Thursday, May 09, 2013


"Aqualad – slow and powerless dullard of the ocean, 

with inability to summon and command any creatures of the deep. 

Aqualad, who, as the teenage ally of Aquaman, 

fears and avoids all that lives in the seas 

and also the forces of evil. 

Aqualad – Feeb of the Seven Seas!"

Oh, Aqualad. I must confess I’ve missed my favorite punching bag since he was last seen in comics book several years ago.  There aren’t any big-headed, purple-eyed freaks in comics nowadays, or if there are, N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and STARLabs have them buried in sealed vaults underground.

I say a paternity test here is LONG overdue.

Here’s just some of the characters who’ve been re-introduced in the New52 and are thereby evidently more important than Aqualad:

  • Dr. Gym’ll!
  • The Human Flying Fish!
  • Jim Gordon’s ex-wife!
  • Andrew Bennett!
  • Tyroc!
  • Dale Gunn!
  • Master Gunfighter!
  • Terry Thirteen!

Face it; we’ll see Benny Khiss & Marvin Fargo before we see Aqualad again.  But I have not forgotten him and neither have the folks at Wizkids who make Heroclix, including the new figure of him in the forthcoming “Teen Titans” set.

Okay, Wizkids; that head is not NEARLY large enough.  
Hire that guy who draws Family Circus to help you.

I thought I’d help you understand the ‘editorial accuracy” of his dial by illustrating his powers with selected panels from past stories (since there won’t be any future ones).

MOVE-AND-ATTACK. This character can use Hypersonic Speed if it is not adjacent to an opposing character when given the power action, but its attack value is modified by -2
This power (marked by that 'dolphin in a circle' symbol) is really more like “ATTACK-AND-MOVE”.  It’s the ability to run away after you’ve punched someone in the back. 

Also, Aqualad's Special Power grants him Super Senses when he's in the water.  That means that in the water it's nearly impossible to sneak up on him.

"Nearly" being the operative word.

That green square in the first row (Speed) indicates that Aqualad has:
CHARGE  Give this character a power action; halve its speed value for the action. Move this character up to its speed value and then it may be given a close combat action as a free action. This character ignores knock back.
Aqualad makes an unsuccessful charge against the Mad Mod.  After all, how could the Prince of the Seven Seas hope to prevail, while in the water, against a middle-aged British poofter in swim fins?

As mentioned, Aqualad is more likely to run AWAY from a foe than toward one. 

But Charge does give him the ability to blunder directly into an opponent, his arms flailing desperately like Killer Moth’s.

 Um... a powerless Frenchman just kicked you in the face, Aqualad.  When sissified villains want to pump up their egos, they take on Aqualad.  Next issue the Monocle will give him SUCH a slap!

Well, Aqualad, you're the expert.

The green squares in the second row (Attack) indicate that he has...

SUPERSTRENGTH  When this character moves due to its own action, it may either pick up an object or place an object it is holding. The object must be picked up from or placed in either a square the character occupies or an adjacent square. If this power is lost or countered while this character is holding an object, immediately place the object in the square this character occupies.
This allows Aqualad to run around for many turns looking ridiculous by holding an object over his head, like Adam West with a bomb.  Except he’d never get that close to those scary ducklings.  And now, thanks to a rules change, he can put DOWN the ridiculous object just in time to have someone else pick it up and quickly bonk him on the head with it.

After he's had sex with it first, of course. I guess when you grow up under water, old tires and ship mastheads start to look pretty good to you.

The lime-colored squares in the Attack row grant Aqualad...
QUAKE  Give this character a close combat action; this character’s damage value becomes 2 and is locked. Make a close combat attack that targets all opposing characters this character can attack with a close combat attack. Each hit character is knocked back 2 squares.

 Nobody quakes more thoroughly in comics than Aqualad (except perhaps Scooby Doo). 

In the third row (Defense), the Prince of the Seas has the grey square indicating...

INVULNERABILITY  Damage dealt to this character is reduced by 2
One of my personal favorites because it lets you give Aqualad a terrific wallop in the head without knocking him out.

And the orange ones denoting...
TOUGHNESS  Damage dealt to this character is reduced by 1.

Similarly, Toughness allows you to prolong Aqualad’s suffering.  Like a catfish with a mousefish.  And, yes, there is such a thing, look it up.

Wait... what? Only an hour? Oh, no. No, no, no.  That is not NEARLY enough suffering.

The purple square in the fourth row (Damage) is...

CLOSE COMBAT EXPERT  Give this character a power action. It makes a close combat attack against a single opposing target character; before making the attack you may modify its attack value by +2, its damage value by + 2, or both combat values by +1.

Knocked out with one push by Jimmy's Olsen's angry cousin

It’s not just Aqualad’s ability to get his ass kicked up close and personal.  It’s also the variety of ways in which he can get his ass kicked.  It’s a versatility issue.

Ladies and gentlemen, Aqualad getting Jordanized by a surfboard.  You're welcome.

And the last one, the sky blue in the Damage row is...

PROBABILITY CONTROL  Once during your turn, this character allows you to reroll one of your rolls, ignoring the original roll. A character using this power must be within range (minimum range 6) and line of fire to the character for which the original roll was made. Using the same rules, once per round during an opponent’s turn, this character allows you to force that opponent to reroll one of their rolls, ignoring the original roll.

This is just the perfect power to give Aqualad.  Because this way when you attack Aqualad and succeed (which you will, because Aqualad), he can say, "Okay, you caught me that time!  But now you have to do again! And THIS time I"m ready.  THIS time will be different". Which, of course, it won't...

Oh, I'm sure it will be different this time.

It IS different!  He caught you at different angle!

This is great because sometimes just kicking Aqualad’s ass once in a row is not enough, and Probability Control gives you a chance to kick his ass twice in a row.

And, really, who can resist that?

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Things That Made Me Happy... my comics this week.

And the award for Best Ironic Trapping of Villain goes to... Batman.

Vibe's all that and a bag of chips.  Heh.

Why Basil doesn't feel guilty.

"Breathing's overrated."  Practicing with super-fast-hardening plaster and submerged sarcophagi in the 1960s really paid off, didn't it?

Well, of course, he needs therapy, SK; HE'S INSANE.  No one listens to me.

Alfred and Bruce watch home movies.

Ph-ph-phil?  Phil Cobb? LMAO, oh, yeah, now I am totally sold on this ride!

"He's one of the closest friends I have."

The Catcave.  Tee hee.

Apparently someone still remembers the Great Joker-Clayface Feud.

Cisco single-handedly takes down three Ivoids. And then some. 

"Never understimate what bad caviar can do."  I think I have a new favorite character.

Hawkman versus Green Arrow.  That didn't take long.

Alfred Pennyworth, drama critic.

"Doll."  BWAHAHAHA; jackass.

Well, of course Superman knows the Gallic word for "expel". 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013


Today's haiku comes from Batman #52, where the "Thinker" -- a sort of Ur-Egghead -- using his 'thinking machines' to deduce that Alfred Pennyworth is Batman. Which gives you an idea of why we never saw this 'Thinker" again.  

It's titled, "SEIZE HIM!":

"So YOU are Batman!
You stupid fool! Did you think
you could outwit me?"

What haiku can you compose to comment on this misguided villain, the hapless butler, or the tendency of characters in any single Golden Age panel to each be wearing a different color of clothing?

Monday, May 06, 2013


Bat-Mite has arrived.

Hey, Wizkids.  Thanks for Bat-Mite. But if you went to the trouble of making him, how is it possible you screwed up the fact that one of his bat-ears, in every single incarnation of him, is alway always always drooped over?  I honestly do not understand how such things happen.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Wizkids would create a Bat-Mite Heroclix figure.

The occasion has made me realize that in my entire time on this blog I've never once written about Bat-Mite.  And, love him or hate him, there's no denying he's powerfully symbolic of a certain era (1959-1964) in Batman's history and emblematic of a certain approach to the character.  It was the Era of Bat-Mite, during which he appeared in 12 stories.

Usually, I’m pretty firm about what I consider the divisions between the Great Ages of Comic Books (Golden 1939-1955, Silver 1956-70, Bronze 1970-86, Iron Age 1987-2004, Platinum Age 2005-2012) and come down against subdividing superhero history into smaller segments.  

To be fair, there is a degree of conceptual overlap making it hard sometimes to see where one ends and another begins.

It amazes me that many current readers get a distorted view when they look at comics in their rear-view mirror.  I’ve seen websites that baldy and incorrectly state that Killer Moth is a Silver Age character, probably simply because he’s “goofy” (KM is, in fact, a Golden Age character);  I’ve seen descriptions of the “New Look” era as Bronze Age (it wasn’t; it was Silver Age).  Perhaps objects in mirror are farther away than they appear? 
But if there is an age of Batman’s history that can be subdivided cleanly, it is his Silver Age.  Unlike some characters (such as Flash and Green Lantern), the border between Batman’s Golden and Silver Ages is kind of “soft”.  Along with a handful of other headlines (Superman and Wonder Woman), their retinue, and their back-up stars (Aquaman and Green Arrow), Batman didn’t break continuity between the Golden and Silver Age.  However, I place the beginning of Batman’s Silver Age at Batman #92 (June 1955) with the introduction of Ace, the Bat-Hound.   I don’t feel that requires a great deal of explanation or defense; if there’s a sign that you’re in different world than the one where the Joker poisons Henry Claridge at midnight, a crimefighting dog in a mask is a pretty good one.

A disfigured corpse in full view.  This is the Golden Age in a nutshell.

A dog in a mask.  This is the Silver Age in a nutshell.

Ace the Bat-Hound was the vanguard for the expansion of the Batfamily to include Batwoman and Bat-Girl (as opposed to Batgirl) and eventually… Bat-Mite.  As odd as a dog in a mask fighting crime is, it's still about as realistic as a man in mask fighting crime is. But when you have an extradimensional imp popping into your stories and using god-like powers with the stated purpose of spicing up the action, you are clearly somewhere very different than Bob Kane’s Gotham City.  

The third panel (ZOOSH)?  That should really be in a museum somewhere.

Although Mr. Mxyzptlk preceded Bat-Mite by many years, it was Bat-Mite who was the first character to really lean toward the metatextual.  He was a fanboy who used his omnipotence to 'rewrite' the Batman universe to indulge his whims for 'what if' scenarios and angling for Batman to hook up with Batwoman.  Bat-Mite inherent metatextuality was perfect captured by the Batman:Brave and the Bold animated series.

Bat-Mite’s impish antics continued on and off until 1964, when he (and the rest of the extraneous bat-campfollowers) were displaced by the “New Look Era” (so called because Batman now had a yellow oval, for no apparent reason, around his chest insignia). 

Thanks to Bat-Mite, there are three fairly clear periods with Batman's Silver Age:

  1. The Bat-Hound Era (1955-1959),
  2. The Bat-Mite Era (1959-1964), and
  3. The New Look Era (1964-1969).

The Bat-Mite Era is the nadir of urban realism with the Batman mythology and how you feel about him is bellwether of what fan-camp you inhabit.  

How do YOU feel about Bat-Mite?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Adventures of Superman #1

The Adventures of Superman #1 is both good and significant.

I didn't think we'd ever be seeing Superman in his old "circus strongman" costume, red underwear and all.  I mean, even the child-oriented Superman family adventures uses the New52 costume.

But here it is in AOS, in all its pajama-y glory, sending a clear "this is Superman in the abstract" message.

The story, however, is quite concrete.  The threat Superman is facing -- a junkie whose suddenly acquired enormous telepathic power -- is very threatening (to Metropolis and Superman) and pathetic.  Frankly, I can't recall the last time I was so moved by a Superman fight scene, both by concern for Superman et al. and by sympathy for his opponent.  Superman is a much better character when he's facing Problems (such as a threat who seems more confused than evil) rather than Villains he can simply beat down.

OMG, it's the soundtrack of my last date!

This was no cinematic scenery-breaking showdown without consequences. People were hurt; lives were at stake.  I felt the threat palpably, not just intellectually.  At times it felt like a punch in the face.

This image is an instant, permanent classic.  You'll be seeing this for the rest of your life now.

The real villain of the piece actually doesn't appear until the end, and that scene (particularly the final words) is about as classic a Superman set piece as you will ever see.  The whole thing was not only done well, but done-in-one.  And that in the equivalent of only ten standard pages, with a clear set up for following stories.

Aside from ALL of this, I realized only upon a second reading that I was, for the first time, reading a comic book that was designed to be read on an iPad, rather than just reformatted for it.

If someone asked me to recommend an introductory superhero comic book to 'a civilian', I now have no question what I would recommend: AOS #1.

A comic book that's out of New52 continuity.
That's done-in-one.
That's action packed, but full of sympathetic and interesting characterization.
That's digital first.
That only cost 99 cents.

"I need only reach the sun."

That seems pretty significant to me.  And I want a lot more of it.