Friday, September 29, 2006

Things That Made Me Happy...

in this week's comics.

  • Zatara's crush on Eddie; how cute!
  • Little Barda's bubble gum.
  • Miss Martian. I love everything about her. She's "Sailor Mars"!
  • Black Condor kicks @#$@$ !!!.
  • "Chief Justice", "Spin Doctor", "Propaganda", and "Embargo"? If they were Marvel, those names would be tragic; but they're DC, so they are hilarious. Great to see that the craziness of Battle for Bludhaven is thriving at Freedom Fighters, The Best Title You Aren't Reading.
  • A new Blockbuster; yay!
  • I love seeing the Spook again, even if only briefly.
  • Prof. Ivo versus the JLA; it's nice to know that mad scientists never go out of style and can still kick the JLA's butt.
  • Special thanks to Gail Simone, the Villain's Best Friend (tm), for realizing just how scary the Mad Hatter is, and letting him defeat the Doom Patrol single-hattedly.
  • Ditto for Matt Wagner, who in "Mad Monk" demonstrates in a single panel that he understand Two-Face better than the last 20 writers who used him.
  • Ralph's innovative use of gingold extract.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On Batman #657

Three famous trophies are displayed prominently in the Batcave in Batman 657: The Giant Penny, the Robot Dinosaur, and the Giant Joker Card.

The Giant Penny, as we have repeatedly discussed, is a remnant of the "Case of the Penny Plunderer" (World's Finest 30, Aug/Sept 1947) starring Joe Coyne. Note that the year of penny is "correct", that is, the same as the year the story was published. I love Joe Coyne.

The Giant Penny is the centerpiece of a memorable Batman/Aquaman "team-up" in Gotham Knights 18 (Aug 2001). Batman is bored and lonely, so he calls Aquaman to come help him get the giant penny unstuck from where it fell during the NML earthquake. It's your typical overly personal Devin Greyson story, but it's a wonderful portrayal of what a nice and understanding guy Aquaman is when people aren't trying to turn him into Namor.

The Robot Dinosaur is a trophy from the story "Dinosaur Island" (Batman 35, Jun/Jul 1946; reprinted in Batman 256); a millionaire entrepeneur ("Murray Wilson Hart") built a "Jurassic Park" style island (except the dinosaurs were all robots), which a criminal tried to use to kill Batman & Robin. He failed.

Unlike its two constant companions, the Giant Joker Card does not come as a trophy from an actual story. It was included in some early drawings of Batman's Hall of Trophies as a "generic" trophy that readers would automatically understand came from a clash with the Joker.

Originally, the three trophies were not housed in the functional part of the Batcave. The Batcave had a special locked room called the Hall of Trophies, where Batman & Robin kept souvenirs of their cases, usually in glass displays (introduced in Batman 12, Jul/Aug 1942).

Even as a child, I knew that sunny window in the Hall of Trophies made no sense. Fabulous lighting effect, though.

The Card, the Dino, and the Penny were large, and therefore were often the main objects visible in any drawing of the Hall of Trophies. I'm not certain when, but at some point it seemed there was no longer of separate Hall of Trophies per se, but rather, trophies were now displayed throughout the Batcave. As I recall, during that period when Bruce shut down Wayne Manor and was living atop the Wayne Enterprises Building, his mini-Batcave under the building still had the Card, the Dino, and the Penny, despite the unlikelihood of Batman carting his three largest trophies into the city. Alfred; call Niecy Nash.

In Batman 657, Robin defends himself against the Bat-Brat by using another trophy, the bulletproof vest of Peter Rafferty, one of the three "Brothers in Crime", whose tragic tale was told in the same story that introduced the Hall of Trophies ( Batman 12, Jul/Aug 1942).

Note that Trophy 41 was acquired in June 1939; Trophy 1001 (as we are about to learn) was added in April 1950. That's 960 trophies acquired over 10 years & 10 months, which means Batman & Robin solve a case once every four days. That's better than even Adrian Monk.

Back to the fight scene in Batman 657! As for the giant dice you see in the background, we see those for the first time in the Batcave in that great "Hall of Trophies" story, "The 1001 Trophies of Batman" (Tec 158, Apr 1950). Batman & Robin accidently smuggled a criminal into the Batcave in the trunk of the Batmobile (those were simpler times indeed). This fellow --named, I kid you not, "Dr. Doom"-- hid in their 1000th trophy, a sacrophagus. When he emerged, however, he found himself locked in the Hall of Trophies, so he rigged the trophies to kill Batman & Robin when they returned. He failed.

The giant dice were supposed to have rolled out and crushed Robin, but killing the Sensational Character Find of 1940 is harder than it looks (isn't that right, Dan?). In fact, one of the trophies killed Doom -- ironically, the very sarcophagus he was smuggled in. I love comic book irony.

I can't quite tell from the art in 657, but I think the trophy that Robin is lying next to on the last page is the very sarcophagus that killed Dr. Doom; if so, it's a nice touch. On his other side is, of course, the "Bat-Man" costume that Bruce's father once wore to a costume party (which clearly made an impression on young Bruce).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

To Chuck Dixon, With Love

Because they consider me an expert in such matters, the Association for Salacious Panel Reinterpretation appealed to me to arbitrate an internal dispute over which is the gayer Aquaman panel...

J'onn dragging Arthur out clothes-shopping together?


J'onn tying Arthur's tie during a heart-to-heart talk?

Thank goodness they called me! I was able to settle the matter easily by pointing out to both sides that the answer was clearly ...

Aquaman ordering a foot-long
Panel courtesy of Tom of Finland

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


If you live in the Washington area (as I do), consider attending the International Comic Arts Festival at the Library of Congress.

It has an interesting and varied program over several days in mid-October, which I and the Big Monkey staff will be attending. See you there!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Justice League Clue Number 7

As time goes by, we've been helping our friend Brad Meltzer identify the important notes to hit in any run on Justice League, the unmistakeable clues one is in a JLA story. The clues we've established so far...?

To those we now add the eye-popping

Yes, when you're a regular person like you or me, your body parts all pretty much go wherever you do. But, Justice Leaguers, hey, there's less to them than just the sum of their parts.

JLAers body parts pretty much have lives all their own.

Who'd have thought a common (if well-dressed) thug could so easily disarm Batman?

Sometimes they just take off for parts unknown for days at a time.
Aquaman's water balls still haven't returned.

Sometimes a few are left behind to mind the fort. Or, you know, play charades.

"Good-bye, Barry waved, "remember me!" It's ... it's almost as if he

But it's just one of those JLA things; the Leaguers all get used to it.

Ollie, a windy day is an adverse condition;
I think armlessness merits a higher rating, like "horrible permanent maiming".

Being JLAers they not only rose to such occasions but even used them to their advantage.

And the winner for "Best Pick-Up Line Used On A Colleague" is...
Barry Allen.

While the Leaguers were busy doing their jobs, their errant limbs would sometimes get together socially.
Try not to picture it naked.

They get a bit wild on occasion, and after partying, they have trouble finding their way back home.

"Wait a minute" Hal said. "Who's... who's got my crotch? And my butt?
And where ARE Wonder Woman and Batman?!?!?"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Absorbascon Reads Spider-Man

As a comic book store owner and comic book blogger, it's important that I'm on the cutting edge of the latest developments in comic publishing. That's why I'm hep, I'm with it, I'm "now".

What really helps me is reading Now Magazine, from that renowned Manhattan hipster, J. Jonah Jameson

Anyway, so I thought I'd make you all wise to this new "Spider-Man" character; if you haven't heard of him yet, you will! I know about these things, because I read Wizard.

Here's the Spider-Man now in his civilian identity as "Peter Parker", updating his journal of substance abuse problems. Note that spider-peripheral-vision allows Peter to write at a 90 degree angle to his eyes; Superman can't do that!

"So, by combining 3 parts cough syrup to 1 part Vicks vaporub,
I achieved a high of 7.8 on the Leary Scale for approximately 5 hours..."

According to that panel, newspaper photographers are paid a fortune for their photos; I had no idea. Cool; Jimmy Olsen and John Schenkel, dinner's on you! Why, if Peter takes "pics" of his fights with villians, he'll be rich practically overnight and never have anything to worry about! Maybe even get to marry a supermodel.

Oh, and this is the "Vulture" fellow they're talking about:

The Vulture; when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.

Meanwhile, Peter decides to use his amazing spider-powers for personal gain.

"With concentration, my amazing spider-levitation can suspend this magazine in mid-air!
I hope the school hunk is impressed!"
Note that, like other hipsters, Peter reads Now Magazine.

I only read Now Magazine for the articles, but Peter loves the centerfolds, much to the chagrin of young Mr. Weatherby.

"Nancy Sinatra's almost as hot as her dad!"

Peter, by the way, lives with an aged aunt who stooped for decades in the strawberry fields of Staten Island just so her husband could afford a "miniature" camera; then he died.

"I'm deaf, you know," Aunt May says;
"You'd think there'd be nothing else wrong with me."

But the Vulture announces his own plans.

"We can't let the city think that one criminal can make us change our plans!"
says young southpaw pitcher, Officer G. W. Bush.

The Vulture decides to get rid of Spider-Man, whom he mistakes for someone else.

"Simpson, eh? I see he works in Sector 7-G..."

After knocking him out with three martinis, the Vulture carefully carries Spider-Man so as not to drop him from a great height; that would be "almost too easy."

Nothing spells "Spring in Soho" like the sight of an old vulture
carrying off an unconscious teenager.

Instead he puts Spider-Man in an unguarded, unlocked water tower which Spider-Man cleverly escapes by.... opening the lid!

"Great webs! Thank Arachne for my amazing power of spider-lid-opening!"

Barely escaping his defeat at the claws of the Vulture, Peter suffers a crisis of conscience, worried that it was due to his addiction to amyl nitrate.

"Poppers... no more!"
Quite the drama queen, aren't you, Peter?

Swearing off the hard stuff, a cute and clear-headed Peter is able to snag himself a, um, "patron" who likes Peter's photos, which he downloaded from his profile on

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. This is not one of those times.

Emboldened by this success, Spider-Man goes to the local piano bar, where he picks up the Vulture on the dance floor.

Apparently, Kyle Rayner isn't the only hero
who dances with his arms above his head; you go, Peter!

Suddenly, Spider-Man whips out his little gadget, which sends the Vulture reeling!

Four out of five faded cocktail waitresses recommend the Joyalizer 3000;
D batteries sold separately.

As you would imagine, Peter's Little Gadget makes the Vulture lose control and they tumble together.

Okay, I give up; how DID Spider-Man nullify the Vulture's ability to fly?
Stan Lee; call me!

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Replacements

I'll come right out and say it, even though most DC fans prefer to ignore it as the elephant in our living room:

Replacements do not work.

When writers/editors get lazy or desperate, they resort to scrapping the person who's currently "Heroman" and creating a new character to become Heroman.

And it never works. Not really.

They tried to replace Wonder Woman with Artemis. They tried to replace Batman with Azrael. They tried to replace Superman with Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian.

Fans were not happy. The original were back within a year or so. "Oh, that's not fair," you object. "DC never really intended to replace those heroes." As you say, then. But does that counter my point or help make it?

They tried to replace Flash and Green Lantern. The real ones, I mean: Jay Garrick and Alan Scott.

Those replacements were so-called successes, but in the longer run they are merely examples of the original concept becoming fractured. We keep burning through our Flashes and Green Lanterns now grow like mushrooms. Oh, and who's still around, smiling, and more popular than their successors? Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, the real Flash and Green Lantern.

Maybe that's not fair to Hal Jordan. Perhaps (unlike the Silver Age Flash) he's sufficiently different from his Golden Age namesake to be considered the original "space policeman with power ring weapon". But then that brings us to his replacements. When some editor finally said, "Yeesh, better send Hal to the Head Trauma Center for a couple decades!", they tried to replace him with likeable John Stewart, unlikeable Guy Gardner, and pretty but pitiable Kyle Rayner. Oh, and an anthromophic comic relief dog. Then the Head Trauma Center withdrew Hal's meds, so he went crazy, became evil, died, came back as a replacement for a different hero. Who's starring in the Green Lantern series now....?

His hard-travelling companion, Green Arrow, they blew up and tried to replace with a convenient illegitimate son who apparently grew up at the same Camp for Accelerated Childhood & Adolescence that the babies on soap operas get sent to. Even though GA-II was 90 times more likeable and interesting than his dad (but then again, so is Marsha Mallow), GA-II is gone, mostly unnoticed and his jackass father is back from the dead and mayor of his city.

Hawkman, anyone? Fortunately, Carter Hall is back and busy posing for his new Heroclix figure.

The only possible exception to this rule is the current Atom; maybe that's possible because the Golden and Silver Age versions never worked that well to start with?

I think it's just because he's so cute, actually.

I mean, who are they going to try foolishly replace next...


Nah; not even DC's that crazy!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

DC Heroclix: Origins!

Hooray! The new DC Heroclix set has been announced!

I actually know more about this set than I am supposed to, but I'll confine my remarks to what's officially known.

Wizkids (the maker of Heroclix) has stated in no uncertain terms that the set will contain the first Heroclix figure of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern.

Finally, a figure for Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark)! Her absence has been keenly felt by those trying to make teams of the Wonder Woman dynasty and the Teen Titans (the good ones, I mean; not the Wolfman titans).

Golden Age versions of Batman and Superman! We all know how they will look (roughly); but how will they play?

I'm picturing a Superman with no Flight, but Leap/Climb. No range, I imagine; originally Superman had no heat vision, which is the basis for his having a ranged attack. No Hypersonic Speed, but Charge instead.

Batman's a little harder to guess. No Outwit, I bet; maybe Perplex instead to represent the "What the heck is THAT?" reaction to an unknown guy dressed up in a batsuit.

A new Supergirl clix; that's good. The first Supergirl heroclix was interesting because it was one of the first DC figures with the tactically powerfully "Running Shot" ability. But her defense is crappy; after the first hit she's a sitting duck.

A new Hawkman is a cause for much rejoicing (when Devon heard, he wept, then bit the head off a live chicken and sacrificed it to Horus; I don't care, as long as he mops up the store afterwards). The first Hawkman clix was in the original DC Set (called "Hypertime"); his dial became outdated rather quickly. For Hawkman fans, it's been sad and ironic to have him be "the sissy" on any team. I want the new Hawkman to have lots of Regeneration on his dial to represent the healing properties of Nth metal; that way, you either knock him out right away or he'll just keep healing up and coming back at you ... as Hawkman should. I also hope they give him some range fighting, to represent using a sling or spear.

The new Blue Beetle is getting a clix; well, at least it will look shiny and interesting.

The Question! That's exciting news for many. Smoke cloud, perplex, combat reflexes, stealth; oh yes. I hope they use translucent plastic to create a smoke cloud effect around him; I can't wait to pair him with Dr. Midnite or the Huntress.

The set will feature old Golden Age characters (or versions of characters) and some of characters from 52.

Who do you think we'll be seeing from 52? Lobo? Skeets? Supernova? Batwoman? Isis? Vibe? Egg Fu?

Who would you want?

P.S. Yes, I know Vibe isn't in 52. Yet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Huntress must go!

It's time for the Huntress to go.

Originally, as most you probably already know, the Huntress was an Earth-2 character, Helena Wayne, daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. I remember buying the comic in which she was introduced (DC Super-Stars 17) in 1977.

She got a little play over the next nine years, but, like most Earth-2ers, was seen only in occasional crossover stories until being killed in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Despite several post-Crisis attempts to give her new history and raison d'etre, it hasn't seemed to take. I like the original Huntress and I'm tired of seeing her namesake trotted out repeatedly as cannon fodder/loose cannon.

On Earth-2, her best friend was Power Girl, and it's ironic that Power Girl seems to remain popular no matter how she's drawn or what her origin of the week is (Who cares? It's Power Girl!), while Huntress, despite the repeated efforts of good writers and cheesy costumers, doesn't seem to catch the popular imagination. At least, not mine.

Characters often flounder when cut off from their original purpose or context. The Huntress was created to be Batman and Catwoman's daughter. Once she couldn't be that any more, it's been hard for her to find a place. It's certainly not with the Bat-family, where she's been treated like a red-headed stepchild from day one.

She was used, after a fashion, to fill the "Batwoman gap", but the fit was awkward and most readers today don't even remember her heroic role in No Man's Land. And that role is pretty much filled already now ... by Batwoman.

So I say enough is enough. It's time for Huntress to go.

To Star City.

Huntress needs to become part of the "Arrow Family".

Post-Crisis, Huntress has worked best (like many characters) in her role on the JLU series, where she and the Question were friends with Green Arrow and Black Canary (the other "caped couple").

She's a lot like Green Arrow; wealthy background but still considers herself a "woman of the people", rebellious against authority, shoots people with pointy things. Face it, shooting people with a crossbow looks pretty darned out of place in Gotham, but in Star City it's an hourly occurence.

And before one 0f you writes back to say, "But that's why I like her, she stands out so much from the other Batcharacters"... . That's fine, but she's pretty much banished/vanished from all the Batbooks, so rather than letting her go to waste or continually using her as a negative example, I'd rather see her go see somewhere her style fits in.

Besides, I want to see how Helena would deal with a real "woman of the people" like Mia. Or grapple with Ollie's decision to "fight the system" from within. Her possible interplay with Roy and Connor I leave to your imagination. I think putting her in Star City is just the thing the character needs, and a welcome expansion of the Green Arrow Dynasty.

Just don't change her name to "Miss Arrowette".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blue Devil Grabs Some Tail

Like a blue moon. Or an alignment of the planets. Or winning the lottery.

That's what this cover is like:

This upcoming Teen Titans cover is the rarest of the rare because it sitteth at the intersection of three of the Absorbascon's Creative Concepts:

PLUS, it stars Blue Devil, Hellboy's Gay Little Brother (TM). We love Blue Devil.

So, we leave in your writing hands this cover an overmuscled horny bald guy in a tight black tee attacking from behind and reaching out to grab the tail of a lithe half-naked long-haired boy, both with their eyes a-glow...
  • Some of you will supply Cover Word Balloons.
  • Some of you will grace us with slash pic.
  • Some of you will put haiku in the Devils' mouths.

But only the most amazing of you will manage to do all three at the same time...

Monday, September 18, 2006

This just in...

Dan Didio Writes In Self As Supervillain!

"Cary Bates was always my idol!" Didio confesses.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tec 823: How To Write A Superhero Comic

It's nice to have a reputation as a blogger who's not afraid to be unusual or controversial. Well, praising Paul Dini is neither unusual nor controversial; but I just can't help myself!

As I'm sure most of you are aware, Paul Dini is one of the genius writer/producers behind Batman: The Animated Series, and currently the writer on Detective Comics, his first regular comics gig.

The most recent issue (Tec 823), featuring Poison Ivy, was a fine example of why Dini's Batman is so popular, and almost serves as a primer for Those Who Would Write Batman Or The Like.

1. The story stands by itself.
And by that I don't just mean it's "done in one", although that alone is an accomplishment nowadays. I also mean it's tyronic enough that you could give it to someone who wasn't familiar with Poison Ivy (or even Batman and Robin) and they'd still be able to figure it out. Comic books should be a bit less ironic and substantially more tyronic.

Even more impressive, most of the information (such as Ivy's poisonous nature and her abilities with plants) is conveyed as part of the natural flow of the story, without recourse to the heavy-handed exposition so common to comics.

2. Although it stand by itself, it contributes to a larger whole.
By that, I do not mean it's part of larger "arc"; I'm sick of arcs. I think DC needs to stop hiring novelists and start hiring short story writers.

What I mean is, the story provides opportunities and ideas for other stories, but doesn't require them. In the pre-Crisis days, writers didn't seem worried that they were going to run out of ideas, and would casually toss ideas around left and right. Grant Morrison's tendency to do just that is part of his popularity. Great writers have no problem throwing out an idea and moving on to another. Neil Gaiman produced amazing new characters the way you or I produce sweat on a treadmill; as part of the process, not the point of the process. When later writers took over his creations, they beat these characters to death (including Merv Pumpkinhead, Lucifer, and Death herself).

Similarly, it introduces a new character ("Harvest") into the larger Batman mythos, whom another writer may or may not choose to use again. Writers used to do this all the time; Batman faced lots of villains who were never seen again (remember "The Blaze"?). His great foes were not introduced with enormous fanfare and force-fed to us into greatness; characters like that (such as Bane, Hush, or Azrael) are pretty much doomed. His great foes were introduced in exactly the same way as the one-hit wonders, but returned because they were popular or struck a chord with readers and writers both.

It enriches an existing character (Poison Ivy). I don't want to call this character development per se, because "development" usually means that the character changes. The long-term/cyclical nature of comic books does really allow for major characters to change; rather, our understanding of them deepens or their circumstance around them change to show them in a new light or provide new storytelling possibilities. Traditionally, Ivy attacks others with plants; what would happen if plants started attacking, and why? Dini's a master of this, this "character envelopment" which adds new and interesting layers to familiar figures. I'm sure if you'll think about his work on the Joker, Clayface, the Mad Hatter, the Riddler, Poison Ivy, and Mr. Freeze, you'll see what I mean.

3. It has characterization that derives from the plot without needing to contribute to it.
An example may make that murky statement a bit clearer. When Batman find Robin alone playing a word game with Poison Ivy, he shouts for him to get away from her. Technically, there's no plot reason for that. She is, in fact, in no position to harm Robin physically at all. But Batman has just seen recent evidence of how sick and cruel she is, and his instinctive reaction is to want to keep Robin away from her. Similarly, when he shows Robin the evidence he warns him to brace himself, and Robin asked Batman to please turn off the tape.

Those behaviors aren't needed for the plot to advance; but they serve to show Batman's paternal concern for Robin and his awareness that his partner is still a "kid", and Robin's reaction backs that up. This isn't a Poe story where every element must contribute to the story's end; time is taken, when the plot allows, to enrich the relationships among the various characters through their interaction, helping to create the feeling of integrated world of characters we "know".

I don't expect all writers to be able to do these things as well as Dini. But many writers seem not only incapable of such things but almost unaware of their value; that is something I would like to see change. Perhaps if they were less interested in telling "important" arcs and more interested in telling good stories... ?

Because I think I've come to the point where I believe those two goals are incompatible.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Slash Pic: The Story of the Blue Devil

Someone asked me, "Could Slash Pic ever be done in an 'all-ages' way?"

"Yes," I said, with the blind confidence I learned from idolizing superheroes. "Yes, it could..."

Once upon a time, there was a lonely Catholic boy named Daniel who was confused about his "identity".

The Best Little Blueboy in the World

He didn't like kissing girls; he wore earrings, a shirt open to the navel, inappropriately snug hotpants, eyeshadow, and stylized facial hair; he didn't talk like the other boys; he had very different interests than they, like cinema and interior design.

Blue Devil tivoes every design show on cable and has an autographed photo of Christopher Lowell.
Over his bed.

This made him sad; he was afraid people would not like him. So he asked a doctor to try to make him "normal".

Is Doctor" Floats In The Air and Shops at Children of Eng" really the person to be asking about being "normal"?
Why, he doesn't even know the meaning of the word.

But the doctor was wise, and told Daniel he must learn to be himself and enjoy it.

Grab me and speak to me like a man, Doc!

So Daniel went to a place where he could meet other people like him.

"Enter freely." I just love it when people say that to me.
Much more than, "I don't take checks, only money orders."

There he was accepted as he was, even though he was horned, swishing his tail, and carrying a big rod full of power.

This came as a great relief to Daniel and, with the help of his rod of power and his newfound friends, he was able to work out the tension that had been building within him.

Daniel; it's 555-SCIP; call me!