Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Dire Wraith Style!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Scott Lobdell And The First Rule Of Holes

Hey, everybody, it turns out I'm a slut-shamer!

Scott Lobdell said so!

In a recent Newsarama interview, Lobdell responded to criticisms of his portrayal of Starfire in Red Hood And The Outlaws#1:

What surprised me was that it almost caused the Internet to melt.

 Mostly, what has surprised me has been the very vulgar way that people believe they are coming to the defense of Kori: they hurl words like "slut" and "whore" and expressions too disgusting to repeat here that are only used to demean women. 

Lets consider an imaginary woman who has more than one or two lovers. Is it fair to label her with dismissive and derogatory language? Because we disagree with the choices she makes, to do what she wants with her own body? Are we still at a place in society where we're going to call a woman — any woman — names that reinforce gender inequality?
The good thing is that the story has gotten people to talk about issues they are passionate about — and that can only ever lead to a better understanding on everyone’s part.

Judging by that response, it's painfully apparent that "everyone" does not include Lobdell himself, because his words indicate that he has no goddamn clue what the real nature of the problem is.

For starters, he twists logic into a pretzel by acting as if the attacks on his handling of Starfire are attacks Koriand'r herself. That way, he can take legitimate criticisms as prominent as this spot-on article by Laura Hudson, or as obscure as this rambling analysis by yours truly (hence my first sentence), and act as though those critics themselves are the ones with the problem, all the while recasting himself in the role of Sir Scott, Tireless Defender Of Female Honor. And missing the entire point completely. (Ragnell covers this tactic in greater detail here.)

The problem is that, in using this reversal tactic, he sidesteps the real problems, all but guaranteeing that he won't take steps to solve them.

In the interest of helping out, I will attempt to explain to our poor "beleaguered" Mr. Lobdell just what those problems are as best I can.

What are the real problems, Scott?

For starters, here's the version of Kory depicted by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, her creators:

Now, here's yours:

Yes, it's true that your version and the Wolfman/Perez one both have a cheesecake element. And no, the problem is not the simply the idea of a radical departure from Wolfman/Perez. Hell, the Teen Titans cartoon's Starfire was a radical (and more G-Rated) departure from the original. The problem is what the original comics Starfire and the cartoon Starfire share, and what your Starfire lacks:


Emotional involvement.

In your version, Scott, love, or any emotional involvement for that matter, has "nothing to do with it". In the older comics and even the cartoon, emotion has everything to do with it. It's key to the very core of her character.

A rebooted Starfire who has no emotional involvement is like a rebooted Dick Grayson who's just not that into acrobatics.

But there's an even bigger problem than character integrity, Scott.

The whole damn point of this reboot was that it was DC's Hail Mary pass to attract as many new readers as possible. Thing is, half your potential audience is women. Women who have to deal with sexual objectification on a daily basis much more than us menfolk. Let's be honest here: Like you, I can only witness second- or third-hand at best what women have to put up with in this regard.

Let me ask you a question: What draws you to comics, Scott?

That's right. Fantasy. Escapism.

Same goes for me. And for other male readers. And follow along with me here, Scott... for female readers as well. The problem is, if you're one of those female readers and you see comics where the female characters are portrayed as objects solely for the pleasure of the male characters, the male creators, and especially the male readers? In other words, the same shit they have to deal with in the real world outside comics? That's NOT an escape!

You know what is an escape for them? Power fantasies. Reading about unique, fully realized, heroic characters they can identify with. The kind who aren't there just to be rescued by the male hero, killed off and/or raped to crank up his angst level, or exist only for his (and the male readers') jollies. The kind they don't get often enough in superhero comics, especially now.

Until your "New 52" reboot, Scott, Starfire was one of those characters. Yes, there was a cheesecake element since her inception. But that was never ALL she was, Scott. Until you wrote her.

And that's why you've been getting grief, Scott. That's the hole you dug yourself into. And recasting yourself as Sir Scott, Tireless Defender Of Female Honor while glossing over the real problems only makes the hole deeper.

My advice to you, Mr. Lobdell, is to abandon these deflections and heed The First Rule Of Holes:

When you realize you're in one?


Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe - Round 12: Messin' With The (Karate) Kid!

Tonight's the final round of Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe. I won last week's round with my Black Goliath entry. That means this week's entry will be Legion-related. And this week that means....

...Karate Kid kicking ass!!

This martial arts melee comes from Karate Kid#1 by Paul Levitz, Ric Estrada, and Joe Staton. Tonight's fight music comes from Junior Wells and Buddy Guy.

Tonight's lesson? Don't mess with the Kid!

Or with Spacebooger!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe - Round 11: Black Goliath Power!

There was a lot to hate about Marvel's CIVIL WAR event a few years back. Speedball's character was all but destroyed, Iron Man was written as a complete douchebag, other heroes were written completely out of character. And don't even get me STARTED on Sally Floyd! But the worst thing about CIVIL WAR in my eyes?



Yes, I know Bill Foster was technically just "Goliath" when he was killed. Yes, I know he hadn't used the name "Black Goliath" since 1979. And yes, I even know that name was part of an unfortunate 70's trend of incorporating "Black" into the codenames of black superheroes. Despite all that. Bill Foster will always be Black Goliath to me.

Why? Not for any racist reason, but rather because of the very comic I am using for my Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe round tonight. Tonight's gigantic go-round comes from Black Goliath#5, in a story called "Survival!", written by Chris Claremont and beautifully illustrated by Keith Pollard.

I read the third and fourth issues of Black Goliath as a kid back in 1976. With art by George Tuska, Vince Colletta, Rich Buckler, and Don Heck, they were solid but unspectacular. But then came Issue#5, which, thanks in no small part to some fantastic art by Pollard, completely blew me away.

Synopsis: At the end of the prior issue, the Stilt-Man had zapped Black Goliath, his ladyfriend Celia, and her nephew Keith with his untested Z-Ray, apparently disintegrating them completely. However, in Issue#5 we learn that they were not destroyed, but rather transported to the alien planet Kirgar, whose harsh conditions they barely survive. Here, they are befriended by an alien being named Derath, who leads them to one of Kirgar's remaining strongholds, where they find alien technology capable of sending them back home to Earth.

Unfortunately, said stronghold also has a giant robot guardian named Mortag, who promptly kills Derath
and tries to do the same to the three Earthlings. Luckily for them, they have a giant guardian of their own.

(Click to enlarge)

The issue concludes with Black Goliath, Celia, and Keith mourning their dead alien friend and using the alien machinery to get home. And then.....

....the book got cancelled. (Sigh!)

The soundtrack for tonight's battle of the giants comes from Young The Giant. (Natch!)

For more ginormous grudge matches, click here. And don't forget to vote!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

All The Best Wonder Women Have Daddy Issues


I just read about Wonder Woman's new origin at DC Universe's "The Source".

In DC COMICS-THE NEW 52, Wonder Woman will have a new origin, in which she is the daughter of Hippolyta … and Zeus! In recent interviews, writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang have teased that readers should expect the unexpected in this edgier, horror take on the superhero genre ­and the king of the gods will ensure that nothing goes as planned for his defiant daughter.

Originally created by the goddess Aphrodite and raised to perfection on the Amazon island of Themiscyra, the newest incarnation of Wonder Woman has a new costume and now a new origin ­ but she remains Wonder Woman. Strong. Proud. Fearless. WONDER WOMAN is the 12th title in DC COMICS-THE NEW 52 to sell more than a 100K copies.

And once again, DC pisses off its Golem-American readers.

Thing is, they also managed to piss off some Wonder Woman readers, including some veteran Wonder Womanologists.

As a big Diana fan and a frequent Wonder Woman reader, I have some mixed feelings on the whole deal.
Let's start with some of the huge red flags here.
1. The father is Zeus. How. Original.
2. The overzealous PR involved in the timing of this release. WW#1 was released less than 2 weeks ago and they're already spoiling WW#3?? This makes me wonder if this move was Azzarello's idea or yet another editorial mandate.
3. It eliminates much of the uniqueness of Diana's origin. Now she joins the the long list of heroes and heroines with daddy issues.
4. By pushing these previously-nonexistent daddy issues to the forefront, this could become yet another case of a writer disregarding Diana's character history to morph her into someone who better suits their comfort zone, a trend that has already severely retarded her evolution over the decades.
5. It elevates Zeus to center stage in the book. This could be troubling if Azzarello makes Zeus a "pet character" who overshadows the rest of the supporting cast. Wonder Woman has been one of DC's more "female-centric" books. Increasing Zeus' panel time makes the book more male-centric. Not that I'm saying WW should have no prominent male supporting characters. I'm looking forward to the reintroduction of a certain blonde-haired colonel as a love interest myself. But Zeus's presence could make it all about him. This could be especially problematic if...
6. It potentially takes precious panel time away from Hippolyta and her relationship with Diana. Let's be frank: Diana's mother has not been treated too well, especially in the last 10 years or so. There's the whole "raped by Hercules" reboot in the 80's, for starters. Then there's the fact that she's been killed off TWICE in just over 10 years. And when she's been alive, she's sometimes been written extremely out of character.
Does Amazons Attack ring any bells???

Courtesy of Ragnell
7. Speaking of the Amazons' origins, exactly how much of their prior history is still intact in the current continuity? This could be the biggest minefield of all. Will DC's Hercules' role be the same as it was? For that matter, will Zeus and Hippolyta's "coupling" be completely consensual? And I'm not just talking potential forcible rape here. I also mean: Will there be informed consent as well? Will Zeus mate with Hippolyta as himself or will he use a false identity? The latter still constitutes rape. If handled wrong, this could cause major problems, to say the least.
8. It erases this story from JLA#54 out of continuity. (Special thanks to Saranga for the scans.)

Actually, scratch that last one. The fact that the story already contained Wally West and a married Clark Kent voided it already.
Still, this may not end badly after all. Remember all DC's excessive overly-spoiling hype over creating a new "lesbian Batwoman"? Eventually, it gave us THIS...
And the most recent series about a superheroic offspring of Zeus? It was THIS....

From Herc#6
Also, there is a bit of story potential here. If Zeus fathered Diana, then that means her very existence gains her a vastly powerful enemy: Hera, Zeus' long suffering wife and queen of the Greek gods.
Think of the possibilities there. A pissed-off Hera is pure storytelling gold. Just ask Sam Raimi.
For now, despite my reservations, I'm going to have to trust Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on this one.
Hey, it could've been worse:
Diana's father could have been Jor-El.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe - Round 10: Monster (Society) Mash!

Now that we've started October, I'd like to use this round of Friday Night Fights: Smokin' Joe to get an early jump on the Halloween festivities with this monstrous melee from Shazam!#14 titled "The Evil Return Of The Monster Society!", written by Denny O'Neil and illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger.

In this scene, the Marvel Family (Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr. , and the non-powered Uncle Marvel) square off against the Monster Society Of Evil (Ibac, Mr. Mind, Dr. Sivana, and his two twin children Junior and Georgia Sivana).

(Click to enlarge)

Can the Marvels survive this Wave of Wickedness?

(Click to enlarge)

In honor of tonight's "monster mashing", our fight music is this "cryptic" classic by Bobby "Boris" Pickett.

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

Monday, October 03, 2011

DC's "New 52" Rankings - The Second Half

Here are my rankings of DC's "New 52" books at the end of the relaunch's second half. 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:

Aquaman#1 - This book had a lot going for it. Ivan Reis and Joe Prado illustrated the hell out of this one, just as they always do. And there were some great character moments, especially the brief part when Aquaman is reminiscing about his dad taking him to the same diner when he was a kid. Overall this book was very good. But for it to get better Geoff Johns is going to have to overcome some of his bad tendencies. The first is his tendency towards blood and gore, as seen in a restrained-by-Johns-standards scene with The Trench at the end of the issue. The second is his "Aquaman IS Cool, Dammit!" fixation. Johns loaded this first issue with nearly every type of Aquaman joke he could think of. The "Aquaman is a joke" trope was taken to ridiculous degrees here, particularly in the scenes where the local policemen use it 30 seconds after Aquaman singlehandedly flipped an armored truck over his head using only his trident and then leaped away from rooftop to rooftop Hulk-style. Once again, with the exception of Jim Gordon, Maggie Sawyer, Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya, and the cops in Animal Man#1, the police in the New 52 are as dumb as a bag of hammers. If Johns gets these tendencies out of his system, this book could move its way to "All In", but for now, it's....

All Star Western#1 - Jonah Hex done Vertigo-style in a Gotham City setting with hints of Ruse and The Kents thrown in. What's not to love? Not sure how long this can be sustained as an ongoing, but I'm perfectly content to enjoy the ride in the meantime.
All In

Batman#1 - I was literally the last man to jump aboard the Scott Snyder bandwagon, but the James Gordon Jr. arc in Detective was enough to get me to buy this. Here, Snyder delivers a great jumping-on point. But Greg Capullo puts it over the top. The only thing by Capullo I'd seen this century was Disturbed's "Land Of Confusion" video, but, except for the design of the Bat-Villains in the opening scene, I enjoyed his work, particularly his depiction of the title character, who looked like a cross between the versions of Bats depicted in Dave Mazzuchelli's Year One, Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns#1, and frequent Capullo collaborator Todd McFarlane's Year Two. The only other tiny complaint I had with Capullo's art was in an NSFW tweet here.
All In

Batman: The Dark Knight#1 - If you can only buy ONE New 52 Batman series....DON'T make it this one! DC apparently has successfully separated the conjoined Good Paul Jenkins and Bad Paul Jenkins twins, and they assigned Bad Paul to co-write this book. This even made Tony Daniel's wretched Detective#1 look almost good by comparison.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Birds Of Prey#1 - The toughest part of reading this comic was pretending the last nearly 16 years of my comic-reading life never happened. I miss Gail, Oracle, Dinah, Helena, and Zinda together like nobody's business. That said, once I divorce myself from the pre-reboot stories, BOP#1 is a strong issue in it's own right, especially the Jesus Saiz art.

Blackhawks#1 - This was another book that suffered from lack of Zinda, except this one had much less going for it.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Blue Beetle#1 -  I expected this book to be an "All In". It had so many of the pieces: Jaime, the Scarab, Brenda, Mr & Mrs. Reyes, La Dama. But, for the most part, this didn't click. Part of it was that Bedard retold Jaime's origin when the old one was still in perfect condition. The thing I hate most about reboots is having to keep watching the reinvention of the wheel. The problem is that of all the changes made to the backstory, NONE WERE IMPROVEMENTS. Making Paco a dropout gang-banger is a prime example. Making Jaime more sullen to his parents is another. The one change that DID measure up to the last series was the art by Ig Guara and Ruy Jose. Unfortunately, even that bright spot was marred by Pete Pantazis' unfortunate coloring choices. He uses the same dark and muted colors and backgrounds that obstructed Kevin Maguire's art on the Justice League 90's Retroactive  book.
Double Secret Probation

Captain Atom#1 - I never picked up either the Charlton Captain Atom or the late 80's series, but based on the books I HAVE seen, I've always liked Captain Atom better in an ensemble cast than as a solo character.
And this book bore that out. Freddie Williams II's art was hard to read here, and Krul's writing didn't sell me.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Catwoman#1 -  I don't always hate Judd Winick's stuff, but in this case I did. Very much. I've been a Bat-Cat shipper since seeing Adam West and Julie Newmar, but never before has it made me want to vomit.
Drop It Like It's Hot .... and then wash your hands very thoroughly.

DC Universe Presents#1 -  Seeing how Sentry: Fallen Sun and that Civil War: Frontline comic with Sally Floyd were two of the worst comics of all time, I had trepidations about Paul Jenkins. But it's Good Paul Jenkins at work here. The thing I liked about this was that this was the first time in a while we got to see Deadman's work in the big picture. Better yet, Bernard Chang has really stepped up his game this year, and this issue continued that upswing.

The Flash#1 - Before this book came out, this book had more strikes against it in my eyes than nearly any New 52 title. I think that Wally is vastly superior as a character to Barry and has a vastly superior supporting cast (Linda, Jai, Irey, Chunk, Wally's mom), and I HATE the exile of him and his family to comics limbo. Worse, one of the only interesting aspects of Barry's character, his marriage to Iris, has been OMD'd away. And Barry's handling in Flashpoint didn't exactly endear me to him. That said, I liked this book better than I thought I would. Manapul's art was a factor, but a bigger one may have been that he and Brian Buccellato seem to get what John Broome, Robert Kanigher, and Cary Bates got and Geoff Johns didn't about writing Barry: That it doesn't matter whether or not you make Barry's character and backstory interesting as long as you make the things happening to him interesting. That's why he fought guys like Abra Kadabra and the Mirror Master. Look at all the stuff Carmine Infantino, Ross Andru, and Irv Novick drew in Barry's stories (not to mention what Greg LaRocque and Scott Kolins drew in Wally's).  The fun of the Silver Age Flash stories was seeing a) what crazy situation Barry got into and b) what crazy-ass super-speed trick he would use to get out of it. Manapul and Buccellato seem to understand the first part, at least.

The Fury Of Firestorm#1 - Holy crap! I'm still processing how I feel about this one. Clearly the rebootiest of the reboots. Can't accuse Van Sciver, Simone, and especially Cinar of not being creative, that's for sure. Some of the Ronnie-Jason animosity felt forced, and I'm not sure of the whole TWO Firestorms dynamic, but I'm interested enough to see where this goes next.

Green Lantern Corps#1 -  This book should have been an "All In" as I've been collecting it since before the reboot. I love Guy and John to pieces, and Pasarin's art was nicely detailed. Part of the problem was that it was too detailed in places. Specifically, the gory scenes that bookended the issue. DIAL IT DOWN, DC!!! And that's why I have to downgrade my rating to...

Green Lantern: New Guardians#1 - Yet another instance of Tony Bedard needlessly retooling a character's origin and making no improvement whatsoever. This time the victim is Kyle Rayner, a character I liked enough to follow through a solo run and on the pre-reboot Green Lantern Corps. Especially aggravating about this issue is that apparently none of the other multi-colored Lanterns seem to recognize Kyle, which flies in the face of the last few years of GL books. Tyler Kirkham's art here wasn't as strong as Pasarin's or Mahnke's in the other GL mags.
Double Secret Probation

I, Vampire#1 - Not sure how I feel about this one. Fialkov and Sorrentino do a decent job here, but I prefer my good guy vampires in the Angel/Spike/Nick Knight vein rather than in the Edward Cullen one. It doesn't help that I'm old enough to remember the old JM Dematteis/ Tom Sutton stories either.
Double Secret Probation

Justice League Dark#1 - My favorite of the Justice League books by far. Any time you can get John Constantine, Zatanna, Madame Xanadu, and Rac Shade on the same team...
All In

Legion Of Super-Heroes#1NOW they don't want to reboot the Legion??? Best thing I can figure is that part of the deal of Paul Levitz' departure as DC's CEO must have included some clause giving Levitz complete creative control of the Legion, and he chose to completely blow off the reboot. Bad decision.
Between the dense backstory and this issue's emphasis on less interesting Academy characters like Chemical Kid and Dragonwing, this wasn't the jumping-on point it needed to be.
Drop It Like It's Hot - unless maybe you were reading the book before this issue. (I wasn't.)

Nightwing#1 -    This book hit the ground running.....and swinging....and tumbling....and jumping.  You can see how Eddy Barrows got this gig as soon as you see the first eight pages of the book and the closing fight. The acrobatic scenes just flow and the pacing is lightning-fast. The vllains could stand a little more originality, but a great start overall.
All In

Red Hood And The Outlaws#1 -  I haven't liked Jason Todd since Superboy punched that famous wall, and Arsenal received a full coolectomy after Lian died in Cry For Justice last year. But this book manages to fuck up Starfire beyond recognition as well, turning her from a beautiful and highly emotionally involved alien warrior to an amnesiac emotionally-uninvolved nymphomaniac who doesn't distinguish between her male partners. In other words, a fantasy for douchey guys.
Drop It Like It's Hot.... and then buy some old Wolfman-Perez Titans back issues, some Teen Titans DVD's, and some bottles of tequila. And weep profusely.

The Savage Hawkman - Hate the new Hawkman design. This book was about as accessible as Fort Knox. This did nothing for me, and I loved the Johns/Morales series.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Superman#1 - I've written extensively about my feelings on the Superman reboot, and this comic didn't do a great job of alleviating those concern. Lois remained awesome as usual, even stuck in a producer's role (which I have my reservations about). And Superman, costume aside, wasn't too bad. But Clark was such a mope that I heard the Debbie Downer "MWAH MWAAAHHH" sound effect in my head every time he spoke! And giving Jimmy Olsen a Justin Bieber haircut? WTF??? Also, it seems Perez found a way to conceal the awfulness of the new costume: By drawing most of the figures so small that you can barely make it out. This thing was compressed!! Who's the target audience? Ray Palmer and Henry Pym?
Double Secret Probation - at least until Giffen and Jurgens take over.

Supergirl#1 -  This wasn't as dragged out as Kevin Smith's Bionic Man, but it still was pretty padded. The art was decent, though.
Double Secret Probation

Teen Titans#1 - For every one Greg Capullo who hits a home run with the 1994 Image look, there are several others in this reboot like Brett Booth who demonstrate everything WRONG artistically with that period and style. Lobdell's reworking of Tim as a male Chloe Sullivan, right down to the "Wall Of Weird", is interesting, but perhaps it's the only thing here that is. Anyone notice that two of Lobdell's three books had the exact same ending? I don't just mean "stylistically similar"; I mean THE EXACT SAME ENDING! And as an added bonus we got to see the old Kid Flash costume, one of the best non-Lantern outfits in the history of the DCU, replaced with not one but TWO vastly inferior versions.
Drop It Like It's Hot

Voodoo#1 - DC just released a comic in which almost half the first issue is spent on...A LAP DANCE! Are you fucking KIDDING ME???
Drop It Like It's Hot

Wonder Woman#1 - Azzarello's opener wasn't the most exposition-heavy jumping-on point, and I could have done without the horse decapitation, but this was one of the strongest versions of Diana I've seen in a while. And Cliff Chiang hits it out of the stadium with his art.
All In

And one I rated as "Look Closer" last time:

Omac#1 - How the hell did I manage to only pick this up two weeks after it came out? As Siskoid suggested, I might have been put off by the words "Dan" and "DiDio" on the cover. However, this book was Kirby done proud. It's also Giffen's best work since his first Legion run. Scott Koblish may have been a factor in that. I just hope Omac's human side gets a little more autonomy in the future.
All In