Friday, July 29, 2005

I'm not dead, but my computer is.

My computer mysteriously forgot some major component of its operating system.

Long story short, I'm going to be separated from my scans collection for a while.

How does this affect you? Well, it means no more Homoerotica Fridays -- at least for a while.

But there shall be a whole week of lovely scans posts to celebrate my computer's triumphant return once we get it up and running again. I promise.

It's a damn shame that the thing is busted, too, because I've got a hell of a whole lot to be excited about in the comics world.


  • The Spirit is getting his own monthly -- by Darwyn Cooke.

    I love Darwyn Cooke. If you've met me in person, chances are I've tried at least once to get you to read DC: The New Frontier. Or his issue of Solo. Because they are awesome.

    If there's anyone I trust to pick up where Eisner left off, it's Cooke. Because The Spirit has a legacy of being a smart, sexy series with stunning visuals. And I've seen Cooke do smart. And sexy. And I hope to God he maintains the tradition of the series' famous introductory splash panels.

  • The return of The Brave and the Bold

    If this is what a post-Infinite-Crisis DCU is going to include, you can sign me up. Justice League Unlimited has shown that you can go outside The Trinity (or even The Big Leaguers) and still tell an exciting story.

    And I won't lie: the total fanboy in me is absolutely howling for a Green Lantern/Batman issue.

  • JSA Classified

    Written by Geoff Johns, penciled by Amanda Conner and starring Power Girl's breasts, this is a highly entertaining read. I'm really digging Conner's art style, which just cartoony enough to suit the slightly goofy angle to the story. It's a damn shame that it's Adam Hughes' cover, not Conner's, that's being put out for the second printing. Oh, well. If Hughes gets more people to read this book, I won't mind.

  • This week's issue of Flash

    OH GOD. What's the one thing that you can do to end an issue that beats the return of Professor fucking Zoom? THIS. Oh God damn you, Johns, for knowing exactly which buttons to push. I had to put down the issue and compose myself halfway through. My hands were shaking for several minutes after finishing. Oh damn you, you bastard. Damn you for knowing exactly how to get a deeply visceral reaction out of me.

  • Batman Begins for the PS2

    Holy God, I love this game! I'm such an 8- and 16-bit kid, and I've never been very good at 3d environments. But this game rocks on levels of awesome I haven't felt since I played Earthbound for the SNES. To emphasize the film's themes about fear and stealth, you sneak around the shadows and use the surroundings (crates, pipes, tankers) to scare the bejeezus out of your enemies, swoop down and take them out without being seen. One of the meters shown for your enemy is his heart rate -- you can actually see how much he's pissing himself before you cold-cock him. It's so beautiful I could weep. It totally indulges every fanboy Batman fantasy and then some. I highly reccommend it.

  • Marty Nodell is cooler than you

    Martin Nodell, creator of the Green Lantern (and an all-around nice guy) has promised that he'll do everything he can to make the trek out to Charlotte, North Carolina for HeroCon 2006. Considering that by then he''l be what, pushing 91? This blows my mind. Not only that, but he says he'll front the cost so an indie publisher or artist can come, too.

    I've had the extreme pleasure of meeting Nodell and this just falls right in line with how genuinely upstanding I think he is. I wish I had the coin to truck it out to the south next summer.

    Hell. Maybe it can be a graduation present.

  • Daughters of the Dragon

    This is Marvel, so I'm not quite sure what the hell it's all about. Franny makes incoherently happy gurgling noises where Misty Knight is concerned (she was overjoyed to see her cameo in House of M, for example), so I'll take her word for it that it's a good thing.


See you once I get the bat-computer up and running again, kids.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's a sad, sad day in geekdom.

Today, we lost two great men in fandom.

James Doohan -- Star Trek's Scotty -- and Jim Aparo, co-creator of Batman and the Outsiders and the artist for The Brave and the Bold.

Jim Aparo -- he's known for bringing life to a great many characters, but for me, the work I will always remember him for is Batman.

Maybe it's because you'll always remember your first. Bruce Timm's work on Batman: the Animated Series notwithstanding, Jim Aparo's Batman was my introduction to the character. I came into comics during the Knightfall storyline, and the visual storytelling from those books is as good (and in many cases, far better) than all Batman stories to come.

I prefer Aparo's Batman over Neal Adams', and that's saying a lot.

He's definately a hidden gem of comics art. Last I checked, you could get an original page from his run on Batman for under 60 bucks. That's a damn shame.

***

It may surprise some readers of this blog, but Scotty was my favorite Star Trek character long before I fell in love with James T. Kirk.

It's easy (and rather amusing) to make fun of most of the acting in Star Trek, both on the various television series and the movies. It's mostly melodramatic, over-the-top... but James Doohan as Scotty was rarely so.

Watch Star Trek II and see Doohan cradling the broken and bloody body of Scotty's nephew Peter Preston. I dare you to watch that scene without reaching for the tissues.

Or the scene in Star Trek IV, using a personal computer:

Scotty: "Computer?" (nothing.) "Computer?"
Businessman: "Um, just use the mouse."
Scotty: (picking up the mouse like a walkie-talkie) "Heloooooo computer."

That's comedy gold, people.

My all-time favorite issue of the Star Trek comics is a Scotty issue, as well. Star Trek Annual #3, by Peter David, Curt Swan and Ricardo Villagran. (It's also available in the Best of Star Trek trade paperback.) Scotty reflects on the deaths of Peter Preston and his wife, Glynnis.

It's beautiful. I've read it a hundred times and it still chokes me up.

***

You will be missed, gentlemen. Oh God, you will be missed.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

You know, I did read good comics this week... sort of.

After snarking over most of this week's comics haul, I must say I did read two comics this week that were pretty good.

No, scratch that. One was not too bad. One was fucking spectacular.

The pretty good one? JLA #116. It gets bonus points for being the one story arc that rehashes Identity Crisis without making my brain hurt too much. That said, I wish the DCU could just let that story the fuck go. I liked it, it had its merits and flaws -- and for the love of God, it should have been over a year ago.

But. I digress.

It's an alright read. Carter's a hardass and that's entertaining, Ollie gets to be snarky, and it's fun watching Geoff Johns' beloved Saint Hal float over everything. (Seriously. His feet never touch the ground in this whole damn issue. It may be an easy way to get around layout problems, but it's an amusing coincidence.)

It's kind of sad that this is the best thing that came out this week for me, though. It's ok, but comics should make my heart race, dammit. They should make me want to read the next issue desperately.

They sure as hell shouldn't rehash a story that should have died a long freaking time ago.

Can we go back to this, please?

Slash pairing qualification: beating the holy hell out of each other

This week, I'm going to shift gears on Homoerotica Friday -- that is, an illustrated discussion on what makes a character appeal to slash fans. (And if you're coming here from Scans Daily, a lot of these scans are going to look familiar. For that, I apologize.)

One of the biggies is if two characters fight all the time. And I don't mean that married-couple bickering, either. I mean really wailing on each other. Something about a couple of fellas getting all sweaty together and resolving their issues with brute strength and phallic objects.

Can't say as I blame them.

This is the sort of thing slashing Oliver Queen is built on (it's a long standing belief in fandom that Ollie punches everyone he wants to have sex with). But this week's example of this principle comes to us from The Outsiders, issue #11.

This is after Roy's taken five bullets to the chest in an earlier issue. He gets disabling flashbacks to the incident when confronted with guns, and is considering retiring. (It's a bit hard to be a vigilante when any punk with a gun can make you panic.)

Roy's in the Outsiders "danger room," shooting at practice targets to see if he still has it. Dick, watching Roy practice, challenges him to a fight, and tries to help him work through his problem with guns... in the special kind of way that can only come from being raised by Batman.

Warning to dial-up users: these pages are roughly 200KB each.

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6

The second panel on the third page:



You want to know why I read Outsiders, despite all its flaws? That's it, right there.

That's the stuff fics are made of, kids.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

More comics, more reviews

Midway through this week's comics haul, and so we hit the books that are just sort of... there. Not bad, not great, they're the midrange filler that comprises the majority of everyone's comics collection.

This week's representatives: Desolation Jones #2 and Rann/Thanagar War #3.

To sum up how I feel about Desolation Jones right now, let me quote the title character:

Ex-spook porno producers steal an ex-spook colonel's private stash of Hitler's home-made sex flicks? GAAAAAAAH!

Given the action of the first issue, everyone sits around and talks. It's a ton of semi-confusing exposition. It's one of those books that hold a trade paperback together, but as a single, it lacks flavor.

J.H. Williams III's art is nifty, though, and there are some genuinely nice moments -- but there's not a hell of a whole lot you can do to follow up the Hitler porn and the gimp-smashing of the first issue, and that's all there is to it.

Where Desolation Jones doesn't do enough, though, Rann/Thanagar tries to do too much. Dave Gibbons needs to calm the hell down. He's trying to cram actions and subplots that might have enough room in a TPB or an ongoing series into a 6-issue miniseries.

And they need to stop bolding every other word in the issue. I don't know if it's Gibbons trying to add emphasis or Nich J. Napolitano being overly enthusiastic, but the effect is annoying as hell.

The art is nice, but the panels are crowded and claustrophobic. It's a lot like the layout problems I had with Return of Donna Troy, actually. There's just too damn much going on, too many people, too many species and not enough answers.

And not enough Kyle. I really like Kyle. And I'd be lying if I said watching him fight zombie Thanagarians wasn't fun as all hell.

Comics review part three: Green Arrow #52

When an issue's title is "Identity Crisis... again," you know that can't be a good sign.

Let's count the moments Amy rolled her eyes at this book:

1) The razor-sharp dialogue!

Mia: Holy crap.
Conner: Yes.
Mia: They blew up our digs?
Conner: Yes.
Mia: Wild.
Conner: Yes.

2) Judd Winnick putting teenage slang into Mia's mouth reads like my dad trying to sound cool. I should never see the word "mondo" in a comic, ever. If this gets any worse, Mia's going to actually say "OMGKTHXBYE" on-panel, and I'm going to be forced to break something.

3) "Because you need a white girl to play one of the leads." "One-- it's because you're talented, and two--yes. Mr. Hobson thinks we might get sued for discrimination."

4) Tom Fowler's pencilling makes everyone look like they were made of putty. Whenever someone opens their mouth, their jaw dislocates and slides to the side, or protrudes their lips an inch away from their face. Limbs twist like Gumby. There's next to no foreshortening. Ollie's pupils refuse to line up, so it looks like he has a lazy eye. Conner continues to be a tan white kid. Why am I so intimidated to put together an art portfolio, if this is what it takes to get a job drawing comics?

Come back, Phil Hester and Ande Parks. I miss you.

5) "Help me find Dr. Light!" When you quote something, it should, at the very least, be a poingant allusion. all this does is confirm Winick's critics that he can't come up with a story on his own.

The cover, on the other hand, is lovely. The archery isn't perfect (but it's far from the worst I've seen), and Zatanna looks great as well. I just wish I got the Zatanna/Green Arrow team-up issue that it advertised.

That would have been a fun read.

Comics review for week of July 13: Batman #642

And so the review of this week's haul continues, working from the crappiest comics to the best.

The second-worst book this week? Batman #642.

Let me say this: there is no reason Batman should be a bad book. Ever. As one of the Big Three, you have to assume that this is going to be one of the books most-read by people who don't ordinarily read comics. Especially with the movie out, you have to put your best stuff forward.

The writing leaves me lukewarm, mostly because there's not a whole lot of it. The book averages maybe a dozen words per page. The characterization rubs me the wrong way (Killer Croc deliberately lets a roomful of innocents go, but he's still a threat to civilians? What?). And then there's the dialogue:

Killer Croc: Why? Why do you care if [The Mad Hatter] dies?
Batman: The same... uh... reason I care... if you do.

If Killer Croc has an easier time constructing a sentence than Batman, you know you're not doing it right.

The art isn't that hot either. It's not eye-burningly bad, but the blood looks so fake it could be ketchup. There's a reason I prefer black blood in comics -- I've never seen anyone do red blood properly. Killer Croc looks like someone dropped a jar of strawberry dessert topping on his head, which is hardening into a shiny lacquered shell.

Also: can we get Dr. Scott to call bullshit on the fake medical science in this issue? I'd love to watch someone smarter than I am tear this issue a new one.

The obligatory snarking about All-Star Batman & Robin

Dear Frank Miller:

On the whole, I really enjoy your stuff. I loved Year One, Dark Knight Returns, and Sin City. I even liked Dark Knight Strikes Again, and trust me -- I've taken a lot of shit defending that book to people.

When you defend the benefits of a writer to some of the most vehement detractors this side of Rob Liefeld, you expect some good shit in return.

All I got was shit.

See, it doesn't hurt when Liefeld does shit art for Teen Titans. I expect him to suck. So when he meets my expectations, I don't mind so much.

But you? You used to be so good. I still show Batman: Year One and Dark Knight Returns to the non-comics-reading people I know to get them into Batman.

I used to think you could write powerful women. Carrie Kelley, the ladies of Old Town --

I really enjoyed Sin City -- but was I giving you too much credit in thinking that the girlflesh fanservice and the violence was you being ironic about the sensationalism in pulp novels?

After this issue, I'm starting to think I was.

Dear Jim Lee:

Your backgrounds are as lovely as they were in Hush. As a matter of fact, I think you should do them exclusively.

Because the crap you put in front of them in this issue isn't much to look at, yo.

I do not need ass shots of Vicki Vale. Ever. Not even a little bit. And yet, here she is, spending a good half of her appearance in her underwear.

For the record, I'm sick and tired of this everyone-has-a-few-too-many-vertebrae shit from you and Mike Turner, too.

And did Frank tell you to draw Dick looking down at his murdered parents in the same poses as in Year One?

Dear, you're supposed to hit him when he says dumb shit like that. It would save us all a lot of trouble.

P.S. Leave the EXTREME!!! Mid-90's style hair on women back in Image comics where it belongs.

KTHXBYE

Signed, me.



I was initially fascinated by the prospect of All-Star Batman & Robin. I had heard that this was essentially going to be Robin: Year One in the DKR universe. Maybe it was morbid curiosity, but I kind of wanted to see what turned Dick Grayson from a 12-year-old orphan into the psychopath in Dark Knight Strikes Again.

If this is the kind of shit I have to wade through to find out, I think I'll pass.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Warning: I'm going to talk about Marvel, race, and Captain Planet

Amy is home for an extended long weekend of family nagging, being scraped by dermatologists, and delicious lead poisoning and so my mutant brain in a jar has been left to its own sinister devices. Usually this entails cooking experiments or giant lasers but I was feeling kind of introspective and didn't get much done.

In order to stave off the boredom of an empty, sweaty, shitty apartment, I reordered my run of Sandman (I recently acquired 3 early issues at a garage sale, squee of squees!) and settled down with some classic Chris Claremont New Mutants.

As I was savoring the delicious crack (and I mean that in the most loving sense--it's one of my favorite Marvel series, but 500 pound evil Xi'an Coy Manh does not make any damn sense) when I came to a realization that stunned me: I would not want to be on their team at all.

Usually, I would be more than happy should some merciful god reduce me to two dimensions and Mary Sue me into, say, Sandman, JLI, or the Outsiders. But I would loathe to have been written by Claremont in the 80's because he would have made me a huge freaking bitch.

While my beloved characters have their own personalities, they are still very stereotypical. Sunspot is the sassy Latin dude (he reminds me a lot of Fire but um penisy), Cannonball is a Southern gentleman-hick, Wolfsbane is...um, Scottish (and apparently there was no TV in Scotland in the 80's), and Dani Moonstar wears a freaking feather headdress so everyone is really, really sure she is an Indian. This is an instance of what I like to call Captain Planet diversity--the "one from this continent, one from that continent, make sure they have visual racial markers, and everyone gets an identifying accent" approach that dominated attempts at "diversity" until fairly recently.

Granted, this is the ideal that I was raised with, and it is not the same as tokenization. Apache Chief, Black Vulcan, and...um, the Asian wind samurai with no pants from Super Friends were tokens. They were minority characters grafted on to a pre-existing white team. The Captain Planet approach starts out with a multi-ethnic group and does not feature a white majority. Usually, though, there is at least one white American character, and his or her coming to terms with everybody's cultural differences is at some point an important plot point. Think again of Wheeler--fiery Irish-American from Brooklyn learning to appreciate cultural differences. Nobody was worried about Gee or Kwame learning about white people--it was all about Wheeler expanding his horizons.

Then again, New Mutants was more complex than that in who had to learn to understand whom, and there was an alien, a girl supposedly from Nova Roma aka ancient rome in the modern day (who later suffered terrible, terrible retconning), and a Russian girl raised by alternate universe Storm in a limbo dimension. But when things got messy, they had a slumber party, and it all worked itself out. There is still a lot of stereotyping in this strategy (fscking feather headdress) but it is an improvement. And unconsciously, for people who grew up with this stuff, it's an ideal. I am sure that this archetypical team is what ensured I would always be really uncomfortable wiht a room full of white people making decisions.

But I still wouldn't want to be in the comic. Personal disclosure: I am from Grosse Pointe. It is a suburb of Detroit infamous for wealth and snobbery. It's 90210 but colder and less interesting. It's 48236. But due to an excellent upbringing by conscientious, non-snobby liberals, I am not like everyone else you might know from that place. But if I had to be reduced as a teenager to a stereotype for purposes of creating a "one from column A, one from column B" team, and I had discovered my amazing powers in the Marvel Universe in the 1980's, I would have been the bitchy rich girl who had to learn to get along with poor people and Indians. And robots. And Russian girls from Limbo. (Monet from Generation X was somewhat like this, except she was also a genius and that made her cool. And Claremont would not have made me cool.) I would have been girl Cyclops! And no one would like me!

Thank Bob that Chris Claremont is not writing my life. As of now, I am instead fulfilling the tormented genius stereotype, teamed up with a working-class hero partner, with the lesbian subtype, and an odd-couple templated dropped on top, and everything is going just fine.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Slash goggles? More like slash cataracts.

Seems The Absorbascon is tuning into the Slash Channel, with the latest poll concerning the gayest couples in comics.

It's a sizeable list, but I can't help but see all the ones he's missing:

Beast Boy and Cyborg.
Oracle and Black Canary.
Tim Drake and Kon-El.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy.
Nightwing/Robin and Batman.
Roy Harper and Dick Grayson.

For Christ's sake, where is Batman and Superman? I'm not a big fan of that particular fandom, but the covers for World's Finest are among the most eye-burningly gay that I've ever seen.

Hell, I'd even throw Hal Jordan and Barry Allen on that list, too.

Clearly, the need for Homoerotica Friday as an education tool is dire, indeed.

Homoerotica Friday: Birds of a feather...

This one comes to us from Birds of Prey and I think it speaks for itself.



Babs, if I could get Dinah Lance to hold me like that, she could call me whatever the hell she wanted to.

The Comics Haul for July 7, 2005

Small batch this week, but it's a good one.

Villains United is, far and away, the best of the four miniseries to come out of this whole Infinite Crisis hoo-hah. I'm a big fan of witty banter with supervillains, so it's supremely entertaining to see them bantering with each other. Catman an Deadshot continue to be delightfully gay ("I ain't gonna kiss you or nothin', Blake." "I'll cry when I have the time, Lawton.") and any and all references to Apokolips scare the crap out of me. Gail Simone's trademark humor coming out of bad guys ("She better be dead or I'll be pissed.") is positively delightful.

The Return of Donna Troy has taken a step up from fucking incomprehensible to only vaguely confusing. Then again, if you have to drag in all the continuity baggage each one of these former sidekicks brings with them, along with the fallout of the Rann-Thanagar War, I'm willing to forgive a lot of the confusion. It's hard to read the "order" in which characters speak, but for most panels, order is irrelevant -- these characters are trying to piece together what the hell is going on just as much as we are, so it makes sense to "hear" them chattering all at once and over each other's conversations. The most comprehensible thing in the issue is the foreshadowing of Donna and Roy getting together when this is all over, which is made so obvious it's almost a belabored point already.

It's kind of nice to hear a mention that it's Jade, not Nightwing, that leads the Outsiders (the good Mr. Winick has seemed to have forgotten that as of late), even if it is Nightwing that barks most of the orders here. And then, somehow, Phil Jimenez manages to work in odd little references (Tesseracts, "hobbits," and "That's no moon. It's a space station!"). I wasn't going to be the least bit surprised if someone said they had a bad feeling about this.

Overall, I like where he's going with this series, and he's slowly but surely gaining some focus. I just hope the readers will give him enough patience to pull it all together.

And, according to the advertising, the WildC.A.T.S cartoon is coming out on DVD! The thing is probably twice as awful as I remember, but this Wildstorm series was one of my guilty pleasures when I was younger... you know, before I developed any taste. The thing comes out on July 19, and I might get it once it hits the bargain bin... which should be around, oh, August or so.

Y: the Last Man continues to be awesome, even if it is really weird that Vaughan gets meta about himself ("It figures. An entire planet of women, and the one guy gets to be the lead."). The bit about being able to tell Yorick's a dude based on the frequency of his voice I call bullshit on, though. I may be biased by my own deep voice, but I don't think you can peg someone's sex based on whether they sing bass or soprano. But, hey! Canonically gay characters! Now, if we can only get the LBGT population in DC-owned comics to get out of the permanent-sidekick slot. (I'm looking at you, Vaughan. We all know Mayor Hundred is. Just come out and say it.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Deflecting Arrows

So it has been declared by Scipio over at the Absorbascon to be "Anti-Arrow Rampage Day". And he made fun of Roy. And that's just not cool with me.

It made me sit and think, just why do I love the Arrow family so much? I really hate getting into arguments as to whether a certain character or writer suck/rock/should be skullfucked (unless it's Devin Grayson because I have a very good case against her). I'm not good at defending my positions. I like stuff because...I like it.

But Roy is my man, despite his many and various bad costumes, inexplicably developed heroin problem, bad parenting skills, and frequently kidnapped child, and you don't randomly dis him and get away with it. Despite there being a lot to dis. Nightwing has done many inexplicably stupid things over the past few years, and nobody goes around accusing him of being a crappy character. They just blame "That Woman". So why don't the archers get the same courtesy?

Is it wrong for me to like a group of non-powered heroes with sunnier dispositions than the Bat family? I love Ollie. I think he is really cool, despite cheating on Black Canary, and considering I am somewhat of a man-hater, that's saying a lot. Am I that far off in thinking being able to pull a 103 lb bowstring and nock 29 arrows a minute is really freaking awesome? Think about it. That's one arrow every other second--the equivalent of lifting 103 pounds every other second. Count it out. It's amazing.

Finally, lest we forget, I remind you all that WAP is the sound of a left cross.



And what does Zatanna do?

She watches.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Homoerotica Wednesday

OK, so I said I'd be back Monday and it's now Wednesday.

You can blame my new 14-day free trial of City of Heroes for that.

But I promised to bring the gay and God dammit, I keep my promises.

(Sorry, Ron -- no Thanagarian goodness... at least, not yet. I'm still looking. My Hawkman scans archive is a bit shallow.)

Let's call this week's installment: "I Can't Believe They Wrote That."

You know, those unintentional slips of script that make you wonder how in the holy hell they got it past the Comic Book Code.

Take this example from the old-school Teen Titans:





Let me just say that "rearguard archery service" is my new favorite euphemism of all time, ever.