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CSBG Archive

Cross-Hatchings for October 2011

No column this week, but rather a series of column-ettes. Some thoughts on a couple of DC titles as well as some indies that got buried under the DCnU rollout, and a couple of other minor items of interest.

Other Comics Came Out Too Dep’t: You know, there have been a few books that debuted recently from major publishers that aren’t DC.

I’m sure you’re all aware of the new Daredevil from Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin. But I just wanted to say here that it’s really good.

Just good comics. Also? First Daredevil in a decade that's not ridiculously overloaded with misery and angst.

You know what’s even more awesome? There’s an audio edition. That’s right — Daredevil for blind people. Anyway, it’s very easy to jump on board with and if you like straight-up superhero adventure then you should check it out.

Another debut that got largely buried by all the DC news was The Bionic Man from Dynamite.

I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

This is an adaptation of the Kevin Smith screenplay for the aborted big-budget movie adaptation of The Six Million Dollar Man. This screenplay was posted in its entirety on the internet some years ago and I was very excited to read it then, because I was and am ridiculously fond of the 1970s “bionic”/superhero shows (as recounted here and here.) Frankly, though, I was disappointed after reading the original draft and I don’t regret that the movie didn’t get made.

But what was underwhelming as a screenplay really works well in this comic book.

Alex Ross is putting so much into these covers I suspect he's as big a bionic-era nerd as I am. I especially love how he manages to evoke Lee Majors without actually drawing the likeness.

I dunno… cybernetics-enhanced ninja assassins just don’t seem as out-of-place in a comic, and artist Jonathan Lau brings a really nice dynamism to everything. And I suspect that time away and rewriting have helped this project considerably, though I didn’t do a comparison with the original screenplay. I’m assuming that we’re looking at a standard six-part adaptation, though I’d really love it if this turned into an ongoing comic and we saw some re-imagined and juiced-up Steve Austin adversaries from the old show as well.

Like Doctor Dolenz and his killer robots!

After all, I can’t help thinking that a lot of the stuff that seemed sort of deranged when we saw it on TV would be really awesome in a modern high-adrenaline superhero comic.

Like Steve's bionic throwdown with the Death Probe from Venus!!

Alien robot Bigfoot, Dr. Franklin and his fembots, mind-controlled killer sharks, all of that stuff could be grist for the mill. Just saying. After all, the villain of the Kevin Smith piece is a riff on the unstable Barney Hiller, the Seven Million Dollar Man.

Anyway, I think this is a fun book and if you remember the bionic 70s– and maybe even if you don’t!– you will too.


Planetary Force Dep’t.: On our trip to Victoria, I stumbled across a paperback adventure series that I immediately fell in love with… Jake Decker’s The Force.

It's almost embarrassing how much I enjoyed these books.

The premise is that tough CIA vet Steven Sinclair is called out of retirement to lead a team of super-secret covert operatives on operations too damn dangerous and sensitive for any but the very best to tackle. His teammates are southern belle Jezebel Cooke, martial-arts master, and “Micah,” a psionic mutant who can push people into doing his bidding with mental commands. They fight Bangkok drug lords and sadistic KGB torturers and other folks like that. It’s all very trashy and schlocky and hell-for-leather action… not much artistic merit, but a lot of stuff that blows up.

I kept getting a sense of déjà vu about it, though… and it dawned on me that the team dynamic that you see in The Force is the same one Warren Ellis used in Planetary.

No, really. Hear me out.

You’ve got the grizzled veteran leader, the kick-ass martial arts babe, and the guy with weird powers that nobody likes very much, and they bicker among themselves all the time. I don’t for a moment suggest Warren Ellis lifted the idea from here– for one thing, Ellis and Planetary are infinitely better-written than these trashy books– but the coincidence provided me much amusement over the rest of the series.

There were four in all– Deadly Snow, Death’s Little Sister, Death Gambit, and Death Comes Home. I bought the first one on our trip and tracked down the other three soon after we got home. They are in no way fine literature but they are a lot of fun in a junk-food sort of way. Moreover, they actually form a complete arc– the fourth one closes out the series in a way that left the door open for more, but nevertheless feels like a definite ending. As far as I can tell the series is all by the same writer, though “Jake Decker” strikes me as some sort of house pseudonym. I tried to dig out more info on the books but apparently no one but me was ever nutty enough to try; at least, none of the usual series-paperback-collector websites seem to know the books ever existed.

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Anyway, I enjoyed them way more than a grown man should have. You can pick up the entire run on Amazon for a total expenditure of around five or ten dollars if you want some entertaining junk-food reading with a comic-book feel.

Because People Keep Asking Dep’t.: I know that there has been a lot — a LOT — of comics blog wordage expended over the whole sexy/slutty/whatever Starfire and Catwoman thing. I didn’t read the books, so I don’t have an informed opinion. But I can’t honestly say I’m surprised, either.

I'm not really seeing that big a leap from the 80s Starfire to the current one. To be brutally frank about it, they're BOTH pretty embarrassing.

It’s not like this is a new phenomenon, for God’s sake. Just a couple of particularly classless examples from the sound of it.

In Catwoman's case, particularly, writers have been hinting and implying and teasing rooftop Bat-hookups for the last FIFTY YEARS. Not surprising at all somebody finally Really Went There.

It’s not like there haven’t been lots of other equally tasteless, ill-considered attempts to be sexually “edgy” in comics over the years– hell, I remember the kerfuffle a couple of decades back about how wrong it was to show Dick Grayson and Starfire in bed together back in the Baxter Titans #1.

Believe it or not, at one time this was such a big deal THE COMICS JOURNAL weighed in on it. Today it looks subdued and tasteful. It's all about context.

And there have been comics heroines who exist largely to pose and fall out of their outfits all the way back to Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. (I’m not usually a fan of these Baywatch-level comics but even I have to admit to a fondness for the Domino Lady.)

I know. I'm not very evolved. But these were fun stories.

All of which brings me to Voodoo #1.

Back when I was figuring out my pull list, I mentioned that I was going to give this one a try based solely on the fact that I’d liked other books Ron Marz wrote, and that I approved of a DC cover featuring a woman headliner who wasn’t falling out of her shirt.

I was actually looking forward to this more than any of my other DC pulls the last couple of weeks, except maybe AQUAMAN.

At the time, the responses from friends of mine ranged from “Buh-wha?” to “You know she’s a stripper, right?”

Well, no, I didn’t. I hadn’t really followed Wildstorm at all except for a couple of Warren Ellis trade collections. I admit to feeling foolish about not knowing the stripper thing, but I reminded myself that the book wasn’t out yet and my two reasons were still intact — Ron Marz had a good track record with me and it wasn’t a cheesecake cover.

So Voodoo #1 finally came out this week. And starting Wednesday afternoon and continuing since then, I’ve steadily been getting Twittered and emailed comments along the lines of, Neener neener, Starfire Catwoman DC T&A, we warned you, Voodoo strip club naked blah blah.

Well, no. Sorry, but no. I’m glad I reserved judgement. I actually liked Voodoo #1 quite a bit. In fact I thought it was one of the better #1 issues from the new DC that I’ve seen, and though it’s definitely not for kids, it’s not a cheesecake book at all.

I know. But really, it's NOT a cheesecake book.

What it did seem like to me was act one of an X-Files episode. In fact, there’s even a couple of federal agent-types in the story that are somewhat evocative of Mulder and Scully.

It's early days yet, but I did get the feeling Mr. Marz is setting up this tough-as-nails Fed lady as Voodoo's primary adversary in this first outing.

Yes, Voodoo’s a stripper. And yes, most of the first issue takes place in a strip club. But like I said, it’s all about context. More, it’s also about tone. There are a lot of scenes with strippers and so on, but here’s the thing– those strip-club scenes are not really erotica. Not in the gratuitous, Charlie’s Angels/Baywatch style, at least. There’s none of that ridiculous I’m-empowered-by-my-sex-kittenhood, this-is-my-statement-of-freedom crap that you see so often in superhero comics and science fiction. You know, stuff like, “On my planet women are often nude and have many mating partners. Is it not so on your world? How strange!”

Yes, STAR TREK, I'm looking at you.

None of that here. The feeling that you get reading Voodoo is much more bleak. The strip-club stuff is meant to show a situation that isn’t particularly sexy or arousing, but rather kind of desperate and sad. The men are pathetic and the women are doing the best they can with the few options they have. The overall effect is kind of noir-ish, which I assume is the kind of crime-story-with-aliens feeling that the book is going for. As such, Voodoo has much more in common with, say, Claudia Christian in The Hidden than with strictly cheesecake characters like Tarot or Sheena the jungle queen.

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By the way? THE HIDDEN is a very fun movie. Pity you don't get B-movies like this any more.

And, well, that’s the kind of genre mashup that always gets me. Aliens vs. cops in a gritty noir setting? Sold, at least for the time being.

If anything, my one complaint with the book is that Sami Basri’s art isn’t the best fit for this; lovely as it is, it’s really almost too pretty. I think the book would have worked better with a slightly rougher edge to the art and deeper shadows.

But that’s just being nitpicky. Overall, as a number one issue of a new series, Voodoo did the job. It set up the premise and got me interested enough to come back.

I do have to eat my words about one particular thing — I’d originally liked the idea stated in the preview blurb of “a woman on the run in the DC Universe,” meaning this was something like Marvels or Gotham Central or The Pulse. I.e., Voodoo would be a book with a street-level view of superheroes and the DCU. Now, having actually read it, I have to recant that. I found myself wishing this series was something separate, a Vertigo title or something like that, because the more this book interacts with the DC universe at large, the weaker it gets. I think the story is much better served for the weirdest thing in Voodoo’s world to be Voodoo herself. My two cents.

Certainly, of the six or seven of the new DCs I checked out this month — and again, it must be added that I hardly looked at any of them, I’m mostly waiting for trades these days– Voodoo was one of the two I enjoyed the most. (The other was Mr. Terrific, which was MUCH better than anyone had any right to expect; I was braced for something pretty continuity-heavy with lots of JSA in-references and instead we got Michael Holt, Science Adventurer. I love that idea.)

So, to sum up– I liked Voodoo quite a bit and certainly would not dismiss it out of hand as being just another bad-girl T&A book aimed at the skeevy fanboy demographic. Rather, it seems to me like a fun book about alien conspiracy in a noir street-crime setting. As long as that’s where it goes, I’m in.


And that’s it, this time out. See you next week.


Wait! The new Daredevil ISN’T non-stop misery from cover to cover??? Wow. I may actually buy an issue, then. I’ve always liked Daredevil, but I’ve never been able to buy his series regulary, because every time I check out a new issue it’s either horribly depressing or very badly written.

On the Starfire thing, David Willis had the best description of it with his Friday comic (which was a follow up of something he did on Monday). It’s not so much the sex, but that the DCnU Starfire just seems so bored and empty and is using meaningless sex as a way to pass the time. Compare that with the panel you posted of Teen Titan Starfire here, which expresses the complete antithesis of that sentiment.

I don’t want to be a troll, I just wanted to say that you entirely miss the point on the “Starfire-Catwoman” problem, as Thok tells you in a much more polite and non-trolling way.

Other recent, largely over-looked launches and relaunches: Star Trek, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Buffy, Angel & Faith, Punisher and, of course, the Ultimate Comics Reborn thingadoo.

Patrick Maloney

October 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Although I disagree with you that Voodoo should be separate from the rest of the DC universe, I definitely can see why you would think it would drag down the quality and independence

I don’t want to be a troll, I just wanted to say that you entirely miss the point on the “Starfire-Catwoman” problem, as Thok tells you in a much more polite and non-trolling way.

What point? That superhero comics are dominated by a frat-boy mentality? That women rarely are treated like adults in superhero comics? That favorite characters got dragged through the mud for the sake of shock value? None of that’s news. I really don’t see it changing as long as the industry is where it is, i.e., run by fans-turned-pro for a specialty, strictly-superhero-fan market. We went through this not too long ago with the Mary Jane laundry statue, and with All-Star Batman and Robin, and a bunch of other stuff. This is just the latest installment in a long line of embarrassingly skeevy examples.

Granted, you might be referring to something completely different. It’s entirely possible. Didn’t read either book. Because I voted with my wallet by not buying or reading either one. That’s the only vote that counts with a publisher. I wasted way too many years and dollars by buying comics I hated. Coming back month after month out of habit or misplaced devotion to a fictional character, and then raging about what was being done to my favorite characters. During all that time, DC and Marvel still got to keep my money. They really didn’t care if I approved or not as long as I was buying the books.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that I’m seeing a lot of blog articles and other online crabbing where Voodoo is getting lumped in with the Starfire and Catwoman books, and it shouldn’t be. That’s all. The rest of it, well, I didn’t read the books. The online excerpts I’ve seen have been more than enough justification for me that it was the right decision to skip them.

And it’s certainly not trolling to disagree politely. Rest your mind on that score. Me saying “It’s just my opinion” seems kind of redundant when it’s basically an opinion column this week, but, you know, it IS just my opinion. Your mileage may vary, and if you want to say so, have at it. Shucks, it’s why we have a comments section.

Voodoo is getting lumped in with the Starfire and Catwoman books, and it shouldn’t be.

I agree with that assessment. It’s just that I personally don’t think Catwoman should be lumped with Starfire, either. (Starfire’s personality got a complete rewrite in a way that would be making people angry even without the sex issues, while Selina is basically Selina.)

On a different note, how much of Basri’s previous work on Power Girl have you seen? I’m assuming the answer is very little because of the Winick issue, but Basri similarly avoided cheesecake in that series as well while still doing a good job of portraying Power Girl as Power Girl. (He’s one of the few Power Girl artists who didn’t feel the need to emphasizes Power Girl’s assets; even Amanda Connor fell into that trap somewhat.)

It’s funny, because to me, Mister Terrific was one of the five worst of the new books. Plus, while I agree with you a bit about Voodoo, I don’t think Basri’s art is usually all that good and you’re right – it was completely wrong for this book. But Marz didn’t do the best job of making the women seem “desperate and sad.” I think if he had done that (not to the point where it’s ridiculous, but more than he does in this) and if someone other than Basri had been drawing it, the book would have been really good. But it’s just kind of blah.

I found Mr. Terrific to be only the ninth-worst book of the reboot. Voodoo was 13. I thought the art was very pretty (Basri should be drawing, like, Disney comics) and I liked the one female character in the comic who kept her clothes on, but I didn’t find anything within new or interesting, and I did not like or even really understand the ending (because I am stupid, but still). I also don’t see how it will work as an ongoing.

That said, while it ostensibly objectified its lead character and the supporting cast of strippers, it didn’t do so in a monumentally misfiring way like with Catwoman or Starfire.

Mr. Terrific was my 3rd worst. Didnt like the lame attempt to be hip with tone deaf racial humor. Power girl reduced to arm candy. Completely predictable plot.&. Art was all over the place.
Suprised you didn’t like As Western, Demon knights or Frankenstein more than mr. Terrific.

Spoiler about voodoo. She kills an fbi agent so is she a villian? Or was he a dire wraith?

Surprised you didn’t like A-S Western, Demon knights or Frankenstein more than Mr. Terrific.

Didn’t buy them. Figured they were pretty safe bets for trades. My colleagues are the ones buying everything; I confined myself largely just to titles I felt wouldn’t do well enough to justify a collection, but that I was interested in anyway.

I also prefer to wait for the trades. I picked up a few of the new DC books and I felt really unsatisfied after reading them. It felt like watching an episode of a TV show up to the first commercial break and then having to wait a month for the next 8 minutes of the show. I liked Demon Knights, but all it did was introduce us to the characters; almost nothing has happened yet.

Kevin, I quite like the new TMNT comic. It’s probably the only comic I’ll continue to read in singles. I wish IDW offered subscriptions so I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to get it every month.

For what it’s worth, I haven’t’ seen Voodoo lumped in with the uproar over Starfire or Catwoman, so maybe more people feel the way you do.

And I’ll second the recommendation for Daredevil. I’ve actually never been a big fan of the character, but pretty much give every comic Mark Waid puts out a look, and it has been really good so far. Not that surprising, since as I mentioned I’m a big fan of Waid, but the absolutely depressing nature of Daredevil has never had much appeal to me, so a lighter, more swashbuckling take on the character has me very interested. They’re definitely good comics.

What show is that photo of the bald lady from? She looks like Marvel’s Moondragon to me (She even has the same style of collar).

Ok, I’m pretty embarrassed. I should have recognized that woman from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In my defense, I haven’t seen that movie in 10 years. I wonder if her look was inspired by Moondragon.

This talk of rather sensual matter with Starfire and Catwoman reminds me of a post I found on Yuku. Namely, the poster pointed out how often chastity rarely carries over to recent film adaptations of comic books.

As some have noted, in many adaptations of comic books and comic strips, the main villain usually dies at the end of the film, even if a recurring foe in the original comic book/comic strip. The MPAA made its peace in the 1970’s and 1980’s with having a protagonist who took lives in a PG or PG-13 films. (Indiana Jones does not put any special effort into assuring that his foes survive.)

Another matter that the MPAA has made peace with involves having protagonists who have pre-marital sex in a PG or PG-13 film. So, I started to think of adaptations where the protagonist has pre-marital sex.


Superman II: after depowering, they have sex in the Fortress of Solitude (what would Doc Savage say?); although many people appreciate that Christopher Reeve tried to bring humanity and kindness to Superman, I usually do not think of Superman having pre-marital sex, though, to present things fairly, they do not present it as treating the other person as an object. [The issue of this dalliance appeared 25 years later in a sequel.]

Batman: Vicki Vale has sex with Bruce Wayne (as Ms. Kingsley points out, it does not fit with how messed up psychologically he stand to have him “get to first base” so fast). Kind of ironic that Tim Burton directed this and a Pee-Wee Herman film, eh?

Daredevil: Elektra and Daredevil had sex, right?

Iron Man: He has sex with Christine Everhart

Any others? I guess they throw these scenes in to prevent the films from feeling too childish, as happened with the 1996 version of The Phantom (who remained celibate, even though in the comic strip, he and Diane Palmer eventually marry)


Sandwich eater, that’s Persis Khambatta from the very first Star Trek movie. Moondragon predated her by a few years.

Everything by Kevin Smith should be buried.

Spoiler about voodoo. She kills an FBI agent so is she a villain? Or was he a dire wraith?

No idea. That’s the nice thing about coming to it completely free of Voodoo’s Wildstorm history. I am hard put to even REMEMBER the last time I was able to enjoy a comic book series without knowing a single solitary thing about what was coming next. It’s refreshing.

The more I think about it, the more I keep thinking it comes off very much like a riff on The Hidden, except this time the alien-possessed stripper’s the good guy and the cops are villains. (Sort of like how Firefly was a riff on “Star Wars if the Empire won.” You know, it’s not plagiarism so much as a sort of jumping-off place.)

Good article.

I haven’t been super impress with DC relaunch so far. I am still looking for the point of all this. Superman’s new costume is barely visible. Batman is… Batman. Swamp thing was not too good. Teen titans is slowly lifting to somewhere…

But the Voodoo comic book you talk about sounds refreshing. I will definitely look for it. Thx

I’m not offended by Voodoo being a stripper, either. I’m not interested in it, but that’s just personal taste. It may grow on me later.

The problem I had with Starfire isn’t the sex- I get that DC is selling (or trying to) these comics to adults. But even if I had no knowledge of past versions of Starfire, the basic concept of “alien who has sex with Earth men she can’t even tell apart” is pathetic. Though what REALLY bothered me in this comic was how these supposed heroes slaughter people so casually. Fine, if that’s how they want to write them, but please, don’t call these characters “superheroes”.

In Catwoman, again the sex doesn’t bother me, but… Batman? Having sex with a criminal? ON A ROOFTOP? Right. Because it isn’t as if Gotham is full of criminals that would love to catch Batman with his pants down. I like the Bruce/Selina relationship, but couldn’t they have had their kinky sex *where it’s safe?* Sheesh.

Oh, and I see they reinstated that “Selina was a prostitute” origin for Catwoman that (Miller?) came up with. Because she can’t be interesting or sexy without it, apparently. I guess all those decades of her being one of DC’s best known female characters without it must have been a coincidence.

It’s also interesting that the first of the Force novels was titled Deadly Snow.

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