Comics Ate My Brain

September 28, 2009

Where are the Marvel nerd pages?

Filed under: meta, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 9:54 pm
Writing annotations for Trinity was a whole lot easier thanks to the wealth of DC nerd-sites on the Internets. The Unauthorized Chronology of the DC Universe is an excellent, well-reasoned, and fairly comprehensive timeline of post-Crisis DC. The DCU Guide indexes most characters’ appearances, both currently and in the Golden and Silver Ages. Mike’s Amazing World Of DC Comics focuses on the company’s publishing history.

However, for a company which made Eliot R. Brown a legend among nerds, I haven’t been able to find comparable resources for the Marvel Universe. If I want to know how Dr. Strange’s Defenders appearances dovetailed with his various solo series, where do I go? Last week I was curious to see whether the Essential Spider-Woman books covered all of the character’s major appearances, but I’m unaware of a Marvel counterpart to the DCU Guide. I’d love to see month-by-month charts of Marvel’s output over the past seventy years, but again, no luck.

So what about it, True Believers? And don’t tell me it’s because you actually have lives….

July 31, 2009

I thought this was easy, but my answers are probably wrong

Filed under: legion, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 1:54 am
Kurt Busiek asks:

How many Legionnaires can you name who had letters on their costume?

Naturally, the ‘L’ on the flight ring doesn’t count.

I got five — or eight, depending on how technical you want to get.

Mark Waid got the same five, but agreed that those other three shouldn’t count.

Paul Levitz got four, with the same caveat.

James Robinson got five.

Tom Galloway came up with a sixth, but then, as I understand it, he was at the Challenge last year, so he’s had much more time to think about it. And I spurn his sixth name as a technicality anyway, while Mark grumbled that yeah, it’s a technicality but he should have gotten it anyway.

I can think of five, plus the “three who shouldn’t count” — but again, I am not really a Legion scholar, so I’m probably missing something:

1. Superboy
2. Supergirl
3. Phantom Girl
4. Element Lad
5. Ferro Lad

… and the “honorable mentions” would be Cosmic Boy, Lightning Boy, and Saturn Girl, whose codenames were written out on their costumes in their very first appearance.

Now off to Busiek.com’s forum to check my work!

October 3, 2008

Now I want a John Stewart movie too

Filed under: green lantern, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 1:07 pm
Inspired by Brainfreeze, just a quick question before a busy weekend (and no time for Friday Night Fights, darn it)….

Wouldn’t the first Green Lantern movie be more interesting if it focused on John Stewart?

I mean, I love Hal, but his story arc is pretty much a straight line. The basic Green Lantern origin-story plot is “you are in over your head.” Here is a magic ring; now go fight aliens and fix problems.

With Hal, there’s no real story arc. Any complications (father issues! drunk driving!) seem artificial, because come on, he’s a test pilot. He’s got the right stuff already, so why are we wading through these subplots to see it?

Speaking broadly, Guy and Kyle exist primarily in relation to Hal. Guy is the star of the Green Lantern movie that Adam Sandler’s production company would make (har har, I’ll use the ring for hookers and blow!); and Kyle is the star of Disney’s (I am sensitive and I believe in myself!). Those are gross oversimplifications, to be sure, but I’m thinking two-minute trailers here — not a lot of room for nuance.

John, though … now there’s a movie-movie. Spend the first ten minutes on slice-of-life stuff for a socially-conscious architect. However, drop into the background a couple of news items: a polarizing politician’s visit, and Green Lantern saving a busload of school kids in Baltimore. The plot begins in earnest when Hal shows up to make John his deputy (and I did say make, because Hal and probably a big holographic Guardian head make it clear that John has no choice).

So yeah, it’s essentially an adaptation and expansion of John’s origin from the Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams Green Lantern #87, but really, isn’t that the kernel of a good movie all by itself? Here is Hal, representing (as he did originally) the establishment, having to train a new Lantern who he worries may not have the right attitude for the job; and here is John, wondering what in fact this new role means to his long-held beliefs. Sure, there are racial and political overtones, but it would have been a heck of an introduction to John, Hal, and the Green Lantern Corps.

Okay, gotta go. Back before too long.

April 20, 2008

Brief thoughts after re-reading Ronin

Filed under: questions, ronin — Tom Bondurant @ 1:16 am
(By the way, I’m writing this while listening to “Night On Disco Mountain” from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Wasn’t intentional; just worked out that way. Seems eerily appropriate.)

Since DC’s doing an Absolute Edition of Ronin, I thought it appropriate to re-read the thing for the first time in … well, several years. Maybe even ten years. Heck, maybe closer to fifteen.

For those who don’t know, Ronin was six issues, 48 pages each, of Frank Miller sci-fi samurai action. It came out in 1983, which I think was around the end of his first stint on Daredevil. (Not being a DD scholar I can’t say for sure.) Anyway, it came out before The Dark Knight, and was collected in 1987 in order to capitalize on Dark Knight‘s success.

The plot concerns a few major characters. The title character (never named) is a warrior whose master was killed by a demon, Agat, in feudal Japan. Naturally, both the ronin and Agat show up in a dystopian future New York, which has at its center the bio-mechanical Aquarius complex. Aquarius is controlled by the supercomputer Virgo, but its human master is a man named Taggart, and its chief security officer is a woman named Casey McKenna. There’s also Casey’s husband, who created Virgo. Basically, the ronin takes over a limbless telekinetic boy, gets a set of artificial limbs, and tries once again to stop Agat (who’s taken over Taggart).

There’s more, of course, but I don’t want to get too far into it. Wikipedia says Ronin is Miller’s most manga-influenced work, but I’m tempted to describe it (glibly) as “Samurai Jack” meets Heavy Metal via Akira. It also seems to have been Miller’s first “mature readers” book, although there’s no such advisory on my paperback and none on the Absolute’s solicitation. There are a lot of racial slurs and a decent amount of nudity to go along with all the hacking and slashing.

But I digress. If you’ve read it, you know how it ends, so my question is …

(SPOILERS)

3

2

1

… what the heck does it mean?

I read Ronin the first few times mostly for the superficial elements: violence, robots, nudity, etc. If I’m going to even entertain the thought of an Absolute edition, I’ll need something a little more thematically coherent. Miller spends a lot of the climax selling the reader on the idea that Billy is (re)creating the ronin and Agat in the context of Aquarius — but the ending suggests both that the ronin is dead and that Billy has recreated himself as the ronin.

So, is that it? The book just stops cold at that point.

I guess I’m asking whether we like Ronin 25 years later; and/or whether we consider it an example of the style-over-substance, pants-seat-plotting Miller of, say, The Dark Knight Strikes Back.

Mostly I guess I’m asking whether we like the ending. I didn’t a few days ago, but I’m starting to warm up to it the more I think about it.

March 25, 2008

Questions And Comments After Reading Essential Cap Vol. 4

Filed under: captain america, green lantern, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 12:35 am
I bought the first Essential Captain America volume for the Jack Kirby and Jim Steranko art, not really expecting to continue with the series much farther than that. Wrong again, of course — I finished Volume 4 over the weekend, and am on the lookout for the next one.

Actually, thanks to the paperbacks of the second Kirby run, I just need to read issues 187-92 to bridge the gap. So that’s the first question: anything noteworthy happen in those six issues? Kirby seemed to start fresh, which tells me there was probably some editorially-dictated wrapping-up during that time.

The second thing I wanted to bring up is more of an observation. Much of Englehart’s run seemed pretty familiar: the Red Skull brainwashing one of Cap’s allies, the Skull working to subvert the American economy, and “new” Captain(s) America. I think Brubaker has done a great job on the title from his first issue, but I can’t help but wonder how longtime readers compare his stuff to Englehart’s.

Finally, one of the noteworthy parts of Englehart’s Green Lantern tenure was his “secret history of Star Sapphire” issue. Englehart pulled together plot elements from various Sapphire stories to link her with a new villain, and reading Cap #186, it seemed like he had already done something very similar for the Falcon.

Now, I know that Englehart isn’t credited with the script for #186 (although “John Warner” may be one of his pseudonyms, for all I know), but he is credited with the plot, so I’m willing to make the connection between CA #186 and GL #192.

Speaking of Green Lantern, I wonder to what extent the socially-aware bent of Captain America was influenced by the O’Neil/Adams issues of GL. GL was a lot more direct about its messages, but CA might not have been as particularly concerned with changing the world.

So, any thoughts, Cap fans?

December 7, 2007

Brief Words About Recent Books And Upcoming Content

Filed under: meta, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 3:28 am
As you may have noticed, I upgraded to the current version of Blogger a week or so ago. It’s made the site a little more functional, I think, although my StatCounter stats are screwed up. Either that or there are 90% fewer people visiting, which is entirely possible.

It’s been a weird few weeks around here. The Best Wife Ever and I have been pretty busy with our real lives. My parents visited for Thanksgiving. The leaves need raking. We went to Grand Illumination, the kickoff of Colonial Williamsburg’s Christmas season. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging about new comics.

Actually, I’ve been reading a lot outside the Wednesday hauls, and that’s taken time away from the weekly roundups too. Last week it was The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier and I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!. I got Showcase Presents The Brave And The Bold Batman Team-Ups for my birthday last month, and Wednesday I got Showcase Presents Sgt. Rock. So far, all of them have been pretty entertaining, although Black Dossier was fairly self-indulgent.

Of course, I’ve been keeping my regular Thursday deadlines for Grumpy Old Fan, and as I mentioned in a comment on today’s post, odds are good that I’ll finish the magnum-opus Grand Unified Theory of DC Comics — my own Black Dossier, probably, with all that implies — before too long. I’m a little frightened by the thought of that, and you should be too.

I’m also interested in the more nuts-and-bolts aspects of DC’s output, but I admit freely that it’ll take more research than I have time for right now. Moreover, I’m not sure the answers are readily available. Just off the top of my head:

— Are there still formal “ship weeks,” i.e., where Batman ships reliably on, say, the second week of every month?
— How does one calculate when a month has a fifth week? (I think it used to be the number of Tuesdays, but that might just have been back when the books shipped on Fridays.)
— How late have DC’s books been, really? How does that compare to Marvel, Dark Horse, and/or Image?
— What should fill the slots all these Countdown miniseries will leave behind?
— Is a variant cover a slot-filler? What about a second printing?

You get the idea. I still think a lot about comics, even if those thoughts don’t make it to this blog. I just wanted you to know I haven’t turned this space into a series of scans (although I like doing the scans too). It might not be this weekend, or next week, but before too long, I hope to be filling this space with long-winded tirades about superhero esoterica, just like old times.

As they used to say, “be here — it’ll be good!”

September 15, 2007

Judging Library Additions

Filed under: justice league, meta, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 9:25 pm
Help me decide who should go on the JLA bookshelf next:

I’m holding out for the upcoming Mattel Aquaman (classic orange outfit), and I’ll probably get a Martian Manhunter at some point. I’d also like to replace Batman and Superman with figures who are more in scale with the rest.

Still, I probably won’t add much more than that. There’s just not that much more room on the shelf! I have an idea of who’ll make the cut, but thought I’d throw it out to the select few who visit here.

So here goes: which single DC Direct/Mattel figure, from either the Satellite League or the Morrison League (reflecting the majority of books on the shelf), would you add? By my reckoning, your choices include

— The Atom (Ray Palmer)
— The Elongated Man
— Firestorm (Ron Raymond/Martin Stein)
— Green Lantern (John Stewart)
— Hawkman & Hawkgirl (set)
— Zatanna (fishnets, unfortunately)
— Big Barda (in a set with Mr. Miracle & Oberon)
— Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner)
— Huntress (Helena Bertinelli; in a “Birds Of Prey” set with BC and Oracle)
— Orion (upcoming)
— Plastic Man
— Steel (John Henry Irons)

I don’t think I left anyone out. There is a Zauriel figure, but it’s from the Hasbro “Total Justice” line and not in scale with these. The Zatanna figure in her period-appropriate blue-and-white superhero outfit is from the Identity Crisis line, so all her proportions are off. I’d have preferred that costume, because it reflects her time in the Satellite League, but I’ll settle for the fishnets. I’ve seen John Stewart figures in classic and current costumes, and would use either one.

So, whaddaya think?

August 30, 2007

Genes, Environment, and Kryptonian Body Types

Filed under: power girl, questions, supergirl, superman — Tom Bondurant @ 2:17 pm
I was admiring the new Darwyn Cooke drawing of Power Girl for The Comics Journal (on display, among other places, at Written World), and it made me wonder: aren’t she and Supergirl supposed to be essentially the same person? Shouldn’t this mean they look the same — or at least as similar as their cousins do?

I understand that PG (Kara Zor-L) was rocketed from Krypton-2 as an infant, at the same time as the infant Kal-L. Her spaceship just took a lot longer to arrive on Earth-2. By contrast, Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) left Argo City as a teenager and didn’t age much during her trip. Therefore, I guess it’s possible that their different environments (suspended animation in a spacecraft vs. artificial gravity on an asteroid) would have made Power Girl bustier and more muscular than the comparatively willowy Supergirl. PG would have also been exposed to a greater variety of stellar and cosmic radiation than her counterpart. The Earth-2 Supes is beefier than the “regular” one, as well.

So, has everyone already figured this out? Am I that slow on the uptake? Could this justify more naturalistic proportions on both characters, or is the appeal of artistic license too strong?

August 8, 2007

A small question

Filed under: atom, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 6:47 pm
This has been bugging me for a while: how long will The All-New Atom keep “All-New” in its title?

The cynic in me notes that the title isn’t selling all that well (just under 17,000 in June), so the issue may be moot before too long.

Still, though … issue 25? Issue 50?

June 6, 2007

Cosmic Cataloguing

Filed under: crisis, questions — Tom Bondurant @ 7:50 pm
Let’s see if I understand the development of DC’s cosmology.

* * *

A. THE UNIVERSE

1. In the Original Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe. Krona’s interference also reaches back to the Dawn of Time and retroactively creates a Multiverse of infinite worlds.

* * *

B. THE MULTIVERSE

1. In the Multiversal Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Multiiverse into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. Each parallel universe occupies the same space, but vibrates at its own unique frequency. There’s also a single antimatter universe. The planet Oa is unique to the universe of Earth-1.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe.

3. Millions of years after that, the Earth-Omega scientist who will become Pariah conducts his own disastrous experiment. It wakes up the Anti-Monitor and results in the first universal casualty of the antimatter wave. Pariah survives, immortal and alone.

4. Eventually, the antimatter wave gets to the last dozen or so worlds that people have actually heard of. This causes the Monitor to get off his duff and start recruiting heroes from these worlds to fight the Anti-Monitor. Of course, these events are depicted in Crisis On Infinite Earths.

5. Harbinger kills the Monitor just before the universes of Earth-1 and Earth-2 are wiped clean. Psyche! The Monitor’s death has turned his energies into a backup disk for these two universes. Soon afterwards, the universes of Earth-4, Earth-S, and Earth-X are cut and pasted onto the backup disk. Problem is, it’s only a temporary solution. The whole thing must be restarted.

6. Two teams — one of heroes, one of villains — travel back in time to set events aright. The villains can’t stop Krona from completing his experiment. However, the Spectre and the assembled heroes confront the Anti-Monitor at the Dawn of Time. A big white explosion takes us to…

* * *

C. THE POST-CRISIS UNIVERSE

1. In the Post-Crisis Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe.

Here’s where it starts to get tricky. If Pariah was originally from another Earth, where’s he from now? If an antimatter wave wasn’t destroying parallel universes, what was it destroying? In other words, how was the post-Crisis Crisis different?

There are a couple of answers, but they’re not entirely compatible with the “one universe, no exceptions” rule which post-Crisis DC sought to enforce. First, Pariah and the other Multiversal survivors might actually be from other dimensions, like the Avengers-analogues who show up in (the post-Crisis) Justice League #3. Second, Hypertime offers a catch-all solution for many of these problems. Third, Crisis #11 indicates that there’s still *something* where Earth-2 was, it’s just a yawning void. Basically, in the years following COIE, DC had at least a few in-continuity parallel-Earth stories which contradicted the spirit, if not the letter, of COIE; and for the most part, pros and fans shrugged and moved on. Thus:

3. The post-Crisis Crisis happens. Lots of people die. Things Are Never The Same.

4. After the Crisis, “waves of time” cause random changes in order to facilitate the rebooting of several superhero titles.

5. The events of Zero Hour, too complicated to summarize here, bring all these time-anomalies to a head. A small group of heroes tries to prevent the unbalanced Hal Jordan from restarting the universe in his own image. They succeed, but guess what?

* * *

D. THE POST-ZERO HOUR* UNIVERSE

1. In the Post-Zero Hour Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe this event, but ends up unleashing Evil on the universe.

3. The post-Zero Hour Crisis happens, probably not too differently from how the post-Crisis Crisis did. Lots of people die. Things Are Never The Same.

4. Things go on fine for a while, until a) in DC One Million, the Justice League takes a trip into the 853rd Century to meet up with Superman, who’s still alive and (it turns out) immortal, and b) in The Kingdom, a villain from the future shows up in our present to kill Superman, having already killed boatloads of Supermen on his way back in time. This leads to the discovery of Hypertime, which basically says all the old stories still exist, just like they originally happened, in their own cubbyholes of space, time, and dimension. The thing is, they’re just really really hard to access. There’s a suggestion that the Earth-2 Superman, relegated to “not dead, but still gone” limbo at the end of COIE, is still alive and punching on some Hypertime dimensional wall.

5. Nobody much likes Hypertime.

6. Instead, ZOMG!!1!! the four COIE survivors — Superman (Kal-L) of Earth-2, his wife Lois Lane Kent, Alex Luthor of Earth-3, and Superboy (Kal-El) of Earth-Prime — have been biding their time in the years since COIE, waiting to spring into action and fix all the bad stuff which has befallen their beloved Universe. Alex Luthor hopes that by recreating the Multiverse, the infinite monkeys on their infinite typewriters will come up with the perfect Earth that won’t need changing or revision, ever.

* * *

E. THE POST-INFINITE CRISIS MULTIVERSE

1. In the Post-Infinite Crisis Beginning, right after the Big Bang at the Dawn of Time, a Giant Cosmic Hand spins the first building blocks of the Universe into their starting places, as if casting bread crumbs on a lake. There’s also a single antimatter universe. Additionally, all the excess energy from the aftermath of Alex Luthor’s experiment creates 52 additional parallel universes, each occupying the same space as New Earth’s but inhabiting its own vibratory frequency. The histories of these 52 are altered radically by the intervention of Mr. Mind.

2. Millions of years later, the Oan scientist Krona attempts to observe the creation of (as far as he knows) the Universe, but ends up unleashing Evil.

3. The post-Infinite Crisis Crisis happens, probably not too different from the Post-Crisis Crisis. Lots of people die. Things Are Never The Same.

4. Hypertime is discovered, as before.

5. Nobody much likes Hypertime.

6. Apparently there are now 52 Monitors. They are dedicated to cleaning up all the anomalies.

* * *

And here we are. I know it doesn’t quite account for Animal Man. Still, does it all sound right?

[P.S. Yes, “Post-Zero-Hour” does sound like a ’50s variety show sponsored by a cereal company.]

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