Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stupid Questions #5: Wonder Woman 9 Edition

1. Is this supposed to follow directly from Amazons Attack #1? If so, why doesn't Diana meet "mom" in the same place?

2. The Book was labeled "Part Four." Other than WW#8 and AA#1, what was Part Three?

3. Everyman was the title character of a Middle Ages play. Willie Loman was a kind of everyman- character is Death of a Salesman, but naming oneself Everyman shouldn't really open yourself up to lots of Willie Loman jokes, should it?

4. How did Hippolyte and a dozen Amazons end up on the roof with Circe and Diana without anyone noticing?

5. Does Wonder Woman doubt that Hippolyte is her mother because she is warlike, or because she is so gullible?

6. Did Nemesis really think that he could lock up a shape-shifter the way he did? Shouldn't he know better?

7. How come the best parts of this issue were the parts without Diana in them? Is this book turning into (wonder-woman-presents) NEMESIS!!! ?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, May 21, 2007

Law And Magic

If you are like me (and, we know, you likely are not), and have interests in both magical worlds and the law, you will be likely to enjoy Christine Corcos's "Law And Magic Blog." Corcos is a law professor in Louisiana.

So far, I have learned that a magician needs a $100 USDA Animal Welfare Act Exhibitor's license in order to legally pull a rabbit out of a hat, and that the world of the Lord of the Rings employed English common law!

Bob The Monitor

I don't really have anything to say about this. I just read the solicits for Atom #14, and it says, "Ryan Choi, Donna Troy, Jason Todd and Bob the Monitor continue to search the Nanoverse for Ray Palmer"

Well, yes, now that there are numerous Monitors, we can't just have "The Monitor" and the "The Anti-Monitor" anymore. Why not Bob?

I just have to wonder where Bob the Monitor (and his friends Tom, Dick, and Harry Monitor) all came from, since there don't appear to be any Mommy Monitors to give birth to them or, you know, go on murderous rampages against Universe jumpers or any of the other cool things that people named "Bob" get to do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Checkmate/Outsiders -- My favorite crossover

Yes, JLA/JSA is good, too, and not just because of Kara and Carter. But, for my money, the team-up of the month is clearly Checkmate/Outsiders. I mean, what fun is a team-up unless the teams really hate each other. I'm completely loving this one.

Nightwing: "I am so brilliant that I can identify Sasha Bordeaux simply by her fighting style. This is because I'm such a moron that I cannot identify her by the fact that she is not wearing a costume or attempting to obscure her identity in any way."

Mlle Marie: "That Boomer is cute, but is probably very bad in bed."

Amanda Waller: "I like Count Vertigo because he can make Boomer vomit at a moment's notice."

Jagger, Thunder, and Grace: "We hate Fire, but because she's an ass -- not because she's the only Breeder on our team."

Count Vertigo: "Amanda Waller only likes me because I can make Boomer vomit."

Metamorpho: "You know, sometimes it's more fun sitting at the kids' table than having to make serious conversation with grown-ups."

Mr. Terrific: "Who says I can't be in every comic book this month? I'm Mr. Terrific, the third smartest man in the world! It can be in Checkmate, JSA, Ousiders, JLA, heck, I can keep dozens of unrelated plot lines straight in my head at the same time. Next month I'm gonna take down Jonah Hex!"

Fire: "Amanda Waller does not need Count Vertigo to make me vomit."

Katana: "I freakin' HATE the kids' table. Black Lightning is in the JLA and I'm on a team with freakin' Captain Boomerang, Jr. I could SOOO take Black Lightning in a fair fight."

Sasha Bourdeaux: "Nightwing keeps doing that 'Let's have a fight and then maybe we'll find ourselves in a compromising position and then we'll kiss' thing. How do I tell him that I find him unattractive on both a physical AND intellectual level."

Boomer: "I am very cute, but probably very bad in bed."

Labels: ,

Monday, May 14, 2007

Murder on the Gotham Express (Tales of the Unexpected #8, Cover Date July, 2007)

The Spectre Characters: The Spectre, Nathan Munie, the Gotham P.D., all of the tenants of Leonard Krieger's building


Nathan Munie, saved from a suicide attempt by the Spectre, proceeds to spill the beans about who, exactly, killed slumlord Leonard Krieger. The answer, apparently, was everybody. Johnny Sachmann tied him up, Isaac Harrison bloodied him for taking sexual favors instead of rent, Ralph Sachmann spat on him, someone else threw a rat on him, etc., etc. As Munie's confession proceeds, the Spectre goes floor to floor killing off all of the people who participated -- actively or passively -- in the killing of the Leonard Krieger. Crispus Allen tries to show compassion, but he is not strong enough to stop the Spectre's wrath.


Ew. Certainly gruesome, but not "Unexpected." It was pretty obvious that everyone had participated. The Unexpected part of the Tale, I guess, was that they all suffered the same punishment. When I studied criminal law, there was always a lot of discussion between active commission of a crime, and passively permitting a bad thing to happen. Despite what you may have seen in the final episode of "Seinfeld," there is generally no legal obligation to take any affirmative steps to stop the commission of a crime, even when there is no personal harm to yourself in doing so.

The students always find this surprising, and it is often the first distinction students draw between law and morality. Not acting to stop a crime may be immoral, but that -- in itself -- doesn't make it illegal. Of course, the Spectre is a Vengeance, not Legal Justice, so he isn't bound by legal process. The problem here, though, is that the punishments do not all fit the crimes. The residents with legitimate beefs against Krieger -- lot Munie -- who did not actively assault the man certainly did not deserve the death penalty.

The problem is that the Spectre here is taking a particularly Christian view of morality -- we are all sinners, and as such are worthy of punishment. That has never been my view of the Spectre, outside of the Day of Judgment series where he did not have a host to "ground" him. At his best, the Spectre is wrestling with moral conundra, not going all Original Sin on everybody. This story, as a whole, gets a C-.

Dr. 13 Characters:

Heroes: Dr. 13, Traci 13, Pryemaul, I Vampire, Infectious Lass, Anthro, Genius Jones
Villains: The Architects

Our heroes are attacked by the DCU wardrobe, before the Architects tell the team that only Traci 13 can be saved because she's "hot" and "Half-Asian." Dr. 13 monologues how there is no "future of the universe," only a past, and after remembering that these architects were themselves temporary, walks through flames to proclaim that he doesn't believe in them either. The Architects are whirled away into a "Showcase Presents" issue from 1968, and the team is saved to fight again. The set off to rescue Captain Fear from aliens.


The Dr. 13 backup issues have been, by far, the best comic book story I have read all year. Funny, witty, self-mocking, pointing out both the silliness of the current editorial directly, and the obvious fact that editorial decisions made today can be easily undone by future "architects," so no change is really permanent.

It is a credit to DC that they published this self-satire, and a shame that it was hidden behind such a pedestrian lead story. And, of course, my favorite reaction shot ever -- "Batman" looking curiously intrigued by I, Vampire coming out in #7.

We're all here for you, Batman!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Kryptonians Attack! (Action #8: Cover Date January 1939)

When I'm feeling uninspired, I can always find my muse with a solid Golden Age Superman story.


Main Hero: Superman

Main Villain: Gimpy

Others of Ambiguous Morality: Neighborhood Ruffians, the U. S. Military


Scene I: Frankie Marello is sentenced to the boys' reformatory for assaulting and battery after a robbery. His mother pleads that his son is a good boy in an underprivileged environment, but to no avail. Reporter Clark Kent agrees, and thinks there is more to the story when he hears Marello's friends complaining that "Gimpy" didn't show.

Scene II: At Gimpy's pawn shop, we learn that Gimpy pays the boys to bring him stolen goods. The boys go to attack Gimpy, but he gives them leads on addresses to rob, and they leave him. Gimpy calls the police to get the boys arrested before they come back, but Superman breaks in and gives him an hour to get out of town, and then drops him in a vat of tar that is happily sitting in the pawn shop. (I wonder who was so hard up for cash that they pawned their barrel of tar!)

Scene III: At the houses of the elite, the cops are on the watch for robbers, and see the boys try to break in. Superman breaks up the arrests and rescues the boys from facing the consequences of their actions. After stopping Gimpy in his attempts for revenge, Superman convinces the boys to pursue constructive pursuits instead of crime. ("If bein' clean an' honest is yer code then its gonna be ours, too.")

Scene IV: After seeing that the government is helping to rebuild Florida cities after a cyclone, Superman decides that the poor would be better off if he acted like a cyclone and destroyed the slums. He tells everyone to evacuate, and then destroys the entire area. The National Guard is brought in to stop him, but to no avail, and the air assault merely destroys the buildings faster. The slums are soon replaced with sparkling, new housing projects for the poor. The police chief is secretly happy that Superman destroyed the town.


See, people who don't understand the glory of Golden Age comics should be forced to re-read this story from Action 8. It has absolutely everything, including everything that is wonderful and everything that is ridiculous about liberal politics, all in a story that is only 13 pages long.

In the beginning, a court scene where crime is blamed on "society" rather than criminal. Clark Kent recognized that the underprivileged kids in the underclass are given few options, and as a result resort to crime.

At the end, the most reductionist and silly analysis of the cure for urban poverty -- new apartments. In the world according to Superman, the problem of poverty isn't lack of money, it's low-quality housing. If the unemployed and poor were taken out of their slums and put into up-to-date high-rise apartments, then everything will be better. The fact that the poor won't have the money to maintain their apartments, and will have turned in low-rise slums for the high-rise "projects" of the 1960s and 1970s never occurs to him -- at least not before he single-handedly destroys an entire neighborhood.

So, while I am still of the view that "Amazons Attack!" has so far provided a pretty flimsy rationale for the Amazons to completely destroy Washington, D.C. and kill all the men in their way, it is not the most irrational destruction of a major American city by erstwhile heroes.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stupid Questions #4

So, when you've got a character like Starman or Donna Troy or Ion whose got one of those costumes with a star-field on it, is her costume just a black costume with white dots on it, or do the stars move when you are looking at her like you are looking out into space?

If they are actually in space, do the stars behind them camouflage them or what?


Friday, May 04, 2007

Free to Be, You, Me and Atalanta

Every non-comic blog I read has, in the past week, linked to this post by Megan, a 35-year old woman who wants to have children, but is not married. It has me thinking about many of my own friends (all about the same age) who either are not married, or who are married but have not yet decided whether or not to have children. But mostly, it got me thinking about "Free To Be, You And Me," of which I have thought about a lot in the past few years when I play it for the Raggirls (or show them the similar TV adaptation), after approximately two decades of not thinking about it at all.

And I realized that a lot of my worldview was probably shaped by that album, even though I never thought about it. There is a lot that is great about Free To Be, You And Me. (I wonder how much of my love for M*A*S*H re-runs has to do with my childhood internalizations of Alan Alda's voice.)

Most of the songs are sweet and wonderful -- "Glad to Have a Friend Like You" is my personal favorite -- but looking back now, there are several that I would edit if I could.

1. "Ladies First." -- A girl who acts in a stereotypically feminine way gets eaten by a pack of tigers. A little too over the top. I get the point that dressing in frilly lace and acting helpless isn't exactly a social ideal, and this particular "Little Lady" is a total S.O.B., but come on now. Eaten by tigers? Surely we can show the negatives of extreme femininity without killing the girl off!

2. "William's Doll." -- Let's face it here, folks. William is probably gay. And, as Seinfeld has said, there's nothing wrong with that. We can all hope that one day William will be in a caring, monogamous relationship with another man, and he will be the stay-at-home dad for his and his husband's adopted son. Grandma is totally getting William's dad's hopes up, and it will all go horribly wrong when William comes out sometime during Reagan's first term. I spent most of the 1980s telling myself that I couldn't assume that just because certain of my friends had certain mannerisms, I shouldn't assume that they were gay. My the mid-1990s, they were all out.

Of course, in 1972 we could be pro-woman a lot more easily than we could be pro-gay.

3. Dudley Pippin and the Principal -- This one just creeps me out. Why is the principal playing a flute? Am I the only one who sees undertones of pedophilia here?

4. Girl Land -- The eldest Raggirl will now not listen to the Free To Be CD unless I agree to skip over this song. It totally freaks her out, and I can understand why. The Jack Cassidy part of the carnival barker:

Wonderful Girl Land, the island of joys,
Where good little girls pick up after the boys!
So come on in. Look about.
You go in a girl ... and you never get out!

Heck, it scares me, too.

Which brings us to

5. Atalanta. In this story, the King wants to marry off his daughter, and sets up a race where the swiftest man can marry the Princess. Atalanta agrees, but only if she can enter the race herself.

All of the potential suitors are jerks, except for Young John (Alan Alda), who turns out to be a great guy. They run the race, and in the end Atalanta and Young John tie. The King offers his daughter to Young John anyway, who humbly replies something like, "I could not possibly marry your daughter unless she wished to marry me. I have run this race for the chance to talk with Atalanta." Well, good for John.

Atalanta and John have a day-long date, find out they are perfectly compatible, and have a great time. The next day, they split up and go off to see the world separately. "Perhaps someday they'll be married, and perhaps they will not. In any case, it is certain they are both living happily ever after."


Well, today I feel like half of my friends are Atalanta. They went off the see the world, and when they came back they found out that "Old John" is now married to a younger woman (who is also perfectly nice, thank you), and all the other "Johns" are married also, leaving them to choose amongst that same group of jerk suitors who lost the race the first time around. Maybe it was appropriate in 1972 to tell 18-year olds to see more of the world before they got married, but the lesson is now being applied by too many 25 year olds, and they are interpreting it too mean that any compromise with a man constitutes "giving up your own identity." At least, too many 25 year olds that I knew.

I, of course, have no issues at all with women's personal choices in terms of marriage, working, kids, etc. There is nothing "second best" about voluntarily choosing a life without children. I just feel that too many of us internalized too much the "it is certain they are both living happily ever after" message, and are, in fact, not living happily ever after as a result.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Spirit #5, Action #6, and the True Story of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Lew Alicindor was a famous basketball player who was the best player in the NCAA when he played for UCLA in the late 1960s. In 1971, after playing a few years in the NBA, Mr. Alcindor legally changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (he had used the name informally for several years before then.) Alcindor/ Adbul-Jabbar had a long and successful professional basketball career, primarily with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fast-forward to 1993. Abdul-Jabbar's career is over. General Motors uses the name "Lew Alcindor" is an advertisement an Oldsmobile that airs during the NBA finals. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sues, saying that GM does not have the right to use his name in a commercial without his consent. GM responds that they didn't use his name. They used a name that Mr. Abdul-Jabbar intentionally abandoned back in 1971. It was not "his name" any more, and therefore he did not have any rights to it.

The answer -- to me at least -- is not obvious. Of course a person has a right to protect his name. And of course a person has a right to change his name. On the one hand, Lew Alcindor and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are the "same person," and a statement like "Lew Alcindor loves General Motors" would lead a normal person to believe that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had similar sentiments. On the other hand, there was a deliberate renunciation of the name. If something is abandoned, then its free for anyone else walking along the roadside to pick up and keep.

This case was in the back of my mind as I read The Spirit, along with Action Comics #6, in which Superman makes a similar discovery that his identity had co-opted by a con-man. In Action #6, the con-men quickly move from financial fraud to attempted murder, which makes the case a little easier than the Lew Alcindor case. In Spirit #5, the con-man make the dubious claim that the Spirit can't do anything to him because the Spirit has no legal rights to his own name.

In any event, a few things that floated through my mind as I read yet another excellent issue of The Spirit.

Labels: , , ,