Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Have A Winner!

I've been running an unofficial contest
in my heart for many a year now, seeking out what has got to be the hands-down, definitively worst title for a stand-alone comic book story ever.

Honestly, I should have guessed that Gerry Conway was going to take the prize.

God, that's true, that's so true, the typhoon really is a storm of the soul.
From an unpublished issue of Firestorm, from Canceled Comics Cavalcade

(Got a better candidate? Send it in)

Monday, September 22, 2008

The underrated power of super-sarcasm.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Superman fan, you know what I truly believe the Superman Comics need more of?

A) More Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art.
B) More of Superman correcting super-villains' math.
C) More Superman sarcastically calling his enemies "Genius."

"Yes, I overcame your red-sun laser, Luthor, because it was ohhh ever so scary. I've ne-e-e-ever seen a red sun la-a-a-aser before."

From DC Comics Presents #4 (that's a Metal Men issue)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Batman #113 - Part Three

Lastly, Batman #113 wraps up with the Dark Knight’s adventure on what the cover and splash panel call “Planet X” but the interior calls “Zurr-En-Arrh,” check with Wikipedia to be sure.

The story begins with Bruce Wayne changing costume in the middle of the night, looming over the sleeping figure of Dick Grayson pondering “Strange … Dick and I always go out together – as Batman and Robin! Why am I going alone tonight?” I dunno, Bruce. Has Dick maybe had enough of your shit for once? “You know what I won’t do tonight,” he asked himself before he scuttled off to Slumberland. “Tonight I won’t dress in green fairy boots from a Polish circus and what appears to be Aquaman’s underwear and hang off of a hardware store wire twenty stories off the ground with the costumed maniac’s version of Ted Turner, looking for spastics in spandex to kick in the balls. Tonight,” he thought, “Tonight I watch Two and a Half Men and drink from a Coke can I half-filled with Bacardi Breezers and pass out at eight o’clock. Tomorrow, then tomorrow I go to the Sports Card show.”

Whatever the case, Bruce really ought to not be changing clothes in Robin’s room while Robin’s asleep.

Anyway, Batman wanders off in some sort of fog-brained haze, checking the Bat-Plane out of the hangar and just sort of doing air-donuts above the stratosphreic lawn in a state of profound confusion, at which point a hazy space ray transports him to the planet Zur-En-Arrh, where he’s greeted by a useless hunk of red, purple and yellow who calls himself the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.

He looks like a Mexican knock-off of you, Batman...

The Batman of East Jesus, Outer Space, arguably does what Batman does on Earth, except for the whole of this story he turns out to be utterly feckless. Batman, the proper one, on the other hand, turns out to have developed Superman-like powers, and the rest of the comic feels like a study in Batman’s inferiority complex. Lots of “Now how would my friend Superman handle this problem” and “Why, I have powers just like Superman!” Batman, Batman, Batman … you’re BATMAN, man! You’re just as Bat-God made you, stop fretting.

Batman goes up against a crime cartel of enemy invisible bug people, which I do too every day before lunch, twice on weekends. Aiding him in his efforts is a gift from Tlano (the Batman of Planet X), the BAT-RADIA, which “issues electronic molecules that cause controlled disturbances in the atmosphere. With it,” continues Tlano, “I am able to ‘jam’ atmospheric molecules – even render useless the motors of jet-cars used by fleeing enemies.” Or, in other words, it’s a thing which can’t possibly work because it’s gibberish.

Well, your industrial design is pretty European, anyway.

In any case, Batman cleans up Tlano’s mess eventually by, er, cleverly using the Bat-Radia (alternatively: Using the Bat-Radia precisely as intended) to make the invisible invading enemies … VISIBLE! Which scares them into returning home. This is exactly how we defeated the British, too. Look it up. It’s in your history books.

On his way back from his obvious bout with dementia, Batman ponders the amazing adventure he just experienced. “In the Bat-Plane again,” he shouts, not realizing that psychotic breaks can synthesize a delusion seemingly days in length within a fraction of seconds, “Why, I’ve only been gone for a few seconds – which were hours on Planet X!”
Say what you will, this panel is beautiful.

“It would be far easier to consider this a dream,” says Batman, blithely piloting an enormous jet over a populated area after leering at his sleeping, adolescent ward while changing into his caped playsuit, “But how can I? For in my hand, I hold the BAT-RADIA!” I have wondered the same thing, full like a kastrull and twelve sheets to the wind, wondering if my own drunken delusion could possibly be only as dream when I hold the Bat-Radia (i.e. a knob I ripped off a cigarette machine before they kicked me out of the bar) in my hand! Excelsior, Bat-Believers!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Batman #113 - Part Two

The second story is tantalizingly titled “Batman Meets Fatman,” the latter being a morbidly obese circus clown in an oversized, lop-eared Batman costume. You know, Superman used to have to have to contend with the misadventures of a hock-faced professional wrestler called “Ugly Superman.” I imagine Wonder Woman must have, once or twice in her career, endured the company of “Back Full Of Zits Wonder Woman” or “Princess Moustache.”

"Only a man with no class would collide with my ass!"

Fatman is apparently some sort of comedic genius – I consider him to be the Richard Pryor of dressing up like a rubber ferret and falling on his ass accompanied with “parp” sounds – but is additionally a frustrated would-be crimefighter. He even goes so far as – after admitting as much to his idol Batman - breaking into a face full of open, sloppy, snotty tears, a nervous breakdown which earns him a complimentary ride in the Batmobile, rather than the energetic bat-smack in the head I’d anticipated.

Anyway, we only have eight goddamn pages for this one, and the less time spent with Fatman the better, most likely. I honestly have to say this – listen, I am not a thin man. I am a large man. I broke an airplane once. And even with the howling spirits of a thousand pulled pork sandwiches condemning me from the perches of my gut and thighs, I still feel comfortable saying this to Fatman: Lose some fucking weight and join the police academy, blubber-ass.

"Climb a flight of stairs without getting chest pains. Walk away from an all-you-can-eat buffet ..."

Batman and Robin ultimately find themselves captured by a trio of petty thugs, which probably eroded the Joker’s self-confidence with sudden profoundness. Seriously, no piranha-filled tank, no buzzsaw with a big smile painted on it. I think they actually left a trail of candy corn leading under a showbox with a stick propping it up, or a rat trap with peanut butter and a piece of tinfoil on it.

When Robin leaves the Batmobile this time, he's going to have the entire
passenger side door panel imprinted on the right side of his torso.

Whatever the case (specifically, the case of Batman and Robin apparently not being very good at their jobs), Fatman comes to the rescue by distracting the crooks with his comical (citation needed) clown act, all falling on an oversized Batarang and using his flabby gut as a bludgeon. 

You know. High brow shit.

The end result is Fatman satisfying his his aspirations towards crime-fighting and coming to terms with being just the best darndest clown he can be, and Batman getting a huge pain in the ass off his hands for a while. He’s got enough comedy sidekickism to deal with as far as that fucking dog in the mask and Bat-Mite …

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Batman #113 - Part One

Over in the Batman titles right now, the books are undertaking the “Batman R.I.P.” arc helmed by walking Scottish pharmacy and Seaguy scribe Grant Morrison (I say Seaguy specifically because it’s hands-down my favorite Morrison title. In a world of batshit insane comic books that this man has penned, that is the one which won my heart. Similar accolades abound for Vimanarama or, if I’m in a nostalgic mood, The New Adventures of Hitler, but I digress).
Anyway, Morrison’s Batman R.I.P. relies heavily on – among other things – a source story in Batman #113 (1958, I believe) where Batman is mysteriously teleported to the world Zur-En-Arrh and becomes the equivalent of that planet’s Superman. It’s a nutsoid story from a berserkalogical era of Batman malarkadoodle, or less colloquially, The Silver Age.
Thing is, it’s also from the era where the Batman title was three fast-paced eight page adventures crammed back to back (separated like barroom brawlers by the occasional Casey the Cop or Cap’s Hobby Hint joke page). Which means that there are two other almost equally bizarre stories in Batman #113 which Morrison didn’t incorporate into Batman R.I.P. (or, if I may, B.R.I.P.). But he could have. Oh, how he could have.

"On other planets, I am Batter Soup Man!"

The first story is a common enough Batman boilerplate – some MENSA home-schooler with a Travelling Joke Salesman gimmick figures the odds on going full-tilt domino mask and knocking over a few banks are well in his favor. Smart thinking, frankly, in an era where – of Batman’s top five enemies - Batman was frequently outpunched by a manic anorexic, a fat midget, a burn victim and a slight-built woman and only ever outfoxed his last classic foe because the Riddler was kind enough to actually tell him how, where and when to catch him. Batman: Not exactly the A-1 Sauce of Crimefighting, I don’t care what Wikipedia says.
Anyway, Batman tackles False Face, a criminal who gets along by disguising himself. This is a gimmick which could have played out beautifully had it not been hastily revealed in the last panel of this story that False Face was actually just some criminal schmuck that no one had ever seen before. Detective work wins again.


I do have to give this story some props for containing what is possibly my favorite scene in any Batman comic: Losing False Face in a chase, Batman spontaneously decides that the first person he sees clearly must be False Face in a different disguise, and promptly begins FAT-FISTING THE HOLY TAR OUT OF AN UNSUSPECTING DOORMAN. Detective work winning twice!

To Batman's credit, he does look like the doorman who killed his parents...
It’s the doorman’s pleas for mercy as the Dark Knight bat-manhandles the poor bastards facial hair and shoves his head back on the concrete that really makes the scene for me. No wonder Frank Miller has All-Star Batman running the fuck over cops, look how he treats hotel employees!
(Tune in same Bat-Time Bat-Tomorrow for Batman #113 Bat-Part Bat-Two!)

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