Saturday, May 24, 2014

Little Fish

I evince many signs that I am not a normal person: the Chinese dressing gown, the impromptu lectures on the pre-Socratics, the Morningstar vegetarian sausage addiction. But none sets me apart quite so much from the stream of humanity as my fascination with Aquaman’s foe, the Human Flying Fish.

I guess if you're brave enough to undergo experimental surgery to become an amphibian thief,
you're brave enough to wear anything.

Recently, I took that a step even farther beyond the pale.  As long-time readers will know, I play a superhero tabletop game called Heroclix, and, although there are figures of many characters, many characters remain “unclixed’.  To fill that gap, players like me sometimes make/get custom-made figures and put them on appropriate dials.

One of the first that I ever got was, of course, the Awesome Human Flying Fish.  Now, however, I have gone ever farther (around the bend). Behold, a poor photo of my new custom of his legendary sidekick, SARDINE!

Note that he’s in the same pose as he was in his debut.

As I hope you remember, Sardine was introduced along with some other evil kid sidekicks in the famous story 'The Fury of the Super-Foes" in Super-Friends #1 (1976)

I was thinking of getting the other "Junior Super-Foes" made,
but I am NOT having "Chick" in my house.

I actually don’t have the comic (or any reproduction thereof) in which Sardine appeared and haven’t seen it since the '70s.  In fact, I can’t remember anything Sardine ever did, other than have the temerity to assert his own possible superiority to Aquaman.  I know at least that he never straddled Superman’s head in bondage-play, like Toy Boy.

There’s probably some fun Toy Boy slash fic, but good luck trying to google THAT.

We’ve certainly made much merriment at the expense of the Super-Foes story. But as friends have pointed out to me, villains having sidekicks isn’t just a silly Silver-Age-y idea.  In fact, it makes much MORE sense for villains to have sidekicks – young, easily misled cannon fodder – to assist them and serve as disposable decoys than it is for heroes to have them.  What kind of person intentionally brings underagers into a battle?  A bad guy, that’s who.   
Eventually, the villains had a spasm of conscience and decided to beat Chick to death out of mercy.

A theatrical, charismatic villain like the Penguin should have a Faganesque swarm of rugrats at his literal disposal, not just “Chick”, the dorkiest character in the entire Superfriends universe (which is QUITE an accomplishment).

Sardine sits on a "Dinah Soar" dial from Marvel Clix, which, frankly, doesn't bring a lot to the table(top game).  

But that's okay; I mean, "Sardine" shouldn't exactly be a game breaking powerhouse.  And at only 25 points, he goes nicely with the awesome Human Flying Fish (who sits on a fantastically hard-to-pin-down 75 point Catwoman dial):

Admit it, you're jealous now, aren't you?

Are there more effective ways to spend 100 points on a Heroclix team build? BWHAHAHA, of course.  But more FUN? I don't think so.  Besides, if there is even the remotest chance that, at some point, Sardine will be able to kayo that big-headed purple-eyed freak, Aqualad, it's worth it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sensational News

As you've probably already seen, DC has announced the inception of a digital anthology series for Wonder Woman, titled Sensation Comics after the series in which she debuted.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like DC’s attempt to have a ‘pantheon’ of icons, to consciously choose who’s in it, and to promote the ‘trinity’ within it.  While all of that may seem like a foregone conclusion to younger or newer readers, it’s not.  DC’s history is full of instances where it would try to turn fleetingly popular characters into icons, rather than turning icons into permanently popular characters.  DC’s even tried to force characters into both popularity and iconicality™, such as Firestorm, Captain Atom, Stargirl, Atzek, and even Vixen.

This one's for you, Rico.

While current readers may take Wonder Woman’s iconic status for granted, that too was by no means inevitable.  Batman and Superman have had some rough patches, sure, but not like Wonder Woman.  In some way or other, she’s been ‘in trouble and on the bubble’ for most of her publication history.  She was very popular when she started out, but, once editors figured out why, they were shocked and terrified.  

Eat yer heart out, Jabba.

Squeezing out her bondage-loving creator, they vanilla-fied the Amazon, at which point no one had any idea what to do with her or her stories--particularly once she no longer had the Axis to kick around.

DC turned that around in the ‘80s, and the version of Wonder Woman currently starring in her current eponymous series is valid, coherent, strong, and well-rooted in the character’s essentials.  But it is not the only version possible.
I loved the biker shorts, and don't care what you think.

Batman and Superman are extremely archetypal characters, it’s true, and that is the root cause of their popularity.  But nearly as valuable to their longevity is their adaptability.  They have been presented in various ways and versions, adapted for different times and audiences, stripped down to their bare essentials and build up as the centerpieces of grand mythologies.

As one wise Absorbacommenter once said:
Trying to pin down what Wonder Woman is "about" may be too limiting.One of the great things about Batman and Superman is that they can be "about" all kinds of different things, depending on who's writing them. They are both icons, but they gain richness from the fact that they "mean" different things to different people.
When Wonder Woman has a strong enough mythos to be iconic, yet still open to interpretation, then she'll be part of the trinity.

It’s a bit ironic to think that DC’s most mythical hero may not be as ‘mythic’ as she deserves.  Myths don’t spring from canonical continuity; they spring from the ongoing process of syncretism among variant versions of a story. Myths are stronger and more powerful than mere stories, because myths are the result of evolution, not ‘creationism’, in which one creator casts in stone exactly what a character is for all time.  The more creators who get to put their spin on Wonder Woman, the more mythic she will become.  And the announcement of her new digital anthology, Sensation Comics, should be an Amazon-sized stride in the right direction.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Time for it to Stop

This weekend I watched some of DC Entertainment’s animated films.

I watched Justice League: Doom. It’s about replacing Aquaman, whom we pretend doesn’t exist, in the plot with Cyborg. That’s even though Aquaman is one of the four original “Super-Friends” whom the original “Legion of Doom” was gathered to fight.

I watched Justice League: War.  It’s about using Cyborg in the Justice League’s modern origin story to replace Aquaman, who again is completely shut out (although his pissy half-brother, Orm. shows up in the credit sequence).  This is major shift from the actual printed story, where Cyborg is used to replace the Martian Manhunter. 

At least I can look forward to the Superman vs. Batman movie, where there is no original comic story to ignore. So it will skip right to ignoring Aquaman totally, and including Cyborg, instead. 

Look, I have nothing against Cyborg as a person or as character—
Okay, wait, that’s a lie.

I’ve always thought Cyborg was a crappy character.  Great guy, but a crappy character.  Let’s start with the laughably ‘heroic’ name: VICTOR STONE.  Good heroes have names that undercut them, names that are boring or even wussy (“Bruce Wayne”; “Clark Kent”; “Peter Parker”; “Barry Allen”; “James Bond”, “Arthur Curry”, “Scipio Garling”,  et al.); it makes the superheroic identity seem like a contrast.  VIC STONE Is a movie star name (a PORN star name, really).  I can’t wait until he has a son someday and names him “Turok 2.0”.  Naming him “VICTOR STONE” cries out “this character is a HERO”, which is typical of the lazy, cheesy writing of his creator Marv Wolfman, the Man Who Could Do No Write.

"You have to love him. He's the captain of the football team!"

Then there’s his origin.  The iconic JL-level heroes have myths of self-creation (“I shall become a bat!”), happy accidents (“CRAAAAAAACK!”), or bequeathed legacy (“Speak my name”, “Doomed planet”, and “Oh, god, really, the ring choose YOU, WTF?!?! “).  Vic Stone’s origin is a “Doom Patrol” style origin: a BMOC (race car driver/movie starlet/jet pilot/football player) has a tragic injury that both marginalizes them from the norm and gives them special powers.  Why, it’s rather Marvelesque, isn’t it?  Like the origins of Daredevil or the Thing or the Hulk?  Almost as if Cyborg’s creator were writing for Marvel.


At least Geoff Johns did a good job making Cyborg’s New 52 origin more epic (Red Room surgery with T.O. Morrow using alien high-tech to repair damage caused by Darkseid’s invasion!).  Cyborg’s pre-52 origin was that an experiment his parents should have been tending blew up at him because his parents were making out on a control panel; that’s Wolfman-style heroism. 

Huh; jive turkey!

And, of course, there’s the generic-ness of his powers/name.  Let’s slap some tech on him, that’ll let him do whatever we need.  He’ll be a cyborg. Named…. Cyborg.  Eventually he can hang out with Dark Vigilante, Strong Guy, Warrior Woman, Magic Lamp, Speedster, and Sea King.  Except when we just use him instead of Sea King.    It’s like he’s the result of an office bet at DC Comics: “I’ll bet you one dollar you can’t come up with a new superhero before the elevator ride’s over!” 

I guess it wasn't as egregious in his original setting in the Teen Titans, where Cyborg was introduced with Dark Mage Girl, Alien Metal Bra, and, um, Beast Boy.  He was always fairly colorless in the Teen Titans. No connection to any of the DC heroic dynasties or iconic characters, no independent stories or setting of his own, no special role on the team.   We all agree he was vivacious and charming, thanks to Khary Payton and fun writing, on the Teen Titans cartoon, but that’s hardly a reason to use him while benching Aquaman.

In all fairness, Canary's not a natural blonde.

I get that DC doesn't want its iconic heroes to be a ‘whites-only club’, and it’s laudable. And they've only got so much to work with.  Lord knows, all their attempts to level-up Vixen have consistently failed miserably, because, well… Vixen’s a much worse character than Cyborg, even.  You can put a pig in a dress, but you can’t teach it to dance.

Yeah, I'm guessing they all went in and were never heard from again.

But… Cyborg as a Justice League founder?!  Rather than Black Lightning, who’s got a much better publishing pedigree and Justice League connections?  Or Mister Terrific?  Or Vibe, who also got his powers from Darkseid’s invasion and is, after all, the world’s greatest break-dancing superhero, whether they show him doing it or not?

Anyway, I didn't intend for this post to become a diatribe against Cyborg as a character.  Or even against his choice as DC’s affirmative action choice in the Justice League.  It’s about EXCLUDING Aquaman from other-media projects.  About replacing him with Shazam in things (do NOT get me started).  About not treating him as one of its icons at the same time DC’s leadership trumpets its goal of refreshing his status as an icon.  Perhaps this is a split between DC Comics and DC Entertainment, I don’t know.

But I do know that it's time for it to stop.