Category Archives: Crossposted

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

This review can be summed up by giving it a different title.

Batman vs Superman: It’s Not as Bad as All That, But Please Can We Have Some Color?

Original movie poster on the left, saturation-adjusted poster on the right

Here are some selling points, although based on the film’s domestic gross, Time/Warner/DC does not need my help selling the movie to an English-speaking audience:

  • Very long, but not boring
  • Luxuriously paced, and every scene matters
  • Very good performances from the principals
  • Great soundtrack
  • Solid story
  • Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is delightful
    • Maybe—maybe—even perfect

The biggest downer is the absence of color. It’s like Metropolis, Gotham, and DC are all perpetually overcast. Even indoors. There are a few scenes that feel like they could have been set in our world, like an early scene in the Indian Ocean that had the blazing cerulean, teal, and green colors we associate with the tropics, but for the most part everything was muted to the point of being largely desaturated.

Here are a couple of examples:

The Daily Planet - original still above, saturation boost below
The Daily Planet – original still above, saturation boost below
Is it sad that the crowd hates him? Yes. Can he be both colorful AND sad? Also yes.
Is it sad that the crowd hates him? Yes. Can he still be colorful and sad? Also yes.

I’m reminded of a line from Trumbo, in which the titular character says “if every scene is brilliant, your movie will be boring.” By the same token, if every scene is bleak, we lose the sense of what “bleak” means. Yes, it’s pretty dark when a genuinely nefarious plot results in two powerful men with genuinely good intentions attempting to kill one another. But for that to really leach hope from us, there needs to be some color beforehand, a visual representation of the hope that is drained as the plot unfolds. And if we’re going to stand up and cheer at some point, if there’s going to be triumph—even one coming at significant cost—the color should flow back into the film.

VideoLab said this pretty well already when they gave us some Man of Steel shots with the color restored. Their conclusion: “Superman should fly in blue skies, not grey.” I agree.

Does the film have problems besides color? Oh, absolutely! Other critics have explored a great many of these in detail. All I have to say here¹ is that most of those didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film. They may have prevented it from clearing the Threshold of Awesome (on the “fun” scale it’s very middle-ground) but, for me at least, they didn’t drag it across the Threshold of Disappointment and into the abyss.


¹Okay, not quite all. There’s a moment of absolute Bechdel failure² in which the film’s two dominant women—Wonder Woman and Lois Lane—don’t even speak. They just share a look, and yes, it’s totally about a man. And it’s their only communication in the film.

²Bechdel failure is not automatic film failure for me, but it’s a solid indicator of something being deeply wrong.


Javelin Rain, by Myke Cole

JavelinRainJavelin Rain is the sequel to Myke Cole’s Gemini Cell, and if you thought the first book was riveting, you’ll likely find Javelin Rain to have even more rivets, and maybe some arc welding. “Gripping” is a word that gets used a lot. Javelin Rain was definitely that.

Myke’s Shadow Ops series is shelved as Urban Fantasy, which is the bookshelf genre that bookstores use to tell people that the book features our world, except with magic in it. Bookshelf genres only really tell you what group of readers the booksellers are trying to aim the book at, and Javelin Rain could be very accurately aimed at fans of thrillers, horror stories, and science fiction—not to mention aficionados of military fiction, and anybody who likes to see a moral quandary laid bare on the page.

If you like any two of those things, you’ll enjoy Javelin Rain. If you like some of those things, and hate some of the others, Javelin Rain may force you into that uncomfortable place where you have to reconsider your tastes before growing a bit as a reader.

Myke’s debut novel, Control Point was described by Peter Brett as “Blackhawk Down meets The X-Men.” The best mash-up logic I can come up with for Javelin Rain is “Steven King and Brandon Sanderson perform necromancy on Tom Clancy.”


The Twelve Archetypes

Renee Collins, one of the author guests at FanX,  walked into the green room shaking her head in mild disbelief at an encounter she’d had in the hallway. Someone had pitched his writing tutorials to her, and when she said “no thank you” he said “if you’re a writer, then you obviously know the twelve archetypes, right?”

Our table’s response was a mixture of wide-eyed surprise, and eye-rolling at the bad behavior. And maybe just a little embarrassment. For myself, I know of the archetypes, but I don’t have them memorized, and I certainly don’t work from that list while creating a story.

So I put myself in Renee’s shoes and role-played my answer:

“Of course!” I began ticking things off on my fingers “Joan of Arc, Arc de Triomph, Noah’s Ark, Arc Reactor, The Ark of the Covenant…”

We burst into laughter, and everyone at the table began shouting suggestions. We swiftly added Archimedes, Archaeology, Arc Welder, and Archipelago, and then lost some steam.

“Come on, folks! That’s nine!” I said, feigning panic while waving nine fingers. “We just need three more!”

I think Monarch, Archaeopteryx, and Arkham Asylum finished the list off.

This morning I got to wondering if words, terms, and names with the “ark” sound in them could be usefully mapped onto the actual Twelve Archetypes. And by “usefully” I mean “as a mnemonic.” For instance, “Monarch” maps pretty directly onto “The Ruler,” and if you’re thinking about the end of the 1st Indiana Jones film, “The Ark of the Covenant” can correspond nicely to “The Destroyer.”

Unfortunately, some of my favorites, like Archaeopteryx  and Arc Reactor, are harder to plug in. Or at least, I had to stretch them so far that it was easier to go looking for other words.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Innocent—Joan of Arc
  2. Orphan—Archipelago (because islands. Eh?)
  3. Warrior—Arc de Triomph
  4. Caregiver—Noah’s Ark
  5. Seeker—Archaeology
  6. Lover—Marc Antony
  7. Destroyer—Ark of the Covenant
  8. Creator—Tony Stark
  9. Ruler—Monarch
  10. Magician—Parkour
  11. Sage—Archimedes
  12. Fool—Arkham Asylum

It’s by no means a perfect list, but now I’ve got it out of my system. And I’m sure it will fail completely when used as a mnemonic.

Come find me at Salt Lake City FanX!

FanX, the spring installment of Salt Lake Comic Con¹, is this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I’ll be in Artist’s Alley with my friend Jim Zub at tables  Berry 5 and Berry 6. Jim and I also have three panels together! My schedule is posted here on the official FanX site, and I’ll break it out for you below.

If there’s Schlock Mercenary merchandise you’d like to acquire at the show, email and Sandra will make sure we’ve got it on hand. we’re packing a little light this year, because there’s just not much room at these tables, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring the stuff you want².


My FanX Schedule


  • 1:00 PM—Why Webcomics Matter, 255E: Aneeka Richins, Howard Tayler, and Jim Zub talk about what twenty years of webcomics³ have meant to the industry, and the world
  • 3:00 PM, 255E—Funny Books Can Actually Be Funny: Howard Tayler and Jim Zub tell you how to write comedy for comics
  • 5:00 PM, 255F—Real Science in Sci-Fi Literature and Film: Charlie Pulsipher, Sarah E. Seeley, John Steiner, Eric Swedin, and Howard Tayler help you put enough science into your writing to sell the story to the reader.


  • 12:00 PM, 255E—RPGs and Empathy: Aaron Burton, Laura Hickman, Tracy Hickman, Whitney Johnson, Josh Lee, Daniel Swenson, and Howard Tayler discuss how role playing games can turn us into better people. For real.


  • 2:00 PM, 255C—Spotlight on Jim Zub: Howard Tayler holds Jim Zub’s feet to the flames and leads the audience in a quest to find out everything there is to know about the enigmatic word-putting storysmith behind the Skullkickers, Wayward, and Samurai Jack comics
  • 6:00 PM, 250A—Writing Excuses, The Panel: Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells talk about writing, and then go meta by talking about talking about writing. Lots of talking, but it’s going to be way more fun than I just made it sound.

Table Times

We don’t have posted table times yet, but Jim and I will definitely be there a lot, along with Stacy and Sandra. If we’re not there (like, if we need to put food into our selves) we’ll make sure to have a sign up letting you know when we’ll be back.

Artist’s Alley is literally° the first thing you hit if you come through the General Admission door on the south (the left side of the map). If you follow the crowd due north along the avenue between the tables and the booths, Berry 5 & 6 will be the fifth and sixth things you see on your left.


We should be pretty easy to find.


¹ Full name: “Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Experience,” which is too long and kind of confusing. FanX will get you there.

² Assuming that what you want is something we still have in stock at the warehouse, of course.

³ Actually, it’s been twenty-three years. As far as I know, the first comic to be posted online for http access via web browsers was Doctor Fun, which appeared in 1993. But even if something beat Doctor Fun by a few weeks or months, 1993 was when the Web was born, so that’s our start date.

° Two things here. First, we mean “literally” as in “actually.” Not “literally” as in “your head will literally explode.” Which it will not, no matter how cool our tables are. Second, I ran out of alt-key codes for superscript numbers, and was too lazy⁴ to look up the HTML codes for a superscript 4.

⁴ Somebody else found it for me.