Sunday, April 18, 2021

Heroclix Sunday: Central City Sidewalk

This Heroclix Sunday we go back to Central City to visit our friend Barry Allen.  The CCPD map was especially for the CW version of Barry, but this map is made with the Silver Age Flash in mind.  

The one who trained simian track teams.  And, yes, they are holding hands. 
Barry is secure in his humanity.

It COULD be in any DCU fictionopolis but there are a few touches that mark it as especially Central-City-esque.  

First, it features THE three places that all Flash Rogues rob from: An Art Gallery, A Bank, and A Jewelry Store.

Sometimes more than one.

Note that, unlike, say, Gotham City or Apex City, where everything has a name (and in the case of Apex, an address), in Central City the Bank and Jewelry Store and Art Gallery do not have names. The only thing that gets named in Central City are toy companies and tailor shops.

Central City takes its toys very seriously.

Second, it has Central City's trademark absurdly broad sidewalks. I would say "impossibly", but I live in Washington DC where the sidewalks actually look like that.

Social distancing is pretty easy in DC.

Third, if you look carefully you'll see that the vendor at the south of the map is a CCJitters stand.  Because of course it is.  

It's really amazing how much happens at a place that only appeared in comics once.

Remember when Iris used to WORK there?  Good times.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Strange Subject

Ah; Extraño.

Inkers don't like tildes.

For those of you who DON’T know, Extraño is a character from the New Guardians, a well-meant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at incorporating more diversity in the DCU during the 1990s.

Tech-head! Accent-girl! Cleavage Lass! Super-Quentin! Chia-man! Harbinger!

You know when you bring in Harbinger for star power that you're in trouble.

DC has had a lot of unsuccessful attempts at things over the years, but… New Guardians was outstandingly unsuccessful.  Supplying links will have to do for those you who didn’t experience it firsthand because I don’t have the fortitude to recount the horror, but suffice it to say: the Guardians of Oa decided it was time to make some “New Guardians” by sparking powers in a cultural hodgepodge of persons who would lead humanity to its ‘next level’. 


Now THAT is weird garb. Eat your heart out, Alan Scott.

One of those people was Peruvian Gregorio de la Vega, better known by his codename: Extraño. Extraño was DC’s first gay character. 

He's been reading my Yelp reviews.

Um, well, at least, that’s how we were supposed to interpret him.  

You're there for comic relief/emotional support, Gregorio. That's what gay characters are for, after all.

He was created in 1988, when you could be bold enough to create a gay character… as long as you didn’t actually use the word ‘gay’.  

Gregorio was what they call “flamboyant”, and his superhero identity even more so. He sometimes referred to himself in the third person as “Auntie”.  He was not designed to blend in; he was designed to be on the boundary. I mean, his codename is “the Strange One” for pete’s sake.

Now THERE is a team-up I want to see. I'm picturing mostly a shopping montage, with PS intoning ominous warnings about buying those pants, which will endanger the multiverse and make you look hippy.

...and we were SO CLOSE.

I am not criticizing that choice on the part of Steve Englehart; I have zero doubt he had the best of intentions with Extraño and the other New Guardians.  But we all know what road is paved with good intentions and New Guardians was nothing if not hellish.

Now, they butched Extraño up in short order:

Glowing skull available at Hot Topic.

Was this due to reader reaction? Conforming to the superhero body stereotype? Did Gregorio simply take advantage of having magical powers to make himself more conventionally attractive?  Because it's important to remember how he started out:

Non-conventionally attractive.

Now, all of those "Chosen", the people picked to become New Guardians, were ordinary schlubs before being 'ascended'.  But Gregorio was, well...

(from Millenium #2, 1988)

a jaded, snarky drunken barfly? I think that's the phrase I'm looking for.

Peruvian Paul Lynde here has his next scene on at the nearby waterfront:
Oh, I saw THIS movie. But I was certain they were Brazilian.

where he attempts to commit suicide.

Bury your gays at sea.

But is saved by Wally West.

Wally West telling you "It Gets Better" is perfect comic book irony.

Thanks to Wally's fractured-Spanish pep talk, Gregorio decides to put suicide on hold and instead ascend to near godhood.

The New Guardians were pretty quickly erased by hypertime and a collective agreement by the general public but not before Extraño came down with a case of Bury Your Gays.

 The fate of Gregorio was ambiguous although:

“Extraño was ultimately killed by HIV infection, but it was contracted from a fight with an "AIDS vampire" supervillain called the Hemo-Goblin.”  I took that quote from Wikipedia directly because, frankly, I didn’t want to be responsible for saying it myself. 

Oscar-bait monologue.

Also... it's not true.  Gregorio didn't get the chance to die of AIDS because he was eaten by Krona. 

It happened off-camera, too.

Yes, really.

For once, I'm with you, Hal.

Besides, thanks to Rebirth, Extraño turns up healthy and whole a mere quarter of a century later in the 2016 Apollo/Midnighter miniseries.

As The Most Interesting Gay Man In The World.

The butching up of Gregorio took a HUGE leap in this Steve Orlando miniseries.  And that's kind of understandable.  The original portrayal of Gregorio was "of its time" and so is this one.

"Oh, let me imply that I've killed people for using my only codename, just so you know that I'm not only a DILF but ALSO a bad-ass, because this is a Midnighter story. Also let me emphasize that I'm not suicidal even though that is my only backstory."

This version of Gregorio has a husband named Hugh (presumed to be the superhero Tasmanian Devil, because Those Two Gays You Know Are PERFECT  for each other!) with an adopted eldritch girl.  Because it's 2016 so of course he does.

There is, of course, no questioning Orlando's bona fides in his reintroduction of Gregorio De La Vega: "With a book like Midnighter & Apollo, which from cover to cover is a love letter to queer characters and our struggle to live, be visible and love, it felt right to return to one of the first and reintroduce Gregorio to a new generation."


Orlando didn't "reintroduce Gregorio to a new generation." He reinvented him for one.  And, in its way, his reinvention is just as stereotypical for our time as the original version was for his.  Like much of the gay community, this version of Gregorio seems to be embarrassed of his more flamboyant past and become conformist rather than individualistic.  Is this really a healthy model for contemporary gays?

I don't think Gregorio has been seen in the DCU outside this series since then. But if he were...

would we be losing more than we gain with this version?

I submit that, although a painful stereotype in 1988, the original Extraño might be a welcome breath of fabulousness in this era of the stodgy suburban gay couple.

I think if I were to reinvent Gregorio de la Vega for modern times he would nearly JUST like Orlando's version.  But Extraño....!  

My version of Gregorio would have to (or would choose to) convert to his original flamboyant over-the-top witch-self, both in dress and in personality, in order to use his power and it would be a perfect disguise...

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Heroclix Sunday: The Pension Building

There's an exciting new set of Heroclix figures coming out this month in honor of the 80th Anniversary of Wonder Woman.  The figures are more detailed than ever (thanks to SCIENCE!), there's a neat new mechanic for empowering sidekicks, and lots of characters are being made for the first time (e.g., Angle Man, Ferdinand the Chef, and Wonder Woman's brother Jason). If you are new to Heroclix, there's even a Wonder Woman-themed starter set to help you learn.

In preparation, I created a new map of Washington DC indoor location: The Pension Building.

The exhibit rooms are empty so you can put object tokens in there for the characters to throw at each other.

Build in the 1880s, the Pension Building is an imposing building inside and out. 

It's monumental. Even for DC.

Even if you ignore the exhibits, the building itself is a thing to be seen.

Originally a government office, it's housed the National Building Museum since 1980.  I call it The Guy Museum, because male visitors who aren't keen on art or history still eat up exhibits on architecture, city planning, and building construction.  

Although it's too large to accurately represent on a Heroclix map, my scaled down version comes close (although it doesn't capture the second story).  The bespoke element is the rug which is a scanned version of the ACTUAL iconic rug at the museum (and I almost fell off the balcony!).  

The Pension Building is known for holding prestigious events, like the Presidential Inaugural Ball, in its Great Hall, or wacky large-scale interactive art projects:

The Beach

The Hive

The Maze

The Lawn

In fact, it was at the National Building Museum's indoor kite exhibition that I got the idea for the Flying Robot Zombie Shark of Christmas Future. But that's a story for another time.

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Heroclix Sunday: CCPD HQ

Astonishingly, Heroclix is still going strong 19 years later (despite every single change, evolution, or improvement to the game being trumpeted by Gabriels of doom as "the end of Heroclix").  And there are lots of new rule and power changes that, frankly, were overdue and make it much easier to play (and which, of course, are being trumpeted as "the end of Heroclix", but aren't).

Making maps for the game (as alternatives to the officials ones, which are often not to my liking) is one of my hobbies, and I'd like to share one of my latest efforts:  Central City Police Headquarters (as seen on the CW show "The Flash").

The real one is 2ftx3ft.

The structure of the actual set on the CW show is hard to capture; properly the Squad Room (in the center) would be UNDER Barry's lab.  But 2D Heroclix maps aren't really designed for that, so on this map it's just walled terrain in front of Barry's Lab, which is up on the upper floor, accessed through the same sets of stairs we see on the show.

Ever wonder why CCPD has a two-story lobby that's NOT on the ground floor (as proven by the elevators)? Never quite figured that one out myself.  Central City likes it's grand Art Deco flair, I suppose.  Set designers love elevators because, unlike doors, they don't require having another set BEHIND them.

Most of the decor is standard but there are two bespoke elements: the CCPD logo used on the show and, at the very bottom, the bas relief wall hanging of JUSTICE that's on the show.

You know, this one, that the villains are always standing ironically in front of when they attack the Detective Division.

For obvious reasons, I start Team Flash figures at the north end of the map at the windows of Barry's Lab (assuming there's no thunderstorm, of course), and the villains in the elevators (although I like to force them to move in front of the JUSTICE mural before they are allowed to attack, because presentation is important).

Saturday, April 03, 2021

More Fun with FACES

With the gargoyles captured (and off to have their faces presumably 'returned' to them by Dr Rankin at some point), the Real Villain of the Piece hightails it outta there.

Some writer was SO proud of writing "devilish Angel".

Returning to his hospital (how DOES a hospital become famous is all it does is mess up people's faces?!), Angel forces Dr. Rankin to give him a new face as a ticket to new life.

Look, Rankin; Green Arrow may be no Batman, but you're no Sonny Blandish.

After all this shouting in the hospital Quiet Zone, the deed is done.

I guess Star City police couldn't track down the man whose face was completely covered in bandages and on the run.  They did, however, detain Tommy Elliot, Larry Trainor, Dr. Spencer, Prof. Wilson, Hugo Drummond, the Unknown Soldier, and Hassan the Mummy.

But, lest we forget, Prof. Angel is, in his eagerness to keep himself at arm's-distance from his nasty business, SLOPPY.  All of his gargoyle crimes were unproductive fiascos, he let someone else 'do in' Green Arrow, and then couldn't even be bothered to make sure Green Arrow was dead.

If I had the chance, I'd sit on Ollie's corpse for at least two hours, just to make sure.

So perhaps his belief, as he strides purposefully toward the glorious end of his next five-year plan, that he's gotten off scot-free is misplaced.  

"I'll make a fortune! Just like I did this time!"

Sure enough, he's soon got men on his tail: the po-po!

Panicked to defend himself, he pulls a gun...


and he's shot dead by five cops with seven guns, who apparently were chasing him not because he was Professor Angel, but because they thought he was someone else.

Yes, Doctor Rankin got his revenge on (and freedom from) Professor Angel by giving him the face of someone the police would naturally chase:

FBI Director
J.  E D G A R  H O O V E R

Well, much like Professor Angel, I certainly didn't see THAT coming.  But I guess if you don't want men on your tail and shooting on you, don't run around looking like J. Edgar Hoover.  

My apologies for dissing Dr. Rankin earlier; perhaps he IS Star City's Sonny Blandish!  He, at least, stopped Prof. Angel (a powerless, talentless, sloppy blackmailer) when Green Arrow couldn't.  And Rankin was smart enough to know that anyone dumb enough not to notice that Ollie was still breathing would also be satisfied when you gave him this face:

J.Edgar, when this story was published.

So, all's well that ends well. The bad guy is dead, the victims get their faces 'returned', no one cares about some dead truck drivers, and Ollie gets another item for his Armoire of Trophies.

"Ollie.... you DO realize that Bright can't WORK without that, right?"
"That's right, Roy; another actor saved from being on a CW show!"

Friday, April 02, 2021

More Fun with GAS


"I had to use the Starman Code, because there is no Green Arrow Code, because you aren't in the Justice Soci--"

Yes, I was DECEIVING you yesterday on April Fool's Day, for Ollie Queen is NOT, in fact, dead. Neither is Roy Harper, which was, of course, the 'dead' giveaway; killing Ollie Queen is one thing, but what kind of idiot writer would kill off Roy Harper?

Yet another underwhelming Batman foe winds up in Green Arrow's hand-me-down Rogues Gallery.

As you read in the story panel, Doc Rankin's 'shaking hands' were IN FACT tapping out a message on the bowmen's faces in (what we can only assume was Morse) code.  If you were lying semiconscious, would YOU understand if some tapped out "P L A Y D E A D I T I S O N L Y O X Y G E N" on your face?  Well, then you're no Green Arrow!  Fortunately, as I mentioned once 16 years ago, everyone in comics knows Morse code, cold.

Even dogs can do it. In Spanish. While dying of radiation poisoning.

Dr Rankin explains the whole situation to the bowmen, who speed off in the Arrowcar (yeah, I know, they are still calling it the Arrowplane at this point, probably because it's the size of a hangar) to the gargoyles' next heist.

"Um, sure, Arrow. I'll... 'return' their faces to them. I keep them here, in a jar by the door, next to Ms. Rigby's."

Sigh; you know, if Rankin were a Gothamite instead of a Star Citizen, he would have kicked Angel's ass, then flown to Germany and rescued his own family.  That's what Sonny Blandish would have done.

The next heist is at a gold mine, where the third gargoyle uses his expertise as a mining engineer to effect some chemical folderol that knocks out all opposition.

Only idle billionaire anthropologists can afford their own aqualung-arrows, you know.

Green Arrow shows up to foil them, and, once they realize Speedy is with him, they know they are in trouble.

Unfortunately, Roy seems to still be hyper-oxygenated from Dr Rankin's ruse, and misjudges his entrance.

I have no idea what "here's where this ghost goes west" means. The past is a foreign country.

Gotta appreciate that Roy is still brassy enough to sass Ollie while falling to certain death.  Ollie saves Roy in the scene depicted in the opening splash page and has NO intention of letting Roy ever forget it.

"It would be a THIRD chance, you see, because your SECOND chance is the one I, Green Arrow, gave you by saving your life, when you messed up your FIRST chance."
"Yeah. I get it. Thanks, G.A. You're my hero."

With no aqualung arrows of their own as backup, the gargoyles succumb to Green Arrow. Or, at least, to all the gas.  

"Yep! Lucky there's nothing serious, because all those dead truck drivers were merely subhuman chattel!"  Never forget that Ollie's a one-percenter.

The three gargoyles may not have very successful in actually pulling off any crimes, but you must admit that these unwilling amateur criminals have made a pretty strong showing in holding their own against the Heroes of Star City.

But what of the REAL villain of the piece, Professor Angel? Well, like Roy & Ollie, we'll have to catch up with him tomorrow...