Saturday, June 27, 2009

Green Lantern Sundae

Ladies and gentlemen, without comment, I give you:

Hal Jordan defeated by a bowl of ice cream.

Because, really, what can one say?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Teenage Girls

Today, I'd like to talk about girls.

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

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 obviously hasn't gotten to my letter yet.

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

Pep 24: The Apple Jacks of Doom!

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.