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Justice League Unlimited - The man who has everything

Description: It's Superman's birthday and Wonder Woman and Batman show up at the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate.

It’s too bad that with the half hour format they couldn’t really delve into the creepyness below the surface in the Moore original comic, but okay.

The benefits of a televised medium had its perks.

Clark’s love interest as this intriguing blend of Lana + Lois. Jor-el’s voice slipping into Jonathan Kent. The implication of a rift between Jor and Kal because Kal has chosen to be a farmer. Jor-el’s bitter reflections on his predictions about the end of the world. And yet from the beginning the world shakes. Fields of golden grain under a red sun. In Superman’s fantasy, the dog has accidents on the floor and the birth of his son was the happiest day of his life. That even as he destroys his own heart’s desire dream, he holds his son in his arms and cries. Kal/Clark can’t just wake up. He has to destroy Krypton again. Only this time, he’s there to see it all.

It made think of nothing so much as Picard living a lifetime in a few minutes.

And then there’s Batman. The sheer horrific deliciousness that in Batman’s fantasy, the mugger who killed his parents speaks with his own voice. The Mask of Zorro, happy California hero in the sun, but tears for pearls are always destined to fall.

The wrongness of that black and white fantasy where Bruce’s father takes the upper hand and beats and beats and beats on the mugger. The dread of the overwhelming shadow that consumes his father. It’s a little less clear than with Clark, but I think to awake Bruce had to kill his parent’s over again.

I did kind of want the plant whosit to land on Wonder Woman and then promptly fall off because, umm…she’s living her bliss. This life isn’t the result of a fundamental tragedy.

Thus she gives Clark a new kind of rose. A hybrid. Something to evoke old and new.

Although, I wonder, just how much cash does a gazillionaire give the world’s most powerful man for his birthday?


Shiny Fluffy Heroes - JLU Kid's Stuff

For such a cute fluffy episode, as is so often the case with JLU, my mind is a churning with the ricochet of ideas.

When a story that is in a medium traditionally associated with children in America (cartoon) regarding a corpus of work associated with children (comic books) has an episode where the adult main characters are turned into children, I can’t help but think about what the episode is saying about what it means to be a child. Where is the end of childhood? What does it mean to be frozen in childhood?

Frozen Mordred. Static Batman. Green Lantern revisiting the fantasies of childhood. And I wonder, when, in this universe, did Diana’s childhood begin?

I suppose, I should pick a direction.

We have Mordred, whose mother, Morgan La Fey, has frozen him in childhood for centuries. How like the fey. The Fair. The mother whose face is hidden. Her body stiffly encased in metal.

She willow wisp promises Mordred power, but denies him responsibility. She could have chosen to stop his aging process at any point. The point she chooses is a doll-like pre-pubescent state. Precious. Beloved and over refined. The statement that she bathes him is played for laughs and yet…it’s just one more sign of how she denies him power over his own body. Mordred as not just a child, but an infant. This plays interestingly with the episode’s resolution of Mordred as frozen old man. Infancy and old age rendering the same result.

And unlike some child/ancient characters, Mordred is genuinely a child, not an old man trapped in a child’s body. Just as the Justice Leaguers become their child selves. The image of Mordred freezing them before the dungeon struck me as…interesting. And what lies below, but the demon self of yet another un-aging character (Etrigan/Jason Blood)

So, after centuries of empty promises, no wonder Mordred uses the power of the first magic (which by its name can be seen as both the oldest and the youngest/most elemental magic) as he does.

The world that he creates is a child’s world. He transforms the cotton candy “Happy” Land, built by adults for children, into this child’s view of Happy Land. It’s horrible and dark. There are guillotines and thorns and dark clouds.

It mades me think of a book a friend of mine just showed me. The author asked children to draw a monster and then interviewed them about the monster. Based on the interview and initial drawing, the author (who is a fairly well known artist in comic book circles) filled in the details on the drawing. Wonderful and weird and fantastic. Valentine’s Day monsters throwing hearts. Double headed creatures (the second head was in the torso) going for a baseball double header. Horrible, terrifying, friendly. Really, the interviews were one of the most interesting parts of the book. A window into a familiar and yet alien perspective.


Childhood’s end.

Child’s play.

So, after transforming the world, what does the despotic child do?

Mordred sits in his throne room hearing petitions from his subjects. He’s bored, but that’s what rulers do. Except, because he is a child, his understanding of what is needed is limited. A little girl comes forward with her baby sister and says that the baby is hungry and wanting their mother. Mordred gives her a cow and calls for the next petitioner.

I’m also intrigued by his choice of costuming. After his initial costume change to indicate to his mother that he is rebelling against her control, he shifts back to the costume that she no doubt chose for him. The king does not wear “new clothes” until he breaks out of childhood. And then only briefly, before old age reduces him to the clothing of his childish estate.

It’s also interesting that the majority of the images of adults with children before the spell are authoritarian and constraining. A teacher assigning homework to her class. A mother telling her child that she cannot have a sweet. A police officer catching children tagging a box car.

Without adults the world is only mildly Lord of the Flies. Sword fights with stick swords (heck I did that. When mom caught me at it, I had to wear swim goggles. It’s harder to poke your eyes out that way, but sweaty) and running with sling shots.

I loved that the children questioned the Justice Leagues right to inform their behavior. I mean, Superboy may no longer be an adult, but I pretty sure he could still kick those little boy’s hineys. Ultimately, the threat of the return of the parents is enough to force them to conform.

Superboy was a bit wasted here, but I can be content with Green Lantern’s ecstatic smorgasbord of choices for his green power. Freed from the restraint of silly, he can hardly choose from the array of options. Although, I can see why Flash isn’t in the episode, it would be hard to tell the difference.

And then there is Batman’s statement with which we close the heroic section of the story, that he has not been a child since he was eight years old. Interesting to take in context with last week’s episode, “What do You Get the Man Who has Everything.”

There Bruce’s happiest fantasy wasn’t to be an adult, but to be a child again in a black and white world where his father will save the day. His fantasy is violent with his father striking the mugger over and over as little black and white Bruce smiles and looks on. An interesting contrast to the children who in Mordred’s fantasy world drag empty adult sized armor to be decapitated in the guillotine. Children aren’t sweet. And what Bruce wants most is a child’s justice. His father’s shadow overpowering the thug with the adult Bruce’s voice.

Bruce hasn’t been a child since he was eight years old. Simultaneously, he will always be that old young eight year old. Of all the Justice League members who become children, he is the least changed because he can never change beyond that defining tragic moment.

Batman’s emotional coldness to Wonder Woman reminds me of one of the Batman episodes. Dick Grayson, Nightwing, is arguing with Bruce/Batman, about Bruce’s inability to connect. Bruce yells that Dick cannot possibly understand his motivations to which Dick replies something to the effect of, hello, look who you’re talking to. He goes on to say, that he hasn’t let that tragedy stop him from living his life. Now, Batman’s influence, well that’s a whole other dysfunctional kettle of twistyness.

I’d ramble more, but um, I think I’ve said enough about an episode primarily built from squee and cuteness.

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