Friday, September 08, 2006

Letter From A DC Henchman

Dear Glynda,

Hello from prison. How are you today? I am fine. Eckcept I been having them dreams again abbout living on another Earth where Im still in the henching game only my name is diffrent and there aint no Superman or Bat-Girl or nothing like that and insted the superheros are all WHINY and MEAN. And you are there too also Glynda but your name isnt the same ether and your a blond which dont look too good on you but Im thinking may be your sister put you up to it cause shes always pulling that kind of busybody crap no offence.

So this time I got braught in by Green Arrow and Speedy who dont even run too fast so I dont know WHY they call him that. And it was all going real good at first before everything went south on us so I'm kinda heartbroke about the hole thing. See instead of just being a henchman where theres some sort of main guy who tells you what to do all the time and treats you like crap and pays you peanuts I joined up with the "Shark Gang" which is more like a group type deal where we take turns being the leader only its not communism so dont be getting any ideas. And it was even going to be my turn this week can you beat THAT? Anyway. I knew this guy Robbie from when we both henched for Captain Cold and Robbie was already in the Shark Gang and he rememmberd that one time Flash made a tornadoe come outta his ass and it flung me into the Central City kiddie pool which is like the size of Hudson Bay and I didnt drown at ALL which made an impresshun on him I guess. So he invited me into the Shark Gang! It was a pretty sweet deal all things considered since the costumes were comfterbul and easy to wear and you know how the shoe salemens always say I got a "high instep" whatever the hell THAT is and its real hard to find shoes that fit me but the boots and flippers and stuff I got to wear just fit like a glove and were real comfy plus I got to put on a green see-thru shark helmet which I wished I coulda kept cause it woulda made a swell Halloween mask at Halloween time but the policeman said no. Oh and the very best part of all was I got to drive around on a shark-mobile which goes underwater at about ninedy miles per hour oh Glynda it was the BEST.


So youd think we were set for life since the only heros in town were Green Arrow and Speedy and what the hell could THEY do underwater? We made our haul and got away from them lickety split but then HALF A DAY later those crumb bums show up AGAIN only now theyre all in a yellow submarine. A yellow submarine... A YELLOW SUBMARINE! And to top it off they got these cross bow deals like for harpooning DOLFINS or whatever and so it was "here I go again" once they started coming at us with the fancy gimick weapens.


First they shoot a cloud of ink or something at us and its probably honest to God octapus ink like harvested from the ink udders of ACKTUAL OCTAPUS and its worth like fifty gazillyun dollars if they got the dough to just haul out a blasted SUBMARINE at the drop of a hat. And just when I wrapped my brain around THAT they blind everybody with some kinda glow-worm arrow and everything is a white hazy blur but I can still see the gas gage on the shark-mobile dashboard jerk from "full" to "empty" cause even tho it looks sleek as all get out its really a peice of CRAP like probably made in HONG KONG for a dollar each for all I know so I tell Robbie on the speshul underwater radio mike that we need to turn sharktail and make a run for it and I hope the radio dont fall apart TOO like the shark-mobile is falling apart and THEN of course some NEW crap comes shooting out of the ink cloud. Guess what it was. No GUESS.


GLUE. So now the shark-mobile is all gummed up and Im sinking like a stone and I get my feet outta the stirrups but one of my boots comes off and a sunfish comes along and BITES my foot which Im thinking cant be a co-incidense like maybe Aquaman is hiding behind a rock or something and laughing his ass off but I shrug it off and swim up to the surface and as Im doing that I see the guys on the boat snagged Green Arrow and Speedy with these big ole fish hooks so Im thinking now everythings going to turn out great you know? But by the time I crawl up on the boat Green Arrow and Speedy have zonked everybody out with elecktricity and Jo-Jo is layed out on the deck with this huge welt on his face and Clancy is twitching and jerking like one of those new dance crazes the kids like so much only his eyes are closed so I knew something was wrong and Im pretty sure Dugan's HEART had STOPPED but I dont think Green Arrow and Speedy have noticed or maybe they don't care cause theyre all busy pumping theyr fists and saying "Woo!" and "Yeah!" and theyre belly-bumping eachother and then Green Arrow goes into this crazy dance thing where hes doing the DUCK WALK like hes Chuck Goddam BERRY and its just INSANE. And then finally the coast guard shows up and they take everybody whose still ALIVE back to jail and Dugan and Clancy are packed off to the morg and so now Im writing you this letter.

So its same old same old for me I guess eckcept for those dreams I just tole you about. Oh and also that one dream I have where Im Superman and I find the great big strawberry dackery but you already know about that one.


Please take care of yourself while Im gone and Ill get out of here as soon as I can.

Your loving husband,

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hot Town, Cimmerian In The City (Part Two)


Concluding Conan's time-traveling misadventures from "What If" #13 (February, 1978).

First panel: Conan looks down at the dog and thinks "Hey, dinner!" Also? It's nice to see that even the most jaded, hardened Greenwich Village hipster isn't above wearing a tasteful string of pearls. Hey... wait a minute! Those are my gramma's! Stop! Thief!

Second panel: the mellow musical stylings of GROPE! Honestly, Roy Thomas and John Buscema (Ernie Chua, you're just the inker so I'll leave you out of it) -- "punk rock?" I think not. I'd buy "glam" but in no universe do these pretty boys and their frilly frocks qualify as "punk." And I doubt any punk rocker tried to intimidate a rival with a "double-hex whammy smile." Christ, Conan himself is more "punk" they are.



Anyway, that's what happens when middle-aged folks try to depict a current musical fad, Madonna. Or to put it another way, Grope is the Marvel equivalent of Ernie Bushmiller (of the comic strip "Nancy") drawing any and all hippies with ukuleles and flower necklaces.

Whoa. Looks like the alley cat got to the dog before Conan did! (New York is rough.)


Too bad this story wasn't in-continuity, huh? 'Cause I really wanted to see Conan wearing that beret in, like, every story published after this one, forever. I wanted to see Arnold Schwarzenegger wearing a beret in the Conan movies. I wanted to read Conan novels that described the character as "black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, and a kicky little beret." Is that so much to ask?

I leave you with this piece of advice:


Never offer to help Conan move. He'll be stressed out and drunk and belligerent before you even get there, and to top it off he won't even spring for pizza afterwards. (Conan the Dickweed!)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hot Town, Cimmerian In The City (Part One)


Wow! So, an entire cult has sprung up from the Milton Bradley game "Sorry!" (Salvation is completely random, depending on whether or not you land on a slide -- but any other cult member can bump you back... to hell!)

Naw! I'm kiddin'! Actually this is the guy from "What If" #13 (February, 1978) who put Conan the Barbarian into a huge bucket and lowered him into a time-well. Conan burst through the ropes that had bound him through sheer awesomeness, but wait! Before he could climb all the way out, the rope he was climbing broke (gotta control the awesomeness, dude) and he fell down, down, down... all the way to Greenwich Village in 1977.


Is it wrong that I covet that necklace on the gal in the lower center of this panel? I think I could seriously work something like that. Hmm... dig the pseudo-hippie at the lower far right. A ponytail and a headband? Is your hair really that out-of-control? Hell, why not add some barrettes, a hairnet, a snood, one of those monks' hats, a shower cap, a do-rag, and a couple of Ace bandages? Just really clamp that shit down. Either that or you could just get a haircut, you goddamn hippie!!! On the left side of the panel we have an alarmingly gray-haired hippie (in 1977?! Curse you, LSD!) sporting a perky flip-do that Laura Petrie would have killed for. And in the back, a curvacious -- if somewhat man-shouldered -- female street performer wearing a mesh t-shirt! You give that back to the Puerto Rican man you stole that from this instant, little missy! It's certainly one way to draw a crowd, I will admit. Although they may be somewhat confused about where to put their dollars. Also, if she lets that guitar drop a quarter-inch she's officially committing a felony.


"Hey, look! Some guy's doing the naked-but-for-a-loincloth bit." "Nice way to beat the heat, huh? Wish I could try it!" "But you could try it! I mean, you are a guy, right? 'Cause I really can't tell sometimes, but I was kinda leaning towards 'guy' on account of how flat your chest is and also that little mustache you got happening... Hey! Where are you going?!"

Apparently 1977 was the hey-day of the tank top. Why, everybody who was anybody wore 'em! Michael Douglas, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Truman Capote, Jack Klugman, Red Buttons, Walter Mondale, Henry Kissinger... y'know. All the "sex symbols." Pretty much the only guy who isn't wearing one here is that snide economist in the plum-colored polyester. "With such happenings, it is small wonder the yen gains daily on the dollar!" Really, pal? That was the source of America's economic stagnation? Too many time-traveling fantasy barbarians? Huh. Come to think of it, I remember Jimmy Carter giving a speech on just that very thing. I think his solution was to give the time-traveling fantasy barbarians the Panama Canal.

You know what the worst part of this comic was? The continuous assertions of bystanders that Our Hero looks just like Sylvester Stallone. Yeah. You know what, Roy Thomas? That's not a compliment. I'd prefer to think he looks like Christian Bale or -- ooh! -- Jason Statham, but that's just my deal. And of course, your 1977-self wouldn't have the first notion about those two gentlemen. Hey, how 'bout Harrison Ford? He's tall, handsome, brooding, he's got the shelf-like forehead action goin' on... and unlike Stallone, he doesn't look hopelessly inbred.

Tomorrow: Conan vs. Glam Rock!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

International House Of Bitchcakes, Part Two

Who do you turn to when you want a foreign-born hero with an ugly costume, a stupid name, and a cliched theme? "Marvel Super Hero Contest Of Champions" #1 (June, 1982) is a good start! Second choice? DC's "Global Guardians."*** But Jeremy doesn't have any comics with those guys in them, so we'll have to stick with "Contest Of Champions."

"In Israel, Sabra repulses a raiding party with her energy-quills... only to find herself seized by the mysterious red glow!" I once repulsed a makeout party because I showed up right after eating twelve chili-dogs in one sitting. Even Polecat said, "Not cool, dude."

Sabra has way, way too much blank white space on her costume. I like the big spiny cape 'cause that's dramatic and interesting and all, but that's about it. And not that it matters necessarily, but a mask would have been nice. Hmm. Here's a puzzler: if she'd been created circa 1990 instead of circa 1980, do you think she'd have shown more skin? Like, maybe they'd have dressed her in the cape and nothin' else? (Saucy!) That'd put those sexually-repressed religious conservatives on the run, huh? They're barely even allowed to look at a woman's face, and then suddenly BAM! Sabra's glorious rack! All shall kneel before its unfettered perfection!

Also: "raiding party," huh? Nice. That euphemism is even further away from the actual truth than "militant." Even better, it contains the word "party." Who doesn't love a party? (Mean ol' Sabra, attacking a party! Boo! Boo, I say to you now.) Or maybe this is less a case of misplaced political sensitivities and more a case of Bill Mantlo realizing he almost had two different heroes fighting terrorists on the same page. Thank heavens he didn't try to -- oh, I don't know -- show one of them fighting a supervillain! Or maybe it was still too soon after the Munich games to have Islamic terrorists (there, I said it and I'd never take it back) in what was originally an Olympic tie-in book. I dunno. It's the world's least-tantalizing mystery.

According to the internet (so therefore it must be true) Sabra can lift fifty tons, run sixty miles per hour, and has superhuman reflexes, durability, endurance, and self-healing abilities. Plus that kooky cape. She's fought the Hulk at least twice, battled the New Warriors while being mind-controlled by a mystery villain whose identity -- get this! -- was never revealed, and joined Professor X's "X-Corporation," whatever the hell that is. Probably some damn pyramid scheme. But at least she's still alive, eh, Defensor?

"In the People's Republic of China, the hero with the powers of five gifted men drives off a gang of thieves... and then the Collective Man himself disappears!" And then the thieves come charging back in and continue with their looting!

Wow. What an ethnically appropriate yet undeniably butt-ugly costume! Mind you, I'm no fan of the Maoist uniform. Apparently the revolution was neither televised nor tailored! But at least the Collective Man isn't wearing one of those smushed-down train conductor hats all the Maoists have been commanded to like so much. Imagine you're at your favorite clothing store, the saleslady is ringing up your order, and she puts a complimentary trucker cap on the pile of garments. And you say "No thanks, I'd rather not take the trucker cap" and then the saleslady gets all mean, and tells you "Oh, you're taking the trucker cap! Everybody gets a trucker cap! and you say "Screw the trucker cap and screw you, honey; I don't need this shit" and then the saleslady presses a button and the next thing you know you're on a collective farm in Idaho planting potatoes for the next twenty years, wearing a trucker cap the whole time and sure, you hate it at first but after a while you get used to it and towards the end you love your trucker cap, it's like a part of your body, and you can't imagine ever not wearing a trucker cap. That's Chinese Communism in 1982.

Despite all this, I kind of like the Collective Man. He's like Duo Damsel, only two-and-a-half times better, and in reverse. Quintuplets who can turn into one super-strong dude? Rrrowr! I'll take it! Fun fact: the Collective Man likes to surprise and freak-out his romantic conquests by handing them a card post-coitally that says, "Congratulations! You've just enjoyed a six-way with the Collective Man!" The irrepressible scamp!

Apparently the Collective Man has weathered a lot of Marvel stories. Not necessarily good stories, but still--! He's alive and kickin', mostly, except for that one brother who got killed. But the Collective Man is still in business! Heck, he even managed to make the list of 198 mutants who didn't get depowered! He also got at some point a slightly better-looking costume, although I'm no fan of the high-collared, gloveless shirt thing. It makes him look too much like Billy Batson. Also, Shadow Kid once knitted me a sweater that looked almost exactly like that for Klordny Week. Don't tell him, but I pretty much immediately gave it to a homeless guy. (Future clothes!)

"In Saudi Arabia... the red glow claims the Arabian Knight!" Which is a damn shame since he was on his way to the hospital after accidentally ramming his sword through his crotch!

So, how do I like the Arabian Knight's costume? Trick question, as my answer is "I don't." He looks like yet another product of the Marvel Project Runway. "Designers, your challenge is to create a stylish outfit for a Bedouin super-hero with a flying carpet. But there's more! You must also make the carpet. You have a budget of four dollars and thirty-eight cents and you have two minutes to put it together, starting... now!" Gracious, but that's a plain, uninspired costume. Also, I've been looking at Bedouin turbans on the web and so far I haven't come across any that look like that. I suspect our "Arabian Knight" may actually be a Sikh gentleman from Mumbai who got extremely lost and is too proud to ask for directions. And check it: the carpet is solid red. That's not a hand-woven Arabian rug. That's a Stainmaster swatch from the Home Depot. Give it back, you thief!

After "Contest" the Arabian Knight joined the Pantheon, that Peter David supergroup that I could never bring myself to care about. (Wasn't there some poor dope who just had his head sticking out of a big rock, or maybe all that was left was his head and it was attached to a big rock? Jeebus.) And later on, in "Thunderbolts" maybe, he got depowered with a bunch of other folks around the globe and fell to his apparent doom. Like a chump. And Marvel reports that a "new" Arabian Knight will be fighting alongside whoever the hell the current Union Jack is, in a new mini-series. So apparently the first one didn't manage to land on anything soft. Like sand.

"And over West Germany... it spirits off the electrifying Blitzkrieg!" Not over East Germany, mind you, because the Commies would blast his freaking legs off, but over West Germany!

Blitzkrieg's costume is another one that's just "okay" in my opinion. It's your standard, boring "energy-generator's" costume, not a lot goin' on, and the chest logo looks like a pin-headed steer.

As for Blitzkrieg's post-"Contest" exploits? He was an extra in a couple of group scenes, both of them in Bill Mantlo books ("Hulk" and "Rom: Spaceknight") and then he got what probably seemed to him like a huge break: a multi-issue storyline in "Captain America!" Although for some reason his codename got changed to "Blitzkrieger." But hey, he joined a new German super-team, the Schutz Heiligruppe! That's cool, right? Well, there were a couple of problems with it. For one, it consisted of only three people, Blitzkrieg(er) included. And for another, one of the members was Zeitgeist, a.k.a. the Everyman, who was going on a superperson-killing spree. When Blitzkrieg(er) started his own investigation into these murders, Zeitgeist killed him.

Well, that sucks, huh? But at least it's better than just falling to his doom from a flying carpet.

These American ideas of foreign super-heroes are pretty lame. Which gets me to wondering, what kind of dashed-off, stereotypical American super-hero might a foreign comic book come up with? Here's some ideas:

Yankee Doodler! This hero draws energy constructs with a giant quill pen, given to him personally by the ghost of John Hancock!

Yankee Go Home! (A teleporter.)

Cow-Boy! This hot-tempered young bovine mutant leaps into every fray, guns-a-blazin', to compensate for his miniscule genitalia!

The Consumer! A Blob-like individual who absorbs, then destroys, the super-powers of all who come near!

The Fanatic! Secretly pro baseball player Johnny Baptist, this hero wallops all comers with his enormous wooden cross!

You get the idea. But if y'all have some more notions of internationally-created American heroes, I'd love to hear them! (Or any comments about this post at all, of course.)

***Except for the Olympian. Big, hairy guy with a cool, horned helmet, sweet-ass facial hair and a big fur cape? Yeah, I'd better like him; I might as well have designed the fucker.

Monday, September 04, 2006

International House Of Bitchcakes, Part One

Okay, then. Last week, I gave you the inside scoop on the clusterfuck crowd scene in "Marvel Super Hero Contest Of Champions" #1 (June, 1982) . Now I'd like to talk a bit more about the ramshackle, hopelessly stereotypical and thoroughly shoddy international heroes who were created (hastily, no doubt) for the book.

"In France... the high-flying Peregrine disappears from the azure skies!" But nobody really notices or cares!

The Peregrine's costume is a perfect example of the "eh, good enough" attitude that pervades "Contest Of Champions." The gray and black contrast with each other well. The proportions of the colors are nicely balanced. But otherwise, it's a pretty generic costume. I mean, he could have had a nice abstract bird-shape or some other logo on his chest, but all Marvel would spring for was a triangle. A triangle! Jeebus, at least cut a few notches in it, like Phoenix did. And I've seen that type of high-riding bird-head cowl before... on the Golden Age Hawkman, and it didn't make any more sense back then. The goober's entire face is visible below a rather teensy bird head. And it's not like he's wearing a mask or goggles or excessive mascara or anything. It's pointless. I don't get it.

Let's see... what else? Well, I did the barest smidgen of internet research, spending something like a whole five minutes on it... and yet I still couldn't find much on this guy outside of his "Contest Of Champions" appearance! All I gleaned was these two delectable little tidbits: He was mindcontrolled into becoming an assassin in an issue of "Alpha Flight" but before he could do any harm, Sasquatch punched him out or tore his arms off or sat on him or maybe just breathed on him with that killer taco breath he gets sometimes. And... one time Hawkeye told him he was a "reserve Avenger" (y'know, for when they run out of all the good ones) but according to Marvel editor Tom Brevoort Hawkeye had no authority to do that. So, Peregrine actually isn't a reserve Avenger after all. Which makes me think something like this happens at least once a month:

*ring, ring*

Jarvis: Avengers Mansion! To whom may I direct your--

Peregrine: Jharvees! Mon ami!

Jarvis: Oh, Lord.

Peregrine: Eet eez I, Le Peregrine!

Jarvis: Yes, I recognize the voice, Monsieur, but I really must insist you stop calling here. Particularly after midnight.

Peregrine: Ah! But 'ow am I to track zee sheeping status ahv my Ahvenjhairs membairsheep card, weeth all eets attendahnt preevilahjhees? Free 'ousing at Avenjhairs Mahnshee-own, mah own par-sonal Queenjhet, a glahmorous makeovair cartesy of zee Wasp... All zees shall belong to... Le Peregrine!

Jarvis: Once again, Monsieur, I regret to inform you that you are not, in point of fact...

Peregrine: Away weeth you, my seelly frahnd! As 'zo Le Peregrine would take zee wahrd ahv an 'umble sarvahnt! Eenahf tom-foolahry! Fetch your mahster, 'Awkeye, queeckly! Weeth zee sweeftness of a fahlcohn, ahs 'e swoops from zee 'eavahns to pluck zee lowlee fieldmouse frahm 'is meeserable 'idey-'ole! Do zees, ahn' Le Peregrine shahll put een a good wahrd far you!

Jarvis: I shall connect you right away, Monsieur. One moment, please. [leaves the phone off its hook and goes back to bed.]

"In Australia... the Aboriginal mystic Talisman is torn from his trance-state!" Which is just as well, since he was only keeping the other campers from cooking their hotdogs and marshmallows.

So the Aboriginies are big into pirate boots, huh? I don't mind the yellow/white combo. But honestly, the costume's styling is a huge mishmash of cliches, most of which seem to be African and Native American instead of Australian. For instance, I'm not sure why his head is shaved, except he's a dark-skinned man in a comic book and that sort of thing seems to be de rigeur.

All I could find about Talisman post "Contest" is that he showed up in a few issues of "Quasar." Doing what, I have no idea. I'm sure it didn't help his prospects when John Byrne gave Marvel a gorgeous female "Talisman" with great gams, a fetching evening gown and a big inverted Wonder Woman tiara. Didn't see that comin' with all your "trance-state" hoo-hah, did you, Australian Talisman? Where's your Moses now?

"In Argentina, a paramilitary group suddenly finds itself firing at a void where the mighty Defensor had stood!" And they're thankful the weirdly-dressed interloper has vacated the paintball range!

Defensor has one of the more attractive looks created for "Contest." It's colorful without being garish and it's certainly distinctive. That said, I'm going to have to shave off some points for:

  • The generic and meaningless starburst on his chest.
  • The lazy use of segmented metal underpants, an old Marvel chestnut (holder).
  • And the goofy helmet. Why is it shaped like that? Is it supposed to resemble a Conquistador's helmet? And if so, then why does it look more like a blue, foil-wrapped Hershey's kiss that got dropped on a tanning bed? Hell, why not a helmet that's shaped like a tri-corner hat, or like one of those big Marie Antoinette wigs?

Jeremy only has the first issue of "Contest." Internet info on Defensor is -- to nobody's surprise -- practically nil. So those of you who have actually read the story all the way through will have to tell me: just what was it, exactly, that Defensor was good for? I mean, sure, he's got a shield, but big freaking deal. Unless he can boomerang it like that gym queen Captain America (and before you start furiously typing a response, yes, I know Cap doesn't have to go the the gym -- allow me my illusions, 'kay?) or clobber bad guys over the head with it, then it's strictly defensive and therefore lame. It's like this guy I once met, Prince of Space, whose main ability was to gad merrily about while repeatedly telling his enemies that their weapons were useless against him. It wasn't heroic. It was just annoying.

So. All I could find out about Defensor's post-"Contest" career was this: he got killed by a guy named the Everyman. Criminy. Tell me, Marvel, was Defensor really cluttering up your universe so badly that you needed to whack him? He was in Argentina, for Chrissakes! He wasn't bothering anybody! *growls obscenities for an entire minute* Oh, and here's the clinker: Everyman was in his super-secret-triple-reverse-undercover identity as "Zeitgeist" when he killed Defensor. Which means Defensor was murdered by a guy dressed almost exactly like the Clock King. (And at that moment, young Brad Meltzer knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.)

"In Northern Ireland, a group of schoolchildren stare as their lives are saved from a terrorist's bomb... an instant before their rescuer, Shamrock, disappears!" No wonder she's "the most sought-after hairdresser in all of Europe!" Shamrock, where are you?

I covered both Shamrock's post-"Contest" exploits and what I thought of her costume in an earlier post, so I'm not going to waste any more time talking about her. I will say that her panel here exemplifies another way in which Marvel half-assed it with their new international heroes: none of them were shown fighting supervillains. Of the eight heroes shown on the page from which I took the above scan, four of them were fighting non-super threats, three of them are just flyin' around, and one is kneeling in front of a campfire. At least Sabra and the Arabian Knight had appeared in some of Bill Mantlo's "Hulk" stories, so they didn't necessarily need a splashy intro. But the rest of them? They're not exactly grabbing me by my lapels. The Soviet Super-Soldiers get a whole page-and-a-half where they fight the Red Ghost and Sunfire's measly panel shows him in the grip of a big green robot hand. That's excitement, people! Not that every single hero who got kidnapped was in the middle of a fight, but you'd think the newbies could have been introduced with a bit more pizzazz. That's one thing that "Planet DC" got right. Sure, it was yet another round of pointless character introduction for them, but at least they created some international villains to go with their international heroes. The "Flash" annual especially had a great deal of depth to it; remind me to cover that one day!

Tomorrow: it's gall around the world with more international heroes!