Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is Kilowog a Potty-Mouth?

None of my real-life friends are Green Lantern fans.

Most of the people I know don't read comics at all, but put up with my obsession good-naturedly enough (after all, they have their vices, too -- many of which also involve fictional buttocks, so they can't throw stones). The few I do know who read comics read only Marvel, with the exception of a single guy who is a total Batman fanatic. Which, since everyone probably knows how I feel about Bats, is interesting when we get together. Incidentally, he is also my polar opposite on most political and social issues, too. The only thing we agree on are music (classic rock) and cats (awesome)!

But in the past year or two, given the way Green Lantern has become popular again, I've been getting asked a lot of questions that I'm usually only all too happy to answer. Lately, it's a lot of "So what's up with the Blackest Night thing?" from people who are starting to hear the buzz. Sometimes, it's "What happened to that kid?" meaning Kyle, who was probably the star of GL the last time they browsed an issue years back. I lent my copy of Secret Origin to a friend who's now getting interested, and I've gotten tons of good questions from him, including one that didn't really occur to me because I'm reading from a different perspective: "I thought Sinestro was a bad guy. Now I'm confused." (Okay, so that wasn't a question, but it got a lot of answers out of me anyway!)

But the one question I should have thought about before but hadn't really was this: "So... what's a 'poozer', anyway?"


What is a poozer? Kilowog seems to use the word in a lot of different contexts.

Manly-man friendship: "Sit down and have a drink, poozer."
Drill sergeant mode: "Awright, poozers, line up!"
Calling out the enemy: "You poozers are toast!"

Sometimes it's not even a noun: "Get the poozin' ball!"

I'll be honest. I can only think of one word in the English language that can be twisted into use in so many different ways. And it's not a nice one. While I'm sure that the more likely explanation is that "poozer" doesn't really mean anything at all, or just plain doesn't have an equivalent in our silly backwater Earth languages, it's more fun to think that Kilowog is cursing like a sailor at every opportunity, isn't it?

The day he says "Pooze you!" to someone is the day I start using it, too.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How NOT to Convinct and Execute a Renegade Green Lantern

So SallyP over at Green Lantern Butts Forever brought up some interesting points about Korugar, the Zamarons, and the execution of Sinestro (the first time), and it got me thinking about some things -- enough that I got a craving to read those issues again, and I'm really glad I did.

Specifically, I'm talking about The Green Lantern Corps #222: "The Last Testament of Sinestro", which tells the story of the trial itself. I'm not going to do an in-depth review because I'm lazy today, but there are a whole lot of things that I find interesting about it.

The story is narrated by Sinestro himself, which is an interesting and effective decision on the part of Steve Englehart (whom I've always felt indifferent about as a writer up until now). It's not very often that we get to see things from the villain's point of view -- it's unusual enough that DC just made a whole big event out of something like that just last month, remember. It isn't so much that he's telling the story (other than a short flashback at the beginning to how he got his ring and how he later fell from grace), but rather that we're seeing his thoughts about what's happening around him as the panels and dialogue show us the Green Lanterns gathering to decide his fate.

But think about that for a minute. What we're reading, as we flip through these pages, are the thoughts and feelings of a soon-to-be-condemned man during his own trial and subsequent execution. That's deep. That's scary.

But what's most scary about it is Sinestro's tone throughout the whole thing. It exemplifies those character traits of his that Geoff Johns has latched onto in the past few years to make him into such an amazing villain. Even in the midst of this trial, even when the death verdict comes across, Sinestro never, for even an instant, gives even a hint that he believes he's done anything wrong. He's not sorry, not even a tiny bit. He's bored with the whole proceeding before it even begins. And he's arrogant to the point of madness. He dismisses their concern for their friends, and laughs at their efforts to come to a majority decision. Even after the death verdict is passed he believes, right up until the very last moment of his life, that they won't actually go through with it.

His arrogance is also his undoing, of course. Sinestro knows that killing him will be the end of the Corps, because he found out that little tidbit of information by skulking around a Korugarian political meeting of some sort back when he was a Green Lantern. He even offers to tell them the secret -- if they'll let him go first. But they don't go for it, and rather than just say it, he tries to bargain until it's too late and he's being blasted dead. Ow.

But look at the trial, too. Sinestro thinks it's a farce, and after reading the issue a few times, I'm actually inclined to agree with him.

It's presided over by the Old-Timer, the only Guardian (okay, ex-Guardian) left since the little blue men departed this universe to do their little blue baby-bop. This is the same fellow who was supposed to whip Guy Gardner into shape after the Crisis, and who would later go insane and form the Mosaic. He seems sane enough here, with the exception of two decisions:

Prosecution: Kilowog
Defense: Katma Tui


On the surface, it seems like a sound enough decision. He's picked two veteran Lanterns, both of whom are known and trusted by their peers, and who have had multiple run-ins with Sinestro. And Katma is Korugarian, which might perhaps give her some insight into how the accused thinks and what his motivations are.

But the whole catalyst for this trial was the destruction of Kilowog's homeworld (again). John and Katma and Arisia swore to 'Wog that they would seek trial for Sinestro as soon as possible, and they did -- even to the point of putting aside some other, more pressing matters, such as Ch'p's defection and the fallout from the Millenium crossover. I suppose, from a certain perspective, it makes sense for the person most hurt by the defendant to be the one prosecuting, but it seems a bad decision overall. Kilowog was practically mad with grief only a couple of issues ago. And his decision is already made -- he came in the door thirsty for blood. When Skirl expresses disbelief that they're even considering execution, Kilowog's reply is "You got it!"

But that I can forgive more than Katma as Sinestro's defender. Even she protests. "But-- I despise him especially, because he is of my race!" This was written before the Emerald Dawn retcons, but Sinestro's history as a dictator-like ruler of Korugar is established within this very issue, too, so to say that she has issues with him is an understatement. She hates him. Later on she expresses a grumbly, almost childlike sort of reluctance to defend him. Like I said, this is before Emerald Dawn, but looking back on it from a modern perspective, knowing what he now know about Sinestro's first trial, makes this even stranger. Katma Tui fought to overthrow him on Korugar. She testified against him in the trial that stripped him of his ring. She's lost to her own homeworld forever because of the legacy he's left behind. And she's supposed to defend him here?

And when the time comes, she fails him utterly. She has no rebuttal to the case presented against him. Not a word. It could even be argued that she hurts his case by blurting out exactly what she feels: "There is nothing anyone can say to that!" I promise it doesn't do your client any good to let on to the jury that even his defense attorney thinks he's guilty as sin and deserves to die.

The Old-Timer's reasoning behind his choice is that Katma's integrity is legendary. And in any other trial, I'd say she'd make an excellent lawyer. She's smart, she's honest, she can be very business-like when the situation demands it, and her peers respect her.

What's curious, and most relevant to the Blackest Night the Corps is facing now, is what the Old-Timer has to say is response to her protests: "You can place your intelligence before your emotions -- which is what will be required of everyone here!"

D'oh! That's exactly what the Guardians are trying to force the entire Corps to do right now. Proof once again that they don't, nor have they ever, understood how powerful emotions are to mortals. And look how it panned out for them last time!

The vote itself is interesting, too. The Lanterns are instructed to make a decision individually, then beam their vote into the CPB, which will then announce the collective decision (the assumption is that it will go with a majority vote).

So, how did each individual Lantern vote? We don't know! We know that the majority chose death, but what about Hal? What about John and Katma and Arisia?

This is a burning question to me. I think it's safe to assume that Kilowog went with death, as he was practically foaming at the mouth for it. I'm going to guess, from little things she said and did in this issue, that Arisia also voted death, though we can't know for sure. Katma? I'll go with death, though she was obviously really torn up about her inability to defend Sinestro there at the end. It seems that she really wanted to be able to say something for him, but just couldn't think of a single thing. (This is why I find Katma to be such a wonderfully deep character.) John? Hard to say, he could have gone either way.

But Hal? Earlier in the issue, Sinestro seems certain that Hal would never vote to kill him, but who can really say? Though I'm inclined to think that, in this case, Sinestro was right. Hal was unusually silent throughout this issue, and the few times he did speak, it was to say something that expressed his reluctance to go as far as execution. He even says at one point that he flat-out doesn't want to kill Sinestro -- but then, he was also acknowledging that such a thing might be necessary, so he might have voted for it anyway. But somehow I doubt it.

And while I realize that they were making this a decision for the entire Corps, does it seem a little wrong to anyone else that Kilowog and a handful of others who had already openly expressed their desires before ever even hearing the trial be allowed to vote? I recently had the dubious pleasure of sitting on a jury for a murder trial, and we were questioned up one side and down the other about any pre-existing prejudices, or situations from our past that might make it hard for us to judge based solely on the facts. We weren't even allowed to discuss the case with our fellow jurors until the entire case had been presented, because we weren't supposed to form opinions until after we'd seen and heard everything. I'm not sure that giving a jury spot to someone whose entire race had been obliterated by the defendant was a particularly just idea.

I have to wonder now, too, how much of the execution itself was responsible for Hal's later grim-and-gritty stage that led up to his full-on Parallax possession. A small group of the Green Lanterns themselves carry out the death order with their own rings. (How could they even do that? I thought they couldn't kill with them...) They stand around Sinestro in a circle, raise their rings, and fire all at once.

Can you imagine how that must have felt to an angst-bunny like Hal? He just killed a man with (practically) his bare hands. While staring him right in the eyes. A man who, we now know, was someone he considered a friend and mentor once-upon-a-time. How badly did this weigh on Hal? How often did he think about it later, when he was travelling across America alone? Or when Katma died because she had no way to defend herself from Star Sapphire? Or when Parallax was slowly but surely whittling away at him?

In a way, what happens next with Salakk showing up and the Corps being destroyed is almost anti-climatic and detracts from what should have been emotional fallout rather than tangible, physical fallout. I'm not going to argue that Sinestro didn't deserve to die, because what he did to Bolovax Vik alone was reprehensible, not to mention all the other things he had done.

But that's not really the point to a superhero, is it?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Secret of Sinestro = Bondage, Drugs, and Assorted Kink?

So the other day I was going on about Green Lantern v.2 #124, and honestly, it's too good not to share with the world (Korugarian sex kinks, people!), so bear with me while I inflict this madness upon you. Behold -- "The Secret of Sinestro!"

Yeah... I think it's pretty obvious that the "secret of Sinestro", according to this cover, isn't exactly much of a secret -- Sinestro wants to tie Hal down and then fondle him inappropriately with yellow tendrils. The women? Pfft, just overcompensation while he tries to make the whole thing look very cool and villainous and totally Not Gay For Hal. (And yes, that's Carol Ferris and Kari Limbo that Sinestro is pulling the pimp-daddy act with.)

For the record, this is my favorite Green Lantern cover ever.

The story itself is a pretty entertaining one. Ollie and Hal are having yet another lover's quarr-- I mean, manly friendship fight -- over the fact that Hal went all lone wolf and wouldn't let Ollie go to Qward with him last issue. ("He and I just need to be apart for a while!" Hal says later. Yeah, that's what he tells his girlfriends when they get too serious, too.) Kari Limbo has just recently left Hal to get back together with the comatose body of Guy Gardner, so Carol Ferris is back in the picture again -- insisting that Hal call her "Miss Ferris" again, though. They're all hanging out with Pieface at the opening of the New Age Museum, a museum dedicated to honoring mankind's achievements in space flight, when Sinestro shows up and takes offense at the very idea of humans honoring their crappy space-traveling achievements. He has a tantrum, sets all the displays on fire, destroys the building, and then zips right back out again while Hal saves the innocent bystanders.

We get a moment of rare Hal intelligence when he observes that it isn't like Sinestro to blow shit up and not hang around to see the results of his handywork, followed immediately by a moment of Hal stupidity when he decides that Sinestro must have finally slipped into insanity. Wait, so... if he's just now insane, what has he been for the past twenty years he's been appearing in your comic before this, Hal? Just a little flustered? And Hal can't figure out why Sinestro hates him so much. I'm a little surprised that it didn't occur to Hal to wonder about it until just now... and the logic behind it is so very Hal-like. "He... doesn't like me? He obviously must be insane!"

Hal decides that, even though Sinestro could be"anywhere in this universe -- or in Qward!" the best place to start his needle-in-a-haystack search is Korugar. Which is actually... a very good guess, but a guess nonetheless. He dials up Katma Tui, who is sympathetic to his cause but is forbidden to do anything to Sinestro because Korugarian law says that she can't harm him if he hasn't harmed Korugar -- and all his recent crimes have been over in 2814, so he's not her problem. She does, however, inform Hal that Sinestro's dad operates a Null Chamber nearby, so it stands to reason that he might be hiding out with dad.

What's a Null Chamber, you might ask? Katma describes it as "something such as your Earthly opium-den -- illegal in the city but permitted here" and when Hal enters it, it's described as "a gloomy place full of strange smells and low murmurs". There are lots of half-naked Korugarians floating in the air, suspended by these weird yellow energy-beams. Sinestro's dad (who looks exactly like Sinestro, only with grey hair, a sexy long purple robe, and a Fu Manchu 'stache that isn't quite as Truly Dapper as his son's) explains the process to him -- the yellow null rays drain their vital force away, which... kills them. But apparently not all the way, because eventually (when their money runs out, I assume), he revives them. And people pay him for this, because "to taste death is the ultimate pleasure to a Korugarian!"

...So. Sinestro's dad peddles the Korugarian equivalent of erotic asphyxiation. This explains a lot.

As soon as Hal starts getting nosey about his son, though, dad snatches him up in yellow beams that, of course, Hal's Green Lantern ring is useless against. But... surprise! Sinestro's dad rips off his own face, to reveal that it was Sinestro himself all along! Dad really is in the room, too, though... floating in the null rays, addicted to the same pleasure he's been selling. (This also explains a lot. No wonder Sinny is messed up in the head. Dad kills himself for pleasure all the time.)

Hal is helpless in the grip of the null rays. He can use his ring, but Sinestro just shrugs off his attacks. And Hal is starting to feel sort of... happy. Apparently slow erotic suicide works on humans, too, because he starts to relax and enjoy himself, seeing the faces of Carol and Kari (and Sinestro watches all this with a little too much pleasure -- maybe watching is his thing?). Maybe Kari's stupid cheating face is what snaps Hal out of it, because he wakes up enough to send a super secret plea for help (in Morse Code) to Katma Tui and then gets Sinestro talking to stall for time. So why does Sinestro hate Hal? Because he can't get at the Guardians, he says, so he beats up on Hal instead. But why blow up stuff on Earth? Because Earth represents Hal, who represents the Guardians, and that's reason enough, apparently. Hal calls him insane, which seriously pisses Sinestro off -- why, he'll kill Hal right now instead of letting him have a nice slow pleasurable death!

Then Katma shows up and blows up the null ray generator, freeing Hal and all the dying junkies. Sinestro, still pissed off, knocks her out, and what follows is actually a lot of fun to watch: Hal proceeds to beat down Sinestro with his bare fists, just like he will do again much later at the end of the Sinestro Corps War. And Sinestro saves himself by...

Throwing a junkie chick at Hal.

Yes, a pretty young female addict stumbles into the fray, and Sinestro literally throws her on top of Hal -- proving that Sinestro, at least, understands what makes Hal tick even if Hal is still confused about what Sinestro is all about. Hal, of course, is distracted long enough for Sinestro to make his weird foldy getaway back to Qward.

Katma is not above pointing out to Hal that he did something stupid, by the way -- he sent his signal to her in Morse Code, forgetting that she wouldn't have the foggiest idea what all those dots and dashes were supposed to mean. And worse, he had just used the ring's real signalling capabilities not ten minutes earlier when he contacted her the first time! Oh Hal. You're dumb and Katma knows it. That's why, when Hal kisses her cheek, she tells him she's not like Earth women and kissing means nothing to her. (Korugarians don't kiss? I wonder what they do? Choke each other? Wait... yes, they probably do, given the evidence we've just seen.)

Obviously there's a lot of things about this issue that I find interesting.

First, Sinestro is established to have a father and a sister at this point, which is very unusual for Silver Age villains. It adds a tiny bit of depth to the character that most baddies back then lacked, even though neither sis nor dad were given names or ever showed up again.

Second, we learn a lot of interesting things about Korugar and its inhabitants here. According to Hal in this issue, Korugar is the only inhabited planet in its solar system, and Whonere is the only city on the whole planet (other sources list Korugar City as the capital, but I've seen Whonere mentioned before as well, and I can't recall if the name of the city has been mentioned in Green Lantern Corps recently so I don't know what's currently canon about this). The terrain surrounding Whonere appears to be desert-like, which... actually fits my personal vision of Korugar, but I can't say if that's a coincidence or because I've been remembering this comic for all these years and just haven't realized it. All the male Korugarians depicted here have the same receding hairline as Sinestro, which is insanely funny -- almost as funny as the fact that they all wear purple for some reason.

What interests me more, though, is the fact that this is a culture that gets pleasure from the experience of death. You'll recall that Recharge established specifically that death rites are very important to Korugarians, too. So I wonder if there aren't some cultural ideas about death that could possibly be significant for Sinestro, Soranik, and/or Katma (who is almost sure to be a Black Lantern) come Blackest Night? Normally I'd say no way, but Geoff Johns is just about the only writer I could imagine who is enough of a detail and continuity nerd to remember this lone issue and bring the subject up again.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Breaking News: Jailbreak at the Wiener State Pen!

Today is a beautiful day in middle Tennessee. 70 degrees, shining sun, bright blue sky... and of course, I'm off work, which makes any day that much spiffier. So I thought I'd take a little time this afternoon to clean out my car and then reward myself with an extra trip to the comic shop to pick up those old Green Lantern issues I once had and can no longer find now that I suddenly have the urge to read them again. (I knew I was remembering right. Sinestro's dad looks like Vincent Price and deals in Korugarian sleaze! More on that tomorrow, likely.)

But when I got home, what did I see? Lacey Fiddlesticks running around by the trashcan outside the house! Lacey is one of my two rescue dachshunds, and she had never really been outside a crate before I adopted her, let alone outside in the big wide world alone! Of course I nearly had a heart-attack trying to gently coax her to me without chasing her. Meanwhile she's running around terrified, sniffing everything with her tail tucked between her legs, refusing to answer to her name (she's still in training and off-leash recall is a big problem for her), refusing even to look at me half the time... finally I got her cornered by the back fence and she rolled over onto her back in submission, giving me a chance to snatch her up quick!

Examining the back fence, I noticed that someone (I'm sure it was Lacey) had dug a hole underneath. So there were another few minutes of panic as I ran into the house to make sure my other dogs were all accounted for, and they were. But right now I'm sitting here with all of them safely in the bedroom, door shut, doggie-door shut for extra protection, and my heart is still running a mile a minute.

Wiener dogs, until further notice, you are GROUNDED.

...Whew, I think I need some of that null-ray that Sinestro's dad was peddling.