Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Off-topic: The Official Dave's Longbox Review of Superman Returns - Like You Care

Well, it didn't suck.

Superman Returns is better than Batman Returns, but not as good as Batman Begins. It's also not as good as X-Men 2, but it is better than The Fantastic Four and is about a third as good as both Superman and Superman II combined. It's not up there with Blade, but it's twice as good as Daredevil and five times as good as Catwoman. It would take all the combined good parts of Elektra, Batman and Robin, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze to equal half of Superman Returns, but Superman Returns would have to be twice as rad to equal The Incredibles or Spider-Man 2. Having said that, I'd say it was a little better than X-Men 3 and four times as good as Superman III and IV (separately.) It's no Swamp Thing, though.

I hope that clears thing up.

As a fanboy, I enjoyed Superman Returns, but as a regular moviegoer I was vaguely disappointed. I found it overly reverential to Richard Donner's Superman and Superman II, the movies that launched the modern era of superhero cinema. Superman Returns plays as a sort of sequal to those first two movies, completely blowing off Superman III and Superman IV, which were utter shite, as my British friends say. Director Bryan Singer emulates the vibe and design of the first two movies to a fault, and as a result it doesn't show us anything we haven't really seen before in Donner's films.

"Superman rescued the f$%* out of that space plane!"
-Chris Sims's nine-word review

I had some issues with the plot and general narrative drive of the movie as well. So much is going on that the film feels a little unfocused and rambling. It needed a stronger story spine and clearer sense of direction. The triumphant ending felt anticlimactic, and any impact it has is blunted by an overly long denouement - it goes out Return of the King style.

Plus, some stuff just didn't work for me, a nerd with a pretty clear idea as to what the classic Superman mythos should be. Kate Bosworth didn't convey the chutzpah and brashness I associate with Lois Lane, and being saddled with a silent five-year old boy didn't help. Don't get me started on that frickin' kid. Plus - (SPOILER! Swipe Inviso-Text at your own risk!) I had a really hard time with them killing Jimmy Olsen like they did, with a big crystal stalactite through the chest. It was just gory and unnescessary. (end SPOILER)

However, when the movie clicks it really clicks. The high point of the film for me was a fantastic sequence where Superman has to rescue a malfunctioning space shuttle and a plummeting passenger jet at roughly the same time. It's a gripping, masterfully done scene that ends on a F$%# Yeah note that was pitch perfect.

The thematic focus in Superman Returns is the idea of Superman as world savior, a sort of post-modern secular messiah. That means that nearly all of the action sequences involve Superman rescuing normal folks from impending doom or Superman lifting progressively heavier objects rather than Superman destroying things, which is what I really want. Singer goes WAY overboard on the Jesus imagery, and after a while it becomes a running joke. I'm challenging somebody out there to start the Superman Returns Christ Metaphor Drinking Game.

I hope it does well, because I feel like Singer and Co have it in them to do a really good Superman movie. I just hope the next one has a tighter focus: Superman punching shit.

Monday, June 26, 2006

ULTRAFORCE #1 Malibu Comics, 1994

Ahh, Ultraforce.

I’m not sure if it would be accurate to call Ultraforce the flagship title of the late Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse superhero line. Ultraforce followed the Justice League and Avengers model, chronicling the adventures of a team consisting of heroes who all had their own solo books and a few lame filler heroes that rounded out the roster. The difference between Ultraforce and its more pedigreed antecedents was, while readers might be interested in reading about a team with Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America on it, they wouldn’t be as stoked to read about characters about whom they knew relatively little, like Prime or Hardcase.

Some background on Malibu Comics and their Ultraverse may be in order. Back in the go-go early Nineties, the comic book market was exploding. People were buying fifteen copies of every issue, special variant holographic chrome rainbow happy happy covers were commonplace, and comic book publishers sprung up seemingly overnight. Malibu was one of those ascendant upstart companies, and they attempted to do something that nobody has ever done successfully: create an entire superhero universe from the ground up.

They hit the ground running, publishing titles like Prime, Sludge, Mantra, Hardcase, and Ultraforce. After some initial success, Malibu sales started slipping and they began canceling books. Marvel Comics bought Malibu – some say to acquire Malibu’s computer-coloring department – and the company’s slow decline turned into a white-knuckle free-fall into suckiness. For a while, Malibu had top-tier talent working on their books, but after Marvel bought them, most of the experienced hands were shown the door and MC Hack and the Hackmasters took over many of the books. Some of the Malibu books were so awful that it makes you wonder if they weren’t deliberately run into the ground out of spite or contempt. Anybody who has read the final issues of Mantra will back me up on this.

For a while though, things looked good for Malibu. Case in point: Ultraforce #1, which was written by Gerard Jones, one of the more ubiquitous writers of the Nineties, with art by comics legend George Perez, who can draw rock very well.

Here’s my main gripe: The problem with making a complete superhero universe out of whole cloth is that you come up with all this backstory and create a complex, cohesive universe – and then you populate them with characters that nobody gives two shits about. The Marvel and DC comic book worlds have evolved into their present state over the course of decades, through trial and error. These fictional universes are staffed with characters who have risen to the top and stood the test of time. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman weren’t created in one long joint-smoking weekend, they have become icons over the course of years. Lesser heroes have fallen by the proverbial wayside, victim of the Darwinist ethic of pulp publishing. If it doesn’t sell, it goes.

I would argue that a book like Ultraforce should only be published after you’ve got some miles under your tires, when you know for sure that, OK, kids really like Prime but aren’t so crazy about Prototype. The problem with the just-add water approach to the Ultraverse and Ultraforce is that there wasn’t a huge fan base for certain characters and readers weren’t absolutely dying to see Prime and Prototype team up. The publisher doesn’t determine what characters are popular, the reading public does. Ultraforce felt premature to me.

I’m sure a Malibu creator would argue the point, but I would counter that any sales success that Ultraforce experienced had more to do with George Pereze and less to do with Hardcase & Co. Am I wrong? Opinions, please.

Wow, this is turning into a longer post than I had planned. I planned on taking a few cheap shots at Ultraforce and getting out, not writing a thesis on Malibu Comics.

The first Ultraforce storyline covered the formation of Ultraforce from a bunch of bickering, bitching heroes into a well-oiled machine full of bickering, bitching heroes. When they’re not fighting with each other, Ultraforce battles a powerful group of subterranean humanoids who have jacked a bunch of nuclear missiles for their own nefarious purposes. The bad guy is basically a lethal, butched-up version of The Mole Man or The Underminer.

The production values and art on this book are top-notch, but the story leaves me a little cold. It’s written in Jones’ characteristic wry style and it’s pretty to look at, but the characters are unlikable and shrill and all the yelling and arguing gets old really fast.

That’s Hardcase above. He needs to practice yoga or take some anger-management classes, because the dude is wound tight. In every other panel he’s hollering at somebody and smashing shit. Settle down, man. You’re going to bust an O-ring carrying on like that.
Aside from the previously mentioned Hardcase, Prime (a Captain Marvel analog) and Prototype (an Iron Man riff), Ultraforce is also staffed by Contrary (a proto-Emma Frost), Pixx (a girl with absolutely hideous hair), Ghoul (smelly dead guy with no useful combat powers whatsoever), and Topaz (a man-hating Amazon).

Topaz hails from Planet Lesbo, and finds herself accidentally teleported into our world – right in the middle of a football game. It’s kind of a cute scene – Topaz lands amidst the players and thinks she’s under attack, so she starts kicking ass on two football teams at the same time, and their damn ball, too. She takes a moment to berate the cheerleaders on the sideline:

The team forms after the heroes Prime and Prototype, who are both really kids, decide to take the fight directly to the Mole Men, or whatever they’re called. They’re outmatched: the head CHUD has wicked gravity powers that he uses to kick the shit out of the two half-cocked heroes. Prime, who is basically a super-being made of green proto-matter, gets his head blown off.

Hardcase rescues the two fallen heroes from a subterranean death trap, but he’s none too happy about it. Here he is yelling at Yahweh or Gerard Jones while he carries them up to the surface. Check out Prime’s squashed green head! Grody!

Clearly these subterraneans are too tough for one or two superheroes (called “Ultras”), so Hardcase decides to put on a show to raise money for the orphanage! No, wait – wrong story. Hardcase decides to assemble this rag tag bunch into, yes, Ultraforce!

Myself, I would elect somebody more even-keel than Hardcase, who undoubtedly reminded more than a few young readers of their abusive stepfathers. His reaction to everything is violence. Here he is upon learning that his Veronica Mars DVD is on backorder from Amazon:

I think “Heartattack” or “Hardened Artery” would be a better name for Hardcase. You need to deal with that anger, my man, before it kills you.

I have the remaining issues in the storyline, which I will quickly recap: Ultraforce wins. If memory serves, this story made it on to the short-lived Ultraforce cartoon, which was produced by the animation company DiC. I loved DiC cartoons because after the credits they had a little tag that identified their company – it showed the DiC logo and had a kid’s voice say: “Dick!”

What can I say, it doesn’t take a lot to make me laugh.

In closing, I say long-live Ultraforce and the Ultraverse, a comic book experiment that didn’t quite make it. You can’t fault them for trying.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Lame-Ass Villain Compendium

Never let it be said that I don't listen to my readers. That's what we're all about here at Dave's Long Box: craven populist boot-licking!

I had some requests/complaints about broken links for some of the Lame-Ass Villain entries, so here is a complete list. Click on the name of the lame-ass villain you would like to read more about!

The Vulture - Old guy + wings = lame.

Anaconda - My nickname in college. Believe it or not, Anaconda is female.

Man-Elephant - My other nickname in college.

Cheetah - Half-man, half-animal -- all pimp.

Turner D. Century - Must be seen to be believed.

Vibro - I can think of 100 better things to do with Vibro's powers than becoming a villain.

Slipknot - 20' of rope and a costume is all you need to become a villain.

Karkas - Despite the picture, he has no opposable thumbs!

Modam - Godamn!

Orca - There be whales here!

The Slug - Somebody else must have given The Slug his villain name.

Unus - That's his name, I didn't make it up.

Master Pandemonium - The original Master P

Dr. Dorcas - Dork-ass? Yes.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lame-ass villain #14: Dr. Dorcas

From the Wikipedia entry for the word "dork:"

Dork (n) Dork is a slang word for a quirky and usually socially inept person, or one who is out of touch with contemporary trends. The word often used synonymously with nerd and geek. In modern usage, the term can be applied without respect to the intelligence of the subject, but it has classically referred to those of sub-average intellect, an exception being when "dork" is used as a synonym for "nerd" and/or "geek." In that situation, high-intelligence (often of the bookish sort) but low social functioning is often indicated.

Dr. Dorcas.

You don't even have to look at the guy to know that this is not an A-list villain. Dorcas was renegade marine biologist that Namor beat up a few times. You read that correctly - a renegade marine biologist bent on world domination! How intimidating is that? That's like if Richard Dreyfuss's character from Jaws decided to be a super-villain.

He's such an easy target and is so obviously not cool that I feel a little sheepish making fun of him. I mean, where do you start? The name? The outfit? The incredibly unrealistic life goals? I don't know where to begin, so I shall not.

Dorcas allegedly died in the pages of Super-Villain Team Up #3, but in reality he moved to Glendale, AZ, where he lives in anonymous retirement and occasionally flies into a rage when those damn punk kids ride their bikes over his goddamn lawn.

"You kids stay off my goddamn lawn!"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

DETECTIVE COMICS #571 DC Comics, 1986

Detective Comics #571 was one of the first comics that I commented on when I started the blog back in April 2005. Those first few posts are painful to read now - I hadn't quite hit on the proper "voice" for the blog yet - but are mercifully short. I thought I would revisit this issue today, complete with actual scans and actual jokes.

Here's what I wrote Back in the Day:

"An issue from writer Mike Barr and artist Alan Davis’ run on Detective Comics.
"The Barr/Davis issues were fun retro romps through Giant Typewriter Land instead of grim slogs through Crime Alley. These issues feature the almost universally hated Jason Todd version of Robin, but I like them anyway – they’re just old school Batman & Robin stories told with style. I’m a huge fan of Alan Davis, who worked on this run with inker Paul Neary. Davis is one of the best artists working in comics today – his work is so clean and confident – I just think he’s the shit. I mean that in a good way.
"Much like the Silver Age comics they pay tribute to, this brief run of Detective Comics features stories that wrap up in one comic book and don't stretch out over multiple issues. This issue is a tightly plotted and drawn comic book that efficiently tell the story, then gets the hell out. Sure, it's a little cheesy, but intentionally so. I love it."

That about sums it up. This one-shot story pits Batman and Robin against the Pharoah of Phobias, The Scarecrow! Instead of his usual fear-inducing gas, this time The Scarecrow has mixed things up a little and uses fear-inhibiting gas as a blackmail* tool. That's what I like about old school Batman villains: they had gimmicks and costumes and shit, but in the end they were all about the Benjamins. The Scarecrow has an understandable motivation: he wants to get paid. In full.

The Duke of Dread doses a champion race car driver who refuses to pay an extortion demand with his new anti-fear gas, robbing him of all fear and self-preservation. The driver crashes in the middle of a race after doing something stupid, and his car goes up in flames. Dude is trappped. Lucky for him Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd, both big NASCAR fans, are in the stands drinking Coors Ice and sucking on chili dogs. They change into Batman and Robin and leap into action:

I know: what exactly are they swinging from in that first panel? Is there a low-flying blimp hovering over the racetrack, just off-panel?

Batman has Robin, umm, hose him down before he rescues the driver from the burning car, which leads us to this classic panel:

S-so... many... jokes... must fight it -!

With some effort, I will refrain from indulging in obvious and infantile humor. I doubt I could add anything new to the collective oeuvre of Batman & Robin gay humor anyway. And really, the whole Batman & Robin gay thing is sort of played-out, isn't it? Can't we just move on? Anyway, the sound effects design in this comic book is excellent - I love that shooosh hose effect.

Thanks to Batman & Robin, the driver survives the crash. The Scarecrow shows up in the guy's hospital room and demands money. The driver refuses. Bad call. Still under the influence of the anti-fear drug, the driver makes like R. Kelly and believes he can fly. He is mistaken.

I'm a big fan of Davis and Neary's version of The Scarecrow, who looks creepy and inhumanly gaunt. Eat a cookie, Scarecrow!

Things move fast in this comic. Within a few short pages The Scarecrow kidnaps Robin and doses Batman with his anti-fear gas, then lays out a series of elaborate and undoubtedly expensive death traps for Batman to navigate in his impaired state. So that's why The Scarecrow needs to rob people - quality death traps aren't cheap, you know.

Batman waltzes into The Scarecrow's traps, psychotically overconfident. Look at that cocky S.O.B.:

Chemically impaired, Batman traipses from one trap to another, which brings us to a page that will blow you away with its awesomeness. I refer to the scene where Batman bullfights semi-trucks:

As my homey Chris Sims would say: "YOU ARE NOW FREAKING OUT!"

There is further death trap hilarity and radness:

Damn, how is Batman gonna get outta that tight spot? I'll tell you: he ducks underwater and wedges himself in a corner and then breathes using air trapped in his cape, of course.

The Scarecrow is laughing his bony ass off and gloating about Batman's apparent death to Robin when a wet and pissed Dark Knight shows up. "Wha--? How did you escape?"

Again, quality sound effects. Batman hit Scarecrow so hard that he smeared the sound effect and apparently broke the villain's chicken neck as well. Do not get Batman wet, it just pisses him off. That cape weighs a frickin' ton when it gets wet and takes forever to dry. You try driving around in the Batmobile all night with a wet ass and see how happy you are.

There you are: a slightly more comprehensive look at a neo-classic Batman comic, complete with bad jokes. I've come a long way in one year.

*Common error: I used the word blackmail when I really should have used the word extortion instead. My journalism prof would be so disappointed.

Monday, June 19, 2006

MARVEL VS DC - DC/Marvel Comics, 1997

In 1997, the pillars of heaven shook, titans clashed, and universes collided.

I am of course referring to Marvel vs DC and/or DC vs Marvel, a cataclysmic crossover that pitted the superheroes from each fictional milieu against one another for the fate of their respective worlds. In this four-issue mini-series plotted by Dan “I Killed Superman” Jurgens, two colorful and gigantic pseudo-manga cosmic beings each embody their respective universes. I’d be embarrassed if my reality's avatar looked like a big blue Shogun Warrior – I would want our cosmic being to look like a giant floating Richard Belzer head. Just because it would be freaky as hell.

The premise of the story is simple and more than a little goofy. The red and blue cosmic beings, who are brothers in some way, notice each other and decide to fight it out for supremacy. These two titans hash out their differences by pitting the superheroes of their respective universes against each other in a contest. The winner's universe will reign supreme, while the loser's universe will be destroyed. Presumably these beings can throw meteors around and make suns go nova, so why they would want to settle things by having Robin fight Jubilee is beyond me.

Velociraptor versus Jubilee? Now we're talking.

Anyway, the readers were invited to vote for the winner of one of the big "title bouts," while the lesser matches were determined by the book's creative team. Basically the whole thing boiled down to a popularity contest, not a true appraisal of which hero would win. That's the only way I can explain how Storm beats Wonder Woman: X-Men outsells Wonder Woman, so Storm wins. Stupid people.

Let's play a fun game, shall we? We'll examine each match-up and then we will compare and contrast who the readers voted for with who would really win each bout, According to Dave. Actually, I'll play the fun game and you can just watch.

Check out the scoreboard below for a list of the combatants:

Hulk vs Superman

We’ll start off with an easy one.

Sure, The Hulk is allegedly the strongest being on Marvel's Earth, but the laws of superhero physics work a little different in the DC Universe. Over there, Superman isn't just the strongest being on Earth, he's the biggest dog in several light years. He’s so bad-ass that he can pull the moon out of orbit, wrestle angels, and fly into the sun. All Hulk does is smash shit. Big fucking deal. Can Hulk fly? Shoot lasers from his eyes? Chill a beer with his breath? Hear an ant fart in Minnesota? Outrun The Flash? Of course he can’t. Face it, Hulk may be hot shit in the Marvel Universe, but he’s just another villain-of-the-month for Superman.

The Man of Steel could fly up at super-speed, grab Hulk’s ankle, toss him into deep space, and still get back to the Daily Planet in time to finish that article before deadline. Come to think of it, why didn’t Superman just do that with Doomsday? Kal-El would be well served to remember the wise words of The Immortal from Robert Kirkman’s Invincible:

Dave’s Winner: Superman, hands down

Actual winner: Superman

Captain America vs Batman

This is a tough one. On the one hand, Captain America is at the apex of human physical development and is a master of combat with lots of experience taking out opponents ranging from Nazis to superhuman juggernauts. He kicks ass for a living, and business is good.

On the other hand, Batman is Batman. The conventional wisdom is that, provided Batman has enough time to prepare, he can’t be beat. The dude has taken out Superman more than once, who once described him as “the most dangerous man on earth.” If Superman calls you that, you must be doing something right.

In Marvel vs DC, they try to have their cake and eat it, too. Batman wins a brawl in the sewers between the two heroes, but only because Captain America is caught unaware by a sudden geyser of filthy, reeking toilet water that sprays him in the face, allowing Batman to get a lucky batarang shot in. Batman wins, but only by exploiting Cap’s bad luck.

I’m going to be a little more decisive and say that Batman would just flat out win by doing the one thing Cap won’t do: cheat! Batman cheats like a motherfucker! The man doesn't believe in fair fights, he's just interested in the outcome.

It would go like this: As they start fighting, Batman pops open a canister on his utility belt, releasing a colorless, odorless narcotic gas into the air. He needs Captain America to stay close enough to inhale the gas, so he uses a “rope-a-dope” ploy and lets Cap beat on him for a few minutes. To a casual observer, it looks like Cap is winning, but then the Marvel hero's vision starts to swim and his legs grow heavy. He sinks to one knee, dizzy… and then Batman pummels Captain America into oblivion, explaining how he has developed immunity over the years to the narcotic gas Cap has inhaled.

Then, when Cap is unconscious Batman takes permanent marker and draws all over his helpless foe and makes marshmellow eyes for him, which is really uncalled for, but funny.

Dave’s Winner: Batman: cheater!

Actual Winner: Batman and sewer geyser

Storm vs Wonder Woman

God, this pissed me off.

I can see how somebody could argue in favor of Storm - somebody stupid! I humbly submit that although Storm can summon tornadoes and hurricane-force wind and lightning and hot hail, Wonder Woman would still kick her ass. I'm going to be charitable and say that most of the people who voted for Storm probably weren't that familiar with Wonder Woman's powers - otherwise they would have voted differently.

Let me break it down for you. Wonder Woman can fly really fast. She has incredible reflexes (e.g., bullets and bracelets). She is hella-strong, which is one step below Superman. And, as I have argued previously, Wonder Woman is super-tough to the point of being bulletproof. Plus, she's a professional warrior with all manner of martial arts training. Wonder Woman is hardcore.
All she needs is one punch. Sure, she might get zapped by lightning, but BFD. That can't be any worse than getting knocked through a skyscraper by Superman. She'd shrug it off, fly up to Storm at supersonic speed, and punch her in the ear. One punch and it's over, baby.

Do you not see the wisdom of my words? The Amazon wins.

Dave’s Winner: Wonder Woman

Actual Winner: Storm

Spider-Man vs Superboy

I would be offended if I were Spider-Man and had to fight this clown.

Spider-Man wins. It's not even worth talking about.

Dave’s Winner: Spider-Man

Actual Winner: Spider-Man

Wolverine vs Lobo

Another mismatch.
At first this might seem like a good bout: two psycopathic scrappers who specialize in violence and mayhem. But think again. They grow 'em big and strong in the DC Universe, and despite my antipathy for Lobo, The Main Man would destroy Wolverine.
But that's not how it goes down in Marvel vs DC. Wolverine takes out Lobo in an off-panel battle, which is 500 different kinds of lame. Lobo goes out like a chump, Boba Fett style, and I'm here to tell you that wouldn't happen.
Again, the barometer for a DC character's power is how well one does against Superman. I wish I had thought of scanning this Superman comic I have that shows Lobo on the cover swinging Superman around in the air by his cape. If you can do that to Superman, you can certainly handle lil' old Logan. Plus, Lobo is the last of his race, the Czarnians, because he personally killed all the other Czarnians. All of them. That implies a certain level of competence and meanness, I think.
Dave’s Winner: Lobo
Actual Winner: Wolverine

Quicksilver vs The Flash

Now THIS should have been an off-panel fight. The Flash lives in the DC Universe, where physics are cranked all the way up to 11. He can tap into something called The Speed Force which basically means he can stop time and race around pulling down everyone's pants before they can even blink. Quicksilver is fast, but we're talking race-a-jet fast, not race-a-beam-of-light fast.

In the comic, The Flash wins as he should, but in such a way that Quicksilver preserves a shred of dignity. I think The Scarlet Speedster would have made quick work of the Scarlet Witch's brother.

Dave’s Winner: Flash

Actual Winner: Flash

Jubilee vs Robin

Jubilee: annoying X-Men sidekick! Robin: not-annoying Batman sidekick! Whoever wins - we lose!

Robin has a head-cold, so at the last minute I have substituted him with a hungry velociraptor. Run, Jubilee, run!

Dave’s Winner: Velociraptor

Actual Winner: Robin

Sub-Mariner vs Aquaman

Peter David scripted Marvel vs DC #2, which features an embarassing encounter between the Marvel and DC Kings of Atlantis, Namor the Sub-Mariner and Aquaman. I believe David was writing Aquaman at the time, and methinks I sense a little chauvenism creeping in the fight scene between the two undersea heroes. After trading jabs and jibes, Aquaman defeats Namor by commanding an orca whale to flatten him.

First of all, getting smothered by a whale wouldn't be enough to KO Namor. Second, Namor can fly. Third, Namor is about ten times as strong as Aquaman, whose own super-strength is rather ill-defined. Fourth, Namor has a battle cry: "Imperious Rex!" Aquaman's battle cry is: "Wait for me guys!"

I'm not saying it wouldn't be a fight, but Namor would kick all sorts of ass.

Dave’s Winner: Namor

Actual Winner: Aquaman

Elektra vs Catwoman

I'm inclined to say that an uber-competent she-ninja would beat an uber-competent cat-burglar, but let's decide things another way. Let's determine the winner by comparing the domestic box office totals of the crappy film Elektra with the excretory movie Catwoman.


Budget: $85,000,000 (estimated)
Gross: $40,202,379 (USA) (10/17/04)


Budget: $43,000,000 (estimated)
Gross: $24,409,722 (USA) (03/27/05)

Although Elektra only grossed $24 million to Catwoman's $40 million, it had about half the budget. And Terence Stamp, which tips the scales in the ninja's favor.

Dave’s Winner: Elektra

Actual Winner: Elektra

Thor vs Captain Marvel

"Verily, the God of Thunder shall smite yonder Big Red Cheese with thine enchanted mallet, Mjolnir!

"Gasp in awe as the Odinson metes out pain as only the Odinson can. Mine uru hammer shall strike his ear again and again until the heavens gape wide and the earth heaves and trembles and yon foe cries, 'Yield!' Watch as mine vanquished foe kneels before Thor and begs me not to strike him anon, like a starving cur trembles at the feet of his master! For glory in battle is the birthright of the Mighty Thor - I drink victory and sup on triumph! Forget it not!"

Dave’s Winner: Thor

Actual Winner: Thor

Silver Surfer vs Green Lantern

In Marvel vs DC they pit the Silver Surfer against young Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, and the Surfer comes out on top. This is as it should be; Silver Surfer possesses the Power Cosmic and Kyle is just a lucky punk with a magic ring.

However... everyone knows that Hal Jordan is the Real Green Lantern. If you threw him up against The Silver Surfer, Hal would win because he is Hal.

Dave’s Winner: Silver Surfer

Actual Winner: Silver Surfer

There you have it. As you can see, I concur with the outcome of most of the matches in Marvel vs DC, but there are a couple head-scratchers in there. Aren't you glad that I took the time to sort this all out? I know I am.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

JSA #10 DC Comics, 2000

One of the criticisms of the Goyer & Johns comic JSA is that the reader must be well versed in the history of the DC Universe in order to fully appreciate it. Basically, only nerds really like it. This may be true - having never not been a nerd, I can't say what a normal person would make of the continuity-steeped JSA books, with their emphasis on history and tradition.

I'm a big fan, however. In JSA, Geoff Johns and David "Blade" Goyer resurrected the venerable DC superhero team the Justice Society of America in a modern context. Staffed by veteran members and descendants of former team members, the JSA is a small army of heroes dedicated to crushing evil; cats like Dr. Fate, Hawkman, Wonder Woman 1.0, Black Canary, Captain Marvel, Wildcat, and Power Girl, to name a few. They mostly fight pimped-out versions of old fashioned villains, as in this issue.

I love JSA #10.

It's not a particularly original story: Wildcat fights alone against a squad of supervillains in the JSA headquarters. But as my man Roger Ebert says: "A [comic] is not about what it is about, but about how it is about it." Writers Goyer and Johns, with art team Stephen Sadowski and Michael Bair, cheerfully deliver a simple tale about one hero beating the shit out of the bad guys who are hunting him. Sound familiar? Yes, it's the plot to every other Wolverine story.

But this time, we gets us some Wildcat! In a bath towel, no less.

Johnny Sorrow and his krew the Injustice Society break into the huge JSA headquarters when nobody is home. Nobody but Wildcat, who is chillaxin' in the bath and talking dirty on the phone to Catwoman when trouble comes knocking. Johnny Sorrow, the floating mask/empty suit guy pictured below, is here for a mysterious artifact labelled "King of Tears" in the JSA museum, so he siccs his dogs on Wildcat while he gets what he came for.

Wildcat quickly gets dressed in his work clothes and proceeds to beat the shit out of the Society one-by-one, Bruce Willis style. A guy that can look that tough while wearing what is basically a floppy-eared kitty cat costume is truly something special.

Wildcat takes out Count Vertigo and then Geomancer, who goes down hard. Not only does Geomancer get rammed through a plate glass window by a motorcycle, but he also drops several stories on to a big bee hive. Yowtch.

Wildcat's narration and dialogue in this issue is hilarious. He sounds like a cross between a Raymond Chandler character and a professional wrestler. "Doling out beaucoup helpings of achy-breaky?" That's fucking priceless.

Next he kicks Icicle on to some sort of laser table in their infirmary for the Farrah Fawcett Logan's Run cosmetic surgery treatment. I'm not sure why the JSA have a laser torture table in their headquarters - I'm sure they use it for something. Maybe slicing huge wheels of cheese?

Wildcat drops Blackbriar Thorn down an elevator shaft and beats the holy bejeesus out of The Wasp, who he also tricks into electrocuting The Tigress, below:

In the end, Johnny Sorrow gets the "King of Tears" and teleports his Injustice Society away, minus Blackbriar Thorn, who is lying splintered at the bottom of the elevator shaft. The rest of the JSA get home, shocked to find an ungodly mess and a casual Wildcat who waits for them with a beer in hand, using a piece of Blackbriar Thorn as a toothpick.

It is fucking awesome.

I'm not an apologist for comics that deliberately aim low, but sometimes I like to read straight-up superhero violence delivered to me in an un-ironic way. There's nothing wrong with comics that aim to entertain on a base level, as long as they're done well, and JSA #10 is done very well indeed. Sadowski's penciling and layouts are tight and effective, and I think I may like Michael Bair's inking more than his pencils. The story is brisk and delivers the goods with a bit of wit and a lot of tough-guy dialogue.

Plus: Wildcat! How can you not like Wildcat, the guy who taught Batman to box? The guy with the floppy ears? Belching, skirt chasing, beer drinking, towel wearing man's man? The guy who beats up an entire team of villains with a broken arm and then wonders if Catwoman is around for a quick shag?

If I read this when I was twelve it would have rocked my world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No post for you, Dr. Jones!

Too busy, too busy! No time to post! No time! For long sentences!

Instead! Random pictures for you.

Too busy!

Geoff Johns' least successful new addition to Flash's Rogue's Gallery: Scary Hippy Roomate.

I feel like I may have posted this image before; perhaps it's because it's on my email auto-signature at work and I see it so frequently. Please forgive me if I have posted it before; I ultimately have only six archetypal jokes that I tell over and over again in slightly different form so it's of no surprise if this is a second appearance.

Anyway, 1981's Kill and Kill Again, the sequel to Kill or Be Killed, is (and I can say this with total confidence) the best South African martial arts movie ever made. Do yourself a favor and put that bad boy on your NetFlix list as soon as you get done with Karate Bear Fighter. You will thank me later.

Here's a real-life karate bear fighter! Sometimes bears win.

This is Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Off I go!

Busy busy busy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

WONDER WOMAN #4-6 DC Comics, 1987

In 1987, George Perez relaunched Wonder Woman, which had long been one of DC Comics most recognizable properties. Let's be honest - up until this point, Wonder Woman comics weren't very good. They sucked major ass, actually. Perez was tasked with overhauling the Amazon princess Diana and making her the equal of her male counterparts Batman and Superman.

He nailed it.

Perez (with scripter Len Wein) revisited Wonder Woman's origin from square one, with a heavy emphasis on her Greek mylthological origins. He kept some iconic elements and characters (Steve Trevor, Etta Candy) but reworked them for his own purposes. Perez wisely ditched some classic elements that didn't work with his more serious take on the character, like the Invisible Plane and Wonder Woman creator William Marston's fondness for bondage and all-girl marching bands.

The Ares storyline running through issues 4-6 of the series is Wonder Woman 2.0's first full-on adventure in Patriarch's World, aka 20th Century Earth. Diana is a fish out of water, trying to adapt to her new environment while spreading the Amazon tenets of peace through superior firepower. While she's trying to adjust, Ares, the Greek god of war, is hatching an evil if ultimately self-defeating plan that may wipe out all life on earth.

Over the course of three issues, Wonder Woman and her somewhat bloated cast of supporting characters are harried by Ares' agents until they finally figure out what his deal is. First there is Decay, the Joan Rivers of supervillains. "Her touch means death!" She has the power to turn anyone she touches into Keith Richards.

Here, Wonder Woman figures out that the key to defeating Decay is by using her magic lasso, which hurts like a motherfather if you're a demon:

After kicking Decay's shriveled ass all across Boston, Diana is lauded in the press, which has decided that she's a superhero and thus needs a superhero name:

Thus the name Wonder Woman is born! Since this is Boston, shouldn't it be "Wicked Strong Woman?" I kid, Boston! Stay sexy.

In the next issue, Diana and Co are that much closer to figuring out Ares' plan. They do battle with his kids, Deimos and Phobos, who are not attractive godlings at all. While Wonder Woman grapples with Deimos and his beard o' snakes, his troll-like brother Phobos steps up to take out her friends:

Phobos is aptly named, because he can rip your deepest fears out of your mind and make them For Reals. Here the supporting cast is menaced by their various fears:

Dude is afraid of cats? I can understand spiders and drowning and being buried alive - but cats? I know, I know - phobias are irrational fears, but man, if I had a fear of cats I would feel like a big pussy.

Thank you! I'll be here all week. Try the steak.

To be fair, the guy is facing off against a Giant Cat with Eyebrows, which anybody would be afraid of. Maybe the caption should read: "For the one called Matthew Michaels, the ancient fear of fuckin' huge cats with eyebrows!"

You're probably dying to know what Ares is up to, aren't you? Well, I'm going to tell you anyway. He has possessed an American general and a Russian general and their respective troops, causing them to simultaneously hijack missile silos in both Russia and The States. (1987, remember?) The two generals are going to trigger a massive global thermonuclear war, the ultimate expression of Ares dark art.

Wonder Woman and Her Amazing Friends get hip to the God of War's plot, and they battle the possessed troops inside a missile silo in an attempt to stop them from launching the missiles. Lots of 'splosions, lots of bullets-and bracelets action.

"Again they use the flashing thunder--? Is this their answer to every problem?"

Speaking as a man, Wonder Woman, I can say yes. Yes, the flashing thunder is our answer to every problem. The printer at work breaks? Flashing thunder. Can't figure out how much to tip the waiter? Again, bring the flashing thunder. In my defence, I should say that it's not the answer to every problem. Sometimes I bust out with my hurricane kick, and sometimes I use a mega-earthquake punch.

Ultimately, Ares and Wonder Woman face off in an otherworldly realm. It's not much of a face-off, really. Ares beats her up and calls her names. I really like Perez's design for Ares - he looks scary and powerful and very very tall. That's what a godly diet of ambrosia and nectar will do for you.

Diana turns the tables on Ares with her handy Lasso of Truth. Is that your answer to every problem, Miss Patronizing?

The unbreakable Lasso of Truth forces Ares to confront the reality of his plan: if he sets off a global nuclear war that wipes out mankind, who will worship him? Who will be around to wage war? Nobody, dumbshit! He needed somebody to point this obvious truth out to him? They should call it the Lasso of Duhh.

The two-page sequence where Ares hallucinates the ultimate consequences of his plan is brilliantly laid out and drawn, and is a great example of how sometimes comics can just kick ass over other mediums. It's the climax and high point of the story, and is just Pure Radness.

So there you go, Wonder Woman # 4-6. Do yourself a favor and go check out the trade paperback that collects these issues.

Oh, have I mentioned that there are flaming soldier zombies? Well, there are.