Sunday, July 31, 2011

This Post May Give You The Munchies

Yes, yes, it's picking low-hanging fruit to snarkily note drug references in innocent 1960s comic books.

But sometimes the fruit is SO low-hanging, you just have to.

Most people forget that in the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, there was a group of normal, non-super-powered agents who did a lot of the grunt work: The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad!!

And one of the squad members was William "Weed" Wylie. A seedy type with some questionable activities in his background, Wylie was the team's locksmith/escape artist. And he kind of resented of the attention and perks (and girls!) the super-powered agents received.

So he was easy prey when an evil hypnotist convinced him that he actually had super powers (in an insanely convoluted plot to capture the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents). And thinking he was fully powered led to...

Yes, now he is Wonder Weed.

Really. No snickering allowed.

The effect of that name is only enhanced by the fact that he keeps that scraggly little "cigarette" in his mouth at all times:

And of course, Wonder Weed taught us the futility of the War On Drugs a full 45 years ago:

No, guns cannot stop Wonder Weed!!

Nick Spenser, if you're reading this, you really really really need to bring back Wonder Weed!!

From Dynamo #1 (1966)

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Some things never change, even in the schools of the future:

Yup, kids always look to take advantage of substitute teachers.

Except...this is Mega-City One.

And why is Dredd filling in as a teacher? Why, it's the law, of course:

And Dredd does an excellent job of teaching the juves about the law:

So even the class trouble-maker falls into line:

(Am I allowed to point out that these days, many an artist would have headed straight to the photocopier for that sequence?)

Other students do less well under Dredd's tutelage:


So, kiddies, next time you have a sub, you'd best behave.

It should also be noted that, by the end of the story, several of the student's parents end up in jail. Oh, Dredd...

Twenty years ago this week, Garth Ennis and "Colbey/Hart" didn't need no education in 2000 AD #742 (1991)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Hey, DC threw me a bone!

Up to now, my reaction to the whole Flushpoint "New 52" has been one of faint ennui, because after all of DC's declarations of "history making" and "reshaping the industry," it seemed to me as if most of the "new" books we got were mostly same old, same old.

25% of the output Bat-books? That's taking a chance.

Deathstroke? Yeah, he was edgy...30 years ago, and he just had his own team a month ago.

A team led by the Demon? Yes, because we haven't had the Demon star in any titles over the past decade.

Wildstorm characters in the DC Universe?? Well, let's see--those titles and/or characters were all created by the man who is DC's "co-publisher," so yeah, real risky. It would have been a far bigger surprise if Grifter et. al. hadn't been incorporated.

No, despite all the chatter about "we really want to inject new life in our characters and line," 95% of the "new" 52 is the exact same characters they were already publishing, just with new clothes and botox and all adult relationships stripped away.

But then, at SDCC, Geoff Johns revealed who one of the "mystery" characters in Justice League was: Lady Luck!

Now, I've written about Lady Luck before, so I won't bore you with the details...

Oh, hell I won't!

Lady Luck was created by Will Eisner, and ran as a regular back-up in the Spirit newspaper insert. Quality Comics began reprinting those stories, and for 5 glorious issues, she took over Smash Comics as the title character!! (And then the mag was cancelled. Ah, well...)

Of course, Quality never seemed able to settle on a slogan for Lady Luck. From the covers of her 5 issues:

A few more issues, and I think they would have had it!!

Anyway, even though this new Lady Luck sounds like she has pretty much nothing to do with the Golden Ager except for the name (and hopefully her taste in lingerie), I see it as vaguely promising. It's an example of DC's brain trust actually thinking outside the box for 5 seconds, the first concept from the New 52 that wasn't created by one of their Golden Boys or an attempt to latch onto 80s or 90s nostalgia. A small thing, yes...but something.

One of DC's greatest but most under-utilized strengths is the ridiculously ENORMOUS amount of characters they have buried in their vault after absorbing Quality and Fawcett and Fox and...well, virtually everyone. But since Roy Thomas stepped away, there's been almost no attempt to revive/recreate any of these properties...except for cameos and name drops in Starman, or to be gratuitously slaughtered off in JSA so we'd understand that Nazis were evil.

But just look back at my Golden Age Idol series. Hell, just look back at Fawcett 1941 Week or Quality 1941 Week earlier this month to see dozens of characters from just one month's comics that are lying around, unused, even though DC (theoretically) owns the rights to them.

So props to DC for finally extending their institutional memory past the books they read when they were adolescents. It's a small step, but one that should be applauded.

Especially if it leads to reviving this guy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Most Disgraceful Act Ever Performed In An Archie Comic

Betty has a talent, and Veronica finds it, well, of questionable morals:

Whistling? Seriously? Violating your sense of right and wrong? In 1987??

Sorry, Betty, for Veronica the ban on whistling is apparently a form of sharia law:

And after a couple of more whistles:

This, by the way, is coming from Veronica Lodge, who has pranced around in some of the shortest mini-skirts, publicly flaunted her bikini-clad body through half a century plus of summers, and misses no opportunity to smooch her beau in public.

But whistling? Shameful and impermissible and unladylike.

You learn something new everyday in Archie Comics...

From Betty And Me #163 (1987).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is Marvel Selling Ads *Inside* Their Stories?

In this week's Amazing Spider-Man #666:

Well, the Captain America movie poster is cool...the JJJ sign is funny.

But an Orbit gum logo, right in the middle of nowhere, for no reason??

Later in the same issue:

Stuck in the middle of an alley, the Harley-Davidson logo. Just sitting there.

Meanwhile, in Secret Avengers #15, pinned to a cubicle wall in a newspaper office:

Really, Marvel?

I didn't notice anything in any of the other Marvels I bought this week, although I didn't get that many. There may have been more in other titles.

So, is this new policy--paid product placements inside the stories themselves? How much money are you making from this, Marvel/Disney? And why are you still charging us $3.99 for these comics if you have these new revenue streams?

I'll be keeping on eye on this issue...

Several Attempts At Short Reviews Of Captain America: First Avenger!

Spoilers ahoy--read at your own risk!

You have to love a movie that has the balls to tweak Raiders of The Lost Ark (lovingly, of course) in an early scene. One of Roger Ebert's rules is that a movie should rarely make a direct reference to a better movie, because you're just reminding the audience of your shortcomings as compared to the classic. But CATFA has the confidence to do it, and the self-awareness to know the audience will already be making that comparison in their minds because of the nature of the scene.

That being said, not a terribly good job of hiding the most powerful artifact in existence, Norse guys.

Captain America: First Avenger is the story of Captain America and The Howling Commandos fighting Hydra in the Secret Science Fiction Theater of WWII.

And holy crap, it completely works, out-Marveling Marvel itself, as Hydra agents with ray guns and Cosmic Cube-powered tanks are befuddled by plucky infantry (and the occasional help of James Bond-style motorcycles and mystic vibranium shields!) while the rest of the world has the plodding and boring World War Two.

Yes, there's some cognitive dissonance at first, but at the point where the Red Skull takes off in his gyro-rocket thingie, you grok how they've grafted a Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four aesthetic onto a Simon/Kirby war comic, and you stop worrying and learn to love the hell out of what the movie is doing to you.

Plus: Howard Stark gets a Q scene. Let me re-emphasize: Howard Stark is Q.

Stanley Tucci--bless you sir. You had what, 7 minutes of screen time? But your performance was so wonderful, such a grace note, that you single-handedly set the (hugely successful) tone for the whole movie. You took one of the most minor characters and made him into the moral center of the whole Marvel Universe (with the help of the writers, of course).

It won't happen, but you deserve a Supporting Actor nomination. Thank you.

Easter Eggs, references, and connections--this movie's got 'em.

For those who complain about continuity porn, this movie is a rejoinder, showing how to use continuity to enhance the experience for those in the know without detracting anything for the uninitiated.

For my second viewing (3 so far, 4 by the time you read this), I saw CATFA with friends who a) hadn't seen Thor, b) hadn't seen Iron Man 2, and c) had no idea what the Avengers was, or that a movie was coming. And they loved CATFA, and didn't feel like they had missed anything.

For we nerds, though? The exhibit at the fair, Dr. Zola's first appearance on screen, the references to the other Marvel films...all woven in gently and subtly, not made too big a deal of--just extra nuggets for us to enjoy.

And once again, I'll ask--why the hell can't Warner do anything like this in their DC movies? Even if they don't ever intend to make a cohesive movie universe, what's wrong with a hat tip or two--a casual mention of Gotham in a Superman movie, someone watching a report from Metropolis on TV in Green Lantern, some little wink or nod? The DC movie franchises are hermetically sealed unto themselves, no trespassing allowed, whereas with just a couple of little touches, the Marvel Studios films have captured the fun of early Marvel comics, where anyone might show up anywhere and fans ate up the shared universe.

SPOILER-RIFIC SPECULATIONS: You really shouldn't read this if you haven't seen the movie yet.

**Great, now I have to re-watch Thor and look for any sign of the Red Skull in Asgard--that's where he ended up, sucked into Asgard, right??

**When Cap rescued Bucky, Barnes (alone) was in the "isolation ward," in Zola's lab, underneath some ray-looking machine thingie. What, exactly, was being done to him? And...was it something that may have enabled him to survive his apparent fate in the movie?? Bucky Lives!!

**So why, exactly, was the "prize of Odin's treasure room" left on Earth all those generations ago, for dopey humans to hide (ineffectively)? Especially since humans weren't allowed to touch it or even look at it?

**Fun fact for a later essay--compare/contrast what happens at "70%" in Zola's first experiment with the Cube and what happens at "70%" during Project Rebirth. One of many examples of using parallels and echoes well. Good writing.

I don't talk about Captain America as much as I should. While the Fantastic Four will always be first in my Marvel heart, Steve Rogers and Cap will always hold a special place. I was the proverbial 98-pound weakling as a child, and so of course I found Cap's origin quite appealing. And while I'm not an overt flag-waving type of guy, Steve Rogers represents so much of what I believe in about America and patriotism.

Plus, he socked Hitler in the jaw.

But...but it's such a delicate balance. Despite a seemingly idiot-proof origin and fairly easy concept to portray, obviously Cap has been screwed up in other media--several times. Whether it's fear of offending Germany (and seriously, since when did Hollywood EVER worry about the consequences of using too many Nazis??) or a discomfort over how to portray the concept without getting overly corny (or overly political), Hollywood had proven itself ridiculously inept at all things Captain America.

So, while I was eager to see the new movie, I kept a tight, tight reign on my enthusiasm, because history told me that this could very well be another colossal bust. And I think that I let that fear subconsciously color my views of the early publicity shots and teasers and trailers, because man, I was worried.

But at the end of a crappy week and a particularly crappy day, I sank back in my seat in a surprisingly crowded theater and was transported away by a movie that was so confident, so sure handed, so captivating that despite a 2 hour running time, I wanted more, more more.

Bottom line--best super-hero movie of the summer, and I'm pretty sure it's the best of the Marvel Studios films.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Last November, reacting to statements from Marvel and JMS that The Twelve was "almost done," I boldly made this statement:

"I call dibs on February 2012 in the "When will The Twelve #9 actually show up" pool..."

So what does Marvel announce at SDCC? "The Twelve #9 is coming in February 2012."

What do I win?

Two things to note: A) At nearly 3 1/2 years between issues, this breaks the record established by Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk #2-3 and Planetary #26-27. Congratulations to all involved!!

B) It's JMS, so matter what they say, don't count on it meeting that ship date...

Bold Fashion Choices--Meow!!

As much as we like to kvetch about the Flushpoint costume redesigns, let's remember: Far, far worse DC costumes have happened in the past. Example:

Catwoman, circa 1972. Shudder.....

Still, how can I be angry at Dick Giordano, when he can draw Diana Prince this purty?

All is forgiven, Dick...

From Wonder Woman #201 (1972), as reprinted in DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman--The 70s #1

Monday, July 25, 2011

Manic Monday--A Plague For Their Dowries

"I say, we will have no more marriages..."
-Hamlet Act III Scene i

Of course, Hamlet said that while feigning (?) madness. DC? Apparently, it's now corporate policy.

We already knew that the New New (New) DC Universe is going to "One More Day" Clark Kent and Lois Lane's marriage--never married, nope, not even really dating. Apparently, it's too tough to write a married Superman--Lois gives him "too much support," they need Superman to "struggle" more and be more "isolated" and "broody."

Jim Lee said Friday that the marriage had made writers "complacent." You'd think the answer to that would be to tell your writers to write better, rather than toss the relationship, but the inmates are in charge at DC.

Lee went on to say "[Superman] had this love of his life that he couldn't necessarily obtain, and that's something that was kind of missing from that mythology." Which kind of proves that Lee never actually read a Silver Age Superman story, because that's not how I remember things: Superman could have "obtained" Lois anytime--he was the one playing hard to get.

But yesterday we found out that was just the beginning. New Flash cowriter and penciller Francis Manapul told a panel "[Barry Allen] and Iris were never married. He's dating someone, but playing the field a bit. He's fast enough for all the ladies."


First, you have to wonder why DC was so insistent on bringing Barry back, if they were going to change his background, get rid of his friends and family, and change his personality--"playing the field"?!? Barry Allen?!?!

Second, I've opined in this space before about the wondrous storytelling possibilities Iris Allen presents. She's a time traveling, body-shifting Lois Lane, with Superman's origin, and everyone she touches becomes a God of Speed. To claim that she somehow makes writers complacent or limits storytelling possibilities is just foolish. But no, all that is outweighed by the fact that the pre-adolescents in the DC He-Man Woman Haters Clubhouse think marriage is icky.

But aside from all the relationships now fiated away with a hand wave, and aside from all the currently existing characters who've never been born because of DC's "our heroes must be younger and not married to be more relatable" policy, here's the problem:

If DC's not going to have any married characters, doesn't that ruin the (melo)drama of having their heroes date? If this policy means that Lois and Clark can never marry, what's the point of watching them date, if you've already declared that their relationship can go no farther? Having Barry Allen "play the field"--aside from projected wish fulfillment by the creators, how can that provide better storytelling possibilities, if you've already declared a large set of those possibilities out of bounds? Isn't removing the possibility (and even the desirability) of marriage just as likely to lead to complacency by writers, just as limiting to character growth?

Sadly, DC has seemingly and unironically taken Hamlet's rant to heart:

If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go.

Buddy Baker, you'd best be watching over your shoulder...

Manic Monday--Love, American Style!!

From the advice column in I Loved (Real Confession Stories) #29 (1949):

Ah, yes, C.W. is definitely being too sensitive...Mac just wants her to be perfect and criticizes her in a loving manner, as he reshapes her into his dream girl. Nothing at all wrong with that....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Romance Comics Are From Venus--Shagadelic!!

Apparently, 1949 was a lot more swinging than I had thought it was:

"We need one more couple for the shag club"? Groovy, baby...what time does the key party start?

From I Loved (Real Confession Stories) #29 (1949)

Romance Comics Are From Venus--EWWWWWWWW

Prepare your self for the skeeviest thing ever!!

Poor Jari was from a small town, but she wasn't a small girl--something her never seemed to let her forget:

Well, during a summer sojourn with a wealthy aunt in New York City, Aunt Margaret sent Jari to a combination fat farm/charm school:

I hope this Bluberry Success School is still around, va voom!!

Unfortunately, "va va voom" has its downside, because (and you might wish to avert your eyes here):

"If you weren't my niece"?!?!?!?!?!?!


Is Jari really happy that pervy Uncle Jason is lusting after her??


Then again, maybe it's just me. Tell you what, why don't all of you dear readers try going up to an attractive younger relative today and say "If you weren't my cousin/niece/sister..." Let me know what the reactions are...

From I Loved (Real Confession Stories) #29 (1949)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Best Of Both Worlds

Not only is this the best thing ever:

But as a huge bonus, it's still far far far far better than the version of Titans comings in the "New 52":

C'mon, DiDio/Lee/'s not too late to change to the good version!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Night Fights--CAPTAIN AMERICA STYLE!!!

Well, it's the prize fight round in Friday Night Fights--real money on the line.

And of course, through intense planning and massive manipulation, I've arranged it so that we feature Captain America the same week that his movie breaks.

Damn, I'm good.

But not just any fight, oh, no. We have to have Cap up against the Red Skull.

But remember, whenever Cap fights the Skull, the battle is only half physical, and half philosophical.

The Skull is dying, and so he has secretly given Steve Rogers an aging serum/poison that will kill him, as well. All so they can have one last battle:

Now, remember what I said about their battles being philosophical? So here's where the REAL fight begins:

Now that's a fight, Captain America style!!

Spacebooger could have beaten an aging Red Skull, but he's too busy with midnight feedings and changing diapers right now.

Cap and Skull take each others measure in Captain America #300 (1984), plot by J. M. DeMatteis, script by Michael Ellis (which GCD says is just a pen name for DeMatteis??), pencils by Paul Neary, inks by Dennis Janke.

Look, 5 dollars is 5 dollars, right? So, if you vote for me, you be helping me afford one more matinee showing of Captain America: The First Avenger. So vote!!