Friday, January 26, 2007

Give me the lowdown (but keep it on the down-low)

Hey, blogohedron! I seem to have misplaced some things, perhaps you--yes, you!--can help me find them. Drop a message in the comments if you have information regarding any of the following:
  • Some comics blogger did a recent post about Marvel Comics, and said something about how the combination of traits made them perfect for teenagers. I know it's a fairly common sentiment, but I wish I could remember who did that recent post on the subject. Can you help me out?
  • Where can I purchase more free time? Or, perhaps, a device to slow the passage of time? Does anyone know the phone number of a Hiro Nakamura?
  • Speaking of "Heroes," I only just noticed that the Homeland Security agent is played by Stacy Haiduk, who was Lana Lang on the old "Superboy" series. What has the rest of that cast been up to?
  • Speaking of "Superboy," I just picked up the first season set. I remember watching the show as a kid, but the only episode I remember in any detail is one where Clark's at a house with some friends, and a witch casting a spell on Superboy causes Clark's face to disappear, so he grabs a Superboy mask to cover up the magical effect. Anyone know what episode this was from? I can't find any place online with descriptions of all the episodes, and few if any mention a witch.
  • When you're alphabetizing, do you put titles that start with "Dr." and "Doctor" in the same section (Do-), or in separate places (Do- and Dr-, respectively)?
  • Which, if any, are the good seasons of Lois and Clark? I don't know that I actually ever stopped watching the show (I remember the whole thing with the baby left on their doorstep, and wasn't that the last episode?), but I distinctly remember it sucking for awhile before it ended. I liked the show, but I also had no taste at the time, so I'm hesitant to buy any of the sets.
  • How long do you think it'll be before the Extra Special Edition of Superman Returns, with all the deleted scenes (possibly added back into the picture) comes out? I give it until a few months before the sequel at most, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it show up again at Christmas this year or next.
  • Which of the upcoming Marvel Movies are you least excited about, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, or Fantastic Four (4?): Rise of the Silver Surfer. Yes, I realize I left one out. No one is more excited about any of those films than Spider-Man 3.
That should do it for now. Comment away!

Addendum: I found the Superboy episode in question; it's "Yellow Peri's Spell of Doom" from season 2. The special effects are pretty cheesy, but the dialogue is far, far worse. Still, it was a decent episode, and the sequence that stuck with me from childhood is pretty decent. Besides all that, Gerard Christopher looks great as Superboy (a little too beefy and a little too fake as Clark Kent, though), and the S-shield on his costume is perfect, better than any I've seen in any of the live-action incarnations. 'Twas a fun show, and a nice trip down memory lane.

Monday, January 22, 2007

What's Your Damage?

Before settling on his inexplicable new Biohazard logo, Damage went through a period of self-exploration. At one point, he just kind of gave up and took a page from Power Girl's book.
After two weeks of pectoral razor burn, however, he decided to try something else.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's Morphogenetic Time!

Oh Geoff, you rogue. It looks like Geoff's a fan of the original Power Rangers.
Go go Justice Leaguers!
A young woman shouting "Sabertooth Tiger!" in a balloon with a yellow border? There's no way that's a coincidence.

Especially as it comes a page after his clever little jab at Meltzer's JLofA. "We took a vote." Priceless.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007



52 is awesome. A shock every page this week.

Well, except for the slow segment with Green Arrow and Black Canary, and the Firestorm origin. But other than that, I mean, damn.

Way to go, 52.

And by the way, all those people who freaked out last week? Yeah, I told you so.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Why I love comics

So a couple of days ago, I picked up the Essential Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: '89 Update Vol. 1 (phew!). As I flipped through, I came across a description of one of my favorite villains, a character whose backstory features so many ridiculous excesses stacked on top of each other that he ends up encompassing nearly all that is awesome about comic books.

Of course, I'm talking about Swarm.
Don't worry, bee happy.
I knew Swarm was awesome prior to reading that bio. I mean, he's a Nazi who happens to be made of bees. But as I read the capsulized backstory out loud to a couple of friends, I realized that he was far more than just a honey-producing stormtrooper. No, Fritz von Meyer was a Nazi scientist who discovered in the South American jungles a giant hive of hyperintelligent mutant bees that had been exposed to radiation from a meteorite. While he tried to find a way to control them as part of his plan for world domination, the bees consumed his body and absorbed into them his essence. The psionically-linked bees organizes themselves around von Meyer's irradiated skeleton, and he used his complete control over his insect body to don a purple cape and battle superheroes.

A megalomaniacal Nazi supervillain made of hyperintelligent telepathic jungle-dwelling bees, mutated from exposure to alien meteorite radiation. That might be the most awesome thing in comics.

He's so awesome that, in a book that presents detailed schematics for Cyclops's visor and Nomad's stun-discs, no explanation is necessary for why a man made of bees nonetheless has glowing red eyes and normal teeth.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Buddy Baker, shut that door! Were you born in a barn?

Christ, you know it ain't easy, you know how hard it can be.People think Animal Man is dead.

Sometimes, I wonder if comics fans have ever actually read comics. Let's look at the circumstances of Buddy's recent 'demise,' shall we? Buddy gets shot, and eventually starts foaming at the mouth and sweating. In the meantime, he talks about how the universe likes him, points at the audience to continue a motif, and is exhorted by Adam Strange to use his powers.

His use the morphogenetic field of the universe--The Red--to draw on the natural abilities of pretty much any life form, extant or extinct. Life forms such as, oh, I don't know, Czarnians? Who can regenerate from any injury? Who can grow an entire body from a single drop of blood? Those life forms?

But, that's really only if Buddy's story in 52 isn't quite over yet, and I suspect that it isn't. Even if that's not the case, Buddy's 'demise' leaves open the biggest back door in the history of comic book death. In fact, I'm starting to feel a draft just thinking about it.

Animal Man is an elemental, with the ability to tap into and control the Red, a life-generated field similar to the Green. Because of his connection to the Green, Swamp Thing is not tied to a single body. He can create a new body out of existing plant matter pretty much anywhere that plants grow. His consciousness exists independently as a mobile energy force. Now, correct me if I'm wrong because I haven't read the issues in question, but some time after Morrison's run, doesn't Buddy go on a little world tour through the minds and bodies of a variety of animals, using the same principle?

I mean, even if Buddy's meant to be dead as a doornail for the remainder of 52, it would be cake to bring him back. It wouldn't even really count as a retcon, it wouldn't seem contrived, it'd just be the natural extension of Buddy's godlike abilities.

But honestly, the last time a character was apparently dead in 52, he showed up this issue ready to go to Nanda Parbat. Very little is as it seems in this series. Why should Buddy's fourth-wall-breaking death scene be any different?

I've been watching Heroes...

And I've been greatly enjoying it, despite some initial trepidation and trying to get over some of the scientific inaccuracy. I mean, I can let it slide in comics, but this is pretending toward a greater sense of realism, and so pseudoscientific garbage like the 10% Myth really stands out. It's easy to suspend disbelief for the normal comic book insanity: breaking the laws of physics on a daily basis, magic and Kirbytech and Unstable Molecules and impossible Mutant genes and whatnot. But when real-world pseudoscience (see: Grant Morrison's use of the Million Monkey Myth in JLA: World War III, or talking about aquatic crackpot Masaru Emoto in Frankenstein) ends up in the fictional world of comics, I cringe. I don't know if it's because somehow seeing it accepted as true in a fictional universe somehow validates it in the real world, or if it's because comics used to frequently take the time to teach the audience real science, in-between instances of defying the same, or if it's just because the real-world pseudoscience isn't nearly as believable as the comic book stuff, but it's annoying nonetheless.

Where was I? Anyway, I've been watching Heroes, and I admit that I haven't seen a lot of the talk about it in the Blogohedron. But has anyone else picked up on the sheer metafictional brilliance that is Hiro Nakamura? Here, we have a character who wants to be a superhero, who knows about his special abilities, and who has, since the beginning, been the character with the most focus on comic book superheroics and conventions. And he's Japanese; he speaks only a little English. Which means he has to be subtitled for the English-speaking audience. Which means, when we watch Hiro, we see a picture, and we see printed words. We have to pay attention to both in order to understand.

Hiro is a comic book character. Everyone else is in a TV show, a medium of sight and sound, but Hiro is in an animated comic book. Unlike even his companion Ando, who speaks some English, we have to read Hiro as we would any other comic book character, by synthesizing words and pictures together. So the character who knows the most about comics, who behaves and thinks most like a comic book character (I'm waiting with bated breath for him to say "with great power..." in Japanese), is the one which the audience perceives most as a comic book character, because of the way the creators have played with the television medium.

That's freakin' brilliant. Good show, Heroes. Good show.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dial S for S-T-A-L-K-E-R

So, just by chance, I found out that Will Pfeifer is from Rockford, IL. In fact, he writes for Rockford's local newspaper (movie columns, which should give you some idea about the genesis of Film Freak).

This is unbelievably cool.

See, where I am right now (home for the holidays), I'm less than an hour and a half from Rockford. I have a Rockford Area Code. In theory, I could call Will Pfeifer right now, and it would barely be long distance.

I won't call, though, because that would be slightly more than moderately creepy.
"Yes, um, hello, may I speak to the incredibly awesome Will Pfeifer?"
"Oh, um, Mr. Pfeifer, you're incredibly awesome."
"I know. Thank you."
"So, how many kidneys should I sell to get DC to bring back H-E-R-O? Should I start with one, or should I be getting them in bulk?"

Yeah, creepy. But plausible. I don't really have a problem with getting starstruck, per se, but I find that I don't usually think of anything to say around famous people. I just kind of stand there awkwardly until I get comfortable, which is usually long after they've finished signing my whatever I've given them to sign. Though I managed to have a decent (albeit brief) conversation with Geoff Johns at WizardWorld, I suppose.

So, um, right. The point is, one of my current favorite comic writers, a guy whose books consistently find their way into my "first reads" pile, lives within a short drive of my house. Not only is that supremely fantastic, but it gives me a certain degree of hope for my own comic-writing ambitions.

By the way, Mr. Pfeifer, in an age when comic writers have problems cranking out one script in thirty days, how do you manage at least one monthly title, usually a miniseries in addition, and a regular newspaper column?

It's writers like Pfeifer and Simone who make the chronically-late look bad.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Donovan & Delurking

When I concocted the fake solicitations last night, I tried to make it believable, to make the joke kind of subtle, and to make it ultimately clear that it was a joke, but I may have failed at that last part (sorry Loren!). I chose Joe Kelly because he's a moderately popular writer without a whole lot on his plate at the moment, and thus would be far more believable than "Joss Whedon" or "Geoff Johns" or something, which would have tipped the joke too early. Mahnke and Nguyen did the Atlantis-centered "Obsidian Age" storyline, so that's believable enough.

But I thought I'd put in just enough to make it clear..."Following the success of Kurt Busiek's AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS," not to mention how ludicrous it would be for DC to do a 12-issue maxiseries for a character who has trouble carrying a monthly title, when said series wasn't penned by a superstar. Maybe Neil Gaiman or Mike Carey could carry an Aquaman maxiseries, but Joe Kelly? I love Joe Kelly, but I don't think DC has quite that much faith in him.

As far as the "why" of the joke, I heard Donovan's "Atlantis" on my random playlist, and thought 'with all the different mythology and magic craziness that has been assigned to Atlantis over the years, from Peter David's various mythological tropes to the Arthurian legends of the Veitch run, how had the comics avoided pulling mythology from vaguely psychadelic '60s music? I mean, I didn't think it would be good; Donovan only ever names five of the Twelve anyway: "the Poet, the Physician, the Farmer, the Scientist, the Magician, and the other so-called gods of our legends." It's the NewAgey version of the early Gilligan's Island theme song "...and the rest."

I thought it would come out ridiculous, but the more I wrote it, the more tenable it seemed. There's something to be said for the idea of a story about a young Aquaman, rushing around to save his kingdom. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it could work as kind of a "Thor: Blood Oath" type book. And I really enjoyed that particular miniseries. I still think it'd be cheesy to incorporate Donovan's thin mythology into DCU history, but the idea of Arthur chasing after the antediluvian deities who abandoned the doomed continent? The idea of exploring the early history of Aquaman? It actually sounds like a book I'd buy. And that scares me, just a little.

But I guess it goes to show that there are few intrinsically bad ideas. You know, unless they involve self-mutilating New Warriors.

Apparently it's National De-Lurking Week. So, if you're one of the hundred and thirty average visitors (or the sixty-three above average ones) I get a day who doesn't say much, it'd be awesome if you'd comment on a post someplace. I get a kick out of reading new comments, so any and all are appreciated. Thanks!

Hail Atlantis!

I was just going through the newest solicitations again, and I noticed this. I'm surprised more people aren't talking about it.
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen
Cover by Phil Noto
Following the success of Kurt Busiek's AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS, the sea king stars in a new bi-monthly 12-issue maxiseries! Set during the early years of Arthur's reign, a deadly foe from the distant past has risen from the depths to destroy Atlantis, and Aquaman is powerless to stop it! Arthur must seek out the twelve gods who left Atlantis before it fell beneath the waves, or his new kingdom will be destroyed!
On sale March 14 • 1 of 12 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Doug Mahnke & Tom Nguyen
Cover by Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Aquaman is on a quest to find The Twelve, the legendary gods of Atlantis, but some of them don't want to be found! Led by The Poet, young Aquaman's search brings him to Paradise Island, home of Wonder Woman! Will the Amazons help Arthur, or has he wandered into unfriendly waters? And who is the mysterious Physician?
On sale March 28 • 2 of 12 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Looks interesting, though I wish there were some preview art. I'm not sure about these new characters--the Poet? The Physician? They're really running out of names for these so-called gods in the DCU.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Self-flagellation and dead horses

I read Frontline #10 today.

Notice that the word "bought" is not in that sentence.

Ye gods. Robbie Baldwin goes from happy-go-lucky to the world's most emo person ever in about the dumbest scene ever written. "These spikes hurt, but these spikes really hurt. And these spikes? You don't want to know."

So, I've been reading some of Jenkins' Newsarama posts on the subject. And I opened up Joe Fridays, always a mistake. I don't even want to write about this, and I'm quite tempted to throw the PG-13 language self-restriction out the window. It's not often that I get ticked at comics, really it isn't. But this is freakin' ridiculous. Spoilers from here on out, if you can call them that. It's on the damn cover, people.

So, here's the first big Jenkins quote:
This was first put to me by Joe, when I was in New York for the editorial conference that shaped Frontlines.

Joe explained to me that over the years he has watched with great interest as fans of Speedball get very worked up defending the character yet ultimately, the sales on Speedball books are very low. We talked about doing something with the character in Frontlines. Joe really wanted to build him back up again, generate interest in him that had been sorely lacking. My impression was that if you weren't a Speedball fan (of which there weren't too many) then you were probably kind of ambivalent about the character.

Joe felt it'd be a good idea to put this guy through the wringer because -- as I've stated elsewhere -- we can't care about him just because he shows up, we have to care about his conflicts and triumphs.

Most of the Penance creation took place while Joe and I would walk from his place to the Marvel offices. Joe had suggested, for instance, the scene where Speedball gets shot coming out of a building a la Jack Ruby and Lee Oswald. I came up with a new wrinkle: Namely, his powers are now driven by pain. My memory is that I first suggested Penance as a name but I wasn;t sure i liked it. But Joe and others did, so it stuck.

And a lot of this has been covered by the people on the board, but here are my reactions:
1. What "Speedball books" have low sales? The only "Speedball" comic ran for 10 issues back in 1988. Aside from that, he's been mostly in New Warriors, which did well enough in its first 75-issue run to spawn two relaunches. The most recent of those was a 2005 miniseries. Are we basing Speedball's popularity on team books from the '90s, and a miniseries from over a year ago? Or are we basing it on a book from the late '80s?

2. I didn't read New Warriors: Reality Check (the newest miniseries), but I do remember reading the reviews. Specifically, I remember a review from Fourth Rail or CSBG that said something along the lines of 'this book isn't very good, and I can't see how the reimagining would appeal to any of the New Warriors' fans.' The review basically wondered who they were targeting the book toward, since it clearly wasn't New Warriors fans, and it wasn't good enough or original enough to get a larger audience. Gee, I wonder why that might not have sold well. I thought at the time that it sounded like a hold-over from the relaunches and reimaginings that followed the success of the Milligan/Allred X-Force, the most memorable of which was the Fight Club-style "Thunderbolts," which tanked universally. The lesson there seemed to be that "radical, senseless reimaginings do not sell well, if only because they alienate the core audience." Penance shows that Marvel didn't hear this message.

3. If you aren't a fan, you're probably ambivalent about the character. He's not a popular character. You have to make people care about him.
So you "put him through the wringer" and make him completely unrecognizable and generally unlikable. I'm not seeing the connection here. Fans will universally dislike this change, because it completely changes the whole point of the character. Do you really think other people will be motivated to care about him now? They didn't care about him when he was Speedball, they don't care about Speedball, they're "ambivalent." So, why would they care about Emo Speedball? There's a difference between telling an emotional story about a less popular character, and trying to force an unpopular character into a different, "cool" mold.

The point is, if people didn't care about Speedball before, why will they care any more about him now that he's Penance? If all the new popularity and interest is due to the "wringer" that Robbie went through in CW and Frontline, then why not just make a new character? If you have to make the audience care either way, why not do it with someone who won't make some of the audience angry and hateful?

Or you could have done it with Night Thrasher. He's already armored, he's the leader of the New Warriors, and he's had a problem with guilt, anger, and impulse issues in the past. At least the change there wouldn't be quite so senseless, given the backstory.

Okay, let's dive into another quotation (this one is responding to another poster):
Well, you begin by describing the new character as cliched... how would you expect me to respond? He hasn't even done anything yet. If in comic terms you mean the concept of a man whose powers are driven by pain, then I'd ask you to show me all the other characters like this... especially the ones who torture themselves to drive them forward.

Your last paragraph suggests you think Joe and I are being disrespectful to Fabe's work on new Warriors. That's not it at all... we simply wanted to reinvent the character because he wasn't really carrying any stories, as I understand it. Nothing to do with Fabian, who is a wonderful writer. "Loyal fan following" is like "critical acclaim"... Marvel are in the business of publishing, which means they expect to make money.

"Loyal fan following" seems like the kiss of death to me.

1. Except that Speedball has only once before "carried" a story. He's a supporting player. Should we 'reinvent' everyone who isn't an active participant in a popular series? Hey, let's make Black Bolt into a heroin-addicted rock singer! And what about the Impossible Man? He hasn't carried a story in quite some time. He'd be much better as a serial killer who tries to commit suicide every night, but whose shapeshifting body won't let him die. That's an awesome reinvention.


2. You know what sounds like the kiss of death to me? "Pointless reinvention." Or how about "blatant disregard for audience"? Yeah, Marvel wants to make money. Explain to me precisely how having Speedball be a fun, entertaining character was standing in the way of that, and how Penance will remove that problem. Are fun characters anti-moneymaking? "Marvel Adventures" and "Power Pack" would seem to contradict that. Why couldn't Speedball be reinvented as a Sumerak/Gurihiru kids' superhero? Wouldn't that make more money than "angsty former teen superhero turned antihero"?

3. I love that first paragraph: "show me all the characters that are just like this one. Hahah, there are none, therefore I'm original." Hey, Paul, "former teen superhero turned angsty antihero/'mature' hero/villain" is about the oldest cliché in comics since the 80s: Nomad, Red Hood, Winter Soldier, Powerpax/Powerhouse, Darkhawk, Flash IV, etc. Just because your boy dresses up like a gimp doesn't make him original.

Oh, and by the way Paul: characters who have to feel pain to use their powers? Check out Nico Minoru.

Last quote from Jenkins:
He's had a hard time coming to terms with the death of his mates, and the death of hundreds at Stamford. He feels his Speedball ID is partly to blame and wants to move ahead differently.

You say it doesn't ring true and I say, "To what?"

It rings true in the context of the story, surely.

And there's the rub. Yeah, it rings true in the context of this one story. Just like Tony Stark's evil manipulations, Reed Richards's impassioned defense of McCarthyism, Dr. Strange's standing-in for Mark Millar, and Peter Parker's public unmasking all make sense within the context of Civil War.

Unfortunately, Civil War is not the first story in the Marvel Universe. If it were, we'd be fine. It'd still be riddled with plot holes, but we'd be great. The problem is, these characters existed before Civil War, and their behavior during Civil War is in direct opposition to how they acted prior to the crossover. So, what the poster Mr. Jenkins was responding to was saying was that 'this doesn't ring true with everything ever done with Speedball since his creation,' not 'this doesn't ring true with what Speedball has done since Illuminati.'

I hate being this angry and snarky at Paul Jenkins. The man has written some of my absolute favorite Marvel stories in the last few years. He has written some supremely fun issues of Spider-Man. If you'd asked me a month ago "who are the most fun writers at Marvel," I would have said "Dan Slott and Paul Jenkins" (sorry, folks, I still don't care for Nextwave). But this storyline, this idiotic "reinvention" of a fun character into a depressing ball of angst and spikes, is about the most flagrantly ridiculous concentrated anti-fun ever imagined. It verges on self-parody. It's like "The Dark Ambush Bug Returns" or something like that.

Here's Thunderbolts editor Molly Lazer on the changes.
Robbie is on a path to redemption. He wants to do good, and sees joining a “villain rehabilitation program” as a way to start. He was given immunity once he registered, but there’s a difference between being cleared of all charges by the government and still feeling guilty inside.

"I want to redeem myself. Obviously, the best way to do that is to use my incredibly destructive (and self-destructive) new powers to assist a team of murderers and criminals in tracking down the greatest heroes who ever lived! I mean, I'll be on a team with someone who once killed a bus full of nuns! And a guy who uses his sister's skin as leather! That'll totally redeem me!"
No. Redemption isn't feeling sorry for yourself and torturing yourself and treating yourself like a criminal. You want redemption? She-Hulk did an issue where Jen Walters tried to make up for the damage she caused as She-Hulk by working with rescue crews as a normal person and trying to rebuild. Not by joining up with the Masters of Evil and having big public battles, then going home to whip herself. There's nothing redemptive about self-absorption.

But as always, to get the real dumbassery, you have to go to the horse's mouth. No, sorry, the other end. Take it away, Joe!
Speedball in many ways is very similar to Peter Parker, so I was thinking along the lines of what if so much stuff was dumped on Peter that his whole outlook on life would be changed 180 degrees, permanently. So, what if this very lighthearted, upbeat character who bounces, changed in ways that no one could expect? Could the tragedy in Stamford be enough to do that to someone like him? To me the answer was yes.

The most telling phrase in there is this: Speedball in many ways is very similar to Peter Parker. You're right, Joe, they are very similar. They're both fun, happy-go-lucky characters who may not have the best lives, and both were co-created by Steve Ditko. Oh, and the real big similarity between the two: YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND EITHER OF THEM.

Yeah, let's dump so much stuff on a character that their entire outlook changes 180 degrees! Speedball's a lot like Spider-Man, what would it take? Maybe...
  • Being partially responsible for your uncle's death
  • Being partially responsible for your girlfriend's father's death
  • Being more or less directly responsible for your girlfriend's death
  • Being more or less responsible for your best friend's father's death
  • Being partially responsible for a police officer's death
  • Being partially responsible for your best friend's death
  • Being partially responsible for the destruction of your Aunt's house
  • Being directly responsible for the creation of several alien-suited mass murderers
  • Putting your family in severe danger by disclosing your identity to the public, then putting them in more danger by joining a group of outlaws
  • Etc.

What would it take for such a character to change their outlook on life 180 degrees?

Hasn't the Marvel Universe always (or at least, since the Silver Age) been about taking adversity and trying to make the best of it? People get blown up, bitten by radioactive things, turned into stony freaks, or born as members of a hated minority, and then they turn those unfortunate accidents into reasons to be heroic. Spider-Man's the perfect example: he is driven by guilt and adversity toward becoming a better hero, toward atoning for his mistakes by saving lives and trying to make other people's lives better in the process. He doesn't cut himself for every death he's caused. Spider-Man turns selfish emotions like guilt into reasons to be more selfless.

I threw up a little at this quote.
That’s tough to say because while I’ve joked about Speedball for a while now, I really wanted to see something cool done with the character. When Mark selected the New Warriors to be the catalyst for Civil War, that’s when I saw an opportunity to do something interesting with Speedball. So, it was serendipitous in that sense. But that’s the beauty of something like Civil War, you find yourself with many happy accidents.

1. Joe, please grow up. "Cool" only means "turning into an angsty leather daddy" when you're in Junior High. Marvel went through its angsty leather daddy phase. Ghost Rider was popular, Luke Cage had a flattop, and Daredevil wore armor. We got over it. Please do the same.

2. Happy accidents? $%&*ing damn it. There is nothing happy about this, Joe. "Happy" was Speedball before the Civil War. "Happy accident" was Speedball surviving the inciting incident of Civil War. "Turning into an emo gimp with self-flagellation issues" is not a "happy accident." It is about as far from either of those terms as it could possibly be.

So, to me, Robbie has had a life altering experience. Do you think that when he first became a superhero, when he first joined the New Warriors, that he ever expected that his life would end up where it is right now? I don’t think any of us ever expected it and now here we are.

You know why no one expected it? The same reason no one expects flaming Penguins to start flying out of your nose while you juggle sheep's brains: because it makes no $%&!ing sense!

Also, Penance, going forward has a very interesting origin from the very onset. He was once a happy go lucky, bright and shiny teen hero and now he’s something completely different. Where does he go from here will be a lot of fun to watch.

When you describe a character as "something completely different" from what they were before, that's usually a bad thing. It's called "inconsistency." Speedball was happy-go-lucky as of eight months ago; less in comic time. A few months in prison, some undeserved guilt, and now he's ready to join the murderer's guild? Has Robbie always had integrity issues?

Damn it. I'm glad I dropped Frontline. I just wish this idiocy didn't make me feel like I should drop every other Marvel book as well. Thank goodness most of what I'm reading is pretty isolated from the mainstream 616.

2007 is going to be a banner year for dumbassery, I can feel it. Come on, Joe, kill off MJ, seal the deal!

30-Second Recap Contest!

Here it is, my entry for The ISB's recap contest! Click the images to bring up larger versions.
Is it just me, or does that font look less comic and more Simpsons?
Honestly, where would you get the idea that this was Loki?
I present this without explanation, to preserve the original.
If Civil War featured Congressmen going berserk and attacking the FF, it would be a much better story.
Special guest star!
This makes the whole crossover worthwhile.
There wasn't much deduction involved. Thor was just like 'oh, hey, it's Loki.'
This began the Mighty Marvel tradition of driving Wanda insane during every crossover.

Now you see why I gave up on my childhood dream of being a comic artist!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Worst. Idea. Ever.

It didn't take long for 2007 to get its first "Cassandra Cain," the character so screwed up by editorial decree as to not only make the character unrecognizable and antithetical to everything the character once stood for, but to cast doubt on the sanity of the editorial staff as a result. I'm hesitant to put spoiler space here, because the idea is so ridiculously awful, but here it is anyway.
Bully ought to be all over this one.

So, after months of treating Speedball, one of the most fun characters ever to grace the 616, like the Marvel Universe's personal punching bag, they've decided to pour salty lemon juice into the wound and make him a morose villain with pain-based powers who is a member of the gang of murderers who make up the New New Thunderbolts. All because he was needlessly scapegoated for being involved (not even leading, just surviving) in a botched assault on a dangerous-but-totally-in-his-league supervillain. And then imprisoned indefinitely to show us just how terrible the Guantanamo Bay/no habeas corpus situation is.

So, the lesson we learn here is that when a heroic person faces character assassination, undeserved guilt, and government torture, they become the perfect malleable brutal soldier for the government. Anyone still left wondering why people criticize Civil War for poor use of allegory and mixed messages?

I've read enough of Paul Jenkins's writing to doubt that this was his idea. This could be Warren Ellis's "I Hate Superheroes" garbage popping up again (you hate superheroes, Warren? Really? Then stop writing them!), it could be part of Mark Millar's awesome plan (the bad allegory aspect fits right in), but somehow I think this all falls on Joe Quesada's shoulders, because of his senseless personal vendetta against Speedball. Yeah, Joe, I got it. You don't like Speedball. You don't have to talk about it in every Newsarama interview for two months, especially when the character hasn't had a starring role in years (Joe's rants were pre-Civil War, as I recall). You might as well end every post with "I Hate Swarm." Great. Then don't use Swarm. Put out a company-wide decree against Swarm-usage. Call it the "No Nazi Bees" policy. Say that Swarm will only appear in MAX books, but then claim that the policy never existed. It worked once, right? But you don't take your personal dislike of a character out on the character. You don't twist and warp and abuse them until they become a completely different character that you do like. You find a character that you like, or you make a new character. I don't like Donna Troy. If I ever happen to be writing comics, I will do my best not to feature her. If I have to feature her, I will try to find a way to approach the character so that I like her, or at least respect her. I won't have her kidnapped and raped and tortured and made to feel guilty for, oh, let's say "Joker: Last Laugh," until she becomes Broken Girl, the angry, angsty girl who will break your spine to spite your torso. That's how you deal with established characters in an expansive universe. You respect them. If you make changes to those characters, including death, you do it with respect and dignity, and not out of a personal dislike.

Unless those characters, apparently, are the Freedom Fighters.

It may be a petty distinction, but I think when it comes down to it, I would rather have a writer kill a character she loves than one she hates. The perfect example would be in Infinite Crisis, far from a perfect example of anything. Dan Didio wanted to kill Dick Grayson because he didn't like him. Instead, Geoff Johns killed Superboy, his favorite Titan. I don't know how Dick's death would have gone down, but at least Superboy died with a modicum of dignity, and he did so in a spectacular fashion. And while I was a little upset that his teammates and family haven't been seen in black armbands during 52, no one can deny that he died a hero's death. If there's a right way to kill a character, that's it.

And, of course, if you leave a backdoor ajar for the character to return, so much the better.

And that's the difference between characters like Superboy, characters like Cassandra Cain, and characters like Speedball. Superboy's death was done with respect by an author who loved him. Cassandra's change was done with disregard by an editor who seems wholly ambivalent toward her. And Speedball's change was done by an editor who hates him. Maybe if someone who has a fondness for the character (I'm betting Fabian Nicieza) turned Speedball into Penance, it'd be more palatable. Not much more, but maybe a little more. But knowing that it comes out of this sophomoric spite really just turns my stomach. One more shining light of Marvel Universe fun rubbed out by the unstoppable steamroller of "realism" and "maturity" (or, more precisely, "faux-realism" and "what a fourteen year old thinks maturity is").

Cheers to the writer who eventually undoes this half-assed decision.

Congratulations, Joe Quesada, you're a dumbass in 2007 too.

Avert your Eyes!

Wokka Wokka

I'm about halfway done with planning an entry for Chris's contest, but in the meantime I came up with a panel that was missing from Loren's entry. Enjoy.

And for your further enjoyment...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Differently Abled

Apparently, somehow, I've had comments disabled on my New Year's post for some time. It's fixed now, so all you people who want to tell me how way off-base I am can post your comments.

Reality Bites

So, everyone remembers the inciting incident of Civil War, right? The young heroes of the New Warriors face off against Nitro, but find themselves totally outclassed. As a result, innocent people are killed. They're criticized after the fact for not calling in the Avengers or some other team more suited to handling Nitro's threat.

Well, for fun, I've been reading through the old Acts of Vengeance storyline (another major Marvel crossover featuring a super-powers registration act), and I came across the New Warriors' first appearance as a team in Thor #412. It's eerie how similar this panel felt to those criticisms:
Talk about brash.

Here, in their first battle as a super-team, they've also found themselves outclassed. Marvel Boy's suggestion is unheeded by Night Thrasher, who goes a little over the edge a few pages later. The brash, young, inexperienced team rushes in to do battle with a stronger opponent, with little regard to reason or their own abilities. What opponent could this be, you wonder? After all, if the seasoned veterans of the 2006 New Warriors team could be outclassed by C-lister Nitro, this must be Armadillo or the Mandrill or at best a member of the Wrecking Crew.

No, its...
If he ever meets the Blob, they have to surrender. Superman said so.
The Unstoppable Juggernaut, who just wiped the floor with Thor.

Yeah, they were outclassed. Seriously outclassed. Freakin' Thor was outclassed. But this is the Juggernaut here, and this is their first outing, not a routine ambush after years of fighting Juggernaut-scale foes. If you ever needed another reason why the opening scenes of Civil War are ridiculous, I present to you Thor #412: the type of villain who outclasses the New Warriors.

Not freakin' Nitro.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Formatting issues

Anyone else seeing weird fluctuations in the leading (that's the vertical space between lines of text for the non-publicational types) on the site since the move to NüBlogger? Particularly in a couple of those Monomyth posts, I see some of the lines really close together, while others are at the normal spacing. It bothers me...those passages end up looking way too dense and intimidating without the extra white space.

Actually, I see it in the New Rear's post too...right after the first picture. Maybe it has something to do with the picture settings?

Has anyone else encountered this? Am I the only one seeing it? Does anyone know how to fix it?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Late in so many ways

Way back when, after WizardWorld, I promised a little present to Ragnell and Kalinara. Well, Kalinara's, like that darn bloggiversary post, is still forthcoming, but I just got Ragnell's back. See, at the con, I ran into this dashing fellow.
I imagine the tightness is less bothersome when it's actually made of energy.

I snapped that picture with his permission. I realized, though, that this was a golden opportunity, so a few moments later, I took one more.
A better view.

Happy new rear!