Friday, November 30, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy... my comics this week.

Future Huntress shouting, "DARRRRRK VENNNNGEANNCE!" I laughed so hard I had to put the book down.

I think the people at DC really have something against San Diego.

"Let me get you a handi-wipe," is such a fifth dimensional thing to say!

Mr. Reyes, again, reminds us to respect our elders, and shows why that respect is deserved.

Like peanut butter and jelly, Teen Titans and Decaptitation are, once discovered, a natural pairing. New rule: in every Titan's story, at least one Titan must die or betray the team. In really good stories, the traitor gets beheaded by another Titan.

Mack daddy Nazi Batman.

Renato Guedes: THANK YOU for being able to draw Krypto as an actual dog, sound effects and all.

There's a one hundred percent chance that early morning fog will give way to heavy starro-showers. Stay tuned for school closings.

Bondage & Discipline Fun Time With Superman's Pal.

B-movie star Rita Farr is a real pro at fighting zombie armies!

Brainiac 5, as usual, knows what he's doing, even when no one else does.

"You're not old enough to understand the irony this multiverse thrives on." That's now the official last line of any comic book argument I make (replacing "Ceterum censeo, Geo-Force delendus est.").

Paco's biceps. Sigh.

In all these decades, this is the first time I've actually seen it stated that Lightning Lad is, well, none too bright.

Adam Strange's auto-defenestration.

How long before that festering hatred between Dr. Dale and Niles Caulder erupts into wild screaming monkey sex?

Thanksgiving with the Kent Clan; but really, I don't think you're supposed to eat babootch.

I really appreciate how easily Mary Marvel sees through Eclipso's line of BS. Finally.

Doll Man versus Doll Man.

The "Unlock Your Inner Hero" ad in Countdown; I assume that's Snapper Carr's locker...

It's not just that it's a single panel of mechanical bees. It's the fact that the only other thing in the panel is a loud word balloon that says, "MECHANICAL BEES!" In any decent society, this panel would go immediately into a national public museum. In its own room.

Jaime Reyes learns a real-world truth that doesn't come up much in comics: most "evil" is just weakness.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Clump of Collectives

A bray of Marvel fans.
A bunker of DC fans.
A sneer of Indies.
A blot of inkers.
A cloud of letterers.
A hatch of pencillers.
A run of writers.
A blotter of Gothamites.
A gasp of Metropolitans.
A skulk of vigilantes.
A triumph of superheroes.
A curse of supervillains.
A school of sidekicks.
A scatter of henchmen.
A splatter of bystanders.
A rack of retailers.
A slaver of fanboys.
A trumpet of podcasters.
A snark of bloggers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Haiku for Dazzler

Batman, the World's Greatest Detective.
Metamorpho, the Freak Who Never Fails.
Adam Strange, the Man With the Plan for Rann.
Dazzler, the Light That Failed!

I mean, really; I guess "Never forget: she's Whitey" was taken.

Poor Dazzler. After extensive research, I finally figured out what doomed her career: she's got no rhythm.

Suddenly, Alison realizes how moronic her face-paint is...
I should have listened
to my father! I should have
gone to law school.

Ach! The last line is missing a syllable! Darn you, Alison; All you had to do is say "gone to law school, huh?" to make it work. But you're too wrapped up in self-pity to compose a decent Heroic Haiku.

In this week's episode,
Liberty gives up the baby for adoption, while JT looks on helplessly.

Hey, Scott; sounds like the sax career may not take off,
so don't quit your day job at the school.
But keep the hat; it's boss.

That melody, so
horribly overpowering!
I can't fight it!

Argh; she gave up again, before finishing the line. You're a quitter, Alison! If I had hair like that, I'd never give up.

Please, Alison; t--try again!

Cap: "I'm still in the iceberg; I hear and feel nothing. I'm still in the iceberg..."
Marlo Thomas: "She'd be perfect for Phil's show!"
Iron Man: "Zzzzzzzz."
Vision: "System shut down in four, three, two..."
Hawkeye: "Wherever you are, Hannah Montana, I apologize."
Reed Richards: "I--I--I..."
Matt Murdock: "Tonight I envy you, Helen Keller."
Rick Jones: "Hawkeye--you're--squeezing too hard!"
Sue Richards: "Ah. Teeny, tiny, earplug-shaped forcefields..."
Beast: "First, I'll eat her legs..."
The Thing: "Gonna--lose--my ever-lovin' continence!"
Human Torch: "If she talks like that in bed, it's so totally over."

Whoa; total meltdown. Alison's degenerated into some sort of garbled free verse lyric that sounds like Maya Angelou having sex with the Beatles.

Well, I give up (because my hair is nothing like Alison's); haiku is simply not going to come out of The Dazzler's mouth.

But don't YOU give up: please compose a haiku on behalf of The Dazzler!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How to Dazzle Your Heroclix Opponents

What is the surest way to be certain that you have the most fabulous Heroclix team at your next game or tournament?

Put Dazzler on it, of course.

I have to clarify. By "Dazzler", I don't mean this... this
thing:This thing is from the "Armor Wars" Heroclix set. It's labelled "Dazzler", but, as you can clear see, it isn't Dazzler. It's Joan Jett. Now, I can fathom the Ekpyrotic Theory, the H2B program, and why Outwit doesn't work on Stealthed figures in adjacency. But I cannot fathom why someone would make a clix of Joan Jett, even as a custom, let alone an official figure. Anyway, the Joan Jett is not the one you need. The one you need is this one from the new "Monsters and Mutations" set: Because that is Dazzler. Or, to be more accurate, that is "The Dazzler", as she is so often called in her own original series. Like "The Batman" or "The Joker".


"play Dazzler", I mean "utilize her Heroclix figure in a game". I do not mean "putting on a blond wig, face-paint, and a white one-piece with mirrored rollerskates, then whirling around the rink (or your local nightspot) karaokeing 'I Will Survive' into your Mister Microphone at top volume." Because I have no idea how to do that. None at all. Just like I told the police officers.

Step One: Custom detailing.

This calls for a trip to Michael's Craft Supply. Get a large basket and fill it with epoxy, translucent beads, silver wire, and all manner of glitter. Use these to decorate The Dazzler so as to represent her translumination powers in all their glory. Ideally, you should make several versions of The Dazzler, done in different styles to represent her various abilities and complement whatever outfit you're wearing. Fifteen to seventeen of them should do.

Step Two: Battle cry.

Whenever the Dazzler moves or attacks, you say, "Can't stop to think; I've just got to....


Step Three: Use her powers.
Now, the important thing is not how you use her powers, or whether your attacks succeed. Because, face it, her 48 point dial isn't going to do her justice anyway, since she defeated Dr. Doom, the Hulk, and Galactus. No, the important is thing is jumping to your feet, throwing your hand(s) out, and soulfully singing out the special name of her power every time you use it, while making an appropriate dance move, a la Mary Catherine Gallagher. For example, when I use/shout "DAZZLE!", I've got some left over glitter from my Michael's trip ready to go in my hand, so all I have to do is throw it in my opponent's face. Or, for "LIGHT SHOW!", I simply shine my laser pointer, the one the dog won't play with, on my miniature disco ball pendant and refuse to continue with the game until my opponent, cowed, shields his eyes.

Step Four: Backup Dancers

Choose Dazzler's teammates carefully. Remember, the goal in playing Dazzler is not to win; it's to make Dazzler seem as fabulous as possible. There are many schools of thought on how to do this best, and Expert Dazzler-players (they call themselves "Osgoods") employ a variety of techniques to this end. Choosing really crappy companions is one method. The 48 point Dazzler is bound to look impressive if she's the heavy hitter on your 400 point team, so try accompanying her with four or five nymphettes and a child choir of Lian Harpers. Another tack is the Blinded By The Light approach, in which you pick only shiny figures to surround her with, the better to reflect her powers. Colossus, Silver Surfer, the Living Monolith , Iceman (the Fishing Boot version); that kind of thing. Another favorite is the Mary Sue Gambit, in which you put every high-profile Marvel character you can think of on the team, but instead of fighting the opponents, you focus all their efforts on protecting Dazzler, increasing her combat values, healing her if she takes a hit, and incapacitating or tying up foes while Dazzler tries to shine them into unconsciousness.

Step Five: Mirror Dice.

Step Six: The Minogue Maneuver.

Play--loudly--disco music in the background (and the foreground, if possible), and sing along with it, until your opponent:
(a) makes a disqualifying error;
(b) swoons and/or faints (repeat as needed until the allotted game time ends);
(c) runs away (which counts as a forfeit); or
(d) goes for your throat (that's an automatic disqualifier).

And, if you're venue doesn't allow this, just do what I did: buy the venue.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Things I'm Thankful for

in my comics this week.

  • Lady Blackhawk versus the Amish.
  • The Terrible Trio, whom I recognize from any angle. I can't wait until they (inevitably) join forces with Arkham's three newest guests!
  • "Lex Loser".
  • Come to think of it, I think I used to date Starfinger, too!
  • Conrad Krupp. Anyone who lives in a giant mansion in the shape of his initial is okay by me.
  • It's about time somebody called Superman Prime "Margaret"!
  • Who would have thought Robotman, of all people, could make me laugh for a solid minute with only one word?
  • Masoud, the Pakistani sidekick.
  • Billionaire crazy guy's supervillain fetish emporium.
  • I guess reading the Book of Destiny is kind of like watching Degrassi The Next Generation out of sequence.
  • Mxyptlk's plays along with the gag.
  • I Ching and Batman == still hating each other's guts thirty years later!
  • The tragedy of Wally's Choice, which was the most moving Flash story I've read in a very very long time.
  • We won't know Wally's choice, but ... what will Bruce's be?
  • Catwoman, homeless, maskless, clueless ... but still Catwoman.
  • Rita's smile.
  • Yes, of course he speaks French; he used to live in Paris, remember?
  • Ubu versus Alfred.
  • "Quiet. He can smell fear."
  • I can't believe she fell for the old "Have some coffee" routine; did she even look at the cup?
  • The reaffirmation that Mr. Mxyzptlk's powers are science-based, not magic-based.
  • Echo-location in the mask? I love you, Paul Dini.
  • So, is that the new Black Spider or the new Tarantula?
  • Lady Blackhawk speaks Pashto.
  • The reaffirmation that Mr. Mxyzptlk's powers are magic-based, not science-based.
  • Noah's old mask; I remember it fondly, too, Noah.
  • Etiquette tip: Do not remove your brain at the dinner table.
  • Half-naked Robin accusing Ra's of being lewd. HOT!
  • He's the only person who can call himself "fantabulous" without sounding really gay.
  • Batman being called a "boy scout" in two different comics in the same week.
  • See, Selina? Even Tim didn't fall for the old "Have some refreshments" routine.
  • Safety tip: Do not put post-its on the Book of Destiny.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Diva, This Monster!

People, including some very recent commenters on this blog, sometimes seem puzzled by the fact that I like one company's superhero comics books and not the other's. Some people are so confounded that they actually deny that it's possible, or insist that I'm acting purely out of arbitrary prejudice.

And, things being the way they are, it's possible they are entirely right.

But, in my mind of minds, I don't think so.

First of all, I want to assert that my, ahem, "prejudice" is not based on quality. It has nothing to do with whether one company's stories are well-written or not. If someone doesn't like Brussels sprouts or donuts, it's generally not because of the quality of the sprouts or the donuts; it's the nature of the taste itself they do not care for. I'm willing to stipulate that there are lots of high-quality, well-written Marvel stories. Heck, I'm even willing to stipulate (regardless of whether it's true) that there are a higher share of Marvel's stories that are high-quality, well-written ones than DC's are. After all, DC's been churning out crappy stories longer than Marvel has!

Quality is not the issue. It's kind.

Despite the fact that I write a blog about superhero comic books, I could easily make the case that there are no such things, that "the superhero genre", per se, is itself a fiction. We can classify "superhero" as the decorations on a cake, the dustjacket of a book, a mere spandex costume slipped on an improbably athletic body. The outside is what attracts us to it, but it's what inside that actually counts.

Following this line of thinking, leads us to ask, "What is inside the 'superhero' offerings of DC and Marvel?" And that is where my theory explains why I think my comic book preferences are matters of taste rather than prejudice.

As I'm sure you all know, DC's strongest literary roots are in the detective pulps, or pulpish characters. A lot of their early stories were in that vein, their authors were steeped in that style, and when capes and cowls became the new order, DC created superheroes who were, in essence, detectives or vigilantes decorated with costumes and powers.

The heart of DC's style is the crime story. A bad guy is trying to commit, or has committed, a crime, and a detective or vigilante is trying to stop or apprehend him. Oh, sure, you can dress it up with power rings and plastic cat arrows, but those are decorations on the cake. And, of course, not every single story is a crime story. But anything else, like a human interest story, is usually more of a scenic stop on the main road of Crime Storyway than it is an actual detour, and those characters that do detour too far off the main road usually wind up at a dead end (those of you so inclined are encouraged to list examples!).

I like crime/detective stories. While they can involve and invoke strong human emotions (and, at their best, do), they are most essentially intellectual challenges based in the plot. What is the villain planning? How will the hero defeat this plan? Even when the "villain" is Lois Lane hoping to expose Superman's secret identity, the "hero's" job is to stop her and make her look like a fool, the kernel remains the same.

It's important in such a story to have a clear idea who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. Sometimes the hero is a bright and shiny Doc Savage, but sometimes he's a darker hero, like in a gangster movie or film noir. The good guy can break just as many laws as the bad guy does, but the difference is still clear: the bad guy is just breaking laws for his own benefit, and the good guys is breaking the law for the (ostensible) benefit of society. The hero, if not an actual authority figure, is an operative on behalf of society's authority.

That's pretty much DC comics in a nutshell. It's not just a weird coincidence that the very name of the company comes from "Detective Comics". And it's not just a weird coincidence -- or a prejudice -- that I like their stuff because of that.

Marvel's superhero comics are the result of decorating a very different set of core genres, that are emotional, not intellectual: the Monster story and the Teen Romance story. That only makes sense, since those were the stock in trade of the company and many of its writers when the "Marvel Age" began. Marvel's heroes are, on the whole, "misunderstood monsters" or misunderstood centers of a whirlwind of romantic and familial obligation and conflict. I consider this so evident as not to bore you with obvious examples (although I encourage you to offer them up yourself!), but it's interesting that many of its strongest characters result from a merger of the two kinds of stories (e.g., the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man). They are reluctant protagonists, and their principal antagonists are authority figures, an unsympathetic world, those closest to them, and, of course, one another.

Witness Teen Drama Dazzler, the runaway, defying her father's wishes so that her special talents can be truly appreciated and used to further herself. Dazzler, who gets full-page spreads trying on clothes while she discusses her family problems with her friend. Dazzler, who is successively entangled romantically with a Handsome Doctor Named Paul, a Young Hottie named Johnnie Storm, a Perfect Angel named Warren, et al. For pity's sake, her absent mother is disguised as her best friend's vocal coach, and might as well have been named Pip's Convict.

Dazzler's life (and pretty much the life of any major Marvel character) is a cross between a Dickens novel and Degrassi The Next Generation. Just like in Degrassi, Marvel's characterization has to be fluid enough (for which read "inconsistent") that the Stable Friend in one episode can be the Scary Mess in another episode (making things like Civil War possible).

The only conflicts that truly matter are between these characters. "Villains", such as they are, are only activating mechanisms for personal crisis and conflict between "heroes" (and the villains themselves are often just other "misunderstood monsters/teenagers"). This is why Marvel's villains aren't the robust icons that DC's are. DC's villains are the real story; in Marvel, they aren't. In DC stories, the hero faces a threat to society. In Marvel, it's more likely that society itself is the threat to the hero or if there is an individual threat, it's usually directed at the hero himself or his loved ones.

Naturally, as a mutant, Dazzler also qualifies as a Misunderstood Monster. Just ask her; hey, Dazz, are you a menace? Are you a monster?

This Diva, This Monster!

These observations certainly aren't original or unique. An Absorbascommenter mentioned them just the other day as established facts! But some cases are never made permanently and must be re-asserted for new times and new audiences, and the nature of the essential differences between the core of the DCU and the Marvel Universe seems to be one of them.

Here's a topic for discussion, in light of all this:

Identity Crisis, the Tornado's Path, and the Lightning Saga. Know why so many DC readers (me included) hated them? They were Marvel stories written using DC characters... .

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Things That Made Me Happy

... in my comics this week.

  • Dazzler wasn't in any of them!
  • Mary Marvel mouthing off to Darkseid.
  • "Hold for your mother." I love phone operator humor.
  • Finally, a sensible design for Titan's HQ.
  • Well, that is certainly not something I expected Rip Hunter to plan on fixing! I wonder what "the feminist blogger hive-mind" will think of that?
  • She gnawed it with her teeth? Now that's a hobby.
  • "They don't. They just convince themselves they do." Cynical words of wisdom from Donna Troy!
  • Heh; the Joker knows that comedy is all in the timing.
  • "When I get home, I hope I meet the real Aquaman!" Hey, me too!
  • Oh, Earth-15; we hardly knew ye.
  • Wonder Woman's gorilla houseguests.
  • Does women's hair really do that after a shower, or is it just Hawk's?
  • "Who Will Die?" Really, isn't that the plot of every Teen Titans story?
  • I have always loved Lagoon Boy.
  • The Return of Etta Candy.
  • Themyscira's new tenants; yet more proof of Gail Simone's genius.
  • I really liked Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman this week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dazzler's MySpace Page!

You forgot that Galactus invented MySpace, didn't you?

Whaddayaknow... I feel a mixture of exultation and horror, myself!

Genetotype and Subset
Genetotype 15L is "young blonde babe, neckless", by the way. And 183K in the subtype "anexoric, yet balloon-boobed and bootylicious". Galactus has this stuff down to a science, you know. Next time a dorky guy hits on you at the bars, just look him over cursorily and say, "My analysis indicates that you are Genetotype 27R, Subset 79W, which unfortunately falls well outside my acceptable parameters." Not only does this let him down firmly but gently, it makes him feel better because he realizes you're much dorkier than he is.

Height 152.28.
Jeez, Galactus, she's a person not a piece of PVC. Her height's gonna vary by more than one Betatronic Unit from morning to night everyday. Why, she gets 5 BUs shorter just by turning around so you can see her butt!

Weight 6.146.
Think that includes the rollerskates?

Confrontational Quotient 62.243.
This is one of the two most important indices in a Marvel hero's MySpace page. It's the probability that she'll fight the next Marvel hero she meets. Little known Dazzler Fact: Dazzler has the lowest CQ in the Marvel Universe because she's a Mary Sue who instantly impresses and inspires devotion in every better-known character she meets. You may be wondering how Galactus can determine her CQ out to the three decimals. Well, if you bought the Essential Dazzler Volume, you'd know; she encounters 100,000 characters and fights 62,243 of them. Her CQ isn't a probability, it's a tally.

Dysfunction Potential 4.7
This, of course, is the second of the two most imporant indices in a Marvel hero's MySpace page. It's her propensitity for soap opera situations, emotional dysfunction, and screaming "Me! Me!"-ism, on a scale of 5.

Transduction Limit and Luminescent Storage Limits, 0.0
Or, as we might call them, "Chance we could make a movie of her" and "Bankable star power".

Adaptability Superior.
That means you can wear blue face paint and a miniature disco ball pendant with almost any outfit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Go for it!

Is there a lamer catchphrase than "go for it"?
For that matter, has there ever been a less intimidating superhero than Dazzler?

I have nothing against catchphrases per se. In fact, I began this year of blogging with this very subject ("Okay; clear my calendar." ). Beyond that, I spend the better part of July looking for my own signature phrase, before adopting one from Starman as a birthday gift to myself.

Real people do, in fact, have characteristic turns of phrase, and using them is part of what make one person (or character) sound different than another. This is particularly important in a non-aural medium, where we cannot "hear" voices and must rely on their phraseology to identify them. Here's a good example of a story that takes advantage of that "flaw" in the comic book medium.
Clearly, this scene could not work this way on television or radio; you would hear Lois's voice and it would be immediately obvious that it wasn't Perry, so there would be no surprise. In comics, all unseen Lois has to do is "borrow" Perry's typical phraseology and we can't tell the difference between them.

So I'm no foe of catchphrases, and am a big fan of
signature epithets. Particular Aquaman's. You'd be surprised what an impression you can make on people with a hearty and well-timed exclamation of "Great Gastropods!" I'm pretty sure that's what aced my college interview for me.

But, as I mentioned in my original post on this subject., I detest "battlecries", a monstrously unnatural form of catchphrase almost exclusive to Marvel. Oh, DC has an occasional embarrassing anomaly like "Hawk-a-a!" or "Long Live the Legion!" But, on the whole, it's a Marvel thing to shout "It's clobberin' time!" or "Flame on!" or "Avengers assemble!" If you've ever watched Who Wants to Be A Superhero, you know that its most embarrassing moments are when artificial-hipster Stan Lee shouts "Excelsior!" in his heavy nyewyawker accent at the contestants or, even worse, makes them say it, and they all visibly cringe in mortification. Even people bold enough to parade around in spandex and capes unselfconsciously can't bear the dorkiness of Stan's "battlecry".

Dazzler's battlecry is "go for it". I mean, really. Was "hey!" already taken? Worst of all, "go for it" isn't something you say to yourself, it's something you say to other people.

So whenever Dazzler rallies to battle, she sounds like she's auditioning for a Nike commerical or High School Musical IX. Even "Time to shine!" , "It's show time!" , or "Eat light, suckers!" would have served her better.

Really, it's not Dazzler's fault; it's almost as if the Marvel staff went out of their way to make her lame.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Ballad of Dazzler's Butt

(sung to the tune of "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees")

Say, this is cute.
So, what's new with you?

How're the voice lessons going?
Think I should take some, too?
Hey, Van, are you okay?
Because I have enough grief for two
My Dad told me about my Mom;
I don't know what I'm gonna do.

Hey, hey, I'm the Dazzler,
And people say I sing off-key.
I don't really care if I bore you;
I bet you really wish you were me.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Why Vibe Is Nothing Like Dazzler

Vibe's power was to generate sonic waves.
Dazzler's power was to convert the sonic energy from music into light.

Vibe loved having his powers.
Dazzler didn''t like having powers .

Vibe loved being a superhero in the JLA.
Dazzler had no desire to be superhero.

Vibe is from a low to lower-middle class family in inner city Detroit.
Dazzler is a judge's daughter from Gardendale, New York.

Vibe came from a large family.
Dazzler was an only child.

Vibe's family were very close and supportive of him.
Dazzler was estranged from her parents, who were not supportive of her.

Vibe was unemployed, apart from his superhero duties.
Dazzler was a stage performer.

Vibe was exuberantly (over)confident and fun-loving.
Dazzler, although vivacious, suffered bouts of insecurity.

Vibe was a dancer.
Dazzler was primarily a singer (who could also dance).

Vibe was a short, dark-haired Puerto Rican male.
Dazzler was a tall, blonde white woman.

Vibe had no romantic interests shown in any of his stories.
Dazzler was romantically linked with Angel, the Human Torch, and other high-profile superfolk.

Vibe unhesitatingly confronted more established heroes when he felt it was appropriate.
Dazzler continually relied on established heroes for emotional and professional support.

Vibe died defending the life of child in a filthy alley in a ghetto in New York.
Dazzler had her debut at Carnegie Hall and still managed to screw up her career.

Vibe is an icon of DC-style rush to duty, self-sacrifice, and tragedy.
Dazzler is an icon of Marvel-style shrinking from duty, self-pity, and melodrama.

Really, other than the fact that one had a '80s contemporary dance style as a hobby, and the other sang professionally a musical style associated with a '70s contemporary dance style, they have also most nothing in common. I know they aren't the deepest characters ever created, but please don't simply label them "Dazzler = 1970s dance craze" / "Vibe = 1980s dance craze" and walk away. If you do that sort of thing, then you're not getting as much out of your comics as you deserve.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Yes, fifty percent off!


Thus Stalks... The Dazzler!

I've gotten soft. I can't even remember the last time I was mean to Marvel and the comics they produce.

My failure fills me with guilt, self-loathing, and, um, inconfidence; I have let you down, let down the public, let down my Uncle Zeb who appeared for almost two full panels in my origin. Spending too much time with All My Close Acquaintances Who Also Happen To Be Villainous Marvel-readers (that is, the other panelists on the Big Monkey Comics Podcast), has clouded my judgment and weakened my resolve to use Greatly Responsibly the Great Power of the Absorbascon (*snort*). But now...


And to be completely unfair in my attacks, let's re-commence with ... DAZZLER.

Now, some will charge that choosing a character rooted in the disco fad to represent the foibles of the House of Ideas is inappropriate. I say the opposite. DC has usually striven to be timeless (allowing for changes in technology, most DC stories are as a readable in one era as they are in the next). Marvel, on the hand, has striven to be (if you'll pardon the pun)
timely. That approach has its advantages ("We're the hep publishers of the now, O Devoted Ones!") and its disadvantages (e.g. Buford Hollis). He who publishes by the sword is lampooned by the sword.

Besides, I actually love Dazzler herself, a rollerskating disco singer with fabulous lightshow powers. It's an amusing and challenging premise, and DC has done more with less (Tenzil Kem is pretty darned well known, after all).

Don't get me wrong; I am well aware that there are bad DC comics. What do you think I grew up reading? But there's more bad in one bad page of a Marvel comic than in all of Bob Haney's run on Brave & the Bold. What's more, it's the way in which Marvel comics, like Dazzler, are bad that dangs them to heck, and we'll be discussing that later. But for today, let's start out with just


from Dazzler (specifically, Dazzler #21, a Special Double-Size Issue that "revealed ... the shameful secret of Dazzler's past!").

Dazzler Fact: Dazzler's power of ground-flying is rooted in her pelvis! --Scintillatin' Scipio.

Is her back-up band the Beach Boys? I like to imagine she's opening with "The Monkey's Uncle"; after all, it is Carnegie Hall!

You may well be wondering, "Was Dazzler dead? Did Superboy Prime punch the walls of Earth 616 to bring her back?" No, silly; this isn't DC, the House of Recycled Ideas; this is Marvel, where dead means emotionally dead. In the previous panel, you see, she survives a confrontation with her Daddy Issues, whose caption reads "For a moment, the Dazzler had died. But now... " Gosh! Metaphorical death of a costumed identity due to personal conflict with family members! In a MARVEL comic? Who'da thunk it?

Asgardians: Please Remove Your Hats!

Like all consummate show-women, Dazzler wears facepaint, a miniature disco ball pendant, and mirrored rollerskates. High-heeled mirrored rollerskates. Actually, I'm not sure that's Dazzler they're seeing; could be a Frank Stella exhibit.

Dazzler Fact: As her friends have long known, Dazzler's powers render her temporarily flatuent!--Gas-Passin' Garling.

Her "friends", by the way, include every single frickin' Marvel character who has ever lived with the possible exception of Namor who probably wanted to attend but got turned away for being underdressed. Imagine if the entire cast of JLU showed up for Jaime Reyes' graduation ceremony; this is worse than that. Dazzler's real name is "Alison", but it should be "Mary Sue", because she is the apex of the Mary Sue artform.

Dazzler is the Wolverine of Disco.

And what she does isn't pretty. Personally, I'm guessing it's the drummer.

Dazzler Fact: Under the right conditions, Dazzler can convert a musical climax into a visible orgasm!--G-Spot Garling.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dance Heroes

I've never done one of those "look at what weird internet searches are bringing people to my site" kind of posts, but this time I must, in order to help some searchers and point them in the right direction.

I'm getting frequent and repeated searches for the Superman Dance, the Batman Dance, and the Aquaman Dance (searchers: follow those links) from what I suppose I must call the "Crank Dat" dance series, courtesy of "Soulja Boy", a rap artist of the crunk or snap variety. My site comes up on the search because of my previous discussion about whether particular superheroes can dance.

I find this all oh so ironic on a variety of levels.

The simplest irony is that people are looking on my site to learn how to do the dance, rather than just going to Youtube, where the dang things are all over the places. But there's more...

Part of my family operates dance studios, and over the years I have heard the death of patterned popular announced again and again. Pop dancing died with 1950s doo-wop; and with the Death of Disco; and with the false belief that breakdancing stopped in the 1980s. Yet, again and again, the people invent their own patterned dances to popular music (a fact undiminished by ones aesthetic evaluation of either the dance or the music).

Similar, as a comic book fan, I've heard repeatedly the cultural obituary of the superhero genre and specifically of the great American superheroes, which, you know, just aren't "cool enough" for the next generation.

Well, tell that to all the people dancing the Batman dance, the Superman dance, and the Aquaman dance.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Perfect Storm

Every century or so, there's a confluence of forces that brings together the greats in one field. Under such circumstances did the greatest statesmen of their day create the United States; did the greatest scientists of their day harness the power of electricity and the atom; did the greatest generals of their day fight the Second Punic War.

And so it was in the previous century, when the greatest powers in music aligned to produce its greatest song, the pinnacle toward which the musical arts had been crawling ever since man first banged a hollow log.

As I'm sure you've already guessed, I am speaking of


Composed by the greatest composers in living memory, the Sherman Brothers. Performed by the greatest band in history, the Beach Boys. Sung with the signature sound of She Whose Voice Can Be Compared Only To That Of God Herself, Annette Funicello.

It's not just that each participant is the apex of their own art. They complement one another so well that the whole is, inconceivably, greater than even the sum of its parts. The sharp knife of Annette's voice cuts through the smooth Beach Boy butter and spreads its harmonies thick upon the hearty white bread of the Sherman's lyrics: "I'd live in a jungle gym / in order to be with hi-i-im / I love the monkey's uncle and I wish I was the monkey's aunt."

Sometimes I just sit and watch the record of it, marveling at what the gods hath wrought.

But then I grow sad, knowing there is no such Great Confluence for my beloved comic books.

I'm not even talking about putting the greatest artists, writers, and letterers together. I'm just talking about getting the characters together! Or, to put it another way...

Why is there no definitive Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman story?

Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman always were the three pillars of the DCU. At first it was an accident based on their popularity. But lately its an actual philosophical position at DC (although it strategies, particularly with regard to Wonder Woman, don't always follow through on that position).

What could be more natural than putting those three characters together? Well, lots of things, actually. Pillars, almost by definition, stand at a distance from one another; that's how they hold things up. It's very hard to get the Big Three together, and to figure out how they relate and what they should do. If you doubt me, read the World's Finest Showcase, where Batman and Superman were forcibly and awkwardly joined at the hip for decades. And that's just two of them.

  • Matt Wagner actually wrote a story for them called Trinity. Honestly, it bored me to tears, and I never finished it. Can you tell me that it was the definitive Big Three story?
  • Brad Meltzer tried it in JLA, where they did nothing but sit around a table and jibe at one another like Buffy's supporting cast.
  • Jeph Loeb's "Advent of Supergirl" arc in Batman/Superman featured by the Big Three, but I know of no one who thinks well of that story or how they were portrayed.
  • Keith Giffen is writing them in the Four Horsemen miniseries. Giffen's dialog ticks work for less well-defined characters, like the ones he played with in JLI, but in this comic it's so out of character it makes the mind reel. Not even Giffen can get away with having Batman say, "Shut. Up. You."
  • Mark Waid tackled them in Kingdom Come, but, frankly those didn't seem like Superman and Wonder Woman much to me at all.
  • Frank Miller? Well, the less said about that, the better.

One of the problems is, there's no historical precedent to rely on. DC's full of god-awful old stories that a creative writer can re-tell brilliantly. But there isn't one for the Big Three's first meeting. The original story of Batman and Superman's first meeting is STUNNINGLY imbecilic, even by Silver Age standards (they happened to be sharing a cabin on an ocean cruise; yes, really). I really don't think either of them had ever appeared with Wonder Woman until the first JLA story in 1960, where their knowledge of and friendship with one another was simply asserted as a preexisting fact. And, no, a panel or two in a JSA story doesn't count.

Is it possible that no single story could do them justice? Are the icons grown so large that no one write can have all of the in hand? Is it necessary that when you move the pillars together, the stories come crashing down around them?

You tell me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Aquaman DVD

There are two types of people in the world: those who think Aquaman is great and those who think he's stupid. Therefore, everyone should buy the newly released DVD collection of the Filmation Aquaman cartoons (preferably through Big Monkey!).

People who know Aquaman is great deserve to own this collection because Aquaman has never seemed cooler than in this series. People who think Aquaman is stupid deserve to challenge their own assumptions by buying it and confronting the Glory That Is Aquaman.

For comic book characters that have really penetrated society's consciousness, there's usually one set of non-comics appearances that gets them there. For Superman, it was the Fleischer cartoons in the 1940s. For Batman, it was the '60s live action show. For Wonder Woman, it was the '70s show. For Aquaman, it was the Filmation cartoons.

I assume most of my readers have seen these cartoons at one point; perhaps I'm wrong? Here's a sample Aquaman story. If you haven't let me tell you, the Batman ones are rather dumb and the Superman ones are kind of dry.

If it's one thing Aquaman's adventures aren't, it's dry. He fights a wide variety of threats, such as monsters (lots of those in the oceans), aliens (you'd be amazed at how many threaten our oceans!), traditional villains (Black Manta and Fisherman), and ersatz villains (such as that hyper little seaqueen, "The Brain"). Some of the ersatzers are kind of clever, including one who controls sea plants, instead of animals. And hearing poor Ted Knight try to come with yet another voice variation for each one is an entertainment all its own.

The music, narration, and sounds effects are brilliant. Ted Knight could narrate the phone book and make it seem dramatic. Every time I hear the sickening thud of Aqualad getting hit in the head (which is every episode), I rewind it at least once for a second pass. Nobody takes a wallop like Aqualad.

It's pretty. Oh, sure Filmation ain't exactly Pixar, but if you adjust for that, the backgrounds are beautiful and exotic. Sure, Filmation is famous for using set animation sequences again and again in different setting. But you know what? They're darned good at it. And the Aquacave? Best headquarters ever. It's HUGE. So much tech, it makes the Batcave look like a Junior High Science Lab.

The character designs are cracking; for example, the seahorses have distinct personalities, reflected in their looks (innocent Imp and no-nonsense Storm).

Characterization is good. Aqualad is supportive, but not a goody-goody. He's not useless, but neither is he perfect (oh, so far from perfect). Tusky can be annoying, but if you just think of him as a dog instead of a walrus, he's less kill-worthy.

Aquaman is competent, but not overconfident. Aquaman is the perfect balance between Batman and Superman. He's the one Golidlocks would choose. Batman is not powerful enough; Superman is too powerful. Aquaman is just right. He varies the powers he uses (superstrength, waterballs, the aquaturbine trick, the fish). And when he does call the fish, it's only after he's tried to solve the problem himself. The fish also stay on spec, and are generally used much more realistically than in the comics.

Do yourself a favor; buy this DVD and then "head fa' home!".