Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Dominators in ... "The Unkillables!"

This is the story I mentioned before, the one that introduced the Dominators into the DCU in 1967. The Dominators are a perfect example of a phenomenon I call "los Boomerangeros": characters introduced as a throwaway plot device in a (usually Silver Age) story, winds up come back as pillar figure in later stories.

Copperhead, the Mad Hatter, Bizarro, Metallo, Star Boy, Ultra-Boy, Mon-El; they and many others are Boomerangeros, because if you read their first appearances you'll be surprised how secondary they are. They are merely slapdash props used in stories whose real focus is Secret Identity Farces, Jealousy Dramas, Apparent Betrayals, Inverted Expectations or any of the other tedious soap opera plots characteristic of Silver Age DC comics. Only later do other writers fill such characters out and make them into pillars of their respective mythologies.

Such was the fate of the Dominators. But how did these alien Boomerangeros start out?

The plot of their initial story, "the Unkillables", requires the existence of some political bad guys that the Legion must protect to facilitate a peace treaty. So instantly we are informed that the United Planets has been at war with an imperialistic race known subtly as "the Dominators".

Really? The entire UP in a 20 year war, huh? Amazing how something that important's never once been mentioned before in any Legion story. I guess CNN doesn't survive to the 30th Century.

Anyway, a lot of people are none too happy about the prospect of the Dominators receiving an easy peace.

The "Panties Against Peace" Rally

The Dominators destroy not only planets ... but pants.
Curse those disc-heads! "Stay the course!"

What are the Legionnaires doing, while war has been ravaging the UP for the last 20 years? Oh, you know, the usual ...

Chopping wood.

I detest Karate Kid; martial artistry is not a superpower,
and KK represents to me all pathetic attempts to create fad-based characters.
And, no, Vibe does not count.


I love Triplicate Girl/Duo Damsel. Her power's not overwhelming in force, but it is overwhelming in concept; you can imagine what it's like to be any of the Legionnaires -- except her, because how she perceives the world is incommensurable with our unary worldview. Plus, she can pull off wearing orange and purple, which is more of a superpower than "super-karate". Oh, and, as former Second Foil on the Dartmouth Fencing Team, I'm delighted to see that fencing enjoys a renaissance in the 30th century.

Lifting weights

If you read a lot of Legion, you'll notice this is pretty much all B5 and Superboy do in their spare time. Variations of this scene have appeared in scores of Legion stories over the years. Does Brainiac 5 have a crush fetish? What is this adolescent literalist fascination with how much weight Superboy can lift? I think he and B5 must be the secret editors of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

So these exciting leisure activities are interrupted by an urgent summons from the UP president, who's going to assign them to escort the Dominators to a peace conference. On the way to visit him, the Legionnaires pass through all manner of "futuristic" security measures, including this personal favorite:

The X-Ray Tunnel
Film? FILM?!?!?! How... quaint.
Apparently, old-school photography (along with fencing)
experiences a renaissance among spies in the 30th century.
I blame Elastic Lad.

Oh, before we return to the story proper, I wanted to share some slides of a party I went to during my vacation in the 30th century; thanks for the invite, Blockade Boy!

Notice that I always put up a struggle at such events;
adds spice to the proceedings.

So, anyway, this guy, "the Master" has a plan to wipe out the Dominator peace ambassadors and their protectors, the Legion:

He also has a copy of the Starman Archives under his pillow, I bet.

The Master ensures that his "unkillable" assassins are armed with the latest in 30th century killing technology:

A blade. Hah! Let's see the Legion of Super-Heroes stop that!

Meanwhile, the Dominators meet with the Legion.

The Dominators are the "opening act" for the Unkillables:
"Are you ready to rock, Cleveland? We are ... the Dominators!"

Note well that the Dominators have no noses or lips or regular eyeballs. This'll come up later.

The Legionnaires do what any sensible person called upon to escort endangered ambassadors would do: take a short-cut through the Tenth Dimension. You know, the Tenth Dimension, which has never been mentioned before and will never be mentioned again. Try to keep up, will you?

So, naturally, along the way, there are lots of narrow escapes from death traps and attacks by the Unkillables, but Colossal Boy still finds time to do what he does best: fall on his hands and knees.

That rock in the background? Never heard from again.

When the Legion finally defeats the Unkillables, the Master is unmasked as the former political leader of the Dominators, thrown out of office by the Dominators' Peace Faction. The Dominator, who has no nose or lips or visible eyeballs, was the Master, who clearly had a nose and lips and visible eyeballs underneath his mask.

This is how you can tell the Silver Age is nearing its end; in the High Silver Age, whoever removed his mask would have said, "His mask was doctored to give the appearance of human features, so that no one would suspect he was a Dominator!" But that kind of loving attention to Literary Craft faded toward the end of the Silver Age. That's how the world ends, folks: not with a bang but a whimper.

When the Unkillables are unmasked, they are, of course, exactly who you would expect them to be:

The brainwashed superpowered 30th Century lookalike descendants of a few famous human assassins like Lee Harvey Oswald, Brutus & Cassius, and John Wilkes Booth (none of whom, if I recall correctly, had any children).

Well, of course. I mean, who else would you use to assassinate political figures?

So that's the story of the introduction of the Dominators into the DCU. But isn't something missing? How can it be a real Legion story without some sort of cruel trick played on well-meaning friends and companions?

Phew! I was worried for a second! Fortunately it turned out than the "ambassadors" were just high-tech phantasms used as decoy, a cruel trick played on the duped Legionnaries; now it's a real Legion story.

P.S. One last note: although I usually am pretty hard on those who look for what they call "racism" in every balloon and panel. But the Dominators received a rather severe makeover from their original blue appearance...

I must confess I'm certain that the visual revamp of the Dominators is brilliant resonant (consciously or unconsciously) of the vilification of the "Japanazis" in WWII.

Gee, wizened yellow-skinned big-toothed long-nailed be-robed aliens who've supressed their individuality as part of their severely hierarchical imperialism as symbolized by a big red sphere ... maybe it's just a coincidence?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

From Thee to Shining Thee

I'm off on a vacation! The dog and I are headed to the land of my upbringing. I'll be happy if I get access to electricity, let alone the internet, so there'll be no posting.

My evenings will be filled with hymn-singing rather than him-searching. Instead of barking at the mailman, the dog will be chasing chickens, and instead of Muttlicks for dessert he'll probably be scarfing cowpies. "Thee" will replace "whee!" and "thou" will replace "wow!" (and, yes, we really do talk that way).

Yep; it's back to Plainfolk Country to visit the relatives, 23% of whom are named "Jakob".
The dog and I always travel "God's Business Class".

Take advantage of my absence to:

  1. Review my archives. A lot of my most interesting stuff is from when no one (you included) was reading my blog and before I ran out of intelligent commentary and humorous observations.
  2. Make comments on old posts. I get e-mailed copies of all your comments, so it's never too late to comment on any of my posts; there are plenty of them.
  3. Try to remember the last time you were totally out of touch with the electric world and in touch with nature. Has it been too long?
  4. Make sure you know how to use what you would call Archaic Grammar (and what I call proper English). There is nothing more annoying to those of us needing to speak traditional English than those of you who butcher it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Fifdeetu

In reading the responses to my "52 Questions", I realize that not everyone knows why I'm asking about the Dominators (because not everyone reads Legion). Here's why (this scene is in LSH17):The Dominators still remember the "fifdeetu" 1000 years from now.

The Dominators were an alien race originally introduced in a Legion of Super-Heroes story in 1967 (more on that in another post). But our immediate interest in them is as the central figures in the fabulous 1988 company-wide crossover, "Invasion!"

Invasion, in my opinion was as good as most other company-wide crossover have usually been bad. There are several reasons for this:
1. The threat (alien invasion of earth) flowed logically from other stuff already happening in comics and didn't feel like an arbitrary plot device (q.v. "Millenium")
2. The aliens had a comprehensible motive, plan, and defeat.
3. "Invasion" the miniseries that tied everything together, was only three issues long.
4. "Invasion" explained important things in the DCU and how everything fits together.
5. "Invasion", despite having more lasting impact than most other crossovers combined, didn't take itself overly seriously, and had a fun "Mars Attacks!" feel to it.

Why on (or off) earth Invasion hasn't been collected in trade I cannot imagine. I'd buy it for myself and all my friends and relatives.

The essence of the story is that the Dominators consider Earth a threat, because it seems to spit out new superbeings on a weekly basis, so they form an alliance of aliens to attack and subjugate Earth. They do a pretty good job of it, too, all things considered.

Invasion did at least several important things:

  • Introduced the concept of the "metagene" as an explanation for superbeings.
  • Explained the relationship of Earth to all the United Planets in the 30th Century and why people from different planets all have wacky powers but look just like humans.
  • Created a basis for Earth's interaction (or lack thereof) with other planets here in the 20th Century.
  • Kick-started Max Lord's mindcontrol powers, leading in (eventually) to his role in Countdown to Infinite Crisis.
  • Introduced Mon-El and the Daxamites in a Post-Crisis world.
  • Started L.E.G.I.O.N.

As a result of Invasion, an appearance by the Dominators is literary shorthand for "alien concern over Earthers developing superpowers". And given that Mark Waid is writing Legion at the same time as participating in 52, I'm sure it's not a throwaway but a real connection...

but exactly what I can't yet imagine.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Let's Play 52 Questions

  1. Do you like Steel's new look and powers?
  2. Is Supernova the real Booster Gold?
  3. Will Isis survive 52?
  4. What exactly IS Egg Fu?
  5. Are they going to kill the Question?
  6. Are you as tired of Montoya's Sam Spade act as I am?
  7. Now that Luthor's uncorked the metagene bottle, how will DC ever get the metagenie back in?
  8. What is Egg Fu hoping to do with the kidnapped mad scientists?
  9. Will we see Bruce and Diana at all in 52, as we have Clark?
  10. Will Ralph stay bonkers?
  11. Do you love the idea of a permanently bonkers Ralph as much as I do?
  12. Who is the trenchcoated man in the background behind Ralph?
  13. What is the Dominators connection to the 52?
  14. So does Adam Strange have one eye or two, and will be getting any of them back?
  15. When will Rex the Wonder Dog meet Krypto?
  16. Hey -- where is Krypto while Clark is powerless?
  17. Am I the only person who wants to see them bring back Destructo?
  18. What relationship -- if any -- is there between John Henry Irons and the new Commander Steel in the Justice Society?
  19. Will Lois become pregnant?
  20. When is Rip Hunter and how soon before we see him in person?
  21. Will Lex be one of the kidnapped mad scientists?
  22. Having been fused into one body, do Firestorm and Cyborg keep in touch?
  23. Will Haven (the "Eureka" for bad people) become a fixture in the DCU?
  24. So, did the Batfamily just take a cruise while the Red Hood is running around killing people or what?
  25. Will we see Harvey Dent at all in 52, given how active he is supposed to be in Gotham?
  26. Will we get to see Bullock expose the corruption in Commissioner Akins' department?
  27. Will Bullock and Film Freak get a New Earth rematch?
  28. Will the feminist bloggers stop cataloging every rape and attempted rape if I start cataloging every time a female character kicks a male one in the nuts?
  29. Will we ever find out what the heck is happening in Sub Diego?
  30. Will we ever find out why somebody sunk Sub Diego to begin with?
  31. Shouldn't Black Manta be one of the missing mad scientists?
  32. Any guess about the status of Lorena, Mera, Tempest, Dolphin, et al.?
  33. Does anyone care about the status of Lorena, Mera, Tempest, Dolphin, et al.?
  34. Is Wonder Girl brainwashed or just tragically stupid?
  35. What is Devem's connection to Krypton?
  36. Am I the only person who'd really prefer that Starfire never return to Earth?
  37. Is the character of Natasha Irons now irredeemable?
  38. Will there be a Batwoman costume available this Halloween and, if so, who (other than me) will wear it?
  39. What will Skeets do with his spare time now that Booster's dead?
  40. Does anyone know or care what Holly's last name is in Catwoman?
  41. What does the return of the Metal Men portend?
  42. Is Captain Marvel really going to stay stuck in the Rock of Eternity?
  43. Given that Todd & Damon were dating before 52 and still are after it, doesn't that make them comics' longest standing gay couple (aside from Apollo & Midnighter)?
  44. Will we ever get to see Damon meet Alan Scott?
  45. Is anyone still reading Outsiders and, if so, why?
  46. Will Batwoman come into conflict with Harvey Dent?
  47. Am I the only person brushing up his Chinese for the first meeting of Egg Fu and the all-new Atom?
  48. Speaking of the Atom, is that Luthor who's handing out "shrinking belts"?
  49. With Whisper Adaire and the Monster Society running around and mad scientists being kidnapped, why doesn't anybody remember Professor Milo?
  50. Am I the only person really excited about the idea of the evil Titans East, including the return of the Joker's Daughter?
  51. Will we meet Miss Martian in the J'onn J'onnz miniseries?
  52. Who do you want to see turn up in 52 who hasn't yet?