Wednesday, September 27, 2006


More WWII stuff for you instead of comic book stuff.

Yes, still on hiatus. Aww, I miss you, too. Did you do something different with your hair? It looks great.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


More stuff. I cut off the text on the right hand side, which should read: "The fictional German general Yngwie Malmstein."

Monday, September 25, 2006


Still on hiatus; here are some more pages from my little Afrika Korps comic thingy.

Dr. Scott's Dr. Doom Meme

Dr. Scott over at Polite Dissent kicked off this Dr. Doom meme, so I thought I would contribute. I'm always about a week behind when it comes to these blogosphere memes, but I'll bet I'm the only one who made an eye-fart joke, so that's something in my favor.

OK - still on hiatus. Pretend I'm not here and just carry on with your business.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Instead of proper content, here's a page from my home made illustrated guide to the North Africa campaign in WWII. It's an M-3 Stuart, The Haunted Tank for reals!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


I'm going to take a wee break from Dave's Long Box to work on a top secret project. I'm about halfway through writing this unnamed project and unless I finish it quickly certain people in California will send astronauts to kill me, just like the zero-G assassination scene in Star Trek VI. Nobody wants that, including myself.

In lieu of actual quality content, I'm going to go with my usual half-assed modus operandi and just post a bunch of sketches and crap.

Among other things, I am a big military history geek. Years ago I drew an illustrated guide to the North Africa campaign in WWII - apparently I had nothing better to do at the time. Here, then are some pages from that guide instead of the comic book goodness that you came here for.

Never fear! I shall return from hiatus ASAP.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Shameless pimping: Buy The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe

Humor me if you will as I engage in a little self-promotion. On November 1st The Official Handbook of The Invincible Universe #1 (of 2) from Image Comics hits the shelves at your local comic book shop and I want you, dear reader, to buy it. Why? Because I worked on that bastard!
Masterminded by Dusty Abell, The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe is an homage to the late Mark Gruenwald's beloved Marvel reference series from the Golden Eighties. It's an illustrated guide to Robert Kirkman's kick-ass Invincible comic, detailing all the characters in the series. Everyone's in here, from major characters like Invincible and Atom Eve to minor characters like Octoboss and my favorite, Bi-Plane. Hell, there's even a Science Dog entry.
A host of artists like Jason Pearson, Cory Walker, Brian Stelfreeze, Ed McGuinness, and more contributed new pin-ups for each entry, and none other than David Campbell himself (me) wrote many of the entries (particularly in the second issue). I got to join forces with Elliot R. Brown, the guy responsible for the Book of Weapons and Paraphernalia from the original OHMU series, which was very cool.
So make sure you order one from your retailer today! The Official Handbook of the Invincible Universe offers hours of reading entertainment, all delivered in the mighty Image manner!!! Enough has been said!
Behold Dusty's cover for the first issue:

Monday, September 18, 2006

BLADE THE VAMPIRE HUNTER #2 Marvel Comics, 1994

So I was flipping through Blade The Vampire Hunter #2 trying to come up with a few cheap jokes when I realized that this comic was a total rip-off of the first Blade movie. In the comic Blade goes into a club full of punk vampires and kicks ass with his black leather and his katana, just like in the opening scene in the Blade movie. Man, couldn’t the writer have been more original?

Then it hit me. This comic, under Marvel’s Midnight Sons (snicker) imprint, was published four years before the movie. Is it possible that Blade was in part inspired by this comic, Blade The Vampire Hunter #2?

I only ask because, holy shit, this comic is so bad.

Sure, in the comic there is no shower of blood and the vampire rave isn’t in a meat packing plant, but there are some weird similarities. In the opening fight scene in Blade, Donal Logue’s vampire character points a knife at Blade and yells: “Blade! Gonna jack you up!” or something to that effect. In the club scene in Blade The Vampire Hunter #2, our hero gets jumped by a sword-wielding British Nazi punk vampire who says – well, just read it:

“Gonna bleed you hard, man!”

I don’t even know what the hell that means. How do you bleed someone hard? That makes even less sense than “jack you up.”

I can just imagine Blade screenwriter David Goyer reading this comic and thinking, “This is brilliant! I’m going to use that scene in my movie!”

Okay, I’ll admit it, aside from that one scene, Blade the Vampire Hunter has little in common with the Blade film, which I loved. It has little in common with any quality comic, either. It has that stench of suck that pervades many books published during the mid-Nineties, the Dark Age of Comics. Rushed looking art, heavy inks, horrible computer coloring, and awkward dialogue. God, the dialogue…

For example, here’s Blade in da club, bottle full of bub, when he senses Dracula’s presence:

I don’t think that’s Dracula in his guts, I think Blade stopped by a taqueria truck on the way to the club. You gotta watch that shit, Blade – even daywalkers can fall prey to E coli.

But seriously, what kind of line is that? “I can sense him, like a viper of burning razor wire uncoiling in my guts!” It’s like that was written by a random metaphor generator. “I sense his presence, like a toothbrush made of lava scrubbing my perineum!”

Of course, Dracula does show up, as you might have guessed by the cover, above. Blade The Vampire Hunter #2 offers a new take on the legendary vampire. Here he is a muscular dude with huge hands, a cat whisker moustache, and a face like an ass. Behold:

Love the belt buckle; it looks like Dracula shops for accessories at Hot Topic. What the hell is he wearing, anyway? Take a look at his cape, the way it goes behind his arms. How could he even lift his arms wearing that? And how does he make his collar stick out like that? A lot of starch and under wiring, I imagine. It looks like his collar would bob and bounce as he walked, which I think would inspire snickers instead of dread. At the risk of sounding like a metrosexual, Dracula’s outfit is an utter disaster.

Fashion catastrophe aside, Dracula is still a bad-ass. He grows HUGE HANDS and mops the floor with Blade. Here’s Dracula in action, disemboweling Blade with his oversized mitts:

That panel is a really good shot of Dracula’s distinctive moustache, which defies gravity just like his collar and his hair. He reminds me of somebody, but I just can’t put my finger on it…

Blade The Vampire Hunter #2 may have been the partial inspiration for a scene in the Blade film, or it may not have. Regardless, I think anybody who has actually read this hackneyed comic will agree that it epitomizes that nadir of comic quality we know as the mid-Nineties. In other words: it sucks.

Who wrote it? Who did the art? Ah, heck – does it really matter? I don’t want to beat anybody up, I just want to mock the comic they produced. But when people wonder why Blade can be a popular film and TV character but can’t carry his own series – well, this is the reason why.

I leave you with one last look at Dracula’s hideously deformed mug, and I bid you, gentle reader, a good night.

Friday, September 15, 2006

For the Love of Blastaar

The other day I did a post about a Fantastic Four comic from the Byrne era which features not one but two villains from the Negative Zone, Annihilus and Blastaar. In my excitement about Annihilus, whom the ladies call The Living Death Who Walks, I completely neglected Blastaar, who is sometimes called The Living Bomb-Burst, his DJ name. And that, in a nutshell, is the story of Blastaar’s life: always upstaged by Annihilus, always destined to be the second most feared villain from the Negative Zone.

So anyway, I wanted to give Blastaar some love, and I know I’m not the only Blastaarhead out there. Who doesn’t love that big furry sumbitch with all his screaming and blasting and yelling?

A little background on Blastaar. He comes from The Negative Zone, that realm of Kirbyspace so often visited by the Fantastic Four. The Negative Zone is also the name of everything within a 20 foot radius of my desk on Monday mornings. Ha-cha! Little joke for you, there.

Anyway, Blastaar is a big Sasquatch looking motherfather who can shoot explosive energy out of his hands, thereby, er, blasting people. Hence his name. Blastaar also uses his huge mouth to yell and scream a lot. Seriously, look at the size of that freakin mouth.

Basically Blastaar looks like the love child of Animal from The Muppet Show and one of the savage Uruk-Hai from Lord of the Rings.

Blastaar is cute, but dangerous. If you tried to give him a hug he would hug you back, but he’d pull a Mice and Men on you and smother you. “Blastaar like human. Human smell nice!”

He doesn’t actually talk like that, he usually just screams BLASTAAR!!! while guitars wail and fireworks explode.
Believe it or not, Blastaar is the former king of the planet Baluur whose citizens rebelled against him and tossed his grey ass into The Negative Zone. There he has battled frickin’ Annihilus, his most bitter foe, on many occasions. Blastaar really has issues with Annihilus – and who wouldn’t? So although Blastaar is technically not from the Negative Zone, he is from the Negative Zone, if you know what I mean. I hope you do, because I don't...

Fun facts about Blastaar:
  • Blastaar has a son named Burstaar, which I believe is a Dutch hemmorhoid ointment as well.
  • Blastaar can fly like a rocket by shooting a low-intensity blast out of his fingertips. He can also clear a room with low-intensity blasts out of his ass.*
  • Blastaar eats apples whole.
  • Blastaar’s favorite film is the 1979 Barbara Streisand comedy The Main Event. Nobody knows why.

*I am so deeply sorry.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

By Request: The Severed-Head-Kissing Panel

I received a lot of (okay, one) requests for the panel in Grant Morrisson and Phillip Bond's Vimanarama where the Atlantean demon Ull-Shattan forces a member of the British Parliament to kiss the severed head of another MP. This macabre panel is noteworthy because it takes place in a comic book that otherwise has very little in the way of severed head kissing.

Now, I understand that cartoony depictions of forced necrophilic foreplay is not everyone's cup of tea, even if it is well drawn. Therefore, I have placed a picture of something cute in this post before the severed-head kissing panel for the benefit of the more sensitive or discriminating Dave's Long Box reader.

Here, then, is a cute picture of a baby panda:

Now move the kids away from the computer screen.

Here is the severed-head kissing panel:





There. That wasn't so bad, was it? It's all pretend.

Monday, September 11, 2006

VIMANARAMA Vertigo Comics, 2005

I’m not a dumb guy.

I mean, I’m not a genius or anything, but I like to think of myself as moderately but unspectacularly intelligent. I went to college, I read history books, I’m curious about the world and shit like that. So I don’t consider myself dumb. Even when I bend/break grammatical rules. Like this.

In my experience, knowledge is humbling. The more you learn about something the more you realize how much you don’t know and how there are people out there who are way, way smarter than you are and will always be way, way smarter than you are.

Grant Morrisson is one of those people. Damn that guy. Whenever I read his stuff I get the nagging feeling that I am appreciating his writing on only the most superficial level. If I were better versed in comparative mythology or existentialism or theater of the absurd or particle physics, perhaps then I would be able to explain Seaguy, for instance.

Take Vimanarama. I picked up the trade collection of this 3-issue Vertigo series from Morrisson and artist Phillip Bond and I really, really enjoyed it. But do I get it? And how would I know if I did get it?

Vimanarama is a comic book about family obligation, sacrifice, true love, responsibility, and giant god-like beings with ancient flying saucers who fuck shit up big time. Ali is a young Pakistani Brit who lives in Bradford, England who lives in a world that he has very little control over. He is the underappreciated go-to guy for his large Muslim family, expected to fix whatever problems arise. Ali is also expected to marry a girl that he has never met, which causes him great stress. “I’m going to hang myself is she’s ugly!” he declares melodramatically.

Ali’s control over his life doesn’t exactly increase when he discovers a vast subterranean realm under his father’s corner store. While searching for his errant nephew in the weird underground realm Ali meets Sofia, his wife-to-be, and a race of demonic beings from ancient Atlantis who are up to no damn good.

Fortunately, Ali and Sofia also release the Ultra-Hadeen, a group of super-powered Hindu demigods from ancient India/Pakistan led by Prince Ben Rama. They are shocked by the sad state of things and intend to save the world from the Atlanteans and ourselves.

Unfortunately for Ali, Prince Ben Rama is in love with Sofia, who is his destiny, the Mina to his Vlad. How do you compete against a demigod?

That’s the basic set-up. Vimanarama is presented in a light-hearted and snappy way in both writing and art. Tonally it lies somewhere between a teen romance movie, a Bollywood musical, and an alien invasion epic.

The bad guys, led by Ull-Shattan, are like Hindu demons by way of Jack Kirby. They rampage and murder their way across the U.K. in glowing vimana spaceships because, well, they are “cruel to the weak.” I’m not sure the book needed a panel of Ull-Shattan making a naked member of Parliament kiss a severed head, but it does establish how evil they are.

He is going to make that dude KISS THE SEVERED HEAD!!!

Phillip Bond’s artwork in Vimanarama is incredible. He’s equally capable of drawing the streets of Bradford as he is of drawing rampaging Kirby demons. His work is cartoony but not comical – Vimanarama looks and feels like the pop fantasy that it is. In the transcendental sequences of the story, Bond’s design chops are really evident:

For my money, the best shot in the book is a bitchin’ double-page spread near the beginning of Ali riding his bike down a rainy street while a Bollywood-style musical number unfurls in the background behind him. It perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the story and fills me with comic book love.

Sorry about the crappy scan, but come on! How cool is that shit? Doesn’t that make you smile a little, or has your heart grown cold and hardened against the charm of spontaneous musical numbers in the street?

Vimanarama may sound like an off-beat but somewhat straight-forward story, and it is. It’s not perfect – sometimes the book’s whimsy seems forced, but for the most part, Vimanarama is a compelling comic confection.*

But do I get it? I have this nagging feeling that I’m just looking at Vimanarama on a superficial level, that there are people out there who think it’s a touching commentary on the nature of free will, or a subtextual meditation on Being, or some other deep shit. I am not one of those people and it is bugging me! I want to grab Vimanarama and shake out all the secrets that it holds!

The title, for instance: Vimana are trippy magical Hindu flying machines, sort of proto-flying saucers. Rama is the name of an ancient culture in northern India and Pakistan as well as Prince Ben’s last name. Hence, the title could mean “magical flying machine of an ancient Hindu culture.” Or it could mean “magical flying machine of the demigod.” Or it could mean “a jubilant overabundance of magical flying machines” if we choose to read –rama as a suffix similar to –palooza.

You see what I mean? That’s just the fucking title. For all I know, the love story in Vimanarama between Ali and Sofia is a gender-reversed modern interpretation of an archetypal romance from ancient Vedic texts and I am just not well read enough to realize it. Ull-Shattan probably represents self-doubt and is based on some Zoroastrian demon worshipped by Aleister Crowley, while the Ultra-Hadeen represent the virtues of man. I’m still reeling from that last issue of Alan Moore’s Promethea, my mind isn’t up to the challenge of decoding Morrisson. I’m going to have to have my wife read it and explain the Secret Metaphor to me.

Having said all that in a hopefully tongue-in-cheek manner, I can heartily recommend Vimanarama to just about anybody that can make it past the one kissing-the-severed-head scene. It’s an enjoyable read on any level.

*Ouch! Minus ten points for an awfully awkward alliteration.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What's Distracting Patricia?

Dave Lartigue, the Legomancer himself, asks the timeless question: "What's distracting Patricia?" Those interested are encouraged to visually speculate as to what exactly is driving Patricia to distraction in this panel. My Patricia is bothered by visions of a horrible job site accident involving delicate fingers and merciless, grinding gears. No wonder the poor dear can't focus!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

FANTASTIC FOUR #290 Marvel Comics, 1986

One could make a compelling argument that the villains in DC Comics are better than the villains in Marvel Comics, or visa versa. I don’t know whose Rogue’s Gallery is better. How can you decide when you have to factor in cats like The Joker and Dr. Doom? I mean, The Joker is a bona fide cultural icon, but if there is one thing I’ve learned in my decades of comic book reading, it is that Doom reigns supreme. It's a tough call.

I will save the debate as to the relative merits of DC and Marvel villains for another day and instead focus on one area of villaindom where Marvel clearly reigns supreme: The Ranting Powerhouse.

Marvel has a ton of these guys: Mr. Hyde, Abomination, The Wrecker, The Executioner, Rhino, Terrax, even The Hulk… These are individuals who throw cars down city streets while screaming about how they are the strongest of all or how their power is supreme or how all will bow before them.

Fantastic Four #290 features not one but TWO Ranting Powerhouses: Blastaar and Annihilus. You cannot get better villain names than Blastaar and Annihilus. Except for Dr. Doom.

Take a look at my man Annihilus. Gaze upon his beauty and despair:

This guy has all the classic traits of a Ranting Powerhouse. He refers to himself in third person. He's enamored with his own power. He brags and is prone to wildly hyperbolic statements. Annihilus also speaks VERY LOUDLY. The only thing he is missing is a mountain of smoldering skulls to pose on or a mini-van to hurl.

It may not look it, but Ranting Powerhouses like Annihilus are very concerned with brand identity. They have a certain image to maintain and cultivate in order for them to be successful at what they do. Annihilus is all about annihilating things, so the Annihilus brand reflects that. He has a monstrous, intimidating appearance that communicates, "I am dangerous. Look out." Annihilus reinforces his brand by a) annihilating things, and b) raving maniacally. If nobody is afraid of a Ranting Powerhouse, he's doing something horribly wrong. As long as Annihilus stays focused and maintains his brand behavior consistently, the Annihilus brand is effective.


Now that is effective word-of-mouth image marketing. The Invisible Woman has prior experience with Annihilus and knows that his behaviour is consistent with his brand image - he annihilates things. She communicates this to She-Hulk, but little does she know that she is quoting literally from the Annihilus press release: "...he lives only to destroy, to annihilate..." She-Hulk's first impression of the Annihilus brand is exactly as desired.

None other than Reed Richards himself is also caught up in the Annihilus hype:

If that isn't brand reinforcement, I don't know what is. That image should be on Annihilus's website and on his business cards, it's perfect.

Okay, jeez, enough of that joke. That went on for a while, didn't it? Sometimes I don't know when to stop.

I realized that in all my excitement about Annihilus, I neglected to get a decent scan of Blastaar, which is a pity because he is kind of cute in a Tasmanian Devil way. He looks like the biker dad of Animal from The Muppet Show. Look, there he is cowering at the bottom of the panel:

I don't know that I have ever talked about John Byrne's lengthy run on Fantastic Four. I came to them late and collected and read the back issues. When I worked in a comic book store in college, I was responsible for sifting through all of our backstock and culling books that would never sell at back issue prices or that we had way too many of. I decided that we had way, way too many of the Byrne Fantastic Four comics so I put them in the quarter bins at the end of my shift, and then I bought them all at a massive discount and I was happy.

Boy, was I happy.

This might sound blasphemous, but to me, John Byrne's version of FF is THE definitive version, the classic model. I had only a fleeting exposure to the characters when I was growing up, so to me, this IS the Fantastic Four. I could do a whole week on just the Byrne issues; he wrote and drew a ton of great FF stories that expanded on but remained faithful to Stan & Jack's original model. You could tell Byrne held the characters in a certain reverance and was really engaged in making the book, which was likely a lifelong dream of his. Sure, the book started to lose steam towards the end, but for my money Byrne had a great run on the book.

One of things I like about Byrne's earlier work is that he teamed up with some great inkers. I really prefer seeing Byrne's pencils inked by somebody other than himself; I think it forces him to do tighter pencil work. This issue is inked by affable Al Gordon, who does a decent job with all the cosmic stuff and spaceships...

Now that is some cool shit right there.

I wasn't so crazy about Gordon's inking when it came to faces and hair. I'm not sure what it is, perhaps Gordon's style is not organic enough or he doesn't use a heavy enough line - somehow his faces look off. Of course, he had the unenviable task of inking the Frightful Haircut version of The Invisible Woman in FF #290:

Here's a tip for all you ladies out there who are considering going down to SuperCuts with their brothers to get matching haircuts: don't. It is not flattering. Look at her - no wonder she's pissed, she must have caught her reflection in a shiny surface and seen her hair! She Hulk is laughing her ass off in the background and Conan O'Brien back there doesn't look happy either.

Well, that's all for today. What? What do you mean, "what's the comic book about?" You got a couple of cheap gags, now you want a plot synopsis, too?

True believer, if I told you the terrifying tale of fright and fury found in Fantastic Four #290, the pillars of your tiny world would be rocked and you'd react just like Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. :

'Nuff said! Excelsior!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


The other day I made the mistake of describing Transformers as a “dumb cartoon.” Here’s the quote:

“While writing a lengthy post about his intention to boycott Michael Bay's Transformers movie because it doesn't slavishly replicate the dumb cartoon he watched as a kid, lightning strikes and merges a pizza-eating fanboy into his computer. Gifted with techno powers and an enormous sense of entitlement, Deathblog travels the Internet flaming all those who disagree with his petty, hypersensitive ranting.”

Some folks out there took offense and I received some feedback from Dave’s Long Box readers. Skip Jordan offered the most lucid response:

“I was with you until you called the Transformers "dumb". He-Man was a dumb cartoon. Thundercats was a dumb cartoon. Transformers was not dumb. In fact as far as kid's cartoons went it was one of the smarter ones. And speaking as one of those fanboys, I can say we're not upset about Michael Bay and Don Murphy for not "slavishly replicateing" the old cartoon (nobody was doubt (everybody was expecting some changes), but for that hack Michael Bay turning it into a generic crappy sci-fi movie bearing little resemblence to the original movie, all while altering the characters beyond the point of recognition.”

I can dig that. Hey, I bitched up a storm after suffering through Batman & Robin.

Skip seems like a passionate but rational person. But of course, for every Skip there is a j*******@, a person with a rapier wit and some issues with homosexuality who thinks that I am “gay” for “hating on the Tarnsformers [sic].” j*******@ also suggested that – and this hurt – nobody cared about “my gay Red Rockets” and that haters like myself should fuck ourselves.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I am not a big fan of Transformers, GI Joe, He-Man, Thundercats, or any of those cartoons that existed solely to market toys. (I don’t object to the commercialism, I just don’t dig the content) I was more of a Legend of the Overfiend kid.* Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

I will say that Transformers was by far the least dumb of all of them, and the Transformers animated movie was actually pretty kick ass. I can't diss anybody for liking Transformers - look at all the goofy crap I like. I review bad comics from my collection because I have paid money for many, many bad comics.
I certainly don't mean to imply that anyone who has some trepidation about Bay's movie is a hysterical fanboy; far from it. But I can't get behind "fandumentalists" who feel personally insulted or attacked when their favorite comics, cartoons, or whatever are changed or translated into another medium. They lack perspective and decorum and exhibit a sense of entitlement that borders on pathology. Many of them are dicks.

As with any social movement or sub-culture, there is an extreme fringe whose views are not shared by the majority, or at the very least not shared with fanatic intensity. Fans are no different. A common and recurring theme in fandom is a rigid devotion to a “classic” model of their obsession. Any deviation from that model, any disruption of the status quo, is a personal attack against the fandumentalist.

You know the guy: “I’m boycotting the Super Mario Brothers movie because John Leguiazamo doesn’t have a moustache. As far as I am concerned, if they don’t have moustaches, they’re not the Super Mario Brothers, they’re the Super Gay Brothers! It’s just a slap in the face to the fans!”

A good example is the reaction that some fans of the show Firefly had to the character Wash’s death in the movie Serenity. SPOILER! Man, I’ve got to get better with my spoiler timing. I read some super-pissed LiveJournal posts about that. People were genuinely hurt and pissed off at Firefly creator Joss Whedon for killing off “their” character. To paraphrase, Wash’s death was “a big fuck-you to the fans” and soured some people on the whole Joss Whedon Experience.

"They lack perspective and decorum and exhibit a sense of entitlement that borders on pathology. Many of them are dicks."

Then there are the Transformers fans, some of whom are very upset about the upcoming movie from the eternally shaking camera of Michael Bay. Some pictures of the Transformer robots have been leaked on the Internet, provoking some negative reactions. I gather that some folks feel that the robot designs suck. I’ll grant you, the movie version of Megatron looks like The Guyver, but Bumblebee (is that his name? The yellow one?) looks pretty cool.

It goes on. The murder of Blue Beetle in Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Greedo shooting first in the revamped Star Wars. Hulk Hogan becoming Hollywood Hogan. Star Trek: Enterprise. The rape and murder of Sue Dibny in Infinite Crisis. Iron Man blowing his secret identity by saving a cat. Batman ice skating. There are lots of different ways to piss off loyal fans.

And you know, all the stuff I just mentioned kind of pisses me off to some degree as well, except for the Hulk Hogan thing. I think my biggest fanboy wig-out must have been when I watched Tim Burton’s Batman movie. I didn’t mind that Batman couldn’t move his head or that Alfred let Vicki Vale into The Batcave or that Commissioner Gordon was like a keystone cop. What I hated most was the killing, specifically the scene in which Batman drives the Batmobile into The Joker’s Smilex plant via remote control and drops a hubcap bomb, killing all his henchmen. Batman doesn’t fucking kill people, Tim Burton!!! That’s just missing the whole damn point of the character! Man, that pissed me off to no end. I was ranting in the movie theater parking lot afterwards.

But that was it. I’m not going to boycott a company or start a petition or an Anti-Ice Skating Batman Club or personally insult those involved or flame anybody that disagrees with me. Why?

Because it’s not my character. Sadly, I don’t own Batman.

Sure, I have a metric assload of Batman comics and more than a few toys and I’ve seen all the movies and own the Animated Series and I would consider myself a fan. I happen to think Batman is cool and I feel a certain connection to the character. In my mind, the classic model of Batman would be the Marshall Rodgers version mixed with the Neal Adams version. That’s what I read when I grew up, and for me Batman will always have a blue cape and cowl and that bright yellow emblem on his chest. That is Batman.

But guess, what? Warner Brothers owns Batman, and they can give him nipples or ice skates or replace him with Azrael or give him a car that drives up walls or make him into a condescending ass or make Ballroom Dancing Batman figures or do whatever the hell they want. And me, the fan? I just have to sit there and take it.

It’s cool, though, because there’s a ton of Batman shit. The movie Batman and Robin doesn’t make Year One or Batman and The Monster Men any less cool. They can make Polar Disco Batman figures for all I care, I’ll always have the Neal Adams issues. So now I pick and choose what Batman stuff I want to get and ignore everything else. I understand and accept that Warner Brothers has to make money off of Batman in order for me to keep enjoying select Batman products.

What it comes down to is I think fandumentalists labor under a lack of recognition of economic reality, an inappropriate sense of ownership, and a weird sense of entitlement.

Let’s just take Transformers again. The studio and Michael Bay want – need – that movie to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, not just the hard-core fans. You can just see the meeting:

“OK, we need a human in there as the audience’s eyes into the world of these giant fucking robots.”

“Like in Thunderbirds.”

“Right. We can’t have these giant goddamn robots on the screen the whole time, we have to have a person. Preferably an annoying child. We’ll spend most of the movie on the annoying child to keep the budget down. And we’ll create a bunch of new Transformers for merchandising, make ‘em look like those Chinese giant robots.”

“Japanese, sir.”

“Those, too. What about a girl Transformer? Get a little robot ass up there.”

“I’ll talk to Hasbro, sir.”

I’m just saying, in a roundabout and ha-ha-aren’t-I-funny way, that the giant inhuman conglomerate that owns the Transformers is not interested in them for sentimental reasons, they want to pull in some cash. They can’t alter the property too much or there’s no brand recognition and thus no brand loyalty, but they must alter it to meet their needs, and they will. This frequently pisses off purists, but it’s unavoidable.

The late, lamented Fanboy Rampage sifted through the message boards and blogs to find nuggets of hostile, histrionic hissy fits from overzealous fans. As a fan of Fanboy Rampage, I was frequently appalled but never shocked by the spectacular heights of indignity and spite that a fan can achieve.

Lest anyone think I am picking solely on militant Trekkies (sorry: Trekkers) or rabid Nightwing groupies or any obsessive fan of genre media, I should put in a disclaimer and a defense of fandumentalists.

Fanboys don’t riot and kill people when their favorite comic book or TV series gets cancelled. They react not with violence, but with communication. Sometimes they communicate like assholes, but it is communication regardless. Sure, the fandumentalists among us may overreact to developments in their favorite fictional world, but let’s put it in perspective. I’ve never seen people burning cop cars out in front of ComiCon. “What!? They cancelled Birds of Prey? BURN, SAN DIEGO!!!

If you want to find true pathological behavior you’ll have to look among the millions of sports fans for those fanatical few who lack a sense of perspective (i.e., “It’s only a game.”) and like to go totally batshit loco when their team wins/loses. Because really, nothing celebrates a World Series win like an old-fashioned riot. Go Sox!

As I draw this post to a patronizing finish, I would encourage everyone to maintain a degree of perspective and civility. The anonymity of the Internet makes the need for civil discourse even greater. Do you really need to get in a flame war with some 13-year old who thinks Mike Mignola sucks? Because that kid’s an idiot, fuck that kid.

And even if you violently disagree with some chump about the best Stargate: SG1 episode or something, what the hell, at least you are communicating with another human being instead of beating on his dumb ass.

And that’s something at least.

*I’m kidding, Mom! I was more of a StarBlazers and Speed Racer kid.

Friday, September 01, 2006

DEATHLOK Marvel Comics, 1990

If there’s one thing that bugs me about Deathlok, Marvel Comics’ cyborg with a heart of gold, it is that freaky-ass nose of his.

Dude doesn’t even have a nose, he’s just got this pair of sucking air holes where his nose should be. I know he’s going for this whole zombie-cyborg look, but I just find the whole thing disturbing and hard to look at. At the risk of sounding shallow, I have a tough time rooting for a hero with a nose that would make Michael Jackson flinch in horror.

That’s just me, though. I'm a superficial turd.
Other people seem to have no problem with Deathlok – the character has been around since his first appearance as Deathlok the Demolisher in 1974’s Astonishing Tales #25 and has been featured in a number of comics, including this four-part 1990 mini-series Deathlok, by writer Dwayne McDuffie and assorted artists. There’s even a Deathlok film in development, slated for a 2008 release. Don’t hold your breath for that one. I don’t think the world is ready to watch a movie about a guy with no nose, no matter how many explosions there are in it.

The Deathlok featured in this series is version 2.0 of the character. The original Seventies Deathlok was a cyborg from the frightening futuristic world of… 1985. That’s right, the mid-Eighties, a dysotopian future of mutants, flying cars, sliding sidewalks, Big Brother, and talking farm animals. In the Deathlok mini-series, writer Dwayne McDuffie updates the character a bit but keeps the core character concept and the freakish pig nose recognizable.

Deathlok is about a pacifist computer programmer guy whose brain is dropped into a cybernetic killing machine by the guy’s boss. We have labor laws now to prevent employers from using your brain in cyborgs without written permission, but back in the Nineties, corporations could get away with shit like that. The peacenik brain overrides the lethal programming of the Deathlok cyborg and uses it as an instrument of justice –which just means he shoots a lot of people in the knee caps instead of the face.

The first issue, with Jackson Guice art, is the best installment of the mini-series and works as a “pilot” for the rest of the series. It establishes all the characters and the status quo for the story and actually gets you to sympathize with the principled guy stuck in the body of a killing machine, unable to be with his wife because he’s – choke! – a monster!

Hey Deathlok, Darkman called and he wants his sub-plot back when you're done using it.

Anyway, the first issue is definitely the strongest both in terms of art and story. Things start to slide a little in the second issue and totally go to hell by the fourth and final chapter. The story loses focus and the art goes from decent to just OK to Jesus God what is that? The rotating squad of inkers doesn’t help matters. They make Deathlok look different every other page. His freakish snout is the only constant.

As the series progresses, the story gets as wacky as the art. Deathlok fights these giant robot ants that look like they were designed on a budget:

You know, I bet you when Dwayne McDuffie was writing the script he probably thought the giant robot ants would turn out looking cool. From a design perspective, there are a lot of things an artist could do with robot ants. Sadly, the ants that actually show up in Deathlok look cheap and awkward, like something one would see in a low-budget BBC science fiction program.
I will cop to a hypocritical bias here: if the giant robot ants were created in the 70's by Jack Kirby or Carmine Infantino I would probably love them and gush about how cool and retro they were. I know; it's not fair.
Moving on: at one point in the series - I shit you not - Deathlok saves a young couple from being crushed by a giant falling hot dog. I can prove it, look:

OK to be fair, the hot dog is actually a huge billboard or prop or something that gets knocked over during a fight. I just had to include that panel because it looks so goddamn weird. Only in comics, folks.

Hot dogs and giant ants notwithstanding, by the final issue things have gotten out of hand – as evidenced by Deathlok #4’s horrendous cover. Behold:

It looks like a 12-year old drew that cover. In the back of a bumpy school bus. With his left hand. And his eyes closed. I guess Deathlok was finally victorious over his true enemy, Editorial Quality Control. I mean, am I wrong, or is that an awful cover? Everything but the logo sucks ass.

The Deathlok mini-series was popular enough to launch an ongoing series that lasted a couple of dozen issues, if memory serves. It was OK, I guess. I can't say I remember it very well.

You know, I wish Marvel had riffed on the original concept a little more and had launched a whole family of cyborg titles, all tailored to very specific micro-markets. Imagine the possibilities…

Deathwok – Asian chef Martin Yan turns into a cybercuisine killing machine. This Iron Chef will serve your ass to you with a nice plum sauce!

Deathrok – Megadeath front man Dave Mustaine – part man, part machine, all metal. With his cyber powers he hunts down all those mean kids who made fun of him for playing D&D in high school. Incidentally, the Megadeath song “Psychotron” is loosely based on the Deathlok character. I can't decide whether that is cool or kind of sad. I'll go with "cool."

Deathlog – A radioactive termite bites a normal cedar log, turning it into an inanimate assassin. Beware, evil! Deathlog will roll down stairs and crush your ass!

Deathjog – After running guru James Fixx ironically dies of a heart attack while jogging, a shadowy government agency merges his legs and respiratory system into the chassis of a killing machine to take on villains such as In-Line Hater and Shinsplint.
Deathblog - While writing a lengthy post about his intention to boycott Michael Bay's Transformers movie because it doesn't slavishly replicate the cartoon he watched as a kid, lightning strikes and merges a pizza-eating fanboy into his computer. Gifted with techno powers and an enormous sense of entitlement, Deathblog travels the Internet flaming all those who disagree with his petty, hypersensitive ranting.
Wait, you actually don't need superpowers to do that...