Friday, February 29, 2008

Justice League of America #248 (3/86)

Gypsy: Adopted the baby tentacle monster, and having seen my share of hentai, it's a good thing Gypsy determined (?) it was a girl, which she called "Junior(?)"

Elongated Man: Unenthusiastic about keeping "Junior." Missed the now mummified remains of the possum family.

Vixen: Not at all comfortable about "Junior" or its mysterious origins. "I wish J'Onn J'Onzz were here. He knows every corner of the Secret Sanctuary." Continued to wonder about her roommate Gypsy's origins, as well. Talked about taking a skin sample from "Junior," which understood her and panicked. Vixen tried to pursue, but despite never being "sick a day" of her life, suddenly went weak. She then aged to infirmity in a matter of minutes.

Interlude: Kalanor was a peaceful, fertile world until, "the world and its inhabitants were his possessions... to do with as he pleased; to toy with... to mutilate... even to destroy, if the whim took him." While for a decade, things returned to normal, there were still some who worshipped him as a god. The escaped convict from last issue arrived there and set foot on Kalanor, flanked by white hammer-headed aliens garbed in purple robes. "It's good to be home."

Martian Manhunter: Private eye John Jones was on the trail of a seventeen year old runaway for his employer, but ended up framed for the murder of a woman closer to fifty. Eluded police through invisibility, though he insisted on continuing to talk to them while making off with the seemingly levitating smoking gun. Arrived with Steel and Vibe at the Secret Sanctuary in time to apprehend the escaping "Junior." J'Onzz exclaimed, "Gods of Mars" and the speed and strength of it, and tried to warn of Steel before the youth was blasted by its unknown energy. Took the form of a "Senior" to distract "Junior." Scolded three Leaguers for not contacting the rest of the group immediately upon "Junior's" discovery.

Steel: Managed to evade the casting couch by becoming a stuntman on a barbarian movie for Magma Studios of Astoria, Queens. When a rival stuntman pushed the offensive, Steel picked him up and threw him at the director. "I said, 'don't push!' ...nobody ever listens! Just like my grandfather! You think I say things just to hear myself talk? What are you, stupid?" Lost his job with the usual temper, but got a date with the continuity girl out of it. Punched out tentacle monster, but not before being zapped by the black fire.

Vibe: Blew all $500 of his savings on two months rent on a dive he won't live to make much use of. Hassled by local "protection" racket, and wrecked a city street showing them who's boss. Took the brunt of a second "black energy flare" to protect his good buddy Steel.

Sue Dibney: Westchester? Still?

Zatanna: Scooped up the ashes of her former roommate into an envelope, fearing one of her enemies may have killed the girl by mistake. Intended to take the dust and the girl's purse to investigators Dibney & Jones, but instead used her magic to follow a lead alone.

The Creators: So we're basically reading an anthology series at this point, right? Since the Crisis, there was the solo Steel issue, and then four straight issues of side stories featuring a divided JLDetroit.... except now they're in New York, so the unofficial title wasn't even valid anymore. As for foes created to battle this team-- well, General Maksai was really just for Vixen, so that leaves the Overmaster's Cadre and-- um-- is that it? That may be it, prior to the tentacle monster. Why didn't this direction pan out? Oh right, because it ate rocks, and I'm talking jagged, sun-scorched rocks.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Somebody get me a barf bag. I'm gonna be sick.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Trouble With Aquaman

Both at the Aquaman Shrine and Newsarama I read the following about DC big dog Dan DiDio...

"Asked about Aquaman, DiDio asked the fan back who is Aquaman now, to which the fan answered, 'I'm not sure right now.'

DiDio took a poll of the audience to see which Aquaman was the crowd's favorite, which showed the audience to be split among the different versions. DiDio said that it's something they're trying to figure out--which Aquaman should be the Aquaman to bring back.

DiDio said that while the Jim Aparo version is most recognizable, the 'harpoon hand' version is also well recognized in the media. All in all, DiDio said, they're taking their time to bring Aquaman back."

So basically, one of the biggest decision makers at DC Comics doesn't even know who Aquaman is, much less what to do with him. It's actually a pretty common problem with the character, seeing as despite being one of the most recognizable super-heroes in the world, he's a constant bottom feeder in sales and the butt of many jokes. I like to think I could help, and offer the following advise...

Adventure Comics Weekly, written by me, and guaranteed better than "Countdown" (even if I had to draw it by myself.) Oh wait, that's an utter fantasy. Let me start again.

  • Aquaman is not Batman. There are, to my knowledge, no such things as seabats. Yes, he did have an Aquacave at one time. Yes, he also had a kid sidekick. Yes, Aquaman's son was tragically murdered. This was all true, thirty years ago. Aquaman has been a brooding bore for nearly as long as I've been alive, and I just keep getting older. Let it go.

  • There are people who know and like Aquaman with the harpoon hand. Some toys were made of that incarnation, and it figured into his appearances on "Justice League." However, those people represent a fraction of the public who know the classic Aquaman, so catering to the minority only alienates the majority. Also, that incarnation is associated with one of the worst video games ever, and in fact the cable channel G4 awards equally wretched fare a "Golden Mullet" in Aquaman's dishonor. This is what is commonly known as "negative association."

  • To 95% of the people who have ever heard of Aquaman, he's the guy in orange and green who talks to fishies and rides giant seahorses. No amount of tough guy swagger, hair, or pointy objects will ever negate this fact. Also, his name is "Aquaman," which will never sound "edgy." Work with the character you've got, or else you're only undermining his strengths.

  • People expect Aquaman to smile. He's blonde and handsome. Girls and certain guys should want him, while the rest of us should want to be him. The people I know who want to mope or grimace constantly, develop unfortunate grooming choices, and are attracted to impractical prosthetesis are neither my dear friends nor my heroes. They are the people I avoid as much as possible.

  • It's okay for Aquaman to be funny. He doesn't have to be a joke, but his powers and surroundings are quirky, and it's okay to acknowledge that.
  • Puns are not funny, especially fish puns with an aquatic character. Neither is referring to fat people "slim." It's obvious and irritating.

  • Don't be ashamed of having adventures in or near water. "Pirates of the Carribean" and "The Little Mermaid" have earned billions off it. The ocean is a cool, scary, mysterious, fun place to be.

  • If there's an attention-getting event or a major new super-team, maybe allow Aquaman a prominent role in there somewhere. He's famous, you know. Might be a mutually-beneficial arrangement.

  • There does not have to be an ongoing series titled "Aquaman," especially by editorial decree. That leads to books by great names in comics talent, like Gary Cohn, Dan Mishkin, Paris Cullins, Neal Pozner, Robert Loren Fleming, Marty Egelund, Kirk Jarvinen, Yvel Guichet, and so on. Worse, it leads to "bold new directions" by actual names defaming themselves and the character, like Keith Giffen, Peter David, Erik Larsen, and Rick Veitch. The British have this wonderful notion of television where they stage a brief "season" whenever they have the talent and a story they feel is worth telling. This is preferrable to shoveling as much crap as possible to hit the magic 100 episodes for syndication.

  • Regardless of how well the revisionist "Trials of Shazam" sells in the direct market (and it doesn't,) Jeff Smith's concurrent mini-series that remained true to the Captain Marvel character and his audience will sell longer and stronger in wider circulation. If creators like Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo approach you with the idea of a nice little one-shot with the first classic take on Aquaman in eons, you damned well ought to say, "yes.

  • When you're constantly trying to reinvent a character, you're telling fandom you don't have confidence in your own property. When you tell a roomful of people you don't know what to do with Aquaman, or even who that character is, you devalue him in reader's eyes, and poor sales become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Under those circumstances, you have to wait for someone with a vision and understanding of the character to come along and make the property work. It seems based on track record and the guy's own interest Geoff Johns is that person. Next time the question comes up, answer "When Geoff's ready, he'll take care of Aquaman, and you will all be thrilled with the result." If Geoff is never ready, make a mental note of who the next best option is on the list, and insert their name until something comes to fruition.

  • A.B.C. Dan: Always Be Closing. If you can't make the sale now, make sure that door remains open for later. Otherwise, Joe Quesada is just going to sell them more Marvel. The man who answers "I dunno" does not get the Glengarry leads.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vixen's Origin (1985)

A fine character gets a very solid origin. I'm just glad that she's getting used regularly since her "Justice League Unlimited" appearances. Gina Torres was perfectly cast and helped by affection for Mari grow.

Click To Expand

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Justice League of America #247 (2/86)

Martian Manhunter: Took his charges to their new headquarters, being the abandoned mountain headquarters of the original Justice League of America, and formerly the Injustice Gang (as Zatanna noted for a Martian who skipped the 70’s.) “For one of them, this is a graveyard of silent ghosts and buried memories.” The place was mighty dusty from disuse, but the usually reliable J’Onn J’Onzz had to assume his new duties as John Jones, P.I. instead.

Zatanna: Lit the original Justice League of America headquarters with her magic, then bailed on clean-up to investigate her roommate’s disappearance. Found that mound of dust that used to be her. Time to “muucav,” or does she have another excuse up her considerable sleeve?

Steel: Flipped a rrreally big lightswitch. Bailed on cleaning to wear 80’s too shorts and get propositioned at his gym job by a movie producer. With glasses, and a moustache, who likes gladiator movies, and has his arm across Hank’s shoulder. Go-go Gadget Prostate?

Vibe: Continued to defame Latin Americans by bowing out of cleaning to not find an apartment which he would not pay for with the job he doesn’t have. Almost killed a gym rat for ridiculing Paco’s wardrobe, which of course could have happened to anyone.

Sue Dibney: Westchester?

Elongated Man: The only super-hero shown actually cleaning up. Know your role, Ralph!

Vixen: Plotted to uncover the mystery that is Gypsy. Played with a possum. Animal senses detected a potentially malevolent something that later attacked her with black fire type stuff. Stuck with cleaning crew, but never actually shown cleaning, because DC’s race relations hole was deep enough already.

Gypsy: Really dug the dank old headquarters, which Vibe couldn’t stop belittling, so she called his a “pheasant.” Even Vibe knew she meant “peasant,” so she made him see an illusion of hell before he made her look any worse. Adopted rodents she found nesting in the once abandoned headquarters. Defeated a gelatinous, tentacled baby monster that had also taken up residence by being harsh with it.

Dale Gunn: Written out. Lucky.

Interlude: On the prison planet of Takron-Galtos, home of the galaxy’s most dangerous arch-criminals, a fuschia fiend in a blue hoodie murdered a guard. This dastardly desperado then stole a rifle, with which he gunned down two more alien guardsmen with one blast. He jacked a ship, and used his telepathy, limited as it was by prison-drugs, to learn the pattern of the laser defense to escape. “My followers wait to greet me on Kalanor. I shall not disappoint them.”

The Creators: You know that whole “balance between the mundane and the fantastic” thing? Conway’s mundane just cracked the table and the fantastic is wrapped around the scale’s arm like a playground swing after Saturday night. Luke McDonnell sells it to the best of his ability.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: So many to choose from this issue, but I’m going with "Any breakin’ I do is gonna be on a dance floor.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Justice League of America #246 (1/86)

Steel: Returned from his adventure at the end of time to learn grandpa had evicted him and his teammates from the Bunker. Slapped an armored Dale Gunn around before reaching his still bedridden kin. Commander Steel apologized for his great many wrongs, and explained his tossed the League out to get a fresh start elsewhere. Hugs. Said goodbye to Vibe's sister. Moved to New York. Got a job as a gym instructor.

Dale Gunn: Threw "fight" with Steel, but still stayed behind in Detroit to look after Hank Sr.

Vibe: Goodbye to family. Beat up rival gangs with powers one more time. Moved. Spilled chocolate shake on self as non-comic anti-relief. Jobless and essentially homeless.

Elongated Man & Sue Dibney: Stuck living in Westchester while housesitting for vacationing friends.

Zatanna: Flirted with Dale one last time. Chatted with J'Onn on the flight. Moved back into her sublet earlier, unaware of the ashen fate of her leasee.

Vixen: Explained on the flight to New York how her years of modeling were just a facade before realizing her true purpose through the Tantu Totem. Showed off her lavish apartment, and took in a roommate.

Gypsy: Talked Vixen into letting her move in.

Martian Manhunter: This being a Conway tale, even the heart & soul of the JLA questioned the League's future after leaving the Bunker and relocating to New York. Showed his sense of humor by boarding his team on a commercial flight in full costume. Chatted with Zee...
"I was not aware you gave credence to dreams, Zatanna."
"Mystics live part of their lives in dreams, J'Onn. The dreamworld is a pathway to past and future."
"On Mars we had few mystics. We put our faith in science... a faith that was our undoing, in the end."

Later explained to his charges that jobs were now in order. "When I first came to Earth years ago, I took a job as a police detective in Metropolis. With my Martian powers, I was quite successful. It is a small matter to recreate the credentials I used then..." Perhaps, but the elapsed time made "John Jones" retirement age, so that he was forced to take up with Burt Biloxi's Special Investigations, a low rent operation.

The Creators: The aforementioned Conway shot past character development into full-bore British soap opera tedium. Luke McDonnell sells the "realism" in a way Chuck Patton couldn't possibly. Bill Wray should have continued inking him for the rest of his career.

Most Embarrassing Vibe Quote of the Issue: "Hank... mi hermano... you feelin' all right? Your abuelo, he didn't jump on you?"