Saturday, March 18, 2006

"She Was Only An Umpire's Daughter..."

A Batman/Joker story was running through my head the other day and then, coincidently, my friend Ulysses brought up the same story later that day. So now I'll share it with you (in case you've never read it).

Originally, "This One'll Kill You, Batman" appeared in one of those legendary 100-page giants that DC used to print in the 1970s (specifically, in Batman #260, 1975). As you can see from the cover, it was chockful of goodies: reprints, appended to one main, new story (as was the pattern for such issues).

This Denny O'Neill story has been described on-line as one of the worst he ever wrote. I strongly, vehemently disagree; Denny wrote much much worse stuff (just read some of his JLA work).

But this is the first story to show the Joker in an asylum for the criminally insane, rather than a regular prison. Two-Face is also there, so, although the asylum is unnamed, it is what we would later know as Arkham. Batman shows up (Poof, just like that! It was the Seventies, after all...), and during a struggle with other inmates the Joker has released, takes a bath in an overturned vat of coffee (yup; it was the Seventies).

Throughout the story, Batman starts giggling more and more at very inappropriate things. You heard me, giggling. Turns out the coffee was drugged (the Joker's a busy guy) with a specialized Joker venom that progressively inverts your humor reaction while poisoning you.

I usually hate Denny's writing with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, but, dang, you gotta give him props for imagination on that one.

Anyway, so when Batman goes to find "the only physican brilliant enough to cure him", he finds that the Joker has kidnaoped him. In comic books, it is always that case that medical, technical, or scientific problems can be solved only by a maximum of one to three people (and if it's two people, one is evil and one is good but gets kidnapped; if it's three people, the third is in an accessible, politically unfriendly country).

When Batman catches up with the Joker, he's in an abandoned theater with the physican trapped in a guillotine sitting on the stage. All Batman has to do is reach them, but he can't because he's doubled up with laughter at the moldy vaudeville jokes the Joker is spouting.

My personal favorite was "she was only an umpire's daughter but she was never safe when she was out."

The hook? Batman stops laughing by concentrating on something he considers genuinely funny: scenes from the Marx Brothers movies.

And that is why the story could never be retold; what the heck would our humorless Batman concentrate on to save himself?

If you want to read it for yourself, you can buy it in the Batman of the Seventies volume.

But I bet Jimmy kept the watch...

Sometimes it's just too easy....
Let's settle for,

"Guess who put the 'krypto-' in cryptohomosexuality...!"

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Return of the Kryptonite Monkey

I absolutely loved the "One Year Later" issue of Superman by Busiek and Johns that came out this week.

Clark as a outstanding reporter / really nice guy. Lois, spunky but likeable. Jimmy, the loveable screw-up. Irascible but supportive Perry White. Lex Luthor, scot-free but not squeaky clean. It wasn't until I starting writing this post that I realized I had enjoyed a great issue of Superman without Superman being in it!

I enjoy that the issue (like most of the OYL I've seen so far) raises at least as many questions as it answers, especially, how did Clark, Lex, and Jimmy arrive at their new status quos? Oh, and "the Avenue of Tomorrow" is nothing short of a brilliant addition to Metropolis. Metropolis has long need more character of its own, and this is a huge leap in that direction. "Science gone awry" is right up Superman's alley, and it's nice to put that alley in the middle of Metropolis!

I very much appreciate the efficiency which the story unfolded, without seeming rushed. Finally, DC editors (or, at least, writers Busiek and Johns) have realized that, as a general rule, "decompressed" storytelling is "inflated" storytelling. That's why people still read Poe, but not so much Dickens.

As also appreciate the return to a setting and supporting cast for Superman that, while renewed, feels familiar. It's my theory that myths (like those about superheroes) are more about revolving than evolving. The borders of myth don't continue to expand in all directions; they're fractal, exploring similar patterns at different levels in different combinations, so they can always be interesting, always be changing, without losing their recognizable overall shape.

Plus! The issue worked in the re-creation of a Classic Superman Villain. What I really want Busiek and Johns to tell us, however, is...is the above scene inspired by the original story, which we've discussed here before?

PLEASE tell me it is. If so, forget Infinite Crisis; The Return of The Kryptonite Monkey is THE story of 2006.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

My Naughty Weekend With Firestorm



BZZZZZZZZZ!

You don't think I'd send the Red Bee out in battle alone, do you?

Oh, I don't mean proper teammates, although I do have his friends, Phantom Lady, Uncle Sam, the Black Condor as customs.

No, I mean, of course ... the bees.

They have Flight, Leap/Climb (you can't really "base" a bee), JLA Team Ability (for free movement), and hellacious Attack Values (c'mon; if a bee really wants to sting you, it does). The Experienced Bee and Veteran Bee (whom I like to call "Michael") have Deflection and Supersenses respectively, making them very hard to hit (because, well, have you ever tried to shoot a bee? Trust me, it's harder than you'd think, even with a scope).

As Mr. Terrific would say, "play fair"; only use the bees with the Red Bee himself. They may not do a lot of a damage, but they make a great defense.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Rahrr!

Allow me to present "the Wildcat Gang", a gift to me from Totaltoyz!"Kitty" "Bob" "Lionel" and "Ty"

If you look closely, you can see the unique pelt patterns on their clothing. These feline goonclix are the perfect backup singers for Catwoman, the Cheetah, or Cat-Man (I have a Cat-Man custom, remember?). All I need is the rolling head of Pantha and I'll be all set for a major catfight. Actually, I suppose the Rolling Head of Pantha would be a pog... .

Goonclix are good.

White Heroes with Black Faces

What I'm about to tell you is not commonly known. The Green Lantern Corp (in cooperation with HEAT) covered it up (along with that little Parallax incident). But before Hal Jordan met his friend John "Square John" Stewart, he had a touch of the racial insensitivity, don't you know.

Got milk, John?
Since I've never heard anyone call him "Square John", I can only assume John has no friends. Of course, John's the kind of guy who lets Hal Jordan buy him a vanilla milkshake at a Malt Shoppe and who listens to Abba on his ring. Which, I suppose, explains why he's called "Square John". And why he has no friends.



Yes, truth be told, Hal Jordan used to put on blackface and put on a little show at the El Faro Verde Cafe in Coast City. Eventually, however, Pieface got fed up and sent one of his homies from Eskimotown to put a stop to it:


Didn't even get the chance to spit out a full "UNMNGA". Well, it is a solid steel wrench; even Hal might feel that.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Young Gays Not In Love

Is there anything more amusing that watching teenager queens and junior lesbians fighting against their sexuality... together?!


Light Lass: "Well, this is how the girls talk on all those WB shows..."
Element Lad: "She's so butch; so looks so much like her brother; she's so butch; she looks so much like her brother...."

Ah, Light Lass. So butch she passed for her own brother. Who in the Giffen Legion was Shrinking Violet's lover. Who has the highly lesbian-friendly power of making people weigh less.

And Element Lad. Who... well, he's Element Lad, for pity's sake. The pink outfit; the oft permed blond hair; the Wildean double entendre; the "spirituality". The chaste relationship with the "female" cop who turned out to be a man.

Sigh.

At least when Element Lad is confused about his sexuality, he has the presence of mind to do so in Heroic Haiku:

"I'm ... er ... out of my
element when it comes to
romancing girls, but..."



Anyone care to help out Light Lass with a haiku reply or some haiku commentary of your own? Or even complete Element Lad's thought with a second haiku?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

You know, it's a little known fact of comic book science...



that Kryptonians invented Nair.

Or, as I'm sure they must have called it, "super-depilatory solution". That's pretty impressive, particularly for a species that never invented the bathroom door.

And look how rapturously impressed Joon Cleev-Ar is in the background:

"Now I can finally be rid of my husband's hideous back and bum furr!
It's been like sleeping with a three-eyed Kryptonian babootch!"


Anyway, given that, I'm sure it was merely natural Kryptonian genius that led to Superboy to re-create the discovery:


And if Lex were REALLY smart, he would have focused on bottling that gas, because a way to instantly and permanently remove unwanted hair would be a platinum mine.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

UNMNGA

Quite some time ago, almost at the beginning of this blog, I discussed the difference between battle cries and signature exclamations (which are one of the many differences between Marvel and DC; you know, the differences that Martin can't see). Hal (why? why is it always Hal?) sought in vain for a signature exclamation.

The generic "Great Guns!" didn't cut it. On the Superfriends, he used to say "Great galaxies!", I believe, which is, eh, okay. Once the blue guys appeared on the scene, he started with the "Great Guardians!", which is disturbingly obsequious, even for Hal.

I'm not sure whether what he came up with is a battle cry or signature exclamation or something in between, but finally he hit upon something --

literally.


"UNMNGA!"


"Spoon"? "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"? "Excelsior"? Forget them all. "UNMNGA!" is the only signature exclamation or battle cry you'll ever need.

"UNMNGA!" is what H.E.A.T. shouts when they storm the DC offices (or my house). "UNMNGA!" is what Ron Marz grunts when he dodges snipers. "UNMNGA!" is what stewardesses sigh in the wee hours as they stagger out of Hal's apartment building.

There are few situations for which "UNMNGA!" is not the ultimate expression. Now, if only I could pronounce it! Perhaps I need to get hit on the head more often...