Saturday, July 09, 2005

Stupid Hero Quote

"Good gosh! These lovely crystal gardens are shattering -- apparently at the mere sight of me!"

Hmm. Perhaps some heroes aren't as pretty we think!

What hero had such a big impact, made such a shiny mess, and said such a stupid quote?

Guest Star Poll Results: The Phantom Stranger

I'm suprised (but shouldn't be) that the winner of our Favorite Guest Star Poll turned out to be the Phantom Stranger.

It makes sense. Although virtually nothing is know about the Phantom Stranger (other than that he favors Wendy's), he was designed to be a guest star; it's what he does.

"Stop," commanded the Stranger. "The decision you make now could affect your life, the lives of others... the fate of the world! If you choose wisely, things will be good. If you choose poorly, things will be bad. You have been warned, but I can help you no further for I am no friend, merely... a stranger."

Uh, thanks, PS. Now that you've reaffirmed my belief in the radical theory of "cause and effect", can I get back to perusing the menu in peace? I hope my choice of Combo Meal 4 with Dr. Pibb won't collapse the multiverse...

The man was basically a guest star in his own title, always lurking about as a shadow on the wall. That's how all the spooky comics worked back in the day. Some overarching interlocutory force (Cain or Abel, the Cryptkeeper, the Three Witches, Fate) was used to give a sense of continuity to one-shot EC style stories. Phantom Stranger was the most "pro-active" and actually appeared in the stories, but he's a comic book Greek chorus. He comments on the action, warns people, helps readers understand what's at stake and how they should feel about it. But in the end, the characters' fates are in their own hands, not his.

He has been traipsing around the DCU, as hard it is to believe, since 1952. Hard to believe because the character resists even well-meant attempts to give him backstory, explanation, or context. Those are just stories to him, and he remains exactly as unknown and unknowable as he was 50 years ago. But all that walking must be tiring....

The Black is Back


Manta, that is.

He's spiffy. He's wicked. He's radical.
You think his ideology's outmoded?
You think his costume's silly?
You think he's "lame"?

Look at the man. I've got news for you:
Black Manta doesn't give a flying fish what you think.

While you're laughing at him, he's planning on forcing you to fight your best friend to the death as your baby suffocates in front of your eyes.

If you aren't reading Aquaman, then do. It's all coming together.
Sub Diego and Atlantis. Aquaman's son, Koryak (woof!), and Lorena the Aquagirl. ProGeneTech and Black Manta. Esther Maris and Arthur Curry. Captain Malrey and Dr. Geist.

The labcoat is off, and Aquaman's mythos has turned a corner with this issue. It's not that anything huge happened (except the seamonster attacking the pipeline, but you'll have to read that for yourself), but Aquaman's world just seemed to finally all click into place.

When I read Aquaman this month, it finally felt like it feels when you read a Batman story: it cohered. You know the character, you know his world and the other players, but you still don't know what's going to happen.

Rick Veitch, Peter David, Grant Morrision, et al., were focused, I think, on trying to turn Aquaman into some other character (He's King Arthur underwater! He's the Mysticky Aquarian! He's the Rule of 3/4 of the Planet! He's the conceptual love-child of Namor and Captain Ahab!) because, at heart, they are embarrassed about what he is.

He's Aquaman. He's got power over the things that live in the sea and he protects people and things that live in, on, or by the sea. That's quite a lot and it's quite enough and his monthly title now proves that.

Despite some editorial/authorial bumps along the way ("Gibberish!"), DC finally has people who are building a world, a story around Aquaman himself (thanks to WILL PFEIFFER, whose genius made it all possible and who has gotten too little recognition and gratitude for it), instead of making up some story they find interesting while trying to shoe-horn Aquaman in as the supposed central character.

And, lo and beyond, build a mythos around a character instead of trying to graft him onto one and it actually works. Someone should write about that.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Get this!

I don't want to be mean about the F4 film. Really. As much as I dislike Marvel, I believe that every comic book movie that does well makes the next one more likely to be made, and so I wish all comic-based films well.

Also, I know that "civilians" often don't "get it" when it comes to comic book movies. For example, a local, usually comic-friendly publication in my city dissed Batman Begins because it wasn't "fun and bright". *Sigh*.

Nevertheless, I can't help but feel the force of these remarks from a review I stumbled across today through the help of the Great Curve:

"Get this! Only one of the Fantastic Four is happy to have superpowers. The others grumble and complain. What makes them so fantastic? I’ll never pick up a FANTASTIC FOUR comic book."

Out of the mouths of comic-book babes! If anyone wants to understand what my beef with Marvel is....

there it is.

The Real Reason I Hate Green Arrow!


Before, I didn't like Green Arrow. I have sinced learned from So So Silverage that he WAPPED my beloved Vibe. Now, I HATE him with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.

Yesterday, my custom Vibe heroclix arrived. And Monday night when Devon of Seven Hells puts Green Arrow on the board, I will have only one goal in mind...

Villains United (except for their body parts)


Geez, you two, just get a room already!

Just when you thought the budding homoerotic relationship between Catman and Deadshot (pointed out so accurately by my fellow members of the Gay Bloggers Union at So So Silverage) couldn't get any steamier, we discover this week that Deadshot insists on doing it without all that "mushy stuff" (probably insists on wearing the mask!). Have you ever seen a couple so afraid of their softer sides? Pathetic. Between these two and the Ragdoll / Parademon couple, we're closer to the Fab Five than the Secret Six!

Anyway, as So So Silverage points out plenty to enjoy in this week's comics! So much I can't put it all in one post.

VILLAINS UNITED

It's the little things that I love about this title, and I don't just mean Dr. Psycho! Things like "Metropolopoly", Ragdoll's tendency toward polite understatement, Tysonization as a method of attack (Fatality is really bad at keeping her body parts), the ease with which Schickel-goober Captain Nazi is played, and the Single Greatest Use of the Injury to the Eye Motif since the Comics Code was lifted (and it couldn't have happened to a nice guy).

Still, in a book full of broken arms and damaged sense organs, the most disturbing thing was the conversation between Luthor and Black Adam. We finally see that Black Adam is severely naive and easily disillusioned, underscored by Val Semieks' visuals wherein it's suddenly clear how much Black Adam looks like Captain Marvel. Wow.

One question though; isn't Knockout oddly squeamish for a former Female Fury? That's just out of character, Simone!

Starman Provides My Birthday List

DRAMA! = STARMAN!

For some readers, drama is a spice, whose judicious use renders savory a solid meal of a well-done slab of plot with a healthy side of characters. But if you're a reader of STARMAN....

Drama's a drug, baby, and you mainline it, you snort that smack right up the nose. Who cares about getting three square storylines a day, I got my high-qual drama fix, man, and this ain't that cheap Wolfman crap you find on Titan Street that's been stepped on 10 times and strung out over 24 issues, this is the pure Starman stuff, and you can't handle much more than a panel at a time.

Hooded, robed masterminds directly menacing you through the fourth wall!

Sarcophagal emergences!

And Minion Injunctions so high-octane you just ... can't read them... without SHOUTING!

"THOUGHT-ROBOTS! SEIZE HIM!"

My birthday's July 20, folks, and I only want three things:
  1. A purple floor-length tunic with matching hood ensemble.
  2. A standing sarcophagus (with squeaky hinges), size 42 short.
  3. Thought-Robots ... at least six of them.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Plotclix!

There's some big Heroclix announcement today, so (whatever it is) I'll celebrate by imagining:

Plotclix, with its new starter set "DC Writer Icons"!

Morrison.

Perplex, down the dial, since that's all he does to readers. Hypersonic Speed, because the ideas hit and run away so fast that you almost don't haven't enough time to recognized how half-baked they are. Almost.

Johns.
Outwit, because, although so many of his solutions seem obvious IN RETROSPECT, I've never yet figured any out in advance! He also has Support (better known as healing) because he can take characters that have been essentially kayoed and put them back on the board strongly than ever.

Loeb.

Energy explosion, because every action has lots of splash that touches lots of figures but without much impact; and Green Lantern Team Ability, because every plot carries along at least 8 unnecessary adjacent characters.

Rucka.
Mastermind, because the damage in his plots always gets passed along to lots of low-cost generic figures whose names you don't know.

Winick.
The Legion "wildcard" TA, because he has no plot of his own, only plots copied from someone else.

Kirby.

Charge! Close combat expert!! You ask, oh faithful reader,why?! Because his stuff has a fast punch up front, but if you take only one step back it becomes meaningless.

Greyson.

Exploit weakness. She grabs on to a character and wears them away by picking at their defenseless "inner selves", click after click after click.

Jimenez.

Imperviousness. No one, but NO ONE, can get through that prose and even if they did, he'd elude your understanding with his "im-probability roll".

Pfeiffer.
Long-range combat expert. It takes him a while to set up the shot, but when it hits, it's dead on and devastating!

Byrne.
Poison. If you let him get close to your character, he'll poison it slowly from within until it's an unrecognizable shadow of its original self.

How Smart is Batman?


How Smart is Batman?

Smart enough to have mastered the arcane techniques of the Kiss of Death ... AND make you thank him for it, too!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Anti-Arrow Rampage!


OR,

You could go to school or get a job or be a superhero on your own two feet or at least friggin' sit up straight as if you had a backbone!

I'm sick of the Arrow Family ("the Green Team"). Sick of their whiny excuse-making and self-righteous finger-pointing. Sick of their lecturing others while littering the globe with their illegitimate children. Sick of their cheating on their girlfriends, being prostitutes and junkies, trying to be "cool" instead of effective, being victims of modern socially relevant problems, fighting non-deadly crimes with deadly weapons, their eighth-rate "rogues", their prissy facial hair, their greed, their gullibility, their self-centeredness. They are the embodiment of all that has gone wrong with our culture in the last century, both inside and outside of comic books.


Except for Connor Hawke. I like him. He's cute.

Green Like Me

Over at Seven Hells, the recent article on Black superheroes (as well as the fine new blog, Glyphs, which focuses on black characters in comics) has inspired me to post yet another idea for the Martian Manhunter (whose lack of a title or even a backup series annoys me).

J'onn J'onnz should be black.

That is, his secret identity should be black. I believe that in Morrison's "White Martian" JLA storyline, it was established or strongly implied that Green Martians were the Black people of Mars. With that as background, JJ can be conceived of as identifying more easily with a secret identity as a black man (to the degree that someone as alien as he can identify with any "earthling").

Even within DC's fuzzy chronology, I think it's fair to say that J'onn was around during at least some of the "Civil Rights Era"; that's got to leave an impression on a guy, particularly one who's just arrived from another planet.

What's more, some people who erreth not but shall remain nameless, have suggested headquartering J'onn (who desperately needs a fictionopolis of his own) in a reintroduced Federal City, with its large black community. Interesting! There are dumber things the JLA could do than put its telepath in the center of the capital of the free world...

So--for the Manhunter at least-- is Green the new Black, as another blog is fond of saying?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Two-sided Coins


The heart of what makes many characters interesting is some kind of inherent contradiction.

Two-Face is simply the most obvious example. Is he good or evil? A force for order or for chaos? The only answer is "yes". Our unending fascination with Two-Face is based on our fascination with humanity, with ourselves. Are we angels or apes?

Batman. Upholder of the law or self-appointed vigilante? Brilliant psychological warrior or maladjusted control freak? Loner or general? A comfort or a terror? Ninja, detective, or superhero?

Superman. Naive farmboy or worldly reporter? The American Way or visitor from a distant planet? Regular guy blessed with extraordinary abilities or extraordinary being pretending it's a regular guy? Meek and mild-mannered or the guy with the angry red eyes?

Wonder Woman. Ambassador of peace or butt-kicking warrior woman? Loving and supportive nurturer or preachy arbiter of unrealistic standards of living? Ideal feminist or feminine ideal? The woman every man wants or the woman every man's afraid of?

The Joker. Comedian or killer? Force of chaotic nature or just another scarred nutjob? Comic relief or the most terrifying serial killer ever conceived? Brilliant and eccentric criminal egotist or pathetic demon-driven madman?

Lex Luthor. The avatar of human ambition or symbol of human pettiness? Defender of the common man or enemy of society? Superboy's friend or Superman's enemy?

Catwoman. Indepedent defender of the weak or self-centered bitch? Villainess or adventuress? Love interest or public enemy?

Mxyzptlk. Pest or teacher? Comic book character or meta-fictional commentator? Silly imp or omnipotent god?


But I could go on like this all day. If you'll think about your own favorite characters, you'll probably discover that there's some sort of inherent contradiction built in to them, and, therefore, an inherent tension. Instinctively, we view the "sides" of their personalities as unreconcilible (even when intellectually we know better!). We tune in to the adventures of such characters not only to watch them come into conflict with each other but to watch them come into conflict with themselves. That way, they are interesting in themselves, not merely as stock figures in a literary Heroclix game of Good Guys versus Bad Guys. It also makes them adaptable to changing times and circumstances; the history of the characters is the course of their vacillations between their various "sides".

Conversely, if you think about what some characters are missing and why they aren't as interesting as you'd like them to be, you'll probably find that no one's explored their inherent contradictions much. The current Flash is an example for me. To me, Wally West is just ... Wally West. If they worked the "blue collar by day, iconic superhero by night" routine a bit more, I might be more interested. What Johns failed to accomplish for me on the Flash he is succeeding with on Green Lantern. Hal Jordan is an obedient soldier and a rebel, a noble hero and a conceited jackass, an unimaginative dullard and a master tactitian, one of the superhero community's most and least respected members. In short, he's what you get if you roll John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner into one.

Comments?


Sunday, July 03, 2005

C.A.W.!


If Aquaman can fight an Acronym of Evil (the ridiculously named O.G.R.E., the Organization for General Revenge and Enslavement), then Hawkman can, too!

In the mid 1960s, American culture was caught in the "spy craze" (James Bond, Man from UNCLE, Get Smart, etc.), and, while more stolid heroes like Superman and Batman were immunely set in their story-telling ways, lesser lights like Aquaman and Hawkman were refreshingly subject to such fads.

And so, Hawkman and Hawkgirl worked with the CIA to fight... C.A.W.! The Criminal Alliance of the World had agents dressed like crocodiles and other Egyptian animal avatars, faux magus staffs that shot out colored flames (oooOOO!) or ill-defined "rays" (how very Marvel!), and a convoluted plan to conquer the world by acquiring the scientific secrets of the ancients.

Personally, I'm not sure I'd found a billion-dollar worldwide criminal organization to acquire the scientific secrets of people who never quite mastered indoor plumbing, particularly if I already had a staff that shot out colored flames (I mean, what could be more impressive than that?). But that mix of ancient archeology and imagery, high-tech gadgetry, and the organized cops versus organized crime dynamic was the crux of the attractive strangeness of the Silverage Hawkman.

Don't laugh at C.A.W., man! Remember the teleporters on the old JLA satellite? Where do you think they came from? C.A.W., buddy, C.A.W. When the Hawks confiscated the remains of the Twin Dogs of Sebek, an ancient teleportation device, Thanagarian scientists were able to use them to crack the secret of teleportation, a technology they shared with the JLA. [Did Rann ever give the JLA a zeta beam, or even a jet pack? No.]

C.A.W. had anti-grav guns, acid-bubble bazookas, explosive particlizers, and protonic amplifiers. Hot dang! Laugh at my crocodile-head mask, bub, and I'll dissolve your arms with acid bubbles, explode the particles of your legs, and float your screaming torso out over the Pacific. Then I'll go to your house and repeatedly amplify your wife's protons, pal, so don't mess with C.A.W.!

Even with all that going for them, C.A.W., like O.G.R.E., only appeared in 3 or 4 Silverage stories. *Sniff*!

This is the part of the post where you expect me to call for the return of C.A.W. Wrong! C.A.W. has already returned. JSA All-Stars #2 (July 2003) revealed that they were still around and still pestering the Hawks...

Clearly, it's C.A.W. who's hired all the old Hawk-villains to kill him. Yes. Clearly.