Wednesday, August 31, 2005

DAZZLER #13 Marvel Comics, 1982

Boob War Week continues with a look at some vintage catfight action!

Let’s get the credits out of the way: Dazzler #13 was written by Danny Fingeroth, penciled by Frank Springer, inked by Vince Coletta, and, perhaps most importantly, was edited by the legendary/infamous Jim Shooter. You know, I should have a Jim Shooter Week. It wouldn’t involve Jim Shooter’s breasts (unless anybody has pictures of them).

Anyway, thank God that these brave people had the guts to think outside the box and deliver the comic-reading public of the eighties what it really wanted, even if it didn’t know it. Really, what kid didn’t want to read about a mutant disco queen who sang and roller skated and blasted people with light? Dazzler was like a more violent version of the beloved Olivia Newton-John film Xanadu.

His particular issue proves that Marvel could rock the Boob War even in the early eighties. The official title of the story is “Trial… And Terror” but I like to call it “Dazzler’s Prison Catfight Special.”

Reading through the comic, one wonders who exactly this book was targeted towards. In this issue, Alison Blaire, aka Dazzler, has some issues with her disapproving asshole father, tries to get some work, gets dumped by her boyfriend, gets arrested for the murder of Klaw in a previous issue, gets in a catfight with a bunch of costumed female wrestlers in prison, and ultimately stands trial and is found not guilty. It’s like a weird hybrid of the old newspaper strip Apartment 3-G, the film Chained Heat, and a Law & Order fan-fiction story.

I can just see Jim Shooter talking about this issue with Danny Fingeroth and Frank Springer: “I like all the soap opera shit, Danny, and the trial scene. Girls will love it. But you know what we need? A catfight. I’d like her to not being wearing a lot of clothes. Can you work that in?”

Let me be honest with you for a minute. I have never liked Dazzler, not even in an ironic way. The Dazzler series always tread an uneasy line between weepy movie-of-the-week drama and super-heroic action, as this issue illustrates. I just never liked her as a character. Her mutant power enables her to absorb sound and turn it into light – hence the name. She’s supposed to be a plucky, struggling starlet who just wants to sing and dance, but really she comes across as a shallow whiner.

In this issue alone, I counted six different panels where she breaks into tears, including this one, where her boyfriend breaks up with her in a crowded restaurant because he thinks she won’t make a scene. Boy, is he wrong!

In an issue preceding this one that I haven’t read, Dazzler “kills” Ulysses Klaw during a big fight at Project: Pegasus. For reasons unclear to me, the government suddenly gives a shit about the fate of a supervillain that we all know is going to come back anyway, and they arrest her.

Dazzler has to spend the night in a sound-proof cell in Ryker’s Island, a maximum security prison where actor Jonathan Frakes tortures inmates by sitting on them and farting while eating fried chicken. No, no – wait. I made that up, the Jonathan Frakes part.

All the female prisoners of Ryker’s Island are given skimpy outfits to wear – Dazzler gets some pajama pants and a sexy belly-shirt for her overnight stay. She’s trying to sleep in her drafty pajamas when the door busts open and Dazzler is dragged out of her cell by The Grapplers – a gang of super-power female wrestler/criminals that Dave’s Long Box readers last saw in this Marvel Team-Up review.

The Grapplers have heard that Dazzler killed Klaw and want to know why and how, so they pull her before the entire scantily clad population of Ryker’s Island and beat her up. There’s a lot of hair-pulling, midriff baring, and some titillating glimpses of Dazzler’s dazzlers, if you know what I mean. Plus, Dazzler screams “No! NOOOO!” a lot.

Take a look:

Okay, I have a couple of questions: If these women are supposed to be in prison, how exactly are they wearing their costumes? Shouldn’t they be dressed in halter-tops and cut-off shorts like all the rest of the female inmates? And what kind of prison are they in where they can just bust into (unlocked) cells or roam free at night? There’s a scrap of dialogue which says that The Grapplers bribed/threatened the guards, but I’m not buying it.

Back to the catfight. Dazzler gets smacked around by Letha, Poundcakes, and Screaming Mimi while the other well-endowed inmates look on with Sapphic interest:

Fortunately, Dazzler absorbs Screaming Mimi’s sonic powers, turns the sound into light, and wipes out The Grapplers. Unfortunately, she doesn’t appear in court the next day wearing her tiny shirt – that would have been cool.

The court scene? Wow. The writers of frickin’ Matlock would be embarrassed by how strangely boring and unprofessional the whole thing is. She cries a few more times, the jury finds her not guilty, end of story.

And that, my friends, is how they did Boob War back in the day. Well, that and those kick-ass Frank Thorne Red Sonja issues. But that’s another story…

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

LADY DEATH: JUDGEMENT WAR #1 Chaos Comics, 1991

Lady Death is an excellent example of a Boob War comic, although with a macabre twist. It doesn’t matter; Boob War transcends genres with its awesomeness.

I can’t be bothered to Google all this information, so here’s what I know about the Diva of Death just from memory. Created by heavy metal horrormeister Brian Pulido and published by his Chaos Comics, Lady Death first appeared back in the eighties in the pages of Evil Ernie comics as the feminine embodiment of death. The character Evil Ernie was a cross between creator Pulido and Iron Maiden’s adorable Eddie mascot, and he was all about killing people and being hardcore and stuff. His muse was Lady Death, an alluring, voluptuous woman in a black skull-motif bikini who would urge Evil Ernie on to greater levels of hardcoreness. Chaos Comics like Evil Ernie were basically heavy metal songs transmogrified into comic books, and Lady Death was the hot but evil babe from Motley Crue and Helix videos.

Pulido realized that he had a far more marketable character in Lady Death than in Evil Ernie, and soon he and artist Steven Hughes (sadly, deceased) created the first of many comics starring the violent vixen with the alabaster F-cups. Although Chaos Comics published other Boob War comics like Purgatori and Chastity, Lady Death was the cornerstone of their business.

Until they went bankrupt, that is.

This issue is written by Brian Pulido and Len Kaminski, with bodacious art by Ivan Reis and Joe Pimentel. It’s part one of the three-part Judgement War* mini-series-within-a-meta-series which pits Lady Death against Lucifer and his hordes of hell. A war between heaven and hell is playing out on earth, and mankind is bearing the brunt of it. Our anti-heroine opposes both heaven and hell with her undead army and her loyal servant Cremator.

Here’s a panel from the comic that I think really illustrates the appeal of Lady Death, and of Boob War comics in particular:

In case you can’t read that, she’s saying: “Ahhhhh… The only thing more exhilarating than wallowing in the blood and gore of the enemy is soaking in a long hot bath afterwards.” That’s it right there: sex/violence.

My biggest complaint about this comic is the coloring. I’m not going to name names, because that’s not what we’re all about here at the Long Box, but I will say that in my layman’s opinion, the coloring on this book sucks ass.

Big time.

It’s as if the colorist for Lady Death: Judgement War just got Adobe Photoshop for Christmas and is overly enamored with all the filters. The book suffers badly from overworked colors and glowing effects that don’t just bury the inked artwork, they erect a gravestone and visit every Thursday with fresh flowers. That’s right, the coloring is so bad that I must resort to awkward metaphor to describe it.

Don’t take my word for it, take a look at this panel where Cremator (who comes in vanilla and mocha flavors) runs away from a big evil techno monster bursting from lava or something.

Can you even tell what’s going on in that panel?

Sorry about the seam down the middle of the picture, but this was a big two-page spread – which makes it even worse. This is supposed to be a big money shot, the one that makes all the headbangers reading this go: “Woah! Look out Cremator!” but instead, the reaction is “Wha-huh? Is that Cremator?”

Yes, that’s Cremator running from a big monster with a midget/dwarf in his hands. Big monster in the background. On the lower left you can just barely make out Skull Guy (I don’t think that’s his real name) and in the upper left hand corner, totally lost and overwhelmed by a hurricane of bad coloring, there is a blue sound effect that I believe says: “KRREGKIROAAR!” Would you have spotted that stuff if I hadn’t pointed it out? I say thee nay.

Anyway, the coloring is no damn good. This particular issue culminates in a showdown between Lady Death and Lucifer, which she has to don special bikini armor for. Since this is part one of three, she has to get defeated – by her own bikini!

As you might guess, at the end of this issue she gets captured by Lucifer, which leads to some bondage and whipping in the next issue. Or so they tell me. I’m not saying I got the next issue or anything. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really buy this comic, either. I, um, I found it. Yeah. I found it…

Okay, fine. Fine! I bought this comic, okay? And the next issue. I paid full price, too. I was lonely, okay? Lay off, man, I’ll bet you have a couple issues of Tarot or something in your collection.

Let he who is without Boob War cast the first stone.

*I'm spelling the word "judgment" the way Chaos Comics spells it: "judgement." Apparently it's an acceptable spelling of the word in the UK and among communists.

Monday, August 29, 2005

BOOB WAR: a definition

What is Boob War? It is not a compare/contrast between Tomb Raider and Power Girl.* I am base and crude, yes, but I would like to think that I have some female readers, and I don’t want to go down that road. Put simply, Boob War is a style of comic book that features that magical confluence between sex and violence.

Actually, Boob War comics don’t feature sex at all – then they would just be called Avatar Comics. Rather, Boob War offers titillation, the alluring promise of sex married with the satisfying release of violence. These comics are designed for boys of all ages, and I firmly believe that Boob War will be around for as long as we have comics. The principles of Boob War easily translate into video games as well, but that’s another topic.

What makes a comic a Boob War comic? It has to have these two elements:

a) violence perpetrated by females
b) those females have to be drawn in a titillating way.

It’s that simple.

"Boob War is a style of comic book that features that magical confluence between sex and violence."

Boob War is defined by intention. Does the creative team (writer or artists) intend to titillate, to arouse? If the answer is yes, chances are you’ve got yourselves a Boob War.

Granted, Boob War is a subjective term, and often depends on one’s point of view. A comic can alternate between Boob War and non-Boob War, sometimes on a monthly basis.

Let me give you an example. Catwoman, an ongoing series from DC Comics, has veered in an out of Boob War territory. Artist Jim Balent was on Catwoman for years and he drew a very, um, buoyant version of the character. Regardless of who the writer was during the Balent run, these books solidly fall into the Boob War category, because a) there was violence, and b) the intent to titillate was there. However, when artist Darwyn Cooke took over the book, Catwoman was no longer a Boob War book. Cooke’s slinky, mod rendition of the character was not intended to arouse the reader, merely to serve the story.

Don’t agree with me? Get your own damn blog. Ha ha! I kid. I kid because I love.

Okay, now that we have the definition of Boob War, let’s take a long, lingering look over some stand-out entries in the field. First stop: Lady Death, or as I like to call her, Lady Def.

*Just for the record, Power Girl wins.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


Welcome, dear reader, to Boob War Week here at Dave's Long Box.

A word of caution before we begin: I cannot guaruntee that all the images I post during Boob War Week will be work safe for you. There won't be any nudity, but Boob War Week will explore what happens when scantily clad superheroines rumble. I'm pulling all these images from comics that anybody of any age could purchase, but still: if Amazons in thongs is not the kind of stuff you should be looking at while at work, you may want to check it out at home.

Okay, fair warning.

What is Boob War, you ask? My friend, you are about to find out.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Lame-ass villain #10 - Orca

The challenge I have set for myself today is to make it through this post without resorting to any fat jokes or whale puns. We'll see how I do.

Orca is a female Batman villain who appeared in Batman #579-581, which was written by Larry Hama with art by Scott McDaniel. As her name implies, Orca is half-human, half-killer whale, and all bad-ass. Actually, there's very little that is bad-ass about her. I mean, she's got a big ass, but... See? I failed right out of the gate and went with the cheap fat joke. Not cool, Dave!

You know, it strikes me that perhaps I am being a little hypocritical in my disdain for Orca. If she were created back in the seventies or eighties, I would probably think she was cool: "I know she's dorky, but damn it, Orca was from an era when comics were fun!" But since Orca was created in 2000, I think she's dumb. At least I am aware of my nostalgic bias - I'm not going to do anything about it, mind you, but at least I know it's there.

Plus, shouldn't Orca be an Aquaman villain? Dude is hurting for good villains.

I will say this about Orca: if there was any artist that had even the slightest chance of making her look cool, it would be Scott McDaniel, who gamely drew the comics in which Orca appeared.

Do you want to hear about the origin of Orca? Who she really is, and what her powers are?

No? Okay.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Remember this?

The Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphernalia was an appendix of sorts to the regular Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe, the nearly-comprehensive catalogue of Marvel heroes and villains. Instead of documenting the various powers and vital statistics of characters like The Purple Man (Height: 5’10, Hair: Purple, Eyes: Purple), The BoWHP entries featured all the cool gadgets and weapons of the mid-eighties Marvel Universe. As a youngster, I ate it up.

Presented in a dry, technical style by writer Eliot R Brown, the BoWHP gave an air of plausibility to wacky shit like Stilt-Man’s armor and The Ringmaster’s hypnotic top hat. It was presented with such a straight face that you would start thinking, “You know, that actually makes sense, the Stilt Man thing! He has microprocessors in his suit which handle flat, inclined, and broken surfaces, and he has foot pad actuator rams which compensate for terrain. I guess it really would work!”

The thing that most appeals to me about the BoWHP are all of Eliot R Brown’s technical drawings and diagrams in the book that show cut-away and cross-section views of say, Doctor Octopus’s arms. All the parts are labeled with convincing-sounding names that adds a thin veneer of authenticity to hardware that would never in a million years work in the real world.

Here, for instance, are The Falcon’s wings:

That looks good to me: I believe he could fly.

Everything is in here: Iron Man’s armor. Hawkeye’s bow and arrows. Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton. The Mandarin’s rings of power. Nomad’s stun discs. I know; you’ve always wondered how Nomad’s stun discs were designed, haven’t you? I’ll give you a hint: the key to effective stun discs is depleted uranium. You’ll have to get your own damn copy of BoWHP if you want to know all of Nomad’s secrets, my friend.

For all the ornate detail and technical verisimilitude the BoWHP invests in describing the more “plausible” hardware of the Marvel Universe, the book is hilariously vague when it comes to the cosmic and magic stuff like the Ultimate Nullifier and Doctor Spectrum’s Power Prism. Case in point: Quasar’s Wrist Bands.

Ahh, I see... The diagram clearly shows the relationship between the meridian of gigahertz radio wave activity and the areas of L-wave flux!

It’s too bad comics don’t have a hit counter on the cover that keeps track of how many times you look at them. I’ve had this particular copy of this particular issue for twenty-one years, and it was on heavy rotation back in the day. Over the years I must have looked through this book hundreds and hundreds of times. Such is my love for the Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


1963 was a fabulous retro-comic mini-series that aped the style and hype of Marvel Comics’ halcyon days. Each issue of 1963 was a different comic that recreates the experience of reading a new Silver Age Marvel comic. The 1963 books were not parodies of titles like Fantastic Four and Strange Tales, they were loving satires of those books, delivered with just the tiniest smirk. They were completely “in character” books, full of phony ads and letter columns and gratuitous alliterations.

This first issue of 1963 is Mystery, Incorporated – The World’s Most Exciting Comic Book! Written by Alan Moore and illustrated with charmingly dated art by Rick Veitch and Dave Gibbons, Mystery, Incorporated works both as a clever riff on the early Fantastic Four comics and as a solid comic book on its own. I would have loved this book as a kid; it’s no more goofy than the FF, and it’s got this Planet guy who just rules.

Mystery, Inc are Crystal Man, a shapeshifting crystalline genius; Neon Queen, who can transform into fluorescent gas; Kid Dynamo, an electrical Human Torch; and Planet, a super-strong brawler with a green planet for a head. That’s right – dude’s got a planet face! They operate out of Mystery Mile, a mile-long underground fortress packed with strange science and weird inventions. It’s neat.

The 1963 series also included faux-retro “titles” such as The Fury, Tales of The Uncanny, The Retro Syndicate, Tales from The Beyond, and my favorite – Horus, Lord of Light. They were all brilliant, and sort of tied together.

My favorite part of this comic is the great full-page “Shamed By You English?” ad on the back cover. This is a brilliant take on an old ad that ran in Marvel comics back in the day that offered a correspondence course for people who were, well, shamed by their English.

Here’s the real ad and the 1963 fake ad. Click on the image to make it bigger.

I don’t know if that’s legible or not, but the contemporary “ad” has text that is all spelled correctly, but grammatically mangled beyond repair. It’s like reading something Yoda wrote:

“Gain you to speak the ability and write college like a graduate in your own home, right each day for 15 minutes only.”


“I can you too help, give will you 15 day minutes, to the Linguage Institute Method. To my answers the questions following explain why need you a good English command and easily how you can something do about ahead getting.”

That shit cracks me up EVERY TIME.

Monday, August 22, 2005

WAM or WHAM? You make the call

In 1991, Marvel announced the formation of WAM! – Wild Agents of Marvel – an exciting new fan club in the tradition of FOOM – Friends of Old Marvel. In addition to being a fan club for “Marvel zombies”, WAM! was an insidious social engineering program designed to keep its members from getting laid.

Experts have proven that there is a direct, inverse relationship between sexual activity and comic book reading among adolescent males. In a 1989 study by The National Institute of Health, researchers clearly demonstrated that the likelihood of having sex with a real girl is greatly reduced by the number of comic books an adolescent male reads. Subjects in the study who reduced their weekly consumption of comics reported a significant increase in sexual activity, while those who maintained a chronic consumption of comics and/or talked about comics to others experienced an unsatisfying, infrequent, or non-existent sex life.

Indeed, of those subjects in the NIH study who read ten or more comics per week, only 6% claimed to have regular sexual activity of any kind – but of that 6%, a whopping 73% claimed that their supposed sexual partners lived out-of-state or in Canada. A staggering 93% of chronic comic book readers in the study said that they had no sexual partner at all, or listed one of their hands as their only recurring partner.

"WAM! was an insidious social engineering program designed to keep its members from getting laid..."

Armed with this data, Marvel created WAM! in an effort to reduce reader attrition and maintain market share by making WAM! members less desirable to potential sexual partners.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the full-page WAM! solicitation that appeared in some Marvel books in 1991. The one I have came in Iron Man #275.

WAM! members received gifts like a stationary kit with WAM! letterhead, WAM! Post-It notes, a WAM! cloissone pin to wear to school, a WAM! membership card, and “a knockout four-color WAM! membership certificate printed on parchment paper that… is suitable for framing.” Other gifts for WAM! members include a high-quality WAM! watch and the official Marvel satin jacket, so you can rock it Chachi-style. Perhaps the best member gift is what Marvel describes as “the ultimate ‘rub-out’ item – a Punisher skull eraser.” You can make up your own joke.

Potential members of WAM! could fill out an application at a local WAM! headquarters – your neighborhood comic shop. Then potential members could get beat up by the Tough Kids upon exiting their local WAM! headquarters.

The satin jackets, cloissone pins, stationeries, stickers, and other wacky trinkets offered by WAM! were just the start – members also received “a full-color, expandable portfolio that holds everything. It’s made of heavy-duty cardboard and has a self-closing elastic fastener”- and repels girls like Kryptonite.

I submit, dear reader, that a young man of that era would be better served by listening to WHAM! rather than being a member of WAM!

Friday, August 19, 2005

HITMAN #34 DC Comics, 1999

Hitman #34 is my favorite Superman story. Of course, the irony here is that my favorite Superman story is not even in a Superman comic book. Sit down for a spell and let me tell you why I love Hitman #34, “Of Thee I Sing” so much.

In this stand-alone story, writer Garth Ennis and artist John McCrea meditate on the role that Superman plays in the American psyche, the burden of embodying hope and salvation that Superman carries, and how the average Joe on the street sees the Man of Steel – only in this case the average Joe on the street is Tommy Monaghan, the eponymous assassin of the Hitman series.

I love this book because I am an utter sap. If it’s done well, I don’t mind art or media that unashamedly tries to manipulate my emotions – and man, I am an easy mark. I always want the guy and the girl in movies to get together in the end. I like Frank Capra movies. In Revenge of the Sith I was kind of hoping against all odds that things might actually work out for Annakin. I cried at the end of the book The Prince of Tides, and A Prayer For Owen Meany practically incapacitated me with grief. Seriously, dog food commercials make me misty.

Okay – oversharing.

My point is, I like to “turn on my heart light,” and all it takes for me to dig something is for a book or movie to meet me half way, you know? Well, Hitman #34 meets me half way then holds my hand and walks with me through a moonlit garden, and then sings to me under a frickin’ willow tree. It’s that good.

(Just a heads-up: I’m going to discuss the plot of this book in SPOILERy detail.)

“Of Thee I Sing” is a pretty simple story about a chance rooftop encounter in Gotham between working-class killer Tommy Monaghan and living legend Superman. They don’t slug it out or battle or anything, they just hang out and talk. Superman is bummed out because a rescue went wrong earlier and he just needs a little alone time, so he’s hanging out on the same roof that Tommy is on. Why is Tommy there? We’ll get to that later.

Despite being a killer, Tommy’s a regular guy, so he’s in awe of Superman when they meet and doesn’t know how to act:

Superman has no idea who Tommy is, and Tommy certainly doesn’t see any contradiction in a professional killer admiring this paragon of truth and justice. Ennis’s dialogue for this encounter is spot-on, and it’s kind of fun watching these two radically different characters have a friendly conversation.

After some coaxing, Superman tells Tommy what’s bugging him: Earlier today he had attempted to rescue the astronauts on the disabled nuclear-powered space shuttle Yeager, which was en route to Mars when its reactor went critical. In order to safely evacuate the crew, Superman holds a lead shield over a raging radioactive inferno while the astronauts load into the Mars lander in their shuttle bay.

The reactor’s just about to blow up when Superman spots an astronaut who was presumed dead, but is actually trapped in the bay:

The space shuttle blows up and the astronaut dies. Superman has failed him. The idea of Superman has failed him. As he tells Tommy, “That’s what I’m scared everyone believes. The one truth they hold above all else. ‘No, he can’t be everywhere at once. But if he’s there for me, I’ll be safe.’ But when the moment came for Colonel James M. Kennedy, commander of the Yeager – Superman let him down.”

Tommy gives The S a little pep talk that is sort of the emotional heart of the story. He tells Superman to stop beating himself up over an unattainable ideal.

“You’re everything that’s great about this country an’ you don’t even know it.”

That shit works for me, what can I say? Sometimes here in the States we lose track of the concept of the melting pot, that we really are a nation of immigrants, of people who come here for a fresh start, for a shot at the elusive dream. It’s interesting that an Irish writer, Garth Ennis, can articulate that American ideal so well.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Nationalist Guy or anything, but I am a sucker for that American Dream stuff, that Capra movie vision, that hope for tomorrow and brotherhood of man stuff, with “Fanfare for the Common Man” playing in the background – all that. Reality, sadly, often falls short of our hopes, but does that invalidate them? I say thee nay.

And that’s why I dig Hitman #34, my favorite Superman story. Because in this era of ironic detachment and cynicism, I think it’s cool to do something unabashedly sentimental like Ennis and McCrea did here.


P.S. I forgot to mention the ending which I said I would SPOIL: Tommy is up on the roof because he's going to kill this crime lord guy, and after Superman flies off, Tommy shoots the guy in the head with a rifle. The End.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Off-Topic: Meme mia!

I am breaking a sacred vow that I made to myself by candlelight on the storm-lashed night this blog was born: a vow that I would never do those meme things. You know, questions that get passed virally from blog to blog. I was resistant to doing a meme thing primarily because I dislike the word "meme."

meme, n. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another

However, Graeme from Fanboy Rampage tagged me, so meme I must. I fear his power.

Here we go:

1. Ten years ago: One night ten years ago I tried a homeopathic remedy for my nasty sinus infection. The remedy involved creating a warm solution of garlic and salt water and basically inhaling it. I thought that the recipe didn't call for nearly enough garlic, so I pressed a large amount of garlic into the solution and I snorted it... and began to scream. It felt like my brain was on fire! My roomates could only watch helplessly as I writhed around on the kitchen floor, crying and screaming, snot running out of my nose. Even through the excruciating pain, I thought it was funny, so I was alternating between shrieking in pain and laughing hysterically. After five minutes of squirming agony, I staggered into the bathroom and plunged my head under the tub faucet.

Clearly I had used way too much garlic.

2. Five years ago: During the feverish ramp-up to our wedding, I was unceremoniously laid off from my job at Nordstrom World HQ mere weeks before the nuptials.

3. One year ago: I was working on getting accepted to Western Washington University’s teacher certification program. I was, but after a few quarters I decided it wasn’t for me and I dropped out.

4. Yesterday: Worked until 7 PM, missed the frickin’ 7:30 ferry to Bainbridge Island, ate two chili dogs while I waited for the 8:20 boat, gave my wife a kiss and my little girl a bath, passed out, snored.

5. Today: Work, facilitated a hellish meeting, checked the sites & blogs I visit daily, stressed about lateness of Velvet Marauder posts.

6. Tomorrow: Work, strangle drifter, wash car.

7. Five snacks I enjoy: Watermelon, Pringles, pretzels, Jolly Ranchers, red licorice.

8. Five bands I know the lyrics of most of their songs: Led Zeppelin, Ice T, Talking Heads, The Police, and um… the David Lee Roth era Van Halen. It’s not something I’m proud of.
9. Five things I would do with $100,000,000: Travel, buy land in Montana, set up college funds, quit my job, buy clothes, orbital death ray. I know, that’s six.

10. Five locations I'd like to run away to: Scotland, The Dempster Highway up in the Arctic Circle, a shark cage off the coast of South Africa, Tokyo, Paris.

11. Five Bad Habits: Scratching crotch, denial, redundancy, eating junk, and redundancy.

12. Five things I like doing: Writing, talking about stuff, making my wife or daughter laugh, looking at stars, going on action-packed road trips.

13. Five TV shows I like: Battlestar Galactica, Firefly… Do they have to be current shows? Twin Peaks, Samurai Sportsman, and fucking Airwolf!

14. Famous People I'd like to meet, living or dead: Military historian John Keegan, The Red Baron, Admiral Horatio Nelson, Lee Harvey Oswald, Teddy Roosevelt, explorer Ernest Shackleton, Abe Lincoln, Northwest Mounted Police officer Sam Steele, and Shatner. Always Shatner.

15. Biggest joys at the moment: Being creative and writing and shit.

16. Favorite toys: My mind, man! My mind.

17. Five people to tag: Neilalien, because he won’t do it; Scipio of the Absorbascon; Dan Coyle, because he would have to make a blog to answer the questions; Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire; and those dicks who keep spamming in my comments.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Marvel Comics Presents was perhaps one of the most unsatisfying comic book reading experiences ever. Ever!

An anthology book, MCP had four serialized short stories per issue – about eight pages each. You could count on two of the four stories starring Wolverine, Ghost Rider, or The Punisher, and the rest was filler. Despite the bi-weekly shipping schedule, MCP was a frustrating read because you would only get a fraction of each serialized storyline - you could read just enough of the story to remember what the hell was going on, and then it ended.

This issue, for instance, features part four of a five-part Wolverine story, part three of a four-part Iron Fist story, part five of a six-part Ghost Rider/Luke Cage story, a stand-alone Black Widow story, and a story featuring a cute little Japanese Sanrio animal. Each story has a different creative team. Each story is crap. That's right: crap. I'm going to go so far as to say that this comic – Marvel Comics Presents #135 - literally sucks ass. Literally.

The only MCP storyline that anyone really was invested in was Barry Windsor-Smith's twelve part "Weapon X" storyline, which featured the sort-of origin of Wolverine. It was beautifully illustrated, but I don’t remember being blown away by the actual story. It mostly consisted of Wolverine hooked up to a bunch of colorful wires and pretty lights.

In this issue we have an obligatory Wolverine story by Dan Slott and Steve Lightle which I won’t mock because I like both those guys. There’s also a Ghost Rider/Luke Cage team-up, only during the nineties he was just called “Cage.” Because, you know, it’s cooler. This story is just eight pages of Cage running from zombies and Ghost Rider arguing with Generic Demon #73.

Here’s an excerpt of the conversation between the two demons:

That’s about as interesting as it gets in that story. At least Ghost Rider knows where he stands: “No.”

Then there’s a quick little eight-page Black Widow story with the most bizarre art. I can’t figure out how this art got accepted and published. My daughter can draw better than that – and she’s not even three yet.

Don’t take my word for it, have a look:

What the hell? Did the artist just use his left hand? Or maybe he kept his eyes closed the whole time? Drew it in a mirror? Or upside down? Maybe the artist got carpal tunnel and just made his 10-year old nephew draw the whole thing? Or perhaps this is the first comic ever produced by monkeys in captivity?

Whatever the reason, the end result is really bad art of women who look like they've been hitting the 'roids. And where are Black Widow’s pupils? How do you forget something like eyes?

In addition to the hard-on-the-eyes Black Widow story, we get an Iron Fist vs Sabretooth story. The art is a little cleaner in this story, but it’s full of grimacing characters who look like they are trying to pass a couple of bowls of Colon Blow through their system:

Finally, there’s a gritty one-shot story that features a flying Sanrio kitty who has to use all of her mystical kitty powers to defeat a group of crack dealers who have been possessed by Dormammu. Heads will roll and arteries will spray before the Sanrio kitty emerges battered but victorious. I thought the juxtaposition between the adorable Japanese kitty and the horrific Satanic imagery was disturbing, but effective.

Okay, maybe there wasn’t actually a Sanrio kitty vs. possessed crack dealers story. But you can’t tell me that Marvel Comics Presents #135 would have been any worse if there was.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Too bad, so sad - no posting today

Too busy, too busy! I'd like to think that Crazy Michael Jackson Supporter Lady would get behind my decision to not post on the Long Box today and take care of business instead. "Fly Dave! Spread your wings and be freee!"

Monday, August 15, 2005

NEW MUTANTS ANNUAL #3 Marvel Comics, 1987

Ahh, the eighties. I think I've gone on record as saying that I think the mid-eighties were the true Golden Age of Comics. Everybody who reads comics probably thinks that the comics they read when they were growing up were the greatest ever - I just happen to be correct.

New Mutants Annual #3 is from one of my favorite eras of X-Men comics, when there was just a relative handful of X-Men books, Magneto was (briefly) the headmaster of Xavier's School, Alan Davis was drawing Excalibur for the first time, and Marvel put out these great "giant-sized" annuals. And you know what? They actually were giant-sized. The X-annuals were all one big-ass story, not a weak sixteen-page inventory story and a bunch of reprints. They were all killer, no filler.

This particular issue features the "classic" New Mutants line-up of 1987, including Warlock, the naive shape-changing alien child with the strange syntax. While headmaster Magneto is away, the New Mutants receive a visit at their school from the nigh-omnipotent Impossible Man, who is sort of the Marvel universe version of the Superman foe Mr. Mxyzptlk (suck on that, Microsoft spellcheck!)

The Impossible Man basically just wants to screw with the X-Men, who are not around. The New Mutants aren't interested in playing his reindeer games, but he goads Warlock into a global shape-shifting contest - and the morphing wackiness begins.

This issue was written by Chris Claremont, naturally, with art by Alan Davis and Paul Neary. Glynis Oliver colored the book, and Tom Orzechowski lettered it. I mention all these people because the production value on this book is very high - it's just a tight, well-illustrated comic created by people who knew what the hell they were doing. Davis and Neary rule, of course, but the coloring and lettering on this book are exceptional.

Okay, enough gushing. Let's make fun of Chris Claremont.

I'm not the first person to point out that Chris Claremont's writing is often characterized by particular recurring idioms, phrases, and gimmicks that are known as "Claremontisms." You know what I'm talking about:
  • "I'm the best there is at what I do - and what I do ain't pretty."
  • "Your choice - your funeral."
  • "This is gonna HURT!"
  • "No quarter asked, none received."
  • "Body and soul."
  • "My psychic knife - the summoned totality of my psi-powers!"
  • "With a vengeance!"
  • "Mmm... corn!"
I could go on. I have to say that back in the day, Young Dave didn't really mind Claremontisms, and I still enjoy re-reading those old X-Men books. Like many geeks, my critical faculties are often impaired by nostalgia. But you know what? Claremont put a premium on character development and closet lesbianism, and that's never bad. Setting aside his writing tics and mannerisms, the man did his part to raise everyone else's game, and his focus on character was one of the main reasons his X-books were so popular.

Woah. I was supposed to be making fun of Claremont. That last paragraph reads suspiciously like praise. Quick! Let's look at an amusing panel.

The New Mutants follow The Impossible Man and Warlock to Brazil, where they blend in to the beach crowd. As usual in the dialogue-heavy X-books, nearly every character who appears in a panel gets some dialogue, some of which is quite funny. Can you spot the Claremontism?

"Please, Lord, don't let anyone notice how tight my suit is!"

Our bathing-suit clad heroes find Impossible Man and Warlock, who have decided upon a non-violent approach to their shape-shifting contest:

"Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!"

Please note that Impossible Man is wearing flesh-colored make-up during this scene. I have to mention that for reasons that will become clear shortly.

More wackiness ensues, as the New Mutants teleport around the world trying to rein in the two tussling titans. The Impossible Man and Warlock slug it out, changing shape in damn near every panel. It's not exactly funny (which I think was the intention) but it is light-hearted, and the Alan Davis art doesn't hurt matters.

Finally, our heroes figure out a way for Warlock to win the contest. The two shapeshifters are decimating a city in the form of Godzilla and Red Ronin when the mutants figure out that there is one thing that Warlock can do that the Impossible Man can't. Get your mind out of the gutter, this is an all-ages book.


Voila! Warlock changes color and wins the contest. In a lame denouement, the two aliens mention that they fix all the damage they caused during their game. Uh-huh. Riiight.

So there it is. New Mutants Annual #3: a care-free yet incredibly destructive romp from the days when comics were all good and never bad - the eighties.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Apex of 3-D Man's Career

Because Dave's Long Box reader Konstantinos Stamoulis demanded it!

Here's the Frank Quitely cover for Avengers Forever #4, featuring an alternate-universe team of Avengers in the 1950's consisting of 3-D Man, Gorilla Man, Human Robot, Marvel Boy, and Venus. I have nothing funny to say about this cover; I just thought I'd post it to illustrate the one point in 3-D Man's career where he flirted with coolness.

Friday, August 12, 2005

MARVEL PREMIERE featuring 3-D MAN #36 Marvel Comics, 1977

At what point in time, ever, has 3-D Man been cool? Has there ever been an appearance of the character in print that just made people say, "Damn -- 3-D Man! I get it now!" Has there ever been a definitive 3-D Man appearance? A 3-D Man: Year One?

If there is a definitive appearance, a high-water mark for 3-D Man, perhaps it is Marvel Premiere #36, by Roy Thomas, penciller Jim craig, and inker Dave Hunt. This issue is the second of a three-part series introducing 3-D Man, a retro character that fought crime and aliens in the Fabulous Fifties. He seems like on of those corny old superheroes that were created in the 1950s, but in reality he's one of those corny old superheroes that were created in the 1970s. Roy Thomas always had an urge to inflict his pulp nostalgia on the youth of America, and 3-D Man is a classic example. I'm not sure if the youth of America in the summer of '77 were really yearning for an old-fashioned (aka ridiculous) hero who fights crime in an era before they were born. I know I wasn't.

What were 3-D Man's powers? Did he have the uncanny ability to appear three-dimensional??? Wait - never mind, everyone has that power. Actually 3-D Man was three times as strong and fast as a top athlete, allowing him to perform incredible feats, like shooting a stream of urine fifty meters. Well, they never actually show him pissing fifty meters, but I'll bet he could.

3-D Man also had a snappy red and green "3-D" outfit that was sort of a color version of Frank Gorshin's outfit in the classic Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." He also wears 3-D glasses, appropriately. Due to his strange dimensional powers or a printing error, the color yellow often crept into 3-D Man's red and green outfit, as seen in this panel below:

"Come on Scrapper! Take him from behind!"

"That's my specialty, boss-man!"

In this issue we get a recap of 3-D Man's literally unbelievable origin. Test pilot Chuck Chandler gets kidnapped by the shapeshifting alien Skrull while flying an experimental rocket. He escapes, but gets hit with strange radiation and crashes the rocket in the Mojave Desert, conveniently close to his nerdy brother Hal Chandler. Most radiation gives you terrible sickness, but this particular type of radiation traps Chuck in Hal's glasses. In times of great need, Hal can summon forth his brother 3-D Man - from his glasses.

Okay, that is just fucking stupid.

In addition to the fascinating origin story, this issue's plot focuses on 50's rock star Vince Rivers, who is actually a shapeshifting Skrull alien who plans on using his music to make people riot and tear shit up, sort of like Limp Bizkit at Woodstock II.

Here's a panel that introduces readers to Vince Rivers and Hal Chandler's reactionary father, who apparently has a poor grasp of metaphor:

Hal thinks there's something awry with Vince Rivers, and it's not the "rocket in his pocket," so he decides to check out the show. Here's a backstage exchange loaded with vernacular dialogue between Vince Rivers and his promoter, the disc jockey Doc Rock. A cop interjects, asking Vince to "hold down the swivel hips."

Vince rocks the house and swivels his hips and the kids go WILD! They start rioting and trashing the place and using coarse language. 3-D Man intervenes, smashing Vince's alien amplifier, the source of his riot-inducing powers, and saving the day. He will then go on to become a comic legend universally beloved by fans.

There you have it. 3-D Man. If it had actually been created in 1958, it would get a pass from me and I'd find the character charming and quaint. But since he actually was created in 1977, he's just stupid. I know, my bias is not really logical or fair, but I am Dave, I embrace the contradictions within me.

What can I say? I'm an ass.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Buy this comic - GREEN ARROW #53

I'll make this quick, and then we can return to "the funny."

The current issue of Green Arrow, #53, is written by one of my favorite comic book writers ever, Bill Messner-Loebs, who has not been getting regular gigs in comics and could use some fan support.

As you can see from the cover, Green Arrow #53 has Solomon Grundy, which is never bad. This is just a fill-in issue, but I think it would be swell if a lot of people picked it up and demonstrated their appreciation for Bill Loebs, who should be working full time writing comic books that make Dave happy.

I'm buying two.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lame-ass villain #9 - MODAM

Let me state right off the bat that I am a huge fan of MODOK, which is the main reason I think MODAM is so damn lame.

MODOK, as you may know, is a kick-ass Marvel villain from back in the day who sprung like Athena from the fertile mind of comicdom's Zeus, Jack "King" Kirby. What is MODOK? A grotesque giant head with stubby arms and legs that scoots around in a little hover scooter. Sounds kick-ass, doesn't it? Created by the evil acronym loving scientists of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics), MODOK stood for Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. He is one of the greatest super-villains ever, just because of the sheer audacity of his design and his inherent wackiness. I loves me the MODOK, and I know I'm not alone.

MODAM, on the other hand... Well, MODAM is the female version of MODOK that nobody asked for. It's MODOK with lipstick, razor sharp teeth, and presumably a high-pitched Miss Piggy voice. No breasts, thankfully. Nobody wants to see MODAM's boobies.

MODAM was just one too many trips to the well, if you ask me. Marvel should have left well enough alone and just stuck with the original. But no. Some Marvel writer (Mark Gruenwald maybe?) was hitting the Skull Bong pretty hard one night and came up with a female version of MODOK, and some lazy editor said, "Sure, whatever Mark." Thus MODAM was born both in the laboratories of AIM and in a cloud of sweet, sweet cannabis smoke.

Did you know that originally she/it was named Specialized Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers, but then AIM realized that spelled out SODAM, which is perhaps a better name for a boy. So they renamed her MODAM (Mobile Organism Designed for Aggressive Maneuvers), which is a good name for a girl. Get it? Madam = MODAM? Clever little bastards, those AIM scientists.

Thankfully, I have only two comic books that feature MODAM, Captain America #387 and #388, parts one and two of "The Superia Stratagem," a storyline that is also known as "Utter Shit." The Superia Stratagem pits Captain America and the purple Paladin versus every lame female villain on a cruise ship. That's it. That's the story. Now you don't have to read it. You're welcome.

The one good part about the Superia Stratagem is that it features a fight between MODAM and Anaconda, who was Lame-ass villain #2 (back when I knew how to write short posts). Here are the two hideous harpies locked in mortal combat:

That is not attractive. Yet it's fascinating in a sick way because both Anaconda and MODAM embody the Freudian concepts of penis envy and vagina dentata. I mean, I'm sure that wasn't the intention, but that's how I read it.

Jeez, what is wrong with me?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

BATMAN #268 DC Comics, 1975

So here's the cover of Batman #268.

I know what you're thinking: The Sheikh? WTF? Wasn't he a WWF wrestler?

Or perhaps you're thinking: What in God's name is that thing The Sheikh is riding? A tauntaun? John Merrick's pony? Somebody please give that cover artist a photo reference so he can draw a frickin' camel properly. My cat looks more like a camel than that thing does.

Or OK, maybe you're thinking: Did The Sheikh rig the butt of his rifle with explosives so when he struck people in the ribcage it would explode? If it was me, I'd just shoot the gun, but then I've never tried swatting people with an exploding rifle before. Maybe it works really well.

This issue was written by Denny O'Neil with pencils by Irv Novick and inks by Tex Blaisdell - all edited by the legendary Julius Schwartz. I think this book is a product of it's time and a good indicator at the general tone of DC books at the time. By that, I mean it's goofy as hell. Batman and Robin go up against The Sheikh, a masked Arab assassin who is seemingly killing people at random. I hope I don't wreck it for you when I say The Sheikh is actually two white guys conspiring to kill a business partner, or something. I'm a little fuzzy on the details; all I know is that it ends with a big ice skating fight and The Sheikh likes to swat people with his exploding rifle.

The Sheikh is a good example of a character that lasts an entire issue due to The Riddler Factor, the sustained plot contrivance that allows otherwise lame villains to survive much longer than they should be able to. For instance, in this comics Batman doesn't kick the shit out of The Sheikh in two seconds flat because:

1.) The Sheikh is wearing body armor under his robes.
2.) The Sheikh gets a few lucky shots in.
3.) The Sheik's rifle butt explodes whenever it strikes a human or dog rib cage.
4.) Batman is incredibly wimpy in this comic and whines like a little boy.

Check this out, here's The Sheikh and Batman going at it:

"Oww?" Did he say "oww?" And then he spends a whole panel bitching about how much his hand smarts? Nuh-uh. Not my Batman. I'm all for different interpretations of the Dark Knight Detective and all, but Batman doesn't say "oww."

Oh. Wait...

Okay, I guess he does say "oww."

The panels above are taken from a rooftop fight at the beginning of the comic. Not only does The Riddler Factor protect The Sheikh during this fight, but it lets him get a lucky shot in and smash Batman with his rifle butt. Fortunately for Batman, the Sheikh's rifle butt does not explode. He does, however, fall off the building. Batman forgets in mid-air that he has a Batline that he swings from all the time and instead, he slows his fall by grabbing a long neon sign, fucking his hands up real bad.

Here's Alfred taking care of Batman, who is still bitching about his owies:

"Wrap them in fist form... I have a hunch I'm not done punching tonight."

This is where the comic derails and plunges to a fiery doom at the bottom of Quality Gulch.

The Riddler Factor is so pervasive in this book that Batman makes some insanely stupid choices. "I'm not done punching tonight so wrap my hands up into big soft boxing gloves, Alfred! Wrap them in fist form because I only plan on punching tonight! That's all I've got on the agenda. No driving, no opening doors, no picking things up, no ice hockey... nope, just punching." It's so stupid that the first time I read this comic I thought Denny O'Neil was trying to be funny, but no.

Let's get back to the story. Batman, with his hands encased in big cotton balls, visits the wealthy Mr. Lunt, who is next on The Sheikh's hit list. Because the plot requires Batman to be incompetent, Lunt is gunned down by The Sheikh. He escapes Batman by...

...well, by closing a door.

"What kind of clever fiend am I dealing with? He went through a door - and locked it! It's as if he knew my hands would be wrapped in yards of cotton bandages and I would be unable to operate a door handle! Blast him! Blast that wily denizen of the desert!"

In the end, Batman figures out The Sheikh's nefarious plans - he isn't a wily denizen of the desert after all, he is just the aforementioned two white guys. Naturally, this saga of murder and mayhem concludes with a big hockey fight.

That's right, Batman and Robin strap on ice skates. And you thought it was just in that stupid movie. No, there is an actual literary precedent to the scene in Batman and Robin where they all fight on ice skates, and here it is:

I don't know how suddenly Batman can hold a hockey stick with those big fist-shaped bandages, but he can, and he uses said hockey stick to easily beat the crap out of the same losers who gave him so much trouble for twenty pages.

What can I say? That's how DC rolled in the 70s: ice skating Batman.

One cool thing about this comic is the little artistic touches that they use, stuff you can only find in comics, where story and art combine. I'm actually being serious here, work with me. Check out the panel below, where Irv Novick has worked a little illustration of the Lunt Mansion into the narrative caption:

That's good stuff. I wish comic artists today took advantage of the medium and did more playful stuff like that.

Oh, and how could I forget? Here's Batman choking a camel:

I'm at a bit of a loss. Insert your own "camel choking" joke here.