Saturday, May 28, 2005
Cute: Wonder Woman's watchtower security code is 003. Well, of course, it is!
Glorious: Hippolyta "unlocked" the full power of Wonder Woman's armor, that is, activated the magic lasso. I was happy to notice that with WW could command those ensnared not merely force the truth out of them. The "command" part has been forgotten by a lot of people (including writers). I can recall getting in to huge arguments at HCRealms that Wonder Woman should have mind control and no one believed me...
Sweet: Seeing Abnegazar, Rath, and Ghast.
Wonder Woman. Rucka's going to some lengths to mislead into the thinking Diana will ask for her vision or her mother back after her quest to the Underworld. Personally, I think it's really obvious she's going to ask for the restoration of the little boy Medousa petrified.
Hawkman. If Hawkman's dead (for now, which the most recent issue of "Wizard" confirms (torn to death by Manhawks, ya know; nasty), and Charlie Parker's going to make a surprising announcement, and Charlie Parker was supposed to be dead, then don't you suppose Charlie Parker is actually Katar Hol reincarnated (as has been theorized by one Barry Freiman of Chicago, Illinois)? I mean, the Charlie Parker we knew wouldn't become a wealthy entrepeneur overnight.
Flash. Didn't anybody else see that murder coming? I certainly didn't; caught me completely off-guard.
Green Lantern. Looks like we're finally going to get a Coast City with some personality (no persons yet, but personality). That's good, that's something the GL mythos always lacked; you couldn't name one landmark or even recognize the city without Hal flying over it.
Batman. Speaking of maps, when is DC going to get off its duff and make a poster out of the map of Gotham City?
Green Arrow. While I didn't enjoy seeing the Riddler drawn as the Joker's twin, I did enjoy seeing him beat the snot out of Ollie just for giggles.
Aquaman. Okay, the old cop guy has got to be the murderer, can we get back to the regularly scheduled story now?
The Atom. Get out of the lawn, Ray! Alan and Hal are waiting to induct you into the "My Significant Other Became a Supervillain" support group.
Friday, May 27, 2005
No one can duplicate the madness of the Silver Age. It was a time when a superhero could say, with a perfectly straight face:
"Then, for a while, I was Hitler?"
And be correct.
But who? And why?
It is, perhaps, the most visually arresting character DC ever created.
The Composite Superman.
DC just released a statue of him and, as a result, the internet is abuzz by the unsilverized saying "What th--?!" I always assumed everyone knew who the Composite Superman was; guess not. The topic's been covered beautifully elsewhere, so here I'll try to gather some of that together for the curious and nostalgic.
In short, he was Joe Meach, who ruined his high-diving career when Superman had to save him during some jackass stunt (World's Finest #142, 1964). Superman kindly gave Joe a job as janitor at the Superman Museum (rank has its privileges, you know), but Joe was bitter and resentful. Through a classic silver age mishap, Joe acquired the powers of the entire Silver Age Legion of Superheroes, remade himself as the Composite Superman and set out to humiliate the World's Finest. Humiliate them he did, but his powers (and his memory of them) faded before he got around to finally destroying Batman and Superman. In a comeback story, a wicked alien manipulated events to recreate Joe as the Composite Superman, a tale that managed to redeem Joe in the end. No one could do a better job of summarizing the plot and meaning of the story than this synopsis.
The impact of the Composite Superman on the minds of the young was enormous. As weird as the half-Batman/Superman was, the green skin (which symbolized his continual use of the 12th level intelligence of Brainaic 5) put it completely over the top. Be forewarned; once you've seen this page of him using the powers of the lamest Legionnaires to defeat Batman and Superman simultaneously, the image will be burnt into your mind's eye forever. Of course, Batman and Superman stood no chance against him. Zero.
After his two appearances, Joe himself never appeared again (he dies at the end of the second story and Superman takes steps to ensure that another Composite Superman cannot be created). But so strong is his "iconic resonance" that visual and narrative references to him keep turning up.
Since the Composite Superman's power came from the Legion, it was only fitting that a version of him turned up there (Legionnaires #25). Shape-shifting Durlans can copy only shapes and appearances, not powers...except for the "Composite Man", a Durlan who fought the Legion by copying all their powers. Shudder!
The modern inheritor of World's Finest, the Batman/Superman title (issue #6) , gave us another reference to the Compster, when the tiny Toyman creates a giant Composite Superman/Batman rocket for reasons no sane person wants to discuss.
Young Justice did justice to old Joe Meach when they fought Craydl, the assistant of Impulse's evil twin, Inertia (don't ask; it's a Flash thing). Craydl, an artificial intelligence composed of green technoplasmic goo, uploaded Robin and Superboy's DNA into itself for copying, but only got halfway through, resulting in the Composite Superboy, brilliantly customized here. Certainly it was the wittiest reference to the original character!
Despite being dead, Joe Meach seems to have his own blog (as previously noted by Progressive Ruin) but apparently getting hit twice by lightning has not imbued him with superblogging-power. He even showed up (it seemed) in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, a cameo that stunned watchers whether they knew what it was or not!
The Composite Superman was undefeatable, except by his own failings. The very idea of the Composite Superman is like that, too; it's still with us, butso powerful (or just wacky!) that it can only express itself in short glimpses.
Shocking but true, folks.
H's sterling scholarship has earned the Eye of the Hawk Award and my forgiveness for his inability to appreciate the glory of Vibe.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
We'll watch them change that tune over the next year.
Of course, they're really only talking about "box office fantasy" characters, as their inclusion of such figures as Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, James Bond, and (fer cryin' out loud) Austin friggin' Powers makes clear. But the sheer duration, variety, quantity, and adaptability in the use of the Superman and Batman characters make them hands down winners over Spiderman. Come now! Even a non-DC-partisan should be able to see that...
Inspired by the glory of Vibe, I now extend the offer. For whichever hero wins the Comeback Poll in the sidebar I will make a public case that they merit a comeback.
So pick your favorite, while I practice the mental gymnastics that will require for this daring exercise...
from The Return of Donna Troy
"Oh, yes... they... will!"
from The Absorbascon
Johnny Bacardi, the pro-Thanagar forces welcome you into our number.
I call upon Contest of Champions to turn its legendarily objective and expert eye on the conflict and tell us, who should win in a fight between Thanagar and Rann?
Hello. I am Strange. Professor Hugo Strange, specialist in zuperhero zychology. I have been engaged by ze Hungarian Zychological Azzoziation to adrezz ze problem of ze "Alien Zaviour Zyndrome".
Human zyches can be divided, if you wish, into two types: zoze who are confident zey will be wanted by ozers, and zose who are not.
Zose who are confident in zeir zelf-worz, of courze, still like to be wanted. Zey engage in healzy relazionzhips wiz zose who want zem. For example, when ze Thanagarian Army posters callz out to zem, "I Want You!", zey react pozitively and ally zemselves wiz ze liked-minded confident people of Thanagar. Admirable, strong people. People who can endure pain. People like
But I digrezz.
Ze weak-willed, ze underconfident ones, ze zeek out zose who NEED zem. Zis bolsters zeir zenze of zelf-worz, but zey grow increazingly dependent on ze ego-gratification of coming to ze azzistance of zose in need. Zis dynamic, when combined with cultural or razial differenzes between ze zaviour and zose he zaves, becomes "Alien Zaviour Zyndrome", ze inability to find zelf-worz except zrough zaving alien cultures.
Many zuperheroes zuffer from zis zyndrome; we call zem Alien Zaviour Zyndrome Zufferers, or AZZZes, for short. Zadly, a member of my own family haz zuccumbed to zis zyndrome, my American cousin, Adam. Poor cousin Adam! Despite an illustrious career as a despoiler of primitive tribal cultures of Earth, he haz, over ze years, become a total AZZZ. Adam, and zose like him, azzoziate only wiz ze desperately needy and intentionally helplezz people, zuch az ze people of Rann. It is to be expected, perhaps, yes? Ze zyndrome in perhaps inherent in ze American mindzet. Except for BATMAN!
I caution you, my American friends. Do not zuccumb to ze zyndrome; do not risk becoming an AZZZ by aiding ze zelf-crippling Rannians, who will trap you in a stranglehold of codependenzy. Zeek out zose wiz whom you can develop an interdependenzy of equals, confident people, strong people, like the people of Thanagar, people who can wear leazer boldly, and hoods, people who can give you pain and take pain and withstand a whipping and who are strong, who are people like
"I'm hear to warn you consumers. There are knock-offs out there, other blond earthmen mysteriously transported to distant planets where they regularly save a beautiful love interest whose father is a brilliant scientist. Don't be fooled by imitations!
"I'm also here to support my good friends, the Thanagarians, in their recent interplanetary police actions. Hey, nobody knows better than the original space hero Flash Gordon that sometimes you have to kick some tail to keep the universe a decent place, safe from insidious aliens who evince far too many of the Seven Deadly Signs of Evil!
"That's just what the keen Thanagarians (who, with their decorative yet functional wings remind me fondly of my friends, the Bird Men of Mongo) are doing in their recent attempts to correct the depredations of the incense-sniffing elite of Rann.
"Support my friends and yours, the Thanagarian people, and don't be fooled by cheap imitations of me!"
Here he is.
The hero of Rann.
About to be executed for spying against Thanagar.
How did our hero get out of this? A brilliant plan?
wasn't he saved by someone else?
A Thanagarian, wasn't it...?
I have trouble remembering these things...
In the Silver Age, storylines weren't "decompressed". Nowadays, it takes a six issue arc to catch a purse-snatcher running down the street, because during the chase you have to recount the incident's relevance to your origin story, argue on the phone with another member of your team, question your role in the larger superhero community, have conflict with either Superman or Aquaman or both, then muse on your complex relationship with the local authority figures.
In the Silver Age, you defeated other-dimensional world-conquerors, their planet-shattering weapons, & their slavering hordes in 11 or 12 pages (not counting splash panel), with enough time left for a panel or two of snappy repartee with your sidekick/girlfriend/comic relief character. Yes, in that happy era, heroes even made time in their schedules to save falling cats that probably didn't need saving.
In this case, so plentiful were heroes, in fact, that another hero rescued the cat first.
Who made the above speech and who rescued the cat instead of just talking about it...?
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Is this a prelude to excoriating the Return of Donna Troy that came out this week? Sorry, don't have the stomach for that. Still haven't recovered from throwing up when I read the name "Athyns". No, this is about the recent Batman 640, wherein Judd Winick (who's given to pretentious narration blocks) describes Batman as the "Cerberus" of his city.
Judd is using the "Cerberus" metaphor to liken Batman to a guardian because Cerberus is "the guardian of the underworld". Dark and creepy Gotham = Underworld, therefore Batman = Cerberus. Problem with the metaphor is, Cerberus's job wasn't to protect the people in the underworld; his job was to keep outsiders from getting in, and insiders from getting out. That's exactly not what Batman does; the metaphor is strongly inapt. Wrong, basically.
It may seem like I'm being pointlessly pedantic. Pedantic, sure, but I hope not pointlessly. Western literary tradition is the basis for comic books; it's our "cultural continuity", if you will. Every time we're sloppy in our literary references, we weaken our ability to use our cultural tradition as an efficient "common language" for communicating ideas. It's like when a bad writer writes Superman or Batman out of character; bristling, we object to the damage to our idea of what the character is. If any character can behave in any old way, then they all cease to have any meaning. What's true for comic book characters is true for mythic characters as well, and when you refer to Cerberus but ignore his "character" you rob it of meaning and weakening the power of our cultural continuity.
Please don't do that, DC writers; you wouldn't like me when I get snarky.
I love this man, and I don't care who knows it.
It's fairly safe to say that Paco Ramone (a sonic superhero codenamed Vibe) isn't one of DC's most beloved characters. Never was.
He was supposed to be the Sensational Character Find of 1984. Young, urban, Latin, hip. Or at least what the 1984 media shorthanded as hip (you know, breakdancing and such). And edgy? Why, the man had a soul patch decades before decent people wore them. Refreshingly, Vibe was always drawn short; why should you have to be 6 foot tall to have superpowers?
Paco had his problems, though. Fashion sense? Vibe's outfit is what I would expect in an Imaginary Story where a young Robin was brainwashed into joining the Royal Flush Gang. Dialog? Vibe was saddled with a Hispanic accent/dialect, and dialect plays poorly in comics, a medium ill-suited to registering subtleties of sound (a fact which didn't help the rest of his attributes, either: the music, the dancing, the sonic powers). In fact, if you read carefully, you knew his accent was a put-on for street cred (a la Black Lightning), but no one remembers that part. Attitude? Like many ghetto characters, Vibe got stuck with a "Chu doan know nuttin 'bout life en el barrio, meng" schtick. Ugh.
I didn't read JLA at that time, but I love Vibe in retrospect. Despite his Reagan-era trappings, Vibe is very Golden Age. Golden Agers were bright and shiny and his hideously mishmashed color scheme would fit in perfectly. Can't you picture him shopping with Alan Scott, Ted Knight, Charles McNider, and young Dick Grayson? Like other Golden Agers, he had a deceptive persona he adopted as his private identity, and played the role very broadly. And in true Golden Age style, his personal life led him into conflicts which he then used his powers to resolve, rather than every story starting with a supervillain slugfest.
Vibe does cameos in the JLU cartoon, but in the DCU proper, he's dead. When DC decided it was time for the real Justice League to return, they had someone step on Vibe (no, not Atom-Smasher, although I wouldn't put it past him). Since no one can come back from the dead (except Clark, Hal, Ollie, Diana, Jason, et al.), I don't expect to see Paco again.
But I want a Vibe comeback anyway. That could be accomplished by bringing his brother, Reverb, back into action, maybe even re-name himself "Vibe" in his brother's honor. He knows Aquaman, Zatanna, and Martian Manhunter, so have them introduce him to Black Canary. She could help him with his sonic powers, and lord knows "Birds of Prey" could use some beefcake hanging around. She could eventually plug him into the JSA, even. After all, he would be continuing the legacy of a "Golden Age-ish" hero!
Just don't let Atom-Smasher step on this one.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
but Devon of Seven Hells has posited that this may be the most beautiful of all Batman covers.
I can't say I disagree. But I'd be interested in the opinions of others. Naturally, it's quite subjective matter!
Unlike the Rann/Thanagar War ...
What's that? There is no such miniseries, you say? True enough. But, according to Devon (who erreth not) at Seven Hells, there was supposed to be. But the whole thing got too bogged down and the project was abadoned so as not to hold back the other four, "The Spectre's Hissy-Fit", "Batman Enables the Enslavement of the World", " The Secret Society of Unpleasant People", and "Putting Rann Out of Our Misery".
The set up was there: Themiscyra rudely plopped by Hera off the coast of the U.S., where it was suddenly cordoned off by warships. The Amazons were about to go to war with the Americans, I tell ya. DC's not going to let the ideas go to waste; without "Amazons Attack" the ideas will find there way into Wonder Woman, probably right after Donna is brought back.
The handcuff cover lends credence to this theory. With diplomatic immunity, Diana wouldn't really be susceptible that kind of arrest ... unless, say, her country was at war with ours?
Monday, May 23, 2005
If you compose, perform a song about him (or any of the candidates) and send me a decent mp3 of it, I promise to air your little ditty in rotation on Superhero Radio for all to hear! Unless it's naughty. Or crappy. Superhero Radio does not air naughty or crappy music; that's MTV's job.
Any musicians out there up to this challenge of the musical superfriends?
- "Aquaman" by Chemical People
- Donderevo's cover of Chemical People's "Aquaman"
- "Robin, the Boy Wonder" by Jan & Dean
- "Batman and Robin" by the Spotlights (1966)
- "I wanna live where Wonder Woman lives" by Vitapup
- "Robin the Boy Wonder" by the Marketts
When you start a comic book blog, your comics books become not just stories, but ammo. Who knows? Careful examination of some old books may lend evidence to the theory that that wasn't Dr. Light with Sue Dibny, it was Adam Strange in disguise. Or something like that.
The new need to do research among my comics book made me realize I needed to file them. "Gosh," I thought, because when you've read enough Silver Age comics, you start to think things like 'gosh',"it's been a couple months since I filed my comics, I bet." Um, well... five years, actually.
So I'm taking the opportunity to "free" some of comics that are taking up valuable space in my shortboxes, in fact, almost one and half long boxes worth. "Freed Comic Book Day" is opening my eyes...
Impulse was an incredible (except at the very end where it dissolved into too much Flash-y time travel/speed force nonsense). I laughed, I cried. It all stayed.
Superman. Sorry, Clark. Nothing seemed to move the storyline forward. People complain about the Legion, but it feels like Superman gets rebooted monthly with each issue. And the Luthor presidency? A completely wasted opportunity. What did Luthor actually DO when was president? There was some kind of alien war that was a pale imitation of "Invasion", I think, but (except for the death of Hippolyta) it didn't do anything. Note to DC: changing Superman's costume is not character/plot development.
Flash. Not only does the world's fastest man have the world's slowest book, it mostly just runs in circles. Here's the entirety of the last five years: Wally versus some anti-speedster (Savitar, Blue-Eyed Wally, John Fox, The Black Flash, the Reverse Flash, e al.) and Wally lost in time/space with Linda as his anchor. Great; she's my anchor. Let's have Wally run out to the middle of the Atlantic, DROP ANCHOR, and run back to being the charming, goofy would-be womanizer everyone loves on JLU.
Green Lantern. Hey, I like Kyle a lot. Loved the "imagination" angle on Green Lantern, loved Kyle-as-big-hunk, loved Kyle the regular guy/hero. Still, I'm "freeing" the lot of his books. Major problems included his location; without a fictional city of his own, Kyle lacked context. Quick, name two GL-Kyle stories, other than the refrigerator story and the Berg-bashing? Didn't think so!
What should I do with my Freed Comics? I may give them to Jack at Big Monkey or Devon at Seven Hells as donations to their stores. Regardless, I'm sure I won't miss them.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Mikester at Progressive Rann, ah, I mean, Ranagar's Ruin, oh, I mean Progressive Ruin, has noted that a Google search for "Rann" terms up many more entries and images than one for "Thanagar".
I should think so! The bulk of those are undoubtedly real estate listings by offworlders hoping to salvage something out of their Rannian properties before Thanagar takes over.
In any case, the adjacent image in one of the ones that turn up when you google Rann. It's from some Japanese site, so I'm not sure what it's about.
But I can guess who's Rann and who's Thanagar...!
I ADORE Batman! I'm from the na-na-na-na-na-na-Batman of the '60s generation, baby. Once you been hooked by Adam West, brothuh, you hooked fa' life.
And so, to prove that Batman is my hero (and why), this post is the first in a (what could be an endless) series:
How smart is Batman?
Batman is so smart...
he can friggin' read punch cards.