Monday, 28 December 2009

Doctor Who: David Tennant is better than sex and so is Matt Smith

On New Year's Day David Tennant's Tenth Doctor will pop his clogs in Part Two of 'The End Of Time'.  Like 99% of rational human beings I bloody loved Tennant's Doctor.  Whereas Christopher Eccleston burned through the Ninth Doctor with one season's worth of pure gold acting power, Tennant, in my opinion, took a bit of time to settle into the role, like a man easing himself into a hot bath of pure gold acting power.  There were times in Season Two where his performance may have come across as a bit smug, his voice a bit Timmy Mallet-esque, but he just got better and better and better.  By the time Seasons Three and Four came along Tennant was a natural fit for the role and now he can sit in a cafe with Bernard Cribbins and blub for five minutes and I'm utterly convinced that he's a lonely alien god and I'm utterly gripped.  Tennant's not just a good actor though, he's choc full of charisma, probably more so than Eccleston.  Tennant's Doctor is fun to watch, you want the Tenth Doctor to be your mate, even when he's committing the odd bit of genocide.  The only thing that's stopping me from declaring Tennant my favourite Doctor is that I love all ten of them for different reasons and I honestly couldn't find it in my heart to pick a favourite.  I'm very boring, I know.  Like those people who say that they haven't got any favourite bands, they "like a bit of everything."

As for Matt Smith, I'm confident that he's going to be fantastic.  I like all ten of them so far, I find it very hard to imagine that number eleven will be the odd one out.  Many have written off Smith already despite the fact that not one scene of his portrayal of the Doctor has been seen by the general public yet. One common criticism is that, at the age of 27, he's too young, but all real Who fans can tell you that Peter Davison was only 29 when he took the role.

Another criticism is that they've played it safe by going for a Tennant clone.  This criticism baffles me.  For a start we have no idea how Smith will play his Doctor yet.  For all we know it could be as different from Tennant's portrayal as Troughton's was from Hartnell's, or Pertwee's was from Troughton's, or Baker's was see where I'm going with this.  Also, beyond their hair colour and the fact that their both caucasian males there is absolutely no resemblance between them!  Tennant is 38, Smith is 27. That's eleven years difference!  Tennant has a thin face with big wonderful, bulging eyes.  Smith has a head like a shoe box in a pair of tights.  And I mean that in a nice way, he's better looking than me.

Lastly of course there's the hair.  According to some critics, the fact that Smith has a vaguely fashionable haircut bars him from ever being able to portray the Doctor effectively.  They argue that Smith was chosen purely for his ability to appeal to a younger demographic.  There are three things wrong with this argument.
 1) Despite what some may think, the "younger demographic" aren't so stupid that they'll watch anything starring a random bloke with an emo haircut.
2) Despite what some may think, the BBC aren't so stupid that they'll hand over a lead role in one of their top programmes to some guy based solely on his 'do.
3) Dismissing Smith based only on his hair would be like watching an interview with Troughton in '66 and accusing the producers of cashing in on the Beatles.
When the first episode has aired let's hear those criticisms but at the moment I can say with all confidence that anyone who complains about Matt Smith being Doctor Who is a twat.

Until Smith enters the TARDIS however, there's still the painful matter of saying goodbye to Tennant.  If Part One of the 'End of Time' is anything to go by then he should be going out in a suitably spectacular fashion.  And I should think so too!  Tennant deserves a great send off.  He's brilliant.  And let's not forget that so far the Doctor has been killed in a number of pretty interesting ways.  His aging body has collapsed to the floor after battling the Cybermen, he's been forced to regenerate by the Time Lords, he's got radiation poisoning after fighting a giant spider, he's plunged to his doom from a giant radio telescope, he's died slowly of 'spectrox toxemia' after running through boiling mud and milking a giant bat, he's (ahem) fallen over and banged his head in the TARDIS, he's been riddled with bullets and died screaming on the operating table, he's (presumably) fallen during battle in the Time War and he's been consumed by the energies of the Time Vortex.

How do you top that?

Friday, 25 December 2009

Ten Reasons Why Peter David's Aquaman is the Mutt's Nuts!

My Christmas gift to all of you out there in internet land is this post, urging you to seek out and find every single issue of Peter David's run on 'Aquaman'.  Seriously, if you like superhero comics you owe it to yourself to read Peter David's run on 'Aquaman'.  If you read it your life will be enriched, and I will have spread joy and goodwill this Christmas.  In no particular order, here are ten reasons why Peter David's 'Aquaman' is the mutt's nuts.

1) The Atlantis Chronicles 

Before David started his run on the title he wrote  'The Atlantis Chronicles', a seven issue series that told the story of Aquaman's home from it's sinking right up to Aquaman's birth.  The artwork by Esteban Maroto is absolutely gorgeous and David's story is breathtaking.  The story was so grand and epic I felt like I was reading an ancient myth and yet I totally identified with the characters and genuinely cared about their fate.  It is easily one of the best comics I've ever read and yet it's never been collected in trade paperback and will probably be erased from continuity with the next Aquaman reboot.  If you ever see the series in a bargain bin or on ebay I urge you to BUY IT!

2) Martin Egelund and Jim Calafiore

The bulk of David's run was drawn by these two guys and they're two of my favourite pencillers.  Calafiore's work has popped up in titles such as 'Deadpool', 'Exiles' and 'Gotham Underground' but I haven't seen Egelund's work on anything other than 'Aquaman'.  If you know of any other examples of his work please let me know.

3) Soap Opera

So many soap opera-esque plots!  Aquaman's estranged wife Mera catching Aquaman in bed with Forgotten Hero Dolphin!  Aquaman's efforts to bond with his angry long lost son Koryak!  Aquaman battling his half brother, Ocean Master! Aquaman's old friend Vulko plotting to overthrow him behind his back!  David's twists and turns made 'Aquaman' an underwater 'Eastenders'.  That's a good thing.

4) Tempest

By the early '90s Aqualad and his white man's afro was a bit of a joke.  David's solution to this was simple.  He turned Aqualad into Tempest, a double-hard bastard of an underwater sorceror who was potentially more powerful than Aquaman himself!

5) "Impressed Yet?"

One clever trick of David's during his run was to have certain characters voice some common fan criticisms of Aquaman.  Aquaman would then answer these criticisms by kicking his critic's ass.   This tactic was evident in issue three of the run, when Superboy stated that he was "mucking with some guy who talks to fish and sucks water" and that he was "not impressed."  Aquaman responds by hitting Superboy with a tsunami while shouting "Hey punk! Impressed yet?"

6) Aquaman repels an alien invasion and doesn't bother to tell the Justice League

Secret Invasion?  It's no biggie for Aquaman.  The first 25 issues of David's run involved Aquaman reclaiming the throne of Atlantis and repelling an alien invasion with only a handful of his watery buddies.  He didn't need Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.  When you're as hard as Aquaman all you need is the Sea Devils, Neptune Perkins and your own awesomeness.

7) Aquaman invades Japan 

Your dolphin mother has just been brutally murdered by a cyborg who is now hiding in Japan.  The Japanese government has threatened you with retaliation if you go looking for revenge.  What do you do? Well, if you're Aquaman you jump inside the giant, ancient, sentient spaceship located underneath your city and invade Japan.  You then ban Japan from the ocean, using your aquatic minions to sink all their boats!  You'll probably find that the Japanese government give you what you want by the end of the issue. 

8) Aquaman escapes from Hell

It's strange that Aquaman's currently having a hard time being dead in the pages of 'Blackest Night' considering the first time he died he wasn't all that bothered.  Apparently David had planned a big storyline where Aquaman would get killed by the god Triton.  He would be gone for a bunch of issues and then return as a water elemental.  Sadly David's superiors pissed him off one too many times and he took his ball home and buggered off to Marvel.  As a result Aquaman was dead for only one issue, during which time he fights his way out of the Kingdom of Hades by punching the Ferryman into the River Styx and chopping off one of Cerebrus' heads!  Not quite the epic storyline David had planned but it was still pretty cool.

9) The Clear

All the groundwork for David's failed plan to have Aquaman fulfil his true potential as an elemental being can be seen throughout the series.  For example, in issue 36 Aquaman discovers that he can connect to "the Clear".  Just as Swamp Thing is connected to all of Earth's plant life and Animal Man to all of it's animals, Aquaman could connect to all of Earth's sea life regardless of where he was by reaching out with his mind through "the Clear".  Of course this interesting idea was ignored by every single subsequent writer.

10) It's not a hook, it's a harpoon

Before David could show off all these interesting ideas he had to get people to read the damn comic.  He did this by having pirhanas chew off Aquaman's hand in the second issue.  This has been criticised as an example of the type of cheap publicity stunt that was typical of '90s comics.  One of the critics of this plot twist was Kevin Smith who described the maiming of Aquaman as "sensationalistic crap"!  But say what you will about the hand loss, it got people talking about Aquaman and it got people to notice the good work that David was doing.  And bloody good work it was too!

So there we have it! Ten good reasons for you to put down that turkey leg and go to ebay or your nearest comic shop to find -
  • The Atlantis Chronicles #1-7
  • Aquaman: Time and Tide #1-4
  • Aquaman #0-46
  • Aquaman Annual #1-4

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Plugging Another Blog

Laughing at out of context comic panels from a bygone age is ace.  It's something I've done on occasion, particularly here and here.  But the absolute king of such activity is a man called Adam Barnett and his blog 'Comics Make No Sense' is great fun.  Check it out here.

He has also been good enough to post some wacky comic panels submitted by me.  Go and visit him and spread the love.  And in true 'Comics Make No Sense'  fashion, here's some more Motivational Posters.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Celebrity Look-A-Likes: Mon-El and Wayne Rooney

I couldn't help but notice while checking over my previous post that artist J.G. Jones seems to have drawn Mon-El on the cover of 'War of the Supermen' with the face and ears of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney! Sucks to be Mon-El. First he contracts lead poisoning and is exiled to Phantom Zone, then he gets released only to find his powers are on the blink and he's slowly dying, now he gets stuck with Rooney's mug!

I just made a football reference amid all this talk of comics! Today I am a real man.

War of The Supermen and Earth One.

Very exciting Superman news from DC Comics this week. Firstly, next year's DC crossover seems to be a Superman one, with the tension between Earth and New Krypton finally boiling over into 'War of the Supermen'.

This war has been brewing for quite a while now, so it comes as no surprise. It does however conjure up unwelcome memories of the Wonder Woman event of a few years ago, 'Amazons Attack!' In this mini-series Wonder Woman's people, the Amazons, waged war with the United States, much in the same way as Superman's people, the Kryptonians, seem set to wage war with Earth. I do try to keep this blog as positive as I can, the last thing the internet needs is another whiny fanboy, so I'm not going to list all the reasons why I'm not a fan of 'Amazon's Attack!' I'll just say that I hope that the two events aren't too similar and that the Kryptonians' reasons for going to war aren't as ropey as the Amazons' were. If the plot currently unfolding in the Super-titles is anything to go by it should be all good.

Speaking of the current plot of the Super-titles, I realise that the decision to move Superman out of his own books has been a controversial one but I have to say I've been enjoying them. Greg Rucka's 'Action Comics' starring Nightwing and Flamebird has probably been the weakest of the lot. The story has been pretty good but I just can't bring myself to care that much about Nightwing and Flamebird. Over in the pages of 'Superman' on the other hand James Robinson has done a great job of making me give a crap about Superman's Daxamite pal, Mon-El. Also, Sterling Gates, along with artist Jamal Igle, has done some great work on 'Supergirl'. They've made it hard to believe that we're reading about the same sulky, tantrum throwing, impossibly proportioned Barbie doll of a character that occupied the title for the first thirty odd issues before they came aboard. If you're only checking out one of the Super-titles at the moment though I hope it's 'World of New Krypton'. Robinson and Rucka have done an admirable job of showing that even on a planet full of people with the same powers as him, Kal-El is still Superman. Having said all that, while the plot running through the Super-books is quite gripping it all seems to be unfolding painfully slowly. After almost a year I'm ready for Superman to get back on Earth and back to his own books. Fingers crossed that 'War of the Supermen' will be a payoff that makes it all worth while.

In other Super-news, next year DC are launching 'Superman: Earth One' and 'Batman: Earth One'. These will be a series of graphic novels set within their own continuity. We've seen it before with Marvel's Ultimate line, and indeed with DC's All-Star line, but that's not the exciting part. The exciting part is that Geoff Johns and Gary Frank will be tackling Batman and J. Michael Straczynski will be writing Superman! If 'Superman: Earth One' is anywhere near as good as Straczynski's work on Spider-Man and Thor then this will be amazing. My only gripe is that I would have liked to have seen J.M.S on 'Action Comics' or the main 'Superman' book. As for Johns and Frank on Batman? I cannot bloody wait! Check out their Alfred!

Now if only DC could think of something good to do with Aquaman.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Ronnie Chan

Judging from the above picture it would seem that Jackie Chan's next project is a remake of Ronnie Corbett's magnum opus, Sorry.

Let's hope Hollywood keep the original theme tune. It is after all the late Ronnie Hazlehurst's finest piece.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Terra-Man : Yet another reason why Superman comics are awesome!

Terra-Man is a cowboy with alien technology who rides a winged horse. He is awesome and his first appearance in Superman #249 (1972) is one of my favourite Superman stories. The story begins with hologramatic cowboys delivering an exploding message to Superman telling him that "the man" is coming to kill him at sundown. This unique method of delivery and the mystery of the identity of this "man" really puts the willies up our hero. He doesn't have time to ponder the oncoming threat however as his Kryptonian Birth-spell has begun. Apparently Kryptonians would get so depressed at being a year closer to death that it had become an inborn instinct for every Kryptonian to completely lose their shit every six years on their birthday. Superman knew that he was about to be at the mercy of a complete emotional breakdown just as this mystery villain arrived. I love this example of the cultural differences between Earth and Krypton. It makes sense. Why should an alien culture mark birthdays in the same way we do? Okay, birthday depression being ingrained genetically into an entire race is hard to swallow, but balls to it Superman's about to fight a cowboy with Atomic Bomb Bullets.

And fight him he does. Terra-Man turns up at sundown as promised and assails our hero with the aforementioned Atomic Bullets . He also uses Killer Cigar Smoke and a bullet that just gets really, really big and clobbers Superman. Meanwhile Superman is having a super freakout and his powers are behaving unpredictably. In one brilliant bit his X Ray vision is reversed and he is forced to stare in horror at his own brain! However Superman quickly turns each super freakout to his advantage and is able to defeat Terra-Man. The story ends with a lovely image of Terra-Man's horse flying wild in the countryside and awaiting the inevitable return of it's master. I don't know about you but Superman fighting a Super-Cowboy with Killer Cigars while he flies upside down and stares at his own brain sounds pretty entertaining to me. Sadly Terra-Man hasn't done much in the past few decades. He was brought back in Superman #46 (1990) as an eco-warrior (boring!) but died a couple of years ago when Black Adam ripped him in half.

I've written before about how, in 1986 John Byrne began writing a very different version of Superman, one that was a little more relatable to your average non-superpowered reader. I honestly think that the character benefited greatly from this new take, however in other respects we lost a little something too. Superman's new relatibility came at the cost of some of the more outlandish aspects of the Superman myth. The Super-books lost a wonderful imaginative silliness that is as much a part of Superman as Lois Lane and Kryptonite. I believe that one of the characters that embodied this wonderful silliness was Terra-Man. The eco-warrior version of the him was an example of how such "silly" characters didn't work in a world where Superman had at least one foot planted in reality, even if the other was in a pocket dimension.
Recently however these "silly" aspects are returning. Superman: Secret Origin has seen the return of Superman's indestrucatable suit forged from his baby blankets. Krypto the Superdog was last seen kicking (or at least biting) zombie ass in Blackest Night Superman #3 and the Bottle City of Kandor is the basis for pretty much everything that's currently happening in the Superman books. Grant Morrison has done much to pay tribute to and expand on the outlandish aspects of the Super-myth in All Star Superman, a series that includes, among other things, Superman beating Atlas and Samson in an arm wrestling match and a baboon called Leopold in a Superman suit.

Many fans are lamenting what they see as a return to the Silver Age staus quo. I welcome it because it's a return that is very much informed by Byrne's take on Superman. For example, Byrne highlighted the role of Ma and Pa Kent in Superman 's life as an example of his version of Superman's stronger ties to humanity. Pa Kent has recently died but his death has made his lessons and example more prominent than ever in the mind of his adopted son. This strong tie to Earth and humanity is particularly relevant as Superman is currently living on New Krypton leading an army of Kryptonian soldiers. Hopefully just like Krypto and Kandor we'll soon see the return of Terra-Man. If the current trend in the Super-books is anything to go by Terra-Man will have that classic element of silliness combined with an edge of maturity informed by all the growth and development made by writers like Byrne over the past twenty years. Like Superman himself, the best of both worlds.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Ten Facts About Superman That You Never Knew

Here are some Super-facts that you may not be aware of.

1) Superman is a fan of '80s pop sensations 'Was Not Was'.

2) Superman is legally ordained to perform wedding ceremonies 'twixt man and ape.

3) Superman enjoys being sarcastic to world leaders.

4) Despite having once saved the universe by singing (this is true), Superman is not a gifted performer.

5) Superman is a tool of the cereal industry.

6) Never mind Batman, Spider-Man or Muhammad Ali. Superman has fought He-Man! (This is so cool!!!)

7) Superman hates going to the dentist.

8) Despite owning several super powered robots, Superman does his own hoovering.

9) Middle aged Superman looks a bit like middle aged Morrissey.

10) And finally, Superman has done porn! (It's true! Action Comics 593 if you don't believe me!)

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

S4C is Rubbish!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that Welsh language telly is rubbish. Take the Eisteddfod for example. I've seen several attempts by Welsh youth TV to dress the Eisteddfod up as a sort of Glastonbury-esque festival of coolness, but it remains what it always was. Old men in dresses taking themselves far too seriously while young people with horrible fixed rictus grins spout poetry that they don't understand.
As for the rest of Welsh language telly, don't get me started. Aging 'comedians' doing stand up routines about bus passes for their ancient audiences! Crappy rip offs of crappy English programmes that are even crappier than the crappy programmes they're ripping off! Pobl Y piggin' Cwm! The thing that bugs me most about Welsh language telly though is their inexplicable obsession with Teddy Boys.
When I was a lad I was occasionally forced by my teachers to watch Welsh kids programmes as homework. Watching Welsh dubbed episodes of the Smurfs and Voltron wasn't so bad, but what I really objected to was being forced to watch the antics of our very own Timmy Mallet, Jiw! Jiw! Jeifin Jenkins. Jenkins was a teddy boy who got up to all sorts of 'hilarious' hi-jinks. He was often accompanied by a fat teddy boy played by Fatty Lewis out of Twin Town. As a young boy growing up in Wales in the eighties, why the flip was I expected to appreciate and identify with this ridiculous stereotype from a bygone era. You can just imagine the S4C meeting.....

"Hey its 1987, what are the kids into these days?"

"Well, kids liked rock and roll when I was young, I can't imagine times have changed that much. Anyway I've got this killer bus pass routine to run past you."

The sad thing is that teddy boys still dominate S4C's line-up. Brian Hibbard is still in bloody everything, steadfastly refusing to change his 1950's haircut no matter what the role requires and Bryn Fon is still boring everyone to death with his bland, generic 'roc a rol' music. I'm pretty sure there's even a teddy boy sheep in Meeees for God's sake! WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE TEDDY BOYS!!!!?????
S4C has recently gone absolutely beyond parody. It's as if the whole line up of programming is one big sketch from some idiotic BBC4 comedy. I present to you Exhibit A. Fferm Ffactor. That's right, you read that correctly. Fferm Ffactor. That's X-Factor for farmers. There's nothing I can add to that. A lazy rip-off of an English language format with farmers added in to the mix. That sums up S4C for you. It's as if the controllers of S4C were deliberately trying to make the channel as piss-poor as possible in some Mel Brooks-ian scam to sabotage the channel and abscond with the money. However I suspect the truth is that their hands are tied. If they put on anything that has the slightest whiff of originality or quality then they risk alienating their core audience of farmers and primary school teachers. And, of course Teddy Boys.


Looking back on this post, the tone is disrespectful and flippant, so I'm sorry about that. My views have softened somewhat in the past few years, especially now that I'm living away from Wales and miss it terribly.

I still stand by some of my views regarding the quality of Welsh language telly, particularly the S4C I grew up with in the '80s & 90s, which I think was very poor. I also think the Eisteddfod could do a bit more to extend to other Welsh people that feeling of excitement and community that I'm told regular visitors experience.

But I should have made clear that I am in no way against the idea of Welsh language TV or the Eisteddfod.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

God is ill!

Morrissey is in hospital! Get well soon you wonderful bloody genius.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Lex Luthor has Sex with the Parasite!

If you're a Superman fan chances are you've heard of Grant Morrison, Tom Peyer, Mark Millar and Mark Waid's failed Superman 2000 pitch. By the late '90s DC were looking for a new direction for the Superman books and along came the aforementioned gentlemen with a mind blowing pitch. For the full details of the pitch I recommend the blogs of Timothy Callaghan and Chad Nevett, but the pitch basically amounted to a return to Silver Age greatness for the character. The emphasis would have been taken off '90s style soap opera, his marriage to Lois would have been wiped out and Lexcorp would have only represented a tiny fraction of Lex Luthor's criminal plots. Superman's powers would have been amped back up to planet juggling levels and we would have seen more of an aloof alien and less of the regular Joe that John Byrne had introduced us to.

Ultimately the pitch was rejected and Morrison wound up using loads of the Superman 2000 ideas in his brilliant All Star Superman series. DC played it safe with a slightly-less-new direction helmed by Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, Joe Casey and Mark Schultz. Superman was still married to Lois, Luthor was still a corrupt businessman and crazy, off-the-wall Silver Age style Super concepts took a back seat to the usual soap-operatics. The biggest development of this era was Lex Luthor getting voted President of the United States. This was a brilliant idea that, in my opinion, got swallowed up in the sprawling mess that was Our Worlds at War, a massive alien invasion crossover stemming from the Super-books. I own the two trade paperback collections of this story and I've read them at least four times but I'm buggered if I can remember what happens in them. The story jumps around all over the place until eventually Superman has a big punch up in space. I think Wonder Woman's mum kicks the bucket and there's some sweet Mike Wieringo art at some point, and that's it. Trust me, it's not good.

With all this in mind you might think the only logical course of action for a Superman fan would be to shake your fist at the heavens and curse God that you weren't born in a parallel universe where the brilliant ideas and concepts of the Superman 2000 pitch weren't just limited to All Star Superman and Waid, Morrison, Millar and Peyer had been given free reign over Kal El's fate. That's exactly what I was doing until the other day when I suddenly remembered that before Our Worlds At War, Loeb, Kelly, Schultz and Casey's run was pretty bloody great. I was struck by this realisation when, on a whim, I purchased a couple of trade paperback collections of their run and remembered that when I originally read these stories over ten years ago, before I knew anything about Superman 2000, I had really, really enjoyed them. The two trades were 'Til Death Do Us Part and Critical Condition and I heartily recommend them to any Superman fans.Here's the plot. Spoilers ahead. In 'Til Death Do Us Part the Kent/Lane marriage is on the rocks and Clark's sleeping on the couch. Clark spends a lot of time avoiding his problems in Smallville, during which time he does a little bonding on the Kent farm with his young clone, Superboy. Eventually he begins desperately trying to build bridges with Lois but her bitchy behaviour continues unabashed, and culminates with a late night liason with (gasp!) Lex Luthor! While this marital strife unfolds Superman's also coming down with a nasty cold which has the unexplained side effect of rendering him unable to shave. It turns out in the end that Lois has been replaced by the shape-shifting Parasite who has a big punch up with Supes and eventually dies of whatever mysterious ailment is plaguing Superman.

Yes. You read that right. Lex Luthor has sex with the Parasite!!!!!!

The awesomeness continues in the next book Critical Condition. Superman is frantically searching for the real Lois, all the while fighting his ever worsening mystery sickness. Meanwhile Luthor has his Amazonian, ninja sidekicks, Hope and Mercy also searching for Lois, all in a bid to distract him from the grief of having traded his infant daughter to Brainiac in exchange for control over the futuristic technology that has swept over Metroplois. This chapter of the story has a lovely/gross bit where Hope and Mercy convince a Lexcop scientist that he is mistaken in his discovery of Luthor DNA in the corpse of the Parasite. Ewwww! Luthor spunk! Eventually Superman enlists the aid of his pal, Batman in the search for Lois and there's some truly touching scenes between the two heroes....

Superman (green and knackered): "Bruce...Lois is...Lois is..."

Batman (picking up his friend and supporting his weight):
"I know. Don't worry. We'll find her."

Awwww, it's like Sam and Frodo.

Superman objects to Batman referring to Lois as the victim until Batman explains the reason for his aloofness during a case.

Batman (in an angry whisper): "The wet pulp sprayed across immaculate marble stairs is an abstract puzzle to cracked. It cannot be a 52 year old lawyer who picked the wrong night to be brave....A bruised body no bigger than my forearm cannot be a child....You can't do what I do and see people. Not while the case is open. Never. Because if they are, I can't see anything else. Only when the case is closed are they honored, mourned, reviled. Only then are they people. Do you understand?"

It's great stuff as you can see. The bit where they find Lois is even more touching. Batman slumps into a corner, thanking God in relief, and Superman falls into Lois' arms telling her he never doubted that Batman would find her and that she's beautiful, before slipping into a death-like coma.

There then follows a four part story where Superboy, Supergirl and Steel get shrunk down by the Atom and sent into Superman's body to seek out and destroy the Kryptonite nano-bot that's causing all the bother. The 'Fantastic Voyage' storyline is a sci-fi cliche but it's a highly enjoyable and entertaining one that I never get sick of. Just look at 'Inner Space' or the episode of The Brave and the Bold cartoon entitled 'Journey to the Centre of the Bat!'. It's a cliche, but a good 'un. The star of this story is Superboy, who bravely hides the fact that he has lost his powers in order to be chosen for this journey into Superman's guts. He's the one who manages to clobber the nano-bot with a dirty great big laser gun and is prepared to use that gun to sacrifice himself rather than be a danger to Superman when he re-grows to normal size. This story is proof that Superboy was a great character even before Geoff Johns got a hold of him in 'Teen Titans' and 'Adventure Comics'. As if that all didn't sound awesome enough, Deathstroke the Terminator is in it too!

I'm so glad I picked up these two trades. As a comics fan it's easy to grumble that comics aren't how they should be and they should have done this or they should have done that. These two trades reminded me that as great as Superman 2000 would have been, what we got was pretty great too. Who knows, in some parallel universe there may be some disgruntled fan complaining that, yeah, Superman 2000 was okay, but Loeb, Kelly, Schultz and Casey would have had Luthor shagging the Parasite.

Monday, 12 October 2009

I love this truculent old bugger with all my heart.

Nothing to say about comics today. I've had a very angst filled week and as a result spent Saturday night getting reacquainted with the only thing in life worth caring about besides comics, Morrissey. Here's the great man on Top of the Pops performing a track from his 1997 album Maladjusted and clearly being the best thing the '90s have ever seen. Along with Southpaw Grammar, Maladjusted is among the Moz albums that everyone either forgets about or takes the piss out of. They are both very much the "Aquaman" of Morrissey albums, massively misunderstood and massively underrated. Both of these albums were re-released this year. Alas, Aquaman only returned in zombie form.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Madam Fatal Returns

Imagine the following as a movie pitch. An actor's daughter is kidnapped by a crime boss, an incident that leads to the death of the actor's wife. The actor uses his acting talents to infiltrate a community ruled by the crime boss responsible. The actor spends eight years becoming a part of the community and he's never discovered because he's disguised as an old lady! Eventually the actor manages to get close enough to the boss to force a confrontation, a confrontation that leads to the death of the boss before he can reveal the whereabouts of the missing daughter. The actor therefore decides to continue his gender-bending charade to fight crime and injustice until the day he finds his daughter. Also, the actor owns a Shakespeare quoting parrot called Hamlet. I don't know about you but if this was a film I'd watch it!

This was the plot of the first appearance of Madam Fatal, the world's first cross dressing superhero. Fatal debuted in Crack Comics #1 in May, 1940 and lasted all the way until issue 22 in March, 1942. DC Comics acquired the rights to the character but so far have only made reference to the character twice. Needless to say Fatal has failed to set the comics world on fire, although I'm at a loss to see why not. Type the characters name into Google and you'll find a plethora of bloggers and internet wits taking the piss.
But to me it's comic book gold. Superheroes in capes and tights are ten a penny. In a medium dominated by characters that, let's face it, can be kind of same-y, it's a shame that when a character comes along that's truly unique all we can do is mock.

Madam Fatal's foes constantly underestimated the seemingly feeble old biddy they saw before them. As a result they were constantly taken by surprise when Fatal used the full force of a man in the peak of physical perfection to twat them with her cane.
Don't get me wrong, the original Quality Comics stories don't exactly stand up alongside Maus or Watchmen. But I feel there's a lot of potential in the character that has never been fully exploited. All that may change in the future of course. James Robinson is the acclaimed writer of DC's The Golden Age and Starman, the current writer of Justice League of America and the author of the only two DC references to Fatal. I recently implored Mr Robinson through the medium of Twitter to bring the character back. He was kind enough to reply and assured me that "I do have plans for him/her. Bear with me." Hardly the comic book scoop of the century but it made me happy and Madam Fatal's return is something that I'm looking forward to reading.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Superman: Secret Origin. An Origin too far?

Be warned, this post contains potential spoilers for the first issue of Superman: Secret Origin.

If you're a superhero comics fan and you're not reading Superman: Secret Origin, sort it out! Every time I see this series mentioned on the web I notice that there's always someone complaining "Oh no, not another Superman Origin revamp, Superman continuity is a mess blah, blah, moan, moan, bitch, bitch". I never got the "mess" accusation. DC could put out a new Superman origin every year for the next 100 years and everyone of them would involve Krypton exploding, raised by the Kents, going to Metropolis and meeting Lois Lane etc, etc. DC will never reveal that Superman is really a reincarnated Egyptian Prince or the son of an Ancient Wizard. You want messy origins, try being a Hawkman or an Aquaman fan. As for the accusation that there's too many origin stories, how many is too many? Because in fact, while Supes' origin is perhaps the most retold origin in comics, there have only been two other official origin revamps in the past quarter of a century, Man of Steel and Rebirth.

Man of Steel by John Byrne is one of the reasons that I'm such a big Superman fan. Before reading it I preferred Batman and always thought that Superman was a bit of a pompous douche-bag. Byrne trimmed down Superman's power level and emphasized the importance of the Clark Kent side of his personality. At that point in my life I don't think I had ever read a version of Superman that was so easy to identify with. However despite it's awesomeness it's worth remembering that Man of Steel came out in 1986, 23 years ago. There's as much time between Secret Origin and Man of Steel as there is between Man of Steel and this version of Superman....

My point is, as great as Man of Steel is, a lot of time has passed since then. What's wrong with updating the myth a little bit?

Which is what happened in 2003 with Superman: Birthright. There's a lot to admire about Mark Waid's version of the origin. Interesting Silver Age aspects such as Lex Luthor's childhood in Smallville are placed back in continuity while new additions to the myth are added as well. For example, Superman has a new power, a sort of soul vision. This ability to see the life literally leaving a dying body led to Superman's decision to become a vegetarian. Familiar characters are given intriguing twists. For example, Pa Kent is initially resentful of Clark's developing powers, feeling that they are driving a wedge between him and his son.

As entertaining as this origin is however it never seemed to take. Perhaps it was because of the lack of appropriate advertising. When the first issue came out it seemed to come out of nowhere. DC dropped Birthright on us without commenting on whether it was "official canon" or not. This was later confirmed by Waid nine months after the first issue came out. Personally, it was Lenil F. Yu's art that prevented me from warming to the series. While it is very pretty to look at I feel it is inappropriate for Superman. It's too dark in tone and lacks that iconic, timeless feel of Byrne's art. This is no more evident than on the cover of the first issue where Superman is drawn without pupils in his eyes. This happens a lot with Yu's Superman, it pops up once again on the cover of the trade paperback. While removing the pupils from Superman's eyes can be a most effective image when drawing angry Superman, generally speaking he has lovely big blues that radiate kindness. Batman has eerie white slits.

Which brings us then to the latest attempt, Geoff Johns' and Gary Frank's Secret Origin. Rather than dump this one on our lap DC have wisely spent the past four years weaving the changes wrought by this origin into continuity and teasing fans as to what this new origin might involve. The answer is, it involves everything great about the origin from the past 70 years. Only one issue has come out so far and it has timeless classic written all over it. It contains aspects of Man of Steel and Birthright, for example the way Byrne let Lana Lang in on the secret and the way Waid returned young Luthor to Smallville. It contains aspects of the Silver Age, for example Clark's indestructible glasses and Superman's indestructible costume. It brings it's own fantastic touches to the myth, Clark flies for the first time rescuing Lana from a tornado.

Frank's art is clean, clear, timeless and iconic, just as it should be. A lot of people have complained about his Superman looking like Christopher Reeve but I say, who the hell else are you gonna make him look like? Dean bloody Cain?! In short, Secret Origin is shaping up to be an origin story that will endure, hopefully even longer than 23 years.