Friday, March 31, 2006

Nose-Rubbing Addendum

Commenting on the atrocities I mentioned earlier this week, Dave Lartigue coined what is easily the most versatile generic exclamation in the history of comics. No, not "Oh my stars and garters," not "Great Caesar's Ghost," it's far better:

He’s Kirby-teched Thor’s penis!

By Odin's Beard, that's beautiful. Check it out.

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DC Comics You Couldn't Pay Me to Write: Aquaman

Four out of Five Dentists recommend TridentI love Aquaman. I really do. I don't know much about his character, except that for some reason he's faster than the Flash in the Justice League Task Force video game.

That's not entirely true. I know a bunch about Aquaman as far as powers go. I thought his portrayal in JLA: Year One was great, and I liked him in most of the regular JLA series, when he was there. I know his powers; I like the Peter David hippie hair, beard-and-hook look a little better than the short-cropped, clean-shaven orange-and-green garb. I liked the hook hand, but I don't miss it (kind of think he ought to grow the hair and beard again, it made him look more classically regal).

What I don't know about Aquaman is mostly his origin, and that's mostly because it changes so often. And because I've never regularly read an Aquaman series before (except Rick Veitch's, which was really, really boring). I don't know a whole lot about his personality, because it changes so often. I have ideas for what the character ought to be like, but I have absolutely no ideas for how to write him. I don't know what I could do to make him interesting to people. Sub Diego seemed like a better idea than "Sword," but I wasn't really drawn in by either (though I will be buying the next issue). I just don't know what I could do with Aquaman that would be new and exciting, I don't know how I'd pique my interest in the character, let alone anyone else's.

So, no offense to Mr. Curry, but you couldn't pay me to write him.

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Superman's Fault? You bet!

We've already seen that Infinite Crisis is Superman's Fault (including Rann-Thanagar War and Return of Donna Troy). For that matter, so was Zero Hour, and consequently, Day of Vengeance. It's so ingrained into his character that even his clone is prone to berserker rages.

Now it seems that he's to blame for Civil War as well. Is nothing sacred? Torturing his own world, torturing poor Jimmy, Lois, and Batman isn't enough, so he has to torture the Marvel universe too? Is he just so egotistical that he can't let a crossover pass by unless he's to blame for it? Next we'll find out that he was behind Atlantis Attacks or Maximum Carnage or something, right?

God, Superman is a dick.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Happy Bloggiversary, Dave's Long Box!

What can I say about Dave's Long Box? Sure, he doesn't link to me (and that's something I think about each night as I weep myself into the dreamlands of slumberville), but his blog is fantastic. Should I link to Boob War Week? Or maybe the F*@% YEAH files? Should I direct you toward the first use of the THE PAIN! award (even if I liked that issue?)?

No, there's no need for that. All I need to tell you is that Dave's Long Box is Airwolf. In fact, it's one of the most Airwolf blogs around. Perhaps the most. I can always count on Dave for something hilarious, something thoughtful, or more likely, something both. I call that something hiloughtful. Thoularious. Something like that.

Simply put, every visit to Dave's Long Box is a F*@% YEAH moment. Here's to another year, Dave.

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"Should...should I rub his nose in it?" Take 2

Marvel plans "Onslaught Reborn," a 10th-Anniversary return to the "Heroes Reborn" Universe featuring Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld.

Because this was such a great idea the first time aroundOh look, it's Maestro!

No. No.

To be fair, Rob did draw a few feet in this picture.It's nice to see that his sense of proportion hasn't improved in ten years.

No! Bad Marvel! Bad! Look what you did!

This is why we can't have nice things.


Yes, another bowels-shattering dead-horse-flogging in the Mighty Marvel Manner! Or to put it another way:

Coming soon from the House of Ideas that were Bad to begin with and are now Even Worse!

'Nuff said.

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Superhero Limericks: Day 1

Scipio has Haikuesday, where he searches for the Eastern poetry in word bubbles and caption boxes. We here at The Fortress of Soliloquy have decided to rip off perform an homage to Scipio with make a similar feature: Superhero Limericks.

I've been doing limericks a little on my other blog, and figured I might as well try my hand at them here. I'll warn you, though, these might be a little more risqué than the typical family-friendly content here at the Fortress. Head below the fold for the today's two, the first set of what should become a weeklyish feature.

There once was a fella named Kent.
Folks called him a mild-mannered gent.
But when trouble arose
He took off his clothes,
And, nude, to the jailhouse was sent.

That one's pretty tame, I admit. It's mainly to balance out this one:
Tora was one in a million.
She's Icelandic, and not a Sicilian.
While @#*!ing with Bea
She said "Look at me!
I finally got a Brazilian!"

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Edit: I neglected to mention, feel free to share your own takes in the comments section.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Should...should I rub his nose in it?"

Backpacks are in, just ask the new Blue Beetle!

No. No.

Jesus, I thought we left Jim Balent in 1997

No! Bad DC! Bad! Look what you did!


See, this is why we can't have nice things.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Happy Bloggiversary, Absorbascon!

The Absorbascon is celebrating its one-year anniversary today. It may not come across much here, but I admire Scipio and the Absorbascon beyond words. When Scipio makes his occasional appearances in the comments section here, it's like I've been visited by some great blog god. One of the blogtheon has descended from Mount Bloglympus to grace my unworthy site with their presence.

See, I'm an English major, and I have a near-obsessive fascination with literary heroes. Thus, when I first encountered Scipio's Dynastic Centerpiece model, I had a literarigasm. I wished I had come up with it. I spent the next several weeks trying to come up with something half as perceptive and meaningful and intelligent, and naturally failed miserably. So I must live in awe of Scipio, one of the finest blog-minds out there. I know I can count on the Absorbascon to make me either think, laugh, or marvel at Hal Jordan's cranial fortitude. Keep up the fantastic work, Scipio!

Wow, these Bloggiversary posts are easy and fun to write. Hm...April 11th, July 20th, September 9th, and December 13th look like good dates, at least for a start.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Ideal Ambush Bug

Perfect in every wayMy ideal Ambush Bug already is.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Adam Strange: Man of Two Edens

Warning: Contains no actual Adam StrangeI wish I'd been warned about Adam Strange: Man of Two Worlds.

Admittedly, I didn't look at any reviews or anything. It's a graphic novel about Adam Strange! How could it possibly be bad?

I thank my lucky stars (and garters!) that I didn't pay nearly the $20 cover price, and that it's really pretty, because the story starts off interesting and plunges into awful.

The rundown: Adam Strange, shortly after Swamp Thing's trip to Rann and his wife Alanna's successful conception, is finally getting a chance to stay with his wife (and eventually, child) permanently, because Sardath's Mega-Zeta-Beam will not wear off like regular Zeta-Radiation. So in his last days on Earth, Adam clears up the last of his business with the planet. He visits his sister and his dying father, reluctantly reveals the whole truth about his travels, and is dismissed as insane. He ends up getting drunk and having a heart-to-heart with his father's doctor, Eve Fox. Their night ends with light infidelity (fondling mostly, and a kiss the next day) and the revelation of Adam's father's death.
Adam leaves on the Mega-Zeta-Beam the next day. It causes him extreme, unexpected pain, and an inexplicable hallucination of Sardath killing his child because it was deformed, and raping Alanna. He arrives on Rann, out of this hallucination, and enraged, and ends up seriously injuring Sardath (putting his eye out), and being attacked by the police. Adam runs as he becomes lucid again, but he is now a fugitive.
Meanwhile, Sardath is comatose, and the power vacuum allows political tensions and the threat of invasion to come to a head. Adam Strange is needed more than ever.
Adam runs through the barren wastes of Rann, remarking how sad it was that Swamp Thing’s attempt to regenerate life on the world didn’t work. This is fairly odd, given that it quite clearly had worked by the end of Alec’s visit to Rann. No matter, though, as Adam comes upon a verdant valley filled with plants that bear Swamp Thing’s face. For some reason.
There’s a commune in this valley, exiled from Ranagar for various reasons, who have assimilated Swamp Thing into their religion as some sort of reborn god. Also, unlike everyone else on Rann, these folks appear to be sexually potent, and one of their number is soon to give birth. Among these villagers is Bantteir, Alanna’s long-estranged mother. Who has Wolverine’s hair.
Meanwhile on Earth, Eve Fox searches through Adam’s house and notes, discovering his Zeta beam schedule, which has a last entry in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She decides to go after him, making her the most stalkeriffic one-night-stand of all time. Naturally, she accidentally intercepts a second Mega-Zeta-Beam, and winds up on Rann in the middle of an invasion. Alanna starts going into premature labor, due to the various stresses; Dr. Fox tends to her, and Adam arrives in a bright red trenchcoat, desperately trying to explain himself.
Oh, and Sardath wakes up, with a cybernetic eye and a heavy dose of crazy.
Long story short: Alanna dies in childbirth, but her daughter Aleea is all right. To save Ranagar from the invaders, nutjob Sardath creates a device that surrounds the city in an egg-shaped forcefield, and the entire city leaves the planet. Adam grieves for his lost wife, but Eve Fox convinces him to move on and care for his daughter. Adam. And. Eve.

So, Bruning takes everything that made Adam Strange interesting and removes it, so he can make a heavy-handed Genesis allegory. Who thought that this was a good idea?

The Analysis: Adam Strange comes from Earth, a planet teeming with life. He is tempted by a woman named Eve, and he tastes of the "forbidden fruit" of a short extramarital affair. He voluntarily banishes himself from this planet of life for a world of death and decay, Rann. The Eden parallels are clear. Adam has left a paradise to live in a less certain world, filled with unknown dangers and the possibility of death.
But then, he discovers that Rann itself is becoming a paradise. Swamp Thing's actions have brought life to the planet once more. Eve arrives, unwillingly banished from Earth, in part because she chased after Adam to again find that "forbidden fruit." This leads to Ranagar, still lifeless and bleak, to exile itself from the newly-resurrected Rann. Adam and Eve must repopulate the lifeless Ranagar-egg.

I thought I had more analysis, but that really ends up being the depth of the story. Adam Strange gives up two paradises, one voluntarily, one involuntarily, so that Bruning can turn him into a lame "first man" allegory. He essentially makes Adam into a completely different character by removing every single defining characteristic of his story. Zeta transport? Gone. Otherworldly girlfriend/wife? Gone. Planet full of monsters and danger? Gone. Old-school spacesuit, jetpack and blaster? Gone. What's left?

I'll get into what Adam Strange ought to be like in the next "Comics I'd Write for Free."

The best part of Adam Strange: Man of Two Worlds is that it made me appreciate Mark Waid's two-part JLA issue that featured Adam Strange. Sure, those issues have awful art, and they're among the worst of the Morrison era (though not the worst), but I never realized what their purpose was. I didn't see what sense there was in kidnapping Alanna and making Adam play crazy. Now, I see that Waid was just undoing all the damage that Bruning had done. It was continuity-necessitated story, and those rarely turn out well. Waid did pretty well, given how much he had to fix. I now appreciate that story much more than I had previously. So, thanks for that much, Richard Bruning.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Marvel Comics I'd Write for Free: Stingray

Dr. Walter Newell is an oceanographer. He is also a superhero. Like Quasar, he has one of the best costumes in Marvel Comics.

No oceanographer has better fashion sense

He's Stingray, and he's the star of another comic I'd write for free.

I'll admit, this passion is based entirely around his costume. Everything I know about Dr. Newell is from the Marvel Handbook and various websites. Naturally, I'd want to do a good deal of research to discover his personality before I dove into this comic (get it?), but that's all details, right?

A new resort is opening a few miles off the coast of California, not far from San Francisco. The artificial island, using technology from the Avengers' Hydrobase, will provide affordable housing, beautiful beaches, and a friendly community to its inhabitants. While it appears to be just a small island resort, the land conceals a floating underwater city, just beneath the surface of the water, with ample room for a variety of shopping and housing needs. Pacificana is the newest project from SimeCorp and its philanthropic president Cole Lawrence.

Among the amenities available to the islanders is the University of Pacificana, a small, selective school specializing in aquatic studies (marine biology, oceanography, underwater basketweaving, etc.). Dr. Walter Newell takes a high-paying tenured position as head of the oceanographic department, and moves to Pacifica in the first wave of residents, along with his wife and newborn son. The location and facilities offer him previously undreamt-of chances for research and teaching, and the job security and stability will certainly be a boon to his growing family. But this veritable paradise isn't exactly a utopia, and it quickly becomes apparent that Dr. Newell will be fighting for more than just the attention of sleepy freshmen. Corporate espionage and sabotage threaten the community, but do they originate from outside, or from within the highest echelons of SimeCorp? Who is the Naiad Action League, and why are these sea spirits demanding alimony from some men in Pacificana? Why are townspeople are becoming enthralled by whales' songs, and why have so many children started growing wings on their ankles? Will rampant pollution destroy the town? Are those...pirate ghosts?
Walter Newell juggles a family life, research, teaching, and superheroics as he combats various oddities and disasters as Stingray, official protector of the floating city!

Doesn't that sound like fun? And I'd do it for free!

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Comic Sale Saturday

My LCS has quarterly sales, where everything inside (comics, toys, graphic novels) is 50% off, and everything outside is $0.50. I tend to spend lots of money at these sales, at least in part because I scope out exactly what I'm going to buy at half-price for weeks in advance. So, here's Saturday's 50% haul:

Kid Eternity TP
Spider-Man Visionaries: John Romita Sr.
Green Lantern/Green Arrow Vol. 1 TP
Flash: Time Flies
The full Justice Society of America 8-issue Maxi-Series from '91
Issues 1-7 of the Strazewski/Parobeck JSA series

And I picked up a bunch of stuff from the 50-cent boxes. Now, thanks to raiding those boxes for weeks, I have a full run of the Strazewski/Parobeck JSA, and I'm missing two issues of GL: Mosaic and four issues of Power Company.

I've not read most of what I bought. In fact, I've not read most of what I bought for months. I still have the second Catwoman trade, the first Hellboy trade, the Spectacular Spider-Man: Disassembled (ugh) trade, Swamp Thing: Spontaneous Regeneration, The Superman Chronicles, Sandman Mystery Theater: The Tarantula, Lucifer: Children and Monsters, Amazing Spider-Man Masterworks Vol. 4, Fantastic Four Masterworks Vol. 1, and a tremendous pile of floppies sitting unread on my shelf or desk.

So much to do, so little time. Oh well, at least this'll get the St. Patrick's Day post off the top of the page.

In the next couple of days I should be able to finish my post about my second negative experience with Adam Strange (and how it mostly corrected my first negative experience with him), and depending on whether or not I can transfer the pictures, I may actually be able to post the most awesome thing ever.

In the meantime, in honor of poor Power Company and Parobeck's JSA, what's your favorite cancelled-before-its-time series?

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Faith and Begora!

The Legion of Irish Super-Heroes has assembled!
There's the X-Man Banshee...

...his daughter, X-Factor's Siryn...

...the lovely and lucky Shamrock...

...Jack O'Lantern I of the Global Guardians...

...and Jack O'Lantern III of the Ultramarines...

...there's Cassidy, for some reason...

...and their fearless leader, Gotham City Police's Chief O'Hara!

And they're here to wish you a happy St. Patrick's Day!


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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Content Schmontent

I saw an "Electric Theater" presentation last night. Most of it was hilarious, some of it was touching.

For instance, their darkened performance to the Decemberists' "I Was Meant for the Stage." I haven't been so touched by a song since the first time I heard Ben Folds's "The Luckiest."

I should have done more theater in the last four years. I've missed my chance, and consequently lost touch with most of my theatrical friends. I don't have many regrets at this point, but I now realize one more.

Next post will be less morose, I promise.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Fawkes Populi

V for Vendetta is one of the finest pieces of literature that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I'll have a lengthy post on the graphic novel in the near future. Until then, in lieu of actual content, I give you the Guy Fawkes rhyme in its entirety, as found on Wikipedia.

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'twas his intent
to blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below,
Poor old England to overthrow:
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, make the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
Hip hip hoorah!

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

My Ideal Superman

Ideal, except that ugly S-shieldMy ideal Superman wears a costume to fight crime and wears glasses to be himself.
My ideal Superman would just as soon rescue a cat from a tree as save the world from a supervillain.
My ideal Superman smiles.
My ideal Superman still inspires people to shout "Look! Up in the sky!"
My ideal Superman doesn't have an indestructible costume, because that would be redundant.
My ideal Superman is an Epic archetype and a Christ figure, but he would never even consider that.
My ideal Superman is smart and perceptive; after all, he is an investigative reporter.
My ideal Superman is the kind of person who would sit down next to a distraught stranger or brooding hero and ask what was wrong.
My ideal Superman doesn't think with his fists, and would prefer to end battles without violence. He knows that violence is all too often necessary, but he doesn't have to like it.
My ideal Superman would lay down his life to save even his worst enemy.
My ideal Superman sees positive qualities in everyone.
My ideal Superman believes that even the worst criminals can be rehabilitated.
My ideal Superman loves. He loves his life, he loves his wife, he loves his family and friends, he loves his colleagues, and above all, he loves humanity.
My ideal Superman is not brooding and depressed. He enjoys his life, and he has a wealth of friends and family. He considers the superhero community friends first and colleagues second.
My ideal Superman is admired by most of the heroes in the DCU, but he sees them as equals and would sit down for coffee or dinner with any one of them. He may even admire them more than they admire him. And he admires normal people most of all.
My ideal Superman believes that there can be such a thing as peace on Earth.
My ideal Superman has been to distant worlds and the depths of the ocean. He has seen the wall at the end of the cosmos and has walked on the world at the center of the universe. He has ridden the Mountain of Judgment through the Zoomways and he has battled beings more powerful than gods. He has been through Heaven and Hell, literally. Despite all this, he is more a normal farm boy from Kansas than a godlike alien superbeing.
My ideal Superman may sometimes come across as naïve, but he isn't. He has seen the worst that the universe has to offer, and still believes in the best.
My ideal Superman thinks of himself as a normal man who is trying to make the world a better place, not as a god or shepherd or king or protector.
My ideal Superman might wish that the world were black and white, but he knows that it isn't. He sees the gray areas and uses his ideals and conscience to navigate them.
My ideal Superman wears bright primary colors because he wants to inspire trust and hope.
My ideal Superman would still be a hero if he didn't have superpowers.
My ideal Superman doesn't play politics. He doesn't endorse particular controversial beliefs, he doesn't choose sides in human wars unless absolutely necessary.
My ideal Superman is constantly struggling with a desire to do all he can to help mankind, and a fear that he may be doing too much, playing god and interfering where he should not.
Pretty ideal right thereMy ideal Superman believes that the "American Way" is not the will of a nation, imposed on others. It is an apolitical, non-partisan ideal of equality, inalienable human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the belief that everyone can, and should have the opportunity to achieve greatness.
My ideal Superman is noble, compassionate, idealistic, humble, and brave.
My ideal Superman helps people, not because he has amazing powers, not because he feels it's his duty, but because it's the right thing to do.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

DC Comics I'd Write for Free: Wonder Woman

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then....I contradict myself;
I am large....I contain multitudes.
--Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Looking to the SkyI want to write Wonder Woman.
I've read a good deal lately on Wonder Woman's inconsistent characterization. Each writer offers a different take on her: compassionate mother figure, brutal warrior, peace-loving diplomat, idealistic superheroine, naïve outsider, wise mentor, ineffectual damsel in distress, kung-fu spy, etc. For some, this presents a problem. After all, you can count on some constants in depictions of Superman and Batman. Wonder Woman doesn't have nearly as many of those constant traits. People ostensibly don't know how to handle her.

So, like Geoff Johns, I'd recognize this difficulty and turn it into a plot point, perhaps even a strength.

See, Wonder Woman's powers are derived from a micro-pantheon of patron goddesses (and god): Demeter, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Hestia, and Hermes. Some tend to see this as the sort of relationship that Captain Marvel has with his benefactors. Cap has powers that mimic the abilities of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury; he's never really shown to interact with any of those figures, or derive his powers from those characters directly. Wonder Woman has a far more interactive relationship with her powers' sources. They directly impart their abilities to her, and they can remove them at any time.

Now, the thing with Pantheonic gods and goddesses, from Greco-Roman to Celtic to Babylonian, is that they are typically multi-aspected. One aspect of Athena was the Goddess of Wisdom, another was the Goddess of War, that sort of thing. This multifaceted nature of the gods and goddesses is compounded by the fact that, in the DCU, the Greek and Roman pantheons were amalgamated, so that Hermes and Mercury were united into the same figure.

This was the world-shattering result of War of the Gods. Say what you will about Infinite Crisis, but there's no way that the result of it can be any less important.

Anyway, while the Greek and Roman gods were mostly the same, this still adds another layer of aspects onto their characters. DC's fascinated with this idea of aspects; it was a huge part of Sandman, and it really ties into the legacies and superheroic pantheons that populate the universe.

So, Wonder Woman derives her powers from these patron goddesses, each of whom is somehow multi-aspected. She doesn't have the same sort of strict delineation of powers that someone like Captain Marvel does; at least on some level, many of her abilities are derived thematically. She takes her fighting prowess, wisdom, and strength in part from Athena, but she derives some of those abilities and her connection with nature from Artemis. What this leads to is a Wonder Woman who herself has several aspects, in some fashion.

I'm not saying that "warrior Wonder Woman" and "mother figure Wonder Woman" are somehow different characters; all these traits are part of her personality and lifestyle, to some degree or another. But like any religious person, her beliefs have shaped her personality. Part of that belief system includes praise and glorification through action. One worships Athena not just by praying to her, but by being valiant and worthy in battle. One worships Hestia by keeping strong ties to home and family, not just by kneeling at her altar. When Wonder Woman goes into battle, she is engaging in an act of worship to (at least) one of her patron goddesses. If she would do less than throw herself wholly into the battle, it would be a half-hearted, insincere prayer. Doing less than her best would be disrespect, even blasphemy. Traits that are naturally part of her character, like her warrior spirit or familial compassion, are exaggerated in certain circumstances because she is praying to one or another of her patron deities.

So, the pitch: the oracles are silent. The altars have dimmed. The gods have left this realm, and Princess Diana is left feeling emotionally and spiritually lost. She continues her quest for justice and peace, but the rituals and prayers seem hollow, now that she knows there is no one listening. She searches her soul, searches herself, but she is only left with questions and uncertainty. Once she took solace in knowing that everything was ultimately left to the Fates. Now, she wonders if her patron deities imbued within her not just their abilities, but aspects of their personalities.

Diana is not the only one with these questions: other pantheons have seen the power vacuum left by the abdication of the Greco-Roman deities, and seek to exploit it. Wonder Woman's existence and prominence brought a great deal of attention, and consequently power, to her patron pantheon, while other deities struggle to maintain their existence and even a modicum of their godlike abilities. Some believe that they may be able to influence Wonder Woman as her matronly patrons did, and thus draw power from the attention and belief granted to Diana.

Meanwhile, other down-on-their-luck gods and goddesses have banded together to create their own champion to inspire the world and draw faith and power. Unfortunately, what they inspire is of little concern to these capricious gods.

So Wonder Woman finds herself caught between manipulative deities on one side, trying to change who she is, a dark holy warrior on the other side, and her own personal crisis in the middle. Throw in some added complications from Heracles and the Marvel family, and I think I'd have a pretty full, interesting run.

And I'd do it for free.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Gail Simone's Action: Not so bad

I've been gawking confusedly at all the folks 'round these here Internets who claim that the Simone/Byrne "Action Comics" run is the best Superman story in years and years. I've found it generally pretty mediocre and bland overall. I really liked the first issue with Dr. Psycho, but the lameness of the Dr. Polaris and the confusion of the Lord Satanus stories caused me mostly to write the run off as a miss.

But, I just read the Queen of Fables story, and I really quite enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure it's even better than the JLA story that introduced the villainess. It was well-crafted and entertaining, it had good dialogue and some interesting twists on Superman and fairy tales, and it delved nicely into Krypton's lore, which is always entertaining.

The only bad part? Byrne's artwork. I might post some scans soon, but poor Josef looks in parts like Alfred E. Neuman was melting. His head is generally amorphous, and far too small for his face, and I really hate seeing Simone's good scripts dragged down by bad art.

John Byrne has one of the largest egos in comicdom; it's a shame he can't channel it into reclaiming the talent that once justified it.

Edit: Jon corrected my claim that Simone was responsible for the Lord Satanus story, when in fact that honor (?) goes to Abnett and Lanning, whose first names (I think) are Dan and Andy in some combination, but I'm too lazy to actually look which goes with which. Apologies to Ms. Simone for that.

Unfortunately, this raises the question: why would you leave a dangling plot thread (Sam Lane...alive?) at the end of a fill-in issue? Sigh...

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Kelly On, Wayward Son

Why do people hate Joe Kelly so much?

I've read three decent-sized runs by the man: Action Comics, Superboy, and JLA. I've liked all three, at least to a degree.

Superboy was good overall. Kelly introduced some cool new rogues; he used Cadmus well, even telling a heart-wrenching story about the Guardian, the cost of war, the callousness of the Project, and the psychological effects of prolonged combat. He recognized that someone who stays sixteen for years, but doesn't progress past the year of his creation, ends up looking woefully unhip. He put Perry White and Jimmy Olsen in drag to cheer up the Creeper. Kelly told stories that were funny, fun to read, and even had the occasional catharsis. Then, Dan DiDio took over with a run so bad that I groused for months after I heard he was moving up the DC ladder.

On Action Comics, Kelly's run was more hit-and-miss. Kelly gave us "ebonics Kelex" and introduced "shizzle" to the Superman mythos. He bogged the title down with Kancer and the Zod story that wouldn't end and the inexplicable Japanese superhero/villain things. He did...something...with Girl 13 and Natasha Irons, though I don't exactly remember what. Most of the latter part of his run was pretty bland, but so was everything else in Superman. At least he wasn't actively sucking like Casey and Seagle.

But he also gave us a hilarious story about Clark going Christmas shopping while Etrigan wreaked havoc in Metropolis. He gave us the conflicted villain Encantadora, who was typically used to good effect. His "Last Laugh" story was second only to Loeb's "let's stop using Doomsday" tale, showing what happens when a creative Green Lantern actually goes insane. He wrote a really fun story about the Marvel family and a frog-god. I seem to recall that he was even the mastermind behind "Emperor Joker," one of the best Superman storylines in recent memory.

And he did Action Comics #775...which I'll get to later.

Then, there was his JLA run. He had some pretty big shoes to fill, following Mark Waid on a title started by Grant Morrison. Mahnke could be counted on to make the run beautiful, but well-written? "The White Rage" was incomprehensible...I think I've read it three times now, and I still don't have a clue what was going on or who half the characters were. "Stream of Subconsciousness" slammed you over the head with preachy, overtly political allegory. Kelly's last issue didn't really do much to give closure to the Batman/Wonder Woman relationship, and read more like an Elseworlds cost-benefit analysis of their potential union.
But "Two-Minute Warning" was an excellent "day in the life" story, which brought us nicely into Kelly's League. "Golden Perfect" introduced some interesting characters and put a new spin on the importance of Wonder Woman's lasso. "Trial By Fire" may have dinked with J'onn's fire vulnerability in ways that haven't quite been addressed since, but it was a decent story.

Naturally, any examination of Kelly's run has to focus at least a little on "The Obsidian Age." It's the biggest story out of the bunch, and features several different takes on the JLA, all of them interesting. The idea of someone time-traveling to the future from the distant past isn't necessarily brand-new, but it's not one you see very often, and it's definitely not one that you usually see from the point of view of the future people. The Ancient JLA had some fascinating characters, and I'd really like to see them again (maybe a miniseries?). Gamemnae brought both halves of the arc together nicely, and I liked both Nightwing's team, struggling to fill in for the heavy-hitters, and the new additions like Faith and Manitou Raven. Faith deserved better definition than she got, and that's certainly a knock at Kelly, as is the craziness of aging everyone in Atlantis by 15 years (has that ever been referenced again? I don't much like old Lori Lemaris) and killing the whole League. But Raven was a good character who died before he could really reach his potential, and Dawn was nice to have around until she became the new Manitou. Obsidian Age is a nice, epic story. It's not quite Morrison-level awesomeness (though I'd rank it higher than Crisis Times Five), but it's better than a lot of what happened under Waid.

Kelly's best stories, however, weren't the long ones. The two-part Kanjar Ro arc was fantastic, both in terms of characterization and plot. It was a quick, fun story about the League as peacemakers, but the shining moment was when the alien leader asked Wonder Woman if she was a whore.

That was fantastic, and that would have endeared me to Kelly if not for the fact that he'd already won me over with "The Dark Nut Strikes Again." People criticize the story for giving Plastic Man something to be morose about, but the story was hilarious. Batman and Plastic Man should team up more often.

He's not a perfect writer, by any means. He's certainly not my favorite writer. But, when it comes to the best modern one-issue JLA stories, I wouldn't object to including "Two Minute Warning" or "Dark Nut" alongside the best of Morrison or Waid's works. If nothing else, Kelly knows how to tell action stories, wacky fun stories, stories with an emotional impact, and sometimes even stories that include all three. That's more than can be said for many other, more popular writers.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Brainiac Transplant?

If the trailer is any indication, Corey Burton may not be playing Brainiac in the upcoming Superman direct-to-DVD animated feature.

Now, I'm of two minds with bringing Tim Daly back to play Superman after five years of George Newburn (who has grown into the role nicely), but Corey Burton has been Brainiac since 1996. He's had ten years of fairly regular appearances as the character, even into this (apparently last) season of JLU. He's clearly still interested in the role. Why replace him?

I'm beginning to anticipate the sort of let-down I felt when David Ogden Stiers, and not Paul Williams, came out of the Penguin's mouth in "Mystery of the Batwoman."

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