Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Free For All - Round 6: Danger, Professor Robinson!

For tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Free For All, I'm taking a page from Slay, Monstrobot Of The Deep's playbook.

No, I'm not posting a Shang-Chi entry. Instead, I'm using a scene from a comic that's based on a popular 60's or 70's TV show as tonight's fight. In the past, Snell has tapped into everything from "The Flying Nun" to "Welcome Back, Kotter" . Tonight, I'll be using Lost In Space, with John Williams' theme from the third season as tonight's fight music.

Back in the early 90's, Innovation Comics published an ongoing "Lost In Space" series chronicling the Robinsons' adventures a few years after where the TV series left off (Will and Penny are both in their late teens). Some of the stories were even written or co-written by stars of the original series.

Tonight's Robinson rumble comes from Lost In Space#17, written by Bill Mumy (Will Robinson himself) and painted by Michal Dutkiewicz. In the "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Soul" story arc, the Robinsons, along with Major Don West and Dr. Smith, have reached Alpha Centauri, only to be ambushed by aliens calling themselves the Aeolus 14 Umbra. (In true Smith fashion, Dr. Smith had earlier collaborated with the alien race for his own personal enrichment and, in true Smith fashion, they double-crossed him.) The Aeolians tortured the Robinsons, severely beating Professor John Robinson to near-death. Then they separated the Jupiter 2 crew into groups, using a mysterious device called the Great Machine (no relation to Mayor Mitchell Hundred) to teleport each group to a different unknown location.

Here, we follow John, Maureen, and Penny, who have been teleported to an alien world vaguely resembling the Australian Outback. As a result of head trauma from his beating, Professor Robinson has lost all memory of his identity and his family. After weeks of hiding, he gets restless and decides, over Maureen and Penny's protests, to venture into the nearest alien village. Penny and Maureen decide to secretly follow him just in case.

Here's what happens when he arrives in the village....

...and witnesses this.

Yes, you read that right. One of the alien sentries above is named "Ditko".

"Ditko" is about to continue beating on his victim, but Professor Robinson intervenes.

Fortunately, the good Professor is only suffering from that special "Jason Bourne Amnesia", the kind where he loses all knowledge of his past and identity......

....but retains all knowledge of his fighting skills.

And now it's his turn to teach the lesson.

Class dismissed!

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Sooner Does Winick Destroy My Faith In Superhero Comics Than Spencer Brings It Back

I just linked to Chris Sims' review of the 10-page preview of Nick Spencer's new Jimmy Olsen backup, and then to the preview itself.

Sims pretty much covered the details. Suffice it to say: It rocks!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That Loud Noise You Just Heard Was Me Flinging My Copy Of Justice League: Generation Lost#10 Against The Wall

I just picked up Justice League: Generation Lost#10. Everything was going fine until I read this charming exchange (bold and italics are mine):

MAGOG: "You a big Batman fan?"

MAXWELL LORD: "Batman is a lightning rod for psychotics. He's like a naked broad walking into a room full of rapists."

And with that, I was completely taken out of the story.




Look, I get that Max Lord is supposed to be the villain for this miniseries. But that line was just wrong, no matter what character says it. It betrays grossly unenlightened attitudes on rape.

The intended point of Max's dialogue was to express Max's opinion that Batman's presence provokes and inspires psychotic behavior. Fair enough. But Winick chose the most tasteless, sexist, and inappropriate analogy possible, especially for an all-ages comic, to make Max's point.

Really, Winick? Dozens of alternate analogies you could have used to convey the point, and you had to fall back on the old "she asked for it" trope?

Here's the deal, Judd: If this hypothetical naked woman were to walk into a room full of rapists, and something bad happened to her, it would be 100% the fault of the rapists and 0% hers. Why? Because she has the right to walk into a room unmolested, but they don't have the right to rape her.

Why did you use that line, Judd? Did you think it made you sound "edgy"? Newsflash: it didn't. Instead, it made you sound like an arrested adolescent jackass.

Thanks, Winick, for taking me out of what was actually an interesting story and reminding me why I often hate your work. Allow me to express my gratitude:

Fuck you very much, Judd.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Infuriating Thing About The Tea Party

When Obama took charge, the tea partiers' attitude toward government spending was "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" ala Peter Finch in "Network".

However, when Bush was in charge, their reaction to his spending excesses was more like this scene from another famous movie.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Free For All - Round 5: How Hizzoner Handles Intruders

For tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Free For All, we're going to get political as we focus on Ex Machina's Mayor Mitchell Hundred, a former civil engineer who gained the power to communicate with and command mechanical devices after an accident on the Brooklyn Bridge. Hundred initially used his powers as a superhero called the Great Machine until he retired to become the mayor of New York City.

Tonight's mayoral melee comes from Ex Machina#8, written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Tony Harris and Tom Feister. Mayor Hundred is enjoying a beer at Gracie Mansion when he is confronted by intruders.

How does Hizzoner respond?

First, he uses his cyberpathic powers while yelling out his favorite Scorpions song.

Then he uses his cell phone..... make a long distance connection.

And, finally, he proceeds to waste some perfectly good beer.

I wish Daley would do that!

Tonight's fight music is "The Politics Of Dancing" by Re-Flex. For other examples of the politics of butt-kicking, click here. And please remember to exercise your right to vote!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In Memory Of 9/11...

Here's a link to a very moving piece written by Gail Simone shortly after the attacks. It's called "They Missed", and you can read the rest of it here.

Beefcake Week: Going for the Grell!

Over on Sally P's blog, it's Beefcake Week, which she has dedicated to displays of male pulchritude. I thought I'd take the opportunity to spotlight the art of someone who's drawn a lot of beefcake in his day: Mike Grell.

Here's a guy who designed perhaps the most scantily-clad male mainstream comic character ever....

.....Travis Morgan, also known as The Warlord.

I met Mike Grell recently at the last Chicago Comic Con. He was very friendly. We had a lot of laughs about the design of this guy....

That's Cosmic Boy from the Legion of Super Heroes. Grell explained to me what he was going for with Cos' design: He wanted to eliminate the pink the original costume had, but still retain its other elements. The only thing is that, at the time, he was unfamiliar with "the bustier", and happy coincidence followed.

The other Legionnaire costume we shared a laugh about was Tyroc. "That one," he explained, "I did on purpose."

Non-beefcake bonus: For anyone who wondered what I look like.....

... I'm the one without the hat.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Beefcake Week!

Sally P has spoken! It's Beefcake Week.

While this is not my, uh, area of expertise, I went with one of comics' quintessential beefcake moments:

Batman Vs. Ra's al Ghul from Batman#244, illustrated by Neal Adams.

Friday Night Fights: Free For All - Round 4: Because Batman Really Can Beat Anybody

One of the longest running jokes in the comics blogosphere is the idea that Batman can beat anybody if he has enough prep time.

But it's true. And Exhibit A is tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Free For All, where the Caped Crusader takes down none other than the Incredible Hulk!

Tonight's display of Dark Knight dominance comes from 1981's Batman Vs. The Incredible Hulk, written by Len Wein and illustrated by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Dick Giordano. Tonight's fight music is Neal Hefti's original "Batman" theme song.

Synopsis: The Joker and his gang attempt to steal an experimental gamma gun from Wayne Research, where Bruce Banner happens to be working under an assumed name. Banner attempts to set off an alarm and gets jumped by the Joker's men, which provokes him to get upset and turn into you-know-who. Then Bats shows up.

Leave it to the Joker to manipulate the Hulk's confusion to his advantage:

And like that -- it's on. Bruce vs. Bruce!

If this were me, my strategy would consist entirely of running away and yelling "Superman!! HELP!!" at the top of my lungs. But that's not how the Batman rolls, and so...

That's Batman for you. "If you're going to pound me into tapioca, at least get my name right!"

Bats tries the "Mr Spock" approach....

...which, unsurprisingly, doesn't work.

Nor does his attempt to stay out of range.

Bats gets free, but he's not out of the woods yet..

The gas attack doesn't appear to be working. So Bats decides to help things along...

Wait, it can't be that easy, can it?

Oh, yes, it can!

And down goes the Hulk!

What makes this Bat-victory even more impressive is that Batman achieved it completely on the fly. No prep time whatsoever.

Click here for the website of the one guy Batman can't beat. And don't forget to vote!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Night Fights: Free For All - Round 3: Meet The Beetle!

Tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Free For All features the 60's debut of a popular wise-cracking, acrobatic, bug-themed, Steve Ditko-designed superhero.

No, the other one.

The fight above is from Blue Beetle#1, written and drawn by the aforementioned Mr. Ditko and published by Charlton Comics back in June 1967. That's Ted Kord's first appearance as Blue Beetle. Here he is foiling the plans of a gang of jewel thieves called The Squids, who employ a "wall-crawling" motif similar to you-know-who.

The funny thing here is that I just picked up a Ted Kord Beetle action figure at the Chicago Comic Con two weeks back, and I posed the figure in some crazy-mad acrobatic fighting positions similar to the ones above. But it turns out some of Ditko's renderings of Ted fighting were even crazier than anything I could think up.

For tonight's fight music, what could be more appropriate than the debut single by The Beatles themselves, "Love Me Do"?

(Special thanks to Scott Tipton.)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Mutate Or Die!

I've got mixed feelings about Darwyn Cooke's comments that I read at
The 4th Letter website. I couldn't help taking issue with some of his points.

First of all, while I don't find Cooke's opinions homophobic at all, as there is some credence to his idea that some writers in fiction make characters gay out of nowhere for the wrong reasons, I think he got the facts wrong if he was referring to Batwoman with that "lesbian" comment.

For one thing, while the original Kathy Kane Batwoman existed (and was established as straight) 54 years prior to the 52 series, she was dead or out of continuity for the last 27 of them. Kate is essentially a new character. I will grant that DC's PR regarding Kate's introduction was forced and atrocious. Rather than simply introducing her in 52 and revealing her sexuality more organically in the course of the story, DC telegraphed it so loudly with their advance press releases, they might as well have shouted "DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA! SHE'S A LESBIAN!!! SHE'S A LESBIAN!!! DA DA DAAAAHH!!!" And using the term "lipstick lesbian" didn't help.

But Greg Rucka (aided considerably by J.H. Williams) made Kate work. What may have initially appeared as a hollow shock device has developed into a fascinating character. Kate is now a unique (not simply for her sexuality) and worthy addition to the Bat-Family.

Also, as someone turning 45 in a few weeks, I can't help but take some slight offense at his "perverted fantasies of 45-year-old-men" comment. I won't deny that there are many of those "hardcore" fans who fit Cooke's description. But there's been a tendency in recent years to paint male comic fans in my age group with a broad brush and make us the Universal Scapegoat for everything wrong with modern superhero comics, almost as if we should feel guilty for even being associated with this hobby anymore.

But I don't remember myself or any other fans my age being consulted before DC Editorial decided "We need a rape". Or when someone decided to let Wonder Dog maul Marvin. Or when Bendis decided to brutalize Tigra to give The Hood more "street cred". Or before DC killed Roy Harper's 8-year-old daughter and turned him into a one-armed junkie. Or when Marvel went ahead with the infamous "tastes like chicken" splash.

In fact, I hate those examples above and many of those examples Cooke brought up. And several other male readers in my demographic hate them, too.

And while I enjoyed some "grim and gritty" books like the Watchmen, I wasn't the one who felt the compulsion to make the whole superhero line ape that dark and violent tone.

While we're at it, I didn't agree to let comics phase out independent distributors like newsstands and grocery stores by putting all the eggs in the direct market basket either.

Put the blame squarely where it belongs: on the Big Two's stupid, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and greedy decisions. There are the writers, artists, and editors who want to handle "adult" topics like rape, but execute them with all the maturity of a 13-year old who just got access to his dad's liqour cabinet. The ones who want to push the envelope in terms violence and gross-outs, but who want to stay within the comfort zone of "all-ages" comics, and force the standards to change to suit them.

If they're making these moves to cater only to men of my age group (and Cooke's, by the way) , they're aiming for too low and too narrow of a common denominator in even that niche group, to the exclusion of the rest. And therein lies the problem. Catering exclusively to a narrow niche may work in some cases, but if the current anemic sales are any indication, comics isn't one of them.

Cooke is absolutely right about superhero comics needing to actually reach out and be more appropriate for all ages. I hate how many of the current so-called "all ages" comics are a crap shoot as to whether they're appropriate reading for younger fans, even if they're about non-adult heroes. When a book has "Teen Titans" as its title, it should be a given that it's age-appropriate.

Sure, there is the Johnny DC line (for now, anyway), but as good as Art Balthasar is, there's more to comics than the cartoony stuff. Marvel Adventures fares better in this regard (it did provide a springboard for Jeff Parker and Fred Van Lente) , but the range of comics in the kids' lines are still much more limiting than when I was a kid. When I started reading superhero comics when I was about seven, I cut my teeth on artists like Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, John Buscema, Dick Dillin, and the Curt Swan-Murphy Anderson team, all of which were appropriate for my age at the time. Where are the Adamses or "Swandersons" or the Buscemas that parents can safely give young kids today? It's like kids now are being cheated out of that richer palette.

That's the reason I absolutely hated "All-Star Batman and Robin" (which is what Darwyn was referring to with his Batman complaints). The All-Star line was intended, just as Marvel's Ultimates line was, to be accessible to newer (read: younger?) readers by virtue of lesser continuity. ASBAR, in addition, boasted art by Jim Lee, no less. But Frank Miller pissed that away with his cynical self-indulgence and DC let him. While Grant Morrison also went wild on "All-Star Superman", at least he did it in a way that respected the awe and wonder of the character and was safe for all ages.

Cooke was absolutely right about making the medium more appropriate for kids, but he needn't have stopped there. Women and minorities (such as the aforementioned lesbians) need to feel more welcome as well. The "new characters" Darwyn advocated would be a welcome step. Being more sensitive to their wants and not killing or raping or poorly writing characters they identify with would be another.

At this point, the best way comics can survive as a medium is to follow the advice once given by music critic Dave Marsh:

Mutate or die.