Monday, May 21, 2012

Mystery Date!, from Dan Didio

Well, the Gay Bloggers Union would never forgive me if I passed this conversation up without comment.  Why, it's a modern version of Mystery Date, just with a closet door.

At a convention last weekend, Dan DiDio announced "that a previously established DC character would be introduced in the New 52 universe as gay. DiDio told the audience that the character would become "one of our most prominent gay characters".

Now, there aren't that many "prominent gay characters" in the 21st Century of the New DCU; the few whom I can name quickly would be  Batwoman (and her romantic interests), the Pied Piper, and Midnight & Apollo (whom I don't count too strongly; the whole Stormwatch crew may not be segregated into their own universe any more, but I certainly don't think of them as well integrated with the rest of the DCU).  So for this "newly gay character" to be "one of our most prominent gay characters", he or she wouldn't have to be enormously famous.  But-- assuming that we're talking about a hero rather than a villain -- let's start at the top and work our our way down the pyramid of icons and consider the possible candidates.

Of the major characters we have already seen, the really big ones are already 'out of the running' because their romantic relationships with the opposite sex have already been established.  Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash, and the Martian Manhunter.

So let's press on to the next tier of icons: characters big enough to be JSA/JLA-material and who are not subsidiary members of a bigger icon's dynasty.  Among these I would include:
Shazam (as he is now called), Black Canary, Green Arrow, Hawkman, the Atom, Blue Beetle, Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Mr. Terrific, Dr. Fate, Firestorm, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Vibe, Cyborg, Zatanna, the Phantom Stranger, Vixen, Animal Man, Metamorpho, and Plastic Man.

I haven't been following each of these characters closely in the New 52, so there may evidence I'm not aware of.  But based on what I do know, the following can be discounted (like the major icons) because of demonstrated heteroromances: Mr. Terrific, Animal Man, Captain Atom, Firestorm, Zatanna, and Booster Gold

I am sure Shazam is out because Billy Batson in under age.
Black Canary, who wears leather and rides a motorcycle?  I don't think they'll go there.

As of this writing, the commenters at the IO9 article zeroed in immediately and almost exclusively on Green Arrow (of all people), which, honestly, seems charmingly naive.  DC, in the course of many decades of publishing, has made plenty of odd or ill-considered character decisions.  Nevertheless, I cannot believe that even DC at its most benighted would ever remake as gay a character whose last name is 'Queen'. Even comic book irony has its limits.

Hawkman?  Well, that would certainly keep the character from getting sucked into the same old dead-end pattern of the Eternal Romance with Hawkgirl storyline.  But surely, there's been some evidence of Hawkman's heterosexuality in the many months since his title launched...?

I think the Atom and Blue Beetle and (sadly) Vibe care unlikely because DC won't use one character to do "double-duty" as both an ethnic minority and a gay character.  But they are possible.  Of these, Vibe would be most likely, because he's the only one who in the "Old DCU" was never shown to have been in a heteromantic relationship. 

As for Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, and Dr. Fate... .  Somehow I don't think we're talking about an Earth-2 character, because, well.... it's cheating.  Earth-2 is literally a 'different universe', even though it's part of the DCU.

Cyborg? Hm.  HMMMMMMmmm.  Does the fact that he's "the black guy" in the Justice League mean, they wouldn't also make him 'the gay icon hero'?  I am not sure.  It would certainly make quite a splash and it's the only chance a JLA-founder level character might be reintroduced as gay. .

The Phantom Stranger--well, I'm not even sure what that would MEAN in his case.  Other than making his Anderson Cooper's perfect choice as a Halloween costume.

Vixen?  BWAHAHAHAHAHAhaha. Yeah... no.

Metamorpho or Plastic Man.   Sure they are highly recognized, but they are still on the periphery of the main action in the DCU. I mean, how do you reintroduce someone as a gay character if we're not seeing them as a character hardly at all?

If' it's subsidiary character -- like Huntress or Nightwing -- famous or not, I'm going to call bullshit.

What are YOUR guesses?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Biting the snakehead

I was going to add some 'homoerotic subtext' patter to caption this comic book cover, but, really...

What could I possibly say that could make this worse...?!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Meditations on DC Nation "Vibe"

As a number of my faithful readers have pointed out, this Saturday Vibe returns to popular culture in a DC Nation Short all his own on Cartoon Network. Can Vibe: the Musical be far behind...?

It is as I have maintained: Vibe is inevitable. And now his time has arrived.

Note well: this portrayal of Vibe is accurate, unrevisionist, and completely UNAPOLOGETIC.  Even I was unprepared for its bracing Vibetasticness.

The creators could have opted for one of Vibe's later, more sleeker, abstract, simpler, "cooler" costumes.  But they didn't.

 Here is Vibe as he first appeared in 1984:

Here is how he appears on the DC Nation Short.

The outfit is essentially the same--including the yellow harem pants--with some understandable simplifications making it more appropriate for animation.  If you look carefully, you'll notice the little Vibe fan beside him in the clip below is wearing elements from Vibe's other, later costumes: nice touch, DC. 

It gets bolder, actually.  Note from the clip below that Vibe's hobby-- breakdancing--isn't ignored or even glossed over in favor of his streetgang connections: it's the crux of the episode.


Believe it or not, those dance sequences are, for the most part, ones that Vibe was actually portrayed as doing in the Justice League comics of the 1980s. That's RESPECT, people.  Also, did you notice what Vibe said?  "I'm going to shake things up." Now look again more carefully at the cover to JLA #233 above.

This is glorious.  I have said repeatedly that DC comics tend to go off the rails when creators become embarrassed about DC's characters, usually worried they aren't "edgy" like Marvel characters are (supposed to be but aren't really anyway).  This DC Nation short says quite clearly, "Yeah, this is Vibe.  You don't like him, fine, go read the Spectre." 

Now, you can make fun of breakdancing all you want (probably because you can't do it). While you're doing so, chew on this:
  • Step Up $65M
  • Step Up 2: $58M
  • Step Up 3: $42M
  • Breakin' : $38M
  • Breakin' 2: $15M
  • You Got Served: $40M
  • You Got Served 2: $10M

EVEN "You Got Served 2"--which sports a non-coveted and fairly rare ZERO PERCENT rating at Rotten Tomatoes--earned $10M at the box office.

It may seem silly to you, but the concept of ritualized dance/display as an alternative to actual fighting isn't a "fad"; it's commonplace throughout the animal kingdom.  Vibe's background as a streetgang member is neither coincidental nor incidental.  Breakdancing was the mechanism by which he turned from being a criminal into, eventually, a hero.  Dance is just like sports in that respect: an organized ritual "battle" that can be used to constructively channel young men's competitive aggressive energies while rewarding pro-society values. 

I am also delighted that the DC Nation folk allowed Vibe to 'self-contextualize'.  You know how the Toons in Roger Rabbit brought their own 'cartoon physics' with them even in the human world?  Ever notice how Batman sometimes manages to be a big black slab with two white eye slits even when he's in a well-lit satellite space-station?  This is allowing characters to self-contextualize, to carry along with them the context that generated them, and in which they make the most sense.

In this case, they are allowing Vibe to "self-contextualize" by giving him an animation style consistent with when the character was created. 

The DC Nation Shorts are not made with one overall 'house-style" (as were, say, the Batman/Superman/JL Animated Series). Observe the difference in art between these two DC Nation Short designs:

Super Best Friends Forever
Black Lightning and Family
Each has an individual style and contextualizes the characters.

Note what the DC Nation folk have done in the Vibe short:  they have used an animation style based on cartoons of the 1980s.  Here's two stills from '80s cartoons (G.I.Joe and Defenders of the Earth) to illustrate my point (particularly for those of you who weren't around yet to watch cartoons at that point):

I think you can see how the style of the Vibe short is much more like these 1980s cartoon than it is like the animation in the other DC Nation shorts; Captain Planet could walk right into the Vibe cartoon and you wouldn't bat an eyelash..  Choosing to contexualize Vibe this way is a decision that is at the same time bold yet sensible, and a healthy sign that DC's own genius is in full renaissance.

And everyone will learn to love Vibe.  Some of them for the first time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Highly Unthreatening Gangster Names

Nowadays self-professed "gangstas" name themselves with bizarrely infantile epithets that make them sound like hookers, rather than bad-asses, names like "Little Pony". 

Back in Batman's early days, he fought REAL gangsters.  They weren't tattooed striplings with their pants hanging off their butts like ten-dollar rent-boys at last call.  They were men.  Ugly ugly men in ugly ugly suits.  With ugly ugly names like "Shovel", "Knuckles", and "Machine Gun". 

They had their own rules about coming up with your gangster name,  but even that system wasn't foolproof.  Some of Batman's early gangster foes just didn't take the whole self-naming process seriously enough, and their careers suffered correspondingly.  Here, then, are a few of the



Look, "Chick" is a fine moniker if you're a cartoonist, or jazz musician, or a baseball player.  But face it, "Chick Miller" is not a name that's going to send a shock of fear throughout the denizens of the underworld.   Heck, it wouldn't scare the denizens of my mother's Zumba class.  And once word gets around that Chick does the Wiggly Dance at his cell door like a go-go girl suspended above a '60s dance floor, his criminal career is pretty much finito (along with his future as a potential scoutmaster). 


"So, guys, who should we trust with location of the swag while we're waiting for the heat to cool off?  Weasel?  Weasel it is then!"  Remember mothers, when you name your son "Weasel" you've pretty much doomed him to eventual hit-and-run by a big black sedan with no license plates.


That's MISTER Fink to you.  "Join me and my boys," Hal offers; "be part o' the Fink Gang!"    M'yeah, no, I'll pass on that, Hal.  When your name is Fink you are NOT going to be a successful gangster, even if your minions get over the subliminal "This guy will rat me out to the cops in the blink of eye" feeling that the name Fink would surely generate.  The above panel is a perfect example: Hal Fink fails to kill Batman and Robin because he's too stupid or sloppy to remember to turn off the water spigots when he washes his hands.

Really, when your name is "Fink" there are quite a lot of professions -- like politics or the military -- that probably aren't in the cards.  Fortunately, there's always education and the law.


"Hm.  I'm afraid my natural effeteness renders my appearance inapposite for my chosen career as a criminal capo.  Sometimes I wonder whether I should have invested in Charles Altas's system of Dynamic Tension rather than the Franklin Pangborn Program of Coded Fastidiousness. Perhaps I should adopt a compensatory sobriquet to imbue my person with a frisson of menace?  But what--?!" 

Suddenly, a baguette flies through the window.

"That's it!  I shall become... FRENCHY BLAKE!"

Oh, and in case you haven't guessed, that's actually Batman behind that door, and in the  next few panels he slaps Frenchy around like the bitch he is, then dangles him out the window upside down with a silken cord wearing a sign that says, "I AM BATMAN'S HO!"  Golden Age comics were stern reading, folks.

As titter-worthy as Chick, Weasel, Fink, and Frenchy are, the one that wins the prize hands down for Least Threatening Gangster Name is surely...


Sad part is, there is at least one of you reading this right now who just said, "OMG, THAT'S MY NEW DRAG NAME!" 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

At room temp'rature

If you are familiar at all with those wacky creations of DC's late Silver Age, the Metal Men, then you've probably seem them do their standard "introposition" spiels. 

Whenever you see them do this (they do it in almost every story), you barely pay attention because it's become so formulaic.  Particularly Mercury's "did I ever mention that Mercury is the only metal etc." routine.

So would you notice if it were...

a haiku?


I'm assuming Mercury pronounces "temperature" with only three syllables, because, well, that's how everyone pronounces it.

We all know Mercury's the snooty one, but don't the other Metal Men deserve their own haikus?  Can you write them each their own haikus of self-introduction?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Shield Brings it Home!

When last we left the Shield, he had tracked down the baseball racketeers to their well appointed suburban home and was killing them one by one by picking up bullets that bounced off him, then throwing them back at them at about, oh, 800 miles an hour.  And yes, I checked the math.

So, despite the racketeers protestations that they were "ready for the Shield" they are dying pretty steadily by his hand in a hail of hand-tossed bullets.  Maybe by 'ready' they meant "I've already signed my Last Will & Testatment": "...and to Lefty I leave my brass knuckles, the regular ones I mean, not the really nice ones, which I want my mom to have."

Oh, ho, I spoke too soon!  Having sacrificed the requisite number of goons to the Shield's ballistic sadism, the Racketeer Boss employs the Shield's personal kryptonite: a secret button.

There's always a secret button in a Shield story.  He falls for it every time. 

Usually, the secret button lets the bad guys escape. This time, however, it's for capturing the Shield.  There's just one tiny flaw in the plan...

BWAAHAHAHAA! Your big plan for capturing the Shield is... a vertical version of the Table of Pain and Pleasure?! LOL, that's like throwing Br'er Rabbit in the Briar Patch!  The Table of Pain and Pleasure is how Joe Higgins became the Shield in the first place.  "You disappoint me, Adrian.  The Table of Pain and Pleasure didn't stop Joe Higgins.  Did you think it would stop ME?"

Got give Joe credit for going along with the gag, with his Munchian "Oh, no, not the Briar Patch!" look.

Wow.  Vertical Table of Pain and Pleasure attached to a rotating wall, spinning into a steel room that fills up with solidifying liquid lantholum?  These racketeers are not merely prepared, they are extremely oddly and specifically prepared.  Perhaps they were expecting Dynamic Man.

"If you know any prayers, say them!"  What are the Shield's prepares when he assays the Table of Pain and Pleasure?  I'm guessing it's something like:

Now I lay me down to play
I pray the dom my soul to flay.
If I should cry beneath my top,
I pray my safe-word makes him stop.

In any case, it is a pretty smart trap for the Shield, since it takes into account that he's invulnerable.  However, it doesn't take into account just how oomphy he is and he oomps his way out of the trap with one might pelvic thrust:

Oomp, there it is!

Then it's just a quick pointy-toe jaunt along the local power lines to catch up with the bad guys' car.

One reason to run along power lines: it certainly gives you a sense of perspective.

Naturally, the Shield then does what seems like the perfectly logical thing (to him):

Leaps into an open manhole. No, no; in the street, I mean!  Get your mind out of the sewer!

You just know he's pointing his toes, even though you can't see it.

This is just an excuse for the ridiculous Shield-y stunt of hoisting the bad guys' car as it drives over him.

Oh, and threatening to kill them.  A true Golden Age hero should never pass up an opportunity to threaten to kill.  Followed by a bit of torture to elicit a confession:

In the 1940s the courts weren't too fussy about how you got a confession as long as you got one.

And with very little fuss, other than the immolation and explosion of several major league baseball players and the poorly dressed corpses of a handful of racketeers that the Shield manually shot to death, all's well that ends well.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Shield's Grand Slam!

When we last left the Shield, his gal friend / amateur FBI Agent Betty Warren had just interviewed one of the widows of the baseball players murdered by racketeers.  So, after a host of police authorities have already interviewed the wives, the racketeers—being stupid, like most racketeers—decided that BETTY is the one they need to worry about and try to grab her.

Maybe it’s Betty’s Mickey Mouse Meatloaf Hat that intimidates them.  Maybe they’re just thinking, “Cheezit, a dame! She’s sure to wise up to our racket with her Women’s Intuition ™!”  Anyway, it’s all just an excuse for the Shield to show up to save Betty…

Fashion tip: if the Shield shows up and his outfit looks less ridiculous than yours, 
it’s time to go shopping.

Hey, the Shield's legs open wider than Betty's!  Thanks for the perspective, ant-cam!

And saving Betty is just an excuse for the Shield to torture a prisoner for the reader’s amusement.

You know, that is exactly how power wires work. 

Betty’s rescue accomplished, the Shield decides to steal trick from his mentor, J. Edgard Hoover: lurking about men’s locker rooms.

The Shield has many amazing abilities.  He is, however, not well designed for stealth.

Taking the role of a baseball player, the Shield succeeded in getting shot and went to apprehend the would-be killer with flag-based bad-assery.

A flag-based hero tossing people around with a lasso?  It’ll never sell.

After what is I’m sure some spectacular off-screen suspect-torture, the Shield learns where the racketeers dwell (because, you know, it’s important for racketeers to all live together or at least have decent office space for storing payment records, client visits, weekly staff meetings, etc.).

Away scampers the Shield on his pointy pointy-toes taking the only logical route....

power wires.

Truly the mind of the Shield is beyond the ken of ordinary persons such as we.

You know, I've thought and thought about why on earth it would even occur to you to run somewhere along elevated power lines let alone actually do it.  My conclusion is that the Shield does this for the same reason he does pretty much everything he does: because he can.

Anyway, the Shield catches up with the bad guys at their headquarters on 1313 Racketeer Lane.

The Shield? Again, not big on stealth.

Naturally, the racketeers see him coming from a mile away.  The Shield wears a root suit that would have embarrassed Evel Kneivel.  And besides, who the hell else RUNS like that?   So they are prepared... or so they THINK!  They make the mistake of shooting at the Shield; then he does something I don't think I've ever seen another superhero do before or since...

He throws the bullets back at them.

Really hard.

Basically, the Shield just killed three guys by shooting them with their own bullets...BY HAND.  Are you taking notes, Jay Garrick?

Then, believe it or not, things get even SHIELDIER...

Monday, May 07, 2012

The Shield Plays Baseball... with Death!

Hey, look below , it’s FBI Agent Joe Higgins, whom we know as the superheroic “The Shield”, star of MLJ’s Pep Comics.  At least until the advent of the red-headed devil, Archie Andrews. We've spent a lot of time talking about the Shield, about early Pep Comics covers, and about the Evil That Calls Itself Archie in past posts; check it out if you're not familiar.

Any way….

Joe’s attending a baseball game in Pep Comics #7.  Why?  Because baseball players are going to start dropping like pop flies, murdered while playing, and The Shield will go into action as a baseball player to solve the murders.

Sound familiar?  It should. This story (Pep Comics #7, August 1940) is the one KirbyandLee shamelessly aped in their “Captain America/baseball” story (Captain America Comics #7, October 1941), which I did an entire week on here at the Absorbascon.  Even some of the attacks on the players are the same (such as the exploding baseball and sniping from the stands). Eh; who can blame?  An America-themed hero having a baseball story seems almost de rigeur, and they certainly made it an entertaining story for Captain America.

Of course, this is a Shield story were talking about; although you can imitate the plot, it’s got an inimitable style.  For example, rather than the somewhat prosaic deaths in the Captain America story where the players die by blow-dart and psittacosis and desperation and other quiet stuff, the Shield story starts with:

Blowing up an expy of Joe DiMaggio.

“Now pitching: Richard Ben Cramer.”

Well, maybe he’s not dead, just a little—

Okay, well, apparently he’s a bunch of bloody little bits spread out over the infield (possibly the outfield, too, and, frankly, before you take another bite you'd better look closely at that chili dog you were eating when he blew up ).  Can’t you just hear Mom that evening: “Hi, honey! How did the kids enjoy the big game at the ballpark?”, while Dad pours himself a double, Susie runs to her room crying, and little Wes Craven starts sketching things out feverishly on a storyboard.

The next player’s death is even more gruesome. Rather than just getting shot, he—well, see for yourself.

And the radio announcer's thinking, "I really want to say 'oh, the humanity', but now I can't".

He’s shot with a special incendiary bullet that makes him catch fire, immolating him as a shrieking horror in front of an audience of thousands, who are outraged that something exciting is happening at a baseball game (“Grab your coat, Mabel; if I went in for this kind of flaming catastrophe as entertainment, we would have gone to see NASCAR or Nicki Minaj.”).


Naturally, it's all part of some goofy protection racket.  Racketeers in the comics never spread the evil around; they always focus their protection racket on something weirdly specific like MLB players.  That way there's an easy pattern for the good guys to spot.

Fortunately for everyone, baseball’s an inter-state crime, meaning FBI Agent Joe Higgins and his gal pal Betty Warren can take the case.


Betty does the sensible, normal thing and talks to the widows of immolated/exploded players and, using her Women’s Intuition ™, deduces that there’s a protection racket involved. 

“This sister’s clutching the Fifth like her coin bag at a clip joint!  And I thought my Mickey Mouse Meatloaf hat would make her spill the beans! Gotta find a new whisk to cook this omelet!”  Because that’s how women talked in 1940, you know.

The Micky Mouse Meatloaf Hat may not impress the widows, but it certainly scares the racketeers.  Even though a host of local authorities have already come and gone, questioning the victim's wives, the racketeers decide to attack Betty out of fear that she might come to know too much. 

This is because, while criminals are on the whole a superstitious and cowardly lot, racketeers (mere grown up bullies) are just plain stupid, and utterly unaware of it. Or maybe I'm stupid and they are wisely afraid of the unspoken powers of the Mickey Mouse Meatloaf Hat. It's hard to tell; just like Grant Morrison, Golden Age writers "respect your intelligence" and don't spoon feed their readers that kind of info.

Joe Higgins, meanwhile, does what seems like the sensible normal thing to him: turns into the Shield and takes the place of one of the New York Yankees, hoping to get shot at.  Well, at least he picked the team that would give him the best likelihood of it.

“Sure, you can take my place! As long as I still get paid; I still get paid the same, right?”

Naturally, there are the requisite panels of ‘the Shield being overly awesome at baseball’. 


But eventually someone takes a shot at Joe, which of course, just bounces off him.  Hey, he’s not called “the Shield” for nothing.

List of suspects for shooting a New York Yankee = Brooklyn White Pages

The Shield leaps to capture the sniper with his characteristic flair.

This demonstration of the principle of centrifugal force brought to you by Coo Coo Cola and Meskin’s Matzos for Passover. Wait, what-- really?

Then things start to get really, well… Shieldy (below).  More on that next time.

That's oddly put.  And oddly erotic.  Anyway, make sure you hamper those clothes, or the Yankees'll send you a bill for the dry cleaning.

Friday, May 04, 2012


It's the 10th Anniversary of the superhero-themed Heroclix game this year, and their producer, Wizkids, is pulling out all the stops to produce a bumper crop of new DCU figures.

What with the additional "Fast Forces" versions of some of these sets, we're looking at around 150 new DCU figures for the Heroclix gameboard. Now, of course, 9 or 10 of those will be Batman, but, hey, it's good to have bat-options, you know?

There's never been a better time to try out the game, if any of my posts about it have ever interested you.  Here's some of what's coming (info stolen from THE source for such things,

    All these figures are designed to look like the versions in the current Batman film trilogy. For most of them (Batman, the Joker, Two-Face, Gordon) that's okay, because they look a lot like the comic book version anyway.  I will, however, be prying the sculpt of mush-mouthed cockney hacktor Michael Caine off the Alfred dial and putting one of the decent comic-book Alfred sculpts on it instead.  Because the movies aren't spilling over with lots of costumed types, the set should have many cool "civilian" support pieces.  Players are already jazzed about the innovative dials for Alfred, Lucius Fox, Gordn, and the GCPD Riot Officer.  Having these figures will make it much easier to play larger scale games where Batman is the heavyweight. 
    I expect Vibe in this set because, I mean, who else could Gordon-Levitt really be playing...?
  • THE JUSTICE LEAGUE SET (22 figures including...)
  • Aquaman:
  • Batman:
  • Cyborg:
  • Deadman:
  • Enchantress:
  • Firestorm:
  • Flash:
  • Green Arrow:
  • Green Lantern:
  • Hawkman:
  • John Constantine:
  • Madame Xanadu:
  • Superman: (Preview)
  • Wonder Woman:
  • Zatanna: 
This set should be crackerjack, with versions of all the New52 Justice League.  Having them all issued in the same set should allow you to compose a much more balance Justice League team (rather than having to use versions of those characters drawn from several different sets). I anticipate a kick-ass Aquaman.
I expect Vibe in this set, because--hello, Justice League?!
  • THE BATMAN SET (50 figures! Including...)
  • Alfred:
  • Batgirl: Stephanie Brown.
  • Batman:
  • Big Barda:
  • Catwoman:
  • Grifter:
  • Harley Quinn:
  • The Batmobile
    Like the previous "Superman" set, this set will be themed around Batman but will have other non-Gotham characters, too.  This is the only "full-sized" DC set this year, so it'll be fun to watch the many figures be previewed one by one and it will be the many opportunity to get some new villain pieces for the gameboard..  With the Batmobile, this set will introduce the "Vehicle" as a game mechanic, a prospects whose possibilities excites many players. Maybe they will finally make Killer Moth now that they can make a Mothmobile for him to motor around in?
    I expect Vibe in this set, probably one of the later simplified versions of his costume (kind of like his JLU costume), because nothing would provide better ballast for the grim and gritty Gothamites than poppin'&lockin' Paco Ramone.

  • HEROCLIX 10 ANNIVERSARY MINISET (24 figures, 2 for each of 12 characters, including:)
  • Batman:
  • Catwoman:
  • Lex Luthor:
  • Superman:
  • Wonder Woman:
The neat thing about this set is: each character will have a "Classic" figure and a "Modern" figure.  For example, Classic Catwoman will be wearing her purple dress with the green cape she did through most of the Gold and Silver Ages and Modern Catwoman will be in her black cat-burglar suit.  PLUS, the "field promotion" mechanic will apply, so there will times in the game when you can "update" the Classic version of character by replacing them with the Modern version.  So you can actually have prison-suit Luthor "invent" his battlesuit and start using it right in the middle of your game.  Since only a handful of truly classic characters of substantial long-lasting impact on the DCU with high public recognition and appreciation will be in this set, I expect Vibe to be in this set (Classic with yellow harem pents, Modern with his New52 look).

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Dial H

Yesterday I read Dial H #1, and I loved it; I encourage you to read it, too.

Author Chia Mieville (although he is an accomplished sci fi/fantasy writer and a ridiculous hunky man-babe) has said in the press that he's been very nervous about Dial H.

Small wonder.  Even with Mievelle's resume (and biceps), the prospect of revamping DC's "Dial H" property is a daunting one.  As many of you will already know, Dial H was a kid-friendly concept introduced in DC's Silver Age (specifically in House of Mystery #156, 1966).  As the accompanying cover suggests, it wasn't exactly grim and gritty.  

The "H Dial" was a rotary dial (much like a telephone dial) of unknown origins, found in a cave by a boy, Robby Reed of Littleville, Colorado.  Every time Robby dialed "H-E-R-O" on the H dial, he would become a different superhero temporarily. After transforming, he would conveniently know exactly what his name and powers were.  

One of the hooks of the stories was that readers could write in and suggest one-shot superheroes for the H dial.  This sort of interactivity was pioneered in the Silver Age; other examples included Legion elections and the dress designs of Katy Keene.  It was all done by postal mail (which, for you younger readers, was kind of like the internet only slower...and on paper).

Anyway, the kid was a dork ("Sockamagee!"), the heroes were goofy (King Kandy!), and the setting inconsequential (Littleville, Colorado!).  It ran for only two years (though the concept has been revisited a few times by DC).

Silly or not, it was strong enough to knock the Martian Manhunter off the cover of House of Mystery (already a place of exile for him since his expulsion from Detective).  Poor J'onn, who never met a superpower he didn't want--he must have been greener with envy as the kid's ability to acquire new powers every day.

Stupid or not, the H Dial was all about the CONCEPT, which was as pure a childhood wish-fulfillment as you can get: "Here, kid; is a magic object; use it to become an experienced superhero whenever you want."  The "experienced" part --the fact that Robby knew his codename and powers and how to use them with each transformation-- is not a minor one.  Like Captain Marvel, the H Dial identities came not just with power but with the knowledge and wisdom to use that power; every kid's fantasy of what being an adult is like. 

Mieville's done an amazing job of recontextualizing the concept and WITHOUT really altering it at all.
The setting is, again, Littleville, but the town represents things that have "seen better days".  Like the protagonist (Nelson Jent); like the H Dial itself (a relic of a different era). 

I was ... relieved? Amazed?  Impressed?... when I saw the first two "heroes" produced by the H Dial, who are pretty much exactly as ridiculous as the original ones.... BUT TERRIFYING IN THEIR POWER.  In tone, then, this new comic has less in common with the original than it does, say, Peter Milligan's Enigma or even Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol.

I don't want to spoil the comic any more than that, and although I haven't read anyone else review the comic, I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be telling you to read it.  Please do, and let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, one last diversion: my theory about what the H Dial is.

Now, one of the glories of the H Dial is that it is sort of the technological equivalent of the Phantom Stranger. It has no background.  It has no context or explanation.  There is no sensible reason it could, should, or would do what it does in the way that it does. It is arbirtary, capricious, unjustified; and is totally, clearly, and purely an instrument for advancing the story. 

Cool.  I will now try to explain it ANYWAY with no evidence and nothing but RAW DEDUCTIVE POWER.  It'll be just like a pre-Socractic philosopher trying to explain cosmology and physics without ever having to do any, you know. science.

I propose that the H Dial is Fifth Dimensional (you know; like Mr Mxyzptlk) in origin; this is the only 'in-universe' way it could do what it does.  This is consistent with the fact that although "magical" and unpredictable in its fantastical power, it is still rule-based (e.g., you must dial HERO; you do not become the same thing twice; you automatically received a name with your transformation) and time-limited (the change is not permanent).  

I posit that the H Dial is, in fact, a conceptual lint trap / gumball machine.  From an outside perspective (like ours, or the view from the Fifth Dimension), the DCU is a world powered by concepts for (super)heroes.  There are lots of such concepts; not all of them would work well in the long-run or jibe well with the existing DCU.  The DCU naturally "ejects" those concepts away from itself; the direction of that "away" is into the Fifth Dimension.  Rather than have half-baked conceptual garbage from the DCU littering up the Fifth Dimension, the H Dial serves as a lint trap, that collects and stores them all.  

When you activate the H Dial (which like Mxyzpltk operates by "word-magic") by dialing HERO, it basically spits one of those concepts out to you like gumball machine.  You automatically 'consume' the concept by carrying it out and using its powers.  But the concept, having been fully expressed once, has served its purpose and vanishes.  Now that it has existed at least once in the past, it no longer needs to exist again, and the gumball is empty of it, never to appear again.

This is also consistent with the fact that the H Dial identities are invariable, um.... well, odd if not downright goofy.  

Anyway, that's MY theory, 'cuz I've never heard a better one.