Friday, November 09, 2007

Why Vibe Is Nothing Like Dazzler

Vibe's power was to generate sonic waves.
Dazzler's power was to convert the sonic energy from music into light.

Vibe loved having his powers.
Dazzler didn''t like having powers .

Vibe loved being a superhero in the JLA.
Dazzler had no desire to be superhero.

Vibe is from a low to lower-middle class family in inner city Detroit.
Dazzler is a judge's daughter from Gardendale, New York.

Vibe came from a large family.
Dazzler was an only child.

Vibe's family were very close and supportive of him.
Dazzler was estranged from her parents, who were not supportive of her.

Vibe was unemployed, apart from his superhero duties.
Dazzler was a stage performer.

Vibe was exuberantly (over)confident and fun-loving.
Dazzler, although vivacious, suffered bouts of insecurity.

Vibe was a dancer.
Dazzler was primarily a singer (who could also dance).

Vibe was a short, dark-haired Puerto Rican male.
Dazzler was a tall, blonde white woman.

Vibe had no romantic interests shown in any of his stories.
Dazzler was romantically linked with Angel, the Human Torch, and other high-profile superfolk.

Vibe unhesitatingly confronted more established heroes when he felt it was appropriate.
Dazzler continually relied on established heroes for emotional and professional support.

Vibe died defending the life of child in a filthy alley in a ghetto in New York.
Dazzler had her debut at Carnegie Hall and still managed to screw up her career.

Vibe is an icon of DC-style rush to duty, self-sacrifice, and tragedy.
Dazzler is an icon of Marvel-style shrinking from duty, self-pity, and melodrama.


Really, other than the fact that one had a '80s contemporary dance style as a hobby, and the other sang professionally a musical style associated with a '70s contemporary dance style, they have also most nothing in common. I know they aren't the deepest characters ever created, but please don't simply label them "Dazzler = 1970s dance craze" / "Vibe = 1980s dance craze" and walk away. If you do that sort of thing, then you're not getting as much out of your comics as you deserve.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

CRAZY BIG SALE AT BIG MONKEY THIS WEEKEND!


Yes, fifty percent off!

HAPPY VETERAN'S DAY!

Thus Stalks... The Dazzler!

I've gotten soft. I can't even remember the last time I was mean to Marvel and the comics they produce.

My failure fills me with guilt, self-loathing, and, um, inconfidence; I have let you down, let down the public, let down my Uncle Zeb who appeared for almost two full panels in my origin. Spending too much time with All My Close Acquaintances Who Also Happen To Be Villainous Marvel-readers (that is, the other panelists on the Big Monkey Comics Podcast), has clouded my judgment and weakened my resolve to use Greatly Responsibly the Great Power of the Absorbascon (*snort*). But now...

SOFTIE NO MORE!

And to be completely unfair in my attacks, let's re-commence with ... DAZZLER.

Now, some will charge that choosing a character rooted in the disco fad to represent the foibles of the House of Ideas is inappropriate. I say the opposite. DC has usually striven to be timeless (allowing for changes in technology, most DC stories are as a readable in one era as they are in the next). Marvel, on the hand, has striven to be (if you'll pardon the pun)
timely. That approach has its advantages ("We're the hep publishers of the now, O Devoted Ones!") and its disadvantages (e.g. Buford Hollis). He who publishes by the sword is lampooned by the sword.

Besides, I actually love Dazzler herself, a rollerskating disco singer with fabulous lightshow powers. It's an amusing and challenging premise, and DC has done more with less (Tenzil Kem is pretty darned well known, after all).

Don't get me wrong; I am well aware that there are bad DC comics. What do you think I grew up reading? But there's more bad in one bad page of a Marvel comic than in all of Bob Haney's run on Brave & the Bold. What's more, it's the way in which Marvel comics, like Dazzler, are bad that dangs them to heck, and we'll be discussing that later. But for today, let's start out with just

one
single
page

from Dazzler (specifically, Dazzler #21, a Special Double-Size Issue that "revealed ... the shameful secret of Dazzler's past!").


Dazzler Fact: Dazzler's power of ground-flying is rooted in her pelvis! --Scintillatin' Scipio.

Is her back-up band the Beach Boys? I like to imagine she's opening with "The Monkey's Uncle"; after all, it is Carnegie Hall!

You may well be wondering, "Was Dazzler dead? Did Superboy Prime punch the walls of Earth 616 to bring her back?" No, silly; this isn't DC, the House of Recycled Ideas; this is Marvel, where dead means emotionally dead. In the previous panel, you see, she survives a confrontation with her Daddy Issues, whose caption reads "For a moment, the Dazzler had died. But now... " Gosh! Metaphorical death of a costumed identity due to personal conflict with family members! In a MARVEL comic? Who'da thunk it?

Asgardians: Please Remove Your Hats!

Like all consummate show-women, Dazzler wears facepaint, a miniature disco ball pendant, and mirrored rollerskates. High-heeled mirrored rollerskates. Actually, I'm not sure that's Dazzler they're seeing; could be a Frank Stella exhibit.

Dazzler Fact: As her friends have long known, Dazzler's powers render her temporarily flatuent!--Gas-Passin' Garling.

Her "friends", by the way, include every single frickin' Marvel character who has ever lived with the possible exception of Namor who probably wanted to attend but got turned away for being underdressed. Imagine if the entire cast of JLU showed up for Jaime Reyes' graduation ceremony; this is worse than that. Dazzler's real name is "Alison", but it should be "Mary Sue", because she is the apex of the Mary Sue artform.

Dazzler is the Wolverine of Disco.

And what she does isn't pretty. Personally, I'm guessing it's the drummer.

Dazzler Fact: Under the right conditions, Dazzler can convert a musical climax into a visible orgasm!--G-Spot Garling.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dance Heroes

I've never done one of those "look at what weird internet searches are bringing people to my site" kind of posts, but this time I must, in order to help some searchers and point them in the right direction.

I'm getting frequent and repeated searches for the Superman Dance, the Batman Dance, and the Aquaman Dance (searchers: follow those links) from what I suppose I must call the "Crank Dat" dance series, courtesy of "Soulja Boy", a rap artist of the crunk or snap variety. My site comes up on the search because of my previous discussion about whether particular superheroes can dance.

I find this all oh so ironic on a variety of levels.

The simplest irony is that people are looking on my site to learn how to do the dance, rather than just going to Youtube, where the dang things are all over the places. But there's more...

Part of my family operates dance studios, and over the years I have heard the death of patterned popular announced again and again. Pop dancing died with 1950s doo-wop; and with the Death of Disco; and with the false belief that breakdancing stopped in the 1980s. Yet, again and again, the people invent their own patterned dances to popular music (a fact undiminished by ones aesthetic evaluation of either the dance or the music).

Similar, as a comic book fan, I've heard repeatedly the cultural obituary of the superhero genre and specifically of the great American superheroes, which, you know, just aren't "cool enough" for the next generation.

Well, tell that to all the people dancing the Batman dance, the Superman dance, and the Aquaman dance.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Perfect Storm

Every century or so, there's a confluence of forces that brings together the greats in one field. Under such circumstances did the greatest statesmen of their day create the United States; did the greatest scientists of their day harness the power of electricity and the atom; did the greatest generals of their day fight the Second Punic War.

And so it was in the previous century, when the greatest powers in music aligned to produce its greatest song, the pinnacle toward which the musical arts had been crawling ever since man first banged a hollow log.

As I'm sure you've already guessed, I am speaking of


THE MONKEY'S UNCLE.

Composed by the greatest composers in living memory, the Sherman Brothers. Performed by the greatest band in history, the Beach Boys. Sung with the signature sound of She Whose Voice Can Be Compared Only To That Of God Herself, Annette Funicello.

It's not just that each participant is the apex of their own art. They complement one another so well that the whole is, inconceivably, greater than even the sum of its parts. The sharp knife of Annette's voice cuts through the smooth Beach Boy butter and spreads its harmonies thick upon the hearty white bread of the Sherman's lyrics: "I'd live in a jungle gym / in order to be with hi-i-im / I love the monkey's uncle and I wish I was the monkey's aunt."

Sometimes I just sit and watch the record of it, marveling at what the gods hath wrought.



But then I grow sad, knowing there is no such Great Confluence for my beloved comic books.

I'm not even talking about putting the greatest artists, writers, and letterers together. I'm just talking about getting the characters together! Or, to put it another way...

Why is there no definitive Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman story?

Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman always were the three pillars of the DCU. At first it was an accident based on their popularity. But lately its an actual philosophical position at DC (although it strategies, particularly with regard to Wonder Woman, don't always follow through on that position).

What could be more natural than putting those three characters together? Well, lots of things, actually. Pillars, almost by definition, stand at a distance from one another; that's how they hold things up. It's very hard to get the Big Three together, and to figure out how they relate and what they should do. If you doubt me, read the World's Finest Showcase, where Batman and Superman were forcibly and awkwardly joined at the hip for decades. And that's just two of them.

  • Matt Wagner actually wrote a story for them called Trinity. Honestly, it bored me to tears, and I never finished it. Can you tell me that it was the definitive Big Three story?
  • Brad Meltzer tried it in JLA, where they did nothing but sit around a table and jibe at one another like Buffy's supporting cast.
  • Jeph Loeb's "Advent of Supergirl" arc in Batman/Superman featured by the Big Three, but I know of no one who thinks well of that story or how they were portrayed.
  • Keith Giffen is writing them in the Four Horsemen miniseries. Giffen's dialog ticks work for less well-defined characters, like the ones he played with in JLI, but in this comic it's so out of character it makes the mind reel. Not even Giffen can get away with having Batman say, "Shut. Up. You."
  • Mark Waid tackled them in Kingdom Come, but, frankly those didn't seem like Superman and Wonder Woman much to me at all.
  • Frank Miller? Well, the less said about that, the better.

One of the problems is, there's no historical precedent to rely on. DC's full of god-awful old stories that a creative writer can re-tell brilliantly. But there isn't one for the Big Three's first meeting. The original story of Batman and Superman's first meeting is STUNNINGLY imbecilic, even by Silver Age standards (they happened to be sharing a cabin on an ocean cruise; yes, really). I really don't think either of them had ever appeared with Wonder Woman until the first JLA story in 1960, where their knowledge of and friendship with one another was simply asserted as a preexisting fact. And, no, a panel or two in a JSA story doesn't count.

Is it possible that no single story could do them justice? Are the icons grown so large that no one write can have all of the in hand? Is it necessary that when you move the pillars together, the stories come crashing down around them?

You tell me.