Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Legion of Super Heroes Favorites -- Villains

To finish off my expanded look at my favorite characters from Legion of Super-Heroes, I've decided to deviate slightly and focus on a different group:  the Legion's villains.

Honorable Mention


And we return yet again to the "style over substance" discussion for the very distinctively designed mindless brute known as Validus. 


Before the Gap Years, Glorith had a whopping one appearance in the 60s as a henchwoman for the recurring villain The Time Trapper.  However, when the writers did their soft reboot to remove Superboy and Supergirl from the Legion's history, they used Glorith as their vehicle to do so, having her cast a spell to usurp the Time Trapper's place in history. Whereas the Trapper was a figure of mystery and contradictions, Glorith was a creature of desire and cunning driven by a lust for power and an obsession with the Legionnaire named Valor. 

Emerald Empress

Wielder of the mystic object known as the Emerald Eye of Ekron, there have been multiple people to hold this title throughout the years and various reboots, but the common theme tends to be the corrupting influence the Eye holds over them.  While the original Empress is still my favorite, I have found something to like about the subsequent versions as well, especially the Reboot version, who was introduced as a deadly villain in her own right even without the aid of the Eye.

Servants of Darkness

Although I had bought a couple of issues of Legion here and there, it wasn't until 1982 and the beginning of The Great Darkness Saga -- widely regarded as one of the heights of the Legion in all its forms -- that I became a true Legion fan.  And while the master villain behind it all turned out to be a highly recognizable 20th century character, it was the twisted clones that acted as his Servants which captured my imagination, even before I knew who they were.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Enjoyment Modifiers: Fantasy

Closely related to last week's entry, the genre of Fantasy can probably best be summed up by one word:  magic.  Much like Science Fiction, Fantasy works are built around creating a world different from our own, albeit difference based on the supernatural and mystical rather than scientific.  This isn't always as clear cut a division as it might seem -- many Fantasy works will bring SF elements into themselves, and vice versa.  Generally, whatever aspect is prevalent will determine how the work is categorized, but even that can be a matter of preference.

When talking about Fantasy, people often speak in terms of High Fantasy vs. Low Fantasy, but as demonstrated by a recent conversation with my pal Josh, the text book definitions of the two terms often differ from the general perception people have of the terms.  If you were to consult a text about genre fiction, odds are good it would define High Fantasy as a Fantasy taking place in a world completely different from our own and Low Fantasy as one that takes place in our world, with just a bit of magic sprinkled in.   However, many discussions I've observed among general Fantasy fans shows a different understanding of the terms, with High Fantasy indicating stories filled with epic quests pursued by noble heroes and champions of virtue, while Low Fantasy is much grittier, grimier, and greyer in terms of morality and motivation. 

As with SF, one of the bigger draws of Fantasy for me is world building and seeing the inventiveness of the creators in conjuring up a greatly different world.  Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of many Fantasy works is an adherence to ideas originating from two sources:  Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons.  While there can still be well-crafted works that draw from these sources, my enjoyment is usually lessened when a work is too obviously derivative.  This is part of why Fantasy's strength as an Enjoyment Modifier is medium across the board for me.  I prefer Fantasy works that invent their own rules for magic rather than consulting the D&D Player's handbook.

This is the first of the genres I've talked about in depth where I feel like the details of the sub-genres and other thematic elements hold more weight in my enjoyment than the trappings of the genre itself, so I think I'll hold off on any more in-depth discussions of Fantasy tropes and themes until I get to them.

 Audience participation time:  Do you love to escape into worlds filled with magic, or do you prefer your fiction to stay rooted firmly on the ground?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Spoiler Effect: To Know, or Not to Know?

If you've spent much time reading about and/or discussing your entertainment type of choice, odds are good that you have come across examples of the dreaded spoiler, i.e. plot and character information about something you haven't yet watched/read/listened to/downloaded directly into your cerebellum.*  And if you peruse message boards and comment sections, odds are even better that you've run into people who are on both sides of the spoiler debate; to wit, whether a spoiler is truly harmful to a person's enjoyment of a work or not.  Recently, the pro-spoiler camp got some new ammo in the fight with the release of a study that's been reported all over the place in articles bearing variations of "Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything" as a headline.  After seeing the umpteenth "Science proves spoilers are harmless!" article, I decided as a member of the anti-spoiler camp it was time for me to compose a rebuttal.

One argument that gets trotted out a lot by spoiler proponents is along the lines of "If the big twist is all something has going for it, it's not really worth much, is it?"  And yes, I will concede that there are some works out there whose primary value is of the shock variety, and therefore lose most of their potency when the audience is deprived of said shock.  However, to say that something only has shock value is not to say that it has no value at all; and, if something's value is tied directly into the twist, why would you feel the need to ruin that experience for someone?  Not everything is designed to be viewed or read over and over again; I don't believe disposable entertainment is the downfall of our culture as long as there are still other works out there that engage people on other levels.

A related argument says "If a work is done well, then what does it matter whether you know what's going to happen?  The skill and talent involved will make it worthwhile regardless."  This argument often relies on the concept of re-reading and re-watching to drive its point home, the idea being that when you experience a work a second time, you know what's going to happen and you still enjoy it, so therefore you would have enjoyed it in the first place no matter what.   What the people who use this argument fail to grasp is that just because you can enjoy a work even with spoilers doesn't mean that your level of enjoyment is the same, nor is the type of enjoyment you experience the same.

Let's take a couple of examples from my own life.  First, the film Serenity.  I love this film, and have watched it multiple times without my enjoyment of it lessening at all.  However, my first viewing was a distinctly different experience from all subsequent viewings due to the high level of tension I felt over the fate of the characters.  In the final act of the film, there is a distinct moment for each character wherein that character could possibly die, and with each of those moments I felt a stab of fear that this character I loved might be gone for good.  Now, if I had gone in knowing ahead of time precisely which characters would survive and which wouldn't, that tension and fear that kept me glued to the screen would have been lessened; and, while I can still watch the film and enjoy it for the writing, acting, direction, action, etc., I will never again be able to reproduce that original feeling.  But at the same time, when I re-watch the film, I can sometimes feel echoes of that tension, and remember just how powerfully it affected me the first time.

On the flip side is the movie Psycho. By the time I saw the Hitchcock classic my 7th grade year -- caution, mild spoilers ahead --  the shower scene and the secret of Norman's mother had long since been burned into my brain through pop culture awareness, and my highly anticipated viewing of it was quite underwhelming.  You could chalk part of that up to my being a callow youth at the time, but what people sometimes forget about Psycho is that those unfamiliar with the plot went in thinking that Janet Leigh's character would be the protagonist throughout, making her death at the end of the first act extremely shocking.  I, however, went in with a working knowledge of the Bates Motel set-up and the circumstances of her demise, so the shower sequence lost a great deal of its impact. 

Of course, in both of these cases, pro-spoiler advocates might argue that I'm only conjecturing how I might have reacted in the presence of absence of spoilers, but I can't really know for sure; and, while it might be true that I can't know 100%, my overall experience of reading and watching both spoiled and non-spoiled entertainment has given me a pretty solid foundation upon which to base my conclusions. 

"But Todd," the pro-spoilers among you might be asking, "so far you've been talking about general pro-spoiler arguments, but what about the study that sparked this diatribe?  Are you arguing against science?"

No, of course not.  What I am arguing against is a study whose sweeping conclusions about the value of surprise -- or lack thereof -- appear to be an example of comparing apples and oranges. The study is based on giving a group of undergraduates a selection of short stories, some with spoilers attached, some without, and then having them rate their enjoyment of each.  They found that the enjoyment factor was generally larger among those who had been spoiled as opposed to those who hadn't, ergo spoilers don't hurt.

Oh, where to begin . . .

First of all, let's get the fact that the subjects enjoyed "literary" stories less than the more genre pieces out of the way -- after all, while it might show that the subjects picked weren't interested in more complex works, it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with whether spoilers matter or not . . . although, since the study's argument rests largely on the "people prefer to deal with familiar things because they're easier" premise, it could actually be relevant  . . . but I digress.

No, for me the more pressing factor is that the researchers took a small sample of people, assigned them some short stories to read, took their general rankings of enjoyment and then extrapolated it into "spoilers mean nothing, people who think they do are wrong, this could shatter our very understanding of surprise and suspense!"

Except, well, no, not really.  Because first of all, short stories are not novels or TV series or movies or Comic books or plays or any other long-form piece of literature which, by their nature, rely more on developing tension and suspense over a greater period of time to achieve their effect.  All formats are not created equally; each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and assuming that you can take the results of testing one type of work and apply it to all types of works is a fallacy**.

And secondly, there is a little thing called "context" involved in determining whether or not a spoiler has a negative effect on an audience member.  If someone were to pull me aside, give me a random short story to read, and intro it with "And by the way, the narrator dies at the end," would I be upset and feel my enjoyment had been harmed?  Possibly not.  But, let's say someone were to give me the long-awaited sequel to one of my favorite books that I had been anticipating for a decade, and then tell me "It's crazy that they killed off the main character's wife on the last page, isn't it?" then, yes, odds are good that I'm going to be upset.  While I am firmly anti-spoiler in my philosophy, in practice I find that I prefer certain works to remain a mystery before experiencing them, while others I couldn't care less whether they were spoiled or not.  Context and emotional connection are key.

I think that's one of the things that bothers me most about the pro-spoiler camp; in addition to the one-size-fits-all, it-doesn't-bother-me-so-it-shouldn't-bother-you method of arguing, they often try to divorce all reactions to works from any emotional connection. When someone blurts out a spoiler for something you've been highly anticipating, the negative feelings generated by their carelessness can color your enjoyment of the work.  That may not be rational, but it is definitely human.  Trying to ignore that aspect of the spoiler phenomenon seems to be missing the point.

In the Wired article I linked to at the top, the author -- who came into this as someone who likes to read the last five pages of a book first -- comes up with his own rationalizations for why spoilers are meaningless, including  this snippet:
The human mind is a prediction machine, which means that it registers most surprises as a cognitive failure, a mental mistake. Our first reaction is almost never “How cool! I never saw that coming!” Instead, we feel embarrassed by our gullibility, the dismay of a prediction error.
As someone whose counts among his favorite works ones which generated the "How cool! I never saw that coming!" effect, I find this line of thought puzzling.  Which in turn brings me back to the cornerstone of the Enjoyment Modifiers schema:  the tautology of "Different People Are Different."  There are those who go into a movie or novel trying to guess everything that's going to happen, and they might very well suffer disappointment when they guess wrong; then there are those such as myself who just want to submerge themselves in the experience and let it unfold before them, and they will probably react to surprises with enjoyment at where the ride has taken them.

Like I said earlier, I too have times when I indulge in spoilers, although for me it's usually in the context of sporting events or other competitions -- if someone I really like (GSP, OSU, Colts) is going up against someone I really loathe (Koscheck, OU, Patriots) and I can't watch it live, I will often go ahead and look at the results before watching so I won't give myself an ulcer hoping the good guys win out.  But on the whole, when it comes to fiction, I prefer to be kept in the dark as much as possible beforehand so I can experience the work as its creators intended.

In conclusion I'd like to say this:  if you're someone who enjoys knowing as much as you can about something before you read or watch it, then there's nothing wrong with that.  But when you force that information onto someone who doesn't enjoy it, or deride them for their desire to be spoiler-free, it's a different story. 

Audience participation time:  How do you feel about spoilers?  Do you want it all laid out beforehand, or do you want to be surprised at every turn? 

*That last one is for future readers/downloaders.
**As is taking the study and applying it to surprise parties and wrapping presents; apparently, enjoying "An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge" more because you know the narrator's dead means that all forms of surprise  lessens all forms of enjoyment in the world.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes Favorites -- L.E.G.I.O.N.

And now:  bonus round!  I figured since I was having so much fun listing my favorite Legion members, I'd keep the streak going and focus on some other LSH related favorites. Today it's the members of the L.E.G.I.O.N.

L.E.G.I.O.N. '89-'94

At the same time as the "Gap" Legion, DC also started a companion series set in modern day times, with a team originally populated largely by ancestors of the original Legion. Entitled L.E.G.I.O.N. '89 -- a title that would of course change each year -- this anagramic title and team name stood for Licensed Extra-Governmental Insterstellar Operatives Network, which was basically an intergalactic police force for any planet willing to pay to join up. 

Vril Dox

A few years ago when I ranked my top 50 DC comics characters, the Machiavellian Virl Dox clocked in at #1. A brilliant mind coupled with a calculating nature made Dox one of those "love to hate" characters; always loved the fact that what kept most of the core L.E.G.I.O.N. members on the team in the beginning was their fear of what might happen if Dox was allowed to run things unchecked. 


One of the few founding L.E.G.I.O.N. members with no overt ties to the LSH, Stealth always intrigued me when I was younger due the mysteries surrounding her origins -- there were frequent references to the fact that nobody was familiar with her race or planet of origin, and her biology confounded any scans performed.  By the time that crazy biology led to her going into a violent heat and nearly killing Vril Dox after mating with him, my need to know more about her was overpowering.  The issue where Stealth finally gives birth is probably one of my all-time favorite stand-alone issues, giving tantalizing hints to her origins while serving up some of the most disturbing biology I've seen on the comics page.


As stated before, many of the L.E.G.I.O.N. members had connections to the future Legion -- one member was even a younger version of a future member -- but Phase as originally conceived* was actually a time-displaced Tinya Wazoo, a.k.a. Phantom Girl, hurled back to the 20th Century and mind-wiped by the temporal villain Glorith.  The amnesiac Tinya took some time to acclimate to her new surroundings, but eventually proved herself to be one of the few people who could stand up to Dox, and was subsequently made his 2nd in command.  The phrase "could stand up to Dox" should be enough to sell you on why Phase made my Top 3.

*Although obviously always intended by writer Keith Giffen to be the time-lost Tinya, later writers changed it so that she was really PG's sister Enya who had been struck by Glorith's power by accident.  During the Reboot years, Phase was once again determined to be a time-tossed Tinya, albeit with a twist that led to a plot device which basically wound up wiping Phase out of existence . . . man, that still makes me angry.  I miss Phase!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enjoyment Modifiers: Science Fiction

ModifierScience Fiction
StrengthHigh (Literature, Comics) Medium (Movies, TV)

For many people, the genre of Science Fiction conjures up images of spaceships, aliens, and futuristic landscapes, but really it encompasses a wide range of possibilities:  time travel, alternate history, psychic abilities, mutations, extrapolations of scientific theories and concepts, etc.  There's "hard" Sci-Fi, where all of the scientific principles are grounded in cold, hard fact -- at least as understood at the time of writing -- and then there's the branch where the laws of physics are treated more as suggestions.  At its core, Science Fiction is about conjuring up a world different from our own, in ways both large and small. 

One of my pet peeves is hearing a writer/actor/director/producer/etc. claim that a Sci-Fi project they're involved in isn't really a Sci-Fi project, but instead something "serious."  You know, the typical "Oh, sure, we're a series set in outer space that involves sentient robots hunting down a fleet of spaceships bearing the last remnants of humanity, but we're more of a Tense Character Drama than a Science Fiction show" type of comment.  This always infuriates me, as it ghettoizes the genre in a way that not only insults its fans, but also ignores the fact that Science Fiction has long been a genre which lends itself to introspection, philosophical musings, political commentary, satire, and examination of the human condition.  And no, not all Science Fiction is concerned with such lofty intellectual goals, but to suggest that adding literary merit automatically removes a text from the genre is asinine.

Much like with Horror, my love of Science Fiction stems from the inventiveness and departures from the norm inherent in the genre.  At the same time, Sci-Fi is the flip side of Horror in terms of which media I'm willing to cut more slack. For Sci-Fi I'm much more forgiving of the printed word than I am film; also, the MST3K Effect comes into play much less often.  I believe this is because, for me, Science Fiction is largely a genre built around ideas, and when those ideas are lacking or poorly executed, the work loses me.  I have low tolerance for lapses in internal consistency in Sci-Fi works; I don't care if your work plays fast and loose with science, as long as your world's rules don't contradict each other.  And while Horror can often win me over with its tone and atmosphere, for Science Fiction that's a much rarer feat; yes, I can be swayed by cool visuals or effects, but they have to be well-executed, or else I'm drawn out of it.

Another aspect of Science Fiction that appeals to me is the concept of world-building. I love discovering the details of a society and culture vastly different from our own conjured up out of whole cloth, whether it be an alien world or a future shaped by radical technology shifts or a past where key events happened in vastly different ways; watching these details unfold and admiring the imagination that fuels them is one of the things that makes Science Fiction one of my favorite genres. 

Audience Participation Time: Do you love all things Science Fictiony, or does anything with an out-of-this-world flavor kill your interest immediately?  If you are a fan, are there any particular sub-genres you'd like to see me tackle?  Comment away below, and then join me next week for a look at Sci-Fi's chaotic sibling, Fantasy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes Favorites -- The "Threeboot" Legion


In 2004 we were given yet another massive reboot -- called the "threeboot" by many due to the number of times the franchise had been restarted at this point -- with even more drastic changes to the established history.  This is by far my least favorite version, but even then there were some high points.

Atom Girl

The initial conceit behind the Threeboot version of Salu "Shrinking Violet" Digby is that she's basically an urban legend -- a member so tiny that she could be in your very midst and you'd never know it.  Treated a bit like a running gag for a while by the members, she eventually is revealed to be real when Brainiac 5 calls upon her to help in battle.  A little crazier than the earlier versions of Salu, and prone to violence when people make size jokes. 

Princess Projectra

In the original Legion, Princess Projectra is an honorable heroine who is fearless and fiercely loyal; in the Threeboot Legion, Princess Projectra is a spoiled brat with no powers who is only on the team because her extremely wealthy father bankrolls the team.  Although I wasn't initially a fan of this characterization, over the course of the series we see Projectra undergo a great loss, which awakens her innate illusion powers, and transforms her personality, although not necessarily in a good way.  In fact, by the time the Threeboot series ends, her bitterness towards the Legion, whom she blames for her loss, has transformed her into a chilling villain. 

Dream Girl

I was never a big fan of the previous versions of Dream Girl, whose power to see the future in her dreams was almost as problematic in battle as Matter-Eater Lad.  Plus, the original version was often a bit narcissistic, and the Reboot version was initially a futuristic Valley Girl.  But with the Threeboot, the writers came up with a characterization that I enjoyed, with Dream Girl being a bit out of it due to not always being in synch with the present -- she once just stood around during a fight because she lost track of whether it had happened yet or not--and also serving as a foil to the highly logical Brainiac 5 who was constantly frustrated by the accuracy of her predictions, as well as flustered by her insistence that they were destined to be married.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Enjoyment Modifiers: Horror

As the first full exploration of my Enjoyment Modifiers, I suppose I should explain the format I've settled on.  First, I'll give a nice itemized breakdown of the modifier name, category the modifier fits into (Genre, Plot point, Character type, etc.), type of modifier (Positive, Negative, Neutral), and the strength of the modifier to effect my enjoyment on average.  For type and strength there could be multiple values, since some things effect me differently depending on the medium, as demonstrated by our first entry. After the bare bones breakdown, I'll then pontificate about why it affects me, and maybe post a few examples. So, without further ado, on to the EM exploration.

StrengthHigh (Film, TV) Low (Literature, Comics)

When it comes to TV and Film, I'd hazard to say that the genre of Horror is one of my most consistently powerful positive Enjoyment Modifiers, regardless of subgenre; it doesn't matter if it's vampires, slasher, werewolves, demons, or zombies*, if it's a Horror movie then odds are good I'm going to enjoy it, even if just ironically.  This love of Horror fiction stems from several aspects of my personality.

First, it appeals to the part of me that is drawn to the outre, the unique, the inventive, the out-of-this-world.   I have a feeling this aspect of my personality is going to pop up a lot in these posts, as I've found that I'm willing to give much more leeway to anything that's a bit "out there" than I am a more "normal" film of the same general quality.  So, anything with a supernatural theme already has my interest, and even the horror featuring regular human slashers usually gets a bump from featuring some original death sequences. 

Second, it appeals to my darker side; I have a cynical streak which finds boundless optimism in fiction cloying and off-putting, but with the bulk of Horror films, even when the good guys win -- and with horror that is not even close to a given -- there's generally a fatalism that resonates with my own.  This fascination with the darker side of things also applies to the bleak, dreary, and creepy atmospheres you often find in Horror flicks. 

Third, even the less stellar examples of horror can provide for that need that many of us share:  a need for mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum that allows us to turn off our brains for a bit and just enjoy ourselves.  For many people action movies fill this role; for others, it's romantic comedies or procedurals.  But for me, when I'm in the mood to just vegetate, I will always turn to a B-movie filled with slashers or giant animals wreaking havoc on Z-grade actors.  This is probably why out of all the genres, Horror gets the biggest boost from the MST3K effect.

Please note:  I'm not saying all Horror is mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum -- just that when it is, I'm more likely to enjoy it than other examples of mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum.

In regards to the printed page, however, the bonus is much lower.  Part of that is due to the fact that I prefer to get my mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum in moving picture form, and not in typeset; the whole point of such entertainment is to turn your brain off for a bit and just vegetate, and I find it much more difficult to zone out while reading. 

Another factor is that I am not a particularly visual thinker, and thus the perennial bit of wisdom about how the pictures in your imagination are better than anything that makes it onto the screen doesn't always hold water for me, particularly when it comes to conjuring up mental images of the dark and disturbing things that populate Horror fiction.  Not that it can't happen; I've gotten completely creeped out by descriptive passages from Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, and others.  But the amount of verbal skill required for a writer to take me to that place means that it's not as sure a thing as a well designed and directed film.

How about you, my blog monkeys?  Are you fellow gorehounds, or do you eschew all things horrific?  If you are a horror aficionado, are there any particular sub-genres (vampire, slasher, zombie, etc.) that you'd like me to discuss?  Sound off below, and come back next Thursday for a look at another big Genre:  Science Fiction.

*Well, maybe it matters a little if it's zombies -- zed-word burnout has diluted the Horror bonus quite a bit there -- will talk more about that in a sub-genre post at some point.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The MST3K Effect, or "So Bad It's Good"

While the concept of Enjoyment Modifiers dwells upon specific components of works creating resonance or dissonance within the audience, it's important to remember that the modifiers still need a base to work off of -- a base composed of the overall quality of the craft put into the work: writing, acting, directing, editing, etc.  Logically, the lower the quality of the work, then the more powerful the positive modifiers need to be to make the work enjoyable.

Unless, that is, you have a personality type which is susceptible to The MST3K Effect.

For those unfamiliar with it, MST3K stands for Mystery Science Theater 3000, the late lamented TV series based around a group of people endlessly mocking low quality films.  While MST3K might not have invented the concept of deriving enjoyment through ridiculing B-movies, its popularity has made it one of the most recognizable examples of the idea that sub-par works can sometimes be enjoyed not despite their flaws, but because of them.

As I said, it takes a particular type of personality to derive pleasure from bad movies/TV/literature; as you are probably aware by now, I am possessed of just such a personality.  There's just something about scenery chewing actors, dime-store quality special effects, and IQ sapping plot points that amuses the heck out of me. 

Please note that there is definitely a difference between something being "bad" and something being "so bad it's good."  There's a sweet spot of awfulness that a work has to hit in order for its lack of quality to move from painful to entertaining. For example, I recently watched both Leprechaun In the Hood and its sequel, Leprechaun: Back 2 the Hood, and while I found the former to be a laugh riot, the latter was a struggle to get through.

Also, that sweet spot can vary from person to person -- my "so bad it's good" flick can be another person's "terminally unwatchable," and vice versa; after hearing so much about the low budget Birdemic, I was eagerly looking forward to a roller coaster ride of entertaining awfulness, but was instead bored out of my mind for 2/3 of the film's running time.

Personally, that's a large factor of what separates a "bad" work (like Vampire$) from a "so bad it's good" work (Troll 2) -- the boredom factor.  If there's nothing of even mild interest going on for huge stretches of time, then not even the occasional burst of mind-blowing crappiness can fully engage the MST3K effect.  Let's face it -- there's a good reason why Mystery Science Theater 3000 would cut out huge sections of movies from episodes other than making time for commercial breaks and invention exchanges.

Genre can also play a factor on whether a bad movie attracts or repels; I have a weakness for shoddily done horror movies, and to a lesser extent bad Sci-Fi flicks, but it takes a special brand of awful to get me to sit through a poorly done drama or romantic comedy.  I'll probably explore this more in my individual Enjoyment Modifiers posts when relevant.

Now, as you may have been able to tell from the examples I keep using, the MST3K effect mostly comes into play for me when it comes to film, and not so much in other media -- a bad horror movie is going to suck me in most every time, but a bad horror novel will get thrown down in disgust. But this, too can vary for different people.  A prime example is Comics Alliance's Senior Batmanologist Chris Sims, who has gotten great mileage out of mocking several B-grade comic series; and while I have derived great pleasure from reading Sims' mockery of these books, I know that I would be unable to make it all the way through them on my own power.

Are you susceptible to the MST3K Effect?  Or do all bad movies/books/etc. just leave a bad taste in your mouth?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes Favorites -- The "Reboot" Legion


In 1994, a major company-wide crossover called Zero Hour led to a massive reboot of the franchise, starting from the ground-up, adding in some radical changes to character histories and characterizations. In this new version, Legion membership is politically based, as each member of the United Planets strives to have a representative, with some members being more "drafted" than anything else, which lead to some interesting character interactions. It took me a little while to warm up to this version, and there are some changes that still rankle, but over time I came to love this version almost as much as the originals.

Kid Quantum 

The second hero to use the name, Jazmin Cullun adopted the role of Kid Quantum after her brother died on his first mission with the Legion.  Partially blaming them for her brother's death, Jazmin originally joined her home planet of Xanthu's home-grown super-team The Amazers.   For her first several appearances, Kid Q was disdainful of the Legion, and even maintained that attitude for a time after eventually joining the team.  But over time, she began to shed the chip on her shoulder and proved herself to be an incredibly competent member of the team, eventually being elected leader.  Much like with previous Top 3 listers Polar Boy, Sussa, and Salu, I think my appreciation for Kid Quantum stems largely from getting to see her character grow and change over time.


An example of one of the drafted Legionnaires, the politically active Gates initially did all he could not to become a part of what he believed to be a "teenage death squad" run by fascists intent on keeping the working class cowed.  Yes, that's right; Gates is a futuristic, teleporting, alien bug with communist leanings.   Need I say more?  The news that he has been returned to continuity in the new Legion series is music to my ears.


One of the issues I often had with the Reboot Legion was accepting the radical changes made to characters I loved -- Sensor Girl becoming Sensor, the illusion casting snake, for example, is one change that I never fully accepted.  So, when I saw some preview pages for the Legion Lost mini-series which introduced a new winged character with super-human tracking power who wasn't named Dawnstar, I was immediately on the defensive.  But, if Legion Lost taught me anything, it's that I should trust in the skills of creators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (or DnA as they're often billed) who not only manged to turn the perpetually annoying She-Hulk knockoff Monstress into a character that was actually this close to making it into my Top 3, but also created a unique and endearing character in Shikari, the lone warrior of her race who helps the Legion find their way home and then becomes an integral part of the team.  Although sometimes naive, in a stranger-in-a-strange-land sort of way, Shikari's naivete was sometimes a source of humor, but never a source of weakness.   

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Enjoyment Modifiers: Genre

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many posts on my Enjoyment Modifiers schema.  To start us off, I thought I'd tackle the broadest category of modifiers:  Genre.  After all, even people who don't put a lot of critical thought into their entertainment choices tend to use genres as de facto Enjoyment Modifiers, selecting and avoiding media by virtue of its status as a work of Science Fiction, Romance, Drama, etc.  In other words, a good jumping off point for the series.

To start off, what exactly constitutes a genre?  Well, the dictionary definition is "A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content."  In other words, a genre is a label given to works that share commonalities in their plots, themes, settings, etc.  For my purposes, I have separated out what I think of as the Major Genres: those categories which are joined together more by broad themes than by specific plots.  The more narrowly defined categories fall into my idea of Sub-Genres.  There are lots of lists of what people consider the Major Genres, but here is my own personal list.

  • Action/Adventure
  • Comedy
  • Crime
  • Drama
  • Fantasy
  • Historical
  • Horror
  • Musical
  • Mystery
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Superheroes
  • Thriller
  • Western
I went back and forth on whether to include Superheroes in the above or relegate it to a Sub-Genre, but my pal Josh made an argument on his blog yesterday about them actually being a Supercategory unto themselves, much like Drama and Comedy are sometimes considered, so they made the cut. 

Along those line, one of the difficulties with having such broad designations is that many works will actually be a mixture of two or more of the above; Back to the Future merges Science Fiction and  Comedy, Sweeny Todd is a Musical that is also part Horror and Drama, True Blood is Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Drama, and Comedy all rolled into one.  Often one aspect outshines the others in some way and thus becomes the accepted Genre label, but others have the different threads entangled so much that it's difficult to separate one out from another.

While the major genres can be a useful shorthand for explaining likes/dislikes, in practice the individual works underneath the umbrella often have such a wide range of other factors that it makes their efficacy as modifiers minimal.  For example, while I could say "I like Comedies", in reality there are numerous sub-genres that have varying degrees of negative mods (Slapstick, Farce, Cringe) that outweigh my general love of humor significantly.  Similarly, while I might say "I don't like Romance," there are several works with romantic undertones which I thoroughly enjoy, and in reality it's not so much the larger genre I abhor, as it is certain plot elements which tend to crop up (Misunderstandings, Assumptions) and leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Practically speaking, for me there are only a few Genres which serve as true Enjoyment Modifiers, and even then their use varies depending on medium and overall quality of the work.  My next few posts will be examining these Genres in a bit more detail, starting with one of the more striking ones:  Horror.

So, which of the Major Genres attract and repel you? Please answer below!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes Favorites -- The "Gap" Years

And now for part 2 of my examination of my favorite Legion of Super-Heroes characters.


In 1989 the Legion went through a bit of a "soft" reboot, jumping forward in time 5 years into a grimmer and grittier world, and undergoing some subtle (and not so subtle) continuity changes to remove Superboy and Supergirl from the Legion's history.  The "Gap" Legion was marked by a generally darker tone, with the Legion having been disbanded and slowly coming back together over the course of the series.  Reviled by many, but I've always been a big fan.  One of the big complaints by many was that the characters tended to call each other by their real names instead of their code names . . . a practice I actually appreciated, and will replicate here in my picks.

Tenzil Kem

Although Tenzil Kem was a member of the Legion during the Silver Age as the prosaically named Matter-Eater Lad, it wasn't until Keith Giffen's re-imagining of the character during the Gap years that I truly fell in love with the character. No longer a super-hero in the traditional sense but rather a Senator for his planetary government, Giffen chose to embrace the innate absurdity of the character's abilities, allowing Tenzil to save the day not by eating any form of matter, but by confounding his foes with his warped and absurdist humor.  Need I go on?

Sussa Paka 

Pre-Gap, Sussa Paka, a.k.a. Spider-Girl, was a rejected Legion applicant who decided not to go the Substitute Hero route, but instead joined the Legion of Super-Villains instead.  Post-Gap, Sussa had abandoned the LSV and their murderous ways, but had continued her life of crime as an accomplished thief who becomes romantically interested in Ultra-Boy and tries to reform for him.  Sussa's mostly unrequited love and her attempts at turning over a new leaf made her one of the more interesting characters in the Gap years for me; of all the pieces of characterization I miss from subsequent reboots, this one probably stings the most.

Salu Digby

Another old school Legionnaire, Salu was codenamed Shrinking Violet, both for her ability to shrink to microscopic sizes, and because she was a bit on the shy side.  However, in the 80s Vi was kidnapped and held captive for an extended period of time, and upon her release was much more outgoing and aggressive.   This trend continued in the Gap years, as over the course of the series we learned that during the Five Yar Gap Salu had returned to her home planet of Imsk and become a soldier, enduring many hardships and emerging even tougher, despite harboring some secret guilt for her part in the war.  Towards the end of the Gap years, she emerged as the team leader. I had grown to appreciate Vi during the latter years of first Legion iteration, but it was watching her continued growth in the Gap Years that bumped her up to the top.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Enjoyment Modifiers

When I first started this spin-off blog, I mentioned that I'd like to use it to explore some of my thoughts about different genres and concepts.  Well, that exploration begins now with a series of posts about what I've taken to calling Enjoyment Modifiers.

So, what exactly are Enjoyment Modifiers?  Well, when discussing the concept with my friend Bubblegum Tate*, he grokked the concept from the name itself :  "I'm immediately thinking in RPG terms," he said. "+10% bonus if MODOK is in it." Which summed up the concept so well, that I had to include it.

On the most basic level, with questions of quality removed from the equation, they are the components of a work which effect how much we enjoy the work as a whole, either positively or negatively. Put another way: with a strong enough positive modifier attached to a work, you can power through an amazing amount of dreck, whereas with a strong negative modifier, not even Shakespearian levels of writing or acting can entice you to finish watching/reading.

The modifiers can be just about anything, from overall genre (Horror, Thriller, Comedy),  sub-genre (Slasher, Caper, RomCom)  to specific plot elements (Splitting Up In Dangerous Situations, One Of Us Is a Traitor, Split Up Over Misunderstanding) to character types (Cocky Jock, Fast-talking Grifter, Quirky Best Friend).

What makes it even more fun is the fact that the effects of these modifiers are different for different people, depending on our tastes and preferences.  For example, while my father and I both find the overall genre of Science Fiction to be a Positive Enjoyment Modifier, the sub-genre of Alternate Timelines is positive for me, but negative for him, so I read/watch them like crazy while he avoids them if he can.

Having a good grasp of what constitutes an individual's personal Enjoyment Modifier profile is key to giving effective recommendations -- which might seem like a no-brainer, but after spending a lot of time on Twitter and in the Onion A.V. Club's** comment sections, I can guarantee that there are a lot of people out there who assume that all right-minded people share their tastes and any who don't are morons.

Anyway, owing to the large amounts of pop culture I ingest on a regular basis branding me as the go-to guy for many of my friends and family when it comes to movie/TV/book recommendations, I have tried to decipher as many of their Enjoyment Modifiers as I can.  So, I know that Flunky is drawn to stories where a lowly commoner becomes a great hero and my parents don't like movies that glamorize thieves and Firestorm checks out when things get bloody and Shack-Fu loves kick-ass military movies and so on and so forth.

And of course, if I can better understand how my own Enjoyment Modifiers affect my reading/viewing experience, then it becomes easier for me to divorce my experience from my recommendations to a certain degree . . . or at least qualify them.  "No, I didn't care for that film," I might say, "but that's largely due to Awkward Continual Lying For No Good Reason being an enormously negative Enjoyment Modifier for me." Or something like that.

Not that it's an exact science, by any means; the modifiers aren't always additive, and sometimes all the positive modifiers in the world can't save a work from one pervasive negative modifiers; there are some modifiers which vary from format to format; some modifiers are more conditional, with their positive effects being proportional to the quality of the work; and I'm sure there are lots of other exceptions and oddities that will pop up along the way. But in terms of trying to explain why this movie everyone else loves is something I loathe with a fiery passion ***, well, I think it's a pretty handy tool.

So, in the coming weeks, I'll be examining some of my more prominent Enjoyment Modifiers:  trying to decipher why they affect me and giving some examples. It's highly likely this will fall into the "only interesting to me" category of posts****, but since when has that ever stopped me?

The plan is to have one of these post every Thursday afternoon. While we're waiting for my first official entry to post, please feel free to mention some of your own Enjoyment Modifiers in the comment section, and I'll be sure to add them to the list of things I'll talk about.

*A.K.A. soon-to-be-published novelist Joshua Unruh who has given me permission to name check him as much as I want as part of his new self-promotion initiative.
**Pretty sure that 99% of the AV Club commenters would list "quirky characters" as a -900000 modifier
***I'm looking at you, Meet the Parents

****Or, more accurately, interesting to me and Mr. Unruh, who was very intrigued by the concept and has been encouraging me to write the post so he can comment on it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Legion of Super-Heroes Favorites

My pal Bubblegum Tate gave me the following suggestion for a list:  "Let's chat about your favorite Legionnaires in say a top three manner with extra points for exactly why."

For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge fan of Legion of Super-Heroes, and while we were working together at OSU I introduced Tate to the wonders of the 31st century as well.  Being a Legion fan can be an exhausting experience at times, as the books has gone through a number of reboots and retcons that can scare away the casual fan, but can also reward the faithful follower.  Trying to narrow it down to just three favorite Legionnaires would be next to impossible for me -- however, I do think it's possible for me to narrow it down to three from each major iteration, with a few "honorable mentions" here and there. so, here's the first in a series.


The group that started it all, this version of the Legion was first introduced in 1958, and lasted until 1989.  The basic concept is this:  in the 30th (later, 31st) Century, a group of super-powered teenagers are so inspired by the stories of young Superboy's heroic deeds that they decide to follow in his footsteps and form their own super-hero club.  Originally introduced in a Superboy story where the three Legion founders travel back in time to offer Superboy membership, the Legion soon became popular enough to carry first their own recurring feature in Adventure Comics, and eventually their own self-titled series.

Honorable Mention


Let's face it:  in our current PC times, it's doubtful Dawnstar would be created as a character unless she was meant ironically -- a mutant of Native American descent whose primary ability outside of her flight is, of all things, super-tracking. And I have to admit that a lot of my love of Dawny is tied up in her striking visual design, which really spoke to a young boy growing up in NE Oklahoma.


Star Boy 

The very first issue of The Legion of Super-Heroes I ever read featured Star Boy pretty heavily, and I think I was originally drawn to the character by his cool visual design, which I must admit is a common theme among a lot of the beloved characters of my youth.  But the reason Star Boy manages to break the top 3 while other the other visually stunning characters of that early issue such as Phantom Girl, Timber Wolf, and Wildfire don't, can be directly attributed to Legion of Super-Heroes #306, an origin issue devoted solely to summing up Star Boy's history as the unluckiest Legionnaire. That issue humanized him in a way that set him apart from the rest of the group for me. 

Sensor Girl

When she was first introduced, she was a mystery Legionnaire, her background, identity, and exact powers kept a secret from everyone, both in story and out; and while the mystery was cool, the eventual reveal and explanation were better than my young mind could have imagined. Even though I doubt a single person reading this blog who doesn't already know the deal with Sensor Girl will ever go back and read the stories, I find myself loathe to spoil the secret.

Plus, , y'know, I love her original costume design.

Polar Boy

Ok, this one is definitely not a case of young Todd being entranced by the costume. Originally rejected from Legion membership due to an inability to properly control his cold-generating power, Brek Bannin decided not to wallow in self-pity, but instead became the epitome of the NGUNS spirit, gathering together fellow rejects and forming them into the Legion of Substitute Heroes, a group of well-intentioned misfits who would spring into action whenever the main Legion was unavailable.  Eventually, he gained enough control of his powers that he was able to join the Legion proper.  Brek's spirit of perseverance and move from object of ridicule to respected Legionnaire earns him his spot in the Top 3.

Friday, May 13, 2011

100 Things I Love About Music

Now, this list probably isn't going to be as eclectic or interesting as my previous ones, just because while I love listening to music, I'm not as big a student of it as I am TV, film, and comics.  That being said, once my uncle pointed out I could also include aspects of musicals into the list, well, the compulsion was upon me.

  1. "Bandages" by Hot Hot Heat
  2. Using music for mnemonic devices
  3. "Anna Begins" by Counting Crows
  4. "Weird" Al Yankovic
  5. Stephen Sondheim
  6. The chorus to Letters to Cleo's "Here and Now"
  7. Concept albums
  8. "Agony" (and its Reprise) from Into the Woods
  9. "Piece of My Heart" sung by Janis.  And only by Janis.  Nobody else.  Period.
  10. Genre-bending cover songs . . . unless they violate the conditions of #9 
  11. Cake's Fashion Nugget
  12. Kronos Quartet's score for Requiem for a Dream   
  13. The bridge of Blues Traveller's "The Hook"
  14. "The Song That Goes Like This" in Spamalot 
  15. Kristin Chenoweth's performance of "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide 
  16. "Jenny Says" by Cowboy Mouth
  17. "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" by Lenny Kravitz
  18. Barenaked Ladies
  19. "Stay" by Lisa Loeb
  20. "Money, Money" from Cabaret
  21. Kingston Trio
  22. Linda Ronstadt's Greatest Hits Volume 1 
  23. "Kamikaze" by Five Iron Frenzy
  24. Foo Fighters
  25. "Getting Married Today" from Company 
  26. B-52's Cosmic Thing 
  27. "Black Sheep" by Metric
  28. Mamas and the Papas
  29. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler
  30. The Cardigans
  31. "Freak on a Leash" by Korn
  32. "Big-Ass Rock" from The Full Monty
  33. White Stripes channeling a song from Citizen Kane in "Union Forever"
  34. Our Lady Peace's Clumsy 
  35. "Lucas with the Lid Off" by Lucas
  36. "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain and Tenile
  37. Bjork
  38. Portishead's Dummy 
  39. "Inside Out" by Eve 6
  40. How the hymn "Church in the Wildwoods" always makes me think of my Papaw
  41. "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls 
  42. "Trigger Happy Jack" by Poe
  43. "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree
  44. Ben Folds
  45. The dark and twisty lyrics of Ludo
  46. Aimee Mann's music from Magnolia
  47. "Pardon Me" by Incubus
  48. "I've Got Friends" by Manchester Orchestra
  49. "Sick and Beautiful" by Artificial Joy Club
  50. Nirvana on MTV Unplugged 
  51. Rebekkah del Rio's accoustic Spanish language cover of Roy Orbison's "Crying"
  52. "My First, My Last, My Everything" by Barry White
  53. The Swell Season
  54. Old 97s
  55. "Come Monday" by Jimmy Buffett
  56. "Sci-Fi Wasabi" by Cibo Matto
  57. "Smackwater Jack" by Carole King
  58. "Sleep to Dream" by Fiona Apple
  59. Weezer's debut album
  60. "I Know" by Dionne Farris
  61. Jason Mraz
  62. "Dry the Rain" by The Beta Band
  63. "Overkill" by Colin Hay
  64. "Teenage F.B.I." by Guided by Voices
  65. Allison Krause and Union Station
  66. "Reflections" by Diana Ross and the Supremes
  67. Sutton Foster singing "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie 
  68. All the songs from "Once More with Feeling," the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical
  69. "What it Takes" by Aerosmith
  70. "I Hate Music" by Andrew Paul Woodworth
  71. "Fallin'" from They're Playing Our Song
  72. "How Shall I See You Through My Tears" from A Gospel at Colonus
  73. The horn section in Blood Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel"
  74. The Beatles
  75. The Who's Tommy 
  76. "I Can't Get Next to You" by The Temptations
  77. "Man of Constant Sorrow" by the Soggy Bottom Boys
  78. A Mighty Wind soundtrack and its pitch-perfect folk music parodies
  79. The Star Wars cantina song
  80. "El Paso" by Marty Robins
  81. Dada
  82. "Eli's Coming" by Three Dog Night
  83. Green Hornet theme song
  84. Flight of the Conchords
  85. "El Tango de Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge
  86. Toad the Wet Sprocket's Dulcinea
  87. Michael Jackson's "You Can't Win" from The Wiz 
  88. "Nothing Compares 2U" by Sinead O'Connor
  89. "Zombie" by The Cranberries
  90. "Lightning Strikes" by Lou Christie
  91. A cappella groups
  92. "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse
  93. "Breaking the Girl" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  94. "Push" by Matchbox 20
  95. "Through With You" by Maroon 5
  96. Sound of Urchin
  97. "Vampires Will Never Hurt you" by My Chemical Romance
  98. "Understanding in a Car Crash" by Thursday
  99. "Gold Lion" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  100. Queen.

      Wednesday, May 4, 2011

      100 Things I Love About Comics

      Yes, the list making bug has hit hard -- first movies, then TV, and now, comic books.  Granted, this one will be a bit more niche than the last two, but for the three people who'll actually read it -- and the one of those who will actually get 98% of the references without the aide of Google -- I hope it's worth it.  Again, I tried to keep it as varied as possible, so it wasn't just me listing 100 things I love about The Legion of Super Heroes and Alan Moore. Now, for those of you who do read this, please, leave thoughts on your favorite things about comics as well.
      1. Swashbuckling Nightcrawler
      2. Finding some new layer or detail the first half-dozen times I read Watchmen
      3. Old school Justice League/Justice Society team-ups
      4. The Squadron Supreme

      5. The Kessels' Hawk and Dove run
      6. M.O.D.O.K.
      7. Projectra's execution of Nemesis Kid
      8. The art of George Perez
      9. Blue Devil as weirdness magnet
      10. Ms. Marvel
      11. Ambush Bug
      12. The New Mutants watching Magnum, P.I. 
      13. Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange
      14. Kurt Busiek's Astro City 
      15. John Ostrander's Suicide Squad 
      16. The reveal of who the Thunderbolts really were
      17. The Green Lantern Oath
      18. Spider Jerusalem's filthy assistants 
      19. The Great Lakes Avengers
      20. Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew
      21. Constantine conning the devils to cure his cancer
      22. Steve Gerber's Defenders
      23. Havok's original costume and power signature
      24. Ronnie Raymond/Professor Stein as Firestorm
      25. Alan Davis
      26. Babe the Blue Ox's fantasy life in Jack of Fables 
      27. Ralph and Sue Dibney
      28. "We have become like unto tiny refreshing gods!"
      29. Tim Drake as Robin
      30. The original Spider-Woman series, in all its oddball glory
      31. The Dark Phoenix Saga
      32. Gail Simone.
      33. "One punch! One punch!"
      34. Bill Willingham's Elementals 
      35. Vril Dox.
      36. Learning more about WWII from All-Star Squadron than I did in history class
      37. Songbird
      38. Tony Isabella's Justice Machine 
      39. Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol
      40. Beast and Wonder Man's bromance
      41. Scourge taking out a whole bar of villains in one fell swoop
      42. Barry Ween, Boy Genius
      43. Phil Foglio's Angel and the Ape mini
      44. Peter David
      45. Pamcakes
      46. Stupid stupid rat creatures in Bone
      47. "Church and State" arc in Cerebus 
      48. Wolff & Byrd: Supernatural Attorneys at Law
      49. Mark Gruenwald's Quasar
      50. The reinvention of Machine Man in Nextwave
      51. Reinventing Arthurian legend in Mage: The Hero Discovered 
      52. Joe Hill's Locke & Key 
      53. Amadeus Cho
      54. Alan Moore's Supreme
      55. Paul Grist's Jack Staff
      56. Star Trek loving demon Glumph in Boneyard 
      57. Micronauts
      58. Alternate timelines
      59. Red Kryptonite
      60. Legion of Super-Heroes tryouts
      61. Tony Chu's interesting talent
      62. James Robinson's Starman
      63. Deadpool traveling back in time to Amazing Spider-Man #47
      64. Parodying Dune and Harry Potter at the same time
      65. Improbable team-ups
      66. Frank Miller's Daredevil
      67. The fact that Marvel decided to team up their Blaxploitation hero and Kung-Fu hero, and it actually turned out to be even more awesome than it sounds

      68. Wise-cracking heroes
      69. Dan Slott's She-Hulk 
      70. Christopher Priest
      71. Nova, the Human Rocket
      72. Shared universes and continuities
      73. Delirium of the Endless
      74. T. Campell's Fans!
      75. The sound effects in The Incredible Hercules

      76. One-Who-Knows
      77. Dynamic Duo
      78. Warriors Three
      79. Frightful Four
      80. Fatal Five
      81. The Secret Six
      82. Salem's Seven
      83. Offical Handbook to Marvel Universe
      84. The Vision losing his temper
      85. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
      86. Herbie Popnecker: The Fat Fury
      87. The Tarot issue of Promethea 
      88. Tenzil for the defense
      89. Kitty Pryde
      90. Barbara Gordon using her library and information sciences abilities to fight evil
      91. Clan Apis
      92. Thinly veiled hero/villain analogues
      93. Unstable molecules
      94. The Foot Soldiers
      95. Warren Ellis' Global Frequency 
      96. Marvel's "Cosmic" books
      97. Aaron William's PS238 
      98. Alan Moore's From Hell
      99. Phil Hester's The Wretch
      100. Avengers assembling.