Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Shield: Destroyed By the Worst Villain of Them All

We've spent lots of time talking about how boss the Shield was, and how keen it is that he's returning.

But I bet you've been wondering how a fantastically cool character like The Shield met his end. Was he killed by a villain, like his colleague, the Hangman? Did the company that published him fold?

Well, both, in a sense. He was "killed" by the worst villain in all of comicdom. And not outright. No, he was slowly poisoned by his treacherous foe, evanescing into limbo. And his publisher did fold... to the pressure toward cheap titillation of teenage hormones.

Yes, the Shield was undone by that most terrifying force in the four-color world, the symbol of solipsism, the scion of sensationalism, the shill of thrill, the sultan of the surreal:


ARCHIE ANDREWSEverything's Archie, you know.


Archie, as long-time readers of my blog will know, is my bete noir, symbol to me of the opiate power of comics used evilly to warp the perspectives of readers, lulling them in a dazed state in which the always unhinged Archieverse opens it jaws of surrealism to swallow up their every sense of hope, meaning, and being, subsuming them in the All That Is Archie.

What red-blooded American can look at these words and fail to weep?

"Dusty is almost heartbroken at having to leave you boys and girls we have come to know and love so much -- and me, well, I don't feel so good myself."

My gods, it's like watching Bambi's mother get shot in an endless video loop!


Even in defeat, the Shield is gracious, calling Archie a golden lining. YES; the gold lining the pockets of the cynical sharpies who sold you out, Shield. Who sold out patriotism for pre-pubescent pandering! Who sold out your war against America's enemies for teenage teases in tit-tightened sweaters, and sweaty-palmed punks who think of nothing but slaking their gross apetites for fresh girls and grilled flesh, stuffing it all down the insatiable maw of ... Archie.

But the Shield's grace cannot hide Archie's omnivorous evil:

"he's made himself famous from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in fact in every corner of the world (!!!!)"

Because... Everything Is Archie. Shudder.

"He's going to take over the Shield G-Man Club and call it the Archie Club. ... Take it away, Archie."

Of course he's just going to ...take it over. And rename it after himself. Everything Must Be Archie. Whatever it is, whatever you want; take it away, Archie. How can people prate on about feckless incompetent amateurs like Darkseid when there's ARCHIE, for pity's sake?!?!?

Through the existential horror, I can barely bare to read Archie's words, for fear they might sap my will like a Riverdalian anti-life equation.

"Think of taking over so many hundreds of thousands."


Yes, you automatically belong to Archie. Turn over the cards that represent your former identity; surrender yourself to Archie. In exchange for your very soul, we will imprint upon you the Mark of Archie, so that all may known that you are of the Body, that you are one with Landru/Archie.

My gods; the little bastard even stole his COSTUME.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Clixy Klordny Gifts!

Look what I got from Totaltoyz for Klordny!


Dr. Thomas Wayne, wearing his Bat-person masquerade costume:

Shoulda worn THAT to the theater, Tom.

As my friend Chris said,

"What's his special power? Getting shot?"

No, wise-acre: healing. He was a doctor, remember? He's on the dial of the old veteran paramedic.

And this eye-popper:

The Golden Age Aquaman
Yellow gloves are the key.


The Golden Age Aquaman is a tour-de-force of subtle symbolic power.

The message in a bottle? Well, that's how surface dwellers communicate with Aquaman. And note the piece of a battleship that Aquaman punched a hole in. Yup, that's the Golden Age Aquaman, alright. He even came with a character card that has Superstrength listed as "punch a hole in a battleship".

His dial is the 70 point Aquaman (jl101).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Battle for the Cowl


Even during Klordny, one cannot dance for a week non-stop (even with the assistance of anti-grav discs). So, those of you who actually read blogs at home (instead of while you are *ahem* "working") I ask to consider the teaser image for Battle for the Cowl.

I have to say, I like teaser images. Sure, they're deceptive and usually much shallower than the analysis we fans lavish on them. Sure, they sometimes look like someone photoshopped them together rather than drew them as an integral image. Sure, they scream "use me as your desktop wallpaper."

But they are so very DC. They are intellectual puzzles, firmly rooted in DC's genre of detective comics. While Marvel trumpets, DC intrigues. Marvel is a monster truck rally commercial and DC a symbolic Renaissance painting.

They reaffirm the DC style of using art to tell a story, not to substitute for one. DC's use of teaser images are a clever adaptation to the new world of internet fandom. It's not the old days where readers had no idea what was coming until it hit the stands. DC's adapted to the fact that nowadays people know for months that something like Battle for the Cowl is coming, and gives us an intellectual chew-toy to keep us engaged while waiting for our literary dinner.

First, the easy part: identifying the Batmen themselves.
  • Tim "Robin" Drake, as indicated by the bo staff, wearing a '70s-ish Batcostume with the New Look chest symbol.
  • Dick "Nightwing" Grayson, as indicated by the chest-bat most resembling the Nightwing symbol.
  • Harvey "Two-Face" Dent, wearing a color-modified version of the Golden Age Batman suit.
  • Bandolier Batman there is the remaining one of the three cops who were tapped to replace Batman if he died (it was in the beginning part of Morrison's run on Batman, and a reference to a Silver Age story); this is guy who, wearing the Suit of Sorrows (*sigh*), will become the new Azrael.
  • Thomas "Hush" Eliott (who, if you've been reading Dini's Detective, you'll know had himself surgically altered to resemble Bruce Wayne), as indicated by the bandage.

Now it starts to get trickier. Our supporting characters are:
  • Harley Quinn. WTF? To me, this is the most unexpected piece of the puzzle. Probably the part they have Dini write.
  • Alfred Pennyworth. In all his "Yeah, sometimes writers say I used to be British secret agent" glory. The hat was a Christmas gift from Mademoiselle Marie.
  • Batwoman. Someone got Kate Kane sensible shoes for Hannukah!
  • Damien Head, Bruce's supposed child by Talia. And, yeah, I say "supposed", because, as I recall, Bruce never answered out loud Tim's question about what the paternity tests showed.
  • A corpse in a box marked Wayne Enterprises. A very small box. A box way too small to hold the corpse of any normal man, let alone Bruce Wayne. A corpse with a suspiciously feminine arm. Madame Van Dusen, LOL?

Already the questions accumulate. Whose is the corpse in the box? What role could Harley Quin have in the story? Does Batwoman's magnifying glass symbolize that she'll try to solve the myster of where the real Batman is? Aren't there an awful lot of guns there for a Batman family photo? Why is Two-Face covering the unscarred part of his face? Did Alfred amputate his lower body and replace it with a Tumbler? Who's overseeing crate quality at Wayne Enterprises, any way?

It only gets stranger when you take the background props into account. The case with Batman costume straigtforwardly represents the absent Bruce Wayne, of course, and the robot dinosaur is, well, it's there because it's in every Batcave establishing shot (even though almost no one else I've met has actually read the "Dinosaur Island" story it comes from). But the Joker card located near Harley Quinn... surely that "J" is reversed for some reason. And the Giant Penny behind Two-Face-- why, it's scarred just like his coin; hmm.

I certainly have some thoughts, but I'd rather hear yours first....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy

... in my comics this week.

  • The BLAM door. Best visual I can remember seeing in quite some time.
  • You know I'm no great fan of Grant Morrison. But Batman was great this week.
  • Pinocchio. That was cruel.
  • Monarch of Duluth? Snort! Nice one.
  • What the lasso is truly capable of.
  • The comfort Ray finds in the Royal Flush Gang, who apparently are a multiversal constant.
  • Looking for Psycho? Oh... that's not good at all.
  • Shame of you, if you didn't recognize the name Elva Barr.
  • Stagg? Oh, no. No, no, no. Say it isn't so....
  • Bruce Lee didn't actually break his back, you know. He dislodged a vertebra.
  • Queen Bee goes down. All the way.
  • "The sun is not our friend. We must embrace the cold darkness that is our fate," made me laugh out loud.
  • If you want somebody to make something that'll kick the JLA's butt, T.O. Morrow is still the man.
  • Zeus in spandex is HOT.
  • "I need to see it every day."
  • The difference in viewpoint of Dr. Polaris, the Floronic Man, and the Cheetah.
  • Seldom has the Phantom Stranger me me laugh as hard as did when failing to finish his little "My poop don't stink" speech...!
  • Hooley in the tank. Always good to see Hooley. Particularly in the tank.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Creationism vs. Re-Creationism


It just goes to show you can never know too much about continuity.



In reading the latest issue of Supergirl (which, under its new writer, Sterling Gates, I'm loving), it struck me that Superwoman's costume seemed... odd.

Not hideous, really. Certainly not what I'd picture for "Superwoman", but still not hideous. Maybe it was the gloves. Or the hood. Something just... didn't seem quite au courant.

Then, courtesy of Google, I stumbled on the reason why...I'd never seen this story from the Bronze Age, where this Kristen Wells became Superwoman. Once I saw this, I realized I'd heard it mentioned, but never seen it-- and therefore, never seen the costume, which is clearly the model for the one worn by the new Superwoman.

The Bronze Age of comics, frankly. was rather crappy... particularly for Superman stories. And the decade of the '90s during the Iron Age was no picnic either. These facts hit me in the face hard this last weekend as I was working on a video project: a digital slideshow of DC heroes in chronological order of creation. After the enormous flurry of creation around 1940, there's an average of one or two good, long-lasting characters who continue (or are continued through a legacy character or conceptual revamp). But there are these... gaps.

The most severe one is also the largest: 1986-2006. Between Booster Gold and the new Blue Beetle is a vast wasteland devoid of new characters (and, of course, Blue Beetle is just a revamp).

Now, that's not to say, nothing happened, or that stories were bad. That may or may not be true, but it's not my point.

In fact, one of the good things that happened was that DC stopped trying to throw new liver at the wall, hoping something would stick, and focused on re-branding, re-vitalizing, and re-vamping many previously created characters. Nothing exemplifies this better than the return of the Justice Society, which in the Iron Age was considered an irredeemable embarrassment to be locked away in an attic like a crazy aunt.

So, in one sense, the fact that there's not a lot of new character creation going on during the last twenty years is to DC's credit. I've repeatedly made the statement that if a DC writer can't tell a new story with all the existing characters at their disposal and has to make one up, then they either don't know enough continuity or lack creativity.

Superwoman makes this point. A few months ago, the idea of including "Superwoman" in such a slideshow would have been absurd; the idea was a one-shot throwaway. But through the reinvention magic of this, the Platinum Age, old abandoned concepts are refurbished and, lo, many characters that actually are new get to take advantage of having roots in a previous era, along with the pedigree that bestows.

What do you think of the balance between character creation and character re-creation, both currently and generally??


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy

in my comics this week.

  • Oh, Tim; that's never gonna heal if you don't stop picking!
  • As funny as a dog wear antlers is, Krypto wear antlers is even funnier.
  • The very last person I'd expect Tim to spend Christmas Eve with.
  • All three Beetles in one story!
  • I'm finally getting the big picture of what's going on in Robin!
  • Editor's notes from Johnny DC.
  • Dan Didio; thanks for the nice Aquaman story! Does that mean he can come back now?
  • Best Huntress story ever. If she were written like that all the time, I'd really like her.
  • Batman, door greeter.
  • Trimming the tree with Wally.
  • Lint brushes
  • Turtle wax.
  • Nuclear fabrophihbulator.
  • "I had it framed."
  • S.T.R.I.P.E. sitting on a couch at the party.
  • The Metal Men's failure to understand Christmas
  • Gold kryptonite, revised.
  • Yes, electrocuting a baby certainly does toughen up a villain's image.
  • Why Nightwing doesn't trust Jason.
  • Release the Kraken!
  • Even the THOUGHT of Vibe trussing someone up is HOT!
  • Well, if you want to create chaos and challenge, who better to do it than the person who started the Gotham Gang Wars single-handedly?
  • Okay, so, essentially that's Ace the Bat-Hound meeting Good King Wenceslaus?
  • Barbara's gift to Jim.
  • So, who sharpened Dr. Light's ears?
  • It took me several minutes to figure out why you'd name something "the Janitorafter School".
  • When he says, "Watch out for your mother", what does he really mean?
  • Superwoman. I really like her.
  • More villains should say, "Rats", when captured.
  • How long before someone names his children "Atmahn", "Kellel", and "Dinanna"?
  • Hey, that Huntress is quite a ventriloquist, huh?
  • "I'm starting to think this is no ordinary blackout." NOTHING gets past Aquaman!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are YOU a Superman of America?

Today I ran 9 miles, am throwing a Christmas party for 50 people, running a Dramatic Reading contest, then going two-stepping with Ken and company till all hours. Then tomorrow, I'll go to yoga class and jog for 30 minutes before emceeing an outdoor caroling performance at the town square, followed by dinner and game night with the boys.

Why?

Because Superman told me to...
What are YOU going to do this weekend?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy

in this week's comics.

  • Wait... a... a scar on Hal Jordan's head? A scar on... Hal Jordan's head? BWAHAHAHAHA!
  • I'm pretty sure I've never actually seen someone die by banana peel before.
  • Okay, I don't pretend to have any idea why Mongul seems to have a detachable while still operable arm; but it is funny.
  • "I didn't even realize I had an arch-enemy."
  • Luthor and Brainiac are still the best team of villains ever; particularly when they aren't really working together.
  • Two-Face was just everywhere this week. And sounding intelligent, like a successful criminal, not like someone who'd have trouble crossing the street. Bully.
  • Have I mentioned how wonderful I think it is that the Book of Oa is written in Interlac?
  • Finally, a psychologist who says, "No; no, don't bother."
  • Two comics with Two-Face and a pizza delivery guy. It's a strange world.
  • Captain Action was about 90 times better than it had any right to be; Fabien Nicienza strikes again. Bully for you, Moonstone. I think I need to start reading more Moonstone.
  • So, who taught Batman how to make his nipples look like his eyes? I'm betting it was the Phantom Stranger.
  • XXX...! XXX...! XXX...!
  • He becomes a folk hero for robbing banks? Diamondrock's right, the Marvel Universe is full of idiots.
  • "Doctor Wing"; heh, nice one.
  • When did the Lone Ranger become a Vertigo book? You deserve to read the Lone Ranger.
  • The Creature Commandos? Ultraa the Multi-Alien? Action is officially insane. In the best possible way.
  • Okay, I don't think they make a Twelve-Step program for that.
  • Nightwing's secret is being rather strongly hinted at, isn't it? Too strongly...?
  • I always thought Valhalla Cemetery was a dumb idea.
  • Booster didn't notice the modern art, but I spotted it right away; did you?
  • The Blank. Spider-Man's rogue's gallery is having quiet a renaissance, isn't it?
  • My gods, I have the hots for naked Brainiac....
  • Do I actually... miss Judd Winick on GA/BC? Who I am, and what have I done with Scipio Garling?
  • "I am the god of progress."
  • NOT the midwife you want helping you. Really.
  • The difference between Brainiac and Luthor, succinctly explained.
  • "You meant bow and arrows, didn't you?" ROTFL!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

BB&B vs BTAS

Batman: Brave & The Bold is better than Batman: The Animated Series. Much better.

Yeah; I said it. You wanna make sumpthin out of it, buddy?





BTAS: brooding and morose, taking itself too seriously. Why, it's nearly a... a Marvel comic!
BB&B: still serious (Batman's still quite the hard-nose), but not taking itself too seriously.

BB&B has better art. I still remember how disappointed I was the first time I saw BTAS. This was before the current info-age, when I would have seen 10,000 spoiler images for 8 months beforehand, so the first time I saw it actually was the first time I saw it. How shocked I was! I was expecting to get, finally a detailed, beautifully drawn animated series that actually looked like a comic book I might already be reading. Instead, I got pointy noises and square jaws that would have embarrassed even Bob Kane.

BB&B is better promo for DC. You may not consider that an appropriate aesthetic considering, but, hey, marketing matters. BB&B is designed to use Batman as a means to introduce viewers to other DC characters. So far, we've already seen in three episodes the likes of Plastic Man, Blue Beetle, Aquaman, Fire, the Gentleman Ghost, Green Arrow, Clock King, Black Manta, Felix Faust, and Ocean Master. In BTAS, we saw... Robin and Batgirl. The opening sequence of BB&B actually builds the names of various guest stars into the layout; the opening sequence of BTAS doesn't even contain Batman's name.

BB&B is better characterization. This Batman is still a hard-nose (even harder than the BTAS one), but has a sense of humor. His scene where he mocks Felix Faust is priceless. And Batman's unique personality is shown off in excellent contradistinction against the guest stars. And Dietrich Bader is flawless as Batman, much to my surprise.

BB&B is better action. Each episode begins in medias res, and has little slow time till the end. Plus, no time is wasted on Bruce Wayne; it's all Batman. More happens in one episode then in a year's worth of JLA.

BB&B has better decor. Yep, you heard me. BTAS was clunky, with its overly long Batmobile and colorless Batcave. Every single bat-gadget in BB&B is stylish, with red accents and bat shapeyness. BTAS is a PC and BB&B is a Mac.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Why Magnus is Better than Chuck Palahniuk

Because Magnus inspires gay youth to accept themselves and to allow their hairdos to exceed the boundaries of their panel layout.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Born of Meng


Ten Reasons Vibe is Like Jesus:

  1. Born on the wrong side of town.
  2. Sported skeevy facial hair.
  3. Never got married or seen dating a girl.
  4. Had at least one brother who followed in his footsteps, but is forgotten by almost everyone.
  5. Led a gang and got in trouble with the law.
  6. Had powers; occasionally used them for good; mostly used them to show off.
  7. Hung out with losers (Ralph Dibney and Hank Heywood) and whores (Vixen and Zatanna).
  8. Died young, and from asphyxiation. And for your sins, I might add.
  9. Had a storyline where he is resurrected. Several of them, actually.
  10. Has become more popular since he died.



Thursday, December 04, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy

in comics this week.

  • "What are you, his emergency secret weapon?"
  • Just keep repeating: "That is not Gaggy. I do not see Gaggy. There is no Gaggy. There never was a Gaggy. Nor will there ever be."
  • Continuity comes to Jonah Hex!
  • "What's money? Is it important?"
  • Good to see the red roadster again!
  • And yet another Lex Luthor robot meets an ignominious end.
  • "Shock and Awesome" is a great title.
  • "Shocker and Awe" is a less great title.
  • Oh, Gog's other shoe drops, and a mighty big shoe it is.
  • I see nothing wrong with spending $5 million on a personalized helicopter.
  • "Invulnerability... failing... bombardment ... hurting!"
  • I honestly think that's the first time I've ever seen Jonah laugh.
  • The Laughing Contest.
  • Best spectral decapitation scene ever!
  • Well, that's solves the long-standing "mystery of the Kingdom Come Flash".
  • "Did I miss the dream sequence?"

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Night at the Club


If you've never been to South Beach, you might be surprised to know there's not a lot of Latin music here (for that, I have to plug in my Jerry Rivera station on Pandora). No, the soundtrack of SoBe is dance music. Steady, relentless, incessant, omnipresent dance music. It's not that it's at the clubs (because of course it is). It's playing in the hotel lobbies, the shoe stories, the UPS vans, the confessionals, the Holocaust memorial, the botanical gardens, and the bathroom at the gelatteria.

Now this is the native music of my people, so on the whole it's not too annoying (though having to fight a nearly irresistible urge to jump atop the Holocaust Memorial and start Elevated-Arm Dancing was distressing).

Most of the dance music here is aimless, featureless, and nameless. But there've been some truly inspired dance adaptations of themes songs from popular culture. I mean, if Beethoven's Albumblatt can make a kickin' dance tune, it stands to reason you could do it with, you know, some real music.

So this puts me in the mind to share this (not entirely comic book related) post about Songs That Need To Be Redone As Dance Numbers But Haven't Yet (To My Knowledge). "Wonder Woman" certainly has, as has "Batman", and, to some degree "Superfriends" (although a much longer version is overdue).

WHY did I love this show, even though I was too old for it?


Best. Theme. Ever.

Can't you just SEE little Chinese children of the revolution marching to this tune?


Really, this one's so obvious, I can't believe it's never been done; has it?

It tooks me years to figure out "wealth and fame he's ignored".

I sing this one every morning. In the same key.

Work it, Johnny Nash!

This one is almost there already.

The ticking is a nice touch.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy (Miami Edition)


It's Wednesday, but, trapped in the wilds of SoBe, I am comicless. Comicless, I say!

So, this is like one of those scenes where the sergeant or team leader or guy with a cape has been felled and gasps out to his colleagues, "Go... go on... without me!"

Therefore, the duty falls to YOU, the Absorbascommandos, to compose today's Things That Made Me Happy in the comments to this post. You know the drill; you know exactly the style of teasers that I give. You tease ME by telling me the things that made me happy in this week's comics... even if I haven't seen them yet!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Can Still Feel Their Corruscating Auras of Powers...!

Miami may not have any real comic book characters, but it's not without real live comic book characters.

In fact, they made rather a splash here last December, thanks to The Superheroes Project, which, as far as I can tell, exists to do crazy PR stunts to raise awareness of particular artists and comics in general. Bully for them!

This hotel is around the corner from mine. I guess it's a *snort* Marvel establishment.

It's not every day you see someone dresser as Dazzler. More's the pity.

The Project Superhero folks really seem to get into it (or seemed to -- I don't get a sense of any activity since they hit Miami one year ago).



Should things like this go on MORE or LESS? When does fashionable pop-culture fun become tragically public cos-play, or vice versa? And, I am very very sad I wasn't here last year at this exact time, or very very sad?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

MIAMI DESTROYED BY WAVE OF ANTI_MATTER!

Okay, so I'm sitting here on the veranda overlooking Collins St., having just gotten back from a many-hour dinner with a group of male high fashion models. Yes, really.

No, I'm not from Italy, but those trunks do make me look good...!


But, such is my dedication (or my inability to fit male high fashion models in a doggie bag) that I'm posting here anyway... .

Now that I'm back in Miami again, I'm suddenly wondering....

Has any comic book even been set in Miami? I mean, not a series, but even just a story? I'd think I'd remember it, if I'd read such a story...

It's not a big issue. As I've mentioned repeatedly, I'm a big fan of fictionopolises, and that's where most of the real action takes place in (DC) comics. Oh, occasionally, Montevideo will get blown up, Manhattan will be attacked by a fleet of acid-laden zeppelins, or Paris will get eaten by a painting. But the Gotham City warehouse district sees more crime in one week than Shenzhen sees in a year.

On the other hand...

when I think of all the real-world places that have been featured in DC Comics, Miami's absence starts to irk. Washington (of course), Pittsburgh (of all places!), San (Sub) Diego, El Paso, Detroit (tee hee!), Kansas freakin' City...! And yet, it's as if Miami doesn't exist. Maybe in the DCU it doesn't, and Fawcett City is here instead; it would explain the architecture.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • I really like that Kandor has trees and rivers. Like cities do.
  • "I'm not a face to wake up to." Indeed.
  • See? No matter what Team Ability symbol they put on his Heroclix dial, I have always considered that character an enemy and not an ally.
  • Code name: Beagle. Nice one.
  • Why Star Boy left the Legion. That, folks, is continuity.
  • Linda Lang.
  • YOU are not the boss of Battle Beast!
  • Running to the Spectre? AGAIN? Okay, it's definitely time for you to go back to the Kids' Table.
  • "I'm a god, not a saint."
  • Vibe. Love that new outfit, dear!
  • Honor and loyalty shine bright in this weary world.
  • Oh, how I was looking forward to the undoubted laughfest of the Phantom Stranger + Green Lantern. And, OH, how wrong I was...
  • An elegant, hand-waiving explanation of the previous badly botched versions of Supergirl; yeah, I'll buy that.
  • Yes, they are the size of the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Oh, of course they had Captain Atom talk to him.
  • Allen and Nolan's one-two punch.
  • Now that is an origin for Supergirl.
  • Donna Troy, librarian.
  • "He believes I send the dreams" is one of the most coldly badass things you will ever hear a character say.
  • Oh, yeah, something is definitely afoot for retooling the Batfamily titles. And with Batwoman; yay!
  • Anthony's passing.
  • You know the scope of the action is pretty broad when the collateral damage of the battle is... Europe.
  • Wow. The food in the 31st Century must be just horrible.
  • Yes, "cat" should always be in quotation marks.
  • Shouldn't all girlfriends be able to vanish your clothes just by touching them?
  • The Planet's new business editor.
  • "I'm young, I'm rich, I'm adored."
  • What the HECK is Starman up to?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why Magnus is Better than Joon Rhee

Because Magnus can karate-chop a steel board while wearing nothing but a pink pillowcase.


And make it look
good.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Doomsday The Movie

Today I watched the Superman/Doomsday animated film for the first time. I hadn't watched it before because, well, frankly I didn't like the Death of Superman story and really disliked Doomsday himself.

So I was very pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed that film, in that it improved vastly on the original story.

As in the original story, Doomsday himself isn't significant at all; he's the thinnest of plot devices to get to 'the Death of Superman'. In the animated version, the first is mercifully brief; we don't have to watch Doomsday swat his way through a host of other heroes. I could always believe that Doomsday killed Superman before anyone else had time to help; I could never swallow that the entire of the superhero community couldn't have simply and quickly transported him to deep space somewhere, or captured him with the JLA transporter or something.

The contrast between Lex and Superman has never been starker. Lex curing muscular distrophy while staring out the window, while Superman, unable to cure cancer, regrets his role as merely Earth's resident strongman. And Lex, with his Mercy-killing? Plus "Why did you leave me?" and "Who's your daddy?" Yes, this Lex has issues.

I liked the simplification of the plot of what happens when Superman is "dead". Instead of just weepy encomiums, we get to see, through the actual degeneration of certain characters (Lois's death wish, Jimmy's sell-out, Perry's drinking) and Metropolis as a whole, that Superman's chief contribution is as an inspiration rather than a protector. Rather than the Reign of the Four Substitute Superman, we got just one sub who embodies the "No, that's not what Superman stands for" concept. And creepy! As shocking as the Toyman scene was, the scene with the cat was bone-chilling, particular since you know that, well, he's right.

Don't get me wrong; Superboy and Steel were great characters, and, while the Cyborg Superman and the Eradicator weren't great, they did provide fodder for many subsequent stories. But the "superclone" was a much way to get to the heart of the "What Would Superman Do?" issue.

I appreciated the little touches around the Fortress: Brainiac's skull, one of the robots from the Fleischer cartoons, and the Bottle City. And, YES, I laughed at the gratuitous Kevin Smith joke for the Superman insiders...!

The plot also fixed some glaring holes in the original, such as making it clear that Superman was never actually dead, and providing a plausible reason why Clark Kent's absence after Superman's death didn't reveal his secret identity.

In fact, the whole viewing experience made me think that perhaps we should let them make these movies first, and then pattern comic books after them!

What did you think of Superman: Doomsday?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Miami Bound


I'll be in Miami from Nov 21 - Nov 29. Naturally, I'll be in South Beach...

If you're in the area, give me and shout and we can meet up for mojitos!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.
  • The most cold-hearted Catwoman ever.
  • Luthor in prison duds. As he should be.
  • The penny plundering.
  • GOSH, that was a fast trip to the moon, LOL.
  • I like this Norman McKay much better.
  • Okay, Judd made several big wins with me this week. He's given Connor a skill set that makes him a good complement to Ollie, rather than a redundant, failed replacement. He's treated memory loss like the complicate thing it is, rather than just a comic book trope. He dealt with some of the inconsistency of Connor's previous characterization. AND, I might add, what he's done has left open the possibility of Connor's sexuality... again.
  • Rexy. Gods, I love comics.
  • Superman has some in-law problems, apparently.
  • Two-Face is a Star Trek fan.
  • Where Frank hid the drug.
  • Apparently, Clark Kent, despite being a writer for decades, manages to confuse the accusative with the vocative, which I sure none of his readers will.
  • Wait, did he really just shoot Lex?
  • 20 zeppelins; GODS, how I love that character!
  • The artificial whale. Good memory, Dini.
  • Notice he said "lease"; he doesn't still them.
  • That's the second-best Joker-kills-someone-by-peanut-allergy I've ever read!
  • The Punisher's garbage can.
  • Huh. Batman's broken and rotting corpse... . But Power Girl STILL manages to look good!
  • The fact that in their argument the Zamarons and the Guardians are both right.
  • Dr. Elliott finally earns his name. And his bandages.
  • A thank you from Two-Face.
  • The real-worldish ramifications of the exposure of Vesetech, particularly the montage of those effects; pure genius. That's good comics, folks.
  • Karate Alfred!
  • Street-fightin' Starro!
  • I love Flamebird & Nightwing, instantly.
  • Defeated by a Whirli-bat? ROTFL!
  • Pennies from heaven.
  • Jeez, even a crushed skull won't shut Lo-lo up!
  • Selina's oh-so-sweet revenge.
  • Trinity just gets crazier and crazier!
  • Was the meta-ending of Legion in the 31s Century as, well, creepy to you as it was to me?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The United Underworld Strikes!

by Scipio Garling
Gotham City, The Gotham Times
(Multiversal Press Association)


The United Underworld has pulled off the seemingly impossible with an across-the-board attack on the line of Batman titles, leaving three dead and two wounded.


Dan Didio, Grant Morrison, Fabian
Nicienza, and Peter Tomasi (see photo at left), have cancelled the Nightwing series, the Robin series, and the Birds of Prey series, all staples of the Batman editorial line. Each of these titles stars one of Batman historically principal in-family allies, Dick "Nightwing" Grayson, Tim "Robin" Drake, and Barbara "Batgirl/Oracle" Gordon.

Meanwhile, in another part of Gotham City, the incomprehensibly puzzling writing of Grant Morrison (see photo at right) has incapacitated the two main Batman titles, Batman and Detective Comics, possible killing their star, and leaving even long-time readers riddled with doubt.


Also crippled by the attack were Batfamily members Spoiler and the Huntress, hard-luck cult favorite Manhunter, women's issues pioneer Zinda Blake, and a host of supporting characters and secondary villains.


Reaction to the attack has been mixed.


"Zis obzezhion vit ze Batman is unhealt'y," opined local psychologist H. Strange (see photo at left). "It is a vise move to cripple ze Batman lines at zis time, particularly as his rezent zinematic zuzesses have led to an overzealous popularity vit zis character among ze masses." Strange posited that the changes may, in fact, be good for the Batman family in the longer run. "Vhatever does not kill, it makes stronger. New birt' comes vit pain. Pain unt zuffering vill make ze Batman strong, even stronger. Pain like ze lashing of ze vhip! Suffering like zat of the characters and readers of All-Star Batman und Robin!"

Another interviewee, who wished to remain anonymous and identified himself only as "a Stranger" to Gotham (see photo at right), voiced the concerns of many. "For years, the Batman and his allies have used darkness as a weapon; but now a greater darkness has descended upon them and upon us all! Seek solace in friends and band together against the lowering storm. I cannot join you, for I must remain.... a stranger. Otherwise, my sexual orientation would become too public."


The Gotham Times wants to know YOUR opinion. Please contact our Letters to the Editor Column below.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Heroic Goad

I don't think I've written about Heroes before, but it's time to break that silence, now that Jeph Loeb has been fired.

In the article linked, the writer is concerned that the absence of Loeb will sever the "comic book connection", and that the show will spiral (further!) into Petrelli Family Melodrama rather than Superheroic Intrigue and Buttkicking.

I watched the first season of Heroes; I enjoyed it. I thought it was a fun miniseries. One problem, though; it wasn't a miniseries. I was stunned when I heard "Heroes Season Two"; hmm, I thought they were going to quit while they were ahead.

But that's not the Hollywood way (SAW VI!), and so we have had Season 2 and 3. And while it's more or less retained its "comic book touch", I'm afraid it's doing so through many of the worst cliches that characterize comics (and soap operas). Here's just a few:

  • Not just "separated at birth", not even "identical twins separated at birth", but "superpowered identical triplets separated at birth". I mean, really. It's particularly cruel to give the role to an actress who didn't have the chops to handle her role as a dual personality. "I'm not Nikki!" Um, yeah, sweetie; ya are, because your accent and speech patterns are identical.
  • Arbitrary (self-imposed!) power restrictions on the overly powerful (Hiro will go back in time just to screw around in his office, but not to save the world?).
  • "Luke, I am your father / future husband / brother" (honestly, I've not the strength to list all the suddenly uncovered and unlikely relationships, past and future, that the show spits out with the regularity of sourballs from a penny candy machine).
  • Really obvious thievery from other media. Even Judd Winick couldn't have made "Dr. Suresh as Brundle-Fly" more obvious.
  • Color coding. Ooh, Claire's a bad guy now so her hair got dark!
  • Contradictory powers (Hiro's power was hard enough to believe without having a superspeedster to point out that it was nonsensical).
  • "Legacy" heroes as obvious devices. "We need a painting seer. Uh-oh, we killed that guy. Let's pull another one out of our butts. But we need another trick to make him passive; can't make him a drug addict; let's just make him African instead."

The recent "morality polarity reversals" are painfully strained. Let's make Peter a villain and Sylar a hero! It's easier to believe a Senator can fly... . It's become asuperpowered Degrassi, with characterization changing randomly from episode to episode based on the needs of the plot. "We need Spinner to be a jerk this week, and refuse to share his healing powers with Jimmy."

Then there's the typical Loebian "villain of the month" syndrome. Season 1, Sylar is the be all end all villain. Season 2, he's powerless and there's a new mysterious Big Bad, whose power is the ever-threatening 'not-dying' power, wielded so effectively by Willard Scott and Charles Lane. Ever notice how directors invariably choose some who ages really badly really quickly to play an immortal? Season 3, Sylar's a hero (for no compelling reason other than "Are You My Mommy?" syndrome), and the Immortal Big Bad gets offed casually just to show how much Bigger and Badder the new villain is. In three seasons, Loeb & Co. have managed to push the franchise to same levels of narrative desperation that most comic books tooks 50 to 60 years to reach.

I'm not sure that Loeb's leaving will redeem Heroes; I'm thinking it's too late for that. But perhaps the comic book cliches will be less obvious now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Vixen Effect

Sorry to rain on anyone's parade, and I'm sure this is going to anger a lot of readers, and I'm going to be misunderstood. But here goes....

Barack Obama's not the country's first black president; Barak Obama's not black.

First, let me affirm, and strongly: I supported Obama during the primaries; I voted for him in the general election. I was, am, and, hopefully will every reason to continue to be, a strong supporter.

His election is not just a victory for an individual or a party, but for American democracy and spirit, which it has revivified. And I couldn't be happier about it.

However....

I am not delighted by the constant characterization of Obama as the first Black president. YES, he certainly "looks black". Yes, because of that he's certainly had the experience of growing as a perceived black person in the last 40+ years. And, yes, that is very significant. It's of great signficance and a great sign of hope for the future that the American people would elect such a man as its leader.

But, for one thing, he's biracial. That, to me, is more symbolically significant, since he personifies (or could) a post-racial way of viewing the world, one that is the only real hope for social unity in our nation. That's something that gets swept aside when he's characterized simply as "our first black president".

That characterization also brushes under the rug the fact that father was not a Black American; he was a man from Kenya, where being black doesn't make you a minority. Lumping together Africans or African-American immgrants minimizes the uniqueness of the experience Black Americans. Their ancestors did not come here voluntarily; they were deracinated from their native cultures, and, as a result, resiliently created a new one. American culture owes very little of its uniqueness to African-American immigrants; it owes an ENORMOUS amount to Black Americans.

Black Americans aren't "Black" simply because they happen to be of a particular race, but because of their unique cultural experience as an American minority, one that's not all similar to the experience of modern Africans.

It may make us feel better and oh-so-modern and color blind to vote for someone who "looks Black", even though he is actually the half-black son of a Kenyan, rather than a product of our native Black American culture. I'm very happy Obama was elected; but when I hear people saying that he was elected because he was black, I cannot help but think, "Or because he is indeed, very very 'white' ..."

It's "the Vixen Effect". Yes, let's create "DC's first black female superhero"; yay! But GOD forbid she should be an actual black American woman. Heavens, no; she has to be an African supermodel.

I wish creators -- and political pundits-- would stop conflating race with culture; it's part of the very "racial mindset" that's helped perpetuate bigotry and racial stereotyping.

Thanks to that conflation -- and Vixen -- almost no one can name the character who actually WAS the DCU's first black American female superhero. It's my hope that the election of Barak Obama will help stop people from lumping race with culture, rather than reinforce it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Losing Battle?

Though I don't think I've ever mentioned it before, I have great admiration and attraction to the military and military service. Had the world been different than it was (or I more foolish), I would have joined up myself, as did my sister.

Many of my close friends, too, are or have been military. While the election talk in most circles (rightly so) is about the economy, for many of my friends the topic gravitates toward what the election may mean for redefining what is considered appropriate use of the military.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
Sgt. Rock & Matthew McConnaughy: because YOU demanded it!

Given that, it pains me to see the military -- which performs so impressively in battle -- do so poorly on the spinner racks. At Big Monkey, we easily sold out of the Obama/McCain comics; this is not just a political town, but THE political town. But, comic books starring or featuring the military? Even when we get small numbers, they still languish on the racks like the Austrian Navy.

Guerillas. The War That Time Forgot. The Unknown Soldier. The Haunted Tank. War Heroes (even with male genitalia!). Even Iron Man, Director of Shield. They don't even sell as well as Moon Knight, for pity's sake. Why is that?

Part of the reason could be the post-Vietnam unpopularity of the military. Once upon a time, the military were almost always the heroes in popular literature. But in our lifetime, it has been fashionable to "blame the gun"; since wars can't be waged without the military, we blame the military for wars (and even the personnel themselves). Even worse, the military are often the Black Hats. Now, in comics, anyone should be fair game; politicians, teachers, military, police, beauticians-- any authority figure can be the Corrupt Person in Power (tm). But the Evil/Callous/Lunatic U.S. military officer has gone from trope to cliche, and when an officer shows up in popular literature, most viewers/readers immediately look for the other shoe to drop, where they find out not whether he's an asshole/threat, but simply in what way he's an asshole/threat.

Perhaps it's because military comics suffer from unfabulousness (as, certainly, some of my military friends do). When you've alien beings hurling autos at one another and spandex-garbed anatomy models doing triple-backflips, watching grunts try to take a hill can feel like watching a plumber fix a toilet: necessary, but without any engaging glamour.

On the other hand, the problem could be the opposite. Just look at the list of military comics listed above. Trained, armed apes; soldiers versus dinosaurs; masters of disguise; haunted tanks; superpowered non-civilians; flying aircraft carriers. Perhaps the problem isn't that military comics aren't fantastic enough; perhaps it's that they're too fantastic. I love chocolate ice cream; I love lima beans; but even I would not expect lima beans & chocolate ice to be a good combo.

Or is the problem more subtle and fannish? Is it that any story outside of Mainstream Continuity will languish, and that putting a military story into the DCU/616 worlds automatically makes is a superhero story?

What's YOUR theory about the current state of military comics?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Well, there's quite a lot going on with the Scarredian of the Universe, isn't there?
  • Why Batman gets hit by a rocket launcher.
  • I shouldn't have laughed so hard at "he seems sooooo confused." But I did.
  • Okay; points for having the balls to call it "Bullets and Bracelets".
  • I'm not ashamed to admit I cried when Martha got a strange visitor from another planet.
  • "He must be an animal. Who'd a thought." I'da thought; those types often are.
  • I've heard of vomiting up blood but... all of it?
  • "I suppose." Super-modesty!
  • Suffering Sappho! The first page of Hercules is worth the price of admission. Van Lente, you are my hero.
  • The Ultra-Humanite's clone-brained gestalti-borgs.
  • Brainy's boxers.
  • Lycus? And pairing him with a dog? That's sheer mythological genius.
  • Kudos to James Robinson for not sweeping the Air Force One incident under the rug.
  • It's not often an odontomachus comes up, even in comics.
  • The Princess attempts to re-write the original Brainiac story.
  • Okay, I give up; what does C.P.T. stand for?
  • "I had an hour to spare one day, so I figured out how to miniature weather."
  • All cats deserve red rings.
  • Doze deles voando em volta do Cristo Redentor. Tourists; they also go for the landmarks.
  • "Was that a 'no' ?" Good lord, he's a snotty bastard.
  • The Brown Bomber. And he has the best magic words ever.
  • 200%? Really?
  • The president's joke. If only he were that cool.
  • I adore Tatters. You do, too.
  • Mento's still-ridiculous hat.
  • "Four? That seems excessive." Yes, it does, David Kim. But you are now and always will be my favorite one.
  • Thara Ak-Var, Superlesbian?
  • Soap company contest.
  • Superman: Red or Blue? That's the wittiest political comic book joke in a long time.
  • NOT D.C.? GREAT CAESAR'S GHOST!
  • "But it annoys you, and that gives me some pleasure." Now THAT is man we came to love pre-Crisis!
  • Read Spider-Man. It's good, old-fashioned comic book fun.
  • Of course he knows Gaelic. Or at least that one phrase.
  • Now that is a Zeus cameo.
  • "How's his honey?" is not something I would have ever expected that character to say.
  • Two cats/power rings stories in one month?!
  • Okay, why was I completely not suprised when Metropolis got its strange visitor from another planet?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Evaluating Syncretism

When I studying Classics in college, our mythostructuralism professor, Christian Wolff, taught us about syncretism, the cultural process of reconciling various version of a myth or merging native mythic belief systems. Sometimes, the different versions of a myth coalesce into one larger story, making for an even grander story.

Comic books, being myth, also experience syncretism. In an ancient society, the need for mythic syncretism would arise as the borders of the society expanded to incorporate formerly independent groups. It could be either a friendly process or the result of conquest, and in either case syncretism was used to help ease the transition to a new unity. That yellow-fanged earth mother figure you guys worship, oh, well, that's...umm.. Juno Gingivitis; yes, it's just another... "aspect" of one of our gods. Welcome aboard!

In comic books, the friendly version is the impulse to reconcile different interpretations of a character. Bob Kane's vampire-slaying Batman, the Batman fighting on a giant cash register, Denny O'Neill's James Bond/Sherlock Holmes version, Paul Dini's guardian of Gotham, either of the Frank Miller Batmen--viewing these as one character takes a syncretic mindset. In fact, it's the very basis for what Grant Morrison has been trying to do with his run on Batman (with debatable success).

That syncretic mindset is a little more ingrained in DC readers than in Marvel readers, by the way. It's out of necessity; DC's characters have been intepreted more broadly and with greater variation than Marvel's more tightly on spec characterization of their (originally) coherent literary world.

But the unfriendly version of syncretism is the need to integrate the beliefs of conquered peoples into your own. You don't want to insult the beliefs of anyone involved, but sometimes too many gods can spoil the broth.

And DC certainly has done its fair share of conquering peoples, such as Charlton and Fawcett. Now with increased connections with Wildstorm, the incoporation of the Dakotaverse, and the usurpation of MLJ characters, the DC Universe truly is a multiverse.

How well do you think DC has managed the process of syncretism? They didn't know quite what to do with the Charlton characters after they acquired them. In the beginning, it seems they were being positioned, as ruder and edgier than the DC characters, as the "Marvel" types within the new DCU. Read Crisis on Infinite Earths again, and you won't even recognize Blue Beetle, except by the costume. At some point, this reversed, and the Charlton characters became more lighthearted (in no small part due to their inclusion in the less than grim JLU).

Fawcett, well, the case could easily be made that the DCU never has successfully integrated those characters. Unable to take them at face value, DC has either insisted on making them hokily square or *snort* dark and edgier.

The Wildstorm "integration" has gone much better because, in fact, while the Wildstorm in now clearly part of the large DC multiverse, it is just as clearly "walled off", so that character interactions can take place in a controlled environment. Usually, the problems with characters from different universes interacting isn't that the characters aren't commensurable. After all, the Punisher has met Archie. It's not that the characters can't be made to work together; it's that the worlds they inhabit cannot be the same world. It's not that we can't picture Superman and the Shield together; it's that we can't imagine that a character as amazing as the Shield wouldn't be turning up all over the place in Superman's world.

The literary concept of the shared universe is already a tough one, and the more "worlds" you add to that universe, the tougher it gets. And the job is about to get a lot tougher... .

How well do you think DC has managed the process of syncretism... and how well will it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things I Learned from the Shield

Always make a dramatic entrance.From above, if possible.


Avoid Crystal City.No matter how colorful they try to make it sound.


Always point your toes.You never know who might be watching.


Don't be afraid to ask friends for help.The Wizard invented Google.
The Shield invented Facebook.


Strength needs wit to back it up.And vice versa.


Accessorize.Particularly if you're going out the boys.


Everything is better with singing.And audiences love production numbers.