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DC Comics don’t need to be more diverse

- March 19th, 2015

The brain trust at DC Comics should just relax.

Their universe is fine as it is – it doesn’t need to be more “diverse.”

It’s already diverse in ways that our own world never has been or ever will be.

In fact, the very concept of diversity takes on a new meaning in a milieu populated by an infinite array of superpowered humans, aliens, mutants and monsters.

How diverse is the DC universe?

One of their most popular characters, Swamp Thing, is a green-hued sentient plant. He’s not even human. Talk about a unique minority.

DC’s universe can’t be more diverse. It’s already diverse beyond imagination.

But that hasn’t stopped the storied company from announcing a new initiative to better represent the social and cultural groups that make up the American melting pot.

“(DC’s upcoming relaunch) heralds in a new era for the DC universe which will allow us to publish something for everyone, be more expansive and modern in our approach and tell stories that better reflect the society around us,” co-publisher Dan DiDio said in a recent press release announcing the latest rebooting of DC continuity.

If you want examples of the types of varied characters who already populate DC’s comic line, there’s more than a few.

For starters, there’s the company’s marquee character, Superman.

As smarter people than me have pointed out, his story is the age-old tale of what happens when an immigrant outsider – he’s an alien refugee from the planet Krypton – moves to the U.S.

But Superman looks like the average straight, middle-class white guy, you say. True enough.

If your definition of diversity is limited to colour, then you should consider another green-skinned DC denizen, Martian Manhunter. Not convinced? How about Doctor Manhattan, a glowing blue presence who lives all the moments of his life simultaneously?

Ah, but what about women? Not only is Wonder Woman an example of what was once called the fairer sex, but she’s also a member of an all-female race of warriors.

Heck, even the undersea world is represented in DC Comics, by Aquaman.

Do you see that kind of diversity anywhere in your own, real-life surroundings? I know I don’t.

The list goes on. Deadman is a non-living ghost. Cyborg is half-robot. Bizarro is . . . well, bizarre.

And that’s only in a single universe. There are another 51 alternate universes in current DC continuity that also boast the same hyperdiverse selection of lifeforms.

If you’re wondering about the Marvel universe — it’s just as rich, with its purple aliens, blue mutants and orange heroes.

But what’s that? You say the DC universe may be filled with an unlimited number of racial, ethnic, social and cultural groups, but it’s also a product of a bunch of white males? That may be true. However, you can’t deny the situation is changing.

If a bunch of white guys could imagine such an awesome setting for stories, just think what it will look like in a few years, when more minorities and women gain access to the levers of power.

My bet: You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Enough with the special parking spots

- March 17th, 2015

Wheelchair parking spaces have been a hot topic of conversation in recent weeks here in our Forest City.

If you listen to London’s riveting talk-radio stations, as I do, you will know that a vigilant citizen has photographed yet another police cruiser parked, apparently in violation of the law, in one of the spots reserved for those with mobility challenges.

I’m not here to condemn or condone what the officer in question appears to have done. The London police do a fine job of explaining their own actions. They can handle the heat themselves.

What I would like to say is: enough already.

What started out as a solid idea has clearly run amok.

You see, it’s not just wheelchair users who have prime spots set aside for them anymore, it’s every group under the sun.

Evidently, we all deserve special consideration now.

You’ve probably seen the spaces to which I refer. If you’re a motorist, it’s hard not to run into them. They’re set up literally everywhere you go.

When you drive to a mall like Masonville Place, you’ll see spots set aside for expectant mothers.

When you park at University Hospital, there are special areas in the parking garage for dialysis patients.

At the grocery store, it’s the designated family spots that are closest to the entrance.

These are all in addition to bicycle parking, motorcycle parking and even wide-load parking. No, wait, maybe I’m making that last one up, I don’t really know. I have a hard time keeping track of all this car park proliferation.

I believe we can all agree that reserving a small handful of handicapped spots for those drivers and passengers who use wheelchairs was a very good concept in the beginning.

I like to think that no one would begrudge such individuals their accessible parking permits, as they are officially known in Ontario.

But as usual, the idea has been driven into the ground to the point of uselessness.

Someone (probably a bureaucrat or middle manager) saw those spots and felt they had to create more and more categories.

Why? Because we live in a society where everyone is special. As my friend Steve likes to point out, nowadays parents raise their children to think they are all precious snowflakes deserving of extraordinary treatment.

The logical consequence: Pretty soon, every single member of this community will have their own individual special permit.

And of course, the more the specialty spots, the more they are open to abuses.

At least one female acquaintance has told me in confidence that she parks in the pregnant-mother spots, even though she’s not in the family way. Who’s going to know the difference?

Perhaps you watched the Corner Gas episode which suggests wheelchair spots are kind of a scam. I doubt that’s true, however when Brent’s able-bodied mother, Emma, affects a vague limp to justify the permit her husband has cajoled out of the system, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Truth be known, I rarely try to park close to the entrance of my destination. My own personal policy is to find a space at the back of the lot and walk up, so I can get a couple minutes of exercise.

Try it. You might like it, too.

New material from London author Lisa Brandt

- March 9th, 2015

London author and radio host Lisa Brandt has a new writing project online for you to check out.

If you’ve ever had any chronic medical issues, like I have, you will find her story illuminating and even a bit comforting.

She almost died a couple years ago, so that naturally gave rise to some reflection.

Lisa is a wise and funny writer

You can check out the details of My Sepsis Story by clicking here.

Stick with the same Oscar host

- March 4th, 2015

Now is as good a time as any to start speculating wildly about the next Oscar host.

A date hasn’t even been announced yet for the 2016 ceremony, but that’s OK.

There’s no bad time to tell the folks at the Academy Awards how they could do better.

My thought: Pick a host and stick with him or her. Or even them.

I personally don’t care who that host is.

However, I think it’s in the long-term interests of the Academy to put their money on one horse and leave it there, so to speak.

What I mean is, give someone the hosting gig and then leave them in the job for a number of years. This will have all kinds of benefits.

Since 2010, eight people have hosted the show.

As you know, How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris hosted last month.

Before Harris were Ellen Degeneres, Seth Macfarlane and Billy Crystal. Before them, the producers of the show tried dual hosts in the form of James Franco and Anne Hathaway and Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.

Enough already.

I think we can all agree that most of these talented people did a so-so job. But any of them could do even better work as host of the world’s most-watched telecast if they knew from year to year they would be hosting on an annual basis.

Keeping the same host allows for two important things.

First, it allows the host to grow in the job.

One of the main reasons that viewers have been tuning out, apart from the proliferation of red-carpet galas, is that the Oscar hosting has been so uneven.

Giving someone like Harris tenure would mean he could hone his hosting skills. It’s no coincidence that entertainer Bob Hope is considered by many to be the best Oscar host and he has also hosted the most times, 19. The same goes for Crystal, who is second on the list, with nine years at the podium.

Secondly, having a repeat host would allow that person to build a team around them.

The Oscars have become so predictable, so why not have a dedicated team of Academy Awards professionals who know they will have to stockpile material from one year to the next?

Oscar hosting is like any other activity – the more you do it, the better you get.

While having a new host each year inevitably generates headlines, it means they never quite get the hang of it. The audience can never fully warm to them.

Like I said, I don’t have strong feelings about who the host should be.

If you’re asking, I think it would be smart to pick someone who is a creature of television, such as Harris.

Degeneres would probably be at the top of my own short list. Throw Hugh Jackman on there, too. And Crystal for old time’s sake.

Heck, Daily Show host Jon Stewart will be looking for a way to pay the bills soon, and we know he can do the job.

Batman is not who you think he is

- February 19th, 2015

No one would ever confuse Batman with Superman.

But if I hear one more internet comic expert contrast the two storied DC superheroes by saying the essential difference between them is that the last son of Krypton is a superpowerful alien while the Dark Knight is “just an ordinary guy,” I’m going to scream.

Let’s get this straight: Bruce Wayne is not an ordinary guy.

He’s a billionaire.

His superpower is money.

A superpower is the special trait that distinguishes each comic hero from the rest of the human population.

It’s true, Wayne is not from another planet. He was never bitten by a radioactive spider. Nor was he born with mutant abilities.

But he’s far from normal.

Most estimates put the current number of billionaires in the United States at less than 500 out of a population of 320 million. Assuming the DC universe isn’t too far afield from our own, that means Batman’s alter ego belongs to a very elite group of American citizens.

He is among the wealthiest of the wealthy. He is not the one per cent – he is a fraction of a fraction of the one per cent.

And let’s not underestimate the importance of money to Wayne’s identity and mission, ridding his world of crime. Everything flows from his financial status.

Having nearly unlimited resources mean’s Wayne’s concerns are not the same as the rest of us.

Unlike a character such as Peter Parker, who struggles each month just to make the rent, Wayne doesn’t have to worry about keeping a roof over his head. He knows where his next meal is coming from.

Being a billionaire frees Wayne so that he can devote his entire existence to waging war on Gotham’s criminal element. Ultimately, it buys him a precious commodity that other people don’t have: extra time.

It has also allowed him to amass an unrivalled store of weapons and gadgets.

Without his money, Wayne wouldn’t be able to afford all the instruments of his vengeance — his tank-like Tumbler, the Batwing, even Bat Shark Repellent. These are not the things to which a regular person has access.

As smarter people than me have pointed out, if Wayne really was like everyone else, maybe he wouldn’t be so messed up.

If he had to find a way to support himself, perhaps he wouldn’t have the time to be so obsessed with avenging the death of his parents.

When a tragedy befalls you or I, we don’t have empty day after empty day to fixate on our misfortune. We have to get on with our lives, for better or worse.

So please don’t tell me you are a fan of Batman because he’s just a guy who depends on his wits and in-born strength.

Without his fat wallet, Batman would likely not exist – at least not in the form we recognize today.