Book Review: A Princess Of Mars

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A little while ago I came up with a list of books that I wanted to read before the time I become ancient (30) first on the list was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a prolific American writer most well know as the creator of Tarzan. A princess of Mars is the first novel to feature his second most well known creation John Carter of Mars.

The novel itself is fairly short and is a prime example of the general pulp science fiction that was popularised in early twentieth century America and without giving away the plot does stick rather closely to the formula for pulp, of man from Earth winds up on alien planet, fights and then joins with the natives, rescues a princess and then saves the day. As an early example of the sort of pulp (originally serialised in 1912) that was floating about the market place in those days you can forgive it for seeming a little done to death over 100 years later, because you realise it was one of the first to do it.

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The writing style feels a little disjointed as it is written in the form of memoir, so Edgar Rice Burroughs has written it in the manner of memoir penned by Captain John Carter, who has a tendency to go off on tangents mid explanation, which does spoil the narrative, however I feel this may have been a conscious choice by Burroughs, as it lends a certain verisimilitude to the work, and it shows that only a really great writer would be able to write from the point of view of an amateur, that is to say terrible, writer.

My only main criticism is that whilst the world of Barsoom is a rich and vibrant world the secondary characters ring a little flat, and whilst the protagonist and his circle are explored the villains of the piece such as Tal Hajus and Sarkoja are lacking in any real depth and seem to be there mainly as plot accelerators more than as real characters.

Overall it was an enjoyable distraction I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 and pick up some the other books that make up the Barsoom series to find out the fates of Deja Thoris and John Carter of Mars.

Look out for more reviews coming soon. 

30 Before Thirty (Comics & Graphic Novels)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the Comics and Graphic Novels that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

Grant Morrison’s 18 Days

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Camelot 3000

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Miracle Man: A Dream Of Flying

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All Star Superman 

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Preacher: Gone To Texas

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The Crow

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Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes

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Alan Moore’s: Saga of The Swamp Thing

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Marvel 1602

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Saga: Volume 1

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 The Order: Die Mensch Machine

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The Complete Scarlet Traces 

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Button Man

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Ronin 

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Superman: Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow 

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The Infinity Gauntlet 

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Amazing Spider-man: Kravens Last Hunt

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Promethea Book 1 

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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus 

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Multiversity 

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Son Of Superman 

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Hellblazer: Original Sins 

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The Authority: Relentless 

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Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction 

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Doctor Who: Emperor Of The Daleks

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Death: The High Cost Of Living  

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JSA The Liberty Files 

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Alice In Sunderland 

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Daredevil Yellow

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The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

30 Before I’m Thirty (Films)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the films that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

How Green Was My Valley 

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Gentleman’s Agreement

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From Here to Eternity

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Gone With The Wind

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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

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West Side Story

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Lawrence of Arabia

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf

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Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

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Funny Girl

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Fiddler On The Roof

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All The Presidents Men

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Milk

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Kramer Vs Kramer

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Terms of Endearment 

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The Cider House Rules

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An Education

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The Wolf Of Wall Street

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Guardians of the Galaxy 2

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Moonrise Kingdom

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Saving Private Ryan

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Going In Style 

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Wall Street

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King Ralph

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Planes Trains and Automobiles

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O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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The Monuments Men

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Good Will Hunting

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Good Morning Vietnam 

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This Is Spinal Tap

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

30 Before I’m Thirty (Books)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the books that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

A Princess of Mars- Edgar Rice Burroughs 

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War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy 

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Ulysses- James Joyce 

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The Iliad- Homer

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Journey To The Centre of the Earth- Jules Verne 

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Frank Sinatra Has A Cold- Gay Talese 

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Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog)- Jerome K Jerome

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The Time Machine- H.G Wells

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Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov

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Animal Farm- George Orwell

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The Last Of The Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper

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The Man Who Would Be King- Rudyard Kipling 

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Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson 

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Stardust- Neil Gaiman

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A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court- Mark Twain

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Adrian Mole: The Prostate Years- Sue Townsend 

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The Fight-Norman Mailer 

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The Turn Of The Screw-Henry James

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The Stand- Stephen King

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Notes Of A Dirty Old Man- Charles Bukowski 

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Silmarillion- J.R.R Tolkein 

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Idylls Of The King- Alfred Tennyson

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Confessions of an English Opium Eater-Thomas de Quincey

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Little Women- Louisa May Alcott 

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A Little History Of The World- E.H Gombrich 

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The Mysterious Affair At Styles- Agatha Christie 

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit- Gary K Wolf

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Zen And The Art Of Motor Cycle Maintenance-  Robert M. Pirsig

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The Day Of The Triffids- John Wyndham 

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Winds of Winter- George R.R. Martin (Because surely this’ll be finished before the TV series)

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

 

 

 

 

The Formula For Pulp

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I’ve been reading/ watching a lot of pulp sci-fi lately (which isn’t a new thing), but there is one thing that I’m noticing, and that is that the plots for all of the pulp sci-fi classics are all exactly the same.

If I describe the plot to you see if you can guess the film, book, comic or tv show.

  1. A human male is somehow transported to an alien world
  2. said human male will meet a local tribe, and will be captured and or fight, before gaining said tribes trust/respect and then learns that the planet is made up of lots of warring peoples all ruled by one tyrant.
  3. Human male will then meet a princess who is part of the resistance against said tyrant, will fall in love and then join the resistance.
  4. Human male will suffer self doubt before uniting all tribes on the planet against the tyrant.
  5. Final battle
  6. Human Male either marries princess and rules or is sent back to Earth to pine for princess and scheme to get back.

This formula actually applies to pretty much all stalwarts of the genre across all media, It accurately sums up the novel Princess of Mars, which gave us the John Carter film, it sums up Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. It is an accurate summation of the Flash Gordon serials, comics and film and is a true synopsis for DC Comic’s Adam Strange A Man Of Two Worlds.

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So if you ever feel like writing a pulp sci-fi masterpiece, you now know the winning formula, it worked for some pretty big names in cinema.

Doctor Who? The Fifth Doctor

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At the end of the eighteenth series of the show, Tom Baker submitted the role of the Doctor to the young actor Peter Davison. Davison ditched the 4 meter scarf and battered fedora for a traditional English cricket attire, adorned with a stick of celery, yes that’s right, a stick of celery, pinned right there. On his lapel.

The Fifth Doctor

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The Fifth Doctor

This Doctor continued travelling with companions Nyssa and Adric, all while unsuccessfully trying to return Tegan to her proper place and time as an air stewardess bound for Heathrow Airport, travelling together until Adric’s death at the hands of the Cybermen the Doctor and friends might alien invaders and a snake deity, before coming face to face with the Master once more.

Still reeling from Adric’s death, the Doctor once again battles the Legendary Time Lord Omega, the snake god the Mara, before meeting up with the Doctor’s old friend The Brigadier and new companion Vislor Turlough, a young alien stranded on Earth as a political exile, tasked with murdering the Doctor by the villainous Black Guardian.

After the departure of Nyssa and Turlough’s betrayal of the Black Guardian the Tardis crew land in medieval England on the eve of the Magna Carta, where the Master is attempting to manipulate time for his own ends, this time using the Robot Kamelion, a shape changing robot.

The Doctor is then embroiled in a plot which sees his past selves being taken from time, where they must unite to stop Cybermen, Daleks, Yeti’s, The Master and Other Time Lords from stealing the Time Lord’s ultimate weapon, immortality. After once again being dragooned into taking the presidency of the Time Lords, the doctor absconds with his Tardis once more.

After tangling with old foes such as the Silurians, the Sea Devils and the Daleks, Tegan leaves the Tardis returning to earth, whilst the Doctor continues to travel with Turlough, and new companion Peri, Turlough soon returns to his home world, after the trio are betrayed by Kamelion, still controlled by the Master. The Doctor, on the planet Androzani Minor, succumbs to some form of poisoning before traumatically regenerating once more.

Peter Davison stared in 20 serials (69 episodes) from January 1982 until the penultimate serial of the 21st Series in March of 1984, before being replaced by Colin Baker. Davison, was the youngest man to play the Doctor at this point in the shows history, and made the role his own, seeing in the show’s 20th year and battling a whole slew of villains both old and new, whilst his tenure was no shorter than most to this point Davison is one of the classics and to my mind will be remembered most fondly.

Stand Out Serials

  1. The Five Doctors: This single, feature length episode, features all past incarnations of the Doctor, who are taken from time, to join the game of Rassilon, where the winner will find immortality.
  2. The Kings Demons: Set on the eve of the Magna Carta, this introduces the robotic companion Kamelion and sees the return of the Master, this time using an Iron Maiden as a tardis and affecting a questionable french accent.
  3. Earthshock: This episode sees the revival of the cybermen, in a new form (which would last until the series’ revival in 2005) in an effort to destroy the earth the Cybermen actually bring about the death of a companion, the third time in the shows history (both Katarina and Sara Kingdom die in the first Doctor serial the Daleks Masterplan), the credits role silently, and it is something that has a lasting effect across the series, especiall as the companion in question, Adric, was meant to be one of the youngest of the Doctors Travelling Companions.

Dishonourable Mention

  1. Celery: I want to know who thought that it would be a good idea to put the Doctor in cricket whites for everyday wear, and then accessorise it (or should that be garnish?) with a decorative vegetable? I know it was explained away at the end of Davisons run, but we went almost three whole series with no comment about the fact that a grown man is wearing a vegetable pinned to his lapel as if it were the worlds worst boutonniere. I mean seriously who pins a but of salad to the jacket and thinks hey this looks good? I mean its almost as bad as the radish earrings worn by Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter, but at least she is mocked, and rightly so, for it. Now you can see why it gets the dishonourable mention of this particular post. Celery, I mena come on, Celery.

 

 

Join again soon for more on the wonderful worlds of The BBC’s Doctor Who.

This is part of a series of posts relating to the BBC’s longest running show: Doctor Who.

My Favourite Fantasy Authors

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Here’s a little look at some of my favourite authors and the worlds which they have created.

J.R.R Tolkien 

What I love most about Tolkien’s Middle Earth is the depth the author gave to his creation, no just in terms of the Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, but in terms of the shear scale of his world. I mean who else could have a 13 book series dedicated just to the history of their fictional world, this is on top of the eight epic length novels that were already published. And whilst the majority of this work was published posthumously, it does go to show the real love for this world that was poured in by its creator.

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Sir Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld took all the best parts of fantasy and science fiction, shook them all up and then dropped them on its head, it has wizards that know that the true course of power is forming a committee and witches that ardently practise not using magic, it points out the absurdity of fairy tales and does it all in an entertaining way. With over 40 novels published, not to mention the mountains of tie in publications its safe to say that it was the books of Sir Terry that actually made me want to read books.

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Stan Nicholls

Stan Nicholls’ Orc’s books did the unthinkable for fantasy, it made Orcs the heroes, this was something that had never been done before, in a world where multiple species live together (but by no means coexist) Stan Nicholls manages to shine a light on the orcs place in the world, whilst battling there own kind, every other fantasy race you can think of, and some puritanical human beings who seem hell bent on scouring the world of Maras Dantia of all races who don’t follow their one god whose symbol is oddly enough an inverted X.

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Robert E Howard 

Robert E Howard’s Conan The Barbarian is the archetype of fantasy stories, there are swords, there’s sourcery , there’s magic, there’s snake men, there’s loin cloths and there’s a little too much muscle going on, whenever I read one of those stories I always think of desert palaces and evil grand viziers who’ve made some questionable deals with elder gods. It may seem like its every cliche in the fantasy book, but this is where they came from, this is the original, this is pulp heroism at its best.

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George R R Martin 

A Song Of Ice And Fire is epic peak of epic fantasy with a wealth of story and a wealth of characters to call upon George R R Martin has created something truly marvellous (also incredibly scary and pretty damn twisted at times)  you start with clear heroes and villains, but over the course of the five books (so far) you find the heroes becoming the villains and the villains becoming the heroes, and I think that, in part at least, by narrating chapters from different points of view you begin to realise that everyone is the hero of their own tale and this is why the twists you wouldn’t see coming, that no other author would be brave enough to try, fit right in in Westeros. And this may make me no friends whatsoever, but I’m willing to wait for the next novel, even though it has been about 6 years, I say unto Mr Martin, take your time, as a fan all I demand of you is your best work, whether that takes 7 years or 17.

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Those are some of my favourites.Who are some of your favourite fantasy authors?

Coming Out Of The Bat Closet (LGBTQ Themes In Batman)

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HOLY HOMOSEXUAL URGES BATMAN!!!!

Have you ever stopped to think how gay Batman is. There is a lot of subtext if you read between those thought bubbles. Lets look at it in stages.

  1. Batman/ Bruce Wayne’s relationship with women. As both Batman and Bruce Wayne, he seems incapable of maintaining a healthy long term relationship, such short term things seem fraught with tragedy, looking at his relationships with women as Batman such as Catwoman, Wonder Woman, or Talia Al Ghul, they all seem to be some sort of overcompensation. His relationships as Bruce Wayne however are quiet simply as a beard, they go a long way to setting up his persona as Bruce Wayne, millionaire playboy, whose to say heterosexual millionaire playboy isn’t also part of it.
  2. His relationship with Alfred: Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s butler and one time legal guardian and full time enabler. Alfred took on the role of father to Bruce Wayne after Bruce’s parents were murdered. Instead of getting little Bruce some serious grief counselling and psychiatric care he let him drop out of school to pursue his career as scourge of the underworld. Their relationship is more complex than just that however. Alfred genuinely does love Bruce like a son, however Bruce’s feelings are somewhat different, he begins to project on Alfred during his teenage years, and because he can’t act on these feeling internalises them and it feeds his depression and anguish, not to mention giving him cause to focus on ending crime on Gotham.
  3. Batman’s relation ship with Robin: Anyone who has ever seen the Adam West/ Burt Ward depictions  of Batman and Robin will have no illusions that they are a gay couple. The whole relationship is odd on the face of it. Now single men can make great parents, (dad’s can do it too etc) but it does seem a little strange that a single man in his 20’s/30’s would adopt a teenage son, it may be cynical of me to think that anything untoward was taking place, but when the man doing the adopting forces the child out on to the streets in a pair of green briefs, alarm bells start to ring, and it isn’t because the joker is robbing a bank if you know what I mean.

Batman is one of those characters that will never be outed in mainstream comics continuity (why else would you have characters such as Midnighter if Batman was out), but there are a lot of themes within the comic books, the TV shows and films that are definitely a bit on the queer side.

The Science Of A Magic Carpet Ride

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Earlier today I watched Disney’s Aladdin while taking my daughter to visit my parents. What first struck me, was how racist and culturally insensitive parts of the film were. The second thing that struck me was how fantastic the late great Robin Williams was as the Genie. Then the third thing that struck me was that during the magic carpet ride Aladdin and Princess Jasmine started in the Middle East, fly through Greece (or a country sporting Grecian architecture) before ending their evening watching fireworks in China. Not only this but during the course of the magic carpet ride a couple of loop the loops are performed. How both parties don’t fall off is a little beyond me, but my main theory beyond it plainly being magic is that this is an example of centripetal force.  Centripetal force is a force that makes a body follow a curved path, a good example is lifting a coin into a cup without touching it.

How they got from the Middle East to Greece to China and back in one night is something that I am having trouble explaining. Most commercial jets will fly at about 550 miles per hour (210 miles per hour above the speed of sound)  now it would take about four hours to fly from Turkey to Greece one way, and given that Greece is in the opposite direction to china that’s eight hours of travel to begin with, then add on that the 10 hours that it would take to get from Turkey to China and that makes 28 hours of travel time at over 200 mph over the speed of sound, with no protection from the elements whatsoever. In order to do that journey in one night (12 hours at most) they would have had to fly at approximately 1500 mph or mach 2. Without protection, travelling at that speed would, undoubtedly, have caused sever internal injuries, or even death.

Another explanation is that Aladdin and Princess Jasmine were away for several days, which would also explain the negative reaction from the Sultans forces upon their arrival back in sunny Agrabah