Sunday Brunch: 10/24/10

In which Bill says hyperbolic things about a children's cartoon and invites you on a guided tour of the comics internet (ask for Babs!).

DECLARATION OF THE WEEK: DC should only ever hire teenagers to write the Legion of Super-Heroes (sorry, Chris Bird).

SHAMELESS PROMOTION DEPARTMENT: A little while ago, I was shanghaied to Australia and not released until I answered a bunch of questions about Aquaman. Well, now you can finally read my harrowing ordeal, along with a bunch of other comics-y articles, in Extra Sequential #4, which can be found online here or here, in your interface of choice.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD DEPT: "Menace of the Madniks!" Written by Jim Krieg

I was only half-joking a fortnight ago when I said the show had decided to focus on the ramifications of death in a superhero universe, but the show's creators have clearly taken this under serious consideration, as said themes continue in the two episodes I'm talking about this week. We've already had heroic sacrifice, redemptive heroic sacrifice, legacy, and resurrection. In "Menace of the Madniks!", Booster Gold uses time travel not to undo his friend Ted Kord's death, but simply to do one last favor for him before he died. Naturally, because it's Booster Gold, things go awry and he causes a retconned apocalypse ("Look, I'm not going to explain the intricacies of time travel to a man without a library card!" insists Batman), and must team up with Batman-- and Ted-- to put things right. Krieg's script reconciles the fun-loving buddy-hero duo of Blue & Gold with Ditko's classical, action-oriented Blue Beetle, by demonstrating how he acts in different company. The plot's not overly complex or exciting-- Booster accidentally turns the Madniks (known as the Madmen back when Ditko invented them, but looking as pop-art-y as ever) into giant monsters, they all team up to stop 'em, etc, but the character work is strong. Ted Kord acts like a husband whose wife has just met his mistress when he discovers Batman and Booster Gold have started hanging out together ("What's more fun than fighting crime?" asks Batman when told Booster is more fun than he is). Batman and Booster's unruly relationship continues, but they find mutual admiration in one another through the shared friendship of a lost friend. Superhero death-- bringing friends together.

"Emperor Joker!" Written by Steven Melching

The nerdiness of this show reaches critical levels whenever Bat-Mite shows up; this episode is chock full of Batman lore, to the point where Jess Nevins should probably annotate it. After a teaser pitting Rainbow Batman and Regular Robin (voiced by Finn from Adventure Time, my other favorite Cartoon Network show) against the classical version of Firefly and the Rainbow Monster and homaging the opening animated sequence of the Adam West television show, the plot proper picks up with Batman battling the Ten-Eyed Man, when Bat-Mite pops in and reads directly from the Ten-Eyed Man's Who's Who entry, as seen above (Deathstroke the Terminator can clearly be seen on the adjacent page when Bat-Mite opens the book). "True fans appreciate a nod to the more obscure villains of your rogues gallery," admits the Dark Mite, but he'd rather see Batman battle the Joker, as he takes Batman through a gallery of classical Joker stories, from the Laughing Fish to the death of Jason Todd. Bat-Mite breaks the Joker out of Arkham in order to see Batman go up against him again, and they all butt heads at Gotham's comedy museum. The Joker is flanked by henchmen dressed as classical comedians from Hollywood's golden age as well as Harley Quinn, in her first appearance on this show, made up as a black-and-white speakeasy flapper girl. "Awesomesauce," squees Bat-Mite, before accidentally transferring his powers to the Joker and causing all hell to break loose.

Another personal challenge amongst the creators of this television show must be to redo a bunch of lousy stories from the comics. First, we had Flash: Rebirth turned into a fantastic episode of television, and now, Emperor Joker, a maligned, Jeph-Loeb-led Superman story from several years back. This being Brave and the Bold, of course, things work out different, as the Joker creates his own Joker-Mite and then immediately launches into a tremendous musical number during which he recreates the world in his image, and sets up a Rube Goldberg deathtrap for Batman. Killing off the Dark Knight just once doesn't satisfy him, so he sadistically murders and resurrects Batman over and over and over (here is where the death motif crops up again; a commentary on current comics' more violent tendencies, and the cyclical nature of superhero death and resurrection? No? My favorite murder method is the giant vat of acid). Batman tricks Joker into literally climbing into his mind to drive him bats (pun!), but, this being Batman, even his mind is a weapon, and he quickly turns the tables on the Joker, transforming him into a sane, normal guy, which promptly defeats him. Meanwhile, in an inspired sequence, the Joker has taken away Harley's voice, allowing her to speak only in silent movie title cards; Bat-Mite grabs the title cards off the screen and uses them as blunt instruments in a fight scene. Then, suddenly, it's over.

The sheer love the creators have for the source material, specifically the classical Silver Age stories that have been glossed over by everyone except Grant Morrison, radiates off the screen. There's a level of devotion and authenticity here that's missing from today's superhero comics, but can clearly be seen in loving productions made by the diehards, such as this animated series, and the 60s-inspired Bat-Porno. That mad, imaginative comics spirit-- it shows up in the strangest of places.

HEY, YOU! DEPT: Sherlock airs in America tonight at 9 pm Eastern on PBS. I raved about this some months ago. Watch it, or I'll drown you with my tears.

ITEM! Today is Wonder Woman Day. If you are in Portland (or New Jersey, but definitely not Portland, NJ), go, and be wondrous.

ITEM! Dan Hipp has put all three volumes of his current opus, Gyakushu! (gesundheit), online, but only until the end of the month! Read, friends, read like the wind! At least, read, if you enjoy stuff like this:

And enjoy some of these pieces from Hipp's blog:

ITEM! KC Carlson asks: is the big price drop worth it? He examines some history of comics pricing and page count:

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the standard comic book “guts” (not counting covers) consisted of eight pages of advertising and 24 pages of editorial content — made up of the comic book stories themselves plus features such as text stories or, eventually, lettercolumns and “hype” pages. (For many years DC also “tricked” fans by including 1/3-page ads on three of the story pages, making readers think that there were more complete story pages than there actually were.) By the time Marvel became hugely popular in the mid-60s, they had standardized their comics stories at 20 pages, plus two pages of letters and one Bullpen Bulletins page (featuring Stan’s Soapbox).

ITEM! Matt Seneca has been on fire lately. First, he looks at some Brendan McCarthy art:

Reading McCarthy comics you often get the sense that he doesn't know or care just how directly upstream he's swimming, and as such the product is wildly variable. Sometimes a McCarthy page turns up a total mess, all sense of sequence and flow lost in a sluice of color or line. Other times it hangs together somehow, and the results are nothing less than a new way of comics that's not even definable for the amount of innovation it carries. Sometimes it's both at the same time, head-spinning, and that's probably why McCarthy's disorienting laughing-gas-blast pages have remained cult objects rather than bleeding into the canon like they should have years and years ago.

Seneca's also got excellent pieces on the first issue of Deadpool MAX, and Rafael Grampa's Wolverine story from Strange Tales.

ITEM! Following in the footsteps of Covered! comes Repaneled, in which artists are invited to redo their favorite comic panels. To wit, here are some reworked panels by Jason Young and Anthony Vukojevich:

ITEM! Knight & Squire #1 is officially the Most English Comic Book Ever Made, and so Bleeding Cool provides a handy glossary so that the American layfan can understand wot the bleedin' 'eck 'ey're on about.

ITEM! Mike Sterling points us to this charming folk song about... the Golden Age Nite-Owl? Yes, it's "The Ballad of Hollis Wadsworth Mason, Jr," as performed on accordion.

SIMSBLIGATORY DEPT: This week, Sims goes speed dating at the New York Comicon (very scary) and examines the forgotten Tomb of Dracula anime from 1980 (totally awesome in an ironic way), a movie in which this happens:

It's way, way crazier than that Dracula thing Abhay cooked up.

ITEM! The Mindless Ones discuss Alan Moore's Neonomicon #2, also known as "that comic what with the ten page rape scene":

“The word ‘unpleasant’, or phrases like ‘it’s not to my liking’ worry me because I don’t believe they’re broad enough, or indeed a specific enough to accommodate the sorts of issues that we, as intelligent readers of this book, should be wrestling with… misogyny and depictions of rape have distinctly political and ethical dimensions, dimensions which I believe are obscured by the use of descriptors which are normally associated with matters of taste and feeling… ‘unpleasant’, in this context, lacks the necessary complexity to properly convey the sorts of problems a feminist, say, might have with the comic.”

ITEM! Over at Comics Comics, Frank Santoro discusses the nine panel grid. I especially like this idea:

If I flip randomly to a page of Watchmen and let my eyes scan the page, usually I look straight at the center – and often that center panel is representative of the whole page. It’s like an anchor. Also, the artist (Dave Gibbons) never gives up the center of the page when he uses a different layout. Never! He never has a center tier that has a vertical gutter in the direct center of the page. I really think this is part of Watchmen‘s visual power. When I flip through the book, my eyes just go from center of page to center of page and I feel more enveloped by the story and by the world created.

ITEM! The Let's Be Friends Again guys do their best to explain Hank Pym:

AXE COP MOMENT OF THE WEEKS: Axe Cop teaches us how to find true love. I'm glad, because I was wondering:

The thing is, this is an exact representation of my love life. Problem is, I forgot to dress exactly like Axe Cop. I was not, then, so handsome. Damn.

NOT COMICS DEPT: Warren Ellis, as he is wont to do, discusses the future:

There are already people working on adding historical AR overlays to buildings, sites, streets. One day you’re going to be walking through Dublin and you’ll raise your phone, your little ghost box, to your eye and peer through it at a certain building. And a Turing-tested James Joyce, put together from correspondence and recordings and Ulysses, will appear on your screen and ask you if you could lend him a tenner so he can buy you a drink.

Let's all get drunk with ghosts, and meet back here next week.

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