Thursday, May 31, 2012

80-Page Thursdays: Batman Family #18!

I don't wanna be a crook! I wanna be a fireman!
Because I'm obviously insane, I have 80-Page Thursdays written almost six months (!) in advance. So, this was written in January, and I can only hope I'm still diligently blogging away and haven't been lured away by something shiny or abducted or anything. Today, from 1978, Batman Family #18, featuring stories by Denny O'Neil, Bob Rozakis, and Paul Levitz; and art by Michael Golden, Joe Staton, Juan Ortiz, and more.

"The Monstrosity Chase!" opens with Batman gunned down by the Gargoyle Gang. Well, a Batman; an actor working security guarding an aging actress and a golden mask. That, and a brief scene of Batman saving a radio DJ from being mugged, is mostly just setup, for a rather exciting chase through the sewers--the gang took a hostage, the sewer plans are out of date, and severe flooding is coming. There's a lot going on for a 20-page story, but it comes together nicely.
I'm guessing the forty-year old with the streak in her hair, Dick.
Next, in "The Fine Art of Murder," Dick Grayson is snoozing through his art history class, when a student is killed by a sniper. Quickly changing to Robin--Dick apparently wears at least three layers of clothes--he catches the sniper, but someone knifes the killer to silence him. Getting the clues to a Rembrandt smuggling ring leads to some friction with Dick's love interest Lori, which appears to be setting up something for the next issue; but aside from Barbara, did Dick ever have a halfway decent girlfriend? (I know he was with Starfire for a long time in Teen Titans, but that seems to be handwaved away as a phase or something.)
Wait, she was wearing her Batgirl outfit, under her clothes, on a date? That date was either going nowhere, or somewhere great...
Speaking of the "Dominoed Daredoll," (and man, Gail Simone needs to bring that back) the next story Batgirl defends against "Assault on the Pentagon!" Congresswoman Babs is out parking by the Potomac with Senator Tom Cleary, but before anything crosses party lines (hey-o!) she spies a commando group on the river, and has to slap Tom as fresh to excuse herself.

One of the commandos is wearing an amusingly garish skimask and scarf, but for a reason! It's Madame Zodiac, who plans on using "the largest man-made pentagram in the world!" on this night of mystical confluence or something, to give herself mighty astral powers. Like optic blasts, for instance.

When the army is gassed out of commission, Batgirl uses a dropped pistol briefly, but that seemed more to underline the uses of her utility belt then anything: she uses at least four different items from it in 12 pages. I kinda liked this one.

In "Man-Bat No More!" Kirk Langstrom mopes over his scrapbook of cases, since as a new dad, he's resigned himself to giving up super-heroing. Although he's a zoologist who created a pill to turn into Man-Bat, he's had a harder time parleying that into cash money, so he's working at a factory. His wife Francine feels bad, and thinks Kirk should go ahead and be Man-Bat, but he feels it would be too addictive and too hard to work full-time days and flap around nights.

Meanwhile, another Man-Bat is seen nights, stopping a robbery and vandalism of a school. Kirk swears it isn't him, but worries he may be sleepwalking; as he see a report that his old villain SNAFU has broken out of jail. (It was him or the Ten-Eyed Man; Man-Bat hadn't built up a deep rogues' gallery.) The...ugh..."razzle-dazzle villain" terrorizes Madison Square Garden, but as Man-Bat arrives, Kirk is home, asleep, alone...! I liked this version of Man-Bat, as solid family guy with a decent head on his shoulders; since numerous other versions make him out to be a loon or a loser, with assorted creepy personality problems as needed.

Lastly, we visit Earth-2 and the Huntress in "A Choice of Destinies." Helena Wayne's day job as a lawyer at a public interest research group, is not leaving her especially satisfied; she feels enforcing the law as the Huntress is more necessary. Costuming up, she helps save some people from a burning building, but then sees a man give a small child cash and a bomb...more so than the Man-Bat one, this reads like a chapter rather than a full story. Still, a solid, solid 80-pager here; although in retrospect I'm not sure the cover has much to do with the contents, save a reference to Gotham's sewers!
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chibis, Squinkies, Bonkazonks, googum...not a real word in the whole post.

Long time readers know I usually keep a running total of the action figures I buy over the course of the year. It's been a little light this month, since I've been picking up little things. They're toys, sure; but not proper action figures, so they don't always "count." The Avengers chibis, for example. (Oddly, I had a row of them mounted with sticky-tac on my monitor at home; until my Youngest son decided they had to come down. He said he thought they'd fall off, but rolled the sticky-tac back into a ball and put it away...!)

The Nightcrawler Squinkie was part of an X-Men set, although I'll probably give all or most of the rest to my nephews. Then, today I found the Nightcrawler Bonkazonk in a four-pack, with a Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Onslaught. They're odd little things--I thought they would be like tops, but they're weighted differently than that.
I'll usually go out of my way to pick up any new Nightcrawler trinket, and fortunately these two were pretty easy.

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"It's a Shame About Ray."

"It's a Shame About Ray" is, of course, the title of the Lemonheads' fifth album. No YouTube links because I hate them. (I do love me some Juliana Hatfield, however.)

Off-topic already...that's a good sign. The Indigo Tribe Atom figure isn't necessarily bad, but it definitely wasn't one I went out of my way for. I got him at a Fred Meyer store about three blocks from my house, clearanced down to $8.84. But he wasn't the only one marked down, as we'll see next week...

I'm only vaguely keeping up with events in the proper Green Lantern comic; but I know the recent storyline has been all about "the Secret of the Indigo Tribe." It's kind of messed up, and makes compassion--that is the "emotional spectrum" indigo is supposed to be, right?--seem completely weak. Well, the Talking Heads were right: "They say compassion is a virtue, but I don't have the time."

Two band references this idea if that means something.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I need to set up a tag for 'recidivism.'

Here's a random one from the quarter bin: Batman: Gotham Knights #46, "Scared Straight" Written by Scott Beatty, pencils by Roger Robinson, inks by John Floyd. And it hits on something we've seen before here: Batman vs. recidivism.

The Spook, a hypnotist and escape artist, is up for parole after serving seven or eight years. Although it seems like he's reformed, since he passed up a couple easy escapes from Blackgate like during the Bat-quake, Batman tells his crew that this time they're going to be 'proactive.' At a halfway house, the Spook seems rough, but still seems clean; telling a young would-be offender "Addiction is a prison. Escape it." But, Robin and Nightwing keep a watch on him, and catch him using hypnotism to short-change a clerk.

Being forced to return the money would be bad enough, but the Spook's day gets worse when the Russian mob, on a tip from KGBeast, pick him up as a prospective asset. When he arrives at a mob warehouse, he finds the Bat...girl. Cassandra beat the hell out of everyone there as an example, and sends the Spook home with a videotape to hammer the point home: Batman isn't alone in Gotham. (The tape actually displays a "self-destruct in five seconds" message.) The next night, Batman tells the gang that the Spook violated his parole (attempted armed-robbery, although he didn't really have a gun) and turned himself in. Did they pressure him into a bad decision? Yes, probably; although Bats says they just showed the Spook he still had some rehabilitating to do.
A surprisingly dicked-up issue, especially since Bruce is funding Bane's world travels at the time...

The back-up Black & White story is much more fun: a writer pitches and pitches his idea for a coffee-table book on the crazy old architecture of Gotham City: buildings shaped like blenders, cash registers, toasters. But, he's told those are dated and camp, and he might be forced to do a book on gothic design and gargoyles instead; when he finally gets a taker...from Signal Publishing, a division of Wayne Enterprises...
"Urban Renewal" Written by Will Pfeifer, art by Brent Anderson.
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Monday, May 28, 2012

When you come up with a title like "Doom, Where's my Car?" half your job is done already.

I think a lot of comic shops didn't stock many of the all-ages Marvel Adventures books. That was probably partly because of the stigma of the all-ages label; and I think Marvel's prior kid-friendly offerings had been dumbed down too much. Still, I've read a number of them, many reprinted for Target stores and sold on the cheap; but a few I picked up primarily on the strength of crazy Silver-Age style covers. Marvel Adventures Spider-Man had some good ones; Marvel Adventures Avengers had one great one; but today we check out a Fantastic Four one! From 2006, Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four #12, "Doom, Where's My Car?" Written by Jeff Parker, pencils by Juan Santacruz, inks by Raul Fernandez.
When Ben and Johnny are putting some stuff in the basement of the Baxter Building, Johnny finds an old classic car. Ben recognizes it as Reed's from college, and Johnny decides it must be his. He 'asks' Reed for it, by yelling at him as he flies by while Reed's neck-deep in an experiment. While working on it, Johnny notices "all kinds of high-tech machinery in places," and assumes Reed must've modified it himself. For good measure, Johnny also explains why someone who can fly needs a car anyway: dates, for one.

After weeks of "playing Monster Garage," as Sue puts it; Johnny unveils his newly painted ride. Reed immediately recognizes it, and after a bit of arguing, lets Johnny have it, with a warning that the car has a history. Later, when the team gets called to fight the Rhino and the Sandman, Johnny takes his car, and finds it's more tricked-out than he expected, with flight and a force-field. It's surprisingly effective:

Still, while Johnny's having a ton of fun, someone else takes an interest in his ride. Yoink!
Sue and Ben laugh at Johnny's story of Doom stealing his car, so the next day Johnny decides to fly to Latveria. The rest of the team catch up to him later with the Fantasticar, since Johnny was off-course and on his way to the North Pole. Reed explains he never told Johnny who sold him the car...

Meanwhile, in Latveria, it's their biggest national holiday: Dr. Doom's birthday! Sadly, Parker doesn't give us a date. It's a mandatory party, but the people seem to be enjoying themselves a little, since they don't have any choice, and there is cake. The inventors and toymakers of Latveria present Doom with several giant robots; and a disguised Reed presents automaton "toys" of Ben and Johnny. Another inventor presents the recovered, and restored car, which he stole from Johnny with the help of a refurbished Doombot. Doom is suitably touched, since he built it to fly him to college in the states. Reed is relieved to find it wasn't taken for some sinister purpose or hidden weapon; but Johnny's not having that.

As a fight with Doom's presents breaks out, and Johnny and Doom squabble, Reed points out it was his car: he traded Doom an anti-matter regulator for it, so he could have wheels to take Susan out. (Susan is thrilled, but...wasn't she like twelve when Reed was in college? I'm probably wrong. Hopefully.) Doom has to admit, that sounds like something he'd say, but it's here now, so it's his. Finally, Ben does his best King Solomon impression, and rips the car in half, which has to be immensely satisfying. As the FF heads home, and Doom's anti-aircraft batteries open up, Reed reminds Johnny: "You don't own your possessions, your possessions own you." I'd say that's a good moral, or I would if I didn't have a home full of comics, toys, and nonsense. Like Johnny, and Doom, I learned nothing. Hmm.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

By this point, it's been a couple weeks since I saw the Avengers...

...although, I might take the kids again here shortly: I got a free ticket from the movie-reward card I had, then another from the DVD of the animated Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. There may be spoilers for both upcoming, or not, so beware.
While I quite liked the movie, I love the cartoon; although I have the feeling that with the spectre of cancellation looming, the cartoon's writers have seemingly opted to try and cram as much cool stuff from the Marvel Universe as they can before the end. Recent episodes featured Michael Korvac and the modern Guardians of the Galaxy, the Ballad of Beta Ray Bill, the Heroes for Hire and Scott Lang Ant-Man, and the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom. Any one of those could've been given another episode or three, but EMH is also still doing its version of Secret Invasion, which will probably be more enjoyable when it ends: we've known who the Skrull is since the end of the first season, but the 'reveal' hasn't come yet...
But, the expansive nature of the cartoon underlines my apprehension with the movie's mid-credits reveal of a certain cosmic villain: I have a hard time picturing him in a movie, since he's been in a number of stories I like, but also comes with a certain amount of backstory and baggage that would almost certainly have to be cut. In fact, that's probably true of most of the Avengers comics that are personal favorites of mine: they would either be utterly unfilmable, or not fit in with the established mythology and look of the movies, or would be completely impenetrable to a wider audience. Well, 'completely impenetrable' unless you devote a movie or three to setting them up.
And honestly? That's OK. There are things the movies can do well, and things an episodic cartoon series can do (I say 'episodic' because if Jeph Loeb's pushes the notion of only single-shot episodes, I'll be super-pissed) but there are things comics do, that only comics can do. If they're allowed to...
I'm tired of comics that think they're the unwanted bastard cousin of movies; or at best an embryonic storyboard, an unhatched film. I want comics that can tell a complete story in a single issue, even if it is "to be continued," not just a small installment of a future trade. Maybe I'm just bitching because I'd like to maybe read Avengers comics again some day, and Marvel seems deadset against making one I'd like to read.
Going through some of my favorite, and presumably unfilmable, Avengers moments; I'm a little surprised how many of them involve defeat, utter failure, or loss. Hmm.
Cap's getting a little sick of the public, and he's not the only one, in Avengers #25, "The Ninth Day" Written by my favorite Avengers writer, Kurt Busiek, art by George Perez, inks by Al Vey.

It would take two or three movies to build up to this, but man, what a payoff it would be. Or, just read Avengers Annual #7, "The Final Threat" Script, pencils, and page 30 inks by Jim Starlin; finishes by Joe Rubinstein.

Hawkeye is a cheating bastard, even if he did save the universe, in Avengers Annual #16, "The Day Death Died!" Written by Tom DeFalco, breakdowns by Bob Hall, inks by Tom Palmer.

That kid is going to break his foot kicking Ultron's adamantium melon around, in Avengers #57, "Behold...the Vision!" Written by Percy Bysshe Shelley Roy Thomas! Pencils by John Buscema (and Marie Severin) and inks by George Klein. (I have the Marvel Super Action #18 reprint.)

Hawkeye faces Excedrin headache #498, as Whirlwind shames a pile of Avengers; in Avengers #4, "Too Many Avengers!" Written by Kurt Busiek, pencils by George Perez, inks by Al Vey and Bob Wiacek.

After Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil are defeated, Cap needs a moment, in Avengers #277, "The Price of Victory" Written by Roger Stern, pencils by John Buscema, inks by Tom Palmer.

Kang forces the Wasp, at the time the Avengers' co-chair, to sign earth's surrender, in Avengers #49, "There Are No Words..." (One of those wordless, 'Nuff Said issues.) Written by Kurt Busiek, Pencils by Kieron Dwyer, inks by Rick Remender.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

"One afternoon on the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier..."

Of course the Helicarrier has a gift shop, it's got everything else.

Just a quick one, since this is our sixth year of Random Happenstance! And yet we still have the production values of a seventies episode of Dr. Who. An early seventies episode.

EDIT: Oh, silly, I didn't mention those little Avengers chibi figures? $2.99 a pack at your local Wal-Mart, Target, or good grocery store. And the Cap one is harder to find than plutonium. They're blind-packed, though, and if you have any experience with the Lego mini-figures, you may be able to feel Cap's shield in the package. If you're not afraid to completely molest a bunch of packs, that is. Still, if that's the worst thing someone sees at Wal-Mart...

Fury and Coulson's guns are easy to feel, but they're pretty common. Hawkeye is slightly less so, but his bow is pretty big. Thor's hammer is smaller, but distinctive; and the Hulk is larger as well. I finally got a full set, so that obsession is done...

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80-Page Thursdays: Marvel Super-Heroes #10!

I don't know why I like that costume, but it looks good on her, too.
Sixth anniversary or no, we're still going to have our usual 80-pager today. We're just going to do a quick one, though. From Summer 1992, Marvel Super-Heroes #10, featuring stories from Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo, and Barry Dutter; and art by Mike Mignola, Patrick Archibald, and Mike Vosburg.

We saw part of this issue some time ago: a Vision and Scarlet Witch story with Mike Mignola art. There's also a Namor fill-in issue, with the Rhino working as muscle for a crooked businessman, and a female 'Tigress Shark.' This was set around John Byrne's run on the book, which featured Namor in a suit and fighting Wall Street. Metaphorically. People probably would've been OK with him literally doing that, too.
Sabretooth wasn't anywhere near that strong in his first appearances, so he's really fighting out of his league here.
The big draw of this issue is probably Chris Claremont's unpublished Ms. Marvel #24, guest-starring Iron Man and featuring Carol vs. Sabretooth. This would've been a very early appearance for him--best guess, if published, it may have been his second appearance--and Claremont was already laying the groundwork of his connection to Wolverine. Yeah, Sabretooth only ever became popular on Wolvie's coattails; and it may be odd for some readers to see how lithe he used to be, since he usually appears overly bulked-up nowadays. (Personally, I liked him better when he got fiercely jobbed in Spectacular Spider-Man #116.)

We'll have another post up a little later today. For some reason...
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"News at Eleven."

Today's strip has been years in the making: I knew I wanted to do one with DC's assorted reporters, but it wouldn't come together. Until now!

Just like any wrestler interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund, the Creeper and the Question both commandeer that mike, and they aren't giving it up easy.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So, what's up with the Heckler?

So, the other day Dale asked me what's the deal with the Heckler, since I've gone on and on about him mentioned him before here and there. The short answer would be (too late) a Keith Giffen comic from 1992 which he's said he wrote "as if Bugs Bunny were a super-hero." (Don't ask where he said that...I thought the write-up at CBR's Comics You Should Own mentioned it, but maybe not.)

It's a weird, fun, funny series; which is also pretty densely packed since Giffen generally sticks to the nine-panel grid he'd been using for quite some time, like in Legion of Super-Heroes. His collaborators from Legion, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, join him here as well. And I just love the idea of some guy in the DCU's weirdest town, just up and deciding he needs to put on a costume to fight crime and protect the citizens; despite having no powers, no training, and no readily apparent skills except maybe an extraordinary ability to mouth off.

I was going to say I like the idea of the Heckler more than the actual execution, but after re-reading those issues, I like them quite a bit as well. Sadly, he hasn't made a lot of appearances since his book...almost twenty years ago, good lord. I hear he makes a cameo in Patton Oswalt's JLA: Welcome to the Working Week, but I've never seen it. Still, if Go Native Toys ever gets around to a six-inch Blanx figure, I'm definitely painting one into the Heckler. Those HA's are going to be murder...

Scans from Heckler #4, "Let Them Make Up Their Own Stupid Title!" Plot and pencils by Keith Giffen, inks by Bob Lewis, script by Tom and Mary Bierbaum. (Fan club from issue #3, inks by Malcolm Jones III.)

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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Spokane Comicon was Saturday, and I came away with a spine-crushing load of books. This isn't going to be a complete list, since some of them we'll see eventually on 80-Page Thursdays or "The End" week. And sadly, I only found a very few of the books on my list: four of the five Heckler's I needed, and a couple of X-51's.

G.I. Joe Yearbook #4
Marvel Tales #3, #7, #9
Warlock Special Edition #3
Conan the Barbarian #269
DC Comics Presents Annual #2
Superman #254, #338
Superman Special #1
Superman: City Under Siege (or "Seige," no record though.)
Superman: the Earth Stealers
Superman/Batman #50
Action Comics #586, 589, Weekly #515
Captain Atom #1, Annual #1
Doom Patrol #42
Marvel Two-in-One #99
Iron Man #273
Punisher Max: Tiny Ugly World
Punisher: War Zone #12-16
Solomon Kane #1-3
Power of the Atom #17, 18
Thor Annual #2
Six Million Dollar Man #2
World War Hulk: AfterSmash
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Seattle
Who's Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #4
Justice League of America Annual #1
Warlord #104
Sgt. Rock Special #6
Thor #400, #450
Green Lantern #147, Corps #213
Bulletproof Coffin #6
Jonah Hex #63
Micronauts #37
Universe X: Cap

And some more, that I'm not going to mention since we'll have a few surprises. And we might check out a panel or three from the above as we go on, too.

I didn't get any figures this show, though, which is a mild disappointment. But, I did get Ship of Fools #2 and Alabaster: Wolves #1 signed by Michael Avon Oeming! He was super nice, too.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Spokane Comic-Con this weekend!

Scan from Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #8, (and reprinted in "World's Greatest" in Target stores) "It's Slobberin' Time!" Written by Jeff Parker, pencils by Manuel Garcia, inks by Scott Koblish.

Tomorrow's the Spokane Comicon, which I'm ridiculously excited for. It's not a huge show, but I'm looking for cheap comics and loose figures; not long lines and panels you can't get into. Hopefully, next Monday will be a long, long list of new junk. We'll see!

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

80-Page Thursdays: Superman 80-Page Giant #1!

We checked out an earlier one of these a while back (with the same numbering even!) and commented how DC sometimes seems to use their 80-page books as tryouts for new writers and artists, as well as a chance for established creators to take a quick shot with a character. This one seems to be more of the former: from 2010, Superman 80-Page Giant #1, featuring stories by Kathryn Immonen, Pat McCallum, Sean Ryan, and more; and art by Clayton Henry, R. B. Silva, Tonci Zonjic, and more.

While the first story, "Cold," takes place when Clark was a boy in Smallville; most of the others could have been tweaked and fit anywhere in Superman continuity, even post-52. Kathryn Immonen's "Patience-Centered Care" is a lark with a sick Lois being a terrible patient, while Clark seems to give up on the idea of taking care of her rather quickly to shove pianos out of windows instead. Hmm.

In "Got Bugs?" the Daily Planet is infested with, well, bugs; but ones accidentally brought from space by Superman. That could either be an extinction-level event, or wrapped up in ten, some small-time criminals answer the question "Why Metropolis?" Because compared to being put in jail at super-speed by the Flash, socked with a boxing glove arrow by the showboat Green Arrow, or beaten and terrified by Batman; well, Superman taking you in doesn't seem so bad.

"Superman is my Co-Pilot" is about a young, introverted man on his way to severe agoraphobia before Superman saves him. Maybe. In "Five Minutes," Clark has just that before a dinner date with Lois, which gives him a little time to help out Metropolis.

Last one's probably my favorite: "On Break," checking in with several Metropolis (and elsewhere) citizens in the aftermath of a Superman-Bizarro fight. There's a relatively realistic amount of property damage, that would probably be terrifying to the average citizen; although in terms of Superman comics it actually seems almost minor. Yet, it's still presented as a little scary, even with Supes there.

Not a bad one today, then.
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