Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spandex in the City

I was chatting with one of my urban planning friends (Hi, Mike!) at an outdoor cafe (because that's where urban planners hang out) about the recent death of Jane Jacobs, godmother of the neourban movement, savior of Soho, and one of the greatest intellects of our century.

The essence of Jane Jacobs' message (cities=socioeconomic rainforest, suburbs=socioeconomic desert) is almost as close to my heart as the joy of comic books. But that shouldn't surprise me: comic books are essentially urban.

Superheroes and their foes do not hang out in shopping malls (the Superbuddies notwithstanding). Like many of the specialized products of the city, the spandex set require a dense urban setting to flourish. Suburbs and small towns do not foster abandoned warehouse districts, giant props, and the poorly guarded banks, jewelry stores, and art museums that are the necessary backdrops for caped conflict.

Except Smallville. Smallville has everything. Scientific research labs. Mints. Whales. Everything.

Why is James Robinson praised? Great plotting? Jack Knight? No; Opal City. Where did the Secret Society attack? Blue Valley? The Deep Amazon? No; Metropolis. Do the residents of Wayne Manor and Arkham stay in the burbs to battle or do they meet in the city over cappucino?

Tell me, those of you raised in the surburbs: did reading comics distort your expectations of life in the Big City? When you first toured Central City (or moved there) were you crestfallen that it wasn't night 24 hours a day, that the police didn't have blimps, and that obscenely wealthy pearl-dripping matrons weren't walking their little lord Fauntleroys down every dark, trash-strewn alley of menace?

Friday, April 28, 2006

The problem with Nightwing is "Nightwing"

A shout out and thanks to my friends and colleagues Kalinara and Vincent Murphy at Spandex Justice, whose recent discussions about "Nightwing" have inspired me to chime on this multiblog debate, which isn't really something I do often. The reason I want to chime in about Nightwing is that I couldn't be less interested in him.

That's right, I'm not interested in Nightwing at all. More on that later. But first, the passage from Vincent's blog that moved me:

I want to return Nightwing to the original vision, as George Perez outlined back when he and Marv Wolfman created the character:

“I want to make him a swashbuckler, an acrobat, an incredibly good fighter. In many ways, he’s the Titans’ answer to Captain America. I want to make him happy-go-lucky, bring back the enjoyment of adventure that he had. One thing I liked that Marv did in issue #39 was how openly Dick speaks his affection to Koriand’r now, calling her ‘m’Iove’ and everything, making passes at her right in front of everybody with absolutely no worries anymore. The hang-ups are disappearing. He’s not going to be that morose character he had been in trying to find his identity. Now he’s found it. Now we’re going to use Dick Grayson the way we want to use him, utilizing both his detective and acrobatic skills.”

What Perez said just made me laugh, although it should have made me cry. Maybe I haven't read the right stuff, but nothing could be farther from that description than my perception of how "Nightwing" has been portrayed. Happy-go-lucky? No worries? Hang-ups disappearing? Utilizing his detective skills?

That's certainly what I would like to see, but I didn't think there was any of that in the Titans. Happy-go-lucky; Titans. I find it hard to even put them in the same sentence.

Vincent, George, and I appear to want the same thing out of Dick Grayson. I think the reason we haven't seen it is contained in something that Vincent said: "when he and Marv Wolfman created the character."

Ah ha. Perhaps that's the problem: the perception of Nightwing as "a Titans character created by Wolfman and Perez."

Face it: "Titans characters created by Wolfman and Perez" are, by definition, soap opera characters, doomed to self-doubt, personal conflict, emotional monologues. As long as Nightwing is perceived by readers or writers as "a Titans character created by Wolfman and Perez", we're going to be getting, not the external Drama of Starman, but the internal Melodrama of the Avengers. No wonder I'm not interested in "Nightwing".

"Nightwing" is a costume. Dick Grayson was not created by Wolfman and Perez. Dick Grayson was the Sensational Character Find of 1940.

Nightwing, "the Titans' answer to Captain America"? Oh no. No, no, no. I do appreciate what Perez means, but that very way of thinking is the heart of the problem. Dick Grayson doesn't need to be the answer to anybody, folks. He's the original sidekick, that laughing young daredevil.

If writers and readers spent a little more time re-reading some Golden and Silver Age Batman stories, maybe they'd start thinking of Nightwing more as "the man Robin grew up to be" and less "the man who used to be Robin".

A subtle difference? I don't think so. A lot of wild stuff happened in Infinite Crisis, but the "moment" I'll remember longest is when Batman asks Dick Grayson whether he enjoyed his adolescence as Robin. Dick's happy answer, "It was the best!", was the highlight of that issue, perhaps the entire series, because for a brief moment we were allowed to see Nightwing as "the man Robin grew up to be" instead of "the man who used to be Robin". I'll wager most of us liked that moment and that's what we really want to see from "Nightwing".

Batman can do still do most of the stuff he did in Golden and Silver Age stories (except, perhaps, crack wise). Read one of those stories, and (except for the wisecracks) it's easy to picture today's Batman doing the same kinds of things. But read old Robin stories and try to picture Nightwing doing some of the things Robin does. Robin does brilliant detective work. Robin is a master of disguise. Robin speaks rudimentary Inuit. Robin plays the accordion and can sing. Robin acts in school plays. Robin can do a puppet show. Robin can fake death using a golf ball and knows the chemical composition of the average pocketwatch.

Again, maybe I'm not reading the right stuff, but all I've ever seen Nightwing do is martial arts hoo-ha and lots of somersaults. I certainly find it hard to picture him peering into a microscope, speaking Inuit, or playing the accordion, things that he used to do -- with ease -- when he was Robin. He was the Boy Wonder. He wasn't the best at anything, but he was very good at everything.

If you want Dick Grayson to be great again, ease up on that "Matt Murdock" vibe and give him back some of the "Terry Sloane" mojo he used to have as a boy. Heaven knows, Michael Holt shows no signs of becoming "happy-go-lucky", which was one of the nicest things about the original Mr. Terrific; why not let the adult Robin take on that aspect, as he has every right to?

For that matter, let Nightwing be the happy civic Batman of the 1950s and 1960s. Why not? There's still interest in that kind of hero and Dick Grayson, by his own admission, had a happy childhood with the goddam Batman (except for, you know, watching his parents plummet to their deaths as pulpy bags of broken bones). Give him a platinum police badge encrusted with diamonds and maybe he'll finally get some male readers, too, or (Wertham forbid!) even some kid readers. Wouldn't Nightwing work well as "the Batman safe for kids"?

But, no, someone decided at some point that in order to take Nightwing seriously he had to be even grimmer and grittier than Batman. Absurd. "Bludhaven"; I mean, really. Were "Crimetown" and "Corruption City" already copyrighted elsewhere? Thank goodness "Sin City" was taken ... . I guess it was all for the same reason Wally had to be faster than Barry, Kyle more powerful than Hal, and Connor a better fighter than Ollie.

Here's my two cents. The best thing you do can do for Nightwing is to stop writing him. Write Dick Grayson instead.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Robin versus Surrealism

Hi, kids! Robin the Boy Wonder here, with an important message for kids like us!

There's lots of fine art out there! Gosh, Bruce and I spend hours together appreciating neat painting and sculptures ... why, we don't even have to leave the house because we're absurdly wealthy and have famous works of art all around the manor!There's nothing wrong with enjoying pictures of beautiful people and things, or even ones that are ugly and scary. But, some art, why, it's just plain bad for you. I'm here to warn you about ... surrealism.
Good art shows normal people in normal situations; stuff you might see in the real world. But in the seedy world of surrealism, fantastical visual imagery from the subconscious mind is used with no intention of making the work logically comprehensible.
Sure, it might seem fun it first, like a dream you can see when you're awake. But think about it, kids ... it's like mixing up reality and fantasy, which is really dangerous. Why, it's almost as bad as being on drugs -- all of the time!
Every good detective--like Batman--is trying to figure out what's objective reality; so-called art like surrealism, with its subjective fantastical imagery -- gosh, that's kind of thing somebody like the Joker goes for. See, kids, it leads to a subjective view of reality and moral relativism and then to thinking it's okay to rob banks and kill people for fun. Surrealism seems like innocent fun, but it's a sure road to the Big House.

And it's all around us; that's why you kids should stick to reading comics, where you're safe from it.

That's also why Batman and I fight surrealism every chance we get.
Oh, sure, there's always been wild art, just like there's always been crime. But surrealism is a modern development, a twisted invention of the 20th century, like the kind of supervillains and costumed crooks Batman and I fight!
The original "supervillain of surrealism" was Andre Breton, sort of the "Hugo Strange" of surrealism. Weirder villains of surrealism followed: the bird-obsessed Penguin (Max Ernst); the highly intellectual and clever Riddler (Rene Magritte); the half-surrealist, half-realist Two-Face (Giorgio de Chirico); the vivacious Catwoman (Kay Sage); the underappreciated Killer Moth (Man Ray), the hypersexual Poison Ivy (Meret Oppenheim); and the overexposed, idiosyncratic, egotistical Joker (Salvador Dali).

Trust me, kids; stay away from surrealism. It's dangerous and bad for your health!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

My Lovely Day


Oh, my, what a LOVELY day for comic books.


Ordinarily, I don't get my books earlier than any of the other customers at Big Monkey, but I had the good fortune of being at the store last night after hours when the books are put up, allowing me get my sub and read it at bedtime.

And, let me tell you, today's a lovely day for comic books. At least, for me!

While the plot from Battle for Bludhaven isn't entirely to my taste, I'm along for the ride as long as it seems to be the staging ground for the (re-)introduction of lots of bizarre but welcome characters to the DCU. The new and appropriately name Firebrand; the, um, opinionated Father Time; the new Human Bomb in his slimming black outfit; those wacky, expendable Atomic Knights; the surprising (to me, at least) identity of the new Phantom Lady (who's all that and then some); even the Golem is gaining new life (well, sort of). But I was NOT ready for the "guest star" on the last page. Yow. That'll shake things up!

Speaking of new life and shaking things up, Supergirl is just the breath of fresh air the surly Legion of Super-Heroes need. Here in the 21st Century, she's been an annoying bellyshirted elephant in the living room, but in the 31st, she's cheery and fun. Still a solipsistic avatar of the meaningless of life, yes; but a cheery and fun one! She and Brainy haven't met yet, but, oh, they will... .

I'm not totally sold on the new Blue Beetle because, well, I already watch Danny Phantom on TV. But I like the art, and, oh my goodness, I was not expecting the final page. It makes sense (or it will) but it was still a shocker.

I wasn't certain I was going to keep Catwoman in my sub once the new Catwoman / new direction kicked it. But after this week's issue, I'm sure I am. I should know better than to distrust Will Pfeiffer, who always delivers. The building "mythos" around Catwoman, Angle Man, et al. is hooking me. And if you don't buy this issue, you'll miss what is (I think) the first meeting of Slam Bradley and Ted "Wildcat Loves You" Grant. But for me the sweet sweet icing on this multi-layered kitty cake is the new version of Film Freak (an '80's character who battle Harvey Bullock). The fricking Film Freak as a public personality and a player in Gotham scene? I'm in.

Checkmate I really didn't want to like, which smelled much too S.H.I.E.L.D.y for me and whose "chess" theme is very heavyhanded. Sigh. The Wall, monoptic Alan Scott, Mr. Terrific, Beatriz DaCosta actually using her power to doing something other than fly, Count Vertigo and King Farraday; I can't fight against that, I'm in. One thing, though; PLEASE lose the ridiculous outfits that Alan and Amanda are squeezed into. Didio; just call Blockade Boy, he'll whip up something fun in no time.

Loved the Villains United Special; if you don't, I don't know what you're reading comics for. Thanks, Gail! The ongoing cryptolovestory of Catman and Deadshot; the wacky hijinks of the "Secret Six", the "Friends" of the hired assassin set; the unique role of Dr. Light, who in Gail's hands is both his goofy self and his very frightening self at the same time; mysteries like the Capt. Nazi/ Black Adam relationship; the new comedy stylings of Dr. Psycho and Warp.

Speaking of Dr. P, it's nice to know that he (1) stills dresses for important occasions (2) likes having a pet (3) can sing. Heck, I'm enough of a geek that simply seeing Odd-Man on the page was worth the price of admission. I need Odd-Man in my life, and, whether you realize it or not, so do you.

Oh, by the way, Gail ... don't count Amos Fortune out yet; I'm betting that his luck will still hold out.

I could write volumes about my pleasure in watching Batman and his conversation with Harvey Dent, who's still one of the most complex, disturbing villains of all time; or the reconciliation of Bullock and Batman; the maturation of the relationship between Batman and Robin and the understanding of its importance to the popularity and viabilityof Batman as a character.

But I won't. I will give you only two words, two words that will require any decent comic book loving human being to RUSH to the store to buy this issue ...

Killer Moth.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Lockhorns .... of Space!

Talking about yer greek godlike characters. Darkseid (yawn!) and the Phantom Stranger never really do anything; they just create or comment on circumstances in which others can do things, make choices, play hero or villain. But they themselves are never affected, unchanging.

They are just SO the old married couple.

Naturally, the Phantom Stranger would never waste a heroic haiku on the deaf ears of Darkseid, so he altered his words in the panel below, where what he wanted to say was:



You are not the first
to attempt it, Darkseid, and,
I fear, not the last.


If you were Darkseid, or a dispassionate (and completely protected) bystander, what would you say to or about these cosmic Bickersons.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Marvel, Us Reading

Yesterday I read a Marvel comic. Because Devon asked me to.

Now that, folks, is friendship.

Actually, it was intended as an experiment. Because it's written by a "DC writer" whose work I generally enjoy, we figured I'd be reading a Marvel story I stood the best chance of liking.

I read a trade called "World Trust", in which the Avengers are sort of asked to take over the world for a while (for some reason I didn't quite fathom, other than it was easier for Geoff Johns to write JLA than the Avengers, so he abruptly turned the Avengers into the JLA).

While I can't say I liked it (the plot/villainy was cheesier and more ludicrous than a silver age JLA story, Geoff!), it did raise many questions and thoughts.

1. What on earth does this lovely, cultured Jan lady see in someone as drool-drippingly stupid as this Hank fellow? It can't be the sex, because she probably has to explain that to him, too. If he's a Marvel Universe scientist, it's no wonder they have so many nuclear accidents.

2. DC needs to buy Falcon. He seems intelligent, caring, well-adjusted, with a nice design and a unique power set. He seems completely out of place in the Marvel universe and needs to move to St. Roch and kick Northwind's butt. He and Steve could still write, and see each other on weekends.

3. That whole Vision/Scarlet Witch thing just seems icky and really really wrong no matter how you cut it, doesn't it?

4. Captain America has a visiphone in his shield? So, basically, he's hitting you with his cellphone? Must not get a lot of calls while he's working.

5. Speaking of that shield, given Cap's build, does it hit his head all the time when he backpacks it, and if so, shouldn't it get its own sound effect, so that when Cap walks around the HQ, you hear "kdong, kdong, kdong"? Is he just so tough he doesn't care? Is Cap the Hal Jordan of the Marvel Universe?

6. Cap easily had the best line: "Now... our nation's capital is an empty void." I guess we know how Cap's voting in the mid-terms.

7. Those Avenger people really need Amanda Waller, don't they? Interesting that she is the DCU's personification of bureaucracy, as compared to this Gabrych eunuch.

8. The idea that a nation would plunge into anarchy if its capital disappeared is just plain amusing. Little countries maybe; larger countries, not even close.

9. Isn't Iron Man's head too small? Looks like he's on JLU.

10. Hissy-fitting Namor's ability to take himself so seriously makes it impossible for me to take him seriously. Dude; have you looked at your ankles lately?

11. Wait, wait; so the UN is sanctioning the Avengers to prevent, by force, any nation from taking advantage of the situation to change its government? Yow. Glad I live on Earth Prime.

12. If Iron Man is so rich and smart, how can he be so naive about Black Panther, whose enlightened self-interest seems perfectly reasonable to any worldly adult?

13. If they could fix the Jack of Hearts little explody problem, he's just silly enough to come to the DCU. Love to see the Joker, the Royal Flush Gang, and Two-Face team up against him. Oh, and couldn't they just make him a containment suit with the "Zero Fluid" in it, so he could, you know, go shopping at the mall while he's exploding? I mean, the Human Bomb does it all the time down at Pentagon City.

14. I like Ant-Man. He's kind of like the Red Bee, except with a greater self-awareness that he's silly. Can we borrow Ant-Man? He could hang out with the Atom and Blue Beetle, and, besides, Marvel seems to have a surfeit of tiny bug people.

15. What happened to make the Avengers to begin with? I mean, what are they Avenging? It's such an ... unpleasant name, particularly to my delicate DC ears, which have been taught that Justice is good and Vengeance is bad.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hercules' Lament

Those of you who read Justice (which should be all of you, by the way, because it's fun, even if, as always, it's impossible to see what's going on because Alex Ross is drawing it) may have been confused by the Cheetah's mention of "Hercules' Lament" when she scratches Wonder Woman with her poison-tipped claws. Be confused no more; it's a reference to the myth of the death of Herakles.

Herakles, as you probably already know, was sort of the Superman of the ancient Greek myths (except he wasn't nearly as nice as Superman). Nowadays, superheroes are often aliens or metahumans. Ancient myth had something similar, as its heroes were often "demigods", the offspring of a god and a human. [There were also some heroes who were fully human, like Odysseus, the Batman of the ancient world, who relied on his ingenuity and adaptability to accomplish great things. Odysseus, like Batman, rocked.] Demigods were usually more powerful than regular humans (sometime even getting a special ability, like prophecy, flight, or telescopic vision; no, really!), but were still mortal and could be killed.

Herakles (or Hercules, as the Romans called him) was the big kahuna of the demigods; if you got into a fight with Herakles, you lost. If your army got into a fight with Herakles, it lost. That's why most of his exploits involved fighting monsters (like Superman in the 1980s and 1990s) or using his abilities in clever ways to solve seemingly unsolvable problems (like Superman in the 1950s and 1960s).

Early on in his career, he hung out with his nephew and "boy pal", Iolaus, who was yer basic Jimmy Olsen (complete with cryptohomosexual undertones), except that Iolaus was occasionally useful (such as when he helped kill the Hydra by cautering its necks when Herk lopped off the heads). Later, Herakles gave Iolaus his ex-wife (Megara = Lana Lang) to marry. That is so Superman Family, it's creepy.

Still, later Herk finally landed his "Lois Lane", spunky warrior princess (a.k.a. "gal reporter") Deianeira, daughter of Oeneus, king (a.k.a. "editor") of Calydon (Oeneus means "wine guy", because he learned winemaking from the god Dionysus himself; no, really!). Once Herakles marries Deianeira, that's where the Lamenting comes in. Kind of like Lois.

Herakles and Deianeira were out a-wandering (like heroes do) and came to the river Euenos, where a centaur named Nessos was the ferryman. I guess that's what retired centaurs do; better than giving pony rides to the spoiled children of satraps.

So Nessos starts to carry Princess D across and realized, wow, she's a total hottie, and starts to, ahem, "carry her off", which is what they called it in those days. Well, Herk bridled at that sort of horsing around, and shot Nessos with one of his arrows. This hurt even more than you'd think, because all of Herakles' arrows had been soaked in the poison blood of the Hydra (Editor's Note: the monster Iolaus had helped him kill long ago, in Ancient Action #CCXIV!). So as Nessos lays dying, he goes, "Oh, I'm sorry about molesting you; pardon my hot-bloodied centauriness! Let me apologize by giving you the recipe for a love potion made from my blood and some other stuff I won't mention because this is a family blog! It will ensure Herakles remains yours, just as he has ensured you will remain his by shooting me with this really, really painful poisoned arrow that's killing me even as we chat."

Deianeira, being pretty much as stupid and insecure as Lois Lane, falls for this line of hooey. See, because people who read comics know better than that, reading comics keeps you safe from vengeful dying centaurs and other of life's little dangers, so buy comics for your kids, folks. Anyway, ,Princess D makes the potion (which is obviously poisonous, duh, since it's made from the centaur's poisoned blood) and soaks Herakles' tunic in it.

What happens next is not pretty. Picture if Lois got really ticked at Clark and soaked his supersuit in kryptonite krazy glue. Herakles' servant Lichas (who was like Kelex at the Fortress of Solitude, except for not being an alien robot) plops the outfit on his boss and, oy, the lamenting begins.

Herakles, in torture, orders Poeas (another servant guy) to build a funeral pyre that Herk throws himself into to stop the pain, an extreme but effective solution to his problem. His mortal essence burned away, but his dad, Zeus, took his divine essence up to Olympus, where Herakles became a full god (much to the annoyance of the many many relatives of the many people H killed on earth; just ask King Priam in Age of Bronze how he felt about that).

Before Herk kacks himself, he gives his magically unerring bow with its poison arrows to Poeas as a going-away present. Some people claim he really just said, "Hold these, Steward," with gritted teeth, but those people are just jealous, I say.

Poeas passes the bow and arrows on to his son, Philoctectes, father of podiatry (don't ask). Philoctectes turns into, well, Green Arrow, a bitter misanthropic crank who smells funny and learns to use the bow and arrow when he's stranded on a seagirt dirtpile. Phil becomes extremely important in the Trojan War (even though you've probably never heard of him), due to one of those absurd Silver Age Justice League story contrivances, where the rest of the JLA is helpless until GA can hit the button on some console with his boxing glove arrow, so everyone puts up with him; Philoctectes is like that. If you want to know why he's the key to "Death Rides a Wooden Horse!" either read Sophocles' play about it or subscribe to Age of Bronze, where I'm sure it's going to come up at some point.

A great ancient source for the story of Nessus is the Library of Apollodorus (which was the ancient world's "History of the DC Universe" and a very groovy read), something every civilized person should have in his library.

So, that's the poison the Cheetah (who's clearly a total nutbar) says she got from the queen goddess of the underworld (Persephone) and is using on Wonder Woman, who naturally enough thinks, "You are clearly a total nutbar, but, gosh, yes, this does sting."

Well, I figure there was at least one person who didn't get the reference, so there it is for ya. Because comic books are like myths: you don't need to get all the references to previous continuity to enjoy the story, but it helps.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Mystery of Space Cabbie

Ordinarily, when I have a question about comics I can't answer, I turn to Devon Who Erreth Not over at Seven Hells. But I know for a fact Devon can't help me answer this question, so I'll ask you.

What is the appeal of Space Cabbie?

I find it a mystery deeper and more unanswerable than even "Why would someone swordfight on the bottom of the ocean floor?" The Mystery of Space Cabbie thrusts itself into my face by way of this week's poll, in which Space Cabbie (incomprehensibly!) is beating out all other contenders for "most desired Showcase Presents", even the famously inventive Sugar & Spike and my obvious favorite, the fabulous Red Bee.

Why would some make a Space Cabbie out of Legos?

How can a character with no name, no origin, and no personal details at all be so popular?

Particularly when his last "real" story, not just an "appearance" (outside his JLU gig) was in, what, 1972?

Can anyone, without hitting the internet, name a single Space Cabbie story (JLU excepted) or remember its plot?

Why does Michigan State library have a Space Cabbie collection?

I'm not the only guy stymied by this Space Cabbie mystery.

My operating theory is that Space Cabbie is an empty icon, a sort of comic book Golden Calf, worshipped precisely because it has no meaning, and turned to as a rejection of the more difficult demands of modern comic book gods as we wander through the Desert of Decompression.

As such, Space Cabbie's vacuuity works to his advantage, a blank screen upon which we project our own concepts of "how innocent" comics used to be. Devotion to SC thus becomes a shibboleth for the Silver Age Apologists, the Whimsy Huggers, the ardent Argentophiles, who think that because they like literary candy bars for dessert that it would be great to consume them night and day.

What do YOU think of Space Cabbie?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Killer Moth's "Tools for Stopping Batman"

Ah ha! It is I, the Killer Moth, the anti-Batman, come to haunt your nightmares!

Decades before there were pretenders like Deathstroke or Prometheus, there was I ... I, the Killer Moth! With my Mothsignal and Mothmobile, I protect criminals from police predation and vulturous vigilanteism.

Sure, it's a gas-guzzler, but the ladies love it!

So, today I offer you some advice on How Not to Get Caught By Batman. I'm going to reveal some of the contents of my Futility Belt, so called because it renders useless the upholders of law! Ha! Ha ha! That appeals to my Golden Age sense of humor; Joker -- call me!

I have been asked to review some of the proper implements for protecting yourself from the Caped Crusader, some of which you have previously seen here at the Absorbascon, which I, the Killer Moth, am gracing with my criminal presence. Here are some of the proven tools that I, the Killer Moth, recommend for stopping Batman. Consider carrying them for your own supercriminal protection!


A Bear Head
Somewhat unwieldy but high in Golden Age pun possibilities!


A Punching Bag
Difficult to aim, but a successful attack writes its own punchlines!


A Bottle of Perfume
Also comes in hand with the ladies, when you're "Lady-Killer Moth" as I am!

Empty Water Pistols

Innocuous looking, but ...! It's all in the wrist.


Purple KangaroosI, Killer Moth, can get them for you wholesale!


Spare Change
Also useful in parking meters; nothing is more embarrassing than having the Mothmobile towed. Well, with the possible exception of having Batgirl knock you unconscious with a penny loafer and leave you splayed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Or being deceived into thinking that the Boy Wonder is actually is the offspring of an alien avian race. Or being portrayed by Tim Herbert.

Sigh. Anyway, where was I ... ? Oh, yes...



Pussies
Batman cannot resist them.


Purple-robed Pansies, Armed with Corndogs
Surprisingly effective and embarrassing. They will give him such a slap!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kurt Busiek Interview on Superman

Devon has posted the second of his his three-part interview with Kurt Busiek (scribe on Avengers, Superman, Astro City, Conan, JLA/Avengers, and something called Sword of Atlantis) over at Big Monkey.

In this part, Kurt and Devon discuss his plans for Superman and hints at some upcoming projects he's pitching to DC ...

Jimmy Olsen, Sword of Hobbs Bay

Lights Out for Hal!

Over the years, I have seen many sad and tragic things in comics, things that have made me openly weep: Black Canary's JLI costume; the Super-Cigars of Perry White; Aquaman #40. But none such have ever made me nearly as sad as one thing I have not seen...

Behold, the saddest thing never seen in comics!


Here's the wind-up...
and the pitch!
The Expert Commentary:
The Color Commentary:

Can you tell what's missing from this sequence? No, folks, it's not an omission on my part, not a hoax, a dream, or an imaginary story. This is the one and only first original time Green Lantern Hal Jordan gets clonked on the head (by a yellow table lamp, no less) ... and IT HAPPENS OFF PANEL.

*Sob*! *Choke*!

The gods and editors are cruel, so very cruel. They cut away in the third panel to the incredulous gangsters' reaction, so that we never actually see the blow to Hal's head, never get to see Green Lantern "lamped out" by a Yellow Lamp. OH, the Comic Book Irony!

I guess I shouldn't blame the editors of the day. This is Hal's first outing, and I'm sure they read the script and said, "Can't show the hero getting klonked on the head; too undignified; better make it off-panel..."

We the fans of Hal Jordan deserve restitution for this wrong. I demand a Green Lantern Secret Files with nothing in it but scores of drawings depicting the lamp's arc between panels 2 and 3, the look on Hal's face as it connects with his cranium, his stunned body thudding to the floor with the lamp beside, victim and victimizer, and of course the scene where he decides to eat the lampshade, just for revenge. That way, if you flip the pages, you'll see a little movie of Hal's First Head Injury ... over and over and over again.

It should also have a Who's Who style page profiling Hal's original archenemy, the Heavy Yellow Lamp, with its own logo-font and including a cut-away diagram, some background history on the lamp, and specs on its height, weight, and bulb wattage. I bet it has Olympic-level illumination and mastered a variety of Asian lighting techniques.

Then maybe there should be a small background story, full of foreshadowing, where the lamp gets bought at Ikea (that's where we learn it's true identity, something like "Jarnstra" or "Diabas"), placed in the living room, and begins to plot its schemes against all green lanterns, like the ones that used to make fun of it at the factory.

Then, as further compensation, I expect a replica from DC Direct. I'll have one in each room of my house; anybody gets smart with me, WHOMP, lamped out they will be.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Blowing Stuff Up with Starman

How cool was Starman?

So cool he could compose flattering yet minatory haiku while jogging at the speed of a horse.



But let me blow up
that place; that sort of stuff is
right down my alley!



I swoon at his personal and poetic power! Oh, we shall not see your like again, Ted Knight!

Can you (even when not jogging alonside a running horse) compose a haiku to compare with that of Starman?

Monday, April 17, 2006

That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles...

Surely you remember "the Best Lois Lane Panel Ever"?

Thanks to Absorbascommando Don Reisig, we know that that Golden Age panel was reprised in the Silver Age. Or was it?

In the Golden Age, it looked like this:
Lois has engaged an eminent psychiatrist (you can tell from the beard) with the most powerful Yellow File Card of Piercing Insight imaginable. Where was this man when Hal Jordan lost it, I ask you? Lois is an active participant in her own recovery, alert, leaning forward aggressively into the doctor's territory. Plus, she's wearing one of the spunkiest little outfits I've ever seen, right down to the kryptonite green gloves. That's a Golden Age outfit that screams, "Don't muck with me, doc! I've got a problem and I'm here to solve it!" No shame, no shyness; there's a reason Lois is in Action Comics, folks. Dr. James Lipton is all aquiver and can barely keep up with the Lois's psyche, and the whole scene's more like a riveting evening on Inside the Gal Reporter's Studio than a shrink session.

But, oh, in the Silver Age! In the Silver Age, it looked like this:Lo, how the mighty have fallen! No more Viennese experts for poor Lo-Lo. She's stuck with the bored and weary corner pharmacist, who, instead of using a Famous Freudian Filebox, is calmly scratching out her prescription for Xanax on a cheap steno pad from the Rea & Derrick he works at, immediately aware that she's a hopeless codependent mess. And she is, lying there in some frumpy suburban hausfrau outfit like a worn-out dishrag, draped supine on a cheesy hospital cot like a M*A*S*H extra, with her hand stuck to her forehead in the universal "woe is me" symbol.

You disgust me, Silver Age Lois! Where is your Golden Age verve, your gal-elan, your moxie? Gone, all of it, eroded by month after month of cruel identity hoaxes, hissies with Lana, bizarrely extreme yet still temporary transmogrifications of your physiognomy, and imaginary stories spent shacking up with chubby Lex Luthor. There it lies, a silent but eloquent indictment of post-war American society, the remains of the Toughest Cookie in the Golden Age, eaten away by the acidic insanity of the Silver Age.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Crisis on Ancient Earth

It is the greatest story ever told, the perfect unity of myth, legend, and history. It is the inexahustible wellspring into which all ancient Greek myth flows or emanates. It is "Crisis on Ancient Earth". It is, in essence, the comic book that created Western Civilization. It is the Trojan War.

As a trained Classicist, I am not inclined to praise modern interpretations and retellings of Ancient lit. That's because so many are dreck; all is dross that is not Helena, after all. Yet I have nothing but the highest praise for Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze, an on-going monthly series that is retelling the story of the Trojan War.

Unlike many adaptations, Shanower's strives for accuracy, in characterization, plot, dress, design, and decor. Even the decorations seen on palace walls in the comic book are extrapolations from the actual remains of murals unearthed at Troy. He's made all the difficult decisions in interpretation, such as how to reconcile textual inconsistencies or in what way to understand the role of the gods in the conflict, with great care, intelligence, and style. The result is most readable version of the war since, well, Homer.

Shanower also takes full advantage of the comic book medium in adapting the tale. For example, when King Priam tells the story of how when he was a boy Herakles sacked his city, the flashback is drawn in a "Popeyesque" style that captures the mythic tone of Herakles in a way a thousand words could not. As, and befits a gifted interpreter, he augments the original stories with logical expansions, such as the inclusion of the dog Argos in the story of the Madness of Odysseus and of Troilus & Cressida in the doings at the Trojan court.

I don't care what else Image has done; they publish "Age of Bronze" and for that they shall always have my respect and gratitude.

Apparently I'm not the only person to praise the series. Age of Bronze has already won two Eisners and is nominated for a third this year. Unfortunately, it's too close to being one of those books everyone praises but no one reads (you know; like Manhunter). While sales of its collected trades remain healthy, too many trade-waiters are dampening sales of the monthly issues. If those fail, there aren't going to be any trades. That would be a crime, so I'd like your help to keep that from happening. Besides, I want to find out how the war ends.

I intend to do my part by posting occasionally on the various characters, stories, and situations in Age of Bronze and how they should appeal to the average comic book reader. For example, how anyone can call himself a Batman fan without knowing the stories of Odysseus, the Batman of Ancient literature, is beyond me.

All I'm asking is that you check out the Age of Bronze website, read some more about it on-line, and consider subscribing to this wonderful series. Age of Bronze belongs in the short boxes of every educated Westerner, right alongside Action Philosophers.