Saturday, April 28, 2007


To my readers,

I apologize now for that the fact that I am about to rant. Rant, rant, rant!

Comments will not be turned off for this post, but I would prefer your comments be directed somewhere more useful than to me...

Specifically, to Dan Didio. [That, by the way, is a link to the Aquaman Message Board; I don't know how else to contact him.]

First, some disclaimers. I really like Dan Didio; he's the best thing to happen to DC in decades. I
love what Dan Didio is doing. He's showing what a company can do with an actual editor at the helm, and, in my lifetime at least, DC has never been better. There will always be stumbles and fumbles, particularly when a company is doing so much on so many fronts. I understand that and I think that I am, on average, much more forgiving than most fans. If a book's not perfect, I'm fine with that; lord knows, the comic books we grew up with were actually pretty crappy, but we learned to love their characters anyway.

I also understand that he and his crew are not going to refit the DCU in exactly the way I would want it, jot and tittle. There are plenty of characters and situations I'd prefer were being handled differently (Donna Troy, the Outsiders (past and present), the Flash, and, of course, Vibe); that's always going to be the case. I also realize that the way you want things isn't always what's best for you!

That said, I have also learned that DC is responsive, on the whole, to feedback from its readers, and is charmingly willing to cheerily admit when it's made a mistake and then fix it. I've also learned that, in life generally, you can't expect to get things you want unless you're willing to ask for them or work toward them. And so....

Dan Didio, I want Aquaman back. The real one.
I joke a lot on this blog. So much so, that sometimes people can't tell whether I seriously like/dislike something, or whether I'm just taking a position for the sake of argument. Have no doubt, I'm thoroughly sincere about this one. If this be "fan entitlement", then so be it. But I must correct my friend and colleague the Fortress Keeper; I didn't complain loudly because Kurt Busiek tried to revamp Aquaman; writers do that all the time, and I only started to like Aquaman so much because Will Pfeiffer was allowed to revamp him. I've complained loudly because Kurt Busiek replaced Aquaman.

As I've argued before... On the whole, replacements do not work.
Sure, I liked Kyle Rayner. But Hal Jordan came back, and needed to. For that matter, Alan Scott came back. While DC continues to burn through Flashes, Jay Garrick remains popular and (as everyone knows by now) Barry Allen is coming back. Connor Hawke, Artemis, Azrael--the DC Encyclopedia is littered with the evidence that replacements do not work long-term. Sure, some good can come of them eventually, but often than not they become awkward baggage, the red-headed stepchildren of their respective dynasties.

You (or, rather, DC) is going to bring him back anyway.
Let's see ... when hasn't DC brought back the original version of a character? Green Arrow, after he died? No. Superman, after he died? No. Batman after his back was broken? No. Wonder Woman (pick up a time!)? No. Green Lantern, after he died and became a different freaking replacement character? No (and see "Alan Scott" above). The Flash? Well, there's a reason that stores are being told to order extra copies of an upcoming issue of Flash and that they're doing a two-month Flash promotion and publishing a "Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told", and I kinda doubt its for Wally. Hawkman? No. The Atom? Well, I adore Ryan and he doesn't seem to be going anywhere, but dont'cha think "The Search for Ray Palmer" is gonna find Ray Palmer? Blue Beetle? Ah, Blue Beetle doesn't count, because there was no Blue Beetle is DC's comics of the Golden, Silver, or Bronze Ages. The Doom Patrol, the Legion, the JSA? No, no, no. Thank god no writer ever had the bright idea to replace the Phantom Stranger with a hip, young, inexperienced version of himself or I'd be listing him here, too.

The real Aquaman will be back and it's only a matter of time. Stop wasting our time and get to it.

Replacing Aquaman with an even weaker character is a stunningly bad idea.
Look, I'm well aware that different people prefer different takes on Aquaman. But the Pfeifferites, PAD People, the Veitchians (are there any Veitchians?), the Finny Friends, the Sub Diego Lovers, the Pro-Atlanteans-- I daresay there's one thing that all the fish-schools of thought on Aquaman would agree on: his problem has never been that he's TOO powerful.

"Yeah, the ability to control fish is way too daunting,"
all the writers never say, "I just don't know how to write an Aquaman who can survive outside of the water for over a hour. Please, Dan, let me replace him with a weaker knock-off. I can't handle a guy who used to punch holes in battleships during WWII; I'm sure what readers really want in a hero is a kid who seems continually lost, needs a sword to defend himself, and is weaker than the ever-popular Neptune Perkins."

Wasting character recognition is a bad idea.
I really don't care who chooses to mock Aquaman; his classic version is an extremely recognizable character / commodity. Iconic status, Q rating -- these are cultural and marketing gold, and anyone willing to throw them away is a fool. This kid with black eyes, shoulder pads, and a sword? He ain't going on anybody's Underoos (and all that that implies). Or, if he does, those Underoos will wind up in the same warehouse where DC stores its excess "Superman Blue" t-shirts.

Distancing Aquaman from the heroic model is a bad idea.

I'm not just talking here about my pet theory, the Dynastic Centerpiece Model. I'm talking about what I -- and I think most readers -- want: not heroes who spend all their time trying to "find themselves" and "understand the role", but ones who are secure in themselves and know instinctively that their role is to use their abilities to help and protect others and society as a whole. I mean, if that weren't true, DC's most popular character would be the Martian Manhunter. I'm not a big fan of Alex Ross, but if DC has forgotten (after the depredations of Conway, Peter David, McLaughlin, Veitch) how to depict Aquaman as a real hero, all they have to do is ask Ross, co-author of Justice. For that matter, they could just watch a couple episodes of the '60s Filmation cartoon of Aquaman.

Wandering too far from a character's original conception is a bad idea.
Another comic fan, an old friend, taught me this important lesson: The answer to most problems with a character almost always can be found by going back to the original conception of the character (which is what caused the character to become popular and iconic in the first place). Kurt Busiek tried to do this but focused on the first origin of Aquaman: that he was raised on land, not in the sea. Yes, that is better than the silliness of being raised by porpoises. But you can't just replace Aquaman with a different character with the same name and the original origin.

Why? Because the origin of a character is not the same thing as the original concept. Though we make a big deal out of origins now, they started out simply as tools to get the hero as quickly as possible to his status quo.

"Oh, uh, why is Superman super? Well ... he's an alien! And they were all super! Okay, maybe they weren't; maybe it was just because their gravity was heavier! No, no... okay, maybe it was because of ... a difference in solar energy! Yes! That's it!"

The reality is, Superman is not about his origin. He's about his original concept, that is, what he can do and what his job is. Superman's slogan isn't "On Earth as it was on Krypton!"; it's "This looks like a job for Superman!"

When Superman became "Superman Blue" his origin didn't change, but he was taken away from the original concept of the character. So, naturally, the change failed. No one cared that it was still Clark Kent; it was no longer Superman. In fact, Superman Blue failed so spectacularly that when Superman was returned to his original concept, no one cared that the whole thing was never explained, so relieved were they to get back the hero's status quo.

Simply giving us a new version of Aquaman with the same origin as the first version is not going back to the original concept of the character. Painting with a broad brush, I'd have to say that the original concept of Aquaman is:
"Superstrong, supertough, really fast-swimming guy who controls sea creatures. Though he lives underwater, his work focuses of the interface of ocean and land, like beaches, islands, and the surface of the sea. There he keeps people safe and fights crime, with the approval of society."

Basically, Aquaman is a superlifeguard, a super-marine. With really fabulous hair.

Wandering away from this concept -- keeping him underwater all the time, weakening him, depriving him control of sea-life, portraying him as a Namorian crabby foe of surface-dwellers, giving him a Silver Age-y "one-hour weakness", giving him magical powers -- waters down the simple power of the original concept: a man who is a powerful master of the sea-going environment.

Why is this simple concept so powerful? First, because it IS simple. The most powerful concepts -- literary or not -- usually are. Second, it's powerful because it's about being powerful. People sometimes deride comic books as "power fantasies", a criticism I find laughable. "Power fantasy" is essentially redundant. People don't generally fantasize about being less powerful or less competent, now, do they?

Fantasy provides relief from things that make us feel powerless in our daily lives and (one hopes) inspires us to become less so. Things like, say, urban crime (Batman), an uncaring society (Superman), war and aggression (Wonder Woman), the sky (Hawkman), the pace of events (Flash), larger forces (the Atom), ceiling tiles (Green Lantern), and the sea (Aquaman). Not only are they not made powerless by such things, they are sometime empowered by them. Batman uses darkness and fear to his advantage, for example, and Aquaman is not merely at home in the sea, he is more powerful there than elsewhere. This "Arthur Joseph" fellow seems less at home in the ocean than Judy Walton, and it kind of goes without saying that the real Aquaman would kick his butt in about 4 seconds (Judy Walton, 30 seconds; Marsha Mallow, holding her breath, 60 seconds).

Can we please forget about this character who's supposed to have the "right origin" and get back to the character who personifies the original concept instead?

Dan Didio; it's pretty clear that Tad Williams wants to do you a huge favor and bring back the real Aquaman for you. Heck, in issue 51, he has Mera and Wonder Woman basically state that.

Please do US a favor:

let him.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Spectre

Most of you think of the Spectre this way:

Or this way:

But I choose to think of him this way:

And I always will.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Waid Down

Usually, I try and focus here on the positive things in my comics, things I enjoy, rather than degenerate into a crabfest, as is so easy to do on-line. The degree to which I succeed in this goal is, of course, an entirely separate matter! And I don't hesitate to speak out strongly in favor of things I would enjoy IF they were in my comics (e.g., Vibe, the Real Aquaman, a Penguin who's more than a punching bag, a Two-Face who is not a split personality, et sim.)

But today I just have to share my confusion: how can I love some of what Mark Waid writes but hate most of it?

This is very hard for me, because one of my favorite comics of all time is his JLA Year One series. Of all the trades I own, it's one of the few I have read over and over. Oh, the plot's a little wacky, but it's a Justice League story and their plots almost have to be wacky. But Waid did an amazing job of depicting the personalities of the principals (Hal Jordan, Black Canary 2, Barry Allen, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter). In fact, he pretty much set the standard for how most people currently perceive those characters.

And, of course, Mark Waid created Impulse, the Character Who Put the Fun Back Into Superhero Comics. I've given away thousands of my comic books over the years. I have every issue of Impulse I ever bought. With Impulse, Mark Waid made me laugh and cry, often in the same issue. Impulse alone would put Mark Waid in the forefront of my favorite comic creators.

Brave and the Bold, though some of its dialog is bit heavy-handed, is an absolute hoot and I love Mark Waid for making in a joyous romp across the DCU what could have been the most ungainly mess since the "DC Challenge".

Mark Waid was one of the principal writers of the Silver Age, the Most Fun Crossover Ever Written.

And yet... .

  • Could I hate Kingdom Come (and the infestation in the DCU it has turned into) more? No, I don't think so.
  • The current Legion is the only one in the last 35 years I'm not enjoying.
  • Ever notice I never discuss the Flash? Waid wrote it for eight years and I hated every minute of it.

Can someone explain how I can love and hate one man's work so much?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Flying penguin missiles. Really, if you aren't reading Blue Beetle, you deserve to. It's not only a great read, the art's beautiful.
  • Alan Scott versus Grandfather Clock.
  • Guy Gardner versus the Ultra-Humanite.
  • Firestorm's ingenious defeat of Kalibak and then the Parademons. I wish more of you had read Firestorm!
  • Mr. Mind's makeover.
  • Finding out the answer to "52 what?" And the answer! bring them on!
  • Oh, by the way-- I TOLD YOU SO; Skeets is innocent. Or was, I guess.
  • Well! Hippolyta sure wakes up crabby, doesn't she?
  • Robin's ongoing man-crush on Superbo-- Kon-El, the Hero Whose Named Must Not Be Spoken.
  • Hal Jordan's brilliant tactics in Justice. Yeah, you heard me.
  • Batman & Friends fighting "the nightmares of the Arkhamites".
  • The Rolling Head of Abraham Lincoln!
  • The EXTREMELY interesting set of statues in the Fortress of Solitude (including the fabulous Sensor Girl) and Superman's speech explaining them.
  • Wait, wait ... did he just throw up Batman's utility belt...?!
  • I really can't imagine Wonder Woman calling anyone "Mom"; but it did make me laugh!
  • At least Geoff Johns knows how to write Geo-Force as the pompous undeserving jackass he is.
  • The Rolling Head of Detective Lenahan! Really, why aren't more of you reading Catwoman?
  • Well, based on Black Lightning's comments to the president (and some other info), I guess the Hall of Justice is on the site where (here on "our earth") sits the Holocaust Museum. Not exactly, where I would have picture it, but at least its in DC where it belongs.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Great Corpses: White Guys, White Sands, White Gas

Hello! Rolling Head of Pantha here to share with you one of most traditional, wholesome elements of comic books ... a fresh corpse!

This is a personal favorite of mine. Oh, there's a lot to be said for slapdash impersonal gore, like, say, having your head knocked off by an insane Superman, well, knock-off. But fresh corpses are so much more meaningful when love and family are involved.

This one deserves a little set up...

Once upon a time, a highly-educated father loved his son so much, he took him with him on an exciting work-trip to the mysterious ancient land of Egypt.

But, as the archaeologist was hard at working exploring an ancient temple, his son wandered off, like a bad boy.

Rather than stay with his smart, hard-working, loving father, this boy wandered off and became entranced by the commanding eyes of a tall bearded older man. Much much much older ...

Oh, that's a mistake! When an older stranger asks you to swing his lever, little boy,
you should go running back to your daddy.

The white gas that reanimated the old man had another effect, less salutary.

Yep; it de-animated the Old Man.

Yes, that's the naive young Kent Nelson, Nabu of the Questionable Bedside Manner, and ...

the fresh corpse of Sven Nelson,
whom his son just unintentionally killed.

Don't worry! It's okay; Kent's young and bounces right back!

Hm. Perhaps I overestimated young Kent's resilience.

In any case, the next time you feel like complaining about death and killing in your current comics, just remember the little boy Kent Nelson, who killed his own father with the help of a creepy old Egyptian guy, and then they buried him in the middle of the desert.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Heroclix Theme Team: People Who Don't Belong!

People Who Don't Belong in the JLA (11 figures at 300 points)

ID Name Points
cd075cd075: Veteran Outsiders Geo-Force
cdF005cdF005: Feat Movethrough8
le040le040: Rookie (Titans) Speedy
icF004icF004: Feat Sidekick10
cd070cd070: Rookie Red Tornado
leF005leF005: Feat Large Object9
cd008cd008: Experienced (Suicide Squad) Vixen
oF006oF006: Feat Pounce15
leBF005leBF005: "BF Condition" Poor Teamwork0
icB004icb004: Token Snapper Carr
leF001leF001: Feat Armor Piercing10

For a 400 point team, subtract "Movethrough" and add Superman Blue (cd067, 105 pts.).

On a rainy Saturday, play them against any random group of JLA figures of the same build size and watch this team earn its name!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Hal Jordan, playing chess. Why, I nearly fell on the floor laughing!
  • Starman speaking Interlac, untransliterated. I love Interlac.
  • Dolores Winters. I've always loved Dolores Winters.
  • Enough corpses to keep the Rolling Head of Pantha busy for years!
  • Barry Allen's widow working with the Reverse Flash.
  • Billy's clever use of magical administrative access.
  • Hawkgirl, pretending to be in the Justice League in JLA, while getting her @$$ kicked by Scandal Savage in Birds of Prey.
  • The Great Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six...
  • Atom-Smasher's naivety actually made me not-hate him for a moment.
  • DC tying up, in single panels, all the loose ends leading up to OYL. Now THAT is old-style pacing!
  • The final image of Brave & the Bold 3, which is one of the most unexpected and riveting things I've seen in many a yarn!
  • The Bat-snowblower.
  • Supergirl's credit.
  • The Fatal Five's employer.
  • Batman versus Mano.
  • Black Adam versus a very angry little girl.
  • Detective Jones' precinct.
  • The reason why the Spectre wasn't in WWIII (which I should have remember myself).
  • Todd & Damon.
  • Aquaman sassing the gods.
  • "Wallpaper duty".
  • Power Girl's breasts really were everywhere this week, weren't they?
  • Wonder Woman driving a hummer.
  • Urban renewal, the Martian way.
  • Mark Shaw, naked, wet, and wielding an eNORmous pigsticker.
  • Catman really loves working those costumes, doesn't he?
  • JLAers at a funeral.
  • Harvey versus Waylon.
  • Koryak's crypt.
  • The return of Aquagirl.
  • Hatch map. I love maps.
  • "They described him as energetic and happy-go-lucky...." Another laughing-as-I-hit-the-floor moment.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Suddenly, at the Hall of Justice!

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice,
, Superman, and Wonder Woman sit around a table,
waiting for the others to arrive for a JLA meeting.

"Clark, Bruce--where is Reddy? Reddy is always on time."

Suddenly, in walks Aquaman, flanked by Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) and an afro-wigged Black Lightning!

"Do you mean the Red Tornado, the robot weapon once used against us and the JSA by T.O. Morrow? I had him disassembled and shipped to South Wales, where he's now sharing a cold-water walk-up with G.I. Robot and Brother Power. Claw the Unconquered was only too happy to pay for the shipping."

"Arthur! You're back! And you've returned to your original appearance, hands at all!"

"Did she just use my first name? Uh-oh; rules violation. Manhunter?"


Suddenly, Wonder Woman screams and falls back in her chair!

"My invisible Martian colleague has a psychic blast ready for anyone else who breaks the rules. Especially the 'code names only' rule."

"But Ar--Aquaman. I thought we were friends!"



Suddenly, Superman screams and grabs his forehead!

"No, Superman, we are not 'superfriends'. Friends would have rescued me from being squidified and replaced by an underwater Kyle Rayner. Friends would not have lorded over the opening of their Hollywood blockbusters while my unaired pilot on the WB network was being spliced up like so much sushi and served on YouTube.

"No, we are not friends. We are colleagues. The JLA is an organization of professionals, not the superpowered cast of

"Where are the others? ... Aquaman."

"Well, speaking of deadbeat dads with illegitimate children, I sent Speedy along home to Green Arrow in Star City, so he can attend nightly NA meetings like he needs to. And for dyeing his mentor's costume red, I had him spanked soundly before he left."

spanked Red Arrow?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Batman; leaders delegate. I had Topo do it, using paddles shaped like miniature oars. As for Vixen the Supertramp, well, if little girls recognize her on the street, her identity's been compromised. I had Green Lantern ring her over to Universe 616, where she'll blend in nicely; she certainly doesn't fit in here."

"Did you spank
her, too?"

"With nothing but these gloves to protect me from infection? No, Green Lantern took care of that part, too."

"I'm sure he did. I'm not surprised you're part of this, Jordan, and J'onn's always been Aquaman's lapdog, but ...
et tu, Jefferson?"



Suddenly, Batman grunts and slumps to the side!

"Black Vulcan is no fool, Batman. He knows the JLA needs a leader. Superman's no leader, no matter how many crossovers try to force him into the role; he's not a quarterback, he's an MVP. Wonder Woman's a solo warrior, and you're a general who can only direct subordinates, not lead equals. Without me around, all the three of you do is snipe at one another snarkily and disagree about what's the right thing to do.

"But I'm back now. You put a League together; I'm here to put the League in order. I was the king of a continent and regularly lead into battle the entirety of life in the sea. Command is my superpower. I lead the League; I always have. Even Alex Ross knows that."

Suddenly, Hawkgirl swoops down to attack Aquaman from behind!



Suddenly, Hawkgirl bursts into flames and collapses on the floor, leaving nothing but a smoldering mace and some charred feathers!

"Oh, don't worry about Hawkgirl. I'm sure she'll have reincarnated by the time Hawkman shows up to take her place. And Black Canary, in case you three are wondering, is currently resting on the satellite after a bit of 're-education' from the Martian Manhunter."


"Not now, Manhunter; relax. As for the Flash and the Atom-- what their current secret identities are I neither know nor care -- they're busy dismantling your little holographic training room and selling its pieces on E-Bay in Universe 616, where people actually buy that sort of thing."

"N-not... "


"...not the... "


"...not 'the Kitchen' !"


Suddenly, Wonder Woman falls to the floor unconscious,
a small trickle of blood seeping from one of her ears!

"Poor Wonder Woman; couldn't stand the heat, I guess...

"Gentlemen, our entire lives are 'training exercises'. We don't have time to play virtual Heroclix with one another while lives are in danger. And I assure you: lives
are in danger, my wayward colleagues... .

"I'm going to the wading pool for a swim; Black Vulcan, please supervise the 'readjustment' of the Trinity's attitudes. Lantern, keep an eye out for the UPS guy; he should be coming today with the supply of salon-quality haircare product for Vulcan and me. Oh, and Manhunter ... when you're done, Topo and I would like you to join us later in our quarters. It's good to be back!"

"So, he makes J'onn take the form of his dead son, Koryak, now?"
"Shut up, Clark, they'll hear you!"
"Great Gotham, aren't you two capable of remembering that they're telepathic for longer than five minutes?!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mission: Locate the Hall of Justice!

Where is "the Hall"?

For me, the highlight of Brad Meltzer's JLA has been his introduction of the Hall of Justice, located in Washington DC (something I've been a very strong advocate of).

But as someone who lives in DC, I'm a little frustrated by the vague tree-shrouded background; where in DC is the Hall of Justice? I mean, we know where the JSA HQ is; it's not just "somewhere in Manhattan".

So where is the Hall of Justice? Couple things we can deduce about its location...

It is not on the Mall.
No, no, non-DC residents; I believe a man can fly, but I will never believe that big-ass building was secretly erected on the National Mall. That would take an act of Congress and, even more daunting, approval by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation.

It's on private property outside the original city (that's everything south of Florida Avenue).

I mean, they build the thing in the six months they were sitting around that table, without anybody else knowing about it. To me that means a Big Honking Fence on a set-back property; it sure as heck ain't in downtown or Midcity.

If it were, everyone would know, because the Intowner would have had weekly updates on the zoning meetings and ANC debates about it ("Ward 3 Neighborhood Forum Heres Residents's Objections to Constrution of Hedquarters of National Organization; DC Historical Preservation Society Weights in On Possible Obskuring of Lampost Lanmark"), and the City Paper would have a cover story with an in-depth human interest angle on every single local businesses even slightly disrupted or inconvenienced ("Justice Beleaguered: The JLA protects you from destruction; unless you're their neighbor.").

It's metro-accessible.
That's just the kind of people the Leaguers are. No point in making a public headquarters that the public can't get to. I mean, it's not like it's the National Arboretum or the Jefferson Memorial!

Personally, I'm picturing it on the site of National Cathedral (because no one knows what the point of that is in our universe, let alone the DCU). Big area, lots of room for trees and a reflecting pool, but still located directly at an extremely public location (the intersection of two great thoroughfares, Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pantha -- Heading Up A New Feature!

Hello, kids! Rolling Head of Pantha here! I'm your guide to the fun world of Violence in Comics.

Do you what Bowdlerizing is, kids? It's when overly protective adults cut out of literature anything they think is "bad" for readers.

Adults love to bowdlerize any literature for children, taking out or altering any references to death, violence, even conflict. You should see how violently they savaged the Brothers Grimm! Why, some of their stories were barely recognizable afterwards, and could only be identified by dental records... .

But it's a funny thing: de-fang stories for children and their point gets lost. Children, as anyone who's ever met one knows, are not subtle people. Behavioral amelioration of negative characters through positive feedback does not impress them. Witches are evil child-eaters and must be pushed into ovens; monsters are threats to society (just like Mike W. Barr!) and must be slain. In the words of the Alligator Men from the Monster Society of Evil, "We've lost! Quick! Eat the children!"

Fairy tales and the like are not designed to convince children that the world is without dangers. Quite they contrary. They are designed to put children on their guard, to show that there is evil in the world and it must be defeated through alertness, intelligence, and a willingness to act. And the fairy tale tendency of such lessons to be stark and graphic is not lessened one whit by the influence of comic books' other roots, like pulp fiction!

While comics books are no longer really written for children per se, they retain, to a large degree, the zoroastrian morality that typifies children's lit. For example, reformations are few and usually short-lived (such as that of Black Adam in 52).

How you feel about this reality is a major determinant of how you feel about superhero comics in general...

Those who view comics more from the mythic/fairytale perspective like stark differences between Good and Evil. You'll find those people prefer DC Comics, where characters retain their fairy-talish extremeness and abstraction; to some, that is a virtue.

To others, it's a flaw that makes such reading childish; they prefer a more sophisticated and ostensibly realistic approach to the motivations and values of both heroes and villains. They hew toward the interesting moral complexities of pulp fiction, and so they gravitate toward offerings by Marvel comics.

It is no accident that DC's recent goals have been to heighten the contrast between heroes and villains (as stated by its editorial board in its discussion of its recent crossovers) and Marvel's has been to heighten the conflict between its heroes over morally grey areas (Civil War). It is their nature.

Comics inherit not only the morality of the fairy tale, but its bloodthirstiness as well. While major characters are (mostly) immune to dying (or, at least, to remaining dead), minor characters and bystanders die gruesomely by the score -- just like me!

If a character that you like gets his block knocked off in a crossover melee, this reality can hit you pretty hard and unpleasantly. Trust me, I know how that feels! But getting bumped off gruesomely-- no matter your age, gender, race, or even species -- is part of the job when you're a supporting character, whether you're strangled and stuffed in a refrigerator or eaten by the Big Bad Wolf.

If your youth was during a time when comics were ruled by the Bowdlerizers, then you may think the Descent into Violence of Modern Comics is a sure sign of the End of Times. If you grew up watching deformed madmen try to kill Batman and Robin every week, (same bat-time, same bat-channel) in some of the most creatively horrible ways imaginable, you may have a thicker skin.

In any case, to a certain degree complaining about a superhero comic book being violent is like the frog being surprised that the scorpion stings; it is its nature. If you want to avoid it, read Nancy & Sluggo.

On second thought, kids, don't read Nancy & Sluggo; it's a hot bed of value-sapping surrealism, the artistic enemy of all right-thinking folk, and much worse for you than violence.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe, eh, Nancy?

Anyway, all of this is a long way around the barn, just to let you kids know that I'll be hosting a fun new feature here on the Absorbascon:


Be the first on your block to collect 'em all!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Heroclix Theme Team: Two-Faced

Two Faced (8 figures at 396 points)

ID Name Points
J090Unique Eclipso108
+ leF004Feat Fortitude25
U030Veteran Batman Enemy (tm) Two-Face (tm)61
le007Rookie Mystics (tm) Enchantress (tm)60
U062Experienced Shade (tm)49
+ cdF003Feat Ambush5
J094Unique Batman Ally (tm) Batgirl41
o040Rookie Batman Enemy (tm) Cat-Man (tm)47

Another Reason to Love Starman

"I am Starman. You do not frighten me. Even if I appear bound and helpless, and you're armed and have the drop on me, you do not frighten me.

"Thus, I sass you. I sass you derisively. In fact, you, as a villain, are not even worthy to view me as I sass you derisively. Indeed, I fear that should you directly perceive my visage as I sass you derisively, its awesomeness alloyed only with disdain would cause you to spontaneously combust, leaving me with a troubled conscience and a nasty, smelly mess to clean up.

"Therefore, I shall not even deign to look at you as I sass you derisively."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Green Arrow Villains: The Movie!

Wait, wait ... so Warner Bros. wouldn't let Goyer do the Flash movie, so now he's going to do a movie about that story where Daredevil gets sent to prison?

But use Green Arrow instead? Oh, universe! I love you for how you make me laugh!

As longtime readers will know, I'm not exactly a fan of Green Arrow, the Greatest Batman Parody of All Time. I suppose making him the star of Daredevil Imprisoned: The Movie is the only way he could ever get in a film, let alone star in one. It strips him immediately of his costume, which isn't iconic or fabulous enough to look anything other than silly; likewise the goatee.

But to fill the film with Green Arrow villains as his uneasy companions? Green Arrow villains?! Who? Merlin? The Red Dart? Onomatopoeia? The Polka-Dot Squirrel? The Hideous Closet Pastry?

Nurse! Some stitches for my sides, please! Says Goyer:

"We've populated the prison with all sorts of B and C villains from the DC Universe. For the fans, there will be all sorts of characters the hardcore comic book junkies will know, but they're all going to be there under their human names and no one is wearing a costume, but there will be a lot of characters with powers and things like that."

Really, now. This doesn't exactly sound like the formula for a blockbuster. I'm not even sure I would go see that film; and I'm the Man Who Like Halle Berry's Catwoman.

Unless it involved lots of shower scenes and desperate prison romance with Justin Hartley and a series of men of various ethnicities, subtitle "Sins of the Fleche".

Yeah; I'd probably go see that.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I mean ... really, now!

Sub Diego: The Heroclix Map!

Today my extremely deep thanks go out to regular Absorbascommenter Kyle-Latino, who has done me the great kindness of creating an all-underwater map for Heroclix. This is something I've wanted for years now, but no one was able to help me; Kyle was and he did!

Finally, we have a Heroclix map for Aquaman, the fishclix, and other aquatic figures (standard and customized). Behold!


Some of the detail might be a bit hard to see on this picture (which does not do the original justice); you can download the full-size pdf image from this location.

As mentioned before, in an underwater map, hindering terrain affects only line of sight/targeting, not movement; that's because you can just swim over stuff like that. Thus, the collapsed brick walls are simply edged in green rather than being completely outlined.

Note also the fallen highway sign, amended to say "Sub Diego"!

At last, any customs of Aquaman related characters you may have had made, the fishclix pogs, the aquatic objects, all have a home of their own (instead of having to rely on the ersatz "Atlantis Rising" Battle Field Condition Card). I am prevailing upon the good folks at Xion Studios to make this map available for public purchase from them so that as many of you can enjoy it as possible; I'll let you know if they do.

Sub Diego has won its rightful place in the Heroclix world ... at the bottom of the ocean!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Friendless Wonder

Wonder Woman doesn't really have any friends, does she?

I don't mean supporting cast member type friends, though Zeus knows, she doesn't really have any of those either. Poor Diana is a victim (along with other notable figures like the post-Crisis Flashes and Aquaman) of a phenomenon I call "supporting castastrophe", the complete turnover of her entire supporting cast whenever she gets a new writer. Hippolyta, Etta Candy, Steve Trevor, Julia Kapatelis, Mindi Mayer, Ed that Detective Guy from Boston, the Gang from Taco Whiz, whoever the heck was in the Byrne run, Ferdinand the Minotaur and Rucka's Embassy Gang -- the Legion of Substituted Zeroes has an enormous battalion of Wonder Woman's castmembers.

But I'm not talking them; I'm talking about, well, "superfriends", for lack of a better term.

Batman and Superman are friends. Shovel all you want your Milleresque hooey about their being "naturally at odds with each" and "they could never be friends". Whether they're chummily selling war bonds together or bickering like an old married couple, the fact remains that they are socially paired.

Green Lantern and Flash, the Silver Age Duo, were also socially paired. Of course, in the Bronze Age, there was more of a Green Lantern / Green Arrow thing, but one thing was sure: none of the three hung out with Wonder Woman, sharing a six pack of ambrosia.

The JLA's Weirdo-in-Residence, the Martian Manhunter, has usually been associated with the other odd man out, Aquaman; they were "the Backup Boys". After the classical era of the JLA, their social pairing was reinforced by their work together in the Detroit League, and J'onn's repeated appearances in Arthur's (many many) titles.

Wonder Woman? The only woman in the original JLA was, de facto, a loner. Now, there have been so mighty efforts in the last few years to shore up her role in "DC's Trinity", and great strides have been made in making her a distinct personality with definite relationships with Batman and Superman.

But friends? Despite Brad Meltzer's insistence that the JLAers are all really really REALLY chummy, most other people I know think of them primarily as colleagues of hers. Batman and Superman are, historically and conceptually, paired with each other. "Batman & Wonder Woman" or "Wonder Woman & Superman" is never going to sound as natural as "Superman & Batman".

JLU, the animated series, made some steps in the right direction by pairing Wonder Woman with Hawkgirl. It was rather contentious, so I'm not certain it was a friendship, exactly, but it was certainly a social pairing, regardless of what their attitudes were toward each other at any particular point in the series.

Now that Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl are both in the JLA, will this pairing be reiterated? Perhaps it would be better if Wonder Woman were strongly paired with Black Canary, who like Wonder Woman is a hero with a strong Golden Age pedigree. It might help in the never-ending battle to have Black Canary taken seriously (because that'll have another serious setback when they have marry that loser, Green Arrow, whom she should have dumped permanently about 10,000 times ago).

Of course, since someone at DC seems insistent to marry Canary and Arrow, those two are, unavoidably, going to be a social pairing; so, maybe Wonder Woman should be best friends with Hawkgirl. Hawkgirl could certainly use the boost after DC fumbled her own title.

Regardless, Wonder Woman, of ALL female characters in the DCU, should have at least one female superfriend!

And, NO, it can't be Vixen. Ick.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


(A). An umbrella with sixteen ribs?
(B). Evening gloves in the day? I mean, really, dear!
(C). That's a dachshund obeying its owner.
(D). It's against the law to own two chia pets.
(E). That's Wonder Woman's car.
(F). There's no car parked temporarily in front of it.
(G). Not even Vic Sage wore a tie to chemotherapy.
(H). He's an American citizen.
(I). The plane is on time.
(J). In violation of the Clean Air Act of 1970 (as amended 1990).
(K). Factories have paneled wood doors?
(L) A grey hat with a brown suit and red tie? Catch me before I faint.
(M). Policemen must be over 18 years of age.
(N). Looks fien to me.
(O). Dr. Seuss was not an architect.
(P) Asian rent boys won't do that unless you pay them first.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

300: The Real Story

Friends, bloggers, commenters; lend me your ears!

Though I am a classical scholar, trained for years and dedicated to preserving and disseminating the truth of our glorious ancient past, yet have I held my tongue about the deceptions of 300.

With untold talents of silver having flowed through the box office from legions of ticket-buyers, I have cowered in fear at its numberless fans, lest they advance upon me, overwhelming just as the Persian horde did the defenders of Thermopylae. But, by Zeus, no longer!

Compatriots of the internet, the heart within me forbids my tongue rest. Too long have I remained silent on this mockery of history, this 300, while my fellow citizens flock to drink at the poison well of its lies!

Thus I shall now tell ye the true story of the battle of Thermopylae and its real hero:

The Golden Age Starman!

During the Persian War, Starman, his faith in the human spirit unbreakable, advocated to the Athenians that slaves be armed and trained to help the defense of Greece and, thus, of western civilization.

"As you treat men," he argued, "so shall they behave! Let us treat our slaves as fellow citizens and, in their eagerness to prove themselves worthy, they shall out-do us in their bravery at arms in protecting our nations."

But the Athenians, scoffing at his faith in mere slaves, rejected his proposal. Defiant, Starman
armed and trained his own slaves, preparing them to join him in battle against the Persian hordes.

Meanwhile, across the Aegean Sea, Xerxes organized the greatest army the world had ever seen, ready to launch his attack with his unfailing 'Immortals' and crush the Greeks forever. As the caption confirms.

But the genius of Starman being equal to the emergency, he crafted a plan. He and his followers would delay the Persian onslaught by occupying the narrow pass at Thermopylae.

This would Starman and his band of slave-warriors do, while the cowardly Leonidas and his weak-willed Spartans fled.

Inspiring his army of slaves with his unparalleled oratory, Starman led his troops to fight for the freedom of the very society that had denied them theirs.

Moved by this comic book irony, the tergiversatory Spartans finally found their backbones, and rallied to support the brave slaves.

Meanwhile Starman used his cosmic rod to hold back the Persian hordes. No, really. The contemporary sources all agree on that point.

The Spartans having relieved them of defending the pass, Starman and his brave slaves returned to Athens, having both saved Western civilization and taught it the error of its ways.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Torpedo Man

A lot of people seem not to know who the Awesome Threesome are; several people have asked whether it's one of those movies I keep locked in the den. No.

Well, actually that is the name of a movie locked in my den, but that's beside the point. The Awesome Threesome to whom I am referring herein are robotic enemies of Aquaman, who had a total of two appearances, one on the Filmation cartoon and one in the Aquaman comic book.

Now, two appearances may not seem like enough to warrant clixification, even custom-clixification. But remember, this is Aquaman we're talking about...

Remember, a villain is automatically an "old foe" of Aquaman the very first time he fights them; just ask Cutlass Charlie, Sea Thief, and Shark Norton. That's because, as previously discussed, almost no one ever fights Aquaman twice. The few who do automatically become Top Aquaman Villains (along with Black Manta, Ocean Master, Pomoxis, the Human Flying Fish, and the CW Network).

You might still be surprised that in my poll on "Of which characters should I have custom Heroclix made?", I listed the Awesome Threesome as a choice. Well, there are three reasons:
1. They are "Awesome". Duh.
2. There are three of them. Aquaman needs all the enemies he can get.
3. The leader of the Awesome Threesome is the Torpedo, who is awesomeness squared.

Before we get to The Glory That Is The Torpedo, let's pick up our copies of Aquaman 36 (DEC '67) and take a look at the other two people--
okay, then...
of the Awesome Threesome: Magneto and Claw.
I assume, by the way, that that's pronounced "Magnetto" as in "rhymes with Armaghetto". I mean, how else would you say it: "Magneeto"? Jeez, how stupid would that sound?

As far anyone knows, Magnet(t)o and Claw are robots. Since neither of them has ever gotten any speaking lines (let alone something like, "You know, it's kind of hot in this suit!"), I assume they are robots. Judge for yourself:

"Bizz buzz"? "Klik klang"? Okay, you just know these two were inseparable at Robot School. I can picture them now, dipping VICI's pigtails in the grease well, then blaming it on some poor sap, like Tin or Lead, until that little brown-noser, Twiki, ratted on them.

Magneto and Claw are your basic brainless bullies, but Torpedo... well! He's something else.

What exactly he is, I don't know; it's not certain whether he's a robot or not. He's described once or twice as Torpedo-Man. Man or not, the first time I saw this guy it was love at first sight...

Just something about his look I find ... irresistible.

Sometimes, when a guy as attractive as the Torpedo starts talking, it ruins everything. But Torpedo is even more eloquent than he is attractive!

Yeah, that's how I felt about Peter David's run, too.

Gee, Torpedo; based on that first word balloon,
you're already in the middle of the exposition, if ya know what I mean.

I swear by Neptune, if I ever hear a man seriously say,
"Slice and rend it!"
in my presence,
I shall declare him my soulmate for life.

So, what's the most annoying thing about fighting Aquaman? The dang fish, of course. Whenever a picture needs hung or a light bulb changed, Aquaman calls out the Hammerhead Shark and the Octopus. Oh, and the Whale; just on principle, there's always a whale.

Occasionally, there are bit parts for swordfish or flying fish (which are strangely ubiquitous in Aquaman's ocean), but usually it's the darned Whale, Octopus, and Shark. Most villians never get to touch Aquaman, because they're getting their butts handed to them by the Whale, the Octopus, and the Shark.

In Aquaman 36, what's the first thing Torpedo does?

Very smart guy. Robot? Six-foot marital aid? Whatever he is.

Not only is he smart, he's efficient and goal-oriented; that's always very hot in a guy (or, for that matter, in a robot or six-foot martial aid).

And you know darned well that any being who can say, "Continue to enjoy your weightless state -- or be destroyed!", could improvise the most beautiful love poetry!

Torpedo has four slaves in his thrall:
Magneto, Claw, the English language, and me.

But wait, what's this? Oh, no! Say it isn't so! It turns out that Torpedo has a fatal flaw:

Darn! Oh, well. Neither Aqualad nor I should be surprised, I guess;
guys like that are always on the bottom.