Friday, February 15, 2013

Weather Week: West Coast-ing with Hal Jordan

Hal Jordan's Coast City, as we know, is on the California Coast. So the seasons there are pretty much spring and summer.  It's always good flying weather and Hal can drive with the top down. On the car, I mean.

So the seasons in Coast City are--just like Hal--pretty simple.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Weather Week: Worlds of Wonder

Oh, Wonder Woman.  You are so ... different.  I'm not talking about her gender.  In many ways, that is the LEAST of it. 

Batman (and the host of similar nonsuperhuman vigilantes) has his roots in pulp ficition and detective stories.  Superman (and the host of similar superpowered adventures) has his roots in science fiction.  Wonder Woman (and not too many characters that aren't directly related to her in the DCU) has her roots in ancient mythology.

Batman and Superman fight crime and supervillains.  Wonder Woman fights monsters, foreign dictators, and lesbian hippy slave rings

Even though one is the city mouse and one is the country mouse, Batman and Superman both live in big east-coast-style cities.  Wonder Woman lives

In this series, we've been looking at the season in the cities of the various big heroes in the DCU.  It is was easy with Batman and Superman; we know where they live.  But, unlike those two, Wonder Woman doesn't have one fictionopolis with which she is consistently associated.  So figuring out the seasonal patterns in the place Wonder Woman lives is impossible.  

Instead, then, we meditate on the fact that "Where Wonder Woman Lives"... IS her seasonal pattern.  And a very complicated one it is, too. Whereas the seasons in Gotham City and Metropolis are easily represented by four rectangular panels of appropriate sizes, the kaleidoscope of Wonder Woman's every-shifting location is more like a crazy-quilt.  Honestly, sometimes I wonder whether she's secretly chasing Carmen Sandiego. 

  1. On Paradise Island
  2. In London
  3. In Gateway City
  4. On Mars
  5. In Boston
  6. At Eveland, the Antarctic Eden
  7. In Washington DC
  8. Hating I Ching
  9. In space
  10. On some Mystic/Mythical plane
  11. In Occupied Europe
  12. In Monaco
  13. Working at Taco Whiz
  14. On Saturn
  15. In a white pantsuit
  16. On Mount Olympus
  17. At Holliday College
  18. In Southeast Asia
  19. On Venus

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Weather Week: Metropolis

In this series, we're examining the weather in the DCU's fictionopolises (starting yesterday with Gotham City).
When I first had this idea, I thought, "I can just go through every single story set in each city to which I have access, mark down the apparent season based on visual clues, tabulate, and look for patterns!'
Then I thought, "Sh'yeah, as if!  That's a job for my fleet of post-docs."
Then I realized, "Oh, wait; I don't have a fleet of post-docs."
So, my 'analysis' of the seasonal ratios in the various DCU cities is cobbled together purely from my own recollections of stories I've read. Now, that is a fairly large sample, but perhaps my own impressions of the weather in those stories is distorted.  After all, unless the weather is part of the plot, the creators don't usually bother with making it any particular season at all.  Unless they're John Byrne. 
A lot of artists take the easy way out and have the same characters wear pretty much the same thing all the time.  For example, in the pre-Crisis DCU, Clark Kent was famous for wearing the same blue suit/red striped tie combo every day for about, oh, 40 years. 
"And I'm not coming back until YOU stop wearing those stupid public underpants and get yourself a proper mandarin collar on your shirt!"

Some of those habits stem from the origins of comic books as a medium for children thanks to The Golden Rule of Color Conservation.  It states that whenever convenient, characters should wear the same colors in their civilian identities as they wear in their superhero identities; it makes them easier for the readers to identify.  Golden Age Dick Grayson did this a lot, and Clark Kent's habit of wearing a blue suit and red tie comes from the fact that Superman wears a blue outfit with red accents, too.
Bruce Wayne: easy-going guy, good sense of humor, fun date. 

Even when the color carries no semiotic signifigance, it's just easier for artists to draw the same character the same way all the time.  Bruce Wayne wore the heck out of that nasty brown suit yellow shirt combo in Batman The Animated Series, until he swapped it out for the black suit red tie look when his eyebrows got all frowny. 
Bruce Wayne: Uptight, dour, control-freak. With tiny, tiny feet.

John Byrne is not one of those lazy artists; he's the opposite, in fact.  Sure all his people look the same, with their giant lipless frog mouths brimming with explanations of how their powers work.  But their clothes!  John Byrne believes that no one ever wears the same outfit twice.  In John Byrne's DCU, the clothes donation bins are full to bursting all the time.
Therefore, John Byrne makes the seasons change in his stories not because it is relevant to the plot, but so he can draw different clothing.  He'd have been happy as a pig in slop if he'd been working back in the day on Katy Keene.
In fact, without John Byrne, I'm not sure Metropolis would have even seen winter. The only time I can remember seeing winter in Superman’s city was when John Byrne was writing it. He really bit down hard on the idea that, "okay, sure, Metropolis is an expy for Chicago," where it's cold and windy a lot. 
Wherever Metropolis is, it’s seldom been imagined as being in the south or somewhere winterless; yet winter is almost never seen (except for, of course, an occasional Christmas story, because it’s ALWAYS snowing in Christmas stories). 
As a result, I visualize Metropolis's seasons as something like this:
Spring is definitely the season where Jimmy undergoes amazing transformations;
In Summer, Superman can often be seen loosening fire hydrants so that, say, poor hot children can play in them, endangering thousands of lives if a fire breaks outin one of their homes.
In Fall, Superman remembes he owns a superpowerful dog and take him for a romp.
In Winter, Lois Lane runs around in ridiculous runaway winterwear and Superman answers his mail at the Metropolis post office. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Weather Week: Gotham City

I’ve had weather and the seasons on my mind lately, for several reasons.  One, I live in Washington DC, where the weather is always on everyone’s mind.  The District is at the confluence of all the weather patterns that happen on the east coast (cold air from the north, warm air from the south, and whatever ridiculousness blows in from the west) and therefore has nearly randomized weather that changes very rapidly.  The most impressive thing about this phenomenon is not the meteor-illogical aspect, but the social one. Despite the fact that in the 25 years I lived in the District the weather has always been like this, Washingtonians are always surprised by the weather (regardless of what it is) and vaguely huffy that Mother Nature  has dared to inconvenience the center of federal  power.  “How can we be having snow/rain/drought/heat wave/cold snap/fog/cicadas… in the DISTRICT?!”  Of course, in their defense, here those things can all happen in the same week. 
Still, you’d think most people would eventually get used to it.  When we finally colonize Mars or Venus, I just assume the bulk of the colonists will come from the DC-metro area because we’re the only people accustomed to that kind of weather.
Two, I’ve recently purchased the Seasons expansion for EA Games' digital human ant-farm, the Sims 3, which adds weather to the Sims' previously unseasonal existence. While it doesn’t affect actual gameplay very much other than adding more ‘stuff’ Sims like to do (skating, making igloos, bonfires, seasonal holidays) it makes the game much prettier, more realistic, and helps add variety (Because Snowflake Day is not like Spooky Day at all!).
As a result, I’ve really started to notice and contemplate the weather in DC comics, specifically, the seasonal calendars of its major fictionopolises. 
Gotham City, which you kind of expect to be extreme in some respect (because Gotham City is extreme in most respects, is actually rather normal, weather-wise. By 'normal' I mean it seems to have the four seasons characteristic of mid-atlantic seabord cities.
It is quiet easy to picture Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter in Gotham City, because we have seen them. They all get play in Gotham City stories and fairly evenly.  Particularly compared to other fictionopolises where certain seasons are simply unheard of.  Not only can you easily picture Batman & Robin running around Gotham City in all four seasons, you can do the same for most of their major villains, too, because you have probably seen them doing it. 
Oh, there are certainly some preferences.  I can’t recall lots of Penguin stories that seemed to be set in summer or Riddler stories set in winter.  But on the whole the Gothamites are a year-round bunch.
I've tried to visual the seasons in each of the major fictionopolises. Here's what I came up with for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter in Gotham City.

Yep.  Nice evenly distributed seasons, with terrible danger in each.  Welcome to Gotham City.

What's the weather look like in Metropolis?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Monday, February 11, 2013


This morning I read an announcement I've been eagerly anticipating for some time:

1960’s Adam West Batman: Will be getting its own Gravity Feed with approximately 12-18 figures. Release date TBD.

For those who can't translate that, it means:

Wizkids, the company that makes "Heroclix" (the comic book hero themed tabletop miniature game), is coming out with a small Heroclix set based on the 1960s Batman television series.

It hasn't been possible to create and market new merchanise based on the phenomenonally popular 1960s Batman live-action television series for forty years.  The licensing was all tied up.  But last year it was announced that all the necessary clearances had been gotten, deals were in place, and all was go.  Since then the older generation of Batman fans have been breathlessly awaiting a possible avalanche of ancillary merchandising.  Would the products be good or terrible?  Would decades of repressed consumer passion explode in a frenzy of Batmaniacal buying?  Or will an uncaring public shrug its shoulders, mystified at the sudden wave of memorabilia for a short-lived teevee show from five decades ago?  Tune in next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel.

That Wizkids, which has built its empire on its licenses for DC and Marvel characters, should take advantage of the opportunity comes as no surprise.  The question remains:  what will be in such a set?!

There are several sine qua non figures:

Batman, Robin, and Batgirl ("Yeah! Whose baby are you?")
The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, The Catwoman.

That leaves between seven to eleven possible OTHER figures based on characters from the show. Hm!

I hope for the sake of game play (and color) that there is generic goon to serve as cannon fodder on villain teams.  The villains of the show were famous for always having a small gang of goons, often thematically dressed.  There probably aren't enough figures in the set to permit individual goons for each villain (glorious though that would be). But I'm at least expecting and hoping for these guys:

Vote for Pengy; he's our man.

The Grand Order of Occidental Nighthawks, baby!  Subtract the umbrellas and these guys will make the perfect fodder for powing, zapping, and kee-runking.  I hope to go with them there is generic Gunmoll, because they were essential parts of most of the episodes.  I know it's a small set, but I'll be very sad (and the figures will be less thematically playable) without Goons and Molls.

Will we get Supporting Cast figures for the heroes as well?  I can imagine a Commissioner Gordon figure and an Alfred figure.  Although, I'm at a loss as to what their dials might be.  Love those guys, but I'm not sure how well 'Displaced Hip' and 'My pills, my pills!' would translate as powers.  Perhaps Commission Gordon will get Incapacitate ("Melodramatic Speech to Camera") and Alfred would get Support ("Sandwiches, sir?").  I don't think comic relief characters Chief O'Hara and Aunt Harriet will make the cut.  I can't imagine them having anything other than, I dunno, maybe Perplex ("Impotent Outrage" and "Perpetual Befuddlement", respectively).

The REAL question is: other the obvious (the four members of the United Underworld: Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman), will there be figures for other Special Guest Villains?!  Because that is where it gets juicy.

As fabulously fun as all the above figurse can (and will, I'm sure) be, we've already got clix figures for those characters.  Not the teevee versions, perhaps; but you can still make a Joker team or a Penguin team if you want.  What you can't do right now is make teams around the characters from the show that are completely unclixed in any way, shape, or form (e.g., King Tut, Egghead, Louie the Lilac, Bookworm).  Then there are the characters which existed before and outside of the show, but really only gained fame because of the show (e.g., Mr. Freeze, False Face, and the Mad Hatter). 

Hero Must Haves

Criminal Must Haves

Criminal Generics

Likely Support Figures
Commissioner Gordon

Less Likely Support Figures
Chief O'Hara
Mrs. Cooper

Likely Criminals
Mr. Freeze
Mad Hatter
King Tut

Less Likely Criminals
Louie the Lilac
False Face
The Minstrel

Mr Freeze seems like a shoo-in.  He's well known in other media, he was on the show repeatedly, and designing a dial for him is easy.  Mad Hatter, same thing.

King Tut appeared numerous times and Victor Buono's unforgettably over-the-top performance is emblematic of the tone of the show.  Vincent Price's Egghead, same thing.

Bookworm only appeared once, but, well... it was Roddy McDowell FTW.  Besides who else in the set could get Barrier ("Giant Cookbook at 5th Cedar!")? Milton Berle's Louie the Lilac appeared twice, but his only obvious power is Mind Control ("Stupefying Aromatic Spray from My Boutonniere"), which would be too duplicative of the skill sets of Mad Hatter ("My Super Instant Mesmerizing Top Hat!") and King Tut ("ABU RABU SIMBU TU!").  Shane, dullard though he was, actually carried guns, which is darned threatening for a Batman teevee villains (unless you're carrying your Bat-shield).  False Face's powers (Shape Change and Perplex) are just too passive-aggressive to make a good gamepiece and while the Minstrel might have some interesting abilities based on his expertise in sound and electronics he would still be too much of a support piece. I mean, the Minstrel never even fought; even the RIDDLER at least tried to fight.

Meanwhile, I better get cracking on some appropriate custom maps (such as Ye Olde Benbow Tavern, Police Headquarters, Gotham City Public Library, The Villains HideOut).

What do you want to see in such a set?