Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Back, Fall Ahead

Creepin' clockhands, Batman! It's Daylight Saving Time again! Tonight, don't get snared by the same deadly time trap that befell the Boy Wonder...

cover of Star Spangled Comics #78 (DC, April 1948), pencils by Jim Mooney, inks by John Giunta, letters by Ira Schnapp

...make sure you subscribe to the well-known maxim spring back, fall ahead, and set all your clocks back one hour, even the alarm clocks you use to get up early in the morning! Don't forget! Do it now! Did you get that? Set all your clocks... (hee hee hee) ...back one hour!

Hee hee hee hee hee hee!

Back one hour! Chuckle...

Hee hee hee hee!

(Ain't I a stinker?)

Separated at Birth: Number Two-Sixty Said to Number Twenty-Three...

Captain America v. 1 #260 and v. 3 #23

L: Captain America v. 1 #260 (August 1981), art by Al Milgrom
R: Captain America v. 3 #23 (November 1999), art by Andy Kubert and Tim Townsend
(Click picture to Cap-size)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

You've Got Mail! Or, "By My Nokia...Betrayed!"

I don't mean to invade the makin'-fun of UK news items territory of a story that surely the BBC's The Now Show will skewer next week (hopefully with a wonderful toe-tappin' song by Mitch Benn, the modern-day rock 'n' roll heir to Tom Lehrer), but here's a "huh...wha'?" news item from today's BBC:
BBC Newspod screenshotReid targets illegal immigrants

A new clampdown is aimed at preventing "foreigners" coming to the UK illegally and "stealing our benefits" and NHS services, [British Home Secretary] John Reid has said. Reid told the BBC he wanted to make life "uncomfortable and constrained" for illegal immigrants.


The Home Office plans include a proposal to run a pilot scheme to send text messages reminding people not to overstay their visas.

"This new approach will make life in this country ever more uncomfortable and constrained for those who come here illegally," the home secretary said.


Shadow home secretary David Davis accused John Reid of giving up on trying to deport hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, preferring to "spam them with text messages".

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: "The idea that you are texting someone, saying that we are on your trail, is just a joke. Do they have the mobile numbers of more than half a million illegal immigrants? No, of course they don't."
BBC Newspod screenshotNow, the UK is lightyears beyond us in mobile phone technology (I think they have cellulars that, when stolen, will shout aloud ''Elp! 'Elp! I'm bein' pinched! Strewth!"), and the idea of texting someone them the equivalent of "'Allo, 'allo, what's all this then?" isn't so outrageous when you consider that only last month MI-5 instituted a new programme where you could sign up to receive terror and threat alerts via email on your mobile or Blackberry. Giving you, I suppose, just enough time to duck into Tesco Metro for some cheap plonk and an aubergine before hopping on the Northern Line back to your flat to hide behind the lorry up the apple and pears. But I got to wonderin', as I often do: there are American industralists and media moguls who pay very close attention to what goes on, technology-wise, in the UK and in Europe, with an eye towards adapting it to the US market.

My point (and I do have one) is that this is exactly the sort of technology Tony Stark would be keeping a close eye on, wouldn't he? And there's a perfect use in today's modern Earth-616 for it, isn't there? Why, let's check it out in action...I think it would go something like this:

(SCENE: the middle of a battle between Spider-Man and Wolverine versus...oh, I dunno, take your pick...ninjas, Kraven the Hunter, M.O.D.O.K....don't really matter):

WOLVERINE: Fastball special, Webhead!
SPIDEY: You got it, partner! We'll take [these rejects from a Bruce Lee movie/Steve Irwin impersonator/grotesque giant floating head] down a peg or two!
SOUND EFFECT: (cellular phone ring tone: The Spider-Man theme song)
SPIDEY: Whoa, that's me. Hang on a second. (pulls out his cellular) Hey, I got a message.
WOLVERINE: Lemme see, bub. Another "special" photo from M.J.?
SPIDEY: Keep it in your pants, Canucklehead. No, look, it's a text message: "You are unregistered under the Superhuman Powers Registration Act. Please report immediately to the Negative Zone for processing and reassignment. Love, Tony."
WOLVERINE: Gosh, Spidey! I'm the best there is at what I do, but even I can't escape a threatening text message! They're sure to track you down now! How the heck're you gonna escape this one, huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?
(Spider-Man throws his cell phone into the East River)
WOLVERINE: Oh. That way. That was easy.
SOUND EFFECT: (cellular phone ring tone: "Take Off" by Geddy Lee)
WOLVERINE: Hang on, that's mine.
SPIDER-MAN: Threatening message from Stark?
WOLVERINE: Naw, booty call from She-Hulk.

I think it would be even more entertaining if you picture the whole scene performed by Chris Giarrusso's Mini-Marvels!:

Mini Marvels

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Farewell, Soldier

There's a Star-Spangled Banner waving somewhere
In a distant land so many miles away.
Only Uncle Sam's great heroes get to go there
Where I wish that I could also live some day.
I'd see Lincoln, Custer, Washington and Perry,
And Nathan Hale and Colin Kelly, too.
There's a Star-Spangled Banner waving somewhere,
Waving o'er the land of heroes brave and true.

In this war with its mad schemes of destruction
Of our country fair and our sweet liberty,
By the mad dictators, leaders of corruption,
Can't the US use a mountain boy like me?
God gave me the right to be a free American,
And for that precious right I'd gladly die.
There's a Star-Spangled Banner waving somewhere,
That is where I want to live when I die.

Though I realize I'm crippled, that is true, sir,
Please don't judge my courage by my twisted leg.
Let me show my Uncle Sam what I can do, sir,
Let me help to bring the Axis down a peg.
If I do some great deed I will be a hero,
And a hero brave is what I want to be.
There's a Star-Spangled Banner waving somewhere,
In that heaven there should be a place for me.

—"There's a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" (1942)
by Paul Roberts and Bob Miller

A frightening thought about the way Joe Quesada's mind works...

...I'm sure Tony has one of Steve's hairs as well. Sigh.

And you all know what that means: "Clap." (Highlight text to reveal spoiler and terrible, terrible pun.)


A salute. SPOILER WARNING: clicking on the blacked-out image will take you to my salute.

Captain America #113


There's no such thing as a spoiler warning in the media

Listening to the radio news this morning was a mistake, because they've just reported the startling shock twist in today's Captain America #25. Blast you, national media! Blast you all to perdition!

(You probably already know the news, but SPOILER WARNING: don't click here if you want to be surprised.)

I'll leave complaining about the event itself for later...a poorly conceived spit-in-the-face that lumps another steaming heap of dung on the crap pile that is Civil War. But as for the story being spoiled now rather than when I turn a comic book page: must I barricade myself from all outside influence in order to get a surprise from my comics? (To their credit, DC is doing it well with 52, although all those surprises are generally with mid-list, non-iconic, non-newsworthy characters.)


Got to face the face

A wee bit back...oh, must be...seventy-three, seventy-four weeks ago...I posted a "while Bully's away" activity to have you fill in the rather blank expressions on this classic cover of World's Finest Comics:

World's Finest #167

Far from being an attack by the Living Eraser, it's actually an invitation to create the new faces of Batman and Superman, and brave and creative were those who stepped up to the plate (or to MS Paint or Photoshop Elements), like...

World's Finest #167
Keenan Funk brings on the...ah, funk, with the two biggest badasses (or is that baddest bigasses?) in the crossover universe between Earth-DC and Earth-WWF: The Hulkster and the Hexster will show you the hurt, baby! I'm told Josie came up with the idea for this mash-up. Thanks, Josie! I love you and the other Pussycats!

World's Finest #167
TB Tabby has got the power...Nintendo Power! Howard and Nestor swing into action from the pages of that late great videogame magazine's comic, proving you can fight crime with 64 well-chosen bits! Long before you kids and your wireless Wii, these two ruled the videogame world. Bring 'em back, Nintendo!

World's Finest #167
Brian Hughes over at Again With the Comics is reading my mind, because he's contributed a team-up of the two heroes I keep looking for week after week in 52: the triumphant return of Wonder Tot and Mister Genie! Can a twelve-issue Grant Morrison maxiseries be far behind? We can only hope, Brian, we can only hope.

Thank you all for parctiapting with creative and outrageous new Batmen and Supermen! Everybody who participated wins a much-coveted Bull-Prize, so if you haven't already, email me your mailing address (to bully AT nyc DOT rr DOT com). I hereby promise you no salesmen will call, I will not put you on any spam mailing list, and hey, I think you'll actually like the prize! But most of all, I thanks ya for reinventing the World's Finest for three comic books I'd surely declare the Most Fun Comics of the Week! Congrats and thanks, Keenan, TB, and Brian!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ten of a Kind and Today in Comics History, March 6, 1836: Remember the Alamo

On this day in 1836, one hundred and seventy-one years ago, the thirteen-day siege of the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas ended with the defeat and death of the Texan defenders. Whether you're a Texan or not, remember the Alamo today...and the comic books it's given us:

(More Ten of a Kind here.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Comics Oughta Be Sans Comic Sans MS

Kevin Church knows a thing or two about a thing or two, and one of those things or two is halfway decent design. His BeaucoupKevin(dot)com blog is one of the more attractive of the comics sites; Kevin knows how to use a scanner and Photoshop, the value of white space, and how to tilt an image just right.

Kevin also knows the horror that is the Comic Sans MS font, and he posts here a serious awful usage of that awfully seriously overused typeface in a current Marvel/Jeep ad/comic. Oooh, it just looks so bad. (Not to mention that "log on" should be two words.)

I don't know if it rivals his award-winning "Q1 Award for Horrible Font Usage, Comic Sans Division," but there's another hideous example of the font in this week's Time Out London, used for a two-page fumetti comic strip (a portion shown below) about Time Out staffers distributing free books to suspicious London commuters on the Underground:

Time Out London

Click to biggify. But shield your eyes, Marion, shield your eyes!

How bad is it? It's so bad that Time Out doesn't even put the feature on their website page with all the other Books Issue articles from this week. That's how bad it is.

Seriously, folks, just because it says "Comic" in the name doesn't mean it's ideal for using in comics. Or, indeed, anywhere. I frequently praise British designers as being hip and ahead of the curve, especially in magazine and book design. But this, mates, is a giant step backwards.

Ban Comic Sans MS! Your children, and your children's children, will thank you.

Johnny Unitas, P.I., does not appear in these reviews

Greetings, Bully-backers! I spent the weekend in lovely snowy Syracuse, New York, where I'm certain there must be a comic book shop but I didn't get a chance to look it up. Instead, I had this entertaining and surreal pop-culture conversation with family member Tom:

TOM: Who's that football player...turned actor, had a detective series in the eighties?
ME: Do you remember anything more about the series?
TOM: No.
ME: Ummmm...Johnny Unitas, P.I.?
TOM: No.
ME: Okay. But I would so watch a show called Johnny Unitas, P.I.

(For the record, it was Fred Dryer as Hunter.)

That's why I didn't get a chance to get last week's comics until today. That's why I didn't review 'em until tonight. Thanks for being so patient!

BART SIMPSON #34: This comic is fun. Bart Simpson oughta be the perfect gateway comic, ideal for introducing fans of the TV show to the medium of comics. Sometimes, however, I'm not certain if the younger audience that Bart seems to be pitched for exists: by the time you're a Simpsons fan, you'll probably prefer the lengthier or more detailed stories in the main comic. That said, Bart provides a good genial monthly dose of giggles, and its three short stories this time bridge the TV and comics market cleverly with plots that might be right at home on Fox: Mrs. Krabappel comes to live with the Simpsons, Willie's secret past as a pop star is revealed (with some dandy Beatles in-jokes), and Homer and Bart battle to create a winning entry in a Krustyburger contest. It's not groundbreaking comics, but by golly, it brings a smile to your face.

JUSTICE #10: This comic is fun. Y'know, I've read enough enthusiastic reviews of Justice, Alex Ross's glossy painted reinvention of Super Friends, to make this book, even so close to its end, this week's entry in my ongoing quest to Pick Up One New Comic Title I Haven't Been Reading. (And no, it wasn't that ultra-green cover which woulda been right at home in yesterday's "Ten of a Kind.") I'm not a massive fan of Ross's painted pin-up covers, but his continuity artwork is dynamic and expressive, and even in a story where most of the Justice League is wearing protective armor, the action is clear and detailed. Sure, I'm coming in two chapters from the end, but it was easy to pick up on the primal action: some villains are doin' bad stuff and the heroes are charging in to stop them. There's a dandy Green Arrow switcharoo in the last couple pages and the story is jam-packed with enough DC Universe characters that this is actually much more entertaining than the sluggish new Justice League of America. I'll be picking up the trade(s) on this series; it's a lovingly-done adventure overshadowed by some of DC's more heavily-promoted "event" comics, and I'm glad I caught it before it ended.

52 WEEK 43: This comic is not fun. Well, I do believe this is the first issue of 52 that actively exasperated me. A pointless fight scene between the Marvels and the Black Marvels (and is Captain Marvel crazy, or not?), followed by the continuing galactic adventures of Animal Man (and I'm not buying that he can reach galactic distances to gain the powers of a Sun-Eater), and finally, a gore-filled shock twist that disappointed me tremendously: not because of the turn of a character I liked (I'm fast learning that 52 loves to pull the rug out from under me) but that it was portrayed with such gruesome violence it actually turns the panels blood-red. It would have been a chilling and compelling twist if it had been hinted at instead of splattered across the page—suggestion is always more powerful than in-your-face gore, guys. Oh well. This close to the end I certainly won't let a disappointing issue put me off, but it's a definite break from a series that has had forty-two issues in a row that have delighted me.

ETERNALS #7: This comic is sorta fun. Huh. That's it? Neil Gaiman's reimagining of Jack Kirby's big and boisterous cosmic heroes wraps up, and I s'pose I should go back and re-read the whole thing in one sitting, but despite being better than many modernizations of the King, it eventually turned into a fairly pedestrian superhero tale where I expected much more from Gaiman. When I look a little more closely I see the Gaiman touches: a lovely little mundane first-page scene with Midwest tourists contemplating a giant golden Celestial, and a very Sandmanesque final fate of Sprite, but there's still too much of Civil War shoehorned into this for no apparent reason, and I was more interested in flipping quickly to the end than savoring the story. Like Nextwave and Agents of Atlas, it's a miniseries that ends with a definite conclusion but also a "the adventure is only beginning" vibe. But it's telling that out of those three series, Eternals is the one I'm least interested in reading further adventures.

HEROES FOR HIRE #7: This comic is fun. It's pretty telling that a fairly straightforward but still playfully fun comic like Heroes for Hire makes my pull list in an age of "event" comics: I don't apologize for enjoying the series as much as I do, but but I can't imagine this series is gonna be around long, which is a pity: it's a solid and fun adventure comic firmly utilizing some of the b-listers of the Marvel Universe (both heroes and villains), but like The Thing, it's not getting a strong buying audience. Pity. If you're passing this up because it looks like a cheesy T&A book...well, it is that, a little, but it's done with such a light touch it's forgivable. And hey, looks like the HfH might be heading to Latveria in the next issue or so! I'm so totally on board for that, and if Misty speaks the immortal line "Where's my money, honey?" then I'll be in fanbull heaven. Until then we have to settle for The Best Line of the Week: "Do not sing Blue Öyster Cult Songs." For its spirit of the seventies and its refusal to take itself too seriously—and for blowin' up stuff real good: HEROES FOR HIRE #7 is the most fun comic of the week.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ten of a Kind: It's Not Easy Bein' Green

(More Ten of a Kind here.)