Friday, March 28, 2008

Extra!! Extra!! Seigel Family Regains Rights to Man of Steel

A federal judge in Los Angeles this week has ruled that the heirs of Jerome Seigel, one of the creators of our beloved Superman, have the right to claim a share of the United States copyright on the Superman character.

The New York Times has the story here, and you can be sure that Newsarama will have more of the details as they become available, particularly as to how this news may impact the Metropolis Marvel.

Thanks to Lili for the heads-up!!


I'll be back with a new post real soon!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Please Stand By

Thought I'd share a bit of bat-love with you in lieu of a few posts. Tonight's fine art comes courtesy Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley of 1986's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. How is that over 20 years old?

I'm afraid I must ask you to stand by, though. Our furnace/boiler's been possessed by Satan or Neron or summat, and leaking fuel oil ($) onto the floor. We've been catching it in buckets, but the fumes have been terrific. My computer, BTW, is right beside the door to the furnace room/death pit.

It seems repairs have taken nicely, but exorcism or some sort of cleansing ritual may still be required. So forgive me if I pass on huffing/posting while we sort out the rest.

Back soon.

Oh, but meanwhile... tonight I found a great new snack at the grocery...and while I'm receiving no remuneration or other compensation from DC or Betty Crocker or anyone else, I thought I'd share my findings here: Batman Fruit Flavored Snacks!

I saw the name and hey, you know Batman's a name you can trust.

They're actually pretty darned tasty, too. The green Joker's are quite limey, the little purple Batmen are grape, the Batmobile's a cherry red...and well, I'm not sure what flavor the white bats are...hard to say so far.

The other shapes/colors weren't in my first pack, which are conveniently sized for the pouches of your utility belt.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Random Cover Friday

Robin #20, September 1995.

Story by Chuck Dixon, art by Mike Weiringo and Stan Woch.

In which Robin wrestles with a circus lion named Nero, does great battle with a child named the General and a guy in a toga named Hadrian (who naturally is associated with Maxie Zeus), and then returns home in the wee hours to find his girlfriend Arianna hiding in his bedroom.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To Infinity and Beyond

From March 1984 comes today's selection, Infinity, Inc. #1, brought to you by the creative team of writer Roy Thomas and arts/co-designers Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan.

It's Christmas Eve 1983 (I guess Ma Hunkle was still MIA back then, but couldn't someone have slapped a wreath up on the building?), on Earth 2 and Hawkman has called an emergency meeting of the Justice Society of America. Everyone's there except Superman and Sandman (Wesley Dodd's had recently suffered a stroke), but before Hawkman can explain why they are gathered they are interrupted by four upstart new heroes who burst in, clamouring for membership.

Holy bad parenting, Batman...all four of these "new" heroes have ties to family ties to members of the League. For college kids, I thought they were sort of unreasonable to their parents (sure, in high school, kids can be a little mean to their moms and dads, but by college, you hope this will be settled was for me, anyway...), but I suppose that was largely colored by the bad attitude of the Silver Scarab, aka, Hector Hall, child of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Between super-heroing and archaeology, the Hawks were apparently absent parents...and Hec pretty seriously resents his latchkey childhood.

Anyway, the Society ask the kids to wait in an adjacent room, while they have some discussion about whether or not to admit the younger generation. While they wait, the kids reflect on their origins.

The blonde with the the wierd red and gold costume and head-piece (is it a hat, a crown...some sort of modern tiara?!) is Lyta Trevor, daughter of Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor, who's dating Hector and has chosen the name Fury for her superhero identity. She mentions her meeting with the Earth One Wonder Woman as one of the things that encouraged her to finally step up to the hero business (remember when they met in WW #300? No? You should read yesterday's review for the through-line).

One of the other two heroes is Nuklon, who's the godchild of golden age Atom, Al Pratt, who is over seven feet tall and endowed with great strength, as a result of his one-time villain grandfather's experiments against the All-Star Squadron back in World War II.

The fourth member is Norda, using the codename Northwing, who hails from Feithera, a mystical city which the Hawks discovered during their early hero careers, populated by a human-like race of bird people(I really can't explain it any better than that!). His father was an anthropologist whom Hawkman brought to Feithera to study the culture. Hector really has some attitude about Norda, since he resents the attention of the Hawks.

Anyway...the JSA open the doors and announce their decision in the negative (never mentioning that the vote was nearly a tie), which is when two more young heroes show up, showing off new abilities.

Despite their claim that Green Lantern is their dad, neither Jade nor Obsidian are welcomed into the Society...and the kids go off to sulk and scheme. The JSA's younger and most-recently-added members, Power Girl and Huntress go after the kids to talk to them...and to think some about the old-ster attitudes of their fellow JSAers.

Of course, the Brainwave bursts into JSA headquarters on the last page for a cliff-hanger.

This was an interesting first issue, although the kids have not yet come up with the idea for their own team here, nor even the name in the title. It's also strange that Brainwave Junior (the guy in red with the blue goggles) is featured on the cover while Fury and Northwing are not, since he doesn't appear in the series until the second issue, at least. By the time of their debut, we had also already seen this team, when they traveled into the past to meet the All-Stars of WW II.

On another note, this was one of like four experimental books at the time, featuring a new reproduction method which I believe was called The Baxter Process, or perhaps that was the kind of paper they were using. I know I shied away from these titles for a little while due to the higher cover price (can you imagine, that there was a time when we thought $1.25 was too much to pay for a comic book?)...but eventually, the new art reproduction won me over...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Dreams May Come...

The Wonder Wednesday festivities return this week, as we take a look at issue #300 of Wonder Woman, volume one, from February 1983 (just a few months before I graduated from high school, for those who are keeping track...).

And what a celebration this issue is, kicking off in fine style with a fantastic, wrap-around cover by Dick Giordano and George Perez.

Our wonder epic, by Roy and Danette Thomas, begins in a dark alley in Washington DC, at 3 a.m. Our heroine is facing off against a large, shadowy and shapeless creature, one which has been terrorizing her in dreams all week. But now it's taken physical form and Diana's fighting a loosing battle against the thing.

By the way, a host a wonderful artists provided their bit for this anniversary spectacular. The framing sequence is penciled by Gene Colon, the regular artist on the title at the time.

She's about to be hurled against a wall when a red and gold clad figure appears from the shadows and catches her, as the monster vanishes in the glow of a street lamp.

The mystery man is the Kirby version of the Sandman. He explains to Diana that during his duties of monitoring the Dream Dimension, he became aware of her nightmares and sleepwalking. He's very troubled that the creature of Diana's dreams is taking real form.

Diana is grateful to Sandman for his intervention, but a little non-plussed by the fawning comments he makes about her beauty. She admits that she's been feeling a lot of pressure about her job and from the man she loves. The Sandman suggests she should change the job..."or the man."

Diana points out its not really Sandman's business and they part company, as she dashes through the early morning streets of the nation's capitol, returning to the apartment she (as Lt. Diana Prince, USAF) shares with Etta Candy just before her roomie wakes up, but not soon enough to get the two of them to work on time.

Both Etta and D.P. are called into General Darnell's office, assuming they are to be berated for their lateness, but Diana is awarded a promotion to Major, with a promise that she may even be a colonel if the paperwork has gone through by the time she and Steve Trevor are to return from the upcoming Arms Talks she and Trevor are to attend in Mexico.

For Colonel Trevor's part, his ego seems to have been hurt by Di's promotion and when she calls him on thinking she got the promotion because she was a woman, he denies it, saying he's never really thought of her as a woman at all. (OMG!! Of all the stupid man things to say...) Naturally, she storms off.

But she realizes her recent lack of sleep from the nightmares has her on edge, and thinks Steve might not be deserving of the full anger she's feeling. She changes to Wonder Woman and summons the invisible jet, thinking to catch a cat-nap at 40,000 feet to restore her.

As her eyes close, the monster from her dreams reappears and attacks the jet. She begins defensive maneuvers to throw off the thing and swoops away, to return to the ground...only to discover that she's on a collision course with the Washington Monument. Believing she won't be able to get clear, she's surprised when a golden lasso catches the nose of her plane and lifts it above the monument...

...which is about when our Diana realizes she's broken the barrier between dimensions and found herself on Earth-Two, face to face with her parallel doppleganger, Wonder Woman. This segment of the story's art is capably handled by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano.

The two have met once before and are happy to catch up a little. But Diana is a little surprised by how the E2 Wonder Woman's life has turned out. She has long ago revealed her secret identity...and married her Steve Trevor.

"I know I once said I'd never marry him until all evil was vanquished from the world...but not even an Amazon can wait that long."

This other Steve Trevor insists this second (to him) Wonder Woman to stay for dinner before returning to her Earth. As they tour the Trevors' home, Diana meets her doppleganger's daughter, Lyta...who asks if this second Wonder Woman will stay to help her train, as she hopes to take over being Wonder Woman from her mother.

Diana does stay for dinner and her visit offers her some interesting perspective on her own life. She returns to Earth One in time to catch up with Steve at a twilight launching of a new nuclear submarine. Of course, there's a terrorist sniper to spoil the launch festivities, but she and Steve work together to make short work of the guy...and she carries Steve off to a nearby rooftop and says that if he still wants to marry her, she's ready.

He's flabbergasted, but thrilled...and even a little surprised that she wants to be married in just a few weeks, on Paradise Island. Even though we know this Wonder Woman never met Mindy Mayer, it's clear she has a hot publicist, as the next day, as the gang is headed to the talks in Mexico, Etta is reading a newspaper with the headline WEDDING BELLS FOR WONDER WOMAN!

Di is a little cool on the subject when Etta mentions it. Trevor overhears and thinks that it will probably be best for Diana Prince to get over him, now that he's marrying Wonder Woman, so she can find a nice guy and settled down. And then the radio message comes, advising them of a bomb hidden in the briefcase of top secret documents handcuffed to Diana's wrist.

She makes a show of being heroic, grabbing a parachute and leaping from the plane before anyone can stop her...and the bomb explodes, "killing" Diana Prince.

We get to see her funeral next and Wonder Woman even shows up to offer a few kind words. She's moved by just how upset her friends are at Diana's passing...but suggests to Steve that Diana wouldn't have wanted them to delay the wedding on her account.

After everyone's departed, the Sandman makes a return appearance. Diana's a little pissed that he knows from her dreams that she and D.P. were one in the same. He offers to tell her his own origins and how he came to live in the Dream Dimension, as a way of building trust. This segment, flashing back to the five issues of the Sandman's own title, are well-drawn by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt.

I won't recap his origin here, since it really does feel like a bit of a pause in the longer story...with no focus whatsover on Wonder Woman...but his back story is helpful for those of us who weren't at all familiar with the character. Essentially, he's trapped in the Dream Dimension and rides herd on the wild creatures who live there and inhabit our dreams.

And as it turns out, he's totally got a thing for Wonder Woman and even tells her that he loves her, and that if she would join him in the dream dimension, he would be totally happy. She brushes him off, saying that she feels gratitude for his help and sorrow for his situation...but not love. He leaves, but say's he'll be back when she needs him.

Now Diana travels to Paradise Island, where she is thrilled that the first wedding gifts have begun to arrive...but she quickly falls asleep, slumped in her mother's pillowed throne...and she dreams.

Here the art shifts to that of Jan Duursema and Tom Mandrake, as we see her familiar origin story play out: the crash of Trevor's plane, the rescue, her competition against her friend Mala, winning the tournament. And then, late in the night, Hippolyta prays to the goddesses, afraid for her daughter to be taken away from the magical protections of immortality of Paradise Island. And the gods show her the only way to keep Diana at home, which is to die.

Diana ascends to the throne, sending Mala in her stead to return the man she's already fallen in love with back to Man's World. Wonder Woman awakens, seeing the shadow-thing receding into the shadows of the Throne Room. She wakes her mother to talk about her dream problems...and Hippolyta suggests Diana might go look at the platform which is being constructed off shore, where the Wedding will take place.

She does, and then sits down on the beach, falling quickly into another uneasy slumber, as Dick Giordano takes the art reigns for this tale of "The Princess and the Sky Pirate", in which the man who crashes offshore of Paradise is a criminal named Trevor Stevens. Diana still falls for him and leaves the island with him when his flirting reminds the Queen of the silver-tongued Hercules. It isn't until they arrive in Man's World and Stevens kills a number of policemen that Diana realizes the error of her ways.

She wakes again, after yet another appearance by the Shadow Thing, and decides to hand deliver some wedding invitations to the Justice League satellite. Superman meets her there, congratulating her with a kiss, but gently chiding her that she'd not let him break the nuptial news story.

As Diana is about to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, she dozes off again, this time re-imagining her origin with Kal-El as the man who crash lands off the shores of Paradise. Rich Buckler does the pretty pictures here, as we see the story of a super marriage that can't last, it's two participants regularly torn away from one another to fight crime or rescue the world in some way or another.

(There is an amusing sequence on their honeymoon where Super husband and wife are stopping up a this ever really a good idea?...and some hot lava splashes on Diana and burns away her costume.)

Diana returns from slumberland to discover the invisible jet has automatically returned to Paradise Island...and she has a few minutes of consciousness to call Steve. He's a little bummed that the Arms Talks have gone poorly...and he admits he hasn't had a moment to think about the wedding.

Their call is cut-off, or he hangs up, and she realizes she's not thought about much else besides the wedding...but she just can't stay awake.

This last dream sequence is handled, art-wise, by Keith Pollard, and we see the old story, but this time with a petulant, man-hating superior Wonder Woman returning Steve Trevor to Man's World. She makes short work of some criminals, but cuts off Steve's praise, saying he'll find she's an "avenging angel", if anything.

It's not long before she's selected Mount Rushmore as her headquarters--after she's made a few improvements--and only a short time later when Steve and some other officers try to stop her from getting the President to abandon his office in the White House to her. A game of bullets and bracelets goes wrong, and Trevor is killed, his dying words "how could I...have cared...for someone with so much...hatred inside her..." touching this cold-hearted Diana. She admits he was the only man she cared for...and now she's a fugitive for his murder.

She wakes up quickly from this one, and thank goodness, as the guests and the Groom are waiting for her on the Wedding Platform. As Diana arrives, in costume but with a white cape and pink roses in her hair, Trevor asks the reverend (what, gods-worshipping Diana will be married by a Christian preacher?!...oh the things we ignored in the early 80s...)if he may speak to the bride before they begin. The preacher harumphs that they are already late...and the ceremony begins.

Diana has said her "I Do", but Trevor says No instead, to gasps of shock and surprise. As the guests murmur to themselves, the bride and groom go off quietly to talk, unaware they are being watched from the Dream Dimension.

Steve admits that he has begun to realize what deep feelings he had for Diana Prince, now that she's died...and that until he's figured out how he could be in love with her, it doesn't feel right to marry Wonder Woman. Diana tries to tell him the truth, but realizes that her having kept the secret of D.P. for so long will only hurt him more...and he returns to Mans World.

Diana throws herself down onto the beach sand, her tears flowing even as she chides herself for acting like someone in a Rock Hudson-Doris Day film...and then the Sandman appears, trying to soothe her tears...and sprinkling some of his sleeping sand on her, as he carries her off to the Dream Dimension. As he shows her around, he tells her how happy they will be here...

...and then the Shadow Thing returns to attack one last time. Finally fed up, Wonder Woman attacks it full on, as Sandman warns that the Thing might have the power to kill her here. But she manages to lasso it, and commands it to explain why it torments her. The shadow-thing changes shape, becoming a dark silhouette of Wonder Woman herself...and confesses that it represents her fears, her self-loathing, "your Death wish"...but now that it stands revealed, it dissapates and the lasso drops to the ground.

The Sandman apologizes, saying that he knew all along the secret of the Shadow Thing. He hadn't told her in hopes she would seek comfort and protection in the Dream Dimension, to keep him from his loneliness...but he knows she loves Steve Trevor and counsels her to give her man time and wishes her well.

And here's Diana's (and Diana Prince's) happy ending:

All in all, this was a really terrific anniversary celebration and one I enjoyed re-reading as much as I enjoyed reading the first bunch of times when it came out.

While I've always been a huge fan of George Perez's WW reboot, there's a stilted business about the newly-arrived princess' careful speech which simply wasn't an issue in the early Eighties, when she'd been around for long enough that familiarity with Rock Hudson and Doris Day movies and comments like "bum a meal" didn't sound completely foreign coming out of her mouth. Actually, she took pretty quickly to Man's World when she arrived the first time back during WWII, as well. This Wonder Woman-as-immigrant thing is definitely a modern convention.

While this pre-Crisis Wonder Woman still had some antiquated ideas about men, at least she was comfortable enough in her adopted world to sound like she was a part of it...and not some strange visitor. I think this comfort in her own skin and her world is one of the things I like best about Gail Simone's take on the character.

Whew...thanks for joining me, if you've lasted all the way to the bottom of this recap. It's been fun to share with you!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keith Giffen is Everywhere

Plucked from the longboxes is All Star Comics #62, from October 1976. The title had been, at this point, recently revived to carry the continuing adventures of the aging Justice Society of Earth-2.

I'm a little confused on the provenance of this issue, as I'm pretty certain I didn't read it in real fact, it felt like the first time I was reading it last night. Over the years, I made a few trades with other collectors, freeing my collection of my unwanted Marvel titles and picking up some DC ones. I suppose that's how this issue came into my hands.

It was Gerry Conway who revived the JSA, and he helms the creative list here, credited for Plotting. Paul Levitz is down for "patter", Keith Giffen for "pacing" and Wally Wood for "pictures". So the creative team gets a point or two for alliteration...but ASC #62 is the issue that, for me, begs the question, just how old is Keith Giffen, anyway?

I was always more interested in characters than creators, as a young reader, and I suppose the first thing I think of his being involved with was the post-Crisis Legion I enjoyed so. His writing there and elsewhere felt young and fresh,and I suppose I assumed he was some new upstart. I had no idea he'd been in the business as far back as 1976!! (But no worries, Keith, I won't actually calculate an age here...folks can visit your Wikipedia entry and do the math for themselves!)

Anyway...the story is already underway here, and numerous threads to follow...but the team, newly reformed has the younger characters of the Star-Spangled Kid and Power Girl at the core of the team, formed of older members Hawkman, Flash, Green Lantern and Wildcat. Dr. Fate's been working with them too, but as this issue begins, he's in some sort of magically-induced coma.

So everyone's pretty pleased when Rex Tyler, AKA, Hourman dons his costume and shows up to offer his Miraclo power to the team. Of course, Rex is a little confused by all the changes time has brought to the team, especially as regards the new addition of something called a "power girl".

I love his snippy and respectable response to Hawkman's description of the new girl on the team.

Amusing to note that here, as seems to be so often the case in more recent years, the JSA Brownstone has been ruined...but we still get this great cut-away of the JSA sub-basement, still in perfect condition.

Unfortunately, Wildcat and Power Girl seem to be forever sniping at one another. Ted's a little miffed that Kara's able to make short work of their recent foes, and she doesn't leave him anyone much to punch.

Their somewhat good-natured in-fighting leaves Rex a little cold, since he remembers the glory days, when everyone seemed to get along, or at least set aside those differences to focus on the Axis threats of World War II.

Meanwhile...Sheira Hall is attacked by a man-monster who has escaped from a cube of amber which had been stored in Carter's private museum. The creature calls itself Zanadu (yes, with a Z...but you can still hear Olivia Newton-John in your head, can't you?) and while he kills an intruder in the library, Sheira he transports to some alternate dimension, leaving a shimmering silhouette of the two of them for Hawkman to discover and ponder.

Hawkman sounds the JSA alert, which interrupts the bickering of Wildcat and Power Girl...and also reaches the quiet offices of the Editor of the Daily Star, in Metropolis. Although retired, the latest edition of the paper has gone to press and the editor finds that he's free to respond to his former team-mates's call for help.

This is, of course, the Golden Age (original) Superman whose appearance at JSA headquarters pleases Wildcat, who's growing tired of the verbal sparring with Power Girl. Kal-L defends her and says he's heard she's been doing a great job...but Kara isn't interested in being patronized...and feels a little threatened by the appearance of her well-known cousin.

Part of Kara's trouble is that Kal can't stop saying things like this, which to her mind are a little exclusionary of her considerable talents and abilities.

Of course, it's this team in-fighting that distracts them from their battle with Zanadu, who seems to be able to overpower Kryptonians easily...and perhaps has taken possession of Wildcat with strange hypnotic music; Wildcat attacks Hawkman as this issue draws to a fast close.

The next issue box promises a battle between Kryptonians, among other things. I always wondered why Power Girl was characterized as such a grump when she was a member of Justice League Europe, especially since then she didn't remember that her home planet(s) had been destroyed. Now I realize she's always been a grumpy puss...and I understand that Giffen was just carrying on the tradition years later.

COMING SOON: Justice League Week!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Explosive First Issue

March 1978 brought this first issue of Firestorm the Nuclear Man to newstands everywhere. Here, Gerry Conway (listed as both writer and creator...but it's unclear, there's no penciller...did Conway draw as well? Anyone know?) introduces the first new DC superhero we had seen in some years.

Ronnie Raymond is a high school student (tho he and all his peers are drawn to look like adults...hey, it's the end of the Silver Age, after all) who's recently transferred to a new school. Ronnie's more of a jock than an egghead, though still a nice guy...and he's trying to win the attention of Doreen Day. She's already noticed him, though, and was interested enough to check the teacher's seating chart to learn Ronnie's name.

But school smarty Cliff Carmichael is jealous and sets out to make Ronnie look bad, goading him into fighting in the lunch room and trumping all his question-answering in the classroom. That night, Ronnie sees an interview with a protester at a new Hudson nuclear power plant, and decides that taking on the business of activism will show Doreen he's not "some dumb kid."

Of course the protesters are actually bomb-toting terrorists in disguise and Ronnie ends up overpowered and left for dead at the new power plant. He wakes up to find himself near the plant's atomic pile, where he sees the unconscious Professor Martin Stein, the plant's creator, and a very large bomb.

Ronnie is trying to get the bomb out of the plant when it goes off...

...and his life is changed forever, when he and Stein are fused together into a new being, capable of reading and changing the atomic structure of any material. Stein appears in Ronnie's head like the "voice of reason", providing information and guidance, though having been unconscious at the time of the "fusing", Stein is not the dominant personality in their combined make-up.

This first issue shows us the accident and Firestorm's self-discovery of his newly-formed powers and abilities. The new hero fashions a costume for himself with those new powers and is able to stop the terrorists from blowing up another plant. Unbeknowst to him, there's another who was at the site of the blast...who we'll learn more of in future issues.

As this issue ends, Ronnie finds that he can seperate himself and Professor Stein, and he puts the confused Stein into a taxi cab, not yet explaining their new-found relationship.

I always liked Firestorm, possibly because he quickly was welcomed into the Justice League of America, the first new hero to be inducted after I began reading (okay, Zatanna technically became a member after I learned of the League, but in the issues immediately proceeding my regular purchase of the title. more about that another day).

I was particularly sorry when Firestorm was accidentally run through with the Shining Knight's sword during Identity Crisis. I suppose it was the magic nature of the blade which kept Firestorm from transforming it into rubber or gas and saving himself. As a result, Firestorm's containment shell was breached...and he sacrificed himself to prevent his fellow heroes from dying in the resulting atomic blast.

Later, a new Firestorm came on the scene, whom I'm not as familiar with. I'm sure the character is great (an opinion bolstered by how many fans of Ronnie Raymond continue to protest him loud and long on the internet!), but I thought it was a pretty cheap shot on Meltzer's seemed like just one more death in a series that featured a little too much of it and added a whole new level (mindwipes, rapes, secrets and lies) to the shiny JLA age in which Firestorm debuted.

We miss you, Ronnie, but still love those old adventures...and look forward to seeing how you fit into Rip Hunter's plan to repair a damaged timeline.

All the News

What's that, you say? You're a little tired from "losing" an hour of time this weekend, and as you wait for the end of the afternoon in the office, you need something comics-related to read online? You'll find a thing or two at The New York Times today.

First up is the article, Batman's Burden, in which director Christopher Nolan discusses the challenge of keeping the Dark Knight fresh in the movies and also of honoring the memory of Heath Ledger's last performance, as the Joker, in this summer's forthcoming blockbuster.

When you're finished with that, you might want to surf over to the New York Times bookpage for a review of the new book The Ten Cent Plague, which chronicles the early comic companies implosion through the Wertham and MacCarthy scares of the 50s.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Friendly Reminder

Don't make your Sunday any stranger than normal... sure to set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed tonight!

But just for additional perspective, this Wall Street Journal article makes Daylight Savings Time sound like it really is some sort of criminal plot by Chronos or the Clock King.

Sleep fast, Spring is coming!

Take The A Train

On this rainy day, we'll take a quick look at Green Arrow #104, from January 1996. Conner Hawke has picked up the Green Arrow mantle of his then-deceased dad, Oliver Queen and is on a cross-country journey with Eddie Fyers, in search of Connor's missing mother.

While in New York, Conner meets Kyle Raynor, recently chosen as the successor to Hal Jordan as the primary Green Lantern of Earth. Here's how well that goes:

Despite their differences of opinion (Kyle conjurs up a green motorcycle to help them chase the bad guys of the story, but Connor says he doesn't like it, so Kyle makes a green horse for Connor, and rides the ring-generated motorcycle himself.), they eventually work together and before the end of the story, they are indeed riding the roof of a subway in pursuit of the bad guys. A rare case of the cover artist participating in Truth in Advertising.

I also found there to be more than a fair bit of gun violence in this story, not just from the villians, as we expect, but also from one of the so-called heroes, Eddie Fyres...although really we can't categorize him as anything more than a semi-hero.

Still, since writer Chuck Dixon is on record as saying comics shouldn't be teaching kids about homosexuality, it's interesting how willing he seems to teach them about guns as a tool for problem-solving.

COMING SOON: Justice League Week!!

Friday, March 7, 2008

My Martian Heart Will Go On

This morning, let's take a look at Showcase '95, issue #9 from October. Showcase was a fun, monthly anthology title that featured stories of all sorts of folks from the DC Universe. As you can see, this issue spotlights Lois Lane, Lobo and J'onn J'onzz.

What a cover (credited to Phil G. and Chip W.): looking around our modern media, I just don't think we have anyone in the real world who compares to Superman's spunky, tenacious journalist then-girlfriend. She's also smart enough to know you don't shove a microphone in Lobo's face without having the Martian Manhunter, or some other powerhouse, handy as back-up.

Really, though, they ought to have worked Jimmy Olsen into the cover (maybe getting his camera crushed by the "main man"), since he was really a co-star in Lois' interior tale.

"The Flock" (by Cindy Goff, with art by Sal Velluto and Dick Giordano)is sort of standard fare but still a good read, in which Lois and Jimmy are working a missing persons story and uncover a cult in the sewers of Metropolis, which they manage to break up without any assistance from their Kryptonian friend.

The second tale of the book features Lobo. I have to say, I've tried on any number of occasions through the years, and never really warmed to this character and his one-note lifestyle of murder and least, until he was re-purposed for 52.

This story "Four Funerals and a Wedding" is, wisely, uncredited. A three-eyed alien bride waits for her groom at the altar, and we learned with some horror that her husband-to-be's best man is none other than Lobo(This is NEVER a good choice, btw, as we shall see.).

Anyway, he and the groom show up late, and drunk...and the wedding quickly decays into a deathfest, as it's revealed that the bride is Maggie O'Knuckles, known as The Widowmaker, and Lobo is here in his capacity as intergalactic bounty hunter. As the title suggests, the bride and the rest of her three-eyed family are dead in short order.

Even my work experience as a jaded catering director didn't help me love this stupid, stupid tale of drunken groomsmen and nuptial blood-letting. Ugh.

Fortunately, the Martian Manhunter tale that follows is almost as efficient as Zatanna might be at wind-wiping my memory of the story and the time I wasted reading it.

In "Deep Down", writer Peter Tomasi and artist Eduardo Barreto tell a tale of the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic, several years before the frenzy of the James Cameron film or the Broadway musical.

J'onn finds a pair of bathyscaphes on the ocean floor at the site of the famous wreck, one piloted by a team of licensed salvagers. The other vehicle holds two young men, who've come from another nearby ship. When he's brought them to the surface, they won't tell J'onn why they're down there. He takes them to that other boat and he meets their great-uncle, Harold Jean Thomas, a survivor of the Titanic.

Thomas is surrounded by video monitors which show different angles on the decaying wreck down below. He's very old and breathing through an oxygen mask and he tells J'onn the heart-rending tale of how he and his wife Georgia were separated on the deck of the sinking ship that fateful night.

Mindful of the deaths of his wife and daughter, the Martian Manhunter feels a kinship with the old man, and offers to enter his mind to help bring him peace. As he does so, he's transported back in time to the night of April 15, 1912, where J'onn is intangible (naturally, as these are only memories) and he watches in horror as the historic drama unfolds.

Leaving the memories, J'onn learns that Harold and his wife had a plan to meet in their stateroom if they'd become separated. Diving under the waters, he finds the body of the old man's wife...the old man watching on the monitor screens. From the ocean floor, J'onn hears the old man turn off his oxygen tank and he dies by the time the martian is able to return to the surface.

The salvagers have an injunction to prevent J'onn or anyone from placing anything on the Titanic not related to its sinking, but J'onn pushes them aside, and gently lifts the old man, carrying him down to his long-submerged stateroom, where he is reunited with his wife.

"So late that day, I took an old man home...left him with his wife...left them there alone. Eighty-three years is a long wait to be with the one you love."

It's very interesting that this story was released two years before the feature film, which included lots of similar images and themes: the salvage teams, the video monitors of the ocean floor, the reunion of lost loves beneath the cold waves of the North Atlantic. It's certainly possible that Tomasi wrote this independently of Cameron's film...there's no copyright on the concepts, after all.

Let's chalk it up to an interesting coincidence, and just enjoy the sweet, sad story.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Silver Age Remainders

Hawkman Special #1, from 1986.

As the Crisis on Infinite Earths drews to a close, this was released to finish telling a tale from before the Anti-Monitor gave the Multiverse the finger. In a surprise turn toward the good (you could tell things were going to hell), the Gentleman Ghost joins with Shayera (Hawkwoman) to guide Katar Hol on a sort of Thanagarian spirit quest, in which he helps to bring peace to a group of Thanagarians Hawkman had to kill to prevent an invasion of Earth One.

Interestingly, a Hawkman monthly title debuted shortly after this, bringing us a year or two of stories of the pre-Crisis team of Hawkman and Hawkwoman, before the seriously-rebooting Hawkworld mini-series debuted.


I'm very excited to hear that the next weekly comic from DC will feature the heroic trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It's always so great to see these three working together...or trying to, anyway.

I lifted this image from Newsarama a couple of weeks back, but waited to post it here. I'm a little unsure of what I think of Mark Bagley's art: Superman seems to have the J. Jonah Jameson hair horns and Diana's got that uncomfortable Wonder Thong we've discussed at length.

I'm not even sure what's going on with Batman. Some say he looks constipated...but I suppose he might just be infuriated that the other two are insisting they pose for an artist's rendition.

Delighted as I may be that these three will be the focus of a weekly, I will still be going the "budget route", which is to say, I'll spend a year chasing reviews and scans around the internet and anticipating being able to finally read the whole story when it's released in trades.

For fun, check out this bit of advice to the creative team from Keith Giffen, who's been involved in both 52 and Countdown.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

All Night Long

Amongst the assorted titles in those unsorted boxes, I found Batman #526, from January 1996. I had originally thought just to present the cover of this issue (with great art by Kelley Jones and John Beatty) as a blog post before compiling it with the rest of its brethren (all the Batman related titles in the collection have been sorted from the other heroes, but not yet arranged into proper title and order), but after reading the issue, I realized it was important enough to talk about a little.

In this story, entitled "Constant Whitewater" (writer, Doug Moenche, with pencils by J.H. Williams III and inks by Mick Gray)we find the Dark Knight Detective on a "typical" night in Gotham City.

Bruce is driving himself hard tonight and his narration sets the scene:

"the engine's running rough. Like me at this point. Already a full night--two break-ins, three muggers, a crack house rip-off...and now an armed robber fleeing the scene with less than two hundred dollars and a gas station attendant's blood on his hands. More than three hours of nonstop action. But I can't slow down now."

Batman has only just subdued the thief in question by crashing their cars when he hears a report of another robbery on the police radio band and he manages to cut short a second high-speed chase, without benefit of the Batmobile.

Finally, he takes a break in the Cave to work on the car's motor and take a short break. Alfred is there, naturally, and concerned that his employer and friend acted this way prior to the back-breaking confrontation with Bane. Alfred broaches the subject of a corporate term, "constant whitewater", which he says he heard discussed in the news. Bruce thinks it's a reference to banking scandals and politics, but Alfred explains "perhaps if you were to spend more time with the business affairs of Wayne Enterprises you would recognize" it.

Alfred explains the term applies the risk of white-water rafting to the corporate scene, where downsizing means fewer people to do more work and creates a cycle of perpetual crisis management. All this as a means of gently suggesting that Batman ought to be going out with Robin as a partner more often.

Of course, this brings up a sort of flashback, as Bruce remembers what Joker did to Jason Todd, the second Robin (for those who don't remember or have become confused in recent years...he did die...even if he didn't stay that way...)and he tells Alfred that having Robin along can sometimes be a distraction, another factor to juggle in a confrontation.

With two hours remaining before dawn, Batman heads back out "to test the engine" and we see that Alfred was actually speaking for Tim Drake, the current Robin, who was hiding in the shadows of the cave, listening.

Back on the mean streets, Batman finds himself a gang of masked thugs willing to kill him to get into the Black Mask gang and it appears that he is badly out-numbered and about to be overwhelmed...when from the shadows appears the Teen Wonder, who's presence changes the odds enough to turn the tide against the maskers.

When they are finished fighting, Robin says "Heard you had a rough night."
Batman: "Its almost dawn. Just in time."
Robin: "Me, or the dawn?"
Batman: "Both."

As they get back into the car, Batman reveals that he knew Robin was in the shadows, and felt that his conversation with Alfred was a way for Robin to know how Batman was feeling without a direct confrontation. Tim says he doesn't mind them having solo careers in addition to working together, and wisely thinks that such an arrangement may help him to avoid the troubles that Dick Grayson dealt with when he was growing up.

This is a great, done-in-one issue that really highlights Batman at his most driven, but also shows off the capable partner at his side.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Say The Word...

...Feel The Power.

The Power of Shazam #1, March 1995.

(*EDIT, 3/5)

Ten years after the residents of Earth 5 got "folded in" to the continuity of a singular earth, Captain Marvel and the rest of his family finally get a reboot. And it's quite fun.

One of the challenges of blogging about this collection is the collection's ability to suck me in (just as it did when I was a kid who was supposed to be cleaning his room!). In one of the recently discovered boxes, I discovered the first four issues of this series all together...and I couldn't help by dive into them right off, and I've been enjoying the ride.

The series is great, with all the classic elements of the earlier Captain Marvel series. First off, Jerry Ordway is writing, but also doing cover art, which means we have a Captain who looks as he should...which is to say, very square-jawed and heroic, and with more than a passing resemblance to the original model for the character, actor Fred MacMurray. Interior artists Peter Krause and Mike Manley do nice work on continuing that look, as well as establishing the unique look and feeling of the Cap's hometown, Fawcett City.

In these first four issues, Billy Batson is secretly living on his own and as the Captain, is moonlighting as a dockworker. This wreaks havoc-a-plenty with his school life and he finds that he's knocking heads with his teacher, Miss Wormwood.

Now, that little bit I found (and still find) distracting: Miss Wormwood is Calvin's third grade teacher in the Calvin and Hobbes strip by Bill Watterson...and having her here, in that purple polka-dotted dress, feels a little cheap. You'd think that Ordway could've come up with an original name.

I wonder how Watterson felt about this. With DC having only come out of a major lawsuit that tied up the use of Captain Marvel for so long, you'd think they'd have been a little more careful. But anyway, let's call it homage and move along.

By the third issue, Billy has his radio announcer job at WHIZ Radio again, and his employer has arranged a tutor for that should draw to a close the little battles with Miss Wormwood, anyway. As announcer, he hosts a county-wide spelling bee and meets both his long-lost sister, Mary (who's suffering from some memory issues and doesn't recognize her brother...though she suddenly recalls that her father looked like Captain Marvel) and Freddie Freeman.

In the fourth issue, Mary's old Tawky Tawny doll comes to life and helps Billy, convincing Mary to "say the word" and become Mary Marvel...which she does, just in time to rescue Billy from a gang of thugs who were trying to kidnap her.

I look forward to finding whatever else of this series remains in my collection and sitting down some rainy morning or evening to spend a little more time in Fawcett City.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Today I got to spend some time finishing off the painting project in my bedroom. Sure, the trim still remains for a nice fresh coat of white paint, but there'll be time for that another day.

But now I have finished The Stars, which means that I'm finally able to start putting up shelves to display things properly...meaning one teenzy-tiny step toward getting Greg's life less cluttered. Weee....

Now...if I wanted to round out my Justice League figures, I guess it would feel more complete with Flash, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Hawkman. Bonuses for Martian Manhunter, Red Tornado and Aquaman.

While we're at it, how could it be the League without some Zatanna...or the Atom...or Firestorm...or Hawkwoman?

And why stop with the League. I do like the look of the Batwoman and Diana Prince figures I've seen recently...


The More Things Change...

February 1982.

From the cover of Wonder Woman 288 (volume 1), a "sensational new" Wonder Woman busts loose. That's right kids, re-vamps of Wonder Woman are hardly a new thing...and changes were a-foot here. Really passive agressive changes.

This wasn't a full reboot of the character, but did welcome a dynamic new creative team, in the form of wordsmith Roy Thomas and artists Gene Colon and Romeo Tanghal. I think this might also have been the first issue of Wonder Woman I received via postal subscription.

I remember that Colon was coming from a great run on Batman, where I had loved his dark and shadowy style. But the 16 year old me railed that it was a style that would never work for Diana's bright and colorful world. I was, I'm glad to say, very wrong.

These guys had a great run on the series, that included a fun crossover story that had Wonder Woman gathering the superheroines of alternate earths to help battle the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse. If DC is looking for a classic run of late Silver Age Wonder Woman to put out in color trade they should give these guys a look.

Storywise, we had recently come from something like a reboot. With her Steve Trevor twice gunned down before her eyes, this Wonder Woman had abandoned Man's World to return to Paradise Island. Queen Hippolyte had worked some kind of Greek hokey-pokey and called out the mists of Nepenthe, or something equally ridiculous, to encircle the world and make everyone(including Diana, natch...)to forget that there had ever been a Trevor.

And so it was thus.

For a night, anyway, and then, in some unpredictably predictable cosmic twist of irony in that time of Infinite Earths, a rift between some un-named Earth and Earth-One opened, and an all-new Steve Trevor, Air Force Pilot crashed on the shores of Paradise Island. The Hippolyte of the time was always aghast about men, and never moreso when this latest Trevor returned to mock her tampering with the Fates. (I still can't help but laugh when I think about's just absurdity piled high with ridiculous-ness...and it's pure "comic book-y-ness" radically cliche that it almost, if I don't laugh, there's that chance I'll clutch my head and yell "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!", as I may have done at the time.)

BUT ANYWAY...All That happened shortly before this issue, which marks the first appearance in her own title of the now-standard double-W insignia.

DC had caught on to the fact that they could trademark Superman's S and Batman's bat-on-yellow-oval but they had no similar logo for their grand dame. The crass commercialism of being able to market her action figures and lunchboxes more easily was cleverly concealed in a story point in which the Wonder Woman Foundation asks Diana to wear it as part of her uniform to help call attention to their cause of bringing equal rights to women.

The foundation, though, was real, the brainchild of DC publisher Jenette Kahn, who celebrated the fortieth anniversary of Diana's arrival in Man's World by creating the WWF, as a means to make grants of money to women over forty, "which honored their inner growth and depth of character."

Yah, a little hesitant to support women's equality there, aren't you, Princess? Though, to be fair, she was distracted with worrying for Her Man.

So, to conclude digression, this issue flashes back to the presentation of the bodice, which had actually occurred in a special preview in DC Comics Presents #41, where the snooty and bleach blonde Queen Hippolyte of the time sniffily approved, too.

And then there's plenty else going on here.

Diana has brought Steve to the hospital, as he is unconcious after a headwound received in the previous issues battle with spies. Now he's in some kind of coma, that baffles the doctor, who tells Wonder Woman "it's almost as if he--I don't know how to put this is medical terminology--as if his body and his soul are struggling to get out of this world...into another one." (Hmmmmm...and ever the Multiverse tries to repair itself...)

Diana gets a little alone time with Steve and is all weepy for her man (who at this point, she's known for like three issues...thanks to her memory loss)and she nearly gets busted saying the L word when he suddenly stirs.

Later on, Diana encounters the Silver Swan for the first time, thinking she's some brash new super-heroine, while Etta Candy signs up an ugly girl to be roommates with she and Diana Prince.

After Etta welcomes her with cake, we learn in secret flashbacks that Helen, the new roommate, was granted great powers by Mars, the God of War so she could exact revenge on all those who ignored her talent because of her looks...and is, of course, the Silver Swan. As a villainous cherry on top, a trio is completed with a last panel reveal of dirty little Doctor Psycho.

Plus, there's some intrigue with a missing briefcase full of secrets, that suddenly returns. Our Diana plays a scene that takes her from mildly fuming that it took so long for a coma-recovering Steve to remember to ask Wonder Woman about Diana Prince's well-being, to having to fend off General Darnell's romantic advances on Diana Prince.

And Etta Candy eats some chocolate. Woo woo.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Action Comics 717, January 1996:

Jeez, who knew Superman had a driver's license photo??

Don't worry, Kal, nobody ever looks good on their Wanted poster. Nobody.

Oh. Well, nobody except Diana.