Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Answers From the Vault

Welcome back to a very special edition of Answers From the Vault. Why is this edition even more special than all previous special editions? Well, it's because these questions were pretty much all unsolicited. Don't worry, though, they aren't so much of an annoyance that I won't answer them. Let's get right to it and help expand your mind!

Why would my 17-year-old students be involved in a bordering-on-scathing battle about the ending of ME3? - Professor Chesley Wendth

Thanks for the question, Chesley. The basic answer is simple: Because anyone who plays Mass Effect 3 is obligated to get in an argument about the ending. It's one of the unwritten rules of the internet, at least, it was until I just wrote it. 

I covered this briefly in my review of Mass Effect 3, but basically, the entire series is designed around the premise that the player's actions dictate the story, so whatever you decide has major ramifications on how everything plays out. However, while there are technically something like 16 different endings to Mass Effect 3 -- and thus to the entire series -- they are all almost entirely identical. So some angry gamers feel the ending betrays the entire premise of the series and invalidates their 100+ hours of gameplay.

On the other hand, I didn't mind the ending. It may be nit picking to the point of semantics, but the choices you make at the end do drastically effect the Mass Effect universe, you just don't get to actually see it. At the end you have three choices, each of which determines the fate and future of the entire universe in very different ways. For whatever reason, though, BioWare doesn't actually show the ramifications of that choice. Which is annoying and weird. But even though the game plays out as if your choice didn't make a difference, I still feel like the ending upholds the spirit of the story. Affecting the future of the universe is about as big a choice as you could make, after all.

I can understand why some people are pissed, though, as it doesn't provide the kind of clarity fans are used to. It's kind of like the ending of Inception; something big happens, but you have to decide what it was yourself.

Why can Superman shoot lasers out of his eyes? - Avery Houle

Thanks for the question, Avery. Superman, as you may know, is from a planet called Krypton, which is on the other side of the galaxy. Unlike our world, Krypton had a red sun instead of a yellow sun. When Superman arrived on Earth, he discovered that the energy from a yellow sun gives him super powers, which is why he can fly, lift heavy objects and do everything else Superman does.

Because he gets his powers form the sun, Superman is essentially a living solar battery. Just like solar panels on a house, Superman absorbs sunlight and turns it into energy. And since lasers are basically focused beams of light and energy, Superman's heat vision is actually the one power of his that makes the most sense; he's simply channeling all the solar energy he collected and shooting it out of his eyeballs.

After watching Justice League Doom the other day I have a late question for The Vault: Because Bane's exposed rubber tubes make him the most vulnerable super villain in the DC Universe, why doesn't he cover them up with a metal case or something? The whole setup seems kinda stupid. - Rob Lettrick

Good question, Rob. I'd like to say it's because Bane is a moron, but he's actually portrayed as being a super genius. So why doesn't he use his big brain to come up with a better outfit? I'd say because he arrogant enough that he doesn't much care if his tubes get yanked out. The tubes, after all, just feed him the venom drug that gives him his super powers. Without those, however, he's still a genius who has trained his whole like in fighting and other disciplines -- in other words, if his tubes get pulled, he becomes Batman. And Batman does okay.

In the comics, before New 52 erased everything, Bane had apparently stopped using the drug a while ago, meaning the tubes no longer do anything at all. So that's another reason I guess.

I would say that Bane isn't the most vulnerable supervillain in DC, though. That honor probably goes to the Doom Patrol's arch-nemesis The Brain, who is literally just a human brain in a glass jar.

Other then Nick Fury has any other character gone through a race change and did Marvel ever address it? - Ben Milton

This is a timely question, Ben, so thanks. There have been a number of characters who have had race changes similar to Nick Fury's and most have them have happened the same way: In an alternate or new universe. DC, for instance, recently added some ethnic highlights to some of its established characters in the New 52 universe, while Marvel has tweaked other classic characters in their Ultimates universe, much like Nick. Most of these don't really need much explanation other than "it's a different universe."

There are two other types of race changes that happen in comics, though, First, there's the type where a character is replaced by someone of a new race. Examples of this include Blue Beetle at DC (who was killed and replaced by a new Hispanic Blue Beetle) and Ultimate Spider-Man (who again was killed and replaced by a Hispanic kid). it's not really the same thing, of course, as it's a whole new character, but it happens fairly regularly as comic companies try to add diversity without actually coming up with new ideas.

The more interesting -- and by interesting I mean horribly hilarious -- type of race change is when an established character suddenly changes races as part of a storyline designed to highlight "race issues." Sort of a cross between Black Like Me and Batman; maybe you could call this Black Lightning Like Me syndrome. This has happened at least a coupe times I can think of off the top of my head. Punisher, for instance, had a storyline where he went under cover as a black dude, mainly as a way to try out a new street-thug version of Luke Cage.

That was embarrassing. On the other hand, the most famous story like this, from Lois Lane #106, was trying to actually seriously explore racial issues in the early 1970's. They ended up putting Lois in a machine that turned her black for 24 hours, where she then discovered the plight of the African American and delivered some timely lessons on racism to the reader. It's just as bizarre as it sounds, topped off by the amazing fact that the story is called "I Am Curious Black," which of course is a reference to one of the most famous pornos of all time.

The 70's!!!


I wasn't familiar with the reference, so I Googled it, and it appears that the comic title "I Am Curious (Black)" was actually based on a Swedish drama from 1967, "I Am Curious (Yellow)." The later adult film, "I Am Curious Black," was made in 1986.

Perhaps I shouldn't have used the term porno, but "I Am Curious (Yellow)" was banned here in Massachusetts on pornography charges.