Monday, February 26, 2007

La gota que colmó el vaso

" Anonymous said...

I prefered this blog when you found the fun in things you liked, now you just seem to snipe at things you don't. "

I could say the same about you, Anonymous. I preferred this blog when you found the fun in things you liked; now you just seem to snipe at things you don't.

It seems that it is no longer possible for me to post on this blog without some commenter, often an anonymous one, telling me "that's not funny" or "I used to like you better when". I can't even put up an innocent post about the foibles of Aqualad.

That's very emotionally draining to me. Unless you have spent the kind of time and effort that a blogger does to post daily (or nearly so), you can't imagine how unmotivating it is to be heckled nearly daily. Some may be clapping for you, but it still stings just as hard when the tomato hits you.

I'm not sure why people do this. If I don't care for a blog or it no longer interests me, I simply stop reading it. If you wish bloggers to post particular types of things, praise them lavishly when they do. Dissing them when what they post doesn't tickle your particular fancy that day serves only to move them one step closer to quitting.

Which I am. I am walking away from this blog for one month. I'll return in one month at which point I'll decide whether I want to start it up again or not. That should give those who don't like what I post time to break the habit of showing up daily to tell me so; they can move on to ruin someone else's enjoyment of another blog. Perhaps they can also ponder why there are fewer and fewer blogs left for them to criticize.

I am not tired, nor have I run out of things to say. There are so many things I wanted to discuss with you. DC's Heracles versus Marvel's Hercules versus the original Herakles. Groovy Chick Month. The Parade of Temporal Villains. The Big Three as Parental Figures. One-Hit Wonders Who Deserve a Second Shot, and Why.

I hope we can discuss them later.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Bride of Goofus

Forget Tula. Forget Dolphin.

You know who Aqualad would be absolutely perfect for?


It would be the perfect union of helplessness and hopelessness.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Controversies of Character

What are the 10 most controversial stories DC has ever published, and why?

It's a difficult question (though I'm certain you are up to the challenge). I'm asking it because of something I saw during my Saturday morning cartoons: The Legion of Substitute Heroes.

To many people, they are happy remnants of the wacky Silver Age. They surely are that, but they are much more as well. Why, Night Girl alone is an existential paradox. To me, the Legion of Substitute Heroes are the ultimate symbol of comic book controversy.

Older fans will remember the one-shot Subs story that Keith Giffen did in 1985. They took on and defeated Pulsar Stargrave (quite the big baddie in his day). I was in college at the time and not so focused on comics, but I did read the issue; it was a light-hearted romp of exactly the sort you'd expect from letting Giffen write the Subs.

Today this story would be an amusing lark, like the recent Legion cartoon episode that had the Subs in it. But in 1985, it was the biggest controversy I'd ever experienced in comics.

The mid '80s were not a light-hearted time and Legion fans -- well, what comic book fans are to regular people, Legion fans are to comic book fans. How dare this Giffen fellow make fun of the Subs? In my memory at least, Legion fans took to the skyways armed with atomic pitchforks and lugging plasti-tar and space-roc feathers, ready to destroy Giffen and the editors who permitted the desecration of the beloved second-stringers.

That's real "comic book controversy", not social issue stories and stories where Really Really Bad Things Happen to Nice Characters.Those are stories that people talk about as being controversial, such as the Speedy the Drug Addict storyline.
By the way, it wasn't a storyline, really, just a story. In a Bronze Age tale from the pre-decompression era, Speedy was revealed as a heroin addict and cured of it in one single issue, using orange juice and chocolate bars or something.
Kyle Rayner's girlfriend Alex, killed and stuffed in a refrigerator, and the retcon-rape of Sue Dibny have certainly caused controversy. Sometimes controversy in comics is about real issues: drugs, violence, sexual abuse. But I think the really serious flaming controversies are not about such solid topics; they're about characterization.

The Speedy the Junkie story--yes, that was controversial in the sense that the press would cover it, but was it really that controversial among comics fans? I don't know; I think they'd stopped caring about GA and Speedy and that point. Alex in the fridge? Yes, it sparked much cogent discussion of violence and victimization, but people barely, if at all, discussed Alex herself or her victimizer, Major Force. Why? Because, the incident, memorably horrible though it was, wasn't out of character for any of the players involved. Rightly or wrongly, fans most savage denunciations are reserved for what they perceive as mis-writing of their favorite characters.

Like the Subs.

Outrage at "what they did to Alex"? No, outrage is what you have at "what they did to Cassandra". Alex was a comic book staple: friend/relative/beloved of a hero, killed as part of the narrative to give the hero a Tragic But Inspiring Loss, and I hope she now sitteth at the right hands of Thomas & Martha Wayne. But Cassandra Cain wasn't killed; her characterization was violated, and that, to a comic fan, is a fate worse than death.

We may argue occasionally over whether Batman/Superman is a Republican/Democrat, but it's mostly airy abstraction; tooth and claw don't come out until some fool suggests that Batman should kill the Joker or that Superman probably uses X-ray to look at women naked.

At this kind of controversy, Marvel has DC beat hands down with Civil War, which to Marvel fans is a veritable smörgåsbord of mischaracterization. Let's try to catch up!

So, with this in mind, what are DC's top 10 controversial stories (based on mischaracterization)?

Some of the ones that comes to mind are Superman Executing the Phantom Zone Criminals, Max Lord the Murderer, and (of course) the Giffen Subs. What say you?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

52. Any comic that makes me admit stunned admiration for Ralph Dibny -- THREE TIMES, no less -- is a nothing short of miraculous.

I know Wonder Woman was a long time a-waiting, but (for me) it was worth waiting for. The author captures who Wonder Woman is and can be perfectly. Hopeful without being naive; strong without being aggressive. Resourceful, heroic, clever, and confident. Inherently peaceful, a thinking woman's warrior.

Robin on a date was wonderful. Besides ... it refers honorably to Vibe; always a major plus for any book, film, or Broadway musical.

Birds of Prey beaned me repeatedly with plot twists and I thanked it every time. There are many wonderful things about Gail Simone's writing, but you know what's most refreshing? Her characters enjoy being superheroes. Or supervillians. Or whatever they happen to be. To me, that's DC: characters who enjoy being who they are, not who are miserable about it.

Mr. Bones gets manicures even though his nails are invisible? Fabulous.

Beppo was in Krypto this month; nuff said. But it read like a farewell issue; is Krypto cancelled? Shame...

Aquaman Sword of Atlantis? Well, I can honestly say I can hardly wait for the next issue!

Brave & the Bold. Crazy locked room mystery worthy of a Silver Age JLA story? Bruce Wayne and Hal Jordan in Las Vegas? A MacGuffin from Vertigo that made my head nearly fall off? THIS is the kind of comics I want, DC; thank you. Thank you very much. I officially forgive you for the DC Challenge ...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Training Game

It was a training mission. Batman had been asked to run a little "war game" to test an old friend's new team. Be careful what you ask for, Arthur, Batman thought. With Manhunter in tow, He signaled in the dark to Dr. Mid-Nite and they moved out to cover positions on the left and right banks of the river, while Black Canary covered their rear. Let's see how this Detroit "Justice League" fights in the field.

The superpowered grandstanders came crashing into center field. Typical, Batman thought. What else would you expect from a stage magician and a breakdancer? Arthur and his supermodel friend were surely being more prudent, sneaking towards us while submerged in the river. Yes, that's why J'onn is making such a show of himself instead of stealthing: he's providing a distraction to improve the chances of their attacks succeeding.

Spencer, what are--? Should've stayed behind me, as I instructed. The grandstanders, impatient for battle, tagged her right away from a distance, and now she's reeling. Having tasted blood, they'll be focused on her, giving me the chance to take them out. Unless ... ah, of course; here comes J'onn to "attack" me. Right on schedule.

I know how to take care of him, but Mid-Nite's in trouble; Aquaman and Vixen are dogpiling him. Smart; they don't want him healing any of our team. Well, it's up to Canary, Batman thought; I have to deal with the Martian, the magician, and the machisto.

A few bic lighters later, J'onn was out of commission and Vibe had followed suit. Mid-Nite and Canary were down, and when Aquaman and Vixen turned their attention to Batman, it was too late. Arthur first, of course, Batman reasoned, before he can get back to the river. Vixen ran to regenerate her powers ... but not fast enough.

I like Heroclix; even when I lose. Even when I lose to Devon (!) and one of his Batman teams.

But next time, the gloves come off. I'm adding the Elongated Man figure, the Sue Dibny pog, AND ....

Dale Gunn.

Batman doesn't stand a chance.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Goofus & Gallant

Do you remember Goofus & Gallant? Since 1948, they've had their own feature in Highlights magazine, the one that's in all the pediatrians' and dentists' offices. You may have blocked it from your memory because you associate it with stabbing needles, screaming pain, and choking on X-ray tabs.

Here on "Earth-Prime" we call them "Goofus & Gallant". But in the DCU, they're called something else:

Aqualad & Robin.

Aqualad traps himself and panics constantly.

Robin always escapes and remains calm.

Aqualad is jealous of the fame of movie stars and wants credit.

Robin is secure in himself and wishes well on others.

Aqualad, who lives in the ocean, is afraid of fish.

Robin, who lives in Gotham City, snaps tigers' necks.

Aqualad is always ready to throw in the towel, and waits for Aquaman to save him.
Robin confidently jumps out of a plane flying over the North Pole to save Batman.
While wearing green bathing trunks and short sleeves, I might add.

Aqualad panics easily and waits for Aquaman to save him.
Robin always escapes and remains calm.Did I say that already?

Taking aim at Aqualad is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Taking aim at Robin is like putting a gun in your own mouth.

Remember, kids:
Don't be an Aqualad; be a Robin!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My "feminist" moment


Oh. Sorry.

Had a moment of what's passing itself off as "feminism" nowadays...

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Joker Made Me Laugh Out Loud

I don't chat about the Joker much. That's not because I don't respect the character; I do. He's almost flawless. Immediately comprehensible, a perfect archtype, and phenomenally adaptable, the Joker is one of the great character creations not merely of comics, but of all literature.

That, of course, is why it's not necessarily to write lots about him. Everyone knows it; everyone gets it. But there is one thing I want to ask you:

What's the funniest thing the Joker's ever said or done?

Now, by funny I don't mean "sardonically wicked or wackily crazy so that it perfectly captured his demented sense of humor". No, I actually mean funny as in, "hey, that made me laugh, out loud, for a long time."

The Joker can be funny, not just to himself but to us. That's part of what makes him so disturbing; we'd really rather not get the Joker's nihilistic sense of humor, but sometimes we can't help but understand why he finds certain things funny.

"Pardon me, sir. May I ask: by any chance,
is your refrigerator running?"

Playing the Joker must have been a dream come true for Cesar Romero, a big old queen who for most of his career was typecast as a Macho Latino and stuck playing the Sullen Latin Lover Who Doesn't Get The Girl. Finally, a chance to flame away and the burn the house down while doing so!

His joy in finally being free to fully flaunt his fabulousness was irrepressible and shines through his every moment in the role. If there is anything gayer than him patting his hands together while going, "Ooo-hoo-hooo ... deLICious!" I've never seen it (and trust, folks, I've seen my share, and quite a lot of it in the mirror). His Joker isn't driven or tortured: he's having the time of his life, just as Cesar was.

Who's this sleepy-eyed young hottie, smelling sweetly of the Morning After?
Cesar Romero!

Ooo-hoo-hooo ... deLICious!

So it's no surprise to me that my own best "The Joker Made Me Laugh Out Loud" moment came from him. You may remember it...

The Joker brazenly pops into Commissioner Gordon's office to let him know he's currently stealing the priceless carrera marble statue of Justice in front of Police Headquarters (almost everything in Gotham City was "priceless"; no wonder there's so much crime there). Sputtering with indignity, Gordon huffs, "Stealing 'Justice'? Have you no scruples, man!?" To which, the Joker gently replies as if to a little child:

"Oh, Commissioner, the cash value of scruples is zero; I prefer carrera marble."

Perhaps you had to be there, but I swear that once made me laugh so hard I thought I would need oxygen.

What's your "The Joker Made Me Laugh Out Loud" Moment?

Thursday, February 15, 2007


My brethren, I seek to warn you that Hell hath arrived on Earth, and it cometh in three flavors.



and Pineapple

The traitorous god of the Old Testament who promised with the rainbow never to destroy mankind again now sendeth a rainbow to lay waste to humanity: Halo the Heroclix.

This is how it endeth, folks. The Three Flavors of Evil. The Brides of Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast. The Powerpuff Hurls. The Triadic Popsicles of Doom.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Dinosaur Rule

There's a dinosaur in the Fortress of Solitude.

I know this because I bought the Action Annual, within which is the two-page spread of the Fortress of Solitude. Within which Superman has a Hall of Trophies. Within which there is a dinosaur.

Just like the one in the Batcave. Only orange.

Now, this is fascinating to me. There's no story that I know of that would result in Superman having a dinosaur trophy. Is it, like Batman's, a robot dinosaur? Is it a real dinosaur, stuffed? Is it just a statue of a dinosaur, and if so, what the the heck is it doing there? We know how Superman just loves statues. And there are other statues in the picture, including ones of the JLA and of the Legion of Superheroes (which, by the way, should never ever by left out by an open window). So I'm guessing it's just a statue.

But why? Is Superman a copy cat? "The Batcave looks so cool, and my stupid Fortress looks like a Tastee Freez shack. Maybe I should get a giant quarter? With my own face on it? No, wait ... a dinosaur. An orange dinosaur."

No, Superman's too, well, unaware to try and be cool by copying Batman. If Superman cared about being cool, he wouldn't be Superman (or even Clark Kent). So this means there is only one possible explanation for why there's a dinosaur in the Fortress of Solitude.

It's a rule.

Yes, at one point, in some JLA meeting back in the Silver Age, while everyone was nodding off during one of Wonder Woman's tedious lectures on parliamentary procedure, some wag slipped through a motion that all member's private headquarters must have a life-size dinosaur of some sort. Probably Green Arrow. Because he's a sarcastic SOB and is rich enough to buy a used Tyrannazoid from the Museum of Nazi Robotics for a lark and shove it an unused corner of the Arrowcave, because, after all, no one ever visits the Arrowcave. Except Solomon Grundy, and he's not exactly what you'd call a severe critic of interior decor.

So, I'm personally assuming that the one in the Fortress is the same dinosaur suit with the fake kryptonite teeth that "killed" Superboy when the Legion was stranded on a planet and had to make a rocketship out of rocks while faking Superboy's death. Why they had to fake Superboy being eaten by a dinosaur with kryptonite teeth, I can't remember or imagine, except that it's in the Legion by-laws that at least one member must be cruelly deceived by the others in every adventure. Lightning Lad slipped that one past the other members while they were nodding off to one of Saturn Girl's condescending sermons about parliamentary procedure.

But where did the other members get their dinosaurs?

Aquaman probably snagged the one that Thanatos attacked Mera with, and had it stuffed with seaweed by a horde of obsequious octopodes (or whatever collective noun they travel in) for proud display in the Aquacave. "Now there's a yarn worth re-telling," Aquaman booms out when he notices visitors staring horrified at the stinkysaurus. "Did I ever tell you about my battles against Thanatos?" Meanwhile, the guests are trying to figure out whether they can hold their breath long enough to get to the surface if they make a break for it...

The Flash Museum, no doubt, has the mummified corpse of the hypersonic super-intelligent other dimensional dinosaur that he worked with in the JLA Archive Volume 4. Probably has its own exhibit, including photographs of the Flash with his wife and eggs. Visiting the Flash Museum is probably like drowning in strawberry milk and I bet Captain Marvel has a lifetime membership there.

Wonder Woman, unlike the guys, has some taste. Undoubtedly, she just ordered an Amazon flunky named Artzankraftia to produce a twelve-foot carrera marble statue of herself as "Dinosaur Woman" from Episode 16 ("Island of the Dinosoids") of the Legendary Super Powers show (you know, the one where Darkseid was always trying to hook up with her). Wonder Woman is no fool; she can use Robert's Rules as a deadly weapon and knows how to work a loophole to make herself look fabulous. As a dinosaur.

Green Lantern, being a total goober with no dinosaurs in his own Rogues Gallery, probably stole Tyrano Rex, the evolved dinosaur he fought with the JLA and Tommy Tomorrow in DC Special 27 in April/May 1977 and pretends it's, you know, his. Probably keeps the corpse in his basement, draped in his high school letterman's jacket and holding a empty keg near the foosball table.

The Atom? Heh, I can just hear it now: "Oh, I shrunk one and brought it back through the Time Pool. It's on that homey polymer molecule over there about seven microns. You can see it, can't you, Superman? Tell them!"

Oh, yes, Superman says, it's a real beaut, and winks at the camera.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Heartless Haiku

Oh, dear.

This will not do. This will not do at all.

This poor distraught girl. When I first saw this cover, I didn't realize what was happening, I just knew it was something strange. Then it hit me: this crestfallen person is trying desperately to express herself in haiku. But she's so upset she omitted the middle line and winds up spitting out:

Supergirl's stolen

kisses will cost lives.

How tragic. Just as Supergirl has ripped out this woman's heart, so too she has de-cored her haiku.

Help this poor woman by supplying your own haiku for her to say or describe the situation.

P.S. Ganglords have clubhouses? Who knew!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Keeping Company

There's a project I'd love to get off the ground, but I can't really see myself having the time to make it happen: a list (or index or wiki or whatever you kids use nowadays) of the companies and organizations in the DCU. So I'm going to talk about it here; maybe someone will take the ball and run with it.

When talking about comic books, we often focus on the main characters. But as important in its own way is the world that is built around them.

In the early Golden Age, superhero comics were often like stripped-down bare-stage plays. Who cared what Clark Kent's boss's name was? He's just a mechanism for setting Superman into action. You can read the entire Starman Archive and not know what city Starman lives in, because it's never mentioned. Anything other than the main character was a potential distraction and treated as such. Try and imagine reading a superhero comic book today in which essential supporting players and the host city aren't even named; it just wouldn't happen and if it did, you'd be darned puzzled by such a "strange" artistic choice.

This changed as the Golden Age blossomed. As characters become stronger and more popular, they no longer need a empty stage in order to stand out. Writers started fleshing out the supporting casts, and natural impulse led them to develop (consciously or not) the Dynastic Centerpiece model we like to talk about here. To some degree, this works and is good. But things can be carried too far ... .

Creators started to use the stage scenery as a mechanism to magnify the central characters, and supporting casts, conditions, and cities grew like weeds. From the spare stage of Greek tragedy we got in the early Golden Age, the height of the Silver Age gave us an overwrought opera production, whose baroque stages dripped with Supercats, Wonder Tots, and Bat-Mites.

Tales of the Bat-Signal!

The Many Loves of Lang Lang!

Wonder Tot Meets Nubia!

Okay, okay; Wonder Tot never met Nubia. But that's only because no one thought of it.

The whole thing went a bit over the top, enough that even the long-standing characters with powerful iconic voices had trouble being heard of the loudness of their scenery.

Part of moving from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age was backing away from character-specific scenery in favor of broader contextual backgrounds for the entire DC "universe". Less time was spent detailing "The Adventures of Commissioner Gordon's Pipe!" and more on exploring the Justice League and the Justice Society, its counterpart on "Earth-2" (a mechanism for placing current "continuity" in the larger context of old comics stories).

When Marvel came crashing onto the scene in the Silver Age, it taught DC (or reminded it of) the value of giving characters individual personalities and of placing them all into the same overall context, a "universe" where any character might potentially interact with another. DC had explored these possibilities already, but it had a post-hoc flavor to it. Yes, big characters might appear together frequently, but some major scientific or sociological discovery in one title (say, a secret city of superscientific gorillas or an attack by an alien armada) would be virtually ignored in every other. Marvel helped DC understand that readers were interested not just in the characters but in the entire world that contained them.
Mythbuilding creators get this. Comic books, Star Wars, Buffy, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, professional wrestling, soap operas: their value lies not primarily in the intrinsic worth of their individual episodes (Lord knows!) but in providing an epic/mythic universe in which those episodes take place and contribute richness and meaning. That what many readers are looking for: not mere stories (which one can watch in Lifetime movies or read in SF anthologies) but myths.

Many people crave not merely entertainment, but context, framing devices to help us understand and connect with the world around us, particularly when that world is complicated. They will create them, whether it's through ancient aetiological myths, Bible stories, medieval epics & ballads, or Batman: The Animated Series. People may not be able to take the whole world in with their minds, but it becomes easier to know what to do when you can simply ask yourself, "What would Jesus/Superman/Brian Boitano do?"

I think that is in fact what many people condemn as "geekiness": not reading such stories per se but using them as a framework for understanding the world. Well, you know what: screw them. They're mostly people who have given up on understanding the world, who have no need for a moral or conceptual framework because they don't make moral decisions or choose their ideas; they let others do that for them. Much easier to float through life on the wave of humanity, pausing occasionally to laugh at guys speaking Klingon or debating Supergirl's hemline. Which is too high, by the way.
Meanwhile, back in the Bronze Age, DC's attempts at building little worlds around each character and building one world around all of it had been started at different times and were hard to reconcile. When it all seemed to have past the point of diminishing returns, DC decided it would be easier to start fresh, and reboot itself with Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The putative housecleaning of Crisis on Infinite Earths cleared the stage for many characters, particularly ones like the Big Three. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were stripped of as much baggage as possible and put on to bare stages to begin their stories anew in what I might as well call the post-Crisis "Iron Age". Over the last 20 years, a slow realization seemed to develop that too much had been lost; the bathwater may have been dirty, but darned if some of its babies weren't cute.

As broader, brighter elements -- none more stunning than the JSA, which had been shunted off as an embarrassing relic at the beginning of the Iron Age -- began to return, everyone seemed to realize we were in a new world, one which DC formalized through the exercise of Infinite Crisis, and which I'm currently calling the Platinum Age, because it shines like silver but ain't as cheap.

The goal in the Platinum Age (at least, I hope) seems to be to merge the best elements of the previous ages, such as
  • the deadly seriousness of the Golden Age ("Oh, look, Robin; another pile of dead bodies."),
  • the personalization and whimsy of the Silver Age (*Chuckle* "Brainy suggests we have Protty disguise himself as a young Krypto so that Superboy will never realize that Jimmy Olsen was once his baby-sitter on Krypton, which might upset the time-stream!"),
  • and the cosmos-spanning, satellite-filling crossover context of the Bronze Age ("I couldn't make the League's adventure against Star-Breaker because I was visiting my mother on Earth-2!" *Editor's note: See "The Canary Cries At Midnight!", in Supergirl 123).

The ratio and nature of that mix you prefer pretty much defines who you are in the universe of DC fans. In the Platinum Age, some readers are shocked to see decapitations and rapes, because they thought we were returning to the innocent Silver Age. Others are displeased by the new existence of dogs in capes. Some resent "being forced to buy other comics" to fully understand the broader context of the comics they regularly read; others rejoice in projects like 52, Brave & Bold, and Justice League Unlimited, books where the entire DC Universe itself is the star. The most I can say to people who are utterly astonished that an entire universe wasn't reconfigured exactly to their liking is "relax, find the parts you like and enjoy them, and don't stress about the rest."

This is rather a long way round the barn to this point: one of the contextualizing things that I most enjoy is seeing companies and organizations mentioned in various titles. It's a nice low-key way of connecting everything that doesn't require lots of cross-reading to get the feeling all your favorite characters are living in the same world. DC knows this: Sundoller, Lexcorp, Stagg Industries, the Sunderland Corporation, Big Belly, Smilin' Bess, Ferris Aircraft, Soder Cola versus Zesti, STAR Labs; these are the background signs that help us know we're in the DCU, regardless of which hero is thrashing which villain in foreground.

Some of these are recent, but I'd love for DC to take advantage of their wealth of history to "revive" even more companies. DC's Golden and Silver Age stories are a wonderland of chewing gum companies, piano factories, chemical plants, radio stations, newspapers, and vague family-owned conglomerates (I mean, what the heck did Ollie Queen make his money in?). I would love for there to be a place or person that collects this all, where every time I could check to see whether Consolidated Corn has every been mentioned before and, if not, to add it to the list. I'm sure that some writers would take advantage of it and drop by whenever they need to insert a tuna processing firm into their current storyline.

Anyone willing to bell this cat?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Largely Uninformed Rant

Oh, dear. I got a notice from the Comic Bloggers Union, informing me that I'm too upbeat, as demonstrated by my failure to meet the annual rant quota. If I don't rant this weekend, I'll be cast out. Oh, dear. What can I rant about?

Goody! Here's something. Yes, while Devon is getting shout-outs from Entertainment Weekly, I'm getting dissed on Newsarama. All is vetch and bitter wormwood.

I think that Scipio hates everything published since the Silver Age that doesn’t have Vibe in it.

I think that Scipio’s opinion, when it comes to comics, is largely an uninformed one, since he tends to appreciate one type of approach to one genre of comics from one publisher

Honestly, now. Anyone who can think that first sentence either can't be reading this blog or simply can't read. I was largely uninformed that people had become so cripplingly literal; or has the internet merely shone a light on the benighted corners of fandom?

As for the second ... well! Frankly, I can't remember anyone ever calling me largely uninformed about anything, let alone comic books. And if I am largely uninformed about something, well, just give me 24 hours to fix that.

I'm always astonished by the presumption of people who ascribe differences in tastes from their own to ignorance. I may not like the comics you (or someone else) likes, but that's probably because I am familiar with them, not because I'm unfamiliar with them. My self-depiction here as a "Marvel innocent" is a useful device for my character as "author of the Absorbascon", but I'm not "largely uniformed" about comics other than the ones I discussed. Apparently, some people are too literal to realize that, so I must 'break character' and explain it to them.

I'll admit I'm no Devon, but, really, how many comic book stores do I have to own for someone to imagine that I might know a bit more than what happened in 52 this week? [Which reminds me; any explanation of how Steel's temporary superpower of being steel-covered managed to affect his artificial hand, as well?]

Oh, and apparently my opinion is to be discounted because my tastes are narrow. Well, I don't like everything or even most things; but, honestly, anyone who does probably isn't very discriminating. Like anyone whose opinion is of any value, I have my own aesthetic, one that's broad for me to appreciate Iranian feminist cinema, Latin poetry, Hamiltonian political theory, Chinese art, and Beavis & Butthead. I loved Beavis & Butthead. How much art is created that conforms to that aesthetic isn't really up to me, but to the world's creators.

What I find most disturbing about this dismissal is not the concept, but the context: the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. Honestly, I'm not sure why I need a subscription to Spider-Man and a copy of Blankets on my nightstand to validate my opinions on Wonder Woman. I'm one of the contributors to a forthcoming anthology about her; mightn't that do?

Friday, February 09, 2007


Newer readers here might not be familiar with Big Monkey Comics Radio, which Big Monkey Comics maintains for you as a public service.

It's an on-line streaming "radio station" with over 200 songs about superheroes and comic books. I guarantee, no matter who you are, it's got something on it you've never heard before.

Our latest additions (today) are as follows.

  • The delightfully sampled number from B.O.S.E., "Batman Hip-Hop".
  • "Wonder Woman" by J. Segel.
  • Yes, "Batman" can be an adjective, at least according to Mars Lasar's "You're So Batman".
  • If you like your "Wonder Woman" with a bit of Middle Eastern flair, make sure to listen to the Baghdaddies version.
  • Zen Boy addresses his ballad to "Wonder Woman" but Tim Erskine gave us the "Batman Ballad" instead.
  • For all our Colombian friends, we're happy to provide "La Cumbia de Batman". Yes, really.
  • And how could your week be complete without at least one hearing of that punk classic "I Saw Batman In the Launderette" from the Shapes?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

Honestly, virtually everything has been making me happy in my comics lately. I mean how many weeks do you get to see the Supercar ... twice? How often does a fellow blogger make a contribution to Green Arrow's Rogue's Gallery like the Hideous Closet Pastry?

Best moment of the week? Lots to choose from, but one hands-down winner:

Skeets and Speedy fighting Dr. Polaris with a yo-yo.

I mean, unless the Phantom Stranger shows up with Vibe in tow, there's really no way anything gets better than that. Although later in the story, Speedy does manage to stop Dr. Polaris from hurling the earth into the sun, armed with nothing more than a stonehead arrow from Hawkgirl's bedroom and Booster's familiarity with the Battle of Agincourt. That's a close second to the yo-yo thing.

The story give us not only a Booster Gold who is a scholar/athlete but also a nice spin on Polaris's portrayal, an ingenius twist of his traditional dual personality. DC doesn't really need an "Ultimates" line, folks, just more of you buying its "animated" titles.

This month's Uncle Sam & The Freedom Fighters continues its patented brand of lunacy and I love every panel of it, like this one where Uncle Sam defeats his enemies armed with nothing more than the truth, the power of the media, and size 412 shoes.

This image makes me feel so ... warm.
Hot, really. God, I love my country.

Elsewhen, Palmiotti & Gray freshen up Jonah Hex with the introduction of a new character: Tallulah Black, the Woman Wronged. We like her. If Jonah's new spunky "sidekick" isn't enough, the story's also a bouquet of little moments like Xtreme FGM, dynamitic decapitation, little girls breaking men's necks, and shoe-shopping with Jonah Hex. Really, I don't why Western comics aren't more popular.

52 gave us the wonderful and long-brewing donnybrook between Lex Luthor and John Irons, representatives of the Worst and Best of humanity. We also get giant crabs (um ... in the story, I mean), Osiris's interesting quest, and a lovely reminder (so rare in comics) that you really can die from falling two or three stories, leaving you just as dead as if you'd been incinerated by a megarod.

I really like the new Sargon the Sorceror, even if he is rather a Starbellied Sneech. Using his haircut to evoke the original's turban is a darned clever design touch. And he has a nice sense of humor when it comes to killing people ironically. I mean, the Spectre's the master at it, but you just know he never really gets the joke. DC: I want to see Sargon again, please. If possible, on a shopping trip with the new Black Condor and the Phantom Stranger.

Do NOT miss the Annual of Action Comics. Not only it is full of little vignettes and stories that fill holes in the Superman storyline but also the kind of fun stuff that's been missing from comics too long, such as overviews of the Fortress of Solitude, Kryptonite colors, and Superman's rogues galleries. This comic is everything an Annual should be. Thank you, DC.

Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil is wonderful; do yourself a favor and buy it (which I only did because Devon made me). I understand now why Jeff Smith is so acclaimed. Somehow, it is both as terrifyingly creepy as Captain Marvel can be and as winningly innocent as Captain Marvel should be. Finally, a book I can read along with children; I simply must go and rent some!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Okay, I don't mean to obsess on the Wonder Woman movie, but when a man of my stripe lies in bed at night thinking about what he'd do with Wonder Woman, I think it's culturally significant.

Regardless of what one does with her character, there is one sure way to ensure the success of the film: the right villain. Thus, let us a look for a moment at Wonder Woman foes like Dr. Psycho, the Cheetah, Ares, the Silver Swan, the Yellow Peri, Paula Van Gunther, and Giganta.

And then tell them to sit this one out.

It's obvious who needs to be the villain in this film. Wonder Woman's most fabulous foe, the reason god put Bob Kanigher on earth, DC's answer to Dr. Doom:

I mean, really; must I spell things like this out for Hollywood, or what?

There are three steps to box-office boffo for WW The Movie:
  1. Use Dr. Domino as the villain.
  2. Have him, at some point, launch a missile at Manhattan (that'll get Marvel fans to the theaters).
  3. Cast the right voice as Dr. Domino.

Uh-oh. I need help on this one. Not just anyone can be the voice of Dr. Domino. I know this first-hand, because this very panel was in last year's "Dramatic Reading Contest" at Big Monkey. And when they cast that Person From TV With the Whiny-Snarky Voice as Dr. Doom, it didn't help the FF movie (which was still fabulous, because Marvel knows better than to take its film project pretentiously seriously; that's for their comics).

So help Hollywood get this film off the ground and keep it flying;

in The Wonder Woman Movie?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Whedonless Woman

Usually I try to stay above the fray in any controversy that I myself am not causing. But the ouster of Joss Whedon is too good to pass up.

My position is: there is a god, and his name is Zeus.

Let me set aside for a moment that I can't stand Whedon's work or understand its appeal. Whedon's been unable to figure out what he wants the script to do and who he wants to play Wonder Woman. He didn't want her in her traditional costume or fighting any of her traditional villains. Basically, Whedon wanted a big movie, but didn't really want to make one about Wonder Woman. And apparently this isn't merely my assessment, but Whedon's as well, since he admitted in exit interviews that after a while, the whole pairing of him with the project just didn't seem to be working on either end.

I'm glad, at least, that everyone realized this now, because as bad as a cancelled wedding is, it's not as bad as a bad marriage (Batman and Robin) or a divorce (Superman II).

But this leaves me (and probably lots of other people) with lots of questions. Will this delay the project or did WB already have a new boyfriend waiting in the wings? What should the feel of a Whedonless Wonder Woman be, now that we are free of the specter of Diana The Monster Slayer? Would Congress pass a Pro-Human Cloning Bill if it were limited to Linda Carter?

My feeling is that too much anxiety is wasted on trying to make Wonder Woman "fit" in a real world context, as Batman does in his new movies. How do you make a big Amazon women in a majorette's 4th O'July outfit "fit"? Answer: you don't.

To me, that's the glory of Wonder Woman. She's totally out of place, completely out of context ...

and she doesn't care a whit.

Everything she does seems perfectly natural to her, and that's what makes it okay for you. Really weird, but still okay. That's how Linda Carter pulled it off.

Remember, when Messner-Leobs had Diana working at Taco Whiz? Yes, that was odd. But what I remember most about it was that (for me) she lost none of her dignity in doing so and saw nothing odd about what she was doing. And when questioned about it, her response was something to the effect of "What could be more noble than helping people feed themselves?" Good for you, WW!

Batman? Superman? Nice guys, good guys, but basically kind of uptight. Wonder Woman? Free as a bird and never breaks a sweat about making the tough calls, whether they involve snapping someone's neck, slaying the Hydra, or offering to supersize your meal.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Zod's Naughty Doggies

If thou are not reading Krypto the Superdog, I call thee "fool".

When I saw my email from Big Monkey about what was coming out this week, I thought, "Gosh, should I really be getting 'Krypto', some goofy comic for little kids?"

Yeah. I actually think "gosh". It's just one of the things that happens to you when you read lots of Golden Age comics.

Well, I enjoy all my comics this week, a lot. But I think I enjoyed Krypto as much as all of them combined. How could this be?

If you read this month's issue (a brilliant riff on Superman II), you'd know.

Remember when I said the evil Kryptonians banished to the Phantom Zone had cats? Well, some of them also had dogs.

This single panel contains more concentrated Evil than the Collected Preacher and more Four-Color Fabulousness than the Complete Works of Jeph Loeb.

Evil Kryptonian dogs. In purple capes. And facial hair. Well, I mean, more facial hair. Now, I would have been content if "Growl", "Snarl" and "Snap" had been their names. Of course, I realize now that that's silly; it's legally impossible to do that, since that's the name of the three gremlins on the box of Earth-3 Rice Krispies. So, in fact, their names are "Dom", "Vilea", and "Tronk", which automatically tells you everything you need to know about them collectively and individually; it's a masterpiece of canine introposition. I'm willing to bet that you, like I, are so immediately swept away by this Silver Age tsunami of a panel that you knew immediately that, rules of pronunciation be damned, that second name is "VILE - UH", not "vill AY uh". Because "VILE-UH" is an evil name.

Naturally, the Science Council turns to Jor-El, because they are established weenies and he's a Man of Scientific Action. That old saying "if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" must be Kryptonian, I think, because Jor-El's is -- what else? -- to rocket them into outer space. That's Jor-El's solution to everything. A monkey flings poo at you? Rocket him into outer space! Your kid's dog whizzes on your K-Pod? Rocket him into outer space! Catch Van-Zee leering at Lara behind your back? Rocket him into outer space! For people who never left their own planet, the Kryptonians have an awful lot of rockets lying around.

Can you imagine how annoying it would be to work with Jor-El?
"Okay, everyone, let's figure out how to deal with the opposing lobbyists on the Hill--"
"Rocket them into outer space!'
"Uh, yeah, Jorry, we can't really do that, and Congress would never--"
"Rocket them, too!"
"To say nothing of the press."
"Into outer space! All of them!"
"New rule, Jorry: decaf only."
Anyway, so, Jor-El, who is not only single-minded but condescending, rockets them into outer space with a wicked nasty pun.
"Sirius?" "Completely."

Peter David, eat your heart out. "Sirius/completely" is now my second favorite pun, surpassed only by "Sir, you're back!"/"Yes, she almost broke it!"

Naturally, since it's a Jor-El plan, something goes wrong and the dogs wind up later on Earth. Because Jor-El's the kind of co-worker who, long after he's been retired or fired, is still responsible for messes that pop up on your desk years later.
"What do you mean, only the designer has the access codes? Call him."
"Um... he's in the Phantom Zone and his cell gets no signal there."
"Then wipe the damn thing and reinstall it."
"We need the original crystal memory shard for that."
"Don't tell me: SOMEone rocketed it into outer space..."
"Speaking of which... I think I figured out what happened to the office copy of The Collected Wisdom of the Six Known Galaxies... ."

So the Three Naughty Doggies show up on Earth, like everything else fleeing Krypton; when the heck did when give them TPS?

This is where they discover they have superpowers when on earth. At this point, I'll skip my "how do dogs, who have extremely little exposed skin, soak up solar energy?" lecture, because it's too geeky. But I will admit that my first thought upon seeing this panel was, "Oh, Tronk can't talk, like the big guy in Superman II; huh, I wonder why he can't talk." You know that the tsunami has hit and that you're completely submerged in Silver Age logic when you don't notice you're automatically thinking things like, "I wonder why that dog can't talk."

Now I'll skip the scene where they whup Streaky the Supercat's hinie, mostly because I've already sent that out to be framed. The real action comes when they catch up with Krypto and his family in Tahiti on vacation, where Krypto's human gets his family to safety by convincing them that there's an impending -- wait for it -- tsunami. Ain't that the truth.

The phrase "This is your hairless one? Perhaps after I've defeated you, I'll make him my pet" is a clever reference to a similar scene in Superman II. It's also extremely useful at the bars and I've already said it three times this weekend.

So, Krypto does his Linda Carter-esque superspin into costume:

If there's anything better than evil Kryptonian superdogs in purple capes and more facial hair it's snarky evil Kryptonian superdogs in purple capes and more facial hair. I didn't get to say, "Special effects and capes; how quaint" this weekend, but I did hear a 6'3" drag queen say it, which was even better.

At this point, we not only get to see that Kryptonian dogs have opposable thumbs (because THAT's how advanced the Kryptonians were), we get to hear one the Greatest Lines of All Time.

"Bow down to me, Pet of Jor-El!" Priceless.

All ends well. Our heroes trick the Three Naughty Dogs of Zod with some kryptonite and then handle them in the only sensible way:

Rocket them in outer space.

BUT WAIT, there's more.

The issue has a back-up story, in which Krypto the Superdog teams up with Ace the Bathound against the Joker's hyenas, Bud & Lou. Why?

Because Batman asked for their help.

Now, THAT is a Batman I can adore.

It's clever, plot-driven story, in which the Joker is trying use his pets to lure Batman out of town, and the dog heroes are trying to make it look as if he has, including lots of scenes where Ace disguises himself as Batman. No, that's not stupid; trust me, it works. I'm completely Sirius.

See for yourself.

No, he's not really driving. But I love that they let you think for a moment that he is.

Ace isn't driving; it's just Krypto the flying dog carrying the Batmobile using his superstrength. Phew! Good; for a moment I thought the writers were asking us to believe the impossible!

Don't dismiss something like Krypto just because it's "written for kids". Some of the best comics were, you know.

So, if thou are not reading Krypto the Superdog, I call thee "fool". And so does this guy: