Friday, September 08, 2023

Things That Made Me Happy in My Comics This Week: Justice Society of America #6

I read Justice Society #6 this week.  

Apparently in #5, which I read but have already forgotten, the Villain Who Couldn't Be Stopped and Who Kicked All Our Asses Simultaneously was stopped by the Heroes Trying Harder All Together.  But that's how EVERY Geoff John's plot (certainly those with the JSA) ends.  It also ends the other way every (possible) Geoff Johns' story ends:

with Courtney being right.

Because Stargirl shits g-d marble, as we all know. Because it took Stargirl to come up with the radical idea of the JSA taking time-displaced Golden Age side-kicks under their wing. I'm sure that wouldn't have occurred to Mister Terrific, one of the DCU's three smartest humans, without her help.  He was probably on the verge of sending them to Granny Goodness.

But that sort of thing aside, I enjoyed the issue (as follows).

The Stranding of The World's Phinest.

Power Girl's in the mix, too, for different reasons, but I forget whether Johns did that, and, regardless, it didn't happen in the pages of this Justice Society story.

When Geoff Johns wants A Baby, he is (unlike many writers) PERFECTLY capable of throwing out The Bathwater.  And in this case the Baby is Helena Wayne (NOT Bertinelli).  Johns does not shy away from the crux of a character, no matter how stupid or inconvenient it may be, he makes that crux his battle standard.

Geoff Johns knows darned well that the FUNCTION of the Huntress character is to be the daughter of Batman and Catwoman; if she is not THAT, she serves no purpose.  So that's what the Huntress is.  From a future she has now wiped out by her (heroic) actions in the present, and to which, therefore, she cannot return. Fin. 

Sensible Batman.

Johns' Bruce Wayne is sensible, calm, and supportive.  Because of course he is. Batman is a Golden Age hero, after all, although we forget to think of him that way.

He's going to help this Helena lady, who is not his child at all (even though her father WAS Bruce Wayne), because it's the right thing to do.  In a way that doesn't smother her and keeps her out of his hair, but, jeez, one unsolicited offspring whose creation he wasn't involved in is MORE than enough.  Amusingly, Johns' even has Helena mention the current Batman storyline where he's running around like a basketcase fighting his own family, in stark contrast to His Normal Self we see here.  Johns loves to troll that sort of thing.

Flash back.

GJ has just dumped a passel of Golden Age sidekicks into the present. Obviously lots of their stories will have to do with the difficulties of adjusting or making themselves part of current families and dynasties blah blah. 

But Flash hasn't got time for that nonsense.  Judy Garrick returns and when his dad remembers her, everyone else does, because it's Jay Garrick and that's just how it is.


Steel's Ancestry.

You're his great-uncle, numbskull. It's not exactly a "post-War" concept.

This one is interesting to me.  It's unique because it's kind of backwards.  The sidekick isn't getting iconic oomph from a connection to a Golden Age hero; he's GIVING Golden Age oomph to a Modern Hero.  John Henry "Steel" Irons has zero connection to the Golden Age.  His roots go EXACTLY to the Death of Superman story, which Golden Age fan GJ knows is a weak point for any character.  So he's inserting this fellow (he hardly looks as if calling him a "kid" is appropriate) into Steel's PAST as a way of connecting Steel to the Golden Age.  Might as well; no one else has ever been able to figure out what to do with Steel, a literary conundrum that has stumped even the likes of Shaquille O'Neal.

Justifiable Rudeness

There is little I hate more in comics than the Gratuitously Unpleasant Character. Like, well, any character being written by Roy Thomas.  And the last place such a character should be is in the JSA or its derivatives.

One of the many Things Roy Thomas Didn't Understand, since none of his characters can get through two sentences without being ****s.

So obviously "Salem", the stupidly named and snide protégé of the Golden Age Dr. Fate, Kent Nelson, has been my least favorite of the rediscovered sidekicks. At least until GJ explained WHY she is like that.

She's rude in order to keep people at a distance so THEY DON'T DIE BY HER CURSE.  That's some Greek Tragedy stuff, right there.

Simple. Elegant. Rooted in the character's origin.  You don't have to always like WHAT Geoff Johns is doing to appreciate the sheer EFFICIENCY with which he does it.

He COULD have tried to streamline Dr. Fate's history. But he didn't. Because it's messy and that's just now a core part of the character.  

The Red Bee's Legacy

"As insane as it sounds" is Geoff Johns' credo.


M I C H A E L.

GJ knows that Michael, THE ABSURDITY of Michael, is at the crux of the Red Bee. Johns doesn't shy away from that as a stupid embarrassment, he embraces it with the fervor of a post-War lover returning to his beloved.

So Michael, who apparently is not only hyperintelligent BUT AGELESS, is there to greet his sidekick in our time.  Because all you need for the Red Bee is Superior City, a hero in a ridiculous costume (which this girl CERTAINLY qualifies as), and... Michael.

I like to imagine that Michael occasionally does lunch with Detective Chimp and Rex the Wonder Dog.  Very quiet lunches. Until Robbie the Robot Dog shows up.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Things That Made Me Happy in My Comics This Week: Blue Beetle

I read Blue Beetle #1 and it pleased me.

Paco and Brenda are back.  

I, for one, am happy Paco is still "disgusting".

You can do a lot of things with Blue Beetle.  But if you are going to use Jaime Reyes, you need Paco and Brenda.  They are to Jaime as Lois & Jimmy are Clark (although, of course, they are nothing like Lois & Jimmy): essential supporting characters.  They barely appear in the issue, but the brief appearance is so on the spot, it's as if they'd never been gone.

Ted Kord as Jaime's Mentor.  

Ted is not focused on his ship; he's focused on Jaime.

The series begins with Ted Kord serving as Jaime Reyes's mentor. I don't think that has any historical precedent (that I have personally read, anyway).  Jaime was created precisely because Ted Kord was off the table (with an acute case of Being Dead).  But Jaime and Ted are a very natural pairing; Jaime's (and the series) respect for Ted Kord are off the charts, not only as he appears and acts in the present, but how he serves his role in the Blue Beetle lineage.  

This is, shall we say, called into question by a unknown interloper who encounters Ted and, um... leaves him a bit worse for wear.  NOT dead (yet), as I have seen reported in the media, because dead people aren't still talking.  I hope Ted gets better soon, because in just ONE ISSUE, the creative team re-established him beautifully and I would hate to see that go to waste.  Jaime deserves Ted and, frankly, so do we.

Jaime as a leader.

If that doesn't warm your heart, why read comics?

Jaime, whether he wants to be or, now has to be a leader. Not just of his soon-to-be-discussed sidekicks, but to the community of Reach-related extraterrestrials who (for some reason) are now living somewhere in intermittent seclusion in Palmera City.  That's too much responsible for a college freshman to have to deal with (in addition to have superpowers)... and that is exactly the kind of problem Jaime deserves as part of his stories.

Respect for Legacy

That sort of thing (using Classic foes and acknowledge past iterations of the heroic identity) is easy to take for granted now in DC Comics. DON'T.  Recognize, appreciate, and reward it, because it didn't used to be a given at.  Some of us still remember Jared Stevens and even if you don't, it wasn't that long ago that DC was run by someone eager to obliterate as much of DC's history as necessary to install his 5G creations (and their ilk) in those characters's place.  Never take respect for history for granted.


I love it when people speak in LOGOES.

"Colleagues" or "lieutenants" might be technically more accurate descriptions of Dynastes & Nitida, but... it's comics. They're sidekicks.  I have little idea who they are (surely introduced in Jaime's graduation one-shot), but I get everything I need about them from this appearance.  They have powers that are similar, but lesser and not identical to Jaime's, they are less expert and prudent in using them, so Jaime is their leader.  They work well as complements to Jaime, in how the look, what they do, and what their personalities are like.  It's almost as if the creative team knew the wisdom of positioning your main hero as the centerpiece of a dynasty of characters!


Mistakes are made by the characters in this issue.  Jaime has insufficient control over his lieutenants; they have insufficient control over their powers; Ted Kord gets in WAY over his head against a foe, despite all his gadgetry.  Too many creators are terrified to let their characters be anything less than Perfect Combatants and Strategists.  But superheroes are characters with a LOT of power; if they are too perfect there is no suspense.  The only character who gets to be perfect is, well, Batman, a benefit HE gets because he's otherwise powerless.

The art.

That art is nearly Golden Age in its solidity and simplicity.

I was worried after glancing at the Blue Beetle graduation one-shot that Blue Beetle as a property had fallen irretrievably into the uncanny valley of anime-style, with the big jagged mouths and single pop-eyes, like someone just couldn't shake the effects of loving Invader Zim.  And while there is SOME of that herein, it's a spice not a main dish (as the above snips make clear).  I'm especially pleased by how Ted Kord, with his simpler more abstract costume design, is allowed to seem exactly like what he is: a simpler character from a different time (but still appropriate to this one).

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Ten Things I'm Sick Of

 1. "Bat" & "Cat". It's a stupid, childish attempt to Sound Cool.

Zdarksy. Of course.  Who else would think imitating Tom King is a way to sound cool?

2 & 3.  Japanese Manga's weird fetish/obsession for nymphettes in sailor costumes and Corgis/Shiba Inus.
It's creepy in its relentlessness. Why can't they fixate on circus boys in swimming trunks, like normal Americans?

4. The continued Wink&Nod sexualization of Catwoman.

"Uncovered"; oh, it's not naughty ambiguity, it's a genuine exploration of her as feminist anti-hero icon, blah blah blah.  At least in the Golden Age when she wore a split-skirt and plunging neckline, they were more honest about it.

5. Yaoi.
Look, I suppose we gay people have a right to creepy trash as much as anyone, but I don't have to like it.  If this stuff is even FOR gay people, rather than just female readers who get off on watching male characters treat other male characters as badly as female characters are usually treated.

6 & 7. G'nort. And "swimsuit issues".
Who is this FOR?! People who fetishize grown-up circus boys in swimming trunks?

You know, the Fat Funny Friends of the Golden Age may be mostly gone, but don't convince yourself that the contemporary equivalent, the Lore-Riffing Parody Meta-Character (I'm looking at you, Dr. Quinzel) is any way more sophisticated (OR funny).

8. Oh So Clever Parodies/Satires/Homages that try to excuse themselves by lampshading that that's what they are.

Although ever time you DON"T lampshade it, some fool who missed the joke will inevitably start to take it seriously (e.g., Lobo, Sentry, the Extremists, the Watchmen), and, inevitably, that will include not just readers but writers.

9 & 10.  Chip Zdarsky and The League of Overused XXXtreme Batman Tropes.

"Batman descends on Gotham City, full of rage and force, more driven than ever to save his home. But the new landscape has turned friends into foes. Can anyone stop his reign of terror? Should they? The Gotham War continues in this second chapter!"

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Not Today

 I am not a big fan of Wally West (although I have nothing against him).

But I AM a FAN of Mark Waid, who actually made Wally WITTY, not just a goofball.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Blue Beetle: La Pellícula

 I saw Blue Beetle today, and enjoyed it.

Some of the beats were a bit worn for me. "!FAMILIA!" is nearly inevitable for a film with Jaime Reyes at the center, but has "FAMILY IS EVERYTHING!" beaten to death as a pop culture message in the last 15 years, or what?

Pictured: The Supreme Importance of Family

Even WITHOUT "The Fast & Furious" films. Really, you can't have followed any longer-form pop culture saga without this theme having been anviled on your head incessantly.  Gods help you if you don't Have Family, because It's The Only Thing That Matters, and so most popular narrative is designed to make you feel like you have NOTHING.

When you love your family so much,
you have to marry them.
BTW, only two of three people in this picture survive the ceremony.

It's convenient for long-form narrative, because it lets writers define their cast of characters As A Family and then justify anything around that.

And you don't abandon family,
even if they aren't perfect.

This is why it is so overused.  BUT it's a theme that actually DOES belong in Blue Beetle, where it is handled, well, not subtly, certainly, but solidly.  

As for the rest of the film, 

The CGI was good and believable, which is impressive given how difficult the Blue Beetle III concept is to visually represent.  The film also has the coolest set of stairs since The Exorcist.

Which are quite vertiginous, btw.

Jaime and the other characters were likable and (broadly) believable (except for the villains, who were neither).  

Having a likable and believable hero as your protagonist should not be taken for granted.

The characters are pleasant enough, if a bit stock-y: the Saintly Supportive Father, the Weepy Attentive Mother, the Perky Nana, the Sassy Sister. I missed Paco Testas and Brenda Del Vecchio, who I (and even CBR) think of as Jaime's real supporting cast.

They were sacrificed in favor of family, because family is all.

The plot was pretty tight (if vague: the Scarab doesn't seem to me like something Whose Code You Can Download, but many hands were waved in the making of this film) and proceeded at a good clip; I never felt the movie dragging at any point.  Except in the Afterlife, but you know how leisurely people in the Afterlife are.

Blue Beetle history fans have every reason to be pleased, given how accurately and respectfully Dan Garret (Blue Beetle I) and Ted Kord (Blue Beetle II) are incorporated into the plot.  

I mean: Ted Kord foe CARAPAX? Who expected THAT?!

Delightfully, even though Ted doesn't appear, his tech DOES and it is very satisfying, because it represents him perfectly. It's goofy, amazing, impressive, and not always reliable.  As one of the characters says, "He was like Batman, but with a sense of humor."  Ted Kord doesn't cast a shadow on the movie, he shines a light on it.  This is perhaps the film's most impressive feat.

Fans of broader Ted Kord lore should pay very close attention to where his daughter is from.  True fans will understand the significance of it.

It's pretty sweet.

The film even climaxes on Pago Island.  I didn't expect that amount of comics-accurate respect.

That one; in the DCU.
Not Pago Pago; that's in Samoa.

Mercifully, while the film includes much Blue Beetle history, it spares us any mention of The Reach or The Bleed, which have always been tedious with their Invader Zim bit. The Scarab is "alien combat tech", period.

There are plenty of familiar (and familial) aspects of Latin culture (even more specifically, Mexican) that those in the know will be tickled by (I was slain when the film embraced The Red Grasshopper).  It also does a good job of reminding us that the old people in your life have entire decades of living underlying them that you just know nothing about.  

At the cinema I saw the film at

The Alamo Drafthouse, which has really made Going To The Movies a special treat again.

a trailer interview with Blue Beetle's director (Angel Manuel Soto, famed chronicler of Menudo) ran before the film that was elucidating.  What struck me most was his understanding that shifting the setting from El Paso (where Jaime originally was in comics) to a fictionalized version of that city ("Palmera City") is a "promotion" for Blue Beetle, because tentpole heroes in the DCU have Their Own Cities and lesser ones generally do not.  It's one of the most clear reinforcements of one of my favorite concepts, the idea that The Fictionopolis matters and it's one of the DCU's advantages over the Marvelverse.

Palmera City was created FOR the film, but appeared in comics at least half a year earlier, because comic books not written by Frank Miller come out faster than movies do.

P.S. Because sometimes The Fat Funny Friend is FAMILY, the film has George Lopez in it. Prominently. But I still recommend that you see it, which is high praise, indeed.

Tragically, his character survives.  
Truly, a failed promise.

How To Dress Like Speed Saunders: The Basics

 First and foremost you need the puce Glenurquhart Estate Check suit (or at least the jacket).

God bless Calvin Klein

Since no one would be caught dead wearing a tieless cutaway collar, let alone one in Cubicle Blue, I can only assume this is a mannequin, rather than a corpse.

Don't wear the jacket with TAN pants like this, not even if you are dead. Pair with solid black slacks; the inker will thank you for it.

If you want to go the whole nine yards, wear the whole suit. This should be reserved for full-body scenes like standing outside a building.

Sure it costs more, but it's worth it just for the Summoning Authority Figure scenes.

OBVIOUSLY, a pocket square is required. It must be white, in a two-point fold. Do not accouter it with a flat-line pocket square, as this unshaven fool has. There as many possible errors in this regard as there are pocket folds.

ONLY ONE of these is permissible. 

Remember, Speed Saunders is stylish, but not a DANDY.  He employs only the classic double-peak fold, distinguishing himself the single-peak-wearing clod (such as your Slam Bradley types) and the triple-peaked clowns (like Bentley of Scotland Yard).

Bentley, who wears white socks and brown shoes
with an undeserved blue double-breasted. Ugh.

A THREE-PIECE double-breasted.
Ugh; Bentley. Why hasn't anyone arrested YOU?!

No, the only choice for a Speed Saunders outfit is the two-point, thus:

I include this diagram for those of you who did not manage to acquire this knowledge at the orphanage or Reform School for Boys.

Wear these with any WHITE point-collar (and ONLY a point-collar) dress shirt.

Men's Dress Shirt Collar Types | The Various Styles Explained – Nimble Made
Remember, if you wear it with a button-down collar, the authorities have orders to shoot you on sight.

Off-setting the expense of the jacket/suit is the reverse-barbershop (black and red) tie, which can be gotten for a song.

Note that they could not even find a corpse or mannequin that would monstrously wear this knot with a spread collar thus. *shudder*

N.B. This tie MUST be Bendy Sinister.  If it is BENDY, rather than Bendy Sinister, children will point and mock, ladies avert their gaze, gentlemen shake their heads, and all members of the Speed Saunders Aficionados Club will deny you food, water, shelter, and witty conversation, and you will be subject to their pitiless Faces of Judgement. Furthermore, Metropolitan Libraries will be within their rights to forbid you entry.

Finally, the hat, which, always remember is to be one WHENEVER one is outside or soon to be outside. Do not remove your hat if you have to just tesseract inside for one or two panels to question someone.  It wastes too much time.

You will need TWO hats; a summer-weight orange trilby and a winter-weight orange trilby (if you don't already have them).

I am embarrassed for the sellers who were driven to nonsensically call it a "trilby fedora" because their customers are Americans or philistines.

NOT a fedora; a trilby.  We are Ace Investigators, not the Crimson Avenger. 

And that's it! So simple! You are now ready for your Speed Saunders cos-play.