Friday, May 28, 2010


My wife and I are out of town for Memorial Day Weekend. In the meantime, enjoy some Marillion!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Challenge To Gail Simone

Dear Gail,

Congratulations on your return to Birds Of Prey. It's probably a little daunting coming back to a former book like this. Sometimes these returns to the sites of former glories can be wonderful to read (Ostrander and Suicide Squad) or a disappointment (Claremont & X-Men). You've pulled it off with flying colors. You had a truly intriguing reason for "putting the band back together", and even Ed Benes' art was fresh here. The only flaw I saw was the inclusion of Hank Hall (who was resurrected - not by you - at the expense of the more interesting Holly Grainger), but if anyone can squeeze lemonade out of that lemon, it's you. Good luck on your first story arc.

However, there's a piece of unfinished business that needs to be resolved, and you are back in a unique position to handle it.

Yes, I'm talking about this:

(From the "critically acclaimed" Cry For Justice#2.)

As a longtime fan of the Birds, particularly your tenure on the book, I can only say that I was rather annoyed that James Robinson pissed away years of your hard work developing Huntress and Lady Blackhawk all for the sake of the cheap throwaway gag I just showed. This...cannot be allowed to stand.

I remember reading your reaction upon seeing this. You were polite, but it was obvious you were not a happy camper either. It pretty much undermined the characterizations you had given both Helena and Zinda at the time, especially since said "interaction" would have probably occurred in your run's timeline.

I'm pretty sure you were already imagining scenarios that could have shown Huntress and Lady Blackhawk in a more flattering and more true-to-character light, but if you were creatively blocked, you can look to an old master for inspiration: your occasional collaborator, John Byrne.

Although their original X-Men run was among the finest comic series ever produced, Byrne and writer Chris Claremont did not get along. And after Byrne left X-Men to write and draw Fantastic Four, the feud apparently kicked into high gear. Claremont's first major post-Byrne X-Men arc was a story in which they fought Doctor Doom. Unfortunately for Claremont, Doc Doom is also Fantastic Four Nemesis Numero Uno, meaning he would obviously be written by Byrne. And this is where Byrne really stuck the knife in. He wrote a passage in FF revealing that the Doom Claremont wrote was one of Doom's robots. And in one last twist of the knife, Claremont's Doom was not only a robot....

...but a defective robot.

That move was extremely catty on Byrne's part, but it was also brilliant. But Claremont wasn't Byrne's only "victim". There was also Byrne's former boss, ex-Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter.

And this is Legends#5, drawn by Byrne and written with Len Wein and John Ostrander. Dave Campbell had a list of all the in-jokes here.

Ooh, that had to hurt!

Here's another far less mean-spirited example. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' "Formerly Known as the Justice League" and their sequel "I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League" referenced Booster being married to an elderly rich woman named Gladys. Like Vera on "Cheers" and Maris on "Frasier", we never actually saw her.

However, Booster's marriage was never mentioned anywhere else, especially when his profile was raised during 52 and his later solo series. Finally, Booster's creator and then-writer Dan Jurgens explained it in his final issue: It was all a prank on his best friend and fellow notorious prankster Ted (Blue Beetle) Kord.

The point is that there are ways that a clever writer (i.e. you) can undo what he (or, in this case, she) feels is a mischaracterization of a favorite character without turning continuity upside down. For the sake of longtime BOP and Simone fans, please use them.

And don't worry about offending longtime Hal fans by making him look dumb in the process. There are many of us who would actually enjoy that.


A longtime "Simombie" since the "YABS" days,


(P.S. I don't have any ideas, but maybe some of my "regulars" do. If so, there's no need to be shy.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage - Round 5: Crack The Whip, Part Deux!

Welcome once again to Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage, where no character can be re-used by the same fighter in the 12-round bout. Let's look at the Used Character Board to see who we can't use again:

Shadow Lass
Professor Zoom
Iron Man

Tonight's fight entry comes to us from Iron Man#124, by David Michelinie, John Romita Jr., and Bob Layton ( I now realize I've just done the last part of a Michelinie/Layton trilogy), and it picks up where last round's fight left off, with...

Wait a minute. What was the last name on the Used Character Board?

Iron Man

Ok, so I can't use Shellhead again, but that's ok because Tony Stark's date Bethany Cabe is also at the casino. Bethany, I should mention, is also a professional bodyguard.

So, anyway, yadda yadda yadda ...Whiplash teams up with Blizzard and Melter against Iron Man yadda yadda yadda... Iron Man beats up on Melter and then Blizzard...yadda yadda yadda...

Now here's Whiplash trying to get away:

Now, if I were directing the Iron Man movies instead of Jon Favreau, Beth would so be the lead role.

In honor of our heroine, tonight's fight music is "Beth" by Kiss. I can imagine Tony's version:

Beth, I hear you calling
But I can't come home right now
Me and the boys are fighting Ultron
And we just can't bring him down.

Just a few more hours
And I'll be back home to you
I think I hear Cap calling
Oh Beth , what can I do?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

If this is the "New Apartheid", can I be the new Little Steven?

'Cause I can rock the bandana!!

The above joke is in response to this Bleeding Cool column. Kalinara did a fantastic job blasting it apart here, and I don't want to rip off her act, but I have one question:

Doesn't "new" imply it's from this century?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Counterweight: It's What's Missing That Matters

"It feels like someone's missing."

Take a look at a scene from the recent Brightest Day#1:

Ok, brown-skinned slavers holding a boat full of white children prisoner? Not completely impossible, but highly unlikely. Also, nice of the writers to add the specter of child rape to the proceedings. Way to stay classy, DC!

Luckily, before anything creepier happens, they're rescued by....

...a white couple.

Ok, I'll grant you that it's Aquaman, and fighting sea crime is, well, his entire deal. And it's not like this would be an ideal setting for Static, an electricity-powered hero.

But then there's this gentleman's reaction:

I won't show the rest, but suffice it to say he does not take it well.

So brown-skinned people aren't exactly shown in the , uh, brightest light in those scenes, but black people can be shown as villains, too. But there's a counterweight, right? A dark-skinned hero in the story that serves to balance those villains? Well, no.

Sure, there's Jason Rusch, who is intangible, mostly invisible, disembodied floating head. And that's it.

And therein lies the problem, not just with Brightest Day, but with the Big Two in general. Why the dearth of brown-skinned and other minority superheroes?

Well, part of the problem involves the recent dumping of key minority legacy characters in favor by their white predecessors, a practice that's been touched upon in some well-written columns by Chris Sims , Cheryl Lynn Eaton, and ShadowWing Tronix, as well as an expletive-filled rant by yours truly. Look how easily Ryan Choi got dispatched in favor of the classic white (now with 100% more torture) Ray Palmer. Or consider the Legion of Super-Heroes, whose racial makeup has recently been regressed to the Tyroc days. No black Star Boy, no Kid Quantum, no XS, not even the Foccart siblings.

Sure, that covers the legacy characters, but how have non-legacy minority heroes been faring recently?

The answer is: Not too well.

Bill "Goliath" Foster was brought back during Civil War, only to be killed off by a Tony Stark-engineered Thor clone. No, really. And he was buried at his funeral at giant size - in chains - because Hank Pym (albeit a Skrull version) and regular Microverse visitor Reed Richards somehow couldn't shrink him down.

Vixen? Not only is she currently on the sidelines nursing a broken leg, but over the last few years her name was used as a euphemism for "whitewashing" black comic book characters.

Misty Knight? Speaking of whitewashing....

Pantha's head went a-rolling after Superboy Prime decapitated her.

Milestone? More like "millstone" in DC's eyes. All DC seemed to give a damn about was Static, and now even Virgil is on the sidelines.

It's kind of like the "Women In Refrigerators" syndrome. Sure, maybe male and female heroes get killed off in similar numbers, but it's proportionately worse for the women heroes because there were substantially fewer of them to begin with, thus creating a bigger loss with each "fridging".

The same thing applies to minority characters and their fans. Without a sufficient counterweight in the form of fully-realized heroes, the affronts seen above seem that much heavier.

Diminishing Returns

A year or so earlier, I had written that the constant killing off of supporting and C- List characters by DC and Marvel was subject to the law of diminishing returns, at least as far as audience reaction to it. That was around the time DC killed off Pa Kent.

In the year since I wrote that the body count rate has been increased drastically, and the returns on this lazy attempt at shock value have diminished so much it would take the Atom to find them.

Of course, now that Atom will have to be Ray Palmer. Why? Because DC just killed off Ryan Choi, that's why.

I read Ryan's series, The All-New Atom, from the time Gail Simone and John Byrne introduced the character to the series' untimely cancellation. He was the type of character DC Comics needs more of: heroic, funny, and fun to read.

But he wasn't the Atom that DC's powers-that-be grew up reading. He wasn't Ray Palmer.

Therefore he had to die.

And for what? So that DC's biggest Mary Sue can show how badass he is? To restart, for the umpteenth time, a Titans franchise which has rarely been viable since Tom Grummett left in the early 90's? To kick off what looks like a knockoff of the Norman Osborn-era Thunderbolts that will probably be gone in two years?

Apparently, DC characters now fall into two categories:

A) Characters the DC head honchos idolized when they were growing up,


B) Expendable.

God, I'm so sick of this crap.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Remembering Tyroc

Last week, I was reading an article on called "The Five Most Unintentionally Offensive Comic Book Characters" and was amused to find that number 3 was Tyroc, the first black member of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

I remember my initial reaction to this story when I first read it back in 1976. At the time I thought it was a simple story with a nice lesson about racial harmony. In my defense, I was ten years old.

However, when I looked back on that story as an adult, there were a lot of elements in this story that, quite frankly, made me cringe.

One of those elements was Tyroc's power set. It involved his voice. But he didn't have a sonic scream like, say, Banshee or Black Canary, nor did he create solid sound constructs ala Klaw or the Thunderbolts' Songbird. The actual description of his power in the story, I am not making this up... "a voice that can cause miracles".

What did that mean? Well, here's how it worked in the story. Every time Tyroc yelled something, a different effect would occur. He would yell "Aiiiiyyaaahh!" and a force field appeared. Then he would yell "Oooyyyuuu!" and teleport. He had the kind of powers that screamed "Mary Sue" or "deus ex machina":

RANDOM LEGIONNAIRE: "Tyroc, that giant asteroid is going to collide with the Legion Clubhouse in 60 seconds!"

TYROC: "EYYYYEEEEHHHH!" (Giant asteroid vanishes in a puff of smoke.)

RANDOM LEGIONNAIRE: "We're saved!!!"

He was essentially Zatanna - the boring version.

But that wasn't the worst part. That would be the racial separatist origin with which writer Cary Bates and editor Murray Boltinoff saddled him and his home island Mazral. Apparently, Tyroc and his people were descended from a race of escaped slaves settled on Marzal and formed an isolationist colony that spurned strangers, particularly white ones. And, as was the case with most of DC's 70's race stories that didn't involve Hal Jordan, the onus for achieving racial harmony was placed primarily on the black character(s). ("Gee, we could all work together in perfect racial harmony if only you STOPPED BEING SO ANGRY.") And while it's possible that the Legion could indeed be above racial disagreements, Bates had Superboy convey this in the most ham-fisted manner possible:

Superboy: (Points to Brainiac 5) "...He has green skin!" (Points to Shadow Lass) "... and she has blue skin!"


And apparently many of the Legion's creative teams found Tyroc even more off-putting than the readers did, according to Tyroc's Wikipedia entry:

Jim Shooter, who had been prevented from introducing black characters into the Legion in the 1960s, objected to the characterization of Tyroc: "...I always wanted to have a character who was African-American, and years later, when they did that, they did it in the worst way possible....instead of just incidentally having a character who happens to be black...they made a big fuss about it. He's a racial separatist....I just found it pathetic and appalling."

According to Glen Cadigan, in the The Legion Companion from TwoMorrows Publishing, the character of Tyroc was "sort of a sore spot" with several writers and artists at DC.

Mike Grell, who co-created Tyroc with Cary Bates, had also previously tried to introduce black Legionnaires, but had been prevented by then-editor Murray Boltinoff. "I kept getting stalled off...and finally comes Tyroc. They might as well have named him Tyrone. Their explanation for why there were no black people [in the Legion] was that all the black people had gone to live on an island. It's possibly the most racist concept I've ever heard in my life...I mean, it's a segregationist's dream, right? So they named him Tyroc, and gave him the world's stupidest super-power."

What cracked me up the most was this Wiki paragraph on Grell's inspiration for Tyroc's costume:

Grell's dislike of Tyroc was strong enough that he deliberately made him look ridiculous. "I gave him a silly costume. It was somewhere between Elvis' Las Vegas costume and something you would imagine a pimp on the street corner wearing."

"I modeled him somewhat on Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, who was a movie star at the time...and gave him this "Elvis Presley goes to Las Vegas" kind of a costume, and that's pretty much it. That was the extent of my contribution to Tyroc."

This was the result:

So, apparently Grell was so disgusted with the character that he gave him a silly costume in protest. I applaud this statement on Iron Mike's part, but it would have stood out more if, in the issue immediately preceding the Tyroc story, he hadn't also designed this:

This is Cosmic Boy. One of the founding legion members. A Legion VIP, if you will. But that didn't stop Grell from giving him a new costume that was clearly inspired by "The Rocky Horror Show".

Now let's look at some more of Mr. Grell's "serious" costumes.

Meet Charma and Grimbor the Chainsman.

And this is Pulsar Stargrave.

Also known as "Disco Brainiac."

So, as you can see, Grell wasn't exactly designing stuff like the Kid Flash costume or the Green Lantern uniform before he designed Tyroc.

Here's a lesson for you artists out there. If you want to protest a character by making his costume ridiculous, you might want to make sure your other designs...aren't.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage - Round 4: Crack The Whip!

Welcome to another round of Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage. Let's look at the Used Character Board to see who I can't re-use:

Shadow Lass
Professor Zoom

In honor of this week's release of "Iron Man 2", tonight's free-for-all features the Golden Avenger squaring off against the one of that movie's villains, Whiplash. In Iron Man#123, "Casino Fatale", by David Michelinie, John Romita Jr, and Bob Layton, Whiplash and his two cronies, Melter and Blizzard (Shellhead's version of Heat Wave and Captain Cold) are robbing an Atlantic City casino for industrialist Justin Hammer. Unfortunately for them, it's also the same casino where Tony Stark happens to be gambling at the same time. Needless to say, Iron Man shows up to rain on their parade. Here's Whiplash, sounding more like he's from Yancy Street than from Mother Russia:

Wanton destruction of property ensues.

But don't count out Whiplash too soon, Shellhead!

Ok, now you can count him out.

And that, my friends, is what we call "cracking the whip".

For tonight's fight music, we're going with - who else? - Devo!

Don't forget to vote!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Public Announcements - The "Operation: Piss Off Half Our Audience" Edition

*ATTENTION, WARNER BROTHERS EXECUTIVES!* - Kudos on your decision to expand the wildly successful "Operation: Piss Off Half Our Audience" directive to include your animated movie division as well. What a stroke of genius! Why bother trying to reach a tiny, insignificant niche group like FIFTY-TWO PERCENT OF THE POPULATION, anyway?

*ATTENTION, JOE QUESADA!* - Yes, Joe. The Spider-Marriage is gone. You won. WE GET IT!! Now stop gloating! Nobody likes a poor winner.


"Claws" does not rhyme with "roars"!

And "Donna Troy, Mikaal Tomas Starman, and Congorilla" does not rhyme with "interesting Justice League lineup", Batman or no Batman.

*ATTENTION, CONSERVATIVES IN CONGRESS!* - Any credibility you had complaining that Obama's pick will be too activist or too radical were completely destroyed the moment your boy John Roberts and his crew decided to undo 30 years of campaign reform by declaring that corporations have the same rights as people. It doesn't get more radical than that.

*ATTENTION, ARIZONA LEGISLATURE!* - I'm glad you've conquered all the other crimes like murder, rape, and robbery, because this new anti-immigration law is going to cut police man-hours for all of them. For some cops, it will be a hall pass to harrass Hispanics. For the rest, it will be an enormous hindrance, particularly in their relationships with the Hispanic community. Expect them to hear "I ain't telling you shit!" on a regular basis. Plus, it's going to cost you at least two tourists: me and my wife. She's half Hispanic, you see, and I don't want to see her get hassled just because she forgets her "papers" during a walk to the grocery store.

*ATTENTION, TEA PARTY PROTESTERS!* - So you're angry at the thought of excessive government intrusion and erosion of our rights? Well, march over to Arizona and make some noise about the new immigration law. It should be tailor-made for you.

*ATTENTION, GREG RUCKA FANS!* - There's a Greg Rucka-written lesbian heroine who is in danger of being shunted off to comics limbo after Greg departs from DC Comics, but she doesn't have a bat plastered on her chest. She's Renee Montoya aka the Question. Even I had forgotten how joined at the hip Renee and Rucka had become over the years, before this article reminded me. So don't forget about Renee just because she doesn't wear a cowl and a bat-symbol.