Come As You Are

I first saw the park next door to Kurt Cobain’s last home on television when I was seventeen. I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time because I was too sad. Kurt Loder had confirmed the news on MTV. Kurt Cobain had shot himself. One of the greatest rock stars of my generation was dead. How could that be? Every fiber of the couch prickled on my skin. The air seemed to have been taken out of the room. No one was home.

I saw a sea of people at the park; sad, confused, lost. What I am seeing on the television is happening in Seattle, Washington, yet it feels like I am there. I felt numb as I saw the story unfold on television, unable to comprehend why someone who seemly had everything in the world would end his life in such a tragic, violent way.

I watch Courtney Love talk to a couple of strangers on a park bench. She hasn’t slept in days. Her hair is a mess. Her eyes are red from crying. She’s comforting the people on the bench, trying to tell them it’s ok to cry. What he did was wrong. She talks about their baby, Frances.

Why?

Time goes on. Kurt Cobain became mythologized by joining the horrible club of other rock stars who died at age 27. Some people took the wrong lessons from his life. I found myself at 45 wanting to understand just why he chose to end things.

Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl’s Olympia, Washington apartment.

I first stop off at his apartment in Olympia, Washington, where Kurt, with his roommate Dave Grohl, wrote a majority of Nirvana’s hits. The building is blue and ratty, the type of house my mother would have told me to avoid if it were Halloween when I was a kid. Today, with my credit, I would be lucky to qualify to live there. But the history! The place was inspiring because of what was created here. Out of this ratty apartment building, music that will speak to countless people for years to come was made. The air was crisp that day. Fall had set in. The breeze sliced through my jacket, sending a chill through my body. I couldn’t help but feel energized though, like a power source connected to my brain and was giving me a fill up. If history could happen here…

The front gate to Kurt Cobain’s last home.

I arrived in Seattle the next day and find the park I saw on television. My eyes well up as I step on the lush grass, greener than I remembered on television when I first saw it in 1994. Trees stand guard around the park, covering it with perpetual shade. I see the park bench I saw on television when I was 17. It overlooks a beautiful lake. It’s a type of serenity you don’t encounter often in the city. The park gave me the feeling you would get from a warm hug. I turn my head to the red home barely visible over the security walls. This was the home where Kurt Cobain shot himself. I cried.

Why did he do it?

I never found an answer. I wasn’t meant to. But I found some solace. I think of the serenity of that park, just how calm and peaceful it made me as I wept, thinking back all those years to a young me sitting on a couch at home. Maybe, in Kurt’s last desperate hours, maybe he took a moment to sit on this bench and just enjoy the view, letting the serenity of the park give him one last respite from the pain he felt.

I hope.

Park Bench next door to Kurt Cobain’s last home.

Look, Up In The Sky!

Superman: The Movie is a motion picture that was released in 1978. Despite there being attempts at making comic book movies in the past, whether it be low budget movie serials or comedic films like Batman: The Movie from 1966, this was the first attempt at making a serious big budget motion picture that appealed to the masses. The choices made by the cast and crew of Superman: The Movie not only ensured that the movie itself would be entertaining for fans, it helped shaped the character of Superman and the world he inhabited in comics as a whole.

            The first lasting change starts with the opening location in the movie, Krypton. Before the movie, Krypton had routinely been portrayed as a typical 50’s sci-fi wonderland, similar to settings you would see in works like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. Richard Donner decided to take a different tact. Working with production designer John Barry, they envisioned Krypton as a cold, alien planet covered in crystals. This allowed the filmmakers to give the film a more modern look.

            The comics quickly took cues from the movie. After the landmark comic event Crisis On Infinite Earths, an event series intended to streamline the DC universe continuity, DC Comics commissioned noted comic creator John Byrne to reimagine the origins of Superman in his limited series Man Of Steel. The purpose of Man Of Steel was to essentially start over with the character. Mr. Byrne, taking cues from Superman: The Movie, took Krypton from the 50’s sci-fi wonderland it had been for over 50 plus years into an alien landscape that resembled the locations established in the movies. There were some changes, to be fair. Mr. Byrne presented Krypton as more of a desert planet, but the design of the buildings on Krypton closely resembled the world of Krypton in the films.

            The next big change had to do with Lois Lane. While she was never the typical damsel in distress, during the height of the Comic Code Authority of the 50’s and 60’s, Lois’s character became more focused on getting a man, not on being the best reporter at The Daily Planet. In fact, while she did have a comic book of her own during this era, Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, that book typically featured her being boy crazy of some sort.

            Enter Margot Kidder. Margot took Lois Lane from a two-dimensional caricature into a fully fleshed out character. In the movie, Lois Lane is a tough, no nonsense woman who is good at her job and has no qualms letting you know about that. Sure, she loves Superman in the movie, yet her worth as a character is not defined by that love. She becomes the adult Wendy to Superman’s Peter Pan.

            How did that affect Lois in the comics? When John Byrne created Man Of Steel, his version of Lois Lane was influenced by the movie. She wasn’t portrayed as boy crazy anymore. The layers that Margot Kidder added to Lois Lane translated well to the comics. By giving Lois realistic motivations as a character, we the readers were able to connect with her in ways we simply couldn’t before. After the movie, Lois in the comics simply became more relatable because she was no longer a caricature.

            Another character that benefited by changes in the movie was Lex Luthor, greatest criminal mind of our time. In the comics, it was established that Lex and a young Clark Kent grew up together in Smallville. Thanks to a science experiment that went bad, Lex lost his hair, which caused him to seek vengeance on Superman. What greater motivation does a super villain need for world domination than male pattern baldness?

            The movie took a different path. Instead of presenting Lex as an evil scientist, Richard Donner took cues from the James Bond franchise and turned Lex into an evil capitalist with no moral compass. (Interestingly, the final script was written by Tom Mankiewicz, who wrote a number of early Bond films.) In the film, he desires land and will go to any length to get what he wants. For an audience in the 70’s, this was much more relatable than a mad scientist. A person could switch on the news and watch plenty of real-world Lex Luthor’s walking among them.

            The comics took note. Starting with John Byrne’s Man Of Steel, Lex Luthor was an evil industrialist that was head of LexCo. He used his resources as an industrialist to achieve his goals. By updating the character of Lex Luthor, making him resemble the character as portrayed in the movie, the comics took an outdated trope, the evil scientist, and updated the character into someone the average reader would think is real.

            Superman: The Movie is a landmark film. Similar to how the creation of Superman in the comics launched the superhero craze, the movie helped open the eyes of Hollywood as to what comic book stories can offer audiences. No longer are comic book characters marketed specifically to children. The movie, made 50 or so years after the creation of the comic, understood that generations of people grew up with these characters. By adapting them for modern times, by giving the characters more to do than the standard two-dimensional tropes you would come to expect from these stories, the movie opened the door for comic book creators to offer more depth to the world of Superman for which we the readers continue to benefit.

Episode 158: Book Club: March Book 1 Episode Notes

The Friends Talking Nerdy Book Club returns! This month, Professor Aubrey,  Tim, Jennifer Lumbly, and Keeli Price discuss the book March Book 1 by the late John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.

As mentioned on the show, Jennifer is the host of Comics Will Break Your Heart on YouTube. If you enjoy in depth, entertaining discussions about comic books, Jennifer’s show is for you. The beauty of having a webpage allows me to point you attention below this paragraph.

And look at that! It’s Jennifer’s show. Check it out for yourself. You won’t regret it.

One of the creators on March Book 1, Nate Powell, has a new book out. Save It For Later is the name of the book. Here is a brief description of the book from it’s website:

‘In this anthology of seven comics essays, author and graphic novelist Nate Powell addresses living in an era of what he calls “necessary protest.” Save It for Later: Promises, Parenthood, and the Urgency of Protest is Powell’s reflection on witnessing the collapse of discourse in real time while drawing the award-winning trilogy March, written by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, this generation’s preeminent historical account of nonviolent revolution in the civil rights movement. Powell highlights both the danger of normalized paramilitary presence symbols in consumer pop culture, and the roles we play individually as we interact with our communities, families, and society at large.’

It looks like a great companion piece to the book we read, so we strongly encourage you to buy the book. If the past four years has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot sit by idly while the world burns. One of the pieces in the book, called About Face, debuted on the website Popula. Take some time to check it out by clicking here. It’s a great read.

And finally, Keeli Price mentioned a group local to the Nashville area that she feels deserves our support, Gideon’s Army. Here is their mission statement from Facebook:

‘Our mission is to act collectively, boldly and strategically as a unified force for all children. We eliminate the root causes of the prison pipeline, save our children from death and incarceration and guide them on a secure path to success.’

Please consider supporting them today.

Episode 157: Folsom Prison Blues Episode Notes

On this week’s episode of Friends Talking Nerdy, The Reverend Tracy and I spoke on a few topics.  In this thread, I’ll be posting some information, whether it be follow up thoughts or links to other sites, about the topics we discussed in this episode. This thread may be updated on occasion, so feel free to check back regularly. To listen to our latest episode, click here.

We started off discussing the return of the Friends Talking Nerdy website. Then, we provided an update on The Battle For State Supremacy II. As of this writing, The Reverend Tracy is slightly ahead, but there is still time to vote.

We discussed television shows we’ve been watching recently. I brought up the new HBO Max documentary Tina.

I also discussed the HBO Max documentary series, Q: Into The Storm.

The Reverend discussed the show Forged In Fire.

She also discussed the Hulu show, Solar Opposites.

We closed the show discussing prison reform. As we stated on the show, we are NOT experts on the subject. The purpose of bringing up the topic was to start a discussion on a subject that people routinely ignore. We encourage everyone to do research on your own. People that do bad things deserve to ‘do their time’ for their crimes. Yet we as a society need to examine how we treat people in the criminal justice system. If the system causes more problems than it fixes, why not make the changes needed that makes it the rehabilitation process it is supposed to be?

  1. ACLU Policy Priorities For Prison Reform
  2. The documentary 13th from director Ava DuVernay

3. Defund The Police is more than a slogan. Click the link for more information of what this movement means.

4. Article from the ACLU about how Defunding The Police will help our communities.

5. Prison Culture blog. There is invaluable material on this site.

The Battle For State Supremacy II

The battle lines have been drawn. The combatants prepare to enter the battle field. It’s The Battle For State Supremacy II!

Reigning Battle For State Supremacy Champion Tim Jousma, representing the state of Michigan, faces off against Professor Aubrey, representing the state of Tennessee, and The Reverend Tracy, representing the state of Texas.

You, our wonderful audience, will decide the winner. Vote in the poll above so you can help determine the victor in The Battle For State Supremacy. Below are the three playlists we discuss on this episode.

The Reverend Tracy’s Playlist:

Professor Aubrey’s Playlist:

Tim Jousma’s Playlist:

My Question for Stan Lee

Hey there. Wanted to post this video I made last year at Rose City Comic Con. Thanks to the efforts of Latino Review Media, I was able to obtain some press passes. Stan Lee was making his final visit to Portland and I wasn’t going to pass this up. I had a couple of beers and bolted for the microphone. Here is the result.

Ms. Marvel Volume 2 Issue 13

I love me some Ms. Marvel. The work G. Willow Wilson and crew have done with this character is nothing short of groundbreaking, along the lines that Stan Lee and company incubated with the creation of Spider-Man in the 1960’s. Kamala Khan will be the next big hero that lasts the tests of time. My grandchildren will be reading of her exploits which will make me quite happy.

That doesn’t mean each issue of Ms. Marvel is a classic however. Issue 13 of the second volume of Ms. Marvel stories was just bad. So bad that an Afterschool Special would shake its head at how terrible the story was.

The basic premise revolved around a Hydra agent who, thanks to Gerrymandering, led in the polls to be the new Mayor of Jersey City. A topical story in this day and age, especially with Gerrymandering being such a force for ill in our current political landscape. Yet this story went out of its way to be preachy. Hell, to say it was telling a story would be laying it on pretty damn thick. This issue of Ms. Marvel was more of a sermon about the importance of voting. And as an atheist, I have as much of an interest in a sermon as I do a colon exam.

The basic premise of the story is not bad at all. I like the idea of a hero fighting against a villain who tries to manipulate the system to their advantage. There is story material here. Yet the moral of the story, getting out to vote for candidates that matter, was handled so heavy handed that as someone who believes that Gerrymandering is one of the causes of the current political system we’re facing today, I could have cared less how Ms. Marvel handled this issue.

One criticism Conservatives throw at Liberals is that they love to preach. You often hear of Liberals going out of their way to preach to others how they should live their lives. There is truth in this statement. In this particular case involving Gerrymandering, while the message the Ms. Marvel team is trying to impart on their readers is true, regardless of where you stand politically, the way they handle relaying that message to the reader is so heavy handed that a reader with any modicum of common sense will see this for what it is. A poorly written story.

I love Ms. Marvel. I will continue reading this series because G. Willow Wilson is one of my favorite comic book writers today. This issue was just bad. It wasn’t representative of what this series has to offer.

Purchase Ms. Marvel on Amazon and help The Jousma Files out! It’s well worth the price. ENJOY! Click the picture below.

The Avengers #55

The Silver Age of Comics has brought about changes in pop culture that will reverberate for years to come. From the two major companies, Marvel and DC, the sheer amount of work they created that is still being mined is amazing. But do they stand the test of time? Not always.

To get back in the saddle of reviewing I thought I would dive into a classic issue of The Avengers. This issue was the debut of Ultron-5, the evil robot played so amazingly by James Spader in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The premise of the issue is that The Avengers have been kidnapped by the reformed Masters of Evil under the guise of the mysterious Crimson Cowl. While the previous issue came out and said Jarvis, Tony Stark’s butler, was The Crimson Cowl, it turns out Jarvis was being hypnotized by Ultron. The scheme was to have a hydrogen bomb held over the Empire State Building while Ultron contacts authorities for a ransom. The Black Knight arrives after Jarvis is able to escape, hijinks ensue, and The Avengers save the day.

The overall story itself was not horrible. I’ve certainly read much worse than this. Yet it does have a couple major failings. The biggest one is how Jarvis is dealt with. First, they imply he’s being hypnotized yet at the end of the issue Jarvis tells The Avengers that his mother was sick and he needed money so he sold them out. Which is it? Was he forced against his will through hypnosis or did he go along with the plan simply to help his mother? Also, maybe someone can fill me in as to what Tony Stark’s fortune was at this point in time but I strongly suspect that Tony would have willingly given Jarvis whatever cash he needed to care for his family.

Secondly, he was attacked by the Melter (after previously being attacked by Ultron) yet was able to escape with essentially minor bruises. When Jake and Elwood Blues in The Blues Brothers were attacked over and over again yet were able to simply walk away it was done for humorous effect. When a simple butler is able to survive an attack from a robot and a hardened criminal with simply nothing more than an Excedrin headache, it takes the believe ability of these villains, tosses it out a window, and lets birds use them for scraps for their nests. While I could let it slide when it happens to one of The Avengers, because let’s face it, even during the 1960’s you would expect members of a group to train for situations for like this, for an average civilian, you’d expect them to be straight up murdered.

Another issue I had was something I’ve seen a lot in Silver Age Comics. They introduce the big bad villain yet only showcase that villain for a couple of pages. Granted, I’m admittedly being a little impatient here. This issue was during the era where they were just getting into the groove of multi-issue stories. If you take early Avengers stories, early Spider-Man stories, most would be single story issues. With what is called decompression, they were letting stories breath really, letting them flow longer and more organically like a story in a novel or movie compared to the compression stories of the past eras. One drawback of the decompression method is if you find yourself in the middle of the story you may find that certain characters you want to see are simply not going to be around in a particular story simply because they’re not needed. Yet, I still found myself frustrated because for Ultron’s part in the story, we mainly saw him as The Crimson Cowl. Once he reveals himself as Ultron, he only appears in four more pages of the story in only a small handful of panels. This is a complaint…but a complaint I am sure a writer wants to see a person have because I wanted to see more of him.

So where do I stand on this issue? You have to take it in full context honestly. It’s a part of a longer story told in previous issues. With that, as a stand alone story, it doesn’t hold up too well. However, what it did right was not having the enjoyment of this issue be completely reliant upon total knowledge of what happened in previous issues. To me, the sign of a good comic is one that you can pick up with any issue and enjoy it. They have to have the mindset George Lucas said he had for Star Wars, that each film is its own story but all the films together tell one coherent story. This issue fits that formula nicely so I do recommend it as a read. It’s certainly not a classic in comics history along the lines of Amazing Fantasy #15, with a solid beginning, middle, and end, it does what it needs to do. In the age of graphic novels and comics available upon demand digitally, I think this is something some comics creators are forgetting today. They have the mindset that each issue is a chapter in a story and write it accordingly. Comic stories, even today, share more with old movie serials than they do with books. Basically, you have one issue to sell a new reader on your story so make whatever issue they pick up feel like a complete story, not a small part of something bigger. If they like what they read, they will purchase the other issues.

Last Days of Black Widow #20

   One of my favorite comic books of late has been the Black Widow series from Marvel. Thanks to the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve been able to follow the adventures of Natasha Romanov as she deals with the consequences of her actions as a Soviet spy, an Avenger, and an Agent of SHIELD. It really is some of the best art work alone for a comic I have read in a long while. One issue I, like others, have with comics today is how they draw women. It seems that you can’t have a successful female character in a story unless she is showing next to nothing in a skimpy uniform. I am not a prude. There are times where scantily clad women are a ok to look at and enjoy but when you’re dealing with characters that should be on the level of their male counterparts, having them dress like strippers from a cosplay themed strip club just seems to negate any advances they are giving the female characters.   Natasha Romanov in this comic is different. She’s strong as hell but looks like a beautiful, average woman. She deals with problems in a realistic way, apart from the times where she has to kick ass and man does she know how to kick ass. Nathan Edmondson, the writer, and Phil Noto, the artist, have made one hell of a great comic that empowers Natasha without having to resort to cheap visual tactics to try and entice males to read the comic.

   Issue 20 is the end of the run for this comic and that is a shame. It’s a shame for two reasons. One, it’s sad the story is ending. (From what I understand Black Widow will of course be back but with different artists and writers involved.) Two, the story ends on a sour note because they’re not trying to give this story proper closure, they’re trying to kick start the Secret Wars story.

   Marvel Unlimited is six months behind everyone else so this is old news for some. Their main comic lines are all tied into the Secret Wars storyline which has led to a confusing mess. The main Secret Wars story is all right. I have no real complaints of it but it is not my favorite comic ever by any means. The tie in stories are something else all together.

   Comic book events in and of themselves are not bad things. I don’t dislike a good comic book event. What I have an issue with, and this goes for DC as well, both companies want to bring in absolutely every title under their umbrella into a massive story but end up finding ways to complicate things to such a point that you as the reader have no clue what the hell is going on. The Secret Wars event is meant to do one thing for Marvel and that’s remove the wheat from the chaff. They get a chance to make their world a little less complicated by removing aspects of their world that could confuse the hell out of the casual reader. You have your main characters that everyone knows about but other minor characters may not end up getting the love and attention they deserve because the creators at Marvel have to please so many masters.

   The problem I have with this is that they spend so much time trying to wrap things up for absolutely everyone that I have no real clue what is going on. I don’t read all new Marvel Comics titles. Apart from Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, The Punisher, and a couple Howard the Duck issues, everything else I have managed to skip. So getting this far into the Black Widow story to suddenly find that everything I have read before means nothing because she is suddenly apart of this new story that popped up out of nowhere is disconcerting. There were no seeds in previous issues that the world as it was established in the story was ending in any way, shape, or form. They just seemed to decide one day that whoops, the world is ending. Nice knowing you.

   The story itself is Natasha’s last bit of redemption for her past. It tells the story of how she, as a KGB agent, ended up killing a family in Cuba that wanted to defect to Russia. As an agent, she was just following orders but it was something she did not care to do. The story ends with her rescuing a family that looked just like the family she had killed. A nice ending but one that I wish was given a little more detail.

   The art work is great. Phil Noto is one hell of an artist, finding ways to show both power and weakness in characters that others would probably miss. His work on Natasha alone is amazing. Again, I love the fact that she is not drawn like the stereotypical ways women are drawn in comics. She’s not showing excessive skin. She doesn’t have boobs that could knock over a tank. She looks like a normal woman. Beautiful but normal. More artists need to use this as a model for female characters in their stories.

Bottom Line:

   I am so disappointed in this issue. All good things come to an end as they say but this ending is more like an after thought than anything else. Marvel has been so focused on setting up Secret Wars that they have disregarded the important work that is going on in comics like Black Widow.

   Having said that, despite the obstacles put in their way Edmondson and Noto have ended the series in style. It deserved much more of a proper ending that what it received but it’s still not bad. I hope these two meet up again to explore more of Natasha’s adventures in the Marvel Universe.

   One of my favorite comic books of late has been the Black Widow series from Marvel. Thanks to the Marvel Unlimited app, I’ve been able to follow the adventures of Natasha Romanov as she deals with the consequences of her actions as a Soviet spy, an Avenger, and an Agent of SHIELD. It really is some of the best art work alone for a comic I have read in a long while. One issue I, like others, have with comics today is how they draw women. It seems that you can’t have a successful female character in a story unless she is showing next to nothing in a skimpy uniform. I am not a prude. There are times where scantily clad women are a ok to look at and enjoy but when you’re dealing with characters that should be on the level of their male counterparts, having them dress like strippers from a cosplay themed strip club just seems to negate any advances they are giving the female characters.

   Natasha Romanov in this comic is different. She’s strong as hell but looks like a beautiful, average woman. She deals with problems in a realistic way, apart from the times where she has to kick ass and man does she know how to kick ass. Nathan Edmondson, the writer, and Phil Noto, the artist, have made one hell of a great comic that empowers Natasha without having to resort to cheap visual tactics to try and entice males to read the comic.

   Issue 20 is the end of the run for this comic and that is a shame. It’s a shame for two reasons. One, it’s sad the story is ending. (From what I understand Black Widow will of course be back but with different artists and writers involved.) Two, the story ends on a sour note because they’re not trying to give this story proper closure, they’re trying to kick start the Secret Wars story.

   Marvel Unlimited is six months behind everyone else so this is old news for some. Their main comic lines are all tied into the Secret Wars storyline which has led to a confusing mess. The main Secret Wars story is all right. I have no real complaints of it but it is not my favorite comic ever by any means. The tie in stories are something else all together.

   Comic book events in and of themselves are not bad things. I don’t dislike a good comic book event. What I have an issue with, and this goes for DC as well, both companies want to bring in absolutely every title under their umbrella into a massive story but end up finding ways to complicate things to such a point that you as the reader have no clue what the hell is going on. The Secret Wars event is meant to do one thing for Marvel and that’s remove the wheat from the chaff. They get a chance to make their world a little less complicated by removing aspects of their world that could confuse the hell out of the casual reader. You have your main characters that everyone knows about but other minor characters may not end up getting the love and attention they deserve because the creators at Marvel have to please so many masters.

   The problem I have with this is that they spend so much time trying to wrap things up for absolutely everyone that I have no real clue what is going on. I don’t read all new Marvel Comics titles. Apart from Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, The Punisher, and a couple Howard the Duck issues, everything else I have managed to skip. So getting this far into the Black Widow story to suddenly find that everything I have read before means nothing because she is suddenly apart of this new story that popped up out of nowhere is disconcerting. There were no seeds in previous issues that the world as it was established in the story was ending in any way, shape, or form. They just seemed to decide one day that whoops, the world is ending. Nice knowing you.

   The story itself is Natasha’s last bit of redemption for her past. It tells the story of how she, as a KGB agent, ended up killing a family in Cuba that wanted to defect to Russia. As an agent, she was just following orders but it was something she did not care to do. The story ends with her rescuing a family that looked just like the family she had killed. A nice ending but one that I wish was given a little more detail.

   The art work is great. Phil Noto is one hell of an artist, finding ways to show both power and weakness in characters that others would probably miss. His work on Natasha alone is amazing. Again, I love the fact that she is not drawn like the stereotypical ways women are drawn in comics. She’s not showing excessive skin. She doesn’t have boobs that could knock over a tank. She looks like a normal woman. Beautiful but normal. More artists need to use this as a model for female characters in their stories.

Bottom Line:

   I am so disappointed in this issue. All good things come to an end as they say but this ending is more like an after thought than anything else. Marvel has been so focused on setting up Secret Wars that they have disregarded the important work that is going on in comics like Black Widow.

   Having said that, despite the obstacles put in their way Edmondson and Noto have ended the series in style. It deserved much more of a proper ending that what it received but it’s still not bad. I hope these two meet up again to explore more of Natasha’s adventures in the Marvel Universe.

The City on the Edge of Forever

When people are asked what the best episode of the original Star Trek television series is, most folks will state The City On The Edge Of Forever as the best and for good reason. From open scene to sweeping finale, that episode was the best written episode on television. Originally written by renowned writer Harlan Ellison, the final script ended up being revised at the hands of writers that Gene Roddenberry approved making some changes to the story that Harlan wrote. Fans of Mr. Ellison will know that he does not take kindly to changes to his work. Like any writer, I am sure that if a change makes sense he would have no problem with it but some changes to the story were contrary to his original intent for the story. For years, the closest people came to seeing what Mr. Ellison’s version of the story would be came in the form of a put he put out in the mid-90’s. IDW Comics this past year released the trade paperback comic that adapts Harlan’s original script into comic form, the closest we will ever get to seeing how this story was supposed to look.   To start with, there aren’t too many changes between this version of the story and what aired on television. The biggest change off the bat cakes with the fact that contrary to the episode, where Dr. McCoy has an accidental overdose of a drug and heads to the planet where the Guardians of Forever are located, the story in the comic opens with two random crew members using drugs.

This is an interesting development. While I get why it never saw the light of day in the 60’s, one huge disappointment I have with Star Trek comes with Gene Roddenberry’s ridiculous vision of what he thinks the future will be. While I can get behind a vision of the future where we don’t have to deal with some of the nonsense we deal with today, I simply don’t buy a future where all personal strife is gone and things like humans using chemicals to alter their perception of reality is a thing of the past. Humans have always found ways to self mediate through the ages and if we ever do reach the stars, I would be shocked if we didn’t find some way to snort moon rocks in order to get high.

The crewman that was a drug deal ends up getting caught after he kills someone on the ship who was threatening to snitch him to the Captain. The drug dealing crewman is the one who heads to the planet and heads back into time. McCoy doesn’t make much of an appearance in the story.

That’s the biggest issue I had with this story. By having an unknown crewman be the one who travels back into time, you took out what essentially became the heart of the story. The only good thing this crew member did in the course of this comic was attempt to save Edith Keeler from the speeding truck that ended up killing her. I didn’t buy that a person who straight up killed someone just because he was going to be snitched up would think twice about a strange lady who, in the course of this comic, he only sees when she’s crossing the street with the truck barreling down on her. The only change I would have made would have been to include some scenes, similar to the original television show, that showed the crewman in question interacting with Edith Keeler so he would have a reason to save her. You may be saying ‘Why wouldn’t he just do the right thing and try to save someone no matter what?’ In real life, yeah, that happens all the time. You hear stories of folks that are otherwise the scummiest of people that end up doing something nice or even life saving for someone. It happens. But this is a story. You have to establish a character as someone who would go out of their way to save someone. You cannot have a whole story where this guy is straight up evil and then decide at the drop of a dime that he’s suddenly going to be good. Again, this is not saying that I think it was absolutely wrong for this character to save Edith Keeler, Harlan should have done more to establish that this is something the character would actually do. Something as simple as a scene or two with this character and Miss Keeler would have sufficed.

The other change comes with making Edith Keeler’s importance to history a lot more ambiguous. In the original episode Edith was responsible for preventing World War 2 from happening after she lived which altered the known timeline. She had to die in order for everything to be set right. Kirk and Spock end the episode by stating that she had the right idea for peace, just that it came at the wrong time.

By making her importance to history a little more ambiguous, you take out the pro war aspect of the original story which I think is a superior change. To have a show that tackled so much in terms of dealing with the woes of society have an episode like this that essentially supported war just cause is a dark spot on the franchise. Yeah, war can happen. People being people, they will always find ways to hurt each other. But making one woman who worked in a street mission responsible for preventing one of the deadliest wars in history just to showcase her importance was frankly not needed. The story more than set up her peace loving nature. There was no reason to detail what she specifically did in history. All that needed to be said was that she was important and that her death was needed to maintain the timeline.

When it comes to the art, I was not a fan of it. I did like, however, the inclusion of what can only be deemed an artists commentary at the end of the book. I have found that I have been able to get a better appreciation for some things I normally didn’t care for by simply finding out what inspired them to produce what they did. Take Tim Burton’s Batman. I hated the art direction for that movie. Just hated it. To me, it was just another chance for Tim Burton to be cute for his audience. Yet I ended up appreciating why he made the choices he did when he stated his idea for the art direction of the story was to make the sets appear like what a 1989 location would look like to someone born in the 1940’s. I may still think it looks like crap but understanding his reasoning for doing it makes me a little less annoyed.

Bottom Line:

This is a must read for Star Trek fans. While the story is not perfect, when you have a master wordsmith like Harlan Ellison finally getting a chance to show the world both with words and visually the idea he had for this episode, you have to support it. The gripes I had with this comic are purely subjective. Just because I didn’t care for them doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the wrong choices. I just didn’t like them and would have responded differently if I were writing the piece.

The artists commentary at the end is worth the price of admission alone. For an artist, it is a great way to see what went into the creation of the comic. For a non artist like myself, knowing what brought about some of the pieces of the comic gives me more understanding why they chose to do what they did. While I am a huge fan of the art, the artists commentary made me think twice about what I viewed. This is well worth a read.