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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Where They Went Wrong: Superman and Batman Spend the Night Together

You are about to experience the single gayest comic ever printed.

Before we go any further, a little explanation: I imagine it's like this at a lot of jobs, but when I started working at a comic book store three years ago, my good friends Chad--my boss at the time--and Scott were constantly dropping little bits of knowledge on me that aren't that widely known to the general public. Stories about creators and how certain comics came to be, hidden treasures of the back issues, stuff like that.

World's Finest #289 is one of those gems. Chad told me about it a long while back, and every now and then we'll find one down at the shop, and that's pretty much it for the rest of the day. None of us can resist going through it whenever it pops up, for one simple reason: Superman and Batman spent almost the entire issue about three seconds away from just making out in the Fortress of Solitude. Seriously, if you've ever wondered where the people who write slash fiction get the idea that it's something they should be doing, it all starts right here.

Chad found another one at the store today, and it was like old times as he held court in the middle of the back issues, flanked by customers as he read aloud from the panels. And although it puts my journalistic integrity at serious risk, I'm willing to steal his jokes to bring you another installment of my hard-hitting exposés on where exactly bad comics crossed the line. It's a risk I'm willing to take so that you stay informed, so this one's dedicated to my main man Radical C, along with my respect and thanks.

Homometer: 1/10For some reason, editor Marv Wolfman signed off on this one, which I can only guess means he didn't get past the first couple of pages of Doug Moench's script and only glanced at Adrian Gonzales' pencils. Either that, or it was the result of a drunken night of a little game I like to call How Far Can We Go And Still Get Comics Code Approval.

The story doesn't start off too bad. In fact, it opens with Batman jump-kicking some hoods and then punching another one so hard his head cracks a brick wall, which is usually a pretty good sign. By Page 3, however, Batman witnesses a murder that he fails to stop, and immediately falls to his knee with a big "NOOOOOOOOOO!"

Meanwhile, Superman saves a bunch of rock climbers from being crushed by an avalanche, and then feels bad about being an alien while basking in their praise and adulation. Oh woe is you, Superman. Gee, I sure am glad I'm not universally beloved. What a burden that must be. Anyway, he decides to alleviate his feelings of being a misfit by hanging out with his pal Batman, who has deep psychological scars and routinely punches homicidal clowns in the face. That's when they decide to... help each other out.

And go they do, soaring past a giant phallic glacier to the Fortress of Solitude, presumably to braid each other's hair and watch scary movies. Batman sees some of Superman's crazy dioramas that he likes to build, and the sight of Superman's loving parents depresses him, so he starts talking about the guy who got killed in the alley, which only depresses him more. Superman, however, feels his pain.

At this point, we're still in the realm of melodrama, and you might think that I'm just reading way too much into two pals who are helping each other through some hard times. I'd be inclined to agree with you, too, if not for this:

There really aren't a lot of ways to misinterpret a giant space-phallus plunging towards a circle. The only thing that panel's missing is one of those "For modesty's sake, let's turn our attention elsewhere" captions that used to accompany Peter Parker putting the moves on Mary Jane.

Anyway, back at the Fortress, where we find out that Superman has his own symbol mounted on a brick wall above a fireplace (?), Superman goes into an intense whine-spree, going on for a while about how his childhood was totally awesome, but he still feels bad about his birth parents dying and he's so alone even though everyone in the world loves and respects him. That attitude right there? That would be why Lex Luthor wants you dead so badly, Clark.

Quoth Superman: "And I... I treasure the closeness of someone who has suffered a similar loss ... We're like night and day, you and I, and yet we're closer than we realize, closer than twins because we compliment each other..."

...Get ready for it...

One of the things that Chad always points out is that every time something like this happens in this comic, you think that it cannot possibly get any more gay. But brother, we've got thirteen pages left on this trolley ride, and it just gets better from here.

Before Superman can cram his tongue down Batman's throat, an alarm system goes off and Superman has to go fight some meteors while Batman watches on the monitor, nervously asking if Superman's okay every other panel. As it turns out, the meteors are actually being used as transport for some bizarre wormlike creatures who use their telekinesis to turn the Fortress's weapons against Superman and Batman, who momentarily huddle together before dishing out uppercuts. At one point, Batman gets tagged by a stun ray, and "emotional panic siezes the man of steel" as he gives our second "NOOOOO!" of the story.

Having dealt with the problem, Batman uses a telepathy device to communicate with the worm-aliens, finding out what they want to do. And what, you may ask, do they want to do?

I'll just let that speak for itself.

Having finished whatever it was that was supposed to be, the aliens die, which is so moving for Superman and Batman that they stand there weeping while they watch it. Then the book closes with this, which I swear to you is the actual caption from the story:

"Glowing with the returned auras of emotion, the two men weep... then turn and embrace over the ashes of feeling, the dust of sacrifice. Here, it is warm... outside it is bitterly cold. Perhaps no one else, on any world, would understand."

Holy crap.

So, where exactly did this one go wrong? It's hard to point to a single element, since pretty much everything from Page Three on is hard to write off as anything but sketchy innuendo. If pressed, though, I'd have to go with the line about fitting like a hand in a glove. At that point, the metaphor's not doing a whole lot to disguise what's going on, and the aliens inserting themselves into each other just seems like a logical conclusion to the whole thing.

Still, though... That these two guys could come together out of such horrible adversity and find strength and comfort with each other... It sort of makes you a little misty, doesn't it?

BONUS FEATURE: The Moon Knight Connection!

Shortly after I originally posted this piece, a contributor who preferred to remain anonymous--Heaven knows why--wrote me an email regarding Doug Moench, who wrote World's Finest #289, but is probably much better known for two-fisted action stories like his long, early-90s run on the Batman titles with Kelley Jones:

"But then, Moench also wrote a crazy homophobic Moon Knight story for Marvel Spotlight in the 70s, where Moon Knight takes sadistic pleasure in beating the shit out of a, to use Moon Knight's own terms, a 'tinkerbell,' 'pansy,' and 'twinkle-toes.'"

For those of you keeping score at home, that's 1976's Marvel Spotlight #29.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Phrase That Pays

Ever since I've been re-pricing the back issue stock down at the Wiz, I've been almost fanatically obsessed with the covers I've been seeing. That pretty much came to a head with last night's Special All-Caps Edition of the ISB, but now that that project has moved on to Phase Two (don't ask), I feel like I can finally move on. So tonight, allow me to regale you with a tale of customer interaction that makes up the next chapter in the continuing epic of... The Cap'n

(Note to new ISB readers: Catch up on the whole saga... IF YOU DARE!)

So he strolls in for his daily visit, and I swear to you every single breath from his is a long, drawn-out sigh. I figure since he comes by the store every day, he knows his way around, and I get back to what I was doing, idly chatting with Matt P. while I block down the new comics wall. Since he's helping me out with the deadly and mysterious Phase Two, the conversation quickly turns to my favorite ambush-prone team of Super-Heroes, The Losers.

Owned.So the Cap'n wanders over just in time to hear me inform Matt that Captain Storm once saved John F. Kennedy's life. He lets out a cough that sounds mysteriously like "bullshit."

The gauntlet, children, had been thrown.

"Cap'n, did you just cough or did you call bullshit?" No way I was letting that slide. I may not be right about everything, but impugn my knowledge of the DC Universe heroes of World War II, and it is on. Even if I did think Jeb Stuart was a fictional character until I was twenty-two.

"... I coughed."

"Yeah. Because it happened. We have the issue."

"Oh, you mean it happened in a... fictional world."

What the... "Of course it happened in a fictional world! I'm talking about Captain Storm of the Losers! He was a PT boat captain who kept losing his commands!"

Well, my mention of some form of military technology opened up a whole new can of worms, and I sat through the lecture on the construction of the PT Boat until I mentioned that being the only survivor must have been Captain Storm's super-power.

"So what's your super-power, Captain?"

He paused for a brief moment. "I'm a big jerk."

I immediately spun around, staring at Matt while trying to communicate "Did you hear that?!" with only the power of my mind. What I said was: "Well, you heard it here first, Matt: The Cap'ns a big jerk."

I composed myself and turned back around, and that's when he dropped what is probably my new favorite phrase in the entire universe. He looked dead at me (well, with one eye anyway) and said:

"I will do anything, at any time, for any reason."

Holy Crap. If you take the time to puzzle it out, all that sentence means is that he does things. But the phrasing is so maniacal that its power cannot be denied. That is something a ninja says. And although I'm dead certain that he didn't mean to say something that awesome, the Cap'n has unintentionally provided me with my new personal motto. I've even added it to the family crest.

The Sims Family Coat of ArmsYou would not believe how long that took to make.





Monday, November 28, 2005

Where They Went Wrong: The Legion of Monsters

Here's a phrase you probably don't hear too often: I'm thinking of getting myself a run of Marvel Premiere.

FACT:  Karate Killer showdowns are awesome.From what I can gather, it's a lot like DC's First Issue Special, a sort of catch-all title for whatever Marvel felt like putting out at the time. You might get a year's worth of Iron Fist, a couple issues of Satana or the inexplicably-named Woodgod, and then the story where Black Panther takes on the Klan. How could that possibly go wrong?

That's the feeling you'd get from seeing the covers, anyway. In practice, it doesn't always work out.

Take, for instance, Marvel Premiere #28:

Don't be fooled.I was re-pricing these the other day while I talked to Tug, mostly remarking on how awesome the covers were, when he saw it sitting in the stack.

"Hey! You ever read that one?!"

He was pretty excited about it, so I took a look.

"No, I haven't... It looks pretty good, though."

"Yeah it does, but it's not. It's terrible. You could probably get a whole ISB entry out of it."

And as it turns out, I could!

Coming at you from the heart of 1976, this story's by Bill "The Thrill" Mantlo and Frank "The Shank" Robbins, with Marv Wolfman credited as "Vizier & Editor." Who knew?

I actually read it a couple of days ago and had a hard time finding my copy tonight sp that I could write about it, and I was starting to think that the only things I'd be able to say was that a bunch of supernatural characters teamed up and fought a mountain, and that it wasn't very good. Not a lot of detail, sure, but a far more accurate summation than the "most spine-tingling team-up of all" promised by the cover. Here at the ISB, though, we're not content to just tell you how bad it is. No, our goal tonight is to uncover the exact point that things went sour for this little shindig, in hopes that such mistakes can be avoided in the future.

Here's how it goes down: A mountain erupts into being in the middle of Los Angeles, a city that's currently playing host to Johnny (Ghost Rider) Blaze, Morbius the Living Vampire, and Jack "Werewolf By Night" Russel. Naturally, these three decide independently to check it out, what with it interrupting Morbius trying to drink Werewolf By Night's blood. It also makes a disturbance down in the Nexus of All Realities, and since Man-Thing's bored enough to try stealing fish from a drunken hobo, he decides to check things out, too.

Of course, that's when the giant golden alien on a giant golden horse shows up.

Yes, He Who Is Called The Starseed!--who, like most mid-70s Marvel characters, doesn't actually have a name, just something he's called--shows up, and Johnny Blaze immediately develops a man-crush on him, despite the fact that he's a total dick:

Also, "brother-son?" Now that's just creepy.

As it turns out, Starseed is from Earth, and he's been out in space for a couple million years and just wants to chill out. But then Morbius tries to drink his blood and, well, everything goes downhill from there. Ghost Rider screams like a woman and runs away, telling his bike that he loves it because Man-Thing is scary. Then, despite the fact that he gets in a pretty good backhand--we find out that giant golden aliens are no match for werewolves in green pants, and the Starseed goes down like a punk, with dialogue that makes you want to punch him in the face again and again:

Then, just to prove that he really is a total dick, he uses his cosmic powers to momentarily turn everyone back into their alter-egos, giving Ted Sallis and Michael Morbius thirty seconds of relief from their cursed lives of unending torment and pain, just so they realize how much it sucks when they turn back into monsters after four panels. What a jerk.

Then Ghost Rider walks his bike back to LA. The end.

So, where exactly did this issue go wrong?

If you said it was Ghost Rider standing around crying instead of burning someone's soul away with hellfire and cackling about it as he rode off on a motorcycle made of pure hellfire, you're surprisingly wrong. The real mistake of Marvel Premiere #28 was putting such a lousy story up against an ad like the one for Big Jim's P.A.C.K.!

Who cares about Morbius when they could be having the adventure of a lifetime alongside the mysterious Dr. Steel and his badass dragon tattoo?! Not me, that's for sure.

Plus, right after you see Ghost Rider dragging his Champions-era Skull Cycle down the highway--without ever resolving the fact that there's a mountain in the middle of Sunset Boulevard--there's an ad for Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Super-Hero, the single greatest super-hero themed rock opera of all time, featuring a curiously Dick Van Dyke-looking Stan Lee.

Or, you know, it could've been Ghost Rider openly weeping. Yeah, I'm going to go with that.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Public Service Announcement, Redux

I neither have nor plan to have any children, so I'm not about to start telling people how they should raise theirs, but I think there's a few rules of society that we can all agree on that I'd like to point out:

If your children smell like urine to the point where a noxious cloud of pee-odor expands to fill not only their immediate surroundings, but a vast portion of a retail establishment, do not take them into public. Instead, keep them at home and bathe them, if necessary holding them under the surface of a tub full of bleach until the thrashing stops.

Now while that may sound a little harsh, keep in mind that it's very hard to do inventory at a comic book store when the piss-reek rising in waves off of someone's ill-cared-for children assaults your faculties like tear gas, only far more disgusting. It's enough to make a man mean.

And I'm not talking about a whiff of pee, either. As Hale pointed out earlier this evening when I related my sad tale of woe, dashing young man-about-town Dane Cook does a bit about a kid he went to elementary school with who had a simliar affliction, who smelled like he had been "dipped in piss." Before, I thought that was a humorous exaggeration, but now I know the awful truth. And such knowledge has transformed me into a shambling mockery of a human being. Damn you, pee-children... I was once a man!


Friday, November 25, 2005

You Know What We Don't Need?

Before I get on with tonight's scheduled hilarity, some sad news:

Pat Morita has died at 73. I've written many, many times about my affection for the Karate Kid movies, so I won't go into that, but for me, calling Morita a "beloved actor" is more than just a Hollywood cliché, and I think it's fair to say that he came a long way from being a nightclub comedian billed as "The Hip Nip." Although that is an awesome nickname, and I think he would've gotten a kick out of the Fark.com headline for his obituary: "Pat Morita passes away at age 73. Cobra Kai wanted for questioning." As for me, I'm going to try to remember him the way I think he'd want me to. Hugged against some blonde's rack:

First learn stand, then learn fly.Now, on with the show.

Today, as all of us in the retail industry know, is the biggest shopping day of the year, when the entire country rises from a turkey-induced coma with the burning need to buy a vacuum cleaner because it is twenty dollars Christopher and you need to get out of bed now. Or maybe that's just how it is at my house.

So, after setting up the nativity scene for what I hope will be the first of many ISB Christmas Cards, I took a trip to the outside world to partake in this year's mandatory consumerism. It was, to say the least, glorious.

Especially when you're in the middle of Wal-Mart and you have nothing at all to purchase. Scholar and gentleman Henry Rollins talks about how he likes to go to Rite-Aid when he has nothing to buy, just to watch the freakshow, and that feeling's magnified a thousandfold when you're in the middle of a blue-light feeding frenzy.

I eventually found myself at the mall, keeping myself entertained while my mom bought three Christmas cards to get a book titled--and this is true, you can check for yourself--The Snowbelly Family of Chillyville Inn, allegedly for her grandchildren. She was looking through the 99 cent section, trying to find a card worth buying, which is no mean feat. For less than a buck, you're pretty much getting a card that says: "Merry Christmas" on the outside, and "You know, because it's Christmas" when you open it.

That's when I found a few cards that I may just have to go out and buy to prove a point.

The first featured a picture of Santa confronting his reindeer, one of whom has ridiculously large antlers, saying something along the lines of: "All right, now which one of you stole my herbal supplement?!"

Yeah. Oh, it gets even better.

The second is a shot of Santa hugging Mrs. Claus, who says "You forgot to deliver one of your wooden soldiers." Santa responds: "That's not a wooden soldier."


I've given this a lot of thought today, and I'm pretty sure that the absolute last thing I need to get me in the Christmas Spirit is a greeting card that makes overt references to Santa's penis.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Week in Ink, 11-23-05

Stand back, citizens: It's Thursday, and not even a nigh-lethal dose of tryptophan and Miracle on 34th Street can stop me from reviewing this week's comics. But, in a holiday-themed twist on my usual format, this week I'll not only share my thoughts on the high-and-lowlights of my purchases, but I'll tell you what each of them makes me thankful for.

On with it!


Army of Darkness #3: Hm, now this is a tough one. I'm thankful that it's not coming out any more often than it actually is, which is a completely unwarranted bi-weekly schedule. Yeah, I'm pretty sure this is the last one I'll be getting.

Batgirl #70: My thanks goes out to Anderson Gabrych, who keeps Batgirl enjoyable with very few missteps along the way. Unfortunately, I think this was one of them. Mr. Freeze seemd a little bit out of character, and to be honest, I'm never a fan of somebody busting onto the scene and shouting their new super-villain name for everyone to hear. Still, Pop Mhan's art fits the book like a kevlar/spandex bodysuit, and it's still not a bad read.

Battle Pope #4: I'm thankful that Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore have both gotten a lot better since their early days cranking out fun little indy comics. Not that Battle Pope is bad, mind you, it's just nice to see them getting better and better.

Betty and Veronica Double Digest #138: I'm thankful that an UTTERLY RARE SHIPPING ERROR BY DIAMOND allowed me to snag a copy of this, which features a pair of lead stories about Betty and Veronica designing Barbie dolls, each from one of the girls' points of view. Even more than that, though, I'm thankful that I've finally gotten the chance to use the phrase "It's like Rashomon in Riverdale!"

Captain America #12: I'm extremely thankful that Steve Epting told me he'd try to work a hidden MODOK into every issue of Cap he draws from now on. Now if I only knew if he was serious...

Conan #22: I'm thankful that I'm finally getting to see some new work from Mike Kaluta, even if it's just four and a half gorgeous pages. And while we're on the subject, I'm thankful for Cary Nord, who--along with Karl Kessel--was responsible for getting me back into Marvel comics with his pencils on Daredevil back in '96 or so. Plus, this issue's installment of Two-Gun Bob is one of the best comic strips I've read in a long while, even going up against the Goon strips in every Previews.

Down #1

Ex Machina #16

I heart Drizzt.Forgotten Realms: Exile #1: I'm thankful that I'm man enough to admit that I am totally gay for Drizzt Do'urden, noblest of the dark elves of Faerûn. Yeah, I said it.

Invincible #27: I'm thankful that Kid Thor and the rest of the heroes from Capes not only make a cameo apperance in this issue, but also star in a new backup feature. I'm pretty excited about it since I really enjoyed the miniseries, as it fits perfectly into that cohesive little corner of the Image super-hero universe that Robert Kirkman and Jay Faerber have carved out for themselves.

Jack Cross #4

JSA Classified #5

Middleman #4

Perpahanauts #1: I'm thankful that finally--FINALLY--there's a paranormal investigative team that includes a super-evolved Chupacabra. I've been clamoring for that, albeit quietly, for years, and Todd Dezago has finally stepped up to the challenge. Seriously, though, I enjoyed this issue quite a bit, especially a legitimately shocking ending and the cleverly-done letter-column.

I wonder what DE's annoying title for this cover is?Red Sonja #3: Still thankful for Mike Kaluta, although choosing between his gorgeous cover and John Romita's was no mean feat. Not like choosing between an Adam Hughes and a Billy Tan's going to be in four months, I'll tell you that for free. As for the book itself, it remains enjoyable, if not spectacular. I'd be remiss, though, if I didn't point out that this issue does feature a rare appearance by Red Sonja's nipples, so if you're into that sort of thing--which I'll admit I am--it makes a darn fine stocking-stuffer.

Robin #144

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #1: Regarding this one, I'm thankful that Doug Mahnke is, for the first time, penciling a book that doesn't jarringly clash with his art style. I don't hate his work on JLA, but I do dislike it intensely. In Frankenstein though, his style works wonderfully. The story's good, clean, monster fightin' fun, of course, although I think the "1955" caption on page 4 should be placed on the panel after it is.

Top hats and bowties are hot.  FACT.Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #4: I'm thankful that Ryan Sook and Grant Morrison apparently like girls in fishnets and leather corsets as much as I do. Now Kevin might be too busy reading comics about whiny, self-absorbed emo kids to agree with me, but there's not a lot of things I like better than a fight scene where a guy shoots bullets out of his eyes and then stands on top of Jupiter. That's excitement.

Shaun of the Dead #4

She-Hulk #2: I'm thankful that Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo are so awesome that he manages to cram the return of Hawkeye, the return of Justice Peace, and Jen Walters' awesome sign-language into one issue. The people who say comics just aren't fun any more don't know what they're talking about--they're just not reading Slott's books.

Ultimate X-Men #65

Walking Dead #24

Young Avengers #9


You can't resist buying this.The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: I'm thankful for Jess Nevins, who's out there doing untold hours of research so that you and I don't have to. This book's the perfect companion to Heroes and Monsters and A Blazing World, his two volumes of annotations for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, and while it weighs in with a hefty fifty-dollar price tag, it's completely justified. Not only is it a beautiful book, but it has comprehensive and exhaustive notes on virtually every pulp and penny-dreadful hero from the Victorian Age. I'm not sure if I'll ever actually use it to research something of my own, but it's already taken twenty minutes of my life reading about Spring-Heeled Jack and the Unnameable.

So, now that I've used my lifetime allotment of the word "thankful," I think I'm finally going to succumb to the drowsiness-inducing powers of a deep-fried turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thankstravaganza '05!

While I was on my way home tonight, there was a DJ on WUSC who decided to play nothing but different renditions of "Walking In A Winter Wonderland" for an entire hour. It goes without saying that that was the most awesome format I've ever heard, but it's a pretty strange choice. Especially considering that as much as I like that song, the line "we'll face unafraid / the plans that we've made" has always bothered me. Why would you be afraid of plans to walk in a winter wonderland? For some reason, the first thing I always think of when I hear that is the grim resolve that accompanies a suicide pact.

Again, I'm pretty sure that's just me. Moving on.

For those of you reading this from some savage land that isn't the Good Ol' US of A, today's Thanksgiving, which is a day we set aside to give thanks for what we have by eating as much of it as possible. Football is also involved.

It's been an official holiday here since 1863, when Abraham Lincoln--a guy you might remember from that time that he, oh, I don't know, freed the slaves--decided we should all take some time off to celebrate "the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy." That means you, The South.

The traditions, of course, actually go back a lot further, to the 1600s when the Native Americans decided to help the hard-prayin' outcasts of England to survive the winter. And I think we all know how that ended up:

Yeah, about that treaty...Really, though, it's mostly about gorging yourself and watching Santa roll down the street in preparation for getting into a fistfight at Toys 'R' Us tomorrow. It's a beautiful thing.

[Note: They also celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada, although they didn't get around to making it a holiday until 1957. And since Canada was settled by Vikings and Eskimos rather than Pilgrims, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the start of Hockey season.]

So what am I thankful for? The usual stuff, mostly: Health, family, friends, the fact that Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories was a much better sequel than Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, things like that.

I'm thankful for the dozens of comics creators that entertain and inspire me every week. I'm thankful for the handful of pros who have actually read and commented on the ISB, which always gives me a little thrill.

I'm thankful for comics in general, because like Scott says: Even when they're bad, they're better than diggin' a ditch. I'm also thankful for this picture. Also, this picture, which is somehow even funnier.

I'm thankful for the fact that Google co-founder Larry Page is able, according to NPR's Marketplace, to wallpaper his entire house in hundred dollar bills, meaning he can provide me with a space to talk about Count Dante for no charge to you, the consumer.

But there's one thing I'm more thankful for than anything else this year, and that is this:

I'm thankful for Dave Campbell, because this one time, he saw this orphanage that was on fire and rushed in, saving twenty-three orphans. Then, just to teach him a lesson about playing with matches, he ate one of them, an act which made every single nun in the tri-state area renounce their vows of chastity.

And that's a fact.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It Had To Happen!

Before we get started with the comics, tonight, please allow me to "hip" you "cats" to something you may not know:

Right now, at this very moment, your various Marts are selling off their leftover Halloween paraphernalia for ridiculous discounts. What this means to you, the consumer, is simple: You can get a pair of foam nunchuks for like forty-eight cents. That's not an offer I could pass up, not when it meant a chance for my very own Customer Appreciation Chuks.

Which brings us, in a roundabout sort of way, to the subject at hand. You don't just see good cover blurbs like you used to. Sure, noted liar Micah Ian Wright used them for his last few issues of Stormwatch: Team Achilles, dropping a reference to Sgt. Rock in the process, but they seem have fallen by the wayside, which is a damn shame.

Especially since I'm pretty sure Marvel Comics succeeded solely on the strength of cover blurbs. After all, these are the people that invented the term "senses-shattering," a Kirbyism describing a comic so good that you'll lose senses. Plural. You'll be blind and deaf--at LEAST--by the time it's over. Even Lion-Head Superman can't stand up against that.

They are of course just exaggerations, judging by the fact that Marvel wasn't sued out of existence by the parents of kids who were blinded by the awesomeness of MODOK (well, you know, except for Mark Hale), but none of them come close to the sheer amount of bald-faced lies that Marvel told every time they slapped the classic "AT LAST!" onto a cover.

I'm still going through the back issue stock at work, and I've seen "AT LAST!" on what may actually be a ton of comics, and it's almost never accompanied by something that I can imagine anyone waiting with bated breath to see. It's usually something like "AT LAST! ANT-MAN CUTS LOOSE!" or similar nonsense.

But sometimes... sometimes they get it right:

Well it's about damn time.Now that's something I've been waiting to see, although apparently Marvel still had the font laying around from when they did the KISS comic. The only question is whether they just didn't think we'd notice, or if there's something about Ace Freehly that we don't know.

Comin' at you from 1980 is the Black Panther in a story by Ed Hannigan and Jerry Bingham, edited by the man who--according to Chad--has never written a bad Superman comic, Roger Stern. I saw this cover and immediately knew I had to have it, because if there's one thing you can never have enough of in comics, it's racists getting punched in the face.

Unfortunately, it's a bit of an oversell. The fight with the Klan takes place in a quarter-page montage, and while there is a certain satisfaction in seeing the Panther take out the entire group in one panel, even Batman spends a whole issue on them. I will say this, though: T'challa kicks this one dude so hard there's explosion lines coming off of it, and that'll get you excited.

As an added bonus, this issue includes a letter from Jim Owsley, writing in to talk about Marvel Premiere #49, meticulously picking apart Mark Evanier's scriptand Sal Buscema's art before closing with an allegation that Frank Miller and Klaus Janson's cover to the issue was "insulting." Owsley would, of course, go on to become Christopher Priest and write some truly phenomenal issues of Black Panther for the Marvel Knights line, which makes me think he probably enjoyed this one a little more.

Monday, November 21, 2005

'Tis the Season! Yes, Already.

Here's a conversation I had last night with my pal and frequent collaborator J. Kern:

"I got my tree up."

"Your Christmas tree?"

"Is there any other kind?"

"... So we're just going ahead and leapfrogging Thanksgiving then? Moving right to the main event?"

"Actually, I still have some Halloween candy sitting on the bookshelf next to the tree, so I'm figuring that when I'm having my turkey on Thursday, the convergence of three separate holidays will give me power the likes of which you could never dream."

The fact that I talk like Dr. Doom to my friends is probably why I have a hard time meeting new people, but that's beside the point, which is this:

I'm one of those people. The people that put up their Christmas Trees four days before Thanksgiving. The people that are waiting with the sweaty palms and twitching eyes of a heroin addict to put this year's Christmas mixtape into the stereo. The people who run down the street in the dead of winter shouting "MERRY CHRISTMAS, MOVIE HOUSE! MERRY CHRISTMAS, YOU OLD BUILDING AND LOAN!"

Well, maybe that last one's just me. But I love Christmas (the whole Christmas season), and even though it's still more than a month away, I'm already starting to get in the mood. I even started my present shopping. Last week. What really sealed the deal, though, was hearing the first playing of Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song on the radio. Traditionally, that's what marks the season for the Sims family, although I don't think we've ever had the tree up within two hours before.

So, since I'm all geared up for the next month of glorious consumerism and increased suicide rates, I thought I'd take this opportunity to discuss one of my favorite aspects of the season, the Christmas Comic. Tonight, let's have a look at one of my favorites.

Click to Ant-Size it!  No, wait...Ant-Man's Big Christmas
December, 1999
Writer: Bob Gale
Pencils and Cover: Phil Winslade

The Plot

I'll be straight with you: I don't like Ant-Man. Nobody does. And it's for the very good reason that Ant-Man fucking sucks.

Not as lame as you might think, relatively speaking.Aquaman gets a lot of flak from the mainstream crowd for being lame, since his one big power is that he can talk to fish, but really; if you can get a Great White Shark to do your bidding, that's badass. They are nature's perfect killing machines, and according to the Discovery Channel, well worth a week of television programming. Ant-Man, however, talks to ants, which are at best a minor annoyance. And he had to build a helmet to do it. A stupid-looking helmet. Apparently, it was a lot easier to get into the Avengers back in '63.

That said, I love this comic. I read it every Christmas.

It's written by Bob Gale, who also wrote the Back to the Future series, which ranks just after the Kid as the second-greatest movie trilogy of all time. Phil Winslade's pencils are great, illustrating Gale's story of a kid who wants the sweet taste of revenge against his holiday-ruining relatives. And considering that one of my first pro writing gigs was a column about the disastrous family events surrounding Christmas '97, it certainly appeals to me.

See, Larry Magruder's father made a promise to his dying mother that he would always have the family over for Christmas, despite the fact that they're all wretched, petty, and inconsiderate people. So instead of trying family therapy or appealing to Dr. Phil, Larry does the sensible thing and writes a letter to the Avengers. Defying all logic, he's an Ant-Man fan, and wants him and the Wasp to help out. A few shots of shrinking gas and a healthy dose of righteous punishment meted out to reatives later, evil is punished, Christmas is saved, and everything works out okay.

It makes me like Ant-Man, and that's a Christmas Miracle.


  • The book opens with a big scene of the Kurt Busiek/George Perez-era Avengers trimming a Christmas tree in Avengers Mansion. I don't know what you guys are looking from your comics, but seeing Rage from the New Warriors in his spiked shoulderpads and a Santa Hat is what I'm in it for.
  • When they read Larry's letter, which asks for the Avengers "little heroes" to help out with his little problem, Hank immediately tries to backpedal, saying that he can't do it, since he's TOTALLY not Ant-Man anymore. You want Ant-Man, you'll have to talk to Scott Lang. See? Even Hank Pym hates Ant-Man.
  • When they finally decide to help Larry out, Hank calls his house to let him know he's coming, and Larry's mom hangs up on him because she thinks he's an internet pervert. Oh, Mrs. Magruder, if you only knew...
  • When Larry explains his family to Ant-Man and the Wasp, the list reads like every annoying relative you've ever had, starting with Great Aunt Sadie, who stinks up the house with cigars and perfume, refusing to put them out because she's a guest. This leads to the best line in the entire story: "My dad says Sadie's the reason God created lung cancer--except she doesn't have it. Which my mom says is proof that Satan exists." And a Merry Christmas to you too, Mister Bailey.
  • "Wacko Cousin Martha," who always brings a group of guests depending on what she's into at the time, shows up with a crew of Nihilists. No word on whether they threaten to cut off Larry's johnson.
  • Once all the guests arrive, Larry and the Avengers systematically torture them into behaving better with a combination of shrinking gas, tupperware, and good old fashioned spite. It's been a while since I've cracked open a Bible, but I'm pretty sure that's the true meaning of Christmas.

Defining Moment

For the last two evil relatives, essentially Larry's versions of Dudley Dursley, Larry forgoes the shrinking gas and--under the supervision of two super-heroes, mind you--takes them on with his own two hands. He lures them into a trap, then ties them up and pours sugar water on their pants before releasing a jarful of carpenter ants to bite them. So once again, thanks to Ant-Man and the Wasp for encouraging the true meaning of Christmas: Deathtraps and vengeance.

Final Thoughts

Even though it's not exactly the spirit of forgiveness you find in, say, the story where Superboy convinces the Legion of Super-Heroes to go look for the Star of Bethlehem, there are few things I like more than a story where a bad guy gets exactly what's coming to him, and if it has the word "Christmas" in the title, more's the better. And with the eerie similarities to my own family, there's a reason I pull this one out of the box and give it a read every year.

All right, it's good to have that out of my system. Now I can lay off talking about Christmas for at least a week or so. And I even did it without once talking about the time Hank smacked the Wasp around.

... Aw, peas.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

You Will Not Believe This

I think we can all agree by now that the Internet has got to be stopped.

What, you may ask, has brought me to this revelation? Well, I found out from Kevin who heard it from Sterling that there was a gentleman of leisure out there photoshopping super-hero costumes onto naked bodybuilders. And once you've hit the barrel-bottom that is a photoshopped gay porn Brother Voodoo, it's time to go.

Yikes.  Just yikes.Especially when he looks disturbingly like a Raw-era Eddie Murphy.

Internet, you have been warned.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What I Learned From Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I'm pretty sure the new Harry Potter movie is the best of the series so far, which is no surprise considering that it's my favorite of all the books. But what really astounded me was how educational it ended up being. I mean, I realize it's a movie set at a school, but I wasn't expecting to walk out of the theater as informed as I was.

But like all good teachers, the movie's lessons are subtle, so in case you missed them, I present here a brief top ten list of the knowledge my trip to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire dropped on me tonight:

1. Just because you have plans to go see a movie with a girl, that doesn't necessarily mean you won't be sitting in the late show next to your mother.

2. Movie theaters without stadium seating have got to go.

3. Unless you go to see The Bad News Bears at one o'clock on a school day with one of your friends and you're the only ones in the theater, there will always be some guy who feels that it's necessary to point out that the woman who is fourteen feet tall is a giantess and that it's "nice" when special effects professionals do their job.

4. This jagoff will always sit next to me. Always.

5. Having a scene in your movie where the ghost of a fourteen year-old girl tries to molest a fourteen year-old boy will bump you right up to a PG-13 rating. It will also be a lot less disturbing and a lot funnier than it sounds.

6. Speaking of, and you can add this to the ever-growing list, Dan Radcliffe is frigg'n ripped.

7. Any movie can be made better by adding Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman. In fact, I'm shopping a script around Hollywood for a movie that involves the bad guy from Leon: The Professional teaming up with the bad guy from Die Hard. It'll be the scariest buddy cop movie ever made.

8. Lord Voldemort vs. twenty-something Shakespeare? Voldemort in 7 via TKO. Therefore, Ralph is the swanker brother... or the finer Fiennes, if you will.

9. According to the IMDB, "over 3,000 girls turned up at the auditions for the role of Cho Chang, in London on 7 February 2004." The things I could do if I had three thousand Cho Changs would make David Mack weep. Also, the fact that I wrote that down is Reason #434 why I'm on an FBI Watch List, and Reason #538 why I remain single.

10. Wherever he goes, Harry Potter is constantly followed by death and mistrust. In short, his life sucks. But considering that his best friend, his best friend's dad, his boss, and Dr. Doom have never tried to kill him, it's still better than Peter Parker's.

Now you know. And you didn't even have to see Shipwreck to learn it, either.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Week In Ink, 11-15-05

Before we get to this week's comics, a quick story:

Are you doing all you can, comrade?Tonight I was over at my friend Sarah's house for her weekly Bill Murray Night, which is one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time. It's exactly what it sounds like; she gets a bunch of her friends together and they watch a Bill Murray movie. What really got me excited was that she mentioned that tonight's plan was Caddyshack, a movie which I've managed to avoid seeing despite being a big fan of Ted Knight and spending roughly four million hours in front of a television in my life.

It ended up being Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes, which was fine with me, since I'm pretty sure that's the only on-screen appearance of the RZA, the GZA, and Bill Murray. But that was hardly the focus of the evening.

One of the guests, Josh, had brought over a large cup of Espresso from a coffee house, which Sarah's dog Basil promptly knocked over and licked up off the floor. Josh then thought it would be a good idea to give the dog as much of his beer as it would drink. The dog walked by me and burped.

"Sarah," I said, "If that dog throws up on me, I will be very upset."

Needless to say, five minutes later I was very upset.

Fucker bit me too.


Yeah, it's pretty freakin' awesome.All-Star Superman #1: We all know by now that this comic is fantastic, so I'll do my best to keep this brief: All-Star Superman makes me want to be a better writer. Grant Morrison does such a great job of not only boiling Superman down to what makes him work, but with as little as one line each, nails Cat Grant, Steve Lombard, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. The Clark Kent sequences are amazing, in no small part thanks to Frank Quitely. I'll admit, when JLA: Earth-2 came out, I hated Quitely's art, mostly because of the way he draws faces. But the fact is, when it comes to page layout and panel construction, he is easily one of the top two guys working in the industry today. WE3 (also with Morrison, which if you haven't read, why the hell are you wasting your time on the internet) was a great example of that, and the scene where Clark walks to Perry White's office is another. Now if it only comes out on time, it may just be the best thing ever.

Banana Sunday #4: At last! Because you demanded it! The secret origin of Kirby's monkeys! And what a wacky origin it is. But, and here's the important part, it's fun, which means Nibot and Coover succeeded in their goal. They did not, however, succeed in the goal I laid out of having Kirby and Nickels make out with each other, even a little bit. And upon typing that, I realize that I am a horrible person. Banana Sunday, though? Top notch.

Batman and the Monster Men #1

Birds of Prey #88

Daredevil vs. Punisher #6: Hey, you know what's awesome? When Daredevil and the Punisher just throw down on each other for nine pages. It's absolutely brutal and I loved every panel of it.

Fables #43: Month after month, Bill Willingham turns out some of the best character development in comics. Imagine my surprise when Old King Cole, a one-note character who hasn't been seen in a while, delivers one of the best lines of the week to Sinbad when discussing slavery. Not to mention the rest of it, which remains truly great, from the James Jean cover and Mark Buckingham's pencils on down to the last.

Hellblazer #214

So I guess I was wrong.Local #1: ISB Fair Shake Month continues with the second of three Brian Wood books I ordered, alongside DMZ and the Demo trade paperback. According to the pullquote on the cover, Warren Ellis described it as "the perfect three-minute single," and while it's not exactly perfect (what with All-Star Superman hanging around ruining the curve for everyone), it's certainly highly enjoyable. It's a quick read, but the tight pacing really serves to acccentuate the story's theme as a split-second in time. Ryan Kelly does a great job on pencils as well, especially the shaky, manic boyfriend and his wide-eyed twitchiness. It's well worth picking up.

Manhunter #18

Marvel Monsters: From The Files of Ulysses Bloodstone: I wasn't going to get this one, but then I opened it up and found out it was an Official Handbook done in the style of Elsa Bloodstone's blog. Yeah, there's pretty much no way I couldn't get it.

Runaways #10

The Thing #1: I loved this comic. I've been a fan of Dan Slott's since he did the most recent Batman Adventures series, which was great, and although I was a little wary of She-Hulk at first, I eventually came around. He does a great job with this one, as does Andrea DiVito, giving me everything I want to see in a comic. There's clobbering, a hot girl in her underwear, parodies of celebrities, and a surprise villain who holds a special place in my heart.

Tomorrow Stories Special #1: Aside from the fact that the Jack B. Quick story is awesome, this book taught me something: Just because a girl comes into the store looking for a Cobweb story, that doesn't necessarily mean she's a lesbian. It's gotta be like nine times out of ten, though.

X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1

Trade Paperbacks

You're probably not buying this, but it is totally awesome.Kane v.5: The Untouchable Rico Costas and Other Short Stories: Remember way up there when I said Frank Quitely was in the top two for panel layout and page composition? Well, Paul Grist is the other. The way he uses the page is amazing, and the fact that he can do all that while writing some of the best and most fun comics in completely different genres is a testament to how much of a genius he is. I don't throw that word around too often, but how else can you refer to a guy who made Neil Gaiman a character in one of his stories as a serial murderer? Paul Grist, you are the man.

Scorpion: Poison Tomorrow: So I finally broke down and bought the trade, since for some reason I can't stop reading about the new Scorpion. I don't know why, but she pushes that little part of my brain that I like to refer to as "the Punisher button." Heck, I even read an X-23 story that had her in it.

Tenjho Tenge v.4

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Life Is Like a Hurricane

So a few days ago, I finally broke down and bought DuckTales Season 1 on DVD, which came as a bit of surprise to Ben and the rest of the Monday Night Crüe. It did not, however, come as a surprise to Scott, who immediately responded by telling me that he had some fond memories of the show.

That put my mind a little more at ease, since shortly after dropping thirty bucks in the hands of a Best Buy employee, I was a little worried that my own memories of Ducktales were way overselling the show's quality. Scott's about eight years older than me, though, so his fond memories would be a little closer to the truth than mine.

They would also pale in comparison.

At age nine, Ducktales was--and I say this without hint of exaggeration--the focal point of my entire existence. It was, if memory serves, the last part of the Disney Afternoon at the time, filling that sweet, sweet half hour between the end of school and the hour-long 1966 Batman block on the local Fox affiliate, and I never missed an episode.

As much as I enjoyed the show--especialy any appearances by bizarre, unicycle-riding Robocop analog Gizmoduck--my affection for it was nothing compared to the all-consuming fire that was my passion for the DuckTales video game.

Greatest Of All TimeThe DuckTales game for NES may have been my first obsession, excepting Batman throwing car batteries. I was an avid reader of Nintendo Power magazine at the time, and when I first saw that it was coming out, I flipped my lid. And for good reason; it was made by Capcom, the fine folks who also defined portions of my childhood with the MegaMan series, and according to Wikipedia, "is widely regarded as one of the better NES games of its day; it was highly respectable and fun to play."

It got to the point that in the fourth grade, when we were asked to draw a picture of what we most wanted for Christmas, I produced what may have been my finest work of art to date, including my extensive uses of Archie.

I folded over the paper and drew the top of a gift box, ribons and a tag and everything. Then, when you unfolded it, inside the "box," was a drawing I had made of the NES cartridge, complete with the box art, which I had memorized.

That probably bears repeating: I memorized the box art and was able to reproduce it with a handful of crayons.

I actually did get DuckTales for Christmas that year, and it's probably the best Christmas present I've ever gotten. I opened up that box, and it was on 'til the break of dawn. Right up until Grand Theft Auto III--another game about acquiring as much money as you possibly can by any means necessary, but with fewer giant diamonds--it was probably my favorite game ever, and I played it until I had found every single secret that had been in there, getting so much money that I got a different ending screen when I won, which, in the early '90s, blew my mind.

Which brings us back to today and the fact that I'm on a Scrooge McDuck kick lately (for reasons I'll get into later, but rest assured that Mickey's Christmas Carol has a pretty big influence on me at this time of year), just in time for the release of the DVD (which, incidentally, remains amusing and well-animated).

Coincidence? Or something... sinister?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Conversation With Scott

"Oh, hey, Scott, speaking of hot girls on TV, did I tell you about the realization I came to last week?"

"Was it a realization you came to while you were watching a hot girl on TV?"


"No, you didn't."

"Okay. I realized that I would pretty much have sex with any girl on a phone commercial. That is, I'd have sex with any girl who was on a phone commercial, not I'd have sex on a phone commercial with any girl."

"I think I'd probably have sex on a phone commercial. It'd be a pretty disturbing commercial though. 'I've been thinking about switching service provider--Holy shit. Is that Scott? Well that takes Cingular off the list...'"

Fun With Romance

This should be the title of every single romance comic ever printed:

Originally Falling in Love #65"God, Sally. I am never inviting you to my Roy Raymond: TV Detective Theme Parties ever again. But what will I do when Hal finds out that I'm... not that kind of girl?!"

I really should've been put in charge of the comics that came out thirty years before I was born.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Shameless Thievery

Kevin is out of town on business (read: hookers and blow), and hasn't updated his weblog in a couple of days. And since it's currently 11:59 Sunday Night, I think that means that we're going to be denied my favorite weekly feature of his, Genius Covers Sunday.

It would be an internet catastrophe if that was allowed to happen. Therefore, in hopes that Kevin won't mind, I've decided to shamelessly steal that idea for tonight's ISB:

Genius Covers Sunday: Shattering the Fourth Wall

High five!One of the most famous covers inspired by editor Julie Schwartz, and for good reason. If you were a kid in the sixties, how could you NOT buy this issue? If you didn't, the Flash was going to die and never come back ever again and it was your fault. That's marketing genius.

Oh no, don't tell them that!Well, that's just peachy. This would be why I've got people calling up every day wanting me to pay $30 and up for your death. Thanks a lot, Superman. Thanks for ruining everything.

Born and bred to be a mack.Between the crown, the purple mask, and the fact that he's demanding a billion dollars, thus proving that he is not fucking around, the Monarch of Menace may be my new favorite comic book character.

Nice shades, bro.If a man in a parka and glasses like that offers to show you uncensored Flash pictures, do not give him fifteen cents. He is not a real captain.

Flat-out awesome.You know, this sort of thing seems to happen a lot to the Flash. But when you routinely deal with Super-Gorillas and a world gone green...

Face front, ya goldbricks!I've spoken before at great length about my love for Sgt. Rock covers, so I'll just say this: This is a hell of a lot better than that Army of One bullshit.

Total Badass"Yeah, I may just be a comic book character, but I'm still the Goddamn Batman, and nobody is going anywhere!"

And that's that. Tell you what, Kevin, just to make it up to you, you can talk about the Karate Kid constantly for the next month, and we'll just call it even. Now let's go see what Campbell's up to for tomorrow's post...

The Greatest Story Ever Told

While I was working on re-pricing the back issues down at the Wiz today, I ran across what may be--and I realize I say this a lot, but just bear with me here--the single greatest comic book ever printed.

So what makes me so sure that this time I really have struck gold? Oh, I don't know. How about the fact that it's called Giant Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas?!

You cannot confront this.Should you have any other questions about why this comic is awesome, I refer you to Batman drop-kicking a fifty-foot tall ape right there on the cover.

It set me back a cool two-fitty, but with a cover like that, I knew I had to own it. And the inside was just as good. Three stories, all of which feature your favorite DC characters going toe-to-toe with super-powered gorillas. And that has been clinically proven to be totally rad. Don't take my word for it; It's science.

Our first story takes place where else but the deep jungles of Central Africa, which, according to Jimmy Olsen's white, pipesmoking tour guide, is "rapidly yielding to civilization." I'm pretty sure that guy's completely insane, because in the very next panel he tells Jimmy that the rhinocerous and lion Jimmy's looking at "are so used to tourists they've become half tame!"

Now while his argument may hold water in the cheerier comic book version of, say, Rwanda, I'm just imagining the kid in 1958 who read that lions and rhinoceri were no longer a threat and ended up getting mauled at the zoo that summer. That thought, friends, is worth two-fifty alone. And it just gets better from there.

While Jimmy and Pipes McWhiterson are rolling through the jungle, a giant golden ape busts onto the scene and starts causing trouble, especially when they find out that bullets bounce right off. Cue Superman, who reasons that the monkey, hereafter referred to as "King Krypton," was a test monkey for the Krypton space program, blown to Earth during the explosion. He starts copying Superman, even going so far ast to steal the guy's cape, and we can't be having that, now can we?

So Jimmy and Cracker McCorncob go looking for some Kryptonite in the jungle, instead finding the ruins of an ancient Roman arena (!) and a "wild tribe" made up of "descendants of the ancient Romans, who reverted to jungle natives" (!!), armed with Kyrptonite spears (!!!). They decide, of course, to have Superman and King Krypton fight to the death in the arena. Then the giant ape sacrifices his own life to save Superman from a huge chunk of kryptonite, revealing that he's actually a Kryptonian scientist devolved to a gorilla who was then shot into space in the hopes that cosmic rays would transform him back.

And there are still two more stories.

The second piece, a Flash story featuring Super-Gorilla Grodd making a nuisance of himself and not threatening to eat anyone, isn't as good, but following up the story of Superman and a monkey battling to death in an ancient Roman-African Arena, what would be?

The third story, though... Now here's some high comedy. It involves Batman and Robin facing off against "the most bizarre opponent of their careers," Gorilla Boss, a mobster who has his brain transplanted into the body of a giant monkey on the night of his execution. Despite a Nefarious Plot™ to put Batman's brain into the Gorilla's body after he goes on a crime-spree, everything works out okay when Batman realizes that the Gorilla's only stealing cash in thousand-dollar bills, the mobster's trademark.

You know, even with the trend of nostalgia sweeping through comics these days, you don't see Gorilla Boss too much anymore. That can probably be attributed to the fact that his real name is "Boss Dyke."

Now I'm not sure how they rolled back in the '50s, but in some circles today, that has an entirely different meaning. And they just won't stop saying it, either, to the point of hilarity. My personal favorite usage:

"The gorilla--I mean, Dyke--has only been workin' a week."

Seriously, there is no price too high for that kind of comedy.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What an Incredible Smell You've Discovered!

This should come as no surprise to anyone, but on the list of things I love, pie comes in pretty high on the list. In fact, during the course of our three-year relationship, pie consistently ranked higher than my ex-girlfriend Melanie, which is something I'd tell her every now and then.

I'm pretty sure that was a contributing factor in the break-up.

Regardless, when I get some pie, it is on til the break of dawn, and I love it in all its forms. In fact, I may actually be the only person alive who would stop in the middle of a carefully-planned crime and drop everything if offered a delicious Hostess Fruit Pie. They are delicious.

That's why I rolled past my friendly neighborhood McDonald's the other day and bought myself a couple of their Baked Apple Pies. I wasn't that hungry, and would've gone with only one, but it is physically impossible to by one pie from a fast food restaurant these days. So I get my pies and lean in for the first whiff of hot, apple-cinnamon joy, and get a noseful of scrambled eggs instead.

Now I'm not exactly sure how you can make a bag of apple pies smell like my least-favorite breakfast food, but McDonald's somehow managed.

But by God, that didn't stop me from eating them.

The Week In Ink, 11-9-05

Before I get around to reviewing this week's comics, let's talk about Batman for a minute.

For the past few days, I've been re-pricing the back issue stock. I'm only a few boxes in, but today I was getting through Batman and found some amazing covers, including this awesome one that might've inspired the cover to Guardian #3. I don't know about you, but when I see a super-hero standing on top of the world taking on all comers, I get excited.

And that's before we even hear about the 1976 Underworld Olympics.

Eventually, I found myself looking at the first appearance of Black Mask, which has a cover blurb describing him as a new villain for the 80s that was "Crazier than the Joker!" and "Deadlier than Ra's Al-Ghul!" Well, I hate to be picky, but I'm going to have to call Shenanigans on that one, since not five minutes before, I saw this:

This guy?  Frigg'n nuts.Sorry, Black Mask. I realize that you probably have some severe emotional problems, but the Joker is a guy who baked a giant cake in the shape of his own head, crucified four people on top of it, and set them on fire, all while wearing a three-piece purple suit. You are not going to out-crazy him.

Now let's get to the new books.

ABC A-Z: Greyshirt & Cobweb: You know what I love? Lesbians. And on that account, this book delivers. I was hoping for a little more from the Greyshirt entry, since his story in Tomorrow Stories #2 is one of my favorites of the run, but it's more than made up for by the Cobweb section. It's laid out as a pin-up calendar with Melinda Gebbie's great stylized artwork, and while it's a little hard to read sometimes with small white text on a light background, it's otherwise a real treat. It's fun, and it's all wrapped up in a nice Terry Dodson cover.

Action Comics #833: I wasn't too thrilled with this one right up until the last couple of pages, when Gail Simone starts dropping the names of Kryptonian fables. That was a very well-done touch, and it really got me interested. As far as the art goes, I stood in a freezing parking lot with Chad until a quarter to one this morning, talking about the conflicts of Superman's origin, and the fact that John Byrne drew some John Byrne-style Kryptonian clothes when that's maybe not the way it works anymore isn't helping matters. But, you know, he's John Byrne. He's probably going to reference his own continuity.

Army of Darkness #2: Now am I crazy, or did this come out last week? Either way, I'm apparently still purchasing it. Huh. Serves me right, I guess.

Suitable for framing.The Breach #11: I've been saying it for months now, but Marcos Martin's art is beautiful. That cover alone is fantastic: striking and iconic for a character that's less than a year old and that only Josh and I seem to care about. But alas, it's the cover for the last issue, which didn't tie in to the first issue's opening as much as I wanted it to. It did, however, have a great ending, and there's a teaser that the Breach will appear in Infinite Crisis. I have an elaborate theory that involves him saving the world like Barry Allen, using all of his quantum energy and leaving behind only his containment suit, but I get the feeling it's going to be more like Phil Jiminez drawing him reacting to an explosion in the corner of a panel. Still, it'll be nice to see him again.

Conan #21: Finally! Thanks to a shipping error, I've been waiting three weeks to see two guys in loincloths climb a wall! ...Well, you know what I mean. On a serious note, while Conan is one of my favorite comics with stellar writing, art, and coloring, Jim and Ruth Keegan's "Adventures of Two-Gun Bob" strips in the letter column--true stories of Robert E. Howard's life--are always immensely entertaining. I don't know if they get reprinted in the trades, but they're well worth picking up. Especially the one where Howard accidentally shoots himself in the leg with a cheap pistol.

House of W Begins Here!DMZ #1: Since everybody and their mother seems to be totally in love with Brian Wood, I figured I should probably give him another shot. My previous experience with him was the six-issue Vertigo mini-series Fight For Tomorrow, which I'll just go ahead and call "probably not his best work." A shame, since it combined martial arts and Badass Panel Artist Denys "The Menys" Cowan. I like DMZ much better, although I keep expecting Donald Pleasance pop out with a submachine gun screaming "YOU'RE THE DUKE OF NEW YORK! A-NUMBER-ONE!"

Despite that, Wood and penciller Riccardo Burchielli deliver a pretty solid first issue. The premise is intriguing, but it seems like it could easily lend itself to heavy-handed political commentary, something it flirts with briefly in this one, which is a trap I hope Wood avoids. Good, entertaining stuff.

Ghost Rider #3

You guys might want to move.Gotham Central #37: Over the past few years, it's become clear to me that living in Gotham City is a lot like spending 20 years working as a fry cook for Denny's. People may wonder why the hell you stay there, but by God, everybody knows you're tough. That said, it's obvious that the GCPD was unprepared to deal with the Rock of Eternity showing up, exploding, and raining fiery death from the sky. They're undermanned and ill-equipped, and you have to wonder why FEMA wasn't called in immediately. And I think we all know the answer to that one. George W. Bush does not care about Bat-people.

Infinite Crisis #2: Yep, there it is. Remember what I said last month about the variant covers? Yeah, it still applies.

JLA #122

New Thunderbolts #15

Teen Titans #29: You guys may be getting tired of seeing Wonder Woman snap Max Lord's neck in every single DC comic, but me? I'm sick of seeing Jason Todd rip his clothes off, only to reveal an entirely new and different costume underneath. He's like a fucking Russian nesting doll, that guy. Yeesh.

Thor: Blood Oath #4: You know, after the all-out god-on-god slugfest that was last issue, Thor and the Warriors Three stealing a spear named Slaughter from a cauldron of boiling blood seems like a breather. Well, right up until that last page. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite mini-series in recent memory.

The Walking Dead #23

Y: The Last Man #39: You know what I love? Lesbians.

And that's how I bring it full-circle.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Where A Kid Can Be A Kid

The Wednesday lunch is a hallowed tradition down at Wizards and Villains. We eat just after we've finished getting the new comics into subscriptions and out on the wall, so it makes for a good break after a hard morning's work, and that heady feeling of accomplishment combined with the scent of four-color ink really makes for an appetizing sensation. Believe it.

So to celebrate finally moving to the New Store, Tug suggested that we have a series of special-occasion style lunches at places we don't usually hit up. Last week, it was a trip across town to a nice Chinese place for hot tea and lunch specials. And this week... This week was Chuck E. Cheese.

Incidentally, the tentative plan for next week is Hooters, which is pretty much Chuck E. Cheese for adults, but with worse food and no animatronics. They do, however, have a highly detailed employee handbook.

But back to the lecture at hand. Chuck E. Cheese's: Where a kid can be a kid. Or, at the very least, where three guys in their early twenties can go to play King of Fighters and get creeped out by cockeyed robots. Tug, Josh and I rolled in on a school day in the middle of the afternoon, thus ensuring that we were pretty much the only folks in the place. It didn't make it any less sad. We settled on our order, grabbed a handful of tokens, and ventured in, killing time until the slightly creepy stage show started.

We walked through the restaurant looking for a table.

"Get one so we can see the show," said Tug, as he filled his cup with orange soda for the full Chuck E. Cheese experience.

"Well do you want a table or a booth?"

"Just get one so we can see the show. They have booths over there."

You can know someone for three years and not realize the passion they have for animatronic mice in tuxedos.

394,000 points are you are MINE, Smarties®.After we settled on a table in full view of the stage, Josh went straight for Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, while I sought out a surface that was not covered in the grease of a thousand children's birthday parties. I settled on Skee-Ball, netting myself four tickets for my efforts. That works out to three quarters of a Smartie®, .02% of a Batman action figure, or .0013% of a Super Soaker. The world is my oyster.

I decided it would be prudent to save the tickets, and we rolled back to the table to await the show, which they had told us started every ten minutes. What we got, though, was a set full of silent robotic animals jerking and clicking in the shadows. There was apparently a glitch in the system, and for the few minutes while we waited for them to fix it, we got an extremely creepy show that, if filmed and played backwards, would terrify a grown man into four years of intense Adlerian therapy.

What made it even scarier was the fact that Helen Henny's right eyelid was stuck, giving her the look of a one-eyed, deadly silent five foot-tall robotic chicken who would occasionally jerk her head loudly to look directly at me, winking with her good eye.


Also, as we waited, we caught sight of a couple of Chuck's employees doing some repairs on one of the rides. It was a miniaturized version of a monster truck, the kind you'd see outside a K-Mart or something, and to our surprise, they had the hood opened and were peering down into it like mechanics from some race of giants. Tug said it was the cutest thing he'd ever seen.

Finally, we were treated to the world-famous Chuck E. Cheese song and dance show. Well, not dancing, really, but as good as you'll get from animatronics owned by a pizza chain. The Hall of Presidents, it is not.

One thing that raised our eyebrows was that they introduced Chuck as "the world's favorite mouse." What, really? Because there's this other guy I've heard of that might have you beat.

The other strange thing was the music. Admittedly, I haven't been an eight year-old for some time now, but are The Kids These Days™ really into music from decades before they were born? Chuck and the Get Fresh Crew (which is seriously what they should consider renaming his band) opened up with a cover of Elton John's 1972 hit "Crocodile Rock," and followed it up with Helen Henny (who not only physically resembles my grandmother, but also shares her name) making an appeal to the nonexistant crowd for "an 80s song!"

Still, it was a pretty fun time, but nothing beats the moment as we headed for the door when we realized that a giant mechanical rat was singing Men At Work's "Who Can It Be Now?"

Yes. With the horns and all.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

TV Party Tonight

You know what? TV's really good again.

I realize that I'm a little late with this stunning revelation, but just bear with me. There's a lot of punching going on in comics, and I can't get to everything when it's topical. But still, for the first time in a long while, there's a lot of TV going on that I want to see.

They've played TWO Jerry Reed songs so far.As Scott said a few days ago, Tuesday is the new Sunday, and it now has my favorite three-hour TV rock block. The whole thing starts off on NBC with My Name is Earl, which is unquestionably the best new show of the season, a fact which was confirmed by the Smokey and the Bandit-themed episode that aired tonight. I've been a fan of Jason Lee ever since I saw Mallrats when I was 13, and although he's made a few choices I don't agree with, he's great in the role. Ethan Suplee (who makes the whole thing a weird kind of 'Rats Reunion, I guess) is also great as Earl's brother Randy, and his speech about the differences between women and men is not to be missed. He also delivers my absolute favorite line in the series: "It's the army of Karma! Made up of people from every nation!" Jaime Pressly and Nadine Velazquez round out the regular cast and are thoroughly enjoyable.

And of course, there's Crabman.

Earl is followed up by the American version of one of my favorite comedies of all time, The Office. I'm a pretty big fan of Steve Carrell, but I didn't care for the first season, which came off as far too derrivative of the original. This year, though, it's really come into its own, and for the past four weeks, it's been incredible. On last week's, they even made not one, but two jokes about Karate Kid, thus ensuring that they have my undying loyalty forever.

It's amazing that those two shows are made by the same network that airs the bottomlessly awful Will & Grace. Yeesh.

As an interesting note, series creator and star of the BBC Office Ricky Gervais serves as an executive producer on the US version, but I'm not sure how involved he is in the series, since he's doing a new show called Extras for the BBC and HBO. Between the new DVR and getting HBO On Demand, I have been able to bend television to my will, and no longer have to watch anything unless I'm damn well ready to watch it. Over the past week, I've used my new television-based superpowers to catch up on Extras where Gervais plays a professional movie extra. Each episode features a celebrity guest star playing themselves, and it's phenomenal.

Anyway, once those two are over, I skip over to ABC for the new season of Boston Legal. Longtime ISB readers will recall that, due mainly to Scott's nigh-fanatical devotion to David E. Kelly, I love this show so much that I've had parties about it. Now granted, there were only two attendees at said party, but I did some drinking and I think I sang a song, so it counts. Now if only I could remember it was on...

The new season--while oddly full of costumes--has recently picked up, and on tonight's episode, William Shatner's character called a judge a "douchebag," and then kneecapped a child-rapist with his nine mili.

Denny Crane.

Then it's eleven, and it's time for the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, which cap off the three best hours of television during the week. It's pretty amazing.

A few more notes on TV:

Arrested Development is back on the air finally, after being displaced for a month by sports. Attention, Fox: I have no need of sports. I have need of the Bluth Family and their Wacky Hijinks™. Also, I have no need of Bill O'Reilly. As a representative of the 18-25 demographic, I'd be far more likely to watch his show if it was hosted instead by Jeffrey Tambor. Just sayin'.

Another new show that Tug likes a lot is How I Met Your Mother, which is pretty much standard sitcom fare, with two exceptions. First, it's narrated by foulmouthed comedian and teller of the best joke in the world, Bob Saget. And secondly, it features NPH himself in the role of Barney. It's not a great show, but Barney's a fun character and the cast is pretty talented.

But as for right now, I see Adam Corolla on my television, which means it's probably time to go to bed.

Settle Down, Lois

Earlier today, we were filling out the back issue wall at work, and I had occasion to go through all the old issues of Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane, and through all those covers, there's one unifying theme:

Lois Lane needs to calm her ass down.

There's a lot made of Superman's reprehensible behavior back in the day, but honestly, you'd turn on your friends too if they acted like Lois and Jimmy did. Every couple months, Jimmy's ordering his new eight-wheeled motorcycle gang to run you down or torturing you to find out your secret identity, and Lois? Heck...

Fur is murder, Lois.If she's not going back in time to ruin your childhood romance...

To be fair, she did provide a basket......trying to decapitate you...

The impossible?  She tried to cut off his head!...or getting so mad that she breaks up with you by ripping through the fourth wall, then she's probably doing something really weird.

You know.

Like this:

Yikes.  Just yikes.Now that's not to say she didn't have a good reason for it.

Between getting slapped around by Superman's mom...

Just look at him....and Superman's shocking behavior at her wedding, she's bound to have a lot of repressed rage.

That last one, by the way, is my personal favorite. Superman's in a church, with his feet kicked up, shrugging nochanlantly with a smug smile as Lois marries God-knows-what.

"Well, I guess I could stop the wedding, Lois, but there's that whole thing where you tried to chop my head off that one time... Sooooooo, yeah, that's a no."

Special Bonus Cover

She's got them devil-eyes.Oh, Lois. You're playin' with the Queen of Hearts... knowin' it ain't really smart.

And that, children, is what we call a joke I couldn't resist.