Saturday, May 06, 2006

Free Comic Book Day (tm)!

Oh, dear. Now that we've all cracked the internet in half with our last discussion, we need to heal it again.

So ...

How did YOU celebrate Free Comic Book Day today (if you did)? And, if you were running your comic book store, what would you do to celebrate (in a cost effective way)?

Friday, May 05, 2006

May 1976

Ah HA! With Blockade Boy's cooperation, I have deceived you (because you are my friends; it's a Legionnaire thing). I told you I didn't have a Time Bubble; I do have a Time Bubble.

In fact, as you read this, it has encircled you and is chronoporting you back thirty years. Are you tired of complaining about the quality of mega-crossover events and having your joy in comics eclipsed by picayune details of plot and art that cause you to miss the forest for the trees? Yes; I'm tired of that, too... .

So, welcome to May 1976, where you're safe from all the awfulness of the DC Comics of 2006! Let's go to the comic book store and see what joys await you because Everything Used to Be Better, you know.

Oh, wait; that's right -- there is no local comic book store. No matter where you live on the entire planet. There are no comic book stores, period.

Oops. Well, I'm sure if you drive or walk for miles to scrounge around in the back of 10 or 12 bookstores and drugstores, you'll find one that carries comics with a few issues that haven't already been torn, or damaged, or gone yellow, or already been bought by some irate parent trying to shut their kids up on a cross-country auto trip. Better hurry, because there's probably only one or two copies of each issue...!

Let's see what FABULOUS comics await you!

Ah, the legendary Batman Family title, where every month a grown man in a Robin costume and a crimefighting Congresswoman engage in goofy repartee and needlessly acrobatic fighting techniques like the one meaninglessly portrayed on this cover. That's what they did. Every month. Really.

In this issue, Babs & Dick combat Freeway, the Technician, Bugg, and Dr. Excess. Yow! They don't write 'em like that any more! Come to think of it, I believe Dr. Excess was not only the villain, but the writer... .

Hm. At least there's a Bathound story and a Signalman story. Each of which were actually written 20 years earlier. I love that picture of Ace: "Bathound Loves You."


Oo, I found another undamaged comic behind that one: Karate Kid 2! Not Ralph Macchio, silly; Karate Kid, the Legionnaire so cheesy he made Bouncing Boy look like an eminence grise. This is "Martial Arts Mayhem at Its Mightiest", folks.

What's he up to? Fighting Major Disaster (who's surfing on a giant communion wafer) and the Disasterettes to save the U.N. back here in 1976.

Why? Because it's 1976 and people still think the U.N. is worth saving. It is, of course; Diana Prince has to work somewhere. I mean, it's not like she can just open a dress shop in the Village or something!


What's Batman doing? That's it; Batman is always doing something cool. Batman will make us happy we're not in the evil future of 2006 any longer... .

Batman 275 finds our hero fighting a motorcycle gang on an ice rink in a classic, "The Ferry Blows at Midnight." How? Why?

Who cares? It's 1976. Writers just come up with some wacky centerpiece scene ("I know; in his forty year history, Batman's never fought a motorcycle gang on an iceskating rink!") then build a flimsy story around it.

It doesn't matter; there is no continuity, there are no ramifications, nothing has to make sense. In 1976, life, both in the real world and comics, is just one big Austin Powers movie.

But surely it's part of some larger plan? Perhaps a criminal mastermind is behind it all? Well, no. The only Special Guest Villain in this story is ...

wait for it ...

Joey One-Eye.

Snicker. Giggle. Snort. Okay, Beavis, settle down. Suffice it to say that while the ferry may wait till midnight to blow, the story is way ahead of it.


Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Superman is fighting Black Rock.

Who? Black Rock. Black. Rock. Come on, people! You know...!

A broadcasting company wanted a superhero on payroll so they had the brilliant scientist head of research guy (every network had them in the 1970s, you know) whip up a supersuit, then the scientist hypnotizes the network president into wearing this "Black Rock" outfit and fighting Superman, then hypnotizes that guy's nephew, a comedian named Les Vegas who constantly made TV-themed puns, into becoming Black Rock, then becomes Black Rock himself.

No, I am not making that up. Oh, by the way, isn't that exactly what you would wear if you were a supervillain named "Black Rock"? Green bodysuit, purple hood and cape; why, of course, it is.

Johns? Morrison? Palmiotti? Ha! Who needs those hacks? Here in 1976 we've got Elliot S! Maggin, baby, and, no, the exclamation point is not a typo; have your parents explain it to you. Hey, wait ... I think I've figured out "Dr. Excess's" secret identity!


Well, if those mainstreamers aren't satisfying you, here's one: Claw the Unconquered 7. It's about a guy who lost his hand and got it replaced with a magical one, having sword and sorcery adventures in an undersea city.

Boy, if only we could have had a comic like that in 2006! It'd be as popular, classic, and critically acclaimed as Claw!


What about the ever-engaging JLA? This is the Bronze Era, the fabled satellite league, which everyone knows rocked out loud....

Here they are fighting, um...

a purple thing with Flash's legs, Hawkman's head, and a detachable arm.

I assume their opponent is superpowerless except from the waist down. Well, let's put that issue on the "buy pile" immediately; don't even have to crack that open to know it's a winner.

Just what are Oliver and Arthur's lower halves doing? I ... I'm not quite sure. But it sure makes the monster mad. Maybe it's the Comics Code Authority Monster. Aren't there supposed to be word balloons or narration bursts that explain it?

  • Monster: "I've stolen the Flash's lower parts -- and now I want yours!"
  • Narration: "Beware ... the Mish-Mash Monster!"
  • Aquaman: "MY SWORD!!!"

Points to whoever comes up with the best expository blurb for this cover, by the way.

I won't spoil the plot for others, but in 2006 they can still buy that comic and find out how great it was. Probably at the same drug store we're at right now in 1976, in fact. Except in their evil future it's not Winkleman's Family Pharmacy, it's CVS.

Oh, as long as we're buying comics in May 1976, there's at least one other we should definitely get. It'll be good ... eventually.

Say, in about 30 years:

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Monkey See!



Yay! Big Monkey Comics is in the papers again!

Speaking of which, I have a favor to ask of you all...

Although my stat thingie shows that I get a 1000 visitors here every day (and I do believe it), the fact remains that I have only met TWO of those people face to face (not counting people I knew before I started this blog). While I love having you all as "penpals", it would be even better to be able to meet you all in person.

So, if any of you can, please visit me this Saturday, when I'll be at the Big Monkey Comics store in Georgetown, trying to help out with the crowds (but, more likely, just getting in the staff's way, and going on and on about the Brain Globes of Rambat...).

Do
stop in and introduce yourself; then you can help squash the ugly rumors that I'm merely an AI program designed for PR by Dan Didio ... *click* DiDio .... *click* DiDio... .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Things that made me happy today

Batman saying, "Orca" about 15 times, and the fact that I've already figured out who muscled in on the Penguin.

Finally understanding the Joker's perfect role in Infinite Crisis, and seeing him spend time with an old friend.

The return of the Fastest Man Alive.

Batwoman's outfit with its fabulous red boots; I don't care who she is, I love her immediately.

Superman's understated speech on what it means to be Superman.

Superboy Prime's power of super-scenery-chewing.

The less-than-grandiose ending of Alex Luthor.

Bye bye, Emily! I won't miss you at all.

A Batman moment I didn't think I'd ever see.

How to handle Amazo.

Seeing the real Aquaman in action ... if even it's not in his own book.

Giganta and Rita Farr in a hair-pulling match.

The sound that Deathstroke's head makes when Batman steps on it.

Clark Kent reading a comic book at a Monster Truck Rally.

Robin straddling a naked Ravager in his bed while snapping the batcuffs on her.

Ollie's reply to Roy's question, particularly since I didn't immediately recognize it.

Clark's suggestion to Diana, which would surely meet Linda Carter's approval.


And you....?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"WHEEEE!!!!"

Most modern writers of Plastic Man follow his portrayal in Phil Foglio's post-Crisis Plastic Man miniseries, styling Plas as a superpowered Jim Carrey on double espressos, his perceptions warped by his odd powers.

That's one way to go with the character, but it certainly wasn't the way Plas's creator, Jack Cole, went. The Golden Age Plas himself was almost never intentionally humorous (forgoing even the usual punnage typical of his contemporary heroes). Although his situations, powers, and supporting cast were exceedingly wacky, Plastic Man was pretty much the 'straight man' in his own adventures. Perhaps that's why Plastic Man was so much funnier then than he is now.

Fortunately, I've discovered what warped the former F.B.I. agent's mind along the way:

marijuana.

"I want him good and
crazy when we set him free!"
"Whee!! I'm a killer!"


Just get Eel to rehab and some NA meetings and I'm sure he'll be back to his Golden Age self in no time!

Oh, and this panel also lends support to my theory that in the Golden and Silver Ages, writers had access to MUCH more powerful drugs than they do today.

Do you have the creativity to haiku in response to Plas's reefer madness ... without resorting to wacky weed?

Monday, May 01, 2006

LORHP

I have noticed recently that, while there are many wonderful comic book blogs of astonishly catholic tastes, there are also a growing number that focus on one particular genre or company.

This is a natural part of the evolution of knowledge. Once upon a time, it was possible for an intelligent man of leisure to know pretty much all that humanity knew.

But so far has civilization's accumulation of information broadened and its understanding of topics deepened that it's all one can do nowadays to remember the real names and home planets of all the Legionnaires. I myself have had to forgo offers to lecture on the structure of Propertius' Monobiblos in order simply to have time to contemplate the nature of Night Girl's hair. Life is full of difficult choices.

Still, as the more universalist bloggers never tire of reminding, it is important to maintain a breadth of knowledge across disciplines. One need read no further than James Gleick's famous Chaos, to understand how much can miss if one is too narrowly focused. Indeed, think how much sooner Complexity and Chaos Theory would have been uncovered had more scientists had Hawkman or Aquaman in their subs.

Nevertheless, for those of narrow intellect (such as I) focusing on one company is enough; the DCUniverse is enough for me to handle without adding Marvel's Manhattan on top.

Oh, many's the time I traipsed innocently about the blogosphere, scouting for signs of others who might call for the return of the Penny Plunderer, when, WHAMMO!, I would blindly turn a corner and find myself in the dark and sinister alleys of a Marvel-focused blog, staring down the barrel of a post on Baron Zemo. Save me, Joe Chill!

If only there were some signpost of security, some "Johnny DC" like symbol to let me know that I was safe and sound on a comics blog centered squarely in the wholesomeness of the good ol' DCU. Won't someone protect the children?

And so (at someone's insistence), I offer this symbol:


Look for the sign of the Loyal Order of the Rolling Head of Pantha before you read a blog too closely! When you see it, you'll know that you're safe with a blogger who understands that even the rolling head of Pantha has more iconic resonance and character potential than the entire X-Men roster.

With FWMP as our by-word, we members of the LORHP salute the DCUniverse, where every minor character, no matter how ill-conceived or obscure, brims over with the latent potential to become famous and beloved nearly overnight, a symbol of All That Is Right (Or Wrong) With Comics Today.

Much like the rolling head of Pantha. Who'da thunk it?


Call the Police!


Police Comics, that is.

We've seen the triumphant returns of many of the headliners from Quality Publishing's Police Comics: Plastic Man, Phantom Lady, the (new) Human Bomb, Manhunter, and Firebrand. So I say we need to see them ALL back. Like me, I'm certain you ache for the return of...



Chic Carter, Ace Reporter!

Just your average non-mild-mannered journalist who kisses Moravian princesses after rescuing them from Nazis.

He was sort of the Anderson Cooper of his day (except, of course, for the princesses part; King Ludwig, however, might find himself with a new queen on his hands).

Apparently, the editors thought he wasn't interesting enough to readers, so after a while they gave him a secret identity as -- wait for it -- The Sword. Imagine thinking you can "fix" a nice steady character like Chic by shoving a sword in his hand. Ha! Only in the naive Golden Age!


711!

Kindly District Attorney Dan Dyce switches places with his lookalike best friend (a convinct who gets killed while going to be with his wife as she gives birth), and decides to abandon his life and identity as a DA, so he can remain in prison (*snort*), leaving only at night through a secret tunnel so he can fight crime as "711" (his convict number) leaving his calling card of a hand mirror with bars painted on it. ... See? I've discovered a comic book I want Grant Morrison to write.


The Mouthpiece!

Another member of the Secret Society of District Attorneys For Whom Fighting Crime is Both Vocation and Avocation. Thanks to comic books, I grew up thinking the most exciting job in the world was District Attorney... .

District Attorney Bill Perkins was quite a man. Except for his domino mask, he wore exactly the same thing as the Mouthpiece that he wore as DA; take that, Kent. He also changed ties for each story; my hero! Oh, and the utterly ruthless Mouthpiece did not do things by halves: upon discovering that a man is smuggling illegal aliens into the country, the Mouthpiece unceremoniously spears him with a harpoon gun. Now that would enliven the Letters to the Editors column.


Oh, and some guy named "The Spirit"; looks like he was pretty generic, so I can't imagine there'd be any interest in bringing him back.