Saturday, February 18, 2006

Big Monkey Manual (part 1?)

As some of you may know, I own (with others) some comic book stores. The employees deserve a store manual, but I thought, being a comic book store, that some illustrations would be in order.

Obviously, it's going to need more than I've got here, but this is what I have so far, and I really want your opinion!

Please keep the restroom fresh.
Cleaning the store can be fun!
The manager can help you with the safe, if necessary.

The manager shouldn't have to prompt you to attend to visitors!
Chat with customers to learn what they're interested in.
Don't take it personally if your manager offers constructive criticism.
Make sure the store is always prepared to receive visitors.
Always remember, there are other stores the customer could have chosen!

BHM 18: Impala

Impala first appeared in the famous Superfriends #7 (Oct. 1977) which introduced the Global Guardians. Each of the "domestic" Superfriends was paired for an adventure with an "international" counterpart who, although technically less powerful, had a different cut to their abilities that saved the day.

Impala was a speedster. Being a black speedster, he had exposed thighs. Though not as fast as the Flash (of course), he had a superjumping ability (like his eponymous animal). In his secret identity, Impala was a South African Zulu named "Mbulaze". Did he not have an isibongo or isithakazelo to use as a last name? Who can say?

He lost his powers in
Justice League Quarterly 17. Everything that happens in a Justice League Quarterly is automatically bad; I'm glad they don't make them anymore. Then he died. Guess it was too much to ask that the entire continent of Africa might have one black superhero (not counting you know who).

Friday, February 17, 2006

Black History Month Interlude

Starring C. Thomas Howell as Robin the Teen Wonder.

Oh, you're right, Robin; it's racist to hire black people. Better to hire white servants rather than have people think you're racists; as for the black people, well, they should just leave the ghetto and have multibillionaires adopt them.

BHM 17: Northwind

Norda Cantrell. Gulp. If you're thinking I'm going to explain who Norda (a.k.a. Northwind) is, think again. He's the intersection of the Hawkman mythos with Infinity Inc., which is like living at the corner of The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea. I'm hoping someone can explain him to me!

Northwind is Hawkman's godson (?), adopted son (?), vague legacy character (?) from some race of Scandinavian birdpeople. He's black. Like lots of Scandinavians. In the DCU, anyway. Or maybe he's black because Hawkman is black? Oh, wait Hawkman's not black. Never mind.

He has a mohawk made of feathers. It was the nineties. He's got an N on his chest to help you remember who he is. To me, he was one of those characters I saw for the first time in the original Crisis, who made me go "what the --?", then disappeared. Actually, he didn't disappear; he's come back and now he looks like the scary birdman from "Kingdom Come" and he's mean and hangs out with Black Adam. Following in his own fine feathered tradition of incomprehensibility, I suppose...

Of course, that makes him yet another "black character whose race is conveniently obscured by his powers or costume". Harrumph.

A Fistful of Pennies

Joe! I love this man, and I don't care who knows it! Crazy Joe Coyne, the Penny Plunder; who else could nearly kill Batman armed only with a roll of pennies?

THIS is the guy John Astin should have played on the Batman TV show. Joe's the archtypal themed villain. First, his name sets him up (what psychologists call "the Bivolo Syndrome"). Second, he suffers childhood theme-based humiliation (harassed and in trouble with the law for pitching pennies), repeated in adolescence (penny-ante poker games). Third, as a adult, the coppers catch and jail him twice because he slips on some pennies or some such nonsense.

Like any good Gotham criminal, Joe goes round the bend and decides to make pennies his "crime symbol".

"Pennies...and coppers! They did this to me! Pennies...coppers...copper pennies! I hate them all! When I get out, I'll get back at coppers and pennies! I'll fight coppers--with pennies! Every job I pull will involve pennies! My crime symbol will be PENNIES!"
Only in Gotham does a phrase like "my crime symbol" require no further explanation.

Joe actually works his theme really well, eluding and even besting Batman for a while. Oh, and just because he has a "silly theme", don't think he's light-hearted; Joe kills quite a few people in his one story. But, like the dumb cluck he is, he shoves Batman and Robin into a hastily improvised death-trap, which allows them their most ridiculous escape ever.

Totaltoyz indulges people who love old-fashioned characters like Joe, and went all out on this one, putting pennies in Joe's fist and even adding behind him a 1947 penny taken from his father ("Shut up, old man! The heroclix gods do not care if it's the first penny you earned or the last one you have left. Back to the attic with you!"). Joe sits on an Experienced Harley Quin dial from the original DC Heroclix set, "Hypertime". I'll be using him as Two-Face's sidekick, ya see...

Which I sure he would have been, eventually. If it hadn't been for the electric chair.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Could Vibe Dance?

I'm sorry, people, but...

how can you not love Vibe after seeing this? Teasing lunkheaded Steel while dancing behind his back in genie pants and a cut-off tee? Priceless.

There's not enough dancing in comics nowadays. Heroes used to dance all the time; when did we all become so serious, so ashamed, that we became embarrassed about dancing? Nowadays, readers lap it up when characters hump, shoot, decapitate, or yell at one another. Is dancing so much more horrible?

Poor Vibe was the scapegoat for this Unnatural Fear of Looking Foolish. Vibe had no fear of looking foolish (as his outfits would suggest). He had no fear of confronting Aquaman, Batman, or Green Arrow. For pity's sake, I'm surprise the Guardians didn't give HIM the ring (y ahora yo soy ... La Lanterna Verde!)

But instead of praising a hero who inspired us by being unafraid, we damned him for not validating our fears of our bete noirs (like Batman and dancing). Oh, the terpsichorean tragedy. So we killed the Sensational Character Find of 1984, Vibe the laughing young daredevil in his ridiculous red, yellow, and green costume. Boy, I'm glad we humorless readers weren't around in 1940; if we had been, "Robin" would be the answer to a trivia question by now, wouldn't he?

When comics were written for fun-loving kids, readers thrilled when their heroes didn't take themselves or what they were doing too seriously. That's why heroes made jokes when they fought, because that's how confident and unashamed they were. That's what being cool was. We didn't need our heroes to take themselves seriously in order for us to do so; quite the opposite.

But now that comics are written for painfully self-conscious adults, desperate to be taken seriously, and to have their prefered reading material taken seriously, heroes must be dour. Our superheroes used to enjoy their jobs; now it seems like a punishment (wow; how very Marvelesque!). Kids try to have fun every day; adults seem satisfied if they can make it through the day on grim determination and a sense of purpose.

Terry Sloane loved having the opportunity to put his talents to use for society's benefit; Michael Holt seems like he's been sentenced to 100 hours of community service. Plastic Man (friggin' Plastic Man!!!) struggles with being an out of wedlock father, Blue Devil wears black leather, Zatanna is a mindraper/mindscraper, Detective Chimp has a drinking problem, the Elongated Man's wife is raped and killed, Flash's Rogues now include a psychokiller who cuts out people's tongues, Aquaman is wielding a sword instead of embarrassing people with the clever use of electric eels.

Why? Because we killed Vibe, because he could dance.

BHM 16: Dr. Midnight

Speaking of people who fought Eclipso.... do you remember Dr. Midnight?

During the Crisis, South Carolinian physican Dr. Beth Chapel was blinded by exploding oxygen tanks while saving a hospital patient during an earthquake. Fortunately for her, her mentor was Dr. Charles McNider, who gave her an implant that let her see in darkness, just like him. Unfortunately for her, he was also the original Dr. Mid-Nite and she chose to follow in his crimefighting footsteps.

Really unfortunately for her, she did so in the pages of Infinity Inc, or, as I like to call it "Damnation Inc." The Infinitor Curse got her within 5 years; she was ripped to shreds by Eclipso in issue 13 of his miniseries. Yolanda Montez, the "new Wildcat", got shredded at the same time.

What do we learn from this? Hmm, perhaps ... "Minority females who presume to take the place of white males are cannon fodder for the forces of vengeance." Or maybe that was just the beginnings of the 90's; who can say?

If you were a comic book writer, wouldn't you be embarrassed to create a character whose father was a minister named "Chapel" and whose brothers were named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? I would. But that's why you and I are not Roy Thomas. Oh, in case you were wondering what that thigh-belt thingie on her leg is, the answer is: she was designed by Todd McFarlane, that's what it is.

But I'll say THIS for Beth Chapel; she's a better speller than her predecessor or her successor!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

BHM 15: Chunk

I miss Chester Runk, a.k.a. Chunk.

He began as a crazy supervillainous metaphor for our over-eating, over-consuming society, back when I actually enjoyed reading Flash, back when it was fun and full of interesting characterizations, social commentary, and realistic problems, back before it devolved into romantic/mystical claptrap about the Speed Force and Linda "The Anchor Around Your Neck" Park.

But Wally's humane approach to Chester's situation helps him reform and become one of Wally's best friends. Chester, a devoted friend, was sweet and brilliant, but unattractive and underassertive. Wally, one of the Beautiful People, took his girlfriend Connie and his friend Chunk for granted, in a slow-cooking subplot that eventually saw Connie and Chester "dump" Wally for being a self-absorbed jerk, then become engaged to each other.

Along the way, Chunk helped fight Eclipso during the Darkness Within Saga... and survived. You go, Chester. Chunk also was able to legally and morally use his powers to make himself a fortune, proving himself smarter than 99.99999999% of the DCU.

But like most post-Crisis Supporting Castmembers for Flash (and Wonder Woman), he disappeared so the next writer could make up his own Supporting Cast (a phenomenon that has undercut those two characters for 20 years now).

Oh, and he was black. Which I don't think was ever mentioned by any other character, because -- well, why would it be? Just another reason Chunk is so exceedingly cool.

I Love The Multiverse

The blogoverse is not for the timid. Read any advice on creating a popular blog and it will include "have opinions and state them strongly", even if you have to cheerily recant later. Tepidity may house wisdom, but it's still boring as Bendis. The meek may inherit the earth, but the internet will still belong to the bold.

The Absorbascon embraces this philosophy and has never shied away from trumpeting its love for Vibe, derision of Hal, and other less than universally held viewpoints. So, now, following the Photon Torpedoes discussion on DC's rumored decision to give us back the multiverse, I am going to take my stance.

Yes, DC. I want the multiverse back.

Everything has pros and cons. But there are very few pros to the "monoverse" that can't be matched by the multiverse, and very few cons to the multiverse that can't be fairly easily overcome. I mean, if beat cops and red-headed tots can understand it, so can people who might read comics.

Face it, gang; anybody who can't get the idea of a multiverse isn't going to stick with mainstream comics anyway. Those people are just going to turn on "Fear Factor", and dumbing down comics won't win their dollar or devotion.

I also maintain the multiverse makes it
easier, not harder, to acquire new readers. In a multiversal environment (ha, now there's a phrase!), a new reader can focus on one universe (probably the main one) at a time, and pay attention to the others only to the degree they interest him or her. Planned well, it could provide a mechanism for making a smooth transition to a new "comic book age" every twenty years or so.

Conversely, any forced monoverse invariably and inevitably become too crowded in time and space. We've had a monoverse since 1986, and, you know what? It doesn't work. Call me 'Scipio Prime', but I think I side with Alexander Luthor.

Yes, DC. I -- for one -- want the multiverse back. Not because I'm a sad old fanboy who clings to the past (though I just may be!), but because I'm convinced it's the best mechanism to give comics a new future.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monkey See: Exclusive Palmiotti Interview!

Jimmy Palmiotti (Daughters of the Dragon, Hawkman, Ash, Daredevil, The Monolith, Painkiller Jane, Superboy, 21 Down, Jonah Hex) recently gave an exclusive interview to one of his biggest fans, Devon Sanders of Seven Hells.

In it, Jimmy shares his opinion of former Marvel exec Bill Jemas, gives hints about an exciting new project, and discusses his artist collaborators, past and future.

The interview will be published tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Big Blog on the Big Monkey Comics website.

BHM 14: Dale Gunn

C'mon; who the heck else would we profile on Valentine's Day but that nubian love god, Dale Gunn of Justice League Detroit?

No point in recounting the Legend of Dale Gunn, already celebrated in song and story. After all, everyone's seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, the BET Special, the Masterpiece Theatre miniseries, and the Mario Van Peebles movie.

How man-potently sexy is Dale Gunn?

  • If Chuck Norris were black, the only person he'd accept being would be Dale Gunn.
  • Dale Gunn's old socks are prized by Chinese herbalists as a powdered aphrodisiac.
  • Dale Gunn is so potent, he sweats Viagra.
  • The Pope has issued an encyclical (Temptatio Dalis Gunni 1985) forbidding all nuns from approaching within 100 feet of Dale Gunn. Priests, 200 feet.
  • Dale Gunn is so manly that if you put him in a supergroup with Extrano, The Black Condor, The Red Bee, the group would still be collectively butcher than the U.S. Marine Corps.
  • When Dale Gunn walked by Gotham Central, Maggie Sawyer and Renee Montoya became spontaneously pregnant.

Remember, ladies, when your man turns out the lights and takes you in his arms this Valentine's Day, it will all be magic if do what millions of your sisters do every night:
close your eyes and think of Dale Gunn.

Strange Love on Haikuesday

You want love on Valentine's Day? Here:

That's love. Remember, everything has pros and cons, and if you're not in good relationship on Valentine's Day, that's worlds better than being in a bad one. Meanwhile, read "Batman and the Monster Men", and fall in love with comics all over again. Oh, and because poetry is the language of love, help Hugo compose a Valentine Haiku for Batman.

Also, The Comic Treadmill is running a poll on superpets. At first, I was insulted that monkeys are not eligible, but then I realized that's because monkeys would automatically win. That gloryhound Krypto is beating the figurative pants off Topo. Topophiles, represent! I, and the other members of the North America Man/Octopus Respect Association, implore you to support Topo, who is our celebrity spokesmodel and Aquaman's special friend.

Monday, February 13, 2006


I didn't order this and it's not part of the Custom Heroclix poll.
But it is really cool.

Can You Solve It Before We Do?

During a chat with some other comic book afficianados about
52, one said, "Well, I'm no longer worried that it's going to be 'The Challenge'." "Indeed," another chimed in, "but DC Challenge was, I believe, the last time until this month that we saw Space Cabby." Suddenly, a voice from the Monkey Youth (they follow us everywhere; you know, to drink up wisdom) squeaked out, "What's The Challenge?"

Some events, like the Holocaust,
My Mother The Car, the Great Crash, and Beanie Babies should never be forgotten, lest they be repeated. The DC Challenge is one of them. What DC did to the original Secret Society of Super-Villains by accident, they did to DC Challenge on purpose: change the writer and artist with each issue.

DC Challenge was intended as a carefree romp through the pre-Crisis multiverse. The first issue set up a story with lots of characters and lots of unsolved plot points. Each successive issue had to follow from that, and do the same. It was like
52, but with no plan and without the creators being allowed to talk to one another. Guess how that worked out?

I think people are remembering it more kindly than it deserves. Instead of being an engaging relay race or parlor game, it came off like a 50 car highway pile-up. Wrecked storylines with plot points dangling off them, smashed into each other; bloody, wounded readers everywhere. Even today, merely looking at the covers can hurl grown men jibbering in a fetal position. Thank goodness characters are invulnerable.

Since it's an article of religious faith that DC, like Batman, always has a Master Plan, I think that DC create the "DC Challenge" to make us
WANT to say good-bye to the multiverse.

Do you remember the Challenge and what do you think?

BHM 13: Bumblebee

Hey, where Mal Duncan goes, can Bumblebee be far behind?

Poor Karen Beecher. She's brilliant, pretty, and spunky. It's not her fault she got mixed with those anti-Midacian Teen Titans, who've ruined every character they've ever touched (at least until that catchy tune by two perky Japanese girls broke the curse).

Poor Karen Beecher drove me away from comics. It's true. I remember, it was adolescence, that dangerous time when we stop being able to enjoy comics as children do, but aren't yet ready to enjoy them in the way adults do. A Bat-villain fan, I had to buy the Teen Titans issues where Two-Face (even though they were atrocious) guest-starred. The main plot already had me teetering on the abyss, but when Karen decided to throw together some "webshooterish" accoutrements as part of her scheme to dress like a giant bumblebee, that started killing my interest in comics (till senior year in college).

Thanks to the Bumblebee, I missed the Wedding of Donna Troy and Terry Long, which might have restored my faith in comics. Damn you, Karen Beecher!

Actually, I've forgiven her; she is just SO cute on the cartoon show! That's a Karen Beecher I can enjoy (all thanks to those two little Japanese girls!)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

BHM 12: Mal Duncan

Ah. "Hornblower". I think I rented a movie called that; as I recall, I pay late fees on it, and happily.Okay, that's the single most unintentionally hilarious male superhero costume I've ever seen (with the exception of the "Wonder Man" and "Super-Lad" costumes in that one "world where everyone's genders are reversed" story). It's the belt that really makes it. We all owe you, Dave Elyea (who went on to work on Kalamazoo Comics)!

For those who don't know, that's Mal Duncan, the not even slightly stereotypical, streetwise, racist-gang fighting, jazz trumpeter who plays at a nightclub called Gabriel's Horn and winds up with the magical horn of Gabriel. As J. Jonah Jameson would say, what are the odds?

Anyway, the Horn does stuff when Mal blows it. Exactly
what it does I couldn't tell you; something about extradimensional portals. Maybe Mal is the ancestor of Tyroc, another extradimensional black guy with a traffic-stopping costume and irremediably vague sonic powers? He would be if Bob Rozakis ruled the world, and, oh, what a world that would be.

Simply reading Mal's origin will give you a headache, because it's chockful of proper nouns like
Limbo, Gargoyle, Antithesis, Cyberion, Technis, and (my personal favorite) Omegadrome. I swear I used to skate at the Omegadrome when I was in Junior High.

Mal regained his dignity by staying away from the Titans, marrying Karen Beecher (we'll get to her later!), and opening a coffee shop. But now he's out in space with Donna Troy fighting the
Enormous Metaphorical Mitts of Alexander Luthor, where, given the extradimensional nature of the problem, he might actually be a great help. Or at least more than Animal Man.

Death Becomes Him

Vibe is dead.
But he keeps appearing in ghost cameos.

Vibe is dead.
But he shows up, non-speaking, on a number of JLU episodes.

Vibe is dead.

But he's the central character in the Justice League
animated comic book issue #15.

Vibe is dead.
But he's one of the stars of an upcoming seven-issue story in both JLA Classified and JSA Classified.

When a Vibophile asked the recent 52 Panel at
WonderCon whether Vibe would be in it, the answer was simply, "Vibe is dead."

You know, I think Vibe's been in more comics since he died than when he was alive. Paco Ramone may be dead, but Vibe's becoming better known and more popular all the time. I don't think we've heard the last of Vibe.

Particularly since his brother, who has identical powers and whom he dissuaded from a life of crime, is NOT dead...

The Mist

The Mist actually likes the fact that you didn't vote for him in my Custom Heroclix poll. That will make it so much sweeter when he has you killed...