Friday, May 02, 2008

Maybe if winter's really over, my mood'll improve. Maybe. Slowly.

If you've ever seen the first Jackass movie, there's a scene where the guys are cutting themselves or each other, and squirting lemon juice in the cuts. About halfway through the scene, Johnny Knoxville mutters "This is stupid," and wanders out of the room. That just about sums up how I felt yesterday, and maybe for most of April. I'm still kind of crabby right now, but May looks like a lot of fun coming up, so that'll improve.

Here's a knot of tangents that I've stumbled upon lately: I read Steven Grant's Permanent Damage column every week, and this week Grant mentions not caring for the recent Flash Gordon comic. (I don't know who it’s by either. I've seen a variant cover for it in some banner ads at Newsarama or somewhere, but that's it.) While he's not a fan of the character, Grant points out the old Alex Raymond Flash Gordon was dynamic and exciting; and the new one is "cookie-cutter, nondescript Amerimanga art." Which is probably true, but...

When I was younger, all I knew about Flash Gordon was the old Filmation cartoon, and the movie. The cartoon seemed cool even though I'd only seen a few of the episodes (that may have helped it, really) and my elementary school had a laserdisc player, back in the day with the plate-sized discs, and a Flash Gordon disc with about a quarter of the movie that refused to play. (Aren't there some scenes in a swamp or something?) I had either negligible or no exposure to the classic comics version of Flash.
Kinda prefer Flash as a football player, but...
So, when Dan Jurgens did a Flash Gordon limited series for DC, I was able to read that without a lot of preconceptions about the character. Jurgens made a few changes: Arden was a more assertive reporter than she may have been in the old strips, Ming wasn't an Asian stereotype, but the biggest changes were for Flash himself. In this version, he was a forty-year old NBA player, nearing the end of his career bitter and full of regrets. He starts out a bit of a pig, but grows over the course of the series.

I'm not sure this version appealed to the old-school fans at all, who were probably more accustomed to a traditionally heroic Flash; not a divorced dad who badmouths Star Wars and Star Trek as being for "geeks and nerds!" in his first issue. The weird thing is, that skull is like greasepaint or something.
The series had a letters column, and there were a few complaints about that one. Could you imagine someone pulling that today? It would be like Spider-Man telling the reader comics were for chronic bedwetters and credit risks.

(I really censored myself on that last line...)

But, even if it wasn't for everyone, I loved the hell out of this series. Even though I had to drive eighty miles for each issue. (Admittedly, I was probably in braces at the time, so...) Every issue ended in a cliffhanger (except the last one, duh) and these were the days before pull boxes in my area, so every month I was sweating trying to find the next one. (Tempus Fugitive was the other book I recall scrambling for, although I don't think they were at the same time. Coincidentally, the main characters in that book were named Alex and Ray, after Flash's creator.)

GCD was down as I write this, so I have no idea if this series was ever collected. I don't think it was, and I could see the rights for something like Flash Gordon being an ongoing legal quagmire. For example, if something becomes popular in one version of it, like a new character or location on Mongo, does it become canon, or would that aspect still belong to whoever added it? Hell if I know. I also can't say if I would've enjoyed Jurgen's version any more or less if I had read the Alex Raymond originals. The only version I've read or seen since has been some of Al Williamson's. (I haven't seen the Sci-Fi channel version or any of the later cartoons.)

Moving further down the tangent, yesterday I bagged on DC Universe 0, and I've been checking out some other reviews on it to see if I'm the only naysayer. Over at the Savage Critic Douglas "thought it was Excellent as a teaser and value-for-money--I want to read what happens next--and n/a as a story," which I have to say, is a fair assessment. But then, Valerie at Occasional Superheroine correctly points out that it's an ad, and "I hear some people comment that DC Universe #0 should have just been a Free Comic Book Day offering. I disagree. It is not new-reader friendly. DC is much better off with Superman, Batman, or whatever."
Seriously, anyone still have this lying around?
The idea that it's a fifty-cent ad struck me, especially since I was flipping through that issue of Flash Gordon for an ad, the subscription offer for Manhunter that I mentioned a couple of days back. It was so hard to believe, I went through it a couple of times, but in all of Flash Gordon #2, there were no ads other than house ads for other DC books. It was a new format, actually called "new format," and for some reason, I seem to recall those books as having a lot of weird public-service government ads, too. No reason I know of, just because.

Meanwhile, in other pissing and moaning, I went to Wal-Mart on my lunch break today, as I often do. The kids and I were at a different Wal-Mart yesterday to get coffee and whatnot--little secret, I drink the cheapest available coffee. The toy section there was planogrammed out, but largely bare, awaiting the street date for Indiana Jones, Hulk, and Batman toys.

So, I was all excited for my lunch, foodless as it might be, jumpy with the prospect of seeing all sorts of new things. As I approached the action figure aisle, I passed an Indiana Jones Lego display I hadn't seen before, and then...nothing. Not a single new thing. Not even Kung Fu Panda. Nothing that hadn't been there for seemingly ever. This store hadn't even cleared any space for the new stuff.

It was disappointing, even though I'm not all that interested in any of those lines. For the most part, I think they're all out of scale with my usual tastes, although I'll doubtless want at least one Indiana Jones figure. Still, just to even see new toys at this point would've cheered me up, and there's every possibility something would've jumped out and made me buy it. I checked my notebook of toys yesterday, and saw I hadn't bought a new figure all of April. Well, that explains at least some of the crankiness. Still, long weekend coming up for me: enjoy your Free Comic Book Day, and be back later.

1 comment:

Brendan Deneen said...

I'd be happy to send you a copy of FLASH GORDON #0, which we debuted at the New York City Comic-Con two weeks ago. People seem to be digging it.


--Brendan Deneen