Saturday, August 13, 2005

Nameless Underlings

Ah, the Nameless Underling; another of the Rungs of Villainy! To the untrained eye, Nameless Underlings can look like Faceless Fodder, but connossieurs of criminal subtypes know better. There are so many differences!

Fodder are treated collectively, as a group. Underlings are invididuals; nameless ones, but individuals nonetheless.

Fodder do not talk, except to make a lame pun during a fight or perhaps emit a "YI-I-I-I-I-I!" as they cascade over a balconey bannister. Underlings are superior because they hold the RAE, the Right of Ancillary Exposition (Ha! Schwartz couldn't weasel his way out of that clause!). Underlings may engage in Q&A with their villainous bosses or chime in with Colorful Clarifying Commentary (CCC), so long as what they say further explains the action or plot.

In the panel at right, the Nameless Underling we shall designate as "Artsy-Face" exercises the Right of Ancillary Exposition by clarifying what kinds of seeds the Joker is talking about, followed by some CCC, a not-hopelessly-lame elaborative pun. Cheezy Underlings often append their CCC with an Emphatic Ejaculation (e.g., "Haw!", "Yeah!", "Huh!"), but not Artsy-Face; he's got class.

Though it's not common knowledge outside union legal circles, the RAE is not, in fact, part of the Underlings' contact; it's in the Villains' contract.

You see, villains don't really need someone to talk to. They can always just talk out loud. To themselves. Loudly. Waving their arms in the air. In a disproportionately large room drawn slightly off square and whose furniture to just a tad too far apart, where the full moon is visible through a multi-paned picture window. You know ... like they do.

Happy as clams, each of them, chatting away merrily, admiring themselves and their decor. Why, the Joker seems impressed simply with his own existence, as if just being alive were his greatest accomplishment. Very zen, the Joker.

But villains hate having to hammer home every little detail of their heists to hoi polloi; it's beneath them, dilutes their impact, and wastes their oratorical talents. If stupid people like you and I don't already get the joke, villains certainly aren't going to stop to explain it to us. Thus, the villains put it in their own contract that the Nameless Underlings retain the RAE. Would you want to argue the point with the Joker or Two-Face? Neither do DC's lawyers!

Nameless Underlings are also allowed to pose a legitmate threat to the hero (and the ability to state that falls under the RAE). Below, Artsy-Face gets carried away with his own CCC, and by announcing his threat to Batman ensures a clobbering by Robin accompanied by a pun so bad I had to crop it out, to protect any women or children who might be reading this blog.Oh, too bad; Artsy-Face showed such promise. Given a second appearance, he might have gotten a two-panel confrontation with Batgirl in a Batman Family backup story, followed by an appearance in a annual crossover, and wound up as a top-notch Green Arrow villain.

It's a rough business, crime is. But, as the Joker's exiting comment reminds us,
"Only FOOLS work for ... the Joker!"

Go, Team!

You know, Robin ...

a LOT of people have wondered about that.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Date Night Discussion

Okay! It's Friday night, and here's a gift for us all comic book folks without dates tonight:

a photo of Black Canary and Hawkman chained to an autolift.

My! If you don't find something in that to interest you, then you're either a verdesexual, like Ariel, or dangerously disturbed, like Devon.

Which leads me to an odd "date night" question:

which DC characters need to date each other, and why?

It never fails. We're playing clix on a Monday night and while my beer-guzzling companions are having Fury and Solomon Grundy slug it out, I put down my teacup and pipe up cheerily, "You know, they really should date."

Yeah, well, if you think I'm weird, what about the people who make / buy the nude clix repaints on Ebay? Now that's dangerously disturbed....


The moral?
Do NOT mess with Brainac 5.

Annataz yalp lliw ohw?

By general public acclaim, Jason Lewis is selected to play Aquaman in

"Vibe! The Movie, Meng".

Well! He'll look good wet, that's for sure.

That leaves only two principals, by my count: Zatanna and the Elongated Man.


Faintly Faint-Making

I wasn't sure plastic could contain the DRAMA that is the Golden Age Starman, yet here it is in my hands.

Can you IMAGINE it, what DRAMAS will unfold on my Heroclix table now that my custom Starman is present? Could you stand the clashes that would ensue should I be brave enough to commission ....

The Light? The Infuriated Vurm? Dr. Doog? The Green Arab? The Purple-Turbaned Nameless Underling? The MIST?!!??!!

In the immortal words of Ted Knight,

"Assist me to the couch! I think I'm going to faint!"

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Character Donation #74

Well, I WAS going to wait on this one, but Devon at Seven Hells has made it difficult to pass up.


The Flying Turd herself: Starfire.

"Oh, no! Starfire was part of what got me first turned on to comics!"

Sorry, fanboy; Starfire is simply what got your first turned on PERIOD.

Like any Marvel character, she's all about "the look".

She's Omaha the Cat Dancer with no tail and fewer clothes.

She fires ill-defined "energy blasts" from her clenched fists. Why? Cuz it looks good, I guess. It's the Marvel way.

She produces a "cool to draw" ill-defined energy trail.

The vacant manga eyes that scream "No one's home!"

The oh-so-convenient "I must never forget how I was abused" slave girl outfit. Ri-i-i-i-iight.

Oh, and, of course, the stupid pun-based name. No, not "Starfire"; "Koriandr". GODS! No wonder the Toon Titans won't even USE her "real" name.

Yeah, and the family-based character conflict with her evil sister. Yeesh, I half expect them to do battle over Major Nelson at some point.

CLEARLY a Marvel character who needs to go home.

Hey, Space Cabbie! Have I gotta fare for you!

Rungs of Villainy: the Unwitting Patsy

The Rungs of Villainy are slippery and treacherous and no one learns that lesson better than:
the Unwitting Patsy.

The tragedy of the Patsy is that he thinks he's a player,
when in fact he's a pawn. He thinks he's so much better than mere Faceless Fodder; he's got a name and the Boss even knows what it is. The Boss has to know your name, Patsy; how else can he laugh at your foolish loyalty to him when he hangs you out to dry? The Unwitting Patsy is little more than a human speedbump, a mere baby carriage rolled in front of the onrushing wheels of justice to slow them down. When your plan is to face off against the hero, your employ Faceless Fodder; when you plan is to flee, you use the Unwitting Patsy.

The last thing Patsy hears before, say,
Hawkman's boot smashes into his face is... "Hold them off, Slanty, with your shaking gun hand, wide-eyed expression of terror, and recently soiled pantaloons, whilst I, on the strength of my half-page entry in the DC Encyclopedia, escape to my thematically decorated hideout in the abandoned warehouse district in the company of my actual henchman with whom I hold private conversations and who merit a dignified bowtie/bowler outfit!"

The Penguin
, again, is our exemplar of abuse; Unwitting Patsies, like Innocent Dupes, are simply part of his daily predatorial diet. The Scarecrow, too, knows the value of Unwitting Patsies, and reminds us there's a special place in hell ... and prison ... for these foolish goons called "Da Loich".

And it ain't a place ya wanna get left in, bub.

Air Support

Oh! There are SO many important things to discuss this week!

But first things first: Hawkman's boots.

This week we learned that Hawkman does (or did, since the appearances are in flashback) have crimefighter treads on his boots! And, for Hawkman, this is no mere decorative matter. The naive might think that a superhero whose feet rarely hit the ground might as well wear dainty Black Condor style ballet slippers; not so with Hawkman! His boots are not merely decorative but functional:Superman's boots play but a passing role, distant bit players in the Never-ending Battle. But the Hawkboots are strong supporting actors in the H-man's drama! Oh, they wouldn't go up on the billboard, but they'd definitely be in the filmic front credits, right after the Wings and the Mace.

Oh, and what treads they are! These aren't your sissified Anton Lamont patent leathers, folks. Hawkman clearly chose treads so deep that when he kicks you in the head, your face is automatically smeared with the clay-rich mud of St. Roch, further reddened by the blood of the last poor sap who got in his way. And the stylized claw-motif of Nth metal strips? Snap! Somewhere there is a deservedly self-satisfied high-end designer at Doc Martens! Market those to mountain climbers and watch the money roll in; you know Speed Saunders could be bought for the commercial campaign: "My Hawkboots never let me down!"

From our distant fourth-wall perspective, we see the Wings, the Mace, the Shoulder Hair. But the average DC crook-schlep? They see the Hawkboots zooming down at them from above, eager to answer the age-old mystery, "What would I look like with my nose coming out of the back of my skull?" And as you slip into your coma, the last sight you see will be the Hawkboots flying up away from you, their pitiless treads dripping your precious bodily fluids back on to the face they came from.

Hawkboots, we salute you with respect, not as mere fashion add-ons but as full-fledged partners in the pinioned blitzkrieg on crime.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Calling All Kingmakers

Okay, it's pretty clear by now that this Rosario Dawson woman is the runaway winner in the "Who Will Play 'Vixen' in 'Vibe! The Movie, Meng'?" poll.

As far as I remember the Detroit League, that just leaves one part to cast. One costume to fill.


Who can possibly portray ...


The Rungs of Villainy: Faceless Fodder

Finally, some real criminals, as we climb the Rungs of Villainy! Today we salute:

We all recognize (and instantly love) these guys. They stand there, dramatically posing with broken off piano legs in their hands, forming a giant proletarian lump or spread out in a dispersed "beam us up" pattern, doing nothing but menacing, waiting like dazed cows for someone to say,


Such is the iconic power of the Faceless Fodder and the performative utterance "Get him/them, you fools!" that it is now built into society's collective subconscious. Try this experiment and you'll see I'm right...

Go with your ex to something like Target or Blockbuster. Wait until he's entranced in examining discount lawn chairs or a "Best of the Care Bears" DVD. Slowly distance yourself until your back is against a wall, near an exit door, but still close enough to see and be seen. Then, point at him with a fully extended arm, quivering with outrage and desperation, and shout as loudly as you possibly can in your best supervillain voice


Then watch with glee as the collective consciousness overwhelms the otherwise rational and decent wage-earners, as they ka-pow, socko, and zing your ex into a bloody pulp using hastily grabbed and easily broken ersatz weapons. Oh, and you'll want to bring a camera.

Anyway, on television, Faceless Fodder are easy to spot. They're wearing matching outfits or black turtlenecks and bowlers, like hardened criminals do. In the comics, it's a little harder to spot them but just look for the tell-tale absence of word balloons. Faceless Fodder don't talk. In the Golden Age, Faceless Fodder did have it in their contact that they got lines to say while fighting, usually things like, "Jeez, it's like fightin' a wildcat!" or "I got a floggin' for your noggin!" But the Fodder Union lost that clause during the Great Silverage Renegotiation of '52; Schwartz was a tough negotiator. So sad; our language is correspondingly poorer for it.

You may, at this point, be wondering why there are no Fodder pictured in our accompanying illustration? Hey -- what better way to show their facelessness than by not showing them at all?
Besides, the Joker is the Patron Saint of the Faceless Fodder. To accent his own genius, he hires only brain-dead goons. Weekly, he calls up the Grand Order of Occidental Nighthawks Temporary Service...

"You! On the phone! I, the Joker, require additional Faceless Fodder for my next wave of brilliantly unpredictable heists!"

"I see, sir. Then, the last batch didn't become permanent hires?"

"The last batch is doing 10 to 20 at Stonegate, dolt! Except for the schmoe I pushed into a giant red ore-crusher named 'Roger' as part of a lame pun that I can no longer remember..."

"I see, sir. Fortunately, we have some highly recommended former employees of the Bookworm, who...."

"You don't seem to understand, my good man. I need FOOLS! Only FOOLS work for ... the Joker! HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Long Live the Legion

I don't think it's general knowledge yet, but the people behind JLU and the Toon Titans are coming out with a Legion of SuperHeroes cartoon, whose animation style will split the difference between the other two series.

'Bout time! The Legion is a natural for younger audiences, and I'm assuming it'll be pitched at the age group between watchers of TT and watchers of JLU. With Krypto, TT, The Batman, LHS, and JLU, the DC toon roster will have something for children of all ages.

Weird as this may sound coming from me, I think the Legion is, well, quite Marvel-like. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that Marvel, at least its X-Men line, is Legion-like? In either case, in the comic books "teen angst" is definitely a 30th Century export product. The choking, sobbing, gasping, and sighing in your average Silver Age Legion tale left you breathless! The betrayals, the crushes, the rivalries, the deaths--lordie, it's like watching "Smallville" but with more than 8 people in the cast.

It was, pun intended, a series ahead of its time. Its essential message was one of strength through the unity of diverse people. It also taught gender equality at a time it was less than fashionable!

So I ask you, who do you think should be in the Legion series and what do you want it to be like?

Just Like A Yo-Yo

Gee, someone thought Jimmy was a yo-yo.


The Rungs of Villainy: the Blackmailed Accomplice

Today we climb up on the Rungs of Villainy to:

the Blackmailed Accomplice.

Like this guy at right, from a Golden Age Batman story. Lots of Blackmailed Accomplices back then.

Heavily shadowed by the dark threat of exposure, stooped from the burden of fear and guilt he carries, this (rather well-dressed) Blackmailed Accomplice staggers through the repercussions of earlier mistakes, while the backdrop of a carefree carvinal and a flock as free as birds cruelly mocks his troubles. Oh, the Comic Book Irony.

Blackmailed Accomplices are always tortured by some moronic past mistake. You know the sort of thing I mean, "I never should have shoplifted that stick of gum, but it was my mother's dying wish for one last piece! I did three years at Stonegate in a cell with Smashnose McCoy for it, but I've made a new life for myself as a prize-winning neuro-botanist, church deacon, and beloved local public notary! If Smashnose exposes me, my daughter's engagement to the mayor's son will be ruined ... and along with it, her happiness! I--I'll have to help him with his plan to steal the shipment from the aglet factory ... or else!"

Ah, the pre-Internet world; weird, wasn't it?

Anyway, we don't count in this category any people whose relatives have been threatened with bodily harm or kidnapped or the like; those are Extortion Victims, and do not belong on the Ruins of Villainy. No, the Blackmailed Accomplice is afraid of exposure, and while he always manages to convince himself he's protecting other people, he's really just protecting himself from the ramifications of his illicit gum-pocketing youth. His is the crime of cowardice; his concern for himself and his own life outweighs any considerations of what harm he is doing others or society.

Vixen for Vibe?

Sean William Scott.

I'm sorry for not thinking of it before, sorry for not including him in the poll on Who Should Play "Steel" in "Vibe! The Movie, Meng".

But he can; he should; he must. You know it. I know it. We're just going to declare it and move on to:


Black babelicious actresses who can play an animal avatar? I have NO CLUE.

PLEASE give me suggestions on this one.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Casting "Vibe!": Steel

Okay, gang, we need to get back to casting

"Vibe! The Movie, Meng"

because the studio is breathing down my neck now.

We need someone to play Steel, not the cool smart black guy but the uncool dumb white guy. You know, the one who let his grandfather (the retro-vented "Commander Steel") replaces all his innards with decades of needless surgery.

Remember, we need an actor who can convincingly do THAT, on the right. And not much else.

And the nominees are:
Rob Lowe (too old!)
Dolph Lundgren (too old!)
Mark-Paul Gosselar (very funny!)
Matt LeBlanc
Casper Van Diehn
Matt Damon
Ben Affleck
Nick Lachey

Stupid Hero Quote

"I can't hear you! My ears are full of coffee and sugar!"

Um ... okay. Aren't those supposed to go in your mouth? I guess our hero thought he shouldn't do that!

With a touch of deduction, you'll be able to figure our who said this, I think...

The Rungs of Villainy: Innocent Dupe

We live in times of moral ambiguity, I fear. Times when it's easy to become confused about who is evil and just how evil they are. Times when people are actually shocked that Max Lord, who was from the start and fairly consistenly afterwards portrayed as a deceitful manipulator of superheroes for his own advantage, has the nerve to become a deceitful manipulator of superheroes for the advantage of mankind.

Well! The Absorbascon is nothing if not morally rigid. Thus, let us attempt to provide a calibration of criminality, a taxonomy of evildoers in the DCU, a hierarchy we call:


First, we need an Innocent Dupe.

Why, look, the ever-reliable Penguin has found one for us! Actually, I hestitate to describe this guy as an Innocent Dupe; he is THE Innocent Dupe.

"I have no contact with human society! I'm so out of it I've never heard of the Penguin! Use me, unawares, to assist in your nefarious plans! I trust you completely and live for pawnhood!"

As if his "Hi, I'm a moron" speech weren't enough to get the point across, the guy has birds sitting on him. Nothing, but nothing, says "I have all the perspicacity and sagacity of the average park statuary" than a bird sitting on your head.

The guy's Innocent Dupidity is so overwhelming that the drop-jawed Penguin has removed his hat in religious awe, thinking "Dude, you are my birthday gift from the Gods of Evil," and the bird in the hand stares up lovingly, thinking, "You are the greatest pigeon of all time!"

The Innocent Dupe is the bottom Rung of Villainy. He does harm only unintentionally, when the real villian uses him as part of a larger plan. But in a universe where costumed evil oozes out of the sidewalk-cracks in every abandoned warehouse district planet-wide, self-imposed ignorance is still a crime.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Riddle Me This!

What do Bubbles the Powerpuff Girl, Barbara Gordon, Fairly Oddparents' Timmy Turner, Hello Kitty, and Raven of the Teen Titans have in common?

Character Donation #67

The Duke of Oil.

A villain who starts with a bad pun, then only gets worse from there. Only Mike W. Barr, who never met a stupid villain he didn't create, could be the party responsible for the Duke of Oil.

In case you've been spared the experience, the Duke of Oil is a "a Texan oil magnate whose brain was transplanted into a robotic body following a terrible petroleum fire."

Built around a ban pun. Over the top regional/ethnic accent/theme. Cybernetic and poorly motivated.

Bye bye, Duke of Oil! Enjoy Marvel. Don't worry, we'll be sending along your Barr siblings soon enough.

Well. Not soon enough, I suppose.

Worst Gift Ever

"Must ... appreciate ... Jimmy's gift! Jimmy musn't know ... Kryptonite-Hat killing me ... the pain!"

Boy, and I thought Batman had strange taste in hats!

Starman vs. The Nameless Underling

The "he" referred to in this panel is, of course, the Golden Age Starman, the DRAMA of whose adventures surpasses the combined fates of all persons, real and fictional, in Western Civilization to date.

Who is this over-the-top Starman villian? The Purple Turban? Fing the Senseless? Mercurio Kahn?

We'll never know. This is merely a nameless underling. Such is the DRAMA of Starman that even Nameless Underlings with dwarfish arms and severe arthritic hand-cramp get word balloons of Death-Dealing Dramatic Delivery, containing:

Frustrated Sea-Going Sabotage!
Oh-So-Ironic Turbine-Based Death-Traps!
Hero-Sucking Engines of Destruction!
Heroic Hamburger Helper!

OH, how I want to live in Starman's world!