Friday, November 30, 2007


Look Mr. Checkered Suit-Wearing Gangster, I'm sure seeing trophies grow in size and come to life and attack you is a pretty trippy, freaked out,perhaps even horrifying sight, even for a hardened Gotham criminal who's seen it all like yourself. But good God man, try to have a little dignity! I mean, "Yiiii?" What kind of gangster says "Yiiii?" Couldn't you have gone with a more manly "Arrghh!" or even a less high-pitched "Aiieee?"

And way to call retreat the second you see a living golf trophy knock your gun out of your hand. It's, like, six inches high and it's already used up all it's ammunition—you could probably take it in a fight. But no, you have to panic and tell your boys to scram the second things get crazy, and what happens? You all run straight into other growing, living trophies.

And that's why you're sitting in jail, and all of the gold at the Gotham Trophy Shop remains un-robbed. Coward.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Weekly Haul: November 29th

All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder #8 (DC Comics) You know, we all gave Jim Lee and company a hard time due to the crazy delays on this series, so now that it’s back on some sort of semi-regular schedule, I kinda feel like that should be commended…or at least acknowledged.

I mean, it was just two months ago I was watching Batman humping Black Canary on a filthy dock seconds after their first meeting, and now here I am watching The Joker strangling a woman he drugged and just had sex with to death.

This issue scales back on the crazy a tad—I don’t think the phrase “goddam Batman” was used at all, actually—but seems a lot fuller, as we’re introduced to new characters and the story moves a bit faster than in issues past.

Here we’ve got the All-Star Joker (you can’t see it on the cover above, which isn’t the final version, but he has a huge dragon tattoo on his back), the swastikas-over-the-nipples lady from Dark Knight Returns and Catwoman, plus some bonding between Batman and Robin, and a scene between Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan.

The opening with the Joker is pretty rough, but I don’t think it crosses the line into unspeakably inappropriate territory, as out-of-continuity vanity series like this is exactly where DC should be putting all the dark and nasty content. In general, I’m really enjoying the mash-up of Dark Knight sensibilities with the more innocent stories of the first few decades of Batman’s career. I spent some time last week reading old Batman comics from the ‘50s, so I was a little more attuned to Lee’s version of the Silver Age Batman, in terms of ear-length and chest symbol. In this regard, ASBaRtBW is just like All-Star Superman, a post-modern take on the character from specific eras, adding later sensibilities to a Golden and Silver Age template.

And I really enjoyed the abuse heaped on Hal Jordan here, both by Batman (who calls him “a retarded demigod”) and Miller and Lee, who make him seem pretty damn goofy. After reading so many comics in the last few years where Geoff Johns makes Hal look like the greatest guy on the planet, sometimes at Batman’s expense (like when he punched out Batman in Green Lantern: Rebirth #6, something I will never get over), it’s nice to see Miller and Lee turning the tables, and restoring the natural status quo—Batman on top of the totem pole, Hal down at the bottom, nestled between Flash and Hawkman.

Batman #671 (DC) It’s the climax of the “Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul” crossover, which seems a little odd, since this is only part four of seven. Of course, maybe what might seem like poor pacing is actually great storytelling, as I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next three parts. Nor do I have any idea why Batman is wearing chain mail throughout this story.

In this chapter, Batman gives Ra’s a third alternative to killing one or the other of his boys, and takes him to Nanda Parbat, only to find The Sensei and The League of Assassins waiting for him. There’s some fighting, a shock twist (which Dan DiDidio kinda gave away at a recent con) and a cool cliffhanger.

And plenty of terrible, terrible art.

I’m not really digging current penciller Tony Daniel’s watered down Jim Lee style (How watered down? Well, it’s unfortunate for Daniel that a Batman comic drawn by Jim Lee came out the same week as his Batman comic), but different readers have different tastes. What I can’t believe is how weak Daniel’s storytelling chops are, especially considering he’s on DC’s flagship character, working with one of the company’s most well regarded (and bankable) writers.

Got your copy handy? (If not, you can see some of the relevant pages here at Newsarama). Okay, just look at pages two and three. In the second panel, The Sensei demands a key from a monk, and in the next we get a close-up of The Sensei saying “I see,” and in the next, we get what appears to be a two-eyed version of Deathstroke shooting a gun. Presumably, he shot the monk who had the gun to his head in that second panel (although we don’t see who is holding the gun to that character’s head in the second panel, nor is the Deathstroke-looking shooter shown in the establishing shot of the first panel at all). Additionally, there’s no focus on the monk, or a beat for silence. One assumes that the monk was silent and thus killed for not speaking up, but that’s not the story the panels tell at all.

There are other instances of weak storytelling throughout, like the view of the rope bridge on page seven being completely different than in the inset panel in which Batman looks at the exact same bridge through a telescope, or the battle with “the world’s greatest assassins-- The Sensei’s Men of Death” on page nine, which occurs in five panels, none of which have anything to do with one another.

It’s not so bad as to be unreadable, but, like his work in the last issue of Batman, or Ryan Benjamin’s pencil art in part three of the story, Daniel’s just bad enough to call attention to what he’s doing wrong, without it completely ruining the story. There were about a half-dozen times I had to go back and reread pages to make sure I was reading them correctly, including what I think are supposed to be pretty big moments in the story (like that monk walking away whistling at the end, for example).

Batman and the Outsiders #2 (DC) You know, I just do not understand this title at all. When #1 dropped just two weeks ago, I recapped all the craziness of the creative team, but I still find myself perplexed by other elements. This is only the second issue of an ongoing series, part two of a multi-part story, and already two of the characters introduced as members of the team have quit. If they’re needed elsewhere (both are on that villains’ teaser image, and at least one of them is being sent to outer space in the pages of Countdown/Salvation Run), why not just start this series after they’ve left? Also, what’s with the biweekly schedule? Because it’s only the second issue and it’s already time to bring in a new artist (Luckily, pencil artist Carlos Rodriguez’s work is suitably close to that of #1’s Julian Lopez, and one syllable-named inker Bit handles both issues, likely helping the issues look consistent.) Is there a reason this issue had to be published just two weeks after the first one? Couldn’t we have waited two more weeks so Lopez could have drawn it?

As for the story, our team of characters who infiltrated that corporate lab last issue escapes this issue, two team members leave, and a new one arrives. Thunder isn’t one of the characters leaving, but I do hope she leaves pretty soon. Not that I don’t like her as a character—I actually like her a lot more now that her costume is less horrible than it was when she was introduced—or that I don’t like the idea of a guy with Chuck Dixon’s hang-ups about gay folks in comics writing a lesbian (although it does make him seem like a hypocrite), but because there were a couple of times here where his Thunder reminded me of Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner’s character The Lime from The Pro, and I think I’d enjoy this book a lot more if I could get all the way through it without wincing.

Dan Dare #1 (Virgin Comics) Original Robotech cartoons + Garth Ennis’ Vertigo War Stories + Ennis’ Battler Britton relaunch = Dan Dare #1. Don’t judge this one by its cover(s); neither of them reflect the contents of the first issue, or Gary Erskine’s art, at all, and the Greg Horn cover is pretty repulsive (You’ll want to look for the Bryan Talbot one).

Doc Frankenstein #6 (Burlyman Entertainment) Steve Skroce and The Wachowski Brothers’ lavishly illustrated tale of science vs. religion, as embodied as a near future battle between Frankenstein’s monster and militarized Catholic Church, rages on in what is surely now an annual schedule. I have no idea what’s going on anymore, and this would be around the point I’d quit bothering with the pamphlets and just wait for a trade, if this were a bigger, more reliable company and I could be at all certain there will be trades some day. So I guess I just keep getting these when they come out, reading them, marveling at all that hyper-detailed Skroce art, completely forgetting what on earth happened in the previous issue, and then, someday, rereading them all at once.

This issue has the secret origin of God, as told by that little fairy from the box. It’s basically the God of the Old Testament as frat boy boor, which is kind of amusing (and certainly great-looking). I’m pretty sure God has a pretty great sense of humor (In fact, I’m sure there’s some philosophical proof that God has the greatest sense of humor) and thus wouldn’t get bent out of shape by the Wachowskis making fun of him, so I certainly hope no readers do.

Dock Walloper #1 (Virgin) Unlike a lot of Virgin’s comics with someone’s name above the title on the cover—in this case, it’s writer/director/actor Ed Burns—this one is actually co-written by Burns, along with experienced co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti (I wonder if Justin Gray’s jealous; like when Palmiotti meets up with him, if Gray gets all pouty and is like, “So, did you and Mr. Hollywood have fun collaborating last night?” or whatever).

A period piece about a hulking white guy with a freakishly huge right hand and his smaller black friend who seems to know some kind of kung fu as they try to make it in early 20th century New York City. They go from walloping some guys on a dock to working for a criminal syndicate. I wanted a bit more style from the art, which is technically proficient but offers nothing that really sings, but otherwise, this isn’t a bad first issue at all.

Green Lantern Corps #18 (DC) Sodam Yat, pretty boy Daxamite member of the GLC who was just given the name and powers of Ion, fights Superman Prime. In between punches, we get flashbacks to Yat’s origin, as illustrated by Jamal Igle and Jerry Ordway (the latter of whom similarly illustrated Prime’s origin story as part of this “Sinestro Corps War” crossover story). Nothing much happens beyond that, and I kept getting distracted by my own confusion as to where everyone else was while Prime and Yat were beating on one another (the whole DCU was on scene when the fight broke out in the last installment of the crossover) and what exactly Ion can do (When Kyle Rayner was first Ion during Judd Winick’s run on Green Lantern, his powers were pretty much unlimited, but here Yat seems to just be Superman with a Green Lantern ring). A pretty inessential read, despite some nice art (I particularly liked Patrick Gleason and company’s depiction of the heat vision at the beginning of the fight).

JLA: Classified #47 (DC) A post-Infinite Crisis/52 version of the old Year One or Possibly Year Two version of the League (Green Lantern Hal Jordan, cleanshaven Green Arrow Oliver Queen, The Atom, Hawkman and Wonder Woman) vs. Qwardians. It’s a pretty simple Silver Age style story from Mike W. Barr, with art by Randy Green and Andy Owens. Nothing remarkably good or bad about it, which is more of a bad thing than a good thing.

Madman Atomic Comics #5 (Image Comics) I was beginning to weary of the new Madman series, with its meandering cosmic plot, but perked up at the introduction of Allred’s super-team The Atomics to the proceedings. The plot is still rather meandering, and devoted to cosmic business, but at least now there’s a stretchy guy, a giant purple slug lady, and It Girl sharing the panels with our hero. Not sure how much longer I’ll stick around, but even at his dullest, Allred’s art rewards the eye, and I love his character and costume design. This issue sees two new members of The Atomics added to the mix, which means two new character and costume designs.

Marvel Atlas #1 (Marvel Comics) You can hear me babble on for a few hundred words about this in a special “Best Shots” review over at All I’ve got to add is that if my house had a flagpole on the porch and Marvel made and sold ‘em, I’d totally hang the Latverian flag out there, and that, like a few of the posters at Newsarama said, I too would love to read a DCU version.

Superman Annual #13 (DC) It’s the grand finale of the “Camelot Falls” storyline which everyone—the Superman comic book, readers, writer Kurt Busiek—except for the too-slow-for-a-monthly art team of Carlos Pacheco and Jose Merino has already moved on from. It’s Superman vs. Arion one more time, and it ends exactly as one assumes it would, with nothing really changing. It’s also only 22-pages long, the length of a regular issue of Superman, making it pretty clear it’s only stuck in an “annual” to get it out of the way in the monthly.

The rest of the $3.99 book is occupied by profile pages on Subjekt 17 and Khyber, and a winning 14-page back-up by Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson Magalhaes. This later story is kind of slight in terms of content, and probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day in a regular issue of the series (not without a fight being added in there somewhere), but it boasts a lot of gorgeously illustrated character moments, as the whole Superman family—Ma, Pa, Lois, Chris, Supergirl and Krypto—go for a picnic on an alien world. It’s a truly charming little story, one that almost makes up for the silliness of the title’s publication schedule.

Ultimate Spider-Man #116 (Marvel) Oh wow, hey, here’s a well-written, nicely drawn story about a young Peter Parker who isn’t yet married to Mary Jane and whom the whole world doesn’t know is Spider-Man. Kinda makes what’s going on with the Marvel Universe Spider-Man this week seem pretty pointless, doesn’t it?


Here’s a completely accurate one-panel, no-word review of Kazuo Umezu’s Reptilia:

Would you prefer a review with more words? Well then, you should check out this week’s Las Vegas Weekly comics column—it’s chockfull of words about Reptilia.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the blogosphere…

Grim and gritty, or just grim and shitty?: Over at When Will The Hurting Stop, Tim O’Neil makes fun of what must be the stupidest thing I’ve seen in my weekly in-shop flip-throughs of Countdown. Putting aside my knee-jerk nerd reaction (But Mxyzptlk is a fifth-dimensional being! How can a third dimensional being like Prime hurt him? And why how does Mxy vomit? Does he even eat food? Or have a digestive system?), what’s really galling about this scene isn’t merely the usual ludicrous darkening of DC’s superhero universe, but the target of that darkening on display here.

I mean, Mr. Mxyzptlk is perhaps the single silliest, goofiest concept ever attached to Superman, a character whose history is bursting at the seams with silly, goofy concepts. While the ‘80s reboot saw the culling of a lot of that Silver Age silliness—the various super pets, his cousin from Krypton, Jimmy Olsen’s total awesomeness—Mxy survived, the least plausible, least realistic element of modern Superman comics.

From the outside looking in, the character is a symbolic representation of everything that’s lighthearted, fun, funny and childlike in the Superman mythos.

So of course he’s chained, beaten, tortured and scarred in the pages of Countdown.

I’ve always assumed it was unintentional that so many of the characters symbolic of fun in the DC line have been raped, killed and tortured in the last few years, that the same relative unpopularity of the characters that allowed them to be made into fun or funny characters also made them disposable (That is, you can get away with a lot more in your depiction of Blue Beetle than you can Batman). But it’s only been a matter of months since they buried Impulse, and a few weeks since they slaughtered everyone in that Teen Titans special, and now they’ve got their mischeivous fifth-dimensional imp shirtless, shackled and puking his guts up.

Surely at some point the thought must have crossed someone’s mind that eventually this is going to start looking like a conscious campaign to pervert everything fun left in the fictional universe.

Wonderful!: If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Project Rooftop for a slew of Wonder Woman costume redesigns by some very talented folks, with responses from the usual commentators, plus special guest commentators, like current Wonder Woman writer Gail Simone.

Long time readers know Wonder Woman is a popular subject of conversation here at EDILW, and I think her costume is something pretty problematic in general.

That thing is constantly being tweaked along a rather small spectrum of changes (with only mod “New” Wonder Woman and biker shorts-and-bra Wonder Woman really breaking out of that spectrum), many of them so subtle the artists paid to draw her don’t always take note (The shape of her belt, the shape of the design on her bodice, the cut of her boots, etc).

The result is that Wonder Woman’s costume is constantly being messed with, but never really changes much.

What really struck me while looking through the designs on Project Rooftop (I posted Maris Wicks’ at the top there; I love the invisible horse, and the look on her Wondy’s face as she rides it; a Wicks Wonder Girl one-shot from Earth-Justice Riders would be aces, wouldn’t it?), were the comments like, “This would be good for Donna Troy or Wonder Girl, but looks a little young for Wonder Woman.”

You know, Donna Troy and Wonder Girl have had a succession of some truly godawful costumes. While Wonder Girl finally has a decent one (the jeans and Silver Age Wonder Girl top look), Donna’s still wearing an extremely uncomfortable mixture of her Perez red leotard re-colored to resemble a night sky.

Isn’t it weird that there are all these great designs for Wonder Woman costumes literally just lying around the Internet, and DC dresses their gals as they do? It seems like a real shame.

Also, it’s interesting how much enthusiasm there is for the characters, by so many very talented artists, ones so passionate about the characters that they put the necessary thought and time into creating these costumes, and it’s being spurred on by a third party. Wouldn’t it be nice to see DC try to harness the energy of these sorts of events somehow? Like, by hosting their own contests, with the winner getting to draw a Wonder Woman back-up story or something, or even just publishing a book full of pin-ups and costume designs? I don’t know, I’d buy a book full of pages of Project Rooftop redesigns of DC hero costumes, but maybe there isn’t a very big market for it.

Or would DC actually getting involved, making something like this “official,” just kind of ruin the spirit of it?

I don’t know, it’s just kinda odd that there’s so much interest in and excitement about Wonder Woman in the world—as evidenced here, and in the recent Wonder Woman Day—but there seems to be so much less interest and excitement about her within DC’s line of comic books, in which Wonder Woman has been bad to unreadable for the last few years, and spin-offs featuring her and her supporting cast have generally been much, much worse (Amazons Attack, Wonder Girl, JLoA, Teen Titans, Countdown etc).

Oh, but back to Wonder Woman costume design, if DC actually took on one of these for the “official” Wonder Woman costume, I’d go with Daniel Krall’s:

It’s really a nice mix of the costume in the original Golden Age book (still the best Wonder Woman comics) with the interest in mythology that has become increasingly important in post-Crisis Wonder Woman comics.

In addition to those posted at Project Rooftop’s page, the runners-up have all been posted here. Check ‘em out.

This is why comic book characters should always just say “@#$%!”when they swear: Comic Book Resources’ critic Hannibal Tabu kinda sorta almost starts an interesting conversation in this week’s “Buy Pile” column, regarding usage of the “N-word” in comics, using white creators Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s usage of it in The Boys to bring comics into the traditional dialogue of who gets to say it in popular entertainment, whether keeping it, um, taboo grants it too much power, and so on. Tabu gets into it a bit deeper at his myspace blog, where he can be a bit freer in discussing swear words.

Tucker Stone, whose caustic commentary makes his “Comics of the Weak” reviews among the most fun to read each week, obliquely makes fun of where Tabu draws the line in his own review of the last issue of The Boys:

You know, because a comic that doesn't have respect for common decency, contains graphic violence, sex and language, satirizes every aspect of mainstream comics including dead creators, ridicules American shame regarding hetero-,homo-, and ear canal sex, should somehow know better than to use a racial epithet. Cut a guy’s face off, put it on a pizza, but God forbid you drop an n-bomb. That's Across The Line.

As a white guy, these kinds of conversations can be pretty awkward to enter into, particularly when it’s started by someone who says that white fiction writers can’t put the word in the mouths of fictional black characters. (Can we talk about talking about it, then?).

I think Tabu’s got a damn good point, and I know Quentin Tarantino’s liberal usage of it in his films always rings false and seems in particularly poor taste to me, but I haven’t given usage of the “N-word” by comic book writers the same sort of thought I’ve given its usage in other media, like film and music (And I think I’ve heard it several billion times in music at this point in my life, almost exclusively by black performers, with the sole exception of Patti Smith’s Rock ‘n Roll Nigger, and covers of the same).

Perhaps that’s because it comes up less often in comics than in other media, or perhaps it’s because fewer people read comics than watch movies or listen to rap music, and thus there are fewer people pontificating on the opinion pages and cable punditry shows on the language used in comics.

At the moment, I’m kind of having a hard time thinking of instances of it being used in comics, actually. Tabu mentions Brian K. Vaughan using it in Y: The Last Man but I don’t remember it, nor do I remember it being used in Ennis’ Punisher arc “Kitchen Irish,” which Tabu also mentions (What sticks with me most about that story was the amount of violence—there was a dude whose job was to saw people into small pieces—and Indictment #26 of the religious/ethnic violence in Ireland from Ennis).

I’m pretty sure it was used in Dock Walloper #1, by a racist character in a period piece set in the early part of last century, but which was also written by a coupla white guys (I think; one interesting thing about comics is that so many of the creators are just names, and often times there’s no way of telling what race the people who make them actually are; for example, I have no idea if Jimmy Palmiotti, who wrote Dock Walloper with white guy Ed Burns, is black or white or neither).

Did James Sturm use it in his baseball story at the end of James Sturm’s God, Gold and Golems? I think he might have had an angry member of the crowd use it in reference to the big, black guy who later plays the golem, but, again, I don’t recall.

As a critic, I’m not sure it’s responsible to publicly say something like, “I’ll never review another comic by this writer, because he did something in his story I find morally repugnant.” (Actually, Tabu said, “This column is officially done with the work of Garth Ennis.”) But then, the field of comics criticism is a little different than, say, literary criticism or film criticism, in that the space between professional, semi-professional and amateur critics is so much smaller, and it’s so much easier to become a critic (Basically, anyone with an Internet connection can become a critic, and reach roughly the same audience; there’s relatively little in the way of print criticism). Some of the better comics critics may or may not get paid for what they write (i.e. be “professionals” in the traditional sense) or not get paid very much, or paid less than critics who aren’t quite as astute. (For example, I’m not sure how much Tom Spurgeon makes for the work he does, but he seems a much better comics critic than those who write for, say, Entertainment Weekly or The Onion’s A.V. Club, who most certainly are “professional” in the traditional sense; likewise, pretty much everyone at is a better critic than pretty much everyone at Wizard, but the former get a share of donations, as I understand it, while the latter get some sort of paycheck).

The weird thing about Tabu’s protest is that due to the specific nature of his column, the fact that he reads everything for free, and only buys a few of the books, with those being bought constituting the designation of what’s best, there’s no real economic component to a boycott of Ennis’ future work (I should probably here note that I read Tabu’s column every Thursday morning, and kinda like the set-up; if nothing else, it’s a unique way of rating comics). In fact, if “The Buy Pile” just completely ignores The Boys, it may prove more helpful to the book; a negative review a month is probably less helpful than no review at all, you know?

Finally, as someone notes in a response on Tabu’s myspace entry, Tabu himself noted that he knows lots of black folks who use the word regularly (including his significant other), which seems to indicate that Ennis having a black character use it in casual conversation is simply observant, naturalistic writing, not the same as Ennis himself using it to describe black folks.

As for Ennis’ usage of the word in The Boys, I can’t say how appropriate or inappropriate it actually is, as I lost interest in and dropped the series a long time ago, and am just going off the one panel Tabu posted and what he had to say about the book.

I did read enough issues—the first four, maybe?—to understand that it’s a series devoted to trying to be as outrageous as possible, so the presence of the “N-word” doesn’t seem out of place there, and if Ennis is simply putting it in the mouth of a black character using it in casual conversation, it doesn’t strike me as offensive, particularly in relation to all the other stuff going on in that book, some of which Stone alluded to in his review.

So I don’t know—is this just the same old debate we’ve seen over movies, music and daily conversation, with the same old questions? Who can say it? When can they say it? Is it better to say it a lot and rob it of its power, or never ever say it at the risk of keeping it powerful? Or is there anything specific to comics as a medium that bring a fresh angle to the discussion? Or to criticism, of comics or otherwise, that brings a fresh angle?

I don’t know. Like I said, Tabu almost kinda sorta started the conversation, but not really, so I’m not sure where we can go from here anyway. Personally, I don’t see anything comics-specific about the debate, but if anyone does, I’d be very interested to hear about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Robin, Agalmatophiliac

When Batman and Batwoman go out of town, leaving their teenage sidekicks alone and unsupervised, Bat-Girl immediately throws herself at Robin.

Despite the fact that he's a red-blooded teenage boy, and the fact that young Betty Kane is a pretty teenage girl, Robin rebuffs her.

Another woman, Robin? Who could it possibly be? You and Bat-Girl have so much in common! You both fight crime in Gotham City in masks, red and green costumes and bare legs, alongside grown-ups dressed like giant bats. Is there really another girl out there more perfect for you than Bat-Girl? Who?

A statue, Robin? Really?

(Above panels from the story "Bat-Mite Meets Bat-Girl" in 1961's Batman #144, by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Move over, Hang In There Kitten! Make way for Nova!

I've repeatedly mentioned how great I think the last two panels of David Hine, Mico Suayan and Rafael Kayanan's What If? Annihilation #1 are, and here's why.

Superhero Nova has returned to Earth in the middle of the heroes' "Civil War" (Perhaps you've heard of it?). He's there to warn them of a much bigger threat then whether they ought to have ID cards and be governement employees or not. Annihilus, the giant bug man bad guy from the Negative Zone, is ravaging the universe with his imaginatively named "annihilation wave," a wave of soldiers and ships that, um, annihilates everything in its path.

After about 20 boring-ass pages of recapping and Uatu The Watcher breaking his vow never to interfere with events for the 433rd time, Hine brings us to the awesome climax, which is well worth $2.99 all by itself. Reed Richards and Uatu set up the Deus Ex Machina machine, but it's set on a timer or something, and it looks like Annihilus will be able to reach it and shut it off before it does its day-saving.

Unless someone stays and tries to hold him off, which, successful or not, means certain death. Nova steps up. As does Captain America. And Iron Man. Uatu is impressed as hell, as you can tell by his breathless narration. These are the last two panels of the story, although the second panel is actually a two-page spead (which I've trimmed a bit off, so it would fit here—Sorry Suayan!), so keep that in mind when you're reading 'em. Nova says his peice, then you turn the page and —bam! Two-page splash! (Oh, and click to make them big enough to read.)

See what I mean? Whenever you feel your resolve faltering, or you feel yourself losing hope, just remember this:

Uatu could totally write a self-help book based around this idea. It would just be two pages long, and across those two pages would be printed this image:

I think he's on to something. Let's test it out.

Oh man, am I ever going to get my credit card bill completely paid off?

It's the end of the month and the rent's due! That'll clean me out till payday. I wish I owned my own home instead of throwing away hard-earned cash to line my landlord's pockets every month, but I'll never be able to afford-

Is there really such a thing as true love? I wonder if I'll ever meet that someone special...

I want to keep up my daily blog posting schedule, but I'm all tapped out. I don't know if I can think of anything insightful or funny, or even mildly amusing, to post today...

Wow, it really works! I feel my resolve and hope returning!

So head to your local comic shop, buy What If? Annihilation #1, carefully cut out those last two pages, frame them, and hang them somewhere central in your house or office, where you can look at them to gain inspiration any time you need it.

After all, if Captain America, Iron Man and Nova can hold off 200,000 of Annihilus' soldiers, surely you can accomplish all your goals in life, whether it's acing that big presentation at work, or completing your run of All-Star Squadron back issues.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chief Man-of-the-Bats: Year One

Recently Batman writer Grant Morrison was joined by artist J.H. Williams III for a three-part arc spanning Batman #667-669. Williams was kinda sorta filling in for the title’s alleged “regular” artist Andy Kubert, who apparently can’t do more than a handful of issues per year, and the story itself was something of a departure for Morrison, who, in the course of the previous year, had been focused on telling a story about Batman’s son.

Despite the tangential nature of the storyline, it turned out to be the best story of Morrison’s stint on the title. Not simply because he finally had an artist who could visually match his constant allusions to comics past.

Mostly because it guest-starred this guy:

That’s Great Eagle, also known as Dr. John Eagle, who, when he’s wearing the headdress and and Bat-shirt, answers to the name Chief Man-of-the-Bats.

As you’d expect a guy who dresses like that and goes around calling himself "Chief Man-of-the-Bats," Eagle is a talented, confident, tough guy who doesn’t much care what you think of his costume or codename.

Here he is about to perform emergency surgery on fellow hero and Batman admirer The Knight, who has a small barbed time bomb in his stomach…

When another fellow hero and Batman admirer The Musketeer walks in and sees him standing over The Knight with a bloody knife, Eagle must pause to punch out The Musketeer, and then he immediately gets back to work…

Finally successful, he’s calm, cool and collected while surveying the results. The bomb goes off in the next panel, but naturally he, his patient and The Musketeer all escape the blast unscathed. As this page proves, he’s very Batman-like in his competence and demeanor, as well as his fashion taste.

And later, when his son and sidekick Red Raven (formerly Little Raven) is caught in a complicated deathtrap designed to kill him, Robin and the Knight’s sidekick The Squire, the chief wades in and grabs weights meant to torture two people, one in each hand…

Chief Man-of-the-Bats is, clearly, a total bad-ass.

But he’s not perfect, he has his weaknesses, like any man. For example, he can’t help but live up to the negative Native American stereotypes:

He makes up for it by being an inveterate litterer, though.

Anyway, if you’re anything like me (and the fact that not only are you reading my blog, but have got this far into a post, is indicative that you are), then you think Chief Man-of-Bats totally rules, and would like nothing more to read more Chief Man-of-Bats comics; hell, maybe even a Club of Heroes ongoing series (It’s not like it could be any worse than Superman/Batman or Batman and the Outsiders).

Well, until that glorious day comes, we can only look backward for more Man-of-the-Bats action, and the place to start is his first appearance.

Batman and Robin first met the chief and his sidekick in 1954’s Batman #86, by France Herron and Sheldon “Not Actually Bob Kane” Moldoff, in a story called “Batman—Indian Chief!”

Here’s the cover:

Now, you may think, “Batman—Indian Chief?” Why would Batman be an Indian Chief? That’s kind of weird, isn’t it?

Well, back in the 20th century, there was actually a great shortage of Indian chiefs in America, and Indians, who all lived lives exactly like the Indians you see in old Westerns, were bereft of leadership.

To help fill the void, America’s superheroes came to the rescue. In addition to Batman, other do-gooders who donned headdresses to become Indian Chiefs included


Captain Marvel,

and Rex the Wonder Dog. Of course, Rex was only an honorary Indian chief. Because making a dog, even one as wonderful as Rex, an actual Indian chief? That’s just silly.

Anyway, Batman and Robin are flying the Batplane back home one day, when they see a strange sight…

Robin peers through the binoculars only to see a boy that looks exactly like him, dressed exactly like him (save for a headband with two feathers on his head) riding a horse.

Curious, they decide to investigate, and within just two panels find a cave with a canoe decorated with a bat-symbol parked right outside it, and they stroll right in.

Batman's reaction to seeing a Native American version of himself in a cave mirrors my own reaction:


Great Eagle tells Batman and Robin of his origin, and his current predicatment:

It should be noted that this Black Elk is not, in fact, the famous Sioux holy man of Black Elk Speaks fame, but a local villain who robs people at arrow point.

Since Eagle can’t go after him as Man-of-the-Bats without risking his secret identity, Batman decides to stand in for him, wearing some make-up on his lantern jaw to appear to be a Native American (I was relieved at this point to be reading a black and white copy, so I couldn’t see how red that make up was).

Now why Batman takes a disguised Robin with him instead of Little Raven, who would be far better-suited to prompt Batman to act like his dad, I don’t know.

Finding Black Elk seems easy enough, as the villain and his men shoot out the tires of an armored truck with their arrows and proceed to rob it, at which point our disguised heroes swoop in:

But the bad guys make their escape when a fire in the burning armored car spreads. Now Batman and Robin must track them. Robin keeps trying to get Batman to go after them in the Batplane, but the Dark Knight resists, pointing out that “We’ve got to handle this like Indians!.”

And in the 1954, what respectable Native American would ever board a giant, metal eagle that the White Man called "an airplane," which was probably powered by black magic.

Eventually, Batman picks up their trail, which heads back to an old mine. This the same group that Batman and Robin were totally whipping when last they met, despite being badly outnumbered, but now the caped crusaders find themselves geting the worst of it. They take shelter in a building, and are pinned down by Black Elk's bowmen.

Their only hope?

Smoke signals, of course! These naturally bring Great Eagle and his allies…

With the tables now effectively turned, Black Elk and his mob are quickly defeated. And thus the day, and Great Eagle’s secret identity, are saved, thanks to Batman and Robin.

Ah, those sure were simpler times, weren't they? Back then, Batman was always happy to run into a fellow crime-buster doing good works in his name. Nowadays, he totally would have sued the hell out of Great Eagle for copyright infringement. Not that he needed the money, of course, but just the principle of the thing, you know?