Friday, August 29, 2014

The Rise of the Seven Seas

There's been some online chat about what DC has planned to the "Rise of the Seven Seas" storyline for the Justice League, so I'm certain I'm about to say anything new in this post.  But it will help to crystallize my own thinking about it (and the many fantastic water-based Heroclix figures that such a story could at some point spawn).

If you don't already know, "Rise of the Seven Seas" is a Justice League arc that's been set up in the pages of Aquaman.  Just like the "Throne of Atlantis" arc; Aquaman, with his globe-spanning domain of the sea, seems to be an easy first-choice nowadays when DC needs an arc big enough for the entire Justice League.

The story is not just 'something for the League to do'. It's pretty clear that DC editorial (i.e., former Aquaman-writer and Creator-in-Chief Geoff Johns) intends to use it to expand the mythology that centers around Aquaman.  Just as he built the Seven Spectrum Corps around Hal "Rainbow Brite" Jordan, he (and the writers) are building 'the seven seas'--seven underwater races/communities/kingdoms--around Aquaman and his role as king of Atlantis.

Johns is quite capable of making up new stuff on his own (e.g., The Trench), but his specialty is taking abandoned or toxic piece of DC lore, cleaning it up and weaving it into a larger, more epic and coherent mythology. That's what he did with the Justice Society, with Green Lantern, and the Flash.  And he's been doing it with Aquaman.  Whether by artistic bent, fanboy devotion, or company shrewdness, he prefers making an ever-growing quilt than a new blanket of whole cloth. He views DC's past as a legacy of riches to be built upon, not a hampering embarrassment to be destroyed or a heavy yoke of continuity to be borne humbly.

What may very well  be happening in "Rise of the Seven Seas' is that Johns will use the story to reintroduce disparate aspects of DC's underwater mythology and tie it all together in a way never done (well) before.  The DCU will wind up with seven different undersea kingdoms of different cultures and races.  Atlantis is the First Kingdom, Xebel (where Mera is from) is the Second, and The Trench (the chompy creatures of the black deep) is the Third, and the statues in the pic above gives us hints as to what the Fourth through Seventh will be. All of them will be in Aquaman's province, of course (he's 'the King of the Seven Seas'),  but several of them will likely have historical associations with other characters as well.

For example, as many longtime readers will remember, part of the Silver Age Superman mythos was his relationship with the merfolk, specifically Lori Lemaris.  Strange how many of the important people in Superman's life have the initials "LL".

How do they--oh, never mind.

So one of the underseas races will probably be Merfolk Kingdom. There's no statue of a mer-person among the Seven Seas picture, but if you look closely you can see that there's a seventh statue obscured from our view, probably so as not to give away the return of merfolk to the DCU.  And, for the historical reasons mentioned, I assume Superman will probably be the member dealing with them in the Justice League Rise of the Seven Seas story arc..

Wonder Woman also had dealings with merfolk, particularly during her adolescence as Wonder Girl, when Ronno the Mer-Boy was a contender for her affections (even in adulthood, in fact).  

How sad is USAF officer Steve Trevor that his major rivals are a guy with no human genitalia and a giant amoeba.
Does Wonder Woman not know ANY Marines she can go out with?!

But I'll wager the undersea world we will revived for Wonder Woman won't be the merfolk.  It will be the forgotten Atlantean colony of Venturia, ruled by her Golden Age foe, Queen Clea the Imperious.

Oh, look, how shocking; domination and servitude.  In a Wonder Woman story.
Queen Clea was a real piece of work, even among Wonder Woman's wacky foes. One time she teamed up with the Penguin, Ibac, the Joker, the Weeper, the Shade, Dr. Light, Brainiac, et al., to fight the JLA and JSA, and enslaved Superman with a mind-controlling "Venus Girdle".  We need Clea back; once Wonder Woman comes back from her all-Olympian vacation of Mazzuchelli's run, she's going to need some substantial opponents.  A warmongering, slave-owning leader of a queendom of underwater anti-Amazons would fit the bill nicely, and I expect to see her going toe-to-toe with WW in "Rise of the Seven Seas."  Take a look at the second statue in the picture; sure looks a lot like Clea to me.

Golden Age Batman, contrary to what many modern readers think, wasn't all about the grim and gritty.  He and Robin did LOTS of weird, trippy stuff, including visiting an Atlantis all their own.  They fought Nazis there.  I guess it was closer than going to Europe.

The Riddler is SO envious of that kid's staff.

I don't imagine we'll see a Nazi-infested underwater kingdom just for Batman's sake (cool though that might be). But Geoff Johns could certainly choose to reintroduce, say, Aurania (rival city-state to Clea's Venturia) and give it any characteristics he wanted. The first status in the "Seven Seas" pic is pretty clearly a set up for classic Aquaman foe The Fisherman--the unique headgear is a dead giveaway.  

The Busiek run surprised even the Fisherman.

And, even if you include Kurt Busiek's fun idea of his headgear being a alien symbiote, the Fisherman is basically a thematic villain who would seem perfectly at home fighting Batman (or the Flash).  So I'm guess that one of the kingdoms will be the source of a modern version of the Fisherman, who will be dealt with by Batman or the Flash during the "Rise of the Seven Seas".  

The statue farthest to the right, the insectoid-looking one, is a bit of a mystery.  It doesn't seem to correspond to any undersea society from DCU history. I suspect that it, like the Trench, is a new creation by Johns, one to give trouble to Cyborg (who, remember, can now breath underwater) or possibly Green Lantern, because we know how GL fans love their weird alien creatures.  

Speaking of Green Lantern, I am hoping that--somehow--this arc generates for us a modern version of The Shark, a classic GL villain with aquatic origins.

One of the lesser known stages of evolution is Homo Hanna-Barbera.

The Shark was reintroduced when Johns brought Hal Jordan back to life, but hasn't been seen since the New52 (during which time Hal's been mostly off-planet).  The DCU isn't quite right without him, and that weak knock-off DC keeps trying to foist on us successfully ("King Shark") is certainly no substitute.

Perhaps we will see Name-Or again and his fantastic undersea world of Lemuria, who so memorably but irrelevantly participating in the Attack of Jean Loring's Brain?

What do you hope for or expect from "The Rise of the Seven Seas"...?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Haikuesday with Grant Morrison

I will say this, though, for Grant Morrison.  Even as he veers toward the nonsensical, he tends toward the poetical.

His haiku today is titled,


Lex Luthor's drug-fueled
attempt to build a gateway
to alternative worlds.

What haiku do YOU have to discuss Multiversity, the concept of the multiverse, or Grant Morrison/Lex Luthor's drug use?

Monday, August 25, 2014

My review of Multiversity #1

At the risk of continual comics curmudgeonliness--

Grant Morrison's Multiversity #1, which I was looking forward to, is (of course) a disappointing, muddled mess.

It's another rehash of the pet themes he's been slinging around ever since his days on Animal Man (transquartomuralism, writer as god, reader and the reader's world as part of the story, realities beyond and alongside other realities, the music of the spheres, etc.).

My voice doesn't sound like that.

I think this one is left over from an old Morrison Doom Patrol comic.

Don't ask me, buddy.  I' can barely play Heroclix.

"Blah blah, blah blah blah BLAH blah blah!"

Apparently Grant's changed his name to Lex Luthor, now.

Me, too!  Ever since Gardner Fox TOLD us that in Sept. 1961.

It's called a key change, Grant.

In other words, exactly the same hodgepodge of the same concepts Morrison so spectacularly failed to make word in Final Crisis.

These are fine ideas (even if he's repeated them about 8000 times too often), but, once again, his fractured, kaleidoscopic viewpoint makes it impossible for him to tell a coherent story.  At times, in fact, it seems composing a complete sentence escapes him.

I'm sorry, sir; your application to the Brotherhood of Dada must be submitted on paper
in the form of a tone poem or collage.

And, sure, it makes a little more sense after a second reading. But doesn't EVERYTHING (with the exception of Identity Crisis)?!

In my hobby of choral shows, we call people like Grant Morrison "Concept Producers."  They can produce concepts, but they can't produce actual SHOWS.  They have fascinating, out of the box ideas... but THEY can't carry them out. Other more sensible, down-to-earth, coherent, logistically-oriented people have to be there to do that for them, or it all winds up a flaming mess.  Like Multiversity.

Grant Morrison is such a person. He needs an editor--or a writer-- to put his ideas into action.  Until then...

Finally, something Grant and I can agree on.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

No, I did NOT like Guardians of the Galaxy, thanks for asking.

I applaud my friend Julian Darius for speaking some uncomfortable truths about "Guardians of The Galaxy" and the larger phenomena of which it is a part.

I saw it with a large group of friends, and while most of them enjoyed the film very much, I, like Julian, came away with a very empty feeling (although I can't detail the reasons why as thoroughly or eloquently as he).  

You'd think this would be because I'm the president of the He-Man Marvel-Haters Club.  It's not.  No, I'm not a fan of Marvel, but they do have their role and it's not a small one.  And (unlike many actual Marvel fans!) I actually enjoy most of Marvel's movies.  I want them to succeed and I want to enjoy them.

But I didn't enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy hardly at all.

Nor am I amused by raccoons who think that tricking people in taking the prosthetic limbs of others is funny.

It was, perhaps, the single MOST predictable film I have ever seen, and tritely so.  Every plot turn, every action, every line, every 'joke'. Oh, there was an occasion event that made me laugh; "Nothing goes over my head" did amuse me, even though, like everything else, it was terribly obvious.  I think the only thing that surprised me in the least was the post-credits cameo.  And that... wasn't exactly a pleasant surprise.  

I'm not a natural enemy of predictability, either.  After all, I'm a horror movie fan, where the genre depends at least a certain degree of predictability. I'm a classicist; we don't ready ANYTHING where we don't already know the end of the story and most of the major plot points along the way. But GotG ain't no Greek play.

I don't think I have as high a set of expectations for comic book movies as Julian does -- I don't NEED comic book movies to be Greek plays -- but I don't need them to combine all the worst flaws of various genres (the treacly family-of-friends film, the cutesy rom-com, the explodey action flick, the universe-saving scifi movie, the plucky underdogs triumph plot, the rogues with hearts of gold travelog, etc.) and then polish them with millions of dollars and (admittedly) charming actors.

Perhaps I don't know WHAT I need in comic books movies.  But I know GotG had almost none of it.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Starting Work Early

What with her role in the forthcoming Superman (et al.) film, I've been thinking a lot about Wonder Woman lately.  In fact, I've been reading Wonder Woman Unbound, a good new history about the character.  

I have quibbles with some angles the author occasionally takes in order to make his points (such as defending Wertham's analysis of Batman and Superman to make his condemnation of Wonder Woman seem worse), but anyone who actually takes the trouble to chart the statistics on how much bondage there was in WW comics versus her contemporaries' deserves kudos.

Spoiler: It's a lot.

I've learned more than a few things from this book already, and it's made me reexamine some parts of comic history. For example, author Tim Hanley has made me realize that quite possibly we owe the continuing existence of super-heroes to Dr Wertham, since their resurgence in the Silver Age was prompted in part by his evisceration of the popular horror and crime comics they superseded. 

Another thing I've learned is the brutality with which the mad man-babe Bob Kanigher devasted Wonder Woman's "Mod Era" cast in the process of returning her to her mythological roots.

"Without my magic bracelets,
what can I use to protect myself from sniper fire?
Oh! Hello, I Ching...!"

Steve Trevor, in fact, gets killed twice (don't ask).  And the disturbingly gratuitous death of an expy of former Wonder Woman editor Dorothy Woolfolk is, at best, in bad taste:

Ah, 1970s pop-culture New York City.

Hanley rightly points out that war-hardened Kanigher was a prolific writer, not a careful or well organized one.  He was repetitive, forgetful, and indelicate.  But his writing was not without poetry...

One of its unsung,
unknown, faceless millions is
starting work early.

With this heartless haiku, Kanigher used an unnamed sniper, who dies immediately by falling off the building and whose motives are never examined let alone explained, to begin the destruction of the Mod Era. Note well, modern readers; the cruel killing off of supporting and near-main characters was not an invention of the post-Crisis world.

What haiku can you compose reflecting on this, the return of the new original Wonder Woman?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Batman's most laughable imitator fights Batman's second-most laughable imitator!

This weekend at my house, Killer Moth kicked Green Arrow's butt.

By kicked butt, I mean "successfully ran away with some loot while abandoning the Mothmobile as a lost cause".  And by at my house,  I mean, "in a game of Heroclix".

Now, as anyone who knows anything about Heroclix knows, the character most egregiously absent from the hundreds of figures that the Wizkids company has made is Killer Moth.  In Heroclix circles, we simply call it "The Great Injustice", and leave at that (much as postbellum Southern women called the Civil War "the late unpleasantness")

That, of course, has not stopped me; I have two Killer Moth custom figures (many other players have customer Killer Moths, but they are not as fabulous as mine, which I had 3D printed and professionally painted)  But I have gone further (around the bend)!  Ha, ha!

I now have, to serve as Killer Moth's backup gang, World Public Enemies No. 1, 2, & 3!

They are quite uncannily accurate, actually.

The World Public Enemies -- Dragon Fly, Silken Spider, and Tiger Moth -- are the three greatest female villains who never existed.  There were introduced (see below) in Batman #181 (June 1966) solely as literary devices in Poison Ivy's first story; jealous of their fame, she was inspired to commit a very public crime spree in which she kicked their patooties, and Batman's, too.

Pictured at lower right: meeting of the Gotham City Art and Accountancy Aficionados Association.

Later writers very cleverly created a new backstory for them: that they were merely actress/models hired for the pop art exhibit as concept villains who represented the allure of costumed villains as celebrities.  They then turned to crime AFTER being attacked by Poison Ivy and typecast as bad gals.

Here they are fighting Nightwing.  Like ya do.

These customs sit on the following dials:

Dragon Fly
Because, I mean... what ELSE are you going to do with a Falcone Bodyguard figure?

Silken Spider
Sneak, sneak, sneak!

Tiger Moth
Naturally, let "Killer Moth" replace "Tony Stark" in the above.  Because if Killer Moth were a Marvel character, he'd already have three movies. 

And they make a great gang for Killer Moth:

If only Killer Moth were actually this cool.

and his Mothmobile:

Ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-ha-ha--KILLER MOTH!

Now that I have them, I didn't want to pit KM and the Bug Babes against Batman right away, because, frankly, I wanted the game to last longer than that.  And who better when you need a hero that will take forever (and sometimes still not succeed) to defeat Z-grade villains than...GREEN ARROW and The Kid Who Tags Along With Him?  They were aided by a Gotham Cop driving a GCPD police cruiser, who did the grubby work of taking down the Mothmobile.  

I was playing with the special rules that allow villains to gain points by 'escaping with loot' rather than just by kayoing heroes (because DC criminals like to actually STEAL stuff, not just attack Spider-Man).  Naturally, Killer Moth had the biggest swag and made it off the board after Green Arrow cracked his rib with a boxing glove arrow.  Tiger Moth hung around to duke it out with GA, while KM, limbs flailing no doubt, limped back to the Mothcave.  Speedy almost took out an unwary Silken Spider, but Dragon Fly took him out with a few well placed kidney jabs.

Oh! And speaking of the Mothcave,  I decided to celebrate this Battle of the Batman Knockoffs with a commemorative custom Heroclix map for EACH of them.  Behold, then.


The Fletchery; because plastic cat arrows do not make themselves, you know.
The Target Range, where arrows are shot, because what else does Green Arrow do?
The Trophy Room, where Oliver and Roy can search online for crimes in the making, because patrolling is too tedious.
The Fletchery, where GA can test out the personal lubricant arrow and process server arrow in private.
The ridiculously yellow Arrowcar, so beloved by children.


If you think making that Mothmobile image was easy, think again.

The Trophy Room, or, as I like to think of it, The Atrophy Room, full of empty trophies cases commemorating Killer Moth's nonexistent victories.
The Pro-Crime Lab, where he invented the gun condom.
The Cocoon Room, where Robin was placed unguarded for many hours in a bonfire-based deathtrap.
The Pupatorium, where Killer Moth descends from stately Van Cleer Manor to don his crime-helping garb and roar out in the Mothmobile.  But mostly because I really enjoy saying "Pupatorium".
The unlabeled dirt-removal tunnel, where KM paid those two laborers in lead.
A Gratuitous Secret Passage, because it seems just like the kind of thing that Killer Moth would have.

Enjoy them, if you play Heroclix.
And if you don't, start!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Flash Museum!

In case you don't already know, the next big set of DC Heroclix is a "Flash" set

I don't know what maps they plan on releasing with it. But to prepare I have made a map depicting the entrance to the Flash Museum, which includes the attached gift shop and movie house, a Jitters (tm) brand coffee cafe and nice garden.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fighting Monsters

Last week I read two comics with Wonder Woman in them.

In one, she dealt with a pack of men verbally accosting her on a city street.

What would I do?!  I'm thinking the blond.

WW snaps them back with her Sassing of Truth (tm).

Oh, you're not a side of beef NOW; but wait'll Ed Benes gets a hold of you.

but then she is “saved” by a friend (Cathy) who is a nascent feminist with rudimentary combat skills. 

"In the gut, big boy" = worst battlecry ever.

And  then she yells at her for it.

"Next time,, Diana, I'll just sit by quietly waiting while people kick your ass, just like I Ching always told me I should."

Then Wonder Woman crashes at her pad, because WW is homeless and needs a job.

Ya know, I hear Taco Whiz is hiring.

But then she gets a job at local department store that caters to women and which supplies jobs to lots of local woman.  All Wonder Woman has to do is wear the store’s clothes and do a little PR about it.  It’s a great deal; easy work for her, free clothes, helps local women.

"This can't be real--clothes that aren't WHITE?!"

Until it turns out the owner is a kind of sexist jerk.  Turns out he’s sort of underpaying her for her advertising work.  

Not enough dog butts in today's comics, I say.

Turns out he’s not paying the female workers the going wage.  And he’s skirting the federal laws on equal pay by only using locally made goods, which means he’s not doing interstate commerce and is exempt. Or some such.  

I confess I had to look up "shuck".

And then the local feminists call Wonder Woman out on this, and she resists seeing it because now she’s kind of biased by her cushy deal with him.  

Yeah, Hera forbid the princess of a society of nothing but women should join an icky women's group.

But then her friend Cathy really calls BS on her, 

Quick, count the number of times you've seen anyone call Wonder Woman out like that.

and Wonder Woman is forced to see the truth, by the strength of the woman’s friendship and argument.

"CODE: I don't need you!"

But THEN the jerkwad sends bully-boys to harass the local feminist group that’s been dogging him about his unfair treatment of women.  

Effing ruffians, with their menacing and vandalizing!

And when Wonder Woman gets in trouble, she's rescued by a female guard-dog trainer and a lady blackbelt.

I'd bet anything Lady Blackbelt dated Julie Jively

she closes the whole operation down by reporting the guy to the police for OTHER illegal cheapstake business practices, like not having appropriate fire safety stuff, like sprinklers and marked exits.

Aw, shucks!

So WW's feeling pretty good about herself and her ability to fight crime with nothing but a white pants suit and an encyclopedic knowledge of local building safety codes.

"I wish I Ching were here to see this! Oh wait--that's right..."

But then ANOTHER group of women lays into her and the women feminists saying “Thanks crusading heroines!  We all just lost our jobs thanks to you, butt out!”  

Say, weren't you in the "New Guardians"?

And Wonder Woman’s all, “Holy Hercules, man’s world is effing complicated!”

Wonder Woman goes transquartomuralistic; eat yer heart out, Grant Morrison.

And in the other comic...

Me, too, Wonder Woman.

...she fought monsters.

Now, I have nothing against monster-fighting.  One of the great things about Wonder Woman is that she is a classical mythology figure who can fight monsters without it seeming odd.  And, yes, it is great to see WW smack down some evil monster.

But I can’t help but wonder whether her monster-fighting didn’t used to be a lot more interesting, relevant, and complicated.