Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Champions Project: Moondragon #2

Moondragon #2: The Strange Secret of Tommy Callahan!

Big splash page. Six orangutans wearing suicide bomber vests stand atop two Studebakers that they’ve crashed into the front of a chain diner. They wear hardhats with small speakers mounted on either side. The speakers yell: “HEE-WACK! EVERYBODY DIES NOW!” Alice and Moondragon are in the foreground. Alice says “Tommy?”

Captions on the page read: “The place: South Bend, Indiana! The situation: Suicide-bombing apes! The time left before everybody dies: Two seconds!

The next page is a series of panels, each one with a wee “ticking clock” showing how much of those two seconds are left. Moondragon tries to “push” the apes away with telekinesis, but finds she can’t. They have some sort of mental “fuzz” around them that prevents her getting a firm “mental grip.” Instead, she mentally grabs the people in the diner and flings all of them, and herself, outside.

The timer in the captions hits zeroes. The diner explodes. The people, however, are safe on the opposite side of the parking lot.

The folks pick themselves up, confusion all over their faces. Moondragon thinks it over for a moment, then yells “Amazing! We were all blown clear!” Her narration explains that she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself, and such a ruse was easy enough. The diner patrons and staff are too stunned by events to think about how absurd that would be.

We see Moondragon and Alice get into Alice’s car. In the background we can see police cars and fire trucks. “That was one hell of a thing,” Alice says. “What’re the odds of that happening? Phew! We are the luckiest--”

Moondragon interrupts her. “Who is Tommy?”

Alice looks confused and fidgety. “ Tommy Callahan? We dated a couple of years ago.”

“And where is Tommy now?”

“Not real sure.”

“He’s tried to kill you twice in one day. Using apes.”

Alice looks shocked. “You think he’s tryin’ to kill me?”

Moondragon cannot hide her disgust at Alice’s combination of idiocy and denial. Her narration states, “I should leave her here. A man who goes far enough to train assassin apes is not going to stop with two failures. Letting her die could only be a boon to my species.”

Alice speaks again. “Heather? Can you help me?”

Moondragon sighs. Her narration reads “A psionic link between apes. Hm. If nothing else, I have to know.” Her dialogue reads, “Yes, I can help.”

The next morning, we see Alice’s hatchback pull up to a large fenced-in compound in the Indiana countryside. The fencing is twelve feet high and curves inward at the top. Inside the compound are two small houses, several sets of scaffolding standing by themselves, and a large Victorian manor house. Alice says, “His mom said he’s lived and worked here for over a year now.”

Moondragon’s narration says that her telepathic abilities detect nothing but the psychic “fuzz” that made the orangutans impossible to fling around. “This is it,” she says.

They approach the gate of the compound. “Uh…Heather?” Alice asks. “Is it such a smart idea for me to come along? I mean, he is trying to kill—“ She is cut off by the squeal of the gate opening. Pulling it open are a pair of orangutans.

Moondragon says nothing. Alice drives into the compound.

The car is met along the road by a collection of orangutans. Most are in some form of human garb—mechanic’s jumpsuit, tuxedo, a t-shirt saying “It’s Not a Bald Spot, It’s a Solar Panel for a Sex Machine,” etc.

“Get out,” says Moondragon. “We’re here.”

Alice and Moondragon get out of the car and survey the scene. Forty orangutans surround them. A loudspeaker atop a nearby house turns on. “Welcome, Alice! And your strange friend! You’ve made it so easy for me! Thank you so much! Shall I tear you apart now?” The orangutans look at the duo with identical expressions of bloodlust upon their faces.

“By Pama,” Moondragon says. “The apes…all share a single human mind. One consciousness spread across them all.”

Laughter comes from the speakers. “I don’t know how you can tell, but that’s right! Now die! Die at the hands of the Monkey Mind!” At this, the orangutans step as one towards the duo.

Alice screams real loud. Moondragon pulls off her wig and leaps at the nearest ape. “His link is strong. But I can sever it…” She lands in a handstand on one ape’s head. “If I can get close enough.” She vaults off the ape's head and lands in a crowd of them. The apes stop and look in unison at the one that Moondragon touched. Thirty-nine apes move as one. The other scratches himself, a quizzical look on his face. “Yes,” Moondragon thinks.

We then get a big action scene of her jumping and darting through the crowd of apes. Before long, she’s touched and mentally freed each one. (No, we don’t have to see all thirty-nine get freed.)

The work complete, Moondragon approaches the house with the speaker. She kicks down the door. Inside is a handsome man in a three-piece suit, sitting alone in a wingback chair. The man begins to speak. Moondragon ignores his words and stares at him with a furrowed brow. Then her narration says “Ha!”

She kicks him in the head. He falls over.

And his skull swings open on a hinge. The handsome man was a robot. Inside his head is a tiny cockpit. Strapped into its seat is a four-inch high ape-man. Moondragon pulls him out and holds him in her hand. “Hello, Tommy.”

Alice bursts into the scene. “TOMMY?” She sees the tiny ape-man and shrieks. “What happened?”

The ape-man squeaks “He said he’d fix me! He said he had a cure! He promised!”

Alice looks at Moondragon, confused. Moondragon leaves without a word, handing over Monkey Mind to Alice. She strides towards the manor house. On the porch is another man. He too is dressed in a three-piece suit.

This man, however, is anything but handsome. His features are disproportionate and non-symmetrical. Veins are visible through his skin. He drools a little.

“Hello, my dear lady,” the man says. “And who might you be?”

“I’ve destroyed your monkey handler,” she responds. “A sad little man.”

“Indeed he is,” the man replies, "though his talents are invaluable. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Warren Harding Jones. The Over-Man. Your master. And please do not try anything untoward, for I am more than equipped to kill both you and the troublesome Ms. Coughlin.”

Moondragon probes the man’s mind. And she begins to laugh.

The Over-Man lurches to his feet in a rage. “DO NOT LAUGH! I am the superior man! The product of generations of my family's scientific eugenical breeding! I am pure! I am greater than you! I am this world’s rightful master! I AM THE FUTURE!” With his last declaration, he produces a small revolver from his pocket and aims it at Moondragon.

“You,” says Moondragon, “are a pathetic, inbred little monster.”

Jones’s eyes fill with tears. “I will the right hand of the…of the…”

Moondragon projects her thoughts into his mind. ”You are less than nothing, you demented worm. I am the Dragon of the Moon!

Terror fills the few functional brain cells in Jones’s head. He runs inside his house, past Rube Goldberg devices and half-built, rusted-out robots.

We next see Alice enter the house. She finds Moondragon in the kitchen. Jones is on the floor of the kitchen, his head wrapped in aluminum foil. He rocks back and forth, clutching his shins. “Get out of my brain, get out of my brain, get…”

Moondragon acknowledges Alice. “This…man…was behind the attacks. His brain is too addled for me to determine why.”

Alice looks on in shock. “Heather…who are you?”

Moondragon stares at Jones. “When I peer into his mind, all I can see are images of you and the end of the world. To him, they are one and the same.” She levels her gaze at Alice. “The important question is, Alice, who are you?

To be continued next Friday in Moondragon #3: “Slaves of the Laughing Death!”

NOTE: The index to "The Champions Project" can be found here.

Click here to read more!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Upon a Craggy Brow

Yesterday I severed a longstanding link between myself and the comics community.

For fifteen years, I have shared a powerful bond with one of Marvel Comics’ great icons, the Thing.

But no more.

Behold, the bashful, blue-eyed Thing, idol of millions:

While I too remain bashful, blue-eyed, and the idol of millions, I am no longer a proud Brother of the Monobrow. His craggy uni-brow still runs proudly across his rocky visage. Mine is gone. Now I have only a craggy duo-brow across my own rocky visage.

A close personal friend of the Lovely and Delightful Mrs. Jerkwater is an aesthetician, and yesterday offered to cleave my brows in twain via the hot-wax-and-cloth-and-yank-and victim-yelling method. In a fit of madness, I accepted her offer.

Now the bridge of my nose stands naked, exposed to the elements. Now my brows number two. And now my special link to The Thing is gone. Alas.

On the other hand, it has been made known to me that the ladies tend to prefer a man who has not one, but rather two, eyebrows. Thus did I assent to the mutiliation of my manly monobrow.

I’m sure Ben would understand.

(NOTE: That "click here to read more" link dealy is acting strange. Anybody out there in internet-land know how I can have that link appear in posts that are actually split into two parts? Aargh.)

Click here to read more!

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Champions Project: The Black Knight #1

The Black Knight #1: The Black Knight Must Die!

Humanoid monsters shriek in terror and wave their crude weapons in the air as the Ebony Blade slices through their number. Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, carves his way through a crowd of the frightening creatures. As he swings the sword, we see knives and assorted weapons sticking out of his body, and he doesn’t care.

Narration explains that the wielder of the Ebony Blade can’t be harmed. Whitman, a longtime superhero and member of the Avengers, continues his never-ending battle for justice. He is now battling a coven of demi-men on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, protecting the nearby villages from further attacks of the marauding monsters.

Among the monsters stands an old man. The man is dressed in a lime green leisure suit and lacks a single hair on his gnarled head.

Leisure Suit Man moves towards the Black Knight, murder in his eyes. The Knight swings his sword at the strange man.

Splash page: the Ebony Blade shatters into three pieces against the old man’s palm.

Whitman collapses and dies without a sound.

“That’s impossible,” mutters a voice as we look at a jukebox-sized piece of techno-doodlery.

A caption explains that we’re now in Pasadena, California, at the California Institute of Technology. We pull back to see adjunct applied physics professor Dr. James Gates staring at the new Z-Machine that graduate student Jivraj Mehta has been using in his experiments for six months. “Four billion degrees Kelvin?”

Mehta rubs his head and whistles. “That’s two hundred and seventy times hotter than the core of the sun!”

Gates looks puzzled. “Jivraj, what did you do to this thing?”

The two men stare at the machine in silence. The silence is broken when a red sphere the size of a golf ball splats into a wad of goo against the back of Gates’s head. Howls of laughter follow. We see two other grad students on the other side of the lab holding ping-pong ball guns loaded with these spheres of goo, both men doubled over in laughter. One of them cries “HA! Dead fish stench for a week! Revenge is mine, Jimmy!”

Gates rushes to a nearby workbench and brings out an intricate catapult he made from stray lab supplies the night before. A small lab fight breaks out.

Another caption explains that we’re in the upper levels of the Caltech Advanced Applied Research Lab, which, due to its focus on military technologies, is known to its staff as Boomtown.
The combatants, and we, move to an outdoor restaurant. Jokes fly back and forth about the discoloration and rank smell of the back of Gates’s head created by the “Whiffy Ball.”

Hugh McKittrick says, “Jimmy, man, you’re lucky that I only used a level one stinko-shot.”

“How bad can it get?"

"Up to level ten. A number one smells like rotten fish. Number five is worse than a week-old moose corpse covered in fresh dung.”

“Number ten?”

“You don’t wanna know.”

Gates laughs. “You’re brilliant, or stupid, or both. And I will get my revenge.”

The graduate students chat about their projects. Gates is their favorite professor, as he is as not much older than they are, and just as poor, and he usually has keen insights into their research. At this lunch, Mehta, Gates, and McKittrick are swapping ideas with Horst Bausch, who is finishing a prototype of metal and plastic synthetic muscles for use powered armor. The work is based on the work of that loony prodigy and legend of Caltech, Stuart Clarke.

During a lull in conversation, the topic changes. “What about the project in Deep 13?” Mehta asks Gates. “Word has it that the stuff down there’d blow our minds.” Gates admits that he has no idea. It’s way more secret than anything they'd ever let him touch.

The readers, however, get to see Deep 13, a large cylindrical building made of reinforced concrete in heart of Boomtown. We see a team of scientists farting around with a transdimensional portal. It fizzes and pops! The power spikes! And nothing happens. Yet.

That night, Gates returns to his grubby apartment and sits down upon a mound of dirty laundry he's pressed into service as a chair. As his butt drops into the filthy mound of cotton, he feels something odd. Gates reaches inside the mound and finds a sword with a jet black blade that's been broken into three pieces.

Recognizing a prank when he sees one, he wracks his brain to figure out why anyone thought the gag was funny and who would have done it. “Horst? Eric? Hm.”

We see him a week and a half later in his wee cubby in Boomtown. Gates pulls out the sword from a duffel bag and examines it. It felt odd in his hand, and so he figured it was worth a closer look. He thinks how a week’s worth of scans with lab tools can’t place it, nor is he able to break off even a microscopic a piece for closer analysis with any tool in the lab. His mind sinks into the problem, fascinated. "It looks like the sword used by that guy in the Avengers...what was his name?"

As he ponders the “prank” sword, Deep 13’s scientists shriek in terror. Something is crossing through the portal. AAAH!

Boomtown’s central tower shatters, and out of it rises a monster. We can see it only in silhouette, the sun behind it overpowering our “eyes.” The beast has the body of a giant snake, with the head of a lion. And it is angry.

Gates’s section of Boomtown collapses, raining debris. In the chaos, he sees that the exit is blocked by huge slabs from the concrete ceiling and that many of his compatriots are injured.

His mind races and an idea hits him: Horst’s armor. He clambers over the debris and locates the unfinished prototype in the neighboring lab room.

Familiar with the design due to long talks with Horst, he dons the suit and turns it on. He finds it isn’t fully charged, and one of the arms isn’t functional. Hoping for the best, he uses the legs and one good arm of the suit to lift up a giant smashed pylon, opening the way out. The other scientists who can still move help one another shuffle down the hallway, taking with them as much research as they can carry. Gates leads the way.

The hallway roof shatters in front of them, and in comes the head of the monster: a lion’s head with milk-white eyes. Its giant head blocks the passageway. Gates can see that the creature is blind, and that it is sniffing the air to locate prey.

Gates grabs the Whiffy Ball gun from a shocked Hugh and fires a pair of level ten stink spheres into the creature’s giant nostrils. The beast retreats from the hole in the ceiling, howling and cursing in a strange language.

The graduate students emerge from the wreckage of their building and flee. Gates looks back and sees that a handful of the Boomtown scientists have broken out their research projects in an effort to stop the beast. Lasers, fireballs, Kirby Krackles, all strike the beast to no effect. It roars that it is Samael the Blind God, and it will destroy the unrighteous.

Gates stares in wonder, torn between wanting to help and wanting to run like hell.

Before he can decide, a vision appears to him. A ghostly knight, bucket-helmet and all, speaks to him. “The blade!” it says. “The forge!” The ghost-knight draws forth his phantom sword, which shatters into three pieces in mid-air.

For another moment, Gates stands stock-still, the word “guh” written across his face.

Then we see him running back through the ruined hallways and into Mehta’s lab, certain that (a) he’s losing his mind and (b) his idea might work. He finds the pieces of the sword and locks them into the magnetic containment field of the Z-Machine. One mighty blast of the hyper-heated plasma later, the sword is somehow, despite all logic to the contrary, once again whole and unscathed.

The scene moves to the exterior of the Boomtown complex. Samael is chewing a bus in half. From a nearby rooftop, Gates prepares himself. “Oh man,” he thinks. "Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea..."

He redirects all of his armor’s power to the legs, then leaps at the beast. He arcs thirty yards in the air, and as he reaches the beast, stabs down with the sword into the creature’s serpentine body. The blade slices through the monster's hide with little resistance. Gates slides down the creature’s length, the sword cutting open the beast as he goes. (Only a little bit of blue ooze spills out of the beast, so it’s not too disgusting.)

Gates reaches the ground as Samael the Blind God falls dead.

Gates is shaking from the excitement and fear, hoping that somebody, somewhere will buy him a drink.

A gnarled old man in a lime green leisure suit appears behind Gates and puts his hand on Gates’s shoulder. “Upon your head now hangs the curse of the Ebony Blade.”

Gates whirls. “The what?!

To be continued next Friday in The Black Knight #2: The Fist of Six Fingers!

NOTE: The index to "The Champions Project" can be found here.

Click here to read more!

The Champions Project: Moondragon #1

Moondragon #1: Plague of Apes

Page one: a small starship lands on the outskirts of South Bend, Indiana. We read narration: “I return to the planet of my birth.” Out of the ship strides a six-foot tall white woman dressed in nondescript jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt. She is bald as can be. The narration continues, “Though it is not my home.”

The bald woman surveys a suburban housing development in the distance as she pulls on a brunette wig. “Nor am I one of them.” A gentle breeze blows as she watches a school bus roll past and laughing children run by. Disgust flits across her face.

“A plague of apes,” she fumes. The woman introduces herself to the reader. She is Heather Douglas, known as Moondragon.

Pages two and three: Double splash. The scene is inside a giant metal dome. Smooth metal sculptures and wild green plants curve throughout it. A bolt of Kirby Crackle energy arcs across two poles in the background. Stone sculptures that resemble tiki gods occupy key portions of the floor, fountains of mercury pouring down the sculptures, forming gleaming rivers and pools. Strange and beautiful humanoid beings costumed in garish outfits fly and run around the scene. The scene is big, bold, and striking. The goal is to make the reader think “woo, that sure is somethin’.”

In the foreground of this magnificent scene, we see Moondragon walking straight towards the reader in her normal attire (the science-fictiony thing depicted here). She is also big, bold, and striking.

Her narration explains that her home is on Titan, a moon of Saturn, where she was raised by the Priests of Shao-Lom. Yesterday, she tells us, she came to the Dome of Pama, a great unease weighing upon her.

We see her talk to the High Priestess of Shao-Lom, seeking to understand her disquiet. The Priestess suggests Moondragon meditate for six hundred years. She then points to a quiet corner of the Dome, where a collection of Titanians sit, lost in nigh-eternal trances. “They grow wise, and over the centuries the disquiet in their minds returns to silence. Join them and know peace, my daughter.”

Moondragon grows angry. She reminds the priestess that her human lifespan is measured in decades, not millennia. The priestess, confused, begins to spit out non sequitur homilies. Moondragon leaves, seething. The Titanians cannot understand the problem, she decides, much less provide an answer.

A montage shows us her life as she remembers it. Orphaned as a child by the insane space god Thanos, she was rescued by his father, Mentor, and brought to Titan. She was raised in a city hidden below the surface of that distant moon, where she was trained in the arts of the mind and the body. Upon reaching maturity, she fought Thanos himself, stood alongside the superheroes of Earth against cosmic menaces, tried and failed to become the Celestial Madonna, declared herself a goddess of an alien world, suffered punishment for her hubris from the Norse Gods, defeated the monster known as the Dragon of the Moon, died, was reborn, and returned to Titan, a great and mysterious hunger gnawing at her.

(Yeah, she has a convoluted and wacky history, even by comic book standards.)

Her narration continues as we jump back to the present. Moondragon is walking through a residential American neighborhood, watching the people. Human nature, she notes, is alien to her. Yet she herself is human. Life among the primitives, she decides, may provide an insight to her problem. She selected the city of South Bend, Indiana, because it was her mother's ancestral homeland.

Her stroll stops at a house. In its yard is a sign: “Madame Alice: Psychic.” Moondragon’s curiosity gets the better of her, and she enters the house. Perhaps another telepath like her might be of aid?

Inside she finds Alice Coughlin, “psychic,” offering advice to an elderly woman. A quick mind-scan by Moondragon tells her that Alice is a giant fraud. A big-haired, ugly-sweatered, too-tight-jeans-wearing, fraud. Moondragon takes a seat to wait for her “reading” and fumes. “Ridiculous,” Moondragon thinks. “Humans. They let themselves be fooled by—“

Before she can complete her thought, four orangutans bearing spearguns, their pelts smeared with peanut butter, burst into the house. The four apes wear hardhats with speakers mounted on them.

Their speakers boom out in unison: “ALICE! WE’VE COME FOR YOU! SOCK HOP TIME!”

One ape fires a spear at Alice. It creases the air and flies towards the woman’s heart.

Until it is caught by Moondragon.

Still dressed in normal clothes, Moondragon unloads one standard barrel of industrial-grade, kung fu-flavored whoopass upon the orangutans. Spears fly through the air, and she either catches or deflects them all. She uses the cords trailing from the spears to tangle and trip the apes as she flies around and punches the animals out. The old woman and Alice are paralyzed by fear.

Once it’s over, she looks at Alice and scans her mind. Alice has no idea what’s going on. The apes are impervious to Moondragon’s powers, what with being apes and all.

The old woman coughs and asks Moondragon what she was doing there, and if she’d like a mint.

“I’m here to…get advice from Madame Alice. And no, thank you.”

Alice and Moondragon decamp to a nearby chain diner. They mention that Animal Control took away the apes, and wonder at the strangeness of the attack. “That was incredible,” Alice says. “And where did you learn that karate stuff, Heather? That was amazing!”

“I grew up...abroad,” Moondragon explains. An incurious Alice considers this explanation enough.

As the sun goes down, Moondragon’s contempt meets with her curiosity, and she prompts to Alice perform an impromptu “psychic reading” in the diner.

Alice isn’t just wrong, she’s hilariously wrong. (“You are a kind and humble person…You should go back to your boyfriend. He is sorry, and he loves you very much.” Moondragon, a lesbian who is anything but kind or humble, says nothing and tries to look astonished at Alice’s “insights.”)

As Alice yaps, Moondragon ponders the mystery of the orangutan attack. A deep scan of Alice’s mind produced nothing that would be a clue as to the apes’ master. She sees that Alice’s daughter Stacey is estranged, and rightfully so, but not dangerous. Alice's ex-husband Bob wouldn’t bother to train and dispatch a hit squad of apes; he’d just yell at her.

The scene jumps to the outside of the diner, across the street to a Studebaker museum. We see the silhouettes of orangutans messing with the cars.

Back in the diner, Moondragon discovers the wonder that is strawberry rhubarb pie. Humanity, she realizes, has its charms.

Then a pair of 1955 Studebakers crash into the front of the diner. The cars are filled with orangutans, all wearing hardhats with head-mounted speakers and vests made of plastic explosive. All of the speakers cry out “HEEEE-WACK! EVERYBODY DIES NOW!”

Alice rises from her seat. “Tommy?”

Then the diner explodes, desecrating the Indiana night with fire, debris, and small chunks of roasted ape.

To be continued next Friday in Moondragon #2: The Strange Secret of Tommy Callahan!

NOTE: The index to "The Champions Project" can be found here.

Click here to read more!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Raising and Lowering the Level of Discourse at the Same Time

An article about the human nose in the Washington Post back on November 2, 2002 gave us a remarkable bit of historical fact:

"...early Muslims believed that flatulence caused angels to go blind. In fact...if a person passed wind outside a mosque, the act was so connected with evil that people marked spots where it occurred with small piles of stones."

This should enter the common lexicon. "Man, stop blinding angels! I can't breathe over here!" Should someone float a biscuit of such potency as to rattle windowpanes, I believe piling up stones to mark the site, if only as a warning to others, is an excellent idea.

Yes, we here at Filing Cabinet of the Damned believe that fart talk can be educational as well as amusing.

Click here to read more!

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Long Project: The Champion #1

To begin the Big Vanity Project, here's a synopsis of the issue to kick it all off:

The Champion #1

Page one: John Massaro, a middle-aged man, looks into a grove of pine trees, his back to the reader. Serenity and beauty radiate from the page. He narrates, “A beautiful stretch of land.” We move in and come around to his front to see that his flannel shirt is half-open. He has a hunting rifle slung over his shoulder. In the last panel we see that he’s wearing a superhero suit underneath his shirt. He sets his jaw and thinks, “Twenty-one years ago today, on this very spot, I destroyed the world.”

Pages two and three are a double-splash page of Massaro in a super-suit matching what we saw under his shirt. The suit is shiny, showy, and very super-heroic. Despite his wearing a mask, we can see that here he’s a young man. He’s throwing a punch that shatters a funky-looking robot in the foreground. Very dynamic scene. In the background are aliens, robots, a giant metal sphere embedded in a grove of pine trees, and assorted super-hero sci-fi folderol. Everybody’s fighting everyone else. The scene is silent: no narration, no dialogue, no captions.

Then Massaro recounts the story, which we see in flashbacks. Twenty-four years ago, at that wooded spot, a mammoth metal sphere fell from the sky and crashed into the ground. A man named Charles Warshaw heard the noise and ran out the site. Warshaw, an angry and bitter failure, found the sphere. As he approached, a door in its side opened. He looked inside and saw a riot of machines made from a combination of metals, plastics, plant matter, and animal tissues.

The sphere spoke to his mind and directed him towards a collection of weaponry in its center. It invited him to take them. Warshaw took as much as he could carry and decided to have some fun, to "hurt the way he's been hurt." Charlie flew away and blew up his place of work with a laugh. He then killed anyone who he remembered as pissing him off. He struck quickly, leaving no one to describe the attacks.

Warshaw returned to the sphere, which offered him a device called a "time window." It shows the past and the future. Warshaw sees that the past and future of humanity is nothing but conflict and violence. As he always assumed, such horrors were all that life is. The arsenal, he realizes, is his chance to win that conflict, be the top dog. And so, goddammit, he will be. Warshaw arms himself further, then disappears into the countryside to plan his conquests.

Three months later, another resident of the small town, John Massero, finds the sphere. While hunting, he ran into an invisible wall—the sphere, camouflaging itself. Massero poked and prodded at it until he heard a voice telling him to stop before he was killed. From behind the trees came three bizarro-looking aliens, made up of rocks, twigs, and shards of metal.

The aliens greet Massero and explain that none of them are physically present. Rather, they are proxy bodies made from earth materials assembled around wee robot brain-cores. The three wee robot brain-cores have been chasing this sphere, an arsenal of unknown origin, around the galaxy for a long time.

One of the three aliens produces a small time window to illustrate the story: the arsenal has crash-landed onto a half-dozen worlds and tried to overwhelm each of them. The time window shows that given time, the arsenal would expand out onto its target world and render it one giant arsenal, destroying all that was already there.

To keep such a disaster from happening, three beings sent mind-recordings of themselves in wee robots to pursue the sphere. When the arsenal crashes down on an alien world, the wee robots form bodies and fit a native of the afflicted world with the means to stop the arsenal. As the time window shows, their plan has successfully stopped it six times. John, due to dumb luck, has been elected to be their seventh weapon.

He becomes the Isial Lu, which translates from the aliens' language as “Champion.” John, needless to say, digs his newfangled superpowers. (They’re the Superman-esque package of strength, flight, toughness, etc. Or something cooler, if I think of it later.)

We then jump forward to see the Champion and his alien buds fighting Charlie, who’s dubbed himself the Mighty Destroyer. As they rampage through downtown Chicago, we hear some exposition from the aliens. The key to stopping the arsenal is to defeat the sphere’s human partner. The arsenal imprints on a member of its target world, and once it has sufficiently merged with its partner, it will explode outward and remake the entire planet in its own image. Attacking the sphere directly was futile--it was too well-protected and capable of rendering itself out-of-phase with the timestream, where it could never be reached. Only by killing the partner could the plan be thwarted and the planet be saved.

As the exposition concludes, the Champion whallops the Destroyer into Lake Michigan, but the villain escapes. John looks worried until the aliens tell him that he has years before the merge is complete, so he’ll have more chances.

Massero becomes a superhero, fighting the menaces of his day: Korilla, the Beast Bomb! The Eyeless Legions! The Man with the Atomic Brain! The Champion also allies himself with the super-team of the era, the First Line, and joins with the Black Fox and Flatiron against the menace of the Withering Death! (The Fantastic Four and the Marvel Age proper won't begin for several more years.)

But most of all, he clashes with the Mighty Destroyer. They fight time and again, with the Champion always foiling the Destroyer but never managing to end his threat.

After three years, the aliens warn him that the Destroyer and the Arsenal are ready to fully merge, and that the time has come to stop Warshaw or die trying.

The Champion, his alien buddies, and two superhero allies, the Vagabond and the Laughing Mask, all join together in the final fight against the Destroyer. By this time, Warshaw had fused completely with the alien weaponry he wore, and was more powerful than all of his foes combined. Worse, the sphere was active in the fight, having activated its own internal weaponry and spat out robots to fight on its behalf.

Before long, two of the three aliens were destroyed, as was the Laughing Mask. The Champion tangled with the Destroyer and, in a moment of great valor, sends him sprawling. For a moment the Champion is in the clear...and in that moment he sees the Vagabond vaporized by a killer robot.

Just then we jump back to the present and see John Massaro remember the scene, regret heavy upon his form.

The Champion could not contain his rage. Ignoring the downed Destroyer, the Champion hurled himself at the robot and smashes it exactly like we saw on the splash pages.

Unfortunately, that momentary break was all the time the Destroyer needed to join with the arsenal.

After smashing the robot that vaporized his friend, the Champion wheeled around to finish off the Destroyer. Instead Warshaw is nowhere to be seen and the arsenal is now sealed up. The last surviving alien lets out a wail. The alien produces the time window, looks into it, and cannot speak. The Champion flies at the sphere, but passes through it. The sphere has desynchronized itself from the timestream and vanishes.

Horror filling his eyes, the Champion grabs the time window away from the last alien and stares into it himself. First he sees in it a vision of thousands of alien-robot creatures bursting from the arsenal. Then he sees a few moments beyond that, and finds the world dominated by the arsenal’s expansion.

The final alien tells Massero that the fully fused arsenal and Destroyer will reemerge from a time-fold in 21 years and 122 days. The world will be completely conquered by it sixteen minutes later.

We see modern-day Massero back in the woods.

He relates to us how he spent the next few years trying to reach the arsenal and destroy it, but it was gone. No science could find it in the timestream.

Also, Massero's powers faded. They were designed to last for as long as they were needed, and the time had passed. He became weaker and slower, until he was a normal man again.

Worst of all, three years after the arsenal fiasco, his friends and allies in the First Line die in action, protecting the world against an alien invasion. He would have died with them, at least partially redeemed, but his powerlessness left him useless and trapped on Earth.

For the last twenty-one years, he tells us, he’s dealt with his failure. He spent a decade trying to find the Destroyer and atone for the mistake. He tried to undo the error by chasing after time-travel schemes. Once he even managed to bring in Reed Richards to investigate the spot. Nothing worked.

He then spent the next decade fiercely ignoring it and pretending it never happened.

On most anniversaries of his giant screwup, he visits his hometown and stands at the spot where it all went to hell.

Every night for twenty-one years, he tells us, he has dreamt of what he saw in the time window. We then get to see it, too: a giant splash page of nightmarish beasts lunging towards the readers.

Now we’re back to middle-aged Massero. He closes his eyes. When he does, we see the vision of the lunging beasts again. For the last ten years, he explains, he’s been working for a company that catalogues superhumans and produces books and informational whatnots about ‘em for the government and the public at large. He’s an editor/researcher. He's studied and when he can muster the will, looks for solutions.

As the date for the arsenal’s hatching closed in, he grew more and more depressed. He did not know what to do anymore.

He tried to make it not happen, and he couldn’t. He tried to fix it, and he couldn't. He tried to ignore it, and he couldn’t.

When the twenty-first and final anniversary of the great hose-up arrived, he decided to make a big show of himself. He donned his super-suit, though not the mask, put on his clothes over it, and went to the spot of the Great Failure.

This brings us to the present. We see John now holding his hunting rifle, his shirt fully open to reveal his Champion costume.

He notices that the hair on the back of his arms stands up a little now. There’s a pungency in the air that was never there before. The arsenal is coming back.

Then the air in front of Massero buckles, solidifies in part, and forms a large face: the Mighty Destroyer. It gloats without making a sound.

Massero speaks to it. "I've seen the future. In four months you're comin' out. And I can't stop you." The floating face smiles. Massero continues, "I'm as good as dead. The whole world's doomed. No hope at all." The face smiles wider.

Massero tips his head back and laughs. The floating face grows confused. Massero pulls his mask on.

"So what the hell."

The Champion raises his rifle and smashes its butt into the floating face. The face shatters, though it does not fall.

The Champion walks away, determined.

To be continued in:

The Black Knight
The Reject
Titanium Man
The Comet Woman

and concluded in The Champions #1

(I haven't decided if I'll do it one mini at a time or groups of individual issues at a time. Regardless, the next post will be next Friday.)

Phew, that's a lot of typing. And phew, I need to revise the crap out of this. But I said "Friday the 17th," so here it is. Done is beautiful, yo.

Click here to read more!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Champions Project Index

Here are links to all of the posts in my long-term vanity project, The Champions.

The introduction to it all, "Oh What the Hell," where I discuss the inspiration for the project, the basic plan, and the likelihood that it will end up a massive pile of odious fanboy wankery. But dammit, I'm having fun. Woo!

The opening issue: The Champion #1

And the minis, thus far:

Moondragon #1: Plague of Apes

Moondragon #2: The Strange Secret of Tommy Callahan!

Moondragon #3: Slaves of the Laughing Death

Moondragon #4: I and Thou

The Black Knight
The Black Knight #1: The Black Knight Must Die!

The Black Knight #2: The Fist of Six Fingers

The Black Knight #3: Hell Goes Round and Round

The Black Knight #4: The Black Knight Must Die!

Mephisto #1: Robinson, The Man of Mystery!

The Reject
The Reject #1: City of Lights, City of Bees!

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

They Can't Get the Fries in the Door

Denny's Beer Barrel Pub of Clearfield, Pennsylvania has taken the Four Color ethos of the comic book and applied it where it can do the most good: in the kitchen.

They made their name with "The Ye Olde 96er."* It contains six pounds of meat. Two whole tomatoes. A half-head of lettuce. Twelve slices of American cheese. A full cup of peppers. Two entire onions. And enough mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard to kill nine men.

But that was not enough. Oh no.

Not long ago,they have produced a burger even greater.

Behold the Mighty Burger of Doom's beefy heart, all eleven pounds of it:

Here it is, fully bedecked. An awesome sight, no?

To give a sense of perspective, here's the mammoth Burger of Doom between two dudes.

Epic. Simply epic.

If one could translate the Big Superhero Comic into food, it would be this bastard.


Had I discovered this burger ten years ago, I would have organized my cronies for a road trip to Clearfield in a mad effort to assault the Burger of Doom. Sadly, age and responsibilities have rendered my crew, and especially me, lameasses. All I can do now is admire its beauty at a distance.

Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, you will forever live among the legends of Americana.

I feel patriotic just looking at that thing. It is America, in all its magnificent, overblown, tacky, beautiful glory.

God bless America, land that I looooove...

*Yes, it's called "The Ye Olde 96'er." Yes, that's funny.

Click here to read more!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oh, What the Hell: A Long Blogging Project Begins

A few posts back I mentioned that I was chewing on my own version of Grant Morrison's big DC Comics project. Knowing that I am (a) the laziest man I've ever met and (b) mortified by public failure, I've decided to start posting the project to force myself to finish it.*

An explanation for my non-comicphile readership:

Popular writer Grant Morrison was hired by DC Comics to create a massive project, Seven Soldiers of Victory. SSoV consists of seven miniseries of four issues each, released over the course of a year. The minis star characters of varying degees of obscurity from the DC Comics stable. Even the name of the project is a recycled one.

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Beyond the seven minis, the project began and will end with over-sized individual issues: Seven Soldiers of Victory #0 and SSoV #1, respectively.

Each of the miniseries shares themes, characters, and situations. Comic blogger and all-around smart guy Marc "I Am Not the Beastmaster" Singer has written a passel of great essays on the work.

Despite the commonalities, the seven are also very different from one another in tone and style, ranging from Big Superhero Action to mysticism to monsters.

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The project has been both a hoot and a holler to read. Fun central concepts, a fast-and-loose approach that honors but is not bound to the past, an obvious love of the material, and intelligent writing? Hell to the yeah!

For DC, this project was damn near a guaranteed success. The seven characters were laying fallow, so even if the project tanks, it won't hurt DC's overall “brand.” If one or more of the characters resonates with the public, great, a new revenue source.

The project wasn't a massive gamble for them, either. The big name of Grant Morrison would lure in readers by the truckload who normally would never touch a miniseries about Klarion the Witch Boy or Zatanna.

To me, the whole thing looked like a riot. How could any comic fan not want to do this too?

Thus, in homage to Morrison and the comics we love, over the next two months I will present to you the extended pitch for my knockoff SSoV, using characters from Marvel Comics.** Obscure characters will re-emerge, different than before. The minis will be in different styles from one another. And they have unifying themes, symbols, and ideas, though less in emulation of Morrison than because they read better with such elements in 'em.

But why, you may ask. Why? Why, in the name of decency and goodness and niceness, Harvey? Why?

I do it out of love for comics. I do it out of boredom with criticism.

But most of all, I do it for the goof.

The project may prove to be good stuff. It may instead prove to be a massive wankpile of half-assed fan fiction. I'm curious to find out which.

The opening salvo of the project will hit Filing Cabinet of the Damned by Friday, March 17. Synopses of the various minis will follow no less frequently than seven days apart. (I'm a wordy bastard, so they take time.) There will be six minis in total, along with two "bookend" larger issues.

Here begins my biggest vanity project ever.

Harvey Jerkwater is proud to present:

The Champions.

Perhaps this is a bad idea. Well, ya never know till ya try.

(Throughout the project, I'll continue to post regular, non-Champions entries too. No sense going all one-note on everyone.)

*Granted that by doing this, I create the possibility of a different kind of failure: the failure to produce good work. I may be inflicting a steaming load upon the populace. Which would hurt. But I can handle that a lot better than a failure to deliver on a promise. Mockery for sucking is not nearly as painful to me as mockery for never trying.

**Marvel's actual answer to SSoV looks to be that Annihilation project coming out this summer. Big lead-in issue, four minis about four forgotten characters, big close-out issue? Yep, that sounds familiar. Me, I like my project better. Then again, I would.

Click here to read more!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Treasures Abound

My monthly stash from the comic shop contained a series I'd heard was fun and considered worth a shot: the latest version of The Thing. The Comic Blog-o-Sphere talked it up, showering praise on writer Dan Slott. The shop had issues #3 and #4 on the racks, so I snagged 'em.

Issue #3 contained the following image:

Yes, that's right, it's a Robot Pirate version of the Thing. A Robot Pirate Thing.

Oh hell yes.

Ah, comics, where such a beautiful image can be a throwaway gag in a monthly title. Treasures abound in the four-color world.

I love Dan Slott, and want to have his babies.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

These Are My Words: Five Random Opinions That I Hold About Current "Mainstream" Comics

Recently the dashing sex god BeaucoupKevin put up five random opinions about current mainstream comics, and yea, they were good.

Lo, and Harvey Jerkwater said unto himself, “that looks like a ready-made meme! And I shall pirate it for my own nefarious purposes! Ha ha!”

For I too have five random opinions about current “mainstream” comics.

And thus, These Are My Words: Five Random Opinions That I Hold About Current "Mainstream" Comics

1. Marvel has decided to dabble a bit with the political tensions of our time with their upcoming mega-crossover, “Civil War.” The crossover promises angst, rancor, brain-dead debates over ethics, and loads of photo-realistic violence. Whoopee.

I reserve a soft spot in my heart for an earlier sort of Marvel “political comic.” For example, when the Viper put a mutagenic toxin in the DC water supply, transforming the people of the District into serpent-men. Captain America showed up to save the day and got into fisticuffs with President Ronald Reagan, who was himself a snake-man.

Heh. That’s how mainstream comics should handle politics, I sez.
Overmuscled men in spandex punching each other out does not lend itself to nuanced discourse. I say play to your strengths.

“Eek! Superman, help! The President has become a giant killer robot! Save us! Save us from Klin-Tonn the Terrible!”

“Can even the Justice League of America prevail against the would-be conqueror, the monarchist plant, the deadly Emperor Shrub? From his leafy branches comes danger!”

See, I’d buy those comics.

2. The line-wide jump “one year later” for DC Comics that’s just about to hit is supposed to return light and fun to their comics. At least, that’s what they say in the interviews. That would be a beautiful thing. I miss fun in my comics, goddammit. Newsarama has previews for a mess of the “One Year Later” comics.

They don’t show any lightening. Twenty bucks and a box of donuts says that within a real-world year, the line will be as dull, grumpy, and faux-tough as it is today.

The lamest plot device for the “one year later” comics that I’ve seen thus far: Catwoman retires and has a baby, and a new Catwoman is running around Gotham. Hm. Lemme think.

What's the likelihood of the “replacement Catwoman” getting killed within six months and Selina being forced back into the suit, thus creating a newfangled tension between “I’m a mother of an infant” and “I’m a superhero defending niceness and groovyness against the forces of the naughty!”

You think it's over 95% chance? Yeah, me too.

3. Does anyone remember when The Amazing Spider-Man got laughs out of the whole “mystic spider-god” origin? A few years back, Mary Jane got an acting gig for the movie “Lobster-Man,” and the characters in the comic got a hearty laugh out of one writer’s attempt to make Lobster-Man’s powers the product of “a gift from the Lobster God” rather than an accident.

Yeah, I laughed too. Man, that J. Michael Straczynski’s plan for introducing a “spider totem” into the story seemed like a ridiculous idea, one that badly misinterpreted the character. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and JMS’s bizarre idea was tossed aside.

Until last year.

Man, what kind of crap is this? I dropped the book out of boredom more than anything. Making Spider-Man the mystic champeen of a Mighty Spider God saps a lot of the charm out of the concept. Then they throw him in with the Avengers, so now he's living in a high-rise on a fat salary.

The Everyman Hero is gone. In his place, we have Just Another Wisecracking Guy in Tights, and yet another friggin' "Chosen One."


(Yes, I'm about a year late on this. I've been behind the times my whole life.)

4. She-Hulk is funny. Yay! Wit!

She-Hulk has cheesecakey covers that have no relation to the art style or content of the book. Boo! Cheesecake!

Yes, boo to cheesecake. When I read a book with a high cheesecake content or a lurid cover, I know full well that any passers-by (and/or the Lovely and Delightful Mrs. Jerkwater) will suspect that I’m reading it for said cheesecake.

Le sigh.

“But it’s a good comic!”

Yeah, yeah, and you read Playboy for the articles.

“Nerd” is a label that can be hung on me with accuracy. “Sad and a little pervy” is a label I’d rather avoid, thanks. To be thought of as a man who purchases comic books to be aroused by cartoon women, well, let's just say that should I add that extra layer of “dorkaloid” to my public image, I may as well change my name to “Hoiven Glaven Jerkwater” and speak only in Klingon.

Boss: “Harvey, did you finish the TPS report?”
Me: “Ketak-CHAH! Enook! FARAAAGH!”
Boss: “Great. Make sure to get it to the FedEx drop by COB today, okay?”
Me: “GRAG!” [drinks fake blood from plastic mug shaped like a skull] “YAAAH!”

Dude, I don’t even like Star Trek.

Thus, my fellow comic fans, I don’t buy She-Hulk. Peer pressure.

And I stand by this decision. Lose the girlie-mag covers, and we'll talk.

5. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: what will save DC Comics? Four words. Just four simple words.

“Sword of Mazing Man.”

These are my words.

Click here to read more!