Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Other Shoe

Since this is International Iron Man Week, here's a question that's been bugging me lately.

We all hate Iron Man now, because he turned super-fascist and caused the Civil War and imprisoned heroes and got himself appointed boss of everybody. But maybe we should hate him even more than we already do.

We know from Civil War Frontlines #11 (The Worst Comic Book Ever Published®) that Tony Stark engineered most of the events of Civil War, in order to convince more heroes to register. We know he staged a fake assassination attempt on the Atlantean ambassador, for the same reason: to use the threat to encourage more masks to sign up to be government stooges.

But...what if that's not all he did? Take a look at this page from New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (not the mini-series, but the one-shot that was the precursor to Civil War). Tony Stark has summoned the other Illuminati because he's become aware of a pending bill in Congress: The Super Hero Registration Act. This is before Stamford, mind you. But Tony argues that the bill will inevitably pass, and that the Illuminati should get out in front of this thing and publicly support it. When Namor and Black Bolt and Dr. Strange express doubts, Stark lays this rap on them (click each panel for a more readable size):

So, before Stamford, Tony Stark lays out an exact road map of all of the events of the Civil War, including the death of Black Goliath. Exactly. Hell, if you read this page, you could have skipped the Civil War mini-series and not missed anything.

So what? Well, even if Tony is a "futurist," it's not at all credible that he could predict the future in that level of detail, is it? He knew it would be a team of young heroes would accidentally cause deaths (why not an old team?), that it would happen on TV, superheroes dying (well, Black Goliath, at least)...did he have a crystal ball, to know so much in such detail??

We could chalk it up to Bendis being a crap writer, who, rather than give Stark some original dialogue, just cribbed from his copy of the Civil War plot outline.


Look, we know from CWF #11 that Stark was manipulating events post-Stamford to get the results he wanted. He knew building a prison in the Negative Zone and roughing up good guys and provoking a war with Atlantis would fulfill his goals. He's that level of a master manipulator, apparently.

Well, what if he was doing the same after the Illuminati rejected his plea to get on board?

What if Tony Stark was behind Stamford?

How else to explain that events flowed 100% exactly as Stark predicted they would? How else could he know that a team of young heroes would screw up on TV, unless he set it up? How else could a clown group like the reality-show-making New Warriors, who hadn't found real villains in "six months," stumble upon a hidden group of of major bad guys, "all on the FBI wanted list" and "totally out of their league?" (quotes from Civil War #1). How could he know it would happen that way? And how could the Warriors suddenly "accidentally" move up in weight class? Unless Stark tipped them off...

Once Namor et al refused to join him, Stark knew the only way to guarantee passage of the Registration Act was for the scenario he laid out to come true. So he implemented the plans he had already laid (excuse me...predicted). He used Extremis to track down some sufficiently powerful fugitives, tipped off the producers of the New Warriors, and waited for the incident.

Maybe he didn't know so many would die, maybe he didn't know it was next to a school. But based on what we see in NA:I #1, I have no doubt that Stark actually set those events in motion to advance his agenda.

So Stark's not just a fascist, he's a mass murderer, too.

Enjoy the movie!

Pod'l Pool Party!!

Others have noted this already, but I just had to chime in with my lusty approval:

Fact: snell loves BeanworldNow if only we can rescue some other titles from the Eclipse black hole (cough cough MiracleMan cough cough)...

Monday, April 28, 2008

51 Issues and Nothing On

Well, then, here we are: 52 (strike that, 51) weeks later, we've had our "greatest phase of change" and "every major event and and nearly every character spinning in and out of the story." (So sayeth Dan DiDio) So, never minding the sheer editorial incompetence I discussed yesterday, what, exactly, did we learn about the DC Universe? What was the story about, and how was it told? Did Countdown matter, even if ineptly executed?

In terms of the story, at least, we learned virtually nothing. The climax of the storyline, in issue #2 (because most countdowns climax at two, you see) was just the wrap up-up of the storyline from Death of the New Gods. That's right, the the 8-issue limited series DoNG didn't even wrap up on it's own, but was to-be-continued in Countdown. Unfortunately, issue #8 of DoNG appeared AFTER Countdown #2, so we got the story's ultimate chapter before it's penultimate chapter...way to go, guys.

Seriously, that was about it...the entire point of Countdown was to show the outcome of some other mini-series. It turns out the whole reason we were on board for 52 (ahem, 51) issues was to watch Orion kill Darkseid. So why not make DoNG a 9 issue mini-series? Good question, padawan...

What else did we learn? We learned that we were severely misled, as the series premiered with a cover promising this:

Almost none of these heroes had meaningful appearences in Countdownand delivered us a series starring this:

Seriously? These guys??Not a good way to start a relationship, lying to us like that (probably a wise marketing decision, though).

We also learned that the emperor has no clothes...Paul Dini, that is. Sure, he's pretty good at Batman, and he wrote some decent cartoons (okay, some really good cartoons), but this series showed that he's not good at plotting something epic length, and that he's not at all good in keeping continuity in a fully shared universe. He has little feel or regard for how characters were portrayed before he took them up, and showed a total inability to explain anyone's motivations. And the number of loose ends left untied, even after 52 (ahem, 51) padded and rambling issues, is stunning.

Let me say one thing before we continue on: I'm tired of hearing "it was mandated by editorial" as an excuse for a crappily written story. Sadly, that's become a convenient excuse to let writers that we like off the hook for piss-poor execution. And frankly, it's self-serving: as we saw with JMS's Spider-Man comments over the years, he's always been quick to publicly declare that every story fans hated was the editors' fault, and everything fans liked was all his doing. Conveniet, eh?

Yes, there are a TON of sins that can be laid at the feet of Mike Carlin and Dan DiDio; but at some point Dini himself is the one who put plot and words to paper, and he has to take his (ample) share of the blame. (And yes, we can always blame some of the "co-writers" and "creative consultants," but Dini was "head writer" throughout this mess, and that means nothing if we keep shifting the blame off to others).

Examples? How about Pied Piper?

Piper has amnesia, it would seemExcuse me, Paul Dini, but Piper ALREADY was on the side of the angels. He had reformed, remember? He and Trickster were just infiltrating the Rogues to get the dope on their plans, remember? You ought to remember, because that's exactly what you wrote in #51! So for the big climax to the arcs of one of your main characters, you forgot whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. Smooth.

Example: Captain Atom/Monarch. You know, I won't say Captain Atom is one of the top guns of the DC Universe, but he's hardly insignificant, either. And when someone like him goes off-the-deep-end rogue you really need to have SOME discussion in the series he's "starring" in about WHY he's gone bad, don't you? (Unless, of course, he was possessed by the color chartreuse or some such nonsense) However, we had no such discussion, no characterization, nothing. Hell, we hardly had any mention that he used to be a hero.

Example: Monarch & Superboy-Prime: They were both prime movers in this silliness. They faced off in issue #13, and theoretically killed each other: Prime ripped open Monarch's suit, and the resulting explosion destroyed THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE of Earth-51 (don't worry--it got better. Really). But Captain Atom has survived things like that before, either being thrown about in space/time or into another dimension. And Superboy-Prime survives (he's one of the villains in the upcoming Legion of 3 Worlds, so he was most likely just thrown forward in time). Yet despite the fact we've been beat over the head with how dangerous, how huge a threat to the multiverse these two are, there's not even a single inquiry into their final fate. Not a word balloon, not a thought balloon, not a caption, nit an asterisk, nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Example: The Challengers of the Unknown (what are they challenging? It's unknown!!). We've been shown REPEATEDLY through Countdown that these guys were no match for a single Monitor...but somehow we end up with this:

These guys couldn't take down Lord Havok and his Extremists...yet now they're going to boss around ALL the Monitors? Really? Does that make a lick of sense?

Example: The Morticoccus. OK, those of you who haven't read this series aren't going to believe me on this. The sole point of having Karate Kid in this series (the SOLE point!) was that he was infected with the Morticoccus, a sentient super-virus that can exist in multiple dimensions and is essentially death on wheels. KK's version was especially deadly because it came from the future, and so was already assimilated to 31st century medical technology, and laughed at our medicine. (Note to Brainiac-5: exiling people to the past with extinction-level diseases can't be good for the timeline...) Earth-51's universe is destroyed (the second time) by the Morticoccus...yet despite the contention that it was now airborne and that their immunizations were temporary, the Challengers traipsed back to Earth-1 with no ill effect, and Morticoccus was never mentioned again. At all. The whole "threat to all universes" bit was completely forgotten. The fact that Ray Palmer had to go around spreading his immunity to other universe was never mentioned again. Karate Kid was in this series just so we could spend 3 entire issues showing the origin of the Kamandi universe (which Kirby could have done in 3 pages, or even 3 panels...).

I could go on, with the pointlessness of it all. Jimmy Olsen: got superpowers, lost superpowers, absolutely no character growth. Why was he in this series? Jason Todd: still a vicious killer and torturer of criminals. Why was he in this series? Holly and Harley: were Amazons for 5 minutes, had gods-granted powers for 5 minutes, now they don't have them and are back in Gotham (with no mention of WHY they left Gotham in the first place, or any particular character arc whatsoever). Why were they in this series? Kyle Rayner: well, he was in this because...well, I don't have any idea whatsoever. Now he gets to moonlight by Monitoring the Monitors (get it? GET IT?!?!), with absolutely no mention of whether he gets to keep his day job in the Oan Honor Guard.

Hey, you want a fun drinking game? Check and see how many unexplained events and unexplained characterizations had to be covered by Carlin & Co. in the Newsarama re-caps each week, and drink for each one that is NEVER covered in the 52 (ahem 51) issues. Just don't plan on making it to work the next day.

I used to complain that there wasn't enough story here for 52 (ahem, 51) issues, so all we were getting was padding and repetition. The sad truth, as it turns out, is that there was no story, period. The climax to another (shorter and better) mini-series, the creation of a new group that I guarantee will have less impact (and not last as long) as the "New Guardians" spun out of Millennium, and Mary Marvel being completely destroyed as a character. Seriously, that was it. Anyone care to wager on how much of this gets followed up in Final Crisis? Any of it?

A 52 (ahem 51) issue series with no plot, no characterization, and no reason for being? I'd like a refund, please.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Such a Thin Line Between Clever and Stupid

Do you know what the real problem with Countdown was? There were only 51 issues.

I know, I know, I sound like the guy in the joke: "How was that new restaurant?" "The food was terrible. And the portions were small!"

But seriously, I think I'm on to something fundamental here. The fact that Countdown was only 51 issues, and not 52 as promised, helps us see what a shambles DC's editorial direction under Dan DiDio is right now.

No, no, it's just that our appeal is becoming more selective!Let's deal with the obvious problem first: what the hell kind of countdown ends with 1 and not zero? Really, you can watch a million NASA videos and never see the ship liftoff on 1...

But that's just trivial ranting, right? Yeah, but it marks a sad trend. 52 was to be a fifty-two week series; but as they neared the end, they realized that the writers basically had refused to write the story the editors had wanted, and so they couldn't fit the neglected resolutions into fifty-two issues, and had to publish the abominable 4 issue Word War III to take care of it. So the fifty-two issue mini-series became 56.

And now, with the latest planned-for-fifty-two-issue series, they decided to end it with only 51 issues. Ostensibly, it was because (and I'm paraphrasing here) the zero issue was going to be a direct cliffhanger-filled lead-in to Final Crisis, and they just couldn't end the trade with cliffhangers, so they had to end the series at #1, and make what was going to be Countdown #0 into DC Universe Zero.I’ve told them a hundred times: put ‘Countdown' first and ‘Final Crisis' lastSeriously, that's what Didio said.

Let's look at the ways that makes absolutely NO SENSE, shall we?
  • I've heard of writing for the trades, but editing for them? Cancelling issues or shortening series for the convenience of the trade? Even if that made artistic, financial or editorial sense, has DC never had a trade end in (at least partial) cliffhangers before? DC trade buyers, help me out here...

  • DC knew from Day 1 that Countdown was going to be re-titled Countdown to Final Crisis, and they alerted the world at issue #26. Certainly they knew from Day 1 that it would lead directly into Final Crisis, and involve cliff-hangers of some sorts. So why in the world not pace the "epic" so that #1, the issue that "ended" Countdown cliffhanger free (albeit not untied plot line free) was #0?? Did they somehow not know there was going to be a trade? Why shorten the series, instead of adjusting things so it ended where you wanted to in issue #0? Seriously, folks, it's like Nigel Tufnel trying to explain about his amp going to 11 here...

  • Gee, if DC Universe Zero is supposed to be what was in Countdown #0, why does it have completely different writers? Hmm
You know, I'm more than happy to grant some leeway in the development of a 52-issue weekly mega-series. Things morph, new ideas come and go, editors are replaced (ahem). But when twice in a row you screw up the actual number of issues you need? When you can't even to get the series to do what it's supposed to do (hell, what the freakin' title says it's supposed to do!) and correctly link up with your next mega-series? Countdown to The Issue That Actually Leads into Final Crisis?!?!?

How screwed up is DC editorial on Contdown/Final Crisis? Check out this exchange from Newsarama's interview with "editor" Mike Carlin about Countdown #1:

Newsarama: So Mike, given the various points of narration, this whole storyline took one year?
MC: I wasn’t around for the beginning of this project... So not sure if anyone else said it... But I wasn’t under the impression this was happening in real time. Some sections went quicker than others... But as stories were spread out and checked in on for only a few pages an issue... I assumed many sequences were running simultaneously until they dovetailed at end.
"I wasn't around?" "Not sure?" "Under the impression?" "I assumed?" Are these really phrases you want to hear from the man editing your "lynch pin" series, the "spine of the DCU?" (That's DiDio's quote, not mine). He has no idea of the flippin' timeline of the series?!?! Isn't that an editor's job #1, especially on a series that ties into the rest of the DC Universe? Don't you, like, ASK SOMEONE when you take over? Either this is buck-passing to avoid blame on the most colossal scale imaginable, or Carlin is the most incompetent editor ever.

DC editorial essentially has no frakkin' clue what they're doing. They're making it up as they go along. It's astonishing.

Anyway, tomorrow I'll look at the artistic train wreck side of Countdown. Here's some preview material for you...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Quote of the Week

While the new Abomination is being hauled around by a robot version of the Harpy (you really don't want to ask):

Whoa Robot Betty Birdface, bam-a-lam, whoa...While it is amusing, it does bring to mind some troubling thoughts (editor's note--there's a surprise!).

A) Yeah, having the Abomination call himself "A-Bomb" was cute. For about 3 milliseconds. Then they had him do it again. And again...

B) Do we need a villain who is so stupid that he can't even say his own name? Really, is that appealing at all?

More seriously, did we need to make Rick Jones stupid? Of all the various gamma-spawned beasties out there (the original Abomination, Doc Samson, the Leader, Sasquatch, et al), only Banner's Hulk had infantile intelligence. So why do it again with Rick? Since Green-Banner-Hulk returns at the end of this issue, and is apparently dim again, do we need two stupid monsters running about? Can't we come up with something more original?

(Before any of you enterprising readers dig up the Hulk issues from a couple of decades ago that I'm too lazy to dig up myself where Rick temporarily became Hulk Junior or whatever and was stupid then, let me say that that merely begs the question--making Rick a stupid gamma-monster was as questionable back then as it is now.)

C) Someone really isn't talking to corporate marketing, are they? Just before the debut of the new Hulk movie, starring Emil Blonsky as the Abomination, Marvel & Loeb have killed off Blonsky, created a new Abomination who looks and sounds nothing like the old one and has a different identity. It's like killing off the Joker before Dark Knight premieres...I'm not sure whether to attack the marketing stupidity or applaud the artistic integrity. Of course, since I've just spent the last few paragraphs slagging the artistic results, well...

And speaking of stupid, allow me one more attack. As Bruce Banner is being gassed in his cell:

Duh....Gee, Bruce, maybe the fact that YOU'RE TALKING ALOUD AND COUGHING could be a pretty good clue that you don't know how to hold your breath. Banner can figure out all the angles so as not to injure innocents, but doesn't know not to talk while trying to hold his breath? Oy...

Still, "Robot Betty Birdface put A-Bomb down!" is a classic...

Words and pictures from Red Hulk #3.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Night Fights--Question Style!!

Since by Bahlactus' high command we're doing black and white this fight, we should pay tribute to one of the more film noir mainstream comics of recent decades: The Question!

Why are only the first six issues of this series in trade??Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan (with cover by Bill Sienkiewicz!) took off with the recently acquired Charlton character, creating an odd but enjoyable melange of violence, philosophy, and masked adventure...think Rorschach done noir. Hub City was a seething cesspool of corruption--think Sin City a decade early and done by DC, and you've got the idea

I always felt the series should have been done in B & W, especially as it was a "deluxe" book, and in those days it often seemed as if the colorists hadn't yet adjusted properly to the new paper/printing process, as the colors often looked muted and washed out. Well, here's our chance...

The Question has come into conflict with baddies who have hired Lady Shiva to protect their interests.

See, it really does look better in black & white!At this point in his career, Charlie is pretty much just a thug with a trick mask, not the kick-ass fighter he would become later. So, as they battle in the snowstorm, we know what to expect:

Silent but deadly
No chance whatsoever
Several cans of whoopassFinally Shiva backs off, and let's the goombas take over:

Smells like Sin City to me
Old fashioned beat-down...none of that martial arts nonsense
It's hard out here for a thug...Note how Cowan switched to white panel breaks here. Before, they were black (and effectively invisible), as Shiva's attacks were one continuous ballet of violence...with the goombas, it's a crude, formless beatdown...

Anyway, the "fight" ends with the Question being shot in the head and drowned in the river. Quite a way to end the first issue, eh?

Yup...dead...SPOILER he got better...Probably the least effective debut for any hero took place in Question #1, 1986

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Walrus Was Scott?

Sorry to be dark the past couple of days...jury duty and other minor calamities ate up my blogging time. I'll make it up with some double duty over the weekend.

But let's hop back in the saddle with what has to be THE COVER OF THE DECADE:

Warren sings lead in Tommy...?I didn't say which decade, though, did I...?

Seriously, man...the X-Men were FROM the 60s (if you take my meaning), and never dressed that groovy....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Most of you folks already know about this:

Seriously...Batman can take down Mr. Freeze, so what's Sub-Zero gonna do?Now, obviously, Marvel and DC have misread my last post on this subject.

No offense to Mortal Kombat fans, but nobody wants to see Batman fight Sub-Zero. Besides, at least DC writers (usually) know how to spell "combat," and we don't need to see that lax spelling infect all the DC books (particularly after the inevitable, and inevitably lame, comic book "adaptation").

And we don't want to see any more games featuring Marvel heroes fighting "Extremists" or Capcom heroes (although that was a freakin' cool series of games) or WWE wrestlers or anybody else.

We (by which I mean "I") demand a video game featuring Marvel heroes fighting DC heroes (and villains, of course). Is this too much to ask?? I think not. If I can have Sonic fight Mario in the privacy of my home, I should be able to have Iron Man fight Green Lantern too (I just blew your mind, didn't I?).

I pledge my vote in the presidential election to the first candidate to promise to make this happen.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Manic Monday--Aping DC

Well, one of the big announcements from the NY Comic Con was that Marvel will be publishing a new title, Marvel Apes:

Ook,ookHmmm, that doesn't seem familiar at all, does it? Nothing at all like the JLApe stories running through DC's 1999 Annuals...

A planet where the Justice league evolved from men?
First Skrullapalooza *ahem* borrows from Millennium, now Marvel Apes...Marvel's new motto under Quesada: We'll rip off every DC idea as soon as it's a decade or two old...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Who Are You Going to Believe?

Heaven knows, I give Bendis a lot of grief around here (deservedly so, but...). Yet I'm man enough to admit when he's right about something.

That something? The insane idea that Greg Pak has been putting forward that no one has ever died in one of the Hulk's many rampages.

It all started when Amadeus Cho, also known as *ahem* Mastermind Excello, came on board. And to convince Hercules and his little band of heroes that they should help Bruce Banner crush the Illuminati, Cho came up with the little chestnut that no one had ever died because of the Hulk. Not a single person. Here, check out this from Incredible Hulk #110 (2007):

Math means falling buildings never kill anyone!!And from #111:

Hulk...much less deadly than Iraqi insurgents
Loophole alert!And he's even gone so far as to have someone else state that there's never been a single casualty from the Hulk (sorry, I couldn't find it...).

Now, you can give Bruce Banner all the props you want to, but some things are way beyond instantaneous mathematical calculation in the heat of battle, no matter what Cho might say. If you've seen the results of enough military helicopter crashes, it strains credibility to believe that knocking them out of the sky could never result in a casualty, no matter how careful you did it. If you saw the results of the evacuation of New Orleans, it's not conceivable that you could evacuate a panicked city 10 times that size, and then fight 10 or 12 monstrous battles there, and not have a single person inadvertently die.

Sure, Pak adds enough caveats to try and cover his ass, like "never killed an innocent," or "self-defense," or "that was a war" or "as long as your brain hasn't been tampered with." So any exception you can find, Pak can argue it somehow doesn't count.

And that bugs the frak outta me, for some reason. Probably because it's yet another attempt by comic writers to have their cake and eat it too: they want to write a book about a destructive monster, but somehow have him still be a hero. Look, Hulk can destroy the biggest city on Earth, yet magically no one ever dies!! See, he is a good guy!! We want him savage, but still basically a nice guy. Next: Galactus can eat a planet, but miraculously, his brilliant mind ensure that there are no casualties. It's cheap, lazy writing, not to mention morally questionable: let's have all violence and zero consequences!

But Bendis didn't get that memo. Look at New Avengers: Illuminati #1 (2006)...not the mini-series, but the one-shot that served as a prelude to the Civil War. Commander Hill is lecturing Tony Stark about the Hulk's Las Vegas rampage, which happened in Fantastic Four #533:

Bendis says Hulk is almost as deadly as the Stamford explosion!!
Hulk...threat or menace?So, despite Cho's having "studied every recording and report of every fight" the Hulk "has ever been in," I guess he missed that one, eh? Except Stark says "How many this time?" That certainly implies deaths other times, right?

Then later, when proposing exiling Banner to the Illuminati:

Who ya gonna trust, Cho or Stark? Hmmm
All agree: Hulk=dangerSo, according to Bendis, innocents have died in Hulk rampages (and a dog!!). And it's not the first time. And more people will die.

And if you think about it, isn't that the only thing that makes sense? If no one had ever been injured in a Hulk rampage, why would Tony & Reed et al have bothered to blast Hulk off Earth? If he was no threat to human life, why would the military have wasted a kajillion dollars worth of equipment trying to destroy him?

So Pak's idea doesn't even make sense in terms of his own story. If no one ever, ever died because of the Hulk, there was no reason for Planet Hulk, no reason for World War Hulk. And no reason to lock up Bruce Banner afterwards, either.

I know Marvel writers don't bother to read each others' work, and doesn't have editors who actually coordinate things, so this all really could be a case of "didn't get the memo." But looked at as two writers arguing about the implications of a character's actions, Bendis clearly wins this one.

So see? I'm not irredeemably anti-Bendis...until the next issues of Avengers and Skrullapalooza, at least...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Stupidest Answer to a Question EVER

From the Cup O' Joe Panel at the NYC Comic Con, as reported by Newsarama (Quesada is, of course, Joe Quesada...McCann is Jim McCann of Marvel marketing:

A fan started by complimenting Dan Slott for his approach to continuity, before moving on to a question/complaint about "One More Day," specifically that Spider-Man's identity being public didn't last as long as this fan apparently would have liked.

Quesada clarified that he never said it was going to last 10 years of 5 years, just that it wasn't going to be undone at the end of Civil War and that it did indeed have lasting implications. "I'm not an elected official, at the end of the day," said Quesada.

McCann added "If Spider-Man hadn't been unmasked, 'One More Day' wouldn't have happened, and then 'Brand New Day' wouldn't have happened, which is still going on, so we're still feeling the effects of Spider-Man's unmasking."

So, let's see if I understand this reasoning: Because we undid what we originally did, what we originally did is still effecting things. Because we undid it, and we haven't un-re-did it yet

I think a few galaxies just imploded thanks to the gravitational pull of that pile The sheer illogic made Spock cry 300 years in the future...of illogic. I guess that's why McCann is in marketing...

And while I'm on the subject...now that we've had three full months and 12 full issues of Brand New Day, I'd like to mention that we have yet to see a single story or plotline that we couldn't have had if Mary Jane were still married to Peter. Not a one. So, good thing it was so dad-blamed important to destroy 20 years of continuity, eh? Somebody wake me when swinging single Peter actually has a date or something...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Night Fights--Black & White & Silver Style

So, the Silver Surfer has recently been exiled to Earth, and he's been getting pretty damn mopey about awful and destructive and blechhy we humans are. Boo freakin' hoo, huh?

So he goes to his good buddy Alicia Masters to whine on her shoulder (good choice, by the way, because a blind woman won't go "Gee, how come you're all silver and bald?").

So, of course, Ben Grimm walks in on them, and of course, overreacts. The result: classic goodness, Lee & Kirby style:

C'mon, Benjy, she's just reading his Braille shoulders...
Welcome to Earth, emo-boy
Ben tries to promote soccer!!
A whole lotta 'KRAKKK'ing going onBecause if you're gonna do a Friday Night Fights Classic Edition, well, "classic means you START with Lee & Kirby. So sayeth Bahlactus!!

Bashful Ben Grimm showing the Surfer that we Americans don't put up with his emo crap is from Fantastic Four #55, 1966. Classic, baby!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Unfortunate Typo of the Week

From the next issue box of Superman #675 (don't woory, no spoilers):

Yawn...cars, robots, yeah...HEY!!Wait...what? A closer look is called for:

Uhh...umm...Hmmmm...Superman has a "fist-time" adventure? With Green Lantern "to boot?"


You have no idea how much restraint I'm showing here...

Days of Past Future

Here's the cover, from the July solicits, for the Uncanny X-Men 500 Issues Poster Book, which is "Thirty-six posters celebrating 500 issues of UNCANNY X-MEN!"

It's like the classic rock radio of comicsDoes anybody else think that it's sad that the cover of a book celebrating 500 issues (and 45 years!) doesn't feature anything more recent than 1990? And that 3 of the 4 covers portrayed are from 1981 or earlier? The most recent 28 years of X-history is ignored on the cover (as is the first 13 years...).

Does that say anything about more recent X-history? Or perhaps about Marvel's opinion of recent X-history? Or maybe it's just me...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Big Question??

Assemble your questions
From the solicit for Mighty Avengers #16:

SECRET INVASION TIE-IN! Blah blah blah blah blah blahbity blah blah. Blah blah blah blah! Skrulls blah blah Elektra blah blah!! Blah surprise blah blah!! Plus the answer to the biggest question in modern Avengers history...

Hmm..."the biggest question in modern Avengers history?" Whatever could that be? Let's take a stab, shall we?
  • What the hell was the deal with Dr. Druid?? (editor's note: I don't think that's what they mean by "moden Avengers history...")

  • Why the hell is Wolverine an Avenger?

  • If the Scarlet Witch was as powerful as claimed, and she wanted to destroy the Avengers as claimed, how come she only managed to kill Ant-Man and Jack of Hearts, for heaven's sake? She can alter reality but can only take down C-listers? (editor's note: Hawkeye and the Vision got better...)

  • What the hell was the deal with Reed and Sue joining? (editor's note: again, likely not modern enough...) And Gilgamesh? Huh?

  • Given his amazing record of psychological instability, not to mention his complete lack of ANY scientific success since discovering Pym Particles decades ago, why in the world would anybody have Hank Pym helping run the Initiative or investigate Skrull corpses?

  • Why the hell was Doctor Strange an Avenger?

  • Why was Avengers HQ/Sentry Watchtower, which was demolished during World War Hulk, mysteriously undamaged in the Avengers' own titles?

  • Ares? Seriously?

  • Why is Doctor Doom talking like a street punk?

  • Hey, guys, why don't we remember Spider-Man's secret identity? I swear he and his family lived here...

  • How many times can the Mighty Avengers confront the renegade New Avengers but let them walk away unmolested? Man, that never gets old...

  • Are you a Skrull?? Speaking of never getting old...
Any other ideas for "the biggest question in modern Avengers history?" Chime in, guys...

Who Needs Food Money, Anyway?

Do you have any idea how many of these I'm going to buy??

HrmmmmNext: Watchmen Heroclix!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Worst Title For a Series EVER?!?

From the July Marvel solicits:

So what's her name? PATSY WALKER. What's her hero identity? HELLCAT. What's her job? AGENT OF THE INITIATIVE. Well, I guess that covers everything, eh?PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT, AGENT OF THE INITIATIVE #1 (of 5)

Patsy Walker, S.H.I.E.L.D. wants YOU to join the Initiative…and protect the frozen north. You heard me right, sister. The Klondike. Seward’s Folly. Alaska. So pack some long johns and prepare for trouble. GUEST-STARRING: IRON MAN!
32 PGS./Rated A …$2.99

Patsy Walker: Hellcat, Agent of the Initiative?!? Really?? I can't wait to see the font they use to fit that on the cover...

Seriously, are there enough readers out there who have ANY memory of Patsy Walker from pre-Hellcat days to justify calling it PW: Hellcat instead of the Hellcat?? Does Marvel think we won't buy it unless we're certain that its Patsy Walker (for the ghost who walks??) who's in the costume?? Is this a deliberate parody on some of the ridiculously long titles for DC's Countdown crossovers?? I'm mystified...maybe Marvel's getting paid by the punctuation mark...

See, This Is The Real Reason There Are No More Phone Booths

Gratutious property damage:

Uh...you'll pay for that, right Bruce??The solicited cover of Superman/Batman #50, the series which somehow continues to be consistently less entertaining than your average Silver Age World's Finest...am I wrong, guys?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Manic Monday--The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Wow, look!! I can't believe they've already got a trade solicitation for Secret Invasion:

Which major characters are Skrulls I mean Manhunters...MILLENNIUM TP Written by Steve Englehart Art by Joe Staton, Ian Gibson and others Cover by Joe Staton & Mark Farmer The 1988 8-issue miniseries MILLENNIUM is collected for the first time! The Guardians of the Universe have left our dimension behind — and in their absence, the deadly robotic army of Manhunters threatens the survival of the DC Universe! Advance-solicited; on sale August 6 • 192 pg, FC, $19.99 US

Oh, right, it's the DC version of Secret Invasion from 20 YEARS AGO...never mind...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The True Victims of White Collar Crime

There is a certain breed of madness, I think, that makes one a certifiable genius. A willingness to put any idea onto the comic page--no matter how silly or stupid or undeveloped--that results in things no one has ever seen before.

I'm talking about Bob Haney, of course. His ability to pump out story after story filled with insanely silly ideas that were only tangentially related to anything we'd recognize as reality was a gift. The sheer bravura of presenting a sequence of something mind-alteringingly odd, and then, before we could question whether or not it made sense, pummel us with something even odder, resulted in comic stories with a breezy momentum to them. Unlike many Silver and Bronze Age DC stories, that could bore us to tears with page-long explanations of how something had occurred (and usually get the science wrong or silly or both), Haney just said "roll with it" and hurtled on to the next plot point...he didn't have time for explanations, because he was busy throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck.

Which brings us to this:

Does Diana lose her power if chained by a male ape??Now, that cover could have appeared on any writers' comic of the era...but the splash page...oh, the splash page:

This is sooo close to being a furry gatheringThe sight of our heroes behaving like animals, the overwrought yet compelling prose, the silly acronym of the title: one reads such things, and what can one say but..."Haney."

How do our heroes get into this mess? Well, for Batman, he apparently forgot that the was already a billionaire:

Even Batman has a price...So, wheelchair-bound industrialists can summon the Dark Knight for daytime conferences? Anyhoo, Belmont thinks his daughter has been kidnapped so Dimitrios--the "world's richest man"--can torture the secret of Belmont's "fabulous new solar cell" out of her. That how industrial espionage works, you see.

Or, YOU could just buy them those things, because YOU'RE RICH, DUMMYUhh, Bruce...you have ten million between your sofa cushions, I'm sure. And don't you have more important things to do than go jetting a thousand miles out to sea to fight industrial espionage, like protecting Gotham from Two-Face?

And how does Wonder Woman get involved in this fiasco?

Damn the peacekeeping missions--someone's violating international patent law!!That's right--Bob Haney just equated industrial espionage with "world peace and holocaust." That's why the UN has a "Crisis Bureau"--they get too bogged down with trivial things like Darfur to deal with the important things like protecting the profits of billionaires.

So, independently, Bruce and Diana make their way onto the Argosy, Dimitrios' "super-ship." Batman sneaks in through a "water intake scoop," only to find himself:

Dimitrios obviously rented his boat from a Bond villain
Uh..how can a whale have a mano?Best panel ever? Or is it this one:

That whale is gonna be sooo embarrassed at the water cooler tomorrowI promise you, no other blog will give you a scene of a killer whale chomping off on octopus' arm. Discovery Channel, eat your heart out.

An aside: this is hardly backed up by extensive study, but I've noticed that many Bob Haney stories feature unorthodox panel arrangements...was this something he called for in the scripts, or were his stories so nuts that they drove the artists insane??

Fortunately, Wonder Woman show up and busts up the aquarium, freeing Batman and leading to the panel I presented yesterday.

The interesting thing this is that, despite being such a perfectly DC premise, we see very little of the simian squad. They're almost always in the background, among a crowd, in shadows...maybe Aparo wasn't fond of drawing apes. We do get this, however:

Do apes really need blackjacks??Wonder Woman is also captured (by "stinging sleeping gas"), proving that one billionaire with monkeys can take out 2/7 of the JLA without even trying.

This brings us to the story-opening splash panel, and Batman deduces (?) that "we must be drugged or under some hypnotic effect." Yeah, that's why you're barking like a dog...sure...

Of course, Dimitrios can't resist boasting...

Guess what part of batman you forgot to bind?...which provides Batman the opportunity to...well...you'll see...

Batman, or Matter-Eater lad??
Threaten him with an enema next!See, every single story, Haney gives you something you've never ever seen before. The Caped Crusader swallowing the McGuffin, and the villain threatening to pump his stomach? Priceless!

There's a long "running through corridors" interlude, in which we discover that Batman didn't really swallow the solar cell--he palmed it--and that it wasn't real, anyway, it was a fake! (PRO-TIP: Don't ask...the labyrinthine espionage plot involves betrayals and set-up and triple crosses and is best not dwelt upon). After being captured (FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS STORY!!), Dmitrios has abandoned the stomach pumping plan for something far more Haney-ish:

This week, on an all new ER
You know, words fail me here...Well, Wonder Woman is apparently squeamish, because that forces her into action:

Because her basic Amazonian strength isn't enough...After much butt-kicking, we learn that it was all part of Bruce's masterplan:

Wait for the dickweed move...
Because she's a woman, and won't try her hardest without emotional trauma??Seriously, whenever Haney has Bruce and Diana team-up, Bruce comes up with the most godawful stupid plans imaginable.

Bruce and Diana mop everything up...it turns out that Belmont and his daughter were just as evil as Dimitrios, and head off to jail. Which means, I suppose, Belmont won't be making that donation to charity. Which means Bruce will pick up the slack, right, Bruce? Bruce..?

Screw the ghetto kids--I'm getting me some gorilla surgeons!!D'oh!!

So we've learned that, in Bob Haney's world, billionaires travel the high seas with packs of ape guards (including some trained to do surgery badly), while conducting white collar crime by using murder, kidnapping and a circus costume; that Batman is available by appointment during the day, and is looking for other people to do Bruce Wayne's charity work for him; that Batman gets captured an awful lot; and that Wonder Woman doesn't really go into "top gear" until a monkey is about to cut Batman open with a scalpel...the rest of the time, she's just coasting apparently.

And that's just one issue. Rock on, Bob Haney, wherever you are.

The true story of the United Nations is told in The Brave and The Bold #140, 1978