Monday, March 31, 2008

Meteorology in Apex City

"Good morning! I'm meteorologist Misty Hazen, with the seven-day forecast here in the Apex area, home of the Martian Manhunter. Which is located in southern Florida, you know.

"Today, expect meteors, particularly in the center of town.

"Tuesday, no change, with continuing meteors.

"Wednesday, the meteors should turn to falling missiles from space,

with possible gusts of flying saucers.

"Thursday, things should be clear most of the day, but plan for a possible whump of flaming meteor from space in the late afternoon.

"Friday looks to bring falling bombs...

but that'll be mostly off the coast,
turning late in the day...

" meteors again.

"Saturday will be lovely and warm, so you can get some great sun, with only scattered floating objects.

"Sunday, the weather will return to normal, so be prepared for...

a whump of meteors.

"This is Misty Hazen, saying,
'Look to the skies! Keep watching the skies!' "

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"You Got Chocolate in My Peanut Butter...!"

This isn't usually my style, but I saw this panel on the DC boards recently and simply could not resist.

FAN PIC* contest

I don't have the heart to redialog this panel.

But I'm betting YOU do.

*The improvisation of amusing dialog or narration based on an out-of-context comic book panel, usually ribald in nature.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Miss Cosmos. I tell you, Palmiotti and Grey know how to make crazy fun comics, whether is the wackiness of Freedom Fighters or the gallows humor of Jonah Hex.
  • A happy ending for Buddy Baker.
  • The JLI reunion in Blue Beetle was a thing of beauty (particularly Guy's theory about it).
  • Kid Devil in bondage! Could have done without the blood, though.
  • Okay, so now that I've read that Eclipso story again, I'm positive: The Phantom Stranger totally did Madame Xanadu.
  • Young Jack Jordan made me laugh.
  • Happy Terrill became one of my favorite characters in the DCU in just one issue.
  • I swear to god I thought Hal was about to become a male prostitute... .
  • "Okay, lady, that kind of crazy talk automatically makes you the enemy."
  • Rampaging multi-headed monsters attacking the Pentagon.
  • So that's what Khaji Da means; simple, but clever.
  • Adam Strange finally told the Rannies that they stink.
  • Hal Jordan fighting John Stewart; nice one.
  • Paco's Heat of the Moment; zowie!
  • Jim Shooter is really good; read the Legion.
  • "Housekeeper!" B5 is a funny guy.
  • Well, I see the "Gothcorp" origin story is now cannon.
  • Hi, I'm Lightning Lad, for Maxwell House!
  • Jaime Reyes continued to be adorably awesome this month.
  • Okay, props to Grant Morrison for the purpose to which he put the "sickly infant universe of Qwewq". Yep; "this is going to change everything."
  • Lex Luthor's reading matter.
  • Wait; so, he just saved the Earth by ... mailing Batman a letter? Excellent.
  • "There's no blood on hands; I licked them clean." Eclipso is a funny guy.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Where in the World is the Martian Manhunter?

Inspired by the Martian Manhunter, I've been doing some detective work.

As you may have noticed, I've been spittin' out the custom Heroclix maps lately. It's my version of knitting. Embracing the principles of democracy, I've been polling the people to find out who they want a map for, and the on/off leader has been...

the Martian Manhunter.

Clearly, not only is the Martian Manhunter real, but he has the Martian Power of Vote-Fixing. Why he's been in the lead I cannot imagine other than the theory that his fans are SO delighted by his inclusion in, well, ANYTHING, that they're texting one another furiously to keep him in the lead (possible buying new computers just to do so; MM fans are hardcore folks).

This is what I get for embracing democracy: a lung-crushing Martian bearhug. Now, I have to put up or shut up and design a Heroclix map for the Martian Manhunter, wherever the heck he lives.

Impossibly daunting task, you say? Indeed. That's why I'm all over it. None of this Z'onn Z'orr hoo-ha; I'm not even gonna fall for the "Middleton" recon. The Middleton thing is only from 1988 (virtually yesterday when you've got as many rings in your trunk as I do) and there is no way J'onn's Silver Age adventures took place in Colorado.

How do I know this? Detective work. Well, actually it's more like basic literary research. I read the entire Showcase Presents: Martian Manhunter volume. Several pieces of evidence arose:

J'onn's city is on the ocean. The ocean, the docks, "Shore Road"; Silver Age MM stories repeatedly make it clear that the City is on the sea. And it's a part of the sea that has sharks... .

J'onn's city is somewhere warm. There is never a hint of snow or cold. People don't even wear overcoats. Of course, that could simply be because a fire breaks out in J'onn's city every 7 minutes.

J'onn's city is somewhere normal. You know. It's not like, in Texas, or anything. Cuz that would show. Now there are some hints that it might be in California, such as two stories in which movies are being filmed in the City. But hey, I passed two movie shoot locations just today, and I don't live in California.

Besides,there's a much stronger piece of evidence than the filming:
baseball. The local baseball team in J'onn's city? The Flamingos. Obviously, a tropical, Caribbean town.

That leaves only
ONE possible conclusion: J'onn's Silver Age adventures take place in Florida. Insane, but true. As Sherlock Holmes said, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." If you want to believe in Middleton, fine, embrace Frank Delano's wise conclusion, that J'onn left his original city and moved to Middleton later.

The name of this Floridan city? It's never explicitly stated in his stories. But I must deduce one anyway. So I culled all the names of businesses and locations within in the city, to look for clues there.

In J'onn's city, there are at least FIVE major businesses name "Apex":
  1. the Apex Warehouse,
  2. the Apex Paint Co,
  3. the Apex Loan Co.,
  4. Apex Movie Studios, and
  5. the Apex Art Gallery.
Now, we know, from a real world perspective, that "Apex" is a generic company name that the authors of these stories clearly got into the habit of using as a default, probably without considering the cumulative effect. But, within the logic of the text (to the degree a Martian Manhunter text can be said to have any "logic") why would there be five wholly dissimilar businesses in the same city with the same name?

Answer: J'onn lived in

THAT is my conclusion and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Iceberg Lounge

Ah, the Penguin. So underappreciated.

While I don't discuss it here often enough,
I'm a big fan of the Penguin, and think he doesn't get the respect he deserves from modern writers and readers, who don't take him seriously enough.

This is ironic, since a big part of the Penguin's original schtick was "No one would take this funny looking man in evening wear seriously", a fact he frequently used to his advantage. Most people underestimated the Penguin, and he made fools of them of because of it. Batman, however, wasn't fooled, because (1) he's achingly smart and (2) people who dress like bats know better than to judge by appearances.

Well, the Penguin did effectively fool many others-- unfortunately that includes many of the people who've been writing comics over the last twenty years. As a result, the Penguin's frequently been written as a comedic foil or a weaselly stoolie rather than a serious threat (the Riddler has suffered similarly from a lack of understanding by writers, but don't get me started on that). Weak writers can only use hypermuscled heavily-armed "bad-@$$" characters as threats; weak writers need characters with obviously strengths, because it doesn't require them (or their readers) to be clever. Strong writers enjoy exercising their literary muscles proving that an effete little fat man or a triangle-headed geek in a leotard can be a threat, even to Batman. Strong writers delight in characters with hidden strengths.

Chuck Dixon brought a fresh approach to the Penguin in I guess it was 1995 when he re-imagined him as a not-so-reformed supervillain turned "legitimate businessman", and owner of a posh nightclub, the Iceberg Lounge, which served as a front for his nefarious doings. Fresh, I might add, does not mean completely novel; the exact same thing happened some thirty years earlier on the Batman television series (Dec. 7, 1966, "The Penguin's Nest"):
Robin: It sure is a shame, Batman. A restaurant with such terrific chow turning out to be a mere front for some criminal scheme.
Batman: Look at it this way, Robin. That $100 cover charge is pretty stiff. Penguin's "terrific chow" is hardly within the budget of the average worker.
Robin: Gosh yes, you're right, Batman. All the needy people in the world, all the hungry children.
Batman: Good thinking, Robin.

In fact, the Penguin did something similar in the Golden Age, once in "Birds of a Feather" Batman #11, Jun/Jul 1942 (his third appearance, in which he opens a 'honest' casino in Florida), and again in "The Penguin's Nest", Batman #36 Aug/Sep 1946 (on which the television episode was based).

Dixon understand that the Penguin was a smart guy and an old-time operator, a Batman-style crook with flair and gimmick, not a superpowered Firestorm supervillain (although he could swing that way, when he wanted). Parlaying his infamy into PR for a high-class joint that could both provide him with legitimacy and give him a front for criminal affairs is exactly the kind of thing the Penguin would do.

Good thing, too, for although Dixon meant for the restauranteer/crimelord concept to bring respect for the Penguin, other writers took the restaurant more seriously than they did its owner. Thus, the ICEBERG LOUNGE has become a permanent part of the Gotham City landscape, one of those places that always exists no matter how many times it's destroyed (like the Daily Planet building or the Flash Museum).

As in comic books, so too in Heroclix, where the Penguin also has gotten no respect. In fact, his clix is almost legendarily bad. But all the major Batman villains will get remade in the special all-Batman heroclix set this July, and some of them made again in the larger, villain-oriented "Rogues Gallery" set in the fall. This means at least one if not two new, and almost necessarily more useful, Penguin heroclix figures are coming our way.

So I want to prepare for those Penguins (and other Gotham City folk) by giving us all a new map for them:

Click on map for a penguin's eye view.

No place is cooler than the Iceberg Lounge! Using this picture as inspiration,

I tried to capture some of the elements commonly used to depict the Iceberg Lounge: the pool in the middle, the icebergish sculpture in the pool, the ship shaped dancefloor, the polar decor. I didn't have the ability to put a tuxedoed dance band on the sculpture, I'm afraid, but I was able to substitute with some actual penguins.

I threw in some special rules for windows and doors (which are long overdue on standard Heroclix maps anyway). You wouldn't think an all-white room would be an easy place for stealth, but with clusters of tables serving as hindering terrain and some balcony seating for leap/climbing, it's a pretty Batman-friendly map. Can't wait to have Batman and Robin leap to the top of the pool sculpture and hurl some batarangs at tuxedoed goons. And who knows, with all that water, maybe Aquaman might join in the fun!

Still, the elevated terrain is pretty exposed, so it's not exactly a dark Gotham rooftop; beware. The Dynamic Duo might need to duck for cover into the upstairs bar ("They may be drinkers, Robin, but they're still human beings and might be salvaged.")

Note that the Penguin has his own private dining area, upstairs near the bar where he can oversee everything. Because, you know, he would. In fact, if you could see the map at full size and detail, you'd see he's about to chow down on a big plate of sushi. Yes, really.

Later, I think I'll expand the map to a 3x3 version that includes the hidden areas of the Iceberg Lounge: private dining for wanted felons, the casino, the Penguin's office and armory. Or perhaps instead I'll make another 2x3 map that's a generic gambling joint. Then it can be a stand-alone map OR can be placed to the right of this map to serve as the Iceberg Lounge's hidden back rooms.

Remember, there's always more to the Iceberg than meets the eye! But for now I wanted to see how you like this version. And please be kind; it may not look like much, but it took of lot of trial and error to get the look I was going for.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Teenagers from the Future

Are you going to the New York Comic Con in April? I'm not, but I'll be there in spirit.

Actually, I'll be there in print. I'm one of the essayists in a new anthology that will be released there:


It's a meaty tome, with 350 pages (!) about the Legion, its members, and its place is history (and the future). It's from the perspicacious folks at Sequart (they make books about comics for smart people), and edited by the blogosphere's own Tim Callahan. If you're unconvinced that the Legion is an essential part of the DCU, this may be the book that convinces you otherwise. If you're already a Legion fan, then it's a must-have since it's the book LSH-lovers will be discussing for the next one thousand years.

After it's premiere at the NYCC, it'll be available for sale on-line at Amazon and such. And, if you buy a copy, book a flight, fly to DC, metro over to my neighborhood, then walk to my house, I'll sign it for you. But call first; I could be out walking the dog.

My essay makes the case that the JSA and JLA, contrary to what many think, are extremely different in concept and that it was the Legion that showed the transition between those two very different groups. In essence, the gap between the Elders of the past and the Primes of the present was bridged by ... the Teenagers from the Future.

Check it out!

Why We Love the Phantom Stranger Some More 4

As mentioned last week, the Phantom Stranger has some pretty bizarre sexual tastes.

But, really, you have no idea how strange.

Monday, March 24, 2008

As With Our Heroes, So With Our Politicians

As you probably know, I live in Washington, D.C., where, instead of sports, we have politics. Sure, there's fewer teams, and the outfits aren't very colorful, but it can still manage to entertain....

In this morning's
Washington Post, columnist Howard Kurtz ponders why the media continue to pretend that Senator Clinton might yet become President Clinton.

But that's not the interesting part right now... .
What is interesting is this statement he quotes by the New Republic's Michelle Cottle:
I like a commander-in-chief who can keep his/her emotions under control -- possibly even under wraps -- and who is a damn site more dignified and qualified for the job than I, my friends, or any other Average Joe. I want a president who is better than I am, not one who makes me feel better about myself. That's what Oprah's for.
Hm. Sound familiar? It's the exact same basic reason I have for preferring DC over Marvel. It's what I assert is the essential difference between DC and Marvel: DC tries to give you heroes who are better than you are and Marvel tries to give you heroes who make you feel better about yourself.

Since it's unlikely that Cottle stole that idea from me (although I'm sure she reads here; hi, Michelle!), and I know I didn't steal the idea from her, I'm guessing we're both perceiving the results of an underlying phenomenon in American society (at least, current American society).

So, that said, Absorbascommenters, please give me your opinion:

Does the kind of comic books one likes correspond with ones political leanings or how one chooses a candidate?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why We Love the Phantom Stranger Some More 3

Because, in a Phantom Stranger story, anything can happen.

Really. Anything.

Like, say, for example...


Now Hal'th thore, too!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's comedy gold, I tell ya!

Okay, I have this great concept I want to pitch to DC!

It's great to have a big serious JLA, like we have now, but wouldn't it be cool to also have running with it concurrently a funny version, kind of like the JLI?

So, the hook would be that it's a sort of parody of the old Justice League Elite series or even *snort* Extreme Justice. You know, where the Justice League decides,

"Hey, we're not busy enough with out own lives of individual crimefighting and city-saving, and our monthly joint venture to save the world from Kanjar Ro or the like, so we need to go out and LOOK for people to beat up."

See, that idea is already funny. Just like it was in Justice League Elite. And Extreme Justice. And the Outsiders. Even when the writers didn't
know it was funny.

But how can I make it believable? I mean, who in the Justice League is stupid enough to try to pull that concept off (AGAIN!), without my being accused of mischaracterization? The kind of person who'll rush off without fear and throw himself head-first into any danger? Oh, wait, of course...

Hal Jordan.

Yeah, that'll work perfectly. But he'll need a second in command, somebody with some similar star power. Someone who's supposed to be there to keep him from acting rashly, and act as a counterbalance. But the funny part will be -- wait for it! -- that it'll be GREEN ARROW!

Bwa-ha-ha-hah! Oh, the hilarity that will ensue!

Then, just to make sure I don't completely trash their images, I'll surround them with a team of scrubs, the kind you usually don't find more than a mile from Dr. Thirteen. Batwoman, with her fabulous heels; no, I truly truly love her, but it's not like anyone else is going to use her. I'll need a gay guy for balance, so how about that really poorly dressed blue guy from Starman? The fashion-forward lesbian and the fashion-blind gay guy will make for hilarious irony!

And Ray Palmer, since, after having his image trashed in Identity Crisis and Countdown, there's really not much further harm that can be done. Besides shrinky guys are intrinsically funny, and when you throw in Jean Loring, The Wickedest Ex-Wife in the World, it's comedy gold.

Some others, as of yet undecided. Some Ugly Ducklings unwanted by the real iconic hero dynasties to which they belong. Freddie Freeman, maybe? You know, the hero who can't say his own name? Oh, and he's crippled! That's a double handicap, so he's in.... Triple, really, if you count being part of the Marvel Family!

In the same vein: maybe Supergirl? Nobody else knows what to do with her. Yeah, let's turn one of the most powerful beings on the planet loose to beat up suspects with no one but Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen to reign her in!

But I need someone else, again, intrinsically funny, like... like a gorilla (just like the laughfest of making Detective Chimp a gritty alcohol figure for
Shadowpact). Maybe my new favorite heroclix pog, Congo Bill/Congorilla? Nah! Too crazy! Besides, I genuinely like Congo Bill too much to put in him in such a stupid group.

So, tell me what do you think? It can't fail, right?

Wait, what's that, you say...? HE DID?!

Curse you, James Robinson for stealing my idea!!!!!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ferris Aircraft

Having made a Heroclix map for the Flash & Co., I thought I should create one for the Green Lantern, too. Something aerial, to minimize the likelihood of his hitting his head.

the map of Ferris Aircraft ... on a very busy day.

Click on map to see it in excruciating detail.

Looks like, while Green Lantern and Sinestro slug it out in the skies, Star Sapphire is focused on protecting Ferris Aircraft property with force fields. Why, it's almost as if she owned stock in the company! While the map certainly looks busy, there's really not a lot going on terrain-wise, because the map is entirely aerial; no non-fliers or objects allowed!

However, there are some obstacles up there in the wild yellow & green yonder. Clouds providing hindering terrain to lurk in and residual constructs from the battle (the hand, the boxing glove, and brick wall) serve as blocking terrain. I was going to include the helicopter as blocking/hindering terrain, but that would simply occupy too much of the map, so I left it "below", .

Because it's in the air, all your figures must be fliers or be carried by fliers. Of course, a Green Lantern can carry 8 passengers, so you might want to take advantage of that Team Ability! But that's pretty dangerous; knock out the flier and any of his passengers fall to their doom, er, I mean, their

I tried hard to get an aerial feel for the map by creating an impression of three-dimensionality; how'd I do? This was an experiment and I'm interested knowing in what you think worked well... .

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Which was better: Hal getting konked by a piece of jewelry or Catwoman kicking him in the face?
  • Hey; the Supermobile!
  • "I see a hospital that's not going to destroy itself!" Priceless!
  • The unbroken cigar. Nice touch, Will Pfeiffer.
  • The best comic you probably won't buy this week.
  • "Can I touch your cape?" Adorable!
  • I really want to see a Two-Face/The Source team-up in Brave & the Bold.
  • Ah. The Return of Maxie Zeus. Bravo, Mr. Dixon.
  • Wow! Now THAT is Kanjar Ro.
  • Falling asleep on a date is pretty hardcore; particularly when you're on a rollercoaster.
  • Yeah, well, I've see enough of you, too, Metron.
  • Making popcorn? Oh, you're a smooth one, Tim.
  • The Ten-Cent Plague: have you read it?
  • So, that's what Ultraman is afraid of; that's amusing.
  • I appreciate MacDuffie's cleverness in reversing Meltzer's over-obvious set-up of "Hawkgirl will break Red Arrow's heart."
  • Infinity Inc.
  • Superman, Jack Bauer, and all the kids from Hogwarts.
  • "Is Anaxagoras your lawyer?" Oh, ye gods, I almost fell out of my chair laughing... .
  • Black Canary-in-a-box.
  • Superbreath. They always forget about the superbreath.
  • A shark-shaped submarine. Villains should always own thematically decorated submarines.
  • Aquaman defeats Amazo. Elegantly, I might add.
  • If Dan Garrett's recent appearance leave you with a hankering to see some original Blue Beetle stories... well, Mallet can cure of that right away!
  • That's one piece of jewelry I want to see the Catwoman steal for real.
  • So, wait; are Commander Flag and Roy Harper twins separated at birth? By a decade? Time for some fanfic!
  • Chuck Dixon; what's your opinion?
  • Darkseid! Looking hot! Are you doing Jennie Craig? Call me...
  • I really enjoy the art in Robin.
  • Aw, darn... I was kind of hoping the Godkiller would turn out to be Jean Loring, wielding a cosmic-powered cigarette stand.
  • That'll do it; appearances by Steve Lombard are now acceptable as long as his wrist gets broken.
  • The Jester League of America? This is automatically this best comic book I will read in June.
  • Arrow in the butt. Not enough of that in comics, I say. And, no, I don't mean Roy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why We Love the Phantom Stranger Some More 3

The Phantom Stranger has interesting hobbies. Like...

bondage ululation!

Really, Phantom Stranger is the part
Anderson Cooper was born to play.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why We Love the Phantom Stranger Some More

Well, the Showcase Presents: The Phantom Stranger Volume 2 came out, and you know what that means: more lessons on Why We Love the Phantom Stranger.

Really, there are few characters odder than old PS. He should be called the Phantom StrangEST. No real name, no origin (and,
no, the "unfallen angel" story does not count), no consistent powers, no clear guidelines as to when he will or will not appear and/or act. In other characters, these would be flaws; in the Phantom Stranger, they are strengths. Along with the outfit. And "Rod Serling on 'shrooms" way of speaking.

Speaking of shrooms, one of the reasons we love the Phantom Stranger is that, well... you never quite know
what he's going to do. Maybe he's about to disappear or let loose with the cosmic zippity-zap; maybe he's just going to bitch-slap somebody across the room or start making out with some endangered hippy-chippy. Or maybe he's going to do....

What a joker! Last Halloween he came over and pulled this trick on some kids who rang my doorbell for treats. Nearly wet myself laughing. Then he ruined it all with some meandering series of bromides about "life not being what it seems" and "fraught with dangers for the unwary" and how that's "a lesson that may serve such youngsters well for they need to beware of ... strangers." Sigh. Of course.

See, just when you think you know him, he turns out to be... a stranger. Still, you know he totally had this poster in his college dorm room:

Can't you just see him, in the turtleneck and medallion, staring at the poster and practicing the Face-Melting Trick? All the while telling his roommate he's preparing "not to fear the face of Evil, but to teach it to fear the Face of Him", when really he's just doing it to get hippy chicks...

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Super-Heroes I'm Mildly Embarrassed to Have the Hots For

Okay, I'll confess: I never read his comic. In fact, I think the only stories I ever saw him in were Zero Hour/crossovery kind of stuff. I'm embarrassed to have the hots for him mostly because everyone thinks he's a screw-up and his recent behavior has been un-heroically temperamental. But that doesn't stop me from having the hots for...

Damage (Grant Emerson)

First off; he's short. I like guys shorter than I, and since I'm only 5'7", that's a limited field. Most people in comics are not short. In fact, they are egregiously not-short. For example, I've noticed that one of the unique characteristics of the Justice Leaguers is that they are not only taller than regular people, they are each and every one of them taller than all the other Justice Leaguers. Superheroes, you see, transcend mere mathematics and topology and if you don't believe that, just go take a look at some old Sekowsky JLA art. Anyway, Grant Emerson is my shorty.

He's young beefcake, by drawing, portrayal, and characterization. Just take a look at this example, stolen generously from the bravely unashamed Shirtless Superheroes site. I mean, really. I don't know whether the writer was in on it, but the artists certain took advantage of Grant's hunkiosity.

Sometimes it doesn't hurt until later, you know.

Don't worry; I'm sure that the person saying "You okay?" is a safe, non-sexually-tensive supporting player, like an elderly female relative. I mean, it's not like it's some hunky young guy in skin-tight clothes, the kind who dances at clubs with his arms in the air.

Or perhaps it is.
What does he want, Grant? I dunno ... Round Two, maybe?

Anyway, young buck that he is, Damage is brimming over with (highly suggestively symbolic) explosive power. Just thinking about it makes me reach for a limonada. I mean, really: "banging" is his power. What more could one want in a man? Or, for that matter, in oneself?

Oh, Geoff Johns didn't make it up; he really isn't allowed in Atlanta. Atlanta's loss!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • If you don't pay attention, you'll miss the cinematic visual scene transitions in Legion in the 31st Century; and that would be a shame.
  • I don't remember Paragon; did he actually appear before, or did he escape from Blockade Boy's blog...?
  • Woo @&#%ing woo. I love you, Etta.
  • I almost fainted for joy when I saw Catherine Colbert. Pity about what happens... .
  • Love the Kent's new apartment and its secret passage to the Conservatory.
  • That's not my whore, that's my accountant!
  • Dr. Fate cleans the courtyard.
  • Hey, who designed that Wonder Woman statue? Jack Kirby?
  • Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy, subtract Jason Todd, the Monitor, but add Harley Quin, Rookie Catwoman, Mary Marvel, Karate Kid, Triplicate Girl, Firestorm, and Veteran Atom... I'm not sure what Countdown's building toward, but it's great at building Heroclix teams!
  • Blue & Gold working with Hawkman & Green Arrow? This oughtta be good.
  • Thank you, Kurt, for showing Superman actually working on the serum; I've missed that.
  • OMAC-Alfred. Heh; sir, would you like some tea with your termination?
  • Wonder Woman starts dating; yay!
  • Nobody delivers good news like Dubbilex!
  • The Time-Stealers. Ah ha! Now we know...
  • Thank you, Kurt, for taking the time to show someone clobbering Hal Jordan.
  • Wait... is that the beginnings of the "Spectre Revenge Squad"?
  • The Daxamite Priest Elders of the Protonic Flame. I just love saying it.
  • How Ted Kord escapes a thousand OMACs.
  • Hey, look, we've reached that point again in a Judd Winick story where demons/aliens/monster show up completely out of the blue because he never knows what else to do with a plot!
  • "Yes. There are thorns." I love you, Wonder Woman.
  • The Phantom Stranger Showcase 2. Steep yourself in the madness.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Green Lantern and the Decennial Cycle

Have you noticed that we go through a Green Lantern about once every ten years or so?

The Trinity -- Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman -- adapt to each decade, as do their larger casts. They change their styles and personalities but still remain quite recognizably themselves.

But other characters, the ones who didn't continue being published through the Wertham Era, their personal momentum was halted. When they were re-started by Julie Schwartz in the Silver Age, they were ripe for replacement. And this has (so far) doomed the name "Green Lantern" to a succession of replacements at a rate of about one per decade, each a product of his time.

The Green Lantern of the 1940s. Alan Scott. A manly man of the WWII era. Barrel-chested and broad-shoulders, just as like to throw a punch as use his ring, which was full of strange mystic power.

Thanks to Dr. Wertham, we'll never know exactly what the Green Lantern the 1950s might have given us. But...

The Green Lantern of the 1960s. Hal Jordan. Ah yes; the space age. Test pilot, and dinner jacketed swinger. Smooth, but still kind of dorky in a NASA way. And, as the Guardians came into play, he became the Company Man. With his two brothers in tow, he was also the JFK of the hero set. Truly, a character of his era.

Hal Jordan tried to become the GL of the 1970s by hanging out with liberal Green Arrow and tuning in to the scene. But it really just showed how square he was. Eventually, instead of becoming the 70sGL, he became the 40GLs. A straight-laced eminence grise (grey hair and all). This is a pattern the other GLs would follow, as well. And so he was slowly displaced by...

The Green Lantern of the 1970s. John Stewart. Blaxploitation films, big hair, fighting The Man and The System, grassroots battles rather than galactic ones.

Ah, but the 1970s didn't last forever and John's political activism devolved into Political Correctness and "Mosaic" in the '80s. New decades demand new Lanterns, like...

The Green Lantern of the 1980s. Guy Gardner. You see, Gardner had been created much earlier (1968), but hadn't been very active. Comas will do that to you. No, Guy didn't really become his own man until the Big Eighties. Brash. Conceited. Childishly competitive. While John Stewart was busy being ignored as the main character of the Green Lantern series, Guy Gardner was becoming famous as the GL of the JLI. But Guy became as hard to take seriously as the pretension of the decade of his floruit, and so we got...

The Green Lantern of the 1990s. Kyle Rayner. Oh, Guy Gardner tried to become the Lantern for the '90s: tattoos, enormous guns that formed out of his body (ick). But that's not really what the decade wanted. It wanted a release from padded shoulder pretension of the '80s. It wanted ... Young! Edgy! Struggling! Down to earth! In search of himself! Ah, Kyle, sketching, hanging out in coffee houses, sleeping with his colleagues. In the 1990s, somebody gave Joey Tribbiani a ring, it seems.

But the new decade -- and millennium -- wanted something more. Millennial rebirth, a return to greatness, a Brave New World. Kyle tried, even becoming the godlike Ion; but it was still, in the final analysis, just Kyle. A new Green Lantern was called for.

The Green Lantern of the 2000s.

Hal Jordan.

Sure, the other ones are around, but they aren't the one the series is named after, are they?

Is this "Rebirth", then, the end of the cycle?

I hope so. For I do not like the Decennial Character Cycle of the Green Lanterns; it is like building a castle on the sand, only to see it washed away with each successive tide. It has spread, now, to the Flashes, and threatens to beach the Aquaman name as well.

DC; If you want these characters to remain also-rans behind the Trinity, stick with the Decennial Character Cycle. If you want these characters to grow in greatness, keep the same person in the role and evolve or adapt them, not just toss them aside as soon as the culture shifts underneath them.

What do YOU think, Absorbascommenters?

Monday, March 10, 2008

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

Flashophiles, I have not forgotten you. Either of you.

I kid! The Flash has lots of fans ... particularly among Heroclix players.

In Heroclix, Flash and Flash Family figures generally have HSS (that's "Hypersonic Speed", for the uninitiate) or a related special power. Basically, it's the ability to run up to an opposing figure, hit it, then run away, all in one turn. Wheeee! Many (most, really) other figures need to move into range of an opponent on one turn, rest on the next, then attack on the third. Thus, a figure with HSS can do in the time of one turn what it normally takes other figures three turns to do. During gameplay, that certainly gives HSS figures the feel of being superfast.

"Speed" in Heroclix is defined as how many squares a figure is allowed to move in one turn. Most regular figures have a speed in the 7-9 range; superfast characters have speeds more in the 11-14 range. There is only ONE figure that has a speed higher than 14: Jay Garrick, from the original set of DC Heroclix, with his speed of 20. The difference between the speed of a regular character and a superfast character may not seem that huge, but when combined with HSS, it makes a difference, trust me.

The bane of HSS (and related special powers) is hindering terrain. Hindering terrain represents stuff that doesn't completely block your path, but is enough of hindrance to slow you down or mess with your aim: bushes, furniture, rubble, that sort of thing. Unless a figure has particular powers (such as Flying or Leap/Climb), it has to stop when it enters hindering terrain; when it moves from or within hindering terrain, its speed is halved.

The other thing about hindering terrain is that it creates dark areas for lurking, so that figures with Stealth or Stealth-like powers can hide in it, where, being unseen, they remain safe from long-ranged attacks. Now, this doesn't affect Flash figures directly, because they can't make ranged attacks anyway. Besides, they can just run up, smash a stealthed figure in the face, then run away.

I wanted to make a map for Flash-y figures, one with no hindering terrain to slow them down or for stealthers to hide in. Thus, I have created the sunny Central City Heroclix Map, where "you can run, but you can't hide!"

So, we all know what Central City is like: comedically, absurdly vast. It's also in state of perpetual sunny but not hot afternoon in later summer. Gotham has more night than day, and Metropolis has more day than night, but each seems to enjoy all four seasons. I can remember stories in each city where it was snowy and cold and others where there was a heat wave. But in Central City, it always seems to be a sunny but not hot afternoon in later summer. Long shadows; ice cream vendors; good weather for a run.

How to represent such a place on a Heroclix map? Well, one square on a Heroclix map represents about 6 to 8 feet across. That means a large 3' x 3' map would represent roughly an area anywhere from 21,000 to 37,000 square feet, which I figure is about the size of the lab in the back of Barry Allen's apartment or Iris West's living room. But I decided to represent a small segment of a Central City block instead.

Welcome to Central City, Home of the Flash!

Note that the street has at least six lanes of traffic (since three are visible and there's no median). Any place else that would constitute a major thoroughfare. But this is Central City, home of the horizon, which means this must be a quiet little sidestreet. Perhaps even an unnamed alley.

I tried to show the ridiculous size of the sidewalks, but, really, based on pictures like this, I don't think I've done them justice. Perhaps the entire map should have been sidewalk!

Although there is no hindering terrain, there is blocking terrain (that means figures can't move or fire through it). Scattered blocking terrain is good for HSS figures; they can run behind it to prevent opponents from attacking them at range, and rest up for their next HSS hit-and-run. The carriages of the cars, the trees, and the street vendor tents are all blocking terrain; the back of the bus-stop is a wall (which functions the same way). Oh, and, no, the traffic isn't moving; the police car is there to indicate that it's been stopped as a result of some supervillain melee.

Note that not every part of the vehicles is blocking terrain. After all, it's not really that hard to fire over the hood of a car (or, for that matter, to climb over it)! Don't be deceived by the convertible; it counts as clear terrain. The right third of the map is almost all clear terrain, for, although it has some decorative features, such as the picnic tables, they are sufficiently circumnavigable so as not to constitute hindering or blocking terrain. Across from some outdoor chess tables (for speed chess, natch) is the Flasheteria, a fast food joint for the tourist crowd. Courtesy of a local street artist, there's a little chalk drawing of the Flash outside the Big Monkey store, and at the other end of the sidewalk is a men's tailoring shop of some renown.

Oh, and that "Home of the Flash" street engraving? There's one on every block. It's not as excessive as it seems; after all, that's only one per mile!

For a bit of local color (but not affecting gameplay) I've draw the scene in the midst of a battle where a small cadre of Rogues are trying to kill Flash and Kid Flash. In other words, just your average late summer day in Central City!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gang Up On Me!!!!

I really need my readers' help with a project I'm working on, because the internet is not providing the answers I need.

I need the names of as many Gotham streetgangs as you can conjure. Not gangster gangs (like the Black Mask Society) or cult gangs (like Kobra) but streetgangs (like, say, the Streetdemonz from Robin). Even streetgangs from other DC fictionopolises would be helpful, but I figure most named streetgangs are from Gotham books.

So far I've only got:
Streetdemonz (from Robin)
Ghost Dragons (from Robin)
Sons of the Bat (from Dark Knight)
The Mutants (from Dark Knight)
Los Lobos (from the Detroit League)
BTM (the Burnley Town Massive)
Lucky Hand (Tec)

But I need as many more as you can name (and, if possible, where they appeared)!

Things That Made Me Happy in the Spider-Man Cartoon!

  • Peter's teenage goofiness/optimism; it really helps contextualize everything else about the character.
  • The new theme song. Naturally, it's not as catchy as the original one, but it IS, as far as I could tell, confined to the pentatonic scale, which was the earmark of the original song. Nicely done.
  • Peter's beauty mark.
  • JJJ was perfect; that's important.
  • Oh, my god. They actually drew Peter with his shirt tag sticking up from his neckline. Now that's impressive.
  • Peter's cellphone is remarkably resilient to electrical shock, isn't it?
  • The Spider-signal. I just love that thing; it's so... apt. The Bat-Signal is used by others to call Batman into action; the Spider-Man uses the Spider-Signal to announce himself in battle. I'm surprised Lee doesn't have a "Stan-the-Man" signal built into his belt buckle. Yet.
  • "M-cubed" is a great name for a school!
  • Dr. Bromwell. Fans appreciate that sort of thing.
  • Great fight scenes!
  • The 9:58 phone call to May.
  • Villains galore. In one form or another, the Vulture, Electro, Hammerhead, the Big Man (who I'm thinking will actually turn out to be the Kingpin this time), the Green Goblin, the Lizard, Sandman, Venom, the Enforcers (Fancy Dan, Montana, & Ox); in one way or another they are were all there. And was that fat middle manager perhaps Dr. Otto Octavius? Was that Aleksei Sytsevich that Marko was working with? We'll find out at some point.
  • Peter's ringtone. Cute.
  • The Spider-patter was not all that annoying. Surprisingly.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Super-heroes I'm Mildly Embarrassed to Have the Hots For #1

Okay, it goes without saying that I -- and anyone else who has the hots for a comic book character --
should be embarrassed about it. But, of course, we're not.

And who can blame us? Unlike celebrity crushes, our crushes (on average) don't get any older, never get fat or have bad breath, are always available, and can be ours on a weekly basis for around three bucks. Sure, they're occasionally mind-controlled into murderous rages, deformed by bizarre secondary mutations, or the victims on astonishingly unwise costume re-designs. But no one's perfect.

Even so, there are some you're supposed to have crushes on -- the Dick Graysons and Hal Jordans of the world, the ones all the comic-book-reading cheerleaders giggle about in the girl's lockerroom -- and others you aren't supposed to have crushes on, the ones we skinny girls secretly moon over in art class.

Here's one I've never admitted in public...

Cannonball (Sam Guthrie)

I'm not embarrassed because he was probably underage when I first met him in the original X-Factor in, what was it, 1986. See, cuz now that makes him 21, so it's cool. Yes; that's how that works.

I'm not embarrassed because he's a backwood hick with what is surely an earthy smell. That doesn't embarrass me. Any more. You never met my ex, Roy, whose only comment during our first visit to the National Gallery of Art was, "So, are all them the originals?" True story.

I'm not embarrassed because he's not classically handsome and has a wild, unkempt haystack of hair. I've always been more drawn to intriguing faces than generically handsome ones (it's a moody art-class girl thing).

I'm not embarrassed because he's in skin-tight black spandex and leather with a studded collar, while sporting continual face scruff and disproportionately large hands. Actually, that's really hot.

No, I embarrassed because he's.... MARVEL.

Oh, well; no one's perfect.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • "Think clean thoughts, chum." Just as funny now as it was in 1985. If you're not reading Nightwing, you're missing out, folks.
  • The All-New Atom perfectly synopsizes superhero comics, in two panels.
  • "Who are we fighting?" Slowly, but surely, I'm beginning to love Donna Troy/Wonder Girl.
  • "Holy crow!" Robin needs to say that more. We all do.
  • I hope that if the time ever comes when I see the word "UNCOOL" burning on the ground, I'll know what to do... .
  • I know that when Ray said this, it wasn't supposed to be hilarious... "The nanoverse, the multiverse, and now Apokolips. No matter how bizarre my life gets, all I can think about is ... Jean." Even for Ray, Jean represents all the crazy-bad in the world!
  • "We are the Justice League because it's the right thing to be."
  • Even mountain goats don't know what to make of Aqualad's Girly Shrieking (tm). Of course, this is the first time you can't actually blame him for screaming...!
  • Red Lantern. Holy crow, they've managed to get me hooked on the Green Lantern Corps...!
  • Remember my post where I said no one quite knows where to triangulate Wonder Woman? I was wrong. Darwin Cooke does.
  • Thank you, Jason Todd, for being the one hero conscious of the need for traffic safety.
  • Batman's empathy for Blue Beetle and Booster Gold in JLU was one of the best bits of characterization all month.
  • I think I just stared for five minutes at the beauty of the house ad in New Frontier. I hope it's for real ... .
  • Wonder Girl crying? Very funny. Aqualad, while Wonder Girl's crying? Hilarious.
  • Ryan Choi enlarging one of his killer blood cells to the size of a VW. It's just the kind of thing a good comic book scientist is supposed to do.
  • Wonder Woman's "bra burning".
  • After the Teen Titans take down Green Arrow, the Flash, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman, Batman single-handedly beats the snot out of them.
  • "Bromophobe." Schwartz help me, I almost didn't hate Panda this month...!
  • Jonah Hex looked really hot this month. Er, from the neck down, anyway.
  • Robin the Boy Wonder carries a bat-handkerchief? Of course he does!
  • Ray Palmer hiding on the Heroclix Board of Doom.
  • The Demolition Team. I never thought I'd enjoy seeing the Demolition Team.
  • "Robin's cool." Yes, Aqualad; yes, he is.
  • "Please... my kidneys." Okay, Darwin Cooke is my new favorite humorist.
  • Wait... there's a gigantic metal statue of a PISTOL at the UN? That's hilarious! Particularly when there's a knot in the barrell.
  • The answer to "why Jimmy Olsen?"; simple and elegant.
  • So Robin starts out to bust a gang of hotrodders and winds up saving the President's life? That's our Boy Wonder!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Starman Goes Shopping

Meanwhile, outside the Opal City Megamall, we find the Golden Age Starman, just done picking up his weekly order of stellar cartography supplies from Starmart, when suddenly he espies a passel of the Green Arab's men, trying to heist a shipment of Crisis Heroclix on their way to the local Big Monkey. "The Green Arab's men! Probably after the highly resalable super-rares and chase figures; well, now they'll get a chase figure they didn't expect!"

After beating them senseless with his bare firsts and wit-wielding bravado, he uses his astonishing cosmic rod to levitate the truck back toward the loading bay, while instructing a local girl scout troop to truss up the bandits handily, in expectation of the arrival of Opal's Finest.

Just another ordinarily shopping trip for the Golden Age Starman, who then searches the parking lot for the Star-car so he can head back to the observatory with his purchases...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pogs in Crisis!

The big event this week is, of course, the release of the new DC Heroclix set, Crisis. It's got lots of Crisis-y types like Monitor, Harbinger, and the Psycho-Pirate (along with other figures that a normal person might want). But if you really want to replicate the feel of comics' most important and most vastly over-rated crossover, you need the little people who made it all possible. My first idea was to make a pog for each of the victims of the white walls of anti-matter. But after the first couple billion, the process grew somewhat tedious.

So I decided instead to focus on the supporting characters of Marv Wolfman's Magnum Opus.
Unfortunately, when your main cast includes every hero, villain, and other named character who's every appeared in over 40 years of DC's history, there's not much room for anyone else. Particularly when you've stupidly reserved all your character-development space for that prickly witch, Kimiyo Hoshi.

Still, a few figures manage to sneak in and stand out, and we mean to honor them by giving them bystander tokens to use in your new Crisis-themed Heroclix games.

The Founding Father!
Who knows who this guy might be? We know he's a signer of the Declaration of the Independence. Fortunately, from the picture, we have other clues: he's an older white male, who wears a wig; that should narrow it down! Any guesses? He's too thin to be Button Gwinnett; my money's on Caesar Rodney. Regardless, as a member of the FFs, he obviously gets Leadership.

Krunch, the Microphonophagic Caveman!
As previously mentioned, I love this guy. Is he actually eating the microphone, or just attempting to? This is just one of the infinite number of stories that will never be told, Mr. Didio, if you eliminate the multiverse. Again. Why, if this were Star Wars, someone would have written a fanfic novel explaining how this guy is Vandal Savage's father, Krunch Adg, and how Vandal turned him loose in a Warp Zone brothel, to produce for him lots of half-siblings whose body parts he could harvest later, saving his relationship with his daughter Scandal and a previously unmentioned brother, Randall "Randy Sue" Savage. Don't deprive us of that experience, Mr. Didio.

Harold J. Standish!
I could prate on and on about Harold's important role in cinematic history as the primary preservator of our silent film heritage. But it's moot because poor Harold isn't a bystander pog; he's a light object. Dead, you know. Dead and upstaged by, of all people, the Boring-est Man Alive, Barry Allen. Harold deserved better.

Barbecue Joan!
In her youth, Jay Garrick's wife Joan was a bombshell. Ah, but the years are not always kind, and I suppose trying to keep up with the world's fastest man must be wearing. What was once a beauty mark is now a hopefully-benign mole. By this point Joan looks like the pack-a-day waitress who gives you grief at a roadside diner just outside of Baltimore: "Ya want this steak medium, buddy, cuz I got otha tables, you know?" I'm thinking that steak is on the menu every night at the Garrick house. And baked potatoes with cream cheese. Ya want the apple pie with that, hon?

Drunk Wildcatita!

Oh, I know I should be nicer to her, but, honestly, I just can't do it. The espag-lish frac-toorado, the third-person self-reference, the... the bare feet. I abhor her. Oh, well, it's not too long after this that she swells the ranks of the Rolling Head of Pantha Back-Up Singers, courtesy of the not-particularly respectful Eclipso. But during the Crisis, she stumbled across the rooftops and out of our hearts, the perfect symbol of How the Opportunity Presented By a Universal Reboot Was About to Be Almost Completely Wasted. For that reason alone, she should be detested. Universally, so to speak. Note that she has Leap/Climb and Toughness, so you can have her stagger her way up to a rooftop, then knock her off with Force Blast. Good times.

The Warp Zone Newsboy!
In one panel, this one person has come to symbolize the indefatigable spirit of the entire DCU and its denizens. When the world -- not just yours, but ever world, and all possible worlds -- seems to be ending, what do you do?
Sell programs.

Mrs. Gofooey!

Now that is a broad. Mrs. G. is from the wide open spaces of the Old West (very wide). Now I know why all those movies were filmed in panoramavision. For obvious reason, she merits Toughness.

David & Phyllis Gerrold of Chicago!
Sure, laugh if you want, but they got more screen-time than Starman. And
they got lines. And four panels. And what did Starman get? Two one-panel postage stamp cameos, one of which was silent. More evidence of what a bad writer Wolfman is. You wanted DRAMA in Crisis? Starman IS drama.

Imagine how much cooler Crisis would have been-- would still be! -- if it had been told entirely from the perspective of the Golden Age Starman. Literature teachers would be giving their students COIE to read, instead of penny-dreadful folderol like Great Expectations.

But instead he chose the Gerrolds and the alter-dimensional after-image of their dead hippie daughter (extra points if you remember her name without looking it up!). Sigh. Yet another wasted opportunity due to the death of the multiverse.

Mr. Didio, these pogs cry out to you like moribund Whoville-ites: Do not kill our worlds!

In any case, readers, enjoy using this pogs with your new "Warp Zone" maps and Crisis clix!