Saturday, July 08, 2006

Reasons to read "Manhunter" #10

In issue #10, Kate starts using the Patch to try to quit smoking.

A little thing? Not to those of who you who know the difficulties of kicking the habit. Kate decides to quit smoking because her son asked her to, I believe.

It's just one example of character development. A lot people complain that in most A-list superhero comics, there's no room for character development. Everyone pretty much has to stay the way he is, at best oscillating between two points on a personal personality pendulum ("I am lone dark vigilante!"/"I'm the paterfamilias of a whole of colorfully clad crimefighters!").

Manhunter isn't doing that. She's contradicted her career as an officer of the court by becoming a vigilante. She contradicts both of those by later becoming a defense attorney. She works to expand her cast of supporters for the vigilanteism. She tries to quit smoking.

Where is she headed? Will she succeed in anything she's attempting? I don't know. I know that Superman will always win; I don't know whether Manhunter will.

Most important to me, all this goes on without pages and pages of overstuffed word/thought balloons of self-pity and self-doubt.

Buy Manhunter.

Things That Made Me Happy...

in this week's comics.

  • A naked Chinese guy wriggling across a white rug
  • Jonah Hex, faster than a speeding bullet
  • Superpowered Lexgoons wearing purple and lime.
  • The Royal Flush Gang getting their patooties kicked by the JLU.
  • A new episode of BTAS ... right there, in my issue of Detective!
  • The fact that Cat-Man may be a "bad-ass" but still has lots and lots of different themed outfits, all with little cat ears on the top.
  • Niles gets sent to his room.
  • Joan threatens to kill Jay.
  • Packs of scientist-eating dogs.
  • Mike McAvennie reminding us what real heroes are.
  • The adaptability of Buddy Baker.
  • The strange but riveting art of JH Williams III.
  • Courtney's immunity.
  • Tim and Cassie's awkward moment.
  • Rag Doll,the Iron Chef.

A Cut Above

Today I give a shout out to the fine folks at the DC Conspiracy, a local collective of independent comic creators. I was chatting with one of them yesterday at Big Monkey about their new anthology "SHEAR TERROR", a collection of horror stories, each of which features a pair of scissors prominently. (I would put up a pic of the cover here, but it's too scary, actually...)

I love anthologies like that! A theme or "rule" for the stories gives them a related feel, but allows for -- indeed, highlights -- the creative team's respective bents and talents. Among its offerings, "Shear Terror" has a Poe redux, a mummy western, a wordless version of Pinocchio, a EC riff, the Spatula of Nightmare, a vampire bride, and proof of that old sailor's adage, "If Aquaman's not available, make sure you've got some scissors!'

Shear Terror is in black and white, but the artists do themselves credit by making that work to their advantage. So whatever you do, don't read Shear Terror at night in a darkened room!

DCConspirators will be at the upcoming Big Monkey party at Busboys & Poets at 7PM on Thursday July 20, with copies of Shear Terror to horrify you with!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Mad Mods!

I am thinking of having a new Heroclix custom made and, as I have before, I want to seek your input.

How this works is, the Mad Modder Dale can create any custom Heroclix figure I ask for (for a fee). But I need to figure out an appropriate dial from an existing Heroclix figure that can be "borrowed" to use as the custom's dial. By "appropriate" I mean "has powers" that approximate what the customized character is able and likely to do in the comic books.

Ideally, I can find a dial from a figure different from one of the ones we play with. Sinc
e we only play with the DC clix at my house (imagine that!), I'm usually scouring the dials of all the Marvel figures to find appropriate dials to use for customs of DC figures. In fact, a lot of what I know about more modern Marvel characters comes from the research I have to do to understand their Heroclix dials for this research! Thus, my love for DC forces me to learn about Marvel: oh, the Comic Book Irony.

Occasionally, I'll use a dial from a figure of a DC character that we seldom (or never) play because, well, we just don't like the character. For example, "Jinx" is a fairly meaningless character to me, being from the Titans lore that I find tedious; however, the dial of the Veteran Jinx is not a bad approxima
tion of the mystic abilities of the Ocean Master, and so my custom Ocean Master sits on the dial of a Veteran Jinx.

So, in contemplating a custom order, I have to decide:

(A) What character would be cool to have a figure of, but isn't likely to
get made by Wizkids (the company that makes Heroclix). For example: yes, it would be cool to have some more Doom Patrol figures, but you know darned well there will be more coming from Wizkids. I prefer only to order customs that I don't expect to see as "real figures" (like, say, my Ace the Bathound custom clix).

(B) What character would fit in well with the kinds of figures we usually play. For example: I'm not the world's biggest fan of Green Arrow, so I'm not highly motivated to ask for a Xeen Arrow custom and the Fourth World characters don't see lots of play at my house, so Kanto's not high on the list for possible customizing. Conversely, I already have TWO Vibe customs and a host of Aquaman characters. You know; the real Aquaman.

(C) Whether there's an appropriate dial to put the custom on. Does no good to have a neat-looking Phantom Stranger custom if there's no dial that would let him do the Phantomically Strange things he usually does. In fact, it's just frustrating.

I have a draft list of ideas but I want at least four more. Please express your opinions (minus any threats of violence) of my list and suggest additions. If you do suggest an additional character to be customized, please, if possible, take (A), (B), and (C) into consideration.

My current favorite candidates are:

Angle Man

A long-time Wonder Woman foe, the Angle Man is the suave ladies' man with the mysterious warping device known as the Angler, who is currently seeing so much play in the pages of Catwoman.

Why?: We like to play "the So and So Family versus their Rogues Gallery" games, and Angle Man would help round out Wonder Woman's foes.

The Dial: Veteran Shaman (Armor Wars #051; 74 points). The point range is right: he's less powerful than WW but still hard for her to beat. The rainbow dial lets him do the full range of Angler tricks: disappearing at will (Phasing), confusing people (Perplex), undercutting others' powers (Outwit), hobbling opponents (Incapacitate), attacking people's brains (Psychic Blast), avoiding getting hit (Deflection).

Dr. Polaris

Currently dead Green Lantern villain and famous loon, the original Master of Magnetism, and a fine blogger to boot.

Why?: There are four different GL Heroclix (Hal, Kyle, John, Kilowog), but their Rogues Gallery is represented only by Sinestro and Fatality (oh, and the Manhunter robots, but they're easier to blow up than Red Tornado). And watching Polaris bounce dumpsters off Hal Jordan's head would be about the finest evening one could have without employing marital aids.

The Dial: Unique Xorn (Ulitmates #085, 94 points). Heh; you were expecting Magneto or the X-Man Polaris, weren't you? I don't want to use Magneto because he always has the power "Leadership", and that just ain't Dr. Polaris. Polaris would work for Dr. Polaris (go figure!) but I want to use Xorn. Xorn's got three things that make him perfect: Telekinesis down the dial (that's the power used to represe
nt magnetically throwing crap around; like dumpsters; at Hal's head); Deflection (magnofolk are always deflecting whatever object or force you aim at them); and HEALING (because Dr. Polaris is a REAL PHYSICIAN; that's too cool to ignore).

Black Hand

Cliche-spouting energy vampire villain recently revamped in the pages of Green Lantern.

Why?: See above on GL villains. Besides, he's really creepy and the only similar villain is Parasite, but he sucks. Literally.

The Dial: Veteran Rogue (Infinity Challenge #123, 85 points). Rogue has "Steal Energy"; Black Hand is an energy vampire. Nuff said.

Jimmy Olsen

Congenital idiot and avatar of all Superman fanboys.

Why?: Jeepers, Mr. Kent! It's your basic constructive dilemma. If Jimmy Olsen survives a game long enough to be helpful, that'll be pretty funny; if he doesn't, that'll be even funnier. Jimmy in game = funny.
The Dial: Rookie Gotham Undercover Cop (Unleashed #007, 14 points). Tough one. Without having one of his freak accidents, Jimmy has no powers (although a strong argument could be made for Perplex, since there has never been a character more perplexing the Jimmy Olsen). But Jimmy does run around alot avoiding getting attacked and hugging his disguise kit so I picked a low point dial with Stealth and Shape Change. Not only will that increase Jimmy's survival chances, it will also give him a function: he'll actually be able to help protect Superman by standing in front of him and hiding him from opponents!

Max Mercury

The Zen master of speed, mentor of Bart Allen, and Really Cool Character Shafted Into Limbo. I never would have learned to love Bart Allen, without Max to complete the comedy duo.

Why?: There's no use making any of Flash's Rogues as customs; all the cool ones will get made as real clicks. But a medium-point-speedster would be a fun addition to the "Flash Family".

The Dial: Rookie Quicksilver (Armor Wars #052, 52 points). He's go the basic "speedster powers" (Hypersonic Speed, Charge, Flurry, and Supersenses), but runs through them more quickly then the Flash does. A figure with this dial serves as a good "mentor" for the Rookie Impulse but has trouble keeping up with the Veteran Kid Flash.

Prof. Radium

One of our recent faves here at the Absorbascon, who's currently skulking about the pages of Battle for Bludhaven getting cursed at by a robot dog. He needs some love.

Why?: The Batfamily is a great source for teams at my house and they always need lots of enemies. Besides.... He's a Golden Age Batman villain. He's a bald scientist with a Van Dyke. He's green. He can bring dogs back from the dead. He's Prof. Radium, for pity's s

The Dial: Veteran Asp (Fantastic Forces #027, 39 points). This dial has the necessary Poison, a ranged attack of Blast for his "radium blasts", and the all-imporant first click of Stealth that keeps him from getting klonked by a batarange before he can get his licks in.

Hugo Strange

Creepy mad doctor who is one of Batman's oldest foes, starring recently in Matt Wagner's Batman and the Monster Men.

Why?: Pretty much for the same reasons as Prof. Radium, except the part about being green.

The Dial: Rookie Psylocke (Armor Wars #055, 45 points). Like a lot of Batman villains, Hugo's abilities are more mental than physical, which calls for a very special dial. This dial has boatloads of Perplex, which allows Strange to influence the battle from a safe distance, protected by Deflection. Plus with the "SHIELD" ability to represent his tactical genius, Hugo can improve the attack of any teammate standing beside him -- or standing in front to protect him!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Von Dort? Von Dort?

You remember Willi Von Dort, don't you? Of course you do. He was the "Dick Dastardly" figure in "The Widowmaker", a story we devoted a whole week to here at the Absorbascon, to the horror of many.

As you'll recall, Willi wanted to kill Batman for beating the snot out of his poppa, General Von Dort, an incident Batman could barely remember, but still snarkily rubbed it in Willi's face, just so:

No matter how many times I see Batman in that hat, it still stupefies.

Did you think that was just a bit of flimsy backstory crafted for Willi to give him motivation to kill Batman? Think again.

If you'll go to your local Big Monkey Comics store, then purchase a copy of the newly-released Showcase Present: The Elongated Man, and turn to page 297, what will you see?

Batman knocking out General Von Dort ...

at the climax of a team-up with the Elongated Man. Yep, it really happened in previous continuity.

Sweet, sweet continuity.


From the secret tales of Superman...

"The Super Size Queen of Smallville!"

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Super Silver Pop Quiz!

The Showcase Presents Superman Volume 2 is so chockful of silverage madness, I can only read one, maybe two stories at a time. It's like... like reading cane sugar directly into your brain. No wonder the generation that read this stuff grew up to dress like they did in the 1970s.

Let's have a little fun with this volume. I'll give you quotes from it and you'll have to guess who said them, and if possible to whom and why. NO FAIR looking in the book itself! You have to rely on your own facility for "Silver Age logic".

  1. "While you're at it, why don't you rub noses? Haven't you ever heard of kissing a girl on the lips?"
  2. "I -- I need time to think! We mustn't rush into a hasty marriage we might both regret later!"
  3. "I daren't be seen without a hat. Luckily, it's customary for reporters to wear hats ... even indoors at work!"
  4. "Don't be so impulsive; this room is full of evil-smelling vapors!"
  5. "Who do you think you are, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the silly sprite from the 5th dimension who goes back to his world only if he says his name backwards?"
  6. "I wanted to learn first-hand if you are as wonderful as reported. Frankly, I am not disappointed!"
  7. "I captured Superboy through his sheer dumbness!"
  8. "Get out, you midget burglar, before I call the police!"
  9. "Jonathan is a quiet-spoken young farmer who loves the girl, but he's getting severe competition from Gregg Halliday, a handsome smooth banker, who recently arrived in Smallville. The pity of it is that the banker is really a swindler who has hidden stolen bonds in a secret hiding place inside that statue of himself."
  10. "Lois thinks Clark is a weakling! No romance is possible between them unless I first make her admire Clark!

Remember; no peaking!

Reasons to read "Manhunter" #9

I love witty repartee in comics. And deep symbolism and iconic conflict and complex characterization. And yet...

those can never fully replace sheer over the top wacky hyperaction, now can they?

Not enough of this in "Sandman", if ya ask me...

I don't know why I love that stuff; must be because guys are biologically predisposed toward it, I guess!

Buy Manhunter.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Stop taunting me, Eivol!"

I was so busy fomenting wicked sexism and receiving death threats yesterday, I forgot the original point that inspired it...

With Catwoman no longer a villain -- and it seems, not likely to become one again soon -- Batman could really use some new female villains or, at least, the ramping up of some underused ones. I mean, gosh, don't you think Poison Ivy is exhausted from all the overtime?

I have some nominees and I hope you do, too.

The Manikin, seen most recently at, well, Blockade Boy's place. Loved her; nice old-fashioned villain origin. You know, workplace accident or injustice leads to bitterness at industry and world, as well as themed costume and gimmick. I swear, if only the DCU had better OSHA regs and Worker's Comp laws, there'd be a lot fewer crazed villains running around.

As one of the commenters pointed out, her schtick was echoed later on Batman The Animated Series in the character Calendar Girl (who also was a riff, of course, on Calendar Man). Either one would do!

Also seen most recently at Chez Blockade were Dragon Fly, Silken Spider, and Tiger Moth. Hmm. They look more like they're part of the Bugs of All Nations show at Minky's. If someone (hi, Gail; hi, Geoff) were to bring these gals back it should probably start off as a criminal trio. You know: The Bugs of Prey. Then they could triple date with the Terrible Trio.

Yikes; we're not doing too well. At this rate, we'll never reach a ratio of even, say, one female villain to every six male villains. Harley Quin's a bit overworked, but BTAS's Red Claw could make a comeback. But, well-- ugh; she seemed like a better foe for Bullwinkle than Batman.

The Sparrow gave the Joker a rough time once; I'm certainly be amused to see her go up against Robin!

Mindboggler was lots of fun, and I've been sorry she hasn't returned. From the dead. Yet.

And not that long ago, there was a great female version of "the Tattooed Man"; she was gangbusters and she needs a rematch.

Okay, some of you help me out of here, because I'm teetering close to the precipice beyond which lies Olga the Cossack Queen, Ma Parker, Marsha Queen of Diamonds, Madame Minerva, the Black Widow, Nora Clavicle, Lady Peasoup, Zelda the Great, and Senora Lola Lasagna. And we certainly don't want to go there!

Actually .... Zelda and Lola would be FABULOUS, wouldn't they?

"I am Senora Lola Lasagna!" GODS, how I love saying that. Loudly. In public.

Try it; you'll be amazed at how good it feels.

Reasons to read Manhunter #8

Love those villains.

If you love villains, you might like Manhunter, which has a veritable parade of them.

Oh, and not your run of the mill overexposed superstars like the Joker or Luthor. We're talking Copperhead, The Shadow Thief, Phobia & Dr. Moon, Merlyn & the Monocle, the freakin' Kilg%re, for pity's sake. Villains like that, just falling out the pages in every book.

Until, you know, she kills them or something.

Buy Manhunter

Monday, July 03, 2006

Evil Woman!

Well, the devil, he's a woman with coal-black hair-- except in comic books.

I like women in comic books, both as villains and heroes. Once upon a time, there were very few of either type, and they were sometimes painfully derivative (e.g., Miss Arrowette). So part of me likes that there are now so many female costumed adventures, good and bad.

Yet another part of me hates it. It's been my observation that, on the whole, women are not nearly as likely to be idiotic as men. I mean, how many women appeared on Jackass, or imitated things they saw on Jackass?

While I understand women's desire for parity with men in positive areas like rate of pay, I pale when it myopically expands into a desire for parity with men in negative areas as well. It makes me sad to think that in order to become men's socioeconomic equals, women would have to stoop to men's level of jackassery.

I will believe a man can fly. It is substantially more difficult for me to believe that women are as likely as men to put on a costume and fight crime. That's the kind of self-aggrandizing theatrics driven by a savior complex that I associate with the typical flaws of men, not of women.

Yes, I like Kate "Manhunter" Spencer, but throwing on a costume, grabbing some random high tech weapons, and dashing to a sewer to confront Copperhead on the spur of the moment is the exactly kind of jackassery that's even harder to credit in women than in men.

It's even more of a strain to unflinchingly accept woman villains. Men are more violent than women. Men are more likely to become criminals. Although the number of female prison inmates has grown dramatically, that's due to drug convictions (a crime of weakness to which all people are equally prey) rather than violent offenses (crimes of aggression to which men are more prone).

One may not like stereotyping as a matter of principle, but stereotyping is seldom baseless: men are more violent and criminal than women, which is why they outnumber them in prisons by at least nine to one.

Setting aside for a minute men's hormonal tendencies toward aggression, men are stupid. Or perhaps more accurately, men are more likely to be narrow-minded or short-sighted.

The reason that most people are good citizens instead of criminals isn't because most people are good; it's because because it's easier. That's part of the whole point of society. In the long run, being good and cooperative with society is safer, easier, and more profitable than being a criminal.

Ever watch those reality teevee cop shows, where some moron tries to rob a gas station or lead cops on a chase, or run away naked from a domestic dispute? You immediately think: "What on earth is that person thinking? Do they really think they're going to get away and what will they do next when they do?" The answer is simple: they aren't thinking. Not past the moment, anyway. Now, who's more likely to do that, a woman or a man?

Yet, because the costume crowd are the stars of our comic books it feels manifestly "unfair" when more capes belong to men than women, regardless of how much more realistic that would be. And so we all find ourselves clamoring for more female nutjobs in spandex, including villains.

In what other context would people consider it acceptable to say the equivalent of: "People need to realize that women's capacity for evil, selfishness, foolishness, aggression, and blind stupdity is every bit as great as men's!" That may be "equality" but I'm hard-pressed to view it as empowerment or advancement. Except in, you know, professional sports.

Come now. "I intend to rule the world!", "I shall destroy you all!", "Mine, mine -- it's all mine!", and even "Hahahahahaha! Die at the hands of Dr. Virus -- and Kryptococcus, the Omni-Germ!" really do sound more natural coming out of man's mouth than a woman's. Most women couldn't say stuff like that without laughing; men say stuff like that to themselves while shaving.

There's an unfortunate side-effect of all this. The comparative incredibility of female villains pushes writers toward dangerous motivational waters.

Because world-conquering and bank-robbing don't feel like hobbies that women are keen on, writers veer toward other motives -- then get in trouble with readers for stereotyping. Let's see how many female characters you can put under the following headings:
  • "She's doing it to get back at a man/men."
  • "She's doing it to get a man's attention."
  • "She's doing on behalf of her man."
  • "Her emotions/powers are out of control."
  • "She likes jewelry."

That last one's my favorite. Men, you see, steal piles of cash that they can then convert into anything commerce permits. Women skip the middle-man and go straight for the shiny shinies they want; yes, Catwoman, I'm looking at you.

All this is part of why I am unhappy with Catwoman as a hero and fine with Batgirl as a villain: because female villains with any sort of remotely realistic motivation are hard to find.
Catwoman was a good villain because her motive was simple, realistic, and comprehensible: she wanted what she wanted when she wanted it. She wasn't out to hurt anyone, defeat anyone, or conquer anything. And if you got in her way, she either pushed you out of the way or did an end-run around you; no hard feelings. She was the anti-Luthor.

As for Batgirl, well, yes, the turn to villainhood is a dramatic one and a severe shift away from the direction previous writers had taken her, but I least I understand her motivations (unlike, say, the Vilification of Leslie Thompkins, who let Spoiler die to, um, prove a point -- or something). Still, it is uncomfortable that what seemed to push her over the edge was simply the fact that "there was another woman in her Daddy's life"; icky.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Reasons to read "Manhunter" #7

Kate Spencer is the culmination of a long legacy in the DCU of previous characters named "Manhunter".

In Issue #7, we meet the original one, Dan Richards, who first appeared in Police Comics #8, March 1942. In later issues, we meet other "Manhunters".

You know how Jack Knight was the culmination of the Starman legacy? Kate's like that.
But better.

Buy Manhunter.

Sinister Commentary