Saturday, January 06, 2007

Feat Card: Goons

In my past posts of "gifts" to the Heroclix community, I have focused on pogs.

But why not Feat Cards, as well? I have complained that Feat Cards are too generic, being keyed to powers rather than characters. I wish they were more overtly designed to give characters their own special spin.

No characters in Heroclix need more "spinning" than the Batman Enemies, who are forced to limp around leaning on one another's shoulders, unable to stand on their own against Batman & Co.

Let's try to change that, shall we?

This "Goons" Feat Card will allow a Batman Enemy to empower his goons to throw themselves into the fray, and to use them to protect himself.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Why We Love Captain Storm

You don't remember Capt. Storm. No one does.

But you love him. You just don't realize it yet.

During the heyday of DC's war comics line, DC did what they could to give an invididual schtick to each title, sometimes going to extreme lengths. Creature Commandos; G.I. Robot; the Unknown Soldier; the Haunted Tank. Want to make sure you never have a second date with someone? Spend the first one explaining the Haunted Tank.

Yet, those are remember fondly (or at least wrily) as cult classics. But poor Capt. Storm is not; he's the Aquaman of war comics.

But that's okay, because just as we love Aquaman, we love Captain Storm, and here's just a few reasons why.

1. Captain Storm is a sea captain with a wooden leg.

How many handicapped heroes are there in comics today? Not faux-cripples like Dr. Mid-Nite and Daredevil who although "blind" can see better than I do or Captain Marvel Junior and Osiris, whose powers remove their defects; I mean actual heroes with handicaps. Or, for the matter, just plain characters. The only one I can think of in any of the comics I read is Firestorm's dad. Oh, and Oracle. And Sarge Steel. And I guess Jason Bard, the Naked Detective. And poor color-blind Roy G. Bivolo. And Hooley, the forger. And Jericho, who's not deaf and dumb, but rather just mute and stupid.

Okay, so there's lots of them. But they don't have wooden legs.

Any way, Captain Storm is a PT boat commander in WWII, who loses his leg when his boat is attacked by a Killer Sub. Not a regular sub. A Killer Sub. It's always called a "Killer Sub". I supposed that's to distinguish it from Blue Subs, Humpback Subs, and Sperm Subs.

Rather than take a desk job, as his CO recommends, he struggles through physical rehabilitation to regain his PT command, with the help of Nurse Cruel-Lea Tauntsalot, administratrix of tough love and part-time dominatrix for hire.

Not only is he shown regaining him command, but he hangs out with other wounded servicemen and helps inspire them, while Nurse Tauntsalot keeps pushing their fruit cup just out of their reach.

I don't mind that today's comics employ rape, decapitation, and defenestration; what I mind is when they give up on inspiring readers. One of the reasons I still prefer comics to lots of other media is that comics aren't cynically embarrassed about praising heroic ideals and inspiring the audience. Please don't lose that aspect of comics, because I really don't want to have to watch sports movies and Lifetime specials for the rest of my life.

Captain Storm is inspiring. Bring back Captain Storm.

2. Captain Storm is romantically haunted by his past.

DC's not above cribbing from other literature. Captain Storm is intended as a modern-day (well ... WWII-era) Captain Ahab. He lost his leg to the Killer Sub, and he's haunted by the thought of destroying it the way it destroyed his men. This puts Captain Storm in good company with other characters from great literature. Captain Ahab. Deadman. Lady Cop. "I must find the X that did Y to me/my friends ... and make him/her/it pay!"

If Bob Rozakis were still at DC, we'd eventually learn in a letter column that Lady Cop is, in fact, the granddaughter of Captain Storm and Nurse Tauntsalot, and that the grandson of the commander of the Killer Sub turns out to be the Killer in Boots. Of course, that's all still possible, because while Bob Rozakis may not write for DC any more, Geoff Johns does, which means that Captain Storm probably fathered an illegitimate child with Liberty Belle, which explains Lady Cop's Olympic-level Ass-Kicking Abilities.

3. Captain Storm has pretty art.

None of that scratchy Easy Co. art for Capt. Storm. The seabattles are rich, colorful, and vibrant. No decadent, enervating surrealism here, folks.

Oh, and that battleship? Not only did it survive the battle, but Bob Rozakis tells me that after the war it was decommissioned, reconditioned, and sold as surplus to a world-travelling entrepeneur.


5. Captain Storm will beat sharks senseless with his wooden leg.

If you don't love that, then you might as well read Archie, folks.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ooo; pretty!

As previously mentioned, there's a delightful new set of DC Heroclix coming out at the start of March.

Here are some sneak preview pics!

Blue Beetle.

Okay, I'm still not into the new Blue Beetle, which is odd, because he's the closest thing to Vibe the DCU currently has. Until, you know, they bring back Vibe.

But Tex-Mex kid with mysterious armor is not close enough to breakdancing Puerto Rican kid with vibratory powers. Perhaps it's for the best; after all, now I don't have to wear the tracking bracelet any more, and Latino parents no longer get notified whenever I'm in their neighborhood.

"Okay, Chico," Jaime menaces. "Let's make that two falls out of three."

Dr. Fate.

This one's a surprise. It's not part of the regular set, so it's probably a figure you have to mail away for. You can get a redemption coupon by buying a brick (a bundle of six boxes--or eight; I forget) of the new Heroclix at your local (Big Monkey) comic book store. Note that classic "half-mask" that marks this as the Golden Age Dr. Fate, making him a companion piece to the many other Golden Agers in this set. "Inza," he intones, "I offer you this ankh-bling and ask you to be my bride."


If I hear one more idiot complain "that's not his pose on the cover of Action 1", I'll scream. No, of course, it's not. He'd look ridiculous running around the board holding up a car; he's Superman not the Hulk. Besides, he wouldn't fit in a Heroclix box.

Instead, he's in a sensible pose still found in his first issue: he's
running, which perfectly shows the difference between this non-flying Superman and all subsequent ones.

"Must--escape-- Luthor's chewing gum trap!"

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why We Love Congo Bill

As long time readers of this blog may remember, we are fans of the glory of one of DC's least appreciated legacies, Congo Bill. Congo Bill remains MIA, even though DC has brought back so many other forgotten and unlikely characters. Lady Cop. Detective Chimp. Koryak. Vibe.

Oh; that's right. Vibe hasn't come back.


Anyway, neither has Congo Bill. You may think that's because he's an idea whose time has passed; fools! If you think there isn't still an audience for watching white guys in unlikely outfits traipse faux-knowingly about Africa and such, well, then you don't get Animal Planet in your cable line-up, do you?

In case you don't already love Congo Bill (and I do mean Congo Bill, not "Congorilla"), here are some reasons to.

He hangs out with admiring candy heiresses. Named Alva.
Okay, DC; if you're not going to bring back Congo Bill,
at least make a passing reference to "Alva Patties" or "Matson Bars".

Congo Bill knows the pleasures of sweet, sweet octopus love.
Oh, yes.

Bill can improvise a convincing manta ray costume out of sticks & leaves.
On land.
It really doesn't get more impressive than that, folks.

When Bill needs info, he roughs up his stoolies, the Fungi Forest Puffs.

He hung out with talking gorillas in Gorilla City long before the Flash.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Okay! Clear my calendar!

In Saturday's discussion on "What gives a series impact?", the subject of catchphrases came up (and was oddly re-emphasized by last night's TV Land airing of "the Top 100 TV Catchphrases!").

For me, the entire issue took a step up when commenter "Tadwilliams" said:

"(An aside: Jack Benny's signature joke, the "I'm thinking!" joke, seems like it's a tagline, but it's not -- it's a character piece. It works best because we feel we "know" Benny and how lovably stingy he is.)"

Now, I think it's fair to say that Tad knows something about writing (including dialog) because he writes books. Big books. Books so big that, really, if you're not careful, you can hurt someone with them. So I thought a bit extra about what he was saying.

What he's saying about Jack Benny reminds me of the series "Monk". Until I saw a "making of" show about it, I never realized that Mr. Monk has not just one but around seven or eight "catchphrases", and that he says most of them in every single episode. Yet I had never noticed.

Why? It could be simply because I'm unobservant (not a good trait if you're watching "Monk"). But I'd like to think it's because they seem to flow from his character and not vice versa. Because the actor doesn't say them as catchphrases, just as things his character says alot without realizing it.

Literature aside, every real person does in fact have pet phrases, characteristic constructions, and favorite words. Not coincidently, the previous sentence contains three of my own:

  1. an 'Ablative Absolute' construction ("literature aside");
  2. the phrase "does in fact"; and
  3. a Ciceronian triadic sequence (always giving three examples of anything you are talking about, arranged in parallel construction).

Each one of those is something that happened to my English writing because of studying so much Latin. So very much Latin. More than Latin than decent people should know.

Anyway, a good dialogist understands this phenomenon and uses it to his advantage. I remember reading a book once (a murder novel set at my college) where alongabout Chapter 3 the author stopped identifying which of the four main characters was speaking. It was many chapters later before I noticed it; you simply knew who was talking by the way they said things. A good writer gives each characters his or her own voice.

A not-so-good writer does not, and its one of those things an editor can't help much with. You can help somebody fix their plot, but if they can't write good dialog themselves, there's not much to be done (other than completely re-writing all spoken words and unspoken thoughts). I remember a good and well-read friend of mine, a talented musician, stage performer, and leader of men (an Air Force colonel, in fact), who was writing a book and wanted me to take a look at it for him with a critical eye. The plot was interesting, but everyone in the book spoke exactly the same way: the same way my friend did, right down to his pet phrases, characteristic constructions, and favorite words.

I finally couldn't help myself when I got to the Vatican scene (don't ask), in which the Pope says,

"Okay; clear my calendar."

After I picked myself up off the floor and started breathing again, I said in a loving and supportive way,

"Bob, the Pope does not say 'okay, clear my calendar',
or anything like it in whatever his native language is."

So great an impact did the event have on me (and some of his other friends) that to this day "okay, clear my calendar" remains one of our catchphrases.

"Catchphrases", I suppose, are the fastfood version of giving a character his own voice, a shortcut. Nor are they an Evil Peculiar To Our Modern Degraded Age. Dickens, for example, is loaded with them; Bah, humbug!

Now, it would be nice if it were possible for DC's iconic characters to speak with their own individual voices. That's pretty hard to do, when so many different people write those characters and when, through much of their history, no one saw a need to give each hero a distinct personality, let alone an individual voice to go with it. Take any old JLA story and draw the word balloons going to different characters; except for references to their powers, it won't make much difference.

Occasionally, a catchphrase will accrete to a character, such as Superman's "Up, up, and away!", Robin's "And how!", or Hal Jordan's "So ... you're a stewardess, eh?". In DC, however, catchphrases are usually confined to Signature Epithets, as we've previously discussed. In Marvel, there's a greater tradition of dialog individuation, but it's usually just hollow ethnic dialects or lumpy archtypes like Brainspeak and Lugspeak. I swear, just reading a conversation between Reed Richards and Ben Grimm makes me wish my eyes were deaf.

Still, in group books, it becomes really painful when all the characters are speaking with the same voice, particularly when you suspect (or know) that it's the voice of the author. In fact, there are a few DC books right now that are suffering from the problem; I'm not going to name names, but I'm not going to stop you from doing so.

All this said, who do you think are DC's best and worst dialogers, judging them with a particular ear toward giving their characters individual voices?

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Things That Made Me Happy...

... in this week's comics.

The reinvention of Abra Kadabra as an evil David Blaine ; wait ... is that redundant?

Best Exchange of the Week goes easily to LSH:
Dream Boy: "Brainy is about to announce a dangerous plan."
Cosmic Boy: "That's really not what I'd call a prediction."

From Justice: "It wasn't me. It was the ring Brainiac feared." No sh**, Sherlock. Even Alex Ross knows Hal's a conceited jackass.

The visual representation of Amazo's "memory salvage" in JLA; beautiful.

Oh my god; they killed Johnny Karaoke. That alone was worth the cover price!

I like the new Scarface. The old one never impressed me, but the new one does.

"Endless Winter"? Priceless; absolutely priceless. I official love JSA Confidential, Scott Beatty, and Doctor Mid-Nite.

The freeing of Mon-El from the Phantom Zone hit all the required classic notes but still seemed fresh & powerful its new context of being a means to an end.