Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ghost of Bat Toys Past

I want your help figuring out/finding something that I haven't been able to, even with the magic of the internet.

And, when I say "you" I mean you, too.

When I was a little boy I had a Batman toy that I can barely remember, but that haunts me all the more for it. This would be contemporary with the Adam West television show. It was a set of cutboard or paper cut-out figures that stood up by means of a cross-piece in their bases. I think they would have been about 2 inches tall, perhaps.

I really don't remember exactly whether there were Batman and Robin figures, but I particularly remember that there was an Alfred, a grandfather clock, and the Hot Line on telephone stand.

Honestly, that's all I can remember, but I've never been able to confirm the existence of this pieces, let alone what they were and where they might have come from.

Can you?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Dr. Hector Hammond, as he originally was.
  • Knowledge?! I wanted a leather jacket with my name on the sleeves!
  • And they were on sale, too? I suspect Blockade Boy, frankly... .
  • Fire stick = cigarette = Libra's staff. Nice.
  • That Alfred, in the midst of a raging fire, is still an unforgiving film critic.
  • Yeah, I'd probably just wear whatever my closet told me to wear, too.
  • "Condition Amber" made me laugh out loud.
  • Hal getting hit in the head with a yellow frisbee.
  • Oh my god. That's John. In an office. Like... like an architect. Seeing it feels like ... sacrilege.
  • Is that the Man-of-Bats shield?
  • The perfect cocktail.
  • The cover of "Recipes for Revenge".
  • Oh, Lex, sweetie; will you kill me if I tell you those pants make you look fat?
  • Well, of course he's naked; duh.
  • Even at the end, Clark has to scoop Lois.
  • Jaime's understated inability to let go what happened. Or what didn't.
  • Actually, Mr. Norg, I myself am quite disappointed about his serious interest.
  • Rolex Chronoberg?
  • Blindingly obvious. Heh. Heh heh.
  • Geoff Johns, who is clearly some sort of superhuman, fixing everything about the Toyman in, essentially, one panel. Sheer genius.
  • Orion = God of War = Mars = Manhunter = D.O.A.
  • "Hit 'em like Napoleon" is the new "Bend it like Beckham".
  • It's really hard to overuse the word "orrery".
  • I... I love you, Solaris.
  • "I'm twenty-two!"
  • Okay, who set up those two for a date?! Not E-harmony!
  • Hey, Batman's doing "Someone's taking my life apart piece by piece" and "Everything I know about myself is lie" at the same time. Grant Morrison is SO innovative!
  • H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.
  • That Ocean Master is at the table.
  • How is it possible that 1011 doesn't mean anything significant in binary. Morrison so loves speaking binary.
  • I dunno--don't children always look like that? They do to me.
  • I'm sure J'onn would agree with you, Dan.
  • It took me a while to figure it out, but that's the toy train Clayface knocked Batman out with 60 years ago. Nice memory, Grant.
  • Wait... she kissed JO?! Good lord, it's like Degrassi in the 31st Century!
  • Beagle.
  • Nasty.
  • Air hammers.
  • Welcome mat. Heh. Of course.
  • Now that's heartburn.
  • Dark Side's limp.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Reading by the Light of the Human Flame

Now, it goes without saying that Justice League writer Dwayne McDuffie knows his stuff, so I can only assume that the apparent gaffes and oddities in the most recent issue of JLA are, in fact, coded commentary on Final Crisis and the like. Because his story has the Human Flame in it, and any story with the Human Flame in it must be deep with meaning.

Baltimore? They have banks--with vaults-- in Baltimore?!

Dwayne's being clever here. Instead of overtly saying "the Human Flame is a second-rate loser" he simply places him in Baltimore, making it implicit. Very clever.

Psst, hey, Mike; there's no big tank on your back. The fire shooting out of your nipples is fueled solely by the same thing it was in your first appearance: the imagination of the writers.

By the way; isn't that a little too hot? Conventional oxyacetylene torches run between 3200 and 3500 degrees C; even a frickin' Henrob 2000 model only burns at 3800 C. Imagination is a powerful fuel, it seems.

Mike's self-deception continues, when he tries to pin the blame for his odd moniker on tabloid editors:

To which I can only reply:


A mistake? Certainly not. It's part of showing us how self-deluding the Human Flame is. The Human Flame, remember, symbolizes over-reaching human ambition. And ambition never blames itself for its failures; it displaces the blame on others. "Oh, I didn't give myself my stupid name; someone else did that to me. The press; yes, it was the press!" I bet he even remembers it that way now, having repeated the lie to himself and others often enough. Yeah, if you get sent to prison with a name like the Human Flame you better have a good story to go with it.

Anyway, speaking of self-deception....

"Anymore"?! "I'm not a glamorous super villain ANYMORE"?!?!?!?!. Mike. Mikey, Mikey, Mikey. You were NEVER a glamorous supervillain. You were never even a super villain at all. You were a presumptuous hermit tinkerer who robbed exactly ONE bank, and the World's Ugliest Bank at that. And it doesn't stop there...

A long time ago? Yeah, and in a galaxy far, far way, I guess. Meanwhile, in this galaxy, you were never in the Big Leagues, Mike. You know who was Bigger League than you?
Cutlass Charlie, who fought the Justice League; Bug-Eyed Bandit, who died in the Crisis; Colonel Computron, who got an entry in Who's Who; the Penny Plunderer, who has a permanent memorial in the Batcave. You, Mike, are not in their league, let along the Big Leagues.

You've never been in a supervillain group in your life, Mike, not even the Secret Society of Supervillains and they took anybody, including Torpedo-Man. No, Mike, you haven't seen this movie. Unless you're being literal and you actually meant, "I watched Challenge of the SuperFriends on the video player at the Apex Prison Library one night."

One more thing to show how far Mike has fallen out of touch with reality:

A police response time of 8 minutes... in Baltimore?! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!! Perhaps if there's a police station next door and there's no reruns of the Wire showing on the tube.

As for the non-professional aspects of Mike's self-deception... well, I'm just going to be kind and completely not mention how Libra goes out of his way to tell all the big time villains that Mike's a husband and father. Who knows, maybe the California Supreme Court on New Earth is just a lot faster than ours, and somewhere off panel a balding, cancer-impaired Joey is pointlessly polishing his unused Kenneth Coles with his old wedding dress and remembering his heyday with Mike in "the Big Leagues".

Oh, by the way, did you notice Mike's new affectation?


Now, we all know that the fire doesn't come out of the gloves on the Crime Suit (tm); it comes out of the polyareolar array on the chest. In fact, putting out your hand in front of you while concrete-incinerating flames burst forth from your chest seems not merely pointless, but both unnatural and unwise. It is just a meaningless flourish that Mike picked up from reading too many Fantastic Four comics?

Ha! As if. As we have previously discovered, NOTHING is without meaning when it comes to the Human Flame. He burns brightly with semiotic incension. So, what does this gesture really mean? There are three principal possibilities, which may all be true simultaneously.

1. The "hidden button" that activates the fire-nips is built into the gloves of the crime suit.
2. It's yet another reference to the Hand of Doom imagery that we've seen in DC Universe #0 that will be central to Final Crisis.
3. It presages that Mike will, courtesy of Libra, experience Power Internalization (tm) which will result in scenes where he create spontaneous fire through a classic "zappy power focused along extended arm" pose.

We'll all find out together; after all, it must mean something. It's the Human Flame.

Note that Mike is drawn as, well, hefty. Mike was NOT fat in his original story; you can tell by his head shot at the end of his first adventure that he wasn't a fatty. His "crime suit" was just very heavily padded. It would have to be, to insulate you against some 8100 degrees F!!! I mean, that's hotter than Vixen's pantie drawer.

Clearly, this is not a mistake; DC writers and artists simply don't make mistakes. Jeanette Kahn and T.M. Maple would never stand for it. So I interpret Mike's rubenesquiosity as another sign of his degradation. How fall he's fallen from when he lived in a unkempt wooden shack in the wilds of Florida! Must be all that fine prison food that's fattened him up.

Still, despite being a washed up, overweight loser, he still kicks Hawkgirl's and Red Arrow's patooties. By the way, Hawkgirl and Red Arrow patrolling ... Baltimore? Too perfect. I can just picture Roy field-testing his sodium bicarbonate arrow against the Citrus Gang from atop the Bromo Seltzer Tower or Kendra hurling her mace through walls at the Geppi Museum shouting, "Have you people never even heard of the principles of wayfinding?!"

Of course, you realize that Hawkgirl's wings aren't what keep her aloft; the Nth metal in her costume does that. The wings just let her direct her flight. So she wouldn't fall if she had to abandon her wings. Clearly, it's more meta-meaning from McDuffie: the Human Flame of amibtion has the power to topple the superhero gods from the altars on which they've placed themselves, a foreshadowing of the fate of you-know-who (because I've already read Final Crisis #1, ya know!).

That's one last strange "inaccuracy" in this JLA story. I've read the original Libra story -- after all, DC just republished it this month in the DC Universe Special : Justice League-- and there isn't the slightest intimation, suggestion, or clue that Libra is an alien, let alone an alien "warlord". I mean, what's up with that?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Arcs De Triomphe

Ten "Arcs" that Most Superheroes Must Endure Even Though Almost None of Them Should

  • The Year In Space
  • A Shadowy Figure is Deploying All My Enemies Against Me, in Sequence
  • What Do You Mean I've Been Replaced?
  • And That's Why I Need This New Costume!
  • My City Has Been Destroyed
  • Well, Then, I'll Just Operate WITHOUT Official Sanction
  • Someone's Taking Away My Life, Piece by Piece
  • I Must Reclaim My Life, Piece By Piece
  • I Never Thought of Myself as Leader, But Now I Have to be
  • You Mean, Everything I Knew About Myself Was a Lie...?!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Consider asking your local comic book store to try PISTOLFIST from BlueWater Comics; we're trying it here at Big Monkey.

It's about a runaway slave in early America who dons a mask to fight for freedom. And, c'mon; you can't beat Benjamin Franklin as a supporting cast member: "I caution you again, sir, do not address me as 'Chief'!"

Pistolfist #1
Author(s): J.S. Earl and David A. Flanary, Jr
Artist(s) Andres Guinaldo
Cover Artist(s): 2 covers: Joel Robinson and Mario Gully

How precious is your freedom? Would you fight for it? Would you dare to die for it? Set amidst the American Revolution, this critically-acclaimed series follows the saga of a mysterious, masked runaway slave whose destiny is helplessly entwined with that of a famous, yet frail, Benjamin Franklin. Inspired by true characters and events, you’ll soon discover why fans and fellow creators alike have chosen to “rev it up!

Oh, and for those of you who are budding costume designers (Hi, Jeremy!), there's a contest to design a costume for a modern day version of the character. Oh, make sure it has pilgrim shoes; I just love the pilgrim shoes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Eyes Have It

As I've mentioned before, and more than once, the real reason I pick on Hal Jordan so much is to try to mask and defuse my utter terror

of him.

For Hal Jordan wields the most powerful, the most terrifying weapon in the entire DC Universe:


The Fourth Wall means nothing to Hal Jordan.

You see, he knows you're watching him.

And, it's okay, because...

because he likes to be watched.

And -- although it's best if you don't think about it -- it works both ways.
Yes. Hal Jordan is watching you, too.

Though he tries to convince you he can't really see you...

When he turns his transquartomuralistic vision on you the reader, it sucks your soul out of your eyes.

Your soul is a mere power battery on which he charges his spent and empty sense of self-worth.

"In brightest day,
in blackest night,
no reader shall escape my sight

let those who worship Marvel's might
beware my eyes,
both left
and right!"

Every year at the annual Klordny party, Hal used to slay the entire Corps with his dead-on impersonation of Tomar-Re.And Hal loves to slay the entire Corps!

"Great Guardians! From either angle..
...I'm just as beautiful!"

In this panel, Hal tries to blame last night's debauchery...

on poor Liberace.

"My GOD, my thumb is beautiful!"

"And to think...
they gave Flash a museum...!"

"Now, Hal, using the doll...
show the court where Flash touched you."

"Highball" Jordan? No, no...

"Eyeball" Jordan.

"Let's see what was it I had to do before leaving town. Oh yes, now I remember..."

"Kill and eat my neighbor, Mr. Johnson!"

"Did you know that my power ring can make you forget anything I do to you, Sally P? Even when it involves energy-construct aardvarks, like it did last week?"

He only makes it look easy. He actually has a daily routine of Extreme Eyercise to keep his peepers perfectly poppable.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Eyes of Hal Jordan!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Okay, bravo; whoever came up with that solution deserves a Leslie Thompkins Humitarian Award! Elegant. In character. Explanatory!
  • "Why don't you call it the Star Chamber?" He really does have a good sense of humor, you know.
  • How fabulous is spooky new Sandy "Sandman" Hawkins? Very.
  • "It doesn't matter; we always show the victim's family."
  • His last name is Miller? How perfectly generic and delightfully unspectacular!
  • The Faust Family photo.
  • Zowie, that Dexter Bennet's a corker; at least JJJ was an HONEST bastard.
  • I have to admit these are very interesting new versions of the Fourthworlders... .
  • John Stewart designed that "room"? LOL, how many seconds did that take?!
  • Giant metal banana.
  • So I assume that strip joint used to be the old Central City Community Theater...? It would explain a lot.
  • Why the jar can't be opened; now that's comic book irony.
  • "She really loved that tray." Is Spider-Man becoming one of my favorite books, and does this signal the end of the world?
  • Lightning's battle cry; wish I'd thought of it first! It's almost as good as "This is going to be oomphy!"
  • Batman cheering up Superman by visiting him in jail.
  • "My toof!"
  • Catwoman gets back to business without missing a beat, thanks to Pfeiffer.
  • Paparazzo Parker; clever idea.
  • The Redbird; now, why didn't I think of that?
  • "Is that a euphemism?" made me laugh out loud.
  • Okay, seeing Wonder Woman's head on Aquaman's body is darned disturbing.
  • Good bless you, zany Tom Peyer, for making Flash not only readable but wacky fun.
  • The Penguin's meta-commentary.
  • Clever use of Lichtenstein, Mr. Slott.
  • Yeah, I'd be hesitant to admit I'd been fighting Mr. Polka Dot, too.
  • Best. Finger-puppets. Ever.
  • "Somebody flattened her." Snort!
  • Thank you, Dwayne, for writing a conversation between the Big Three that actually sounds like a conversation between the Big Three.
  • "You only need to make him scream, Dad; I'll handle the rest." Oh, you naughty, naughty man!
  • The new Snapper Carr.
  • If getting their butts handed to them by the Human Flame doesn't prove Red Arrow and Hawkgirl don't belong in the League, I don't know what could.
  • Even I am impressed by a slash page that quotes both Williams Shakespeare and Charles Schulz.
  • If those kids don't get codenames soon, I'm going to have to assume they're going to die soon.
  • Paper Doll; great villain.
  • Granny Goodness discovers a new mode of transportation, including its disadvantages.
  • Sigh; if only he'd pour himself down MY throat... .
  • Even Batman has to smile at the fact that, well, Batman's not stupid.
  • The Flash's winter jacket.
  • The Godmobile.
  • Felix's sign; no home should be without one.
  • She's reading "Faust"? Isn't that a little over the top, even for them?
  • "Let me give you my six secrets of survival!"
  • The Human Flame making a fool out of Lex Luthor.
  • Oh, and for those of you who don't already know it: Athena's eyes are famously grey, not green.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Advice from My Grandfather

My grandfather, a columnist, is dying.

He was rather a well known public personality in my hometown, so there's a good deal of public reaction, well-wishing, and remembrance. And the circumstances are prolonging the phenomenon; since he is very strong and extremely stubborn man, he is not going quickly, despite having been able to receive no food or drink for seven days now.

My grandfather, a Mark Twain-like figure among the locals, is a man of stories; to him, life is not just a thing to be done, but a thing to be talked about. He understands the power of narrative and helped many people -- generations, really -- of my fellow Yorkers realize that life has a story to tell, at every level, every day.

It's an odd situation to be the relative of a dying or recently dead public figure, even just a local one. There are so many people who feel they know your relative so well from his public work. But usually they don't.

The writer, the actor, the performer; they are edited by themselves and others, and what the public sees is a just a version of them. Be wary of assuming that you know what someone really thinks and feels from what they write -- bloggers included. I've been amazed at some of things I've "discovered" about myself based on the perceptions of readers. For any given subject X, various readers decided that I love X, I hate X, I'm a merciless critic of X, I'm a nostalgic supporter of X, I'm deadly serious about X, I find X absurd and hilarious, I know nothing about X, I'm an X-pert, or I don't deserve to live in a world that has X in it.

My advice on reading either blogs or comics is relax and enjoy, if you can; your favorite writers are probably more interested in telling a good story than in fitting into your idea of what their continuity is. Don't waste time trying to figure out what I -- or any other writer -- "really thinks" about something. As my grandfather always used to say, "It's just a column; it's just another story."

Whatever Happened to...?

When last we saw lovely lady lawyer Jean Loring, she was plummeting into the deep ocean from a great height, where a shark zoomed in to attack her.

An unconscious Jean Loring versus nature's perfect killing machine. That poor, poor shark.Now that Jean's free of the Black Diamond, there's nothing to hold back her crazy-evil. Funny; it's all sort of familiar, too. Oh, yeah, that's right...

Anyway, this, and our recent commentary about disappearing supporting cast members and "supporting castastrophes" makes me want to ask you the question....


Harold the Hunchback

You remember him, right? The mute hunchback, who was a Denominated Henchman (tm) of the Penguin, then became a Batman wage slave. Well, food slave, really, since Harold never left the Batcave to spend any money. Bruce is a shrewd one: supplying cave-and-board in exchange for a mechanical genius to repair all your bat-paraphernalia is a pretty good deal. "Alfred, whatever time you've gained from Harold's being with us, I want you to spend clipping coupons." Who says billionaires can't be frugal?

The last I saw of Harold, I think, was before the Gotham Earthquake, wherein he (and Ace the Bat-Bernard) presumably died. Or did Hush The World's Greatest Neurosurgeon (copyright Polite Dissent) make him over one afternoon into a Demosthenetian Abercrombie & Fitch model? I may have nightmared that; the whole Hush story is just a muddled, blurry mess in my mind. And outside of my mind, too.

Hoppi (sp?)

No, not the Marvel Bunny. I mean Wonder Woman's Indian co-worker at Taco Whiz; I really liked her. I was terribly amused that Gail Simone recently had Etta Candy refer to Wonder Woman's working at Taco Whiz pre-Zero Hour. I think that should be one of Etta Candy's literary functions: to repeatedly refer to every stupid, embarrassing thing Wonder Woman's ever done or been party to, in any medium. The courtship of Darkseid; marching against milk companies, fighting Dr. Domino; the dress shop. There should never be any other evidence that such things every happened; just Etta, acting as Meta-Candy.

Anyway, it's probably best that we've not heard from Hoppi again, because if she came back we'd probably discover that she's now the Ambassador to/from India, or the U.S. Secretary of Nutrition or something. Kind of like how Jeff Pierce became Secretary of Education and Linda Park became the World Expert on Hyperspeed Physiology (tm).

Woozy Winks

I didn't read Kyle Baker's Plastic Man (because, like most other modern versions, it missed Jack Cole's central concept that Plastic Man was the Straight Man in his own comic), so the last I saw of Woozy Winks was his origin story, the one where he was a crackerjack fighting-machine secret agent (the Green Dragon!), until he got trapped with a bleeding Plastic Man, and went permanently loopy from the glue-sniffing effects of Plaz's plasma. I love that story.

Since which, Plastic Man has become a Marvel character, ruined by soap suds, and saddled with an illegitimate son due to an insanely slavish devotion to Mark Waid's elseworld of "Kingdom Come", which to me is just about as stupid as continually referring to Alfred's "Batman II" or Bob Haney's Super-Sons. I couldn't care less about "Offspring" (and, apparently, neither does anyone else); let's get back to Woozy.

Wally's Mom
I adored that woman. Unimpressed by her son's superhero/superstar status, she was an inveterate nag whose sometimes-dead husband, Rudy, was a species-traitor and longtime louse. The last I remember of her, she'd given up on trying to turn Wally into a decent human being, married David Niven, and adopted a life of international adventure, all of which was highly uncharacteristic of her. Since Wally's mom was one of the few superhero parents ever to become a recurring castmember, and one with such a strong and memorable personality, I find the blackout of information on her very disturbing; Wally has not once mentioned her since she got married. Did she contract a rare, fatal fever plague after handling pirate treasure on a Caribbean cruise? Is she working for Checkmate? Did she and David go scuba diving in the South Pacific and get eaten by Jean Loring? We may never know.

Oh, and it's not just her. Mason Trollbridge. Chester Runk, the fifth most dangerous man in the world. Connie. The McGees. Chuck Cunningham. Detectives Scylla & Charybdis, or whoever those guys were. I swear, "The Flash" is the Diff'rent Strokes of comic books: once you're seen in it, you're never heard from again. Perhaps they're all just lost somewhere, wandering purposelessly along one of the vast boulevards of the sprawling madness that is Central City, pestering passers-by: "Can you tell me who I am? Have you seen my Dynastic Centerpiece? Are you my mommy?"

Supply answer if you can, but also tell us,

who are your favorite missing supporting cast members?