Friday, February 28, 2014

Oh, we're totally going to keep blogging. Just not much today...

Even though I consider myself a pretty avid reader, I don't have as much time for it as I used to; and I tend to dislike or distrust multi-novel series. I lucked out with Stephen King finishing his Gunslinger books, but I worry if I start reading Game of Thrones Martin won't conclude the series. (That and I'm in no hurry to start reading it, and get attached to characters that are going to die horribly.) So I really enjoy comic book novels, that are usually done in one. Like this one! Although don't try to find it on Amazon, since I ordered one there and they came up with nothing! X-Men: Dark Mirror, written by Marjorie M. Liu.

It would be bad enough for the X-Men (Jean, Rogue, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler) to wake up in an asylum outside of Seattle. It's even worse when they don't wake up in their own bodies! With no powers, no cash, and no contacts; they have to make their way across the country and back to Westchester while trying to piece together what happened to them and what the larger plan against them is. It's a fun read if you can find it!

Meanwhile, I found Torchwood: Miracle Day on Netflix, so I'm going to be watching that...

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

And the toys have to go back in their box.

Today's lessons: no matter how cool you are, there's always somebody that won't be impressed. Sometimes, there's no way not to make the same mistake twice. And even though this blog's ostensible purpose is a hedge against senility, I remember this issue well enough to blog most of it from memory! From 1984, Star Wars #81, "Jawas of Doom" Written by Jo Duffy, pencils by Ron Frenz (breakdowns) with inks and finishes by Tom Palmer and Tom Mandrake.

This was Marvel's first issue set after Return of the Jedi, and seemingly takes place the next day. Han Solo bumps into a Rebel pilot, who wonders where Han's been. Slacking off or ducking out, no doubt. Han tries to explain he was frozen by Boba Fett, thawed out in the palace of Jabba the Hutt, then led the assault on the Empire's shield generator on Endor. The pilot is remarkably unimpressed. Or he may just be cheesed, that Solo owes him money. Which seems like a bad proposition all around: Han, while lovable, is sketchy as hell. There's no guarantee he wouldn't be killed; but it was wartime, so there was no guarantee the loaner would survive either, I suppose. And were Rebels even paid?

Feeling at loose ends, Han needs a hug from Chewbacca to get him going again; and he decides the first thing he should do is straighten out his finances. Which of course involves a quick hyperspace hop over to Tatooine, with Leia and Artoo--the latter because he can talk to the computers and sort it out. Meanwhile, already on Tatooine, the Jawas have been scavenging around Jabba the Hutt's exploded sail barge, and have made an interesting discovery...

The Millennium Falcon has trouble even getting clearance to land, since air traffic control remembers the last time Han took off in a hurry, without paying his docking fees, and they thought he was a piece of sculpture now anyway. Leia has to use diplomatic clearance so they can land, but Han's trip to the bank also goes badly. Meanwhile, the Jawas, emboldened by the power vacuum created by Jabba's death, steal Artoo. Visiting one of the air traffic controllers, who gives Han quite a bit of lip, Han and Leia "borrow" a couple of his landspeeders to look for the little droid, who finds himself meeting Boba Fett! The Jawas' droid believes him to be "unintelligent" and have been spit up out of the Sarlaac Pit.

As Han and Leia try to stop the Jawas' sandcrawler, events are complicated by an attack by the sandpeople, but Han gets find himself looking down the barrel of Boba Fett's rifle! Luckily for him, Fett was still shellshocked, not knowing who he was, or who Solo was...until he heard Leia yelling his name and remembered. Just in time for the sandcrawler to drive straight into the Sarlaac Pit, with Boba Fett still in it. To his credit, Han tried to save him, but wonders if the universe is really going to change any after all they've done.

Silly name aside, this is still one of my favorite of Marvel's Star Wars, and easily the best of their post-ROTJ issues.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Everyone's treated Uniformly."

If you're a fan of action figure, or action figure blogs, you've probably seen that Poe Ghostal's Points of Articulation is going on hiatus. Which sucks, but I wish him the best.

It's the sort of thing that makes some wonder, how long do you plan on blogging? Or, as Battlegrip wonders, is there something else you could be doing, to make your blog bigger and better? For me, the answers are "for the foreseeable future, as long as I can" and "probably, but eh." I still enjoy what I'm doing here, and if you do too, then so much the better. But I don't see myself making any sort of concerted effort to drum up readers or anything. I've thought about taking some time to set up an ad at Project Wonderful, which is a good idea, but I don't know if I could or should use Nightcrawler and Deadpool for an ad, since I don't own them. (Speaking of, coming soon, an extra-length Nightcrawler and Deadpool story!)

Figure I'm just going to keep plugging along, as usual. I've often said, not entirely jokingly, that a good chunk of the reason I keep this blog is my personal hedge against senility; and the other reason is to make little comics that I'd like to see. So, we'll be around. See you then. Read more!


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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I probably would've bought a clear, ghost version if Hasbro had put one out:

My girlfriend needed an electric blanket last night (neither the dog nor myself are what would conventionally be considered "snuggily") so we made a quick run out. She managed to find one on clearance at Fred Meyer, while at Toys R Us I got the Marvel Universe Nightcrawler figure! I had kind of wondered if I was going to see him in the wilds of the toy aisles, since I thought this last batch of MU was going to be the last under that name before they rolled into Infinite or Platinum or something.

This is, of course, the Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler, who became a member of (Uncanny) X-Force before being made redundant getting killed off in the X-Termination mini-series. (Which was awful. Dumb as a box of rocks and not half as much fun.) As you might expect, AoANC is a straight repaint of the earlier Secret Wars Nightcrawler, who was packed with mohawk Storm. (Check him out in this old strip, "Poolhammer.") Which is fine, and I can't fault Hasbro for trying to get some mileage out of those molds, although they really could use them for a Bug action figure already...

Generally speaking, though, I've forsworn 3.75 inch figures; regardless of character or quality. I couldn't pull the trigger on a drastically marked-down Marvel Universe Nighthawk a while back, and while I'll be tempted, I don't know if I'll spring for the MU Death's Head. (Yes I will. I already have a strip plotted out for him in my head, even if he is the wrong size...) This Nightcrawler is like a lot of Marvel Legends Spider-Man figures: by the time the figure showed up, he had already made his final bow in the comics! He's probably going to stay in package as a display piece for me, but that doesn't mean I'm not glad to have him.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

I don't have all of "Born Again," but I have "Madcasting." That seems fair...

I keep telling you, this blog is "Random Happenstance." Not "Timely Happenstance." Although it could be "When I Damn Well Get Around to It Happenstance." Like today's issue, since we mentioned it back in December: from 1986, Daredevil #234, "Madcasting" Written by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Steve Ditko, inks by Klaus Janson.

A gun-smuggling operation is interrupted by the sudden arrival of "some fruit in a clown costume," as one thug puts it, since he's glad it wasn't Spider-Man or Daredevil. He might later wish it was, though: it's Madcap! The lunatic with a better healing factor than Wolverine and a madness-inducing stare! And he's not so much fighting crime, as just happened to run into these guys. Too bad for them.

After sending the thugs to looney-tunes land, Madcap runs into cable newsman Dollar Bill--he was a supporting character in old issues of Defenders, but had apparently his star had fallen, since he now had a one-man cable public access show. Still, the man knew talent, and saw potential in Madcap. I don't know if Dollar Bill has appeared in a comic in the last two decades, but that name alone is due for a comeback...

This issue was back when the leather-masked crimelord the Rose was competing with the Kingpin for control of the city's rackets; and the gun-smugglers were his. He offers five grand--which seems a little small-change even for the time--to anyone who gets rid of this new vigilante. But he gets results quickly, even with Daredevil investigating; but Madcap is introduced to the ominous-sounding Max the Axe. Well, it'd be ominous for anyone else: even axed several times, then burned "almost beyond recognition," as DD puts it, Madcap recovers and returns to try and commandeer Dollar Bill's show.

Daredevil's barely in this issue, but Janson's inks still make it seem like his series, more than anything. Still, not one of DD's greatest hits, at any rate.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Transforming leopards and spots.

Recently, both Justice League and Transformers fans were surprised with teasers of long-time villains seemingly now on the side of the angels: Lex Luthor on the Justice League, and Megatron now sporting an Autobots badge. Both reveals remain to be seen in the comics themselves, and could turn out to be complete frauds; making these teasers the equivalent of a Silver Age comic cover where Superman kills Lois Lane (or vice versa) and then nothing of the sort happens in the actual comic; but neither heel-turn may have been possible before.

Pre-new 52, not only was Lex Luthor a well-known bastard, but Superman had a level of respect that would seem to preclude Lex ever being asked to join the team--it would be like inviting the Joker to the Justice League Christmas party. But Superman isn't visible in the teaser image, so may not be there; and in the reboot Lex doesn't have the seemingly hundreds of murders, betrayals, and sundry crimes he racked up both pre- and post-Crisis. Except, yeah, he kinda does: I'm not even a regular reader of DC lately, but I've seen him commit multiple murders in the previews! Actually, not quite: I took half a second to pull up the preview of Forever Evil #2, where Luthor runs into a security guard named Otis, a callback to the Donner Superman movies: before the end of that issue, Luthor has Bizarro beat Otis to death, as a test or on a whim. Like most of Luthor's victims in the New 52, poor Otis will never be brought up again: Batman's not going to work his case, piece together the evidence, find the smoking gun that implicates Luthor: it's villainy in a vacuum, done just to make Luthor look badass, but having no other impact whatsoever. And he's going to be on the heroes' team.

But DC has kind of a poor track record on that front: both Bane and Sinestro have made heroic turns to various degrees, with their victims seemingly swept under the rug. Done well, this would almost make the reader complicit in those crimes, identifying with a character who has done both good and evil things, perhaps struggling for redemption, or merely forced by circumstance. Instead, these are usually cash grabs, trying to milk the popularity of a villain by making him a more palatable or marketable "anti-hero." Think Venom: Lethal Protector: the "hero" is a murderer who by rights should be locked up forever at best, facing villains possibly just marginally worse, but allowed to do so by the force of popularity.

The Luthor thing could turn out to be a fake-out as well: the good Luthor from Earth-3, or perhaps Superman in Luthor's body or something. And I think there may well be stories to be told in Luthor trying to see how the other half lives, maybe seeing it isn't easy to be a super-hero. I don't have a lot of faith in that, though.

Meanwhile, the Megatron-to-Autobot teaser may be, as they say, more than meets the eye. (Boo!) If you're only familiar with Megatron from the cartoon or the movie (or most of the comics...) he's a pretty one-note, cartoon villain. Megatron fights the good guy, Optimus Prime. Why? Well, because he's evil? Because he wants to rule? Because that's how we set up conflict and sell toys? But in the IDW continuity, his bio opens with "Megatron waged a battle to destroy the evil forces of the Senate! Then he continued to wage a war against the evil forces of freedom, organic life, and the very idea of an Autobot living." Originally a miner, intellectual, and poet; Megatron railed against the strict caste system of Cybertron at the time, against a corrupt ruling class; but over time became more and more cruel. And why not? Violence was the only tool to change society that ever yielded results. And when your war goes on for a ludicrous amount of time, you may be inclined to use violence on any other problems you come across, too.

Of course, I kind of wonder how the Decepticons and Autobots would ever be able to live peacefully, since they were at war for some absurd amount of time--like four million years or so--you'd think any of the survivors could be inclined to hold a grudge, since they would remember any number of lost friends, or personal injuries. "Didn't you take a potshot at me off the shoulder of Orion?" "Yeah, but you shot me in the face by Tannhauser Gate!" (Scan from The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #22, "Little Victories" Written by James Roberts, art by James Raiz. And they're in the GCD now!)

IDW's continuity takes from a number of sources, but has made Optimus Prime's lineage more contentious: several of the previous Primes were either corrupt, incompetent, or both. But Optimus wanted to change a corrupt system without bloodshed, and respected other sentient lifeforms like humans; both of which seem completely beyond Megatron. I'm curious where Megatron's redemption will take him, or how long it will last; although I wouldn't bet on either Lex or Megs staying on the straight and narrow for too long.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Since Somebody thought yesterday's strip was a little dark...

Also, apparently all the abandoned warehouses in Gotham have the same floor plan and walls, as seen in "Better Living Through Chemicals" and "Riddled." Hmm, only twice? I thought I had been back to that well a few more times there. Of course, the warehouse is the same set as Nightcrawler and Deadpool's apartment. Maybe they live in a warehouse, I don't know...
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I first saw the phrase "drop gun" in Warren Ellis's crime graphic novel Scars, with art by Jacen Burrows: a homicide detective beats the living hell out of a fellow cop for carrying one. In that case, it was a .38 tricked out with band-aids, so it wouldn't take prints; intended for dropping at a crime scene to make any shooting a good one. In this case, I figured the Penguin would have no qualms about leaving evidence at a crime scene, to set Batman on...anyone else.

The "Platinum Peregrine" sounded like something the Penguin would try to steal, and it's based on "The Malay Penguin."
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"Ghosts" concludes: JLA Annual #2!

It's taken some months--far longer than it took the crossover to run!--but today we'll check out the conclusion to the 1998 Ghosts annual crossover: JLA Annual #2, "Life Itself" Written by Ty Templeton, pencils by Mark Pajarillo, inks by Walden Wong.

I'm seriously considering calling shenanigans on the first panel of this one; as a shadowed figure breaks into the Smallville Museum of Marvels. I'm sure the Silver Age Smallville has a great museum with all sorts of crazy crap from when Superman was a boy; but this Smallville would just be a typical small Kansas town, which means it's museum would be mere local history and probably wouldn't have anything more exotic than a butter churn or a cotton gin. It seems kind of unlikely it would have the mummified corpse of Egyptian wizard Hermes Trismegistus.

Unless...unless it was some kind of exhibit somewhere else, like a travelling show perhaps. Perhaps under shady circumstances. Then a run-in with someone like, say, Jonah Hex; shots were fired, and when the smoke cleared the mummy was the only body without holes in it, so it was left to the town's podunk museum. That might've been a fun extra...

Back to the story at hand: long-time JLA villain Felix Faust is breaking into the museum for the mummy, since he wants Trismegistus to tell him about immortality. The narration, which seems inexplicably cheery considering the topic and that Faust is bleeding a guard to bring the mummy back to life, explains how Faust is afraid of death. Not for the usual reasons, but because he knows for a fact hell is real and he's totally going there; so he's mighty interested in finding an out.

Trismegistus returns to life like a very crabby man awoken from a good nap. Faust knows Tris has the secret of immortality, and would be alive to that day, if he hadn't committed suicide. Which means, Trismegistus didn't want to be alive...

I love the title page for this one: it's a 40's style detective movie, in black-and-white. J'onn J'onzz is enjoying a flick, when Faust's face appears on the actors as he begs for help. If that was a movie I particularly enjoyed, I would be super-pissed at Faust about then, since would I be able to watch it again without thinking of that tool?

J'onn brings Faust before the JLA, where he's chained and wrapped in Wonder Woman's magic lasso, so he can't tell a lie. Faust explains he resurrected Trismegistus, but now they need to find his Emerald Tablet to stop him from killing everything, removing "the life frequency" from the universe. Faust says the spell has already begun, weakening the borders, and they probably would've seen ghosts. The JLA'ers have, although seemingly didn't bother to mention it to each other: look, they see a lot of weird crap, OK?

Since the Lasso is figuratively twisting Faust's arm, they figure he's on the level. The tablet had been broken into three pieces by Freemasons, who hid it in the most inaccessible places they could get to. Flash points out they aren't that inaccessible, at least to the JLA; Faust counters they're supposed to be inaccessible to Trismegistus, but he would get them sooner or later.

The team splits up to recover the pieces, and each team encounters another ghost: Flash and Aquaman bump into Vibe, Superman and Green Lantern find Ice, and Batman and Wonder Woman see Steel. (Not the armored guy, the cyborg patriot from the JL-Detroit days.) Each ghost has a subtle ghosty feature: music--presumably breakdancing hip-hop--follows Vibe, Ice is pale and cold, and poor Steel appears on monitors like the ghost of Max Headroom. J'onn isn't positive they're ghosts in the traditional sense, that they could be psychic residue or playback. Faust insists they're merely a symptom of the bigger problem, and unless the tablet is destroyed, Trismegistus will come for it.

Still lassoed, Faust says the tablet must be reformed before it can be destroyed, and sets J'onn, GL, WW, and Aquaman as "a living elemental circle" around it. He then says he must be released to complete the spell, and Batman OK's it, since Faust couldn't be lying. A rare tactical error there, since Hermes Trismegistus had been hiding within Felix Faust! Although Faust had been forced to tell the truth, nothing he said had been a lie; although now Trismegistus was going to end all suffering by wiping out all life. Batman knows how to use the truth, though: Green Lantern could get a beam into the tablet and destroy it from within. Aquaman and J'onn chip in their willpower to help, but the collected heroic ghosts--now including a Robin and Deadman!--pile on Faust. Ice knows she can end this, by following GL's beam and destroying the tablet, which she does after saying goodbye to Superman.

With Trismegistus defeated, Superman still wonders if the ghosts were real. J'onn is open to the possibility, since he expects an afterlife, but doesn't think about it. Aquaman points out whether you dwell on it or not, eventually you'll get the answer. Batman gets the last line, but doesn't end with a joke: "I live with ghosts every day." Meanwhile, in an asylum (possibly Arkham but not necessarily) Faust is no longer afraid to die; since he's now immortal, because Trismegistus is trapped in his body screaming at him. Now he's afraid to live...

Maybe Templeton should've written this whole crossover--this and his Martian Manhunter Annual were high points. Of course, if you want to nitpick, try and figure out how many of the "ghosts" that were dead have since come back to life, either before or after the New 52 reboot...

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Monday, February 17, 2014

More like Presumptuous Woman, here.

Wonder Woman has a lot on her mind this issue: her friend Etta Candy has seemingly been sucked into hell by demons, the leader of which beat her down soundly. Waking up on the Potomac Parkway, she switches to her secret identity of Captain Diana Prince, to try and get access to the mysterious Delphi Foundation with Col. Steve Trevor, but they find nothing. Wonder Woman then turns to her mystic friend Mother Juju (groan...) who tips her the name of someone who could help. Maybe two names...

Jason has to be regretting sending out all those headshots now. Flying to Gotham, Wonder Woman barges through a window as Jason spars with his blind friend Randu, and calls him out immediately--which seems like a breach of super-hero etiquette, since she couldn't know if Randu was in on Jason's secret. They politely deny WW's ideas about Jason as "utter nonsense" and try to herd her to to the door. Instead, she goes all in, using the "Change! Change o'form of man!" spiel to turn Jason to Etrigan the Demon! That seems outright rude: you shouldn't just stomp into someone's house and use their magic words and everything.

I don't think it had been firmly established at this point, where Jason or Etrigan went when the other took over; but Etrigan is pretty thrilled to "live again" and seems completely willing to help Wonder Woman out with a trip to hell. Randu tries to stop Etrigan, warning he may lose his way back, and gets a shove for his trouble; which still doesn't deter WW.

Of course, I don't think I have two consecutive issues of Wonder Woman in my collection, so I don't know how this turned out. I also wonder if this related to post-Crisis Diana's trip to hell in the 80's, as mentioned a while back. From 1981, Wonder Woman #280, "In the Claws of Demons!" Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by Jose Delbo, inks by Dave Hunt.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

With a name like "Lionmane," it has to be...a D-lister, yeah.

We'll look at the lead-in story from this issue next week, but we'll wrap up this one with a quick look at "Lion at Bay" from Wonder Woman #280, written by Paul Levitz, pencils by Joe Staton, inks by Steve Mitchell. We join our jailbreak already in progress, as the Huntress fights Lionmane. But Helena's not just there to stop the jailbreak, she has an old score to settle with him: he had been a goon in Catwoman's mob, who tried to take over. Catwoman was narrowly able to gas him and dump him on the police, but Huntress knows it took her mom some time to recover, and wants to pay him back.

I don't know if Lionmane is a mutant or anything, but he's ugly and strong. Since Huntress said she knew the secret of Fagan's Wood, Lionmane tries to beat the location of Catwoman's hidden jewels out of her. Huntress is nearly down, but creepily seems to hear her mother, and smashes Lionmane in the face with a good-sized rock, knocking him out. The cops surrounded the escaped prisoners during the fight, so the jailbreak is over...with only one escapee. Worse, she doesn't realize it yet, but the Huntress lost a friend: to keep him safe, Helena sent Harry Sims home, but he didn't make it.

We mentioned Brave and the Bold #200 had a senior citizen Joker: pre-Crisis on Earth-2, the Joker outlived Batman. Not sure why he'd be at the prison instead of the traditional Arkham, though. Hopefully Helena gets to deliver a stout beating about the face next issue...

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