Fan-Cast: Agatha Harkness

Viewers of “WandaVision” were recently introduced to the MCU version of Agatha Harkness, portrayed by the 40-something comedic actress Kathryn Hahn. I didn’t care for her ‘Agnes’ persona, but her villainous true-self wasn’t bad. (Actually, she was very bad.) But, I would have preferred that she be portrayed closer to the comic version, both physically and in terms of the story and characters. So, here’s a little synopsis of the character from the source material, along with three candidates to play a live-acton version of her.

Agatha Harkness

Agatha Harkness

Agatha Harkness is a powerful witch, mother of the duplicitous warlock Nicholas Scratch, and grandmother of the magically-powered villains known as “Salem’s Seven”. She was initially introduced to readers as a nanny (or, governess) for the infant Franklin Richards, son of the Fantastic Four’s Reed and Susan Richards. After fighting off the Frightful Four, she admitted to being a witch. Her other claim to fame is that she later became mentor to Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, in the use of her “chaos magic”.

With her connections to both the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, it is no surprise that Harkness aided both groups from time to time, e.g., fighting against Salem’s Seven, Annihilus, Immortus, Chaos. She has also teamed with other mystics. At one point, the Salem’s Seven captured and killed Harkness, though she was still able to aid the heroes in her astral form. She later returned “alive & well”, but that turned out to be a magical construct created by the mentally-unstable Scarlet Witch who had killed her mentor. Harkness’ long-dead corpse was later discovered, but she still gave aid in ghost form. Subsequent events led to her actually returning to life in corporeal form.

Harkness is a formidable sorceress, smart and very knowledgeable, who uses magic to teleport, project energy blasts, hypnotize, communicate telepathically, transmute matter, and cast illusions. She can also tap into other dimensions via spells, giving her access to and sometimes control over extradimensional beings or objects of power. Her mystical sources and abilities have allowed her to sense and then notify the FF of impending threats. Her familiar, a black cat named ‘Ebony’, could transform into a black panther. That is, until Harkness sacrificed Ebony in a ritual to give herself precognitive visions. Strange episodes like this aside, as well as her tendency to be rather secretive, she is considered a valued ally to the superhero community.

Agatha welcomes FF into her home

Though several millennia old, Harkness typically appears as a slender, reasonably healthy, human woman in at least her 60s, if not 70s or older. She is Caucasian, roughly 5’11”, with white or gray hair. I’m not too concerned about height, plus it would greatly diminish the number of possible candidates if I limited myself to very tall women. So, I set a height-range of 5’6″ to 6′. Hair is obviously not an issue, thanks to coloring and wigs. Age-wise, finding someone in her 70s or 80s would be great, as long as she is sufficiently healthy and active. But, I figure someone in her 60s would be fine, too, and she could be aged a bit with makeup and/or facial appliances if necessary.

I briefly considered the likes of Maggie Smith (5’5″,b.1934), Judi Dench (5’1″,b.1934), Rosemary Harris (5’4.5″,b.1927), and Helen Mirren (5’4″,b.1945). But they were each too short and/or, to be frank, not the right body shape. (Sorry, ladies.) I even thought of Tilda Swinton (5’10.5″,b.1960), but I can’t really see her in the part. Besides, she already plays a sorceress in the MCU. That leaves….

Jane Alexander (2012)
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Celebrated stage & film actress Jane Alexander (5’6.5″,b.1939) just makes our height requirement, but she is perfect for an 80ish Agatha. She is mostly known for such dramas as The Great White Hope, Kramer vs. Kramer, and a number of TV movies. But, she has also appeared in genre fare like The New Centurions, Testament, The Ring, Terminator Salvation, and TV shows include “Forever”, “Elementary”, “The Blacklist”, and last year’s “Tales from the Loop”. She certainly has the talent, and I think she could make an amazing ‘Agatha Harkness’.

.

.

.

.

Laila Robins

Another alumnus from “The Blacklist” is Laila Robins (5’7″?,b.1959). She is one of those faces who has been around a while, and you ask yourself, “Where have I seen her before?” On the big screen she has been in productions like An Innocent Man, The Good Shepherd, Island Zero. Additional small screen roles have been in “Gabriel’s Fire”, “Law & Order”, “The Sopranos”, “Witchblade”, “Homeland”, “Murder in the First”, and more recently “The Boys”. If you are familiar with her, you know she can play stern, tough, sometimes scary women, who can freeze you with a stare. Perfect for a powerful, near-immortal sorceress, eh?

.

.

.

Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch (6′,b.1960) is almost too tall, if you can believe it! She seems to have an affinity for appearing in TV dramas and sitcoms. (And “Glee”, of course.) But, she has also acted in the following more genre-relevant productions: The Fugitive, Fatal Instinct, “The X-Files”, “The Dead Zone”, “CSI”, “Manhunt”, “Criminal Minds”. She has also done voice work on things like “The Spectacular Spider-Man”, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Shrek Forever After, “The Super Hero Squad Show”, and many others. Given the right wardrobe and a few more wrinkles, Lynch could be our Ms. Harkness.

.

.

.

Have a great week!

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2021.

First Officer Candidates for Star Trek Discovery, Season 4

Discovery bridge crew, Season 4

Originally, I was going to wait a bit longer before addressing this question. But, with the first Season 4 trailer now released, I may as well go for it. At this point, I am assuming you have already watched through Season 3, so I’m not going to censor myself regarding the status of certain crewmembers. Consider this fair warning…

If you read my review of Season 3, you might recall that I briefly touched on the matter of filling the First Officer position. To recap & elaborate, there are only a few Discovery officers with the rank of Commander or Lt. Commander, which I think would be a normal requirement for a First Officer. (I could be wrong.) Of those we have been introduced to:

1) Dr. Pollard might have the rank, but the CMO needs to focus on sickbay.

2) Cmdr. Reno’s personality makes her not a good fit, nor would she want the job.

3) Cmdr. Nhan would have been a great choice. But, unless circumstances make her unable to continue her current duties watching over the seed-ship USS Tikhov, or she is replaced by another Barzan, she won’t be available.

4) Lt. Cmdr. Stamets’ personality (and current resentment/anger toward Burnham) might be an issue, and he would most likely prefer to remain in his lab. Otoh, Stamets as F.O. could make for an interesting dynamic…

5) Dr. Culber might also have the rank, but there is a similar issue with him being needed in sickbay.

6) If they hadn’t written Lt. Cmdr. Airiam off the show at the end of Season 2, sacrificing herself for the ship, she would have been a great choice, as well.

All of this assumes, of course, that Saru does not return to the ship, or he either respectfully declines the offer, or it isn’t offered to him. (And I’m fine with any of those.) In the trailer, there is a quick glimpse of someone tall (and possibly bald) in a red, command jacket on the bridge with the others. (See pic above.) It could very well be Saru, but the image isn’t clear enough to be certain, and he has an additional symbol of some sort on his right lapel, which could indicate a special status or assignment. It has been suggested that he might take an ambassadorial role, and that might work.

Linus

It’s possible there is someone else of sufficient rank on the ship that audiences have yet to meet, or Burnham could promote a Lieutenant, I suppose. The rest of the bridge crew are younger but, while quite competent, no one really stands out as promotable right now. A recurring character that people like and that might be a possibility, though, is Linus the Saurian.

It is also possible that someone from 32nd-century Starfleet will be transferred to Discovery for that assignment. I mentioned that I thought Lt. Willa might be a good candidate for the Security Chief position, so maybe we’ll get two new crewmembers? If so, I vote for a non-human and preferably male First Officer. On that possibility, various familiar races have been suggested. I don’t mind the idea of a male Bajoran, for example, which would presumably have the usual empathic abilities.

However, I would really like to see a “new” race used here. That’s one reason I can get behind promoting Linus. (An early episode in which he shows initiative and leadership ability would help his case.) But, having a totally new species represented would add even more areas to explore regarding new customs/history, 32nd-cent. perspectives, understanding and friendships developing with other crewmembers, etc. Most important, of course, is that the character be interesting and provide a good sounding-board and/or corrective for Capt. Burnham.

That’s my 2 cents on the topic, anyway. What about you?

Review of Zack Snyder’s Justice League

“Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League is an UNbutchered mess.” — Rich from Red Letter Media

Well, Zack Snyder’s Justice League (aka ZSJL or “the Snyder Cut”) dropped the other day and, as expected, it has been the talk of the town and quite a source of controversy. (And a welcome distraction from real-world crap, for sure.) Yes, I have seen all 4 hours worth, but I hesitated to weigh in with my two cents. On the other hand, I’ve done it before, so I guess my real reason for hesitating is that there’s a lot to review and consider and try to articulate. (This is a major reason for my posting more than a day later than usual.) Alright, enough whining…

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

As usual, it bothers me when writers/directors change (what I feel to be) important parts of a character’s backstory, personality, powers, inter-relationships, etc., just to fit their own “artistic vision”. I have complained about this regarding Marvel’s TV and films, too. But, let me start here by pointing out a few such things on the DC side — mostly from Snyder’s films — that are not necessarily new for the Snyder Cut.

Aquaman has become (as a friend of mine said) a “bro”. In other words, he is pretty much like Jason Momoa himself. I find Momoa fairly entertaining in the right context, but I don’t think this personality fits the character. On a related note, I don’t mind Mera being given a British accent (did the other Atlanteans have it?), though something a little different-sounding might have been nice.

The DCEU’s Barry Allen ‘Flash’ is also nothing like the comics character. That version of Barry is already an established forensic scientist, fairly mature and self-assured. Physical differences aside, they have made him more like a cross between Wally West (i.e., more humor) and some aimless, socially-awkward 20-year-old. (In other words, a semi-lame attempt at capturing the ‘Peter Parker’ vibe.) This also means they’ll need to give him a different origins story, and he has apparently had his superspeed powers for some time. Not sure I care for his supersuit, either. Incidentally, why change the Flash’s lightning-effect from yellow (in the comics and TV) to bluish? (The colors have some significance in the source material, which Snyder is either ignorant of or, more likely, ignores.) Was this just on a Snyder-whim? And the way this Flash runs, with his arms flappin’ around… cringe!

All due respect to Amy Adams, who may be a decent actor, but her version of Lois Lane leaves something to be desired. (Blame it on the writing? Directing?) Besides the fact that she should be a brunette, she does not have the same drive and journalistic curiosity that the character normally has. That character would also not hide out and mope in her apartment for months after Clark died. She would bury herself in her work. Which brings me to…

Lois | Clark | Martha

Martian Manhunter. I appreciate the cameo (forced as it was), and the character’s visual appearance was fine. But, this seems like an odd way to introduce him. For one, wouldn’t Lois and Martha realize — perhaps sooner rather than later — that something odd happened there, since only Lois would remember the conversation? (Maybe MM didn’t care, as long as he could light a fire under Lois to get back to work?) More importantly, if MM has been around and observing the activities of Superman et al., why didn’t he assist in the fights against Doomsday or the Kryptonians earlier and the Apokolyptians this time? Not very heroic. I’m sure he could have figured out a way for his Gen. Swanwick identity to be “out of the office” for a few hours so he could help fight or at least save a few civilians. Makes you wonder if Snyder ever intended to have MM show up in the original. Did he just throw him into the Snyder Cut ‘cuz he thought MM was cool and the fans would go ga-ga?

Other cameos: I’ve complained before that I truly dislike Jesse Eisenberg’s ‘Luthor’. Ugh! Too short, too wimpy, does not have a commanding presence or adequately convey Lex’s cruel and sinister genius, etc. I like that the scenes with Ryan Choi (Ryan Zheng) were restored for the Snyder Cut, and I wonder if Snyder had plans to include him in later films if the Snyderverse continued. (FYI, the comics version of Choi became The Atom when his mentor, Ray Palmer (aka The Atom) went missing. Would Snyder totally ignore the Palmer character?) As in the Whedon version, I thought it was cool that an alien Green Lantern was seen in the ancient battle. But, despite the slight change, I still thought he was dispatched too quickly. Deathstroke’s brief appearances were welcome, and I hope the film focusing on the character eventually gets made, even if the ones teased by the two versions of the yacht conversation won’t. (More on the “Knightmare” end-scene later.) I was glad to see DeSaad, and even Granny Goodness had a quick, line-less cameo!

About the length… Four hours is definitely a bit much for a movie. Heck, that’s almost as long as one of The Return of the King Extended Editions! I watched it over two nights, roughly two hours apiece, and I found the pacing a little slow in the beginning — for a movie, that is. If it had been split into, say, a 4- or 5-part mini-series, that might have worked a little better. I suppose if you didn’t mind having very different-length “episodes”, you could follow the Part structure given.

Snyder’s Steppenwolf

Also, there are a few scenes that could have been shortened. For example, I don’t really care about some Icelandic women singing some song as Aquaman heads back out into the ocean. (He apparently visits that village with regularity, and they don’t treat him like a god or king, so what’s the big deal?) Also, I swear Steppenwolf gave almost the exact same status report to DeSaad at least twice (“My parademons can smell the Mother Boxes and they are hunting down the other(s).”). They should have fixed that in editing. On the other hand, several scenes were lengthened or added in that helped build tension, smooth out the pacing, add emotion, humanize the characters, advance the plot, etc., and I appreciated that.

Plotwise, while not perfect (and what is?), it was pretty good. It would have been nice to have a bit more explanation about things like the Anti-Life Equation and the “Knightmare” visions. But, I imagine those were supposed to be answered in future Snyderverse movies, which it now appears Warner Bros. does not want to continue. From what I have heard/read about Snyder’s plans, this is probably a good thing, as they would just cause true-blue DC fans to scream even louder at the liberties he takes with characters, ignoring established mythos, etc.

One major plot point in the Snyder Cut that really bugged me: Are you telling me that Darkseid and his acolytes all forgot the name of the only planet that repelled his invasion and contained the Anti-Life Equation? Not even a digital record? And it took millennia for them to find it again? WHAT?!!

I also did not care for the opening scene with Superman’s death-scream reverberating around the globe and awakening the Mother Boxes. What the heck?!

Darkseid himself looked cool, if not exactly comics-accurate, and I’m glad we finally got to witness him on the big-screen. But, though he was fearsome, he wasn’t quite fearsome enough, imo. Maybe Snyder wanted to save revealing the full might and brutality of the Lord of Apokolips for a (now highly doubtful) sequel? Oh, he also should have been bigger, wider, as in most comic versions of him.

DeSaad | Darkseid | Granny Goodness(?)

Steppenwolf seemed a tad too powerful to me, though I’m not a huge fan of the New Gods/Apokolips stuff, so it might be an accurate depiction. Definitely an improvement over the “Josstice League” version (i.e., Joss Whedon’s original Justice League (2017)). His constantly fluctuating armor was interesting, though, and I found it somewhat amusing that he occasionally acted like the Hulk with his snorts and shrugs. A definite plus re the Snyder Cut version, though, was that he was a more complex character with understandable motivations.

Though I did not go back and re-watch the “Josstice League” before checking out the Snyder Cut, I am aware of some of the changes. For example, some of the dialogue was fixed to be less jokey, especially at inappropriate times. Even more importantly, the characters’ motivations were clearer (as I mentioned re Steppenwolf). Cyborg in particular was much improved by Snyder, who gave him an entire backstory, which in turn explained much of his actions and those of his father, Silas. (Though, to be fair, a couple parts in the Cyborg stuff could have been trimmed.) Each of the heroes went through an arc of their own, dealing with personal issues of doubt, insecurity, anger, guilt, etc. But, I think the two that had the most character growth were Cyborg and Flash.

There were also nice tributes to iconic comic stories (e.g., “Flashpoint”, “A Death in the Family”) as well as lines tying back to previous Snyderverse films. The former shows that Snyder is at least familiar with some of the big stories from the characters’ publishing history. The latter helped to remind viewers (if anyone needed help) that his films are all connected.

Some have complained about Superman’s resurrection being so different from that in the source material. Well, yes. But, given that movie adaptations are, as we are constantly reminded, “alternate timelines” from those in the comics, should that really be a surprise? The other part of this complaint has to do with the black costume. While it was cool to see it be part of the “return of Superman”, as in the comics, there didn’t really seem to be a purpose for it in the film. In the comics, I think it was constructed as a way to more efficiently recharge his cells with solar energy (and, thus, to heal) after having been buried for several weeks. In the film, we see Supes fly up high as the Sun came over the horizon, but nothing is said about the significance of the black suit. By extension, I have to assume that the reason he was still wearing the black suit when he showed up to join the fight against Steppenwolf was that it helped store additional solar energy, thereby enhancing his powers. But, again, no explanation.

You may be wondering if there are some scenes that I really liked, and the answer is “Absolutely!” In fact, most of the fight scenes were quite enjoyable, beginning with that one in the beginning where Wonder Woman saved the hostages. Great display of her powers in this, especially her speed. The scene was in the “Josstice League”, too, but Snyder added to it here & there, allowing a bit more graphicness to the violence, longer tension build-up, and that sweet bit at the end with Diana assuring the little girl. The Amazons were great, despite ultimately losing to Steppenwolf. The slightly revised version of the ancient battle against Darkseid — not Steppenwolf — and his parademons was epic! (I wish we could see more of Zeus, Ares, and Artemis.)

The final battle against Steppenwolf is much improved and more satisfying than in “Josstice League”. For one thing, when Superman showed up to save the day in that one, he did most of the work. In the Snyder Cut, he turns the tide but the others play a bigger part, too. In fact, they failed, except that Flash — rather than being relegated to “bug duty” and “civilian evacuation” — plays a crucial part (after Batman saves him), pushing himself to perform a very cool time-reversal maneuver, then delivering the massive electrical charge Cyborg needed. Superman helps separate the boxes (as before), then he seriously wounds Steppenwolf, Aquaman skewers him with a trident, and Wonder Woman decapitates him in the coup de grace. Teamwork! Some might object to the execution, but I thought it was justified and heartily approve, despite Steppenwolf being a more layered and sympathetic character than in the Whedon version.

The final “Knightmare” scene is… interesting. Clearly, Snyder was giving audiences a taste of a possible timeline he wanted to pursue — one which I suspect and hope would be temporary and eventually “corrected” via another time-travel stunt. Personally, I have little interest in an “evil Superman” story (though they have been done in the comics), especially after what he has already been through in prior Snyderverse films. The scene presented an intriguing group of “heroes”, though, the most surprising being Jared Leto’s Joker. (Not my favorite, btw.) The interaction between him and Batman bothered some people, I know, but I thought it served as a decent combo of exposition and exploration of their relationship. Heck, I was just happy this Joker didn’t have the tats and metal teeth seen in his other appearances.

Martian Manhunter

The one question I was left with, which no one else I have read or heard has asked, is: Where was Martian Manhunter? He told Bruce that he realized he had “a stake in this world and it’s time I started fighting for it.” So, why no sign or mention of Martian Manhunter in the Knightmare? You might say, “The Knightmare was in Bruce’s mind, and he wasn’t yet aware of MM’s existence.” True, but that and his other vision of the Knightmare timeline, if they really are predictive of something that is going to happen, are coming from somewhere/someone. (Highfather? Metron?) If so, MM should be referenced in some fashion, regardless of whether or not present-day Bruce knows him. Just my opinion.

So,… The Snyder Cut has a lot going for it, and it’s a definite improvement over the 2017 Justice League. It’s good, very good in parts. More compelling and less frustrating, with a more consistent tone. Would I watch it again? Sure, but probably not for a couple years, at least. I really wanted to like it more, but the negative aspects keep me from rating it higher. Perhaps it should be renamed “Zack Snyder’s Mixed Bag”?

Will Re-Casting Kate Kane Save Batwoman?

“While this pestering social justice vibe they give off is a huge annoyance that takes away from what makes Batwoman actually cool, there are other problems too.” — 1-star reviewer from LGBTQ community

The CW’s “Batwoman” TV series has been struggling since even before it debuted. The initial teaser rated favorably, but the first full trailer at one point had 5x as many Dislikes as Likes. Once the show got underway, many viewers were turned off by the in-your-face SJW agenda, not to mention poor-to-mediocre writing and (mostly) mediocre acting. Many LGBTQ people (and their allies) loyally gave the show good reviews and blamed the show’s problems on “conservatives and straight white men”. (I resemble that remark!) However, the professional critics/reviewers largely disagreed, including many who were LGBTQ themselves (e.g., see quote above). Meanwhile, the show’s viewership continued to drop drastically.

Wallis Day as Nyssa-Vex | Ruby Rose as Batwoman

Then the show’s star, Ruby Rose, announced she would not be returning for the already-approved second season. I wrote a little about this here. After much speculation, the producers cast Javicia Leslie, who is not only LGBTQ — the primary casting requirement, apparently — but Black, as well. Given her fitness- and fight-training, I thought she might be a decent choice. But, by the time Season 2 rolled around, I had no interest. I never watched it. From what I have heard and read, though, the writing was at least as bad and agenda-driven as before. Also, I understand that they explained the reason for the new Batwoman, Ryan Wilder, was because Kate Kane had mysteriously disappeared and left her costume behind. Only very recently did they give a hint re Kane’s status, saying she was alive but “injured beyond recognition due to the plane crash over Gotham City.” Meanwhile, again, the show’s ratings and viewership have tanked.

So, half-way through this season, they have now announced that model/actress Wallis Day has been cast as the new Kate Kane. I liked Day in the “Krypton” series, and she has some martial arts training, so this is a good sign. Kane’s serious injuries will explain her absence and reconstructive surgery will explain her altered appearance. Just how she figures into the show is unclear. Will she re-appear fully recuperated and retake the mantle of the bat right away? (I don’t know how much time has passed since the plane crash.) How long will Wilder stick around? Maybe Wilder will continue to operate as Batwoman and Kane will merely advise, train, finance, etc.? Will the Ryan Wilder character leave the show and all the focus go to Kate Kane again?

More importantly, will the writers finally lay off the LGBTQ / SJW emphasis and just write good stories? Have they learned their lesson? Given that it is the CW, which has a lot of LGBTQ people involved in their shows, I sorta doubt it. But, I might give the latest incarnation of the show a peek just to see for myself….

Freakshow

Several years ago, I had an interesting idea for a superhero. (Well, I think it’s interesting.) I never came up with a storyline or even a name (civilian or otherwise), so this is little more than just a basic character sketch.

Adventurer/crimefighter (male, 30ish?) with several abnormalities / medical conditions that give him an “edge” (and maybe a couple others that are basically harmless), plus one or two that could be liabilities. The concept for this hero is more grounded in reality than for many others, as the medical conditions in question are all real-life conditions with varying degrees of rarity. But, I’ve never heard of anyone having more than one. Here’s what I came up with:

“double-muscled” whippet dog

1) Exceptional Muscle Mass — There is a DNA mutation that blocks production of protein called myostatin, which normally limits muscle growth. Usually this happens in dogs, mice, and cattle specifically bred for it. The effect is that the subject is unusually muscly without needing to work out a lot or change his diet much. Our hero works out a bit to maintain muscle tone but the “definition” comes naturally. He is somewhat self-concious of his freakish appearance, always wearing baggy clothes (except when crimefighting). This might make for a good plotline, where he tries to find a safe method to reactivate his myostatin, effectively stopping him from getting any more massive.

2) Heart on Right Side of Chest (i.e., isolated dextrocardia) — As you may remember from basic human anatomy class, the human heart is located on the left side of the chest. However, there is a rare congenital condition in which the heart (and possibly other organs?) has switched sides. Some people who have this condition can suffer from other heart or lung conditions. Our hero is obviously pretty healthy despite his “issues”, but this might be an avenue to explore. For example, this could be an advantage should someone try to stab him in the heart.

3) Eidetic Memory — Sometimes called “perfect recall”, this ability allows the subject to “see an object for a few minutes after it is no longer present”. Though sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, this is not to be confused with “photographic memory” (“the ability to recall pages of text or numbers, or similar, in great detail”), which has never been proven to exist. Nevertheless, our hero uses various mnemonic and other techniques to retain many details of things he has seen or heard in both short- and long-term memory.

4) Amazing Double-jointedness — Despite his unusual natural muscle mass, our hero is rather flexible, thanks to “hypermobility” (i.e., his joints can stretch farther than normal). His mass will never allow him to be a contortionist, but this ability — which he aids with stretching exercises in his workout regimen — has helped him to get out of things like handcuffs, wrestling holds, and other binds.

5) Complete Heterochromia — This condition causes his eyes to be of two different colors. In his case, the left eye is dark brown and the right eye is light bluish-gray. This is reflected on his driver’s license, of course, and his friends and colleagues have noticed (and often comment on) his odd eyes. Wearing one or more contacts during his “extracurricular” activities could be dangerous, as they could easily get lost, broken, or damage his eye(s). So, he either wears sunglasses or (when fully in costume) tinted goggles to avoid people identifying him via this unusual feature. (I didn’t make it explicit before, but he does try to keep his dual-identity a secret from most people.)

heterochromic man

6) Two Simultaneous DNA “fingerprints” — I saw/heard about this on some cop show, and it turns out that it’s real. FYI, despite having the same DNA, identical twins do not have identical fingerprints. However, here is something truly weird. Because fraternal twins come from two different sperm (and two different eggs, obviously), their genetic makeup results in two different sets of DNA. In rare cases during the early stages of pregnancy, one twin dies and some of its fetal tissue is absorbed into the survivor. If they are fraternal, the surviving twin (which is usually pretty healthy) may become a “chimera”, meaning s/he now has two sets of active DNA. This was the case for our hero, and it could work to his advantage if he ever accidentally left blood, sweat, or spit at a crime scene.

7) Excessive Body Hair — There is a condition called hypertrichosis, which causes unusual hair growth in amount and/or location. Cases can range from mild to serious (e.g., circus sideshow performers billed as “dog-faced boy” or “werewolf family”). Our hero suffers from a relatively mild form of congenital generalized hypertrichosis, which mostly affects his face and upper body. For those not making a living in a circus or carnival, modern treatments include lasers, depilatory creams, plucking, “hot waxing”, and shaving. He doesn’t have the money for expensive procedures, so he mostly sticks to regular shaving, plucking, and creams.

8) Extra Appendages — Specifically, he had a small, sixth toe on each foot, a third nipple (or “nubbin”, as Chandler Bing on “Friends” called his), and a “tail”. (Technically, the “tail” was not a true, functional tail.) The toes and tail were removed when he was an infant, while the extra “nipple” just looks like a mole and isn’t really an issue.

Our intrepid hero will need to take a doctor into his confidence, one who knows about all of his physical and genetic abnormalities and who can prescribe medication and treat any wounds without those abnormalities being flagged (not to mention avoiding reports of bullet & knife wounds, etc.). Perhaps he has a family-member or friend with medical training? Army medic?

Note that, despite my title for this post, our hero would not call himself “Freakshow” or anything else that indicated he had any of these conditions. He tries not to call attention to any of them, either in civilian life or while crimefighting. (Why would he?) The only things that might become apparent to criminals and/or the general public would be his size/strength and possibly the double-jointedness. Any codename given him by media or criminals should not, therefore, reflect any oddities, either.

Weird, eh?

A Modern Stone Age Theory

Have you heard of this?

The Flintstones

There is a theory out there that “The Flintstones” (1960-1966, spinoffs in the 1970s & 1980s) and “The Jetsons” (1962-1963, 1985-1987) TV series are connected. But, not in the way you might think.

Sure, they were “sister series”, originally produced in the 1960s by the same company (Hanna-Barbera), and sharing a ’60s aesthetic, as well as a few of the same voice talents (e.g., Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl, Don Messick, Howard Morris) and the same composer (Hoyt Curtin) for their theme songs. So, there are certain similarities. But, about that Flintstones theme song — a “modern Stone Age family”? Could this be a hint that the Flintstones exist in a second, post-apocalyptic Stone Age? Might they actually live in a later future than the Jetsons?

Consider the following…

1) The Flintstones and their fellow Bedrockers (Bedrockians? Bedrockites?) appear to be mutants. (Or, perhaps, further evolved, depending on your point of view, especially since mutation is a big part of evolutionary theory.) What do I mean? Well the people in both shows have unusually large heads for their bodies, and they have only 3 fingers (plus thumb) on each hand and 4 toes on each foot. Then, when you consider that the cars in “The Flintstones” are people-powered, yet still go very fast, you might be justified in thinking that Fred et al. have superhuman strength and speed.

(Or, you know, some of this might just be ‘cuz they’re cartoons. Plus, evolution can’t explain the physical mutations of the Jetsons, who are set in the 2060s….)

2) The animals seen on “The Flintstones” consist not only of dinosaurs and reptiles from different eras but also large mammals and humans, which did not exist alongside dinosaurs in any known period of history. Add in time for domestication of these critters (if it would have even been possible), and we are looking at a very different era.

The Jetsons

3) Speaking of which, these animals are fairly intelligent and can talk! In a first season episode of “The Flintstones”, we see Fred and Barney hunting for snorkasaurus when they encounter young Dino in the wild. Dino speaks and demonstrates sufficient problem-solving skills to outsmart the guys before agreeing (at Wilma and Betty’s insistence) to go home with them and be the Flintstones’ pet. Most of the other animals in the show talk, too, though usually only in side-remarks to gripe about their jobs. Even the Jetsons’ dog, Astro, speaks, though with an odd “accent”. (‘Rut ‘roh, ‘Reorge!)

4) These advanced traits for animals are evidence in favor of the “Scorched Earth” theory for the Jetsons. In this theory, the reason “The Jetsons” takes place in and around floating buildings with no sign of the ground is that the only inhabitable place is far above an irradiated, post-apocalyptic Earth. The Jetsons and friends live in a period during which many technological advances have been made, including genetically-engineered animals and robots/A.I.’s that serve humanity. But, a later uprising of the machines will result in another apocalyptic war. Survivors will eventually create the neo-Stone Age civilization seen in “The Flintstones”, including descendants of those genetically-engineered animals, which can now take the place of robots.

5) Remember the little green alien, “the Great Gazoo”, who visited the Flintstones? His backstory is that he created a “Doomsday Device” on his home world. He was then banished to Earth so that he could see first-hand the potential results of unleashing such a device on a world. Of course, he also appeared in an episode of “Duck Dodgers” (in the 24th century), but it is unclear how old he might be in either case or whether or not time-travel was involved.

6) There is a Season 4 episode called “Ten Little Flintstones”, in which another alien race builds android duplicates of Fred as precursors for their invasion army. Unfortunately for them, the Fred-bots can only say, “Yabba-dabba doo!” The important implication, though, is that the aliens had been monitoring Earth for quite a while, and decided that the bombed-back-into-the-Stone-Age Earth was ripe for the picking.

7) Perhaps the clincher here comes from when the Jetsons visited the Flintstones, and then… Well, I’ll let Jim Ciscell explain it:

The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones

“Originally, the Jetsons planned to use Elroy’s time machine to go to the 25th century, instead of the distant past. However Elroy clearly didn’t think this through, because in his machine, the only thing that differentiates the ‘future’ from the ‘past’ is those two words on the levers. Also, when they selected ‘future,’ they ended up in Flintstone time, making them think the machine was glitched, and that they had actually ended up in the past.

Of course, as we know by now, the machine took them exactly where they wanted to go. It’s just that the future was so jarring, and so unlike what anybody could have predicted, that they naturally thought they had ended up in the Stone Age. They did: the Modern Stone Age. This is made no more evident than when the Flintstones accidentally get sent to Jetsons time, with the lever set to ‘past.'”

I don’t think the case for the theory is quite as strong as some have made it, but it does sort of make sense. I am not aware of any statement one way or the other by Hanna-Barbera Productions (defunct since 2001). If the theory is even “mostly true”, it would certainly explain how the Flintstones knew about Christmas and celebrated it! Regardless, it’s fun to think about, eh?

(H/T Jim Ciscell at TopTenz)

Superman: The Good, the Black, and the Most Likely to Be ‘Woke’

There have been a few recent news items to do with Superman on the small- and large-screen that I wanted to comment briefly on. Hope ya don’t mind…

Tyler Hoechlin & Elizabeth Tulloch
as “Superman and Lois”

First, the “Good”:

The new “Superman and Lois” TV series premiered the other day and I (like most reviews I have read or heard) am very happy with it. The overall look and tone of the show is more cinematic than expected, most of the drama is more “grounded” in reality (which appears to take place more than a dozen years later than the current Arrowverse baseline), and the F/X are great! As Paul Tassi said over at Forbes,

“This feels like a more grown-up, less campy, higher budget version of the Arrowverse, and I hope it can maintain that feeling for the duration.”

And, so far, while it does touch on some socio-political issues (as might be expected), it doesn’t seem to be pushing an SJW agenda.

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

On the other hand, I have a few concerns. For example, how will the Kents realistically maintain the old farm and be able to earn a living in the depressed town of Smallville? How will Clark prioritize his extracurricular activities such that he can “be there” for his sons? Will Jordan be forever angsty and angry even about having superpowers, or will he eventually lighten up a bit? Certainly, finding the perfect balance between family obligations and those of a superhero to the world-at-large will not be easy, either for the writers or the hero himself.

Btw, based on the clues dropped, I think the mysterious “Captain Luthor” must be either Lex or his offspring from a parallel timeline in which the Luthors are Black. (We know that the “normal” Arrowverse Lex Luthor is white.) Or, he could be adopted, maybe even cloned from someone else.

Of course, this assessment is just based on one episode (since I won’t see ep. 2 for a couple days), so there is much that could happen in the coming weeks to change my opinion and general approval. We shall see and keep our proverbial fingers crossed…

Next, the “Black”:

No, I’m not talking about that other thing. I’ll get to that in a minute. I’m referring to Superman’s black suit (or, costume, if you prefer).

As fans of the comics know, when the resurrected Superman returns (after having been killed by Doomsday), his costume has somehow turned black with a silver emblem. But, that didn’t happen in the original Justice League film, which was a surprise and disappointment to many fans.

Zack Snyder recently explained that he was always a big fan of the black suit, but for some reason the powers-that-be at Warner Bros. weren’t. But, his team working on the Snyder Cut developed a way to change the colors on the film (presumably via some sort of CGI?). They presented test-footage of the black suit to the WB big-wigs and eventually convinced them to approve it for use in the upcoming Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

“It was always my intention to have him in that suit and it’s glorious he’s in that.”

This might not seem like a big deal to non-canonists, but… Yaaayyyy!!

Then, there’s the “Woke”:

The big announcement made the other day was that Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) is writing a new Superman film to be produced by J.J. Abrams. Coates has written comics before (e.g., Black Panther, Captain America), but he primarily makes his living promoting Critical Race Theory and blaming whatever he can on “systemic racism” and evil white folk (excuse my redundance).

“I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates

While Superman hasn’t used the motto, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”, for several years in an effort to make him more of a global hero, he is nevertheless a pro-American icon. So, why pay an anti-American, anti-white writer to pen a script for a Superman movie? (Maybe the WB has fallen for CRT, too? Ya think?)

Coates | Val-Zod

At this point, no details are known about the plot or casting. Henry Cavill would like to don the big-S suit again, but there are strong rumors that the Coates/Abrams Superman will be Black. If so, I am definitely against the idea of him being a black revision of Earth-1’s Kal-El. However, there are a couple candidates from established DC canon that might work. One is Val-Zod, a Kryptonian successor of Superman in the Earth-2 universe after New 52 (introduced in Earth 2 #19). Another is Calvin Ellis (inspired by Barack Obama), the Superman of Earth-23 who, along with other multiversal versions of Superman, helped the main Superman in his final battle against the villainous Monitor during the “Final Crisis” story arc. Ellis is the Superman that Michael B. Jordan has expressed interest in playing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what they end up doing.

On the other hand, as others (as well as I) have noted, newer characters like these don’t have nearly the exposure or history within the comics that established characters (e.g., regular Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash) have. Without this, any interest let alone emotional attachment to the character by potential fans will be relatively small. This makes the likelihood of either financial success or fan acceptance (even by people of color) rather low. (In fact, I just read a long Facebook post by a Black guy with the same complaint.) Not saying it’s impossible, just very unlikely.

So, why would Warner Bros. risk it? Well, they have already had mixed success with pushing LGBT stuff in the Arrowverse, so maybe they figure the world — or, at least, superhero movie fandom — is ready for a Black Superman. Again, we still don’t know for sure if that is the direction they want to take. But, regardless of the melanin-count in the central character’s skin, if Coates is writing, you can just about guarantee a Leftist, “woke” slant to the story. If that’s the case, I sincerely hope it tanks.

P.S. Sorry for getting a little bit “political” this week….

Movie Series Recommendation

I don’t know about you, but I really like martial arts (though I’ve never studied one) and movies with martial arts action heroes. As a teen, I often watched “Black Belt Theater” and “Kung Fu Theater” on Saturday afternoons, which presented various such ’70s & ’80s film fare as The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, Master of the Flying Guillotine, Invincible Shaolin, and Enter the Dragon. My favorite actors included Gordon Liu, Jimmy Wang Yu, and, of course, the legendary Bruce Lee.

Many years later, I discovered that a movie series has been made about the life of one of Lee’s early instructors — Ip Man, Grandmaster of the art of Wing Chun. Not to be confused with other movies about Ip Man, this series of four movies is directed by Wilson Yip and stars Donnie Yen as the titular character. (The first film was nominated for 12 Hong Kong Film Awards, winning awards for Best Film and Best Action Choreography.) Guest stars include the likes of Mike Tyson, Sammo Hung, Scott Adkins, and Danny Chan as Bruce Lee.

While they take some liberties with the biographical details, the films are pretty good and include family drama and socio-cultural issues. They also evoke the mood and style of those older movies I mentioned — but, perhaps with the cheese-factor dialed down a bit. Anyway, I don’t want to get into it too much here, but you can always check out this link for more details on the films. If you are into martial arts or even just period dramas (1930s-1960s), I encourage you to check out the Ip Man film series.

Cloverpotterlies

A trio of news briefs for you this week…

1) Remember Cloverfield (2008), that monster movie with the shaky, “found footage” filmography that was all the rage for a couple minutes? Then, there were the two quasi-sequels, 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) and The Cloverfield Paradox (2018).

Joe Barton and original Cloverfield movie poster

Many assumed that the disappointing response to that last film spelled the end of the franchise. But, producer J.J. Abrams is endeavoring to keep it alive with yet another sequel. No details have been shared other than that the script is being written by Joe Barton. (Yep, that British chap whom I wrote about a couple weeks ago, since he took over as showrunner for HBO Max’s Batman-themed crime series about the Gotham City Police Department.) Also, it will not be in the “found footage” format.

I wouldn’t mind another Cloverfield movie that involved the giant monster — which, btw, looks surprisingly similar to the pair of MUTOs that Godzilla fought in the 2014 movie, iirc. They could do one set during the same, initial attack seen in Cloverfield. Or, there could be a subsequent appearance, perhaps connected to one or both of the other sequels. Either way, I’m game. The hard part, of course, will be finding some twist to make it not just another giant monster flick.

2) Speaking of HBO Max — I did; check the second paragraph –, Chief Content Officer for HBO and HBO Max, Casey Bloys, just announced plans for a new TV series that should make Potterheads sounds like they’ve been guzzling Gigglewater. It is just in the earliest of early stages, but there have been “‘exploratory conversations’ about a small screen adaptation of JK Rowling’s books and the feature film franchise.”

“There’s nothing in development but I think it’s fair to say across ‘Game of Thrones’, Harry Potter, and DC, these are franchises that WarnerMedia enjoys and it’s a big advantage for us, so there’s always going to be interest in doing something of quality from those properties.”

No word yet, of course, on whether the series would be a straight re-telling of the original stories or something different-yet-connected. Perhaps events that happened in parallel with what was chronicled in the books and movies? Or, could it focus on Jude Law’s younger version of Albus Dumbledore, as has been rumored (and squashed)? That might be interesting. I would be more interested, however, in something that follows either Hogwarts’ founders OR something centered around present-day Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the U.S. counterpart to Hogwarts.

No word, either, on whether or not Rowling has given her approval. If I were her, I’d wait to hear their proposal(s).

alternate True Lies movie poster

3) Another announcement from just a few days ago was made this time by CBS, which already has two new shows airing with movie tie-ins (“Clarice” (The Silence of the Lambs) and “The Equalizer” (The Equalizer movies and original TV series)). The network has ordered a pilot for a TV series adaptation of James Cameron’s True Lies (1994) movie. The script has already been written (by Matt Nix) for the pilot, which will be directed by McG (who has been pushing for this project since 2016).

“[S]hocked to discover that her bland and unremarkable computer consultant husband is a skilled international spy, an unfulfilled suburban housewife is propelled into a life of danger and adventure when she’s recruited to work alongside him to save the world as they try to revitalize their passionless marriage.”

Sounds pretty much like the original action-comedy-thriller film, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tom Arnold. I doubt any of those three will return — at least, not in the same roles. There are so many ways this could end up a dud. But, Nix is a decent writer, and McG knows his action flicks. If it makes it to the screen, I’ll probably check it out.

Fan-Cast: Mister Zsasz

“I kill for one reason only, Doctor. Because I choose to.” — Mister Zsasz

I’m tackling another Batman foe this week. Care to join me?

Mister Zsasz

Victor Zsasz was a rich kid who went on to build a company and fortune of his own. When he was 25, his parents died in an accident, sending Victor into depression, which led to gambling, and he eventually lost everything. When he was about to commit suicide, a homeless man tried to mug him. Zsasz killed him with his own knife, reveling in the terror and hopelessness in the man’s eyes. To Zsasz’s reasoning, he merely “liberated” the man from a pointless existence. Adopting a nihilistic worldview, he thus launched his career as a serial killer. His victims (i.e., “zombies”) are mostly young women (though he kills others without a thought if it serves his purpose or he just needs a thrill), whose throats he slits before leaving them in lifelike poses. For each one, he cuts himself, leaving a scar as a tally mark.

Zsasz is primarily a Gotham-based foe and, as is often the case with Batman’s rogues gallery, is a certified nutcase. He has spend a lot of time in and out of Arkham Asylum — which has got to have the worst track-record in the country, btw — but the “rehabilitation” doesn’t seem to stick. He even had a secret passage built into the reconstructed institution that allowed him to slip out at night when he was a patient, plus he somehow managed to manipulate the mind of his own doctor, Jeremiah Arkham.

In addition to fighting Batman, Zsasz has encountered Nightwing and various Robins. He even seriously stabbed Alfred once. Though generally a solo operator, he has worked for Black Mask and, on a side-project, teamed up with kindred spirit Jane Doe. He was part of the Secret Society of Super Villains’ attack on Metropolis, and he joined other villains in their attack on the Earth-2 Batman and Dick Grayson. (It did not end well.)

Zsasz doesn’t have any real superpowers. Mentally, he is very smart and, despite his craziness, he formulates actual plans and can improvise on the spot. He also has an exceptionally high tolerance for pain. Physically, his rigorous training has resulted in him being quite strong and agile, plus he is a highly skilled hand-to-hand combatant — enough for him to hold his own for awhile against the likes of Batman. And, of course, he is particularly skilled in the use of knives and other bladed weapons — whether for throwing, fighting, or torturing — and usually has several on his person.

Victor Zsasz is a white guy of very athletic build, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and lots of self-inflicted scars. I have always thought he was closer to six feet tall, based on his encounters with Batman and others. So, I was a little surprised to find out (per DC’s wiki) that he is only 5’8″. Based on his background story, it makes sense to portray him as mid-20s to early-30s, depending on how far along he is in his murderous “career”. The actor should be able to communicate a sense of menace and unpredictability at even his calmest.

With these factors in mind, I wanted to cast someone in his 30s… possibly a young-looking 40, but certainly no older. Also, I’d prefer someone under 6′, and the closer to 5’8″, the better. Given the fact that Marvel’s ‘Bullseye’ character is a similar sort of homicidal crazy, it’s probably not shocking that my first thought was of Colin Ferrell (5’10”,b.1976), who played Bullseye in the Daredevil movie. Of course, he is not only past our age stipulation but is also currently playing The Penguin in Reeves’s The Batman. I also thought of Wilson Bethel (6′,b.1984), who played Bullseye (sort of) on Netflix’s “Daredevil” TV show.

Incidentally, Tim Booth (5’8.5″,b.1960) , who had a very small role as Zsasz in Batman Begins (2005), may have been a little older than I’d like but was otherwise a pretty good choice, physically speaking.

I considered Ryan Gosling (6’0.5″,b.1980), who barely fits our age parameters and is, unfortunately, over the height parameters. Matt Long (5’10”,b.1980) (“Manifest”, “Helix”) is shorter but roughly the same age. I even looked at Scott Grimes (5’9″,b.1971), who usually plays good (often comical) characters, like in “The Orville”. But, I’ve also seen him play violent/menacing (e.g., “Justified”). However, when I saw that he turns 50 this year, I had to put him out of the running.

Wondering who made the cut? (That’s a pun, btw.)

Will Rothhaar

I think I first took note of Will Rothhaar (5’7″,b.1987) from his supporting role in “Last Resort”. Or, it might have been Battle Los Angeles around the same time. (I think he played a sailor or marine in both.) You can also see him in a few episodes of the three “CSI” series, Line of Duty, Killing Kennedy, “Grimm”, “Code Black”, Division 19, et al. He fits perfectly in both our preferred age and height ranges, and he has experience in action, thriller, and sci-fi/fantasy genres. Could be a great choice!

.

.

Daniel Webber

Like Rothhaar, Daniel Webber (5.8.5″,b.1988) once played Lee Harvey Oswald. I didn’t see Rothhaar’s portrayal, but I watched “11.22.63” and thought Webber did a great job as the infamous, psychotic assassin. (And he looks so much like him!) In fact, “young troubled characters” seem to be his forte. For example, he played a vet suffering from PTSD on Netflix’s “The Punisher”. He has also been in “K9” (Doctor Who spinoff), Deceit, Danger Close, Escape from Pretoria, and others. This guy plays “unbalanced psycho” so well, he’d be perfect!

.

.

Tomer Capon

If the name Tomer Capon (5’8″,b.1985) doesn’t ring a bell, viewers of Amazon’s “The Boys” will recognize the face of ‘Frenchie’. Capon is Israeli, btw, and has appeared in mostly Israeli productions, including “Fauda”, “Hostages” (aka “Bnei Aruba”), “Combat Medics” (aka “Charlie Golf One”), 7 Days in Entebbe, etc. I haven’t watched him in anything besides “The Boys”, but something tells me he could play a knife-wielding serial killer and would probably jump at the chance. (Actors can be weird. Also, they say that “bad guys” are always more fun to play.) He fits our parameters and has the talent.

Any thoughts on Zsasz or my choices? You know where to comment…

  • All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2021.