Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Thursday, September 28, 2006

First I Cook, Then I Chill: A True Story

On my wedding day, a delivery truck came to my door. In the truck were several large boxes, addressed to me. Within the boxes was a gift. A gift from an absent friend.

The gift?

Two hundred and forty dollars worth of pudding.

It arrived in seven-pound food service cans. Cans that, to this day, rest in my house.

Why two hundred and forty dollars worth of pudding?

Some of you know why.

For those of you who do not understand or appreciate the gift, here's Levon and Barry Sagittarius to lay it all out.

Awwwww yeah.

'Scuse me, while I kiss the sky.

Click here to read more!

Friday, September 22, 2006

What Is to Be Done About Nightwing?

Nightwing nearly got himself cacked in Infinite Crisis. Lots of bloggers around the internet have lamented that the cacking didn’t happen.


What can be done with this guy?

As many others have pointed out, Dick Grayson’s root problem is simple: he’s redundant. He’s not Robin anymore, he can’t be Batman, and so he’s just sorta…there. Stuck as a "Junior Batman," Nightwing hasn’t been established as anything in particular over the last twenty years.

Tim Drake has taken his place as both Robin and The Next Batman. The recently-resurrected Jason Todd has taken the gig of "embittered ex-sidekick." What is Dick?

Best I can tell, Nightwing’s current niche is "Emo Batman." He's a Batman who feels emotions beyond rage and frustration. He’s a brooding avenger of the night with a pseudo-Byronic angle. Oh, the torment! Oh, the agony!*

Which, while it does differentiate him from his stoic mentor, can be powerfully, profoundly irritating.

Twenty bucks and a box of doughnuts says this has been forwarded by many others before, but hey...that never stops me. Here’s my ten-cent Monday Morning Quarterback idea:

Make Nightwing the Batman of the Sixties.

Facing a murderous rampage by axe-wielding Filthy Pierre the Breton Butcher? Call Batman. Need to fight a fourth-dimensional pirate on top of a giant typewriter? Call Nightwing.

With this split, Batman can maintain his "dark avenger of the gritty streets" gig and Nightwing will have a new niche, one that Batman abandoned decades ago. Dick will become the tech whiz/strategist/acrobat for the Justice League. He'll be the laughing daredevil with the brilliant mind and the undertones of dark violence who spends time with Superman and Wonder Woman.

Set him up not as "Junior Batman," but "Social Batman." He's the one the League calls when they need help. He's the one who jet-sets around the world and romances the ladies. He's the one who gets tied up in spy rings in Indonesia. He's the one who invents crazy gadgets, travels through time, and solves murder mysteries in Gorilla City. If anyone should have a Whirly-Bat one-man helicopter, it should be Nightwing.**

In essence, I'd flip the team memberships. Nightwing belongs in the League, the most visible superhero group in the world. Batman belongs with the Outsiders, hiding and fighting the weirder menaces.

This isn't all that different from Marv Wolfman's original interpretation of the character, of his "graduation" from being Robin. (I think.) Because dammit, this approach makes sense. Nightwing is a circus performer by birth, a detective by training, and a whoopass fighter by nature. Robin was created to fill the gaps Batman left. Why not continue that as he reaches maturity?

It would not lessen Batman to have his foster son become a different man in his own right, nor would it rob the character of Batman of anything. It's not like he's fighting four-dimensional pirates on giant appliances these days anyway.

Bring on the Gorilla City murder mysteries and the mad scientists. Dick is ready.

* Granted, I haven’t read Nightwing in a while. I’m going by the reactions of the blogosphere and issue solicits. If I’m wrong about this, please let me know.

** Or me.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Today I found that the two Big Fat Reprint editions I'd most longed for will, in fact, be produced!

--The Essential Defenders, Volume Two (the Steve Gerber years) and
--Showcase Presents: The Brave and the Bold (the Bob Haney years).

The two I wanted most...the foremost icons of lunatic comics...and I found out about them on the same day...on Talk Like a Pirate Day, no less.

Oh, so sweet. So very sweet. Or, more appropriately, "yaaar, har har!"

I had to share this most excellent news with the blogosphere. I've preordered The Defenders on Amazon, and will throw in B&B as soon as I can. Ah, so good. Those two volumes will contain the high points of whacked-out comics produced by the Big Two in ye olden days. I have dreamed of their publication for some time.


Click here to read more!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Greatest Hits and Personal Favorites

This used to be on my sidebar, but it seemed like a bit too much shameless promotion. Plus, I couldn’t cram in as much self-love as I’d like into such a tiny space. I loves me some me.

Below are links and synopses of my more popular and/or interesting posts.

I churn out theories on everything, all the time. It’s a bad habit, I know.

The Frisson of Woo, or “Thirty Seconds to Grab ‘Em”
Probably my biggest hit, and a lot of fun to fart around with. A theory of superheroes and icons, filtered through the magic of Hollywood. It was preceded by The Essential Superhero, or Why Captain America is an Anglo Bruce Lee, and followed by Rehabilitating the Lame.

The Mister Teeny Test
How can you tell if a work is an intriguing work of genius you just don’t understand or a bunch of crap thrown against a wall that’s meant to fool you into thinking it’s great by creating confusion? The Mister Teeny Test can answer that.

Penetrating Insight or Flatulent Nonsense: You Be the Judge
A theory of superheroes, linking their personality types to their powers, particularly their ability to survive harm.

Origins of a Marvel Fanboy
The difference between old DC and old Marvel, and why, deep down, I will always belong to the House of Jack, Stan, and Steve.

Oh, Damn, the Critics Adore It: The Love of Yawnfests
Why the hell is it that critics tend to love works that laymen find dull beyond belief? I got me a theory.

Hittin’ the Juke Joint
Comic books descend from comic strips, right? Sorta. Comic strips are the parents of the comic book, but pulp novels were the cool uncles who taught the kid how to smoke, set off firecrackers, and swear.

I Wanna Eat Your Brain: Zombie Zeitgeist
A throwaway theory on the popularity of zombies.

When Theory Meets Blood
An actual straight-up analysis of the blood-spattered smiley face in Watchmen, like something you’d write for English 101. Sorta.

A Parallel Notion, Plus Disco
My other Watchmen post, discussing panel layouts, Brecht, and Explodo Jones: The Quest for Ever More Radness.

Aquaman, Tell Us About Your Mother
Phallic imagery on covers is nothing new. Aquaman’s old series offered a…different image.

Great Scott! The Fiend!
The logic of Lex Luthor.

The Appeal of Red Sonja, Courtesy of Beverly Hills 90210, Lisa Simpson’s Bad Boy Crush, and the Taming of the Hottie
T&A characters tend to appear and fade away quickly. Why does Red Sonja keep coming back?

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?
Debunking a common theory on the end of the Silver Age and the depravity of the Modern Era.

Character Versus World and Suchlike
An explanation of the overarching difference between modern DC and Marvel’s approaches to the superhero.

Like most comic fans, I harbor the idea of writing my own stuff and visions of “how I’d do it.”

The Champions Project
My great white elephant. I had an idea of doing my own version of the Seven Soldiers of Victory Project, a la Grant Morrison. I got eleven issues in, then petered out. Here’s the post that links to everything.

Rolling and Fixed Timelines: The Captains America and Retcon Fun!
One of my favorite bits, though I may be alone in digging it. Retroactive continuity can be fun, provided it fills large gaps, not niggling stuff. Forty years of Caplessness seemed like a good place to fart around. It’d form the basis of a good miniseries, I think.

An intelligent silverback gorilla with a French accent and his lover, a brain in a jar. To think that in comics, these are throwaway characters. Amazing.

Post-Dorkpocalyptic Press: My 15 Titles
A meme that was a lot of fun to try: strip the world-o-comics to fifteen titles, no more. I set up some additional rules and went to town. More fun than I expected.

Harveyizing Green Arrow
A revamp of the Connor Hawke Green Arrow based on a few ideas of mine. Granted I’m biased, but I think it’d be a huge improvement over the current Green Arrow status quo. I love the Rogues’ Gallery. It’d work, dammit! Another “Harveyizing” experiment, Harveyizing Hourman, was much more ambitious and less successful. This was a full-on reboot of Hourman in a four-issue miniseries, The Fire That Consumes. The synopsis is long and shot through with plot holes and logic flaws. Given time and rework, I think it’d be a hoot. Heroes! Robots! Time travel! Dinosaurs! Rebellions! Love! Revenge! Hoo-hah!

Impractical, But Hey, It's Not My Company
Of my many bad ideas, this one’s undoubtedly the worst from a business perspective. Any company that did this would die in a heartbeat. Ah, well. Artistically it could be a triumph, but it would require a strong and consistent editor.

Evil Thought of the Day
Marvel used to capitalize on fads all the time. Kung fu, blaxploitation, roller disco, whatever. What if they did that again?

A few times I’ve made contact with the world of comic professionals, often badly.

Eisenstein, Cheese Fries, and the Joys of Bloviation
A group of comic book creators meet weekly at a bar about a mile from my house. The DC Conspiracy, headed by Hoarse and Buggy editor and all-around good egg Jason Rodriguez, was welcoming and interesting.

Due to a number of factors (they meet on the one day off I share with the missus, I’m more than a bit of a poseur tool, I’m the laziest man in four states, etc.) I only went to one meeting. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s difficult to be as lame as I am. Don’t try it yourself without protective headgear and safety netting. It only looks easy.

Rising and Advancing: An Interview with Steve Englehart
The only actual interview I’ve conducted for the site. Distressingly generic questions on my part. Ah, well. I’d hit a dry patch, and thought I might try shifting the site to interviews with writers. I reconsidered this idea quickly, but did complete this one interview first.

When I go overboard busting on a cover of Ms. Marvel painted by David Mack. Mack responds in the comments. I then apologize for the overheated rhetoric and proceed to strengthen my argument. The original piece is not great—I shot from the lip and lost myself to snarky rhetoric. The comments section is where it gets good, and where the better arguments can be found.

Marvel and Malibu: The Full Story
Tom Mason, writer and former bigwig of Malibu Comics, wrote to me to set the record straight about Malibu’s buyout by Marvel in ye olden days. Interesting stuff.

Mary Sue, Mary Sue, Pretty Pretty Pretty Mary Sue
A grouse about “Mary Sues.” In retrospect, I was kinda wrong in this article. I blurred the lines between “character very clearly based upon the creator to the point of distraction” and “character based upon creator wish-fulfillment,” which are similar faults, but not the same thing. Moreover, the piece is also too dang snarky, like my David Mack piece. Why is it under this heading? Because of the last, anonymous note in the comments section.

Did I hack off Matt Wagner with my ill-formed rant? I hope not. (It also could have been Elmore Leonard, who also gets some grief in the piece, but the typos would suggest otherwise. Novelists know how to use apostophes.) Probably it was some random numb-nuts, but I can dream.

Cousin Larry
Dickering with Larry Young, of AiT/PlanetLar, about comic criticism. He’d said some inflammatory things in December 2005, and the blogosphere freaked out. I took a step back and dissected what he actually said, which proved to be none too flattering to Young. The odds that Young saw this are near zero, but hey. I’m sure he’d find it annoying.

Because deep down, we all wanna be the bad guy.

Wilbur Day may be a loser with a stupid gimmick, but he has one quality that made him perfect for “Ask a Super-Villain:” he returned my phone call.

Batroc the Leaper
Zee Leapair ees back from anozzer a’venture and weel charm us all weeth hees outrageous accent!

The Magus
A mad god, a dark twin, and possessor of the best afro in comics history.

A gentleman, a scholar, a giant mutated head in a flying chair. Such is MODOK.

He’s a super-villain! He’s a television executive! He’s both! He’s…Blackrock! Could I resist interviewing the villain based on broadcast legend Fred Silverman? I could not.

Sometimes it’s just weird crap.

The Knave and the Bold
A personal favorite. My George Plimpton-esque misadventures with the Justice League of America.

The Awesome Majesty of Nature
Details of a trip to Mexico and the wild Chihuahuas of the state of Chihuahua.

The Safety Word Is “Alfred”
Subtext? What subtext?

Fight the Cliches by Embracing Them
“…before America lost its innocence…” Heh. Heh heh. BWAH-HA-HA-HAAA!! Yeah, try another one.

Larry Young Is Wrong
A play in one act, starring me, Archie, Reggie, and Jughead, about the creative process.

Nerd, dork, dweeb, spaz, geek. It’s time we settled on what each one means.

The Fanboy Schisms, or, Is Dan DiDio the Pope of Avignon?
When the website Fanboy Rampage still ran, I liked to follow the senseless bickering of the fanboy world. This was my plan to help out.

Too Easy, Sure. But Fun
Jerry Lewis comics + Dimestore Freudianism = Big Time Komedy Laffs.

Viva! La Procrastinacíon! and Bliggity-Blog, a pair of posts where I venture an idea to create a “radio show” like Pendant Productions.

Sometimes I can’t keep my big yap shut.

The Ten Most Harmful Books
The conservative magazine “Human Events” produced a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th centuries. I felt their list was inaccurate, and suggested one of my own.

Stealing from the Long Box, or the Political Education of Young Harvey
An old issue of What If shaped my understanding of politics. And that’s not a bad thing. Check it out.

Where Would You Hide, the Laws All Being Flat?
I will not surrender safeguards against tyranny because I’m afraid of a dipstick with a truck bomb. Those who would, please pick up your chains at the front desk, and don’t forget your lip balm. The asses of the mighty require lots of kissing. Hiding under your desk and hoping Big Daddy will protect you is irresponsible and cowardly. I say this as a man who lives and works very close to the White House and Pentagon.

Jesus Wept
In case anyone forgot, back in January 2005, the US government openly considered training death squads in Iraq. I took exception to the idea.

To Iraq
My best friend from high school spent a year as an infantry sergeant in Iraq, getting fried by the desert heat and ducking bullets.

Putting on the Rant Pants
There’s a lot of stupidity in this world. Thus do I rant about “The Mindset of the Moron.”

I loves me some comics.

An Eleven Panel Master Course in Comics
Breaking down eleven panels from Bernard Kriegstein’s story “Master Race,” showing what goes on in a well-designed comic. One of the posts I’m proud of writing.

When the Wheel Turns
Spider-Man revealed his identity to America. The status quo is forever changed? What, are you new here? Of course it’ll go back. Here are a few ways it might.

How to Tell a True War Story
An appreciation of the EC Korean War comics and their creator, Harvey Kurtzman. Never been anything like them before or since.

Like Jesus, But With Fisticuffs
Captain America has died and come back so often, you’d think he’d have his own religion by now. Or at least a revolving credit line with a mortuary.

Treasures Abound
The recently cancelled series The Thing was beautiful. Here’s proof.

Why I Love Hitman in Two Words
I could go on, but why? The two words sum it all up.

Banish All the World
Silliness in comics: a good thing. Despite what many say.

The Beauty of Rough Edges: The Women of The Spirit
No comic ever had women like The Spirit. And that is a damn shame.

Dirty Little Secret: Marvel’s “Essentials” Line
The first post I wrote that garnered a few “hear hears!” Because it’s true.

Mister Miracle’s Mad Opera: Taking Comic Lunacy to Another Level
An appreciation of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World and the crazy Christmas-colored hero at its center.

The Master of Glomp Glukkle Shlik Shlorp Ghomp Glunk Glik Shtork
Don Martin, master. Bow before his greatness.

Go Away, Scary Man: “That Yellow Bastard” and Frank Miller
The first “Sin City” was cool and different, and I dug it. “That Yellow Bastard?” Not so much.

A Lost Character: The Charms of the White Tiger
An appreciation of a character discarded from Marvel Comics all too quickly: Christopher Priest’s version of the White Tiger. He coulda been great.

Lines Are Busy
A rundown of the many lines of comics produced in the last twenty years, ranging from Marvel’s New Universe to Valiant to CrossGen. I got into the motivating idea of each line, what happened, and my own read on it. This was one of my bigger hits, since Mike Sterling, one of the tentpoles of the comic blogosphere, linked to it.

Pull the Trigger: Why Walt Simonson Rocketh
He does.

"Groo Week: A Salute to a Great Series"
Groo the Wanderer is the only comic series I bothered to put in mylar bags. For I love it so. I spent a week of posts drooling over it.
The Greatest Comic Ever Printed
A Wanderer, A Kat, and a Mice with a Brick
A Process of Inbred Fertilization
Am I Not Lovely, O Man?
North by Southleft

With a Heart Full of Napalm: Iggy Pop, Kill Bill, Chris Farley, and Why Gødland Doesn’t Suck
Parallels a’plenty.

Behind the Times and Proud of It: Grooving to New X-Men
Why I don’t like the X-Men and how Morrison did a hell of a job fixing it.

A Lake of Hot Chocolate: Stan Freberg Shows the Way
A review of the original graphic novel The Long Haul through the prism of Stan Freberg, radio god, and basic comic book aesthetics.

"Mister President, You're All...Scaly!"
The President of the United States, comic book style.

Once in a while I contribute a review to another website, Comics Should Be Good. A few of 'em were even decent. (CSBG moved recently, and can now be found here.)

Great Expectations and the Graphic Novel
A review of several big-ish "coming of age" graphic novels: Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware; Blankets, by Craig Thompson; and the Buddy Baker stories in Hate, by Peter Bagge. I loved one of 'em.

Viva La Weirdness: Marvel’s Whacked-Out Comics of the Seventies
A tour of some of the deliciously insane comics Marvel put out in the Seventies. I review Essential Defenders Volume 1, Essential Howard the Duck, Essential Killraven, (sic) and Warlock: Special Edition. Whacked-Out Marvel is one of my very favorite types of comics.

We Are the Valets: Why Superheroes Aren’t So Superheroic Anymore
A counter-argument to the oft-floated idea that "modern creators don't like superheroes."

A Near Thing: Smoke #1
Writer Alex Di Campi said “I’m more of an auteur than a mainstream writer, anyway. I’d rather be known for creating five amazing books, and five awful ones, than for being ‘Little Miss Continuity’ who wrote 50 mediocre books.” Reading that, I had to check out Smoke #1. Did she succeed? Check it out.

CSBG Roundtable: Local #1
CSBG ran a couple of roundtable reviews. This one, coordinated by yers truly, reviewed Oni Press's Local #1. I think we did a good job of dissection and explanation. Consarn it.

Nat Turner #1 Review
Kyle Baker's Nat Turner work is brilliant. It should be a runaway hit. Here I try to explain why.

Pop culture mania!

Masked Men, Melted Cheese, and the Great Lost Film
Nacho Libre…as made by Billy Wilder?

Disrespecting the Bing
At the end of the penultimate season of The Sopranos, all I could say was “what the hell was that?” This post was me hashing it out. Turns out it did have an underlying theme. A dumb one.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby: Tim Burton and Freaks
Why I don’t like Tim Burton, the short form.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby: “It’s Like The First Ones Were Jokes!”
Why Batman Begins was so much more satisfying than the earlier four Batman movies.

Eternal Verities
For the Bob Dylan fans out there. Or for those sick to death of Bob Dylan.

Click here to read more!

One Thing I Miss

Ah, the pseudo-scientific explanations for phenomena both major and minor.

I do miss those in modern comics.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Origins of a Marvel Fanboy

Many of the bloggers out in blogland are dedicated DC fans. My own pull-list these days is heavily weighted towards DC, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

That being said, I remain in my heart a Marvel fanboy. The reason, as is so often the case amongst the comic fans of the world, dates back to my introduction to comics.

As a wee tadger in the late seventies and early eighties, I was exposed to the standards from both companies. Superman, Batman, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Fantastic Four were the most common funnybooks you’d find on my bedroom floor. How I remember them from yonder days can best be summed up with a hypothetical.

Monstroso the Giant Robot Earwig is attacking [insert city name]! [Insert superhero] has attacked the beast head-on and been rebuffed, his body smacked into a building! What’s the first thing that comes into the hero’s mind as he climbs from the rubble?

SUPERMAN: “Great Rao! I’ll use my super-[insert power] to hurl the Giant Robot Earwig into the depths of space and into the heart of the sun!”

BATMAN: “Hmm…I’ll have to head to the Batcave and develop the Bat-[unstoppable super weapon]! I’ll stop this beast yet!”*

SPIDER-MAN: “Oh come on! How the heck am I supposed to stop that thing? It’s bigger than Shea Stadium!”

The DC heroes met setbacks with iron-jawed resolution. The Marvel heroes met setbacks with exasperation, then iron-jawed resolution. That moment of hesitation added a lot.

The iconic heroes of DC were undaunted by the dangers they faced. The Marvel heroes were daunted—but they saved the day anyway. Which inspires more? Perfection and victory, or imperfection overcome and victory?

This is not to say that DC didn’t later pick up on this idea. Nor that Marvel didn’t hose it up on occasion--the idea of imperfection proved easy to twist into great gaping flaws. Great gaping flaws are as boring as perfection.

But when we debate “Marvel Versus DC” in the abstract, it is this split that forms the core of the fight.

Scipio of the Absorbascon, a DC fan, sums it up nicely:

And, as I've mentioned before many times in my "DC vs. Marvel" tirades, I don't want heroes who make me feel better about who I am (à la Marvel); I want heroes who inspire me to better myself (à la DC). I don't want heroes who view their abilities as burdensome responsibilities (à la Marvel) but as wonderful opportunities (à la DC).

My counter-argument is to ask why would I want a hero whose experience is so alien to mine that we may as well be different species (à la DC), as opposed to a hero who lives in a world with the mixed messages I have to parse out myself (à la Marvel)?

The achievements of Superman and Batman were nothing to me beyond pure spectacle. Courage meant little to Superman, since he didn’t seem even capable of fear. The possibility of failure meant nothing to Batman, because he never failed. Right and wrong were always clear, the line between friend and enemy was obvious, and doing the right thing always brought reward and renown. Their problems were direct: The Joker is on the loose, Cheetah is kidnapping scientists, Luthor’s stolen the ocean, and so forth.

The achievements of Spider-Man and the Thing resonated better with Wee Harv. Courage mattered to them, because they felt fear. The Marvel heroes failed as often as they succeeded. On occasion they had to struggle just to figure out what the right thing to do was. Virtue wasn’t always rewarded. They even quit being superheroes in frustration a few times.

But they always came back, fought the good fight, and saved the day.

Take the moment often regarded as the Great Break in Marvel history: the death of Spider-Man’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. The moment is considered seminal in superhero comics for any number of reasons, such as permanent continuity changes, the “end of innocence,” and so forth. But what about its core? What is the story about?

Spider-Man does everything right, tries to save the love of his life, and she dies anyway. There was nothing he could have done. Being brave, being right, being heroic just wasn’t enough. Sometimes nothing is.

That’s some heavy shit to lay on a kid.

It’s also the way to reach a fan that more standard heroic tales cannot. The follow-up story is equally important: Spider-Man hunts down the Green Goblin and, in his rage, nearly murders the villain. But he does not, because his sense of ethics won’t let him. Confronted with the chance to indulge his desire for revenge, he struggles with himself and his better nature wins out.

That is heroism. It is inspiring, and illustrates how one can become a better person. Iconic heroes cannot match this inspiration, because the iconic heroes did not even acknowledge this struggle, much less fight it. Wee Harv recognized the problems instantly and drew from Spider-Man’s example. There Spider-Man was a hero fighting evil within and without, not just some dude in a funny suit punching out another guy in a funny suit.

Moreover, the fact that Gwen died despite Spider-Man's best efforts added an emotional flavor lacking in most comic stories, a hint of the tragic. The depths of tragedy provided a counterpoint to the heights of brightly-colored adventure, making both stronger.

Could it flop? Sure, and it often did, sinking into cheap pathos. But the flatness of old-style DC did not and does not strike me as preferable.

Looking over the giant reprint volumes that have come out recently has reinforced my opinion of ye olden comics. Old-style DC comics are full of fun and spectacle, but the struggles were only external, and thus of limited interest. Old-style Marvel was full of fun and spectacle, but the struggles were internal as well as external, adding a second dimension to the one-dimensional heroes of old.** (A full three dimensional superhero? Haven’t seen one yet.)

True, modern Marvel is dull and convoluted, and modern DC is a riot of awesomeness. I can’t deny it.

But it weren’t always so.

* That’s how Batman rolled Back in the Day. When was the last time he went back to the Batcave to construct something to defeat a bad guy? I’d kill to see a new issue of Detective Comics where Our Hero creates some sort of specialized “Bat-Dingus” to stop a rampaging dimetrodon in Gotham Park.

** Old-style Marvel also had a sense of humor. Not the bemused grins of DC, but full-fledged jokes and smartassery. This was no small draw for Wee Harv. Or for Big Harv, either.

Click here to read more!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Proposals That Never Made It #1

Many are the comics that could have been. Here at Filing Cabinet of the Damned, we like to look back upon some of the comics that almost were. Here's one that almost was, and, in my opinion, should have been.


Aquaman's octopus pal Topo strikes out for adventures of his own! Using only his suction cups, his ink sac, and amazing deductive skills, Topo the Wonder Octopus smashes spy rings, catches smugglers, and still finds the time to kick out the jams every Friday night at a backstreet joint in the Big Easy.

Courage is his middle name!

He may be an invertebrate, but he isn't spineless!

Criminals are meet this calamari!*

* Yes, "calamari" means squid. But c'mon. It's a good tagline.

Click here to read more!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Character Versus World and Suchlike

Jim Roeg, over at Double Articulation got me a'thinkin'. He said:

...a renewed focus on the hero’s civilian alter-ego characterizes DC’s new approach to [Batman,] Wonder Woman and Superman...Historically, Superman has had the strongest relationship to his civilian identity, and, beyond his “blue Boy Scout” persona, it is perhaps for this reason that the character has often sustained a sense of lightness and fun more effectively than either Wonder Woman or Batman. Across the board, DC’s strategy for reinvigorating its Holy Trinity has been to humanize them through a focus on their civilian personas (Diana’s new job over in the superb new Wonder Woman series and the Clark Kent-focused “Up, Up, and Away” and “Metropolis stories” over in the Super-titles).

Very true, and a big part of why I've been digging DC's books lately.

To keep the thought going, it also explains why I've abandoned Marvel over the last few years.* Marvel has, quite publicly, ditched all of its secret identities from its heroes. I don't think there's a single major Marvel character left with a double life. Why does it matter?

The difference, I believe, shows the animating principles behind the Big Two's current worlds-o-superheroes.

Marvel's abandonment of secret IDs and its ongoing Civil War project are built upon the idea of superhumans in the real world. Marvel roots its stories in the question "What would it mean if tomorrow a few hundred people around the world were mega-powered?" It focuses on the gulf between our world and a world with superhumans in it.

DC's maintenance and new care about secret IDs is built upon the idea of superheroing, not super powers. DC roots its stories in the question "What would it be like to be a superhero?" It focuses on the gulf between the everyday life of a regular person and the everyday life of a super-being with powers, tights, and a split life.

In essence, Marvel takes the approach of "Assuming you got superpowers, it would go like this..." DC takes the approach of "Assuming you were a superhero, it would go like this..." That's a heck of a big difference.

The Marvel approach is more interested in world-building, like a science fiction novel describing a world-o-superhumans. The DC approach is more interested in character interplay and the genre of superheroes itself. I've never had a lot of interest or patience in world-building, so I've drifted away from current Marvel.

Moreover, the direction the world would take if real superhumans wandered around...well, it wouldn't be a happy one. Imagine if just telepathy were a proven phenomenon. Think about the paranoia it would generate. Now throw in alien invasions, killer robots, and mutants. Sound like fun?

I don't think so either. Marvel's been going down that exact path to see where it heads and unfold new story directions. The problem is that it's not hard to figure out where it heads, and it's nowhere I'd want to be. On the other hand, being a superhero sounds like warped fun.

This all strikes me as kind of odd, since old-school Marvel was built upon the core now being used by DC. What makes Marvel work is the strong relation its readers can make with its characters. They're downplaying that in favor of playing sci-fi "what if" games with the larger world.

None of this is brain-blowing analysis, I know, but it does help me figure out why Marvel's turned me off lately.

Man, I hope a change of editorial direction comes along soon to play up the fun in Marvel again. They certainly have the characters for it. The Thing? Spider-Man? Hells yeah!

Any thoughts?

* The exception being (aside from the recently-cancelled Thing) the Annihilation miniseries-es. They rawk. They rawk hard. Good, fun books about a giant space war and superheroes. Annihilation reminds me quite a bit of the Invasion! miniseries/crossover DC put out in the late eighties. Which shouldn't be that big of a surprise, since the head writer of both was the Immortal and Beloved Keith Giffen, Pagan God of Comics.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

He Pantses the World. Also, Captain Kangaroo's Evil Double

A pair of internet goodies:

The site Fametracker does periodic "Fame Audits" of celebrities. Usually they're kind of amusing. One was brilliant. The Shatner Audit. To quote:
Most stars are lucky to have a three-phase career: young heartthrob; blowsy superstar; Austin Powers cameo. Or some careers play out this way: heartthrob; handshakes; U.S. President.

By that yardstick, Shatner's had ten careers. He's had twenty. He's had entire careers before breakfast. You could tell your life story twice in the time it would take him to tell the story about that one time he pantsed DeForrest Kelley. Shatner has conquered. He was cool, then he was nerd-cool, then he was kitsch, then he was kitsch-cool, then he was knowing-wink cool, then just plain cool again, and now he's something better than cool. He made himself a punchline with such debonair cunning that -- guess what? -- the man is not a punchline anymore.

When the world zigs, he zags. When the world zags, he zigs. When the world zigs back, he records an album with Ben Folds. When the world chuckles, he pantses the world.

The recent Comedy Central Roast of Shatner reminded me of the audit. "He Pantses the World" is one of the top six phrases in the English language, and it deserves to be revived. Check it out.


The mind-blowing dull smugness of the comic strip Mary Worth has taken an exciting turn of late. As the Comics Curmudgeon has followed breathlessly, Mary Worth has a stalker. The stalker?

Captain Kangaroo.

Check him out. "Aldo Kelrast" puts the creepy moves on Mary below. Tell me "Aldo" isn't the Good Captain in a polo shirt.

Here's a link to the Houston Chronicle's comic page for Mary Worth. Check out the last month or so to indulge in Aldo-mania. The storyline, written in the manner of someone whose only regular contact with humanity is through daytime television, is strange enough. Throw in Aldo's uncanny resemblance to the late Bob Keeshan, and damn. You've got yourself a hypnotic comic strip.

Stalking isn't funny. Mary Worth being stalked by a demented alcoholic Captain Kangaroo is a rich vein of pure comedy gold.

My fervent hope is that the storyline will end with a knock-knock joke and hundreds of ping-pong balls falling from the sky onto Mary's head.*

* If you didn't get that reference, you're too damn young. Get the hell off my lawn, turn down that infernal hippety-hop music, and listen up.

Back in my day, things were different. We didn't have this "inter-netting," like you kids today. When we wanted to "blog," we had to use actual logs! Why, I remember when me and Vern McCort took a nine-foot long piece of fir tree and whittled onto the side of it a long satire of President Reagan and Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt using nothing but our buck knives! Then we put our "blog" into the river and let it float through the middle of town for all to read! We shook things up that day, I can tell you.

I pulled a muscle and Vern dislocated a finger moving that "blog!" But we were grateful! Grateful for the chance to do it! Not like you kids today! Eeennnhhh...consarn it, my lumbago's acting up.

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