Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Justice League Dream Team #5

Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond and Dr. Martin Stein)

As adaptable as Green Lantern but in a completely different way, we have the original Firestorm, the Nuclear Man! Limited enhanced strength and invulnerability wrapped up with high speed flight and the ability to transmute anything to any other thing at the atomic level. Who else can deal with a barrage of missiles by turning them into petunias in pretty vases? Zatanna maybe, but she’d do it with MAGIC, Firestorm does it with SCIENCE! This brings me to the next part of what makes Firestorm unique and solidifies his place on the League. He’s a combination of Ronnie Raymond, confident college student, and Dr. Martin Stein, seasoned professor of physics. He’s got youthful exuberance combined with the advice of a learned man of science and of the world. A fine addition to the Big Show.

Oh, look, we agreed again. Yippee.

To be honest, when I first proposed the whole "dream team" idea to Tate, Firestorm was the first person to pop into my head as a must-have member. My first introduction to Ronnie and the Professor was The Fury of Firestorm #4; there was no way I could turn down a cover like this:

Inside that issue I got to see young Ronnie struggling with some tough decisions, weighing what he knows was right with what he thought was best, a struggle that brought him into conflict with the JLA; a conflict that was almost over before it began when he encase Superman in a globe of Kryptonite and Zatanna in a globe of lead.

Did I mention this was a couple of hundred feet over the ocean when he did this?

The other League members rushed to free the others, and then swarmed back to confront the rash young hero (was *this* close to calling him a hot-head), only to find him floating there, face in hands, crying his eyes out.

Now, I can't tell you exactly what was going through my 7 year old mind when I read that story and saw a hero who was pushed to do the wrong thing and instantly regretted it and strove to make up for it, but I can tell you one thing: I was a Firestorm fan from then on.

Again, what can I say when there's no controversy? I may not have the emotional connection to Firestorm that Todd does due to comics, but I have it from television. I read mostly Marvel when I was a kid, but I watched Superfriends religiously. That's where I met Firestorm. He just seemed like a heckuva good idea. He got the advice from his "parent" but he was in the driver's seat and didn't have to listen if he didn't want to. However, he was a good kid and usually listened even if he did talk back a bit. There's a good lesson there. Since then, I've enjoyed Firestorm in the comics (except for this latest series...it’s not the Firestorm I know AND I'm already buying way too much of DC's line), especially that bit in Crisis where Killer Frost ends up loving him. Absolutely classic.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Tate's Top 50 DC Characters of All Time: Bottom 25

Once again in no particular order here is the other half of my top 50. And look! I only broke the two sentence rule once here too!

Superman – What can be said? The first and best example of the super-hero and the moral compass of the DCU.

Batman – The true heir to the pulp heroes that preceded him. Master martial artist, brilliant scientist, adventurer, vigilante and weird creature of the night all wrapped up into the perfect synthesis of pulp hero and super-hero.

Kyle Rayner – Kyle is a perfect coming of age story and walked many of us through our awkward 20s as we tried to figure out just what we were supposed to do with ourselves now that we were saddled with all the responsibility. Reading about Kyle is like hanging out with that friend all of us has; you know, the one we wonder how they’re going to make it in the world one moment and the next moment we’re impressed how together they seem to be.

Hal Jordan – While Hal isn’t quite the ideal hero he used to be (test pilot isn’t nearly as cool a job now as it was in the 60s), he’s still the only super-hero I can think of that flies into the teeth of danger humming a jaunty little ditty and thinking about which hot chick he saw in the crowd would like to get with Green Lantern after she’s saved from the menace. Hal Jordan is what Plato would call the Form of Cool.

Guy Gardner – Kyle is the guy you call when you’ve been out drinking and find yourself arrested. You can’t call Guy because he’s next to you in the cell and likely suggested whatever it was that got you arrested.

Matter Eater Lad – When a kid manages to get into the premier super team of the 30th century based on his ability to consume and digest any matter, you know he’s a cat that has to have a sense of humor. It’s icing on the cake when he’s able to save the day too.

Brainiac 5 – He’s smarter than you; he knows it, you know it and, just because he’s a nice guy, he’s trying his best not to treat you like the drooling ape you are in comparison. He does not, however, always succeed. He’s a good guy anyway.

Lex Luthor – Mad scientist, leader of super-villains, captain of industry and one-time president of the USA. Oh, and he’s the only bad guy who attacks Superman because he’s smart (as opposed to those thatattack Superman because they’re really stupid).

Ra’s al Ghul – I once heard someone say that Ra’s is the kind of guy you’d meet in a really upscale bar and start talking to only to realize that he had some pretty darn good ideas about the way the world should be run…right up until he mentioned the killing of 85% of the Earth’s population and ruling over the remaining 15%.

Two Face – A man with a brilliant career in front of him and a pack of demons behind him slips through not fault of his own and the demons catch up to him. His keen mind, knowing both sides of legality, is overshadowed only by the fact that it’s there’s no telling what he’s going to do from one second to the next.

Booster Gold – The fact is, Booster is how most of us would be if we had super-powers as we used them to shamelessly plug ourselves every chance we got and try and turn our celebrity into money. We pretend we like him because he’s a lovable rogue, but really it’s because he’s the real Everyman of the super-hero set.

Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) – Beetle is how most of us would LIKE to be if we had super-powers (or gadgets or whatever). The fact that Booster convinces him to give in on wild schemes is like a look into most of our heads as our self-serving side cajoles our responsible side into ridiculous antics.

The Viking Commando – He’s a Viking warrior that wears fatigues and combat boots and carries a machine gun along with his axe and was resurrected to kick Nazi ass. How the hell can you not love him?

Zatanna – Zatanna is the hot female best friend with whom you always have an amazing time with but have no chance of ever getting out of the “friend zone.”

Frankenstein – Although this poor bastard has seen some rough treatment from popular culture over the years, Grant Morrison gave us a pulp-flavored version that instantly made it into my top fifty.

The Question – Whether he’s a fighting corruption as an Objectivist under Ditko, learning the secrets of the universe as a Zen master under O’Neil or being a conspiracy nutjob on JLU, the Question is always an entertaining character. Totally unpredictable, he’s the spanner in the DCU’s works.

Supergirl – This is the pre-Crisis Kara Zor-El I’m talking about here. She was a heroine who started out hidden by her cousin and then grew into a superlative hero in her own right and she managed to do it all without acquiring a Tramp Stamp (tm).

Black Canary – Dinah is working her way up the list of top martial artists in the DCU, is a formidable detective and has probably done more good with the Birds of Prey than she did all those years as a Leaguer put together. She’s also part of a DCU dynasty, and those are my favorite part of DC.

Starman – Speaking of dynasties, Jack Knight didn’t want anything to do with it. But the bone of contention between himself and his father became the thing that finally let them connect.

Wildcat – Ted Grant is a man’s man and a ladies’ man who will kick your ass for being belligerent and then buy you a beer to say he’s sorry. Mentor and Sex God, thy name is Wildcat.

Black Adam – While the original idea of a previous champion of Shazam going bad isn’t exactly inspired, the idea that Black Adam could and would return to the ideals that caused Shazam to choose him in the first place is. The fact that he did it his way (and that this involves vibrating the Psycho Pirate’s face off) is just gravy.

Robin (Tim Drake) – For the first time, we have a Robin that we can actually believe would take over for Batman AS BATMAN if Bruce should ever be unable to perform his duties (why does that sound like Miss America?). Tim is the World’s Greatest Teen Detective and that’s always been my favorite aspect of Batman; it really is just natural that it be my favorite part of Robin as well.

Robin (Dick Grayson) – You’ll note that I’m avoiding all the nastiness that has been Nightwing since Dick left the Titans. Dick was yin to Bruce’s yang and brought a much needed smile and joke to the gloomy cave Batman called home; he is missed.

Hawkman – His background may be complicated, but there is nothing simpler than a man with a massive wingspan and a scary hawk mask swooping out of the sky to club you with a mace. The coolness of that image is certainly a lot simpler than trying to explain WHY that’s so darn cool.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Cap'n's 50 Best DC Character Countdown - #1-25

Okay, I know I said I'd wait till Friday to put up the rest of my list, but I can't help myself; the compulsion is strong in this one.* After having read through the lists of quite a few of the other participants in The Great Curve's poll, the only real regret I feel is that I neglected Shayera Thal, who was the heart and soul of Ostrander's Hawk-titles. Oh, well; maybe next time

25. Two-Face (Harvey Dent)
Maybe it’s because one of the first Batman stories I ever read was a reprint of his first two appearances, but Two-Face has always been one of my favorite Bat-foes. His reliance on the flip of a coin is just a great hook, and the evolution of his psychosis over the years has added some interesting layers.

24. Animal Man (Buddy Baker) The everyman hero who inherited the mantle of weirdness magnet, Buddy is defined almost as much by his family as by his powers.

23. Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark) Watching the evolution of Cassie was one of the joys of Young Justice and Teen Titans, although I do admit that I sometimes miss her old makeshift costume.

22. Superboy (Kon-el) I found the adventures of the youth constantly struggling to live up to the burden of the "S" more compelling than the adventures of the originator of the "S" himself.

21. Crazy Jane (Kay Challis) Sure, she may be Deus Ex Machina Lass, but Crazy Jane afforded a world of storytelling possibilities, not to mention what was probably the most accurate depiction of DID (then MPD) this side of Madison Clell's Cuckoo.

20. Raven While not necessarily my favorite Titan, I have always found her to be one of the more interesting members, due to her constant war with the demons inside her.

19. Matter Eater Lad (Tenzil Kem) To this day I'm still not sure how Tenzil made it through the Legion's try-out process; as ludicrous characters go, he's pretty high on the scale. But it was during Giffen's run that he became into the Tenzil I know and love: a ludicrous character who grew to embrace his own ludicrous nature.

18. Robin (Tim Drake) Dick may have been first, Jason may have been the most controversial, Steph may have been the most abused for stupid plot devices, but Tim is the only one who’s actually made me care about the mantle.

17. Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness) Although a bit goofy in concept and design, his time in the Suicide Squad did wonders for ol’ Boomerbutt’s characterization. Self-absorbed, mercenary, spiteful, and vindictive, Digger also proved to be a highly capable agent when the mood struck.

16. Hawkman (Carter Hall) Despite having a continuity that could make your head spin, Carter makes the list because of his role as a bridge between the heroic ages; the addition of his role as an eternal reincarnate has opened up some interesting storylines as well. Plus, as stated before, he just looks cool.

15. Dr. Fate (Kent Nelson) The premiere mystic in the DCU, I always enjoyed Fate's hodgepodge of Egyptian trappings mingled with the Lords of Order mythology; Kent's struggles to avoid being subsumed by Nabu were just icing on the cake that was Fate.

14. The Spectre (Jim Corrigan) The struggle between justice and vengeance given form, The Spectre's penchant for over-the-top retribution appeals to the horror fan in me; during Ostrander's run, the spiritual battle between Corrigan and the Wrath of God cranked the drama up a notch.

13. The Demon (Etrigan/Jason Blood) A total wildcard, just as liable to help as to hinder, making any story featuring Etrigan a constant guessing game of which way he's going to jump. Plus, rhyming!

12. John Constantine Manipulative, conniving, and a right bleedin’ bastard to boot; that’s our John, and we love him for it.

11. Cameron Chase Yes, she may be a jinx on any book she stars in (farewell, Manhunter, we hardly knew ye), but dang it, Chase is cool!

10. Ambush Bug (Irwin Schwabb) This should make Ragnell happy. He was “Bwah-ha-ha” before “Bwah-ha-ha” was cool. Wait . . . was "Bwah-ha-ha" ever cool? Anyway, I had to include this pinnacle of absurdity in my list, lest I face the wrath of Crazed Mutant Letterhacks

9. Terra (Tara Markov) Traitorous witch, but a compelling one; the rise and fall of Terra remains the high point of the Wolfman/Perez Titans for me.

8. Starman (Jack Knight) He started out as the ultimate reluctant hero, and eventually grew to be the perfect inheritor of the family name.

7. Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond and Prof. Martin Stein) Cool design, cool powers, and an interesting take on the youth vs. experience dynamic; Firestorm has been through many incarnations over the years, but while I've enjoyed aspects of all of them (the "RonRay" debacle in Extreme Justice being the exception that proves the rule), it's the original composition that will always hold a special place in my heart.

6. Phase (L.E.G.I.O.N.) A strong, capable leader who was one of the only people able to handle Dox, Phase was the rock which kept L.E.G.I.O.N. functioning. I keep hoping that IC will have undone that horrible “She’s part Cargggite” retcon from the Peyer years, but that's a rant for another time.

5. Oracle (Barbara Gordon) Do I even need to elaborate on this one? Babs is da bomb, yo.

4. Dove (Dawn Granger) I'm an unabashed fan of the Kessels' Hawk and Dove series, which was filled to the brim with engaging characters, of which Dawn was the height; she was a welcome reinvention of the Dove concept, not bogged down with the ongoing "but I'm a pacifist!" angst, but instead empowered by an analytical mind which kept her several steps ahead of her foes. I will be forever grateful to Geoff Johns for bringing Dawn back; now if only someone would utilize her. I'd especially like to see her run into Captain Arsala again

3. Deadshot (Floyd Lawton) My favorite anti-hero; plays by his own set of warped morals, but doesn’t hide behind any sort of “just trying to reform” shtick. Floyd makes no bones about who he is, which is refreshing.

2. Amanda Waller Tough, no-nonsense, doesn’t take crap from anyone, whether hefty or svelte The Wall endures through sheer attitude alone.

1. Vril Dox The ultimate manipulative bastard (with apologies to Constantine), watching Dox work his Machiavellian schemes was always a thing of beauty. I'm sure that mine will be practically the only vote that Vril gets, with most attention being paid to Querl instead, but the emotionally detached bastard interpretation of Brainy owes much to his "heroic" ancestor.

And there you have it: my own strange take on DC's best characters. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go draw up my list of "Characters That I Think Are Really Cool, But Couldn't In Good Conscience Call 'The Best'" Let's see: Phobia, Red Tornado, Tyranosaurs Reich . . .

*Is it sad that using that phrase actually conjures up memories of Atari Force more strongly than it does Star Wars? I thought so.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Cap'n's 50 Best DC Character Countdown - #26-50

Unlike Bubblegum Tate, I did do my best to rank the characters as suggested by The Great Curve; it was difficult, and a few of these were practically a flip of the coin, but I think it's pretty representative of my take on things. As for how I chose the list, it was mainly a gut instinct sort of thing, driven by the thoughts "would I buy a book just because this character was in it?" and "is this character an exemplar of a certain trait I find appealing?" and the like. I tried not to include anyone merely for a the "ooo, cool costume/powers/etc." factor; if I couldn't come up with a rationalization for their inclusion outside of that, then they got bumped from the list.

I now prepare myself for the myriad "what were you thinking" comments which would surely appear if anyone besides Tate and myself actually read this.

50. Psycho Pirate (Roger Hayden) I always liked his powers and costume design from the first time I saw him in All-Star Squadron, but it was his role in the original Crisis and its after-effects on him which actually gave him enough weight as a character to include here.

49. Question (Victor Sage) Having never had the pleasure of reading his old series, The Question is here solely on the strength of his design, his appearances on JLU, and his intriguing nature so far in 52. I look forward to learning more about him.

48. Lady Shiva Prior to OYL, Shiva wouldn’t have made my list, as I don't follow most of the series in which she's been a regular fixture; her recent activities in Birds of Prey, however, bumped her up a few pegs in my book.

47. The Creeper (Jack Ryder) The wild and crazy guy who added a dollop of chaos to Justice League and Hawk and Dove was a high point of the 90s for me; I enjoyed the Uptight Jekyll & Madcap Hyde interpretation of the character.

46. Glorith One of my favorite reinventions of Giffen’s “Gap” Legion was the transformation of minor villainess Glorith into the new Time Trapper. Whereas the old Time Trapper was a mass of contradictory interpretations, Glorith was straightforward: the embodiment of ego and vanity and a hunger for power.

45. The Calculator (Noah Kuttler) As a regular super-villain, he was just another goofball with a gimmick. As the anti-Oracle (and a mentally unstable one at that), he's got potential out the whazoo.

44. Power Girl (Karen Starr) Headstrong, opinionated, unafraid to speak her mind, PG's ping-pong origin story could have been a horrible detriment to the character *coughHawkmancough*, but instead it only added to her poignancy.

43. Kobra Not generally a fan of the terrorist characters, but there's just something about the self-proclaimed bringer of the Kali Yuga that rises above the typical comic book madman for me.

42. The Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) Poor Steph never got any respect, being told time and time again to give up the cape & cowl, but she kept on plugging away, until she finally earned her shot at the big leagues. Sadly, TPTB decided to use her as an object lesson, wasting a perfectly good character for shock value.

41. Killer Frost This heat-sucking femme fatale is decidedly disturbed and definitely deadly; she's been a favorite ever since her turn as the villain in the first issue of Firestorm I ever bought.

40. Sandman (Wesley Dodd) A man driven by his dreams to seek justice, armed with little more than a gas mask and sleeping gas, the old school Sandman cut an impressive figure; although I first was exposed to him in his purple-and-gold-tights phase, it's the pulp-inspired fedora incarnation that earns him a place on the list.

39. Killowog C'mon, how can you not love the big poozer? While there are things I like about Alan, Kyle, and Guy, it's steady, inventive, Communist-leaning Killowog who stands out in my mind as a great character.

38. Blue Devil (Dan Cassidy) I miss the good ol’ days, pre-Neron, when BD was just a stuntman turned reluctant hero and bonafide weirdness magnet; whoever was behind turning him into a demonic sob story better keep their hands off of Ambush Bug

37. Sensor Girl (Projectra) The moment Jeckie took her revenge on Nemesis Kid for Val's death relying on nothing but her own strength, I gained a whole new respect for her; her turn as the enigmatic Sensor Girl just cemented that respect.

36. Hourman (Rex Tyler) Rex Tyler, Super-Junkie. 'Nuff said.

35. Johnny Quick (Johnny Chambers) This veteran of the All-Star Squadron is my favorite speedster, thanks to his quick temper and even faster mouth; the various Flash's might be paragons of integrity, virtue, and the like, but Johnny's flaws made him much more relatable.

34. The Riddler (Edward Nigma) There’s just something about a villain obsessively compelled to give himself away that’s inherently entertaining to me.

33. Plastic Man (Eel O’Brien) I'll admit that I’ve got a soft spot for the comedic characters; the non-stop chicanery of the Morrison-era Plastic Man was one of my favorite aspects of his run on JLA

32. Black Adam The current interpretation of Adam as a man who does what he feels he must in order to protect his people has made what was a fairly generic foil for the Big Red Cheese into a fascinatingly mercurial character who begs the question of whether the ends justify the means.

31. Black Orchid The eternal mystery surrounding her made her both compelling and frustrating to me, as I yearned to know her history, but knew deep down that no origin could ever be as interesting as the lack of one; having read Gaiman's Black Orchid series, I still stand by that statement.

30. Stargirl (Courtney Whitmore) Her evolution from rebellious brat to full-blown hero has been one of the real joys of Johns' JSA; there's just something about watching the growth of the next generation of heroes that appeals to me, and Courtney is a prime example of that.

29. Sue Dibny Have loved the ultimate super-hero's wife ever since she and Ralph decided to pain the Justice League Detroit's base chartreuse. Yes, she still would have made the list even without being bumped off in Identity Crisis. Cynics.

28. Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny) The nose twitch; it’s all about the nose twitch.

27. Wildcat (Ted Grant) A never-say-die scrapper with a bit of a stubborn streak, Ted Grant is not someone you want to mess with.

26. Bizarro Me am hating Bizarro. Him am worst villain ever. Me no want him on list.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tate's Top 50 DC Characters of All Time: Bottom 25

Bottom 25 might be a bit misleading since my list of the Best 50 DC characters is really in no particular order. I put them down as they occured to me so there are clumps of characters that make some sense together (at least to me) since one thought led to another. At any rate. Here are 25 of my top 50.

Oh, and because we realize that we're wordy, we limited ourselves to two sentences per. I don't know about the Cap'n, but I stretched those sentences to the breaking point. And I broke the rule on one guy. Other than that, there were no rules!

Captain Marvel – A child’s pure and innocent heart gifted with powers of the gods and ordered to do right. That’s a fairy tale concept I can get behind, especially when you wrap it in super-hero trappings

Phantom Stranger – A much more impressive Deus Exposition Machina and harbinger of doom than some big, dome-headed dude in a toga (I’m looking at you, Marvel!). When this gentleman calls, it is both dreadfully dire and dreadfully ridiculous.

Gentleman Ghost – I’ll be honest, I don’t even know what this guy’s deal is. But the concept is too delightfully silly and his design is so weirdly creepy that this is a guy without whom the DCU isn’t complete.

The Joker – Everyone was afraid of clowns long before we read about the Joker. He just took an irrational fear and made it a rational one.

King Faraday – James Bond is played out and who cares what Jack Ryan is up to. King Faraday is the true gentleman spy of the golden age of espionage and he brings the exact same personality to the Game in the modern age.

Sinestro – Sinestro has taken more of a turn towards mustache twirling evil lately, but in the beginning he was just a fascist who thought he was doing right by his people; that’s depth. I have faith that that the Sinestro Corps is going to take his fingers off his mustache and place his foot back in somebody’s ass.

Crazy Quilt – Artistic talent + using said talent for nefarious purposes + weird vision problems + getting your ass handed to you by the Boy Commandos + getting your ass handed to you by Robin = Someone who could only be called a villain in the DCU. He and Angle Man should get a weird buddy-movie style miniseries.

Catman – He wouldn’t have made the cut before Villains United, but Catman just goes to show that the DCU is a rich and wonderful playground with tons of background characters just waiting for the chance to become stars. The right writer, the right story and nearly anybody can become A-List.

Deadshot – Wrist Magnums? Hell YES Clint makes the cut.

Mister Miracle (Scott Free) – Its no secret that I love the Fourth World but in addition to that Scott has wacky adventures while teaching us things about marriage and the inherent desire for freedom in the human spirit. He loves his traps, he loves his midget sidekick and he LOVES his woman.

Big Barda – A woman with a heart as big as her bicep but with eyes only for Scott. She fell in love with a man who was able to show her things she didn’t even know existed…and then they escaped Apokolips.

Darkseid – Wrapping up my trifecta of Fourth Worlders is Darkseid. When Darkseid shows up the stakes are instantly higher and it’s always an “oh sh!t” moment. Who is the greatest threat to the DCU? Darkseid Is.

Jim Gordon – Jim is Batman for Gotham City when Batman can’t be (that is, from sunup to sundown). He works within the law more or less, but he holds the line in a town beset with weirdness and does a remarkable job for it for a guy without a cape.

Sgt. Rock – My dad loved this guy and I love this guy. That’s legacy and that’s a huge part of what DC is all about.

The Haunted Tank – A horror war story (as if war wasn’t horrible enough) is another one of those amazingly weird concept that could only survive in the DCU. Another amazing part of the DCU is that we accept that the Haunted Tank exists in the same world as Superman and Ambush Bug.

Danny the Street – I loved Morrison’s run on X-Men, but even turned loose in the Marvel Universe, Grant couldn’t come up with something as delightfully weird as a transvestite street. Lesser writers would have made Danny a one-shot centerpiece for a story; in the DCU, Danny joins a super team.

Mr. Nobody – The Brotherhood of Dada almost made the list as a whole, but instead I decided to go with the glue that holds them together. Bring back Mr. Nobody!

The Sandman (Wesley Dodds) – While he toyed with super-hero trappings for a while, Wesley wisely returned to his fedora and trench coat roots in order to show the DCU their pulp beginnings. Also, Wes shows that not everybody has to be in peak physical condition to fight crime or solve mysteries.

Starro the Conqueror – Lesser universes would be unable to abide a gargantuan starfish bent on universal conquest. In the DCU, Starro means its Monday.

Lois Lane – At times we’ve wondered how a reporter could be so damn stupid that she can’t recognize the face of the man she loves because of glasses. Thankfully, Lois is currently treated with the respect she deserves and is one half of the World’s Finest Married Couple.

Power Girl – Frankly, I love the fact that despite all the skin tight outfits and outlandish body types, the DCU has only one sex kitten. What’s more, I love that everyone, even Superman, seems to realize it.

Mister Terrific (Michael Holt) – I like that the DCU is diverse enough that nobody ever refers to Mike as the “Black Mister Terrific.” He’s qualified and cool and has an amazing costume and readers, writers and characters alike recognize that he’s a hero.

Mogo – A planet-sized being with the most powerful weapon in the universe and writers still find ways to use him. Only in the DCU.

Jimmy Olsen – In a lot of ways, Jimmy was the real wish fulfillment in the Superman books. Sure we all toyed with being Superman for a while but it all seemed like too much work. Superman’s pal, however…now THAT was a job!

Ultra Boy – Every teen group has to have a bad boy and every bad boy in a teen group seems to have to have a heart of gold. Ultra Boy takes that trite, hackneyed characterization and makes it sing.

Gotham City – This is a total rip off from Devon over at Seven Hells, but he’s absolutely right. Gotham City is a character unto itself and you can tell by how much work goes into the scenery anytime Batman is translated to another medium.

DC's 50 Best Characters

The Great Curve has issued a call for votes for the 50 Best DC Comics Characters. Unable to resist such a challenge, Bubblegum Tate and I both dove in with wild abandon. We'll be posting our separate lists over the next few days, along with brief explanations of why we picked who we picked, but first a word of warning: my list of "DC's Best" doesn't include Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. How can that be, you ask? Because I can't bring myself to put a character on the list that doesn't resonate with me, that's how.

Yes, I'm a freak.

Anyway, we'll be spreading out our lists over the rest of the week. Tate's bottom 25 will be coming along shortly, with my bottom 25 being posted tomorrow, with our top 25s posting Thursday and Friday.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Justice League Dream Team #4

Green Lantern (Kyle Raynor)

HEAT nerds…BACK OFF!! Kyle is the Lantern I want on the case. Hal may be fearless and John may be a good soldier and Guy may be…Guy, but Well Rounded, your name is Kyle. As an artist, Kyle is most creative ringslinger that Earth has ever produced. He’s got raw willpower in spades and has proved himself in battle time and again. He’s wielded immense power as Ion and managed to not go insane. He won Batman’s trust even after Hal went nuts and Batman had to deal with Guy. He’s the go-to-guy for the Guardians since he resurrected them AND Dream of the Endless said he would be the greatest Green Lantern. Not bad for a kid that borderline won his ring in a Crackerjack box.

Hey, what do you know, Tate and I agree on one!

Which is nice, I suppose, although it does sort of make for a boring post.

Hmmm . . .

I'm sure there's something worthwhile I can add.

Ummm . . .

Oh, I know, how about this: Kyle's kind of the underdog GL. He's got all this stuff going against him: he's young, he's foolhardy, his relationships always seem to lead to death and destruction . . . still, he's got youth and enthusiasm out the wazoo, not to metion the artistic mindset that makes his ring slinging a bit more entertaining to watch. I have nothing against Hal, or John, or Guy, but when it comes to which JLA GL I want to read about, my money's always going to be on Kyle.

But Guy's a close second.

Chock up two in the "agree" column because Guy is also my very close second. It makes for a short post but I just can't even pretend there's controversy here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Justice League Dream Team #3

Martian Manhunter

J’onn has been in every incarnation of the League EVER and he’s not about to stop on my watch. Just look at the superstition of it…when this cat is on your team, you WIN. Are you going to bench him EVER? I didn’t think so. Beyond that, he’s a tactician on par with Batman and possibly the only other being who has as much experience coordinating the efforts of metahumans. On top of that, he’s immensely physically powerful both close up and at range. He is one of the handful of telepaths in the DCU and he’s very good at it. Lastly, if necessary, who better than a mind reading shapeshifter to join Batman on the espionage squad?

Not to burst your superstitious bubble here, Tate, but . . . you do realize J'onn was a member of Justice League Detroit, right?

Seriously, though, J'onn almost made my list, but I felt like I was giving in to peer pressure: "C'mon, everyone else has put him in their League, why don't you?" I can recognize the power he would bring to the team, but love J'onn as I do, there are others I'd like to see on the team more. For example, my next pick:

Red Tornado

Another "Satellite Era" Leaguer, there's always been something about Reddy that has appealed to me. And although he hasn't really been a member of the team since the original Crisis (man, can't believe it's been that long), he's one of those characters who always pops into my head when I think of the League. Reddy's an odd creation: on the one hand, a creature of science, but on the other, a quasi-mystical Elemental being. This dual nature makes Reddy a character with an intriguing potential which has not been fully tapped, in my opinion.

Plus, he just looks cool (are you noticing a pattern here?)

You're damn right J'onn was in Justice League Detroit! That's the reason that the world wasn't taken over by Darkseid or mind controlled by Starro or sucked into Qward while Vibe was breakdancing and Gypsy was trying to figure out why the soles of her feet were like workboots!

Heaven help me, I agree with the reasoning for this pick as well even if I can't bear to find a spot for Reddy in my League. I loved Red Tornado's place as a mentor for the Young Justice team even if the overall title was a little uneven (was it supposed to be funny all the time? and if it was, did anybody laugh when that one villain's parents tried to kill him?) and I absolutely agree that the combination of Air Elemental (especially in the DCU with Animal Man's Red, Swamp Thing's Green and Aquaman's Clear connections) and technological wonder are a ripe ground for storytelling. Reddy's gotten short shrift for too long and deserves a really sweet team to make him shine again.

I think I'm starting to see the divergence here. I'm putting together a team built to deal with the biggest threats the DCU has to throw at planet Earth and Todd's putting together a team he'd like to hang out with (or at least read about). A different question may be cropping up: what types of stories do Tate and Todd want to see from the JLA and how do they differ? I can answer the last part... I think they differ A LOT.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

OWL: One Week Later

Due to my unusual buying habits, I usually don't get my comics until sometime Monday afternoon; by the time I've read them, processed them, and found the time to rant about them, it's been almost a full week since everyone else has read them. And yet, my opinions must be heard, and so I have decided to embrace my tardiness and publish my comic reviews One Week Later; we'll see how long before that feels really dated.

My excuses aren't nearly as good, or at least aren't nearly as interesting. At almost three bucks a gallon and my comic shop being thirty miles away I need an excuse to be in Norman and that excuse does't usually present itself until the weekend. Thirty miles isn't really that far away considering how much space OKC sprawls over, but going to Norman is like a rocket launch: miss your window and it'll be a terrible tragedy. I can't be there when the high school directly across from the comic shop is on lunch or dismissing and the Other University doesn't make it easy either.

At any rate, I'm willing to go with the Cap'n and review the titles OWL until it annoys us, our readers (both of them) or ourselves. I'm sure it goes without saying that spoilers may happen.

52 #1: The first issue of DC's latest "event" has garnered a ton of negative reviews so far, so let me once again assume the mantle of Cap'n Contrarian and say: I kinda liked it. Did it blow me away? Not hardly. But for me, it did the job it needed to do, setting up the characters for the storyline to come. I don't mind a bit of a slow build to my storylines, and while there might not have been a lot of "action" in the first issue, I didn't fell like it was filler, either. As for the shift in Booster's attitude jumping from Infinite Crisis to here, it didn't bother me as much as some; yes, Booster was all serious in his quest to avenge Beetle's death, but being successful in that endeavor coupled with the knowledge that he's about to become part of the greatest League ever seems sufficient to bring out the old glory-hound in him. I do think that having him cry crocodile tears for Conner was a bit over-the-top, but after his freak out at the ceremony I think we can all agree that our boy Booster ain't exactly the picture of stability.

She-Hulk #7: I'm a big Slott fan and am very broken-hearted over the news that The Thing has been cancelled; it was a danged fun book. But, at least I still have his take on Shulkie to keep me entertained. While I personally haven't been as big on the Starfox storyline as I have most of his work, I haven't had the visceral reaction to it that many other have. I'm going to trust that Slott has a bigger plan in mind, and that the truth behind Eros's action will be fully explored soon.

Angel Spotlight: Illyria One-shot: I don't usually buy and of IDW's books until they're collected in trades due to the price, but I' a sucker for Peter David's writing, and the chance to see him explore one of the more interesting characters from the last season of Angel was too intriguing to pass up. I must say I was not disappointed; PAD crafts an entertaining story and does a good job of capturing the voices of the characters. If nothing else, reading this made me pine for the late, lamented series by reminding me of how much potential there is left for the characters.

Firestorm the Nuclear Man #25: Despite my early reticince at the removal of Ronnie as Firestorm, I have to say that this series has grown on me considerably. In terms of characters, this was another stellar issue; I'm enjoying the Jason/Lorraine partnership, and am intrigued by Gehenna. As for the plot itself . . . look, I know comic books are all about suspension of disbelief, but the "science" in this one made my head hurt; I kept hoping that Jason was going to wake up and that the whole "trip to the sun and back" was just a bad dream. C'mon, guys, it's not the Silver Age anymore, things like that don't get to squeek by anymore.

Spider-Girl #98: I honestly don't know why I'm still buying this book; inertia, I suppose. It's not that it's a bad book; things would be much easier if it was. Instead, it's a steady, sturdy, average book; never chomping at the bit to read it, but rarely disappointed by it either. So, there's a part of me that's looking forward to its upcoming cancellation just so I can finally extricate myself from its unusually strong pull; if the rumors of its reboot are to be believed, I'm pretty sure I can resist.


Thunderbolts #102: I have to confess that I've been underwhelmed by the latest incarnation of this title; Nicieza has fallen into the trap of relying too heavily on shock endings, which can't help but wear thin on me after a while. Don't get me wrong, some of the surprises have been good ones, but the satisfaction gets drowned out by the sheer bulk of revelations and reversals and double crosses and such. All that being said, I thought this issue focusing on Joystick was one of the better efforts recently, and I chalk it up to one thing: characterization. This issue gave us insight into Joystick's history, which is something that I always loved about this book in the olden days; it was always at its strongest when it made us care about (or at least understand the motivations of) the characters. I think that might be another part of why I'm not as hot on the series now as I once was; the characters I grew to love are either MIA or massively changed. I miss Moonstone and Hawkeye and Moonstone and Jolt and Moonstone and Charcoal and Moonstone, and am not happy with the directions they've taken Songbird and Atlas and MACH [insert roman numeral here]. Oh, and did I mention that I miss Moonstone?

I'm easy this week, I only bought one book: Busiek and Johns' latest installment of Up, Up And Away in Superman #652.

Five parts into the series and we finally see Clark Kent take a backseat to Superman. I'm beginning to complain that a problem with Batman is that we never see Bruce Wayne, but I've never felt that this was an issue with Superman. However, Johns and Busiek have gone to lengths to show that, while a reader may see enough of both month to month, Clark's friends, family, co-workers and bosses (Perry and Lois) see decidedly less of him than they do of his caped alter ego. It will be interesting to see how much is said or done with the fact that Clark, who has spent the last year proving that being a reporter isn't just a disquise but is a calling and a talent as much as being Superman, will go back to looking like a flake who can't make his deadlines and can't adequately explain why. For instance, it would be interesting to have Perry throw up his hands in exasperation and just fire him over it. We'll see.

I'd better bullet the high points for brevity.
* Clark getting reaqcuainted with his powers in amusing and sometimes destructive ways.

* Lois discovering that Clark's powers are back because he's essentially a giant klutz who would probably kill himself if he weren't indestructible.

* Lois' reaction to Clark discovering his powers are coming back is a testament to how marriages actually work. Sure she was happy he was around more, but she knew his job when they got married and she loves and supports Clark no matter what clothes he's wearing.

* "Do that thing with your hair. I like it when you do that."

* Not at full strength, Superman is forced to use his head to defeat a cadre of very tough villains. He may not be Batman in the brains department, but no idiot is that good an investigative reporter.

* Superman overcomes his lack of powers and, thereby, regains them in order to save his pal.

I've been enjoying the hell out of this re-set-up of Superman for a Post-Infinite Crisis DCU so it pains me to point out that, intentionally or not, Johns and Busiek are keeping around some of the Pre-IC baggage. To wit, it is established that Superman's powers likely didn't return because he was unsure of his place in the world as Superman and he was willing them to not return. Many of you will recognize this device from Spider-Man 2. Many of you will also probably agree with me that this is a device much more suited for Peter Parker than it is for Clark Kent.

Post-Crisis (the other one) Superman was, for the first time, a man of doubt. He didn't always know what to do in a given situation, he despaired at how out of control his life was and often questioned the Never Ending Battle and his place in the world of super-heroes. I don't like it. That isn't Superman. Superman is a man of action to a fault. A man willing to sacrifice to do good. A man who would have been a hero in some capacity regardless of his powers (we're shown that in Up, Up And Away as he takes on Luthor and Intergang with nothing but a steno pad and a can-do attitude). Big picture, metatextually I don't want to even consider that Superman could or WOULD suppress his powers out of self doubt. It bothers me a lot and is perhaps all the more glaring due to how much I'm enjoying the rest of this arc.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Justice League Dream Team #2

BatmanEverything Superman does out front of the League, Batman is doing in the back. While Superman may be quarterbacking the play, Batman is the coach making sure everyone is doing their job. While the rest of the DCU marvels at what Superman can do, they’re wondering what Batman CAN’T do. He’s a thinker, a planner, a tactician and a strategist. He’s got plans within plans and some of those plans are pointed at the League itself should anything go wrong. He can handle himself against opponents who are a lot more powerful than himself all while coordinating the rest of the League and deducing what the villains are up to. If necessary, Batman is a one man espionage squad with an extended family of operatives who are nearly, if not just as, skilled as he is. Most importantly, Batman has a willingness to ignore the rules when winning is more important. Nobody wants to disappoint the Dark Knight Detective either…mostly because they’re afraid of what he’d do to them.

Oh, good, looks like I get to be a contrarian again. That's right: Batman, not high on my list of favorite characters. Sometimes, I wonder if there's something wrong with my wiring . . . anyway, for me, even before the Dark Knight Detective became the Sullen Jerk Detective, Batman never gelled on the team effectively; about the only really positive Batman/JLA memory that springs to mind was the Bats/Guy Gardner "fight." Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to my next pick:

Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)

Sure, he's dead, but that didn't stop Superman or Green Arrow from re-upping their membership, now did it? I know that Beetle became something of a joke during the Giffen years (a fact that was pounded home mercilessly in Countdown to Infinte Crisis), but Beetle's got a lot more going for him when he doesn't have Booster around to give his inner child some wacky tabacky. Beetle's a skilled fighter, a talented inventor, a fairly good detective, and, of course, a bit of a cut-up. Personally, despite a love of all things dark and gloomy in most other genres, when it comes to my super-heroes, I prefer a bit of light-heartedness, and Ted's got that in spades.

Plus, he travels around in a giant blue bug; how can you not love that?

Okay, who doesn't love the Blue Beetle? Seriously! I can't even argue with these choices in and of themselves, I totally get the reasoning. However, nobody gets to make fun of your significant other but YOU (boy am I going to catch hell for this analogy). I'm not saying I want to date Batman, but I am saying that I have a huge personal investment in the character (his shield, yellow disk surrounding it just like when all was right with the world, permanently adorns my left shoulder after all) and won't have others bad mouthing him or his place in the League. Sure, he's become a total asshat lately and one thing Infinite Crisis and One Year Later better do is make him less of a jerk, at least to his own "family." Regardless, Batman belongs on the League and he'd want to be there if only to see that the rest of the amateurs they let run around the place don't drop the ball one lazy afternoon when the world is in dire peril.

I really wish I could have worked Ted into my League though...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I Have Another Really Good Idea, But Don't Have the Requisite Picture

Everyone's been having lots of fun with Marvel's Civil War banners (pictured below) recently, so Tate and I thought we'd throw our own meager efforts into the ring.

You can go to The Fortress of Soliloquy to see a growing list of links after you enjoy ours.

First, the obligatory puns:

And next the obligatory "my favorite obscure character"

While the last one sums up Tate's feelings on the whole thing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Justice League Dream Team #1


Do NOT discount the necessity of the Man of Steel to the JLA. Although he hasn’t always been a member, he should have been. He’s the first super-hero, the one who inspired all other comers in one form or another in the real world. In the DCU he’s a powerhouse of varying (although always massive) power levels, able to deal damage close as well as at a distance. He’s got good leadership skills and everyone naturally looks to him as an example; he’s the foundation of the Justice League. Seasoned veteran or total noob, nobody wants to disappoint Superman.

Now is my chance to display the contrarian nature which has plagued my comic collecting existence and made me cringe in terror every time an outsider has asked the "So, what comics do you read?" question. Basically, if a character is widely recognized and beloved by the general public, I don't care for them. And such is the case with Supes here; I can't quibble with any of Tate's reasoning above, and yet, while Big Blue might be a paragon of virtue and the like, I much prefer my League to be Superman-free. So who's my first pick?

Hawkman (pre-Crisis Katar Hal)

Yes, that's right, my first pick is the "screwed-up character history" posterboy. I blame it on my growing up with the Satellite Era of the JLA; 4 of my picks are a direct result of my love for that era. So, beyond the Satellite love, why pick Katar? Because as an intergalactic policeman he brings a lot of knowledge to the game; as a warrior, he brings a lot of determination; as a long standing member he brings a lot of experience; and, probably the biggest reason of all, he just frickin' looks cool. I don't know why a man wearing a bird mask and wings is such a striking figure, but he is, especially when drawn by Kubert; in fact, in my dream scenario, there's a special codicil that all pictures of Katar must be drawn by Kubert, no matter who else is doing the artwork on the book. Want Jim Lee to draw every other character? Fine by me, but Katar is all Kubert, all the time.

A Superman free League is a bold move and a bold statement and really sets the tone for your lineup...especially when you switch him out for Hawkman! I like this move, I must admit, it’s ballsy. While Katar definitely doesn't bring the power level of Superman, he certainly brings the experience, the know-how and the leadership abilities. And I agree that, for some indefinable reason, he looks wicked cool and cuts an impressive silhouette. I can't agree with the pick, but I can certainly agree with your reasons for it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

And now begins phase II . . .

Well, we're a week in here at They Came From Earth-K, and our readership level isn't exactly setting the blogosphere on fire (yes, we demand instant gratification), so let's go down the Comic Geek Checklist real quick to see what we're missing:
  • Spewing forth rampant negativity: check.
  • Championing one comic company over another, basically claiming that one is perfection and the other is total crap: check.
  • Eviscerating film adaptations because they don't conform to what's in the comics: check
  • Moaning and complaining in general: check.
  • Trying to convince others that we don't read comics just for the pretty pictures, even though we kind of do: check.
  • Compiling "dream lists" of characters . . . I think we have a winner!
Starting tomorrow, we will begin our weekly wishlist series, wherein we wax poetic about our "ultimate" line-ups of characters, creators, etc. To begin with, we'll be crafting our ultimate lineups for some of our favorite super-hero teams.

The groundrules are simple (or as simple as any groundrules created by the Legion of Wordy Bastages can be):

  1. Tate and I shall both create a list of our dream line-up of a team
  2. The list shall be comprised of seven team members and one alternate/provisional member/n00b
  3. The seven members can be anyone, alive or dead, pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, post-ZH, post-post-Crisis, who has ever served on the team
  4. The alternate can be anyone, alive or dead, pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, post-ZH, post-post-Crisis, who has never served on the team
  5. There is no other set criteria; no quota of speedsters, powerhouses, telepaths, etc.
  6. Each post will contain one selection from each of us, as well as our comments/critiques of the other's choice
First up tomorrow will be our first picks for the premiere super-team of the DCU: The Justice League

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why DC Roxxor My Soxxor

Well, I had hoped to have some comic reviews up today, but since the post office has decided to be unbearably slow delivering this week's haul (including IC #7, dagnabit) I figured I'd go ahead and follow Tate's lead from last week; who knows, maybe we can start a Substitute Order of the Rolling Head of Pantha or something, to illustrate that, while we may not focus on them exclusively, it's DC comics that we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts.

Now, much like my compatriot, my younger self held very closely to the idea that Marvel = l33t, and DC=teh suxxor. . . or at least he would have, if the Internet had been around at the time. Of course, I was never a total Marvel Zed-word like Tate; even at the height of my Marvel fanaticism, I still followed several DC titles like Legion of Super-Heroes, New Teen Titans and All-Star Squadron. But, being from a small town in northern Oklahoma, I was at a bit of a loss when those series I loved made the move to direct market only, leaving me only those comics which could be perused at the local grocery store or gas station magazine rack. After moving off to college, I suddenly had a much better access to the full range of titles available, first through the local comic shop, and then later through the diabolical World Wide Web (the “e” in “eBay” stands for “evil”; just ask my checking account). And, as Marvel floundered, first sinking beneath the waves of its Imagization (Rob Liefeld has much to answer for), and later drowning in its own hyperbole (insert obligatory “crack the internet in half” comment here), I found myself drawn more and more to the house that Superman built.

Looking over Tate’s reasons for loving DC, I find one of them resonating with me more than any of the others: the concept of legacy. But for me, it’s more than just legacy that draws me to today’s DC: it’s the concept of history, the concept of a shared universe, the concept that nothing gets thrown away; yes, I’m talking about that dirty, dirty word “continuity.”

Since Joey Q has taken over the reigns at Marvel, he’s made several moves which I’ve applauded, and several that I’ve condemned, but probably the thing that bothers me most about “Nu-Marvel” is the way they treat “continuity” as something to be ashamed of. “No more footnotes referring to old stories,” they’ve proclaimed, “they take you out of the story and make people feel like they’ve missed something!” Y’know, there might be a nugget of truth to that, but in my experience, those footnotes didn’t make me go “Man, I missed something, guess I should just give up”; no, they made me go “Man, I missed something, guess I should go hunt it down!” Now, I realize that Marvel isn’t alone in this; DC has also become gun-shy about the footnote issue. But at the same time, they have once again embraced the idea of a shared universe, and are now seeking to do something with it that doesn’t spit all over the history of the characters . . .

Um, excuse me for a moment.
(I will not go off on a Disassembled or House of M rant, I will not go off on a Disassembled or House of M rant, I will not go off on a Disassembled or House of M rant . . .)

Okay, all better now.

Before I have to deal with all the “What about all the crap DC’s pulled with Blue Beetle and Max Lord and Dr. Light and Sue Dibney and Jean Loring, etc.? How is that not spitting on history?” questions, let me just say that yes, I realize that DC’s efforts have not been perfect. There have been stumbles along the way, but I haven’t seen anything that rivals the intense queasiness that most of Marvel’s recent “big events” have generated inside me. Say what you will about the JLA-mindwipe controversy, but I still feel like there was a lot better foundation for that than there was the “Wanda’s a psycho killer” story Bendis whipped up; and while what I’ve read about the “Illuminati” storylines makes me groan (Namor and Reed Richards secretly in cahoots for years and years?), not having read anything past the Sentry TBP of New Avengers, I can’t fully comment on that . . . yet.

So, yeah, history plays a big part of my love of DC; probably my favorite DC writer right now is Geoff Johns, who shows a similar love of DC’s long history, setting himself the task of untangling the convoluted histories of characters and concepts without arbitrarily throwing portions on the scrap heap. Instead, Johns looks for ways to make these “radioactive” characters viable again while still acknowledging what has gone before. I know some people take the “if you don’t like what someone else has done, just ignore it” track but honestly, just because you might hate a storyline doesn’t mean it isn’t someone else’s favorite; I give you Giffen's loved-by-me, maligned-by-many-others "Five Year Gap" Legion as evidence. Having respect for the past while moving towards the future; that’s one of the reasons I’m loving DC more than Marvel right now.

Which isn’t to say that Marvel doesn’t have some of that at play; in fact, my favorite Marvel titles tend to be the ones with writers who like to play around with all of the toys available to them. I think Dan Slott is a perfect example of this; not only does his She-Hulk treat all of her previous adventures with respect while still forging its own path, it’s also rife with characters and concepts long forgotten by most; so far the first few issues of his The Thing series seem to following her lead. I mean, how can I not love a book which manages to work in Murderworld, Constrictor, Iron Man, and Nighthawk into a single issue without seeming overly contrived? Along similar lines, Thunderbolts has long been a book which looks to Marvel’s history for inspiration; although the book has never been the same since Busiek left, Nicieza does well at finding new potential in old characters and concepts. But these titles seem to be the exception, rather than the rule.

Another thing that I like about today’s DC is that it features a little bit of something for everyone: the recent spate of Infinite Crisis prologues and OYL spin-offs have helped reintroduce variety to the DC universe. I’m a big fan of DC’s espionage-tinged titles from the days when Ostrander was king, Captain Atom was a mole, and you couldn’t cough without Amanda Waller popping up to tell you to cover your danged mouth; I don’t know if Checkmate will fully capture the feeling of those days, but it’s a start. Similarly, the reintroduction of non-Vertigo magic to the DCU makes me smile, as does the return to intergalactic adventures.

But I think the thing that has me feeling the most optimistic about DC right now is their idea for establishing character bibles, so that when you see Batman in one book, he’s the exact same Batman you see in every other book. There should be some leeway here (Giffen and DeMattis’ Justice League never would have thrived in a strict by-the-book universe), but overall, I like the idea that they’re putting down some more rigid guidelines for their more established characters; after wincing throughout the out-of-character portrayals of Superman by Chuck Austen and Batman by Brian Azzarello, I see these guidelines as a healthy, healthy thing. Of course, there’s no telling how well this approach is going to work (I give you the warring Dick Graysons in Nightwing and The Outsiders as evidence), but I appreciate the effort; it shows that the PTB at DC have some grander plan in mind, something that I just don’t feel when I look at the Marvel books.

Or, maybe I’m just bitter because I wasted all that money on six issues of House of M that could have just as effectively been told in half that space. Time will tell

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ultimate Avengers is ultimately...crap

While maybe not as timely as it could have been, due to the release pre-dating the launching of They Came From Earth-K by quite a bit, Tate and I felt compelled nonetheless to voice our opinions on the recent Ultimate Avengers DVD. You know, it's just this sort of post that keeps us from being full-fledged members of the Loyal Order of the Rolling Head of Pantha

Click here for our review.

The Ultimate Avengers movie is just bad. In fact, it’s so bad it’s terrible. I mean, I made it through it, but it’s barely more than an hour, so that's not saying much. It’s like the bastard child of the 616 Avengers and the Ultimates put together by someone who is either autistic or isn't sure what the word pacing means and what it has to do with story telling.

Now, I was a little prejudiced going in, since I'm a fan of the old school, Earth-616, 1970s and 80s Avengers, and have felt that The Ultimates was, on the whole, horribly over-hyped. And as I watched Ultimate Avengers, the word which popped into my head the most was “Why?” Why did they decide to take some things from Earth 616 Avengers, some things from the Ultimates, and then make other things up out of whole cloth? Ultimates + Avengers = neither fish nor fowl.

A caveat from me as well. I've been a fan of the Avengers in the past. The Ultimates are a clever, well executed idea by and large, but I don't feel any prejudice anymore than I do between the Spidey and Ultimate Spidey books. I like Avengers and Ultimates for different reasons.

Being a guy who is only hit or miss with Millar, I can agree with the over-hype. MAYBE if they'd done Ultimates before Authority, it would have been shocking and really ground breaking. Post-Authority, it read like Avengers that really wanted to be the Authority but Corporate wouldn't let them. I think that's why it’s darker than the other Ultimate books but not as dark as other stuff we've seen that's similar.

That being said, with two amazing properties between the Avengers and Ultimates, why they decided to make this bastardized homogenization of the two is beyond me. It ended up not playing to either set of strengths.

I know that adapting anything from one medium to another is a crap-shoot, and there are things that may work well in a serialized, printed format that wouldn't carry over into a film, and I can accept changes made for that reason. But then there are changes that make you go “What the heck were they smoking?” For example, why add the whole “mystery” element to the Iron Man/Stark connection?

The one thing that has been consistent in any and all Iron Man incarnations is that Stark is Iron Man's patron; playing this silly cat and mouse came in the cartoon left me scratching my head

Actually, I'm not sure I'm willing to accept the crapshoot proposition on this property. Ultimates was billed as being huge and cinematic, that was the book's big hook or draw. The thing could have been a storyboard for the movie (ala Sin City) with very little lost or changed. But Marvel got cold feet, the movie had to be rentable by kids and the Ultimates is decidedly not kid friendly.

The Iron Man thing is a good example of that. I think Thor is too. I love the goofy, Kirby Thor and I love Ultimate Thor but for completely different reasons. I want to take a god of nature seriously when he stops whalers or hates a military-industrial complex for polluting the earth, but it simply isn't possible when he says “yeah, verily, I don't want to work for your military-industrial complex. Huzzah.”

While the mix-n-match Thor didn't bug me as much as the Iron Man thing, I agree that bastardized hybrid of the cartoon lost a bit of its impact by putting in a bit too much Asgardian into what, in the comics, felt more like an eco-nut.

To wrap up Thor, not just an eco-nut but a psychotic eco-nut with very destructive powers. A real weirdo wild card that they want to have around and then wonder what to do with him.

What about Black Widow? I was disappointed that her job appeared to be looking hot and going in two-guns-blazin'. What a disservice to the character.

Oh, and the awful accent. I was not the only one thinking she called Nick “Genital Fury.”

Ah, yes, “Genital Fury”: comedic gold, right there. This seems to be a weakness of most cartoon adaptations with Eastern European women: I cite every single cartoon version of The Scarlet Witch as evidence. While watching this, I kept having that line from “My Name is Earl” going through my head: “Say 'Moose and squirrel', say 'Moose and squirrel'!”

Having rewatched it with a group of likeminded wiseasses, you weren't alone. It was the second thing said about Black Widow after the “genital” business.

We haven't even talked about the slip shod production values yet. I think you summed it up best in your first comment to me after watching it: “Was it put together on some sort of bid system where whoever could do it for the least amount of money got the gig? And if so, was it odd to anyone that the whole production was going to be done for a super sized filet o'fish with extra pickles?”

Ah, I do love to be quoted. Yeah, as smart mouthed a comment as that is, I still stand by it. I admit that it’s possible Justice League (and previous WB animations) has spoiled me, but this is Marvel the supposed House of Ideas and alleged media powerhouse. Did they really think it looked good or was it under-funded? If the former, how? If the latter, why? Was Joey Q. going on and on about how cool it was total lip service or did he mean it? I want to be a fly on the wall for these conversations.

Bottom line, it’s shoddy and there's really no excuse for shoddy animation these days. The only explanation, to my mind, is that they just didn't care. But if they didn't care, why bother in the first place? Questions within questions.

For the first 20 minutes or so I was too distracted by the worst mouth synching I've ever seen in a cartoon to pay much attention to what was going on; I don't expect perfection from a direct-to-video production, but I do expect not to be taken out of the action by such blatant problems.

The best part of the DVD was the god-awful open talent search for voices. After I saw that, I couldn't help wondering why they didn't open the animation up to amateurs. I've seen better than that show done on flash for FREE. Probably by 13 year-olds.

Wish I'd known about the comedic potential of that feature before I sent it back through Netflix, although I think the film as is pretty much fulfilled my "unintentional comedy" quotient for the month. The only special feature I watched was the documentary on the history of the Avengers, which was notable for focusing on pretty much every aspect of the team that wasn't featured in the film (i.e. the good stuff), including several scans of scenes straight out of the George Perez penned issues during the Serpent Crown Saga which first got me hooked on Earths Mightiest Heroes. Well, that and pointing out the fact that I've apparently been mispronouncing Kurt Busiek's name for a good 10 years.

I'll tell you, it isn't a surprise to those who know me, but Marvel isn't really setting my world on fire. Still, when I heard about this project, I was excited and I'm probably not the only one. They screwed the pooch on this one, there's no credibility left for the sequel.

I think your comment about the DC cartoons was spot on: after the Batman, Superman, and Justice League (and, to some extent, Teen Titans) cartoons did such a spectacular job of translating their products to animation, I couldn't help but be let down by this train wreck.

My final point, which is a bit of a reiteration, is that we didn't have to be dissapointed and I, for one, wasn't expecting to be. Which made it all the worse when I was. I feel like anything else I say is just kicking puppies.

Final thoughts? I'm not sure we've done the thing justice. I wish I could say something good about it but there wasn't much.

I was just thinking that we should probably come up with *something* positive to say. For example, I actually kind of liked the whole “Avengers vs. Hulk” sequence

Yeah, and I like what they did with Captain America. I felt like the opening sequence was the strongest part of the film. Plus, they actually treated Cap like an early twenty-something guy thrust into weird situation and asked to lead crazy people with super powers. He was a little hesitant, thought he wasn't ready, but brought his A game when it was needed (the Hulk sequence being the best example).

Hey, look at that! We did say something nice!

Will wonders never cease?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Which Super-hero am I? Thank goodness the interweb is here to answer that question!

Although incredibly famous, honored, and revered heroes back on Earth-K, Bubblegum Tate and I realize that here on Earth-Prime we're not quite as well known. So, in order to give you a better picture of what sort of heroes we are, we figured we'd use some of your more familiar icons as standards of comparison.

Cap'n Neurotic's results:

You are Spider-Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Bubblegum Tate's results:
You are Green Lantern
Green Lantern
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Hot-headed. You have strong will power
and a good imagination.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Please remember that these are approximations. The Cap'n will in no way find himself attached to some Primal Totemic Power and I don't need any silly magic rings to get the job done.

DC can consider my socks thoroughly rocked, thank you very much.

Do you ever think about the younger “versions” of yourself that exist within you? What I mean is, do you ever think about what grade-school you would think of high school you and what he would think of college you and etc? I have these kinds of odd thoughts often, but I usually use it as an excuse. Present Day Me doesn’t have to justify the girls he dated in high school because those were the decisions of High School Me and it seemed like a good idea to him. I apply this to the comic nerd within me as well and, let me tell you, the comic nerd I’ve been throughout most of my past can’t believe the stuff I’m reading now. The comic nerd of the past was almost exclusively a Marvel Zombie. I read Marvel comics exclusively most of my childhood and on into high school during the dreaded bust of the 90s. My favorites were Spider-Man and, God help me, Wolverine just like every other nerd my age. But the 90s eventually got so bad that I finally threw up my hands in disgust and left comics. Truthfully, though, I really only left Marvel. I was never a fan of DC (if you don’t know what that means, think Super Friends) and it didn’t even occur to Marvel Zombie Tate to take a look across the street and see what the Distinguished Competition was doing. It may have been just as bad as what I was already reading, but the point is that I NEVER EVEN THOUGHT TO LOOK!

I eventually returned to the world of four colors and nowadays I read all kinds of comics. I read spy comics, western comics, new comics, 50 year old comics, big companies, small companies, color and even black and white. You name it, I’ll read it. But super-heroes, and to an almost exclusive extent, DC’s super-heroes still hold the preeminent place in my heart. I want to still be interested in the heroes of my youth, but I just can’t muster the give-a-damn. I love the X-Men and Spider-Man movies, Daredevil was better than it had any right to be and the Hulk was genius no matter what you’ve heard or think, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy any of their books and actually read them if someone put a gun to my head. Marvel just doesn’t excite me anymore. I look at the X-Men and all I see are the Black Panthers from the 60s. I look at the Avengers and all I can think is “are these REALLY the guys I want called if the world is in danger of being destroyed by extraterrestrials?” I look at Captain America and he looks the same but he speaks with a leftist’s voice, a voice that doesn’t understand what it was to be an FDR Democrat. The Marvel Universe of today might be called “realistic” by some, but I call it dreary. But I think Grant Morrison (a favorite and amazingly imaginative writer) said it best when he said “my DCU is a day-glo, non-stop funhouse, where the world is threatened every five minutes and godlike beings clash in the skies like fireworks.”

But why is this so? What is it that DC has over Marvel right now? I’m going to make some guesses and they are educated guesses but they are by no means the definitive answer. They are, I feel confident, SOME of the answers, though.

Icons: The dictionary says an icon is an important and enduring symbol. The DCU is full to bursting with icons. When someone sees Superman’s shield, they instantly think of Truth, Justice and the American Way. Batman’s shield is a symbol of hope through tragedy, justice through sacrifice and your own fear becoming lesser persons' terror. Green Lantern’s symbol speaks his oath without uttering a word. Wonder Woman, whether she likes it or not, is the icon of peace through superior firepower. Unfortunately, Marvel has only one icon in Captain America and he’s been turned into such a mess that its hard to tell what it is he stands for anymore…but that’s a subject for another column.

Legacy: It might come from being a universe that started nearly 70 years ago. It might come from the proliferation of kid sidekicks (something Marvel is just now giving a shot). It might have been our heroes growing older on Earth-2. It might be time travel stories or Elseworlds tales set in the future. Whatever the reason, the DCU passes its mantle from one generation to the next. We all want to pick up Batman’s books and see Bruce Wayne behind the mask, but we know in the back of our mind that if he were to fall then Dick or Tim would pick up where he left off. When Superman died two new heroes were born from it and despite how things look now, I don't think Superboy is down for the count. Every member of the current Justice Society of America was either a “founding” superhero or, more often, the heir to one in either blood or ideology. When Barry Allen died in the Crisis, Wally put away childish things and became the Flash the next issue. The heroes of the DCU look to the future and they do it by training the next generation in both skills and morality. The DCU also makes sure we know how it all comes together, too. Why else would they give us a team of forty or fifty teenagers from different cultures and planets who band together as heroes a thousand years after Superman and Batman were on the scene?

Imagination: Giant pennies. Bottled cities. Guardians of the Universe. New Gods. Caves, satellites, fortresses in the arctic, watchtowers on the moon and buildings shaped like Ts and Ls. Multiple earths. Last sons of doomed planets. Bald mad scientists (there’s way more than one). Marvel calls itself the House of Ideas, but the DCU has been coming up with wilder ideas and for a lot longer. Before there was a Marvel, Superman was visiting tiny cities from his home planet and meeting his dad’s college roommate. The Justice League was fighting a twisted mirror image of itself from a parallel earth where evil was the ideal. Batman had to deal with meeting the daughter of an alternate version of himself who’s mother was one of his greatest foes. The DCU has a super-escape artist for crying out loud! And his costume is AWESOME in its ridiculousness. And he has two sidekicks: a warrior woman from a hell planet and a midget. A freckle faced kid with a bowtie got into wacky adventures on three planets, transformed into monsters, gained and lost tons of super powers and even joined a super team a thousand years in the future just because he was Superman’s pal. All this happens because DC set a trend for anything-goes story telling. Not everything that came out of that was gold, but enough of it was. It continues to this day. The modern DCU has many architects and each of them loves the history but looks to the future with great imagination. Architects might be the wrong term to use. They're like a band. The "sound" each person makes flows into the other and makes the whole stronger than the individual notes could hope to be. They continue old legacies and create new ones all at once. Unfortunately, the House of Ideas looks to be built by three men who are playing kazoos and dishpans.

That will probably do for now, but I bet I revisit this topic in the future. I also want to caveat to all current Marvel Zombies: YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. If you love Marvel right now and can’t understand why I want to read books about the Blue Boy Scout and the Big Red Cheese then that’s cool. You have the right to be wrong, feel free to exercise that right. I certainly don’t think everything from Marvel is terrible. I love She-Hulk’s current series and the Great Lakes Avengers are hilarious. I think a good chunk of the Ultimate Universe is tops. I own collections of Marvel books from back when the company really knew what it was doing (Simonson’s Thor, Miller’s Daredevil and Busiek’s Avengers are examples). I just lament the fact that House of M was so boring I only made it about two issues in. Or that Young Avengers had such great possibilities when it was a time-traveling romp before it became sad bastard, emo melodrama. Or that Spider-Man is attacked by illegitimate children of his first girlfriend right before he mutates into a man-spider…again. It’s all on a pendulum and I’m sure DC will start to suck again and I can make mine Marvel. See you Marvel Zombies in 2058!