Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ching for a Day

As you may remember from Widowmaker Week, Mike Sekowsky wasn't merely a bad artist; he was a bad writer as well. Such a confluence of non-talent is rare, particularly among those who actually get to create comics for a living.

Now, thanks to
Diana Prince: Wonder Woman Volume 2, I can fail to appreciate even more of Sekowsky's work! Thanks, DC, for reprinting this stuff; I can think of nothing I'd rather not enjoy more! Besides, now everyone can own his own copy of the Widowmaker story. Every comic-book lover's home should have one, as Exhibit A for the inevitable party debate on "Why They Shouldn't Keep Allowing Artists to Write". Okay, Exhibit B, really; the Kirby Omnibus has to be Exhibit A.

In one Sekowsky story, we begin with a classic conflict between two of DC's bitterest nemeses, Diana Prince and the "I Ching", Master of Oriental Inscrutability (tm). As you'll remember (I hope) from the Widowmaker, these two make Batman and the Joker look like BFFs.

The story begins in medias res. Diana, furious that Ching used the last of her "Purple Healing" Hair Conditioner, thus leaving her with unmanageable split ends, has broken Ching's Braille-reading finger, forcing him to call his doctor, who recommends a visits to the emergency room:

After they return, Ching uses the incident to gain the upperhand in their little war, and, in exchange for not pressing charges, demands that Diana be his woman-servant/beyotch.

"Yes, an old and valued friend; unlike you, the new, worthless 'Wonder Woman' with no powers."

"Of course, Ching. Oh, by the way, do you like that huge bouquet of flowers I bought you? Aren't they incredibly beautiful? Oh, that's right; I'm sorry, Ching, I forgot... ."

"Why don't you go on-line, Ching, and use Travelocity? Oh, that's right; you're blind! Then, I guess you won't see me packing these hideous clothes I bought that will make you the laughing stock of the Hong Kong fashion scene. Ha! Ha ha! And I know hideous clothes; have you seen my dress shop? Oh, that's right, Ching; I'm sorry, I forgot... ."
Editor's Note: Special guest artist on this panel is Lynn Johnston!

"At first I thought we might take your invisible plane but, then I remembered... why, you lost that along with your powers, didn't you, Diana dear?"

Ching really just wanted a ride to the airport, but Diana, who has no intention of letting him get away that easy, announces that she's coming with.

"Oh, I'm still coming with you. I owe you a lot, Ching. Like maybe a fall from 30,000 feet into the Pacific Ocean when you're not looking. Oh, but I forgot... you're always 'not looking', aren't you?"

Clearly, Ching needs some help with Diana; besides...
a writer like Mike Sekowsky could
certainly use help from someone like Patrick McGuire.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

25 Things That Made Me Happy in San Diego this Week

Okay, today I was planning a Bronze-age comic reinterp in my usual style, but gosh darn, all this interesting news from San Diego and elsewhere just has me brimming over with happiness and excitement that I must share (unoriginal though that might be)!

1. Wonder Woman Animated Feature
Oh, my Zeus; she actually LOOKS kind of Greek. Excellent. Not only it is an original story rather than an adaptation (yay!) but it's got decapitation (YAY!!). Remember, when making an animated feature... adaptation bad, decapitation good.

2. Secret Invasion Heroclix Set
Wizkids is really working the theme on this set, with figures that may or may not be Skrulls, depending on which dial they happen to have. Besides, it has a number of Aquatic figures, most of which I've already acquired multiple instances of, to adapt for my Aquaman games!

3. Gaiman on Batman
Sure, it's only two issues. But it's some kind of retrospective on the various eras of Batman, which is timely, and it's Gaiman back on comics. And mainstream comics to boot (because it doesn't get more mainstream than Batman). If Morrison on Batman is one of the Signs of the Apocalypse, than Gaiman on Batman is a Sign of the Rapture.

4. Johns on Superman
From the encompassing revamp of Brainiac to the Silver Age insanity of a city of Kryptonians, John's is breathing life back into the Superman story. When things like this used to happen, I used to fret, "I wonder how long before I can forget this misstep happened!" Currently, I have enough faith in Johns et al., that my feeling is more like, "Ah, an interesting new element to expand the Superman mythos!"

5. Decisions
No matter what they do with this, it will say more about real-world politics and how politics might play in a superhero universe than all of Marvel's Civil War put together, which was, in the final analysis, just another excuse to have Marvel heroes fight one another, instead of villains. Besides, it will no doubt have Ollie Queen making an ass of himself, and Superman being more noble than everyone else. That's what they do.

6. Submit
No, I'm not big on Grant Morrison, and I'm even smaller on Kirby's Fourth World, but the absurdity of the Black Lightning/Tatooed Man combo is not something I can resist.

7. XS
I am really enjoying the Legion right now under Jim Shooter's pen, but there are elements of the previous version of the Legion that I still miss. XS, Impulse's cousin, is one I miss a lot, and no one who read her guest-star appearance in his book can ever forget it. She's going to play in part in Whatever Is Being Done With The Lightning Rod From The Lightning Saga, and I hope she's still around in the Legion after that.

8. Batwoman's crotch shoots fire!
It just works on so many levels. I really don't think she should have a superpower, but if she does, that's definitely the one.

9. El Diablo
I'll say it; the original El Diablo wasn't good, and isn't fondly remembered (or remembered at all). But that doesn't stop DC, which just looks at that sort of thing as a challenge to its creativity! In fact, taking something that was never very good to begin with, and turning it into the Next Hot Thing (JSA; Blue Beetle; Booster Gold) is one of things DC does best. Diablo had a very memorable guest-appearance in the new Jonah Hex series, and he brings to the table a unique combination of mysticism and cowboyism, the kind of odd mash-up that DC excels at.

10. Batman versus Catman
I really didn't think I'd live to see this. Growing up, Catman was just this legendary character from the Batman Encyclopedia. He's been back in style for some time, and his face-off with his original foe is long overdue. Batman deserves an anti-Batman and no-one is currently filling that role (adequately).

11. Ragman
In the Robin solicit, a conflict with Ragman is mentioned. Ah, you forgot he's from Gotham, didn't you? He is. And now that he's free from his previous engagement (Shadowpact), I think he'll be a welcome addition to the Gotham cityscape. A low-rent mash-up of Batman and Spectre adds to the mix in The City That Never Shines.

12. Dr. Polaris
Dr. Polaris coming up in Blue Beetle is great on several levels. First and foremost, it's Dr. Freaking Polaris, people. His versatility is amazing; he can be a serious serious threat, a scenery-chewing Republic villain, a wild-eyed crazy person, a scientific genius, even comic relief. Or any combination. He's a utility player. Second, pitting him against Blue Beetle is smart. Jaime needs villains, and Blue Beetle is sort of connected to the Green Lantern dynasty as kind of a "Kid Lantern", so putting him with a long-standing and currently underused GL villain works well for all involved. Third, it sounds like someone's going to be using Doc P to full potential, not just as a boxing opponent, but a behind the scene chess-type foe as well. Because that's where the real money is (as we learned in The Dark Knight film).

13. Supergirl/ Silver Banshee
Face it, we all know Supergirl's needed an intervention for some time now, and it looks like she's finally getting one. Even her brief appearances in Geoff Johns' Superman has made her more likable by a hundredfold. Making Cat Grant her bane, tying her in more closely to Superman's story (she's going to have a Supertriangle; see below), and giving her foes to fight (like Silver Banshee) are all big steps in the right direction. Besides ... I have always loved Silver Banshee's look. Particularly the earrings.

14. Starro
Starro is guest-starring in Booster Gold (THE place to be seen nowadays; what the Batman TV series was to Hollywood stars, Booster Gold is to the DCU characters). Starro takes over Rip Hunter, I believe, and hijinx ensue. I love Starro. Every night as I go to be a say a loving "good-night" to my giant Starro heroclix figure on the pillow next to mine. Oh, and, you know what I really really really want? A starro eye-pillow/nightmask. Really.

15. Earth-2
Without proper access to the multiverse (I mean, as resource, not just as a plot point), DC's been squirming around for years like a one-legged centipede. This upcoming Earth-Two/Power Girl storyline in JSA sounds like it will really bring back the Earth-2 we remember to represent the Golden and Silver Ages, and maybe even another Earth to represent the Bronze Age. Long overdue (especially since we get told at least once a year that the Multiverse is coming back).

16. Wonder Woman the Movie
No, they aren't making a Wonder Woman film, but they are telling the story of what happens in the DCU when someone does decide to make a WW movie. This is kind of innovative, yet commonsensical storytelling I've come to expect and eagerly anticipate from Gail Simone. Like most people, I've been underwhelmed by this Claw the Uncared For detour and I'm anxious to learn more about the impact of a person like Wonder Woman on our world (that means the DCU), not the mystical travismorganverse (which is also where Phil Jimenze wandered off-track).

17. Billy Batson
I love all-ages books, both conceptual and (usually) in practice. I'm delighted that DC didn't just let the Jeff Smith Captain Marvel experiment drop, but is putting out a Cap book based on it. Captain Marvel really does do better in his own special world, and I hope that adults readers don't spurn the book because of its more abstract artistic style (which many readers nowadays associate with juvenility but which I associate with universality).

18. Unknown Soldier
I'm not a fan of DC's war stories per se, but I'm a big supporting of (re-)expanding its line beyond standard cape-action. They began with their old Western line, and are trying their darnedest with their War line. The War That Time Forgot, for example (or, as we call it at my store, The Book That Everyone Forgot). Updating the Unknown Soldier by placing him in Uganda is inspired. Ours is a world of many theaters of war, rather than One Big War in Europe, and DC seems to be taking advantage of that storytelling opportunity.

19. Archie Heroes
Okay, I knew that DC had acquired the Archieverse heroes, but to actually ... use them? In the DCU proper?? In the Brave & the Bold title??? Genius. Like the Borg, DC continues to find and assimilate new species, adding their individual strengths to the collective.

Some of these guys are just so perfect. The Black Hood, a cursed superhero identity that kills its wearers in an on-going legacy of heroic doom? Hey, it's like the Flash! The Comet, the first superhero killed in the line of duty, and his brother, Hangman? This kind of Golden Age doomed legacy stuff is like dessert to Geoff Johns! Besides, admit it; you want a hero named Flygirl.

19. Milestone
The Great Experiment for Black comics creators in the 1990s, Milestone, was an imprint of DC Comics, but now its characters are coming back as part of the DCU proper. This is fabulous in several ways. One, it adds some solid characters who are black and who aren't just a legacy of some other hero. And one of them is Static (Shock); I loved that show. Two, it brings their fictional city, Dakota, with them. As the head of the DCU's tourist bureau, I believe strongly the DC should have almost NOTHING but fictional cities. After all, every time you use a "real city" in a comic, it's a fictionalize version of it anyway, so why constrain yourself when you don't gain realism from it anyway? Three, it adds to whole expansive Borginess of the DCU; resistance is cute, but it's ultimately futile. If you want your characters to survive, the best chance is to have them be part of the Biggest Comic Book Sandbox of them all.

For those kids too young to remember, all the Superman titles used to be united in one loose storyline, and on each issue a small triangle appeared containing a number that guided you as to the proper order for reading them. This era was perhaps the height of my interest in the Superman titles, because the coordinated titles really gave the creators a chance to fill out Metropolis and its characters. It was the kind of myth-building that hadn't been done since the Silver Age. The return of the Supertriangles and other evidence make it clear that the central Superstory is going to be broader and wackier than it has been in some.

22. The Haunted Tank in Iraq
Really. I mean, just say it, out loud: "The Haunted Tank, in Iraq". What more do you need to know? DC's making some bold attempts to update its war titles with new relevancy, and I think it's great. I hope the readers reward the efforts.

23. B&B Animated
Judging from the trailer, this show will rock, and anyone who insists on bitching that "*sigh* it's just not Batman the Animated Series, though, is it?" can suck it up and shut it up. Move on; that was 16 years ago. We're not in the dark Iron Age any longer, we're in the bright Platinum Age, and I, for one, consider that a very high quality problem.

24. New GA/BC writer.
It's not because I don't like the current writer. I don't, of course, but that's not the point. The new writers are going to put Connor Hawke back on the table and return the action squarely to the desperately-in-need-of-fleshing out Star City. That's mythbuilding stuff there, on top of the new focus on what makes the title unique: it has two big stars, and they're married to each other.

25. The Flash
Barry Allen's coming back. Big time. And he's going to kick your butt. It's clear that the new creative team for this project "gets" Barry, and why this is his time. They also seems intent on making all the Flash stuff cohere as part of a bigger "Flashiverse", with Barry as the pivot point. I'm beginning to think the all stripes of Flash-fans are going to be able to have their cake and eat it, too. We're not going to be asked to choose which Flash we want; they're simply going to expand the world to make it big enough for all of them, exactly as was done when Jay Garrick became part of New Earth.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Super Barbershop!

For most of you, it might be geeky enough merely to be a comic book fan.

Not I.

I'm also a barbershopper.

Oh, yes, though it doesn't come up here often, that's my hobby and what takes up most of my leisure time. My last vacation? A week in Nashville competing at the International Convention.

Kind of makes comic books seem tame, huh?

Anyway, I don't usually don't think of barbershop and comic books at the same time, because that confluence of geekiness is almost too powerful for me.


But someone asked me, so now I have to consider:

What part does/would these heroes sing?

Superman. Ah, Superman, the voice of the superhero community. Superman is a Lead. Not only do Leads sing the melody, they are often the visual focus. They, like Superman, are the one the audience looks to. They lead the other parts not directly, but by example. They don't intentional do anything to have the other parts follow them; the other parts simply fall in line with the Lead. Kind of like how Superman is within the superhero community. Besides what with superbreath, superventroliquism, and superhearing, Superman is definitely the master of his own voice, tone, and breathing.

But Clark Kent? Clark Kent is a baritone, obviously. Focused on fitting in, being invisible (and inaudible), varying what he's done to blend into his surroundings. Definitely a baritone.

Batman. Batman is (and no real surprise here) the reverse of Superman. Batman is a baritone: elusive, highly intelligent, focused on getting the job done, and making all the pieces fit, rather than on drawing attention to himself. He's content to stay in the shadows and is the most "professional" of all singers. Bruce Wayne is a Lead. Not a loud lead, but a Lead with a clear and pretty voice, and a suspiciously strong lower range.

Green Lantern. Oh my god. Lead, lead, lead. Vain, self-centered, over-confident, not particularly bright: a Lead, no question. Pays no attention to details, his fellow singers, or the composer's intentions. The kind of Lead who indulges in loud, long hangers, fueled by willpower. Hal's a Lead.

Flash. Either Wally or Barry, it's the same: Tenor. High, clear, reedy; sticks on a note with laser-like focus and zips along melismatically, making quick minute adjustments and making it look light and easy. Like any tenor, the Flash isn't about raw power, but technique in using his one niche ability to the fullest. The Flash is a Tenor.

Green Arrow. C'mon, you know this already. Loud. Bull-headed. Fancies himself a ladies' man, even though everyone is really paying attention to the Leads. Has only a few cadences that he hits again and again, and proud of it. Not bright enough to realize that he's not the star. Green Arrow is obviously a bass.

Hawkman. Reliable. Focused. Serves as a team backbone, whether it's JLA or JSA. Hawkman's a Bass.

Aquaman. Oh, he's one of those utility singers who's not the best at any one part, but can sing them all credibly. You know; the guy who teaches other guys how to sing tags. Can sing Lead, prefers to sing Bari, but usually winds up singing Bass or Tenor because everyone he hangs out with is already a Lead or a Bari. Singers like Aquaman are never in a winning quartet, but are always singing with somebody because they get along with everybody; they're just happy to be singing something.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • I read Pistolfist. It was much better than I'd hoped; I enjoyed it very much; I recommend you read it, too.
  • "Bruce in a cave." That's just pure funny.
  • Amazo's new symbol, which is of course reminiscent of the Composite Superman.
  • Diana Price and Etta Candy, just shopping.
  • "I have a wife, three kids, and a toy poodle."
  • Sea monkey? Hilarious!
  • "Invinciboy".
  • The Kirbyesque flashback sequence for Atlas.
  • Benjamin Franklin, tripping on his own stockings.
  • "I bring him along to scoop up the leftovers."
  • Cap's Hobby Center appeared TWICE in one week....?!
  • The Two-Face origin story is actually pretty engaging, and I've never liked Harvey Bullock more.
  • "That's why I'm making a chart of when different people turned into apes." It's sentences like THAT that I read comics for, people.
  • Two former aerialists working together.
  • Stealing Zatanna's mouth.
  • So do Mark Grayson and Jaime Reyes need to go shopping together, or what?
  • Dick shows Tim how to use wealth.
  • Crispus Attuck's brother.
  • JLA was another fine Heroclix game this week, but wasn't robbing Amazo of his speed the FIRST thing Wally should have done? I still say Wally's an idiot.
  • Jim Shooter keep the plot coming fast and furious in Legion!
  • Bat-Gibbon's deductions about simian species.
  • "You did move all the way around the world, and told us in a note. It was a bit inconsiderate."
  • So, since the cougars officially call Tim "the adopted son", and do NOT call Dick that, I'm pretty much assuming that the whole "Bruce adopts adult Dick for no apparent reason" has been forgotten. Which makes me happy.
  • That Amazo uses arrows, maces, and batarangs. Just because he can.
  • "Hey, pay attention to me. I'm fascinating." I mean, is that the best encapsulation of that character ever, or what?
  • Oliver Queen, dwarfified and tortured.
  • Wow; do not florg around with Light Lass...!
  • Sam and Bobo at the cinema.
  • Okay, that was not what I expected from the Mongul situation. At all.
  • "I love the laws of pendular motion."
  • This week, in three different books, Dick Grayson was extremely cool in the ways that only he be.
  • Franklin's son; by liberty, I had almost forgotten about him... ! The perfect villain!
  • "I have a funny feeling I'm not turning into a puppet." If you're not reading SuperFriends, I call thee a humorless fool.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Barry's Return

Hello, Barry! Good to reach you in the Afterlife! I hear you've been considering returning to us, is that true?

Yes; yes, it is, Barry.

I've also heard Geoff Johns called you recently to convince you to return; what did he say?

Oh, Barry; always so literal!

You know, I've been kind of annoyed that, while you've been gone, editors and writers have been lavishing undue attention on your Rogue's Gallery, whom
you made famous.

Also, some of your old pals have suffered some hard knocks or been replaced by so-called "legacies" with varying degrees of success...

In fact, your former sidekick, Wally West, has been filling in for you, and he--

I understand how you feel; no argument here!

By the way, I'm not sure how time is perceived in Bald Man's Heaven; do you realize that Wally's been trying to be the Flash for over twenty years?

Only in terms of monthly sales, Barry.

Be forewarned; DC's been altering the universe in a lot of unpleasant ways during the period you've been away. Perhaps you were right during the last twenty years to stay away, so as to--

Yeah, sometimes the current DCU seems hard for me to recognize, too, Barry.

But there's more. You do realize that Grant Morrison and Dan Didio are continuing to remake the DCUniverse, as if--

Well, whatever you think, Barry; you know best.

What do you think the reaction will be to you rejoining Green Lantern in returning from the dead?

Oh, Barry; you're so literal!

Now that you're back with us, what will become of Wally, though? Lots of people are con--

Oh, so you think Grant Morrison has a plan to get rid of Wally, and if so, how do think the fans will react to that?

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy at the Cinema Today

Guess which movie I saw today at noon?

I wasn't ready; you probably aren't either.
I don't know what that ... thing was, but I would never have guessed it was Heath Ledger
Now THAT is how you handle the love interest in a comic book movie!
How can one movie be so depressing and so inspiring at the same time?
Harvey's nurse.
A 1922 two-headed silver dollar. Thank you; it doesn't kill anyone to be accurate!
Harvey's deception.
Riding with ones head out the window, as dogs do.
The ferry dilemma.
Bruce Wayne's final car looks awfully familiar to a 1970s Batman fan.
How to make a pen disappear.
Loiter? Intimidate? Catastrophic? The Batmobile certainly is literate.
Alfred's deception.
"How do the defendants plead?"
Batman versus the SWAT Team.
Lucius's tough decision.
The mad dog metaphor.
Gordon's deception.
"What bus driver?" Really, it's the slight movement before "What bus driver?".
If you thought Iron Man made a statement against terrorism, you were wrong.
250 52nd Street.
Bruce Wayne's employee problem.
Batman's deception.
How Two-Face gets his name.
Chinese barbecue.
Wow; it really IS all part of the plan.
Announcing ones plans in advance.
Getting one phone call.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Making (or not making) a Splash

I've been working on edu-tainment DVDs for Big Monkey, and mostly recently one on comic book terminology and lingo.

Explaining some of these concepts has been a pleasure for a natural born didact, er, I mean, teacher like me. But it's also made me a little sad... .

As I've been writing on them, I've realized that some of the conventions in the comic book medium (as opposed to "comic book conventions"!) have fallen into desuetude, and I think comics are poorer for it.

Things like...

  • Letter columns
  • Editor's notes
  • Logospeak
  • Caption boxes
  • Continuity (heh)
  • Splash pages

I think the splash page is one I miss the most. The splash says, "Here is where the story begins and this is what it's about." Nowadays, if there is anything like a splash page, it's made part of the story, and instead of being prefatory, it's often the last page of the story. When and why did our comics become Latin sentences, where you have you to wait till the end to get to the one word necessary for understanding all the others?

Perhaps it's because stories are now "arcs" and take place over six issues instead of one. In any case, we've lost something valuable. Since covers nowadays often are isolated pieces of art, relatively unconnected to the story within, the absence of splash pages means that most stories have no single-image that represents them.

If you want to refer visually to "Robin Dies at Dawn" (as Grant Morrison has lately... a lot), all you have to do is use the cover. If you want to refer to the Space Canine Patrol Agents (as I do ... a lot), all you have to do is use the splash page (well, splash panel, really).

Without such conventions, we lose the ability to make easy visual reference to a particular story. In fact, most of the faded conventions I mentioned are of that same order: they are visual hooks that allow a reader to understand a story better.

To many modern comic books readers, such devices may seem too, well, device-y. But comic books used to be cups with many handles; easy for anyone to pick up and access the contents, no matter where they were coming from. In losing these conventions, we've removed the handles from the cup. This makes it much harder for the uninitiate to pick up, and more likely to drop or spill if they do.

If we want comics to be accessible to more people, we need to stop worrying that a story relies on past continuity; we need to start worrying that we've deprived ourselves of the tools (like editor's notes) to explain it when it does. Some new conventions have arisen, such as the "catch-up" intro that Marvel's using on some titles (such as Spider-Man and Hercules) that tells you the story to date. Do not criticize those conventions as old-fashioned, but as forward-thinking. Comics always need new readers, and they need such conventions to help them become seasoned readers. YOU may not need such things, but comics do, so embrace such conventions as the open doors through which comics greet their new fans.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • That Central City looks like Central City in Rogue's Revenge.
  • "I have always found the eating plan to be an excellent backup."
  • That the cosmic egg, a vestige of the JLA/Avengers crossover is still part of DC's continuity.
  • "Sidekick City".
  • Wow. That situation with Iris didn't quite work out as expected, did it?
  • I bet Despero's the kind of guy who'll never stop to ask directions.
  • That I'm not sure which is scarier, Inertia or Zoom.
  • Blue Beetle talking to his "backpack".
  • Superspeed decapitation... yay!
  • That Jimmy Olsen is part of that particular JLA database.
  • I guess being Inertia takes a lot of guts.
  • Nnamdi's clever subterfuge.
  • Okay, that Poison Ivy story was almost pure EC Comics! Take that, Doc Wertham!
  • Manhunter versus Black Canary. Heh. Heh heh.
  • Spider-Man in Daredevil's costume. Why aren't you reading Spider-Man?
  • Trigon putting a cherry on Raven's pancakes.
  • I like this "Infinity"; howcum I've never heard of her before?
  • Say what you will about Judd Winick's writing (and I have), but his Batman is all five kinds of cool. And SO much cooler than Green Arrow.
  • The highly unexpected guest star in Birds of Prey.

Monday, July 14, 2008

NEWSFLASH: Warner Bros. Remembers They Own a Comic Book Publisher!

DC and Warner Bros. having a summit on pulling their act together on the comic book movie front?

Well, it's about darned time.

It's been a classic case of dog versus tail. At Marvel Comic, oops, excuse me, I mean Marvel Entertainment, the comics are the dog and the movies are the tail. Yes, the tail may be much BIGGER than the dog, but it's still a question of who's wagging whom. Marvel's memory is quite clear and they know that until they started pumping out the films, they were on the verge of backruptcy. Remember that? Marvel's clearly ticking through its available and most high profile characters one by one, and building their brand by building movies around them.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is busy churning out, oh, "The Bucket List", "Fool's Gold", "10,000 B.C.", and the box office boffo "One Last Call". All this while it's got a panoply of American culture's most recognizable fictional character, known for generations, with the kind of high public profile that Marvel dreams of, all gathering dust on the cinematic shelf.

Oh, I'm not being fair, I know. The Batman franchise is pretty much exercising its full muscle, and Superman is at least, well, awake now. Quick what was Warner Bros. biggest movie splash in 2007? That's right: 300. And, as a graphic novel, 300 didn't exactly fly off the shelves, you know. It's one of things people kind of just ... look at; not buy.

Some of surprise hits at the theater have been based on what I can only kindly call "sleeper" or "cult" comics. I mean, Hellboy? Really? History of Violence? Friggin' Art School Confidential? Okay, that wasn't exactly a "hit", but you get my point. The studios are figuring out, thanks in part to Marvel's cinema chutzpah, that even the most obscure and poor-selling comic book generally has more potential than the average stack of Hollywood screenplays.

I think either Wacko or Yakko has finally woken up and smelled the popcorn: "Hey, these 'comic book movies' might be something popular and profitable... if only we had the rights to some comic book characters... ." Part of the problem, of course, is that Warner, which makes movies, is the dog, and DC, which makes comics, is the tail. Now, that's not something that can be really changed, but it can be ameliorated. Do the smart thing, Warner: set up a sub-studio, or an "imprint", or whatever you movie folks call it, whose sole job is to put on movies based on the comic book properties Warner owns, and put Michael Uslan there.

And take another tack from Marvel: focus your love and attention on the characters themselves and the comic books they came from, not on their previous media appearances. The previous Batman franchise faltered when it became an homage more to the Adam West show than an interpretation of the Bob Kane comics, and the Superman franchise stumbled out of the gate because it insisted on being a sequel (a remake, really) of a movie that came out 30 years earlier, rather than being about the Superman of today.

Learn also the (eventual) lessons of Smallville: stop being embarrassed about it being a comic book. Embrace the cape. That includes the shared universe of heroes; when a guest appearance by Aquaman causes a huge ratings spike, that should tell you something. After that, Smallville virtually became the JLA Headquarters.

The excitement being generated by the prospect of a joint Avengers movie that's being set up is nearly obscene. And, face it, almost no 'regular' Americans could rattle off an Avengers roster, whereas most of them could make a decent stab at listing the classical Justice League. The JLA's profile is off the charts compared to the Avengers. Warner's is the spoiled rich kid too bored to play with the fantastic toys it already owns, while Marvel is being the imaginative kid with a set of Legos.

Thanks for waking up, Warner Bros.! "Wonder Woman: the Movie" will appear in her comics themselves, when it should have been premiering on the real world big screen. Roll up your sleeves, and try to catch up... .

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Company Crossover

Okay, what is below is not safe.

It is not safe for work.

It is not safe for kids; teens, even.

It's not safe for many straight adults.

Heck, I'm not even sure it's safe for ME.

That said, there is NO nudity, and NO actual ess ee ecks. And you won't have to watch much to get the point.

And I know this ...

it did make me laugh.

Not kindly. But I did laugh.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weighing Evil

Here's some good straightforward with some twisted evil:

According to Dr. Stone's Scale of Evil, where do various villains fall?

The Joker: 16
The Penguin: 14
The Riddler: 10? 11?
Harley Quin: 03
Catwoman: 05
Two-Face: hm. A tough one (naturally); 13?
Scarecrow: 19 (psychological torture, that is)
Black Mask: 20?

Care to debate or expand the list?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy

in my comics.

  • "Luke Cage owes me ten bucks."
  • Skeets should always wear a beret.
  • Honestly, I've seen gas lines do a lot of strange things, but never impale someone through the head.
  • The tetherball maneuver; I love when he uses the Wisdom of Solomon for the cleverest application of his powers.
  • I got to see Panda die... again.
  • Finally, an explanation of why Batman supported him in the League.... .
  • Arm-Fall-Off-Boy saves the Legion from Starfinger. Single-handedly.
  • Gail; thanks for the severed head display!!!
  • "Take me to your leader." Clark Kent is a funny person.
  • It's so good to see Michelle again!
  • It's also good to see Gangbuster again. Never though we would.
  • The Penguin's scrapbook.
  • If the House of the Mystery serves that spread for breakfast, why would anyone ever try to leave? Sounds like an endless stay at the Doubletree.
  • "And we'd have milk everywhere." Of course. Hate it when that happens.
  • Geoff Johns' very clever synopses/juxtaposition of Luthor, Superman, Supergirl, and Brainiac. I now understand them all a bit better, and, in typical Johnsian fashion it was accomplished in about two panels.
  • Using the Joker as a Crypt-Keeperesque series interlocutor? Genius.
  • Wouldn't the 7 Deadly Evils make a great tiki glass set?
  • "No, really: you look great." Catwoman is a funny person.
  • Tom versus the Gorillas.
  • That is not how I expected the Atom to end... .
  • Hey, that was the most fun I've ever had without the Joker killing somebody! This Joker's Asylum mini is way better than anyone expected.
  • Superman shaving.
  • "You'd spend it." Skeet is a funny person. Well, funny machine, anyway.
  • Okay, I'll admit that my first reaction to "High-Energy Particle Physics", "Obscure 17th Century French Literature", and "Pre-Columbian Meso-American Burial Practices", was "thank goodness, something I have a chance at answering correctly, unlike 'Baseball' or 'Song Lyrics'..."
  • Mr. Batson flirting with Amelia.
  • Of course she doesn't have a make-up drawer!
  • Of course Batman figured it out. And kept it quiet. For years. He does things like that.
  • Atom tracers? Starro iodine? Ray Palmer is so freaking cool... .
  • Ah, the three-way version of Truth/Justice/&theAmericanWay. Very well done!
  • Ye gods, that was a great Penguin story! Thank you, Jason Aaron!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Someone Tell Peter the Pufferfish!

Well, I'm finally back from Nashville, where the audiences were kind, too kind! With my biggest performance of the year behind me, I'm ready to turn my attention back to comics, and what do I find...?

Yes, yes, we all know that the Martian Manhunter is dead. Truly dead. Really most sincerely dead. That is not my point. That is not what I want to talk about.


is my point. THIS is what I want to talk about.

There's another scene in this issue where Aquaman appears, but he's just an illusion cast by J'onn. Here? J'onn ain't casting nothing here, folks; that's really Aquaman.

Real Aquaman. I mean, you can tell it's him because of his fabulously styled hair.

If the DCUniverse itself is sentient, then it's crying out for the return of the real Aquaman. This appears to be the first sighting! I've suspected for some time that Final Crisis would begin with Martian Manhunter dying, then have Flash return, then end with Aquaman returning. This seems like pretty strong evidence! And, if he's back, what's the story and when do we get to hear it? Honestly, I'd be just as happy to pretend he never left.

Artist error, one of you will say. Doug Mahnke "accidently" drew Aquaman? Peter Tomasi (who used to edit Aquaman) and Eddie Berganza simply didn't notice that Aquaman was there or "forgot" that one of DC's icons is supposed to be dead and had his book cancelled? I don't think so.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Captain America Moves Me Instead of His Lips

Continuing our July 4 weekend observations, I want to admit that I've just discovered the old Captain America cartoons on-line at YouTube. I'd never seen them before and they are...


Sure it has what we'd now call "primitive animation", kind of like Colorforms in action. But you know what? My comic books don't move much either. In the Captain America cartoons, the stiffness of the characters and the infrequency of their movement is part of their charm, and an advantage. They capture the actual experience of reading a comic book much better than more sophisticated animation does!

This is pure Marvel, people; the heroes spend more time bickering with one another than fighting villains.

Sure, Swordsman's motivations and behavior are incomprehensible, inconsistent, and even incommensurable. Sure, the language sounds like it was translated from the original Bulgarian. Sure, the dialog lurches forward via non-sequiturs as if to dodge the plot. But hey... have you ever read a comic book of that era?

"I crave action, Wanda; action!" Pietro creepily trying to get action from his sister! Mmm, no, what you really crave, Pietro, is salon-quality hair-care products to get your unruly 'do under control. And a bitch-slap from the Swordsman. Oh, and Captain America hiimself has supplied my new signature phrase: "Who's this slumbering stranger?" I can use that every weekend, at least! "Melodramatic phrases don't frighten me, son!" I should hope not, if you're in a Marvel story. And who's voicing the Mandarin... Barbara Walters? And, oh my god, that's John Vernon as Iron Man; hilarious!

Is this stuff on DVD? Because it really deserves to be! Celebrate your Independence Weekend with some Captain America.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Independents Day

I declare July 5 to be "Independents Day" for the celebration of independent comics. I celebrated by reading something I've been dreading for a long time: Invincible.

I first heard of Invincible from the collectors set of the Heroclix they put with him and his cast. Since they, I'd heard a lot about how good it was, and that was what had me so frightened. Let me not fall in love with another universe to follow!

Well, I picked up issue 50, and my fears were fully justified. It was really good. With virtually zero prior knowledge of the characters, I was able to follow everything that went on in the book. Okay, maybe the "my new father figure betrayed me and is evil just like my real daddy" angle is a bit trite, but, hey, it's an Image comic. Did I just get myself hooked on an Image Comic? Please don't tell my mother.

Anyway, that's my main foray this year for Independents Day. I know it's not exactly a HUGE leap, since Invincible from Image is about a mainstream an "indie book" as can be imagined. But one starts with baby steps.

What independent do you read, intend to read, or would recommend to others to read?

Next on my personal list: I Was Kidnapped By Lesbian Pirates From Space. All the back issues are already on order....

Friday, July 04, 2008

That's What It's All About, Isn't It?

And now, the finale of...

Please choose wisely.

VERY dramatically.

Although there are exceptions.

Or even a glow that men admire in the reanimated corpse of a teenager possessed by incorporeal aliens from another dimension.

Finally, as for clothing, remember there are three outfits that every girl's closet should have: a little black dress, a summer frock, and...

a lemon-lime safari outfit with bulls-eye scarf.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bending Over Backwards for Beauty

Here's the next tip from Ted Long, Make-Up & Makeover Master on

It's exercise!

Isn't that right, Barry?

Sure, it may not look good while you're exercising, but, hey, Barry Allen's been dead for 17 years but look how good he looks!

You may think all this advice is unsurprising so far, but here's a piece of Ted Long's wisdom that will turn everything you know about beauty-preparations on its head!

Always greet guests from an inverted position!

How fabulous is that?

Oh, and remember the principles of highlighting; shine a convenient spotlight on your best features or any areas you want people to focus on.

Skeptical? Don't be; trust Ted Long. Besides, look what it does for Barbara Walters:

"Weh-wo, and wehw-come to the Vieweh!"

There ya go. If inversion can do that much for Barbara, imagine how much it can do for you!

I can confirm this from experience. Why, I've spent entire evenings in that position when entertaining numerous guests. And, to a man, they all said, "That was fabulous!"