Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Real World: Detroit, starring Dale Gunn

"Dale Gunn." Say it soft and it's almost like praying. There are so many delicious things to pick on in the Justice League Detroit, but "Dale Gunn" has a flavor all his own!

Okay, you'll remember that, back in 1984, having been abandoned by all the recognizable heroes of the JLA, the foursome of Aquaman, Zatanna ("!daeh ym no raeppa tah edepitnec deR"), Ralph Dibny the Esophagated Man, and J'onn J'onnz the Martian Enabler have just picked up straycat cum supermodel Vixen, then agreed to shack up together in an abandoned Detroit factory hiding a SHIELD-style hi-tech underground facility offered them by an aging nutjob Captain America ripoff named "Commander Steel" as payoff for letting his braindead cyborg grandson Hank into the League. Part of the package was the man, the legend, Dale Gunn, Hank's surrogate father.

Dale Gunn is basically Uncle Phil from "Fresh Prince" only ten years older, under a much stricter diet, and wearing a high-tech neo-egyptian aerobics outfit from the Alexander Luthor Man of The Future Collection.

One glance and you know immediately that Dale Gunn smells like a mixture of malt-soaked sweat, Aqua Velva, Old Spice body powder, Brut, and Havoline® Super Premium High Performance SAE 20W-50.

And tobacco. Not that he uses tobacco. He just smells like it naturally.

Let's stop for a moment and take a look at the male cast of our superpowered Real World: Detroit, shall we?
  • Lonely blond hunky lifeguard Aquaman, estranged from his wife, and far from the closest octopus. With his telepathy, he makes you want to obey.
  • J'onn J'onnz, who can assume any form or appearance you want, and who'll have sex with a passing space octopus if it winks at him. With his telepathy, he knows what it feels like for an octopus.
  • 18 year old 6'2" slab of man-machine and probable virgin Steel, who behind his skin is all hard mechanical pistons of limitless energy and is very anxious to have his mettle tested (a.k.a. "The Human Sex Toy").
  • Vibe, a short but sinewy 19 year old Puerto Rican breakdancer and street thug who can emit powerful vibrations from any and every part of his body (a.k.a. "El Juguete Humano del Sexo").
  • The Elongated Man, who is not named that without reason, and who could simultaneously entertain you and ten friends in one room while watching a movie with his wife in another (a.k.a. "The World Famous Human Sex Toy").
  • And Dale Gunn, a grouchy smelly old mechanic.

So what happens?Oh. Well. Of course. Must be the smell.

From this, I can only conclude that writer Gerry Conway simply has never met any women. At all. Perhaps he was raised by Trappist monks.

Actually, my other theory is that with Dale Gunn, Conway is reinventing Jimmy Olsen for the 1980s.

Jimmy Olsen was the avatar of the reader of his day. Geeky Jimmy Olsen says, "Come to the DC Universe where an ill-dressed underage nerd just like you can have a high profile job without any credentials, be best friends with Superman, and have his own fan club of under-nerds!"

By the 1980s, the comic book audience has evolved, and Dale Gunn is their man. Grizzled Dale Gunn says, "Come to the DC Universe where bald smelly older guys with bad facial hair and no social life who live underground and work with machines just like you get hit on by seductive, half-dressed magical heiresses and man-hungry supermodel animal-women. Cookies included."

Oh, but surely I'm exaggerating, you say! Zatanna and Vixen are just, you know, teasing each other about being "dirty girls" and "doing it" with the custodian. Girls are like that, you say; you know, because you've seen Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives.

Have it your way...

Boy, nothing gets past Dale, does it? And see, I told you; cookies included.
"Night-thoughts", huh? Nice one, Zee, I'll have to use that when I'm on line at

Gee, Dale; is that a glass of milk in your lap or are you just happy to see me?
And, Zee, it's almost like you're desperately looking for a substitute father figure, as if -- oh yeah, that's right. I forgot... It's okay, Zee, we all have our issues.

Yow; Jungle Fever. She's Gotta Have It, indeed. And, I might add, it seems that This Gunn's For Hire.

But it's not like Zee's a tramp, you know. She waited until almost a full 24 hours after they met and she made sure he knows what her name is. Good girl, Zee. Zatara would be proud.

Okay. I take it back. She is a tramp. !flesruoy ylppa tnacirbul lanosreP

This, you know, is just the first issue of Justice League Detroit. And we haven't even gotten to Vibe...

The Meta-Origin of the Detroit League

Let's start talking about the Detroit League. There's been enough time. Healing takes time.

The first issue is:
what the heck were they thinking?

they were copying Marvel.

In 1980, DC brought over Marv Wolfman from Marvel, who re-created the Teen Titans, refocusing the group around some new characters he created in the Marvel adolescent-angst parental-conflict mode; voila, instant X-Force.

Sales took off, mostly from stealing Marvel readers, I'll wager. Everyone I know who's a Titans fan had been reading Marvel before, then started reading the Titans, then grew up and read real DC comics. Well, not all of them grew up, but you get the idea.

"Aping Marvel makes $? Well, then!", DC says. It was the 1980s and Greed Was Good. So, following this idea of putting new whine in old battles, DC allowed two of its most traditional properties to be slaved to X-Men / Avengers ripoffs.

The Outsiders ("zzzzzzznnnn....") were the pseudo X-Men with
Batman playing the role of Prof. Xavier (trainer and leader). In 1984, the JLA was recast a la the Avengers, courtesy of Gerry Conway, another Marvel writer whom DC caught on his way to write Matlock. Like a bad head cold.

The Guys Who Had Their Own Series were sent off to go, um, fight something in some temporal something or other. Spearholders Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter (joined by ubergoober tagalong the Elongated Man) formed a new, ahem, League -- Marvel style!

Like a Marvel group, they had to have a headquarters in a down-to-earth, real world city. It don't get no more down to earth than Detroit folks. Like a Marvel group, they needed some immature, whining, insecure losers who just happened to have superpowers.

Fortunately (?), Detroit was full of them. In walks Vixen (conceptual love-child of Storm and Wolverine), Gypsy (conceptural love-child of the Invisible Girl and Mysterio), Steel (conceptual love-child of Captain America and Wolverine), and Vibe (the Sensational Character Find of 1984).

More on them later...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fear for Fun and Victory

Fear isn't much fun. But it is useful. When you're the Scarecrow heroclix, it can be both!

The Scarecrow's heroclix dials already try to represent his schtick. But wouldn't some actual FEAR pogs be fun (at least for him)!The 6-point Rookie Fear is represented visually by some common phobias (snakes, spiders, and open spaces [like the mind-numbing horror of untraversible cityscapes that is Central City]). They've got Willpower (because phobias are persistent) and Exploit Weakness (which is what phobias do), so try to keep this Fear at a distance!

Of course, Fear can sneak up on you, using the stealth of the Batman Ally ability. Does it seem strange that the tool of a Batman Enemy should have the Batman Ally ability? Well -- Fear IS an ally of Batman's!

The 8-point Experienced Fear has a longer range, and exchanges Willpower for Charge, so it's represented by generic monsters that pop out from behind corners and scare the bejeezus out of you. This is still the kind of Fear that is Batman's Ally.

The 10-point Veteran Fear is more like existential dread. This is not an Ally of Batman (but it still has Stealth so it can lurk, unlike those of you who came out during De-Lurking Week). What it gives up in endurance by not having Charge or Willpower, it makes up for by acquiring Quake (in your boots!), which can damage multiple victims and send them fleeing.

Like the T-Spheres we made for Mr. Terrific, Scarecrow's Fears are best used in combination with one another to engage opponents while their master attacks from another direction. Unlike the spheres, the Fears can continue even after Scarecrow is kayoed.

Here's to turning your Fears into your opponent's fears!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hal's Head versus the Bar of Soap

Ah, I've been looking for an excuse to provide a medley of Hal's Head posts (not because I want to, you understand, but a reader specifically requested it, and I am the Slave of Duty).

Now, thanks to Ken Bricktosser, I've found my excuse: The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus. It was the first time John Stewart fought beside the JLA as Green Lantern; Hal Jordan was "unavailable".

Why was Hal unavailable, you ask? Because ...

Hal Jordan slipped on a bar of soap in the shower and hit his head.
Note that Hal painted his bathroom wall yellow. Smart guy.
Anyway, even his
RING was so embarrassed, it fled:


You know, I couldn't make up stuff this good if I tried all day. Kill me now and I'll die happy.

I've said a lot of mean things about Len Wein (who wrote this story).

I take them all back.

Hal's Head as Political Allegory

Hal's Head as Feminist Metaphor

Hal Uses His Head

Hal's Head Versus the Daily News

Hal's Head as Architectural Satire

Hal's Head versus the Tree and the Toy Airplane.

Hal's Head versus the Advertising Industry

The Golden Age Takes Its Revenge Against Hal's Head

Hal's Head versus Seat 14-D.

Results of the Hal Poll

Holy Anniversaries!

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the first airing of William Dozier's "Batman" television series. Like most good-humored Americans, I love the show. Why, without it, I might not be a comic book fan at all!

My mother still tells of plopping toddler me down in front of the tv when it was on and watching me move my arms in imitation of the opening sequence. Which she can stop doing any day now. Thanks, Mother... .

Anyway, I've been asked to comment on the show's anniversary. I could go
on for hours, days, about its fabulousness. But I won't. Why?

Because, had I not been a toddler at the time or if the show premiered now, I would have hated it.
Hated it.

As a comic book fan, I would rail on my blog
about it endlessly. An opportunity to show the public the potential of comic books wasted, nay,
into a searing parody of comic's worst flaws and cliches! Superman, maybe, Aquaman, sure, but ... but ..
BATMAN!?!?!? Secular sacrilege!

The people behind the show, everyone associated with it should be punished, should be jailed. Vile criminals!

Naturally, I would have been completely right.
And completely wrong. My dog always knows what it wants ("Daddy, may I eat that squirrel?"), but it doesn't always know what's best ("No; no squirrel."). I'm like that, too ... .

When we become enamored of a myth, it's usually with one or two versions of it. Anything that doesn't match those is, from our perspective, akin to sacrilege. But myths are stronger and more flexible than we are (that's
part of the reason they last, and we don't).

can be weakened by too many versions or versions that stray too far from their core. But often they are simply broadened, strengthened, expanded. Variants may be abhorrent to us, depending on how narrowly we view the myth or how well it's already suited to our purposes.

"David Banner"? "Organic webspinners?" "Metalskinned Doom"? "Black Pete Ross"?
"Barefoot Joker"? "Lionel Luthor?" Ah, there's always something that's going to tick us off about another medium's adaptation of our favorite comic book myths.

The same is true within the comics themselves. Peter David's Aquaman, for example, is his, not mine, and I have every reason to believe that Busiek's won't be either. I have every reason to rail against them. And I will. Still, without PAD, there would be no Koryak, and he (as reintroduced by Arcudi) is very much part of what I think of as "my Aquaman". Funny how that works.

Every time there's a new version of a myth, there's room for an innovation, some change that might be an improvement, if it winds up adhering to the mythic core. Just as "what were once vices are now habits", so too, what were once violations of the myth can become essential elements of it. Kryptonite, Alfred, the Kents being alive, Koryak, the Magic Lasso, the Mad Hatter's mind control, the Red Hood -- the list is endless of things we now consider "core elements" of our comic book myths that we might have opposed (and strongly) if we had been around when they were introduced.

As I've mentioned before, I don't think of myths (comic book or otherwise) as the products of "Intelligent Design" by any a creator, but as the result of a conceptual "Evolution" of the character's original idea. As evolutionary products, myths encounter "adverse conditions" like shifting writers, adaption for other media, and broader editorial mandates. How they grow and adapt to those conditions is what makes them fitter for continued survival.

For myths, in the long-term, what works, remains. What doesn't, fades (and the examples of
that are numerous, too). "Irrevocable" changes have included the elimination of all Kryptonite, Aquaman's hook, and the deaths of Alfred, Hal Jordan, and Ollie Queen. Didn't stick, did they?

At least, this is what I'll keep telling myself during "Sword of Atlantis"...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

De-Luking Week

This week, I've been told is "De-Lurking Week", the week when all you who visit but not comment are asked to, please, come out.

We at the Absorbascon like it when people come out. 900 people visited here today; do I see 900 comments? Ahem!!! So we want to participate in De-Lurking Week. Here's how we're going to make it EASY!

No need to feel guilted into posting the standard "Hi, I enjoy your blog but I never having anything to add so I just wanted to say hi and keep up the good work"!

This post has links to MANY of the posts here over the last year, many of them chosen because I was disappointed by the lack of response the first time! YOU who are about to de-lurk can FIX that!

Post a comment on ANY of those past posts. I will see them. I will know. Santa Claus and Brother Eye work for ME, baby. And I will appreciate ALL your (well-intentioned and good-spirited) comments

Infinite City Crisis

Why don't I post much about the Flash? I mean, other than the crushing boredom of The Slowest Stories Alive? Well, I'll tell you.

I cower in existential dread of the endless expanse that is Central/Keystone City.

I'm not one of those sheltered, agoraphobic housewives. I enjoy the country, the beach, and the famously broad sidewalks and avenues of the District of Columbia. But Central City? That's another thing entirely.
In Central City, people have to drive to the mailbox. Their own mailbox.

"Get back to my desk"? For pity's sake, Iris, it'll take you two hours to cross that living room. And probably a passport.

What is this vast complex? The National Science Center? NIH? STARLabs HQ? No. It's Barry Allen's back room. In his APARTMENT. In your house, this sort of room is barely big enough to hold the Cybex machine you don't use. In a Central City apartment, it's about the size of a bowling alley.

Four-lane avenues? Don't make me laugh. In Central City, every sidewalk is a four-lane avenue.

An avenue (or is that merely a street?) has room for at least 30, 40 lanes.
Oh, wait! That is merely a street; there's no median strip. I shudder to think what a Central City avenue looks like. Probably like the Gulf Stream made out of asphalt.

In Central City, every building must be about 700 stories tall. And miles and miles away. It's part of the building code. The elongated buildings even freak out the freaky Elongated Man. That's why he moved to Opal.

How long do you think the Central City skyline is? My theory is it occupies the entire bank of the Mississippi, with Keystone mirroring it on the other side.
Do you remember that Grant Morrison JLA story where Starro the Conqueror was the size of the Hudson Bay? Well, Starro won't attack Central City, because he's afraid of getting lost there. That's how big Central City is.
"Without being seen"? Duh. As if a little thing like a jet-sized earthdriller emerging from the ground is going to be noticed in a Central City park!

Other cities are located in counties. But Central City has counties in it. Whole states even, the ones that never get mentioned in comics. Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Nevada, Idaho, Utah. All of them are mere neighborhoods within the sprawling madness of Central and Keystone City.Except for Kansas. That's one giant farm, run by a kindly old couple and studded with kryptonite boulders every thirty yards.

Who conceived of Central City this way? Was it Carmine Infantino? It's as if the artist had lived his entire life in the midwestern suburbs and all knowledge of cities was kept from him. Then, someone described what cities were like and made him draw them. Julie says,
"Well, Car, it's kind of like where you live, only the buildings are much taller and there's more people. Millions more." Carmine goes, "Got it! Room for millions... ."

I suppose it makes a certain comic book sense. In any normal place, Flash would catch all the Rogues nearly immediately by simply searching the whole city. But when your city encompasses the entirety of the territories explored by Lewis and Clark and then some, that's a tall order, even for the Flash.
It's useful, too. Central City is the answer to many of those nagging questions that pester your suspension of disbelief.

  • Where did all the Gotham refugees go during No Man's Land?
  • Apt. #68745, in the Rathaway Arms at 239,824 7006th St. NW.
  • Where'd they put the survivors of Coast City and Fairfield?
  • In the "back room".
  • Where did the people come from to repopulate Topeka and Montevideo?
  • From the waiting line at the Central City 182nd National Bank's ATM. Observe how Central / Keystone City's limitless expanse stretches beyond the horizon, toward the sun, toward infinity. Ever thought about what kind of revenue that generates? Through a special multigovernment arrangement, all damage of any kind caused by hero/villain conflict anywhere on the planet is paid for using Central City property taxes. Ever wonder where the money comes from to rebuild the Flash Museum, which is destroyed weekly? The sales tax on gum. The Justice League Watchtower funding is an add-on to the municipal paper clip budget.
Oh. And, in case you were wondering, the principal industry in Central and Keystone ... ?


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

You're too modest, Ted!

Ladies and gentlemen, the ribald comedy of Ted Knight and Dinah Lance the elder....

I swear, sometimes it's just too easy...

Not Tonight; I Have a Haiku

If you're not enjoying All-Star Batman, why aren't you reading "Batman and The Monster Men"?

It's Matt Wagner's near perfect retelling of Batman's first clash with Hugo Strange. Great insight into all the characters, logical plot developments, fun art. And, after sixtyish years, Julie Madison has finally blossomed as a great character, someone I actually believe young Bruce Wayne would date.

By the way, Bruce Wayne is so cool, that when he denies you a night of passion, he does it politely and in haiku:
I apologize.
I would love to spend the night
in your arms again.

AND he makes you feel good about yourself in the process. That's how it's done.

Remember that the next time you turn down an offer from a sexy and intelligent red-haired heiress who wants you badly.

Meanwhile, care to contribute a relevant haiku of your own on the coolness of Bruce, this situation, or the idea of turning down pouty-lipped Julie Madison to go find gnomish Hugo Strange?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Crossover Crises

SO! Apparently, I'm not the only person who believes that Hal Jordan gets hit on the head far far far more than normal (see HERE , where he intentionally flies full speed headfirst into a yellow billboard and HERE where JSAers club the already prostrate Hal senselss).

Excellent. Meanwhile...

Am I the only person who thinks that both Marvel's big event, The House of M, and DC's big event, Infinite Crisis, have their roots in the same place: The JLA/Avengers Crossover?

At the end of the JLA/Avengers Crossover (did it have any other name?), Krona (the Big Blue Oan Plumber who caused the multiverse to begin with) was transformed in a "world egg", a sort of embryonic universe, which the JLA kept for monitoring.

I recall that in later issues of the JLA, the egg was doing something funky, but that Metron was keeping any evidence of it from being detected. Hasn't been mentioned since, has it?

In his recent final battle with the Spectre, Nabu (the Dr. Fate guy) said there's something or someone else behind Eclipso, using her to manipulate the Spectre -- something/one hungry, needy. Krona, whose hunger for knowledge is legendary?

Really, now that we've seen the "Antimonitower", the only thing missing from Crisis on Infinite Earths in Infinite Crisis is Krona (who, as mentioned, was last seen in the JLA/Avengers Crossover).

Meanwhile, as I understand it, the Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff, right?) goes all bonkers and uberpowerful, wishing for a better world than hers. Well, that seems to me pretty much like a repeat of what happened to her in JLA/Avengers.

While in the DCU, she got wacky powerful with the high octane 'chaos magic' we have (whatever that may be) and it was driving her crazy. She was also sad that the DCU was a more friendly place for her type than the Marvel universe, and was royally ticked about having to restore a world where she'd lost her kids.

Whether she remembers all that or not, doesn't it seem like a sensible root cause for what she's done? I'm told Marvel readers aren't happy about her actions seeming out of the blue. Why doesn't Marvel just "blame" the JLA/Avengers Crossover, which is where I think DC is headed?

Even I, no big fan of cross-company stuff, totally geek out on the idea that both companies might root their concurrent universal makeovers in the core cross-company event of the last 30 years....!

So, am I crazy, or what?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Infinite Critical Analyses

Just some various thoughts on "Infinite Crisis" and other matters...

Absorbascommenter Highlander has some thoughts on what's really going on behind the surface in IC (including its relationship to the JLA/Avengers crossover), some of them sufficiently original that even I am too ashamed to steal them for my own. You'll have to go evaluate them yourself.

Remember the tattered stage where we first see the PsychoPirate again (I think it was in JSA Confidential)? That's the stage of the abandoned Central City Community Theater, the original spot where Flash traveled from Earth-1 to Earth-2. It's in the Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team Ups trade paperback that I got from the wonderful folks at--you guessed it-- Big Monkey Comics.

I hope the new DCU takes as much advantage of all the toys at its disposal as the Animated Universe does! The recent donnybrook in JLU between the Freedom Fighters and the League was the most enjoyable fight scene I've seen in years. The crowning touch was at the very start, when the order goes out for all non-metahumans to evacuate the room ... and Green Arrow doesn't move.

If the regular GA were more like his animated counterpart, with 32% less Obvert Jackassery and 17% more Subtle Coolness, I might like him, too.

I like Damage. I like him a lot. He's short and cute and spunky and blows up. What's not to like? He's the real inheritor of the Golden Age Atom's mantle and I'm still waiting for him to accidently blow up Atom Smasher. Why does everyone hate Damage?


If you read Jonan Hex this week (and if you didn't, you deserve to), you may have noticed he visits the town of Kent. It has a corrupt sheriff. Most places Jonah Hex visits have a corrupt sheriff. He's a funny guy, but a lousy travel agent.

Anyway, I was wondering whether the town was somehow related to Clark's parents. For example, was the town mentioned in "The Kents" mini-series? That would be very comic-booky. This is the underlying principle of chistogenealogy: everyone who is related has the same name and all those who have the same name are related.

Sandra Knight (Phantom Lady) being the cousin of Ted Knight (the Original Starman) is, for example, a retcon based on that chistogenealogical phenomenon. Originally, the characters' names were a mere coincidence.

Did you know that the pre-Crisis Jim Gordon (police commissioner of Gotham City) was the cousin of Bruce Gordon (solar scientist and Eclipso's alter ego)? He was. That's how comic books work.

Connectomaniacs like Geoff Johns have even stretched the principle to link Speed Saunders to Kendra Sanders. Soon I'm expecting to hear the scandalous story linking Devon Sanders to Kendra through their common ancestor, Thomas Jefferson Sanders.

I bet you always roll your eyes at those stories where all of the hero's ancestors were famous or they come into contact with their "Moldavian cousins" (also named Wayne or Kent or Whatnot) or visit Castle Whatnot in the Old Country.

Well, it is a bit silly when heroes have a commonplace surname (as most of them do). But it does happen in real life. I, tragically, come from a comic book family. "Garling" doesn't sound like all that weird a name, but is, in fact, unique; everyone named Garling is related, however distantly.
The Garling Coat of Arms. Yes, that's a fishhead above the helmet. Sigh.

So, yes, I am demonstrably related to (among many others):
In a comic book, we'd all (except Jean; she's dead; she'd be replaced by a spunky lookalike granddaughter with savate fighting skills) be lured to an isolated castle in Mecklenburg by the promise of a vague inheritance (probably a fortune in the maritime paintings of Frederick Garling or the formerly lost but recently rediscovered liquer recipes of the Garling Collection in, you guessed it, Moldavia).

Then we'd wind up either (a) bumping one another off (b) trying to keep one another from getting bumped off (c) have a fabulous jam session that would sell millions of CDs and make us all rich even though the inheritance was a bust.

Can Green Lantern (Kyle) Dance?

Puh-lease, girlfriend.How do you think he paid for art school?