Saturday, September 09, 2006

Holy Phylogeny, Batman!

In the Golden Age, DC heroes were mostly rich guys or aliens, capable of amazing stunts of well, superhuman proportions. They were morally noble, but tended not to get hung up on little societal details like "due process". Impressive though they were, they sure got knocked around a lot; but it never seemed to bother them much.
  • He is of high birth or even something more than human.

  • He must perform extraordinary feats.

  • His is a noble character which is close to perfectly ideal.

  • The suffering of the character is physical.

The Silver Age saw new heroes like Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, who were essentially regular joes. Older heroes like Batman and Superman became less independent and more public figures; instead of confronting governors and defying police, they started working with them, for them almost.
  • A hero can be of common birth.

  • Battle is an ongoing test of manhood and loyalty to the community

  • A man has to be seen as having a good moral character including. chastity and obedience (doesn’t actually need to be of such a character, perception more important than actuality).

  • Must demonstrate obedience to hierarchy; Must follow elaborate rules of chivalry, dress, courtesy, and codes of conduct.

  • Wages war on behalf of the community.

Then Marvel hit the scene and looked at heroes in a new, more personal way. Volatile and emotional characters struggled to understand themselves and their powers. Spider-Man wrestled with his ambivalence over the responsibilities of his powers. The Fantastic Four created unique roles for themselves as "celebrity superheroes". The X-Men spent much time considering what it meant to be "a mutant" and what the future of the mutant community should be.
  • Birth and class are unimportant: the individual transcends society

  • The battle is internal: it is a psychological war won by the “courage to be me”.

  • Moral codes are eccentric–heroes make their own rules

  • Passions are outside of individual control

  • Self knowledge is valued more than physical strength or endurance
    (physical courage is de-valued)

  • The hero is moody, isolated, and introspective

  • Loyalty is to a particular project and to a community of like-minded others

Some later heroes were more cynical in design. The Question, Booster Gold, the Creeper, Lobo, Hitman, the Wildstorm heroes; all of them seemed to be focused on just getting by, with goals and behaviors that stood out in contrast to their predecessor. Even some old heroes, like Iron Man, got recast into this new "heroic" mold. If you'll read the most recent issue of Freedom Fighters, you'll see Uncle Sam take heroes of this type and try renovate them into nobler heroes based on the early model of the Golden and Silver Ages.
  • He seeks merely to survive–to create a pool of light in a world of dark shadows.

  • The war is against meaninglessness: the battle is to create meaning and value.

  • The heroes have a code of behavior rather than a code of ethics - they portray men who are impassive, hard-boiled, never surprised by events.

  • The world is seen as having no internal order: anything goes–the hero is as likely to be debauched and depraved as the enemy.

  • The internal struggle is with addiction to drugs, liquor, sex, money.
    The external struggle is with corruption in government, the military, schools - formal organizations.

  • There is no sense of community. The hero lives for a small, select circle which can be merely one woman or a few trusted friends.

Why, if I didn't know better, I'd say the comic book industry intentionally replicated the development of the four literary conceptions of the heroic (Classic, Medieval, Romantic, and Modern).

Friday, September 08, 2006

Late Silver Age Batman, Encapsulated In A Single Panel

Slash Pic

Every since I was informed by Absorbascommenters about this, this "slash fic" phenomenon, I've been curious about it. I've never really encountered any (except one site with a somewhat disturbing Hugo Strange novella), so I thought I should try to find a way to generate my own.

My first attempts failed. I could never find a hook, a nub around which to build my story. But then I thought to apply the principles of blog posting ...!

Success has crowned my efforts. What's more, I am perfecting a method by which anyone can write such adventures, a modus slashficiendi, as it were. So far it's pretty simple;

  1. Pick a panel from a comic book, preferably pre-Crisis. Post-Crisis panels have too much overt sexuality for there to be any fun in unearthing covert sexuality.
  2. Assume the panel is the first scene of your slash fic.
  3. Write the rest of it.

I call it "Slash Pic" and as it turns out, it's easy! Here, I'll show you....

The boy had been unexpectedly rough--too rough, Batman tried to convince himself. But Batman had enjoyed it, more than he expected, and certainly much more than he had any right to.

"Why ... why can't it be that way with Robin?," he pined. "Could it be, if Robin knew how I felt, what I really need? Perhaps this boy could --

"But, no, it's unthinkable! I must conceal the evidence of my shame, return home to my devoted pal, and forget this ever happened!"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Place at the Table

Speaking of interesting pictures, have you seen this scene from a forthcoming issue of 52?I'm not sure who the shtarker is killing everyone at the table, but if I had to guess I'd say it's "the new Blockbuster."

In addition to the random ganglords around the table, I see:

The Mad Mod (quite dead), Magpie and the Ventroliquist (who, as we already know, die after 52). and the corpse of Kite-Man (a.k.a., Charles Brown).

Oh, and that other gentleman, with the hair? Recognize him? You should.

It's the Squid.

In the March 1983 issue of Detective (No. 524), an unprepossessing Gotham ganglord known as "the Squid" squares off against Batman. Impossibly, the not particularly impressive Squid manages to kill Batman and is proclaimed king of the underworld as a result.

As it turns out, the story is a Gotham redux of the famous Civil War tale, "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", by Ambrose Bierce. In fact, the Squid has just been fatally shot, and is only imagining his triumph over Batman in his last moment of life.

The story was very loosed reinterpreted as the "Man Who Killed Batman" story on BTAS, with Matt Frewer as "Sid the Squid".

Anyway, I haven't seen the real Squid in 23 years now, but I remember him well. And that's him at that table in 52, Week 25, Page 3.

P.S. I guess a lot people haven't read or don't remember Tec 524, even though, for a reason I haven't mentioned, it's pretty much the basis for everything that's happened in the Batman mythos since then. Do you know what that reason is...?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Teen Beat

Okay, maybe all the forumfolk are talking but this, but, well... I don't hang out on forums. I barely have enough time to write this blog, what with all my important work like, um, ... custom Heroclix pogmaking.

  • So please indulge me a little to talk about this:Flamebird. Yes, well, that's inevitable I suppose.
  • Bombshell. Interesting! Some sort of legacy character or not...? A teen Bulletgirl, maybe?
  • Power Boy. Zowie. Is he legal yet? Just please tell me he's legal... Given the odd strappish thing on his costume, his pose, and his darling little gloves, I'm currently assuming he's a gender-reversed "Power Girl" originally from another Earth.
  • Little Barda. Scott and Barda and too young, you'd think, to have a teenage daughter. But with Fourth Worlders, who can tell?
  • Miss Martian. I love the idea of spunky little girl Martian; J'onn is so terribly dour. It makes perfect sense that she have her origins in the Martian Manhunter miniseries, but cynics tell me that makes too much sense.
  • Mas Y Menos. Hm. Guess that was baby fat.
  • Argent. Shoot me now.
  • Hot Spot. I remember him from the cartoon, but isn't this his first comic book appearance?
  • The Riddler's Daughter and the Joker's Daughter. Hey ... where's the Scarecrone and the beautious Penguin's daughter?
  • Talon. Wow. Apparently a male sidekick for the new Batwoman. I find that fascinating.
  • Young Frankenstein. Pronounced "Frahkensteen", no doubt.
  • Molecule. A junior Atom, but not as small? Priceless.
  • Osiris. Of course, when Isis's brother is found, injured and near death, Black Adam saves him by sharing his power, in perfect parallel to how Captain Marvel gave rise to Captain Marvel Junior.

As much as I traditionally can't stand the Teen Titans, I must now acknowledge the truth: the Teen Titans are one of the main things keeping the tradition of teen sidekicks alive in the DCU. If the Titans didn't require such characters, I'm not sure any would currently be being created, and certainly not these folks, most of whom seemed firmly rooted in DC legacies.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

HC Objects: They're irresistible!

Delicious Hostess (TM) Fruit Pies, With Real Fruit Filling

Special Hostess (TM) Fruit Pies With Real Fruit Filling Rules

  • 1. Hostess (TM) Fruit Pies With Real Fruit Filling may be thrown as far as a figure's range; any figure regardless of range may throw them at least four spaces.
  • 2. Hostess (TM) Fruit Pies With Real Fruit Filling automatically incapacitate any figures in or adjacent to the square they land in; the token is removed on the following turn.
  • 3. The Joker is immune to the effects of Hostess (TM) Fruit Pies With Real Fruit Filling.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Object Lesson

As regular readers will know, we like to make our occasional contribution to the Fine Art of Heroclix. Usually, it's just showcasing the fine work of Totaltoyz in creating custom figures, chosen by our readers in polls, such as:

Lately, we've been branching out into creating bystander tokens (a.k.a. "pogs") , such as:

We'll continue to do all of that, but we're also going to take the next step, by contributing some Object Tokens.

As Heroclix players know, there are two types of Object Tokens, standard objects (which come in two flavors: yellow-bordered Light Objects and red-bordered Heavy Objects) and special objects.

Standard objects are just blunt instruments; characters with Superstrength are allowed to pick them up and smash them over people's heads or throw them at opponents. Many's the Heroclix player who has, over the years, developed a phobia of gumball machines and trash dumpsters.

Special objects (which have a blue border) do special things, like blow up when you throw them or affect the adjacent spaces.

We're going to add our own types of "special objects": green-bordered Portable Objects (which anyone can pick up and carry) and purple-bordered Personal Objects (which only certain people can use). These objects will all have a "point value"; that way, you can either include them as part of your team, or, if all players agree, simply include them in the ordinary distribution of objects around the board.

There are tons of objects we could make; I welcome your suggestions! In fact, I'll make you a deal: if you buy a custom clix from Totaltoyz through the Big Monkey Ebay site, I'll design you an object or bystander token of your choosing -- for free! -- then post it here on the blog for all to enjoy. Provided the request is reasonable and appropriate, of course; no "Power Girl's panties" requests will be honored.

When conceiving this project, I had no doubt whatsoever which would be the first Portable Object I would make...

Faster than a test pilot's reflexes!
More powerful than a Green Lantern's will!
Able to "klomp" Hal Jordan in a single sound!

It's ...

Special Yellow Lamp Rules
  1. Anyone may throw the Yellow Lamp up to four spaces as an attack.
  2. Characters with "Superstrength" may throw it up to eight spaces.
  3. If the attack succeeds, the Yellow Lamp does one click of damage.
  4. If the attack is against anyone wearing a GL ring, it ignores all protective powers (those that reduce damage, avoid damage or increase defensive value).
  5. If the attack is against Hal Jordan, it automatically succeeds; no dice roll is necessary.
  6. If the attack is against Hal Jordan, it not only does damage, but "Incapacitates" as well.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Lurch of the Poisoned Mind

HELP! I think I've been .... been poisoned!!!!

So there I was, innocently leafing through my copy of Wizard, because (1) as a comic book store owner I'm expected to read it (2) it helps me keep current on publishers whose work I don't read (3) subscribing is the only way to get certain limited edition Heroclix figures (sigh).

And I find myself reading the previews pages of and article about the upcoming Mighty Avengers series by Brian Michael Bendis, and I turn to the dog (easy to do, since he's always within a 3 foot radius) and said,

"Well, sweetie-face, that sounds like fun; I'm going to have to pick that up."

When I heard the words come out of my mouth I dashed to the bathroom mirror and stared at myself, "It's ... it's my face, but it isn't me! There's someone else behind my face!!!" I splashed it with agua fria, then Aqua Velva, hoping to exorcise the demon it was hiding.

All in vain! I still found myself intrigued by this "Mighty Avengers" group...

Ms. Marvel and Sentry; what a cute couple! What simple, iconic costumes! Ares-- hmm, I'm bet he's hot without that helmet.

Black Widow
; wow, it's a chick with a giant gun! Is she Montoya's ex, too? Did she escape from an Indy book? Shot her way out, I bet...

This polite and witty "Iron Man" person, who chats with his armor as a Green Lantern does with his ring. The Wasp ... okay, well, she just seems like another one of Marvel's myriad bug people. But hunkalicious Wonder Man with his fabulous metrosexual outfit? Why, he almost looks like a DC character (like if Mr. Terrific had a gay white cousin). He certainly has me wondering.

They even seemed to have a good balance of powers and personalities. They sort of reminded me of the JLA or the Legion. Except, you know... inefficient.

The most Marvelly things about it were the snappy patter, which was a rather a dollop snappier than was appropriate for the situation; I blame Joss Whedon. And, of course, they weren't fighting some singular Villain Whose Name Ends in "O", like a decent supergroup should. Sadly, they were fighting yer basic Marvel BUMWUPs (Big Ugly Monsters With Unlikely Physiogonomy). I guess the GOMVARs (Giant Open-Mouthed Vaguely Aztec Robots) were busy.

It still seemed kind of .... fun.

For the love of god, Montressor, what has happened to me? I'm not supposed to like anything ... "Marvel". And no one is supposed to like anything Brian Michael Bendis.

Is it Stan Lee? Did he infect me with a Marvel meme, digitally transmitted via "Who Wants To Be A Zoopuh-heerow?"? Is it some vicious cosmic karma for dissing Marvel so much? Or have the scales tipped, and, after decades of DC succumbing to self-Marvelization that it's now rejecting, has Marvel contracted "DC Disease" enough to put out a major title that even--

even I--

would like?

P.S. Yeah, buddy, I call the dog "sweetie face" sometimes...

Can you blame me?