Seriously, even without looking at the years that each line was being produced, you can tell exactly when the Cold War ended. Down goes the Berlin Wall, and in come the neon color schemes and bizarre subsets devoted to drug enforcement, dinosaurs, and space monsters.
* Well, not the Sgt. Savage stuff, which seems an odd omission because the Street Fighter 2 sub-line is included, but I'm sure Mark Bellomo had his reasons.
Normally I roll my eyes at pretend geek holidays, but Towel Day, the day we pay tribute to the late great Douglas Adams? Yeah, that one I can get behind.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
Here's an interview I found on YouTube:
Happy Towel Day, one and all!
Though bear in mind that you haven't seen as far as I have, there will be spoilers. I never said I wasn't a hypocrite.
1. I'm calling it here and now - Matt Smith is my second favorite Doctor of the new series (Tennant is first, Eccleston third... not that I dislike Eccleston, mind you). This is largely because his portrayal so far manages to encapsulate many of the qualities I have enjoyed in previous Doctors - brilliance, charm, whimsy, humor, petulance, ego, arrogance, and an alien aloofness - but in such a way as to not seem like he's imitating any of the actors he is borrowing from. Nor does he overplay any of these characteristics (very thankfully). I think what makes Smith such a good Doctor is that he clearly understands that while the character is heroic, noble, and even, ideally, Capital G Good, he isn't always particularly pleasant. But that has always been part of the Doctor's appeal: he's the guy who will insult you, and probably your entire species, one second, and then sing your praises to the heavens and offer you a jelly baby the next. The Doctor is more than eccentric, he's erratic, and Smith is nailing that.
2. Interestingly - for good or ill, you'll have to decide - the season itself has been erratic, too. Downright uneven, I'd say. I've liked every episode I've seen so far - even the Dalek one that a lot of other people seemed to take issue with online - but the only episode to bowl me over completely has been the season premiere. I think it was Dave Lartigue who wrote that most of the episodes still seem a bit unfinished, like the scripts could use one more draft before going into production, and I agree with that to a certain point. I think I'm a little more positive overall about the season so far than he was, but there's still a certain, I don't know, abruptness (maybe?) to the Steven Moffat finished product that I don't recall seeing in the Russell T. Davies seasons.
But at the same time, after recently rewatching Davies' season one, I noticed for the first time that it takes a good 6 or 7 episodes (right around "Dalek") for the series to find its feet. I overlooked that the first time through because I was just so happy to finally have Doctor Who back on TV, but now it can be really hard to get past the burping trash bins and farting Slitheen. And let's face it, we don't just have a new cast to get used to, but a mostly new production team as well, which for all intents and purposes makes it a new program almost from the ground up. I think some growing pains are to be expected.
3. Karen Gillen as Amy Pond... I can't be at all objective here. They had me at headstrong, impulsive, resourceful Scottish redhead. That she's one of the cutest cute people to ever do cute things cutely is only icing on the cake.
. . .
Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah.
4. The season's ongoing storyline, with the crack in the universe and the silence and whatnot. I appreciate that it's not left vaguely dangling all season long, only to be touched upon in full in the final 2 or 3 episodes of the season, but still, we still haven't been given quite enough for me to understand why I should care yet. Now I guess we get a little more info on this in the next episode, "Amy's Choice," but those of us watching on BBC America have to wait two weeks for that now, seeing as they're spending Memorial Day weekend doing marathons of past episodes of Doctor Who and, for whatever reason, Star Trek: The Next Generation (don't even get me started). As a result, I'm more annoyed by having to wait for some answers, rather than anticipatory. Maybe that's just my hang-up, though.
5. Speaking of ongoing plot points, River Song: I'm all for keeping her mysterious and vague so long as we learn at least one important thing about her relationship with/to the Doctor in each appearance. I love the sense of mystery about her, and the whole idea of the Doctor repeatedly meeting her out of order is something that seems so brilliantly simple it's a wonder they haven't thought of it before now (in the series proper, anyway; they've done this sort of thing in the books before); but I don't want them to drag it out to X-Files proportions, where it becomes mystery for mystery's sake.
6. Amy's boyfriend Rory... I'm still sussing out my feelings on him. In some ways, he's Mickey 2.0, but in others, he seems quite different. Rory adapts to, and even accepts, the Doctor's role in their lives a lot quicker than Mickey did, and even seems to grasp that he's not so much competing with the Doctor for Amy so much as he's competing with her pre-existing doubts of him. And that goes back to "The Eleventh Hour," when he had to state pretty emphatically that was, in fact, the boyfriend, while she hemmed and hawed. And the Doctor's response to Rory's rather humdrum reaction to the TARDIS ("You didn't say 'it's bigger on the inside than the outside.' I like that bit.") was interesting. He seemed hurt and maybe even suspicious. Looking forward to see how/if that plays out.
7. Getting back to That Dalek Episode. Maybe it felt a bit truncated, but after so many Dalek episodes in the new series, it was nice to get one that set up future confrontations but was, for the most part, One & Done. We know what the Daleks are capable of, so they don't always need to belabor the point.
Also, it's handy that they now come in a variety of designer colors to match any planet's corridor's decor.
Though the one on the far right... what color is he, avocado? He looks like my parents' kitchen circa 1978.
7a. Have to love the tea-serving Dalek:
But for the obvious, inevitable "EXTERMINATE" that would soon follow, I'd want one myself. But, um, what's he going to do with the pouches? How does he even get into those?
More info here and here.
(BTW, each of this is via a whole bunch of other sites, and it'd take me far too long to list everyone. If you think I found the link through you, I probably did, so consider yourself well-and-truly-thanked.)
Faith Erin Hicks has created what is now very likely my favorite X-Men story ever.
Cliff Chiang draws The Archies for The Hero Initiative.
If one of you wanted to buy that for me when the auction is underway, I'd be very grateful.
The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, as clear a summary of all the anti-vaccine hysteria as you're likely to find, though probably not the sort of thing you'll enjoy if you think Ace Ventura and a former Playmate of the Year are credible scientific sources.
(Okay, maybe that's a little unfair, Ms. McCarthy is obviously a caring - if naive and sadly misled - parent, and I'd move heaven and earth to help my son, too, so I can sympathize a bit, but still, using celebrity to promote dangerous beliefs that are in direct opposition to all scientific proof is something I cannot support.)
A Tribute to DIY Manga.
Are these Lego minifigs really real things that I can buy? Because I think the kiddo and I each need a little Lego luchadore.
Hey, Katie Cook's got a cute monster webcomic now!
Somewhere along the line, Scooby Doo creators and fans alike decided Velma should actually be really cute.
For those of us attracted to a certain type, this was a very good thing indeed.
I'm just sayin'.
I'm big on racial politics and the need for non-white characters to play a major role in comic book universes. I'm also opposed to handing out token memberships to minorities via dubious legacies. The latter rarely works out as well as a Mr. Terrific, who has completely outshone his namesake.
In the case of Ryan Choi, between his overemphasized features on his debut issue and his being a shrinking Asian, put me off immediately. Further, I have a great deal of affection for Ray Palmer, who created his own suit and powers, rather than having them handed to him and still manage to ruin a classic costume in the transition. I have nothing personally against Choi, but I also never had much for him, and with the reinstatement of Palmer he seemed doomed to second class status anyway.
Whether through entirely new identities or redeeming legacies, I'd like to see more characters of color in comics. I'm just less interested in the conflict that comes from taking a dump on established heroes (death, madness, etc.) to build up these legacies, or setting someone up to inevitably be sidelined. Non-whites assuming roles formerly held by Caucasians can be a delicate process, and as much thought should be put into which characters can be successfully transitioned as the consequences of sidelining a minority for a returning honky. I can't get too broken up over Ryan Choi after two years in a low selling solo series that barely connected to the greater DC Universe. The only inherent appeal in the Atom name is in the long-lived Ray Palmer character, not in an inconsequential short term substitute. There's a lot more cause for ire in the fact that John Stewart has had to wait four years just to share a GLC title, or that the reasonably successful Jason Rusch Firestorm has been whitewashed, or that there hasn't ever been a decent original Asian hero at DC.
Okay, me again. Now, it wasn't my official intent to address any of the racial politics of this particular storytelling decision - mostly because I couldn't think of anything to say about it (and other recent, similar moves by DC) that Chris Sims didn't say already, and probably better, in that Comics Alliance piece from a week or so ago - but it's not an issue that can be easily sidestepped. For one thing, you can't deny that DC has been rolling back the clock on a lot of characters who had undergone significant change and outright replacement in the 90s and 00s, and most of the characters coming back are white people, and white people frequently replacing people of color at that. Now I legitimately do not believe that it is not an effort on DC's (or Time-Warner's) behalf to "whitewash" the Justice League, more an attempt to return the character concepts to the iconic representations most people remember from the Super Friends so as to maintain (or even establish) corporate synergy and sell more bedsheets or something (that sounds more cynical than I intend, but I'm not changing the statement).
However, we're talking about characters and concepts created in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, and the general homogeneousness of those characters' backgrounds really stands out in this day and age, given that we've had 10-20 years of DC Comics looking a little more (if only just a little) like the America in which we actually reside. And considering that everyone's still talking about the fallout of the recent Arizona law which basically allows police to stop and question the citizenship of anyone who doesn't look American enough, well, it's not unreasonable to ask just whose America this Justice League of America serves?
As for Ryan Choi's place in all this, well, Ryan stood out at first simply by virtue of his Chinese background playing no role whatsoever in his heroic identity. He wasn't a martial artist, his powers, name, and costume didn't reflect a nationality or historic tradition... Gail Simone didn't write him as yet another variation of The Chinese Superhero, just a superhero who happened to be Chinese. And he continued to stand out, at least to me, because of the world Simone created for him: great supporting cast, weird setting, ongoing sinister plot, unique love interest (Giganta! How awesome was that?), unanswered questions about his superheroic origin... there was a lot going on in this book, and it was so fun, you guys. It may not have connected very often with the ongoing travails in the rest of the DC Universe, but I saw that as a strength, not a weakness. Maybe I'm unique in this regard, but I don't want my superhero comics to be snuff films in spandex.
And, ultimately, that was what prompted my original post. After 5 or 6 long, grueling years of unrelenting darkness and graphic, on-panel dismemberment, DC promised to follow-up the basically-dead-superheroes-as-zombies book Blackest Night with Brightest Day, promising the return to actual heroics that that sort of name implies. But as Johanna Draper Carlson pointed out a while back, they were pretty quick to backpedal from that stance, before the books even came out. And that Titans special last week in which Ryan Choi was so gruesomely dispatched proves that. Hell, if anything, it says to me that somehow things are only getting worse. I find it really offputting, and if that's the sort of comic book they want to produce (and charge people $4.99 for!), well, it certainly affects my buying habits as far as future DC books are concerned. They're still putting out some very good material in all of their various publishing ranges, even the mainline superhero stuff, but these sorts of storytelling decisions lead me to look at all of their output with a much more critical eye, in the negative sense of the term, than I ever have before. I'm not going to write them off completely or boycott anything - as long as they keep putting out books like Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam, or The Unwritten, or Mysterius the Unfathomable, or Power Girl, or the Legion of Super-Heroes, they'll get at least some of my money - but I do think twice about the editorial wrangling that leads to the material and whether I should really support that with my meager comics dollars.
Even as I was enjoying Gail Simone's All New Atom series, I knew it wouldn't last forever; it was too quirky for "mainstream" comics success, and not grim enough to fit in well with the rest of what DC's capes-&-tights books were up to at the time. I knew, sooner or later, Ray Palmer would be back to take up the tiny mantle of the Atom, and that Ryan Choi would inevitably be shown the door. But given DC's propensity for heroic legacies and a willingness to use several characters with the same name at the same time, Choi could still have been an Atom, if not the Atom. Hell, he didn't even need to be the Atom at all.
He didn't need to be cannon fodder to produce stupid manufactured "shock value," either.
And now a brief word of commentary on a recent comic book, poorly rendered in MS Paint and containing a potential spoiler.
Honestly, though, is there anyone out there who thinks Ray Palmer is actually more interesting than Ryan Choi? Because unless you're talking about the version of Ray that John C. McGinley voiced on Justice League Unlimited, or the one that dressed like a barbarian, rode around on a frog, and bedded a diminutive yellow alien princess, you're wrong.
Frank Frazetta died. I wasn't an avid follower or anything, but the man was clearly an amazing illustrator and could draw fantasy and battle images better than just about anyone I've ever seen. I've always wondered why they still produce editions of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels with illustrations by anyone other than Frank... it always seemed like a waste of time, since just about anyone else came off like a Frazetta tribute band, anyway. Go figure.
May your own personal Valhalla be everything you'd have drawn it to be, Frank.
Stuff I paid for:
Phonogram: Rue Britannia - Music-as-magic, and the identity that can create for a person, is a brilliant high concept, so much so that I didn't mind that I knew less than half of the bands namedropped throughout. I've got some homework to do, which I march off to gladly.
Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War Vol. 2 - Satisfying if predictable conclusion to the giant space war story, though it's not really an ending so much as a trailing off into coming events. Johns oversells Sodam Yat like Vince McMahon trying to give a big new guy a monster heel push, though. Alan Moore creating the name wasn't enough to make me care.
Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #15 - I'm going to keep mentioning it until you people buy it. Which you should, as it's getting really, really good. Ignore the Johnny DC label, this isn't just for kids, this is for everybody.
Firestar #1 - Sean McKeever does well with the story, and Emma Rios's art is fantastic, and I'm curious to see how McKeever uses her in Young Allies, but if you're mostly familiar with cartoon Firestar, comic book Firestar's life is a huge downer.
The Last Days of American Crime #1 - Down and dirty crime noir with a light sci-fi twist (in short, the government is about to enact a way to make the title of the book a reality). Not much new beyond that, but the characters are interesting and the art by Greg Tocchini is gorgeous. Worth it if you like this sort of thing.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold #16 - Batman and Wonder Woman fight Egg Fu and Egghead. Yes, the Vincent Price character from the TV series. Worth it for that alone.
The Brave and the Bold #33 - I hear that some folks didn't like this - not sure if it's because it ties into a story they don't like, or because they view the writer of that original story as sacred and untouchable - but I thought it was a mostly good "super heroes enjoying downtime like real people" story, gorgeously drawn by Cliff Chiang.
The Flash #1 - I don't know if Johns succeeds in making Barry Allen himself any more interesting than he ever was in the past (which was mostly not at all), but I like the "CSI/Cold Case with powers" angle he seems to be going for, and Francis Manapul's art is great.
Archie #608 - It's a "The Archies meet Josie and the Pussycats" story, so you get exactly what you're expecting (and exactly what the cover promises), but it's pleasingly divering, and Dan Parent is my favorite Archie artist since Dan DeCarlo, so that's nice. Funny, though... I can read an Archie book without hearing their (awful) Filmation cartoon voices in my head, but I can't read Josie's crew without hearing their (much better) Hanna-Barbera counterparts.
Jughead #200 - Clever story story by Robot Chicken's Tom Root in which Jughead is offered the burger of his dreams by a witch in exchange for his most valued possession: his metabolism. Antics ensue. Genuinely funny stuff.
Fraggle Rock #1 - Captures the look, feel, and most importantly, voice of the original show as well as Langridge's Muppet Show book does, which is impressive, but I generally expect good things from Arcadia. I enjoyed the artwork of Katie Cook the best, but Jeffrey Brown's story was my overall favorite... clever concept, and bonus points for including Cotterpin.
Free Comic Book Day stuff:
War of the Supermen #0 - Makes me glad I've been ignoring the New Krypton stuff. Wake me when this is over and Paul Cornell gets to write real Superman stories.
Archie's Summer Splash - Another story about the Archies, this time dealing with Cheryl Blossom starting a rival group. More Dan Parent, so it's got that going for it.
Fraggle Rock / Mouse Guard - The Fraggles look and sound right, and Mouse Guard gives you a nice update of their world's status two miniseries in without being an outright info dump.
Iron Man / Thor - Talky, and a bit silly, but I like the way Fraction writes Tony, so I was okay with it.
Iron Man / Nova - Alright, but not as awesome as a Paul Tobin-written story with Iron Man and Nova fighting the Red Ghost and his Super Apes should have been.
Irredeemable / Incorruptible - I think if BOOM! had given us just one or the other, I might not have liked it as well, but getting a look at both sides of this world in the same book managed to sell me on the whole concept better.
Library of American Comics - Classic strip reprints. You already know if you're audience or not. That being said, I got a kick out seeing those flapper-era Blondies. I've always heard that's how it started, but I've never actually seen any of it for myself, and it's easy to forget it had a life before "gentle family comedy."
On the one hand, I get it. In the 90s rush to make nearly every character dark, edgy, and cool, Aquaman got slapped with just about every accoutrement in the Official Chromium Age Character Makeover Toolkit, as this graphic shows:
So on the surface, yeah, I can see where people get the idea that he's 90s in the 90siest way possible (note to non-comics people: that's generally considered a bad thing). And his story became reasonably darker, too: he's lost his kingdom, he loses his hand, he's broody, he's angry, etc. But here's the thing: Aquaman's history was pretty dark from about the 70s on. His kid is killed, his wife goes insane (and later dies), he loses his kingdom (several times, I think; he needs to keep better track of these things), and on top of all that, has to listen to all those "talks to fish" jokes made by every lame comedian from the 80s stand-up comedy boom.
That much crap luck? It's going to take its toll. Writer Peter David was smart to capitalize on that. But he still handles it with a light touch, light enough, in fact, that Aquaman's sanity is a question of legitimate concern for the cast in the early going. Not in a Mel Gibson in the original Lethal Weapon way (or even Mel in his drunk driving arrest way, either), but more of a "he's taking all of this just a little too well" way. It's subtle, and all the better for it; I generally enjoy Peter David, but subtle isn't always his thing, so it's nice to see here. And at least when he does give into his most Peter Davidy impulses, it fits the scene, and it works. Aqualad's awkward attempts to hit on Dolphin, for instance, are funny. And I'm convinced the man writes the best shark dialogue ever, so there's that.
Admittedly, I'm only 6 or 7 issues into the run, and things are just starting to build, and for all I know it eventually crashes and burns, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case. David has built a compelling narrative so far, one that takes Aquaman in (then-)new directions but still seems logical enough, even if it seems a bit extreme on first glance. And I like that DC's various other undersea characters are being slowly drawn into the story, setting up one of the sort of Dynamic Centerpiece Model Scipio over at The Absorbascon was always talking about. It's exciting, and it feels like it's going somewhere. I can't say that I get that same feeling from a lot of modern comics, sadly, so I think I may be passing up some of those for a while so I can track down more of this.
Now please bear in mind that I am in no way saying that I dislike "classic" Aquaman. I've had an affinity for the sea king for just about as long as I can remember, and I don't see that changing any time soon. I just think it's great that so many creators have been able to leave a distinctive mark of one kind or another on the character over the years, and that at the end of the day, all the different versions still ring true to me. So I think it's silly for any take to be maligned just because it's different than what we're used to. Hell, the version running in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, despite looking familiar enough, might be the most different of them all, and also maybe the most popular. So don't hate on the harpoon. It may seem like an attempt at 90s "kewl," but it works surprisingly well.
Besides, this is the version of the character they opted to use on Justice League Unlimited, you'll remember, and seeing as that show is pretty much my Platonic ideal of the DC Universe, well, if it's good enough for them...
He drew tons of these, by the way, and they're all great. You can see the one Bully received here (the Beast, appropriately enough), and all of Ryan's cards here, here, and here.
February 1966... the best month ever in comics? Well, the evidence is certainly there - Dave Ex Machina covers DC, Bully makes his Marvel, and Andrew even makes the case for Charlton (in fact, about as good of a case as anyone as ever made for Charlton beyond "Hey, it didn't turn to dust in my hand as I was reading it!").
Have you been checking out all the Art Fu that Tom Fowler, Evan Shaner, Mitch Breitweiser, Chris Samnee, Francesco Francavilla, and others have been dropping over on Comic Twart? The Johnny Quest and Thing theme weeks have been my favorites so far, but it's all been excellent.
Why hasn't anyone given Kate Beaton her own island to rule yet? As if her recent Great Gatsby and Aquaman strips weren't brilliant enough, she goes and does it again with Macbeth.
Hey, some jerk blatantly stole material from Patton Oswalt, Dave Attell, and Louis CK. Humiliate the dude should you see him perform out in the wild, okay?
And as lame as that is, I did get a kick out of Patton's story about other friends' material being stolen by people who went on to see their routines "plopped onto platinum-selling albums and yelled inside of packed stadiums." (emphasis mine) Not hard to imagine who he's talking about there, and just one more reason for me to hate the guy to whom he's very likely referring.