Saturday, May 20, 2006

Legionspeak 102

As previously mentioned
, my great admiration for the eloquence of Interlac moves me to study the great rhetoriticians of the 30th century, looking for phrases in Legion of Super-Heroes stories that I can incorporate into my daily life. Here are my latest ones...

Polar Boy: "The planet Earth! I'm finally here ... where I hope to realize my dream!'
Check; I already say this every morning as soon as I wake up.

Night Girl: "Come on ... I know where to find others who were rejected!"
I can use that when I invite my buddies to go to the bar.

Brainiac 5: "I hated to leave him behind, but his power of super-bouncing wouldn't help much in a struggle like this."
I'll need some explanation for not inviting Big Monkey staffer Legba to join us.

Monster Master: "I want to exchange my Barakian 'living money' for liquid money of the world Althar!"
Well, that'll get the bartender's attention!

Bouncing Boy: "Come on, Mr. Earthquake Beastie, lash out at me with your tail!"
Because one does get tired of the same old pick-up lines, you know.

Chameleon Boy: "But what's this shapeless little animal? There seems nothing unique about it!"
And, no, you may not buy me a drink!

Cosmic Boy: "We of the Legion will come at top speed!"
Mmm. No, I don't really want to say that at the bar.

Saturn Girl: "The raider you disarmed grabbed up a native fish-spear and is charging you!"
That's about the time we should be leaving, I think...

I'll also learned a few for the comic book store!

Chameleon Boy: "Open the door of this place, or I'll blast!"
For when I show up at Big Monkey and Devon hides in his office.

Sun Boy: "I dazed him with radiance! Now the beast can't do any harm!"
Because the Assistant Manager can occasionally get uppity.

Mon-El: "I'll investigate that strange creature of far space that dies and then comes to life again!"
Oh, that's perfect for the next time someone asks when Green Lantern's coming out!

Sun Boy: "Your stupid meddling is the last straw! Leave this place and don't come back! You failures are interfering with our work!"
Hm-- I'm beginning to understand why Devon won't let me talk to the customers...

Erasing Cain

Okay, let's do this thing, even though I know it's gonna get ugly...!

This post is only for those of you who've read the latest issue of Robin. If you haven't, before you continue, please leave the house, get into your car, drive to one of Big Monkey Comics' convenient locations, buy it, read it, then come back.

Back now? Good.

Kalinara thinks the whole thing is a ploy so boldly hackneyed that no one can imagine it. She may very well be right. She probably is right.

But I hope she isn't right and I'll tell you why: I've never liked the new Batgirl.

Oh, I warmed up to her a little toward the end, when she got her own title, her own "Batgirl cave", and such. Her character filled out some. But on the whole, I didn't like her. Many of the reasons aren't "her fault", if you know what I mean; I don't blame her for my not liking her. But neither do I blame me for not liking her.

For one thing, her backstory is too eye-rollifying for me, especially since it so obviously smacks of editorial desperation. Perry White walks into the DC bullpen and shouts,

"Listen up! I need a new Batgirl by 5 o'clock today! She's gotta be a kick@$$ Asian ninja because they're the new gorillas. Give her some connection to part of Batman's history, a name that invokes the original Batwoman, and she needs to be immediately ready to kick criminal butt in her first panel without any tedious training sequences like we wasted on Sasha Bordeaux! Get to work, people!"

Or something like that. That brown, by the way? That's what your voice sounds like when you smoke cigars every day. So 4:58 = Cassie Cain.

Another strike against is her connection to David Cain, who's part of the needless filling in of Batman's "path to Batmanhood". Yawn. Maybe I'm just too "Golden Age" for all that stuff. As far as I'm concerned, Bruce Wayne mastered all the skills he need to become Batman in two panels of his origin, then sat down in his study to smoke a pipe and rest a bit. It's just a three-part process, people:

Lift barbell; examine test tube; smoke pipe.Don't listen to the narrator, Bruce; I think those panties are darling.

That's Who He Is and How He Came To Be. Anything more than that, for me, is just the modern equivalent of those Silver Age stories where we discover Thomas Wayne once wore a bat outfit at a costume party or that "Man-Of-Bats" used to fight injustice among american native tribes.

And David Cain. Ugh. See, he's named "Cain"; like the first murderer; and he's an assassin! Isn't that CLEVER? No; no, that's not clever. Naming Kite-Man "Charles Brown"; that's clever.

Oh, and the whole "trained in body language to be a killing machine" schtick? I'm just going to be nice and leave that entirely alone, pretending it doesn't violate linguistics, anthropology, psychology, physiology, and probably some ologies I've never even heard of.

Another strike against poor Cassie was the "turning a criminal into Batman's partner" trope.

It was a bad idea with Jason;
it was a bad idea with Kirk Langstrom;

it was a bad idea with Cassandra;

it was a bad idea with Azrael;
it was a bad idea with Bane;
it was a bad idea with Onyx;
it was a bad idea with Selina Kyle;
it was a bad idea with Harvey Dent.
As a general rule, it's a bad idea to do that.

It's a nice personality bit that "hardcase" Batman is the one hero who actually seems interested in and focused on helping criminals turn over a new leaf. But making them into a partner is not the way to go, Bruce; just pay for their therapy bills and go fight somebody on a giant typewriter.

Oh, and all those mean things Cassandra says to Tim at the end? They are completely true -- just not about Robin. They're true about her. On the whole, Batman just used her as a convenient chess piece; Batman did that because that's the same way the writers were using her.

I'll admit another thing I had against Cassie that's not her fault: I really liked Sasha Bordeaux. I did not want to like Sasha; but I could not stop myself from liking her. Like many Sashaphiles, it seemed "clear" to me that the editors were having her groomed to become the new Batgirl/woman. That may have been "clear" to us, but it sure wasn't clear to the editors, who did something, er, slightly different with her. So when this, this snip of a girl pops up out of nowhere and basically takes Sasha place... !

That's when the Secret Society of Sashaphiles was formed, and our wheels grind slowly but exceeding fine, mwu-hu-ha-ha. Guess who's running DC now, baby? Forget fumbling FEMA; we are the shadow government. That's why Bordeaux is a central figure in the blood-drenched tapestry of Infinite Crisis, while Cassie's been reassigned to chewing scenery as a Robin foe (Big Trouble with Little Shiva!), joining such luminaries as the Clock, the Joker's Daughter, and Crazy Quilt. Revenge is sweet.

Cassie's also not to blame for the stitched-over, no pie-hole mask. The problems with that have been hashed out enough on-line. Suffice it to say I think Cassie should partner with the Scarecrow. Only villains cover their mouths when they chew scenery. Yes, I'm looking at you.

The original Batwoman (and Bat-Girl and Batgirl) were daring, sassy, spunky, and independent. They were like brightly plumed jungle birds that poop on your tropical shirt then fly away mocking you to do anything about it. Cassie-Batgirl was just creepy, more like some skinny one-eyed alley cat that slices your jugular just to steal an anchovy off your pizza.

With a new more fiery/less psychotic Batwoman on the way, I'm betting Kalinara is wrong and that they really are clearing the decks for her. Because, gods forgive me, Cassie interested me more in two pages of psychofreakout screech party than she did in years and years and years of silent soldiering. So, so long "Batgirl", hello "Little Shiva!"

Of course, if Kalinara is right, well ... then forget I said anything!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Musica expectatur

Hi-YAH, platter-fans!

Remember, as the "program director" at Big Monkey Radio, I'm always looking for new comic book related music.

If your neighbor's garage band has a superhero related song, send me an MP3 of it and maybe I can put in Big Monkey Radio.

Local DC band The Franchise did, and now BMR plays their songs, "Rohrshach" and "I Want to Be Your Superhero", every day...

Villains for the Top 50 List...?

The villains for the previously mentioned Top 50 list are below. I have room for six more and I'm listening for your suggestions.

But please don't waste your breath and my time on the shallow, ridiculous caricature that is "Darkseid". No matter how large you make a cardboard cut-out, it's still basically two-dimensional....

The Joker. The clown from hell.

Two-Face (Harvey Dent) . All of axiology wrapped up in one character.

Lex Luthor. Human ambition, vanity, and folly all in one package.

Mxyzptlk. He who uses the fourth wall to look IN at the comic book, as we do, instead of out.

The Riddler (Edward Nigma). The supreme intellectual challenger.

Dr. Psycho. He violates you from the inside out.

The Composite Superman (Joe Meach). The godlike janitor who kicked Batman and Superman's butts.

Starro. If you do not immediately understand the genius of a giant purple mindcontrolling starfish from outer space that eats atomic power, then may god have mercy on your soul.

Eclipso (Bruce Gordon). No one else is his own archenemy.

Gorilla Grodd. It's the juxtaposition of the gorillaness with the mindforce/scifi thing, ya see.

Penguin (Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot). There is no rationale to fully explain the fabulousness of the Penguin. Yet there it is. Besides, what other villain can fight Firestorm to a standstill in one comic and get beaten up by Bullock in another without your batting an eye about it?

Catwoman (Selina Kyle). The real danger to society isn't evil; it's disinterested amorality, as symbolized by Catwoman.

Emerald Empress. The eye. THE EYE! AAAIIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mister Mind. A world-conquering worm. Sheer genius.

Harley Quin. Because I, too, have had bad days and made bad decisions.

Killer Moth. The original Anti-Batman, the unlovable loser, and the avatar of all self-deluding costumed kooks.

The Crime Doctor. It's like "snakes on a plane".

Black Manta. Because ... well, because he's Black Manta, for Neptune's sake.

Ares (God of Conflict). A real god. Not a thundering Norse puppet character or a cardboard-thin fourth world "new god" or a wispy Endless One. A real god from the gods the founders of our civilization worshipped.

Paul Gambi. Tailor to the supervillains. Pure poetry, that.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Age of Bronze interview

We all know I don't love DC's bronze age, but I do love Image's Age of Bronze..

Do you remember my post about one of my new favorite comic books, Age of Bronze?

The author of this critically acclaimed series was nice enough to grant me an interview, which is now available at Big Monkey Comics.

You deserve to know and love Age of Bronze. Oh, and the next time somebody gives you grief about comic books being crappy, stupid, or childish ...

Age of Bronze is the perfect thing to slap them in the face with.

Help Me Pick The Best of DC

Wise Tom at the Great Curve is surveying a bunch of bloggers so he can compile a list of the 50 Best DC Characters. Each blogger gets to pick a list according to his or her own criteria.

What a delightful challenge! I can't, in good conscience, simply choose the characters I like the most. I mean, not even I think the Penny Plunderer or Orca are among DC's 50 Best Characters, despite my affection for them. What's that, Todd? You forgive me? Thank you; thank you, Todd.

This may surprise you: Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern -- not on the list. As character concepts, no one's really figured out what Wonder Woman's about in over 60 years, Flash is a simple power held by a number of likeable guys, and Green Lantern might as well be Ibis the Invincible, Starman, Zatara, or any other "magic wand" guy. I like 'em; but that's not enough.

I can't tell you what the final blogosphere wide vote will be, but I can tell you what my votes are and why. Out of a perverse sense of fairness (or perhaps merely balance), I am forcing myself to divide my choices between heroes and villains equally. Some choices, like Batman & Superman, are pretty obvious and universal. Others are less so.

Here are some of the heroes I'm putting on my list, in no particular order (I'll post villains later).

I still have room for a few more; any suggestions?

Batman (Bruce Wayne). The hero who turns his tragedy into a triumph for others. The scary nighttime hero. Symbol of human heroic potential. How to maximum the effect of the power you have.

Superman (Clark Kent). Everyone's power fantasy. The friendly daytime hero. The personification of responsible use of power. A testament to the power of morality. How to minimize the effects of the power you have.

Captain Marvel (Billy Batson). Like Batman, a human orphan; like Superman, a superbeing of immense power. Like Batman, he is wise; like Superman he is invulnerable. Boys dream of giving up their current lives to be Batman or Superman; boys dream of keeping their current lives while being Captain Marvel.

Aquaman (Arthur Curry). Laugh all you want at Aquaman. No intellectual analysis of his limits in the world of fighting crime and villains can dismiss his elemental appeal. We humans live on a planet 3/4 of which is completely inhospitable to us, an environment that would kill us in under 4 minutes. We are all innately afraid of the sea. But Aquaman lives and rules there.

Plastic Man (Eel O'Brien). The crook turned hero. The slapstick absurdist hero. Ridiculous goofball; serious and nearly indestructible threat. If you'll pardon my saying so, the elasticity of the concept of Plas has done him well.

Robin. The kid sidekick. Every kid dreams of tagging along with his hero. Robin actually does.

Krypto. Anyone who doesn't understand why people love Krypto doesn't own a dog. Not only is he goofy fun, he serves as an occasional terrifying reminder of how grateful everyone should be that Superman has human morality.

Alfred Pennyworth. Bringer of dignity to both comic relief and personal pathos. I can't picture anyone boxing Batman's ears and getting away with it. Except Alfred.

Brainiac 5. He's not a smart character; he is the smart character. Which not only explains why he's in the Legion but why he experiences nearly constant frustration with everyone and everything.

Mr. Terrific (Terry Sloane). It's not just that he's the Man of 1000 Talents; I mean, Batman's pretty much like that, too. It's that he was driven to suicide by boredom and found happiness in living only by devoting his talents to help other people instead of himself.

Vibe (Paco Ramone). ?Como no?

Simon Stagg. Mr. Over-the-top. Genius. Zillionaire. Scientist. Businessman. Supportive. Manipulative. Loving. Creepy. Good. Evil. If Dr. Doom moved to DC, he would become Simon Stagg. Simon Stagg is all things to all people.

Danny the Street. I'm quite capable of giving Morrison props when necessary. And his idea of a magically mobile sentient crossdressing street that speaks in old British gay slang, as it was fully realized in the Doom Patrol, is sheer creative genius nearly unparalleled.

Jonah Hex. Double espresso with whiskey is to Sanka as Jonah Hex is to cowboy. If you're not going to love Jonah Hex, what's the point of being an American?

The Question (Vic Sage). The idea that the hard part of life isn't answering questions but figuring out which questions you should ask is a fairly sophisticated one, and one that this character personifies perfectly. Oh, and he looks cool.

Chunk (Chester Runk). As previously discussed.

Impulse (Bart Allen). If you can name a character whose character was more fully defined and realized then Impulse as he appeared in his own title and could make you laugh and cry in almost every issue, then I'll owe you a cup of coffee.

Bouncing Boy (Chuck Taine). Acquired his ridiculous powers through his own stupid carelessness, powers that severly deformed his body. Instead of becoming bitter, he joined the most powerful heroes of his generation. Bouncing Boy isn't great despite the fact that he has stupid powers; Bouncing Boy is great because he has stupid powers.

Power Girl (Karen Starr). I think perhaps Power Girl works for the same reason Wonder Woman doesn't. Wonder Woman was based on her creator's idea that the "masculine" and "feminine" ways of looking at the world were incompatible; Power Girl is based on the idea that they are compatible. That's why everyone struggles with Wonder Woman, but can't help but like Power Girl.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Things that made me happy today

Skeets' recommendations to the internet. I love Skeets. Booster Gold can be a pill but if Skeets is the cheese he's wrapped in, this dog'll swallow it every time.

Loeb's wrapping up Batman/Superman in a manner than made sense (well, 5th dimensional sense) and redeemed the series, something I would have thought impossible. In fact, when Devon told me so, I simply said, "Impossible." Then he showed me the Composite Superman-Batman, the Joker playing Heroclix, and the return of the one character they said would never ever return. Then he made me buy it because I'd already read most of it. Curse you, Jeph Loeb; you win this round!!! Next time, do this sort of thing in 3 issues instead of 3 years, okay?

The Red Inferno. Which is immediately fabulous even though I know nothing about it other than its name. I wonder whether it had a sidekick named Toro?

Speaking of characters they said would never return, I almost wet myself when I realized faithful Rex the Wonder Dog was doing the exposition in Shadowpact; welcome back, old pal. Oh, and Willingham writes a perfectly understated Superman; nice.

Todd Rice's boyfriend snarking on Atom-Smasher. Now I love him, too, Todd!

Ralph Dibny's polaroid.

Hey, Butthead; Jim Rook stays young by honing his sword; a lot. Heh. Heh heh.

The retcon on what Krona accidently created. I like it.

Thomas's television.

The card with Kate's flowers, as well as a special guest villain I surely would never have expected to see in any comic book. Even though they are cancelling Manhunter, I think Kate (and her fans) will be heading over to the new Justice Society book. What's that, Todd? You want me to subscribe to Justice Society? Yes, Todd. Yes, I will subscribe to Justice Society.

The sound of a lot people screaming when they read the end of Robin this week. Unhappily. While I giggle.

The Kilg%re. Nuff said.

Nuklon Smash!

Atom-Smasher is leading in the Heroclix Giants poll?

ATOM-SMASHER ?!?!?!?!?!

Interrobangs cannot suffice to express my combined confusion and outrage.

The latest DC Heroclix product is the "DC Giants set", consisting of larger-than-normal figures of Giganta, Validus, Rita Farr, Chemo, Colossal Boy, Alloy (a Metal Men construct that appeared in Kingdom Come), and Asim-Smasher.

Oh, sorry; I meant to say "Atom-Smasher".

My set arrived the other day, and they're purdier 'n a ploughed field on a Sunday!
Lovely Rita, in her kicky lilac go-gos and ginchy gloves, with her patented Elasti-Girl pose that says, "Admire my biceps all you want, but look up my mini and I'll squash you like a bug."

Chemo is noxiously sexy, and (despite his opaque appearance below) is all clear green plastic, except for his beady red eyes. When I played him against Devon's JSA team, and I had him repeatedly spit toxic waste into Atom-Smasher's face. I didn't win, but I didn't care, either.

"Oop. Glurb."

I was also able to reproduce the hair-pulling battle between Rita Farr and Giganta in IC#7. Who says gay people don't love a good catfight? Mee - oooW!

"And bigger than Giganta! Everbody tries, but can't-a..."

So, anyway, the HCRealms people are having a poll to see which of the Giant figures people like the most. And... and.. that murderer is winning.

That's obscene: it's VALIDUS who should be winning. He's got a see-through brainplate, shoulderhoses (even though you can't see that on the linked photo), and a range of 8.

Okay. I'm ... just going to pretend that on "New Earth", that whole dictator-squishing thing never happened, I guess...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Everybody, sing along!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Haikuesday to bring you this message from the LORHP, sung to the tune of "The Pennsylvania Polka"...

Knocked off
her shoulders
by Superboy Prime:
the Rolling Head of Pantha!
Gone from
to wholly sublime:

the Rolling Head of Pantha!It's deader
than Spoiler

yet faster than Flash;
it's lamer than Black Manta!
Everybody tries
but can't-a
to catch the head
rolling off of Pantha!

Monday, May 15, 2006

In Praise of Marvel

I come today, not to bury Marvel, but to praise it.

To praise Civil War. In fact, to praise Civil War for precisely the same reason many people are damning it: because it's boring.

Arguments over legislation? Boring? Welcome to Washington, folks!

Like many other Washingtonians, part of my career has involved participating in goings-on on the Hill (Capitol Hill, that is; the slaughteryards where tasty links of legislation are made). With all the political coverage on the teevee nowadays, you'd think anyone could develop a realistic sense of how this town works, without ever needing to live here, work here, or even visit here.

Yet, the many-headed media's fictional portrayals of Washington have more influence on most non-locals' idea of our national government than does any news coverage (which is sometimes fictional anyway).

People who don't live here but do watch movies and TV get silly ideas in their heads. That the president runs the government. That representatives have the nation's best interests at heart rather than their own. That the administrative branch is efficient enough and motivated enough to perpetrate large-scale, long-term conspiracies. That government is gripping and exciting. These are the kinds of things that make Washingtonians laugh long and hard.

Marvel, folks, is telling you like it is. Legislation is boring and vague. Frustrated that you don't know what the legislation is that the Marvel characters are arguing about because you haven't seen it? Ha! That's better than being frustrated that you don't know what the legislation is because you have seen it, which is exactly what happens when most normal people see a bill.

Irate because longtime comrades-in-arms are being put so easily at odds by a simple bill, because it seems unrealistic? Heh; sit in on a Republican discussion of illegal or legal immigration bills.

I read a description of the Big Two's big events this summer (on another blog, but I don't remember which one): Infinite Crisis is exciting but fantastically incomprehensible and Civil War is boring but excruciatingly realistic. Or something like that.

So, I applaud the realism of the honorable competition (for Quesada is an honorable man). I also applaud Marvel for doing what it does best: being different from DC, specifically, being more realistic.

Yes, I know a lot of you steadfastly turn a blind eye to any differences between the two companies, but fortunately that doesn't erase them.

In IC, all of DC's heroes stop fighting one another are start fighting all the villains; in CW, all of Marvel's heroes stop fighting villains and start fighting one another. DC is busy heightening the differences between heroes and villains and sharpening the contrast between Good and Evil; meanwhile, Marvel asserts there is no right or wrong in the problem its posing, that real issues are inherently grey. As ever, Marvel strives to reflect our world, and DC to illuminate it.

Both purposes are potentially good, useful, and interesting, by the way (even if I personally enjoy one more than the other).

So read Civil War. And if you find it boring, or it frustrates you because there's no simple answer ...

good. Because that is how the world is.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

DC's Greatest Mother

Who's DC's greatest mother, in my book? No, not Hippolyta, although she sure is a close second, and I miss her.

No, I'm referring to the one, the only...

Mary West.

You know; Wally's mother.

Why is Mary West cool? Well, for one thing, she's a real person. She's not a prize-winning physicist, software company CEO, high-powered District Attorney, or tenured archeologist. She has no superpowers, not even any particular talents. She didn't put a pot on her head to keep her neighborhood safe during the depression. The Cosmic Control Rod was not needed when she gave birth. She is (or was) a "mere suburban housewife."

Oh, and she married a complete jerk, Rudy West. Who, aside from being a professional jerk and ne'er-do-well, also had a hobby as a collaborator with the Manhunters. Then he tried to drown Mary at sea. Mary sure can pick 'em.

Wally lied to her, remember, during his entire adolescence, keeping his Kid Flash identity a secret from her.

In fact, she's not even a very nice mom, really. Mary wasn't supportive of Wally's superheroics, didn't sew him a costume out of his baby blankets, and actively criticized him for focusing on other people's problems instead of his own. She was a shrill nag who freeloaded off of Wally when he became rich.

Then she started "borrowing" his JLI teleportation tube to go jet-setting all around the world, shacking up with some old Italian spy guy, and vanishing from Wally's life, which was fine by him, since he (punk that he is) didn't even want her at his own wedding.

GODS, I miss that woman.

Why? Because she was a realistic person, who, though flawed, loved her son and had his best interests at heart. Even though he never appreciated her, listened to her, or tried to understand her. And when it became clear that he was old enough to take care of himself (whether he did so or not), she said, "I've lived my whole life for my family, with little success of reward; now I deserve to live life for myself." And she did.

Mary West; Wally may not miss you, but I do.

Happy Mother's Day.

What The Monkey Wants

The Monkey wants your opinion on comics' greatest mother of them all.

The Monkey wants to know, "What's the stupidest thing Aqualad ever said?"

The Monkey wants your view on JLU and its final episode.

The Monkey wants your verdict on Peter David and Spiderman.

The Monkey answers the question, "Y?"