Thursday, April 24, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : THE BOY KING AND HIS GIANT

Fun fact: "The Boy King and his Giant" is what they used to call me during my brief career in twink porn.
It’s a story as old as time – Nazis invade a peaceful, seemingly feudal nation still in the throes of medieval tradition, murder the ruling family except the boy prince who manages to survive and dig up Nostradamus’ magical giant stone golem, and then the boy and the rock giant collect all the surviving citizens of the nation and take them overseas to live in America so that the Nazis … er, win?

Yes, apparently so! The Boy King is an interesting enough golden age character whose novelty alone makes up for some shaky art and writing, but most intriguing about his introductory story arc is that his weird and tremendous power is used entirely to facilitate a total retreat from invading Nazi forces. The French, to this day, take no end of shine about having seemingly folded before the Nazi military might, but imagine the rep the Boy King’s homeland of Swisslakia must have earned itself in its fictional equivalent of the European theater – they didn’t surrender, they just ran off! The Nazis win Swisslakia and all its peoples’ stuff! You wouldn’t advocate that as a strategy in Risk.

To the Boy King’s credit, however, he and his giant do end up facing a Nazi Tyrannosaurus Rex, as well as comicdom’s first and possibly only combination evil tattoo artist and accountant, and who goes by the name Dr.Plasma, which actually makes him sound like the friendly mascot for a blood drive.

Swisslakia's greatest hero during the Battle of Hauling Ass Out Of Here

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

ELECTRIC WARRIOR


More than its primary competitor, DC Comics always had a willingness to invest in ongoing science fiction, and for the most part to allow that science fiction to reside outside and independent of its super-hero universe.

Since inter-continuity has been the rage dating back to the Crisis On Infinite Earths, that trend died down significantly from the Nineties onward (and, conceivably, in the wake of the excellent, underrated, and desperately-in-need-of-an-Absolute-Edition three-issue prestige format miniseries TWILIGHT, a sci-fi franchise mishmash scripted by Howard Chaykin and illustrated by the peerless Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez who, with all due respect, may have never been more on top of his game than with that one series), with the heyday of the truly independent story sci-fi arc being firmly set in the 1980s.

Slash Maraud, Sonic Disruptors, Tailgunner Jo, Spanner’s Galaxy, Conquerors of the Barren Earth, Lords of the Ultra-Realm, a plethora of licensed sci-fi from Atari Force to Spiral Zone (isolated from the main continuity by legal necessity there), the DC Graphic Novels which brought Demon With A Glass Hand and Metalzoic among others to life – a golden age of self-contained sci-fi nonsense in all its glory.

Of its many forays into self-contained science fiction, none was more straight prog-rock concept album than Electric Warrior, a dystopian eighteen-issue run written by Doug Moench – who, in the 1980s, was most famous for his Marvel work and was a real “get” for DC – and drawn by Jim Baikie, with soundtrack by Yes, Rush, an orchestra pit full of minimoogs and amplification by Hiwatt.

Well, perhaps it’s the second-most prog rock DC sci-fi comic after Sonic Disruptors, but of the two it’s the one which has a fully-finished story arc and is named after a T.Rex album.

Hope you like this taste of dialogue,
you'll be choking on it by issue three.
“When Machines Mutate” promises the cover blurb to the first issue, undoubtedly added by an editorial force unsure of how else to promote the odd assemblage of futuristic tropes in a comic which obviously borrowed a lot of influence from the then-still burgeoning school of British post-punk dystopian sci-fi comics. In fact, with its clear (if not particularly biting) social and humanist satire, reliance of coyly fabricated slang dialect, broad condemnation of inherent corruption in upper class tiers wedded with political power, plus a handful of grubby mutants and striated urban decay, it was really an occasional “-ou-”, a reference to chip shops and anything resembling a sense of humor away from being a direct descendant of Dredd.

 The absence of any humor was possibly the defining characteristic of Electric Warrior – it’s dire, full of dread, ominous, oppressive, everyone is miserable and the only laughter is rueful. It is a comic which – and, again, in the grand tradition of the prog rock concept album to which your humble editor cannot help but compare it – takes itself so goddamn seriously. Even the nature children who live at peace with the wild world and get to spend all day fucking and painting mope around like goddamn dicks.

The world of the Electric Warrior is divided into four prominent social groups; “Zigs” inhabit the gutters and slums at street level, bind their children’s heads into jellybean shapes so as to better squeeze through rat-holes and cubbies, and live on garbage and die in factories; There are The Elites, the wealthy and politically powerful upper-class who reside in high-rise luxury apartments (though not so high up that the Zigs can’t easily lob garbage up on their balconies, or climb up unaided when the story calls for it, so … two stories up? Is this suburban LA?) and who command the deadly Electric Warriors as an android police force and invading army when needed; the “Primmies” diminutive for “Primitives”, who lead a loincloth-clad existence in the unspoiled wild and which are an admittedly unintentionally insulting parody of aboriginal cultures but, you know, there it is. There are also the “Genetrix”, legit ghastly mutants who hang out on the edge of these other cultures, fucking around with beat-up cars and who I think we can all safely assume Moench invented with the idea that he’d figure out their purpose later in the book (he didn’t).

The basic premise of Electric Warrior involves one Electric Warrior – Lek 9-03 – developing a human consciousness during a raid on the Zig’s street-level community and becoming a sort of folk hero for the downtrodden bean-headed weirdos.  Meanwhile, out in the unspoiled natural land, the Primmies’ poster boy – Derek Two-Shadow, born a Zig but raised in the woods – just wants to paint by a lake all day, only he has to deal with the jealousy of his rival Simon Soaring and the unappreciated adoration of what appears to be the only woman in the tribe (let’s call her Smurfette).

For their part, the Elites notice that a space invasion fleet is bearing down on their world – in a stroke of narrative irony which is stretched out over six or eight issues and which I’d describe as a tetch over-played, we the audience get to see that the armada bearing down on planet Earth is bearing a joint US/USSR insignia – which encourages them to start converting untainted Primmies into a new generation of Electric Warriors designed to repel the invasion.

"...enh."
Simon Soaring and Derek Two-Shadows end up becoming new ‘Leks, but more than that, Two-Shadow is fused with the remains of the rebel Electric Warrior, Lek 9-03, and must reconcile their two identities and loves for different women, and basically all this is missing to distinguish it from a mid-seller on the Billboard ’74 chart is a song about the hero being put on trial for being a rock star.

When the series wraps up, Moench reveals that Electric Warrior had been envisioned as an ongoing series, which is ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE. Boggles the imagination, the idea of this book going on much longer – eighteen issues is already a remarkable achievement, considering that there might legitimately be about four issues’ worth of story in the whole shmear up to this point AND that the big “reveal” at the end of the book is a Mulligan…

The invasion fleet lands, reveals that the entire planet is actually a big experiment and everyone on it – Zigs, Elites, Primmies OH AND GENETRIX hey guys, what’ve you been up to for eighteen issues (“Nuffink, Zug-Breath!” one replies, Robo-Trooperly) – is actually a brainwashed human being from Earth who were brought to this planet no more than a generation ago to see how societies are built. In the future, you see, we don’t have Sociologists any more, we just have the limitless resources and the absolute absence of empathy required to fuck up a whole generation of humanity to see if we can make Judge Dredd happen on Mars.

If Electric Warrior doesn't have the same vim, verve and vigor of its ancestral precedents in the British newsprint progs, much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the universally unsympathetic characters and half-built environments; with the similar stories being built overseas, much of the appeal lay in the sometimes-perverse empathy the audience felt with the characters - cultural cannibals, obsessive-compulsives and grotty authoritarians. For all of its mid-Eighties palette, the world of Electric Warrior really is a world that feels populated with man-like machines and cities built just to see what happens when you walk away from them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

COSTUME DRAMA : CAPTAIN AMERICA'S DUMB ARMOR


A trio of wildly successful superhero movies under his red-white-and-blue corset has given America’s one surviving Sentinel of Liberty (take that, Seventh-Day Adventist newspaper editor Lincoln E.Steed) a wide array of fancy costumes to adorn his many action figures and licensed Halloween costumes. It’s likely, however, that none of them will resemble the nose-squishing armor suit which Cap donned for a brief period in the bulked up, crosshatched era we call “The Nineties”, from Captain Vol.1 Nos.438 through 443.

Briefly succumbing to a poisonous anti-Super Soldier Serum agent, Cap entered a period where he could not only no longer rely on his drug-afforded super-strength and chemically-enhanced endurance (Winners don’t do drugs, kids, we tore Sammy Sosa a whole new one when he tried the same routine), but it was also killin’ him.

Stuck in the middle of a battle with the minions of The Red Skull (and when I say “middle”, I guess I mean that this thing’s going to keep happening until 2090, since he’s been slugging the same biker-emblem-headed white supremacist since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was popping wheelies on the White House lawn) AND the reptilian rogues of the Serpent Society (An organization which was basically like The Elks for any supervillain with a lisp), Cap’s fluctuating powers and equally fluctuating lifesigns puts him at such a distinct disadvantage, that the only smart solution is to tap out and let the eight thousand other superheroes in the Marvel universe finish this incredibly one-sided fight.

NO WAIT, I forgot whose name was on the title. Cap DOES relent to allowing Tony Stark, America’s foremost armored alcoholic, to build a fashion-challenged flying football uniform which makes NFL Superpro look like he just got off the catwalk in Milan. Featuring scalloped shoulderpads, jetpacks, and a nose-crunching bridge which kept Steve Rogers in a state of perma-grimace, the outfit also tried to answer the eternal question of “What to do with Captain America’s head-wings?” – the problem which baffles every redesigner on the Cap catalogue of costumes – by answering “Make them so super enormously big it’s ridiculous.” You can’t not look at those things, they’re like the Dolly Parton’s tits of super-hero head accouterments.

My favorite use of the costume involves an undersea assault perpetrated by Cap and his partners, Free Spirit, Falcon and Jack Flag, the patriotic superhero who sounds most like a kind of artisan cheese; Although the eye-slit which allowed Cap’s bare peepers to avoid contact with passing mirrors was sealed against the water, the giant opening over his mouth and chin in the front of his armored cowl wasn’t, meaning not only was the glass visor protecting his eyes not keeping anything out, the rest of his suit was probably filling with water as he swam.

"By the way, is anyone else soaked below the chin?"

Well engineered. This is why you get Eliot R Brown to diagram something before you put a superhero in it.

The costume is short-lived, despite its efficacy, but it’s also wasn’t Cap’s only solution against his engineered paralysis; he also donned The Battle-Vest.

The Battle-Vest was sort of a double-utility belt wrapped around candy cane striped shoulder flares, making Cap look a little like a Transformer who turned into a Barbershop carrying a bunch of leather sandwich baggies around on his torso. Created to augment Cap’s failing strength with a series of gimmicks, the vest gets to have the usual kind of superhero nonsense – knockout gas, handcuffs, a rebreather – but also possesses maybe the most amusing accessory ever possessed by any gadget-mad superhero: Airbags.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : BEE-MAN


In the wake of Batman’s success as a TV megastar, comics enjoyed a resurgence of popular interest with – obviously – DC’s Caped Crusader enjoying the bulk of the renewed celebrity. Upstart comic companies, already emboldened by fledgling Marvel’s superhero successes, took this collusion of circumstances as an opportunity to flood the field with new superhero titles, many of them themed superheroes in the Bat-mold, such as Harvey’s BEE-MAN.

Harvey Comics – more famous now for Richie Rich and Casper – had launched in the Golden Age with a passel of its own characters, none of whom were revamped and reintroduced with their Harvey Thrillers line – which is a shame. The Stuntman, The Vagabond Prince, The Zebra, Shock Gibson and particularly Hollywood’s Glamorous Detective Star The Black Cat – a debutante vigilante complete with animal-themed identity and teen sidekick – all seemed ripe for revitalizing, but instead the energy was put into new creations, not a few of which were the product of the inventive mind of Otto Binder.

Bee-Man (or B-Man, sometimes) scores cover appearances on both issues of Double-Dare Adventures, proclaiming on the first issue “We DOUBLE-DARE you to resist the attacking bees!” which sounds like something you’d say after a solid two ounces of dry shrooms. I’ll take “truth” next time.

There’s an onus on themed super-heroes to maintain your theme, but you can probably afford to veer away from it a little bit – Batman dressed like a bat, for instance, went out at night and lived in a cave, but then again bats don’t drive cars or communicate via searchlights. He relaxed the bat-theme a little bit. Not Bee-Man, though, he is the most bee-intensive superhero in the history of bee-intensive superheroes (and there’ve been more than a few). He’s like TWO Bees Man, he’s so into bees.

Born Barry E.Eames, he attempts to sabotage a satellite launch and instead ends up transported to a Bee-planet, ruled by Queen Bea and her army of mutant bees, who sting him and give him Bee powers, and he dresses in bee armor, and lives in a huge bee-hive and has to eat honey and honey concentrate to keep from going mad, and he steals gold because it looks like honey (?), and he has bee-powers, and when he turns on his evil masters he is awarded with a rank in the F-Bee-I. Bees! So much bees! Honk if you love bees! Bees – ask me how!

Bee-Man starts his career as a villain and is only redeemed in a second issue of Double-Dare. Before he can get that far, though, he hosts a rambling and near-incoherent text piece which apparently was meant to serve as some sort of manifesto (or should I say BEE-ifesto? Haha, haha, ha, no I shouldn’t)  or recruitment pamphlet for Al Qa-Bee-Da, and predates the best internet rambling by several decades. A sample:

"My worthy deeds will force all Earthlings to surrender to my SUPERIOR WORLD. Many of your great scientists have predicted that ONE DAY INSECTS WILL RULE THE EARTH. You laughed and called them crazy, but I shall prove them RIGHT. The day is not far away when INSECTS WILL INDEED RULE THE HUMANS OF THE EARTH. You will become our slaves and solve many of our problems - one of which is labor. The entire human race, what is left of it, that is, will become SLAVES TO MY RACE. You will fulfill the duties of our 'worker bees.' You will become MY SLAVES. Any questions?"

I think that covers all the salient points, actually.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

GONE & FORGOTTEN REVISITED : SUPERMAN 2001

...Yesterday!

SUPERMAN 2001

Personally, I can't even remember what Superman was really doing in 2001. For all I can remember of the last fifteen years of mucking about they've done with the big guy, he was either dead, revived, reincarnated, mulleted, electrified, split in two, evil, emotionless, cloned, too big, too small, stuck in the past, stuck in the future, crazy, mind-controlled, married, divorced, over-powered, de-powered, wearing a funny hat, getting his ass kicked by Batman, learning to snorkel in the Bahamas, eating marzipan cakes in a locked bathroom and weeping, or possibly all of the above at once.

COCK-BLOCKED!
As an aside, if you ask me what has defined Superman in the years since, say, the mid-90s, I honestly would have to reply "I have no idea what's going on with him from day to day." And it's true - back in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, it didn't matter HOW alternate a future or HOW imaginary a story to which we were being treated, Superman was Superman. They had some stories which featured his descendant in the 24th century or something, and it basically looked like Superman with a weak chin and a Hitler haircut. If we went to a parallel world where Superman was a villain, he wore a little black mask along with his regular costume. Really, ever since the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman's changing costumes, powers and appearance at the drop of the hat. I blame the action figure market.

But hey, that's beside the point! We're going back to the Golden (or, actually, Bronze) Age of 1976! More specifically, we're going back to Superman #300, the self-proclaimed "tricentennial" issue of Superman - My, he's come far since 1676 - and an imaginary tale which moved the Superman mythos up a few decades.

"Just imagine," the cover begs of us, "The MAN OF STEEL coming to Earth as a Baby TODAY -- -- and growing up in the world of TOMORROW!" (i.e. several years ago). Cary Bates and Elliot S! Maggin provide the writing and Curt Swan and Bob Oksner do the drawing on what is actually a terrific story with a lot going on, albeit as an artifact of the waning Cold War sensibilities of the era.

See? See how his skin reflects the laser?
Check it out. You see yet? I'll keep doing it, see?
The story opens with the same, familiar stirrings of the traditional super-origins. Jor-El - Superman's father and evidently Krypton's worst public speaker - responds to Krypton's violent dissolution by packing up baby Kal-El in more fabric than all three of Michael Jackson's kids combined, and shoving him in an atomic dildo headed straight for Earth. And so far, even with my overwhelming shame at the cheap and outdated Michael Jackson joke, nothing much different from the traditional here.

Now here's where the story gets ALL FUTURISTIC AND ULTRA-MODERN NOW, JUST YOU WAIT!

Soviet and American radar pick up the trace of Superbaby's cosmic bunting, and make a mad dash to beat one another to the oceanic crash site. After an I'm-not-kidding and totally-awesome action sequence, the ship is claimed by mustachioed Special Secret Operative Agent or something Lt.Thomas Clark! Hey, waitaminnit, CLARK? You don't suppose...

Awww, I love you too, little French Superbaby!
The ship is taken back to a secret government bunker where scientists attempt to blast baby Kal-El's face right off, there's some super-toddler hijinx, and for ONCE goddamn Superbaby can actually speak proper English and not that insane Bizarro-shit he used to go on about. "Me am shoot in rocket boom space eat cosmic bang-bang happy double cake ice cream cone WAAAAAAH!" Oh no, this time it's speaking every language on Earth fluently and knowing syntax, and where's the fun in that, I ask you?

Also, I think it puts the finger on Ma and Pa Kent for not hooking Superbaby on Phonics the first time around.

Superbaby is code-named "Skyboy" and raised by the U.S.Military, so you know he's going to grow up completely straight in the head, right folks? Eventually, news of his existence leaks out, causing a terrible increase in Cold War tensions. This is capitalized upon by an unnamed third-world country whose flamboyant and middle-aged major-domos have world conquest on the mind. They arrange some computerized tomfoolery which makes the US and USSR believe that the other country is launching a nuclear attack, believing that in the ruined aftermath, they'll be able to pick up the pieces and take over. Enjoy your glowing hunk of scorched soil, gentlemen, you're both assholes.

Oh, and did I mention that this brief US/USSR exchange happens in 1990? We were so young, once.

By 2001, Milton-Bradley's boardgame favorite takes on a scope of horrifying
proportions. C-17? YOU SANK MY BATTLESHIPS, IMPERIALIST DOG!

Anyway, "Skyboy" takes it on himself to stop every nuclear missile and space laser in existence, then following the death of his military mentor - General Kent Garret HOLD IT, KENT? OH. MY. GOD! That's AMAZING! - disappears into an anonymous existence, which takes us into the futuristic world of the twenty-first century.

Now, no offense intended to these guys - many of whom are my artistic heroes - but Seventies' comic book artists had no business drawing the future. Most of these guys barely knew what the present looked like, for crying out loud.

Swan's always been one of DC's exceptions when it came to a modern look, though, and he was damn good at giving his characters contemporary fashion and style. I think the problem came to him - in this story specifically - when he was called on to design a future world of advanced technology, BUT not render it in such a way that it looked exactly like the future of the Legion of Super-Heroes. 

So now he has to achieve a delicate balance of ju-u-u-ust the right moderation and tweaks and finesse and nuance and - oh, I'll shut up, it looks like the Legion of Super-heroes future. Except they didn't call everything "Cosma-Ice Cream" and "Super-Clothing," and that everyone's wearing three-layered pantsuits instead of really ugly Underoos with their home planet printed on the jerkin, or whatever. The Cosma-Jerkin. Fucking future.

Some of you may be too young to recall, but this actually IS what the internet was like back in 2001...

There's no greater comedy dollar than the "What did they think the future would look like wayyy back in the past" comedy dollar. Or "Comedo-Cred" or "Econo-Humor-Unit" or whatever. Cosma-comedy-dollar. In any case, let's take a look at ... THE STARTLING WORLD OF THE FUTURE!

Siegfried and Roy 2001,
evil foreign putzes.
For one thing, we're no longer watching television, but Tri-Vision! Which I think means that the future is offering us a triple dose of Univison, and that Mexican show where all those forty-five year old guys and tanned super-models dress in ridiculous school uniforms and pretend to be in grade school.

A thousand Cosma-points for accurate predictions to Bates and Maggin though. Clark no longer is a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper or even broadcasting giant WGBS, but is an anchorman for a "24-hour news network" made possible by the "around the world ... huge communications linkup."

Another accurate prediction made by the Bates/Maggin team was that there'd be a frothy mocha available on every street corner. Or MOKA, sorry, let me get my notes straight as we get back to the story.

The aforementioned gaudy third-world nation, still helmed by what appears to be an elderly gay couple, strikes upon a brilliant plan, assuming that you're judging brilliance by comic book standards. On New Year's Eve, 2001, they send a four-armed android to perch on the clock above Times Square and declare that he his-own-bad-self was not only responsible for saving the world from total destruction back in 1990, but that he now demands their allegiance. Oh, and that his allies Frappe and Latte would be joining him shortly.



Amazingly, the world BELIEVES HIM, right off the bat. Gullible fools. Is that too harsh, you ask? Hell, I'm just quoting the MAN! Superman reads the dupes of Earth the fucking riot act while he turns MOKA into styrofoam peanuts.

Actually, his outright verbal abuse is meant to inspire folks to not look to 'heroes and false gods' for the answer to their problems, which Metropolis' citizens adhere to by erecting a ginormous Superman statue in the middle of Times Square.

As for the fashion nightmare that WAS whatever retirement home-turned-third world nation it was, they had their plans foiled AGAIN by Superman, and thus ... quit, I guess. I dunno, they didn't follow up on it.

Frankly, they're not the worst villains I've seen in Seventies' comics - In a SHAZAM! I was reading recently, Captain Marvel repulsed a world-conquering effort by a bunch of guys who lived in a city suspended by wires above a mountain chasm. Turns out if you, I dunno, cut a few of the wires supporting their nation, they tend to calm down. At least Future-Siegfried and Cosma-Roy had the good sense to quit while they were ahead, in the world of 2001 ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BATMAN LEADS AN INTERESTING LIFE : BATMAN VS DR DOOM


Nope, it’s not the Fantastic Four’s armor-plated nemesis trading blows with the Caped Crusader and his boy chum in this April, 1950, issue of Detective Comics No.158, but rather a balding jewel smuggler whose assumed appellation raises more questions than it answers. “Dr Doom”, you wonder, looking at the bespectacled baldie, “How exactly does he doom people?” Perhaps it’s his given surname, he’s Roy Howard Doom, of the Connecticut Dooms, or maybe he just holds a lot of sway in the jewel smuggling business and can really damage a guy’s long-standing rep with so much as an unkind word. There’s really no way for us to know because he’s dead now.

The fatal adventure begins with the Dynamic Duo dusting their dearest souvenirs – a locked camber in the Batcave plays host to (according to the story) literally 1,000 trophies of their cases against crime. Included in this total is that famous giant robot dinosaur (here, a sneering but inarguably vegetarian brontosaurus) and the giant penny , plus some enormous chess pieces, a mechanical dice-roller the size of the QE II, a musical note (?), the Joker’s Mardi Gras mask , some cannons, a buncha dumb umbrellas from the Penguin’s personal collection and one souvenir they had to give back because the police needed it for evidence. So not only is the announced total a huge lie, also isn’t all of this evidence? Batman and Robin, springing criminals for life!

"Plus one time we went to Six Flags."
Meanwhile, the pair’s spring cleaning is interrupted when they’re called to bust up the alleged smuggling efforts of Dr.Doom down by the waterfront, discovering DESPITE HIS CLEVER PLOY that the Doctor had been hiding jewels in fake Egyptian artifacts. No one was concerned he was smuggling in Egyptian artifacts? Apparently not, Commissioner Gordon even gives a sarcophagus to Batman to hide away in his goodie pile back home.

In the meantime, Dr.Doom has plunged into the icy waters of Gotham Harbor as is presumed drowned, only little does anyone realize that he’s not only alive, he’s hidden himself in the sarcophagus and is allowing himself to be smuggled into the Batcave!

Once installed in the Trophy Room, which is locked from the outside, Doom uses his “criminal genius” (that’s a two-year course at DeVry) to rig the assorted trophies to murder Batman and Robin the next time they enter. Appropriately, pretty much of all the trophies which were getting a good scrubbing earlier end up either almost slaughtering the duo or serendipitously save their lives, although we’re given a peep at a bombproof “midget mansion the wee people of tiny town” gifted the Dark Knight Detective as a souvenir and I WANT TO READ THAT STORY.

Doom is killed when an errant bomb locks him in the airtight sarcophagus, suffocating him, which – hold it, someone died in the Batcave? Now what? Batman doesn’t call the city’s ME down there to investigate the scene, does he? Does he move the body? That’s not kosher, we only have his and Robin’s word on how the crook snuffed it, the state would have no choice but to prosecute a charge of tampering and manslaughter at the very least.

Unless … the Commissioner did say that Doom was lost at sea and presumed deceased, would Batman and Robin just … dump the body? There are big pits in that cave, they could do it? Or is the mummified corpse of Dr.Doom the real … one-thousand and first display in Batman and Robin’s Hall of Trophies?

"Tell no one."


Thursday, April 10, 2014

TRULY GONE AND FORGOTTEN : THE UGLY SUPERMAN

He's ugly - AND he likes hash!
Superman’s rogues gallery abounds with reverse and imperfect Supermen – there’s Super-Menace, Ultraman, Bizarro Superman, Negative Superman, Sand Superman, Chainsmokin’ Superman, Butt Out Of His Pants Superman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Supermans, ALLLLLL kindsa suck-ass Supermans.

Meanwhile, Superman’s girlfriend Lois Lane has been romanced by all sorts of faux Supermen, none of whom I can recall at this moment but I bet they were called Hyperman and Wonderman and Marsman and dumbass stupid names like that, because comics. Oh, and Hercules I think? Samson? But also definitely – UGLY SUPERMAN.

Referee Earl Hebner presiding.
Debuting in Superman’s Girlfriend (and we can’t all say that) Lois Lane #8, Ugly Superman was a pug-ugly wrestler with a bust face who falls hard for the lovely Lois when she begrudgingly attends one of his matches. A heel (that’s bonafide wrestlin’ terminology, folks, we do our research around here – not counting those first two paragraphs) whose gimmick involves (A) being ugly and (B) dressing like Superman, the rough-hewn and dimwitted grappler slowly begins to win Lois’ affection with his boundless devotion.

Originally only indulging the poor slob in kind of a huff, she genuinely feels pity – which, if I’ve learned anything from reading those pickup artist sites for that Supergirl article back in January, is a totally valid strategy to get laid – and accepts a marriage proposal. Superman manages to break it off by dressing up like an old man and making Ugly Superman look like an idiot and then waiting around for him to appear in the newspaper strip and to fart in a fancy restaurant (I did not make that up), instead of breaking it off by throwing Ugly Superman into the sun. Because Superman’s a nice guy.

A great concept like Ugly Superman they couldn’t let die, so he reappeared in Superman’s Pal (and we can’t all say that) Jimmy Olsen #111 as a coterie of in-ring wrestlers Jimmy reports on and bad-mouths continually throughout the matches. Juicing up on elasti-serum, Jimmy dons his Elasti-Lad outfit and proceeds to make mincemeat of every wrestler up to ol’ Ugly S, who ALSO drinks the serum and becomes I guess Elasti Ugly Superman? Ugly Elasti Superman? Either way I feel confident in declaring this THE SCREW-JOB IN METROPOLIS although I think we can all agree that Ugly Superman screwed Ugly Superman…

No, but Clark looks into it.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

THE SHADOW (NO)


The Shadow is one of those characters who – like Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, and a few others – predate the superhero while simultaneously being what is essentially a template for the superhero model; a colorful costume and nom de guerre, a secret identity, gimmicks and powers with which to battle against evil – all the trappings, if not the name.

Years after the Shadow’s heyday in the pulp era, Archie Comics acquired the license to represent the character in comic books. Feeling, as they certainly had a reason to, that the era of shadowy killers grimly executing grotesque murderers and insidious arch-fiends needed to have a modern appeal , and existing in the era of high-camp Code-approved superheroics and Cold War-era spy fiction, the end result was Lamont Cranston, superhero and agent of CHIEF.

There have been a few subsequent adaptations of the Shadow which remain of particular note – the classic Denny O’Neil and Mike Kaluta series from the early Seventies, and the often hard-to-categorize but very stylish 80s effort from the Helfer/Sienkiwicz/Baker assemblage, but did either of them put the Shadow in a green and purple bodysuit and have him shoot hypno-lightning from his eyes? No, so they are bogus.

The Shadow successfully battles depression.
Archie Comics was creating a Shadow which fit the mold of their hip, swinging Mighty Crusaders line of characters, and their version of the character seemed to resemble them. In his first two issues, the Shadow’s secret identity – hawk-nosed playboy Lamont Cranston – is replaced by a blonde-topped businessman with movie star looks. His choice of costume was, by contrast, fairly modest – instead of the Shadow’s traditional sloop-brimmed hat, long blood-red scarf and blazing automatics, there was merely a dark navy blue jumpsuit and waist-length cloak.

The Shadow’s mocking laugh, routine about the bitter fruit of the weed of crime, and pledge “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men?” are also all missing (except on the covers, where they only do so much good), although I’m sure in one of these eight issues the Shadow says “Ha ha” and comments that he receives quite a bit of mail, so it’s sort of the same.

Crossing over from the original Shadow mythos are her personal assistant Margo Lane and nemesis Shiwan Khan, although he forms only the first of a colorful array of new baddies to plague the revamped crimefighter; an ex-Nazi named Dr.Demon shows up and joins Shiwan Khan in attempting to rid the world of the Shadow. He’s joined later by Radiation Rogue (whose ungloved hand can send waves of deadly radiation all over the place like crazy), Attila the Hun…ter (little did we know his business cards had just cut off the last half of his appellation) , an oversized monster with a soupcon of Tor Johnson about him going under the name The Brute, and lastly the super-stretchy baddie Elasto and the Diabolical Dimensionoid, all of whom team up to smash the Shadow but, as they will, just get their butts handed to them.

You might almost think this was complete nonsense.
By this time, the blonde and be-cloaked Shadow has changed out his look for black hair and a green and purple costume which nonetheless resembles some sort of cross between The Fly and The Web, two of Archie’s other superheroic properties. He’s also fully committed now to the agency of CHIEF, for which he operates as an agent in his Lamont Cranston identity during the day and fights for as The Shadow by night.

Unusually – and certainly a coincidence – the Shadow’s eight issues tie up nicely together as the end of a story arc, which all of the hero’s foes gathering to fall upon him as one and finding themselves decidedly defeated. After a slaughter of that nature, none of them would make much hay when showing up alone or even in pairs to tackle the green-and-purple paladin of justice, and it’d be hard to believe the Shadow couldn’t put an end to any new threat which showed up after that.  Cancellation makes for a very nice epilogue, with all of that considered.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

COSTUME DRAMA : THE BLACKHAWKS


Blackhawks – Junk Heap Heroes

The Blackhawks – the original all-flying, all-fighting, Axis-busting airborne international aces of World War 2 – not only had one of the most iconic costumes in comics history, they had two.

The original Blackhawk ensemble was a slick blue-black and all-leather affair, emblazoned with the screaming hawk logo across the tum-tum, and cut a stylish figure – although its dark palette, jodhpur and car always looked a little, er, Reich-y to me. IF Y’CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, I guess. Their second look was a casual affair in Christmas colors, a red and black blouse and green pants and black boots which, again, let’s be honest, was still a little bit Reich-y, but let’s judge the fellas on the work they did and not the work clothes they wore.

Still, in 1967, in the wake of the wild revival of superhero-mania caused by the success of the Batman tee-vee show and the spy-craze still simmering from all sorts of James Bond and Mans from UNCLEs and such, the Blackhawks got a complete makeover marbled through with phony-baloney secret agent nonsense. From issues numbered 221 through 241 of their own long-running comic, the flyers were put on a sort of life-or-death reality show by a secret organization with the world’s dumbest acronym, judged by a celebrity panel of Silver Age super-types whose fashion sense I guess we have to accept as infallible even though at least one of them dressing up like a rubber ferret.


Sidelined by the governmental espionage agency GEORGE – an acronym which stands for The Group for the Extermination of Organizations for Revenge, Greed and Evil – and its primary agent, Mr.Delta, the Man With A Piece of A-4 Paper Instead Of A Face, the Blackhawks have to prove that they’re suited to handle the threats of the Jet Age. This mostly involves facing off against a robot who beats them up while telling them what big phoneys they are. In fact, over the three-issue arc during which the Blackhawks adopt their new costumes and identities, the recurring theme is “Who’s Lamer Than The Blackhawks? No one!” For a comic with their own name on the cover, they’re sure taking a real licking in the reputation department.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Blackhawks’ new costumes, identities and what GEORGE said was wrong with them:


  • Blackhawk himself gets off pretty easy, as he’s allowed to keep his snazzy red-and-green casual costume and doesn’t have any particular flaws pointed out except the gentle barbs of Mr.Delta. “Blackhawk, more like BLECCH-Hawk,” he said, in my imagination. In fact, the chief Blackhawk gets promoted to the position of head tormentor of his fellow teammates, gaining the privilege of using a giant robot scorpion to slap his old pals while he yells abuse at them from a tower. It’s like high school all over again. Blackhawk ends up being renamed “The Big Eye” and flies around in a tremendous airship shaped like a two-headed black eagle which, again, a little Reich-y.
  • Andre, the team’s French lothario and winner of the Thinnest Mustache in Occupied France award four years running is revealed to be a straight-up gynophobe (which I guess explains his catchphrase, “Mizandry iz real, mon amis!”) and is thereby punished by being dressed up like a priapism tied up with bandoliers made of tool belts, and forced to operate under the name “Msieu Machine”, the team’s Dwayne Schneider.
  • Hendrickson, the team’s Dutch Uncle, who is older than the guy God’s dad knew in the neighborhood when he was growing up who had a bunch of Civil War memorabilia in the house, it turns out that his biggest issue is that his accent is really thick. I guess points to the non-ageist, non-ableist mindset that suggested a fat old man might not be the world’s best field agent, but whatever the case, Hendy is decked out in a purple constable’s costume that might’ve been stolen from McDonaldland’s wardrobe department and redubbed Weapons Master.
  • Olaf, the team’s Swedish idiot, is revealed to be a Swedish idiot, and I’m not kidding; he’s repeatedly referred to as “You big, dumb Swede” throughout his trials. I wasn’t even aware this current of anti-Swedish sentiment ran so strong through the comics community, but here we are. Criticized for relying overmuch on his corny acrobatic skills, Olaf is given a spare Michelin Man costume which gives him even acrobattier skills. Another success for science and the anti-crime juggernaut known as Leaper.
  • All-American Chuck, the team’s former demolitions expert, is relegated to communications – this is the kind of demotion which typically follows an inadvertent yet deliberate explosion at an orphanage -  and now called The Listener. Even worse than that name is his costume – loose fitting pajamas daubed with cartoon ears – or I hope they’re cartoons. They might be real ears, he might be wearing the ear suit.
  • Stan, Polish strongman, doesn’t even GET an assessment or a new identity, he has to go out and get one for himself, beating the shit out of a weirdo crimelord named The Emperor and stealing his flying suit of gold armor. For the record, Stan’s problem is that he’s a murderous klepto, although instead of using that as his superheroic alias he goes for Golden Ceturion.
  • Lastly, there’s Chop-Chop, the team’s one-time ethnic grotesque, a former buck-toothed stereotype who chittered pidgin English and ran around looking like a bronze teapot with parentheses for eyes. He’s been normally proportioned for a few years by the time the rebranding comes along, although he’s still quick to belt out something in over-formal English about celestial ancestors or saving face, the usual, etc. Still, pleasingly, when he gets his new costume, it’s merely a nice tuxedo and, uh, beryllium-encased hands which can smash through anything. That’s gonna make pissing a chore, although it’s not much worse than his muppet-y new codename, Dr Hands, and all of this is because Chop was only an expert in Judo which is apparently, scientifically speaking, not as good as karate. Don’t yell at me, tell your sensei to take it up with the Blackhawks’ robot coach.


The newly rechristened and recast Blackhawks spend three issues justifying the big change in their direction and then the remainder of a year facing off against a criminal super-group which unashamedly includes among its roster such ex parte fictional terror groups as THRUSH and SPECTRE, as well as DC’s own OGRE taking time off from bothering Aquaman. Twelve brief issues of this Bob Haney-scripted nonsense is all the new Blackhawks can take before it’s time to re-don the old black-and-blues amid the smoking crater where GEORGE headquarters once stood, thanks to a smash-happy foe of the old Nazi variety, Black Mask.

Whether they like it or not!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN FOES : HUMPTY DUMPTY THE HOBBY ROBBER


Humpty Dumpty

Owing to the amount of research involved in Your Humble Editor’s other blog – The Chronological Superman, documenting the first twelve years of the Man of Steel across his assorted media – AND last year’s not-unrelated Villains of Steel project, I’ve developed a fascination with the question of who were the first super-villains faced by the individual members of the Superman Family.

His greatest nightmare.
Superman’s fairly straight-forward, his first super-foe is the Ultra-Humanite … unless you have increasingly specific definitions of what constitutes a super-villain versus an evil scientist, in which case it could be anyone from Luthor to little known baddies like The Ghost, Metalo or The Night Owl. Supergirl’s first dedicated super-foe is either one of two Kandorian bottle villains, Lesla Lar or the masked Black Flame, again depending on your definition.

For Superboy – the original Superboy who debuted in 1945, anyway – it’s clear-cut, his first super-villain was Humpty Dumpty, The Hobby Robber!

Created by Bill Finger – and if we know this for no other reason, we know it because Finger loved the “Hobby Robber” concept and used it for maybe half a dozen different villains across a few different comics – Humpty Dumpty is a laughably obese obsessive-compulsive, driven to amass immense collections for his own, selfish admiration. Yep, he’s the Fandom Elemental, a creature of pure avarice who robs others of delight so as to pad his own mancave to the gills with useless shit.

Well, it's good to keep active.
Decked out in comics’ least ominous ensemble – a frill-collared pair of footie pajamas with patches representing assorted hobbies sewn willy-nilly onto it, topped with a beanie cap – the eternally grinning Humpty Dumpty rides into thievery on his rocket-powered “hobby horse”, which is a flawless three-pointer of a double-meaning, give it up for Finger.

The concept of Hobby Robbing (which never doesn’t sound a little dirty, though lord knows why) is a wonderland for Finger, who – of course – invented most of Batman’s classically thematic foes and made a career out of tea-themed criminals robbing tea museums and Frisbee-themed villains robbing the Frisbee Suger Cube company payroll and all that good stuff. Because Humpty Dumpty’s obsession is hobbies – which are often about thematic collecting in the first place – he gets to change his theme five or six times per appearance; now he’s using stamp-themed gimmicks to rob a stamp show, now he’s using exploding pennies to rob a coin show, and so on. He’s the Soup Plantation buffet of themed villains.

Surprisingly, Humpty Dumpty made a multitude of appearances during a brief period, earning him a spot as one of Superboy’s most persistent recurring foes - considering how few he had, this puts Humpty behind The Kryptonite Kid and damn near nobody else.

Also making him an effective villain is the fact that
he is Buffalo-fuckin'-Bill batshit insane is what.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

TOUCH OF EVEL


In the 1970s, we held stuntmen, daredevils and high-wire artists in the sort of awe reserved for conquering heroes home from the war or the best-hung of male porn stars - just blind, nail-biting wonder, admiration and a soupcon of vicarious terror. It might almost be impossible to reconcile this with the shape of the world after the advent of extreme sports - hell, I've seen guys on So You Think You Can Dance pull moves that make the Snake River rocket-sled jump look like playing hopscotch with a Care Bear on a pillow farm.

Still, we held the stuntman to an ideal of physical perfection, hedonism, and self-sacrifice for the greatest cause America has or will ever know - entertainment consumerism, and the King of the Daredevils was clearly Evel Knievel.

"Damn, if only I owned a motorcycle or a jet-car!"
We had Hooper, we had George Willig, we had Rick Rojatt, but we never had another daredevil quite like Evel Knievel. A charismatic and telegenic man who combined Elvis looks and Elvis showmanship with “almost dying in a fiery explosion” to create a phenomenon that carried him through an entire decade and into the Guinness Book of World Records, Knievel is a man with an almost limitlessly compelling backstory.

Unfortunately, it’s not his story that’s the focus of this contemporary comic book release, but rather a promotional effort to sell the Evel Knievel line of stunt toys which Ideal manufactured in the early Seventies. Available as a giveaway at toy stores, the book catalogs Evel’s attempts to perfect a series of new stunts at his new stunt stadium (which doubles as a protective enclave for endangered Everglades wildlife – no trick missed, the toys get tied into the awakening environmental movement plus having an enclosure full of alligators on the premises sure makes it a handy place to accidentally crash your jet cycle).

Knievel’s practice runs are sabotaged by Mr.Danger, a black-clad baddie who is actually “local racketeer”  and real estate developer Bernie Hutton, who had plans to take the failed stunt stadium down and replace it with an industrial park. For extra evil, he’ll also force the animals of the Everglades to work there as temps, but with limited bathroom breaks and no free sodas in the break room. The cheek!

Well he just flat out looks like a penis here.
Practicing the individual stunts themselves would be sufficient to get Evel onto replicas of all the assorted toys sold by Ideal as part of their line, but having a baddie means he gets to use them in exciting chases. A personal favorite is Evel’s Sunt-And-Crash car which is intentionally designed to “fly apart on impact” so as to protect Evel from harm. That’s a good line, Detroit, and I bet someone planned to use it.

Evel also makes use of a Sky Hook Ramp, a semi-replica of his “Canyon Sky Cycle”, his stuntcycle (revved up by a “Gyro-Powered Energizer” – i.e. “a crank”) and, of course, the piece de resistance, his “Scramble Van”.  The features of the Scramble Van, described as a “fabulous rolling workshop office lounge” (and not, as the name implies, a delicious Denny’s breakfast special), according to captions within the story, include:


  • A slide-up windshield
  • Flip-up read door
  • Slide-out side panels
  • A mountable jump ramp for stunts


What isn’t but ought to be included are:

  • Full crash cart and paramedics on call
  • A wall map of all 433 broken bones in Evel’s  body
  • A consent form for risky surgery
  • Insurance documents identifying the next of kin
  • Morphine


With the aid of his pals, franchise partner and former Hollywood stuntman Ray Bradley and Ray’s son Dan, Evel is able to put a kibosh on Mr.Danger’s plans without ever having to resort to the pesky bother of calling the police. Who needs to place a phone call to the cops when you have all of these exciting toys and accessories that complete your Ideal Evel Knievel Stuntman playset, ready for adventure!

You're breaking the hearts of some of your most devoted fans with your prejudice, Evel.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

BATMAN LEADS AN INTERESTING LIFE : ACE THE SUPER-BAT-HOUND

Batman No.158 September 1963
Ace the Super-Bat-Hound

I have to hand it to the editorial and writing staff over at the Batman titles, when they were given a relative non-starter like a German Shepherd rescue dog decked out in a bat-mask who’d eventually go running into battle against crime like his superhero masters, they didn’t back away from it. “Bat-Hound?” they asked, laughing over blowjobs and martinis, “I can write a Bat-Hound story. Give me an Bat-Hound annual, just watch me! The Many Costumes of Ace The Bat-Hound, the Ace The Bat-Hound Mer-Hound, fourteen different stories where Ace the Bat-Hound gets superpowers, bring it on!” I imagine them saying, Mad Mennily.

"Zoosh"
That last possibility is what happens in Batman No.158 in September of 1963, as a bunch of spilled chemicals in the Dynamic Duo’s clearly improperly ventilated Batcave crime lab fall over and apparently give Ace a wide array of supercanine abilities. He comes flying out of nowhere just as the Caped Crusader and his young chum are facing disassembling at the spinning blades of a machine which carve ice using a giant buzzsaw, and which for all I know if how they did it back in the Sixties. Chewing the blade to pieces, Ace saves the day, and upends the criminals by using his super-strength to tear up the track of a minecart they’re using the escape. Yep, they used a minecart.

Weirdly, a chemical gas found in the mine seems to weaken the Bat-Hound and, worse yet, turn him on his owners, which is used by the crooks to get Batman and Robin almost dog-breath-burned-to-death. All of this is the clue Batman needs to deduce that chemical shmemicals, it was BAT-MITE who empowered the beast.

Through a series of cameos throughout the story, the otherwise invisible imp from the Bat-Fifth-Dimension hovers over our heroes and enjoys Ace’s super-dog antics, but reasons out the following as to why the mine gas seems to have a negative effect on him:



Also, this is the first time I realized how much Bat-Mite resembles Patton Oswalt. Is he doing a bit?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

COSTUME DRAMA : WHEN SUPERMAN TURNED YELLOW


Action Comics No.236 – Superman’s New Uniform
New Adventures of Superboy No.18 – January 1981
There’s probably no more iconic superhero costume in the history of the genre than Superman’s, but that didn't keep ‘em from tricking it out like a tile floor in the Shining hotel but wearing a red belt. Likewise, that didn't hinder the happenings of Action Comics No.236, January 1958, where Superman ditched his familiar red-and-blues for something that looked a little like a banana blowing a spit bubble.

When Professor Xavier Carlton ask Superman to doff his familiar togs so the scientist can test an exploding robot (“Fantastische, he explodes exactly as I hoped! Muzzer vill be so pleased” I imagine him saying so that my use of quotation marks won’t be entirely misleading), the Man of Steel leaves the premises in an ersatz suit poorly engineered to handle the extremes of super-exertions common to everyday heroics. Turns out Xavier Carlton is actually evil scientist Lex Luthor, which is something I’m sure Superman would have noticed if only he’d had any kind of super-ability relating to seeing through disguises, hearing and recognizing individual heartbeats, or generally having any sort of super-senses which would make a rubber mask and fright wig and unacceptable effort to delude him.

When the phony supersuit begins to fall apart, split at the seams, catch fire and just generally unravel like a sweater in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, Superman returns to the professor who blames the suddenly shoddy workmanship on his exploding robot experiment and makes it up to Superman by creating a replacement costume out of a life raft and gumball machine.

Now every rescue at sea is a PARTY! ♫ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ ♫

Now decked out in the traditional super-villain secondary palette, astronaut bubble helmet (with a hole in it so Superman can use his superbreath, so WHAT IS THE POINT?), and “SUPERMAN” emblazoned across the chest, Superman is now in possession of a costume which features the following accessories:
  • Wings on his boots, so he doesn’t make any sort of flying noise, which according to this story is “WHOOSH”. Maybe he just has wind. Also, the wings are powered by atomic motors on his ankles, so I’m sure that won’t ever be a problem.
  • A radio receiver and transmitter in his helmet, which is handy for a guy with super hearing and super ventriloquism. 
  • It glows in the dark
  • Gloves. For that evening look.
  • A giant green ANTI KRYPTONITE BELT which is labeled as such so as to make it pretty much the first thing you’re going to want to take off the guy and also it’s lead-lined so Superman can’t see through it, but I guess he ain’t care? 

Naturally the anti-kryptonite belt is LOADED with Kryptonite, like OOPS! ALL KRYPTONITEBERRIES loaded, and eventually the lead chips away slowly exposing Superman to the stuff and casually snuffing him, allowing Luthor to show up in another rubber mask and Superman’s costume pretending to be the real Superman, which wouldn’t have been part of my plan if I were in charge of this. Just shoot the guy, super-genius, we got stuff to do.

Here’s some things which could have been on the costume, but weren’t:

  • Clown shoes
  • An Elizabethan collar
  • A codpiece with built-in jacob’s ladder
  • An aqualung full of pancake batter and another one full of maple syrup, strapped to his back underneath his cape and feeding out through nozzles along his sleeves so he can make pancakes for hungry orphans with a mere gesture, if he ever stumbles across any.
  • His name and address stitched into the back of his underwear so it doesn’t get mixed up with the other boys at super-camp
  • Two thongs laid one over the other, back to front
  • An “I’m with A Kryptonian Babootch” t-shirt that has an arrow pointing to the side

Well, at least his balls, butt and back remain invulnerable.
Superman shrugs it off eventually and reclaims his regular longjohns from Luthor’s Laundry of Doom, but this isn’t the only time he’d dressed up as a nauseating flavor of Laffy Taffy (i.e. any of them). For instance, in New Adventures of Superboy No.18 (June 1981), young Clark Kent takes Lana Lang’s sartorial sarcasm to heart and makes an effort to change his look. Unravelling his super-suit, he adds in more yellow from his bullet-proof baby blankets and becomes the lemon-hued avenger of justice. I like the blue cape, myself. The rest of it looks like a rogue Froot Loop fighting crime.

Eventually, the new sour lemon splash Superboy realizes that the yellow costume is reflecting most of the yellow sunlight he depends on in order not to suck while on Earth, and he abandons it for his old togs, although doesn’t this suggest that Superman is just bogarting the lion’s share of an indestructible yellow super-costume somewhere? There’s only a little bit of yellow on the existing costume, he must have almost two or three yards of the stuff in a Linen Closet of Solitude. GIVE THAT SHIT TO ROBIN, you ever see how often Batman hides behind that kid when crooks show up? That boy is in for trouble in them bare legs and fancy short-sleeve vest, he could use a bullet-proof pajama bottom.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GONE & FORGOTTEN REVISITED: CLASH OF TITANS - THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA VERSUS HAUNTED PANTS

I don't understand how "Battle Against the Bodiless Uniforms" doesn't just mean the same thing as "Laundry Day."

Back in Justice League of America (vol 1) #35, the League had the honor of getting to fight not only against their own recently worn leggings and panty liners, but also the recently worn and left-to-hang-around-without-getting-washed boxers of their greatest enemies (well, some of their enemies, anyway. “Greatest” is a particularly loaded term).

Meet Abnerdaddle, Gussie and Fart,
the pink pashas of mayhem.
Technically, their prominent enemies in this tale - the ones with agency - were a trio of demonic, acromegalic albino monster brothers from the dawn of time, the sinister and gibberish-monikered Abnegazar, Rath and Gast, whom the League had earlier battled in Justice League of America #10.

To be honest, I always liked these guys (even though their heyday was well before my time). They had an ominous, unlikely origin, they were primordial evils, and they looked like someone took a Spirograph to a handful of skinned chihuahuas on PCP. They had an air of amoral menace which a lot of super-villains of the Silver Age lacked, but then again in this issue they’re going to make Batman fight his own socks, so maybe I’m projecting.

In this case, Akhenaton, Kunta Kinte and Gah-Boogie-Boogie have hatched the kind of Byzantine plan which makes you wonder why people get into evil sorcery in the first place, inasmuch as it seems like a whole lot of fuckin’ trouble. Having been entombed in impenetrable energy cocoons by Green Lantern and buried in three remote spots around the Earth, the three big-headed brothers enact some sort of goddamn improbable backup plan wherein they summon the spare uniforms of the Justice Leaguers to their aid.

Evidently, Gateface, Woodentooth and Ginalollabrigida had the foresight – during their earlier battle with the JLA – to imbue the heroes’ uniforms with magical energy, just in case they’d ever need Wonder Woman’s support garments to do their bidding (wait, actually, as I say it out loud, it no longer seems so crazy).

The satanic siblings then mentally command the bewitched wardrobe to all rub up on a series of magical items held in the JLA’s trophy room (the Red Jar of Calythos, the Green Bell of Uthool, and the Silver Wheel of Nyorlath and I know it sounds like I’m just making up nonsense words but I swear I ain’t) and, having done so, find the hidden prisons of the beelzebubbic brothers and rub off a little magic onto them so they boys can bust out.

Oh for god's sake, just ball it up
into a wad and huck it in the hamper.
BUT, the suits apparently forgot to frot sufficiently against the magic miscellanea, requiring the disabled demons to send them BACK out into the world, this time with the mystical mission of passing more magic into the disembodied duds of several JLA villains (The Pied Piper, Killer Moth, Dr.Polaris, and then Dagon and The Mask, or as I like to call ‘em, The Heavy Hitters Squad), which then take on the appearance of the actual villains.

So, the empty-villain-suits (made to look like they are full of actual villains) get into a knock-down, drag-out with the League, during which they take extra pains to tear up and muss the costumes that the heroes happen to have on at the time. The heroes take the villain-costumes to jail, and then change into their spare costumes, which – oh heavens no! – happen to be the uniforms which Abernathy, Godzooky and Petulaclark had earlier imbued with some particularly sad-ass ineffective magic.

But wait, their devious plan proceeds unabated! The magically enchanted (evil) socks and (villainous) codpieces and the (frilly lavender) panties (that Killer Moth wears and he hopes no one ever finds out about because he’d be the laughing stock of Gotham, but damn it, they make him feel confident and sure of himself, just like a beautiful lady, and what’s so wrong about that?) escape from jail, which is okay because I’m pretty sure you can’t prosecute a sweater vest. Except in Texas. In Texas, you can execute a sweater vest.

Goddamnit, you people.

Engaged in another knuckle-duster with their enemies’ assorted banana-hammocks and over-the-shoulder boulder holders, the Leaguers wear themselves out subduing the laundry (over eight action-packed pages of folding action like you’ve never seen).

The Justice League is a buncha goddamn complainers is what.

It turns out that this – this, my friends – this is the pivotal part of the sinister plan of Aunt Ethel, George Wendt and Ernesto, evil demon brothers from the beginning of time! Because now that the Justice League is exhausted, the (weak ass) magic in their spare uniforms takes them over and brings them to the locations of the brothers’ individual prisons, whereupon the heroes are forced to collect the earlier-mentioned enchanted errata (the Blue Bell of Blah-blah, the White Wheel of Whupsie-Daisy, the J … J … the Jar of Bluhbluhbluh, I don’t even remember) and use their (exhausted) powers to free the evil trio.

SOME PLAN.

You know what my big evil super sinister escape plan is? It’s a gun. I shoot it at the first guy who tries to put me in an impenetrable energy prison. Who knows if it’ll work, it’s worth a try, at least it won’t be as stupid or ineffectual as what Abevigoda, Rizzumrazzum and Googledotcom tried to pull off.

You super-heroes are slobs. Next issue, Green Arrow shows up in sweats and a t-shirt with holes in the collar.

Speaking of which, you might be wondering if their plan did indeed work … and it did indeed work, indeed! Not only did they trick the Justice League into freeing them, but they imprisoned the Leaguers themselves, and then – only five panels away from total victory – vanished into the ether. Why and wherefore? Let’s let the Justice League explain for themselves.

Goddamnit, you assholes.



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