Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reading by the Light of the Human Flame

Now, it goes without saying that Justice League writer Dwayne McDuffie knows his stuff, so I can only assume that the apparent gaffes and oddities in the most recent issue of JLA are, in fact, coded commentary on Final Crisis and the like. Because his story has the Human Flame in it, and any story with the Human Flame in it must be deep with meaning.


Baltimore? They have banks--with vaults-- in Baltimore?!

Dwayne's being clever here. Instead of overtly saying "the Human Flame is a second-rate loser" he simply places him in Baltimore, making it implicit. Very clever.

Psst, hey, Mike; there's no big tank on your back. The fire shooting out of your nipples is fueled solely by the same thing it was in your first appearance: the imagination of the writers.

By the way; isn't that a little too hot? Conventional oxyacetylene torches run between 3200 and 3500 degrees C; even a frickin' Henrob 2000 model only burns at 3800 C. Imagination is a powerful fuel, it seems.

Mike's self-deception continues, when he tries to pin the blame for his odd moniker on tabloid editors:


To which I can only reply:

LIAR, LIAR, TITS ON FIRE!

A mistake? Certainly not. It's part of showing us how self-deluding the Human Flame is. The Human Flame, remember, symbolizes over-reaching human ambition. And ambition never blames itself for its failures; it displaces the blame on others. "Oh, I didn't give myself my stupid name; someone else did that to me. The press; yes, it was the press!" I bet he even remembers it that way now, having repeated the lie to himself and others often enough. Yeah, if you get sent to prison with a name like the Human Flame you better have a good story to go with it.

Anyway, speaking of self-deception....

"Anymore"?! "I'm not a glamorous super villain ANYMORE"?!?!?!?!. Mike. Mikey, Mikey, Mikey. You were NEVER a glamorous supervillain. You were never even a super villain at all. You were a presumptuous hermit tinkerer who robbed exactly ONE bank, and the World's Ugliest Bank at that. And it doesn't stop there...

A long time ago? Yeah, and in a galaxy far, far way, I guess. Meanwhile, in this galaxy, you were never in the Big Leagues, Mike. You know who was Bigger League than you?
Cutlass Charlie, who fought the Justice League; Bug-Eyed Bandit, who died in the Crisis; Colonel Computron, who got an entry in Who's Who; the Penny Plunderer, who has a permanent memorial in the Batcave. You, Mike, are not in their league, let along the Big Leagues.


You've never been in a supervillain group in your life, Mike, not even the Secret Society of Supervillains and they took anybody, including Torpedo-Man. No, Mike, you haven't seen this movie. Unless you're being literal and you actually meant, "I watched Challenge of the SuperFriends on the video player at the Apex Prison Library one night."

One more thing to show how far Mike has fallen out of touch with reality:

A police response time of 8 minutes... in Baltimore?! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Perhaps if there's a police station next door and there's no reruns of the Wire showing on the tube.

As for the non-professional aspects of Mike's self-deception... well, I'm just going to be kind and completely not mention how Libra goes out of his way to tell all the big time villains that Mike's a husband and father. Who knows, maybe the California Supreme Court on New Earth is just a lot faster than ours, and somewhere off panel a balding, cancer-impaired Joey is pointlessly polishing his unused Kenneth Coles with his old wedding dress and remembering his heyday with Mike in "the Big Leagues".

Oh, by the way, did you notice Mike's new affectation?

TALK TO THE FLAMING HAND!

Now, we all know that the fire doesn't come out of the gloves on the Crime Suit (tm); it comes out of the polyareolar array on the chest. In fact, putting out your hand in front of you while concrete-incinerating flames burst forth from your chest seems not merely pointless, but both unnatural and unwise. It is just a meaningless flourish that Mike picked up from reading too many Fantastic Four comics?

Ha! As if. As we have previously discovered, NOTHING is without meaning when it comes to the Human Flame. He burns brightly with semiotic incension. So, what does this gesture really mean? There are three principal possibilities, which may all be true simultaneously.

1. The "hidden button" that activates the fire-nips is built into the gloves of the crime suit.
2. It's yet another reference to the Hand of Doom imagery that we've seen in DC Universe #0 that will be central to Final Crisis.
3. It presages that Mike will, courtesy of Libra, experience Power Internalization (tm) which will result in scenes where he create spontaneous fire through a classic "zappy power focused along extended arm" pose.

We'll all find out together; after all, it must mean something. It's the Human Flame.

Note that Mike is drawn as, well, hefty. Mike was NOT fat in his original story; you can tell by his head shot at the end of his first adventure that he wasn't a fatty. His "crime suit" was just very heavily padded. It would have to be, to insulate you against some 8100 degrees F!!! I mean, that's hotter than Vixen's pantie drawer.

Clearly, this is not a mistake; DC writers and artists simply don't make mistakes. Jeanette Kahn and T.M. Maple would never stand for it. So I interpret Mike's rubenesquiosity as another sign of his degradation. How fall he's fallen from when he lived in a unkempt wooden shack in the wilds of Florida! Must be all that fine prison food that's fattened him up.

Still, despite being a washed up, overweight loser, he still kicks Hawkgirl's and Red Arrow's patooties. By the way, Hawkgirl and Red Arrow patrolling ... Baltimore? Too perfect. I can just picture Roy field-testing his sodium bicarbonate arrow against the Citrus Gang from atop the Bromo Seltzer Tower or Kendra hurling her mace through walls at the Geppi Museum shouting, "Have you people never even heard of the principles of wayfinding?!"

Of course, you realize that Hawkgirl's wings aren't what keep her aloft; the Nth metal in her costume does that. The wings just let her direct her flight. So she wouldn't fall if she had to abandon her wings. Clearly, it's more meta-meaning from McDuffie: the Human Flame of amibtion has the power to topple the superhero gods from the altars on which they've placed themselves, a foreshadowing of the fate of you-know-who (because I've already read Final Crisis #1, ya know!).

That's one last strange "inaccuracy" in this JLA story. I've read the original Libra story -- after all, DC just republished it this month in the DC Universe Special : Justice League-- and there isn't the slightest intimation, suggestion, or clue that Libra is an alien, let alone an alien "warlord". I mean, what's up with that?

Labels:


Comments:
You've never been in a supervillain group in your life, Mike, not even the Secret Society of Supervillains and they took anybody, including Torpedo-Man.

He wasn't even in the first group of villains to battle the Justice League; a group so ashamed of themselves they didn't even have a collective name; a group that took in losers like Electric Man, Professor Menace, and Clock King. Apex City was instead represented by the Getaway Mastermind.
 
Hawkgirl and Red Arrow patrolling ... Baltimore? Too perfect. I can just picture Roy field-testing his sodium bicarbonate arrow against the Citrus Gang from atop the Bromo Seltzer Tower or Kendra hurling her mace through walls at the Geppi Museum

Or maybe Aquaman and Black Manta duking it out atop the dragon-shaped paddle boats! Or the new Blue Beetle being knocked through the window of the Maryland Science Center to crash into the giant robotic crab! Or Black Adam ripping the giant guitar from the top of the Hard Rock Cafe and going El Kabong on Superman with it!
 
Aren't they all Alien Warlords? But yeah, that does seem like a leap in logic. Why would an alien warlord adopt a symbol from the Zodiac (presumably created by humans)? Is there even a libra constellation wherever he is from? Maybe its all a coincidence.
 
Epic post. You should sell shirts printed with "LIAR, LIAR, TITS ON FIRE!" Just don't use Comic Sans.
 
An interesting idea, Paul.

Want to do some joint projects on Absorbascon merch...?

I really like that Marvel's Manhattan map.
 
Wasn't the Human Flame one of the few villains whose soul Neron was *not* interested in?

It was also interesting how he kept blaming his problems on "the Martian" when his one and only adventure consisted of him explicitly going after the Martian.
 
Well, I got a chuckle today.
 
Vixen wears panties?

And has enough to necessitate their own drawer?

Who knew?
 
I never said they were hers...!
 
"polyareolar array"

Scipio. You kill me.

You are the Shakespeare of comic book blogging.
 
Well, there is a lesson to be learned here. If you're writing a comic book story and ignoring continuity details from prior stories published decades earlier, make sure your publisher isn't planning to reprint those stories two weeks before your new one.
 
Scipio, I read your blog while at work and this one totally made me laugh. Good thing no one was around!!

Strangely enough, I read this same issue last evening and asked myself the same continuity questions you did: "alien warlord"?, no wings=no flight?, Mike's rotundness, bieng in the "big league"?,...

My sister used to live in Baltimore so I loved your "inside scoops" regarding that city.

All in all, I look forward to your updates and really liked this one!!
 
Oh yeah, and the reference to T.M. Maple!! Freaking awesome!!!
 
A police response time of 8 minutes... in Baltimore?! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Perhaps if there's a police station next door and there's no reruns of the Wire showing on the tube.

What you are evidently missing is the implicit commentary regarding racism in America.

The "8 minute response time" is taken by averaging the two-minute average response time in White neighborhoods with the 14-minute average response time in minority neighborhoods.

The bank at question is in a White neighborhood, rendering the 8-minute average response time meaningless, which is why the cops are waiting for him when he leaves.
 
This was wonderful on many many levels. But it was the T.M. Maple reference that put it over the top for me.

I have NEVER seen a T.M. Maple reference, which made me wonder if I had made him up in some comics induced fever dream, I had almost come to believe that he was a figment of my oh so very lonely imagination.

So I truly appreciate your setting me straight.

Again, you blog, your commentary on this medium we a love, awesome as always.
 
TM Maple? The man does have a Wikipedia entry, you know...!
 
was this post a roundabout and clever way of saying this issue of JLA was mindless garbage? I hope so.
 
No, it wasn't. I believe that McDuffie consciously make his choices with full knowledge of the true history of the Human Flame (to which he has easy access) and that there are reasons for his choices.
 
Blindingly obvious. Heh. Heh heh.

Heh. Heh-heh.

--hza
 
Hi, Scipio --

If you're serious about collaborating on things somewhere down the line, buzz me via my Web site. No sweat either way (didn't want to leave you hanging).

PH

ps Digging those HeroClix maps.
 
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