Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In memoriam: Dale Roberts

Dale Roberts, a devoted DC comics fan and longtime reader and commenter here at the Absorbascon, passed away this week after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.  

Dale was a huge fan of obscure, even one-time characters from the Golden and Silver Ages of DC, a love he often expressed through his sterling work making custom Heroclix figures.  Even if you just look at the work he's done for me over the last ten years, it's amazing.

Joe Coyne the Penny Plunder

The Rainbow Raider

Dr. Domino and his Dominominions

Silken Spider, Tiger Moth, and Dragon Fly

Jimmy Olsen

Prof Radium

Vibe (regular AND breakdance fighting versions)

The Human Flying Fish and Sardine


Cal Durham

Hal Jordan with Space Owl Head-Hitting Action

The Sportsmaster and Huntress/Tigress

The Human Flame

 plus Sonar; the Blue Snowman; Paula Von Gunther; Dr. Poison; Eviless; Hypnota; Queen Clea; Zara, Priestess of the Crimson Flame; the Ocean Master, Max Mercury; Black Hand; Dr. Polaris; Angle Man; Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls, Golden Age Two-Face, Ace The Bathound, the Cavalier, Golden Age Clayface, Joker goons, Penguin goons, Two-Face goons, Catwoman goons, Riddler goons, King Tut goons, Hugo Strange, the Weeper,  Aquagirl; Koryak; the Fadeaway Man; the Crime Doctor; Rocky Grimes; the Prankster; the Octopus, Admiral Trafalgo, Seawolf, Nereus, Mephisto the Sea Satan, Scavenger, The Fisherman, the Sea Devils, the Shark, the Eel, Blackjack the Pirate, Vulko, Storm and Imp, Neptune Perkins; Black Condor; Northwind; Torpedo, Magneto, and Claw; Bullseye the Clown; Giant Turtle Boy, Iris West; and probably about 30 more that I can't even remember off the top of my head.  And that was just for me; Dale had many other loyal customers, too.

Dale's dedication to helping OTHERS enjoy comics as much as he did was unflagging and unstinting and his joy in doing so was effusive and palpable.  Dale's life was about making others happy and his spirit will be missed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Skipping over the highs and lows of the Supergirl show's season finale, let's go right to the cliffhanger at the end: the Kryptonian pod that lands on Earth, whose contents take Kara by surprise.

What COULD be in that pod? What do you think?

  1. Streaky.  Comic-book inaccurate, of course.  We all know Streaky was a terrestrial cat before he got superpowers as a result of Supergirl's scientific incompetence.
  2. Krypto.  Who I assume would be a black Lab.
  3. The Bottle City of Kandor.  Which would be stupid, of course. But deliciously so, and Supergirl could use more Silver Age nonsense.
  4. Young Kara herself.  As Flash teaches, "when in doubt, screw with viewers minds using time-travel."
  5. A brown wig with pigtails.
  6. Baby Kal-El.  That would be completely insane, but "Superman did something weird and flew himself backward along the time stream and is now Superbaby again" would be one way to explain why Superman never visits or helps Supergirl.
  7. Dick Malverne.  Because Supergirl needs Dick.
  8. Brainiac 5. Same reason.
  9. Beppo.  Hijinks ensue.
  10. Powergirl.  Because, despite all the 'girlpower' on the show, it really needs a 'broad'.
  11. Comet, the SuperPony.  Period.
  12. The body of the real Cat Grant, who was replaced years ago by Earth-4 Eobard Thawne.
  13. The show ratings.
  14. Grant Gustin.
  15. John Ostrander, actor.
  16. A headband.
  17. Mrs. Berkowitz, from Chicago.
  18. Pants.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Confucius Say: The More Things Change...

Everyone is focused on the new Superman storyline that leads from the New52 into Rebirth.  Superman is dying and is setting up a team of "super-substitutes" to take up the slack after he's gone.

With four replacements -- Supergirl (the search for whom is a plot point), Superwoman (now revealed to, somehow, be Lois Lane), pre52 Superman (Superdaddy?), and "New Superman", the Chinese guy who gets some of Superman's powers -- DC is clearly echoing the "Reign of the Four Supermen" that followed "The Death of Superman" in 1993.  And pretty cleverly, I think.  Whereas in 1993, Superman was replaced by four men (okay, actually ONE man, one boy half-clone, one cyborg half clone, and one...well, whatever the heck The Eradicator was supposed to be), now in 2016, he'll be succeeded by two men (an adult and a YA) and two women (an adult and a YA).   

But this section from Vaneta Roger's coverage at Newsarama reminds me of a different old Superman Story:

In Superman #51, readers were shown a character in China named Dr. Omen, who was hacking into the Fortress of Solitude. (Apparently, there was a compromise created by the fusion of the Justice League and Stormwatch operational bases, or maybe it was because of Vandal Savage.) Superman's system booted Dr. Omen's system out, but not before she apparently got enough info to do whatever it is she was trying to do.
She then refers to a figure who's in some type of stasis chamber, "Your time to shine has come. All my dreams are on their way."
Then in Batman/Superman #31, "New 52" Superman is talking to Batman when they're both attacked suddenly by the "Four Pillars," the "embodiment of the Chinese zodiac."  One of the creatures draws blood from Superman with a claw, then teleports away.
It's all very mysterious. But it's probably related to the upcoming new title, New Super-Man, which launches in July and stars a Superman in Chinese culture who has been "infused" with Superman's powers.
Tomasi acknowledged that the New Super-Man is related to what's happening in China in "Final Days."  "Everything out of Superman #51, from the China stuff to… these are all threads that are all now tying together, right into all the Superman books coming out of Rebirth," he said.
So is that in-stasis figure the new Chinese Superman? And what does Dr. Omen have to do with it? And how does he get infused with Superman's powers?
Interesting.  A reasonable plot development.  A foreign power (or just someone in one) tries to 'bottle' some of Superman's body so as to copy it.

But I can't help be reminded of:


In the late 1970s, DC Comics was -- much like now-- all about the Bat-family.  DC liked extended dynasties generally (e.g. "The Superman Family", "The Shazam Family"); but they were particularly fond of the Bat-family.  That's what gave us stuff like The Joker's Daughter:

Gods help me.  I still love that storyline, I just can't help it, no matter how stupid it was.

It was in this period that Batgirl discovered she had a previously unknown brother, Tony Gordon.

And that pornstaches, big rimmed glasses, and an air of presumptive authority are genetic.

Anyway, he was being held captive by the Chinese communist government for balloon-spying (because comics just love balloons).  He was rescued/escaped and got a new identity as a tour guide at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, where he runs into his sister when Captain Aero--oh, never mind, it's too stupid to explain.

The point is, eventually, she discovers his existence and as a result faces off against ersatz Chinese communist supersoldiers called; THE SINO-SUPERMAN.

They were genetically altered to duplicate the powers of certain Justice Leaguers, giving us female Flash, cinch-belt Green Lantern, fabulous pillbox hat Firestorm.

I can't imagine how this process helped make a Green Lantern.  
Maybe instead of a power ring he just had an impervious skull.

And of course... a Chinese Superman.

Best thing about the Sino-Superman? LOTS OF BIG BARE MUSCLE CHINESE THIGHS, poised to crush my decadent capitalist hegemony. 
Uh, I mean....OUR decadent capitalist hegemony.

Anyway, the zapping process by which these people with superpowers was (of course) unstable, so as soon as they had used their powers once or twice...

they exploded

Fortunately, they didn't care. Because they were Chinese, after all.  Dulce et decorum est, you know.  I mean, who wouldn't want to undergo a fatal procedure for a panel or two of superpowers, only to be kicked to an explosive death by an American congresswoman in high-heeled yellow boots?

The idea of a Chinese (semi-)Superman is certainly engaging.  But there are parts of this new storyline (like the ethnically themed Chinese Zodiac attack squad, the insidious Chinese scientist, etc.) that I find just too uncomfortable reminiscent of the Sino-Superman storyline, which its emphasis of Asian governments trying to steal and make poor copies of American technology (in this case, superheroes).  

I am eager to read about this New Superman.  I just hope their keep him far away from Batgirl (and her boots).

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Fate of ...GLOAT-FACE

Naturally, the story ends with the real Leaguers beating the crap out of the fake Leaguers (the disguised Livergoons). Be grateful I'm skipping the two-page spread that's wasted on that particular fight.

Maybe the Livergoons impersonating the Leaguers isn't so ridiculous, 
given that they all speak in the same annoyingly repetitive way. 

And Superman returns from space to track down the no-so-dead-after-all Tattoed Man.  Turns out the Headmaster just put him into suspended animation and hoped the M.E. didn't have time to gut him that day.  

If you won't kill because it's 'nasty', 
then supervillain may not be the best profession for you, H.M.

This gives writer O'Neil another opportunity to try to use the familiar conventions of the Silver Age while simultaneously deriding them as stupid. 

Um...you pretty much NEVER punch regular humans in the jaw, Superman. 
And with good reason.  It would be nasty.

And, while capturing Headmaster, Green Arrow says something stupid. I mean, stupid even for Green Arrow.

  1. Ray, they aren't king-size; you are tiny.  You're not fooling anyone but yourself.  
  2. No human being has ever said "gloat-face".  Wait...isn't that a Green Arrow villain?
  3. Batman: "Your thing, Ollie?  You mean, get pwned by some goons and captured like a noob sidekick? Sure, Ollie, knock yourself out! It'll save them the trouble."

So, the Headmaster and the Livergoons are defeated and captured, Superman's back from his space-cation, and Ollie is cleared of (these) murder charges. There's nothing...


Editor's Note: Charlie Sneed working in a pretzel factory is supposed to be funny.

What about the opening scene, the gripping one with the paper airplane, thrown out a barred window by someone claiming Green Arrow was going to kill them?!?!?!  What does that have to do with the plot?

Nothing.  At all.

"PLEASE let me be something other than Green Arrow! ANYTHING!"

It was just a bunch of kids, playing in an abandoned barred-window room at the top of a skyscraper (as kids do), which apparently the police never investigated after Charlie took them the first note.  

With stories like this immediately preceding it, no WONDER people manage to have fond memories of the Satellite Era that followed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Meanwhile, back at the Atom's undercarriage, we discover...

that the court order that banished Superman from earth until Green Arrow could be caught by the authorities was requested by.someone named ...Cabeza Maestro. Which none of the Justice Leagues realized was "Head Master";

Once again, the answer to the League's problems is Vibe.

and that Headmaster, who I thought so cleverly was delaying the execution of the Leaguers so that their corpses would be fresh, as part of his plot to frame them and then get elected dictator for killing them, actually just... forgot to kill them;

I told you the bomb was a lie.  I bet he promised the Livergoons cake afterwards, too.

And that a Livergoon can't even stop talking enough to take the opportunity to kill three Leaguers, because he's too busy talking about how boring talking is;

"Quickly, GA! Use your mighty Martian-breath! Oh, wait....right."

and that the Atom's mighty undercarriage is strong enough to stop a bullet;

That's... is it wrong of me to think that's kind of hot? I don't care, it's what the internet is for.

and that the Atom's ingenious plan for not-exploding the bomb is, in fact, to let the bomb explode.

Avoiding collateral damage is not the highest of Atom's priorities. Or even 'one of them'.

Adding "exploding villagers" to the 1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow.  Fortunately for the villagers, THERE IS NO BOMB and the bomb is a lie.  Not that Ray cares.  Ray's all, "Exploded villagers, whatever, that's not carnage, I live with Jean Loring, I know what real carnage is."

Anyway, Atom knocks out Ringo, and Ollie, Bruce, and Barry go off to tackle John, Paul, and George, who (disguised as Batman, Flash, and Green Arrow) are "rampaging" through the nearby village, provided that "rampaging" means "causing minor property damage."


You know, if I had a Livergoon with sufficient super-strength to bend a lamppost with his bare hands, disguising him as Batman would probably not be my first instinct.  Just saying.

Next... the (exceedingly  non-)thrilling ending!!!!

Monday, April 11, 2016

C is for Crumbiness

When we last left the JLA, the Flash was brrzzapped unconscious, Superman was banished off-planet by a court order, Green Arrow was captured by a quartet of british-biker-garbed Livergoons (who, despite their outfits, talk like the Bowery Boys, non-stop), and Batman (who beats the crap out of the Livergoons who capture GA, because he's Batman) has been ray-gunned into submission.   

 He's lying, by the way; 
because he's not only a villain he's a cheapskate, and lying is cheaper than bombs.

That (now revealed) villain, in case you don't recognize him from behind is none other than : 


We agree with you completely, Flash.

The Headmaster.  Another powerless, ugly, and idiotic JLA villain brought to you by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky.  Actually his full name was "Headmaster Mind" in his original appearance four years before this, but by this point he seems to have lost his "Mind".  So to speak.

"Vanquisment" really is a word; I had to look it up to make sure.

His plan is to frame the captured heroes for crimes committed by costumed Livergoons and then dump the real heroes corpses nearby afterwards claiming to have killed them, which will then make him popular enough to be elected dictator.  

Yes, really.  

This plan took him four years of careful planning.  This is why you probably haven't heard of the Headmaster.  He's the in-universe equivalent of Zack Snyder, since his plans depend on making the world hate and mistrust DC's greatest heroes.

 That's a better grade than the writer gets, GA!

Add 'crumbiness' to the list of 1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow. One nice touch to this plan, though. It does give the villain a reason not to kill the heroes right away; he needs their corpses to be fresh for later, or the frame up won't work. I mean, at least, that's what I am deducing; he doesn't say that or anything because that would make too much sense.

Anyway, obviously the Headmaster's plan is *ahem* foolproof.  So what can possibly save them...!?!?!

Don't worry, because the one thing that can save them is currently flying to their rescue:

This is for you, Damian.  It's all for you.


Friday, April 08, 2016

Green Arrow; Forgotten Man in an Increasingly Stupid JLA story

Meanwhile, in the shuttered planetarium where they've been sent by a disreputable Liverpudlian goon (Livergoon?), Barry decides the best thing to do is run around in total darkness at 1000 mph.

What could possibly go wrong?

See, this is how you can tell Barry is a superhero and you are not.  Because when you enter a pitch-black unfamiliar environment, your first instinct is not "must...break..sound barrier!"

Naturally, there's an electrified booby-trap that brrzzaps the Flash unconscious.  Batman, fully aware that it's a trap now, rushes right into to save Barry, and is attacked by a squad of Livergoons
complaining about how Batman's NOT making jokes while beating the crap out of them.

Even worse, they make BATMAN start doing it.

If there were a potion to make me forget the English language in front of me while I read this, 
I would have not only drunk it, 
sed etiam magis poti requaererem.

Why is this happening? Remember, how in yesterday's post, the narration box was trying to be 'meta' and 'cool'?  [As if anything could ever been cooler or more meta than the very concept of narration boxes!]  Well, remember, this is 1969  DC (and Denny O'Neil in particular) is trying to drag its characters out of the goofy conventions of the Silver Age and into the Bronze Age, where everyone is 'hip'.  In this story, they are trying to have their cake and eat it, too: they are retaining the goofy conventions of the Silver Age (needlessly expository narration boxes, identically dressed goons, a terrible terrible villain who I won't spoil for you, pun-based battle-chatter, obviously traps, etc.) while being hip by 'lampshading' them to acknowledge they are stupid  And it fails fantastically.

Anyway, the unmentioned villain shows up and shoots Batman with a tranq dart from the shadows and an ominous "SOON MY REVENGE WILL BE COMPLETE!"

Later (earlier? simultaneous? it's completely unclear, actually), Atom and Superman are showing the police why they are wrong about Green Arrow because...the murder arrow is made of wood and not titanium, like GA's actual arrows are.  And then they are interrupted by...

Well, it's too ridiculous to type. I'll just show you:

It's Two-Face, isn't it? I mean, who else would think of that?

I agree completely with Superman and O'Neil: this is truly ridiculous.  Pointing that out, however, does not make is less so.

As Superman leaves the earth (where on earth does he go?  I mean "off ea--" oh, never mind), he uses those super-peepers of his to notice the Tattooed Man's corpse (at just that moment!) arising from the morgue and scaring the beejeezus out of poor Chuck Lumley:

Of course, Superman can't TELL anyone this because he's got to leave Earth and it's 1969 so he has no cellphone. In a real Superman story, he'd just burn a message into a sidewalk somewhere with his telescopic and heat vision.  I remember one time in the Silver Age, Superboy had to get a message to the Legion quickly, but he was stuck in class as Clark Kent, so he used his microscopic and heat vision together to burn a message into a penny and then threw it out the window fast enough to break the time barrier and land in the future.  Killing Rao alone knows how many people in its way.

Though proper use, there is very little heat vision cannot accomplish.

But this is a Justice League story and the only thing that makes JLA stories work is rendering all its god-like members incompetent. If you are a Marvel fan who likes imperfect heroes and hates DC's stupid godlike heroes for being too perfect and powerful...then "Justice League" is the comic book for you.

"Frustrated"? Hm, I think the word you are looking for is "moronic".

Next, the (pathetic) identity of our master villain revealed!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Green Arrow; Wanted, In His Stupid Face, Repeatedly.

So, even Green Arrow is bright enough to realize when you are a wanted man a big yellow jet labelled "ARROWPLANE" is ...non-ideal.  So he stashes it at public airfield, because Ollie's a millionaire of the people.  

But don't worry; he's STILL too good to sign autographs.

He's set upon and captured by a group of identically dressed goons who talk way way way too much, and, who because they don't watch the CW, are surprised that Ollie can fight.

I hate these people.  I hate how they look and how they talk and how much they talk.
I hate every word Denny O'Neil has ever written or even thought and possibly heard.

Truly, goons should be seen and not heard.


Add 'citizens' to the list of 1001 Ways to Defeat Green Arrow.  Oh, speaking of "please shut up", note that the captions boxes from this era -- when writers like O'Neil were trying to be 'cool' and imitating Marvel -- are unbearably stupid (without conveying any necessary information):

Anyway, Bruce and Barry (who are, after all, the smart ones), go to the morgue and identify the corpse of the man who Green Arrow has been framed for killing: The Tattooed Man.  They don't identify him by just looking his face (and that stupid sailing cap that you KNOW they left on his corpse) and saying, "Oh, that's Abel Tarrant, the Tattooed Man, who we see every time the JLA has to briefly take on a battle-line of recognizable but disposable villains!"

Always remember: there's regular logic...and then there's BAT-logic.

No, they DEDUCE it's the Tattooed Man because of the tattoo removal scars on his arms.  Because they DETECTIVES, meng.  They HAVE to be. They're the smart ones, so they have to solve this case through their detectiving.  It's not like someone is just going to walk up to them and...

Jeez, Barry; buy a Crime File, why dontcha? Or just call T.M. Maple.

Oh. Well, then. THERE's a lucky break. A tip.

And from such a clearly honest and reliable source, too.

Well, that's a face only Dr. Mid-Nite could trust. So, instead of, say, calling the cops (because heroes simply don't DO that), Batman and Flash show up at an abandoned planetarium after nightfall based on an anonymous tip given by a self-confessed underworld underling in British biker drag.  What could possibly go wrong...?

Leaguers may be stupid but they are always punctual.