Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe - Round 9: The Butler Did It!

Tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe comes from Batman Family#13, written by Bob "The Answer Man" Rozakis and illustrated by Don Newton and Bob Wiacek. Here, Batgirl, Robin, and Man-Bat face off against The Outsider, a supernaturally-powered villain who is the alternate personality of another member of the Bat-Family.

Who? Let's find out.

(Click to Enlarge)

Why, it's none other than Bruce Wayne's faithful butler, Alfred!

And now, Alfred must face off against his own evil alter-ego.

(Click to Enlarge)

 So Alfred flat-out punches his other self off the side of a bridge and kills him. And ol' Alf is none the worse for wear!

And that wasn't even the craziest part of this whole story. This is a story where Alfred, after getting hit on the head two issues earlier, is taken over by a hidden evil personality called The Outsider who hates Batman and his entire "family". Alfred's personality is strong enough to keep The Outsider from attacking Batman directly, but not strong enough to keep him from attacking other Bat-Family members, including, strangely enough, his own surrogate grandson Dick Grayson. He also has spotted chalk-white skin and Mxyzptlk-type mystical powers, which he uses to make Batgirl and Robin's Bat-Cycles come alive and split Man-Bat into a were-jaguar by grabbing the moon from the sky and throwing it at him, after which he attempts to destroy Manhattan by turning all the buildings into giant burning candles. (For the whole story, click here at the Diversions Of The Groovy Kind site. This story also includes art by Marshall Rogers.)

No, really!

Bob Rozakis: Proving once again that Haney and Kanigher weren't the only crazy-ass Bobs working at DC!

Tonight's fight music is by Johnny Mathis.

For more city-melting insanity, click here. And don't forget to vote! Or The Outsider will come back turn you into a were-jaguar!

Some Additional Comic Book Rating Codes I'd Like To See

So I read DC's response to the Starfire controversy last week....


We encourage people to pay attention to the ratings when picking out any books to read themselves or for their children.

September 27, 2011 10:54 pm via webReplyRetweetFavorite
...which completely missed the entire damn point.

But maybe they're onto something. Could the problem be that the existing ratings just aren't specific enough?

With that in mind, I'd like to suggest some additional rating codes of my own. The kind that could augment the existing rating codes and give potential readers more warning:
D for "Degradation" - Contains scenes of characters, particularly female characters, in degrading situations.

F for "Fridge" - Contains scenes of a female supporting character getting killed for the sole purpose of increasing the male hero's angst.

GP for "Gore Porn" - Contains excessive shots of cannibalism, beheadings, dismemberments, maiming, exposed entrails, and/or compound fractures, all illustrated in salacious detail.

RTW for "Reinventing The Wheel" - Contains a pointless and needless retelling of a character's origin in which none of the changes are actually improvements.

L for "Lazy" - Contains a story in which a writer and/or artist clearly didn't bother researching character history, geography, or any other subject matter relevant to the story.

C for "Cheney" - Contains scenes of excessive torture porn.

S for "Scoliosis" - Contains pictures of female characters in impossible or extremely painful-looking positions, or with disturbing anatomy, for the purpose of showing off the "sexy".

R for "Racefail" - Contains a jaw-dropping level of racism, racial stereotyping, and/or racial insensitivity.

Any other suggested rating codes?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Women In The New DC: The Good, The Bad, And The EXTREMELY UGLY

Out of the 40 DC comics that have debuted so far, I give 22 of them a favorable rating ("All In" or "Probation"). Some of the books were fun-filled triumphs. Others were average. And others were among of the worst comics I've ever seen. From my perspective, I'd say the rebooted DC books have been a mixed bag.

However, The operative words in that last sentence are "from my perspective". Said perspective being that of a straight white male.

But when I step back and picture how those same 40 books must look like from a female perspective? Let's just say, the picture looks pretty damn bleak.

I'm not talking the female-centric books or characters that were cancelled, erased, or exiled into Limbo in the wake of the reboot (the original Birds of Prey, the Steph Brown Batgirl book, Power Girl, Zatanna, Scandal and Jeanette in Secret Six) or pre-reboot characters erased or exiled into limbo.

I'm talking about what's replacing them.

Of the 52 titles debuting in September, I counted a total of six female solo books, compared with twenty-six solo male character books. In addition, one additional book, Birds of Prey, features an all-female team. As far as I can tell, the sum total of female writers or artists on DC books this September was Gail Simone.

Let's take a look at how female characters fared in the New 52 this month so far.


I've got to be fair-minded. There were some beautiful gems here:

Batwoman - This book FINALLY came out this month. And it came out strong.

Sure, I miss Greg Rucka, and I'm not entirely sold on the prospect of a Kate-Maggie relationship (for reasons which will become more obvious as this post progresses), but all-in-all, this book is wonderful.

Wonder Woman - The big controversy raging over this book was the "pants vs. no pants" debate. Personally, I don't care about that when Diana is depicted as well as this.

The only caveats I have regarding this book are 1) I could have done without the decapitation and beheading and 2) it seemed a little light on dialogue and exposition. Cliff Chiang, whose work was beautiful here, eased the former problem significantly by not indulging in gore porn. Also, not seeing the Amazons raped in the first issue? Major step up from the Perez reboot.

Birds of Prey - Let's be honest. I miss the pre-reboot version terribly. I miss Oracle. And Helena. And Zinda. And how they interacted. And Gail Simone writing them. Thing is, if I step back and look at the new Birds book, I have to concede it's a pretty strong work in its own right. The new girl, Starling, needs a little more to define and differentiate her, but I'm liking her so far. And Dinah? See for yourself.

I'll admit her outfit was in flagrant violation of the Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design, but it wasn't degrading. Also, as you can see above, Jesus Saiz is at the top of his game here.

Justice League International -

A 5-4 male/female ratio? Not too shabby. Also, notice Vixen's new outfit. Compare it with her last one. I'll wait.

Miscellaneous - We saw the first signs of some of the best female characters making it through the reboot intact. In Blue Beetle, we saw the return of two of my favorite DC women, Bianca Reyes and La Dama. Animal Man brought back Ellen Baker, albeit in a small role in issue#1. An unnamed Caitlin Fairchild was in the Superboy book, without the oversexualization. I've loved Maggie since the Byrne Superman days. And even OMD'd, Lois is still....Lois.


Batgirl - For more of my opinion on the first issue, click here. Suffice it to say:


"Hellooo? Still in the room?" - The killer

Not a shining moment for heroic female characters.

Green Lantern Corps - From a male point of view, this was a solid, if sometimes overly gory, read.

One problem:

Among those featured on the cover? Arisia and Soranik Natu. Among those nowhere to be found in the actual interior story? Arisia and Soranik Natu.

Supergirl - I'll say this for Supergirl#1: It was better than Kara Zor-El's last debut in Batman/Superman#6-10. Trouble is: That's not saying much. The art was good, but the book had two major problems. First of all, the story was decompressed as hell. It was "Supergirl lands on Earth and fights some armored guys". That was it. Normally, when the main story in a #1 is so thin, that should mean writers are cutting away from it a lot to introduce other characters and subplots. That wasn't the case here; the focus was all Kara, all the time. Geez, Hector in The Iliad wasn't dragged out this much.  But that wasn't what landed Kara in "The Bad" section. What did it was the costume. That outfit made her look bare-assed in anything even resembling a side shot. Not a good look for a teenaged girl.


 Fasten your seatbelts.

Mr. Terrific - Meet Karen Starr. Before the reboot, she was Power Girl, one of the strongest heroines in the DCU. After the reboot?

She's Michael Holt's "friend with benefits".

(Brace yourselves: This is going to be a recurring theme.)

Catwoman - We've seen the relationship between Bruce and Selina portrayed many times before, but we've never seen it....

.... as rape fantasy porn.

And let me be perfectly clear: This is NOT A GOOD THING!

"The Cat And The Bat" have had a flirtatious and playful relationship for decades, going all the way back to 1940.  I've been a big fan of it going all the way back to Adam West and Julie Newmar. True, they have had more than their share of sexual tension. But their relationship in canon was never sleazy and degrading enough to make the reader want to vomit after reading about it.

Until now.

Congratulations, Judd Winick and Guillem March!

Also: "It doesn't last long"? Too. Much. Information.

I'm surprised March or the letterer didn't add "BOW CHICKA BOW BOWWWW!" as a sound effect.

Starfire - Here's a scene from MAXIM FHM Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Red Hood And The Outlaws#1:

Yeah, that was a vital piece of the storyline.

Look, I'm not begrudging cheesecake in comics. I'm a huge fan of Mike Grell, for heaven's sake! And, to be fair, there's been a strong cheesecake element to Starfire since Marv Wolfman and George Perez introduced her. The thing is, they still made her a fully realized character. The last Starfire comic I picked up before seeing Red Hood was New Teen Titans Annual#1, in which she fought her sister to the death. We saw the cheesecake, but you know what we also saw? A fierce warrior and a strong, resolute, heroic character.

But here? Scott Lobdell threw all Kory's personality out the window and turned her.....


... into a sexbot!

Actually, I take that back. The "Build-A-Friend" robot in OMAC#1 displayed much more agency than Kory does here.

Apparently, DCnU Kory is so unable to distinguish between human males that she'll hook up with anyone. And love, and emotional connection or involvement, ain't got nothin to do with it. Which is the exact opposite of  Wolfman and Perez' portrayal of either her or her fellow Tamaraneans. No emotional involvement? Emotional involvement are at the core of her very BEING.

Taking away emotional involvement from Koriand'r is like taking away the desire to help people from Superman. Or taking away bravery from the Green Lanterns.

The Starfire shown in Red Hood #1 wasn't a real character. She was a male fantasy. She couldn't have been more so if she followed each hookup by morphing into a pizza and a six-pack of beer.

Actually, let me correct that: She wasn't a male fantasy. She was a douchey male fantasy. That's an important distinction.

Allow me to clarify: I read Laura Hudson's moving post at Comics Alliance Thursday. It was part of the inspiration for this post because reading it triggered a wide variety of reactions in me. Among those were sympathy, anger, and frustration. But it also triggered something I'll call The "We're Not All Like That" Reflex. A person's "We're Not All Like That" Reflex is a defensive reaction that often occurs when hearing or reading someone's account of a bad experience or series of bad experiences with people in your particular demographic. Example: many Muslims undoubtedly had this reflex triggered after 9/11. Depending on the situation, you may or may not want to stifle this reflex when it hits, as it may or may not be appropriate in light of the other person's bad experience.

In my case, my "We're Not All Like That" Reflex was brought on by my status as a straight male or, more specifically, a straight male superhero comics fan. Let's face it: There are a lot of douchey males in general, and in comics fandom in particular. (Although not all or even most.) They're the arrested adolescents who give the rest of us a bad name. They're the types who do misogynistic things. Like bullying and harrassing women at comic conventions, on the streets, and even online. Like victim-blaming in rape cases or even committing rapes themselves. Or high-fiving each other about their sexual conquests. Or putting women into degrading scenarios. And especially insisting that the comics medium cater to THEIR every fantasy to the exclusion of everyone else's.

They're the loudest, most vocal and, unfortunately, the most memorable. They leave the biggest lasting impression. And worst of all, they also do the most damage to women in their wake. In light of the scope of that damage, it's usually best for the rest of us menfolk to try to stifle that "We're Not All Like That" Reflex, natural and valid as might be, because how those actions affect men's image ranks dead last as far as what we need be concerned about.

But sometimes actually expressing this "We're Not All Like That" Reflex can serve another purpose. It can serve as a reassurance to women that they are not alone in their concern and frustration with the status quo. It can serve to add additional voices to a rising chorus for change. And it can serve to put douchey males and those who pander to them on notice.

Too often, superhero comics have been among those pandering to this "douchey male" demographic, especially in recent years. Couple the rash of women as "fuck-buddies" engaged in emotion-free trysts in the New 52 with the erasure of marriages like Clark/Lois and Barry/Iris, and you can see a trend of arrested adolescence at work. The problem is that, in the case of DC's recent offerings, this mentality reaches up all the way to the top.

Contemplate this: Winick, Lobdell, and the rest didn't just publish these issues on their own as a pirate company. Both Red Hood#1 and Catwoman#1 had to be approved at several levels before they could see print. Editors. Group Editors. CEO's and Publishers. They all signed off on these two comics because they found nothing objectionable in them. If they had found something they felt was too objectionable with the content, at any stage, those books wouldn't have been published. Period.

Just ask Chris Roberson about the original Superman#712.

You may remember Superman#712 as the one that was supposed to feature Superman teaming up with a Muslim hero named Sharif. For mysterious reasons, it was pulled at the last minute and replaced with a filler story about Krypto. On a recent War Rocket Ajax interview, Roberson revealed a crucial piece of the "Grounded" saga that was in that original issue: Superman concluded the issue asking Sharif if it would be easier if Sharif had assumed a hero identity that didn't call attention his heritage, at which point Sharif responded by pointing out that Supes himself, by virtue of his public hero identity, calls attention to his alien heritage. The heritage of an alien race that had recently attacked Earth, no less. See the parallel?

Why was this so important? Because the beginning of the next issue, Superman#713, has Supes announce to Superboy and Supergirl his decision to abandon his Superman identity and just do his heroics anonymously. That's a big decision. But without seeing the inspiration for the move, it looked to readers like Supes just pulled this decision out of his ass.

And so this crucial piece of a 14-part story arc involving one of your flagship characters was sacrificed, and for what? Despite the shifting reasons given by DC, the real answer was obvious: To avoid offending a minority of Islamophobic Americans still sore over Superman's citizenship decision in Action Comics#900.

And yet DC had no such concern about the release of Catwoman and Red Hood.  In DC's eyes, Islamophobes were important enough to fear offending, but women, who constitute 52% of the world's population, weren't.

Let that swim around in your heads for a moment. Potentially offensive to Islamophobes? KILL IT! Potentially extremely offensive to women? LET IT FLY!

Look at what female comic fans have to deal with: They have a substantially smaller pool of heroes in their gender to choose from to begin with. Then they have to weed out the ones that don't repel them. The ones without the vacant-eyed stares, porn faces, hypersexualized poses, and impossible anatomies.

And then, when they do find strong, well-written heroines, they have to deal with the harsh reality that their favorites are always one hack writer and/or exploitative artist away from being killed off, degraded, villainized, objectified, hypersexualized, raped, or otherwise abused in really horrible ways. Sure, male characters are also vulnerable to mishandling due to creative team changes, but nowhere close to the same degree female characters are. Without editors and management stepping in to protect those heroines, how well or badly they'll be treated is a crap shoot.

Just ask Sue Dibny.

Or just ask the post-reboot Amanda Waller.

How bad is this problem at DC? Let's put it this way: My last post was a Friday Night Fights entry featuring Planetary's Jakita Wagner. What you don't know is that my entry's original title when I started composing it on Tuesday was "PLEASE Tell Me This Woman's In The New DCU!". After reading Red Hood and Catwoman, however, I changed the title to "Vehicular Assault". Why? Because after reading those two comics, I'm honestly not sure I WANT Jakita in the new DCU if that's how she could be treated. I shudder to think who DC might assign to handle that character besides Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, and how badly she might be treated as a result. I'm that shell-shocked.

And I'M a straight white male, folks. And a longtime superhero comics fan to boot.

Re-read the tail end of Laura Hudson's post to see how drained she was. And she is also a longtime superhero comics fan.

Now imagine an African-American female wanting to read about Voodoo, the sole black heroine in the new DCU with her own solo book. Imagine her enthusiastically going to check out this heroine's adventures....

....and seeing her in "powerful and heroic" poses like THIS.



If this woman is not a longtime reader, chances are she'll not only shun Voodoo, but shun the rest of DC's superhero books as well. And maybe superhero comics or even comics in general. Including even positive female books like the new Wonder Woman, Batwoman, and Birds of Prey.

Because that's how first impressions work. DC apparently thinks that bad press helps them just as much as good press, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Positive first impressions attract. Negative first impressions repel. And negative impressions are far more powerful than positive ones. That's just a fact of life.

Look no further than the images I've shown you in this very post. Which ones do you think will resonate most strongly in your mind? Especially if you're a female reader? 

Books like Red Hood#1 and Catwoman#1 are like a sign that says different things depending on who's viewing it. To douchey males, the sign reads "WELCOME (WINK, WINK)". To longtime fans of those characters (like myself), the sign reads "FUCK YOU". And to women and girls, the sign reads "KEEP OUT".

The DC reboot was the company's "Hail Mary" pass to attract new readers because the existing readership wasn't enough to sustain them.

Actively driving away more than half  of that potential audience? That's just bad business!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe - Round 8: Vehicular Assault!

Our humble host, Spacebooger, won the last round of Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe by having Steel hurl his hammer through an ice cream truck. I think I can top that tonight.

My entry for Round 8 comes from Planetary#3, by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday. The team has travelled to Hong Kong to investigate stories of phantom cop who was betrayed and killed by his partner. After they talk to Phantom Cop, who should show up but his treacherous ex-partner, hell-bent on running them all down. However, the dirty cop didn't count on Jakita Wagner.

And how does Jakita stop the car?

Like THIS!

But wait!

Sure, Jakita's strong, but she's diplomatic as well!

You tell him, Jakita!

Tonight's fight music is this crashing hit by U2.

For more vehicular assaults, click here. And don't forget to vote. Or Jakita might get mad!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DC's New 52 Rankings - The Halfway Mark

Here are my rankings of DC's "New 52" books at the relaunch's halfway mark. I'll be using the following key:

All In - I'm hooked indefinitely. Or at least until they change the creative team.

Probation - This book's good enough to buy through the first story arc, based on this issue, but not good enough to give it an "All In". Yet.

Double Secret Probation - This book didn't do it for me overall, but there's just enough going for it (i.e. strong art or a writer with a great past history) to give it one or maybe two more issues before dumping it.

Drop It Like It's Hot - This book is now dead to me. You couldn't get me to buy this at gunpoint.

Look Closer - I may not have given this book a fair shot. I'll check it out again next week. Maybe.

Here are my rankings of the comics that have come out so far:

Action#1 - I'll be honest with you. Reintroducing the "Urban Vigilante/Throws Crooks Out Windows" Superman reminded me why they ditched that model in the first place. It's like Bill Gates reintroducing his Windows software with all the original system bugs intact. Sure, Supes saved lives this issue, but he also endangered a lot of 'em, too. Leading the cops on a high-speed car chase through the busy city streets? Kind of a dick move! That said, this issue still had a lot to recommend. Rags Morales' art did everything Morrison required. Morrison also threw some bones to Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age fans. (Clark's job here is at The Daily Star and his landlady's last name is "Nyxly", for example.) Best of all, Morrison writes a phenomenal Lex Luthor, no matter which version (All-star, Pre-Reboot, Post-Reboot) of Lex it is.

Animal Man#1 - HOLY SHIT! Looks like Jeff Lemire is stepping up the horror aspect, and the Travel Foreman/Dan Green art cranked the creepiness up to eleven. In a good way!
All In

Batgirl#1 - DC erased Oracle and Steph Brown Batgirl for THIS? Only Gail Simone's past track record's keeping me around. For now.
Double Secret Probation

Batman & Robin#1 - A solid issue showcasing the new Bruce-Damian dynamic. MUCH better than Detective's first issue.

Batwing#1 - Judd Winick + Bland Photorealistic Art + Gratuitously Gory Ending =
Drop It Like It's Hot

Batwoman#1 - Seriously? Have you taken a look at this thing? What else can I give it but....
All In

Deathstroke#1 - Other than a brief fixation on the phrase "Slade's Hypo's", I haven't liked Deathstroke in decades.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Demon Knights#1 - This kind of looks to be a supernatural Dark Ages version of Secret Six. And yes, that is a good thing.
All In

Detective Comics#1 - This was like a Batman story with all the fun sucked out of it. The only reason for picking this book up was to get a first look at a post-Flushpoint Batman solo comic. That plummeting sound you'll hear in October will be the steep dropoff in this book's readership.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.#1 - The art was a little shaky, but I'd recommend this book on the concepts and the characters alone. Ray Palmer has refined his shrinking tech since his "everything but me blows the fuck up after 2 minutes" days. Lemire hits his second post-reboot home run.
All In

Green Arrow#1 - DC's pitch for this series must have consisted of only the words "Fuck it! Let's just use the Justin Hartley Smallville version!". The art team is Dan Jurgens and George Perez, so the book looks really good. But the villains were kind of generic. And nothing else really grabbed me.
Double Secret Probation

Green Lantern#1 - I was reading this book regularly before the reboot, and the only visible sign in this book that the reboot even occurred is the issue numbering. Doug Mahnke in particular has really stepped it up on the art.
All In

Grifter#1 - This actually got me interested. I'm curious how the new "ROM-like" elements of the status quo will work. Cafu's art was really clean here.

Hawk And Dove#1 - Liefeld. Feeling spinning. I just can't.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Justice League#1 - Meh.
Double Secret Probation

Justice League International#1 - Had a "been there, done that" feel, and the Lopresti art was solid but not spectacular. Still, Jurgens writes a strong Booster and Batman. I'm curoius to see what's still standing post-reboot.

Legion Lost#1 - You know who else is lost? ME!
Drop It Like It's Hot

Men Of War#1 - I used to like Tom Derenick's art when he started out on the Superman books. He reminded me of Ron Lim. Then he amped up the cartooniness factor and gave his characters slack-jawed expressions that made them look like Amy Adams in Smallville's "Craving" episode. His stuff in Men Of War#1? Dull as dishwater. The story was the same.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Mister Terrific#1 - Smart lead character. Stupid storyline.
Drop It Like It's Hot

O.M.A.C.#1 - I didn't pick it up initially, but I may not have given it a fair chance.
Look Closer

Red Lanterns#1 - Spend money on this? Are you KIDDING ME? Ed Benes art? "HUUUURRRRGGGKKKHHH!" as the catchphrase? Dex-Starr alone just isn't enough, folks!
Drop It Like It's Hot

Resurrection Man#1 - Abnett and Lanning have not only picke up where they left off in the 90's, but they also have added an intriguing new wrinkle. Dagnino's art, while not quite as good as Jackson Guice's, is still impressive enough.
All In

Static Shock#1 - Good setup. I especially liked that Virgil's working with Hardware. McDaniel's art is an acquired taste, though, and I'm concerned that Rozum just left.

Stormwatch#1 -  Intrigued by the idea of Jack Hawksmoor and J'onn J'onzz teaming up, as well as the idea of the moon attacking with really big sharp claws. Sepulvera seemed to be going with a "Mike McKone meets John Cassaday" look with the art and didn't quite measure up to either master. And what I hate about reboots is having to watch the reinvention of the wheel. Apollo and Midnighter are just meeting? Really?

Suicide Squad#1 - Between the torture-porn and the newly-sexed-up Amanda Waller, the only way this book could have been a bigger "fuck you" to John Ostrander is if the book were actually titled "Fuck You, John Ostrander!".
Drop It Like It's Hot

Superboy#1 - Kon-El has seen better days (the Johns/Manapul Adventure Comics run, PAD's Young Justice, and, of course, the "Kesel run"). Scott Lobdell's origin story was average. RB Silva's art, on the other hand, was pretty sweet and sufficient reason to give it another chance.  Even Silva can't make those DCnU Teen Titans costumes not suck, however.
Double Secret Probation

Swamp Thing#1 - I haven't read a Swamp Thing comic with any regularity since Rick Veitch left. Any Swamp Thing book has big shoes to fill. Those shoes are named Len Wein, Berni Wrightson, Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totelben (who now has his own hotel chain post-reboot, apparently).  Snyder and Paquette weren't quite up to that level, but they were good enough for me to give this book a few issues.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'll Tumblr 4 Ya: ESCHER GIRLS

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the debut of "I'll Tumblr 4 Ya", a new sporadic (as always) feature where I spotlight a tumblr that I really enjoy viewing and encourage you folks to read it. Today, I'm focusing on "Escher Girls", the new tumblr from Ami Angelwings, in which Ami showcases pictures of female comic book characters in impossible and/or ridiculous poses because the artist needed to give the readers fan service, anatomical considerations be damned.

Too often, our heroines are drawn to look like they've been sneaking into Ralph Dibny's Gingold stash, with anatomies that seems to indicate a lack of internal organs and body poses which would indicate severe chiropractic difficulties. There is a veritable gold mine of material ripe for ridicule, and it's great that Ami is able to mine it and fill a niche.

Well played, Ami!

And here's one, on me.

This one's the cover of Buffy The Vampire Slayer#3, drawn by Jo Chen, featuring Willow. Who knew witchcraft could look so painful?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe - Round 7: Validation Stamp!

Well, I won last week's round of Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe with my Casey Blevins entry, so this round it's Legion of Super-Heroes time.

Tonight, I'm giving you a 30th Century clash of the titans, courtesy of Adventure Comics#366 by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein. The two biggest powerhouses of the Legion and the Fatal Five go head-to-head: Superboy vs. Validus.

(Click to enlarge)

Superboy, you've just been VALIDATED!

Tonight's fight music is this stomping good classic by The Brothers Johnson.

To get stamped at the door, courtesy of our favorite bouncer Spacebooger, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

All In All, It's Just Another Diss Of "The Wall"

Charles Dickens' classic "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" line could apply very well to DC's recent reboot books. In the 3rd official week of the revamped DCU, some books I've seen hit the shelves have been examples of everything that's right with modern DC comics, while others have displayed everything that's wrong with modern DC comics.

The good? Jeff Lemire hit back-to-back home runs with Animal Man#1 and Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE#1. Paul Cornell's Demon Knights#1 was every bit as good as expected -- ESPECIALLY since it gave us a NON-RHYMING Etrigan. Batman & Robin#1 was so well-done it washed the foul taste of Tony Daniel's Detective#1 book out of my mouth. Batwoman#1 FINALLY came out..... and blew me away. Morrison's DCnU Luthor impressed.  Resurrection Man#1 not only came back strong, but has introduced a very intriguing new wrinkle. In Green Lantern#1, Doug Mahnke was at the top of his game and Hal was....pure Hal. Even Superboy#1 gave us some sweet RB Silva visuals. And wait, I actually give a damn about Grifter again? How did THAT happen?

But the peaks were matched by some major valleys. Justice League#1 was a big decompressed "meh". Batgirl#1 was a rare Gail Simone misfire. The aforementioned Detective#1 which badly mimicked "Spawn". Superman's new armored V-necked costume.... the horror! And...Liefeld.

And then there was what happened in Suicide Squad#1.

Luckily, I didn't actually waste money on this comic. I just skimmed it. The first red flag for me was the artist change from Marco Rudy, an up-and-comer whose past work has shown JH Williams-like potential, to someone named Federico Dallocchio, who wasn't bad but kind of generic.

As for writer Adam Glass, this book was everything I expected it to be based on seeing his Flashpoint: Legion of Doom mini: A doubling-down on the edginess and gore of Simone's Secret Six but with none of its humor, panache, or distinctive characters. Glass went especially heavy on the torture-porn with this issue. This was a comic only Dick Cheney could have loved. All that was in service to an unoriginal "twist" at the end and a last-page surprise reveal.

*****SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!!*****

The mystery character pulling the team's strings is....

Amanda Waller.

Who, in DC's rebooted "New 52" universe, now looks like this.

The problem? Well, before the reboot, she looked like this.

Somehow she's gone from a short, stubby, heavy-set middle-aged black woman to a slender statuesque 20-something woman with the same hourglass figure sported by 99% of the adult female characters of the DCU.

Maybe this is just a fakeout. Maybe this is some kind of "Surrogates"-esque alter ego Amanda is using for yet-to-be-revealed purposes. But if it's for real, I'm not sure what the hell DC was thinking with this change. Were they trying to sexualize her in an attempt to pander to younger male readers? Were they trying to make her conform to Angela Bassett's look in the Green Lantern movie? If so, why de-age her as well?

Whatever the cause, the effect was to strip away a major piece of what made Waller unique. She could just as well have been Vixen in that first panel above. And for what? Whatever new readers this may gain will be offset many times over by longtime readers repelled by this new sexualized Amanda. Many of them will be female readers, a demographic that DC's given some recent lip-service to but has yet to fully engage.

Essentially, DC gave Waller a substantial coolectomy.

Older DC fans have had to face more sacrifices and concessions from the DCnU than from an Obama-Republican Congress negotiation. Not only has Superman received the "One More Day" treatment, but so has Barry Allen(!). Secret Six and Stephanie Brown Batgirl? No more. Wally West? Limbo. Longtime curmudgeon Ollie Queen has been traded in for the Justin Hartley version.

And now we have to accept a young and thin Amanda Waller to boot.

Not cool, DCnU! Not cool!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why Batgirl#1 Didn't Sit Well With Me


Life can balance out in weird ways sometimes.

In my most recent Friday Night Fights entry, I sung the praises of a new comic heroine in the person of Morning Glories' Casey Blevins, who impressed me with her intelligence and tactical skills last week. But then the next week comes along and I read about a veteran comic heroine, one who's been around for 44 years, who severely disappoints me.

Sadly, I'm talking about Barbara Gordon, formerly Batgirl, formerly Oracle, now Batgirl again.

From the moment that DC's reboot announcements began, one of the first announced changes was Barbara's return to the Batgirl identity. This seemed a questionable move from the start for several reasons:

1. It sacrificed of a powerful and inspiring wheelchair-bound role model in the form of Oracle, a most profound loss for those living under similar conditions.

2. It sacrificed Oracle to shoehorn Barbara into a role that already had two perfectly good characters (Steph Brown and Cass Cain) available to fill it.

3. Whereas Steph and Cass fit a unique niche (teen Bat-heroine) during their tenures, Barbara's reclamation of the mantle creates a new redundancy: Now, we have two mature twenty-something Bat-heroines, both with red hair, no less, swinging around Gotham.

4. It seemed yet another example of a DC Comics' recent unfortunate trend toward regressive storytelling: Writers, editors, and publishers so nostalgic over the versions of the (usually white and male) legacy heroes that THEY read when they were young that they demote, exile to comics limbo, or even kill off the NEWER (and often more racially diverse - see Cass, John Stewart, or Ryan Choi) versions of those same legacy characters in order to bring THEIR ONE TRUE versions of the legacy heroes back.

5. It didn't seem like a logical progression for Barbara. Barbara with her legs fixed wouldn't go back to being Batgirl; she'd just become Oracle with working legs. At this point reverting to Batgirl would be a step backward, especially with Steph available.

Still, for all those hurdles, the book still had one major thing in its favor: Gail Simone. Even better, Gail Simone writing Babs, a combination which had worked beautifully for years on Birds Of Prey.

For those of you who might not have guessed, I am a huge fan of Gail Simone, going all the way back when she wrote "You'll All Be Sorry" for Comic Book Resources back in the day. Since that time she's written The Simpsons, Deadpool (pre-overexposure), and two great runs of Birds of Prey. She's also written the solo books of two little-known characters named Superman and Wonder Woman, producing some of the best stories for each of them this century. Best of all, she wrote Secret Six, closing out that book last month with perhaps the greatest single comic issue of 2011.

With that in mind, you can see how, despite my reservations over Babs' reboot, I'd still be inclined to buy this book anyway. In terms of comics reading, I'd follow Gail Simone into hell.

Which brings us to Batgirl#1. And the conclusion that I should choose my words more carefully.

Batgirl#1 wasn't as bad as a trip to "the fire down below". But reading it presents me with a pretty daunting test of faith.

To be fair to Gail, not all the book's flaws were her fault.

Let's start with that outfit.

And here I thought Steph Brown's first Batgirl outfit was too busy!

If this costume and the other ones I've seen in the DCnU are any indication, someone at DC, namely Jim Lee, has a MAJOR "ridge" fetish. Barbara's new costume has more ridges than a family-sized bag of Ruffles!

This outfit is in flagrant violation of the Ron Frenz Rule Of Costume Design:

The Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design is a simple one. Don't design a comic book costume too ornately. With every costume you design, always do so so that, if Ron Frenz were ever to draw it, it would look cool.

This is NOT meant to be a knock on Ron Frenz at ALL. His style is just geared towards simple designs, not ornate ones.

Therefore, if he can make your costume look basically the way you designed it, then you passed the test.

I also mention Ron Frenz here because some of the art made me wish Frenz had drawn the book. Or at least made me wish that actual artist Ardian Syaf had tried to emulate Frenz' style. As opposed to trying to reproduce panels from Spawn....

Wait a minute! Eye slits? Batgirl doesn't have eye slits!!

A lot of readers are taking Gail to task in their reviews for not providing any explanation of how Babs regained the use of her legs in the first issue.

I'm not one of them.

Why? Perhaps it's my familiarity with Simone's work in particular and with serialized comics in general. It's intended as a mystery, folks. You'll learn more as the story progresses. Simone does raise some interesting questions, such as why Babs is keeping her wheelchair in her new digs and why she says "what the wheelchair does for you" instead of "what the wheelchair did for me".

My bigger concern is how the reboot affects her time as Oracle. This first issue seems to give the impression that her Oracle tenure never happened. If that's true, that seems an awfully big "screw you" to Oracle fans. However, the operative word is "seems". Maybe her Oracle tenure is still intact in some abbreviated but as-yet-unrevealed form? Only future issues will tell.

I'm also a bit worried as to how the reboot affects Babs' time as Batgirl. Maybe I'm nit-picking, but this line disturbed me:

Wait a minute! "Batman's star pupil"? I thought Babs was self-taught!

Every problem I've mentioned up to now seems perfectly and easily fixable with some refinement. And that's how it was for me with the book.

Until the last two pages.

Here are the final panels from the third last page.

So, Batgirl faces off against this issue's bad guy, named "The Mirror", and she........

......freezes up.

Ok, so Babs recovers from her bout of PTSD in time to save The Mirror's intended victim, right?



So, in other words, Batgirl makes her return with the heroic feat of.....

.....watching an innocent fall to his death, and then letting the killer get away.

Finally, we have the single common thread that seems to be running through the rebooted DC titles.

No, I'm not talking about the mystery woman, whom I hereby call Hoodie Harbinger. I'm talking about how, with the exception of Jim Gordon and the cops in Animal Man#1, all the police in the DCnU......

.....are complete morons!

Pop Quiz: You're a policewoman in a Gotham City hospital room. You just witnessed a hooded killer push a hospital patient out of a hospital window, and the killer is still in the room. You're holding a loaded gun. Also, the killer is still in the room. Do you:

A.) Shoot directly at the killer, who, by the way, is still in the room?


B.) Pull your gun on the costumed heroine who was unable to stop the killer who, in case I forgot to mention it before, is still in the room?

But the handling of Batgirl herself was the bigger misfire here.

Look, I can get what some of Gail may have been going for here. Babs is no stranger to PTSD. In fact, that's a huge part of what originally led her to quit being Batgirl even before her Killing Joke injury. I'm old enough to remember Cormorant back in the 80's. Dealing with PTSD with the added burden of eidatic (photographic) memory can be one hell of a hurdle. I watched a fascinating TV special on people with eidatic memory a few weeks back, so I can see how that could be a rich characterization mine to explore.

The problem is that superhero comics, and this comic issue in particular, may have been the wrong setting to explore it. It's all in the context.

This whole reboot idea is essentially DC's equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. Its objective is to draw in new readers. In the case of the Batgirl book, there's also the added burden of satisfying fans who had to deal with the demise of Oracle, who's been an integral and unique female character in the DCU for several years, and the exile of Stephanie, who was coming into her own in the role.

There's also the context of the relative scarcity of female solo books (I count six, as opposed to 26 male solo books) in the New 52. It's important for those books to sell and appeal to a wide variety of readers of both genders.

In the context of all those factors, having your heroine freeze up and let an innocent man die in your first issue may not be the best way to hook readers into coming back for more.

I guess the big question hanging over this first issue is "Is this relaunched Batgirl series WORTH jettisoning both Oracle and the Steph Brown Batgirl for?"

And honestly? Judging by this first issue? My answer would have to be "No".

However, the answer to my next question, namely "Will I buy the next issue?" has to be "Yes".

Here's why:

All may not be lost here. Simone is likely intending this story arc as what Roger Ebert once called the CLIDVIC, short for "CLImb from Despair to VICtory". In other words, it's the old "tear 'em down to build 'em back up" formula.

But my real reason for coming back to the book boils down to this: This is written by the woman who gave us Secret Six. That buys a HELL of a lot of faith and trust. That's enough to keep me in. For now.

Will that be enough to keep other readers in? That's the biggest question of all.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11.... And Learning

Amen, Cap!

(From Captain America#1, by John Nay Rieber and John Cassaday.)

Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe - Round 6: Mighty Casey!

If you enjoy strong, well-written new female characters, you're really going to love tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe, as it showcases a name I hope will become more familiar to comic readers in the future.

That name? Casey Blevins.

At the mere age of sixteen, Casey's already got everything you want in a heroine: She's highly intelligent, a strong leader, and a master tactician. Also, she can kick ass if you cross her, as tonight's round will demonstrate. And, as icing on the cake, she's from Chicago.

In my comic-shopping last week, I took advantage of the Flashpoint-related lull in DC books to get acquainted with a new indie title via trade. I picked up the introductory Morning Glories trade by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma. Unlike Flashpoint#5 and Justice League#1, which I also bought that week, this book did not let me down.

Morning Glories is the story of Morning Glory Academy, a prestigious but mysterious ans sinister prep school. Much of the book's focus is on six new students. One of them is the aforementioned Casey

Tonight's scholastic scuffle takes place in Morning Glories#5, written by Spencer and illustrated by Eisma (who tweeted me back last week after I sang the book's praises). Here, she interacts with her fellow Academy student and resident bastard Ike.

Without spoiling things any more than I already have, I can only say: Ike had it coming.

Tonight's fight music comes from another "Mighty Casey" from Chicago, Marty Casey.

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