Monday, September 15, 2014

The Rise of Skartaris?

If you're anything like me, you've given next to zero thought as to Skartaris.

Even as you read this, I can hear your brain scrambling.  "That's ... a planet?  A... Supergirl foe?  An ... evil island nation?"

Skartaris, for (all) those of you who've forgotten, is the subterranean mystical 'Lost World' that was the setting of the adventures of WARLORD (or Travis Morgan, as his mom calls him). Mike Grell, master of minimalist couture and extremity in stance, invented it in 1975.  It had all the regular stuff and then some: dinosaurs and names stolen from the collective cultural conscience,  like 'Shamballah", and... well, it's easier to show you:

It's outer world is as a divorced mom and a secretary at a state government office in Nebraska;
it holds all this inside it, all day.  "Ms Skartaris, are you listening to me...?"

"Warlord" has been seen for, oh, several universal reboots by now, and I certainly haven't missed seeing it.

Although I certainly HAVE missed seeing Travis Morgan.  Sigh.

The only thing that brought it to my mind was some research I've been doing into ... Villainy Inc.

Now, SURELY, some of you remember "Villainy Inc.', if only because of the hilarious name that you'd be proud to see in your stock portfolio.  

They invested heavily in animal print, polka-dot skirts, and metal cone bras.

It's the 'super-group' of female foes of Wonder Woman who kept her so busy in 1948.

In fact, they kept her... all tied up.

Since then, they've only had only other big arc, during the Jimenez run on Wonder Woman.  You know, the one with hunky dreadlocked diplomat Trevor Barnes.  This modern Villainy Inc tried to take over ...Skartaris. For reasons.  They were led by Queen Clea, ruler of a lost Atlantean colony (as mentioned in my previous post on "Rise of the Seven Seas").  I'm skimming this story, mostly looking at the visual redesigns of the Villainy Inc members when THIS catches my eye:

Sentient Ancient Atlantean computer viruses? Right, whatever. I'd still marry you in heartbeat, Phil.  Particularly if you were dressed like Travis Morgan.  Sigh.

Well, well, well. I'd completely forgotten that Skarataris is, in fact, supposed to be a lost Atlantean colony.

Could Skartaris be one of the Seven Seas?   Could Geoff Johns be bringing Skartaris back into the DCU this way?  What do you think?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Daily Planet

I've been inspired by Superman lately.  As more and more of DC Entertainment's movie plans become public, it's clear they're going to build a universe of cinematic heroes around Superman.  

The character has been struggling to find a new resonant characterization in the DCU's new continuity,   but in only a few issues, Geoff Johns has, as is his speciality, returned to the character to its roots in a way that still feels fresh and comes as a natural outgrowth of previous story elements.  

I also watched some of the Fleischer Superman cartoons,  which are still astonishing today in their beautiful technique and their efficient storytelling; hard to imagine the impact their had on their contemporary public.

In fact, I was inspired to make the following two Heroclix maps for him.

The Daily Planet Newsroom

Lovely balconies; such a sunny place, Metropolis.

The Daily Planet Rooftop

Statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to travel.

If you'll look carefully, you see that the two maps are correlated.  You can play by themselves, or you play them together at the same time, with the Rooftop being "above" the Newsroom. You can even have Clark change to Superman in a storeroom and fly out the window to appear on the map above!

Other innovations in these two maps are doors (which block line of fire but not movement) and flying terrain, which only flyers can occupy and which allows them to ignore the elevation of other characters.  Flying figures, however, are not required for playing on either map; but without them there will be a merry chase around that giant globe, I'll wager.

"Two-tier" map combos like the Daily Planet Newsroom/Rooftop are my new schtick in map-making,  facilitated by the fact that I have a two-tied glass coffee table that's PERFECT for playing them on.

What other vertically stacked maps could I do this way? What do you think of:

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Face Value

Ordinarily, I only post here on comics I enjoy (or enjoy disliking).  Seldom do I post on 'comics I think people should read or be aware of because it's important".

But today I will, for the sake of Face Value Comics, which is publishing the first comic book with an autistic audience in mind.

It's your basic YA steampunk setting, but the protagonist has autism and the book is written AND drawn with an autistic audience in mind.  

It not only entertains but helps young people with autism better understand their situation and the situations they find themselves in with other people.  It's not a throwaway PSA-comic from a big publisher; it's a labor of love by a creator with autism that's published in my own hometown of York, PA.  

I learned about it at the beginning of the year when I read about it in my hometown newspaper.  Its print run has been small and physical copies were sold in only a handful of stores around York.  But that obscurity changed overnight when the book and its creator were featured recently on NBC News.   Diamond is now distributing the book, so you can ask for your local comic shop to carry it. Or you can buy a digital version online and keep up with the new printings at the publisher's site.

Do you need to read it? Maybe not.   But I do think it's important that you be aware of it, in case you have personal or professional connections to people who do need to read it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Rise of the Seven Seas

There's been some online chat about what DC has planned to the "Rise of the Seven Seas" storyline for the Justice League, so I'm certain I'm about to say anything new in this post.  But it will help to crystallize my own thinking about it (and the many fantastic water-based Heroclix figures that such a story could at some point spawn).

If you don't already know, "Rise of the Seven Seas" is a Justice League arc that's been set up in the pages of Aquaman.  Just like the "Throne of Atlantis" arc; Aquaman, with his globe-spanning domain of the sea, seems to be an easy first-choice nowadays when DC needs an arc big enough for the entire Justice League.

The story is not just 'something for the League to do'. It's pretty clear that DC editorial (i.e., former Aquaman-writer and Creator-in-Chief Geoff Johns) intends to use it to expand the mythology that centers around Aquaman.  Just as he built the Seven Spectrum Corps around Hal "Rainbow Brite" Jordan, he (and the writers) are building 'the seven seas'--seven underwater races/communities/kingdoms--around Aquaman and his role as king of Atlantis.

Johns is quite capable of making up new stuff on his own (e.g., The Trench), but his specialty is taking abandoned or toxic piece of DC lore, cleaning it up and weaving it into a larger, more epic and coherent mythology. That's what he did with the Justice Society, with Green Lantern, and the Flash.  And he's been doing it with Aquaman.  Whether by artistic bent, fanboy devotion, or company shrewdness, he prefers making an ever-growing quilt than a new blanket of whole cloth. He views DC's past as a legacy of riches to be built upon, not a hampering embarrassment to be destroyed or a heavy yoke of continuity to be borne humbly.

What may very well  be happening in "Rise of the Seven Seas' is that Johns will use the story to reintroduce disparate aspects of DC's underwater mythology and tie it all together in a way never done (well) before.  The DCU will wind up with seven different undersea kingdoms of different cultures and races.  Atlantis is the First Kingdom, Xebel (where Mera is from) is the Second, and The Trench (the chompy creatures of the black deep) is the Third, and the statues in the pic above gives us hints as to what the Fourth through Seventh will be. All of them will be in Aquaman's province, of course (he's 'the King of the Seven Seas'),  but several of them will likely have historical associations with other characters as well.

For example, as many longtime readers will remember, part of the Silver Age Superman mythos was his relationship with the merfolk, specifically Lori Lemaris.  Strange how many of the important people in Superman's life have the initials "LL".

How do they--oh, never mind.

So one of the underseas races will probably be Merfolk Kingdom. There's no statue of a mer-person among the Seven Seas picture, but if you look closely you can see that there's a seventh statue obscured from our view, probably so as not to give away the return of merfolk to the DCU.  And, for the historical reasons mentioned, I assume Superman will probably be the member dealing with them in the Justice League Rise of the Seven Seas story arc..

Wonder Woman also had dealings with merfolk, particularly during her adolescence as Wonder Girl, when Ronno the Mer-Boy was a contender for her affections (even in adulthood, in fact).  

How sad is USAF officer Steve Trevor that his major rivals are a guy with no human genitalia and a giant amoeba.
Does Wonder Woman not know ANY Marines she can go out with?!

But I'll wager the undersea world we will revived for Wonder Woman won't be the merfolk.  It will be the forgotten Atlantean colony of Venturia, ruled by her Golden Age foe, Queen Clea the Imperious.

Oh, look, how shocking; domination and servitude.  In a Wonder Woman story.
Queen Clea was a real piece of work, even among Wonder Woman's wacky foes. One time she teamed up with the Penguin, Ibac, the Joker, the Weeper, the Shade, Dr. Light, Brainiac, et al., to fight the JLA and JSA, and enslaved Superman with a mind-controlling "Venus Girdle".  We need Clea back; once Wonder Woman comes back from her all-Olympian vacation of Mazzuchelli's run, she's going to need some substantial opponents.  A warmongering, slave-owning leader of a queendom of underwater anti-Amazons would fit the bill nicely, and I expect to see her going toe-to-toe with WW in "Rise of the Seven Seas."  Take a look at the second statue in the picture; sure looks a lot like Clea to me.

Golden Age Batman, contrary to what many modern readers think, wasn't all about the grim and gritty.  He and Robin did LOTS of weird, trippy stuff, including visiting an Atlantis all their own.  They fought Nazis there.  I guess it was closer than going to Europe.

The Riddler is SO envious of that kid's staff.

I don't imagine we'll see a Nazi-infested underwater kingdom just for Batman's sake (cool though that might be). But Geoff Johns could certainly choose to reintroduce, say, Aurania (rival city-state to Clea's Venturia) and give it any characteristics he wanted. The first status in the "Seven Seas" pic is pretty clearly a set up for classic Aquaman foe The Fisherman--the unique headgear is a dead giveaway.  

The Busiek run surprised even the Fisherman.

And, even if you include Kurt Busiek's fun idea of his headgear being a alien symbiote, the Fisherman is basically a thematic villain who would seem perfectly at home fighting Batman (or the Flash).  So I'm guess that one of the kingdoms will be the source of a modern version of the Fisherman, who will be dealt with by Batman or the Flash during the "Rise of the Seven Seas".  

The statue farthest to the right, the insectoid-looking one, is a bit of a mystery.  It doesn't seem to correspond to any undersea society from DCU history. I suspect that it, like the Trench, is a new creation by Johns, one to give trouble to Cyborg (who, remember, can now breath underwater) or possibly Green Lantern, because we know how GL fans love their weird alien creatures.  

Speaking of Green Lantern, I am hoping that--somehow--this arc generates for us a modern version of The Shark, a classic GL villain with aquatic origins.

One of the lesser known stages of evolution is Homo Hanna-Barbera.

The Shark was reintroduced when Johns brought Hal Jordan back to life, but hasn't been seen since the New52 (during which time Hal's been mostly off-planet).  The DCU isn't quite right without him, and that weak knock-off DC keeps trying to foist on us successfully ("King Shark") is certainly no substitute.

Perhaps we will see Name-Or again and his fantastic undersea world of Lemuria, who so memorably but irrelevantly participating in the Attack of Jean Loring's Brain?

What do you hope for or expect from "The Rise of the Seven Seas"...?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Haikuesday with Grant Morrison

I will say this, though, for Grant Morrison.  Even as he veers toward the nonsensical, he tends toward the poetical.

His haiku today is titled,


Lex Luthor's drug-fueled
attempt to build a gateway
to alternative worlds.

What haiku do YOU have to discuss Multiversity, the concept of the multiverse, or Grant Morrison/Lex Luthor's drug use?

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Monday, August 25, 2014

My review of Multiversity #1

At the risk of continual comics curmudgeonliness--

Grant Morrison's Multiversity #1, which I was looking forward to, is (of course) a disappointing, muddled mess.

It's another rehash of the pet themes he's been slinging around ever since his days on Animal Man (transquartomuralism, writer as god, reader and the reader's world as part of the story, realities beyond and alongside other realities, the music of the spheres, etc.).

My voice doesn't sound like that.

I think this one is left over from an old Morrison Doom Patrol comic.

Don't ask me, buddy.  I' can barely play Heroclix.

"Blah blah, blah blah blah BLAH blah blah!"

Apparently Grant's changed his name to Lex Luthor, now.

Me, too!  Ever since Gardner Fox TOLD us that in Sept. 1961.

It's called a key change, Grant.

In other words, exactly the same hodgepodge of the same concepts Morrison so spectacularly failed to make word in Final Crisis.

These are fine ideas (even if he's repeated them about 8000 times too often), but, once again, his fractured, kaleidoscopic viewpoint makes it impossible for him to tell a coherent story.  At times, in fact, it seems composing a complete sentence escapes him.

I'm sorry, sir; your application to the Brotherhood of Dada must be submitted on paper
in the form of a tone poem or collage.

And, sure, it makes a little more sense after a second reading. But doesn't EVERYTHING (with the exception of Identity Crisis)?!

In my hobby of choral shows, we call people like Grant Morrison "Concept Producers."  They can produce concepts, but they can't produce actual SHOWS.  They have fascinating, out of the box ideas... but THEY can't carry them out. Other more sensible, down-to-earth, coherent, logistically-oriented people have to be there to do that for them, or it all winds up a flaming mess.  Like Multiversity.

Grant Morrison is such a person. He needs an editor--or a writer-- to put his ideas into action.  Until then...

Finally, something Grant and I can agree on.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

No, I did NOT like Guardians of the Galaxy, thanks for asking.

I applaud my friend Julian Darius for speaking some uncomfortable truths about "Guardians of The Galaxy" and the larger phenomena of which it is a part.

I saw it with a large group of friends, and while most of them enjoyed the film very much, I, like Julian, came away with a very empty feeling (although I can't detail the reasons why as thoroughly or eloquently as he).  

You'd think this would be because I'm the president of the He-Man Marvel-Haters Club.  It's not.  No, I'm not a fan of Marvel, but they do have their role and it's not a small one.  And (unlike many actual Marvel fans!) I actually enjoy most of Marvel's movies.  I want them to succeed and I want to enjoy them.

But I didn't enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy hardly at all.

Nor am I amused by raccoons who think that tricking people in taking the prosthetic limbs of others is funny.

It was, perhaps, the single MOST predictable film I have ever seen, and tritely so.  Every plot turn, every action, every line, every 'joke'. Oh, there was an occasion event that made me laugh; "Nothing goes over my head" did amuse me, even though, like everything else, it was terribly obvious.  I think the only thing that surprised me in the least was the post-credits cameo.  And that... wasn't exactly a pleasant surprise.  

I'm not a natural enemy of predictability, either.  After all, I'm a horror movie fan, where the genre depends at least a certain degree of predictability. I'm a classicist; we don't ready ANYTHING where we don't already know the end of the story and most of the major plot points along the way. But GotG ain't no Greek play.

I don't think I have as high a set of expectations for comic book movies as Julian does -- I don't NEED comic book movies to be Greek plays -- but I don't need them to combine all the worst flaws of various genres (the treacly family-of-friends film, the cutesy rom-com, the explodey action flick, the universe-saving scifi movie, the plucky underdogs triumph plot, the rogues with hearts of gold travelog, etc.) and then polish them with millions of dollars and (admittedly) charming actors.

Perhaps I don't know WHAT I need in comic books movies.  But I know GotG had almost none of it.  

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