Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just Imagine Tony Creating...Spider-Man 3

Norman Osborn has survived his epic battle with Otto Octavius, which is not great news for Peter Parker. Though Osborn's activities have finally been diminished, his personal connections only grow more complicated. He hires Flash Thompson for another job, and that's to kill Mary Jane. Peter's gut reaction is to try and distance himself from her, hoping it'll put Flash and Osborn off of her.

He lands an apartment with the income he's been making at the Daily Bugle, and a new friend in Gwen Stacy, whom he grows closer and closer to, at the expence of his relationship with MJ, which he's been trying to maintain as much as possible. Peter goes after Flash directly, not just for what Flash has just been contracted to do, but for vengeance against the hitman who stole all the family Peter ever knew.

He actually succeeds to this effect, but as usual, the balance always evens itself, and soon Osborn himself is back in business, and targeting not MJ but Gwen Stacy. In a climactic encounter, Osborn succeeds in murdering Gwen, and Peter's botched rescue attempt obscures what actually killed her. Osborn gets away.

MJ tries to console Peter, who quits his job at the Daily Bugle thanks to further harassment from J. Jonah Jameson, who gleefully ran an editorial definitively blaming Spider-Man for Gwen Stacy's death. Peter reluctantly moves back in with MJ, and reveals his secret to her. She convinces him that he should make one last attempt to bring Osborn to justice.

Flash Thompson, meanwhile, has been arrested for some completely unrelated, and therefore ironic, felonious activities, and realizes during his trial that he can still turn his life around, if only he can make proper atonement. Miraculously, Flash is acquitted, and then he enlists in the army, but not before making a full confession to Peter, who doesn't exactly forgive him, but at least understands when he learns of the leverage Osborn used against Flash in the form of medical bills for his father.

Finally, Peter has one final confrontation with Osborn, and in the ultimate battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, Goblin opts for death rather than rescue from Peter, who can only watch as this chapter of his life finally comes to an end.

Watching from a distance? Kraven the Hunter...

Peter and Mary Jane mend their fences and make a new commitment to each other. Peter decides to give up his activities as Spider-Man as they head toward graduation and college, together.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just Imagine Tony Creating...Spider-Man 2

Peter Parker quickly finds that working for the Daily Bugle means that he's got to work for J. Jonah Jameson, the tyranical editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Domineering, demanding, and just plain mean, Jameson quickly makes Peter's life a living hell (just in case it wasn't already). He assigns Peter, just for the heck of it, the plum assignment of covering eccentric scientist Otto Octavius' upcoming press conference.

Peter already knows a great deal about Octavius, having read a great deal about him, plus heard almost as much from the jealous Norman Osborn, whose path to madness continues unabated. Peter justifiably distances himself from Osborn, just as a chance encounter with Octavius during the press conference reveals to the doctor the extent of Peter's own scientific ambitions. Octavius agrees to make Peter his lab assistant as he makes the final preparations for the debut of his robotic arm apparatus.

It's not all fun and games, though. He's successfully gotten Jameson the pictures he wants, but Peter is no closer to figuring out his relationship with Mary Jane, the girl whose house he's still staying at while attending high school. His investigations of Flash Thompson, the classmate who may have been responsible for the deaths of Aunt May and Uncle Ben and who has been absent from school since the new year began four weeks ago, have given Peter ample excuses to use his Spider-Man costume, and he's discovered he has a flair for heroics, because he really loves the spotlight. Jameson loves the pictures Peter captures of him, too, so he can run his ranting editorials against the wise-cracking, anti-authoritarian vigilante...Well, you can't have it all.

Peter's work with Octavius, however, helps keep him happy, and that feeling is contagious. MJ doesn't mind spending time with him at school now, and even outside of it, where they attend local theater productions, while MJ hopes that she can score some tips on breaking in from the stars and stagehands. He almost forgets that everyone he's ever called family is dead.

Osborn's slide to madness continues, and a lab accident results in a suit he was working on virtually taking on a life of its own, thanks to an AI program he'd installed. At first, he participates in the bank heists the AI deems necessary to replenish coffers emptied when benefactors finally gave up on him, but soon enough Osborn realizes he's enjoying himself, and that his next target is his rival, Otto Octavius.

On the eve of Otto's big triumph, Osborn, now calling himself the Green Goblin, attacks, forcing Octavius to activite his harness before he's made the final checks, and thus unleashing an entirely new menace. Peter arrives in the guise of Spider-Man, and finds that he can no longer distinguish between his one-time mentors.

In the ensuing battle, Octavius sacrifices himself so that Osborn can be defeated, leaving Peter with one final affirmation that the good fight will always be worth it, despite the cost.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just Imagine Tony Creating...Spider-Man

Peter Parker is five years old when his parents die. He doesn't know how they die, only that one day he's surrounded by their love and the next, he isn't. He knows that they've already left an indelible mark on his life, on his creative development. And that he's been left to live with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. He's reminded daily of what he's lost, but that he still has infinitely far to go.

At school, Peter is constantly bullied by Flash Thompson, but school is also the only time he gets to interact with Mary Jane, the girl next door, and play with all the science equipment he wants. He never feels more alive, then. At home, even though Aunt May and Uncle Ben love him, they can't fill the void that was torn from him. He spends most of his time elsewhere. When he reaches high school, Peter is practically invisible, Mary Jane is unobtainable, Flash is incorrigible, and science all Peter knows. When he takes a field trip to a science museum, Peter is accidentally bitten by an irradiated spider, escaped from a nearby lab run by Norman Osborn, who works part-time at the museum.

Discovering that he has comparable abilities to the spider, Peter removes himself from his own head for the first time since he was five. He puts together a costume, and is promptly caught by his Uncle Ben, who violently disapproves. Angrily, he leaves and vows to never return. He sheepishly asks Mary Jane if he can stay at her place for a while, and she surprises him by saying yes! At school, Peter picks a fight with Flash, and gets a suspension. He wanders back to the museum, trying to figure everything out, when he comes across Norman Osborn, whom he confesses most of his problems to. Norman actually agrees to become Peter's mentor!

Things are looking up on average. Aunt May and Uncle Ben suffer an armed burglary in the meantime, which Uncle Ben is able to thwart, but the thief threatens revenge. He tries to talk to Peter about it, in the course of an intended reconciliation, but Peter will have none of it. Peter is, in fact, hanging out with Osborn when the thief makes good on his threat. Shellshocked by the news that his aunt and uncle have been murdered, Peter is even less prepared when he discovers that Osborn may have had something to do with it, thanks to an unlikely friendship with Flash Thompson, who envied Peter's time with Norman, who has always displayed an unstable psyche.

To figure it all out, Peter finally adopts the persona Uncle Ben tried to warn him about - with great power comes great responsibility - and becomes Spider-Man. Once again, life will never be the same.

Juggling his relationship with Mary Jane, his rivalry with Flash Thompson, life as Spider-Man, and the potential that Norman Osborn may be his greatest enemy, Peter Parker also attempts to secure an academic future, and now he'll have to support himself. Finding his father's old camera, he reports to the Daily Bugle as the staff's youngest photographer, armed with the knowledge that he's got New York's biggest story right under his own shirt.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager - Banjo, Part 7 (conclusion)

I suppose I’ve delayed long enough. This whole mess really started, I guess, when we encountered the second Caretaker, the one who was nothing like the one who brought us to the Delta Quadrant in the first place. This one didn’t play the banjo, I can assure you. I should know.

Originally, the Caretaker some of us have taken to calling Banjo Man introduced himself to the Starfleet crew with a simulation in which he attempted to hide among a bunch of country bumpkins as an old man playing, as you might assume, a banjo. While most of the crew, including Captain Janeway, only tangentially experienced him until he was ready to introduce himself, it was yours truly, Walter Baxter’s pleasure to be introduced earlier. I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. In fact, where everyone else was thrown for a loop by his simulation, I guess simply because I was more familiar with the scenario, I could sense that something was wrong, that it wasn’t as authentic as he might have guessed. Probably because it was my mind that he drew it from in the first place.

I can still hear the faint thoughts he must have inadvertently transmitted to me, mutterings, really. “Must put them at ease.” “Can’t let them suspect!” I only wish I could have known more of how exactly he was thinking, but he was so desperate at the time, I can’t imagine that he was really in control anymore. He’d spent four and a half millennia providing for the Ocampa after inadvertently wrecking their home world. He and his mate, the second Caretaker, had been explorers. I think a part of me, my dedication to Starfleet, imperfect as it was at the start of this crazy mission, must have touched a nerve with him. He’d found an unlikely kindred spirit. That’s the only way I can explain it. He never had to tell me what he was. I found myself drawn to him.

I could sense, as I said, that something was wrong from the start. The moment I arrived in that country farm, I guess I started looking around, until I caught the element that didn’t belong. Much as he tried to appear otherwise, Banjo Man didn’t belong. He’d tried too hard. Where the other elements of the situation were desperate for my attention, he attempted to be inconspicuous, but then, he’d taken the form based on my mentor, my friend, and my father. How would he not have guessed I’d figure him out? My father never approved of my decision to join Starfleet. He wanted me to be a gymnast (which is probably the reason I pushed myself so hard in the early months of our voyage home). He’d play his banjo as an accompaniment to my floor exercises, playing faster the more he thought I needed to concentrate. I’d constantly rebel. I’d literally bounce off the walls. He died of a heart attack the day I started at Starfleet Academy.

Banjo Man had a pained expression in his eyes, and that’s what gave him away. I’m not going to say he took the form of my father, but there was more than enough resemblance. I wanted to ask him so many questions, but I didn’t have the heart. The truth is, I didn’t have that much more experience with him than anyone else. It was the second Caretaker, Suspiria, who communicated more directly with me, has made me rethink all of this. The encounter with her was a little more routine for a seasoned Starfleet officer. It seems to be standard material for star voyagers to confront beings of terrible power who enjoy abusing it. They never seem to realize how human they’re being. Suspiria didn’t play the banjo, but she did understand that a link had been formed between me and her departed mate. She was slower to reveal her hand to the rest of the crew than Banjo Man had been, which left all the more time to torment me.

She accused me of killing the Caretaker. “Caretaker,” for the record, was never a term I used for Suspiria. She’d taken some Ocampa with her, helped them revisit the vast potential of their ancestors, but she was only using them. She wanted to find her own way home. I don’t think it exists anymore. I think she and Banjo Man were the last of their race, and that I inadvertently helped her realize it. She wasn’t very appreciative. I still don’t know how I came to learn it myself. I guess it became intuitive. If Banjo Man had had the power to contact his own people, he could have died happy. He had been anything but, and that’s, ultimately, what helped our crew overcome Suspiria.

But it didn’t help us get home, obviously. We’re only at the beginning of that journey, and I have no idea if I’m ever going to see home again. I stopped visiting the gymnasium. I should probably say now that Banjo Man left a gift behind for me, and I’ve been using it more and more lately, probably ever since I switched career fields. I find it soothes me, even though I’m not any good at it.

Well, you can’t have everything…


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager - Banjo, Part 6

There was one particular event early in our so-called voyage home that stands out, mostly because, if everything had played out the way it seemed initially, we’d be home by now. I’m talking about the discovery of the wormhole. I’m talking about our unlikely discussions with a Romulan.

A lot of Starfleet officers have years of study about the Vulcan/Romulan dynamic, since it’s required study at the Academy, with the option for more advanced classes past the mandatory first-year lessons taught invariably by Saavik. I happen to have spent my whole tenure in one of her classrooms each semester. Vulcans are hot, so sue me! I hear she hooked up with Kirk’s kid, before he died in the Genesis incident. She likes humans. Always seemed to give me a little hope. But I was at least as interested in her lectures. When everyone eventually learned the truth about Tuvok, I had a little more respect for him. He seemed to blend a lot more of the Vulcan/Romulan personality than most people give him credit for; logical all the way, but also extremely pragmatic. I switched to the security field in part because I wanted to understand him better. I’m not sure I’ve managed it yet.

Anyway, I was especially curious about his reaction to our unlikely Romulan friend, but more than usual, he seemed to keep his reactions close to the vest, even for a Vulcan. Telek, that is to say the Romulan, eventually agreed to do all he could for us, which was unusual enough, because Romulans view the Federation at best as an impediment, and at worst, from the very beginning, as collaborators with their sworn enemies, their own cousins. I think it was because he himself was a scientist, like Janeway, first and foremost, that he held any sympathy for us at all. I should say, that’s how I thought initially. Later, when the truth was revealed, after we’d failed and after we learned he was from twenty years in the past, I suspect he must have known, or suspected his fate all along. That was the only reason he humored us at all. He was curious.

Maybe that’s not fair. I asked Tuvok about it, first chance I got, which was months later, after everyone seemed to have forgotten about it, but I knew he hadn’t. Tuvok doesn’t forget anything. It isn’t just about his long Vulcan life, or his discipline. He remembers, and he files everything away in that brilliant mind of his. He knows before anyone else the likely outcome of any given event, and it’s nothing to do with statistical probabilities. He’s a student of behavior. I suspect he knew we would all end up here long before anyone could have suspected a thing. I think he half-banked on it. He’s not your regular Vulcan. He rebels in small ways, and then again, sometimes in pretty large ways. Who’s to say he didn’t have any readings, or reports, about what might have awaited the Maquis ship in the Badlands? He punishes himself all the time, for all the ways he doesn’t fit in. Being stranded in the Delta Quadrant would be just another calculation in that regard. He’d still be young enough to enjoy his family when he got back…

I’m sorry, I think too much into things, sometimes. I admire him. Banjo Man, on the other hand, all the Caretakers…Maybe it’s time. Maybe I’m ready to talk about that now…