Friday, April 27, 2012

Recently, I received a spate of visits due to someone plugging a very old post from me on "the difference between DC and Marvel".

It's a popular topic among fans of superhero comics. So it seems like a good time to re-post links to some of most salient posts on ...

the Difference Between DC and Marvel

Is there, by the way, an aspect of the difference that I've missed, that I haven't touched on yet? Let me know your thoughts...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Flash is faster than Writing and Art

As I recall, a new issue of the Flash comes out today.  This is my attempt to convince you to buy it.

I know I’ve already discussed how pleased I am with Flash recently, but I feel the need to unpack that a bit. It’s not just that the writing is good and that the art is good (although they certainly are). Those are wonderful things! But they are fleeting. They adhere in each particular story, but by themselves they do not necessarily improve the character in ways that help future creators.

In short, great art and great writing make for a great story, but they don’t necessarily make the character greater. But choices about what to do with a character and their central elements can make them great—even in the absence of great writing and great art.

 For example, I know some of you do not think Geoff Johns is a great writer. I like his work, but I will still concede that he tends to use gratuitous graphic violence, his good guys seem to win mostly because they’ve reached the point in the story where he needs them to, and he has trouble ending a story. But whether you think his writing is great, there is little question that his authorial decisions succeed in making the characters greater, as the long list of characters (many considered irredeemably toxic) he has revitalized makes evident.

Certainly, as we saw last week during “Wolf Week” here at the Absorbascon, great art does not make a character greater. Neal Adams’ overwhelming genius depicted in gorgeous, unforgettable detail just how stupid the Stupid Bronze Age Batman was.
But, even in the absence of great writing and great art, an author can still be remember for doing great things with (or for) a characters. James Robinson’s Starman series comes to mind. The art was always blocky, crude, murky, or just plain off. Robinson had a lot of trouble plotting the series consistently and often seemed to lose his way amid the details of the Starman legacy and the fictionopolis of Opal City. But, oh, what glorious details they were! And that is why his work on Starman is remembered so fondly, not because the prose, or the plotting, or the pictures were so stellar, but because Robinson’s character choices and world-building were so powerful and unforgettable. Heck, I never did figure out what was up with that dwarf; it was all very Twin Peaks there for quite some time.

When I complained in 2006 about how tedious and misguided the Flash series had become because its concepts were so far off-base: a commenter replied, “I think the concept is the least of the current Flash comic's problems. The writing and art are just plain bad.” I respectfully (still) disagree: if there is a problem with the concept of a character it is NEVER the least of the character’s problem. If the writing and art are bad, the fix is not complicated: get a better artist and a writer. I am NOT saying that it is easy to get good writers and artists; but the solution is not a complicated one. Melpomene knows, some of our most enduring characters in modern literature were launched in horrible books with awkward plotting, turgid pacing, and painful prose.  

One year, as a horror movie fan, raised by a horror movie fans, it hit me: I had never read the original version of most of horror’s classic monsters. So I sat down and read Frankenstein, Dracula, the Invisible Man, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hide, the Phantom of the Opera. And you know what? They were, on the whole… bad. Tedious. Painful, even. These classic monsters survived, thrived, and grew in fame was not because they were written particularly well, but because the underlying concepts were so incredibly powerful.

Fixing the underlying concepts of a character is therefore more important to the character’s longevity. You know how many Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman stories are either badly written or badly drawn? MOST OF THEM. But their underlying concepts are strong enough to withstand poor handling by creators.

And what Francis Manapul is doing is not just bringing great writing and brilliant artistic vision to his depiction of the Flash; he’s fixing the Flash’s underlying concepts and in two very specific ways.  

One: he’s created a “mental power” for the Flash in the form of his “augmented cognition”. Having a mental power of some type is almost essential to having a well-rounded iconic heroic. Superman is super-smart, Aquaman has his telepathy, Green Lantern has his willpower and imagination, Shazam has his wisdom, Wonder Woman has her lasso of truth (essentially a mental power rather than a physical one), Batman is the World’s Greatest Detective, even Spider-Man has his spider-sense. And now Flash has his augmented cognition which allows him to use his mental super-speed to see all possible outcomes of a situation. 

Two: Manapul has been very cleverly limiting the Flash’s power… without limiting the Flash’s power. Face it, one of the issues in writing the Flash has always been that his power is so great that it can make him seem unbeatable. Flash’s augmented cognition comes with a downside: option paralysis and loss of perception of the “Now”. As for Barry’s ridiculous physical speed… he still has it, but it now comes with a downside: the rifts in space-time he creates if he generates too much “Speed Force”. And these are just the intrinsic limits to his power. He’s also crafting new villains “immune” to Flash’s speed (Mob Rule’s ability to be in many more than one place at a time) and giving old villains the ability to nerf Barry’s powers (such as Captain Cold’s new dampening of kinetic energy in his surrounding area).

Manapul’s writing is great. His art is fantastic. And what he’s doing with the Flash is even better.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sweet sweet octopus love Batman haiku FAIL!

Oh.- My- GOD, Becky! I can't believe that when I was younger, like last week, I used to think that Batman was SO COOL.

Until I saw THIS panel where the Golden Age Batman is indulging in some traditional sweet sweet octopus love.  Although it may actually be rough sweet octopus love, judging from the knife; Batman is not a gentle lover. In fact, in other panels he cuts off two of the 'pus's tentacles, and then stabs it in the eye.  Octopus parents, know who your children are dating!

Anyway, I was pretty impressed to notice that Batman was talking under water.  Out loud. To no one.  The Golden Batman can do things like that, you know.  People think the Platinum Age Batman with his omni-competence and ultra-preparedness is such a badass.  The Golden Age Batman laughs a hearty Golden Age laugh ("Ha! Ha HA!") at the Platinum Age Batman because preparation is for wusses.  The Golden Age Batman was never prepared for anything and he DIDN'T CARE.  He would just go ahead and jump into any crazy situation and make it all up on the fly.  Golden Age Batman was all, "I'll just make a telegraph out of some pennies in salt water!"; "This coat hanger will make a fine boomerang!", and "I can use this yeast and a candle to force open the door!"  Who needs a utility belt when the entire world is your armory?

So imagine how excited I was to see Golden Age Macgyver-maniacal, underwater-talking Batman, while on vacation in Florida,  hurl himself at an octopus armed with only a piece of scrap metal, obviously about to blurble out some brilliant, spunky haiku, when---


Oh-oh! This baby
likes me so much he wants to
hug me to death ___ !

Batman missed a syllable.  And he used to be my hero.

Starman would not have screwed that up, Golden Age Batman; you totally suck.   

What haiku can YOU compose about Golden Age Batman's sweet sweet octopus love haiku fail?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Reads Justice League #8

I usually don’t wander too far in the details of current comics – it doesn’t make for evergreen posts that Future Folk would find interesting. However, this week I’m moved to plant my feet in The Now and discuss some of the New52. [When, by the way, do we stop calling them “the New52”? When do they become just “the 52”?]
Today we look at the Justice League, specifically, Justice League #8, which spills over with plottish goodness and mysterious backstory.

First, I have to praise Geoff Johns’ handling of Green Arrow. Now, it goes without saying that the only way anyone should handle Green Arrow (if one must) is with gloves. Or fireplace tongs. Or Otto Octavius’s metal tentacles. But Johns has done as good a job with him in this issue as anyone can. He does a great job of marrying several aspects of GA’s personal mythos. In the study of ancient myths and religions, Classicists learn about “mythic syncretism”. It’s the process by which ancient religions incorporate foreign belief systems into their own, and by which cultures take varying versions of a myth (usually from different locations) and merge them into a greater whole. In ancient literature, mythic syncretism was a natural sociological phenomenon generated by cultures; in modern comics, it’s an intentional artistic act accomplished by individual creators.

Johns, as discussed before, is the current unsurpassed master of comic book character syncretism. Sure enough, he applies his syncretic hand to Green Arrow with his typical efficiency in JL #8. We see an Ollie Queen who includes: the happy-go-lucky, self-promotional, and competitive comic-relief GA from Batman: Brave & the Bold; Denny O’Neil’s guilty white liberal of the Bronze Age Justice League; the reformed playboy of Green Arrow: Year One; and the accomplished self-made billionaire tech entrepreneur of the current Green Arrow series. By allowing all of these “versions” of Green Arrow to be correct, Johns ties together the various GA “myths” into an Ollie Queen who is much more interesting and appealing that any of his ‘predecessor’ versions.

What’s more, Johns acknowledges that Green Arrow is an extremely capable and accomplished person and crimefighter; but unlike previous writers who’ve tried to make that point, he doesn’t push it too far. He still concludes—correctly—that, despite Ollie’s abilities, he’s just not a JL-level character. Since the Silver Age, that’s always been one of Green Arrow’s (many many many) problems: by continually pushing him to ‘stand with the gods’ in the JL, he’s looked smaller by comparison. What Ollie really needs to shine is not to be the token non-bat-non-super-hero in the JL, but to be the standout leader of the B List heroes. Sure enough, Johns goes to that exact place almost immediately. In case you didn’t piece it together yourself, what Steve Trevor is doing during his visit to Ollie is offering him the leadership of the new Argus-sponsored Seven Soldiers of Victory (a group modeled after Steve’s former “Team 7” [a Wildstorm group]  that Etta mentions).

The other Green Arrow that Johns sweeps into the mix is the historical connection between Green Arrow and Aquaman. Most readers nowadays tend to associate Green Arrow with either Green Lantern or Black Canary; but those associations are rooted entirely in the Bronze Age. But the hero with whom GA has the longest connection is: Aquaman. Green Arrow and Aquaman are exact contemporaries: they both premiered in More Fun Comics #73 (1941). Like Aquaman, he was never quite the hit that other Golden Agers who eventually wound up being the Justice League were; the Golden Age Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman all helmed at least one title, whereas, Aquaman and Green Arrow were confined to anthology books or perpetual second-featurehood in someone else’s title.  

The connection became both strong and overt in 1959 (Adventure #267) when they starred in a pair of crossover tales, in which they switched jurisdictions, with Green Arrow tackling a sea-foe of Aquaman’s and Aquaman returning the favor on land. It’s clear in these stories that Aquaman and Green Arrow not only know each other but are friends and allies. In other modern media, the connection has (somewhat bizarrely) continued: Green Arrow and Aquaman were Batman’s most frequent co-stars and the definite breakout characters of the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon and they are the only two DC superheroes to be portrayed in live action television by the same actor (Justin Hartley).

So Johns gets big snaps from me for giving them history together in JLA #8 (and, amusingly, not a very friendly history, apparently). And working into it the fact that Ollie’s origin put him squarely within Aquaman’s realm—stranded on a desert island—is genius.

As delightfully surprisingly as I found all the Green Arrow goodness (holy crap, I just typed the phrase “Green Arrow goodness”—who AM I?!), I was equally nonplussed by the brief revelation that the Martian Manhunter had, at some point in the last five years of DCU time, joined and the left the Justice League (a point DC has been inconsistent on in other books). His use in this issue is ALL kinds of right. It puts Martian Manhunter back up on the JLA-level of heroes. It makes him, once again, a former member of the League, and restores him to a central position in the DCU’s history. It intimates that J’onn is a dangerous lunatic (something that always makes me happy) or at least he’s a dangerous, sneaky S.O.B. (STILL eavesdropping on their minds even though they are in space!). It explains why the JL hasn’t gone all “JLU” on us, despite new heroes that have cropped up since their founding. And, very interestingly, the ONE current Leaguer who’s not pictured in the flashback with J’onn is… Cyborg.

Where this is all headed over the next year is staring to become clearer. Because of the Martian Manhunter, the League has been hesitant to open up its ranks; J’onn knows that ‘something’ is coming they aren’t ready to handle by themselves, and will need to fix that. It’s been leaked the Mr Terrific and Icon will be joining the League, and the teaser image for “the Trinity War” that appears in the upcoming FCBD comic shows the Leaguers fighting alongside Hawkman, the Atom, JLDark’s Deadman, Element Woman, and THE INCOMPARABLE VIBE, all of whom would be appropriate members of a JLAuxiliary. As many bloggers have already noted, Johns is doing a good job of making the Justice League book a centerpiece for all the action in the DCU (rather than just an add-on to the “real”, solo titles) and this issue is a big step in that direction.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wolf Week #5: God Loves Batman and All the Little Children

When we last left Batman he was about to die just as you always suspected he might: beaten to death at a construction site by a werewolf with a piece of rebar.

 But, the Stupid Bronze Age Batman, like many village idiots, is beloved of God. So, after Batman has blown every chance to escape or incapacitate the werewolf, God saves him.
At least Batman gives credit where credit is due.

 In the 1970s, God saved Batman a lot. Pieces of buildings would fall on attackers, paintings would mysteriously point to the right antidote, villains would suddenly be startled by their own jewelry and stumble off a cliff. Really, it was as if Batman had an Ironic Death Generator in his utility belt. If the Golden Age Batman's chief weapon was the Strange Hunch, the Bronze Age Batman's was Divine Intervention. "Stand clear, Robin! I'll hurl these Deus Ex Machina capsules from my utility belt!"
As for the story... that's it. God saves Batman.
Batman shrugs and says, "Wonder what Alfred's made for dinner?"
It's a lightning bolt, not a phaser cannon, you moron. Lightning bolts do not "disintegrate" people (let alone werewolves). Oh, and god forbid you should actually look for any forensic evidence to determine whether the werewolf survived, because that would be too much like detective work. "Guess I'll just wait to see whether he turns up in some later story or wolf-mutilated corpses start showing up somewhere in Gotham."

 So, let's recap. Batman doesn't look for any evidence as to what happened to the murderous monster, makes no connection between Anthony Lupus and the werewolf, doesn't investigate the missing timberwolves, gets nowhere near the actual bad guy, Prof. Milo. Ladies and gentlemen, the World's Greatest Detective.
Meanwhile, Anthony Lupus abandons his fame and fortune and moves to Alaska. Why I do not know since, there is no way he would go to prison for kidnapping Batman; Batman has no evidence of that, and Batman is certainly not going to look for any evidence. Anyway, now that Anthony is Alaska he kills as many wolves as he can (for... food? revenge? the Outdoor Channel?) while joining their pack monthly.
Oh, and collecting their blood, which was the key ingredient of the formula that made him a werewolf, not the antidote. I guess he intends to regain his fortune by cornering the market on timberwolf blood. Ladies and gentlemen, the World's Most Confused Decathlete.  

You know those stories where bloggers post pics and you suspect that by removing them from context it's made the whole thing seem much worse than it is? 
For example.

This is not one of those stories. I assure you that every panel I didn't post from the story would only make it -- and the Stupid Bronze Age Batman -- seem worse.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Wolf Week #4: Wayne versus Wolf

Okay, assume you are a rich and famous athlete in the DCU. So rich you hang out with Bruce Wayne...
and a Comic-Relief Fat-Cat.
Since it's 1974, Ollie Queen is waiting in the parking lot to beat the crap out of this guy, purely on principle. Or better yet, to make Hal do it.

And it turns out that the alternative therapy you had for your recurrent headaches has exacerbated your latent lycanthropy, and now you are a full-blown werewolf. Do you:
  • (a) go public with your plight and seek the help of the innumerable scientist institutions would kill for the opportunity to study/cure you, including STAR Labs?
  • (b) pool your resources with some of your wealthy Club buds like Bruce Wayne and create a Lycanthropic Understanding & Protection in the United States society, while simply locking yourself away one to three nights a month?
  • (c) volunteer for the Creature Commandos, then sell the movie rights to your life for a boatful of money, becoming even more rich and famous?
  • (d) beat the crap out of and/or sue the pants off of Prof. Milo, since you are not only really really strong but also really really rich?
Well, if you are any kind of reader of comics you know that the answer is going to be (e) enslave yourself to the deceitful, criminal quack who caused your problem to begin with, willing to kill on his behalf, in the naive hope that he can and will cure you. Because if people were smart enough to solve their own problems in a normal way, they wouldn't need the Stupid Bronze Age Batman to save them. So Anthony *snort* Lupus bribes Batman to visit him with a charity check...
Newsflash, Tony; truly rich people do not look for their own tax loopholes. They have people for that. Heck, I have people for that.

...whereupon Batman gets all hot and bothered ...
"Well, Batman, why don't you... take off your shirt and have cold beer?"


... and rips the attractive athlete's shirt off with his own hands right before lying face down on the floor.
Slash fic really ain't all that difficult, folks. Particularly in the 1970s.

Later, Batman wakes up in chains at a construction site.
I had a dream that started like that; I was Batman. And the construction workers were also kind of the Village People. You know how dreams are.

Anyway, Batman dodges the werewolf's first attack with a standard Gumby-flop:

"Thank you, waiter; may I see the dessert *unnff*?"

Gumby-flops were very common in the 1970s, when characters were much more limber because artists did more drugs. So was the Bat-bitchslap, but we'll go in to that another time. Then he picks the locks to his chain with a pin he grabs with his teeth from the nearby mud because, obviously, Prof Milo and Anthony Lupus removed Batman's utility belt and other gadgets before the chained him in the middle of a public area. Oh, wait... THEY DIDN'T.
"Its endurance level is unnatural!" Gee, Batman; I wonder why. 
Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

Well, then! Since the villains were that stupid, obviously Batman just whips out his Werewolf-Repellant Bat-Spray or some such and --
Who thinks to karate chop a werewolf?! I have seen a lot of werewolf movies; in none of them does the logical solution ever seem to be "I will karate chop the werewolf". Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

Oh, what am I thinking? This is the 1970s with the Stupid Bronze Age Batman, who was all about karate chops and choreographing his fight scenes rather than ending or winning them. Batman uses nothing from his utility belt at all. He doesn't even use a cellphone (or a 1974-style bat-communicator) to call 911 or animal control, because some tranq guns would solve this situation fairly quickly. So after the eighteenth time the werewolf shrugs off one of Batman's attacks and nearly kills him, the Stupid Bronze Age Batman thinks, "Hm. This opponent seems to be stronger than others. Hey...he's a werewolf! "
Ladies and gentlemen; the World's Greatest Detective!

Eventually, once his arm's been nearly yanked off, Batman finally decides to take to higher ground, reasoning that he'll be much safer from the werewolf. Because there's no way the werewolf could climb up after him... EXACTLY AS HE DID IN THE FIRST PANEL OF THE STORY. Naturally, the Stupid Bronze Age Batman is surprised.

"Yeah, thank goodness this stupid monster growls. If he were, say, an ordinarily second-story man with a a gun or even a billy club, I'd be way dead by now!"
Case in point:

Low-rent Loser "Bigger" Melvin (Batman #251),
the Man Who Could Have Killed Batman;
Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

Bronze Age Batman may be stupid but he's hella strong. Politically correct or not, I believe the technical term for this is 'retard-strength'; I suppose it's nature's way of compensating for the loss of other senses like "enough common sense not to try to karate chop a werewolf". Anyway, retard-strong Bronze Age Batman simply throws a piece of flat-tipped rod of rebar right through a freaking werewolf.

That's... quite a pitching style, Batman. Apparently Batman is the Josh Outman of the DCU. If only he weren't such a terrible bat-man...

I forget, does DC have a designated hitter rule? No, that must be Marvel.

Unfortunately for Batman, he's taken his best shot and the werewolf just shrugs it off. Batman is injured, hasn't called for back-up, and is about to get beaten to death by a werewolf holding a big chunk of rebar.  Stupid Bronze Age Batman.
What will become of our Caped Crusader? Who can possibly save him now? Only one answer, since it's the 1970s and this is the Stupid Bronze Age Batman: God. More on Him tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt "Wolf Week" at the Absorbascon for a very important announcement.

Having been alerted by eagle-eyed Absorbascommenter Xanadude today of the leaked scan of the fold-out in the forthcoming DC Free Comic Book Day comic, I am pleased to announce (as demanded, predicted, and prophesied):



Wolf Week #3: Prof. Milo

So, the big bad behind "Moon of the Wolf" is Professor Milo; who is Professor Milo? He's one of the greatest villains you’ve probably never heard of.
Basically, he's an evil chemical/medical researcher, the kind who tests stuff on animals. If he were a Flash villain he’d be dirty chemistry versus the Flash’s clean physics. If he were a Superman villain, he’d be a Junior Luthor, whose chemical concoctions would transform the citizens of Metropolis (but mostly just Jimmy Olsen) into all sorts of weird things. If he were a Green Arrow villain—well, Green Arrow would just be dead. Which might actually be a mercy considering how painful his current title is.
The early form of Prof Milo first shows up in Batman #112, when he infects Batman with, well, a lotus-eater gas, for lack of a better term:

Settle down, Beavis.

Batman was going to literally die of apathy if someone didn't give him a sudden dramatic challenge or puzzle to keep him engaged. So Robin and Commission Gordon did the (comic book version of) the logical thing...

You'd be surprised how cozy sleeping in a cowl can be.

They committed him to the insane asylum and told him he wasn't Batman, just a crazy person who thought he was the real Batman.

Uh-oh; someone's been skipping his bat-benzodiazepine! Get out the hoses!

No, really, the story starts with Batman escaping from the nut house.

Nice to knows it's always been that easy to escape from Arkham.

Anyway, after an artist's makeover that made him no more attractive, but at least less reminiscent of Cornholio, Prof Milo turns up again in Detective 257 (1958). As Polite Dissent teaches us, Scarecrow’s first use of anything like his “fear toxin” is in Batman #189 (FEB 1967). But Prof Milo had already invented it in Detective 257 nine years earlier. And it was severely debilitating, I might add.There he used his own fear toxin...

to make Batman afraid of--wait for it--bats. At which point, Batman just becomes "Starman" and kicks Milo's ass.

Yeah, you heard me: Starman.

James Robinson tried to suck
the whole thing into his Opal City storyline with "the mysterious Starman of 1951." Sad part is, most readers didn't realize that Robinson was actually repurposing a Batman-versus-Prof. Milo story from 1958. Here's panels from each story, side by side, in case you don't believe me.

Comics can be very confusing; sneaky stuff like this is going under right under your nose all the time. You'd be amazed.

Anyway, Prof. Milo didn't show up again until 1974's "Moon of the Wolf", which we are reading this week. But four years later he crops up again...
From Batman #326 (1980):

Note the scars; if you can't already guess where he got them, we'll get back to those later in the week.
In this story, Prof Milo has (somehow) become the director of Arkham Asylum. He tries to drive Batman insane with, well, a gas that drives you insane. Milo wound up inhaling it himself, which is why in 1989 you can spot him in Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum, protesting that he is sane again.

His next significant appearance is in
Final Crisis Aftermath: Run, where he experiments on the Human Flame. If you don't know who the Human Flame is, just follow the link; it's worth it and I'll be here when you get back. Milo appear several times in the animated DC universes (once as animal experimenter in the "Cat Scratch Fever" episode of Batman The Animated Series; as an ill-fated STAR Labs researcher in Justice League Unlimited; and as his true villainous self in Batman: Brave and the Bold where he uses mice to commit crimes).

But Milo should be best known for the 1992 episode of the
Batman The Animated Series based on this very comic book story: Moon of the Wolf. Actually, it's astonishing how faithfully the episode hews to the stupid little details of the story: particular lines spoken and even the staging of the fight scenes. But they improved the story vastly by making Anthony, the athlete cum werewolf, a much guiltier, morally questionable character. Anyway, if you wind up resorting to Prof Milo for medical assistance you are scraping the bottom of DC's ethical barrel as author Len Wein makes clear:

So, now that Prof. Milo has extorted a dangerous werewolf into his thrall, what does he want him to do?

Oh. Well, of course.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wolf Week #2: Who he is and how he came to be

So, how did a werewolf wind up running around Gotham? Well, if you are asking that question you are already a more apt detective than the stupid Bronze Age Batman! Once upon a time there was an athlete named Anthony Lupus. Lupus? Gee, I wonder where THAT's headed.

MEMORY: In the Bronze Age, narration boxes often began with inelegant capstone words that made you think that the author pictured himself to be a screenwriter, or maybe a robot.

He was a very proficient athlete and became a rich and famous person, which is the goal of amateur athletics.

But then something awful happened to him. Not as awful as being in
Can't Stop the Music or marrying a Kardashian, but still fairly unpleasant. He got really bad headaches. For no apparent reason. The same lack of apparent reason for which werewolves climb up skyscrapers, in fact.

Headaches so bad that they cause
YOUR ENTIRE HEAD TO FALL OFF THE BACK OF YOUR SHOULDERS. Thank goodness for Tony's olympic-level reflexes or he'd be pulling a Pantha. Pity the Legion of Super-Heroes didn't exist yet; he could have applied. So Tony went to many doctors, in vain, to solve his headaches-so-bad-they-cause-your-head-to-fall-off problem.

Then, in a clever and efficient Neal Adams montage, he winds up scraping the bottom of the medical ethics barrel....

More on HIM tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wolf Week #1: Werewolf of Gotham

So "Moon of the Wolf" begins with a werewolf climbing up a skyscraper (because we all know how wolves just love to climb up cliffs and trees and such) ....

to attack a peignoir-wearing 23-year-old female secretary. Why?

"Enter Janet Bonner"; is that a porno title or what?

No reason at all. Really. I got nothing. Other than as an excuse for some Neal Adams' soft porn. It's the 1970s, when the only thing that can't serve as an excuse for soft porn is hard porn.

Don't worry; if you watch a lot of horror movies, you know that the dog always survives.

Whoops. Guess Len Wein doesn't watch a lot of horror movies.

Does the werewolf want to eat her? Rape her? Kill her? All of the above? Why her? Has he met her? Does she have something to do with the backstory? We get zero clue and won't get one. She has no connection to anything; she's merely a prop to establish The Villain as a threat. She did get a name though, because in the 1970s comics were obsessed with naming every little character; in the 1970s even the Joker's guards at Arkham Asylum had full names (Benny Khiss and Marvin Fargo). It was some sort of gritty urban personalization-means-realism thing. Because what readers expect most in a story about a rich guy dressed like a bat fighting another rich guy who's a werewolf in a downtown metropolis is realism.

Even though there must be hundreds of more easily accessible victims, this werewolf choose to climb this skyscraper and climb in this random woman's window solely so that Batman can see him and initiate conflict.

"Crud"? "CRUD"!? "Crud" is not a Batman word. Batman does not talk like a tough but virtuous trucker coming to the aid of a sexually harassed diner waitress in a low-budget action movie. Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

THAT is bad plotting. So bad the writer nearly admits it:

"Um, hey, readers, here's your villain and that's why he doing bad things. Like climbing up the side of a residential skyscraper for no particular reason to break into a random apartment with no motivation or goal. Hey, is it Happy Hour yet?"

When you read that sort of thing, you can tell the writer has pretty much given up, right from the get-go. But I guess we should know that from the very first narrative box, which starts with " 'tis".

" 'Tis said it takes a special lack of talent to survive in Bronze Age comic book writing... a mixture of sheer nerve, amateur pretentiousness, and a casual acceptance of otherwise unbelievable prose and plot."

When you read " 'tis" in a narration box, the best thing to do is to put the comic down and just walk away.

So, why doesn't the werewolf victimize someone on the GROUND, where (were-)wolves actually might reasonably hunt? Well, so that the werewolf can throw his victim out the window, of course.

"Exit Janet Bonner."

Um... Batman? Who are you talking to? Us? Well, we can see you. You don't need to say all that. Particularly since you don't have time to say all that while a woman is falling to her death. Heck, the Flash doesn't have time to say all that. At least you managed to shut yer yap while you're falling out a window.

Or not.

Then Batman nearly kills himself doing something (rescuing a falling person) that in the post-Crisis DCU he does daily with no effort at all, like you or I would stretch in the morning. Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

During all of this, Batman assumes that the werewolf is in fact a guy in a costume. Now, one can understand being skeptical of assuming someone is a werewolf just because they look like one. But (a) this is the same Batman who fights Man-Bat every six months, and (b) when Neal Adams draws a werewolf you can damn well see it's a werewolf, not a guy in a costume. Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

After this awkward, dog-sacrificing incident, Batman visits Commission Gordon, who apparently can see in the dark.
"Yer a funny guy, Jim; wanna find out just what the inside of cement-mixer is like some time? Keep it up."

Meanwhile the werewolf runs back to his, um, were-den.
The dirt-streaked window of a dimly-lit pharmacy?
Good lord, CVS has expanded its monopoly into the DCU!

So, how did there come to be a werewolf in Gotham? Tune in tomorrow...!