Saturday, July 30, 2005

Kobra Week! WONDER WOMAN #278 DC Comics, 1981



I spent way more money on this comic than I should have, but I simply had to have it. After reviewing/mocking Wonder Woman #276 as part of Kobra Week here at Dave's Long Box, I was dying to see how the whole storyline played out. Here, then, is the senses-shattering climax of The Kobra Saga!

An aside: I don't know who came up with the phrase "senses-shattering" that propped up on so many comic book covers and in promotional copy back in the day - probably Stan Lee. During the Silver Age it seems like every frickin' issue would shatter one's senses. "It begins here! The senses-shattering introduction of Captain Carrot and his Fucking Amazing Zoo Crew!" Even as a kid I became a little jaded towards this particular bit of hyperbole. I'd put down a comic book and think, you know, big deal. The Thing fought The Hulk again. "Yawn-inducing" would be a more accurate bit of copy for many supposedly "senses-shattering" issues.

And really, what does that mean? Has anybody ever picked up, say, Wonder Woman #276, which is described as "senses-shattering" on the cover, and had their senses literally shattered?

"AAAGH!!! I can't see!!! This comic was so awesome it fucking blinded me! My God, I can't feel my feet either! Or my bathing-suit area!!! Fuck! I have totally had my senses shattered by this comic!!! Gaaahhh!!!"
Right, enough of that. Let's talk Kobra.

"...be on the lookout for a tall dude with a wig dressed in a bathing suit..."

Writer Gerry Conway and artists Jose Delbo and Mike Hunt - sorry, Dave Hunt - must hate Kobra, because they make him look like an utter idiot in Wonder Woman #278.

As you may recall from previous issues, Kobra has managed to steal a powerful "dirty" nuclear warhead from the U.S. government's top secret Cobalt 93 project. Undetected by the Egyptian government and the thousands of tourists who visit daily, Kobra has built a "secret" missile silo inside of one of the great pyramids of Cheops. Kobra has a thing for setting up bases in really obvious places - in previous issues he had an entire secret base hidden inside Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico that miraculously went undetected as well.

Anyway, Wonder Woman figures out that Kobra and his minions have this vast complex inside the great pyramids - I don't know, maybe they lifted the top off one of the pyramids and lowered all their gear and ICBMS into it one dark night when nobody was looking. She travels to Egypt, enters the pyramids, and is promptly captured.

Actually, she lets herself get captured because Kobra's goons don't recognize her. She thinks, "By their accents, they're not Americans - they don't know who I am! ...I think I'll play along with these cultists for now."

WTF? Do Kobra cultists never read a paper, or watch the news? I could see how they wouldn't, but at the very least you think Kobra would mention Wonder Woman - the thorn in his side - to the guys guarding his secret base! You know, tell them to be on the look out for a tall dude with a wig dressed in a bathing suit? But no.

The cultists bring Wonder Woman before Kobra himself, who is wearing a really goofy looking version of the Kobra Outfit. Kobra assumes that she has been drugged. Bad call.



The countdown has begun. Kobra will fire the Cobalt Bomb over the Middle East, and, as Wonder Woman helpfully explains, "...if that missile hits, it will poison the Mid-East oilfields for the next 93 years! Civilization will be thrown back to the Middle Ages!" I don't know if Kobra's really thought this plan through - he's firing a super-nuke at the Mid-East from a secret launching spot in... Egypt? Maybe he checked to make sure the prevailing winds were blowing east or something, but that seems sort of like throwing a grenade straight up in the air and hoping it doesn't land on you.

But what do I know? I'm not the King of Evil.

Kobra has a bright idea - throw Wonder Woman in the blast pit! He tells his lackeys to do this, despite the fact that there are only fifteen seconds until ignition. They'd better hustle!

However, Kobra has underestimated the Amazing Amazon and she bust loose!


Things go terribly wrong for Kobra. Steve Trevor, the love of Wonder Woman's life, has climbed into the Cobalt 93 missile and has pulled out some important wiring - now the missile's turn signals and windshield wipers don't work for shit. Wonder Woman smashes a lot of expensive equipment and pummels a bunch of goons, then grapples with Kobra, who strangles her.

How do we know Kobra is strangling her? Well, you could look at the art, or you could read the helpful internal dialogue by Wonder Woman, Mistress of the Obvious: "Strangling me!"



She kicks Kobra into some vital machinery, giving everybody a good look at her sexy Grandma Panties. Look, I'm not saying she has to go all Brazilian on us and wear a thong or anything, but couldn't she have picked a more flattering cut for her trunks? Maybe Wonder Woman is one of the 2.5 million women in America who suffer from adult incontinence and her Grandma Panties actually function as adult diapers. I don't want to start a rumour or anything, I'm just thinking out loud here.

In the end the Cobalt Missile goes off course and lands harmlessly in the ocean, one of the great pyramids totally collapses, and Kobra is presumed dead, crushed under tons of ancient bricks.

Or was he...?

Happily, both Kobra and Wonder Woman eventually get cooler clothes, so everything works out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Kobra Week! Workforce management the Kobra Way

Kobra is an adherent to the Darth Vader paradigm of personnel management. He has a "top heavy" managerial style, holds high expectations for his staff, and values loyalty. Kobra helps his workforce achieve their goals by mentally conditioning (aka "brainwashing") them to adopt his professional values as their own. Understanding the importance of morale in the workplace, Kobra uses fear and intimidation to keep his workforce focused.



In the inevitable situation where workplace stress produces undesirable behavior such as cowardice or mistakes, Kobra knows that addressing the situation as soon as possible, and in a public way, is the best course of action given his management style.

In the panel above, we see one of Kobra's staff expressing some doubts regarding the enterprise's course of action. Since they are in a time-critical environment, Kobra wisely chooses to address the issue at hand - incoming nukes - before dealing with the coutner-productive behavior.

Only after the time-critical situation has been dealt with does Kobra address the employee's behavior. A mature manager knows that the key to success is prioritizing; Kobra dealt with the most urgent situation first, and now turns to the personnel matter in the panel below. Note that not very much time has elapsed since the employee manifested undesirable behavior - corrective coaching is only relevant when done in a timely fashion.



Kobra chooses to correctively coach the employee by strangling him to death, thereby eliminating the possibility of the undesirable behavior from occurring again.

Note that Kobra has coached the employee in a firm way in front of other staff members, both as an example of the consequences of counter-productive behavior and as a way of reinforcing the desired company culture.



Note the response from 3 out of 4 employees is fear/intimidation, while 1 out of 4 employees responds with sexual arousal. These are acceptable responses to witnessing coaching sessions like this, and are signs that the workforce will comply in the future. Kobra's corrective action seems to have had the desired result.

To reinforce his "top-heavy" management style, Kobra concludes his coaching session with a declaration of supremacy: "That is why I will one day rule!" He then further reinforces the corrective action by instructing the deceased employee's co-workers to remove his corpse.

Please note that the Darth Vader paradigm is only really effective when a) you have a large pool of employees, and b) you are physically capable of murdering your staff.

(Art by Alan Davis from Batman and The Outsiders #27)

Kobra Week! Proof that Kobra truly is the King of Evil
























Threatening Ma and Pa Kent? That's cold - Kobra Kold!

Take note of the kick-ass Kobra logo, complete with snake and globe. The cover also tells us that inside we can expect not one, but two super-stories - one of which is a 17-page novel! Maybe the print is really really small...

Thanks to Scott from The Radioactive Swamp for the dope Kobra image.

Kobra Week! The trial of Kobra

Here's a link for you:

Over at Suspension of Disbelief, the blog with the B.S. meter, Loren has a great post about JSA #45, The Trial of Kobra, a comic that is just loaded with factual and legal errors (or "liberties" if you're feeling charitable).

It's ssswell.

Kobra Week! Resolving interpersonal conflict the Kobra Way

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Kobra Week! My scanner is busted!



Damn it, something's wrong with my scanner!

How can I continue to hail the King of Evil, Lord Naga-Naga, The Avatar of Chaos himself, without a scanner?

"Whaaat? Your ssscanner isss down? You foool!"

"Please, Lord Kobra - give me a moment to get it fixed so I can --"

"Your time hasss come, ssslave..."

"Wait a second, I just need to reinstall it or, or check the plugs or something..."

"Your excusssesss weary me, David. Ssstrangling or gasss?"

"Uhh... strangling, I guess."

G-gurk!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Kobra Week! SUICIDE SQUAD #45, 46, 47 DC Comics, 1990



All right, this is one of my favorite Kobra stories ever in one of my favorite comic books ever, so if you expect The Mockery, look elsewhere. Let’s just get that out of the way now.

The “Serpent of Chaos” storyline ran through issues 45-47 of Suicide Squad, and let me tell you, writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale - They Know Kobra. They Do Kobra Right. The only things that would have made this comic better is a) breasts, and b) Alan Davis art. Don’t get me wrong, I like artist Geoff Isherwood just fine, but sometimes his characters look a little distorted to me, and I find it distracting.

I’m nitpicking though; let me show you how frickin’ cool these comics are. Let me share my love with you -- all night long.

This storyline takes place during the “plain clothes” incarnation of Suicide Squad, when Task Force X mastermind Amanda “The Wall” Waller and her group of super-misfits hit the road and sells their services, sans costume, to the highest bidder. This newer, leaner Squad consists of field leader Bronze Tiger, strangle-happy assassin Ravan, animal-powered heroine Vixen, ice cold gunman Deadshot, the shifty Captain Boomerang, and a man who may or may not be the original Atom.

We start off with Kobra, also in plain clothes, strolling the streets of shell-shocked Beirut with an undercover federal agent who is pretending to sell Kobra some weapons of mass destruction. Kobra breathes in the ambience of war-ravaged Lebanon and he likes what he smells – death and chaos. Take a look (click for a bigger picture):



The undercover agent in the Hawaiian shirt springs his trap, and government commandos pop out of the rubble to arrest Kobra. But the King of Evil is no dummy, and he springs a trap of his own on the unsuspecting agent.

Things don’t go well for the guy in the Hawaiian shirt, as we find out in this panel (below) where Amanda Waller chats with her new client, an Egyptian intelligence official:



Amputated the guy’s limbs and removed his eyes? That’s Kobra Kold!

Most of the Squad heads to Israel to track down Kobra. We learn that a team of Israeli super-agents are hunting him as well, and that Israel has developed a Jewish version of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL. This sentient computer program, named Dybbuk, factors heavily into the story.

Deadshot and Captain Boomerang are conspicuously absent from these issues because of a mix-up with their luggage. It seems that Boomerang decides to pound back a few drinks in an airport lounge and as a result, they miss their flight. Their luggage, however, goes to Israel without them – including all of Boomerang’s boomerangs and Deadshot’s signature wrist-magnums. Deadshot is pissed – if they lose their luggage, Boomerang loses his life. He’s serious, too.

Boomerang realizes this:



I think everybody can relate to that panel (above). Sometimes the crushing weight of mortality, the existential angst and futility of it all, is just too much to bear. Sometimes it’s just that Taco Bell you had late last night working its way through your system. Either way, we’ve all been there.

Moving on. Bronze Tiger and Ravan infiltrate Israel by boat as they are both not welcome in the country. BT worked for an African super-merc firm called The Janissaries and Ravan was a member of a little club called The Jihad, so they’re not getting Israeli visas anytime soon. The two men have a hate/hate relationship ever since Bronze Tiger broke Ravan’s back way back in the day. Ravan informs Bronze Tiger that his ultimate goal in life is killing Kobra. You see, Ravan is a Thugee (the guys Indiana Jones fought in Temple of Doom) and he dedicates each kill to the Indian goddess Kali in an effort to forestall the Kali-Yuga, which is sort of like the Hindu version of the End Times. Kobra, on the other hand, is very much interested in bringing about the The Age of Chaos, so Ravan and Kobra are pretty much on opposite sides of the whole Kali-Yuga issue.

Here’s Ravan telling Bronze Tiger, “You think you’re bad? You ain’t so bad.”



Ravan is so cool.

Anyway, Kobra ends up getting captured by the aforementioned Mossad super-agents, and thrown in a Jerusalem jail cell. The King of Evil goes down pretty easy, though – suspiciously easy. The Mossad chief gloats when he shows Amanda Waller their captive prize…



Waller has had some experience with Kobra before (in the “Janus Directive” storyline) and she knows something is wrong. Somehow, getting captured is precisely what Kobra had in mind – but WHY? Why damn it?

If there was any doubt in Waller’s mind that Kobra is up to No Damn Good, this panel should confirm her suspicions. Here’s Kobra doing his best Hannibal Lecter:



"I once ate a Checkmate agent's liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."

Remember I mentioned Dybbuk, the Israeli super-computer? Kobra is aware of Dybbuk and knows that it will be monitoring his cell. He uses the opportunity to engage in a philosophical dialogue with the powerful but na├»ve computer program in an attempt to sway Dybbuk over to his side. Talk about confidence. The guy’s so sure of himself that he gets captured, knowing that he’s smart enough and eloquent enough to sway Dybbuk into doing his bidding. Cheeky!

Here’s Kobra holding forth while Dybbuk listens and absorbs:



Waller doesn’t share her Israeli counterpart’s overconfidence and knows that Kobra is up to something. She sends The Atom to spy on Kobra’s cell in miniature form. Kobra somehow siccs some scorpions after The Atom, but he overcomes and figures out Kobra’s ultimate plan.

Here’s a panel where The Atom, up in a ventilation panel, figures everything out:



That’s right, Kobra has convinced Dybbuk that The Dome of the Rock must be destroyed! The computer has electronically taken over a flight of Israeli jets (I’m a little unclear as to how) and is going to use them to bomb the mosque so that the original Temple of Solomon can be rebuilt. This, of course, will start a huge war in the Middle East and “ignite the Kali-Yuga.”

Bastard!

I’d like to take a moment to say how much I love writer John Ostrander’s work. He always threw real-world politics and a cynical world-view into the mix on Suicide Squad and other titles like Hawkworld and Firestorm. His plotting is always dead-on and well-paced, and over time he developed memorable characters like Amanda Waller and Boomerang that really grew on you, even if they were total bastards. The great thing about Suicide Squad is that the possibility of a major character dying was always present – you just never knew who was going to bite it next. God, I loved that series.

Speaking of dying… As the plot heats up and the jets are on their way to bomb The Dome of the Rock, Kobra easily escapes his cell, only to be confronted by Ravan.

Finally, Ravan’s lifelong goal of slaying Kobra is within his reach:



Kobra is not to be fucked with lightly, as Ravan discovers. His staff carries enough poison to put down an adult rhino, and he’s not afraid to use it.



Kobra pretty much kicks the ever-lovin’ shit out of Ravan, and gives him a double-shot of lethal poison for good measure. The Atom arrives at the Israeli prison in time to stop Kobra before he escapes, but it’s too late for our man Ravan.

Dying, Ravan begs The Atom to kill the now unconscious Kobra, but The Atom refuses.

Ravan does not take this well:



You can keep your Supergirl/Anti-Monitor death, I vote Ravan’s demise as the Best Death Ever.

For the past year or so the readers had been getting slowly attached to Ravan, who despite being an unrepentant terrorist, was actually kind of a mellow guy. Just when you think Ravan has made it to the Inner Circle of the Suicide Squad, safe from death because he’s too popular… Ostrander yanks the Kashmir rug right out from under the reader and kills him BIG STYLE! Plus, the guy dies unfulfilled. His life’s dream is within his grasp, and just as he dies, he realizes that his quest will remain incomplete, all because of this frickin’ Atom guy.

D’oh!

If you can read these comics and walk away thinking Kobra is not cool… well, you suck.

“The Serpent of Chaos” storyline: Kobra and Ostrander at their finest.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Kobra Week! KOBRA #4 DC Comics, 1976



Yes, believe it or not, Kobra once had his own comic book!

During the 70's DC had an editorial philosophy that pretty much amounted to: "Throw a bunch of crap at the wall and see what sticks." Unfortunately, DC's crap was coated in teflon, and nothing stuck to the wall. But for a brief, glorious period - the DC Explosion! - the reading public was treated to such comic book oddities as Kobra.

In this series, the unspeakably evil Kobra, the King of Evil, does battle with his twin brother, Jason Burr, who is an idiot, yet somehow always manages to foil Kobra's schemes, if only temporarily. For reasons best left unexplained, the two brothers share an empathic bond and can feel each other's pain. For instance, if Jason Burr gets hit in the nuts with a lacrosse stick, somewhere in an evil temple Kobra doubles over, clutching his boys. As you might imagine, this complicates things and makes Jason Burr the one enemy Kobra cannot kill!!!

Can I point out the boss Joe Kubert cover (above)? Kubert's one of those guys whose work is instantly recognizable and instantly boss! He rules, end of story. He rules so much that he founded Joe Kubert's School of Being Boss. Anyway, the Kubert cover classes up the comic, if you ask me. I don't know why there's an inset panel of Jason Burr on the toilet - that scene isn't in the book...

Kobra, in typical Kobra fashion, is striking a dramatic pose and screaming at his brain-washed underlings. Here, click on this splash page and it will get you up to speed:



I like his outfit in this comic; it looks like he's wearing comfy terry-cloth pajamas. You know, he should do a line of men and underling's clothing called Kobra Seperates. I'd buy them.

Kobra is one cat who appreciates the importance of brand management. He's always got a new outfit that is built on the timeless Kobra theme of orange and green scales. And talk about accesorizing! He even pimped out all his excavator and heavy machinery, Kobra-style, by um, putting cobra heads on bulldozers and shit. The Kobra Vibe is always in effect.

Much like Dr. Doom, Kobra was always trying to get an edge in his never-ending struggle for Global Chaos by screwing around with powers beyond human understanding, . In Kobra #4, our man tries to harness the power of a giant alien robot, the Servitor. Things go wrong:



The Servitor - that was my nickname in college. I swung with a different crowd, baby.

Anyway, check out the panel where The Servitor's face explodes - that's a pretty cool sound effect, no? "Choom!" Nice effect.

Kobra and his much-abused minions take care of The Servitor, and then we move on to the monthly fight between Jason Burr and his evil twin brother. Every month they fight, and every month they forget that the two of them are linked empathically:



More great sound effects: "FUNT!" That's what getting kicked in the gut sounds like when you're wearing comfortable terry-cloth armor from Kobra's fall collection. Speaking of fashion, Jason is wearing a Superman T-shirt in order to confuse young readers, I guess. He looks stupid. He is stupid.

The Kobra series didn't survive the "DC Implosion" and Jason Burr met his destiny in the pages of a Batman comic book. It's a pity that Kobra is (supposedly) dead, because I think a new Kobra series would rule. If there's one thing that kids love, it's fanatical merchants of global terror in eye-catching outfits.

That, and ponies. Kids love ponies.

(Krap! I never mentioned that Kobra was kreated by Jack "King" Kirby. You kan see some of Kirby's kraziness in this issue's art - like the "Kirby dots" in the panel above. Kirby + Kobra = Kool.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Employee Motivation the Kobra Way



(Yes, this is a re-post, too. But Kobra demanded it!)
"Go, all of you! Die repelling the intruders, and know you will be blessed beyond your puerile capacity to conceive!"

Kobra Week! WONDER WOMAN #276 DC Comics, 1981



If there's one thing you can say about Wonder Woman comics of the 70's and 80's, it's that they are no damn good. I don't know what happened, but somewhere along the way Wonder Woman morphed from creator William Moulton Marston's naughty lesbian bondage queen into a generic, androgynous super-hero. Her gender is almost irrelevant in these comics, which, depending on your point of view, could be a good thing. I'm here to tell you that it isn't.

Here’s Wonder Woman #276, which is included in Kobra Week because it’s the beginning of the “senses-shattering QUEST for Kobra!” Published in 1980, this is the pre-Crisis version of Wonder Woman; you can tell because a) she flies in her invisible jet, b) she has a secret identity, Capt. Diana Prince, and c) she looks like a DUDE!!!

--------
"I’m not saying that Wonder Woman has to be drawn like a pin-up girl, but … wait a second, actually, I am saying that."
--------

During the 70’s and early 80’s there must have been some editorial mandate regarding Wonder Woman’s appearance – artists were told she had to look like a Soviet women’s track and field athlete with a wig. Seriously, there must have been a conscious effort to depict Wonder Woman as an eerie, sexless mannequin. I think the DC editors sent out pictures of Golden Girl Bea Arthur to all their artists as a photo reference. Now I’m not saying that Wonder Woman has to be drawn like a pin-up girl, but … wait a second, actually, I am saying that.

In this story, Wonder Woman uncovers a sinister plot by the doomsday Kobra Cult, a shadowy organization that has been the cause of her recent woes. They Kobra Cult plans on hijacking a super-nuclear bomb from the top secret Cobalt 93 project and fucking shit up big time (my words, not theirs). The leader of the cult is none other than King Kobra, a fun pre-Crisis version of Kobra.

Regardless of the name, we know it’s our man Kobra. Who else dresses like that? Who has the balls to pull of that pimp Kobra Vibe? Check out this panel of King Kobra striding through his crib – the Kobra Vibe is in full effect here!



Kobra stays in the background during this issue, leaving Wonder Woman to fight Kobra’s minions. The Kobra Cult is the DC version of HYDRA, basically – a never-ending font of generic goons who spill forth whenever the plot demands a fight scene. Goons like this are as incompetent or as dangerous as the writer needs them to be – for instance in this issue Wonder Woman fights a single Kobra goon and has a hard time, but ten pages later she wipes the floor with a whole squad of the same guys.

Wonder Woman has awkward dialogue and a deeply illogical thought process to match her stiff, featureless physique. She has a weird habit of narrating everything that is happening during a fight. It’s like she is high or something. Here she is in battle with a Kobra goon:



Later Wonder Woman dopes out the location of a secret Kobra Cult lair: in Carlsbad Caverns! She flies her invisible jet into the caverns themselves (!) and quickly finds the location of the secret lair: it’s the only cave that has a big fence and a CLOSED sign. I’m serious.

Beyond the fence in the middle of Carlsbad Caverns, Wonder Woman finds a secret Kobra lair full of high-tech stuff and Kobra Bling like snake-motiff torch holders and shit.

The hideout is deserted – perhaps their security was compromised by one of the 250,000 Boy Scouts who visit the National Park every frickin’ year – but the wily Kobra has left some goons behind as a trap for the Amazing Amazon! But, if you hadn’t figured that out, Wonder Woman explains it to you as she is attacked:



Ahh, Wonder Woman: Mistress of the Obvious.

This issue is presumably a big lead-up to a showdown between “King Kobra” and androgynous mannequin Wonder Woman; I just don’t happen to have any of the subsequent issues. I’m sure it’s great – after all, if it has Kobra, it must be good!

Right?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

KOBRA WEEK: BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #27 DC Comics, 1985


(THIS IS A RE-RUN OF A POST FROM APRIL 16TH, 2005. I FIGURED, WHY NOT SAVE MYSELF SOME WORK AND JUST BE LAME AND POST THIS AGAIN? KOBRA WOULD TOTALLY STRANGLE MY LAZY ASS...)

I have always loved Kobra. You love Kobra, too - you just might not know it yet. Kobra was a cross between Dr. Doom, Hugo Drax, and Jim Jones who hissed and ssstretched out the letter "S" a lot. He wore a very 80's orange and green snake theme costume, and he had his own logo and everything. The leader of an apocalyptic Cobra Cult (or Kobra Kult?), he had a seemingly endless supply of cash, evil schemes, and brainwashed followers.

It's a good thing he had so many cultists, because Kobra was harder on his subordinates than Darth Vader. I mean, he made them wear outfits just like his, and then there was the strangling.
Here's a typical exchange between Kobra and a lackey:

Kobra: "Kobra sssaid no sssugar in his tea, you mindlesss fool!"

Lackey: "I-I forgot! Mercy, Lord Naga-Naga!"

(Kobra strangles lackey)

Lackey: "C-can't breathe... D-dying!"

Kobra: "Perhapsss you will remember in the afterlife: Kobra takesss honey only!"


Before he became DC's cut-rate Dr. Doom, Kobra had his own series (titled, appropriately enough, Kobra) in the 70's. In that series, we learned that Kobra had a twin brother named Lemmy that had some sort of weird psychic symbiosis thing going on - whenever Lemmy felt pain, so did Kobra. Wait, the brother's name was Jason Burr, not Lemmy. My bad. Anyway, the whole twin brother storyline seemed to just die off - does anybody out there know what happened to Lem-- um, Jason? I think Kobra finally killed him off, but I can't recall.

It looked for a while like DC was pushing for Kobra to take his rightful place among the better known arch-villains like The Joker and Lex Luthor and Clock King, but it never panned out. I think one of the problems with Kobra is that he's nobody's arch-enemy. You gotta have that rivalry thing going to be a really good bad guy.

Though it pains me to say, Kobra was just sort of a stock arch-villain with an army of disposable goons. He appeared in Batman and The Outsiders, Aquaman, The Outsiders, Suicide Squad, Flash, Wonder Woman, JSA, and a few other books, but never assumed the A-List Arch Villain Status he deserved. Finally, in JSA #51, Kobra got executed by a renegade group of JSA heroes.

Supposedly.

My favorite Kobra appearances are 1989's The Janus Directive crossover (which I will review at some point in the future), a kick-ass Suicide Squad storyline where Kobra tries to incite a full-scale war in the Middle East by manipulating Israeli jets into destroying the Dome of the Rock, and this Batman and The Outsiders storyline.

Inthis issue, Kobra's up to no-damn-good once again, hijacking a missile defense satellite and threatening to turn it over to the Soviets unless the Americans give him all the gold in Fort Knox. Only Batman and The Outsiders can stop him! Actually, I think Green Lantern could probably have stopped him on his lunch break, but what do I know?

Before his scheme is foiled, Kobra gets some classic dialogue like this, as he strangles a foolish lackey who doubted him: "The Chrissstian God is known for his forgiveness... but the Cobra God has no such weaknessess! That is why I will one day rule! Dispose of this carrion and open a channel to the Pentagon!"

Now that is self confidence!

Writer Mike W. Barr has a good time with Kobra, who is in full-on hammy Bond villain mode here. The art by Alan Davis is... well, it's Alan Davis. It fucking rules. Davis draws a savage but brief brawl between Kobra and Batman that I love because - and this is important - Kobra kicks Batman's ass. No trickery, no assistance, no mitigating factors - Kobra just flat out beats the shit out of Batman and leaves him all fucked-up and unconscious. Of course, Kobra can barely stand after the fight and has to be helped to an escape pod, and his plot has been foiled, but the fact remains: Kobra beat up Batman. How can you not like the guy?

To DC I say: more Kobra pleassse!

It beginsss! KOBRA WEEK!



Welcome to KOBRA WEEK here at Dave's Long Box, where we celebrate the magic and mystery of DC's most unappreciated supervillains - Kobra!

By the end of this week you, too, will be convinced that Kobra is the sssshit.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Superhero Tactics 101: Neck Ramming



Today we're beginning a new feature here at Dave's Long Box, Superhero Tactics 101, which will spotlight different combat maneuvers used by superheroes in an effort to better understand, and thus mock them.

When you're a superhero, sometimes shit gets crazy. Sometimes, when you really need to take that sonuvabitch villain down, when you really need to get the job done - that's right...

...you have to ram them with your neck!

The classic Neck Ramming maneuver is fairly simple. The hero flies at high speed at the target, head down, and rams the target with the back of his/her neck. That's about it.

It never works.

I know. It came as a shock to me, too. But after extensive research into Neck Ramming, I discovered that never - not once, ever- has any superhero put a villain down by Neck Ramming them. The statistics are grim for Neck Ramming advocates. Better news on the henchman front, though; studies show that Neck Ramming has proven effective 60% of the time against henchmen and goons.

Still, it's not nearly as effective as the Two-Fisted Strike with Interwoven Fingers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bang a Gong! Comic Con!

Okay, I'm going to depart from the usual Dave's Long Box paradigm and get a little autobiographical on your ass and tell you about my trip to this year's Comic Con in sultry San Diego.



Nerd Vegas. Nerd Prom. Geek Mecca. The Terrordome. Comic Con International. Whatever you call it, it's the biggest comic/sci-fi/toy/movie/whatever convention in North America (I think) and it's usually pretty fun. I think if I spent the whole four days there I'd probably be ready to commit lightsaber seppuku, but one day of immersion in the Lazarus Pit of Pop Culture recharges my batteries and helps make me feel connected to the Hive Mind again.

I went on Friday this year, avoiding the Saturday crush. I got in as a guest on my friend Bob's pro pass, so no waiting in line and no entry fee for me, which is never a bad thing. Picked up some vintage Sternako Nick Fury comics, found that issue of Scurvy Dogs I was looking for (because pirates are the new monkeys), and generally just got a lot of crappy comics like Weird War Tales #119, the only comic which features monster-on-lion sodomy. I also finally found my beloved Detective Comics #479, the comic that got Young Dave Campbell into Batman in a big way. I'll be reviewing/fawning over that issue shortly.

Most of all, though, I just wandered around checking out the different booths and did some people watching. Marvel Comics was conspicuously absent - what's the deal with that? Are they so in bed with Wizard that they only do the Chicago show? Their absence from the Con was baffling, and it wasn't the first year they weren't there. The Ghost Rider motorcycle looked pretty cool, as did the life-size Lego Chewbacca. Hasbro had a covered Optimus Prime semi-truck there, guarded by blondes in tight shirts. Did they ever unveil that thing, or was it just a regular truck? I'm guessing the latter. There were the usual assortment of cosplay geeks, booth babes, beseiged pros, and minor celebrities. Look, freakishly tall Peter Mayhew! There's Ray Park! And Elizabeth "Showgirls" Berkley and her pissed-looking boyfriend. The stormtrooper quotient was pretty low this year, which made me a little nostalgic for years past when you couldn't swing a replica gaffi stick without smacking one of them.

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"...if I spent the whole four days there I'd probably be ready to commit lightsaber seppuku..."
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I've come to realize that I am a total wuss when it comes to talking to professional comic creators that I admire. I couldn't work up the nerve to stop Steven Grant on the floor and tell him how much I dig his stuff. Same with Peter David, Tony Millionaire, and Jill Thompson, who has nice hair, BTW. The list goes on. I just felt like such a fanboy that I couldn't bring myself to say hi, which sucks for me. I'm sure they wouldn't have minded, I don't know what my problem is.

Apparently I didn't have any trouble talking to cute cosplay girls, like the female Captain America and Ultimate Jean Grey (above) and the Black Cat (below). I don't know what that says about me - probably nothing flattering.



Man, I look fat. I'm taking prednisone right now, so my face has bloated to Phil Collins proportions. Get Dave a bucket of fried chicken, stat!

So, that was the Con for me.

The high point of my trip to SoCal was actually not Comic Con. On Saturday my friends Bob Lindenmayer (master prop collector and web designer for yes, My Little Pony and Transformers) and Ken Christiansen (ninja artist and my partner in sequential art crime, lord of Badflip Productions) and I all spent an afternoon at the home of the legendary Bob Burns, the ultimate movie prop and artifact collector. Ever.

I'm not only a comic geek, I'm also a big genre movie geek, so this was really special for me. My friend Bob L and Bob Burns are really tight, so we were invited over to Mr. Burns' home to check out his stuff. He has a huge add-on to his house that holds a Smithsonian's worth of movie stuff from every era. I swear to God, I gasped when I walked through the door.

Bob Burns has everything. Everything. I'm getting goose bumps just writing this, I really am.
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"Man, I look fat."
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Where do I start?
The Kroenen costume from Hellboy. Rohan armor and a life-size Uruk-Hai from The Lord of the Rings. Six or seven alien masks from the cantina scene in Star Wars. The Syd Mead designed Sulaco marine ship from Aliens, as well as a huge marine drop-ship miniature. Darth Vader's severed hand, with lightsaber. A giant chrome hunter-killer from Terminator. Everything from Alien - eggs, face-huggers, masks, claws, miniatures. Numerous Nautilus models from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, one of which is five feet long. Lasers and blasters from every sci-fi movie you can think of. The frickin' time machine from George Pal's original Time Machine movie. The Creature from The Black Lagoon. Space helmets up the proverbial ass. Tons of Rick Baker's props from American Werewolf in London. Jet packs. Collectible toys. Matte paintings. Miniatures and maquettes and statues and costumes from hundreds of movies. The costumes from the 1940's Captain America and Captain Marvel serials. Rick Deckard's gun from Blade Runner. I could go on and on. I often do.
And this blew me away - the original stop-motion armatures from King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. Bob said that whenever Ray Harryhausen visits he puts them in different poses, and he just leaves them like that until Ray stops by again. You know, like it's no big deal.

It was the high point of my year, and such a great honor to be allowed to root through all his stuff. Bob and his charming wife Kathy Burns made us popcorn, got us some pop, and regaled us with a million stories and anecdotes. They were the most gracious, friendly people you'd ever meet. As Bob L said, "Yeah, they're quality." I think they just really enjoy sharing their passion with people who appreciate it, and I was just floored by their generosity and hospitality.

Okay, I'm gushing, but it really was an unforgettable and moving experience for a geek like me. Seriously, I almost cried I was so happy. I forgot all about Comic Con and just bathed in the film history.

Here's a shot of me with Oscar winning special effects artist Rick Baker's werewolf from American Werewolf in London. This is the puppet that they used during the London rampage sequence at the end of the film. Fucking brilliant.



I hope Mr Burns doesn't mind if I post a picture of all of us. Here's Bob Burns, Bob Lindenmayer, me, and Ken Christiansen in the middle of the legendary "Bob's Basement." Behind us are a bunch of alien heads from the Alien films. Over to the left you can just barely see a big-ass Popeye statue, and behind that -- you see those boots on the wall? Those are Boris Karloff's Frankenstein boots from the classic 1931 Universal movie. You see what I mean? Movie history.



How does he get all this stuff, you ask? People give it to him, because they know it will have a good home. Jim Cameron, Rick Baker, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson... they all love the guy, and now I do too.

All hail Bob and Kathy Burns! They probably have no idea how much my afternoon with them meant to me. Have I mentioned the twenty foot tentacle from 20,000 Leagues in his garage...?

All that, and I got to hang out with two of my favorite homies? Best. Weekend. Ever.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The one thing I didn't see at this year's Con...

DOC FRANKENSTEIN #1 Burlyman Entertainment, 2004



I’m in a Frankenstein sort of mood this week, so I thought I’d offer up a helping of monster mayhem in the form of Doc Frankenstein, a book that I don’t think gets enough love.

Doc Frankenstein, the character and the comic book, kick ass. No – kicks major ass. It’s got everything a growing boy needs: monsters, blood, guts, jet fighters, gunplay, hot women, giant aliens, explosions, cowboys, Eskimos, and carnage carnage carnage. It’s like they made this book just for Dave!

Created by Geoff Darrow and Steve Skroce, Doc Frankenstein is a bi-monthly comic written by the Wachowski Bro – um, the Wachowski Siblings, and published by their fledgling publishing company, Burlyman Entertainment. This is not your typical start-up comic company. The Wachowskis threw some money at this one, and the production values are very high. It’s got beautiful color and is printed on nice slick paper.

Doc Frankenstein picks up where Mary Shelly’s story leaves off, and recasts the Frankenstein Monster as an ass-kicking juggernaut of ass-kickery. Okay, I think I’ve just exceeded my self-imposed “kick-ass” quota, but sometimes, there’s no other phrase that fits. The Frankenstein Monster, who is now called “Doc Frankenstein” is immortal, indestructible, and damn smart. At the dawn of the 21st Century, Doc has constructed a well-financed empire of his own, but has made some powerful enemies, who show up in force at the end of this issue. In an extended flashback narrated by Doc we get part of his back story, including a huge double-page gunfight with banditos in the old west and a slobber-knocking brawl with a yeti. The Wachowski Bros. florid narration adds a certain gravitas to the proceedings, but never detracts from the pulp fun of the book.

And the art – man, Steve Skroce’s art is frickin’ gorgeous. It’s reminiscent of his co-creator Geoff Darrow’s detailed artwork, but is not as hyper-detailed and always keeps the focus on the important elements on the page. I’d call it Geoff Darrow-lite, but that doesn’t do justice to Skroce’s work. Skroce, who has worked on Marvel books like Gambit and Amazing Spider-Man and did storyboards for The Matrix, has a beautiful, clean style and a firm grip on visual storytelling. Darrow provides the pretty cover, which has a fantastic logo.

I think it’s keen, but don’t take my word for it. I’ve digitally cut up some panels from the sequence where Doc comes out of his self-imposed Arctic exile to help a little Innuit girl being chased by a yeti. The captions are Doc narrating.

Let’s take a look:



Man, things don’t look good for that little girl. Check out the scary yeti! The coloring, the fine hair, the sense of motion - is that a thing of beauty or what?



Fortunately for the little girl, she’s fallen into the right icy tomb. It’s time for a monster throw-down! Frankenstein’s monster vs. a yeti? Only in comic books, my friends!



Sure, the yeti looks scary, but Doc Frankenstein was literally made to kick ass. Now, THIS is a quality panel – if you like splattering gore and flying yeti eyeballs, that is. Fortunately, I do.

Check it out:



That is one lucky little Eskimo girl. What are the odds that she would fall right into an icy hole occupied with the one guy in the world that can beat a yeti's face into paste?

Doc Frankenstein returns the lost girl to her people and decides to re-join the world of humanity. The yeti fight scene is the perfect synthesis of character development and graphic monster violence. Love it.



Needless to say, I highly recommend Doc Frankenstein to any fan of pulp mayhem. Burlyman is on their third issue now. Go buy it. You CANNOT GO WRONG with Doc Frankenstein.

Monday, July 18, 2005

WEIRD WAR TALES #119 DC Comics, 1983



One of the comics I picked up at this year’s Comic Con was this fine issue of Weird War Tales, featuring The Creature Commandos. I think a more appropriate title for this series would have been Batshit Crazy War Tales or Our Writer is on Acid War Tales.

I think the Ross Andru cover (above) pretty much sums up the concept of Creature Commandos in one image: monster soldiers fighting lions. That’s some wacky shit right there. Okay, they didn’t fight lions in every issue, but maybe they should have. It couldn’t have made things any worse.

Briefly, the Creature Commandos were a team of G.I.s who were altered by the mysterious Project M (I wonder what the “M” stands for?) into hideous but formidable monster soldiers who fought the Nazis during WWII. Who were the Creature Commandos?

-Myrna Rhodes – whining judo chopping Medusa!

-Lucky, the sort-of-mute Frankenstein monster with the ironic name!

-Griffith, the wolfman with the heart of gold!

-Sgt. Vincent Velcro, the human vampire! You heard me – the man’s name was Velcro.

The Creature Commandos were led by a square-jawed asshole officer who constantly belittled and made fun of them during their dangerous commando missions in Europe… and beyond! Of course, they were feared and hated by the very people they were sworn to protect, blah blah blah…

I think writer Robert Kanigher meant for the Creature Commandos to be funny, but it’s hard to tell. I’m going to be charitable and assume that the humor in Weird War Tales #119 is intentional, because otherwise it means that Kanigher is completely insane.

This issue starts off with our heroes visiting a London wax museum, where they are mistaken for wax monster dummies by the crowd. When the Creature Commandos move and talk it freaks everybody out:



Okay, take a look at that narrative caption: “Once again the Creature Commandos are whiplashed by the revulsion felt by the race of humans from which they were banished by the fortunes of war – now fleeing in horror at the sight of them!” Is that supposed to be funny? As in, laugh-at-my-awkward-writing funny?

The Londoners flee, leaving the Commandos to bitch and moan about how they are freaks who will never be accepted. You know what I can’t accept? The egregious abuse of the ellipses at the hands of the Creature Commandos. It’s as if the only punctuation they can use are ellipses… and exclamation points!!!



If you were actually speaking those lines as they were written, it would sound like: “No hideout on Earth (lengthy pause) for US!” Even Lucky the Frankenstein Monster gets in on the ellipses abuse, and he doesn’t even speak English.

Anyway, the Creature Commandos go on a secret mission in Italy to save some villagers or something. Led by their asshole officer, they save the day, but the very people they save run in terror at the sight of these monsters, which leads us to a recurring motif in the comic, the Whining Sequence:


“No use (lengthy pause) there’s no place on Earth (length pause) for us!”

Fortunately, one of the folks they save has invented an Italian Time Machine. You would think that an Italian Time Machine would only go back in time to the glory days of Rome, but this one goes forward, too. The despondent, whining, ellipses-abusing Creature Commandos travel forward in time ten centuries, to an Earth populated by Giant Blonde Clones. It’s nice to see that trouser-piping has made a comeback ten centuries from now.



The Giant Blonde Clones are fascinated by these tiny new arrivals. I’ve included the following panel because it’s practically the only one in the book in which the Creature Commandos don’t misuse punctuation (like I’m one to talk) and there is what I believe to be an overt attempt at humor on writer Robert Kanigher’s part.


Unfortunately for the Creature Commandos, the Giant Blonde Clones that rule Earth want to eliminate the Creature Commandos because of their individuality. You see, the Giant Blonde Clones believe that the unbridled individuality of mankind eventually led to a global nuclear holocaust – that and mankind’s short stature. Ten centuries in the future, all conflict and strife have been eliminated by genetic homogeny and gigantism. So you see, these tiny little freaks from the past must die! Instead of stepping on the Creature Commandos, the Giant Blonde Clones intend to dispose of them humanely – by feeding them to tiny lions in a tiny coliseum!

Fortunately, in the middle of the savage lion combat, Lucky notices that the Head Lion has a painful thorn in his paw, which he removes. The lion is so grateful that… well… it’s a little disturbing…


After the Frankenstein-on-lion butt sex panel, the Creature Commandos escape from the Giant Blonde Clones by riding the lions like ponies back to their Italian Time Machine and return to World War II. I didn’t know that you could actually ride lions, but apparently you can. Perhaps you have to sodomize the lion first, then you can ride it. You know, I’m going to try that next time I’m at the zoo.

Weird War Tales #119 is hilarious and I am proud to include it in my collection of truly bad comics. Because I’m a little unclear as to the motivation of the writer, I’m a little hesitant to give it The Pain Award, but I must... I MUST!!!