Sonntag, 31. Januar 2010

Six for Smallville

Despite the fact that I regularly watch Melrose Place and Gossip Girl (one I even blog about regularly), I would still label Smallville as my guiltiest television pleasure. It’s corny, it’s generally over-acted and not about to be nominated for any Emmys any time soon, but I’ve still got a soft spot for the adventures of Superman when he was a boy (or late-20-something at this point).

I actually didn’t watch the first few seasons of Smallville on any regular basis, but became a regular viewer while working at Wizard as I became the magazine’s semi-regular correspondent on the show, available whenever interviews needed to be conducted or articles written. I was fortunate enough to speak with the show’s various producers and writers on numerous occasions and conduct interviews with Clark Kent himself, Tom Welling (one of the nicest Hollywood types I’ve ever chatted with) as well as the likes of James Marsters, Dean Cain, Kane and others when they appeared on the series.

Over the past few years, Smallville has inched away from its roots as a more realistic (or as realistic as you can get) chronicle of a young alien learning about his powers in a rural area and embraced its comics roots as almost a live-action tween-friendly version of Justice League Unlimited, with Green Arrow, The Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, The Martian Manhunter, Black Canary, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Zatanna, the Wonder Twins and more showing up in color-coordinated casual wear. This week, the show hits a milestone, as my boy Geoff Johns pens an extra-length episode that brings the Justice Society of America to town.

To celebrate that and because I thought it would be fun, here are five more hero types I’d like to see done up Smallville style before the show wraps (and to make things a bit more interesting, I took the obvious Batman and Wonder Woman picks off the table since I believe it’s already been stated numerous times there are legal entanglements preventing either from happening besides).

It’s not a stretch at all to imagine that a younger John Henry Irons is already hard at work in Smallville’s version of Metropolis, probably for either Oliver Queen or whoever is running Luthorcorp this week. I’d actually go with the classic Steel origin of John Henry getting his weapons poached by some nefarious corporation (be it Luthorcorp or Intergang), then have him whip up his Steel armor to try and police the matter. Given the cool effects Smallville has done on the relatively cheap, I’m thinking they could create a fairly dope-looking Steel that would wipe at least a bit of the Shaq stink of the character’s mainstream cred.

How sweet would it be to see a smooth-talking, chain-smoking British conman sweep on into Smallville (or Metropolis), charm Lois Lane, piss Clark off, and then bring some hellish mystic nightmare in his wake that he needs Super-help to deal with? Smallville hasn’t had many occult-tinged episodes (at least not while I’ve been watching) so this would be a neat change of pace, and the contrast between Clark and Constantine is just too delicious for me. Besides, The CW already has the perfect teen Hellblazer in the form of Ed Westwick, Gossip Girl’s own Chuck Bass (and that may be the most inspired casting choice I’ve made in a blue moon).

While I think it would be nigh impossible to fully feature Jack Kirby’s Fourth World with Smallville’s budgets and other constraints, they’ve certainly proven me wrong on scores like that before. Nonetheless, the alternative is to just have a New God or two guest star and make allusions to Darkseid, etc. that you can either pay off later or leave as fun Easter eggs. The prospect of Orion on Earth just doesn’t grab me here, so I’d go with Mister Miracle’s arc of escaping Apokolips and seeking salvation in Smallville, but give it to Barda, not just because she and Superman have done porn together before, but because, again, this is The CW and if they can cast some pretty young thing as an Amazonian alien, they’re gonna.

If you can’t get Batman, let’s get the next best thing. Since there rumors that The CW was actually going to make a series about Dick Grayson and his carnival family their Smallville follow-up at some point, I say grab those prelim designs and go to town. The Haley Circus comes to town, some nefarious fellow runs an extortion scam or whatnot perhaps with a little extra muscle, and Clark needs the help of a 15-or-so acrobat with a fondness for red, green and yellow to save the day. I’d make this one light-hearted and upbeat, just like the Robin/Nightwing-Superman team-up dynamic in comics I’ve always enjoyed always is. And of course you can have some additional fun tossing in allusions to the Dark Knight and perhaps even why they can’t get him on the show.

This one seems like a no-brainer, as you can pretty easily bring in a GL similarly to how Flash, Aquaman or any of the other major DC players came and cover his origin in about five minutes (“A dying alien gave me a ring, now I’m a space cop”), then get to the slam-bang action with Clark and whomever teaming against Sinestro or perhaps a less-known interstellar Green Lantern opponent like Evil Star or somebody. Commercially, this would be a pretty guaranteed hit with the movie coming down the pike as well as the franchise’s current high standing in comics, while from a character standpoint Clark meeting an Earth native who patrols the stars is a neat bit of role reversal. As for who should be filling the role, I’d take Hal off the table since Ryan Reynolds has that sewn up, and probably John Stewart and even Kyle Rayner as well, since they could logically make the big screen jump as buddy and successor respectively; that leaves Guy Gardner, who if they stick with his traditional persona could be an even more interesting guest.

There’s no easier Smallville episode to write than some crazy scientist getting a hold of Clark’s DNA via a strand of hair or whatever he leaves behind at a crime scene then cloning him and then something going wrong with the process, leaving us with a high school-age Conner ready to kick ass and take names. Me being me, I’d of course play Superboy exactly how they did when he was first introduced, with cockiness and girl-craziness in full effect. This is actually a character who could have some real legs if they have him find Clark by the end of the first episode, and then the cast has to spend part of a season basically raising this kid and keeping him out of trouble; yeah, it’s kind of like the Supergirl story, but I think the idea that the character actually is Clark in some sense but nothing like him when it comes to personality would make for a lot more entertaining situations, plus the bulk of the supporting cast consists of attractive ladies who are already into soon-to-be-Superman anyways, so there you go. It would also be a neat bit of symmetry for the final season (which has to be coming up), as you’ve got Clark passing the torch to a kid who is the age he was when the show started while he “graduates” into true adulthood.

Samstag, 30. Januar 2010

the 'what if's, big C, and a quarter inch of thumb

A friend, never met, was buried today. He was a stand-up man, who believed in walking down to see someone to let them know that talking to them mattered. Some times you have to go seeking the answers. He mentored Linda, helping her to become the manager that people wanted to work for. He knew people, because people matter, and when figuring things out, it was out with a piece of paper and writing it down. Get it down, don’t forget that these are real things, real numbers, real problems.

He had a ‘let’s have a walk’ with Linda about me, when management was less than compassionate. He told her that when his wife had cancer, he decided not to miss a single doctor’s appointment. That how you live a life, and how you live with yourself.
He died of cancer a week ago. He was a sturdy man, and helping or caring about others never diminished that, it enhanced it. When Linda was worried about work and needed the big picture or what to do, I wanted her to go to him: he never had advice other than the best in her long term.

In a few days, another friend goes into surgery, the big C again. A year of testing to determine it was Lupus. Oops, no, turns out it was Cancer and spreading. I know the doctor who is doing the surgery and he is professional and exceptionally trained. One of the three specialists I trust. I’ll go visit in the hospital. The person said the one thing no one lets you talk about are the ‘what if’s’, that and how there are those who say, “I can’t take illness” as an excuse to run away and those who stay, “If you ever need anything…” before you never hear them again.

Cancer is never pretty, and I am not sure if it is survived or simply carried on? Chemo, radiation, operations, you might be able to go back to looking the same but the world will never seem the same, a place where the silent fears don’t whisper in the dark before sleep.

I have been out of it for a while, sleeping three times the amount I am awake, and still fevered. Today it was seizure cycles a and stroke build up, blood pressure 205/193 with heart rate of 128 (if you see this, go to a hospital) before dropping to a ‘safe’ 188/140 (yeah, don’t need to worry about clotted cream every day for tea – I jest). I had a lot of seizures, and felt like my ear and head was going to explode. But I’m here. I’m taking some DVD’s up to my friend in the hospital, to take the mind from the noise and the pain. Some romance too.

This morning I scraped the clotted blood on and in my tongue. It stayed. I had bit the tongue tip in two places during my sleep in seizures, maybe took a tip off. That’s not a ‘What if’ that just a ‘is that chocolate?’ to, ‘oh crap……oh well.’ No one wants to talk to Linda about the nights holding me from banging my head and limbs against the wall, and how she can’t shield all of them. Or what it looks like, or sounds like. I don’t know that.

Last week I had a seizure and Cheryl was there, she held my hand. I don’t know if it was the end, the after, the pre, the whole thing, I just know I couldn’t see and I couldn’t move anything but my right thumb a quarter inch. My whole world was that quarter inch. Was it Cheryl’s thumb? I felt hands that worked, thick hands which spent too many winters on the prairies, I know that feel. There were hands that have old calluses, wood I think, and new ones building and the wearing that will turn them some day into that fine leather, safe hands. Every ridge was my security blanket, every indent a place where I connected to the outside world. After a time she took it away to check me, I think, and I moved my thumb, moved it as much as I could but the hand didn’t come back. Damn. Slammed backed into a body in which the pain which comes from parts is so twisted it is hard to not think of myself that way, like something bounced off the front of a car.

The hand mattered. Feeling it mattered. The little differences ARE the big differences.

Love is what I felt in Cheryl’s hand. Love is what I felt in Linda’s voice when talking about the man buried today. Facing surgery, a suggestion of a laptop, earphones and DVDs, brings the question, “Where has all the caring gone?” and not from me. I dunno, when facing surgery, it is good to know that someone who cares is on the other side. And while we were working on how to help them, they were offering suggestions on how to help us. Like to like.

I wanted you to know that even to a person, unmoving, eyes rolled up or down or both with only a twitch of a thumb, holding a hand can make a great deal of difference. There isn’t just ‘What if’’s for those facing a dance with Mr. D. but for all those who know them. And running, however graceful, is still running. The man buried today made a difference when Linda and my life needed it. And I think he did for a great many people. He wasn’t scared to help to deal with the what if’s.

Freitag, 29. Januar 2010

Linko! XXXV

And we're back! Let's start with some art, huh?

* The above is by Imbong Hadisoebroto. His cartooning is puuuuuuurty. I know it looks small because of Blogger, but you can see the whole piece here.

* Yes, that is a composite shot of the early "Doctor Who" Doctors as drawn by Al Hirschfield. Thank Ian Brill.

* You know how people are always, "They should just start more community businesses in places like Detroit?" Yeah...turns out, not so easy.

* "How's Your News?" Links: The crazy true story of the identity thief who faked her way through the Ivy League and New Hampshire capitalizes on the three wolf shirt craze for economic gain. (Via)

* Comic Blog Link #1: A blog of all Jack Cole comics.

* Comic Blog Link #2: Someone on Twitter started following me who had this blog Very Fine Near Mint, which supposedly focuses on "The Copper Age" of comics from 1984 to 1991. Honestly, I always thought the whole "name the age of comics" thing got uselessly complicated and played after the Silver Age, but I started reading comics almost exactly in the period these guys are following, so I'm a sucker for this stuff, you know?

* Comic Blog Link #3:Scary Go Round Work Blog? Please and thank you.

* Tom Spurgeon puts up fun links to Booksteve's Library like this run of MLJ house ads so often that I don't know why I haven't just bookmarked it yet.

* As silly as it sounds Link: Instant Chewbacca. (Via)

* A lot of people have linked to this concept art for the original Legend of Zelda, but in case you have not yet, you should really click through to the British Nintendo links like this one where the art originated.

* It's probably been everywhere by now, but if you haven't seen it this director's round table is kind of insane for membership, but not super interesting for content.

* And let's wrap with some art, huh? A really nice preview of the Scholastic color edition of Raina Telgemeier's excellent piece of autobio comics Smile. I bought this as a mini comic like 4 or 5 years ago, so I'm pretty tickled that they're finally putting it out in a mass form.

Paragraph Movie Reviews: District 9

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

This movie was quite captivating, visually stunning, and extremely well-crafted, yet the critic in me just couldn't get past the extreme disconnect between large portions of the story and simply enjoy the ride. It starts out balls-to-the-wall with an utterly unique and exciting plunge into a fictional world that felt more real than any I've seen in a long time as Neil Blomkamp really took the time to build the backstory and feel of these alien refugees on Earth and utilize the faux-documentary routine more effectively and sincerely than I think I've ever seen it. The "mundane" scenes of the aliens' earliest interactions with humans struck quite a chord and were deeply affecting; the aliens and the way they moved, talked, etc. was so unsettling and yet familiar. I really dug this first portion as I had no idea where Blomkamp was taking me, but it was a journey I'd never been on, exploring the idea of extraterrestrials as just folks. However, once the story kicks in, everything veers harshly into cliched sci fi action movie territory, complete with the ruthlessly evil stepdad (they should have just gotten Alan Dale to play him), the odd couple buddy team defying the odds, the science whiz kid who saves the day, and so on. The thing is, as popcorn movies go, it's still quite good, with really great effects, sharp pacing and excellent action sequences, however it just didn't jibe at all with the earnest and deep film I was expecting. My critiques aside, Sharlto Copley was amazing as the lead and the one tether between the two halfs of the movie that felt natural as he adapted perfectly from one role to the next and didn't allow his character to become lost in the tonal shift. It didn't just feel like he was playing an everyman onscreen, he really did carry an honesty into everything he did, whether as the goofy stooge, the panicked fugitive, or even the reluctant hero. I have nothing but praise for Copley's nuanced and spirited performance; he's going to be a big star. Ultimately perhaps the most disappointing thing about District 9 for me was that I think had they made the firm choice to be a light-calory action movie from the start it would have been a good one, as Blomkamp clearly knows how to craft a blockbuster and Copley has a great sense of timing to toss out the one-liners. On the flipside, I was totally buying into the more down-to-earth angle, so I would have loved to see more of that too. However, when the two worlds mashed up against one another, I didn't feel fully satisfied with either. I can't rank this too low because as I said it only really let me down from a critical standpoint and from a pure entertainment one held up pretty well, but man, I sure would have liked to rank it much higher.

Detective Comics #397

Detective Comics #397 (On Sale: January 29, 1970) has a beautiful Batman cover by Neal Adams.

There is a real difference between the Batman in "Paint a Picture of Peril" by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, and the Batman DC has been publishing for decades. I think Denny O'Neil understood where to take the character better than any writer at DC and of course, Neal Adams really "got" who Batman was.

The opening sequence of this story could be used as a crib sheet for writers and artists for years to come on how to portray "the Batman." Sure, he has his "toys," his batarang and in this story a pretty cool undersea sled, but for the most part, his major tools of the trade are that he is a fairly good fighter and he scares the hell out of people.

Great stuff by both Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams. As you can see the story opens with Batman attempting to foil a nighttime robbery of an art exhibit. By the way, there was nothing special going on during Batman's eerie stand against the robbers; he simply tried to dodge the spears by moving his body under his cape. Yeah, tried to dodge; he almost pulled it off, but got hit in the nerve of his right arm, making it all but useless and him unable to follow the underwater robbers. Up top he finds that they took a painting called "The Startled Mermaid," the least valuable item in the exhibit.

Changing back to Bruce Wayne he heads to his mid-town penthouse where he finds his cleaning lady has left the TV on. There is a special documentary on the life of wealthy Orson Payne, a Charles Foster Kane type, who bears a striking resemblance to Orson Welles. He was engaged to opera star Caterina Valance 25 years earlier when she mysteriously vanished and Payne became a recluse in his huge castle home. This is playing in the background while Bruce tends to his wounds and does yoga to "restore circulation."

As he finishes up, his cleaning woman, Cathy, comes back for her forgotten handbag and turns off the TV calling it a "vile thing." As she leaves Bruce remembers that while under water he noticed that the algae was glowing and surmises that the glow came from a submarine with low-yield nuclear engines. So come midnight we find Batman at a deserted pier launching a new underwater bat-sled and following the lingering radiation trail. The trail leads to a small nuclear sub at one of the island estates. Batman recognizes the place, it is Orson Payne's.

Sneaking past Payne's personal guards, Batman finds the man talking to an empty room of statues and paintings. Batman confronts Payne and points out the stolen painting. Payne says that he must have every likeness of Caterina, the woman who spurned him and when owners will not sell, he still acquires the piece. Since he cannot have Caterina, he now consoles himself with images of her.

Batman chases the crazed Payne through his estate, where he is lured into a trap, falling through a trap door into a small cell. Payne pulls a lever that slowly lowers a two-ton deathfall into the cell. Using a batarang on a rope Batman pulls down a chandelier, wedging it between the top of the cell and the lowering deathfall. As he comes for Payne, Payne's grip on sanity finally snaps and he sees his beloved Caterina floating in the air outside his balcony. He reaches for her, stumbling through the crumbling railing and over the edge of the balcony. Swinging out an a bat-rope Batman catches Payne who thinks he is in the arms of his beloved.

The following morning a healing Bruce is watching the coverage of the story on the news when his cleaning woman Cathy comes in and turnes off the TV saying, "You shouldn't be watching such trash." Bruce realizes it is not the TV she hates, but rather Orson Payne, and asks her if she was ever an opera singer. She says that, yes, she was, but she gave it all up to gain her freedom. Bruce says her secret is safe with him, that he sympathizes with people who want to keep secrets. Reprinted in Limited Collectors' Edition C-44 and Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 2 HC.

The back-up story is "The Hollow Man," the conclusion of last issue's Batgirl story, by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. Remember, Batgirl is trying to catch the Orchid Killer, who has been preying on redheads, and is using Barbara Gordon as bait, joining the same computer-dating service as the victims. Mousy Max Tournov brought her an orchid and she tossed him over her shoulder. He crushed the orchid and ran off and she gave chase as Batgirl, only to lose him and be pulled into a dark alley by someone who says, "A red-headed Batgirl will do for now!" So much for the recap!

She tosses this guy and is surprised that he is not Max, but instead is a rather handsome guy. Startled she lets the mystery man get the best of her, knocking her out cold. When she wakes up she is being comforted by Max Tournov, who she thanks before leaving.

Two nights later as Barbara she is back in the computer-dating scene, saddled with a really homely guy named John Milman who meets her at the door with an orchid. When the uneventful date is over, Barbara says she hopes they can see each other again and when Milman presses her on it, he becomes angry. John says he knows she doesn't mean it, that he is ugly and repulsive, "Liars! All of you! You're all fragile blossoms--too precious to touch! Well--I dare to touch! And crush you all!" As Barbara gets ready to attack back, John is accosted by Jason Bard, who with his "darned trick knee" fouls everything up and lets John escape. Jason says he saw them coming out a movie and followed them out of jealousy.

Ditching Jason, Batgirl crashes John Milman's apartment, only to find him packing for a quick exit from town. Only, he isn't John Milman, he is the handsome mugger from the alley and in his possession Batgirl finds rubber masks of John Milman and Max Tournov. When he comes to the man explains that women have always fawned over him for being so handsome, but that he felt his beauty was a barrier to finding the inner beauty of women. So he used a mask to hide his own beauty and dated homely women in order to release their inner beauty. But he found them all hollow and so he needed to crush them. Batgirl says that the hollowness was not within the women but within him, that he is "the hollow man--finding ugliness in everything!"

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Adventure Comics #391

Adventure Comics #391 (On Sale: January 29, 1970) has a Supergirl cover by Murphy Anderson.

This issue begins with our cover-story, Supergirl in "Linda Danvers, Super-Star" by Robert Kanigher and Kurt Schaffenberger. The back-up is Supergirl in "The Super-Exchange Student" by Cary Bates, Winslow Mortimer and Jack Abel.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Action Comics #386

Action Comics #386 (On Sale: January 29, 1970) has a Superman cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

This issue begins with our cover-story, Superman in "The Home for Old Super-Heroes" by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and George Roussos. The back-up is Legion of Super-Heroes in "Zap Goes the Legion" by E. Nelson Bridwell, Winslow Mortimer and Jack Abel. This story was reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 9 HC.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Fred Hembeck covers Youngblood 1

Original cover by Rob Liefeld; Image 1992. Fred Hembeck's website is here.

Mittwoch, 27. Januar 2010

World's Finest Comics #192

World's Finest Comics #192 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a Superman/Batman cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

This issue begins with our cover-story, Superman/Batman in "The Prison of No Escape" by Bob Haney, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. The back-up is Robin in "Danger in the Hall of Trophies" reprinted from Star Spangled Comics #126 and drawn by Jim Mooney.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Showcase #89

Showcase #89 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a nice Jason's Quest cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano.

Jason's Quest continues this issue with "The Deadly Chase" written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by, well, I'm not sure. The GCD says this is Jack Abel, but I don't really see it. Abel has a certain smoothness to his inking, particularly around the eyes, noses and hands of characters, that I just don't see in this inking. He is also credited with inking the next issue, and I sort of see some Abel-like inking in that book. If anyone can point me to particular panels that display Abel's technique I would feel much better about this attribution.

As we left Jason last issue, he had just saved his sister's life, not knowing it was her and is now ahead of her on the road to Paris thinking she must be just ahead of him. Meanwhile, Tuborg sends two more assassins after Jason and his sister. Jason on the other hand sees a blond woman on the side of the road with a flat tire and thinks it is his sister, but when he hears her deep southern accent he knows he is mistaken.

She is "Billie Jo Brock of the Lo'siana Brocks" and is immediately smitten with Jason, but her advances are interrupted by gunshots from the two assassins, who also mistake Billie Jo for Jason's sister. They blow the "petrol tank" of Billie Jo's car and she and Jason high-tail it on his bike, the killers in hot pursuit and Billie Jo firing back at them with her own gun. As they are being chased, Jason sees the car of the woman he saved last issue and seeing her without her wig realizes that she is his sister. He lures the gunmen away from her and loses them in some woods.

There his bike runs out of gas and he and Billie Jo take off on foot finding a large empty house in the woods in which to hide. Later the gunmen find the house as well and while Billie Jo passes the time away in a lip-lock with Jason, he feels a gun against the back of his head. But it is not the gunmen, but rather the owner of the house, who had shut it down but remembered something she left and found the broken window where Jason and Billie Jo had entered and now found them. But it seems she is a widow, from Lo'siana as well and actually loosely related to Billie Jo. She provides them some gas for the bike and some cover fire from the assassins while they make their escape.

They gas up Jason's bike and Billie Jo shoots the tires on the assassin's car. They figure out what the four shots must mean and steal a car from the woman's garage and the chase continues. Jason loses them under a bridge and later in a bike race. Later Jason and Billie Jo barely escape from going off the end of an unfinished bridge, but the assassins are not so lucky. They crash off the bridge and die in a horrible explosion. Jason and Billie Jo make it to Paris where Jason tells Billie Jo the entirety of his story and says he must find his sister before Tuborg's men do. Billie Jo says she understands, "Find her, quick-- then come back 'cause Billie Jo has chosen you for herself!'

We then have one of those great Sekowshy full-page previes of the next issue inked by Dick Giordano.

Edited by Mike Sekowsky.

Justice League of America #79

Justice League of America #79 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

This issue has the book-length by "Come Slowly Death, Come Slyly" by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella. Continuing from last issue, we have Superman and Green Lantern on the desolate planet Monsan seeking a clue to the identity of the Doomsters, while Green Arrow is being forcibly removed from the office of the Star City City manager and Batman, Atom, Black Canary and the Vigilante are being slowly lowered into a vat of something pretty vile. As luck would have it though the two guards escorting Green Arrow are not cops and don't particularly like the City Manager, so they let Green Arrow go.

Racing back to the Doomsters' plant he gets there just in time to jam the machinery lowering his pals into the vat of icky stuff. He revives his teammates just in time to take on a cadre of Doomsters who, when overwhelmed by the JLA, lock themselves into the inner workings of the plant. That ends up being a disguised rocket that the Doomsters use to blast away from the JLA.

Meanwhile on Monsan, Superman and Green Lantern find a survivor who with his dying breath tells the tale of one of their leaders, Chokh, who when the industrial might of the planet so fouled the air came up with a way of altering Monsan physiology so that they could breathe polluted air and thrive of poisoned water. But the alteration not only modified their bodies, it warped their minds, turning them into Doomsters, who want nothing more than to spread the pollution of Monsan to other worlds.

back on earth, Batman radios Hawkman in the JLA satellite and tells him he must stop the alien spaceship above Star City. Using his Thangarian space cruiser, Hawkman is going to use a gravity beam on the flying building when it explodes exposing the sleek battleship hidden inside. The Doomsters jam Hawkman's controls forcing him to abandon his ship which they then blast in half. Realizing the the Earth people are more threatening than they thought the Doomsters drop pollution canisters all around the globe and then send out a warning message to the people of Earth that they have one hour to make peace with themselves, before they are inundated with "total pollution."

The JLA assemble in their satellite just as the returning Superman and Green lantern recover the wounded Hawkman. Once he is safely in the JLA satellite Superman and green Lantern begin a full attack on the Doomsters' spaceship, defeating the aliens. However, Chokh escapes and penetrates the JLA satellite where he captures Black Canary. Batman and Green Arrow try to stall him by telling Black Canary how much they appreciate her and Green Arrow even says that he may be in love with her.

Chokh is finally defeated by the Atom and later Arrow tells Canary that he meant what he said, but she says she is not ready for a new relationship just yet, but is happy that they saved the Earth. Arrow looks at the soot and ash spewing from some plants in the background and says, "Did we? I wonder..." Reprinted in Justice League of America Archives Vol. 9 HC and Showcase Presents: Justice League of America Vol. 4 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Date With Debbi #8

Date With Debbi #8 (On Sale: January 27, 1970) has a cover by Henry Scarpelli.

This issue Debbi in "A Froggy Day in Buddsville" by Barbara Friedlander and Henry Scarpelli. Next is Debbi in "Everybody Likes Somebody" also by Barbara Friedlander and Henry Scarpelli. That brings us to Debbi in "Calling Doctor Debbi," and we end with Flowers in "The Valentine Date."

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Comic Shop Stop: What I Bought This Week

Sometimes it's new stuff. Sometimes it's old stuff. Sometimes it'll be back issues or the same ol' thing I got 4 weeks ago. Whatever the case is, here's what I got at the shop this week (lemme know if you wanna borrow anything):

KICK-ASS #8 - Man, this started while I was still at Wizard. Doesn't feel like all that long ago, and I'm excited to read this final issue of what's being called volume 1. Looking forward to the movie, too. Rent Layer Cake if you haven't seen it yet, by the way.

SWORD #21 - Neat cover! I heart the Luna Brothers so much I wanna take them behind the middle school and get them pregnant.

WALKING DEAD #69 - Lookit that cover! They made it to Washington D.C.! There are some books I can wait for the trade for, but MAN, I love reading this in single issues.

AFRODISIAC - Street Angel is one of my favorite comics ever (no shit!) and this spin-off looks like it captures all the enthusiasm and off-the-wall extravagarbonzo fun of that book. Underrated artist Jim Rugg (click here for his Watchmen sketch and here for my commission from him and here for his site) and writer Brian Maruca reteam for a gorgeous hardcover presentation from AdHouse that's way way more than a blaxploitation paint-by-number and more of full throttle urban action adventure for your face (and pants). Sean already read it, and you should, too!!

How about you guys? Get anything good?

(Quick disclaimer: I borrow a LOT of stuff from Ben each week from Marvel, so I don't always buy single issues of the Marvel books. And I get everything from DC, WildStorm, Vertigo, and Zuda for free, so I never really buy anything from them unless I'm picking up for somebody else. So don't take my exclusion of DC stuff as a sign that the books aren't good enough to buy. They are. So there.)

Forgot one

This mofo would pimp slap Black Hand with the Infinity Gauntlet then make sweet love to Death all blackest night long (seriously--dude loves death). Besides, he's coming back in April anyhow.

Mark Todd covers The Incredible Hulk 1

Original cover by Jack Kirby and George Roussos; Marvel 1962. Mark Todd's website is here.

Running Behind Again

I'm running behind schedule again. I am being swamped with projects at work that are sapping my strength, leaving me exhausted. On top of that I have 15 books to read this month, and my detailed recaps always take an hour or so to produce. If there is something special about the book, like John Broome's last story or Al Williamson's, John Severin's and Jerry DeFuccio's first DC stories in this blog, then the items take even longer to write.

Well, things could be even worse. I could still own all my Mort Weisinger books and have to reread them as well. That would have put me at rereading 21 of the 28 books DC published this month.

Well, enough complaining from me. To be honest this month has been a goldmine of good stuff so far, from the above mentioned milestones, to Deadman's return, and there are still a few gems to go. Poor me, I have to read great comics.

Terry Fox, Steve Fonyo, Rick Hansen and how 2010 Olympics affected them

While Terry Fox was running across Canada to raise cancer awareness and research support he said, “Even if I don’t finish, we need others to keep going.”

Steve Fonyo, a teen was inspired by Terry Fox and wanted to complete Terry Fox’s vision of a run across Canada to raise money for cancer. He also was an amputee due to cancer. He started five years after Terry at age 18 and he did it in 1985, raising $14 million for Cancer and cancer research. Today Steve Fonyo was stripped of the Order of Canada for his conduct: his charges of driving under the influence, prison time in rehab for cocaine addiction and other ‘non-heroic’ achievements. We are more like a family than a country, hypocrites, and loving the one son while hating the other.

What they omit is that in 1986 Steve Fonyo went on to run Great Britain from the North tip to the South as another marathon to raise money for Cancer. Fonyo wasn’t charismatic, he wasn’t a celebrity like Rick Hansen the world travelling wheelchair Paralympic gold winner, Pan Am multi-medal winner (photo here) and marathoner. Fonyo was labeled a ‘copycat’ and often criticized, while enduring hardship and by showing the same determination as Terry Fox (the ‘hero’ who endured close hits by truckers, snow, who told people NOT to run with him, had angry arguments for days with his best friend and swore like a logger). Fonyo even had his Red Cross sponsorship funding pulled for that determination when running through snow in the prairies. Why? No one wants to dare the implication they funded someone to endanger their heath. Yeah, Red Cross, because running a marathon a day is good for you?

Meanwhile, Rick Hansen, who incorporated himself (literally, he is kind of like a church), announced his ‘Man in Motion’ world tour with the emphasis on his inspiration from Terry Fox (who was conveniently not around to tell stories of Rick being an ass). And he did this on the back of Fonyo, once it became apparent that Fonyo would make it (about 2 months from his finish at the Pacific Ocean). Rick was competitive and liked being in the limelight. He knew how to make a good press conference, and had camera presence and experience, and knew how to keep being in the limelight from his years as a world class athlete. Smart enough not to wheel across Canada while Steve Fonyo completed Terry Fox’s goal, Hansen and his ‘team’ (support but also media and photo op personell) took off.

Rick Hansen’s press conference had more people (click here to see) than the crowd to see Steve Fonyo, who had run almost 10,000 km to dip his toe in the pacific at mile zero.
The statue erected at mile Zero though, was of Terry Fox, who while inspiring it, never made it there.

So after the UK, Steve Fonyo gets the Order of Canada. He has run 15,000 km+, raised millions for charity, given up years of his life and….now what? Well, ‘what’ means finding a job, so he became a mechanic, up in rough BC (where oddly Rick and Terry both came from). No statue, just young and tired.

Rick Hansen meanwhile arrives back a hero, and while Fonyo fixed cars and drank, Hansen made himself into a ‘foundation’, which reads like a mix between a dictator’s press release and a meglomaniac, online here (Hope and Inspiration is found under ‘The Hansen Effect’). Rick does not get touched, he touches others: he raises the hand of a teen in a wheelchair during a motivation speech (under the section ‘Hope and Inspiration’), he sits in the limelight as the header for the eight lesson plans for kids 9 and up, like lesson one, ‘Wheeling against the World’s Weather’ where kids as step one ‘listen to the Rick Hansen story’ and the aim is: “Students will appreciate the magnitude of Rick and his team’s achievements during the Man In Motion World Tour.” Did Steve Fonyo like the irony that the very weather that had his funding slashed is now a testament to ‘appreciate the difficulties…’ Rick Hansen faced? Not so much. Steve, did cocaine, and yeah, burned out. If you have already run for years, and raised millions and they put up another person as a statue where YOU finished, and Rick Hansen is being paid to BE Rick Hansen and travel around the world while you fix cars, where do you go that is up? There were some driving under the influence, and cocaine.

What they don't tell is that Steve Fonyo'a Order of Canada couldn’t have been removed earlier. So why now? Because over 20 years after his accomplishment, in 2005 in order to try and get rid of an disbarred and corrupt lawyer, new ‘codes of conduct’ were not passed to get people OUT of the order of Canada. And of course, with the Olympics in Vancouver ('The World Comes to BC!'), where Steve, Terry and Rick are all from there are expectations.

Rick has just be made the co-mayor of the Olympic Village, while the organizers, against everything that Terry Fox stood for, announced a Terry Fox Award to be given at the 2010 Olympic games for “created to honour the Olympic athlete from any country who displays the most courage, humility and extraordinary athletic ability at the 2010 Winter Games.” In gagging irony it will be given the second to last day to an Able Bodied athlete. And Steve Fonyo, the mechanic and not beloved son? Why he gets ‘officially’ kicked into non-existence just before the start of the 2010 Olympic games.
While Steve Fonyo gets the shaft, so does Terry Fox, since Terry Fox created the Terry Fox Run, a run that specifically has no entry requirement, no entry fee, no ‘winners’ and NO AWARDS. Nor can any money go to anything but cancer and cancer research as anyone can and is encourage to set up a run (the Terry Fox Organization gives you all the materials and a booklet) “It does not have to be a big event – whether 100 people come out, or just 10, it still leads to progress for cancer research.” Run is actually a misleading word as you can walk, bike, hop, wheel, roller skate, skateboard, or horseride the 1K, 2K, 5K, 10K event. It is about community participation, it is about cancer experiences, remembering, and raising money for cancer research

Wheels in Motion also has a organized run, once which I have protested. Because while it raises money, much like the webpage which has on EVERY page a ‘donate now’ button, including a form on how to give gifts of publicly listed securities in the name of ‘every wheelchair user’ the money goes toward one particular type of wheelchair users; traumatic SCI’s. While Fonyo’s May 29th gets a few laps in school in memory, and Terry Fox gets a run for fun in Sept, Rick Hansen has lesson plan 6: Students will gain a greater appreciation for the magnitude of Rick Hansen’s Man In Motion World Tour and the incredible achievements Rick and his team accomplished.” The Rick Hansen Foundation announces proudly they raised $55,000 from school programs in three years. And the run has an entry fee, a fee that does NOT go to research, or programs, not even to ones for traumatic spinal cord injuries, it goes for his salary, his wife’s salary and for the cost of fundraising.

The 2008 audit showed that 65% of the money into the foundation went to programs, grants and endeavors. But that 67% of the money coming IN was from provincial and Federal grants. Yes, ALL of the programs under the name of Rick Hansen foundation (including the school program on learning the accomplishments of Rick Hansen) are paid for by the government. So what do the runs, those 'Wheel in Motion' fundraising runs for 'all people in wheelchairs', the other individual fundraising and donations which is 30% annually, pay for? They pay for salaries and for the aggressive fundraising that the organization does. ("Ald. Andre Chabot, Mayor Dave Bronconnier, event co-chair Barry Lindemann, and Ald. Joe Connelly, celebrate their team's hard work in the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion relay race yesterday. The event raised more than $80,000 benefiting people living with spinal cord injuries") You wheeled/ran for spinal cord injuries, but you paid for Rick Hansen to be….Rick Hansen. And that makes me mad, the people lied to, including those with spinal cord injuries.

The fundraising page looks like any fortune 500 company: ): “We need to be able to attract, retain and motivate a team of highly-qualified individuals to help us continue to succeed, in a very competitive marketplace. The experienced leadership necessary to lead these complex initiatives is part of what makes RHF extraordinary. Our team is responsible for the success of our innovations and resulting impact we are able to have.” Wha? They are a charity right, or do they make advanced electronics?

And learning from Jerry Lewis, they pimp the children. And that is why I protest Rick Hansen, because he does not represent all wheelchair users, does not educate people on wheelchair or disability but he does USE people. He just doesn't educate them, not even to the complexities of Spinal Cord Injuries. His new poster children (seen on every page, right next to the Donate button): Six-year-old Aluki Chupik-Hall (scoliocis) (who had a ‘Rick Hansen Theme’ fifth birthday party) and thirteen year old Hisham Mohammad with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) whose message is ‘be like Rick’ are used to raise funds for traumatic Spinal Cord injuries. No information or education on SMA or childhood scoliocis is given, and misinformation, like when Hisham, with SMA refers to himself as a ‘parapalygic’ like the traumatic break at T10-T12 with Rick Hansen, there is no correction. We are lead to believe this is a mini Rick. Rick Hansen doesn’t have SMA, nor does he fund programs for SMA. However, if your kids are too old for the school lessons they can always go see, the Rick Hansen Play, Rick: the Rick Hansen Story (Ticket sales and school and other performances here).
Do I think Steve Fonyo got the shaft? Yeah. He made human mistakes and he paid for them. But he also raised millions of dollars over 25 years ago that while the only recognition given to him has been stripped away to silence him, the money raised isn’t about to be returned (or honored). I don't think he even gets free tickets to the Olympics? I bet the Mayor Rick Hansen does!

The 2010 Olympics seem to love playing with bodies as they have Terry Fox (who likely wouldn’t have made it into the paralympics and was about participation now having a named award given not to raise cancer, not to raise disability or accessibility awareness, sad that. Nor does it highlight that Canada is in the third DECADE of debating a National Disability Act but Awards celebrating ‘extraordinary athletic ability’: basically the guy who slogged it around with a home made leg doing a hop and step to grit his teeth and go on is created into an award for in-born athletic ability? For Able Bodied Athletes? Ohhh, listen, you can hear the rolling in the grave now!

Dienstag, 26. Januar 2010

Ring Redux: Marvelous Lanterns

A few months back, like every other blogger who devotes more time to Melrose Place and Subway than legitimately thoughtful essays on the craft of comics , I did my mandatory “Who I want to see as a BLANK Lantern” post. Lo and behold, the last issue of Blackest Night saw me and every other person who has ever figured out how to use a comic book message board go “oh snap!” as Geoff Johns went ahead and actually handed out those fancy Lantern rings to an assortment of DC heroes and villains.

So how can I out-geek both myself and Geoff Johns here? I can do something I’m sure nobody on any forum or blog has ever done ever before: say which Marvel characters I think would be best suited to wear the various rings! I am a genius!

But yeah, seriously, this is how I would let it roll if somebody walked into my office tomorrow and said, “Ben, it's time to do our version of Blackest Night and you’re the only person on the payroll qualified to pull it off with finesse and dignity” (this will never happen because, y’know, Werewolf By Eve; also, my lack of qualifications and legitimacy). I did actually try and give it some, so lets see how it goes…

RED: The Hulk
Ok, pretty obvious, but at least I got it out of the way first. For the record, I’m going with the green Bruce Banner version of The Hulk and not the Red Hulk (though it’s pretty ironic we currently have a Red Hulk as I’m making this pick). It’s not hard to rationalize this one: the inner anger Banner kept repressed from childhood on was what caused him to first transform into The Hulk (that and the massive amounts of gamma radiation), and it’s always been Banner’s anger at himself, his father, the world, etc. that fuels the engine of rage that is his emerald alter ego. Since The Hulk alone is pretty badass, a ring-powered Hulk that spews fiery blood vomit would be sick (and quite 90’s); it’s almost a shame the visual of a crimson Hulk is already out there, but a savvy designer could still have fun with this one.

ORANGE: Norman Osborn
Thought I was gonna say Kingpin, didn’t you? Well I thought I was going to at first, at least, but then I really thought about it: who is so ambitious that getting to be perhaps the most powerful man in the Marvel Universe still wasn’t enough for him so he had to keep reaching, providing the foundation for the current Siege? Norman Osborn is so greedy when it comes to power he literally can’t stop himself and be comofortable achieving stuff other people would only dream of—he has to keep going. The simple desire your average super villain or crimelord has for wealth or even world domination isn’t on par with a guy who doesn’t even know what he wants, just that he wants more. Also: sociopath with a power ring equals fun.

YELLOW: Sabretooth
Had trouble with this one at first, as it’s easy to think of characters who instill fear, but I wanted somebody who really gets off on it—somebody who for them just freaking people out is enough motivation to do stuff. I mean, look at somebody like Mister Fear: his whole gig is finding out what terrifies people and then inducing it, but end of the day he’s after money, women, etc. Ditto pretty much every freaky bad guy I could think of—until I came to Sabretooth. Yeah, Victor Creed has taken jobs for cash before, but you always get the sense he wouldn’t sign up for any gig unless it provided him with an opportunity to terrorize somebody. And yeah, his primary thing is his intense bloodfeud with Wolverine, which goes beyond motivations that are really quantifiable at this point, but his usual method of getting to Logan is to methodically stalk the people close to him and torture them before killing them. This is a guy who lives to hear his victims scream and I can’t think of many better Yellow Lantern candidates.

GREEN: Hawkeye (Clint Barton)
If you’ve ever shot a bow and arrow, you know how mind-numbingly patient and determined you have to be to even get the damn thing to fire, let alone be good at it (I lack the patience and/or determination and/or skill to be even remotely skilled in this regard). To possess archery skills the likes of which Clint Barton needs in order to be a valuable asset to the freaking Avengers? Forget about it. Barton has willpower in spades, otherwise he would never have been able to be able to train himself in the use of his chosen weapon in the first place, nor would he be able to hold his own for years and years alongside guys with awesome suits of armor, mystic hammers, super soldier serums, and so on and so on. Since nearly their formation, Hawkeye—or Ronin if you wanna get technical and current—has been one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on his guts, toughness and refusal to quit regardless of the circumstances. He’s also shown no fear up against the baddest dudes in the Marvel Universe all the way up to cosmic heavies like Kang and The Collector, so you better believe he could handle a Green Lantern ring, even if it would inevitable make him look like Green Arrow.

BLUE: Captain America (Steve Rogers)
It’s not hard to find the Marvel Universe’s beacon of hope if you’re even kinda familiar with the landscape: it’s always been Steve Rogers. In America’s darkest times during World War II, Captain America was created in large part to provide hope to a nation and the people who were fighting a seemingly impossible battle for what was right. Since enterting the modern era, Cap has always been the guy who everybody else, be they Avenger or otherwise, turns to when it seems like all is lost. If Captain America can still throw his shield, you know there’s still hope for the good guys to win; Frank Miller captured it beautifully during “Born Again” and even during the 90’s creators didn’t forget as there was a great moment during “Maximum Carnage” of all stories where Spider-Man is about to quit and then Cap shows up. Heck, the last couple years of Marvel stories have in large part shown how much the world goes to crap when Steve Rogers isn’t around and people lose hope. Beyond inspiring hope though, Steve also embodies hope for a better nation, a better world and a better tomorrow—and he believes it.

INDIGO: The Silver Surfer
Compassion seems to be perhaps the hardest component of the emotional spectrum to nail down on these little armchair QB lists, because it can be tough to suss out what defines it and separates it from love, but luckily there’s one dude in the Marvel Universe who has demonstrated pretty clearly he has compassion in spades: The Silver Surfer. In the story where we first met The Surfer, the classic Galactus Trilogy, his whole arc consisted of getting to know humanity just a little bit and then going against his godlike master, risking his power and existence, and then being imprisoned on a planet where he didn’t fit in all because he felt compassion for the people of Earth. The Surfer’s motivation and characterization may have waffled here and there in the intervening years, but anybody willing to put that much on the line for a race of people he just met because he sees even a spark of potential for good is obviously one heckuva compassionate fellow. Also: that visual would look pretty rad.

Is there a rule that a Star Sapphire has to be a lady? Yeah, the uniform would look odd on a guy, but has this ever been established firmly? Regardless, I’ll assume it can’t be a fella and pick Storm, who’s a pretty solid selection even if men are in play. Just recently, Storm’s love for her husband was enough to carry her into the Wakandan equivalent of hell and bring them both back, breaking all sorts of metaphysical rules in the process. Going back, ever since her introduction, Ororo has always been portrayed as a person deeply committed to the people she cares about—Kitty Pryde, Forge, Yukio, the list goes on—and also to nature itself. She doesn’t hide her emotion and would no doubt proudly wield a weapon that allows her to spread love across the universe.
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