Friday, April 14, 2006

Superboy And The Amazing Thermonuclear Dream Coat

not again
He's not dead. He's resting.

In "Superboy" #61 (April 1999) the troubled and occasionally tiresome teen bounces around Hypertime in a hi-tech/lo-fashion atomic-powered jacket. Superboy wears it with the collar up. Of course. Because he's kind of a twerp. I'm sure he'd roll up the sleeves, too, if they hadn't been reinforced with circuitry and isotopes and whatnot.

He runs into a bunch of other Superboys, some of whom are shown on the cover.


At center left, there's the Clark Kent Superboy, of course. He's the guy in the inoffensively boring -- ow! Quit pelting me with your HeroClix, fanboys! -- okay, make that "classic" costume. On the bottom is Superboy-as-Robin. And I think it's funny that the only costume elements I hate are the ones taken from the Kesel Superboy design. All those lame-ass straps, for instance. I do like this color scheme better than the one on the actual Robin costume. Huh. Between the Clark Kent and Robin Superboys is the DC One Million Superboy, all OMAC'd out. Now, I understand what Kirby was going for with that ridiculous hairdo but it still looks dumb. Doesn't look any better on Superboy, either. Nice shoulderpads, though. You know me; I loves me some good shoulderpads. (I bet his don't have any storage capacity for snacks, though. Me, ten points, Superboy, zero!) The blonde teen queen to the southeast of Superboy Proper is... wait for it!... Supergrrrl. Cue musical stinger, played on a trombone. Wah-wah-wah-WAAHHHH! Jesus. As if this book wasn't dated enough. One word of advice, "Supergrrrl": don't take hairstyling advice from Rachel Summers. I'm just sayin.' All armored up behind Clark Kent Superboy and the Kamandi-esque, Tarzan-ish Superboy is squire Superboy, also seen below next to Cowboy Superboy. Or "Supercowboy." Or whatever. I dunno.

super cowboy

Say...! Sir Kal is hot! Somebody needs to teach him the proper way to tie a tie, though. (Seriously, what the hell is up with that? Does he work at Chippendales?) Cowpoke Superboy is more nattily dressed than squire Superboy -- although he's pushing it a little with the fringed boots.

And lest we forget, there's the villainous Superboy! No, not the stammering whiner from "Infinite Crisis." The other one.

soul patchy

Oh, he's so terrifying, so unmistakably evil, I -- I -- heh... BWAH HAH HAH HAH!!! WOO! *wipes away tears* Oookay, "Black Zero." Here's the deal. The breastplate thing, based on Mike Mignola's designs for battlesuits from that old miniseries he did with John Byrne? That's terrific. Love it. Combining it with a black bodysuit? Classic. Looks great. The scribbly Byrne Doodles, meant to evoke Byrne's costume designs for Jor-El and his kin? Not good. They never were good. They're just another example of Byrne being lazy, like when he decided Wonder Woman's tights only needed two stars on 'em instead of dozens. Also? They kinda look like pubes. So thumbs down. The sunglasses? No. In fact, make that hell no. I know Superboy used to wear 'em a lot, but big effin' deal. They're a trendy, casual accessory and they take away from your aura of menace; they don't add to it. You don't see Darkseid strolling around in a Panama hat or Doctor Doom with one of those big rapper-style diamond necklaces that spells out his name. The only villain I can think of offhand who wears sunglasses as part of his regular costume is Doctor Octopus, and he's a fat guy with a bad haircut. If I looked like that I'd wear sunglasses, too, STORM BOY. And then there's the soul patch. Those things are always dicey. And to be frank, the rest of your look isn't hep enough to pull that thing off. Not with that Fantastic Sam's haircut, it ain't. Shave your head, ditch the sunglasses, and get back to me.

nuclear stroke

Well, that's a weird coincidence, Superboy. I was also going to suggest you "lose the jacket."

But not because it was explosive.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I actually published my "Southern Cross" post this morning, but since I'd composed it last night and because I know zilch about Blogger, it put yesterday's date on it. But that's okay, since it's technically still yesterday in Australia. That makes perfect sense, right? Huh? Oh, it doesn't?

Yeah, well... shut up.

As added proof that I post something new every weekday, I'm posting again! Whee! I just added a bunch of great new links to the sidebar. Check 'em out, if you haven't already. One of those links is for Project Rooftop, where everybody and his brother redesigns superhero costumes. I think they're great, and I'd also like to take this opportunity to remind you, once again, that I got there first. Not that I'm bitter or nothin'.

I'll leave you now with this old ink drawing Jeremy did of a shirtless vampire in a jester costume.

Jolly Roger

*crisply clicks heels together, then bows deeply* Adieu!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Comb From A Land Down Under

southern cross

Thank you, Anonymous Commenter, for tipping me off about my latest rival: Southern Cross. That'd be the guy with the 80's Metal hair flying behind Delta Burke. It just so happens Southern Cross is not only a superhero, but he's also a fashion designer. *waves arms furiously and stomps around* Man, everybody's tryin' to copy my deal! First Storm Boy and now this loser! Huh? What do you mean, "You're from the future so technically he was first?" Whose side are you on? What? No, the Wasp doesn't count, either. Phht. Whatever. I've time-travelled to the 1940's, y'know. That means I predated all of those guys.

So there.

Okay, now we've got that unpleasantness taken care of, let's dish!

Southern Cross -- real name: Bertram Davis, which automatically restricted his employment options to either "fashion design" or "tea room proprietor" -- first appeared in various Australian comics published by Cyclone back in the 80's. He's telekinetic and can fly super-fast. To quote the International Superheroes database, "He uses a power cane which amplifies his power; while he does not need it to employ his paranormal power, it boosts those abilities considerably." So, let's say we're tussling in a deserted warehouse and he's zooming around up near the rafters and I use one of my patented flying karate kicks to jump thirty feet straight up in the air (disclaimer: I can't actually do that) and I knock the cane from his hands. Suddenly he'd be restricted to flying about two feet off the ground at maybe five miles per hour. Bertie's outfit isn't bad, but it's terribly boring, and it's got those pointless armband thingies I hate. They don't add anything to the design; they're merely there. Anyway, the main point is that we've got white, bun-hugging spandex, sunglasses, a fluffy mane of hair and a big pimpin' cane. Therefore, Southern Cross = a crimefighting David Lee Roth.

Y'know, it's astounding what a good haircut and a dye job can do. Let's take another look at Southern Cross, this time drawn by one of my favorite artists, Jerry Ordway.

ordway cross

Why, Southern Cross, you're cute! Look at you! Sort of a late-model Jon Bon Jovi thing you've got going on there. Also, don't turn around but that one walrus is totally checking you out. Side note: I have no idea who the clown in the lifepreserver is back there or what it is he's so goddamned pleased about. Maybe it's because he knows he has a bigger stick than Southern Cross. Woo! Freudianism... that's an untapped well for comedy, huh?

Southern Cross belongs to a superteam called the Southern Squadron. My one question is, if Southern Cross is a fashion designer, why would he let his friends go out looking like this?

southern squadron

Yikes. Southern Cross' hair is in full Howard Stern mode here. It also reminds me of Valerie Bertinelli and Eddie Van Halen. I remember when that star couple married, and their hair became as one. It was beautiful. On a spiritual level, I mean. The anorexic Beast-wannabe -- or "wanna-Beast" for short -- is "Dingo," a Serbian werewolf. Wha-? But wolves aren't dingos... how can... feh! You lost me on that one, Southern Squadron. It's like having Ursa Major on your team and telling him, "You can turn into a brawny humanoid bear, right? So we've decided your codename will be Kangaroo." And he's wearing a unitard. Aha! No wonder he's so emaciated -- he's a ballerina! The guy in the boring Golden Age-style costume is named "Night Fighter" -- apparently he takes Ambien and then sleepwalks into biker bars and breaks pool cues over people's heads. And the woman with the stern black pantsuit and about twenty pounds of White Rain in her hair is "Lieutenant Smith." Really? So that's like a military regulation hairdo you got, honey? Do the men in your unit have to wear their hair like that as well? Or do they look more like Ted Danson circa "Cheers?" (I like how she's archly pointing at the reader, like "You! You drew me like this! And there shall come a reckoning!") Later, the hairstyles got even more egregious. For nearly all of them!


Finally, a sentiment I can get behind! Wow. I want to confiscate their styling mousse, tout de suite. And what happened to Dingo's face? Suddenly he's a Lhasa Apso! But at least he got some highlights. That plain dark brown was doing nothing for him. Lieutenant Smith is sporting a mullet, as designed by Jack Kirby. It's the mullet the Queen of the Norns or the Lighting Lady would have had! If they'd lived in Alabama! As for Southern Cross, it looks like he could serve drinks from atop his hairdo, it's so smooth and flat. And do my eyes deceive me, or has he added a couple of Grampa Munsterish white streaks to that mess? *shudder* That leaves Night Fighter, hiding his hair from us like always. I wonder what it looks like under that cowl. For some reason I'm picturing an elaborate comb-over. No idea who the Darkhawk clone is, but a mask that covers your entire face is a great way of saying, "I don't even know these people." Can't say as I blame him.

The Notorious Ilda Robot

happy times
A biopic about 50's pin-up Bettie Page is about to be released nationwide (I predict it will rake in millions at the box office and win eight Academy awards! All for sound design, strangely enough! I am from the future! Heed my words!) and it got me to thinking about Ilda, the robot secretary of DC's detective-of-the-future, Star Hawkins. (Example panels from "Strange Adventures #125, February 1961, reprinted in the softcover book "Mysteries In Space: The Best Of DC Science Fiction Comics" published by Simon & Schuster in 1980.) Ilda, though a wonderful secretary, isn't exactly easy on the eyes. Clearly inspired by the children in "The Family Circus," Ilda's distinguishing feature is a football-shaped head with a prominent widow's peak and no nose. And her fussy, eye-searing mini-dress puts me in mind of barber poles, sailors, and hookers. Not necessarily in that order, and sometimes in upsetting combinations.

(Side note: WHAT IS THE DEAL with that lady in the foreground? She's got one of those hats with the attached scarf so it can be tied around her neck, and yet she's still trying to clamp it down on her head. My diagnosis: OCD. She probably also used Krazy Glue and a nail gun to permanently adhere it to her skull. Check out the squat, orange Neptunian tourist taking a picture of her as part of his misleading anti-Earth propaganda campaign. My alternate theory? She's one hell of a magician, and in a surreal bit of prestidigitation she's going to smoothly press the hat all the way down to her neck, causing her head to disappear. Let's see you explain that away, Penn and Teller!)

Alrighty, I can sense you're growing restless. "Why the hell would that goof-ass robot remind you of Bettie Page?" you might ask me. And I would reply, "Enough swearing! Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?" Maybe I'd slap you, lightly, on the cheek. Once. Just once. And then I'd say, "It's because of 'Twilight,' a three-issue DC miniseries from 1991, written by Howard Chaykin and drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez."

"Twilight" was a "mature readers" take on the DC sci-fi heroes of the 50's and 60's. To quote the back cover blurb of issue #3, "Immortality made Theater of History -- or was it History of Theater? After hundreds of years of the Forever Plague, Mankind lost most of its humanity. We replaced those innate sensibilities with rituals and role playing, emotional shadowboxing that deluded the Children of Twilight into thinking the Long Night would never come." Huh. Did the Pretentious Captials key on your typewriter get jammed, fella? Should I be listening to Tangerine Dream while I read this? Anyway, to bottom-line it, living forever turned people into assholes. The canyon-sized hole is this plot is that it's written by Howard Chaykin, so most of the characters were assholes to start out with.

There was one bright spot in this series for me, and that was the character designs -- or at least, some of them. I didn't need to see Tommy Tomorrow as a taller, skinnier, mustache-free Hitler, thank you very much, but I did applaud what they did with Ilda. Which was to make her look like a robot version of Bettie Page. Sadly, she's stuck in the middle of a Howard Chaykin comic, so this kind of crap happens to her.

dark days

And then she gets turned into a half-human, male-shaped hermaphrodite-thing with Moe Howard hair and really pretty eyes. Aw, well. You were cute while it lasted, Ilda.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lo, There Shall Come... A SALESMAN!

captain o
Who's the freak with the two juicers strapped to his back? Or is that a bra? Why, it's "Captain O!" Can you guess what the "O" stands for? ...Aw, grow the hell up. No, it's presumably for "Olympic," as in "Olympic Sales Club." This door-to-door scheme hails from the back pages of "Wonder Woman" #9 (October, 1987). That was in the olden times when children could actually be induced to perform an activity other than text messaging or downloading ringtones. Check out the kid in the center. Seems Tina Yothers has been moonlighting!

Most dated sales prizes from this page? Well, there's the AM/FM cassette player, the "type-right typing tutor" which is a stand-alone keyboard and not a computer program, the VCR College Bowl game, and the "Variflex Breaker" skateboard, which looks to be the approximate size and proportions as a TV tray. But my favorite? Something resembling a fetal version of Paddington Bear and described as a "light-activated Chubbles." I once knew a guy who had light-activated chubbles. But his doctors called it "priapism."

If a youngster from that era chanced to call the Olympic Sales Club's 1-800 number, who would answer the phone?

captain ruth

Um, 'kay. The other "Captain O" operators are baffled as to why Ruth insists on coming to work in that outfit. I'm sure Ruth would tell them it's for her own defense. Dennis (that creep from Accounts Receivable) likes to hang around her desk, telling vaguely filthy jokes in that three-pack-a-day voice of his, and touching her way too much. Well, next time he tries to stroke her hair, he's gonna pull back a lacerated paw, thanks to her new razor-sharp tiara! Suck it, Dennis!

I think the more likely scenario here is that "Ruth" is, in fact, a burly, tattooed prison inmate nicknamed "Claw Hammer" who's going to steal your identity for a credit card scam. But maybe I just watch too much "60 Minutes."

Finally, I'd just like to say I adore how the copy reads like it was dictated by a dying soap opera character. "PLEASE... operators can take name and address only... CANNOT answer questions... YOU MUST NOT TELL Phillipe that I am his true mother... SWEAR IT TO ME... oh, dearest Carlo, I go now to a BETTER PLACE but know that I will always... *GASP* AAAARRRRGGHHHHHHH!!!" (thunk)

Meanwhile, in the actual comic, Wonder Woman uses the clumsiest pickup line I've ever heard. See if you can find it.

girdle talk

OH MY GOD, Wonder Woman, you can't just go around asking ladies to show you their girdles!

Not unless it's Mardi Gras.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Mighty Fugly Thor

deodato thor

First of all, I'd like to second the "?!" the off-panel lady used in her word balloon, and I'd like to add, if I may, "??!!!?!???!!?!?!!" There, that should cover how I feel. Which is hurt. I feel like somebody took my eyes and gave them an Indian burn, a swirlie, and about twenty power sit-ups.

This is from "Avengers: The Crossing" #1 (September 1995). Those were dark days for superhero costumes, my friend. I really don't like Thor's original outfit (now there's somebody I could help, if he didn't kill me first) but this thing is a mess. Let's break it down:

1. The straps, MY GOD, the straps! What is their purpose? And why are there so many of them? He strapped his boots, for Pete's sake. Why, was there some danger of them falling off of his feet? Plus, he strapped his gloves! Also, there appears to be a fan belt on his thigh. Of special note is the Barney Rubble lace-up action between the spikes.

2. The spikes. And on his thighs, yet. Were there a lot of people attacking the sides of your thighs, Thor? Is that why you put the spikes there? On the shoulderpads I can kind of understand but even so, the spikes are so fat and far apart from one another (more obvious in other panels, I admit) that they lose all effectiveness. To illustrate that fact, I'd like to present a little one act play I've written, called "Triumph Of The Troll King!"

(Curtain rises on a bleak Asgardian plain. Standing amidst scores of dead, two final opponents face off. They are Geirrodur, King of the Trolls, and Thor the Thuder God. Geirrodur is heavily armored and weilds two axes. Thor holds his legendary hammer and is dressed in a ridiculously convoluted outfit.)

Thor (waves his hammer menacingly): Thou dost hesitate, Troll King! Know, then, that the Mighty Thor shall show thee mine godly mercy, provided thou dost drop thy weapon and surrender to Asgard!

Geirrodur: Naw, see, I was just looking at your armor and my first thought was "Oh shit, spikes" but then I got a better look at those puppies and I thought, "Well, hell, not only are they kinda chunky and non-threatening looking but really, I could probably fit my whole hand between 'em. Like this! (With alarming speed, Geirrodur's axes sever both Thor's arms at the shoulder.)

Thor: Not cool, dude.

(Curtain falls)

3. Belly shirt! Mind you, I did something similar with my Black Condor redesign, but with the preponderance of spikes, the exposed abdomen seems more like a gaping flaw in Thor's battle armor than a "design element." As a side note, I'd just like to point out that this was in 1985 when the whole idea of a belly shirt actually seemed fresh and fashionable. Which makes the current Supergirl's costume seem even more dated and whore-ish.

4. Introducing: chastity belts for men! How uncomfortable does that thing look, huh? And what happens if he has to pee? (Aw, who am I kidding? He's a god! He can hold it in. For eons.)

5. The hammer now has a big fat chain on it. Not for any practical purpose, but because it looks kewl. Not "cool," mind you. "Kewl." Which is considerably less cool than "cool."

6. Get a haircut, hippie! Yes, our Thor went out and got himself some hair extensions. The hair is even longer, fuller, more lustrous, and gravity-defying in other panels and on the wraparound cover of this comic, especially. While he's obviously spending a lot of time taking care of those extensions, they just seem like they'd get in the way during a fight. And imagine what he looks like when it gets wet. That's right. He looks like Janice from "The Muppet Show."

If I remember right, Thor had this look in about four issues of his own comic before it was finally cancelled. Turns out their target audience was only going to purchase books with ugly, strappy costumes and sketchy anatomy if they had a big "i" on the cover.