In fact, you can just about see Montevideo coming over the horizon. Wave! All the major plates are smashing into each other, forming the new supercontinent of Rodinia.

Life has been busy, too. Following up on their recent triumph of sex, they’ve now invented murder.

As with sex, it’s entirely possible that murder existed long before now, but it’s here, at about a billion years ago, that we see the first clear signs of it, in the form of predation. We don’t actually have a fossil of a predator eating its prey this early in history. For that matter, we don’t have a fossil of a predator at all.

But we’re pretty sure predators were around, because we can see what their prey were doing to defend against them. Because this is the era when acritarchs, an umbrella classification encompassing microscopic fossils, started to get spiky1.

Acritarch
Image from PNAS cover July 2005

Other eukaryotes , around this time, also start evolving mineralized coatings that might have been a defense against predators. And stromatolites, those bulbous formations created by bacterial mats, begin to decline, perhaps because they fell victim to newly evolved predators1.

Stromatolite taxa, acritarchs, macrophagous predators, and grazers
From: Bengston. Origins and Early Evolution of Predation. The Paleontological Society Papers 8. pp 289-317

We’re going to play a couple more games of Monopoly to take us to about 800 million years ago. Here, the supercontinent Rodinia is breaking up. Yeah, again. You’re going to have to get used to it, because this shit happens a lot.

In the oceans, more crazy shit is going down. The first armored amoeba have shown up2, and there’ll be no hemming and hawing this time, because we know these little bastards are predators. There is some hemming and hawing about how long amoeba have been around, though. These little armored dudes are the first to leave fossils, but amoebas may have been around for a while. They may, indeed, have been the predators we saw signs of two hundred million years earlier.

And there’ll be no hemming and hawing about animal life this time, either, because something has just shown up off the coast and no one with a lick of sense would dare deny that it’s an animal. And here it is, in all its glory. The first animal:

The First Animals?
From: The first animals: ca. 760-million-year-old sponge-like fossils from Namibia. South African Journal of Science. Vol. 108 no. 1-2 Pretoria 2012.

Yeah, it’s a sponge. They’re animals, you know. It may seem weird, but they are definitely our ancestors, and the ancestors of every worm, fish, lizard, and human being alive today. They’re multicellular, can reproduce sexually, are made of highly specialized and differentiated cell types, have a primitive immune system, and even primitive muscles. They’re animals, and they’re here to stay.

And they’ve shown up just in time for another ice age. Sucks for them.

This ice age won’t last quite as long as the last one—only a couple hundred million years—but it’s going to be even more severe. Again, the glaciers and pack ice will come and go, because an ice age doesn’t mean that it’s always frozen, all the time. But there will be long periods, lasting from 20 to 60 million years, when most of the planet is covered in a kilometer or more of solid ice. Some of these may even have been more “Snowball Earth” events.

I told you to bring a sweater. It’s not my fault you don’t listen.

Two games of Monopoly later, and the planet is finally warming up again. We’re now at about 600 million years ago, the continental plates are coming together yet again, this time to form the supercontinent Pannotia. And, I’m sad to say, we’re only one Monopoly game away from the end of the Proterozoic Eon.

Here at the end, the oceans are warming up and conditions are ripe for life. The cyanobacterial mats are still here, and they still make up most of the biomass on Earth, but eukaryotes aren’t doing too bad.

Larger life (meaning, larger than a microorganism) from this period is hard to classify, because most species are soft-bodied and live on or above the bacterial mats. They don’t leave great fossils, unlike the hard-bodied trilobites and burrowing worms that will start to show up in force a hundred million years from now. But maybe they look something like this:

Ediacaran (Late Proterozoic) Ocean Life
Image CC Ryan Somma

We don’t know what most of these animals evolved from, and we don’t know what they evolved into, assuming they even left ancestors to evolve into anything. We’re not even sure when they died out. We think it was at the end of the Proterozoic, but without any clear sign of an extinction event such as a meteor or extreme volcanic activity, it’s possible they survived right into the Cambrian. In the Cambrian, the paucity of bacterial mats may have made fossilization of soft-bodied creatures less likely, and so they may have disappeared from the fossil record despite living on.

What we do know is that they’re here in the last days of the Proterozoic, and there are a freaking lot of them. In modern times, you’ll find them in the fossil record all across the planet, if you know what to look for. They spread, they evolved, they covered the planet with an explosion of complex life.

And then they disappeared.

Sorry to say, but so must I. The old Monopoly board has gotten a little decrepit over the past two billion years, and you can hardly tell St. Clare’s Place from Baltic Avenue anymore. We’ve had fun, but it’s time to go. The Cambrian is coming, and we don’t want to get eaten by an anomalocaridid.

***

If you enjoyed this trip through the Proterozoic Eon, check out my other science articles in the Archives!

Citations and References
  1. Bengston. Origins and Early Evolution of Predation. The Paleontological Society Papers 8. pp 289-317.
  2. Porter. Testate amoeba in the Neoproterozoic Era: evidence from vase-shaped microfossils in the Chuar Group, Grand Canyon. Paleobiology 26 (3) pp. 360-385.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane in "The Witch of Metropolis"

Oh, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane, sometimes I feel like everything about you was made just so I could mock it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "The Witch of Metropolis":

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis Cover
“No, the broomstick I get. I want to
know why you’re dressed like a hobo.”

So begins the first proper issue of Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane. After two issues in Showcase, Lois has graduated to her very own comic. Inside the book, we start the story with a more graphically witchy Lois.

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis Splash Page

By the way, this splash page doubles as a pretty accurate rendition of how I write this blog. Except without the magic.

The story opens with Lois visiting a museum, where she learns about Mad Molly Todd, who by night transformed into an evil witch. For some reason, Lois is applying make-up in front of Mad Molly’s painting, and when she drops her compact, the mirror breaks. So already, we know where this story is going: the splash page image is what Lois looks like without her face powder.

Next up on Lois’ schedule is a trip to the famous biologist, Professor Jason. Prof-J, as he's known in the academic community, is working on an experimental youth serum.

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis youth serum

Yeah, here’s a bio lab safety tip for you: if you smell "odd fumes" coming out of a test tube, make sure to lean over and get a real good whiff. Otherwise, how will you know if it’s dangerous or not?

With those plot points taken care of with minimal fuss, Lois heads home to type up the day’s stories and start Act 2. But while she’s writing, an eerie transformation occurs!

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis
“My hands look old and wrinkled! And I’m wearing a prominent, gaudy
ring I’ve never worn before, which I’m sure won’t be important later."

I had this exact same experience when I turned thirty.

But Lois finally reads the pamphlet she got at the museum, which warns that any maiden breaking a mirror in front of Mad Molly’s painting will share her curse, turning into a witch every night for seven years.

Which is a strangely specific curse. I mean, seriously, just how many maidens have broken mirrors in front of that damn painting? Oh and, “maiden?” Yeah, I don’t think so. Even in the 50’s, there’s just no way Lois is saving that shit for Superman.

Anyway, Lois goes out for some fresh air, and finds herself in the same neighborhood as some escaped convicts. Because, you know, even as a withered old witch, she’s still Lois Lane. Superman pops by and asks her to keep an eye out, but he doesn’t seem to realize it’s Lois. As soon as he leaves, she runs into the thugs because, you know, she’s still Lois Lane.

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis Hix Hox Hex

Now, can I just stop here, hit pause on the snark track, and spend a minute admiring the artwork? That is one lovingly drawn Lois-witch. And look at how emotive the expressions are. You don’t even need dialog to understand what’s going on. It’s written on the characters’ faces.

This is the work of the legendary Kurt Schaffenberger. He drew this and many other issues of Lois Lane, and his rendition of Lois became the definitive model of her appearance, across the entire Superman franchise.

Unpause.

Hur hur. Look at that robber’s ass.

Stupid robber ass.

So Lois, having saved herself with a magic spell, goes home to sleep it off. She wakes in the morning, back to her old young self again. But when the day is over and she returns home, she finds herself transformed again into a decrepit old witch.

Witch is inconvenient (HEEEEYOOOO!) because her neighbor barges in at that very moment. Wisely choosing to avoid any zany, Mrs. Doubtfire style antics, Lois decides she has to get out of the house fast. And what do witches do when they need to go fast? That’s right…

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis "Lean In, Lois"
Lean in, Lois.

At this point, Lois is pretty much like, “Fuck it, I guess I’m a witch now.” She flies over to Metropolis Movie Studios, where they’re making a secret movie that every newspaper in town has been trying to find out about. Lois breaks in and gets the scoop with her witch powers.

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis Melt Wall

Yeah, uhh, I’m sure the middle part of that wall wasn’t structurally important. What’s important is that you get your story, Lois.

And get it she does. The next morning, Perry is very impressed with her scoop, but Lois is maudlin. She’s worried that she’s “turning evil, like all witches in history.”

Wow. Huge burn on witches, out of nowhere.

Shortly after worrying that she’s turning evil, Lois contemplates stealing one of Clark’s stories right out from under him. As night approaches, she’s still unsure. She stands contemplating a broomstick, torn between two worlds.

Then, in the very next panel, she’s flying through the night, laughing about how hard she’s about to screw Clark over. In her defense, that was a very persuasive broomstick.

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis broom

She intercepts the ship Clark is supposed to meet at the dock, goes aboard, and steals the documents he was going to pick up. To add radiation poisoning to injury, she even hatches a plan to finally figure out Superman’s secret identity. She uses her witch magic to conjure a chunk of kryptonite, which she plans to chuck at Clark Kent. If he dies, it'll prove that he was Superman. Before he died. From the kryptonite she threw at him.

Basically, Lois has become his arch-nemesis, which means she’s been following my sound advice.

But she chickens out at the last moment, deciding not to put her plan into action. She even confesses her crime to Superman, who counters her confession with an even stupider confession of his own.

You see, Lois was never a witch at all. When Superman first met hag-Lois in that neighborhood, he immediately recognized her by the blue sapphire ring that Lois “always wore” (except for every other time we’ve seen her outside of this story.)

It was Superman who… Actually, I’ll let him try to explain this bullshit:

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis breath
Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis ship

And the kryptonite Lois conjured was nothing but fool’s kryptonite, which Superman dropped into her hands from above. Because, silly Lois, of course witches aren’t real. You should have known this absurd “witchcraft” thing was just a godlike alien playing tricks on you.

Actually, you know what? I’m not even going to bother. This shit mocks itself.

Although the comic doesn’t address it, I’m tickled by the fact that “Evil Witch Lois”—who’s plotting to expose Superman to deadly kryptonite so she can expose his identity—is in fact just regular, everyday Lois. I guess no one in the comic bothers to bring it up, because it’s not really that surprising.

But one question remains! Why does Lois look like a Halloween mask every night after dark?

Well, the answer to that one is simple. You remember when she visited Prof-J, who was working on the youth serum? Well, he must have added the ingredients in the exact opposite order or something, because he accidentally made an “old age serum,” which is what Lois was sniffing at way back in Act I. It was the serum fumes which turned Lois into an old lady anytime she was exposed to moonlight.

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane: The Witch of Metropolis biologist

I’m just surprised a professor of his renown made that mistake. It’s one of the first things they teach you.

That only leaves you to wonder how Lois was transformed by a serum that works in moonlight, when she wasn’t actually exposed to moonlight on any of the occasions when she transformed. Also, moonlight is present during the day at exactly the same intensity as at night—it’s just unnoticeable amid the brightness of the daytime sky.

Also, WHAT THE HOLY MOTHER OF FUCK JUST HAPPENED?

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

We've basically run out of comic book, so there's no work involved in turning Lois back to normal. The serum just wears off on its own. Because of course it does.

***

If you enjoyed this, check out my other comic articles in the Archives!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tips for When You're a Kid Sleuth (Part 1)

Scooby-Doo: Watch out! It's another ironic internet guide!

So you’ve got yourself a notepad, a comically large magnifying glass, and maybe even a dog with unusual intelligence. You think you’re ready to be a kid sleuth?

Think again, maggot.

You are not a detective. You’re filth. You’re less than filth. You’re nothing. You couldn’t sleuth your way out of a piss-soaked paper bag if you had a trail of footprints to show the way. I bet you’re the kind of sleuth who would investigate a villain in the spooky woods and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a chiding speech.

That changes today. If you finish this article, if you survive sleuth training, you will be a weapon. You will be a master of snooping, praying for mystery. You will not like me. But the more you hate me, the more you will learn. I am hard but I am fair. There is no genre bigotry here. I do not look down on bookworms, adventurers, tech geeks, or the extremely nearsighted. To me, you are all equally worthless.

Let’s begin with knots...

Knots

Learn how to tie good ones, because slipped knots are the number one cause of death for kid detectives. If you can’t tie a villain up nice and tight, you might as well hand them your magnifying glass right then and there.

And learn to tie bad knots convincingly, too. You have no idea how often you’ll need the villain to think they’ve escaped on their own, when actually it was your plan all along. But if you accidentally tie a knot they can't get out of, you're screwed.

Oh, and learn how to untie common knots with your teeth. Seriously, this will come up about three times a week.

Don’t Flounce the Landing

Do you have a warrant for this snooping, Nancy Drew?
"Do you have a warrant for this snooping, Ms. Drew?"

How many times has this happened to you? You’ve just unmasked the bad guy. Snared in his own web of deceit, he goes into a rambling, unprompted monologue in which he ruefully confesses every detail of his crime. But then he gets a lawyer, pleads not guilty at trial, your testimony about his confession is declared inadmissible hearsay, and the case is summarily dismissed.

Don’t be embarrassed. This has happened to every kid sleuth from time to time. In fact, anytime you hear a sleuthing story that ends abruptly at, “and we got him to confess,” you can bet the bad guy either got off entirely or pleaded down to time served and 500 hours of community service. He’s probably out there right now, on the side of the highway in an orange vest, imagining a kid sleuth’s face on every Big Mac wrapper he skewers.

So how do we avoid this?

For one, tape the confession, starting from the moment you pull off the villain's mask. Juries love a good dis-masking, and the perp will find it hard to change his tune when the prosecution has the first verse on tape.

Ernesto Miranda was a Secret Yeti

But even a taped confession may be ruled inadmissible, on the grounds that the villain wasn’t aware of his or her Miranda rights. This one’s easy. Write them down and read them to the villain, before they start spilling their guts.

Carmen Too, I Think

Even if the tape is played for the jury, and especially in light of the fantastic knots you surely used to tie up the villain, the judge—wary of false confessions—may require corroborating evidence. It’s a legal principle called “corpus delecti” or “tasty dead body,” due to its origins in zombie caselaw. Because, seriously, try getting a fair trial when you’re a zombie.

Also, to be admissible, a confession must typically be made voluntarily. This has several implications where kid sleuths are concerned. First of all, while tying the villain up is permissible, you cannot hurt or coerce them in any way while getting their confession. This shouldn’t be a problem, because the villains you’ll run into are strangely eager to detail their crimes once exposed, but too many kid sleuths try to show off by making threats, and thereby ruin their confessions. Don’t fall into this trap.

The second major issue with voluntary confessions is that they must be given while of sound and rational mind. This is the thorniest problem you’ll face as a kid sleuth, because it’s hard to establish rationality when the defendant was apprehended while wearing a fluorescent ghost-pirate costume.

You can never really be rid of this problem, but you can minimize it. When you ask questions, make sure to emphasize the goals of their wicked plan, and not the individual components. Judges can find sound minded rationality in an intricate real estate scam involving straw buyers and stock manipulation through poisoned investor expectations. Not so much when we’re talking about chasing people around in a ghost costume and projecting a sea monster onto a fog bank.

I Got a Message From Johnny Tightlips. Actually, No I Don’t.

Confession App: Your sins have been erased

Above all, never count on a confession.

In the United States, and even in many lesser countries, the accused are not required to testify against themselves, let alone provide a detailed confession. The villain you just caught is entirely within his rights to say nothing at all. Even if you lay his entire plan out in front of him, he can just shrug and ask for a lawyer.

But you’re not going to panic, are you? You’re ready for this, because you documented the physical evidence, wrote down all the clues, and you're ready to make a compelling narrative of events which tells the story almost as well as the perp himself could.

The most important thing to remember is that you could be called to the stand, so make sure you and your dog get your stories straight before testifying.

The Thin Blue Strike Zone at the Idiot-Ball Batting Cage

Always remember that professional investigators will be stunningly unprepared to help with any investigation you find yourself in. No one knows why the real detectives in your home town are so incompetent, or how they manage to keep their jobs when no one can remember them ever actually solving a case. And yet, if you ever point this out while trying to get them to listen to you, it’ll be you that’s the asshole.

Yeah, life isn’t fair.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Interview with Ron Jockman

Ron Jockman. He’s a writer, painter, genius, and 20/20 visionary.

I recently visited Ron in the Southeast African home he built with his own hands and filled with his own watercolor landscape paintings, and asked him a few questions about the Rockman Chronicles.

ROBYN: First of all, Ron, thank you for allowing me to visit you in your Southeast African home that you built with your own hands and filled with your own watercolor landscape paintings, and thank you for letting me ask you a few questions about the Rockman Chronicles.

JOCKMAN: It’s my pleasure.

ROBYN: The first book in the Rockman Chronicles is clearly the finest work in English literature. The second book is tied for finest, but it’s also the book with the most heart. What does its heart look like?

JOCKMAN: I’ve been asked this one a lot. I always tell people it would be an exact replica of a Tyrannosaurus heart. Those animals are fierce mothers, and like the Tyrannosaurus, I’m very protective of my babies — my books.

ROBYN: Are any of your characters based on people you know? For example, I’ve always wondered if John Rockman is based on your mother.

JOCKMAN: Imagine if my mother and I had a baby; I think that would be pretty close to John Rockman’s epicenter. My mother has done a lot to raise me into a good human. Of course as I spread my metaphorical wings, I take what I’ve learned and apply it to my work. As it stands currently, I embody all that John Rockman stands for. It’s so easy to write for a character like that, because it’s not a far stretch. A character like Maria, for instance, was a little more of a challenge. I haven’t had much contact with women outside of my mother, which is very insightful in itself. I’ve done research at the public library, and I have developed a sixth sense about the female brain. I feel like, as I write more of females in my books, I fulfill any annoying human need to procreate. My mom sometimes says Maria’s my girlfriend. [chuckles] I don’t know about that...

ROBYN: Just how frustrating is it, to be infinitely smarter and more competent than those around you?

JOCKMAN: I find that it’s not really frustrating at all. For instance, I know that, just by looking at you, I’m much smarter than you. I’m the one that’s going to sleep easy tonight. You’re the one that has to live with that, you know?

ROBYN: We see a more vulnerable, damaged, man-kissing side of John Rockman in Cosmic Brain. Did you have to practice being vulnerable, damaged, and man-kissy as research for the book?

JOCKMAN: I am a staunch supporter of equal rights in sexual preference. That being said, I would never, ever kiss a man. I do like to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and their effects on society in my work. You’ll see that in The Cosmic Brain of Corruption. It’s literally oozing out of every orifice, burning with meaning and thought provoking secretion.

ROBYN: Who will play John Rockman in the inevitable movie version of the Rockman chronicles?

JOCKMAN: As I’m sure you’re well aware, Robyn, I create ‘Mind Movie Masterpieces,’ as I call them. There is nothing more powerful than the imagination of a creative person. Unfortunately, not all my readers are creative types, which is fine. It’s my job as the creator to paint a scene, a character, a story so well, that my readers can see a glimpse of what I experience every day. You can’t create a big Hollywood movie that will paint a better masterpiece than that. There is no budget out there that can remotely come close to the scale and intricacy of The Rockman Chronicles. There are no actors alive or dead that could be John Rockman, to the extent that I would believe it. Probably Jon Hamm.

ROBYN: I noticed, reading John Rockman and the Cosmic Brain of Corruption, that many supposedly great writers have stolen your ideas before you even published them. Just thinking about it makes me red with sympathy rage. How are you planning to take your revenge?

JOCKMAN: I often say, ‘revenge is a dish best served warm’. I can tell you don’t understand... let me explain. By dish, I don’t mean just a plate — I mean the dish has food on it and the food is warm. Good food. Who wants to eat a cold meal on a plate? No one. Not even my enemies. That way they eat the poison I put in it. Next question.

ROBYN: If you were to become a scientist, which field would your Nobel Prizes be in?

JOCKMAN: That’s a good question. What’s your next one?

ROBYN: Do you ever feel like you’ve gone too far, written something too amazing for today’s readers? If so, how do you deal with that?

JOCKMAN: Once I went too far. I was lost in my own head for days. The only way I got out of that cavernous expanse of wonder and danger was following the call of my mother’s voice. She called to me that dinner was ready and I finally snapped out of my mind-prison. I was on my floor, naked, cold, and shivering. Next to me was a single sheet of paper and written upon it was something so deep, so perceptive, so clever, that I had to destroy it and wipe my memory of its contents. Then I went downstairs and had mac’n’cheese.

ROBYN: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would write books that are printed on murdered trees?

JOCKMAN: I don’t believe in paper. That’s why I make eBooks. Trees are nature’s people and we need to respect them. Though, my books will be available in print edition soon, as per fan request.

ROBYN: These alleged twin brothers I’ve heard of, Justin and Mitchell Lucas, what is their pitiful role in the great Ron Jockman empire?

JOCKMAN: This interview is over.

*  *  *

Ron Jockman's latest book, John Rockman and the Cosmic Brain of Corruption, is available now from Amazon.