Sunday Brunch: 10/3/10
Finally, it returns…! Beneath the fold, I discuss recent episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and survey this wretched hive of scum and villainy we call the comics internet.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK(S): What would EC Comics look like, feel like, read like today, if the company never closed its doors?
BRAVE AND THE BOLD DEPT:
Batman: Brave and the Bold is also back on the air, though only 26 (well, 23 now) episodes remain until the show vanishes from the airwaves. Bah, I say!
“The Siege of Starro!” Parts 1 and 2 Written by Joseph Kuhr, whose name sounds about as real as Edward Nigma’s
Ever expect to see Ultra the Multi-Alien in a cartoon? How about Anthro? Even my old favorite, Elongated Man? Or how about the lowly B’Wana Beast, a character so unloved and esoteric that his three issue run in Showcase only lasted two issues? Well, they’re all in this two-parter, the most epic pair of episodes the show has yet attempted. Even B’Wana Beast– a character given quite a bit of spotlight in this show– finds redemption as the greatest of heroes. Even a loser can save the day, as this story shows– as Aquaman dubs it, “The Time the C-List Heroes Barely Helped Save the Day!”
After several past teasers have played up the threat of Starro, the big starfish finally rears his ugly, uh, eye, played up as a Galactus-level extinction event, right down to his own herald, the Faceless Hunter from Space, a far more irredeemable character than the Silver Surfer. When Starro subjugates most of the population of Earth, including its superheroes, it’s up to Batman and a motley crew of Booster Gold, Captain Marvel, Firestorm, and B’Wana Beast to save the day, but the plot is peppered with appearances by obscure heroes– Space Ranger shows up, for crying out loud, and there’s even a Sugar and Spike cameo!– and enough geeky references to choke Mark Waid, from a stuffed Gleek in the Faceless Hunter’s trophy room to a stunningly accurate line-up of Batmobiles in the Batcave. Batman even uses his own villain’s weapons against the Hunter, including an action scene featuring the robot dinosaur. Heck, the animators recreate the very first Justice League cover from Brave and the Bold #28, except with Batman and the League of Also-Rans.
There’s more to this show than just nerdy references, however. Remember Grant Morrison’s attempt to reconcile all of Batman’s past adventures as the life of one man, even the crazy Silver Age stuff? This show does that for the entire DC Universe, crafting it as a place with an immensely rich history, and giving each hero his or her due. B’Wana Beast will never carry his own comic in today’s market, but here he can carry an episode or two, and make the viewer fall in love with him, no matter how silly he is. We see him as Billy Batson sees him– crazy awesome. Whilst modern DC Comics draw the characters further down into violent degradation, or, even worse, mediocrity, this television show acts as an uplifting breath of fresh air, polishing off the forgotten and unloved superheroes of yesteryear and portraying the DC Universe the way it should be– as a gleaming galaxy of imagination, adventure, and pure sense of wonder, in which the good guys always do the right thing, and Aquaman can kick anyone’s ass.
“Requiem for a Scarlet Speedster!” Written by Greg Weisman
Hey, remember Flash: Rebirth? Some folks seemed to think it was needlessly convoluted and nigh-incomprehensible for anyone who didn’t have a Ph.D in DC continuity. On the flip side, we have this episode of a cartoon, ostensibly aimed at children (but really aimed at their nerdy parents) which introduces Barry Allen, kills him off, expands his legacy, utilizes every major Rogue, and brings him back to life in twenty minutes. This is how it should be done, everybody.
Look at how brilliantly this has to be paced to fit into a single episode: After the opening teaser pairing Batman with a revamped line-up of Outsiders (the classic Aparo teaming, with Black Lightning ‘froed up, as well as Halo and Geo-Force, who has comical Yakov Smirnov accent, yes?), we’re treated to a series of flashbacks showing us Batman and Barry teaming up in the good old days, then a smash cut to a memorial statue of the dearly departed Flash. Batman intercepts a handful of Rogues doing dastardly shenanigans in Central City, and the Rogues, being the world’s biggest Flash fanboys, lament the loss of “their” scarlet speedster. Jay Garrick, “Geezer Flash,” and Wally West, “Baby Flash,” show up to help Batman out, but for the Rogues, it’s just not the same. Wally’s got a chip on his shoulder, and Jay confides to Bats the real way Barry died– in a dimensional tunnel trailing Professor Zoom– and that he’s been seeing Barry’s ghost. After Batman sees the same, the rest of the episode spools out with the trio of heroes taking a cosmic treadmill journey to the 25th century where Zoom rules like a king and increases his speed by trapping Barry Allen– still alive– in a giant hamster wheel of doom. And it all ends with Batman stealing some speed of his own and Barry kicking some butt, as these things go.
I know what you’re thinking. In the old days, comics could pull this story off in eight pages! They didn’t need twenty minutes of animation! But compared to the comics of today, this show is on speed– pun intended. This episode also marks the only time I’ve cared about a Barry Allen that wasn’t dead (and no wonder– he was voiced by Alan Tudyk!). I will miss this show when it’s gone. It reduces me to that eight year old boy that fell in love with these characters in the first place, the same boy whose entire adult sense of morality and responsibility came from the examples these superheroes set. Do the right thing. Never give up. There’s always hope. Only nothing is impossible.
ITEM(S)! Two good bits of business from Tom Spurgeon over the past few weeks. First, he asks Twelve Questions About DC’s Restructuring– pre-Bob-Harras-announcement, sure, but worthy of consideration, such as:
So, if you’re a DC employee, it’s possible you just spent several months thinking you might lose your job — a comics job! — in a shitty economy or have to move to California and away from your friends with an unknown incentive package, or none at all, as the basis for making this possible. This was followed by a couple of weeks just past where you were told that an announcement was imminent. This may have been followed by a moment of relief — that’s how it was described to me — when the New York publishing offices were announced as staying open. And yet this was followed by word that divisions are being closed, which was followed by further news that everyone is being evaluated — with firings on the table.
Tom also discusses the state of comics journalism over at our sister blog, Robot 6. Here’s what he says he’d like to see more of in comics:
I’d like to see significant development in the non-commercial, non-publishing aspects of comics. I’d like to see greater library collections, I’d like publishers to maintain a high standard when dealing with the life’s work of some of these creators. I’d like to see some nonprofit comics companies. I’d like to see more comics stores and many more models for comics stores. I’d like to see us move from less of a collector’s model for previously published work and more of a used-books model, because I think that’s a boon to readers. I’d like to see DC’s sales figures.
I’d like to see fewer efforts on behalf of sick, broke and ailing creators, although I’m afraid we may see more of those.
That last line is… interesting…
ITEM(S)! Colin Smith is a blogging robot, surely made in the same factory where Brian Cronin was built, posting what feels like (and may have been?) dozens of essays whilst I was too busy getting shot in the face by foul-mouthed twelve-year olds in Halo: Reach. The last several pieces involve the Micronauts, American Flagg, war comics, the original, aborted six-issue Hulk run, and JMS’s Thor. So go to his site and read until your eyes fall out. And then get some new eyes.
ITEM(S)! Some good bits over at the 4thletter during my video game vacation, as well. Firstly, Gavok takes a look back, with The Year in Panels, spotlighting his favorite comic panels from the past year– Booster Gold’s sad face makes me laugh.
Next we’ve got David Brothers talking about Flex Mentallo, and if there’s one thing I’ll always link to (besides Chris Sims stuff, things with Aquaman in them, and Axe Cop), it’s critical writing about Flex Mentallo:
Just like romance movies, fairy tales, sitcoms, and every other thing that tells us how life is before we get to experience it ourselves, superheroes sell us a reality that only works with archetypes. Every romance is an atom bomb of passion or strife. Lovers embrace against all odds and damn the consequences. No one gets to settle for someone they didn’t want or to be content with somebody who is just okay. Love triangles aren’t a ball of stress and drama so much as an entertaining diversion. No one comes home, hugs their wife, and goes to bed early. Everything is larger than life. Superheroes go hard or go home. There is no in-between.
It’s just the first in a series of posts! I’m excited. I’m also excited that David bought the new Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry Thor issue for the John Workman lettering. You know they’re shooting for the heavens if they brought Workman in to letter that title again. Thor has suddenly become the most beautiful comic on the stands:
OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS LINK(S): Over at ComicsAlliance, Sims takes the Marvel universe speed dating with Max Huffman, which leads to images like this:
Sims, in concert with David Uzimeri, is also taking twenty-two for the team by reviewing/analyzing/suffering through every episode of Smallville’s final season. Godspeed, little doodle. Says the Uzi:
It’s kind of weird, since the original plan for this show was that it was going to be the Young Bruce Wayne Adventures. And if they’d done that, we’d have this Bruce Wayne by now who’d fought the Joker, gotten his back broken by Bane, solved his parents’ murder and turned in Joe Chill, saved Dick Grayson at a circus, had Dick Grayson grow up and go away, found a kid lifting tires off of his car and started hanging out with him, had him killed by the Joker, and then taken a dip in a Lazarus Pit before finally at the beginning of season ten someone goes “Hey, what if you dressed up as a bat?”
ITEM! Zom of the Mindless Ones discusses The Bat-Signal:
Kane’s Batman was frequently to be found outside the city, in the wilderness. The use of the Bat-Signal in that kind of fictional landscape, while undoubtedly possessing a symbolic and aesthetic dimension, also feels more practical than it often does in the today’s comics. The introduction of the countryside, a second distinct environment beyond the city, lends the idea of calling Batman home with a beacon considerably more weight, as does the brute fact that this Bat-Signal was regularly seen from the distance, and was explicitly tasked with hailing Batman. This more concretised sense of the Bat-Signal as beacon is at odds with the more woolly role of the Signal plays today. Given the sophisticated technology that Batman is seen to deploy in other contexts, our modern Signal barely makes sense as a communication device, which means that it’s use within modern comics often has much more to do with its power as a symbol than any practical function…
ITEM! Matt Seneca writes about one of my favorite overlooked comics from the past indeterminate length of time, the Veitch/Edwards Question mini-series (dig that John Workman lettering!):
And page 2 is something else entirely, a bright nine-grid of POV shots that trace the Question’s alter ego, crusading reporter Vic Sage, on a train ride from Chicago to Superman’s stomping grounds in Metropolis. From the muddy, glowing, impressionistic muck of the Question scenes, we’re catapulted into an almost-too-real world of human figures with lines drawn over them, bits of Sage’s hands or the newspaper he’s reading moving into his sightline every once in a while to give the proceedings the surrealistic air of a first-person shooter video game. What Sage sees, we see. What happens to him, happens to us. And nothing more. It’s a supremely effective way of placing us in this enigmatic, prickly guy’s shoes, but even more impressive than the story conceit is the formal one. Save for a killer post-Steranko splash, these two pages’ elements compose the entire issue’s structure, as the Question’s dark, rock-hard scat-narration action pages (set “yesterday”) alternate with Sage’s sparkly, eye-squinting realist views (set “today”) for every page left in the comic.
ITEM! The Let’s Be Friends Again guys show us the real fallout over DC’s West Coast move (click here for the full strip yo):
ITEM! Previews talks to the director of the upcoming Grant Morrison documentary, which we will all buy like good little Whorrisons, yes?
ITEM! Chip Zdarsky runs for mayor of Toronto, and you can’t stop him!
ITEM! Hey, it’s that Isaiah-Mustafa-as-Luke-Cage-sorta video that’s going around. Now send it to thirty friends or you’ll never find true love.
AXE COP MOMENT OF THE WEEK(S): What does Axe Cop do with all those chopped-off heads?
REMAKE/REMODEL this week is Captain America, that strange American scientific experiment let loose on the USA’s enemies! Here are three great entries by Paul Sizer, Thomas Perkins, and the mysterious Robb:
Aaaaaand that’s it! So what TV shows are you watching this season? And which of them have been canceled already?
[My TV thoughts, in few words. House-- boring! Lone Star-- should have been on AMC. I didn't watch it. I am the reason it's dead. The Event-- also avoided it. Jason Ritter has the world's most punchable face. Hawaii 5-0-- orange. I only watched it for James Marsters. (He played a vampire before, as did O'Loughlin, and Len Wiseman, who directed the pilot, is responsible for Underworld. Eee!) Castle-- solid as ever. Raising Hope-- not very good. Running Wilde-- worse (my expectations were high). Undercovers-- solid but fluffy, should be on USA instead. No Ordinary Family-- didn't bother. Modern Family-- chuckle-worthy. Terriers-- best new show on TV. Community-- best show on American TV. 30 Rock-- flippin' hilarious, back on form. Shat My Shat Shats-- less funny than genocide. Outsourced-- racist. Always Sunny-- slipping. The League-- getting better ever episode. The Good Guys-- good, has guys. Blue Bloods-- boring! (Sorry, Mr. Selleck). The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret-- not my cup of tea. Family Guy-- watching out of inertia. Cleveland Show-- same. Venture Bros-- good, but complex in its continuity. Childrens Hospital-- caught it on a whim, surprised by how good it is. Metalocalypse-- metal.]
Yes, I watch everything except the stuff that wins Emmys.