Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Showcase covers follow a standard format of a recoloured version of a cover from one of the comics in the collection. They do not include text on the image. Obviously the ideal image is one that prominently features the title character(s) in iconic pose.
All the stories in this collection are either guest spots in another character's comic or backup strips from Detective Comics. The backup character rarely gets cover featured. In fact Batgirl only appears on 6 covers of Detective comics and all but one are where she is appearing in Batman stories. Not only that but there are precious few full page images of Batgirl because space is maximised in her short backup feature and the splash page often contains three panels. On some episodes there is no splash at all, just a title strip at the top of the first page.
So there aren't a whole lot of images to choose from. Let's look at the covers, shall we?
Excellent cover but the text is heavily integrated into the composition, and it would look unbalanced without it.
Here Batman is as prominently featured as Batgirl. It's far from iconic, and relies on the dialogue to make sense of what's going on.
Again, it's not Batgirl specific or iconic, and relies on dialogue to explain the situation.
Here Batgirl is far more prominent but again, take out the dialogue and it's incomprehensible. But we'll come back to this one later.
This one would almost do. Batgirl is prominently displayed and the picture would work without the speech, but still it's as much a Batman image as a Batgirl one.
And finally we get to the only cover for a solo Batgirl story and it is once again reliant on dialogue. It's also too narrow because of the menu down the left hand side, but the main problem is that it's not a very good picture.
Even though Batman is the victim here and Batgirl the rescuer, the composition leaves no doubt who is the star of this show.
Again, this is not Batgirl's comic.
Of course the problem with guest starring in someone else's comic...
...is that they tend to want to be the hero.
This is one of my all time favourite silver age covers, but it's not saying "this is a Batgirl comic".
Don't think so.
This one's not going to do it either.
In fact there aren't any covers to comics in this collection that would suit a Showcase cover. But remember this one?
It's almost the right sort of composition, but take out the dialogue and you lose the sense. But the story did have a full splash page.
Here Batgirl is featured prominently, Batman and Robin appear, but are not the focus of the image, which is reasonable, given that they do appear in the volume, and it works without the dialogue.
Only problem is that it makes Batgirl look stupid, appearing to be more interested in fixing her makeup than fighting crime.
Of course there are vast numbers of silver age covers that feature the hero behaving in a bizarre or inappropriate way. Batman wore the most ludicrous costumes and Superman was always thinking he was a cowboy or getting a big domed head. So how does it work in the context of the story?
In fact the story is all about Batgirl believing that she is too concerned with her looks and making an effort to overcome her perceived fault, ultimately using it to her advantage by distracting the bad guys by showing a little leg, as is pictured on the cover. In fact the examples given of her distraction are first where her mask is knocked out of place and she pauses to straighten it, and secondly where mud is thrown in her face. In both cases her behaviour is quite reasonable as she is in danger of having her vision obscured, so it is possible to read it as Barbara over-reacting to a perceived fault and working to overcome it. This is a bit undermined by her letting out an uncharacteristic scream at seeing Batman in danger; she's never done this before, and it's not even extreme danger, so it's very contrived. But despite this, the story is a positive in that it's all about Batgirl taking control and working to not only overcome her faults but use them to her advantage.
It is a bit cringeworthy, but if you can't accept that women were written clumsily in the 1960's then you won't be reading this volume anyway. Is it better to try to depict a female character having issues different from male characters and do it poorly, or to have no characterisation at all and the only difference between male and female characters is the girl is the one in the skirt, as you'd find in Teen Titans or JLA from a similar period?
In context, the cover depicts a scene where Batgirl is playing on the "silly woman obsessed with her looks" image to defeat the villains, and as such is okay. In a world where the default image of a female hero was the heroic stance associated with a male hero, this would work as the equivalent of Superman in a cowboy hat, or Batman turned into a baby; not iconic, but representative of the fun weirdness of the silver age. But the world is not like that, so it doesn't.
And of course, they didn't use the cover image, they used the splash image. Which does not represent any incident in the story and in fact suggests the complete opposite of the actual theme.
Yes, it is a bad image to use for the cover of the collection, and one that is liable to put off as many potential readers as if it was all T&A, but given the alternative options, what would you have picked?
Thanks to the Grand Comics Database, from whom I steal many cover scans.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Chill. It's cool. Just wait a while. There is nothing in comics that can't be fixed. Then screwed up. Then fixed again, retconned out of existence, brought back again under the most absurd pretext and then broken again.
It's getting so there is nothing in comics that you can rely on as permanent.
Okay, sure, there will always be a Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Fantastic Four, etc. etc. but even the most iconic heroes have been messed around with. Superman will always have been sent to Earth from a dying world, but the specifics of that world change so much that I now have no clue what Krypton looks like or what the people wear. Batman's parents will always have been shot, but what was the movie they went to see and who shot them? And if it's currently Joe Chill, what became of him, and how many different ways has he died?
Retcons have become so run of the mill that they don't even wait for big events like Crisis now. The Supergirl of the nineties didn't go down fighting like her predecessor; despite having been a part of the DC universe for sixteen years or more she was dropped from continuity between issues.
But that doesn't mean she can't come back. In fact she did come back for two issues of Superman/Batman, along with the also kicked out of continuity Cir-El and some kind of idiot analogue of the silver age Supergirl, but they are all forgotten again now. Until next time.
So opinions please: can you think of anything in mainstream comics that can relied on not to change? And bear in mind that just because something hasn't changed for a long time is no guarantee it won't in the future. Bucky got to rest in peace for sixty years before he came back.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
JOHN NORMAN’S GOR OMNIBUS VOLUME 1
JOHN NORMAN (W)
On sale Nov. 21John Norman’s Gor Omnibus 1 collects the first three novels in the series. Prepare to take a journey to a land of passion and sorcery.
Novel, 768 pages
TPB, 5 1/8" x 7 ¼"
• The first of a series of affordable omnibus editions collecting the longest-running science fiction action/adventure series of all time.
• With twenty-six books in the Gor series, there are millions of copies in print, with a global audience that reaches across all age groups and demographics.
Not ALL age groups and demographics, I think you'll find.
And you left out the part about it being vile misogynist crap.
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
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
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'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
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.
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
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?
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
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.