comics

Dark Phoenix Trailer - A Dissection

Dark Phoenix Trailer - A Dissection

So, at long last there is a trailer for the Dark Phoenix movie. Now, for those who know me or who are frequent followers of my social media, y’all know that for me, the Dark Phoenix saga is my Very Most Favorite Thing™. I’ve wanted a Dark Phoenix movie since the tease that was the X2 movie. (X-Men 3 was ridiculous. That was not a Dark Phoenix movie.) Anyway, now that we have a trailer…am I happy?

A Friendly Reminder

This weekend I was reminded that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I did my self-exam and there is a spot of ow on my left breasticle. Now, this isn't the first time I've felt a disturbance in my Force. About two years ago I found a lump. It was tender and roughly the size and texture of the average grape. My doctor, she felt around and zeroed in on the spot. She ordered the mammogram, and after a month of waiting, I got my boops smooshed for science.The lump turned out to be nothing more than some dense breast tissue, but for the month between finding the lump and the mammogram, I was more than a little worried. So, now that lefty has another anomaly we'll be monitoring my ta-tas. I suggest you do the same. Not mine, obviously, but yours. If you have them. Gah! Anyway, the point is, you need to do a self-exam. Regularly. You have to get to know the topography of your own glorious tracks of land before you can sense if there might be something rotten in Denmark. Have a glass of wine, feel yourself up and make sure you and your boops have a nice long life together.

It's important. YOU are important.

Friday Flash - "The Dead Doll Dreams"

 by Kat Caro www.melancholykitties.comGood Friday to you all, my friends. I've got some tea and I'm chugging along on the caffeine-soaked highways of thought and whim to bring you another response to Chuck Wendig's most recent flash fiction challenge. Last week, we toyed with fractured fairy tales. This time, the Wendigo gave us 5 titles to play with. They are: “The Monkey’s Pageant.” “Dead-Clock’s Revenge.” “The Black Lighthouse.” “Bright Stars Gone To Black.” “Plastic Dreams & Doll Desires.”

THE RULES!

Take one of the five titles OR re-arrange these titles to create a new one without adding any words. Tell a story with that title in 1000 words or less, any genre will do.

I like all of those titles. I think in their own way each is evocative. But none pulled me in. I had leanings toward a few, figured out what it was pulling me to them and decided to combine those elements. Pandora gave me some Tom Waits and Squirrel Nut Zippers as the soundtrack. Made for interesting flavors.

So, I come to you with ...

The Dead Doll Dreams
by Jamie Wyman
Barb’s hips bang against the walls of the narrow hallway as she staggers to the bedroom. The second she plops onto the bed, the baby begins to squawk, his cries warped and modulated through the electronic monitor.
“Not again,” Barb whines.
The baby answers with a more urgent ululation.
Barb’s hands fly to her ears and she shuts her eyes tight. Wrenching her head from side to side, she tries to shake away reality like a dog shakes off water. “No. Not now.”
Her son cries louder.
“Noooooooo,” she howls.
The baby cries louder and she can just picture him, his tiny, stubby hands groping in the air and that angelic face contorted into something hungry and pestilent. With a weary, frustrated growl, Barb bounces up from the bed. Kicking the nightstand, she sends the baby monitor to the ground along with a lamp, a paperback romance and a couple of empty Monster cans.
It never ends. She’s always up, always needed, never alone, never her own. She can’t sleep. She can’t eat. She can’t shit without someone coming after her. Never a moment’s peace. If it’s not the boy, it’s his father. If it’s not the phone, it’s the stove.
“Just stop!” she shouts, tearing at her hair.
She throws open the closet door and slams it shut behind her. The sounds of the baby disappear, too small to pierce the clothes and articles of her former, simpler life. This is a secret garden. This is Shangri La. This moment of solitude is bliss.
Barb takes a deep breath of the silence, but gets only a whiff of bile and dried sweat. She can’t remember the last time she showered and makes a mental note to change that.
But why? What’s the point? she thinks.
 In the wan light of the closet, she catches a glimpse of herself in the smudgy full-length mirror barely clinging to the back of the door. She’s surrounded by a piss-yellow haze, and there is a stripe of fresh vomit on her shirt. Disgusted, she peels away the shirt. Her breasts are soft, nipples red and swollen from all the feedings. Her skin puckers and sags around her navel.
“What happened to you?” she asks the reflection. That woman is a fucking mess. Her oily hair is in tangles the color of dishwater. Wasn’t there a time when she was golden? Radiant? It wasn’t so long ago that Barb stood on a dance floor, her highlights piled on top of her head in a gorgeous blend of spunk and elegance. Those had been carefree nights. Nights with Nick Cave on the juke box and Jack in her hand.
Barbie had lived a different life. That life now hangs limp as a suicide in the back of her closet. Her little black dress relegated to a garment bag. No more strappy sandals or lace panties. Loud rock tunes and silent bubble baths have evaporated, replaced with Baby Einstein and rushed showers.
She crumples to the floor in a heap of tears and grimy flannel pants. If she listened carefully, she’d hear that her son wails in harmony with her. Neither of them expected this. Both were wrenched from a comfortable version of life and pushed into an all new experience. Both flounder in the aftermath. Pregnancy weeks are like dog years. In those nine months, Barbie aged a decade.
Barb reaches for something to dab her eyes and wipes her face on the dress. That dress. She’s on her feet in an instant, shucking off the pajamas and slinking into the red dress. The woman in the mirror is a far cry from the siren who wore it last.
But she doesn’t see the snarled hair or sallow skin. She doesn’t see how the fabric bunches at her hips or how her breasts stretch the plunging neckline. All she sees is the reflection of her former self. The woman in the mirror is neither wife nor mother.
Barb loses herself in the crimson dress. In the tight closet, she dances to music only she can hear—a driving, techno bass that gets her frenzied. Though she is alone, she is on a floor full of people, surrounded by strangers who want nothing of her but her body heat, her breath mingled with theirs. Her bare feet trace small spirals as she twirls from partner to partner, grinding until her little red dress is soaked with her own sweat and desperate need.
Fingertips graze the back of her neck—her own or those of an imagined lover?—and she swoons with the desire to just be touched. She conjures a voice in her head.
Come with me, he says. He sounds like an actor, or like her husband. She turns to look at this figment. The smile is like the one she married, but the eyes are Hollywood. She returns the grin, playing the coquette. Come away, he urges.
Barb bites her lower lip and dips her head. “I can’t,” she says.
And like that, the moment is over. She’s just a dirty woman in an ill-fitting dress. She takes it off, slides back into her pants and puts on a fresh shirt. When she leaves the closet, she goes into the bedroom and lets her son latch on for his next feeding. And as she rocks him to sleep, Barb settles into her skin. It’s a little more comfortable when the baby cuddles her, his sweet breath against her cheek.
She loves him. For all the twists and turns her life has taken since he entered it, she loves her baby and wouldn’t leave him for the smoothest smile on the screen.
Barbie drifts off in the rocking chair and her dreams whisk her off to solace.
As for the red dress? It’s rumpled. Stuffed in the back corner of her closet.
Dry-clean only.
And who has time for that?

 

Author's note: This is not at all what I expected to write when I chose the title. I expected something dark and macabre, something with skeletons and decadent visuals. What I got was a glimpse into the quiet horror of postpartum depression. If you had hoped for some dark fantasy, I apologize that you didn't get it. I almost didn't post this, to be honest. Worried that it was too real. Not funny. Too much of a downer. But that's part of the problem for women like Barb, isn't it? They don't have a place to talk. And that's part of what we writers do. We shine lights in dark places and hold a microphone for voices that don't get heard.  While this is not autobiographical or a depiction of someone I know, it could be. I went through my own struggles with PPD after my daughter was born (almost 7 years ago! how the hell did that happen?). At one point I told my husband to leave me and our daughter to go be with someone else. I honestly felt that he would be better off with another woman. Thankfully, he thought I was joking and we're still together. (And the person I told him to leave me for? Transitioning genders. So that would never have worked.) Anyway, what I'm saying is that I guess I'm glad I wrote this today because postpartum illness *is* overlooked. Hell, I didn't even realize I was going through it until it was over and I looked back and said, "Wow, I was fucked up." So yeah, I guess this is my PSA moment when I say please take care of the women in your life. Know the signs, watch for them and just be there.  Thank you for reading. -jw
 
 

He's Just a Boy

So, after the episode of Romper Room Presidential debate last night, my friend started channel surfing and came across one of the two Batman movies that I've tried to pretend never existed. You know, the one where Tommy Lee Jones is grossly underused as some watered-down bullshit version of a cool villain and Jim Carrey makes Frank Gorshin spin in his grave. Anyway, we came in right on the scene between Bruce Wayne and his shrink/love interest (because everyone should sleep with their shrink or use sexual relationships to mop out the guano-soaked caves they call a psyche) and my friend said, "At least in this movie someone asked if Bruce had ever had therapy!" (I should note that this friend is his own Comic Wikipedia. It's scary sometimes.)

Anyway, this got me to thinking about the Dark Knight's origin and comparing him to other characters in comic mythos, pondering the variations of this particular hero through the decades and it led me to this question:

Has anyone ever explored the idea that everything Batman comes from the psyche of a traumatized child rather than a functional-yet-brooding adult?  Meet me after the jump and we'll talk....

Humble Beginnings Okay, I admit that I am by all accounts a Marvel girl. Most of my in-depth knowledge is in the X-Men Phoenix 'verse (up through Endsong...everything after that is non-canon in my opinion, but that's another blog), and my DC is shaky at best. What I know of Batman comes from reading Frank Miller's Year One, watching all of the movies except the newest Nolan installment and discussions with friends. So I'm not able to spout of issue numbers passage and verse, but I know enough about the character to know that Batman was born of a double homicide. Hell the Amish probably know this part of the Batman mythos! However, in case there is a recently thawed caveman reading this, I'll go into it...

...at its barest bones, Batman is a story about a man seeking to right the wrong done to him when his parents were murdered in front of him. This has been tweaked, embellished and exaggerated to fit various incarnations, however this is the root. A child witnessed the senseless killing of his mother and father.

Now, as the years have gone on, we've seen how this single event pushed Bruce Wayne to become a vigilante. He's super rich, so he has had the time and resources to put together his arsenal of wonderful toys. He's well-educated and in various incarnations skilled at physical combat thanks to martial vision quests in the east. However, all of those portrayals make the assumption that the Goddamn Batman comes from the mind of a grown man.

Knowing what we do about psychology, though, I want to posit that no, all of these things we see Bruce Wayne doing as the spirit of vengeance come not from the rational standpoint of an adult but that child who is still screaming over the corpses of his parents.

A Bit of Reality Let's think for just a moment about what we know. Mom and Pop Wayne choked on bullets when Bruce was somewhen in the 6-10 year age range. For a moment let's forget the trauma and focus on this little tidbit.  Bruce was in grade school at the time. Sure, it was probably a prep school where he's learning to dissect griffins whilst eating foie gras to the sound of Stephen Fry lecturing on the merits of Balzac, but at the end of the day, he's a six year old boy. A kid more comfortable with Captain Underpants than cap-and-trade no matter how affluent the Waynes may have been. Take away the butler and the mansion and the Romney-esque silver spoon and you're dealing with this:

One night, he goes to the movies--yay!--and his parents are shot. The rock of his world is shattered. Think about what that scene must have been like. We see it in movies or comics as this silent, swift death. Mother's pearls spilling over a frozen sidewalk. Father's blood splattered on roses. A child kneeling between them as their killer runs away.

That imagery is powerful, but it's probably not what happened. Gunshots--especially those fired quickly and carelessly like those from a mugger--tend to be wild. They don't always hit in a way that kills instantly. Therefore, it's safe to say that Bruce watched his parents bleed out. He had no knowledge of what to do, no cell phone to call 911, and no earthly clue how to help his parents. Can you imagine what sorts of things Father Wayne tried to intone to his son with his last breaths? Did his mother try to hold him one last time? It's even more heartwrenching to consider this aspect of Batman's story, but (in my limited experience) it's glossed over. There's story gold to be mined here! It's drama. It's gut-twisting horror! And it's happening to a kid!

The adults had knowledge of their situation. If they tried to get Bruce to go for help, though, it never came. Why? Because he was just a child. Paralyzed with fear and helplessness because he's a boy.

And, since I'm guessing Alfred's first task after his employers snuffed it was not "Get Bruce to therapy", the kid had to deal with this and process it on his own. I don't care how brilliant the kiddo was, his world was shattered and he didn't have the innate tools to deal with the guilt and rage that followed the collapse. If you think that I can't know this, that this is blind supposition, it's not. My evidence is that we have a comic book at all to talk about. Batman is the result. He IS the rage personified. Every night he gets the shit kicked out of him to assuage the guilt over what happened when he was still in training wheels.

Bruce Wayne--gagillionaire playboy tech mogul--has untreated PTSD. Which means, the guy with all those gadgets swinging around the city? Yeah...

Imp-lications 

If we think of Batman as a kid in a Halloween costume, we can easily explain some of the quirks that should leave people going, "Dude, where's your sanity?"

First off, the gadgets. Seriously, Bruce has all that money and he makes some killer toys. All of them with bats on them, by the way. Helloooooo fixation! He's the kid that got the keys to the coolest candy shop ever and now he has real rocket launchers that make explosions and boomerangs and a wicked awesome car. Kick ass!

Also, everyone always tries to play the "Batman and Robin are gay" card, but psychologically there may be a better explanation for Dick Grayson's appearance. Robin isn't a sidekick, a ward of Mr. Wayne's estate and therefore a tax write-off... he's a playmate. He's another kid. Another orphaned kid. Sure, adult Bruce has his reasons for taking in Young Master Dick, but for the Bruce that is clearly still in control of the show, Dick is a kindred spirit. He's a buddy that gets to come into the treehouse and be part of the creepy nighttime shenanigans.

Then there's Selena Kyle. Okay, so her skin-tight vinyl and whip-work may have more to do with Grown-Up-Bruce's proclivities than I'd care to delve into, however, Mr. Wayne's inability to have a functional relationship could be rooted in the fact that he's running at an emotional level where girls still have cooties.

Think about it. When you imagine that Bruce Wayne's actions (and therefore Batman's) are being controlled by a terrified kid, so much becomes clear.

And Now We Exploit It...

If you think I'm going to talk about how we should get this poor child the psychological counseling he so desperately needs, you'd be wrong. Fuck that, that's not good story. No, we exploit the shit out of this and go to town tormenting the adult he has become.

If you play Batman as some PTSD-stricken rage monster with bottomless pockets, you've got yourself something way more interesting than a dark-and-brooding Christian Bale. It has worked before. No, not with Batman, but with someone from the other side...

In Thor, everything Loki does is motivated by childhood hurts and jealousies. He is a child seeking Daddy's love and trying to push his brother to the side for one moment in the spotlight. Everything he does is to meet that child's needs. And it's written superbly. (And Tom Hiddleston plays it to the hilt so beautifully I can't stop geeking about it.) By the time Loki shows up in Avengers, however, we see a hungry adult who has accepted his role in life as a force of chaos, disorder and dishonor. We see someone comfortable in that shadow. It's a lovely arc and thus shows that taking such an angle with a character can work.

How could you use it in Batman? What are the terrible things that could befall him and what are the angles you could play with if you take off the restrictions that come from functional adulthood? One could argue that you'd simply get The Joker with a different outfit, but I think you get something darker.

And it's something I'd love to see those with a deeper knowledge of the character play with.

It gets even more fun if you throw in that some of the Rogues Gallery know Batman's true identity and then dig in their claws. In this situation I think Hugo Strange becomes one of the top choices for villain. Catwoman's involvement as love interest dies down and we can see her more for her brains and skill than for her propensity for broken zippers. And I think it would put Batman on more of an even keel with the Joker than it does already. Fuck, the story might even put them together on the same side.

I would love to see DC fingerpaint with this for a while. How much fun would it be to take a tortured hero and give him that little push that leads into madness?