Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wearing a costume and running around fighting crime/causing crime is the most impractical thing EVER

Okay, after days of swearing at pieces of fabric and stabbing my fingers with pins, and spending half a day in a mask and headpiece, I've come to the conclusion that there is no practical value whatsoever in dressing up to fight crime or perpetrate villainy.  I couldn't blink with the mask on, I couldn't grab anything with gloves (let alone type), my little wrist cuffs kept on falling off, my sleeves rode up, the pants twisted around, and the headpiece got really, really annoying, and the white "face paint" (jerry-rigged white concealer stick, really), got on everything, so I couldn't even touch my face.  And even though I wasn't running around, I was wearing heels.  Argh!  Cosplay is not fun!  I can just imagine the joys of dressing up as Wonder Woman.

So that got me thinking who has the most practical costume?

The best I could come up with was The Question.  Just a man in a suit.  That's pretty easy to run around in, though maybe not the best for actual hand-to-hand combat.  The hat might fall off, too, but no big deal.

Any Green Lantern can generate his or her costume from their ring, so that's carte blanche to have whatever kind of costume your heart desires.  So Green Lantern costumes = practical.

Shapeshifters get a pass, too, considering that their clothes are a part of their body.  (I think.  No one's ever answered that question to my satisfaction.)

So, hooray for these guys.

Anyone want to add to the list?

Oh, here's a picture of Vril Dox.  His outfit is pretty practical because it's a military uniform.  And he's got jodphurs.  I like jodphurs.  And Vril Dox.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can Mars just go away now?

Okay, my comics finally came and I got a chance to read Brightest Day #12.  Of all the stories, I'm liking the one revolving around the Martian Manhunter one the least.

Since the Martian Manhunter is one of my favorite characters, I had really high hopes for his story arc.  I thought Brightest Day would be an opportunity to take the character back to his roots, or maybe back to his roots with a little twist of noir.

Instead, the J'onn's antagonist is basically a female version of Malefic.  *sigh*  (For the record, I really don't like Malefic, J'onn's evil twin brother, for those of you who don't know who he is.)  Coupled with that is an origin retcon, which always bug me to no end.

But all of that out of the way, here's what I think really needs to happen to bring the charcater of the Martian Manhunter to new heights:

Get rid of Mars.

Get rid of it!  I don't mean obliterate the planet Death Star-style, but just let it stay in the background, not the forefront.  Here's why:

1.  Mars is so poorly defined.  Is it a war-like culture reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs?  Is it a planet/nation of philosophers and poets?  Honestly, I can't keep track of what Martian culture was like.

2.  And while we're at it, can we cut out the whole "the entire planet has the same culture/government/language bit?  As much as I love Star Wars, the fact that Tatooine is entirely desert makes no sense.  (Okay, "Galaxy far, far away," so I guess it has different rules.)  Yes, I know there were White Martians, which to me, are a mess to begin with anyway.  There were Pole Dwellers, but they got retconned out, I tink.  But take a look at these speech bubbles from Brightest Day #12:

The Martian Symbols of Love and Hate?  Slip "Earth" into that sentence and it makes no sense.  Can you think of the Earth symbol for danger?  The Earth symbol for love?  If someone dropped you off a country with a completely different language and culture, would you even know what a stop sign looked like?!  ARGH!  A whole planet can't have the same culture!

I think somewhere in the DC universe it was explained that Earth has a variety cultures.  To me, that's just an excuse to have a lack of imagination.  That's why whenever I see a female alien creature with hardly any similarity to humans yet is still drawn with bosoms to identify her as female, I start wanting to throw things across the room.  It makes no sense and it's just lazy.  Heck, even abs shouldn't be the same.  Which brings me to point 3.

3.  The Green Lantern universe handles aliens and alien cultures much better than any incarnation of Mars ever could.  So you know what?  Let's just forget everything about Martian culture, leave it as some sort of vague understanding that it was slightly different than Earth culture, and let J'onn J'onzz move on to superheroing and detectiving, and leave the aliens to the mythos that does it well.  Stop trying to define Mars, becuase the whole Mars history has gotten so convoluted, that there's just no way you can define it with any modicum of logic short of another history-changing Crisis.

4.  Every story centered around Mars, by default, makes the story about J'onn J'onzz being an alien, not about what he does as a superhero.  There is no forward motion in a story that basically boils down into a character trying to figure out his destiny when he already chose it decades ago.  In any recent story that I can think of, J'onn J'onzz doesn't DO anything other than try figure out who J'onn J'onzz is.  He's become the Odo of the DC Universe, for those who have seen Deep Space Nine: he is only defined by his race and how different/similar he is to them.  Sure, Odo was the security guy who bantered with Quark, but he was the "good Dominion guy," too.  There's more to J'onn than just being the de facto "good" alien of the JLA.

5.  Quick: name three things Superman stands for.  Okay, try that with J'onn J'onzz.  It's nowhere near as easy, is it.  Why?  Because any major Post-Crisis story involving J'onn J'onzz--except American Secrets and DC: The New Frontier--boils down to "Should I like Mars more or Earth more?"  The more Mars is in the foreground, the less J'onn J'onzz's core values are.  And I don't mean core values as in "Earth is more important to me than Mars," which is a passive value.  I mean it in the sense of what a hero considers is worth fighting for and acting upon, like "Truth, Justice, and the American Way."

6.  Get rid of Mars, get rid of the Superman parallels.  The less J'onn is torn between two worlds, the less he is like Superman, and the more he can do other things to make him different.  You know, like be a detective.  Kind of how he started out.

Okay, rant is finished.  Anyone got any counter-arguments?  Or some Maalox?

Talking Comics With the Uninitiated, Part 2

So a while back I had a conversation with my mother about Wonder Woman's new costume and how much she hated it.
I'm starting to get my Halloween costume together.  Two years ago I made a promise to someone (who's going as the Joker) that I'd be Harley Quinn, which left me kind of at a loss as to how to pull off a work-safe (a.k.a. not super-tight) Harley Quinn costume.  Lo and behold, I managed to pull it off by finding a jester costume to modify.  I have no sewing machine skills, so this is where my mother comes in.  She has no idea who Harley Quinn is.
I had been showing her various pictures of Harley to give her an idea of what she looked like, but I never explained to her who she was exactly.  Actually, I did, but she wasn't listening at the time.
Apparently my mother thought the costume was a part of her body or her skin something, and not like an actual suit.  I don't know what goes on in the heads of non-comics readers...
Mom:  Well, I don't know what all these superpowers do to people!
Me:  She doesn't have superpowers, Mom.  She's just a girl in a suit.
Mom:  Oh.  But what about the horns?
Me:  They're part of her costume!  She's got pigtails and stuff.
Mom:  Okay.  You still have to make the glasses yet, right?
Me:  They're not glasses!  That's a mask!
Mom:  Oh.
Me:  And she doesn't have superpowers.  She's just crazy.
Mom:  What?
Me:  She's nuts.  She's the Joker's sidekick.
Mom:  She's a villain?!  Wait, I thought she was a hero!
Me: *facepalm*
Mom:  So she's a devil or something?
Me:  No!  She's cute!!!  See?  She's all like clingy and the Joker's all like, "Get off of me!"  It's funny!
Mom:  Okay, I guess she's kind of cute.
I then started asking my mother if she could take the headpiece apart and re-sew it back together because the black and red were on the wrong sides and she's like, "Does it REALLY matter?"  And of course I'm like, "YES."  Never offer to make anything for someone with OCD.  She is going to switch the sleeves around because they don't match at all, but I conceded the headpiece and the tunic, so it will be backwards, so I'll just have to pretend I'm Bizzarro-Harley or Left-Handed Harley or something.
You can just imagine how entertaining it will be when I take her to see the Green Lantern movie next summer.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Are All Characters Sacred?

The two part "Starro the Conqueror" episode of Batman: the Brave and the Bold which featured B'wana Beast had me thinking deep thoughts the other day about minor characters.

It seems as though that both the comics industry and comics fandom operate under the premise that any character, no matter how small, out-of-fashion, ridiculous, or poorly thought out, is sacred.  For the former, it is because they are intellectual property that might garner profits, for the latter, it is out of emotional attachment and identification.

Is this a valid premise, however, for a creative industry?  Should all characters be above censure, even if hardly anyone likes them?  Is it okay to admit a mistake, forget a character was created, and move on?

I offer this up as an open-ended question, because I have not come to a conclusion myself.  I can offer points on both sides of the argument: there are some characters I just don't like, and at the same time, I applaud the efforts of writers who can take an obscure character and bring him or her to new heights.  That being said, I don't like to see legacy characters trotted out in low-quality stories just for the sake of selling books.
But I teared up a little at the end of a cartoon about B'wana Beast, so that's got to count for something.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Adam Strange by Alex Saviuk

Part of my love for Adam Strange stems from how many cool flying poses the guy can assume.  Carmine Infantino always managed to draw so many awesome poses for Adam in his Silver Age stories that communicated a realistic sense of motion through the air.  I also love it when superheroes have their own flying styles, or even fighting styles, that pushes them into the realm of iconic and original.

So whenever I see a contemporary artist find a cool pose for Adam Strange, I'm very happy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

75 Favorite Moments in DC History: Number 49

49.  Justice is served, Harvey Dent style (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #62-63, 1997.)  (***Potential Spoilers!***

I know hardly anything about The Punisher, but the more I think about it, the more I think I'd like him.  Sometimes I need a break from the peaceful-warrior style of Justice served by heroes like The Martian Manhuner, and I need a Machiavellian approach to satisfy those darker yearnings for  (Did I mention I'm half-Sicilian?)

Fun Fact: My Mom's dog is a Chow Chow!

There's a book I have called Batman and Philosophy in which one of the essays examines whether Batman's decision to not kill the Joker is causing more lives to be lost.  Depending on the mood I'm in, I'll waver between, "Don't sacrifice your morals and break your one rule!" to "Oh, just kill him already and be done with it!"  But Bruce Wayne won't ever pull a trigger, even in the name of Justice.

But guess who will?

All Batman villians must laugh when shooting their henchmen.  It's just tradition at this point.

Yeah, that's right, Batman: Harvey Dent will get your dirty work done.  Good thing about leaving things to the Fate of a coin toss: it's really good at absolving guilt.  The good portion of Harvey's psyche decices to emerge and punish criminals under the mantle of "Janus."  He's pretty darn close to being a superhero, too: he dons a mask of the Greek god Janus and some black robes and starts punishing criminals and righting wrongs, and even twarts Two-Face's plans to destroy the city, becoming his own nemesis.  I could get used to this.

Plus, as an added bonus, we get to see Harvey Dent in a naval uniform and speak all piratey and shoot people with a gun that makes really cool sound effects:

C'mon, say it out loud, you know you want to: SHFF!!

Oh, and slap people around, too.

If anyone at DC is looking for a "new" angle to take Harvey Dent in, instead of the hoodie-wearing-betrayed-by-his-own-gang incarnation, you could always revisit this.

Just don't forget the military uniform, okay?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Monday!

It's Monday.  Yay.

We all need a little pick-me-up, so how's this?

A lovely picture of Ice, a.k.a. Tora Olafsdotter, looking all cute and adorable and holding an even cuter and adorable-er baby seal.  Awww.  Look at the cute little expression on his face!  And his cute little flippers!  And Tora's holding him so gently so he's not all scared.  Wouldn't it be nice if comics had more scenes like this in them?  Who doesn't love cute little furry animals being held by sweet, nice superheroines?  (Judd Winick, I guess.  And maybe Satan.)

You know, this is much better than scenes like in last week's Generation Lost where Ice's outer self freezes off revealing her deep-down-off-the-chain ice elemental/bad girl center.  Let the Freudian analysis commence on that one.

Actually, forget the analysis and just look at Tora holding a baby seal.  It's a lot more relaxing this way.

Hooray for denial!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

DC Universe Classics Jemm Figure

For all fans of Mars and Saturn, the DC Universe Classics line has recently released both a Jemm, Son of Saturn figure, and two variations of the Martian Manhunter.  The guys who run just posted some pics of Jemm, so if you're curious, check them (all) out, because I think Jemm looks pretty cool.  (I would post a pic here, but the creators of the site don't want things reposted, even though I found an easy way around their don't-take-photos-from-our-site-coding.)  If you don't feel like clicking links to see his picture, I can try to describe Jemm to you:

He's got ears that are pointier than Spock's yet not quite as substnatial as Lord of the Rings elf-proportions, he's got E.T. fingers and mustard yellow eyes.

Kinda sounds like lyrics from a Beatles song when I put it that way...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Rannt for Weakness

I have to start out by saying that this idea is all Scipio's fault.  Again.  That guy really gets my brain working.

If you don't know, Scipio, in his blog The Absorbascon, has a peculiar dislike for the people of Rann and their appointed defender, Adam Strange.  Being an Adam Strange fan, this always irked me, even if I did find myself laughing at the majority of his posts skewering "those filthy stinking Rannians."

Scipio's point of contention against Rann is that it is a planet populated by weaklings who have fallen into a level of idol worship so pathetic that its citizens are inspired to build life-size dolls of Adam Strange and have trapped in him a codependent relationship because Adam Strange seeks out those who need him to fulfill his sense of self-worth.  (He even had a whole label devoted to Why We Hate Adam Strange And Those Stinking Rannies.)

Everyone's entitled to like or dislike whomever he or she desires and lots of fun can be had through satire, but too many people climbed on the "I hate Adam Strange" bandwagon for me to find much fun in it.  The crux of the hatred hinges on the fact that Rann, as a planet, is weak.

To which I say, "So what?"

Rann was a peaceful country, which had developed all sorts of technological wonders.  A weak planet is nothing more than a story-telling device to show how an ordinary Earthman can become a hero under the right circumstances, just like Gotham is so ridiculously corrupt to highlight Batman's endeavors.  Edgar Rice Burrough's Mars was not peaceful by any means, but they certainly had trouble with leadership.  That is, until Earthman John Carter came along and fixed everything.

The second part of the argument is that Adam Strange is a direct ripoff of Flash Gordon.  Well, I'm not historian, but I'm pretty sure Flash Gordon ripped off John Carter of Mars.  Shakespeare ripped off a few things from Greek mythology (and possibly Philip Marlowe), too, so I guess we can throw him under the bus while we're at it, too.

Which brings me to the second point of my whole rant: is weakness in comics ever justified, especially for the female gender?

I work in a place that constantly promotes "strong, independent women."  I hear that so much I think my employer may have trademarked that phrase.  But this is exactly what we want in real life: strong, independent women capable of making a difference in the world.  But in fiction, especially a story about superheroes, does it make any sense for every single character to be strong and capable of saving themselves?

I'm pretty sure Lois Lane has been criticized for having to be saved by Superman.  Sure, she can take care of herself in lots of situations, but if Darkseid shows up in Metropolis, I'm pretty sure she'd be helpless.  What's a superhero if he can't save his girl?

Or vice versa?

Expecting everyone to be strong and capable deprives comics of one of its essential facets: saving those dear to you.  Yes, historically, many of those needing saving were women, but those women in need of saving were balanced out by the existence of female superheroes.  Let's have a variety of personalities and a variety of strengths: for any woman in need of rescuing, we have a female superhero.  For every woman shown who cannot stand up to a thug in an alley, set aside a quick panel or two and show her expressing a different kind of strength (psychological, emotional, willpower, etc.) in another aspect of her life.  I feel that comic writers are operating under the fear of portraying women in a stereotypical fashion, when all they need to do is think realistically.  Show a few men who need saving as well.  Honestly, who among us wouldn't run screaming if Despero landed on our front doorstep?  It's only human.

And the human element is what I like to read about most in my comics.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Adam Strange pinup by MachSabre

Thanks to Frank from the Idol-Head of Diabolu for pointing out a sketch of one of my favorites, Adam Strange.

MachSabre looks like he's completing a superhero alphabet, which is such a cool idea for an art project.  If I could draw people with even a modicum of skill, I'd try a superhero alphabet.  Because not only would Adam Strange be first, Ted Kord would be second.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Make Your Own Hawkgirl Mask...In Only An Hour!!

I was cruising the aisles of Joann Fabrics with the maternal unit today getting my Halloween plans in order.  I happened to see one of the little free project sheets sticking out from one of racks while looking at the in miscellaneous aisle in the back of the store:

Forget Bruce Wayne going back in time and being Cave Batman.  How about a Neolithic Hawkgirl?

And of course, when I saw this, I immediately flipped out and took one.  Incredulously, the instructions say "one hour" for the crafting time, which I find highly dubious.  I find it even more dubious that anyone would want to make this in the first place, even if it is cool-looking.  But I did find it interesting to know that you can sculpt leather just by soaking it in water and letting it dry.  You learn something new every day I guess, right?

Rivets?  Does anyone know how hard it is to rivet leather with hand tools?

So who's going to go make a Hawkgirl/man mask?  Come know you want to!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Real Life Heroes: Electron Boy

I just happened to hear about this story via a commenter in Shag's blog, Once Upon A Geek.  Did anyone hear that Seattle was saved by Electron Boy from the clutches of Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy?

Electron Boy's alter ego is Erik Martin, a thirteen-year-old boy living with liver cancer.  The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted him his wish to be a superhero for a day, which involved training with Spiderman, riding through the city in a DeLorean, and saving the Seattle Sounders soccer team, several civilians, and a city worker, ending in a dramatic showdown at the Space Needle.

You can read about the amazing efforts of the city of Seattle, including its citizens, police force, and city council, as well as the heroics of Electron Boy and the Make-A-Wish Foundation here, and here.  It might make you tear up a little, though.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I got nothin'

It seems like a pretty slow week, comics-wise, with nothing too major out on the shelves.  My Adam Strange Brave and the Bold is STILL running late, so I don't know when it'll be shipped to me.  Other than that, I have nothing new and exciting to report.  I envy bloggers who can riff about all sorts of topics under the sun and are gifted with a wellspring of inspiration which drives them to produce interesting posts day after day.  I, myself, on the other hand, just kinda sit there and look at the blank new post window hoping for something interesting to pop into my head.  I never was any good with coming up with original ideas.  I figure there's only so many analyses or "interesting" observations I can make about the comics world before I run out of the few ideas I already have.

So, I throw the ball to you, dear reader: is there any topic you'd like to see me talk about?  Or would you like my opinion on a certain topic?  Or just want to ask me anything?  Carte blanche.

I think I just spelled that wrong.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

75 Favorite Moments in DC History: Number 50

50.  J'onn J'onzz goes back to John Jones (JLA #104, 2004, collected in JLA: Pain of the Gods.)

I'm a big fan of small moments in comics.  Some belittle those, and the reviews on Amazon for the trade reflects that.  (I think someone called this trade the "Pain of the Reader.")  Okay, some of the stories seem a little forced, and even the Martian Manhunter one isn't stellar all around, but I see it as a nice break from fighting interstellar armies and sorceresses and Darkseid all that.  It's all about variety for me.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the JLA are in the mood for getting some heavy duty feelings off their chests.  While John Stewart is talking about that whole Xanshi debacle, J'onn decides he needs to be "elsewhere."

And that elsewhere is as a temp worker at a detective agency in his guise of "John Jones" (complete with hat.  Who-hoo!), where he manages to creep out his bosses despite being a stellar employee.  So one of his superiors decides to send "Loony Linda" to follow him around to make sure "there are no bodies in his refrigerator--and if there are..."

Linda and J'onn find themselves having dinner and during their conversation, J'onn just picks up and leaves.  The next night, J'onn is getting all Batman on an abusive husband, and Linda accidentally sees that John Jones isn't human.

Linda shows up on John Jones's door shortly thereafter and tells him she saw him.

John Stewart then shows up and congratulates Linda on figuring out what's really driving J'onn to act the way he is, and that Mr. Stewart had had it backwards the whole time.  J'onn wasn't feeling uncomfortable fitting in.

I know some long-time readers thought J'onn had regressed socially, but I read this early on in my comics reading career, so I came in with a fresh mind.  It was nice to see J'onn in his secret identity doing some detective work and helping regular folks down on the street.  I really miss that.  Who says only Batman has a monopoly on the "little" crimes?

Besides, artist Ron Garney and colorist David Baron did a fine job of evoking the John Johns aesthetic from the 1950's, with a few touches of Darwyn Cooke's work in DC: The New Frontier, and that's a combination I'd definitely like to see more of.  I mean, look at J'onn's little New Frontier-inspired apartment, complete with Oreos and chair right in front of the TV:

Apparently they don't have mothers on Mars that tell you not to sit too close to the set.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Harley Quinn, Feminist

I know, that title probably doesn't seem right to you. But bear with me for a while, and maybe I can illuminate you about my line of thought. Who's up for a good old fashioned thesis?

Thesis: Harley Quinn is a feminist character.

I hate to go all feminist rant, because that just isn't me.  But here's the one feminist argument that I can make, which is a little different from most.  To me, sexism is the stereotyping of female characters to represent a certain role or set of behaviors, based on society's expectations of what a "woman" is.

Taking a broad view of Wonder Woman, for example, I see a serious-minded woman who promotes peace, and who is somewhat of a mother figure.  So, Woman = mature, responsible, serious, motherly. can that possibly be a bad thing?

Have a look at this ad:

So Woman exists only to tame her man, make him grow up and settle down, deny him all sorts of fun stuff, and generally just suck all the fun out of his life.  Oh, and to buy her diamonds or whatever girls supposedly want.  (Don't get me started on jewelry ads.)  Geez, marriage sounds like hell.

That's a really hit-you-on-the-head example, but ironically, I had forgotten about it.  It was this commercial that stuck out in my mind:

While the guy is listening to the end of his favorite eight-minute song, the girl sits there on the pavement, rolling her eyes, waiting for him to be finished with his juvenile antics.

Because girls never do anything eccentric or silly.  Only boys are allowed to "be boys."

Why does this commercial bug me?  Because way back in high school, my friend and I did pretty much the exact same thing.  Driving her home, her favorite song came on the radio, so she made me drive through an empty parking lot (at 2 a.m., no less) and circle the lot until it was over.  Ahh, the indiscretions of youth.

I totally shot my thesis in the foot by drawing on personal experience, but so what, it's my blog and I can make or break the rules of logic here.

So who is Harley Quinn?  She is fun, she's childish, she's eccentric, she's free-wheeling.  She is the opposite of every stereotyped responsible mother sacrificing her time to drive the kids to soccer practice, and who points to a meticulously-balanced checkbook when her husband pleads for a new Dodge Charger.  She's liberated herself from the stereotypical female domestic roles of responsibility, maturity, and seriousness.  If it were up to Harley, she'd sit around in her PJ's eating cereal and watching cartoons and playing in her room full of toys all day.  Not only would she buy her man a Chevy Charger, she'd buy him a machine gun as well, and shred the checkbook, too.  Harley took one look at society's expectations of her and said, "Heck with this.  I'm buying a pair of hyenas for pets."

Counter-argument: Harley Quinn is a "battered woman" and is not way an empowered female character.

Counter-counter-argument: Did I mention she has a whole room full of toys?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Finally got my nerd street cred...!

For a while now I've been bemoaning my lack of nerd t-shirts.  I'm alway too self-conscious to wear one in public.  ('Cause, you know, it might start a conversation with someone, and then I'd actually have to talk to a human being.  GASP.)  So, I never could justify spending the twenty-plus dollars on one.

That is, until, I got a little e-mail in my inbox saying I had WON a t-shirt.  Like, for FREE.  Not only that, but the t-shirt of MY CHOICE!

This is all because I placed an order for a Martian Manhunter magnet at (thank you, obsession with all things J'onn J'onzz), and I was automatically entered in their Labor Day drawing, and they picked me!!!  I never have that much luck with drawings, but with comic stuff I'm doing pretty well.  Last fall I won a Black Lantern Ring, and now this.

So which t-shirt did I pick?  This one!

I was almost going to get the Alex Ross Martian Manhunter one, but I'm not really a fan of t-shirts that aren't fitted because it looks like I'm wearing a tent.  There was a women's Green Lantern symbol one, but the phrase "I'm a night person" couldn't describe me more perfectly and tipped the scales for me.

So, hooray for free stuff!!