Comics Ate My Brain

November 4, 2004

New comics 11/3/04

Filed under: batman, justice league, supergirl, superman, weekly roundups — Tom Bondurant @ 2:02 pm
Yesterday was a pretty light day — JLA Classified, Detective, and Superman/Batman. Apparently Astonishing X-Men and Star Wars: Empire also came out, but somehow I didn’t get either and I haven’t missed them.

I want to start with JLA Classified #1. Boy, did this feel good. There was very little of substance — just a big fight between the Ultra-Marines and Super-Gorilla Grodd — but a lot of it set my old geezer heart a-flutter. To me it took the elements of a ’60s Justice League of America story and didn’t quite update them as much as extrapolate from them. Grant Morrison takes probably his biggest liberty with Batman, giving him the sci-fi gadgetry you figure he would have had if (as in the ’50s and ’60s) he were traveling into outer space and through time on a regular basis. Morrison also reintroduces the Knight and the Squire, a pair of heroes from the ’50s Batman’s “Club Of Heroes.” (The CoH was a kind of United Colors Of Batman, with every country having its own version of the Caped Crusader. The last time any of these folks showed up in a DC book was as Kingdom Come in-jokes.) What I love about this issue is that Morrison doesn’t try to deny Batman’s goofier adventures, he embraces them. Ed McGuinness’ art also seems more disciplined here than it did in the Superman or Superman/Batman books. It still has a lot of energy, but it’s more focused.

The Batman-centered week continued with Detective Comics #800, the last for a while by the team of Andersen Gabrych and Pete Woods. (There’s also a moody backup by new writer/artist David Lapham, coming on board next month for a year’s tour.) The story is a routine tale of Batman tracking drug dealers, but it highlights how Gotham City has changed in the wake of “War Games.” I’ve talked before about the dopey “urban legend” conceit, so I’m glad it’s officially gone. This issue plays on the new “public outlaw” Batman, with onlookers gaping at the Batmobile and the authorities openly skeptical of Batman’s motives. It also catches us up with the various Batman family members, allowing Batman a few actual human moments with Barbara Gordon, Jim Gordon (who calls him “son”), and Catwoman. Again, I hope the Bat-office allows its hero more of these types of character bits. To me they’re more “realistic” than the standard “Batman is a jerk” paradigm.

And finally, there’s Superman/Batman #13, finishing up the Supergirl saga. I’ll skip the running complaint about Loeb’s dueling narrative captions and just say that this part felt very forced and anticlimactic. The arc’s basic plot was sound — Kara Zor-El comes to Earth and everybody wants to decide her future for her — but the execution left a lot to be desired. Also, who could have guessed that Amazon formal dress involved bare midriffs? S/B is very frustrating because its heart is in the right place, but it is so eager to explain itself that all the joy is sucked out. Both this Supergirl story and the JLA Classified arc include elements familiar to longtime fans, but where Loeb takes pains to delineate them, Morrison throws them in without stopping.

I don’t know why, but I still feel compelled to pick up Superman/Batman every month (or, more accurately, whenever it comes out). It’s a guilty pleasure, I suppose, and the ideas behind it are good. Loeb has a year left on the book, so on balance it’s worth it to me to see where he’s going with his 25 issues. I wonder if the next writer will bring in the Super-Sons.

November 3, 2004

Okay, Let’s See If I Can Relate THIS To Comics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 6:24 pm
Haven’t quite stopped to catalog them all, but it feels like this elections’ results have produced in me every negative emotion possible. Therefore, I am looking for something positive out of the next four years, at which time I will probably have to deal with the impending presidency of Jeb Bush.

Anyway, here’s the comics part.

Is a President’s second term good for comics? In other words, a second term indicates a certain amount of comfort and security on the part of the electorate. Does a creative mind react to that state of relative ennui by trying to shake it up?

Roosevelt’s second term (1937-41) saw the birth of the superhero. Eisenhower’s second term (1957-61) came at the beginning of the Silver Age. Nixon’s second term (1973-74) was arguably too short to produce much that was noteworthy (Kirby had already finished his “Fourth World,” and Marvel was entering its “dark” period), but I could be wrong. However, Reagan’s second term (1985-89) definitely produced a reaction in comics, with Watchmen and The Dark Knight being the most obvious examples. Clinton’s second term (1997-2001) may be too close to our own time to judge, although it was in the middle of the “anti-grim-&-gritty” phase.

I’m not sure how to deal with two other Presidents, Truman (1945-53) and Johnson (1963-69), who served out the terms of their late predecessors. You could say that their (re)election signified the same kind of satisfaction on the part of the electorate, but the 1948 and 1964 elections were the first time they’d been at the tops of their tickets. Truman’s second term would have been from 1949-53, and Johnson’s from 1965-69. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but it was a late night and early morning….

November 1, 2004

Let’s see how I can relate this to comics…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 1:37 pm
It’s my birthday! Today I am (gasp!) 35 years old.

Looking around the Internet to see what was noteworthy about November 1, I found that Larry Flynt, Marcia “Mrs. Krabappel” Wallace, ILM’s Dennis Muren, Lyle Lovett, and Toni Collette (among others) share my birthday. Also, while my sainted mother was recovering from delivering me, “Suspicious Minds” hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Wikipedia also tells us that November 1 saw the public debuts of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, Othello, The Tempest, and the Aricebo Radio Observatory; and that ten years ago, George Lucas put pencil to yellow pad to begin developing the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

Today would also have been the 124th birthday of the legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice. He was famous for the kind of florid, yet elegant, prose that would be right at home in the old NFL Films highlight reels, not to mention the pulps and early adventure comics of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s. I wonder if “faster than a speeding bullet” and “criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot” owe anything to Rice’s columns?

The phrase “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” was adapted from one of his poems. That’s a good bit of advice, especially on your birthday!

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