HERO HIGHLIGHT: JUSTICE LEAGUE

justiceleagueI’ve been putting off this Justice League post because I don’t know jack shit about DC comic book characters. I know Superman and Batman, of course, but you start talking about Wonder Woman (she got a nice outfit and a rope, right?) or Aquaman (again, SeaWorld trainer in an orange shirt), or Flash (umm, he’s fast?), or Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds or the black dude?) or the Martian Manhunter (who?)—yeah, I’m kinda lost.

Let me tell you how much I love you. You deserve better than some half-hearted the-Justice-League-is-not-the Avengers post. So what do I do? Watch a full season (plus a couple episodes) of the Justice League (thank you Netflix!). I read the Kingdom Come graphic novel. Turned on 3 different Justice League animated movies. I even broke down and watched the Green Lantern movie – twice.  That’s commitment.

And it paid off.

I’m not a DC aficionado admittedly. But I’ve gained a much greater appreciation for why Marvel has superheroes and DC has icons. Icons. You get that? Icons. An object of uncritical devotion. That’s the difference between the two families of heroes and it doesn’t make one better than the other. Marvel’s claim to fame is that it takes ordinary people, people you and I can relate to, and turns them into something special—like a teenage outcast who suddenly finds incredible power or a simple scientist who learns to express unfathomable rage or the puny kid from Brooklyn who gains the power to be the super soldier America needs. But the DC model isn’t about taking ordinary people and making them extraordinary. DC shows us extraordinary people ordinary people can aspire to.

Now I know there’s like 147 members of the Justice League but to steal a line from the Avengers, let’s do a headcount here:

  • Superman – There is NOTHING in the Marvel universe that compares to Superman. Nothing. Fanboys will talk to you about Thor and the damn hammer but it’s more than strength and flight. It’s character. It’s the basic essence of who that character is and what he compels the rest of us to be. Superman is a benevolent god, a Christ figure in tights and a cape urging us to be our best. He is an example for us, something for us to strive toward. Something for us to emulate. Now I like Thor. I thought he earned MVP of the Avengers. But no one ran around their backyard with a cape thinking they were Thor. All of us thought we had an S on our chest.
  • Batman – Now I’ve said before that Batsy ain’t right. He has some psycho-emotional problems. Seriously, somebody needs to put my man in a straightjacket and take away the batarangs. But Batman is the pinnacle of the human condition. He takes two very basic, very intrinsic human concepts—revenge and justice—and hones them into weapons. Uses them to create a persona that is more than human. Think about it—this is the only normal human being in the Justice League, a group with Superman and Green Lantern, and he is a contributing member. The closest thing Marvel has to Batman is Captain American—their moral center is stronger than their physical capabilities.
  • Green Lantern – Now I like the Green Lantern: interstellar space cop, ring with powers that are limited by your imagination and your will, cool mask. Shitty movie aside, the Green Lantern is pretty awesome, right? But look at him: his power is limited only by his willingness to do the right thing. To be the right person. What is interesting about the Green Lantern is it’s not about the guy; it’s about the role. The job. There are thousands of Lanterns, all of them chosen for their will and willingness to do what is right. That is a universal concept.
  • Wonder Woman – If anybody needed their own movie, it’s this chick. Wonder Woman is the penultimate female hero. Holding her own in the Justice League, strong enough to stand toe to toe with Superman, sexy enough to walk through any city with a golden rope and a bustier. This is the embodiment of female empowerment. She is the anti-Disney princess: she doesn’t wear a fancy dress, isn’t trying to catch a man (she doesn’t even like men), and is waaaaaaayyyyy more Brave than Merida. Diana is a goddess.  She has no counterpart.
  • Flash – Easily my favorite character in the Justice League cartoon. And that’s kind of a surprise since I always thought his power was kind of lame—yeah, you’re fast, I get it. Seemed like a one-trick pony. But my man is FUNNY. I guess I like him for the same reasons I like Spiderman: the Flash has a quip for everything, thinks on his feet, trying to get at the ladies (constantly) but is a hero through and through. Where Flash and Spidey differ is in power: Peter Parker has a limited ability to affect change (though he still is my favorite superhero), the Flash can change time, run through dimensions, alter reality. I don’t know—I just dig him.
  • Martian Manhunter – To be fair, this is where DC lost me. I get that the core components of the Justice League really do spell out something interstellar but for real? The last Martian? And all those convenient powers: he can become intangible and has super strength and can fly and has telepathy and can change shape but his weakness is fire? Booo. I’d go at him with a sparkler and slap the shit out of the Martian Manhunter.
  • Aquaman – Sure, I’ve clowned Aquaman. We’ve ALL clowned Aquaman. The most useless Superfriend. The one Justice Leaguer who can’t do anything if it’s on land. Yeah, that dude. Now, in the stuff I read/watched, Aquaman was recast into a hardened ruler of an undersea nation (that mysteriously needs domes full of air to survive UNDERWATER but whatever). I know I called him an orange-shirted SeaWorld trainer—then I saw him cut off his own hand to save his son. On a kid’s cartoon. Well alright. Now, Marvel does have a character just like this—his name is Namor the Sub-Mariner. And he is an ass. At least Aquaman is a better name.

All in all, the Justice League is a collection gods in the midst of people. Where Marvel characters generally look at individuals blessed and burdened with power and their challenge to retain their humanity in the face of these capabilities, DC characters are gods among men and women. Their challenge is really about constantly and consistently rising to the call such power requires. They’re not looking to maintain their humanity; they’re looking to earn humanity’s respect.

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SUBSURDITY II: Trayvon, PTA Moms and the Race Thing

I actually didn’t even want to write this post. Really, I didn’t. But recent events have forced my hand. I told you a little about the suburbs in our last little Subsurdity post (granted, I also told you a little about Handsy Schmancy too). What I didn’t tell you, or might have only alluded to, was how race works its way into the seedy underbelly of the suburbs. Now that a Black kid is dead and his White-Hispanic killer is free…well, I have to say something.  And, apparently, it’s a lot. Sorry about that.

When I talked about the burbs last, I spoke in class terms—what your husband does, what you drive, how much wine you can afford. That’s money stuff. That’s class. No one really talks about race though; it doesn’t even come up that often honestly. Enough that you’d think it doesn’t even exist in the wonderful suburbs. Until you look at your kid’s class pictures and see those three brown spots. You know the ones I’m talking about: the Kim girl, the little boy whose last name is all consonants, and James or Charles or Stacy—the Black kid.

Usually that’s all it is—class pictures and birthday parties and awkward Halloweens. Until the slavery unit. Until you get a call from an elementary school teacher wanting to make sure your child wasn’t too “uncomfortable” when they discussed the Civil Rights Movement. Until your child wants to date and can’t bring anything home that looks like him or her.

Then things get “weird.”

Here’s why: the United States is a capitalist society, which means those with more—the Haves—are intrinsically worth more to society than those who have less—the Have Nots. The Haves and the Have Nots, aside from being a Tyler Perry show, are classes. Upper, middle, lower. But you know this stuff. They beat us over the head with it every election cycle. That class stuff, that’s how our society is organized, horizontally, like this:

Upper
Middle
Lower

But the United States has a very interesting relationship with race (I think you know why) and our society is also organized vertically by race, like so:

White Asian Hispanic Black Native American

You read this from left to right. What that means is the race on the left has more social worth than the race on the right. So that means a better picture of what our society really looks like is this:

WhiteUpper AsianUpper HispanicUpper BlackUpper Native AmericanUpper
WhiteMiddle AsianMiddle HispanicMiddle BlackMiddle Native AmericanMiddle
WhiteLower AsianLower HispanicLower BlackLower Native AmericanLower

That means the White Lower Class person has more social value than the Black Upper Class person. Keep in mind, I’m not shooting for technical accuracy with my little chart; I’m going for conceptual understanding. You know you understand what I’m trying to say. And don’t let me start on gender. That opens an even more complex scenario for our little discussion. And before you come at me with, “Chris, I don’t think—” SHUT UP! Just shut up! Before you get started, I know I talk about villains and cartoons and movies and shit, but I actually have two TWO degrees in this nonsense. Did you know that? I have degrees in both Sociology and Urban Studies—I am an Urban Sociologist. This is my nice way of saying “I know what the fuck I’m talking about.” And you are not allowed to respond with the “plight of the white male” bullshit. For real. Don’t start.

So what does this have to do with the suburbs? The truth is, the suburbs are racist as shit! Now I could give you all kinds of examples but I think I’ll just tell you a story. You know that’s why you came anyway, right?

When we first moved to Seattle, we found a nice development about 25-30 miles north of the city. We moved in and the neighbors came out and welcomed us and everything. Things were cool. For about 2 months.

See, Schmancy isn’t the only one with the Jungle Fever brand of curiosity. It’s actually a touch more prevalent in the suburbs than you would imagine—remind me to tell you about the co-worker who got drunk at a winery and then suggested a foursome because she “was a California girl and had never been with a Black man” and her husband’s thing was too sma—well, you know. So take that curiosity thing (which quickly turns into jealousy when folks can hear your “exploits” because it’s hot and the windows are open because Seattle doesn’t believe in air conditioning) and the race/class thing and combine that with the PTA President with the “snuffleupagus” husband two houses down and suddenly my kids are little “monkeys” who can’t buy popcorn in school and my wife is a “nigger-lover.”

Yep. That. Really. Happened.

Let me give you a little backstory, because in the Soap Opera Suburbs, nothing ever is as it seems. Shortly after we moved in, another family moved in across the street. I affectionately called these folks The Clampetts because, well, Hillbillies took too long to say. Anyway, when new folks move in, the bit—er, ladies—swoop in to make sure the newcomers choose the right “sides.” As Mrs. Clampett makes her rounds in the neighborhood, she shows up on my door, making nice with my wife. And asking for pills. Yep, young Mrs. Clampett had a “migraine” and her doctor wouldn’t prescribe her anything so she came to the one woman on the street who MUST have painkillers because she walks around looking like she’s smuggling two midgets underneath her shirt.

Days pass, my wife makes a comment to one of the other mothers on the street about Mrs. Clampett’s odd request (and the fact that she keeps coming back for pills). The other mother quickly informs her that Mrs. Clampett actually lost her nursing license for stealing prescription meds and has a known drug addiction. (This, too, really happened.) When my wife cuts off all contact with the addict, Mrs. Clampett runs to the PTA Mom across the street, finagles the racial-slur-laden name-calling from said PTA Mom, and then comes back to our house, essentially selling these slurs for pills. You catch that? Fucked up, huh? (She didn’t get any pills, by the way. Instead she got fireworks).

You many not know this but my wife is a pretty headstrong individual. And I gotta be honest: the White girl from Cincinnati has more street smarts than the Black kid from Saint Paul. So when she found that she and her kids were called names, the Wife decided to address it. Right then. Right when the kids were getting off the bus from school. So when the PTA Mom stood on her porch and told my wife, “If you have something to say to me, come say it to my face,” well, my wife brought it to her face. With a left hook and shove.

That was my favorite part.

Since then, we moved, Mrs. Clampett remains an addict, and the PTA Mom has since decided to re-evaluate her perspective on life and has offered us mad apologies. See? Happy ending.

My point here is the suburbs are a breeding ground of seething, but unexpressed, racial tension. The rules aren’t any different, the approach is. The suburbs are just intolerance disguised by nice landscaping. And because that class thing is so prevalent, suburbanites generally believe they are above such base ideas as racial prejudice. But they love this idea of value and worth—and who is worth more. See, the suburbs are competition realized in landscaping and sports cars, private schools and vacations, granite countertops and berber carpeting. It’s all about who is better than whom. And since you understand from our little sociology lesson how social value—how a person’s intrinsic worth—is calculated in the good ol USA, it’s easy to see how a 17-year-old Black kid with saggy pants would meet his end at the hands of an over-zealous, White-Hispanic Neighborhood Watchman. And it’s easy to see how the killer would then go free. One simply matters more.

Only in the suburbs.

UPDATE:

A friend of mine sent me this YouTube that pretty much sums up what I’m talking about. And it’s really funny too!

I’m…Almost…Done!

I know I haven’t posted in a minute–this is a just a quick little note to tell you that it’s coming. Promise. I am about a chapter away from being done with the first draft of Come Hell or High Water and I’m knee-deep in it. Like not-sleeping-haven’t-shaved-how-many-times-are-you-gonna-wear-that-shirt? in it. Thank God I work from home. But I’m happy! I’m excited! If I wasn’t so tired, I might be moonwalking around the house. For a book that struggled to find a story, it’s actually shaping up better than I expected. YAY!!!!

Once it’s done–and I’m hoping that’s this weekend–I’ll be back with:

  • That Justice League post I owe you. And you’ll get to see how much I really love you
  • The Honey Badger’s first DMFRH post. Yep…she got there too
  • Some old friends who just can’t seem to leave well enough alone. And this time, it wasn’t even us!

I leave you in the capable hands of Sam & Dave–I think this song sums up my sentiments:

SUBSURDITY: Episode I – Of MILFs and Men

Well well wellwellwell look who decided to show up today? Lil ol me! It’s been an interesting summer so far, chock full of Iron Man and Superman and Star Trek with a couple slices of The Boy and His Girlfriend (yep, he has one), DMFRH karma, and suburban nonsense.

I’m supposed to be talking about the Super Friends…I mean the Justice League…or is it the Justice League of America? Dammit—you know who I mean—the group with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and the Martian dude (some DC lover is screaming “Martian Manhunter! Martian Manhunter! I know: I’m just being difficult). And I will. Promise. But given that it’s the 4th of July week, I have to tell you a 4th of July story. 2 years ago (and at the start of this lovely blog), I damn near broke my ankle playing badminton with a 9-year-old. Last year was…different. I think you deserve that story. So, without further adieu, I present the first installment of my new series Surbsurdity: Suburban Absurdity.

And you’re gonna love it!

But first, I gotta give you my Law & Order disclaimer: the story you’re about to read is true. And wholly inappropriate for work. And small children. And contains some graphic language and content of a semi-sexual nature that will elicit some “Ewww…for real?” exclamations. You’ve been warned.

If you in live in the suburbs, you know this already, but if you haven’t, suffice it to say there is a reason Desperate Housewives was the #1 show for years. I’m still learning the ins and outs of this but suburban people are NUTS! You are not judged on the content of your character or even the color of skin: you are evaluated on the depth of your involvement in mindless PTA bullshit (and how well you gossip with those bit—er, ladies), how early you get up to mow the fucking grass on Saturday, and who your child plays with. Oh yeah, and what your husband does. And what you drive. And if you drink Starbucks or slum it at the bikini coffee huts. By the way, the currency of the suburbs is WINE. Seriously.

Anyway, I have this neighbor a couple houses down from me. Single mom with a daughter a couple years younger than the Honey Badger. Has an on again, off again boyfriend who is in the process of getting a divorce or thinking about a divorce or just doesn’t like his wife or some shit. Her parents are heavily involved in her life (read: they pay for EVERYTHING). And the child seriously needs some guidance and discipline (read ass whoopin!). Let’s call this neighbor Schmancy…because that’s really how she says it (see the wine comment above).

I work from home. What that means is, on most days, I am able to look up from my office window and see the tick tacky houses that all look the same (my Weeds fans will get this reference). One day I see this little girl riding her bike in an incessant circle that starts at her house—2 houses down—and ends at mine. I only see her out the corner of my eye an it bothers the shit outta me. I say to the Honey Badger, “Do you know that girl?” “Yes,” says HB. “Will you go outside with your bike and offer to ride with her ANYWHERE ELSE?” Such is the start of a beautiful friendship.

The girls hang over the course of a week or two and I get a reprieve from the circle ride. Eventually somebody wants to have a sleepover so we meet the parents. Schmancy starts out nice enough: invites us down for flank steak (she REALLY loves her flank steak) and to watch the fireworks. The boyfriend is cool enough to me.  Schmancy and The Wife are getting along really well and it seems like they good have a pretty decent relationship. Things seem good though I notice 2 things: Schmancy is always having a “beverage” or just finishing one AND I catch a couple sidelong glances from her to me. You know the ones I’m talking about. But I chalk it up to my imagination and the fact that, even at 40 years old, I still can’t tell when a woman is throwing me play.

Anyway, the Saturday after the 4th, the girls spend the night at our house. Free from the encumbrance of her child, Schmancy and her boyfriend go out for a night of HEAVY drinking. Hey, I don’t judge: I even made up a song about when my kids are spending the night at someone’s house. It’s called “Getting Rid Of My Kids.” That Sunday though, things got interesting. My wife gets a call from a liquidated Schmancy to come down to Applebee’s and have a drink. Here’s what I hear on my wife’s end of that call: “Your daughter is at my house. No, I’m not having a drink with you. And it’s 11 o’clock. On Sunday. No.”

What the hell?

My wife tells me the invitation was for both of us but, with the kids, we both can’t leave. She also says, “I’m going to go see because I think they’re fucked up.” Wonderful. She leaves and texts me about 20 minutes later. That text simply says, “Hot Mess!” I guess they’d been drinking for a while. Now some people, when they get drunk, get happy. Some get sad. Me, I get funny. Schmancy, though, gets horny. Real horny. From the moment my wife walked into the restaurant until they left, Schmancy is trying to get her, and me, into their bed. She’s talking about what she wants to lick, that she’s never been with a Black guy before, how big things are, how big she hopes things are…and she’s doing it loudly. In Applebees! You know Applebees is like a family restaurant, right? It’s Sunday. People are there after church.

The next time I see my wife, she pulls up and Schmancy is in the car with her. Apparently the boyfriend, who listened to the whole sordid conversation with nothing to offer but a grin, decided to bring his car home and then would come get his girlfriend. Well, he must have driven over God’s green earth cuz it took him forever to get to my house. Schmancy stumbles into my house and she is FUCKED UP! Like slurring words, stumbling, sloppy drunk. Remember, her daughter is at my house. So while my wife goes to find her daughter and get the Honey Badger to keep her at the park, I’m stuck with Schmancy’s drunk, handsy ass. Yay me!

She says to me, “I think your wife is mad at me.”

Like a dumbass, I say, “Why?”

“Because I got all drunk.” And then, “I’m a bad girl.”

Drunk people have always been funny to me and this is no exception. I play along. “You’re a bad girl?” I say.

“Yep!” And up comes her dress and down goes her panties. In my kitchen. With my son upstairs. With my wife outside. And our daughters somewhere with her. I have no idea what else she said.

Now, she’s not a bad-looking woman. And in under different circumstances, it could have been fun. But this? Nah, this was nothing but trouble. I back out the kitchen with my hands up like the police are behind me. “No no nonono! You gotta pull your pants up! Pull your pants up!”

My wife comes in and I’m like 20 feet from this woman. I instantly cop to whatever just happened. “I didn’t do ANYTHING! Here’s what I said; here’s what she said. And then her panties came down!” But my wife is just pissed. She puts the woman on porch (she said she wanted to smoke) and then proceeds to tell me all the nonsense at Applebees (which I relayed above). Her boyfriend is supposed to come get her but his ass is nowhere to be found so I have to help walk Schmancy home. She opens the door and all I hear is, “Why are you on the ground?” And then, “Are you on fire?”

This chick was on fire and she is not Alicia Keys. Have you ever seen a drunk person try and light a cigarette? We put her hair out (because it’s burning) and while I try to get Schmancy off the porch, where she’s laid smooth out, the Wife goes to get the worthless ass boyfriend. Just a note here: drunk people are heavy. Really heavy. I’m trying to get her to her feet and keep my hands free of all the goodies that are falling out of her sundress. This woman says to me, “Are you mad? Cuz you seem like you’re mad.” Using my Intervention voice, “I just want you to get up. You can’t be passed out on my porch.” “But are you mad?” she says. “Cuz you seem like you’re mad.”

The boyfriend NEVER comes (he’s only 2 houses down, remember?) so me and the Wife drag this chick back to her own house. We get her in the door, in front of her boyfriend (whose ass could not leave the couch) and Schmancy says, “They’re gonna fuck us!” He starts getting happy, “For real?” In perfect unison, we say “No!” We tell him to make sure she’s on her side so she doesn’t choke on her own vomit and leave.

She did eventually come back, hours later, and apologize for her behavior but it was little hard for me to take seriously since she was STILL DRUNK. I haven’t seen too much of Schmancy since then. Last time I saw her, I was trying to walk the puppy to mailbox, which is past her house. She caught me outside, loved on my dog and looked at my crotch. In front of her boyfriend. I felt a little dirty when she said, “I just want to make sure everything is cool between us” and gave me a full body hug. I ran home and took a shower.

I can’t wait to see what happens this year.

Happy 4th of July everybody!