Thursday, September 29, 2011

2010 DC Universe Vol2: JLA Reserves Zatanna art by alexmax

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"Second set of characters, this time it's the turn for some of the Justice League reserves...

Zatanna: Pretty much the standard, classic Zatanna look, except I've rarely seen her drawn with tall boots."


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Action Comics #521 (July, 1981): “The Deadly Rampage of the Lady Fox”

A cover blurb queried: “Superman meets The Vixen! Is she heroine or villainess?”

“Night in New York City… it’s like night nowhere else in the world! This night promises to be particularly special… for tonight, a She-Fox is on the prowl!” An African-American woman in a gaudy blue and yellow costume leaped across rooftops. One featured a billboard advertising Superman’s appearance at Madison Square Garden to benefit the National Diabetes Foundation on April 10th (a twelve hour charitable engagement.) “Like the sleek, sly creature that is her namesake, she pauses in the darkness to scent the air… Then, satisfied that she’s still on the track of her prey, she springs with the grace of a gazelle… and lands as silently as a jungle cat…” The Vixen set down upon the roof of a moving van behind Shandor Furs, where uniformed workers were being paid overtime to haul exotic coats from one warehouse to another in the middle of the night. Wordlessly, the Lady Fox leapt at the men feet first, catching two square in the chest, knocking them into the third.

Fifteen blocks away, Superman was being congratulated for raising nearly a quarter of a million dollars in ticket sales alone at the charity event, but the Man of Steel was distracted by his super-hearing picking up a cry for help. Superman swiftly reached the dock workers, who were stunned but relatively unharmed, as they alerted the hero to the van’s theft by “some dame in a costume!” The Man of Tomorrow pursued the red van as it sped toward the Hudson River. The Vixen spotted him in her side mirror.

“Superman? I can’t let him stop me from what I have to do! I’ll lash the wheel in place with these scraps of rope… and then try to delay Superman for the precious few seconds I need to complete my plan!” The She-Fox climbed out of the van and leapt at Superman. “What in Rao’s name! Incredible! I’m actually being knocked back… feel as though I’ve been hit by a bull elephant! And her claws… one managed to scratch me?! What’s happening to my invulnerability? How can this slim young woman do what hardly anyone has ever managed to do?” Superman pulled Vixen’s claw off his forehead and, still wrestling in midair, blasted her away with a bellyful of super-breath. Regardless, he was too late to prevent the furs from being ruined as the van hit the drink, and Vixen’s whereabouts were lost in the attempt.

Later, Mordecai Mule, owner of the fur company, bemoaned the ruination of his special shipment from India. A black police detective took the Man of Steel aside, warning that before Superman offered any information on the lady perpetrator, he hear information on Mule. It seemed the furrier exploited animals illegally in their native countries to sell legally in the States, and the officer thought perhaps this lady was a vigilante touching the untouchable. Superman was suddenly unsure of her description, and claimed he’d get back with the police after giving the matter some thought.

The next day, WGBS head honcho Morgan Edge called top reporters Clark Kent and Lana Lang in to pursue a story suggested by his old friend Solomon Samuels. The African-American high fashion magazine publisher talked Lang out of her protestation about the relevancy of fur poaching in India, arguing that rendering animals extinct for the fur trade was a threat to “ecology and the dignity of life!” Kent was suspicious of the timing, and noted Samuels’ leaving the offices with a very attractive black woman. Solomon wonder why Mari Macabe wanted to keep her joining the investigation in New Delhi a secret. “As far as most people are concerned, I’m simply a high-priced fashion model... which is another term for empty-headed beauty! …I’ll go on this trip incognito, as planned! It’ll work out better this way, I promise you!” Macabe’s true motivation, unrevealed to her “only love,” was to be able to act as the Lady Fox unhindered by her true identity’s fame.

In the overcrowded and squalid Indian metropolis, Clark Kent vanished, leaving Lana Lang in the care of a guide. Lang was spotted by Mordecai Mule, who felt that she may need to be eliminated if she planned to report on his criminal affairs. Mule and his driver were soon following Lang’s jeep, unaware that the Vixen had also hitched a ride. Clark Kent caught sight of the She-Fox lying in wait, and began his own superhuman pursuit. Superman swooped down and scooped Vixen off the roof of Mule’s ride with the villain none the wiser. Mordecai himself pulled up to an elephant herd. Aware that Lang would soon stumble upon his poachers, Mule decided it was best that everyone die in a stampede provoked by his sharpened spear.

Superman held fast to the Vixen’s behind. “Uh-uh, young lady, not this time! I’m not letting you near me with those claws of yours!” The Man of Steel wanted an explanation, and got it. The Vixen had driven Mordecai Mule to the brink financially, and knew that he would personally supervise a ramping up of poaching to make up for his losses. Vixen had arranged for reporters to be present to catch Mule in the act as a warning to other unscrupulous fur exporters. However, Vixen was worried that Mule was capable of anything in the heroes’ absence. True enough, she sniffed out the elephant stampede on the wind, and the pair sprang into action.

Just as Lana Lang and her party were about to be trampled, super-breath gently corralled the pachyderms until a makeshift stockade could be made from uprooted trees turned stakes. Meanwhile, the She-Fox declared, “You can’t get away this time, Mule! The innocent beasts your men have slain demand revenge!” Mule tried repeatedly to skewer the Vixen with his spear, but she easily evaded his with her acrobatic prowess until he was too exhausted to go on. Mule’s driver gave up without such a fight.

The Vixen left the two men bound up for Superman to find, complete with a note stating, “Here’s a mule I left for you to skin.” It was signed, “The Vixen.” Also, during the brief moments before being called away by the stampede, Superman had learned that the Lady Fox derived her animal-based powers from the Tantu Totem she wore around her neck. “Magical powers—that explains how she could hurt me! I’m vulnerable to magic!” So too would be Aquaman, in another three years…

“The Deadly Rampage of the Lady Fox” was written by Gerry Conway, with art by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte. “Featuring the dynamic debut of the Vixen created by Gerry Conway.” The widely circulated one, anyway...

The Bronze Age

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2006 "Princess & King" Wonder Woman and Aquaman Commission by Eric Canete

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From the artist's blog:

"1) Aquaman is such a pretty boy - outside of the fact that he's 'King of the Seven Seas' and I crack on him for being one of the most useless characters ever created (calm down, you Aquaman freaks...I'm only kidding. I like him enough), he's also a pretty boy. And he knows it. Useless and vein, the Aquaman is. 2) Again with the bad planning. I gave ol' pretty boy a tuning fork but didn't leave enough room to draw the whole thing. I could say that I only had 90 minutes and I was worried more about the composition than the trident, but that's a crutch and almost a lie. I saw the mistake about ten minutes in and I didn't care.

Suck on that, Aquaman.

Oh hey, remember the old 'Superfriends' cartoons? If memory serves me right, 'King of Shrimps and Seahorses' here used to ride a whale in the opening credits before he sends out a telepath(et)ic call to arms to the other fish? Point is, he used to ride that whale like a a HORSE! Do you know how wide he's got to open his frikkin' legs to be able to mount a humpback like that?! Oh well, I guess he's the 'King of Liar Characters Who Are Useless' too. "

Preliminary Sketch

Also, be sure to check out Caneta's warm-up sketches for "the 'JLU' show I did storyboards for in its latest and last season." Included are the animated incarnations of Vixen, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern John Stewart, Big Barda, Deadman and Heatwave. The gallery is here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011 Vixen Cosplay

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One of the finest Vixen cosplays I've seen yet, courtesy of Shag Matthews of Firestorm Fan and Once Upon A Geek fame.

Dragon*Con 2011 CosPlay

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2011 Aquaman art by Ivan Camelo

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #52 (July, 2007)

Swimming through the city "streets," Arthur Joseph and Topo began mocking Black Manta, who they knew from the cartoon show and internet. Cal Durham and Garth both jumped on the youths, explaining what a lethal threat the Manta is. Guided by a light, the group found Orin's former lieutenant, the mutated police officer Alonzo Malrey. The Chief was sealed in a tank with only enough water to keep his head wet for breathing, the lights contributing to his dehydration. Malrey tried to warn the group off, but the trap was sprung, and floating mines soon surrounded them. An unmasked Manta greeted his old friend Cal Durham but looked on the new Aquaman with the usual suspicion and prejudgment. When Arthur angrily protested, Manta punched him in the mouth. "Shut up! Where is he? Where is Arthur Curry?" Arthur retaliated with a blow that sent Manta flying hard enough to crack Malrey's case. "Hey, guess what? I'm Arthur Curry, too."

Black Manta ordered everyone dead, but his idiot men fired shots through the mine field, setting one off. The explosion burst Malrey's case and knocked Manta out. Cal had Lorena grab the unconscious Malrey, while he tossed some "flash-bangs" pellets to cover their escape in intense light and sound. Arthur had Topo release a flood of ink to further conceal the team, and everyone headed for Cal's girlfriend's place.

Back on the Arctic island of Ymirsheim, Captain Jimmy Lockhart, Elsa Magnusson, and the Sea Devil leader Dane Dorrance were exchanging fire with the Deep Church. Jimmy caught a shot in the right shoulder, but help soon arrived from "The Babe Squad." Dressed in matching pink uniforms with helmets and pistols on each hip, the Squad were female agents of Neos. Sandi was an anthropomorphic lobster with Farrah Fawcett hair, Bambi was a blond dolphin with a ponytail, and Candi was the lovely brunette walrus. The trio had unsealed the exit and guided the humans to their waiting ship, in which they returned to Windward Home. The ladies explained the researchers had stumbled upon the entrance to Dyss...

Dr. Kyesha Salton explained to Cal and his friends that Black Manta had arrived to fill the power vacuum, managing any resistance from folks like Chief Malrey. Manta's forces were also randomly kidnapping people to the long-ago stripped remains of Spawar and the old naval station. Those that returned said they'd only been subjected to routine medical testing, but others never returned at all. It was decided that Garth and Topo would stay with Salton, while the rest would investigate. En route, Lorena told the story of the extended deaths of people trapped in the tunnel through which they now traveled during the quake that sank Sub Diego. The group reached the station, finding it still operational, guarded by a newly armored Black Manta and two of his own iron men...

At Tri-Dent Industries in San Diego, Dr. Philip Curry was alive but not well, still being held captive. Curry had been held for months, answering questions about his dead son, Arthur Joseph...

"You Can't Fight City Hall!" was by Tad Williams and Shawn McManus. Absent the inks of Walden Wong, the art is less polished. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. There's also nice touches, like barnacles growing on Dr. Salton's cupboards. I'm not convinced an apartment building could at all function underwater, but there's an undeniable allure to the subversion of the norm by having our heroes swim over a familiar urban area rather than a fantasy setting.

Brave New World

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011 DC Fifty-TOO! Plastic Man #1 by Jon Morris and Stephen DeStefano

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Jon Morris is a Washington-based cartoonist and is probably best known for his webcomic Jeremy. He is also the writer of the comic blog Gone&Forgotten, operates the Cornered collaborative art blog, and is the founder and curator of this, the DC Fifty-Too project. His website is Calamity Jon Save Us! Morris prefers the Jack Cole version of Plas as a flexible straight in a crooked world, which includes being confronted by an uncharacteristically mellow Black Lantern Elongated Man as an unwanted houseguest. Morris elaborates at DC Fifty-TOO!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #51 (June, 2007)

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the Flash attended the underwater funeral of the original Aquaman. I suppose the Martian Manhunter's absence could be chalked up to his being a coneheaded jerk at the time, but it was still unseemly for Wally West to be around and J'Onn absent. The Dweller's body was committed to a mausoleum, though Mera hoped that he might yet cheat death in some way, as he had done in times past. As for Atlantis, Wonder Woman suggested that some magic users like Zatanna or the Shadowpact might be of assistance. Begging Tempest's pardon, Mera was sick of sorcery, and Atlantis needed to make its own way.

Topo had read on Super Ultra Mega that Garth was supposed to be an energetic, happy-go-lucky guy. Clearly, the fishy internet was not to be trusted, since my recollection of Garth has been a whiny bitch since Tula died in the mid-80s, and the disappearance of his family in the One Year Later period just made him more of a tool than usual. Superman shook Arthur Joesph's hand and felt he would do fine as the new Aquaman, while Topo was ecstatic over his proximity to Superman, Batman and especially Wonder Woman. "Leaping ling cod, I was actually close enough to reach out and touch Wonder Woman's divine, magical... LASSO! ...and did you see? She was wearing the bracelets, too!" Arthur remarked, "Jeez, you really are a fanboy, aren't you?"

Issitoq the Narwhal had been expected back in Dyss after his triumph against Orin, but was instead found sulking in the Norwegian Basin of the Arctic Ocean by Pardoner. The narwhal now understood his victim really had recognized him, and was upset at having missed the chance to learn his true identity. Issitoq smashed the ground and threatened Pardoner with a boulder, until he was placed in a submissive trance state. The "fierce young corpse-whale" was his proudest creation, so Pardoner intended for him to "visit the soothing darkness for a while to have your thoughts improved" through "therapy."

Lorena, the Aquagirl of Sub Diego, visited the tomb of her former flame Koryak, son of Orin. Lorena mourned the relationship that could have been, but didn't like coming off like a soap star. She told Arthur Junior, "I'm not going to be friends with you, by the way. Then you won't die. I'm learning, see?"

Cal Durham had spent months swimming with his party to return Garth home and seek resources for his own people. He was dismayed that Atlantis had fallen so low as to be of little help, and planned to return home. Garth intended to go back with Cal, since there was nothing keeping him in Atlantis, and his only lead to his condition and family was his being found in Sub Diego's proximity. Mera felt abandoned by them both, and Topo began shouting, "What is wrong with you people? Swimming? Swimming?! To the Pacific Ocean? Is this some drawn-out practical joke on me, or are you all really crazy? What about the hatches?" The rageboy nerd had everyone's attention, to the point that he inked himself again over causing insult during "a meeting of the Atlantean Sovereign Council."

When Topo finally recovered, he explained that the Deep Church had found a way to access preexisting teleportational wormholes at points all over the sea. The hatches were locked by "a believer's code implanted from the Deep Church in Dyss," but Dr. Arkelon had invented a hack for the apostates in Neos. Mera enlisted Arthur as Topo's personal guard, since this news could be hugely beneficial, with the initial test run being a return to Sub Diego. Losing Cal, Lorena, and Garth seemed much less important under the circumstances, especially the former Tempest, whom she felt was crippled in ways beyond the physical.

At a hatch, Topo focused mentally to gain access, but the door opened to a Punishment Shoal vastly more dangerous than the one previously faced. "That's... that's Baron Gorgos! Flipping flounders, we're doomed!" Tempest was able to fend off Benthocto, an anthropomorphic octopus. Aquaman took on the brawny Leatherback. Gorgos himself threatened to eat Topo, so Aquaman had to change dancing partners. The Baron was a sadomasochist, taking pleasure in both the searing pain delivered by his head tentacles, and his own agony at having some ripped out by Arthur. King Shark happened along to devour a fourth, unnamed shoal heavyweight. The group then fled into the hatch, turning up in a volcanic region near Sub Diego. Garth immediately started criticizing King Shark as a "murderous monstrosity," driving him off, and leaving Arthur to argue his virtues against the unrepentant Tempest. Regardless of the trouble, Lorena and Cal were just happy to be a day out from home, rather than two months.

Back on the Arctic island of Ymirsheim, Captain Jimmy Lockhart, Elsa Magnusson, and the Sea Devil leader Dane Dorrance continued down a mysterious staircase leading them below sea level. The group had second thoughts about continuing, but when they doubled back, found a doorway had sealed behind them. Trapped, the group's surrender was demanded by more members of the Deep Church.

Cal Durham was uneasy at the silence as his group approached the remnant portion of Sub Diego that he had governed. A large sign had been posted, alerting citizens to the curfew invoked by their new leader, Black Manta.

"The Once and Future Sea King" was by Tad Williams, Shawn McManus, and Walden Wong. As a welcome change from the Busiek issues, even in a relatively talky issue, there is tons of stuff going on to keep up interest. The massive losses in Atlantis were finally being addressed on a personal level, favorite supporting characters from the Sub Diego issues and more classic runs were being restored. The situation in Atlantis was finally acknowledged at all by the JLA. The Deep Church seems interesting and offers a host of new villains created specifically for Arthur Joseph, instead of his constantly running into Orin's tired old foes calling him out as inferior (while backing up the claim.) Topo is fun when he's not obnoxious, and I really appreciated Williams' ability to juggle a lot of very different personalities. My only complaints in the script are that even in the face of teased sparks with Arthur Joseph, Mera comes off as an old maid, and it's a might too convenient that the Deep Church were suddenly everywhere at one.

Shawn McManus' art took more getting used to, especially since his style had grown so cartoony that he often more resembled Bob Fingerman than his own past super-hero work. The main negative effect is that the violence of the book has no weight, because you expect anyone that matters to bounce right back, like a Looney Tune. On the other hand, it fits the book's quirk vibe, and McManus does a fine job of juggling a suddenly huge cast. Coupled with the coloring of Dan Brown, you can tell everyone is underwater, but it's a far more vibrant and varied place than it had been in the early going of Sword of Atlantis. Both writing and art embrace the inherent ridiculousness of fishy fantasy, for the first time allowing Aquaman to laugh with the comedic potential, rather than just being the butt of jokes.

Brave New World