Thursday, January 31, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • "Well, it's a perfect mess, now." Monarch has a sense of humor!
  • Brains versus brawn.
  • "You gonna give him a kiss oR just go through his pockets?" Oh, Joker, you irreverent wag!
  • Nice silent Sinestro cameo.
  • The future JLA is composed of Legion rejects? So funny, on so many levels. And sad.
  • More dead New Gods! YAY! If they made Fatheads of the dead New Gods, I think I'd buy them.
  • Brainiac 5, still wearing that horrid magenta jumper with yellow boots; thank goodness!
  • Hal's birds. Who says Hal's not witty? Oh, wait; I do.
  • I just LOVE the Source's new outfit. Very populux.
  • Ah, the Guardians never learn, do they? The Alpha Lanterns do NOT inspire confidence!
  • Is Brainiac 5 also a descendent of Fonzie?
  • I'm glad Batman doesn't seem to know what's going on in his own book, because neither do I.
  • You have to love that one of the steps of Brainy's latest plan is, "Become dictator of my home planet."
  • I'm enjoying the UP versus Earth xenophobia storyline in Action, because it reminds me of the White Triangle storyline from the first Waid Legion.
  • You did notice those Black Hand symbols in the Guardian's eyes, didn't you? That would be a bad sign... .
  • Tusker? Storm-Boy? Golden boy? Eyeful frickin' Ethel? Did DC hire Blockade Boy as a ghost-writer?
  • As I always suspected, the New Gods are just the mushrooms that grew up on the corpses of the REAL gods.
  • Oh, my god. Earth-Man is, essentially, the Composite Superman. Fabulous.
  • I got the Batman & The Outsiders Showcase. If you think I hated Halo and Geo-Force before, you ain't seen nothing yet.
  • C'mon; give Crane the ring! At least for a week or two!
  • Whoa; crabby Scott Free is even worse than crabby Aquaman.
  • Yera Allon; yay!
  • NO. Not "swear us the chosen"; regardless of sequence, the case of the subject remain nominative. it needs to be "swear we the chosen". Now.
  • There seems to be an epidemic of "King Lear poses" among villains. Darkseid, sit up or just buy a recliner!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ribaldry with Robin!

I believe the first step is rescuing him from circus life.

Whoa. Robin likes it rough. Well, you know how circus folk are.

I'm guessing the Big Hunk wrote that one.

Oh, I don't know, Robin; Batman might be less upset than you think.
Particularly if you share with him the video.

Robin is rough trade, people.

And finally, the panel that made Baby Devin Greyson cry...

Robin's so tough, in fact, that when he plays drop the soap, he does want you to use the soap!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Curse of the Crab!

There was something in my comics that did not make me happy this week. In fact, it made me crabby.

It makes Mera crabby.
It also makes Aqualad crabby.

What makes us crabby is...
crabby Aquaman.

This scene is from the most recent issue of Superman/Batman, which I bought simply because it had (fake) Aquaman in it. After all, he's the only Aquaman we currently have.

The culprit is writer Michael Green. Foo on you, Mister Green, using Aquaman as a poor man's Namor, in a story that defies both common sense and previous characterization.

The story defies common sense. Batman and Superman are going about on the quest to sweep up all the kryptonite that fell to Earth when Supergirl arrived. The biggest chunk is in the ocean. Incomprehensibly, prefaced only by some irrelevant palaver about the seas not being spoils, Aquaman (that is, Aquaman Junior, not the real Aquaman) picks a fight with Superman and Batman.

So, the world's largest single chunk of radioactive rock is poisoning the ocean floor and the site of an ancient Atlantean outpost, and Aquaman doesn't want it removed? That's simply moronic. It's not gold or diamonds nor part of some undersea history, it's a dangerous extraterrestrial material. Furthermore, some supervillain is eventually going to come looking for if the World's Finest don't cart it away. And that supervillain will not sit around chatting with Art Junior about it; he'll kill him and carry off whatever he wants. Look, I'm not a huge fan of Art Junior, but he's not a moron, for pity's sake.

Author Green just wanted somebody to actually question Superman and Batman's assumption that the world should be made safe for Superman. I get that. But it's also moronic.

Says Li'l Aquaman: "I will never understand this about you, Superman. It never once occurred to you that the world wouldn't be grateful for a savior." Uh, yeah. Interesting point. But I'm pretty sure if you polled the people of the DCU the general attitude would be, "Yes, on a scale of 1 to 5, I'm glad Superman was around to save us from that meteorite / invading space armada / cabal of crazed supervillains / Jimmy Olsen in a dress."

Green must be thinking of the ungrateful people of the Marvel Universe, who after 50 years still hate and mistrust the people who save their asses once a week. I guess that's also where he got the ideas that it's okay for heroes to attack other heroes, and the absurd idea that this Aquaman, to make some very abstract and not immediately appropriate point, would assault Superman and Batman, risking both of their lives.

Anyway, it's not just people in the DCU who think having a savior might be nice. People in our world love the idea of having a savior, so much so that over 2 billion of them have convinced themselves that a Middle Eastern carpenter who died two thousand years ago was the son of God. Yeah, I'd say people like the idea of having a savior a lot.

You know what makes Aquaman's role in this issue even stupider? Do you remember what the last thing this Aquaman did in his own title before it was cancelled? Saved the world (or at least, most major popular centers from being sunk into the sea). Did he ask anyone whether they wanted a savior? No, thank goodness. He did what heroes do; he saved the day without being asked to.

You know what make it even stupider-er? When's the last time this Aquaman and Superman saw each other? Yes, that would be when Superman risked his own life to save Aquaman (and others) from the Collector. Aquaman seemed pretty darned grateful to have a savior at the time.

This Aquaman has clearly demonstrated he understands both the need to be a savior and the need to have one sometimes. Mr. Green, have ever read this character in anything or were you too focused on making your point to choose an appropriate character for doing so?

It seems that this Aquaman was made crabby simply because that was how people had been using the previous one... .

You know, originally, Aquaman was a fun guy. The kind of guy you could easily picture dancing in the aisle at a supermarket to the musak.

The kind of guy who would defeat Extraterrestrial Sea-Men and the Rainbow Cannons after making fools out of them using a goldfish and aquatelepathic ventriloquism.

It all went wrong when he was demoted from King of the Sea
to King of Atlantis.
I guess that's enough to make anyone crabby. As the King of the Sea, Aquaman got to wander anywhere he wanted (in the sea), making fools out of pirates, saving lives, and teaching much needing lessons, like boating safety, hair care, and how to make a kazoo out of comb.

As King of Atlantis, he was stuck in one decrepit old European town, trapped in a bubble at the bottom of sea, which suffered and attack or an insurrection twice a month, and whose inhabitants were the thickest bunch of pinheaded ingrates outside of Marvel's Manhattan. So contemptible were the Atlanteans, Aquaman couldn't find even one suitable to be his queen, and he had to marry Mera the Mail-Order Bride from Dimension Aqua.

Because of Atlantis, Aquaman slowly but surely became a poor man's Namor rather than the witty, brave, and ingenious monarch of the sea he had been before. Crabbiness has eaten away at him like a cancer and appears for no reason to have infected his junior counterpart as well.

But Atlantis is gone now (pretty much) and the current Aquaman, Artie Junior, has no such ball and chain. Then why is he so crabby, Mr. Green?

Maybe he's figured out that Dan Didio is finally going to let him be killed off so Geoff Johns can bring back the real Aquaman... ?

P.S. In case you're wondering how the real Aquaman would react to such a situation...
He would publicly humiliate himself by losing an international olympic competition to that big-headed purpled-eyed freak, Aqualad, just to keep anyone from getting their hands on the kryptonite. THAT's how the real Aquaman was.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Rise of Nightwing

Well, I think we finally have the Nightwing we've all been waiting for.

At least, in Heroclix.

There's already been a Nightwing Heroclix figure; it was in the first DC set. But in the first set Heroclix designers didn't quite have the hang of how to use the dials and the mechanics of the game to represent comic book characters.

The original figure did do some cool things, particularly his double incapacitate, which allowed him to paralyze two opponents with one attack. But, like many early figures, he had a glass jaw and very little utility in his lower dial.

Naturally, this did not please the Wingnut crowd, and they've been clamoring in vain for a new Nightwing in each subsequent DC set. They've had no luck and had to stand by and watch Wizkids put out the Vampire Batman, Batman With Kryptonite Gloves, the Golden Age Batman, Kingdom Come Batman, Parachuting Batman, Batman One Million, and Batman&Robin. Even worse, they've had to stand by like ill-coutured bridesmaids as Wizkids, rather than making a new Nightwing, wasted slots on figures like Lady Shiva, two Starfires, the Human Defense Corps, Kobra, Maxima, Rocket Red, Jade, Jinx, Hyena, Azrael, the Shining Knight, Black Mask, Katana, Vixen, Alloy, Copperhed, Aztek, Firehawk, Merlin, Zauriel...

and Geo-Force. Shudder. I mean, Geo-Force; really.

But for the Wingnuts, the sun has now risen! I can't imagine how many of these little boys'll be under Devin Greyson's pillows. So to speak.

Dual Membership Nightwing can use the Outsiders and Titans team abilities and possesses the Outsiders and Titans team symbols.
Nightwing can divide his time among all those teams for the first three slots of his dial, when he also has another special power to give him some mobility and protection:
Acrobat Nightwing can use Combat Reflexes, Energy Shield/Deflection, and Leap/Climb.
That’s a +2 to his defense against both ranged and close combat attacks, and even if the power is countered by an opponent’s Outwit, his defense values remain solid. Pair that with a 6 range for his BATARANGS (Incapacitate) and Leadership on his opening slot, and he’s ready to lead his allies into battle and set up his opponents for his friends’ attacks.

Past his opening slot, Nightwing provides cover for himself and his allies using SMOKE PELLETS (Smoke Cloud) and can tweak combat values as needed, since he was TRAINED BY THE BAT (Perplex).

Deeper in his dial, Nightwing’s combat values remain steady—with his defense value even climbing back up (still buffered by Combat Reflexes!) as he gets his second wind and his final special power:
Fisticuffs Nightwing can use Flurry.

Holy hot stuff! What a great dial! Now, the whole Outsider and Titan abilities thing doesn't thrill me, because I find those abilities dumb and confusing, and the teams they represent don't interest me much either. But his very strong defensive abilities are a great plus and a dial full of Perplex and Outwit makes him a great addition to the Batman Family.

The new Nightwing dial is a perfect example of using the "Special Powers" mechanic to overcome a design flaw in the original set up of the Heroclix dial, that is, the inability to give a figure more than one power in the same place on its dial.

  • Wizkids has used to special powers to give Nightwing not one, not two, but three team abilities at the same time.
  • One of those is the Batman Ability, which, being equivalent to Stealth, allows Nightwing to have that wicked combo of Stealth (the ability to hide in certain terrain, forcing your opponents to attack you in close combat instead of from a distance) and Leap/Climb (the ability to leap away before an opponent can make a close combat attack!).
  • Similarly, "Fisticuffs" lets Nightwing have Flurry, too (the ability to make two close combat attacks against an opponent in the same turn). So, while on a old dial, a figure would have been able to have only one of the three powers Flurry, Leap/Climb, and Stealth, Nightwing has all three at the same time!
  • And, of course, "Acrobat" gives Nightwing two defensive powers at the same time (which certainly solves his old "glass jaw" problem!).

With this newly useful Nightwing, look for a return to some classic Batfamily teams, like

  1. The wickedly sneaky "Out of the Shadows" Batman (74 points)
  2. The new multipurpose Nightwing (79 points)
  3. The Batman Team Tim Drake/Robin (42 points).
  4. Put the "Flashbang" feat (5 points) that lets a figure use its Smoke Cloud as a free action on any one of these guys (probably Batman, though)!

Now, that's 200 points of pure batarang-bopping fun!

Wizkids finally "gets" Nightwing (which is more than I can currently say for DC). Maybe we should have the the Wizkids designers write Nightwing's series, too...?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • A clever use for Superman Prime! And it just might turn the tide of battle... .
  • Bolshevik mutants.
  • Happy Terrill, back in action!
  • I don't think Blue Beetle is Teen Titans material, either; he's better than that.
  • It's always fun to see Scarface get riddled with bullets.
  • Fruit Boy. God bless you, Jim Shooter. I expect to see Fruit Boy meet Blockade Boy any day now.
  • Wonder Woman, and gorillas, fighting Nazis. Is there nothing Gail Simone cannot do?
  • Eclipso -- the real one -- returns and demonstrates diffraction.
  • See? Megan, like all Martians, is insane.
  • The Joker's teddy bear.
  • Donna Troy and the Myrmidons. Which, in case you don't already get it, it is not half bad Classical literature joke.
  • Good lord; Neon the Unknown!
  • Zork, zizz, cruk, and zeezee. Particularly zeezee, which makes so much sense it hurts.
  • "Chum". Nice touch!
  • Hey, Garth, "please put your hand down." Absolutely priceless.
  • I'm glad Cassie broke up with Tim. I don't think they're a good pair.
  • "Vitamin K".
  • Saturn Girl can animate unconscious bodies? Cool. Creepy.
  • Aquaman reads Superman & Batman the riot act.
  • I dislike Ravager more and more each time I see her. When is her comeuppance due?
  • Blue Beetle's crazy/ingenious plan, that leaves him naked and powerless in the hands of his enemies.
  • "I am pierced but remain unbowed." Hippolyta rocks. Please don't kill her. Again.
  • The fortitude of Black Condor. He is so hot.
  • The Spectre got pummelled; BWA-HA-HA!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mercury Rising

In other zany news, there are four (!) new previews available of the forthcoming DC Heroclix set, Crisis.

Psimon, Forerunner, and Klarion don't float my boat; nice dials, but the characters don't interest me.

But Mercury of the Metal Man? Hot liquid dang at room temperature!Best part? He's only 25 points! And a fairly useful 25 points, at that...

Leap/Climb, Smoke Cloud, Flurry, Shape Change. He sort of ... Robinesque.

Now I wonder whether the rest of the Metal Men will each be 25 points or a similarly low number, resulting in easy composed 100/200 point Metal Men teams.

They need a Doc Magnus figure with some Outwit, some Leadership, and lots of a special power, say, "REPAIR", that grants him Support for figures with the Metal Men keyword (or even the Robot keyword, since he seems to be the go-to guy for robot repair).

What are you expecting now from the other Metal Men? Will Gold and Platinum have Elasticity? Will Lead have Defend or Barrier? Will Iron have Toughness? Will Tin have... okay, what the heck would Tin have?

Last Laugh

Heath Ledger, dead at 28.

Well, that's a surprise.

I'm assuming that since the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was still filming, and that The Dark Knight is in post-production, that the Dark Knight will wind up being his final movie and the Joker his last finished role.

Whether his death turns out to have been suicide or an accident, it's certainly going to lend even more gravitas (and pathos) to his portrayal of the nihilistic Joker, the role that was expected to put him on a whole new level as an actor.

Naturally, Ledger's had quite a few interesting roles, even for one who was so young. But for those of us who are comic book fans, this is surely be the one that will matter most. There are only a handful of people who've portrayed the Joker: the effervescent Cesar Romero, the unpredictable Mark Hamill, the predictable Jack Nicholson, the reliable Ted Knight, the remarkable Kevin Michael Richardson, and, now,

the late Heath Ledger.

I welcome his forthcoming addition to his own legacy and that of the role of the Joker.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Argonauts of...JUSTICE!

I'm going to see a traveling production of the Argonautika that's now here in DC. That's a play that's been made out of a poem that Apollonius Rhodius wrote about the Argonauts. I know a lot of people have heard of the Argonauts, but don't know much about them.

The Argonauts were kind of the ancient mythic version of the Justice League/Society, a collection of all the big heroes and doers of deeds of the day. A lot of the Argonauts were also in other big crossover events of the time, like the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the Trojan War. To help you understand them, I thought I'd explain in terms of the heroes we read about today.
By the way, if all those movies about the Argonauts had used some of the cool powers the original gang had, they would have been a lot more interesting, kind of like Heroes with nothing but oily dark-haired men in scanty costumes... !

Nestor was a tedious old windbag who was about 110, and was full of unwanted advice and lectures about how much better people were in the old days. Whenever Nestor opened his mouth, that's pretty much the readers clue to kick back and put your feet up, and pretend your visiting you're grandfather. For Nestor, read ALAN SCOTT.

Zetes and Calais were brothers. They actually had wings and could fly, because of their crazy origin of being the kids of the King of the Winds, Boreas. They were also really horny devils, because they were always pestering Hylas, the group's pretty boy. So, despite the gender difference think of them as HAWKMAN and HAWKGIRL.

Herakles I'm sure you already know; big strong man. Ordinarily, I'd want to associate Herakles with Superman, the JLA's strong man. But Herakles was generally portrayed as bone stupid. Therefore, for Herakles imagine HAL JORDAN.

Herakles had a little sidekick (lover, really), his cousin, Hylas. Hylas was a total pretty boy and always getting in trouble because of it. For Hylas, imagine KYLE RAYNER.

Okay, seriously, Herakles was so powerful that he actually created story-telling problems (since he could pretty much single-handedly beat the snot out of anyone the Argonauts encountered). In that sense, he is very very much SUPERMAN.

Odysseus was the Smart One. Oh, sure, he could fight, but he preferred to use his wiles and wits. He also had a really popular stand alone book of his own, where he fought lots of bizarre enemies. For Odysseus, picture BATMAN.

Philoctetes was a master bowman whose feet stank. Nobody could stand him, so the other heroes marooned him on an island. For Philoctetes, read GREEN ARROW.

Tiphys was the original master helmsman of the Argonauts ship, but he died mysteriously and was replaced by Ancaeus, another helmsman who had little use for religion or prophecy. For Tiphys and Ancaeus, I choose the original and the new MISTER TERRIFIC.

Atalanta. Well, she was strong and fast. And the only woman. That pretty much makes her WONDER WOMAN, by default.

Argus was the builder, the designer; he made their ship, modestly naming it the Argo. That would have to be JOHN STEWART, I guess, since he's the only architect/designer in the entire DCUniverse.

Butes was a great lover, a king, and a bee keeper. So even though he was more of a queen, we give this one to THE RED BEE.

Euphemus could walk on water ... literally. That's because he was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. So Euphemus kind of has to be AQUAMAN.

Autolycus (yeah, like the guy on Xena, *sigh*) was a master thief and infiltrator. So to me that's got to be the quiet and sneaky MARTIAN MANHUNTER.

Orpheus is remembered mostly as a musician, but he practiced medicine, augury, and the magical arts. He was a magical utility tool, so we name him DR. FATE.

Medea was a trampy, vicious, witch. No contest: ZATANNA.

Iphiclus was a very fast runner and had trouble with impotence. Yes, really. Let Iphiclus be THE FLASH.

Aethalides; cool guy. He was the son of Hermes from whom he received the gift of total recall. Ironic that some one who could forget nothing is no longer remembered. He was the herald of the Argonauts. Let's term him ORACLE.

Bellerophon. Well, he did lots of cool stuff, but really he's remembered because of his flying horse, Pegasus, so THE SHINING KNIGHT is not a bad way to think of him.

Oh, you thought Perseus had Pergasus? No, that's a Renaissance add-on to his myth, perpetuated by Harry Hamlin. Don't believe everything you see in the movies, folks. Perseus had no natural superpowers, but was really smart and had a knack for picking up superpowerful objects and using them to kill crazy monsters and villains. Let's think of him as THE GOLDEN AGE STARMAN.

Poriclymenus had the superpower of shape-shifting into different animals. No, I'm not making this stuff up. Poriclymenus is BEAST BOY.

Lynceus had supersight, even X-ray vision. Not much more too him than that, and the closest thing I can come up with is DR. MID-NIGHT.

Jason was a very accomplished, naturally noble youth who tended to sleep with people he shouldn't. Let's just call him NIGHTWING, for short.

Polydeuces had a lot of relationships with Big People in Big Myths. But we don't care about that. Polydeuces was a great boxer, having defeated the great boxer and demigod Amycus. So Polydeuces can be WILDCAT.

There are lots of more Argonauts-- around 50 total -- but many of those are colorless also-rans.

We call them GEO-FORCE.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The New Original Teen Titans!

More and more of the forthcoming Crisis set of Heroclix is being released, and, while some of it interests me less than zero (e.g., Harbinger, Mammoth, Jericho), other figures are simply peachy.

I've previously mentioned my joy at Uncle Sam, but now we're getting some love for the original Teen Titans, too! They are nice low-cost figures with unique tactical advantages that make them very playable figures, without needing to be high-powered brutes.

The new, original Kid Flash figure doesn't just have hypersonic speed. He has the special ability to run at hyperspeed up walls or through them! And he has another special power that let's him blow adjacent foes away with a little tornado, using Force Blast as a free action. Finally, a Flash who can do what Flashes do. And at 45 points, he's a steal.

The new, original Wonder Girl has many of the standard powers you'd expect: Flurry and Charge to represent her speed, Superstrength and Toughness, Leap/Climb for agility, and Deflection for bullets and bracelets. At 94 points, she's the costliest of the New Original Teen Titans. But she's not just another flying chick brick!

She's got some Running Shot and a special "Tie Up" power that let's her incapacitate two foes who are adjacent to each other. What an amusing, accurate, and useful way of representing her use of her lasso! Look for her to be the new antidote to flying foes who are 'taxiing' tank-like buddies. Plus, she's got Enhancement, the ability to increase the damage done by adjacent allies. So expect her to be regularly accompanied by her new best friend...

Speedy, the Boy Bowman. Oh, this one's just a masterpiece. He's got some predictable standards: "Grappling Hook Arrow" (Leap/Climb), "Dodge" (Deflection), "Determined" (Willpower), "Speedy" (Running Shot). But it's his special powers that shine.

"Brave Bow's Apprentice" gives him a plus +1 attack value on a ranged attack. This is something all the bowslingers should have! But his special "Trick Arrows" ability lets him dissolve barrier markers ("acid arrows"!) or dissipate smoke barrier markers ("fan arrows"!); three at a time! Previously, there was no figure that could effectively deal with these kinds of barriers, and Speedy's going to be a very popular guy, particularly when teamed with other long-range fighters (such as the other members of the Arrow family). Like Kid Flash, he's a mere 45 fricking points and a steal.

Of course, I've saved my favorite for last: the Big-Headed Purple-Eyed Freak figure. Or, as some people call him, Aqualad. He's got the requisite Superstrength, Willpower, Toughness, and Aquatic ability. But the Maritime Goofus also has a special power, Up From the Depths, that grants him Charge, plus blocking any line of fire to him as long as he is in a water square. And I mean any line of fire; those neat little tricks like the Superman Ability that ordinarily might let you fire at hidden figures do NOT work on Aqualad. Yes, the Chicken of the Sea's special power is ... hiding.

And I simply love it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy

in my comics this week.

  • Robin fighting on a giant bowling ball.
  • Learning that Batman actually trained Robin to fight on a giant bowling ball.
  • I think Jason Todd may have finally found where he belongs.
  • "I'm Donna Troy, bitch." For whatever criticisms you might have about Countdown, it did the impossible: taught me to love Donna Troy.
  • Just as it did during Amazons Attack, Catwoman gives us the best story from an outside crossover (Salvation Run). I pooh-poohed Salvation Run when I first heard of it, but I picked up issue 3 and really liked it. And the characteristization of the two group's leaders (Luthor the Mad Scientist versus Joker the Shrewd Opportunist) was spot-on.
  • "Blockbuster". Now THAT makes a lot of sense, and that's the kind of thing that character should be doing all the time.
  • Good to see Blue & Gold together again.
  • Lex Luthor making an energy detector out of cell phone in the time it takes two people to have a fight. I've missed that Lex Luthor.
  • So... is Barbara Gordon re-making Misfit into Batgirl, in her own image? Interesting... .
  • Oh my god. A woman with brown eyes. In a comic book!
  • The Return of Killer Shark, and he wants Zinda back. Zowie! Didn't see that one coming!
  • Speaking of Killer Shark.... Best. Ship. Ever.
  • I found myself wondering how Validus can "sniff" anything without a nose for a full minute before remembering that he also sees without having any eyes.
  • I thankful to be reminded and confirmed by the Countdown Special reprinting Kirby's New God stories, that, yes, I really do hate all that stuff. A lot. Still.
  • Tattooed Man's octopus. Sweet, sweet octopus.
  • Best Abbey Road reference I've ever seen (at least, in a comic book).
  • Hey, Doctor Polaris is back!
  • This "NonDead Ted" thing is going to be the most horribly tragic Best Intentions Gone Wrong story in collective comic book memory.
  • Wonder Woman seeing nothing intrinsically wrong with Salvation Run. But, of course; her people created Reformation Island.
  • A most unusual request for sanctuary!
  • Good lord; Vixen, Roy, and Hal... all using their brains!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Must... reach ... keyboard!

I have been very sick. I am trying to recover from pneumonia. Please forgive my absence and enjoy the archives until I can return to health and posting.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Sayings of Robin the Boy Wonder

From the Showcase Presents: Robin the Boy Wonder

"I'm not studying astro-mechanics for nothing!"
You'd be surprised how often three-body problems come up in crimefighting.

"Just call me Wary Harry!"
Really; isn't "Dick" bad enough?

"If Dick Grayson's face breaks out at the same time as Robin's, my secret identity is blown!"
From the story where Robin invents Clearasil Ultra Tinted Acne Treatment in chem lab.

"I think worrying about acne is what Bats would call alter-ego-ism."
Or, as regular people call it, vanity.

"Sorry, no happiness deliveries today!"
Okay, now we know how he put himself through college.

"In Gotham High, we're all friends!"
Good lord, Robin goes to DeGrassi.

"I recognize their leader-- Tommy the Tramp!"
Well, when you're all friends, word gets around fast.

"Pretty neat idea of mine, disguising a collapsible costume as a tie."
Robin versus Tim Gunn.

"URTCH'H! My--cape! Hooked-on-window!"
Shoulda listened to Edna Mode, dearie.

"We could use a small, high-powered rocketship in our work, couldn't we, Jimmy?"
Okay, fine; maybe astro-mechanics does come in handy.

"Don't like the idea of tackling a 70 year old man, but I've got to!"
Robin versus Tim Gunn, Round 2.

"Well, by golly, if the world can take a man like 'Babe' Ruth -- the greatest slugger baseball has ever known-- then I suppose the world can also stand a guy proud to call himself...Robin!"
I'd worry less about the name 'Robin', than your tendency to say things like 'by golly'.

"I go for Davy's togetherness!"
It comes with Happiness delivery (along with bread sticks).

"How can I resist-- I've always wondered what computer fans did at a meeting!"
Sarcasm ill-behooves you, Dick.

"With the world the shape it's in, maybe the Jesus people are right."
This is from the story where Robin discovers Two-Face is behind Young Life.

"Almost as if the Lunar Model had a mind of its own!"
I think someone's been studying too much astro-mechanics.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Isn't It Ironic?

Isn't it ironic? Dressed up as yourself, a risk supremely dumb.

Isn't it ironic?
Superman can write that Brainiac's a dunce.

I see the blade a swaying on the guillotine above
While Batman looks on saying, "This was made for love...".

Bitterly ironic
Being non-super, a normal girl like this.

Isn't it ironic?

Every time he's tried, my foe Lex Luthor's missed.
Green monkey is kryptonite, Does it mean that I will fall and it kill me?
Is it irony?


Green monkey is kryptonite, Does it mean that I will fall and it kill me? Isn't it ironic?
Is it irony?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Cowardly Big-Headed Purple-Eyed Freak!

Yesterday at the comic book store, some people didn't understand why the writer of the wonderful Teen Titans Year One choose to make Aqualad afraid of fish.

Hilariously so, I might add. By the way, do you think that's Peter? I like to think it's Peter.

Oh, dear. If they didn't know why, perhaps someone else, someone reading this blog, might also not know. This must not stand. All of my readers deserve to join me in understanding that Aqualad, the Goofus of the Sea, is not merely a big-headed purple-eyed freak, but a cowardly big-headed purple-eyed freak.

The writer (Amy Wolfram, by the way) didn't make Aqualad afraid of fish, Jack Miller did ... when he created him in February 1960.

"Whatever this nameless dread is"-- I dunno; let's just call him "Aqualad"!

Aqualad's origin begins with him being expelled from Atlantis in a bubble dish like a spoiled Asian Chicken Salad at Boston Market. He was expelled partly for his own good because he was afraid of fish. But mostly because he was a big-headed purple-eyed freak.

Gotta love the Atlanteans for having a gigantic Orphan Cannon set up just to expel unfit children into the open seas. Apparently, poor Aqualad got thrown out just as the Atlantis World's Fair was ready to open, just like a stray dog in Beijing. Or maybe it's part of the fair's entertainment ("Expel the Freak-Children, Only a Dollar!"). By the way, ppssst, Atlanteans; you are on Earth. Morons.

Naturally, Aquaman is both sympathetic to and diplomatic about the pathetic reject's plight.

Uh-oh. Dr. Curry has determined you're an unfit "rejected specimen". Nurse Topo, dump this one in the biohazard disposal and call the Atlantean orphage for another specimen of sidekick!

Okay, okay; it was actually established in a previous story that purple eyes were a sign that a child would eventually lose its ability to breathe underwater, and that Atlanteans regularly sent such children to the surface to save their lives. C'mon; you didn't really think Elizabeth Taylor was human, did you?

A bird? Really? When you live on the bottom of the ocean?

But since that's not the case with Aqualad, who CAN breath underwater, I say it's an excuse, and he's really expelled because he's intrinsically loathsome and cowardly.

Face it, Aqualad. They're just not that into you. I mean, that fact that they never even bothered to give you a name should have been your first clue, you know? Oh, and if you think you're afraid of fish now, just wait'll you mess up Aquaman's hair by leaping on him like a lamprey!

Some fool writer would later hijack the whole "Atlanteans rejecting those with certain physical characteristics" and apply it absurdly to Aquaman. And his fabulously well-coiffured blond hair, of all things. Yeesh; and they say that the Silver Age was stupid!

Or, at least, someone told you they died. Ordinarily, I'd say "Nobody'll miss me too much" would make a great epitaph for him, but in Aqualad's case it should be on his tee shirt not his tombstone. Of course, I'm sure Nightwing, Donna Troy, and Wally West leapt into action when he disappeared (*snicker*). We just ... never saw them do it.

Anyway, Aquaman eventually cures the fre-- I mean, "Aqualad"-- of his fishophobia, for which task a total command of all sea-life comes in handy. But glorious scenes like this one...

are how I always like to picture Aqualad, particularly since it's consistent with all his later wussiness. Oh, I pick on Aqualad, but, in truth, comics have scores of plucky, unnaturally fearless kid sidekicks, and to have at least one who'd be more at home in a Scooby Doo cartoon is refreshing.
Contemptible, but refreshing.

And saddling poor long-suffering, don't-get-no-respect Aquaman with this underwater albatross is too perfect for words.

By Neptune, his hair looks nice!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Legion 37

Jim Shooter, welcome back to the Legion of Super-Heroes.

As many of you probably already know (and probably know more about than I!), Jim Shooter was hired sight unseen to write the Legion of Super-Heroes in 1966 at the age of 14. Weird stuff like that used to happen before the internet. He created Ferro Lad (whose sacrifice is one of the Legion's great recurring legends), Princess Projectra (who became the ultra-fabulous Sensor Girl), and Karate Kid (he's okay-kay-kay, but I still don't like him). After high school, he left the Legion, and went on to, er, some other comic book related stuff.

Now, I know that Jim Shooter has his detractors, particularly as regards the other-than-author aspects of his comics career. But I know none of this (or will pretend to). I think, as a whole, all that is irrelevant to what he brings to table with Legion.

Setting aside the particulars of both author and title, it's quite an amazing thing to have someone come back to write a title they help shaped forty years before. It could herald a return to greatness or a giant step backwards.

Shooter's first (new) issue, LSH 37, has me leaning toward thinking it a return to greatness (and apparently others as well). I'm a Legion fan, but not a Legion zombie. I loved the "Archie Legion", but the 5YL Legion made my head hurt, Legion Lost completely lost me, and Mark Waid's recent LSH simply wasn't working for me (except when Supergirl was around).

So what did I like about Shooter's return in LSH 37?

Lingo. Part of the gloriously geeky appeal of the Legion is that they are world all their own, and they have "Interlac lingo" to go with it. This is a common feature in sci fi, and helps put the LSH in its unique spot somewhere between sci-fi and superheroes. The new Shooter Legion has "Glyco" for "soda pop", which is sensible; "yo-d'lay" as a greeting in a skiing colony (from the yodel "yo de lay hee hoo") is cute. The skiiers using phrases like "avalanche her" and "drift her under" is clever. And swear words and "futureuphemisms" are always a delight! Florg; futzwit; noob-head; snoog. Use them daily.

Consistent characterization. But that I don't mean simply within the issue itself. I mean consistent with both what Waid's done and the Legionnaires' "classic" personae. The haughtiness, but vulnerability, of Projectra. The natural leadership of Saturn Girl. The general incompetence of Lightning Lad. Light Lass's devotion to her brother.

Politics, both inside and outside the Legion. This was always an integral part of the Legion's shtick, and Shooter's continuing it in a much less grating way than Waid's rather immaturely and unrealistically anti-authoritarian version of the Legion. Projectra's statelessness, Garth being in over his head as Leader, the suspension of the transmatter accounts, the lack of authority on the skiing colony... and I can't wait to see who the "pre-approved candidates" are. These things inject sociological realism into a scientifically fantastic world, which always helps ground the story for me.

Humor. I don't recall this being a strength of Shooter's original run (really, how could it be, for a teenager?), but it's certainly there now, and rather subtly so. There are no "HERE'S THE BIG JOKE, FOLKS" kind of moments (the kind I find so grating in many Marvel stories). It's the little things, like "okay-kay-kay", "Mr. under-checker", "dressed this time, I see," and Invisible Kid pantsing somebody. Impulse helped me see that humor and pathos are not incompatible in a title, and are particularly important in a title about young people, and I'm happy to see Shooter bring that touch to the Legion.

Tradition. This is like "consistent characterization", but with other elements of the Legion. Specifically, I liked see the "Duty Roster", which is of course just a spruced up version of the old "Monitor Board". Sure, in "the real world" that could just as easily be on a desk-sized monitor rather than appearing in cinemascope. But this is the Legion, and modern Monitor Board, like the old, needs to be a big ass display for everyone to see, dominating the entire command center.

Patina. By this I mean two things: a Legion that takes advantage of its sci-fi settings with wacky worlds and concepts (like the old Mount Rushmore of Outer Space) but still uses them mostly as a patina that colors very basic and recognizable features of our world and experience. That's rather a mouthful, but the essence of it is "people don't change much and higher tech just means a glossier version of the same things we always do". This is another staple of sci-fi (unless you're Gene Roddenberry, in which case you think technology will breed out of people all greed, ambition, and violence [and please do not hijack the comments on this post into a Roddenberry/Star Trek discussion, thank you very much]). In this issue, I point to Cryogeyser City on Triton, which isn't some essential mining facility or military outpost -- it's just a ski resort with nitrogen snow. That's the kind of "Ice Cream Parlor of Nine Worlds" style fun I look for from the Legion.

Creationism. Gulp! No, no, not "creationism" versus "evolution". "Creationism" is what I call a certain approach to writing a long-standing property. Mere "recidivism" makes a writer afraid or unwilling to make any changes or advances to property's existing mythos; they dance safely but unspectacularly within its existing boundaries. Untrammeled "revisionism" spur a writer to the other extreme, to try to re-define the character, overturn his world, in the hope of revitalizing him. But "creationism" respects where a character is and has traditionally been, but uses it as a starting point for the continued evolution of the myth, not as an end point (like recidivism) or an albatross to be shed (like revisionism). In this comic book sense, "creationism" is evolution.

Anyway, that "creationist" attitude is what marks some of DC's best books today (such as Blue Beetle, Wonder Woman, Dini's Batman, Booster Gold, the All-New Atom, Green Lantern). It was the attitude that created such myths as the Legion to begin with, and Shooter hasn't lost a whit of it in 40 years. New people, places, and plots, all right there in his first issue.

Accessibility. The Legion, like a long-running soap opera, can be difficult to crack open for the uninitiate. Shooter could pander directly to longtime Legion fans like me, but he doesn't. Not only does he include necessary exposition (who has what powers, the minimal background necessary to understand the events in the book, terms and limits of technology used, etc.), he does it fairly naturally. Saturn's telepathy, the Legion's relationship with the UP, Projectra's problem, trans-neptunian objects, transmattering, Star Boy's power, etc., are all explained within the course of predominantly natural dialog. This is very important in a potentially daunting property like the Legion, with its deep and broad mythos. Now would be a good "jumping on" point for the Legion, if you have even the slightest interest or curiosity about DC's premier sci-fi title.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy....

... in my comics this week.

  • Countdown to Final Crisis #17, or, as I like to call it, "The All-Jean Loring Issue". Crazy whacked out Eclipso-evil Jean Loring alongside Earth-51 pre-psychotic wasp-waisted Jean Loring. And a flamethrower, of sorts. Jean -- either one -- gets more than she bargained for!
  • Speaking of the Atom, if you get invited to a barbecue in Ivytown, don't go.
  • Ra's keeps his receipts? That's hilarious.
  • When you're the Joker, it only takes you one panel to hijack a space shuttle.
  • I just love that all the very worst people in comics can be found in one place: Jonah Hex.
  • The Return of Aqualad the Pathetic Wuss! Shrieking like a little girl. YAY!!!!!!
  • The Crimson Avenger versus Harley Quinn. Priceless.
  • The Globe. Thank you, Mr. Dini. Now I demand he return, next issue, just like in the Golden Age. And I want him to team up with the Clock and fight Robin. Sincerely, Scipio G., Washington DC. P.S. Please bring back Vibe!
  • Note the background color changes in Teen Titans Year One between each segment of the story. Nicely done.
  • Mary Marvel makes a poor choice of vacation spots.
  • Legion 37. More from me on this later. Much more.
  • Aquaman on a seahorse. That never gets old.
  • Panda gets slapped. That's always funny!
  • Speaking of which... ouch! Maybe Robin can go live with Joey Jeremiah?
  • "I will not stand for it." Oh, black humor thy name is Jonah Hex.
  • Okay, I've never been a fan of Mongul, with his over-obvious "yellow hun invader" schtick. But darned if the DOMINATION house ad isn't eye-catching!
  • Wally West, the original Impulse.
  • "That was pointless and annoying" was pretty funny; plus, it took lots of guts to put that line in an issue of Countdown!
  • I adore the fact that Grant Morrison took, what, eight issues building the tedious Ra's Al Ghul back into a Big Bad, and Dini had Batman take him out in about eight pages and with fantastic irony.
  • Chinese arithmetic humor. Gets me every time.
  • Most original, and possibly best, visual representation of aquatic telepathy ever.
  • The Joker versus Zatanna. Yes, it's that easy.
  • Leave it to Palmiotti and Gray to make a charmingly unique addition to the "Starman" legacy!
  • Teen Titans Year One is not at all what I expected; it's much better. Eat your heart out, Frank Miller!
  • Ryan Choi in the stocks. Sigh. Really, sometimes it's as if they want us to write fanfic.
  • Please tell me I'm going to get to see Aquaman pimp-slap Aqualad next month. PLEASE.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Uncle Frickin' Sam

It's Uncle Sam.


I can't imagine what Sam's going to do with his sleeves rolled up like that.
But I like to try.

This February sees the release of the new set of DC Heroclix figures (called
Crisis): Uncle Sam, it has recently been announced, will be among them.

As you know, I adore Uncle Sam; he's the ultimate heartthrob among Personified Nationhoods. Look at those thighs; you could crush Communism with those! It's been great that he's found a unique place of honor among DC's icons (although, of course, he was "inherited" in 1956 from another company, who copied him from the political cartoonists' Uncle Sam). Now he's done the same in Heroclix.

It's also nice to finally have the centerpiece of a Freedom Fighters team. Wizkids has already made a Phantom Lady figure

a Ray

and a Damage (if you want to count him). Oh, if only this forthcoming set also has the Human Bomb and Black Condor! I can wait patiently for Red Bee, Firebrand, Doll Man, and the rest.

Anyway, back to Sam.

Uncle Sam has Leap/Climb (named as "From Sea to Shining Sea"), which means pretty much nothing can stop him from going wherever he wants to go. Plus, he's got the Transporter ability, which means he can pick up and carry with him one of his teammates in his arms. In those pythonic arms with their Popeyesque forearms. With the sleeves rolled up.

Naturally, he has Leadership (named as "Liberty and Justice For All") to inspire his teammates. And they inspire him to! For each teammate near him who has taken an action token in the fight, he gets +1 to his Close Combat Attacks! This special power is called (drum roll)... "Give Me Your Tired".

But what about when Sam grows to massive size (sigh)? They've thought of that, too, giving Sam a special power ("As Big As My Country") that makes him a Giant, which is gonna make him a fightin' powerhouse, particularly when combined also with Quake ("Lay Low Th' Foes of Freedom") to scatter enemies and Flurry ("Truth and Justice will Prevail") to make sure they stay down.

Sam's a tough old cuss, with Invulnerability ("Through the Perilous Fight"), followed by Toughness ("Safe Thro' the Storm"). In his end dial, he's even got Regeneration ("Ya Can't Get Rid of Freedom") and Support ("Mend Thine Ev'ry Flaw") for his teammates (just like when he healed Phantom Lady of her addictions!).

Oh, and if that weren't enough, he picks up Teleportation ("To the Heartland"), so he can whisk his teammates to safety (just like he does in the comics!).

It's a smart job they've done with Uncle S. He's no Superman, but he's a strong solo fighter, able to take a punch with his damage-reducing powers and quickly shatter the enemy lines with offensive powers like Quake and Flurry. They captured his ability to grow big and to regenerate himself.

But it's in making him a team-player that Wizkids really impresses me. He can carry his teammates into battle with him, inspire them, and rescue them when they need it (Transporter, Leadership, Teleportation, Support). I'm pretty sure that's the JSA Team Ability he has on his dial, so he can share his Defense Value with them as a protector (just as the JSA can protect Uncle Sam). And when his teammates are "tired" (as represented by having action tokens on them) he gets extra strength to pick up the burden while they recover.

Talk about "Big Tent" politics; Uncle Sam is going to be one of the greatest "tentpoles" the game has ever seen.