Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I think it was J'onn's fault;
Bears do not like J'onn, and vice versa.
Let's see.... at this point each of those thousand dollar bills is worth an equivalent $6500 current dollars, each of which will then feed a homeless person (or, as we called them then, a "bum") for at least-- well, let's just say J'onn's impromptu wealth distribution scheme here is going make for a lot of happy hoboes in Apex.
Ordinarily, I'd guess that this is just Mother Earth rejecting the presence of an extraterrestial alien like the Martian Manhunter, hoping to destroy him by spewing forth chthonic monstrous ursines to attack him (under the guise of a bank robbery). But, sadly, this is no uprising of Nature against the Unnatural; it's just another average bank robbery in Apex:
Wouldn't you like to have been at that gang meeting? "Well, yes... we could knock over that filling station while wearing stocking caps... or we could.. build a giant mechanical bear and use it to rob the bank while we're inside it wearing suits and ties! All in favor...?" I'll say this for the denizens of Apex's underworld; they've got a zest for fun and clearly think of crime as some sort of avant garde performance art.
Even JJ himself is overwhelmed by the Silver Age lunacy of it all...
The Apexians, being more used to stupidity than J'onn, observe it all with a placidity that still leaves them able to comment on it in haiku:
Why haiku can you compose to celebrate the madness of the giant mechanical bear?
Monday, June 29, 2009
"Okay, that just tears it!," the Shield thought. "The Hangman's really getting on my nerves.
"These two pug-ugly yoboes should have been hanged this morning, but weren't because the prison noose went missing. Gee, I wonder where that went... nice necktie, Hangman! Thanks for letting the Zebra Brothers here survive long enough to attack this nice Republican trophy wife!
"At least my exceedingly woundable sidekick Dusty & His Starched Cape are handling the one with the gun, so that I, who am invulnerable to bullets, don't have to. But now this quaking con is gonna carve up Miss Twin Peaks like a Christmas ham, unless I--
"Sweet Betsy Ross! Dang you all to heck, Hangman! Just how the heck do you keep on dropping in from nowhere?! Did you jump out a plane? Can you give a guy a warning, because while you're pouncing down to save Little Red Writhing Hood I'm stuck here walking like an Egyptian in the middle of the prison-yard and totally extraneous to the action, except as a decoy....
"Just whose comic IS this, anyhow....?!"
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Specifically, teenage girls. Now, this is an unusual topic for the Absorbascon, but there's a reason for it. Last week, I spent three days working with young female quartets and choruses on their stage presence, interpretation, performance skills, etc., as part of a large music festival. The fact that I was working only with girls was a happenstance, but it brought home to me something I'd never really given much thought to...
Girls and boys are very different people.
Boys are interested in being 'cool'. While this means different things to different boys, it's pretty much a universal and generally involves being on top of your game and being emotionally unperturbed.
Girls do not seem interested in being 'cool'. In fact, they seem interested in being overwhelmed and perturbed. That's not a criticism; quite the opposite, really. Boys try to paddle about in safe emotional waters and avoid making waves, while girls are hot-dogging the pipeline on the sea of feeling, with spectacular rides and dramatic wipe-outs.
I could go on, but you all are probably more familiar with the difference between boys and girls than I am. My real question is: are the essential differences between boys and girls well represented in comic books?
Because if so, I haven't noticed it much, and if not, then that's not very realistic. Certainly, there is a tendency for all heroes, even young ones, to be portrayed in a Standard Heroic Personality Mode. And one would except young heroes to be more mature than their agemates, meaning that they might be a bit beyond the personality extremes of 'normal' teenagers.
Still. If there's not difference at all in their portrayal it demands us to ask the question: why? Is it lazy characterization? Is it male writers unable to write female characters? Is it part of the Conspiracy to Claim that there are No Essential Differences Between Men and Women?
You tell me.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Zook gets no love.
Krypto, the original dog with cape, gets boatloads of love. Ace the Bathound and Bat-Mite are still cult faves. Proty the Martyr and Proty II have legions of fans. Even Itty the Plasmid is thought of fondly.
But not Zook. Zook gets no love.
Really, it's not Zook's fault. As a character, Zook was never anything but helpful, respectful, thrifty, and clean. Except for the time he had amnesia and worked with crooks and almost killed J'onn. But that sort of thing happens to everyone in comics.
But then again, it's not our fault, either. Something there is that doesn't love a Zook. It could be the Space Monkey Perseverative Phenomenon. Human beings naturally hate space-monkeys, like Debbie or Gleek. It's not a frontal-lobe thing, it goes right to the basal ganglia, and you see one of these things and your body just autonomically reaches for the nearest club-like object and you start swinging your arm down again and again, like George Segal in Terminal Man. Only television producers are immune to the Space Monkey Perseverative Phenomenon, contributing to the theory that they are only partially human.
[The Space Monkey Perseverative Phenomenon, to be clear, does not apply to monkeys-in-space, like Blip. People like monkeys-in-space, but we hate space-monkeys.]
But Zook isn't even a real Space Monkey, because he's got no ears, has the wrong number of fingers, and has a cleft palate like a teddy bear. Zook is always addressed as a "he" but has no visible genitalia. Zook is some sort of hideous hybrid, the illegitimate offspring of a three-way between a teletubby, a Care Bear, and Bill Keane. Compared to Zook, Space Monkeys are beautiful butterflies and Zook is a monstrous hairy tarantula of "cuteness".
Yet, as if Zook's mere appearance weren't enough to make you doubt the existence of God, they saddle him with DC's characteristic baby-talk, all confused pronoun cases, omitted articles, conjugational oversimplification, and intermittent copulative verbs. It's maddening.
Zook wasn't drawn consistently (the palate, for example, comes and goes) and even his baby talk was inconsistent, too. Inconsistency? In a Martian Manhunter character? Unacceptable!
And his power set. Also maddening. Zook could radiate intense heat or cold. Radiating cold. Forget about perverting the minds our youngsters toward toward crime, drugs, and sex; comics should be sued for inculcating young minds with the idea that "cold" is some sort of indepedent energy that can be "radiated". And, of course, it was always described with terms like "10,000 degrees below zero". Yeah? On what scale is THAT?
Zook was also sort of ... elastic. He wasn't a shape-changer, but he could, er, change his shape. Mostly he used that power to squeeze through the mail-slot that was the only opening to J'onn's secret mountain hideout. And, no, I didn't make that up.
Oh, and his antennae allowed him to 'remember' and identify anyone who he'd been near, making him like a bloodhound when crooks fled or were in disguise. But this power was applied --you guessed it-- inconsistently, because sometimes Zook could recognize J'onn in disguise and many other times, J'onn would fool him, just as a joke. Wacky Martian sense of humor.
So, criminals, whose only chance against J'onn was fire or escape, now had to deal with a sidekick who could put out fires by 'radiating cold' and could track them down when they escaped. Sigh. Just what J'onn needed; more powers at his disposal.
His appearance, his speech, his powers; no wonder Zook got no love. But you know who would love Zook...?
The Japanese; he's got 'mangaverse' written all over him.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The cover to Pep 24 shows the same dramatic perspective and dimensionality that were used early on. Take that, Jack Kirby. What Pep lacks in literary depth it makes up artistically.
There's even a Japanazi (or whatever they call them) breaking out of the panel's edge and obscuring the title. Why, this cover is nearly lenticular.
The Shield is, as always, zooming in from Stage Right, testing my theory that superheroes fly by clenching... their... butts... hard enough! It certainly would explain a thing or two about the Green Lantern Corps: "Apino Pufarb, you have demonstrated great willpower against fear, plus the ability to crush a ping pong ball with your sphincter; you're in!"
The Shield seems to be stopping his foe from dropping Dusty into the Empire of the Rising Sun's sinister day-old batch of Apple Jacks. Silly Shield! Don't you realize Dusty's starched cape will catch on the edge of the bowl anyway, sparing him death by mushification?
In the midground, rounding out this heroic scene, is the ever-pleasant Hangman, who's tossing fellow humans into a raging fire where they will be incinerated alive while shouting sections of the Geneva Convention in Japanese.
Oh, yeah, in the previous issue, they introduced some little back-up feature about some buck-toothed fool of a highschooler named "Archie". Why you'd waste space on such a feature kind of mystifies me... or at least it did until this panel in Pep 24:
Hm. Now I have a better understanding why this Archie character gained such a grip on the imaginations of pubescent boys.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
- Garfield ups his game.
- Oh, well, then.... gravity cables. That's how you lift Manhattan.
- Deathstrokes' Solomonic solution.
- OMG, Inferno makes me HOT (appropriately enough).
- Truth be told, gorillas are lousy in bed. Even giant ones.
- They didn't downplay Static's powers, did they?
- The brevity of Kay's reprieve.
- So, like the Fantastic Four representing the four elements, I guess this foursome represent Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation, Tom of Finland Fetishism, Bondage, and Golden Showers?
- Vandal's night mask.
- Uh, Lois? Don't you think that's overkill on the locks?
- Black Lightning and Static are the new Batman and Robin.
- "It's a dead body. Get used to it."
- OMG, Holocaust makes me HOT (appropriately enough).
- Commissioner Gordon's biggest fan.
- I give up... what ARE those numbers?
- "Who is Batgirl?" is the new "Who is Superwoman?"
- Power Girl doesn't really need to do anything on her covers, does she?
- Dini's Harley Quin goes shopping.
- Oh, of course, Sam Lane knew him.
- Kate Spencer's gutsy speech.
- OMG, Firefly makes everyone HOT!
- The Red Circle articles.
- Hey, Jeff Pierce is fireproof!
- Batman takes his shot.
- The Origin of the Ultra-Humanite.
- If Lana Lang is dying, why aren't I happier?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
This one's got it all. Zook, the mysterious talking pet whom we'll discuss later; the Angry Freedom Rings of Doom (they are multicolored, by the way; it's a major plot point!); the people of Apex wasting a great deal of electricity; and Martian Manhunter sky-jogging. Or, apparently, sky-JIGging. Manhunter getting jiggy with angry freedon rings in the sky. Top that, Grant Morrison.
This is the "new Martian Manhunter" of House of Mystery. Zany, anthropomorphic objects/forces emanated by the Idol Head of Diabolu; Zook, the pidgin-spouting space-monkey; and zero dignity for the godlike Martian Manhunter.
What haiku dare you compose to comment on the situation or to praise or condemn the evolution of the mighty Martian Manhunter...?
Monday, June 15, 2009
Okay, whatever this is, it's clearly the best musical ever.
Broadway lights. Statue of Liberty replica on stage. Nazi stagehands lowering Nazi props... or are they trying to make a Nazisignal?
The Shield ballet-leaping in from the left (as always), while Hangman falls like Tosca. There's even a special solo by Dusty's Starched Cape.
It's like George M. Cohan meets Sound of Music meets the Defenestration Follies of 1940!
Forget all this nonsense with superhero movies. When's The Shield Musical start...?!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Well, all you really need to know is that the Widowmaker story is in it, possibly the most perfectly Bronze Age story ever made (I can't say "written"; that would be an offense to writing).
But, even without the famous Widowmaker story, here are ten good reasons you simply must own this volume.
1. Wonder Woman beating the tar out a drag queen.
"Madame Fatal?! I'm sorry, Oracle didn't tell me you'd be here...!"
2. Bronze Age fashion.
Whoa. Someone obviously couldn't afford to hire Edna Mode.
3. Superman setting a floor on fire by dancing.
What a dork; stupid shufflefoot.
4. Wonder Woman bitch-slapping an injured Lois Lane while Superman looks on, laughing.
Okay; maybe he really is a dick.
5. Machine-gun Wonder Woman
Let's see Mattel come out with a Barbie version of that.
6. Wonder Woman takes muff-diving lessons.
"This is how we roll at the Renaissance Fair, 'princess'...!"
7. Lesbian slave-rings.
Not enough of those in comics nowadays, I say.
8. Superman in hippie drag.
And now, I can't un-see that.
9. Wonder Woman torturing prisoners.
"On Paradise Island, we don't waste time with water-boarding!"
And, of course...
10. the on-going mutual hatred of Diana and I Ching.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Actually, my comics arrived late this week, because UPS was delayed by the racist octogenarian madman who shot and killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum.
So, the Thing That Made Me Happiest about my comics this week was they had on average less horrible happenings than my own city.
- I have no idea what and who that is at the end of Action Comics, other than that, whatever it is, it's some good old-fashioned comic book fun.
- Speaking of which.... THINKO!
- One doesn't expect Alice Cooper to be quote in Super Friends.
- What Barry used to do for charity.
- So, it is now okay for me to think Tim Drake Wayne is really hot?
- I thought I saw something in the background of Flash Rebirth 1; now I get it.
- Ion's clever ploy.
- The return of the Black Beetle.
- Yes... Abra Kadabra is the one you would have to get rid of, first and foremost.
- Batman lives. Always.
- The delighfully ironic fate of Lyssa Drax.
- Batman protects rappers, too.
- The real Joker card hanging in the Batcave.
- "No one from the Sciencells escapes the Alpha Lanterns."
- Good to see Max again.
- Wait, so, that means Guy Gardner watched Brokeback Mountain? Heh.
- Mr. Freeze's motive.
- Playing lightning bolts and bracelets.
- Yes, opening a book can shatter worlds, I suppose.
- Iris's umbrella. Really, she's so mean, I'd just assume the rain would be afraid to fall on her.
- The "ultimate man cave". Heh.
- The Professor. Who isn't the surprise really; but the what and the how will be.
- Well, that's one way to bookmark a page.
- The Blue Snowman, unnecessary backstory included!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Everything gets stranger. Much stranger.
You think that's not possible?
How is it possible? In Volume 1, J'onn J'onnz had cars driving across his giant butt, used Martian finger snapping to cure cancer and square the circle, fought the Human Squirrel, and created ice cream cones out of thin air with his mind. Really, where can you go from there?
Well. I guess we'll see. One thing, I'll say; you do NOT go to "Middleton".
I reject the false doctrine of the Middletonites, and I hew to the Apex Creed:
I believe in one city, Apex City, home of the Martian Manhunter, and at all times, whether he's visible or invisible.
I've read both Volumes of Martian Manhunter Showcases, and there is only ONE mentioned of the putative "Middleton" as the home of the Martian Manhunter. And here it is:
And in one J'onn J'onnz, the only-remaining son Mars, created in the Silver Age before all heroes; J'onn of J'onnz, lighted by firelight, very Silver of the Silver Age; written, not edited, being of one substance with the Schwartz, by whom all comics were made.
Okay, in case you don't recognize my megalocranial friend there, that's Prof. Arnold Hugo, a one-off Batman foe (Detective Comics #306, August 1962, "The Wizard of a Thousand Menaces!"), whose biggest accomplishment was failing to create an artificial moon. Hugo's debut against Batman was in the same issue of Tec where Detective John Jones died (more on that later!). Arnold Hugo became the Martian Manhunter *snicker* arch-enemy. Sigh. I guess it was a step up from the Human Squirrel and the Human Flame.
Anyway, it's Arnold Hugo who identifies MM's town as "Middleton", and it's never mentioned again. A hapax legomenon uttered by a notorious lunatic, liar, and loser is nothing to base continuity on! I think Arnold's just raving. Or perhaps Middleton is a suburb or or neighborhood within Apex City.
Regardless... it's still clear we're in Apex City:
Monday, June 08, 2009
Oh, we all know what it's like. Your ex shows up, and he needs your help, and even though all the bitterness and pain is still there, so is the sense of obligation from shared experience, so you help him out.
Then you find yourself shot to death by Kyrgystani mobsters and lying face up in a ball bin at a children's restaurant play area.
Well, that's just what happened to poor Joey, the Human Flame's original, um, "partner in crime".
Still, the old magic was there between them! They composed as their final joint endeavor this delightful haiku of defiance entitled, "You think I'm scared of you?"
Martian Manhunter!" "Screw you,
Mike! I'm outta here!"
Of course, this is from the first issue of the already-legendary Human Flame miniseries "Run", so you've all probably seen it already.
What haiku can you compose to celebrate the return of the Human Flame, mourn the loss of Joey, or ponder the ignominy of finding yourself shot to death by Kyrgystani mobsters and lying face up in a ball bin at a children's restaurant play area?
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Because you can't handle it.
Remember how at the end of Time Bandits, there's that chunk of Pure Evil that evaporates the parents when they touch it? Well, the Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2 is Pure Lunacy. If you buy a copy and drop it in your local reservoir, your city will look like a mass break-out at Arkham Asylum within 72 hours.
- Giant squirrels?
- Flying meter maids?
- Holes in the sky?
- Snakes fighting ferris wheels?
- Bank-robbing genies?
- A tank disguised as a fruit salad?
- Dinosaur gargoyles?
- Mechanical bear weapons?
- The freedom rings of doom?
- The evil, sentient orchestra instruments?
You are not ready for the Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2.
But you may need to get ready...
Friday, June 05, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
At Big Monkey Comics, much of the wallspace in our main room is devoted to our "Comics Canon", a display that presents what we deem as representing the best of the medium in a broad variety of genres and styles.
The number of items of graphic literature in the Big Monkey Comics Canon is too large to display them on the Canon Wall at one time; at any point we have only about 50 or 60 on display. Our Canon is a living enterprise, and we add new items to it over time, so that the Canon Wall serves a kaleidoscope of comics' quality.
Our decisions about what to include in our Canon are based on other critical lists and our own expertise, but we also like to seek customer input... like yours!
And the Big Monkey website, we currently running a poll on which should be the next graphic volume added to our Comics Canon. Make your vote there from among these choices!
The Nightly News (from Image Comics)
I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets
The Nightly News
The Bizarre Comics of Boody Rogers.
Locke & Key
Arab in America
Kyle Baker's Nat Turner
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
- Mina's freedom.
- I never thought Jonah Hex would make me start singing, "It's Raining Men".
- You know, a "circus gang" isn't the single most original idea ever.
- Hey, isn't that the cover to " "The Dark Plane Returns"?
- Always meet in a fireworks warehouse.
- I'll take Minhattin.
- That's... that's a cutaway diagram of the Batcave. I am speechless; and thankful. Curse you!!!!
- White man. With white hair. Wearing all white. In a coal mine.
- Prof. Milo. So gratifying.
- Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
- Toyman needs to read more Silver Age comics, LOL!
- Flaming nipples... as an idiom.
- Wow. Green Lanterns doing, like, research. Refreshing.
- Huh. Torturing nuns? Never thought of that; need to keep that one in mind.
- Bane's real name.
- Oh, where's Korgi when you need it...?
- Doesn't crystal-pierced Kryptonians look and sound like a refreshing summertime dessert?
- Well, that was a short-lived piece of good news.
- Okay, if this the return of Dr. Domino, I will take back everything I ever said about this writer; every single thing.
- The revenance of Jonan Hex.
- "You don't need your gall bladder, do you? Because I could really use the space."
- Great Rao, Kal has GUTS! Still, defying Zod is nothing compared to defying Perry White, Masterman.
- Oh, don't lie. You have so worn leather pants before.
- Ah ha! Churchill was a fan of El Papagayo!
- The 'Motivation Bunker'? Ouch. Well put.
- "I don't think I can take this anymore." Hey, Hal subscribes to JLA!
- Thanks, William Sturges, for obeying the Prime Directive of Horror Movies.
- "Not even that time we dug up that feller with six gold teeth."
- The reality everyone knows in the heart but denies in conversation. You scare me, Gail.
- OMG. Jonah, Lazarus, Bat, and Tallulah? Oh yeah, the Wild Justice League rides!
- I know European circus slang when I hear it, too!
- Condiment King. Really, what more do you want?
- If you said, "Mr. Polka Dot", you win.
Tempest is coming back.
I really don't want to be negative about this; I mean, I have nothing against Tempest personally.
Okay; that's a bald-faced lie. Tempest -- "Garth" -- is a mess and always has been. Before he was Tempest he was Aqualad, a big-headed purple-eye freak, rejected by society, crippled by fear and doubt, and riddled with insecurities. And that was in the days when sidekicks were plucky, adventuresome lads. Those were his best days.
Then he fell under the sexual thrall of Aqua-Chick, becoming the whipped scream atop her hot java of love. Then, after she went to the big fish fry in the sky, he was reduced to being the ninth wheel in Marv Wolfman's superpowered DeGrassi spin-off called "The New Teen Titans". And he was now named "Garth". Garth. Hanging out with "Gar(field)". Wolfman, these are superpowerful heroic beings, not housecats. I should get housecats and name them Garth and Gar Garling. Except I don't like cats, any more than Wolfman seems to have liked either Garth or Gar, the perennial scrubs on a team of BMOCs.
As if naming him "Garth" weren't bad enough, he re-codenamed him "Tempest", probably because (1) it sounds really angsty and (2) Wolfman never got the chance to give Marvel's "Storm" that little brother she always wanted. Your opinion is sought: is it a step UP or DOWN to go from writing the Howard the Duck newspaper strip to writing the adventures of Garth Tempest?
Who, by the way, now had the same powers as, well ... as Zook, the Martian Manhunter's pidgin-paroling pet from the later Silver Age, making him about as scary as the repairman from RJH Heating & Cooling. Oh, but, those powers were... magical. And now Garth has a tatoo. A magical tatoo. "Tempest" seems less like a DC superhero than a collaboration between J.K. Rowling and Satoshi Tajiri.
Then after the New Teen Titans disintegrated -- as squabbling teenagers will do, despite their teary-eyed professions that "You're my real family!"-- Garth became the whimpering whipped boy of another aqua-chick, the Daisy Duke of the Sea, Dolphin, who was one of Aquaman's cast-offs. Icky. Dude; have you not heard that there's lot of good fish in the sea?
When Tad Williams got his hands on the aqua-cast he had the guts to recognize what "Garth" was: a feeb, and he portrayed him as such. A powerless underwater asmatic suffering from stress-related aging? Perfect.
But now "Tempest" is coming back, and he's still wearing his ice-skating costume. Say what you want about Pozner's Aquaman suit (on which Tempest's is based), but at least it was remotely defensible as camouflage. Tempest's outfit is not even remotely defensible as camouflage, except in those few stories set at the ISU Championship or Cirque Du Soleil. ("Surround by water===frozen water! Will Tempest find a way to breathe easy and survive... the Rink of Doom!?")
At least one good thing can be said about his comeback, based on that cover; he appears to have drowned Roy.
Monday, June 01, 2009
As the "Red Circle" series looms on the horizon of the present DCU, like a rising sun shedding its Golden (Age) light on another shiny day in the Platinum Age, that same sun is setting in the Pep-py past. As the Shield's day in the sun begins its close, the light yellow backgrounds that stream across his adventures fade to a darkening red, in the same way that America's post-war glory was gloomed by the spread of Communism.
On this cover, the Shield strangles a young Dr. Tommy Elliot, who was only trying to use his multiphasic crankshaft to pry off the out-of-control cinchbelt that's obviously crushing that poor, fainting woman. Poor, misunderstood Tommy; it's incidents like this that drive you to become a poorly defined MacGuffin in later life.
Meanwhile the ever-charming Hangman prepares to do something just off-panel to the woman's lower regions, armed with great handfuls of grey goop; hey, as long as she's already fainting, Hangman's thinking...!
In the background, Dusty dashes in uselessly: "Er, sorry, I'm late guys! But I met this really keen red-headed guy named Andrews at school, and he's talking about forming some kind of club for youngsters... ."