365 T-shirts - the reasoning

This blog should be sub-titled: a journal of my life in geek.

I get my geek on with things about which I am geeky: comic books, Baseball, Ultimate, science fiction, my favorite bands, books I have read and loved, and Jungian psychology to name some of the most frequently traversed subjects.

I began this project simply as a way to count my T-shirts. I own a lot of T-shirts. But how many do I have? Do I have 365? We shall find out.

When I started this blog, I thought about how each T-shirt means something to me. I bought it for a reason, after all. I set myself the task to post an entry about a new T-shirt every day as a way to simply write something every day, a warm up for writing fiction, which is my passion. Writing is like exercise. Warm ups are good for exercise. But after completing a month of blogging about T-shirts, I have learned that this blog serves as a journal; it documents my life in geek, sort of a tour of my interests in pop culture. The blog serves as a tool for self-inventory, for assessment and analysis of self and the origins of self, for stepping through the process of individuation in catalogues, lists, and ranks.

The blog also made me aware that I have some serious gaps in my T-shirt ownership, and I am in the process of collecting some new T-shirts for several of the great popular culture icons that I truly love. Stay tuned.

I was also a bit surprised that people checked out my blog and continue to check it, read it, and even comment on it. I am very appreciative of this readership. Please feel free to share your thoughts in my comments section. I will respond.

Also, please note that I have moved the original introductory text to the side bar. And now, I present to you the most recent entry of 365 T-shirts: a journal of my life in geek. Thank you for reading.
(Second Update - 1310.24. First Update - 1306.05 Originally Posted - 1304.25.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

T-shirt #110: Smallville Athletics

T-shirt #110: Smallville Athletics or Ten Reasons I loved Superman: The Man of Steel

I saw Superman: The Man of Steel on Sunday July 7th.

After seeing the film, I was contemplating buying a Superman shirt so I could write about the film until I remembered that though I may not own a traditional blue, red, and yellow shirt, I do have some more Superman-themed clothing, such as this fine garment in the same vein of the faux athletics style as featured in T-shirt #108 for the Powers Division. I claimed that I owned more of these, didn't I? I had not intended to post another one so soon, though.

My friend and fellow blogger Charles Skaggs lent Superman: The Man of Steel his "Charlesish" review of the film the day it came out. Find it at this link: DAMN GOOD MOVIES. I barely made it to Iron Man 3 before it left town. Still, I feel ahead of the game in catching the Superman film three weeks after its debut. Oh, for those days when I used to catch films on the day they came out!

Charles in his Charlesish-way ranks Superman: The Man of Steel fourth on his all time superhero movies list behind Superman (1978), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Avengers (2012). I cannot agree. Not only is the original Superman II (1981) film better than Superman (1978), but Superman: The Man of Steel is better than all five of the previous films (not counting pre-1970s fare) put together and well shaken (not stirred). (Yes, I like to mix pop culture metaphors.)

If you do not wish to learn things about the film, stop reading now.

TEN REASONS TO LOVE Superman: The Man of Steel

1. JOR-EL KICKS ASS! No wimpy Jor-El who stands by, arms at his side, as cold as the set looks, pleading the case of Krypton to some big floating heads. Yes, Brando was great. I doubted that Russell Crowe could be as good. Aided by a great script and a better dramatic sequence on the home planet, Crowe was better. We see Jor-El stand up for his principles. We see Jor-El escape Zod's coup before he is taken prisoner in the council chambers. Jor-El shows off how buff and athletic he is as he dives into the Genesis Chamber and takes the Codex. Then, back at his observatory home, he beats the crap out of Zod, humiliating the general, until the evil and quite psychotic Zod sucker stabs Jor-El. Though Jor-El dies, he has bought time for Lara to launch the rocket that will take Kal-El to earth. This whole sequence plays out MUCH BETTER than the original 1978 film with plenty of action; Jor-El is no slouch when it comes to combat (and neither is his son as we see later on).

2. KRYPTON IS COOL! Gone are the crusty, Styrofoam-looking, ice sculptures of the 1978 movie. And though the floating heads and Phantom Zone projector were the coolest part of Old Krypton, this upgrade re-envisions both beautifully as well as giving the planet a retro-fit and much needed face lift. Krypton is great because of its mix of technology and futuristic gizmos as well as beasts with ancient lineage, one of which Jor-El rides through a combat zone! The Kryptonian world and technology (mainly used by Zod and company) finally seem to get Krypton and Kryptonians right.

3. A NATURAL BIRTH: Comic book fans of all the different remediated Superman origins over the years (principally the 1980s work of John Byrne) are acquainted with the uber-sciencey, sexless, suited-up Kryptonians of Kal-El's homeworld. We all know that Kal-El is special because he was a natural birth, but here the creative team (Goyer, Nolan, and Snyder) actually SHOW the live birth with the wonderful Ayelet Zurer (Lara-El) screaming her head off as she gives birth because, apparently, for all their technology the Kryptonians did not solve the dilemma of painful, vaginal birth (or maybe Lara did not want to seek a solution). All in all, regardless of the reasoning, the sequence is VERY COOL.

4. CHILDHOOD TOLD IN FLASHBACK: Often in Superman movies (at least the first one) viewers have to sit through all the Krypton stuff followed by Clark Kent's growing up years in Smallville. Goyer, Nolan, and Snyder realize that most people know the story of the childhood in Kansas, and so after the Krypton sequence, Superman: The Man of Steel  jumps right into the action as Clark (Kal-El) is a grown man trying to figure out who he is and how he should help people. We are treated to a series of heroic deeds, in which Clark works anonymously and backs down from direct confrontation (such as in a bar scene in which a beer is dumped on his head). The key elements of his childhood are told via flashback mixed throughout the movie, culminating in how Jonathan Kent sacrifices himself to preserve Clark's secret identity and powers. This sequencing is possibly the smartest, wisest, and best choice for the film and one of the reasons it is so successful.

5. FLYING SAVED FOR RIGHT MOMENT: We watch Clark wander the world seeking his identity and his role, and most importantly, seeking the answer to the question:  "if I am from the stars, then where am I from?" There is sufficient build up to Clark finding answers in an 18,000 year old Kryptonian scout ship (future Fortress of Solitude), which runs the AI in the command key Jor-El placed in the capsule that brought Kal-El to earth. A hologram of his father gives him his suit, bearing the El crest. We learn that the El crest, which looks like an English "S," means "hope," which is very appropriate for the film's message. Donning the special suit, (which seems as indestructible as he is), Clark tests his last untried power: flight. The sequence provides the act one-act two climax that the film needs.

6. AMAZING BATTLES (NOT TOO MUCH CGI): When I walked out of the theater, I said the film was "fucking awesome." My wife, who kept confusing the film's title as "Batman," thought there were too many fight scenes. Ivan, Olivia, and I joked with Liesel that saying a superhero film has too many fight scenes or scenes of fighting that go on for too long is like going to a slasher film and complaining that too many people get killed. Though she may have a point that the film could have been five or ten minutes shorter with a little less battle (which could be added to the DVD releases), the CGI is not so completely crazy with spinning and bobbing cameras that you can ACTUALLY SEE WHAT IS GOING ON, unlike a lot of CGI fests.

7. CASTING: All around great casting. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White. Antje Traue as Faora (the comparable character from Superman II is Ursa), Christopher Meloni as Colonel Hardy, Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton (who is a core character in the Superman mythology but may have already been killed off), and I already mentioned the Els, Jor and Lara. But the best two casting choices are Michael Shannon as General Zod and Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman. Superb!

8. THE KENTS - SUPERMAN'S HEARTACHE: I was a bit leery of Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, but he delivers an impeccable performance. And Diane Lane, who is a gifted actress, delivers a warm and beautiful version of Martha Kent. But most importantly, there are key scenes with Clark and his father leading up to Jonathan Kent sacrificing himself to a mammoth tornado so that his son can keep his super powers a secret. It's a brilliant scene and gives Clark the extra tragic past he needs to round out his character and make him less cardboard.

9. KILLING ZOD: Further rounding occurs for Clark Kent/Superman when he is faced with an impossible decision at the end of the film. Either he keeps to his "no killing" policy or he lets humans be killed by Zod's heat vision. In a nod to the classic Superman #22 by John Byrne, Kal-El chooses to snap Zod's neck and thus executing him.

10. "ON MY TERMS." The film ends with Clark assuming his bespectacled identity at the Daily Planet. Right before that final scene, he drops a crushed surveillance drone at the feet of the General Swanwick (Harry Lennix) and tells him and the whole human race that if he is to help, it "has to be on my terms." Excellent!

PS: Battlestar Galactica fans alert! Alessandro Juliana (Felix Gaeta) makes an appearance. This is also amusing since he played Dr. Emil Hamilton in Smallville, the TV show.


LOIS LANE: Nothing against Amy Adams, but she is not Lois.

Here I will quote Charles Skaggs: "Amy Adams was an interesting choice for Lois, especially since her previous Superman experience was portraying fat-sucking vampire Jodi Melville in the first season of Smallville.  Her introduction into the film is strong, with a great line about "comparing dicks" when she's confronted by self-important military officers.  It's a shame we don't get to see much of Lois being a reporter in the movie's second half, but there's an interesting dynamic to explore with her already being aware of Clark's dual identity" ("Man of Steel review, DAMN GOOD MOVIES, 2013).

My take? As delightful as Adams is, she is NOT Lois Lane any more than Margot Kidder or Kate Bosworth, as much as each of them is cool in her own right. It's an issue with physicality. THIS art image from John Byrne's Superman is LOIS LANE. This follows with the same reasoning as to why KIRSTEN DUNST is not MARY JANE WATSON. Dunst is just as talented as Adams. Neither is right for the role. I am a type casting Nazi when it comes to characters in superhero movies. Though, I must admit, I LOVED Erica Durance as Lois Lane and Krisin Kreuk as Lana Lang in Smallville even though they are physically speakign against type, so I am not a total Nazi. Still, Lois is a brunette. Period.


I just don't get it.

We are told that the Kryptonians colonized the galaxy (or a neighboring galaxy?) for 100,000 years, AND YET, with all their technology, all their advances, and with their planetary core collapsing, why can't they leave Krypton? This is never well explained. There are some vague and abstract statements like "everyone on Krypton is already dead" and something about their fates being tied to the planet, but there is no good reason why more of them (or all of them) could not evacuate the planet. The explanation seems to be: they didn't leave, so they cannot leave.




WHAT'S WITH THE "RICH" ATMOSPHERE?? The comic books have NEVER mentioned that our atmosphere had ANYTHING to do with Superman's super powers. It was all due to the sun. He's a big solar battery. This element seems to be added so loss of special breathing apparatus can give the other Kryptonians instant powers that confuse them. SIGH.

WHERE'S THE SCOUT SHIP? During the big and long epic battle sequences as Kal-El is trying to stop the World Engine from terra-forming the planet and wiping out the human race, we see the 18,000 year old Kryptonian scout ship take off from its landing spot in the arctic and ... (unless I missed it) ...


NO APOLOGY FOR ALL THE DESTRUCTION: Given that Superman is trying to win the trust and approval of the human race, a little apology for all the destruction and likely the massive casualties in Metropolis as a result of the huge battle (though we do not see any, surely, they happened) would have been nice. It only takes a minute to be polite and considerate. It fits with Clark Kent's upbringing. Manners matter.
Not that Kal-El was at fault for the massive destruction, but certainly there would have been less of it had he not been FIGHTING OTHER KRYPTONIANS. Just sayin'.

NO JIMMY - NEXT FILM? I am cool with there being no Jimmy Olsen in this film BECAUSE that means that we could be treated to MORE JACK KIRBY THEMED MATERIAL for which his estate is not compensated at all. Project Cadmus? The Forever People? New Gods? The Fourth World? Prelude to Darkseid being the Big Bad in the Justice League movie?

This prospect could be summarized in two words: "fucking awesome."

Damn. I loved this film so much that I may have to go see the 3D IMAX show.

- chris tower - 1307.09 - 9:47