Monday, August 31, 2015


Ordinarily, I begin posts about the Martian Manhunter by talking about how weird or unloved he is.  But lately -- particularly compared to the other founding JLA members -- he's doing pretty well.  

He's got his own series (where the fact that he's weird is finally being made to work in his favor), his backstory's being cleaned up, and he's been given unique threats and situations to deal with. He hasn't lost his memory, like Batman (in fact, he's gained it back).  He hasn't lost his secret ID, like Superman (in fact, he seems to have gained several).  He's not spending all his time fighting his sibling, unlike Wonder Woman (unless they are going to make Ma'alefa'ak his brother again, which I doubt).  Okay; like Aquaman, his countrymen have been trying to kill him, But at least his wife isn't; in fact, he never even HAD a wife.  On the whole, for being the Martian Manhunter, J'onn J'onzz is doing pretty well, Except for being dead, but we know that's just a temporary set-back for JJ.

When a character starts doing well in comics, there's often a lag time before that goodwill is felt in other media and ancillary merchandising.  So it could be another ten years before we see a Heroclix figures of, say, Ma'alefa'ak or the Martian Man-Eater or Mister Biscuits.  Unwilling to wait, I've tried to do my bit for J'onn-boosting by having customs made of some of his cast (Diane Meade, Captain Harding, Officer 'Big Mike' Hanson).  MM foes are slim pickings; I've long had a Human Flame custom (because everyone loves the Human Flame) and I have ones on the way for The Falcon and the Human Squirrel.  And soon I will get out some yellow paint and turn an old MM figurative into that wicked mastermind, that ultimate expression of Martian lawlessness, the nefarious B'RETT.

It's not easy to make "B'rett' into a name of terror, but he gave it a rum go.

So, to prepare for some Manhunter-focused Heroclix games I have designed a map just for them. In his original adventures, the locals had created both a museum and a theme park dedicated to J'onn J'onzz.  So surely they would have had at least one commemorative plaza as well:  I call it: "Mars Park"

With trees and picnic tables (hindering terrain)  at one end and concession stands (blocking terrain) on the other, Mars Park has four glass-domed pavilions (hindering terrain) to provide shelter during inclement weather (like, say, a meteor shower).  

The center is occupied by inlaid stone areas showing the orbits of Earth and Mars, punctuated by statues of each planet (blocking terrain), with Mars held aloft by J'onn J'onzz, like an Alien Atlas (copyright Frank Diabolu) upholding the memory of his lost world.

The Earth orbit area has sunken pools of water as befits the Big Blue Marble. And at the center of it all is a well-lit globe of eternal flame that represents the sun--AND a danger to Martians, due to their weakness to fire.  As a result, the area around the fire is special terrain injurious to Martian figures (who take damage each time they enter it, each time they start a turn there, and each time they end a turn there)  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Green Manifestarrow

So, last time. after considering the historical treatments of Green Arrow, we asked:

If we want to make GA distinct and culturally relevant in a more modern way, how do we do that if we aren't focused on "Green Arrow as Robin Hood" but rather "Green Arrow as Native American"...?

By weaving two concepts repeating in his character and storylines:

simplicity versus complexity; and
unity versus diversity.

Our modern world is increasingly complex and diverse, and in a 'shrinking' world society the ability to manage that complexity with diverse people and approaches is key to progress and betterment.  

Superman is the most humble and human of all superheroes, even though he's the most powerful  Wonder Woman is/has been an ambassador of peace  and goddess of war.  Hal Jordan's an addled mess with a will of iron.  Aquaman, king of the sea, was raised on land.  Flash is the fastest man alive, and Barry Allen one of the most slow and methodical.  Batman combats criminal violence by breaking the law and beating people up.  At the core of most character that maintain our interest long-term, there is some inherent contradiction whose dynamic tension powers that interest.

And J'onn's just...weird.

But, what possible contradiction could fuel our interest in Ollie?  He's a complex man, in a complex world--his wealth comes from its complexity--but he longs to be simple and to have a simple life.  That's why a high-tech billionaire would become an expert on native American culture: a fascination with 'the simple life' it represents.  

In fact, of course, tribal life isn't and never was 'simple'; almost by definition, native cultures have complex societies and systems of belief, ritual, hierarchy, skills, and crafts.  But even full intellectual understanding of that wouldn't prevent an idealist like Ollie from romanticizing Native American culture.  In one of his most recent incarnations (and perhaps his current one, who can tell?) Ollie's "Q Tech" is like the Apple company, priding itself n making high-tech devices that are simple and help regular people streamline their lines.  Making things simple through increasingly complex technology. I'm sure the irony of that would pain a sensitive soul like Ollie's, making his romantic fascination with America's original 'simple life' even more understandable.  

Green Arrow is the man who wants problems to be simple enough to be solved by shooting an arrow -- which is why he develops an arsenal of complex specialty arrows.  Just as Oliver's love of simplicity lead him toward complexity in his armory

Some more complex than others.

I appreciate DC's desire to diversify its cast of characters, both in their socioethnic origins and their styles.  Why, then, not have a hero for whom it's not just an 'add-on' but an essential element?  And why not have that be the logical choice: Green Arrow?

Ollie's a rich white guy fascinated with a group of minority cultures (Native Americans).  His ward is a white kid RAISED by Indians on a reservation.  As suggested by Absorbascommenter CobraMisfit, use Vigilante as his "rival" crimefighter (a laughing singing cowboy who takes very little seriously, compared to the serious CW-like Oliver Queen).  And Vigilante's sidekick, Jimmy Leong, a.k.a. Stuff, who hails from (Star City's) Chinatown, would serve as a hook into stories about the local Asian communities.

I love that kid.

John Butcher, who has been his ally before.

That.... may not be a good idea, though.

Black Lighting, who moved to Star City and was working with GA during Winick's run

Thus sparking Ollie's growing interest in reaching out  to the black community.
Apparently we should add "Jungle Fever" to the list of 1001 Ways To Defeat Green Arrow.

Thom Kamalku, in Inuit mechanic, has nothing to do since Hal Jordan went away to space. Why wouldn't Ollie hire him to be his mechanic and tech guy?  Ollie could use a "STAR Labs Cisco Ramone" of his own.  

You deserve better, Kairo.

You want Green Arrow to have a friendship with Green Lantern? Of course you do. Well, as long as Hal is off playing space-rebel, while not start pairing Ollie up with ... with.... ugh, Simon Baz, I actually had to LOOK UP his name, because so little has been done with 'the Arab-American' Green Lantern, and what has been done has been... not ideal.

Wouldn't dream of it, handsome.

There are more examples you can think of, I'm sure.  These are just the low-hanging fruit.

All would not be happy with whatever tribe Ollie gather around himself.  That would be part of the point, I should think.  Ollie wants to embrace diversity but....diversity is complex. It's not simple.  Instead of being the all-streetwise liberal big-mouth of the 1970s, Ollie becomes the modern day liberal white guy: desperate to be 'inclusive' but not really having any idea what that actually means.  A well-meaning guy who tends to romanticize other cultures than his own and, in the process, rob them of their own rich complexity.  I can imagine some lively conversations around the Arrowcave, and a good writer can imagine many more.

DC; (once you are done with this new sure-to-be-cut-short attempt at rebooting GA as a horror title) instead of just tossing in a few Bat-wings, Alan Scotts, and Val-Zods in the corners of the DCU, consider building some of the very issues I think you're hoping to address into the best character you have for doing so:

Green Arrow.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Green Arrow: From "Ugh" to "How"

Absorbascommenter Steve Mitchell may have been facetious in his suggestion that an "Amerindian-themed" Green Arrow would need to team up with Super-Chief....

But I'm not.

The DCU has a wealth of "Western lore", much of which has been lying around unused for quite some time. This is something I've been thinking about since a few years ago, when I had a hand in the National Museum of the American Indian mounting an exhibit on the depiction of Amerinds in comic books.

In, fact, that's me at the exhibit opening with the Governor of Taos Pueblo.
"No, Governor, I don't know what the hum is, either."

Easy ones right off the top include: Quoag (from Speedy's origin story, as a native Alfred); Manitou Raven/Dawn, Owlwoman, Night Eagle, Saganowahna ("Super-Chief"), Black Condor, Man-of-Bats and Little Raven (more ridiculous things have been made to work). You could even stretch to include a new Aztek, but--well, I think we've all agreed it would be better just to forget about Aztek.


Black Condor (*swoon*!)
Night Eagle

Then there are the opportunities to link up modernized versions of the DCU's Western "cowboy" characters.  El Diablo (who's going to be in the Suicide Squad movie, anyway); Nighthawk and Cinnamon; Vigilante.  Villains like the Trigger Twins and Terra-Man (yeah; you heard me, Terra-Man).

Why can't I quit you, Terra-Man?

You don't need me to write out precis for revised versions of these characters or the kinds of relationships to and stories with Green Arrow they might have.  We can all picture that and a talented writer would have no trouble working them out.  

But Green Arrow needs to be more than just a centerpiece for DC's abandoned Western/Amerind characters in order to stand on his own as an interesting and unique character. 

Denny O'Neil realized that in 1969 when he made GA the liberal/anti-establishment voice of the 'hippy generation'.  And it was, in its way, consistent with "Green Arrow as Robin Hood".  Just as Robin Hood stood up for The Poor against The Rich, so would Green Arrow.  Thus began 40 years of Ollie talking about 'fascists' and 'fatcats'.  And sounding more ridiculously out of date every time.  

Forget Speedy; Ollie's real sidekick was the Ghost of Hitler.

It's not that economic disparity is no longer an issue; far from it.  But that's just one facet of society's ills, and even Ollie's take on THAT was always painfully simplistic.  It's easier to read Dazzler fanfic than to read the GL/GA 'hard-traveling heroes' stories.  Stories which most of you simply 'know' about, I bet, and haven't actually READ.

It IS, however, rich with (almost) enough Hal Jordan head-injury-porn to make it worth the while.
That's a full page of Hal getting the crap beaten out of him, in silence.
I really deserve to get this framed....

So, if we want to make GA distinct and culturally relevant in a more modern way, how do we do that if we aren't focused on "Green Arrow as Robin Hood" but rather "Green Arrow as Native American"...?

More on that soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Give Robin Hood a Rest

Here's my own stab about how one might re-establish Green Arrow with a unique spin.

In this, I am taking my cues from James Robinson's work on Starman and Palmiotti & Gray's work on Hawkman.  Even Johns on Aquaman, really.

They, and other creators, have taken similar paths to revitalizing sidelined or messed up characters

  • Start with some of the essentials of the characters; start with the original version.
  • Add in some of the traditional elements of the mythos (like supporting characters and villains), tweaked if necessary.
  • Take scattered, pre-existing elements from DCU history and cluster them around the center figure through some logical link(s).
  • Look for gaps and fill those with new  but consistent elements to round out the themes.

I call this approach "retrovisionistic".

In the usual approach to Green Arrow, the 'essential' toward which the writers gravitates is "Green Arrow is like Robin Hood".  I mean,  he certainly looked like (the pop culture image of ) Robin Hood when he was created and in every visual redesign he's pretty much been update to whatever the pop culture image of Robin Hood is at the moment.

And there is nothing wrong with that. But it's not really the angle from which he began.

The original Golden Age Oliver Queen was a wealthy (like Bruce Wayne) archaeologist (like Carter Hall and Kent Nelson) who was a great expert in Native American cultures.

Wow; Ollie was always a pompous know-it-all, huh?

Mort Weisinger (with Mort Meskin) had, a few months earlier, create a costume "cowboy-theme" vigilante.  Named, easily enough, "Vigilante." You know him; country singer Greg Sanders, who became a part-time crime-fighter to avenge his father's murder.  Like you do.

So, then, Mort Weisinger (with George Papp) created a costumed "Indian-themed" vigilante: Green Arrow.  

That's why when they introduced, Roy Harper, Ollie's ward (? Adopted son? Pet? Houseboy? Toady?), his origin was: a white boy raised by an Indian raised in the wilderness.

"Ugh" indeed.  

Apparently, among its many fascinating aspects, Earth-1 has isolated mesas large enough to support entire forest ecosystems.  Given how bizarre it is, Earth-1 should really be one of the biomes in Civilization: Beyond Earth.  

Wow, Roy and Ollie pretty much started OUT doubting each other, huh?
BTW, nice dress, Roy.

Give Robin Hood a rest.  Start with THAT for a change: Green Arrow as a modern-day 'Indian', a lover of native culture and nature.

But, where can you go with that?  I'll discuss that in my next post...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The "Bizarro Batman"

So what, in these dark times for DC superheroes, CAN one write about that might amuse and lift the spirits?

Why, Green Arrow, of course.

Like the CW, I'm always looking for ways one might make Green Arrow interesting.

For the record, they are way ahead of me on that score.

So I've reviewed Green Arrow's historical rogues gallery (such at is is) to explore who might be brought back (or turned into a custom heroclix figure to help fill out my Green Arrow box).

You know how sometimes when you yourself investigate a commonly held 'truth' like "Green Arrow was always just a second-rate Batman knockoff" to find it's mostly a myth and you're thrilled to share that discovery with the misguided world?  Well...this is not one of those times.  In fact, if anything, the overall impression I get is "jeez the Green Arrow Creative Team really kept their meetings as short as possible, didn't they?"

I was discussing it with CobraMisfit when he hit the target perfectly (like the good sniper he is):  "It's like Bizarro Batman, isn't it?"

Yes. Yes, it is.

Just as Bizarro is an 'imperfect duplicate' of Superman, Green Arrow is an imperfect duplicate of Batman. Star City is an imperfect Gotham City, with no distinguishing features, style, or characters of its own.  And GA has a Bizarro Gotham Rogues Gallery...

Bizarro Joker:
Bull's EyeWorld's Finest Comics #24 (September 1946)Leapo the Clown was in a fashion Green Arrow's version of the Joker; he clashed with Green Arrow and Speedy in over half a dozen stories

Bizarro Penguin:
Mr. WhoWorld's Finest Comics #31 (November 1947)Criminal with owl motif.

Bizarro Two-Face(s):
GreenfaceWorld's Finest Comics #39 (April 1949)When a vat of dye exploded in his face, the man who became Greenface turned to a life of crime
the OctopusWorld's Finest Comics #67 (November 1953)Costumed gang leader obsessed with the number 8.

Bizarro Riddler:
the MasterAdventure Comics#214 (July 1955)Left clues to his crimes ala the Riddler.

Bizarro Catwoman
the CatAdventure Comics#104 (May 1946)Female costumed criminal, wore gender-disguising uniform and mask.
Bizarro Prof. Milo
Professor WurmMore Fun Comics#82 (August 1942)Criminal chemist, developed insanity-inducing pills
Bizarro Clayface/False Face
WaxfaceWorld's Finest Comics #15 (Fall 1944)Malleable-faced villain who commits crimes while impersonating reputable men.

Bizarro Kite-Man:
the Pneumatic ManWorld's Finest Comics #106 (December 1959)Criminal who used a dirigible motif in his crimes.

Bizarro Signalman:
the SwitchmanWorld's Finest Comics #45 (April 1950)Committed train-themed crimes.

Bizarro Mr. Polka Dot
the Polka Dot BanditAdventure Comics#183 (December 1952)Clyde Larkin, usurping masked criminal identity used decades earlier by Gus Burns, who was briefly suspected of Larkin's crimes.

There are few concepts sadder than "Bizarro Mr Polka Dot", folks. There are a few interesting villains lurking in the corners of GA history (such as the criminal mathematician Mr. Million), but on the whole, that's pretty clearly not the solution to my personal scheme in how to revitalize Green Arrow in the comics.

I'll have to come up with something else soon.... 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Broken toys...

Well, I've been wanting to post. But what is there to post about? All our toys (or, at least, mine) are broken...

Because breaking toys, in today's culture of disposability, is pretty much all kids now know how to do (other than walk on my lawn). Now we live in a world where the only thing to do with all heroes is break them, all the time. Just like Daredevil.  All of them except, well...Daredevil, who I'm told is having the time of his life lately; but enough about him.

Aquaman, broken.  DC had re-established Aquaman in his own time, acknowledged his public reputation as less than impressive and completely turned it on its head; The surest distinction between a real comic book fan and the unknowing public whose comic book info all comes from Seth McFarlane and Seth Greene was knowing how 'bad-ass' Aquaman was.  All the principle elements of his traditional myth had been refurbished or the process thereof, he'd been made the center of more than one DCU-wide story (e.g., the Atlantis War) or legend (the history of Gorilla City), with only more to come (the Rise of the Seven Seas).  Now Aquaman is broken, cast out of Atlantis, Mera's trying to kill him again, and he's running around expressing all our rage by (apparently) killing people and shouting "your king is pissed!" as if he's an adolescent and not a founding member of the Justice League.

Don't worry about that reward, Arthur.

Superman, broken,  DC had re-established Superman as a powerful and mildly anti-authoritian champion of the oppressed, who, while a little lonely, accepted his role in things.  He finally stopped wearing a 1900s circus-outfit in favor of something a bit more dignified, more of a uniform than a costume.  He wasn't mooning over Lois, was dating a nice foreign girl, had a good friend in Jimmy, and was appreciated by his otherwise irascible boss Perry White.  He was even acquiring some new villains (always a weak point) and a new power. Why, he got a new movie and was going to start the cinematic Justice League!  Now Superman is broken, exposed to the world by Lois, condemned by Perry as a deceiver, losing his powers more with each issue, being attacked by cops, unassisted by the Justice League.  Wearing jeans and tee-shirt. least he's not deejaying.

Green Lantern, broken.  Hal Jordan was back in his bomber jacker, flying again, back in the Green Lantern Corps, running it in fact, and earning plaudits for his own brand of out-of-the-box thinking.  Finally, the idea that someone might call Hal Jordan (of all people) the greatest Green Lantern of them all was no longer completely ridiculous.  Now, Green Lantern is broken, the Corps is in disarray and Hal Jordan's taken it on the lam, running around the universe in a hoodie. Letting his hair grow long and disheveled.  I can believe many things of Hal Jordan; that he would sleep with an underage girl; that he would go insane kill all his colleagues and try to destroy the universe; that he'd become a toy salesman.  But I cannot believe that he would go around with disheveled hair. a hoodie? Unthinkable.

Green Arrow, broken.  CW-- C gol'darned W--has managed to turn Green Arrow into a multi-season television hit and the centerpiece of a growing universe of superheroes shows.  Meanwhile, Green Arrow, having his umpteenth restart and lost the awesome CW characters he just added, is now a horror (?) title, whose first heavy-handed story is filled with spider-shaped robocops as part of an improbably naive villain plot to, oh, take over the nation or something, rather than just make a fortune in military contracting.  Oh, and once again Ollie is a guilty white liberal unaware that   he's the 'fat cat' funding all the fascist crap in his own city.  Sound pretty horrible to me.

Of course 'fat' is just a metaphor.

Batman, broken.  Because nowadays modern readers fall for the malarky that the only way to have a functional Batman is to have a broken Bruce Wayne.  So the only way to really break Batman is... to 'fix' Bruce Wayne.  It's the latest in Scott Snyder's 'no one call top this!' stories, the Joker, who's now some sort of immortal metahuman, accidentally let magic juice seep into Bruce's brain, which made it all shiny all new and all the bad Batman-causing memories are gone.  What they are replaced by is entirely unclear but now we have a brain-blank Bruce Wayne with no skills, no training, and no idea how to be Batman.

In other words, the Bronze Age Batman.
Stupid Bronze Age Batman.

Wonder Woman--well, who even knows what "broken" would mean for her at this point, since it's been so long since she was anything but.  As far as I can tell now, all the world's foremost super heroine does nothing but date a work colleague and fight with her sister. Flash seems not broken per se, but he's in ANOTHER anti-Flash plots his revenge against the Flash 'epic', so he's ... running in place, as usual.

For such a smart guy, Barry has to repeat lessons a LOT.

On the brighter side, the Martian Manhunter's got a new series (to add to his collection of other cancelled series).

Oh, I'll be up for playing again. And soon I hope.  But it's hard to play right now...

when all my favorite toys are broken.

"My god--my hand--it was so beautiful...."