Saturday, July 29, 2006

Slick Chick Nicks Pick

"Which Custom Clix should I have made next?" poll results:

  1. Jimmy Olsen 50 votes
  2. The Royal Flush Gang 35 votes
  3. Max Mercury 25 votes
  4. Professor Radium 22 votes
  5. Hugo Strange 21 votes
  6. Angle Man 19 votes
  7. Dr. Polaris 19 votes
  8. Black Hand 12 votes
  9. Amos Fortune 12 votes

What IS it with Jimmy Olsen? The kids today, they love the Jimmy Olsen.

I'll be having all of these figures made, eventually. But it does my heart good to see the high placement of the Royal Flush Gang-- no doubt as a result of their recent gripping storyline by Steve Englehart. Ahem.

Max Mercury is clearly a sentimental favorite for all us Impulse fans, but I'm delight that Professor Radium squeaked ahead of his better-known competitors. Such is the rejuvenative power of "Battle for Bludhaven".

Actually, this entire matter has inspired me to encourage Totaltoyz to produce an entire "Special Collector's Set" of nothing but Jimmy Olsen clix. You know:

  • Wolfman Olsen
  • Porcupine Olsen
  • Speed Demon Olsen
  • Elastic Lad Olsen
  • Aquatic Jimmy Olsen
  • The Cosmic Brain Olsen
  • Turtle Boy Olsen
You KNOW people would buy it.

I got yer Gunn right here...!

Okay, speaking of the JLA-Detroit, this is long overdue.
Put some Gunn in your Heroclix game! I put him on teams with Vixen, Zatanna, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter, and my custom Vibe (or when I'm feeling special, my custom Breakdancing Vibe.) If you want, you can use

the Special Dale Gunn Rules:

  1. No female pieces in the game are allowed to (non-sexually) attack Dale (with one exception).
  2. Any female opponent in close combat with Dale is not able to breakaway (but may still be carried away, force blasted, or suffer knockback).
  3. Vixen and Zatanna may not move adjacent to each other if Dale is within their line of sight.
  4. If Dale comes into their line of sight when they are adjacent, Vixen and Zatanna can attack only each other until separated by teammates or line of sight to Dale is blocked.
For maximum enjoyment of the Dale Gunn pog, tape it to the underside of your car hood for one week before using, store it in a humidor full of inexpensive cigars, and play an Isaac Hayes CD while using him in the game.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I Love You, Stan Lee!

Gods help me. Gods save me. Gods forgive me.

I loved "Who Wants to Be a Superhero" last night.


And when I say "I loved it", I don't mean what you probably think I mean.

I don't mean loved it in a snarky post-modern ironic way: "titter titter, watching these prancing popinjays make me feel so superior in that I am a geek of taste and decorum!"

I mean "loved it" as in, "I am fighting back tears witnessing the sincerity of Fat Momma as she unhesitatingly abandons her own interests in order to help a crying child."
What can I say?

I'll admit there were some amusing "comic book ironies" that keep my snarkier self amused. For example, watching Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, home of Wolverine and the Punisher, lecture some poor meatslab schlub that "Heroes do not kill people, they help people!" Or the fact that none of the contestants knew what "excelsior" meant. Heh, that made me swirl my brandy a bit.

I hadn't planned on watching the show. I was busy doing something else and it just happened to be the next show that popped up on the telly. So I was quite shocked to find myself amused, engaged, and emotionally committed almost immediately. But why?

  • The show cleverly focuses not on "power and abilities" of the heroes manques, but on their moral character. People may tune in to watch the geeks in shiny lycra, but to the degree the show helps viewers focus past that aspect of "superheroes" and look deeper toward the concept of being a hero, I applaud it.
  • Lee is an uncompromising but reasonable critic of their moral fibre. Kind of like the Spectre in a golf sweater and overly-tinted trifocals. Dude basically calls one girl a tramp and tells one loser to "wipe that smile off your face"; righteous. I half expected a giant pair of scissors to appear out of nowhere and start cutting them into paper dolls.
  • The cheesiness and faux competitive structure that is so grating on most "reality shows" actually rings weirdly true in the superheroic setting.
  • It's teaching me respect for the crazy stuff our comic book heroes need to do just to do their "job". Phone booths notwithstanding, it really isn't easy to find a place to change into your costume quickly!
  • You get to see real life metaphors of characters we read about finally getting their comeuppance. "Booster Gold" gets thrown out for being greedy, "Wolverine" gets told that what he does is neither pretty nor appropriate, "Impulse" gets told that life is not a game.
  • Some contestants understand that being fun and campy are NOT incomparable with sincerity; in fact, it is merely its necessary flipside. "Jump into my arms, little girl, and I'll carry you there!" Major Victory, you are my hero!
  • LOVE the "Lair"; must redo my house immediately to look JUST LIKE THE LAIR.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Vibe me!

It would be impossible to replicate the horror of the Justice League's Detroit era, its crabby mischaracterizations, its plots that are somehow simultaneously outre but still tedious, and its brainstomping dialog...


were it not for Steve Englehart.

Even though in his brief run on Batman years ago, Englehart managed to mischaracterize the Joker as an impractical loon rather than a brilliant but incidentally homicidal criminal mastermind and the Penguin as a clue-dropping Riddler clone, I am still going to choose to believe that his current arc in JLA Classified is an ingenius homage to the original awkwardness of Vibe's Jay El Lay, rather than just bad writing with drawn out meandering plotting (plodding?), unrecognizably unpalatable versions of well-known characters, and harsh entendre-driven dialog that makes you sorry you know English.

That choice made... let's revel in how expertly Englehart has mimicked the incomprehensible mess that was the Detroit League! Except, of course, for Vibe, who was aces.

Speaking of aces, this final (?) installment of "Game of Chance" begins with Scooby and the Gang hiding out in a cave from a forest fire started by the Royal Flush Gang. Is the fire an ingenious trap laid by the RFG to disable the only contemporary leaguers with power, intelligence, and experience (the Martian Manhunter and Aquaman)? Ah, no, actually. Queen just forgot to stamp out one of the cigarettes she been constantly smoking through the arc. No, really.

Anyway, J'onn is focused on the most important thing: WHERE has the Royal Flush Gang gone and IF they are nearby WHICH version might they be facing? Apparently, J'onn (and Englehart) forgot that an issue or so ago, the JLA killed two of the original gang and then let the other two go, actually stopping Vibe and Steel from going after them. And, since the gangs are essentially indistinguishable and rely on the same power of "stellaration", it makes no strategic differnce which gang it might be. It's not like the readers care!

It's followed by a cute scene where J'onn sends Vixen and Gypsy to scout ahead (because they're intelligent, prudent, and less likely to blunder their way into a conflict) while making Steel and Vibe stay behind (because they're too loud, aggressive, and stupid). J'onn, you are SO sexist! At least we get a cute panel of Vibe being petulant.

Adorable. Of course you're sneaky, sweetie. And the oufit helps.

Gloriously, this is followed hard upon by an entire pulse-pounding page of Aquaman ...

wait for it ...

falling down.
Phew!
I haven't been that excited since Aquaman found a comb in JLA 242!

Next we learn that the Martian Manhunter lied to them all about their camping trip, which was really just an excuse for him to have the time and opportunity to read their tiny little minds. Sadly, I can't label this an Englehartian mischaracterization of the Noble Martian Manhunter. J'onn's just a creepy snoop who plays headgames. J'onn's always been a creepy snoop who plays headgames.

Then we find out that animal-avatar Vixen plays little naughty games with the "furries" on the weekend:

A lot of guys feel that way, Vixen.

Actually, she's "channeling the powers of Grizzly" because she's in a cave. Apparently she and "Grizzly" are on a first name basis; I wonder, did she know Mr. Chocolate, and, if so, what was his first name?

Anyway, she follows that up with one of the JLDetroiters trademarks: the Apropos-of-nothing Sententious Assertion of Self-Definition ...

"I am the life of Africa -- for better or for worse."

I would say it's for the worse, if true. Are there a lot of grizzly bears in Africa, Vixen?

Have you ever paused to think about what a photo shoot with supermodel Mari (Vixen) McCabe is like? I picture it something like a scene out of Zoolander: "You're a monkey Derek. You're a monkey. Dance, monkey, in your little spangly shoes. Mash your cymbals, chimpy. Dance, Derek, dance." Hm... actually that sounds more like a date with Vibe.

Cut away to Gypsy who, stealthed, is running through the cave in her bare feet (because that's how she does everything), doing an extended interior monologue of Apropos-of-Nothing Sententious Assertions of Self-Definition about being "Roma" and "some of us gypsies have special powers that not even Zatanna could know" and how "J'onn with his telepathy cannot read my thoughts for I have gypsy thoughts."

Um, actually, "Gypsy", your name is Cindy Reynolds, your parents aren't "Roma", you grew up in a suburban Michigan cul-de-sac, which you left when no one would pay attention to your essay on A Tale of Two Cities, and you ran away (apparently, without shoes) to Detroit, where you were a street-thief whom Chuck Dixon dressed look like Cyndi Lauper. (Does Englehart not have access to Wikipedia? Or the DC Encyclopedia? Or Ridelin?) So if Gypsy is thinking any of things that Englehart puts in her thought balloons she is stark raving delusional.

Anyway, so she runs into Amos Fortune who's telling the RFG they're not going to be "stupid hearts or clubs" any more (which is really good, since, um, they were spades or clubs), and magically remodels them into Living Tarot Cards of Doom.

And, no, I did not make that up. Who could? I mean, other than Englehart?

Then, the JLA attacks the RFG, but, more importantly, J'onn J'onnz swears.

The Martian Manhunter swears.

JJ has done some pretty odd stuff over the years. So odd that it's really hard to say that anything's out of character for him (wait till you get a load of his new miniseries!). But having JJ swear is unimaginably out of character and if I had lain awake for 3 nights trying to come up with the least likely things for him to do or say, it still wouldn't have occurred to me to have him swear. Englehart is some kind of genius, I say.

Well, at least we get to see Vibe's Gary Coleman impression:

That is so cute. If I were Mr. Drummond, I'd adopt Vibe in a heartbeat.

Naturally, in the midst of the fight, King falls over dead from coughing (which in *kof* case you *kof* missed it, he's been *kof* doing in every *kof* word balloon for *kof* four koffin' issues) which causes the rest of the gang to start having heart attacks. At this point in the story, I can only ascribe everything about this story -- plot, characterization, dialog, and DC actually printing this comic-- to the effects of stellaration, because it defies all odds and logic.

Oh, and in other developments ...

We learn that "vibe" is a verb, baby.

Vibe me!

While the RFG is kicking the JLA's arse and the cliff in the cave (that's a BIG cave) is collapsing, the inevitable happens: a bear attacks the JLA.

Hey, Vixen, Grizzly called; he wants his powers back.
Oh, and I'm here to tell you the bear is not the only one freaked by this battle


Bear attacks; it's a Detroit thing.

In other ursinological news, we learn that bears do urinate in the woods, and, if possible, on Aquaman:

Urine ... same constituents-- as sea water-- kept me alive -- to help my team...

Well, apparently Vixen not the only one into all sorts of freaky stuff.

So, as the issue ends:
  • The RFG loses the fight,
  • we learn that Vixen is "in love" with Steel (even though she was sucking face with his godfather, Dale Gunn, about a week ago and hitting on the local preacher as well... oh, and has barely said 5 words to him in the entire JLDetroit run),
  • we find out that Gypsy has precognition and knows how Vibe and Steel are going to die but doesn't warn them about it (because, like Supergirl, she doesn't believe you can change the future, so I guess it's good she didn't figure out Despero was going to kill her parents, huh?),
  • but it's all okay because, well...


Vibe is still irresistible to any and all.

P.S. Note the joyous news that the story is CONTINUED IN THIS WEEK'S JSA CLASSIFIED.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Loving Grant

Ordinarily, I share with you the things that made me happy in all the comics I bought for the week. But this week, I will focus exclusively on Grant Morrison's first issue of Batman.

As regular readers know, my admiration for Morrison's work is not without qualifications. In fact, I've called quite a lot of what he's written total crap, incoherent ravings passing themselves off as profundities. So, suffice it to say, I'm not given to praising Morrison as some kind of reflex action, as many readers seem to be.

That said ... I LOVED his first issue of Batman this week, including:

  • The Joker's sense of theatrics.
  • The Joker's pumps; where does he get those wonderful shoes?
  • The Commissioner's sense of humor.
  • Alfred saying all the things that only Alfred can say.
  • A Talia that actually, finally, seems evil.
  • Kirk Langstrom finally remembering how to dress.
  • Upside-down dinosaur statues encased in green lucite as art.
  • Alfred's taste in literature.

Supertramp


So how bad is it ...

when even Power Girl...

thinks you're a brazen hussy?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Marvel Musings?

Blogger's not letting me post the pics that were to form that backbone of my post today, so instead I shall ask for help understanding Marvel.

1. So how can Dr. Blake be Thor? I don't get it; is it a Billy Batson thing, or what?
2. Red Ghost and the Super-Apes is the most fabulous thing imaginable. Why are they not seen more? At DC, they would have their own mini-series; in Archie comics, they'd be a band with a number one hit and a Saturday morning cartoon show.
3. I give up; why DOES Namor have little wings on his feet? They're really creepy.
4. Where does the Fantastic Four's money come from? Does Reed rent his dimensiotraversifying equipment to Walmart and Starbucks so they can find new territory?
5. Since She-Hulk is more intelligent and less aggressive than Hulk, how come nobody complains that she's a sexist character?
6. What's with the cows? I have my own theory, I just want to hear yours.
7. In DC, it pretty much goes without saying that if you have electromagnetic powers it make your brain a little (or a lot) crazy (Dr. Polaris, Frankie Kane, Praxis, et al.). Has anyone ever suggested that might be Magneto's problem?
8. Does Dr. Doom have a girlfriend? I think it might help. He seems like fatherhood would do him a world of good.
9. Ghost Rider. Does he ... always look like that? Does he disappear like the Phantom Stranger or does he just live in SoHo?
10. Pardon my crude curiosity, but exactly HOW did the Vision and Scarlet Witch have kids? I'm not following that one at all.
11. Marvel had some rocking cowboy titles back in the day. Did they ever have a similar line of space comics, or has space stuff always been part of their superhero line?
12. Is there no equivalent of DC's 31st Century in the Marvel universe?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Flash Fiction

As mentioned before, I don't write about the Flash much, and that's not just because of the agoraphobic horror that is Central City/Keystone. It's because he has the Slowest Stories Alive. And I use term "alive" loosely.

I think part of the reason for that may be a simple tactical error in storytelling.

If you read Golden Age stories, you'll notice that they are, for the most part, told from an outside third-person perspective. Oh, sure, you get to peek in on some heroic thought-balloons, but more often the character would say what they were thinking aloud, sometimes to nobody in particular. As odd as that may seem, it seemed less odd to Golden Age writers than giving us readers the ability to continually read characters' minds. So mostly the viewpoint in Golden Age stories was that of the omnipresent narrator, a feeling reinforced by the frequent use of narration boxes.

Uh, Ted? Who exactly are you talking to? Are you violating the fourth wall? Why are you talking about yourself in the third person?
Are you talking out loud to ... yourself? And why were people suprised when you wound up in a sanitarium?



Then in the Silver and Bronze Ages, as our heroes became more individuated and personalized, the story began to be told more and more from their perspective. This had advantages, of course, allowing stories that depended more on character and not entirely on plot. Yet, like all things, its pros came with cons.

One downside was the apparent erosion of writers' ability, willingness, or (at the very least) need to tell a story and reveal character through word and action (which is how we perceive the real world), which is lot harder than resorting to emotive thought balloons.

Many have praised the storytelling in the animated series universe (both on TV and in comics) for its fresh takes on old characters and situations. But often they fail to notice that the "freshness" in the animated stories comes also in part from its focus on telling the story from 'the outside', without (many) thought balloons or their voiceover equivalents. The revelation of character comes almost entirely from word and action, with plots chosen to complement those revelations. In that way, the animated series storytelling is more like a Golden Age story than a modern one.

That's all very interesting, but what's it got to do with the Flash? Simple: once you start telling Flash stories from Flash's perspective

everything


slows



down.


From our outside perspective, the Flash speeds up. But from his perspective, everything else slows down. When actively Flashifying, the Flash operates in a world that moves achingly slowly. That's the environment his stories happen in. They are ... the Slowest Stories Alive. If there is any character whose stories should offer only brief glimpses of the hero's perspective, it's the Flash.

Imagine, if Flash stories actually raced along at the breakneck pre-decompression speed of a Golden Age tale. Isn't that the kind of high-speed excitement that speedsters fans are really looking for when they read about the Fastest Man Alive?

But apparently "slow" is not enough; the Flash must be tedious as well.

Now Bart Allen, former symbol of youthful comic book fun, has been sucked in to the role of slow-moving, self-doubting, thought-balloon-burdened angstmonger. Oh, look, it's cheery Dick Grayson turning into morose Nightwing all over again! Who thought that was a good idea?

The Flash used to be good SilverAge pseudoscientific fun (which, as Gail Simone is showing with the Atom, can still be done right now). But then Barry eventually got sucked into personal troubles and Iris dying and Fiona and the trial and ... hey, they cancelled Flash.

Then Wally's title began, and he was adventurous and a bit devil-may-care, and then after a while he got sucked into personal troubles and Linda and the speed force and villains with coke addictions and ... hey, they cancelled Flash.

Now Bart's title begins with him losing any of the fun he had being Impulse or even Kid Flash, and starts off with personal troubles and a half-baked love interest and the speed force and...


Hey, at least I'm enjoying Green Lantern, Atom, and Wonder Woman.