Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What job is for Superman?

DiDio said “What you call dark, we call drama. Some people expect Superman to stop robberies at a corner store. He needs threats of a greater nature.”
This is from the transcript of the "52 Pick-up Panel" at the recent New York City comic convention. On the one hand, I understand what Dan Didio means, and I agree that Superman needs some threats of a greater nature.. On the other hand...

Well, I'm one of those people who expects Superman to stop robberies at a corner store.

Watching Superman grapple with a (supposed) angel or pulls the moon back into orbit makes for an artistically dramatic panel. But it has so little relation to every day experience as to render it nearly meaningless to me as a reader. As others have commented, it's seeing Superman pick up a car or a tank that wows you, because you have a real sense of how much power that takes.

It's all well and good to pretend that you're going to keep Superman at a "reasonable reduced power level". Uh-huh. But every time that's done, fans complain that he's not powerful enough, or writers have to top themselves with increasingly powerful threats, and before you know it Superman's pushing planets again.

That's why I deplore the "arms race" that always leads to Superman fighting bigger and bigger monsters. Sure, a good old donnybrook with Solomon Grundy is always fun. But the only way to continously and engagingly write Superman is to put him in situations that his raw power won't solve.

For all their story-telling faults, Golden and Silver Age writers understood this in a way current writers (other than Greg Rucka) do not seem to. The Prankster; The Toyman; Wilbur Wolfingham; Mr. Mxyzptlk; Lex Luthor: these characters present intellectual challenges that can't simply be punched out of. Such figures have been squeezed out in favor of monsters-of-the-month like Mongul and Doomsday, and super-story-telling has been the poorer for it, I think.

Superman's abilities should help him solve problems but they shouldn't solve problems for him. Sometimes it's a subtle difference, but it's a huge difference nonetheless. We can laugh at the repetitive Silver Age plots of "must conceal secret identity", "must teach so and so a lesson", "must protect such and such without it being obvious", but those writers knew that mere physical challenges weren't the way to go. They forced Superman to use his power intelligently, efficiently, subtly; when you have as much power as Superman, that is a challenge.

Yes, I would like to see Superman stop corner store robberies, because, in many ways, that's a bigger challenge to him than monster-bashing. Imagine today that you have Superman's powers. How do you use them to stop crime and keep people safe? Today. In your city.

Tough, isn't it? If a big monster lands in your town and starts tearing up the street, well, then you know what to do; that's easy to figure (for you and the writers). But absent that, how do you apply your powers to fighting ordinary crime and corruption? WHILE holding down a full-time, fairly high-profile job? WITHOUT revealing who are, which would ruin your life and endanger everyone you care about? That is job for Superman, because anybody can deal with monsters.

Moral challenges are also part of the job, as the return of the Golden Age Superman has highlighted. How much do you use your powers to change things? Do you knock down slums? Slumlords? Intimidate the governor? Grab the leaders of foreign nations and strand them on a mountaintop? How activist should a Superman be? Does he work mostly to reinforce and protect society and "the system" or to reform them?

I'll bet every single reader of this blog could come up with a "Superman saves the corner store" story. I happen to think there are a lot of Superman stories to tell that don't require angelic wrestling matches. Does DC?

Do you?

Reflection on Black History Month

So, many readers are confused and outraged at the omission of some of their favorite black characters: "How could you omit so many of DC's premier and famous black characters?"

My answer:

Actually, I didn't try to
omit anyone; I tried to include characters you might not have otherwise known (e.g., Gravedigger or Tooth). Face it, any DC reader who doesn't know who Amanda "the Wall" Waller, Green Lantern John Stewart, John Henry "Steel" Irons, Michael "Mr. Terrific" Holt, or Jefferson "Black Lightning" Pierce are can't be that interested in Black History Month anyway.

But to me, the fact that I was
able to omit them says more about the state of black characters than I ever could. There was a time when you wouldn't have been able to profile one black character a day -- not even in February. But nowadays, you can do it and still have a passel of popular black characters left over. That's an improvement.

Some black characters are
heroes, some villains; some are brilliantly interesting, and others are shallow, tedious stereotypes; some are big players, others are just rolling heads across the asphalt. But that's okay; that's how comics are.

Time was, all you got was this:Hmph. That show am heaby, indeed.

I don't think we've achieved "perfection" in the quantity and quality of black characters in comics (whatever that would mean). But, hey, it's a lot better than it used to be.

Visit the Museum of Black Superheroes; add a character!

Words Fail Me

Let's hope words don't fail you! Can you compose a suitable haiku in praise of the Dr. Domino heroclix (and his Dominominions) on this Haikuesday?

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Beautiful But Lonely Princess

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful, but lonely princess. The lonely princess, in constant need of external validation, kept in a special, magical jar the severed head of an obsequious friend much less attractive than she. The severed head's job was to make the princess feel better inside herself. Every night. But one night, the severed head said, "Not tonight, Diana; I have a headache." And the princess did not know what to do. So the severed head said, "Ask King Joss to put on a parade for you in his kingdom. A festive parade with hours of marching will lighten your woes."

And so the princess did.King Joss put on a wonderful parade, and the princess's chariot was drawn by beautiful girls marching in chains, and the people cheered for the lonely princess in constant need of external validation, and there was marching, marching, marching. The princess's spirits were raised as high as the legs of the marching girls, and her woes were lightened.

After the parade was over, the princess ordered her servant girl to bring her some refreshing tea. So the servant girl did. Noticing that her boots were dirtied by the day's marching, the princess ordered the servant girl to brush them till they shone as the morning sun. So the servant girl did.

But as she watched the servant girl brushing her marching boots, the beautiful princess grew lonely again. And so she asked the servant girl for something more.

Much more.

"Mais non!" said the servant girl. "Let me be or I shall trumpet your secret desires throughout the Kingdom of Hollywood and other major media outlets!"

But the princess was not afraid, for she was as wise as she was beautiful, and as brave as she was lonely. "I am sorry," said the princess. "Let me make you a cup of tea, so we will be as sisters and all will be forgiven."

And so the princess did.

After the princess gave many sacks of gold to the king's court physician, he declared it a suicide. And so, the princess lived happily ever after, because the servant girl did not live at all.

The End.

BHM 27: The Black Newsboy Legion

Well, I don't know what else to call them. I'm talking about...

Ron Troupe, Black Reporter! Don't pretend you don't know who he is; he's Superman's brother-in-law. Poor Ron. If only his storyline had happened in the 1960s! He still would have married Lucy Lane after getting her pregnant, which would have gotten LOTS of press for comic books. But then, Jimmy Olsen, crestfallen, would have left both the Planet and the planet, emigrating to the World of 1000 Olsens, which is good, since no one likes Jimmy Olsen. Then, Ron would have gotten his own title:
"Ron Troupe, Superman's Brother-In-Law"
with its own groovy logo-font. And Superman would have a nephew, Jimmy Troupe (because in Superman's world it's considered appropriate for a woman to name her baby after the man she didn't marry instead of the man she did). Or a sassy niece, Trayna Troupe, with afropuff hair, purple bell-bottoms, and a Lois-like snoopiness that gets her in trouble a lot.

Such a world of missed opportunity...! But being a post-Crisis supporting character, he was instead destined to be completely reimagined (as some sort of impoverished social worker) then abandoned when the writers who created him were replaced.

Melba Manton (thanks, Bob Kanigher; that's funny!). She was a newcaster at WGBS starting in 1973. In Lois Lane #132, Melba was introduced in a story called "Introducing Melba". I've told you, Kanigher didn't do subtle. I'd be willing to bet good money that at some point in her career, she got taken hostage and a villain turned to Superman and said, "One false move and she's toast!"

Melba actually got storylines, like the time she was imprisoned in a concentration camp in the South African nation of Oranga. But she hasn't been seen since 1978 (Action #479); she needs to be brought back as the Oprah of the DCU.

Dave Stevens was the Daily Planet's "first black columnist", according to Perry White, and Perry erreth not. I wonder what he wrote about? Probably about being the Planet's first black columnist. Does his name sound at all familiar? It should; he's the one who called Lois "whitey". I guess after getting a blood tranfusion from Lois, reporting was then in his blood, because it was announced in a later story than he'd join the Planet Staff (Lois Lane #114).

Well, of course, he did. Everyone in Metropolis works for the Planet, except for guys in bright suits with matching hats and a pocketful of kryptonite. He continue to pop up in the background in the 1970s, but hasn't been seen since 1979 (Superman #338).

The Black Kid Perry and Alice Adopted Who Was Promptly Forgotten. Yes, at one point in the 1990s (80s?), the Whites adopted a young black boy, who I think was the orphan of some Planet worker who died of some horrible Superman-related causes ("Mr. Drummond's Housekeeper Eaten by Hellgrammite: film at eleven!"). So cancer-ridden Perry and news-widow Alice, whose mutual hatred is so deep they can barely get through breakfast without spitting grapefruit at each other, decide that a good way to save their marriage is by having children, and, since the very thought of touching each other nauseates them, that means having other people's children.

What the heck was that kid's name? Webster? Willis? Ah, yes; Keith; Keith Roberts.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

BHM 26: Nubia / Nu'bia

I don't care what Devon says; I like Nubia.

Okay, her origin is so nonsensical that, even though I own a copy of it, I still can't explain it to you. She lived on an island near Paraside; with a bunch of black warrior guys but no evidence of other women around (DC was big on segregated island neighborhoods; just ask Tyroc the Screaming Black Man); and Hippolyta made her out of clay. Something something.

It didn't matter. She was the "black Wonder Woman" and that's all that mattered; how she actually got there is not the kind of thing Bob Kanigher would care about.
Yes, maybe "Nubia" wasn't the most subtle name they could've come up with, but, for pity's sake, Bob Kanigher (creator of Dr. Domino) didn't do subtle. I'm just grateful she wasn't named "Black Diana".

Besides, when they brought her back in the 1980s, they made everything okay by putting an unpronouncable apostrophe in the middle of her moniker, so she's now "Nu'bia". Which, umh, fixes everything. Apparently.
You know, apostrophes seem to be quite hobbling; I can't think of a single thing Nu'bia's done since she got hers. Still...

She had a Mego action figure (the only DC black character who did, I think), which means she automatically rocks. Fierce hair, too. If you gene-splice Dian Carrol and Joan of Arc, you get the Nubia Mego.

She first appears in a backup story to the Dr. Domino issue; she went on and Dr. Domino did not. Anybody powerful enough to survive being in the shadow of Dr. Domino gets my utmost respect.

She's Wonder Woman's sister (or at least she was). And not in a wussy "I'm kind of a washed out clone of you, or an ideal playmate, or a younger version of you, a sluttier version of you with bigger hair" sort of way. She's more of a "I'm going to kick your butt and take your place on the cheerleading squad and Mama will thank me for it" kind of sister. We like that.

As a Heroclix figure, she kicks some serious Nazi/Commie butt. Blades, Flurry, Charge, Incapacitate, Supersenses, Battle Fury, Combat Reflexes, Toughness, and range; she's a killing machine (*sigh*).

She's got potential. If you use her original origin, she's got Wonder Woman's powers, but was raised by her enemy, Ares. Every hero should have an "anti-version" of themselves, and WW doesn't, really. Let Nu'bia be Nubia again, I say. She's forgotten and redundant as an ally; make her an enemy and she'd be an overnight success.

Devon is right; she's been used so little no one would miss her if she disappeared. The Egyptian Amazons in Exile should have been led by Nubia (whose name would come from the Nubia area of Egypt; that would have made the name work, I think). But instead, someone wanted to get cute and create "Artemis" to parallel "Diana", so now we have a "dark Wonder Woman" no one likes, and a black not-Wonder Woman no one uses. Sigh.

I bet when they chose a white woman with red hair to lead the Egyptian dark-skinned Amazons, it was because they were AFRAID to have it be Nubia. So because they were afraid of charges of racism by having "black Wonder Woman = evil Wonder Woman", Nubia gets no role at all and a white woman is in charge of the African Amazons. SIGH!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Character Donations 119-140

Everyone from Bloodlines.

Except Hitman.

119- Action Comics Annual #5 Loose Cannon, "super-strong ex-cop"
120- Adventures of Superman Annual #5 Sparx, "lightning-wielding hero"
121- Batman Annual #17 Ballistic, "armed and dangerous vigilante"
122- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #3 Cardinal Sin, "disillusioned priest"
123- Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #1 Joe Public, "strength-siphoning patriot"
124- Deathstroke Annual #2 Gunfire, "high-tech renegade"
125- Detective Comics Annual #6 Geist, "ghostly night-hero"
126- Eclipso Annual #1 Prism, "light-manipulating scientist"
127- Flash Annual #6 Argus, "shadow-melding undercover agent"
128- Green Arrow Annual #6 Hook, "hook-handed former soldier"
129- Green Lantern Annual #2 Nightblade, "regenerating martial artist"
130- Hawkman Annual #1 Mongrel, "darkforce-blasting rebel"
131- Justice League America Annual #7 Terrorsmith, "monster-making villain(?)"
132- Justice League International Annual #4 Lionheart, "armored high-tech knight"
133- L.E.G.I.O.N. Annual #4 Pax, "last of his race, space-shaman"
134- Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #4 Jamm, "prodigious surfer-dude"
135- Lobo Annual #1 Layla, "tough-as-nails space explorer"
136- New Titans Annual #9 Anima, "Animus-summoning grunge rocker"
137- Robin Annual #2 Razorsharp, "sword-armed hacker"
138- Superman Annual #5 Myriad, "personality-absorbing assassin"
139- Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #2 Edge, "blade-hurling community hero"
140- Team Titans Annual #1 Chimera, "illusion-creating hero"

I have no doubt these characters would be more welcome and useful in the Marvel Universe than they were/are in the DCU, and I'm nearly certain anyone who read any of Bloodlines (those of us who lived, anyway) would agree.


Everyone's raving about the reconciliation between Batman and Green Lantern, oops, excuse me, I mean Bruce and Hal, in this week's issue of Green Lantern.

"Squash that!" as Vibe would say. The real fun is that Hal, sitting in probably the most stable and well-protected vehicle on the planet, the Batmobile,

manages to hit his head.

All is right with the world again, not because Hal and Bruce are at peace with each other, but because Geoff Johns has finally gotten to what makes Hal great:

The head-hitting thing.

BHM 25: XS

Jenni Ognats was a great character. She's the granddaughter of the Flash (Barry Allen), the Whitest Man Alive, but her dad was black so she's eligible for a BHM profile.

After Barry and Iris retired to the 30th century, they had two children
("the Tornado Twins"), Dawn and Don. Don married Meloni Thawne and fathered Bart Allen (Impulse), who was sent back to the 20th century for his protection from a hostile government. Dawn married Jeven Ognats, and produced Jenni, whose speed powers manifested after she was experimented on by the Dominators, and who joined the pre-Waid Legion as "XS". Yes, it is a stupid name, but we love Jenni anyway.

Love those exposed thighs, Jenni! If you think Jenni's costume looks like Bart's, you're right; except it's Bart's costume that resembles hers. Because Bart is from the 30th century, his costume is designed with the same vertical "sandwich stripe" that all the Post-Zero Hour Legion costumes had (which were, in turn, modeled on the Science Police's uniforms).

Jenni had Bart's joie de vivre, but where Bart was overconfident, Jenni was underconfident, and her development in the Legion was about overcoming that. She and her cousin Bart met when she was trapped in the 20th century for a while (Impulse #9-#11), and the story of their friendship and eventual parting was one of the funniest, sweetest, saddest comic book stories I have ever read. Everyone I know who remembers the story, remembers crying at its end ... including me.

Just like Bart, I didn't like Jenni at first and found her annoying, then I got to know her, identify with her, love her, then lose her to the 30th century (and a version of it that no longer exists). Come back, Jenni Ognats, come back.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Everything But the Little Black Dog

And now, the moment no one but me has been waiting for:

The Sword of Absorbascon--
the custom Heroclix figure

(courtesy of Totaltoyz, original costume design by Blockade Boy).

BHM 24: Vixen

I'm sure there are versions of Vixen I could stand, but I swear I haven't seen them yet.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've already encountered Vixen as a member of the much-maligned Justice League Detroit. That's pretty much the only place I've seen her (except on the JLU cartoon, where she was annoyingly insecure), and almost everyone in the Detroit League was portrayed unpalatably.

Vixen, the brainchild of nobody's favorite writer, Gerry Conway, was supposed to be introduced in her own series in August of 1978, the first DC black superheroine; very big deal, lots of house ads. Unfortunately for her, her intended series was a victim of the DC Implosion in June of that year. If you really want to read it, get a copy of Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, it's in there. Conway later snuck Vixen into an issue of Superman (#251), before his big break came and he got to put her in the New Justice League (Detroit).

Does that make me a bad guy or did Vixen overshoot? Who can say?

Vixen (Mari McCabe) was the child of a minister who was the president of the Central African fictionation of M'Changa (where, improbably, they speak Swahili, an East African language). He was killed in a military revolution led by his brother, Vixen's arch-enemy...

Just kidding; sometimes I vary my DC humor with a little D.C. humor. That's her uncle, Gen. Mustapha Maksai. She escaped the revolutionaries along with the Tantum Totem, a magical tribal doohickie that can grant "animal powers" to members of her family, and did what any sensible person would to hide herself from her Uncle's assassins:
she became a world famous supermodel and superheroine with the world's most identifiably hideous hairstyle. "They'll never find me here on the cover of this month's Vogue!"

She's a Democratic Warrior Princess! She's a Glamorous World Famous Supermodel! She's a Sex-Crazed Animal Woman! She's a Batmanesque Butt-Kicking Superhero! She's a Hopeless Mishmash of Fanboy Fantasy!

I'll spare you any more panels of her repeatedly hitting on J'onn J'onnz (ew!) and making out with janitor Dale Gunn in the Utility Room (eww!!). But at right she's using her animalistic sexual mojo (with accompanying suggestive line-motif) on a Man of the Cloth. She met him on the previous page, when her reckless vigilanteism sent a convertible flying into a crowd of his parishioners. Gee, a minister, just like her daddy. How ... creepy.

Fanboy Fantasy Mishmash with Daddy Issues? Who does that remind me of? Oh, yes.....

DC's first black superheroine should have been something fabulous, iconic, elegant; Marvel's was. Instead, she was just was one half of the Salt & Pepper shakers to Dale Gunn's sexual appetite. Such a pity...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

BHM 23: Gravedigger

Because certain people demanded it...! Today's BHM is a polio victim who's a ditchdigger and fought Nazis. Yes, really.

The 1970s weren't really a high point for DC's superhero comics, but the decade did see a blossoming of other genres: such as Westerns, romance, horror, and war.

Everyone's heard of Sgt. Rock, but fewer remember the 26 issues of Men of War, whose star was Ulysses Hazard (now, THAT is a comic book name!), codenamed "Gravedigger".

Though stricken by polio as a child, U fought it to become a determined and able-bodied adult. Having joined the Army to fight the Nazis, predjudice confined him to menial tasks like gravedigging, until he slipped past presidential security to take up the matter with FDR himself. FDR, understandably impressed, made him a Captain, gave him "Gravedigger" as a codename, and sent him out as a one-man special ops force. Ulysses Hazard was the bomb, folks.

Do you remember the Vertigo series Angeltown? That was supposed to star Ulysses Hazard, but he was creator-owned and so couldn't be used. Creator's right are nice for creators, but they consign a lot of their creations to become mere historical footnotes rather than living legends.

Oh, and Gravedigger was created by David Michelinie. Recognize the name? Same guy who wrote the story that revealed how Black Manta got his name.

Batman Family Feud!

It's bad enough that Hal is Batman's bee-yotch. But the Boy Wonder can kick Hal's butt while snottily explaining it to him, in case Hal's too stupid to get it. "I'd really rather not dirty my gloves, Lantern," Robin snorts, "so I'll just kick your head in, instead!" Holy insult to injury!

Oh, the Batfamily/Lantern team feud is older and deeper than it looks, folks. Yep, the original Green Lantern had Gotham as his turf, then abandoned it, letting the city spiral into social decay so bad that little rich boys had to watch their parents get shot in filthy alleys. If you were a little boy who'd lost his parents to crime, mightn't you blame the hero who'd given up on keeping your city safe?

Deep stuff there, for a writer willing to explore it....

Pic courtesy of Devon of Seven Hells

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Best Post Ever.

Someone finally gets Wonder Woman.

The seldom-seen Mike Grell JLA costumes.

The fictionopolis I DEMAND that DC bring back.

Please become familiar with this character during Black History Month.

An interview I did before I was blogging.

A photo contest that my dogs won last summer that I didn't know about until just now.

BHM 22: Amazing Man

Or, as I always like to think of him, "Amazingly Brittle Man". I'm sorry! That joke just kills me every time; of course, it had the same effect on Amazing Man...

Don't be deceived; there was no Amazing Man in comic books during World War II. The "original Amazing Man" is a 1983 retcon creation of Roy Thomas, The Man With The Tachyonic Brain. Will Everett was basically Jesse Owens getting superpowers (which is more interesting than Bruce Jenner getting superpowers, but still less interesting than Mark Spitz getting superpowers).

I'm pretty sure he was mostly created as a backstory for Amazing Man II, his grandson Will Everett II. Neither of them got a lot of airtime, as they never caught the public's imagination. They each had the power to mimic the properties of whatever substance they had most recently touched, which not only sounds more like a horrible disease than a superpower, it's so abstract as to seem suspiciously like a ... MARVEL power. Isn't there a Marvel villain who does that? Mimic? Mimeo? Zeerox?

I don't remember how Amazing Man I died, but everyone remembers how Amazing Man II died. The Mist's daughter tricked him into becoming glass, then shattered him while making the "Amazingly Brittle Man" joke.


A Dark and Stormy Preview

The previews for the new Aquaman, Catwoman, and Hawkgirl are up.

NOW am I permitted to say how much I can't stand Sword of Atlantis after I've seen the first six pages and a story that starts with

"There was a storm. There was a mighty storm in the world above ... thus his legend began." ?

Well, well, well; it was a dark and stormy night. Does Snoopy get any co-credits on this title? What's the phrase I'm looking for to describe this; it's on the tip on my tongue...
That's it; PRETENTIOUS, FILLED WITH CRAPOLA. Thank you, incomprehensible sea-citizen, for the assist.

When Veitch started on Aquaman (with his pretentious crapola), I decided to be generous. At least he's out of Atlantis, I said. Let's give it a chance, I said. My friend Glen, more wise and worldly in the ways of Aquaman, replied, "There are mollusks laughing cruelly. I think that tells us all we need to know about where this series is headed." Needless to say, Glen was right and I was wrong.

No offense intended (really; most people who work on comics are wonderful people who care about the artform, even if I don't happen to like what they write) to anyone connected to this title, but I give it twelve issues, tops, before DC overhauls it to make it jibe better with the forthcoming Aquaman teevee show and to hook Aquaman back in with the rest of supeheroes where he belongs. Didn't we just go through all this....?

At least he's got two hands. At least he's named Arthur Curry....

Monkey Chatter

Currently being discussed at Big Monkey:

Halle Berry's Revenge: Do Women Dislike Catwoman and Storm?

Devon Reveals Some Unrevealed New DC Series (including yours, Gail)!

Sherin Exposes the Latest from Top Cow

Devon Reviews a new Marvel comic: Storm #1!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Monday night, I got my butt whipped at Heroclix by certain people whose name escapes me.

Now, I suppose I was asking for it. Taking advantage of the fact that Vixen, the Elongated Man, and Sue Dibny (a pog) were in the new DC set that just came out, I fielded a Justice League Detroit team, adding in the Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, Aquaman, and my customized Vibe. I said that Steel was off getting a lube job, that Gypsy was there, but being unseen and irrelevant (which were her powers), and that a Veteran Thug was Dale Gunn (Zatanna carried him around). I may not win a lot at Heroclix but I sure do have fun playing. Besides, Dale Gunn kayoed Blackfire; I think she refused to bring him cookies or something.

Anyway, the only way certain people could win was by having a Confederate soldier (Jonah Hex) and Mr. "Uncle Tom" Terrific shoot down a defenseless black woman (Vixen) as she tried to stroll innocently past them to go feed the woodland creatures. "Have you no shame, sir?" I said. "You are a traitor to your race." Certain people replied, "The only races I'm part of are ones where I finish first." Curse you, Sanders!

But that's okay. Why? Because at my house, it's not about who wins per se, but who has The Most Fabulous Moment of the Game (something that should included in formal competitions, I say). And that was me....

Vibe was surrounded. Hemmed in by Power Girl, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Kyle Rayner, he was about to get clobbered, and his attempts to distract them with a sexy little dance were having no effect (well, Kyle started to blush, but it only stiffened his resolve). Paco prepared to use his "Pulse Wave", which, if he rolled a high enough number, would ignore all their defensive powers and do two clicks of damage to each of them. But even with J'onn J'onnz using one of his mental powers ("Perplex") from a distance to help increase Vibe's chances, it looked very grim.

Until "Paco" rolled a 12 (which counts as an automatic hit and adds an extra click of damage dealt!), knocking them all away from him 3 squares (some of them into walls, causing them even MORE damage).


Chu don' mess wit' the Vibe, meng.

BHM 21: Dr. Mist

The African mystic Dr. Mist was the leader of the Global Guardians (see our profile on Impala). He was originally Nommo (later, "Maltis"), a sorceror from the ancient empire of Kor. He was basically a black Ibis, without the stick. In 1988, some lunatic writer decided to "reveal" that Dr. Mist had been carrying out a plan to breed a race of magic-wielding "Homo Magi" (*sigh*) to eventually produce his perfect bride-to-be. The result?



Oh, oh, my god, I think--I think I've ruptured something! Call Dr. Scott!! I-- I can't catch my breath! Blacking out-- going out like mi amor, Vibe... Paco, I'm coming to join you!

Anyway, Nommo actually adopted his Dr. Mist identity as means for *snort* traveling in Zatanna's circles. Dude-- "traveling in Zatanna's circles'' is pretty darned easy, as far as I can tell.

Don't worry, you didn't miss the wedding; Dr. M's little plan didn't go quite as he hoped; Nommo failed to get with Zatanna. Dude! How do you fail to get with Zatanna? Dale Gunn got with Zatanna. John Constantine got with Zatanna. The frickin' Yazz probably got with Zatanna. You're a loser, Dr. Mist .

He died in some battle, but that was only his physical form, you know. Magical crap. Came back again, renamed himself "Maltis", and founded Primal Force, which is probably the only punishment God could come up with worse than Hell (check out that link and look for some suprising gueststars). Primal Force killed him again, of course; it had the same effect on several readers.

Oh, and my theory on why Zee wouldn't get with Nommo? Well, let's just say there's a reason he went on to invent this.

Zatanna versus the Ice Cream Toughs

Meanwhile, on the mean streets of Greenwich Village, our heroine Zatanna, dressed in her Headmistress of Hotath costume, contemplates her next torrid pillow-note to Dale Gunn, completely unaware that she is being menaced by two of that rough neighborhood's sinister (yet impressively poetic) Ice Cream Toughs, Mr. Vanilla and Mr. Strawberry..."Will you look at that?
Beautiful and all alone."
"I got dibs on 'er!"

Only in the Village do "toughs" lick ice cream cones while leering in perfect haiku. Please, boys, what are you going to do? Her hair?
Don't you know Zatanna prefers chocolate?

Dear readers, can you make an appropriate reply in Haiku?

Monday, February 20, 2006

BHM 20: Black Mass

No, no. Not Black MASK; he's not black. Black MASS.

Geoffrey Thibodeaux (Black Mass) is actually on a poster in my den (the one quartered to make the covers of the first four issues of the Justice League Detroit). He's one of the people fighting the JLD as part of the Cadre, one of the worst supervillains teams of all time.

Suffice it to say, he was a small-framed physicist who was given some wrist bands (by a ridiculous cosmic villain, the Overmaster) that gave him a huge bulk and some black hole-ly kind of power (kind of like Chunk).

Anyway, Geoffrey got his butt kicked by the Justice League Detroit (which is not something you put on your resume), lost his wrist bands later in a poker game, and had his greatest career moment after he was dead. Yes, below is the corpse of Black Mass during the "Joker's Last Laugh" crossover. Black Mass, you'll probably not remember, is the reason that the Slabside Penitentiary is in Artarctica; his reanimated corpse was used to transport it there. It's better if you don't think about it.

Though dead, he got better, but is still brain-damaged, which may explain why he was willing to guest-star with his former cellmate, Dr. Polaris, as opponents of the Power Company (yet another great resume bullet). Astonishingly, Black Mass has appeared twice on Justice League Unlimited. He must have one HECK of an agent.

My Hero: Josh Bernstein

This is now my favorite comic book. If you read nothing else this month, read "Digging for the Truth."

The minicomic Digging for the Truth is a History Channel giveaway for Free Comic Book Day, a fictionalization of their hit show starring *swoon!* Josh Bernstein.

Eleven reasons I adore this comic book and its star...

1. Josh is a unshaven, handsome, Jewish archeologist and survivalist. There is no way Eharmony.com could do better than that, I swear it.

It's like Todd Rice stepped out of the pages of Manhunter , put on an outback hat, and asked me to go exploring with him. What's that, Todd? You want me to call you "Josh" now? Yes, Josh, I will call you Josh now. Oh, certainly; I would love to search for Shangri-La with you.

2. Why, a trip to Sodom and Gomorrah is all in day's work for Josh. That's my kind of guy. Tell ya what, Josh; let's just skip Gomorrah altogether, okay? Let's use the extra time to play "Queen of Sheba in the Bandit Zone."

3. Despite being the CEO of a Colorado Survival School, Josh is a hapless klutz who can barely make it through a public library without killing himself. How disarming! It's okay, Josh, I'm falling for you, too....
4. When a Manhattan cabbie tries to kill him, he's shocked. Isn't that adorably naive? Better scamper back to the viper-filled jungles, sweetie; you'll be safe from taxis there.
5. Josh can whip out those witty comebacks and irreverent repartee, just like a Golden Age hero! As I discussed in a recent spirited apologia for Vibe, there's just not enough light-hearted confident heroes nowadays. That's why Josh is my new hero; well, part of the reason, anyway. I mean, you've got to love a guy who can exchange badinage with inscrutable Buddhist monks; it's so very ... worldly. I'd love to sit and watch the koans zinging across the room.

Look at the monk's face; he's cracking up inside. Only years of practiced stoicism is stalling the BWA-HA-HA perched on his pursed lips.

"Air miles"-- Oh, Josh, you put the Wilde in wilderness!

6. In all seriousness, as a classicist, I'm delighted that the History Channel is helping to popularize archeology and related pursuits (even if what Josh does isn't quite a typical scholar's day!). As a "chistologist", I'm doubly delighted that they have the boldness to use comic books to do so.

7. Pure Starman-quality villainy. What?! Surely I must be exaggerating, you say!Surely I'm not. I love how this unnamed oriental villain with the dragonstick thingie flushes Number 2 before moving right along to Number 3. No wimpy westernized denominated henchmen for this guy! Forget about Josh; the comic is aces for this "Meanwhile" scene alone.

8. Josh is such a push-over, you can have him for the cost of an airport flower. And your friends can join you, because Josh comes "dirt cheap".

That's really hot.

9. Josh kicks filthy Commie @$$!!!
Which is, of course, really hot. "Thought you were gonna split the Berstein Family Jewels, didn't ya, comrade? Think again, Mousey Tongue! I'm Josh Bernstein and I right-cross the 'chin' right out of 'Chinese Communism' !"

10. Josh's sang-froid is such that he jokes with himself while painfully falling off a cliff. Not even Batman does that.

Dang, with his dry inner commentary, Josh really puts the 'arch' in archeology, don't he?

I love sang-froid; it makes me all hot-blooded! Which is rather ironic, when you think about it.

11. Josh can read ancient Chinese while hanging on one-handed for dear life from the edge of cliff.

I mean, c'mon, people; what more could you ask?

The end of the issue says "To Be Continued". I pray to Rama Kushna that's true, because I swear I would buy every issue of "Digging for Truth".

Including the variant covers.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

BHM 19: Fatality

Fatality? She has issues, most of them with the Green Lantern Corps, many of whom she's had stuck on the business end of her Fleur-de-lis of Doom. Yet she wears GL earrings; I guess the need to accessorize trumps all other emotions.

She's from another planet (Xanshi, was it? The names of alien planets should always have an X, Y, or Z in them, don't you think?), but she looks like a black person, so we're going to count her.

She's your basic Alien Warrior Princess. Isn't it funny how many "warrior cultures" bent on mutual destruction survive untamed long enough to develop transstellar technology, when on Earth they pretty much fade out as soon as rudimentary manufacture takes hold? The gods must really like Alien Warrior Cultures.

Her real is name is Yrra Cynril; lots of Ys, very alien. She has a love-hate relationship with John Stewart (the GL who failed to save her planet); mostly hate. Doesn't that make her the only black supervillain in the DCU who's the archenemy of a DC black superhero? Isn't that odd?

According to her Wikipedia entry, she viewed Kyle Rayner as her ultimate prize. Huh, who doesn't, girlfriend? She met him out dancing at a NYC discoteque (called "Disco Tech" because that's how comic book writers are). No, really. I guess that's the first place everyone looks for Kyle. Don't you just hate it when the hot chick you're dancing with turns out to be an Alien Warrior Princess hellbent on your destruction? Always puts a damper on the evening.

Fatality's got artificial arms because her real ones got blown up in her fanatical pursuit of pointless vengeance. Why doesn't she just put zappy powers into the arms instead of carrying around the big pigsticker? Because Alien Warrior Cultures with high-tech energy blasters still like to carry knifes and spears, I guess; who can say?

In the final analysis, it's good she's actually an alien, because she's a terrible role model for young black women.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Big Monkey Manual (part 1?)

As some of you may know, I own (with others) some comic book stores. The employees deserve a store manual, but I thought, being a comic book store, that some illustrations would be in order.

Obviously, it's going to need more than I've got here, but this is what I have so far, and I really want your opinion!

Please keep the restroom fresh.
Cleaning the store can be fun!
The manager can help you with the safe, if necessary.

The manager shouldn't have to prompt you to attend to visitors!
Chat with customers to learn what they're interested in.
Don't take it personally if your manager offers constructive criticism.
Make sure the store is always prepared to receive visitors.
Always remember, there are other stores the customer could have chosen!