Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How I Learned (Today) to Love Max Lord

I'll happily confess: I've never been a fan of Max Lord. Or, as they started calling him when he became overtly evil, "Maxwell Lord".  


Gods know, WW84 was a non-ideal film but I give them credit for making Max a cheesy '80s hustler again.
As such he pairs perfectly with Booster Gold, another cheesy '80s hustler.

Many people remember Max fondly as the paterfamilias of the Keith Giffen's "Bwahaha" League of the '80s.  

Whether you LIKE the concept of the Justice League as comedy:
they made it work.

They forget that he was always manipulative, shady, and amoral.

In his first appearance, Max was behind the terrorists who attacked the UN during the '87 League's formative mission.  Nobody remembers that.

But JL became JLU and got warmer and fuzzier and wackier, and so Max had to be redeemed.

Oh, Max and his wacky, terribly drawn hijinks!

As Max became more beloved due to the hijinks he presided over, the writers gave him an out (or two?) for his shadier behavior, like, he was being influenced by some evil alien machine or such. Regular comic book stuff.

Was it... Brother Eye? It wasn't but, I don't really care and
you don't either.

Aw, poor Max!

And of course there was... The Invasion.

People gush endlessly about "the original Crisis" (by which they mean "Crisis on Infinite Earths", which, they don't know because they read nothing written before they were born, was named after the ACTUAL original crisis and the 97 others that followed it) and how it changed the DCU FOREVER and NOTHING WAS EVER AS IMPORTANT.

Which is hogwash.  It was just another reboot, the kind of thing DC did without fanfare to individual books all the time.  

Pictured: old school fanfare.

Read Batman during that era; you will notice next to no difference between pre- and post-Crisis Batman.  Some figures got more thoroughly rebooted than others (e.g., Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash).  And some characters that used to live in multiversal suburbs moved into the big city. DC made a big deal about this being their chance to do Something Different but having given too little thought as to what that would be, they wound up simply doing Everything Again.

You know what REALLY changed the DCU?  The Invasion, which happened a mere three years later.  In many ways, it was the opposite of COIE.  COIE was a long drawn out overcomplicated incoherent mess with an ersatz Big Bad who might as well have been Agamemno or King Kull.  Frankly, I think Barry intentionally killed himself just to get away from it all for a while (and obviously the rest did him good, because he's had two television series and a new movie coming out). 


And finally has the legs he deserves.


Invasion, on the other hand
, was a tightly plotted three-issue series which explained most of how the DCU now worked (and would work 1000 year in the future!) where the threat came from pre-existing DCU entities (all the bad guys species of outer space) with sensible political motivations for wanting to attack Earth (specifically, that Earth positively sweats out dangerously powerful superheroes). 

Somehow, the dirty stinking Rannies were not among them.

It introduced the "meta-gene" as the cause of most superpowers and explained the future world of the Legion of Super-Heroes elegantly. It's full of real, powerful but understated moments; the Denial of Arani, the death of Scott Fischer, Buddy Baker versus the Thanagarian bomb, J'onn's final trick, and THE GENE BOMB, which almost killed Max Lord.

Max succumbing to the Gene Bomb, which was like COVID for superheroes, except everyone got infected at the same time.

People, including Max, in meta-gene comas.

But it DIDN'T kill him. It 'activated his meta-gene'. making his mind-control explicit; his having had it operating before unconsciously at a low level became the explanation for how he formed and reigned in the members of the Justice League.  

And that was the beginning of the end. Because one of the many truisms of comics is: mind-controllers are (almost always) evil.  It's the ultimate power and, ultimately, it corrupts the user.  

Including her, too. "I know what you did, Imra!"


Plus, it was too good an opportunity for the Serious Comic Book Writers of the dark '90+s to pass up.  They loved nothing more than perverting the light-hearted or wacky elements of past comics into sordid grimdark versions of themselves (this would show how Adult the writers were).

Remember when Kevin Smith made Stanley (& His Monster), from one of history's most innocent series, into the victim of satanic child abuse by his own grandfather?  Because god forbid anyone should not think of Kevin Smith as a Serious Adult Writer.

With his mind-controlled meta-gene now active (and amplified through a storyline or two) and being synonymous with the wackiest version of the Justice League, Max might have well as had a target painted on his back for These Serious Writers.  So they had him go not just Full Evil but Scenery-Devouring Evil, and shooting in the head Blue Beetle (the most comedic member of the Bwahaha League):

Blamm-ha-ha!


Take THAT, Innocence! So THERE, Fun!  This was followed by Evil Max Lord taking over Superman. Even if it makes no sense, even if you can probably think of 17 characters off the top of your head who could nerf Superman or make his possession by Lord irrelevant or useless, it doesn't matter. Symbolically and canonically, Superman is The Ultimate Weapon and he -- or anyone who controls him-- Can't Be Stopped.

Screen-capped, thank god, but not stopped.

Which leads directly to 'the snap' (about which I complained recently);

"Make a hawk a dove;
Stop a war with lo-
Oh. Okay, well, I guess that works, too."


Wonder Woman, having 'no choice', killed Max Lord to prevent him from using Superman to take over the world (or whatever Max's Giant Secret Plan was).  This gave the Serious Writers the opportunity to permanent Sully WONDER WOMAN, the princess of truth and love and understanding. What a coup!  Eat your heart out, Dr. Light and Sue Dibny!  

This (kinda) final storyline for Max cemented him as "a Wonder Woman foe", even though this is pretty much the only interaction between them.  This is how Max came to be the villain in the WW84 movie and a figure in her upcoming Heroclix set:

Once you become a supervillain you have to wear the gloves.
It's a union thing.


So, because I can't stand Max Lord (especially since his use as a villain symbolizes everything that was wrong with the Dark Age of comics), I looked at his figure's powers and abilities to see what other character I might put on his dial.

And then it hit me. 

I knew who I would have replaced Max with, and once I knew that I no longer felt the need to. Because I realized that Max, effectively, was:

THE DUKE OF DECEPTION


That's what the character was called in the Golden Age, when he was one Wonder Woman's most consistent foes.  The Greeks simply called him "Δόλος"  (Deception).  Even if none of the Serious Writers realized it, they were step by step turning Max Lord, huckster, into the modern version of the Duke of Deception.  

The lesson? NEVER throw away your "Who's Who" binders.

I might have made the association myself sooner if I'd actually gone to SEE the WW84. I haven't yet; um, there was quarantine and we went to Colorado to visit David's folks and, um, the dog ate my homework.  But in WW84 the object that empowers Max Lord is mentioned as possibly being a creation of ... Dolos, the god of Deception.

Monday, April 19, 2021

10 Reasons Not To Read The Hangman

You remember The Hangman, don't you? He used to lurk in the back of Pep Comics, hiding in the shadows cast by The Shield's bright shining goodness.  If you don't remember, it's probably because you've never read any of his stories. Frankly, I'm here to make sure you DON'T, with my ...

Ten Reasons Not to Read 

The Hangman.

1.  It's full of torture porn that would make even the Cenobites grimace.



2.  Its grotesque close-ups of human terror will make you long for the cheery wholesome all-ages art of EC Comics.




3.  Its figure work is what you would get if Plastic Man had a baby with the WPA, while possessed by Satan.


4.  It will destroy your faith in the use of storyboard art as a means of storytelling and undermine your sense of narrative time and space.




5. The Hangman's punches have the power to turn human bodies into rubber upon impact, and it is NOT a good look for the human body.



6.  This is his sidekick.


7.  His name is "Anthracite" (which I consider bad enough to stand as its own separate item).


8. It will permanently pervert your sense of perspective as surely as if you were trapped in an Assyrian bas-relief from the reign of Ashurnasirpal II.  


9.  You'll feel as if you've fallen into a Nazi propaganda film about 'degenerates' who make Mike Sekowsky's villains look like the Greek ideal of beauty.



10.  You will realize that, as if the world were a Final Destination film, hideous and ironic death awaits your every step.



Oh, and here's a freebie for white folks:


it will not make you feel proud.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Heroclix Sunday: Central City Sidewalk

This Heroclix Sunday we go back to Central City to visit our friend Barry Allen.  The CCPD map was especially for the CW version of Barry, but this map is made with the Silver Age Flash in mind.  

The one who trained simian track teams.  And, yes, they are holding hands. 
Barry is secure in his humanity.


It COULD be in any DCU fictionopolis but there are a few touches that mark it as especially Central-City-esque.  


First, it features THE three places that all Flash Rogues rob from: An Art Gallery, A Bank, and A Jewelry Store.



Sometimes more than one.


Note that, unlike, say, Gotham City or Apex City, where everything has a name (and in the case of Apex, an address), in Central City the Bank and Jewelry Store and Art Gallery do not have names. The only thing that gets named in Central City are toy companies and tailor shops.

Central City takes its toys very seriously.

Second, it has Central City's trademark absurdly broad sidewalks. I would say "impossibly", but I live in Washington DC where the sidewalks actually look like that.

Social distancing is pretty easy in DC.

Third, if you look carefully you'll see that the vendor at the south of the map is a CCJitters stand.  Because of course it is.  


It's really amazing how much happens at a place that only appeared in comics once.

Remember when Iris used to WORK there?  Good times.