Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Magic of Hex

Two-Face in "Half An Evil", Batman #234, Aug. 1971

Jonah Hex in "The Killer's Last Wish", Weird Western Tales #13, Aug./Sept. 1972

When Jonah Hex first appeared Westerns were, as Don Markstein puts it, "already passe`." But Jonah lasted another 13 years (not counting the two years following, when DC Mad- Maximized him by plopping him in a dystopian future -- don't ask).

Jonah lasted because he was weird and unique. He was part Two-Face (his appearance and interesting moral viewpoint) and part Batman (legendarily spooky and expert in what he does; oh, and rude). In fact, in BTAS he was alleged to be an ancestor of Bruce Wayne.

Jonah weren't yer average singing cowboy, no ma'am. Betrayals, cruelty, disfigurement, biological warface, torture, and lots of Death By Irony. Genocide, civil war, emancipation. Broken hearts, broken promises, broken dreams and the broken people who had them. They didn't call it Weird WesternTales for nothing, folks.

Not having read Western comics as a child, I'm a new convert to Jonah fanhood. But, following the recommendation of Devon of Seven Hells (who, after all, erreth not), I took the risk of reading the first issue of the new Jonah Hex series. I'm hooked! I won't spoil it for you but it duplicates the old Hex magic, right down to the sententious narration boxes characteristic of Western and horror comics.

Weary of heroes who ring their hands over routine mindwiping? Have a huge dollop of Hex. He still wrestles with moral dilemmas, but while he's doing that he still finds plenty of time to kill just about anyone who seems to need it.

Bottom line for me is, I enjoy Jonah Hex as a character for the same reason I enjoy Two-Face: his struggle with right and wrong challenges my own moral viewpoints and makes me think.

Stagg Party

Simon Stagg, genius,

is, as previously mentioned, the greatest comic book character of all time.

It would be enough that he has hordes of nameless hooded guards following his every whim,
as if he's a Starman villain.

But, fact is, Simon Stagg's so cool you need MORE the just killing skills to work for him.

"So, you can operate a wide variety of death-dealing defense machines with your head covered, are a eunuch, and are willing to devote your life to me.
But can you play any classical instruments at symphonic level, you imbecile?
BY JASPER, you're hired, my lad!
Let it never be said that Simon Stagg's minions aren't CULTURED!"

Friday, November 04, 2005

Lessons from Vibe

Eight Fabulous Things I Learned from
Justice League Unlimited #15

1. Vibe is powerful. Scary powerful.

He makes me shake even WITHOUT using his power. Not that I'm complaining, mind you!

2. In Animated DCU Spanish, "el" is used instead "los"; fascinating!

3. Animated Black Lightning can fly; who knew?

It's so very "Static Shock"; will this change come to the DCU proper? I hope the decent costume comes with it.

Like fashion-forward Stargirl Black Lightning doesn't need a midriff-baring costume any more; those are so yesterday.

4. Vibe is wise. Deeply wise.

He also says really cool stuff, like "Squash that!" That is so street. I'm going to start saying that ... in a loving and supportive way, of course, just like Vibe.

5. In the Animated DCU, gangmembers have
shiny white matching casual wear from Old Navy.

But you can still tell they're rough and tumble gangmembers because, you know, the shirts are not tucked in.

rebellion, man.

6. Vibe can still breakdance ...

while kicking tail
It simply don't get no cooler than that, folks.

7. Vibe is almost painfully modest.

This, despite having enough power to have sunk Sub Diego
single-handedly. Ye gods, has there ever been a more inspiring role model? I think not.

All children should own a Vibe action figure. And the government should pay for it.

8. Vibe is huge. ENORMOUS.

Observe how he towers over that policeman; how Vibe's bicep is larger than his head. I've never thought of Paco as being huge; now I can hardly think of anything else.

Vibe used to be a tiny man. Now he's Superman size; Martian Manhunter size. It's almost as if ... as if when you come back from the dead, you become larger than life. Funny how that works.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Oppose Hypostatization!

On the whole, I oppose heroes and villains with hypostatized powers.

Heroes (and villains) can do specific things. Flash moves fast. Batman is smart and fights well. Superman can fly, is really tough and really strong. Green Arrow shoots arrows well. Exactly how fast, how smart, how strong, how well etc., are details that can vary as the plot requires. But the essence of what the character can do is concrete and it's fairly easy to imagine plots that challenge them or where failure is possible, allowing for dramatic tension.

A lot of Silver Age writers took advantage of "concrete powers" to create three-act plots:
  1. Hero encounters villain and loses (the villain accomplishes his goal and escapes).
  2. Hero encounters villain and there is a stalemate (the villain's goal is thwarted but he still escapes).
  3. Hero encounters villain and wins (the villain is both thwarted and captured).

A classic example (don't laugh) is the original (um ... and only) Aquaman versus the AWESOME HUMAN FLYING FISH story.
  1. On the first encounter, Aquaman is taken by surprise by the HFF's aquatic and flying powers, and the villains gets away with the loot.
  2. The next time, Aquaman has wised up and has a strategy that takes those powers into account; he stops the theft but the Fish gets away.
  3. Then, Aquaman, always a thinking man's hero, sets a trap for the Fish, which succeeds.

A hero with concrete abilities encounters a situation or opponent that challenges those abilities and through increasingly strategic use of those powers -- or simply cleverness -- triumphs. The hero doesn't win all the time; he simply wins in the end. It's remarkable to me how easily many people confuse the two.

Storytelling starts to stumble when hypostatization -- treating an abstract power as if it were a concrete one -- begins to take hold of the character. Flash as "really fast guy" even "the fastest man alive" works. But when he becomes (as the modern Flash has) the Wielder of the Speed Force, controlling the very concept of kinetic power (as he does not with his "kinetic distribution power") his powers are hypostatized, rendering him nearly unwritable.

This happened to Superman in the Silver Age. Superman could not be harmed. PERIOD. Talk about treating an abstract idea as if it were concrete! Magic & kryptonite, that was it; otherwise, forget it. The result? Every other story has to have either kryptonite or magic in it. Yawn. Throw in the ability to travel through time at will and a couple pounds of Amnesium, and rooting for Superman becomes pretty much redundant. No wonder Supes degenerated into sitcom and soap opera (*choke*!).

Batman has been called "the world's greatest detective" but that really doesn't mean much unless he's engaged in a one or one "detecting battle" with an enemy. Batman has pretty much escaped hypostatization (although Morrison teetered close to it with his Perfect Batman With A Plan schtick). You can still believably beat the crap out of Batman. Nevertheless, the effects of Morrisonesque hypostatization of Batman is noticeable in the hordes of young fans who simply denied that it was possible for Hal Jordan to hit Batman, as if Batman's unbeatablility were a magic power.

Marvel characters are usually overcome by hypostatization when they fall for their own press.
  • Green Arrow is a darned good shot but Bullseye is The Man Who Never Misses (tm).
  • Green Lantern's willpower is stronger than fear, but Daredevil is The Man Without Fear (tm).
  • Wolverine is The Best At What He Does (which is killing, as far as I can tell; nice power, bub).
  • And, of course, "nothing can stop the Juggernaut"!

As a character's powers grow more hypostatized, there are more and more obstacles to writing the character. An occasional hypostatic figure can be fun and colorful, such the Quiz (from Morrison's Brotherhood of Dada), who had Every Power You Hadn't Yet Thought Of. But when your mainstream pillar characters start to fall victim to the Hypostatic Syndrome, then a reboot becomes inevitable. The "de-hypostatization" of the Flash and Superman was one of things the post-Crisis world was supposed to accomplish. It did.

But then the editors let the writers forget the real reason the Crisis was necessary: not because the world had become too complex but because its characters had grown too powerful to write. And now the Spectre, who has essentially been deified, is cruising for a bruising, too, necessitating Day of Vengeance.

Contrary to popular belief, readers don't lose interest in a character once they realize he's not going to lose. They lose interest in a character when they realize he cannot lose and still remain who he is... which is different thing entirely.

Blockade Boy

I don't add blogs to my links bar lightly (not because I'm mean or snooty, but because it brings down my valuation on Blogshares; sad but true). But I simply must add "Blockade Boy"!

First reason: anyone who even remembers Blockade Boy gets a modicum of respect from me. "Ah," I nod, concealing an inner smile, "the royal we recognize you as one of the Comicscenti; in the New Regime, you shall not merely survive, but occupy a Place of Privilege; carry on."

So, imagine my joy upon discovering that the blog is written by Blockade Boy himself, who apparently faked his death in Adventure Comics #345 (hah, take that, Nardo!).

THEN imagine how I nearly fainted when I saw that Blockade Boy does costume re-designs on the fashion ill-favored! An obscure dead Legion character comes back to life, moves to the 21st Century, and reinvents himself as a costumer who helps others reinvent themselves. It's like ... like a beautiful dream come true. It's so--*sniff*--inspiring!

Learn Who Blockade Boy Is and How He Came To Be!

I, sadly, can only criticize the costumes of others, which is a destructive power; I am, in essence, a Fashion Supervillain. Blockade Boy, however, harnesses godlike powers of Costume Redesign, making him a Fashion Superhero. He makes me feel so.... ashamed.

Therefore, BB is the Absorbascon's new fashion consultant, and I hope at some point to be able to convince him to put forward some designs for some deserving characters. Is there anyone you can think of who needs a new superwardrobe?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bare Truth

There are many wonderful and important things to see in this week's comics:
  • the return of the best western character of all time, Jonah Hex;
  • Battlesuit Lex calling Superman stupid;
  • Wildcat bitchslapping Mordru,

But do not let those blind you to the signficance of this:

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot; you won't recognize that image because you've never seen it before. It's Stargirl's midsection -- WITH CLOTHING ON IT.

Shocking, isn't it?

Now, I'm pretty sure that "Courtney" (and the only reason I'm not making fun of her name is that, when your name is Scipio -- or worse -- you're pretty much disqualified from making fun of other people's names) started this whole "midriff-baring costume" plague that's infected the DCU.

I suppose when Courtney first appeared, she was young enough that it seemed "cute" or "innocent". Oh, but what is cute at one age can seem, well, trampy at another, and as Courtney has aged into adolescence she's been teetering closer and closer to Brittany Spears territory (so who's the DCU caped equivalent of Kevin Federline? Vibe?).

As it spread to Hawkgirl, Huntress, and *shudder* Supergirl it became clear: this is the kind of thing that happens to young superwomen who don't have proper fathers to keep them in line. Do you see Jade traipsing around with her belly button out? Huh, no, I don't think so!

Now, Courtney claims the costume change is just because "it's cold in the sixth dimension", but I'm confident that's just an excuse. She's gotten older and wiser and it's suddenly hit her while battling omnipotent magical beings, "I don't want to die in an I Dream of Jeannie outfit." Well, who does, dear?

But you and I know that the editors at DC have finally awakened after the, oh, 20 year sleep that Krona put them in, the one that prevented them from editing Wolfman's dialog in Crisis on Infinite Earths. And they are mad!

"Why are the Daughters of the DCU wearing cheerleading outfits and looking like 'easy girls' ? Let them be clothed. Now."

Bravo, ei in loco parentes of the DCU! I applaud your efforts to return decency to our super girls.

As long as Phantom Lady, Power Girl, and Wonder Woman remain as they are, of course...

Catch the Vibe

Next week, please buy this comic book --
even if you don't ordinarily buy
Justice League Unlimited.


Because then it will be easier for me to say,

"I told you so."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Living Death

Oh, to live in the drama-filled world of Starman!

Purple-hooded menaces gripping flaxen-tressed maidens!
Hypnofacient blazing from unforgettable eyes!
Spell-driven rigidity culminating in the named horror of....
the Living Death!

Lordie, I can barely remember the last time I went rigid under the grip of a hooded menace! Enjoy it while you can, Doris girl!

"The Living Death"; I've really got to start using that line...

Bizarro Haiku!

Oh, you crazy Bizarro!

Naturally, the first time we see Superman's imperfect duplicate, he introduces himself with -- what else -- an "imperfect haiku":

"Kryptonite rays kill you, but
not harm Bizarro!

Nothing can harm Bizarro!"

A 7-5-7 meter? Of course! That's how bizarro-haiku works!

What suitable bizarro-haiku can you compose to celebrate the creation of Superman's cracked reflection?

Monday, October 31, 2005

And the final reason...

Hal Jordan shouldn't have a power ring.

10. He already HAS a superpower.

Just ask him.

Top Ten Reasons...

Hal Jordan should not have a power ring.

9. Hal Jordan is a dork.

Oh, yes; I know I used this reason before. But Hal is such a dork it counts at least double.

I guess anyone could hit his head and get knocked out while in a plane. I mean, it's not like Hal's used to flying. It's not like he's a pilot or a flying ace or anything....

Top Ten Reasons...

Hal Jordan shouldn't have a power ring.

8. Even Hal thinks that fans of Hal are annoying goobers.

And, THAT, Chris, is why I'm not afraid of H.E.A.T. !!!

Top Ten Reasons...

Hal Jordan should not have a power ring.

7. He uses it to make --what else? -- more copies of HIMSELF.

"I need help. Not just anyone-- someone special, someone wonderful, someone like... me! But there is no one that wonderful except for ... ME!"

Yes, there's Hal Jordan surrounded by his favorite person, himself. I bet after the adventure, they all go back to the Love Bubble in Space and take turns in the Star Sapphire costume...

Top Ten Reasons...

Hal Jordan should not be wearing a power ring.

6. The Love Bubble of Space.

Can't you see it? You're a stewardess (blonde, I'm guessing) and you say "okay" when GL says "close your eyes a second, baby", because, you know, you can trust him, he's a superhero, right?

Sh'yeah. Right.

You open your eyes, and you're floating in a green bubble beyond the LaGrange Point with the Big Blue Marble in the distance, with nothing but GL naked except for the mask and the ring (which he's using to comb his hair) and a king-sized bed with a plasticene Star Sapphire costume lying on it, and he's saying, "Put it on. Now."

In space, no one can hear you scream...

Top Ten Reasons...

Hal Jordan should not have a power ring.

5. Dude uses it to make freakin' bongs at Corps meetings, man.

That's just not right.

Tomar Re's really into it, huh? Sucking the smoke back in! At least Salaak isn't there ... bet he'd bogart the pipe.

Top Ten Reasons...

Hal Jordan should not have a power ring.

4. As previously proven, Hal is a total dork.

Sure, Batman gets hit on the head a lot -- when he's fighting. Not just because the universe itself hates him.

Oh, I'm not being fair, huh?

Thank GOD poor Carol didn't have to see that. It's embarrassing enough being GL's public squeeze. "THWACK", by the way, is the sound of toy airplane hitting an empty head. Of course, judging by her word balloon, she's not exactly the brightest star in the heavens herself...

Top Ten Reasons...

Hal Jordan shouldn't have a power ring.

3. He uses it to play "magic lantern show" with his friends.

Who, it appears, have minds very much like Hal's!!!

"Okay, okay, guys -- now, try NOT to think of a polar bear. HA, there it is on the wall! I got you, I got you again!"

Top Ten Reasons

Hal Jordan shouldn't have a power ring.

2. Hal's so vain ...

he uses the ring to write fan fiction -- ABOUT HIMSELF.

I bet he interrupts it, too,

"Was my date prettier than I was? What was I wearing? Did I have a look of grim determination on my face? Was there any news coverage? How did I look on camera?"

Top Ten Reasons......

why Hal Jordan shouldn't have a power ring.

Reason 1. Hal turns his friends and colleagues into birds.

Yes. Hal accidently turned Pieface, his mechanic, into a bird.

If Batman had a power ring, would that happen? No. He would turn his enemies into birds.

Would Wonder Woman? Only if Phil Jimenez needed to show she could still talk to birds.

Superman? Well, yes, it would. But Superman would turn his friends into birds on purpose, and only because it was funny or because it would teach them a valuable lesson. "It'll be a long time before Jimmy wishes he could fly like me again! He should simply be greatful I don't squash him like a bug for being a goober!"

Let's face it, if you had a friend like Hal Jordan and he got a power ring, the only sensible thing to do would be move to Earth 2, or 3 even. Of course, if you were dumb enough to be friends with Hal, then the danger that he poses with a power ring on his finger might escape you.

If you were that dumb, and saw that Hal had accidently turned Pieface into a bird, you'd probably be saying,

"Ooo! Me next, Hal! Now it's my turn!"

Character Donations #106

Vibration much like mistakes CAN be manmade.

VIBE is one of the hugest EVER to infect The DC Universe. No amount of convincing will convince me otherwise.

I do not send Vibe off to Marvel easily. Do you know how much it costs to ship a coffin?


The "BWAHAHAHAHA's" didn't come into effect until after Vibe's unfortunate demise. Let's face it, in order for them to come, sacrifices had to to be made. Vibe was a very good place to start.

We all needed to laugh again. Vibe's death showed us the way.

With Vibe's death, the way was opened up for any one of these guys to tickle our ribs.

The way was opened up for The Martian Manhunter to take his rightful place as a member of "The Magnificent 7."

Vibe's death was a necessary evil, one needed to help usher in a new Golden Age. Vibe, with his obsessive pop-locking and constant cries for attention by exhibiting "attitude" came down to nothing more than time-wasting filler much like these guys...

who aren't Iron Man, Captain America, Thor or Hawkeye seem to be doing elsewhere.

In that sense, Vibe is a member of a truly elite squad. They're coming to take Daddy home, Scip.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ridde Me This....

What one thing (other than being comic book characters) do
  • The Toyman
  • Ace the Bathound
  • Iceman
  • Darkseid
  • Flash Thompson
  • Mr. Mxyzptlk
  • Toad
  • The Joker
  • H.E.R.B.I.E.
  • The Penguin
all have in common?