Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Fall of the Self-Made Super Heroes

 Iron Man

Hello, Marvel Writers!

So on May 3 Iron Man 3 hits theaters nationwide.  Kudos to whomever had him bring in all those different versions of the armor; it’s high time we saw them all!  But wait.  Why should he need those different armors now that he’s getting the Extremis serum?

On that point, why did he even get the Extremis serum in the first place?

This is hard for me to understand, or even enjoy, really.  I always thought that Tony Stark was a great character precisely because he had no superpowers.  He wasn’t a mutant, he hadn’t been exposed to any bizarre, deadly radiation; he was just a genius who fought evil in a high-tech suit of armor.  In a way, he was like a modern day version of Sir Lancelot or one of the other ancient knights who guarded the great kingdoms in old stories.

It didn’t matter what tech or tools he had to work with, whether they were top of the line or rusted hunks of metal from the local scrapheap, Tony could whip up any gizmo from whatever he had to hand.  And it would work, often spectacularly, to trounce whatever leviathan monstrosity that Dr. Doom or Kang the Conqueror or, yes, the Mandarin, was aiming at him at the time.  No magic tricks, just astounding ingenuity.  What a feat to watch (or read)!

But, with Extremis, does he even need that anymore?

Yes, Extremis is fantastic.  It allows Tony to interface with computers using only his mind, process information from the Internet or nearby machinery at lightening speeds, and even detect technology that’s in the vicinity of the fight in which he is participating.   And, yes, it certainly speeds up the time he takes to don his armor, which is a plus.  I’m not saying that a super-powered Iron Man is lacking in benefits.  What I’m asking is, “Doesn’t it rob him of a special little something?”

Tony, in the majority of the comics, had to rely on his ingenuity where other heroes and heroines could call on inborn or acquired powers.  He didn’t have to use telepathy like Professor Xavier to defeat a bad guy.  He just had to out-think him.

Tony didn’t need the Hulk’s great strength.  The armor let him dish out almost as much punishment as it let him take.

He didn’t need Kree DNA in his system so he could shoot laser blasts.  He developed flight stabilizers (repulsors) that doubled as neat plasma guns.  And they fit right in the palm of each hand!!!

Why give him, almost out of the blue, superpowers?  Were the sales of Iron Man comics falling that sharply?  And if they were, weren’t there better ways of raising them again than altering Iron Man’s star gift?

I have heard many times that Tony Stark is popularly assailed by doubts about whether or not it is the man who makes the armor or the armor that makes the man.

Really?  Without Tony Stark, there would not be any Iron Man suits.

And if there were, without a hero to pilot them (and that hero would have to know every system and circuit in the suits like a well-read book) the armors would all be decorating the halls of some billionaire’s mansion as displays of wealth.  All this is what Stark could have done.  Instead, he chose to use the armors for the greater good, improving them to the point where only the most arrogant villain is unafraid of facing him in battle.  And there are still a lot of improvements that could go into future suits.  With Extremis, what need would Tony Stark have to focus on those improvements?

On that note, why should he wear a suit at all?  He could fight, using Extremis, in only a business suit if he wanted to do so.  If the mood struck him, he could do it in his pajamas.  Why use a metal suit when you can control machinery?

And worse, Stark’s not the only hero in the Marvel Universe gaining superpowers.  Mockingbird and Winter Soldier (whose only enhancement once was a robotic left arm) have both been given serums that blend Cap’s Super Soldier serum and Fury’s Infinity serum so that they could survive life-threatening injuries.  Young Avenger Patriot gained Super Soldier abilities after getting a blood transfusion from his grandfather, a soldier in WW II who was also given a variant of Cap’s serum, for the same reason.  Before that he was using enhancement drugs.  In the alternate, Ultimate comic line, Hawkeye has been given optical enhancements so that he has the most accurate eyesight on the planet.

I see these new ‘enhancements’ only as thefts from the integrity of these heroes.  Mockingbird and Winter Soldier won many battles where their super-powered compatriots could not even make slight headway, all for the simple reason that they were ‘normal’ humans.  Hawkeye has always been a very gifted shooter; his powers come not from mutant genes or scientific meddling, but from nature.  Despite Ultimate Hawkeye’s alternate history and life in the Ultimate Marvel Comics, the fact that he was not born sharp-eyed detracts a great deal from his (admittedly changed) personality.

And Patriot?  Several heroes in the ‘mainstream’ Marvel Universe, of which he is a part, continue to fight crime with nothing more than finely-honed skills.  Why couldn’t he have become Kate Bishop’s equal, fighting crime without powers?  Certainly, that would cement any romance blossoming between the two, as it has for other heroes in the past.  And it would give him a better standing as well.  He would be a ‘self-made’ super hero.

Iron Man was the first, and is the best, self-made superhero.  In fact, he was the inspiration for several other Marvel characters to don a costume and fight crime with only their natural skills (just ask Clint Barton).  It seems that just as he was the first to become a superhero on his own so he is the first to fall from the humble yet highly honorable position of a self-made hero.  And who can say who will be next after Tony Stark; Mockingbird, and Winter Soldier?  Jarvis?  Kate Bishop?  J. Jonah Jamieson?  Flash Thompson?  Maria Hill?

Yes, Extremis is an amazing advantage.  But the more amazing and the better advantage was Tony Stark’s boundless resourcefulness.  Until it returns, it will be a talent sorely missed by many Marvelites, my fellow writers.


Mithril (A Troubled True Believer)


To All Current Marvel Comics Writers – Why?

Hello, Marvel Writers!

Excelsior!  Stan Lee thrilled a lot of people with his home state’s motto, usually using it as a way of signing off.  It means “Ever Higher!” and his characters have always reached higher, even when he stopped writing their adventures.

A recent comer to the comic book forum, I have found several storylines that I enjoy, many of them the earliest stories.  The more recent stories of the past twenty plus years – well, that’s what I’m writing about right now.

You see, I don’t enjoy several of them, and I don’t understand why some of them turned out the way they did.  For starters, let’s look at Avengers: Disassembled.  For the first time in Marvel history, the Avengers all quit at once.  Poof.  Even Captain America, the hardiest member of the team, the one who never gives up, hangs up his costume and leaves.


Wouldn’t it have been better to have the team bat the notion of disbanding around for a few issues instead?  They would definitely have fought over the notion, having come to such crises points several times before and rebounded; it certainly seems that Cap, the most dedicated Avenger, was none too pleased with throwing in the towel after the Scarlet Witch tore everything up in the House of M stories (I don’t quite understand why that happened, either).  They could have eventually come to a consensus where they said, “Okay, we’re disbanding.  End of story.” 

But, horror of horrors, aliens land and attack (or some other great crisis occurs) the exact day that they are supposed to dissolve their fighting partnership, and they have to go and stop them (or it).  This would definitely restore the get up and go of several of the heroes, though others would and could still quit.  Wouldn’t that have been better than the whole team vanishing into the ether of regular life, even if it was only temporary? (When I say temporary, I mean for whatever length of time in the comics that the team was scattered.)

I don’t like the notion of all-out war between heroes and heroines, either, such as those that have occurred first in the Civil War story arc and more recently in Avengers vs. X-Men.  In the former, why would any hero even consider revealing their identity to the world, whether required by law or not? 

Several of them have suffered from one thoughtless lift of their mask, where a hidden enemy saw and recognized their face.  Or where something they said gave their secret identity away.  Spider-Man has suffered from this more often than others, as the demise of Gwen Stacy attests.  That Dr. Doom knows the real identities of the Fantastic Four, as do a multitude of other villains, means that they must constantly be on their guard.  How would Spidey, as Peter Parker, a young man with little money and resources, detect any traps laid for him at his residence before it was too late to avoid them, the way that the FF can?  Can Tony Stark even smile at a waitress anymore, without her becoming the target of some super villain who gets it into his head that maybe she’s become Tony’s latest date?

On top of that, Civil War saw heroes actively attempting to kill each other.  Iron Man and Cap, trying to destroy each other?  It makes no sense.  Why would Iron Man try to kill a friend who had saved his life a thousand times, and whose life he had saved in return nearly the same amount of time?  To quote Mr. Spock, it would be extremely “illogical”.

And why would Cyclops accept the arrival of the Phoenix Force coming to Earth (again)?  After what it did to Jean Grey, the love of his life?  But if she’s finally packed her bags for Marvel’s great beyond, then he would be left with little reason to keep fighting; was that the theory behind this part of the story?

As for putting Wolverine in charge of the X-Men, isn’t that out of character?  The Wolverine of old was a loner, loyal as a hunting hound but not a pack dog.  He went his own way for his own reasons, and preferred that people stayed out of his business.  Who is this newer, gentler man with six adamantium claws of carnage?

What has happened?  Why are stout heroes suddenly dancing on the thin grey line between light and dark?  Why is Iron Man siding with the government, a government he will not build weapons for, against his fellows to get them to obey an unjust law?

Why is Cyclops turning into a murderer?  Why is Hawkeye dating almost every lady he meets?  Why did Mary Jane Watson suddenly go to join Gwen Stacy in the great beyond?  Why would Black Widow side with a government repeating the mistakes of a government she ran from not so long ago?  Why would Mockingbird finish her divorce with Hawkeye after such a long time away from the world and people that she loved?

Why would the Scarlet Witch go crazy?  Why would Gambit suddenly be found not only to be a thief, prior to joining the X-Men, but also aiding and abetting genocide of the Morlocks before that time?  Why would Storm forsake the love of her husband, the Black Panther, for her loyalty to an obviously unstable leader of the X-Men?

Why?  I don’t ask this merely for the sake of what these characters once were.  I ask for the sake of what they will one day be.  Several now stand on the brink of falling into total darkness, becoming guilty of the same crimes as their adversaries.  Would the Captain America of old have ordered Wolverine to kill Hope Summers to prevent the arrival of the Phoenix?  No, I don’t believe he would.

What kind of tone are these stories setting for the readers?  I have laid a hand on none of these comics, but every time I read about the characters’ latest exploits (and in some cases, crimes) I turn off the computer downhearted.  In my earlier research, I was tempted to forsake the comics altogether. 

Why, you ask?  Because there was no hope in them.  There was no thought that while the days may get darker, somewhere at the end of the battle things could be rebuilt.  That in the end, life would return to some modicum of happiness and beauty.

Yes, some of the heroes may not live to see that time.  But would that make them stop fighting for it?  I think not, for the simple reason that it was worth fighting for in the first place. 

When I read something, I want to be entertained, that’s true.  But I also want hope and the greater good reaffirmed in what I read.  In these story arcs, I see little hope or good; only continuation that spirals into darkness.  The world is dark enough.  Can’t a little light, even through the prism of the stained glass window of Marvel comics, let a smile chase away the fears, scars, and tears?  If only for a little while, wouldn’t it be worth it?

I know that there are some out there, reading this open letter, who are saying, “That’s not true, those were good story arcs!”

I ask in return, “How?  What gain do they give?  Do they make you smile and cheer for the heroes?”

They are what the audience wants, someone in the cybernetic ether shouts.  They’re what the audience needs, another cries, Reality.  The original stories were for a simpler time.  We’re living in a new age!

Are we?  A simpler time, they say.  What made it so simple?  Perhaps it was that they, the original readers and writers, knew that the world was made up of people who needed light during the darkness of toil, of fear, of war or other catastrophes outside man’s control.  They knew that the best way to make life a little easier, if only for a moment, was with the sunlight of hope and goodness.

Have we lost that?  I don’t believe we have.  I don’t believe, as some may think from reading this letter, that Marvel’s heroes will turn to dust if they continue on these paths.  I do believe, however, that unless these stories change and the heroes regain their footing in moral conduct, they will be the worse for wear and that some may never return to the pages of Marvel Comics in any good light.  To me, that would be a sad loss, one I hope does not come to pass.

Finally I have one final question for you, fellow writers.  What now?  Do you go on the way you have, or change direction?

For my part, I say, “Excelsior!”


Mithril (or, a Troubled True Believer)

Over the Lonely Mountain

The Hobbit photot

Hi, Giselle,

Hey!  I know how much you like music, so when I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I knew I just had to write you about it.

Why?  Because there are three songs in it that I think you would really enjoy.

Okay, let’s get started!  So, the first one is called “Blunt the Knives.”  It’s a bouncy, fun song that would convince almost anyone to get up and dance.  The words aren’t what make it fun though.  Why?  Well you see, the dwarves are teasing Bilbo Baggins, the hero of The Hobbit, while cleaning up after dinner (they’ve nearly eaten him out of house and home).  So they sing:

“Blunt the knives and bend the forks,

Smash the bottles and burn the corks.”

And several other bad things they say they should do to poor Bilbo’s china.  But, of course, they don’t actually follow up on these words.  Instead they clean up the dishes without breaking anything.  If you want to see what I mean, just click here: and watch them for yourself.  The song is most enjoyable when you’re watching the twelve dwarves at work!  I wish that I could have jumped through the screen and joined in the party!

I would have, too, if it were possible.

Oh, I said I had three songs.  The next one is here:  This one is called “Misty Mountains” and is more of a chant than a song.  It certainly is not dancing music, like “Blunt the Knives.”  Instead it’s very slow and contemplative.  I wish I could have listened to it without seeing the movie, then I could have focused on the music alone. 

Although, if I had, it may have put me to sleep the same way it did to Bilbo (in the book)!

Despite that, watching the dwarves chant does add something to the tone of the song.  Seeing the longing in their faces makes the viewer understand how much they miss their home under the mountain.  Yes, there’s gold there, and jewels, and Smaug killed a lot of dwarves when he took over the kingdom, etc. …  But he did more than that, as their expressions show.  He took away the place that they knew was theirs, the place that belonged to them; he took away their home. 

As Bilbo points out later, he has his hobbit hole.  More than that, he has the Shire.  He’s not accustomed to sleeping in hard places with no fire and warm food.  He’s not used to running from trolls and orcs.  The dwarves are used to these things because for years they haven’t had a place that is safe, like the Shire is; they haven’t always been able to have the comforts of warm food and a fire.  The chant is the only tie they have left to remind them of what that kind of life is like.

It also unites them.  About midway through the chant, all thirteen dwarves gravitate into a tight group.  It’s not the kind of formation where they are trying to protect something; it’s more of an understanding among them.  The kind of understanding that says, “I miss it as well.  I want this, too.  We all want this back.” 

So the song shows, in a way, that the gold and jewels and revenge are secondary.  What they want most out of this venture is their home back, not the gold Smaug hoards.

Yes, we all take home for granted, just like Bilbo.

Right, now for the third song.  This one plays at the end of the movie, when the credits roll.  If you want to hear it, go here:  These lyrics, unlike the lyrics for the other two, were not written by J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of the book The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, which all three Hobbit movies are based on).  This song was written and performed by Neil Finn.  It shares a few verses with “Misty Mountains” but Finn does the rest.

It’s a very good song with powerful music.  The music rolls in certain places, usually on the words “Never forget” and “Never forgive.”  The notes are reminiscent of a smith at the forge.  Boom, “Never forget.”   Gong, “Never forgive.” 

The dwarf king, Thorin Oakenshield, is shown at a forge early on in the movie.  While at work, he is brooding over the loss of the Lonely Mountain kingdom his grandfather ruled.  This song seems to be based on that scene, with the music emphasizing that Thorin (if not most of the dwarves) will never forget what Smaug stole from his people, nor will he forgive him.

Again the music rolls.  “Never forgive.”  It rumbles again.  “Never forget.”

It carries the methodical pounding of a hammer on hot iron; the beating of the drums of war.  Thorin and his followers, the song explains in a sort of roundabout way, are coming back for their kingdom if it kills them.  They’re going to kick Smaug out of the Lonely Mountain or die trying.

I know, I know.  I do sound like a film promoter.  So does that mean you’re not interested?

Good.  Glad I could help! 😀 

Anyway, these are the places where you can find the music without going to the theater.  Morgan can watch the clips with you, too.  In fact, I would recommend that you show her “Blunt the Knives.”  I think that she would like it.

Got to go.  Write you – well, whenever!



Picture 032

The Avengers: The Best Movie Villain of 2012

Picture 013

Hey, DiNozzo,

Good to write you again. 

Why did I say that this letter was going to be about the best movie villain of 2012?  Because it is.  Didn’t you notice the big picture at the top of this note?

Don’t groan like that!  You go on, time after time, imitating Sean Connery’s James Bond, and somehow you won’t extend a similar courtesy to me when I decide I want to talk about The Avengers for a while?  When I have another movie to talk about, then we’ll talk about it.  And after that, everything is fair game, except James Bond.  I cannot talk, after all, about something I have paid so little attention to over the years.

Oh, knock off bemoaning me as a lost cause already.  Maybe someday I’ll actually pay attention to it, and then what are you going to do?  Hah, got you there!

All right, back to business.  No matter what the critics say, the best film of 2012 was Marvel’s The Avengers. It has definitely set the bar for good movies a notch higher.  Don’t roll your eyes at me like that!

One of the reasons that the movie soars is because of its villain, Loki.  Nasty and sinister sum up his plans nicely, and as for his personality – petulant, sarcastic, and vain about cover it.

Oops, I may have just crossed my characters.  Was I talking about Loki or about you?

Now I’ve got you interested.  So be quiet and listen.

Thank you.

Just to give an example of Loki’s character, this is what he says when he introduces himself, “I am Loki, and I am burdened with glorious purpose!”

You’re laughing!  I knew you would!  There’s plenty more, Tony, if you watch the movie through!

This is just the first of many instances where a member of the audience would say, “Finally, a villain who actually says what he thinks!”  We all know by now that every villain believes himself or herself to be “burdened with glorious purpose.”  But if you can find more than ten big, well-selling movies where the bad guy actually says it, you are way ahead of me.

The big bad guys in every movie (and many other forms of entertainment, too) usually read from the same handbook.  It’s been heard so many times that we all know the formula well: they speak about bringing utopia, they slaughter hundreds of people to get it, and then rule with a tyrant’s iron fist (or they attempt these three in the course of the movie). All are in vain, all only to fail. 

Loki does not entirely break from this script, except in his form of delivery, which – happily – breaks every rule in the Villain’s Handbook of Speeches.

Another part of the villain mold that Loki strays from is in his incredible arrogance, which leads him to regard most of the heroes as extreme inferiors.  This isn’t new, either, but again, it’s the way that Loki does it.

After taking control of Hawkeye, scientist Erik Selvig, and a few other SHIELD agents, Loki has the sniper shoot SHIELD director Nick Fury.  Loki’s contempt of humanity is so prevalent that he does not even bother to learn whether or not Fury is wearing some sort of protection (in this instance, body armor).  He could easily have gotten this information from Hawkeye (when he was under his control) and had the sharpshooter make a final end of Fury, but he didn’t. 

On top of that, throughout the movie Loki time and again shows that it is only Thor’s physical strength that frightens him, since he well knows that Thor is the stronger, even without Mjolnir (the hammer).  This focus on Thor (due as much to jealousy and envy as to fear) leads him to ignore the other Avengers because he believes they cannot match him physically and proves to be another of Loki’s Achilles’ heels.  Loki’s foolhardy belief is disproved when the Hulk incapacitates him, and when Iron Man and Black Widow, along with an ‘awakened’ Selvig, help destroy his alien army and portal. 

His disdain when Hawkeye fires an arrow at him a few scenes earlier proves that he never bothered to learn anything about the man that he had enslaved, beyond his (Hawkeye’s) own usefulness to him.  He is surprised when the explosive arrowhead knocks him off his ‘chariot.’  The entire time that these Avengers deal with Loki, Thor is busy elsewhere, having physically fought Loki only once so far.  So Loki is not truly defeated by his adopted brother, but by a handful of – gasp – ‘mortals’!

The final area where the villain formula is – ahem – smashed by Loki is when he comes face-to-face with the Incredible Hulk.  Of all the mistakes he has made in the course of the film, this proves to be the trickster’s biggest.  He shouts at the Hulk, believing him to be a “dull creature” he can bully.

You’re laughing, Tony.  Yes, this is a very unhealthy attitude for anyone to have toward the Hulk.  Instead of letting Loki yap out a form of the expected “You cannot defeat me!” speech, the Hulk flattens Loki and leaves him moaning in his body-formed crater in the floor as he exits to kill more aliens.  Of all Loki’s failures and subsequent humiliations in the film, this is the best, most spectacular, and definitely the most enjoyable!!

So from beginning to end, Loki is both conventional and unconventional.  A refreshing combination – and I cannot believe I just said that about a film bad guy – this attitude of his gives the heroes and heroines shining moments and pieces of dialogue they would never have had if he were merely conventional.  All in all, this helps to make The Avengers more pleasing than any other comic-book based movie I have seen.

Well, catch you later, DiNozzo.  I got places to go and people to see. 

Am I going to Avengers HQ?  Tsk, tsk, don’t be such a tease!  (Although I was planning on dropping by at some point sooner or later.)

Hah, I got you back!  Now scoot or I’ll get mad.

See ya,


The Avengers: ‘Romantic’ Tension?


Hello, Very Special Agent DiNozzo,

Did you get a chance to go to the theater last year?  I’m sure you got there to see Skyfall, whenever that movie came out.  Hey, don’t get mad at me!  It’s three months and sixteen days into the new year, with other interesting movies coming to the big screen; of course I’m going to forget when some of them come out!  Besides which, I have never really enjoyed James Bond.

Yes, I really don’t enjoy James Bond all that much.  Stop rolling your eyes!

Anyway, what I did see last year was Marvel’s The Avengers.  I loved every minute of it – except the part about Loki needing that guy’s eye –

Right, you had that in a case a few years ago.  No more details on that then.

So, whether you saw the movie or not, you’ve probably seen the clips for it, and know about the Black Widow – yeah, I thought you would!  Pay attention, or I’ll call Gibbs, DiNozzo.

I would too dare.

Since you know about her, you know that some people have said that the relationship she shares with another character in the movie, Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner), is a romantic one.  The thing is, I disagree.

Why?  Well the ‘tension’ between Black Widow and Hawkeye may at first viewing give the audience the impression of romance, and this is easily reinforced to those who know the two characters’ history from the original comics, but it’s actually different.  One might even say entirely different.

Hawkeye sees very little screen time as an Avenger in the film.  Since he spends most of the story as Loki’s chief marionette, this means that the audience knows very little about him.  Therefore, it is hard to know his major character traits or motivations from viewing the movie alone.  Heck, there’s never even a hint of whether he has any romantic inclinations for anyone, let alone Black Widow, though she is the obvious choice.

What can easily be deduced about Hawkeye during the part of the movie where he is present as a ‘good guy’ is his fury and horror at being used as a tool to kill people on his own side.  You can empathize with that, Tony.  After all, your job is pretty similar in some respects to his.

Black Widow is the only character in the film shown to have known him well for a long period of time.  Not only that, she hinted to Loki at one point that she had been similarly used at one time in her life.  This would indicate that she would know how being used would probably affect him.

One other interesting thing that is made known through dialogue between Widow and Loki is that Hawkeye will not blindly follow his commander’s orders.  Black Widow suggests that her very presence is proof of this when she says, “I got on SHIELD’s radar in a bad way.  Clint was sent to kill me.  He made a different call.”  By rights, as you can guess, it is doubtful that he had the authority to back this call up.  The risk to his own position in SHIELD, then, would have been just as great as the risk to her life.  But he did it anyway.

And so we come back to his actions when Loki was pulling the strings.  How would a man like the one described by Widow react to the knowledge that he had killed men who did not even realize they were in the middle of a war?  Pretty badly, all things considered, and he shows it later on.  But he shows it only to the Black Widow.

Why?  Because she has been there, too.  She knows the pain and horror that this causes, knows that nothing anyone, even her, can say or do will alleviate the pain he is going through.  She cannot bring back the men he killed; no one can.  And so she has to watch her friend, or ‘battle brother’ if you will, get a grip on himself through that pain.  And it hurts to watch him endure that while at the same time being unable to really and truly help him.

I’m sure that you can relate to that, too, DiNozzo.  I’m sure you can.

So this is what I believe the aforementioned ‘tension’ really is, and this is what makes the scene so powerful.  Hawkeye and Widow are both vulnerable in their own ways: Hawkeye as he deals with a treachery of trust he cannot undo, and Widow as she is forced to watch him fight through it alone since she has no power to change it.  Both are at their weakest, both lean on each other emotionally, but lightly, while both are still hurt with the great weight of Loki’s machinations on their minds.

Then they pick themselves up to do the one thing that can redeem them in some manner: Go out and stop Loki; Hawkeye to find solace for being turned against his fellow soldiers, Widow for a “red ledger” the audience has yet to get a real glimpse of.

This is what makes the characters hero and heroine, or more simply, Avengers.  They will never stop hurting.  Their respective wounds are too deep and the consequences too high for any human relief.  But they still get up, take up their weapons and fight.  They carry on despite the pain.

That, I believe, is what the true tension between the two is.

Time for me to sign off.  Catch you later, Tony!

Well, of course I’m writing you again.  Who else would I speak to about this sort of story stuff?  Sheesh!