Saturday, August 05, 2006

DRAMA!!!



For those of you who weren't at the Big Monkey Member Party on July 20, here are some pictures of the Dramatic Reading Contest.

At the beginning of the party the 12 contestants were each given the panels and text of a dramatic comic book passage of my choosing (heh heh). During the contest, they were called one by one to perform their passage before the awestruck audience, as the appropriate panels were projected onto the screen behind them.

Here, a professional DJ threatens all of Rann with annihilation and Michael Bolton records.


The Insidious Dr. Mah, evil Antarctican echidnodermatologist, exulting after his prize-winning interpretation of the Penguin's famous "bowling pin soliloquy" from
The Penguin Takes A Flyer Into the Future.


Our friend Anthony Fortunato, takes time out from his movie career to portray Darkseid from
Crisis on Infinite Earths.


Even television's Wayne Brady stopped by to improv a little song about Aquaman!

Oh, no, wait... that's Devon.



Friday, August 04, 2006

Pogs in Space!

They are the two DC characters who form the framework of their kind. Each in their own ways define their ages; neutrality toward them is impossible. And I have heard tales of families torn asunder and fistfights at comic conventions caused by arguments over them.

While their impact on our own lives might be less dramatic, none of us can remain untouched by ...


No one has ever really known what to do with the Martian Manhunter, a sci-fi character with a pulp detective life in a superhero world. When faced with such an insoluble problem, DC did the only sensible Silver Age thing: gave him an insufferably cute space simian sidekick.

That always works so well.

ZOOK

Zook was able to radiate intense heat or cold at close quarters, and had some defensive shapeshifting abilities. Thus, the Zook pog can do 2 clicks of Damage (able to harm a Tough character but not an Invulnerable one). Zook also spoke a grating baby-pidgin, something like what you'd expect if Superbaby had been found not by the Kents but by a Korean "good time girl" at a U.S. Army base.

The Zook Special Rules:
1. Zook has Shape Change.
2. The Martian Manhunter has "Defend" with regard to Zook.

In 1975, power rings weren't the little chatterboxes they are today. Ceiling tiles and yellow lamps detected; evasive action recommended. So Hal Jordan used to fly the vast emptiness of outer space accompanied by the fascinating conversation of his favorite person: himself.

While Hal could enjoy that forever, there's only so much readers can be expected to endure. So DC gave Hal a little space pet to sit on his shoulder and listen uncomprehendingly to Hal's self-admiring ramblings; pets are good at that, trust me. He named it "Itty"; what do you expect from someone who monikered his mechanic "Pieface"?

But as is the law in comic books, all things innocent must be spoiled. Later Itty grew into more threatening adolescent and adult forms of his species, at one point sucking calcium out of Green Arrow; don't think about it. This plot was so wonderful that Gerry Conway stole it a few years later to use it in a JLA Detroit arc; amazing, huh?

You'll know the End Is Near when Wizkids puts out an Itty REV for each stage of his development.

Meanwhile, enjoy our
ITTY THE LASMA
Itty does nothing, can't talk, has no special powers, and can barely move. Being small, however, he's hard to hit.

The Itty Special Rules:
1. Heroes cannot attack Itty, because he's cute.
2. Itty can "ride" beside a Hal Jordan figure.
3. Hal has "Defend" with regard to Itty.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Killer Attack Dogs + Fashion Makeover = Howling Fun!

Oh. My. GODS.

I had assumed Who Wants To Be A Superhero couldn't get any better; I was so very wrong.

Dogs -- particularly killer attack dogs -- are pretty much a sure bet for improving anything; I make sure there are plenty at every social event I attend ... keeps out the Marvel-readers and cat-bloggers

Fashion-makeovers -- particularly ones involving yard after yard of spandex -- are nearly universal in their fabulousness. Queer Eye, Pimp My Ride, Clean House, Extreme Homemakeover, and many other shows are based on the concept's wide appeal. And, face it, "Hero Gets New Costume" is one of the essential subplot devices in comic books; Kyle used to do it every issue.

Last night's WWTBEAS had both killer attack dogs and superhero fashion makeovers. I was in Elysium, folks.

When the Killer Attack Dog sequence began, I laughed. You see, I spend LOTS of time with LOTS of dogs, more than you can imagine, sometimes 70 in a day. I knew exACTly what these people were in for. Heh. Heh heh.

When the actual competition began, well ... I don't like to say "laughing my ass off" because I don't like that kind of language on my blog. Let's just say I laughed "exuberantly".

If you've ever met me, you might already know that my laughter is not a pretty thing. It's high and shrieky and wet; very "Mark Hamill's Joker-in-hysterics".

During certain parts of the Killer Attack Dog sequence (I don't want to spoil it for you, but let's just say several contestants would be right at home in the Legion of Squeaky Toys), my laughter got to that horrible "oh no I actually cannot stop laughing now" point I'm always afraid of, because my dog stared at me with that look he gets and I thought "oh NO he's about to starting howling and when he does I'll laugh even HARDER", which of course he immediately did as soon as I thought that.

So I'm Hamill-shrieking and my dog is howling and the killer attack dogs are ignoring Fat Momma's attempts to distract them with donuts and Major Victory is praising the dogs' valiantry as they dangle from his crotch and Creature the Supertramp is being yanked apart like a ragdoll and everything's starting to go hazy because not enough oxygen is reaching my brain. God bless you, Stan Lee.

And then Monkey Woman does one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. I'll leave it at that.

The Fashion Makeover ... that seemed like pure fun. To discover that in fact there was something more going on, something that would wind up eliminating one of the contestants ... sheer poetry.

None of the people on the show are bad people, you know. But it demonstrates in subtle ways just how often we normal people indulge in behavior that we would consider shameful if we saw our heroes doing it. Food for thought (along with Fat Momma's donuts). Put on your "What Would Superman Do?" bracelets and see whether it changes your daily life.

Yet the highlight of the episode --the final twist --was still to come! FREAKING BRILLIANT. Was it perhaps a set-up all along? Possibly; probably; heck, almost certainly. I do not know; I do not care.

The Final Twist succeeded in changing the WWTBEAS from a comic book themed show into a veritable live action comic book. This isn't "reality", this is "comic book reality", baby!


P.S. to Devon:
NOW
I understand why people watch professional wrestling.

Let the Dibny Parade of Horribles Begin!

I stood silently (well ... comparatively silently) as people wept and moaned over "what they did to poor Sue Dibny". But with Sue's literary revenance as a plot device in 52 and Ralph's hypocritical moralizing at poor dear Booster... well, I've stood all I can stands, I can't stands no more.

The Dibnys are the Apostles of Sin in the DCU. Greed, Pride, Lust; the Dibnys sweat sin. While thousands have blinded themselves with nostalgic haze into casting the Dibnys as the personifications of innocent Silver/Bronze Age fun, who have been monstrously despoiled by Moderns, I shall shout the ugly truth:

Ralph & Sue were wicked wicked people.

I cannot catalogue their endless evils in one post; my own constitution could not bear it. The Dibny Parade of Horribles will take many posts over time, I think.

But let's start with the little scene below. I have seen many savagely kinky things in my day, my friends (er ... in movies, of course; not in person; certainly not). But never have I seen anything like Ralph's decision to...

shove his elongated butt into
the crotches of two men simultaneously.



Ugh. I feel the need to take a shower now...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pogapalooza!

Well, it's pretty clear who the leaders are in our Custom Heroclix Pog Contest!

Faster than a locomotive is the Rolling Head of Pantha, fabled in song and story, as it FWMPs into third place. Black Lois pulls ahead of Pantha (*snort*) because, unable to get a cab, she took the subway and avoided gridlock. Gail Simone, well, she's always a step ahead of the readers ... and the competition, so she easily takes first place!

And so, without further ado...


The Rolling Head of Pantha Special Rules
1. The Rolling Head of Pantha has Supersenses.

2. The Rolling Head of Pantha's moves do not count toward your allotted actions.
3. The Rolling Head of Pantha has
Battle Fury.
4. The Rolling Head of Pantha can breakaway automatically.
5. The Rolling Head of Pantha is not impeded by hindering terrain or other characters.


The Black Lois Special Rules
1. Black Lois cannot be taxied.
2. Black Lois has Shape Change.

3. Black Lois cannot be targeted by figures who are not Whitey.



The Gail Simone Special Rules
1. All villains (on either team!) adjacent to Gail Simone add plus one to their Attack Value.

2. Villains cannot attack Gail Simone.
3. When adjacent to Gail Simone, Dr. Psycho gets plus 2 on his Attack Value when attempting Mind Control.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Terror of the Two-Headed Coin, Part 2

Jake has an interesting new post on Two-Face that prompts me to make one of my own. I would have replied on his blog but I didn't want to go on and on in a comment. That's what blog posts are for.

Now, I could write about Two-Face all day. Every day. And, before you ask, yes, that has come up in therapy. Now, that could be because I'm secretly a wanna-be supervillain, desperately sublimating my destructive impulses by punishing criminals instead. Or, maybe Two-Face really is one of comic's most fascinating and potentially deep characters.

In either case, like Jake, I was a little dissatisfied with James Robinson's recent portrayal of Harvey Dent (although for different reasons). What bothers me most about Robinson's Two-Face -- indeed, most post-Crisis interpretations of Two-Face -- is, appropriately enough, two-fold:

1. Two-Face/Harvey Dent is portrayed as two sides of a split personality.
2. The "good" and "evil" sides of Two-Face as being in conflict.

I don't think Two-Face should be a "split personality". I don't want to see Two-Face "talking to Harvey Dent", or vice versa. For one thing, as I understand it, that's not how "split personalities" work at all; they are mutually exclusive "modes" of the subject. They can't "talk to each" any more than "on" can talk to "off". In fact, the inability of the multiple personalities to "talk" with one another is part of their problem to begin with.

When Two-Face was created, the writers knew what a split personality was; in fact, they used the schtick in other contemporary Batman stories (particularly the "Adam Lamb" story). They weren't rubes who tried to write a split personality story and missed the mark; they were going for something more sophicated and scarier.

There's little uniqueness of characterization for Two-Face if he's just another "multiple personality" killer. There are plenty of those (and better ones) in literature, in comics, even in Gotham (or at least there were, until somebody rugged out the Ventriloquist & Scarface). Two-Face, in my opinion, stands for something much more frightening... .

Similarly, I never want to hear Two-Face refer to himself in the plural ever again. Two-Face is NOT a "we"; that doesn't sound scary, it just sounds silly; the man's a psychotic, not Queen Victoria.

I can accept a portrayal of Harvey Dent as having a "good side" and a "bad side", with impulse toward both that are at odds with each other; that's true of us all. But when Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face, it doesn't represent the triumph of the "bad side" over the "good side". It represents something much much worse: someone who's given up on trying to choose between the two.

Harvey Dent isn't the "good side" and Two-Face the "bad side"; yawn. Harvey Dent was a man having trouble reconciling his personal views about good and evil with how the world works; he became Two-Face because Two-Face doesn't have that problem at all. Two-Face isn't Harvey Dent's problem; he's the solution to Harvey Dent's problem.

A very unpleasant, dangerous, and unwise solution, yes. But still a "solution" that resolved Harvey's inner conflicts and that is why Two-Face survives and Harvey Dent doesn't. And here's one of the scene that proves it: his origin ...


Two-Face doesn't (or shouldn't) struggle with the difference between good and evil; he's abrogated all that decision making to the coin. As a crusading District Attorney, Harvey Dent spent his life trying to ensure that bad deeds got punished and good deeds rewarded. His scarring flew in the face of that worldview; in Gotham, bad guys get away with murder and good guys like Harvey Dent pay dearly for their attempts to right the world.

In such a world, Harvey lost the motivation to make sure he was doing the right thing. If your efforts to enforce the difference between right and wrong don't make any difference, why bother? Why distinguish them in your own life? It's really just in how you and others look at things any way, so if you look like a monster, why not be one?

If you look at some of the pre-Crisis Two-Face stories, you'll notice some pretty fascinating psychology at work, with Two-Face able to justify actions as either good or bad in disturbing or novel ways. I've read all of the Two-Face stories over the years ... but never a Two-Face scene more chilling and sophisticated than this one:

Now, that is Comic Book Irony ... and perhaps the cleverest two-panel scene in the history of DC comics.

Two-Face's "evil" action (killing his incompetent henchmen) is perfectly equated with the "good" action he would have taken as Harvey Dent (sending a killer to the electric chair). Two-Face doesn't represent our fear that our bad side will triumph over our good side; he represents that idea that we will lose (or abandon) the ability to make any difference between the two. As such, he's a conceptual threat to the entire moral framework of the DCU.

The irony, of course, is that he muddles the differences between good and evil in the name of preserving the difference between the two. Being a lawyer helps, I suppose. Almost as a necessity to doing their jobs, attorneys have to set aside their right to judge the accused in the process of defending or prosecuting them. So the very training that led to Harvey's career as a Champion of Good may have helped weaken his moral certitude enough to enable his career as a villain (good becomes evil, and vice versa).

There are many unkind things than can be said about what was done with Two-Face in the film Batman Forever. But they did get one thing right: Two-Face's obsession isn't good vs. evil, it's justice versus random fate. The heart of Two-Face's distress isn't the scarring of his face, but the monumental injustice that it symbolizes.

While I may not have liked everything that Robinson did with Two-Face, Jake may well be right. Robinson may be creating a more self-understanding Two-Face, one who is Harvey Dent's "solution", not his problem. A Two-Face who (like the original one in the story shown above) became who he is through his choice in how to react to an unjust world that judges poorly and often by appearances. A Two-Face who, in denying that our personal choices between good and evil matter, does so by an active choice, thus contradicting himself.

How ironic.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Reasons to read "Manhunter" #14

In issue #14 of Manhunter, Kate's old friend, Cameron Chase, begins an, um, "interesting" relationship with Kate's technical assistant, Dylan, who also acquires a new roommate, Mark Shaw, one of the previous Manhunters.

The most enjoyable comics -- or, television shows, for that matter -- are ensemble efforts, rather than solo performances. I've often felt that one of the things holding back the popularity of characters like post-Crisis Wonder Woman, Aquaman, the Flash, and the Green Lantern(s) is the continual turnover of their supporting casts.

Not that those characters are unpopular! But not like Batman and Superman, who've enjoyed comparative stability in their supporting casts for 60+ years.

One of literary devices that helps cement an ensemble cast, even one built around a central player, is the fact that the cast have relationship not only with the central player, but with one another.

Manhunter's supporting cast, one by one, develop relationship of various types with one another. That's one reason that I recommend that you...

Buy Manhunter.

Pog Candidate Profiles

This is for newer readers who might not recognize all the candidates is our Customer Heroclix Pog Poll.

The Buddhist Monk refers to the guy who revived Eel O'Brien after he becomes Plastic Man; everyone else has an explanatory link.


Marsha Mallow 7 votes
The Kryptonite Monkey 8 votes
The Rolling Head of Pantha 18 votes
Buddhist Monk 6 votes
Lefty the Starfish 5 votes
Gail Simone 19 votes
"Railroad" Porter 3 votes
The Yazz 4 votes
Thought Slaves 8 votes
Fat Momma 5 votes
Rusty the Radium Dog 9 votes
The Superman Whipping Doll 11 votes
Black Lois Lane 18 votes
Wally the Walleye 5 votes
Nightgirl's Bouffante 6 votes
Mike Zagari 1 vote
Salvador Dali 9 votes
The Amorous Space Gorilla 9 votes
Chic Carter, Ace Reporter 3 votes
Willi Van Dort 12 votes