Sunday, December 31, 2006

"I give you--the gift!
'What?  Yes, of course the Son of Zeus' mace can...control the weather.  Sure.'

Yeah, the gift from me, for me! Strictly speaking, I didn't think the new Marvel Legends were supposed to be out yet, since Hasbro takes over the license from Toy Biz in 2007. Meh. Great toy, but I miss the pack-in comics and the Toy Biz Legends were a good couple of bucks cheaper. Not sure if I'm going to get the build-a-figure, Annihilus. We'll see.

Anyway, it's New Year's Eve, and my wife made a bucket of mohitos, which I'm already on. Hey, they aren't gonna drink themselves! Be safe, and more tomorrow depending on how well I can type... Read more!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Odin's on to something: I totally want action figures of my kids now.
These meetings would probably go faster without the Heroclix, but he's the boss, so...

Oddly, my youngest would probably come with a hammer too. Multiple hammers, actually. Where he got them, I can't say; but if that baby ever gets his hands on a real one I fear for the table, the dog, myself, society...

Coming up in the next day or two, the action figures of 2006! Well, at least the ones I bought, anyway.

From Thor #349, written and drawn by Walt Simonson.

Some of my Christmas haul:
I didn't have time to watch the Animated Trek in the seventies; how the hell am I going to do it now?
Yesterday, my oldest son got to go to a basketball camp; and I got to take him. I watched for a bit, got some nice photos, and then still had three hours to kill; so I actually had some time for reading. (The wife had the baby, thankfully: I would have had to run him down for the entire time, and it's only fun for maybe the first two hours.)

I read Lisey's Story first, and while that is the better book, I was more looking forward to Cell, Stephen King's zombie novel. Well, not traditional zombies, since ala 28 Days Later, King takes liberties with zombie formula: how many zombie movies have you seen with a levitating zombie fight? OK, how many of those weren't from Hong Kong? That's what I thought. (Wait, isn't there a levitating Deadite in Evil Dead 2? Not quite the same, but I'm tired and my synapses are shooting pretty randomly right now.)

Even though in parts Cell really reminded me of The Stand, particularly towards the end, I still enjoyed it. And this morning, as I went out to start my car and scrape the ice, I heard something in the yard next door, a cracking pop in the ice, but couldn't see it because of the fence.

I stopped. Waited a second. Nothing, no other noise.

I got in the car and started it, but the ice was so thick I couldn't see anything outside. And before I got out to start scraping the windows, I stopped again. For just a moment, there could be anything outside waiting for me. A stray cat. A car thief. A zombie, traditional or otherwise. Anything.

I got out. Of course, there was nothing there. I chipped a porthole in the ice, enough to see out of to get to work, and drove off. But I'd definitely say I was a bit more disappointed than relieved, and I think a lot of you might have felt the same way. And that's why I've been a fan of Stephen King for over 20 (!) years.

Oh, I did have time to watch a couple episodes of Star Trek: the Animated Series today, too. Which probably further casts whatever taste I may have into doubt, but I've always loved Trek, and I haven't seen almost all of these episodes. Star Trek is not really in fashion right now, but that's probably a whole 'nother post, and I'm too tired to get into that one. Maybe after I've watched a few more episodes. Read more!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Out of Office!
I don't know if anyone else gets it, but the Annihilation Drax seems so weird to me, from this version.
From Silver Surfer #48, Jim Starlin and Ron Lim. At least I think it's #48. Fah. Be back tomorrow, promise. Read more!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Zen and the Art of Copyright Maintenance:

Brave and the Bold #132, "Batman--Dragon Slayer??" Written by Bob Haney, art by Jim Aparo, editted by Denny O'Neil. Why did I note the editing credit? Because Denny did a lot of stories with Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Master; particularly in the Question. Dragon becomes Vic Sage's (the Question's) teacher, although in that series, he first appears in a wheelchair. How Richard was injured is not explained, until much later, when he just gets up: he knew Sage wasn't at a stage in his development that he would listen to and not challenge Dragon, so he had to present himself in a way that would reduce that.

I mention that because I'm still trying to figure out if that's clever, or outright dickery on Dragon's part, or a copout (i.e., O'Neil failing to come up with a suitable story for Dragon being crippled); and also because Denny put a lot of effort into making Dragon read as a serious disiciple of Eastern philosophy and wisdom. On the other hand, Haney writes with enthusiasum, but it's like he had a big lunch of Chinese food, a few fortune cookies, caught a late kung-fu matinee show, and then knocked out this script. (I just had to pause to look it up: Haney died in 2004, so there's no telling if he researched it or not.)

If I may be blunt: Richard Dragon just isn't as cool as Iron Fist. On any level. And I'm not even a huge Iron Fist fan: he's a superhero, with kung-fu accents. Dragon is more of a transplant: a kung-fu archetype in a superhero universe, which would liken him to the best home run hitter on the Dallas Cowboys lineup; that is, someone that would be impressive and interesting in another setting but seems lost or out of place where they are. It doesn't help that Dragon doesn't have a cool costume or battlecry. Maybe if they paired him up with someone: I might read Black Lightning/Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter. What?

Kung fu doesn't believe in alzheimer's, obviously.
Back to the story in hand, which begins with two punks about to "depopulate" an old man: "He's lived too long--consumin' too many goodies!" It's the first environmentalist hate crime! Or maybe they were looking for an excuse, and had just seen Soylent Green or something. Also, the first thug has a leopardskin vest, and may be a moonlighting Kraven the Hunter. The passing kung-fu master Richard Dragon kung-fu's the living snot out of them in the best David Carradine tradition, then helps the old man with the loan of a bike pump and a quarter for coffee.
Yeah, I think I'd remember hearing about a bald guy calling himself the Stylist too.
One year later, Richard is visiting a dojo in Gotham City, when he is challenged by the Stylist. Oh, man, that name did not age well. It no longer evokes "a legendary karate killer for hire! A man outside the true path of the martial artsdiscipline--but one whose skill is supreme!" Now it sounds like the guy that forgets that tuft of hair on the back of my head is going to give Richard the hassle. (Actually, my father-in-law usually cuts my hair, does a great job, and very well could have nunchuks somewhere. Hi Dana!)
'Little old guardian'?  'Crazy new kind of mugger'?  Was last month's team-up with Metamorpho?
Although he has no beef with the Stylist, Dragon ends up fighting him with a park bench slat and pretty much spanks him. Which means it's time for Batman to show up, and DC cribs the classic Marvel Misunderstanding: Batman figures Dragon for a mugger, and has at him. For two solid pages, Batman is fought to a stand-off, although Dragon appears to be mostly fighting defensively. Eventually, Batman finally talks to Dragon, who explains how Bats has let the Stylist get away. Richard isn't sure why the Stylist attacked him, but Batman has noticed a limo that has been following them.

Batman pulls the driver out of his car, but he's only a messenger with a letter for Richard, that contains a quarter and a key to a safe deposit box in Vegas. Richard apparently has kung-fu instant recall, since he remembers the old man he gave a quarter to a year ago. Batman deduces the old man must have been eccentric billionaire Calvin Curtis, who recently died...I love that the B&B universe is full of eccentric billionaires, strange recluses, disappeared explorers, world-famous fill-in-the-blanks.
Batman can do anything in Brave&Bold.  Anything.  Probably could Draw Winky too.
Figuring the box contains a will to a fortune, Batman sketches a portrait of Curtis on the fly, and Dragon recognizes him, but is still troubled by the Stylist. Batman says he will take care of him, but Dragon says they will meet if it is their destiny. See what I meant about the fortune cookies? Dragon always sounds articulate and profound, but if you break it down, everything he says boils down to 'whatever.'

Searching Gotham, Batman finds the Stylist practicing with his sai in a playground. Batman calls him out for possession of a deadly weapon, but the Stylist points out the sai is considered a defensive weapon, legal in Gotham, and quotes the legal code. The Stylist also tipped reporters, so Batman is then caught on camera smacking around a 'citizen,' although I'm not sure what kind of editing would be needed to make footage of Batman slapping a six-foot tall bald man with an eyepatch and kung-fu slippers look like a helpless victim being beaten. Since the Stylist hasn't committed any crimes yet, Batman isn't able to do anything, but it doesn't look like Bats is brought up on charges either.

Who would've thought the police force that couldn't handle the Joker, Two-Face, and the Riddler; would fail to stop a bald guy with sais?
The next night, the Stylist follows Dragon into the park, and challenges him again. This time Dragon has a sword, but when he doesn't bow in return, Stylist knows it's a trap (a disguised Batman) and takes off. A cop tries to stop him, and gets shanked pretty good for his trouble.
I'm sure Officer Murphy agrees, Batman, even if he is pooping into a bag for six months.
Dragon rejoins Batman to track the now-fugitive Stylist down, and follow up on a tip from an airplane frieght handler-slash-"follower of the discipline!" He explains an x-rayed crate had kung fu weapons in it, bound for Matanzas, Yucatan. Since they were already at the airport, Dragon and Batman take the next flight. (Either the 12:00, the 12:10, or the 12:15 Gotham to Matanzas direct...a joke completely stolen from the Simpsons, yeah.)
Air travellers in Haney's day?  Classy.  Jaded.  Overdressed.
It's cool that Batman flies coach with Dragon, but it kind of takes away from his mystique. The B&B Batman isn't a grim, obsessed, lone-wolf avenger; he's an globetrotting cop with a more unusual uniform and will team up with anyone to get the job done.
Only a zen master like Richard Dragon could keep a straight face against a line like 'Bat clout.'
I can see why some purists don't enjoy these stories, particularly when Batman says things like "Here's where kung fu teams up with Bat clout!" Still, these issues are fun, and of their time.

Batman (suddenly) remembers Carlos Esteban, former partner of Calvin Curtis, is now a crimelord operating in the Yucatan, and probably set the Stylist on Richard. Sure enough, in Esteban's fortress hideout, the Stylist is returning his fee for failing to kill Dragon. Esteban offers him more money to try again, but the Stylist has been shamed by his failure and wounding a bystander. Angered, Esteban tries to shoot him, but is stopped by Batman. In the ensuing fight, Esteban tries to machete Richard in the back, but is stopped by the Stylist, who then takes a long walk into the jungle and quicksand. Hmm, that cliche didn't fit there, but neither did his suicide.

Since this is the last page and everything needs to be wrapped up so Batman can go into next month's Deadman team-up, Dragon and Batman finally get to the safe deposit box and Curtis' will.
I know it doesn't seem like that was worth a trip to South America, but...yeah, it totally wasn't.
Cue trombone, wop wop waaaa...

I miss the little reminders at the end of the comic, "Next issue on sale during the third week in January" for example. I was going to say maybe those need to come back, to punish the late and the lazy ("Next issue on sale 2009") but those little lines would just kill comics completely, as reader after reader might come in on time for a book that isn't and never come back. Maybe 52 has these, I don't recall.
Megos totally looked better than this.  Not much, but better.
Bonus crazy ads!
Next time you're stopped by a cop, mention 'Fuzz Roulette.'  Just to see what happens.
Kids were offered a multitude of insanity for their allowance money in this one: models, comics, one of the most insane of the Hostess ads, awesome Power Records sets, the Calendar bank ("Boy, it sure has been June 3 for a while..."), buy land in Florida, Fuzz Roulette, monkey-looking Megos...would comics be better served by this kind of advertising again, versus big-ass car spots? Or have pop-up ads rendered these as obsolete as records and banks?
Sadly, none of these banks were Y2K compliant, leaving $323.74 trapped forever. Read more!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Quasar knew if he visited enough alternate realities, he would find the one where he was awesome.
Sure Set's destroyed most of the earth, but I look awesome!
Actually, I like Quasar, although the art disappoints a little on this one: we've got a Greg Capullo cover (long before he started in on all the Spawn whatnot) and a bit of a hodgepodge of artists. Poor Wendell looks cool some pages, and on others his hair looks like Conan's.

In a previous issue, the Living Laser escaped Quasar by taking a shortcut through the Watcher's house on the moon, and fleeing to another reality through the machine Uatu watches 'what ifs' on. Uatu summons Quasar back, after throwing him out the first time, because the Laser is now creating divergent counterparts of himself. Quasar isn't sure about the how or the why of it, but the Watcher is going to have his alternate reality cable cut off if he doesn't help, so he agrees. (Mainly because Quasar's just a nice guy. I guarantee you, even when he hadn't been an active Avenger for years, he was still the first guy anyone calls when they have to move.)

Quasar ends up taking a tour of some of What If?'s greatest hits, including the Avengers as pawns of Korvac, Quasar vs. Set, and the one in which Wolverine eats a baby.
They destroyed the earth!  And all my stuff was on it!  Oh, and the humanity.

On his last stop, Quasar hits a reality where he probably died fighting Maelstrom, his personal 'big bad' from earlier in the series. Having gained huge power by absorbing a lot of the universe's kinetic energy, Maelstrom is currently fighting Thanos: they are playing tug-of-war with the sun, a gimmick I would have thought DC's Spectre would have a lock on. As they blow up the sun, Quasar decides it's time to split, and Maelstrom sees him. Maelstrom proceeds to zap Quasar so hard he wakes up in the New Universe.

I don't know how this would make me feel: would you rather see an alternate universe you that was a pathetic wretch, or a god among men? The wretch would be depressing at first, but then you would realize all the right choices you made in your own reality. The god would be initially inspiring, and you may even hold out hope that he could help you achieve your potential, but would then crush your spirit by underlining the mistakes that you made, or the random lucky break you missed.

To learn more about What If?, read more comics; or check out 4th Letter, which did a Top 100 Countdown of What If's. Good stuff there, hit it up. Read more!

Monday, December 25, 2006

"How could it be so?" "It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!" "It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
Although there's like 40 more heroes there, this is the biggest picture.  But really, it's enough.

Fah who for-aze! Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze! Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas, Welcome Christmas,
Come this way! Come this way!...
Yeah, they don't really do that there, but really, it wouldn't have been any worse. From Genesis #4, "Last God Standing" Written by John Byrne, pencilled by Ron Wagner, inked by Joe Rubinstein; all of whom have done better. There's what appears to be a woman about to be raped on page 3, and forty-plus superheroes standing around useless through most of the rest of the issue. And you thought Identity/Infinite Crisis had changed the DCU...

The real gift of Genesis? That it ends. Although, it's probably the best crossover ever to use the New Gods, the Ravers, and Young Heroes in Love. Maybe. It also features Ares, whom I seem to recall stinking up the War of the Gods crossover.

And why is Shazam staring adoringly at the Martian Manhunter? Do I want to know?

Anyway, Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading. Be safe.
(And as usual, apologies to Dr. Seuss.) Read more!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

If Santa brought presents for the good kids, and beatings for everyone else, I'd be a lot more excited for this time of year.They had the good taste to go with 'Klaus' rather than 'Claws' or 'Clause,' and I for one am grateful.
From Badger #70, "Klaus" Written by Mike Baron, pencils by John Calimee, inks by Bill Reinhold. Badger may not be Baron's best creation, but it was a consistently insane book for a consistently insane hero. This was the last regular monthly issue from First Comics, before they tried to change formats in 1991. (For one reason or another, it didn't work.)

Badger runs into Santa 'Klaus' in a biker bar, and the jolly old elf is anything but. Klaus considers not making his Christmas Eve run, as he has been hassled by animal rights activists, the Canadian Air Force (for repeated airspace violations), environmentalists, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (which I don't get: Santa isn't a religious figure, exactly), 'politically correct' groups, a socialist troll...
A cossack hat, Thor's wristbands, and elf shoes; and those aren't the weirdest part of his outfit.
Badger talks Klaus into doing it for the kids, but then has to go with him. It goes pretty well, until Badger catches Klaus about to have sex with a possibly-underage girl. That being wrong despite all those cartoons in the December issues of Playboy, Badger has to knock him out and save Christmas himself.

An interesting and occasionally funny Christmas issue, but it does raise the question: are special interest groups ruining Christmas? Does Baby Jesus cry when you say 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas'? Look, Christmas is going to be what you make it. Maybe your neighborhood doesn't want a nativity scene that can be seen from space. Maybe your co-workers aren't enticed by your mistletoe hat and matching belt buckle. Maybe your family doesn't need four years of credit card payments for this year's presents. But, if you are with your loved ones, and let them know how much you appreciate them, maybe that's all you need. Or maybe you don't need anything: a day off and a new toy go a long way for me, to be honest.

Maybe what I'm getting at is, you can't save Christmas. At least not for everyone, since everyone doesn't want your Christmas. All you can do is 'save' your own Christmas, by trying to make yourself and your family happy; without stepping on anyone else's holiday (or lack of same) or bankrupting yourself to buy whatever big-ticket item is the must-have this year. So, while I wish you all a 'Merry Happy,' as Evan Dorkin put it; you can all do whatever you like for Christmas, and I will do the same; let's leave each other to it.

Unless you put ketchup on ham, in which case you're an abomination that must be stopped. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have stockings to stuff, so shh. Read more!
This would be total Christmas nightmare fuel, if it wasn't so funny.

The Hellboy Christmas Special features the usual rock-solid Hellboy tale (including an old woman who thinks Big Red is St. Nick) and a Gary Gianni Corpus Monstrum story, which I almost wish was still a back-up feature in B.P.R.D. or something. (Like Barren Earth or Tales of Dave, it's a feature I like when I see it, but don't necessarily go out of my way to get.) But both of those are overshadowed for me by the inimitable Steve Purcell, with Toybox.

Purcell of course is the creator of Sam and Max, Freelance Police, which are probably better known for their video games or even cartoon than for their comic, which is a crime against comics you should all hang your heads for. I'm not sure if he did more Toybox stories, but I wish he would. In this one, Suda (weird little goth-looking girl) and Ernie (rat) end up at an old lady's cottage on "the night when a strange visitor arrives with a message of giving."

The cottage is empty, the old woman Suda thought lived there gone, a mysterious pile of black lumps left in her bed. They start a fire, and fall asleep. Ernie wakes up late, the fire out, to see the arrival of a strange visitor.

Is that you, Santy Claus--oh, holy crap!
As the spider rummages through the pantry, then moves to eat Suda, Ernie has to take it down with a handy harpoon: "I can take him. I have thumbs, and...the superior brain of a mammal!" Dead, the spider's belly starts to wriggle, so Ernie takes a butcher knife to it, finding another surprise:
Even after being stewed in spider juices, Santa still has more Christmas spirit than you do.
Well, at least Ernie saved next Christmas. But, to continue gushing, I hate rats, and Purcell makes them look great. I'm not sure if this issue has been reprinted in it's entirety, since Dark Horse usually just keeps the Hellboy stuff in the trades, but see if you can dig it up. Read more!

Friday, December 22, 2006

In DC Comics, Santa has JLA membership. In Marvel, burglars dress up as him. Sounds fair.
What child hasn't dreamed of paying back Santa?

Even though this wasn't a comic from my early childhood, the all new, all daring Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #112 not only remains a favorite, but also almost the template for how I think of Spider-Man: a total hardluck sad-sack. "On Christmas Day" was written by Peter David, pencilled by Mark Beachum, and inked by Pat Redding. For good measure, a great Kyle Baker cover! At the time, David had previously gotten typecast as a writer of funny stories, and his work on Peter Parker may have been him trying to shake that by working in a bit grimmer, darker vein, although it too was often funny.

Not yet married to Mary Jane, Peter is in what charitably could be described as Christmas blues, but is probably more accurately long term depression: hopeless at work, no plans for the holidays, a fire-damaged apartment, and a really hot ex-girlfriend. (I don't think David hit the right notes for the Black Cat every time, but often.) Not to mention the eight or nine super-villains, crimelords, and assorted lunatics that attack Spidey on a regular basis, which this story doesn't mention.

Oh yeah, and a cat burglar dressed up like Santa Claus, a subplot that had been running in the shadows for a while. He would convince kids that if he could take their families' small appliances, he would bring them big ones for Christmas. Hey, kids were more innocent back New York.

OK, so the burglar was probably in more danger than the kids. Also, in full Santa gear, the burglar tries to escape Spidey by getting to the roof, which is just sad: you don't suppose someone who swings all over NYC is going to be able to catch you faster than you can get stray pepperoni out of your beard? Seriously, fake-Santa, you'd have a better chance of escape in a closet.

Before Spidey can deliver a present of web-wrapped pain, the real Santa gets the burglar and teaches him the error of his ways, possibly with a 12-piece set of glass ornaments, some bacon grease, and a funnel. Hey, these were grim-n-gritty times. Fake Santa gives out presents as he turns himself in, and gives Peter a message from Kris Kringle: "Call your aunt." Yes, Peter, there is a Santa Claus, and he got you...a post-it note. Geez, even a knockoff action-figure of Spidey would have been better than that.

Peter ends up having a pleasant Christmas morning with his Aunt May and Mary Jane (and MJ's horrible aunt, whom he could take or leave); but even then it looks like someone's plotting against him. Turns out it was a group of muggers seeking revenge on Aunt May's boyfriend, Ernie Popchik, for shooting some of them during an attempted robbery. And some people wonder why the Spider-Man books don't focus on the supporting cast anymore... Read more!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My Christmas wish that won't come true until I'm in a nursing home reading giant-print comics.
Now these are the only lyrics I can think of for this song.
I may have mentioned somewhere before that I worked in retail for an indeterminable number of years (long enough for grunge to die, then boy bands, but not emo yet) and it still has it's scars on me. Like radiation poisoning, or the ick, or something; just thinking about it makes me feel unwell and kind of itchy, which means the most serious illness I've faced in my life has been employment. Huh.

For example, I probably also mentioned that I haven't worked the day after Thanksgiving in three or so years, yet I always feel a vague unease that whole day, whether I go out or not. Another lingering aftereffect is that I am far less enthusiastic about Christmas than even your average young crabass. I used to grouse that I was 'getting less holly-jolly every year,' and that's the bitter truth. Although, and I must underline that I hated these things, I do feel a little nostalgic for when the economy was so good people bought utter crap like 'Billy Bass' for each other...

Even though now I have kids that are (or will be, the little one still may not have quite grasped the whole present-unwrapping concept) jumping up and down in little-kid anticipation of Christmas morning, and that's neat; I still sorta wish I could spend my Christmas the way I did when I was a precocious child/asocial teen: my grandma would get me the new Stephen King in hardback, and I would read that mother. Done by the 27th at the latest, and that was probably It. Partially, that's because I read like a chainsaw (perhaps a little too fast sometimes: I can be more concerned with what's going to happen than the journey) and partially because a lone wolf/self-involved individual can devote themselves to reading like that. If I slunk down into my basement and tried that kind of reading sprint now, my wife would club me about the face and shoulders with my own book, and she'd be right to do so.

Fortunately, even with everything else going on, comics are still right there: they lie flat so I don't lose my place, they're short enough I'm not locked into reading any given one for too long; and I can usually jump up, get the youngest off the damn stairs, play a game of Uno with the oldest, put the dog out, and get back to the story without any trouble. So, we'll take the obligatory look at Christmas comics here, but be forewarned: there will be no warm fuzzy messages of love and peace or any of that. Probably. Really, it depends on what Christmas comics I find. I have one in mind that I'm damn tempted to buy again, since it's getting close to the wire and I'd be pissed if I finally stumble across it in March.

Long way to go for that reference, but if you duck out of crossovers you can watch more movies.
From Uncanny X-Men #365, written by Steve Seagle, pencilled by Chris Bachalo, inks by Art Thibert, Tim Townsend, and Aaron Sowd. Read more!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Buying lingerie this holiday season?
Yeah, way better than jewelry! Why, I'm giving homemade undergarments to everyone this year!
Don't drop the ball like the Scarecrow here. Let's look at what he's done wrong:

1. Giving lingerie on the first date is a ballsy move, but one that should be reserved for your Hal Jordan-pretty man types, not for anyone with an underbite you could hang your coat on.

2. If you're looking for your female counterpart, your 'Harley Quinn' as it were; maybe you want to let her approach you, so you know she's committed to it. Nothing sucks worse than coming up with a good sidekick name, then blowing it on someone who's not interested.

3. The Scarecrow doesn't have a good sidekick/counterpart name: "Mistress of Fear" makes "Batgirl" sound like it took three years of market research to come up with.

4. With the mask and all, the girl would look less like the "Mistress of Fear," and more like "Lady Sexbag." Or possibly, "Double Bagger"--that's a name that strikes fear in the hearts of men! Plus, I really doubt all that straw hair is comfortable, or flame retardant, and that's the sort of thing that's going to come up again.

5. In a world where Black Canary and Zatanna are public figures, giving a girl fishnet stockings seems risky. And that's even by these standards, risky: "I want you to dress up like a sexy Scarecrow! A sexy Zatanna Scarecrow! Baby, wait, come back!"

6. And always, always, always: aim a size or two small. It's flattering, and ahem, flattering. Can't stress that one enough, guys...

Very often, I'm completely glad to be out of the dating scene.

From New Year's Evil: Scarecrow, "Mistress of Fear" Written by Peter Milligan, art by Duncan Fegredo. (Jason Pearson cover, although I don't know why not Fegredo.) I recall another Batman story or two from Fegredo, but it seems like those barely had Batman in them either. I also don't know why I ever say what I've got planned for the week, I'm always wrong. Read more!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Well, best laid plans...
The white glove belongs to the Falcon, so Cap's feelings are what's really hurt.
My younger son is almost two, and was born premature. He was fine, and one good thing that came of it was that in the hospital, he was put on a schedule pretty early. So, he's never had any trouble sleeping. Until this week, when he apparently decided sleep was for the weak, and he was going to fight it with all his might. Logically, for a baby, that involves screaming for two solid hours, no matter what the wife or I do for him. Long story short, come back tomorrow, thanks.

From Captain America #203, "Alamo II" Written and drawn by Jack Kirby. Read more!

Monday, December 18, 2006

I really don't know if that kid would really complain about her, um, changing there.Dear Wizard: I never thought this sort of thing really happened, but...
Looking back, Ghost is an entertaining yet conflicted book. It almost seems like an exercise or writing challenge: write a comic with a strong female lead, make it appealing to male and female readers, then cram it full of as much cheesecake art and violence against women and men as you can fit in 32 pages. Garnish over a stillborn comics universe: someone like Wonder Woman gets guest stars like Batman and Superman. Ghost got Barb Wire, which hardly seems fair. She would luck out with a couple other crossovers, with the Shadow, Hellboy, and as Ghost ended, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl.

The above is from a short story in A Decade of Dark Horse #2, "Sweet Things" Written by Ghost's first series writer Eric Luke, pencils by Scott Benefiel, and inks by Jason Rodriguez. Ghost (her rarely used real name was Elisa Cameron, in fact, it isn't used in this story) is visiting the grave of her sister, Margo; and remembering the time they lived together. Where Ghost was brooding, serious, and possibly dead; Margo was impulsive, brassy, and mouthy.

Margo puts forth that Ghost's problem (aside from her murder, I guess) was that she had never been in love, which made it easier to hate men. (Again, forgetting her murder...) Furthermore, since she didn't remember growing up, she didn't remember boys. And what better way to teach your sister a lesson than by drugging her with a plot device--I mean, paranormal extract, de-aging her back into a preteen girl?
Note that Ghost's costume is pretty much a sack on a girl of that, um, build.
Both at her sister's mercy and to keep her out of trouble, Ghost is (gasp!) forced to go to the mall. Margo talks to a young boy, and Elisa is interested in spite of herself, and eventually starts looking forward to seeing him. Which quickly escalates into following the kid around invisibly, "memorizing his chin" and listening to see if he talks about her...this is one of those things like the old 'x-ray vision in the girls' locker room,' an abuse of super-powers that I'm positive everyone would try at least once. In fact, shortly afterwards the invisible Ghost accidentally wanders into the showers, but at least has the decency to be embarrassed by it.

Margo is both the best and worst sister ever: along with the initial drugging, she also takes it upon herself to graphically 'educate' Elisa on dressing, boys, and, um, eating ice cream. But, as the unnamed boy kisses Elisa, she realizes what a gift her sister's given her. Like a fairy tale though, the kiss breaks the spell, which means mid-kiss she snaps back from preteen girl to centerfold pinup. Panicked, the boy flees...again, while unusual, I'm not sure why this is a deal-breaker. Just as she felt the loss of the boy; in the present, Elisa misses her sister and realizes Margo did love her, in her horrible way. Not unlike your average family.

This issue also featured a Star Wars cover and story, and it makes me more than a little sad that the secret origin of Salacious Crumb (the little monkey-lizard that rips out Threepio's eye in Return of the Jedi) is a bigger draw than Ghost...

Coming up later this week: Batman kung-fu fighting! Maybe Quasar and Black Widow! And quite possibly Christmas if I get around to it. Merry happy! Read more!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

You only die thrice:
Gouge away, you can gouge away, stay all day, if you want to...

Savage Sword of Conan #176, "The Three Deaths of Conan" Written by Chuck Dixon and Gary Kwapisz, art by Gary Kwapisz, Neil Hansen, Flint Henry, and Timothy Truman.

To the best of my admittedly dicey recollection, this is the last Savage Sword issue I remember buying off the newstands, and I had been reading it since around the #100's or before. I don't remember if it was a distribution thing and I wasn't seeing it on the stands, or if I was just drifting away from Conan. I read the regular Marvel Conan the Barbarian comics for years, and they hadn't been amazing that whole time, and Conan the King had it's moments but came out bi-monthly, so I usually had a vague idea at best of what was going on plot-wise, issue to issue. Oddly, while many comic readers will refer to Sandman as a comic for non-comic readers, I knew lots of people, including lots of non-comic readers; that read Conan. Or at least read mine.

Anyway, I happened onto a strong issue to go out on: D&D style, Conan sneaks into a creepy mountain fortress to steal a giant gem; but is stopped by an even-creepier witch-doctor type. The witch-doctor, who has one furry, clawed arm and a weirdly bumpy head; freezes Conan with a spell, then shows him his head collection. He really should dust those. Take some pride in your collection, man! It's always about getting the next head with you, then just throw it on the shelf...

The witch-doctor says he feels an aura of greatness about Conan, something more than a barbarian and thief. He decides to use the cards to see Conan's possible future: four cards will be drawn, three of which would show possible futures, and one showing his ultimate fate. Best tarot reading ever!

The first card's vignette has art by Neil Hansen, who wrote and drew Untamed. That book recently got a bit of a shellacking over at Comics Should be Good: perhaps not undeserved, but I like his art. It's energetic, and some of his excesses are either not present here or made more clear in black and white. Captured a psycho hill tribe, Conan scores with the psycho tribe 'witch queen,' then is thrown into the killing pit, to be torn limb from limb by the tribe's captured Sasquatch-thing. Even though he ends up eaten, Conan does gouge an eye out of the monster, a motif that would show up again in Untamed...

The next card is brought to you by Flint Henry, one of Dixon's go-to guys for action, and the detail is exquisitely gory. Lost at sea for ten days, an exhausted Conan makes shore at a dank, silent port town. Proceeding to the nearest bar (and hitting the ale pretty hard for someone so dehydrated, which for Conan probably just means a better buzz) the comely barwench tells him how the sea here had changed, fish and fishermen alike have left, "each night the horror grows." Since she's terrified, Conan stays with her, 'cause he's that kind of guy, and 'cause he's absolutely going to hit that.

Conan probably isn't as concerned about losing sanity points as I would be.

That night, and there's not really another term for this, monster fishmen attack the couple, and while Conan reduces several to chum, others steal the girl. As Conan pursues them, he recognizes them as "the disciples of Dagon, who were once men, but have become one with the sea in the name of their ancient god." How would Conan know that? He must've read H.P. Lovecraft's "Shadow over Innsmouth" or "Dagon," I guess...hey!

This falls under the heading of either 'homage,' or 'swipe.' But before you start clucking your tongue to shame Chuck Dixon, keep in mind Conan creator Robert E. Howard and Lovecraft were contemporaries. I think they wrote each other letters and often tried to one-up each other's stories, a running 'can you top this?' competition. Keeping that in mind, Dixon's Conan vs. Dagon plays as a mashup of two pulp traditions coming together, in a bloody, fishy-smelling collision. Except Lovecraft probably should've been credited somewhere, since I may have had only a nodding acquaintance with his work at the time, and this story would've made me want more, had I known of it.

Although Conan is able to hack several of Dagon's worshippers into 'protein from the sea,' Dagon itself grabs him with a tentacle, and Conan and the barmaid end up lobotomized zombies, slaves to the great deep one. A big laugh for the witch doctor, though. He goes to the third card, and art by Timothy Truman, who's gone on to write Conan for Dark Horse today. The art's a little sketchier than I prefer, and a little rougher than the rest of the book, but Truman gives us a pretty solid Conan vs. flesh-eating ghouls story that also doesn't end well for the barbarian. "Death was for others...not him." Even impaled, you get the feeling Conan's never really thought that he could die.

The witch doctor has had a pleasant afternoon laughing his ass off at Conan's possible ends, and is about to flip the fourth and final card, which he figures will be Conan's final fate: his colossal head in a very big jar on the witch doctor's shelf. The witch doctor does have to admit he's not even angry with Conan's attempted robbery, as he's had so much fun with the cards, which is kind of classy, really. But although he's held in place, Conan is still able to throw a dagger through the witch doctor's mouth, like the world's worst tonsillectomy. As he dies, "the spirits of a thousand unholy pacts explode from the sorcerer to find their way home to the dark pits of Arallu and the shadowed lands beyond life." And I sometimes think I write too long of sentences here...the spirits consider trying to take Conan, who's not having it, and they disappear.

Picking up the gem to leave, Conan notices the final card, and while considering the unencouraging other possibilities, picks it up. And Conan gets his good laugh for the day, as the card is, of course, of him as a king. Now I'm not sure if Conan's laughing at the absurdity of him becoming king, or an 'of course, duh' kind of laugh. Hmm. Anyway, this was an enjoyable issue, with some great art: I like Kwapisz' art quite a bit as well, and while sometimes it could be rushed or sketchy, that's probably the price you pay for a ton of Conan pages a month. Particularly in black and white, with no color to cover yourself...speaking of which, try enlarging the pictures today, since they should show up a lot better. Read more!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Kylun, we're all a little tired of the Michael Winslow thing.
From Excalibur #67, "Days of Futures Yet to Come" Written and pencilled by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer.

Something I've been trying to figure out for years, is what happened to Davis that made him leave this book, which was a favorite among Marvel staffers of the time. (According to a Bullpen Bulletins article just the month before this issue, June 1993.) I think it was either to do ClanDestine, or the page rates weren't paying him enough (since he was living in England?) to continue. Even worse, Davis built up an interesting team and character dynamic, which was promptly dismantled starting the next issue. Excalibur (the team and the book itself) would flounder without identity for about a year, until Warren Ellis came on.

Briefly, this issue features the best use of the Marvel UK characters ever, even if most of them are horribly killed. Or maybe because of that. It probably would've been OK too if this issue had been the last appearance of Davis' characters Cerise, Kylun, and Feron; none of which ever had a decent guest spot, supporting role, or cameo again. And now that I've said that, someone will probably point out some ancillary Civil War title that lets us know who's side Kylun is on. Even if he is British.

Out of office today after all, so have a great weekend! Maybe it's about time I consider possibly planing to start Christmas shopping... Read more!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mr. Fantastic owns a ton of Stridex stock, too.
I've heard of industrial espionage, but Reed's on to industrial blackmail.

Is it just me, or does it seem like Reed is going to use his invention for extortion? After all, wouldn't Revlon, OxyClear, and other makeup and cleaner companies be out millions if he cured acne, zits, eczema, backne, general fugliness, etc.? Previously, we saw Reed's Thought Projector Helmet, which should be crushing the hell out of plasma screen sales this year at Best Buy or whatever.

That would also explain why the Fantasticar has a nuclear engine that flies, gets almost unlimited mileage, and doesn't pollute; yet 99.99999% of the cars in the Marvel Universe still get about seven miles a gallon in the city. (That other .00001%? A.I.M. has a great hybrid, the Mileage Optimizing Driver Oriented Kruiser...oh, that's terrible.) OPEC is obviously funding the Fantastic Four, Reed's experiments in everything, and probably Civil War; all so Reed doesn't eliminate fossil fuel use by any given Tuesday.

From Fantastic Four #512, "Spider Sense, Part 1" Written by Mark Waid, pencils by Mike Wieringo, and Karl Kesel. Honestly, this issue is great: tired of being hated by the public, Johnny Storm goes to Spider-Man for advice. Hilarity, and Hydro-man ensues.

Family in town, so dogging it the next couple days. Maybe. Have a good weekend, and check out the new blogs on the sidebar...if I get that finished... Read more!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Anyone younger than this comic is not going to believe this, but...
A joke in First's subscription ads called this 'Dinah Mojo.'  I would conceivably buy that comic.

Here's a double-barrel blast for the youngsters in the audience: once upon a time, not only was manga not readily available and cheap (yet alone ubiquitous); but there weren't a lot of American artists influenced by anime. Shocking, I know, but back in the day, 'anime' meant Battle of the Planets or Robotech: you may have heard of others, but tracking them down, in English, would be akin to trying to hunt down Bigfoot starting from Florida.

Put like that, 1986 seems like a million years ago: no internet, no cell phones, the NES was the only game in town...and now it sounds more like Gilligan's Island. Do kids get that reference? As usual, let's move on.

Seriously though, Doug Rice may have been one of the earlier anime-influenced artists, both here and later on DC's Manhunter, the Mark Shaw version, again with Ostrander. Later issues of Dynamo Joe would also feature work by Phil Foglio and Ben Dunn. The book was a war story, a sweeping epic of alien empires, and had giant robots hitting things and each other. I think I would remember reading the Foundation trilogy or Dune books (past the first couple), if they had promiently featured giant robots.

Or, excuse me, 'battlesuits,' as the robots are referred to in this series. I know lots of series from Gundam to Patlabor to this comic have used different little aphorisms or misnomers like 'mobile suit,' or 'battlemech,' to try and disguise the fact that these are giant robots. True, some of these are far removed from the Super Giant Robots of my youth, like Grandizer (aka Grendizer, Goldorak, Steve...) and Gaiking: brightly colored, invulnerable megaliths, with kid pilots that shouted the names of their weapons as they fired. Dynamo Joe was a fun little comic that took a little from both schools.

Anyway, when I think of 'battlesuit' I think smaller, more man-sized: Iron Man being a prime example, most of his villains, X-O Manowar, Prototype, Spitfire, the Atomic Knight...

From Dynamo Joe #3, "In the Ashes" Written by John Ostrander, created and pencilled by Doug Rice, inked by Brian Thomas and John Nyberg. Read more!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Unless they make an action figure of him, that Talky Tawny/Man-Wolf crossover's not gonna happen.

How did that tiger learn to talk? And grow thumbs?
There are some things in comics that you're either going to accept or not. More often than not, these things are going to generate in an individual reader either a unconditional worshipful love, or instinctive arachnid revulsion. For example, Talky Tawny of the Captain Marvel Family. While some readers will have stars in their eyes and little hearts around their heads at the mention of the name; others will never be able to accept a talking, anthropomorphic tiger as part of the same fictional universe Batman lives in, and will hate poor Talky for it.

Yeah, you probably already know that, but I'm building to a point here. For me it's an almost unconditional love of old school Spidey villain Man-Wolf. Sigh!

This was another Power Records adaptation, so again it was a long time before I read the actual comic. "Wolfhunt!" Written by Gerry Conway, art by Ross Andru, inks by John Romita and T. Mortellaro. From Amazing Spider-Man #125 and reprinted in Marvel Tales #102. Something that isn't mentioned on the record, and that I often forget, is that this story occurs very shortly after the deaths of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn--yes, Norm came back, but not for years and years. In fact, the opening caption dates it in the same week as their deaths. I'm glad I hit this story first, though: it would have to be a step down in intensity, if not quality, to come from the tragic ends of Spidey's first love and greatest villain, to a space werewolf.

Spidey is attacked by the snarling Man-Wolf, for the second time that night, after previously stopping Man-Wolf's attack on J. Jonah Jameson. Dumb luck for JJJ on that one: an agitated Spidey was on his way to Jameson's apartment to finally give him that long deserved ass-kicking. While he calmed down on the web-swing over, when he got there Jonah was just realizing the lunatic in his apartment wasn't a guy in a mask, but an actual, factual, werewolf.
If I ever get so depressed I don't wanna fight a werewolf, I swear I'll take whatever meds you put in front of me.

Even though the Man-Wolf nearly killed them both by pushing them off a building, Spidey is having a hard time getting worked up for this fight: without Gwen, he doesn't care why Manny attacked JJJ, or himself, or even why a werewolf at all. Then, he notices the Man-Wolf's pendant, a shiny, maroon gem. Distracted, Man-Wolf takes Spidey down, and is about to finish him off when he notices the moon setting and flees. (Like all good werewolf stories, the timing of moonrise and moonset have only the most tenuous connection to actual astronomy: the moon rises at dusk, sets at dawn, both with alarming speed.)
Admittedly, this doesn't look like one for the win column, but...
Spider-Man tries to pursue his attacker, but collapses, weakened from blood loss from the previous attack. Yet, even as he lies bloodied and beaten in a dirty alley, verbally kicking himself for letting Man-Wolf escape and getting into this mess; Spidey has won a huge victory. Intrigued by the mystery, Peter's rediscovering his purpose and sense of adventure. We all know he does the super-hero thing because of he thinks it's his responsibility, but there is some fun involved too; and Spider-Man's taking steps back towards getting back some of what he's lost after Gwen's death. Right before he passes out in bed.

Subplot: at the local coffee shop, Flash is hassling Mary Jane for moping over Peter. Flash is being an asshat, and when Harry shows up, Flash wonders how long Peter and Flash are going to have their little pity parties going. Yeah, I really just don't like Flash Thompson. Harry sends MJ running off crying, since she's supposedly dating Harry, but spending more time on Peter. So, Harry's also a dick; and this is one of the seemingly rare occasions where Mary Jane is a sympathetic character, since often in this era she was either down on Peter for ditching her, or a complete flake. (Re-reading this story and some others, the retroactive revelation that MJ always knew Peter was Spider-Man seems flimsy as hell.) Enough subplot!
John's friend was totally expecting a favor in exchange, and that's not gonna happen.
Elsewhere, Jonah is on his way to his son John's apartment, where JJJ finds him passed out on the couch, wearing the Man-Wolf's tattered yellow costume. At first, Jonah shakes John down for an explanation, but slowly stops being concerned about scandal and becomes a dad worried about his son. John explains his predicament: on a secret moon-landing, he found a shiny red rock, and decided he wanted it. He convinces a friend to boost it out of quarantine for him, figuring one more moon rock either way wouldn't matter, even if it was completely different from anything else ever found in space. Good thinking, John; but I must confess he has a very sharp pendant made out of it. A very sharp, apparently glowing red pendant. Most grown men would probably not be as enamored of phosphorescent jewelry, but John Jameson sets trends, instead of following them. Besides, if you have the stones to steal from NASA, then wear the evidence around your neck, you can probably pull that look off. Anyway, what possible harm could a glowing alien rock do?

Hmm. I was just picturing how much cooler it would have been if Luthor's kryptonite ring had turned him into some kind of hairless Man-Wolf. "Lexoloitzquintle!"

As you already guessed, the full moon turned John into the Man-Wolf, his first transformation happening while driving to his fiance's. While the inconvenient timing is neat, because I thought a young werewolf's first transformation usually happened while walking through the moors or during sex or something; Manny crashes John's car after running a truck off the road, then attacks the trucker. The trucker escapes, but given the timeframe of this story, you would think a werewolf attack would be all over the CB airwaves, in mangled pseudo-code: "Breaker, breaker, this is Long Haul Pappy: stay off the Jersey Turnpike. I got a Fuzzy Navel all up my ass. Over." At the very least, maybe the cops would be able to track Manny down since they've got his car; although John probably eventually found it and went home.

So, John's been taking Werewolf by Night's bit for at least a couple of months, changing during the full moon and running around, although apparently without successfully eating anyone. John takes the high-tech road to trying to control himself, as opposed to chaining himself down or maybe checking the calendar to see when the moon will be rising: he has a radiation suit "made to cut out the lunar rays." That idea at least has the benefit of never being tried before, but I had thought radiation suits usually had sleeves. It looks like gym clothes for the nuclear plant, and fails miserably. Not that it would work, but maybe you want to try a larger size, so you won't just wolf out and blow out the seams?
Although I know full well Man-Wolf's never sucessfully killed anyone, I'd still scream like a girl if that was coming at me.

Jonah suggests maybe taking off the pendant, and while John is understandably a bit panicked, he doesn't verbally beatdown his dad for that: "Gee, really? That was the first goddamn thing I tried! And the second! And the ninth!" The moonstone had attached itself to his neck: suffer for fashion.

Later that afternoon, Peter wakes up, and decides to try to get some info on the pendant from Joe Robertson at the Bugle. Joe tries to warn Spidey as the cops and Jonah storm in and tear gas Spidey. And probably Joe, now that I think about it. Sadly, tear-gassing his city editor probably isn't the worst thing JJJ's done to his staff, either. Spidey smashes out a window, but falls onto a pile of garbage in an alley.

The editing seems a little off here, and I think the reprint skips another subplot page with Peter and MJ: John's fiance Kristine shows up at his apartment, and although she can see the lights on, John doesn't answer, so she gets mad and leaves. John is telling Jonah he too needs to get away before he changes again, but Jonah thinks John wanted help, and makes a speech when he should be running. Helpful tip: whenever someone grows dog ears, it's time to leave. Man-Wolf gives Jonah a swat, then takes off out a skylight...boy, lots of apartments with skylights in Marvel's New York. Manny attacks a junkie, then is distracted by Kristine, who stalls her car before she can get away, and is really regretting getting the convertible right about now.
The only way this could be sillier, is if he put all the data in the Spider-Computer for the answer.
Backing up about ten minutes, Spider-Man is swinging through the city, and musing Mary Jane's accusation that he's been "pretty grim lately." Again, a week after his girlfriend died. A week. And just like that, MJ burns through her sympathy again. Griping about his life, Spidey then stumbles across the answer to the Man-Wolf question, ala Batman on an old Super Friends episode. He gets to John's address just in time, to stop Manny's attack on Kristine.
Damn, Spidey, chill. You'd think your girlfriend just died or...ooh.
Spidey tries a similar tack to John's plan, trying to block the moonlight with his webbing. By that logic, wouldn't Man-Wolf revert if he went inside? Not a great plan there. Spidey and Manny punch it out for a bit, until Spidey gets mad and rips off the pendant, along with a good lump of fur. (I love the howl-scream on the Power Records version. If I could make it my ringtone, I would.) Spidey hadn't expected it to be attached.

Jonah arrives in time for him and Kristine both to see Man-Wolf turn back into John, who doesn't have any more lines this issue as he's probably busy trying to hold his larynx in. Spidey snarkily suggests taking him to a doctor, "like you should have in the first place." Oh, the same way you went to a doctor after you found out you could climb walls? He angrily tosses the pendant (which while torn, is now in one piece again) into the river. Jonah is worried about the publicity, and Spidey rips him, and John, a new one. Spidey's big on responsibility, and to him both father and son had been careless, and lucky someone wasn't killed.

Incredibly, Man-Wolf would return in Giant-Size Super-Heroes #1, where Morbius returns the stone to John, in order to use Man-Wolf against Spidey. From there he would appear in runs of Creatures on the Loose and Marvel Premiere. In the latter, Man-Wolf was upgraded to Stargod, an extra dimensional god with a sword, bow and arrow, and intelligence. It's an idea that sounds just insane, but it has early George Perez art. Eventually, John would be cured, and would have odd jobs in the Marvel Universe like Captain America's pilot or head of security at Ravencroft Asylum (think Spider-Man's Arkham, not too derivative there).

Recently, Man-Wolf has made a comeback, in the pages of She-Hulk; and on the toy shelves as part of Toy Biz's Spider-Man line. He also appeared in Toyfare once or twice, where the description 'Spider-Man's space werewolf' was lodged in my head.

Finally, the next issue caption box: "When stalks the Kangaroo!" Wha...really? You couldn't find a better example for the hazards of the monthly comic grind: looking six months before and after this issue, we find another Spidey-Hulk fight, Gwen and the Green Goblin's deaths, a Luke Cage guest spot, two parts for Man-Wolf, then the Kangaroo, a scab replacement Vulture, then the first appearance of the Punisher, followed by the Aunt May and Doc Ock wedding story. Kind of up and down, wouldn't you say? I would defend the Man-Wolf story as perfectly serviceable fun, but even I can't scrape up a kind word or fond remembrance for the Kangaroo.

The Talky Tawny page was from Shazam!, "The Talking Tiger" reprinted in Adventure Comics #499 (digest format), art by C.C. Beck, story by Otto Binder. No reprint info was listed in the issue, and I wonder if this doesn't date back to the original Captain Marvel issues. Read more!

Monday, December 11, 2006

I like to think Jack Knight and Alec Swan are having a drink right now, in some quieter universe.
Anyone else drawing this probably would've burnt out the heads of their Blade Runner VHS.
Even though James Robinson would get more recognition for the Golden Age and Starman, and those were both excellent works; I still hold his run on Firearm closer to my heart. Sometimes I wonder how much of the themes that ended up in Starman would have been explored differently with ex-Lodge secret agent and English expatriate Alec Swan.

I also like Gary Erskine's art a lot, in the same way you might like pumpkin pie or kung pao chicken: not an everyday thing, but when you're in the mood for it, it's all that will do. It's got an ugliness to it that I assume is a British thing, and that a lot of artists would shy away from. There's also a level of insane background detail you would usually associate with a Frank Quitely or Geoff Darrow. I prefer Erskine, though: a little clearer, and a little faster--although I freely admit, that's just a gut feeling and not based on anything.

Previous books of Erskine's that I've enjoyed have been City of Silence, Hypersonic, and Jack Cross. Previously, I had mistakenly thought I hadn't read that last one, but I was thinking of Jack Staff! Damn. I don't know if Cross took off or not, but I'd like to see it back: Warren Ellis presents 24's Jack Bauer as a liberal leftist, who cuts himself like the Batman villain Zsasz. Read more!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Man, the Fantastic Four need an in-house daycare.
Is it wrong to think Sue's hair looks great in that last panel?
The late pick-up charges alone must be killing them. Even though she's the one stuck arranging and handling child care, Sue should still be above this kind of hassle. When most parents are late picking up their kids from tired, cranky, dead-eyed minimum-wage daycare providers; their excuses are always the same and always lame:

"I was tied up at work."

"Traffic was terrible today."

"The slots were on fire today!"

"I'm having an affair, and have pretty much checked out of my family. Hey slugger! Did you eat already?"

Sue here is contending with Annihilus and the immenient anti-matter obliteration of the entire universe. Pretty sure you can watch Franklin until 6:00, Agatha.

This is one of the relatively few points on which I don't disagree with Civil War: lots of bloggers cried out that Sue would never leave Franklin (and probably Valeria, I guess: that kid should be the Maggie Simpson of the Marvel Universe, since after Claremont wrote Teenage Valeria I never want to hear her talk again) behind with Reed, but that seems the safest route. Even if Reed will just build bigger and bigger robot nanny babysitters like H.E.R.B.I.E, which is a mild step up from a wire mother, a lateral move from a Teddy Ruxspin, and surely no worse than leaving the kid in front of the TV.

From Fantastic Four #109, "Death in the Negative Zone!" Story by Stan Lee, art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. Reprinted in Marvel Selects: Fantastic Four #3, with an Alan Davis cover. There's also a nice editorial page in the reprint on the Negative Zone, and it points out that this issue was the fourth time in a decade that Reed was seemingly doomed to hit the 'exploding atmosphere' of the Zone. Read more!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Twenty zombie books on the shelves now, and this should be the best of them.
Rabbi Sinnowitz hates Brother Voodoo.  And Robert Kirkman.  They know why.

From Xombi #17, "Hidden Cities, Chapter 1: Prophecies" Written by John Rozum, art by J.J. Birch.

Even though it made some interesting forays into the Milestone universe, even when it was coming out a lot of people thought Xombi should have been a Vertigo comic. Mmmmaybe. Starting January 1994, it lasted 22 issues in a comics market that was starting to compress. Would it have done better at Vertigo? No one can say. The book was already bucking art trends (Birch draws a ton of weird stuff, but in a non-showy, anti-Image manner) and was a Mature Readers book in a line that hadn't had that before.

The title character, David Kim, never refers to himself as a 'Xombi' or a superhero. He was a research scientist in the then-nouveau field of nanotechnology: tiny, building machines, that could change a substance at the atomic level. Nearly killed during a bizarre theft of his research, he has his assistant inject him with the nanites to repair him, which they do, with unfortunate consequences. From there, the nanites don't leave his body, making him impossible to kill.

A friend of mine thought that was a terrible power, and he has a point: David wasn't more resistant to injury or invulnerable. He didn't even get claws or unbreakable bones out of the deal. It's a power that seems difficult to make dramatic or flashy for the covers: in his #0 issue, David gets chopped into hamburger, recovers. Even with a Walt Simonson cover, you couldn't put that on there.

For the rest of the series, David struggles with the consequences of his powers, and to escape from or control his emersion into the unseen world of magic and weirdness. An ongoing subplot that sadly never got to come to the forefront was David's fiance, who had been working in Europe up until the last issue, as David tried to find a way to explain what had happened to him. As his friend and mentor Rabbi Sinnowitz tells him, "There is no right way to explain it. Some ways are more wrong than others."

Sadly, even with accolades from Harlan Ellison and Alan Moore, and promo opportunities like 99-cent issues, Xombi faded just before the rest of Milestone. Then, the internet wasn't the clog-of-blogs that it is today; and I can't help wondering if it might have had a better chance if fans had been able to promote it online more. Check out the quarter bins: there may not be a ton of these issues, but they're a worthwhile read if you see them. For more Milestone info and highlights, check out Munson's Milestone Monday's. Or your local library, if they have a good selection of defunct 90's universes... Read more!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Good lord, if Ellis was right about this, the dog cullings and lizard-eating two-headed cats are next.
Somehow, I think I can guess how the BBC beat out the TDF here.
From Internet Movie Database; towards the bottom of the page:

France Launches Its Own Version of CNN

France on Wednesday launched a French-language all-news satellite network that will compete worldwide with CNN and the BBC World Service. The channel is the brainchild of French President Jacques Chirac, who complained at the outset of the Iraq war about how the French view of the war was being presented internationally. The channel's slogan is "All the news you're not supposed to know."

Englais uber alles!...wait.

From Transmetropolitan #11, "Freeze me with your kiss, part two of three." Written by the creepily prescient Warren Ellis, art by the less creepy Darick Robertson and Rodney Ramos. Now, if the French name their channel TDF-1, I'm having my head frozen at the earliest opportunity.

Even more oddly, when I saw the story, I knew what issue it was from and where it was, which is unusual in and of itself for me. I went downstairs and got it, and there was a photo of a very old girlfriend stuck to the cover. (By which I mean she was a girlfriend from long ago, and not a girlfriend of advanced years. Besides, an older woman would never put up with me.) I must have put it there, and it was pretty appropriate, if you've ever read this issue.

Of course, said girlfriend didn't read comics, nor does my wife. (Who, if she knew I had so much as a mixtape from an old girlfriend, would glue my buttocks closed while I slept.) Looking back, I can only remember one girlfriend who read comics, and while she loved Transmetropolitan and Preacher, her favorite movie was Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which means all her taste is suspect. (Probably why she dated me...)

Long story short: deeply afraid more of Warren Ellis' predictions will come true. Also, little scared of my beloved wife. Have a good weekend, and keep this under your hat, eh? Read more!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Like a DVD extra, except it's sold separately.
Way, way cooler than a '31st piece of silver' bit. Just sayin'.
Seem familiar? It's from Fantastic Four #367, "By Reed...Betrayed!" Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Paul Ryan, inks by Ivy and Kryssing. But it's also a scene in Infinity War #2, a slightly different angle. I'm pretty sure this isn't the start of the trend of regular comics giving a lot of panels in service to alternate camera angles of the big 'Red skies' crossover, but it's a good example.

Despite ten or so panels that could have been cut and pasted from Infinity War #2, there is some interesting interstitial material here; mainly Sue deducing Reed has been replaced by an evil duplicate. As the Thing faces his own double, and heroes begin to gather at Four Freedoms Plaza; Sue deactivates security measures so Wolverine can sneak in. Sue then stops and scans Ben and Johnny, and while they're both genuine, a brawl breaks out among the heroes when they don't know who is real and who's been replaced, ending with evil Reed blowing up a gamma bomb. I was going to say Sue, Ben, and Johnny didn't get much accomplished, but Sue does save the heroes from the explosion.

(Did evil Reed bring or build the gamma bomb, or did regular Reed have one lying around? Why would Reed have a gamma bomb? Research? Defense? A boring Saturday afternoon? Why use that, instead of a conventional atomic weapon that won't possibly produce a gamma-powered Puck or something?)

I'm not sure if the Infinity Gauntlet/War/Crusade Trilogy is remembered as fondly as say, Crisis on Infinite Earths or the first Secret Wars, and honestly they aren't as good. But there are some strong issues and individual moments throughout that shine, and maybe a couple that could be considered classic. Give it a read, but check out the umpteen dozen crossovers at your discretion. For instance, I know I had the New Warriors issue from about this same time, with young Darick Robertson art and Dark Speedball. Darkball? Again, discretion. Read more!