Friday, December 30, 2005


The Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe was just what it sounded like: an encyclopedia of all things Marvel.
Published in the Golden Eighties, the Handbook (which I will heretofore call OHMU) was a geek’s dream, packed with information and stats for even the most minor characters. How tall is the Marvel version of Dracula, anyway? (6’ 5”) How much can the Israeli heroine Sabra bench press? (about 50 tons) OHMU held great appeal for Young Dave, for the same reasons I loved poring over the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. There was something about the orderly cataloguing of the heroes and villains and the quantification of their powers that really worked for me. The Deluxe Edition of OHMU, published in the late eighties, was even better. DC had their own compendium, Who’s Who in The DC Universe, that I think everyone would agree sucked ass in comparison to OHMU.

One of the things I really loved about OHMU was their Book of Weapons (detailed here) and their Books of the Dead and Inactive.

The wraparound John Byrne cover (above) shows the feature characters floating in eerie stasis. My scanner isn’t big enough to scan both the front and back cover and I’m too lazy to paste the two images together, so you just get the front cover. Sue me. Note that the dead characters have their arms crossed in repose and the inactive characters have their arms at their sides. I believe if you placed all the Dead and Inactive covers together it formed a mural of the characters floating in front of a big skull. Spooky!

I’m not entirely sure what the Marvel definition of “inactive” is. Could a really, really lazy superhero be included here? Or heroes on vacation? The Marvel definition of “dead” seems equally vague, since many of the characters in this issue have escaped from Death’s loose grip since this was initially published.
"Marvel death, where is thy sting?"

Just off the top of my head, the characters featured in this issue who were dead in 1984 but came back at some point include Baron Strucker, Baron Zemo, Bucky, Count Nefaria, The Destroyer, Dracula*, Drax, Gamora, Green Goblin 2.0, and maybe Lilith. I’m not complaining, I just think it’s funny.

I wonder from a practical standpoint how the impermanence of death would affect Marvel characters, spiritually and psychologically. I mean, after a while wouldn’t somebody like Hawkeye become so jaded by the death thing that self-preservation, restraint, and a belief in the afterlife would just get tossed out the window? Marvel death, where is thy sting?

The Marvel editors and writers are like capricious Greek gods, plotting the downfall or ascension of the mortals as the whim seizes them. I’d like to read a meta-marvel story where Reed Richards invents a device that peels back the invisible Fourth Wall to reveal an Olympus of fickle Editor Gods.** Characters like Speedball and Darkhawk would join editor cults in an effort to curry favor with the gods and avoid banishment to limbo. Oh, how those minor characters must have trembled when their champion, the Great God Gruenwald passed away and their fates were left to a new generation of Mad Titans like Bendis. I mean “Mad Titans” in a good way, of course.

But enough of that. Doesn’t Banshee look like actor William H Macy on the cover? Check it out:

As usual, in addition to superstars like Banshee, OHMU features a smattering of lame minor characters like The Jackal, a Spider-Man villain. Has there ever been a character who better embodied The Riddler Factor other than The Riddler himself? As I explained here, The Riddler Factor is that mysterious force that allows lame villains to actually pose a threat to vastly more powerful heroes and enables them to survive until the end of the comic book, when logic collides with lameness and the villain goes down in one punch.

Nothing personal, but I’m glad to see The Jackal is dead. The real question is how he survived to plague Spider-Man for more than one issue. I mean, he’s an old guy in a costume. That’s it. At least The Vulture is an old guy who can fly, but The Jackal can’t even do that. OHMU doesn’t mention it, but I’m pretty sure he had poison claws. That’s it.

Plus, look at him. Pretty damn goofy:

Who would be scared of The Jackal? He’s a seventy-year old who dresses up like a frickin’ Mogwai. You could walk briskly away from him and be perfectly safe.
OHMU claims he died by throwing himself on a bomb, but I think he succumbed to gout and a fondness for brandy.
Since we’re doing a “separated at birth” theme with the OHMU posts, I think The Jackal resembles the gremlins from a series of British adult literacy adverts. Behold:

Man, I loves me the Google image search. You find the weirdest shit. I was looking for a decent picture of an evil Mogwai from the movie Gremlins when stumbled upon these ads, which are inexplicably hilarious to me. Look at the cute little guy:

I submit to you, fair reader, that a British literacy gremlin would make for a more formidable opponent than The Jackal.

Speaking of animal motif characters, check out Man-Wolf. He’s listed as “inactive,” which is a pity, because look at that fly outfit! He looks fabulous. Disco isn’t dead as long as Man-Wolf lives in our hearts.

According to his entry in OHMU, Man-Wolf “possessed superhuman strength, speed, agility, and stamina,” apparently so he could dance the night away. Not a true werewolf, “Man-Wolf was not subject to conventional limitations of lycanthropy, such as a weakness for silver,” but he had a true weakness for roller boogie and shiny disco balls. Heads up Marvel! I want to read a Dazzler/Man-Wolf mini-series, and I want to read it now!

And holy crap, is Man-Wolf wearing leg warmers? That just makes him even cooler. You go, girl!

*To be fair, OHMU lists Dracula, who is undead, as "destroyed," which seems accurate.

** Grant Morrison beat me to the punch when he had Animal Man meet his writer (Grant) in that one excellent issue.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Off-Topic: Tennis in the future

This is the Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai, the self-described "world's most luxurious hotel." If your helipad converts into a frickin' tennis court, you may be entitled to call yourself that. It looks like the Luthor Luxury Suites or an Alliance Core Planet or something that The Midnighter would ram a spaceship into.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Few of My Favorite Things 2005

It’s the end of the year 2005 and as a – how you say? Ah, yes – blogger. As a “blogger” I am legally and morally obligated to post a “Year in Review” or “Best of 2005” list. Here, then, is A Few of My Favorite Things 2005:

(Were I on a “best of” list, it would likely be for Most Egregious Overuse of Quotation Marks and Hyphens. And Parenthesis.)

I enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, about the viral nature of social phenomenon, and his book Blink, about the virtues and dangers of instinctive thinking. Both books are quick reads and are constructed around compelling premises – I heartily recommend you check them out.

Suburban Nation, by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck is a fascinating and infuriating survey of modern civic planning, or lack thereof. You’ll never look at a cul-de-sac the same way. It probably shouldn’t be in this category because it has pictures, now that I think about it. I like pictures.

Paper Fan, by Terry Gould, is the true story of a Canadian investigative reporter’s search for a fugitive Triad boss who fakes his own death. Hunting a crimelord who doesn't want to be found is only a slightly better idea than frolicking with Mr. Chocolate. A gritty, compelling look at the Triad underworld and the societies that enable them to exist, Paper Fan reads like an Elmore Leonard novel, full of colorful rogues and snappy prose.
I really dug Brubaker and Phillips’ Sleeper, which ended this year. The finale of the series is collected in a trade paperback called The Long Way Home. This is one of those series that I didn’t want to end for selfish reasons, but it’s a story that demands an ending and is all the more satisfying because it does stop.

I’m also one of those blog geeks that loved Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, which seemed fresh and – forgive me – full of wonder. But holy shit does Superman have a huge neck in this comic! It was a little distracting.

What else? I enjoyed We3, Seven Soldiers, The Bulleteer (boobs!), and Alan Moore and Gene Ha’s The Forty-Niners. That Gene Ha can draw buildings like a mofo. I also liked Villains United, Wonder Woman, She Hulk, The Goon, and Brubaker's Captain America.
One of my favorite new finds this year was Colonia, by Jeff Nicholson, a charming historical/fantasy adventure which is worthy of a post all its own. Loved it.
This is an easy one.
Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man tells the story of Timothy Treadwell, a man with a misguided, fatal love for grizzly bears. Treadwell spent his summers among the grizzly bears in Alaska – until they ate him and his girlfriend. Using footage shot by Treadwell himself with Herzog narrating and pontificating, Grizzly Man is a solemn exploration of madness and our relationship to nature, red in tooth and claw. Herzog has some experience with madman and quixotic quests and is a bit of a superfreak himself, so the film is a perfect pairing of subject and chronicler. After seeing Grizzly Man, you will never again frolick with giant bears in alpine meadows, speaking to them in baby voices and giving them cute nicknames. Because Mr. Chocolate will totally fucking eat you.

Those little penguins in March of the Penguins were hella cute and the cinematography was incredible, so that gets a thumbs up from me. I thought Batman Begins was keen. Come on, you know it was the best Batman movie, admit it.
Let's see, what else? I enjoyed the carnage of War of the Worlds and all the quipping and Whedon Fu of Serenity, even if Wash did go out Hawkeye-style. Kung Fu Hustle? Brilliant. The Aviator was swell, particularly Cate Blanchett’s spot-on performance as Katherine Hepburn. Guilty pleasures include Sky High, Stealth, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Sin City. I am a shameless genre whore and make no apology.

Stop laughing at me! Tell me Kelly Preston doesn't look hot in body armor!

On DVD this year I enjoyed David Mamet’s Spartan, with Val Kilmer in full-on cryptic bad-ass mode. I know, it came out in 2004, but I didn’t see it until 2005. Same with House of Flying Daggers and Spirited Away – they were new to me. I saw Ong Bak this year and nearly had a religious experience. If you like the fu, you must check it out.


All my favorite blogs are over there to the right. See them? They all get the big Dave’s Long Box thumbs-up. It’s difficult to single out particular blogs, but if I must:

Beaucoupkevin: Jesus, what a smart-ass. Kevin Church rocks out with his sock out on this acerbic and funny comics blog, home of Otter Prime and the Shit That Is Killing Comics feature, in which Kevin picks over the offerings in Previews like a big, sarcastic vulture. That can type.

The Absorbascon: Scipio Garling cranks out posts like the Queen Alien pops out eggs. The prolific Mr. Garling sticks it to the DC Universe with wry posts analyzing the hierarchy of henchmen and the allure of Vibe, meng. Scipio is also the co-ruler of the Big Monkey Comics empire and has the second coolest name of all bloggers. Sorry, I think Johnny Bacardi is the coolest name.

Neilalien: Holy shit! It’s a motherfucking palindrome! Nelialien is Lord of the Linkbloggers and Devoted Disciple of Dr. Strange. He seeks out cool stuff so I don’t have to. A classic blog.

Comics Should Be Good: This blog has my favorite regular feature, Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed! The title says it all; Brian Cronin plays mythbuster with the shadowy tales that float around the comics world.

Mike Sterling’s Progressive Ruin: The ultimate comics blog! EVER!

Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog: Chris Sims is funny as hell. I wouldn’t pick him up if he was hitchhiking, but he’s funny as hell. Just stay on the other side of the computer, Chris.

Comic Book Galaxy: “Pushing comics up your bum since 2000.” I swear, that’s their motto. Okay, it’s not really a blog, it’s an online magazine run by Alan David Doane, the grand auteur of online comic criticism. With articles and columns by smart people, Comic Book Galaxy has a mission and you had best get the hell out of the way. Good stuff.

Brill Building: Ian Brill lands great interviews and writes insightful essays about comics. Plus, he is a kick-boxing champion who defeated a French savate master in The Kumite. ‘Nuff said.

The Savage Critic(s): Brian Hibbs’ round-up of recent comics, and online roost of Graeme MacMillan of the late Fanboy Rampage. I like to read their reviews of shitty comics so I can still feel like I know what’s going on without actually buying every damn book...
Polite Dissent: Dr. Scott reviews comics for medical accuracy, and he likes musicals. What's not to like?
Comic Bloggers' Poll 2005: Crikey, I almost forgot! Go here and vote for YOUR favorite comic book stuff of 2005.
Forgive me if I haven't mentioned your blog. I briefly toyed with the idea of writing a little blurb about every single blog on my links list and why I like them, but that is the Road to Insanity, and I shall not take it, my friends.

Jerry Orbach, baby.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays from all the staff here at Dave's Long Box

Posting might be a little light over the next week or so as I immerse myself in holiday cheer (read: Scotch) and in the impending birth of Kid #2, which I'm very psyched about.

2005 has been a great year for us here at Dave's Long Box, and rest assured we are going to blow up like Krakatoa/TNT/an atom bomb in 2006 - choose your own explosive simile. I want to thank everybody for visiting in the '05, and a particular thanks to those who grace my humble blog with your comments. I love reading them; they provide me with endless amusement. The comments have been hilarious, informative, and refreshingly free of trollish behavior. It's the best part of the whole blog thing for me, and I really appreciate everybody stopping by and chatting.

Thanks everyone! May your nights be free of rampaging mandrills and your days be merry and bright.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

MISTER MIRACLE #10 DC Comics, 1972

I was a little late to the party when it came to comic legend Jack Kirby’s DC work.
Kirby, who made a name for himself creating/drawing many of the classic Marvel comics characters, created an entire mythos of extraterrestrial super-beings for DC comics known as The Fourth World or New Gods. My first exposure to Kirby’s DC characters was in the pages of Giffen & DeMatteis’ Justice League run, which featured Mister Miracle, one of the coolest characters EVER. Intrigued, I tracked down some of the original comics that the character appeared in, which bring us to Mister Miracle #10.

For those unfamiliar with Mister Miracle, he’s a super-escape artist with a ridiculously colorful costume and an arsenal of tricks up his sleeve, the stand-out star from Kirby’s Fourth World comics.

Why are the comics collectively called The Fourth World? Where are worlds number two and three? No fucking clue. I’m sure a Kirby scholar will jump in and help us out.

Kirby’s Fourth World books told the story of two warring planets chock full of exotic superhumans, the idyllic New Genesis and the malefic Apokolips. The original comics were Orion, The Forever People, New Gods, and Mister Miracle (I believe) and they have spawned a number of series and mini-series since their inception in the early 70’s. Kirby created a massive Manichaean mythos* from whole cloth, populated by iconic figures and strange beasts. It’s one of the most ambitious and wildly creative works in comics – second only to Lords of the Ultra Realm. Kidding. I kid.

This comic kicks ass; I don’t know how else to say it. It’s told with such vibrancy and confidence that it just sucks you in. Jack Kirby was a master of his craft, and he produced outrageous, wacky shit like this with such certainty and skill that you either had to embrace it or just stop reading comics altogether because you suck.

Our story starts with Mister Miracle, aka Scott Free (get it?), his amazon paramour Big Barda, and the all-lesbian Female Furies as they appear on Earth via a “boom tube” teleportation device. They land in the wrong spot: right above the secret base of the sinister World Protective League! What are the odds?

The WPL’s automatic death cannon begin shelling them, until Mister Miracle springs into action and attempts to dismantle it:

“Like a supersonic eel…” I love that. Scott disables the cannon but is captured by WPL goons, who have that unique Cro-Magnon Kirby look that all his goons seem to have. Barda and the Furies are captured as well, but we’ll get to them in a minute.

Mister Miracle meets a disembodied head who is aptly named The Head, leader of the World Protective League. The Head has cooked up an extortion plan involving an Orbital Plague Bomb, or OPB. It would have been funnier if his plan involved ODB, Ol’ Dirty Bastard from the Wu-Tang Clan, but this comic was sadly decades too early for that joke.

Anyway, take a look at the excellent, uniquely Kirby design of the Orbital Plague Bomb:

Come on, an Orbital Plague Bomb – how cool is that? Stuff like that makes comic books so goddamn cool.

While Mister Miracle is down with OPB, the Female Furies bust out of their cell. I’m not 100% sure why the Furies are in this book – Barda was a member of this Apokoliptic all-female death squad before she hooked up with Scott, but they’re usually portrayed as villains. It doesn’t matter, I’m a big fan of Mad Harriet, the cackling psychotic with green hair and power spikes, and I’m just happy she’s here.

That’s Stompa and Lashina next to Harriet. Tell me they’re not lesbians – killer super-lesbians from outer space!

Mister Miracle escapes from several of The Head’s death traps while the Furies open a can of Sapphic whup-ass on the World Protective League’s goons. The Orbital Plague Bomb launches with Mister Miracle onboard, but the master of escape does what he’s good at – escaping – and he magnetically attaches The Head to the departing OPB. See ya, Head.

Scott and the girls make their way back to Scott’s house, where they are reunited with the sideburned midget Oberon, who is apparently a sight for sore eyes:

Man, what would it be like to date Big Barda? You’d be out at dinner and she’d be all, “This crème brulee is better than ripping the heart out of an ash-crawler. When I finish I will take you to my bed and you will pleasure me until I am sated.” And you’d be all, “(gulp) Okay…”

Mister Miracle #10 is everything that is good about comics and nothing that sucks about them. Again: it kicks ass.

Rarely have comics seen such a unique, visionary, singular work as Kirby’s Fourth World books. Jack Kirby was the Orson Welles, the Bob Dylan, the Kurt Vonnegut, the Jimi Hendrix of sequential art – a creative force with a seminal body of work that has influenced generations of creators.

Hail to The King, baby.
*I want extra points for working the word “Manichaean” into my post.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Only one of us is going to post today... and it won't be me!

Sure, everybody's seen this famous blunder before, but I'm in a Jack Kirby kind of mood and felt like posting it because it amuses me.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Roger's Super Skittle Bowl

Here's a comic book ad from the early 70's that I am certain spawned the phrase, "What the fuck?"

As is often the case with comic ads featuring, um, drawings of celebrities, a couple of kids are walking through a park or a landfill or something, and they spot a sports legend like Roger Staubach or Rick Berry and Dr. J shooting hoops or playing skittle ball. "Hey look!" the kids exclaim. "It's a drawing of (insert sports star name here)! Wow, and he's using a (insert name of product here)! Wow again!"

In this case, the kids stumble upon star quarterback Roger Staubach, who is hiding in some bushes keeping in shape with a gruelling solo game of skittle bowl. Excuse me, I mean Olympic-size skittle bowl. You think Heisman Trophy winner and Hall of Famer like Roger Staubach is going to mess with non-regulation skittle bowl? Don't be a fool.

Perhaps you're wondering why you've never heard of skittle bowl, much less Olympic-size skittle bowl?

It's a sad chapter in Olympics history that not a lot of people know about. I won't go into detail (this is a comics blog, after all) but from the year 1969-1972, skittle bowl ruled the Olympics, until the widespread doping scandal that led to the suicide of Albania's gold medal skittle bowler and brought disgrace upon the sport. Now skittle bowl has been cast aside in favor of trampoline and the biathalon, aka Finnish drive-by shooting.

What, you think I'm making this up?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Lame-ass villain #12 - Unus

Unus the Untouchable is a lame X-Men villain from back-in-the-day (first appearance X-Men #8, 1964) who can psionically create invisible forcefields around himself. That’s actually a pretty cool power, and it’s not what makes him lame. His dated, cheesy appearance is not what makes him lame. What is that emblem on his belt anyway, a menorah? It would be cooler if it was. No, what makes Unus the Untouchable so lame is…

His name is Unus the Untouchable.

It’s that simple. If your name sounds like “anus” and your nickname is “untouchable?” People are going to laugh.

I’ll bet Unus has heard his share of rude comments about his name – maybe some just like this (prepare for comedy):

“That’s really your name? That’s funny, because it sounds like ‘anus.’ Have you ever heard that before?”

“Is that Greek?”

“Were you named after the goofy but lovable deputy on The Dukes of Hazard?”

“I’m sorry, did you say ‘anus?’”

“Hey Unus! Can’t touch this!”

“Anus! Hey, Anus! Ha ha ha!”

“My mom told me to stop touching my Unus because when I go to sleep I rub my eyes and I can develop a staph infection or styes or something on my eyelids because of the poo and stuff.” *

And finally…

“Hey, Unus! Slide me that chair!”
*I am so sorry.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

MOBY DICK Classics Illustrated, 1990

Moby Dick is one of the great, enduring works of American fiction, right up there with To Kill A Mockingbird and The DaVinci Code.* Herman Melville’s powerful story about the doomed ship Pequod’s hunt for a killer white whale is full of dark poetry, supernatural menace, visceral passages of carnage, and let’s face it -- lots and lots of really boring shit about whales. Thank God they made a comic book out of it!

This should be called Moby Dick: The Good Parts, because this comic book adaptation by artist Bill Sienkiewicz and writer D.G. Chichester trims all the whale fat off Melville’s tale and emphasizes the violence and brooding evil. It’s part of the relaunched Classics Illustrated series, which transmogrifies works of literature into comic book form. I had a lot of the original Classics Illustrated books when I was a kid; they served as gateway drugs into the world of hardcore classic fiction for a whole generation of kids, and the 1990’s relaunch of the line adopted the same mission. This Moby Dick comic isn’t designed to comprehensively tell the story; it’s more like a movie trailer for the book itself, enticing you to read the original.

Moby Dick is a beautiful prestige format book printed on glossy paper that enhances Sienkiewicz’s subtle and surreal painted artwork. I have gushed messily all over Bill Sienkiewicz’s artwork before, and I will do it again. He is a ninja master; one of the greatest sequential artists to ever work in comics. There are few comic artists whose work would do justice to Melville’s work, but he’s clearly up to the challenge.

Check out this spooky panel of Captain Ahab in the company of evil spirits, embodiments of his dark lust for vengeance:

As usual, Sienkiewicz mixes medium and techniques to capture the different moods of the story. In some places the art is luminous and overexposed, in other places the art is dark and psychedelic. Regardless of the technique, Sienkiewicz’s art is always put in service of the story.

Writer DG Chichester has the challenging task of distilling Melville’s massive work into a lean read, and for the most part he is successful. He wisely focuses on the bare bones of the plot and throws in a lot of the sinister stuff for flavor. The comic is steeped in superstition and evil, from Ahab’s phantoms to the blasphemous baptism of a harpoon with the blood of whalers to the prophecy of the captain’s fate – because the boring whale stuff is eliminated, the spooky stuff takes a more prominent role in this adaptation.

Moby Dick climaxes in a three-day hunt/battle with the white whale, during which Ahab’s quest to slay Moby Dick drags the crew of The Pequod into mortal peril. The man has a serious hard-on for that whale.

Things do not go well for the whalers, who learn too late that Moby Dick is the wrong whale to screw with. The whale goes ballistic and launches like an ICBM through their longboats in this awesome full-page panel:

I hope I’m not wrecking the story for anybody when I tell you that Captain Ahab and damn near everybody dies at the end of Moby Dick. Screaming defiance to the last, the obsessed whaler is dragged to his death, bound to his prey by his own rope as it descends into the crushing depths.

“To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

I know what you’re thinking: aren’t those Ricardo Montalban’s last lines in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Yes, and you’re a geek.

Moby Dick: no superheroes, no capes, no boobs, no boring passages about whales. Just a whole lot of spooky foreshadowing and brilliantly depicted carnage, courtesy of Bill Sienkiewicz. If you want your doom served steaming hot on a silver platter with a nice garnish, go hunt this comic down.

*I am totally kidding.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

AVENGERS UNPLUGGED #3 Marvel Comics, 1996

Why postpone joy?

I was going to wait to review Avengers Unplugged #3 because we just wrapped up Earth’s Mightiest Guest Stars Week and I figured that we have all had our fill of The Avengers for a while. But I can’t wait – I have to share the love. Plus, it’s Internet lurker extraordinaire Dan Coyle’s birthday, and I promised him a special custom “The Pain” banner, so here we go. This one’s for Dan. This one’s for the children.

People often ask me, “Dave, how do you get your abs so rock-hard?” And then they ask me, “Dave, why do you have so many awful comic books?”

My answers are a) a high-protein diet and lots of crunches, and b) because I have a sickness and the only cure for it is bad comics. And more cowbell. If bad comics are like medicine for my illness, then this comic is like a hypodermic needle full of adrenaline plunging into my heart, Uma Thurman-style.

Avengers Unplugged #3 is both glorious and awful, hellish and sublime. This 99-cent comic feels cheap and soulless, yet it is somehow brilliant in its suckiness. It stinks of sulfur and lies and dead kittens – it’s that bad.

Just looking at the Boob War cover (above) you know you’re in trouble. Two swaybacked, wasp-waisted heroines looking all tough and shit? Sign me up! And look at the guns on The Black Widow – she is freakishly ripped. Looks like they don’t test for steroids in The Avengers. Plus, are their asses nestled together? It looks like Crystal has one cheek parked right in Black Widow’s butt. I can’t decide if that’s sexy or not – and if I can’t decide, that means it probably isn’t.

The plot is as scanty as the outfits our heroines wear: Avengers Crystal and Black Widow hit the town for a “Ladies Nite” at Bimboyz, a male strip club/pizza parlor, but their fun is interrupted by a rampaging, shape-shifting Adaptoid. It’s even worse than it sounds.

And wouldn’t you know it? It’s Superhero Night at Bimboyz! A dancer dressed as Quicksilver offers Crystal a lap dance. Tee hee!

The weird thing is that Quicksilver is Crystal’s husband. If you were going to go to a place like Bimboyz, would you want a lap dance from a guy dressed up like your husband Ted? I mean, that would be weird, having some guy gyrating in front of you in Ted’s golf clothes. I say thee nay.

The Adaptoid throws a car through Bimboyz, miraculously missing everyone inside the presumably crowded club. The heroines attack, dressed in strange outfits that I have recently mocked here. Let’s take a look at the action. Please ignore the image in the upper left hand corner, with the SKOOOSH sound effect. It’s better left unexplained:

I like how The Adaptoid calls Crystal and The Widow “grrrls.”

Notice in the panel above how The Black Widow is flipping up into the air, showing more thigh than Sailor Moon. Below we have the very next panel in the comic, in which The Black Widow lands on a piece of debris, which she uses as a fulcrum to… to…

Just take a look:

She can flip cars into the air: such is the incredible acrobatic skill of The Black Widow. Do you know how long it takes to learn how to do that? Very few Olympic gymnasts ever reach that level of car flipping mastery. Either that, or The Black Widow has mysteriously acquired the ability to create Reverse Bubble Gum Rainbows which can propel cars into the air. But do you know how long it takes to learn to do that? A long time.

The Adaptoid counter-attacks, “causing a rippling shockwave with his fists” that scatter our heroines (below):

It looks like The Widow’s right leg is being devoured by that word balloon. Speaking of balloons, that’s a pretty perky panel. Did the Widow have some work done? Because her breasts didn’t look like that at the MTV Movie Awards earlier that year.

Eventually, thanks to Crystal’s ambiguous matter-transforming powers, The Avengers suit up in their costumes, and we are treated to this strange panel:

“You go, girl!”

I will just let that sit there without comment like a fish dying on a dock.

One of the things that bugs me about this comic is the strange coloring. From the pink Reverse Bubble Gum Rainbow to the panel above, this book is full of strange, unmotivated coloring. Like, in the panel above, where is the light around Crystal’s groinal region coming from? Perhaps from her glowing hand, but her hand is on fire and the groinal light is cold. You see what I mean? Where is the frickin’ light coming from? And what’s with Crystal’s gaunt, skeletal throat? That’s just creepy. It’s like she has Mary Jane’s body and Aunt May’s neck.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned who actually wrote and drew this book. I don’t want to be a dick, because those involved have done work that I like. What does seem obvious is that at the end of the book they either switch pencillers or somebody developed carpal tunnel or something, because the quality goes from bad to Holy Mother of God.

Check out this panel, where The Adaptoid battle our heroines out in front of a McDonald’s surrogate:

There are so many messed up things about that panel that I don’t even know where to begin. The fucked up lettering on the sign? The completely screwy perspective? The strange unmotivated lines in the background? The weird little pointy ballerina feet the Adaptoid has? Or just the dialogue? “You will find, wench, that your meager gyrations will be no match for me!” Yet another great pick-up line from the world of comics.

Of course, The Adaptoid is tricked into shocking himself on the incredibly high-voltage McDonald’s sign, writhing while Crystal makes lame jokes:

The Adaptoid does have sort of a nice ass, I’ll give him that.

Avengers Unplugged #3 is a bad comic for a number of reasons: the rushed, sloppy quality of the art, the hackneyed plot, the groan-inducing dialogue, and the utter and wonderful artlessness of it all. On one level it’s a hilarious glimpse into what guys think women do and what they wear when they go out on the town. It’s only missing a collage where the heroines try on different sexy outfits – if it had that it would be complete.

There you have it – a comic so bad that it deserves back-to-back posts, so awful that it deserves both our scorn and our praise. A comic that deserves the coveted Special Dan Coyle Edition The Pain Award:

Monday, December 12, 2005

Comic Book Fashion Disaster, Pt 1.

Welcome to Comic Book Fashion Disaster, a new feature here at Dave’s Long Box. We’ll be taking a look at my favorite four-color fashion faux pas – specifically, what heroes and heroines wear when they’re not on duty in spandex. I figured that ridiculing awful hero costumes has already been done by better folks than I, so why not look at what passes for normal clothing in the various super hero universes.

We’ll start with the ladies first time out. One of the hazards of being a female comic book hero is that men draw what you wear. Correction: nerdy men draw what you wear. While some artists consult with their significant others or at least flip open a magazine in an attempt to depict non-ghastly clothing, others clearly do not.

Come, take a look and you’ll see what I mean…

She-Hulk, from Incredible Hulk #316:

From the lace-up sandals to the acrylic accessories, She-Hulk is clearly going for the Florida Retiree look. Some pissed-off 80-year old woman is looking for her quilt right now. Hey She-Hulk, bingo is at 5:30, right after aquarobics.


Wonder Woman, from Wonder Woman #77:

“Hello, dear. You look tired.”

And by “tired” she means “cheap.”

I know she’s an immigrant and all, but somebody ought to take Diana aside and tell her she’s looking a little… what’s the word? Easy? That look might fly on Themyscira, but in the States she’s going to stand out. You know, never mind - during this era of Wonder Woman she was living in Boston; she’ll fit right in. Oh, snap! Take that, Boston!

Looker, from Batman and The Outsiders #27:

If memory serves, this scene is from a subplot that deals with the transformation of Emily, a frigid nerd girl into the saucy heroine Looker. Here, Emily receives a gift from her husband, a pretty dress that their therapist suggested that might help thaw the painfully repressed Emily. By the dialogue we can deduce that the dress is supposed to be kind of sexy, but look at that dress! That outfit is designed for making cookies or herding sheep. Unless her husband has a Little Bo Peep fetish, I can’t see how anyone would find that dress anything but grotesquely chaste and precious.

Crystal and The Black Widow from Avengers Unplugged #3:

I’m going to devote an entire post to mocking the car wreck that is Avengers Unplugged #3, but for now let’s just look at the outfits Crystal and The Black Widow wear on their night out on the town in the story “Ladies Nite.” Why did they spell the word “night” that way? I don’t know. And why are they wearing those outfits? Because a guy drew the comic book.

Mary-Jane Watson Parker from The Amazing Spider-Man #350:

“Don’t ask me to understand suicide,” Mary-Jane says as Peter Parker goes off to fight somebody lame like The Vulture while he has a head cold. It's suicide, man, don't do it!

Don’t ask me to understand your outfit! Did you lose a bet or something? Holy shit, what is she wearing? First of all, that dress makes her hips look big. There, I said it. And what is up with the tights – are those from the Dr. Seuss collection at Sears? She looks like she’s been rummaging through Nancy Sinatra’s trash for hand-me-downs. Yeesh.

Jubilee, from The Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe:


Here’s Jubilee, the spunky and annoying mutant from The X-Men, wearing a pastiche of late 80’s X-Men uniforms. Let’s see, she has Rogue’s green boots, Cyclops’ yoga unitard, Dazzler’s blue spandex, Longshot’s leather vest, Keith Richards’ track marks on her left arm, The Joker’s mouth, and Colossus’ hair. Top it all off with an Army surplus belt and handbag and you have a look that says, “WTF?” Plus, look at the cut of the blue Dazzler spandex. If she took off her vest she’s be flashing some boob. Kids today – they dress like hookers and thugs!

Okay, that’s it for this installation of Comic Book Fashion Disaster. Next time we’ll take a look at the civilian clothing and hairstyles of some of our favorite heroes. Expect to see Tony Stark’s mullet.

Until then, I leave you with demonic Smilex Jubilee:


Friday, December 09, 2005

Way Off-Topic

I don’t really feel like talking about comics today.

Of course I still loves me the comics, but sometimes I feel like because I write this blog that comic books assume an exaggerated position of importance in my life. And I hate to say this, but sometimes – sometimes – I just don’t want to read comics, or talk about them, or think about them. Like today. I’m just not feelin’ it today.

So I’m torn: do I deviate from the Dave’s Long Box Mission and post whatever I feel like talking about, or do I just not post at all because I have nothing to say about comics? I’m a big fan of blogs that choose a specific focus or format and stick with it. I’m not saying that a comic blog shouldn’t be able to go off-topic (I do), but it bugs me sometimes when I go to a comic blog and half the time they’re talking about their cat or bathroom etiquette or whatever. If you want to talk about your cat, go for it, but maybe you should change the name of your blog to “John’s Comic Book / Mr. Wiggins The Cutest Cat In The World Blog.”

I don’t know, maybe I should have an Off-Topic Week where I just get all the non-comic related stuff out of my system. That’s not a bad idea.

I could talk about stuff like:

- What is my cat Po meowing about now? What pressing business could a cat have at three in the morning that requires me to get out of bed? She has food, she doesn’t want to go outside, she has water – WHAT DOES SHE WANT FROM ME?

- That one asshole at work that I hate.

- Enough with the fucking ring tones, already. I get it, you have the Mission: Impossible theme on your phone. Does that mean that you can’t answer the damn thing promptly? You need everybody within 20 feet to hear the entire fucking Mission: Impossible theme? Hey, asshole: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer your damn phone.

- The draconian smoking ban in Washington State. I don’t even smoke, and I think it’s bullshit. Not only can you not smoke in a bar, but if you’re outside, you have to be 25 feet from a window, vent, or doorway. In the street, perhaps? Why don’t we just round all the smokers up and ship them to work camps while we’re at it?

- The state initiative process that got us this stupid smoking ban in the first place. Here in Washington we have an initiative process that allows total idiots to pass laws by popular decree. You think everybody should wear pirate hats on Tuesday? Get enough signatures on your petition and get that on the ballot! News flash: there are people whose job it is to pass laws. They’re called legislators. You vote for them.

- The left lane on the freeway is the fast lane. For the love of all that is good and pure, move to the right and let me pass you!

- The temp in my office who uses an entire roll of toilet paper to wipe his ass, then clogs the toilet. Is your ass that nasty that you need to kill a tree every time you crap?

Hey, I feel better! I think I got that out of my system. Now I can return to more important issues, like who would win in a fight: Spider-Man or Darth Vader? Who ya got?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

THE INCREDIBLE HULK #404 Marvel Comics, 1993

Quick post today as we bring Earth’s Mightiest Guest Stars Week to a close with this brief look at The Incredible Hulk #404 by Peter David and Gary Frank. In this issue, the Red Skull has brainwashed The Hulk, who teams up with The Juggernaut to beat the crap out of The Avengers in the rain forest somewhere. See? There’s nothing The Hulk likes better than beating up Avengers, even when he’s brainwashed.

The early 90’s were the faux X-Men era for The Avengers, when the editorial staff decided that they would replicate the success of the mutant books by putting The Avengers in jackets with “A” logos. Eventually this era culminated in a narrative natural disaster, a Perfect Storm of Suck that brought us Mutated Wasp, a Hercules without the Olde English jargon, and American Psycho Tony Stark. I was ready to turn in my Avengers ID card until Busiek and Perez saved the day.

This issue pits The Hulk and Juggernaut against a second-string of Avengers consisting of Crystal, Sersi, The Black Knight, Hercules, and the albino Vision. Peter David writes a snappy little tale that mixes a little pop psychology about Bruce’s mean daddy in with a decent brawl. I’m a fan of Gary Frank’s clean-lined art and his storytelling as well, so I’m going to give this issue a thumbs up.

The real reason I decided to do a post about this comic is the following scene, which I always thought was amusing. I’m a sucker for Hercules, who is an inherently funny character. Here’s Herc engaging in a tree-throwing duel with The Hulk (click to engorge):

I love that. It’s funny, it’s in-character, and it reveals something about Hercules. Sometimes Peter David’s writing can be a little too cute for my taste; it seems like he gets so enamored with a pun or a joke that he tries to shoehorn it into a script even if it doesn’t fit. This is not one of those cases; it’s note-perfect.

Come on! That’s funny, admit it.

Okay, thus ends Earth’s Mightiest Guest Stars Week. I have a whole bunch more comics where The Avengers appear, usually to fight somebody for a stupid reason. There’s a million of them, but I think we’ve pulled a broad enough cross-section to get an idea of what the standard Avengers guest-spot is like. I’m a big Avengers fan, so I’m happy to see them even when they’re not being portrayed in accordance with my rigid, dogmatic geek mind. Truly, they are Earth’s Mightiest Guest Stars!