Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The General and the Cavalry
Ordinarily, I don't believe in just posting old panels without any sort of humorous commentary or insight as value-added. Because anyone can do that. And did.
But frankly I simply cannot thing of anything to add to the intrinsic absurdity of this panel:
P.S. If "General Schmutzpuss and the Rabbit Cavalry" is not the name of some indie band already, it really should be.
Monday, August 29, 2011
1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrrow
1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow (1952). Writer: France E. Herron. Art: George Papp. A professor sells a book called "1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow" to the underworld, full of pre-planned schemes to defeat Green Arrow. Many of the schemes here involve understanding Green Arrow's psychology, then using his typical responses against him. This is a subtle approach. Green Arrow eventually understands this. Herron would write other tales of psychological manipulation by bad guys, such as "The Invasion From Indiana" (Strange Adventures #49, October 1954). Green Arrow's eventual call to abandon his predictable use of logic has a Rimbaud like feel.Of the many astonishing things I have seen or might reasonably imagine seeing some day, a description of a Green Arrow story as having a "Rimbaud-like feel" was not one of them. Unless, of course, one focuses on the point in his life where...
Rimbaud's behaviour became outwardly provocative; he drank alcohol, spoke rudely, composed scatological poems, stole books from local shops, and abandoned his hitherto characteristically neat appearance by allowing his hair to grow long.. At the same time he wrote to Izambard about his method for attaining poetical transcendence or visionary power through a "long, intimidating, immense and rational derangement of all the senses.Because that actually sounds a lot like Ollie Queen to me. "1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow" was originally published in this comic (Adventure Comics 174):
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Hangman's Dark Vein of Humor
wait for it...
My, my! Now if tha' doan beat all!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Wonder Woman versus the Indigenous Genre
Okay, ordinarily I try to avoid being rude on here. And, yes, ordinarily I fail.
However, today I think I will have to be intentionally rude, or at least unkind, to my fellow comic book readers who seem utterly mystified by a recent statement that Wonder Woman is going to be, in essence, a horror comic.
Brian Azzarello said in a recent interview:
"People need to relax, she's not wearing pants. But it's not going to be a superhero book. I can guarantee you that, it's not a superhero book. It's a horror book."
First, we are not talking about pants here, so, um, keep your pants on.
What we are talking about is something we've noted earlier: DC is using the opportunity provided by the new 52 to expand the genres and tones in what they offer beyond "just superheroes".
"More than superheroes" was a successful formula for DC in the past. Marvel did it to some degree, but by the time Marvel came along "superheroics"--comic book's indigenous genre--had more or less taken over the comic book medium. DC used to publish romance comics, war comics, horror comics, humor comics, funny animal comics, science fiction comics, mystery comics, adventure comics, crime comics, cowboy comics, fantasy comics.
But those genres faded as the superheroes grew in literary power. For most of the genres, readers could get their fix in other mediums... but superheroes reigned supreme in their publishing ghetto. During that transition, during the evanescence of the other non-superheroic genres from mainstream comics, something odd, yet perfectly logical happened:
everyone became a superhero.
Sci-fi hero Adam Strange started palling around with the Justice League and saving them from Kanjar Ro.
Sgt Rock did crossovers with Batman.
Oh my gods, it's like shooting fish in a barrel...
Jonah Hex went to the sci fi future.
who'd lost his powers under that red sun.
The Blackhawks put on those ridiculous costumes ("Howdy, y'all ... I'm the Listener!").
Patsy Walker became Hellcat.
Really, every time I say or read that sentence it amuses me; Patsy Walker became Hellcat; it's more ridiculous than, say, putting Pureheart the Powerful into the JLI.
And classic horror character Swamp Thing started working with (and against) superheroes (which actually turned about to be a dromedarian back-breaker, leading to the creation of the Vertigo line of characters who, while still in the DCU, were "walled off" from its superheroic antics). Pity; I was hoping one day to see Swamp Thing in camouflage spandex, swinging around Gotham City on self-grown jungle vines, helping Batman bring Poison Ivy under control, like "Swamp Thing, the Sprout Wonder".
Yes, everyone became superheroic and those who didn't were seen only during huge universe-threatening crossovers, usually surrounded by scads of superheroes, with nothing more important to do than to remind readers, "Hey, DC used to write stories about me!"
Cinnamon thinks, "Jeez, can't I just shoot this saloon-whore and be done with it?"
And, now, that era is over. The success of non-superheroic graphic novels and indie comics have convinced DC that comic books are once again a medium where a variety of genres might flourish and recombine into new forms. As discussed in our look-ahead toward the New 52, there's clearly a lot of genre-mashing going on.
In fact, DC is pressing boldly forward...
back into the Golden Age, where a wide variety of genres were often found within one title. One issue of Pep Comics might contain the patriotic superhero the Shield, the detective in cape adventures of the Odious Hangman, the fantastical Danny in Wonderland, the sleuthing of Bentley of Scotland Yard, the supernatural horror of Madam Satan, and the military adventures of Midshipman Lee Sampson or Sgt. Boyle.
It wasn't just that there were anthology titles during the Golden Ages. The "superhero" genre had not yet coalesced out of other genres; while there were plenty of costumed adventurers (super or not), their tones varied widely and they were modeled after different genres. Batman was clearly a "detective comic" (duh)... at least, when he wasn't fighting vampires. Superman was more sci-fi, Wonder Woman was a war comic that quickly turned to fantasy, and Aquaman (as I've said before) was kind of an underwater Western starring Sheriff Curry. The superhero genre-- if there really is such a thing -- was born out of rampant mashing up of other genres.
The superhero genre threw itself together--well, kind of like Swamp Thing, by using scrips and scraps from whatever genres the seed of an idea happened to ground itself in. The rise of the Dynastic Centerpiece model in the Silver Age was part of the evolution of the genre toward some kind of unity. Crossovers and character interaction across titles were also part of that evolution.
But, unlike Marvel, DC's characters were not originally designed with that in mind. They weren't designed to interact with one another and it created cognitive dissonance when characters with different tones and from essentially different genres were 'forced' to work together. There are many examples of this problem throughout the decades. I won't enumerate them (this is a post, not a book), but we'll let one example stand for them all: Captain Marvel. "How do you fit the Marvel Family into the DCU?" is one of the Great Conceptual Challenges of all comics (apparently), akin to Fermat's Final Conjecture or one of the Hilbert Problems. Why, it's like putting Pureheart the Powerful into the JLI.
Now, interestingly, DC is actively embracing that dissonance not as a problem but as a solution. Rather than forcing every character into a "superhero genre", why not let the "superhero" concept expand again to encompasses any genre or combination of genres that it can? Why try to make Wonder Woman fit a pre-existing "superhero model"? It certainly never fit her very well; why squeeze into constraining literary pants that don't fit and limit plot movement? Wonder Woman doesn't fight Dick Tracy -style gangsters while patrolling a 1930s-style city; she never did. Wonder Woman's roots are Graeco-Roman mythology; she's a Greek hero. And what did Greek heroes do...?
They fought monsters. You know... like in a horror movie.
Which I why I am having very little patience right now with dullards sitting around scratching their heads about "Wonder Woman as a horror comic". Especially since you know every damned one of them used to watch "Buffy"...
Saturday, August 20, 2011
The Comet's smoking gun
Friday, August 19, 2011
The Hangman Kills Baby Seals
One of many reasons to hate the Odious Hangman:
He causes the death of adorable seals.
By using them as meat shields.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The Shield: Beware the Pebble!
Lorenz? Kurzweil? Poincare`? Puh-lease!
Joe "The Shield" Higgins was the true Father of Chaos Theory:
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
First Comes Love
I want to finish up my little series on marriages in the DCU2 by looking at how it all fits into the bigger picture.
It helps a comic company when it has great or even good characters. Even I am happy to admit that Marvel, for example, has some great characters (although I don’t often like what Marvel chooses to do with them). But the overall mythic appeal of a comic book – or any fictional – universe is also dependent on how well it represents various aspects of human experience through archetypical characters.
One example of this concept that I’ve discussed before is parenting. The DCU’s ‘trinity’ (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) represent, well, many things. Intentionally or not, one of the things they represent are three basic modes of being raised as a child:
- by two parents (the Kents and their son Clark),
- by a single parent (Queen Hippolyta and her daughter),
- and as an orphan (young Bruce Wayne).
If we include a fourth, adjunct member in that “trinity”—Robin the Boy Wonder—then we get an even fuller representation of possible parenting:
- by a mother and father (the Kents),
- by a single mother (Hippolyta),
- by a single father (the Golden and Silver Age Batman is, for all intents and purposes, a father figure to his ward, Dick Grayson),
- and as an orphan (remember, the whole idea that “Alfred raised Bruce” is a completely modern invention, and pre-Crisis Bruce pretty much just raised himself… I guess when you’re really wealth you can get away with stuff like that).
Who knows? Perhaps DC will one day see fit to complete this particular puzzle and create characters with two mothers (Super-Heather!) or two fathers (like Connor Kent, but, um, we probably shouldn’t think about that one too deeply). Perhaps Apollo and Midnighter will adopt? Oh, I hope not. Gay couples always adopt Asian girls, so their child would surely be a Sword-wielding Kick-Ass Asian Ninja Chick. There’s too much of that cliché in comic books already; editors think that all fanboys love SKANCs, apparently.
Returning to the “trinity” again, they represent not just the three basic modes of parenting but the three basic modes of becoming a parent:
- Natural birth (the Waynes)
- Adoption (the Kents)
- Artificial means (Hippolyta)
I’m well aware that the uniquely mythological means of Wonder Woman’s birth—pygmalionization—isn’t really an option for those of us not in really tight with the gods. But it serves to symbolize all instances where someone becomes a parent through extraordinary means (artificial insemination, cloning, macro-mytosis… you know, that stuff).
Interesting though this may be… it’s not my current point; it’s just background. You are welcome to discuss it, but I mention it only as an example of how DC's iconic characters can be used to display the variety of human experience.
As the song goes, first comes love, then comes marriage, etc. And marriage and romance (or the lack thereof) are the subject of our current series.
My actual point is that, just as DC's Trinity & Co. represent modes of parenthood, so do DC’s icons—at least, potentially—represent modes of relationship status.
Clark Kent: The Unwilling Bachelor
Clark “not getting the girl” was part of his schtick for sixty decades. Now, Clark is no sad-sack like Peter Parker, so I’m not going to call him an “unhappy bachelor”. Superman’s not really “super” if he’s consistently unhappy. But it was always made clear that being Superman, wonderful though it was, meant giving some things up , or at least putting them on the back burner, including romance.
Bruce Wayne: The Willing Bachelor
I would call Bruce Wayne a “confirmed bachelor” but nowadays that’s just code for “gay”, which Bruce is not. Marriage or even a serious romantic relationship is not for everyone. Bruce has a fulfilling life full of purpose and on-going accomplishment, has close emotional relationships, and surely takes care of his, um, needs with other like-minded singles. But having—or looking for—a girlfriend has never been essential to his character. To the degree that one considers Bruce “happy”, he is a happy bachelor. Bruce is, at heart, a “Down With Love” Girl. It’s just that instead of eating chocolate he beats the tar out of demented freaks and dangerous criminals, which is better for society and much less fattening.
Hal Jordan: Man-Whore
C’mon; we all know it. Hal hooks up; Hal gets booty calls. It’s not just being played by Ryan Reynolds in a movie; it’s not just a post-Rebirth Geoff Johns’ characterization of Hal. Although both of those certainly help. Even Pre-Crisis Hal… well, let’s just keep this simple: Arisia.
Barry Allen: Player
Barry Allen, as recently discussed, was kind of a “player” (at least, had great potential for it, dampened only the Ever-damning Evil Eye of Iris West, Meanest Woman Alive). And he’s a known magnet for Sexy Extra-Dimensional Action Scientists and the occasional Oscar-winning actress. But he’s not a man-whore like his best bud, Hal Jordan. Barry Allen’s not a ‘hook-up’ kind of guy; he’s more of a ‘speed dater’. I’m sure Barry make every woman think she’s the only woman in the world … when he’s with her. Only Iris West knows better, because she knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men.
Arthur Curry: Husband
However one feels about Mera, Arthur Curry was the first married superhero, the king who found his queen. The tragic end of their storybook romance was the truly end of the Age of Innocence in the DCU. For better or for worse, Aquaman stands for The Married (and sometimes Divorced) Superhero.
J’onn J’onnz: Widower
Most of what current readers think of as J’onn’s essential background consists, in fact, entirely of post-Crisis inventions and retcons. That’s understandable, given that J’onn pre-Crisis backstory was, well, I think “difficult to work with” is the kindest way I can put it. So nowadays one of the strongest elements of J’onnz background is the lost of his wife and children on Mars. J’onn is one of the most significant widowers in DC comics (perhaps in all comics, second only to—of all people—Frank Castle).
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Comics for Soldiers
Yeah, yeah, I hear you snickering; get your minds out of the gutter. And follow these directions...
(1). Go to the Post Office and get a medium flat-rate box (Size:11" x 8 1/2" x 5 1/2"); they are free.
(2). Fill it with comic books. You've got plenty and you know damn well you're not going to go back and read them again.
(3). Seal it up and take it back to Post Office.
(4). Tell them you want to send it via the military flat rate to a soldier stationed overseas; it costs about $11.
(5). Have the PO staff help you fill out the mailing form.
(6). If you do not have the address of a soldier overseas, you can send it here:
c/o Benari Poulten
APO AE 09355
That's a friend of mine in Afghanistan. They've got most of the necessities over there and quite a few "luxuries" (like movies). But they don't have comic books. And there are lots of servicemembers who would appreciate having them; my friend will help spread the comic book love among the troops.
You can also contact Operation Comix Relief. Or you can also just do it yourself.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Marriage: The Perfect Couple
Oh, Scipio, some of you are thinking, you just don't like superheroes being married AT ALL, do you?
You're wrong; I see nothing intrinsically wrong with the concept of a married superhero. It just fits better on some than on others.
Heck, Animal Man's origin story has him working up the courage to ask Ellen to marry him and his was always a 'family book' (and will be again from what I gather).
He'd be completely lost without Ellen.
Mister Miracle and Big Barda were a prime example; they pretty much work ONLY as a married couple. On their own, they were just silly/stupid; but together they were silly/hilarious.
Aquaman works as a married character. Though he works just as well as a single one, too. As long as he's not saddled with a big-headed, purple-eyed freak for a sidekick.
Jean Loring's about to shoot lasers from her eyes, bouncing them off her compact mirror to incinerate Ray. Ray, of course, is already smugly prepared with SCIENCE, and (rather than reveal his secret identity by shrinking to safety) he's ready to refract the laser beams away with a multifaceted crystal.
Truly those two were made for each other.
Many people think of Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman as the classic married super-couple. They worked beautifully throughout the Silver and Bronze Ages as DC's ideal lovebirds (although the "one true love forever reincarnated" schtick got really tedious over the last 20 some years). But each also works just as well as a solo act.
But the two characters who actually work much better as a married couple than they do on their own are, of course...
Green Arrow and Black Canary.
Green Arrow. A presumptuous, loudmouthed, egotistical Batman-wannabe jackass and self-styled billionaire man-of-the-people.
Black Canary. Motorcycle-riding "tough girl" knock-off of her own mom. Just like her mom, in fact, since her mom also married a presumptuous, loudmouthed, egotistical Batman-wannabe jackass....
Private detective Larry Lance.
Despite Green Arrow's flaws (and they are nearly endless), he has the one thing that money and decent characterization can't buy: a Golden Age pedigree. And that's something you need to make the A List in the DCU. Just ask DC editorial about two years from now, when they'll still be trying to convince you in vain that "Cyborg" belongs in the Justice League. Heck, for that matter, ask the Martian Manhunter (that is, if you can find Stormwatch's address).
A Golden Age Pedigree is too important for DC to let characters that have them go to waste (except for, you know, the entire Justice Society), so they've got to make Green Arrow bearable somehow. And the only character ever to keep Green Arrow in line-- or even care enough to try -- is Black Canary.
I've made the case before that Black Canary is a character with enormous potential if only DC would make a Dynastic Centerpiece out of her. Instead, most of her Earth-1 existence has been as part of someone else's cast as "Green Arrow's girlfriend"; ugh. Black Canary, with an even stronger Golden Age Pedigree than GA, having worked her way beyond the glass ceiling from her beginning as supporting character for Johnny Thunder (of all people), relegated to "Ollie's biker-chick girlfriend"? More appropriate is the relationship shown on the Batman:Brave & the Bold animated series, where Black Canary outshines him and he knows he's darned lucky to have her.
I was so happy when DC finally had them tie the knot! Despite some great attempts to stand them up on their own (such as when Green Arrow came back from the dead, returned to Star City, and started acquiring a dynasty of surrounding characters, or Black Canary's starring role in Birds of Prey), neither character was ever able to hold their own the way their Golden Age classmates (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Flash) could. But as the first superhero couple with Golden Age pedigrees, they would have occupied a strong and unique niche in DC's heroic pantheon. Contextualizing each other, each became much more likable and accessible.
But DC screwed it up almost immediately. DC's not very good at letting couples be happily married... except for Lois & Clark, which made them exceedingly boring. The one couple who could easily stay happily married and still remain interesting -- because each was a well-known hero is his or her own right -- was Black Canary & Green Arrow. Yet DC screwed that up almost immediately.
Such a waste! Think of the fun that could have been had. Double-dating with the Halls or the Frees; fighting the Sportsmaster and the Huntress; acting as each other's partners, without the need for sidekicks. It would have been a fresh paradigm not seen since, well, since the days before Hawkman and Hawkgirl started dying on a monthly basis.
But as far as I can tell, in the New DCU both characters will revert to their Golden Age status quo as singles. Maybe DC will have better luck establishing each as a solo act; maybe this time when they meet, DC will pair them off happily. What do you think...?
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Off the Cuff Haiku
I received these cufflinks as a groomsmen gift at the recent wedding of my wingman, Cobra Misfit:
Nothing cooler! Thanks, Misfit! Hope you and Cobra Mrs.fit (Hi, Amy!) are enjoying the cruise. Thanks to you I have to the ability to talk about the Flash...
off the cuff.
The Flash himself is pretty good at off the cuff remarks (as befits someone fast on his feet). Here's just one example.
While Cobra (rightfully) celebrates being married, Barry (deservedly) celebrates being single! Oh, Barry, you suffered through Iris West for so long, I can't blame you for celebrating. And what better way to make a clean slate than by redecorating? Nothing says "I'm cleaning house!" than, well, actually cleaning house. And as part of DC's cleaning house, Barry will be single again.
For those who didn't notice it, let's make it clearer--
Barry's adapting to his situation with a graceful haiku:
Pretty clever how Barry arranged his haiku to play with the word "life-style" there, allowing "style" to do ambiguous double duty as both a noun and a verb. Smart guy.
What haiku can you compose to celebrate the Fastest Man Alive no longer being married to the Meanest Woman Alive?
Thursday, August 04, 2011
The Ballad of Barry Allen
Get out your mandolins, everyone! It's time to sing along...
Sung to the tune of the "the Ballad of Barbara Allen"
In Central City’s late Bronze Age
There was a blond man dwelling
And every maid cried well away
For his name was Barry Allen
Twas in the comic book of March
The Iris fans were yelling
Iris West on her deathbed lay
For the love of Barry Allen
He sent her killer to his grave;
His issues still weren’t selling
Praying you must buy my new comic now
For Flash to stay Barry Allen
Quickly quickly he moved on
Quickly quickly he went running
And the only words that Barry said:
“Fiona Webb, you're stunning!”
As she was dating Barry then
She heard the church bell knelling
And every stroke it seemed to say
“You won’t be Mrs. Allen!”
Oh crazy crazy went Ms Webb
Escape from death was narrow
Reverse-Flash died for her today
With Flash’s trial tomorrow
They locked her in the old madhouse
They buried him in the future
And from her grave came Iris West
With Barry to retire
Then Barry died; then he came back
Reverse Flash he did likewise
And he untied their timeline’s knot
The Flash without his fishwife