Monday, June 22, 2009

I Found You In A Chain Of Flowers...Sleeping Like A Marble Girl...Sleeping In Another World...

After nearly a month of journeying through harsh terrain, the party arrives at Shamballah.

After Ollie decks Travis Morgan and just barely avoids getting skewered by Tara's guards for his trouble, the questions are asked; where is the nearest exit out of here and can you magic up some medicine for Mia.

The good news is that the scribes and healers of Shamballah - having access to the ancient powers of Atlantis - know something about HIV. They call it "The Wasting Plague", but the symptoms are the same. What is more amazing is that they have actually devised a cure for the condition.

Naturally, there is bad news too. Quite a lot of it...

1. The Wasting Plague is now so rare that they don't bother to keep the potion/vaccine that cures it handy.

2. The key ingredient of the cure is a flower of a particular species of plant.

3. This particular plant is found only in the darkest part of The Shadow Forest.

Jennifer Morgan is able to weave a spell of stasis around Mia, giving the rest of the team what they need most; time. But even with that problem out of the way, they still need an expert woodsman and survivalist to lead the way into the Shadow Forest. And it would take a trained botanist to distinguish this one flowering plant out of all the others, based on the vague descriptions in the notes of the ancient Atlanteans.

Good thing Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance are there, eh?

Recovering the plant is a tricky business, what with the usual dangers of Skartaris on the way to The Shadow Forest. And then The Shadow Forest has its' own dangers, what with the near-total darkness, cannibalistic natives and man-eating plants.

And then... there's the other, less physical problems once the plant is actually found. Namely... they're sitting on a cure for HIV - what do they do with it? Or more accurately, what CAN they do with it?

Dinah is the first to point out that the plant isn't easy to get by any stretch of the imagination and that as best she can tell, there's not really a way to synthesize or cultivate the plant outside of Skartaris. So mounting regular expeditions from the outside world to gather up however little is left isn't practical, even if you ignore the complications in getting into/out of Skartaris in the first place. So as much as she'd love the credit for "discovering" this amazing plant, she doesn't see how it is practical to reveal the secret to the world.

Connor agrees with Dinah in principle, noting that there's also the issue of just what will happen to Skartaris as a result of the outside world becoming informed of the place. Specifically, what happens when some big business finds out about The Cure and they start rushing in trying to lay a claim on The Shadow Forest. Sure, it is a dangerous inhospitable realm... but everything has its' place and reason for being and even if the rules of Skartaris would allow this sort of thing to happen (they might not - magical realms are funny that way), there are a lot of peaceful natives who would be displaced along with the dinosaurs, cannibals and bad stuff.

Zinda? She's all for loading up a cart full of flowers and giving it the old college try. She's not much for Connor's talk about balance (cute as he is when he gets all serious) and as for Dinah saying it can't be done... well, no harm in trying right?

Mia? She appreciates what Connor and Dinah are saying... but honestly, she can't see how she can do this for herself and not at least make the attempt to bring The Cure to the outside world. Maybe this is how it is supposed to happen? Maybe this is how Skartaris gets dragged into the real world?

Ollie? Well, he sees the wisdom of both paths. Sitting on the cure for a major illness doesn't sit right with him for a lot of reasons. But he trusts Dinah's judgement on how feasible it is and agrees with Connor's points on how they can't foresee the consequences of the outside's world effect on Skartaris, or vice versa.

What do they decide? Good question. Why don't you tell me in the comments? ;)

Either way - with a sample brought home or everyone deciding to leave well enough alone - everyone makes it home okay... just a few days after they left thanks to the wacky way time works in Skartaris.

Mia astounds her doctors with a miracle that is written off as a false positive the first time she was tested.

And on a quiet night a few weeks later when everyone else is on patrol or being babysat elsewhere... Dinah does show Ollie an outfit that Queen Tara had made special for her.

Dinah: "Me Jane. You Tarzan. You never speak of this to ANYONE."

Ollie: "As Mel Brooks said, It's good to be da King of the Jungle."


  1. Tough question.
    I see Ollie deciding to bring the samples of the plant & cure to a company he trusts... maybe Hourman's or Wayne or whatever and letting them try to replicate it. Even if they're not successful they might derive a benefitial drug out of the research.

  2. I don't see the big deal. It's a plant; if it grows in one place, it can grow somewhere else. They don't even need to say it's from Skartaris, Green Arrow and Dinah can say it was given to them by the moon people of Moonia in the province of Moonlandia. Nobody has to know about Skartaris and they can share the cure.

  3. I'm not so much a fan of curing Mia, for similar reasons that I don't think Oracle should be cured. There are precious few characters dealing with illness and disabling factors in comics. And say what you like about Winick's issue-stick bashing in order to give her as much angst as possible, now she has it, I'd like to see it accepted as part of her character, not waved away with magic comic science.
    ....even though this story sounds excellent. Can the cure just not work?

  4. Hmm. Interesting. This poses the classic problem of using comic book science to solve real-world problems. Kinda like how nobody's tried to cyborg Barbara Gordon out.
    ...However, Barb's a more interesting character in a wheelchair, whereas I don't think anyone's really DONE anything with AIDS-Mia anyway. Heck, all I can think of is to make crass Team America jokes. So use the cure, I guess.
    In turn, if I were head editor at DC (ha ha, fat chance), I'd use this as the start of something crossovery- somehow, news of Mia's cure spreads, which sets off "Race to Skartaris!" sort of land-grab by various folks: Checkmate, The League of Assassins, maybe the Secret Six on a treasure-hunting trip, and...I dunno, let's say the Outsiders, too. Everyone trying to carve out their own little colonialist chunk of Skartaris- and likely failing miserably in the process. Doesn't mean it can't be entertaining!
    ...And now I can't help but think of an issue (or maybe a two-parter) that I'd pitch as "Roarke's Drift, only with Dinosaurs." Heh.

  5. I think that's the most likely outcome, probably. Ollie deciding to give it a go but something halting the process so they can't create an instant cure. Maybe the ambiant magic of Skartaris has a hand in making the creative process work?

  6. I don't see the big deal. It's a plant; if it grows in one place, it can grow somewhere else.
    Not neccesarily. Some plants can survive just about anywhere but a lot of them are specifically adapted to climate in which they live. Just as plants have their own optimum temperature range they also have an optimum climate.
    And transplanting plants -even within a certain climate range - is a tricky business even under optimial conditions.
    Trying to get a plant out of the Shadow Forest of Skartaris and back to the real world isn't "optimial conditions" by any stretch of the imagination. And there aren't a lot of portable hot-houses in Skartaris. And drying the plant flowers to preserve them might ruin the cure.
    They don't even need to say it's from Skartaris, Green Arrow and Dinah can say it was given to them by the moon people of Moonia in the province of Moonlandia.
    Except that Hal will quirk an eyebrow and shout "What? Everybody knows Moonia has Parishes, not Provinces!" And the whole ruse will be blown. Because Hal's an idiot like that.
    Good to see you back, by the way. I was hoping to get your opinion on all of this.

  7. I don't necessarily think that they would let the outside world in general know, but they would get the word out to the hero community. Their friends and families include some of the wisest, smartest, and most powerful people on the planet. Calling a confab and letting the secret out there serves to protect Skartaris whilst simultaneously getting something done to cure AIDS. I think that they would bring back a few samples: some for the magi, some for the scientists, and some for the Green Lanterns (including Alan).
    You know, I'd so do this if only so we could see Superman work on it in the Super Science Lab in the Fortress of Solitude!
    The problem with this solution is that it destroys the drama of the situation, but I think that it makes more sense from a character perspective. Dinah is a niece to the old-time JSAers, and has long experience with the League (which she now leads) and the Birds. She knows the value of collaboration, and unlike certain of her peers she doesn't have an "I must do this myself" mentality. There are times when going to others is the right course of action, and this is one of them.
    Well, that's the catch-22 with a lot of these stories; if the characters used all the resources they had, all the time, there'd be very little drama. There was a video recently which showed how ludicrously short The Dark Knight would have been with Superman around to help Batman find The Joker in seconds, pull him away from his bomb triggers before he could blow anything up and then toss him into space so he's never a problem again.
    Of course we all know Superman would never actually DO that... but there's no reason why he couldn't do the "super-hearing" thing to locate Joker and save Bruce a lot of time beating up random thugs asking where The Joker is hiding.
    After all, there is Mia to consider. This isn't just some one-time situation that they managed to exploit in their favour. There are major complications to be managed, but a cure is still potentially viable, and they all know it.
    And that's the drama I want to push here. Yes, they can cure Mia forever and that's all well and good. But can they honestly sit on the knowledge even if trying to make the cure available to all might cause greater problems and destruction in the long run?

  8. Hmm. Interesting. This poses the classic problem of using comic book science to solve real-world problems. Kinda like how nobody's tried to cyborg Barbara Gordon out.
    Oh, I know. I understand the real world reasons why Barbara hasn't been healed - both because she's an inspiration to handicapable comic fans and because she's much more interesting as a character with her disability. But logically, there's no reason in-universe why Barbara shouldn't have been cured by now given how well connected she is. Heck, even if you ignore the advanced alien technology the JLA has access to...
    * The Rannians can grow back whole bodies
    * Thanagarian Nth metal has healing properties
    * John Stewart's paralaysis was healed by an infusion of Green Lantern energy
    ... there's still a host of options in the Bat universe.
    * Lazarus Pit (Sure, prolonged use causes insanity, but Dinah has been dipped in once and she's been doing okay)
    * Shondra Kinsolving - the healer who cured Bruce in Knightfall, who apparently recovered her mental regression to childhood and was in Hush.
    * The Holy Grail - Bruce came into ownership of it briefly in one story (maybe an Elseworlds) and his first thought was to use it to heal Barbara. He eventually gave it to Superman to hide in the Fortress of Solitude, but I don't think Clark would object to giving it back to try this.
    The reasons they've given for why Babs hasn't explored these options range from populism ("I won't stand on my own two feet until everyone else can do it the same way" - Birds of Prey) to not wanting to get her hopes up about a cure that might not work (Batman: The Chalice). I think the former is the best and most logical way, since I've known too many disabled people to think that there's anyone who would say no to a chance at a cure for their condition because they don't want to get their hopes up.
    And I like how Gail Simone handled it in Birds of Prey, with Barbara undergoing a special surgery and getting some motion back in her toes. A slow but steady start... but there is hope.
    Whew. Wrote a lot more there than I intended. Let's do a second reply for the rest of your post, since I suspect we're going to get a lot of replies on the Babs comparison.

  9. ...However, Barb's a more interesting character in a wheelchair, whereas I don't think anyone's really DONE anything with AIDS-Mia anyway.

    That's why I decided to do a storyline whee Mia's HIV is cured, actually - precisely because nobody HAS done anything with it.
    Even after the Very Special Episode in which Mia was diagnosed, Winick didn't do anything with it other than the Teen Titans issue where Mia worries about telling her new teammates and finds out that - awwwww - the accept her for who she is anyway.
    And I can't think of anything I can do with it other than faux-drama - "Oh noes! Mia has been taken hostage and is off her meds! How will she get out of this one?!"
    So rather than mess with that, I'd rather do one very cool story which I've always wanted to do (Green Arrow in Skartaris) and use that as the means to an end.
    And as for the rest of it... I'd love to see one big-ol' crossover with everyone and their mother coming into Skartaris, annoying Warlord and just generally causing problems. :)

  10. Please excuse me commenting with a roleplay journal - this is still but I'm unwilling to log out to comment.
    I just wanted to say - thanks for your reply. I was nodding along fully as I read it. :D

  11. It's good to give superheroes handicaps and whatnot, but I always felt HIV shouldn't be given to a character who wants to continue their superhero career. Giving her a cure has the problem of being too simple or world changing, but you set up a good dilemma.
    Reading a kind of story like this, I'd expect for them to try and get some of the cure out (I think I'd personally agree with Zinda), and it would turn out either the flowers can't exist outside Skartaris (and there'd be some reason people couldn't go there en masse) OR something happens that destroys the last of them after Mia is cured.

  12. maybe they're like the flower's from 52 that would have curred charlies cancer, but disitigrated outside of their natural enviroment. that's belivable (for a comic book)

  13. Oh, I could do that easily. But I'd rather provide a more logical, thoughtful discussion of the issues than just hand-wave away why we can't make this commonplace.