Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge! - Round 4: Here Comes The Bride, She'll Tan Your Hide!

Welcome once again to Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge!, where the main rule is that each of my entries must contain at least one character that I used in my immediately preceding entry. For reasons that I will explain in future rounds, my rounds in this bout will be heavy on the Superman family characters. I've already used Supes himself in the first three rounds. Tonight, however, I'm giving Big Blue a rest to focus on another character who was featured in last round's fight.

Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep won the last round by featuring Daredevil in a fat suit, so my featured combatant this week is.....


Tonight's featured bridal brouhaha comes from the beginning of 1996's Superman: The Wedding Album one-shot. This scene is written by Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, David Michelinie, Louise Simonson, and/or Roger Stern (just go with it), and was illustrated by the art teams of John Byrne & Terry Austin, Kerry Gammill & Murphy Anderson, and Gil Kane & Bob McLeod (I'll leave it to you to guess which art team did which pages).

Synopsis: Lois is about to get married, not to the Man of Steel, but rather to........

......the most gullible drug lord ever.

(I love how Lois' word balloons here are in the shape of cute little pink hearts.)

Time for Lois to break out the champaigne!

Ah, nothing like a good Crocodile Dundee reference! Even back in 1996, that was still really dated.

Finally, Lois inflicts some Kane Pain...

You can say that again, Lois! Kate Middleton's got nothing on you!

Tonight's fight music is this wedding classic by Nick Lowe.

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The View From The Fence


Below is a scene from last week's Invincible#79, courtesy of Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, and Cliff Rathburn. Mark Grayson, the title character, has recently returned to Earth after a year (comic time) in space fighting the Viltrumite War and has reunited with his girlfriend Atom Eve. We discover she has had a small but noticeable weight gain and, more importantly, has a big secret she's afraid to reveal to Mark. Finally, in issue#79, she breaks down and tells him.

Which leads to Mark's reaction.

This issue struck a chord with me, particularly since my wife and I are trying to conceive right now (not a smooth road for couples in their mid 40's). I'll say this for Kirkman: He's got guts. That's a rough issue to cover in a superhero comic.

Believe me, it's rough enough to even write a blog entry about it.

I'll level with you about my stance on the abortion issue: I'm, well,...split. Part of the "muddy middle". On the fence, if you will. (Hence the title of this post.) It's not that I don't have strong opinions on it. I do. But many of them are conflicted. There are complex and unresolved questions about when life begins (about which I'm not entirely convinced that either side's position is correct), as well as what happens when two sets of rights intersect and conflict. And it can be a grisly procedure, depending on the stage at which it's performed  (NOTE: Thanks for the correction, Saranga). However, I get more than a little nervous about giving governments that much power over womens' reproduction. Historically, it's been a recipe for disaster. We've seen how that scenario plays out.

This isn't an issue that easily lends itself to compromise. However, all three positions would undoubtedly find a general consensus on the wish to reduce the number of abortions. Which is why the recent attempts to defund Planned Parenthood make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Allow me to explain.

There has been a staggering level of disinformation on the abortion issue. How much? So much that when The Onion published this satirical piece from a woman who claimed she was "totally psyched" about her upcoming abortion, one blogger actually thought it was the real deal. (This led to such hilarious responses as "For your next post, how about a passionate speech on the need to immediately free Prince Albert from the can?") Yes, this was only one guy, but one can infer from reading the Onion article that it was intended to lampoon the widespread idea that women enter into the decision casually. Even to those those unfamiliar with 'The Onion", there were some very obvious tells, particularly in the paragraphs detailing the procedure itself. Depending on the stage, it can sometimes be highly invasive, in case you weren't aware. (Once again, thanks, Saranga.)

It doesn't help matters when you have politicians like Senator Jon Kyl who, while arguing for the defunding of Planned Parenthood recently, claimed that 90% of Planned Parenthood's services were abortions (as opposed to the actual percentage of roughly 3%). Kyl's spokesperson claimed later that his claim was "not intended to be a factual statement", which is apparently code for "lying his ass off in hopes that it would stick with low-information voters", an all-too-common political practice nowadays. This revelation was ridiculed in the media, most notably by Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Wyatt Cenac.

However, the bigger deception was all but ignored. The main argument for Planned Parenthood's defunding seems to be that federal funds should not pay for abortions because taxpayers should not be required to support things that contradict their moral beliefs. Let me point out two problems to those of you out there who support this argument:

1. I can name several things that I don't want the federal government to fund because they contradict my moral beliefs, like the 3 wars or Guantanamo Bay, to name a few. So can millions of our fellow Americans. But those things keep on receiving money. So, in the words of Hal Jordan....

And, more importantly...

2. You already won this fight. 34 years ago.

That's right: The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, already forbids federal funding from being spent on abortions, including funds to Planned Parenthood. Consequently,their abortion services are not funded by federal tax dollars, but rather by private contributors like the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation. Here's what that means: How many tax dollars will go toward Planned Parenthood's abortion services if we defund it? None. How many tax dollars will go toward its abortion services if we don't defund it? Also none.

I can understand why Planned Parenthood would be a juicy target for those against abortion. They perform roughly 332,000 annual abortions nationwide, which is around 1/4 of the roughly 1.21 million total abortions performed annually in the United States. So if Planned Parenthood shuts down completely, the USA's annual abortion amount is reduced by 25%, right?

Not necessarily. That's only part of the calculus, you see. Their entire range of services includes pap smears, contraception (birth control), cancer screening, and counseling, among other things. (See the chart below.)

Let's take the contraception program. The number of abortions the organization estimates were prevented by their contraception program is roughly 220,000. That reduces the net abortion increase that they are responsible for to approximately 112,000 (332,000 - 220,000 = 112,000). And that's just factoring in the unborn. There's also the lives of the women and men themselves who would be saved by the cancer screenings and other services provided. And yet these are the services that the conservatives in Congress want to defund.

I've got one word to describe that strategy: Idiocy.

Trying to cut down on abortions by defunding contraception is like trying to reduce crime by firing all the cops. It's like trying to protect coastal cities from flood damage by tearing down all the levees.

It's like trying to neutralize the Joker's crime sprees by killing Batman.

If I controlled Congress, and I wanted to reduce abortions, I wouldn't want to remove the funding of the non-abortion services of Planned Parenthood, I'd want to quadruple it. Fund the crap out of contraception. Make it more effective, more efficient, more accessible, and more affordable, especially for lower income women who need it.

Yet many in our government want to do the exact opposite.

That's not a sound, rational reproduction policy. That's a Monty Python skit.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bronze Age Lois Lane...... a total buzzkill.

(Courtesy of Superman#314, by Martin Pasko, Curt Swan, and Dan Adkins.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge! - Round 3: Happy Earth Day!

It's Round 3 of Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge! The rules of this bout state that I can only use a character (or characters) that was featured in my previous round for this fight. Since I know of no other appearances of Anonymous Lexcorp Goon from Round 2, I will have to use the other combatant from that round: Superman.

In honor of today being Earth Day, tonight's fight comes from 1988's Superman: The Earth Stealers graphic novel, written by John Byrne, illustrated by the late great Curt Swan, and inked by Jerry Ordway. Synopsis: A band of space pirates has stolen the Earth and plans to hand it over to their clients for resource extraction. Superman has boarded their ship with plans to stop them, but is captured and forced to fight the space captain's champion, Gunge, for the safety of the planet.

Here's Superman vs. Gunge, featuring some beautiful Curt Swan fisticuffs.

What is that device that Lois, Jimmy, and Perry are strapped to? We'll soon find out, unfortunately.

What a predicament! How will Supes get out of this one?

Then the lightbulb in Kal's head suddenly flips on...

And down goes Gunge!!!!

(Neither Gunge nor the pirate captain ever appeared anywhere else besides this story. However, you'll notice that Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White play a pivotal role in the above fight. Does that mean one or more of them will appear next week? Tune in next Friday and find out!)

Tonight's fight music is Sam Phillips' "Holding On to The Earth" since that's exactly what Supes does here.

For more eco-friendly imbroglios, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I'm Game If You Are

Via Ragnell's tumblr:

Reblog if you’d like to see a Young Adult Wonder Woman manga given a shot

(Click above to enlarge)

All right, so Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman pitch got attention back when I was on the way to Afghanistan so I never got a chance to comment on it (even to note it has lovely art), but tonight I’m thinking about Wonder Woman, DC current direction for her, fans and such. A postcard campaign got the series renumbered to 600 rather than reset at 1 for this latest reboot. Letter campaigns got Manhunter two reprieves. A letter campaign brought Stephanie Brown back from the dead.

I think there’s an off chance we can get this published, or at least get it in their heads that we want Wonder Woman to be for young girls too. And if it works, we can finally have a Wonder Woman book to give to our younger family and friends. That should be something worth shooting for even if you don’t like certain aspects of it.

So, if you’d spend postage to get this a second chance, please Reblog. We’ll get organized if there’s enough of us.

Works for me. How about you folks?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge! - Round 2: Rude Silence!

For Round 2 of Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge!, I'm spotlighting the genius of The Dude.

No, not him.

I'm talking about "Nexus" co-creator and artist extraordinaire Steve "The Dude" Rude, who drew the 3-part World's Finest miniseries starring Superman and Batman (written by Dave Gibbons and inked by Karl Kesel). Since the rules of Repeat Rehash Revenge! state that I can only use a character or characters whom I used in my previous round, and my previous round was Booster Gold and Superman vs. a robot, I am focusing on the Man of Steel this week.

Here's a scene from World's Finest#1 spotlighting a typical crime-in-progress in Metropolis. Notice how this fight is rendered in complete silence, with no captions, word balloons, or sound effects.

(Click on the scans below to enlarge and fully appreciate the Dude goodness.)

Evvn though this scene is completely "silent", it still speaks volumes. Therefore, it's appropriate that this week's fight music is "The Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel.

To see more cool "dudes" (and "dudettes"), click here. And don't forget to vote!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge! - Round 1: Booster, Robot Fighter!

Welcome to our latest bout of Friday Night Fights, which is called "Repeat Rehash Revenge!".    The theme, according to our host, Spacebooger, has added the following rules specifically for this bout:

1. Every entry needs to include a fight scene featuring at least one of the characters from the participant’s previous FNF entry. (For the first entry this rule can be ignored. If a participant skips a week a character from their last entry should be used.)

2. The second appearance of any character MUST be from a different comic issue. (Different books are preferred, but the character may be from the same book but different issue number.)

With these in mind, my opening entry will come from Booster Gold#23, written and drawn by Dan Jurgens and inked by Roy Richardson. The fight below is actually a continuation of this fight previously posted by Crisis On Earth Prime, in which it appeared that Booster Gold had beaten the super-snot out of the Man of Steel. I say "it appeared" because it turns out that "Booster" had turned out to be a doppelganger, a fact made more apparent after the real Booster Gold shows up.

Yeah, why is Superman making such a weak showing here?

As much as I like the Giffen-Dematteis Justice League International era, one thing I wish we could have seen more often is that, despite being played for laughs, Booster, like his pal Blue Beetle, was smarter and more formidable than he appeared to be and could be downright dangerous. Another oft-neglected aspect of Booster in JLI was the advantages he had of actually being from the future.

Here, Booster goes all "Magnus" on his robot duplicate's shiny metal ass.

And why did Superman appear so weak? Could it be...oh, I don't know.....

..... Kryptonite?

Apparently, the Green K must have been weakening Supes' brain as well as his body, because how else could an android fool a man with X-ray vision, microscopic vision, and super-hearing? Not to mention the fact that he didn't recognize Kryptonite radiation after being dosed with it a few months before?

Will the Man of Steel redeem himself in a future round? Will Booster be back? Only time will tell! In the meantime, listen to tonight's fight song by the Who. Then go to Spacebooger's site and vote!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Retro or Retread? DC's "Classic Rock" Problem

"You glorify the past when the future dries up."
 - U2

Here's some news I discovered on the DC Women Kicking Ass site:

"DC Comics has announced at WonderCon a new series of one-shots called Retroactive. The books will have writers from each character’s particular era write an out of continuity story in the style of that era. The creators are:

Superman - Martin Pasko (‘70s), Marv Wolfman (‘80s), Louise Simonson (‘90s)
Batman - Len Wein (‘70s), Mike Barr (‘80s), Alan Grant (‘90s)
Wonder Woman - Denny O’Neil (‘70s), Roy Thomas (‘80s), William Messner-Loebs (‘90s)
Flash - Cary Bates (‘70s), William Messner Loebs (‘80s), Brian Augustyn (‘90s)
Green Lantern - Denny O’Neil (‘70s), Len Wein (‘80s), Ron Marz (‘90s)
JLA - Cary Bates (‘70s), Gerry Conway (‘80s), Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis (‘90s)"

Not sure how I feel about this myself. Many of the aforementioned writers' original runs on the books in question were very entertaining, and I'm sure most of these one-shots will be as well, particularly Giffen/Dematteis' JLI. But can you go home again? (I keep thinking of the disappointing Claremont/Byrne reunion in JLA a few years back.)

I'm also curious about which of the artists will be illustrating these tales. I know from here that Kevin Maguire will illustrate the Giffen League tale, while Jon Bogdanove will reunite with Simonson. While Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire anything is a guaranteed must-buy, Bog wasn't my favorite Supes artist (I always remember thinking "All the styles he was capable of and he picked that one?"). As for the rest, many of the original artists who collaborated with the above writers on their original runs are either dead (Curt Swan, Gil Kane, Irv Novick, Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano, Jim Aparo), retired, or are committed to other projects. Still, I wouldn't mind Norm Breyfogle on Grant's Batman or Greg LaRocque on Loebs' Flash.

Still, as good as it is to see some of these writers working again, I wonder if it's the best use of their skills or of  DC's resources. Sure, these books are guaranteed short-term money-makers, but they accomplish Jack Diddly as far as solving DC's long-term problem of having too narrow a fanbase to thrive. (Any look at current sales figures will confirm this problem exists.) These books seem like preaching to the choir rather than bringing in new converts. How does churning out yet another Batman or Green Lantern one-shot bring in new readers, particularly those who aren't white and male? Rather than dispelling DC's reputation of catering too much to nostalgic middle-aged fanboys, this sets it in titanium.

And what if, instead of going for the easy nostalgia buck, DC had brought those writers back, but on one-shots of less-popular characters? What if, instead of the Bats & GL stories, Denny O'Neill were to write an original tale of the Renee Montoya Question? Or if Roy Thomas wrote about the Michael Holt Mr. Terrific? Or if Simonson wrote a Lois Lane solo tale?

DC's current predicament reminds me of two classic Chicago radio stations of the late 70's/early 80's, namely WLUP (the Loop) and WXRT. Both played (and continue to play) their share of classic rock. However, WXRT also played diverse artists of other genres such as modern indie rock and blues, and continues that practice to this day, while WLUP (except for a few years following the talk radio trend) only played the classic rock dusties, with a spattering of new material by artists in that narrow genre. The former station remains a huge staple on both my radio presets and even my online streaming audio, while the latter one has long lost any relevance and only rates the occasional nostalgic listen. Can you guess which one has a wider variety of fans?

DC is in danger of becoming the WLUP of comics. They're forgetting that even those guaranteed hitmakers had to start somewhere. They became popular and stood out by breaking away from what had gone before and trying something new. That was the beauty of Grant Morrison's JLA: It took what had gone before, added some original innovations, and moved the mythos forward. Now, DC seems stuck in reverse. By increasingly focusing on nostalgia at the expense of developing or nurturing newer characters, they run the same risk of becoming "classic-rock" dinosaurs. Honestly, you're telling me that Aquaman rates another chance at a solo series but Jaime Reyes doesn't?

It's like a music playlist. Sure, it's fine to play classic artists like the Stones or the Who or U2, but you also need to include newer artists like MGMT or TV On The Radio on the playlist to keep things from becoming stale. What characters will be the MGMT's of DC Comics?

On the other hand, seeing stories by these old masters could be a very educational refresher course for some of today's writers:

"Oh, you DON'T have to rip people's arms off or kill off C-List characters for shock value???"

"Oh, you CAN tell a self-contained story without padding it for the trades?"

The list goes on and on.

Casting Thoughts

I read this article a few months back about how some Hollywood casting directors claim that American men, particularly the 20- and 30-somethings, aren't manly enough to play heroic leads. Here were some excerpts:

The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises casting director John Papsidera, said: "The ugly truth is that American leading men just aren't terribly manly anymore. You look at the list of American leading men, and in their twenties and thirties, they're very boylike. Take Jesse Eisenberg: I put him in Zombieland, but he's not going to play Superman. He's much closer to what Dustin Hoffman turned into than John Wayne or Steve McQueen. It's hard to find movie stars that live up to the needs of the story."

And, speaking about Canadian, the English and Australia men, Papsidera added: "There, they're still raised as men. Heath [Ledger] was a man's man. Guys like Henry Cavill, there's an easy masculinity to them. But because of how predominant the sixties and the women's movement were here, guys in America talk about their 'feelings' far more than guys from New Zealand and Australia or Ireland."

United Talent agent Louise Ward also adds: "I believe there's been a certain feminization of the American male. As a result, there are a lot of 'mama's boys.' Kids are raised like veal. We're afraid to let them play soccer. That kind of nurturing softens what we're used to seeing on the screen. American men aren't men on the screen."

I think I can speak for many of my fellow modern American men when I say this argument is complete bullshit. It speaks more about the narrow-minded prejudices of the aforementioned casting directors than it does about the manliness, or alleged lack thereof, of American males. If they can't find manly American men, it's more likely they're not looking hard enough.

The Jesse Eisenberg quote is a perfect example. Sure, you may not see Eisenberg himself as a superhero, but what about his fellow American and "Social Network" actor, Armie Hammer, who played both Winklevoss twins? Here's a video of him and his work in the movie. I could easily see him as a movie superhero.

In fact, I just thought of a superhero he could play. Here's his best line in the movie: "I'm 6'5", 220 (pounds), and there's two of me."

What other current superhero is blond, athletic, 6'5" and 220 pounds and even has the exact same hairstyle as Armie Hammer?

Here's a hint.

Why, there have even been two of him on occasion.


Monday, April 04, 2011

Did I Forget Anybody?

As part of my April Fool's Day gag last Friday, I changed the template for one day. Unfortunately for me, changing the template inadvertently wrote over my blogroll links. Fortunately for me, I remembered everything Elayne Riggs taught me about blogrolling (which is the entire reason she's in the top line instead of Sally P) and put them back in. I also took the opportunity to add some new links, which I had meant to do for months.

Here's where you folks come in: Please suggest some favorites of yours that I may have missed in the comments section. Comics blogs would be preferred, but please list anything that may come to mind.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Or Not!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Special Announcement: The Old Order Changeth!

We've all had days where we've thought to ourselves "Boy, I wish I could be two people."

Starting today, I can be two thousand. In a fashion, anyway. For today is the day we unveil our new blog, Stars And Garters, Incorporated.

You may have noticed the change in the masthead above. But you may not understand why it was changed and how will it affect the blog. Allow me to explain.

Since April of 2007, I had maintained the Stars And Garters blog singlehandedly. But because of time and creative blocks I had never been able to maintain it on even a daily basis, let alone at the level it needs to be. Well, today that changes.

Within the last few weeks, I've made my acquaintance with some rich and very well-connected friends with a mutual interest in blogging. Through them, I have connected with roughly 2,000 fellow bloggers from around the world. Together, we form the vast network which will blog under the "Notintheface" banner. That's right: Instead of just me posting an entry every few days, there will postings at least every half hour, each from one of my fellow "Notinthefaces". The blog will be updated 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

This will affect the content of the blog greatly. There will be several "Public Announcements" posts per day, each tailored to the geographical location of the particular "Notintheface" writing, many of which will be written in that particular "NITF"'s native language. For example, British readers will be able to enjoy the "PA"'s of one of my British counterparts, while those from the "Great White North" will be able to appreciate the more Canada-centric one. The United States will be well-covered, with bloggers statoned everywhere from Kalamazoo, Michigan to Windsor Locks, Connecticut.

As for "Friday Night Fights", all participating NITF's will have the option of submitting their proposed entry by Wednesday of each week. A favorite will be voted on each Thursday, with the final winning selection e-mailed by me to Spacebooger that Friday morning.

Another significant area of improvement will be in the area of diversity. No longer will this blog be constrained by the singular viewpoint of a fortysomething, married, liberal, middle-class white male. Instead, the Notintheface network will comprise a wide variety of races, religions, gender identities, income classes, sexual orientations, political beliefs, and even favorite Green Lanterns or Fantastic Four members. This will allow us to approach issues from as many different sides as possible.

We hope this new blog configuration will provide you with a wider variety of enjoyment. Thank you for your support!