Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Being Bond

I don’t feel like talking about comics today, but I do feel like talking about my relationship with James Bond.

Like one of the many Bond Girls, my relationship with James Bond is one-sided and my affection is not reciprocated. I love James but he doesn’t love me. No, it’s not a kiss/hug kind of relationship: I’m not gay and James Bond doesn’t really exist, silly.

Ever since I was a little kid, I always loved James Bond books and movies. I remember before the advent of cable TV staying up late as a kid so I could watch The Spy Who Loved Me on the ABC Sunday Night Movie, which always had a warning: “Parental guidance advised.” And that was the allure. The films portrayed a sophisticated, exotic world full of glamour and danger that seemed so… adult. Bond himself was a fascinating if inappropriate role model for Young Dave – he navigated through a scary grown-up world with utter poise and certainty and the occasional streak of ruthlessness.

The scene that really stuck with me from The Spy Who Loved Me wasn’t the big battle in designer Ken Adam’s huge set or any of Bond’s lopsided fights with the indestructible Jaws or even the Lotus Esprit submarine car. There’s a scene where Bond (Roger Moore) fights a bald henchman on a rooftop that ends with the thug precariously hanging back over the edge of a roof, clutching Bond’s tie to keep from falling. Bond gets the info he needs from the henchman and then casually bats the tie out of his hand, sending the thug to his death. That scene really spoke to me as a kid and really captured the whole spirit of James Bond: when it comes down to it, Bond is a ruthless motherfucker.

Or he should be, anyway.

Thankfully, nearly every James Bond movie – even the worst ones – has at least one scene or moment that captures the true essence of Bond. Okay, none immediately come to mind for Moonraker, but I’m sure there’s at least one redeeming moment…

Wait! I know: In Moonraker it’s the scene where the evil Hugo Drax turns his Dobermans loose on his terrified female assistant, who betrayed him. The dogs chase her through some woods and kill her and eat her (off screen). That’s a creepy scene. It doesn’t feature Bond, mind you, but it’s a very Bondian scene.

But what is Bondian, anyway? Gadgets, quips, tuxedos, dames, martinis? Sure, but the character has a literary pedigree: Ian Fleming’s thirteen James Bond novels. In Fleming’s books, Bond is a more nuanced character, whereas the movies veer more towards broad caricature. The literary James Bond is fleetingly glimpsed in the movies and is hidden completely in some of the Roger Moore films. To me, those moments in the Bond movies that draw from the original source material (even if only in spirit) are Bondian.

I absolutely devoured Ian Fleming’s books when I was a kid. Fleming was up there with Stoker, Moorcock, Tolkien, and Dahl – the writers that really gripped my shit, so to speak. Yes, I said Moorcock. Get over it.

I can imagine that somebody who has just been exposed to the Bond movies would be a bit taken back by the Bond novels, which bear only a superficial resemblance to the films that bear the same names (except the book Thunderball, of course, which was based on the screenplay Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and hews closely to the film).

Fleming’s James Bond is more conflicted and prone to self-doubt than his superhuman cinema counterpart. He’s a Cold War civil servant who has developed expensive tastes and bad habits, a hollow killer who immerses himself in sensual pleasures to distract himself from his inevitable violent fate. He drinks way too much, smokes too much, eats unhealthy gourmet cuisine, and pops the occasional pill to kill the pain or perk himself up. James Bond is not going to grow old, he’s going to die with a 9mm bullet in his lung or a knife between his ribs and he knows it.

Fleming’s Bond stories are more understated and street-level than the films. They’re not exactly crammed with wall-to-wall action. Fleming seemingly takes greater interest in the brand of suit Bond’s wearing and how he likes his eggs than the mechanics of a fight scene. Which is not to say there is no action, it’s just that the gunfights and chases are a natural extension of the stories and don’t occur with the clockwork frequency of the movies. Above all, Fleming’s books are about James Bond, the character.

This brings us to Casino Royale and how much it kicked ass.

Have you seen this movie? I don’t know if I’ve just been starving for a proper Bond film and it has skewed my critical faculties, but holy crap, I loved it. From beginning to end, Casino Royale was Bondian.

Daniel Craig captures the manly essence of a James Bond at the beginning of his career. He’s a callous, over-confident killer with a bit of an attitude who has developed some unhealthy coping skills to deal with the realities of his work. Unlike some previous Bonds, you really feel like this guy could die, that at some point he will die. He’s not ridiculously competent at everything he does, just most things. And he can run hella fast. We’re talking Robert Patrick-fast.

The thing I liked most about Casino Royale was that it treated James Bond as a character. He doesn't just float through the movie, untouchable. Bond has an emotional investment in the events of the movie and has a definite character arc – he has changed from the beginning of the film to the end. He sincerely, deeply falls in love with Vesper (Eva Green) despite the raccoon eye make-up she wears all the time that makes her look like Darryl Hannah in Blade Runner.


"...and [Bond] can run hella fast. We're talking Robert Patrick-fast."


Anyway, Casino Royale wasn’t just a good James Bond movie, it was a good movie, period.

That’s the thing about movie franchises, isn’t it? You compare them to themselves, not other films. You know how it goes: Star Trek IV was better than Star Trek III, but not as good as Star Trek II. Yes, but how does Star Trek IV compare to other science fiction films? Did you like it better than Aliens? Or 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Bond movies are like that; they are often compared to one another and not to other spy or action movies. Was Die Another Day better than The Bourne Identity? What about Assassins? Did you like it better than Agent Cody Banks?

Casino Royale was a good spy/action/adventure movie that could stand on its own merits. It’s not just “a good James Bond movie.” This isn’t a film that coasts on the fact that as a big franchise picture it has a built-in audience – Casino Royale actually works hard to be entertaining, and that’s why in a few weeks it will be the top-grossing James Bond movie ever. Because it’s Bondian, and it’s a good movie-movie.

So there you go: Daniel Craig is The Balls.

Next, we’ll discuss in excruciating detail the most Bondian sequences or moments in film history.
That’s right, no comics for you!

Monday, November 20, 2006


You can tell by the cover that this comic kicks total ass.

OK, to be honest, Justice League of America #208 doesn't kick total ass, but the George Perez cover certainly does. The cover alone is worth the price of the comic. I'm a huge sucker for the whole floating-head-roster motif on display here, with all three super-teams collectively gasping at the scary face nuclear explosion. When I was a kid I remember just staring at this cover, absorbing the superhero goodness like some sort of awesome radiation. And as a kid I probably had the same question then that adult Dave has today: Look at the left hand side of the inset picture. What the hell are Firebrand and Liberty Belle swinging from? They're out in the middle of the ocean! Maybe it's The World's Longest Flagpole.
Justice League of America #208 was part three of Crisis on Earth-Prime! an epic seventeen-hundred part dimension-hopping extravaganza uniting heroes from different parallel Earths and time periods against the time travelling madman Per Degaton.
You see, back in the day DC Comics had a number of parallel universes populated by different groups of heroes. For instance, the Justice League of America (aka the Super Friends) existed on Earth-1 while the Justice Society of America (Dr. Fate, Power Girl, et al) existed on Earth-2. So did the All-Star Squadron (Robot Man, some other losers), but they were in the WWII era on Earth-2. Incidentally, you and I exist on Earth Prime.
Here, let's listen while Superman explains the whole concept to Commander Steel from the All-Star Squadron in a really condescending way:

"You poor backwards people live on Earth-2, or Earth Poo as we like to call it. Ha ha!" Superman is a dick.
Speaking slowly and using small words so the Earth-2 primitives can understand, Superman tells them about the Age of Wonders he comes from, the Eighties...
I'd be pissed if I found out I lived on Earth-2. I mean, who names these things? It's so arbitrary. Maybe I live on Earth A-1, how about that? Or, since we're making up Earth names, maybe I live on Earth Dave. Welcome to Earth Dave everyone. I've long suspected that you were all robots or holograms and that I was the only real person in the world. So welcome to Earth Dave hologram people who disappear when I'm not there!
Okay, let's get to the story. The Justice League and their allies are trying to stop Per Degaton (rhymes with "Hair Megaton"), a time-travelling fascist red-haired villain who is sort of like Saddam Hussein as played by David Caruso. The JLA, consisting of Superman, Hawkman, Aquaman, Zatanna, and Firestorm travel back to 1940 on Earth-2, where they team up with the Golden Age heroes of The All-Star Squadron.

Of course, the two teams must fight before they team up. It's a rule.
Superman doesn't like conflict, it freaks him out and reminds him of when Ma & Pa used to fight in the kitchen. He screams really loud and stamps his feet and shakes his head and just basically has a tantrum:

Yowtch! That'll get your attention, being on the business end of a Super Hissy Fit. Everybody stops dancing.
The only hero not affected by the Super Shout is Robotman, the lone cool member of the otherwise lame All-Star Squadron. What's up with that name, BTW? All-Star Squadron? I guess it's better than All-Winners Squad or All-Protestant League.
After their hearing returns to them the All-Stars and the Superfriends compare notes and formulate a plan against Per Degaton - a plan that involves lots of flying and hitting.
Meanwhile, the Justice Society of America, that group of heroes from Earth-2 in the 80's, is trapped on your typical post-apocalyptic wasteland, complete with mutants. Dr. Fate, who has the 9th Coolest Costume Ever, figures out that Per Degaton is responsible for nuking this earth while his teamates take on a pack of sad, deformed monstrosities with skin like leather whose numbers give them strength, or so Power Girl and Huntress tell us:
Back in the 40's, the All-Star Squadron and Justice League stand too close as Per Degaton detonates one of the nuclear missiles he stole from the future. Inexplicably, Superman doesn't even try to stop the missile, he just kind of wigs out and screams. What is wrong with him this issue? If I didn't know better I'd say Superman has been drinking. Again.
Luckily Zatanna and Firestorm are both more than powerful enough to absorb that silly nuclear blast. Zatanna wins a quick rock/scissors/paper match and gets to whip up a huge wall of water to absorb the heat and shockwave from the blast.

Zatanna is an insanely powerful sorceress who casts her spells by saying them with the words backwards but the word order forwards. This would be hard. She basically has to come up with a backwards freestyle rap on the spot. Sure, Zatanna would have some of her more common spells memorized, like "Nrut snug ot oop!" or "Nummos azzip!" But what about those one-off situations, scenarios where you have to come up with some fresh backwards lyrics on the fly? You try pronouncing the word "meteor" backwards while a huge flaming space rock is bearing down on you. Zatanna has to trust in her freestyle skills and just flow. She rules, although I prefer the top hat and fishnets look.

The story continues in the pages of All-Star Squadron. Will Per Degaton make the Allied forces of WWII surrender before the threat of nuclear annhilation? Or will the combined might of our heroes kick that ginger-haired bastard's ass back into the time stream?

While the interior pages of this comic by the legendary Don Heck (no relation to Dick Hell) may not live up to the promise of the Perez cover, Justice League of America #208 still delivers wall-to-wall superhero goodness in the mighty DC manner. Dna s'taht on eil!

Lame Bond & Lame Dave

Hoping for a proper post? Sorry, but might I direct your attention to Cracked.com to read my lil' article about the 007 Lamest James Bond Scenes written by yours truly?

It's a scholarly analysis of some of the more embarassing moments in Bond movie history. The only tough part was picking just seven lame scenes. I had to leave out the statue on top of the tank bit from Goldeneye and the scene from Octopussy where James dresses like a frickin' clown. However I'm happy to report that Casino Royale has no such embarassing scenes and is pretty much The Shit.

OK, I am working on a proper full-length post that I will try to post later today. I realize I've been slacking and I thank you for your patience and lack of hate emails. Ta!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

DAREDEVIL #102 Marvel Comics, 1973

Stilt Man.

God, he’s just such an easy target. I’ve resisted this long making fun of Stilt Man, but I stumbled across this issue, Daredevil #102, in the Dave’s Long Box archives and I can wait no longer. Stilt Man’s time has come.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Daredevil #102 was published in 1973 during a period of creative atrophy on the title. Frank Miller’s seminal run on the book was still years away and the book was floundering, searching for a unique identity like an old woman with a broken hip crawling on the floor trying to reach a phone to call for help. Yes, in 1973 Daredevil as a comic book had fallen and could not get up.

During this period Daredevil was portrayed as a swashbuckling, wisecracking Spider-Man clone who occasionally moped about problems with chicks. In an effort to freshen things up, Marvel had transplanted DD from his native New York to San Francisco and given the sultry Russian spy The Black Widow second billing, but the book still seemed derivative and uninspired.

Enter Stilt Man - enter Radical Awesomeness. In my mind, any comic can be improved by the addition of Stilt Man, the most gloriously goofy and retro and somehow charming villain you could ask for.

Look at that cover (above). Does that cover not promise greatness? That insanely busy cover was par for the course for Marvel in the 70’s. They jammed every square inch of real estate on their covers with graphics and text – the covers were practically entire stories in an of themselves. There’s so much going on in that cover that I don’t even know where I’m supposed to look. The logo? DD swinging into action? The Black Widow doing the dance from the Thriller video in mid-air? I don’t know, but it looks damn exciting.

Inside, things are somewhat less exciting. Written by Young Chris “X-Men” Claremont in an overwrought and hyperbolic style, Daredevil #102 is a done-in-one story in which DD and Black Widow try to stop the evil Stilt Man, who has obtained an incredible shrinking ray that will make him a god. Do you hear me – a GOD!!! He’s holding San Francisco ransom, and unless his demands are met he will shrink the entire goddamn city. No more trolley cars, no more hippies – Journey and Starship would never be able to record their famous songs about the city. It would be a frickin’ disaster.

I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but I don’t want to leave you hanging either. Daredevil beats the shit out of Stilt Man and the city is safe and remains at full-size. Breathe easy, Californians. Besides, it’s not Stilt Man you need to worry about, it’s Lex Luthor. But that’s another story.

I totally loves me the Stilt Man. He’s just so daft. Possibly one of the dumbest, most poorly conceived villains ever created, Stilt Man is a criminal who has an incredible suit of high-tech armor with telescoping stilt legs. He strides above the urban jungle on these huge stilts and usually breaks into penthouse safes and the like. I think he may have been a Spider-Man villain originally, but I’m too lazy to look it up. Dan Coyle, where are you? Complete history of Stilt-Man, please.

When you really start thinking about Stilt-Man, the whole concept falls apart. How does he know where to put his feet? Does he pull groin muscles often trying to swing those 300 meter legs of his around? Does he ever step on things by accident, like open manhole covers or sleeping homeless people? What if one or both of his legs get hit by a car? It seems like that would happen often.

Even artist Syd Shores wasn’t clear on the practical application of Stilt Man’s amazing stilts. Here’s a panel of “Stilty” as Daredevil calls him, striding through San Francisco in the dead of night:

Where are his legs supposed to be going? Is he walking on top of that building or stepping over it as the florid narration describes? And holy crap, somebody call FEMA because it looks like the moon is landing in the middle of San Francisco Bay!

Anyway, Stilt Man goes on a rampage with his shrinking ray and DD and the Widow try to stop him. Daredevil says something patronizing to The Black Widow which pisses her off, so she takes off after Stilt Man on her own. Are you fucking crazy, Black Widow? Stilt Man is way too dangerous for a girl to tackle alone!

The Widow doesn’t listen and goes womano-a-mano with the Towering Tyrant and his deadly new weapon. She handles herself pretty well, meaning she manages not to laugh out loud while fighting Stilt Man.

As you might have guessed by the cover, Stilt Man does get the better of The Black Widow, which is embarrassing. Daredevil swings into action, super-pissed. He’s so pissed that he improperly uses ellipses instead of a hyphen when he speaks. “Stilt Man, if she’s hurt, I’ll… [long pause] KILL YOU!!!”

I love Claremont’s narrative captions in this comic, they’re like Stan Lee’s hyperbolic commentary as delivered by Jack Nicholson’s character from Easy Rider. “…and an angry Daredevil is not to be trifled with… nosiree…”

In the end, Daredevil kicks Stilt Man’s head in, the shrinking ray gets dropped in an alley and nobody thinks to look for it, and DD and his lady friend make up. All is right in the world – until next issue: “Then came RAMROD!”

Ramrod. Man, I don’t even want to touch that one.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's mid-term election day here in the States, which means that tommorrow 1/3 of the country will be cautiously happy, 1/3 will be pissed off, and the other 1/3 will have no idea that there was an election in the first place.
It's times like these that make me wonder how superheroes would vote. Is Captain America a Republican or a Democrat? What about Batman? It's tempting to attribute one's own political beliefs to one's childhood heroes, but that would be wrong. We're in a No-Spin Zone here at Dave's Long Box, so I have examined the evidence and decided on a political party affiliation for some of my favorite heroes without regard to my personal beliefs.
So, in an effort to piss off readers of all political persuasions, here then is the breakdown. I can't wait for the Green Lantern fans to start flaming me in the comments section...

Small town values and big city pragmatism inform Superman’s middle-of-the-road political beliefs. On the one hand, his upbringing in rural Kansas forms the bedrock of Superman’s values system. On the other hand, as Clark Kent, Superman works in bustling cosmopolitan Metropolis for a big city liberal newspaper, The Daily Planet. Superman is a fiscal conservative who has a healthy distrust of big government – don't forget his arch-enemy Lex Luthor was President of the United States for a while. He’s moderate on most social issues like gay rights (Jimmy Olsen is his best pal) but is pro-capital punishment. Hey, Superman, it doesn’t matter if you cry after executing some Kryptonian criminals – you’re still pro-death penalty.


Wonder Woman was raised in an all-female society, a monarchist utopia with strong socialist overtones and plenty of hot girl-on-girl action. Wonder Woman came to “Patriarch’s World” with a clear liberal agenda but a willingness to crack skulls if need be. She’s heavily into social justice, environmental issues, and sisterhood. Wonder Woman is not beyond sticking a high-heeled red boot up your ass if you get in the way of her Sapphic Socialism.


Green Arrow is a loose cannon, politically speaking. He’s somewhere to the left of Alec Baldwin on the political spectrum and he’s armed to the teeth with those crazy-ass arrows of his. Green Arrow is an unapologetic leftist. He's always bitching about how the Justice League are a bunch of fascists and railing against “The Man.” He’s soft on drugs – his sidekick Speedy was a frickin’ junkie! An advocate of redistribution of wealth and his own pinko version of justice, this modern day Robin Hood wants to take your hard-earned money and give it to some soup kitchen or something. Go smoke another joint, hippy!


The squarest superhero in the DC Universe (and that’s saying a lot), Green Lantern is also one of the most conservative. A former test pilot and current galactic police officer, Green Lantern has always been a running dog for The Man. Dude carries a WMD on his ring finger and flies around reshaping reality according to his idea of The Way Things Should Be. Total neocon. (I am so getting hate email for this.)


Batman is a true independent, a man of solid principles and baffling contradictions. This may be because he is mentally ill. Batman has an almost paranoid distrust of government institutions, yet believes in the rule of law. He’s an urban vigilante, yet he’s a proponent of gun control. Batman is anti-death penalty to a fault – how many times has he had to capture the mass-murdering Joker and return him to Arkham Asylum instead of the electric chair? Contradictions be damned. Batman follows his own moral compass, and Batman is always right. When Batman votes, he weighs all the options and chooses the best person for the job, regardless of party affiliation or whether they are actually running for office. In other words, he writes-in BATMAN on every ballot.


“With great power comes great responsibility.” That’s 100% Democrat. Spidey is as much about taking care of the little guy as he is about clobbering bad guys. Spidey grew up poor, watching his Aunt May trying to stretch her Social Security check each month and scrambling to make ends meet as a freelance photographer for that yellow rag The Daily Bugle. Nowadays he’s working as a teacher in a New York public school. Recently Spidey was duped by reactionary neocon superheroes into supporting their oppressive agenda in Marvel’s Civil War mini-series. Total democrat.


Let’s see: Rich, highly-educated skirt-chasing Manhattan defense attorney. Total liberal. Enjoy that Streisand concert, Daredevil.


No Marvel hero has better Republican credentials than Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. He’s a billionaire industrialist and weapons manufacturer with an Ivy League education and a drinking problem. He’s a staunch anti-communist and served as Secretary of Defense (can we have him back?). In Marvel’s Civil War storyline, Iron Man has drawn a line in the proverbial sand. He wants all superhumans to register with the government, and if you’re not with him, you’re against him. And if you’re against him, look out. He’ll classify you as an enemy combatant and throw your ass into his Negative Zone prison, where U.S. courts have no jurisdiction. No, he’s not considered a supervillain, why do you ask?


“Hulk just want to be left alone.”


Cap is a man out of time. Thawed after 50-odd years of suspended animation, this living legend from World War II is guided by old-fashioned American values and unshakeable principles. In other words, he’s got a bit of a stick up his ass. Captain America can’t even recognize today’s political parties, which have mutated in the decades he’s been on ice into bloated, hypocritical ideological monstrosities whose divisive policies makes him sad. Makes him cry, even. Cap believes in small government that stays out of private lives, a strong national defense, and pulling oneself up by one’s boot straps or shoelaces or whatever is handy. However, Cap is opposed to legislating morality and believes that government has a responsibility to help out the less fortunate and defenseless, like kids and puppies. Cap is a walking Frank Capra movie with a mean right hook. He votes his conscience, not along party lines.


The Spirit of Vengeance, Ghost Rider is the ultimate protest voter. He always votes against the incumbent and anyone who endorses helmet laws. Vengeance is his.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What is Guy Gardner saying?

Before I went on vacation, at the throbbing climax of Guy Gardner Week, I challenged Dave's Long Box readers to come up with some clever dialogue (or cheap inuendo and fart jokes) for a panel featuring DC's Guy Gardner and Mister Miracle. Art by Kevin Maguire, BTW. The results were just as I had hoped: juvenille and amusing.
Let's review the entries and determine who gets a free stereo!*
Chris Cloke goes for the Jugg-ular with the panel below. Man, I kill me.

JYD's Guy has some devastating sartorial comments for Mister Miracle:

I'm with The Myst on this one, Miracle really does look like Kelsey Grammer:

Dan R's works on several levels:

Martin A goes for the reliable fart-in-elevator gag.

Ohgrl joins the flatulent fun:

Ed lets the sound effects do the talking:

McGone gets pop cultural on your ass:

Rachelle introduces the concept of the Red and Yellow Face League. I would so buy that comic:

Winterteeth takes the low road, and God bless him for it. I'm surprised nobody submitted a "mother box" joke:

Corey Bond not only has an amusing entry, he also has the prettiest:

Thedeadpenguin ponders the mysteries of warrior women from Apokolips:

Aldonova gets retro:

Angus McAwesome goes awesomely off-course and scans other panels from the same comic:

Koala Mentala gets the proverbial grand prize for this colorful and insane entry! Koala, email me with your address and I shall send you an official Dave's Long Box Uncanny Un-Prize!

Thanks to everybody who sent something in! I hope you all did these while you were at work.

*I am lying. There is no stereo.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A quick note from vacation

Hey, The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe #1 (of 2) hits stores soon. Since a) I wrote some entries and b) it doesn't suck, be a pal and buy a copy for your buddy Dave. I would like to buy some new shoes, and you can help me attain that goal. Everyone has to have goals.
Back from vacation soon - alas, I had no close encounters with bears of any kind this time. I did see a big fucking hawk swoop down and snatch a chipmunk in the woods yesterday, an event that may have traumatized my daughter, who also witnessed the chipmunk abduction/murder. I don't think I helped matters by yelling, "Yes! YES! In your face, chipmunk! That's what it's all about, honey! That's nature, right there! WOO!!!"
Ah, screw the shoes. Buy The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe #1 and help pay for my daughter's therapy.