Saturday, September 17, 2005

Character Donation #104

No man escapes the tedium of the Manhunters.

Winick tried to make them interesting by making them less threatening;
Johns is trying by making them more threatening.

It doesn't really matter how threatening they are;
they aren't interesting, regardless.

They're red robots that kill people. My guess is the Manhunters were cobbled together from ...

Silver-Age Nazi robots,
abandoned projects of Mr. Morden,
and ore-crushers named "Roger"
after they locked Jack Kirby in the DCU garage-vault.

Their devastating power (snicker) has some basis in the Green Lantern energy, but if you ask me their planet-shattering color scheme would be sufficient.

They have zero individual identity (whoa, they really were the predecessors to the Lantern Corps). The most famous Manhunter of all time is Lana Lang (and if you don't understand that statement, then consider yourself lucky and move on).

Compared to the OMACs (who stole their only fun schtick, the human sleeper agent routine), they might as well have big keys sticking out of their backs.

As far as I know, they have no connection whatever with Jack Kirby. Yet they reek of Kirby's chromium pseudo-Aztec designs.

Kirby-esque, square-mouthed, bucket-headed interchangeable drones, bent on destroying all mutants, oops, I mean life?

Off to Marvel with them; perhaps the Sentinels can use them for spare parts.

Heroclix Rant

I don't rant when Wizkids designs a sculpt or dial differently than I would. I don't rant when WK expects me to pay for their product rather than having free things given to me for "supporting the game". I don't rank about "set retirement", because, well, who cares about tournaments when there's fun to be had instead by just enjoying the game.

But I do rant (and am) about WK missing the boat on obvious add-ons that would enhance the game for everyone and which occur to almost any person who plays the game even once.

Today's Heroclix Missed Boat? 3D Barriers.

Many figures have "Barrier", the ability to create temporary blockades in four contiguous squares. This mimics what we've all seen in comic books: Green Lantern throws up a force shield, Terra creates a rock pillar, Mr. Freeze shoots a wall of ice, Dr. Fate gestures up a whopping big protective ankh.

Instead of little generic cardboard squares that say "BARRIER" on them, can't WK take some of that clear plastic they (and we) love so much and use it to make 3D barriers? I'd buy them. A lot of players would.

They'd be easy to make, because there's no dial and the sculpts wouldn't complicated. They would come in sets of four, because "Barrier" affects four squares at a time.

For mystics: yellow translucent ankhs

For Lanterns: green translucent blocks (or palms, if you wanted to get cute with it)

For "cold" characters: bluish-translucent ice walls

For "force shield" characters: translucent blocks.

Similarly, a set of 3D "Smoke Cloud" markers should be made; that would look great!

Come, now! As far as polymer extrusions go, it doesn't get much simpler than that, Wizkids! I'd happily pay as much for a set of four barriers as I would for a box of boosters, and they are a lot easier and cheaper to make....

Friday, September 16, 2005

Aquagirlish Charm

I'm not sure why everyone thinks Aquagirl is bland. She's demonstrably emotional, pugnacious, and headstrong. Hers is unchanneled passion; Aquaman, by his example, is mentoring her in channeling passion effectively. Part of her storytelling function is highlighting Aquaman's character; he still tends to be "angry" but when he is, he directs that anger toward a constructive purpose (or tries!). She has helped me see that we can (and finally do) have an Aquaman who is likeable, admirable, AND an ass-kicker.

Some Aquagirl character moments...

  1. She wants Aquaman to kill Geist. He doesn't waste time convincing her that that's wrong, he merely explains that it's stupid. Intellect should inform and direct passion; nice one, Aquaman!
  2. She's trying to enjoy a "normal" Sub Diego life with her friends. But she becomes angry at their passivity, given how much needs to be done for Sub Diego. "Why don't you do something?" she complains. They wisely suggest that she needs to go hang out with her "friend in the orange shirt", which she does, because Aquaman is channeling his frustation into bettering the situation.
  3. After the "magical life-swapping" perpetrated by the Ocean Master is over, Lorena decides to make the most of it, and keeps the costume she was given. You can view it as a simple plot device to get her in costume or a young girl's interest in pretty clothes (both true), but I think it's a small sign that she's begun to learn the art of turning disaster into triumph, bad into good.
  4. When she sees a shark preparing to attack someone, she, "super-powerless" though she is, charges right in to help. Stupid? Maybe. Heroic? Definitely. If you saw someone, waterbreather or not, take on a shark to save a stranger, I doubt you would think of her as "bland".
  5. When the Atlanteans show up, she doesn't sit on her ass (or, um, "float" on it); she decides to check out Atlantis, do some recon. When she meets Koryak, she realizes that two problems -- Aquaman needs help and Koryak is lonely in Atlantis -- can be solved with one solution, reuniting Koryak and Aquaman, and she makes it happen. I like that she's quite a proactive little problem-solver. I never saw Aqualad do anything like that; all he ever did was stand around and *gulp* about how difficult whatever situation was confronting Aquaman and him (yeah, he's definitely your typical passive, fearful Atlantean-type).

Her crushes on Aquaman and Koryak have been cited as criticisms against her. I'm pretty supportive of differences of opinion on many things, but that criticism is just plain old idiotic. Almost any non-lesbian teenage girl in Sub Diego who doesn't have a crush on one or both those guys would need to have her head examined (and be quickly locked away on the underwater prison bus with "Five Kinds of Crazy" Carl and his purple-smelling traffic light).

Ask any woman you know who she thinks is sexiest, Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, or Green Lantern. Guess what the answer will be (even if she doesn't know about the magical water hand)? Even I, grizzled veteran that I am, get all giggly when Aquaman juts his jaw. As for Koryak, well, when I read Aquaman, I've taken to keeping a handfan, a moist kerchief, and a mint julep at the ready, because I need them every time Koryak appears on panel. He affects me as marine heartthrob Aqualad does the girls on the Teen Titans cartoon; my eyes become pulsating heart shapes, a goofy grin stretches from ear to ear, and little manga-lines radiate from my skull as I clasp my hands together in front of my collarbone. Needless to say, I no longer read Aquaman in public places.

Lorena's entire family died, and suddenly, leaving her alone. Aquaman's saved her life already, what, four or five times? Her having a crush on him or his more age-appropriate son is realistic and I appreciate it. Speaking of which, she's drawn with a realism so uncommon nowadays in comics as to be almost shockingly novel. Her breasts aren't the size of her head and she doesn't have a six-pack of steel. Now, I love Power Girl and Hawkgirl, too, but it's nice to have a more realistically proportioned character once in a while!

She's still got plenty to learn. I was disappointed in her recent childish taunting of Dr. Geist, saying that her "champion" Koryak is better than his, Officer Malrey. But that blew up in her face when Geist ignored her and Koryak announced that he really likes "wonderful" Officer Malrey. Lorena "Aquagirl" Marquez still makes those kind of teen-age faux pas, tee hee! I'd love to read her letter to YM Magazine: "So, there I was at the monster-bashing, boasting to Vice-Principal Geist (who killed my parents) about how much better my guy-crush was than the jerk-faced hall monitor--only to find out they were best friends! Was my face red! Lorena M., Sub Diego."

I'm not one of those readers who automaticaly adores female characters or sidekicks. Supergirl's bare midriff and pert manga breasts don't distract me from that fact that she's just as colorless as her Silver Age predecessor; Shaolin Batgirl with Kung Fu Action should come with a warning not to read while operating heavy machinery; Speedy the Prostitute With the Heart of Gold and STD who just happens to have a Natural Gift for Archery (tm) actually gives cliches a bad name.

But Aquagirl I like. She's gutsy, but headstrong; heroic, but not wise; proactive, but naive; responsible like a woman, but petty like a schoolgirl. She seems not like a prop or plot device, but an actual person, stuck in the mess of Sub Diego and doing her best.

And not bland at all.

Domino Logic

Dr. Domino, he's beyond logic (just like his creator, Bob Kanigher).

All he wants for Christmas is the Bacteria Cloudburst Formula, a chemical Weapon of Mass Destruction. Why? Extortion? World domino-ation? Pesky aphids in his lawn? We don't know.

Instead of getting the formula from the scientist who invented it, he kills him and sails half way around the world to try getting it from the guy who bought it, a smarmy diplomat. What, is the formula in the guy's wallet? Did a diplomat memorize the formula for a chemical weapon?

When, after a little tie-yanking, he can't get the info, he has a hissy fit and straps a nearby unconscious superhero to a NUCLEAR MISSILE. Yes, Dr. Domino desperately wants a Weapon of Mass Destruction because all he has now is a battleship full of nuclear missiles. How much potential for mass destruction does one guy need?

Where do supervillains get battleships full of nuclear missiles, anyway? Wal-Mart? Aurora Models? Admiral Fangschleister at the Pentagon?

And, well, I've been too polite to mention it before, but ... have you noticed there isn't actually any room in the domino for a human head? Defying logic is one thing; defying topology and biology is quite another. Is he, um, a robot? Yes... yes, that must be it. Nice belt, though.

His head isn't a domino, you know; a real domino has two sets of pips on it. Shouldn't he really have called himself "Dr. Half Domino"?

Maybe ... Half is his first name? Sounds Swedish.

Makes sense; the battleship's probably Ikea ("the S.S. Borgholm"). It's a big world, but someone's got to dominate it.

While he and Per Degaton were shopping at Ikea, couldn't he have found a more stylish World Domination Throne? Instead of buying some fun off-white egg-shaped thing named "Gubbo" that would highlight his fabulous outfit, he stopped off on the way home at Pier One's semi-weekly wicker sale. Did Kirstie Ally convince you an unfinished wicker cobra chair looks good on the deck of a battleship? That woman has much to answer for.

I mean, it's not even painted white. It's okay if you're just sitting there in your ruffled tuxedo, mummy gloves, purple opera cape and domino head (mask?) working on your tan, but face it, Half: people do not conquer the world from a wicker chair. Because, even if they do, they still get laughed at (and probably pelted with wooden games pieces by derisive eldery Cuban men).

The sad part is, all this unpleasantness probably could have been avoided if he'd just gotten that gameshow hosting job he wanted...

  • "Oohhh! Morgan Tracy -- you've just guessed the price of this nuclear-missile-armed battleship from Ikea to within $100! That means you get both our showcase prizes!! Yes, that's right -- You've just doomed the Amazon ... AND New York!"
Still, at night, after the Dominominions are snuggled in the hammocks below deck, Half sits in his wicker throne, staring at the night sky and fuming inwardly:

"Damn you, Cluemaster. Just wait till I hit you with the Bacteria Cloudburst Formula! That ridiculous face-kerchief won't save you then!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Which Legionnaire am I?

You're...Brainiac 5!
You're Querl Dox, Brainiac 5!

Which Legionnaire are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

Diana Invigorates the UN

"World Leaders Seek to Invigorate UN at age 60" the headline reads today.

Yeesh, how stupid are they! Any idiot who reads comic books knows how to do that:

hire Diana Prince.

Just look at what she could do for them -- on her first day!

<-- Publically condemn a U.N. sponsored contest to celebrate the beauty, grace, and unity of women worldwide. The U.N. should be hold contests judging women on the basis of their abilities for violent conflict, warmaking, and personal combat, just like the contest that chose Wonder Woman.

--> Throw herself at the first handsome diplomat who comes along, despite his obvious horror.

<-- Cry in a public place when her tawdry advances are rebuffed. By the way, Diana, when even blind men call you ugly, perhaps it is time to consider a make-over, dear.

--> Seek solace through group make-out sessions with overdressed Inuits (in a public place, of course). There's actually a young boy there below the frame, becoming a man; I had to crop it out because posting that sort of stuff on the internet will get you arrested, you know.

<--> Inspire young women in time-honored Amazonian ways.

Sorry, gang; the internet censors won't let me show you any more of the scene than this!

<--Experiment with turning man's instruments of warmaking ...

into a woman's tools for enjoying peace. -->

That's in public, in case you hadn't guessed

Diana really does seem to like chains and stuff, doesn't she? I wonder what that's all about... .

Naturally, she'd finish up with a big floor show, where she could--

<-- Make out with tribal performance artists and do a big dance number. I swear, I just don't know how she does it! I even hear that -- still on her first day -- she also rode bronco on a nuclear missile and used it to blow up a supervillain and his battleship in the nearby harbor! On her lunch hour.

Well, folks -- they don't call her Wonder Woman for nothing!

Dr. Domino's Plan B

Meanwhile, back on the battleship, Dr. Domino prepares "Plan B", which starts like this:

Note that control queen Dr. Domino is still yanking Tracy's symbolic tie; naughty man! He's given up on the "talk! talk! talk!" method of interrogation and is resorting to ...(music sting)...
other ways.

Fortunately for him, Wonder Woman fainted when she saw his giant black slab of a head; Diana used to be much more delicate than she is nowadays. So, the Dominominions (who apparently changed into matching domino shirts during the half-second between this panel and the previous one) drag her with difficulty (this is her pre-Jenny Craig era) across the battleship deck toward the ominous "Plan B" (doing, I'm certain, untold damage to her heels, so they had better not be around when she awakens!).

What is Plan B?

I tell you this for free, my friends: villains don't come any more fun than Dr. Domino and comic books don't come any more entertaining than this. Nothing spells "fun for all ages" like tying up an unconscious foreign princess in bathing suit to a nuclear missile between her thighs and launching her toward a nearby city of 8 million people on her first day of work at the United Nations. No wonder Gloria Steinem loved Wonder Woman.

I just love glancing back and forth between those two pictures, again and again, like a flicker ring:

"Prepare to launch Wonder Woman!" /
"Launch Wonder Woman!"

If I ran the show at DC, we'd put those two pics as holographic images on credit cards sponsored by Adams National ("The Women's Bank") and make millions as every lesbian in the country snatched them up to use for all their shopping trips to "The Pleasure Chest".

Forget "DC Comics"; I'd make "DC Entertainment" a multi-media miracle, baby!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Do Not Let Me Write Aquaman

DC Editorial has put an open bid out on Aquaman to whatever creators make the best pitch.

Now, I've enjoyed Aquaman very much since Will Pfeiffer saved him from Rick Veitch, so I'm loathe to see new creators come on for no apparent reason. Some of us readers, quaint though we may seem, still follow characters instead of writers and hate to see those characters "revamped" every 6 or 12 months (and any new readers picked during that time can be easily turned off by a dramatic shift in a character whose current state they are appreciating).

While some may fuss with some particulars of the storylines, pacing, and characterzation in Aquaman, the overall "mythbuilding" process Pfeiffer began in Aquaman #15 has been sound. Will actually made Aquaman into a superhero comic book again. What I like about Arcudi's work is that he's been building on what Pfeiffer established as the new core elements of Aquaman's mythos.

I'm asking DC emphatically: DO NOT HIRE ME TO WRITE AQUAMAN. I'm sure Brad Meltzer would put in a good word for me, and, yes, I'd do it for free, and, okay, I'm the so-called "new reader of Aquaman" you'd want to attract to the book. But DO NOT HIRE ME; because if you do, you will not get a bold new direction for Aquaman.

  • I will not de-power him and put him in a white pants suit.
  • I will not make his costume blue and give him electric powers for no apparent reason.
  • I will not make him "The Wettest Man Alive" and extend his powers so far beyond all previous versions of him that any story where he faces fewer than 14 supervillians simultaneously seems silly.
  • I will not drive him insane with guilt and have him kill thousands of other ocean-based heroes in an attempt to re-create San Diego before its destruction.
  • I will not break his back and replace him with a bad-ass version of himself, have a monster kill him and replace him with 4 bad-ass versions of himself, have his mother strip him of his title and replace him with a bad-ass version of himself, or have the guardians of the ocean decide he's unreliable and replace him with a bad-ass version of himself.
  • I will not send him off to a year of exile in space in an attempt to make him galatically relevant or revitalize interest in DC's forgotten space characters.

My inability to do such things would surely disappoint DC. Even worse, I would not abandon the idea that Aquaman is a public superhero with close ties to the superhero community and whose main activities are fighting criminals and threats to society, particularly to the residents of an American city he lives in that is well-suited to his talents. I would ignorantly adhere to an individually-tailored version of the essential mythic model that resulted in America's creation of the superhero genre, has sustained it as a pillar of popular culture for nearly 70 years, and resonates with innate Jungian arch-types for maximum adaptability and accessibility.

As a sad result of my narrow-mindedness, I would further disappoint by being unable to change Aquaman from being a superhero into:

  • a lordly sword and sorcery character who rules a mysterious sub-surface world ("Travis Morgan, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • a pugnacious pirate character complete with bad manners, bad barbering, and a hook to replace a hand he lost to sea monsters ("Bluebeard, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • a geopolitical character and world leader of high-tech armies ("T'Challa, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • an abandoned changeling character, the misunderstood special offspring of secret magical parentage discovered only later in life and rightful ruler of a mystical land ("Amethyst, King of the Seven Seas!")
  • a healing avatar of a mystical elemental force of nature and emissary of peaceful ecological balance ("Swamp Thing, King of the Seven Seas!")

Nope, I'm doomed to appreciate Aquaman for what he is: a superman of the sea and batman of the bathoverse, a superhero with a bright, simple, and iconic costume, a unique combination of easily and clearly describable physical and mental powers, and a job that only he can do.

I guess that why I read superhero comic books, huh...?

Anyway, if anyone is interested I may post later on about what I would do with Aquaman. But know this ...

I'd be asking Will Pfeiffer to help me.

Dr. Domino's Haikuesday

Before we get to Dr. Domino's "Plan B", we have to pause to enjoy

Haikuesday at the Absorbascon.

Fortunately, that enjoyment is commensurable with Dr. Domino Week, since the good doctor himself will provide us not one, but two haikus to inspire us. Dr. Domino is so impressive!

"Tracy! I've no time
to waste breaking you down! But --

there are other ways!"

"He confessed he sold
his bacteria cloudburst
formula to you."

You know, there aren't a lot of characters would could work "bacteria cloudburst formula" (a lovely nature image, by the way) into a smooth haiku in the middle of interrogating a tie-torture victim. Just another reason Dr. Domino is one of the greats, people.

Can you meet Dr. Domino's challenge by composing a haiku that celebrates both Haikuesday and Dr. Domino week at the same time?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Dr. Domino Week, Day 2: A Fistful of Tie

Necktie-based humilation techniques are vastly underrated as a means of torture, just as repetitive petulant nagging is undervalued as a method of interrogation.

But Dr. Domino knows this:

In our last installment, you'll recall, Dr. Domino confessed that he'd killed Prof. Zuni (inventor of a previously unmentioned Named Horror, the Bacteria Cloudburst Formula, which Dr. D calls by the charming pet name 'BCF'; part of the fun of being a villain is treating Weapons of Mass Destruction with an unsettling familiarity and watching people squirm) by encasing him in concrete and dumping the resulting mess in the Bosporus off Istanbul.

Now, I like to imagine that Prof. Zuni worked at, say, CalTech, Bell Labs, or STARLabs -Waukeegan (you know, some place where Weapons of Mass Destruction are made without government funding or involvement) and that after Doc D concretized Prof. Z, he had his skull-capped minions haul him across country to his waiting battleship, then sailed to the Bosporus off Istanbul to dump him there simply because it was so much cooler-sounding than hefting him into the nearest landfill.

Did I mention that Domino was Dr. Evil's roomate at Evil Medical School? He was.

Anyway, because Prof. Zuni had sold the formula to trouble-shooter diplomat Mr. Tracy (Can't you just hear the UN Accountants at audit time: "Ah, Mr. Tracy, this $1 billion line-item for 'Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD), type 'Bacteria Cloudburst Formula' (BCF) ... can you verify that this is a work-related expense and not one for personal use?"), Dr. Domino had to sail his battleship all the way back to New York City to try to squeeze the info out of the Dashing Diplomat. Being a supervillain is very time-consuming.

At this point, you may be asking, "Why didn't Dr. Domino just get the formula from Prof. Zuni before he killed him?" Well! It's pretty obvious why you didn't get into Evil Medical School, now isn't it? If you're going to take the easy way out every time, then you're no better than a Nameless Underling.

So, ANYWAY, because we all know what a necktie symbolizes for a man, Dr. Domino's manhandling of Tracy's well-traveled cravate is a humilating exercise in emasculation, backed up by the two salty seamen Domino hired from the Tom of Finland Temp Agency to watch him do it. At least Dr. D is wearing gloves; I still feel dirty just looking at the scene. Thank Zeus Wonder Woman is unconscious, or the whole thing would be simply unbearable. Do not mess with Dr. Domino, Master of Psychological Warfare.

Patience, however, is not one of Dr. Domino's virtues and he is very busy with the time-consuming business of being an object-headed supervillain. How do we know this? He says so, in the next panel, after he gets tired of saying "Talk! -- Talk! -- Talk!":

So, after only one panel of necktie-yanking, Dr. Domino moves on to Plan B....

Villains! *sob* They're all pigs!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dr. Domino Week

Welcome-- fools!-- to Dr. Domino Week.

This is the subject of our celebration, the eponymous Dr. Domino (discussed lovingly in a previous post). He is, of course, the product of comicdom's greatest he-babe, the Madman Bob Kanigher. This panel alone tells you how much Bob loved his job!

Sometimes I despair that COMIC BOOK DRAMA of the kind found in Golden Age Starman stories simply passed from this Earth sixty years ago. Panels like this restore my faith in comic books. It's nice to know that close-ups of over the top, fist-clenching villains will never really go out of style.

"Prof. Zuni". "Dumped in concrete". "Into the Bosporus off Istanbul". "Bacteria cloudburst formula". "Against which no defense on earth exists once released."

THAT, people, is what English was put on this planet for. Not for whining about being bored by comics, or how John Byrne can't draw any more, or that Rob Liefeld never could draw (now that you're old enough to realize it). If we spent less time kvetching and more time celebrating villains with gamepieces for heads, the world would understand the glory of comic books, and no one would ever need to go to a Steven Segal movie or watch "Walker, Texas Ranger" ever again. What a beautiful world that would be!

This should be on the wall in an art museum somewhere (preferably Washington DC). The ruffled shirt. The banana yellow sky. The mummy gloves. The off-kilter battleship tower. The hideously blank and pitiless slate of Dr. Domino's face, with its "K'un The Receptive" pattern, its quiet mare-like perseverance bringing good fortune, the six above and the six below.

At this point, I must nod to Dave of Dave's Longbox whose eye-opening "Kobra Week" inspired this celebration and Marionette of Dance of the Puppets who introduced me to Dr. Domino. Dave, Marionette; may all your days be double-sixes.

We shall study the aesthetic, the meaning, the power of Dr. Domino in the coming days, but for today, let us content ourselves with sharing his dream:Poorly dressed people of all kinds finding ultimate unity through universal simultaneous destruction of the miasma-gasping sort, standing so close they knock one another over as they topple, falling one by one, inevitably, inexorably, like...

like dominoes.

And the baby in the carriage? Nice touch, Kanigher, you madman!