Thursday, November 30, 2006

Boring Administrative Note Number 1

Because of the crummy weather, I am being sent home. Tomorrow is looking very iffy, so don't be surprised if there aren't any more posts until Monday, December 4th.

Thanks so much to everyone who is reading. Please let me know who you are!

Don't Do It Just Because You See It In a Comic, pt. 1

I'm sure you thought I was going to write, "Don't try to fly" or something base like that, but if you try to fly because of something you read in a comic, you're probably a little too stupid and really need to be taken out of the herd, anyway.

No, what I'm suggesting is this little dandy from our buddy Vibe from the Detroit-era JLA:

I don't care that Footloose just came out, don't ever, and I mean NEVER, dance around when there's no music. I don't care how good of a dancer you are, it makes you look like an utter fool.

They Thought They Were Improving Coke in the 80's, Too...

Granted, in the early 80's, the Justice League was in bad shape. The New Teen Titans were getting all of the love and attention of DC Powers that Be as well as the fans, and the once-flagship book was showing a lack of interest from anyone. The stories were bland, the art worse..... things were looking bad for the former "World's Greatest Super Heroes."

Sure, desperate times call for desperate measures, but that doesn't mean that the desperate measures are always going to be such a hot idea. Case in point - Vibe:

Wow - where do we begin to say what was wrong with Vibe? Let's start here:

Yup.... besides talking like a Sweathog, he was a break-dancer. He was so stupid, he made everyone around him stupid:

Crowbar-guy, I don't know what you've been hearing, but I can see that he's wearing stupid clothes. Can you not see that?

Even Zatanna gets dumber (something I didn't think possible):

Yes, Zatanna abhors violence, but creating an earthquake and causing unnecessary structrual damage (not to mention thousands of dollars in damage for the street and the sidewalk) when she could have just as easily used the spell: "Oy, Ecafkrej! !POTS" - that's ok. Oy! These were bad times.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dan Didio's Daydream

"and if it is your bidding that we shall engage in acts of gratuitous behavior that ruins 60 years of character development, thy will be done."

J to the L to the A.... Word!

Yes, those kids in Infinity, Inc. were quite the hepcats, weren't they?

What was the slang Green Lantern is qualifying, anyway? It went right past me.

Making a Bad Comic Slightly Better, pt. 1

I'm reaching the end of my perusal of DC Comics Presents, and while I'm looking forward to moving on, I'm trying not to let it rush me through these last issues.

Still, here in issue #90, it seems to me like we have a much better story than what was given. Here is the story, with all the filler: Bad Guy Who Looks Suspiciously Like Fabio knocks down Firestorm (who has given me many good moments), Captain Atom (who has given me the occasional good moment), and Superman (who has given me many moments where I have wondered why I read comics at all); Bad Guy turns out to be Misunderstood Guy Who Looks Suspiciously Like Fabio; Misunderstood Guy commits suicide, the end. Why we needed 2 guest stars to help Superham plod through that story, I don't know.

But it seems to me, that if you just get down to it, this is a much better story. Check out the magic I make with a mere three panels from that same issue, not necessarily in the same order they originally appeared:

add a thought balloon where Misunderstood Guy cackles and says "Well, at least ONE of us will be unmolested!", and you've got yourself some fine reading - a wonderful cautionary tale of sexual harassment and date rape all in one.

That's me - reading bad comics so you don't have to.

Karma Has a Widow's Peak

After having to raise Superman's hand in victory for a job Comet did himself, it's small wonder that years later, when they meet again, the Cap'n would be looking to crack open a can of whoop-ass. Of course, no one can want to slap Superham silly unless they were evil, so we have to assume Comet is out of his right mind.

Frankly, it's relative. Anytime I get to see Superman have his cape handed to him, I'm there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful

I know this is probably just sour grapes because I'm rocketing headlong into middle age, but people who dwell on how young they are need a serious beating.

Forgotten, and yet....

I would still buy a book with any of these characters before I'd waste my time or money on Superham.

Then again, I'd buy a book on how to embalm a butterfly before I'd waste it on Superham.

Monday, November 27, 2006

It Ain't Just a River in Egypt!

Contrary to how it may sound, I'm a big fan of Roy Thomas. I share his affection for characters from the WWII era, and he will always be the greatest Earth-2 writer DC Comics ever had on the masthead.

That being said, what the heck happened with Infinity, Inc? This was a series that started out very strongly, with a 10 part saga to get the ball rolling where the original JSA fell victim to the Stream of Ruthlessness and battled their now-grown children. And these were back in the days when a 10-part series generally meant 10 full months, not jumping around from Batman to Detective to Robin to Catwoman to Andy Capp or whatever. We waited 10 months for him to tell the story, and it was worth every week we waited.

We were too young to realize that we were victims of first impressions. Once he started to distance the team from the JSA, we were left with one of the most cliche-ridden messes ever, rivalling the Omega Men in sheer "I'm only reading this because it has to get better - they printed it on Baxter paper!"

Alas, it was a restaurant in a good location, and they took the best dish off the menu after the grand opening hoopla had died down.

Let's take a look-see at one of the most painful moments in the series. Cut to the new Wildcat, who would say things in Spanish even though none of the other characters spoke Spanish.

Seriously, do you know anyone who speaks Spanish that does that? I mean, I can understand people who speak Spanish talking to each other, but to address a group of non-Spanish speaking people and saying, "I am glad we were able to find a matching paint for your sofa cushion! Mi espanol necessita mucha ayuda! Huevos rancheros! I cut myself when I'm angry. Does anyone have any gum?"

This is not someone you would ask to join your social circle. The best thing Wildcat II ever did was get killed by Eclipso. Yeah, I said it!

That was the problem with Infinity. Roy was trying so hard to bring about modern versions of characters, but he was using tired material. The Fantastic Four had done the whole group-infighting, awkward romance, crisis of confidence things that Roy was trying to give us, and did it better. Try though you might, you can't re-bake a souffle. His new takes on Wildcat, Dr. Midnite and Hourman were politically correct, modern to the point of trendy, and worst of all, boring. And it's not that it couldn't be done - Geoff Johns breathed new life in those characters and then some in JSA, so effectively and dynamically that it's embarassing to have Infinity, Inc. in my collection. Anybody want 'em? Well, I'm keeping those first ten issues.....

Oh, but my point here was that Roy showed us the Tasmanian Devil of the Global Guardians (EEEEEEEESH, don't get me started) coming onto Wildcat II.

A couple of problems here. First, this approach will not get you the girl, fellas. It just won't.

Second, let's not take the only Australian character and make him look like an undersexed circus monkey. I've only met a handful of Australians, but they were all very kind, down-to-earth folks and they deserve better than that.

Last, but not least, the Tasmanian Devil is gay! I don't mean "gay" the way South Park uses the term. I mean he prefers men! I like to think that if I was lucky enough to make my living writing comics, I'd show up at the meetings to make sure I wasn't suppressing the sexuality of a given character.

To make matters worse, Tasmanian Horndog has to steal a kiss and dry hump the leg of poor Wildcat II. Did they have some kind of relationship like Jack and Karen did on Will & Grace? What am I missing here?

You speak for us all, Green Flame, with your thoughtful introspections. I am puzzled as well.

Don't Let Roy Thomas Name Your Child

Although I've never written comics for a living, I think you just know when you've got a loser on your hands. You paint yourself into a corner, that plotline isn't working out or you just can't stand the character and can't imagine why anyone would care if you just had the whole thing resolved off-panel with a wink and a nod. Hmmmmmm..... that's kinda what they did with the entire Primal Force series, and we saw how that went, so you probably should see things through, but get things wrapped up as quickly as possible.

That being said, you don't have to be lazy. Granted, no one cared about the 1980's update of Johnny Thunder, and only 3 or 4 more readers than that gave a rip about Infinity, Inc., but come on, Roy..... were these the best names you could think up?

Seriously, what is that? Did you just slam your fist on the keyboard, and that's what you came up with? I paid a buck and a quarter of 1980's money and this is what you gave me?

Yes, this was a kidney stone of a plotline, but did you have to salt the earth to make sure no one ever planted anything there again? Granted, I don't see a Mzzttexxal Loves Zzlrrrzzzm mini-series climbing up the charts any time soon, but we had all written Cat-Man off twenty years ago, and look what happened. Next thing you know, we've got one of the silliest characters of all time, The Duke of Oil, kickin' butts and takin' names

and who saw that coming? We're talking about a hillbilly robot, and Judd Winnick made him a dang entertaining read. You never know, so let's not just take a dump on our efforts before we send them to press, what say?

Still on topic: Be careful what you name your babies, young parents. That cute little bundle of joy is going to be an elderly person some day, and it just ain't right for your descendants to have to tell their third grade show and tell class they spent Thanksgiving with Grandma Britney or Great Aunt Trinity in the nursing home. Learn from Roy Thomas and show some foresight.

The Gassy Envelope of Doom

"Not enough air..... except to engage in unnecessary exposition language explaining that I don't have nearly enough air to run out of the room, although I might have if I hadn't decided to describe the situation aloud to everyone in the room who is experiencing similar discomforts, but that is the decision I made and I'm comfortable with it - never complain, never explain is what I'm all about, and since no one edits Stan 'The Man' Lee, I can take a moment to describe how the gas overtook me too quickly for me to do anything about it. Excelsior! Oh, the humanity! *GASP*!!!! "

And why is this gas capable of taking down the Vision? He's an android, and he spends half his time intangible. He doesn't need to breathe! Was it a power of suggestion thing - You know, like when one person yawns and the rest of the room does it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why Superman is a Schmuck, part 3

Because even in a "team-up" book, the guest star can't have anything cool of his own. Check out the gimmie-gimmie in DC Comics Presents Number 74.

Supes is the kind of guy that humiliates you in front of your girl. You know the type. The one who gives you noogies and makes you pay for his lunch. Next, he's going to make Katar cough up the funky helmet and chest hair.

Yes, I hate Elmo....

A behind-the-scenes focus group discusses the marketing of Sesame Street's "Elmo" Character....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Did Anyone Actually BUY This? pt. 1

I know you've sat through enough "I Love the 80's" episodes on VH1 to be assured that the rubik's cube was, indeed, a major fad. I was never any good at it, but there was a kid in my class that was so good at it, he was on the local radio station demonstrating his ability. Of course, since he was on the radio, no one actually saw him do anything, so they might as well have put my cat on the show and claim she solved one in 47 seconds. His claim to fame was thus rather watery, and he grew up to become a permanent resident at our state penetentiary (sadly, that isn't a joke).

Anyway, those of us who read comics were likely to buy anything from those pages (I mean, we were already putting aside our willing suspension of disbelief, so our little brains were prime real estate for shills around the world). But I know of no one, and I openly defy you to produce anyone, who actually bought this stuff. Although, according to Wikipedia over 300,000,000 of the cubes themselves have been sold, I double dog dare you to find me a tube of this stuff. If you had to lube your rubik's cube, that, like Preparation H, is something in a tube you had better keep to yourself or you are just asking for many a dateless weekend. That's right, I'm the biggest nerd walking the planet, and I will call you a schmoe if I find out you have a tube of "cube lube."

Why Superman is a Schmuck, part 2

I would never assume that I had to act dull because my personality is so dynamic people would never connect me to anything lame.

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, Clark, but the duller you are, the more likely I am to assume that you are Superman, possibly the most boring character in comics today (yes, that includes the entire cast of the Rann-Thanagar War).

Well, almost.....

Other than the fact that the fortress door opens with a huge key that only Superman, Captain Marvel or J'Onn J'Onzz can lift, your plan is coming along nicely.

Just an aside, but I hate it when characters address each other by their full names when it's inappropriate. I mean, Man-Bat is down (quelle suprise!), Superman is the one Atomic Skull is going to be zapping next with the Nondescript Charteuse Ray of Doom(patent pending) - is it necessary to clarify that she's speaking to the Skull? Awkward dialogue annoys me soooooo much.

And whatever happened to Rex the Wonder Dog? It'll cost you 4 bits to find out, but I can't imagine you're that curious....

Yay! Love from my favorite blog!

I am a huge mark of Mark Sterling's Progressive Ruin. He's funnier than I am, but he was still nice enough to give me a shout out on his page. Much love, Mike!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Words to Live By

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was an orderly in a nursing home....

Never Let an Alien Accessorize

Well, Mr. Alien-who-just-assumed-the-form-of-Green-Lantern, I'm glad you're feeling good about yourself, but giving me the finger just isn't necessary.

Because a Friend Won't Make You Feel Inferior

Dr. Fate...... the undisputed mightiest magician in the DC Universe. Perhaps only second to the Spectre in ability to liquify your internal organs while giving you the finger.

And yet, here in the backup story "Whatever Happened to Hourman?" in DC Comics Presents #26, he's hanging out with the likes of the Sandman, so he's just going to give his foe what looks like the most ineffective kick to the chin ever. Still, it's easier to draw, and his non-powered buddy won't have to feel badly about himself.

That's a pal. Stay gold, Ponyboy! Stay gold!

Political Correctness Comes Slowly

In the late 80's, comics went bananas with feminism. Was it the appointment of Jeanette Khan as Editor-in-Chief of DC? Who knows? Alls I know is, it was a good time to be a female character because your possibilities for advancement were huge.

As we guys know, most readers of comics are male. Your average comics con is not the place you are likely to get digits, know what I mean? You'll find the occasional girl, but usually it's sisters and wives looking impatiently at their watches and reminding you that you will be going "antiquing" with them next week as some quid pro quo.

So why did the powers that be at the two largest publishers decide to put women in charge of every team book? Storm dethrones Cyclops at the X-Men? Not overly likely, but arguably possible.

But who thought it was a good idea to put the new Captain Marvel in charge of the Avengers? It was obviously an attempt to gain credibility for a character Marvel Comics had to use every so often lest they lose rights to the name, but could she just be part of the team? Oh, no. She had to be in charge. I would occasionally tune in to see if the Mighty Thor was tired of taking his marching orders from yon wench, but they lost me there. Putting the Wasp in charge made a bit more sense, but again..... Thor? Iron Man? Captain America? The earth's mightest super-team led by one member who's biggest ability is to fly away from a fight at the speed of light, and the other whose most formidable power was to shrink really small and fly away from a fight on little tiny wings. I just didn't buy it, nor did I buy the books.
I would, however, have paid cash money to hear Thor say, "Verily, wenches! Fetch me a tanker of your finest grog and seat yourself on mine Nordic nether regions, and perhaps Thor shall pretend to take seriously your battle plans!" But that didn't happen. Alas. Marvel should have totally hired me to freelance.

Susan Richards leading the Fantastic Four? Let's see..... we have a famous scientist and a trained air combat soldier on the team. Who shall we put in charge? I know: The one with the G.E.D.!

But I can forgive Marvel, sorta. They have always been a little over the top, so I have been coming and going with their books for the past 35 years or so.

The one I can't overlook? Zatanna in charge of the Justice League. Yup. She was the second newest member besides Firestorm at the time, and you can't tell me she had the chops to lead Superman, Green Lantern and the like into battle. But in ish #206, there she was.

I didn't leave the book, though. Why? Because the reaction of Batman to Zatanna's leadership wasn't an intentional "screw you", but I believed the response. "Stop, Batman! I'm your leader!"
I'd show her my right butt cheek as well. "Yeah, toots, YOU try carrying no less than two monthly periodicals single-handedly for over fifty years and maybe I'll get my orders from you. What's that? You say you've never even had a solo book? Hmmmmmmmm......."
He let her have the title, but we know who really runs the show in the League. Go, Bats!

Why Random Thug Number 1234781-q Never Got a Speaking Part Again

Okay, I don't want anyone thinking that I'm going to go out of my way to find ammo for Seduction of the Innocent: 2007. I'm not one of those guys that pipes up "That's what SHE said!" just because the opportunity presents itself. I will often pass up the cheap laugh because.... well, I like to think I'm better than that. Beavis and Butthead was great, but that's not what I'm about here.

Comics were a different medium back in 1968. They were cheap, for one thing. But more than that, they were meant for a different audience. Your average comics reader today is well in his or her 20s, while back in the day, they were obviously catering to a younger crowd. We had short attention spans, and if a story wasn't finished in an issue or so, we'd generally get a little antsy.

So, there were lots of shortcuts. One of those was to rely on dialogue to tell the story. The artwork often wasn't enough to let the reader know what was going on, so someone often had to come right out and say "GASP! He's unwrapping a breakfast burrito! It's got HAM in it!"

Lots of pressure on the writers, you know? And no one was cranking out more stories in the 60's than Stan "The Man" Lee. We know and love the guy for creating Spider-Man, X-Men, the Hulk, the Avengers, etc. ETC. And the guy was scripting most of these at one time or another, so you've got to cut him some slack. And, for the most part, I do.

But the choice of words here in Captain America #101 is a temptation I simply cannot resist, nor can I ignore Cap's response. If you don't get it, I'm not going to explain it to you. Suffice it to say, if there was ever an exchange between a thug and a hero that deserved a "That's what SHE said!", this was it.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why Superman is a Schmuck, part 1

Seriously. How many ongoing books does Superman have? How many opportunities to flex his super-hamstrings does he need? Six? Geez, throw poor Captain Comet a bone! The guy can't carry a single solo title, so if it wouldn't kill ya, Supes, would you let the Comet take down the one-shot, throwaway bad guy just this once?

You say you will if he lifts YOUR hand in victory in the last panel like you actually did something? Sounds fair....... you jackass