Wednesday, April 17, 2013

365 Days of DC House Ads, Day 107: DC Annuals House Ads Week, Day 4

Tonight's "DC Annuals House Ads Week" installment is a more extensive than usual, so I'm substituting it for my nightly post. Okay? Okay!

House ad for Lobo Annual #1 (May 1993); printed in Sandman #50 (June 1993)
Ad art taken from the cover of Lobo Annual #1: pencils and inks by Christian Alamy

Hoo boy! Bloodlines! Where the Sam Scratch do I even start?

Well, first of all, let me repeat what you've been thinking: a house ad for Lobo in Sandman?!?! Neil Gaiman's Sandman? Not to mention the landmark 50th issue P. Craig Russell Scheherazadestravanga?!? Yup. (And it was only one of two ads for Lobo in that book. To be fair, the Vertigo imprint had only started up three months earlier and was still developing a house identity, so you'd see ads for mainstream DC comics within the first several months of Vertigo titles. But sheesh, Lobo? Not to mention...hoo boy, Bloodlines!

Bloodlines was the DC Annuals 1993 summer crossover event, the third yearly such linewide mega-story: 1991's Armageddon: 2001 and 1992's Eclipso: The Darkness Within started the trend, but Bloodlines pretty much killed it. Although DC's Annuals for the next several years would be themed across the board, they generally kept to single-issue stories within a specific theme: Elseworlds, Year One, Legends of the Dead Earth (virtually Elseworlds of their own)...even the crossover JLApe (never as good as that title made it sound) only affected the Justice League's titles. Just as Marve;'s huge line-wide Annual crossovers like The Evolutionary War and Atlantis Attacks ultimately collapsed under their own weight, Bloodlines drove the nail in the coffin of the twenty-three Annual mega-storyline. Let me sum up the plot: monster aliens infect normal humans in the DC Universe, changing them into superhumans, some of whom later got their own swiftly-cancelled throw-it-at-the-wall and we'll-see-it-it-sticks series. (Ah, Anima, you were too awful for this world.) Now of course is the perfect time to use the line that we all know and love and should probably be the motto of Comics Oughta Be Fun—"Now that [insert character name here] is so popular in comics, movies, and merchandising and a vital part of the DC Universe, it's nice to see where they got their start!"

Sounds straightfoward, huh? But there is nothing subtle about this crossover, a storyline so mega that it actually replaced the individual books' logos for each installment. Hey, remember these 1990s DC books? (It's okay if you don't remember them.)

Yup, bright neon colors, exaggerated 90s anatomy, and big dumb fight sequences were the bread and butter of Bloodlines. Yes, even the grim, dark, shadowy world of Gotham City did not escape the crossover or the over-saturated cover tones. Because when I think "Batman," I think MONSTER GIANT KILLER ALIEN INFECTING HUMANS. (Also: I think of Alfred.)

1993, if you hadn't marked it down on your anniversary calendar, was the year of The Reign of the Supermen, where four heroes stepped up following the death of Kal-El, each claiming possession of one of Superman's books. (Oh, and also claiming to be Superman.) I generally recommend The Reign of the Supermen as one of the more enjoyable runs of the post-Crisis Supes. My recommendation does not include these annuals.

Yup, even the DCU's other big guns were not immune to being drawn into this horrifically hyperactive history. Man, you'd think Hawkman would be glad just to be around and have a title, but noooooo. By the way, if you're looking for Wonder Woman, don't look too hard—she didn't have a 1993 annual. Lucky Diana! Her Justice League comrades were not so fortunate. You know that phrase "the survivors will envy the dead?" Yeah, it's kinda like that.

Now w-w-w-wait just one doggone minute! (I say, in my George Bailey voice.) Just what the heck is the comic that's always 1,000 years ahead of its time, The Legion of Super-Heroes, doing in this crossover? And that's a very good question that begins by telling you this unbelievable fact which must be accepted, no matter how incredible, in order to get to the bottom of all of this: Timber Wolf once had his own miniseries. Got your head around that? Timber Wolf? DC Limited Series? I know, I know...just bear with me here. You'll see where I'm going. Anyway, Timber Wolf...had his own...giggle...miniseries, in which he was...hee hee hee... stuck in the twentieth century...BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA! Geez, Timber Wolf couldn't even have his own concept for a series; he had to\ steal one from Karate Kid! Anyway, Brin Londo* (Timber Wolf's civilian name is Brin Londo.) was retrieved from his miniseries the twentieth century and brought back to the thirtieth by Legion super-time-scientist Rond Vidar* (Rond Vidar's civilian name is Rond Vidar) but he's got a stowaway with him...the recently Bloodline-infected surfer dude named Jamm. While pal Andrew has already patiently and firmly pounded the nail into this coffin, I can't help but subjecting you also to Jamm. Laddeez and gennlemen...the new character sensation of 3093.: Jamm.

Panels from Legion of Superheroes Annual v.4 #4 (1993); script by Tom Bierbaum and Mary Bierbaum; pencils by Stuart Immonen, Darryl Banks, Joe Phillips, Christopher Taylor, and Nick Napolitano; inks by Ron Boyd, Terry Austin, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Dan Davis, colors by Tom McCraw, letters by Bob Pinaha

Ah, Tom and Mary Birnbaum minus the leveling presence of Keith Giffen, what have you wrought? And five pencillers on an annual? That can't be good news.

Say, what are Jamm's super-powers (BESIDES MAKING ME WANT TO KILL HIM)? Why, he's able to "persuade" people to do anything he wants them to. He...oh dear...jamms his thoughts and wishes into them. Huh, why didn't they call him The Persuader? I mean, it's not like that name would have been taken by anybody else in the 30th Century.

Pausing only to throw her baby into Matter-Eater Lad's mouth, Night Girl accompanies Jamm in a space cruiser. And yeah, then this happens.

Pretty much the whole rest of the comic book is Jamm persuading the female members of the LSH to strip off their clothes, all accompanied by the Adam Ant classic "Strip." Yes, even Kono. Shame on you, Jamm.

These vaguely Comic Code-approved nudie escapades keep on occurin' until Jamm is given A Serious Talking To™ by Legion stuffed shirt Mon-El Lar Gand M'Onel Green Lantern Valor.

And to top it all off: full page pin-up of Jamm. Clip it out and toss it in the wastebasket, kids!

Pin-up from Legion of Superheroes Annual v.4 #4 (1993), pencils and inks by Joe Phillips, colors by Tom McCraw

By the following year the Legion would be off to Oz in their Annual (NO IT REALLY HAPPENED IT'S CANON FANBOYS) and a couple months later they'd be retconned to the Earth-247 post-Zero Hour Legion, aka The Legion I Really Love™. But I hope you've enjoyed this look at the last sputtering gasps of the it-began-excellently "Five Years Later" era of the Legion mashed-up with Bloodlines.

Also, there were Bloodlines trading cards.

Okay, okay, in the interest of being fair (and you're no fun anymore!), there is one good thing, count it, one, to have come out of Bloodlines:

Cover of The Demon Annual #2 (November 1993 AW MAN THIS SERIES REALLY WENT ON THAT LONG?!?), pencils and inks by John McCrea

...which led to one of the best, longer-running, and indeed, one of the most original DC Universe series of the 1990s:

So remember: just as Legends begat Suicide Squad and Justice League, as Zero Hour begat Starman and Legion of Super-Heroes, as The New 52 begat NOTE TO SELF: TRY TO THINK HARDER ABOUT THIS AND FILL IN LATER, yes, the big steaming crap-fest that was Bloodlines gave us a pretty darn good series in Hitman. Which, as they say, only goes to show.


Blam said...

I'm not sure I can think of a bigger oxymoron than "Let's promote a new character by introducing it in the Team Titans Annual!".

I totally unironically slow-clap "Scheherazadestravanga" by the way.

SallyP said...

Oh God, Bloodlines. But it was worth it, it tell ya, simply for Hitman.