Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Night Thinking #170

Nothing says "insanity" like Silver Age Superman comics! This is Thursday Night Thinking!

Here's the thing: during the Silver Age Lois was a terrible person. But that's okay, because Superman was even worse. I imagine this whole sham marriage to "Clark Kent" is just a twisted trick on the part of Superman to teach Lois a valuable lesson.

Such is the Silver Age.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Bad Kind of Retcon

So I checked out the first issue of David Finch's The Dark Knight today. Mostly it was okay. The art wasn't bad and the story might have potential.

But I still have a serious bone to pick with this comic. Before I get to that, however, let me say something: I'm not opposed to retcons. Some of my favorite comic book stories involve retcons. But there is a time for and a type of retcon that is acceptable. Dark Knight #1 doesn't have that type of retcon.

Let me take you back to a similar retcon. Recall, if you will, Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's wildly popular run on Batman. Remember when Tommy Elliot showed up? Remember how it was suddenly "revealed" that not only were Tommy and Bruce friends as children but best friends? Remember how Tommy Elliot was given an oversized importance on Bruce Wayne's childhood even though nobody had ever heard of him before?

That's the kind of retcon I'm talking about. That's what we get again in The Dark Knight. The sudden revelation that Bruce Wayne was friends with a girl named "Dawn Golden" as a child. Not only that, but they were best friends. Even more than that she was his first love. Heady stuff, no?

No. This is the bad kind of retcon. There are hundreds of characters in Batman's past that can make for a good story. Hundreds of villains and girlfriends who were throwaways just waiting to be used again. They have histories with Batman already. They don't need to be manufactured.

That is the problem with this sort of retcon. When a character's relationship with another character is important we see it develop and grow over time. Bruce Wayne's relationship with Alfred is important because it has built over time. On the villain side his relationship with Two-Face is the same way.

No more Tommy Elliots. No more Dawn Goldens. They're the wrong kind of retcon.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Party Time

Ahh, late December. My favorite time of year. Sunny skies and warmth. At least when you live in California. Usually.

I'm afraid that this bout of unexpected rain is partly my fault. You see, I had a party last week and invited some of my villain friends. One thing leads to another and someone is drunk with a weather machine. This is the sort of thing that happens when mad scientists get together.

I'll often hold soirees for the other villains. My place is the nicest and most of the others wouldn't be able to put on a good party even if you threatened them with imminent destruction.

There are some exceptions, of course. Black Manta is an excellent cook, but if you don't like sashimi you won't find much to your liking at one of his get togethers. Dr. Domino usually orders out for his food, but his cocktails are to die for. You haven't lived until you've tasted one of his patented "Cloudburst Formulas."

Of course, there is the other side to the equation. Some of my fellow villains aren't quite so chummy. Lex Luthor can put on an incredible show, he just never invites anyone. He thinks he's better than the rest of us, you see.

Vandal Savage's meals are as undercooked as Black Manta's. And I'm sure they were considerably more intelligent than even the dolphin Manta serves. Don't eat with Vandal Savage.

Of course, none of you will ever be invited to a villain party to begin with. You must be of a very exclusive club to receive such an invite. And even if you did come we'd never hear about it. Because you'd never be heard from again.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Some Advice From One Who Knows

As you all know, my successor's solo title Azrael has been cancelled as of #18. This was not a big surprise; I've been anticipating it for quite a while now. Still, there are a number of lessons that can be learned from this.

1. Stop Making Random Heroes Legacy Characters: What I mean is that the successor should have some sort of connection to the original character. I've never met Michael Lane. I've never heard of the "Order of Purity." Where's the Order of St. Dumas? Where is the vengeful spirit of St. Dumas himself? And where is the sketchy religious technobabble?

Without these vital connections a new character might as well be... A new character. And we know that new characters with not relation to established ones usually fail.

2. Don't Launch Random Ongoing Titles: DC and Marvel both have a problem with this. They launch a bunch of titles without testing the waters and almost seem surprised when they fail. Say what you will about my series, but at least I was around before they launched it. In fact, I was bouncing around the Batbooks for years before they gave me my own title.

Instead, try going the route they originally went with Birds of Prey. Launch a few miniseries. If the first few are successful then try another one. Eventually if you find the audience then you can try an ongoing.

3. Run Superstars: What I mean is that you should launch a big series with a superstar creator or two. You can't just throw anybody on the credits line and make it sell. Take Batman and Robin. Sure, it's You-Know-Who. But Grant Morrison helped a little bit. DC seems to be learning this lesson: they're got Frazer Irving doing the art for the XOMBI relaunch.

If publishers would take these to heart, then maybe tragedies like Azrael could be avoided.


Sunday, December 26, 2010


I had a delightful Christmas, and one of my the big gifts I received is the fantastic DC Comics: Year by Year, a "visual chronicle" that covers the entire seventy-five year history of DC Comics.

It's a beautiful book, and I'm slowly making my way through DC's history and learning something along the way. In the process I've come across something that will make somebody very happy.

I had just reached the entry for November, 1955 where Detective Comics #225 is discussed. The key point about Detective #225 is that it features the first appearance of Martian Manhunter. While reading the entry my mouth dropped open at these words:

"Now stuck on Earth, J'onn observed the culture and created the identity of John Jones, a crime fighter and investigator in Apex City."

The existence of an Apex City has previously been proposed. But now we have confirmation from an official DC publications proving that Martian Manhunter really did reside in Apex City.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Night Thinking #169

Welcome again to Thursday Night Thinking.

This week's Superman cover has seen better days. There's a bit of vandalism, but that doesn't keep Superman from thinking!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Sweet Spot

Okay, I've got a serious problem with all these Batmen. Specifically, the two main Batmen: Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. Batman being Batman, one or the other shows up in a lot of different comics.

The problem is, they're so similar that sometimes it's hard to tell them apart. I know I should be checking the gloves or the symbol. But instead, whenever I want to figure out which Batman I'm looking at my eyes go to the crotch.

It's kind of funny, really. The fact that Dick Grayson wears trunks and Bruce Wayne doesn't is one of the key differences. But it still feels kind of weird for me to always be looking at Batman's groin...


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

March 2011 Solicitations

And here I thought since there's a holiday this coming weekend there wouldn't be any comic news to talk about. Luckily, the March solicitations are out!

First of all: Azrael got cancelled. I think we all knew that was coming. I'm just surprised it took so long. I'm sure my co-blogger will have more to say about that later in the week. Now on with the show!
Written by PETER J. TOMASI
1:10 Variant cover by TYLER KIRKHAM & BATT
In “War of the Green Lanterns” part 3, it’s the main event! Guy Gardner vs. Hal Jordan – winner take all!
Retailers please note: This issue will ship with two covers. Please see the Previews Order Form for more information.
On sale MARCH 30 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
"War of the Green Lanterns," huh? I think I remember hearing about that, but DC doesn't seem to be pushing it the same way they did with Blackest Night and Brightest Day. I will say this, though: if anyone is going to win a war between the Green Lanterns of Earth it's going to be this Guy:

Hal Jordan doesn't stand a chance.
Written by JOHN ROZUM
Art and cover by FRAZER IRVING
1:10 Variant cover by BRENDAN MCCARTHY
You can’t keep a good XOMBI down! The immortal David Kim – kept “alive” by nanotech enhancements – returns to the DC Universe in a new ongoing series! Creator John Rozum and hot BATMAN AND ROBIN artist Frazer Irving team up to deliver the finest in contemporary urban horror – with a Super Hero twist! As an undying, unchanging Xombi, David Kim must watch the world consume itself and burn while humanity grows more distant from each other due to the rise of technology. What would a Xombi do just to feel change again? And where will he ever be able to find a kindred soul?
On sale MARCH 16 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
I've expressed my love of the previous XOMBI before. I can't say much more than that here. But I do want to urge everyone who has a few extra bucks to at least try XOMBI #1. I really don't want this book to be canceled early. I want it to get at least two years. Maybe more. Give it a shot!
Written by GAIL SIMONE
This is it! The astonishing conclusion to “The Death of Oracle,” featuring nearly everyone whose life has been touched by Oracle – villain and hero! How will the DCU operate without its premier infojock, and how will this event affect the Birds of Prey? All this, plus a fan-favorite operative works with the Birds for the first time ever!
On sale MARCH 9 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Okay, a few things: what is Barbara wearing? Could the "fan-favorite" be one of my favorites? And what exactly is Gail Simone planning with this book? When Birds of Prey came back I expected it to be pretty similar to what came before. But it hasn't been. It's been different, in a good way. And if Cassandra Cain shows up? All the better.
Lex Luthor has left no stone unturned in his quest for the Black Lantern energy, but he’s not the only one searching for it – Brainiac wants the energy and the knowledge it offers all to himself. Trust us, this is gonna be the most vicious Luthor/Brainiac team-up ever. It all sets the stage for both a conclusion and a beginning in next month’s historic ACTION COMICS #900, featuring the return of you-know-who…
On sale MARCH 30 • 32 pg, FC $2.99 US
Is this the end for the greatest villain of them all? If this is the end of Lex Luthor's story in Action I'll be okay with that. But honestly? I want the April solicitations to offer up Lex Luthor #1 written by Paul Cornell. Make it happen, DC.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Strange Apparel

I was doing some Christmas shopping today when I came upon a rack of DC t-shirts. I always like to look through those as I have a tendency to buy and wear them (still looking for a good Aquaman shirt).

Anyway, I stumbled across one of the most bizarre DC shirts I've ever seen. Usually super-hero shirts are one of three kinds: they're either the hero's logo, a shot of the hero/heroes, or less often an image of an actual comic book cover.

But today I saw a shirt that had an actual page from a comic. But it wasn't some really iconic or famous image. It was the scene from Blackest Night where "Batman" is brought back to life and everybody waves their hands and something bad happens.

It's a really weird subject for a shirt. It's got all these little boxes of heroes looking on in wonder/confusion/horror at the Black Lantern "Batman" but no caption boxes or word balloons. I mean, I can see such a shirt possibly selling in a comic book niche market. But I saw this at a Target.

I don't think the general public is in the market for a zombie Batman shirt. But then, considering fashion trends in recent years I may be wrong. I mean, when did it become acceptable to wear sweatpants everywhere all the time?

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Night Thinking #168

Welcome... To Thursday Night Thinking!

There are some who think Lois Lane should get her own comic series. Not a bad idea; she's a compelling character and one of the best in all of comics.

And if they did give us a Lois Lane series I imagine it wouldn't be much like the original...

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I've Been Reading Hellboy Again...

And I'd forgotten how much I love the guy.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Five Years


I regret to say that due to a minor illness I completely spaced on the fortuitous event that occurred yesterday (apparently my memory is as spotty as Azrael's). What might that have been?

It was the five year anniversary of this blog.

As far as I'm concerned, that's quite a milestone. I never expected that I'd still be writing for this thing after a few years. I never could have expected that I'd continue to enjoy it as much as I still do.

I know I don't blog as regularly as I might have in the past. That's my fault and it comes with being a graduate student and all the time sinks inherent in such an enterprise.

That said, I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their encouragement and comments over the years. I wouldn't enjoy it (and probably couldn't continue) if I didn't know that there were those of you out there who enjoyed reading. Your comments mean a lot to me. A lot.

This is usually the sort of occasion where a blogger will announce his or her intention for a hiatus or retirement. But how could I do a thing like that? Even if I falter or stall, I want to try and keep this thing going for another five years.

Here's to the future!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Memory Lapse

It's true that sometimes my memory isn't quite what it should be. Behavior modification and sleepless nights haunted by the spirit of a long dead pseudo-saint will do that to a person. But I still don't remember things going down quite like this.

Again, this could all be a lapse in my memory. But I don't remember burning up on the top of a building (I really think I'd remember that). I do seem to recall a climactic confrontation in the Batcave, culminating in the restoration of the Mantle of the Bat to the one, true Batman.

Still, it could be that it didn't happen that way. Things are a little fuzzy from my Batman time. And then there's the whole retroactive continuity thing thanks to the various Crises. Perhaps my origins have changed and I'm not really the descendant of a long line of avenging angels. Or maybe things are exactly the same and it's just my memory that has been doing the retcons.

My head hurts.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

A Few Helpful Hints for Villains

I am pleased to see that there are still those that understand the importance of "a perpetual air of menace."

As Mr. Bondurant notes, the villains of today seem to be lacking the ability to express such menace. I myself am well schooled in the art of menace and willing to offer my services to the villain community -- free of charge -- in order that we might have more menacing villains. Consider the following suggestions:

1. Announce your intentions. Too often today villains attempt to cloak themselves in secrecy. They think that if they rob a bank at night when no one is around then they will not be caught. Perhaps. More likely, they will have to deal with Batman. But if you wish to build your aura of menace, it is better to announce your plans beforehand.

Now, I'm not saying that one should specify your crime. Merely make it clear that on such and such a day you will engage in an act of villainy. Without further information the populace will be on edge, dreading the moment (but not knowing the location) you will strike. Voila! Instant menace!

2. Cultivate a reputation. There is a reason that Lex Luthor instills such menace. He has a reputation. Not simply for dueling Superman (more on that later), but for engaging in spectacular acts of villainy.

Here is what I mean: to cultivate an air of menace one must got beyond petty criminality. Simply robbing banks is not sufficient to create a menacing reputation. Wanton acts of destruction are not much better. Your plans and schemes should be over the top! Cultivate a theme. In doing so, the masses will remember your name... And be menaced!

3. Acquire an Archenemy. Heroes are remembered because they often have a clear cut nemesis. Try to do the same! Pick a well known hero and make it known that only he or she can stop you. If the regular authorities are seen as powerless, your menace level will increase exponentially.

I hope these ideas are helpful for the aspiring super-villains out there. Remember: it is not enough to engage in acts of villainy. For menace, one must be villainy!


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thursday Night Thinking #167

This is Thursday Night Thinking!

There are a lot of places in comics where one can find weirdness. But for pure, unadulterated insanity there is no place quite like the Silver Age comics of Superman!

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010


I've seen a lot of stupid mistakes in comic book art over the years. From "Luthor" spelled "Luther" to Alan Scott being depicted as right-handed. But this? This, my friends, takes the cake:

That image is from this year's DC Universe Holiday Special. Specifically, the Jonah Hex Hanukkah story. It's a pretty good story all things considered. It includes Jonah Hex doing what he does best while also giving us one of those tantalizing glimpses at what makes Jonah Hex tick.

Anyway, the story gets kicked off when a Jewish father and son are ambushed by bandits on the first night of Hanukkah. Since this is a Jonah Hex story, the father most certainly dies. The image above is from the end of the story where the boy finally gets the chance to bury his father and say proper Jewish rites over the grave.

Think about that for a second. Then look at the picture again. Go ahead, take your time. Then come back. See the problem yet?

Okay, here's the issue: if this is a Hanukkah story where one of the central conceits is that a boy wants to give his father a proper Jewish burial then why in the name of all that's holy is he buried under a freakin' cross?

I have no doubt that this was one of those situations where an artist and writer got their signals crossed. Such things happen. But, you know, this is why they've got editors. So they can edit out these kinds of mistakes.

At least, I assume it's a mistake. As I am not Jewish, I may be missing something of deep significance and have simply made myself look the fool. But I doubt it.

I like the idea of celebrating all faiths and customs more or less equally in these kinds of specials. But in order to do that the people making them need to avoid stupid mistakes like this one. Try harder, everyone. I know you can do it.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Vote More

Newsarama is doing one of those pointless "favorite artist/writer/whatever" polls. These polls are always pointless. Still, I want you to go vote for one of your favorite writers.

Okay, so that's not entirely true. I want you to go vote for one of my favorite writers. Who may or may not be one of yours. You see, Paul Cornell of Lex Luthor's Action Comics and Knight & Squire is in the running in round 1a. And he's up against Grant Morrison.

Now, Paul Cornell is currently losing by about a thousand votes. So what I say here won't make much difference. But it will make my position abundantly clear. I assert that Grant Morrison is overrated, and that Paul Cornell is one of the best writers in comics today.

It is true that Morrison is "known" and that he writes a lot of stuff that's "hip" and "edgy." But you know what he also writes? A lot of stuff that you need some sort of philosophy degree to enjoy. And even when you do enjoy it you only seem to enjoy it on some sort of intellectual level.

You know what kinds of comics Paul Cornell writes? Viscerally fun super-hero comics. Stories about brain-eating super-gorillas and iambic pentametering clones of British monarchs. Paul Cornell's comics don't try to do whatever it is that Grant Morrison's comics do. Paul Cornell just writes comics that are amazingly entertaining.

So if you want to vote for a slightly mad Briton, vote for the guy who has written for Doctor Who. Because Paul Cornell deserves it for that alone.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

XOMBI Can't Be Killed

Has anyone out there read the Milestone comic XOMBI? I obviously didn't catch it in its original run (I wasn't reading comics then) but I did manage to read it later down the line. Written by John Rozum, it was the story of medical researcher David Kim who -- after a bizarre incident of the kind we only find in comic books -- is transformed into an unkillable immortal. In the comic they say that he is a "xombi" and he almost immediately becomes a magnet for some supernatural stuff so crazy it might make the Spectre blush.

I ask only because XOMBI is coming back.

Now, we've known for a while that XOMBI was returning (John Rozum said so on his blog a while back) but details were pretty scarce. Now we know that none other than superstar Frazer Irving (!) will be handling art duties on the book for returning writer John Rozum.

Why, exactly, is this all important? Mainly because XOMBI was a really good comic book.

The book holds up really well even after all this time. It's the story about a man who gets thrown into a world that he really wanted no part of. And even though the Source post says that "David Kim is not a hero" it's wrong. Because even though David never asked to be what he became and didn't want any part of it... When the fate of the world was on the line he always stepped up. There's a reason in an alternate timeline he became a Green Lantern because he was "the most worthy man alive."

There is a long tradition in superhero comics of people being saddled with powers and abilities they never asked for. Sometimes they lash out. Sometimes they whine about. And sometimes they turn what seems like a tragedy... And try to make the world a better place.

So basically what I'm saying her is give XOMBI a shot. If this new incarnation is half as good as the old one it'll be great. It's good to see that after all these years David Kim is still kicking...


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thursday Night Thinking #166

Once again... Thursday Night Thinking!

This week has pretty well worn me out, so I don't have much to say. Luckily, this thought needs no introduction!

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I Love Trash

Curse the holidays! I didn't realize until I got to the comic book store today that comics are delayed. I can only assume that this is because of the festivals and making merry of the previous week. Was it worth it? I can't see how.

Without new comics, what can I talk about? How about this: I think I might buy Weird Worlds just for the "Garbage Man" story.

I don't know why, but I've always enjoyed the "monster as hero" tales, which is exactly how Aaron Lopresti describes his Garbage Man character. It seems that in some ways they're trying to use him as a replacement for Swamp Thing (who appears to still be trapped in the Vertigo ghetto).

Now, I haven't read much Swamp Thing stuff, as I'm firmly entrenched in the DCU and Swamp Thing hasn't been a real part of it for a long time. But I've always been intrigued by the character and had been meaning to look into more stories. I got a taste of the character with the Swamp Thing/Batman story from Batman: Hidden Treasures and I really enjoyed it. The "misunderstood monster" is a character we haven't seen much in recent years and there's still a lot that can be done with it.

Will Lopresti's Garbage Man fill that slot? I believe Lopresti said that Garbage Man would be meeting Batman early on. Done right, Garbage Man could be a fresh and interesting addition to the DC Universe.

Okay, maybe "fresh" isn't the best word. But you know what I mean...

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