Monday, March 20, 2017

review: Wonder Woman, the True Amazon

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon
by Jill Thompson, writer and artist
Jim Chadwick, editor

So often I hear people say that Wonder Woman has had NO good stories told about her. I want to scream. Then others will list their Top 10 WW Stories, and again I scream, because they're usually quite recent stories, and very often quite awful ones. Yes, Wondie has had TERRIFIC stories... but not enough. Too often the staff given her does not respect her or just doesn't have talent and/or inspiration, and Editorial lets them get away with offering substandard material.

But now we were going to have a WW graphic novel! Oh boy! Graphic novels are for special, quality stories (unless they concern themselves with alternate-world scenarios which there are far too many of. But those happen to characters and groups that have had lots of great stories already told elsewhere).

Jill Thompson would be on Wondie again. This should be good! Judging from the hype and knowing her quirky style, I imagine this will be a fine kids' book. I mean: Jill Thompson! Wondie! Kids don't have access to the kind of comics I was able to revel in when I was young. Why, when I was VERY young, I had Kanigher/Andru & Esposito's Wonder Family tales to amaze me. They were PERFECT for kids of that era. This book is rated 12+, which is older than what I'd supposed. Well, let's dig into it and see.
Diana grows up. See? Kid-friendly stuff!
The first page is a lovely watercolor of Paradise Island. Then we’re introduced to the Amazons, who are five times stronger than men and brave in battle. We get a quick origin: 

The land of the Amazons is called “Amazonium.” (No, that's not treated as a metal here.) The king of Mycenae claims that Amazon queen Hippolyta has tried to steal his daughter away from him. Therefore, he sends Herakles to conquer the Amazons and take her Golden Girdle so the daughter will see the error of her ways. (In the actual myths, daughter Admeta demanded the Girdle for her own, so Daddy sent Herk to get it for her. Why change the myth?)

Herk declares war on the Amazons and we see lots of slaughter. Not kid-friendly! Well, the action and narrative were rather vague, so maybe it was okay. I was struck by the way Thompson had Hippolyta step back from her DUTY to face Herakles in combat and let some redshirt do it instead. This is not how things were done back then. Kings and generals fought each other in person; only the infirm and cowardly did not.

As more armies joined Herk, the losing Amazons sued for peace. Instead, Herakles chained the queen. Zeus watched and lusted over her, deciding to disguise himself as one of Herk’s men and go to her (how kid-friendly!), but Hera overheard and sent a ship for the Amazons to escape to, away from both her husband and Herk. A confusing scene involving a VERY large, distracting helmet shows us the queen slipping out of Herk’s grasp while he’s able to saw her girdle off her with a knife. (But not skewer her while doing so. ???)

Then we come to some pages about life in Themyscira, where the Amazons busy themselves with peace and the arts. But Hippy wants one thing more: a child. Every evening she sculpts a baby in the sands of the island and sings a love song to it. We see her song spreading across the ocean and up to the heavens, to Olympus itself. Everyone is charmed by it.

And I thought okay, forget all the violence and this is shaping up to be a very nice kid’s book. Lovely, magical stuff!

The gods are so moved by the song they weep, and their tears endow the sculpture with life. Diana is born! The nation celebrates and “they poured all of their energy into granting her every desire.”

This is Silver Platter Diana*, one that automatically got her powers without working for them. (FYI: I'm a firm believer in Amazon Training.) She is spoiled “and no one ever told her ‘no.’” Diana grows up a conceited bully. Her nation just smiles at her and makes things worse. She blames others for her misdeeds.

Oh no! This is an Alternate Universe Diana after all! Somebody kill me now.

When she hears of mysterious, evil creatures on the island, the now-grown Diana sets off to conquer them — and gain the treasures they guard. Her feats are celebrated except by Alethea, who tends the queen’s horses. She gives Diana the cold shoulder. Diana tries to bribe her, but Alethea says, “My friendship cannot be bought…. I am loved by a person’s honest actions and how they treat those around them.”

Vow to be Worthy #1
So Diana sets off to prove she does that more than anyone else. Then, when it comes time for an annual festival to commemorate the nation’s warrior past, Diana enters to win “for the champion is the best of all Amazons and must embody all of the qualities that Alethea admires!” (Though the championship seems to be a reward for physical prowess and not that plus good character.)

Interestingly enough, there are several others who are in Diana’s range of power and abilities, and she’s not sure of being the winner. During a chariot race she panics, decides to distract her competitors’ horses, and uses a magic horn to release the horrific creatures she’d once imprisoned. Though Diana crosses the finish line first, the creatures kill horses and severely injure Amazons. As the battle rages, the others try to protect themselves, and one, to protect Diana. That Amazon is ravaged by a monster and dies, while the rest of the monsters escape to all corners.
Alethea, acting honorably and bravely.

The story goes into detail about the terrifying injuries many Amazons suffered, and how horses had to be euthanized. Great kiddie material there. And of course the dead Amazon is Alethea.

Note how the language is definitely kiddie-level. Too bad the story and art are not.
The queen arrives to ask what has caused this horror, and all fingers point at Diana. The queen realizes that spoiling Diana has led her to this. “There must be an atonement.” (Of course the queen doesn't call punishment on herself or the other Amazons for having raised a kid this way.)

Diana makes a private vow: “Never will I rest until I have undone the wrongs I have committed… I dedicate my eternal life to serving others and using my gifts for altruism and not gain.” Yeah, like she paid attention to her first vow. And "altruism" is likely outside the vocabulary of a 12-year-old.
Vow to be Worthy #2
The next day, as the other Amazons yell at the queen to kill Diana, torture her, whatever, others ask what would Diana’s death serve? The queen calls Diana and garbs her in an outfit much like a regular WW outfit (and mimicking what Alethea had worn in the contest), with few exceptions. “This enchanted crown that you so coveted shall be upon your brow like a crown of thorns…” Why mention a Christian motif here?
Posing for the Action Figure in an outfit that declares her to be a pariah.

The the queen banishes her until she has paid for her treachery. We see her getting in a rowboat and eventually finding land.

So let me get this straight: Bad, bad Diana makes a vow that she’ll be such a good person that Alethea will like her. Then she goes crazy and deliberately unleashes a horror upon her sisters so she can win a contest. Then Diana makes a vow what she’ll be such a good person that dead Alethea will like her. Then she goes into the Outer World… End book.

Okay, the final panel says: "...And even now she wanders the world, defending the weak, righting wrongs and fighting evil. But those are stories for another day."

NO!!! Those are stories for a graphic novel! Stories set in the mainstream DC universe, showing us what a GREAT CHARACTER Wonder Woman is!!!! Not some story telling us that she's a sleaze.

Do we have ANY clue that this Diana will actually heed her vow? We’ve seen that vows don’t mean much to Diana. Why should we believe one small narrative panel? Why didn't we get PROOF that Diana had abided by -- or failed -- her vow? The plot completely lacks an ending.

This book is entitled Wonder Woman: The True Amazon. Yet it doesn't tell a story about anyone like that. If writers don’t want to write about Wonder Woman, why can’t they come up with original characters to write about instead of soiling established heroes? Especially ones who need all the positive, quality, respectful stories they can get?

By artistic and writing style, this would seem to be a book for kids — very likely kids wanting to know more about Wonder Woman. But this is not Wonder Woman. And the violence depicted is not kiddie material.

Part of the back material (there are a lot of “the making of this book” kind of pages) is “designing the Wonder Woman statue.” Perhaps this is the end-all: to give an excuse for yet another variant WW statue. (Yawn.)

Such a disappointment. Imagine if the book had been a charming children’s story about Diana growing up. Imagine if it had been aimed at middle schoolers, grade schoolers, high schoolers, or adults. (Choose one group and remember not to talk down to kids.)

It is a mystery to me why DC would not take the chance at a graphic novel to say: Look here! Here's the character you know! Here's a great, heroic story about her! If you're new to Wonder Woman, we'll show you why you should not only be interested in her, but excited with her legend. This story is true to her mythos, reiterates what the general public knows about her, and shows that she's still a vibrant concept in the 21st Century. Plus, did we say? -- it's a great story!

*Post-Crisis Diana was also (so unfortunately) Silver Platter Diana, as have been the majority if not all of the versions since. The early Silver Age WW was also technically Silver Platter (we saw the gods blessing her at birth, though that, like WW's "beautiful as Aphrodite, etc." intro lines, could be written off as hyped-up language written by a poet who didn't mind being smitten by jealous gods), though she often referred to (and sometimes we saw) constant physical Amazon Training. Even Wolfman's original screwed-up origin of Donna Troy mentioned the importance of Amazon Training. Being a mere female, WW often had to be shown as having not had to WORK, much less WORK HARD to be who and where she was. [Insert "loser" buzzer sound here.]

Superman didn't have to do a thing for his powers except sunbathe now and then. Batman? Had to WORK and train to keep his skills sharp. Which character is more popular, hm?

Monday, March 13, 2017

The next wave of medicine

I hate driving at night. You can't get me to go out on Saturday night, the night drunk drivers so love. But I attended an event for the Rhine Research Center last night, a Saturday. Usually they meet at the Whatshisface Theater, but this time they met at Dook's Episcopal Center. Funding problems? Well, this was their spring fundraising event. They're trying for $10,000. About 100 people attended.

For the first hour, we honored Dr. John Palmer, who's been editor of The Journal of Parapsychology for some 25 years or so. He received the J.B. and Louisa [pronounced with a long "i"] Rhine Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. John Palmer

Dr. Palmer was called the "rock star" of parapsychology. If papers came in to the journal whose methodology wasn't up to his standard of snuff, he sent them back for more work. The Rhines's daughter, Sally Feather*, talked fondly about him for a while, and others came up to do the same, such as Joe McMoneagle, the astounding remote viewer (and out of body traveler, though the two may be the same thing; studies are ongoing about that) who worked (works?) for the government in their now-somewhat-declassified "Stargate" section. (This was well before any Stargate sf stuff.) McMoneagle told us "the best science in the world is being done in the paranormal." It has to be exacting. It has to be replicable. It has to be SCIENCE.

The Rhine Center must have been a crazy place back in the 50s and 60s. People talked of the wild weekly parties they had. (Barbara Ensrud, the head of the Board of the Directors, mused afterward: "We need to have more parties.") There was one fellow who, every time he saw Dr. Palmer, tackled him (accompanied by others) and placed his hand on his forehead, bellowing (and here the guy telling the story also bellowed) "IN THE NAME OF JAY-ZUS! HEAL!" No matter how quietly Dr. Palmer snuck in, the guy would tackle him.

Funny stuff, congratulations, and best of luck and health to Dr. Palmer on his retirement! But that's not what we're here for in this column.

Like I said:
The Next Wave of Medicine

Guest speaker for the night was Dr. William (Bill) Bengston. I've raved elsewhere about his first book, The Energy Cure. Last night he told us that he didn't come up with that title; his publishers did. He insisted that energy has nothing to do with psychic healing, at least the kind he's investigating. However, "The Energy Cure" sells books, so that was that.

He first got into psychic healing when he was 22 and a psychic healed his back. He studied with the man for years, eventually becoming an expert in it himself, but was troubled because he didn't know how he was accomplishing whatever it was he was accomplishing.

In the meantime he'd been studying to be and eventually becoming a professor in sociology. For the past 30 years he has also been conducting rigorously scientific tests of "psychic healing." These tests can easily be -- and have been -- replicated around the world, over and over.

Last night he said that he'd gotten to the point where, if a test had been done 300 times with the same results, he didn't see a reason to do it the 301st time. He says it's time to put the studies into practical use.

What has been done mostly in the experiments, or at least that I've heard about, is injecting mice with breast cancer cells, far above the amount that are usually done in tests. The control mice live for about 20-some days. The others that are worked on... Well, they develop tumors. The tumors get ulcerated. Then the tumor implodes, completely disappearing. The mice are cancer-free.

The mice are injected with more cancer cells. They don't develop cancer. Blood from these mice is injected into infected mice. Their cancer disappears and, again, they never develop cancer again. They are IMMUNE.

This all comes from holding the mice cages. The infected mice gather around the holder's left hand. Once they've (the researchers guess) received the dose they need, they exit the mob. When all have received the dose, or when they're all healed, they ignore the hand. (Children will also do this, wandering away when they've had enough.)

In addition to mice, people have been included as being the healees.

Sessions have been done in shielding steel vaults with all kinds of electronic detecting devices inside. No energies have been detected. (The Rhine, which is conducting independent tests with the method, says they've detected "biophotons," but will test further.)

And get this: a person can "charge" some materials, like cotton and water. Those materials can be sent to a sick person and heal them. You can take the cotton material, cut it in half, give it to Person A with condition X, then cut the remaining material in half again and give it to Person B with condition Y, and Person C with Condition Z... and they will all be cured. The same energy can cure different conditions.

The talk last night said they were concentrating on various cancers and Alzheimer's, which get excellent results. Dr. Bengston showed us slides of how they check down to the gene to see what exactly is being affected.

The method is non-linear. This means it goes up and down. You can show a lot of healing one day, and after the next healing things seem to go backward, and then the next one heals things completely. Dr. Bengston is eager to begin experiments to see if one can heal illness retroactively. !

But wait! You don't need blood or cotton or water to heal. Inside those steel containers they made sound recordings during a healing session, which consisted pretty much of breathing or silence, I would suppose (maybe some innocuous chatting, because the technique requires one to NOT think about healing while doing it). When played to psychic sensitives, the sensitive could tell when the healing was taking place, as if a nova hard just gone off.

And other subjects were healed just by listening to the tape.

Is there an app for that?

It'll be coming up, if some tests coming through in the next few weeks hold with the theory. For 99 cents you'll be able to listen to your iPad and be healed.

Bengston said the scientific community and public attitudes are changing toward all areas of parapsychology. Younger people don't want to know about proof. They want to know what you can do with it. When Bengston speaks to doctors at universities, he finds that the smaller lecture rooms he usually is booked in have three times the amount of people trying to hear him than can be accommodated. Instead, video has to be set up so everyone can be seated in other rooms to listen. Before he leaves, he often gets invitations to set up experiments at that university, which is why he currently has studies going in ten or so universities around the US.

Again, energy healing has nothing to do with energy, he thinks. It's more a condition of CONSCIOUSNESS, which many believe to be the next HUGE thing in science. He talks of resonant bonding between healer and healee, as well as how placebos work, which seems to be part of this "meaning field" that psychic healing sets up. It is selected by consciousness. "Life responds when it has a need."

The energy in this method is radiated from the left hand. People who use this method for a while, though right-handed from birth, find that they've become left-handed. How cool is that?

And Dr. Bengston  says that he tries to choose non-believers or sorta agnostics to healing as the people who do the method. Believers don't do so well with it, which left me wondering how people who do this often and see positive results, don't qualify as "believers." Hm.

Dr. Bengston told us that because people who try healing with the intent of doing healing often get bad results, if we got sick, perhaps the last person we wanted to see was a medical doctor. (He's a really funny guy! Had us in stitches.) At this point, someone in the audience offered a well-known anecdote: When Israeli doctors went on strike, the nation's mortality rate decreased for the duration.

Anyway, a fascinating, fascinating talk with lots of slides showing test results (but not excruciating test results, as this was a talk for the Rhine supporters and not the medical establishment). The FDA will not be able to control a 99-cent app that does not promise healing but rather says, "try it and maybe it will work for you." Look for this VERY soon, and look for the studies to expand to illnesses besides cancer and Alzheimer's.

The Rhine has many studies in this area slated for 2017-2018. I want to join one of their healing groups, which is trained in (but not by) Dr. Bengston's methods (look up those here). But the Rhine is always struggling for funds. This spring they're offering a raffle with all kinds of keen prizes. The top prize is a trip to Tuscany, Italy. There are also trips to West Palm Beach, psychic readings, and Journal subscriptions, which I already get because I'm a member, darn.

Again, that website for the raffle is Support the Rhine!

*I looked up J.B. on Wiki to try to discover Sally's last name, and instead found this line: "Rhine's results have never been duplicated by the scientific community." Which of course is pure, 100% hooey. All the major divisions of parapsychology have been quite scientifically proven and successfully retested around the world, many for some 100 years now. Wiki does NOT like the Rhine or anything to do with parapsychology. They post lots of disinformation ("alternative facts") about it.