SciFi Friday Comics Edition: Batman, A Gay Captain America, and Supergirl Gives Up Being a Slut

With The Dark Night breaking former box office records, and with Comic Con going on this week, I will devote this week’s installment of SciFi Friday (delay until Sunday) to comics related stories.

Batman has no superpowers and therefore of all the major comic superheroes it might be most plausible for Batman toe exist. Scientific American has an an interview what it would take for someone to train to become Batman.

What’s most plausible about portrayals of Batman’s skills?
You could train somebody to be a tremendous athlete  and to have a significant martial arts background, and also to use some of the gear that he has, which requires a lot of physical prowess. Most of what you see there is feasible to the extent that somebody could be trained to that extreme. We’re seeing that kind of thing in less than a month in the Olympics.

What’s less realistic?
A great example is in the movies where Batman is fighting multiple opponents and all of a sudden he’s taking on 10 people. If you just estimate how fast somebody could punch and kick, and how many times you could hit one person in a second, you wind up with numbers like five or six. This doesn’t mean you could fight four or five people. But it’s also hard for four or five people to simultaneously attack somebody, because they get in each other’s way. More realistic is a couple of attackers.

How long would Bruce Wayne have to train to become Batman?
In some of the timelines you see in the comics, the backstory is he goes away for five years—some it’s three to five years, or eight years, or 12 years. In terms of the physical changes (strength and conditioning), that’s happening fairly quickly. We’re talking three to five years. In terms of the physical skills to be able to defend himself against all these opponents all the time, I would benchmark that at 10 to 12 years. Probably the most reality-based representation of Batman and his training was in Batman Begins.

Why such a long training time?
Batman can’t really afford to lose. Losing means death—or at least not being able to be Batman anymore. But another benchmark is having enough skill and experience to defend himself without killing anyone. Because that’s part of his credo. It would be much easier to fight somebody if you could incapacitate them with extreme force. Punching somebody in the throat could be a lethal blow. That’s pretty easy to do.

But if you’re thinking about something that doesn’t result in lethal force, that’s more tricky. It’s really hard for people to get their heads around, I think. To be that good, to not actually lethally injure anyone, requires an extremely high level of skill that would take maybe 15 to 18 years to accumulate.

There have been a number of political articles on Batman recently. The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed on What Bush and Batman Have in Common.

Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society — in which people sometimes make the wrong choices — and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

Spencer Ackerman sees the movie as reflecting Dick Cheney’s policies:

Insofar as it’s possible to view an action movie that had the biggest three-day-opening in cinematic history as a comment on the current national-security debate, “The Dark Knight” weighs in strongly on the side of the Bush administration. Confronting the Joker, a nihilistic enemy whose motives are both unexplained and beside the point, the Batman faces his biggest dilemma yet: whether to abuse his power in order to save Gotham City. Again and again in the movie, the Batman’s moral hand-wringing results in the deaths of innocents. Only by becoming like the monster he must vanquish can Batman secure a victory that even he understands is Pyrrhic.

Batman, the film’s hero, played by Christian Bale, sees this as a morally devastating paradox. Dick Cheney and his ideological allies in the Bush administration, however, clearly view this as a righteous challenge. Cheney, Addington, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and others can go to to this sixth Batman movie to see, in the Joker, as played by Heath Ledger, a perfect reflection of their view of Al Qaeda. He presents an enemy unbounded by any scruple; striking out for no rational reason; hell-bent on causing civilization-threatening destruction, and emboldened by any adversaries’ restraint.

Such views show the problem with conservative thinking. George Bush is not Batman and al Qaeda is not The Joker. Comic book superheroes can break the law and ignore principles such as due process. Political leaders cannot.

Cogitamus takes a different viewpoint from the idea of Batman representing conservative views:

Cheney and his supporters are wrong because if you watch the film, it becomes clear that even if we were faced with a Joker-style supervillain, he’s fundamentally not the problem — Dent correctly diagnoses him as a wild dog set loose by others. The Gotham system is the problem, where mobsters and police pick sides based on the day of the week and their mutual enemies, when a psychopathic avenger like Two-Face finds himself executing police or mobsters based on the flip of a coin, and when the nominal forces of order are fundamentally impotent because that’s how everyone wants it, all we can say is that Gotham feels awfully Westphalian.  The solution is not more disorder (more extreme vigilanteism) but better law and order…

If you really wanted to read these films as a reflection of international politics (Is America Batman?) I think you have a dismal road ahead of you. Batman begins to realize that what Gotham needs is not a caped crusader, but a functioning law enforcement system. He begins seriously considering retiring the rubber PJs as Gotham’s police and prosecutors become more effective. The lesson here is not exactly kind to the idea that breaking the laws of war and ignoring the expressed opinion of the UN Security Council is going to lead to greater peace and stability.

Moreover, if you read Gordon’s “escalation” dialogue from the first film in the context of international politics, I think it’s clear you have to say that 9/11 was only possible because of preceding American actions across the globe. That is, if you actually think America is Batman, than you have to concede that Bin Laden/Joker is at least partially the creation of the US government.

I wonder how conservatives who oppose gays in the military will take this story. Slice of SciFi reports that a gay actor might get the role of Captain America:

At the San Diego Comic Con actor John Barrowman, the man behind that famous WWI army coat in BBC’s hit show “Torchwood,” was asked if he has been approached for the role of that other famous Captain. Sitting in on a Torchwood panel Barrowman, after much persuasion, finally admitted that he has been in substantive talks to portray the famous Captain for the May 2011film “The First Avenger: Captain America.”

Star Trek fans are anxious to see how J.J. Abrams reboots Star Trek. The first glimpse of the reimagined Star Trek universe will be seen in the comics. reports that IDW publishing will “present an epic tale that leads into the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek movie due next summer. Abrams and screenwriter Roberto Orci will contribute to the comic book story, too.”

At Comic Con the creators of Action Comics, Superman, and Supergirl pledged to return these stories to their former glory. I09 reports:

Superman writer James Robinson admitted that part of that effort will include making sure that characters like Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen will return to the versions everyone knows, instead of superpowered giant turtles fighting evil gods: “The [supporting] characters have lost their way a bit,” he said, before saying that Jimmy Olsen should be the third most important character in a Superman comic, after Superman and Lois. Johns agreed, and added that there are also plans afoot to use Lois more often: “If Superman married her, she’s gotta be the coolest woman in the world.”

The most important revelation from the panel may have come from new Supergirl writer Sterling Gates. When asked whether he will bring a more consistent characterisation to the Maid of Steel after an erratic few years where she’s been portrayed as confused, evil, stupid, slutty and almost continually unheroic, he said that he saw her as one of the strongest characters DC Comics has, and feels that she’s been mishandled recently. “Can we officially say that she’s not a slut?” Johns asked, to the applause of the audience. So, now you know: Supergirl isn’t a slut.

Supergirl apparently changed a lot since I last saw her in a comic decades ago. So she became a super-slut. Maybe I’ll have to check and see what I missed

A Disney Ad for Ike


After commenting on LBJ’s Daisy Ad and John McCain’s dishonest ad after Barack Obama’s foreign trip, it is amusing to look back at how much tamer early ads were. As a Disney fan I found it especially interesting to find an ad for Dwight Eisenhower done by Disney in 1952. At the time Eisenhower was skeptical about using television. His opponent, Adlei Stevenson, wouldn’t appear on television because he thought it demeaning for someone who desired to be president.

McCain Takes The Low Road With Dishonest Attack Ad


Back in 1963 there was hope that the anticipated race between John Kennedy and Barry Goldwater would take the high road with the two debating the issues as opposed to resorting to personal attacks. That hope ended when Kennedy was assassinated. Lyndon Johnson, who undoubtedly could have won without resorting to such tactics, became the nominee and took the low road, such as with the Daisy Ad. This year we had hopes that Barack Obama and John McCain might engage in a clean campaign on the issues. Instead John McCain has decided to take the low road, such as with the dishonest ad posted above. The text reads:

“Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan,” the ad’s announcer says. “He hadn’t been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. And now, he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops. McCain: Country first.” It concludes with the candidate’s voice: “I’m John McCain and I approve this message.”

The number of lies and distortions which are crammed into such a brief ad is amazing. Joe Biden has already debunked the statement on Afghanistan. McCain himself voted against the funding measure which he has repeatedly attacked Obama for voting against. He also voted against other legislation to provide funding for the troops:

Moreover, McCain has voted against other legislation funding care for veterans. On April 26, 2006, McCain voted against an amendment by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) that would have “provide[d] an additional $430,000,000 for the Department of Veteran Affairs for Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.” In addition, on March 14, 2006, McCain voted against “increas[ing] Veterans medical services funding by $1.5 billion in FY 2007 to be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.” On March 10, 2004, McCain also voted against “creat[ing] a reserve fund to allow for an increase in Veterans’ medical care by $1.8 billion by eliminating tax loopholes.” Obama voted for the first two measures; he had not yet entered the Senate when the third vote was cast.

Looking further at the ad, the claim that Obama did not visit the troops because he could not bring cameras is also a lie. The Pentagon has confirmed that the visit was canceled because of Department of Defense rules against candidates visiting with campaign staff. After being informed of this by the Pentagon, Obama felt it was inappropriate to go as part of a campaign trip. Obama had planned to make this visit without the press and without cameras, contrary to McCain’s false claims. Andrea Mitchell also verified this in her report:


The willingness of McCain to distort the truth, or perhaps the incompetence of their ads, can be seen in the claim that Obama “made time to go to the gym.” As can be seen in the video above, Obama’s trip to the gym was actually a visit with American troops serving in Kuwait:


If one wanted to make a satire of dirty campaign ads, you couldn’t do a better job than in this real McCain ad when he is saying an opponent  made time to go to the gym instead of visiting the troops, when the trip to the gym was actually a visit with the troops.

Steve Benen points out that John McCain isn’t even telling in truth when he claims he “is always there for our troops.” He has not been there for them when it has been time to support their health benefits.

During the primary campaign Obama typically turned negative and dishonest attacks against him from the Clinton campaign to his advantage. This often included an ad responding to Clinton attack ads, and I am anxious to see if Obama does the same in response to this dishonest ad from John McCain.

John McCain Was a Creepy Husband


That’s John McCain playing the creepy husband in the above Saturday Night Live sketch from 2002.

(The clip from Hardball which I originally used in this post is no longer availble for inbedding in a post but can be viewed here.)