Thursday, June 30, 2005
OK, I have to come clean. I do not actually have the Eternals comic books that Karkas appears in. I just found him in the Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe, Deluxe Edition #6 (Human Torch to Ka-Zar) and thought he was mockable. And to be honest, he's not even a villain. With a name like Karkas and a mug like that, you'd think he would be a villain, but no.
Karkas, so I have learned, is a Deviant, "an evolutionary offspring of humanity which is cursed with an unstable genetic code" that often fight The Eternals. I wonder who named The Deviants? Probably The Eternals. I mean, nobody would name their entire race "deviants." It's just not good branding. That's like saying, "Hi, we're from a friendly race of spacefarers called The Annhilators. We come in peace." or, "Hello, we are peaceful humanoids known as Pervs. We seek shelter." I'd be hiring an image consultant if I were the Deviants.
Anyway, Karkas is a nice Deviant who is covered in thick elephantine hide, can bench press about 25 tons, and has strange "claw-like single jointed digits on each foot and hand." That's the part that caught my attention. How does he open a jar of pickles? Or a door? Perhaps The Deviants have some sort of ADA policies in place for folks like Karkas. There's a funny bit in his Handbook entry that addresses this:
Limitations: Karkas's lack of opposable thumbs prevents him from utilizing many ordinary tools.
Don't get me wrong, I think Karkas looks cool in a crazy comic-book way. He looks like one of those old Monsters on the Prowl creatures or something; it smells like a Kirby design to me. But the no-thumbs thing... Damn, couldn't they have set Karkas up with some thumbs?
As James Coburn would say: "That's just mean, man!"
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
When one thinks of superheroes that get laid a lot, Superman does not spring to mind. It's mostly the Marvel guys, frankly. Oh, sure, Green Arrow is a lucky son of a bitch, and Nightwing gets his share of action, but they don't hold a candle to the Marvel guys like Iron Man or Daredevil. Those guys are stone cold players.
But I was thinking about it, and you know, Superman does OK for himself as far as women go. Sure, he married Lois Lane (we've already established here that he is loyal to her to the point of stupidity) but if you're a DC hero there's always those Elseworlds stories and alternate timelines where you can just go nuts. He certainly has no shortage of women who want to "mess with the S" if you know what I mean, and I think you do.
During Eric Luke's run on Wonder Woman, the "Trinity" storyline featured an alternate reality/fantasy story in which Superman and Wonder Woman hook up. That shot at the beginning of this post of the heroes suckin' face in outer space is from Wonder Woman #141, with booty-licious art by Yannick Paquette. Of course, the status quo cannot be changed, so Supes and Wondy return to their normal lives, but Wonder Woman wistfully remembers what might have gone down, and so do we.
In the "real world" of the current Superman books, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are married. Don't get me started on this; it's worth a whole post. Sorry, married superheroes just don't work for me - it's the ultimate "Jumping The Shark" in the comic book world.
Anyway, Clark and Lois enjoy each other's company, sexually speaking. Here's a scene from Superman #159, by Jeph Loeb with art by Ed McGuinness. Lois+Clark+bath tub+chocolate covered cherries+candles+rubber ducky+Marvin Gaye= Happy Lois.
It's okay, kids - they're man and wife. You can go crazy with chocolate-covered strawberries if you're married; it's not a sin. I have no idea how they got chocolate everywhere like that, though. They must have been really excited.
Speaking of conjugal bliss, here's the cover to Adventures of Superman #574, a storyline that deals with the ramifications of the publication of a picture of Superman with a wedding ring on. Speculation runs rampant: Who is Superman married to? Answer: The Neverending Battle. Duh.
Tell that to Crazy Super-Powered Lady, appropriately named Obsession. She's got a thing for Superman, so she dresses up as Mrs. Superman in an attempt to woo him. Mrs Superman? Clearly Obsession is a staunch feminist. I like her outfit, though...
Superman rebuffs her advances, so of course, they fight. His nobility brings her around and they team up to battle a group of mutated monsters. Obsession takes a hit meant for Superman and dies - or does she? Uh, yeah, she dies.
Speaking of Crazy Super-Powered Ladies, let's talk about Maxima. In the tradition of a hundred million stories where a warrior woman wants to mate with a virile hero, Maxima comes to Erf from the planet Almerac looking for a suitable mate. She's hella strong and tough, so who do you think she picks? No, not Plastic Man. Keep up, please.
That's right, Maxima has the hots for Superman. He rebuffs her. They fight. Later Maxima joins the Justice League, because hey, they need more crazy and dangerous people on the team, and then later joins Captain Atom's Extreme Justice, which should have really been called Bipolar Justice.
During the Adventures of Superman Annual #3, Superman finally gets to have sex with Maxima. This issue is a tie-in to the headache inducing Armageddon 2001 crossover and it kind of cheats a little because Superman has sex with Maxima in an alternate possible future in which Lois dies while pregnant with Clark's baby. The super-powered unborn child kicks in the womb, causing massive internal bleeding and Lois's death. Sounds like somebody read Larry Niven's Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex essay, which graphically describes just how incompatible Superman is with Earth females.
Here's the cover, with Superman and Maxima dissing Lois by making out on her grave. I mean, sure, move on with your life, Clark, but have some respect!
In the Annual, the stupid time-travelling Waverider pulls a Ghost of Christmas Future on Superman and shows him a possible reality in which he leaves Earth after his wife's death and hooks up with Maxima. His heart still belongs to Lois, and Maxima is kind of psycho, so it takes a while, but eventually they get down to it and have the super sex. Of course, it's only a dream/alternate timeline/Elseworlds story so it doesn't count ...
And then there's a classic John Byrne Action Comics two-parter which features Superman and Big Barda, and a none-too-happy Mr. Miracle. "Superman and... my WIFE?!" In this storyline, the Apokalips villain Sleez captures Big Barda on Earth and mind-controls her. When Superman tries to rescue her, he gets mind-whammied as well.
So, of course, Sleez decides to make a porn movie with Barda and Superman. I am so totally not kidding.
As I think I've demonstrated, Superman is a player.
He may not be in the same league as Tony Stark or Matt Murdock, but he's had his share of boom-chika-boom.
You go, Superman!
"Bill, you're taking a long time reading that report. Why do you read so slowly?"
"I don't know, boss. I'm fuckin' plodding over here!"
"You know, Bill, a lot of people don't realize how fast, accurate reading can bring extra pleasure and success in everything they attempt to do."
"Everything? Will fast, accurate reading bring me extra pleasure and success with the ladies? Or how about with golf? Will it make washing my large dog any easier?"
"Just read the report if you can, idiot."
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Holy cats, Ms Mystic sure is in trouble on that cover! She’s being attacked by a pterodactyl and a swarm of bees!
Oh, wait. Actually, that’s a special optical illusion cover, not a swarm of bees. If you stare at the two dots on the cover long enough, the big blob of bees congeals into a shape that approximates Ms Mystic’s body. Or so they tell me; I’ve never been able to make the damn thing work.
Comic book artist/living legend Neal Adams created Continuity Comics, a small publisher that put out books like Toy Boy, Valeria the She-Bat, and Ms Mystic. The books weren’t all drawn by Adams, but they were drawn by other artists in a Neal Adams “house style,” so they all had a consistent look to them. The other thing the Continuity books had in common was their total, utter suckiness. I mean, come on: Toy Boy?
Ms Mystic is no exception. This particular issue leads up to a big crossover that nobody really cared about called Deathwatch 2000, which unfortunately had nothing to do with David Carradine. Adams wrote the overall story, but Peter Stone did the dialogue and pencillers Dwayne Turner and Ernesto Infante handled the art, turning in their best faux-Adams artwork.
It is awful.
Ms Mystic is the type of heroine that only a man could have created. She flies around in a zipatone bodysuit worrying about the Earth and all it’s innocent creatures, and although we are told that she has incredible elemental powers and “almost precognitive intelligence” we have to sort of take their word for it, because she can’t seem to take care of herself and acts, well… stupid.
A big chunk of this comic involves Ms Mystic getting molested by a pterodactyl. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I’m not sure how this advances the plot to the big Deathrace 2000 storyline.
Here’s Ms Mystic in the grips of Big Bird:
You see how I have refrained from an obvious and tasteless joke? Do you marvel at my restraint, reader?
Ms Mystic talks like that through the whole issue, in weird disjointed phrases held together by the most ellipses I’ve ever seen in a comic book. Here’s some sample dialogue as the pterodactyl drops her in its lair:
“My sword! Can’t hurt it…”
“…it’s still an innocent creature… just surviving…" [she gets bitten in arm] " MY ARM! It knew the sword was a threat… and twarted it! HUARG!”
No, that’s not a spelling error on my part. It really reads “…and twarted it! HUARG!”
Ms Mystic gets knocked into the jungle below by the pterodactyl, where she is conveniently rescued by a big Swamp Thing/Toxic Avenger guy, who takes her to a cave to recover. Then the Toxic Avenger guy’s brother Arky Conde (really, that’s his name) shows up and stumbles upon the unconscious Ms Mystic. Where is she anyway, The World’s Smallest Jungle?
Apparently Ms Mystic has had a prior relationship with this Arky cat, who from all accounts is No Damn Good. But he’s sooo cute! Here’s Ms Mystic acting as a role model for all the young girls out there (click to enlarge):
“You hurt my… planet.”
Girl, have some respect for yourself - the guy’s obviously an asshole! What happened to Ms Mystic’s precognitive intelligence? You see what I mean when I say this must have been written by a guy? You’d never catch Gail Simone writing a scene like that.
It gets worse.
I have to admit, I sort of started to lose focus and didn’t read the rest of the comic as thoroughly as I should have – gimmicky optical effect comic book covers will do that to me. One scene did stand out, however: The Toxic Avenger/Swamp Thing guy meets Devilspawn, whose cause… and curse… is to save this planet from… DEATHRACE 2000!!!! Behold:
Somewhere buried in this crappy comic there is a message about CFCs and the ozone and pollution and the sanctity of all life on Earth, but man, you really have to dig for it. Reading this makes me want to find that issue of Toy Boy I have rotting around here in one of these boxes. I mean, it can’t be any worse than Ms Mystic Deathwatch #1, can it?
Monday, June 27, 2005
Does Wolverine even smoke anymore?
I mean, sure, he guts people like fish, but does he smoke and drink anymore? Back in the day Wolverine smoked like a frickin' chimney and could often be seen in bars trying to pick a fight or get in somebody's pants - now he just kills people. Am I off base, here? I don't really read a lot of Wolverine or X-Men comics anymore, on account of them sucking so much ass, so maybe I'm out of the loop. It used to be that Wolverine would smoke and drink but he’d never kill anybody or he’d only kill “androids,” (wink wink) but now it seems like he can Go Manson on people but doesn’t have any other vices. Because, you know, he’s a role model and stuff.
That’s why I like The Avengers #198; because the comic starts with Wonder Man and The Beast just shit-faced drunk after an all-nighter.
Now that’s what I want to see more of: drunken superheroes! And not Tony-Stark-tragic-drunk-superheroes – I’m talking about wacky, fun-loving drunken superheroes! It’s just something we don’t have enough of these days. I would draw the line at showing The Beast snorting a line of coke off a hooker’s ass, but I don’t begrudge the guy a drink now and then. Hell, if I had to fight Ultron or somebody I would be hitting the bar afterwards and boring everybody with my war stories and making people buy me drinks. “I just saved all your asses! Who’s buying Wonder Man a drink?”
Ok, let’s move on to the other thing I want to see more of: giant robots!
This issue, written by David Micheline with art by George Perez, pits The Avengers against a rampaging giant robot named Red Ronin, who was built to fight Godzilla.
Let’s just let that sentence sink in for a minute. How can this not be a great comic book?
Here’s Hank and Simon, still drunk, spotting Red Ronin (or as the cover refers to him, Red Ronan).
“That’s not the booze talking, Wondy…”
Red Ronin has been ‘jacked by the insane Dr. Cowan, who has designed a cybernetic helmet that allows him to control the giant robot from within. His plan? He wants to start World War III to bring humanity together or something. That makes a lot of sense, Dave said ironically.
Anyway, The Avengers intercede. Captain America knows that he can’t do jack shit against a giant robot, so he sends the two Avengers who are actually weaker than him into the robot. Now that is what I call leadership.
Okay, to be fair, Yellowjacket and Wasp are tiny and they can get inside the robot, whereas Cap cannot. They both get blasted out by high-powered vents shortly after entering Red Ronin.
You know, if I was Captain America I’d put my foot down and say, “It’s great that there are so many shrinking heroes, but we’ve got to put a limit on how many we can have on our team. Maybe we could have one full-time shrinking hero and have the rest on-call in case we need somebody to hunt for rats in The Avengers Mansion or recover lost quarters or something.” I mean, the Pym particles that allow Yellowjacket, The Wasp, and the various Ant-Mans to shrink also allow them to grow, too. Would you rather have a teeny-tiny Avenger or a 75 foot Avenger when you have to fight a giant robot? Seems like a no-brainer to me, but Cap’s a tactical genius, so what do I know?
I loved this issue when I was a kid because, hey – giant robot! I have always loved giant robots, though not as much as some people. When I was a kid I had the Mazinga Shogun Warrior figure and I dearly wanted to be little Johnny Sako and have Giant Robot at my beck and call. Alas, in the real world giant robots are rare and not available to children, so I had to turn to the world of fiction. I still want to get one of these, though – I think that’s as close as you can get.
But you know, as this issue clearly demonstrates, if you build a giant robot like Red Ronin, you run the risk of it getting ‘jacked by somebody like crazy-ass Dr. Cowan. How crazy is he? Check it out, his cyber-control helmet has a “destroy” setting:
Clearly he is out of his frickin’ mind.
If it were me, I’d hook up the loudspeaker on Red Ronin and spread a little fear while I was at it:
Giant robots? Drunken superheroes? It is on, indeed!
Friday, June 24, 2005
“Humor trumps kindness”
One of the things that bugs me most about the online comic geek community is how fucking rude people can be towards each other as well as creators and pros. This may seem odd/hypocritical coming from me, but bear with me here.
One of the things I’ve tried to do with Dave’s Long Box is to create an online environment that is snarky without being cruel. I mean, I actually like comic books and I hope that comes across. What I don’t like is making personal attacks on creators based on their work.
Comic book creators are public figures (although just barely) who invite comment on their work simply by putting it out there. Anything that say, John Byrne creates is fair game to me – if I want to take the piss out of an issue of Babe, I can do so with a clean conscience because Byrne has offered Babe up to public praise or criticism by having it published. What I consider off-limits are personal attacks on John Byrne because I don’t like his comic book. Babe might suck (and trust me, it does) but does that mean, by extension, that John Byrne sucks or is an asshole? Hmm, Byrne might not be the best example…
Ha ha! Kidding. But seriously, I don’t know a thing about what Writer X or Artist Y personally, aside from what I read online. I’ve read some stuff that Byrne has written on The Byrne Board that I didn’t agree with or thought was rude, but what does that have to do with his comics? I read all the gossip about different creators; who’s crazy, who’s an asshole, who’s a lecherous pig, etc., but I’m not sure why all that extraneous crap should have any bearing on whether I enjoy Writer X’s book. I should point out that I think comments made by public figures, comic book creators included, are fair game for criticism - I just don't factor that stuff heavily into the equation, unless they're a Nazi or something.
Plus, I don’t personally attack comic creators because I would like to write comics among other things, and it doesn’t seem like a good idea sniping at pros on a personal level. It’s the whole “don’t shit where you eat” principle.
But the big thing for me is that I don’t want to be just another dick online.
Don’t get me wrong, I love mocking and ridiculing bad comics – I just don’t think it’s cool to attack somebody personally for making a bad comic. So Bendis killed my beloved Hawkeye. Does that make him a horrible human being? Last time I checked Bendis wasn’t slaughtering anybody with a machete in Darfour, so I have to put it in perspective. Hmm, again, I may not have chosen a good example, because clearly Bendis is a fucker. GIVE ME BACK MY HAWKEYE, YOU FUCKER!!!
Anyway, anybody who reaches a certain level of success in the insular world of comics becomes a fair target for trolls, who are usually anonymous. People like Chuck Austen, Bendis, Byrne, Joe Quesada, Geoff Johns… it’s amazing the level of venom generated towards them sometimes. What do I have against these guys? Maybe they put out a crappy book, or they can’t finish a book, or they KILLED HAWKEYE. No reason to bust out the lynch mob. For instance, I’m not interested in attacking Chuck Austen personally. The guy was practically hounded out of comics by trolls! I fully intend on savaging his WorldWatch series in the near future, but I’ll leave the character assassination to Gambitfan666 or whoever.
I do think that there is a place online for discussing comic book pros as public figures. The Micah Wright thing, where he lied about being an Army Ranger? That’s fair game for anybody, it’s just not something I focus on for my blog and wouldn’t impact the way I wrote about Wright’s Stormwatch: Team Achilles. I just want to talk about comic books, man. I avoid message boards for the most part, except for occasionally The Isotope Lounge, which has a civil atmosphere that is reinforced by their Deborah Harry policy. No, if I want to get my fill of gossip and seething, I visit Fanboy Rampage.
God bless Graeme at Fanboy Rampage for culling through the boards and sites for dirt, because that means I don’t have to. Rampage is like a clearing house of web snark, and it’s hilarious. The comments on each post are sort of a snarky game of one-upsmanship that only occasionally degenerate into catfights. Mostly it’s just a bunch of geeks commenting on the catch of the day and trying to make each other laugh, and I think it’s a well-needed tonic for some of the histrionic bile that makes it online.
I guess what I’m saying is that Fanboy Rampage exists to fill a certain need; I don’t have to talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff, because how could I do it better anyway? This frees me up to bitch about the comics themselves and not the comics-creators.
“Now hang on a second there, Dave,” you might say. “You can be pretty mean yourself if you don’t like a comic…”
It’s true, I can. But I think I manage to tread the line and aim my mockery at the art and not the artist. Even when I’m savaging a comic like Alpha Flight #121 or Greg Horn’s J.U.D.G.E., I try not to personally attack those involved. I mean, the guy who ripped off Byrne’s art in that Alpha Flight issue? He deserves to have that shit pointed out and loudly ridiculed, but I stop short of actually calling him a hack or a dickhead, or whatever. What’s the point? Besides, the guy was a fill-in artist; he probably had 36 hours to jam the entire issue out during a bout of stomach flu. What do I know?
Okay, so personal assault and character assassination are off the table, for the most part. The other thing I’m cognizant of when writing these posts is who may be reading this shit. I’m not talking about my mom; I’m talking about women and gay guys. Bear with me again.
I’m a straight, married white guy and a bit of a commie. I attended one of the most liberal colleges in America – The Evergreen State College – during the height of the Politically Correct Movement. On that campus, straight white guy was The Oppressor, and we all became very sensitive about issues of gender, race, and sexual inequality – hyper-sensitive, in fact. You can’t help absorb some P.C. if you’re in an environment like that.
One good thing about being steeped in the Cauldron of Correctness for four years is that it helped me come to appreciate that certain environments can feel unwelcoming or even discriminatory, even if that’s not the intention. Comic websites and message boards, for the most part, are a guy’s world. A straight guy’s world. I’m sure many would protest, but guess what? In general, women don’t think rape jokes are funny and gay men don’t like being called “faggot.” Just a little something I picked up on the way.
So I’ve consciously tried to avoid making Dave’s Long Box a big testosterone-fest. Sure, I talk like a dude and swear and dig macho shit, but that’s who I am. I’m White Guy. But just because I’m White Guy doesn’t mean that I have to use misogynist or homophobic language and turn my blog into Creepy White Guy’s Straight Guy Only Clubhouse. Fuck that. And if that means I’m being P.C., sue me. That’s right, have your lawyer send me a letter of representation and you can just sue my white ass.
“But wait, Dave!” you may say. “What about that ‘bitches and money’ NWA quote you recently put up?”
Shut up, that was funny! I was trying to make a point about how Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser were sort of contemporary, opportunistic characters! Damn you, shut up!
I’m not saying I’m going to be 100% consistent with my goal of Not Being a Dick. But at least I can try to keep things in perspective and save the snark for the comic books.
See? I’m all about The Love.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
I thought I'd do a complete 180 and talk about a good comic book for once.
This book, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser #3 (of 4) is a complete departure from Alpha Flight #121 in terms of quality. From the nice paper, the Prestige format, the careful lettering, the obvious attention to composition and color, to the witty and understated script and the lovingly created art... well, this is about as far away from Alpha Flight #121 as you can get and still be considered a comic book.
This is the third part of a four-issue limited series Epic published at the dawn of the Comics Dark Age that adapts Fritz Leiber's classic Fafhrd and Gray Mouser sword-and-sorcery stories into comic book form. Written by Howard Chaykin with pencils by Mike Fucking Mignola and inks by Al Williamson, Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser is a loving translation of Leiber's fantasy stories that manages to capture the plucky camaraderie of Leiber's eponymous heroes and the sinister world of deviltry and debauchery they swagger through.
Plus, it's pretty. Real pretty. Each book has two short stories, and each story gets a boss title card like this:
For those unfamiliar with Leiber's work, allow me to quickly explain. Fritz Leiber wrote a series of fantasy stories Back in The Day about two thieves: Fafhrd the hulking barbarian and the stealthy Gray Mouser. In books like Swords and Deviltry and Swords in The Mist, Leiber introduced us to these opportunistic adventurers, who were always running afoul of black magic while hunting for treasure or running some errand for their mysterious wizard patrons Sheelba and Ningauble. Many of the stories take place in the city of Lankhmar, a sprawling medieval metropolis of gods and thieves where anything goes. When I was a wee bairn I existed on a steady diet of Nazgul, Conan, Elric, and Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, so I was pretty stoked to see Chaykin and Mignola's series when it first came out.
These guys really nail it. The comic looks and feels like a proper Fafhrd and Gray Mouser story, from the design of ancient Lankhmar, to the banter of the two buddies, to the beguiling evil of magic, which was always dangerous and capricious in the Leiber universe. Who better than Mike "Hellboy" Mignola, to bring this seedy and ancient world to life?
And really, who is better than Howard "American Flagg" Chaykin at writing incorrigable, skirt-chasing rogues? Because when it comes down to it, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser aren't heroes in the classic mold. They're interested in a) women and b) loot, but aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty to get either. They would subscribe to the NWA philosophy of life:
This book has two Leiber adaptations: "The Price of Pain Ease," in which our heroes steal a house (it's not very big) while drunk and find themselves haunted by the shades of their lost loves, and "The Bazaar of the Bizarre," wherein The Gray Mouser falls under the sway of The Devourers, sinister merchants of illusion. The stories are told with elan and wit and are carefully, lovingly illustrated by Mignola and Williamson, who is a great inker.
So there you have it, Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser. I don't know if these have ever been collected in one volume, but they're definitely worth checking out. The whole think just stinks of quality, damn it!
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
[UPDATE, 10/14/05: Although this was a fun issue to mock, I have since been set straight by artist Craig Brasfield, who pencilled this issue. Much of what makes this comic suck happened after Craig had turned in his pencils - for instance, he's not responsible for swiping Caliber and dropping him into the comic, it was the editor. Craig left a comment on this post explaining the real story behind Alpha Flight #121, which led me to post this retraction. Craig's response is actually a fascinating glimpse into deadline hell; you can read it in the comments section of this post or here. Anyway, my thanks to Craig for being so gracious about the whole deal. I'm leaving the original post intact, but annotated in brackets. Here we go:]
You know, people never stop me on the street and ask me, "Dave, you always say the nineties were the Dark Ages of Comics. How come?"
I don't physically carry comics around with me, but if I did, I would produce Alpha Flight #121 as just one of many pieces of evidence as to why the nineties almost killed us all. Sweet mother of God, this is one bad comic. All those involved in making this comic should be held as enemy combatants. Indefinitely. In a country that allows torture. [Omigod, I am like, so mean.]
Seriously, it's that bad. Written by Simon "Transformers" Furman with art by "guest penciler" Craig Brasfield and guest inker Frank Turner, and edited by Rob Tokar, Alpha Flight #121 represents to me all that is wrong with comics in the nineties. The cardinal and unforgivable sin is that this is nobody's best work - it's almost unforgivably bad - and they actually wanted people to pay $1.75 for it. Hell, I did. But at least I finally have gotten my money's worth from Alpha Flight #121 - I have a blog that I can use to mock it. What about all the other kids out there who don't have blogs? Who's going to help them heal? Who, damn you?
This particular issue stinks of hackery and desperation. [Ouch. Meany.] Alpha Flight wasn't doing too good, so they tried some changes like X-Men style costumes and guest stars like Spider-Man. They sure pulled out all the stops with the villains in this issue, though. Instead of the usual suck-ass villains our favorite Canadian super-team has to fight, this issue Alpha Flight gets to do battle with a new and even more suck-ass enemy, THIS GUY:
"He's called the Brass Bishop, and I'm telling you, he's the new Magneto. Kids are going to love him!"
Those words were probably never spoken, ever.
The story involves Alpha Flight being sad because two of their teammates Silver and Auric (I know: who?) have died. Fortunately the funeral for these Canadian heroes is in New York, where Spider-Man and the X-Men live, so we get them involved in the plot for no real reason. As we learn, the Brass Bishop has jacked Silver and Auric's corpses and is using them to power a Something-Or-Other Machine which he will sell to the highest bidder at an auction for supervillains. Among the assembled villains are folks like Doctor Octopus, Arcade, and the Alpha Flight villain known as Caliber.
Caliber first appeared during Alpha Flight creator John Byrne's tenure in issue #23, and then again in issue #25. As a youngster I was psyched because although Caliber was shown to be kind of a pushover, he looked really cool. Maybe he would evolve into a major Alpha Flight enemy over time, Young Dave hoped. Alas, it was not to be, and his only other appearance (correct me if I'm wrong) is here, a hundred crappy issues later in issue #121. Writer Simon Furman remembered Caliber! [Let me jump in here: according to Brasfield, Caliber was originally supposed to be Black Tom from the X-Men, but the X-Editors didn't want the stink of Alpha Flight on their character, so they wouldn't let Black Tom be used. They had to change horses midstream and turn Black Tom into Caliber. Like my Gran Gran always used to say: "Don't change horses midstream in the war against the bats."]
Unfortunately, his script demanded that the fill-in artists actually draw Caliber, and that's where we run into trouble. [As Brasfield points out, how hard would it have been for him to draw three panels of Caliber? Further proof that his presence wasn't due to Brasfield.]
Here's a panel from Alpha Flight #121 of Caliber throwing a mechanized hissy fit at Brass Bishop's auction:
[Check this out, this is interesting: You see the big blob in the left hand side of the panel? Brasfield originally drew a picture of the Green Goblin, but - you guessed it - the Spider Editors wouldn't let them use him, so they had to black him out. GG still made it into one panel, though.]
Is he shooting at Brass Bishop in that panel, or just letting his plasma cannon froth a little for dramatic effect? Tough to say. We could ask "guest penciler" Craig Brasfield, only he didn't actually draw Caliber! No, our time-crunched fill-in artist just lifted Byrne's art straight out of Alpha Flight #23.
Here's the original panel:
"Well, that looks darn similar," you might say. "But look here, Campbell! In this original art Caliber is facing the wrong way! And his arm is in a different position! Why you'd have to be some kind of computer wizard to change the art..."
Fine. To illustrate my point I have summoned my vast computer wizardry and done my own little hatchet job on Byrne's art. Voila! I have recreated the panel in question!
Look, I even drew Arcade and The Living Laser in there, because damn it, I don't skimp on backgrounds when I'm stealing other people's work! God, I'd be so pissed if I were John Byrne.
Maybe I'm being too mean. I mean, Caliber would be hard to draw. At least the artist doesn't do it again. Oh, wait... [You are being too mean, you dick.]
I call bullshit and bullshit once again! That's Puck, by the way, valiantly attacking a photocopy of a supervillain. I believe we've already covered Puck in a previous post.
Here's the original Byrne art the [editor] swiped for this panel, courtesy of Alpha Flight #25:
"But wait!" you may say. "Why is the cop in the foreground colored green like that?" I don't know, man. I'm just taking the piss out of one comic book at a time, here. Let me focus.
Anyway, for a cheap laugh and to further mock all involved, I've yet again recreated the panel in question:
Seriously, that's the level of craftsmanship that went into creating Alpha Flight #121. The story is awful, guest-stars are shoe horned into the plot in a transparent ploy to gain new readers, the non-stolen art sucks ass, and the stolen art is even worse. Honestly, I think it shows contempt for the audience. Where was editor Rob Tokas for all of this? Did Marvel have no standards of quality in the year 1993? [Hey, well at least I put it on the editor's shoulders here.]
Alpha Flight #121: further proof that the nineties were truly The Dark Ages.
This comic is so bad, so shamefully bad, that I must give it "The Pain Award."
'Nuff said! [It still gets The Pain Award because it's god-awful, but for entirely different reasons.]
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Slipknot is a guy who ties people up and chokes them. With a rope. Shit, I can do that. I can go down to Home Depot right now and buy 20 feet of rope, put on a ski mask and boom! I'm Sheep-Shank, the knot tying villain!
Behold lameness, mortal:
Slipknot first appeared in The Fury of Firestorm #28. That's right, Rope Guy vs The Nuclear Man. Slipknot must have gone through a super-villain Tony Robbins program or something, because that is setting your sights really high. Firestorm would mop the floor with him! Maybe he should have started as a Booster Gold villain, see how it goes, and then moved up to Firestorm. I'm just saying - you have to have attainable goals.
Really, Slipknot should have called himself Kick-The-Shit-Out-Of-Me Man. To be fair, his ropes are extra adhesive and unbreakable, but still. They're ropes, dude! I mean, call Slipknot if you need help moving on Saturday, but otherwise you wouldn't want him on your supervillain team. A guy with a gun is more of a threat than Slipknot. As a villain, his survival against any superhero that happens to be awake can only be chalked up to The Riddler Factor. His utter lameness is tempered only by the fact that Marvel has a guy just like him: The Hangman, a Spider-Woman villain.
To illustrate my point, which is that Slipknot is lame, I present Suicide Squad #9, part of the gripping Millennium crossover. In this issue, the usual team of super-convicts is assembled for a suicide mission - this time they have to drive a bomb into the swamp temple of a bunch of Manhunter robots. The villains on the team include Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and, yes, Slipknot. I guess the folks who planned the mission had a sick sense of humor: "Robots, huh? Let's send Rope Guy! Ha ha ha ha!"
You can just imagine how that goes. Wait, you don't have to. Here it is:
"Fall down and die, damn you!" Slipknot. Bro. They're androids.
And look, Slipknot even gets dissed by one of the Manhunters, who rightfully calls him a fool. Hey, Manhunters call 'em like they see 'em. He's in the Manhunter No-Spin Zone.
Which begs the question: are they so mean on the Suicide Squad that they didn't even give him a heads-up that he was going to be strangling robots? "Hey, Slipknot. Just an FYI. We'll be fighting robots today. You're fucked." Or did they string him along, so to speak? "The best way to strangle a robot is by choking it here and cutting off its air supply..."
Even Slipknot can read the writing on the wall, however. He plans on deserting if his robot-strangling doesn't go as planned. But the Squad keep their super-villains in line with explosive bracelets, right? Or so they say, right Slipknot? I bet they're not real explosive bracelets... He checks with the always trustworthy Captain Boomerang:
What a tool.
Slipknot fails to cut-off the air supply of any of the Manhunter androids he fights, so he bugs out. Sloshing through the swamp, he notices his explosive bracelet flashing. "Gotta be a bluff!" he thinks, and keeps going.
That is some Garth Ennis-style comedy right there, courtesy of writer John Ostrander. Up until now, the reader hadn't seen one of the explosive bracelets go off, and I remember laughing really hard when I first read that, partly because it reminded me of my cousin's fireworks accident in 1982, and partly because it's just funny. Captain Boomerang's reaction is great:
That's cold, but what do you expect if you're in a group that calls itself the Suicide Squad? It's not Hug Battalion, although I would read something called that. Anyway, the Slipknot scene is actually the highlight of an otherwise awkward and forced Millennium crossover chapter, but I'll take bad Suicide Squad over, um, bad Alpha Flight any day of the week.
Here's the dope cover to Suicide Squad #9. I see Bronze Tiger, I see Rick Flag in his "stealth yellow" shirt, I see Deadshot and Boomerang... Hey, where's Slipknot? Why isn't he up there?
He didn't even make the cover.
I think I've proved my point about Slipknot being lame and all. The Who's Who entry for Slipknot (at the top of the post) is only half a page. And frickin' Space Cabbie gets a whole page in the same issue! Snapper Carr gets an entire page, too. That's gotta hurt the pride a little, huh Slipknot?
Monday, June 20, 2005
I always dug The New Teen Titans when I was a kid. Much like the X-Men, they have since squandered and defecated on a lot of that childhood goodwill by too many trips to the well – I really didn’t need to see New Titans or Team Titans at all, thank you very much. Although the new Titans series is okay, I still prefer the old school Titans of the Wolman/Perez era. That’s because I’m an old man in his thirties who thinks that Everything Was Better When I Was A Kid. I’ll cling to my narrow-minded nostalgia all the way to my grave! And when I’m done writing this, I’m going to go play Battlezone on my Atari 5600. None of those new-fangled graphics for me!
I had a point… Oh, right. I loved The New Teen Titans even more than The X-Men when I was a certain age. They were just so colorful and fun, and their villains were equally exotic. It was like a big superhero Mardi Gras.
The Brotherhood of Evil were among my favorite Titans villains. How could you not like a supervillain group led by an evil disembodied brain and his gun-toting ape bodyguard? If you were a communist maybe you wouldn’t like that, but Dave Campbell is no communist my friends! I guess the Brotherhood technically were Doom Patrol villains at first, but they really came to life under the guidance of writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez.
Not to be confused with Marvel’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Brotherhood of Evil were a team of superhumans whose powers pretty much dictated that they had to be evil. I mean come on, if you’re a walking pile of corrosive goo that melts people’s flesh like Plasmus – sorry, you’re a bad guy. No hero is going to have powers like that. Plus, he’s got a German accent: bad guy.
I particularly liked this issue when I was a kid because the Brotherhood of Evil are practically the protagonists. I just thought it was so cool that a comic would spend time chronicling the adventures of the bad guys. In New Teen Titans #29, The Brotherhood of Evil is locked in a super-gang war with Brother Blood’s cult. Under the instructions of The Brain, a strike team consisting of Plasmus, Warp, Houngan, and Phobia have been destroying Blood’s temples and slaughtering his cultists. This pisses Brother Blood off, because “none shall ever punish my believers, save Brother Blood himself.”
After trashing one of Brother Blood’s churches in his native Zandia, the Brotherhood takes off in a jet piloted by a robot who tries to crash the damn thing. We know this because Plasmus melts the robot’s face. How can you not like Plasmus? Here is our favorite motley crew of villains in jeopardy:
“I vant him – more dan ever!”
The Brotherhood do not die, because Warp um, warps them to a tropical island before the plane blows up. Phew.
We get a little back story about the Titans and who loves who, and then we switch back to the good stuff. The Brotherhood get ambushed by a bunch of Brother Blood’s goons. The villains massacre the cultists and jack their rides, heading off to Titans Tower on a mission to kidnap the “goth” heroine Raven.
Here’s the villain Plasmus in action against Speedy and Kid Flash:
And here is Houngan, a techno-voodoo villain who creates electro-voodoo dolls. By my way of thinking, that power is so specific that it almost makes you useless. I mean, sure, if you know you’re going to fight Kid Flash on Tuesday, you’re in business. But what if you have to fight Doug the Redneck? Don’t got a doll for that, do ya Houngan? You gotta wonder how much good Houngan was in the fights against Brother Blood’s cultists earlier this issue. Does he have like, a generic “laser carrying thug” voodoo doll that he uses? Or does he just hit people with his dolls?
Here we have Phobia, who can summon your deepest fears and just generally freak your shit out. Plus, she has these insane Julie Newmar eyebrows. I imagine Phobia has a Transylvanian accent, like General Kala, the evil chick in Flash Gordon that says, “Dispatch War Rocket Ajax to bring back his body!” Anyway, Phobia hits Speedy with his worst nightmare – being a junkie again! That’s right, she’s making Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy relive his darkest hours of heroin hell!
Ride the snaaake, Speedy!
If only this issue had featured more of The Brain and his henchman Monsieur Mallah, the ape with the assault rifle, bandolier and beret. Mallah had a whole French Resistance motif going on, didn’t he? Kind of unusual for an ape. Didn’t he wear a beret, or am I wrong? Anyway, if this issue had that, it would be perfect. The Brotherhood of Evil rules!
Sunday, June 19, 2005
And as a special treat, I thought I'd give you all another glimpse at Batman's Dance Party, coming soon to a batmitzvah near you. Heh.
Friday, June 17, 2005
The Avengers vol 3 #56 was the end of writer Kurt Busiek's epic 56 issue run (give or take an issue) on the book. Busiek and Perez relaunched and revitalized Earth's Mightiest Heroes back in 1997 and created some of the best damn Avengers comics ever during their time on the book. In my mind, the true climax of Busiek and Perez's run came with their JLA/Avengers mini-series, aka Fanboy Nirvana, but this is the true chronological end of the era. After that it was Geoff Johns turn on the book, and we got Hank Pym doing some flesh spelunking and ultimately, Avengers Disassembled.
This issue is sort of a low-key coda to the Busiek/Perez era, because instead of going out with a big epic battle against impossible odds, instead of ending on a high note, we get... sniff sniff... what's that smell? I smell an inventory issue! Unless I'm totally high, this is one of those one-shot issues that editors keep on tap that they can just drop into their publishing schedule as need be. In this case I'm guessing that Geoff Johns and Kieron Dwyer, the next creative team, needed some breathing room so editor Tom Brevoort just plopped this story into the mix. Don't get me wrong, I actually dig this comic, but it's just sort of an anti-climactic end to such a great run of comics.
In Avengers #56, a team of ad hoc Avengers must meet with accountants from the Maria Stark Foundation, the organization that bankrolls them, to justify their expenses on a recent mission. Here, the accountant will explain everything:
The accountant thing is a neat idea and serves as a narrative device that allows each Avenger present to tell the story of a battle against The Elements of Doom in a series of interviews. Each character narrates a little bit of the battle and interacts with the suits. And yes, hilarity ensues as the white-collar world of the accountants meets the fantastic world of our heroes.
Being an inventory issue, Busiek is careful not to screw with continuity and tells a one-issue story about a mission featuring an ad hoc team of active and inactive Avengers - She-Hulk, USAgent (ugh), Thor, Iron Man, Jack of Hearts, Cap, Wonder Man, Silver Claw, and the plush doll version of The Beast from The X-Men. It's a perfect fill-in story because it doesn't screw with the status quo or mess up anything that the next creative team is going to do, but you can kind of tell that it's designed to be non-intrusive, continuity wise. Look, even the cover is generic and sort of timeless, aside from Thor's costume, which is easy enough to change.
I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining, because I do like this issue. Penciller Yanick Paquette, whose Wonder Woman work I really dug, does a great job with inker Ray Snyder on this issue. Some of Snyder's inks have a sure-handed Kevin Nowlan vibe to them, and Paquette goes out of his way to draw She Hulk's butt in this issue, so he gets extra points there.
Plus - the Avengers fight the Elements of Doom in this issue, and that's never a bad thing.
I may be the world's #1 Elements of Doom fan. First appearing in The Avengers #188, the Elements were a bunch of monsters made out of different elements (duh) that were created by a Russian mad scientist type. They later reappeared in Busiek's Thunderbolts and here again in The Avengers #56. They're pretty much just what you would imagine: Chlorine is a gas monster, Plutonium is a radioactive monster, etc.
The Elements of Doom are one of those inevitable comic book ideas that had to happen somewhere - it's one of the things I liked about them so much. Seriously, if they hadn't appeared in a Marvel comic first, Superman would have fought them. Some concepts just have to be turned into super-villain groups, and if you don't do it, darn it, somebody else is just going to beat you to the punch. (See? No Profanity Week is still in effect) They're like DC's Royal Flush Gang. Somebody had to base a bunch of villains on a deck of cards - DC just got there first. Same with The Zodiac. Or The Chessmen from Iron Man. Or the Ani-Men. Or Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew. Okay, I've gone too far now.
Anyway, here's a shot of The Avengers in battle with the Elements of Doom. I know what you're thinking - nice booty on Silverclaw. But isn't she, like, sixteen? I don't know if I'd let her out of the Mansion wearing that if I were Captain America. I mean, I know she's from South America, but still...
As you might imagine, things work out for our heroes. They defeat the Elements of Doom and the accountants. Thor gives them a bag of Asgardian gold to cover any damages. She-Hulk gets all lawyerly on them. Captain America has all the correct forms filled out. And Iron Man owns the darn Maria Stark Foundation, so he can do whatever the heck he wants.
It's a clever issue, and I have to give Busiek props for not making it too cute. Plus, and I never say this, but great lettering by Richard Starkings' crew - it's a pity Marvel doesn't use them anymore. (Do they?) Like I said, I kind of wanted the Busiek era to end with Something Huge, but I'll take what I can get. A Busiek inventory issue is still way better than the stuff that was to follow in the pages of The Avengers. Busiek wins.
Hey, Ric Flair and special guest Vince McMahon - can I get a "wooo" for not using profanity?
Thank you, Mr. Flair. I truly do understand now: "To be The Man you gotta beat The Man."