Saturday, February 11, 2006

Skeets' Rooting

One of my favorite aspects of Infinite Crisis is the return of Skeets.

Skeets, as anyone knows, is one of the greatest DCU characters of all time. The absence of Skeets has held back Booster Gold from greatness, and there's no surer sign of DC's committment to boosting Booster than the return of Skeets. Even if you don't know him from the 1980s Booster Gold series, and you've only seen him in the IC or on JLU, I think you'll understand.

So we need a Skeets pog to bring the Booster Gold Heroclix figure to greatness, don't we?

Skeets is designed to kick your butt. Not directly, of course; indirectly, through helping Booster.

Each level (Rookie, Experienced, and Veteran) has the Police Team ability, with which Skeets can increase Booster's Attack Value (as long as they stick together). Similarly, each has Enhancement, for augmenting Booster's Damage Value. In fact, the only difference among the versions is their Defense. The naive Rookie is easiest to take out, because he's not thinking about defending himself. The Experienced one's got more of a sense of self-preservation and uses his sensory arrays as Supersenses, making him a harder target to hit. The Veteran's gone beyond mere self-preservation and uses his Defend to help protect Booster.

With Skeets, you can, for 5 to 11 points, put a little Booster back in your Heroclix game! Play fair, though; only use Skeets with Booster... and only one at a time!

BHM 11: Tooth!


Tooth! My main man!

Our worlds are defined not just by their star players, but by their supporting characters, too, so we should all recognize Tooth during Black History Month. As far as I know, Tooth is not only the DCU's first black Denominated Henchman, he's the first one who is a recurring character. AND he works for the Joker. You rock, Tooth.

When the Joker became the star of his own series in 1975-76, he needed a supporting cast, which included his hapless former guards at Arkham (Benny Khiss and Marvin Fargo), and his three henchman, Blue-Eyes the Dumb Italian Guy, Southpaw the Smart Blond Guy, and Tooth the Generic Black Guy. Southpaw's in the back of that picture; Blue-Eyes is off-camera, getting run over by a truck because he asked the Joker a stupid question. When you work for the Joker, you don't have to wait for your annual review to get feedback on your job performance.

We don't know a lot about Tooth, like his last name, his background, or whether he ever wears anything other than that same blue leisure suit and black turtleneck. If you ask me, he's got to be pretty darned impressive to have survived working with the Joker for at least 10 years. Tooth needs some fanfic. If he were a Star Wars character, he'd already have 8 novels, 5 action toys, 2 fan clubs, and a video game voiceover by Khary Payton.

Dan Didio! Bring back Tooth; although he's a crook, he is an unsung hero of black comic book characters!

I must tell you ... Clue Number Five!


I didn't want to share with you the Top Ten Clues You're In A Silver Age Justice League Story.

Notsoinanimation,

Marshalation,

Serialocution,

Superspinning --

I wanted to keep them a secret, but I-- I had to tell you. I couldn't stop myself, for some reason. Apparently, I'm suffering from...

Strange-Compellification!


Yes, it's true: half the time, the Silver Age Justice Leaguers had no idea what they were doing or why because they were suffering from "strange compulsions". As opposed to their regular compulsions? It's not something I want to think about.

Where are we going? What are we doing? Why is this happening?
Sometimes it's almost as if they were talking to the writers.

"Instead of running as I ought to do -- I'm rolling over and over!
What sort of world am I on?"

I dunno, Diana; Fanfemina 5, the World of Lesbian FanFic?

The Leaguers aren't stupid, though; they used to work it.
  • "Oh, Robin and I saw the red light, officer, but I was being strangely compelled."
  • "Great Rao, you know I'd never touch you that way normally, Diana, but I was strangely compelled."
  • "Dude! I was so strangely compelled last night! I don't remember anything we did; do you?"
  • "I'm sorry, GL, but I was strangely compelled to hit you in the head with that business phone book. Repeatedly. While laughing. And Arthur was compelled to video it. Into a live internet-feed."
Clever JLAers, always turning potential disadvantages to their favor! So inspiring. My heroes.

What's that, Hal? That "queer light" is compelling you to pick up men and carry them to seaside vacation resorts? Of course, it is, dear; nice role-playing. Whatever helps you sleep at night (or the day after).

So... a Queer Light, huh? GOT to get myself one of those...

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Red Hood

I see that the Red Hood is not getting as much love in Custom Heroclix Poll as the other candidates. But, you know what? The Red Hood doesn't care. Why?

Because he's going to kill you, and he's already headed this way...
How... how can this be? He's running last place in the poll, yet ... there he is, already made.

Isn't it obvious? The Red Hood cheats.

Oh, in case you are wondering, he's on the Rookie Joker dial from the Icons set, so he's a very straightforward figure to play.

Whose your favorite black male superhero?

There's a poll currently running on "Your Favorite Black Male Superhero"? Mr. Terrific is in the lead.

Black Lightning 3%
Falcon 19%

Mr. Terrific 28%

Luke Cage 22%

Cyborg 9%

Triathalon 0%

The Spectre 3%

Patriot 0%

Green Lantern John Stewart 9%

Blade 0%

Steel 3%

Cloak 3%

Amazing Man 0%

No one's voted for Triathalon or Amazing Man? Astonishing.

BHM 10: Mr. Bones


Okay, if there are people who didn't know Croc was black, are there also people who don't know that Mr. Bones, the director of DEO, is black?

Probably. He's another one of those characters whose race is (suspiciously?) obscured by his powers or costume.

I can't stand Mr. Bones. Those of you who know him only as Director of DEO won't understand that. Those of you who remember him from Infinity Inc. will understand that.

Three guesses who created/designed him. HINT: does he remind you of anyone?

In additional to the absurdity of his design, uselessness of his powers (a cyanide touch? invisible skin? WTF?), he came with horribly off-putting "character touches" like the cigar (how many 20-year-olds smoke cigars, for pete's sake?), a smart mouth, and talking in rhyme.

I'll repeat that. Mr. Bones talked in rhyme. Always. For no reason. In the real world, people who try to pull stuff like that -- well, there aren't any, but if there were they'd get beaten up twice daily (unless they had a convenient cyanide touch, I suppose). Rhyming is bad enough, since rhyme is the McDonalds in poetry's restaurant row, and is usually absent or used lightly in real poetry. But, let me tell ya, A.E. Housman wasn't writing Bones' dialog, so every word balloon was with filled with sub-Hallmark, arhythmic doggerel that made you embarrassed to know English.

If DC gave me the task of creating a character that would annoy the maximum number of readers possible as consistently as possible, I would create Mr. Bones. Oh, and for those who are wondering, his leg was eaten by shark. Who was his adopted brother. You don't really want to know.

I hate the fact that he appears to have been editorially made the director of DEO simply because he looks dramatic, without any evidence or background that would prepare him (a former kidnapper!!!) for the position. Okay, DC, you really shouldn't have to live in Washington to know that the heads of national security agencies aren't people under 30 who didn't go to college.

Anyway, now that I think about it ... perhaps it's better if no one knows Mr. Bones (jeez, give the guy a first name!!!) is black.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Can Hal Jordan Dance?

Can Hal Jordan dance? Yes.

Didn't expect that, did you? But the evidence is there. Hal Jordan used to take Carol Ferris out dancing a lot. So did Green Lantern. In costume. Sigh. I dont' know who's stupider, Hal or Carol.

In fact, Hal used to go dancing so much that Fred Hembeck once made fun of him for it.

Now, it goes without saying Hal's not a "shake your groove thang" kind of dancer. Nothing fast; no Jitterbug or Swing. Trust me, he's not going to go arm-waving at the Clubs with Kyle. The general rule is Hal can do any limited motion patterned dance that people do while wearing white dinner jackets. You know. The Mambo, Salsa, Cha Cha Cha, that sort of thing. Anything that lets him grab the wasplike waist of the closest available stewardess.

Picture it something like this...

How can Hal, clumsiest superhero of all time, be such a dancer? There are several things that make it possible. One, the woman is always close enough to help steady him, or catch him if need be. Two, dance floors are big, open spaces without a lot you can hit your head on. Three, he uses the ring to "fly" for a sec when he loses his footing. Four, simple dances with simple repeated patterns; not a lot a repeatedly bashed brain has to remember. Five, Hal only dances "Pre-Making-Whoopie" dances, which motivates him highly and helps him focus.

But yellow ceiling tiles are ALWAYS a potential problem...

"Local Boy Makes Good"

Hey, I'm in the paper today.

Oh, but for the record,
we prefer to be called "Pharoah Ants"....

BHM 9: Killer Croc


Yes, Killer Croc is black. Don't feel bad if you didn't know. A lot of people don't know, and others have simply forgotten.

That's because of Waylon's skin condition. Yes, Waylon Jones. Killer Croc has a real name, not that anyone writing in the last 10 or 15 years can be bothered to remember it.

At one time, he was a black guy, with a rough upbringing due a skin condition that made him a "crococile boy" sideshow freak, who eventually turned to crime. He wasn't a nice person, but he was a person.

He was more than just a thug, too. In fact, after he was introduced as a gangland enforcer he rose to become a big Gotham ganglord; he was the Black Mask of his day. He was clearly in the Gotham tradition of tortured soul turned to a depraved life, like many a great villain.

Then writers got lazy. His teeth got pointy. He got stupid. He started living in sewers. He started eating people (blech). All attempts at portraying him as a fallen person -- or a person at all -- were abandoned. He devolved (as Devon of Seven Hells well described it) into a Spider-Man animal of the month villain.

I really don't want to think that black characters are more likely than others to be used or suffer changes in a way that obscures their race to the reader. But things like What's Happened to Croc really give me pause... .

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Oh ... there's the sword...


I like the logo for the new Aquaman series. It's a strong homage to the original Aquaman logo, adding a smidgen of weight to my pet theory that the Aquaman in the new series in the Golden Age one, somehow back in the DCU after the New Crisis.

But, uhm...

given that the middle "A" mimics the symbol on Aquaman's belt and the whole subtitle and, well...

doesn't it seem rather... naughty?

Monkey Business


Over at Big Monkey, new discussion have begun about

Whether female superheroes fare better than male ones in the romance department

and

this whole flap of Marvel not starring gay characters because it would require their MAX label.

Oh, and we are still soliciting more entries in the Name That Monkey contest (with a prize of a $50 gift certificate).

BHM 8: The Spectre

"Brother Power" ain't a geek no more, folks...

By all the Stanleys, dead and gone...



Something about the scene in JSA Classifed #8 where Ted and Jay go to Zatanna's NYC apartment had been bugging me, specifically, "Sheri Stanley", the woman who's looking after Zatanna's cat. She seemed ... familiar.

So, on a hunch, I looked in some old comics with Zatanna in them. Sure enough, there was Sheri Stanley, living at Zatanna's place ...

over 20 years ago. While Zatanna was in Detroit (throwing herself at Dale Gunn).

Which just goes to show you...

For every old comic book you've throw out or forgotten about, there's at least one writer who didn't.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

BHM 7: Lucius Fox


Have you seen this man?

Once upon a time he was Lucius Fox, CEO or CFO (or something like that) for Wayne Enterprises, the guy who really ran the gazillion dollar worldwide financial empire, that employs thousands, creates new technology for the improvement of society, and changes the lives of millions with its philanthropy and responsible development, while its owner dresses like a bat and chases guys in green leotards covered with question marks.

He's so important that Hollywood's Black Actor With The Most Gravitas, Morgan "Easy Reader" Freeman, played him. At least, I think that was Lucius; I can't hear anything Freeman mumbles, and I've seen his last 30 films, all of which came out last year. Even the one with the penguins.

Anyway, Lucius Fox is really good at what he does. So good that no one's seen him do it for years. Yes, while millions of people learned to like Lucius from Batman Begins, he's been virtually absent from the Batman comics for, gosh, since before No Man's Land. I mean, this is the guy Ralph Ellison was writing about.

Have you seen Lucius Fox? Contact the authorities immediately.

I am Curious (Black) Week, 3: Haikuesday!

Having just survived a gunfire attack that felled heroic but imprudent street activist Dave Stevens, who lies in critical condition in a nearby hospital room, and having lost her hat, Lois, who should be writing all this down for her next Pultizer ("and the prize for Telling It Like It Is goes to ... Miss Lois Lane!"), chooses instead to harangue Superman about not marrying her.

This is why she is Lois Lane, and you are not.

Anyway, now that she's a streetwise black woman instead of a thoughtless pampered white woman, she realizes, "Hey, Superman's full of hooey! Why do I keep falling for his tergiversatory evasions?" Lois likes to use words like tergiversatory; it's part of how you get Pulitzers.

Why, Lois, you ask? Why do you fall for this line of malarky?

You know I couldn't
risk placing you in deadly
danger from my foes.


The answer: subliminal super-haiku. "No, Lois; these aren't the droids you're looking for..." Dang, Superman is a sneaky three-eyed kryptonian babootch!

Lois is too flustered to reply in haiku; can you help her with one of your own?

Monday, February 06, 2006

BHM 6: Shondra Kinsolving


Do not lie. Do not pretend that you do not know who she is. I know you do.

Doctor Shondra Kinsolving is the physical therapist who helped Bruce get better after Bane broke Batman's back. Gods, I hate that stupid story.

Anyway, she just happened to have psychic healing powers; you know, the kind that can magically heal broken backs, since that's pretty much medically impossible? And she had an evil, white brother, which is very embarrassing. I have several myself.

She was also Bruce's lover (or was it just an unconsummated romantic interest? Who can say?). Setting aside the horrendous impropriety of that, it was, as far as I know Bruce Wayne's only interracial romance. Since Bruce can't have a permanent woman in his life, at the end of execrable Bane storyline, she regressed to mental childhood from, I don't know, stress or something. I guess it's better than getting thrown off a bridge.

A smart, professional black woman special enough to snare Bruce Wayne. Very groovy, and I'd love to have her back in his life -- IF she weren't associated inexorably from the worst of Batman in the post-crisis DCU. From her introduction, it was clear she was going to be a deus ex machina of the worst kind, and the collective mind of comic books readership has turned away from anything connected with the entire Bane / Azrael period.

Shondra was last seen trying to steal Duela Dent's Jell-O brand gelatin dessert.

I am Curious (Black) Week, 2: It's Alive!


"It's alive! Alive! Muwhahahahahaaa!"
Good-bye, Lois Lane; hello, Loeesha LaRue.

Okay, so Lois did not, in fact, use a false name when she became black. More's the pity. If she had, there'd be a drag queen named "Loeesha LaRue" in every town in the country.

We learn so much from this panel. First of all, Metropolis has a unique weather phenomenon, the "sun shower", where sudden streams of palpably "heavy light" drench the city in color-bleaching solar power. No wonder Superman lives there.

Second, we learn that Lois's famously poor taste in clothes is not race-dependent. She can compose an eye-stabbing outfit in any ethnic style. Already Lois is breaking down barriers! If you read the whole story, you'd probably note that all the other black women dress normally; only Lois dresses like Kid Psycho's Cameroonian cousin.

Third, we learn that Lois is still vain.

But sometimes, the punishment of the gods is swift and clear..."I'm the goddamn Lois Lane! I could have your cab melted by heat vision and banish you to the Phantom Zone to live with the evil Kryptonian ghost cats!"

DISSED! Now, my personal theory is that this cabbie, "Benny the Beret", whom we met earlier, is in fact the lover of "Blueberry Beret", the gay mind-slave of purple-shirted rabblerouser Dave Stevens, and adores black people. I think he was blinded by Lois's outfit or simply terrified of her blood-red post-operative Mojo Jojo headgear.

Unable to hail a cab, Lois is doomed to a horror her previous 104 issues of bizarre adventures have not prepared her for: the subway.

Lois's transportation woes are awakening her to the fact that blacks do get shunned by cabbies and stared at in public some times. But it's so much more delicious than that...

No one is looking at you, Lois, you self-centered twit. The sitting Metropolitans, their minds numbed from years of seeing ant-headed Supermen and giant turtle boys daily, can barely keep from nodding off in the absence of any marauding monsters. Of the three pole-leaners headed back to Metropolis's Little Gayborhood, only the orange-jacketed hairdresser Kyan is staring at you with deep concern, "Girl, you really need to let that scalp breathe!" Meanwhile, his caped boyfriend is taking the advantage of the distraction you present to check out Mr. Sexy Sideburns, who's reading in the Daily Monkey about the Committment Ceremony of Mr. and Mr. Benny and Blueberry Beret. Metropolis is a big city, but a small world.

This panel is more about Lois's own racial self-consciousness, I think. "I feel so conspicuous!" Yeah, um, so would I, if I were wearing that outfit, sweetie. In fact, the ambiguity of that panel, and Lois's doubts, make it sheer genius. Kanigher doesn't want us to see what it's like to be black. He wants us to experience what it feels like.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Clue Number Four...

Dizzy.

I'm so dizzy. My head
is spinning.

Like a whirlpool,it never ends.

It's Sekowsky's making it spin. He's making me dizzy.

Superspinning. It's one of the Top Ten Clues You're in a Silver Age Justice League Story.



BHM 5: Cyborg

Poor Cyborg. He seems like a nice guy, but to like him you have to agree to ignore his cliche ridden origin. Son of Brilliant Scientists who test out their theories by Performing a Series of Experiments on their Son to increase his intelligence (to IQ 170). You know... like loving comic book parents do. Experiment on the children. It's a stupid and unnecessary story element; he's the son of two Brilliant Scientists, it's perfect sensible for him simply to be that smart.

Then he got "mixed up in athletics", to his father's disapproval. Yes, most fathers would be severely disappointed to have a son headed to the Olympics. Sigh. Again soundness of mind is pitted needlessly against soundness of body.

Oh, and even though his parents are wealthy scientists, and he's a genius and Olympic hopeful, he gets involved in gangs and injured in a gangfight. Jeez, it's like somebody dumped random "black character origin elements" in a pile and wrapped them in duct tape.

Oh, the cyborgification? Got munched on by a convenient extra-dimensional blob that his parents released while making out on a dangerous control panel. No, really. Lesson: old scientists are not supposed to make out. Sex will be punished by something horrible, like disease, death, or children.

Mom got killed. Vic Stone (that's Cyborg's name, you know, because Wolfman likes porn star names) gets hooked up to some cybernetic military stuff Dad has lying around. Fortunately his Dad majored in Experiments for Increasing Child Intelligence / Accessing Extradimensional Worlds / Biomechanical Replacement Surgery. Once you're a Comic Book Scientist, you know how to do everything.

At some point, he reads a Marvel comic with Ben Grimm in it, gets depressed, puts on a hat and trenchcoat and takes up residence in a "bad neighborhood" in Hell's Kitchen (maybe it was a Daredevil comic?). Like wealthy famous supergenius Olympic athlete superheroes do. Of course.

Naturally, we get to see lots of Vic's thighs (or what's left of then), and he suffers numerous "upgrades" (that coincidentally obscure any visual evidence that he's black), which get undone when the novelty wears off.

Oh, and would it have killed Wolfman to come up with a better name than Cyborg? I swear, I think Cyborg's the result of one of those drunken party games comic book writers like to have: "*hic* Okay, ya got 5 minoots to create a charac, urp, character, including origin, coshtume, powersh and name. A-ight, go!"

BUT. I will always love Cyborg for one story, written by Michael Straczynski in 1987's Teen Titans Spotlight #13, where Cyborg got kicked around by Two-Face. A moving story and one I'll never forget, one of the best Two-Face stories of all time.