Saturday, August 19, 2006

I, Robed

*sigh* Late again, but I have a good excuse. I'm recharging the batteries on my time bubble, which takes forever. So, for want of anything better to do, I drove down to Arkansas with Jeremy, his brother Steve, his sister-in-law Sarah, and his 3-year-old niece Olivia to visit Jeremy's folks. They have internet access, but one mustn't be rude... so I couldn't do any blogging until almost midnight, when everyone had fallen asleep... at which point I needed a little shut-eye myself. Fun fact: on the car ride down there, we learned that Midnight Oil's "Beds Are Burning" is Olivia's new favorite song. So, spurred on by Steve and Sarah, Jeremy busted out a spot-on impression of the lead singer (multi-talented, that boy). Olivia's reaction: eyes squinched shut, lips pursed like she'd just eaten a lemon, and her hands over her ears. Everybody's a critic! Okay, that's enough chit-chat. Let's blog!


Remember that bathrobe of Doctor Strange's that I thought was just the bee's knees, as the kids in the ghetto say nowadays? Well, my feelings for this one are quite the reverse. Those unlucky dopes (like Jeremy) who bought "Web Of Spider-Man" #6 (September, 1985) got the above image as the splash-page: hot telephony action starring the squeezably corrupt Kingpin, who has inexplicably decided to highlight his major figure flaw by wearing something even more padded than himself. While I simply adore the color combo, something about this robe just gives me the creeps. Because it's being worn by the Kingpin. I have the feeling all that magenta silk is covering a rigid, intricate framework of suspenders and corsets. And it's probably bulletproof. And reeks of cigar smoke and bratwurst. And the color-coordinated sandals are a bit much, huh? Hell, why not some fluffy bunnyslippers? He's the Kingpin, for fuck's sake; who would dare to make fun of him? To his face, I mean. I think the Kingpin should wear the bunnyslippers and an old-timey floorlength nightgown with a floppy, pointed cap. Like Ebenezer Scrooge. All the time. Because he's a dick, and it would therefore be hilarious.

I guess all the excitement on this splash page comes from wondering what this important telephone call could be (and whether or not the Kingpin is cinching that belt or -- *gag* -- disrobing). Here were some of my guesses:
  1. Custom pizza order made directly to the C.E.O. of Little Caesar's.
  2. Prank call to Silvermane.
  3. Request to local radio station that they play Starship's "We Built This City" -- or else.
  4. Colecovision technical support.
  5. Conference-call phone sex with the Enforcers.

Your turn!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dead Wood


The American West: a rugged, unforgiving environment fit only for gaunt, sophisticated, slim-ankled fifty-something bachelors. Or at least, that's the order of things according to this Lee Riders jeans ad from"Adventure Comics" #390 (March-April 1970). I agree; nothing says "roughing it" quite like sitting in a faux wood-paneled basement, reading aloud from "Us Magazine" and making catty remarks about Lindsay Lohan.

Man. It's like they want to role-play but they just can't muster the enthusiasm for it. "You look like a real cowboy, Lee." "And you look like Noel Coward, 'Uncle Frank.' No, 'Uncle Frank,' I really don't feel like wrestling with you right now. Maybe after I finish this crossword puzzle. And probably not even then. But I still get to keep the five hundred bucks... right, 'Uncle Frank?'"

And now, a worrisome juxtaposition of images from the end of the advertisement:


It's like an instruction manual for illiterate serial killers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Unpalatable X-Men

Yup... I put Jeremy's copy of "The X-Men" #3 (January, 1963) on a flatbed scanner. It was a lot easier to work with once I folded the spine backwards. ...What?! Oh, p'shaw. It says right on the cover it only costs twelve cents.

In this issue, the X-Men (no "Uncanny" in the title... yet!) meet the monstrous Blob... who nowadays looks more svelte than your average Wal-Mart customer. But do you know what I found truly horrifying in this comic? The clothes.


The Angel's pants are cut quite generously in the ass region, aren't they? What's his cover story when some curvacious debutante asks him why his butt looks so big? Bee sting? Unfinished liposuction? Adult diaper? But of course he never gets in that kind of jam. Through the Magic Of Comics, as soon as those voluminous trousers are belted, a good third of that lumpen mass vanishes and he looks like he has no wings at all! As for the Beast, I know what I'm buying him for Christmas 1963: an iron. Also a 9x12 "glamour shot" of myself but that's a whole 'nother story. (There's a panel in this issue showing him wearing only pajama pants, and he's shirtless and furry-chested and he's holding a calculus textbook... with his feet. Heaven. Pure heaven.)


Quick! Choose the most disturbing aspect of this panel:
  1. Middle-aged Professor X confessing to the reader via thought-balloon that he's deeply infatuated with the teenage Marvel Girl, a.k.a. his pupil.
  2. Professor X's belief that the only things standing between himself and Marvel Girl's hymen are his job (night manager at Taco Bell) and his handicap. (Apparently it's not just the legs that are paralyzed.)
  3. Cyclop's suit.

The correct answer is #3, of course. Purple plaid, with pants to match, and a narrow little tie to go with his narrow little pursed-up mouth. You wouldn't think purple plaid could look dowdy but Cyclops manages to pull that off. Kudos, tightass! (I would have rocked that purple plaid suit back when I dyed my hair red, but then I'm just cool that way.)


Gah! I never thought I'd say this about the Blob, but he needs to strip back down to his underwear, pronto! Maybe the problem here is his color combination. He looks like an ambulatory Virginia ham... that does magic tricks. And the scoop neckline of the shirt paired with the high collar on the cape... it elongates his neck in such a weird way, like we're not even seeing his real head. Like it's one of those fakey Mardi Gras papier mache heads, and his own head is even more itty-bitty and hidden inside... like you could peer up one of his nostrils and see a teensy eyeball glaring back at you. The whole thing just gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Hey, bonus scarrage!


In the 30th century we call this position "the asteroid swarm." It's illegal on three planets! I've never seen it done fully-clothed before. (Kinky!) It's tricky for beginners, but I've found it helps if you place a trampoline on both sides.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hammer Pants: The Mighty Thor

Greetings, gentle readers. It saddens thine most favored costumer, aye, with grievous groans and rendings of his brightly-hued garments, that his post should be late. Know only this: mine trip to Asgard was of long duration, owing to differences in the passage of time 'twixt that fabled land and lowly Midgard. Mayhap thou hath noted also that my speech be wondrous strange. Mine sincerest apologies be thine, but I was compelled to enter Asgard 'neath a false identity and the shedding of certain aspects of that masquerade hath proven to be most difficult indeed. Still, 'twas in the service of that noblest of goals: to redesign the costume of the Odinson himself, the Mighty Thor!

What Doth Be His Deal:
Doth thou jest? I speak of the Mighty Thor! All who breathe sing of the glorious form of the Thunder God. And those unfortunates who live in miserable ignorance of the Odinson need but consult the font of all knowledge, the Wikipedia.

Foul Deeds 'Gainst Fashion Itself:
Some superhero costumes withstand the changing tastes of the inexorably passing decades because they be true classics, without need of improvement. Thor's raiments belong not in that category. Like most costumes, Thor's hast limped along with either minor or temporary alterations because of a sickly nostalgia among the Odinson's fans. The changing of the merest stitch be enow to set the pasty, unwashed horde to howling like nigh unto terrible Fenris. Their gibbering electronic protestations to the contrary, Thor's costume sucks donkey balls.

I take umbrage firstly with the boots, with their ace of spades/cow-catcher tops and their strappy/stripey middles. Thor's pre-Christian muscle shirt also sticks in mine craw. 'Twould look most appropriate on a body builder from Long Island circa 1988 -- but it be not worthy of the Thunder God. Thor's winged helm finds disapproval in mine eyes, as the shape of it flatters his divine features not a whit, and resembles not so much as a silver-plated stocking cap... with wings glued on. His overly-starched cape, attached without fanfare to his muscle shirt, is likewise a point of contention. But of all the many abominable qualities of Thor's garments, the six yellow discs 'pon his midsection vex me the most. What, pray tell, are they meant to be? Frisbees? Pancakes? I knoweth not -- and if thou claimeth to have the answer, I call thee a filthy liar, good sir. Truly, Thor be in need of mine artistic talents.

When Titans Meet!
Having attained the most divine fur and leather raiments from a Renaissance Faire booth (whilst the propriator's back was turned) I reinvented mineself as an Asgardian costume maker with the noble appelation of "Bloga the Impeding." Then, 'twas a simple matter to distract Heimdall ("Hey, but look yonder!') and sneak past him over Bifrost into gleaming Asgard.

The Odinson I found in brooding reverie (i.e. trying to get the tiniest synapse in his brain to fire) in the back of a tavern. I ordered two steins of mead and then took the foamy beverages to Thor's table. I announced mineself with mine deepest, most booming voice: "Thor, great friend! Oh, Bloga the Impeding hast found thee at last!" Mine eyes detected in Thor's visage the strenuous calculating of his feeble brain as he attempted to recognize the handsome figure before him. I pressed on. "Surely thou must know thine old compatriot, Bloga the Impeding, most fashionable of the gods! Mayhap thou hath seen mine needlework in the stylish garments of your friend, Fandral the Flaming."

"Fandral the Flashing," Thor mumbled, his speech slurred by many tankards of ale.

"Precisely," said I, and hurriedly sat beside him.

Behold: Mine Presentation!
"Thor, mine brother-in-arms, very much should I like to regale thee with mine many blood-curdling adventures whilst away from Asgard's comforts -- but it shall suffice to say thine friend hath learned even greater skill in his chosen trade of fashion design. And thou, should it please thee, are to be mine next client!"

The dimmest of lights gleamed in Thor's drowsy eyes. "Art thou,' he queried, "as skillful as mine Midgardian friend, the Wasp?"

The untalented harlot's name caused mine anger to rise with startling swiftness but I restricted mine comments to this: "That mine talents surpass the Wasp's there can be no doubt, as mine many successes can attest! Why, only recall how I hath arrayed thine good friend, Fandral the Fabulous!"

"Flashing," said Thor with a hint of annoyance in his low, gurgling voice. He seized the stein and drained it in one gulp, regarding me with great suspicion.

"But of course," I stammered. "Mine absence from this great land hast been of, um, such a duration... er, certain names escape mine, um... MORE MEAD HERE!"

A buxom Asgardian barmaid speedily presented us with an entire pitcher, which the Odinson drained forthwith. With a casual gesture of his tree-like forearm, he swept every item from the table: the pitcher, the steins, a half-eaten turkey leg, several cocktail napkins emblazoned with amusing runes, and an inebriated pixie. I laid mine drawings before him.


"Regard!" I exclaimed. "This sassy, streamlined little number takes thine image boldly into the twenty-first century! Thine perplexing yellow discs hath been mightily reimagined as a series of large, gold studs on a navy-and-red leather costume. Thine most kind and considerate friend hath also taken it upon himself to simplify thine boots, and to give thee gloves to match. So as not to overpower thine handsome new costume, 'twould be wise to trim thine golden hair a smidge. A Donegal beard wouldst be just the thing to frame thine strong jawline and add a touch of the warrior spirit.

"But if this ensemble catches not thine lordly fancy, feast thine eyes on this!


"Here thee may behold a costume steeped in tradition -- half leather, half chainmail and all kick-ass! In this ensemble, thine long-lost friend Bloga the Impeding hast replaced the blinding blue-black of thine current raiment with somber tones, the better to highlight the gleaming gold detailing and the bold crimson cape. With a stylized helm and a thick blonde beard, thou wilt be a potent vision of Norse masculinity! What say thee, Odinson?"

All Shall Tremble At The Words Of The Mighty Thor:
Thor grasped both drawings in his mighty hands and peered at them for quite some time, holding them at various distances from his red-rimmed eyes, as though unable to focus properly upon them. At length he flung them back on the table and slurred, "Thou hath confounded the Odinson, Bloga the Impeding. I thought thou said thou had more talent than the Wasp...?"

T'was at this juncture, gentle readers, that thine fashionable friend totally lost it. "Now see thee here, Miss Thang, Bloga the Impeding suffers not the mead-soaked insinuations of--!" But mine protestations were interrupted by a lengthy belch from Thor's beautiful lips as he forthwith lost all consciousness. He slumped to the floor, his divine noggin rebounding off the oaken table with a terrible noise. For mine own part, I managed to get out of the tavern without paying mine tab ("Hey, but look yonder!") and high-tailed it back to lowly Midgard and Jeremy's lowly apartment.

Enjoy thine stupid yellow pancakes, thou jerk.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Time-Travel Challenge: Grunge To Rockabilly

Welcome to the third of my time-travel design challenges, in which I select a comic character who is mired in his or her decade's trends and imagine how they'd look if they had been created in another era. This time around I selected Grunge, whose name doesn't even have anything to do with his powers. He may as well have been called "Polka" or "Viennese Waltz." From his original "Kurt Cobain by way of Fantastic Sams" haircut to the overabundance of leather straps to that stupid winged skull tattoo on his chest, Grunge was a transparent attempt to lure readers by lumping together a bunch of fads.

But comic book writers have pulled that crap for decades... as you'll see when I pluck Grunge from the depressing 90's and drop him down in the paranoid-yet-peppy late 50's. Behold... Rockabilly!


From "Sunshine Superman: Popular Music Trends In The American Comic Book" by Professor Nicolas Kim Coppola, published on Earth-4/4:

"In December of 1957, Elvis Presley received his draft notice. He entered the Army on March 24, 1958. That same week, in 'Blackhawk' #122, editor Jack Schiff introduced a pompadoured, super-powered guitar player named Percival Chang. His superhero codename: Rockabilly.

In that original story, Rockabilly is introduced in civilian garb as the American nephew of the book's repulsively stereotypical Asian character, 'Chop-Chop.' (The interaction of Rockabilly and Chop-Chop was visually jarring -- Rockabilly was depicted with a reasonable amount of realism, 'Archie Comics' eyeballs aside, while Chop-Chop was afflicted with a lemon-yellow hue, a massive overbite, and what can only be described as a 'Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey' penoir. ) In the midst of Rockabilly's visit to Blackhawk Island, the villainous Killer Shark attacks. After Rockabilly and Chop-Chop scurry for cover, the Blackhawks are mystified by the appearance of a mute 'Metal Man' who helps them to vanquish their foe. Near the end of the story, the Metal Man reverts to human form, revealing himself as Rockabilly. On the last page, he explains the origin of his powers. It turns out he had been practicing his guitar in a jalopy in the middle of a desert, not realizing until the last minute that it was the site of an A-bomb test. He found a foxhole but its sole inhabitant -- a spindly, bespectacle scientist -- panicked and pushed him back out of it just as the bomb exploded. Instead of killing him, the radiation gave him the ability to take on the property of any inanimate substance he touched. To this end, he had taken to carrying about various minerals in his pockets.

Rockabilly proved popular enough that in 1959 he was granted his own series, 'Romp With Rockabilly.' It was here he first donned his memorable, gem-bedecked belt, gloves, and boots. Alas, he wasn't so popular that he could survive the seeming demise of rock 'n' roll music that occurred prior to the advent of the Beatles, and a mere fourteen issues later, the book was cancelled.

Rockabilly's appearances were few and far between after that. In the 70's, Denny O'Neil used him for an issue of 'Black Canary/Black Orchid' (under the moniker 'Rocker') and Bob Rozakis included him as a member of 'Titans West' in two issues of the fading 'Teen Titans' comic. In the 80's, he played at Donna Troy's wedding in 'The New Teen Titans.' Also that decade, Phil Foglio starred him (under his original codename of 'Rockabilly') in a four-issue miniseries that revealed his third cousin to be the Wonder Woman villain, Egg-Fu. His last appearance -- and certainly his least illustrious one -- was in the background of a single panel in the "Kingdom Come" miniseries. There, literal-minded painter Alex Ross, never one to resist an obvious joke, depicted him in his old age as resembling the 70's Elvis: paunchy, bloated and stone-cold dead... on a toilet."

I liked the general idea of doing a 50's version of Grunge but Jeremy has barely any comics with him in them, none of which are "Gen13." So my fictional backstory for him has zip to do with his real-world ficitional backstory. Sorry.

Anyway, I gave him a nice wide belt for his fancy rocks, plus Western-style flared gloves and cowboy boots. Note the very 50's collared cape. And I translated that dopey tattoo into a logo combining wings, a guitar, and just for the hell of it, a heart. I think it works okay.

I'm not a big fan of trendy characters. I wonder how Grunge will fare in the coming years. At the very least, a name change is in order. I don't think even Dazzler would have lasted this long if her named had been "Disco Belle."