Friday, June 18, 2021

Doll Man versus a Box of Candy, Part 1

Doll Man and his sidekick, Death, hide themselves in a box of candy!  This story has no proper title so we get to pick our own: I'm leaning toward "Bon Bon Voyage" or "A Box of Bomb Bombs!"

Maybe it's not Death.  Maybe (the) Doll Man is just throwing one of his 'flesh-optional' parties.

Doll Man's gal pal received an unsolicited parcel: a box of CHOCOLATES!

"It could be a BOMB! Let's stand way back here against the wall, just in case!"

If the mailman made a mistake, as Martha asserts below, the package must have the correct address on it, and it would be a simple matter to take it there or hand it back to the mailman the next day.  But Golden Age stories are not premised on simple matters.  And so...

Being the crazy person who drank an untested shrink formula that strains the brain, Doll Man starts EATING the chocolate, even though the chocolates belong to someone else AND could actually be BOMBS. You'd think he'd know that, living in a comic book as he does.

Actually, Martha, if you were he, you obviously WOULD eat it.

Of course, opening (and eating) a package not addressed to you is a federal crime, but that's not the kind of thing that stops a man who regularly finds any excuse to shrink to six inches and run around in his underwear and pick on people 1728 times his size.

Naturally because this is Doll Man,  the very piece of candy he so daintily begins to consume in multiple bites turns out to contain a sabotage plot.

"I'd better investigate!" 
Doll Man is kind of guy who says, "But I digress...!"

So, I ask you to think about how you safely and undetectably insert a sabotage plot inside a bon bon, which, unlike a fortune cookie, is full of messy goo.  Don't tell me; just think about it. THEN think about WHY you would do that; no pressure, since there is no answer.

As Gal Pal Martha steadies herself against the idiosyncratic perspective of the room, Doll Man ponders an uncharacteristically sane approach, from which she quickly dissuades him through the persuasive power of transquartomuralism.

One of the challenges of Doll Man stories is that you can never tell whether Doll Man is changing size or its just the idiosyncratic perspective.

Like any Golden Age hero, Doll Man is eager to horribly complicate the situation with a simple plan.

"You can start by helping me escape this Ames Room, which is causing the illusion that I'm 8-10 foot tall."

Doll Man's simple plan has Martha return the apparently unopened box of candy to the world's loneliest Post Office, which is the normal decent thing they should have done in the first place.

In Doll Man's city, forced perspective = foreshadowing.

I'm not really sure how the "Post Office" works, because, like you, I live in the future, where we use teleportation and 3D printing instead.  I guess the package has no return address, but the P.O. keeps records that say "Mr. Roberts, 555-1323; box of edible sabotage plans, contact if undeliverable"?  Sure, Golden Age, why not?

Oh, wait, did Mr. Roberts send the package or was he its intended recipient"I better investigate!"  

Here's where this simple plan gets complicated.  Mr. Roberts brings the candy back to a Mr. Gruber's office, which is, apparently, in the Ukiyo-e building for exporters of Japanese perspective, where everyone within must cling to furniture to keep from being hurtled off-panel by sudden shifts in viewpoint.

Has the yellow-suited man been poisoned with Doll Man's shrinking pill? Why is he standing on a banker's box?  Is the blue-suited man actually that much taller or is he a victim of forced perspective?  Why does he order everyone else to take a piece of candy but then winds up getting the sabotage piece himself? All the really good mysteries in Doll Man stories remain unexplored.

So,  it seems the box of candy isn't a means for conveying crime plans, so much as a means for deciding who does the crime. Suddenly the Octo-Alphabet Board and the Planetary Chance Machine don't seem so stupid, do they?

Yeah; no, they still do.

Next time you play a boardgame, don't roll to see who goes first. Wouldn't it be more exciting to pull out a Whitman's Sampler and say, "The first-player token is in ONE of these chocolates; start eating."

But I digress! As the yellow-suited man continues to shrink and the brown-suited man eats all the rest of the chocolate (because crime is a high-calorie undertaking), they discover the amazing figure of The Doll Man hidden in the box of candy (which I have to assume had some airholes punched in it).

I think the Square-Cube Law means that Doll Man only weights about 2 ounces so Adolf has a very finely calibrated sense of what chocolate boxes weigh.

And that's when the Doll Man–style whupping begins.

For a guy who stands on banker's boxes in order to come up to the shoulders of his colleagues, yellow-suit has a lot of stones to sass a guy who's lifting a table the relative size of a White Castle.

So, after they are all unconscious, Doll Man does the sensible thing and, having incapacitated the would-be saboteurs, calls the authorities.

LOL, you didn't fall for that, did you? This is the Golden Age; this is The Doll Man, whose brain is chemically unbalanced! Naturally, while he has the opportunity, he does the least sane thing and crawls INSIDE THEIR BOMB.

"Hm. A tiny man with super-strength jumped out of a box of chocolates and pummeled us senseless. But now he's gone so, I'm going to pretend there was an earthquake and just proceed as planned!"

After all, what could possibly go wrong...?

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Disturbingly Parallel

I've never done psychotropic drugs, but I did watch a lot of Gumby as a child, which I suspect is a fairly similar experience.  

Oops; wrong picture; but close enough.

The similarities between the Martian Manhunter and Gumby -- both of whom debuted in 1955, by the way -- have been noted before, mostly famously in Justice League America #38 :

That was also the issue where Despero killed Steel and then killed Gypsy's parents and propped their bodies up in the living room for her to find. 
But no one remembers that part.

If you aren't familiar with Gumby, well, he's a green shapeshifter with red eyes who can phase through objects,  whose powers are pretty much limited only by his imagination, and whose adventures manage to be both mundane and surreal. Sound familiar?

Also not a big fan of fire.

Sometimes I've wondered whether Gumby could be a source for MM stories. Gumby's "foes" include:

the Blockheads (G & J), 

the Mocking Monkey, 

rampaging robots, 

an evil sentient glob of dough, 

and Dr. Zveegee, 

all of whom really sound like they'd fit right with foes of the Alien Atlas.   But it wasn't until today that I realized that both Gumby and MM had pet dachshunds:

That one's Gumby's.

You can tell there are no dogs on Mars. Or SPCA in Apex City.

But this is the real eye-opener for me:



They both have orange, tag-a-long, semi-pointless, pet-cum-sidekicks.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Their Desired Effect

By the way for those who missed it, Gregorio de la Vega's most recent appearance (in DC Pride #1)...

is designed to evoke his first appearance:

With a more restrained and contemporary fashion sense, of course.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


When's the last time you saw Bunker?

Pride Month is a good opportunity to reflect on the depiction of gay characters in the DCU.  Aqualad is certainly riding high lately; the process of mythic syncretism has evolved him into a hybrid of the "Kaldur'ahm" version popularized on Young Justice and the "Jackson Hyde" version from the comics proper, and we have every reason to think the character is here to stay.  Likewise, a new version of Alan Scott synthesizes two previous versions, the older one, father Jade and Obsidian and the younger one, the gay guy from Earth-(NewFifty-)Two.  The result seems like it will be more interesting than either of the two previous ones, and represent a slice of life not seen in DC comics before (that I'm aware of).  Not only is Alan gay, his son, Todd, is back and (still) gay.  My senior-year college boyfriend had that exact situation when his own father came out, so ... it happens.

But where is Bunker?  He was introduced ten years ago as part of the chaos that was the New52 Teen Titans (which was part of the chaos that was the New52, period).  I wasn't reading it, so I knew of him only because of press coverage and the fact that he had a Heroclix figure.

Is it sad that I only notice how questionably sexualized this drawing is because Bunker's a gay teenager, and not a straight one? 

I guess Wikipedia does tell us the last time anyone saw Bunker:

In issue #23, Bunker leaves the team for a short while.  The Teen Titans series then concluded, with #30 along with an annual in April 2014.  It was then announced that the series would be relaunched in July 2014 with a new issue 1, written by Will Pfeifer and art by Kenneth Rocafort.  In the annual, during an epilogue, Bunker is shown being funded by the Green Team to create the 'Spectacular Internationale'.

But it doesn't really tell us WHY.  My own theory is simple, typical of me, and has nothing to do with Bunker's sexuality. 

Part 1: Bunker was one of the babies thrown out with the bathwater that was the New52 and he appeared too briefly to have any fanbase to advocate for his return.  'Nuff said.

Part 2: Bunker (unlike many Teen Titans) is not part of (you guessed it) any DC iconic dynasty.  I know I have been harping on the idea for 15 years now and some of you still don't (want to) believe, but it really does make a difference.  If you have a connection to one of the icons who are the pillars of the DCU, there's an independent reason to bring you back: to fill out that character's cast, and at some point, it will happen.

Although I don't think I ever discussed it here, I thought Bunker was an obvious fit with Green Lantern; I mean, he makes mono-colored constructs. Doesn't get any more on point than that.  Green Lantern doesn't have a teenage sidekick, but he could.

I love that costume; Hal should have been a fashion designer.

Particularly a teenage sidekick who isn't just "ANOTHER person with a Green Lantern ring".  GL does get into trouble and his power ring has all sorts of limits, including running out of power.  A teen sidekick without those limitations could have his back and be there to save his butt.

I am SURE Bunker could have done that.

But no one at DC ever made that happen during Bunker's brief floruit, so there's no reason to bring Bunker back. Except, of course, that he was a fun, outgoing character, with an easy-to-understand and very visual power, had a distinctive but simple and tasteful (if a bit TIGHT) costume, and would bring a nice bit of variety to the DCU landscape.  

As it happens, the last time I saw Bunker...

was today.  Socking Eclipso in the jaw and wearing an improved costume while surfing in the Gay Pride Parade at the end of DC Pride #1 (2021).



That's better.

Let's hope it's a new start, not just a throwaway.  I don't think Bunker should be a throwaway.

Monday, June 14, 2021

The First Metatextual Hero (?)...

You probably barely know who Cyril "Speed" Saunders is, if at all.

He's one of the thousands of mostly generic "adventurers" from the Golden Age of DC comics, before the superheroes took over.  Created in 1937, he pre-dates Batman & Superman.  In modern times, he occasionally figures as a supporting character in JSA-related stories; he was posited as Hawkgirl's grandfather in Robinson & Goyer's JSA and later as her uncle (or grand-uncle) in the Palmiotti & Grey run on Hawkman.

From JSA #2 (1999)

Was there a Crisis in between these two storylines to blame the change on? 

Eh; probably.

From Hawkman #2 (2002).

But originally he was (like David S. Pumpkins) his own thing.

From Detective #1, if you can imagine such a thing.

At first he was clearly part of 'the River Patrol' (which was apparently part of the FBI? Sure, okay).  But no river is mighty enough to contain the awesomeness of Speed Saunders, so pretty quickly that was generalized into being a vague 'agent' or 'investigator' who pretty much stuck his nose in wherever he wanted.

Later retcons had him part of the O.S.S. (because comics just loves the O.S.S.), but the truth is his authority came FROM BEING SPEED SAUNDERS.

When Speed Saunders shows up (which is always when the story begins because no story REALLY begins until Speed Saunders shows up), he demands to know what's up and no matter who you are, you tell him, unhesitatingly, and THEN you ask him how HE would like to proceed.

Later he sold his used car to Bruce Wayne. 
THAT'S how cool Speed Saunders was.

EVERONE always deferred to Speed's vague authority. It's a great power; he's the Aquaman of Ace Investigators.  I'd love to see him brought back in that capacity, with his authority always unquestioned and rooted in universal societal respect (for no reason that we ever get a clue about).

INSTANTLY in charge of any situation he happens upon. Before there was "I'm Batman", there was "I'm Speed Saunders".

So, I should haven't been surprised to discover that he's probably the first hero with the power of metatextuality.

"The Bat-Man, eh? Seems rather too overly dramatic to be taken seriously, I should think..."

His name is Speed Saunders, and don't you forget it.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Heroclix Sunday: Making Customs

Many's the DCU character that's been made into a Heroclix figure, despite obscurity. The Chef at the Themysciran Embassy; Roland Desmond; The Weird; Baby Doll; all made~

Many's the DCU character NOT made, however.  Depending on who it is I may just may (im)patiently, if it seems it's a character there will get around to.  But Heroclix has been around 20 years, so I no longer blindly sit in hope that they are still working on getting to get just the right dial for the Human Flame or Joe Coyne.  

The gods help those who help themselves, it's said, so if a character I covet doesn't have a Heroclix figure yet, I will often make one myself. 

Sometimes, it "backfires" and, right after I've gone to the trouble, effort, and expense of making a custom figure for a character (like Wonder Woman's brother, Jason), Wizkids will surprise me by coming out with their own:



Ah, well.  Usually, though, I am delighted when I create a custom figure. But how?  It's essentially a three-part process: 

  1. finding (and acquiring) an appropriate dial to represent the character and its abilities;
  2. creating (somehow) an appropriate sculpt to represent the character visually and putting on the chosen dial; and
  3. creating a character card to describe the character (especially any special powers or traits, which are not explicated on the dials).

For example: The Wind Pirate (whom Wizkids will NOT be making any time in the foreseeable future, unless he's the villain in the next Aquaman movie), whom we met so memorably in the "Jean Loring's Brain" storyline.

The Wind Pirate's "powers" are the weather-controlling abilities from his Ditko-class spaceship, so I looked for an appropriate "Storm" dial; whenever possible I choose dials from Marvel figures so that the custom figure's dial doesn't duplicate and existing one in my (DC) Heroclix collection.

Sure enough, one was easy to find:

I won't bore you with all the specifics of what the colors etc. mean, but suffice it to say this Storm figure has some key abilities that I thought made it the best choice for representing the Wind Pirate.  Naturally, all Storm figures are going to have abilities to represent weather control. But this one also has the ability to carry several figures along with her (which captures the fact the Wind Pirate has a spaceship) and has a 'leadership' power (which captures the fact that WP is the captain of that spaceship).

Of course, there's no fun having the Wind Pirate on the game board without BOSUN by his side to take abuse, so I looked for a complementary 25 point dial that would make for a 100 point "Wind Pirate & Co." team (or segment of a larger team).  Oddly, I found it in the form of someone named "Lila Cheney":

She has no really aggressive attack powers, but she is designed to move far and carry a lot of other figures; putting Bosun on this dial basically represents the Wind Pirate's ship and crew.  That's perfect, since the Bosun the character has no powers (other than the ability to put up with abuse from his unrequited beloved).

As for creating a sculpt, I could have looked for some appropriately sized pirate figures, but... this is the Wind Pirate and Bosun we're talking about, here!  I felt they deserved something bespoke,  so I designed and ordered some figures from It's better for D&Dish figures than comic book characters, but it was all over "pirates".

I was happy to have been able to capture Bosun's "you do realize what we're doing is stupid right?" attitude with this design.  Since I made this figure, Heroforge added scarfs, so an updated version could actually have that jaunty orange neckerchief he's sporting in that panel.

He could use it to wipe away those tears of rejection.

With the dials and sculpts on the way, I used this site to design character cards for each of them:

Making up "flavorful" titles for their powers is the fun part; I'm fond of using appropriate quotes from the characters, if possible.  Usually, I bundle a whole bunch of such cards and get them printed professionally by the nice folks at Print & Play, but I could also just print them out on cardstock at home.

Some of the customs I've made with this process more recently have included:

Nuidis Vulko of Atlantis

Do NOT call him fat.

Aquaman foe The Eel

So stylish!

The Faceless Hunter

They all look alike to me.

and CW Arrow's Wild Dog