Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pep 40: Don't Judge a Book

On the surface, this is a perfectly ordinary Pep Comics cover. The symbolic yellow skies. The 3D effect of The Shield jumping outward toward the reader while pummeling a host of Japanazis. The Damsel in Distress. The Hangman leaping in un-helpfully in the wee background. Dusty practicing his pull-ups for the President's Physical Fitness test at school.

But this cover is a masterpiece of deceit that has turned my computer into a house of lies. Why? Because...


The contents of this comics are:

The Shield molests an innocent Martian tourist (as seen earlier on this blog).

A two-page Shield prose story (to keep mailing costs down)

Captain Commando and the Boy Commandos doing a conga line to defeat Nazis. Don't ask.
Whoa. Because that's not gay at all.

A story about some seriously hot hillbilly named "Catfish Joe".
Whoa. Because that's not gay at all.

This guy:
Translation: "B5! Over here! BINGO!!!"

The story of Androcles and the Lion as reenacted by one of comics' greatest thespians, Li'l Chief Bugaboo:
Whoa. Because... well, you know.

The Hangman getting hit by a car. God, I love that every time I look at it.

Bentley of Scotland Yard discovers a mummy that vomits chocolate pudding.

Um.... What else would be wrapped up in mummy bandages...?

BUT... no Japanazis. No Red Cross nurse. No Dusty doing pull-ups.

Should I demand my money back...?!

P.S. Oh... and there's ...


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Haikuesday with Starman

You're alone in outer space.

You encounter a massive sentient and unfriendly being, made out of some sort of solidified energy.

You've already tried to blast it with your weapon of almost unimaginable power, but to no avail.

So you use the only greater power you can imagine:

your fist.

THEN, you make a silent haiku about it, entitled...


All that got me is
a fistful of sore knuckles!
I've felt softer rocks!

If so, then you must be the Golden Age Starman.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Meat

C'mon, admit it...

You miss Vibe.

And I bet J'onn does, too....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Set of a 1000 Olsens!

You know, I was just kidding the other day when I said you could probably make of entire Heroclix set of nothing by Jimmy Olsen figures.

But, in fact, if you dig through all those crazy Silver Age Jimmy Olsen stories, you can. Including extras for Chase Figures.
  1. Dick Hunter, Elevator Boy
  2. The Bird-Boy of Metropolis
  3. Invisible Jimmy Olsen
  4. The Human Porcupine
  5. Evil Twin Jimmy
  6. Big Jimmy
  7. The Boy of 100 Faces
  8. Giant Turtle Man
  9. Superyouth
  10. Fat Olsen
  11. The Super Nose for News
  12. The Gorilla Reporter
  13. The Mad Hatter of Metropolis
  14. Jimmy Olsen, Mobster's Moll
  15. Bearded Olsen
  16. Jaxx 4928
  17. The Human Octopus
  18. The Olsen Experiment (The Human A-Bomb)
  19. The Merman of Metropolis
  20. Viking Olsen
  21. Jimmy in Drag
  22. The Boy Witch Doctor
  23. Jimmy the Imp
  24. TNT Olsen, Boxer
  25. Jungle Jimmy
  26. Heavyweight Olsen
  27. Jimmy Olsen, Super-Brain
  28. The Red-Haired Beatle of 1000 BC
  29. Mr. Action
  30. Jimmy Olsen, Circus Clown
  31. Nine-Lives Olsen
  32. Helmet of Hate Olsen
  33. The Wolf-Man of Metropolis
  34. Anti-Grav Olsen
  35. Lucky Turban Olsen
  36. Jimmy Olsen, Human Balloon
  37. Rock'N'R'Olsen
  38. Jimmy Olsen, Speed Demon
  39. Bizarro Jimmy Olsen
  40. Greenbeard Olsen the Pirate
  41. The Dragon Delinquent
  42. Elastic Lad
  43. The Boy Millionaire
  44. Jimmy Olsen, Crooner
  45. The Human Skyscraper
  46. Jupiter Olsen
  47. Wonder Lad
  48. Jimmy Olsen, Leader of the Hairies
  49. Agent Double Five
  50. Nazi Jimmy
  51. The Radioactive Boy
  52. Genie Olsen
  53. Jimmy Olsen, Cub Inventor
  54. Robot Jimmy Olsen
  55. The King of Doraynia
  56. Flamebird
  57. Private Olsen
  58. Quick-Gun Olsen
  59. Atlas Olsen
  60. X-Ray Specs Olsen
  61. Jimmy the Hippie
  62. Jimmy Olsen DNAlien
  63. Aqua-Jimmy
  64. The Human Geiger Counter
  65. The Colossus of Metropolis
  66. Ultra-Olsen
  67. The Human Flame-Thrower
  68. Jockey Jimmy Olsen
  69. The Pal of Steel

And that doesn't even include Jimmy Olsen Fan Club Members as generics. In this set I can easily see figures with Stealth, Hypersonic Speed, Aquatic, CCE, Transporter, Invulernability, Imperviousness, Toughness, Giant, Flight, Supersenses, Outwit, RCE, Super-strength, Mastermind, Plasticity, Shape Change, Probability Control, BCF, Charge, Pulse Wave, Poison, Flurry, Defend, aw, heck every Heroclix power you can think of, plus some special powers. And Perplex. Pretty much ANY Jimmy Olsen figure could have Perplex.

Really, now; who wouldn't buy a Set of 1000 Olsens?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Man of Steel, Friends of Plastic

Wizkids, makers of the superhero table-top game “Heroclix”, has just announced that their next full DC expansion set will be Superman-themed.

Wizkids had great success recently with two Marvel sets focused around one main character (the “Web of Spider-Man” and “Hammer of Thor” sets). This “Cape of Superman” set will be the first DC set focusing on one character. While the “Arkham Asylum” set had a healthy representation of Batman and villains it was more of a potpourri than its name suggests. After all, it included figures like Human Bomb, Ghost Fox Killer, Lightning Lord, Amon Sur, and Metron.

The potpourri strategy was a sensible one. Seldom was any one customer overjoyed at the list of characters in any one set, but each set had enough variety to entice almost everyone to get it for the characters they did like.

But the evolution of the game gave this strategy unfortunate side effects. Characters you really wanted to play together were spread out across many sets. For example, after ten years, you still can’t field a Detroit League Team because they’ve never made Steel (*ugh*) or Vibe (*popping hearts around head*). Also, early characters were often hopelessly outclassed by later figures they should have been compatible with, simply because the game mechanics had been improved. There hasn’t been a solo figure of the comic book Catwoman since the first DC set ten years ago, and it’s nearly unplayable in today’s game.

As a character represented in Heroclix, Superman has suffered from these side effects. I can easily put together plenty of Heroclix teams (good and evil) to play around Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and (with a bit of customizing) even Aquaman. But a Superman teams still remain a challenge to compose. The sets always have a Superman—there are plenty of great versions of him—but his allies and enemies have been wanting.

With the advent of individualized “special powers”, rather than dials composed entirely out from a group of generic “standard powers”, Heroclix has made great strides in playability and comic book accuracy of its figures, including recent additions to the Metropolis Heroclix rolls like the Kryptonite Man figure. But this new Superman-centric set provides a fresh opportunity to bring Metropolis alive on the Heroclix maps.

Which leads to my actual point: Wizkids, don’t give short shrift to the supporting cast. Superman’s supporting cast is much more important than almost any other character’s, and a more central part of his mythos. Jimmy Olsen’s public profile is enormous; people who can’t name three Superman villains can all name Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen’s comic book ran for 20 years, for pity’s sake. Yet, after ten years, there’s still no Jimmy Olsen figure in Heroclix, though Wizkids has managed to emplasticify such mayflies and lowlights as Forerunner, Aztek, Shimmer, the Holiday Killer, and the Human Defense Corps. Julius H. Schwartz, you could make an entire sixty-figure set (plus addition LEs) of nothing BUT Jimmy Olsen figures, each one a different one of his bizarre transformations or alter-identities.

Wizkids has gotten much wiser in including “regular people” characters as supporting figures in their newer sets (such as Mary Jane Watson, J. Jonah Jameson, Alfred Pennyworth, and Amanda Waller). They used to just represent them as one-click deep pogs! But I want to encourage them to go even further in that direction: I shouldn’t have to have ordered customs made just to have important characters like Iris West, Jean Loring, Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, and
Jimmy Olsen on the board.

In short… if Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are not represented in this “Cape of Superman” set, I am going to be really ticked off.

P.S. It's hard to be too critical of Wizkids in this respect, since DC itself seems to have half-forgotten the importance of a recognizable, long-term supporting cast to a successful superhero mythos. Only Geoff Johns seems to get it. Fortunately for the fate of supporting characters, his influence is powerful and wide, so maybe others will start to catch on.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wonder Woman's persona-cycles

In previous posts, we introduced the concept of the “persona cycle” – the process of a character rotating back and forth between the extremes of one dimension of his personality. Having numerous layers of persona-cycles gives long-running characters (such as DC supeheroes and villains) the ability to be portrayed in a wide variety of ways, used in many different types of stories, and experience character development without ever becoming unrecognizable or falling “out of character”. We have already applied the theory to Superman and Batman. But as they say, “what’s good for the goose”, so now let’s take a grey-eyed gander at Wonder Woman and the dimensions of her persona-cycles.

First person to make a schoolboy comment about a woman having “cycles tee hee”, gets a three-day suspension.


Wonder Woman’s origins are rooted in Greek mythology; unabashedly, irrevocably, and deeply. Sometimes writers embrace the Greek mythology wholeheartedly, with Olympians and their assistant as regular characters. Marston had Wonder Woman working against the machination of Ares in the 1940s, as did Perez in the 1980s. Sometimes genuine ancient myth is used as foundation for a broader mythos that is Wonder Woman’s alone, allowing for the creation of characters such as the Duke of Deception (1942 & 1975), Decay (1987), Devastation (1999).

But the draughts of myth are a heady brew! Maybe the Olympians can subsist on nothing but nectar and ambrosia, but we human readers often need more meat and potatoes in our literary diets. Fortunately, Wonder Woman can cycle toward the mundane just as easily as the mythic. Now, “mundane” in this context just means earthly, not boring or ordinary. Having a villain whose head is a domino strap you to an atomic missile and launch you from his battleship at New York City or fighting a giant Communist egg are in no way ordinary. But they are technically mundane, rather than mythic.

And, while Wonder Woman seldom finds herself beating up muggers in back alleys, her mythic origins are not so lofty that writers are afraid to get her hands dirty. Wonder Woman will run a dress shop, help department store worker get fair treatment, shoot at planes with an automatic rifle, save you from a lesbian sex slave ring, work at Taco Whiz, or take minutes at a JSA meeting. Wonder Woman is not about being too dignified to do anything but battle godlings, she’s about bringing dignity to everything you do. Particularly marching.

Superhero/secret agent

Similar, but distinct from the mythic/mundane cycle, is Wonder Woman’s Superhero/Secret Agent cycle. Sometimes, WW is yer standard superhero: fightin’ loonies in costumes, holding off alien invaders, hangin’ with the JLA. She has a rogues gallery, a super-vehicle, a kid sidekick, a love triangle with a coworker—lots of the regular DC superhero stuff. However, Wonder Woman is also just as involved in war, espionage, and international intrigue. While Batman and Superman were fighting Two-Face and Toyman in the 1940s, Wonder Woman was fighting Nazis. Bruce Wayne/Batman hangs with rich people and the crooks who rob them; Clark Kent/Superman combats societal threats like corrupt businessmen, mad scientists, and Jimmy Olsen; Diana Prince/Wonder Woman works at the Pentagon, or the UN, or the Themysciran Embassy, or the DEO, or the IADC.

It's pretty hard to picture Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, or Flash getting tied up in some kind of foreign war or international intrigue (except as a rare change of pace), but Wonder Woman is perfectly at home there. “The guys” focus on local threats or interplanetary/extradimensional ones; when you wanna go international, however, Wonder Woman’s your gal. Particularly if you need to torture prisoners or snap a terrorist’s neck.

I think that’s one of the reasons Wonder Woman has never had an effective fictionopolis of her own: she is not a stay-at-home person. It would seem wrong, almost silly, to have Wonder Woman “patrolling Wondrous City” in her invisible plane. That’s why the only location that makes sense for her is supervillain-free Washington DC, a “real word fictionopolis” if ever there was one, and an ideal springboard for sending Wonder Woman to wherever the writer thinks she’s needed.


Poor Wonder Woman! Her portrayal is often tied up in our modern ambiguity over “peace through strength”. Hers is a brand of muscular democracy about which our nation is ambivalent. But Wonder Woman wasn’t… and generally isn’t. She believes in peace and if you don’t, she’ll beat the crap out of you until you do. Batman and Superman worry about crossing the line; Wonder Woman worries about making you tow it.

Some writers like to emphasize her peaceful nature. Phil Jimenez wrote her like a Disney princess; birds alight on her finger and talk to her and when she walks into the room people automatically get fewer cavities. And she spins! AND

Peace-loving Wonder Woman is the prom princess/beauty pageant winner who’s actually nice to people. She’s the version that Geoff Johns had become a Star Sapphire/Violet Lantern, an Avatar of Love. But other writers (and readers) prefer Wonder Woman as Xena. Wonder Woman wears leather! Wonder Woman studies martial arts! Wonder Woman lives for battle, like a Klingon! Remember how Waid wrote her in “the Tower of Babel” story?

Many fans deem this conflict as inherent in the character, making cycling between the two modes inevitable. I believe that Marston, however, would laugh at both portrayals. He didn’t portray her in either of those ways, and saw no internal conflict in the character. He believed wholeheartedly in “freedom through bondage” and “love conquering war”, and that has confounded generations of writers whose thinking on the matter is not so enlightened. Or disturbed and freaky. Depending on how you look at it.


Is Wonder Woman a highly intelligent modern woman backed by the wisdom of the ancients or is she a wide-eye innocent to Man’s World? Marston’s Wonder Woman was initially trusting, but caught on very quickly when a huckster tried to cheat her out of her earnings. Jimenez’s Wonder Woman didn’t even know English and had never seen a gun when she assumed her title. Jodie Picault was excoriated when her Wonder Woman didn’t even know how to pump gas. But sometimes Wonder Woman is an accomplished scientist, pilot, and pragmatist, wiser in her realistic expectations of the world than either of those idealists, Batman and Superman. This Wonder Woman knows that when wars are fought, people have to die.

To some degree, the issue of innocence has to do with how recently she’s been rebooted. But it’s also a function of how much the writer wants to use to comment on modern society as on outsider rather than a product of it (like Bruce, Clark, Barry, and Hal).


Wonder Woman is pretty consistently a symbol of female empowerment (heck… the pre-eminent symbol of female empowerment, at least in comic books). But she can also be portrayed as, well… darned-near frilly. Golden Age Wonder Woman may have tossed tanks around, but she also mooned over Steve Trevor. She sure seemed girly when compared to the truly independent Etta Candy. I recall a time she refused to open her taped over eyes for fear of damaging her eye lashes. I find it difficult to imagine Etta Candy determine any course of action based on the condition of her eyelashes.

Arguably, Wonder Woman was at her most no-nonsense when she was “un-super” in the 1970s; that’s
when she was shooting AK-47s, breaking arms, and driving race cars. Yet, she was more stereotypically feminine than ever before. I mean, really… she ran a dress shop. Can you imagine the leather-clad Wonder Woman of today owning a dress shop in the Village? Just how "feminine” writers portray Wonder Woman, in fact, could be said to be less a cycle within the character herself than modern writers struggling with the idea of what “feminine” is supposed to mean.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

First Contact

The importance of any terrestrial experiences and events will be eclipsed if and when our species makes first contact with intelligent life from other planets.

Handling "first contact" will be (second only to managing and preserving our own environment) humanity's greatest task.

And as such...
The Shield is probably not the right person to handle it.

Poor K'azpyr Mlkh-tozd the Martian! To have encountered the Shield, rather than, say, Superman, was a bad bit of luck.

Yet despite being a milksop with no taste for heroic violence, our well-spoken Martian friend has ample facility for heroic haiku! Observe as he shows his cultural superiority to our thick-headed hero by dismissing the idea of a Martian invasion with an off-hand haiku entitled:


I couldn't afford
to invade anything not
with my blood pressure!

What haiku can you compose to show your opinions of this first contact between Ferdinand the Martian, the quick-fisted Shield, or Dusty the Boy Ear-Ache?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Who says comic books aren't funny?

I would totally buy a comic book where all the bad stuff that would happen to a costumed hero in real life does happen to the hero in the stories...

all long as it starred The Hangman.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Ten Things I Learned from the Attack of Jean Loring's Brain

I promised you a denouement of what I learned from our recent "The Attack of Jean Loring's Brain" week here at the Absorbascon. And so...

#20. The brain has a heart.
And it has pin-lighting. Who knew?

#18. Aquaman does performance art. With octopuses.

Can't you just see all the beatniks and hipsters snapping their fingers as they watch? "Dig that crazy octo-art; go, daddy, go! This was completely worth the trip from Soho!"

#15. Either Captain Comet or Aquaman ...
cannot count.
Just because you're a telepath doesn't mean you're intelligent. "Aquaman! On my mark, count backwards from 20 the divisors of 180...!"

#12. There's no romance in piracy.

Ha! He's obviously never seen Lucas Entertainment's "Cabin Boy Fever"!

#10. The JLA teleporter is ridiculously slow.
Recomposition = decompression.

Three panels of exciting teleporter action?! Jeez, who designed the damned thing, Brad Meltzer?

#9. Aquaman quotes Winston Churchill. To himself, silently, inappropriately, and for no apparent reason.
That why Aquaman is so much cooler than I. I probably would have thought something more like, "Polka-dot pirates with clipboards, what the--?!"

#6. The undersea kingdom of Lemuria has absolutely no zoning laws.

"Welcome to the terrible undersea kingdom of Snowglobia; I am King Kane, and these are my daughters, Princesses Glycerin and Princess Rosebud."

#5. Aquaman has a very strange idea of ...

Huh. Sure looks like a 'frontal assault' to me.

#4. Captain Comet squats to pee.
And in the family room, too!

And last but not least:

#3. The Atom is a total drama queen
Jeez, no wonder he married Jean Loring.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Hammer Haikuesday with Dusty the Diastatic Detective

Yesterday we looked at the cover to Pep 39; today let's take a peek inside at a scene from a touching little story called...


Truly, I miss Golden Age comics!

As you know, our hero the Shield is utterly impervious to harm. It's a neat trick, but it does limit suspense. Fortunately, the Shield found his kid sidekick, Dusty, to trail after him and act as clobbering magnet.

Nazis are weird. Not only do they not know how to use commas or the letter "H", they name their hammers. And inaptly, too.
"Dot" ... really? Not "Mike", or "Stanley" or even "MC"?

P.S. Free trip to the Garment District for the first person who correctly guesses the Shield's waist size!

Well, now we know how Dusty's brains got exposed on the cover. Honestly, Dusty's not even wearing a HAT. That shock of red hair practically screams "HIT ME HERE!"

The Shield, with concern that might have been put to better use BEFORE dragging Ricochet Lad with him into battle, first punches out the hammer-wielding Nazi...

"I will punch you so hard you'll think you were drawn by Keith Giffen!"

...then checks on Dusty the Damage-Mop, who, much to his credit, not only recovers immediately but muses about it philosophically in a haiku entitled:



Um.. actually, Dusty, it is every day someone hits you with a hammer. It's getting harder and harder to remember, though, isn't it? You'll probably have forgotten it entirely by the time Child Services arrives.

Now that your brain's been exposed to Dusty's haiku, can you counter with a haiku of your own to celebrate this touching moment of blunt force trauma?