Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy (Random) Halloween!
1. So for Halloween here, I was just going to post a bunch of random semi-relevant horror, sci-fi, Halloween-type stuff. Fair enough.

2. So, I scanned a pile of panels while I watched Heroes over my shoulder.

3. While some of them I had planned on maybe posting about at some point, all these issues were lying within easy reach.

4. Why yes, my wife is quite understanding of my insanity, why do you ask?

5. But, after I got all the photos in, I didn't feel like typing up all the credits and issue numbers.

6. So, see if you can guess! Some of these have been reprinted six ways from Sunday, some might be tougher. See if you know the writer and artist too!

7. Of course, since this blog isn't sponsored, supported, or aided and abetted in any way...

8. It's not like there's any prizes or anything, sorry. Still, answers will be up sometime tomorrow. See how many you can get, good luck, and no wagering! Read more!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ooh, Barnabas Collins is going to mess Batman up now.

From Detective Comics #455, "Heart of a Vampire!" Story by Elliot S! Maggin, art by Mike Grell.

You can't really tell, but when Batman stakes him, the whole set wobbles...a very Dark Shadows-looking vampire attacks Batman and Alfred this issue. In my opinion anyway, the likeness is pretty striking; especially considering that in 1976, you couldn't just pull a picture off the internet and lightbox it. No, you had to actually find a picture, then lightbox it...actually, I don't think Grell copied or traced anything of actor Jonathan Frid, and the show ran 1966 to 1971. Maybe it's just me.

Two cool things in this story: Batman's previous battles with vampires, dating back to some of his earliest appearances, were considered in continuity here, as Bats wasn't taken aback or unprepared for vampire attack. Also, Bruce Wayne makes an almost Renfield-like transformation, rearing back into the shadows, only to emerge as Batman. Not something he would usually do, but vampire attack is a special circumstance.

Blog@Newsarama just did a piece with the cover for this issue, and a lot of other good covers to boot, so check it out. Read more!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Watching Justice League Unlimited, season 1 today, so not much of a post, sorry. Probably wouldn't have posted at all, except the third disc wouldn't play a couple episodes, so I have to take it back tomorrow. And then the picture wouldn't load, so I missed a day. Sorry to all three of you readers...

From Justice League of America #212, written by Gerry Conway, art by Rich Buckler, Paris Cullins, and Romeo Tanghal. Nice Perez cover on that one, but the inside is the conclusion of at least a two-part story involving at least two different batches of aliens, weird x-elements, humans turned into genetic mutants, and the Phantom Stranger. I'm not a huge fan of his, partially because his powers are so ill-defined, partially because PS only shows up to let you know things are good and up a creek. Wasn't the Phantom Stranger revealed (in the Kingdom #2, the Ross-less Kingdom Come sequel) to be the child of the KC continuity Superman and Wonder Woman? I wonder if that got him declared 'radioactive,' but then I think he showed up in Day of Vengeance.

Anyway, more later, including possibly maybe some Halloween stuff I've been sitting on for three months...

Read more!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Everyone has something to bring to the table: Justice League of America #144

Today we're going to look at a comic I haven't had for years and read a bazillion times, although it very much feels like I have. Not in a bad way, though. My wife had a presentation at a, well, giant-ass yard sale thing; and I visited her and wandered around a bit. Not a lot of comics, a little surprisingly. Overpriced 90's issues, a couple Fantastic Four and a Mystery in Space that were too rich for me, and a little pile of old Brave and the Bold for fifty cents a pop, including this gem: Justice League of America #144, "The Origin of the Justice League--Minus One!" Written by Steve Englehart, pencils by Dick Dillin, inks by Frank McLaughlin. From the cover, or perhaps because of the dates involved within, or the guest-stars, I had thought this was an older issue until I noticed the Spalding basketball ad on the back.

The story begins with Green Arrow slamming shut a logbook of the Justice League with a very audible slam, then storming in on Green Lantern and Superman playing cards. Why everyone's hanging out on the satellite is anyone's guess, but GA is fuming that the origin of the JLA was a lie. He asks Hal when he became Green Lantern, and Hal says September 1959, the first of many hard dates in this issue. Check out the footnote:

"Comic heroes have their own ways to stop the clock and avoid aging!" Like spa treatments, steroids, deals with Satan and/or Bat-Mite...

Ollie calls them on it, although I suppose Supes and Hal could've just said, "No, the JLA formed November 1959, three years give or take. Now do you mind? I've got gin!" That wouldn't be the most exciting issue ever, though; so they go to tell GA the real story. By putting in a videotaped message from the Martian Manhunter, J'onn J'onzz. Probably should've just had Ollie watch this at his orientation, guys.

J'onn explains that the story really begins with his arrival on earth in 1955, transported from Mars by Dr. Erdel's robot-brain. Even though he was abducted, J'onn is cool about it, even though Dr. Erdel has a heart attack and dies right there. Trapped, J'onn takes a human form, finds a job as a police detective, and watches an assload of TV. Wait, that's New Frontier. Instead, J'onn finds the people of earth prosperous but paranoid, about war, martians, comics, sex, etc.

He continues to fight weird crime invisibly and work on the 'robot brain' with--is that a bevel? I think I see why you weren't having a lot of luck, J'onn, trying to fix the computer with wood shop tools. As he considers going public as a hero, Commander Blanx and his white Martians arrive in his lab. (Here, it was weird for me to see both J'onn and the white Martians look pretty much like humans, since I grew up on the Giffen/DeMatteis issues, when J'onn was occasionally seen in his real, 'Gumby' form.) As J'onn explains on the tape, before J'onn was brought to earth, Blanx had conquered the green Martians, exiled J'onn, and probably kicked some Martian puppies.

Blanx had apparently happened across J'onn teleport-beam experiments, reverse engineered them, and teleported himself and his men to get J'onn. Before they can, J'onn opens up fire--on tap!

Traditionally, we have gas, then a pilot light; but Dr. Erdel was a busy man and didn't have time for any extra steps. While it weakens him as well, J'onn is able to escape. The lab is totaled, and the white Martians have fled back to Mars, and J'onn realizes he's not in any big hurry to get his ass to Mars anymore. (The wife and daughter he lost are relatively recent additions to J'onn's origin, and not mentioned in this story.)

The next day, as Detective Jones enjoys a nice cup of coffee, the white Martians are spotted "running riot through the south side of town!" I swear, how come every time you hear about a riot, it's always the White Martians, never the green? Oh...yeah. J'onn goes and kicks white ass pretty handily, until the Flash shows up. Going invisible by reflex, Flash assumes the worst and clocks J'onn at super-speed. Being a DC Comic, though, it's ok for J'onn to talk this out:

See, that would never, ever fly at Marvel: you meet, you fight. I've been reading Marvel for like 30 years, and can think of maybe one exception, once. If you plan on being a Marvel superhero, you plan on Spidey, Captain America, and/or the Hulk punching you in the face at least once.

A bystander almost takes a shot at J'onn, but is stopped by the Flash. (Did people in the 50's routinely keep rifles in their apartments?) J'onn disappears after the escaping white Martians, and Flash is left fielding questions about what he's going to do about this alien invasion. It's supposed to be a sign of the times, with people paranoid and hateful; but it would work a little better if this wasn't at least the twentieth alien invasion in recent memory. Seriously, wasn't Batman fighting alien invasions back then? As the people start to panic, Flash announces that he will bring Superman in on it. Yeah, why not bring in another alien to stop the invasion?

Flash goes to Metropolis, and climbs the tallest building there, which Superman must watch like a hawk: Superman had been "patrolling the eastern seaboard" with Batman and Robin in tow. B & R hadn't even bothered to bring the Batplane, Batcopter, or Batmobile, they just let Superman fly them around. It's weird and awkward: like when you go to visit a friend and there's already two other guys there, that you don't really know, spend all their time together, and have their own in-jokes. Batman even suggests maybe calling in Aquaman and Green Arrow, but Flash says they've got enough guys for now. They head back for Middleton, this time with Superman carrying the Flash, Batman and Robin! As they leave, a creepy looking man pushes aside some small children, to make a call to Roy Raymond, TV Detective.

J'onn is trying to find the White Martians before Flash and everyone find him instead, and does spot three, who promptly trap him. Twenty minutes later, Superman and all arrive; and Roy Raymond's already there: he says after the tip, he and his staff had been right behind in the company jet. The SR-71 company jet, that they keep airborne at all times, by all indications: if Metropolis is around the Chicago area, and Middleton approximately Denver, if I remember my DC faux-geography...twenty minutes my hindquarters. It'd take longer to the airport then that, even circa 1959.

Raymond breaks the story, which brings in more backup: the Blackhawks! The Challengers of the Unknown! Plastic Man! The old cowboy, not the Punisher-clone, Vigilante! Plastic Man! The original, non-Doom Patrol, Robotman! Congo Bill and Congorilla! Rex, the Wonder Dog! Aquaman and Wonder Woman, who look like they arrived together! Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen, just by virtue of knowing Superman and being nosy!

I wonder how they know that's Rex, the Wonder Dog, and not Sam, the shoe-eating stray. It's not like Rex told them, right? Maybe he brought a note...or his tags, duh. I like Rex, though: this retelling of his origin still makes me smile.

I know I probably seem mocking, but this page is what I love about the DC Universe: even with a guy that could move the entire planet into the next galaxy, and another guy that could kick everyone in the western hemisphere in the groin faster than I could type it; they still have a guy that talks to fish and a wonder dog on the case, just in case they need 'em. You know, if the day can't be saved by a superstrong amazon, a kickass robot, or a small army of men in jumpsuits and leather; you might think a guy who transfers his mind to a gorilla and the press corps might be intimidated, but they totally aren't.

At this point, Green Arrow wonders why he and Speedy didn't get in on this. He remembers that they were on Starfish Island...and I just spit coffee up all over my monitor. Great Rao, I hope that's not a metaphor for anything.

Since this is Brave and the Bold-vintage Batman, he's totally down for a team-up with anyone...suggestive. The heroes split into teams...really unbalanced teams. Don't play Heroclix with Batman, he'll give you Andre and Congo Bill, while taking Superman, Wonder Woman, and Rex the Wonder Dog.

The Blackhawks, plus Olsen and Plastic Man, patrol until they scan "an exceptional energy source--toopowerful for earth machines!" How a bunch of WWII vets can scan for that, I can't say. Ask a vet. Approaching a lonely cabin, they are pinned down by machine gun fire, which Plas points out isn't very Martian. As they storm the cabin, with Plastic Man coming down the chimney, they find it empty. Even invisibly, the Martians couldn't have got past them. Jimmy pipes up: "Gosh, you had 'em and you lost 'em! What're you going to tell the others?"

I have the feeling a lot of kids reading this comic when it came out cheered out loud at the newsstand on that one. The Blackhawks and Plas bag out the rest of the story, presumably to get drunk. Oh, come on, you don't need Howard Chaykin to tell you those guys drink. And the Blackhawks hate Wing? Short Round? Chop-Chop? The Asian kid in the pajamas. No cool leather uniform for you! Well, they hate him less than Jimmy, who is probably left on the mountainside, to try to make his way home in the dark...from several states away.

And the mysterious inhabitants of the cabin? Rip Hunter and sidekick Jeff, who thought the Blackhawks were "some military group, I'd guess--who got wind of our discovery somehow, and came to steal it!" They escape in Rip's time machine to the Civil War, just as confused as everyone else. Why clone Thor? Why?

Elsewhere...let's say Montana: it's got mountains, trees, campers. Why not? A motley team with the Challengers, Vigilante, Robotman, Congo Bill, and Lois Lane get a sighting of a Martian from some campers. The Martian flew and fired a ray at the campers, then took off. The men take off chasing him, but Lois intuits that whatever this is, it's probably not a Martian (if it was, it would have gone invisibly) and that it keeps coming back to a specific spot, so she waits for it.

Congo Bill puts his mind in Congorilla, and locks up his body; apparently without telling anyone what he's doing. He grabs the flier, who takes off. As everyone converges on it, the flier shakes Congorilla, who lands on Lois.

Why was Superman always so worried that Lois would get hurt or killed if they got married? The woman had a gorilla fall on her, and walked it off two panels later.

Unknown to the gathered heroes, the flier was Adam Strange. Who I guess isn't above firing warning shots at campers.

There's a little explanation on why the Zeta-beam hit in the Northern hemisphere involving a Sputnik, which is charming if dated and unbelievable.

Finally, the A-listers, plus Roy Raymond, Rex, and Aquaman (I kid!) get a summons to Cape Canaveral, where they meet Hal Jordan, test pilot and observer for an upcoming satellite launch. Hal shows Wonder Woman his chest within two panels of meeting, but I honestly can't say that seems unnatural. She's a busy woman, so cut to the chase.

At the rocket, Rex sniffs out the Martians, and Superman flushes them out with heat vision. The Martians luck out though: after they become visible, Superman stops the heat vision, which had been weakening them. The Martians are thus able to give a good fight to Superman and Wonder Woman, and Aquaman is getting faint from lack of water. Man, the writers used to flog that point, didn't they? Flash runs and brings back in his wake a ton of seawater. No, seriously: it's a wave that breaks near the top of the rocket. How it didn't tip the rocket, drown everyone, and wreck a ton of electronics, I don't know. Maybe Aquaman absorbs it Spongebob-style, as reinvigorated, he punches out a Martian.

Made visible by the water, Batman and Robin see an unconscious J'onn chained to the rocket. No, I don't know how he was invisible and unconscious at the same time either. To prove he's a good guy, J'onn tells them the Martians' secret weakness, fire. Open flame. Not necessarily heat. But, Superman defeats the Martians with his heat vision off-panel. Maybe he set them on fire, in which case I'm sorry we missed it. Superman's mandate now includes deportation, as he's going to take all the Martians back to Mars. J'onn says he wants to stay, since "The Mars I loved is gone!" He says more, but bolds every other word, and I don't wanna type it.

Superman admits he can understand that, but Flash points out with all the hysteria, any Martian that appeared now would be burned at the stake, as it were. The others put it together:

Hal, and in a surprisingly big move, Roy Raymond both swear secrecy. (Rex however, would for years tell anyone who would listen about the Martians. Unfortunately, the only ones that listened were other dogs, and the occasional homeless person.) Several months later, the Justice League of America would have their first official case, and they would claim that was when they first formed. (At the time, J'onn didn't know Hal was GL, since he hadn't been at the time!) The team always celebrated the original anniversary, though.

Green Arrow acts like he should be mad about being fooled, but is touched that the team would do that for J'onn.

Is it my imagination, or did Ollie cry a lot in those JLA issues? I know he's supposed to be a sensitive old leftie, but there's a very real possibility that Ollie just overemoted, to appear sensitive, so he could continue bagging Black Canary. Probably not real tears, either. GA probably had a Glycerin Arrow. Unless he uses a sad memory, like his puppy dying or Batman snubbing his invite to the Arrowcave BBQ.

The reason this story seemed familiar to me, was that Grant Morrison would of course bring back the White Martians in his first JLA arc, and the conglomeration of heroes seems a lot like wait and Kitson's JLA: Year One. By the way, DC, I'm still cheesed that Year One doesn't seem to be in continuity anymore: it's a great story, working from the ruling at the time that Wonder Woman didn't appear right away in the DCU and wasn't a founder of the Justice League. Black Canary was a great replacement, and a little secret? I like her better.

Also, I mentioned New Frontier earlier, and this issue kind of hints at a time before a Justice League, when soldiers, men of science, and daredevils did the heavy lifting that would later be shouldered by superheroes. Strictly speaking, New Frontier is out of continuity too, but who cares? Part of the fun of this type of story is taking all the toys out of the box, and working out a situation where they all get to play. Something for everyone.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to play with some toys right now...

Bonus!This issue also features "100 issues ago," a two page summary of "The Plague that struck the Justice League!" By Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowksy and Frank Giacoia. Luckily for me, it ties into an issue I actually have, and a Metamorpho cameo! Plus, the summary includes a version of a much-scanned panel:

Robin, what have I done to you!

I love this feature, and would love to see these little summaries in other books, but that would involve keeping the numbering so a book hits a hundred. Hint, hint. Read more!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Laundry day at S.H.I.E.L.D.? Or Nick Fury's hunting weekend?

Jesus, Nick, just because you're fighting werewolves doesn't mean you have to make a shirt out of the ones you kill. Hopefully, they don't use every part of the werewolf. Ick. I'm also hard-pressed to explain the background agents in the green-and-orange.

From Captain America #164, "Queen of the Werewolves!" Written by Steve Englehart, art by Alan Lee Weiss. The 'Queen' in question is Nightshade, sometimes referred to as Deadly Nightshade, making her first appearance here. She's an underage mad scientist who apparently wants to become a Blaxsploitation style super villainess, and I have to admit, creating a formula to build an army of werewolves might be the way to go on that one. She's not quite ready for the big time, yet, though: Cap thinks of her as "a little girl posing, playing grown up," and then when a transformed Falcon fails to kill Cap, Nightshade breaks down crying. The Yellow Claw then pulls her funding, while scratching an "amusing" werewolf behind the ears.

Although she appears to die in the end, leading a lemming-like pack of werewolves in jumping off a tower, Nightshade would return here and there, and I know she was in the infamous (yet still entertaining) Cap-Wolf story years later. Still, Cap, what do you think of her 'Deadly' monicker?

Well, Cap deserves a good laugh, anyway.

I'm still just at a loss on Nick's outfit, and that he and his agents arrive in helicopters, when I'm conditioned to expect from S.H.I.E.L.D. cool flying cars and dark blue jumpsuits and psuedo-scientific guns. Perhaps hunting werewolves is just like hunting deer or elk, and they have to wear hunter's orange. That almost explains the fur shirt, all the knives, and the revolver. Sure it does. Read more!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I don't watch C.S.I. or anything, but I'd totally watch this scene.
From Judge Dredd #27 (Quality), "The Hunters' Club" Written by 'T.B. Grover,' art by Ron Smith. I'm pretty sure 'T.B. Grover' is a pseudonym for John Wagner, who, with Alan Grant, pretty much wrote every Dredd story for a number of years.

Even though I eventually got tired of Dredd's humorless fascism, the bizarre crimes in his stories were always entertaining, and usually wrapped up a lot more quickly and plausibly than your forensic cop shows do. At least to me, anyway, but I don't have the patience to get through the snippy, ironic comment over the crime scene, and have never made it through a Who song in the opening credits...where was I? Oh, yeah, Dredd's a prick too but it makes for a great comic book.

Feh, another short one today. Trying to build up some steam for a longer post, then I set the issues down somewhere. We'll try again tomorrow. Read more!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Devil's Bargain, operators standing by.

As a general rule of thumb for horror comics: DC Comics ok, EC Comics great, Marvel/Timely Comics full of giant monsters in giant color-coordinated underpants. Strangely, while I've read a lot of each, I think I've barely scratched the surface of DC's scary-time comics, like House of Mystery, Ghosts, or House of Secrets. Even more strangely, I've read a lot of Plop!

Wow, what a dumb buildup to talk about an old Marvel horror reprint comic: Dead of Night #3, circa 1974. Although there is a "Stan Lee presents" at the top, there are no writer credits anywhere in the issue.

The first story, "The Hidden Graveyard" has art by Bob Forgione. Standard monstery twist ending number. Pretty straightforward.

"Waitin' for Satan" has art from longtime Iron Man artist George Tuska, and features the ever-popular deal with the devil. William Burroughs said, and I may paraphrase since I'm going from memory here: "Now, you may encounter the Devil's bargain, if you get far enough. Every soul is worth saving, least to a priest, but not every soul is worth buying. So you can take the offer as a compliment."

Not in this one, though: a down and out sailor declares that he would bargain with the devil for a chance, a break to make it big. The devil offers him that chance, but the first mistake the sailor makes, he'll lose his soul. The sailor counters, if the devil comes for him when he really hasn't made a mistake, he keeps his soul. The devil agrees and gives the sailor a thousand dollars to start.

I'm really not sure what exactly the devil did for him here, actually, except the seed money. Being a shifty bastard, the sailor buys cheap goods to trade to dumb natives to print fake lottery tickets for drunken sailors, a triangle trade of grifting. Eventually the sailor has built up a fortune and won the woman he wanted, who turns out to be a hateful shrew. His business is so big, he worries one little mistake will doom him, so he buys his wife the fur she wanted, for $1500. She says its shoddy and only worth $500, so Satan appears.

But, the sailor points out he hasn't lost $1000, he lost the thousand the devil gave him, not his own money, so he's free. The devil admits defeat, but points out that since he's lied, cheated, and stolen; he's doomed to damnation anyway. And he's in a hellish marriage for the time being to boot. I notice his wife doesn't seem especially surprised to see Satan in the last panel.

I know the 'sell your soul' story is an old standard, a chestnut of all kinds of fiction. My suspension of disbelief snags on one little thing, though: if Satan appeared right now and offered me world domination for my soul, well, then I'd know my little soul was worth the world. Which would make me a little less likely to part with it, despite all my smartass atheism. In fact, while Satan's offer wouldn't prove there was a 'God' or any good in the universe, it would prove there was a 'big bad' to fight against. Huh, now I'm sad I haven't been asked...

Next story was ostensibly the cover story, "While the City Slumbers!" Art by Paul Reinman. The cover, a John Severin number, is way cooler:

Yeah, I pretty much just wanted to scan that cover. I could probably get the price tag off it, but why?

Lastly is "Only a Rose" with art by John Forte, in a very EC-style story, about a wife furious that her husband's being going out nights and refuses to tell her where he's going. Outright refusal, which is refreshingly bold: you know damn well everyone today would make up some halfassed lie about 'out with the guys' or 'working late'or 'vigilante group.' She follows him to a flower shop, where he takes a huge bouquet to a young lady's house. Instead of just stabbing his cheating ass with a potato peeler, she mails the lady a poisoned box of chocolates.

The next day, the husband is unfazed by the death in the headlines, and goes out again that night. The wife sees him pick up more flowers, so another poisoned box goes out. The wife keeps following the husband, and keeps poisoning women, until she receives a knock at the door, and figures the police have finally found her. Instead, it's her husband, with flowers, chocolates, and a watch: he had been working late to make money to buy her the watch.

As the wife starts to feel a slight twinge of remorse for several innocent poisonings, the husband makes his own confession: the flowers and candy are from work, sent back by a lady who fought with her boyfriend...that must be some poison, as the wife ate it on the second panel and is clutching her stomach in fright and panic by the sixth. "Induce vomiting" would probably be your first instinct, but then she'd have to explain why to her husband, then the police, blah blah blah. Better off just sucking it up, and hoping the cops pin it on that tightlipped jackass husband... Read more!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sometimes I hate you, Ollie.

Sometimes I hate Ollie. He's smug, self-righteous, arrogant, a total man-slut, and at best marginally useful. His treatment of Black Canary and his son Connor is reprehensible. He wears his political beliefs like a dare, a challenge to the "fat cats" of "the establishment." He gets to go on and on about how "the mask is there to protect you and your family", but why doesn't anyone notice Oliver Queen and Green Arrow are the same guy!? I swear, while I share a lot of Ollie's political beliefs, moral stances, and bad habits; if I lived in a town with more than one loudmouth with that facial hair, I'd move to Hub City.

Dogging it today, sorry. Spent a lot of the day blowing out the sprinklers and other house stuff, then watching X3 and Heroes and a bit of the Smallville episode with Green Arrow. Giving Green Arrow a crossbow just seems like laziness, doesn't it? Although I have to admit, it probably isn't easy to film a lot of takes with an actor convincingly pulling back an 80-pound bowstring. (Or more poundage. I'm afraid I don't know enough about archery to say anything there.) Also, for TV dramatic purposes, just from what I saw, it's probably very difficult for the hero to lose and be threatened with his own weapon when it's a boxing glove arrow. I taped the rest of the episode, so I'll catch it later. Read more!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Man, I hate it when celebrities do Cialis ads.

You would think he'd be happier in the 'after' photos...

Oh. Oh.

If I made Huntress cry, I may have gone too far with that last crack.
From The Brave and the Bold #184, "The Batman's Last Christmas!" Written by Mike W. Barr, art by Jim Aparo.

For a time, maybe about five or ten years pre-Crisis, DC characters got to be pretty blase about Earth 1, 2, X, or Pistachio. In this issue, Helena Wayne, the Huntress of Earth-2, is still mourning the death of her father, the Earth-2 Batman. She decides to spend Christmas with her 'uncle,' Earth-1 Batman. The different Earths seem dated but charming now, but aside from the different super-heroes and ages, it was never differentiated that much: both Earths suffered through McCarthyism, the energy crisis of the 1970's, and probably boy bands as well.

I do kind of miss the Huntress that was Batman and Catwoman's daughter, as opposed to the hardass mafia don's daughter in the current DC Universe. As other bloggers have pointed out, she's a bit of a square peg now, being forced into a round hole. Hopefully, she'll be able to pick up a full-time spot on the new Justice Society or Birds of Prey rosters. And there is a lot gained by the 'legacies' of heroes all living on the same world, so the Huntress may have been a necessary sacrifice.

Helena is welcomed for the holidays, but Batman is distracted by the discovery of evidence that his father may have loaned money to back a gangster's rise to power. Helena encourages Batman to investigate further and find the truth, and he does. They go to visit Amos Randolph, Thomas Wayne's accountant, who despite being old, frail, and wheelchair bound, still has records from 25 years ago in his living room. The next time I see my accountant, I'm throwing this issue in his face and asking why he isn't more hands-on like that. The records show monthly withdrawals of ten thousand dollars on dates that match the alleged payoffs. Hmm. This issue was 1982, so the payoffs would have been in 1957 dollars, which probably would've been enough to fund a military coup.

Batman and Huntress then visit mob boss and cowboy fetishist "Spurs" Sanders, who has audiotape evidence of Thomas Wayne's payoffs, let also declares that the tape isn't legal evidence. Huh? Believing that his father wasn't a good man worth avenging, Batman unmasks and renounces his mission. Um, wasn't your mom killed too, Bruce? Oh, women don't need avenging. Bruce hits the town and mopes a good deal.

Meanwhile, the mob tries to take out the thug that lost the records in the first place, and the Huntress saves him and his son. Upon seeing that, Bruce realizes that Batman "existed for more reasons than fighting crime...he exists to spare others the loss I felt when my parents died." Batman also recalls more details of his last Christmas with his parents, and goes back into action; while Helena cries with joy at helping her 'uncle' and making peace with her father's death. Pretty touching, really.

Oh, and Randolph disguised himself as Wayne, and used Wayne's money to get rich backing the mob. Although he was given away by a habit of 'nervous tapping,' he was apparently good enough at disguising his voice as to fool Batman, which has to be embarrassing for him. Batman doesn't even bother taking Randolph in, as his guilt is punishment enough. Or being old and incontinent, maybe that's his punishment. Either or.

A smiling Huntress tells Spurs that Wayne was innocent, and turns over the gift-wrapped records to Commissioner Gordon. The story ends with Huntress watching Batman reaffirm his vow at his parents' graves, which I'm going to interpret as more inspiring than creepy.

The backup feature was another Nemesis story, cool in a very 70's-80's cop show kind of way, and not just Nemesis' hair either. There's a helicopter crash in there that wouldn't have been out of place on any number of shows I watched as a kid. Anyway, glad to see he's back in the DCU now as well. Read more!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

And now, a word on links, and some other oddball topics, not particularly related to anything. From Weird Western Tales #18, "The Hoax" Written by John Albano, art by Tony De Zuniga. I read a lot of comic blogs, but I've found that I don't comment as often now that I have my own blog I should actually be writing. Some of them offer new perspectives on old favorites, some are just hilarious, and others bring me up to date on books and characters I'm interested in but can't afford to buy every month. I am interested in other new or established blogs, to add to the sidebar, since that's what I usually use to get to them. I do have some other ones I need to dig up and add later, so if there's something comic related out there that's so great I should be reading it, let me know. Just for example, over at Brandon's Random Panels, there was a link for Matching Dragoons, a very nice blog specializing in Jonah Hex. I was reading some entries the other day, and then later an article on Newsarama regarding wish lists for future DC Direct action figures, and I'm surprised Jonah Hex wasn't immediately mentioned. Speaking for myself, since I've been on more of a Marvel Legends kick of late, I want Hex, the original Doom Patrol, the Heckler, and the Creeper. Yeah, they're never making the Heckler. Just thought I'd try to sneak that in, though. I'm kind of meandering today, sorry. Here's something else: Keith Giffen pencils from Justice League Europe Annual #2, "Too Much Time" Written by Giffen and Gerald Jones, and a ton of other artists, for a ton of guest-stars: Hex in the future, Bat Lash, Anthro, the Demon, the original version of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the Justice League America. Oh, and Waverider, once again kicking the space-time continuum in the crotch. This was the last of the regular Armageddon 2001 annuals, and on the last page Waverider touches Captain Atom, to see his future and if he is the hero that goes bad. As you may already know, it was originally intended to be Captain Atom, and it was changed to Hawk, of Hawk and Dove, at the last minute. Which I'm OK with, to be honest. Early in the issue, the Captain tells his team, "I just...have to be alone for a while...I'll be back...after a while." He then shows back up at the end of the issue, to everyone's surprise. "Hey, I was gone for an hour. I got a cup of coffee and thought things out. Why? How long did you think I meant?" After that, there was no way in my mind Atom could be the one that could become the evil Monarch. Not even. Anyway, more tomorrow, and again, if there's something else I should be reading, let me know. Read more!

Friday, October 20, 2006

I was thinking a giant robot that collected Sgt. Rock couldn't be all bad, but...

While I loved the Fleetway/Quality reprints of British comics, I have no idea on this one. Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein, and Mek-quake (pictured above) were in both A.B.C. Warriors and Ro-busters. From the few issues of both I've seen, A.B.C. Warriors was a gritty war story, and Ro-busters was a slapstick parody of adventure comics. But with some of the same characters. The overall effect is like taking Gregory Peck and David Niven straight from filming the Guns of Navarone to play the same characters in Hogun's Heroes. Maybe.

This is exactly the sort of thing that should be looked up on the internet, but I'd rather research it out of the quarter boxes, thanks. If I ever piece it together, I'll let you know. I still need to put together all my random issues of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, and Rouge Trooper. I've also been trying to find the last chapters of Dare the Impossible (early Grant Morrison) and Harry 20 on the High Rock; the last featuring Alan Davis art and being probably the best orbital-prison escape comic out of Britain that you'll ever read. Probably. They've got a ton of weird, great books over there that I haven't read yet, so I don't want to commit to an answer there.

From Cyber Crush: Robots in Revolt #8, Ro-busters: "The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein!" Written by Pat Mills, art by Kevin O'Neill. Read more!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Spider-Woman? Totally loose.

The hip on the Spider-Woman action figure I got the other day, that is. Kinda floppy. I picked up Wasp, Spider-Woman, and Beta Ray Bill, three of the MODOK wave, so I have MODOK face, stubby legs, and jet ass. They were out of Moon Knight already, and all the variants. I'll definitely get at least one Captain Marvel, either the original or Genis; but would prefer the Destroyer over Thorbuster Iron Man.

Spider-Woman came with the first issue of her series, which I don't think I had read before. I had forgotten the pheremone thing, or had thought that was a later addition, but she creeps other women out. Interesting idea, but I'm pretty sure it was dropped early on.

Although her cartoon didn't seem to give her a boost, Spider-Woman would eventually go on to greater fame and reknown as a New Avenger-slash-Bendis fetish. Things weren't always Wizard covers and breast-heavy statues for Jessica Drew, however. Witness her appearance in Marvel Two-in-one #85. She's on the cover there, if you look closely...no, not just in the corner box. She's unconscious, right above the UPC. Admittedly, the logos ate up a lot of cover space back in the day, and the dramatic blurb "Plus: The Final Fate of Giant-Man!" doesn't leave a lot of room either, especially with the dramatic image of Bill Foster taking a little nappy-nap. Dramatically! Of course, if this cover was done today, Spider-Woman's costume would be more suggestively ripped, and her chest and butt would be facing the reader somehow...ah, how far we've come.

Even though Spider-Woman gets the co-starring spot, this is more of a Giant-man story than anything. Hence the title, "The Final Fate of Giant-Man!" Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Ron Wilson, inks by Chic Stone. Bill Foster is on his way out, dying of radiation poisoning he received in his own comic, Black Goliath. During a fight with a villain named Atom Smasher, BG received the radiation, then Smasher was "shot in the back by his own people!"

Now too weak to work or continue as Giant-Man, Foster is having a bit of a pity party, mostly lamenting the fact that he didn't accomplish more with his life. Dying of radiation sickness can't be a picnic, but Bill isn't even losing his hair or anything; so when Mr. Fantastic says he wants to run more tests and Bill goes nuts on him, it seems a little high-strung. Reed, perhaps quite rightly, thinks it's moronic to refuse further treatment, but respects his wishes; and Ben volunteers to give his friend a lift back to L.A. in the Pogo Plane.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Spider-Woman is doing her secret identity's job: P.I. Jessica Drew was hired to investigate industrial robberies, and as Spider-Woman she spots a stealthy group robbing the ever-popular electronics warehouse. Did I say stealthy? As stealthy as a bunch of guys in purple and green bodysuits and hoods can be, I suppose. I know full well in old comics, where there wasn't a huge color palette to choose from, a lot of times the villains had to wear purple and green to contrast with the reds and blues of the heroes: Joker/Batman, Lex Luthor/Superman, Green Goblin/Spider-man, just for a few. I also know those villains can pull it off because they have character. Faceless goons in those colors look horrible and unbelievable. Unless you're going to go all out and get Steve Epting or someone to draw them. Seriously, the guy made the A.I.M. evil yellow beekeeper outfit look good.

Sigh. Moving on: A shadowy figure sees Spider-Woman is about to thrash his men, so he zaps her. Spider-Woman goes down, and thinks she can feel the radiation poisoning her. Wow. If you know firsthand what fatal radiation poisoning feels like, you're either a really good or just terrible superhero. Leaving her for dead, the shadowy figure and his men load up their completely inconspicuous flying saucer--excuse me, 'gyrojet'--and split with the goods back to L.A. After they leave, Spider-Woman recovers: "Once I've been exposed to any toxin or radiation--I become immune to it!" This is one of those spider-powers like Spider-sense or Totem-power; that is pretty much based on nothing. Thank god. Otherwise, my house would be full of spiders immune to poison, squashing, and open flame. She makes her way back to her apartment, notes her slutty roommate isn't home yet, and determines to trail the thieves back to L.A. since she heard them mention it. It must totally suck to be Spider-Woman, and have a roommate that goes on dates and has a normal life, while you spent the evening sprawled out on the concrete burning from radiation.

The next day, Bill Foster revisits Stark-West (I thought most of Stark International was 'west.' Oh well.) and his horrible, horrible staff. The 'Whiz Kids,' median age 39, includes a guy that looks like Doc Ock minus the arms and physical magnetism, and a red-headed mathmatician that wears a metal harness like a Captain Power character. Maybe all mathmaticians do, I couldn't say. He did have a hot physicist on the team, so score one for Bill; and they were nice enough to call his girlfriend, whom he hadn't even told he was dying. I tell you, I'm married, and if I ever disappear for more than 20 minutes, I better be dying.

Ben gives Bill some time with his friends, and worries that now he may just be a reminder that Bill's not long for the world. Geez, guilt much, Ben? Luckily, he stumbles across an unconscious security guard, and a batch of purple and green goons. The goons aren't much of a fight, but their boss is: Atom Smasher. Ben knows the story, that Smasher poisoned Bill but is supposed to be dead. Smasher laughs that off, and zaps the Thing through a wall. As the Smasher crew gets away, Jessica Drew arrives, ditches her trenchcoat, and arrives as Spider-Woman. Wait, Jessica just threw on her costume and a trenchcoat, then caught a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles? Well, there is something to be said for travelling light.

Well, time to get the story moving: Bill works up a scanner to track Atom Smasher's unique form of radiation. ("That's funny...there's a huge source of his radiation nearby...oh, it's me.") They also realize Atom Smasher is building a bomb:

Good luck getting that through security, guys.

In the proud, megalomaniacal tradition of Cobra Commander, Atom Smasher plans on killing millions, so his six or seven goons can loot the city "to their hearts' content!" Really, he says that! And eat all the wedding cakes, and steal Porsches and drive them into the ocean, and run the bases at Dodgers Stadium naked...that's a full afternoon. Oh, and then they can blackmail the world; although this story was set squarely in the Cold War, and somebody would've launched a missile or two at somebody after an incident like that. Well, Smasher's plan is still better thought out than Alexander Luthor's plan in Infinite Crisis.

Bill's tracker leads them to Smasher's hideout in seven panels total, which is pretty impressive. Spider-Woman and the Thing start smashing the hell out of the long-suffering goons, their monkey-looking 'Robotrons,' the infrastructure, everything. Smasher zaps Spider-Woman again, and this time Ben sees her walk off a lethal dose of radiation. As she explains her powers, Ben realizes that she may be able to help Bill. They probably maybe should've had that discussion while Atom Smasher wasn't about to irradiate L.A., though.

Bill fights off the pain to become Giant-Man again, and tries to stop Atom Smasher. He realizes this is the brother of the original, who was killed by a professional assassin Smasher II hired. Bill is on the ropes at first, and admits "Even in my prime, I was a second rate super hero! I never won a whole bout! But I refuse to die a loser!" He pounds Smasher until he runs out of strength, and Smasher tries to activate his Neutralode, which was damaged in the fight and explodes. An explosion that doesn't irradiate the city, blow up the building, or even kill Bill from about twenty feet away, but we'll let that go. I just don't like the cliche of the hero that won't kill, but he'll totally let the bad guy get blowed up in their defective doomsday whatsis. That one seems almost unique to comics, whereas in movies, it would run: hero has villain at his mercy, refuses to lower himself by killing villain, villain takes opportunity to try to kill hero, villain is shot/stabbed/falls to death. For example, watch the last five minutes of about every movie Ashley Judd has ever been in. Heroes: just shoot the villain while he's down. I won't think any less of you, in fact, I'll be impressed you're doing the smart thing.

With Smasher dead more or less by his own hand, this is another one in the loss column for Giant-Man, and he shrinks back down and collapses. Later at the hospital, a doctor comes running to Spider-Woman and the Thing. After "exhaustive tests" on her blood, done off panel in no time at all, they believe there are antibodies that would cure Bill, if he received a massive transfusion. But, because the radiation is still affecting her slightly, Spider-Woman could lose her "Immunity Factor" for good; which would of course leave her vulnerable to the many poisons, toxins, gases, and radioactivity she was exposed to on a pretty regular basis. She only hesitates a moment before agreeing to do it, probably because the doctor and Ben were right there staring at her, possibly kicking the floor: "Come on! He's a total player!"

For some reason, L.A. General has Kirbytech medical equipment, and Spider-Woman's feet appear to be restrained, but not the rest of her, nor is Bill restrained, IV'ed, monitored, or even covered. Drawing needles and doctor stuff is hard and gross! Bill recovers, although his internal organs were damaged to the point he could no longer be Giant-Man. Yes, because your spleen has to be in tip-top condition to facilitate growing 15 feet tall.

Musing this over, the Thing wanders over to Spider-Woman, who's already climbing the walls and kicking herself: not so much for losing that power, but that in saving Bill she may have given up the cure for cancer, an insight that never occurred to her before. She glides away before the Thing can tell her he doesn't feel sorry for her, because "ya saved the life of a good man--and gave him a second chance! That oughta be a touchdown on anybody's scorecard!"

Spider-Woman would go on losing powers, like her venom blasts; until she ended up a supporting character in Chris Claremont's Wolverine, reduced to a mere private investigator, shipped over to Madjripoor, and her long hair hacked off. Giant-Man actually came back first, since I seem to recall he returned in West Coast Avengers Annual #3. And then he would go on to be killed in Civil War#4, still severely lacking in the victories. So, you can go ahead and forget all about this 'final fate of Giant-Man,' I guess. As Ben thought on the last page of MTIO#85, "Some guys just ain't cut out for this kinda work! Not everybody can be the idol of millions!" Too true, Ben, too true; although I suppose that's the millions in France these days... Read more!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Come on Claremont, a duck?

DC fans: I totally have to give you this one.

Somewhere, I had seen Marvel's Captain Britain Corps referred to as the analog of DC's Green Lantern Corps. Indeed, perhaps even more so: the GL's were each assigned to a sector of space, 3600 strong in the original series, Earth being Sector 2814. While there have been several human Lanterns, the rest are all aliens: from red skinned humanoids to abstract entities to the beloved and unsociable planet, Mogo. Of course, the GLC also included C'hp, a funny-animal style chipmunk; Driq, a corpse kept alive by his ring; and G'nort. G'nort needs no introduction.

But the Captain Britain Corps were from across the Multiverse: a Captain from the England of every reality, whether it's Britain, the United Kingdom, occupied by Nazi Germany, or inhabited by ducks. Wait, what? Gah, and I thought the Hippie Captain and Mobster Captain and Earth Mother Captain...oh, screw this. Alan Moore may have created the CBC, but as a concept it's sinking fast.

From Fantastic Four, volume 3, number 8: written by Chris Claremont, art by Salvador Larroca. I don't know who to blame the duck on: did Larroca just throw it in, ala Jack Kirby and the Silver Surfer? Or did Claremont insist on Captain Britain Duck? "No, not like Howard the Duck! Like a duck, duck! It'll be great!" Claremont has an unfortunate tendency to what he probably considers "whimsical," but in reality is more like that guy at the renaissance fair, that's way too into his character and so far into your personal space that you want to get medieval on his ass...

Ahem. Long story short: advantage: Green Lantern Corps. Read more!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oh, get your minds out of the gutter.
Thor and Hercules are talking about which one of them gets to kick Pluto's ass, you pervs. Pluto the lord of the underworld, not Pluto Mickey Mouse's dog. Oh, this is just going to get deeper, so let's move on.

Want to know a little secret? Probably get my blog license revoked for even mentioning this, so edge in close and keep it to yourself: I'm a big Thor fan, but on a good day, when he's written well, I like Hercules better. I got both Bob Layton miniseries when I was a kid, and have been breaking my legs trying to find my copy of the fill-in issue of Thor he took over. (Thor #356)

Hercules as a guest star in Avengers? Awesome. Hercules as a regular Avenger? What did Ben Franklin say about houseguests and fish? White wine and garlic for both? Anyway, for my money, Herc is more fun as the crazy partying thoughtless uncle-type, there to kick ass and pick up chicks, occasionally literally. On the team full-time, responsibility grinds the fun off of him...much like the rest of us, I suppose. Well, that's encouraging.

Oh, and also:

Hercules is all about visiting the shut-ins, man. Thor's just there to make sure everyone's story is the same. That's a lesson the Son of Zeus didn't need to be taught twice...

From the Mighty Thor #222, "Before the Gates of Hell!" Written by Gerry Conway, art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. Read more!