Friday, June 30, 2006

Ridiculous Ways To Die, Part the First

Since death in a comic book is so impermanent, characters tend to have to shuffle off this mortal coil in amazingly over-the-top fashion just to make their probably-soon-to-be-undone death memorable and meaningful, if fleetingly.

First off: Azteka. Yeah, the girl version of Aztek who only existed in the alternate future caused by Superman destroying a big heart-shaped rock that was actually a New God-created map of time and space, thus allowing Darkseid to take over the Earth. Why yes, this story was written by Grant Morrison.

The alterna-Earth's League consisted of her, a powerless Wally West, a ringless Kyle Rayner, Connor Hawke, Argent (of the then-current craptastic Teen Titans), the Atom, Aquaman, Amazo and Wonder Woman. I'm reasonably certain that we have the most names starting with A on any team ever, right here. Anyway, they've got a table in their post-apocalyptic clubhouse devoted to the relics of predeceased members:Left to right: Steel's (hilariously long) sledgehammer, Doctor Fate's (hilariously ventilated) helmet, a chunk of Robin's tunic, Captain Marvel's man-bracelets, Mister Miracle's cape and mysterious metal bangles, Jack Knight's cosmic rod and Superman's chest logo circa his Breakin' 2 era.

We're told that Superman committed suicide after mercy-killing a roboticized Lois Lane, Martian Manhunter was thrown in a particle accelerator so as to destroy every single atom in his being and it's pretty clear how Fate was killed, but the rest of the deaths are left to the reader's imagination.

There're probably half a dozen deaths over the course of this storyline that merit inclusion on this list besides Azteka's (Darkseid's chief amongst them), but this one is the most utterly insane.

Azteca and Argent are dispatched to the moon so as to shut down Darkseid's Zombie Factory while the rest of the team (plus a beaten-to-Hell Batman) confront the big D himself in Las Vegas. When Argent is mortally wounded, Azteka remembers that Grant Morrison created her and, fittingly, her suit is powered by abject madness.She done flipped the switch.
Dying in such a manner? Totally validated by the befuddled look on Darkseid's face.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Judging by the crowd at the showing of Superman Returns I was just at...

There were a whole bunch of Warhammer games left unplayed and Magic: The Gathering decks unshuffled across Connecticut.

By the way, nerds: I think everyone gets that you're excited to see Spider-Man on a movie screen without you going into some kind of crazy seizure muttering "Venom... VENOM!" during a minute and a half's worth of teaser.

Monday, June 26, 2006

There. I just sold you for a cigarette... and I don't smoke!

Thanks to his judicious use of "baby" as a term of endearment, his red hair and his flair for drama, I can only read Ralph Dibny in the voice of The Monarch.

Seriously, watch some Venture Brothers and tell me that every time you hear a white guy say "baby," you don't think it should be followed by, say, "fire up the miniature escape cocoon ingeniously housed inside this larger cocoon headquarters."

By the way, if you like comics and you're not watching the Venture Brothers, you're missing out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Rom #75: Two Hundred Years is a Loooong Dry Spell

All good things must come to an end, I'm told, and so we reach the action-packed conclusion of Rom. Rom, if you don't recall from the other times I've dipped into this well, is probably the greatest comic about a cyborg poet fighting shapeshifting red aliens ever to be written by Bill Mantlo. If that's not high praise, I don't know what is.

Rom, greatest of the Spaceknights, having used a giant space gun to wipe his enemies, the Dire Wraiths, off the face of the earth ten issues prior, has been spending his time wandering about space in search of his lost home, Galador. After managing to kill two entire species and beating the Hell out of Gladiator, he finally makes it home, only to find that his planet has been taken over by the second generation of Spaceknights.

Their leader is a blue, spiky toaster-headed robot name of Dominor, making him the only supervillain whose name is a mere four letters away from "Domino Rally." But that's neither here nor there.

While Dominor and Rom square off in a duel to the death, our omniscient narrator helpfully provides a recap of Things So Far.

The second-gen Spaceknights, being total pricks, turned against the humans they were meant to protect, leaving Galador pretty much devoid of human life. Spaceknights have a human component, usually represented as a glowing sphere, that's left in stasis while they go out and do their Spaceknight thing. Rom's been bemoaning the loss of his for, like, ever whereas these cats went and destroyed their own, further underlining the idealogical differences between the silver toaster-headed guy and the blue toaster-headed guy.

Anyway, Rom and his remaining first-gen Spaceknight buddies had just about given up hope when Rom's beloved Brandy Clark, a woman who not only used to date Rick Jones but was also a Spaceknight for a while, showed up on Galador, thanks to the freaking Beyonder (the less said of that, the better). Take a look at how Brandy's drawn there. I have a point, it just doesn't pay off for a while.
Rom and company, thoroughly bolstered by the sudden appearance of a shrewy broad in an AIM jumpsuit, embark upon a suicide attack on Dominor's evil castle of evil because that's just what happens at the end of stories such as these.

Scanner, Trapper and Seeker, the B-list Spaceknights, all end up dead at the hands of their replacements, leaving Rom to face the whole bunch of evil robots by his lonesome.

Of course, someone who talks to himself as often as Rom is never truly alone, but you get my drift. I mean, how lonely can you be when you're thinking stuff like "Spaceknight stands poised to slay Spaceknight on a world reduced to ruins! What madness could have brought my beloved planet to so pitiful a pass?" while preparing for a fight? When you monologue like the opening of a Stan Lee comic, you're your own best friend.

As Rom and Dominor fight, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems. Dominor apparently saved his humanity while his loyal crew of flunkies blew their own up, and now wants Rom to surrender Brandy to him so as to sire a whole new Galadorian race, as he went and killed all the wimmens on his home world. I guess he didn't think his clever plan all the way through.

Rom and Dominor mince back and forth as they battle, having a conversation more reminiscent of the Rowdy Roddy Piper/ Keith David fight from the 1988 John Carpenter classic They Live than anything else. Substitute "PUT ON THE GLASSES!" for "TELL ME WHERE THE WOMAN IS!" and "NO!" for "NO!" and you're pretty much on the right page.

Meanwhile, the girl in question is off, unchaperoned, wandering about the inner catacombs of Galador carrying a sling full of Qwardian lightning bolt-things, apparently lifted off the corpse of one of the human defenders of the planet. That is one casual bolt-toss, right there. Were I told that the weapons I was carrying were capable of destroying a civilization, I feel like I'd want them far enough away from me that I'd at least chuck them overhand.

After blowing up a wall for literally no reason other than it being in front of her, Brandy walks into a crypt to discover the terrifying secret of space:Whoa, calm down, there, Manhands, I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for that one. Just give it a few pages, and it'll all be okay.

Back at the duel, Dominor messes with Rom's head by using "destabilizer beams," which evidently cause the victim to see flashbacks in montage form. Now, I'm no expert on supervillainy, but I've seen this sort of thing used a few times before, and it never ends well for the bad guy. Flashback montages never make a hero go "you know what? Screw it, I'm not fighting anymore," which I'd imagine is their calamitous intent. It's always "I've got to do it for Aunt May!" or "I'm not afraid of you anymore, guy who shot my parents when I was eight!" or "I'll never lose another home planet!" followed by a second wind that invariably blows the villain over.

Which, of course, is pretty much what happens here. Dominor's forced to chuck one of his minions at Rom, which Heatwave, the Starscream to Dominor's Megatron, immediately points out as a violation of the Spaceknight Duel to the Death Honor Code. With that legal loophole pointed out, Rom finally remembers that he can pull the most powerful weapon created by Galadorian science literally out of nowhere. So he does that.

Wow, Rom's Lego gun blew Dominor's backpack right off his body. That's some solid Neutralizing, right there.

Rom is declared the winner by the remaining second-generation 'Knights and given a choice: join them and help them blow up the remainder of Galador or die with the planet.

Rom, being The Man, goes with the second one. The dying one. That prompts Heatwave to give the order to unleash the Ultimate Power of the Spaceknights.

Were it 2003 all up in here, the use of the phrase "Ultimate Power" would almost certainly end in me invoking an extremely tired joke about ninjas and being totally awesome and flipping out or something. But it's 2006, so you're out of luck there.

Much like the Justice League, Spaceknights can face any foe simply by holding hands. With the Justice League, it's usually some kind of expression of unity, but with the Spaceknights, it's supposed to blow up whole planets.

I picture the end result being the Spaceknights standing on little rocks floating in the naked void of space, like the ending to a Duck Dodgers cartoon.

Helpfully, Heatwave explains what him and his buddies are about to do, as is the custom in situations such as these.Kinda makes you wonder why they didn't just do this to begin with.

After a wee bit more speechifying, the Ultimate Power goes off and...

Huh. That certainly wasn't nearly as impressive as I'd been lead to believe. This was all, of course, part of Dominor's ill-thought-out scheme to repopulate Galador. Sure, he got rid of the remaining evil Spaceknights, but he already let them kill everybody else on the damned planet. I mean, you've got break a few eggs to make an omelette, but you went and fried all the chickens, too.

Dominor and Rom chat in the wreckage, where it seems Rom is just about to give his girlfriend to the blue meanie in order to save his world. Rom asks the million dollar question - where'd you hide your humanity from all your crazy-ass Decepticon buddies? - which prompts Dominor to drop right into the end of the seminal Twilight Zone classic "Time Enough at Last" in the Burgess Meredith role. Seems he'd stored it inside his throne, which was inside the tower, which was blown up six panels back.

Snapping completely, he jumps Rom again. Not in an effort to kill him, but to steal the Neutralizer so as to whack himself. Rom, who can store this mighty weapon in another dimension accessible only by him, instead keeps it handy and Dominor gets the gun after giving our hero another dose of his Flashback Ray. I'd question how, exactly, Dominor is holding that gun, considering his obvious lack of hands, but I'm so taken aback by his horns getting blown clear off his skull that I'll let it go.

Rom awakes to Brandy standing over him with the balance of the original Spaceknight force, summoned to Galador by Scanner's last message before getting herself croaked half a book ago. Seems that the body Brandy found was that of a crazed Spaceknight named "Terminator" who'd stolen Rom's humanity and appearance so as to take over Galador something like fifty issues prior. Terminator got himself whacked by none other than Galactus, and Rom assumed that his humanity had been forever lost, and rightly so, as Galactus isn't known for half-assing anything.

Well, Galan didn't use his whole ass on this one, as Rom now has an out to turn human again. He takes it and his sleeveless-shirt-wearing, blue-hair-having, Bruce Banner-pants-bearing non-metal self.Remember when I told you to take a look at Brandy's face from her first appearance this issue? I recall reading somewhere that Ditko developed a nasty habit of handing in pages with wholly undefined faces, leaving the inker to finish off characters. This kind of lends credence to that theory, as Brandy looks a whole Hell of a lot less like Squirrel Girl here than she did a mere fifteen or so pages back. So we leave the Romiverse with this image, full up of space deer and space bunnies and the
ghostly image of the greatest of the Spaceknights leveling his pistol at us, ready to Neutralize the lot of us so his human form can get laid for the first time in two centuries.

Somewhere in the vast reaches of the Marvel Universe is the most inbred planet in history, populated solely with the poetic progeny of a Spaceknight and his whiny Gal Friday.

Elsewhere in this issue:

The results of the '85 Marvel Try-Out Contest are in!

Mark Bagley's probably the pick of the litter. Within ten years of winning this, he drew every Goddamn book Marvel produced. Remember that summer? The man must have extra arms, or something.

Doug Hazlewood's better known as an inker for DC - he's worked with Tom Grummett a ton, John Bryne and Scott Kolins, off the top of my head.

Robin Riggs ended up inking sundry Marvel books, including a run on Thor with Alan Davis.

The other two are mysteries to me, sadly. Got to love the idea behind this one, though.


Creepy ads for comics aimed at small children!


I don't have much to say here beyond pointing out that I don't know if I've ever seen a sword held more suggestively in my life. And that's factoring for all the times Lion-O made his sword grow by stroking it while yelling.

If you like the Go-Bots, something is freaking wrong with you!
I've been lied to by Madison Avenue fatcats many times before. I've grown jaded and accustomed to advertising being full of half-truths and hyperboles, but I can't brook anyone telling me that Go-Bots are "awesome." That's just a bald-faced lie.

I decided to check my local listings for time and station as directed by the ad, but the only place I could find the Go-Bots was in this weird edition of TV Guide.

Seems the show is a huge hit in Hell, where it's on as often as Law and Order is here. It's a perennial favorite of the Prince of Lies and cover boy, Mephisto.

Totally enlightening interview with Cy-Kill, though. Did you know his name is a pun?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New logo instead of new content

Yeah, this old chestnut. I've done it before, I'll do it again.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

That's, what, seven Marvel-centric posts on the front page?

I only did it because nobody else does.

Matt Drudge and I have utterly different ideas of what constitutes "news"

From the Drudge Report:
Good thing Spidey's only outing his secret ID and not his closeted homosexuality or Matt Drudge'd be crapping all over any chance Pete has at tying the knot.

I've yet to read Civil War #2, but if that scene didn't feature Spider-Man dramatically removing his mask, camera flashes going off and then a long pause before a member of the assembled press says "who the Hell is that guy?", than they missed a decent opportunity to make the Marvel University even more hyperrealistic.

There are ever so many reasons to not be angry about this, chief amongst them being that it'll probably be undone in about six months. But then there's the fact that it's not really that bad of an idea. I keep seeing things about how the secret identity is a key component to Spidey's character and I've gotta ask: why? Has there been a story where his secret ID is used for anything other than cheaply manufactured drama prior to him wiping the floor with the Shocker?

Peter Parker (thought bubble): It's my old nemesis -- the terrible Tarantula! But how can I fight him with Betty Brant right here?

Tarantula: Ah hah hah, El Daily Bugle is now under the control of my pointy, poisoned boots!

Peter Parker: Ah, Betty? I just remembered I had a dentist appointment! Have fun dealing with the weird Latin guy with the ponytail.

(Runs off-panel, Spider-Man leaps in)

Betty Brant: That Peter is such a coward! I'll never sleep with him now!

Well, that kills a page. Now Tarantula will grab Betty even though he has no idea that Spider-Man has a crush on her because that's just how it works.

Green Goblin's known Peter's secret for a solid thirty years. So did his kid. So did Venom. Auny May knows, Mary Jane knows, Black Cat knows, the entire Fantastic Four knows. Wolverine's known for about a decade. Daredevil knows. Pretty much the only important supporting character who didn't know is J Jonah Jameson, and the fact that he never thought "how is this kid Parker getting all these shots of Spider-Man from such ridiculous angles - almost as if he was hanging off of a gargoyle or stuck to the side of a building?" is a testament to... I don't know, something.

Even though they didn't know Peter Parker was Spider-Man, both Doctor Octopus and the Vulture tried to marry Aunt May, a random old lady from Queens who just happens to have their arch-nemesis for a nephew. Villains are just as likely to accidentally target somebody the hero knows thanks to the incredible level of coincidence inherent in superhero comics. But, Hell, say Electro's holding a classroom full of kids hostage. Is Spider-Man really any less likely to react just because they aren't a class of kids he personally teaches? No, he'll hop to and punch Electro's face off his body because Electro's one of "his" bad guys and therefore his perceived responsibility.

I don't really mind that Batman's status quo hasn't much changed in the last, oh, seven decades, because the status quo of Batman is Man Wears Silly Costume, Fights Crime. Sure, supporting characters come and go, and he'll occasionally be accused of murder or some such stupid thing, but that's pretty much all you have to deal with. Spider-Man's is apparently Man Wears Silly Costume, Fights Crime, Can't Make Rent Even Though He's a Genius-Level Inventor (Who Interned For Reed Freaking Richards) and a Best-Selling Author Who is Married to a Supermodel, Has Trouble With Girls, Has to Make Stupid Excuses in Order to Get into His Silly Costume in Which He Fights Crime. If you take any part of that away, out come the hardline Marvel Zombies with torches and rake-things, ready to storm the castle because Spider-Man is "the quintessential everyman" and blah blah blah.

Freaking scientists, even amateur, teenaged ones, are not everymen. I can't much relate to a guy that invents tiny radio transmitters that send signals directly to a sixth sense only he possesses. In his basement. Or a fluid that turns solid, sticky and elastic on contact with air that can also be slightly modified into armor. Girls love him, but he screws it up by being a masked vigilante and lying about it constantly until he's actually honest with one and gets to marry her. He gets to be friends with the Human Torch. He has a hot rod that can drive on walls. He makes money by taking pictures of himself. He's a nerd made good; that doesn't make him an everyman, it makes him something to aspire to. He's what every dorky kid reading the book wishes they could be, if only they could score awesome powers from a radioactive accident.

And now he's got a public identity, which means, my God, maybe we'll see a different kind of Spider-Man story, one where he's accepted by the public and doesn't constantly bitch about how tough he has it even though he can throw a car and sense danger and sleep with a supermodel and hang out with Captain America.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Japanese are weird.


Ah, the X-Men opening sequence. There is no song that can't be improved by the addition of a church bell gonging at the end.

Wait, my bad: there is no song that can't be improved by the addition of a Japanese man screaming nonsensical lyrics in a language he doesn't understand. It seems that the X-Men cartoon aired over in the inscrutable Orient, and they couldn't leave well enough alone, openings-wise.

It's pretty clear that the Japanese made that intro after hopping themselves up on Jim Lee-era X-Books, especially since we get heavy doses of Omega Red and the Brood, characters who managed something like four combined appearances ever on the show but were all over the dozen or so issues of X-Men Lee did before buggering off to Image. There's also the whole Beast Can Punch The Ground and Make Earthquakes thing, but the less said of that, the better.


This is the second opening sequence for the Japanese airings of X-Men, and it's equally awesomdiculous. The team leaps off an exploding mound. They jump out of the Blackbird to fight... I don't know, robot pterodactyl-men. That's a terrible strategy when you've only got three flyers and no parachutes between you, but whatever. Motorcycle-riding mutant-haters jump Jubilee on the widest city street ever.

By the way, how much would it suck to be Motorcycle-Riding Mutant Hater #3? Riding along, thinking "yeah, man! We're going to beat the piss out of Fireworks Lass, or whatever the damn her name is! Woo!" only to see M-RMH #1 get blown up and M-RMH #2 disappear for no readily apparent reason. Sure, that sucks, but how do you react when you're pretty sure you're fighting a sixteen-year-old mallrat with the proportionate powers of a fourteen dollar blister pack of firecrackers you buy from a sweaty biker in a tent on the side of the road, but when you look up with your steely, determined gaze, you see not a female Robin ripoff, but the freaking Wolverine?

No one wakes up in the morning expecting to get a motorcycle cut in half underneath them. If they did, they'd never get out of bed.

You've got to feel that claw-swipe-wipe to Jean Grey and Cyclops. That's some symbolism, is what that is. It's almost subtle. I mean, until they do the wide shot of Wolverine, Jean and Scott sitting on some rocks while the Alpha Centauri galaxy menaces a nearby city, reminding you that there is nothing Japanese animators love drawing more than scenes with heavy tension caused by an unresolved love triangle. And celestial bodies hovering dangerously closely to populated areas.

That, too.

CRY FOR THE MOON!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A good reason why people don't use "hero" as a verb:

Drugs are a filthy habit, Barney Barton. They'll be the death of you.
See? Dead.

Okay, fine, he was actually killed by Hank Pym's funny-looking and terrifyingly named arch-nemesis, Egghead, who had paralyzed the Avengers by way of the Puppet Master's radioactive clay sculptures. With the actual heroes frozen, only Barney Barton, racketeer and, secretly, brother of Hawkeye (who had recently started using Pym's former alias and growth serum as the giant Avenger, Goliath), stood a chance of stopping Egghead's scheme to use a space station-based death ray to destroy New York.

This all took place over the course of, like, twelve pages because Roy Thomas exists in a world where decompression only happens when you shoot a hole in the hull of an airplane.

Death from a crippling heroin addiction would be way too mundane for a late-sixties issue of Avengers. It'd have to be Super-Heroin, developed by the unbeatable Ultron with the aid of a hypnotized Yellowjacket and administered directly to the brain by a blowgun dart made of unbreakable Adamantium alloy wielded by the skilled hands of a long-forgotten titan being tracked by Dr Strange. The whole story would be fourteen pages, with a six page b-plot about the Vision crying. And ten different editor's notes telling us that Thor couldn't possibly be here fighting alongside the mighty Avengers because he's currently hosting a barbeque in Valhalla in his own mind-bending book.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The PEERLESS POWER of JON has turned the INTERNET into a HURTLING PROJECTILE!

The peerless power of Magneto has turned the smallest fountain pen into a hurtling projectile! I guess by throwing it!

This is from Avengers #49, probably a decade before somebody decided to make Magneto a sympathetic bad guy. He's still a straight-ahead villain here, all tying people up and building perpetual-motion devices and whacking poor Toad around. There's no civil rights allegory here, just a blustering, over-the-top bad guy. Anyway, he's kidnapped Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch so as to convince them to rejoin his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (incidentally, going into the United Nations, as he does here, and making demands on behalf of anything with "Evil" in its title doesn't give you much bargaining leverage). Wanda and Pietro, at this point, aren't Magneto's kids as far as anybody knows... he just wants some sidekicks that aren't the Toad.

I'm not sure when the relationship between Mags and his kids was revealed, but there's no way in Hell it was intended to be that way originally. I mean, they're being written by Roy Thomas, here. Seemed like his favorite thing was filling in plotholes left by Stan Lee's incredible attention to detail. If a lettering error had Magneto accidentally call Quicksilver "son" in one panel in 1963, you'd better believe Thomas'd have Pietro being followed about by thought bubbles wondering about his parentage every time the Master of Magnetism showed up. They'd get less and less subtle over the course of a single issue until he'd be thinking things like "it's HORRIBLE, but it's the ONLY THING that MAKES SENSE! Magneto - THE EVILEST OF EVIL MUTANTS -- MUST be my --- FATHER!"

And then, somehow, the next issue would opening on Quicksilver and Hawkeye having an argument and Hawkeye would yell something like "well maybe you should call your DADDY, THE SUPER-VILLAIN!" because Pietro's thoughts had, at some point between issues, been vocalized and accepted as fact.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Since so very many of you come here looking for her:

Jodie Sweetin (note carefully how I spelled it. If you're here, you spelled her last name wrong and Google has chastised you by sending you to a comic book-centric blog) is evidently planning on being the host of a new television show called, and I swear to God I'm not making this up, "Pants-Off Dance-Off." The Fuse series will award prizes to "everyday people" who "strip down while dancing to popular music vid[eo]s."

Better clear a shelf for all those Emmys.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Twelve stories high, made of radiation

Yeah, it's not exactly comics, but George Washington is about as much a superhero as anyone.



That is, by the way, ungodly not safe for work, language-wise. Of course, neither am I, but your boss can't hear me swearing. Unless you've got a talking computer. In which case, I'm sorry for all the times I've gotten you fired.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

DEAR INTERNET:

I don't care that Batwoman is a lesbian. I barely care that Batwoman exists.

Love,
Jon.

MEANWHILE, at GOOGLE...

superfriends narration - Google Search

Facedown in the Gutters is the number one hit for "superfriends narration." I've never been more proud of anything ever.