Tuesday, July 10, 2007
More Legion snippet sniping
Oh wait, I didn't mean death exactly. You see although Lightning Lad has been worm food since issue #304, they think he may only be mostly dead, which is a little bit alive (1), but rather than hooking him up to a life support, they seem to think he'll keep fine as he is. So Superboy goes off to investigate this planet where the people periodically fall into a state of death-like coma but then recover a few hours later. It's a condition that resembles what is known on 21st century Earth as sleep, barring the odd custom of this planet, where, rather than curling up in the comfort of one's own bed to lose consciousness, people of this world prefer to lie in perspex coffins out in the street.
After several more investigations by the six members of the Legion who are taking part (2) we find that Mon El knew a solution all along, which he demonstrates by having an android sacrifice itself to revive another android. I can't decide whether this is callous or idiotic. Either the androids are sentient lifeforms, in which case making one kill itself purely for demonstration purposes is reprehensible, or they are not living creatures and the demonstration is pointless (3).
So by a contrived quirk of plot, the only way to bring Lightning Lad back is by sacrificing one of our heroes. Except not. Because it turns out any old life form would do, as Chameleon Boy's expendable pet heroically bites the dust, only to be replaced by an identical copy a few issues later.
I'm not sure my brain can cope with attempting to explain the plot of Adventure #313, but I'll try. In a tortuously convoluted plot, Supergirl travels to the 30th century for one of her rare appearances in the Legion, but as she arrives she bumps into some red kryptonite that knocks her out and splits her in to two people. The first Supergirl to wake up decides that she wants to live a life of her own and not be rejoined when the temporary effect wears off.
She devises a plan where she believes that she can siphon off the "red kryptonite effect" from her body and, rather than just dump it in empty space, for no very obvious reason she has to use it to irradiate other people, and because deep down she has a death wish and wants to be found out, instead of picking on some defenceless nobodies in the back end of the galaxy, she uses it on the people best equipped to stop her; the Legion. And just to make sure that they won't be badly impaired, she only uses it on the female members (4) except for the other Supergirl, even though she's the only person present actually vulnerable to any form of kryptonite, and the only one putting up any resistance. And just to make sure everyone knows she is the villain, she calls herself Satan Girl.
Unfortunately it takes the Legion awhile to get organised because even the robot-nurses of Quarantine World are unable to tell the difference between radiation poisoning and a virus, and by the 30th century they have yet to invent a device that can detect kryptonite radiation.
In the end Supergirl devises a plan that involves travelling back in time to get some help, but rather than grabbing Superboy, Superman, or any other male hero (5) available to them in all of time, they go collect Streaky the super cat (6), Krypto, and other assorted super pets for an entirely superfluous guest star role as they don't achieve anything more than Supergirl was already doing solo; keeping Satan Girl busy until her time (7) ran out.
Does this story make sense on any level at all? I'm thinking not.
Adventure #314 has one of the funniest moments in the whole volume. Villainous Alaktor steals a Legion time machine and does a kind of evil Bill & Ted, collecting Nero, John Dillinger, and Hitler to help him do some bad thing or other. So he picks up the most despicable people in history he can think of, and then gives them super powers. And then they tie him up and go and do whatever the hell they like.
The pure comedy moment is the hurt look on the face of the naive villain when he finds he is being betrayed and whimpers "But you promised!"
It cracks me up every time.
1) If you didn't get the Princess Bride reference, shame on you.
2) presumably the rest of the team just didn't care enough to take part
3) It would have worked better with chickens
4) though interestingly, the male legionnaires contribute little if anything; this is very much a Supergirl story
5) remember as far as they are aware, only females are susceptible to Satan Girl's radiation virus
6) presumably having forgotten about Streaky's telepathic descendant Whizzy
7) which they didn't know about
Little hat syndrome
There's an old joke. A mother's at the seaside with her baby boy, who's playing in the sand by the water's edge. Suddenly a big wave crashes over the boy and sweeps him out to sea. The mother hysterically scans the ocean but he's gone, gone, gone, so she falls to her knees on the shore and sobbing, calls out to God.
"God, please God, I'll do anything, but you have to bring my boy back! Take me instead, strike me dead this instant, submit me to a thousand tortures, but please -- I'll give up all my money, everything I have in this life, I'll build a temple or a church in your name, whatever you want! But oh merciful God, I'm begging you, please give me back my child! "
There's a peal of thunder and a bolt of sunlight pierces the sea, and lo and behold, another big wave rolls to the shore and the baby boy is returned. Crying with joy, exclaiming a dozen thank-yous, the mother clutches her child to her bosom, and then holds him out for a loving look. She turns back to God. "God," she says. "He was wearing a little hat..."
Billy Mernit, who I stole the above quote from, talks about little hatting in creative writing, but it's equally applicable to comics criticism. I know I'm guilty of it, and I see it all around me. The better a comic is, the more any tiny fault stands out, and we end up focusing on that so much that any reader might get the impression that we absolutely hated something which in fact we consider a paragon, apart from this tiny thing that we feel the need to dwell on for three quarters of the review.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
A very dull rainbow
Since the Legion is composed not just of representatives from Earth, but from the entire Universe, you do rather get the feeling that the 30th century is a bit lacking in cultural diversity.
I realise that due to the prejudice of the time these comics were first published there are some parts of "the land of the free" where people would refuse to sell a comic that had a black face on it, but they could have thrown in a few pastel shades that the bigots wouldn't be offended by to at least suggest that the universe of the future wasn't almost entirely populated by white people. Of the sixteen legionnaires (guess which one is not featured on the big board here) and five subs who are supposed to represent maybe twenty different worlds, there are only two who are not white, and only one who has any physically different characteristics. And he's the one who can change himself to fit in whenever he wants.
And admittedly it's hard to tell when it's purely skin colour and you're reading a black and white reprint, but going by what I've so far read of this Showcase collection it appears that all women of the future are white Caucasians.
Friday, July 06, 2007
Lighning Lad spontaneously comes back to life, except it's actually his twin sister in disguise, who has stolen his corpse and taken his place in the coffin (1), which nobody notices until Sun Boy spots she doesn't have an adam's apple, rather than that she's an entirely different shape. I'm guessing she must have used some kind of 30th century bodysuit because when we see her not pretending to be her own brother she is not only a lot less muscled, but has the largest bust size of any of the female legionnaires.
Even in what is often depicted as a utopian 30th century, women still live in fear of attracting the wrong sort of attention, and their plight is still largely ignored. Have the Legion ever fought evil men who have kidnapped super-powered girls and forced them to commit crimes? They just don't care. It seems like sometimes the only option is to dress up in your dead brother's clothes so you can carry on his work secretly(2).
What does it say about the Legion that when they catch criminals they feel perfectly entitled to walk off with any of the stolen goods that take their fancy?
And I realise how they might be annoyed by Lightning Lad's nameless sister for showing up how poor their observational skills are, but making her wear that outfit seems an extreme punishment. Apart from being the ugliest superhero costume of the silver age, it seems to yell "Look at my pants".
The silver age Legion of Monsters didn't feature Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, or even a werewolf, but it was still "the greatest threat to the Legion in their history". What, more than the threats that actually killed Legionnaires?
Isn't the universe depicted in this map a little small? Also flat? And who is missing from the Legion roundup this issue?(3)
And it's too risky for a girl to go on this mission, even though she's the only one at that point to achieve anything useful, and is in fact leader of the whole Legion .
We'll send in Bouncing Boy instead.
1) None of the Legionnaires are at all bothered by this.
2) For individual values of "secret".
3) Yes, it's Phantom Girl.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
It really is First Class
It's not that I particularly have anything against the X-Men, but their backstory is so huge and complicated that I can't imagine picking one up and having any clue who anybody is or what they are doing, even if it's explained. I read a lot of them when I was a much younger, but I have an idea that I wouldn't even recognise the characters I recognised. There is such a huge weight of continuity and I don't want to have to read a zillion other comics to make sense of the one in my hands, and that's before you add in all the recent "event" comics.
But I picked up X-Men: First Class #1 on a whim, and partly because it was free of all that continuity baggage. It's great. Sue Richards mentors a teenage Jean Grey, who is feeling a bit left out among her all-male team. Hilarity ensues.
I loved the story, I loved the subtle nuanced characterisation of everyone except the Mad Thinker, and I loved his unsubtle characterisation. I loved the art, which supported the characterisation so well. I loved that I could read a satisfying story in a single comic.
Come to think of it, the last Marvel comic I enjoyed was also written by Jeff Parker.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Anyway, I noticed today that they've done another one I am tempted by: a Wicked Witch of the West Barbie.
Except, wait a minute. I don't think this doll is finished.
I mean, doesn't she look awfully pretty to you?
Couldn't they at least have given her a hooked nose? I mean if they can make a doll look like Cher, how come the WWotW looks like a fashion model under disco lights? I realise it's supposed to be Barbie playing the WWotW, but is she such a primadonna that she'd refuse to do the makeup?
Ah well. Knowing me if I did get her I'd just dress her in spandex and call her She-Hulk Barbie.
Monday, July 02, 2007
accentuate the positive
But there's a lot of negativity in the feministicomicsblogospherahedron so I'm making an effort to temper my comments a bit, which means on the one hand I'm trying to save the rants for things that either really deserve them, or which I think I can be most entertaining about, and on the other means I am making an effort to find the positive, and to applaud the good things.
Case in point: I've seen a few criticisms of DC's somewhat frivolous covers for the upcoming Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding event. I've also seen criticisms of the criticisms (which seems to be the big growth area in fandom lately). I'd like to point out that (as far as I know) this is the first "event" from either Marvel or DC for longer than I care to remember that does not require the sacrifice of a likeable but not so popular hero to the god of crossovers.
Just for once they are going with "light romantic comedy" instead of "violent and nasty", and I think should be celebrated for this.
The Secret Origin of Exposition Girl
It becomes so bad that everyone has to constantly remind themselves of who they are and what they are doing in order to retain their own identities. A side effect of this problem being that everyone loses any nuances of personality, forgetting that they are untidy or have a favourite TV show. Popular culture dies overnight as people become more interested in their own doings than anything happening to some celebrity.
People take to carrying placards around with them that they can place in front of themselves to avoid the embarrassment of having to remind close friends of who they are.
One villain attempts to use this to trick their way into the Legion of Superheroes by convincing the legionnaires that they are already a member, but succeeds too well and entirely forgets that he is not a heroic stalwart of the team.
It is amid this chaos that a new hero arises. Emo librarian Jenerica Jones gained all the knowledge of the universe when a freak accident caused the computer terminal she was working on to download the entire galactic internet into her head.
Donning a brightly coloured costume and cape, she is quickly inducted into the Legion where she serves the invaluable (if rather dull) purpose of reminding them who they are and what they are doing. She is Exposition Girl.
Exposition Girl picture by Karen Ellis who draws stuff.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I ♥ Mika Brzezinski
She then attempted to burn the report, and ended up putting it through the shredder.
I'd never heard of Mika Brzezinski before today, or the show she appears on, or even the network she works for, but right now I'd vote for her as journalist of the year for having the guts to stand up and say on TV that the minor doings of people whose only claim to fame is that the media talk about them a lot are not as important as wars.
See it here.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The various characters are all mentioned in the song, getting a description that informs their personality and social status, except for one who is simply named. Doesn't Mary Ann have enough of a personality that they couldn't think of two words to describe her?
It's all Chinese whispers
In Doctor Who, the original Cybermen are defeated when they are forced to inhale powered gold, which clogs their breathing filters, suffocating them.
Several writers later and we find that Superman cannot affect lead in any way, but has little problem with denser materials. He cannot even heat up this soft metal with his heat vision because... well, for no reason given. We also find that Cybermen are now so allergic to gold that a coin fired from a slingshot will kill them, even though it cannot possibly affect them in the way that originally incapacitated them.
It's all Chinese whispers. Writers see what their predecessors have written and follow the form without considering the concept. And that's without even considering the stuff they change deliberately...
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
Surprise: some comics are still fun
It doesn't suck.
I'm not going to do a detailed review of it because anyone with any taste is going to be writing about it. I'll just say that when I got to the last page my reactions were "aw, I was just enjoying that and it stopped" followed by "I wonder if there's going to be a sequel?"
This is a good feeling to have at the end of any book. So a good start for Minx as far as I am concerned, though my expectations had not been high, based on the initial publicity. And the name.
At the back there are several page samples of the next three volumes. They didn't make me want to run to the comic store right now to see if they are published yet, but I will be checking them out.
And it's nice to know I'll have something to read this summer that was written in my lifetime.
Kids of Tomorrow got No Respect!
They cross centuries again to invite Supergirl and then refuse to take her because while following their directions she accidentally gets a dose of red kryptonite that makes her look too old, even though A) she hasn't actually aged, she just looks slightly different (visually she just appears slightly taller and to be wearing lipstick), and b) it's a temporary effect that will wear off in a couple of hours.
So it's hardly surprising that when you see what appears to be a continuity error, such as them telling Supergirl that they are the children of the legionnaires that met Superboy, it's easy to read it as them just having a laugh at Supergirl's expense.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
spot the difference
The Legion again
But first, a correction. In my previous article I said Shrinking Violet and Triplicate Girl weren't introduced until Adventure #300. In fact they, and Bouncing Boy first appear in a Supergirl story in Action #276 that, more than any other appearance, has all the hallmarks of a stealth pilot, as it features the most complete version of the Legion prior to their own series.
In this story we are told that the Legion has revised its policy of only allowing one new member per year to allowing one boy and one girl per year (1). Applicants shown include Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Bouncing Boy, and Shrinking Violet. Since all of them are members by Adventure #300, the Legion series must take place at least two years later, assuming that these guys were taken on their second or third attempts, over other applicants that hadn't already been rejected (2)(3).
Other highlights of this story include Saturn Girl fooling Supergirl into not recognising her by wearing a mask, even though she is in full costume and has demonstrated her powers; the whole "super-girlfriends" routine which is ripe for innuendo by someone with a smuttier mind than I, and Supergirl's demonstration of power for her membership application, which involves destroying hugely important archeological sites by burrowing down to cherrypick a couple of choice items that made the archeoligist in me wince, and my experience is limited to watching the odd episode of Time Team; and how convenient is it that a kryptonite meteor just happens to fall out of the sky right on top of Supergirl just in time for Brainiac 5 to demonstrate his cleverness and self-sacrifice by slapping his force field belt on her and tuning it to fit her personally in less time than it takes for her to get out of the way of it. Anyone would think he had arranged it on purpose...
I feel a bit sad for poor Shrinking Violet here. I mean here she is, she's got as far through the Legion application process as having a placard with her own name on it, and then at the last minute she has to go up against someone who is related to the most famous hero in history that inspired the Legion in the first place, and who they have traveled back in time to personally invite. It must be particularly galling when Supergirl bogs off as soon as she's inducted and hardly ever turns up for meetings(4). She doesn't even get to be one of Supergirl's super-girlfriends.
1) which makes you wonder how they end up with a 3:1 male/female ratio.
2) In Adventure #301 we find that Bouncing Boy was rejected once.
3) However, since there are no new female legionnaires between this and Adventure #300 I can only guess that Sun Boy reapplied in drag.
4) Talk about nepotism...
Monday, June 18, 2007
Meme of Eight
Anyhow, the rules:
I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
1) I collect cool (anime/goth/scifi/superhero) dolls, but not in any obsessive way, unless you'd consider having twelve goth dolls on your mantelpiece obsessive.
2) Terry Pratchet once gave me a lift in his car. He's a lot less funny in person.
3) My favourite flavour of soda is banana, but I haven't seen one in years. Actually my favourite flavour of most things is banana.
4) I still haven't finished reading Seduction of the Innocent. I'm beginning to think life is too short.
5) I have never seen Gilligan's Island. And not because I don't want to. I've never watched an entire episode of Neighbours either, but that's taken skillful manoevering because it was so ubiquitous on UK TV and I've known lots of people who liked it. I'm vaguely curious about Gilligan because it seems to be part of the American experience and often turns up as a pop culture reference, but it's never been shown on British TV (that I'm aware of). Now I think about it, I could probably find at least a clip of it on YouTube.
6) I bought my first videotape before I had a VCR, my first CD before I had a CD player, and my first DVD before I had a DVD player. I mean I knew I would be getting the player eventually, and it was a bargain/something I'd always wanted.
7) My most hardcore videogame experience was playing Sakura Wars in Japanese (it's an RPG heavy on text that has never been translated).
The oldest comic I own is Wonder Woman #17. That's WW volume one, dated 1946.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
It's in the name
When the Legion first appeared, the name was really a bit of a stretch. Only Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad were in any way identified or got speaking parts, with a few backs of heads to suggest the Legion had more than three members. In most subsequent appearances a couple of new members would be introduced, although they never got to do much, until the Legion finally got their own series in Adventure #300.
This comic introduces two new female members, even if they don't appear in the story: Triplicate Girl is on the cover and a statue of Shrinking Violet is shown among other Legionnaire statues on the first page(1).
Shrinking Violet's first actual appearance is Adventure #301 where she appears in two panels, filling out group shots. She continues to stand at the back and say nothing for some time, except #305, where she gets to speak briefly. I can only guess this was because Star Boy was out sick and Lightning Lad was dead that day so she had to fill in, as she doesn't get to speak again until #310, where, for the first time in ten issues, she gets to use her powers. And then dies.
This being the Silver Age, she, and everyone else who dies is fit and healthy again by the end of the story. Over the next 20 issues Violet gets to use her powers twice more, to little effect, and it's not until #324 that she gets any individual attention, falling for Duplicate Boy, who conveniently leaves at the end of the story.
Phantom Girl gets it even worse. She is the first female legionaire introduced (2), appearing briefly in #290 for one panel (3). In #301 we find she is off on a distant planet on a vital door opening mission, which keeps her absent until #313. In fact she's not even listed as a legionaire, absent or otherwise, for twelve issues. She then vanishes again until #316, where she finally gets to speak, and even takes an active role in the story. She's next seen in #319 filling out the crowd scenes, and succumbs to a weapon that only affects her because she's not the star of the story.
Thereafter she appears semi-regularly, filling out the cast and occasionally getting to participate in the plot, but a lot of the time the writer hardly seems to notice she's there, which means that the contrived ending to Adventure #325 could have been avoided if he'd only remembered the power she'd demonstrated two issues earlier.
And then there's the names: Phantom Girl - A girl with a power to make herself so inconsequential that she's entirely forgotten for years at a time, and Shrinking Violet - the shy one with the power to make herself so small that nobody even notices she's present. I bet if Camouflage Girl (the girl with the ability to blend entirely into the background) had applied for membership they would have snapped her up because she would have fitted right in.
1) Why the team have statues of themselves is not explained.
2) other than Saturn Girl.
3) two if you count the splash page, which is the same image
Saturday, June 16, 2007
It makes me sad
So, a tasteless theme in a tasteless comic which I wasn't going to read, anyhow. Little relevance to me other than to give me another reason not to give Marvel any money. And then I hear about something that plain depresses me, even though I wouldn't touch the comic anyway. A new cover is a riff on the cover to the first issue of the all-ages Mary Jane comic, except this version depicts an adult version of the character with large breasts and her guts hanging out.
It's the trashing of an innocent image intended for children that gets me. There's no political message, no deeper meaning. It's just taking a sweet image and shitting on it for the laugh. I could relate this to the broader subject of the way Marvel and DC can't seem to allow any character to remain innocent for long, to the point where even Mary Marvel has to be dark and angst-ridden (with a hemline that barely covers her ass, of course. See previous entry), but it's all too depressing.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Girly Tips for evil Makeovers
2) Show more skin. When heroines turn evil they invariably get shorter skirts and plunging necklines.
3) Accessorize with leather and chains for that badass look.
4) Ragged edges show how you have symbolically trashed your "goodie" costume, also that you are just so bad that you can't be bothered to hem.
5) Evil hair is usually bigger than good hair. Get in lots of gel for that snakey look.
6) Colours: Black, obviously, but doing a version of your regular costume in darker shades also works.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
This does not mean that it is unregarded. It's not too hard to find as a collectable if you have a couple of hundred dollars to spare. But Rosana Hart, Paul Lineberger's daughter recognises that there are plenty of people who don't want to collect it, they just want to read it, and so she has made it available as a PDF. Which is how I got to see it.
It is 1949. Scraps of intelligence taken together hint at a secret underground russian city where research is being done into atomic weapons. It is known as Atomsk. Major Michael Dugan is given the task of infiltrating Atomsk, finding out what is going on there, and then leaving enough of a mark behind him so that the russians know they have been infiltrated and Atomsk is no longer an ace up their sleeve.
We follow Dugan as he slips through Russia, assuming and dropping identities as required. Unlike so many fictional spies, Dugan has to work his way to the secret city one step at a time, using skill and cunning. What would be an afternoon jaunt for Sydney Bristow is a journey that takes weeks for Dugan.
The weakest point to me was when we finally reach Atomsk and don't get to see much of it. It's not necessary to the plot, but after the big buildup I would have liked a little more sightseeing of the big mysterious place we've heard so much about.
The book is clearly an earlier work than Lineberger's science fiction. The lyrical writing is there, but it is not as developed as his work as Cordwainer Smith. The really striking thing about Atomsk is how optimistic it is. Dugan is such a good spy because he empathises with the people he encounters. He believes that the work he is doing is not just for the good of his own country, but for its enemies too. During World War 2 he works undercover in Japan as an incompetent officer gently fouling up every major project that comes through his department, saving lives not just of Americans, but Japanese too.
The book has also aged remarkably well. I mean obviously it is now a period piece, where it was "present day" when it was published, but there is nothing out of place or jarring to the modern reader, which suggests how far ahead of his time Linebarger was in his attitudes.
Atomsk is not the great american novel, but it's a fun spy story that proves that realism and optimism can exist together. There are a lot of writers today who could learn from this.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
License to Kill
The problem is that James Bond doesn't actually do much spying. No spending months infiltrating an enemy country under a false identity; he's always quick in there, steal the plans, sabotage the death ray, kill the bad guy, get the girl, and out before a real spy had reached the outer perimeter in the guise of a nondescript worker. And he's always so flashy and high profile where a real spy is the exact opposite.
And then there's the whole "license to kill" business. He's a spy. It's a very dangerous business. Any spy undercover in hostile territory surely has the authority to protect themself by whatever means necessary, up to and including killing people, so why does 007 get a special certificate for it?
And then it struck me, that's not an extra qualification, that's his job description. It makes sense that they'd want the enemy to know he was responsible, that he'd be sent in for quick jobs, that so many people die when he's around. Of course it would be terribly unbritish to admit what he was really up to, so it's always couched in euphamism and the pretense that he is a regular member of the department, but it's obvious when you think about it. James Bond isn't so much a spy as an assassin.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I'd rather be writing about Superman
So I didn't say anything about Joe Quesada's asinine response to criticism of the Heroes for Hire cover that has been in the news lately, even though a lot of it seems to be "it was drawn by a woman so it's not sexist" and "It's not a tentacle porn image because I am ignorant of tentacle porn", and entirely fails to address the problem that Misty Knight has been transformed from an african american into a Barbie doll with a tan.
I didn't say anything about the Mary Jane statue, although I have been irritated that so many people seem to have missed the point and that the issue is not about the dumb statue but the huge and vicious overreaction toward anyone that complained about it.
Right now I'd be far happier reading a fifty year old spy novel for a review I want to do (why am I wanting to review a fifty year old spy novel? Wait and see) and writing about silver age nonsense that makes me happy, and then I hear about some tiny pressure group, possibly only a couple of people, who are persuading LiveJournal to censor their users to a degree that they are throwing out baby, bathwater, and most of the bathroom plumbing in a crazed putsch that is destroying years' worth of literary criticism, fan fiction, and valid discussion entirely unrelated to the "child porn" scare card they are playing.
Always remember, "Freedom of Speech" means the freedom to voice an opinion that disagrees with you. It doesn't matter if it's wrong, or it's bad, or it's "unamerican". Once you start telling anyone they can't have a different opinion then speech is no longer free.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Sisters of Mirthy
The world needs more advice columns run by historical and fictional characters.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
It's time to indulge my obscure fannish interest in a character nobody else particularly knows or cares about.
Kimiyo Hoshi, the good Doctor Light appeared in World War III in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo.
I'm happy to see her here for three reasons:
1) Including her in the group, even without any dialogue and at the back of the crowd establishes that she is an active character in the DC universe.
2) She fights Black Adam and doesn't die - always a risk for a female C-list character as it's contractually required that a villain in an event comic has to kill at least one less popular character to show how badass they are because killing millions of innocent bystanders clearly isn't good enough. This time it was Terra who got the bullet, but she goes through lives like a video game character, so it's hard to get too worked up about her.
3) It's the first time we have seen her in action since she was depowered and left for dead. Okay, she's been referred to elsewhere, and cameoed in Birds of Prey in civvies, but this is the first we've seen her powered up. And okay she doesn't fare well against Black Adam, but he was trashing everyone that day.
Fingers crossed, as always, that she gets a more profile gig sometime soon. Just so long as it's not in The Outsiders.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Fantographics have recently published a book entitled I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS, a collection of fifteen Fletcher Hanks stories, including no less than five Fantomahs! They've even set up a Fletcher Hanks website to promote the book, though it is of variable quality, even for a webvertisement. While it doesn't even include a list of the stories in the book it's promoting (I had to go to Amazon for that) it does include an online scan of a Fantomah story from Jungle Tales #13.
A little bit of politics
What he needs is a slogan, or possibly a theme song.
I have a proposal that with very little work could fit the bill quite nicely:
"Never a frown with Gordon Brown"
It would be worth it if only to see The Stranglers reform to sing it.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Scott Kurtz will get his dad on you
Now consider this is not even Kurtz's actual father defending him by dismissing any criticism, it's Scott drawing a picture of him and entirely literally (in the actual usage of the word) putting the words in his mouth. For all I know, he may have said this, but we are not told this. All we have is cartoon Kurtz senior defending cartoon Kurtz over a comic made by actual Kurtz.
Which is pretty sad and pathetic.
It's also a typical reaction of Kurtz to any criticism: don't consider if it is valid, just put down anyone who voices it and call them names. Because how could anyone not see the good natured fun in looking at boobs.
Point 1: Yes, it's something that men do. Men do lots of stuff that even they wouldn't consider appropriate to do in public. That doesn't make it right, funny, or appropriate to put it in a comic in such a way that shows you are endorsing this behaviour if you aren't prepared to take the flack for supporting such a sexist attitude.
Point 2: Getting your father to support you on this is not helping. It's just showing that you aren't the only one in the family with a sexist attitude. At least if you drew pictures of your mother or your wife standing up and supporting you it would look as though you actually cared enough about whether the comic was offensive to women to actually ask one.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Heroes: Random Realisation
Well actually, no. My (and I'm sure the majority of genre fandom) viewpoint character is the one who is living my fantasy.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Make it stop
I'm not big on having special days to address a particular issue any more than I am in favour of having a specific day to be nice to other people. But maybe that's just my anarchist streak, and I don't like being told what to do.
Anyhow, I got to thinking about all the women in comics who had been sexually abused and realised that in real life how many close female friends I'd had who had been sexually abused in some way. Now of course there are lots of women who haven't told me that they had been abused, but I have no way of knowing whether this was because they haven't chosen to tell me, or because they haven't been abused. And then there was the one that confided in me that she had reported she had been raped to the police when she hadn't, as a way of getting attention from her boyfriend. The point is that the number who have chosen to tell me is uncomfortably high.
So when I turn to superhero comics and I see the high number of women there who have been sexually abused I find I have to consider that it's not too far from my own life experience. So why do I complain about this situation?
Because I think that life in comics should be better than it is in the real world. Because if superhero comics can't give me a glimpse into a world where the good guy/girl saves the day and the woman who is attacked is either saved by the hero/heroine, or preferably is empowered enough to do that wish fulfilment thing of kicking the crap out of her assailant herself, then what's heroic about them?
Monday, February 26, 2007
Danger! Haney at work!
Some of Grant Morrison's more surreal works can give you a headache if you try to make sense of them, but Morrison at his most peculiar rarely comes close to the distilled nuttiness of Roberts Kannigher and Haney. I've just started reading the Showcase Brave and the Bold collection and I'm not even to the end of the first story and I'm looking for some asprin.
The first comic in the collection is a time travel story written as stream of consciousness. Cause and effect are not only reversed and sent sideways, but retconned three pages later to be a flock of hammers. Important story elements are added as required without any effort to integrate them earlier in the story. People use ill defined powers to do unnecessary and bizarre things. And it is absolutely stuffed to the gills with sense of wonder.
It's difficult to get yourself in the right frame of mind for this kind of comic. It doesn't have the clever, sophisticated stuff we look for in the medium nowadays. It doesn't have complex motivation or political subtext. It has no repurcussions beyond the final page of the story, and nobody's world is changed forever. But if you can read it without adult preconceptions of what makes a good story, or even makes sense, you could have a really fun time.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I wanted to compare the treatment of Aqualad and Wonder Girl in Teen Titans with their adult counterparts in early Justice League, but it took me a while to work up the energy to read the Justice League Showcase collection. Gardner Fox is not my favourite silver age writer, and if there was ever a poll of DC's all time most annoying character, you can bet that Snapper Carr would be a contender.
On the other hand I am surprised how much I warmed up to Bob Haney after a few issues of Teen Titans, and I can hardly believe I didn't like Robert Kanigher when I first encountered his work, so maybe some intense study of early JLA would help me find the fun a third time.
500 pages later I am still not much of a fan of Gardner Fox, but the volume wasn't quite the chore I had expected, and Snapper Carr doesn't appear enough to be more than an irritant. The plots are formulaic and dumb, but provide enough entertainment, often for the wrong reasons, that you don't completely glaze over.
As with the Batman volume, the stories often suffer from the "Schwartz cover" effect. That is, editor Julius Schwartz commissions an exciting cover and then hands it to the writer to tell a story around, but then doesn't seem to care how the cover image is shoehorned in. The result often being that the cover scene is a ludicrously contrived moment in an otherwise unrelated plot. Which is disappointing, as the covers, often very intruiging or exciting, promise so much, but deliver so little.
The cover to JLA #1, for example: an alien plays a strange boardgame against the Flash, with the rest of the team at stake. Except that in the story the entire thing is fixed and it's just an excuse for the alien to transport them all away which he could have done anyway as they were already within his power.
But back to my original motivation for reading the book. How does Gardner Fox's treatment of Wonder Woman and Aquaman compare to Bob Haney's use of their counterparts in Teen Titans?
Aquaman is less obviously useless because of the nature of the stories. Where Teen Titans is given a realistic setting, the JLA are usually thrown into a fantasy landscape, so tailoring part of it to suit Fishguy is less blatant. Plus the formula plot usually involves each member of the team being transported to an environment designed specifically for them, either on another planet or an alternate dimension.
Wonder Woman is not singled out in any way. There is even less characterisation in JLA than there is in Teen Titans, which hardly seems possible, but it's true. There are no distinguishing voices, and many of the team are differentiated by a single ability: Aquaman talks to fish, Wonder Woman has a rope, Flash runs fast, Green Arrow shoots stuff. These characteristics are applied to every possible situation. Green Arrow can't put handcuffs on a subdued villain without using a handcuff arrow, Aquaman can't make a cup of tea without the assistance of his fishy friends. Beyond that their abilities are a bit vague.
In Post-Crisis/Pre-Infinite Crisis Wonder Woman was retconned out of being a founder member of the JLA, which is little ironic when you read the original comics, where you find that she was the only one of the big three who put in serious time on the team. On the occasions when Superman and Batman actually do show up, they often find excuses to disappear for the bulk of the story.
It gets so bad that even the villains start to notice.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Go Go Gail!
Are you doing anything involving Dr.Light II (Kimiyo Hoshi) either in BOP or in something else?
A: Not right away, but I do have some ideas for how to renovate her character a little…
Which suggests to me that nobody else has called dibs on Kimiyo in the near future, or has any plans to tell the great story of her comeback.
That's okay. I'd rather wait a year for Gail Simone than get Judd Winick now.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Misogynist advertising again
The Burger King ad for their double whopper has been around for a few months, but after disappearing for a while it's back on british TV. This involves a parody of the feminist anthem I am Woman sung by a lot of men who are so pissed off at having to do girly things like eat in civilised restaurants that they band together and run riot in the streets, smashing up cars and stuffing their faces with 990 calorie burgers.
Now microwave burger merchants Rustlers have jumped on the bandwagon with straplines that sound like leftovers from the Coke Zero ads in a new TV advert that involves a guy bringing a girl home. The clearly uncomfortable girl says she can only stay for a coffee. He goes into the kitchen and taps on a keypad next to a hatch that opens onto the other room, creating a frame that makes it look as though the girl is in a microwave. The couch on which the girl is sitting then revolves like a microwave plate and she transforms into a seductive lingerie model. The slogan being something along the lines of "If only women could go from not interested to hot to trot in 70 seconds without you making any effort, just like our tacky burgers."
Edit: While I was looking for the ad on Youtube I found another version where the revolving girl is replaced by a inflateable sex doll. Otherwise it is identical to the original. I have no idea where this comes from, but if it was a self-parody by the original ad makers intended to undercut the misogyny of the original it might work better if they ever actually showed it.
EDIT 2: I also found an Australian Coke Zero ad that has the same message as the UK version but without the misogynistic aspects. In fact it makes an effort to be female-inclusive.
EDIT 3: Huh?
Saturday, February 10, 2007
And no, DC, the answer is not to have yet another fucking 'event' to explain it all away.
Since the writers appear to be incapable of this stuff, how about you hire someone to oversee each comic and check that if they are using characters that also appear in other titles that the various appearances fit together. This person could also be given the responsibility of ensuring that the comic was completed on schedule. You could even fire the current editor on most comics and give them the same office. I don't think anyone would notice the loss.
But the suckyness wore me down. Every time I was on the point of giving it up as a bad job, I'd hear that the current writer or artist was going to be replaced and I gave it one more go. I did actually quit after #12 when it became apparent that Joe Kelly was too little, too late, and we were stuck with Ian Churchill. I only read #14 because it featured Batgirl.
This was a mistake. The in-joke of having Kara dress in Linda/animated Supergirl's white costume was painfully unfunny, and simply served to remind long time readers how this previous wearer of the cape had been quietly erased from continuity - even Pantha went out fighting. Ian Churchill's big chin/snap like a twig ankles style seemed worse than ever, but maybe it's just because I've been reading too many comics where the characters have less ludicrous proportions.
Wait, I think I've got it. It's that multiverse thing again, isn't it. I mean I totally called the two Luthors before it was revealed, so maybe they are doing the same trick again. Originally there was good Batgirl. Then we were told that she went bad (Robin #151) to lead the League of Assassins and get revenge on her father because she found she had a sister (no, it doesn't make any sense), and stopped wearing the costume. But in Teen Titans #43 we are given a whole different explanation about her being mind controlled by Deathstroke. No mention of the League, and she's in costume. In Supergirl #14 she's back to running the League but she is wearing her costume. There's at least two different Batgirls here. Possibly three.
Oh, and there's apparently a story running in one of the Batman titles where the League is being run by someone else. Does anyone at DC talk to anyone else at all?
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Balancer is an action adventure story, with the twist that the beautiful heroine is in fact a little old lady who is able to transform into a supermodel. It looks like great fun.
Karuizawa Syndrome is altogether stranger. Even with so much manga now under the bridge it still looks odd. The art style varies from realistic to chibi so much the characters bounce up and down like yoyos, sometimes even in the same panel. It appears to follow a group of characters who are possibly early twenties, though they spend so much time in chibi mode it's hard to tell. They drive hyper realistic cars and motorbikes, have chibi sex, and a couple of them seem to be nazis.
As far as I know neither of these series have ever been translated. But I guess neither exactly fit into what american publishers look for in a manga.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
So I'm just a little sad that Steph didn't get to be Robin long enough to get that issue of Teen Titans where she's in charge.
Teamups we'd like to see for the sheer silliness #2
Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
About damn time
SHOWCASE PRESENTS: WONDER WOMAN VOL. 1 TP
Writer: Robert Kanigher
Artists: Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
Collects stories from WONDER WOMAN #98-117
$16.99 US, 528 pages
So the third member of "The Big Three" finally gets a Showcase collection after Superman, Batman, The Atom, Hawkman, Phantom Stranger, Metamorpho, Martian Manhunter, Adam Strange, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman again, Batgirl, Jimmy Olsen, Batman again, Green Arrow, Elongated Man, Shazam, Green Lantern again, Aquaman, Challengers of the Unknown, and The Haunted Tank. Oh yes, that's really showing the love.
Having said that, this collection is exactly what I wanted in a WW Showcase and I am hugely excited about it. It collects the never in 40 years reprinted before in any form first silver age issues of Wonder Woman starting from #98, where Ross Andru and Mike Esposito took over the art, and opens with the wonderfully deranged origin retelling that contains elements which no later origin story ever dared acknowledge. This volume also introduces Wonder Girl and (I think) Wonder Tot, but they don't get to team up with Wonder Woman until a while later. This is Robert Kanigher at his loopiest, so check your brain at the door and sit back and enjoy the pretty colours.
Yes, I know it's a black and white collection. Trust me.
My own theory was that the talk of David Cain training other girls was a clue, and that this chatty villain was going to turn out to be Cassie's evil twin. I mean it obviously wasn't Cass.
Sadly, I find that my guess was wrong and that it was Cass; just a very badly written Cass, who behaved and talked nothing like the character I knew.
But somewhere up at DC, whoever was responsible for this villainisation got overruled and Teen Titans #43 gives us an explanation that allows Cass to return to the good guys' team. It's a bad explanation, which doesn't begin to cover the changes that were made to her in Robin, and it's all about abuse and mind control, but I see a lot of fans happy to accept it because it gives them Cass back.
This in turn has prompted a reaction to happy feminist fans of Batgirl that can be summed up as "Oh, so it's okay to have a story of abuse towards women when it suits you, is it?" To which the answer is "No, but this bad thing fixed something that was worse. We do not cheer the bad fix, we cheer that the worse thing is gone."
In other Batgirl news, I'm intrigued to find announcement of a Showcase Presents Batgirl collection. This is an innovative move on the part of DC collecting the adventures of a character who never had their own strip*. So Yay! to DC for thinking outside the box, but a Wha? for picking this as their first collection starring a female character, and when there are so many great silver age comics waiting on dusty shelves that are being passed over in favour of obscure war comics and this collection of guest appearances.
Which is not to say that I won't be first in the queue for this book. It's a great collection and contains one of my favourite silver age comics ever.
*Okay, she did have a brief solo strip in the anthology Batman Family title, but it's not included in this collection.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
EDIT: Close, but no bikini. Dave first discussed the subject, but calls it the de-nudifying effect. It was Tom the Dog, responding to Dave's article, who first used the phrase, but even there it's only the title. Tom still calls it the de-nudifying effect in the article, and even says "I have no reason to call it anything else." I'm beginning to wonder if I wasn't actually the first to use it directly. This turns out to be a great example of the blogosphere group mind at work.And then there are the deliberate memes, where somebody has a notion and actively encourages other bloggers to respond with their take on the idea. It's a friendly sharing community.
So when somebody stands up and says "I object to other people using my ideas or writing about my topics" it throws a spanner in the works for everyone. Particularly when he does it retroactively, which makes it appear that he has been uncomfortably tolerating the practice for a year and putting a brave face on it by commenting positively when people do it. It makes everyone stop and wonder if they have been unintentionally offending someone they thought they were sharing a joke with.
There isn't an easy answer. If everyone sticks carefully to their own schtik for fear of offending anyone then we lose all the fun and the interaction that makes the blogosphere a community. If someone doesn't wish to participate in this to and fro they can prominently display a notice on their blog to this effect, but would it damage the community anyway?
I don't have a solution. I'm just asking the question. Feel free to apply your own thoughts to the subject, either here or any other forum. Just let me know so I can follow it.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Return of the multiverse
But you know what this means to me?
Handy guide to silver age writers
I've been studying the work of three writers in particular, Bob Haney, Bob Kannigher, and Gardner Fox. Although these three share elements of style and content, they can be told apart by their individual approach.
Bob Haney likes to ground his fantastic stories by inserting fashionable touches from the everyday world, but makes no effort to research these elements, and so often gets them wrong, with hilarious results. I particularly like the way the Teen Titans manage to be so popular with all the young people they meet while they are working for the government in the late sixties.
Gardner Fox, on the other hand, is more inclined to throw in some ludicrous plot element and then spend a page justifying it. The more technobabble that he can stuff in there, the better.
But Bob Kanagher. Ah, Bob Kanagher. Big Bob just does mad stuff and feels no need at all to either justify it or make it relevent. Often his work reads like stream of consciousness, where logic is a toy, and Cause and Effect are just the names of the henchmen.
To give you an example how this works in practice, say you have a story where our hero encounters a crashed spaceship.
Gardener Fox would have the spaceship crash and our hero would be led to it by some convoluted plot of the pilot to trap him in another dimension where he would fight dinosaurs, which for some complicated reason would enable the alien pilot to acquire a thermometer, and hthis would include a whole page explaining why the alien pilot couldn't just walk into a shop and buy one.
Bob Haney would have our hero hanging out at a beach party, surfing and riding jetskis up the beach when the spaceship would crash into the car park, cutting all the hot rods off from the main road and making it impossible for the cool kids to get home before curfew without our hero battling the aliens.
Bob Kannagher would just drop the spaceship in front of the hero and have an alien made of flowers jump out and steal his hat, just as a pirate ship arrives, looking for a quiet spot to drop off some foreign saboteurs with a bomb made of cheese.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
Pants on Fire
Last March I ran a little piece about Hal Jordan's brother being as clumsy as Hal.
Yesterday Scipio ran the same comment over the same panel. I did not believe that he had deliberately copied my article, but I knew he had been aware of the original, so I lightheartedly pointed this out to him, expecting an "oops, sorry" type of response, and that would have been the end of it.
Instead he disclaimed knowledge of my piece, claiming he had stopped reading my blog before this article was published.*
Once I'd shown that he had to have read the article because he had responded to it in the comments section, he then changed his tune to "pardon me for not memorizing everything that has appeared on your blog! How silly of me!" which is interesting because it's still refusing to acknowledge any connection between the two near-identical articles, while attempting to fudge the issue by implying that it is absurd that he should remember everything I've written.
Of course I never suggested that he had done any such thing, but the possibility that when he saw the same panel again recently, the comment I had associated with it resurfaced in his mind seems far from impossible**. I know I look at images now and then that have all kinds of sensual associations. There was even one picture that would make me feel nauseous when I saw it for a long time because the first time I saw it I was sick.
But rather than admit the possibility that the two articles might be connected, even unconsciously, he takes pokes at me when responding to other people on unrelated matters. As if calling me names will absolve him of his error. At this rate it's only a matter of time before he blames me for the whole thing.
Update: Scipio has now locked comments on that particular thread so he could get the last word in. In this final post he:
a) suggests that I was copying him for posting at all on the subject because he was the one that started looking for examples of Hal Jordan getting hit on the head, so presumably anyone else who posted such images was also copying him rather than sharing the joke,
b) suggests that my post was so much in his traditional style that it's copying him anyway,
c) says that he'd consider it acceptable to steal stuff he'd seen on my blog and post it under his own name because I have so few readers that nobody would notice, and finally
d) sneers at my request that he show a little respect.
I'm actually quite stunned that something so trivial could spawn quite so much venom and all around nastiness.
*In fact the most recent comment I can find from Scipio is a response to a post published six months later.
**In his final word he alludes to a sense of deja vu about the article, but only wonders if he has posted it before. It doesn't occur to him that it might be someone else's work.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Get in line
So many manga go on for volume after volume that it's a surprise to find what appears to be a single volume stand alone story. The trouble was that by the time I got to the end of this one I was so involved with the characters I wanted to know what happens to them next...
It's an intruiging, if not entirely original premise. Girl finds an abandoned cellphone and before she can hand it in to lost property it rings, throwing her into the middle of a fast paced thriller. I intended to just read the first chapter, but found myself unable to put it down until I'd finished. And I think I may reread it again in a couple of weeks. The first time you are mainly concerned with the plot, but there are interesting character developments, particularly in the relationship between the two main characters, and I think it might be worth reading again to focus on that aspect of the story.
The art is attractive, showing you everything you need to see in an uncomplicated fashion. It serves the story very well without being so flashy or clever that you stop to admire it - something a lot of comic artists should consider, whatever their nationality.
I liked this so much that I went looking for other work by Yua Kotegawa. The only thing I could find immediately was the multi-volume Anne Freaks. I may have something to say about that in the future.
I don't read many current comics and I'm not able to check every new comic published, so it's not possible for me to keep track without help. If someone wants to take over who can do a better job, let me know and I'll make sure to link to it.
Monday, January 08, 2007
There goes that meme again
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Me, I'm more the sort that will give the boxes a shake and try to guess what's inside, but the last thing I want is for someone to tell me. So I avoid spoilers whenever I can. Unfortunately they are sometimes shoved in my face without my choice, and that really annoys me.
It's bad enough when some outside agency feels obliged to reveal all the good stuff for their own purposes, like TV stations running trailers that give away the big twist - I may hate them for it and plot to burn them down, but I can understand that their priority is to get people to watch the show. Once they are actually watching it, the PR machine is too busy screaming at you to watch the next thing to care about how they have screwed over the current one. But what's worst is when the guys producing the original feel the need to give away the ending. Like putting it on the cover of the comic.
The all time worst spoiler cover for me was the X-Men annual (I forget which one) where the story involved mysterious happenings and the big reveal of who was responsible didn't ocur until well into the story. Unfortunately he was prominently displayed on the cover, so the dramatic tension was nonexistant.
The latest issue of Manhunter isn't quite in that league, but cover featuring the old Blue Beetle and then not having him appear until the final page feels like a cheat. It's misleading, and does a disservice to an excellent comic that is worth reading for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with the cover.
Sign of Light
First chronological appearance of Doctor Light II since her depowerment (officially 52 #2). It's only one panel, but she's in costume.
So my guess that the resolution to her depowerment story would occur in 52 is now completely busted (as they say on Mythbusters). Will we now even get to see Kimiyo's big comeback story at all? My magic 8-ball says "Outlook not so good".
Okay, the original story was bad in so many ways, but is Judd Winick's tawdry little opus simply going to be quietly ignored? Are those few fans who were emotionally moved by their heroine's plight now to be told "Get over it; it didn't happen"?
Not to mention it would be such an opportunity to produce a hugely empowering kick-ass story about a character coming back from the brink of death to confront her abuser and take back her power and her name.
I really want to see that story.