Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2010 Trends International Justice League Detroit Stickers

Once again, courtesy of The Irredeemable Shag comes a set of swingin' stickers featuring the Motor City's finest metahuman organization!

First up, we have Zatanna. Like most of the characters on these stickers, she's drawn by Ed Benes. He drew the last run of Justice League of America with an iconic line-up, plus he has a modern style appealing to the layperson. If these are anything like the Sandylion Sticker Bits, they're geared for non-nerdy establishments like Hobby Lobby, and probably targeting consumers of both genders. Where Benes draws a lot of criticism for his sexually provocative depictions of women, this was comparatively mild. Still, I'm pretty sure a mom in the greeting card isle would think twice before letting her kid play with a busty broad in fishnets.

That said, I think it's really awesome that the manufacturers sought out a gender balance by including lesser known heroines. This is even more true for one of color like the Vixen, and I'd venture that she's the most dynamically posed of a static lot.

Finally, there's the Batman, breaking ranks through being drawn by a different artist. Benes handled the Dark Knight during his JLofA run, so the snub wasn't necessary. That said, the Batman figures move, and they've got that on-model quality of José Luis García-López that hits geeks of my generation in the sweet spot.

Later today, you can check out other Detroit members and friends at the following spotlight blogs...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aquaman #5 (March, 2012)

At the Amnesty Bay lighthouse, Arthur couldn't sleep, thinking about the Trench. A call came in from Commander Clay of the U.S. Navy. An artifact resembling the "A" on Aquaman's belt buckle had been found embedded in the cocoons Curry had unearthed, and was emitting a horrendous, glass-shattering racket. Aquaman was asked over to check it out. Soon after, armored enemy combatants raided the base and took the artifact. Aquaman chased them to their aircraft, tore into the hull, and engaged. Punching the facemask off one, Aquaman found it full of water, and suspected he was fighting Atlanteans.

A leak in the craft caused an explosion, sending the Sea King flying to a rough landing in the desert. Aquaman ripped a piece of shrapnel out of his leg, then retrieved his trident. Arthur saw visions of his father, who criticized his life choices. Aquaman called for help telepathically, but only a lizard showed up. He eventually located the airship's wreckage and the artifact. Dipping it into the water of a helmet, a projection of an ancient armored Atlantean appeared. This figure spoke of the Trench clawing their way through the hull of his ship, and how a great enemy of Atlantis was plotting to sink it. "Because of the king and queen. They hid the truth from us." Message ended.

A Navy helicopter picked up Aquaman, and the rescue made him a laughingstock on the news. Returning home, Arthur found a note from Mera, who'd gone to town for dog food.

"Lost" was by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Eber Ferreira. I'd say it was the strongest single issue of the book yet, as the non-linear storytelling was novel, not that you could tell from my straightened-out synopsis. Lovely art, high adventure, character work, and a prelude of things to come. Plus, the lizard was adorable!

New 52's Day

Thursday, February 16, 2012

1999 Hasbro DC Super Heroes Silver Age Collection Aquaman

Marvel Famous Covers dolls were doing good business in the late '90s, but they all had jacked-up "extreme" faces that killed my interest. They all seemed really, really upset about something, and when the corners of Gambit's mouth nearly touch his Adam's apple, you're doing something wrong. Still, the line was popular, so Hasbro came up with not one, but two copycat lines for DC characters, JLA and this one. All three had Mego in their DNA, of course. The Silver Collection was meant to show off some old school heroic looks, and they had much nicer boxes overall than JLA. Green Arrow, Green Lantern, a "New Look" Batman with removable mask, and an alternate two-pack with Robin were also part of the group. The figures were going for $15 or more each (I think I remember the Silvers having a pricing premium,) so I waited until just a couple of years ago to buy this Aquaman. As it happened, I caught him on sale at a local comic shop for $7.50.

Marvel Famous Covers easily had the best packaging of the three, but the superior of the two DC lines comes down to aesthetics. They both had plain backgrounds and a downright kinky number of visible straps holding the heroes in place. The design of the Silver Age Collection was showy, with silver foil embossing, spot varnish, and each character's trademark logo on their box. They also had more detailed information on the back of the box. On the other hand, JLA's more slender box had its virtues, and there were character drawings on the sides. The important thing to remember is that Aquaman looks fantastic in his box, and from experience, it is a huge mistake to take him out of the box.

The back of the box starts almost verbatim with the same boilerplate material as found in the JLA line...

The greatest heroes in the universe
join forces to combat the world's
most diabolical villains!

...followed by...


Real Name: Arthur Curry......Marital Status: Married
Height: 6 feet 1 inch.............Weight: 325 pounds
Eyes: Aqua-blue....................Hair: Blond

Aquaman was born to a troubled life. He was abandoned as an infant because his parents believed in the Atlantean superstition that said blond hair was a curse. The baby was rescued by a lighthouse keeper, Tom Curry, who named him Arthur. Discovering his incredible powers, young Arthur became Aquaman. As he explored the depths of the ocean, he found the underwater city of Poseidonis, and learned that his mother had been the city's queen, making him heir to the throne

Aquaman has the ability to communicate with most sea life, and to command it to do his bidding. He is extremely powerful, and can swim underwater at nearly 100 miles per hour.

As monarch of Poseidonis, Aquaman protected his people from threats from other underwater realms and from the surface world as well. He soon married Mera, a queen from a dimension of water, and with her had a son, Arthur Jr.

Jeebus! That was a Who's Who entry!

As announced on the box face, the doll is "FULLY POSEABLE WITH ARTICULATED FINGERS!" Unfortunately, what he really should have had to grasp was a trident, but no such thing was included. I guess he could hold a fancy plastic fork instead. This is the Silver Age Aquaman, so he has the modest black trunks, which is still leagues better than the Golden Mullet pirate look used for the JLA figure. Dig that belt!

From behind, you can see that the belt is securely fastened and easily removable. The suit is held shut by a proportionately ginormous wedge of Velcro, so avoid displaying from this angle. Note the open slits to allow breathing room for Aquaman's calf-fins, a nice touch that I'm glad the toymakers remembered. Also observe the peg openings at the bottom of the feet, secured by glue. Again, very thoughtful and pragmatic.

Click To Enlarge

I decided to offer a larger view of the face for a better look, and because this is where my true bitching begins. As you can see, the head is nicely sculpted, I really appreciate the smile, and the piercing blue eyes are appropriate. However, Aquaman looks a bit "mature," doesn't he? I always picture the Sea King as a pretty boy, where he's kind of rugged looking here.

Click To Enlarge

I'm sure the hair is meant to have a tussled "underwater" look, but what it really reminds me of is Katar Hol as drawn by Joe Kubert. In profile, it's hard to miss those disproportionate ears and a beak-like quality to Arthur's nose and mouth. Even the blond hair reminds me of the Golden Age Carter Hall. What I'm saying is that this is a good unmasked Hawkman head on Aquaman's body.

What appears to be beefcake above has a point. Aquaman has the same basic body as the other Hasbro nine inch figures, but his arms are permanently akimbo because the padding in his shirt is too thick. For the same reason, the arms move awkwardly, and posing the upper body is problematic. The "gloves" are especially tacky looking, better resembling water wings. They're glued on, so you cannot actually remove Aquaman's costume.

I partially removed the costume one time to display the tag and construction underneath. Unfortunately, the rubber gunk they used to make his top look shiny, combined with some nigh imperceptible embossing, meant the top was immediately ripped to shreds. The rubber frays and streams from even simple arm movement, so unless you're looking for battle damage, you cannot actually move any part of Aquaman's upper body. Man, I hate toys that were clearly not constructed for anyone to actually play with. Makes me miss the silly Mego painted on "chainmail."

Here's the stand that came with the figure. Hasbro was clever in that three of the characters selected for this line had green prominently in their costumes, so for all I know they all got the same base. The articulation on Aquaman's lower body is mostly unhindered, but the stockings over his feet mean you'll need this stand if you want to keep the Monarch of the Seven Seas from falling on his royal patootie.

Aquaman is a solid figure that looks great in the box and should never be removed from his box. If you want something to play with, I'd recommend the 1999 Hasbro JLA Justice League of America Martian Manhunter 9" Doll instead...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Action Comics #530 (April, 1982)

"The battle is over; the war is won! Aquaman has led the Hexapuses of Vortuma to victory over the 'Land-Masters'!" A "professor" amongst the Hexapus had invented a device to enlist super-heroes to their aid, first Air Wave, and then Aquaman. However, the Avenger of the Seven Seas was still waiting for the teleportation beam that had brought him to the alien world to wear off. He was also aware that one of the octopus-like aliens (walking upright on tentacles) had betrayed the rest to their more humanoid four-armed enemies. As the Professor worked on a means of returning Aquaman home, the Sea King discovered the spy, who had previously followed Air Wave to Earth and Aquaman back home.

In order to teleport back, Aquaman had to expose himself to "high levels of vibration-energy." A suggested source was the vibrus, a pinkish space walrus that fired rays from its tusks. The Sea King agitated the beast with his underwater acrobatics until it zapped him back home.

Green Lantern had tasked Ray Palmer with keeping an eye out for Aquaman's return, and despite his wife's protestations, he obliged. When Aquaman returned, he was pained and unconscious, so Ray dove off his boat to save the Sea King from, um... drowning? Using his Atom powers, Ray brought Aquaman up to his boat, where Arthur eventual recounted his extraterrestrial adventure.

"Home ... Home on the Waves!" was by Bob Rozakis, Alex Saviuk and Frank Chiaramonte. The inks on this one were nice, packing in fine line detail where Saviuk would usually be as plain jane as they come. Still, seriously, who wanted to read this? This was during a time period where three heroes took turns as the star of Action Comics's back-up, meaning all the contrivance of a team-up book with none of the variety. That meant Air Wave fought these stupid looking generic aliens in one story, then tagged out with Aquaman for a second, before this entire episode of loose threads and energy walrus. Three months worth of a book. The worst part was of course the shoehorning in of Atom at the end. Too much why, not enough why not.