A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Rites of the Viking Prince

In the closing moments of the Justice League Unlimited episode "To Another Shore," Wonder Woman recites a poem as the League performs the funeral rites for the Viking Prince. The scene is also intercut with J'onn J'onzz taking leave of the team.

The poem is not identified by name during the episode, but it is the exceedingly appropriate The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The verses that Wonder Woman quotes are from near its end, and read as follows:

And now, all in my own country,
I stood on the firm land!
The Hermit stepp'd forth from the boat,
And scarcely he could stand.

"O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!"
The Hermit cross'd his brow.
"Say quick," quoth he, "I bid thee say—
What manner of man art thou?"

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench'd
With a woful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale;
And then it left me free.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.

Coleridge adds the following notes of explanation in the margins adjacent to these verses:

The ancient Mariner earnestly entreateth the Hermit to shrieve him; and the penance of life falls on him. And ever and anon throughout his future life an agony constraineth him to travel from land to land;

So the next time someone accuses JLU of being merely a children's cartoon, ask them what was the last TV show they watched that quoted a member of the Romantic Movement.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Guest Post: Very High Rollers

One of the biggest comic fans I know is Kurt Mitchell, aka Cei-U! to those on the CBR boards. So although what follows isn't actually about a comic book, it comes from a true comic guru. And in case you doubt Kurt's authority, he knows a thing or two about wheelchairs.

But here's a comic book connection anyway: Crossing Jordan regular Miguel Ferrer has played three significant DC characters onscreen. He was the voice of the Weather Wizard in the Superman: TAS episode with the Flash, and he also voiced Aquaman in that character's episode of Superman. (On Justice League, however, Aquaman's voice is provided by Scott Rummel.) Plus, in a role he might rather forget, he was the villainous 'Weather Man' in the live-action Justice League pilot.

So without further adieu, Cei-U!:


On an episode of Crossing Jordan from last season, a small airplane crashed when a bullet punctured the battery box on a passenger's motorized wheelchair, spilling its sulphuric acid contents. The acid combined with cleaning agents in the carpet to fill the plane with toxic fumes, killing everyone aboard.

This could never happen. The FAA requires that wheelchair batteries travel in the cargo hold boxed in special containers to prevent exactly the kind of accident depicted here.

Moreover, the passenger flew in his/her chair instead of transferring to a standard seat, the chair being clamped down as it would be on a bus. I've flown in jumbo jets and puddle hoppers alike and I've never seen such a thing. #1, airplane doorways are too narrow to admit even a manual wheelchair. #2, neither the passenger or the chair would be secured in place adequately in case of turbulence, etc. In fact, in the Jordan episode, the wheelchair user was thrown forward into the cockpit on impact because he/she wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

So basically the scriptwriters built their mystery around an event that simply would not occur on an American-based air carrier. Guess they figured nobody would notice.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Don't Hate Me For My Peabody

First page, first panel of last week's X-Men #175:

Hearkening back to one of my first posts here, broadcast news journalists don't win Pulitzers. They win Peabodies. If Mr. Roberts actually has a Pulitzer to his name, it has nothing to do with his television career.

Or maybe he just lied on his resume and no one bothered to verify it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Geography of Hazzard County

Speaking of mountains and John Schneider shows (how's that for a segue?)...

I recently rented the first few episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. I'd never watched a full episode before, and I must say that I took to it rather quickly. It's good fun, although I can't help but wonder why the Duke boys didn't lose probation for their repeated assaults and car thefts.

One particularly fun aspect of those first few episodes is that they were shot right near where I currently live, down in Conyers and Covington, Georgia. (Covington, you may recall, was also used to shoot the In the Heat of the Night TV show.) I recognized the Covington town square and courthouse, which both got frequent use early on. The second episode was partly set and shot in Atlanta, and my parents were better at recognizing locations than I.

The reason I say "the first few episodes" is that Dukes was only shot in and around Covington through the fifth episode. Starting with the sixth episode, all shooting was moved to California, outside Los Angeles. This was despite the fact that the fictional Hazzard County was explicitly set in Georgia. Not only did they have to build sets to replace the real bar and town square, but that was the least of it.

Then suddenly, in that sixth episode ("Swamp Molly"), Hazzard County is full of mountains. There's not a single mountain in the first five episodes, because there's not a true mountain (except for Stone Mountain) within 50 miles of Covington. Instead of being on fairly flat country roads, the chases take place among the mountains. Plus, the vegetation and foliage stops looking like that of Georgia, and starts looking an awful lot like West Coast greenery.

As much as I enjoyed those first five episodes, I gotta admit that the changes evidenced in episode six sorta dull my enthusiasm for watching further episodes. The show just doesn't feel like Georgia anymore. The exteriors look like California, the interiors look like sets, and even the actors are lit differently. The show starts feeling less authentic and more staged.

Still, I recommend checking out that first DVD. Those first five episodes are great stuff, and John Schneider and Catherine Bach's commentary on the pilot is one of the best I've heard. In fact, I wish I could buy the single disc without having to invest in a season set.

Monday, September 19, 2005

KO is OK

Since I mentioned Smallville in my last post, and with the show's season premiere coming up next week, there's a page of guilty pleasure that no fan of the show ought be ignorant of:

Neal Bailey's Smallville KO Count

What began as a chronicle of the frequency with which Smallville characters got knocked unconscious eventually evolved into a comprehensive list of unfortunate recurring themes in the show. The number of times Clark has used his powers in front of other people, the number of times cars have been destroyed (sometimes to return unharmed), the number of indictable offenses committed by our leads, etc. In other words, the KO Count is essentially a list of things that Smallville has repeatedly wanted its fans to suspend their disbelief over.

One category is entitled "Mountains in Kansas." Kansas may not have many mountains, but Vancouver, where Smallville is shot, does. So they tend to slip into shots on occasion. I don't particularly mind, since that's really more of a shooting mistake than anything else. And personally, I don't mind the use of forests.

But the show does aggravate me when it comes to the deep, cavernous gorges of Kansas. On the occasions these have appeared, they've been the setting for major and important scenes (like in "Perry"), and were not merely accidental backdrop. It's been years since I've been to Kansas, but I don't recall any the terrain including hundred-foot-plus gorges. Maybe the writers know something I don't; or maybe they forget they're writing about a show set in a rather flat state.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Scott had a couple of good posts this week examining the nature of Superman's vision powers. Heat vision, telescopic vision, and microscopic vision all get addressed, but alas, not x-ray vision. (Given the parameters of the discussion, I'm not sure what could be said.) And thankfully, nothing was said about Superman's newfound "soul vision."

I don't have anything to add on the anatomical side, but I can offer up a little math on the subject of telescopic vision. I can't point to any specific panels, but my gut tells me that Superman's demonstrated some pretty impressive distance-seeing in the past.

Since the Earth is curved, the surface of the planet can only be seen as far as the horizon. For an eye located six feet off the ground, the horizon (assuming level terrain) is located just 3.3 miles away. So when he's standing, he shouldn't be able to see anything further than that.

Of course, sometimes Superman is flying when he scopes out the terrain. At 100 feet, the horizon is 13.5 miles away. At a mile in the air, the horizon is nearly 98 miles away. At two miles, one can see 138 miles.

Now Superman has x-ray vision too, so I suppose it's possible he could use the two in conjuction and peer through the Earth at something impossibly far away. But this would mean that when he takes a glance at the next state over, he ought to be looking at the ground, and not straight at the horizon.

And speaking of super-vision, with the season premiere of Smallville coming up, I'd like a moment's gripe about the show's treatment of telescopic vision. A full episode was devoted to Clark discovering his X-Ray vision, and another full episode to his development of heat vision. Both were better than average episodes. But the show has also had him utilize telescopic vision on intermittent occasions, without ever commenting on it or mentioning it as a unique power. Sloppy writing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Deadshot Sings!

Villains United eventually proved to be not to my liking, but I bought the recent Deadshot mini-series off of eBay and was pleasantly surprised. And I don't know how much company I have, but I greatly prefer the costume Steve Cummings designed for Deadshot in this mini. I've never been a fan of his more gaudy getup (which he's wearing again in VU), and I thought this one was better looking and more sensible (it even incorporates a bullet-proof vest).

In #3, Floyd Lawton's (Deadshot's) newfound daughter asks him for a lullaby. She requests the Raffi classic, Baby Beluga. If you aren't familiar with this song, ask someone in their 20s for the first thing they think of when hearing the word 'beluga.' It'll probably be this song.

And the NIH site I linked to above has this neat factoid: "Despite these wonderful lyrics, baby beluga whales are not really white." Heh.

Unfortunately, Floyd isn't versed in the Raffi songbook, so he sings her a lullaby that his grandmother used. The song is An Irish Lullaby (Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral), and the linked site has both lyrics and a Midi file of the tune. (Note: The Midi begins with one pass of the refrain, and then goes back and starts the first verse.)

I'm rather fond of folk tunes and Irish folk tunes, but I hadn't heard this one before. My mom knew it, though. It's a nice song.

And on the subject of Deadshot, there are a few guest-stars in the last issue of the mini. Chances are, you didn't recognize them; that's because they're wonderfully obscure. This page will explain who most of them are.

On the other hand, if you are familiar with these fellows, then you might have wondered "Isn't s/he dead?" Well, author Christos Gage himself has the answer for you, as well as where each character was last seen. You can find his answers here and here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Flash Faces

Flash #225 by Geoff Johns and Howard Porter

Last week's cover for the final Flash issue by Geoff Johns is something of an homage to George Perez's cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #5:

I count 48 rogues in eight rows. Unfortunately, I can't say that I recognize them all. With a little help taken from the Geoff Johns board, here's the list I've assembled.

Row 1: Shade, Dr. Polaris, ?, Blaquesmith, The Thinker, Folded Man, Rival, Professor Zoom
Row 2: Mr. Frost, ?, ?, ?, Inertia, Rudolph West
Row 3: ?, ?, Replicant
Row 4: Peek-A-Boo, Brother Grimm, The Suit
Row 5: Abra Kadabra, , ?, Murmur, Zoom
Row 6: Weather Wizard, Double Down, Turtle, Grodd, ?, Mirror Master, Pied Piper, Trickster I
Row 7: Dr. Alchemy, Fallout, Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang II, Fiddler, Colonel Computron, Heat Wave, Clive Yorkin
Row 8: Plunder, Magenta, The Top, Girder, Tar Pit, Vandal Savage, Cicada

That still leaves nine unidentified rogues. Perhaps not surprisingly, most are partially obscured by the central logo. There are some guesses that I'm not confident enough to include yet. Such as Warden Wolfe on Row 1, President Thawne on Row 2, Trickster II and Mr. Element on Row 3, and Chillblaine on Row 5. Any suggestions or corrections?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Seven Soldiers and the Sheeda Script

If you have been following Grant Morrison's "Seven Soldiers" event, you probably found the Sheeda dialogue in Shining Knight #4 to be somewhat unintelligible.

Fortunately, courtesy of two CBR posters, CaptMagellen and Wesley Dodds, and brought to my attention via Comics Should Be Good, that Morrisonian attempt at obfuscation has been, well, de-obfuscated.

Comics Should Be Good: Translating the Language of the Sheeda

Kudos to the decipherers.

Friday, September 02, 2005

JSA #76: The Trial of Atom Smasher

JSA #76 by Geoff Johns and Don Kramer

"Albert Rothstein has been charged with violations of international criminal law in causing death, injury and destruction during Black Adam's invasion of Kahndaq. Despite the interference of the D.E.O. and various heroes speaking out on Rothstein's behalf, the trial of Atom Smasher was set to begin this morning at ten o'clock.

"The courtroom has been closed off from the media and the meta-human community...in addition, just minutes ago, all witnesses for the prosecution and defense have been released before testimony. Why is anyone's guess."

That's from a news reporter on the first page of JSA #76. On the second page, one character notes that only a month has passed since Al was brought back to the U.S. at the end of #75. So whereas Kobra's trial took forever to happen, Al's was apparently put in the express lane.

Now where to begin...

The concept of "international criminal law" is a bit hazy. Most formalized international law deals with state actors, and not private individuals. And if such an international code exists in the DCU, then Atom Smasher would be on trial in a 'International Criminal Court' (like one that is currently proposed), and not in a New York federal courthouse.

However, the U.S. does have various federal statutes that could probably apply to the essentially mercenary actions that Atom Smasher engaged in. For instance, if an American citizen murders a foreign official outside of U.S. borders, the U.S. courts can still have jurisdiction over that crime. So let's assume that's what the reporter was referring to. There's still some potential trouble with this approach, but at least it gets us into a US courthouse.

There are a number of problems with the trial as presented, but most of them could have been avoided with a simple change in terminology: this should have been Atom Smasher's arraignment, not his trial.

Before a criminal trial can take place, there is a series of pre-trial procedures. First, since this is a federal trial, there will be a grand jury indictment. The prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury, and if they're persuaded that the accused probably committed the crime, then they issue an indictment on the specific charges. Second, there is an arraignment, in which the defendant is formally notified of the charges against him, and during which he makes his plea of 'guilty' or 'not guilty.' Then there are various other little motions and hearings, and the trial comes at the end.

On page three, we're shown Al in the courtroom, as he issues a 'Guilty' plea:

As you see, he's cuffed and in jail clothes. It also appears that his attorney didn't bring a briefcase or much of any paperwork, making him look rather unprepared for a major trial. It was already said on page one that Al turned himself in to the authorities as soon as he returned to the U.S., and later in the issue, as he's being led into a police vehicle, Al tells his teammates "I'm finally doing something right...I'm standing up for what I believe in...Justice."

All of this makes infinitely more sense in the context of an arraignment than in a trial. The clothes and cuffs are commonplace at arraignments, and there's very little paperwork involved. The month-long timetable given is much more believable for an arraignment than a full trial.

But more importantly, if Al truly felt remorse over his actions, and wanted to "stand up for what [he] believes in," then the arraignment would have been the ideal time to plead guilty. If he made it all the way to trial, that means he pled 'Not Guilty' at the arraignment, and forced both his attorney and the prosecution to spend weeks preparing for a case that didn't happen. Granted, last-minute guilty pleas happen all the time, but Al is presented as someone who has had a heavy conscience since the moment he returned to the States. There's no reason for him to drag the proceedings out if he always wanted to "do something right" and plead guilty.

Plus, as an arraignment, it could have avoided the page one scene with some of the little flubs I quoted above. Cameras are always excluded from federal criminal cases, but the entire media cannot be excluded. And in a major trial, "all witnesses for the prosecution and defense" are not all present at the same time. Instead, they are more or less scheduled as needed to appear.

Besides, I'm not sure how anyone was planning to use the various JSAers to prove their case. If he's charged with Muhunnad's murder, none of them saw him kill Muhunnad, or ever saw the dead dictator's body. None of them could testify that Al was the one who even did the killing (although if someone could produce the body, the size 68 bootprint on it would be persuasive evidence). The Atom would have been a pretty good witness, since he observed some of the fallout, but alas, he's not around. On the other hand, if Al is charged with some other crime, maybe their testimony would play into it.

That's it for the 'trial' itself, so now for the laughable part. After pleading guilty, Atom Smasher is led by two police officers down the front steps of the courthouse to a police van parked in the street. Other officers are holding back the media, who are standing only a few feet away. And there are also plenty of protesters nearby.

In other words, the security at this DCU courthouse is ridiculously absurd. Instead of keeping the prisoner in closed quarters, and taking him from the courthouse along a secured route, they walk him out the front door, into the open and alongside dozens of reporters and supporters. And Atom Smasher proves moments later that he's completely capable of breaking his cuffs and escaping. Why does Johns have officers treating a prisoner so unusually? Because it's essential to the nine-page 'The OMAC Project' Crossover fight that immediately follows (follow the link for my rant about how the issue was 2/3's 'Infinite Crisis' crossover material).

The last couple of pages take the action to good ol' Belle Reve Prison. Its given location, Terrebonne Parish (the issue misspells it as Terrebone), is in southern Louisiana, and was one of the areas hit hard by Hurricane Katrina earlier this week. The parish (which was also the setting of the recent movie "The Skeleton Key") is highlighted on this map: