Saturday, September 24, 2005

I'm a Classic.

You're Classic Batman. You're the old school,
iconic Batman that everyone knows. Your
sidekick is Dick Grayson, the original Robin,
and you also team up with Batgirl alot. You're
the World's Greatest Detective, and also one of
the best fighters on the planet. You're against
guns and lethal force. Right now, you're pretty
much in the prime of your career, before you
become haunted by Dead Sidekicks and loved

What kind of Batman are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I tried to resist doing this one.

I couldn't.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tempest in a teacup

Well, I had Totaltoyz make me a Tempest custom heroclix sculpt; purdy, ain't he?

No one really can make sense out of Tempest's powers, and having just read the original Tempest miniseries, I can understand why. The more Phil Jimenez explains things, the less comprehensible they become.

He can make water hot or cold (like Celsius from the Larsen Doom Patrol) and he's got your basic aqua-toughness; that's pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately, somebody (hi, Phil!) couldn't leave well enough alone...

As a result, Tempest also shoots ill-defined energy blasts from his eyes (purple-colored, naturally).

He's also got some sort of hydrokinesis that lets him make whirlpools and waves, I think (but not "hard water powers"). He'd be fun at a water-park, I bet!

Like most "mages", he can also do whatever silly magick-trick the plot requires (like, say, turning himself into a fish with the infamous and oh-so-useful "Henry Limpet" spell).

How do you represent that on a heroclix dial? Wizkids hasn't given us "Ranged Bungling Expert" or "Halfwit" as powers yet....

I gave him the dial of the Veteran Pyro from the Marvel Universe Set (ui111). Range of 8 with double targeting, because I've seen him go zappy-zap with both hands at a distance in the comics. Three clicks of Ranged Combat Expert and five of Energy Explosion (Ka-zap! Ka-zow!). Nice solid defense to start, with two clicks of Barrier (from hydrokinesis and freezing the water, I suppose). And Flight, not because he really flies but because it lets you take someone with you when you go somewhere; he does that a lot, from what I can tell.

All of this presupposes playing him on a water-map or with the "Atlantis Rising" battlefield condition, of course. And naturally I gave him the Aquatic Ability for free.

You might think the 42 point Vet Pyro doesn't do justice to "Garth's powerful mystic abilities", whatever the heck those are. Yes, I could have justified giving him some dial with TK or even the Mystic ability. But there was no way in god's blue ocean I was going to make him a higher point figure than Aquaman. No matter how many writers keep re-emphasizing, "no, Aqualad's powerful now, really; no, we mean it, really!', I remain committed to NOT having him be worth more points than the Experienced Aquaman from the Icons set (56 points).

Unless someone can suggest a better dial option, that's my choice and I'll stick to it.

The Krypto-nian Silver Age

Ah, the Silver Age.

It was, as readers of El Blog de Jotace know, even funnier in Spanish.

Costumed space dogs whose superpowers manifest as hideous corporeal alterations like hypertuskity and polyleggedness.

Battling invasions of giant fleas.

Created by the Enlargement Ray of a band of black space cats, who are evil (well, of cou
rse they are).

Hiding in the hollowed out c
ranium of a giant statue in the memorial park of giant statues of space dog heroes.

Discovered by a dog who was the girlfriend of a dead space dog hero with the same super- self-inflation power as she.

Preceded by see-through space-bears.

As predicted by a megaloencephalic precognitive dog with super-Powerpoint powers.

Oh, I hear you. You're saying, "Gosh," because people who read Silver Age comics say things like that, "most of that kind of thing can be found on the Krypto the Superdog cartoon currently on the air. It's the Silver Age all over again (for good or ill)!".

But you're WRONG. Huh; amateur! Poseur!

This is real Silver Age, buddy. Because this story has...

Deathtraps composed of kryptonite statues of Superboy's ancestors, placed 30 kilometres from Smallville (oh, sorry -- "Villachica").

Tail-thumping in Morse Code.
In the Silver Age, everyone knew Morse Code. Everyone. Even dogs. So well, in fact, that they could communicate with it while dying of radiation poisoning.

Giant props. With names. You know, if
I ever buy a giant inflatable hot dog, I'm going to name it "Weldon". I said IF, people!

But the REAL KICKER is the special guest stars, who inspired the entire evil plot (uh, whatever it is) to begin with:

The cats of the Kryptonian criminals who've been imprisoned in the Phantom Zone.

Let me repeat that for you.

The CATS of the Kryptonian criminals who've been imprisoned in the Phantom Zone.

Great Rao, I love Kryptonian justice:

"Rather than execute you, we will doom you to an eternity of incorporeal existence in an endless, pleasureless grey wasteland .... WITH CATS IN IT."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

"Peter David's Aquaman"

Knowing of my newfound interest in Aquaman, one of the Absorbascommenters was kind enough to lend me the entire Peter David run of Aquaman, which I had not read before.

And I will never, ever forgive him for it.

Most of the issues I read while I was in a public place, like a restaurant or a park. People kept coming over to me, asking, "Are--are you okay? Did something happen to your head? Do you need me to call a doctor?"

All I could do was stare at them and mutter, "No. No, I am not okay. Peter David lives. And is free, free to write. Don't -- don't you understand?" Most people didn't understand and wandered away, disgusted with the failure of deinstitutionalization as a public policy. But one woman understood; she just stood there, crying and crying...

For those of you who escaped Peter David's Aquaman, here's what happens -- in every issue:

  • Aquaman suffers a bizarre physical transformation, disturbing his friends and subjects, and serving as a metaphor for his dramatic emotional change of the month!
  • Two women have a catfight over a male member of the cast!
  • Someone plots to overthrow the king!
  • A Previously Unmentioned but nevertheless Extremely Important mystical element or entity threatens Atlantis, challenges Aquaman's authority, and mindcontrols a member of the cast with whom they have a Previously Unmentioned but nevertheless Extremely Important connection!
  • Every castmember gets to make a snarky, sarcastic, or flip comment at a highly inappropriate point in the action (just like on "Buffy"; it must be cool!) !
  • The People change their mind about Aquaman!
  • Aquaman discovers that his powers are much greater than previously thought!
  • Someone close to Arthur (oh, excuse me .... "Orin") worries that he's losing it, and someone else close to him denies it!
  • Sea mammals evince high drama and/or low comedy!
  • Another mystical element in Aquaman's background or source of his power is revealed!
  • Aquaman demands respect!
  • A guest star learns respect for Aquaman and teaches us to respect him, too!
  • Something shaped like a skull appears and threatens everyone!
  • Two members of the supporting cast have an argument or fight!
  • The Atlanteans demonstrate that they are highly advanced and completely backward at the same time!
  • Aquaman argues with a member of the supporting cast!
  • Arthur becomes even more kingly than in the previous issue and comes to accept it again as his burden slash destiny!
  • Every castmember gets to make a childish pun!

The main reason I read this ... "stuff"... was to find out why everyone thinks Koryak is a jerk. Now I know -- everyone Peter David writes is a jerk. I find it hard to blame Koryak for that.

Don't get me wrong; I really enjoyed Peter David's Young Justice. But adolescent angst, childlish puns, and whistling past the graveyard humor works fine when your protagonists are all children. It wasn't until I read Peter David's Aquaman that I realized that's how he writes everyone.

I don't mean to upset anyone with these criticisms, but, you know, dreck is dreck. I know that Peter David's Aquaman is Aquaman for a lot of younger readers and that those are the comic books that interested them in the character. But if I'm willing to look at the comic books that interested me in characters when I was young and admit that, yes, they could be pretty darned stupid, then why can't other people admit that, too?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

When I Was Born

When I was born ...

readers thrilled to such stories as

Superbaby at Scotland Yard

Clark Kent's first haircut

King Krypto

and, apparently,

Superboy practicing to be in the Macy's Parade.

Just promise me you'll think of that the next time you want to complain about this week's comics, okay?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Starman's Poetry Cosmic

It's Haiku Tuesday again! This time, let's have everyone's favorite drama queen, the glorious Golden Age Starman, show us how it's really done.

So overwhelming is the combination of Starman's raw power of personality and Olympic-level erudition that through the sheer force of his presence he compels his nattily dressed quarry to complete the friggin' haiku for him.

How far do you think
you're going to get? Steel door
crumbling like that! Help!

I tell you, words are not adequate to express my admiration for Starman. Perhaps you can help!

Can you compose a haiku to analyze this situation or praise the glory of Starman?

Big Monkey is coming.

Rungs of Villainy: Recurring Foe

What could be better than starring as a special guest villain?

Duh! Doing it repeatedly as a

Recurring Foe.

There are lots of one-hit-wonder villains out there (like our friend Blaze from the previous Rung of Villainy). But when you've appeared more than once as "the villain of the piece", that's a difference not just in quantity but in kind. For example, on the Batman TV show, Tullulah Bankhead played the Black Widow, but Burgess Meredith was the Penguin. (Did you know those two slept together once at a Hollywood party? It's best not to think about it, though.)

After you've appeared repeatedly as a villain, you become real. No one questions whether "you still ever existed in current continuity". You go from becoming the answer to a trivia question to an entry in the DC Encyclopedia. One-time villains tend to remain artifacts of their era; as fabulous as the Penny Plunderer was (and trust me he WAS fabulous), he's a product of an era when there were zinc pennies, penny slot machines, coin-operated payphones, and electric chairs. But a repeating villain of any era (like, say, Deadshot or Catman!) become "eligible" for a make-over or a "Transformative Experience" to make them acceptable to current continuity (and tastes).

Even if you trip over some swag and tumble ironically into a nearby vat of acid, the career you began as a Recurring Foe can live on without you. The most valuable commodity in the comic book universe is not novelty but name recognition. No matter how goofy your episodes or gruesome your end, the "Q" value of your name guarantees it won't go to waste. Someone else, at some point, will be tapped to follow in your footsteps.

There may be other Purple Pile-Drivers ... but you'll always have been the first one!

Why, think of all the Recurring Foes from decades past who got a new lease of life.

Or better yet ... name them!

Monday, September 19, 2005

I got the power

Before we return to our regularly scheduled Rungs of Villainy, Johnsifications, Character Donations, and Vibe Slash Koryak fictionfests, I'd like to stop to discuss a classic comic book phenomenon:

Power Internalization.

So common (and annoying) is this phenomenon that I bet before I ever start to explain, you know exactly what I mean. A character who has a power from an outside source, say, a machine, at some point "internalizes" the power and doesn't need the outside power source any more.

We've all read, "On my first outings, I had to rely on my 'soap-bubble belt' for my amazing bubble powers. But now I've discovered that, probably as a result of constant exposure to its bubble emanations or the otherwise fatally toxic chemicals it uses, I have internalized my amazing bubble powers!" Or words to that effect.

Translation? "My reliance on an external gimmick for my power rendered me too vulnerable, so my new writer decided to make things easier on himself by giving me the power directly without further explanation."

The classic example is Black Lightning. Had a belt that gave him electricky powers. The belt gets blown up or he forgets to take it out of his pants and his mother accidently sends it throught the laundy; no more zappy belt (replaced by a Sears bill for a new washing machine). But THEN, through the authorial magic of power internalization, he discovered he could generate electricity without the belt. How lovely!

Almost without exception, power internalizations are introduced quickly, like pulling off a band-aid. One world balloon, later, and we the readers can forget the original power device (indeed, we are encouraged to). No writer wants to dwell on "power internalization", for the obvious reason that it strains our credulity; better to move along quickly!

As a result of this need to press on, characters who experience power internalizations always take it both well and casually. It's always, "Now I can't wait to take on my archnemesis, Captain Plaster!". It's never, "What the !@#%!!??!?! I've become a freak, good lord I'm going to die, I need a doctor, now, now, NOW!!!!"

You probably think I'm being silly. You're probably thinking, "Well, who wouldn't be suddenly overjoyed at finding themselves blessed with a superpower?" Uh-huh. That just shows how deeply comic book conventions have imbedded themselves in your thinking. If you were suddenly able to receive television signals directly into your brain or to brown bread just by your presence, would you think, "Gosh, constant exposure to tv/toaster emanations has allowed me to internalize their powers! I can't wait to show the wife!"? I doubt it.

Power internalization is a favorite trick of second generation characters. The Icicle 1 had a cold gun (whoever has the patent on those in the DCU is making a fortune). His son, the Icicle 2, has internalized the cold-making power (due to exposure in utero to the "emanations" from the cold gun; no, really). The original Spellbinder used machinery to disorient foes; the new Spellbinder has the power internally (through a nice "clean" plot device: Neron). The first Quantum Kid (the pompous jerk) used a belt to generate his quantum fields; the second Quantum Kid, his sister, internalized the power (through a series of dangerous experiments, if I recall correctly).

Some characters seem happily immune to the phenomenon. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to work in Keystone or Central City at all, where gadgets and gimmicks are still the thing. Except for Replicant. Remember him? No, neither do I.

Power internalization also happens sometimes when a character moves from one medium to another. In comic books, Mr. Freeze uses a freeze ray; on "The Batman" he generates cold himself. Most famously, when Spiderman went to the big screen, the writers said to themselves, well, if he got all those other powers from the spider why wouldn't he get the webbing, too? Thus the 'webshooters' became internalized.

What other power internalizations have you noticed? Enjoyed? Condemned?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Character Moment: Max Lord & Bruce Wayne

"So, then, what you're saying, Bruce, is if
-- just as a hypothetical --
you were to build a multi-billion-dollar spy satellite slash artificial intelligence plugged into all the planet's surveillance systems

you probably wouldn't notice if I subverted it to my own purposes as the principal weapon of my super-secret extra-governmental espionage organization and slaved to it over one million cyborg sleeper agents programmed to identify and eliminate every supra-normal operative on Earth?

"Well. That's good to know, Bruce.

"Excuse me -- I need to get back to my office now..."