Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Heap of Mallow and Company

In honor of the glorious and generous Marionette, who has helped complete my life by presenting a biography of Marsha Mallow, I reprise my blog entry of April 19 on Fat Funny Friends..

High-Carb Companions
, or, Where did all the fat people go?

One of our favorite toys here at the Absorbascon is the "Dynastic Centerpiece" model, that is, the idea that DC's iconic characters become iconic partly because a 'dynasty' of other characters with prescribed roles (e.g., "Kid Sidekick") are built around them. One option in the model used to be The Fat Friend.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say "Funny Fat Friend", for these figures were almost always
played for laughs. Batman had Alfred (yes, he was originally quite the tubbo and was strictly comic relief), Jonny Quick had Tubby Watts, Plastic Man had Woozy Winks, the Legion had Bouncing Boy, Green Lantern Alan Scott had Doiby Dickles, Wonder Woman had the (relentlessly fabulous and unrepentently fat) Etta Candy. Even Lois Lane had a Funny Fat Friend, her roommate Marsha Mallow (who you'd think had to have been Silver Age, but, no, we're talking 1970s, folks!).

Where did they go? Alfred went to a fat farm (no, really ... he did), Tubby disappeared, Woozy has been covered up by DC in a desperate attempt at superheroic legitimacy for Plas, Bouncing Boy has yet to be seen in this week's Legion reboot, Doiby Dickles is living on a distant planet (it was a Young Justice story; anything could happen), and Etta, the worse victim of the anti-fat conspiracy, went on a diet, got married, AND disappeared (only to return last month in a WW cameo). Marsha Mallow? Not sure; I think, using the fortune she made on Ebay
by selling her name to the highest-bidding drag queen, she hired a gigolo who digs Big Beautiful Women and moved to Santa Prisca to avoid taxes. I'm sure I saw her as a background figure in a "Question" story once....

Now, maybe the reason for their disappearance is simple. Maybe DC got rid of them because comic relief characters went out of style, or
because having Funny Fat Friends was too much like making fun of fat people, which isn't cool. That's all understandable.

But Funny Fat Friends served their purpose in the Dynastic Centerpiece model and I think we've lost something of value with its absence.
Funny Fat Friends were pretty darned intrepid. Spunk is not reserved to those with Olympic-level musculatures, and the F3s made that clear. Woozy Winks, in his passive way, was almost as powerful as Plastic Man. Doiby Dickles was a serious scrapper, and Etta ... ! Woe betide any fool goosestepper who tried to take on Ms. Candy. Just for giggles, she'd beat the snot out of you, paddle you in front of her girlfriends, and make you sing "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", all while eating a box of chocolates. Woo-woo, indeed.

Funny Fat Friends (F3s) didn't suffer from "negative self-images." They respected the heroes without being slavishly in awe of them. They didn't question their own ability to contribute to any venture, despite being paired with people who could use their magic rings to overturn battleships. On the whole, they enjoyed their adventures, a luxury our stone-faced hero sometimes didn't have. Okay, so they weren't very funny by our standards. But they were fun!

Funny Fat Friends weren't funny on account of being fat but despite it.. Oh, sure, they would occasionally use their heft to their amusing advantage in a tussle, but no one thought lesser of them for it. In fact, they showed that Fat (and otherwise imperfect) people could still be quite cool. Hey... they hung out with the world's greatest heroes; how much cooler than that do you get? Etta Candy is 900 times cooler than Snapper Carr (heck, Marsha Mallow was cooler than Snapper Carr).

Even more realistically, they showed that imperfect people existed. When's the last time you saw someone in comics without a washboard stomach? When's the last time you met someone with one? In the real world, people built like Killer Moth and Dr. Light wouldn't be supervillains, they'd be supermodels.

With the loss of the F3s, we lost from our stories their message:
You don't have to be super or perfect to be confident, make a contribution, and have fun.

My wings are like a shield of steel!

Apparently, not everyone knows who Batfink is. Fortunately, the Absorbascon exists to correct just this kind of cultural injustice. For those not yet in the know, let me add Batfink to your geek-repertoire.

Within mere months of the premiere of the Batman television series in 1966, the Hal Seeger Studio produced "Batfink", a series of short cartoons parodying the runaway hit show. Batfink had a large but ineffective sidekick/chaffeur named "Karate" (a snipe at the Green Hornet's Kato). They rode around in their Batillac (I mean, obviously!). Their chief recurring foe was the mad scientist Hugo A-Go-Go; if the Joker and Lex Luthor had a love-child, that child would be Hugo A-Go-Go.

Batfink had two principal powers (other than superstrength and, you know, flying), and a catch phrase for each one when he used it...

1. His wings were indestructible/made of steel (whichever the plot required), and when he used them he usually said:

"Your bullets [or whatever the threat was] cannot harm me; my wings are like a shield of steel!"

2. He also could emit a bat-radar sound in order to find things, whereupon he would invariably say:

"My supersonic sonar-radar will help me!"

The supersonic sonar-radar was represented by a large white-lettered BEEP that seemed at times to have a life and intelligence at its own. You'd have to see it to believe it.

These are two phrases of extraordinary power and utility in geekspeak. The first can be used on any occasion when an attack against you fails, whether it be verbal, conceptual, physical, or metaphysical. It's great for Heroclix games. The second comes in handy when, in the process of struggling with some problem or puzzle, you suddenly think of something that will help you do it. Finding the right internet resource, running a computer diagnostic program, picking up a flyswatter -- those kinds of things. I have soundclips of both sayings, but, sadly, I don't know how to make them accessible to you.

Parodying a parody is not easy, but Batfink did. It also had a marvelous theme song (a simple but memorable trumpet piece). What's more, there were more episodes of Batfink than there were of Batman! Exactly 100 truly lunatic episodes, culminating in a final, retrospective episode, "Batfink, This is Your Life!"

When I was a lad, Batfink was on the air at odds times, like Sunday afternoon, or early, early, early in the morning. But the episodes went out of distribution in the 1980s, so many younger folk have never seen any Batfink. Fortunately, all 100 episodes are available on DVD; unfortunately, they are only available in the UK and Australia (don't ask why).

Be forewarned; there is a reason a Batfink cartoon is only 5 minutes long. The animation is abominable and the best parody is a SHORT parody. Do NOT sit down and watch the whole DVD. Instead, every time you watch an episode of JLU or The Batman, watch a Batfink episode before or after.

That, you will enjoy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

S. O. S. !

Aquaman and the Human Flying Fish need YOUR help!

Over at the esteemed Comic Treadmill, it's the eleventh hour for deciding whether they will "index" Aquaman; he needs only a few votes to succeed!

Please go to the Treadmill immediately and give Aquaman the love he deserves!!!!!!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fall under the protection of .... the Killer Moth!

Oh, admit it; you know you want one, too. This is my soon-to-arrive-from-totaltoyz Killer Moth custom clix, in all its garish glory.

Killer Moth is one of our favorite villains here at the Absorbascon, because he is an exemplar of the villainous virtue of confidence. That, and his fashion sense.

Laugh at him if you want, but he's appeared repeatedly in every decade since his creation in 1951 and has (in a hybrid form) appeared in the Teen Titans cartoon (how many villains can make that claim!).

It's mostly forgotten now, but he was originally set up to be an "anti-Batman". Same schtick, but based on a different flying creature, with the goal of helping criminals instead of police. Yep; Superman got Bizarro, Green Lantern got Sinestro, Flash got Zoom -- Batman got Killer Moth.

Interestingly, starting in his second appearance (Batman #64, The Return of Killer Moth), he is already considered a laughingstock among the Gotham underworld he had been trying to impress in his first outing (Batman #63, The Origin of Killer Moth). Thus, his reputation as a costumed crook trying to gain respect as a villain is the same WITHIN the comics as it is here "on the outside".

He is the ideal also-ran, the patron saint of the world's forgotten villains, who himself remains unforgettable. There are no webshrines for Kite-Man, SignalMan, or the Human Flying Fish (YET!), but there sure is one for Killer Moth.

His unique role created a quandary in choosing a dial for him. Should he be a real threat or a pushover? A flying or earthbound? Debit or credit?

I chose a 14 point Hand Ninja dial from Marvelclix for him. He's got a range of 6 and can do two clicks of damage on his first slot, like a Veteran Criminal with a gun, so that's about right. While he has faked flying through various mean, he doesn't really fly, so I wanted him grounded. He's got some clicks of Stealth, like a good Bat-enemy should to avoid getting bopped by a batarang immediately. His real impact comes from his "Hydra" Team Ability, which adds on to the damage done by attacks by his adjacent teammates. He's dirt cheap at 14 points and his stats are kind of weak and shallow, meaning you can go old school and have Batgirl knock him down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by hitting him in the head with a shoe (Tec #486).

So, he's cheap and easy to clobber, and hides alongside other criminals helping them make their attacks. You might occasionally see him as a player on his own, but usually he'll just be there in the background, shadowing the other Batvillains, who'll be even more impressive because they're standing beside him.

And that's how Killer Moth should be.

A Wandering Gypsy

Sometimes, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Or, in this case, naked rent boys...

Yes, that's Robin, or, as they call him at the YMCA locker-room, the "Boy Wonder". Leaving behind a naked rent boy with a club kid haircut, our Robin (masked, because that adds spice to it all) saunters off, satisfied, whistling a happy tune, one hand shoved into his pocket as camouflage (and not very successful camouflage, I might add!) and the other gripping his handy-dandy riding crop.

Robin's already moving on to his next "adventure". But look at the poor crestfallen lad he's left: "But ... but I don't want the money any more. I want ... I just want you ... to stay." That boy obviously wants Dick badly.

With just one encounter, the "Boy Wonder" turns a streetwise, cynical rent boy into an abandoned lovesick puppy. Gods, that's tragic.

This is what happens, folks, when gypsy circus boys get access to a billionaire's petty cash supply.

Postcard from the Edge

I just got a nice card from Dr. N-R-Gee (see photo, Richie Rich Cash #1, September 1974).

"Saw your post on my young cousin, Dr. Domino! Just so you know, Dom is alive and well; we vacationed together last month at Easter Island. He says he feels rested and ready to go back into action in the DCU. He says, 'If there's a new Starman, he shall rue the day he crossed the path of ... DR. DOMINO!' Oh, Dom, you lovable nut, you!

P.S. Send my regards to Black Mask and the rest of the False Face Gang!"

Character Donations 80 - 84


When you find doo-doo in your house (I live with dogs, ya see), you want to get it out immediately, but you don't want to have to touch it.

That's kind of how I feel about the Demolition Team.

Letters on their chests so they can remember who they are?
Unimaginative noun-names?
Unlikely powers and abilities keyed completely to their noms de guerre?
Dripping with hard-to-draw machinery and doodads?

Notice the matching YELLOW weaponry? Guess who they fought!

"Rosie." (Okay, that one is marginally cleverer than the other names. It's a reference to Rosie the Riveter, icon of female empowerment in the worked-starved munitions industry of WWII. It won't save her, though. Besides, Stompa, whom we've already sent over to Marvel, needs a girlfriend.)

How cute. I'm not sure even Marvel could put these guys in a redeeming context (perhaps upgraded into foes of Iron Man?). Perhaps we should ship them directly to the G.I.Joe-iverse?

"Who did this?" as I so frequently shout at home. "Len Wein? Bad writer; bad!"

Excuse me; gotta go wash my hands now ....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Salute to Vibe

You probably don't like Vibe, or think he deserves any sympathy or respect. "The breakdancing Justice League" is probably just a big joke to you.

But I don't care how you feel about the man ... this is really horrible. A tragic and undignified end to a man who rose above ghetto origins and early gang involvement by exploiting whatever natural talents he had, be they lighthearted, like breakdancing, or deadly serious, like the power to shake an entire city block from its foundations through psychokinetic force of will.

Brash and headstrong? Maybe. But you don't you almost have to be to put on a costume and take on crazed supervillains and alien conquerors? He could have become a supervillain himself, and although his own superpower was a supremely destructive one, he worked to use it to help others and better himself. I prefer to see him as a model of restraint rather than excess.

He was, as I've posited before, essentially a Golden Age hero, despite his Big Eighties' stylings. A bright costume of red, yellow, and green; a happy-go-lucky attitude of unbridled confidence toward fighting crime, to the point of foolhardy bravado; as likely to use his fists as his superpower; not much concerned with others' opinion of him and what he did. Like the Golden Agers, he never forgot that his "secret identity" was his real identity, never forgot that he was a kid from the streets ... who just happened to be in the Justice League.

And for that, he was killed. The man who caused his death hadn't ever even heard of him. Who he really was irrelevant. He just ... happened to be in the Justice League.

And when he died (at what, maybe 25 years old, tops?), there was no one there for him. No one to help. No one even to witness.

No chance to sacrifice himself saving the innocent, or the multiverse, or his colleagues. No noble fairwell speech.

Just a pair of mindless, hand-shaped vises, slowly crushing his windpipe until his corpse fell face down on a garbage-strewn sidewalk in the ghetto.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Effect of Dr. Domino

For pity's sake, DC!

Where the heck is Dr. Domino?

You're missing the boat, here, DC. He's the perfect centerpiece to link together all the summer blockbuster miniseries. Keeping his creation of the Secret Society underwraps. Working with Brainiac and the Construct to create and control the OMACs and Brother Eye. Instigating intergalatic war so that, once the smoke clears, only Earth remains powerful, and with him as its ruler. Manipulating Eclipso and the Spectre to eliminate magic and its threat to his supremacy.

Ye-he-hesssss, of course! Tipping over events, distantly putting cause and effect to work, initiating long but inevitable links of endless societal elements, falling into place one by one, until the world topples beneath the gloved touch of .... DR. DOMINO!

Because of my joint Character Donations to Marvel with Devon of Seven Hells, some of you may think I feel that every crappy villain needs to be shipped off to Marvel.

Fools! You utter fools!

There are as many kinds of stupidity as there are of intelligence. Marvel has its own kind of stupid; DC has its own.

Dr. Domino pretty much personifies it, in fact. Look at him. LOOK. AT. HIM!

I'm not even going to belabor the level of insanity indicated by this outfit. This guy makes the Joker look like Mr. Spock. This guy is WHACKED OUT, people! No explanation, by the way, why he's named Dr. Domino. Was he teased mercilessly as a child by gameplaying eldery Cuban men who pelted him with pieces of dot-faced ebony wood, until he vowed to one day make the mechanism of his humilitation into the symbol of his inexorable control over all who might threaten him? You'd think. But we never got told. Sad, really.

Oh, I can picture you reading this now, sitting there on your overstuffed armchair, wearing a smoking jacket, while the butler breaks out the sherry, now that your youthful ward has been put to bed. It's all just SO amusing, isn't it? "Dr. Domino, tee-hee!" you're thinking. Well, if you were in a dark alley and ran into a guy looking like that, would you think, "Oh, huh, must be a new pizza parlor spokesperson!"

NO, you would not. Would you think, "Who in blue blazes is this seriously deranged brothermucker and can he run faster than I'm about to?!" Yes, you would.

You know who didn't take Dr. Domino seriously? Wonder Woman.

And look what happened to her.

Lois's High-Impact Haiku

Oh, nice try, Lois! But you were so distracted by the attempt on your life, you forgot the seven-syllable caption would have to go in the MIDDLE of your other two lines. D'oh!

Still, impressive use of stuttering to add the extra syllable in the last line; no wonder you got a Pulitzer.

"A sniper's bullet ...
[and during a shopping trip]
b- barely missed me!"

If ya ask me, I think she over-reacted. No doubt it was simply the DCU's League of Fashion Assassins aiming for her ridiculous tamarind Coco Chanel pillbox hat, purely out of a sense of decency and devotion to a well-dressed society.

Poet-readers; if you were Lois (or an onlooker, or the sniper!), what haiku would YOU have composed upon this occasion?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Have I been here before?

Think you know the DCU better than I? Well, you do if you can answer this correctly.

If you don't know that Teri Garr, Rob Reiner, and Cher were on the live-action Batman series in the 1960s, then you haven't been here.

If you don't already know why Hoyt Curtin is important to you, then you haven't been here.

If you don't know who defeated the Stickmen of Stygia, then you haven't been here.

If you don't know where Lana Lang learned to do this, then you haven't been here.

If you don't know who the Puffball Collective are, then you haven't been here.


if you don't know why Green Arrow has a monthly series,

well, I don't either.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Forgettable Molls

It's time for a little side-step on the Rungs of Villainy. It's not a "career track" position and leads nowhere, except perhaps to the Women's Reformatory and a waiting job at the Wayne Foundation. Yes, it would surely be a less colorful world if the Rungs of Villainy didn't have some room for:

the Forgettable Molls.

They serve several auxillary function in a solid villainous gang. First and foremost is as the Recipient of Exposition. Characterization, logic, art; all these are minor considerations in a comic book story compared to Exposition. Such is the imagination of comic book readers, twisted by years of suspending disbelief and suffering from retconitis, that they can misinterpret virtually any occurence in comic book story if it is not spelled out in endless and excrutiatingly labored exposition. Why, I've even heard that some folk, because of their interpretation of the Protector story, believe that Speedy sold his body for drug money. A member of Team Arrow act dishonorably due to weakness of character? Inconceivable.

The Forgettable Moll is crucial to prevent such misunderstandings and it's significant that her absence in recent decades has lead to an unraveling of the Comic Book Common Consensus on Continuity. With the Moll around, the villain has someone to explain the plot to, repeatedly, at every turn (which is why a certain, how shall we called it, obtuseness is one of the job requirements).

The Forgettable Moll also can serve as the Not-so-innocent Lure for Our Hero. She seems so fragile, so overwhelmed, so endangered, until BAM she sprays you with technocolored knockout gas and you fall faster than the live-action Batman's third season ratings.

The Forgettable Moll is also the Versatile Mole. Can you send three guys in black turtlenecks labelled "GOON" into the jewelry store to case the joint? No, you cannot. You need a Forgettable Moll, whom the shop owner /curator /bank manger can only describe later as a "lovely young woman."

And of course in the clench the Forgettable Moll becomes the D-Cup Shield, a living pog for your Mastermind, a hapless hostage, eternally surprised that her deranged supervillainous boss, the guy who gave her that nice fur coat at the gang Christmas party, would unhestitatingly toss her into the slow-moving gears of a piano roll factory if it meant he might escape the hero. Think, woman; what's HE going to do with a fur coat (unless he's Dr. Somnabula)?

The Batman TV show made them famous; well, at least, as famous as Forgettable Molls get. Cordelia. Queenie. Eenie. Venus. Pussycat. Lyla. Chickadee. Blaze. Emerald. Lydia. Undine. Finella. What a powerful force such women might have been had they banded together in groovy group girl power!

The Return of the Composite Superman

I, the Composite Superman, declare to the world the formation of

the Unsecret Society of Super Composites.

The formation of this group comes entirely from the genius of my 12th-level intelligence ...
as inspired by H of the Comic Treadmill. H, therefore, will live to enjoy life under the new regime of the Unsecret Society of Super Composites. We are, however, undecided as of yet about Mag.

Behold and tremble before...

That mind-boggling grotesquery (and my new lover), the
Super-Duper, a machine-made creature combination of Wonder Woman, Batman, Hawkman, Flash, and Green Lantern.

The bifurcated mutant android, the Argonoid, which can use the powers of any two JLAers at a time!

The timeless big guy himself, Amazo, the android sponge-god who duplicates the powers of the entire JLA, seen below in all his butt-kicking glory, humilating the Justice League by defeating them instantly with his stupidest power!

Composite Man, my 30th century "cousin", with inferior taste and a dislike for authority!

Our new recording secretary, the reticent

Our demands are few and simple! Meet them or be obliterated!

1. If there are any other beings like us in the DC Universe, identify them to us, so they can join us ... or be destroyed!

2. The total annihilation of all members of the Secret Society of SuperVillains, except for Luthor and Talia, who are to become our personal round-the-clock love slaves!

3. Mount Rushmore-style busts of ourselves carved in the face of the moon, at a size
visible to the naked eye from Earth. Lit dramatically from below!

4. Fashion make-overs for Super-Duper & Amazo, performed by the Fab Five, the planet's premier experts in creating artificial hybrid monsters with temporarily borrowed powers and abilities!

5. The establishment of an nationalism- crushing planetary composite currency that -- what? A "Euro"? Okay, then. Our faces on this "Euro"!

6. Drawings of the Unsecret Society of Super Composites made by every living comic boo
k artist!

7. Joe Quesada's skull, transformed into gold by my Element Lad power, as a paperweight for my gargantuan desk, carved from the ego of Stan Lee!

8. "Unsecret Society of Super Composites: The Animated Series".

9. "The Composite Superman Begins" movie, in which I am portrayed in each successive frame by e
very male actor in SAG!

10. The return of civilization's most dire venue for the forced juxtaposition of characters in a joint appearance, The Brave & Bold! What? Oh. Okay ... one down, nine to go...