Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas To All!!

Well, it's not usual for people to reach the end of the holiday season and find a few regrets. As regards this blog, at least, I can completely relate.

Christmas is my favorite time of year...all things comic books are some other favorite things...and I had big plans to entertain you with an assortment of instances where the twain meet. Some I'd even prepared on my hard drive, so I'd be ready when the Move was through.

But alas, the transfer of services from old household to new hasn't gone as smoothly as I'd anticipated and it will still be another week before we have telephone or internet access from our new digs...and so many of the things I'd planned will have to wait another year.

Still, it's been a terrific holiday, and as you can see, some of my favorite ornaments hang on our little Christmas tree this year.

And so, setting regrets to the side and looking forward to the coming new year, I join Diana in wishing each of you a Super Christmas, full of all the joy, peace, laughter, music, surprises, good company and great food you can handle!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Super Birthday Bling!!

Great Caesar's Ghost, it's official.

Just moments ago, I turned forty-three. While the last couple weeks getting here have not been especially fun, today was a great day. More things moved to the new house. I can happily report some serious improvement with my back and it was a relatively delightful evening at work!

I have to add this latest gift to the list of blog-appropriate bling: "Superman: The Dailies, 1939 - 1942" from my dear friends Dana and Sara! I cannot wait to be settled into the new place so I can sit in front of the fire some snowy afternoon and page through this collection of newspaper strips.

I've read many of the comic book stories from this era, but haven't had as much exposure to what ran in the papers and I look forward to being educated.

And check out this back cover, with the second half of such a dynamic cover scene: More powerful than a locomotive!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some Birthday Bat-Bling and Other News

Heigh-ho, everyone! Greg here with a report from the trenches. About the time of my last post here, I managed to mess up my back and shoulder pretty well.

(The multi-tasking of Christmas decorating at work and packing boxes at home seems to have been the culprit. Must write Martha to suggest she include a section on warm-ups and stretching before Decking the Halls in her next holiday issue.)

Because of that, I haven't been much interested in sitting in front of the computer for more than a few minutes here and there. And of course, there's been all the holiday parties at work (weee...) and that pesky business of moving taking up the rest of the time.

I am reading the last trade of 52 and enjoying it immensely. (Oh, Ralph Dibney, how we miss you and Sue already! And I have to say, I find the whole Black Adam storyline a little sad, really. I liked Isis and Osiris, and the redemption they seemed to be bringing Teth Adam and it's a shame that couldn't have lasted a little longer.)

This past weekend we rented a small truck and managed to move about three-
quarters of our Stuff to the new house. Here's a shot of the Collection in new digs, though certainly temporary ones, until we can take the time to settle in there a bit and figure out where everything's going to live. Because, Great Hera, 18 longboxes take up a fair bit of real estate!

Also, as I write this, it's one minute before midnight and the Big Four Three for me. Although technically, since I was born just before midnight on the 12th, I'm still 42 for almost 24 hours more.

As a result, remembrances and the occasional gift have begun to appear. A truly sweet custom, to be sure. And the bit of Birthday Bling which is deserving of mention herewith is this totally cool-ass Batman Tin Sign my pal Kelly gave me this afternoon! I think I already know where I'll hang this in the new bedroom.

The Batman wrapping paper was also quite excellent.

In fact, the contrast between the sign and the wrapping is interesting. The sign features the classic 70s Neal Adams Batman, with the logo which had been adopted from the TV series. This Batman is not quite as buff, though certainly still well-equipped, physically. His utility belt was more decorative than anything, and required that all the stuff he carry be super-miniaturized. And of course, there's the circle insignia "Bat-target" on his chest.

Contrast that with the more modern Batman depicted on the wrap. Here we've got a more muscularly well-defined Batman (check those abs, no?) and the more practical pouches and compartments of the truly utilitarian utility belt. And the bat-only black insignia. A completely different, but still classic looking Batman.

I say, let's love them both!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A New Age of Wonder

One of my favorite exercises in writing - and here I speak of hero fiction, since that's when I've practiced this particular one - is when you write part of a story and then hand off to another writer, or vice versa. Over the years I've played this game with a few different friends, as we crafted our own versions of super heroic events. It's doubtful we considered what good practice this could be, if we ever found ourselves an opportunity to write for comics. After all, only the rarest of gigs lets you create fresh from whole cloth: usually, there's scads of baggage from previous creative teams to work within, years of established history and so on. We were just having fun.

The exercise can be a bit of a challenge, and often a lot of fun, too, as you decide which things from the previous author to incorporate, and which to gracefully ignore...and which to deliberately revoke. Of course the real fun comes in creating something new of your own in the midst of all that to pass back to the friend who's doing the other bit of the writing.

The ravening hoards of the internet will attack anyone, of course, but it seems folks are always getting down on authors who don't write the way they might. But when you try, you'll see it's not necessarily as easy as you thought.

But, man oh man, does Gail Simone make it look easy! Yes, I'm finally getting around to reviewing and discussing (it's all just a big jumble, really) the long-awaited Wonder Woman #14. And before we go any further, even though this issue's been out for two weeks, I warn you: spoilers abounding: if you haven't read the story in question yet...and for some reason don't want to know what all means, surf away now!

Ms. Simone hits the ground running, presenting us with a mystery right off: "What You Do Not Yet Know" is the title of this first chapter and like it says, we get some new information, with an opening narration referring to the night when the Amazon Queen sculpted her daughter from the clay of the island's shore and then asked the goddesses to breathe life into her. (The 'night', you say?)

"It was not as dear as you have been told; sunny skies over deeply azure oceans of calm, and the smiles, and tears of joy. It was more like a birth itself. An act of destruction, as well as creation. There was darkness. There was thunder. And yes, there was blood. But that fierce woman, that queen who dared make demands of the Gods and walks as if unworthy of every step..."

And we see Hippolyta, former queen of the Amazons and currently the only resident of Themiscyra...well, one of the only residents. We watch as she traverses the island, north to south and east to west, stopping at four prison cells to ask unseen prisoners if they have repented. Each time the answer is the same: "Never."

But the last one asks for more time to talk and makes a gift to her queen of a carved wooden tiara, which she says she gnawed with her teeth, being allowed no tools in the cell. The woman (her name is Alkyone)says some mysterious things about about "the birth of the Dragon" and how it tore the Amazon community apart. (Can this person really be speaking of Diana? How could she possibly be a dragon? My lip slips over the hook of Simone's lure already, as I ponder how this may play out, fairly tingling with anticipation.) The mysterious prisoner offers to kill Diana and reunite the tribe. (!!!!)

And the scene changes to a jungle river where Wonder Woman is poised to do battle with a group of genetically-enhanced apes from Gorilla City, who've been brainwashed by Grodd to believe that all humans are evil and bad and such. Here, I'll let Gail's words and the brilliant artwork of Rachel and Terry Dodson set the scene (all images should enlarge reasonably).

They do fierce battle, of course; Diana is impressed that they fight so well and realizes they may do so until death - theirs or hers - and she takes a different tack, focusing on the leader. She gets the upper hand, dunking him underwater and entreating him to talk, which is all she wants.

The leader, Tolifhar, yields, but cites human poaching as the justification for their rage. Diana reminds him of Grodd's ability for "adorning lies with truth" and they actually talk. They discuss points, negotiate and then Tolifhar is holding the golden lasso and swearing not to "subjugate or devour any humans." He swears, and the others bow down calling Diana "majesty". Diana muses that the success of this peaceable approach "is why I prefer never to use Batman's methods," with a hint of a smile.

She offers to put in a good word for them at with Solivar, but suggests a cooling off period first...but where to house them meantime...?

Diana's solution is a classic one and absolutely true to her nature and personality. But she's no doubt remembering that the hospitality business is not always an easy one. (heh...a flinging incident)

With Tom (Nemesis/carpooler)Tresser's arrival, the gorillas make like good houseguests and hide, though not without observing that it smells as though "they will mate soon, if they haven't already". Hmmm, a bit of foreshadowing here? I think the relationship between Diana and Tom is amusing, as slightly adversarial partners with a possible spark of attraction. Teetering along the edge of this frontier is always fun, but lest we forget, "Moonlighting" nearly imploded when Dave and Maddy finally got their groove on.

But anyway, Tom actually does something sort of sweet-ish here and surprises Diana with an office surprise birthday party, complete with cake. Charming the way he admits he knew the date from scanning her personnel file.

(Have we ever seen Diana celebrate a birthday? Not recently, that I can recall. I do remember there's a Diana-as-little-girl story circa 1958-59 where dreadful things happen every year as she tries to blow out the candles on her cake. Most amusing was Hippolyta and the other amazons crowding around, recreating the neighborhood birthdays of America with the candles and Betty Crocker cake and all. Hmmmm.)

Anyway...I'm very fond of Diana's observations here: "In my society, a kindness like this would lead to warm sisterly embraces and perhaps even tears. Which I find is rather frowned upon in a workplace environment, and might even be cause for a reprimand. It is a strange culture that outlaws the hug. On the other hand...there is cake, and that excuses much."

The party fun is short-lived with the appearance of Director Steel, who wants to know the source of Prince's report on Gorilla Grodd and the possible of his reforming of The Society, but she dances around that question and he assigns she and Tresser to the case.

Returning to his office, we get the next big surprise, in the form of the return of Etta Candy. However, it's unclear just how much of continuity will be retained in this post Infinite Crisis world (especially with a Final Crisis looming on the horizon)and so I'm not sure if this Etta is still the wife of Steven Trevor (is he still Secretary of State, or was that in some previous DC Earth administration?) or some continuity re-jiggering bringing a fresh introduction.

Either way, t'will be interesting, as Steel has brought Candy in as a spy to see if there's anything unpatriotic about Diana Prince. And she's already got Steel's name and number. Detailed as their exchange is, I come away wondering if Etta's hero or villian here, and if one or the other, then to whom? (Nice. I can feel the hook tug against the side of my cheek now.)

Meanwhile, in Toronto, Diana and Tom are using a high-tech "invisible" craft recently donated to DoMA by a certain Gotham City billionaire, and she hopes she remembers to send him a note. I really like Diana's interconnectedness with the other heroes these days, especially with Batman. Of course Selina's the woman for him, but I think his own dark nature must make Diana's brightness utterly fascinating to him. In light of her earlier observation, though, I can't help wonder if her note will be one of thanks or gentle reprimand.

Anyway, more surprises, as they enter the suspected headquarters of the Society and discover Captain Nazi. Now, as Tresser is making short work of the door with some well-placed C4 explosive, Diana ponders how she could break the lock with her smallest toe if she were not in her unpowered state.

See, this is where I think the recent Circe gift-of-humanity may be troublesome. I mean, couldn't she just do the Magic Spin and "become" Wonder Woman when she gets out of the shower in the morning, but then go to work disguised as Diana Prince and then still be able to break doors and crap down? But already, in Gail I trust.

I'm a little concerned that Diana's still acting on instinct in her non-powered state, as she rushes ahead to protect Tresser from Captain Nazi and gets grabbed by the throat for her troubles. Of course, she can still protect herself and stuff, or at least still carry on a conversation, as she questions Nazi about his motives and plans...and he speaks of a new rise of an old Reich...and in a cutaway, we see a invading Nazi army sloshing through the surf of Paradise Island.

(Again: !!!!!!!! Suddenly, there's a yank, and I'm flopping happily helpless on the wet deck of Captain Simone's fishing vessel, a vague taste of seasalt in my mouth.)

And that's the issue.

Well, okay, I have to say something negative about Gail, or you'll think that we're like MySpace buds or something (well, actually, we are, kinda...)but anyway, here goes: there just isn't ENUF!!!! But in the pages we're given there's great treasure: a Diana who is wise and smart and funny and friendly (even to Steel)and caring and fierce!

Not only is it clear that Ms. Simone respects the character of Diana and her mythology, but it's also easy to see that she's having a hell of a good time writing this! The way the words dance together...the semi-colons(!!!!)...Diana's voice. It's all so good.

And I'm just going to gush if I get going on the artwork of the Dodsons. Their work really shows off Diana beautifully and I just can't get enough of their stuff! Coupled with Gail's words, well, it's "wonder"ful. I wish them all a very long and happy run!

This issue feels like turning a corner. I love that Diana was able to realize the To The Death nature of her battle with the apes, without it requiring the ubiquitous Max Lord flashback. (I sort of cringed with expectation, and was overjoyed when I realized, pages later, that it didn't happen.) Similarly, I was happy that we could see Hippolyta without a reminder of her recent time in Hades' Underworld. It's a brand new day and our Amazing Amazon is stepping off into a bright new future.

I welcome Gail to what I hope will be as long a residency on this title as she hopes for (which sounds like when they pry the pen from her cold, dead hand)...great Hera, our Amazing Amazon deserves such fine treatment!

For more with Gail, I direct you toward some good press she got from the Great Gray Lady this week.

Can't wait for the next issue!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Super Sons

Here's a little more time travel for you, with a flashback to July of 1975, and Worlds Finest #231. The art is by Dillin and Blaisedell and the story, natch, is by Bob Haney.

This is one of the issues that presented what were, at the time, imaginary stories of the sons of Superman and Batman, aka Clark Kent, Jr. and Bruce Wayne Jr. They were supposedly created...or their premise some super computer, though none of the issues featuring them which I read ever mentioned that. As I understand it, the Super Sons now share an earth in the New Multiverse with the Kathy Lee Crosby version of Wonder Woman and the Debra Winger version of Wonder Girl. And that makes as much sense as anything.

Here, the "boys" decided that their Dads are too establishment and really only being heroes for the grandstanding and public adulation and they call for the heroes to be put on trial...and oddly, the jury comes back in favor of a conviction (of what charge is never really made clear...tho apparently it would be Grandstanding in the First Degree). The Super-Dads agree to stay within a barbed wire fence enclosure.

As luck would have it, the Super Sons are suddenly called on to work with other heroes - Green Arrow, Flash and Aquaman - in response to a series of natural disasters and other similar events, each time returning to the pen to be sure their Dads haven't escaped. (I guess this was part of the Don't Trust Anyone Over 30 mentality of the times.)

Eventually, the Sons realize, through working with the other heroes, that their Dads aren't bad people and really have been working to save lives and since they've been so good about not escaping, decide to let them out early. Of course, we readers learn that the Super-Dads have actually left their androids in the holding pen (everyone had an android double in the 70s--it was the way you disproved anyone who thought they'd guessed your secret identity, after all!) and impersonated the other heroes to prove a point. Seventies silliness at its finest.

[And a big Yes to the eagle-eyed amongst you, both Superman and Batman on the cover are sporting moustaches. What can I say? I guess I liked facial hair, even way back then.]

Monday, November 26, 2007

Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes

This is Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes #244 from October 1978. But you'll have to look inside to find that. You can see the DC bullet is covered over with the Whitman name. This and an assortment of other issues I purchased around that time to jump start my knowledge of the DCU, were being resold in three-issues-to-a-pack shrink-wraps...a clever way to move those returned back issues. It was great for a kid with a limited budget who wanted more comics to read.

The Whitman packs were a bit of a grab-bag, though. With three issues packaged together, you could see the covers to two of them...but the third was a mystery. I don't remember if I got any duplicates that way.

This was my first introduction to them and this team-up with Superman when he was a boy. Of course, there was a pretty big cast to meet and a whole future I knew little about, so who knows what I thought of it at first. It's fun to look back now and see that the Legion were fighting off a Khund invasion (how many thousands of such attempts by those silly Khunds as of this date...) and actually formed an alliance with the Dominators(who were the Big Bads in the Invasion miniseries of 1993).

And speaking of well-drawn super-people. Check that cover, Hubba hubba.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Loose Ends

And so here it is, at long last: the Wonder Woman Annual for 2007. I wish they hadn't hyped it with the words "First Issue" on the cover--it's not like there's going to be a second annual released for this year.

But it doesn't feel extra, as annuals in times past often did, like a bonus for the faithful reader. Here we get the final chapter of Allan Heinberg's epic re-launching story, "Who is Wonder Woman", which is reward in itself. And we get to enjoy some more of the Dodsons' fantastic depictions of not only Wonder Woman, but so many great heroes.

After the move, I'll have to dig into the long boxes and pull out the first four issues in Heinberg's brief run and then read all this at a clip. I have no doubt that it will play well as a whole...and this is a good conclusion to that storyline, if you can keep it seperate in your mind from the re-appearance of Circe in the "Amazons Attack" storyline that commenced while we waited for this final chapter.

When we last saw Diana, she had become Wonder Woman once more to battle the threat of Circe and the sudden reappearance of every villian she's ever faced. This was kind of cool...but we're left a little uncertain of a few things. Are these really all of Diana's rogues, or have they been conjured by Circe's magic? If they are real, then who's that as the Silver Swan...since Valerie gave it up years ago, and Vanessa was recently rehabilitated.

We don't really get time to think about that, though, as Diana manages to cycle through each of them at least once, before the Cavalry arrive...which is pretty much EVERYONE of note in the superhero community: JLA, JSA, the Titans (led by Robin, who we'd seen way back in the second issue of the run)...they've all come together to help Diana fight her enemies. As Batman says to Wonder Woman later, "They love you, Diana. They always have. Because that's what you inspire in anyone who's ever met you. That's what makes you more powerful than any of us."

Predictably, the heroes make short work of the assorted villians, from Angle Man to Osira, and Giganta and Minister Blizzard and great gods, all the others we've seen so much more frequently: Cheetah, Dr. Psycho, Doctor Cyber, the Duke of Deception. The list goes on. And finally, Diana can turn her attention to Circe...and they talk. And that's when things get interesting.

We see all of Diana's self-doubt and lack of confidence following the Max Lord incident: "I'm not even a real person. I'm a golem. A clay statue brought to life. I have no idea who I am. All I know is, I'm alone."

Circe poo-poos this, saying that's how most humans feel all the time. She motions outside, where the heroes are mopping up Diana's rogues gallery: "Look up there, Diana. You've never been less alone in your whole life...or more human."

And as she casts a bit of purple magic in Diana's direction, she disappears. Later, Diana discovers that, as Diana Prince, she is not invulnerable and can be hurt, but not after she has changed to Wonder Woman. "A gift" she says, from Circe.

As the story concludes, the heroes (including Batman, in a rare daytime appearance) join Diana at a press conference where she announces her return.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the storyline finished up. Heinberg has reintroduced the secret identity of Diana Prince, made her matter in a new way, established an interesting career for her, through which she may get to meet more new heroes as they appear and perhaps spread her influence and message further afield, and re-introduced all her grand and gloriously-diverse rogues for future conflict.

And just to shine it all up, Allan's done something that not every writer of Wonder Woman has been fond of doing--he's set her squarely at the heart of the DC Universe...or multiverse, or whatever. The heroes and heroines of this Earth are her friends and colleagues. One of the things I enjoyed best in this story was Diana's interactions with others: Robin, Batman, the Justice Society and Titans. And as Batman (BATMAN!) points out, she's doing it all with the Power Of Love.

Not a bad relaunch at all.

As a back-up that sort of continues on from the press conference, we get to see Diana at DoMA, where she and Nemesis review the origins of Diana, Donna Troy (she's firmly re-established here post Infinite Crisis as the magical twin of Diana, kidnapped and then restored to life as Diana's sidekick...which doesn't address any of the Harbinger parallel business we were hearing about during 52.), Nemesis and Sarge Steel, in a pretty entertaining framing sequence.

The art here, by Gary Frank, is serviceable, and in some places very nice...but there are moments when these women (the ones with the beauty of Aphrodite?) are downright homely.

I won't have as much to say about the next issue, Wonder Woman #12. I will say the cover, by Terry Dodson, is pretty swell.

This is a follow-up tale in the wake of "Amazons Attack" (I didn't follow the miniseries all the way through, but will grab the trade paperback when that's released.), but we don't see very much of Diana or Wonder Woman. Really, the book is mostly hijacked by Nemesis (making a miraculous recovery from the Stygian Killer Hornets) as he tracks down the shape-shifter, Everyman, who'd been impersonating Sarge Steel and causing events which led to the attack of the Amazons against the US.

True, Wonder Woman shows up at the end and makes short work of Everyman...but its really a deus ex machina wrap-up to a Nemesis story. The art for this issue, by Paco Dias, is plenty decent and I hope we'll see his work again in the future.

The next issue, Wonder Woman #13, interested me more. What I wanted to know reading these issues was, "how did the whole Amazons Attack thing impact Diana...what changed for her...and so I got to see here some of the aftermath.

I didn't imagine this issue would be ground-breaking or earth-shattering or anything, not with Gail's debut coming so hot on its heels...but it was informative and enjoyable and we got to see Wonder Woman best yet another hydra and I really liked it.

The artwork, by Julian Lopez, is pretty great. He draws well, scenery, creatures,'s most often all quite lovely to look at and balances nicely between realistic art and cartoon (his Diana Prince covering "Clark Kent"-style as she dashes off to "a job for Wonder Woman" was classic funny stuff) and the story by J. Torres takes us on kind of a whirlwind of post-war stuff.

But I think that Julian fails in one huge and--to me--almost inexcusable, way: his depiction of the "Wonder Thong."

Now, look, I totally get that this kind of pandering to fanboy fantasies happens in comics. All the time. I've seen Power Girl's kryptonian knockers. And I'm not arguing that the Amazons are prudes about their bodies or anything like that. Far from it. And too, I realize that the thong is pretty popular, from a fashion standpoint.

And I don't think I'm a prude or anything (though my preference does lean toward the male form...give me a well-drawn man of steel any day...) but this seems an...
...choice for a super heroine and especially one as classy as Diana. I suppose I'm just old-fashioned enough to really like those shorts she rocked in New Frontier.

So, Wonder Woman goes to the Gateway City Museum, because Cassie (Wonder Girl)'s appearance at her mother's office has stirred up a near riot of protesters fearful in the wake of the Amazons' attack...and the crinkly curator guy says:

Relieved to see you, indeed, Amazon buttcheeks hangin' out like Daisy Duke. No wonder the public is rioting. After the whole Max Lord thing, it would seem an ill-thought fashion choice for someone who knows (and is reminded freshly later in the story)is a role model for women young and old. And really, what's a little more blue ink and a couple of stars, right?

Now with this whole puritanic rant I've got going on, you should be completely off guard when I say I laughed like hell when I caught the Golden-Age Flash peering down Diana's W when she stops by a construction site where he and Wildcat are rebuilding a hospital. I suppose any guy on New Earth would look if he had the angle. But is that the power of Love? In context of the starred thong, it makes Jay Garrick seem like more of an old perv.

Seriously, look at the "shorts". I mean, you can almost see stubble. Or don't you have to shave legs of clay? And do we want to have this conversation? Just a little more blue and another star or two, that's all I'm asking.

Anyway, it left me feeling just a little icky through the next scene, where fortunately Wonder Woman's drawn mostly from the waist up. She meets Vixen and Black Canary for a ribbon-cutting at a girls school re-opening in Georgetown. Nowhere does it say this is Halliday School for Girls...but that might be fun for a story or two down the road.

After the dedication, two girls pull Diana aside and introduce them to their friend who "hasn't said a word since her Mom died a few years ago, but she wrote an essay about you being this 'global maternal figure', whatever that means and won like $500 in a contest last year."

Diana introduces herself to the girl, who begins speaking with her right away and asks if she (Wonder Woman) will always be there to protect them, like she was during the war. Diana hugs her and reassures us all that, "yes" she will.

Then, almost a post-script (or a bit of foreshadowing, wot) we see Diana at the mystical barrier/bubble we learn that Hippolyta is using to keep Diana off of Paradise Island, while she sulks grumpily on her throne. Diana thinks perhaps her mother will speak when she has something to say, like the schoolgirl.

And we get a Big Finish speech from Wonder Woman as she flies off over the ocean: "I must follow the true ways of my people and lead by example. Yet I must remember that while I am daughter in my mother's house, I am mistress in my own [still no excuse for a thong]and in the world I have chosen to call Home I am a warrior who fights for what is right. I am a champion of peace. I am an Amazon. I am Wonder Woman."

Ah, just the sort of stirring interior monologue we might someday hope to hear in a Wonder Woman movie. Can't you just hear whatever theme John Williams would write for her building underneath? Hokey, sure. But come on, what's not to love?

The Wonder Thong, that's what.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Catching Up

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

(Recently added tracking software assures me you're reading...if only I could figure out how to get you to say something!)

My best intentions had me posting more regularly last week, but an overpowering laziness set in after the long car ride to the Adirondacks, way before it could've been blamed as a side effect of turkey and mashed potatoes.

Perhaps it was the rain, or more likely, a lingering tiredness borne of moving a garden two towns away (see My Other Blog for details there.).

In the midst of that project, however, I was also addressing other things, such as the purchase of the last three long boxes needed for housing of the Collection. And while I was at the comic shop, I also prowled the Back Issue bins for some recent-ish Wonder Woman releases I hadn't read yet. More on those shortly.

With the move of the rest of the household coming our way shortly, I may be a little sporadic in my postings the next few weeks. But I do have some things planned; check back when you can.

Mean while... perhaps I can redeem myself for having failed to direct you to the JLA Ice Cream Social last summer. It appears that this holiday season will see a new epic over at Every Day Is Like Wednesday...and it's sure to be a good time. While you're waiting for me, why don't you surf on over and check out what Caleb's up to!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wedding Bell Blues...and Greens

With the exception of Lois and Clark, when has a superhero's wedding ever gone well? Okay, Donna Troy's wedding to Terry went well, even if their marriage went down the toilet...but generally, happiness of this sort eludes our heroes.

Tonight's spotlight issue is not my first issue of Green Lantern-Green Arrow, but since my first four issues (this is the fourth of those) of this title are non-consecutive and part of longer stories, this was the first one that started to make some sense to me. I also chose to focus on this one, because it was my first introduction to a character we would see much more of years later.

So, here we are, Green Lantern-Green Arrow #122, from November of 1979 and it's Hal Jordan's wedding day. His bride-to-be, we learn, is Kari Limbo, a gypsy woman/mystic. They are greeted outside the church when they arrive together (it IS bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding, wait and see...)by assorted Justice League friends who are there for the occasion.

This is one more time when clearly these guys are thinking of their costumes/uniforms as formal attire. Seriously, and the priest had no problem with this? Dinah (Black Canary) is the only one of them showing any discretion, though describing that shade of pink she's wearing as "discreet" might be a bit of a stretch.

The problem the preacher refers to here is NOT the costumes, but a broken bell rope, meaning there'll be no ringing to celebrate the joyous occasion. Green Arrow saves the day with one of his bolo arrows, but then Kari goes into some kind of trance thing, and kneels to draw in the sand the image of a Phantom Zone projector. Superman takes this omen to heart and dashes off to the Fortress of Solitude to ensure that all's well, promising he'll try to return before the ceremony.

Of course, all is NOT well and a strange glowing green tendril snakes out of the PZ and grabs Superman, dragging him into the Zone. Meanwhile, back at the church, the ceremony begins, but Kari falls into another trance and begins describing the Phantom Zone and mentioning Superman by name. Hal dashes off to the Fortress, leaving everyone behind and fortunately missing hearing Kari murmur "my beloved Guy", though Dinah and Ollie both take unhappy note of this.

Hal goes into the Phantom Zone and comes face to face with Green Lantern Guy Gardner, who had apparently been thought dead by everyone. Somehow, the power battery that exploded and supposedly caused his death in some previous issue actually threw him into the Phantom Zone, where General Zod and the other villians sentenced there have taken control of Guy and his power ring and managed to make it stronger than the others. They've also beaten the snot out of Superman, who has no extraordinary powers in the Phantom Zone.

Guy explains, "We can see into the other world. I've watched you..."

Superman, it turns out, was not unconscious and comes to Hal's rescue, distracting Gardner long enough for Hal to escape from his attack...but Hal realizes that Zod is now strangling Supes and he leaves Guy to rescue Superman, dragging him to safety outside the Phantom Zone, and leaving confrontation with Guy Gardner for another day.

Of course, with the news of Guy being alive comes the realization that Hal and Kari cannot marry and they tearfully agree. Hal vows to rescue Guy and says he'll see how Kari feels in a month or two. What a thoughtful guy, that Hal.

This is a fun issue, partly because of the guest stars amongst the wedding guests, and since I already had some familiarity with the Phantom Zone at this early point, I was able to follow the story all right, though I certainly had no idea of any of the previous Guy Gardner storyline...and would have to piece that together from future issues. Still, who doesn't love an ill-fated wedding?


As an extra bonus, in the back of the issue, near the letter column was featured one of those great Fred Hembeck cartoons, which ran as part of the "Daily Planet" news feature at the back of most DC issues at the time. I include it here for your amusement...

...and encourage you to check out Fred's website Hembeck's Comic Strips for more!

(If you're noticing an improvement in my accompanying photos, you're not imagining things. Being at Mom and Dad's for a Thanksgiving visit brings the additional pleasure of a nice scanner to play with--I'm gonna have to get me one of these things after Christmas!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Good Omen

When you're moving, there's all kinds of little stresses that sort of ebb and flow like the tide. Who pays for that? And why isn't there this? OMG, why did they paint it that color? Is there enough time to do all this?

And then, as you're sorting through the debris of previous tenants, you find something...and its a sign. Something that assures you that everything's going to be all right. There's uncertainty and chaos, but after that all will be well.

The good omen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wonder Wednesday

Across the globe, Wonder Woman fans are waking this morning, filled with a sense of unbridled glee. That's right, today Wonder Woman #14 hits stands, featuring the writing of fan-favorite Gail Simone, enhanced by the delightful art of husband and wife team, Rachel and Terry Dodson.

La Simone is believed to be the writer who can save our Amazing Amazon from the sketchy writing she's been subjected to much of this past year, and sadly, for much of her heroic career. But no pressure, Gail. : )

Not excited yet? Go read an interview with Simone at Newsarama here, to help get your Squee on.

Yep, it may indeed be a wonderful Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Red Tornado

The sorting has brought to the surface any variety of mini-series, including this one shining a spotlight on the Red Tornado in 1985. As the Crisis on Infinite Earths loomed, writer Kurt Busiek joined forces with legendary artist Carmine Infantino to tell us a story of the JLA's often-sidelined android member.

The thing about this android, though, is that he was created as the weapon of perennial mad scientist T.O. Morrow, but somehow managed to garner something like a human soul and contradict Morrow's evil programming. The long and complicated saga of Red Tornado, before and since this mini, is found here.

As this series opens, Reddy does battle against a rogue tornado tearing through the New Jersey countryside, saving many people in the process. However, the news coverage of the event cast him unfavorably, and then the android is confronted by the membership of the Justice League, who say they are tired of his screw-up and revoke his membership. Confused and uncertain, the Red Tornado considers his place in the world as the first issue concludes, unaware that all this has been carefully orchestrated by long-time JLA foe The Construct.

Not being able to fathom what he's supposedly done wrong, Red Tornado carries on as issue 2 opens. He is confronted by a Construct-controlled Superman, who tauntingly literally tears Reddy limb from limb for disregarding the League's suggestion, and throws Reddy's parts into the East River.

It's so sad. They always do this to Reddy. It's like the one thing writers can think to do with the robot: dismantle him. Ho hum. Think I'm kidding, check out what they did to RT in last year's 52, twenty-one years later.

Fortunately, his self-repairing circuits bring him back together only minutes later, but this latest confrontation with a so-called friend has him doubting everything. His lack of confidence drives him away from his girlfriend, Kathy Sutton and the negative public perceptions of him causes problems in his friendship with Traya the orphan.

All the while, the Construct gloats. The Red Tornado is the only member of the JLA, we learn, who is immune to the Construct's mind control, thus explaining his targetting for this special torment.

Issue 3 of the series finds most of the world under the Construct's controls, and Red Tornado has abandoned humanity, to sulk in fine emo hero fashion atop a windy mountain top, as befits his name. Kathy Sutton still believes in him, and is finding that she is the only person who has not succumbed to the Constructs controls. The Construct seems to underestimate her ability to sway Reddy, though, and apparently prefers gloating to her about how he could take her mind away through any piece of communications technology. Talk about your computer with an attitude.

Finally Kathy reaches Tornado and tells him about the Construct's plans and entreats him not to abandon mankind. He's playing all cold logical machine here, but she touches him by suggesting that if he ever suspected that he might be human, then the answer had to be yes. Suddenly, the memories of his other lives are restored to him and he can feel his soul and he races off to confront The Construct and save the World.

In the final issue, Red Tornado takes on the Construct head-to-head and they battle to a draw. Entreating the assistance of his creator, T.O. Morrow, Reddy manages to infiltrate The Construct's operating system, where he systematically disconnects the Construct's control over the telephone networks, the radio frequencies and so on, breaking his hold on humanity.

Its sort of a leap, since we've not seen Reddy do this sort of thing before...sort of an "inside the video game" thing, I guess, in keeping with the times. Of course, Red Tornado is victorious and saves the world. It bums me out a little that we never see a scene with the League where they disavow the things they'd said earlier...but I suppose the page count was running out.

On the whole, I really enjoyed re-reading this series. Reddy's a character I've always enjoyed, but not known too much about. I'd forgotten, actually, that he was one of a series of characters who began on Earth Two and migrated to Earth One and served as a member of both the JSA and the JLA.

Carmine Infantino's art is a pleasure here (though I still chuckle looking at that first cover image of the Justice League. Notice how Batman's height matches the tapering perspective of the others, but his legs disappear just above the boot, as though he were standing in a hole.).

It interested me to read in one of the letter columns (remember those?)the comments of a reader who didn't favor Infantino as an artist, stating that all his characters look alike (true enough). And I realized, having read this same opinion from other fans on the internet about contemporary artists, that some things just don't change.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

League Dickery?

The Adventures of Superman #475, February 1991.

It looks worse than it is, of course. The Toyman, Intergang and the New God Sleeze wreak havoc at a new amusement park in Metropolis. Superman gets himself attacked by the animatrons from the park's Hall of Heroes. Also the issue where Jimmy Olsen decides to start wearing his Superman signal watch again.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Teen Titans

I can hardly believe I've been keeping this blog so long, and not yet given the Teen Titans a proper mention. I was very happy the other day, when I had a moment to slide this early issue from its plastic and give it another read. Being one of my earlier issues, Teen Titans #40 from July-August 1972 is easily one I've read hundreds of times...and it shows some. But how nice to revisit this old friend.

Being the early seventies, there's a real counter-culture feel to the story (or maybe its just that Bob Haney wrote it...whatta guy; his must be an interesting story). Even though they are in Scotland for this story, they're still riding around in a VW minibus with Peace and Love written on the sides of it (did they ship it overseas? Get it at a rental place? The T-Jet of today must be so much easier), and they refer to each other as "Flasher" and "Wonder Doll", which is fun in a silly sort of way.

Anyway, our story opens with the Titans (in this case, Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy, Wonder Girl and Mal Duncan, with their mentor Mr. Jupiter) on board a fishing boat on a Scottish loch, investigating reports of a deadly sea monster...and as you can see, before long, it appears.

Quickly, our heroes discover it is a gigantic metal robot operated by salmon poachers, but the mystery deepens when they see a ghost dancing on the loch waves and learn that Robin and Mal were attacked by water breathers while they were diving below. A second dive brings the water-breathers back, and after they've murdered the Titans' Scottish fisherman guide ("Gillkrankie" can't make this stuff up...but Haney could!)Robin announces with his usual flair for the dramatic that Aqualad was one of the attackers.

Outrage, shock, and drama follow before a quick investigation reveals that Aqualad is actually attending college classes in Scotland and they track him down, finding him in a kilt, with a new girlfriend, Nirka, draped on his arm(Despite the girl, the kilt just makes him seem more gay than usual...).

He offers his assistance, and quickly it is discovered that he's in Nirka's thrall and also that she is the daughter of the Black Earl of Moray (the earlier mentioned ghost), who raises his sunken castle from the depths of the loch once a century in hopes of trapping new souls upon whom he make practice his dark arts.

Here's Nirka and Garth out of their kilts, where we learn just what it is that she's offering to attract Aqualad to the doom offered by her father. Apparently, its her lips he wants, he needs, her lips that he must have. (Jeez, Garth, get your own. Sure, it'll be years before collagen injections and botox are all the rage, but surely you could suck on a blowfish or something and get your own voluptuous pair...)

Of course the Titans are able to rescue their friend and the story wraps up with him remembering nothing. Which is probably for the best.

I must have really enjoyed what I saw here(plus, "now only 20 cents!"), because I only waited a few months before picking up my next issue of Teen Titans, this one #43 (shame I couldn't get consecutive issues, but fortunately both of these were done-in-one stories), in which we get a slightly altered team here.

Mr. Jupiter and Mal are nowhere in sight, and now Lilith (the psychic/witch) has joined the team. They are on the craggy coast of New England and as this story opens, they are entreated by an old man to rescue his helpless grandchild from a quartet of demons who are playing catch with the child.

I won't go into as much detail about this story, which actually, isn't a bad take on the Titans going head to head with supernatural forces (or as the cover cries, "Whiz Kids VS. Witchcraft"). The art team for both of these issues was Art Saaf and Nick Cardy and looking back, I'm really pretty impressed with their work. There's a reasonable amount of detail, people look as they are supposed to (well, except for that kilt...but it IS Scotland, after all) and I really enjoyed it.

Issue #43 also includes a Lilith solo feature, in which she is crossing the country looking for her mother, and discovers a likely candidate on death row. Never able to resist a mystery and eager to reunite with her mother, Lilith reveals the true murderer, freeing the woman...who's real daughter appears to take her mother away from prison. Sad for Lilith.

I was always sorry we didn't see more of her when the Titans reunited in the eighties...and sadder still that when she did finally return to the team in the 90s, she was not only way younger than she should've been, but was killed so quickly by a rogue Superman robot.

We are not very kind to our minor characters.

And how could I talk about the Titans without discussing their rebirth as a team in 1980, at the able hands of Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Here's New Teen Titans #1, in which the mysterious Raven brings some of the old team together (Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash) with some new members (Cyborg, Beast Boy/Changeling, Starfire and herself) and the long run of fun had begun.

I think this might've been the issue that actually turned me into a mad collector for a while. After all, I bought it for 50 cents and within a few years, it was valued at $30 or better. I think the market's since leveled out and even if this one is still worth more, it's probably not representative of my overall collection, because the comic companies began glutting the market with so many issues, variant covers and so on.

Once we've completed the move, I'll have to begin the next part of the project for my collection, which will be doing some research into the over-all value of the thing, which is--in all honesty--immeasurable to me, anyway. But I'm also looking forward to a few lazy winter days, sitting by the fireplace and re-reading all those old Wolfman-Perez issues, which were so amazing.

In an interesting sidebar, I had already planned today's post when I read this morning at Newsarama that Judd Winick will be reuniting that classic team of the eighties in a new Titans East series. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Up On The Roof

Here's a random issue I pulled from the sorting, when this great cover by Matt Wagner caught my eye. I'm a bit of an architectural fan, so I enjoyed the rooftop setting, but there's also something about the depictions of Batman and Robin I enjoy here. Batman, as always, is pretty serious, scanning the city skyline, while Robin's gaze (he looks a little bored here) lingers over the street below.

This is Detective Comics #649, from Late September, 1992. The story within, by Chuck Dixon (art by Tom Lyle and Scott Hanna), actually includes The Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) as well. She has overheard her criminal father, the Cluemaster (bad name, I think...always thought the guy needed a clue...) planning a major heist of a charity event at one of Gotham's malls, and Stephanie is working with the Dynamic Duo to stop him.

Stephanie, for those who don't know, was a friend of Robin's who learned his identity and created her own costumed identity. For a while (long after this story, during a time when I was not reading comics at all...), she even picked up the mantle of Robin, after Tim Drake's father made him retire, and unfortunately died in that role. I haven't read the War Games trades yet where all this happened, so I can't say exactly how she died (tho I hear power tools were possibly involved). But I do know that there's some internet fervor over the fact that a memorial to Stephanie was never created in the Batcave, as one had been for the (now returned from the dead)second Robin, Jason Todd.

It could be that all that means Spoiler/Stephanie's in the process of crossing back across the River Styx and due to appear somewhere in the DC multiverse sometime soon. After all, characters seem to die at the drop of a hat lately, and return with almost the same frequency. Or it could just mean that some of DC's creators/editors don't feel that she was worth remembering...she is a girl character, after all.

Anyway, it's an okay story and the art is decent. Mostly, after we learn of the plot (and see it unfolding), it's a big fight scene between the Cluemaster and his Merry Men (his gang are dressed like Robin Hoods...) and Batman, Robin and Spoiler. Why it's notable (besides the great Wagner cover) is in the final stand-off, when Cluemaster takes Spoiler hostage, and threatens her to get Batman to leave off...and the Dark Knight outs her as the Cluemaster's daughter and the issue ends before Steph can tell Batman how she feels about that, though she takes good advantage of her father's shock to bring him down.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Further Proof

Okay, remember this moment from Infinite Crisis, when some of the heroes witnessed the rebirth of the Multiverse at Alex Luthor's cosmic hands way back in 2006?

Well, compare it to this image, captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in 2007.

I'm just saying, is all.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Golden Age

Last night, as a result of tropical storm Noel spinning past the New England coast, Cape Cod took a big whack and power outages and other damage abound. Fortunately, at our place we were spared the worst of all that, with only minor tree damage and a great many wet leaves to rake abounding...but the power was out for about twelve hours, beginning around 6:00 p.m.

We have candles (and safe candle holders) a-plenty, and a little battery operated radio to distract us from the rising/falling sound of the wind gusts and dancing treetops and battering rain. But I'm sorry, you just can't be entertained by the radio in the same way you can by television (had it been NPR, this might've been a different story, but they were off the air before we even lost power). And so I happily turned my attention to the comic collection for entertainment. Thank goodness for the LED camp light.

My selection to start the long evening was DC Comics' four-issue graphic novel miniseries "The Golden Age", written by James Robinson and brought to life by artists Paul Martin Smith and Richard Ory.

This is an "Elseworlds" story, which was the designation DC gave to so-called "imaginary stories" in the nineties. In an Elseworlds tale, the starting point is a comics scenario we're all familiar with, which then takes a turn in some new or unlikely direction, usually with pretty entertaining results.

Here, the story picks up in the late days of 1945, and continues the stories of the members of the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron (which by this point, had been post-Crisis re-jiggered to no longer feature the adventures of the Big Three: Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.). World War II has drawn to its familiar end, and as America tries to resume it's rosey, pre-war lifestyle, the mystery men of the earlier half of the decade are feeling a little unnecessary. There aren't Nazis and Japs (don't send me email about being racist, its how they were known in the US at the time) to beat up, and the costumed villians don't hold the same interest they once did.

In some ways, this is sort of a Watchmen-style treatment of our Golden Age heroes. Johnny Chambers (aka, Johnny Quick) is working on a documentary about wartime superheroes, and through him, we catch up on how "real life" finds those shiny heroes of the Golden Age. He and Libby Lawrence (Liberty Belle) have divorced, and she has set up housekeeping with novelist Jonathan Law (Tarantula), who is unfortunately now suffering the proverbial Long Weekend of alcoholism and writer's block. Alan Scott (Green Lantern)is seeing his radio and TV station flagging and has gained the attention of Congress' HUAC.

Ted Knight (Starman) is in a sanitarium, having been driven a little nuts with knowing the information he traded with Einstein was in some part responsible for the atomic conclusion of the conflict with Japan. Rex Tyler (Hourman) is still working to perfect the Miraclo pill that gives him his hour of super-strength, but he's also discovering that he's become an addict to the stuff. Paul Kirk (Manhunter) has returned from Europe with no memory of why he's so paranoid about anyone discovering him.

Against a backdrop of All That, a former nobody of the superhero set, Tex Thompson (the Americommando) is being hailed as a national hero for his undercover work in Nazi Germany, where he was apparently nearly single-handedly responsible for the defeat of the upper levels of the Third Reich, including Hitler.

Now really, do we need more than Tex Thompson's cheesy little moustache to telegraph to us that he's the villian of this piece? Hardly, as it comes out rather quickly that his brain has actually been replaced ("We've replaced your regular brain with Folgers." Anyone old enough to remember those commercials...?)with that of the (da da DAH...) Ultra-Humanite.

Of course, no one knows that at the onset, and Thompson, with the encouragement of the President and Congress, begins gathering a team of carefully chosen heroes to be a government-sponsored supergroup, with an eye toward taking out the rising threat of Communism. Al Pratt (The Atom) and Johnny Thunder, two of the younger and more hare-brained members of the JSA, are quickly tapped for Thompson's team.

We are shown the former hero Robotman, tearing apart a team of jewel theives in a dark alley, in a style today's Black Adam would be pleased with. "There was a time," we are told, his face splattered with the blood and gore of men. "when Robotman's primary wish was to stress the MAN in his name."

He, too, is solicited for this group, along with former kid sidekick Danny Dunbar (DynaMite), who's feeling at loose ends following the end of the war and the death of his mentor, TNT. Dunbar is selected as the "benefactor" of new experimentation which grant him extreme powers to serve on this new team.

It's a pretty great ride, this story, and I won't give away anything more, in case you have a chance to pick it up and read it for yourself. But I can tell you its kind of a wild, moody ride through the post-war days of America...and in case all that, and a return of our four-color heroes toward the story's conclusion aren't enough to entice you, then maybe the promise of more Black Adam-style carnage during the big Fight Scene will help, and just wait until you see where Hitler's Brain ends up!!

Having been published over a dozen years ago, this may be a tricky story to find. Ask at your favorite comic shop, or look in those back issue bins. I'm not sure if the mini-series was ever collected in trade paperback form. Barring that, send DC some mail on the subject. I think its high time they start putting together some treasuries of these great Elseworlds stories, although they are unlikely to listen to my voice only.