Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Masterpiece

You know, true story...

the first time I saw this panel from a Wonder Woman comic, I was at a restaurant, and laughed so hard that milk came out my nose...

the sad part being, I wasn't even drinking milk at the time.

Now, I'm willing to admit I'm probably not the best judge in the world of female beauty, but I think I know enough to say "this ain't it." If, instead of becoming a movie star, Eve Arden had become an alcoholic prostitute and aged poorly, that's kind of what it would look like.

You only think you know how creepy William Moulton Marston was. Frankly, I don't think it's something that sane people will ever be able to fathom.

Thar She Blows!

Speaking of Aquaman, riddle me this:

Which awful Batman villain would make a wonderful Aquaman villain? Assuming "villains" aren't too "superheroey" for the Sword of Atlantis...

Why, it's everyone's favorite Big Beautiful Woman:

ORCA THE WHALE WOMAN!So dainty. So feminine. Love those lips! I really hope Oprah can clear up her schedule enough to play her in the next Batman movie... .

If you don't know who Orca is then (1) shame on you (2) count your lucky stars.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Falling On My Sword

Okay, now that the first issue of Sword of Atlantis is out, and you've all had a chance to read it...

here's your opportunity to tell me that I was very wrong and that it was great and that you loved it.

Anyone.... (not you, Kurt!) ? I promise I won't say a word!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Three Items for Discussion

Should DC produce an annual anthology that features its black characters?

What should be the first book with an all female creative team?

I found the perfect writer for Superman.


Bee-Boy, Bee-Boy-- what does that remind me of...? OH, yes!

We've shown you the candidates in our Custom Heroclix poll as they are being completed, including

So it's time for...

And they said poofy diaphanous pink sleeves could never be done on a Heroclix figure --HA!! You go, Dale!

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: if you don't, on some level, love the Red Bee, then you don't really love DC. Which is ironic, since he wasn't originally a DC character...

Oh, Lana, where is thy sting?

Insect Queen. If you want her, she could be in YOUR next Heroclix game.

And honestly ... how could anyone not want Insect Queen?

The Batman Weaponizes

In Batman's hands, anything becomes a weapon to use against you.


A Hal Jordan Riddle!

Riddle me this:
What does Hal Jordan do when he's got free time and he's bored?

Answer: Practices.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Favorite Martian?

I know I'm really asking for it, but here goes...

One of the things Brad Meltzer was able to reveal at the New York Comic Convention was the identities of the two heroes DC said he could kill in
Identity Crisis, if he wanted to:
the Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onnz) and the Atom (Ray Palmer).

I thought he was going to kill J'onn or have him be the murderer. And I wish he had killed the Martian Manhunter.

Before you blast me with your ill-defined Martian vision, hear me out. I like J'onn; I like him a lot. With his dry wit and deadpan humor, he's by far the funniest person who's ever been in the Justice League (I'm looking at you, Plastic Man!). He does tragedy just as well; J'onn's personal losses far outstrip those of any other Leaguer. Of the big seven, he'd probably be the most interesting people to go to dinner and the movies with. Really, I couldn't possibly like J'onn any more than I do; I'm the man who wrote him a friggin' theme song (it's on Big Monkey Radio, you know).

But it's time to remove him. Long past time.

The Martian Manhunter is, and always will be, an also-ran because he has no Golden Age roots. I'm not going to argue
why that matters so much or whether it should matter than much. It probably shouldn't. But the fact seems to be that characters with Golden Age antecedents or predecessors constitute the tree of DC mythology; everything else, no matter how powerful or popular, is just a leaf, an apple, a decoration on the tree. Editorial storms will blow stuff like that sometimes, but the tree remains. That rootlessness weakens him more than fire every did, and he's just not going to overcome it.

The Martian Manhunter's origin requires too much suspension of disbelief. I know, I know; in a universe with power rings, and 5th dimensional imps, and Chemo, and the Speed Force, that seems like a stupid statement. But, for me at least, all that other stuff I can squint at; I can think of them as additions or exceptions to what I know to be real, rather than direct contradictions. But he's the Martian Manhunter; he's from MARS. That. Is. Not. Right. I can't even
pretend that an "alternate Mars" could develop a form of life like his.

Speaking of his form of life, we all know J'onn has too much power, which makes him a storytelling albatross. Either he becomes a Deus Ex Machina (remember his "special gift" to Despero?) or the Elephant in the Living Room ("oh, um, J'onn's ...not here. He's off... coordinating. Things."). And now I'm told they've even removed his (admittedly absurd) vulnerability to fire. Yeah, that's what we really need: and even more powerful Martian Manhunter, with no weaknesses.

Oh, there are ways around it, like making him stick to his non-redundant powers. On JLU, they pretty much limited him to changing into other humanoid shapes, telepathic communication among team members, and that phasey thing he does. Then they made him a sociophobe stuck on the satellite, then "banished" him for his own good to live among humanity as a human. In the Silver Age JLA, the writers simply ignored the bulk of his powers and confined him to sucking and blowing. In the Bronze Age, writers and editor just gave in and got rid of him. He left Earth entirely, people.

Which reminds me... I know that a lot of newer readers think that "J'onn is the soul of the League". But that's only because DC keeps having characters say that, shoving it down your throats because they have absolutely no idea what else to do with the Martian Manhunter. The fact is, J'onn was in the League from 1960 through 1969. Then he left-- FOR THIRTEEN YEARS.

J'onn was utterly and completely absent from the longest continous version of the Justice League, the Satellite Era. Whether that's been retconned or not, J'onn's principal involvement in the League was blowing and sucking during the Silver Age, shepherding the disastrously ill-conceived Detroit League when Aquaman and Batman were smart enough to bail, and playing straight man for the wacky antics of the Giffen League. And the Satellite League is one Brad (and a lot of other people) grew up reading, so those of us who like the Martian Manhunter are going to have watch him get banished again; just kill him off and be done with it.

Do NOT get me wrong. I have long advocated building a mythos around the Martian Manhunter so that he could stand on his own as an icon, as a dynastic centerpiece, as the kind of character that belongs in and at the forefront of the League.

But they haven't. So he doesn't.

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!