Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Kirby Character Meme

I’ve been tagged by Plok of A Trout in the Milk with a simple meme from Sean Kleefeld.

Here’s the original challenge from Kleefeld:
The past few years, I've been writing a column for Jack Kirby Collector that looks at Kirby's visual design of characters. It's been infinitely fascinating for me, and I almost always find some surprises in my research on Kirby's design processes for the characters I write about.

I thought I'd bring other people into the fold by my first attempt at starting a blogosphere meme. Here's the premise:

Forget Jack's overall storytelling, forget his characterization, just look at the visual representation of his characters -- the actual drawings themselves. Now tell us what YOU think is the best character design Jack Kirby ever created and why. The challenge, it seems to me, isn't so much finding a good (or even great) character design; it's narrowing the field down to just one!

What is my favorite Kirby character design? Before I give my answer, I’ll start by saying that I love Captain America, and Kirby did a tremendous job with him. But the costume is more than a little goofy.

The basic idea is great: a modern-day knight, with chain mail, gauntlets, and a shield. The flourishes, though, are strange. Wings on the head? The striped midriff? Ah, well.

Much as I love the guy, he looks a little like a dork.

Who is Kirby’s best design?

Who else?


Doctor Doom is the counterpoint to Mr. Fantastic. He is the Dark Side of Genius. Where Richards lives in a bright white tower, open to the public, Doom lives in an ancient fortress in a police state. Richards wears a bright blue jumpsuit and creates inventions to push back the boundaries of human knowledge. Doom wears armor and a mask, and his work is purely for the Greater Glory of Dooooooom!

Richards represents intelligence for the good of all and looking to the future. He is the American Space Age. Doom represents intelligence for personal gain and anchored to the nightmares of the past. He is the Gothic Villain.

Doom’s design has a few great touches. The basic form of his costume is the armor. The armor looks medieval, hinting at Doom’s preoccupation with the occult, as well as Doom’s status as an old-tymey genius, the sort who was feared by the populace and kidnapped local maidens for purposes too horrible to contemplate. Over the armor he wears a green tunic, a little reminiscent of Greece and Rome, and a hooded cloak, which reinforces Doom’s sorcerous flavor.

The true genius of Doom’s design is in the mask. Doom’s look is, for the most part, simple: smooth armored limbs, circles at his joints and clasps, the simple green clothes, and the holster. Nothing notable. Doom’s mask is entirely different, without betraying the basic thrust of the design. It draws attention to Victor’s face though it does not disrupt the harmony of the design while doing so.

Nooks and crannies give the mask a sinister look, and draw attention to Doom’s crazy, crazy eyes. The mask’s mouth is full of techno-gadgetry, hinting that Victor’s true insides are not man, but machine. Moreover, the ugliness of the mask hints at the horrible, scarred face beneath it. Doom’s mask is as ugly and frightening as the man who wears it.

(That’s my pet theory as to why cartoon versions of Doom fail—without the details in the mask, the strengths of his design are lost.)

Kirby’s Doom was the greatest ranting, larger-than-life villain the comics have ever produced. It’s a hell of a look.

Of course it is!


Who do I tag?

Oh, let's see if the Big Dawgs of the Blogosphere are paying attention.

Dave Campbell, paging Dave Campbell. Chris Sims, paging Chris Sims. Bully the little stuffed bull, paging Bully the little stuffed bull. Devon Sanders, paging Devon Sanders.

Kirby meme on the line.

(Devon doesn't much like Kirby, as I recall. That'll make it fun.)

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Today's Obvious Joke

Coming This Fall!


In the aftermath of the world-wracking, senses-shattering miniseries event CIVIL WAR comes RECONSTRUCTION!

Wounds will heal!

Alliances will be reformed!

Shattered friendships will be mended!


With malice toward none, with action for all... RECONSTRUCTION!!

A just and lasting series, coming this winter from Marvel!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

You Could Remake Wings of Desire. Or Not.

[I’ve been puttering with this for a few days, and then Tom Foss of The Fortress of Soliloquy posts something very similar. Dammit. Ah, well…]

The Martian Manhunter, beloved by many comic fans and ignored by the general public, has a miniseries out now that’s supposed to redefine and reinterpret the character. This isn’t a big deal. J’onn J’onzz has been redefined and reinterpreted a half-dozen times. What reviews I’ve read of the miniseries have been negative, and that this revision of J’onn (a grim, X-Files-esque grim-n-gritty conspiracy character) is wrongheaded.

Superman is considered a challenge to write by many because of his vast powers and strength. What can give the Ultimate Man difficulty? The Martian Manhunter possesses that challenge squared.

J’onn’s powers range so widely, it’s hard to make a comprehensive list. To begin with, he has the “Superman Package:” super-strength, flight, invulnerability, “Martian Vision” (a sort-of heat vision), and the now-ignored super-breath. He doesn’t have these powers at the same level as Superman, but he’s not that far off.*

Then there’s his telepathy, shape-shifting, intangibility, and invisibility powers.

I’m probably forgetting a few.**

The Martian Manhunter has been around since the mid-fifties and has never been a major player. In all likelihood, he’ll never be one. But consarn it, the character can be a good one, and I’d love to see him carry an ongoing series again.

Because ideas are cheap and easy, and so am I, here are a couple of ten-cent ideas out of my four-color brain for a workable ongoing Martian Manhunter series.***

Beetle-Brows of Desire
The Logic: J’onn can read minds, travel invisibly, and become anyone. He is also the last of his kind, a lone Martian among billions of humans. More than any mainstream superhero, J’onn could transition to a Vertigo title. The “alienated outsider moping” potential for a Martian Manhunter series is enormous.

The High Concept: Wings of Desire meets The Fugitive. An invisible protector and agent of change, the Last Martian rights everyday wrongs among a group of unhappy people and seeks his place in a world where he does not belong.

You can just smell the clove cigarettes and coffee, can’t you?

“I walk among them unknown. I am with them, but never of them. Alone, forever and ever, to know them to the depths of their souls and yet never truly know them.” And so forth. Anguish! Angst! Arty-fartyness!

A doomed love would be a necessary component to the series, I’d imagine.

Soundtrack by Morrissey.****

The Hunter of Men
The Logic: Most efforts to shape interest in J’onn as a solo character stress his Martianness. But that’s only half of his name. Put the accent on the second half: Manhunter.

J’onn has had flirtations with detective stories throughout his history, and a brief superspy career. During the James Bond Era of popular culture, also known as the mid-sixties, the Martian Manhunter infiltrated, fought, and brought down the eeeevil criminal conspiracy V.U.L.T.U.R.E.

Given J’onn’s less common abilities (telepathy, shapeshifting, etc.), espionage is a genre for which he’s well suited. Particularly comic-book espionage, with its orbital laser platforms, mad scientists, killer robots, and so forth.

The High Concept: The Human Target meets Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, with a hint of Superman. J’onn joins Checkmate, the superspy organization. They may or may not know who he really is. The Manhunter infiltrates and thwarts threats to humanity ranging from the globe-spanning Cult of Kobra to a handful of disaffected soldiers causing trouble in Mexico City. He can uncover anyone’s secret, reach any spot on the planet, and has the power to obliterate whatever stands against him. He was made for low-profile work.

Also, conspiracy masterminds make more sense as foes for J’onn than most villains. With his ability to read minds, the only way to keep him from discovering your plans is to make sure that the people you send against him don’t know your plans. Or know the wrong plans. Or use robots. Y’know, mastermind stuff.

My Three J’onzz
The Logic: The Martian Manhunter has been on Earth since the nineteen-fifties. He’s from a highly advanced civilization that was dedicated to both science and spirit. He’s been reading our minds and living among us for sixty years. In short, despite being a Martian, nobody knows the human heart half as well as J’onn.

Moreover, he’s well-known for being kind, loving, and compassionate. He was a family man on Mars, and he has close bonds with many humans. Due to his great losses on Mars, he appreciates the value of those bonds.

The Manhunter’s greatest success as a character came when he acted as the “heart” of the Justice League, especially in its comedy years. J’onn the kindhearted ringmaster of a loopy circus was a character readers loved.

The High Concept: The Brady Bunch meets Runaways meets Explosiones Grandes en Cuatro Colores. Plus jokes.

Cast J’onn as the patriarch of a clan of orphaned and/or abandoned superhumans. The children of fourth-rate supervillians, like in Runaways, or maybe just random kids. They range in age from ten to eighteen, and include Cindy Reynolds, also known as “Gypsy,” a teenage superheroine towards whom J’onn has felt paternal since her days in the Justice League, oh so many years ago.

The kids can vary in personality and be downright loopy. I figure there'd be about four of 'em, each with different whacked-out powers. A robot dog would be mandatory, as would Oreos. Lots of Oreos.

The Martian Manhunter knows that to keep the kids safe, they have to pretend to be a normal human family. The kids may or may not put up with this at any given moment. Also, since they’re the only superhumans in the greater Denver area, they’re also called upon to act superheroically on occasion.

To round out the family, J’onn and the kids share the house with Elaine Cannell, a character I just made up. Elaine is an ordinary woman with an ordinary life, despite being a telepath. She hides her power, since it freaks people out. Her telepathy is remarkably similar to the Martian flavor, which captures J’onn’s attention. She’s also warm and groovy. They fit together perfectly, and dadgumit if J’onn doesn’t have a love interest.

J’onn helps support the family through detective work with his old partner, Diane Meade. When not on the job, he trains and protects his proteges, as irritating as they can be. And, when the need arises, he leads them into big ol’ super-fights.

The series would have to be kept light and fluffy, with the occasional dip into Big Scary Drama. Sibling rivalry with superpowers! Date night drama! Lex Luthor has sent an army of Bizarros to attack, and they’ve torn up the vegetable garden! The world is ending and Gyspy has a term paper to finish! One of the boys has built nine robot dinosaurs and is attacking the school!

Just spitballin’.

* Also in the Superman vein, he has a signature weakness, in the manner of kryptonite: fire. For most of his career, he’s been pretty much a Superman copy with a stronger emphasis on the alien side.

** Ye gods. It’s almost easier to make a list of things he can’t do. I’m pretty sure he can’t speak to fish. Though I suppose he could talk to fish if he applied himself…dammit, this is hard. He can’t time travel! There ya go.

*** Please note that all of these are “continuity lite.” No retroactive changes, but also not a lot of attention paid to the past. The brief ongoing Martian Manhunter series often got bogged down in explaining old storylines or retrofitting assorted junk into a more coherent shape. As a fan, I appreciated the effort to sort out the past, but it didn’t help the series. As far as these proposals are concerned, the Ostrander/Mandrake interpretation of J’onn J’onzz’s history is just fine.

Comics that exist only to clarify how old comics fit into new comics makes me sad. Infinite Crisis depressed me.

**** I date myself by my musical references. For you kids today, replace "Morrissey" with "Dashboard Confessional."

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Weird Comics: Avengers #1

Early Marvel was really, really strange. Take Avengers #1.

The story begins with Loki, the evil Norse god, tricking everyone into thinking the Hulk was a menace. (Which, come to think of it, he was. Details, eh?) To keep safe, the Hulk goes into hiding...

As an elephant-juggling robot clown in a circus.

Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense.


Better still, people fall for it. They "just happened to find" a giant green clown robot with superhuman strength. For that to seem normal, well, let's just say that Marvel Earth must be a very cool place.

Yes, the people fall for the Hulk's cunning disguise. The ant in the panel's lower-left corner doesn't. Take that how you will.

Said ant alerts Ant-Man, who has been searching for the Hulk. Ant-Man rushes to the circus and unleashes his secret weapon and a great catch phrase: "Release the steel cylinder, my tiny warriors!"


Later on, the Hulk fights the Wasp, a tiny flying heroine, with the best tool for the job, and a tool I suppose he always keeps on hand: fireplace bellows.


Near the issue's climax, the mighty Thor comes after his eeeevil brother, only to fall prey to...mad, hot, sweaty hairy-backed troll love.

Yeah, I love comics.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Sub-Mariner's Rogue's Gallery, Improved

Today's dippy thought: The Sub-Mariner's name is "Namor." A good faux-foreign name. Twenty bucks and a box of doughnuts says it was derived from spelling "Roman" backwards.*

That being the case, shouldn't he have a Rogues' Gallery made up of villains named Labinnah, Nainigahtrac, Htogisiv, and Ladnav?

I'm just sayin'.

*The Wikipedia claims that Namor's creator, Bill Everett, got the name to Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." I'm not buyin' it. A quick scan of the poem shows no such name, nor even a similar-sounding name. I sez it's "Roman" backwards. The poem may have inspired the character himself, but the name? Nah.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Like a Thief in the Midafternoon

It’s amazing the things a blogger will do to come up with content, especially during National Novel Writing Month.

Take this lame-ass stunt: Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog is taking reader questions. The best question wins a prize.

What’s so lameass about that?

The lameass thing is that I’m stealing a bunch of the questions and answering them myself.

Yeah, yeah, it’s weak. Real life has made me its bitch of late and demanded a lot of my time. As always, the blog is the first thing to suffer.

So...on to the stolen questions!

Fiendenstein said...
Beta Ray Bill is an alien, a cyborg, and an 80's icon....but why does he have a skeletal horse's face?

--THE ANSWER IS: Intimidation purposes. Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot. Thus, he became…an alien cyborg thunder god horse. Makes sense to me. C'mon, tell me that a real-life Beta Ray Bill wouldn’t strike bowel-loosening terror in you and I’ll call you a liar. A dirty, horse-faced liar.

Dave Lartigue said...
Could Lockjaw clamp down on Mjolnir hard enough to prevent it returning to Thor?
--THE ANSWER IS: No, but it would rule if he could. Instead, he’d latch onto the hammer and get dragged back to Thor. I have to say, Lockjaw is far and away the coolest character named after tetanus. Other Inhumans with similar names, such as “Rusty Nailgun” and “Brigadier General Stiffness of Muscles,” were not as popular.

Gordon said...
[Harvey], why isn't there more punching in comics?

--THE ANSWER IS: Kicking is all the rage these days, especially with the rise of soccer-style kickers in the modern era. That being said, I predict a “back-to-punching” movement in the next few years as heroes age. Easier on the hamstrings.

Jim said...
If you were bonded to a disembodied head that only you could see and talk to, who would you want as your Prof. Stein?

--THE ANSWER IS: Emeril Lagasse. He’s cute, he's friendly, and he's so close to a perfect superhero catch phrase it breaks my heart. If Emeril were my Invisible Disembodied Head Buddy, I’m sure I could push him over the top and it work. “BAM! Let’s kick him up the crotch!” And I would.

jacob munford said...
I was reading some comic blog the other day and it posited the theory that due to the insular nature of the superhero comic book industry, it is only a matter of time before Marvel and DC become the same thing. Which made me think...Can Batman and Luke Cage coexist in the same world? And if so, what happens when they run out of thugs to brutally wreck and then sass?
--THE ANSWER IS: Yes, they can. And if that happened, the two of them would put aside their super-identities and open an erotic bakery. Bruce would shape the cakes with a Bat-knife, and Luke would perform the delicate icing work. He's a demon with a pipette. Sweet Christmas!

Shon Richards said...
What reccomended music do you suggest as the soundtrack for your blog?

--THE ANSWER IS: The Tom Jones cover of “Kung Fu Fighting,” available on the soundtrack to the Jackie Chan movie “Supercop.” Or the Tony Bennett album “The Beat of My Heart.” Tony Bennett + Art Blakey = Unfettered Awesomeness.

Brandon said...
Super-expensive Dr. Doom replica costume, jetpack and laser pistol included? Or lifesize remote-controlled Devil Dinosaur that you could ride around on?

--THE ANSWER IS: Assuming the Doom-suit was functional metal armor, I'd pick the Doom suit. Why? Because I already spend an inordinate amount of my time plotting revenge against the Accursed Richards, building super-science gadgets, and yelling “Bah!” The suit would complete the look. A Devil Dinosaur replica would be pure radness, but it’d be hell to keep the damn neighbor kids off of it.

Norrin2 said...
If the original Green Lantern was powerless against wood, how did he handle unwanted erections?

--THE ANSWER IS: His comedy sidekick, Doiby Dickles. “Doiby” was an old hobo term meaning…um…never mind. Hi Mom! Anyway, the answer is “Doiby Dickles.”

Ragnell said...
I can't believe no one else has asked this: What is the meaning of life?

--THE ANSWER IS: A friend of mine struggled with the Meaning of Life for years and then one day it came to him. The key insight? “You know what’s good? General Tso’s Chicken. You know what sucks? That movie Point Break.” He lives his life by these words, as do I.

Christopher said...
Why do people like the Authority so much when the characters are two-dimensional, it doesn't address the implications of its premise, and the fight scenes are purfonctory and lacking in suspense.

--THE ANSWER IS: Because it caters to people’s contempt for others. Reading it allows fanboys to vent their misanthropy and feel superior at the same time. There’s a little portion of each and every one of us that wants to rule the world and suspects the only reason that we don’t is a lack of (metaphorical) balls. The Authority indulges that portion of us. Thus, The Authority is a purer wish-fulfillment book than most, and thus, it stinks at the zoo.

Anonymous said...
such a horrible time for us blog readers;
Dial B for Blog ends
the 4th Rail was already gone
Hypno Ray said he was quitting.
Dave's Long Box takes vacations
the fortress keeper hasn't reviewed much for nearly 3 weeks
The Absorbacon is witty with Golden Age Bondage but where's the review section?
and Devon's slacking.
C'mon [Harvey]'ve been the one constant guy...don't stop now!
My buddy trent told me to start a blog. I did and it's already on hiatus.

--THE ANSWER IS: I myself am going to stop writing this blog at the end of the year. I’ll explain why then. (Of course, I might change my mind. I’ve nearly killed this thing six times.)

Ryan O said...
is the springfield monorail faster than the flash?

--THE ANSWER IS: In my family, we call fires “uh-ohs!”

Johnny said...
where do babies come from?
--THE ANSWER IS: Diamond distributors. I have one on back-order. She’s a holofoil beauty! Hope she has the right number of staples.

djmikerdee said...
Dammit! Why have you not done an overview on the greatest comic series of all time: "Skull the Slayer" - 8 whopping issues of Marvel madness with dinosaurs, aliens, Aztecs and - for two Marvel Two-In-One issues - Benjamin Grimm! C'mon [Harvey]! It's the bestest!!!!

--THE ANSWER IS: I own one or two issues of Skull the Slayer, purchased from a quarter bin. Holy crap, it was a weird series. Also, during the mid-seventies, Marvel experimented with "jackass heroes," and Skull was one of ‘em. A very unpleasant man. A strange, strange book. I may have to dig it out for a post.

Brian said...
Oh no, a huge stack of longboxes full of Good copies of 'Rom Spaceknight' has collapsed and crushed your body! Fortunately it's a Wednesday, and there's a mad scientist at your store ready to transplant your brain into a new body. What body, m'friend? A super-ape? Luke Cage? A cyborg whale with laser cannons sprouting out of its blowholes?

--THE ANSWER IS: An air-breathing octopus with laser-eyes and suckers so powerful they could open up tiny wormholes in the space-time continuum, should I so desire. And I would. Also, the body would have a voice like Barry White. And smell like maple syrup.

Devon said...
Don't hate the playa, hate the game, [Jerkwater]! *wink*

--THE ANSWER IS: I have enough hate for everyone. Not to worry. Plenty to share.

Rick said...
Can you confirm or deny that Batman is the Chuck Norris of the DC Universe? In Justice League Unlimited episode: Destroyer, Batman starts to yell at someone as their bodyguard readies to attack him, yet runs into batman's fist, all with batman focused on talking to his target!

--THE ANSWER IS: I deny it. The Chuck Norris of the DC Universe is…Chuck Norris. His comics have never been published,* because the technology does not yet exist for a printed page to kick each and every reader in the head.
(*No, “Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos” does not count. That was Marvel, and he’s already kicked to death everyone invovled in that fiasco.**)
(**Except Steve Ditko. Even Chuck Norris won’t mess with Steve Ditko.)

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

El Dia de los Muertos

Today, November 1, is the beginning of the two-day celebration Dia de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead." The holiday has special meaning to me, as part of my mixed heritage.

To honor my Mexican-American heritage, I celebrate the day by decorating my house in festive skulls and bake some tasty pan de muerto in memory of loved ones and friends who have passed away.*

To honor my Ninja-American heritage, I celebrate the day by killing a lot of people.** The Day of the Dead is big in Ninja culture, what with the traditional emphasis on killing. Killing and family, that's what Ninja are about. Well, and barbeques. Nobody barbeques like Ninja. Anyway, killing on this day ensures that I'll have plenty more friends and loved ones to mourn and celebrate next year. I ask you, what is a Day of the Dead without plenty of dead? A lame-ass holiday, that's what it is.

Even if you aren't of Mexican origins or trained in the deadly arts of ninjutsu, I suggest you take some time out today to remember those who are no longer with us, and celebrate their lives.

And if the mood strikes, go ahead and kill someone. That'll make next year's celebration all the richer.

* This is a blatant lie. I am not Hispanic.

** This is a blatant truth. So watch it. That noise behind you five minutes ago that you didn't hear? That was me, and that was a warning.

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