Archive for the 'News' Category

Aug 19 2016

Out of the Past non-review

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Out of the Past is a 1947 noir thriller so brilliant I cannot do it justice. I would definitely recommend it, particularly if you’re working with…

  • Characters
  • Plots
  • Accidental deaths falsely claimed as murder-suicides
  • Double-crosses, triple-crosses, and maybe a quadruple-cross depending on how you interpret a self-defense kill with a fishing reel.
  • A complex plot that is extremely easy to follow as it unfolds.
  • A character falsely disgracing himself for the greater good, but more smoothly and dramatically than Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent in Dark Knight. This is straight-up tragic.

4 responses so far

Jul 24 2012

Iron Man Virus Hits Iran?

Hackers with a Stark-like appreciation for AC/DC have apparently let Iran know about their musical tastes. “[Iranian nuclear facilities] have been hit again by a bizarre attack forcing nuclear plant workstations to pump the song Thunderstruck by heavy metal band AC/DC through the speakers at full volume.”  Among other things, this would suggest that the scene in Avengers where Tony Stark hijacks the PA system on a helicopter (to blare AC/DC) is plausible.

4 responses so far

May 29 2012

This Is Sort of Cute

A mother needed help convincing her four-year-old (who suffers from severe hearing loss) to wear a hearing aid. He thought it was decidedly unbadass. In response to a letter from the mother, Marvel Comics created a superhero who used a hearing aid to detect crime.  This strikes me as a very thoughtful gesture (and, although it would probably cheapen the moment, very cost-effective public relations).

4 responses so far

Aug 08 2011

Villainous Reminder: Don’t Reveal Your Plans to Your Enemies…

Published by under News

…especially when they are taping you.  A lesson learned too late for one false accuser.


By the way, how bat**** crazy do you have to be to convince your boyfriend to take the precaution of secretly taping a conversation with you?

3 responses so far

Jun 01 2011

A shakeup for DC’s series

Published by under Comic Books,DC Comics,News

DC Comics announced a few changes that might be significant.  Details are sparse at the moment, but here’s what DC Comics, USA Today and the New York Times have reported.

  • Every DC series will restart at issue #1 and many of the characters will be younger than they were before.  It’s less clear whether the plots will substantially change in noncosmetic ways.  The only substantial changes announced so far are that “a lot” of series are not returning, Justice League will focus more on relationships and DC will branch into genres besides pure superhero action.  “We’re going to use war comics, we have stories set in mystery and horror, we’ve got Westerns.”
  • “We really want to inject new life in our characters and line. This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today’s audience.”
  • DC will be digitally releasing all of its issues the same day they arrive in comic stores.
  • Some titles will return and “a lot” won’t.  Most DC writers and artists are also getting shuffled around. “Series that are successful and writer/artist combinations that work well together won’t be tweaked too much.”
  • The direction for the costume changes is to look more contemporary.   They’re also trying to “alter the physicality of many heroes and villains to modernize the DC Universe.”  I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like a dangerous surgery illegal in most countries.
  • “The recent emphasis on diverse characters such as lesbian superheroine Batwoman, Hispanic hero Blue Beetle and African-American adventurer Cyborg (who will be a core member of Johns and Lee’s new Justice League) also will continue.”

32 responses so far

May 20 2011

The CDC has a post on preparing for a zombie epidemic…

Unfortunately, it’s really just a generic “here’s what you should do to be ready for any disaster” plan with zombies thrown in for fun.  Food and medicine are great, but let’s be honest: You’re not actually ready for a zombie apocalypse until you have a machine gun and two bullets for everybody in the county.   (In case you miss, silly).

My zombie defense plan is counterintuitive, but it’s the most popular one in the world.

1. Get eaten.

2.  Whatever else happens, it’s not my problem.


5 responses so far

May 17 2011

CNN’s Quote of the Day

Watermelons do not burst only from rainfall.”  Memo to self: Don’t buy any Chinese watermelons.

9 responses so far

May 05 2011

CNN’s dumbest article of the year?

Published by under News

Admittedly, it’s early, but they’ll have a hard time topping this.

15 responses so far

Mar 16 2011

P. Mac got published in the New York Times

Published by under News

This article on the response to the Japanese earthquake will put a damper on my plan to have more readers than my tech guy by the end of the year. (He was already ahead by at least a bajillion). He’s also reportedly the best contributor on Hacker News, which he assures me is less interesting than it sounds.

5 responses so far

Jan 20 2011

Superheroes and Princesses

Virginia Postrel of the Wall Street Journal offers an interesting comparison: “The princess archetype embodies a feminine version of the appeal… The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay ascribes to superheroes. They express the ‘lust for power and the gaudy sartorial taste of a race of powerless people with no leave to dress themselves.'”  What do you think? Are the two that comparable? Any other observations, arguments or baseless insults?

20 responses so far

Aug 17 2010

At first glance, this superhero “research” looks shamelessly incompetent

In a ScienceDaily article:

Watching superheroes beat up villains may not be the best image for boys to see if society wants to promote kinder, less stereotypical male behaviors, according to psychologists…

“There is a big difference in the movie superhero of today and the comic book superhero of yesterday,” said psychologist Sharon Lamb, PhD, distinguished professor of mental health at University of Massachusetts-Boston. “Today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns.”

The comic book heroes of the past did fight criminals, she said, “but these were heroes boys could look up to and learn from because outside of their costumes, they were real people with real problems and many vulnerabilities,” she said.

My initial impression is that this is so luridly off-base I don’t know where to begin.

Continue Reading »

17 responses so far

Jul 12 2010

Learning Superhero Tricks from the Marines and LAPD?

This news article might help you if you’re worried your superheroes don’t get enough to do besides superpowered brawling.

The Marines are working with the Los Angeles Police Department to learn more about policing intensely violent areas without alienating the residents.

(Incidentally, I wonder how much the LAPD can teach anybody about that. It’s like getting advice about how to cook Bambi burgers from a vegan).

One response so far

Jul 01 2010

13-year-old climbs walls Spiderman-style with vaccuum tubes

Published by under News,Superhero Stories

20% of the way to total awesomeness.

  • Climbing
  • Danger-sense
  • Reflexes
  • Strength
  • Webbing

He’s young, though.  Plenty of time to collect the whole set!

3 responses so far

Jun 20 2010

Best headline ever

Oh, please. Like it's never happened to you before.

25 responses so far

May 20 2010


BBC: “The thieves were assaulting a German medical exchange student in Sydney, but the alleyway where they struck was next to a school for ninja warriors.”  Guys, when you make sure there are no witnesses or security cameras nearby, you might want to take note of the ninja school next time.

14 responses so far

May 15 2010

Heroes and Law & Order cancelled

NBC finally axed two excellent shows that kept going long after the stagecoach reverted into a pumpkin.

From season 2 on, Heroes was a fetid cesspool of contrivances, idiot plots, plot holes, gratuitously bad acting, wildly inconsistent characterization, no compelling villains besides Sylar and a cast that was probably twice as large as it needed to be and definitely twice as large as the writers could handle.  But unquestionably the biggest disappointment was how much the later seasons paled in comparison to season 1. It may be better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, but you have a much better idea of what you’re missing.

Hopefully NBC’s next superhero program, The Cape, will do better.  An honest cop is framed for murder and becomes a superhero to get revenge.  (I suspect that he won’t actually have superpowers, though–among other things, NBC was concerned about Heroes’ large special budget).   The concept sounds forgettable, but I’m (irrationally) hopeful.  I’m excited that the protagonist is trained by a circus gang of bank-robbers.

As for Law and Order, I’m glad it got canceled.  The closest it got to long-term plot development was cast changes.  While that makes it easy to rerun old episodes (because it doesn’t matter whether viewers see the episodes in order), I think that serialized television allows for better character development and the excitement of cliffhangers from one episode to the next.  I think The Wire is an excellent example of that: the show is ridiculously addictive, but you pretty much have to see the episodes in order or you are screwed.

7 responses so far

Feb 18 2010


As far as supernatural fantasies starring teen heroines go, this is pretty close to perfect.  But red-blooded Americans of the non-girl variety would probably like this better.  The bloody handprints were a cheery touch.

And here’s probably the funniest Hitler-themed video I’ve seen in, umm, ever.

2 responses so far

Oct 30 2009


Published by under News

Have you punched a polar bear in the face recently?  You may soon get your chance.




13 responses so far

Sep 26 2009

Comic Books in the Courtroom

Here’s an amusing excerpt from a Washington Post article

“We are at a point where no one could have even imagined 15 years ago,” said Albert J. Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University who has written about electronic monitoring and privacy since a New Mexico judge, inspired by Spider-Man comics, became the first to sentence a defendant to home confinement with an electronic monitor

Does this mean we’re on the verge of surgically implanting explosive nanites in dangerous parolees? In your face, recidivism!

No responses yet

Sep 01 2009

Disney announces deal to buy Marvel

You can see the Associated Press’ take here and The Wall Street Journal has more here (subscription required?).   I have a few thoughts below.

  • Disney is paying roughly $50 per share, which is a 29% premium over Friday’s closing.  If you own Marvel stock, you will come out ahead quite nicely on this.  It was trading around $25 earlier this year.
  • I am cautiously optimistic that Disney knows how to buy a successful firm without ruining what made it successful.  For example, Pixar’s movies didn’t drop in quality after the Disney buyout.  (Nor have they released a lot of straight-to-DVD sequels to successful movies).
  • I doubt this will have a noticeable impact on Marvel’s products.  Even the movies.
  • I think Disney is the biggest loser here.  It’s betting 4 billion dollars that it can leverage Marvel’s characters better than Marvel did.  I’m skeptical.

10 responses so far

Jun 05 2009

“Funeral home closed after dismembering corpse to fit casket”

Ok, that settles it.  I’m getting cremated.

11 responses so far

May 04 2009

Writers are dispensable; readers are not

If you’re looking to get a novel published, I think that understanding the Boston Globe’s difficulties will help you.

Continue Reading »

No responses yet

Apr 30 2009

I love summer and so does Cthulhu

Summer Fun Cthulhu
Summer Fun Cthulhu! Speaking of summer, it looks like that guy in the back of the photo could use some extra sunlight.

8 responses so far

Apr 07 2009

Marry me! I’m a slob.

Published by under Comedy,News

A Berlin woman divorced her husband for cleaning too much.  “The wife got through 15 years of marriage putting up with the man’s penchant for doing household chores, tidying up and rearranging the furniture.”  One of the advantages of marrying me is that this will certainly not be a problem.

8 responses so far

Mar 20 2009

Some Random Thoughts from B. Mac

  • Notre Dame just announced that the President is doing our commencement speech this year.  I’ve always been opposed to the idea of commencements and do not plan to attend mine, regardless of the speaker.  This announcement merely makes it absolutely certain that my absence will cause my parents to flip out.  They’re still sore that I successfully missed my high school commencement, even though I had a valid excuse then.
  • In other Notre Dame news, the police busted my St. Patrick’s Day party.  Very exciting.
  • Over these past three days, we’ve been averaging 1000 visitors per day.  That’s about three times as many as normal.

16 responses so far

Mar 16 2009

Congress, the Comedic Gift that Keeps on Giving

Published by under I'm not making this up

This paragraph appeared in a Washington Post article about a miserably incompetent bank giving hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses: “The rhetoric grew so heated yesterday that Sen. Charles E. Grassley suggested in a radio interview that AIG executives ought to ‘follow the Japanese model… resign, or go commit suicide.’ An aide later explained he does not actually want executives to kill themselves.” Good to know!

21 responses so far

Mar 06 2009

The NYT starts compiling graphic novel sales

The New York Times has started compiling weekly best-seller lists for graphic novels (err, “graphic books”) in hardcover, paperback and manga.  (Hat-tip to the Comics Reporter). The NYT argues that “comics have finally entered the mainstream.”  Possibly.

1.  I agree that superhero stories are mainstream.  Many superhero movies and TV shows have been broadly successful.

2.  But comic books and graphic novels are not mainstream.  Primarily, that’s because they’re sold mostly in specialty stores rather than general-interest stores like supermarkets and newsstands.  These specialty stores usually strike me as kind of creepy and may well scare away low-interest fans.  Moving back into supermarkets probably isn’t feasible for the typical comic book series, but it encourages me that comic books are increasingly sold online.

[B. Mac adds: Is the endorsement of the NYT a good thing for comics?  The NYT has a soft spot for businesses that are not actually economically viable, such as solar power, US car companies, and itself.]

2 responses so far

Jan 26 2009

“Ma’am, your son’s been murdered.”

CNN just did a piece on how cops break the news that someone’s loved one has been murdered.  I think the article is an especially useful resource for the authors of superhero stories because a lot of superheroes get so caught up in their superhero identities that regular people are essentially cut from the story.  For example, on Heroes normal people are sometimes used as props or plot devices, but they never get any important lines.   (Also, the characters haven’t had real jobs since season 1, and all of the recurring characters have superpowers now. Even Suresh and Ando!)

Although breaking tragic news to a spouse might get too angsty, I suspect that an author could play it quietly to add emotional depth to the superhero.  One of the things that annoyed me about Bruce Wayne/Batman is that he’s so socially retarded that it seems like he doesn’t care about anyone else.  Beating the hell out of bad guys is fine, but that’s just revenge for Batman.  If your hero is supposed to be likable, you might want to show that he’s at least trying to empathize with regular people.  I’d recommend having him stumble awkwardly in the conversation, though.  I think the scene depends on the awkwardness of the hero being thrust into a new role that’s hard even for professional chaplains.

What do you think?

2 responses so far

Dec 10 2008

Brawls at Chuck E. Cheese: “It was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie.”

Some choice excerpts from a decidedly wild profile of Chuck E. Cheese’s customers.

In Brookfield, Wis., no restaurant has triggered more calls to the police department since last year than Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Officers have been called to break up 12 fights, some of them physical, at the child-oriented pizza parlor since January 2007. The biggest melee broke out in April, when an uninvited adult disrupted a child’s birthday party. Seven officers arrived and found as many as 40 people knocking over chairs and yelling in front of the restaurant’s music stage, where a robotic singing chicken and the chain’s namesake mouse perform.

“The biggest problem is you have a bunch of adults acting like juveniles,” says Town of Brookfield Police Capt. Timothy Imler. “There’s a biker bar down the street, and we rarely get calls there.”…

In Toledo, Ohio, four women were charged with disorderly conduct after a melee erupted at a Chuck E. Cheese’s there last year. According to police reports, it started when parents complained to the restaurant manager that children were loitering at the drawing machine…

“I thought they were going to attack me,” says Sheri Kellar-Raab, the first officer who responded…

The company stationed armed security guards inside the restaurant in an effort to make it safer.”It was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino film,” says Mr. Zielinski, referring to the “Pulp Fiction” director. “What parent is going to take their kids to a place where there is alcohol and pistols get brandished?”

9 responses so far

Dec 06 2008

Funny Russian Headlines

Published by under Comedy,Journalism,News

Pravda:  “Condoleeza Rice Decides to Destroy Europe.”  I might have missed that article in the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian.

No responses yet

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