Saturday, June 14, 2008

Aqualad v. the Monster Machine

It's the incomparable Aqualad, starring in....

(God bless the late George Kashdan!)

It begins one quiet morning when an awesome creature rears up out of the sea and strides up onto a deserted beach!

See? I told you.

By the way, fabulous marauding robot design, huh? That one used to date the Spider-Slayer, I think. Note how its thrashing limbs imitate the form of the dead trees that line the deserted beach, making a mockery of nature, saying, "I, a lifeless machine, am more alive than you, organic lifeform!". Spooky!

So Spooky the Marauding Marinebot starts to throw a hissy and some rocks to go with it.
Leaving in its wake a wide path of destruction!

Or, perhaps just ruining an abandoned cottage on a deserted beach. I think somebody here flunked Prof. Godzilla's class at Marauding Monster U.

Well, a ruined beach cottage may mean little to you or me, but if there's one thing I've learned in my gay life, it's "don't **** with Jack Lingo." Immediately, Lingo gets on the horn and calls the Teen Titans.
What else could explain it? The beach is deserted; who the heck could be alerting the Teen Titans at Big Rock Candy Mountain? I think this kind of thing is where Morrison gets his idea that the DCU itself is sentient: it apparently simply, somehow, informs the requisite heroes to save it whenever its under attack.

Fortunately for this poor, deserted beach, Speedy is hanging out at Big Rocky Candy Mountain, trying to avoid being seen with Green Arrow, and calls the Scooby gang to help.

Want to vote on the meaning of that fourth visi-screen?

1. It's Robin, who almost always ignores calls from Speedy or Aqualad.
2. It's Superboy, after the Siegels got to him.
3. It's the head of Pantha, recently disconnected.
4. Speedy forgot to make the switch to digital tv.
"Speedy-o". Yes, this is Wally, during his "dye my hair black and hang out with beatniks at coffee houses" phase, which followed his "I'll imitate my uncle the science dweeb" phase, and preceded his "Republican A-hole" phase, which itself was followed by his "man-tramp" phase, and his second "I'll imitate my uncle the science dweeb" phase.

Anyway, Speedy issues the call for action.

What, no "JLA Condition Amber"? I'm disappointed. But that's okay; that set of directions more than makes up for it.

So, they rendezvous at, um, Section CBD ("Cartoon Beach, Deserted"), and attack Spooky, the Marauding Marinebot. Naturally, everyone's favorite, Aqualad, leads the charge with an inspiring battle-cry that would strike fear into the CPU of any marauding robot.

"Let me just... hug this vaguely phallic protrusion... until it... submits!" See, this is what happens when you indulge in too much sweet, sweet octopus love: you start humping anything even remotely tentacular. But this ain't gentle Topo, and Spooky the Marauding Marinebot turns out to be more than Aqualad can handle...
Spooky, disgusted with Aqualad's wussiness, deals with him accordingly.

Do you get the sense Aqualad's used to this kind of thing?

"Dude; I was so drunk last night, I don't remember a thing we did!"

Well, at this point Spooky's destroyed an abandoned beach cottage and made a fool out of Aqualad by using him as a frisbee, so he figures it's time to call it a day.

Note how its thrashing limbs are in exact the same position as when it exited the sea, but there's no trees around anymore. I love Filmation!Okay! Now it's in Aqualad's element! Now it's going to be a different story! Now Spooky's in for a real bruising! Besides, Aqualad's got to compensate for having just been used as a beach frisbee, particularly since that annoying faux hipster, Wally, is always dogging him and giving him that deadpan "I can't believe I'm being seen with a dork like you" look. "Check! We'll follow in the 'copter, so we're close enough to see your inevitable humiliation but still far away enough not to be associated with you!"

Sneer all you want, Maynard G.! Aqualad's in his element now, and going to take advantage of home court to use his aqua-strength and speed, and maybe get some assistance from his piscine allies!
Damned elusive automata! Garth'll show 'em what for!


Hey, Garth; Aquaman called. He's just traded you to Green Lantern for Pieface and a stewardess to be named later.

As Aqualad the Human Frisbee bounces headfirst off coral formations, the Teen Titans try desperately to record his humiliation for later posting on DCU-Tube.

Yeah, where is Aqualad? Probably formulating another plan of attack. Probably rallying the denizens of the sea to his aid. Probably...enjoying sweet, sweet octopus love in the embrace of "Leggy"!

AH! My eyes! It burns!!! Yet I can't look away; do you see the mating tentacle? Where is it? No, never mind; I don't want to know.

Anyway, like most men, Aqualad is off as soon as he's had his fun.
Poor Leggy: "C--call me, Garth!" Sh'yeah, as if. Don't worry, Leggy; there's lot of good fish in the sea.

Besides, Aqualad has a job to do, and with a new tactic in mind, he begins his assault against Spooky, in a daring and ingenious ploy that--


It's kind of cute that Aqualad is stupid enough to be surprised every time he screws up. Oh, and for your trivia buff's, Garth does
have a last name: Fubar.

Fortunately, this all happens underwater. Fortunately, Aqualad's teammates can't witness this repeated humiliation. Fortunately, no one on DCU-Tube will see Garth Fubar screaming like a helpless little girl...


Really, if Venus were merciful, wouldn't she just kill him right then and there? "Aqualad's in trouble"; yeah, there's a real newsflash. Face it, Garth, you're the "Daphne" of the Teen Titans.

Naturally, the rest of Mystery Inc. have to save Aqualad; Speedy provides a tripwire and Kid Flash just pushes the dang robot over. Aqualad, of course, does one of his Maxwell Smart -style recoveries and pretends it was all part of his plan and that he's in charge.

Talk about denial; get some therapy, Garth.

Unfortunately, Aqualad's already been captured by Spooky the Marauding Marinebot so many times that he's suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and can't hide his distress that they've "killed" it and cries out:

Garth; it's pretty bad when you're on a first name basis with your abusive kidnapper. Unless it's Tula.
"You killed Spooky! Damn you, Wally! With your cool lingo, and dyed hair, and blank uncaring eyeslits! I hate you. I curse you. Someday may you be depowered and suffer from asthma, unable to replace your dead mentor, forgotten by readers, and ridiculed by bloggers, while I, on the other hand, have my own title, membership in the JLA, and a wife and two kids!"

By this point, Wonder Girl, the Competent One, is fed up with all this hoo-hah and wants to get back to some real men, like Mer-boy and Bird-boy, so she decides to simply beat the crap out of all the other robots and the ship they rode in on. Meanwhile, useless Aqualad envies her jewelry while Wally, never missing an opportunity to show up Garth, decides that what he really wants to do is direct.

"You read my mind, Kid Flash!" is womenspeak for "Shut yer bloody man-yap, you poseur; I'm an actual warrior who knows what she'd doing!"
"Groovy!" Three guesses who said that.

So, with the danger averted, the Teen Titans pose for a Gap commercial

and Wonder Girl takes her leave of her loser colleagues.

"I wish-- I wish I had a home to head to, instead of a cave that I've littered with various jetsam..."

And Aqualad says good-bye to us all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Warning JJ

J'onn, I'm so glad I caught up with you!

The editors of DC Comics are coming; they're coming to kill you!
I don't think that's going to help, J'onn. They can still see your thought ballo--errr, ah, I mean they can, um, detect you with their telepathy. Besides they've got unearthly powers of their own, and your own powers are so inconsistent that--
Ooh, I was afraid something like that might happen. I don't think hiding going to work very--

Well, you did, but the Skrull-Gumby look didn't really help, I'm afraid.

Their plan is to have the Human Flame will use his fire to kill you and--

Oh, yes, I know they keep removing your weakness, J'onn. But you should know that only lasts until the next time they use you in story.

Dan Didio, Geoff Johns, and Grant Morrison are going to kill you, believe me.

Yeah, it's never enough power, is it, J'onn?

Maybe if you reinvent yourself; you did so well in the comedic antics of the JLI...
Oh, yeah, I forgot; you were pretty much the straight-man, weren't you?

Perhaps you'd better just say your good-byes.
Um, yeah, Mrs. Martian? Don't stay up waiting for that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Booster's dad: very hot without sleeves!
  • Brain-sucking robots.
  • For Batman, a nightmare city; for Superman, an invading solar system; for Wonder Woman, a giant robot attack. Very nice; although giant NAZI robots would have been even better.
  • "It didn't seem physically possible." Okay, THAT was brilliant.
  • Booster's dad's earpiece: creepy and clever.
  • Sodam's perspective on Daxam.
  • The president of the Robin Fan Club.
  • It's always good to see Impulse again.
  • Weaponized robot poop.
  • Calabi-Yau manifolds. Not enough of those in comics, I say.
  • Have you ever trying carving a crown with your teeth? Let me tell you, it's not as easy as you'd think.
  • Booster's dad's ear: RHOP alert!
  • No, in fact, I don't think Catwoman and Batgirl wrestling naked except for their masks in front of a room full of people is exploitative at all. Context, you know.
  • Clark versus Cat. Winner: Clark.
  • Batman thought it out; Superman worked it out; Wonder Woman fought it out.
  • The dignity and tenacity of the Penguin; finally, someone remembers who the Penguin really is.
  • So that's whose ring it is. I've been waiting for that answer for over 20 years. That makes perfect sense!
  • Ah ha; it's all Jaime Reyes's fault!
  • Hm. That change in the wind...? Not good.
  • Booster's dad's vomit.
  • I bet that's when she started to rethink the wisdom of having a tail on your costume.
  • Sorry; I don't believe that even Brainiac 5 can possibly have a map of Central City.
  • The corner of Waid & Weiringo.
  • I've never seen a pink-frosted donut that symbolic before!
  • The Green Lantern Corps showing remarkable wisdom in interacting with a very alien species.
  • So... Wonder Woman's attending, what, the Klaw Family Reunion?
  • Brainiac the collector.
  • The Joker versus the Parademon.
  • Spoiler's note. Very classy.
  • Forget "one punch"; I'm all about "one word".
  • Superman disposing of a pink-frosted donut, sprinkled with symbolism.
  • "It's Gonna Throw the Car"; I am totally up for all titles/subtitles in this style!
  • Clark using superpowers for what they're supposed to be used for: teaching lessons to those closest to us through public humiliation.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Three's a Charm

Today's the day I talk about Trinity!

First, I want to say, I applaud the concept of the DCU trinity. Now, it should come as a surprise to no one who has read this blog for any length of time that I like the idea of a set of characters that anchor (or, perhaps more accurately, "pillar") a literary universe. Things like "trinities", "pantheons", and the like are very mythic, and we love the mythic here at the Absorbascon. It ennobles (enriches? justifies, LOL?) our comics when they have mythic dimension and symbolism. It easier to tell stories that mean something when the characters in them already mean something.

I also like that, for DC, that set is a trinity. That's not really a necessity, you know. For the longest time, DC has actually been a duumvirate, of sorts. As Geoff Johns has the Toyman say in the most recent issue of Action, "You're either a Superman person or a Batman person." The "World's Finest" has been the paradigm DC's operated under since Batman and Superman first appeared together, I suppose.

It's been productive and useful in many ways, but it has drawbacks. It's needlessly adversative; you're naturally led to pit one side against the other (at least, if you're Frank Miller, you are). It's also rather shallow. One of the worst faults of the news media is their natural tendency to create or simulate conflict by reducing everything to two opposing sides or positions (whether it's appropriate or not); the world's usually a lot more complicated than that. I can accept shallowness in my news media, but not in my comic books. And it's tediously lacking in variety. When you've got only two basic elements to work with, you just have to compare and contrast them over and over and over again. If you read Superman/Batman you know exactly what I'm taking about. With three basic elements, you can compare and contrast them individually or any pair against the remaining element; that's a huge leap in variety from the one-note two-step dictated by the world of World's Finest.

There's another advantage to a trinity of characters (or concepts, or whatever): it generally feels more stable, more complete. It's no accident that most rhetoric (including the paragraph that precedes this one) tends toward triadic presentation, that we countdown from 3 rather than 2 or 4, that we (particularly Aristotle but excluding Geoff Johns) think of stories as having a beginning, and middle, and an end. If you doubt the stabilizing power of the 3, sit at a four-legged table versus a three-legged one, and ask yourself which one wobbles more.

I also like that the Trinity is Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Now, that may seem like a foregone conclusion, but like the general concept of a trinity itself, it's by no means a necessity. They aren't the three most powerful heroes in the DCU (although they certainly aren't slouches, either!), nor even the best sellers. Instead, they are the three most culturally significant characters, whose images are most widely recognized and whose meaning is most generally understood. That's appropriate and shows that DC has an eye on more than just its short-term, fanboy interests.

I've heard people complain that including Wonder Woman into a trinity of heroes is uneven, awkward, forced. It's felt that there's not enough substance to her symbolism, that what she represents is unclear, that, currently, she's not their conceptual equal. Perhaps. But even if that is so, that's all the more reason to do it. You can't abandon an important opportunity to put Wonder Woman on the same conceptual level as Batman and Superman simply because... she's not already there! That makes as much sense as when my companion Ken misspoke this weekend, saying, "I can't drink when I'm sober."

I demand Equal Conceptual Rights for Wonder Women. Being included in the trinity will help -- already is helping -- speed up the process of solidifying, elaborating, and publicizing who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for. Even in the first issue of Trinity, we see that her approach to having a secret identity is very different from that of the Last Son and the Dark Knight. Similarly, her interpretation of their shared dream is used to distinguish her from "the Boys". It's my fervent hope that her exposure in Trinity will lead to something I strongly believe she needs, a second title (Sensation Comics, I assume).

In so many ways, "the Trinity" makes more sense than "the World's Finest". Superman, always super; Wonder Woman, super in costume and normal without; Batman, always normal. Superman, with two parents; Wonder Woman, with one; Batman, with none. As I have mentioned before, Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Focus, restraint, and balance. The city, the country, the city-state. Adoption, creation, self-creation. Admiration, fear, respect. Etc., etc., etc. And that doesn't even begin to explore the two-against-one combos: native versus alien, modern versus ancient, male versus female, privilege versus poverty, super versus non-super.

I am all for Trinity, the concept, the choices, and (so far) the execution.

And you?