Saturday, June 11, 2005

Exodus

Well, it's official: according to our Crossover Poll, 1997's Genesis is the worst DC crossover in society's living memory (special thanks to author John Byrne). For those whose therapists and psychopharmacologists have successfully erased the memory of the event, it was when the Godwave interfered with the Source, causing the powers of all the super-types to sputter. The the New Gods did stuff.

It would be easy to blame Byrne for the problems with Genesis, but in fact, the problem is with the New Gods, the crazy aunts in DC's attic. Kirby's goofball attempt to re-apply the shallow, one-note character treatment he used on the Newsboy Legion to an entirely new mythology is like watching the Little Rascals perform Wagnerian opera. Well, the Little Rascals all died horrible deaths as if pursued by Freddy Kreuger and no one sane listens to Wagner anymore, but Kirby's Fourth World still stumbles around in the closed circle of its interdimensional cul-de-sac, only to be sobered up and trotted out at Christmas and crossovers by the sentimental elders of DC who read Kirby's creations as ten-year-olds, and so retain an embarrassing fondness for them.

Can't we just sell them to Marvel? They'd fit in so much better there...

Superman Inaction


Action811
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
Ah, Superman; confused about where you are?

I'm confused about where you are, too, Superman.

I used to read the Superman titles, back when they told one big story and each issue had those little triangles on the cover that let you know the proper order to read them in. So tidy.

It wasn't always a great story...Jose's lottery ticket comes to mind. But I enjoyed it, I understood it, and it helped me understand Superman's role in Metropolis.

But that was a long time ago! And I'm afraid that during my recent celebration of "Freed Comic Book" I decided to free all my Superman comics.

I want to enjoy Superman; doesn't everyone? But I haven't for some time. Oh, there's an occasional nice story; I cried at "The Shame of Smallville" Action 791, in July 2002.

I have some theories of my own why I haven't enjoyed Superman lately. But bloggers always go on about their own theories.

You tell me...why haven't I (or you, for that matter) been enjoying Superman?

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Wit and Wisdom of Wonder Woman!

In my on-going attempts to convince you to buy Archive Volumes (I have stock, you know), I present these bon mots from the mouth of Wonder Woman (WW Archive 1).

"Why, Mother, it's lovely!"
That's what Diana says when she first sees her Wonder Woman costume. Feminism, circa 1942. Think Clark said that when Martha first showed him the 'S' ?

"Steve...Steve...I've got to see him... be near him...but how?"

Yes, our girls need a strong independent role model like Wonder Woman!

"Besides your band, we need a hundred pretty girls brave enough to capture dangerous men!"
Geez, Diana, where do you think you are, Central Casting? Can't you get by with one kid sidekick, like the other heroes do?

"I did not tell you to torture this girl!"
Ya see, she gave a Nazi spy over to the Holliday girls who, naturally, blindfolded her and made her crawl around on all fours while they whacked her bum with a wooden paddle and derided her. Then the girl thanked them afterwards. I'd have loved to have locked Marston and Wertham up in a room together and seen who came out alive...

"I submit! Chain me!"
Okay, I really can't say anything about this that hasn't been said before.

"I have to smash these controls! I guess this heavy object will do..."
Lessee, add that to her base damage of 3, plus Close Combat, that's a total of seven clicks...

"What's this letter doing in Lila's desk? I'd better read it!"
Uh, in America, we've got laws against that sort of thing, Princess.

"Let's see you wiggle out of this tie-up, girl-friend!"
I try to find the occasion to say that one at least once a week.

"It can't be legal to deprive poor children of milk!"
Apparently, Paradise Island is communist.

"I've never changed my clothes under milk before!"
This one, I'm afraid, I only got to say once. Well... truthfully, anyway.

"Can't is a word I do not understand!"
Foreign language classes on Paradise Island are pretty rudimentary, I guess.

"Great girdle of Aphrodite! Am I tired of being tied up!"
Wonder Woman; first superhero to break through the fourth wall.

"I'm glad to get my position back, but I envy yours as wife and mother."
Yeah, simply being a superhero and foreign princess must be pretty boring and unfufilling, huh, Diana?

"I hope I wasn't too rough with pussy."
Uh. Uh. Uh...

"I've never disguised myself as an elephant before!"
Sure, Diana, sure... She works that innocent routine, doesn't she?

"But Etta, if you get too fat you can't catch a man!"

GODS, Wonder Woman is an inspiring role model.

"Pardon me, boys; I'm the Chattanooga Choo-Choo!"
Uh, Diana; you really aren't supposed to drink that much champagne at once, Amazon or not.

"Little boys with big mouths must have them stopped up!"
I'm beginning to think I could spend my entire social life simply quoting Wonder Woman.

"What lovely bonds!"
Diana; get help, please.

He scores!


He scores!
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
Boy, howdy, how the boys partied during the Golden Age, you just don't know!

Back in the day, we didn't need Northstar or Midnighter, thank you very much...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Where is Lucius?

I far as I know, the last time Lucius Fox appeared in the Batman comics was in a Scarecrow storyline just before the earthquake that led to No Man's Land. Unrelated to any supervillainous machinations, Fox had a stroke (or was it a heart attack?) and went into a coma. I remember waiting for the resolution of that situation.

I don't think it ever came. To my knowledge, comic book Lucius Fox still lies in a coma six years later while cinematic Lucius Fox takes home six figures. [Please correct me if I'm wrong; I'm worried about Lucius!]

How long will it be before we see Lucius Fox in comic books again, and will his coma be remembered?

Favorite book of the week

The best book I bought at the comic book store this week wasn't a comic book.

It was a crossover of sorts, starring Superman, Jung, the JSA, the X-Men, Descartes, Batman, Aristotle, Spiderman, Kierkegaard, the Fantastic Four, the Martian Manhunter, Nietzsche, Luthor, Bentham, Hawkman, Locke, Galactus, Seneca, the Watchmen, Krona, Kant, St. Augustine, the Flash, Batgirl, the Hulk, Wonder Woman, Homer, Wolverine, Heraclitus, the Spectre, Spinoza, Superboy, Odysseus, the Silver Surfer, Hobbes, Green Lantern, Juvenal, Iron Man, Robin, Dr. Doom, God, Green Arrow,Darwin, Dr. Strange, Gandhi, Daredevil, Nightwing, Freud, Magneto, and Captain Marvel.

You should read it.

Stupid Hero Quote

"Hey, don't bite the bear! Stop that!"

*Sigh*

All I'll tell you is it was NOT Plastic Man who said this one...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I just saw Batman Begins

And I enjoyed it very much! I'll share some impressions that should titillate you without being "spoilers".

I liked Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox more than I expected. Still, the man should drink a little coffee before the cameras start rolling.

I was pleasantly suprised that Gary Oldman was so restrained in his performance as Jim Gordon. I've never before seen him on a set without teethmarks in it.

I like Michael Caine as Alfred even less than I expected. Alfred should sound like David Niven, not Alfred P. Doolittle. Oh, and Michael; learn to tie a tie.

Bale's perfect (except I don't like his "Batman voice").

The Batmobile is just what it needs to be; have faith in the Batmobile.

The woman seemed gratuitous. The kid was definitely gratuitous.

The Scarecrow is not the only Batman villain who appears in the film; a lesser villain appears repeatedly but has no lines.

Now I finally feel I have met Bruce Wayne's father, and adore him.

I was very impressed that Gotham appears to be modeled exactly on the map of Gotham as we know it.

The waterfall is wonderful.

The card is not correct, which is disappointing because there is no reason it shouldn't be.

Bruce Wayne gets the best headline in the film. BY FAR.

This version of Ra's has a more reasonable motive than the comic book version and one much more logically connecting him to Batman.

Best origin of the Batsignal ever.

If you live in Georgetown, the climax of the film will seem familiar.

What the Waynes attend the night of their murder makes more sense than "Mask of Zorro".

The film explains very well why Batman does what he does and why he does it the way he does it.

Some of the symbolic coincidences and expository dialog are a bit heavy handed but not beyond the bounds of a regular comic book.

I look forward to seeing it again and to a sequel.

Blech!

Okay, I can understand liking DC One Million; it was fun and didn't need to be taken seriously to be enjoyed. And, naturally, Invasion and Sins of Youth were great, so they are getting lots of votes.

But Crisis? Blech!

Yes, it was important. But it was AWFUL, folks. Drawn-out and byzantine plot, ridiculous and poorly-motivated villain, parodic ersatz interlocutory characters, eye-painingly complicated artwork, and overblown expository dialog.

I can respect someone liking it despite its faults; but I DARE you to read it again first before you vote on whether you like it...

Crossover Poll


As you may have noticed, our new poll is about DC crossover events. Gosh, there are a lot of them, aren't there? Not all of them were well received, however. In fact, the one thing that stopping us from wiping "Bloodline" completely from our collective consciousness is the fact that one out of five entries in the DC Encyclopedia seems to refer to it.

Please vote for your favorite ones and if you have strong feelings about one of them, share them. If some of them aren't familiar and you want more info, let me know and I'll try to do a post explaining them (though that's not always easy!).

Also, tonight I'll be attending a special screening of Batman Begins over in Georgetown with my friend "Aquafan", courtesy of free tickets from Devon (who is definitely "connected") at Seven Hells. Honestly, I'm not really hyped on hearing Batman's origin yet again. The two page "Batman: Who He Is, and How He Can to Be!" has also been sufficient for me. To me, the painful details of how many pushups and chemistry experiments it takes to become Batman usually serve only to de-mystify and water down the character.

As far as I'm concerned, Ra's Al Ghul might as well be Dr. Tzin-Tzin; just another Fu Manchu rip-off, with all the dramatic trappings and purple dialog of a Republic Serial villain, glossed over with a vague environmental motive. And, I beg you, don't flame me for saying that in an attempt to educate me as to what a wonderful character he is. I read his first story when it was published in 1971 and every story with him in it since then, and my opinion remains unchanged: he's hokier than a team-up between the Human Key and the Signalman.

To top it all off, if I see ONE MORE FILM with mumbling Morgan Freeman (a.k.a. "Easy Reader") in it or bloody Michael Caine, I think I'll be driven mad, sew myself a themed costume off panel, and become The Critic, an anti-movie-themed villain. Yeesh, can't Basil Karlo kill these guys off already? The only other Professionally Ubiquitous Actor the film lacks is Gene Hackman and he's probably standing just off camera in his Lex Luthor ascot, waiting for a walk-on.

With all that off my chest, I've heard nothing but good about the film. Bale is physically believable as Batman, it'll be good to see the Scarecrow, and the film should help the public take comic books more seriously (unfortunately it will have the same effect on comic book fans).

I just hope I'm not bored...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Gone in a Puff of Smoke


second hand'
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.

"Okay," Bruce grumbled inwardly, "second-hand smoke is slow, but it's nearly untraceable, and you're too dumb to notice that I myself never actually smoke the dang pipe..."

hold still


hold still
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.

"Hold still, you little ingrate," Bruce thought, "and I'll make you the sensational character shiskabob of 1940!"

Wha...


wha
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.

"Sniveling little circus trash," Batman spat, "without me you'd be eating porridge at a Dickensian orphanage, so take your hands off my Luis Vitton bat-handbag or I'll slap you so far into next week even Calendar Man won't know how to find you...."

Extinguishing Robin


Extinguishing Robin
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.

"There's not a jury in the world that would convict me," thought Batman, "I can always just blame the Joker..."

Revenge!


clobbering robin
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.

We all know Batman has super-grudge-carrying ability. So did you really think Robin was going to get away unscathed after winning the "Clobbering Batman" poll?

As if.

Stupid Hero Quote


"No man can lick himself, Atom-- and that's what we were trying to do!"



Oh, how ribald! Once upon a time in comics, people could stay thing like this. Now we can't; I blame it on those Beavis & Butthead fellows.

Anyway, this quote is even more ironic that it seems at first...

who said it?

The Queer Machine


The Queer Machine
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
Sometimes, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

The guy in the long-sleeve tee is Cotton Carver, "Defender of Barlunda", a planet where, despite their snappy red tunics and white strap-harnesses, they still need a virile earthman to fend off every little would-be conquerer and tornado tyrant. Yet another Flash Gordon clone, circa 1941. Strange, how common those are.

Cotton, being a Real Man, has no idea what the Queer Machine is for. However, Princess Deela (Cotton, of course, is "dating" the girl whose dad runs the place) seems enthusiatically, almost disturbingly familiar with its function, perhaps from a time predating Cotton's arrival.

Meanwhile, an uncomfortable-looking Nardak, the local toady, tries to blend in the background and pleads the fifth....

Monday, June 06, 2005

In Medias Res

I weighed in on the "One Year Later" matter over among the good folks at the inestimable "Comics Should Be Good" blog, but because the internet is abuzz with this Philly gossip, I feel this need to post about it here, too.

Starting the DCU's storyline one year later is a technique called in medias res, pioneered in Classical epic poetry. Its goal is to engage you immediately by starting in the middle of the action and arousing your curiosity about the sequence of events that lead up to it.

It's a basic literary technique, one that many individual comic book stories use. Its use on so large a scale may seem "gimmicky" to some. But let's remember why Crisis and Zero Hero failed: they were more focused on what they were leaving behind than where they were leading.

While those reboots focused on getting rid of dross, they (it seems) did not have a clear enough plan as to what would come after. As a result, the DCU spun out of control almost a-reborning. I live in Washington DC, where this sort of thing happens all the time. Legislators often pass laws designed only to remedy past problems with little thought to the new problems they will cause. This is what comes of "negative legislation" and its focus on what it doesn't want instead of what it does.

I think Didio and DC have a plan for their new world and the fact that we'll be tuning in a year into it confirms that. This will give them the chance to establish the new status quo and spend some time catching us up to it. Since we, and the writers, will have our hands full talking about how we got where we are, I think editorial will have the opportunity to make sure that any new developments in any one title fit into the overall plan for the DCU.

And I'm on board.

Me, either Vibe!


Me, either Vibe!
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
Despite my best efforts to rig, ah, I mean, my strong publicity campaign, Vibe/Reverb has not won the Comeback Poll, much to his surprise.

Instead, Batwoman is the victor, because (apparently) you people can't get enough of characters with "Bat" in their name...

But that's okay; she and Vibe basically wear the same outfit, anyway.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Superman loses his head


Superman loses his head
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
Nowadays, most covers are designed to make good posters and often have little to do with the story.

In the Bronze Age, covers like this one were designed to arouse your curiosity so that you'd have to buy the comic.

But it would also make a great poster...!

"Luthor!" Batman shouts, "you promised me I'd get a piece..."

How smart is Batman?


diagnosis on the fly
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.

Smart enough...

to correct diagnose a laser wound on a falling girl while flying a spacecraft with ominously tinted windows.

Not even Dr. Scott at Polite Dissent can do that.

special feeling


special feeling
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
According to their by-laws, I have to post something overtly gay to stay in the Gay Bloggers Union.

This should do.

I know how you feel, Barry...

Hal has that effect on lots of people.

Me love Bizarro-Titano


bizarro titano
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.
In my previous post on the Dynastic Centerpiece model, you'll remember I mentioned that sometimes a mythos expands so much it breaks down under its own weight (which we call The Beppo Syndrome).

Case in point: Bizarro Titano (who, you'll notice, has blue kryptonite vision, of course).

You'd surprised how many bar-bets you can win by being able to prove that there WAS a Bizarro-Titano; I made $400 from this sucker in Philly last weekend...

War Update

Thanks to the "Rannian Continuity Bomb", we can now celebrate "Hit a Rannie in the *** 17 times Day". Rannian technology backfires, becoming a greater threat to its populace? Imagine!

Yes, you too, can put a pro-Thanagarian poster in your sidebar; just ask me and I'll send you the code for either poster.

My Spanish spiritual twin, Jotace, has stabbed me in the back by siding with Rann. His facade of neutrality collapsed like a house of cards when ONE commenter forced him to throw in with Rann. That's Rannian backbone for you! Even worse, he developed some very mean (but extremely amusing) anti-Thanagarian propaganda posters; I mean, "A good Thanagarian is a dead Thanagarian"? The calculating cruelty of the cold-hearted Rannies is insufferable! Fortunately, they'll all be gone by the end of the year....

Having successfully composed a Martian Manhunter Theme for SuperHero Radio, I now put a call out for music for Hawkman and the noble people of Thanagar. Will someone else write something? If I were to write something, what should it sound like? Do you know of any music that could serve as inspiration? Let me know! And as always, SuperHero Radio needs donations to remain on the air *sigh*.

As those tuned in to the goings-on yesterday in Philly already know, Carter Hall is dead (again) and Charlie Parker will be filling in as Hawkman (until Carter comes back to life). But that's okay. After all, Thanagar doesn't need a hero from another planet to fight its battles; I mean, how sad would that be?

The Dynastic Centerpiece Model




I started this weblog to air my idea about the "Dynastic Centerpiece" model that DC uses (consciously or not) to help turn its characters into icons. But nobody was reading it back then! So now I'd like to take a minute to bring that idea back to the forefront.

DC is re-applying what I'll call the "Dynastic Centerpiece" model to its icons. In the Dynastic Centerpiece model, a hero is not a single character but the centerpiece of his/her own array of good forces. Using basic concepts (such the Kid Sidekick, the Junior Counterpart, the Black Sheep, the Elder Statesman, the Female Counterpart, the Animal Companion, the Romantic Interest, the Civilian Companion, the Authority Figure, etc.) a constellation of characters is clustered around the central figure, which helps make him/her seem even more important.

Against them is arrayed an "anti-dynasty" of villains similarly created according to familiar archtypes (The Arch Enemy, The Lunatic, the Heroworshipping Villain, the Civilian Enemy, the Untouchable Crime Lord, the Magician, the Evil Opposite, the Femme Fatale, the Mental Challenger, The Physical Challenger, etc).

"Loner characters" not tied in with others are attractive and may have many interesting stories in them. But, because connectivity creates relevance, such characters usually don't feel important. If you eliminate them, nothing happens. If you eliminate a character richly connected with others, their world falls apart, particularly if that character is the centerpiece around which the others revolve. So by making a character a "dynastic centerpiece" and allowing a mythos to accrete around it, DC makes its character seem more important to us. Likewise, because DC head honcho Dan Didio (wisely) wants to re-establish Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman as DC's most important characters, he is remaking the DCU so that its other characters revolve around them.

Each characters dynasty is not a cookie cutter of the others. The model is flexible enough to allow variety and individuality; Black Canary doesn't need a Snoopy Reporter Girlfriend and the Flash doesn't need Zipper the Flashhound. But there are definitely a number of recognizable, broad archtypes that are common in the model, because they flow naturally from the human psyche. Laugh if you want at things like "kid sidekicks", but our innate drive to mythologize a popular character by "filling out the pattern" is pretty strong.

The Golden Age sowed the seeds of the Dynastic Centerpiece (DC) model. It pioneered archtypes like the Girlfriend Who Doesn't Know, the Kid Sidekick, the Funny Friend, and the Civilian Authority. But the DC model came into its own in the Silver Age.

During the Silver Age, the Dynastic Centerpiece model was used to build a mythos around all the characters, as a matter of course. Done right, it can give the character the unstoppable momentum of a freight train. Superman is the most extreme example (for good and for ill), with some of his supporting characters even becoming the centers of their own little dynasties (specifically, Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Krypto, and the Legion). Overdone or done poorly, the DC model can break down under its own weight like an overburdened wagon (we call this the Beppo Syndrome, and it gave the dubious benefits of Element Girl, Vicki Vale, and Zook).

Granted, you may not always like how such a pattern's being use. But, like it or not, characters who lack the pattern have trouble standing on their own. It's no coincidence that the likes of the Atom, Plastic Man, Martian Manhunter, Firestorm, Black Canary, despite their powers and pedigrees, don't carry the weight of icons like Superman or Batman, or that one of the main things that the revivals of Starman and Green Arrow did was to use pre-existing and new characters to "fill out" the pattern as much and as quickly as possible to build a dynasty around their stars.

One of the reasons that the JLA has such mythic power is that we feel it as the gathering of icons each of whom is the centerpiece of its own whole mythos, not just a gathering of individuals (like, say, the Avengers is). During the revitalization of the JSA, the writers/editors have played on this phenomenon by strengthening the ties of each member to larger mythos of which he/she is a part.

So together let's play the Dynastic Centerpiece game! In past posts, linked below, I chatted about the dynasties that exist (or could) around some heroes. What do you think about them? And, if you'd like, let's talk about what other heroes might have beneficial dynasties build around them.

The Martian Manhunter

Jesus (all in good fun, folks!)
Wonder Woman
Flash
Batman
Green Lantern
Black Canary
Animal Man