Friday, February 28, 2014

TV's New Flash


Doug: Sheesh! It's like a Postapalooza around here today!

Doug: Entertainment Weekly has the first photo of the Flash costume (well, kinda) as well as a brief article. What sayest thou?

Galactus vs. Joe Biden

Karen: OK, the title of this post is a bit mis-leading. But I did have a very unusual experience this morning. My husband and I had the day off, and decided to go have brunch at our favorite breakfast restaurant. We got to the place and saw it surrounded by police and were concerned, then we saw a whole herd of SUVs and secret service. We soon realized there had to be someone pretty important inside. As we approached the entrance, we were searched before we could go in. We soon discovered that Vice-President Joe Biden was inside!

Karen: We sat in a booth about 15 feet away from Biden. He was meeting with a group of women. They appeared to have been there awhile. We ordered, ate, and had just finished when he got up to leave. We hoped to get a couple of good pictures of the VP. But Biden being so outgoing, he went around and shook hands with folks and spoke to them. When he got to our booth he shook my husband Tom's hand, and asked his name, then said, "Do you still play?" which of course gave my hubby a big thrill. Then he shook my hand and I said it was an honor to meet him. He saw the iPhone in my other hand and grabbed it, gave it to his aide, and then put his arm around me, and bang! We got a photo with him! It was such a surreal moment. I hate to admit I was star-struck, but I was. What a totally unexpected event! 

Karen: I shared the photo with Doug and he pointed out that Galactus' big noggin is sticking out on my shirt. So this might be the only time ever you had the VP and the Devourer of Worlds in a photo together!

Love Rollercoaster

Doug: No Ohio Players in this post, kids. But, we often discuss artists who have hit high notes for us, and then we have noted periods of decline when those same artists fell out of our favor. Worth mentioning would be Don Heck, Carmine Infantino, and even John Byrne. Today we'd like to throw this open to our readers with the opportunity for you to talk about the rise and fall, and maybe rise again of particular artists. Shoot, depending on who you want to discuss, this may even go fall, rise, then fall!

Doug: I may have mentioned that I've pre-ordered the next installment in DC's hardcover series dedicated to specific creators who've left their mark on the Dark Knight. Carmine Infantino's fete is due out in June, and to be honest I am quite looking forward to it. Back in 1989 (I'm sure I've also told this story a time or three) I got a steal of a deal at a flea market -- a longbox stuffed with Batman comics from the Silver and Bronze Ages for only $35. The box contained a who's-who of Caped Crusader creators, with many stories by Neal Adams, Don Heck, Frank Robbins, Jim Aparo, and of course Carmine Infantino. Those "new look" stories from the mid-60s hold a special charm as Carmine sought to bring an updated feel to the Batman mythos while not crushing the silliness of those immediate years prior. That being said, I am among the many who've remarked that Carmine's work at Marvel in the mid-70s was a real downer.

Doug: Similarly, I've said how much I've continued to enjoy Don Heck's turns on Iron Man and the Avengers in the Silver Age, but how dreadful I found his work in the high Bronze Age. Unfortunately, to this guy's eye, the Dashing One never "got it back".

Doug: Think of the first time you saw George Perez. For me, that would have been in Avengers #141, inked by Vinnie Colletta. While he was an upgrade from George Tuska's work on the previous few issues, this wasn't the George Perez we'd love only many months later once under the line of inkers like Joe Sinnott. From there Perez really took off and grew as an artist and storyteller exponentially.

Doug: So here's the drill for today -- we're looking for the rollercoaster ride that is/was particular artist's careers. Pick an artist and tell of your opinion the first time you saw his or her work and then other times when (for you) it was better or worse -- and this doesn't have to be chronological by the date of publication; it's your discovery of said artist. Was it the inker's influence? I'll say that while I love the 3-part Count Nefaria story in Avengers #'s 164-166, I wish Byrne had been inked by someone other than Pablo Marcos. Was it the artist's age that might have contributed to a perceived period of decline? Was it your age as a factor? Or, do you think that stories you love may have been the result of a herculean effort, while stories you didn't care for may have been rushed or without much enthusiasm? What we aren't looking for today are rip jobs on particular creators... we truly want you to celebrate those times that scored, while giving a constructive opinion on those times that for you, flopped.  Thanks in advance!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Discuss: Greatest Hits Albums That, Well... Weren't

Doug:  Does anyone besides me think it's difficult to buy a greatest hits album that is, at least in your opinion, a true greatest hits album?  Today name some you've purchased that you loved, and some you felt were lacking.  This of course precludes "do-it-yourselfers" that you've crafted from mp3s in the past several years.  We're talking hard plastic and celluloid today, kids!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cosmic Odyssey Part Two: Hubris and Failure

Cosmic Odyssey #2 (1988)
"Book Two: Disaster"
Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Mike Mignola
Inker: Carlos Garzon

Karen: In the first issue, the cast was assembled. Now, the different teams have been sent to their respective planets in order to trap the "Aspects" of the Anti-Life Equation entity that have infiltrated into the universe. These Aspects, according to Darkseid's calculations, will attempt to destroy these planets. If any two of them are obliterated, the entire Milky Way galaxy will collapse, and weaken our universe enough so that the Anti-Life Equation entity can enter it. Got it? Good, let's go.

Karen: A comment on the art before we move along. When I was a kid, I used to check How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way out of the library all the time. For the would-be comics artist, John Buscema provided the fundamentals of figure drawing: circles, ovals, and graceful curves. When I look at Mike Mignola's art in this comic, I feel like if he drew the instructional art for a text book, it would be filled with rectangles and squares and hard, straight lines. Really, the characters are all so blocky. It takes some getting used to. 

Karen: The first team we see is the pairing of Superman and Orion on the planet of Thanagar, the homeworld of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (Hawkwoman?). Where they have arrived looks something like Utah, with a desert and buttes in the distance. The thanagarians come flying towards them, and Orion predicts they are being mind-controlled by the Aspect, and will attack immediately. He's absolutely right, as the winged warriors swoop in, wielding axes, maces, and other charming weapons. Superman and Orion handle them fairly easily, and we begin to see the seeds of some conflict between the two, as Superman suggests to Orion that as the Thanagarians aren't their real enemy and not responsible for their actions, they should try to do as little harm as possible. Orion just stares at him and says nothing. He is, after all, the son of Darkseid. You know this is not going to go well. 

Karen: On the planet Xanshi, Green Lantern John Stewart and J'Onn J'Onzz, the Martian Manhunter, discuss how to proceed. Stewart suggests they head into a large city, to see if they detect the Aspect's presence. They do indeed -in the form of a plague. They encounter a scientist in the street who was working on a cure and Stewart uses his ring to miraculously synthesize a compound for him. This is the first of many problems that Stewart resolves rather easily by using his power ring. The ring also helps them figure out the Aspect's location -a weather control station in the arctic.

Karen: Team three checks in from Earth, and the batcave. Batman leads his ally, Forager, inside his secret lair. The detective asks about Orion's nasty remarks towards Forager before they left New Genesis. Forager explains that although he is a New God, he was raised by a "deviant" race called the Insect Legion, a people that are known derisively as 'bugs.' And Orion's not the only one with this prejudice -others on New Genesis share his feelings. Batman gruffly says that he finds those attitudes "stupid," and then moves on to their task. He's been taking the reports of the other teams and feeding them into his computer. He says it's obvious that the Aspects are utilizing the most powerful force on each of the planets it has occupied. Forager immediately assumes this means the Aspect on Earth will grab the worlds' nuclear arsenals, but Batman says no. He believes it will go for computers.

Karen: Our last team is Starfire and Lightray, and they are on the planet Rann -you might have heard of it. They discover chaos in the streets -the people have all apparently gone mad and are attacking one another. They fly to what appears to be a seat of government and there find Adam Strange, with his wife and father-in-law tied up before him. Strange demands answers from the twosome, which are delivered off-panel. Convinced, he agrees to help them search for the Aspect. He even thinks he knows where it is: at an automated manufacturing center outside the city. They fly off to check it out. 

Karen: Back at the power center of New Genesis, Darkseid and Highfather try to convince Jason Blood that he must rejoin with Etrigan the Demon in order to save the universe. I admit, I was as puzzled as Blood as to why the Demon, a character of mystical origins, should be involved in this storyline. Darkseid says that the Anti-Life Entity (let's just call it A.L.E., all right?) is attempting to find a way into our universe and that the Barrier between our universe and its universe has been weakened, so it may  breach it regardless of whether or not the Aspects succeed. This barrier has to be reinforced, and the Demon, being an elemental being, is connected to "the limitless resources of pure nature." Darkseid apparently intends the Demon to be some sort of living conduit that he will manipulate to strengthen the barrier. Since I never read The Demon, I have no idea if this really makes any sense or not. Whenever I saw the character as a guest star in books, he never came across as being very powerful. It feels to me like an excuse to work another Kirby character into the story. But since I don't really know that much about the character I suppose I'll just go with it. Blood is finally persuaded as well, and says he'll do it. Highfather seems all-too-willing to go along with Drakseid's plan.

Karen: Back on Thanagar, Superman and Orion once again face down hordes of Thanagarians, in a two-page sequence that does absolutely nothing to move their part of the story forward. Honestly, I have no idea why it was included other than to pad things out a little.

Karen: The meat of the story is back on Xanshi, as the two Johns, John and J'Onn, fly towards the weather station. They are harassed by storms and what John calls a hurricane, although it looks like a tornado. Stewart is taking everything far too lightly; he ignores J'Onn's warning and zips around the tornado, but when he does, a lightning bolt comes down and hits J'Onn. The bolt destroys the device he was carrying to catch the Aspect, but again, Stewart whips up a replacement with his all-powerful ring. Really, could the the power ring just make objects out of thin air like this? I thought the constructs they made were always temporary. Anyway, Stewart projects a force cube around the two of them as they venture further in to the storm and closer to their quarry.

Karen: Back on Earth, Batman has given Forager a make-over by turning his red and white suit red and black, since they'll be working at night.  Batman has discovered that some specialized scientific instruments have been shipped to a location in Moosejaw, Arizona -and the recipient is Joe Bester, the policeman who died down in the tunnels with the alien flesh-eater in the first issue!

Karen: Back on Rann, our trio discovers a gigantic bomb, which Lightray describes as a doomsday bomb, "thousands of times more powerful than any of Earth's hydrogen bombs," and which will ultimately send the planet out of orbit and colliding into its sun. What? Yes, OK, go with it. They decide to look for the Aspect in the factory and Strange is quickly knocked out by something in a tunnel. Starfire and Lightray come running but find nothing. They don't notice a black goo on the ventilation grate...

Karen: Things are heating up on Xanshi -quite explosively, as the Aspect causes volcanic eruptions directly below Stewart and J'Onzz. The Lantern's ring protects both of them from the flames and molten rock. This sense of invincibility though, leads Stewart to make a terrible decision. He feels like J'Onzz will only slow him down, so he puts him inside a protective force sphere and flies off alone to deal with the Aspect. Again, as a more casual DC reader, I have to ask: was this the first time that John Stewart was depicted as being arrogant and overconfident? Was this done just to serve this story? If so, I can only imagine how fans of the character must have felt, seeing him act like an utter jerk here. Actually, 'jerk' isn't a strong enough word, but we try to keep it PG around here. Stewart flies off leaving the Manhunter behind, prophetically warning him that he's relying too much on his ring to save the day. But the Lantern is so full of himself, he goes in, proclaiming to anyone in earshot, that the Aspect is in "big trouble," because now he's facing a 'former member ' of the Green Lantern corps (I guess they were disbanded at this point, based on things previously said). In any case, Stewart talks more trash than Seahawk Richard Sherman, proclaiming there's nothing he can't do just as he enters the weather station to encounter - a huge bomb painted bright yellow. The power ring's vulnerability to anything yellow always seemed incredibly stupid, and this full page shot seems to magnify the ridiculousness of it all. What makes it worse is there's a strange man holding a paint brush standing right under the bomb. He looks nothing like the Xanshi people we've seen previously -if anything, he looks a lot like a stereotypical fanboy. Is it supposed to be Mignola? It's bizarre. We've no time to ponder that as the bomb has only 5 seconds til it explodes, and for once, Stewart has no idea what to do. It goes off, and over the course of seven pages, we see Xanshi and its people burn, and the planet itself become a chunk of anti-matter that seeks out its sun like a torpedo. The star explodes and causes massive devastation, but Stewart and J'Onzz both survive. Stewart cannot comprehend that he failed. J'Onzz has no sympathy for him. "Thanks to your arrogance and stupidity, I have now seen two worlds die. I will never forgive you for this." The issue ends with Jason Blood regretfully joining back with Etrigan the Demon, who is   regenerated from a pathetic shriveled creature to his former robust self.

Karen: I've been told that the events with John Stewart in this issue were used to shape the character for years to come. Perhaps this is the major legacy of the story -or not, considering how DC has rebooted their universe again and again. Does John Stewart still exist now? All in all, it was rather heavy-handed and if you didn't see his comeuppance on the horizon, you weren't paying attention. So far I can't say as the story has grabbed me. I'm somewhat intrigued by what will happen with Superman and Orion, and I enjoy seeing Batman play detective, but I have zero interest in the Lightray/Starfire team-up. Perhaps whatever Darkseid has planned with the Demon will be worthwhile. Right now I feel as though this story is still moving too slowly for my tastes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Karen: Sometimes you just really want a good old fashioned cheeseburger...

Karen: My current favorite is from the Famous Dave's barbecue chain -the Ultimate burger, with smoky cheddar cheese, bacon, and pulled pork piled high on top of a delicious brisket patty. But I also dig the tasty delights of Five Guys -the little bacon cheeseburger is fantastic.

Karen: Dive in gang -give your favorite burger some love today! I'm sure we're all going to be starving well before lunch time!

Monday, February 24, 2014

RIP Harold Ramis


Karen:  Ramis was a prolific screenwriter, director, and actor, and many of us grew up with his films, such as Animal House, Stripes, Meatballs, Caddyshack, and of course, Ghostbusters. Later on he would have great success with Groundhog Day. He was only 69 at his passing. The world is certainly poorer for his loss.

Enter: Moonstone -- Captain America 170

Captain America #170 (February 1974) (cover by Gil Kane and John Romita)
Steve Englehart/Mike Friedrich-Sal Buscema/Vince Colletta

Doug: Welcome back to the second issue in our romp through the "Secret Empire" storyline. You know, I'm just really at home when we're here in the mid-'70s. These stories are my personal "golden age" of comics, and even though I'm reading from the trade paperback you know I'd be all over the ads, letters page, Bullpen Bulletins -- the whole ball of wax. Pardon me while I wipe a tear from my eye...  OK. Enough of that sentimentality -- let's get on with it!

Karen: Aw, don't be ashamed -I'm right there with ya, partner! Let's go!

Doug: It's not so good for Cap as we open. If you'll recall the end of last issue, the Star-Spangled Avenger had been accused of murder, as a fellow we knew to be the Tumbler died in an altercation with Cap. This seems to us to be some sort of frame-up by the Committee to Regain America's Principles (C.R.A.P. to you, friend) and its leader, Quentin Harderman. Harderman's on the scene as the Tumbler falls, and instantly thrusts an accusing finger at our hero. Cap lurches toward Harderman and grabs him by the shirt, pulling him in close in a most-threatening way. The cops nearby take note and rush to the scene.  Now Cap's faced with a decision -- fight or flight! Overwhelmed by a sense of paranoia ("...what if they, too, are part of the set-up!"), he decides that escape is his best option. But even as he runs, Cap wonders what he's doing -- is this the sort of example Captain America should set? Is this the training that Steve Rogers received? He pauses at a lamp post, distraught over the events of the past days. Suddenly, Cap's struck down to his knees by a force. Groggily, he turns to face his attacker -- a huge, burly guy who shouts out his name: Moonstone!

Karen: Cap is acting most un-Cap-like! But he's in a situation he really hasn't been in before -one where he's adrift, uncertain who he can trust. And he too has lost the public's trust. It's disconcerting to see Cap so rattled, but I think a lot of that comes from seeing him so solidly in command years later on. And how about Moonstone? I thought Sal gave the villain a unique bulky look that was a lot of fun.

Doug: We're next treated to a dozen panels of the real reason we buy comics -- to see two grown super-powered beings beat the living snot out of each other! Problem is, this one's pretty one-sided, with Moonstone holding serve due in large part to the element of surprise. But we do get to see his powerset: super-strength, quicker than average, and the ability to shoot lasers from his fingertips.  Not too shabby.  As I said, Cap's pretty much on the ropes in this fight, but I did want to note one panel that seemed silly to me, and that's when Cap is launched toward a brick wall.  He says, "Got to... get my... shield around... Cushion the impact!"  OK, so his head didn't smack the wall; nope, instead it smacked his shield which went up against the wall.  Of course, this isn't as dumb as that panel somewhere in Daredevil when DD was falling to a rooftop and put his hand to the side of his face to cushion said blow.  Duh... Moonstone shows one more power before the scene ends -- the ability to disappear and reappear.  He uses this last trick to thoroughly befuddle Cap, and it's at that point that a laser blast fells ol' Winghead.  Shortly, Harderman's back in the spotlight, hailing Moonstone as the new hero of the people. And the crowd goes wild.


Karen: Even though Englehart didn't script this issue, you have to feel that he must have expressed to Friedrich how Harderman should talk; saying things like "evil must be purged by time honored American competition," thinking of the crowd as "consumers," and Moonstone as "stock" really gets across the corporate baddie mindset here.

Doug: You may also remember that last issue the Falcon had asked Cap to assist him in a power upgrade.  Sam had been experiencing feelings of inferiority during this period, as Cap had attained super-strength beyond the advantages the super-soldier serum had bestowed upon him back in the War. Cap had enlisted T'Challa, the Black Panther, at Falc's request. A Wakandan airship had arrived in Harlem to pick up Falc and his lady friend, Leila. Now we see them in Africa, in one of the Panther's high-tech computer labs. Leila immediately grates on my nerves, as does the writing of her speech patterns by authors Englehart and Friedrich. Did Falc really say, "I'm sorry, T'Challa -- this fox isn't known for her tact!" Oh, my...  Blaxploitation, indeed! It only gets worse (in my opinion) when T'Challa offers Leila the companionship of one of the "court hand maidens", Tanzika, to show her around the palace grounds while the men tried to figure out how to augment the Falcon's powers. "Court hand maiden"... should I hear "concubine"? After all, this set-up in Wakanda has all the hallmarks of a feudal, even medieval, society -- perhaps even a sense of imperial China inside the Forbidden City. We've discussed before (just a few weeks past) that Wakanda seemed to be very out-of-step with contemporary governments of the West.  I know I don't have a handle on how it worked! Anyway, as this is the last Monday in February's Black History Month observance, we'd invite some further commentary from our readers in regard to the portrayal of Blacks in this story.  Are they honored, or caricatured?

Karen: A problematic scene all the way around! You also have the aspect of the men getting rid of the women so they can get down to business, although I see this as minor, since Leila actually has nothing to contribute to the Falcon's quest. But yes, why is Tanzika a "hand maiden"? Could she not just be an assistant? It's probably just a careless use of the word but it seems like so many writers did not really bother to think through the Wakandan culture, at least prior to Don McGregor's arrival as writer of the Panther's Jungle Action series. I agree with you thoroughly on Leila though: she's flat out annoying. There's a difference between being fiery and being a...well, you know. The Falcon is such a cool guy, you wonder why he would put up with her? Maybe there's a couple of answers. One, it may be purely physical. Two, she may supply him with the sort of street cred he feels he needs. And maybe I'm thinking too deeply about 70s comic characters. I don't know. But boy, is she a pain!

Doug: Back in the States, we find Captain America in jail! Captured after Moonstone had knocked him out, Cap awakes to find his foe standing alongside Harderman and having a press conference just outside his cell! One of the reporters asks if Moonstone wouldn't mind relating the origin of his powers. We get a pretty cool dual narration over the next few pages, with Moonstone holding court in the narration boxes while Sal's pictures tell just a slightly different story. It's fun, and a nice touch given that Moonstone's a thug anyway. After that interlude, Harderman reaffirms to the assembled media that Moonstone is America's new hero, and that C.R.A.P. is all over him.  You know what I'm sayin'...

Karen: You're having way too much fun with that acronym! Yes, it's a clever way to show how our chunky villain got his powers, although I can't help thinking there couldn't be too many blue moon rocks out there, and some clever reporter should be able to piece together the botched moon rock robbery and Moonstone's lie. But let it slide.

Doug: Sceneshift again to Wakanda, where T'Challa and Falc are interrupted by a spear landing in the middle of their work table! Falc recoils and whirls, to see Leila standing in a doorway. He chastises her recklessness, and her only response is that she's bored (I am serious -- I hate her character.  Hate her). Sympathetic T'Challa again steps in to try to allay her "suffering", offering to send her to a large city so that she can feel more at home. He calls for another craft, and for two of his top men as her escorts. Soon, a Wakandan ship drops down in Lagos, Nigeria so that Leila can wander the markets. Even T'Challa's men feel uncomfortable in her presence, as she exudes tension. While shopping, a large sedan suddenly pulls up and out steps Stoneface -- a tough from Harlem who the Falcon had defeated earlier. Now Stoneface has found what he wants: a hometown girl to make him feel "at home". Of course his overtures are rebuffed, which doesn't work out so well for Leila's escorts. As the Wakandans fall, Stoneface's men grab Leila and push her into the car.

Karen: You know, I sort of want her to just disappear and never come back! There really isn't anything about Leila that makes her appealing to me. She's just depicted as so superficial and selfish. 

Doug: Stoneface could have been doing Sam Wilson a favor! Back in the kingdom, one of T'Challa's intelligence officers (dressed like he stepped right out of a Johnny Weissmuller flick) becomes worried when he cannot reach the men escorting the Falcon's girlfriend. He tells his lord the news, and T'Challa orders his ship readied. As the Black Panther ponders how to tell the Falcon, we hear a voice offstage say to not worry about it. And the the Falcon steps into the light, revealing a set of wings! For our benefit, he tells that they are controlled by his mind and allow him to glide on the winds. While not allowing flight per se, they do give him a huge advantage over his formerly grounded abilities. The two men board the craft and point it toward Nigeria.

Karen: That's a really gorgeous illustration of the new and improved Falcon by Sal. Very dramatic and when I saw it, it sort of hit me, 'well of course, he's the Falcon, he should have wings!'

Doug: As we close the issue, we're taken back to Cap's jail cell. His guard tells Cap that he feels he's getting a bum rap, and to hang in there; Cap just sits with his head hung. As he tries to come up with his next move, the wall of his cell suddenly blows up! A team of commandos stands outside, saying they've come to free him from his false imprisonment. But now what should Cap do? If he stays, he's at Quentin Harderman's mercy. But if he leaves, he makes the situation infinitely worse. What should the Avenger do?

Karen: Another big moral predicament for Cap! This was part of what made reading this storyline so fun for me as a kid -it was not only action-packed, it made me really think about all of the choices he had to make. And poor Cap sure agonized over every one. 

Doug: Fun, fast-paced issue, huh? I'm really stuck on Leila as a character. She certainly fills the role of antagonist well, even though she's supposed to be somewhat of a protagonist, I guess. I think we all know certain characters were created to be that "fly in the ointment" -- Flash Thompson, Mantis, Dr. Druid to name just three others. What did you think of Vinnie's inks after seeing Frank McLaughlin last issue? I actually thought Vinnie's line was pretty normal, even heavy at times. But his signature feathering was here and there on every page if you looked. I've enjoyed the two cliffhanger endings so far in the series -- I can imagine the stress of it all if you were a kid having to wait 30 days for the next installment!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez's Clown Prince of Crime - Joker 4

The Joker #4 (November/December 1975) (cover by Ernie Chua)
"A Gold Star for the Joker!"
Elliot S! Maggin-Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez/Vince Colletta

Doug: Last December we discussed and praised the release of the trade paperback collecting the mid-70s Joker solo series. As many of us have remarked (notably Karen) over the past few years, we truly are living in the golden age of comic book reprints. To have this material, probably minor in the entire landscape of the Bronze Age as it was, is still pretty special. Today I've chosen to review an issue smack dab in the middle of the run (The Joker lasted nine issues), due mostly to the art team and the guest stars. Last autumn I ran a 3-issue Superman series of reviews featuring the art of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. You'll notice that he's on the pencils today, with fan-fave (ha!) Vinnie Colletta doing the erasing embellishing. And we get comments about Green Arrow every now and again. He's along for the ride today, and the beauty you see hoisted above the Joker's head is none other than the Black Canary. But enough introductory gibberish -- let's check this out!

Doug: I'm going to start this one on a negative note. I've commented in the past that Bronze Age DCs often contained a feature story that was only 18 pages long; of course, there may also have been a five page back-up tale. However, I'm certain that this particular issue had no such bonus. My point is, to include a splash page that virtually mirrors the magazine's cover seems like a waste. Now we're dealing with a 17-pager, and when compared to Marvel's 20-21-page stories in the same era I feel like I would not have received as much bang for my quarter.

Doug: We open with a yellow bus crossing a bridge into the colonial harbor town that became Star City. I know many of our readers like DC's fictional metropoli, but I so wish the authors and editors who first penned these tales would have (in this case) just said "Boston". It would have made life for this guy so much easier in terms of geographic placement of our heroes and their nemeses. The bus is empty, except for the driver -- a tall, wiry guy with some serious male pattern baldness. He pulls up to a beautiful brunette walking along the street and addresses her as she stops to unlock the door to a flower shop. We are told this is Dinah Lance, aka the Black Canary, and our bus driver is definitely making a pass at her. He asks if he can come inside; Dinah is reluctant, saying she was going to tidy up first. She relents, and he enters. He wants to buy 11 roses -- she of course tells him that he must mean 12. He says "no", and then tells her what he wants on the card.  "These eleven beauties, held next to you, surely make a lovely dozen!" She calls him a romantic, and then he says that they are for her!

Doug: Our driver exits the flower store and hops on his bus. He drives it to a terminal, where he intentionally crashes it! He tells other drivers on site that he borowed it from their outlet in Gotham City, and that it might be easier to ship it back in pieces! He then runs, vaults, and runs some more to get away. Once on a rooftop we see our mystery hack emerge from his disguise as the Joker! And while he leans against a railing, pining for Dinah, we switch back to the flower store. Oliver Queen has arrived, in his best 70s civvies, and is not happy that Dinah had a suitor. She tells him it was nothing, that the guy was sort of a kook. That rings a bell with Ollie, and he asks about the guy's height and weight -- which is suspiciously like that of some loon who intentionally crashed a bus earlier in the day. At that very instant police bulletins begin coming over the radio in droves.  Ollie switches to his "work clothes" and heads off to the action. We relocate to the roof of the shop, where the Joker sits. He is the one who overrode the radio frequency and broadcast those now-phony reports! He looks over the side of the building, waiting for it to empty out. Dinah steps outside, and she's immediately snatched up in a net -- now the prisoner of the Clown Prince of Crime!

Doug: Green Arrow returns to the shop to find one of Dinah's customers lying on the sidewalk, his face stretched into the hideous Joker-grin. Knowing what he's now dealing with, GA hustles to the local police precinct. Meanwhile, the Joker talks to one of his henchmen, who reports that he is rolling into Star City at that moment. At the police station, a report comes in that one of the bridges is shaking -- GA's off to investigate. On the bridge, the Joker pulls up alongside a semi, which opens to reveal the Joker Car.  Dinah and her captor jump in, and away they go. There's a great conversation that takes place between the two -- the Joker makes no bones about his lack of mental wellbeing; he in fact states that his official residence is an asylum. As the Joker cackles maniacally, the Emerald Archer arrives. Full of bravado, GA first tells the Joker that he's playing out of his league, and then proceeds to show off his prowess with the bow and his fantastic arsenal of arrows. Alas, it's his piercing of a small bomb tossed his way that does him in -- laughing gas brings our hero to his knees and allows the Joker to escape with Dinah.

Doug: So here's my beef, and maybe it just goes again to my ongoing posit that DCs were forever written for 10-year olds: why didn't Dinah ever use her Canary Cry to throw the Joker off-balance? If it was solely to protect her secret ID, then I say "that's stupid!"  She was in the clutches of one of the most dangerous killers in history, and I'm thinking getting out of Dodge as fast as possible would have been a prescription for success. At the least, and even bound, she could have used her extensive knowledge of the martial arts to at least kick the clown out of the car.

Doug: The Joker's goal is to steal the star that is mounted to the Archway Bridge and greets visitors to Star City. Arriving on the bridge, he tells Dinah his plan. His goons are mounting a fake star to the bridge, one that will emit radiation that will kill drivers passing near it. Those drivers will in turn crash their vehicles, thereby creating a huge pile-up. The police station nearest the Museum of Art will be affected, and no police will be able to get to the Museum to prohibit the Joker from stealing a priceless display of porcelain clown figures! Got that? So in a scene that seems torn right from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #121, the Joker takes the bound Dinah to the top of the Archway Bridge. But Green Arrow is there waiting, and another brouhaha breaks out. Dinah's bindings are immediately cut, and now she uses a leg lock to take down the Joker. Sheesh -- earn yer superhero union card, lady! But the Joker, as we've seen over the years, is so crazy that he's no easy victory. He's able to release a spray from his boutonniere, which gags Dinah. With GA distracted, the Joker grabs the bow and bumrushes Ollie off the bridge. However, GA is able to right himself and get off a rope arrow, allowing himself to swing to safety. Once on his feet, he shoots across to Dinah, a line now taught right at her feet. But c'mon... anyone who thinks the Joker is going to stand for that is... well, insane! Pulling a short blade, our baddie cuts the line -- he'd said he'd hoped to marry Dinah Lance so he wouldn't have to kill her. But GA fires off another rope arrow, which Dinah is able to grasp. She's now safe and out of the Joker's reach. And what of the Clown? He loses his balances while dancing disgustedly and falls off the bridge. Falls laughing, all the way to the water below.

Doug: I liked this story. It was the first issue from the run that I'd ever read. How many antagonists have ever had their own book? Marvel tried it with Dr. Doom twice, and DC did it here and with the Secret Society of Super-Villains. Are there others? You know what the best part of the story was?  The Joker seemingly died at the end. And there was a next issue. For me -- no explanation required. Just a cool trope. I don't have a lot of experience with the work of Elliot S! Maggin, but I thought his script was fine. I'm always amazed at how many words appear in a Bronze Age comic. While no Don McGregor, Maggin certainly filled the word balloons. And in spite of my criticisms of Black Canary being wasted for 95% of the story as a stereotypical damsel in distress, she did prove pivotal in the outcome of the tale. Characterization for the Joker and for Green Arrow seemed to be handled nicely. And the art -- very, very nice. Of DC's bullpen of Bronze Age pencilers, Garcia-Lopez really stands out. Sure, he emulates the Adams/Giordano house style, but man does he do it well. And Vinnie does make women look pretty, doesn't he? I thought the art was pretty detailed, so perhaps Mr. C. had run out of erasers while inking this one. But overall, low page count notwithstanding, this was a fun read.
Related Posts with Thumbnails