The Green Canary

ArrowFatal LegaciesIf you’re a fan of Green Arrow and his small-screen colleagues (including Felicity Smoak, John Diggle, Rene Ramirez, Curtis Holt, and Dinah Drake), you already know that Season 5 ended with a big bang cliffhanger. When the TV show resumed five months later, Gang Green was back in Star City with lingering PTSD. Arrow: Fatal Legacies is a novel that purports to fill in the details between Season 5 and Season 6 of the series.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything particularly substantial going on in Season 5.5. A lot of the intel in this tie-in novel is being hashed out week-by-week in the current season.

There is, however, one very compelling reason to read Fatal Legacies. Sara Lance, the White Canary, returns to Star City to reunite with Oliver Queen. As a former member of the League of Assassins and a current member of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, she’s one of our favorite characters in the DCEU television lineup. Taking a short break from her Waverider duties, this is probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to a White Canary novel.

It’s a good thing Sara shows up in Star City when she does. Not only is Oliver struggling with the aftermath from Season 5, but he’s also trying to wrap up three ongoing storylines. Frankly, he needs all the help he can get. “I’ll stick around as long as you need me,” promises Sara.

Together the pair dismantles an escalating drug network, they confront a new (and pesky) vigilante, and foil the mad plans of a psychotic explosives expert. Fans of the TV show know that Oliver and Sara share a long history with each other so it’s no surprise to discover they make a great team. Felicity calls them Team White Arrow, but we prefer Team Green Canary because it implies an extended Canary Universe. Hey @DCComics, what do you think? Give us a call and we’ll work out the details.

The novel isn’t all about Oliver and Sara, however. The entire cast (including Oliver’s son, William) is involved in some way. Fans of Olicity will especially enjoy an extended scene where Felicity sneaks a peek at Oliver doing his early morning workout. Her body buzzes with adrenaline watching her former lover on the salmon ladder. It makes her head “go a little wonky,” says the author(s).

But honestly the only reason to read Fatal Legacies is because of Sara Lance. She and Oliver are close in a profound way – former lovers, fellow warriors, and closest friends. They share the same losses and triumphs, and it bonds the two of them forever. It’s good to see them back together again. Long live Team Green Canary!

[Arrow: Fatal Legacies / By James R. Tuck and Marc Guggenheim / First Printing: January 2018 / ISBN: 9781783295210]

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Wreck-It Ralph

4ColorBleedThe Magic Art Reproducer was a great little device. It captured any kind of image and projected it onto paper. In this way, it helped you draw. No electricity, No battery. Like the name implied, it was magic.

If you were a kid during the ’60s and ’70s, you inevitably saw ads for the Magic Art Reproducer in every comic book you read. We have no doubt it stoked the imaginations of thousands of youngsters who wanted to draw like Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, and Bernie Wrightson.

The Reproducer didn’t actually “teach” you how to draw, however. It merely enabled you to trace images. If you wanted to reproduce an awesome explosion of Kirby Krackle, you could do it. But drawing a picture of Galactus and the Silver Surfer on your own would be a little tricky.

Undeterred by such limitations, 14-year-old Ralph Rogers used his Magic Art Reproducer to whip out the first issue of Meta Boy. Hailed as a comic book wunderkind, the fanboy press raved about his unusual combination of styles. Hollywood was even interested in making a movie based on his best-selling comic.

But the hammer came down swiftly for Ralph. Within six months everyone knew about his copycat scam. The slide from recognition to infamy to anonymity was faster than a Professor Zoom ride at Six Flags. Ralph’s career was over before he graduated from high school.

Years later, still depressed and shunned by his peers, Ralph found a way to rehabilitate his tarnished reputation when he uncovered a stash of old and highly collectible comic books. Overnight the world was overrun with real superheroes and supervillains. As it turned out, Ralph was the accidental catalyst of the whole damn thing. No Magic Art Reproducer required.

But was Ralph’s real-life retcon good or bad? Now that Atlantis was real (as well as Camelot, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Paul Bunyan, and Meta Man), did Ralph wreck the world with his over-active imagination? Or did he turn himself and his friends into new gods? Also: was the world real or not?

“It doesn’t matter,” said Ralph just before stepping through the looking glass. “It doesn’t matter if I’m a raving lunatic in a rubber room or if I’m living in a dream world. One way or another I’m going to be a hero in that world.”

If you’re a little confused by Ralph’s meta journey, don’t worry about it too much. We recommend a little bit of supplemental reading to help sort things out – perhaps a Grant Morrison comic book or a novel by Philip K. Dick. Watching Peter Pan again would also help decipher the head-spinning denouement that takes place on the dark side of the moon.

“Who are we to say who’s real?” writes author Ryan McSwain at the end of his book. In our reality, Superman, a so-called fictional character, is recognized and loved by billions of people. In comparison, how many people know who we are – a few hundred maybe? How conceited are we to claim to be real just because we’re made of flesh and blood? As it turns out, McSwain makes a pretty good argument that we’re already living in a four-color reality bleed.

[Four Color Bleed / By Ryan McSwain / First Printing: August 2017 / ISBN: 9780990460749]

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All Those ExplosionsEvery species has an ecological niche, according to author James Alan Gardner. A superhero’s niche was coincidence. “They inhaled luck and exhaled unintended consequences,” he said. “They were born in fluke accidents, died in dramatic irony, and came back to life at the precise moment it would have maximum impact.”

Superheroes didn’t get their powers through merit. “They won the lottery without buying a ticket,” said Gardner. Supervillains, on the other hand, embodied order. They were organizers. Leaders. They managed resources to leverage prosperity and maximize their return. They were the ones who steered their own fate.

Becoming superheroes was certainly a pleasant surprise for Kim and her friends Miranda, Shar, and Jools. By happenstance, they stumbled upon a yonic-shaped rift in reality (sexy!) and were exposed to otherworldly forces. Like the Fantastic Four and the Powerpuff Girls, the four college roommates experienced a shared origin story. Like it or not, they were now superheroes.

Conversely, supervillains got their powers by going through a Dark Conversion (price tag: $10 million). Once they signed the Dark Pact, they became vampires, werewolves, goblins, and all sorts of shady bogeymen. Only the rich and powerful were allowed to become “Darklings.” And unlike all the old movies, where the monsters tried to make everyone else like them, these monsters did their damnedest to keep the riffraff out.

Naturally, these creatures of dark and light didn’t see eye to eye. Heroes and villains rarely belonged to the same country club. After 20 years of conversions, Darklings controlled the show. Money and privilege flowed uphill. And you know what they say about absolute power, right? You can’t expect a vampire to govern selflessly and with good prudence.

Something big and nasty was unfolding in Kim’s hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, and coincidence had dragged her and her friends into the middle of it. To their credit, the girls didn’t shrink from their newfound responsibilities. They were eager to join the fray. “The game’s afoot, bitches!” said Kim with a big grin on her face. “Tally-fucking-ho.”

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault is a book filled with a mad jumble of superheroes and Halloween monsters. Over all, we liked it very much. Gardner is a clever writer with an outsized imagination, and he’s peppered his novel with a never-ending list of pop culture signifiers from Thomas Pynchon to Kimmy Schmidt and everything in between. Gardner seems like the kind of guy who would be an interesting dinner companion. If he were ever in our neck of the woods, we’d love to spend an evening with him talking about math, science, geology, and (of course) superheroes.

In the end, Kim and her friends survived their superhero learning curve, reset the Doomsday Clock, and saved Christmas. Mission accomplished. Kim – a diminutive and asexual Chinese-Canadian keener – was the hero of the story, but all of the young ladies were terrific in their own way. Our favorite of the bunch was Julietta Walsh.

Jools was an indefatigable sparkplug with a quip for every situation. She dressed like a hockey playing samurai warrior and wielded a stick made of blazing green energy that was “a thing of power like Excalibur.” She called herself Ninety-Nine (in honor of the Great One, Wayne Gretzky) and was a beguiling mix of brains and brawn. Truly she had an unquenchable lust for life.

Jools, Kim, Miranda, and Shar embraced their superheroic destiny without a moment of hesitation. But there was one thing they couldn’t agree on. Going forward, what would they call themselves? Alpha Flight was already taken – so too was Defenders, Protectors, and Guardians. The “Thirty-Six Triple Ds” didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and “Heroes of Science” was a lousy acronym. Here’s an idea: Maybe Kim and her crew could call themselves the Wonder Women of Waterloo? That’s got a nice ring to it.

[All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault / By James Alan Gardner / First Printing: November 2017 / ISBN: 9780765392633]

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Power to the People

RL SuperHeroesHave you heard the news? Superheroes aren’t just a figment of your amazing fantasy – they’re totally real. And if you’re living in a large metropolitan area like New York, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, or Salt Lake City, these real life super heroes are fighting crime and keeping the streets safe for law-abiding citizens like yourself.

In her latest book, reporter Nadia Fezzani takes a deep dive into the “Real Life Super Hero” movement and asks some tough questions. For instance, what motivates a person to dress up and go looking for danger? Were they crazy? Were they uniquely brave? The results of her hero’s journey might surprise you.

Even though Phoenix Jones in Seattle uses his mixed martial arts skills to pummel rowdy scofflaws (check out YouTube if you want to see him in action), most of these superheroes don’t exactly “fight crime.” They help their communities with less aggressive pursuits. They work with disabled children, give food to the homeless, and counsel women in abusive relationships. Geist, for example, a hero who sports a cowboy-like outfit, travels around the country lending a hand to people in disaster areas. “I fight for the forgotten,” he tells Fezzani.

You’d think superheroes such as Thanatos, Purple Reign, Nihilist, and Mr. Xtreme would be applauded for their commitment to civic service. After all, hospitals, churches, animal shelters, and recycling centers need all the volunteer help they can get. But that’s not necessarily the case.

As it turns out, dressing in flamboyant costumes and carrying expandable stun batons is slightly controversial. Go figure. “Ninety-nine percent of these guys are ridiculous,” says the Baroness, a concerned citizen from Salt Lake City. “They’re delusional. If you’re going to call yourself a superhero, you better damn well act like one.”

The Baroness is referring to all the superhero wannabes who get their inspiration from the movie Kick-Ass. Phoenix Jones, for example, has gotten in trouble with the Seattle police because of his confrontational attitude, and a particular superhero from the Bay Area once infamously traded blows with the Oakland police. These heroes (and many others) have polarized the RLSH community.

To her credit, Fezzani doesn’t shy away from the controversial elements of being a real life super hero. In the end, however, it’s easy to see where her heart lies (just wait until you read the last sentence of her book, it’s a humdinger). She admits they’re an eccentric bunch of do-gooders, but she feels they have the potential to inspire people.

To emphasize her point, she quotes a superhero called Thanatos from Vancouver. “The world can be a nasty place,” he says, “but I know in my heart that one person can make a difference. If you look at history, it’s always been one person who’s started something big – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, Buddha, Albert Einstein. All of them made this world a better place to live.”

[Real Life Super Heroes / By Nadia Fezzani / First Printing: October 2017 / ISBN: 9781459739154]

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Big Ol’ Jet Airliner

MM Phantom JetlinerIn 1942, Mighty Mouse fought mobsters, rescued damsels in distress, and punched erupting volcanoes. Like Superman, he was strong and wore a colorful superhero costume. Unlike Superman (who could only leap tall buildings at the time), Mighty Mouse streaked across the sky like a comet.

The character was conceived as a Superman spoof and was known as Super Mouse for a brief time in the very beginning. Even in 1981 when this novel was published, author Horace J. Elias used the pronoun “Super Mouse” freely. There’s no arguing that Mighty Mouse was rodentia progeny of Superman. But we confess – given the choice between the two iconic heroes, we’d pick Mighty Mouse every time.

Mighty Mouse and the Phantom Jetliner was one of three novels published to supplement a short-lived television show called The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle (the other two books included Mighty Mouse and the Moon Men and Mighty Mouse Saves the Spaceship). Author Elias was a busy guy during the ’70s. He penned a raft of prose novels featuring the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, Magilla Gorilla, Mister Magoo, Huckleberry Hound, and Johnny Quest. He was a lucky duck who found a way to pay his mortgage by writing books based on cartoon characters. Nice work if you can get it.

The Phantom Jetliner begins when Mighty Mouse gets a panicked call from the head of the Mouse Bureau of Investigations. Some sort of invisible aircraft was harassing commercial jet airliners. Fifteen pilots had narrowly escaped midair collisions, and the M.B.I. was in a tizzy. “I will do everything I can to help you get to the bottom of this mystery,” said Mighty Mouse.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), Mighty Mouse doesn’t rely on his mighty superpowers to solve the case. Instead, he spends a big chunk of the novel studying pilot logs, mapping flight patterns, and calculating collision angles. We’re pretty sure Superman never sat down with field reports and a calculator to defeat Brainiac.

One hundred pages later, Mighty Mouse discovers that his archenemy Oilcan Harry is responsible for all the fuss. The black cat nutball was trying to bait Mighty Mouse into a fight by flying around in an invisible jet. His cat-and-mouse game failed spectacularly.

“I don’t think we’ll be hearing from Oilcan Harry again,” Mighty Mouse told the chief of the M.B.I. “I flew his plane out to sea and then set the automatic pilot in a circular pattern. The plane should continue to fly in circles until it runs out of fuel.”

The G-mouse wasn’t convinced, however. “Do you think there’s any chance at all that he could be rescued and resume his villainous career?” he asked.

“I seriously doubt that,” replied the super mouse with a big, satisfied grin on his face. “Who could find the plane? It’s invisible!”

[Mighty Mouse and the Phantom Jetliner / By Horace J. Elias / First Printing: 1981]

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