Rogue One is finally out and has been hit with mixed to positive reception. Some say it's near perfect and up there with Empire in terms of quality. Others say it's a gorgeous looking practice in mindless fan service. I myself am somewhere in the middle, but overall considers it above average. Regardless of where you fall, there are a few relatively straight forward things the film does that either adds to the lore of the mythos or expands upon some previously existing ideas. Both of course are always welcome in this post Legacy canon we live in today. This article will be filled with Spoilers so be wary of what’s below.
Alright so the first thing you've got to know about me is that I'm not a real big graphic novel fan. I have an old collection of comics from my younger days and every now and again I'll pick one or two up if they look interesting, but I hardly ever read them. In fact, the only comic book hero I was every really into was Image Comics, Spawn. I have lots of issues of that particular character and I read all of them at one time or another.
So I'm going to throw down some exposition real quick. Spawn came about in 1992. I bought the first issue for the same reason I buy any comic: it had a cool cover. I read that book and I was intrigued. Back in the early 90's Marvel and Image shared a lot of writers and artists and I believe they did so for quite a while. Lots of cross overs took place with various comic companies. One of those artists and creators was Todd McFarlane, his mind was the one from which Spawn was sprung. Okay? Good.
Flash forward to 2016 where I got an invite to head on up to my Sister and future Brother-in-law [Twinstiq's own Cody Hall] 's place for a small-ish nerd conference that looked like it could be fun times. While there Cody and I went through some of the many comic bins that lined the booths and searched for something interesting. I found some cool stuff by the old standby of "cool cover, pick it up" that I've used when purchasing many times before. One of those happened to be an issue of Spider Man called Web of Spider Man, issue number 100 from May of 1993.
Here's where all this babbling on about this and that gets interesting. I was flipping through this Spider Man comic with a cool shiny green cover featuring Spidey in a suit of armor when I saw this effing guy right here!
"Hang on" I said "This guy looks pretty familiar, like Spawn actually. A lot like Spawn." My Sister happens to also be a Spawn fan and I shot her a text and picture of this guy that Marvel calls Nightwatch. She replies to me "That guy is a copycat." [Turns out he's not exactly but we'll get there in a minute]
From there we were both wildly intrigued by the obvious similarities of these two characters and made it our business to find out just who this Nightwatch guy is. Luckily for me I had this issue of Spider Man and at the end is the origin story of Nightwatch. Convenient yes?
- His name is Kevin Trench and he witnessed his future self being killed by terrorists hijacking a plane. He takes the black and red Nightwatch Suit from his own lifeless body.
- The Nightwatch Suit, is composed of nanites capable of fixing [almost] any damage to itself and its wearer. The cloak is prehensile, can be used as a separate limb and change forms.
- He's African American.
- He seems to be stuck in a time loop and sort of destined to meet himself at the moment of his own death.
- Came about in 1993
- His name is Al Simmons
- He was killed by a mercenary, sent to hell and brought back with very few memories.
- He has a red and black, living suit that can heal itself, shape-shift, and protect its wearer.
- He's African American
- Came about in 1992
So aside from names and few minute details the origins are very similar. One important fact is that they both died. Certainly they look alike: The extra tall high standing collars, the excessively large cloak, even some of the markings and colors.
Powers as well: They can both self-heal. Their suits are both powerful extensions of their bodies able to protect their wearers at all times. They're both physically more powerful than normal humans. Either of them can fade into the shadows and remain hidden as well as perform some pretty similar shape shifting.
There are definitely enough character details to separate the two from being one and the same, but I [and my Sister] had to wonder... Is this a character that Todd McFarlane made before leaving Marvel completely? Did he base Spawn off his initial designs of Nightwatch and Marvel just happened to use his original character later?
The answer is no. Nightwatch was created by Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk and his appearance was later changed so as not to resemble Spawn so closely. His introduction as Nightwatch happened in Web of Spider Man number 99. Costumes of the two characters still shared similar abilities, even if they were explained a bit differently.
Spawn's suit is a living being; symbiotic and endowed with a host of nearly limitless dark powers from hell, including: speed, flight, healing, attack, defense etc. It'll even keep Spawn safe while he's unconscious. While Nightwatch's suit is all about nano-technology allowing for various healing, pain suppression, air filtration and vision enhancement powers. The suit is also capable of creating darkness in a limited area, gliding, and forming into sharpened tentacles. They may sound a bit different, but they can both do more or less the same stuff.
Nightwatch had his own short run series and appeared in various issues of Spider Man, and She Hulk. He was eventually killed off in a heroic way while saving an innocent in a battle called "The Great Game".
So to me, these two still have a bit too much in common to be mere coincidence. Spawn came first but only by a few months and who's to say what transpired? Perhaps someone was watching someone else and received a moment of inspiration. Perhaps it was a little more nefarious than that. Just because one was in print first doesn't mean the idea was first in that particular someone's head, and vice-versa. We may never actually know. But even for a guy who only has a passing interest in graphic novels this was something that made me very curious. I kind of hope to run across Nightwatch again some time.
And by the way while I was doing research for this article I happened to notice that I'm not the only one who ever posed the questions at hand here. I would recommend a quick Google search if you're interested in knowing more.
Yoda and Tru discuss Nerd Shit you can't game on!
Back in 1988 Alan Moore rocked the comic world (again) with his one-shot graphic novel The Killing Joke. Within the pages of this masterpiece Moore set what many feel is the definitive backstory of the Batman supervillain The Joker. Not only that, but the story would prove as a defining moment for another character, Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). In a vicious assault Joker leaves her paralyzed, something that not only would define her character as much as being the first Batgirl (there have been three others: Bette Kane, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown) but lead her to becoming a role model to paraplegic individuals when she would later take up the mantle of Oracle. For the last 28 years The Killing Joke has stood as one of the most beloved and twisted Batman tales.
Warning: This article will contain spoilers. You have been warned.
For my first article I wanted to cover something a bit different from what you may read on this site. While I respect that this is mostly a website for Gamers I thought I might try bring another angle from time to time. This angle will be in the form of literature. So, what better place to start then the recent controversy surrounding Marvel Comics?
I really loved this movie, one of the better experiences I've had in a while. I do have a few thoughts. Continue below for a quick, relatively unedited posting. There are spoilers in here so don't continue reading if you haven't seen the film yet. Read more
I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering when it came out.
From 1994 onward, I attended weekly events, playtested in a group for competitions I would enter, played against the computer when the Microprose product came out and poured over lists of cards as they were released to find new strategies for old decks and to see if there were any interesting brand new plans I could utilize.
Before that, I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons.
A lot, too.
From 1985 until I lost my gaming group to the vagaries of time commitments [Exams, jobs, families and the like] I played the Red Box, made characters under the Second Edition rules, built up a campaign for friends that ended in hilarious disaster when someone lit a torch in an underground zone that was nothing but propane gas and tended my Beast in long-standing games of Vampire: The Masquerade.
The point is, I really like board, card and role playing games.
The problem is, of course, that these games are difficult to play without friends. I am primarily an introvert. I have few friends. Read more
This is going to be a cynical review.
Because this book is cynicism personified.
As a computer science major, years ago, I had a pair of classes that were about writing. Very specifically, in order to become a Doctor of Science you had to write a research paper. We had two very different classes with two very different lecturers for those classes. The first - and most vital subject was called Research Methodology. That guy hated us. He didn't get tenure and he was frustrated at us and everything around him. So he set crazy rules for every essay we ever wrote.
The second guy was way more mellow. That particular class was Thesis Writing. Both of these two classes combined went together to form our Thesis Project and one of the very few lessons that stuck with me came from very early in the writing cycle: If you're writing a Thesis, you NEVER write from the conclusion backward. Never.
You set up a working hypothesis. You devise tests for the hypothesis. You analyse the data. In short, you make sure that you're surprised in the end so that your conclusion isn't a foregone thing.
But some writers don't like that approach. It's time-consuming. There's so much you have to do to arrive at a completely novel [or at least unexpected] result. All those tests you have to devise? They take time. All that analysis? Why bother? Read more
Two Dark, Grim, and ambitious Comic Book ventures came out recently. These of course being Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Season 2 of Daredevil. Before I go any further, I implore you to stop reading before you have seen both of these flawed but worth watching giants. In the end I like them both, but I want to explore the reason both these works can be seen as extremely disappointing. To do that I will need to spoil everything. You have been warned:
By now we're probably all familiar with the up-coming DC film "Suicide Squad". Based on Detective Comics graphic novels of the same name, the Suicide Squad is comprised of a band of degenerate weirdos and misfit villains that are drafted into service as anti hero types meant to take on impossible tasks that they are not likely to survive.I'm pretty excited for the movie myself, especially after the last trailer I saw. We'll be expecting to see this in theaters August 5th of this year.
This article however, is about the true and real Suicide Squad comprised of some equally degenerate weirdos and just so happened to form the basis for what is now NASA's, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Our story starts here:
In the interest of time I'm going to summarize some things until we get to the interesting bits after this paragraph. A talented self taught chemist at Caltech named John Whiteside Parsons (folks called him Jack) along with colleagues, Frank Malina and Edward Forman wanted to make a liquid fuel rocket motor. However they lacked the funding so they decided to approach Caltech with the idea. The head of GALCIT (Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory-Caltech), Theodore von Karman gave permission for the group to work together on the subject.
With some effort the men came up with the basic funding needed and secured a test site behind the Devil's Gate Dam in Pasadena CA. As it happens this site is pretty close to the JPL test site still used today. Soon the team was re-enforced by two more scientists from GALCIT: Weld Arnold and Hsue Shen Tsien. The Suicide Squad was now complete.
Why the name Suicide Squad? Well, as it turns out a lot of the small scale tests were done indoors and one of these tests went awry in 1937 that caused a cloud of nitrogen dioxide/alcohol to be released forming a thin rust layer on much of the team's lab equipment. This of course could have also been very unhealthy for the team members themselves, and afterward all tests were performed outside. Crazy huh?
Word got to the team in '38 of the National Academy of Science (NAS) interest in seeking a way to assist in the take off of heavily loaded planes and Caltech was awarded a $10,000 contract. The Suicide Squad got to work on development of rocket propulsion that would provide a large increase in performance for propeller aircraft to get up to speed quicker and thus take off quicker. The team referred to it as jet propulsion so as not to sound like a pulp sci-fi story that would never be taken seriously.
Theodor von Karman was set as the lead with Parsons, Forman and Malina being the major staff members. Arnold and Tsien had left the project several months earlier. Parsons quickly proved himself invaluable to the operation in 1940 by using knowledge from the failed experiment in 1937 to show that red-fuming nitric acid was better than liquid oxygen to be used as an oxidizer.
Now things start to get weird:
Jack Parsons had a second life, a very strange one in fact. In Los Angeles in 1939 he and his wife Helen had found an organization called the Ordo Templi Orientis international magical fraternity, or O.T.O. The order was lead and founded by a British man named Wilfred Talbot Smith who quickly formed a friendship with Parsons' wife. They formed the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass Temple in the attic of their house. This temple contained a book, the Egyptian 'Stele of Revealing' which was known widely by the followers of a famous magician by the name of Aleister Crowley. He was known for the mantra "Do what thou wilt shall be whole of the law". Information on Crowley can be found here.
Crowley eventually wrote an astrological research paper titled "Is Smith a god?" that convinced Wilfed Talbot Smith that he wasn't a human, but actually an incarnation of a deity. This event lead to Smith going into private practice, and that somehow brought Parsons up to be the new Head of the O.T.O. Lodge. Parsons' wife Helen eventually left him for Smith, but they managed to stay friends. Besides, Parsons was busy collecting money for the upkeep of the O.T.O. much of that coming from his own pockets.
Crowley was an accomplished fellow, a writer, mountain climber, and chess master, but his main focus was the practice of sexual magic "Magick" as he called it. Soon he was known as "the wickedest man in the world" and even compared to the "Great Beast 666". He of course felt that this was a misconstrued reference and countered with a quote "Within the memory of man we have had the Pagan period, the worship of Nature, of Isis, of the Mother, of the Past; the Christian period, the worship of Man, of Osiris, of the Present. The first period is simple, quiet, easy, and pleasant; the material ignores the spiritual; the second is of suffering and death: the spiritual strives to ignore the material.... The new Aeon is the worship of the spiritual made one with the material, of Horus, of the Child, of the Future." His books are still stocked in new age book stores.
Parsons would regularly perform prayers to the O.T.O. before testing new rockets and began to believe that it had a major effect of the Suicide Squad's success. Unfortunately he wasn't very successful very quickly and the many failures began to raise questions by the government financiers. Eventually however he was allowed to continue and the Suicide Squad built the first successful "Jet Assisted Take Off" (JATO) rockets just a few months later. And on August 12th 1941 [a date that coincides with new Suicide Squad movie release almost to the day] Parsons' team was involved in the very first American jet assisted takeoff. Magic or science? (For the record I say science coupled with a lot of trial and error)The new JATO rocket utilized a fuel called GALCIT-27, it provided 28 pounds of thrust for 12 seconds. There were still problems however. This was a solid rocket fuel in powder form and during storage could settle and crack causing abnormalities that would produce inconsistent burns and even catastrophic failures. This was solved initially by only loading the rockets just prior to use, but they needed a more permanent solution.
So Parsons and two others credited for their help in development, Fred Miller, and Mark Mills, created a more stable version of the fuel called GALCIT-53 in June of '42. Around the same time others were working on Parsons liquid fuel idea from much earlier using red-fuming nitric acid and gasoline, this also turned out to be successful. Soon Parsons, Malina and Forman had their own company called, Aerojet Engineering Corporation, to produce and sell these rockets. Later this company came to be known as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In the 1950's...
...Malina came under scrutiny for being an ex-Nazi (actually a few years earlier) and had moved to Paris, France where he joined UNESCO. Eventually in 1952 he returned to U.S. and with his shares of Aerojet managed a comfortable life. He became a sculptor and artist, even founded a magazine called Leonardo, it's still in publication today.
Also in 1952, Parsons was working on an experiment in his garage mixing "magick" and science. Supposedly he was trying to create a Homunculous, a magical artificial human. The experiment went wrong and he was killed in the resulting explosion.
I could find little information about Edward Forman, other than to say he left the team. Perhaps more research at a later time will yield more.[Source info here] [and here]