Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oh, god, I'm so sorry, I'll knock next time...
Man, that looked questionable, even in context. Um...we'll come back later.

It's not even a week into the new fall season, and I've got a full videotape of crap I should probably watch before I go on vacation. Yes, videotape--I've had this VCR for well over ten years, it's super and I love it. No cold, sterile Tivo or DVX or whatever for me! If it's not making grinding noises, how do you know you're getting results? Sure, Sugarpie barks at it when it starts taping Star Trek at one in the morning, but frankly that dog barks at anything.

Since I was watching the Cowboys game on Sunday, I taped the Simpsons, and haven't been able to get one. Freaking. Half. Hour. To watch it yet. Hell, fast-forwarding the commericials, it shouldn't take me more than 20 minutes. But I've had overtime, and then Monday I watched Prison Break...while blogging, so I probably missed something; and taped Chuck (ironically...) and Heroes.

Tuesday night I tried to squeeze the Wife's horrible programs onto the tape, which admittedly wouldn't be a problem if I upgraded, would it? And I blogged through Bones, watched House over my shoulder, and wandered in and out of Law and Order: SVU. (I had wanted to tape Reaper: I like the cast, it might be an interesting premise, and it'll last 20 minutes before being replaced by America's Next Top Model or some other nonsense.)

As I type this, after work I still have to pick up the Youngest from home, the Oldest from school, hustle down to the comic shop (New Cable and Deadpool and Annihilation: Star-Lord, fun comics today!), and then plant my narrow rump in front of the TV for the last time before I go. Fluff, I still have to watch Equilibrium before that has to go back. And then I complain about not getting any sleep...

I suppose if I don't watch Bionic Woman I'll get my nerd privileges revoked, so I'd best pencil that, of course I was looking forward to that, I had a Steve Austin action figure as a kid and love that stuff. Strangely, though I can remember Six Million Dollar Man toys, books, and even records; I absolutely can not remember any Six Million Dollar Man episodes. Even in reruns. Meh, the other stuff made up for it. Shoot, now I want a replacement Steve Austin. And maybe one for the Youngest.

So, a lot of TV, about half of which I watch with my back turned while I try to scan comics. Like this one!
Demonstrating Batman either being super stealthy or damn rude.
Seemingly untouchable drug kingpin Korlee thinks the Batman's either a fairy tale, or more likely, an undercover cop in an elaborate scam under Commissoner Gordon's orders. He rudely interrupts a private conversation between Gordon and Batman (disguised as a gravedigger, which is neat) and even though Korlee knows there's something more to Bats than meets the eye, he proclaims he doesn't believe. Even when Gravedigger Batman, action figure coming soon, disappears in broad daylight despite having seemingly nowhere to hide and more than a few witnesses. Or maybe he just strolled off during Korlee's rant.

In a later confrontation with Gordon, Korlee, whether he believes in him or not, still suspects Batman's watching:
That isn't funny, that's like the fifth person he's had stabbed today looking for Batman.
Not a single broken dish: that busboy's a credit to the name.

From Batman: The Hill #1, "Heretic" Written by Christopher Priest, pencils by Shawn Martinbrough, inks by John Lowe and Shawn Martinbrough.

And with that, I'm on vacation. Wish me luck, and be back next week! Read more!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oh, that blows.
Well, that's weird...where would Wade get Spy back issues?

A lot of signs have been pointing to it, and Paul O'Brien's recap of Marvel Month-to-Month sales seems to confirm it: Cable and Deadpool appears to be slowly drifting into cancellation. To make way for a Cable solo series. How to get across the horribleness of this...the first thing that came to mind would be if NBC decided to cancel Law and Order: SVU in order to have a cop show featuring just Detective Elliot Stabler; with none of the plots, subplots or supporting cast of the previous series. That's not a great example, since I think a better percentage would follow that show, than would the Cable solo series.

Back to Cable & Deadpool: was anyone reading that book for Cable? I'm floored to think someone thinks Cable is the draw to that book. I came to it late, since I'm just not a fan of his, but I love the Deadpool-centered issues.

Fabian Nicieza did a great job creating convincing reasons for both characters to interact, even though they were enemies in their first appearances, have little in common, and don't much like each other, especially at first. Here's hoping 'Pool either manages to get a solo book, or maybe gets a replacement for Cable.

Panel from Cable & Deadpool #7, "The Burnt Offering, Part One: Headless Horsemen" Written by Fabian Nicieza, pencils by Patrick Zircher, inks by Udon's Rob Ross and M3TH.

Aside: I like Law and Order: SVU, even though it's pretty depressing. It's a good show to watch once in a while, and you can miss a bunch of episodes and it doesn't really matter. (I wish I could claim this line, but a friend once compared watching a rerun of Law & Order was like re-reading an Archie comic.) But while actor Christopher Meloni has done a great job with the character of Stabler, the guy's been working in the sex crimes unit a little too long, and is starting to get wound up and violent. Stabler needs a vacation or to be rotated over to a less stressful department, like, I don't know, homicide.

SCENE: the Dunh-dunh L&O noise. A bloody, bloody crime scene, surrounded by police officers, most of whom look like they have been or may soon be violently ill. A pale looking CSI holds up a stained-red sheet so Stabler can see the body, but we can't.

CSI: Oh, god...this is the most horrible thing I've seen in 20 years of this...there is no God.

STABLER: (Eating donut) Uh-huh. So, whaddaya got here?

CSI: (Moaning) Please...don't make me look at it again. It's too much.

STABLER: (Still eating, nonchalant) C'mon. Walk me through it.

CSI: All right. So, he was bludgeoned, horribly. a little) little over there...

STABLER: (Nodding) Sure, sure. What else?

CSI: Well, preliminary estimates are that he was shot. At least twenty times, from four different large-bore weapons, from different directions. The ballistics is going to be a nightmare, since several of the bullets appear to have ricocheted off each other, creating multiple entry and exit wounds...

STABLER: (Yawns) Yeah, yeah, pick it up a bit.

CSI: (Greenish) The burns are even more exotic. I'm still not sure if those are chemical...might even be radiation. Hopefully, there's enough left for testing...

STABLER: (Snapping fingers) High notes, buddy, just the high notes.

CSI: Uck. Then the stabbing. So far we've counted a hundred and thirty-eight stab wounds...

STABLER: (Freezes. Every muscle in his head clenches, looks deadly serious for a moment, like he is absolutely going to murder whoever did this.) And then raped the stab wounds?


STABLER: I said, did they rape the stab wounds? 'Cause that's SVU territory, man! I'm not going back there! I'm not!

CSI: No...nooooo. Just stab wounds.

STABLER: The wounds weren't raped? Any signs of abuse?

CSI: You mean, apart from the...

STABLER: I mean sexual! I can't deal with that anymore! The eyes of the victims, staring at me in my sleep! The criminal justice system that lets predators out again and again and again! The guilt of having a cock! I punch myself in the cock twenty times every night before I can sleep, just to show I'm not like the other men! And rape after rape after rape killing my chances with Olivia! No more rape!

CSI: No...there's none of that.

STABLER: No rape?

CSI: No. Frankly, aside from the...wounds, I'm not sure what would've been left to rape on this guy, after the beating and the stabbing...

STABLER: Awesome. (Completely unclenches, takes another bite of his donut.) Oh, man, this job is sweet.

I'm tired, but that made me laugh this afternoon. The only rewrite I did on this one was to try to get the swears out of it, which was tougher than I would've thought. Read more!

Monday, September 24, 2007

In today's production of Reservoir Dogs, the role of Mr. Pink will be played by...Kross.

File under Schadenfreude: I'm referring to toys here, but it probably applies to anything you can trade: toys, comics, music, fantasy football picks, whatever. Say you see a trading list posted and someone wants something you have. You might think, "Oh, I'd be OK trading Item X for something else." Other times, you'll think, "Yeah, I have Item X, and it's awesome. No friggin' way, I'm keeping it." (Personally, I usually have to follow that with, "I wonder where Item X is?") Even if you want to help, nope, not happening; but it's nice to see, like a reaffirmation of your taste. The converse to that would be, say, when you check out the used CD rack and see most of your collection...

Kross, the ogre-looking fellow on the end, is from a line called Shadowrun, and looks better in a suit than I do. (I wear mine about once in a month of Sundays, and look nice, but it doesn't look natural.) I had pulled him out of the basement since he's come up multiple times lately: Toyfare mistakenly declared he had never been released, but of course he had: I'm not cool enough to pick up prototypes or unreleased toys. had a review of Kross that mentioned a $14.99 price point, but I picked up him and most of his line for about $3.99 a pop if I recall. Anyway, while I was putting up some toys, these guys all ended up together, and I remembered I had seen the new Reservoir Dogs box set the other day as well; all of which reminded me I didn't have Mr. Pink.

My memory's a little fuzzy on this one, but I think I didn't buy Mr. Pink because I thought it was B.S. that he didn't come with any guns, supposedly at the request of Steve Buscemi. The rest of the toys in the Mezco line had guns, and I know I have plenty lying around anyway, so if that was my reasoning it wasn't smart. Maybe I just thought three guys in suits was plenty. Or did I buy it and then lose him? Or did I not like the headsculpt? Until I took a second to look it up (again, OAFE) I thought maybe Buscemi's wrinkles were over-exaggerated until he looked like a raisin; but the likeness isn't that bad. I wasn't blogging or noting any of this stuff before, so the whys and wherefores are gone and forgotten.

I came late to the game on Reservoir Dogs: initially, I wasn't a fan of the "Super Sounds of the Seventies." It put me off the movie for a while, but you can't imagine it with different music. For that matter, I think Tarentino has pretty good taste in music, especially in terms of how well a song will work on screen; even if he occasionally has to go overboard in proving he knows more obscure songs and bands than you. I really liked about half of the Death Proof CD, which is probably par for the course for his soundtracks. Anyway, there's a figure of Tarentino as Mr. Brown in that box set I mentioned, but I can't see buying it unless it goes clearance.

Tarentino's also had figures as one of the Crazy 88 gang members in Kill Bill (with removable limbs!) and as "the Rapist" in Planet Terror (with alternate deformed head) and I don't have those either. I mention those primarily because I want an action figure of myself someday, and am insanely jealous.

Following my train of thought has to be like watching a Plinko chip bounce downward towards an unsure destination, occasionally getting stuck and having to be knocked loose. Well, so be it.

Beating the Silver Surfer and Magneto!
In other news, Nightcrawler came in twelfth in CBR/Comics Should Be Good Top 50 Marvel Characters! Kurt's my favorite comic character evah, and I gave him my first place vote, even though there's not a lot of truly great Nightcrawler stories...we'll get into that some other time, but I was glad to see him place so well.

The silo's for...learning, I guess.
Closer to the home front, after pissing and moaning about not finding any decent yard sale toys, I picked up for the Youngest a Fisher-Price School and silo. I got both, and some assorted non-FP toys, for under a buck, which is such a good deal I felt a little guilty but still took it and ran. The school didn't have desks or students or anything else, but is well built, charming, and lead-free; always a plus. The Youngest did promptly color a bit on a plastic part with a yellow marker, but that's what kids do, and it makes it his.

I had a ton of Fisher-Price toys as a little, little kid; and loved them dearly. My folks still have them up at their cabin, for visiting children and grandkids to play with. Even the random ones I've found at yard sales have been in obviously played with but pretty good shape; impressive for toys that are in some cases older than I am.

Posting this week is going to be hit-and-miss: this weekend we're off to Disneyland, which should be tons of fun in an exhausting, herding cats kind of way. The Wife has everything planned out, so we're in good shape on that front, but I still have a lot to do before then, like dropping the dogs off with my folks in Montana. Maybe they can whip them into shape: they've both had a problem with peeing in the house...the dogs, not my folks. Sugarpie wakes me up almost every night, barking, yet no one else seems to hear him. It's like a telepathic bark shot straight into my skull, utterly impossible to ignore. Just like having a baby again, except, you know, horrible.

My challenge to myself on this vacation, is to see if I can get a full night of sleep, go to bed at night and wake up in the morning style. I'm lucky if I get six hours of sleep a night during the week, and even that's broken up at least once. Last Saturday, Sugarpie didn't wake me up, the Oldest did, since he had thrown up in the living room. He felt worse for making a mess than he did physically, and apologetically said, "You can take a nap tomorrow if you want to. It's OK." That was nice of him, and I totally did, falling asleep with him while watching Star Wars.

My wife works hard and deserves it, but she sleeps like a corpse. So remember guys, presents and flowers are nice, but nothing says love like mopping up puke at midnight.

Nightcrawler panel from Excalibur #55, "The Ghost of Braddock Manor" Story and art by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer. Read more!

Friday, September 21, 2007

My favorite 70's Superman analog. Well, after Vartox. And Hyperion. And I suppose Miracleman counts there? OK, Ultraa sucks.

As most readers probably already know, with all the legal drama (I typed 'trauma' there the first time, which probably isn't wrong either) over the rights to the name and character of 'Superboy,' DC Comics has recently been bending over backwards to avoid using the name. In the Legion of Super Heroes cartoon, for example, Superboy is referred to as Superman from the very start, even though most of the rest of the Legion are Boys or Lads. And Superboy-Prime, villain of Infinite Crisis and Sinestro Corps, is now referred to as Superman-Prime. Man, and I thought Cyborg Superman was a dumb name; it seems elegant now. It could be worse though: he could've decided to call himself Ultraa.

Ah, Ultraa. Was there anyone on Earth-Prime who wasn't a complete dick? (OK, maybe Julius Schwartz.) He was that universe's version of Superman (although they'd get another one later, and had the comics...) and just seems like a overbearing ass. After a clash with the visiting JLA, Ultraa felt responsible for the appearance of Earth-Prime's first super-villain, Maxitron (ooh, scary. Are you sure you're not from the Charlton universe or something?) on the argument that adding super-heroes to that earth, super-villains would inevitably follow.

And don't confuse Ultra with Ultra the Multi Alien. This may be the only time this sentence appears on the internet, but Ultra the Multi Alien has a better design. I know I often rant about how old comics were better and more fun and bladda bladda blah; but one thing I should give new comics more credit for is the coloring. Wade through a pile of these old Justice League of America issues, and you see a ton of flat purple bad guys, monsters, and machines. And comics today don't have to have redheads with crayon orange hair, thankfully.

The opening caption of this issue has a little more jaded banter than usual, pointing out that Central City has seen more superhero battles than most cities, including the whole of the West Coast by my count. Today, it's Flash and Wonder Woman, versus Poison Ivy and Mirror Master. I know, I thought that'd be over quick, but the Leaguers actually have a hard time.
Poison Ivy can apparently talk at super-speed, then...
I had to look up Luther Burbank, since I had no idea who Ivy was talking about. Comics are educational! Um, except when they're not. Anyway, I think I'll make all my exclaimations like that from now on: "What in the name of Gil Kane is going on here?" "Sweet Bill Sienkiewicz!" "Holy Howard Chaykin!"

Even though Ivy points out Ultraa is as fast as Flash, MM still has time to put their heads into "light-cocoons!" which should blind, then suffocate the heroes. Except Wonder Woman can still hear him, and gives Mirror Master...a shove. Diana should be able to punch the hell out of him and Ivy, but not unlike a typical episode of Super-Friends, if she actually did something, the story would be over right there, and we'd be left with dead air; or worse, Wonder Woman lecturing on safety or nutrition or something. I for one don't need to hear WW extol the virtues of steamed cauliflower, thanks. (You know she would. Probably buys organic, too.)

Using one of his gimmicks, Mirror Master teleports himself and Ivy away with their prize, but stupidly had mentioned Injustice Gang Headquarters, cluing the heroes in to larger goings-on. Wonder Woman realizes the sundial they stole is worthless--she had been a security liason to the museum exhibit in her secret identity, which is why she was in town.
Oh, I can just see my wife letting me in the same room with Wonder Woman, let alone dinner...
A brief aside: I'm a good husband, faithful, loyal, and true. I've never done anything untoward or sketchy the whole time I've been with my wife, and am probably only slightly less tame than Barry there. But there is no way in God's green hell my wife would be on board for dinner with Wonder Woman. Especially not in her civilian identity, since if I can keep her identity a secret, what else am I hiding? Also, because glasses are sexy.

Ultraa has a bit of a meltdown there, angered that superpowered beings would endanger innocent lives for nothing. Technically, Mirror Master doesn't have powers; and I think Ivy's only power at this point was immunity to poisons, if she even had that; everything else was gimmicks and weapons. He takes off in a huff, leaving WW and Flash to wonder what his problem is; until a group of terrified civilians ask if it's all clear, and they have to wonder if Ultraa has a point. Pfft! If you're afraid of becoming collateral damage in a super-powered skirmish, you shouldn't live in Central.

Ivy and Mirror Master reappear at Injustice Gang headquarters, which Ivy recognizes (per the Joker's descriptions) as the old JLA cave headquarters. She voices her concerns, but is overruled by the Gang's cloaked leader, who points out maybe someone who wants to kill Batman to prove her love to him isn't a "paragon of passionless intellect." Chronos breaks it up, but wants answers: he and the others had stolen models of an oil rig, a windvane, a sundial, and a hydroelectic dam. The mystery villain tells a long, involved, and utterly lame story about how they were really super-advanced artifacts left by aliens a thousand years ago, that they would come back to lay claim to the energy sources they represented, leaving mankind in savage ruin.
They were going to trade beads for mining rights, but this seemed more stylish and ironic. Dumbest...Macguffin...ever. The aliens actually hand a viking a model windmill, and he looks positively thrilled over the whole thing. It makes me long for the highbrow motivation of "Let's you and him fight" but I should probably be careful what I wish for there.

Back at the JLA Satellite, Red Tornado is voicing what is probably the reader's concern at this point:
Translation:  Why should I care again?
Before the conversation's even over, Ultraa smashes through the satellite's hull (forcing Superman to repair it before it explosively decompresses) with a blocky yet color-coordinated hand weapon. He looks giant-sized, although I'm still not sure if he was a giant, or the perspective was off all issue; as he explains his plan:
Next time, Ultraa found Jesus, and more trouble ensued...
Rrr. When Hal sees the problem with your plan, odds are it's not a very good plan then, is it?

After throwing WW into a wall, Superman pins Ultraa down (and he does look bigger than a normal person there), and after that great Clark Bar ad, Ultraa fires his weapon. He tells the shaken heroes they will never be able to use their powers again:
I would've thought 'negative waves' would sound like New Age doubletalk, myself.
Flash calls BS, but when he ramps up his superspeed, he can't believe his muscles could generate that power without tearing apart. It's the Anti-Suspension of Disbelief Gun! Superman scoffs that it couldn't affect him, and Ultraa calmly asks what if it was powered by Kryptonite. Superman then believes himself to be powerless, which demoralizes and depowers the rest.

Ultraa coldly flies off, to take out the super-villains next, of course starting with the Injustice Gang. From outside the cave, he shoots the Gang with his negative wave gun, then leaves to finish the rest of earth's villains and heroes...leaving the alien Macguffins in their hands. Only the Tattooed Man even notices the negative waves, but he shrugs it off. The Macguffins send out four energy waves.

Forty-three minutes later, Ultraa answers a morse code summons back to the Satellite, where the League shows him on the monitors why taking out earth's main defense wasn't such a great idea:
OMG! Water, solar, even oil doesn't work? Mr. Burns was right!
The Leaguers harsh on Ultraa, who can't believe it didn't work, and sets off to fix it himself, although the powerless Leaguers insist on accompanying him. After a little ride in Wonder Woman's invisible jet (which seems to get some play every time I do one of these issues), Ultraa storms the Injustice Gang, tearing apart a steel door, and proclaiming himself the "Ultimate Warrior!" (No, not this Ultimate Warrior...that would've made about the same amount of sense and possibly have been more educafating on destrucity...)

Apparently, the whole Gang could hear Ultraa's speech from inside, so they're all facing him when he zooms in. Tattooed Man launches a giant eagle at him (out of his tattoos...yeah, I know. Let's push on, OK?) and notes it's bigger and stronger than ever. Scarecrow then throws some fear gas capsules in, inducing seemingly pants-crapping hysteria in the surprised Ultraa. Chronos offers to finish him off with his "time-gun," but even though he fires it, we don't see it do anything to Ultraa. Yes, I am disappointed, although I'm not sure what Chronos' gun is supposed to do, punch clock-shaped holes in things?...and, I had to come back after a really inappropriate typo in that last sentence.

Outside, the League realizes Ultraa's negative wave treatment has just made the villains stronger. Superman then makes a little speech about how they've each lost faith in themselves, they haven't lost faith in each other, and they can be the super-hero team that helps each other. Red Tornado tells Flash he does have the power, and Flash runs circles around the Scarecrow. Superman has faith in Wonder Woman, who lassos up Mirror Master and the Tattooed Man. Green Lantern tells Red Tornado to "just do what comes naturally!" which I would've have thought would be "get broken," but Reddy punches out Chronos--who is still shooting that time-gun to no avail. Wonder Woman encourages GL to stop the fleeing Poison Ivy, which Hal does by catching her feet, putting a run in her stockings and causing her to scream like a wee nancy girl.

The hooded bad guy tries to use the alien whatzits to make earth's energy sources vanish, and the Leaguers encourage Superman to fry them with his heat vision. It takes him a second, but Superman does, probably also burning a hole through the bad guy, who turns out to be long-time Flash villain Abra Kadabra. His reveal is almost an afterthought, though, as the main plot driver for this one was Ultraa.
Again, Ultraa looks like he might be a giant on this last page, or maybe not.
The League wonders what to do with him, and if he can ever be trusted again. The question just hangs out there, as Ultraa looks contrite and hangs his head like a bad puppy. Reckon the question was more for the readers than anything, but as often seems to be the case, there didn't appear to be a huge outpouring of support for Ultraa. I thought he returned, but I may have just been reading out of order. Per Wikipedia, Ultraa would be retconned during the darkest days of the 90's, into a jerkass from Maxima's world, who also served as a "League-Buster." Whatever that means, besides being a punching bag for Captain Atom.

From Justice League of America #158, "The Super-Power of Negative Thinking!" Oh, I have that one in spades. Written by Gerry Conway, art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin. Read more!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Oh, anybody could miss Canada, all tucked away way down there... It happens about once a month or so: I go into the comic shop and spend more on quarter books than new comics. That's partially just due to when the books fall, and the only new comic I had today was Captain America, which is consistently good.

I did find the last issue (#8) of the Minx, Peter Milligan and Sean Phillips short-lived Vertigo title. It's unrelated to the later girl-centric graphic novel line, but this series was the first thing I thought of when it was announced. I had the whole series, but lost it in that flood last year, and am still kicking myself for not buying the whole series the last time I saw it in the quarter bin. I don't want to get into a big description of a series I don't have all of right here, but if it helps, I liked it more than I liked the Filth, and I liked that one a good amount too. Both had everyman (or everywoman) leads who are thrown into bizarre, subversive, and horrible hidden societies; and both are better equipped for survival than they think at first. Both series are willfully unclear and abstract, but while humanity comes off pretty bad in the Minx, there's more likable characters there. Sigh. I really need to keep an eye out for the rest of the series, even if the ending probably isn't where Milligan and Phillips planned on stopping.

I've also been getting an issue of DC's late-eighties horror anthology Wasteland every week or so. A friend was big on them as a kid, so I remember reading them back then. (Interestingly, Hellblazer started about the same time, and I vaguely remember borrowing those as well.) Despite having a pretty good pedigree with John Ostrander, William Messner-Loebs and Del Close; they're not great comics. Imagine old EC horror comics. Then dilute them down until you get DC's horror books like House of Mystery or Ghosts. Don't water it down to the level of Charlton. Fortify with swears, stir well, and serve. Bingo, Wasteland. Despite having a "Mature Readers" label, I think it only had the occasional bad word.

That said, I remembered this story, because I thought it was funny then: A Shirley Maclaine look-a-like channels her past life: Ghengis Khan. Which has the unfortunate side effect, of the Khan channelling Shirley:
The fold takes a bit of the piss out of this one, but click to embiggen.
Sadly, that musical number goes over better than the Khan in the present day...
OMG, Ghengis Khan is channelling George W. Bush now?
Art by George Freeman. Read more!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Heroes don't quit. Unless it's a collector's item last issue, in which case it's totally Quitsville.

I have a ton of cancelled comics, and if there's anything more sad than the last issue of a comic book that showed a lot of initial promise, it's the last issue of said comic where the hero quits superheroing and denounces it as pointless, childish, and stupid. No meta-commentary there, eh? If your book is being cancelled, I would love to see a hero quit for reasons I can identify with, like because people are stupid and don't deserve a hero.Fight-Man didn't quit here, but if he did, this would be the way to do it.

Marvel spun off the Green Goblin into his own book. Sort of. This was near the very end of the Ben Reilly Spider-Man era and before the return of Norman Osborn. So, with Norman still 'dead,' and Harry really dead; the name and trademark was just lying around. Similarly, so was a lot of the Green Goblin's equipment, since Norman was a lunatic who made stashes for spare weapons, costumes, and goblin-gliders all over New York--previously, the Hobgoblin's origin started this way. New character Phil Urich, nephew of longtime Daredevil supporting character Ben Urich, stumbles across a better stash of weapons than Hobgoblin ever did, including a cybernetic mask and costume that gave him powers and control of the glider, wrist-launchers, etc.

(If you're particularly continuity-minded, Hobgoblin's main goal for most of his early appearances in Amazing Spider-Man revolved around him searching for more of Osborn's hidden Goblin weapons. After a particularly grueling fight, Hobgoblin gets away with a map to the last secret hideouts, only to find he's already looted them all; and he declares himself now the better of the Green Goblin and no longer needing to scrounge for a dead man's weapons. Of course, retroactively Norman wasn't dead, so he could have been adding more the whole time, including the more-advanced ones Phil used; and it's easy to imagine Norman doing it just to dick with Spider-Man even then.)
Stop. Just...stop.
Put kindly, Phil wasn't terribly effective. In his penultimate issue, he wins his "greatest victory" against a Sentinel during the Onslaught crossover, but catches a chunk of shrapnel in his mask. Without the mask, Phil lost his powers, the use of most of his equipment, and any style points he may have had. He gamely tries crimefighting without it, but quickly realizes it's not for him; and right about then Norman was making his...ugh...comeback. (I think some writers have done some good things with Norman Osborn since then, but it's a silk purse-sow's ear thing.)

Losing his job at the Bugle at the same time, Phil is forced to 'put my toys away,' suck it up, be a man, and finish college. Because the next time Sentinels trash Manhattan, a college graduate could save the day...I understand Phil later made appearances in Runaways, but true to form, I think his appearance was because they couldn't use Rick Jones.

Even sadder than Phil quitting because he kinda sucks and sales are spiraling in, is El Diablo throwing in the towel, because he feels like he sucks and sales are spiraling in. Phil's resignation feels like either a natural progression for the character, or because the real Green Goblin would have Phil's head in his man-purse if he didn't quit. Conversely, El Diablo was at the point where the hero would traditionally pout for an issue or two, make a big scene about not doing any good, and 'quit' for about five minutes until a new threat rose up; but the sales weren't enough for him to return. Also, Phil wasn't effective because he was a lazy slacker; Diablo wasn't effective because he was single-handedly trying to rid his city of crime, injustice, racial tension, poverty, gerrymandering, low voter turnout...
Worst...spring break...ever... As is often the case, this was a book I knew of but had never actually read until I got it out of the quarter boxes. The last issue came out in 1990, and in my defense it was an 80 mile drive to a comic shop that would even have had El Diablo. In the previous, now penultimate, issue, El Diablo struggles with the problems of illegal immigration from Mexico, and fails: the immigrant he befriended dies, the corrupt border guard that contributed to that death kills himself, and Diablo himself beats up a few people and is left confused, battered, and depressed. Don't feel bad, El Diablo: nobody else has come close to fixing that one either.
I couldn't do Rafe's job for twenty minutes without putting on a mask and hitting someone, preferably at a city council meeting.
In his civilian identity as city councilman Rafe Sandoval, El Diablo was already hip-deep in fighting corrupt officials, backbiting politicians, special interests, racially motivated groups of every stripe, and his own boss; who seemed to fall somewhere between glad-handling good ol' boy of the political machine and well-meaning lesser of two evils. You would think putting on a mask and a kind-of sharp vest and pummelling the snot out of some non-voting lowlifes would be the only thing keeping him sane.

If city councilmen get more chicks than superheroes, my whole worldview is severely shaken. Even if said superheroes are imaginary, I'd still be shocked.Perhaps not really helping his state of mind were his Shadow-like operatives...a bunch of high-school age kids, who were fairly realistically prone to in-fighting, jealously, and getting shot. That's probably why you never see the Shadow hanging out, palling around, or even acknowledging his crew. Keep your work and your friends separate!

Although I primarily bought the El Diablo issues for the Mike Parobeck art, I was pleasantly surprised by how political this book was. Probably a bit too much so for it's time and the market, but I could see a storyline about immigration causing a ruckus in the blogosphere now. All the problems Diablo faces in his last few issues prove too big for him to just punch in the face, so he has to take on the fight to change the causes, not the products. I'd argue (and writer Gerald Jones may have as well, if the book had continued) that Rafe is banging his head against the same walls in both identities: do you put on a mask and try to catch a serial killer yourself, or do you rally support for a tax increase to put more cops on the street? It does occur to me that a flashy vigilante might be the way to shine a light on problems the press may otherwise ignore.

In the end, Rafe ends up back in the mayor's office, an honest man trying to keep his boss and his party on the right track. Whether intentional or not, the implication is that superheroes (or masked vigilantes) can't make as much of a difference as intelligent, articulate, and well-informed citizens. So if you see any, let them know...

Fight-Man panel from Fight-Man #1, "The Big Fight!" Written and pencilled by Evan Dorkin, inks by Pam Eklund. Love it.

Green Goblin #13, "To Glide No More!" Written by Tom DeFalco, pencils by Josh Hood, inks by Derek Fisher. Since poor Phil wrecked his mask the previous issue, he doesn't get any good action panels as the Goblin in this one. He gets the good girl in the end, but probably screws that up too.

El Diablo #16, "Adios" Written by Gerald Jones, art by Mike Parobeck, inks by Paul Fricke. Probably the only comic I can think of with city council meetings. Read more!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Changing that sell-by date doesn't make the milk taste any better.

Anyone remember Gilligan's Planet? Like the title might suggest, it was an animated spinoff of Gilligan's Island, where the castaways build a rocket to escape the island, only to end up marooned on another planet. Yeah, about as good as it sounds, right? Although I was a huge fan of the original (the one with the giant spider scared the living crap out of me the first time I saw it. Seriously.) I don't remember being as fond of the cartoon or even watching it more than once or twice.

There was one episode I remember pretty clearly, though: being a "seafaring man," the Skipper was missing sailing and not feeling useful, so to make him feel better the castaways build a boat--something they somehow never, ever managed before. As was typical for the series, Gilligan manages to screw things up, to the point where they wreck on an island. Gilligan tries to point out, it's kind of funny: first they were trapped on an island, then trapped on a planet, now they're trapped on an island on a planet. While the status quo would dictate they somehow at least got back to the 'mainland' of the alien planet, I don't know how the episode ends, since even as a kid I was gripped with a white-hot rage to kill Gilligan.

This episode was the first thing I thought of, when I watched the season finale of Prison Break a while back. I've mentioned it once or twice here, and for those of you who haven't watched it, it's fluff, but entertaining fluff. Still, it would seem to have it's expiration date built right into the title, wouldn't it? The first year of the show was the eponymous prison break, the next year was the characters on the run from prison, and this year starts with most of the remaining characters in a South American super-prison. I don't know about this one, but I'll give it a shot. (There's a noticeable lag, between when I write these, the time I post them, and the real time; that I'm sure you don't care about.)

That's sometimes the trouble with fictional characters in serialized fiction: occasionally and often completely by accident, the writers can hit the point that should be the logical, satisfying, and sensible ending of a particular character's arc; but because the story must go on they have to string it along some more. Who cares if it makes sense or not...
'The sooner I kick your ass, the sooner I get back to voting Republican, ditching this costume, and not giving a crap about poor people!'
Some people felt that way about Batman finding his parents' murderer, for example: that doing so would take away his motivation, and that Bruce Wayne would just walk away from the Batcave and become that useless rich playboy he pretended to be. But, other writers pointed out that Batman wouldn't quit, either because he still had to make sure what happened to him never happened to anyone else, or because he's completely messed up in the head. And since Batman's a DC character, I've read about half a dozen variations on Batman finding, or not finding, Joe Chill; who killed the Waynes, or didn't kill them, or killed them on orders from someone else. Thanks heaps, Zero Hour! (Joe Chill not killing the Waynes is still a better idea than Metallo doing it, though.)

Another prime example: Bishop, of the X-Men.

I liked Bishop better in the cartoon, since it was a little more straight-forward: in a crappy, post-apocalyptic future, he starts off as a bounty hunter of mutants, until the mutant-killing Sentinel robots decide maybe they don't need a mutant for that job anymore. On the run, Bishop meets the aged inventor Forge, who's put together a time machine to try and change the past and prevent that future from coming to be. (Which could very well prevent Bishop from even being born, but Forge seems to neglect mentioning that.)

So, Bishop comes back to the present, and stops something-or-other, and returns to what should be a better, brighter, future; only to find it just as crappy as when he left. Forge asks him what happened, and Bishop explains he did his job, but in the changed future, Forge had sent him back to fix something else. I think that happened on multiple occasions to Bishop, giving him a certain Sisyphean flavor, and I picture him back for like the 90th time, just shooting the hell out of the place, not unlike Homer in "Time and Punishment."

But the cartoons are positively streamlined, compared to the regular, comics-continuity Bishop. Originally more of a cop-type character than he was in the cartoon, Bishop also seems to be from a slightly different crappy future than previously seen in the X-Men comics. I've lost count, but the two I usually think of are Rachel Summers' Days of Futures Past, and Cable's Apocalypse-ruled far-future; Bishop's time doesn't seem to quite match either. (There's more possible X-Men futures than that in the comics, and to a one they're all not very encouraging.) Chasing a fugitive back through time, Bishop encountered the X-Men, who were legendary heroes when he was growing up, before they were wiped out by a traitor within their ranks. Bishop joined the team to save it, suspecting Gambit of being the traitor; until it was eventually revealed to be Onslaught, the evil psychic gestalt of Professor X and Magneto. (Yes, Gambit would've made more sense.)

After proving no help with his initial mission, and I think on multiple occasions since, Bishop's been sent to yet other alternate/possible/maybe future settings. And space. And he's one of the only ones to remember the Age of Apocalypse. Currently, he's filling the crucially important role of "pro-superhero registration jerkwad/Iron Man lackey" that every Marvel comic must have. To be fair, Bishop backing registration seems to make more sense than it does for a lot of other characters; since he's from a future where it's apparently already happened, he takes it as a given.

Bishop isn't one of my favorite characters, and it seems like finding the X-Traitor (whether he was wrong or not) would have been a good place to end his storyarc. And yet, Bishop remains, like a cop who came to your house to investigate a crime, ran a lot of false leads and wasn't much help, and yet somehow stayed there to live. Since the X-offices seem unwilling to write him out or kill him off, Bishop keeps getting shoehorned into new roles, like time-travelling X-Man or space X-Man or detective X-Man. Maybe Bishop will eventually find out where he belongs, but if Gilligan and Michael Scofield are any example, that's not as easy as it sounds.

Woof. This was a helluva lot of words to justify me watching TV this evening. Read more!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Greatest Panels...Never.

I wouldn't say this is happening to me a lot, but it has happened more often lately. Sometimes, I'll be thinking of a comic, as I sometimes do, while in line somewhere or at work or while driving or whatever; and remember a key panel as clear as day. And almost completely wrong.

Case in point: these two panels from Captain America #321:
'Let's see, pick up shield polish, dry cleaning, surrender...
To set this one up: anti-nationalist Flag-Smasher and his terrorist group ULTIMATUM hijack a jumbo jet in mid-air, then hide it and the passengers at their secret base. Flag-Smasher, pushing his agenda and smarting over the previous beating Cap handed him, demands Cap hand himself over for public execution.

Working with S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap works out the likely locations for their base, based on range of the jet, the relative newness of ULTIMATUM, etc. Cap checks one location out himself, and I love the workaday attitude of Cap. Even though he either has to singlehandedly and covertly attack a base of technologically advanced and psychotic terrorists, or surrender himself to those same terrorists; to Captain America, it's just another day of the office. He checks points off the way you'd might your grocery list; and when Cap thinks, "surrender," it's understood he means, "give up just long enough to kick their collective asses."

Still, when I was thinking about the dialog there, I pictured Cap on the sky-cycle quite clearly (does anyone get to use those at Marvel today, or have they been phased out as not 'street' enough?) but forgot the actual panel was Cap traipsing through the snow. It happens now and again, so there'll be more of these: Memory doesn't always hold true. I'll be thinking of a specific panel, and find the art isn't as good as I remembered, the panel wasn't as big or as central an image as I had thought, or I completely hallucinated the whole thing. OK, that last hasn't happened. Yet.

From "Ultimatum!" Written by Mark Gruenwald, Layouts by Paul Neary, finishes by John Beatty, and a great cover from Mike Zeck. Read more!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

(Mostly) Off-topic: I think I might have to give up on garage sales.

I've been to enough garage sales lately that I've almost got statistically valid data, and I'm starting to think parents in my town outright don't buy their kids any toys. Or if they do, their kids are either girly girls, whose toys I don't want; or they're holding on to their toys with both hands. I've barely found squat of late.

My dad told me once, regarding gambling, that sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is beginner's luck: if you win early, that can set the idea in your head that this is what's supposed to happen, that you're a 'winner.' Then, when the percentages eventually start to grind your winnings down, you may have conditioned yourself to believe the reward is coming when it's not, that one more try is all you need to get that big payout.

I grew up in a small town, and there were no garage sales. Of course, back then people didn't seem to have that burning need to replace all their living room furniture every few years. Eventually I moved to a bigger city, and then when I started going to garage sales, I found gold:
There's more from garage sales, but I don't have time to dig for them.
Freaking sweet. There's more that I didn't want to get out right now, like the old Playmates Star Trek Transporter (it's done with mirrors. Really!) and I'm probably forgetting some others, but I gave all of these guys a good home. In recent years, though, the pickings have been slim. What have I found lately?
Cap's been in the Savage Land the whole time!  You heard it here first!
Man, Jurassic Park Junior seems like a weird branding choice. Kid friendly flesh tearing monsters. ' all fairness, though, I bought that for under a buck for the Youngest, who loves it, and it's sturdy enough for him to stand on (laid on it's side), which is impressive.

And yet, I keep going to sale after sale after sale, making polite conversation with families trying to ditch the old kids' clothes, silverware, non-ATSC compatible TV's and potentially hazardous tools; absolutely convinced that the next sale I hit is going to have that loose Castle Greyskull, a box of old Star Wars figures, or even a lonely Transformer. Sweet zombie Jeebus, lately I'm surprised to even see a sticky pile of Happy Meal toys.

Do. Not. Suggest. ebay. To. Me. I used to quite enjoy checking out loose figures, and there's still some ebay stores or specific items I would get there; but the constant, constant gouging has finally gotten to me. Everybody does it, and I probably have too, but I'm so very tired of seeing $10 shipping and "handling" for a $.99 item. Add to that the lost or wrong items I've never received, the ever-present aggrevation of being outbid at the last second because I have a job and can't hover over my computer to poach auctions, and the nickel-and-diming of buying and selling; gah, I think my blood pressure just shot up typing that.

I wasn't feeling swell yesterday evening, but I had a busy afternoon. Wal-Mart had marked down the Legendary Comic Book Heroes to five bucks; so I got Ripclaw, which had the last build-a-figure piece for Pitt.I love it when a...Pitt comes together, I guess.
Oddly, right before that, the kids and I hit a yard sale by their grandparents' place, where we picked up a couple kid's books, an Aflac duck for the youngest, and an A-Team Col. John "Hannibal" Smith figure from the early 80's. The only way I figured out that's what it was supposed to be was the "Cannell" tag on the back, since it's not a great likeness of George Peppard. In fact, at first I had thought it was a Jimmy Carter action figure. Good use of a dime, or proving my point? You tell me. Read more!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Death! Learn to love it...her...him...whatever.

Until it comes, no one really knows what Death is like. Oh, a lot of people think she's kind and funny and very, very 90's...
I used to find this a lot cuter, to be honest.
Some people are afraid of Death, and find her cold and disturbing...
Hey, I thought 'Pool was a chubby chaser?
Um...sometimes more disturbing than others.
If the Black Racer comes for me, the gospel of Kirby was right!
Maybe it's different for everybody...
Hello, nurse!
Yes, in the land of Skartaris, even Death is a hot, scantily clad babe.

During their search for Morgan's daughter, Travis and Shakira run across a dinosaur--sort of a fat, orange raptor-thing, I guess. His handy .44 automag puts a good sized hole in Dino's head, but it still runs over both of them.

Travis wakes up to Death, who isn't there for him just yet.
OK, that's hot.
Leading Shakira away, Morgan pulls himself up and gives chase, into hell. Kind of a budget hell, really: looks like they spray-painted the "Abandon hope" spiel on the wooden gate in. Past the demon puppeteer, Morgan's greeted by all those he's, just three or four guys he's killed. Sigh. Man, if Grell had gone the same route as the Balder issue of Thor, that would've put this issue over the top.
Oh, come on!  I know Thor killed some of you guys!  And Volstagg fell on you, don't take that out on me!
Facing Death, Morgan offers to take Shakira's place, but Death doesn't want to lose one of her best hitters. She offers Morgan a trade: ten years off his life, for the chance to save Shakira. Morgan accepts, and Death brands him good:
Working at the Bar X ranch sucks!
After hacking up a couple trolls, and a tentacle from nowhere, Morgan carries Shakira out of hell, then passes out. When he wakes up, Shakira is fine and worried about him. It was all just a dream...
Early tattoo removal methods left something to be desired.
Or was it?

Well, I'm not sure it ever came up again, so yeah, it was. Or maybe Morgan gave up fatty foods and smoking and got those ten years back. From Warlord #46, "X" Written and illustrated by Mike Grell, inks by Romeo Tanghal.

Death of the Endless from Death: The Time of Your Life #2, written by Neil Gaiman, pencilled by Chris Bachalo, inks (and some pencils) by Mark Buckingham, more inks by Mark Pennington. This was the only issue with this Death I could find, and I damn well had to dig for it. Figure the rest were lent out, borrowed, or swiped.

Marvel Death from Deadpool #32, "The End of the End, or, Happy Entrails to You..." The last issue written by Joe Kelly, art by David Brewer, Perrotta, Mahlstedt, R.Ramos, and more. A little rushed, and not as strong on the art front as the book usually was; but Kelly had to wrap it up in a hurry.

The Black Racer from Flash: Our Worlds at War #1, "Time on Target" Written by Geoff Johns, pencils by Angel Unzueta, inks by Jose Marzan Jr. Kirby's Racer looks a little better with a more monochrome design, but it's still a bit of a tough sell. The New Gods have had worse redesigns, though: their post-Kirby 70's outfits are across-the-board terrible. Place your bets on the Black Racer being the only surviving New God: I'd say that's about a 20-to-1 shot...

Balder tells how he fought his way out of Hel in Thor #360, "Into the Valley of Death!" Art and story by Walt Simonson. If you haven't read the Simonson era Thor's, let me assure you: get them now, and enjoy them for years. I was actually thinking this was shown in a different issue when I wrote it up, but there you go. Read more!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often around here, honestly.
Yes, I'm reusing scans, to recycle...the environment...conservation...shut up! That's why!

Sonuvabiscuit. I spent about forty-five minutes looking for a specific issue yesterday and didn't find it, eventually coming out of my basement defeated and dejected and about an hour past my bedtime. Then I got the bright idea to try and find it on eBay, and not only was it a bit high, I realized I never had that issue, I had read a friend's copy, and in fact was even thinking of another issue that I did have. And didn't find.

I think during football season I'll make comics organization a little project. Being old, I have no problem with 'watching' a game on a black-and-white TV with a screen inferior to modern handheld game systems: I remember 'radio,' and it's more just for the noise. Even if my sorting is completely primitive, I'd like to get all my Thor comics in one pile, all the various and sundry Legion of Super-Heroes incarnations together, and the assorted missing or misplaced limited series compiled again.

Don't get me wrong: I unabashedly do enjoy digging through a box that contains three different numberings for Green Lantern, random issues of Motormouth, and a lone Optic Nerve--not the issue pictured, either; oddly, GCD didn't have them all. You may have thought I was joking about the Happenstance's just that lately, I'm sorting, and sorting, and sorting. Maybe three times more past that, and it's cutting into my fun, and I'm running out of room to stand in the basement.

But, that's part of the way I enjoy comics. I like digging through a box of comics so disorganized that the more neat/anal-retentive amongst you might tear the box apart in a fit of filing madness. For me, part of the fun is flipping through issue after issue, looking for a Superman comic I might not even have anymore; and coming up with a Kelley Jones Batman or Neal Adams' Deadman reprints or a complete run of Skull the Slayer. (And the issue of Marvel Two-In-One that wrapped up that series when it was cancelled. I defy and demand any readers out there to tell me they have those. I'll be shocked, promise.)

So, while I say I'm going to 'organize' my comics, your guess is as good as mine as to how much of that actually happens. Chances are good I'll end up flipping through boxes, pausing to read forgotten gems like...Forgotten Realms or something.

Much longer entry tomorrow, promise. I wrote most of this entry at work today. Three and a half hours of overtime, which left me a bit loopy, but left me plenty of time to peruse GCD and blogs. Come to think of it, there's more I need to add... Read more!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I often say Dredd's a humorless bastard, but I could be wrong:
The windup...
He could just be really, really deadpan in his delivery.
...and the pitch!
If you read Dredd's panels out loud--which I heartily encourage you to do, particularly if you work in an office setting--I think the most common reading would be the first lines quiet: "Do you have a problem with rats?...No? You know why?" Then loud, and borderline hysteric, "'Cause the goddamn alligators eat them!" Maybe that's an American reading, since I think most of us over here would be upset to the verge of complete panic after the gator attack Dredd mentions, and would probably punch Smellie one in the face for good measure.

For Dredd though, that's either poor form, or Dredd's gravelly voice is menacing enough without him raising it. I don't know if this has ever been mentioned either, but I imagine Dredd has having serious dental problems, from gritting and/or grinding his teeth, clenching his jaw, and so forth.

Drokk, I had this scanned almost a year ago, but didn't note where it was from: from Judge Dredd #30, "Gator" Written by John Wagner and Alan Grant (both as "T.B. Grover"), art by Kim Raymond. I thought of this story again recently, while watching The Hills Have Eyes 2: in the second half of "Gator," a survivalist class had unknowingly set off into the sewers for a final test, which goes about as well as you'd figure. As most of the class is brought through a handfuls...a passerby asks what all that was about. "Survival class." "Huh. Looks like they all flunked out!" I was totally expecting a variation on that at the end of the movie; it sure as hell couldn't have hurt... Read more!

Monday, September 10, 2007

I know Jessica's a Private Investigator, not a doctor, but there's a clue right there.

I got New Avengers #31 out of the quarter box the other day, the issue with the big Skrull reveal and so on. But I think the above panel was more of a clue: in a really badly laid out two pages (the fold is in the way, and it reads in the shape of a two, for some reason) Jessica Jones and Wong get a message from Dr. Strange via the Orb of Agamotto:
Doc's grimace is less of pain, than staring daggers at Jessica.
"Is he hurt?" Strange has got a gruddamn katana sticking out of his frickin' chest! I've never read Alias, but was Jessica a detective of the "beat it out of a stoolie" school, rather than the "Piece together the clues" variety?

Now, Jessica could be a Skrull with no working knowledge of human anatomy ("Refresh my memory: is disemboweling fatal to your species?") but the rest of the page establishes her as more concerned about her husband than anything. Of course, her husband is the more-or-less invulnerable Luke Cage, which paints Jessica as uncaring, selfish, or at least a bit short-sighted. Gah. I used to really like Bendis: Jinx, the first couple years of Powers, but lately...And Leinil Yu is someone I always hear great things about, but hasn't impressed me yet. Phooey.

Off-topic: Usually, I have my Monday night post done well before now, but we were over at my in-laws last night. I ducked out to watch the Simpsons and the Cowboys game (I'm probably the only Cowboys fan in this neck of the woods...) while they watched Big Brother, but the Wife was hanging out to try and see Britney Spears on the MTV Video Music Awards. Yeah, it was terrible, but so what? And then the Wife was following a lot of the commentary and bloggery, most of which harshed on her to no end. Plus, there's a surprising amount of calling Britney fat or paunchy or whatever. She may not look like she did as a teenager, but who does, and I'm pretty sure she's in better shape than 99% of the naysayers.

But, to bring that (tangentially) back to comics, don't think I'm an apologist for Britney: she's either hitting the sauce/pills/black tar pretty hard, or completely doesn't care about her career anymore. Which may be a fair reaction, after years of being pushed into it by showbiz stage parents and record labels and MTV. Warren Ellis had a comment not long ago, to the effect that it used to be a pop siren like Britney had a pretty short shelf life: use just once, then destroy. A hit single or two, a year of tours and magazine covers and making yourself absolutely ubiquitous at all costs; then you were old hat, passe, make way for the new, which is really the old with maybe a new hat. Be a pop star for a summer, then go back to school or get your real estate license or just disappear. None of this, trying to be Madonna and to play out the line of a career for years and years.

I used to be a music purist, and have a pretty harsh contempt for the Britney Spears of the world, the pre-packaged pop bands, the sellouts, the hacks, the followers, the avant-garde. I don't care anymore, which is kind of nice, to be honest. My sense of outrage, that people listen to, buy, or get worked up about this nonsense; is like a vestigial organ, useless, perhaps wiggling occasionally. I'm too busy trying to raise some wiener kids, put together action figure dioramas, and remember if I have any comics with Ultra the Multi Alien. Yeah, I'm OK with that, too. Read more!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hey, Blue Beetle!

Mind if I take the afternoon off?
For...for realsies?
Oh, like you never.
The Wii was too much like exercise, eh Ted?

From DCU Heroes Secret Files #1, "Spies Like Us" Written by D. Curtis Johnson, pencils by Derec Aucoin, inks by Claude St. Aubin. This was a short little Chase story, where she's supposed to be working with Sarge Steel on interagency procedure integration, but it's more a walking tour through DC's B and C-list characters. And 'Sarge Steel' turns out to be the Martian Manhunter...for some reason.

That said, it's a relatively charming little story, although the art and Chase herself seem a little softer than usual for her. I was thinking Chase was a bit more strongly against capes or supers or whatever, but I could be wrong, since she doesn't seem to be having too bad of a time here. She playfully tells Sarge/J'onn that while she's deduced Batman's secret identity, she ain't telling; Sarge/J'onn calls her a terrible liar. Together, they check out Wildcat, Hitman, Anarky, and more.
Your tax dollars at work, I guess...
In another story, a DEO (Department of Extranormal Operations) employee tries to turn whistleblower on the ultra-top-secret hero killer contingency program. It's cute the way DC will try and work new heroes into this sort of thing, but there's no way anyone was sweating on how to kill Inferno. No Wonder Woman defense-slash-murder plan, but if Inferno goes bad the government's ready for her! Well, maybe that's not that far off from how the government would actually work...(Panels from "Above Top Secret" Written by Mark Millar, pencilled by Matthew Clark, inks by Tom Simmons)

All of this, equals an afternoon off? Hmm. Read more!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sweet Aunt Petunia, this week is kicking my ass sideways. And it's a short week, so I'm now at a loss for how this could have happened. I should blame comics being late...

Things could be worse, though, so to speak: I could be the Thing.
'BADROOM!'  Home of the BADTOUCH, I guess.
Not just because being a huge orange monster would probably kill my sex life, I wouldn't be able to fit in my car, and I probably wouldn't get a lot of typing done if I was short a couple of fingers. No, it would suck because for being one of the mightiest people on the face of the earth, Ben gets knocked out. A lot.
Ben really wishes Reed's safety recall on H.E.R.B.I.E. had come sooner.
A lot of that's dramatic license or shorthand or formula: more often than not, Ben has to be taken out of action to give another Fantastic Four member a chance to shine, or to keep the issue going another ten pages, or to show the villain's plot being at least somewhat planned out.
Shouldn't there be high voltage signs all over the Baxter Building?
These panels are from three straight issues of Fantastic Four, which, allowing for Marvel Time, means they probably took place within a month at the outside, but they seem more likely the same week. So, the next time you think you're having a hard week, ask yourself: Have I been electrocuted in the last couple of days? More than once? Yeah, I didn't think so either. Things will look up...again, so to speak.

Panel one from Fantastic Four #216, "Where There Be Gods!" Story by Marv Wolfman, dialog by Bill Mantlo, pencils by John Byrne, finishes by Pablo Marcos.

Panel two from Fantastic Four #217, "Masquerade!" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by John Byrne and Joe Sinnott.

And panel three Fantastic Four #218, "When A Spider-Man Comes Calling!" Bill Mantlo, "Co-opted writer," John Byrne and Joe Sinnott "artists in residence." Probably my first real (non-reprint) FF comic. Read more!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just Long Annotations: another big Justice League of America post:

Comics were delayed at my local shop a couple of weeks back (they were mistakenly sent by train, apparently) so they had a 15% off sale on back issues. I probably could've rooted around in the boxes for hours, if the kids hadn't been squirrelly as all get out. The Oldest likes to go to the shop, but gets what he needs and then is ready to go. The Youngest was trying to climb a shelf.

I did find an old Justice League of America with Adam Strange, but this makes at least the second time I've picked up a JLA back issue with Adam, only to get part 1 of a story, and to never find the conclusion. And I like Adam Strange, but he's played for a bit of a punk in both of these issues, presumably to triumphantly redeem himself, somehow, in the conclusion.

Then I found Justice League of America #200: a good copy, so it wasn't out of my comfort pricing. I was always a sucker for the double sized issues, and this one would've made it home on the strength of the artists alone, including Gil Kane, George Perez, Joe Kubert, and just to make you miss his interior work, Brian Bolland. Bolland's section, where Batman schools Black Canary and Green Arrow, is, well:
Maybe if Dinah and Ollie hadn't been standing practically on top of each other, that might've gone better...
I don't usually run two pages together, but...
I want to like Ollie, but, sigh...After this showing, I think I see why Batman formed the Outsiders.
Holy hell, Brian Bolland can draw. Somewhere, I have a Judge Dredd reprint with a short Bolland page about why he doesn't draw Dredd anymore; and if he was burned out he at least had a sense of humor about it. Weirdly, I also picked Hellstrom: Prince of Lies #15 out of the quarter box the same day I bought this--I'm a big Ellis fan, and Leonardo Manco should be a bigger name. #15's cover was crap, but the letter's page promised a Bolland cover for the next issue, and it was featured on his entry in Wikipedia. Seems odd that Hellstrom and Lady Blackhawk are featured there rather than, say, Wonder Woman or Batman, but nothing wrong with that.
Two seconds later, the Bat-Dummy probably douses them in tear-gas or something...
I love the Bat-dummy, too; it may be the Sensational Character Find of 1982. Green Arrow tries to play it off like they would've had Bats without the diversion, but I imagine he was long gone, and left the dummy just to mess with them. Whenever Batman doesn't seem to be doing much in a story, figure he's subbed in the dummy, and ditched out to get some real work done.

Aside from that, I was a little disappointed with this issue; if only because I've seen the Appellaxians, done better, at least three other times: I loved JLA: Year One wholeheartedly, the Secret Origins version is funny and charming, and both have the more endearing Black Canary instead of Wonder Woman, who appears in the original Justice League of America #9. (I only have a reprint of that one, of course, probably from a digest.)

Yes, I called Canary more endearing. Tell me Wonder Woman would be more fun to hang out with than Dinah, and I will call you a liar.

Back to the Appelaxians: usually I'd have no problems with the return of a bunch of cranky, warmongering aliens that included a tree guy and a blob-of-mercury guy. It's just that their return in this one is so...dumb. Even for comics. And they have kryptonite meteors and eyebeams because...because...Also, since their whole reason for coming to earth was to fight out who got to rule their homeworld; considering one Appelaxian is diamond and another is fire, the two that got glass and wood either drew the shorter straws, or were handicapped going in.

I have no problem with the original Leaguers hypnotised and fighting the others, though: I'm a Marvel fan, and that's practically mandatory. Hawkman gets the shaft on this one: he's supposed to stop Superman. Alone. Where's Shayera?
'Crap! My favorite mace! The museum makes me pay for those!'
Hmm, I might not want my wife to see this, either, even if Joe Kubert drew it:
Carter never sees the punch coming, and neither do we.
Hawkman takes out a couple Superman robots, before the big man himself knocks "the bird-man" into the stratosphere. Pretty sure a punch that hard would've turned Hawkman into a smear with feathers, except, um, doesn't Nth Metal give him a healing factor or some damn thing now? He didn't have it in the stories then, but OK...anyway, in low earth orbit, he's hit by a zeta-beam, and zapped to Rann.

Yeah, this is just to get Adam Strange a little page time in this issue, but he comes off as a little harsh: referring to the first Rann-Thanagar War (which I'm not sure I even knew about before) Adam beams Hawkman back "somewhere in earth orbit, near your satellite." Near? Ah, close enough. It gives Elongated Man a chance to shine, but there are a lot of questions: Can Hawkman survive in space? Would even a hypnotised Superman potentially kill someone? The very other issue of JLA I bought mentioned there were no more zeta-beams being sent to earth, so why did one hit Hawkman? (That was an older issue, Rann could very well have started again.) I like Adam's costume, but does he have to wear it all the time? (On further thought, yeah, I would too.)
I'm going to give Aquaman the benefit of the doubt, and assume he was unfamiliar with the negative connotations of that phrase.
It keeps coming: why doesn't Firestorm, or Professor Stein at least, recognize the Martian Manhunter? You'd think his picture would be there somewhere, or they'd mention the history of the League during orientation. Wasn't Snapper living in shame after betraying the League, yet he's back this issue like he'd just been out for coffee? The hypnotised Aquaman didn't remember his brutal recent past: losing his wife, son, etc. Wouldn't he be crushed, or super-pissed, when it came back to him?

In the end, the JLA splits into smaller teams, as usual, and kicks the hell out of the Appelaxians pretty quickly, as usual. On the last page, as J'onn J'onzz and Snapper Carr depart again; Green Arrow has a change of heart and rejoins the League. So, there's at least one (semi-)lasting change this issue at least.

From Justice League of America #200, "A League Divided" Written by Gerry Conway, framing sections art by George Perez and Brett Breeding, and Roy Thomas credited as technical advisor. Individual chapters by Jim Aparo, Terry Austin, Brian Bolland, Pat Broderick, Frank Giacoia, Dick Giordano, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, and Joe Kubert. Read more!