Random Musings: 03-16-2010

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    “Using the Beta Capsule, Hyata becomes Ultraman.”


         So there I was at Borders, thumbing through some DVDs near the registers. And what, to my wondering eyes should appear but Ultraman series one, volume one.

         Better yet, it was on sale.

         This Japanese series originally aired in 1966-1967, but I first encountered it in 1975 on Channel 20. It was a “don’t miss” show.

         Ultraman concerned the activities of the Science Patrol, a high-tech police force that protected the Earth from various threats, whether invaders from the stars or creatures from right here on Earth. In the premiere episode, Ultraman, himself a “giant superhero from Nebula M78″, pursues a particular monster to Earth; and when his ship collides with Science Patrolman Hyata’s ship, he merges his essence with that of Hyata to save Hyata’s life. From then on, Hyata needs only use a device called a “Beta Capsule” to transform himself into Ultraman.

         This idea, of course, has been used many times. Billy Batson became the original Captain Marvel when he uttered the name of the wizard, Shazam (though it wasn’t always clear whether Billy and Captain Marvel were two separate people or whether Captain Marvel was essentially Billy as an adult (and with super powers)).

         In the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel series (a title Marvel grabbed when DC let the rights lapse, which is why the DC character is still called Captain Marvel, but any book he stars in is called Shazam, or some variation of that), Rick Jones and Captain Mar-Vell were linked by the “nega-bands” they wore on their wrists. They’d change places (the one on Earth going in to the “Negative Zone”) when one or the other slammed the bands together.

         And then there was Peter David’s excellent Supergirl series, in which the Matrix Supergirl merged her essence with a dying young woman named Linda Danvers.

         So far I’ve watched one of the 20 episodes on this two-disc Ultraman set. I’m looking forward to watching the rest. And yes, sometimes I could see the zippers on the Ultraman and monster costumes, but so what?


         Beginning in Buffy the Vampire Slayer #32, the comicbook continuation of the TV series started to wrap up “season eight” with the storyline “Twilight”, written by Brad Meltzer. Buffy finally meets the Twilight, the “Big Bad” of the “season” in issue #33 (the most recent), and learns his true identity. And some, but not all of his true motivations.

         In this meeting, Buffy also takes a few jabs at the Twilight series of books and movies:

         “My God, is that really the name you picked? Twilight? Y’know, I lived that idea first, right? (And my vampire was so much better).”

         Buffy was referring, of course, to her relationship with Angel (originally Angelus), a once particularly sadistic vampire cursed with the return of his soul (and thus his conscience) by Gypsies whose daughter he murdered. They wanted him to be tormented by the burden of guilt for all he’d done over the course of a century.

         In the mythology of Buffy, when a person becomes a vampire, their soul departs and a demon inhabits and animates the body. It retains the memories and personality of the original person, but isn’t that person. And, of course, has no conscience. This lack of conscience apparently didn’t keep the occasional vampire couple (who appeared to genuinely care about each other) from showing up, but it was pretty much a given that a vampire with your memories and personality didn’t have any moral compunctions that you might have had. Nor was it capable of love or other such emotions.

         Which, when you think about it, means that the curse didn’t punish Angelus as much as it did the restored soul of the human, Liam, who didn’t commit any crime. Except, perhaps, stupidity in accepting Darla’s offer to show him her world without understanding what that meant. She certainly never told him she was a vampire.

         For those who might argue that Spike loved Buffy even before his soul was restored, I’d say that Spike couldn’t love her (or anyone). Rather, he was acting on William’s personality traits, and what he “felt” was infatuation, same as William felt for Cecily before he was turned.


         But getting back to the storyline in the comic, issue #32 is filled with Superman (and other superhero) references, beginning with the cover’s homage to Action Comics #1 (June 1938, the first appearance of Superman). Buffy has recently discovered that she has gained super powers above and beyond those of a slayer; and she and Xander test whether she’s faster than a speeding bullet. The issue also includes quotes from the movies Superman and Superman II; as well as Xander asking about a range of superpowers she might have:

         “Spin a web any size?” he asks.

         “Why would I even wanna do that?” she replies.

         Other pop culture references abound throughout both issues.

         The Buffy comic has had its ups and downs, but the “Twilight” storyline is off to a good start.


         Finally, a brief primer: The year 2010 is pronounced “twenty-ten”, not “two thousand-ten.” Follow: 1610 = “sixteen-ten”; 1710 = “seventeen-ten”; 1810 = “eighteen-ten”; 1910 = “nineteen-ten.” See the pattern? Likewise 2011 will be “twenty-eleven”, and so on. If this annoying habit of mispronouncing the year isn’t broken, people might well be going around decades from now calling 2099 “two thousand ninety-nine.”

         And that’ll just sound silly.


    Copyright 2010, Patrick Keating.


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