Saturday, August 26, 2006

What the Sam Scratch is goin' on here?!? #7

Thor #435

Q: So, what the Sam Scratch was goin' on there?
A: The nineties.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup.

We'll Bull Right Back!

Off to Chicago for a few days to help out John at the Norton Winter 2007 sales conference (hooray! I get to see Miss Johanna!), and since I'm not 'lowed to bring my ginger-ale-powered laptop on the plane, I'll be offline for a few days. Rest assured I'll be scouring the Windy City for signs of fun things: I always enjoy going to one of the best comic book stores in the country, Chicago Comics, spending my dimes at Uncle Fun, stuffing myself silly with Ann Sather's cinnamon rolls, and you can't beat the pizza, so deep-dish I like to lay down in it and take a little nap. Back by the weekend, Bully fans—be good to yourselves and each other.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The family members Bruce never talks about

We all know who you mean when we speak of "The Batman Family," right? 'Coz for such a loner, Batman continuously surrounds himself with a supporting cast who have become his surrogate family after the tragic loss of his real family. More power to Bats to bring those people into his life, and while I'm a little bit leery when the family starts to become an army, still we don't begrudge Batman his family, do we? Why, they even used to have a whole comic devoted to his family, which is more than Superman and his mostly-dead El-kin can brag of:

And we can all name the various members of the Batman Family at the drop of a cowl, right? Nightwing. Robin. Batgirl(s). Oracle. Jim Gordon. From years gone by, Batman Family members have included Ace the Bathound and Bat-Mite. Heck, throw in Spoiler and Azrael, RIP, if you want. And since no family is complete without Michael Caine, don't forget Alfred. But like any family, there's some black sheep: there's members of the Batman family we don't hear about much, who never get invited to Christmas dinner. Meet, as they say, The Batman Family. From the cover of Batman Family #3:

Oh yes! Batwoman. Both a classic and now a new Batman family member, the new one with a "kicky new difference" that, I dunno, all the kids will enjoy or something. But Kiteman? What, is he Batman's second cousin on Martha Wayne's side or something? Do you think he periodically bangs on the door of Stately Wayne Manor and Alfred lets him sleep on the couch for a few days? Kiteman's not even a Wayne...he's actually a Brown. Charlie Brown, to be precise. Good ol' Charlie Brown. How Bruce hates him!

Okay, I'll allow Batman of the Future to be a member of the Batman Family, because, as they say, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your space-helmeted future descendants. But let's do some family-spotting on the cover sidebar of Batman Family #2:

Alfred? Of course. The most valuable member of the Batman Family. Vicky Vale? More a supporting guest-star than a family member, unless you happen to be a Baldwin brother, I guess. And I don't think I want to see any members of my family skipping about like this:

Cluemaster? That's a member of the Riddler Family, not an honorary Wayne. And the Mystery Man? You can't depend on a mystery man family member: he never tells you when he's showing up for the family reunion picnic, and whenever it's time to chip in for Aunt Harriet's birthday gift, Mystery Man is nowhere to be found.

And from the cover of Batman Family #4:

Elongated Man can be in The Batman Family, no problem. He and Bruce probably enjoy swapping detective tips over Thanksgiving dinner, and let's face it, poor Ralph could use a family member's shoulder to cry on right about now. But The Phantom General? The guy's a freakin' Nazi, Bruce! There aren't enough Wayne Foundation donations to the B'nai Brith that'll erase you introducing this guy as your family at your next party. But, what the hey, let's let Fatman be in the family. Bruce's family is no exception to this rule: everybody's family has a fat man. Mine is Uncle Louie. Granted, Uncle Louie pulls dimes out of my ear and slips me bubblegum behind Aunt Brenda's back, and Batman's wears a big-and-tall cowl. But I say it here and now: the modern twenty-first century Batman needs a Fatman, and I'd clap my hooves together with glee if someone told me he's going to return in a future issue of 52. After all, someone has to eat all those untouched sandwiches Alfred brings down to the Batcave.

Want to learn more about the Batman Family? Don't even bother going to your local library—instead, H. from the ever-fun blog The Comic Treadmill has an excellent and entertaining summary of some early Batman Family issues here and here.

I'm Number Two...I Try Harder.

At least as recently as this morning, I was the number two result on Google for the phrase "how to hang draperies".

Man, are you folks ever coming to the wrong place.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

You'll get such great hits as: Shock the Monkey, Come on Baby Light My Firestar, Ice Ice Baby, You Should Be Mine (The Jimmy Woo Song) and much more!

How'd I manage to miss two of the most fun comics of the summer so far? Answer: I jus' didn't see 'em until now! A couple weeks ago I totally didn't spot Agents of Atlas #1 and Spider-Man Family: Amazing Friends at the local comic book store. Lucky for me I saved up some dimes (from my route delivering Grit magazine...a little tougher sale in Manhattan than in the Midwest, but I can be a very persuasive little door-to-door salesbull!) and picked both up before they totally disappeared into the back issue bins. Sometimes fun is right under your little ringed nose, and if you don't look carefully you might not see it until too late!

Agents of Atlas #1AGENTS OF ATLAS #1: This comic is fun. Okay, I'll admit it. Sometimes I just think Joe Quesadilla doesn't get it. Spider-Man being married doesn't lead to good stories? Mister Fantastic as a pawn of the establishment? Cancelling The Thing? It's enough to make you want to leap up on a stepladder and slap him in the face with your hoof. On the other hand, there's a good deal that Joey Q and Marvel do do right nowadays. I'm not just talking about the rollback on their wacky, antiquated plot that gay characters shouldn't have their own series (bravo for changing the policy, minus several million points for having it in the first place). I'm talking about how Marvel at last seems to be producing at least some comics that honor and celebrate their own legacy: exploring and expanding the vast history and cast of characters of the MU in titles like She-Hulk, Nextwave and frequent themed one-shots like last years's Marvel Monsters and this year's westerns. Add to that Agents of Atlas, a new miniseries that spins off of surely one of the more obscure Marvel comics from almost thirty (thirty!) years ago: What If? #9. Seriously, didja ever think Marvel would be interested in publishing stories based on an old What If? In Agents, S.H.I.E.L.D.* agent Jimmy Woo, Venus, Marvel Boy, M-11 the Human Robot, and the Sensational Character Find of 1958, Gorilla-Man, team up to save President Eisenhower from the Yellow Claw's, uh, claws. (Golly, Mister Ike...I don't think you wanted to get rescued!) Thirty years later, Jimmy lies in a coma. Who's to the rescue? In the best Star Trek III tradition, his old teammates! Ya-hoo! This is rip-roaring fun that not only funny but smart, and beautifully drawn by Leonard Kirk as well. Doing it as a miniseries is probably a smart move: I can't imagine this level of fun being sustained indefinitely, but half-a-dozen issues oughta do just fine. I don't wanna accuse any of you of any un-American activities, but if you don't like a comic featuring a gorilla firing guns out of all four paws, you're just a dirty Red!

Spider-Man Family: Amazing FriendsSPIDER-MAN FAMILY: AMAZING FRIENDS: This comic is fun. And if you think Marvel celebrating the goofy joy of a thirty-year old issue of What If? is weird, what does that say of an issue that spins off from the 1980s TV cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends? (Warning: creepy self-starting sound clip at that otherwise excellent Spider-Friends link!) Like last year's Spider-Man Family special, this is an oversized 88-page giant that, in the absence of any real Marvel Annuals this year, is the perfect summer comic to climb up into your treehouse and spend the afternoon reading. Like those crammed-full Annuals of the Silver Age, this is chock-full of new and old features from across the multiverse and history of Spider-Man: a brand-new Spider-Man/Iceman/Firestar adventure teams up the trio from that fondly-remembered cartoon series, as does another new installment of Chris Giarrusso's bigfoot Mini Marvels, plus a trio of dandy reprints: the second issues of Kurt Busiek's Untold Tales of Spider-Man (one of the most consistent and appealing of all Spider-Man series, ever, the first eight issues of which have been just reissued in trade paperback, although I woulda loved an Essentials volume reprinting the whole series!) and Peter David's Spider-Man 2099, and the oft-overlooked gem of Spider-History, an amazing adventure of Fred Hembeck's "Petey" ("The Adventures of Peter Parker Long Before He Became Spider-Man"). Only thing missing that would make this the modern-day equivalent of a 1960s Spidey annual? There's no pin-up page! But in its place we've got Ms. Lion versus the Hulk, so it all balances out. Wondering whether it's worth while pickin' up this Spidey Special? In the words of the Spider-Friends: go for it!

*Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage and Law-Enforcement Division

"You get what everyone gets, you get a lifetime."

Neil Gaiman's DeathSo spoke Morpheus's sister, the Death with the spunky, can-do attitude, a character who gives us all hope that one really cute goth chick will hold our hand at least once in our lives. Or, more accurately, once right after our lives. Death is not only part of life, it's a hefty part of the comics I picked up this week; each of them has a character death or reference to death or even just a solid tempus fugit tone to it. I'm not a morbid little stuffed bull—rather, my days are filled with Pixy Stix and Rock'em Sock'em Robots and Pepperoni Cheese Goldfish and Gilmore Girls reruns and my pogo stick and my Bender the Robot action figure, but even on a bright sunny summery day a little bull's thoughts turn to carpe diem and where we all go after we leave this place.

Me? I'm goin' to Disney World. Otherwise, I ain't goin'.

Let's talk about this week's comics, shall we?

Runaways #19RUNAWAYS #19: This comic is fun but sad. The title of this story? "Dead Means Dead." As comic book fans, we don't tend to believe that, do we? Dr. Doom/Superman/Phoenix/Bucky/Robin/Uncle Ben die...but in the revolving door mythology of the Marvel and DC Universes, more often than not, they're just away on a short life-challenged vacation. (Peter David even had a funny bit about it concerning Banshee in a recent X-Factor). We're used to that, but the Runaways aren't, and the death of one of their team hits them hard in one of the most affecting and personal issues of superhero comics dealing with death I've yet read. Even Leapfrog is called on to discuss the nature of death as the kids react to their loss. Rest assured: this is not twenty-two pages of the Runaways moping around and feeling sorry for themselves; there's a solid beginning of the next big adventure plotline and a dandy monsteriffic cliffhanger. But I've said it before and I'll say it again: how the Runaways react to their situations and circumstances make them the most realistic of a large bunch of superteens; this is simply one of—maybe the—best-written and pitch-perfect portrayals of teens in superhero comics. Ever.

Nextwave #7NEXTWAVE #7: This comic is fun. Look, I've told you enough times: buy Nextwave. If you're not going to pay attention to me, move along, buddy, there's nothing to see here. I hear and understand some of the criticisms: it's a one-joke premise, Dirk Anger runs thin after a while, I'm not believing the way Machine Man and Captain Marvel are being written. But you're denying yourself not only one of the most rollicking fun gonzo experiences in comics every month—a caffeine-laden palatte-cleanser for oh-so-serious superhero adventure—but you're also denying yourself some of the funniest dialogue in modern superhero comics, including a week that's full of death's best reference and Best Line of the Week: "X-Men come back more than Jesus." To paraphrase the cover of Jimmy Olsen #141: Bully says: Don't ask! Just buy it!

MANHUNTER #25MANHUNTER #25: This comic is fun. A little voice keeps whispering in my head: Buy Manhunter. Buy Manhunter. Buy Manhunter. I've been to several specialists and had a dozen CAT scans (well, actually I just rode back and forth through the X-ray machine at LaGuardia Airport several times) and all specialists agree: I'm not crazy. They also suggest: Buy Manhunter. So, in accordance with my weekly mission to Pick Up One New Comic Title I Haven't Been Reading, I bought Manhunter. And whatdaya know, it's a heckuva lotta fun. Great characterization, sharp dialogue, solid art, strong supporting characters, and a dandy of a last-page guest star: it's everything I love in fun comics, plus the best scene about the impracticalities of changing into your superhero costume I've seen since Christopher Reeve couldn't find a boxed-in phone booth! But if this is "Death Week," you're asking, where's the death? Quite simply: this was very nearly the last issue of Manhunter: it was cancelled, and like a last-minute cliffhanger where the hero cheats death, there's more to come: five issues starting in December. Isn't that the way it usually works in superhero comics: back from the dead at the last minute? I won't be ignoring the little voices in my head again: I will buy Manhunter, picking up the trades and back issues so I can get up to speed on Kate Spencer and company (although for a "final issue," #25 is remarkably accessible), and I will be standing in line outside my comic book shop ready to buy Manhunter #26 when it goes on sale on December. Don't make the same mistake I made: Buy Manhunter.

52 Week 1552 WEEK 15: This comic is fun but sad. Let me end this week's round-up with the big death: like his pal Ted Kord, Booster Gold is dead. C'mon, stop scolding me: no spoiler alert needed: it says it right up front on the cover. After several weeks of acting like a self-centered ass (and more painfully, a self-centered criminal ass), Booster went out the way a hero should (a death we the fans won't be completely up in arms about, the way DC treated Blue Beetle), and I sniffled more than a little bit at the last couple pages. Sure, it's comics. Sure, it's a time-travelling superhero. Sure, there are umpteen ways to undo this story, from resurrection to time travel to Church of Superboy to Wein's Law (hey, we didn't really see the body...). Skeets's reaction is heartbreaking: in the words of Roy Thomas, even a robot can cry. And I'll go on record right here and now: I no longer trust Supernova. Dude's got a secret, and I bet it's not a good one. He's up to something; he has his own agenda, and I ain't trusting him, he can't borrow my pogo stick, no way. But in the end, this is DC Comics, and I don't care what Mister Didio says, Booster Gold will be back somehow, you can bet on it. That doesn't make this issue any less sad, but the sadness doesn't make it any less fun: sacrifice and change is part of what makes superhero comics entertaining. In homage to the fun and joy I've gotten from Booster Gold and his adventures, from his self-titled series to Justice League, through the Superbuddies and 52, I award 52 WEEK 15 the most fun comic of the week.

Still, I think this story needs a coda, a closure, a goodbye. The Vertigo Universe doesn't seem to be part of the DC Universe anymore, but the realm of the Endless was never restricted to such mortal boundaries anyway. Like they say, if you want it done, sometimes you have to do it yourself. So I did. I hereby present a little bit of bullish creative fan-fiction about what happens between panels one and two on page twenty of 52 WEEK 15. Call it...

52 Fifteen-and-a-Half

"I'm back, baby!" Booster Gold tossed back his head and smiled, and declared to the skies over Metropolis: "I am back!"

It felt good. It felt right. It felt...

There was a quiet soft snap somewhere above him, and he felt the rush of fire against his face, and the roar of the wind, and somewhere far below him, a robot cried his name, but it faded quickly, so quickly it might never have been there.

“Hullo, Michael. Why’d you do it?” asked a female voice.

Booster spun around—aware for the first time that he was no longer on the deck of the submarine hovering over Metropolis. He wasn't floating, however: he was standing on nothing at all, but the nothing was solid beneath his feet, an invisible floor of grey mist. If that was surprising enough, then it was instantly surpassed by the woman who stood before him, smiling at him. She was dressed all in black—black leather jacket over a black lace camisole top and black puffy skirt, shiny black skin-tight stockings down her shapely legs and scuffed black motorcycle boots on her feet. Her hair was even blacker than her clothes, a tangled yet artful mop that stuck out in all directions around her pale, pale, white as snow face, but her eyes were warm and violet. Around her neck she wore a fine filigree chain with a silver ankh pendant that dangled between her breasts and set off the silver colour against her pale, pale skin.

She was, Booster thought, quite possibly the second-most-beautiful woman he had ever seen.

“Why did I do what?” he asked her.

“Well, y’ know,” She smiled and spun on her heel playfully. “You were out. You were safe. You'd made your mark. You didn't have to prove yourself to anyone. You didn't have to prove yourself to Supernova, or the city. You'd done your best. You could have walked away, flown away. But you came back, and you let him live instead.” Her eyes twinkled. “I had a bet with my brother. He said you wouldn’t come back, wouldn’t do it, couldn’t do it, wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. I was sure I could prove him wrong. Again.”

Booster shrugged. “I don’t know. I just felt I had to.” He hesitated. “J'onn once said...”

The woman in black said nothing, just waited for him to gather his words.

“J'onn once said...if you can't be a human.”

There was a long silence.

“Was I right?” Booster asked, expectantly. “Did I do the right thing?…for the first damn time in my life?”

“What do you think?” she asked.

Booster shrugged, and fell wordless again.

“Hey, cool googles,” the pale woman broke the silence with an enthusiastic grin. “Can I try them?”

“Sure,” Booster said, amused at her, much to his surprise, and peeling his goggles off his face, he handed them to the woman, who slipped them over her violet eyes and peered up at him with a sparkling smile.

“Way cool,” trilled the woman, squinting through the golden lenses. She regarded him thoughtfully. “Ready, Michael?”

“You aren’t at all what I expected.”

“I never am.”

“I sort of thought the skeleton guy in the robe was…”

“Oh, him.” She clicked her tongue and tilted her head in amusement. “Not the real thing at all, you know.” She ran her free hand through her tousled raven hair and regarded him carefully, a smile line creasing through the curlicue tattoo below her right eye, shining through the golden goggles. “It's me who turns the last page in the story every week; it's me who closes the cover and puts the book away in a bag.” She took his hand and inclined her head towards the far grey horizon. “Ready?”


“C’mon. I’ll walk with you.”

He hesitated. “Will Ted be there?”

She smiled. “Come and see.”

So he did.
Michael Jon Carter
Booster Gold
Rest in peace

Ten of a Kind: "He'll cry himself to sleep tonight on his huge pillow"

(More Ten of a Kind here.)