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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tell Me More Of This... Houdini

Click for a slightly more legible version.

"Sorry Ming Cheng, Dale's Sonja's with me!"

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dollar Comic Review: Avengers #214

It's a grand tradition in the world of comics that whenever two heroes or teams meet, they have to have a fight before they can team up and get anything done. It's often explained away as a misunderstanding, like that time Spider-Man snagged the Silver Surfer's board by accident, but in the Marvel Universe, where the "hero" label can be applied to your gamma-powered rampaging engines of destruction, psychopathic vigilantes and demons from Hell, it becomes a little bit easier to manufacture a nice hero-on-hero punchout.

At least, that's how it works in the senses-shattering slugfest that is Avengers #214:

"Three Angels Fallen"
December, 1981
Writer: Jim Shooter
Pencils and Cover: Bob Hall

The Plot
Blue Blazes, just take a look at that cover! It takes a bad dude to put Iron Man into a hammerlock and shoot soul-burning hellfire into his eyes, but that's just how the Ghost Rider rolls. At the time, this was the single most badass thing to ever appear on the cover of a Marvel comic, and I'm reasonably certain that it still ranks in the Top Five. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Coming in a few issues after the Trial of Hank Pym, the story opens with Captain America giving himself a pretty strenuous workout while ignoring Tigra, much like the rest of us do. Cap's working through the stress of having to kick Hank off the team for reasons that we're all familiar with, and I'm far too proud to go for another tired joke at Hank Pym's expense. We've all been down that road before, and it always ends in tears. Suffice to say that the Wasp kicks him to the curb on Page 5, and we can move on to the real reason we're all here.

The scene changes to the desert of the Southwest, where Johnny Blaze is sitting on a rock feeling bad for himself when he decides to change into the Ghost Rider and vent his frustrations on the rich guy driving around with his girlfriend on the highway below. The rich guy turns out to be none other than Warren Worthington III, also known as the Angel from the X-Men and Ghost Rider's old teammate in the bizarre and short-lived Champions. Unfortunately for Warren, the Rider's in a bad mood, and after wrecking the car and scaring the bejeezus out of his girlfriend Candy, Ghost Rider challenges the Angel to a race, which he wins handily, celebrating his victory by setting the Angel on fire.

Candy figures that's as good a reason as any to call the Avengers, and so they roll out to New Mexico to bring the Rider down. Things, as you may be able to tell by the cover, do not go as planned, and Ghost Rider beats the crap out of four of Earth's Mightiest Heroes with a liberal dose of hellfire and motorcycles to the face. But of course, everything works out (relatively) okay when the Angel shows back up and convinces Johnny to calm his ass down before Thor has to settle things Simonson-Style.


  • I'm not sure if they mentioned this technique in the truly awesome Mighty Marvel Heroes Strength and Fitness Book, but Captain America's workout pretty much consists solely of beating the crap out of robots with boxing gloves for hands. Me, I just wonder how they can type with those things.
  • Iron Man's drink of choice? Dr. Pepper. Thor's, of course, is Perrier.
  • The Ghost Rider's behavior may seem a litte shocking, considering that the other comics I've discussed with him involve a previous iteration, where he's pretty much whiny-ass Johnny Blaze with a flaming skull. This story, however, takes place after a little thing called Ghost Rider #63, the issue where the creators just decided to say "screw it" and made the Ghost Rider a demon from hell who drags longtime foe The Orb out into the desert and leaves him to die a broken shell of a man. Now THAT's comics!
  • When Captain America gets the word that Angel's been taken out, he takes a quick look at the roster and sees that he's down two members, but figures "Surely Thor, Iron Man, Tigra and I can handle this 'Ghost Rider.'" I got news for you, Steve: If you, the Invincible Iron Man, and The Mighty God of Thunder can't take somebody out, I don't think Tigra is going to be a whole lot of help.
  • In the second-best scene in the entire comic, Johnny Blaze sees a kid hanging off a water tower, about to fall to his doom, and decides that "I can't reach him in time! No one could... Except... The Ghost Rider!" Problem is, there's that whole Vengeful-Demon-From-Hell thing discussed above, but Johnny decides to take the risk, focusing all his thoughts on the child. The Ghost Rider summons his flaming motorcycle and leaps into action, promptly speeding out of town in the opposite direction. Saving falling children is Iron Man's job, kid. Ghost Rider's got vengeance to exact.
  • Tony Stark Has Seen It All:

    I imagine the scene a few panels later where the Ghost Rider sent the flames of Hell Itself through Iron Man's eye-slots was slightly more impressive.

Defining Moment

The scene where Ghost Rider abandons the kid falling off the water tower is big contender, but for sheer Badass Panelitude, it just doesn't get better than the scene where Ghost Rider talks trash to Thor, asking him what the heck kind of god he is that he won't let mortals worship him, prompting Thor to let loose with a bit of the ol' long-distance smoting. That's when the Ghost Rider puts his Master Plan™ into effect, outrunning Mjolnir on his motorcycle, then grabbing onto it as it soars back towards the Thunder God:

What happens next will echo throughout history as one of the most awesome moments in the history of Marvel Comics. Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit to you...


Attention Readers: YOU HAVE NOW BEEN ROCKED.

Always Remember, Part 3

How bad is it when I'm not only going back on my promise that I was done, but it's also totally self-referential?

Sorry, Dorian.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Son of House-Ad Hijinks

Another of my dubious "scans," found in 1989's Dr. Fate #3. Is this what it's like to be Leigh?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Scenes From a Counter II

An actual conversation I had at work with Steve today:

"You know who the best villain in the history of comics is?"




"Yeah." I held up a copy of Champions #14. "Swarm. He's a Nazi made of bees. I mean really, it doesn't get much better than that. Everybody hates nazis, and everybody's scared of bees. There's no way to top it. Can't be done. You'll never find anything scarier than that. "


"What if he was a ghost Nazi made of bees?"


"Fair enough, Steve. You win."

Friday, January 27, 2006

House-Ad Hijinks

Whatever happened to all the good House Ads? Maybe it's because most of us reading comics these days are always poring over the internet to see what's coming out, thus rendering them irrelevant, but I miss 'em.

I mean, I just flipped through my copy of Adventures of Superman, and unless you count the last-page hypebox, there's not a single ad for another DC book. Meanwhile, in the four issues of J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen's 1987 Dr. Fate mini-series I just read, there's tons of 'em, in a book with no other ads at all!

And I have to admit, they're pretty eye-catching, especially looking at them now, when they seem even more relevant than they did in 1987. In fact, it's almost like someone mockingly remixed the originals! Have a look, and click for a larger image, won't you?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Week in Ink, 1-25-06

Okay, so maybe I'm not done. They're still coming out, aren't they?

Anyway, before we get onto this week's four-color fare, it's that time again: Previews came out yesterday, and since I've already done my order, I'd like to touch on a couple of things:

First up, Free Comic Book Day. Not only do the folks at Archie look like they're putting another awesome FCBD installment as Archie has to deal with moving away from Riverdale (and flashing back to his days as Little Archie, no less!), but Marvel's got an all-new Runaways/X-Men crossover and Oni's putting out a new Scott Pilgrim story! MG3 once told me that FCBD was the best holiday on the calendar because it's the only day you get Free Comic Books, and while I'll always be a fan of Christmas, he's got a point.

And if you peruse through the Image Comics section, you might notice the next Tim Seeley offering, Loaded Bible. Nothing against Seeley here, but Jesus fighting Vampires is a concept that seems awfully familiar.

Cram that in your swipe file, Johnston!


Adventures of Superman #648: Following up the events of last week's Infinite Crisis, Rucka, DeFillipis, and Weir tell a story that reads a lot like a 9/11 tribute, but with Chemo getting punched in the face by Superman, and that's the sort of thing I like to see in my comics. One thing, though: When the heroes mount their big rescue effort for Bludhaven, did they really think it was a good idea to bring Hal Jordan (seen sitting around like a power-ringed emo kid at right)? I mean, you've got John Stewart. You don't need to drag Hal to another city destroyed by supervillains. Have you learned nothing, or am I the only one that remembers that this... is usually followed by this?

All New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z #1: Yeah, what? There might be a situation where I need to know about Albert and Elsie Dee. It happens.

Amazing Spider-Man #528: I'd rather read a news report about my own sainted mother getting punched in the face than read "The Other" again. But, you know, if Spider-Man running around doing some Barechested Rescues and using those new powers he so desperately needed is your thing, this is probably the one for you. Me? I'm just in it because there's a Spider-Ham Cover by Mike Weiringo, and THAT doesn't happen every day. It is also totally awesome.

Books of Doom #3

BPRD: The Black Flame #6

Defenders #6: I come for the Giffen and DeMatteis, but I stay for the Kevin Maguire. I've mentioned before how much I like his work, but really: The guy's going through pages with twelve and thirteen talky panels, putting effort into every beautiful talky headshot. And really, when was the last time anybody but him bothered to draw Namor's ankle-wings actually flapping? As for the story, it was enjoyable, but by this point was wearing a little thin--although the self-depricating knowledge that it's wearing thin from the writers along with some really nice Hulk moments helped to mitigate that. I won't exactly be getting the wholly unnecessary hardcover, but it passed the time in an enjoyable manner.

Fallen Angel #2: I liked this issue a little more than the first, probably due to the fact that I've gotten used to the changes from when the series was being published by IDW. I still wish David Lopez was still doing the art, and the half-hearted attempt to explain why nobody ages or changes in twenty years is more frustrating than anything else, but I'm willing to stick around for a while and see what happens.

Forgotten Realms: Exile #3: Returning to Tim Seeley, that guy sure does draw the heck out of some dark elf abs in this one. Come to think of it, there were a lot of guys running around with no shirts on in comics this week. Ah well, let's just agree that I would totally gay marry Drizzt Do'Urden and move on, shall we?

G0DLAND #7 I passed on this one when it first came out, but when the trade was solicited, I decided to give it a chance. As much as I like Jack Kirby--which, as you might know, is a heck of a lot--I tend to prefer comics that have the feel of Kirby, like Guardian, rather than those that go out of their way to be "Kirbyesque." I don't dislike Tom Scioli's art, either, but there's no getting around the fact that he's what Kevin called "a Kirby Klone," and Joe Casey's pretty hit-or-miss with me, so I was more than a little wary. That said, I found the whole thing to be pretty darn enjoyable, with fun action and dialogue that made me laugh aloud more than a few times. The trade's very nicely-priced, too, especially for an Image book, putting a mere $14.95 dent into your back pocket. I got a kick out of it.

JLA: Classified #16: Much like a response to my countless marriage proposals, this comic is something that I've been waiting on from Gail Simone for quite a while now. It's fun, and the "big reveal" moment towards the end is a great idea, but Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez inked by Klaus Janson just ends up looking like Klaus Janson. Don't get me wrong, I like Janson a lot, but Garcia-Lopez can be downright beautiful.

Local #3: Another solid issue by Brian Wood (an unstoppable writing machine that apparently intends to have something on every single page of Previews if the last two months are any indication) and Ryan Kelly (whose faces I'm really starting to love). The story revolves around a band, and when series mascot Megan meets the drummer, it's a scene that I read, laughed at, and then wished had happened to me because it would make such a great story. Good stuff.

New Avengers #15: Huh, looks like, yeah, I'm still reading this. I'd really made up my mind to quit, but then they go and say they're doing an annual where Luke Cage and Jessica Jones finally tie the knot, and if you can resist the phrase "Giant-Size Annual! At Last! The Wedding of Luke Cage!" then you, sir, are a better man than I. As for this issue, though... Sheesh. This may be a little ironic, since your're reading this on something called "The Invincible Super-Blog," but the device of Carol Danvers narrating the story through her blog came off as pretty banal. I get it, they're the NEW Avengers. People have blogs here in this crazy 21st century.

And hey, did anybody else out there get this?

In the scene where Ms. Marvel and Cap discuss House of M, Carol says the words "House of M" several times and it's usually accompanied by a nice red strikethrough. My pet theory on this is that Bendis meant to go back and change it to something that they'd actually refer to it as like "that time Wanda lost her shit" or "M-Day" or whatever, but either forgot or never got around to it, and Comicraft's Albert Deschesne just decided to letter it as-is when he got the script, but I'm open to convincing on other reasons. Maybe someone other than me thought House of M was so bad it should become a swear word. Either way, it's a notable flub for Marvel's flagship book over here.

PS: And this is the only time you'll ever hear me say this: That cover would totally have been better if it was an homage to Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #1.

Nextwave #1: I've been pretty clear with my opinion of Nextwave as the single greatest thing the human race has ever created or will ever have the potential to create outside of Metamorpho #14, and even he had to resort to guitar-mounted laser beams. There's just nothing I don't like about this comic. Stuart Immonen's art is absolutely amazing, slick and streamlined into an almost animated-style version of the characters, with my personal favorite being--of course--Elsa Bloodstone with her huge hair and thigh-high monster-killing boots. And considering that I just read the Walt Simonson Avengers run, wherein Monica Rambeau is kicked out of the chairmans's spot by a mind-controlled Dr. Druid, her "Back when I led the Avengers" dialogue struck me as hilarious. Even the lettercolumn is great! It's Kablammo!

The Pact #4

Plastic Man #20: Over at Comics Should Be Good, Brian Cronin makes the claim that it's a "shame" that Kyle Baker's last issue of Plastic Man was a "mocking send-up of the DC Universe" rather than a straight-up fun comedy story, and that's--no offense--one of the most ridiculous criticisms I've ever read. Not because the issue's not great, which it is, and which is something Cronin and I could definitely agree on, but because spoofing the DCU is pretty much Plastic Man's stock-in-trade, going back to at least #8--twelve bi-monthly issues ago-- when Baker riffed on the nonsensical Joe Kelly JLA run, and continuing to my favorite moment of the series, #14's hilarious parody of Superman/Batman #13. I'm just saying, I don't expect the last issue of a series to do anything but what it's been doing for the past few years. Regardless, it's a great issue and Kyle Baker is, as always, one step ahead of us mere mortals.

Red Sonja: Sonja Goes East

Revelations #6

Robin #146

Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #6: I'm sorry, did someone actually refer to Spider-Man as "the Arach-Knight" in this comic? Yeah, that tears it: two years waiting and this thing turns out to be a beautifully-drawn pile o' crap. I'm just waiting for the next story, circa 2017, where the guy who rapes Black Cat teams up with Skip Wescott and they form the Spider-Man/Black Cat Rapist Revenge Society or something. Seriously, every time you people out there make comics where a female character reveals she was raped or a super-villain flashes back to his poor childhood, you're cheapening us all with your melodrama. We get it. Stop putting so much sexual assault in my comics and move on.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #2: Please continue, however, to put as much high school drama centered on school plays and homecoming dances as you please, Sean McKeever and Takeshi Miyazawa, because this series is totally frigg'n awesome. Teen Mary Jane being jealous of Firestar despite the fact that she and Spider-Man are just Amazing Friends is one of the nicest things I've seen in a while, and the Flash-MJ-Peter-Liz-Harry love pentagon plays out wonderfully in every issue, especially in this one when Mary Jane gets worried about Peter's black eye after his Karate Kid-like attempt to disguise it. And that's what I'm all about, baby.

Street Fighter II #2

The Surrogates #4

Hoo boy. This one gets a little rough, so those of you out there with weak constitutions (that's a score of 9 or below, nerds) might want to just skip to my thoughts on The Thing, a fine and enjoyable comic. For there is no joy to be found here.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #36: You know what I love about this book? It's not just bad. Every time I get it, each new issue becomes the worst comic book I own, and this one? This one's probably the worst comic book I have ever read. It's divided into two stories, and each one is soul-crushingly terrible in its own way. In the first, Jim Balent analogue The Skeleton Man descends to Hell with the Orphe-esque goal of saving his ex-girl ex-girlfriend, Crypt Chick, doing the whole Dante bit with the top half of a naked teenage girl with half a head playing Virgil as she guides him through a hell populated almost solely by large-breasted naked women. And if that's not enough, there's a nice full-page shot of demons shitting in people's mouths and a giant red naked woman eating the souls of the damned and expelling them "through the lower orifices." And in Act 2, Tarot cleanses herself of her feelings of guilt for murdering her arch-nemesis Azure in the last issue by masturbating in a sentient fountain. DELIGHTFUL!

The Thing #3: For three months running now, I've been talking about how this is easily one of my favorite books coming out, and how Dan Slott and Andrea DiVito are downright incredible at putting together a comic. There's just not much more to it than that. But in case you still haven't gotten it, this issue includes a major turning point in the life of the Constrictor, a blind sculptress terrorizing an art dealer, Daredevil using thought balloons for the first time since 1998, and a robot Thing dressed as Blackbeart saying "Aye, it be Clobberin' Time!" If you are not filled with desire for this book, you are beyond my help. Go, and sin no more.

Wonder Woman #225

X-Men: Deadly Genesis #3

Graphic Novels

G0DLAND v.1: Hello, Cosmic!

Oversight: The Short Stories of Phil Hester 1990-2005: Phil Hester, in addition to being one of the nicest pros I've ever met, is a vastly underrated talent in the comics industry, and if you've never read The Wretch, do yourself a favor and buy it immediately. It's that good. This hefty trade clocks in a little on the expensive side at 20 bucks for black-and-white art, though, although the one-page story of little plastic army men is almost worth the price of admission.

Sexy Chix: If there was any possible way that I wouldn't buy a book with Gail Simone and Colleen Coover, it was pretty much tossed out the window when Colleen Doran and Carla Speed McNeil were thrown into the mix. As with all anthologies, it's a pretty mixed bag, but the standouts for me included Chynna Clugston's one-pager on the inside front cover, Doran's "Yellow Fever," McNeil's hialariously violent "Hands On" (with a character design by Adam Warren!), and Trina Robbins' "Haseena Ross, Girl Detective," and Jill Thompson's "Love Triangle" also got a few chuckles. I liked Colleen Coover's story, but considering that I'm used to seeing her draw characters that are, as a rule, a lot happier, it was a little jarring, which was probably the desired effect.

So there it is. Roughly 942 pages worth of comics in the past 24 hours. The things I do for you people.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

For the Record

Elsa Bloodstone

Guitar-induced explosion.

It's official: The human race has reached its peak.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Blue Blazes!

I could pretty much retire from the hectic world of comics blogging tomorrow, because today at lunch, I read the greatest comic story ever printed.

Yeah, I know I say that on a pretty much weekly basis, but bear with me here. It was, of course, an issue of Metamorpho, which, in case you haven't been listening to me lately, is conveniently available as part of DC's reasonably-priced Showcase line of trade paperbacks, and is scientifically guaranteed to rock you to your very core.

I had already decided that Metamorpho--"The World's Second Greatest Comic Magazine (But He Tries Harder)!"--was the Greatest Of All Time when I read the story that ran through issues 12 and 13, which featured not only a story wherein Metamorpho had to play a football game against five element-powered robots (!) in order to keep a nucleonic moleculizer (!!) that could destroy the world (!!!) out of the hands of the nefarious Franz Zorb, but also includes the most charmingly misogynistic panel I've ever seen:

Oh, you women and your silly emotions! Regardless of Sapphire's broken heart, Rex (Metamorpho) Mason manages to defeat the robots through a sequence of events involving Simon Stagg's personal security guards (who all wear Cobra Commander-esque hoods and ninja suits), a tightrope, and a liberal application of a magnesium fist upside Zorb's head. How, you ask, how could it possibly geet better than that? What could they possibly do to follow up a story with robot football ninja tightrope action?


That's right, laughing boy, this way-out whizzbang's for all the marbles! Ol' Staggsy calls Rex into his office, taking him away from the necessary duty of any Element Man About Town to stop a catfight between wedding-dress clad Sapphire and Rex's bikini-sporting female counterpart, Urania Blackwell, the Element Girl. Then he drops the news on Rex, with nary a hint of an attempt at explanation from writer Bob Haney as to what brought him to this conclusion: It's the end of the world, and Metamorpho's the world's only hope!

Enter Neutrog the Forerunner, who shows up, explains that while Metamorpho can only use the chemicals in the human body, he can use all of them, and then promptly blows Rex up in an atomic explosion.

Look, I'm just saying: if you have a nuclear explosion go off on page nine of your comic, that's pretty exciting.

Post mushroom cloud, Neutrog explains that he's merely the forerunner of an even greater cosmic menace: The Thunderer. At this point, the true genius of the story becomes apparent, as Bob Haney and Sal Trapiani dive headlong into a brilliant, madcap send-up of the previous year's Galactus story over in Fantastic Four, leading to one of my favorite captions in the entire Showcase volume:

"The Thunderer? Who's he? Has a villain from Brand 'M' slipped over into our magnificent mag?"

Pure. Genius.

Anyway, Metamorpho gets rocketed into space due to his deadly levels of radiation, but that turns out to be a ruse, and he pops out just in time to face the Thunderer as he arrives. And just who is the Thunderer?


And it only gets better when you realize that he's less than two feet tall, unstoppable, and shooting death rays out of his eye. You may need to take a few minutes to recover from how awesome that is. Don't strain yourselves, we've got an entire issue to go in this merely marvelous masterpiece!

The Thunderer wastes no time in blowing Metamorpho into pieces, which, to be fair, is no big deal since it happens every three issues or so, but there's barely even dust left by the time he gets done with Rex and Element Girl. Ah, but dust there is, and it's picked up by 13 year-old rock 'n' roll supergenius Billy Barton, who uses his knowledge of chemistry to reconstitute the heroes, sending them off for a big showdown with the Thunderer, who by this time has taken over the UN despite being unable to see over the podium.

I just really love that the French guy's the one telling everybody not to surrender. It's beautiful.

Rex and Urania hit the scene, but even their elemental might isn't enough to stop the Thunderer, so things look pretty grim until Billy Barton shows up--on his bike, no less--and becomes the catalyst to the single greatest moment in comic book history.

Seeing that Metamorpho is unable to defeat the Thunderer on his own, Billy the Wunderkind throws him the most awesome and powerful weapon imaginable:


I challenge you--nay, I defy you to find anything more awesome than that in the history of the universe. As for me? That's it. It can't be topped. I'm done.

BONUS FEATURE: The Mighty Meta-Maniac Contest!

One of the things you won't find in the Showcase, along with the bizarre letter columns that debated the existence of letterhack Irene Vartanoff, was a contest that ran in the four issues discussed above where readers were invited to send in their wildest ideas for what Metamorpho could change into. The prize? A page of original Sal Trapiani Metamorpho art and the truly bizarre sum of $24.98, or (assuming the money would be spent on comics) over $600 bucks today! So at the risk of straying into Robby's territory, check 'em out, presented here in vivid INVINCICOLOR:

BONUS FEATURE: Always Remember...

"Cool it, baby, I don't have time for that True Confessions jazz! Those robots are still rampaging around the real estate!"

(And that's my last word on that particular meme. Promise.)

Always Remember (Part Deux)...

Hal Jordan is a Goddamn racist. FACT.

(For God's sake, Dorian, they're like Pringles... I've popped, and for the love of all that's holy, I can't stop!)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Scenes From a Counter

A guy came into the store today and asked if we had any issues of Deathmate in stock. As surprising as this may be to some of you, that doesn't exactly happen every day. In fact, I've been working at the Wiz for three and a half years now, and I'm reasonably certain that that's the only time it's ever happened.

So unusual was the request that I felt I had to clarify.

"Deathmate?" I asked. "The Image/Valiant Crossover?"

Dude's eyes lit up. And as it so happened, we did have some, and I knew exactly where they were, having a distinct memory of dropping them into the box last week and thinking: "Man, we will never sell these." But, as rare as it happens, I am occasionally proven wrong. This was not one of those times. He ended up buying twenty bucks worth of back issues, and not a single copy of Deathmate. I guess he was just curious.

Not that there was anything particularly annoying about him; just an unusual request that made him stick out from the rest of the crowd. But it served as a nice warm-up to the strapping young lad who came in an hour later smelling of old hot dogs. He wandered up to the counter, eyeballed the picture of Brandon Routh on the cover of Wizard, and said something I've heard at least five times in the past three weeks:

"So that's the new Superman, huh?"

People have started latching onto this as an introduction to a conversation about upcoming comic book movies, which unfortunately is a subject I could not care less about. They seem to be under the impression that the people who work the counter at comic book stores are somehow plugged in to the movies, but, sadly, Bryan Singer just isn't calling up with daily updates like he used to. I have access to exactly the same information that you do, but I just don't care.

That's not to say I wasn't happy to chat with customers about, say, Batman Begins after I saw it, but really: I'm not ticking off the days. The whole thing makes me wonder if people who work in bookstores get this kind of nonsense whenever a novel adaptation comes out.

The exception to this, of course, was the incredibly charming guy who came in today with the most awesome British accent ever, who talked for a few minutes about V For Vendetta. Smashing Terrif!

Anyway, I answered the guy with something between a noncommital grunt and an actual sentence, because my customer service is ne plus ultra. And that's when he dropped the bomb:

"The new Superman. I thought that guy was dead."

The amount of things wrong with that statement is staggering. I mean, I don't know if you guys have noticed, but they make movies about dead people all the time. Even if they're fictional characters. So I mentioned that while Superman was dead at one time, he eventually got over it after a few months and was still having his adventures published on a regular basis. Which led to, of course, this guy telling me all about how he found a copy of "that one where he died" at a flea market, and asking how much it was worth.

"If it's complete and in the bag, about ten bucks," I said.

"Ten bucks?" He said it with the same sigh of disappointment that the last guy I'd told had given me before he explained he was hoping to use that issue to pay off his mortgage. This guy had a much more pragmatic view, however, shaking his head and spontaneously repeating the amount a few seconds later, apropos of nothing, while giving whatever passes for a wry chuckle when one of your teeth has attained an inky blackness, presumably from feeling lonely.

He wandered a few feet away to look at magazines, and I struck up a conversation with Tug about Tom Nguyen's inks look a lot better in Batman than they did in JLA.

The guy snapped his head up. "Who's in jail?!"

If it wasn't for ISB Man of the Hour Ted Long, he'd probably be my new role model.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Ah, Romance!

Yesterday, I mentioned that there's an issue of DC's Love Stories from 1971 that includes a two-page text piece by handsome-ass Today Show stylist Ted Long on "How To Look Fabulous," wherein he advises the presumably impressionable young girls reading it to lay upside down on an ironing board.

It's just one more piece of evidence to support my theory that romance comics are fucking insane.

For further proof of this little theory of mine, one need look no further than the 2000 reprint of DC 100-Page Super Spectacular: Love Stories, which, in addition to Ted Long's fabulous tips, includes stories that sprung forth from the pen of Robert Kanigher and are so aggressively nonsensical that they may actually be the result of complex higher math from the future. Just look at the titles:

My Shameful Past!

The Wrong Kind of Love!

Happy Ending! (Which does not take place in a massage parlor. I checked.)

And my personal favorite: My Sister Stole My Man!

Aside from the obvious, the latter also involves the titular sister regaining the ability to walk through the glory of love. I guess the moral is, if your sister's in a wheelchair, don't introduce her to your hunky, kind-hearted boyfriend. Otherwise, you're out in the cold, toots.

What's even better about the stories in this particular issue--which with Valentine's Day less than a month away makes a dandy gift for the bitter single in your life--is that they illustrate what I really love about romance comics. Sure, you can read each story from beginning to end and get a time-wasting hunk of melodrama. Or you can skim through, reading each individual panel on its own, completely devoid of any context, which makes it awesome. Have a look for yourself, at these choice selections. And keep in mind, these all came from the same comic:

Well, someone's got her priorities straight!

Although this is perfectly rational behavior, I feel I should point out that Aunt Louise is the de facto villain of the story.

No door can hold back Sideburns McPeacoat!


Just a little context for this one: In the previous panel, she apologizes for totally flipping out over something, to which Smooth Romancington over there essentially responds, "Don't worry about it! Of course you're crazy! You're a woman!" I have got to try that sometime.

And finally, the title page that will not stop making me laugh:

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Beatlemania, What Hast Thou Wrought?

In the aftermath of Infinite Crisis #4, the Comics Blogger Internet has been abuzz with Geoff Johns's penchant for bringing back lost characters for big punchout moments, no doubt fueled by the return of a certain high-collared speedster. Or maybe it was Risk, the guy from the Dan Jurgens Teen Titans that had, if memory serves, "five times the strength, five times the speed, and five times the ability to get into trouble!"

But really, the whole thing's got me wondering why we haven't seen more forgotten DC properties showing up lately, especially one that I've been hoping for for a few years now. I mean, if Johns could put a Captain Carrot story in the pages of Teen Titans, there's no reason why he couldn't knock out a four-issue miniseries for Swing With Scooter.

Originally slated to appear in Showcase, Scooter hit the stands with his own title in 1966, owing to DC's faith that teenage Beatles fans would "flip" over the wacky misadventures of a mop-topped British teen pop star who retired to a Riverdale-esque American town. In practice, it wasn't exactly the screaming success we all hoped. It did run for 36 issues, although the majority of those came after what you could charitably call an "Archie-inspired" Henry Scarpelli redesign--complete with a new logo--that replaced Joe Orlando's slick, mod character designs.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Scooter, who quits his band to get away from the hectic life of an international music star, but ends up being chased wherever he goes by throngs of adoring chicks and your occasional swamp monster, all the while hanging out with a group of friends who talk so much jive even Metamorpho would need a translator. Seriously, they use the word "frug" an alarming amount, and I don't even know if that's actually a word.

Running down the cast, you've got Sylvester, also known as "Tubby Greenbacks," who engages in McDuckian skinflintery despite the fact that his grandfather "invented money," and a few others that might seem familiar. There's dark-haired jealous rival Reggie Kenny, ludicrously rich brunette love interest Veronica Penny, blonde and good-hearted love interest Betty Cookie, and the bizarrely fascinating Malibu. More on him later.

Making matters even more strange is the fact that each issue includes two text pieces that seem utterly out of place. There's "Scooter's Scoops," a strange celebrity gossip column that pops out in the middle of the issue just in case you have nowhere else to go for information on the Lovin' Spoonful. Then at the end of each issue, you've got "Cookie's Tiger Bait," wherein Cookie explains, via text piece, how to land yourself a swingin' tiger of a boyfriend. When she starts explaining how you can make your eyes more attractive by smearing white makeup under your eyebrows, it gets downright surreal, but I imagine it's the precursor to that time in Love Stories 100-Page Spectacular when they got Today Show Stylist Ted Long to explain How To Look Fabulous!:

[Sigh] Oh Ted Long! Truly you are the most handsome man to appear in DC Comics in 1971.

And of course, because it was 1966, each issue has a whole-page public service announcement on topics like Bob Hope telling kids not to trip each other or taking a trip to your local public library, a bizarre nine-panel adventure that involves an old sea captain and mention of space travel:

WARNING: If a Salty Old Sea Cap'n offers to show you a ship that'll take you to adventure, DO NOT GO WITH HIM. He is not a real captain.

There's also one about how The Policeman Is Your Friend, wherein a friendly neighborhood cop helps a kid find his lost puppy, even though it's not strictly an emergency. It's nice, but I imagine it'd be a lot more convincing if it wasn't slapped in the middle of a story that featured the inexplicably vampiric EVILCOP pictured at right. Terrifying.

So with all that going for it, you might ask why Scooter and his pals have never been brought back, or reprinted, or ever talked about by someone that isn't me. The answer?

It is not very good.

But maybe that's a little harsh, especially considering that it's entirely possible that these characters have been brought back before, just not in ways that we immediately recognize. Me, I've become thoroughly convinced that Swing With Scooter may actually be the basis for DC's entire Vertigo line of comics. I mean, Cynthia's a dead ringer for Dream of the Endless's ex-girlfriend Thessaly, what with the big round glasses and forbidden eldritch knowledge, but that's only secondrary. What it really hinges on is Scooter's weird pal Malibu.

For a start, we can assume that's not his real name. But what we know about him from the story is this: He's a blond, trenchcoat-wearing misanthrope who occasionally runs afoul of the supernatural and sometimes pals around a swamp monster. Sound like anyone else we know?


Mixed in among the public service announcements and shills for AMT model kits was the following, taking up the back cover of Swing With Scooter #18 (click to marauder-size it!):

Aside from the fact that it looks like a totally awesome recruitment poster for the Burmese guerilla group led by chainsmoking ten year-olds Johnny and Luther Htoo, I just get a huge kick out of the fact that the word "realistic" was used as a selling point for a toy gun. An M16. During Vietnam. Ah, the good ol' days.

Friday, January 20, 2006

You Got A Problem?

No ISB update tonight, as I didn't bother to get out of bed until four in the afternoon so that my Invincible Super-Antibodies could build giant tuning forks to fend off the Clench, and we know how interesting that would be to read about.

Check back tomorrow.