Comics Ate My Brain

December 20, 2009


Filed under: fanfic, green lantern, justice league — Tom Bondurant @ 2:19 am
Not sure what’s turned my thoughts to fictionalized warfare. Maybe some Avatar osmosis, although I’ve cooled to James Cameron’s directorial charms. Anyway, in trying to get to sleep the other night, I started thinking about a Green Lantern story. (It could easily be a Justice League story, but would center around GL.)

Basically, the initial setup was this: Green Lantern — doesn’t matter who, might as well be John — is patrolling Sector 2814 when his ring detects an approaching starship. It’s an advance scout for a massive armada headed, yes, straight for Earth. Naturally, GL alerts the Justice League and also buzzes Oa for backup. The JLA is prepped and ready for action, but the word comes back from Oa: reinforcements denied. In fact, a Guardian gets on the horn to tell John specifically that he is to offer no resistance to the invaders. Instead, he is to observe and advise them. He can protect the Earth’s best interests, but the Guardians have determined that the invasion must be a success, because that’s the only way Earth can survive.

John then contacts the JLA from aboard the invading scoutship and explains the situation. Obviously John is conflicted, but ultimately he has no reason to distrust the Guardians. Besides, he (and presumably any other Green Lantern in the area) will theoretically be able to influence the invaders in Earth’s favor. Of course, the JLA and the rest of Earth’s super-folk have no such conflict, and while there is some debate over whether to follow John’s lead, eventually the choice is made to repel the invaders.

Thus, the stage is set: hundreds (if not a thousand) hostile starships bearing countless troops, versus the Justice League, Justice Society, Teen Titans, et al. There are pitched battles in orbit and fierce fights on the ground, but the invaders eventually get past the superheroes. The invaders seem to be looking for something, but they don’t know quite where; and they tear the dickens out of several regions in the process. Cairo, Helsinki, Nepal, and Salt Lake City are hit especially hard. Regardless, thanks to John, casualties are amazingly low, including among the superhumans. Indeed, the invaders start ham-fistedly rebuilding the infrastructure of the devastated cities, even advising local leaders on alternative forms of government.

Once the invaders believe Earth has been subdued, though, the JLA and its allies strike back using guerrilla tactics. This is quite successful, in part because the invaders are caught off-guard. Before they know it, they’ve lost half their fleet and most of their infantry has been incapacitated; and they’re ready to retreat. After Green Lantern has escorted them out of the solar system, he gets a call from Oa: the Guardians are pleased.

Pleased?!? John spits. You could have stopped all this before it even started!

Yes, muses the Guardian coolly, but the [invaders] needed to be taught defeat. The Guardians knew that bloodying the invaders’ collective nose was the only way to get them to leave Earth alone, but calling in the GL Corps would have merely turned the invaders’ attention to Oa. It seems the invaders are a particularly thick and brutal race, but one thing they do especially well is fight — so they would have first found a way to eliminate the GL Corps, and then they’d have come after Earth. And make no mistake, John Stewart, intones the Guardian, [the invaders] would have dedicated their very existence to wiping us out. Now, however, they see that even if they defeat an enemy one day, it also won’t stop until it’s driven them off. The Guardian wraps up by saying they regret having to manipulate John and the other Earth GLs as they did, because (irony alert) they normally don’t work like that.

* * *

Now, clearly there are a number of problems with that story. I first thought of it when I was half-asleep, and I fleshed it out on the fly just now. The point, though, is that it is a blatant morality play about the Iraq war, and I’m not sure that something as deadly serious as Iraq (or Afghanistan, or wherever else the U.S. finds itself) should be trivialized, even potentially, by adapting it to a superhero setting. For one thing, it’s designed to leave no lasting scars on the Earth or its people. For another, the invaders are pretty one-dimensional — they’re looking for WMDs because they think someone on Earth attacked them, but that’s never really made clear.

Still, if you declare that some subjects are off-limits to superhero stories, aren’t you shortchanging the genre? Joe Kelly wrote a decent Iraq-related issue of JLA, where President Luthor basically lies to the Justice League to get them to invade an inoffensive country; and Greg Rucka put Lois Lane in harm’s way in “Umec” during his tenure writing Adventures Of Superman.

I actually do like the story, mostly for the moral dilemma it puts GL in. I suppose you could strip out the more obvious real-world parallels and make a passable 2- or 3-issue arc out of it. It wouldn’t have any real-world lessons, but it might be entertaining, and it would definitely explore the relationship between a Green Lantern and his little blue bosses.

Still, on balance I’d like my comics to be open to larger moral concerns. I’d just hope they’d be able to get past all the fantastic stuff.

October 5, 2009

New comics 9/30/09

A light week means a shorter podcast, and at the risk of being immodest, this week I think I am finally starting to put all the pieces together. Comics discussed include the Astro City: Astra Special #1, Blackest Night: Titans #2, Gotham City Sirens #4, Green Lantern #46, Justice League of America 80-Page Giant #1, Superman #692, Unknown Soldier #12, and Wonder Woman #36. Olivia helps as well, and as always the music is by R.E.M.

Download it here, stream it via the player at right, or visit the podcast homepage here. Happy listening!

September 28, 2009

New comics 9/23/09

Good grief, it’s another huge week for the podcast, although this one comes in at just under 40 minutes. The lineup includes Beasts Of Burden #1, Blackest Night: Superman #2, Detective Comics #857, Fantastic Four #571, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #5, Galactica 1980 #1, Justice League of America #37, Madame Xanadu #15, The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror #15, Supergirl #45, Superman: Secret Origin #1, and Wednesday Comics #12. Music, as always, is by R.E.M.

Download it here, stream it via the player on this page, or visit the podcast homepage here. Happy listening!

September 5, 2009

New comics 9/2/09

Not a big week this week, thank goodness — just Agents Of Atlas #10, Batman #690, Justice League: Cry For Justice #3, Strange Tales #1, Supergirl Annual #1, and Wednesday Comics #9. As it happens, I’ll be out of pocket next week, so check back in about ten days. Music, as always, by R.E.M.

Download it here, listen to it via the player at right, or visit the podcast homepage here. Happy listening!

August 24, 2009

New comics 8/19/09

As promised, here’s the podcast for last week’s comics. Specifically, they’re Batman: Streets Of Gotham #3, Blackest Night: Superman #1, The Brave and the Bold #26, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #4, Justice League of America #36, Supergirl #44, Superman Annual #14, and Wednesday Comics #7. The embarrassing reference this time out is to Ally McBeal. Music, of course, is by R.E.M.

Download it directly here, stream it directly from the player on this here site, or go to the podcast homepage here.

August 7, 2009

New comics 8/5/09

This week it’s Unknown Soldier #10 (making up for its omission last time), plus Agents Of Atlas #9, Astro City: The Dark Age Book 3 #4, Captain America Reborn #2, Doom Patrol #1, House of Mystery #16, Justice League: Cry For Justice #2, Marvels Project #1, Secret Six #12, Spirit #32, Superman: World Of New Krypton #6, Warlord #5, and Wednesday Comics #5. Sorry about the lingering sound-quality issues — I used to know how to work a microphone.

By the way, it seems like I might have gotten a copy of The Marvels Project #1 a week early — but there it was, and who am I to argue?

And just for the record, I was pretty mystified, and more than a little creeped out, about Green Lantern and Green Arrow’s “threesome” conversation.

Download it here, or visit the podcast homepage here.

(Music by R.E.M.)

August 1, 2009

New comics 7/29/09

This week I go off on a little rant about Mark Millar’s Fantastic Four, and there are references to Fargo and Stripes, as well as a thoroughly-unsurprising Monty Python reference. Otherwise, it’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold #7, Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #3, Detective Comics #855, Fantastic Four #569, Justice League of America #35, Madame Xanadu #13, Superman #690, Wednesday Comics #4, and Wonder Woman #34. Music, as always, is by R.E.M.

[EDIT: Sorry, folks, the Unknown Soldier stuff somehow got lost in the editing process. I’ll try to work it in next week!]

Download it here, or go directly to the podcast homepage here.

December 3, 2008

Would You Like Less Pulp In Your JLA?

Filed under: batman, justice league — Tom Bondurant @ 3:57 pm
I have argued previously that the Justice League is a “clash of genres.”

That phrase might not be perfectly accurate, but it’s a good soundbite. Batman has some pulp roots (Zorro, the Shadow). The Flash and the Atom are science-heroes, powered by vaguely plausible experiments/accidents. Green Lantern and Hawkman are space-opera characters. Zatanna straddles the Vertigo line. The Elongated Man and the Martian Manhunter are different types of detectives; and at one point Booster Gold and Captain Atom were different kinds of “men out of time.” The ones I would call “pure” superheroes — for purposes of this post, “fantasy” characters — include Aquaman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

Therefore, I think it would be instructive to examine which Leaguers tend to fare the best over the years. If the Justice League is a sampler of DC as a whole, seeing which “genre” dominates its adventures might give us a clue as to the company’s overall tone.

Regardless, I suspect that, despite J’Onn J’Onzz’s presence in virtually every era of the team, Batman would be the go-to guy. Batman always has a plan; Batman always wins. Grant Morrison had Batman unmask the Hyperclan (and beat up three of them), outlast DeSaad, and outsmart Lex Luthor. When he wanted to show that Prometheus meant business, he had the new villain (who was an “evil Batman”) first defeat the Darknight Detective.

It goes back farther. One could argue that Batman leaving the League and founding the Outsiders was the beginning of the “Satellite Era’s” end. Likewise, Batman’s return to the team (now based in Detroit) was an attempt to lend that League some credibility. Batman was a dominant force in the early Giffen/DeMatteis years, and showed up a few times in the Dan Jurgens/Gerard Jones/Ron Randall relaunches of the early ’90s.

And why do people like Batman? Because he has no powers but he’s real smart. (Also, the years of martial-arts training and discipline don’t hurt.) So what does it say that, on a team composed of characters from different genres, that the most visible heir of the pulp heroes routinely gets the most deference?

Clearly the implication is that Batman represents the “need for realism” which has driven superhero comics for the past twenty-plus years (probably going back to his takedown of Superman in The Dark Knight Falls). Yes, those who look to Batman for “realism” are probably frustrated with his very involvement in the Justice League, but I don’t see too many people claiming that Black Canary and Green Arrow are any more realistic. Indeed (despite GA’s appearance in the Dark Knight Superman fight), conventional fan wisdom seems to hold that a bow and trick arrows are no way to stop, say, the Demons Three, or even a moderately well-armed super-criminal like Captain Cold.

Actually, now that I think about it, Kingdom Come also gave Batman’s “talented-humans” team something of an advantage, in that they didn’t have the drama of Superman’s and Wonder Woman’s Justice League. With that nuclear strike, the “regular” humans also end up settling much of the superheroes’ infighting.

So what are we to make of this trend? Is it an anti-superpower bias? (Ozymandias even beats Doctor Manhattan, at least for a minute or so.) Or is it simply more interesting to have the non-powered, real-smart humans outsmarting the powerhouses?

I don’t know that it goes that far — and really, if it gets much farther, it wanders into the old “superpowered fascists vs. wild-eyed vigilantes” territory. Anyway, the Dark Knight, Watchmen, and Kingdom Come examples are all “good guys” fighting among themselves, which is ostensibly “more dramatic” than a run-of-the-mill super-fight. Talking about something like the Justice League, on balance it is probably more interesting to have someone with a lower power level save the day. (There was Steve Englehart’s Willow/Mantis storyline, where the Atom was the hero; not to mention 1978’s JLA/JSA team-up, where the Elongated Man defeated the Lord of Time.)

Still, what’s the point of having a Justice League if you’re not going to use the Supermen and Wonder Women? Well, in fact, the JLI teams got along pretty well with only a few powerhouses at a time (Martian Manhunter, Doctor Fate, Captain Atom, Captain Marvel). Guy Gardner was never really a world-beater as a Green Lantern, Wally West was stuck at the speed of sound for much of his JLI tenure, and Power Girl was de-powered as well. Even when the Morrison League brought together the “big guns” (for the first time in that continuity), Morrison tended to place the powerhouses in set pieces: Superman wrestling the angel, Big Barda fighting the future Wonder Woman, Green Lantern containing an exploding Sun. Morrison’s Flash and Green Lantern were especially creatures of the Id; whereas the lower-powered characters (Huntress, Steel, Green Arrow II, and of course Batman) got to be smart.

I dunno. Again, maybe I’m making too much out of it. However, I can’t help but think that the treatment of Batman over the past twenty years has rippled out not only through the Justice League, but into the wider DC line. It’s created an attitude of cynicism that eats at the more fantastic titles (how great is Superman if Batman can beat him?). ´╗┐After all, Hal Jordan decks Batman in Green Lantern: Rebirth — probably to help his street cred — and then goes on to greater things via “The Sinestro Corps War.”

This could be why I like Trinity so much. I got a huge kick out of Morrison’s “JLA/James Bond Batman,” and I even gave the fist-pumping moments of last week’s
“R.I.P.” conclusion a pass. Batman should be a world-beater, you know? However, there are times when he should also be surrounded by world-beaters, even taking a back seat to them once in a while. If these are superhero stories, pulp’s most famous heir shouldn’t be hogging the stage.

October 6, 2008

Another quick Green Lantern question

Filed under: justice league, meta — Tom Bondurant @ 12:38 am
Everyone remember the Justice League bookshelf?

Wouldn’t ‘cha know, the Green Lantern figure has suffered a career-ending knee injury, and I’ll be needing a new one.

However, thanks to the good folks at Mattel, I now have a choice. Do I replace the “Hard Traveling” Hal, thereby keeping that set of Hal/Ollie/Dinah intact; or do I go for the more articulated Mattel version? (If it makes a difference, I am planning to get a Mattel Aquaman as well at some point.) I don’t think availability is an issue, since I got both Ollie and Dinah off teh Ebay.


[EDIT] P.S. If you have any preference for a particular John Stewart figure, I’d love to hear it. (The Guy and Kyle figures may have to wait until a future League expansion.)

August 29, 2008

Friday Night Fights

Filed under: friday night fights, justice league, meme, new gods, wonder woman — Tom Bondurant @ 9:50 pm
The Fourth World takes on the future as the 853rd Century’s Justice Legion A invades the Justice League Watchtower!

In case you can’t read the captions, Wonder Woman’s bracelets are named Harmony and Charity. Harmony, Charity …

… meet Mega-Rod!

This isn’t the only fight, of course; but by the time we check in with these combatants, it’s pretty much over.

A particle cannon (with Kirby Dots (TM), even!) might seem like cheating, but hey — it’s not like Wonder Woman didn’t know who she might run into, back in the mists of history….

It’s always the right time for Bahlactus!

[From “Prisoners of the Twentieth Century” in JLA #1,000,000, November 85,271. Written by Grant Morrison, pencilled by Howard Porter, inked by John Dell, lettered by Ken Lopez, colored by Pat Garrahy.]

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