Saturday, November 25, 2006

Speaking of Action 845

Okay, I need some help understanding the latest issue of Action Comics.

I liked it. I really did. I'm no fan of the whole Donner/Krypton/Jor-El schtick, but I'm enjoying the Silverish collocation of elements of the Superman myth: Luthor, Bizarro, the Phantom Zoners, the Planeteers, even a Parasite cameo. And the "twist" (which I didn't see coming but should have) at the end? Very Silver Age.

I like the Kubert/Stewart art, too, particularly the landscapes and vistas.

That said...

One of the things that made the dense mythology of Silver Age Superman possible was a fairly rigid adherence to rules and principles of pseudosuperscience (such as the Garanimal Radiation System; red vs. green kryptonite, red vs. yellow sun, etc.). Nonsensical or not, these were attempts at consistency that allowed a reader to evaluate whether a writer was being "fair".

But I can't figure out the "rules" implied in Action 845. I'm used to thinking in the "solar battery" mode that's held sway since Superman's reboot in 1986. But in the current Action storyline, it seems as if Kryptonians are automatically and immediately "superpowerful" upon showing up on Earth. The boy ("Chris") is immediately indestructible; the Zoners can fly immediately upon their release from the Penitentiary Baguettes; Bizarro has great power even though he's been sitting in the dark for 13 months. I don't get it.

Speaking of pseudoscience I don't get: Superman sets the area around Bizarro aflame and then, using his superbreath .... freezes the flames?! Empedocles, save me!

Speaking of the Pentitentiary Baguettes: why is there one in the opening scene? Is it supposed to be there? Does Superman not notice it? What kind of decorator plops a human-sized sweet potato in the middle of Disney's Fairytale Castles on Ice? Was Krypton doomed for its lack of style? Did the Kryptonian designer Broon-Etz try to warn them?

Speaking of style: I do love the Zoner's outfits. Zod in a hoodie; gotta love that. And with such brand devotion that they have throat tattoos to match their shirts' designer labels! The superfashionistas have arrived.

Zod's tattoo is the best. I don't know what it's supposed to mean, but it's identical to the Sims 2 Pets symbol for "command"; the same command pose he assumes (for no apparent reason other than drama) in the final panel. Kneel!

You know, there was only ONE thing about the "B13" infected City of Tomorrow Metropolis that I really liked: the Daily Planet holographic globe, because we didn't have to see the damn thing get knocked off the building every other issue. Which it does in this issue. Again. What do you think the business insurance rate are in that block?

Speaking of Metropolitan insurance rates... what's with the Frozen in Fear gene that at least 70 percent of all Metropolis residents have-- including Kryptonian Chris, who simply stands there as a bus falls on him? Dude, step back 5 paces and you'll be in the building... I think Luthor must have put something in the water that activates the Frozen in Fear gene in local residents; that why supervillains hang out there, knowing how easy is to endanger bystanders in order to cover their escape.

Speaking of bystanders... how many do you think Superman killed when he shoved Bizarro through the diner? The one with the conspicuous "OPEN" sign? Superman seems really upset Bizarro broke that kid's arm. Pity he wasn't as concerned about the dog he sent flying with the attached fire hydrant, which surely went from poodle to puddle in about 2 seconds. Tip for Superman: fly UP if you want to avoid propery damage (even though property damage is more fun to draw).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Because Dwayne Demanded It!

The Dr. Frederic Wertham Pog

The Dr. Frederic Wertham pog has the "Pulse Wave" Attack power, so that he can do damage to all surrounding characters at once, including his teammates. His Damage power grants him the ability to "Exploit Weakness" in comic book characters he finds unfit.

Like his work, his range of damage is extensive, but his Defense value is low because he's easy to attack.

Special Frederic Wertham Rules

  • Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman are immune to Dr. Wertham's "Exploit Weakness".
  • Dr. Wertham's "Injustice League" Team Ability is automatically replaced with "The Society" Team Ability.

The Dr. William Marston Pog

Dr. William Marston's pog does no intentional damage, because he's a lover, not a fighter. But the Master of Bondage can tie you up with his "Incapacitate" Attack power, bringing even the most powerful figures into submission. His high Defense value and "Deflection" power allow him to evade many serious attacks, no matter how deserved they might be, as easily as bullets bouncing off bracelets.

Special William Marston Rules

  • Wonder Woman is immune to Incapacitation when adjacent to Mr. Marston.
  • Dr. Marston himself is immune to Incapacitation.
  • Female opponents are not allowed to use avoidance powers of their own or of their teammates (such as Supersenses, Imperviousness, or Probability Control) to escape his Incapacitating them, because he knows they secretly enjoy submission.
  • Dr. Marston has Willpower.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pilgrim Boy Gives Thanks!

As a DC fan, I find so many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving...

I'm thankful DC has decided to recommit to 'the Big Three' with efforts to make Superman and Wonder Woman as important and as popular as Batman.

I'm thankful DC seems equally committed to the depth of their universe, seeking to make "lesser characters" as interesting and popular as its traditional, iconic ones.

I'm thankful that DC is no longer fighting the natural appeal of the "Dynastic Centerpiece" concept, as exemplified by their creating a new Supergirl and Batwoman, and building a team of heroes around Wonder Woman and the likes of Green Arrow.

I'm thankful that my preferred company book publisher has a comparatively strong commitment to putting out its books in a timely manner.

I'm thankful that DC has the wisdom to embrace the diversity of its enormous stable of characters, the imagination to augment them with new characters and to use them in interesting combinations, the talent to revitalize so many "obscure" characters, and the humility to admit some mistakes like the elimination of Hal Jordan & Ollie Queen.

I'm thankful I live in a country where there's more political debate and social commentary in the current issue of "Freedom Fighters" than in the entire combined new media in some other countries.

I'm thankful that DC respects its history, and, rather than abandoning "old" characters like the JSAers and the Freedom Fighters, strives to adapt them for new generations.

I'm thankful that DC continues to use other media to promote their characters, particularly in child-friendly products like the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon.

I'm thankful for a new direction for Aquaman.

I'm thankful that DC creates characters who happen to be gay (or any other minority you choose) rather than simply characters whose function it is to be gay (or any other minority you choose).

But more than all of these things

all of them COMBINED

I am thankful that I have lived to see


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

William Marston Responds

"Sadism consists in the enjoyment of other people's actual suffering. Since binding and chaining are the one harmless, painless way of subjecting the heroine to menace and making drama of it, I have developed elaborate ways of having Wonder Woman and other characters confined."

"Confinement to WW and the Amazons is just a sporting game, an actual enjoyment of being subdued. This, my dear friend, is the one truly great contribution of my Wonder Woman strip to moral education of the young. The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound. Women are exciting for this one reason - it is the secret of women's allure - women enjoy submission, being bound. This I bring out in the Paradise Island sequences where the girls beg for chains and enjoy wearing them."

Oh. Well, then.

Since they enjoy it, I guess it's okay.

Space Pogs

As Heroclix fans know, last weekend was the release of the new Marvel set Supernova; we actually had a fabulous "marquee event" for it at Big Monkey DC.

The new set has lots of Marvel's "outer space" characters. I wasn't too sure what to make of some of the characters, like Overripe Bananawoman, Short-Bus Lad, Kellogs Raisin Anne, Captain Colorwheel, Robin the Ironclad Wonder, Aqua-drag, or the Custard Convertible. But the new "space map", with its special rules designed to mimic 3D zero G enviroments, was a definite winner.

But Wizkids doesn't issue enough object tokens to go with each new map. I mean, really, how many gumball machine and hotdog carts can there be floating around in space? So I thought I would help out all you Heroclix players with some new object tokens to use on the space map.

Note that they aren't "heavy" or "light"; zero gravity, you know. So their effect is determined by what you roll when you hit someone with them. If your attack exceeds your opponent's defense by 0,1, or 2, it's a "light" object; more than 2, and it's a "heavy" object.

Dead Rannies; space is full of 'em....

Monday, November 20, 2006


Nobody ever talks about Copperhead. But, then again, why should they?

Copperhead wasn't created to be a headliner. The A list -- people like the Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face, the Riddler, the Catwoman -- were clearly designed from the get-go to be solid repeating, single-handed foes of the Batman. They are the only villains in their initial stories, they go one on one against Batman, in several rounds. They have gangs; they go uncaptured; they know they're coming back.

Copperhead didn't debut in Batman or Detective; he debuted in Brave & the Bold (that's one strike). If you're going to be a serious member of a hero's rogues gallery, you've got to hold out for one of the hero's own titles, no matter what your agent says.

Copperhead was created as plot device, almost a prop (that's two strikes). The focus in Brave & the Bold was always on the heroes who were teaming up; the situation or opponent they faced together became a mere detail. Oh, sure, Copperhead got nice placement on the cover, because he's got a nice visual; but don't let it fool you, the real focus of the story is Wonder Woman and Batgirl.

This is the story in which Batman asks Wonder Woman and Batgirl to pretend they are in love with him and to compete for his affections; this is to confuse Copperhead. Well ... it certainly confused me.

Naturally, the "girls" get caught up in their romancing and actually do fall for Batman, and their rivalry works to Copperhead's advantage. Don't believe me, but H at the Comic Treadmill would never lie. It's comics like this that make me realize how lucky we are to be living NOW, where the stupidest thing we have to put up with is four issues of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman sitting at a table, looking at photos, and making fan ficish swipes at one another.

In case you don't click on the link to enjoy H's recap of the story, know at least that Copperhead was created in 1968 by Bob Haney (Strike three!). "Zany Haney" is not known for his creation of viable, interesting villains. Anyone remember the Separated Man?

Copperhead's first appearance set the pattern for his later ones; he never hung out with the real Batman villains mentioned above, even in those stories where they all appeared (such as the "Who Killed the Batman?" saga).

No, the Snakey One became more of a "utility player", an all-purpose villain. You know, the kind you have in a group of villians from different rogues gallery without worrying that he'll overshadow the group, or that fans will complain he's being given short shrift. He's villain filler, evil yeast, criminal padding. He's the kind of guy who goes drinking with Cutlass Charlie or the Golden Dart.

Which. of course, made him a natural for the horribly-written-but-eventually-influential Secret Society of Supervillains series (1976). You remember Copperhead; he's the one who got captured. In the first issue. Almost immediately. Copperhead got to relive this honor when he was part of Luthor's Injustice League on the Justice League Unlimited cartoon; that's why he is the one the League captures.

Copperhead is emblematic of the "Dr. Device" villains, bad guys created to further a plot whose center lies with other characters. Many villains began as Drs. Device, for example, the Mad Hatter and Metallo. Some heroes, too; the Legion's Starboy was originally just a plot device in a scheme of Lana Lang's to make Superboy jealous. Only later do other writers latch on to these throwaway characters and, taking them at face value, start to evolve them into central characters.

But such is the mediocrity of Copperheard, that he's managed to avoid that kind of promotion. Oh, he tried to up his ante (as did many villains) in the Underworld Unleashed crossover (1995). Yet his "upgrade" was just another instance of Copperhead exemplifying villainous mediocrity; he was "zoonified" into a snake-man, rather than a man with a snake-themed gimmick.

Ugh. Zoonification is the same clumsy heavy-handed ploy used to ruin several other Batman villains, including Killer Croc and Killer Moth. It never works; try to feed Spider-Man villains to Batman fans and they just spit them back up at you. Attempts to zoonify high-profile villains like the Penguin (immunity to cold, flippers for hands) and Catwoman (Halle Berry, I like the film, no matter what they say!) were doomed to fan rejection and they people responsible for it have been buried in a shallow unmarked mass grave somewhere in rural Bialya.

The serpentified Copperhead did what all third-rate villians eventually do: joined the Suicide Squad. He survived that, but didn't survive his encounter with the Kate Spencer Manhunter; in fact, killing Copperhead pretty much made her super "rep". That's another purpose to villains of Copperhead's ilk; to be killed by someone else, establishing that character's superiority ("I'm not a third-stringer because I kill third-stringers!").

Even in death, Copperhead is an exemplar for other mediocre villains: he's been replaced by someone better, edgier, and female (she appeared recently in 52). The Mist, Spellbinder, et al.; they've got nothing on Copperhead!

So, I guess Copperhead was good at something after all; he's the perfect mediocre villain....