Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Night Fights--Kimota Style!!

If this is indeed the final Friday Night Fights, let's not go out with a bang, or a whimper, but a crushed larynx.

If you're the wife of Mickey Moran, and an ugly beastie is attacking while he's otherwise occupied, well, you're in trouble:

Pushy Amway monster...But don't lose heart--it's a Miracleman Family, you see, and someone special is watching over you:

Those gloves...
Clingy women
Beautiful yet disturbing? Yup.Ladies and gentleman, Miraclewoman!!

Of course, Bahlactus don't need no magic words to shift into whupass overdrive...hail to the chief, suckas!!

Throat crunching action from Eclipse's Miracleman #11 (1987). My mean it's been over 20 years?? Jesus, I'm old...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pop Quiz

Q: How many reaction shots can you get onto one page of a comic book?

On a per-panel basis, your best comic value of the weekA: Too many.

Good gosh, it's like watching a Spielberg movie--convince the audience of how awesome your next shot is going to be by showing the audience lots (and lots) of shots of people gazing in shock/awe at something. And then do it again.

Do you think that maybe--just maybe--the readers got the idea after the first 3 or 4 panels? Well, too bad, because we're going to keep on going until we run out of page.

Really, James Robinson and Renato Guedes--if you're having problems coming up with enough stuff to fill up your page count, drop me a line. I've got a million ideas. And none of them involve a full page of over 30 people just standing around and gawking at something off screen.

P.S. It would help the effect if you actually had them looking in the same direction.

Momentum-stopping crown scene courtesy of Superman #681 (a.k.a. Triangle #2).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Raindrops Keep Falling On His Head...

Most people have either forgotten, or were never aware in the first place, of the huge limitation the Human Torch had on his powers back in the day.

You see, not only could he stay aflame only for a much shorter period of time than he can nowadays, not only could he not burn as hot...but he had a weakness that makes Green Lantern's vulnerability to yellow look kind of macho:

What about snow, Johnny?! What. About. Snow?!?Yes, study those weather maps, Johnny..."Hey, Reed, I can't help fight Galactus today, there's a low pressure center forming over Albany and..."

You realize, of course, that this makes the Johnny Storm's greatest enemy none other than:

That hot dog is about to dieBut you already knew that, didn't you?? We all remember that famous scene when Mr. Roker had the Torch as his prisoner:

The most frightening villain EVERYou know the best part of all of this?? Doctor Doom probably could have beaten the Fantastic Four a long time ago if he had just thought to attack them when it was raining!!

Roker 1, Doom 0Sorry, Victor....

The Human Torch's public admission of his weakness came in the "Fantastic Four Feature Page" in FF#9 (1962).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reed Richards Solves The Economic Crisis

Folks...enough worrying about credit crunches, regulation of hedge funds, or twenty point economic proposals. Because if any man can out think Alan Greenspan or Ben Bernanke on the issue, it's Reed Richards!

What, you say he has no economic experience? Au contraire, my friends. Back before many of us were even born, Richards and company had first hand experience with the mortgage crisis:

Should have gotten fixed-rate...And it's not just a misleading cover:

Perhaps John McCain will buy up their bad mortgage...Egads, how in the world did the Fantastic Four get into such dire financial straits??

Now we have to superhero until we're 70!Ouch...we're feeling your pain, Reed.

But why can't the FF turn to the experience of other superheroes to find a way to raise capital?

Stan Lee, stickin' it to The Man (before he became The Man himself)Oh, yeah, right. (Of course, in fairness, the JLA's first HQ was in a goddamned cave in Happy Harbor, Rhode Island...I guess Manhattan real estate prices were a bitch in both universes...).

So how did the FF get through their liquidity crisis?'s so simple...and won't cost the taxpayers $700 billion dollars!!Ah, of course...

Now, it turns out the "S.M." in "S.M. Studios" stood for Sub-Mariner...when he heard they were broke, Namor actually went out and bought a movie studio (with "undersea riches") just so he could offer the FF a movie deal and entice them into a series of none-too-impressive death traps (SPOILER ALERT: all the traps failed). But he lived up to his bargain, paid 'em the money, and made the movie:

Of course, we had to include Von Doom on the space flight, and change his origin, and make a terible looking suit for the Thing, and...So there's the solution to our "crisis": everyone should just make a movie of their lives for a million bucks each!!

Hey, does the Sub-Mariner still own that movie studio? Hmmm....

Bonus Disco Era Addendum: In the 1970's, Reed had a plan to make sure this little setback never happened again:

What we all want from superhero comics--legal documents!!Man, can you imagine how much the IPO for Fantastic Four Incorporated would have gone for? It would have made Google look like a penny stock!!

But Reed, you've gotta get better lawyers, because that charter is kinda whack:

Really, whose idea was that silly clause?? Roy!!D'oh!!

Well, at least in got Luke Cage into the FF for a few issues...

Ye olde times shots from Fantastic Four #9 (1962). Ye less olde times segments from Fantastic Four #168 (1976).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Manic Monday--More Jobs Lost To Technology

As we continue onwards into this technological age, America has to come to grips with the need to properly train our workers so they can be gainfully employed in an era of the internet, flying cars, and moon colonies.

This is hardly a new problem, though, as we take a look at job concerns circa 1964:

That's right, despite what you here about American students falling behind in math today, the situation didn't seem to be much better in 1964, as the average student was so clueless we had to rely on comic book ads to give the populace any mathematical proficiency.

Disclaimer...not actually as easy as 1+1=2Yes, in you can solve this "tough" equation, you can get a high paying job in "this atomic age"--working alongside Einstein no doubt.

Yes, your friends will certainly be surprisedYes, because society gives so much prestige to math whizzes...

The most boring party EVER"Social" arithmetic problems? Because apparently, doing blindfolded math problems was the Pictionary of the early mid 60's.

Timed mathematics will be the next Olympic eventMy gosh, those our dust, Mark Phelps!!

Of course, it's too bad for everybody who sent in their $2.98...within a decade, all of that "E-Z Math" skill that produced prestige and self-confidence and and higher pay and better jobs would be rendered obsolete by the calculator.

The desperate plea for improving America's work force appeared in Avengers #4 (1964).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ripped Off Again

From the Where's My Flying Cars? Department:

Where's the moon babies?!?!D'oh!!

Bad prediction from Gold Key's Star Trek: The Enterprise Logs #4 (1976)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Final Crisis: Submit--The Corrected Version

After yesterday's stunning announcement, I thought that I would get the jump on the trade and make the correction for Grant Morrison:

You're welcome.

Now excuse me, I have to go re-alphabetize all my Beyoncé albums...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Night Fights--Mystery Guest Star Style!!

This week's Friday Night Fights, sadly, contains no roller derby. Instead, we get a special mystery combatant. No, I'm not spoiling anything--it's right there on the cover!!

70's DC covers--required by law to contain at least two questionsSo who is the precocious youth kicking the crap out of the Lad of Steel?? Just wait for it...

Our story starts when our little titian-haired moppet is drowning at summer camp. Fortunately for her, Clark Kent is one of the camp counselors, and:

Nerd alert:swimming with glasses?!?!Her older brother, also a counselor, decides she needs to be punished, and she's pretty damned grumpy about it.

Pouting leads to super-powers!!Oh, that's right, this is Silver Age DC, so of course Clark just happens to be carrying one of Mordru's captured magic crystals in his cape pocket, and just happens to be walking by exactly when our mystery guest makes her wish:

This kind of shit happened every single day in the Silver Age...Later, as the counselors play the "let's scare the shit out of the young 'uns by pretending to be ghosts game," our little girl suddenly manifests great power...

My sisiter--she's hot!!...but without great responsibility...

She really hates CIA agents...Fortunately, the chump she walloped was Clark, so he's OK. This little girl, though, is holding her own against the Kryptonian teen:

Hey--kicking is no fair!!
Clark says that to all the girls...
Think hard, Kal-El, she's kicking your assFortunately, Kal figures out the deal, throws the crystal into the sun (if that happened today, someone would run and do a nineteen-issue arc about an evil villain intercepting the crystal before it reached the sun and becoming incredibly powerful, and killing some of Superboy's relatives in the process)...and poof go her powers.

But wait--who was that girl??

Uh...Superboy, could I borrow that crystal again for theKilling Joke?!?
That's right...a prepubescent Barbara Gordon kicked Superboy's ass. Come to think of it, that would have been a better way to end Infinite Crisis...

Of course, Bahlactus saw that twist coming, because he's seen it all!!

The adventures of Superman when he was the Beaver took place in Adventure Comics #453 (1977). Can you believe that DC isn't currently publishing anything under the title of Adventure Comics?!? What a waste of a venerable title...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Secret Ending To Final Crisis--Revealed!!

Not a dream--not a hoax--not an imaginary story!! The final resolution of Final Crisis:

Barry, it's Chinatown!
What is this, the end of Superman II?
That's right...Barry Allen will simply run around the world and kiss every human being, freeing them from the anti-life equation!!

C'mon, he's the freakin' he's not fast enough to do that?

(Of course, since Grant Morrison has already re-used this own time travel cliché of having the Flashes accidentally overrun their own time and end up in the future after the bad guys have won, there can be little doubt that the real resolution will be yet another time travel cliché: Since the bullet that killed Orion and precipitated everything was fired from the future, in issue #7 they'll find out who fired it and use the mystery Metron/Anthro/Tattooed Man glyph to prevent it from being everything will be reset, except for those continuity changes Morrison and DC want to make.

All in all, I'd prefer to have Barry Allen running around kissing everybody...)

Question: Why don't the Flashes hop back in the timestream to before "the day evil won," and, like, warn everybody and help?? Uhh...

Question: If the anti-life equation is "a mathematical proof that Darkseid is the rightful master of everything in existence," shouldn't it include, you know, math?? "Loneliness+alienation+fear+despair"? That's a Cure song, not an equation...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Captain America Movie Preview

Well, not so much a preview, as a look at all the tidbits we have, now that the new Hulk DVD is out plus lots of idle speculation.

We all know about the "alternate opening" on display in the 3-disc version, where we see Captain America and his shield embedded in the Arctic ice. It should be noted that Hulk's little rampage breaks up that bit of glacier, rather like Namor's did back in good old Avengers #4.

We also now that Tony Stark has Cap's shield--or at least a version of it, as it looks unfinished--in his lab in the Iron Man movie.

(Let me add that these tidbits look much better on the screen, particularly in HD, than they do in these screencaps.)

Now, we have no way to judge the relative time frames of these movies. Since we don't know when Hulk's North Pole smashing took place, there's really no way we can say whether or not the shield the Hulk sets loose is the one Stark has...perhaps recovered by the military and turned over to Stark for testing when he was still doing weapons research? Or, is he simply trying to recreate what once was (supposedly) lost?!?

But there's a couple of more hints we can dope out about this universe's super-soldiers from some tidbits in a couple of deleted scenes on the Hulk DVD.

The first takes place after they lose the Hulk in Brazil, and General Ross has to brief his superior, General Greller (whose part ended up entirely on the cutting room floor). Ross apparently hadn't fully informed Greller of what was going on, and he berates "Thunderbolt" Ross: "Are you telling me another one of your Super Soldier experiments has gone haywire? Is there anything that came out of that program that didn't turn into a mess?!?" Hmmmmm....

Next up, we have a greatly expanded version of the scene where Ross tells Blonsky about the Super Soldier program.

Blonsky: You said that (Banner) wasn't working on weapons, right?
Ross: No.
Blonsky: But you were, weren't you? You were trying other things.
Ross: One serum we developed was very promising. But it didn't pan out...or, it did, but it was unstable. It made subjects unstable. We were refining it, but then...Al-Haqeed happened. All those pictures at the hearings, Congress lost its nerve and they killed it.

Double hmmm...

And of course, there's the not-deleted bit at the end, where Tony Stark tells Ross, "I hate to say 'I told you so,' General, but that Super Soldier program was put on ice for a reason."

Now, if that wasn't a coy reference to Cap being frozen in a glacier...triple hmmm...

We've been told the Cap movie will be set in WWII...but we don't know if it all of it will be. We don't know for sure that Cap will be frozen then, or even if it's "the" Captain America up north we see in Hulk.

But we do know that, at some point, Ross made some more "unstable" super soldiers, and then something fairly horrific happened at Al-Haqeed. Perhaps we're borrowing the character of Nuke from Miller's Daredevil run, an insane and out-of-control super soldier experiment gone awry.

And would Ross have kept such a failure "on ice," that is, in suspended animation, rather than kill him? And could he get loose and face a revived Cap, either in the Cap or Avengers movie??

Lots of hmmm.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

F-less January

The January solicits are out for both Marvel and DC. And there's something missing.

First up, we note that on the Marvel side, for the second month in a row the Fantastic Four is absent from the solicitations. Nothing for December, nothing for January. So much for Millar & Hitch's promise to never miss a month. Guess since you can't sell that idea off for yet another "SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE," it doesn't get your full attention, eh Mark? (For the record, there was something for December called the Fantastic Four Cosmic Special, with no creators or plot listed, so there was some thought that there was going to be some tie-in to Skrullapalooza that Marvel wouldn't reveal yet. Nope, they just announced, it's a one-off special by Carey Bates and Bing Cansino).

The Fantastic Four. The World's Greatest Comics Magazine. No issues in December or January. My soul hurts.

Meanwhile, on the DC side, January features no issue of the Flash. Apparently, December's "conclusion" to the "This Was Your Life, Wally West" story is also the conclusion to this run of the Flash...if Final Crisis ever finishes, then Geoff Johns will start his Flash: Rebirth series (and since Final Crisis #7 is solicited for January 28th, one million quatloos says it's gonna slip at least until February...remember when these summer crossover events happened, well, during the summer?!?).

So, no Flash in January. No Fantastic Four. I'm not sure when (if ever) was the last time both those mags were missing in the same month...January's gonna be a long, cold month...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Manic Monday--One Scene, Two Artists:

The final panel of Master of Kung Fu #40 (1976), by Paul Gulacy:

The first panel (after the splash page) of Master of Kung Fu #41, by Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito:

#41 was a fill-in issue, but it used the end situation from #40 as a framing sequence for what was a flashback story. For full disclosure in comparison, the Gulacy panel was about double the size of Buscema's.

No commentary offered here...I just thought it was interesting to see how too very different artists handled the exact same scene.

And lest anyone make unkind remarks about Sal's work...just let me note that Marvel probably NEVER needed to do a fill-in because Mr. Buscema couldn't get a book done on a monthly schedule, whereas Mr. Gulacy was rarely able to go more than 3 or 4 issues within having to have a fill-in, usually by Sal Buscema, or Ron Wilson, or Keith Pollard...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Spy Who Face-Kicked Me

What do you do when you have the rights to Sax Rohmer's pulp villain Fu Manchu, as well as the right to the TV series Kung Fu?

Why, combine them, of course!!

In a move that made absolutely no sense but ended up working brilliantly, Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin created Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, in Special Marvel Edition #15. Let's give Fu Manchu a son, raised by monks to become the ultimate fighting machine--but that same upbringing causes him to reject his father's evil, so we'll have joins up with Fu's old nemesis, Sir Denis Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard, to oppose him.

It was a ridiculously wonderful conceit, and Special Marvel Edition quickly changed its title to Master of Kung Fu (well, technically..."The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu"...try to file that sucker).

The early run on Master of Kung Fu was all Fu Manchu, all the time. Not that there's was anything wrong with Fu Manchu. He was pretty damn evil, and the fact that he was Shang-Chi's father made for some great conflict.

But when both of the character's creators bailed on the title after a mere handful of issues, Doug Moench was thrown to the lions (after 1/2 of an issue written by Gerry Conway). While Moench seemed to immediately have a good grasp on Shang's character, the instability--seemingly a different artist every issue, no longer range plan on what was going to be done with the character--resulted in a string of stories that, well not bad, stank with a certain deja vu. Gangster tries to kill Shang to curry favor with Fu Manchu; Fu has a plot in Florida, so our cast goes there; Fu has a plot in South America, so we go there; Smith sends Shang to investigate a supposed Fu lair in London, Chi's half sister was starting a war against Fu...

We were caught in a Fu rut. Not to mention, the series was starting to get some blowback for the "Yellow Peril" stereotype that some thought Fu perpetuated.

Well, finally Moench and Paul Gulacy got their ducks in a row, and the blurb at the end of #27 promised a "dynamic new direction!" #28 came out, and it was a fill-in (surprise--it was Gulacy, after all!), and once again promised a "dynamic new direction!" for the next issue. And this time, we got it.

That new direction?

Chi...Shang-ChiKung Fu James Bond.

That's right, 30 years before Fraction and Brubaker gave us "Kung Fu Billionaire," Moench and Gulacy decided to take the odd hybrid character of Shang Chi and plop him down into a wonderful homage/hybrid milieu of Ian Fleming.

Suddenly, Nayland Smith and crew, who had been identified nebulously as working for Scotland Yard, were at MI-6, in Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Suddenly, instead of going after Fu Manchu, they were going after insane megalomanical billionaires like Carlton Velcro:

Evil billionaire...checkVelcro, from his luxurious mansion in a French Mediterranean grotto (seriously), was secretly the world's biggest heroine dealer. Except, it turns out, he was using that front as a front in his quest to obtain and sell nuclear weapons to the highest bidder!!

Of course, Velcro's mansion was insanely luxurious...

Villains love their lady-filled pools...with a hidden underground death fortress that took Ken Adam's set designs for Bond and turned the dial up to 11.

He has to be a billionaire just to heat that place!!The new master villains Shang would face usually had dementedly colorful henchmen (conveniently, most with martial arts motifs):

Obvious jokes avoided, because Chris Sims has already made them
Kitten With A WhipAnd the arcs usually ended, as Bond movies must, with exploding complexes:

Pyrotechincs are much more affordable on the comics pageA minor character who had been introduced earlier, Clive Reston, was made prominent in Chi's supporting cast. His distinction? While they couldn't come right out and say it, Moench would drop hints every issue that Clive was both the son of James Bond and the great-nephew of Sherlock Holmes:

Careful...don't give the lawyers anything they can latch onto
OK, I never said the hints were subtle...Gulacy even tried to draw him as a hybrid of Sean Connery and Basil Rathbone...

And as always, there was still plenty of kung fu to be found:

Better than ANYTHING in The Man With The Golden GunAnd you know what? As silly as it sounded, this new direction once again worked brilliantly. Since they were already operating in a comic book universe that had established an immortal devil doctor with indecipherable super science was trying to take over the world, the Bond pastiches fit in perfectly, with no further suspension of disbelief required. And because the comics page didn't require special effects to show outrageous things, Moench and Gulacy were able to take the whole "super British spies fighting global threats" thing in directions and too extremes that weren't possible (then) on screen.

And sitting at the center of this, the calm eye as the hurricane of nuttiness raged around him, was Shang-Chi, placidly philosophizing about how abhorrent violence was as he face-kicked henchmen and helped James Bonds' son blow up killer satellites and stop insane robot-double building madmen.

Fu wasn't gone forever...but now, when he reared his evil head, it was an event, even a surprise...which made him that much better...after all, who wants Doctor Doom to appear in every issue??

It was crazy, it was wonderful. And sadly, it will likely never be reprinted, as Marvel allowed the Rohmer rights to lapse, which means that any story containing Fu or Nayland Smith is out of bounds..and that was almost all of them.

Maybe someday, Marvel will take the truckload of cash they've sucked from us with Secret Invasion and buy back the rights, at least for reprints. And maybe, someday, someone will have another brilliant brainstorm about how to reinvent Shang-Chi yet again, in another genre-smashing mode that works despite expectations (hint--Heroes For Hire, whatever your strengths, you didn't cut it as a Shang-Chi vehicle).

Final note: I discovered that the first time I mentioned his name I had mistyped it as "Shag-Chi," and the spell-checker didn't object. Hmmm...