Five iconic moments in Comics

The reign of comic books began with detectives and stories of action. It moved on to fantastic stories of humans changed by cosmic radiation and mutations, even going to the point of celebrating humans simply inspired by the acts of fictional heroes. And these heroes have ranged from mutants and technologically empowered mortals to gods from Asgard. Villains have ranged from gangsters and disgruntled anti-heroes to forces as strong and fearsome as the lords of Hell. With a million mind-boggling multiverses emerging from each publishing house, stories have diverged and combined and given us leagues of power and avenging brotherhoods. Reading every single one of these creations would take a lifetime, if not more and we limit ourselves only to the ones we've heard of or had recommended.

My experiences, too, have been limited so, but today, I'm hoping to present a few scenes from comics that have truly blown my mind. Given the nature of the scenes, some of these constitute spoilers and I'd advise you against reading that bit if you intend to read the comic at any point. I've also tried to give a brief summary building up to each of these epic scenes. Keep in mind that without context, these won't be as impressive and I highly recommend reading the comics mentioned. And as I wrote it, I noticed that the list of 5 has only 3 authors. Oh, well. And without further ado, here are five AWESOME moments in comics:

Note: Click pictures to enlarge

  •  5) 300 - The beginning of the battle at Thermopylae [No spoiler]
    We've all seen Zack Snyder's slow motion action scenes and the merciless massacre of invading Persians by 300 Spartans standing as the last line of defence. One must read the comics to have a true grasp of the brilliance of Frank Miller, the creator of the graphic novel. As the Spartans arrive at the battlefield and witness the invading hordes, there is no long speech of inspiration given by King Leonidas. Simply, as one of the exemplary examples of laconic speech,  he says, "Come and get it". And before the end of the battle, Leonidas shows that even gods can bleed.
    This is Spartaaaaaaaaa!
    • 4) Watchmen - Dr. Manhattan's change of mind [Mild spoiler]
      Picking one scene from Alan Moore's epic is difficult. A novel that takes you through the lives of ex-superheroes begins with a death. Defining moments usually centre around the character of Rorschach. The story itself begins with his journal - "A comedian died in New York today". As time progresses and his incarceration revealing his true nature, one cannot help but marvel at what he says to his fellow inmates - "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me." The amount of character development seen with Rorschach may be absent when it comes to Dr. Manhattan but it is ultimately his decisions that affect the progress of the story. And the turning point in his decisions comes on the surface of Mars as he stands upon the infamous "Smiley" crater with Laurine Jupiter. The dialogue on what he views as thermodynamic miracles help him regain some form of admiration, if not respect, for humanity and bring him back to Earth.
    As told by naked blue men.
    •  3) Sin City - The ending of "The babe wore red" [BIG spoiler]

    It's hard to not like a series that has stunning artwork and coloring with a storyline that puts those long running multiverses to shame. And when this series has crime, guns and girls in plenty, it becomes impossible to not love it. Oh, and I forgot to mention that it's by Frank Miller. Sin City has so many intertwined stories that selecting one for show is an act that disgraces the rest. The only explanation I can provide is that this is one of those endings that I remember even after a long time. It is completely wrong to assume that the rest of Sin City is anything like this and this is only the story that I personally favour. "The babe wore red" is one of the stories in the One Shot series and traces the story of a girl, Mary, who is rescued by Dwight McCarthy after his friend is killed. As the story progresses, Mary tells him he's a hooker who had become entangled in the mess after she propositioned his friend. Dwight suspects all along that she was lying and the last page of the comic proves him right. Mary mentions that she was 'engaged' and Dwight hears her praying at some point in Latin. And the ending reveals everything with a package to Dwight from Mary.
    Engaged. Ah, that's what she meant.

    • 2) Batman: The Killing Joke - The joke [Mild Spoiler]

    We're back to Alan Moore with this one. A single story written by Moore gives an insight into a possible origin for The Joker. As Commissioner Gordon is abducted and tortured and The Joker attempts to prove that he isn't that much crazier than the common man, we see how much Batman and The Joker have in similarity. This is one of those rare points where he even attempts to make peace with his nemesis - only to get in response a joke; A joke that explains their relationship, similarity and impending spiral to mutual destruction. Both of them begin laughing and the comic closes with their reflections in the rain merging into one.
    Only Alan Moore can write a joke so excellent and serious.
    • 1) Sandman - Retrieving the mask of the Dream god [Mild Spoiler]

    Arguably, my entry into the world of graphic novels began at its peak. A series for the graphic novel industry as epic as The Lord of the Rings was for long fiction, it traces the story of Morpheus, also known as Dream of the Endless. Gaiman himself summarized the series in Endless Nights with "The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision." Again, this is a series with so many highs that choosing one point was a matter purely of personal choice. In the beginning of the series, Dream is imprisoned and his journey to retrieve belongings to restore his power takes him to hell. As he wins his helm from a demon that had it, he is challenged by Lucifer and the hordes of Hell asking him why they should simply let him walk. Lucifer goes further and confronts him asking what power Dreams have in the depths of Hell. And that, Dream takes, as his cue for bringing in the awesome:
    And so, Lucifer decides who his immortal enemy is. Apart from God.

    Five iconic moments from five fabulous works of fiction. I only wish more people would drop the 'comics are for kids' idea and read these.

    I have a few more moments lined up and if I gather enough, we might even have a second Five Iconic Moments. Until then, find a nearby bookstore and grab a copy of one of these.

    - Mod

    Grey matter and greyer areas

         Four months have passed since the last post I made. Four full months of believing in horoscopes, quizzing and travelling around the country. As I look back at the four years I spent in college and think about what I've learnt (understandably, I am not referring to academics), I can see how much I've changed after getting there. The people I've been with have shaped me in more ways than I could even begin to describe. And this post is dedicated to every single one of those people that ran around the country/state/college/hostel with me.

         Whether they come from the lost streets of Puducheri or are Chennai-born, hyperactive, white-skinned (lovable) idiots, each of the varied characters I've met has taught me something. About people. About the world. And about myself. Some of the people I met have been the (glue-sniffing) patriotic kind. Some of them are the Indians who would rather not be called so and yearn for a cup of Earl Grey and a broadcast of the queen's latest yawn (the last one was at 3:30 PM IST). 

         Whatever it is that makes each of these people different, there are similarities that I cannot help noticing in my circle. We are not the ones who participate in sporting tournaments (leave hockey to Baichung Bhutia); We are not the ones who end up on stage to dance or sing; We are not the ones with daily visits to the gym (you're not fooling anyone, HK) to bulk up. We are, at the risk of sounding arrogant, drawn to matters deemed more intellectual. Even if some of us are Indians from abroad who have no idea how teams were decided in cricket as children, we are all similar in the sense that our thrills come from answering questions or solving crosswords (damn you if you add a 'puzzle' after that word). Some of us go a step further and append the written word to our thoughts. Whichever way we take, none of us ever enters the proverbial spotlight.

         And I have only one question: Why? We have participated in more activities. We have won far more. Comparing the monetary rewards would be a joke as we have individuals who have earned more than entire clubs. And yet, there isn't the least bit of praise or support, except from others like us. What is it that has caused these pursuits to be sidelined and declared a deviation from the mainstream? We have our own answers to these questions; answers which have held us up all this while. Answers which provide relief, but not closure. And yet, I'm sure that won't be stopping any of us.

         This, being the end and all, is probably the right time for me to get sentimental. College will end; What we've nurtured over these years (excluding hatreds) will not. As I look back at the four years I spent in college, I can only smile.

         We will spend a few more weeks together before we leave our separate ways. And wherever these ways take us, I'm guessing we'll meet again. As different people. And as the same friends.

    - Mod

    World Wide Web War 1.0 and the Stand Alone Complex

    They are legion. They do not forgive. They do not forget. And most importantly, none of them is as cruel as all of them.

    Reads like a rebel manifesto if I ever saw one. Admiral Ackbar would be proud. But enough with the memetics. Today, I wish to talk about what everyone else is talking about - the war raging across the intertubes. On one side, you have a whistleblower website that is eclipsed by the sheer magnitude of support for its publicist (and supposed founder). On the other, you have governments - ones gasping for breath in the deluge that was a leak of diplomatic cables - with one in particular devoting a minute to irony by celebrating 'World Press Freedom Day' as it struggles to heal the damage wrought by the disclosures. And what is truly fascinating is the proxy war (no pun intended) that began between spineless corporations and internet vigilantes.

    (News report begin)
    The push began with a 'hacker' (excuse me if I snigger) supposedly taking whistleblower site Wikileaks down by what is becoming the most popular method of protest - a DDoS attack. A Distributed Denial of Service attack disables a website by overloading it with requests. Simple, and effective. With the initial spurt of DDoS's piling, Wikileaks decided to move to a much stronger server cloud - one controlled by online retail giant Amazon. Due to alleged U.S. government pressure, Amazon decided to kick Wikileaks off the cloud, setting the precedent that would be followed by EveryDNS, the next site to host Wikileaks. While Wikileaks struggled to keep the primary website online with DDoS attacks rolling in from all directions, donations were thrust into a bottleneck with the withdrawal of services by Paypal, Visa and MasterCard. The U.S.A. is usually an international police of sorts but when it turned into the playground bully, the war began. Enter Anonymous.
    (News report end. Tune in next week for more serious buttkicking)

    Anonymous has been in the news numerous times in the past. From unleashing the rage of the hive-mind on abusive adolescent girls to tracking down boys indulging in animal cruelty, Anon, had made a name for itself as the uncontrolled, uncontrollable vigilante of the internet and decided that now would be a good time to start a fight. Honestly, I couldn't agree more. On a related note, I am completely in love with the internet today.

    However, all this anarchy and call for rebellion, as much as I love it, isn't my focus. The attacks on PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and now, Amazon, may be justified. But that isn't what grabs my attention. What I find interesting here is the way everyone is reacting to our first World Wide Web War.

    When the hacker 'The Jester' came up saying he pulled down Wikileaks, the first redneck reactions called him a patriotic 'MERICAN. What followed is what caught my attention. After his supposed attacks, many more followed. This could be attributed to TJ being a true blue patriot but the fact was that it wasn't him. Rather, it wasn't just him. Many more hackers, self proclaimed saviors, helped in bringing Wikileaks down. The part that I find interesting is that this Jester character need not exist. In short, we have a Stand Alone Complex in place. For those unfamiliar with the concept, I quote from the Wikipedia article on the idea of a Stand Alone Complex:

    "A mere fire, no matter the number of deaths, is just a garden variety tragedy. However, if the right kind of people begin to believe it was arson, caused by deliberate action, the threat that more arsons will be committed increases drastically."
    If you read the article (click here), you will understand the correlation much better. The striking similarities almost make the current DDoS attack scenario look like an example of the complex. What makes this an even more interesting read is the way the response to The Jester's message appeared. Anonymous vowed to take down the websites mentioned earlier (and a bank, PostFinance, that shut down Julian Assange's account fell as collateral damage). The thing is, most Anonymous attacks follow the same pattern. Starting with a message by one of their legion, the attacks set a date and time for attacking a target. Most of these attacks succeed in overwhelming their targets. The driving force for participating in the 'raids' is the same as in the Stand Alone Complex - information that others are doing it. As thousands voluntarily join a botnet and use software for carrying out the DDoS attack, we see the force come into play. Given the nature of Anonymous, as a body with no shape or motive for the most part, it is impossible to deny the effect of the complex in operation here. A simple message created by an Anon is all it takes to rally the forces. One might argue that this could be a genuine call to arms - and in all probability, it is - but given that no member of Anonymous is different from the other, and given that no member is more a leader than another, the anonymity ensures that the Stand Alone Complex is always at play.

    And this is what I find fascinating. This copycat behavior that has come to define a form of protest. People who owed no allegiance to either side in the past take up arms now on seeing others go at it. Maybe being a part of a large group that is gaining worldwide attention is a driving factor. Maybe it is the thrill of throwing open your window and screaming that you're mad as hell and that you aren't going to take it any more. Whichever plays a dominant role, the protest has started a war on the intertubes.

    I haven't posted in months. I wouldn't have if all this hadn't been so terribly exciting. The complex may be the work of overzealous manga writers but it describes the hivemind with exceeding accuracy. As I mentioned, I am in love with the internet today. People are up fighting, even if their knowledge of the affair is horribly limited. There is a pull that this flavor of rebellion exerts that cannot be ignored. I leave you with echoed thoughts of two dead men. A little anarchy has been introduced. And beneath this mask of anarchy is an idea - this idea cannot be touched, or held, or kissed for an idea is not flesh, but it will survive; ideas, unlike men, are bulletproof.

    - Mod

    Too deep.

    As I mentioned earlier, I won't be posting frequently through this semester.

    On another note, I watched Inception and decided to make this:

    The next few months

    I guess it's time for an earnest post to everyone reading my blog. Considering I'm entering a few strenuous months, my post frequency will drop; Possibly to the point of the blog appearing dead. It's been lingering in that area for a while but the months ahead won't be helping the case. My posts, if any, would be stories/poems out of sudden urges and articles that I write for something.

    Apart from this earnest message (which is now over), I thought it would be nice to post a list of reasons contributing to my low posting frequency:
    1) Lack of a muse. Ah, Calliope.
    2) Lack of the physical equivalent of a muse. Ah, woe is me.
    3) Twitter. I tend to type my thoughts out in sentences. Don't really wait for them to collect.
    4) Blood. Sugar. Sex. Magik. And all their other albums, actually. Too much RHCP gets me all poetic. Not sure how appreciative you guys are of poetry :\
    5) Gaming. RA3: Uprising has some good music, though. The 'Soviet March' is a song about bears and Vodka.
    6) Academics. Well, maybe not a reason right now, but I hope it does become one :D
    7) Me. Lethargy has always been a problem.
    8) You. Hey, I can't take all the blame, can I?

    So, here's to the glorious months ahead.


    The YouTube Top 10 – Part 1 (6-10)

    I've been doing some writing recently for a website called Techwhiz. Of my posts to date, this is the closest to my usual style of writing (and still misses it by a mile). Anyway, seeing as the blag needs fattening, I'll leave this here :D

    Part 1 (No. 10 to No. 6)
     Being among the top 10 videos on YouTube means a lot. The ways to get there are numerous as well - from flashy underwear to anthropomorphic puppets to 16-year-old-males with female voices (Yes, that means Justin Bieber). With the top 10 dominated by music videos, it's rather hard to give them all credit. Here's a roundup of the top 10 videos with thoughts on exactly how they got there.

    10) Achmed the dead terrorist

    American ventriloquist and comedian Jeff Dunham's most famous puppet has been running around in the top 10 for over a year with a final drop to No. 10 at the time of the article's writing. Featuring Achmed, a suicide bomber with a 'flesh wound', the video satirizes the modern views on terrorism. Although a bit controversial due to its inclusion of seemingly anti-Islam sentiments, it has overcome the allegations to find a place on the list of most viewed videos and push Jeff Dunham to fame on the internet.

    9) Just Dance 

    The first of many music videos we encounter on the list. Lady Gaga became a sensation in 2008-2009 and hasn't quite left that status. An increasing number of fans from the late-teens to post-teens age group give her enough support to push two of her videos into the Top 10.

    This video, featuring Gaga at a party, is the most energetic video in the top 10. The video traces the events at a party which is brought back to life after Gaga repeatedly tells them all to -you guessed it- Just Dance. It's Dance-pop base is responsible for most of the song's popularity and fits perfectly into the party setting it gives itself. Some images are homage to some of Gaga's influences - including the electric blue lightning scar added on her face as a tribute to David Bowie. Some critics argue that the popularity is due to Gaga appearing attractive (compared to her current oh-my-god-what's-that-thing? image), 'riding' an inflated orca and not being completely dressed through the video. I don't completely disagree.

    8) 7 Things

    Miley Cyrus's post-breakup hate song won the hearts of teenage girls worldwide who sang along and stated the 7 things they hated about their boyfriends. The song quickly rose on the most viewed list and even managed to reach the top. This, too, was hardly a surprise as young girls girls with even the most remote love for music have loved her dual incarnations from the Hannah Montana universe; All this, before it became fashionable to fall in love with sparkly vampires.

    The video is not very elaborately shot. Based in a simple set with a plain background, the song draws its angry spirit from Cyrus and the girls in the video coming together to vent their frustrations with their boyfriends. Modeled as an anthem for girlfriends who were let down, it fulfills its role of channeling their anger. The song itself isn't bad but for a video on the Top 10, it is somewhat empty.

    7) Hahaha

    Yes, that's what the video is called. The entire video is about a baby going hahaha at the cues by an adult, possibly its father. The sounds that the adult makes, akin to Homer Simpson's D'oh, set the baby off on a giggle spree. I know babies are cute and adorable with their cherubic laughter but a video of nearly 2 minutes with little else is not all too interesting. Some people suggesting that the baby may be a victim of substance abuse does not help its credibility.

    The support for this video comes from the hordes that squeal at the slightest hint of cuteness in anything. Be it little kids who get their fix from puppies doing backflips or aged men and women who post videos of children biting other kids' fingers (more on this later), a large population allows the proliferation of these videos through chain mails with subjects along the lines of 'FWD:FWD: CUTEST BABY LOLZ. PASS TO 15 PPL TO HAVE CUTE BABBY'.

    6) I know you want me

    Pitbull's most (only?) succesful single has all the ingredients to success in perspective - even if not in the right quantity. A white, blue-eyed, Cuban-American rapping is not what everyone wants to hear; Especially if a majority of the rapping is a display of the person's astronomical counting skills (all the way up to 4). However, this being the YouTube countdown, the quality of the video is what we should be looking at.

    To put it plainly, the video is a vehicle for the gratuitous display of the sensuality of Latin American chicks in short skirts. And we're not complaining. The video is well done, with the beats of the song being accentuated by the moves of the leading ladies. Occasional images of the Cuban flag give a throwback to Pitbull's lineage and when coupled with a carefully placed display of Brazilian colors, add to the whole South American feel of the video. Though not suitable for younger audiences, the video vindicates its position, even if only as the choice of the average male.

    Coming in the next post:
    The top 5 in the list along with a few other videos (that deserve views even if not in the top 10).


    A view of the future

    The gray concrete bit into my thoughts. The light from the lone, dim bulb in the middle of the room didn't brighten my mood any. I hated being alone in a block of gray. Three days without my lenses. Walking through streets with no lighting or color was depressing. Couldn't even find my damn way to the store. Again, the dullness of it all hit me like a blunt axe. Looking at four gray walls staring at you impassively wouldn't boost your morale either. I'd have to go in a while to collect the lenses. Those wretches probably put the defects in them. Like missing out a few colors. Or not seeing one of the girls in the movie. Putting the defects in them just so you go back and shell out more credits. Trust the government to suck you dry. I hope they fix the Eve linkup too. I can't get through the day without that tranquil face telling me things will be alright. That voice and face soothe me; They take me out of this lie we pass off as a world. My mood really goes to shit without her comforting me. Without those record instances, I wouldn't have got through these three days with my sanity. Last time Eve went down, there was almost a riot. They take our only voice of hope away and call it maintenance. Trust the government to mess with your head.

    I hope the cab makes it in time. I'll end up breaking a door if it doesn't turn up. Wonder how that would turn up inside the world. Probably a poster for the Alliance. "Trust the government." Fat chance.

    I can hear the cab pulling up outside. Late, as expected. But I should make it to the store in time. I step out of my room to have the grayness embrace me. I need to bear it. It won't be long now.

    The store guy was surprisingly friendly. Then again, the hostility the gray shows must be what made me think that. Anything is better than the colorless desolation. None of it mattered anymore. I had my lenses again. It was time to go home.

    I slipped in my lenses and opened my eyes again. My world was back. The pristine white covered the buildings again. The trees towering amidst the blocks were back too. A homecoming for a weary traveler. Enjoying the colors would have to wait. Mia would be waiting for me at home. And if she chose today to throw a tantrum (by random chance, the government assures us), I'd always have Eve. Time to go home.