Saturday, October 01, 2005

Amethyst was a Jewel

In the DCU, there are three great pillars upon which most magic is built:

Dr. Fate? His swag comes from Gemworld.
Dream of the Endless? Connected to the gems of Gemworld.
The Lords of Order and Chaos? Yep, Gemworld.
Mordru? Comes from Gemworld.
Arion? Emprisoned on Gemworld.
Zerox the Sorcerors' Planet? Used to be Gemworld.

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld is one of the most important comics in the entire DC Universe, yet it wasn't until last night that I finally read it for the first time.

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, wasn't supposed to be a pillar of the DCU. It was an experiment, designed specifically to attract young girls to reading comics (perhaps the first DC comic book to have that as a clear goal since Wonder Woman debuted over 40 years before). DC hoped to attract girl readers with a character rooted firmly in the fairytale princess genre.

Amethyst (a.k.a. Amy Winston) first appeared in an insert story in a Legion of Superheroes comic book (LSH 296, FEB 1983), a teaser for a 1983 "maxi-series"with a pre-set 12 issue run. I was in college at the time; Amethyst just didn't make it onto my reading list, as I'm sure you'll understand.

Amethyst could have been just a silly "Rainbow Brite"-style ponies-and-princesses story, and frankly that's what I was expecting when I read it. To be sure, it has many trite tropes of the genre: Amy Winston learns on her 13th birthday that she was adopted and that she's actually a princess of an other dimensional world of magic, whisked away to earth as an infant when her planet with overtaken by a evil despot (Dark Opal).

But somehow, either through the genius of the writers (Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn as enhanced by the art of Ernie Colon at the top of his game) or the crosspollination with other comic book genres (such as superheroes, sword & sorceror, and even some heroic animal comics), Amethyst transcended expectations.

Don't believe me? On page two, Amy's a happy little suburban girl, anxious to open her birthday gifts. By page six, she's about to be raped by two large trolls. You heard me. Amy is physically older when she's in Gemworld, which in the hands of lesser writers would have culminated with "now I can wear grown-up dresses and jewelry, whee!" But this is not fairyland, it's Gemworld; Amy has to deal (repeatedly) with the ugly fact that being the adult Amethyst has its unpleasant side. A kidnapper (albeit one more handsome than a troll) starts to rape her in issue 2; he does not succeed. It's now one of my favorite "calvary to rescue" scenes in all of comics, because it teaches an important lesson: do NOT **** with dogs.

Gemworld itself had a rich backstory and a host of interesting characters and, impressively, the "real word" supporting cast was well fleshed out, too. Amy's adoptive mother was a child psychologist who would naturally use her "techniques" on Amy -- and Amy, no fool, would call her on it. Amy's father, an English professor at Hudson University (anyone remember Hudson U?), was a model parent in dealing with Amy's complicated situation, without coming across as a ridiculously "perfect person". And Amy's dog, Taffy? Taffy is one of the DCU's Top Five Dogs of all time (with Krypto, Ace, Rex, and Pooch).

A few years after her maxiseries, Amethyst got a regular series, but the Crisis was fast approaching and Amethyst did not survive it. But both pre- and post-Crisis, something odd happened; writers and editors kept linking bits of DC's magic-verse to Gemworld. A lark? A fanboy nod? A simple snowball effect? Regardless why it happened, a lot of the magic left in the DCU (well, at least before the Spectre got snitty about it) is linked somehow to Gemworld. In a sense, you can't really understand the big picture of the DCU without knowing Gemworld.

Yet (to my knowledge), Amethyst's series have never been reprinted.

DC: why have you not gathered Amethyst's two series in trade, archive, or showcase format?

Superman and the Lime Dress of Doom!

Dedicated to Mike at Progressive Ruin, who just introduced me to one of my new favorite ridiculous characters: Superman's "shopping buddy" Vartox.

Superman actually has three weaknesses: magic, kryptonite, and back issues of Katy Keene.

Examining this closely, I finally realized that I briefly dated Vartox in 1983, when everyone still called him "Billy". Had to dump him, of course; he was hot, yes, even with the cheesy moustache, but there are a limited number of places you can take a man who insists on wearing yellow thigh huggers, a Fifth Dynasty loincloth, and a "The Ray"(tm) brand leather vest .... everywhere.

Oh, and Superman, sweetie -- you know you're in trouble when you're taking fashion advice from Billy Vartox. Even Lana Lang (not really known for high fashion sense or general intelligence) has the brains to realize she's got to return that hideous lime floor-length gown and has left it in the original packaging...

"Nothing but fish tales!"

In the final episode of
"The Loneliness of Aquaman Week":

Aqualad denies all the charges
the SPCA has made against him and Aquaman.

Well,at least they have the support of
the North American Man-Fish Love Association.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Devil or the Deep Blue Sea

In today's episode of
"The Loneliness of Aquaman Week":

If you're lost at sea...

...just PRAY that a lonely Aquaman and Topo don't come to rescue you.

"Oh, we can return you to dry land...
Meanwhile, you look tense.

I think he needs a backrub,
don't you, Topo?

Just relax, sir--
we're here for you now..."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Starman Did Everything First

So, you think Aquaman invented sweet sweet octopus love?

Nope; the Golden Age Starman did.

You think Superman invented the nifty trick of turning his head into a lion's?

Nope; the Golden Age Starman did.

You think Batman invented the "Macgyvering your way out of a deathtrap" routine?

Nope; the Golden Age Starman did.

I'm telling you, folks: Golden Age Starman is all the comic book you'll every need. Everything else is just a pale imitation....

Free Fradon!

In today's episode of
"The Loneliness of Aquaman Week"

Ramona Fradon
is arrested under the laws against

piscatorial pornography.

Jeez, Aquaman --
there are kids at that beach.

Can't you at least keep that sort of thing

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Armed and Dangerous

Of all the shockers in this week's comics

--and they are many and powerful--

none is so great, I think, as the revelation that whoever drew and edited JLA 119 apparently doesn't read any other DC books, since there sits the Matter Master ... with two arms, instead of just one! This, even though Hawkman quite famously hacked it off recently and Matter Master has been seen -- repeatedly -- in the major crossover books with only one arm left. Tsk!

The REAL shocker is of course the Martian Manhunter's discovery that there is in fact one single figure behind all the universe-shattering disasters we're reading about in all the DC crossovers, a single figure who has never acquiesced to being banished from the DCU, and whose incomparable power and intelligence will result in a triumphant return, despite the consequences for the DC universe(s?):


Ha, no, just kidding; that was my theory, but, alas....

But Devon of Seven Hells, Devon who erreth not, Devon the Cassandra of Comic Books, has known all along. He's known for a year. He tried to tell us all, but no one would listen.

He'd never brag, so I'll do it for him: Devon is the greatest analyst of comic book storylines I have ever met. Devon could kick the butts of the Mystery Analysts of Gotham, the Elongated Man, and Hamilton Drew while simultaneously operating a cash register. Devon makes Roy Raymond look like Ronnie Raymond. What the Martian friggin' Manhunter and "I'm-the-goddam" Batman have only begun to get the slightest inkling of, Devon has known forever, purely through his own intelligence and deductive reasoning. I hate him so deeply it makes my teeth hurt.

I won't tell you the answer; I don't have the RIGHT to. But go over to Seven Hells and send Devon a message demanding that HE show you the proof of who is behind it all, and how long he's known about it.

And when he answers ....

make sure you're sitting down.

Aquaman's First Mate

On today's episode of
"The Loneliness of Aquaman Week",
an elderly captain makes a painful deal
to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew.

When Aquaman is lonely,
the price for "safe" passage on the high seas
can be very dear, indeed.

"First mate, huh? I could use a 'first mate' myself.
Have you ever wondered what the Aquacave is like,
'little buddy'?

I think you'll like it. Eventually."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Character Request: Sun Girl

Who is this sneaking in the DCU's window? Is it... Sun Girl?

I'd never heard of this Sun Girl until recently when she was brought to my attention by the eminent Marionette of Dance of the Puppets.

Apparently she has gone utterly to waste in the Marvelverse, known to no one, out of place with her Golden Age styling, and (*sob*) unloved.

She's got no secret identity, no real name, no backstory (except for some monstrosity that Roy Thomas the Mad Retcon Artist shafted her with). And she has ... a Sunbeam Ray. GODS, we need her in the DC!

Perhaps she could be a foe or partner of Night Girl? But, no: even the blank cheery emptiness of Sun Girl would be no match for the Black Hole of Meaning that is the Super-Bouffante of Night Girl; the very thought is madness.

Ah, but what a marvelous partner for -- Phantom Lady! She could join the Freedom Fighters (I hear they're about to have some openings...) and she and PL could be like Apollo and Midnighter (well -- sort of like Apollo and Midnighter).

DC, offer Marvel some Hostess Fruit Pies (tm) for Sun Girl; the bad guys always fall for that trick!

The Most Heroic Haiku EVER!

Perhaps we can find some relief from the hope-snuffing joylessness of

"The Loneliness of Aquaman Week"

by embracing the cool contemplation of Haikuesday,
as celebrated by the Lonely One himself.

That sniveling icthyphobic wuss Aqualad embarrasses Aquaman (again) in front of two bedroom-eyed babelicious porpoises by screwing up his own haiku: the end of its second line falls in the middle of the word "creature". [By the way, note that, apparently Peter David took Aqualad's fear to heart, and made Aquaman do everything single-handed.]

"Inerudite, big-headed, purple-eyed little FREAK!" the oddly-colored porpoises think, "I can only hope one day the Swimmer's real son comes along and kicks the sea-salt out of your silly blue panties!"

Aquaman, mortified by Aqualad's lack of confidence in him, bites his tongue to keep from saying, "What, are you retarded or something? Who the swell do you think I am?"

But no, Aquaman thinks, recalling Book I of the Aeneid, it is better first to calm the waves, and immediately takes to doing so by improvising a stunningly heroic haiku:

"I must! The fate of
Atlantis and the fate of
our world is at stake!

DANG, Aquaman! Nice parallel positioning of "Atlantis" versus "our world"-- and ALL that that implies! Loneliness gives you lots of time to hone your poetic skills, I guess, because that's the most heroic haiku I've ever read.

So, are you an Aqualad,
fearful and incapable of scansion,
or are you an Aquaman,
with the poetic power and inner strength
to forget your loneliness and do the heroic thing?


Shocking, Arthur, just shocking...

In today's episode of
"The Loneliness of Aquaman Week"...

Arthur appears to be what they call

When you've got aqua-toughness like Arthur does,
your idea of foreplay is
electric eels on your nipples.

No wonder Mera left him.

Monday, September 26, 2005

How Aquaman Met Topo

On today's episode of
"The Loneliness of Aquaman Week":

Thanks to his aquatic telepathy,
Aquaman knows what it feels like for a fish.

Oh, I don't blame poor lonely Aquaman
or even the octoprostitutes themselves.

I blame the bearded maritime pimps
who profit from their desperation.

"Oh, Topo,
I can take you away from all this.
You're leaving with me."

Heroclix Rant: Mind Control

If you play Heroclix much, you probably don't use "Mind Control" with your figures that have the power. Why?

Because it's no easier than a regular attack; because most of the figures you'd really want to control are over 100 points and your figure would take a click of damage for the effort of Mind Controlling them; because your Mind Control is going to end in one turn and your "victim" will be looking to make someone pay for it.

Wizkids has wisely been using "Feat Cards" as to "fix" the powers and abilities that are dissatisfying to players, and Mind Control is a prime candidate. It's also an easy fix, with a Feat Card something this:

"Mind Slave"

Prerequisite: Mind Control

This figure may use Mind Control as a free action, takes no damage from using it, and may use Mastermind on any adjacent Mind Controlled figured. Their attempts at Mind Control succeed on a one-die roll of 4, 5, or 6.

10 points.

The high-point figures with Mind Control could use the card, but probably won't; you'll still want to use them to just do damage to the opponent (besides, most high-point characters with Mind Control only have a few clicks of it, not enough to make the cost of the card worthwhile).

But the effect on all the lower-point figures with Mind Control, the ones with the measly little Attack Values, would be profound. Regardless of how low their AVs sink, they'd have a 50/50 chance of controlling an opposing figure. All those sad figures who never use their Mind Control (like Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Saturn Girl, the tragic twins Kobra and Brother Blood) and the Mad Hatter (who has nothing but Mind Control) would be immediately playable.

Better yet, you'd be using them the way they are used in the comic books; not as direct combatants, but as a means to turn your opponent's forces against him. And, yes, it makes these figures' influence on the game more powerful than their points would suggest; but that's exactly why comic book characters Mind Control others, folks -- to control someone more powerful than they are.

Wizkids, please do this before you put out a Dr. Psycho clix, or there won't be any reason to play him, either.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Loneliness of Aquaman Week

Welcome to

The Loneliness of Aquaman Week.

How lonely does it get when you're Aquaman?

Oh, so lonely.
Particularly when your aqua-toughness is such
that your strange desires require
something with the punch of a nuclear warhead.

And apparently he needs a series of them. Shudder.

Where do you think he BUYS those kinds of toys?

From Vice-Admiral Fangschleister at the Pentagon, I bet.
Yeah, you know Fangschleister put the "vice" in Vice-Admiral!

Morrison Challenge

To help us all struggle through the life-sapping depression of "The Loneliness of Aquaman Week", I've chosen now to debut a new feature at the Absorbascon:

The Morrison Challenge.

You have replaced Grant Morrison as the person in charge of
revitalized underused characters in the DCU. You need to come up with a pitch for how to reintroduce "insert character name here" as an interesting and enriching part of the DCU.

Today's Morrison Challenge to you is :

The Ani-Men of Repli-Tech.