Monday, 19 April 2010

Superman Vs. Morrissey

A T-shirt featuring this image can be purchased here, at

Because you demanded it! The team up of the century! The ultimate American icon meets the ultimate British icon! Who will triumph?

The original cover is Action Comics #454 (1975) and is by Bob Oksner.  Morrissey and Sandie Shaw are by me.

Update: For similar (but better) Photoshop shenanigans check out The Brave and the Bold: The Lost Issues. Now this is a guy who knows his way around Photoshop and comics a lot better than I do.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Will Self can't spell Aquaman

I have an anecdote that I often bore people to death with involving writer and intellectual Will Self and Aquaman. Now Self may think he's very clever with his award winning novels and his newspaper columns, but I know for a fact that he can't spell the name of our favourite underwater monarch.

About ten years ago he was doing a performance novella in a gallery in Soho. This involved him sitting in the middle of a white room on a raised platform typing a story based on the people who came to see him. Everything he typed into his laptop was visible on a screen. The novella was then published in the Observer. He wasn't allowed to speak to anyone or make eye contact. At the end of it he asked everyone in the room (through typing rather than speaking) one by one what our hopes and fears were. He typed everyone's answers down as they sp
oke. Everyone was trying particularly hard to sound as clever as they could. Most people claimed they were hopeful for world peace. One gentleman claimed he was "fearful for the death of the novel as a medium." Yeah, I'm sure that was really keeping him up at night. I was racking my brains to try and think of something clever and worthy but I'm afraid the only thing I could think of was "I'm fearful 'cos my favourite comic, Aquaman is being cancelled." Dan Jurgens was writing it at the time and I was really enjoying his run. As Self typed my words he spelt Aquaman with a hyphen so I corrected him. As a result I didn't just look like moronic philistine in front of a room full of arty, intellectual Londoners, I looked like a pedantic, moronic philistine. What can I say, I'm even worse when people leave the hyphen out of Spider-Man. I may have looked like a tit , but on the other hand not many people can say they've publicly corrected Will Self's spelling of the word Aquaman.

Does anyone else out there have any stories relating to famous authors and intellectuals and their superhero ignorance? Maybe one of you has explained the Clone Saga to Salman Rushdie or helped Margaret Atwood brush up on her Hawkman continuity. Maybe Noam Chomsky needed you to tell him why the Hulk is sometimes a different colour? Let's hear about it.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Hurray for Doctor Who and Iron Man!

This past week I've had two immensely pleasurable (non-sexually related) experiences. The first was experiencing Matt Smith's interpretation of the eleventh incarnation of Doctor Who. Smith absolutely nailed the Doctor straight away. He did the eccentric wierdo aspect of the character beautifully, but what impressed me most of all was the way he did the whole inspiring-humans-to-reach-their-full-potential bit. Now, I love David Tennant and I thoroughly enjoyed his entire run as the Tenth Doctor, but I have to say that very occasionally, sometimes, once in a while, he got on my tits. Whenever he started with his "human beings, aren't you brilliant" stuff he couldn't seem to help but sound at least a little condescending and smug. This was countered by about a million positive attributes that he brought to the character, but whenever his voice went all high pitched and he acted like he was giving the human race a collective ruffle of the hair I did sometimes want to give him a slap. During Saturday's The Eleventh Hour the Doctor had to inspire a man he'd just caught looking at porn to confer with a group of international boffins and save the world. This could so easily have come across as another example of the Doctor being a patronising git but I'm happy to say that it didn't. I don't know how he did it but Smith managed to inspire the would be wanker without sounding like a conceited arse. I don't want to sound like I hated Tennant's performance, he was a great Doctor in many ways. But with a first episode performance as groin grabbingly good as Smith's, comparisons are unavoidable. Take me Matt, I'm yours!

The next immensely pleasurable, yet non sexual experience I had this week was reading Matt Fraction's entire run to date of Invincible Iron Man. I've greatly respected everything Marvel have been doing with Tony Stark since Civil War, and I concede that it's all totally in character. I also concede that Civil War is one of the greatest crossover events ever in that it was written fantastically well, drawn fantastically well and unlike many crossovers, actually made good on its promise and changed everything in the Marvel Universe. Well, for a few years at least. But all of this couldn't disguise the fact that Stark was being written as a bit of a bastard. I could totally see where the character was coming from but nevertheless I didn't really enjoy reading about him.

Well, nothing redeems a character like having the complete crap kicked out of him for 24 issues, and that's exactly what Fraction's run delivers, in a very entertaining way. First Stark battles Ezekiel Stane, the son of his arch-enemy Obadiah Stane. Then we see him on the run as Norman "Green Goblin" Osborn nicks his job and makes Tony a wanted fugitive. As well as allowing us to see Stark face the consequences of his actions, this new underdog status also allows Stark's cunning, resourceful side to shine. When the whole world's out to get a man, that's when we really see the cut of his jib! There's also plenty of good old fashioned nostlagic fan wank. Stark unleashes a computer virus into his own brain to prevent Osborn getting his secrets and as the virus destroys his intellect he has to downgrade through his old armours. It's like a trip down memory lane, except there's a lobotomy waiting at the end of memory lane.

It really is a very good read and I recommend it to all. And now in honour of the Golden Avenger, let's remind ourselves of all the things that Tony Stark is able to build, in a cave, with a box of scraps.....

Friday, 2 April 2010

Blackest Night and Zero Hour: Which Is Best? (Spoilers)

In 1994 DC Comics' big summer crossover event was Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. At the time I was around thirteen and my comic intake consisted of British reprints that were at least two years behind the American books. For the most part Batman Monthly, Adventures of Superman and Exploits of Spider-Man were my only windows into the DC and Marvel Universes. If I was growing up now I'd be treating myself to spoilers galore on the internet, but back in those days glimpses of the American titles on rare trips to Forbidden Planet in Cardiff were the only indications I had of what adventures awaited my heroes. As a result when I bought the Zero Hour trade paperback I had no idea quite how much it would suck.

Parallax clobbers Superman in Zero Hour 3

Before I begin my rant I must say that Zero Hour does have some redeeming features. The Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway art is top notch and the final chapter is very good. While the decision to turn Hal "Green Lantern" Jordan into the evil Parallax was a controversial one, it's difficult to deny that when Superman, Green Arrow and the rest see what's become of their former friend and then engage him in battle at the beginning of time, it really is very entertaining stuff. It's just a shame that everything preceding the final battle is mostly impenetrable. You see, until it reached its final chapter Zero Hour wasn't a story, it was a series of panels showing us what was happening in every DC title that tied into Zero Hour. As a result, instead of a coherent narrative we get the arse end of Flash's battle with Abra Kadabra, followed by Hawkman's battle with some Hawk god, followed by the Legion of Superheroes (accompanied inexplicably by younger versions of themselves) spouting exposition before dying, followed by...well, you get the idea.


This brings me to DC Comics’ latest big event crossover, Blackest Night. Writer Geoff Johns has done a fantastic job. The book features great characterisation and generously gives underused characters like Atom and Mera some of the best lines. Dead heroes and villains coming back as power ring wielding zombies was a great idea. It's not just fun to read, it's fun to think about and discuss with your friends online and in the comic shop. Will (insert favourite deceased character here) come back? And if so what will (insert loved one of said character here) make of that? Will they come back for good? These are fun conversations to have. The art by Ivan Reis is also amazing. Reis skips from intimate moments to gory zombie action to cosmic space wars and he makes it all look absolutely gorgeous. But that's not what makes Blackest Night one of the best DC Comics crossover events ever.

The multi-coloured Corps prepare to kick undead ass

Like Zero Hour and the other crossover events of my youth, Blackest Night ties into about a million other books. What makes it so brilliant however, and sets it apart from the crossovers of the late 'eighties/early 'nineties, is that despite the tie-ins it still manages to be utterly accessible to the casual reader. Geoff Johns has been laying the foundations for the story since he started Green Lantern: Rebirth in 2004. It has its roots in an old Alan Moore Green Lantern story from 1986 and draws on decades of DC Comics history and character development. It spun off into several miniseries and one shots focusing on individual characters and was tied very closely to the events occurring concurrently in Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. Despite this, if my thirteen year old self were to pick up Blackest Night he would have no problem figuring out exactly what was going on. Johns has a gift for referencing decades of comics continuity and yet at the same time distilling everything down to what we need to know to enjoy the story. Johns weaves exposition seamlessly into the dialogue, making it sound like poetry on one page and then on the next page, like Hollywood tough guy talk. You're all caught up on decades of DC lore within two pages of his comics, and you don't even realise it.

Flash gives a pep talk in Blackest Night 4
Damn straight!

That's not to say that the tie-ins were pointless. For example, the events unfolding in Green Lantern managed to expand on and enhance the story while saving the big reveals and revelations for the main book. I don't follow Green Lantern Corps due to lack of cash. From what I understand though it featured some dramatic Blackest Night related events, including one character dying and then coming back and another temporarily becoming a Red Lantern. While I feel I would have had further insight into certain characters and events if I had been reading it, I don't feel like I've missed out on some big revelation that I needed to read about in order to properly understand the full story. Okay, I'll admit that most of the other tie-ins were just big zombie punch ups, but since when has that been a bad thing?

There are of course those who haven't enjoyed Blackest Night. To all those critics out there I would urge you to read or even re-read Zero Hour and then give Blackest Night a second chance. It might not seem so bad in comparison. But don't read the 1988 crossover event Millennium. That one really is TOO awful, and it may put you off superheroes for life. At the very least Zero Hour gave us the brilliant Starman. Millennium gave us Extrano, the gay wizard who was given AIDS by a goblin.

The Amazing Extrano!

Of course Blackest Night has given us (among other things) a resurrected Aquaman! Hurray! Let's finish with a look at the King of the Sea being awesome in Blackest Night #8......