Thursday, August 30, 2012

Newsarama Ranks 2 Detroit Leaguers Among 10 Worst Ever

Technically, Graeme McMillan wrote the piece The 10 WORST Justice League Members of All Time for the comic book news site Newsarama, so I'm not sure if he's a loose cannon or offering a consensus of staff opinion. Either way, Newsarama published the result, popularizing the notion that not only are Gypsy and Vibe among the team's worst members, but one being the worst of all time. Here's what they said...

"Introduced as one of the Justice League Detroit, Gypsy started life as a bizarro Kitty Pryde, a teen girl able to camouflage herself into her surroundings via illusion casting powers that also, apparently, allow her to project images into people's minds.

Surviving the end of that team (unlike two of her teammates), she later went on to find her family murdered by Despero, forcing her back into superhero life as member of the Conglomerate and Justice League Task Force, as well as the Birds of Prey... but whether any of that hides the fact that her main reasons to exist in recent years had become (a) to give J'Onn J'Onzz an adoptive daughter to moon over or (b) be mind-controlled and forced to fight the Justice League (which she's done on at least two different occasions) is open to question."
I think the overview invalidates the writer's own opinion. I honestly don't believe Gypsy was that strong of a character in her early appearances, owing as much to pop pandering (Stevie Nicks/Cyndi Lauper/Madonna) as to the aforementioned lil'est X-Man. However, her then-recent struggle to survive a trip to the Godhead with Zatanna and her only being fifteen at the time likely saved Gypsy from death in 1986. Likewise, as the damsel in distress during a rare serious story arc in Justice League America, Gypsy needed to survive the revenge of Despero back in 1990. What makes this relevant is that Gypsy established herself as a survivor against all odds in two of the scariest, most awesome Justice League stories ever, and that alone would set her apart from the likes of the Silver Sorceress or any given Rocket Red, who could and have been snuffed out without anyone much noticing. Like Kitty Pryde, readers root for her as an underdog amongst titans, and her human story brings out the best in others (including surrogate father Martian Manhunter, who needs all the supporting cast he can get. Meanwhile, Gypsy's time in the Justice League Task Force proved that she was no Shadowcat. Writer Christopher Priest gave her a defensive sarcasm and illuminated the dark undercurrents of the character that set her apart and above a score of lesser Leaguers (even a few who carried their own titles. I wouldn't have introduced a character like Gypsy into the JLA, but having been their and forged a very distinctive path in many strong, underrated stories, Gypsy deserves better than to be maligned in some knee jerk list. Especially one that leaves off a Gypsy wannabe like Maya. That's right-- there's an actual Gypsy knock-off.

"If one character can come to signify something greater than him or herself, it's possible that Vibe's has accidentally become the avatar for everything that was misguided with the Justice League Detroit era.

You can see the reasoning: He was a character tied to a trend that was in its death throes as he appeared (breakdancing -- his first appearance was a double-page spread showing off his moves) who had both a ham-fisted attempt at social relevance (He was trying to make a better life for himself after leaving the Los Lobos gang, with writer Gerry Conway daring to expose the connections between well respected musical groups and Detroit gang culture when others were too afraid) and inexplicable dialogue quirk (he had a fake Mexican accent that he put on around white people) at his core, as well as an amazing original costume that mixed MC Hammer-style pants with shades, soul patch and vest.

Bearing all that in mind, it's difficult to imagine what made Vibe Justice League material other than being in the right place in the right time. And yet... there's something charming about Paco Ramone's short-lived existence, whether it was his overconfidence or excitement about being a superhero in the first place. Vibe also has a particularly important place in Justice League history as being the first Leaguer to be killed in the line of duty, launching an unfortunate trend that would continue for a long time afterwards. If only he'd joined up with a different team that dealt with smaller problems, perhaps Vibe would still be with us today, and perhaps he would've evolved into a character people remembered as more than a gimmick gone wrong. Who's for a new Vibe ongoing series in the next round of DC New 52 launches?"
Vibe is an inherently silly character, an unintentional parody of ethnic stereotype super-heroics (including the old saw about how one white writer's laughable attempt at jive talk is another writer's having the hero front to conceal their inner WASP.) It's noteworthy that Vibe was not only the first dead Leaguer, but their first dead minority hero. There are scores of more famous heroes that mean nothing not already represented elsewhere, but Vibe serves a subtextual purpose in pointing out the inequities of a gutter art form typically made by and for sheltered middle class Anglo-Saxon males. He's also goofy fun, which is why he is routinely referenced and gets his own mock '80s cartoon short, whereas the JLA annals are clogged with more "proper" pointless pandering bores like Agent Liberty, Zauriel, and Moon Maiden. Controversy and longevity surely play a role in a list like this, but Vibe is low hanging fruit that reveals more about the critic than the character. Vibe isn't the best worst hero, like the Troll 2 of the League rolls, but instead a genuinely endearing character.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Vibe in the New 52 Justice League of America!

"DC Comics announced at the DC Entertainment-All Access Sunday panel at Fan Expo Toronto that a new League will be forming.

Launching in 2013, DC Comics will publish a new ongoing comic book series, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by David Finch."

"This is a very different kind of team book,” says Geoff Johns. “On first glance, people might think the heroes of the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA stand in the shadows of Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the JUSTICE LEAGUE, but Green Arrow, Katana, Martian Manhunter, the new Green Lantern, Stargirl, Vibe, Hawkman and Catwoman thrive in the shadows. They're underdogs who have everything to prove and something to lose. They're a team of unlikely heroes who will help one another discover they're as A-List as anybody -- yes, even Vibe. Though getting there won't be easy. Why they're formed, why each member joins, what they're after and who the society of villains is they're trying to take apart will all be clear in the first issue when it hits early 2013. David and I are really focused on delving deep into what it's like to not be a member of the big seven and why, sometimes, the grass isn't always greener on the other side."
Specifically of Vibe, Johns continued...
"The characters that are selected like Stargirl, and Vibe, and Green Arrow, they have a lot of personality. If you remember the first couple of issues of Justice League, with their larger than life personalities, and the development... This takes it to the fifteenth degree, because we’re dealing with characters that are... Like, you don’t know where Vibe is coming from. He’s recruited to the JLA by his older brother, and he says, “Why would they want me? I’m just this kid from Detroit. I’ve stopped three liquor store robberies, and one was by mistake.” His brother looks at him and says, “Maybe they see potential in you that you and I don’t see.” And he’s like, “Thanks a lot.” ...[Catwoman] is going to be the Veronica to Stargirl’s Betty... If there’s an Archie, it’s probably Steve. And Reggie is definitely Oliver Queen... [Jughead] That’s Vibe. That’s easy."
Looking forward to the start of the Vibe (and Reverb?) Age of DC Comics. Also, Martian Manhunter...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2010 Gypsy color art by Oliver Nome

Click To Enlarge

"this was a donation for a charity"
This is one of my favorite Gypsy pictures ever. Marrying most of the basics of her original Chuck Patton costume to the more streamlined, mature, but conceptually vague Sal Velluto take on the character yields a heroine recognizable as her namesake without looking like a dated joke. Great job, and quite lovely! Color really brings the piece home, but the naked linework is quite pretty on its own.

Oliver Nome

Friday, August 17, 2012

2010 “Vixen 2.0” art by Oliver Nome

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"a redesign of Vixen w/ simple flats"
This is a really fun New Wave Native American look that I could halfway see working in the original Detroit days (at least in the wake of Grace Jones.) I wouldn't rubber stamp it on a permanent basis, but it would be a pretty ginchy Elseworld.

Oliver Nome

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Aquaman #9 (July, 2012)

At the U.S. Army Health Center in Heidelberg, Germany, a solemn man named Torrez sat in his darkened room. On a wall were the pictures of loved ones, whom he would call on the phone and silently listen to until they hung up. These were not Torrez's family, but those of the ghosts of soldiers that he communed with. Meanwhile, Black Manta had been murdering his way through the complex, and managed to sneak up on Torrez to choke him with fishing line. Using his powers and a gun under his pillow with one chambered bullet, Prisoner of War managed to fight off Manta, claim his manacles, and escape. Manta didn't understand why the suicidal soldier put up such a fight, just to keep him from his prize...

You know, they're trying too hard to make Black Manta cool, and he's starting to get ridiculous. Why cut a bloody swath through a military hospital, and then choke your super-powered target? The whole stealth assassin thing is undercut by wearing an enormous chrome helmet with glowing red headlights for eyes and an oxygen tank besides. How about the wussy wrist mounted mini-harpoons he fires with the thread attached? Is he serious with those things? I grin every time they appear because of the stupidity of them.

In the Amazon Rainforest, Aquaman fought off the armed troop, while Ya'Wara slaughtered them with blades and big cats. Aquaman tried to stop all the killing, but the beast mistress had lost her favorite jaguar to gunfire, so she was not easily placated. However, "This fight. The blood. The heat. Remember?" Arthur grabbed her wrist. "I'm taken Ya'wara." She sneered, "You have changed. I'm not sure I like it."

Arthur had already sent a signal to Vostok-X through his old Justice League communicator. The Russian was psychologically engineered to prefer isolation, and had taken to living on the moon, aided by an Atlantean helmet that allowed him to forgo oxygen, food and sleep. It would take him hours to fly back to Earth, though. Meanwhile, Arthur figured Prisoner was still at that hospital in Germany, so it might have been nice of him to prioritize contacting a living being over his layman's autopsy of the deceased Kahina the Seer. Torrez might have appreciated that before the choking and harpooning, y'know?

Mera manhandled Dr. Stephen Shin until he was good and ready to drop a meaty brick of flashback. Many years prior, Tom Curry had given sweet loving to an Atlantean queen, and got stuck raising their kid by his lonesome. While out on the water searching for "...something," Tom rescued Shin from drowning after a storm killed the rest of his crew on a deep diving expedition. Much later, Tom called in the favor, asking the doctor to help his boy Arthur deal with his emerging powers. More time passed, and while Shin helped Arthur relish his abilities, the doctor also wanted to go public with them. Tom was furious at the mere proposition, tore up Shin's office, took all pertinent information recorded about his son, and refused Shin any further access. Dr. Shin went to the press in hopes of recognition for his work, but without substantiation, only tabloids and conspiracy theorists had any interest. Shin became a laughingstock, losing his job, credibility, and " only friends."

Desperate, Dr. Shin hired a treasure hunter rumored to have single-handedly fought off pirates to retain a shipwreck find he'd made near Iceland. The hunter was only supposed to acquire a blood sample from Arthur, but when Tom defended his son, he suffered a heart attack that killed him three days later. The hunter later became Black Manta, likely in no small part due to Arthur's reprisal having left Manta's own father dead.

Back in Germany, Manta's pursuit of Prisoner stalled in the face of Aquaman's arrival...

"The Others: Chapter Three" was by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Oclair Albert and Andy Lanning. What is the deal with all the inker pile-ups these days? If there's only one pencil artist, is his work so detailed that it takes more manpower to embellish? Do the pages sit in the editor's office for so long that they have to be rushed out to a team for finishes? Eh, the finished product in this case is gorgeous, so who cares?

New 52's Day