Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Haikuesday with J'onn J'onnz

J'onn was distracted when he composed this somewhat klunky haiku from our recent post on "Marshalation", one of the Top Ten Clues You're in a Silver Age Justice League Story.

As soon as my full
strength has returned I'll make short
work of those Bee-Men.

You know what to do...!

Monday, January 30, 2006

My Kind of Artist!

Okay, Kurt Busiek, I relent!

I'll support ANYTHING you want to do with Aquaman ...

as long as you let Fernando Albea draw it. Aquaman: Sword of Hooters, anyone?

But (semi-)seriously, folks ... is this the guy who needs to draw Black Condor, Uncle Sam, et al., or what? You could relaunch all of National's characters this way. Just imagine the Red Bee or Firebrand in Fernando's hands! Yee-ha!

Huhn. That's funny...

Kyle really doesn't look all that different, does he?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Abalone Ranger

I have, with all due respect to the craft of Kurt Busiek, strongly disapproved of the new "sword of sorcery" direction for the Aquaman title (not "for Aquaman", since Aquaman himself's not going to be in it). But why?

Naturally, some of it is just personal taste, but I think there are some objective reasons as well. But, first, some background on my personal "comic book theories".

There are, pretty much, only five of what I call "Goldens"-- DC heroes who, having survived the Wertham-driven putsch of comics, continued more or less untouched
through the Golden, Silver, and Bronze ages.

Those five are
Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow (*snort*), and Aquaman. The first three survived on the strength of their popularity and malleability of tone, and the last two survived as back-up features sneaking under the radar (or, in Aquaman's case, sonar). Any other characters were discontinued, dramatically reimagined by Schwartz, or both. Their resultant high Q Rating is why these characters were chosen to be "The Superfriends". Except, of course, for Green Arrow. I mean, really. One can only handle so many Plastic Cat Arrows without getting scratched, you know.

One of the secrets to their success is versatility. The Trinity of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman have an advantage that we're so familiar with that most of us no longer even notice it: each one has a diverse set of abilities. Batman can do anything humanly possible; Superman can do everything else. Wonder Woman was saved from being just a strongwoman by some clever additions, such as the plane, the lasso, and her persuasive abilities. Conceptually, their powers aren't just physical but are perceptional as well (Batman's deduction, Superman's senses, Wonder Woman's lasso of truth). Practically, they have short-range abilities (ZOWIE!) and long-range abilities (the batarang, heat vision, the lasso).

This broadness helps make them adaptable to a variety of situations, storylines, and tones. As any Heroclix player can tell you, it's much better to have a strong all-around figure on the board than a Johnny One-Note. Non-DC characters with similar diversity of power have also shown staying power. Spider-Man is a brilliant example, with his hyperstrength and agility, wallcrawling, high intelligence, webshooters, and "spider-sense"; a nearly perfect ensemble of powers. It almost doesn't matter what they do with Spider-Man, so cool is the very idea of being able to do what he can do. ... Almost.

A narrower range of powers often means less success, in comic book battles, on the Heroclix board, or in the court of public opinion. Green Arrow and Green Lantern are basically ranged fighters (one of the reason the writers have Hal Jordan get hit on head so much; he's vulnerable only at close range). To make Black Canary and Flash more viable, they got the sonic scream and the "tornado-making trick", which give them the ability to fight from a distance.

One-noters like the
Atom don't fair so well. While Aquaman has a good mix of physical/mental and short/long range abilities, he has a limited sphere for using them (as a million not- so-funny comedians like to remind us). An additional problem for guys like Atom and Aquaman is that, pound for pound, there's not that much crime at the molecular or submarine level.

Result? Such characters are harder to carry off as traditional
"yes, Commissioner, I'll go after the Checkered Gang at once!" kind of superheroes. Sometimes this drives writers to try to change the conditions the hero operates under; Will Pfeiffer's Sub Diego and, before it, the now-forgotten New Venice were attempts to give Aquaman a more familiarly urban context for crimefighting, allowing for a more conventional approach to the character.

Sometimes it drives them to change the hero's genre all together. Julie Schwartz recast Golden Age adventurer Hawkman and crimefighter Green Lantern as space characters. Or, if a character's not working as a traditional superhero and already has some elements of the fantastic, try the "sword & sorcery" genre: hence, Sword of the Atom and Sword of Atlantis.

While such moves may breathe in some temporary life, they aren't sustainable solutions, I think. Just ask Jonah Hex. And before some of you object about the success of the Silver Age Hawkman and Green Lantern, I'll point out that the current popularity of these characters is based solidly in bringing them back down to earth with a more superhero/crimefighter feeling to them.

Personally, I
like Aquaman as an underwater Batman/Superman, because, well, I like Batman and Superman. But I do understand the impulse to take a difference approach with him. I think "sword & sorcery" is the wrong direction, however, because it takes Aquaman farther away from the realm of ordinary human existence, making him feel (to me) less relevant. Part of Aquaman's problem is that he's too far removed from our regular land-based existence; taking him farther away is literally moving in the wrong direction.

If Aquaman's genre is to be changed it should be changed back to (what my friend Glen has pointed out to me was) its real, original genre: Western.

"Scipio's finally flipped!" you're thinking. Hold on! By "Western" I don't mean guns and tumbleweeds in the American plains; those are just the externals of the genre. I mean, the storytelling essentials: small isolated town with a problem, bands of bandits, corrupt politicians, impoverished working families, the mysterious avenging stranger who rides in to save the day appearing out of nowhere.

Read early Aquaman; it's a Western. Aquaman has no real base of operations, he mostly wanders the sea, suddenly coming across situations that require his talents. He rallies the local townfolk / sealife to repell the threat. He sails off into the sunset.

This is part of the reason Aquaman's has virtually no Rogue's Gallery; that's really an urban crimefighter schtick. Aquaman's more of a Jonah Hex. Without the guns. And the scar. Okay, maybe he's more of a Lone Ranger, but you get the idea.

Aquaman, back in proper "Western" mode, is a perfect vehicle for interesting one-issue stories, which can be set anywhere the sea is. Aquaman has a power almost everyone (other than sharp-eyed Grant Morrison!) has forgotten; thanks to his telepathy, he can speak the language of anyone he's talking to. He's the perfect worldwide sea-going busybody.

If you need a model for how this is done, just watch old episodes of "Shazam!" or "The Incredible Hulk", which for practical reasons abandoned the standard superhero model in favor of a Western-style, Lone Ranger motif... .

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Quick, Speedy! The Plastic Cat Arrows!

Well, the Most Ridiculous Arrow Contest is over and the winner, surprising no one, is

the Plastic Cat Arrow.

You're all so smug. You all laugh Green Arrow's brilliant inventions and his amazing arrows for all occasions. Smirking cynics.

Make fun of the Plastic Cat Arrow all you want. But thank GOD Ollie has one, or he never would have survived THIS:

Remember, people, a Plastic Cat Arrow is like a tuxedo: you don't need one often, but when you do, there's no substitute.


Not to be mean or anything, but....

is there a reason DC hasn't sued the pants off "Uncle Charlie and Rachel Sanchez" of Upward Bound Ministries for this album cover?

I know I would. I'd even put the singing kids in Juvie No, Susie Singalong, you
can't have a bible -- it's large enough to use as a weapon. Here's a copy of Action Comics instead. Without the staples.

Isn't there
anyone at DC Legal who lurks on this blog? I suppose if there were, I myself would have been sued by now for calling it the Absorbascon!

It doesn't say much for the viability of modern Christianity when it chooses to co-opt Superman's mythology. Doesn't it have its own heroes or did DC acquire those characters, too?

To me, this saddest part is it seems that no matter where you are on the Love-Hate scale with either Superman or Christianity, this would
STILL seem very very wrong.

Silver Justice 2: Marshalation

Sometimes, when I think about the Martian Manhunter, it hits me: he sucks. He sucks alot.

Look, he's sucking now! There's MM (JJ to his friends), fighting crime of the alien bee-men variety, and "inhaling as he goes." If I were a crimefighter, that's how I'd want to do it: inhaling as I go.

Then I realize, I'm underestimating J'onn. J'onn not only sucks, he blows. Big time. The Martian Manhunter blows like nobody's business.

By the way, I hereby nominate "As soon as my full strength has returned, I'll make short work of those bee-men!" for the Word & Thought Balloon Hall of Fame.

When I go to parties, I like to pick a phrase like that from an old comic book and spend the evening trying to work it into casual conversation. It's worlds of fun. Of course, it has become increasingly harder to do as I consequently get asked to fewer and fewer parties...

I understand why J'onn does what he does. If I had superstrength, flight, omniutile Martian vision, telepathy, invisibility, intangibility, shapeshifting, and the ability to draw gold from seawater with my mind, I would spurn them all. Too easy. Too unoriginal.

Yes, if I were a superhero, I'd fight crime by sucking and blowing. It's fun. It's cool to draw. And nobody else can do it. Except Superman, but we kind of all agree not to talk about that, because, you know, J'onn's kind of sensitive.

If you haven't realized it yet, this is one of the Ten Clues You're in a Silver Age JLA Story: J'onn sucking or blowing, or, as I like to call it:


Always remember, you inhale; you exhale. The Martian Manhunter marshales.

How powerful is the Martian Manhunter's marshalation? Powerful enough to make a mirror.Okay, superpowers just don't get any more impressive than that, folks. Oh, that's "backed with silver", alright, J'onn -- pure Silver.

Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner must love this guy, and probably never get more than arm's length away during a big fight. "Very well, Green Lantern, I shall craft you a mirror with my marshalation again, but I can assure you your hair is fine..."

Oh, and for the record, large quantities of Oreos do not exactly freshen your breath:
I mean, how bad does your breath have to be to make a demon from hell say "Ugh"?

Ah, Martian Manhunter, the Rodney Dangerfield of comics. Occasionally, they'd let him use his shapeshifting ability in a limited way, like superstretching his body.
So pretty much all you ever got to see him do in the Silver Age JLA was suck, blow, and stretch out his arms.

Then they got rid of him ... and replaced him with who?

The Red Tornado
the Elongated Man.

Now that's comic book irony.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Healing the Lame

I found this on a now-defunct blog:

Why DC Comics is Lame
1) The name. "DC Comics", but the "DC" stands for "Detective Comics", so they are calling themselves "Detective Comics Comics" on their own official website.
2) Superman being so superpowerful that only kryptonite and red suns can hurt him.
3) Superman's lame "no one can recognize me if I put on my glasses" secret identity.
4) Aquaman.
5) Anytime they hit upon a semi-popular hero, they run it into the ground with minor variations: Superman, Superboy (A younger Superman...in the future???), Supergirl, SuperDog???!?; Batman, Batgirl, Robin (an obvious "Batboy"); Hawkman, Hawkgirl; Aquaman, Aqualad.
6) Nearly every superhero has a significant villain that is nothing more than an "opposite but equal", including the amazingly lame "Bizarro" treatment.
7) Why would it matter if Superman can leap over a tall building in a single bound if he can fly?
8) If Lex Luther (or whomever) can make our sun red so as to inconvenience Superman, everyone on earth would be burned to a crisp and life on earth would end. Somehow, that never seems to be an issue with DC
9) The Teen Titans may have had a short stretch of decency when they hired away Marvel writers, but for the most part, this was their best "supergroup", and it was still pretty lame for most of its existence. DC has nothing even half so cool as the Fantastic Four, much less the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., the X-Men, the Defenders...
10) Compare "rich, gadget-men": DC has Batman: weenie who suffers his parents' death, and so broods and beats up on villains; he comes up with gadgets only for himself. As if no one else has had his parents die tragically. Marvel has Tony Stark: an alcoholic with a bad heart, and comes up with Iron Man as a possible weapon for the defense industry. Which is more interesting, more relevant, more inspiring, cooler? If you say "DC's", there's no help for you.

My first instinct was to criticize this list and the ignorance behind it. But that would be unfair and cruel, the mental equivalent of drop-kicking a chihuahua.

Better instead to IMPROVE upon it with my own criticisms of DC. Without, of course, using the empty word "lame". I don't use the word "lame"; I'm an adult.

So, off the top of my head, here's my own version....

The Faults of DC Comics
1. Clumsy, wan, and wasteful marketing.
2. Creative incontinence, that is, proliferation of new characters while others languish.
3. Modesty.
4. Consistently poor dialogue.
5. Frequent creative team turnover on characters that need longterm myth-building.
6. Absence of a pre-Crisis style imprint (you know; what we thought we were going to get from All-Star)
7. Failure to push secondary characters toward iconic status.
8. Failure in creating and maintaining supporting casts.
9. Lack of editorial control toward an overall vision (this seems to have been mostly fixed!)
10. Tepidity in using the medium to address or even feature social and political issues.

I could go on about my list all day (and probably will at some point). But at the moment I'm more interested in what's on your list of DC's worst failings...

You're A Superman!

Have you ever heard the song "You're A Superman"?

No, you haven't. No one has. But at least we know what the lyrics are from this Golden Age Superman story.
If anyone wants to set these lyrics to music, perform, and record them, I'd be delighted to put the resultant song on Big Monkey Comics radio, where it will be heard by about 100 comic book fans a day.

Give it a try!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


For your delectation, I present the comic opera entitled "Ka-looota", in which two British insurance agents beat the snot out of Hal Jordan.

Ladies and gentlemen, Denny O'Neill and Neal Adams. Let's hear it for them, folks!

Character Donations 115-118

We're overdue for another Character Donation, where the Absorbascon and Seven Hells take some DCU characters that don't belong there and ship them off to Marvel with a hardy "bon voyage" (previous donations are linked below).

Character Donations 115 and 116 won't be missed since they're already...


Null and Void are "Exhibit A & B" in the case against World's Finest. When you have a book like World's Finest, eventually the writer will figure out, "Hey, Superman and Batman are in this book, so people will buy it no matter what I do!"

Following Marvel conventions, their one-word codenames are the same as their powers and form a "cute couple" name. I haven't the patience or stomach to relate their story; just trust me on this one.

And since they got their powers from the same place as Swordfish & Barracuda (who had a Marvelesque "senses-shattering saga") let's throw them in, too, as 117 and 118! Marvel lost all its mutants recently; they need some immigration and these guys would fit in fine.

Forget about the Anti-Monitor, folks. THIS is the kind of stuff that caused the original Crisis.


1-37 The Fourth Worlders
38 Firestorm
39-43 The Hangmen
44 Orca the Whalewoman
45 Mirage
46 KGBeast
47 NKVDemon
48 Gunfire
49 Firehawk
50 Man-Bat
51-55 Helix
56-58 Vigilante
59-60 Cannon & Sabre
61 Space Cabby
62 Lobo
63 Judomaster
64-65 Mongul and Mongal
66 WildDog
67 The Duke of Oil
68 Snapper Carr
69-73 The Dan Jurgens Teen Titans
74 Starfire
75-78 The Masters of Disaster
79 Black Spider
80-84 The Demolition Team
85 Rampage
86-91 The Twin Trio
92-96 Challengers of the Unknown
97-103 The Power Company
104 The Manhunters
105 Checkmate
106 Vibe
107-111 The Living Plot Points
112 Human Defense Corps
113 Nubia
114 The Darkstars

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Silver Justice 1: Notsoinanimation

To honor my friend Brad Meltzer, who's going to be writing JLA when it starts up again, I wanted to examine the Silver Age JLA a bit. Now, Brad's a child of the JLA's "Satellite Era", which is part of the Bronze Age, and I'm sure that's the era whose feel he'll want to evoke. NOT the Silver Age, but the Bronze Age.

I get ticked when people lump the Silver Age and the Bronze Age together indiscriminately: you know, "the Pre-Crisis DCU". Sigh. While there are similarities and connections through continuity, there is a difference between those two ages, certainly where the JLA is concerned.

To help those who haven't steeped themselves in the idiocy of the Silver Age, I'm going to start a little seminar I call


In this post we'll learn the first clue...!

1. You're fighting inanimate objects that aren't particularly inanimate. You are experiencing the Silver JLA phenomenon of: Notsoinanimation.
In a normal story, you find yourself fighting crooks, or villians, sometimes a monster or an alien. If Winick's writing it, definitely a monster or an alien.

But in the Silver Age JLA, you're just as likely to be enmeshed in a life and death struggle against an hourglass, the Sphinx, or an enraged 1099 Tax Form.

Here, Batman and Green Arrow are being eaten by a giant pearl that escaped from a flying necklace. I bet after that little incident, Bruce's therapist got some big bucks in extra sessions. "You can get free, Mister Wayne -- but only if you free yourself from guilt."

Above, Green Lantern relives the horror of flunking 5th grade Reading (again) in his struggle against an incomprehensible jumble of letters. He rejects literacy with the help of his fellow anti-intellectual, Green Arrow. Ladies and gentlemen, Dumb and Dumber of the superhero set. Like Marvel readers, they mostly just look at the pictures.

Here's poor Batman again, who could combat 30 ninjas but is about to be knocked senseless by the numerals from a clockface. Kind of like when his therapist says, "I think the pearls may symbolize your-- Oh, I'm sorry, Mister Wayne -- your hour's up. Please leave the check on the mantle as you leave."

Oh, and here's Green Arrow, being thwarted by a living roulette wheel (his fortunes do come and go!), while sure-bet Superman stumbles into unconsciousness, having been overcome by poker chips. Yes, really.

I don't know kind of pipeline Julie Schwartz had back in the day, but his writers were getting some serious stash, and none of it stepped on, I'll wager. It also explains why books were never late back in day. No finals, no fix.

There are hundreds of other examples. I bet you've started to recall some already! So, always remember,

Notsoinanimation =
Silver Age JLA.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mayor Queen

Oliver Queen decides to run for mayor and manages to get elected 35 years later.

Gotta love that.

In the process of making the decision to run for mayor (in the late 1960s), he called some friends for advice: Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan, and Clark Kent.

He specifically asks Bruce Wayne about his time as a senator.

When the HECK was Bruce Wayne a senator? I missed that one completely...

DC v. Marvel .... for the ladies

The new topic at Fan Fatale is which company does a better job with its female characters, DC or Marvel.

If you've visited recently and had some trouble posting, we've fixed the problem (we think!), thanks to getting timely word about it from Marionette at Dance of the Puppets.

Plastic Cat Arrow Haikus

You know, maybe Green Arrow (at least the Golden Age version) is cooler than I thought. Using a Plastic Cat Arrow in the fight against crime is impressive. Being able to HAIKU smugly about your Plastic Cat Arrow in your opponent's face: darned impressive.

Attached to a thin
shaft that you couldn't make out
and fired by me.

Dang! Nice one, Ollie.
Speedy, however, isn't as swift as his name implies, and his attempted haiku falls one syllable short:

The wind whistling through
this specially fluted arrow
which I fired.

Nice nature image, though. Or maybe I'm being unfair, and Roy pronounced it "fire-red", which is either classy and Elizabethan or it's embarrassingly hillbilly.

In either case, please help Roy out by composing a better haiku about his Meow Arrow or the situation as a whole.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Where should the new Justice League have its headquarters?

I know what I want.

I want them on the earth. Floating above us in a satellite or on the moon, like the Authority, being literally and figuratively above us? I don't like how that feels. And if see that satellite destroyed one more time (probably while Red Tornado is on it), I ... will ... scream.

I want them in the Hall of Justice. The Metropolis mountain and Happy Harbor hole have been done to death. At one time they were secret. They're not any more. The JL needs an attractive public building that evokes the iconic Hall of Justice that kids watched on television for (I think) 14 years.

I want that Hall of Justice in Washington DC. The League needs to come out of hiding and have a nice public HQ in the Nation's Capital.
What do you want?

Could Mr. Terrific Dance?

Could Mr. Terrific dance?
It goes without saying.

The Detroit Phantom

Gypsy is back, judging from this cover to April's Birds of Prey #93.

Phantom Lady is dead, killed by the Society in Infinite Crisis.

A new Phantom Lady is going to be needed (I assume) for there to be a new Freedom Fighters.

Gypsy's abilities are similar to Phantom Lady's (as highlighted in the JLU #17.

Will Gypsy be the new Phantom Lady?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Supercelebrity Fit Club

Warner Brothers and VH1 are excited to announce their joint production of Supercelebrity Fit Club.

"Superheroes are role models for all generations and should be at the forefront of social issues," Dan Didio said at the press conference. "Rampant obesity in our society is one such issue, so who better to inspire us all with their inevitable victory over weight gain?"

Three-Ton Trinity
will square off in a multi-week weight loss competition against
the Second-Helping Second-Stringers.

The supercelebrities will be helped in the quest for fitness by

often flamboyant and irreverent host, the Elongated Man;

trainer and former gym teacher, Guy Gardner;

health expert and physician, Dr. Mid-Nite;

and hypnotherapist, Zatanna Zatarra.

The six-issue comic book adaptation of Supercelebrity Fit Club will be drawn by Alex Ross.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Arrow Awards

Thanks to the Showcase series, I think I'm starting to "get" Green Arrow: Green Arrow is the most brilliant Batman parody ever created.

At least, it reads much more easily if you take that perspective. Everything that was ridiculous in Silver Age Batman? It's there in Green Arrow, only ten times worse. Ridiculous gimmick gangs (I liked the Balloon Bandits best), giant extradimensional aliens, the flaming green arrow signal (sounds safe, huh?), alterethnic knockoffs of our hero, the jealousy scenarios with the sidekick, the time travel -- and the arrows just make it that much worse. Green Arrow makes Batfink look like homage.

For the next week (and one week only!), we'll being running a very important poll to determine The Most Ridiculous Arrow Award (the polling mechanism is in the sidebar). The following are not eligible: arrows used by clowns (like Green Error and Funny Arrow), intentionally ridiculous arrows invented by children, any arrow used by Miss Arrowette (all of which are not only ridiculous but ridiculously sexist).

And the nominees are...!

Our Ink Arrows.

A Fountain-Pen Arrow. So, do you stick those in Our Ink Arrows, or what?

Tumbelweed Arrows! How do those fit into a quiver?

My Paint-Brush Arrow. What color is it?!?!?! Damn those Showcase Editions!

The Antler Arrow. I have to confess, as the son of a hunting guide, the Antler Arrow is my favorite. Dale Totaltoyz is making me several. Can't wait to spook the dog with them.This Chimney-Sweep Arrow. Ollie and Roy have way too much time on their hands.

The Mummy Arrow. Yes, that's what they call it.
The Plastic Cat Arrow (with Meow Arrow).
Smart money's on the Plastic Cat Arrow (with Meow Arrow). Another one I can't wait to try on the dog.