Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 10: The Sign Of Head Traumas To Come!

For tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone, I'm showing you a milestone event: Hal Jordan's first head injury ever as a Green Lantern.

Tonight's emerald embroglio comes from Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn#1, written by Jim Owsley (the future Christopher Priest) and illustrated by M.D. "Doc" Bright and Romeo Tanghal.

Synopsis: Hal Jordan's life is a mess. While driving his friends and his brother home from a bar, a drunken Hal accelerates his car way too fast, so fast that he has to make an emergency sharp turn to avoid hitting a roadside sign, causing him to lose control of the car and cause a crash that leaves his best friend paralyzed and Hal facing DUI charges and grounded from flying. While testing a flight simulator, Hal gets grabbed by Abin Sur, who leaves Hal his Green Lantern ring. Hal's first move with the ring? Taking revenge on the thing he feels is responsible for all his problems. And in classic Hal fashion, what does he blame?

Why, the SIGN, of course.

Hal flies to exact his vengeance on that eeeevil sign once and for all. Only one problem, though.

The sign's YELLOW.

Poor Hal!

Tonight's fight music is this SIGNature classic by The Belle Stars.

For more ominous signs, click here. And don't forget to sign in and vote!

(Special thanks to the great Sally P.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

(Warning: Major spoilers!)

And so I skimmed Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League#12 yesterday. It was the resolution of the "Villain's Journey" arc, in which a dying writer named David Graves blames the Justice League for the death of his family and attacks the League. Turns out the League may have been partially responsible by not taking a certain factor into account during their earlier battle with Darkseid. So of course, the solution is to have the one Justice Leaguer most capable of accounting for that factor in the future....QUIT THE TEAM. Brilliant.

And then I got to what we've all been talking about.

So the premise here is that Wonder Woman and Superman are both so alien and isolated from humanity that they both feel terribly alone. That was Johns' rationale.

Wait, Superman isolated and alone? So much so that he can't confide in anyone? I don't remember that being the case a year ago.

And then I remembered these quotes from DC's "The Source" back in July 2011 regarding the Superman reboot:

* This Superman is very much an alien, one struggling to adjust to his adopted home. In the series, he must come to terms with both the loss of his home world, as well as the loss of both of his adopted parents. He is more Kal-El from the planet Krypton than Clark Kent from Kansas. He’s a loner trying to find his place in the world.

Timeless and modern, classic and contemporary, but younger, brasher and more brooding, this is Superman. The New Man of Tomorrow.

“We wanted to have that sense of isolation that might come with being an alien among men,” DiDio said. “The two choices that were made, with both his parents being dead and not being married, isolated Clark a little bit more, so that he really had to do more exploration about mankind. There wasn’t that one strong human tether that he was bonding with and learning through.”

“That’s one of the things we’re trying to explore much more,” DiDio said. “We’ve told so many great stories over the years where Superman has embraced his human side and built stories around that side of the characterization. Now we’re flipping it around a little bit and really embracing his alien side, so we can understand what it’s like to be a man from another world, living amongst men, but not feeling like you’re a part of it, but belonging to them all.”

And then, like a jigsaw falling into place, it hit me. All the pieces suddenly fit.

The Kents now being dead? The Super-Marriage getting the "One More Day" treatment? Clark Kent now being single, isolated, alien, and broody?

It was all for this.

Follow me here:

Nu52 Supes has less of a connection to humanity -->  Supes is and feels like an outsider -->  Hey, Wonder Woman is ALSO an outsider --> Sooo....

It's a classic bad writing move: You want to write Character A in Situation B. But Character A as he historically has been written, would never get into Situation B. So you rewrite and alter Character A into a character who would get into Situation B.

The result? Superman/Wonder Woman is replacing Superman/Lois indefinitely. What once was fan fiction is now canon, and the canon that was in place for decades is now the fan fiction.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 9: Down With The Patriarchy Edition!

So you may have heard the most recent Wonder Woman news this week. If you've been paying attention to the comics blogosphere, you'll know that a lot of comics fans are...quite distressed by this latest bombshell, including yours truly.

So for tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone, I thought I'd provide something to lift everyone's spirits a bit.

I picked up the Wonder Woman: 12 Labors trade this week. Long story short, Wondy went through a period where she lost her powers, ditched the WW suit, resigned from the JLA, and went all Diana Rigg. The editors decided years later to bring back her powers and costume. Some continuity confusion ensued and new editor Julius Schwartz and writer Len Wein created the 12 Labors arc. The premise was that Diana's mod period was totally blocked from her memory. When she explained this to Superman and the other Justice Leaguers, they welcomed her back with open arms, but she didn't trust her mental state enough to rejoin immediately, so she insisted on 12 trials ala Hercules' 12 labors, where a different Leaguer would observe her on a mission or case and determine her fitness.

These 12 missions were, to put it mildly, extremely cracktastic. She faced the Cavalier, a swashbuckling old Batman foe with Mandrill-like powers; stopped Mars, the God Of War (they conflated Greek and Roman gods a lot in the 70's), fought a size-changing Statue of Liberty; fought old foes Dr. Cyber, Felix Faust, and the Duke Of Deception; revealed (to us) the secret of why men are forbidden on Paradise Island (hoo-boy, it was a doozy!); and thwarted Chronos when he essentially turned everyone in Manhattan into Hunter from Morning Glories. Also, one story featured a powerless Hal Jordan running around in a Ren Fair costume.

And then there's tonight's tale from Wonder Woman#219, "The Planet Of Enslaved Women!", by Martin Pasko, Curt Swan, and Vince Colletta. The premise: The world's leading feminists are literally disappearing into thin air. Wonder Woman, in her pre-Crisis civilian identity of Diana Prince,  is assigned to investigate.

She observes a tennis match between Billie Jean King Betty Jo Kane and Bobby Riggs Willy Wrigley.

Billie Jean Betty Joe goes to hit the ball and...

Ok, now here's where I have to give you a warning: This story took place back in 1975. The feminist movement was in its infancy. Unfortunately, comics' UNDERSTANDING of the feminist movement....

.....was still in its FIRST TRIMESTER.

(A little expectant dad humor!)

Anyway, Diana investigates Billie Jean's Betty Jo's locker room and finds...

Wait, feminists never get their hair done????

Ahh, it's the Bronze Age, just roll with it. Anyway, Diana goes to the Consciousness III salon and finds..

In the process of interrogating the sneaky stylist, Di gets some shampoo splashed on her and...

.....ends up on the other-dimensional world of Xro. When she learns that all the kidnapped Earth women are imprisoned, her reaction is...not what you'd expect.

The dude in the funny hat is Xro's ruler Mchsm. (Once again, just roll with it.) He explains about the history of Xro.....

So "Stnm" and "Frdn" (once know the drill) take a dimensional portal to Earth, where they learn the secrets of Earth's feminist movement. However, there's one little side effect, which they learn about the hard way after a falling piece of building hits Stnm.

 Mood reversals. Yes, this comic actually went there!

Anyway, Frdn returns to her home dimension and spreads Earth's feminist "mystique" to Xro's women, leading to revolts against their oppressors. Mchsm and his patriarchal pals learn that traveling to Xro has the same...uh...mood-reversing effect on Earth women as vice-versa. (The men of both worlds are unaffected because, as Ralph, who'd also gotten splashed and teleported, explains: "Nature is sexist.") So Earth's feminists become anti-feminists whom Mchsm sends out to persuade the Xro women not to revolt.

But now, with Wonder Woman in their hands, Mchsm finds a more effective means to persuade the Xro women: The magic lasso. (Yes, this is the pre-Crisis lasso, which compels complete obedience, as opposed to the post-Crisis lasso, which just makes you tell the truth.)

However, he still has to get the lasso. And with that, let's end the exposition and get on with our feminist fracas.

Wonder Woman uses her wonder-willpower to resist the...uh...wild mood swing...through concentration. While she's doing this, Mchsm's men flank Wondy and...

How'd she do that? Well, right before the male Xronian commanded her, Diana had stopped resisting the...mood-reversal effect, and when he commanded her to submit, it registered in her mind as "resist", and ...Voila!

And now for Mchsm.


And that's the story of how Mchsm becomes Xro's first MRA.

Tonight's empowering fight music comes from the late, lamented "Big Man" himself, Clarence Clemons.

For more patriarchy-smashing punch-em-ups, click here. And don't forget to vote!

(Special thanks to former FNFer J.K. Carrier, from whom I got the scans I needed, as some current home remodeling has left my scanner temporarily out of commission.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Let's Give 'Em Something To Talk About, How About Horrible, Horrible Super-Wonder Love?

I trust everyone has already read about this?

If not, here's a link to the story in Entertainment Weekly yesterday. Read it and weep. And if you're a Superman and/or Wonder Woman fan, I mean that literally.

 Without further ado, EW can exclusively reveal that Superman’s new partner in love is no mere mortal, but a superhero icon in her own right: None other than Wonder Woman. herself.

But wait, there's more!

The comic...culminates months of flirty foreshadowing. Writer Geoff Johns hints that some event — possibly tragic — will impact every member of the Justice League, and cause Superman and Wonder Woman to seek solace in each other and move from super-powered colleagues to power couple. This is no one-issue stunt: “This is the new status quo,” says Johns, adding that the relationship will have a seismic impact on all the heroes and villains in the DC universe.

...The creative team believes the heroes are right for each other. She’s a mythic Amazonian warrior; he’s a veritable demigod. Both have huge hearts for mankind, yet also feel estranged from humanity. Relationships with civilians are tricky for caped crusaders, even liabilities. Usually, they choose to mask their full, true identities and hide their secret, high-risk do-gooding from their lovers to protect them. At least together, Superman and Wonder Woman can be themselves. Oh, and they’re also ridiculously good looking, too. Still, says Johns, expect the new couple to face some unique challenges in their own right.

As a longtime fan of both characters, allow me to give you my completely objective opinion:

This is an UTTERLY HORRIBLE idea. I mean FUCKING AWFUL. It absolutely SUCKS ON ICE.

Anyone who could even suggest this obviously has absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what Superman or Wonder Woman, and by extension Lois Lane or Steve Trevor, is supposed to represent in the mythos. It's like they gave the matter no further thought or analysis than "Wow, Superman and Wonder Woman would look really hot together, like the star quarterback with the homecoming queen! And they could have really great sex!"

But then again, not getting what their characters are supposed to represent seems to be DC management's trademark with the Nu52. If this is the respect they show our heroes, I'd like the next big DC hookup to be between the current DC regime and the unemployment line.

I usually hate the idea of discussing the similarities between Wonder Woman and Superman because too many people dismiss Wonder Woman as simply a female counterpart to Superman. Which is dead wrong. If there's any male hero Diana most closely mirrors, it's Thor. With smidges of Captain America and even Black Panther thrown in.

However, there are similarities between the two and their roles in the DCU. Both are beings from other lands (other planets in Kal-El's case) who have demigod-like abilities, including super-strength and flight, and who make their home in the United States. There's also similarities in the symbiosis between them and their human supporting casts, particularly their primary love interests, Lois and Steve.

Not only are Superman and Wonder Woman supposed to be godlike beings in terms of power, they're also supposed to be something we aspire to in terms of personality and character. In other words, better people than most of us. And yet they're in love with two ordinary, imperfect mortal humans named Lois and Steve. Why? Because the two demigods see qualities in the two ordinary humans that they aspire to and even love. It brings the two demigods down to Earth. It humanizes them.

Kal and Diana involved with each other means they're hovering above us. Kal and Diana involved with Lois and Steve, respectively, guarantees they're interacting down here with us. Honestly, which is more relatable?

There's a term for the idea that Superman or Wonder Woman should be romantically involved with other demigod-like characters. It's called missing the fucking point.

The closest you would ever want Diana to get to a romantic involvement with a powerful heavy-hitter would be John Henry Irons aka Steel, because a) without the armor, he's an ordinary guy (like Steve) and b) even with the armor he's not in her power class. (That's just my idea; these two were never involved in canon.)

Any real Clark/Diana romance story can only function under one of the following conditions:

1. It's an Elseworlds story where a) the world has gone to complete hell and, more importantly, b) Lois is dead.

2. It's a Year One flashback story. Here it would be logical for them to at least consider the idea, even for the most superficial of reasons, because they're not fully evolved as characters yet.

3. Mind manipulation is involved. Mind control, amnesia, mind-body switches, possession, magic spells. You know, the usual suspects.

Otherwise, it's just a case of the beautiful people getting together. Who the hell cares?

This whole mess raises several questions:

1. Why does DC think Supes/Wondy is such a storytelling gold mine? Honestly, have you seen any decent post-Crisis stories where Supes and Diana got together romantically other than Action Comics#600 or Mark Waid's work? (And no, Joe Kelly's story doesn't count precisely because they didn't hook up.) Because from what I've seen, every other post-Crisis story where the two have hooked up has been complete shit.

Superman: Distant Fires. JLA: Act Of God. The Dark Knight Strikes Again. Need I say more?

And even Waid's Kingdom Come worked despite the Supes/Wondy romance, not because of it.

Now think of all the great stories the Clark/Lois romance has given us. One immediately springs to mind: Adventures Of Superman#628, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Matthew Clark and Nelson DeCastro. Lois is about to go on an overseas assignment into a war zone, and she wants someone to look after Clark while she's gone. Who does she call?

This scene encapsulated everything that the relationship between Clark, Lois, and Diana should be. Despite Diana being absolutely gorgeous, here she's a trusted family friend to Clark and Lois, to the point where Lois has absolutely no problem asking Diana for the favor above. Rucka and Clark get everything right in this scene, right down to the womens' different body types.

Now isn't that much better than Dark Knight Strikes Again, where Frank Miller seemed to believe a roll in the hay (or in the sky) with Wonder Woman completely recharges Superman's powers?

2. Why did DC de-age and OMD (from Etta) Steve Trevor post-Flushpoint in the first place? Because he looked good in khaki? To make him yet another covert government organization guy? Really, DC? You bring the quintessential Wonder Woman love interest back into play just so you can stick him in a role that you could've shoehorned Rick Flag into? Bringing back Steve and not having a Diana/Steve romance is like buying an expensive Lamborghini and using it only space.

And yes, I know the Perez reboot was what originally took Steve out of play. (The Perez reboot made a lot of mistakes regarding Diana and her mythos. See: Rape of the Amazons.) But rebooting Steve was supposed to fix all that. This? It's like finally making a long-procrastinated repair and then immediately and deliberately breaking the thing you just fixed.

3. What is the real inspiration for the cover? The EW article says Jim Lee "took inspiration from Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss and Alfred Eisenstaedt’s V-J Day in Times Square photograph".

However, other diligent readers have noticed a striking resemblance between the cover above and this scene with Lois in 2004's Superman: For Tomorrow arc.

Is Lee trying to be the new Greg Land?

4. Why in the name of Sweet Aphrodite are Wonder Woman's feet on this cover TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SIZES?

I take it back. Maybe Lee's trying to be the next Rob Liefeld.

5. Where does that leave me and my DC pull list?

 Frankly, I don't know. I'm not going the route of Certain Shades Of Limelight and other comic bloggers who are just dropping DC outright because of yesterday's news. Me? I try to avoid using the sledgehammer when I can use the scalpel. But believe me, it's going be one extremely bloody scalpel.

I dropped Justice League months ago. The final Dan Jurgens Superman comic released yesterday also marks my last purchase of that book. (Superman by the team behind Red Hood? Pass.) Action Comics has finally started to gel with me, but Morrison's leaving. And then there's the Wonder Woman book.

To Diana fans, the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Nu52 Wonder Woman comic has been a case of "other than that, Mrs Lincoln...". The shock revelations of Diana's parentage and the Amazons' history distort what Wonder Woman is supposed to be about by adding an unnecessary masculine power source to a character who is supposed to represent female power in its own right (hence the clay origin). Then there's Hippolyta and the Amazons' fate. Despite that, though, this book is still very enjoyable. It's Wonder Woman done Vertigo-style. Chiang's designs for the gods are very unique. How often do you see Hades as a little guy with candles burning atop his head and candle wax covering his eyes? And then there's Strife, Diana's newfound godly stepsister and the book's breakout character.

The thing about all the book's negatives, though? They're all things that are utterly reversible either by writers who succeed Azzarello or even by Azz himself. The revelations could be lies, and is death or petrification ever permanent when you're dealing with gods? This Supes/Diana power couple story, on the other hand? It's canon until the next reboot, and who knows how it will affect Wondy's comic or Action Comics?

The problem with DC's reboot is that it seems to have been executed with all the planning, care, and consistency of monkeys randomly throwing crap against the wall and seeing if it sticks. Wally West, Donna Troy, and Cassandra Cain are too much continuity but Batman having five Robins (no wait, scratch that, four Robins) isn't? If Hal's consistently been a GL all this time why are there 3 other Earth Lanterns? And what about the inconsistencies? Tim Drake used to be Robin, oh wait, no he wasn't. Diana doesn't know Clark and Bruce's secret identities, oh wait, yes she does. Batman approves of  Booster's JLI, oh wait, no he doesn't, oh wait, yes he does.

Sure, I still enjoy many of the DCnU's fringe characters' books, such as JL Dark, Frankenstein, Demon Knights, Dial H, Swamp Thing, I Vampire, All-Star Western and the late,great OMAC. But right now DC's mainstream superhero universe, the aspect of DC most recognized by the general public, is rapidly being fucked up beyond recognition.

It's like head honchos Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Dan Didio are trying to remake DC's universe in their own warped image and make the comics cater only to their sensibilities and twisted sense of notalgia, while forgetting they're supposed to be selling to a diverse market. That's why we get reboots no one asked for, like making Barbara Gordon become Batgirl again or OMD'ing Barry Allen or Superman wearing armor. That's why there are no married superheroes in the Nu52 except for Aquaman/Mera and Buddy Baker. That's why Wonder Girl is now dressed like this:

Yaaaah!!!! STERNUM SPIKES!!!

As a result, characters who once felt like familiar friends are now either completely gone or rapidly becoming unrecognizable, therefore shattering my and other readers' connection to the most familiar characters.

And without that connection? Well, fuck it, I might as well drop those now-unrecognizable comics and buy independents instead. It's not coincidence that I've been adding indie titles to my pull list like mad this last year. I just added the new Archer & Armstrong this month, and I've been picking up virtually all of the Monkeybrain titles online.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not boycotting DC's books altogether. But at this rate the only DC superheroes I may continue following will be Zatanna, Animal Man and some  Bat-characters. What a shame.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone - Round 8: Original Gangsta!

This week I've paid tribute to the work of the late Joe Kubert. Tonight's round of Friday Night Fights: Hands Of Stone is a Kubert tribute of a different sort, as it focuses on a work he edited.

When I was spotlighting Kubert's covers this week, it turned out I omitted a great many. One of those covers was this one.

(Click to enlarge)

That's right. DC Comics published Stories From The Bible, a one-shot Limited Collector's Edition. In addition to drawing the cover and providing some interior art, Kubert also edited the book. Here we saw the illustrated versions of many classic biblical tales such as Adam and EveNoah's Ark, Sodom and Gamorrah, and Tower Of Babel (no, not the one with Batman's protocols).

This comic also featured that classic tale of brotherly hate, Cain and Abel, written by Sheldon Mayer and beautifully illustrated by Nestor Redondo, featuring the guy who invented murder in the process of ...uh...perfecting his original invention.  It is this story from which I draw tonight's fratricidal fracas.

And so Cain commits the very first murder, making him the true Original Gangsta.

From that last sentence, you might assume tonight's fight music would be hip-hop. But I did hip-hop last week, so this week I'm going with this Cain-raising classic by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Spacebooger can and will get biblical on your @$$es!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Nazis Are Lying In Wait: A Joe Kubert Tribute

For the second part of my special tribute to the recently-deceased Joe Kubert, I thought I'd focus on one of Joe's specialties:

Nazis lying in wait.

Kubert was peerless at drawing covers featuring Nazis lying in wait. Anytime you needed a cover with Nazis lying in wait, he was the go-to guy. If there was a way to portray a Nazi or a group of Nazis lying in wait, you can almost bet that at some point Joe Kubert has depicted it.

Kubert even had the Nazis drag the pets into it.

 Although the Nazis were a tricky bunch, often the Americans would sometimes make things a bit too easy for them.

Sometimes this wasn't the Americans' fault...

...while other times it clearly was.

Then there was the "paint a prisoner to look like a gold statue" trick. Unfortunately, this scheme had a flaw:

There were UNDERWATER Nazis lying in wait....

And the trickiest of all....

...DEAD Nazis lying in wait!

To the late, great Joe Kubert, the uncontested master of Nazis lying in wait!