Friday, April 27, 2007

UNCANNY X-MEN #202 Marvel Comics, 1986

One thing they kept in mind during the Golden Eighties was that every issue of a comic book was somebody’s first issue. This maxim has helped craft some of the classic conventions associated with American superhero comics, such as thought balloons, clunky expository dialogue, soliloquies, etc. Few people in my mind have reached the level of mastery at creating accessible pop fiction by using those conventions like Chris Claremont has.

Claremont is associated with The Uncanny X-Men, a book that he wrote for seventy-five years straight. Many of the themes and characters and plotlines we associate with the X-Men burst like Athena from Claremont’s head. He is Mr. X-Men (which sort of sounds like a Mexican wrestler.)

Back in the mid-Eighties, before the franchise’s inexorable slide into suckiness, Chris Claremont and artist John Romita Jr were cranking out some excellent X-Men books. This is one of my favorite Uncanny X-Men periods, the Good Magneto Era, which is characterized by Romita’s well-structured art, a hideous skunk haircut for Rogue and a Mohawk for Storm, and a reformed Magneto who is honor-bound to embrace Xavier’s methods and join his old adversaries the X-Men. This period seemed to strike the perfect balance between emo melodrama, sprawling high adventure, and yes, lesbianism. Because yay lesbians! I heart Storm and Kitty!!!

One thing Claremont was really good at was creating big superhero fight scenes. He used every tool and convention of the medium to create big battles that the casual reader could follow, because between the expository dialogue, thought balloons, and narrative captions, the only way you couldn’t tell what was going on was if you couldn’t read.
Or see.

With the current focus on Mametian dialogue and adopting cinematic values on to comic books , and the disdain many modern readers hold for thought balloons, I’m afraid comics like Uncanny X-Men #202 might seem quaint or old-fashioned. And in a sense, they are. When you throw Claremont’s distinctive writing tics into the mix, books like these seem as unnatural and stylized as Kabuki theater. Therein lays the drawback and the beauty of books like this, where naturalism takes a backseat to the true goal of the book: tell an involving story that anybody can pick up and understand.

Personally, I love these old Claremont books because c’mon, it’s the frickin’ X-Men, not Glengarry Glen Ross. How realistic do you want them to be? One of the fun things about old school spandex punch/kick comics is how unique they are as a storytelling medium. Thought balloons and overly explanatory dialogue are both a necessity and a part of their charm.

Today – and I’m generalizing like a mofo here – comics are so self-conscious and embarrassed by their heritage that most refuse to use the full spectrum of tools available to creators. I’m just guessing, but de-compressed wide-screen continuity porn holds little allure to the new reader – and industry-wide sales seem to back me up on that.

Anyway, the comic. This is a crossover issue that ties into the Secret Wars II mini-series, during which an all powerful David Hasselhoff looking bastard with a white track suit and a mullet comes to Earth to bug the shit out of mankind. His name was The Beyonder, a cosmic being more annoying than Mr. Mxyzptlyk and The Impossible Man and Q combined. Seriously, there’s something about The Beyonder that just takes me there, you know? Makes me violent.

In Uncanny X-Men #202, young X-Man Rachel Summers (aka Phoenix 2.0) confronts The Beyonder in San Francisco with her own nigh-omnipotent powers. Rachel is from a dystopian future where she served as a “hound,” using her telepathic powers to track down mutants for the giant purple Sentinel robots to destroy. The Beyonder can sense that Rachel has some issues about her involvement with giant purple robots, so he presents her with a scenario where she can ease her guilt. Said scenario involves siccing a bunch of Sentinels from the future on her X-Men buddies and encouraging Rachel to save them, of course.

I loves me the Sentinels. They are giant purple robots from the future who explain everything they're doing in really loud voices. How can you not get behind Sentinels?

I’ve always admired the way Claremont arranged his fight scenes. The guy was a pro. They weren’t just panel after panel of guys slugging each other and GUHHH!! sound effects – Claremont packed his battles with dramatic tension, narrow escapes, reversals of fortune, last-minute rescues, cheesy one-liners, clever applications of super-powers, and lots and lots of talking.

Here Good Magneto layeth the smacketh down on an Omega-series, using his magnetic powers to funnel the extreme cold of outer space (don’t ask), freezing the robot. In a panel or two Rogue will blast through the brittle Sentinel at full-speed, shattering his purple ass. F*&% Yeah! That's good stuff.

Magneto turns the City by the Bay into a big snow globe, and the fight continues elsewhere. Colossus is about to get smooshed by a big bell-bottomed boot when he's bailed out by his former girlfriend, Kitty Pryde, who can phase through solid matter. How do you know she can phase through solid matter? She tells you - FIVE TIMES!

Colossus counter attacks by swatting the Sentinel with a light post. The Sentinel practically laughs at Colossus, until the lamp post lodges in his torso. Kitty Pryde has made Colossus and the big pole immaterial, but when he lets go, the pole solidifies inside the robot. Psych your mind, robot!

Phoenix flies up and channels 100 giga-shitloads of energy into the lamp post, frying the Sentinel. Game over. Then she goes and gives The Beyonder the Mark V Open Hand Strike. Dick.

Is this comic perfect? No. Is it more than a little overwrought and verbose? Oh yes. But this was comics before the Age of Irony, the Age of Decompression – when Claremont was king and the target audience was actually below 18. Fans love to bitch about Chris Claremont and how his best work is long behind him, but I’m not so sure. I think Claremont is writing the same kind of books today as he was back in The Day, but the audience has aged and industry standards have changed.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my post-modern meta-textual self-referential cinematic comics as much as the next guy, but every now and then I pine for the days of crappy color separation and thought balloons and the smell of newsprint.

Because I’m old.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fun Google searches

I get a lot of traffic from Google, everybody does.

My neat-o Site Meter allows me to see what Google searches have landed people here at Dave's Long Box. Here then, in a feature ripped off from Dr. Scott of Polite Dissent and many other bloggers, are the highlights of the Google searches that have brought people to my humble blog within the past 24 hours alone.

Gasp at the depravity of Teh Intrnt:

  • Hulk Hogan quotes - No, seriously. What are you going to do when the 24-inch pythons and the Hulkamania comes for you?

  • Boobs definition - I am not the right person to be providing you with this information, young man.
  • Power Girl nude (#1) - Awesome! As of April 25th, 2007 I am the #1 search result for Power Girl nude. I can die in peace now.
  • Why Gambit sucks - This is a question that has furrowed the brow of many a great thinker since 1990. I have The Answer, my young padwan apprentice.

  • Gambit sucks - It's a popular topic.

  • gambit totally sucks - This person really just wants his belief system validated, and I was happy to help provide that reassurance.

  • Gambit sucks ass (#1) - There you go: April 25th, 2007! I, David Campbell, had a blog that was the #1 search result for the words Gambit and sucks and ass. King of the Internet! Right here! Woo!
  • Gambit blows - Okay, that may be true but come on, this is a family blog. Let's keep it clean.
  • Gambit uncool - You said it, bub!
  • Batman segway (#1) - Again, #1.
  • Monkey style kung fu (#1) - I am ON FIRE. This is like a dream.
  • JIHAD TRANSFORMERS - That would be terrifying.
  • Hillbilly Fight (#1) - No, wait. Now I can die in peace. #1 for Hillbilly Fight! Yee-haw!
  • boob smashed against fence - Aaand now we're kind of creeping me out.
  • VOMIT SLAVE 2 - I didn't know this was out on DVD yet! I loved the original Vomit Slave. I'm ordering that from Amazon pronto!

  • moby dick wrong whale to fuck with - Truer words were never spoken.
  • how to make a lightsaber bong - I do not know but if you ever find out, email me bro.

  • modam (#1) - Yesss! I'm currently #1 for MODAM, the hideous female counterpart to MODOK.

  • SHAKIRA,S LAST COLOR HAIR - I don't like it when Shakira's hair is super-curly, but I love that sexy free-flowing layered look she has. It's like a sassy cinammon sunset! Go Shakira!
  • sexy grandma - Thankfully, I'm on the 5th page for this particular search. I don't think I could live with myself if I was the #1 search result.
  • hypnotic boobs - Aren't they all?

  • colon snake - My prison nickname.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

By request: The Bat-Segway

Dave's Long Box reader Philip requested a picture of the Bat-Segway, so here it is. Never let it be said that I don't listen to feedback.
(I jacked the original image from Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin. Thanks Mike.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Batmobile: What a Pain in the Ass

What an utter pain in the ass it must be for Batman to get around.

He has two primary modes of transportation: swinging from gothic clock towers on his Batline, and cruising around Gotham in the Batmobile. Sure, he’s got a Batwing and a Batjet and a Batcopter and even a Bat-Segway, but mostly Batman relies on his ride to get from point A to point B.

Now, the Batmobile is a seriously tricked-out car, and you can’t blame the guy for wanting to drive it, but it must be a serious pain in the ass dealing with the Batmobile every night.

As anyone who lives in or near a big North American city knows, urban driving can be a maddening experience. Heavy traffic, one-way streets, swerving buses, crazy-ass taxi drivers, potholes, inadequate signage, kamikaze bike messengers, oblivious pedestrians – don’t even get me going about parking. The shit is hard enough to deal with in a normal city in a normal car. Now just imagine trying to navigate Gotham City’s rat nest of streets and alleys in an extra-wide custom hot rod with a wonky torque converter and limited visibility.

"If Batman wants to change lanes, you will let him into your lane."

Okay, the actual driving itself would probably not be an issue, as Batman probably has advanced defensive driving skills and an intimate knowledge of the street layout of Gotham. Plus, people would get the hell out of the Batmobile’s way. If Batman wants to change lanes, you will let him into your lane.

But what about parking? Can that thing even fit into a standard parking spot? Have you ever tried to parallel park a car that has huge scalloped bat wings on the back while wearing a rubber cowl that prevents you from moving your neck more than five degrees in any direction? I want to see a director’s cut of Tim Burton’s Batman where Michael Keaton tries to slide that beast into a parking spot without scraping the curb or bumping into another car. Now that would be some amazing shit.

For the sake of argument, let’s say the Batmobile has a self-parking system like the Lexus LS460 and Batman doesn’t need to sweat the details. But where do you park something like that?

How do you keep a low profile when you’re driving the most conspicuously bad-ass car on the planet? I mean, Batman wants to keep a low profile, right? There'd always be some asshole at a red light who wants to race:

The second you park that thing you would have tourists and drunks and passerby swarming you and snapping pictures on their cell phones. The Batmobile would be a major draw – YouTube in the DC Universe would be choked with videos of the Batmobile driving by or parking or waiting at a stop light.

Say you’re a frat boy out for a Friday night of drinking in Gotham Square. You get a text message from your buddy that says he just spotted the Batmobile headed south on Grand Avenue. You quickly down a final shot of Jaegermeister with your buddies Chet and Steven, throw the waitress a $20 (stiffing her on the tip) and haul ass two blocks west to Grand Avenue. Chet stops to puke. Fuck him, he can catch up.

A news helicopter is thrumming overhead – you must be close. You hear it before you see it – a deep rattling in your chest. Then, for a brief second it flashes past on Grand. Camera flashbulbs go off and people cheer. Out of breath, you make it to Grand just in time to see the big bat winged rear end of the Batmobile swing around a corner, followed by an SUV of screaming girls and a couple of paparazzi on scooters.

Steven wants to stop for another drink, but you keep jogging in the wake of the Batmobile. You can still smell the high-octane exhaust.

Your buddy texts you again – the Batmobile is parked in an alley between Grand and 14th. That’s like two blocks from here. Come on Steven, you pussy, keep up!

Then you do something that you’re never supposed to do in Gotham – you take a short cut through an alley. Steven doesn’t want to follow you, but you insult his manhood with colorful drunken slurs and he reluctantly gives chase.

Holy shit, dude! There it is, parked under a fire escape in the alley. Twenty feet of black muscle car with obsidian tinted windows and a matte finish. The engine is still hot. Fucking unbelievable! You make some guy take a picture of you and Steven with the Batmobile in the background.

This is so totally going on your MySpace page. WOOO!!! FUCK YEAH!!!

(BTW: You find out later that Chet was stabbed in the kidney by a psychopathic drifter who stole his shoes. That's Gotham for ya, LOL!)

So Batman parks his ride in as inconspicuous a spot as possible and takes to the rooftops to fight crime. Does he worry about people fucking with his car? I suppose he’s learned his lesson ever since that punk Jason Todd tried to jack his tires in Batman #408 and has implemented some security procedures. He’d have a number of redundant anti-tampering features built into the Batmobile, like the “armadillo armor” from the first Batman movie (minus the hubcap bomb – FYI Tim Burton, Batman doesn’t blow people up), an electro-shock feature like Bond’s BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies, an off-the-shelf car alarm from Car Toys, and maybe The Club for his steering wheel. I imagine the Batmobile would be coated in a graffiti-proof finish as well – you’d be surprised how many times Batman comes back from a night of crime fighting to find “PENDEJO*” painted on the side of his car. Punks.

Here’s what I don’t get: how the hell does Batman keep the location of the Batcave secret, considering that he drives the most conspicuous car in the world? We’ve already established that he’s likely hounded by photographers and news crews and drunk frat boys – how exactly does he slip out of town unnoticed in his Giant Rocket Car?

Every night he’d be on the way home to Wayne Manor and there’d be a news chopper flying overhead and a car or two full of idiots with the same idea. “Let’s follow Batman and see where he goes!”

So he gets outside of town and heads up into the hills, then promptly disappears into the side of a cliff. Sure, you’ve got a hologram covering your garage door up, but what if the guys in the news helicopter see you disappear into a hillside right next to Wayne Manor? You’re busted, Batman.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the Batmobile has a Romulan cloaking device and a sound-deadening “whisper mode” like in Blue Thunder. Big deal, the Batmobile still disappears on one of six roads every night. You could narrow it down. All it takes is an enterprising photographer with a sleeping bag and some time on his hands hiding in the right bush on the side of the road when the Batmobile rumbles by and vanishes into solid rock. I'm telling ya, Batman doesn't need to worry about The Penguin or Two-Face blowing his cover, he needs to worry about some scuzzy shutterbug who makes a living selling candid shots of heroes to tabloids.

Another hassle would be cops. Batman has an on-again, off-again relationship with the GCPD. Sometimes he can do no wrong, other times he's hunted by corrupt or overzealous police. Sure, he's pals with Commissioner Gordon, but there would always be some rookie cop fresh out of the Academy looking to make a name for himself by pulling over Batman.

I like to think that the veteran cops would just look the other way when the Batmobile rolls by, but there’s always that one cop with the stick up his ass. Technically, the Batmobile is not street legal. No license plates, no vehicle tabs, unsanctioned rocket afterburners, no proof of insurance, high-performance fuel... the list goes on. I can’t see Batman waiting in line to get an emissions test for his car or even getting a driver’s license. The guy breaks the law every time he slips behind the steering wheel.

So what's the solution? Ditch the Batmobile, man.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but for a while there didn't Batman have a private underground rapid transit system that his hunchback mechanic Harold set up for him? He could be downtown in 5 minutes on his Batsubway and wouldn't have to worry about parking, gawkers, or ozone emissions. That seems like a good choice if you're heading out for a night on the town.

Another option would be to just have an anonymous black town car or a van with tinted windows. You could soup it up with all your Bat shit, but it would be a much lower profile ride. Matt Wagner had the right idea in his excellent Batman and the Monster Men series. Here Jim Gordon and a detective discuss Batman's impounded pre-Batmobile car:

Now that makes sense. If you're a creature of the night, would you drive around in a really distinctive car with loud pipes or would you keep it on the down-low? You're supposed to be a Living Shadow, dude. You are the night, etc.

I hate to say this, but what would make the most sense for Batman is to have a series of black Ford mini-vans stashed in monthly parking lots all around Gotham. He could change in the back or stitch up his wounds without drawing any attention to himself. Most of the time he could just take his private subway into town, but if he needed a ride, he'd have a van parked within blocks.

There: problem solved, Batman. Swallow your pride and park the Batmobile and get yourself a fleet of mini-vans. It might not be as glamorous as driving around in a black penis surrogate of an auto, but it would certainly be much less of a pain in the ass.

*I had to re-spell the Spanish word pendejo three times. I am so ashamed of my monolingualism.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Awesome! Another lame photo post!

Today's theme is "Thumbs Up and Awesomeness!"

I know, I promised some actual comics-related content, but I lie frequently and am not to be trusted.

Officer Buck Savage gives you a hearty thumbs up, Seventies Cop style.

Mickey Mouse: stoked.

Astronauts are always good for a thumbs up. Astronauts rule.

scha·den·freu·de [shahd-n-froi-duh] satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.

[Origin: 1890–95; <>Schaden harm + Freude joy] Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Seriously, Jean Claude VanDamme is the shit.

Okay, thanks for your patience.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What is Luigi reading?

Here's my contribution to a meme started by crazy-ass Mark Hale over at ChaosMonkey's Abysmal Pit. What is Luigi reading? OMG, IT'S A COOKBOOK!!!!

Chintoo Candy presents the Baddest Mother$%#*@% in Bollywood

Sorry, we're going to stray off-topic for a minute. I was up late last night hunting for a W2 form and I'm too beat to talk about comics, so look! Another cheap-o link post.

I know exactly nothing about the film this video comes from. Clearly it's a Bollywood blockbuster powered by the high-voltage charisma and awesomeness of its star, Lucky Ali. Clearly the film is populated by Lucky Ali and by people who are in total awe of Lucky Ali. Clearly the video is brought to us by Chintoo candy. Beyond that I know nothing.

Take a look at the video:

Lucky Ali must have Starfox-like pheremone powers or he's Count Dracula in disguise or something, because he has got these people in his sway big time. Everyone in the room is totally on his dick, as they say. They just stare spellbound like Richard Dreyfuss at the end of Close Encounters at the unearthly awesomeness that is Lucky Ali. Even Michael Medved cannot resist his mojo. The guys in the booth are so rapturous I'm surprised they can even hear the music.

The Violin Girl is driven to trembling tears just from standing so close to The Lucky Ali Effect. You gotta know it's probably not safe to stand that close to somebody bringing Teh Sexy like that, you can get Awesomeness Poisoning unless you work up an immunity. Sure enough, it's too much for her and she starts to lose her shit. She can't play the violin, she can't sing - she just stands there quivering and slowly losing control of her bladder. Sure enough, she bails and runs for the bathroom, crying.

Such is the power of The Lucky Ali Effect.

The other things I find charming about this video are the scrolling adverts and the crude pan & scan effect. The camera swerves and tracks frantically to keep the actors from this widescreen film in the center of the frame. It's fun and adds a weird topsy-turvy quality to the video, like they shot it on a rocking ship.

Back to comics next time, I swear.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Best cover EVER: Thor Corps #4

This is the best comic book cover ever.


  • The cover features all four members of The Thor Corps, (l to r) Beta Ray Bill, Thor, Thunderstrike, and Siegfried (sorry, Roy isn't a member of the Thor Corps, he's leader of the Roy Patrol)
  • High-fivin' with enchanted hammers? That's awesome.
  • The Thors are in competition shape, all bulging and vascular and super-ripped and glisteny. It's like the cover of MuscleMag.
  • They have all shaved their arm pits. Which, come on, is really weird. Viking heroes who shave their armpit hair? (hello Google users!) Nuh uh.
  • Don't the Thors look like they're having a good time? They look like they all could either be yelling "For ASGARD!!!" or "GO RED SOX!!! FUCK YEAH!! NUMBER ONE!!!" Especially Siegfried over there on the right, he is just stoked to be there. I guess it would be pretty fun to summon lightning and shit with your hammer.
  • They've all got big knee-pad boots, one of the must-have superhero accessories in the Nineties. All the cool Asgardians wore them.

Monday, April 09, 2007

MANTRA VOL 2 #6 Malibu Comics, 1996

I don’t even know where to begin.

This comic is so bad, so wrong, that it’s almost physically painful. If you’re unlucky enough to come across Mantra vol 2 #6 in a quarter bin or at a garage sale, PUT IT DOWN. You may experience numbness in your extremities, dizziness, and an uncomfortable burning itch in your groin. Wait a second, the burning itch in the groin is a separate problem that I need to deal with and isn’t a result of this terrible comic.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about Mantra vol 2. and why it sucks so bad.

Long story short: Mantra was a comic in Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse superhero line about a tough warrior dude trapped in a beautiful woman’s body and all the crazy mixed-up adventures s/he got in. For more information, I previously discussed my guarded affection for Mantra here and gave a sort of overview of Malibu Comics here.

Malibu Comics and all of their characters were purchased by Marvel in the mid-Nineties. Rumor has it the company was acquired because they had a bitchin’ in-house coloring department using there newfangled contraptions called computers. Shortly after the takeover, Malibu made some changes to their core titles like Mantra.

The original premise of the series was defenestrated and Mantra was re-launched with a new main character, a teenage girl who had the look and personality of a blow-up sex doll. The new Mantra series, which seemed to target a demographic of perverted old men and peeping toms, lasted only seven issues before grinding to a merciful halt. Sometimes the Comic Gods are wise and just.

And just looking at Mantra #6, you can see why the series was cancelled. This book is fucked-up on so many levels.

Allow me to engage in cheap simile to describe this comic. The plot is thinner than the Olsen twins, the teenage dialogue is more out-of-touch than Hall & Oates, and the art is as awkward as a first date.

The story by Tom Mason concerns a) Valley Girl Lauren trying to adjust to her new Mantra powers while wearing as little clothing as possible, b) the arrival of a horny new super hero, Impulse – err, I mean Rush, and c) a spooky tattoo that transforms a jock into a demon whose diet consists exclusively of buxom women. The gender politics of the comic land somewhere between Porky’s and Friday the 13th.

Here is Scott showing off his awesome new demon tat to his awe-struck classmates:

The art by Dave Roberts is heavy on the cheesecake and light on the backgrounds - really light on the backgrounds. The cover is a good example of the level of detail that went into each panel of the comic. Roberts must have been working under a wicked deadline or something, because the book is full of tons of art shortcuts and cheats.

And the clothes. Oh Christ, the clothes. Maybe the book is a period piece set in Rock n’ Roll High School circa 1982, because all the kids in this book look like they stepped out of a Winger video. I mean seriously – striped leg-warmers?

Don't these girls have parents? Who let them out of the house dressed like that? Maybe those girls are going to a Ho Economics class or something! (Thank you very much, you guys have been great, I'll be here all week, try the buffet.)

There is something profoundly icky about this comic and its hyper-sexualized teenage characters. The book feels like it was created by and for dirty old men as a sort of weird adolescent fantasy – a 40-year old’s dream of a music video high school complete with young girls who dress like tramps, peeping toms, and the requisite hot school nurse. They just needed to throw in a panel of an 80’s heavy metal guitarist jamming in the school hallway to complete the effect.

The character Rush seems to serve no plot purpose, but he’s the new kid at school with the “nice butt.” Half the comic is devoted to this creepy little bastard, including a three-page sequence played for laughs where he spies on Mantra while she’s toweling off.

Rumor has it the creative team inserted this scene under protest at the direction of the editor, who wanted more under-age flesh in the book, apparently. I can’t confirm this, but the scene serves no purpose and in no way advances the plot.

Ostensibly the story concerns the school stud’s haunted tattoo, which turns him into a green mohawked demon whenever he’s around women of a certain cup-size. The demon attacks a scantily clad woman in an alley, then kills and mutilates the hot school nurse (in a “funny” scene the principal covers up the gruesome murder because the school board is visiting) and then moves on to lover’s lane and the gripping climax of this tale.

The demon’s dialogue is creepily sexualized – when he’s attacking or killing women he says stuff like, “I like girls who play hard to get” or…

Of course, Mantra happens to be parked in a car nearby at lover’s lane making out with what appears to be a stuttering middle-aged man.

No, seriously, look:

Mantra hears the unfortunate girl’s screams and suits up for action. “That’s no scream of pleasure!” she says. No shit?

We end with a cliffhanger of sorts as Mantra confronts the demon while Rush suddenly appears in the background. “Man, this town rocks!” Rush says, “I love it!” Because mutilated chicks = teh awesome.

This comic would make a college Women’s Studies course explode with rage. Granted, the 500 people who purchased this were probably all males over 30, but I shudder to think of what a budding young adolescent would make of this comic. Not to get all P.C. on your ass, but Mantra #6 is insultingly retrograde in its depiction of teenage girls as sex toys - objects to be fondled, ogled, and eaten.

Ick. Ick. Ick.

This comic truly deserves the Dave’s Long Box “The Pain” Award. The bright side is that Mantra vol 2 was cancelled the very next issue (about six issues late).

Friday, April 06, 2007

SILVER SABLE #27 Marvel Comics, 1994

Okay, I have a confession to make: I don't recall actually reading this comic, and I can't be bothered to actually read it again.

I am basing this entire post - and this is lame - on just flipping casually through Silver Sable #27. If you're looking for a nuanced, well-balanced essay on the plot and themes and artistic/literary merit of this comic - well, what are you doing on my blog in the first place?

For those unfamiliar with this most Nineties of Marvel titles, Silver Sable & The Wild Pack was a colorful Boob War meets Dirty Dozen comic about a rough team of super-mercenaries and their leader, a monochromatic aristocratic sextastic ass-kicker with a huge mane of white hair named Silver Sable.

Sable was originally a supporting character and occasional adversary of Spider-Man who graduated to her own title in the mid-Nineties and has since faded once again into the crowded background of the Marvel Universe. In five years Silver Sable will be retro enough to be cool again, just like Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel.

In this particular issue, Man-Eater, one of Silver Sable's crew has gone ape shit (or in this case, tiger shit) and the Wild Pack has to track the were-tiger down before he scratches up somebody's sofa real bad.

I don't know a lot about Man-Eater or why he goes crazy in this issue. Hormones? Pon farr? The only thing I do know about him is that his code name "Man-Eater" has nothing to do with the fact that he's a giant tiger-man. "Man-Eater" was actually a prison name that he picked up during a five year stint in San Quentin. Hey, don't judge. You gotta do what you gotta do to survive in prison.

Anyway, Man-Eater goes crazy and pulls an American Werewolf, rampaging all over town. He interrupts a couple's romantic picnic(above). Woah, what is that gal saying? That's just naughty.

Fortunately, Man-Eater doesn't eat the pre-coital picnickers, but he does attack the unemployed grunge musician who mugs them. Ever since Cobain died, those guys have had a hard time making ends meet.

One of the weird things about the book is how Man-Eater says the word "roar" a lot. Take a look.

Help me out here. If a word is in a word balloon, that means the speaker is actually saying the word. Am I right? If it's a sound effect, the sound text appears in the panel as a graphic, not inside a word balloon. Follow me? So if a word (like "roar") appears as a graphic inside a word balloon, does that mean the speaker is actually saying the word depicted, or making the sound described?

So, is Man-Eater saying the word "roar" or is he making a roar-sounding noise? The problem lies with the fact that roar is both a noun and an onomatopoeia. It would be easier if Man-Eater were a giant poodle man. Then he would either be saying "bark" or making a bark-like sound, i.e., "woof," and it'd be easy to tell what effect the creators are going for.

Take a look at this panel of Tiger-Man vs Pearl Jam:

Here, Man-Eater's "roar" doesn't have any punctuation and is misspelled, so I'm led to believe that he is making a noise that sounds like a roar rather than shouting the word "roar."

In the next panel, Man-Eater's "roar" has an exclamation point but it's still misspelled. Does this mean he's making a noise or saying a word? The answer is clearly yes.

My confusion aside, it's pretty easy to follow the storyline in Silver Sable #27, even if you're not actually reading it like me. Sable and the Wild Pack eventually track Man-Eater down and taser the living bejeesus out of him while he yells "Roar!" or makes a roar-like noise, take your pick.

I like the cover for this comic, but as for the book itself? It's got a little too much Man-Eater and not enough Boob War for my tastes. I mean, if I pick up a Silver Sable book I want to see a little chrome-colored ass, not page after page of Man-Eater getting his roar on. Let's sex up the joint a little.

Although perhaps I should be careful what I wish for, as the ultimate cause of Man-Eater's frenzy is revealed...

Man, I know there are entire sub-cultures of people who get off on that sort of thing, but that panel planted some unwelcome mental imagery in my head.

Thanks a lot, Marvel. I'll never be able to look at a tiger again without feeling dirty.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

DETECTIVE COMICS #479 DC Comics, 1978

They used to call it ‘TEC.

Back in the Seventies, when they had these old fashioned things called “letter columns” in the back of comic books, Detective Comics was always abbreviated ‘TEC. When I was a kid, I thought that was cool as hell: a comic book that had its own nickname.

Everything about ‘TEC was cool as hell to Young Dave. My first print exposure to Batman was in Detective Comics, specifically the era when Marshall Rogers was penciling the book. Everything about those comics seemed designed to be -yes- cool as hell.

The most classic comics in this most classic of Batman eras were Detective Comics 471-476, issues that teamed Marshall Rogers with writer Steve Englehart and inker Terry Austin. These “Dark Detective” comics were considered the definitive interpretation of the character for years and truly deserve the reverence many old school fans hold for them.

I came to the party a little late, but have since hunted down and collected originals of all those Englehart/Rogers issues, which are as rad as everyone says they are. Silver St. Cloud? The Laughing Fish? Phosphorous Man? Radness, I say.

However, my first exposure to Marshall Rogers’ “cool as hell” version of Batman was in this particular issue, ‘TEC #479, where he takes on the Preston Payne version of Clayface. My dad bought me this issue in 1978 during our annual automobile pilgrimage to Saskatchewan for summer vacation. Laying in the back of our family’s huge Malibu station wagon, I read this comic over and over and over again as the endless Canadian prairie rolled by.

Man, I loved this book.

Even Young Dave could tell that there was something special about the art. I had a few other DC comics and a Gold Key or two on that trip, but with the exception of a Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes issue, the art sucked compared to ‘TEC.

Marshall Rogers was in a class all his own. His clean, smooth pencils were really enhanced by top inkers like Austin and, in this issue, Dick Giordano. Trained as an architect, Rogers had a particular knack for drawing buildings, cars, bridges, technology - you name it. His perspective drawings were impeccable. Plus, Rogers drew his own sound effects, integrating them into the art -- none of those stock drag-and-drop computer-generated sound effects that kids use these days. The background effects and zipatone shading are like icing on top of a delicious sequential art cake. Nearly nobody in '78 was producing comics that looked this good.

To be honest, ‘TEC 479 isn’t quite the same caliber as the Englehart/Rogers issues that preceded it, mostly due to Len Wein’s overwrought script. In a nutshell, Batman tries to stop Clayface, who is on a maniacal quest to resurrect his beloved dead wife. His strange condition is very painful and more than a little ugly, so on occasion Clayface has to melt some poor schmuck’s face in order to feel better. I think we’ve all been there.

Here’s Clayface meeting his next victim, a drunk asshole in a Datsun. You can tell he’s drunk becaushe 1) he's waving a party horn, 2) he’s wearing a party hat, and 3) he announces that he’s drunk. Subtle, no?

Comic book physics are in play here: despite the fact that the Datsun is speeding towards Clayface, the driver still has time to utter two entire sentences, which Clayface can clearly hear. Only in comics, folks.
As in all good horror stories, vice and weakness are punished. Clayface totally melts the drunk guy's face while his trophy girlfriend looks on in horror.
Batman arrives, but too late for drunk guy. Ah, no big loss. Batman comforts the hysterical woman, who reminds him of his lost love Silver St. Cloud. Then, in an uncharacteristically emo moment, Batman loses his shit:

Woah, Batman's pulling a Shatner. Get a hold of yourself, man. It's embarassing. Write it in your journal or something.
Presumably after stranding the traumatized woman on a dark roadside next to the melted corpse of her boyfriend, Batman listens to a couple of Smiths songs on the BatiPod and gets his head together. Then he resumes his relentless pursuit of Clayface. Hey, sometimes even Batman loses his shit.
Batman eventually tracks Clayface to a wax museum, where the tragic villain whispers sweet nothings to a mannequin, his "wife."
Clearly Batman can see that Clayface is a tragic figure, almost pathetic were it not for his melty handshake and the suit of powered armor that enhances his strength. Batman can sympathize, but that doesn't mean he's not going to beat the living hell out of Clayface.
Kicking ass is Batman's job - and business is good.
And kick ass he does. Batman busts some bat fu on Clayface and steals his armor's battery, leaving the monster helpless. Then, when this clearly deranged individual is helpless and beaten, Batman does what you'd expect him to do: he talks smack.
While Batman is rubbing his victory in, some candles catch a curtain on fire and FOOOSH! The whole frickin' place goes up within seconds. Apparently Clayface's hideout was both a Wax Museum and a Gasoline Museum. Clayface runs back inside for his mannequin wife - and the entire place collapses, apparently killing Clayface.
I seriously have read this comic from cover to cover dozens of times during that summer trip to Canada alone. There was a Hawkman and Hawkgirl back-up story as well, but the main attraction was Marshall Rogers' fantastic, precise art. He was the creator that really kindled my interest in Batman, that made superheroes and comic books cool as hell. I moved on to Neal Adams and Jim Aparo, but Marshall Rogers started me off and he's the artist most responsible for my lifelong interest in not just Batman, but the comics medium.
Of course, I'm writing this particular post because Marshall Rogers died last week at age 57.
I didn't know the guy and I would have passed him in the street without recognizing him, so it seems more appropriate to talk about his work than about his life. I guess the nicest thing I could say about Marshall Rogers was that Detective Comics # 479 really had a positive influence on my life. So on behalf of Young Dave and myself, thanks Marshall for making comic books cool as hell.

Why you no post, David Campbell?

Aaand we're back.

Sorry about the lack of posts this past week; I've been unpleasantly busy at work and I had to work on some writing assignments. Money trumps blogging, I'm afraid, and it would be pretty lame of me to tell people who are paying me to write The Awesomeness for them that I can't finish their project on time, but hey, look at this great post I did about Cheetara from Thundercats! That wouldn't go over so well.
Anyway, back to blogging. I'll have a proper post up later today. Thanks for your patience, and my apologies.

You know, you could always sue me - but then you'd have to deal with my attorney, who may maul you.