Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Clone Clobbering - Crossover Classic!

Welcome to Friday Night Fights: Clone Clobbering, the final prize fight in the Minimum Clonage bout.

The rules for this fight, according to Spacebooger, our host: "Anyone who won a previous round and is featured on July 23rd has to enter a new entry for the July 30th prize fight featuring the comic character who started the whole clone mess in the first place - SPIDER-MAN!" (The bout name "Minimum Clonage" is a play on the name of a fustercluck of a storyline in the 90's Spidey comics called "Maximum Clonage".)

However, I have a special tradition of my own: Every time I win an FNF round, my next round's entry must somehow relate to the Legion of Superheroes. And I won Round 12 with my Impossible Man-Mxyzptlk fight 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately, there are no team-up stories featuring both Spidey and the Legion, so I guess I'll have to break...

...Hey! Wait a minute! Isn't Superman a former Legion member?

Whew! Tradition intact!

For tonight's fight we travel back to 1976 for Superman Vs. Spider-Man, a crossover collaboration between writer Gerry Conway and penciller Ross Andru (who were, ironically enough, the team that produced the original 70's Spider-Clone story upon which the 90's one was based - damn them!), with inks by the recently-departed Dick Giordano.

Synopsis: Peter Parker and Clark Kent are both attending a science convention in New York with Mary Jane Watson and Lois Lane, respectively. Suddenly, Lois and MJ are greeted by a surprise guest:

Not only are both Pete and Clark shocked by this occurrence....

....but they're also quite pissed. So when they encounter each other in their costumed identities a few minutes later, each assumes the other is responsible...

I know what you're thinking: How can Spidey stand a chance against Superman? Answer: With some underhanded assistance from the real culprits, Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus.

By this time, Supes begins to suspect that Spidey is innocent and tries to talk things over, but the Web-Head ain't havin' it....

But how does Lex's red sun ray affect Spidey?

Answer: Like this....

In honor of this special crossover, tonight's fight music will be a double-shot of songs by the one band who has tackled both Supes and Spidey musically. Allow me to present "Waiting For A Superman" and "The Supreme Being Teaches Spider-Man How To Be In Love" by The Flaming Lips.

Click here for some more Spider-Mayhem. And don't forget to vote!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Superman #701: If Only Johnny Carson And Ed McMahon Were Alive Today....

ED MCMAHON: "Heaven has no brighter star than our next stellar guest, that omnipotent master of the east and former dental hygienist to Matter-Eater Lad, Carnac the Magnificent!"

ED: "Welcome once again, O Great Sage... I hold in my hand these envelopes. As a child of four can plainly see, these envelopes have been hermetically sealed. No one knows the contents of these envelopes, but you, in your divine and mystical way, will ascertain the answers to these questions having never seen them before."

CARNAC: "You are right, Amnesium-Breath."


"I must have complete silence."

(Holds envelope to his forehead)

"Superman #701."

(Lowers envelope and tears it open.)

"Name the reason I won't be buying Superman #702. Or 703. Or 704..."

ED: "Ho ho ho ho!!!"

CARNAC: "May J. Michael Straczynski get assigned to write your favorite superhero comic... and never get bored."

(Takes next envelope and holds to forehead)

"Nicholson....Jello Pudding....JMS."

(Lowers envelope and tears it open.)

"Name a Jack, a snack, and a hack."

ED: "Ho ho ho ho ho!!!"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage - Grand Finale: Imp Vs. Impy!

Tonight's the final round of Friday Nnight Fights: Minimum Clonage, Where the rule is that no contestant can reuse a dominant fighter during this 12-round bout. Let's start by taking one last look at the Used Character Board (TM):

Shadow Lass, Professor Zoom, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Bethany Cabe, Liberty Belle, Nexus, Black Rider,The Ancient One, Superman, Joker.

For our 12th and final round, I've saved the best for last with tonight's battle royale. Tonight, I bring you:


Tonight's imp-broglio comes from Silver Surfer/Superman #1, written by George Perez and illustrated by Ron Lim and Terry Austin. Our musical selection for tonight is Weezer's "Troublemaker".

Synopsis: The Impossible Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk meet and decide to play a game involving Superman and the Silver Surfer, which involves yanking each one into the other's dimension messing with them. However, one of Impy's conditions was that no innocent people were to be hurt, so when he sees a miniaturized, bottled Metropolis being ripped apart as a result of Mxy's attack, the perturbed Poppupian confronts the 5th-dimensional magician about his promise, only to find out that...

...Mxy lied.

Needless to say, Impy is not a happy camper.

Mxy doesn't really care.

If it were any other opponent, Mr Mxyzptlk turning them into a slug would mean "game over". But since it's the shape-shifting Impossible Man, the fun's just beginning!

To fully appreciate the rest of battle, you'll need the following color key:

Purple & gold = Mxy
Purple & green = Impy

Let's continue:

The Surfer provides some color commentary:

Of course, where would we be without Batman?

A special bonus goes to anyone who identifies all the characters being impersonated below:

And finally....

In Spacebooger's house, anything goes.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Friday Night Fights:Minimum Clonage - Round 11: The Joker's Wild!

It's time for our penultimate round of Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage, where no contestant is allowed to re-use a dominant fighter in this bout. But first, let's review the Used Character Board (TM) :

Shadow Lass, Professor Zoom, Ant-Man (Scott Lang), Iron Man, Bethany Cabe, Liberty Belle, Nexus, Black Rider, The Ancient One, Superman.

Since none of those jokers has scored me a victory this bout, I thought I'd try the actual Joker this round, courtesy of Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. (Tonight's fight music is by Bob Dylan.) The Clown Prince of Crime just tried to break Commissioner Gordon by shooting his daughter Barbara and then kidnapping Gordon and forcing him to ride through a twisted funhouse.

Here, Batman arrives to inform the Joker that he has failed in that endeavor.

The Joker does not take this news well.

Aw, Joker, Joker, Joker! Don't shoot the messenger!

Hit him with a two-by-four instead!

For more insanity, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Weighing In On Wonder Woman#600

I just picked up Wonder Woman#600 Friday due to a busy work week. I didn't want to write about it until I had actually read the issue and gathered my thoughts.

Better strap on the seatbelt and bring some snacks, kids. This is going to be a long one.

I started with departing writer Gail Simone's opening story....

....and was completely blown away! Wonder Woman leading a team of first, second, and third tier superheroines including Manhunter, Batwoman, Skyrocket(!), Bulleteer, the Question, Black Alice and the new Terra against an invading armada of Professor Ivo's fembots, with art by George Perez? It's like Gail's reading my diary!

Next was Amanda Connor's team up story with Power Girl and the Cassandra Cain Batgirl. The only flaw was that not only was Cassandra making uncharacteristically smartass remarks but also unmasking in public. But the rest of the story was so good I just didn't care. Saranga once remarked that Amanda Connor needs to draw Supergirl more often. Hell, she needs to draw everyone more often. And write everyone more often, too. Even Cassandra.

I took time out to look at some of the pin-ups, which included the expected strong work from Adam Hughes, Nicola Scott, Phia Jiminez, and Ivan Reis but also some nice surprises by Francis Manapul and Shane Davis.

Next was an average Weezie Simonson Supes-WW team-up. Bob Wiacek's inks and Pete Pantazis' coloring gave the story a nice Mike McKone feel but would have been better served with pencils by the actual McKone instead of Eduardo Panseca's third-rate imitation of him.

By the way, that was a nice Luthor preview, but why does Lex keep calling Zooey Deschanel "Lois"?

From here it gets a little strange. There was a confusing tale by Geoff Johns with an interesting artistic departure by Scott Kolins that apparently sets up the new story arc.

Then we get to the new arc itself by J. Michael Straczynski and Don Kramer. I wanted to first judge the story on its own merit before getting to the text pieces by JMS and others. On the surface it seems to be one of those "history/reality has been turned on its ass" storylines. I've read several of these over the years: X-Men:Age of Apocalypse, Emperor Joker, World Without Young Justice, JSA: Stealing Thunder, Superman/Batman: Absolute Power, DC/Marvel's Amalgam line, the Image/Valiant crossover Deathmate, Peter Milligan's Animal Man "Coma Kid" run, and my personal favorite, Kurt Busiek & Perez' "The Call" storyline in Avengers.

The first chapter of the JMS WW story does not rank with the storylines described above. Granted, the story length was only 10 pages, less than half the length of a regular comic. After the initial fight scene there was nothing that really hooked me in other than Kramer and inker Michael Babinski's art.

I'm guessing my disconnect was caused in large part by Straczynski's refusal to utilize any members of Diana's supporting cast. Hippolyta is dead and Paradise Island has been destroyed (I'm betting they will be back to normal by the storyline's end), and there is no sign of such WW stalwarts as Donna Troy or Etta Candy. In stories like these seeing the revised versions of the supporting cast is most of the fun. The story didn't suck, but it didn't suck me in, either.

As for the costume by Jim Lee... didn't look too bad in its own right. It was a great look for an Amazon warrior, provided that Amazon warrior's name was "Donna Troy". It just didn't seem to fit Diana.

Designing a perfect Diana uniform should be pretty simple:

1. Take Lucy Lawless' Xena outfit.

2. Recolor it red, blue, white and gold.

3. Replace that circle-thing with a magic lasso.

4. Slap an eagle or a double "W" chestplate on the front and put on some bracelets and a gold tiara.

And you're done.

The last parts I read were the texts. Here are some excerpts from the first text piece:

"Wonder Woman's intellect is her real power. She's honest and disarming and she kick's butt."

"She is the "Secret Self" inside every woman--- the beautiful, unafraid, tenacious and powerful woman we know resides within ... She is the antithesis of the word "victim". She is the single mother working multiple jobs, the unsung heroine, the supportive sister, the devoted daughter, the loving wife. She is the archetype of the Liberated Feminine, and that not confined by any societal role."

Beautiful. Those words show a profound understanding of and respect for the character of Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, they were written by Lynda Carter, who, as far as I can tell, will have nothing to do with the creative direction of this book.

JMS's text piece, on the other hand, made me cringe. This read like a textbook example of a guy who just doesn't get it. Doesn't get Diana, DC Comics history, women, or, well, anything.

Let's start with his explanation for the costume change:

"While other characters, from Batman and Superman and others throughout the DC Universe, have undergone substantial changes over the years, Wonder Woman has pretty much remained the same in appearance."


Try the following experiment, Joe. Go online and look up the covers of Superman#1 and Batman#1. Then read Batman #700 and Superman#700. These substantial costume changes are what, exactly? They both still wear their underwear on the outside, for heaven's sake!

Then there's this gem:

"What woman wears the same outfit over 70 years? What woman doesn't accessorize?"

What woman wouldn't be fighting her gag reflex after reading that drivel?

In JMS' eyes, Diana "had become, for want of a better word, stuffy."

"She became the mom of the girl next door you wanted to date. This was really underscored to me whan I used Wonder Woman in Brave and the Bold#33, and many were appalled that Wonder Woman told a joke... that she flirted... that she was relaxed and having fun. One podcaster said that Wonder Woman had become like his grandmother, and he didn't like to see his grandmother being flirty."

He describes the costume changes and adds "but none of this would work without a strong character behind it." As if she wasn't one already. In other words, he felt the character and her history, as is, were broken and needed to be fixed. The problem with that is that many recent Wonder Woman stories, including two in this very issue, prove that claim to be false.

Writers like Simone, Greg Rucka, Perez, Mark Waid, Darwyn Cooke and others have proven perfectly capable of working within Diana's pre-existing mythos and producing some impressive stories. But JMS apparently couldn't without revamping it. The expression "a poor craftsman blames his tools" comes to mind.

I understand the jury's still out on how much of JMS's alteration is temporary and how much is permanent. However, if there are permanent changes to be made, I'm not sure JMS is the guy I trust making them.

Since I first read his work in Midnight Nation, I've had a love and hate relationship with JMS' writing over the years. He can gain your goodwill with one move and then piss it away with the next, sometimes even within the same story.

He's produced greats like Midnight Nation and Supreme Power, but his fingerprints have also been on some of the worst stories in comics. Remember "One More Day"? Or how about "Sins Past", which revealed that Gwen Stacy had knocked go-go boots with Norman Osborn?

He's the guy who handled Marvel's Superman avatar Hyperion perfectly, but, when given a shot to write the genuine article, starts by giving him a storyline where he doesn't fly. (Maybe he and Jon Peters can get together and form a club.)

He's the guy who introduced a cool female character like Inertia in Squadron Supreme but then saddled her with a rapey backstory.

He's the guy who began writing great series like Squadron Supreme and The Twelve, and then apparently said "Bored now!" and stopped writing each after Issue#8.

And while Joe Quesada rightfully gets derided for the dissolution of the Spider-Marriage in "One More Day", JMS is the one who, presented with a Marvel Universe filled with cosmic entities and artifacts up the wazoo, couldn't come up with a better idea to accomplish Quesada's goal than having Spidey make a deal with the devil.

JMS compared Wonder Woman to a car in his text piece. If we use the car analogy, then Wonder Woman is a vehicle that Gail Simone had kept well-oiled and running like a dream, only to have JMS decide it needed a complete overhaul. Sometimes the worst damage can be done when people try to fix something that wasn't broken in the first place.

Happy 4th of July....

...courtesy of Dave Alvin!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage - Round 10: Greetings From The Year 2001!

It's time for Round 10 of Friday Night Fights: Minimum Clonage, where no contestant is allowed to reuse a dominant fighter in this 12-round bout. And here's another look at our Used Character Board. Take it away, Vanna:

Shadow Lass, Professor Zoom, Ant-Man, Iron Man, Bethany Cabe, Liberty Belle, Nexus, Black Rider, the Ancient One.

Well, since none of those jokers have given me a victory in the last nine rounds, I've decided to use the biggest gun himself: Superman. And the setting for tonight's fight is the far-flung future of the year....2001! (Cue tonight's fight music!)

Tonight's futuristic fracas comes from an "imaginary story" (aren't they all?) in Superman#300 (June 1976) titled "Superman 2001", written by Elliot S! Maggin and illustrated by late greats Curt Swan and Bob Oksner.

The story essentially asks "What if Kal-El's rocket had landed on Earth in 1976?" (which isn't too far-fetched nowadays since, given Superman's age in the comics, he would had to have landed in the early-mid 70's). Kal's rocket lands in the ocean and is claimed by the US military, who raises the lad under the name "Skyboy", even giving him a stretchable "super-suit". In 1990, an unnamed Third World power manipulates the USA and Russia into starting a nuclear war.

Fortunately, our hero "Skyboy", now 14, prevents this global catastrophe by deactivating all the warheads and chemical weapons.

Unfortunately, he doesn't take credit for the deed, which leads to this scene in 2001:

Who is behind this devious scheme? You guessed it -- the unnamed Third World power!

Apparently, they had tried to construct an earlier android named "Lahtay", but it malfunctioned.

Only one man stands in their way....

It's "Skyboy", all growed up to be the Superman we know and love.

Moka gets in the first shot .....

...and, in an awesome Curt Swan display, punches Supes so hard he leaves after-images. But don't count our Man of Steel out just yet!

Supes fans can guess what comes next.

And now it's time for some android smashing, Superman-style!

He's kind of right about the "gullible fools" part. There's no way in hell that Americans in our 2001 would have been so quick to surrender their freedoms solely because of the manipulations of some Third World terrorist grou--- uh... never mind. Continue, Clark!

And now for the big finish....

I'll say this for the Big Red "S": The man is thorough.