Friday, January 11, 2013

Fisch on Fridays: Timely Remembrances

Grant Morrison and I differ on many things.  But we are as one in our admiration of Sholly Fisch, probably the best comic book writer you don't know.

Fisch is the genius behind many of DC's underappreciated all-ages titles, such as "Batman Brave and the Bold", the 'DC Superfriends", "Justice League Unlimited"

To his genius, I dedicate this new feature, "Fisch on Fridays". He's got a whole world of things he's written out there (look him up), but, consistent with the focus of this blog, I'll stick with the stuff he's written for DC.

In one DC Superfriends' story dinosaurs suddenly time-travel and roam the earth, thanks to three scientists at STAR Labs.  No surprise there; in the DCU that's pretty much your average Friday.

But Sholly Fisch, even though he's ostensibly writing for children, still doesn't pass up the opportunity for homage to DC's past.  The scientists involved are named:

Dr Hyatt
Dr Nichols
and Dr Hunter,

whom serious DC fans will recognize as the names of the three of the DCU's old school time-travel scientists: Professor Alpheus V. Hyatt from the Atom's Ivy University, Gotham City's Professor Carter Nichols,  and "time master" Rip Hunter.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Haikuesday with Lo-Lo and the Dino

There's a reason that dinosaurs are Number 4 on the National Periodicals Table of Story Elements: it's just not comics without dinosaurs.  Isn't that right, Ren Fair Spidey?

"I must needs get these dinosaur sketches to Lord Jameson for the evening crier's rounds!" 

Today, a dinosaur even collaborates with Pulitzer Prize winner Lois Lane in composing a haiku I title "YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!":

"Relax, Clark. This is
Metropolis. Something's bound
to happen soon." "RRRR?"

Oh, Lo-Lo; how bad is it when a dinosaur needs to edit you...?

What can haiku can you compose about the poetic teaming of Lois with a dinosaur?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A Post-Penguin World?

As I've mentioned before I'm a reader of Dick Tracy, particularly since the new creative team has been, well, getting so creative.

Their most recent storyline has guest-starred two private citizens who've taken their cos-play as masked adventurers (the Cinnamon Knight and the Black Piranha) to the streets and become embroiled with Tracy's battle against a returning foe, Broadway Bates.

 He looks oddly.. familiar.

If you're thinking, "oh my god, Dick Tracy totally ripped off the Penguin," you are horribly, painfully wrong (although that certainly has happened on other occasions).  Broadway Bates first appeared in 1932, kids, seven years before Batman himself did.  If anything, the Penguin was clearly, ahem, "inspired" by Broadway Bates, a dapper 'gentlemen criminal' with a monocle, pointy nose, cigarette holder, and walking stick for a weapon.

In Dick Tracy's world, people still read newspapers.

Despite being the obvious copycat character, the Penguin is about 90,000 times more famous than Broadway Bates ever was (and if you think that's an exaggeration, ask yourself how many people could without the internet tell you who Broadway Bates is, compared to the Penguin). The current creative team, however, holds no grudges for that, and ingeniously turned the entire situation on its head by hilariously lampshading it.  Without ever actually saying the words "Penguin", "Batman", or "Gotham City", they've made it clear that Broadway Bates is, in fact, the Penguin's less successful brother.  Talk about yer Ivory Soap maneuver!

Yeah, I'm sure that'll happen any day now, Pengers.

Meanwhile, as the Dick Tracyverse is treating the Penguin with all the reverence due his legendary status, the DCU is possibly kicking him to the curb.  For those not following the current "Death of the Family" storyline in the Batman family of titles, the Joker has extorted the Penguin into attending some big affair at Arkham (ostensibly the Joker's wedding to Batgirl, but that's not important right now).  And they've spent considerable effort in setting up his sidekick, Ignatius Oglivy, to usurp his role as the new "Emperor" Penguin, in the expectation that old Oswald won't be returning from his latest jaunt with the Joker.

I've been complaining for some time that DC's been dissing the Penguin for some decades now, really unsure of what to do with him and unwilling to use him as a "supervillain" per se (which if you ask me is a waste of someone who can fight Firestorm to a standstill armed with nothing but an umbrella).  They've  tried to take advantage of the post-Crisis reboot by making him an untouchable crimelord and arms dealer, who, with his family connections to Gotham's early elite, passes as a legitimate, if not highly respected, businessman.  

But really, there's only so many times you can see (1) the Iceberg Lounge destroyed and (2) a member of the Batfamily or (embarrassingly) of the GCPD beat or extort information out of poor Pengy before your respect for him starts to stagger.  Most recently, as the Joker outmaneuvered him and his sidekick was scheming rings around him, the unthinkable happened and I've begun to question my devotion to the character.  Is Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, the Penguin, a character whose time has come and gone?

Once upon a time, the ideal of a "gentleman thief" was startling and innovative, a reversal of the expectation that criminals were all low-brow knuckle draggers whose criminal tendencies were easily divinable through the shape of their craniums.  Nowadays, when anything other than white-collar crime seems almost quaintly old-fashioned (do people actually 'rob banks' any more?), the Penguin seems, more than any other member of Batman's rogues gallery, to be an artifact from a different society.

The Joker?  Clowns will always be scary and he's proven himself wildly re-interpretable in various decades and media.  Two-Face?  People will always fear the potential for evil within themselves.  The Riddler?  Well, while "riddles" per se are a bit musty, the concept of an intellectual villain who poses puzzling challenges and plays games with the police is more popular than ever (judging from the plot of about 10,000 films and shows in the last 20 years). As for Catwoman, well, as long as there are still adolescent-hearted straight men interested in costumed cops'n'robbers, there will always be a place for a slinky, self-centered sexpot dressed in a leather catsuit and brandishing a whip.

But the Penguin?  Where is his niche gone? In a time when class conflict and the backlash against society's elite are quite high, you'd think he'd be a natural.  Has his comedic appearance and overtones finally weighed him down permanently?  Is he a victim of the prettyfication of popular culture, wherein all pop stars must look like they could also be porn stars?  Is the tall, handsome, blond Mr Oglivy the Penguin for a new millenium?  

Has the Penguin outlived his usefulness as a character, while Broadway Bates still trudges slowly along 80 years later...?