Friday, June 30, 2006

Retcon mania

Okay, I know DC like a good retcon, and surely Superboy Prime's history punching should be shown to have more effect than just adjusting some of the backstories of a few people in tights, but if you are going to write Galileo out of continuity then I personally think it shouldn't be done in a throwaway caption.

Brave New World opens with:

It was but two centuries ago-- mere moments in the cosmic scheme--

I think you'll find that's four centuries, actually.

--That the people there believed Earth the center of the universe.

In the eighteenth century? You think?

Eventually science disabused them of this notion,

That would be Galileo, 1564 - 1642. But not in the new DC universe.

I wonder what other historical retconning has occured. And is adjusting cosmology so that it's not until the period of the american civil war that it is established that the Earth revolves around the Sun a step too far? Is it an example of american imperialism to rewrite historical events to a time period where they can be attributed to americans?

Enquiring minds are all agog.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I was thinking

I was thinking about Stephanie.

I was thinking about Kate.

I was thinking about Cassandra and Nita and Kimiyo and Mia and Katma and May.

I was thinking "Now it's our turn to rescue them."

Monday, June 26, 2006

P.S. to big Joe Q.

If you enjoyed watching these heroes die, why not get the collected edition of their most recent adventures?

Pimping the New Warriors TPB in the back of the comic that slaughtered them? Tasteless.

Oh, and someone in your position really ought to have a sufficient grasp of the written language to know that you end a question with one of those little squiggly question mark thingies.

Sacrificial offerings to the god of crossovers

Hey, Marvel and DC, there's something you need to know. There is no god of crossovers and you don't have to sacrifice your firstborn to them in order to make your event comics succeed.

When I say "firstborn" here, I actually mean the second or third string characters that you don't care about, and yet somehow think that killing them off will be a big deal. No, killing off the ones you do care about would be a big deal. Killing the easy targets you always go for just upsets the few fans who liked them and has no effect on the rest of the audience because they didn't care either, and the shock value of killing off any hero has long since lost any power because you keep doing it.

See, this is the big secret that you have somehow failed to grasp in all your history: offing Namorita or Pantha will not make your event comic more successful or more memorable. Only good writing will do that.

Rest in peace, Little Avenging Daughter. 1971 - 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

I have a date with Judd Winick

No, I don't really. But I did try.

After all the mean things I said about him, it only seemed fair to give him the opportunity to respond, but he wasn't interested. He wasn't very happy about me calling him a misogynist, which is understandable. I have never met the man and know nothing of his life so I have no basis for commenting on him as a person and I would take this opportunity to publicly apologise to him. Okay, Judd?

It was sloppy wording on my part. What I meant to say was that in my opinion he had written a very misogynistic story, which is not the same thing. But don't take it personally, Judd. I'd say the same of anyone who wrote a story in which a woman was raped and left to die and her abuser escaped, whistling a happy tune.

The one thing he did tell me was that Kimiyo's race and sex had nothing to do with his decision to depower her and that he wasn't depowering an asian female character, he was depowering Dr. Light II.

Actually, Judd, I think you'll find you were doing both.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A brief review of Shadowpact #2

or, When Decompressed Storytelling goes Wrong

****Spoiler Warning****

***This review spoils the entire plot of Shadowpact #2 so do not read further if you want to waste $3 avoid finding out what happens****

The heroes fight the villains and the villains win.

You may now move straight on to issue #3, wherein the heroes escape their bonds and stage a comeback.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Your assignment for today

I just had the most cynical and thoroughly repulsive idea.

I think that one of the reasons why writers are still doing stories where women are sexually abused, either to motivate them, or worse, to motivate the men in their life, is because they don't get that everyone else is writing that story too. To the extent where, far from being the most horrific and dramatic thing in a character's life, it becomes a cliche on par with "the butler did it".

So in order to do my little bit to enlighten and maybe, just maybe slow it down the nasty, I'm going to do a monthly roundup to show what the current state is. I'll to need some help on this one, since I don't read a lot of current comics, and no Marvels at all. So if you see an instance of sexual abuse in a current comic (one published this month), stick a comment here and I'll do a list at the end of the month.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Trading Places

I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them. Some days my belief is under such extreme suspension that I'm afraid it will snap and take someone's eye out when it goes twanging across the room. Providing comic book physics is consistant I am willing to believe a man can fly, a woman in a minskirt can grow to sixty feet tall, and a dog can become a detective on a distant planet. But one thing I have a hard time believing is that super powers can be passed around like trading cards.

Now I want to make it clear that I don't have a problem with someone copying another's power. If you can have shape changers then it's not taking it much further to suggest that one character could mimic the structures of another's body that are responsible for the power; say they copied the physical arrangement of Superman's cells that enable him to process light into a form that gives him strength or the ability to fly.

Where I fall down is that I don't see how this process could remove those physical parts from the person's body and replace them with those of a regular human. I know in some cases you could explain it by saying that it's not the physical parts that have been removed, simply that the energy that powers those systems has been drained and so they will not work until the battery is recharged, and the character only assumes that their powers have been "stolen". But even if you drained Superman of all the converted light energy that powers his abilities he should still be Kryptonian and should still be affected by kryptonite. And it does not explain situations where characters have their powers removed permanantly, or are examined and found to be normal humans.

John Byrne does a nice take on this in Fantastic Four #250 where he suggests that it's a hypnotic effect to compliment the mimickery, and the person just believes their powers have been passed on to the other character. Superman's recent depowerment and regaining of those powers is written in a way that suggests the trauma that removed his powers damaged his ability to process sunlight, but that there was also a psychological element. He liked being depowered. He enjoyed being Clark Kent and for a while being free of the huge responsibility of being Superman.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Read my lips

What with one thing and another traffic has been unusually high around here recently. Largely due to the Doctor Light essay getting widely linked across the net, we got over 1200 hits on Saturday, alone. It's great to see so many discussing something I've written about on several different message boards, but I'm a little stunned about how some of the facts get lost along the way. In some cases despite my repeating them when I see someone has failed to spot them. Several times in the same discussion thread. Until I reach the point where I'm thinking I can't say this again without looking obsessive but they are still not getting it.

The main problem was all the appearances of Kimiyo in comics after she was depowered. I mean, okay I was confused until I looked it all up, but I thought I had explained it sufficiently in the article that every comic she appeared in subsequently was either a flashback or due to the way officially it took place on May 15th even though it was published in a comic with a cover date of November the previous year. And yet I'm still finding responses from people who can't understand the fuss because obviously she's fine in this month's Action Comics. Not only are they not paying close attention to the article they are discussing, they failed to spot the scene in the comic they just read is a flashback.

It's like the woman who can't see the point of and doesn't have time to read any of the articles, so she's made up her mind about it entirely based on her own assumptions of what she thinks it is. The G-W guys were trying really hard to find a way to give her the coherent simple statements of purpose that she was demanding while she responded by slagging off Stephanie. She seemed strangely proud that she hadn't really read any of the relevent comics and that this was a perfectly reasonable basis for trashing her to those who had taken Steph as their icon. Me, I would have soon reached the point where I decided I did not need this woman on my side.

How about this for a plan? If people are discussing something you aren't interested in, don't take part in it. Just step away from the thread and go chat about something you are interested in. If you haven't made any effort to follow the subject, expressing opinions based on what you think it's probably about are just going to make you look like an idiot, and confuse the other people who haven't bothered to read up but who are genuinely interested. And trashing stuff other people like when you don't know what you are talking about just makes you look like a jerk.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The science of Superskirt physics

It's been known for some time that normal physical laws react unpredictably and are sometimes suspended altogether in the vicinity of scantily clad women, and I think it is time there was some serious study done into this "superskirt" physics.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that women wearing costumes with bare midrifs are less likely to get hurt than if they are entirely encased in adamantium armour. The flimsiest underwear can withstand damage that would tear a full body costume to tastefully arranged shreds, and Supergirl's skirt could easily resist the gravity pull of a black hole to cling to her thighs.

Think of the benefits to mankind that could be achieved if we could harness the power that enables cute girls in chainmail bikinis to survive unaffected by blizzards while heavily wrapped people are losing toes to frostbite!

Clearly other, more advanced alien races have mastered this science, so we have some catching up to do.

On a related note, I feel there should also be room for more 16 year old girls in the space program.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

girl-wonder under attack

I hopped over to just now to find that some... I can't even think of a word to describe them adequately... How about weasel fuckers? That'll do. Some weasel fuckers have attacked by filling all the forums with really offensive pictures. I mean grossly nasty. I wouldn't recommend going over there until they've had a chance to clear it up.

I'm stunned. I mean I know they had some trolls in the responses to the first column, but this is on a different level. It's web terrorism.

Think I'm being hyperbolic for effect? The dictionary definition of terrorism is
the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion

Unlawful? Check.
Use or threat of violence? Yes. It's the brutal invasion of a shared webspace to fill it with images intended to upset and intimidate its users, not forgetting the thread titles that are simply threats to rape the moderators.
Against the state or public? It's a community area.
Politically motivated? I think we can take that as read.

So tell me, what part of terrorism is not an appropriate description of this act?

I cannot imagine what these braindead weasel-fucker terrorists thought this would achieve. Sure, it inconveniences everyone for a few hours, and upsets us that our community space has been violated in this way, but it's not going to stop us.

Hell, the biggest message it sends is that some assholes feel so threatened by the mere existance of girl-wonder that they tried to do the web equivilent of firebombing it.

Realism in comics

I love those everyday life moments in superhero comics. I think one of the reasons I lost interest in Batman (before Steph) was how he had no life other than the miserable avenger of the night. The grimmest dramas are ones that have light moments and the strongest comedies are the ones that have a touch of harsh reality to ground them. That's what Robin is for. It doesn't work if you make Robin all angsty or kill her off.

One of my favourite Batman stories ever is the one by Harlan Ellison where nothing happens. It's great. People witter on about realism, which they always seem to use to mean nasty, ugly, and vicious, but what realism actually means is that most of the time Batman would be very bored waiting for something to happen, or he'd just miss the important crime because he was across town getting a cat out of a tree.

Okay, not getting a cat out of a tree.

Something more Batmanish but trivial.

But realism also means unexpected random sillyness. Well it does in my life, anyhow. I want more of that kind of realism in my comics. I want more motivation by desire for ice cream and less by rape.

And I want to see large breasted women get backache. I want to see girls with massive hooters and not much holding them down to smack themselves in the face when they are running. I think there would be a lot less antagonism toward the typically overdeveloped superheroine figure if we saw them suffering realistically for it.

That's my idea of realism.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Incandescent: Losing the Light

Incandescent not only describes my subject, but my mood. It's time to set the rant levels to 11.

I'd start with a few words about writer Judd Winick, but Ragnell's got that covered.

Now I'm not sure how much time is supposed to elapse between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, but continuity is stretched past breaking point here, so it may get a little confusing. In Green Arrow #54 Winick writes a story that follows up on events in Identity Crisis, but in order to fit in with Infinite Crisis and 52 it officially occurs during 52 week 2, even though it was published 10 months earlier. Confused yet?

GA #54, the short version: Green Arrow and Black Lightning are looking for evil Doctor Light. Evil Dr. L. is conveniently only a few blocks away attacking Kimiyo Hoshi, the good Doctor Light. Evil Dr. L steals Kimiyo's powers and flies off cackling. Green Arrow finds Kimiyo in the hospital and is attacked by Mirror Master and Killer Frost, and runs off to fight them. Kimiyo is left bleeding on the floor and never seen again.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Well the continuity problems start with Kimiyo being seen in costume in Tokyo during Infinite Crisis, and then in America in 52 #1, and in flashbacks to around the same time in current issues of Action Comics. She's actually appeared more in costume using her powers in the last few months than she has in years, except that she was depowered and badly wounded months ago.

And to make it worse, in GA #54 it states quite specifically that she has not used her powers in two years. But then it also has Kimiyo Hoshi, astronomer, scientist, and medical docter who lives in Japan working as a business executive in Star City, America. Something is wrong somewhere and I think it's probably that Judd Winick is a lazy writer who didn't bother to research the character he was planning to destroy.

Winick writes the fight between Light and Kimiyo as entirely one sided, and Evil Dr. L. only wins because Winick ignores Kimiyo's established abilities, and worst of all belittles her character by telling us that she lacks the instinct to understand the situation. Frankly, I don't fully understand the situation.

Winick implies that they have the same powers, but that's nonsense. Although both are light based, their powers are not related in any way. Evil Dr. L got his from technology built into his costume, which he didn't even create; Kimiyo was zapped by The Monitor who channeled the power of a star into her. And even if they were identical, that doesn't mean that one can just take the other's power. It's like saying an athelete could steal another athelete's ability to jump by hitting them. Sure, super villains are always stealing heroes' powers, but there's usually some explanation for how they are doing it. Here there is none.

And then there's the problem that Kimiyo is magnitudes of times more powerful than Evil Dr. L. In Crisis on Infinite Earths she tapped a star to blow a hole in the Anti-Monitor. Although nobody bothered to write her at this level of power in later years, for raw power output she is in the Superman class. And unlike Evil Dr. L. she has been shown to tap other sources to boost her levels. There is evidence to support her taking his power, but not vice versa.

Once Evil Dr. L has "stolen" her powers, we only get one more scene with Kimiyo. Green Arrow bursts into the hospital room where she is lying bandaged, with an oxygen mask over her face. She gets to deliver a message to GA from Evil Dr. L. that it is a trap, so that the villains can make a dramatic entrance. GA goes chasing after them and Kimiyo is left lying there, never to be seen again (not counting the many "flashbacks" that have appeared since). She gets no resolution to her story, no cathartic revenge on her abuser, not even an indication whether she survived the experience.

She didn't even get one of those little tag scenes you'd get at the end of the A-Team, where Hannibal would say "Well, Mary-Anne, your father and brothers may have been murdered and your family business burned down, but we brought their killers to justice so it's all better." And then they'd all have a big laugh and Face would hit on her.

But that's not the end of it.

Green Arrow eventually confronts evil Dr. L in GA #57, and Winick gives Light several pages to expound on the joys of being a rapist. He likens his attack on Kimiyo to rape "only more benefitting than usual." And having painted this character as the most vile abuser, Winick allows him to escape. Evil Dr. Light leaves the story without any kind of censure. Kimiyo gets no justice; her abuser who considers himself her rapist gets to walk free.

And I'd just like to mention that the only other female in the story, Mia, also gets badly wounded by evil Dr. Light and left for dead. Green Arrow is apparently badly injured right at the end of the story (not by EDL), but since he has bounced back by the following issue, it's not really the same. I don't know if Mia has been seen since she got shot and blown up by EDL but there was no mention of her in the two subsequent issues of GA I read.

To say that Kimiyo was badly written in this story is understatement. Her background details are arbitarily changed to fit the story Winick wants to tell, and the only reason she's in it at all seems to be to power up the villain and make him look even nastier than he was already (because being revealed as a rapist in Identity Crisis clearly wasn't enough). Once her purpose is served she is dropped from the story like a used tissue, and the fact that her story gets no resolution just shows how little Winick cares.

Is this the end of the road for Kimiyo Hoshi? With all of her subsequent "flashback" appearances one can hope not. It would be a sad and pathetic way to go out, symbolically raped and left to die, forgotten, while her abuser escapes cheerfully singing a happy little song, our last sight of her the back of her head in a flashback, or her broken body lying on the floor.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The Doctor is [in]

In case you were wondering what she was saying.

It seemed appropriate to the moment.

Plus I have a few words to share about Kimiyo Hoshi but I need to build up a good head of steam first.

Dagger envy

When Red Sonja first appeared in comics she looked like this.

Then Esteban Moroto whipped up this little illustration.

Which Howard Chaykin transformed into this.

Other possible titles that occured to me for this entry included Is that a dagger strapped to your thigh or are you just pleased to see me?

Some time later they revamped this story. It's exactly the same story with the same pictures, but redrawn without the penis scabbard.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I just noticed something

While looking for a picture to illustrate the previous article I was looking through Robin #126 and noticed this.

Specifically, this:

So access to your secret plans in the Bat-computer where you keep all your paranoid little schemes for taking down every major superhero on the planet as well as for starting citywide gang wars don't qualify as big secrets?

You are such a jerk, Batman.

The forgotten Robin

I have to confess I jumped ship some time before Stephanie died. I could see where the story was leading the moment War Games started and it was clear that she was going to be the one sacrificed to give the event impact and shock value and I couldn't bear to watch. Call me cynical but I'm pretty certain that she was only made Robin in the first place to give her a higher profile so it would make for a more powerful story when she was beaten to death.

It's a practice that's been overused at DC and long past time it was retired to the cliche cupboard. Killing off a long established character is not a substitute for good writing, and when you make a big deal out of it and then forget about them the moment they are gone, it just shows what a cynical marketing ploy the whole thing was in the first place.

Stephanie was Robin and died in a horrible way, but Batman has no memorial to her in the Batcave like he did for Jason Todd. DC have no action figure of Stephanie as Robin, but they do one of Black Mask, who murdered her. He even comes with accessories like the power drill he tortured her to death with.

And that just makes me feel nauseous.

These guys feel the same way:
Because capes aren't just for boys.

46 to go

I could take or leave most of the mini-series that led into Infinite Crisis, and the event itself was, to say the least, disappointing. But so far I'm really liking 52.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The first lesbian superhero

I'm kind of a binge reader. I have books sitting around for ages that I never seem to quite find the time for, maybe I'll read a couple of pages here and there. Then for no obvious reason I'll sit down and read 500 pages in a day.

I'm currently at the "few pages here and there" stage with What they Did to Princess Paragon by Robert Rodi, so it may be a while before I get around to doing a proper review, but I wanted to say something about it now because although it was published eleven years ago, real life just caught up with it. See it's about the comic business. Specifically it's about how a thinly disguised analogue to Wonder Woman is relaunched as a lesbian. And the parallels to the current Batwoman situation are almost scary.

In an interview, the new writer of Princess P at one point says:

And, I mean, come on - we're not going to be doing soft core porn! We probably won't even have sex of any kind, beyond an occasional kiss or embrace. I'm writing about people, not bodies. I guess all I can say is, wait til the book comes out, then read it and judge for yourself. That's all - just judge for yourself.
Of course in this story the whole thing is a cynical move to work up interest in a dull and failing title, where the writer believes that doing something so controversial will be good for his own career. It perhaps shows how much the world has changed in eleven years, or that the real world isn't quite as cynical as we sometimes think, that when DC announced the introduction of Batwoman, they did so with no fuss. It was everyone else that made a big deal of it.

The media frenzy and the fan reaction is very closely parallel, though the internet is not a feature of the 1995 novel, which dates it rather. There are hysterical and obsessive fans claiming the character has now been ruined or perverted, and one particular obsessive looks likely to play a major role in the story. It's a shame that all the comic book fans in the novel are stereotype losers, thirty year old men still living with their parents, lacking social skills or any life outside comics. Couldn't they have included mention of one or two more normal people who liked comics, or *gasp*, female comic readers? When someone is satirising the prejudice of others, it's a little irritating that their own prejudices are so blatant.

More to come when I get a bit further into the book.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pirate videos

Just say no!

It was a confusing juxtaposition of images last time I went to the movies; a trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean 2 immediately followed by a new promotion against video piracy.

While I'm on the subject...

What is it with giant women and miniskirts?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gorilla my dreams

Intruiged by her appearance in the new series of Wonder Woman, I was looking into Giganta's backstory and was surprised and more than a little confused by what I found there.

Giganta's first ever appearance in Wonder Woman v1 #9 is such an amazing story that it needs a post all on its own. Possibly several. Suffice to say here that in her original incarnation she is a gorilla who is artificially evolved into a large, strong human woman. She later teams up with other foes of Wonder Woman to become part of the original Villainy Inc in WW v1 #28, but is not then seen again until #163 where her story is revamped a little and Dr. Psycho is thrown into the mix, she gets bigger and goes blonde. Apart from appearances on Super Friends TV show (why pick Giganta who had only been seen once since the 1940's?) she vanished into obscurity again for several decades.

When John Byrne reintroduced Giganta in post-Crisis¹ continuity (WW v2 #126) he made her much more pro-active. The golden age Giganta was the experimental subject of Professor Zool. The new Giganta was Dr. Zeul. Instead of the victim of a mad scientist she had now become the mad scientist herself. In this version her motivation was desperation. She was dying of some vaguely unspecified disease and wanted to cheat death by transferring her mind into the body of Wonder Woman. I didn't quite get this part since at the time Wonder Woman was also dying, but we soon find that Dr. Zeul isn't exactly playing with a full deck.

Her attempt to possess the Amazon's body is thwarted and she appears to have died, but in fact her mind/soul/essence or whatever has been safely stored in some kind of battery and her faithful sidekick Bronson, doing an Igor to Zeul's Dr. Frankenstein, transfers Zeul into the body of the ape Giganta they happen to keep in the lab (WW v2 #136). She then has a brief fight with Wonder Girl and is not seen again for some time.

We then get one of the most hamfisted pieces of continuity I've encountered in a while. Unless I've missed an appearance somewhere, Giganta is next seen in Wonder Woman v2 #175. She now most closely resembles the Super Friends animated version; a giant woman with a two piece leopard print outfit and big bracelets. It is not until #180 that we get any kind of explanation. Here we are told how circus strongwoman Olga is put in a coma by a shaman. Why we are given this detail I don't know as we never get to find out what the shaman was up to or what Olga did to upset him. All we get to see is the comatose Olga is stolen by Giganta the ape. The implication is that Dr Zeul then transfers her mind from the ape into the body of the strongwoman, but decides to keep the ape's name for no obvious reason. There is also no explanation given for the size changing powers. Did Olga already have this ability? We don't know. The next thing we hear about her is that she is now acting as heavy in Villainy Inc. who have taken over Skartaris. In fact we are told they have been there several years, so what she's doing in #175 at all is a mystery.

Subsequently Giganta appears now and again, even acquiring a first name, Doris in Flash #219, but she is largely ineffectual and usually either the heavy for someone else or the warmup act to give the heroes a chance to swap witty banter before the real villain shows up. If she is given any characterisation at all it is "big and stupid", even in the usually excellent Justice League Unlimited animation. But then Byrne's original characterisation was of the cardboard psychopath mad scientist happy to use her loyal follower as cannon fodder, so it's not really that much worse.

If Infinite Crisis did anyone any favours, Doctor Doris Zeul was high on the list. They might have reduced her bust size to the point where the other supervillains sniggered about the inappropriateness of her name behind her back, but Alan Heinberg and Terry Dodson have realized her potential and given her back her brain. I'm not wild about the jumpsuit, but it's more appropriate to an intelligent Giganta than the strongwoman outfit. Her past may have been a bit spotty, but it looks like she has a great future ahead of her.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Wonder Woman v3 #1.

There was stuff I liked about this and stuff I was less than thrilled with, and quite a lot that I am willing to suspend judgement on until we've seen the whole story, because enough of it I did like.

I'm still waiting to find out the significance of the mini eagles on the cover. You can't easily judge the size of most of them, but one of them is in front of Wonder Woman, and it's tiny.

The story opens with a bang and I immediately have mixed feelings. It's a lovely double page spread, but it's the buxom Donna Troy. I don't like Donna Troy. She's one of those characters that are being perpetually reinvented and I have no idea who she is now, but I don't want her to be Wonder Woman. My fears are immediately increased as she gives us some backstory. In the new post-Crisis² version we are now told that Donna is Diana's sister.

It's been pointed out to me that right now we only have Donna's word for this, so it may turn out to be more complicated, but that's where we are right now. This seriously screws around with Wonder Woman's origin. Was Diana still sculpted from clay? And if so, did Hyppolita have another go a few years later with some leftover bits to make Donna? Either way Diana loses a lot of her uniqueness and Donna becomes no more than the spare Wonder Woman she plays here.

Enter the bad guys. The now-human looking and buxom Cheetah matches chests with Donna (Wonder Woman lite) Troy and wins. What, you thought that someone who regularly takes down gods and beings with enough power to change history by hitting it would be cowed by a couple of big pussycats?

We then get to the part of the comic I like best, and which has me falling about laughing. I haven't read any other reviews so I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but I think it's hilarious that the woman with the flattest chest in the new improved DC universe is Giganta. No wonder she prefers to be called Dr. Zeul. She is now officially my favourite villain.

Partly I'm just delighted to find that there's room in the DC universe for even this small deviation from the regular female bodytype (see Buxom above). Of course I'd like to see a much greater range than is currently on offer, but it's a step in the right direction.

And after some entertaining back and forth on the last page we are intorduced to buxom Agent Diana Prince. Agent of what, I'm not sure. Should I know who this Nemesis guy is and would that explain it? Well I don't so it doesn't. But a kick ass Diana Prince in a completely white outfit?

Two questions I have for next issue: does she have the realistic kung fu grip, and where's the little old blind oriental guy?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Okay, but no.

I read way too many other comics blogs. I blame Ragnell and Kalinara When I reach the point where I am commenting about what other people are writing about comics then I should probably stop and go read a comic. Or go sit on a beach. How about if I go sit on a beach and read a comic? Yeah, I could make that work.

Anyhow, what's got me all exercised today is that I've read several articles in the last couple of days talking about various productions and doing the Women in Refrigerators thing (not freezers. *rolls eyes*) of examining how the female members of the cast are mistreated and then using that to bang on about inequality and misogyny.

The problem is that the evidence in each of these cases is taken from a narrow, blinkered reading of the source material which undermines their whole argument. Yes, female characters are depicted in an overly sexualised way compared to male characters, but you can't support this by saying that their costumes are basically nude figures with costumes painted on. That's been the style of superhero art as long as they have been around, and it has been applied equally to males as to females. In fact it probably started out with male characters drawn that way to show off their muscles, so when female characters were created they just went with the same plan because it's easy to draw.

And yes, many of the female characters in the latest X-Men film didn't fare too well, but having just watched it I couldn't say that the male characters were treated any better. Except Wolverine who is a complete Mary-Sue, which I'm not sure does him any favours since it means that he is rapidly turning into the Fonze.

So yes, there is plenty of injustice toward female comic characters, but before you get outraged about a specific example, make a little effort to check that they are getting treated any worse than the rest of the cast, or other comparable characters in general.

Molehill enlargement for beginners

This is the original Batwoman of the '50's and '60's.
This is the Batwoman from the animated movie Mystery of the Batwoman.

This is the official image issued by DC of the new Batwoman used in their press release.

This is the image used by the australian Daily Telegraph in their report about the new character. It is a poster for a mexican film made in 1964 that was not licenced by DC.
This is the image used by Pravda in their report of the new character. It's from a website that features images of girls dressed in minimal costumes based on comic book characters. It is unlicensed by DC.
This is the image used by the Metro newspaper to report on the new character. I do not know where it is from but I believe it is a piece of fan art done several years ago. It is of course unlicenced by DC.

What do these images have in common that were used to illustrate news articles about the new Batwoman?
1) They are not the character the article is about, and in fact were all produced long before the new Batwoman was created.
2) They are all eroticised depictions of a woman in a Batman style costume.
3) They are all unauthorized images and probably in contravention of DC's copyright.

Oh, and in each of these cases the unlicenced, illegal erotic image is the only image used to illustrate the story, and in none of them does it explain that their image has nothing to do with the character they are writing about.

The only reason they have used these images that I can possibly see is to play up the fact that the character is a lesbian and imply that her sexual adventurings will play a major role in the story and be visually depicted in a way entirely innappropriate to the comic she will be appearing in, which they must know will not be the case. Would a newspaper get any credibility if they illustrated an article about the new Superman actor Brandon Routh exclusively with images of random muscle men in Superman themed posing pouches and speculated about the kind of sex he likes?

So much for fair and accurate reporting of the news.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What's in a cameo?

This started off as a reply to Sleestak's article The Wolverine Conspiracy over at Lady, That's my Skull, but it got a bit too long so I decided to post it here instead. Sorry, Slee.

Sleestak discusses what qualifies as a cameo in a comic book. I looked up "cameo" in the dictionary and it wasn't really specific enough, merely suggesting that it is the brief appearance of a prominent actor in one scene of a movie.

In comic terms a cameo is much less; usually a single panel appearance or standing in the background for a couple of panels as furniture.

The problem with comics is that they are formed of both single self-contained stories and
multi-part or continued stories. Sometimes at the same time. In the case of Hulk #180 - 181 Wolverine's appearance only counts as a cameo if you take it as self-contained, which it clearly isn't. Read the story as a whole and the end of the comic is not the end of the scene. 181 continues on from the end of 180 continuing the scene unbroken. Therefore Wolverine's appearance in 180 cannot be a cameo when taken in context.

I think a fairly adequate rule of thumb would be if you can remove a character from the story without it having any impact at all on that story then it's a cameo. I'd include "furniture" appearances in this - those shots like crowd scenes in Crisis with a lot of big name characters standing around: it is only important to have the crowd. It doesn't matter who is specifically in the scene.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lesbian wears cape: news at 11

The Blogosphere seems to have gone mad this week with speculation about the new Batwoman. Even the ones that aren't second guessing a story they aren't going to get to read for more than a month are bemoaning the impracticality of costume details like long hair and high heels. Apparently the cape is okay because although it is equally impractical, lots of male characters have them too.

Me, I think I'll wait until there's an actual comic to read. Personally I can't see what all the fuss is about and I'm kinda sad that that I live in a world where it is such a big deal.

I don't care about Scott Pilgrim

This started out as a continuation of my long-delayed overview of Free Comic Book Day comics, but then kind of got sidetracked. I blame Scott Pilgrim.

Free Scott Pilgrim is my, and presumably many other people's first taste of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim. At first sight it comes across as a typical cartoony amerimanga; a few superficial generic manga stylistic devices like big eyes and speed lines, but without any of the hard to draw stuff or depth of the source material.

The stand out point for me is when we hit page 3 and there is a large panel that uses a photo for the background, which works fine. Except that there's this little caption that says
"a note from the artist I don't think I'm getting paid for this comic and this background seemed pretty hard to draw so please enjoy the stock photo"
Bryan, honey, you may not be getting a check for this comic but it's your big promotional tool. Someone has stumped up a lot of cash to get copies of your work into the hands of many, many people who would not normally see it, and what they are reading is "I can't be bothered to do this properly because the idea that it might prompt people to buy lots of my other books and make me lots of cash indirectly is way too theoretical for me to handle."

Sadly, the rest of the comic does not interest me enough to distract me from this sour note. After a gag about buying drinks, Scott and friends head off to a movie theater but never arrive because several copies of the same girl jump out of a movie poster and attack him for no reason that makes any sense*. Scott stands around for a few pages whining about how he can't hit a girl, even though she is beating the crap out of him, and then his friends discuss the whole situation for a few more pages, and then Scott's girlfriend makes him hit the girls and they go poof and turn into beverage coupons, which enables us to revisit the gag about drinks, which is no funnier the second time around.

I don't know if this is supposed to be some kind of bizarre stream of consciousness thing. Maybe it makes sense if you've read Scott Pilgrim before, except, wait a second, isn't this supposed to be aimed at people who have never read it before? If not, why bother?

And the whole sexism of it pisses me off no end. The attitude of "No, I cannot hit a girl" is reasonable in some situations, but when eight of them are kicking your head in is not one of them. In this context the implicit idea is that it would be unfair to hit a girl even when she is hitting you because obviously she is only a girl and she couldn't actually hurt you whereas you are a guy and you might damage her with your manly strength.

So what with one thing and another I am not moved to seek out any more of the works of Bryan Lee O'Malley, but it did get me thinking about things that are self defeating. Like TV adverts that put you off buying the product rather than encourage you, or ones that are okay but get repeated so often that you end up being so annoyed by them that you will cross the street to avoid the product. Or like the Scifi Channel which I will no longer watch casually because I am so annoyed by their intrusive and excessive self advertising which can sometimes mean that there are 3 different graphics promoting different programs on screen at the same time, obscuring the current program I'm trying to watch, and every 15 minutes we are subjected to the same adverts for the same shows, not to mention mangling the end credits to promote the same or different shows. This was only recently outdone by Sky One's overhype of Ricky Gervais's Simpsons episode, where they spent a week rerunning the same clip of Gervais talking about it every ad break day and night. At the start of the week I was quite interested. By Thursday I wanted to hit the smug git with a pickaxe every time his stupid face appeared. And it wasn't even a very good episode.

What I don't understand is how the people who are paid vast sums of money to create advertising cannot see that their work is having the opposite effect of that which they were paid all that money to achieve. I realise most of the cash goes into making those glossy 15 second movies, but you'd think some of the expertise might be devoted toward having a clue whether it's going to make people like the product more or less.

*I don't care if Scott's girlfriend's ex might have been a ninja, that does not explain movie posters coming to life and turning into coupons.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Burning Pants of Jimmie Robinson

It's all so trivial it's hardly worth posting about, but it made me laugh, so I am.

Self-proclaimed rebel and political satirist Jimmie Robinson (how the hell can you be a serious rebel when you are called Jimmie? He really needs to get an image rebranding and come back as Clint or something), creator of that social satire of Swiftian proportions, Bomb Queen, responds to a question in the letter column in issue #4 about why he was so coy with BQ's nipples in the first issue, given the way she puts it about in subsequent comics.

The great rebel responds that there was no change of direction between issues and that "The word balloons in issue #1 just landed that way".

Jimmie Robinson is a lying liar who lies. He is a complete and utter Archer* and I can prove it.

In Bomb Queen #1 there is a scene where BQ is in the bath. During this sequence there are 5 panels where her intimate bits would be visible if there wasn't something in the way. These include envelopes (1), TV remote (3), cat (1), and speech bubble tail (1). When you have deliberately created a picture composition that achieves a specific result four out of five times, I find myself incapable of believing that when the same result occurs a fifth time it was due to oversight rather than intention. And who was it who was responsible for this darn oversight? There's no letterer credited, so hmm... Could that have been down to you, too, Jimmie?

I thought the sexualisation of the characters in Bomb Queen was one of the more successful and funniest aspects of the comic, where a lot of the political stuff was hit and miss, and not remotely as radical as Robinson thinks it is. The violence is grotesquely over the top, but really only distinguishable from Infinite Crisis because it's funnier. I don't know what he intended with this particular sequence, but given the subsequent issues' much more explicit depiction of male and female bits and the reactions of those around - The "I'm up here" moment in #2 was classic, particularly since it was a guy - I'm guessing that the obfuscation in #1, occuring while we were getting full frontal shots of other women, was intended as some kind of satire or joke that didn't come off.

It's always embarassing to explain a joke no one got and know that they are not going to laugh at it even once they know what it is, but telling an obvious lie to cover it just digs yourself in deeper.

*Jeffrey Archer, british MP and novelist sent to prison for perjury. He will always be fondly remembered by the british people as the MP that got caught.

Idiot spam monkey at work

I noticed a reply to a recent post of mine started with:

Economics 101 said... This is a great analysis - well done!

Can I bring to your attention AK Comics of Egypt who produce 'Middle East Heroes' which has just started being distributed through Diamond.

And then went on a bit about AK Comics. A little self-serving, but it was comics related and I had been talking about my disillusionment with the comics I'd been reading, after all. But all became clear when I saw exactly the same comment on another blog; confirmation that it was a spam monkey at work. But I was curious so I dug a little deeper.

Our friend Economics 101 is in fact Andrew Stephenson, who runs the AK Comics blog and appears to be involved in the company in some way that he doesn't specify, but he says "we" a lot when passing on whatever inflated piece of fluff he has to say about how wonderful they are.

The competition he promotes is one where, correct me if I'm wrong, Andrew, you create a team of superheroes which AK Comics will then build a comic around, and your fantastic reward is to receive a year's subscription to the comic.

Well cover me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians! How gracious of you to step down from your mighty pedestal and consider that my ideas might be worthy of your consideration. I'm certainly prepared to give up all copyrights to my characters, waive all royalty fees, abandon any control over their usage, and throw away any future interest in them for the sake of a year's worth of what is known in the business as contributor's copies and which are handed out to anyone who has had any input on the comic. Hell, you don't even need to credit me beyond the first issue.

Think how proud I'll feel when I'm buying a T-shirt with MY characters on it (that I wasn't consulted about and receive no royalty from) or maybe one day standing in line to see a movie featuring the heroes I created (which I don't even get listed in the credits for, let alone a share of the huge licensing fee).

And you know what? AK Comics doesn't even need this underhand and deceiptful behaviour. I took a look at what they are producing and well, once you get past the sub-Image gloss it's possible there might be something original going on there. Hell, if I had been genuinely approached about them this might have been a feature on new and different comics worth tracking down. But am I going to make any effort to find out if they are worth it after I've been spammed and patronised in this way?


The truth revealed

Earlier in the week I posed a question about a Strange Tales cover. I can now reveal an artist's recreation of what this cover probably looked like. We may never know for sure.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Batman's double standards

There was this story in JLA a few years ago (I'm sure someone can provide issue numbers, I only read this in a borrowed collection) in which the Bat-computer is hacked by Ra's Al Ghul and he steals the contingency plans the ever prepared Batman had put in place in case any or all of his super powered buddies went bad and he had to take them down.

It's a decent story and of course our heroes win the day. They are a little uncomfortable with Batman for preparing for this kind of eventuality, but they can't escape the hard fact that it's a reasonable thing to do given how often they are individually or collectively brainwashed, possessed, replaced with evil duplicates, and all the other problems with which superhero life is fraught. None of them suggest that the security on the Bat-computer needs a little upgrading.

Something like a year later, after Batman has spitefully kicked out Steph for doing not only what any other Robin would do but I'm 95% certain has done in similar circumstances, she tries to prove herself to him by hacking the Bat-computer and using one of his plans. It's an incredibly clumsy plot constructed purely to make Steph The Flawed Hero Who Must Give Her Life to Atone for the Mistake She Made. I saw where this was going in the first issue and couldn't bring myself to follow it to the end. But I'm betting nobody suggested that Batman upgrade the security on the Bat-computer.

And then we come to the OMAC project. Batman comes up with a new scheme for defending against his super-buddies on the off chance they go bad. Can you possibly make a wild guess what happens? Yes, one more time someone hacks the bloody Bat-computer and steals these most top secret and dangerous plans, reprograms the OMAC control system, and uses it to kill a lot of people.

Batman surely has some responsibility here? Isn't he in the same position as Steph, only with a higher body count? How come Brucey doesn't get to sacrifice himself nobly to atone for his mistake? But no, you see Batman doesn't even acknowledge he has done a thing wrong. In fact he manages to get on his high horse and be disgusted with Wonder Woman for killing Max when she is given no alternative, even while the fruits of his criminal negligence are killing people by the thousand.

Nobody even suggests that his clever schemes (and doesn't anyone think that a plan that involves converting innocent bystanders into cannon fodder is fundamentally flawed?) have caused far more damage than the potential dangers they were designed to guard against, or that maybe it's time he stopped trying to think of ways to hurt his friends, or if he really must do so, he write these plans down in a notebook and keep it in a big safe at the bottom of the Batcave, rather than publishing them on the internet.

Losing Faith

I remember when I was a kid and I really honestly believed it the first couple of times I read a story in which a major comic book character died. There was one time I spent weeks puzzling over why Superman's death (no, not The Death of Superman, another one) hadn't seemed to have caused any repercussions in other comics, and was quite relieved to find everything set right in the second half of the two-parter.

As I read more comics it became apparent that hero death was a regular occurance and not to be taken too seriously. With big-name characters like Batman or Superman it was either a fake out, or at worst an "event" (yes, I do mean The Death of Superman this time). In some ways it felt a bit of a cheat, but I realise now that deep down it was very reassuring to know that however bad things looked, my heroes would always come through, somehow.

It's not like that now. Sure, the iconic name brands are untouchable, but Wonder Woman hasn't been able to hold a supporting cast since before Crisis (the first one), Batman's been largely unreadable for years, and Superman gets retconned so often that I have no idea what Krypton is now supposed to have looked like or whether Kandor is currently only available in bottled form.

And gods help you if you are a B list character. You can vanish from history with a lame explanation, or none at all, and nobody even notices when you are replaced a month later by someone else with the same name. Or you can be built up for a couple of months so that readers will care more when you become the sacrificial goat to make an "event" more... Meanspirited? Depressing? I don't know what the hell the point of that is.

At least once you hit the C list they just use you as dramatic cannon-fodder to show how evil the villains are. Your death may be brutal and violent, but it's usually quick.

So when I read Robin #150 I wasn't excited; I just felt a little nauseous and depressed. It may be, as Kalinara suggests, a misdirection, and Cassandra may yet be saved. But DC already cancelled her comic and they have a new Batwoman all lined up and ready to roll. So I have no deep down tingle of anticipation over how Batgirl is going to get out of this one. No expectation that the clever writer is going to resolve the impossible situation with a surprise twist that I should have seen coming. No faith in DC any more to give me a happy ending.

It's times like this I wonder if maybe I've grown out of comics.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The final Loebotomy/Cir-El's Last Stand

I stopped commenting on Jeph Loeb's work in Superman/Batman some months ago. Time was he could be at least relied on to do something to fire me up with a good rant, but the final storyline of the series was so lame and so much one more dip into his tired old bag of tricks that there was nothing of interest to say. I hadn't even looked at the last couple of issues.

And then I heard he had brought back Cir-El. My delight at the prospect of seeing the lost Supergirl appear in a DC comic, even just for a cameo, was tempered by a degree of anger toward big Jeph. In all the Supergirl stories he had written to date, any mention of Cir-El and Linda was significantly absent, even where it beggered belief that someone among those present never brought up any previous wearers of the cape.

So why now? Especially given that even though neither even appeared for two panels in Infinite Crisis so that they could get their heads ripped off or something, the word has come down from on high that neither are now in continuity.

Why? Because Jeph wanted to fill his last big Bats/Supes story with all the possible versions of his main characters as he could think of, and that included all the available Supergirls.

In fact Cir-El and Linda get three lines apiece (one each of which is "Ouch"), no characterisation or even explanation of how they got there or where they came from. But then given the characterisation of what appears to be some kind of moronic analogue of silver-age Supergirl from Earth-Stupid, I don't really mind so much.

Oh, and one last thing. I know you had a lot of them to stuff into these issues, McGuinness, but if you are going to do fan favourite cameos, you might take the trouble to get the costumes correct.

And that's my last bit of bile for Jeph Loeb. He's off to ruin some comics I don't read so I'll leave it to the Marvel fans to take up the venom.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lost and forgotten

Cerisa Tempest is updating the infamous Women in Refrigerators list and I notice that there's one name that didn't make it to the original list and isn't on the new list either.

Okay, look I know she was badly written, had a horrible costume, and nobody liked her, but she had one of the most unfair, pathetic superhero deaths ever, and it feels like the writing her out of continuity was been so thorough that not even the readers remember her.

She may only have been the one between the Peter David one and the skinny one, but she was still Supergirl.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Super self-parody

A friend of mine brought me this back from the UK comic convention in Bristol this weekend. Proof, if any were needed, that Ian Churchill draws Supergirl like a stick figure.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Clea Must...?

The other day I was looking at some old comics on the wall of a store and they must have been a bit stuck for space because the comics were overlapped so you could only see the left hand side of many of them.

My eye was caught by the cover to Strange Tales #154 and I was intruiged. What was it that Clea must do?

Okay, anyone who has ever read a Marvel comic in their entire life knows where this headline goes, but just suspend your disbelief for a moment and tell me what it is you think that Clea must do here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Samplers should be good

Let's be honest, Free Comic Book Day is essentially seen by publishers as a promotional tool. It's a chance to get their product seen by a lot of people who would not normaly look at it.

Which is fine. I heartily approve of enlightened self-interest. Everyone wins.

Anyhow, so most of the stuff that I came home with last Saturday was samples intended to persuade me to read comics I didn't know. Now if I was head honcho of a comic publisher I'd ensure that my sample comic contained the best stuff I could find that would engage the interest of anyone who read it and bring them back for more. Judging by some of the comics in my pile either I am out of step with current strategy, or the rest of the stuff they publish must be real dreck.

Case in point being Arcana Studio Presents; a sampler of scenes from three ongoing titles. Kade had some interesting painted technique but looked just like a zillion other fantasy comics and I haven't worked up the energy to read it yet. Big muscley hero fights firey demon. Gag me with a spoon.

Second up was Ezra, generic fantasy heroine whose most interesting aspect is her inability to ever stop talking, regardless of whether her audience is composed of thugs, woodland creatures, or nobody at all. She tells the thugs her life story inbetween beating them up. She tells a racoon much of the same story a page later. She chats for a page to an empty woodland. I'm almost tempted to pick up this comic to find out whether this is a deliberate character trait or just terrible writing.

Finally we have 100 Girls. I have no idea what 100 Girls is about but I don't think this sample was much of a help as it was entirely about a bad man who stumbles around in some wreckage and then dies. There was some mention of a girl with super powers but since she only appears for one panel in flashback, I have no clue whether she is any more important to the comic this is supposed to be encouraging me to buy than the bad dead man.

Marvel kind of did okay. I don't know whether the Runaways/X-Men 11 pager is a reprint or unique to this comic, but it is a nice self-contained little story that I liked a lot. On the strength of this I could well be persuaded to give Runaways a try. The rest of the comic wasn't so hot. A Franklin Richards story that didn't really do anything for me, what appeared to be half a random fight scene from an Avengers variation I wasn't familiar with, and a lengthy text synopsis of Ultimate Spider-Man that made it sound so hideously convoluted that it put me off ever looking at it. Personally I'm holding out for Penultimate Spider-Man.

As for DC... On the plus side I really like the Justice League Unlimited comic. On the minus side I fail to comprehend the logic of promoting this comic when it's just been cancelled.

Archie Comics were one of the few to produce something entirely original, and although it would be easy to pick holes in the quality of this offering, it's more fun to experience it through Scipio's eyes.

More to come...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The problem with Sluggy

There's a web comic I've been reading for several years now, although it's been very off and on lately. In fact I stopped reading it altogether for three months.

It's called Sluggy Freelance and the problem is that it takes itself way too seriously. The comic started out as a gag strip revolving around a small group of people: Torg; the everyman figure, Biff; the mad scientist (but cool with it), Zoe; the hot babe, Gwynne; the plain one who is also a witch, Bun-Bun; the psycopathic rabbit, and Kiki; braindead ferret. They would fall into other dimensions, fight elves, vampires, and demon kittens, parody pop culture favourites like Star Trek and Harry Potter, and generally have a lot of fun in stories that ran for a few weeks.

And then along the way creator Pete Abrams started moving away from daily gag strips with continuity to epic graphic novels puplished at the rate of 4 panels a day. And even though the stories took a much more seriously dramatic turn, they still dragged along all the gag baggage. You can't do a serious dramatic story where characters struggle with pain and loss and fill it with demons with silly names from the "Dimension of Lame".

And because individual storylines might only feature a couple of the regular cast and drag on for the best part of a year, it becomes hard to keep track of what is going on. The final straw was the science ficton epic "Oceans Unmoving" which only featured Bun-Bun of the main cast, and had a hideously complicated plot involving timeless space that ran for 13 months, broken only by 3 week digression into Harry Potter parody. Abrams tried desperately to keep this behemoth moving along by producing a prodigious amount of comics each day, but that didn't stop it being a big complicated graphic novel chopped up into small pieces and spread out over such a long period of time that you needed to keep going back and rereading all the previous bits to make any sense of it. It was totally the wrong format for the story, and Abrams freely admitted it had got out of hand.

A month or so into this storyline I stopped reading the comic daily and just caught up about once a week in hopes of the story making sense, but to be honest I wasn't that interested in it. It was a clever concept, but it just went on and on. I wasn't very interested in most of the newly introduced characters and I really lost track of what it was about. I wanted to see Biff blow stuff up, Gwynne get all witchy, Zoe make cutting remarks and slap people, and Kiki go "ooh, shiny!". Eventually I stopped reading it altogether.

It was several weeks after the story finished before I even noticed. At first it seemed like things were back to the way they used to be, albeit with some more serious characterisation under the humour. But within a couple of weeks we were off on what first appeared to be a short digression road trip with added ninjas but which has just turned into 3 weeks of soul searching as Torg confronts his feelings for Zoe. Okay, the shadow puppet imagery was cool, but three weeks of it? And when we find that one of Torg's fears is that Oasis will show up and kill Zoe, I was surprised. I mean if she were really out to get Zoe, surely she would have turned up sometime in the last four years?

It's evident that Abrams has moved beyond the format of a daily gag strip, but that is what he is working with and it's an unhappy compromise. And he seems unable to dispense with the broad humour, using it as a crutch even while it is undermining the more serious things he is trying to do. It is not impossible to mix drama and humour. Just look at Girl Genius, for example. But what's going on in Sluggy is sometimes as effective as putting fart jokes in Hamlet. Any laughs it generates are at the expense of the dramatic tension he is trying to create.

I am all for creators pushing their limits, and I am not in any way suggesting that Sluggy should return to some arbitary "good old days". I just wish that Abrams would make a decision and either find a way to do the big graphic novels he wants to, or do a gag strip with limited continuity and puns. Both at the same time is not working, and it hasn't been working for a long time now.