Friday, June 24, 2011

RIP Gene Colan!

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge - Round 10: Cowboys And Robots And Lanterns, Oh My!

The rules to Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Relaunch are simple: we have to use at least one character who appeared in our last round. Last week, I had Hal Jordan get Bat-pwned, so this round I'm bringing back Happy Hal and teaming him up with legendary DC bounty-hunter and fellow movie star Jonah Hex.

Tonight's meeting between Hal and Hex comes from 1982's Justice League of America#199, which was written by Gerry "Criminal Intent" Conway, drawn by Don Heck and beautifully inked by Brett Breeding. Synopsis: The Lord of Time has sent Hal and 3 other Justice Leaguers back to the 1800's, where Hal ends up encountering and then riding with Jonah through the desert.

Hex's hearing and instincts kick in, and...

In fairness, Jonah, Hal hangs around with Guy Gardner, so I think he knows "crazy".

GL rushes on his glowy green plasma horse to attend to their would-be attacker, but Hal, being Hal, ends up......

....getting clocked in the head!!!

And that "man" Hal was so stupidly worried about hurting about turns out to be....

Yep, a cowboy robot!

(It's Gerry Conway, Hal. Just roll with it!)

In honor of this round's subject matter, tonight's fight music is an appropriate tune from Thin Lizzy.

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

(Special thanks to Dwayne at Matching Dragoons.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Definition of Insanity: DC To Spend Millions Preaching To The Choir

I saw some things in this Bleeding Cool post about the yesterday's DC Comics Roadshow in Texas that made me shake my head, and others that made me want to slam it against my desk.

At the show, DC told retailers that they have a seven figure marketing budget to spend on the Relaunch, which includes everything from the previously Bleeding Cooled TV ad campaign, including the Cartoon Network ads to USA Today, Facebook, movie theaters ads, conventions and promotional materials.

Wow, that's a lot of PR firepower you're bringing to the table, DC! That must mean you're casting a wide net to capture as large and diverse new reader demographic spectrum as possible. It has to mean that!

The target audience are men age 18 to 34 though they do realize that they have readers in other demographics.

Or not.
Translation: "We really care about the 18-34-year-old men, but maybe we can make a half-assed effort to reach some other demos as an afterthought."
Here's the thing: Isn't the current superhero audience already predominantly composed of men aged 18-34? This demo counts as "new readers" how, exactly? Won't DC be, in effect, spending millions to preach to the choir?
The truth of the matter is that the Big Two have been catering too much to this demo since the advent of the direct market, becoming increasingly insular, to the point of driving away readers of other demos.
One of those demos? Readers under 18. Here's a question for you readers: At what age did you first get into comics? It sure as hell wasn't 18 or higher. In fact, I quit comics for a while when I reached 18 to focus on college. I'd started reading them about 11 years earlier.
But where are the jumping-on locales for younger readers on mainstream lines today? Not at the 7-11's or toy stores or drugstores or supermarkets as in the older days. The direct market replaced that. And as the creators gradually made books darker, coarser, grittier and more "kewl", they also made them less accessible. We had more beheadings, rapes, and dismemberments, but vastly fewer younger readers. Excessive use of events and crossovers also made the books more expensive to follow.
Another large, potentially lucrative demo that got thrown under the bus? Female readers. Starting with the 90's we saw more and more "butt floss" outfits. Breasts grew impossibly bigger, while waists grew smaller and outfits skimpier. The Big Two breached more "mature" topics like rape, but often did so with all the maturity of a 14-year-old accessing his dad's liquor cabinet.
And now it seems like DC's still treating this audience like an afterthought. But they're overlooking a large source of revenue in the misguided belief that women and girls don't read comics.

You won't be seeing Donna Troy yet in the new DCU, nor the Stephanie and Cassandra Batgirls. They haven't been killed off though, just benched.

Yes, that "Stephanie" getting benched is the same Stephanie Brown whose death inspired hordes of female readers to deluge DC with requests that she either be resurrected or get her own Batcave trophy case, so much so that DC opted for the former solution.  But she's getting benched while Jason Todd, whom a majority of comic readers voted to have killed via a 1-800 number, gets his own ongoing series. What's wrong with this picture?

Here's a hint for you DC big-wigs: You know how you see a glut of TV commercials that portray men as complete idiots, apparently unable to even breathe properly without the help of their wise, all-knowing
wives/girlfriends? There's a reason for that, and it's NOT truth in advertising. It's because women have vast quantities of purchasing power, and advertisers, rightly or wrongly, feel this will make women feel better about themselves and encourage them to buy their products.
Now, I don't think DC should ape the commercials and make all their men that stupid (except maybe Hal Jordan). But they should do something to try to grab that female demo.
Here's another quote that really troubled me:
Many of the new 52 books will have six issue story arcs.....
You know what's that's code for? Decompression. Writing for the trades. Fewer self-contained stories. Just what we need more of in modern superhero comics.
And yet DC indicates they'll be quick on the cancellation trigger:
"...and Dan DiDio states that if sales are bad on a title, they won't wait very long to cancel it. He wants strong sales across the line."

In other words, books with potential won't be allowed to build a following before they get whacked. Think back on Chase. Or The Power Company. Or Black Lightning. Or Aztek. Or the Milestone books. I'm sure you can all think of more.

In other words, DC's promising more of the same things that have wrecked superhero comics over the years.
There's an old expression I've used several times in my blog: The definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. Not only is DC repeating the same actions that led to their comics hemorrhaging readers, but now they seem to be doubling down on them.
It reminds me of an old David Letterman Top Ten list. It was "Top Ten Chicago Cubs Excuses". One of them was "We thought lower scores were better, like with golf."
I suspect DC execs may believe the same thing about their comics' sales figures.

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Which I Fulfill My Natural Male Urge To Tell Scott Adams To Suck It

Well, Anthony Weiner resigned last Thursday shortly after his wife got home. I'm betting their conversations bore some resemblance to this....

From Googum (Click to enlarge)

....except maybe without the killer robots. And without Thor.

We've had a few high-profile scandals involving high-profile men over the past few weeks. Before Weiner, there was also Arnold Schwartzenegger fathering his maid's child out of wedlock and lying about it to his wife for over a decade. We also had Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the IMF, arrested on charges that he sexually assaulted a New York hotel maid. And John Edwards. And John Ensign. get the idea. Guys like this give all of us with the Y chromosome a bad name.

But something else occurs to me: You know what else gives us men a bad name? People who use incidents like this to stereotype all males together.

We've been bombarded with articles asking "What makes powerful men act like pigs?" and "Why do men cheat?" Many in the media act as if it's these figures' maleness which is the problem instead of their individual lapses in judgement. Yeah, that's gotta be it. The reason that we see many more male politicians than female politicians involved in these sex scandals couldn't possibly be that there are vastly more male politicians in office, period, could it? Nah! Gotta be that damn testosterone!

Granted, on the overall grievance scale, that's relatively low, compared to murder, torture, rape, and other serious atrocities, or even many lesser injustices, for that matter. But after a certain point it can still become as annoying as hell.

What's much worse, though, is when guys like "Dilbert" creator Scott Adams actually post idiotic rationalizations like this.

Adams' post is wrong on a near-infinite number of levels. (Note: I have everything written by Adams below in blue italics.)

Let's start with his opening paragraph:

If you have a round peg that doesn’t fit in a square hole, do you blame the peg or the hole? You probably blame neither. We don’t assign blame to inanimate objects. But you might have some questions about the person who provided you with these mismatched items and set you up to fail.

OK, first of all, the correct analogy is a square peg in a round hole. Because a round peg would slip into a square hole of similar diameter pretty seamlessly. Fitting a square peg into a round hole of similar diameter, on the other hand, is impossible because of the corners on the former. For a guy whose entire claim to fame is a comic strip about an engineer, that's a pretty blatant thing to miss.

But it gets worse:

If a lion and a zebra show up at the same watering hole, and the lion kills the zebra, whose fault is that? Maybe you say the lion is at fault for doing the killing. Maybe you say the zebra should have chosen a safer watering hole. But in the end, you probably conclude that both animals acted according to their natures, so no one is to blame. However, if this is your local zoo, you might have some questions about who put the lions with the zebras in the same habitat.

First of all, I've got a bad feeling whom he's intending the "lion" and "zebra" to represent.

Second, do you know what lions and zebras have in common? They're both goddamn animals! They're both completely ruled by their biological instincts. Humans, on the other hand, are not so limited. We have options. More complex thought processes. Choices. Technology. Quite frankly, we, both men and women, are more advanced than animals. Animals didn't create art, science, literature, religion, government, and music, among other things. Animals didn't create the Internet.

Here are some more of Adams' "pearls of wisdom":

Now consider human males. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in the news. Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, raping, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior. That seems right. Obviously we shouldn’t blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society’s tools for keeping things under control.

The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable. In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes. Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, “Here’s your square hole”?

Again with the square holes! Repeat after me, Scott: Square peg, round hole. Jesus! There was even a TV series, for God's sake!

Even worse, he makes the same offensive mistake made by many of those man-bashing articles I mentioned above: He actually conflates rape and extramarital sex. Conflating rape and sex, period, indicates an extremely poor understanding of both.

Also, I must have nodded off a lot during my history classes, because I missed the parts where all our major civilizations were dominated by powerful matriarchies that unilaterally imposed all those oppressive "don't rob and rape and sexually abuse and murder" laws on our poor unwilling menfolk. Those womenfolk must have been very powerful and influential, especially in the good ol' US of A, where they got the right to vote a mere 144 years after the Declaration of Independence was written. Now, that's power!

And I also must have snoozed through history class the day we learned that women unilaterally invented marriage, too.

But I obviously didn't sleep through Psych 101 on the day the instructor explained "projection", because I can see that Adams is doing plenty of it here. All natural male instincts are bad, Scott? What about the nobler ones like the instinct to protect and defend? Those same instincts that might have compelled them to create all those "oppressive" laws in the first place? You seem to have left those out of the equation, Scott.

He actually does raise one valid point, in the same way that even a stopped clock can get the correct time twice a day: A lot of people do see gender relations in terms of a simplistic black-and-white "female good, male bad" dynamic. But rather than dispel that misguided belief, Adams actually reinforces it.

The way society is organized at the moment, we have no choice but to blame men for bad behavior. If we allowed men to act like unrestrained horny animals, all hell would break loose. All I’m saying is that society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness. No one planned it that way. Things just drifted in that direction.

Right, Scott, all those rules and laws just happened magically.

But you can't accuse Adams of not providing any real-life examples of his theories:

Consider Hugh Hefner. He had every benefit of being a single man, and yet he decided he needed to try marriage. Marriage didn’t work out, so he tried the single life again. That didn’t work out, so he planned to get married again, although reportedly the wedding just got called off. For Hef, being single didn’t work, and getting married didn’t work, at least not in the long run. Society didn’t offer him a round hole for his round peg. All it offered were unlimited square holes.

Hugh Hefner? Come on, Scott! Using Hugh friggin' Hefner as your example of a poor beleaguered everyman? REALLY??

I also notice Adams fails to explain what his idea of a "round hole" in Hef's situation would be. Maybe that's for the best!

And, for the last time? SQUARE PEG!!! ROUND HOLE!!! SQUARE.....ahh, screw it. Continue, Scott:

To be fair, if a man meets and marries the right woman, and she fulfills his needs, he might have no desire to tweet his meat to strangers. Everyone is different. But in general, society is organized as a virtual prison for men’s natural desires. I don’t have a solution in mind. It’s a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa. And there’s no real middle ground because that would look like tweeting a picture of your junk with your underpants still on. Some things just don’t have a compromise solution.

Aw, is it really that bad for you, Scott?

 Long term, I think science will come up with a drug that keeps men chemically castrated for as long as they are on it. It sounds bad, but I suspect that if a man loses his urge for sex, he also doesn’t miss it. Men and women would also need a second drug that increases oxytocin levels in couples who want to bond. Copulation will become extinct. Men who want to reproduce will stop taking the castration drug for a week, fill a few jars with sperm for artificial insemination, and go back on the castration pill.

You mean the only reason women ever want to have sex is for reproduction? Yeah, Scott, because we all know that men are the only ones who have sexual urges, right? Because all those affairs men have are either nonconsensual, or with other guys, or with androids, right? Same goes for premarital sex, correct? Stupid me, I must've dozed off a lot during Sex Ed, too!

That might sound to you like a horrible world. But the oxytocin would make us a society of huggers, and no one would be treated as a sex object. You’d have no rape, fewer divorces, stronger friendships, and a lot of other advantages. I think that’s where we’re headed in a few generations.

Sounding pretty bleak there, Debbie Downer!

There's always another option, though. The one where we, both men and women, actually exercise our free will and not cave in like a cheap garage-sale card table to our every instinct or impulse like animals.

The problem with drivel like Adams' post and others like it is in the ramifications. Rapists and other violent criminals, for example, use stuff like this to rationalize their own behaviors. If they view themselves as the lions and others, like women, as the zebras, it's easier to make up excuses like "the woman zebra should have not walked alone  not dressed so slutty  not gone back to my apartment picked a safer watering hole. I was only exercising my natural man's lion's instinct to rape hunt". And if too many others, like policemen or judges or jurors or even victims' family members, believe that excuse, that magnifies the problem a thousandfold. Fewer victims believed. Fewer rapists investigated. Fewer rapists arrested. Fewer rapists convicted and detained. A tougher gauntlet for victims to run. Less rapes reported. Fewer victims coming forward and following through.

And even in the case of lesser consensual sexual offenses, the cost is still high: Shattered marriages, divorces, broken homes. Quite a swath of destruction.

And in the case of both rape and less serious offenses like infidelity, this misconception about males can create some lesser but still significant problems for men as well. It erodes trust of men, sometimes to an unfair degree, creating an atmosphere leading to things like this.

Here's the situation: I'm a man. I don't cheat on my wife. I don't rape women, sexually molest children, or rob and murder people, nor do I get any urges to. But to hear people like Adams, I and other men like me are some kind of substandard neutered beta-male anomaly. The exceptions to the rule. But we often feel like saying something like this:


We usually don't say it of course. But we do think it.

So, Mr Adams, allow me to indulge my natural male urge to tell you to suck it!

(Who says I don't keep my promises?)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

(Courtesy of Black Cat.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge - Round 9: It's Not Easy Being Green!

I've noticed one thing lacking in my last 8 rounds of the Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Relaunch bout: I've had no Hal Jordan head injuries.

Let's fix that, shall we?

There! All better!

The above Hal-krakking comes from Green Lantern#9, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver and Prentiss Rollins.

First ol' Pointy-Ears laid out Guy Gardner last round (thus satisfying our host Spacebooger's requirement that I use a character from my previous round in this week's fight), and now it's Hal Jordan's turn. It really isn't easy being green! (As tonight's fight music by Van "The Man" Morrison will attest.)

I can't recall offhand any instances of the Dark Knight beating on Kyle, John, or Alan like that, but if enough of you vote for me in this round (click here to vote), you may get to see Bats punch out another popular green DC hero next week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011



(Mark "Invincible" Grayson and writer Robert Kirkman say what everyone else is thinking about the DC Reboot in Invincible#80. Art by Ryan Ottley and Cliff Rathburn.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge - Round 8: One-Hit Wonder!

For tonight's round of Repeat, Rehash, Revenge, I've decided it's time to branch out beyond DC. Last round the Big Red Cheese took down the Big Red "S", so this round I'm having Cap face off against.... well, he's not facing off against anyone, actually, because tonight's fight is between Batman and Guy Gardner.

Cap does appear in this round to lecture Bats about not stooping to Guy's level....

....only to have ol' Pointy Ears lay some major Batdickery on him!


I wonder what ol' Billy was muttering.

Anyway, after the Big Red Cheese bails, Guy makes the first move......

...and then Bats makes the second.... and the last!

One punch!

This one-hit knockout comes from Justice League#5, by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and Al Gordon. Tonight's fight music is by Pat Benatar.

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

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Mea Culpa, Nerdy Bird!

"From the moment I saw your face,
I knew all my so-called troubles were nothing."
- Peter Himmelman

I have a major apology to make.

Last week, I wrote this post explaining my thoughts on the DC reboot speculation. Here were some excerpts regarding the future of the Super-Marriage and explaining my dislike of Spider-Man's "One More Day and "Brand New Day":

If there's one thing about this reset that's pissing me off to no end, it's the possibility that this will mean the reversal of the Clark Kent - Lois Lane marriage.

Maybe it's just the lingering stench of One More Day/Brand New Day, or maybe it's because I'm now married myself, but I see this as a huge slap in the face from DC.

I still loved Spidey as Spidey. But I found myself despising Peter Parker more and more. This greatly increased after I got married, and I'll tell you why: Because, in my head, Married Peter was someone I could identify with. He was me. And not in the standard ways like race, sex, and hair color, but because I could relate to juggling the unique responsibilities that come with marriage, and I could relate to the private husband-wife moments.

But once the demonic deal was done and Peter was single, it felt like he took a giant step backward. Maybe it was just more obvious after I got married because I had reached the same point Peter had and could recognize how much he fell. Instead of being someone I strove to be, Peter became someone I never wanted to be again. (Best-kept secret: Much of being single sucks.) Worse, with One More Day, it felt like Marvel was telling me that my life wasn't relatable enough. It felt like a slap in the face. And now it looks like DC is essentially telling me to turn the other cheek.

And it's those above passages for which I have to apologize.

Yes, everything I said above was perfectly valid. The current Big Two do have a problem writing happily-married characters. Look at this post I wrote the eve of on my own wedding. Of the thirteen weddings shown that were actually completed, only six of them currently remain intact, the rest wiped out due to death, divorce, and/or retcon. Out of those six, one of those (modern-day Lois and Clark) is highly likely be reversed after the reboot. Another of those couples, Wally and Linda West, currently languish in comics limbo. And I didn't even include the Dibnys, or Vision and Wanda, or  countless others whose marital unions are no more. With that in mind, and now being married myself, I took the lack of married heroes personally. Perfectly understandable.

Until you step back and put it in perspective.

That perspective comes in the form of news that the Batgirl in DC's upcoming Batgirl#1 is, in fact, Barbara Gordon. Prior to this reboot, Barbara was shot and paralyzed by the Joker in THE KILLING JOKE, and then she was revamped as the wheelchair-bound Oracle in John Ostrander and Kim Yale's SUICIDE SQUAD before co-starring in the long-running BIRDS OF PREY. Now her legs are apparently all better. (I'm guessing DC's choosing to have them be healed somehow, rather than just saying "KILLING JOKE never happened".)

Not being a total idiot, and possessing at least some degree of empathy, I knew going into my post that the loss of another comic marriage for me was a small and insignificant loss compared to the loss of  Oracle as a role model for people with disabilities, particularly those unable to walk.

But reading this moving post by Jill Pantozzi aka The Nerdy Bird at Newsarama reminded me how small and insignificant. Jill is 28 and has has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a degenerative form of Muscular Dystrophy which forced her to use a wheelchair 14 years back.

I've had some second-hand experience with wheelchairs myself. My dad had spent the last 10 years of his life dependent on one before he succumbed to cancer last fall. About 11 years ago, in his mid 60's, he began to lose strength and muscular control in his legs. Whereas he had been able to walk for blocks at a time and even commute to his town's downtown area singlehandedly before then, he had reached a point afterward where he couldn't walk more than 3 feet unassisted. Without the use of your legs, your world can become considerably smaller.

This makes the escapism and sense of fantasy that comics can provide that much more valuable. This is especially true when the comics' heroes are people that you, the reader, can personally relate to. And in this regard, unfortunately, I'm much better off than Jill is.

The Super-Marriage bites the dust? I've still got some options. Reed Richards in the new FF. Or Barry Allen. Or Luke Cage. And even if I give up on the married heroes, I can fall back on other characteristics as a tall, abled white heterosexual male with brown hair. No real shortage of those to use as symbols, right?

Jill? Not so lucky. The pickings are considerably more slim.

Most of the time, heroic characters in wheelchairs only wind up that way for a short time. Whether they're newly-introduced characters like Sgt. Michael "Supernaut" Fields in Marvel's short-lived THE ORDER and Jose "Gangbuster" Delgado in ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, or established icons like John Stewart, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Bruce Wayne, these characters stay wheelchair-bound for a story arc or three before being quickly healed of their disability through comic-book science.

Not so with Barbara. Like Jill and others, Barbara didn't get instantly cured of her disability; she simply adapted to it.No quick fixes for her, nor any futuristic hoverchairs or gadgets. Just a standard garden-variety wheelchair that didn't even have handles. The better to move her chair all by herself, you see. That was the essence of Barbara as Oracle. Even denied the use of her legs, she was extremely capable in hand-to-hand combat, particularly with Escrima sticks. Not only that, she was a computer genius and the lifeline of the DCU. Add to that her bravery, resourcefulness, and kind heart, and you can see why Barbara as Oracle makes a wonderful symbol for those like Jill.

But other than Barbara, I only count two other major long-standing wheelchair-bound Big Two characters on the hero side, one of whom is this guy....

...and he's actually the nicer one. The other guy (Doom Patrol's Chief) actually ruined the lives of 3 innocent people just because he wanted to field his own super-team. And that was just for starters.

So you can see how me moping about not having enough married characters to identify with seems, well, rather petty and dickish.

And for that I apologize, Nerdy Bird.

Hope this scan will do in lieu of flowers.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

DC Reboot Betting Pool #2 - Ladies' Edition

1. How many of DC's new series will be officially announced before DC announces a second female on one of the new books' creative teams (i.e. somebody besides Gail Simone)?

2. What day will DC announce that second female creator (writer/penciller/inker)?

3. Who will it be?

4. How many will there be total after DC announces all their books?

5. How many of DC's new series will be officially announced before DC announces a second female character getting her solo book(i.e. somebody besides Wonder Woman)?

6. What day will DC announce that second solo character?

7. Who will it be?

8. How many female lead characters will get solo books in total?
9. Will Ice be an ice goddess again?
Use this list from Yan as your scorecard.

Place your bets!

Friday, June 03, 2011

DC Reboot Betting Pool #1

1. Jim Lee is handling the art on the new Justice League relaunched comic. The thing is, Lee's usually so slow he makes Andy Kubert look like Barry Allen. How many issues will he get through before he falls behind and has to fob off the art chores onto someone like Scott Clark or Ryan Benjamin? (Brett Booth's already handling the new Titans book.)

2. How many months before DC reverts back to its original numbering on at least one of its new books? (DETECTIVE#900's not that far away, folks.)

Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge - Round 7: Thunderstruck!

You may have noticed that my rounds in the "Friday Night Fights: Repeat Rehash Revenge" bout have been heavy on the Superman family characters. The reason? Because the rules of Spacebooger's latest bout dictate that for each round I have to use at least one character from fight entry that immediately preceded it, and I also have an unbroken tradition since Spacebooger started holding the competitions: Every time I win a round, my next round must somehow be related to the Legion of Super Heroes, whether it's current Legionnaires, former Legionnaires, Legion villains, and even honorary Legionnaires. Here's how that breaks out for the Superman Family:

Supergirl (Kara Zor-El only) - Current/former Legionnaire, both Pre- and Post-Crisis.

Superboy (Kon-El/Conner) - Former Legionnaire (mostly off-panel).

Jimmy Olsen - Honorary Legionnaire, Pre-Crisis only.

Superman (Kal-El) - Former Legionnaire, Pre-Crisis. Post-Crisis? It's...complicated. But for purposes of Friday Night Fights, I'm just going to simplify things and just rule that Post-Crisis Supes was always a former Legionnaire, because Geoff Johns says so.

Well, since I won the last round, this week's round will include the Man of Steel, but because he only appeared as Clark Kent last round, I'm going to feature someone else who appeared in that same round.
I'm going with Captain Marvel, because why should the Superman characters have all the fun?

Tonight's thunderous throwdown comes from JLA#29 by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, and John Dell. Synopsis: A fifth-dimensional genie has come to our dimension and is wreaking holy hell on Earth. Why is Superman up at the Watchtower? Because he's going straight to the Fifth Dimension to get to the heart of the problem. Just as he's about to do that, Captain Marvel shows up.

Just by observing Cap's body language in the last panel, you can probably guess what's going to happen next. We've all seen this old movie before:  Our hero is about to risk his life in a grand gesture, and his pal next to him decides that our hero is too valuable to sacrifice himself and that he is the more expendable one, and then he delays or knocks out our hero and takes his place.

Sure enough.....

.....Cap brings down the thunder!!!

I always love the way Supes calls Captain Marvel "Bill" when they're in private, even when "Bill" is beating the crap out of him.

Next, the Big Red Cheese ditches the unconscious Supes to venture into the old 5-D himself. Didn't expect that to happen, huh?

Tonight's fight music is - What else? - AC/DC's "Thunderstruck"!!

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

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Repeat Rehash....Relaunch???

"I've been there...done that...what's next?" - Jon Astley

According to this USA Today article, DC Comics is in for some big changes come September:

Starting this summer, the publisher will re-number its entire DC Universe of titles, revamping characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and others from its 76-year history for a more modern and diverse 21st century.

The first book to be released under this new era: Justice League No. 1, out Aug. 31. The series by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee reunites the famous lineup of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

Johns promises a focus on the interpersonal relationships within DC's trademark superteam. "What's the human aspect behind all these costumes? That's what I wanted to explore," he says.

..."We really want to inject new life in our characters and line," says Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC with Lee. "This was a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."

I've got to say, I'm not exactly feeling the love.

Maybe it's the fact that, as a 45-year-old near-lifelong comic reader, as well as a near-lifelong Superman fan, it's not my first time at the Reboot/Relaunch Rodeo. Or maybe it's just that I think this is a really dumb idea. DC is crowing about how this has never been done before, but I can't help wondering: Maybe there's a good reason for that.

Here's what we can look forward to:

***New readers!! (Uh, maybe...)*** - Like many of DC's editorial moves over this past decade, I have to ask: They're attempting to market this to...whom, exactly??

DC's been accused of catering too much to nostalgic existing continuity-nerd fans to the exclusion of too many others, but even many members of that group are being thrown under the bus here. Take what Grant Morrison's been doing in the Batman books, for example. What's the point of them getting invested in "Batman Inc" if it's all going away never to be referred to again, in 3 months? Is that how you want to treat the fans of the most popular character at the company? Especially the way superhero comics have been hemorrhaging readers the last few years? And what about the 5 current or former Robins? If Batman's being made younger in this reboot, odds are at least one of them's saying bye-bye. And why are they making Barbara Gordon Batgirl again when there are two other perfectly good Batgirls to fill the role, whereas there was only one Oracle?

I'll admit that this is a good move:

In an even more important move in the competitive comics industry, DC is making all of the re-numbered titles available digitally via apps and a DC website the same day they arrive in comic shops. It marks the first time that a major comics publisher has done so with its popular superhero titles.

But if DC Comics' goal is to make its line friendlier to new and younger readers, then why give us covers like this???

Look, kids! Comics!!

***New Origins!!! Yay!!!*** - Because if there's one thing DC hasn't been doing enough all these years, it's monkeying around with their characters' origins. Just ask Donna Troy fans. Or Hawkman fans. Or Power Girl fans. Or Ice fans. Or Black Lightning fans.

Or Superman fans. Like me. I was fine with the original Crisis and the Byrne reboot back in '86. Byrne, Wolfman, Ordway, Stern, Jurgens, etc. actually did an admirable job re-introducing and reinvigorating elements of of the Supes mythos while adding new elements. Creators came and went, and story quality waxed and waned, but the canon remained relatively solid and self-consistent.

Then came the new millennium and all hell broke loose.

We had Birthright. Followed by Infinite Crisis. Followed by Secret Origin. Supergirl's Matrix.... no, wait, she's Superman's daughter from the, wait, she's Kara Zor-El again. Kon-El was cloned from some guy named Paul Westfield... no, wait, he was cloned from Superman and Luthor. Clark was never wait, yes he was. Clark never joined the, wait, yes he did.

And now we get to see yet another reworking of Clark's origin. Not only that, but Bruce's. And Diana's. And Hal's. And.... everyone else's. Can't hardly wait.

***Diversity! Diversity! Diversity!*** - DC claims they're doing this reboot "for a more modern and diverse 21st Century".

But does this lineup from Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's upcoming Justice League look "modern and diverse" to you?

Yeah, this lineup just screams "diversity". If this were 1975, that is. Ooh, there' woman! Not only that, there's....(Gasp!!!)... one black guy!! And... only five white guys! (In fairness, this may be only half the lineup, and maybe they're just keeping us in suspense about the other half.)

I understand certain economic realities regarding some of the main Justice League and Avengers books: Justice League (with the Giffen era being the aberration) generally sell better when their Big 3(Supes/Bats/Wondy) are all on board, and the same goes for Avengers when their Big 3 (Thor/Cap/Iron Man) are all present. But beyond that core is where the creativity kicks in. With the right creative team and vision, you can have an Avengers team with the Big 3 and, well, whoever the fuck you want. Same goes for Justice League. Take the Big 3, along with a Flash and/or a Green Lantern, and then anybody else you want. Want to make the rest of the lineup more diverse in race and gender? Then go for it. Add good, fresh ideas and good stories and you should be golden.

In fact, having the right ideas and stories, even with characters I've never heard of, is much more appealing to me than reading irredeemably bad stories about characters I've known and loved for decades.  The Satellite League and Spider-Man were among my favorite characters in my youth, but Cry For Justice and One More Day were just....painful.

On the other hand, my most recent favorite new series is Avengers Academy, despite the book starring characters I'd never even heard of before this year. Despite the lack of African-American cast members, this book contains more racial and gender diversity than the new Justice League appears to have. The male-female ratio among the students is an even 50/50 split, while its 6 members include the Asian-American  Hazmat and the Hispanic Reptil. Even the metallic Mettle was originally a non-Caucasian Hawaiian native prior to his "change". Speaking as someone whose wife teaches at a predominantly Hispanic school and is half Hispanic herself, I think it's important to remember that "black and white" isn't all there is.

I gave the book a shot after reading good things about it from Ragnell just a few months ago. Although the supporting cast includes stalwarts Hank Pym, Tigra, Justice, Speedball, and the delightfully snarky Quicksilver as instructors, none of them has exactly been big sellers on their own. However, the focus is not on them but on the Academy kids. And they're the ones I've really gotten to care about, so much so that I've bought almost all the back issues and one Special in the last 2 months. The engaging, original stories (by Christos Gage), crisp artwork (pencils by Mike McKone and later Tom Raney and Sean Chen, inks by Scott Hanna), and appealing characters hooked me, plain and simple. I've gone from never having heard of these characters to loving them, all in the space of 3 months.

That's how iconic characters become iconic characters.

I wish the Big Two would remember that more often.

***New Costumes!!*** - So, apparently, Jim Lee has designed 50 new costumes for this reboot.

And I'm supposed to be excited about this why, exactly?

Let me refresh everybody's memory about some of the past Jim Lee costume designs, shall we?

Lee's the one who decided that Huntress, a grown-ass woman and non-powered urban vigilante who operates in Gotham City, should wear this....

How about the Wild C.A.T.S.?

Or Psylocke?

Oh, and let's not forget that Lee also designed Gambit.


So can you see why I'm not exactly psyched here?

***Brand New Super-Day????*** - If there's one thing about this reset that's pissing me off to no end, it's the possibility that this will mean the reversal of the Clark Kent - Lois Lane marriage.

Maybe it's just the lingering stench of One More Day/Brand New Day, or maybe it's because I'm now married myself, but I see this as a huge slap in the face from DC. It also reeks of something that DC has been displaying all too often recently: failure of imagination.

It may be just me, but it seems like a lot of the current Big Two superhero writers and editors have absolutely no clue whatsoever how to write happily-married couples. In the case of Superman, their solution to this problem is to avoid writing about it whenever possible. We had one yearlong storyline where Kal lived on New Krypton, immediately followed by another where he's undertaking a walk across America. Aren't many of these guys married themselves? Jesus, I've been married less than 2 years and even I can find holes in their portrayal of marriage. Here's an example: If Clark and Lois behaved like a real married couple, "Grounded" would never have happened. The whole conflict would have lasted one issue, max. They've been avoiding the Super-Marriage like the plague. And now it looks like they're going to reverse it completely.

I mentioned earlier here how I used to be a huge Spider-Man reader as a kid. I bought the series on and off as I got older. Then came One More Day in 2007. Since then, 127 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man have come out under the Brand New Day continuity. Do you know how many issues I've bought in that time? Four. Two because they had Barry Kitson. One because it had the aforementioned Avengers Academy kids. And one because it had this. But mostly, I avoided the revised Spidey book.

What kept me away? There were some very talented writers and artists on the book in this period. From what I'd heard, even many of Spidey's villains got some new life breathed into them. I still loved Spidey as Spidey. But I found myself despising Peter Parker more and more. This greatly increased after I got married, and I'll tell you why: Because, in my head, Married Peter was someone I could identify with. He was me. And not in the standard ways like race, sex, and hair color, but because I could relate to juggling the unique responsibilities that come with marriage, and I could relate to the private husband-wife moments.

But once the demonic deal was done and Peter was single, it felt like he took a giant step backward. Maybe it was just more obvious after I got married because I had reached the same point Peter had and could recognize how much he fell. Instead of being someone I strove to be, Peter became someone I never wanted to be again. (Best-kept secret: Much of being single sucks.) Worse, with One More Day, it felt like Marvel was telling me that my life wasn't relatable enough. It felt like a slap in the face. And now it looks like DC is essentially telling me to turn the other cheek.

***New management....Oh, wait.

  And that might be the problem right there. Maybe I'd feel a little more confident that this relaunch might actually fix some of the major problems if the people currently in charge weren't the ones who caused them in the first place. It's the same reason why I didn't vote Republican back in 2008 or 2010. The whole thing has the feel of an incorrigible ex-husband or ex-boyfriend saying "Baby, I've changed, please take me back! It won't be like before! No, really!"

The way this relaunch is looking, it has a high chance of attracting scores of new readers..... to Marvel or Image.

(Special thanks to SpaceBooger for inspiring this post's title.)