Friday, March 31, 2006

Senator Calls For "Sentinel Bra"

(AP) SIOUX FALLS, SD: Sen. G. Godfrey, R-South Dakota, is shifting the focus of his “cultural crusade for decency” from publicly funded arts programs to a surprising target: The Department of Homeland Security’s Project: Wideawake. In a news conference outside of Shaw Industries Robotics Plant in Sioux Falls, Godfrey criticized what he described as the “intentionally indecent design” of the mutant-hunting Sentinel robots created at the plant.

“I think it is a great shame that the Mark V [Sentinels] have been designed in such a titillating way, and I’m here to say ‘no more,’” said Godfrey, a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

Godfrey specifically objects to the distinctive pair of sensor nodes mounted on the chests of the giant robots, which he describes as “nipples.”

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that a weapons system like the Sentinels, which was paid for by the American taxpayer, reflect the sensibilities of decent folk,” Godfrey said, standing in front of a large schematic of the Mark V robot. “The Sentinel program is intended to hunt down and inter or kill unregistered mutants, not to make people uncomfortable. These nipples have to go.”

Lawrence Bolivar, a spokesperson for Shaw Industries, disagrees. “First of all, they’re not nipples, they are chest nodes that contain sensors designed to locate mutant and superhuman targets,” Bolivar said. “Second, the senator was on the Subcommittee on Mutant Management seven years ago when the Mark Vs were designed. He had every opportunity to object to the so-called nipples back then.”

Godfrey, who is running for reelection in 2006, insists that he is responding to the concerns of his constituents.

He cited a letter of complaint he received months ago from a Sioux Falls resident who was offended when she saw a Mark V demonstration at the 2005 Dakota Thunder Airshow at Ellsworth Air Force Base. “This mother described to me the Sentinel demonstration, in which two Mark Vs hunted down and neutralized a mutant on the airfield for the amusement of the crowd. She had to cover her son’s eyes when she realized that the Mark V’s were not properly covered up.”

“She wrote to me, ‘Is it too much to ask, Senator, that my son and I can watch a Sentinel hunt down a kangaroo-man at the Airshow without having to look at giant robot nipples?’”

“My answer to her is, ‘No, ma’am. It’s not too much to ask. The hardworking, non-mutant everyday citizens of America deserve better. We want to be safe from hideous, non-licensed illegal mutants, but not at the cost of surrendering our values.’”

Godfrey is introducing a spending bill that will provide funds for retrofitting that would hide the chest node/nipples on the Mark Vs, but acknowledges that a permanent solution is years away.

“Which is why I propose an interim solution that will allow the Sentinels to hunt down mutants in a decent way: the Sentinel Bra,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey proposes fitting each Mark V robot with a top that covers the chest nodes but doesn’t impair functionality. The Sentinel Bra is made of sturdy, stretchable material similar to a sports bra.

At a fraction of the cost it would take to retrofit the entire line of robots, Godfrey’s proposal would allow Project: Wideawake to continue, but without alienating social conservatives.

“With the Sentinel Bra, these giant robots will be free to hunt mutants in the towns and fields of this great nation without exposing young children to robotic nudity,” Godfrey said.

Shaw Industries’ Bolivar was dismissive of the senator’s proposal. “If Sen. Godfrey has nothing better to do than worry about Sentinel nipples, I feel sad for him. What’s next? Is he going to decide that our gamma missiles are too phallic?”

This is not the first Congressional criticism of the Sentinel program.

In 1998, Sen. Conrad Byrdy, R-Nebraska, unsuccessfully tried to have the “shorts” on the Mark V robots painted a metallic color to match the robots’ “vests.” Public Decency groups had complained that the paint scheme made it look as if the robots were not wearing any pants at all.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Dave’s Long Box First Anniversary Spectacular!

Hey, right on, I’m glad you could make it.

Come on in. You can throw your coat on the bed in there if you like. Hey, look at you! Somebody’s been working out. You look good; very together, very 2006. You’ve kind of got a Tony Robbins thing going on. I like that sweater.

Listen, get yourself some chicken wings and a drink in the kitchen – try the rum punch, it’s killer. I have to start this thing.

Welcome to The Dave’s Long Box 1st Anniversary Spectacular, wherein we take a wacky walk together down memory lane… and I’m holding your hand the entire time and breathing heavily.

I know, it’s a little creepy. I’m not saying it won’t be uncomfortable, but join me on this psychedelic journey into narcissistic nostalgia, won’t you?

Dave’s Long Box launched a year ago today with a few modest, awkwardly written posts, evolving into the arrogant, awkwardly written blog you see before you. Prior to March 2005 I had just been lurking in the comics blogosphere, phantom-like, always reading and never participating, interacting. I felt like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. I had been working on a fiction blog called The Velvet Marauder“It’s like Bridget Jones’ Diary, but with a super-powered vigilante” – but had yet to wade into the big scary world of blogging for reals.

But wade I did, and I kind of liked it. It was good writing exercise, and it was fun. People seemed to be digging my shit, which always helps. Then I got mentioned in Newsweek magazine and BAM! I had to kick it up a notch, Emeril-style, baby! Or something, I don’t know.

I was inspired by two of my favorite blogs: Graeme MacMillan’s late Fanboy Rampage and Neilalien, which happily is still going strong. I appreciated the sheer amount of content and the “audience participation” in Fanboy Rampage, and the fact that Neilalien’s site had a unique theme and focus: all things Dr. Strange. Dave’s Long Box is nothing like either blog, but I like to think that I have adopted lessons learned from both. I knew that I wanted my blog to have a theme (I review my old comics, you laugh and cry), to encourage reader input and discussion, and that it would be updated regularly.

The other overriding theme or mission or whatever of Dave’s Long Box is that I wanted to set a certain tone of civility and accountability. I decided I would put my full name out there and that I would at least make an effort to be respectful of my readers and of the people who make the comic books that I love and/or hate. I even wrote a little mission statement – more of a memo, really - On Being Mean, which outlines my blogging philosophy. I have violated the principles outlined in that post several times, so I just go back and edit the original mission statement so I don’t look like a complete asshole.


Starting out, one of the things I decided I would do was have theme weeks and recurring features to help give Dave’s Long Box some sense of structure and identity. I started off with No Profanity Week, which was sponsored by wrestling superstar Ric Flair.

That seemed to go over well, so I kept going. Boob War Week was a big hit and still pulls in the Google traffic to this day. Everybody likes boobs, apparently. Who knew? I was kind of fond of Kobra Week myself, which focused on the DC super-villain Kobra and how damn cool he is.

The most popular theme week seemed to be the F*@% Yeah Files, which explore some of the most kick-ass, moving, and flat-out awesome scenes in comic book history – stuff that is so cool it literally compels you to exclaim, “FUCK YEAH!” You know, like when Flash rescues the flight attendant who gets sucked out of an airliner at 10,000 feet.

The F*@% Yeah Files even spawned a movie version. I veered off course for a week and explored some of my favorite F*@% Yeah moments in film. “Khaaaan!”

Some posts are more popular than others. I kind of figured that my post Everybody Loves Power Girl would go over well – I believe I modestly referred to it beforehand as “the best post you have ever read on any blog – ever!” This look at the phenomenon of Power Girl’s breasts pulled in a lot of hits, and to this day is probably my most frequently visited post. I attribute its popularity more to masturbating geeks on Google than to quality writing - as of now I am the #1 search result on Google for “power girl boobs.” I can live with that.

Another popular post was Airwolf: The Adjective. I can’t remember who and I’m too lazy too search for it, but a DLB reader mentioned the concept of the word “Airwolf” as a universally positive adjective, and I just ran with it. I’ve been credited elsewhere for the Airwolf idea, but I didn’t think it up – that distinction goes to the very funny Ernie Cline, who did a spoken-word piece called “Airwolf” back in 2000. I’m just happy to do my part in helping to seed the pop cultural landscape with Airwolf: The Adjective.

It’s funny the shit that brings in traffic.
Second to Power Girl and Airwolf, I probably got the most hits for this picture of a spunky little cat with a “can-do” attitude:

People love cats; go figure.

I have some personal favorite posts, of course, as well as posts that just make me wince and tempt me to delete them. Nobody would notice if I just got rid of that horrible piece about Hawkman, would they?

One of my favorite and/or most enjoyable posts was a two-part dissection of Thor #499, a comic so horrible that one post could not contain its suckitude. This comic is a classic and hilarious example of poor quality control and mis-communication between writer and artist, and spotlights the phenomenon known as “the de-nudifying effect” or “editorial swimwear,” when racy art is clumsily covered up by the editors.

I was also fond of the post Workforce Management the Kobra Way, which explores Kobra’s techniques for effectively leading an army of henchmen. It involves lots of strangling.

A personal favorite of mine is the S.H.I.E.L.D. Career Power Seminar, which was an honest-to-God real presentation I did at work on Halloween.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Career Power was basically a recruiting pitch for potential S.H.I.E.L.D. agents conducted by Col. Nick Fury (me), complete with PowerPoint slides. I worked very hard on the whole thing and it went over really well with my co-workers, even if most people thought I was supposed to be Snake Plissken. The shit I have to put up with...

Another post that I think turned out OK was Street Fighter: The Musical, a take-down of the wretched comic book adaptation of the equally wretched Street Fighter movie. The post has the lines, “This comic book is so awful that writing (...) about it merely prolongs its existence... Talking about it is like watering an ugly, ugly flower” and “… so bad that I want to burn it, but I’m afraid that the toxic smoke from the fire will ruin a sunset or poison something beautiful, like a butterfly.” Man, I crack myself up.

I may be funny infrequently, but I am often DEAD WRONG.

I have made more than my share of mistakes over the past year. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while writing about comic books, it’s that you have to get your shit straight or somebody is going to call you on it. There’s always some wise-ass out there who will let me know if I spelled Neal Adams’ name wrong, or that I totally got the name of Mantra’s alter-ego wrong. Usually I just silently fix the mistake so the wise-ass looks like an idiot complaining about errors that don’t exist, but sometimes I screw up in such a profound way that it can’t be concealed.

Take this entry about Karkas in my recurring feature, Lame-ass Villains.

I built the entire post around the fact that Karkas has no opposable thumbs. He doesn’t, really! Look it up if you don’t believe me! Be that as it may, the humor of the whole piece is sort of undermined by the picture of Karkas with an opposable thumb.

That’s the Ol’ Dave Campbell Eye for Detail in action right there.

Another cock-up was my review for Alpha Flight #121, in which I incorrectly said that artist Craig Brasfield was responsible for this blatant swipe of some John Byrne art. I learned that it was the book’s editor who slapped the Byrne art into the comic, not Brasfield, so I had to go back and set the record straight. My bad.

OK, I shouldn’t have had that last gin and tonic. Daddy’s starting to get a headache, kids, so I better wrap this up. Did you like the chicken wings?

I want to thank everybody who has visited Dave’s Long Box over the past year, and in particular everyone who took the time to comment or send me an email shout-out. I really appreciate everyone’s support and hope that we can all continue to hang out together over the next 365 days.

A big what-up goes out to my fellow comic bloggers as well – there are a lot of people blogging out there who are doing really great work; funny, thoughtful, inspiring, challenging writing that helps Move Comics Forward. Except for that one asshole.*

Not to get all corny and shit, but I’m proud to be even indirectly associated with a lot of the fine folks out there behind their keyboards. I tip my proverbial 40-ouncer in your honor.

So, onwards and upwards! Let’s join hands once again in a non-sexual way and march together into a Golden Future of Online Comic Book Commentary.

As my man Casey Kasem says, “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars!”


Monday, March 27, 2006

Beware the Juggernaut, my homey!

I was all ready to get my Judge Dredd on today, but I'm having technical issues. Instead of a real post, you get a picture of some poor dude who is about to get eaten.

Very busy; I'm ramping up for the Dave’s Long Box One Year Anniversary Spectacular! on Wednesday. I can't decide if I should go with chicken wings or potstickers.

Anyway, it will be SPECTACULAR, I assure you. I would start bracing yourself for the radness of the Dave’s Long Box One Year Anniversary Spectacular! today. I'm not responsible for what happens if you don't have the psychological bandwidth for that much pure awesomeness. I don't think anybody's going to get hurt; I'm just saying.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

MARVEL FANFARE #18 Marvel Comics, 1985

“Mother and country – my favorite underwear! I told you not to iron these, but you wouldn’t listen! Damn you, Jarvis!”

Now that is a comic book cover: a Frank Miller drawing of Captain America looking hella-pissed, pointing at the reader, crying tears of righteousness. Somebody is going to get their ass kicked, or at the very least receive a patronizing, long-winded speech from Cap.

I think I’ve talked about Marvel Fanfare before, but I can’t remember. We’re coming up on the Dave’s Long Box One Year Anniversary Spectacular, and I can’t be bothered to remember every post I’ve made over the past twelve months. It’s the oxycontin, you see. Makes everything fuzzy. Anyhow, Marvel Fanfare was a 36-page monthly anthology book that was printed on magazine quality paper with no ads. It ran from 1982 to 1992, and was edited by Affable Al Milgrom. The quality varied wildly, but this issue really sticks out as a high point for me.

“Home Fires” is a melodramatic Captain America story by writer Roger Stern with art by Frank Miller and Joe Rubinstein. A mysterious group of arsonists known only as “We the People” have been burning apartment buildings in New York City, and demand six million dollars from the city in order to stop their campaign of terror. Captain America investigates the arsons and helps out the New York firefighters as only he can.

Here he is saving a kid from certain death with the help of a conveniently placed flagpole:

It turns out that the arsonists are actually a bunch of disgruntled working stiffs who are sick of seeing their paychecks buy less and less and their taxes increasing more and more. They’re fed up with having to foot the bill for poor people and freeloaders, so they decide to start torching tenements as part of an extortion scheme. The arsonist all belong to The Knights of Brooklyn, a fraternal order modeled after the Masons and The Shriners. You know, it would have actually been funny if the arsonists were really Shriners, rolling up to their next target in tiny little cars and wearing those cute red fez hats of theirs.

Cap finds a policeman’s badge at one of the fire scenes, and discovers that one of the Knights of Brooklyn firebugs is actually a cop. There’s a great scene where Cap confronts the cop/arsonist as he’s getting in his patrol car. The guy tries to escape – bad move. Doesn’t he know that Captain America’s shield can move faster than his stupid car?

Check it out:

That’s a pretty cool scene, yes? I love that page. That Frank Miller, he can put a sequence together.

The bruised and shaken cop spills the beans and Cap rounds up the ringleader and the rest of the arsonists in their Knights of Brooklyn lodge, where they keep gallons and gallons of gasoline. Idiots. The ringleader makes some lame justification for setting all the fires (the most recent being in a nursing home) and then he does something really fucking stupid:

He tries to light the American flag on fire. In front of Captain America.

That gets you a coupon for a free knuckle sandwich, courtesy of the Sentinel of Liberty!

The idiot arsonist ringleader screams “flame on!” and lights himself on fire, igniting the gallons and gallons of gasoline in the lodge. Cap rescues the other idiot arsonists and they all watch the building burn.

But wait! Cap rushes back inside the inferno! What’s he doing?

Cue the wailing Top Gun guitar music as Cap emerges from the flames in a sequence that still grips my shit to this day:

Oh, F@*% YEAH!!!!

Cap risks his life to pull Old Glory out of the burning building, then gives those stupid arsonists a piece of his mind. THAT is how real patriots roll, you crummy firebugs! That’s what America’s all about, bozos! You think about that while you cool your heels in the slammer, you ungrateful creeps!

Okay, the story is a little over-the-top, but it’s a Captain Frickin’ America funnybook. If you’re looking for subtlety, move along, Mac.

I do have one big issue with this story: The motivation of the arsonists is so broadly sketched out that it’s nonsensical. I wonder if the original story idea gave the Knights of Brooklyn more recognizable and ugly real-world political beliefs rather than the homogenous and generic “put-upon working man” bit that the printed story ascribes to them. It seems likely to me that originally the arsonists had radical right wing and/or racist beliefs, but that these were toned down for the kids or to avoid antagonizing conservative readers. That’s just my take on it.

Politics aside, you cannot go wrong with that page of Captain America rescuing his beloved flag from a burning building. If that’s not a F@*% Yeah moment then I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Blogger, why you hate me so much?

I have no idea what's happening with my blog today. If it looks all crazy and shit, it's not my fault. Really. I didn't do it.

I don't trust this crazy blog thing enough to do a proper post today, so you'll have to settle for a pciture of me both rocking out and raging at the same time:

UPDATED: Great, now it looks normal again. This "internet blog" contraption is SCREWING WITH MY HEAD!

UPDATED AGAIN: See? It even made me misspell the word "picture!" I'm going quite mad.

Monday, March 20, 2006

COLOSSUS #1 Marvel Comics, 1997

Colossus #1 was a one-shot comic written by Ben Raab and penciled by Bryan Hitch that seems to serve no purpose.

I mean, it’s an entertaining enough comic, but I can’t figure out why Marvel had such a burning urge to publish this book. It’s a pretty stock story that doesn’t change the status quo of the character or shed any new light on Colossus’s personality. With some minor changes, you could drop any X-Men character into this plot. Hell, you could drop my three-year old daughter into the plot and it would still work. Actually, no: there’s a dragon in the comic that would scare her.*

Call me skeptical, but I’m wondering if this isn’t one of those comics intended solely to preserve Marvel’s rights to the name “Colossus.” I don’t know a lot about copyright law and intellectual property rights, but this smells like a comic mandated more by Marvel’s legal team than by Marvel’s editorial team.
"I don't want to take the piss out of Colossus #1 too much... Oh, what the hell. Let's take the piss out of it."

The story is simple enough – the steel-skinned Russian mutant Colossus goes on a vacation to Paris with Captain Britain’s girlfriend Meggan, who we will discuss later. I guess Captain Britain is a really trusting guy. Anyway, the flamboyant funhouse assassin Arcade tries to kill both of them in one of his extravagant Murderworld death traps. He fails. Arcade promises to tell Colossus who hired him if the X-Man will fake his own death – it seems that Arcade’s employer’s aren’t the forgiving sort, and will kill him if he doesn’t fulfill his contract. Colossus agrees and everybody’s happy and friends at the end.

I don’t want to take the piss out of Colossus #1 too much, because it clearly doesn’t aspire to be anything but bubble gum adventure. Raab’s story bops along at a nice pace and he keeps it light, although some of the dialogue is physically painful to read and the characters do strange things that normal, sane people wouldn’t do. The art, by the stellar team of Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary, is great – no complaints here. It’s not like it’s an offensively bad comic…

Oh, what the hell, let’s take the piss out of it.

Check out that cover (above): a nice shot of Colossus looking huge, battling a dragon-thingy. That’s great, but check out the customary Marvel Comics floating-head-box in the upper left hand corner. What the hell is that? A picture of Meggan having a grand mal seizure? A weird alternate universe Elvis/Frankenstein version of Colossus? Some editor’s cousin must have drawn that – it’s the only explanation.

Before I get around to complaining about Meggan, the Worst Female Role Model in Comics, I want to digress and talk about when people in comics do weird shit that normal people wouldn’t do. Bear with me.

At the beginning of the comic, the un-armored Colossus and Meggan are enjoying the view of the romantic City of Lights from the balcony of their hotel. Colossus is drinking some champagne while Meggan lounges around in very little clothing. They’re just buddies, though. I’m sorry, but I gotta call bullshit on that. Paris + champagne + hotel room + hot woman in bikini = sex.

Meggan really wants to go to Dudleyworld, a Disneyland analog, because she is essentially a child in a woman’s body – a really stacked woman’s body. Because Colossus is such a fun loving guy, he grabs Meggan and away they go!
He jumps off the balcony to the crowded city street below. Check it:

Fortunately, right before they splatter on the street, Colossus transforms into his invulnerable organic-metal form, and they land safely. The impact sends waiters and patrons at streetside cafes flying, and cracks the pavement of the street. Remarkably, no one is hurt. Plus, we get a full-page shot of Meggan biting her lip and looking hot:

Now I ask you: If you were a member of a persecuted minority of super-powered freaks, would you purposely endanger the lives of pedestrians, destroy a city street, and scare the shit out of everybody just for laughs? That kind of makes Colossus a dick, doesn’t it? The scene is designed as a light-hearted way of introducing the reader to Colossus’s powers, but at the expense of logic and character continuity.
I also ask you: how would anyone be saved from injury in such circumstances? Sure, Colossus would be fine, but the person he's carrying has still dropped five-stories. Big deal, Colossus turned to steel - you'd go splat.

After terrorizing Paris for laughs, Colossus and Meggan head over to Dudleyworld, which is closed because Arcade has set up shop inside. No, I don’t know how one takes over a perfectly functional amusement park without anyone noticing either. Meggan is pissed that the park is closed.

Meggan destroys the dragon-motif information station in a fit of rage. She’s a superhero, so she solves problems with violence. But let’s get crazy and employ real world rational thought for a minute. If you had a friend that say, took an axe to an ATM that was out of cash, wouldn’t you think that was strange? Wouldn’t you stop returning that person’s phone calls?
Colossus thinks “Bozhe moi!” when he witnesses this act of mindless destruction, which I believe is Russian for, “Holy shit, what a psycho!”
Anyway, they both get kidnapped by Arcade and are forced to run a virtual reality gauntlet in his Murderworld. Arcade has no mutant powers, except for the ability to inflate one of his eyeballs, as seen below.

Despite the name, Murderworld doesn’t seem like that deadly a place. I can’t think of a single superhero who has actually died in one of Arcade’s lethal amusement parks, which makes one wonder why people keep hiring Arcade in the first place. Plus, what is the overhead on a place like that? It’s gotta be expensive to create elaborate yet whimsical death traps every six months or so. How does Arcade make a profit? Does he pass the operating expenses on to his employers? If I needed a mutant dead, I’d just hire a sniper with vibranium bullets and call it good.

But perhaps I’m overthinking the whole thing.

For some reason, Colossus agrees to fake their deaths at the hands of Arcade in order to learn who hired him. It turns out that the British criminal organization Black Air (insert fart joke here) has a grudge against Colossus and Co., and will also kill Arcade if he fails to assassinate the Russian mutant. Colossus and Meggan stage a big fight against a power-armored Arcade in Dudleyworld. A giant robotic Dudley the Dragon joins the fray, which pisses off the volatile Meggan.

In the end, Colossus and Meggan board the QE2 cruise ship for a trip back to England in “disguise,” where they meet Arcade and his robotic assistant Ms. Locke, also in “disguise.” They all hang out together and everybody’s happy and Colossus and Meggan forgive and forget the multiple attempts on their lives and ha ha ha, what a lark!

I know what you’re thinking: who takes the QE2 across the English Channel? There are flights leaving for Heathrow every ten minutes from Paris. Or they could take a channel ferry. Or The Chunnel. Or charter a plane. Or Meggan could fly them. But no, if logic were employed it would ruin the cute ending, so board the cruise ship they must. Sigh.

Okay, so let’s talk about Meggan, the Worst Female Role Model in Comics. I challenge any female reading this to email me ( and explain why Meggan is their favorite character. Is she anybody’s favorite character? Probably. If the Night Ranger Factor holds true, there is some skulking, masturbating young man in Baltimore who is Earth’s #1 Meggan fan.

But do any women like Meggan?

Some background: Meggan is a shapely shapeshifter with empathic and elemental powers who hangs on Captain Britain’s elbow. She is extremely sensitive to other people’s emotions, and often subconsciously alters her appearance to match the desires/moods of others. She is innocent and naïve to the point of nausea. Meggan acts like a child, yet she has the body of a centerfold model.

The only time I’ve ever even remotely liked Meggan was during Alan Davis’s tenure as writer and artist of Excalibur. He alone seemed to um, nail Meggan. The rest of the time she’s just an infantilized, sexed-up Barbie who jiggles around, pouting and crying and giggling and chasing butterflies and shit like that.

The sexual politics of the character are a little creepy, if you ask me. I submit to you, fair reader, that no self-respecting woman would ever create such a weird character, and that no woman on the planet adores Meggan above all characters. Prove me wrong!

Again, perhaps I am over-analyzing things. But when you have two daughters and went to a hippy college like me, you start to question shit like Meggan and Barbie and those evil Bratz dolls and the message they send to girls. More positive superhero women, please, and less submissive sex dolls like Meggan.

And that’s the end of my Meggan rant.

As a last bit of evidence, I present the splash page of Colossus #1 for your enjoyment:

Holy crap, that was an unreasonably long post for such a light comic book! Next: a 100,000 word treatise on the comic Avengyline.**

*My three-year old is strangely fascinated/scared by monsters lately, particularly Godzilla. She recently said, “We’d never see Godzilla walking down the street, because he lives in Make-Believe Land with the leprechauns. I live in Reality, so we’ll never see Godzilla. Is Godzilla outside?” Tell me that isn’t cute as hell.
**I kid. I wouldn’t do that to you.

Friday, March 17, 2006

WILDCATS #1 Image Comics, 1999

Getting Travis Charest to draw Wildcats is like bringing a machine gun to a pillow fight – it’s overkill.

Don’t get me wrong, I have more than my fair share of Wildcats comics. I enjoyed Joe Casey’s series, Wildcats Version 3.0. I am also looking forward to Grant Morrison and Jim Lee’s upcoming Wildcats series (though not as much as I’m looking forward to Morrison’s Authority with Gene Ha). So you see? I have some love for Wildcats.

But this series, Wildcats vol 2, by writer Scott Lobdell, seemed sort of trite and shallow, the kind of comic book that ANYBODY could have drawn. Charest’s art really classes up the book, and if you’re not careful you can trick yourself into thinking that Wildcats vol 2 is a better comic than it actually is.

Jeez, is it that bad? No, but it’s not that good, either. It’s comparable to Lobdell’s Alpha Flight revamp in terms of quality, and in my mind, that makes pairing the script with Charest’s insanely detailed art a little like getting Martin Scorcese to direct Weekend at Bernie’s III.

The story? The scattered Wildcats heroes gather once again to track down The Kenyan, a madman who is collecting ultra-powerful Daemonite and Kherubim weaponry. In this first issue, the gunslinging masked man known as The Grifter disrupts an arms deal in Venice and hooks up with his old teammate Spartan, an unstoppable and boring android. It’s pretty lightweight stuff – all filler, no killer – but Charest’s artwork really elevates the book.

Here’s the second page, where Grifter sneaks through Venetian canals so that he can kill some people. Pretty, no?

Man, he is going to need a bath after that – in real life the Venetian canals are full of nasty-ass water. I wouldn’t let a cat drink that water, and I hate cats. *

Anyway, Grifter gets in position and finds that one of the players in the arms deal is actually Spartan. Grifter gets to kill a lot of people, and then a big robot-tank thing shows up and Spartan fights that.

That’s about it. Sure, there are some quips and some witty dialogue, but aside from the art, it’s fairly pedestrian stuff. Nothing against Lobdell, mind you - I just wasn't feeling it.

As this series demonstrates, Charest should be working on graphic novels or limited-series, not ongoing comic book series. With Wildcats he got behind on his deadlines and according to the man himself, “…the book suffered. You probably never got to see the stories as they should have been because as a by-product of my lateness, shortcuts were constantly being made, and compromises in the narrative and setting were the order of the day.”** Charest and Lobdell were off the book shortly after it began, to be replaced by Joe Casey and Sean Phillips, who did a swell job.

Ahh, but the art. For a brief while, Wildcats was graced with some fantastic art. Better than it deserved? You make the call.

*Kidding. I loves me the cats.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

No Post Today!

Real life has reared its ugly head and plunged its venomous fangs into my shoulder, so I cannot do a proper post. Instead, I leave you with a series of images of The Commando-in-Chief, The Motor City Madman, The Ten Fingers of Doom, The Nuge - Mr. Ted Nugent.

Ted always wondered why his babysitting business never took off in college.

I like to imagine that Ted is doing funny voices for the deer in this picture. "Hi, I'm Mr. Hatrack! Ted killed me dead with a clean heart shot from 50 yards! Wow!"

Why the terrorist threat alert is ONLY at yellow right now.

Find the person who is overcompensating in this picture!

I found this picture in Webster's Dictionary under the word "manhood."

Nugent. Trout. Two great tastes that go great together.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

El DIABLO #1 DC Comics, 1988

I have a weakness for doomed comic book series’ that are constructed around a new interpretation of dormant intellectual property. You know what I’m talking about – comics like Manhunter, Blue Beetle, The Question, and this series - El Diablo.

Rarely has there ever been a comic that was so clearly going to be cancelled. El Diablo was the story of Rafe Sandoval, a rookie city councilman in Dos Rios, Texas, who tries to improve his community by day as a councilman and by night as the masked urban legend El Diablo. Our hero has no superpowers except for a mean right hook and a pure heart, and instead of supervillains, El Diablo takes on arsonists, drug dealers and immigrant smugglers in his quest to make his city a better place to live. El Diablo was a low-key, character-driven book that starred a hero who was actually a pretty swell guy. If there is one hero who would not look out of place drinking a beer and chatting with Grandpa at a backyard barbeque, it’s El Diablo.

So of course, the series was doomed. Kids don’t want to read that shit. Dave maybe, but not kids.

Written by ubiquitous eighties scribe Gerard Jones with art by Mike Parobeck, El Diablo was perhaps published before its time. I’m not certain who the intended audience was for this book, which spent a lot of page space devoted to interplay between the citizens of Dos Rios and comparatively little to explosions, beheadings, ninjas, and tits. El Diablo spent as much time with Councilman Sandoval, an ethical man snared in southern big-boss politics, as it did on his alter-ego’s nocturnal adventures. The series was like a playful mix of a Robert Penn Warren novel and Zorro.
Have I mentioned the lack of tits?

Well, the kids may not have eaten El Diablo up, but I loved it. Jones’ peppy story and bantering dialogue found a perfect match in Mike Parobeck’s art. The late Mr. Parobeck did his usual kick-ass job on the series, delivering his patented clean-line art and excellent composition. I can’t imagine anybody but Mike Parobeck drawing El Diablo.

Check out the first appearance of El Diablo, below:

If you ran a statistical analysis of all first-issue comic books starring a single character published in the last 20 years, you would find that in 75% of those books, the first appearance of the hero entails stopping a mugging or beating the crap out of some bad guy. Not El Diablo. The first time we see him, he’s chillin’ in a booth in a darkened taqueria. That alone should tell you a) why this book was so cool, and b) why it got cancelled.

The simple fact of the matter is that El Diablo just did not kick enough ass. He’s a costumed hero, and as such will inevitably be compared to other costumed heroes. If there’s one common trait among costumed heroes, it is that they all violently solve their problems. El Diablo? Not so much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s not above using the Five Knuckles of Justice, but you get the impression that El Diablo would rather talk things out.

And that, my friends, makes him a pussy.

Sorry, but it’s true. Kids don’t want to read about guys like El Diablo.* I mean, look. The guy has a hard time with a shaky, gun-toting crackhead:

That’s just part of an excellently drawn scene where El Diablo tries to disarm this whacked-out teenager who has just blown a gringo away. I love El Diablo’s facial expression when he realizes the gun is empty. Man, Parobeck ruled, didn't he?

Anyway, it’s a great scene, but again I have to return to my theme: kids don’t want to see a masked vigilante who is trying his best to stop a drug-crazed punk without hurting him, they want to see drug-crazed punk’s brains go supernova and then cyborg ninjas come out of nowhere and there are explosions and breasts.

I loved El Diablo, but I’m too cynical to think that a book like it could last very long in a marketplace crowded with Deathkiller 3000 and Jugular Hex: Sexborg Assassin Supreme.** I’m not sure that there has ever been a demand for a book about a Mexican-American superhero/politician/community activist. If said superhero/politician/community activist was a woman and wore a little fishnet outfit? Maybe. Can she turn her fingernails into laser knives?

Now we’re talking.
*Who are these "kids" I keep referring to? Not even I know.
**For all my holier-than-thou talk, I would totally buy a comic called Jugular Hex: Sexborg Assassin Supreme.