Monday, April 30, 2012

1988 Justice League International Postcards: Icemaiden

Art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein

Singrid Nansen of Norway has absolute power over ice and snow. She uses that power in her adventures with the Global Guardians as Icemaiden!

The above card had the weakest, least assured art of the set, which was produced so far in advance of the character's being established in the book that they didn't get either of her names right.

Icemaiden was a blue-skinned super-heroine created for the Super Friends comic in the 1970s to represent the people of Norway amongst the Global Guardians. A decade later, the Justice League was short on girls, so they turned the Green Flame and Icemaiden into the infinitely more generic but duo-monicker-friendly Fire & Ice. The new Ice, Tora Olafsdotter, had honky-colored skin, and was a naive Pollyana protected and pressured by virtual "big sis" Fire.

Readers took to Ice because of her sweet nature, her undercutting of Fire's overbearing tendencies, and her effectiveness as a foil for the violent braggart Green Lantern Guy Gardner. Tora's willingness to find the goodness in a thoroughly loutish character and find love elevated both parties, and poo-pooing it gave Fire something to do. Unfortunately, once the International League went from funny adventures to outright terrible "seriousness," Ice tried to better deal Guy with Superman. When that didn't pan out, creators decided it was time for Ice to step out of everyone else's shadow and allow her to be a more fully empowered and proactive heroine. The thing about ice is that it tends to hold up poorly in direct sunlight. Readers hated the new, "colder" Ice, so she got whacked in a crossover, and became the Barry Allen of third rate gimmick characters with breasts.

In the aftermath, somebody noticed that Ice had been completely different from Icemaiden, and retroactively assigned that concept a new life, personality and League membership. Screwing up and killing Tora might have played a tiny little part in Sigrid's return and characterization, mind. For years, Fire had been a reflection of Ice more than her own character, and Sigrid Nansen mirrored this dynamic with Bea. A weak, insecure, and almost cowardly being, Sigrid tried to redefine herself by assuming the responsibilities of Tora, including overreaching by trying to initiate a lesbian relationship with Fire. Even with sales of the Justice League books reaching their nadir, it was still a daring adventure in sexual politics for a mainstream book in the mid-90s. Of course, as a queer heroine, Nansen was inevitably dispatched as brutally as possible, skinned alive by a villainess intent on stealing her powers.

Tora was eventually resurrected, after a lot of moaning and hand-wringing, but the damage couldn't be wholly undone. You can't have an innocent, meek heroine once you make her trifling, put her through a Dark Icicle Saga, throw a haughty cape on her, and drag her out of the freezer after a universe had moved past her. More recently, she received a new origin as a Popsicle Rogue. Her glory days were past before her death, and the aftermath has seen her mostly standing around, propping up male characters and filling internal quotas. I kind of liked Tora for what she was in her time. Today, I'd rather see Sigrid sewn up and the DCU move past old tropes and homophobia to offer an alternative heroine, instead of a simple base competent in the team formula.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Direct Currents: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Working At DC Comics Looks Like A Dream Job

When you're greeted by Batman every morning in the lobby, you probably have a pretty sweet gig. DC Comics were kind enough to let us roam around their New York City headquarters and take candid photos of their nerdy, envy-inspiring offices.

DC Comics Revives 'National Comics' to Spotlight Dormant Characters

National Comics will switch the spotlight character every issue. The first four will be Eternity, Madame X, Rose And Thorn, and Looker.

So What Will Get Canned to make room at DC?

"They Stole Batman!"

Who really created the first Batman? There is evidence that this Batman drawing, dated 1932, was the real inspiration for the Batman attributed to Bob Kane.

Cartoonist Darwyn Cooke Talks 'Watchmen' Revival with Rolling Stone Magazine

Tony DeZuniga is in extremely critical condition in the hospital in the Philippines.

So What Else Do We Know About The September DC Zero Issues?

Now DC Comics Fires Chris Roberson Off Fairest

“Trying to guard the fortress of a king they’ve never seen or met”


Bizarro Back Issues: Superboy Becomes a Super-Man (With Sex) (1977)

Comics Everybody: The History of Captain Marvel/Shazam Explained

How To Be A Superhero (Action Figure) For £80 ($125)

C2E2 2012: Cosplay Gallery

Best Cosplay Ever (This Week) - 04.10.12

Best Cosplay Ever (This Week) - 04.16.12

Best Cosplay Ever (This Week) - 04.25.12

Cosplay Highlights from C2E2

Awesome Art Picks: Batman, Hawkeye, Galactus and More

Awesome Art Picks: Justice League, Captain America, Spider-Man and More

Best Art Ever (This Week) - 04.13.12

Best Art Ever (This Week) - 04.20.12


And Finally… The New Justice League Via X-Men #1


The Aquaman Shrine
Aquaman (Vol.1) #56 - April 1970
Sub-Mariner #72 - Sept. 1974
DC Super Friends Easter Card
Aqua-Sketch by Joe Prado
Aquaman Art Gallery: Strib
Aquaman Art Gallery: John Trumbull
Ace Kilroy on Kickstarter!

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman
2012 New 52 Wave 3 Artemis #1!

Firestorm Fan
Fury of Flintstone by Matt Fagan
Firestorm by Rod Reis
Getting the Wonder Twins Drunk
Yildiray Cinar Sketches of Jason and Ronnie
Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians model reference sheets

The Idol-Head of Diabolu
The Hyperclan: ZENTURION
2012 Mc$oss "Brothers From Another Mother" Comic Strip
T'omm J'onzz
2009 Miss Martian art by Marian Kretschmer
The Vile Menagerie: NEMESUS
The Martian Manhunter Family
The Eduardo Barreto Index

Justice League Detroit
The Top 10 Aquaman Covers of the 1970s

Power of the Atom
2000s The Atom color art by Ramona Fradon

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary
Ming Doyle Commission And Womanthology Signing
Interview With Paul Kupperberg
Review: Action Comics #8
Review: Superboy #8
Review: Legion Lost #8
The Fate Of Dick Malverne

Monday, April 23, 2012

2011 "Ladies of DC - Power Girl" by Taylor Cordingley

Click To Enlarge

"They're fun, they're sassy and they all seem to have a mean right hook. For years, DC Comics has consistently created amazing female superheroes. I'd like to pay tribute to these amazing women of the DC Universe with one of my patented pin-up series -- Ladies of DC! Third in this series is the precarious Power Girl!

Real Name: Kara Zor-L
Other Notable Aliases: Karen Starr, Nightwing
First Appearance: All-Star Comics #58
Abilities: Super strength, speed and stamina, enhanced vision (x-ray, heat), hearing and breath ('hurricane-y', ice), invulernability and flight

Power Girl was never a character on my radar. She only made occasional guest appearances and she was largely a D-list character who ended up at the JSA. But somehow that all changed. DC Comics worked out her origins, through her into the spotlight of one of their annual "let's shake the DCU up" events and gave her her very own on-going series. It was a series on my must-read list for such a long time and I'm glad to say I finally got around to reading it. Her book is an absolute joy to read -- it's witty, has gorgeous art and has a very well-fleshed out heroine. I've come to greatly appreciate the character and can't wait to see how she continues to develop. Although there is something that I noticed -- has anyone else had the strange feeling of déjà vu with the book at times? I feel like it's very similar to Ms. Marvel's ongoing series that she had a couple years back. Mind you, Ms. Marvel's raison-d'être was to become the best heroine possible after her battle with alcoholism and Power Girl's is -- um -- punch things really hard and make a difference doing it. ^^; Jokes, jokes. Oh, and can she make up with Oracle already? WHY is she still holding a grudge?!"

Ladies of DC: Bringing Out The Girls

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: May, 1984

I was all over May, 1984. I bet I must have spent over five whole dollars on comics that month!

Possibly looking for an alternative monthly Spider-Man fix, I tried Marvel Team-Up #144 in hopes of rekindling my glory days with The Brave and the Bold. It featured the visually awesome Moon Knight and the kinda kewl/kinda stoopid villainy of the White Dragon in New York's Chinatown. I liked the art by Greg LaRocque and Mike Esposito, but barely remember anything about Cary Burkett's script. I tried it again though, so it couldn't have been too bad. Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #93 also came out, but I don't recall if I bothered to buy it or not.

Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #5 had a lot of action, but I was noticing elements in Bob Layton's art I didn't like, and the fighting seemed pointless. I really can't tell you anything about this comic, except that the battle on the cover happened inside.

I probably didn't get Blue Devil #3 in its month of relief, and I surely didn't pay more that fifty cents second hand from a flea market (and more likely, closer to $0.20.) There was a couple that worked the booth, and I guess they or someone they knew had a subscription. I couldn't find it, or many other DC titles, on the stands. I was happy to have an alternative source, and loved the book. Dan Cassidy was a stunt man and special effects artist who, while filming a monster movie on a remote island, got trapped in the sophisticated Blue Devil prosthetic by a blast of magic from a demon. Dan had to live with his condition, and the "weirdness magnet" that kept drawing him into wacky adventures. Here, Dan was being studied at S.T.A.R. Labs when Metallo crashed the party. A lot of mileage was made of Blue Devil being faced with a dangerous Superman villain, and I dug his unusual look/color scheme. The most essential element was his kryptonite heart, and I never forgave John Byrne for doing away with all those neat aspects of Metallo Post-Crisis and simply treating him like a Terminator T-800 model. Clearly, this issue sold me, and sold me hard.

I surely purchased Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner #1 on the strength of that grim What If...?? tale from 1983, and despite my affection for the inking prowess of Danny Bulanadi, this didn't cut it. J.M. DeMatteis would eventually become one of my favorite comic writers, but he was an Aquaman veteran, and it showed here. Too much time hanging out with ocean faring scientists and flirting with cute blondes, not enough shouting "Imperious Rex" and attempting murder over imagined slights. Bob Budiansky was no Marc Silvestri, either.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2010 "Ladies of DC - The Huntress" art by Taylor Cordingley

Click To Enlarge

They're fun, they're sassy and they all seem to have a mean right hook. For years, DC Comics has consistently created amazing female superheroes. I'd like to pay tribute to these amazing women of the DC Universe with one of my patented pin-up series -- Ladies of DC! Second in this series is the hot-headed Huntress.

Real Name: Helena Bertinelli
Other Notable Aliases: Batgirl
First Appearance: Huntress #1
Abilities: Highly skilled martial artist and marksman

You know for a character who only been around since the '89 (discounting the heinous idea that Catwoman and Batman should have a superhero baby), Huntress sure has had a lot of different background stories. Overall they all seem to end the same -- Huntress' family gets assassinated and she grows up to unleash some serious bloody justice down on those responsible. I've known Huntress since the late-'90s and was always fascinated by the character. After all, anyone who knowingly disobeys Batman has GOT to be someone to pay attention to. However, it wasn't until Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey and the Year One mini-series that made me fall in love with the character. She's so gutsy and doesn't take shit from anyone. It's fabulous! But she has an extremely vulnerable side that she doesn't show to anyone (although, Black Canary is well aware of that side but ignores it out of respect for Huntress). Whether you love or hate her, you have to admit that she's one kick-ass character. The is one bad mofo who gets kicked off the JLA on regular intervals, puts crossbow bolts in criminals and always seems to be on Batman's naughty list for Christmas. :) All that AND she's got the whole mafioso daughter thing going for her. Batman only wishes he had the balls she does. :P

Ladies of DC

Monday, April 16, 2012

Comic Reader Résumé: April, 1984

In April 1984, I must have found comfort in the familiarity of Al Milgrom's (and Jim Mooney's?) art, or liked the chromatically challenged pairing of symbiote-enhanced Spider-Man and Black Cat, since I bought Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #92. Perhaps I was just intrigued by the bold cover question, "What is... The Answer?" A cheesy villain in a lame story, that's what.

Daredevil #209 was better, though off-puttingly weird. A legion of little girl robots with bombs in them were set to explode, so Daredevil has to run around the city "deactivating" them. For instance, in one encounter, blind attorney Matt Murdock has to quietly knock one down an elevator shaft. Arthur Byron Cover had a black sense of humor that played heavy under the art of David Mazzucchelli and Danny Bulanadi. I suspect I'd enjoy it better today, as I'm now more adulterated. My strongest memory at the time of publication was sitting in the bedroom of the family trailer, cutting out an order form for Secret Wars action figures that I'd never send, and ruining my copy.

Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #4 showed great improvement, starting with an impressive cover image of the Hulk holding up 150 billion tons of mountain. I got hit with a lot of then-current continuity minutiae (Iron Man's a black guy now, and no one else knows?) that added value to the series as a means of keeping up to date with the entire universe. Bob Layton drew the issue, and I didn't mind, even though I was an established (if consciously unaware) Zeck fan.

Boy, I sure wasn't giving DC Comics much attention, was I? I didn't buy Blue Devil #2 for another few years, and I've yet to read the copy of the first issue I only acquired in the past decade or so. Still, it deserved mention before next month...

Friday, April 13, 2012

2011 Captain Marvel Explains It All by Nate Cosby and Evan “Doc” Shaner

Click To Expand and Enlarge

Writer Nate Cosby and artist Evan “Doc” Shaner have a better handle on the Shazam characters than anybody who's done them at DC ever. Just click the link to read the entire strip, or try these "quotes" from Cosby's Tumbler!

If Nate Cosby Wrote Captain Marvel...
It’s not that I can’t be mean. I could cuss a bunch and kill all the bad guys and stuff. But…look, I can’t even drive yet. I don’t have a bank account. I can’t vote or drink and I haven’t been to college. I don’t understand everything. So until I do, I’m gonna use the power I’ve got to do the RIGHT thing. Call me a wussy if you want…I’m just a boy trying to be a good man.

The squares are the neatest. I’ve been to Apokalips and seen the monstrous fire pits. Sailed to the moon and actually touched the American flag, floated over Armstrong and Aldrin’s footprints. Almost (sorta) went to Heaven one time, shook hands with an angel. But my favorite thing, the neatest thing…I get to see almost every day. I fly up, then look down…And I see all these huge squares, this patchwork of different pieces of land. I never flew in a plane when I was little, never really thought about what my town or state looked like from above. I like it, it reminds me of how how small we are, and what a big difference we can make, even if we don’t know it. Or, I dunno…maybe I just like looking at squares.

Dude. I need, I SUPER-NEED you to stop saying stuff about magic to me. I’m not Harry flippin’ Potter. I get big and fly and punch a thing and then punch a thing again if the first punch didn’t work! Isn’t that “MAGIC” enough!?!?!? Want me to say “ta-da” while I do it!?

If Nate Cosby Wrote Doctor Sivana...
This is my Death Ray! Thought about changing that name a few times. Matter-Displacing Ray, World Conquering Ray, Ray Of Eternal Suffering, etc etc. But Death Ray! DEATH!!!! Really cuts to the heart of the matter, you know? DEATH RAY. Sorry, I’m rambling. This Death Ray’s really been such a labor of love…once you get me started, I go on a roll! Ha ha. Anyway. Name me ruler of America or I’ll kill you with my Death Ray, Mister President.

Evan “Doc” Shaner Day

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

1988 Justice League International Postcards: Green Flame

Click to Enlarge

Art by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubinstein

Once a member of the Global Guardians, Beatriz DaCosta of Brazil is able to breathe hot or cold flame, as well as create illusions with sparks radiating from her eyes as the beautiful and deadly Green Flame!

I started out reading DC Comics, but didn't keep up with them very well in the latter half of the Bronze Age. In the early '80s, DC Comics pretty much were still just for kids, and something like the Super Friends tie-in comic was for really little kids, like Spidey Super-Stories. That's where the Green Flame made her debut, joining the Global Guardians, an Up With People for the cape set. Maybe those guys would have amounted to something if the token Super Powers like Apache Chief, Black Vulkan, Samurai, Pharoh, and El Dorado had ended up there. As it was, I didn't know they existed until after Keith Giffen had begun disbanding and deconstructing them in the wake of the Justice League going International. The JLI had already lost the new Dr. Light (or more frankly, never really wanted her in the first place,) and Mike Grell was about to force Black Canary into a brief retirement. DC was light on available heroines to keep the League from becoming a total sausage factory, so Giffen and DeMatteis took the minor Global Guardians Green Flame and Ice Maiden, made them best friends, and rebranded them as the duo Fire & Ice.

Beatriz da Costa went through a few different silly origins and names, but mainly, she ran around in ugly costumes breathing fire. DC took advantage of the Invasion! crossover to amp her up into the Human Torch with a more bodacious body. Mostly, she was defined by her being a counterpart to Ice. Bea was extraverted, flirty, quick to anger, worldly and pseudo-stylish. Adopting the worst excesses of the glammed-up, hair metal decade, Fire eventually ran around in torn skintight jeans, bare midrift, denim jacket and bandana. As with many DC teams of the time, the JLI had its designated females. Bea stayed with the team through several incarnations, until her home book was finally cancelled (see also: Donna Troy, Jade, Vixen, half the cast of the Outsiders.) I don't know that people really cared all that much about Fire as a character. I know I sure didn't. You just expected her to be there and accepted it, like fries with a combo. After Ice was turned into a bitchier version of Fire, so that people actively disliked the change, she was killed off in a crossover. DC just gave Bea another, variant version of Ice that was created mostly because Giffen and DeMatteis had so thoroughly altered their Ice from her original incarnation. Fire became a thoroughly sad character, existing not of her own volition, but as someone to mourn Ice, to reject the sapphic advances of a second Ice, or to sleep with Ice's ex-boyfriend because they were so lonely without Ice. In one particularly regretable appearance, Fire devolved into Charro, fronting coochie-coo and broken English while whining about the Martian Manhunter being more popular in her homeland than she was.

One of Fire's origins involved her being a spy, so she eventually joined Checkmate and moped about the passing of happier days, a shameful past in black-ops, and being in a doomed book like Checkmate. Ice was eventually resurrected, renewing Fire's primary purpose in life as the character's "big sister," and they both joined a new JLI distinct from the old by not being distinct from any other damned second-to-third tier super-team. It suits her. Fire's been a businesswoman, a secret agent, a fashion model, a Valley Girl, a saucy Latina, a mourner... whatever the writers decided they needed, Fire got plugged into. For a while, she was supposed to be the strong female in a buddy team, but that was all heated air. If you Google "Fire" without any additional qualifiers, the character turns up eighteen pages later. That about says it right.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Direct Currents: Easter Weekend, 2012

Images of Canceled 'Justice League' Movie Tie-In Game Surface

'Doctor Who' Crosses Over with Marvel and DC Thanks to Jordan Gibson [Art]

Best Cosplay Ever (This Week) - 04.02.12

Awesome Art Picks: Batwoman, Doctor Doom, Batman and More

Awesome Art Picks: Wonder Woman, Red Robin, Spider-Man and More

Best Art Ever (This Week) - 03.30.12

Best Art Ever (This Week) - 04.06.12


The Aquaman Shrine
Aquaman Art Gallery: Craig Bostick
DC Superheroes Cake
The Fire and Water Podcast: Episode 16
Dax N' Aquaman
Aquaman Stock Art by Tom Grummett
DC Challenge Ad - 1986

The BLOG from the BOG ...SWAMP THING
Berni Wrightson - I love you..
Swamp Thing vs. Zombies?
Weird Cover of the Week #3: Steve Bissette rough
WEIRD Cover of the Week #6: Challengers of the Unknown
AC loves DC - weird cover of the week #9
Batman and Swamp Thing - BFF?
Weeerd Cover of the Week #12: Paul Gulacy
"Swamp Thing/Return" Criterion Double Disc Set

Diana Prince: Wonder Woman
2011 “Goddess vs. Amazon” Artemis art by Michael “mic?” Magtanong

Firestorm Fan
Kevin Smith Mocks Firestorm on Comic Book Men
Firestorm by Luke Daab

The Idol-Head of Diabolu
2011 “Miss Martian 2099” art by Manuel Aguilera
2008 “One Year Later” Jeff Johnson-Jim Smash-Up
2012 New 52 Wave 3 Martian Manhunter #1!

Justice League Detroit
2011 “The Lady Fox & The Ghost Who Walks” by Michael “mic?” Magtanong

Power of the Atom
1967 The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure: The Atom Segment Intro

The Quality Companion Companion
Quality Comics Hero Profiles
Blackhawk: The Movie Serial (1952)

Ralph Dibny, the World-Famous Elongated Man
The Elongated Man rocks MAD!!

Silver Age Comics
Falling In Love #13
Showcase #82: DC Beats Marvel to Sword and Sorcery
Showcase #83: Here Comes Bernie
Superman #173
The Brave and the Bold #54

Subject : THE SUICIDE SQUAD (Task Force X)
Gatefold Suicide Squad relauch fan art by Corey Breen
Suicide Squad #7 review: Try not too loose your head hunting for Harley
Deadshot takes out Bullseye in the arena of DC vs Marvel

Supergirl Comic Box Commentary
Ming Doyle Commission And Womanthology Signing
Lauren Faust's Character Designs For SBFFs
Review: Superman #7

The Thought Experiment
The Monkees, feat. bespectacled Julie Newmar (a ghost post)

Todd Klein's Blog
Visiting DC Comics in the 1960s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
New Facebook feature: Logo of the Day
When I Lettered DC Covers By Hand
Superman SMASHED!

Tower of Fate
Dr. Fate Animated GIF's
Goodbye, Dr. Fate by Trusty
Dr. Fate's Tower by Craig Hamilton
History of Dr. Fate Pt. 5
Dr. Fate Redesign
Dr. Fate Cosplay
Dr. Fate vs Dr. Strange
Dr. Fate artwork by John Van Fleet
Zombie Dr. Fate
DC Super Powers Dr. Fate Action Figure

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Secret Origins #10 - Phantom Stranger

Hello again everyone!

It's Anj from Supergirl Comic Box Commentary, occasional and too infrequent of a guest blogger here at DC Bloodlines.

I have wanted to write this review Secret Origins #10 for some time. And finally, time permitted me to put some thoughts down on paper. This issue came out way back in late 1986, coinciding with the Legends crossover which featured the Phantom Stranger pretty prominently.

As part of the allure of the Stranger is that he has no set origin, DC did something pretty original. They had 4 'potential' origins in this issue, allowing the reader to pick which one they thought were 'truth' or ignore them all as simple possibilities.

The most famous of these stories is by the dream team of writer Alan Moore and comic god artist Joe Orlando. While I will touch on the other stories, I will concentrate my review on the Moore/Orlando offering.

The title of the story is Footsteps and it is an apt one. It echoes both the plight of one of the human characters who is walking in the footsteps of the Stranger's past, his origin. It also comments on the Stranger himself, always walking, walking to forget his past.

In the story, a nameless man is caught between two factions of a sort of neighborhood watch/good samaritan group called the Subway Angels. The Angels founder is named Josh and wants to help the homeless and downtrodden living underground in the subway tunnels. The Angels lieutenant is named Otis. He wants to 'dethrone' Josh, take over the Angels, and mobilize the poor masses into an Army which he will command. Our unnamed 'hero' doesn't know what side he will be on.

So Moore throws a lot at us almost immediately. The human characters are angels ... Subway Angels. The protagonist is nameless, like the Stranger, and caught in the middle of a war. The 'good guy' being named Joshua didn't go unnoticed either.

We then cut to a similar scene and a similar conversation, this one between angels.

One angel is Etrigan, an interesting play on the Demon by Moore. Etrigan was an angel who joined Lucifer in his attempt to overthrow God. Here Etrigan is asking an unnamed Angel which side he will join. All very familiar to our opening scene.

Otis continues to try to convince this Subway Angel to join his revolt. It is better to rule 'down here' (read in Hell) then to serve up on the surface. He promises our unnamed angel a place of power.

And behind them, the Stranger eavesdrop ... and reminisces.

The nameless Angel meanwhile also continues to weigh his options. Does he join Lucifer and Leviathan and Asmodel in fighting God? He can't decide. Lucifer, like Otis, promises that reward will be handed out to those who swear allegiance.

Otis' plans to usurp Josh do not succeed. Otis is thoroughly beaten and cast out. Josh reminds Otis of their mission to help people, not benefit themselves.

Unfortunately, our unnamed Angel never picked a side and as a result he is cast out by both sides of this war. Josh kicks him to the curb.

Similarly, the unnamed Angel cannot choose a side in the God/Lucifer conflict. He sits by watching the struggles around him. And he witnesses Lucifer and his comrades get banished from Heaven, cast into Hell.

When our human angel tries to rejoin Otis and his band, he is throttled. To Otis, not choosing is the same as choosing against him. He begins to beat the unnamed angel. The scene here is nightmarish. The people with Otis are monstrous, the setting literally the underworld.

And our unnamed Angel suffers a similar fate. The higher Angels have forsaken him for not choosing the side of Yahweh. The fallen forsake him for not joining their cause. This angel has no home. And his punishment shall be to walk alone for all eternity. Leviathan rips off the Angel's wings. He cannot fly. He is doomed to wander.

Beaten but alive, the nameless angel meets the Stranger, the nameless Angel we have been reading about all along. Sensing a kindred spirit, the Stranger helps the young man get grounded.

I think everything about this story works. The two similar stories unfolding along side each other reverberates. The Stranger origin carries the weight that someone of his power and mystery warrants. He didn't choose sides in the Holy War. And the story of the Subway Angels carries all the same elements of good and evil, just written at a human level. And Joe Orlando's art is just ugly enough to be the perfect milieu for this story of the most vile of evil, the most nightmarish of settings.

Is this *the* origin of the Phantom Stranger? No, no more than The Killing Joke is *the* origin of the Joker. But it works extremely well.

The other stories are hit and miss.

Mike Barr and Jim Aparo write 'Tarry Till I Come Again" in which the Stranger helps a priest suffering a lapse in faith.

The Stranger tells his origin. His wife was killed in the culling of young men by Herod. Angered that Christ lived, the Stranger helped crucify him. And Christ tells him that he must walk the Earth until the second coming. The Stranger is the Wandering Jew. By helping this priest, the Stranger is released from his duties by the Lord. But the Stranger opts to continue to roam the Earth to help those who need it.

I am a sucker for Aparo art.

Paul Levitz and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez wrote and drew 'And men shall call him Stranger'.

In this story, a devout man pleads with the Lord not to destroy the sinful city he lives in. When the city is destroyed, the man is offered sanctuary by an angel. But rather than live alone, the man attempts to kill himself.

Both devout in prayers and damned for his suicide, the angel grants the man both power and pain. The man shall walk the Earth as long as there is evil, he will have power to help people turn to the right path, but he will never be one of men, and he shall forget who he is. He will be a Stranger to everyone, even himself.

The last story is something of a clunker given the religious overtones of the first three.

'Revelations', by Dan Miskin and Ernie Colon takes place in the future. There, the Stranger tries to stop scientists from witnessing the act of creation. He is aided by a scientist who also thinks this will be blasphemy. Dying, the Stranger gives his power to the good scientist. This man witnesses and becomes part of the moment of creation. Imbued by power, he will eventually become the Stranger who ends up saving him years hence. This was a bit too Star Trek-y for this issue and had a very different feel from the other tales.

Still, overall, this is a neat little issue with some very good stories. The Moore story alone is worth reading, like most things he wrote when playing around the DCU. I found this issue in the $1 box at my local store. I can't imagine it being sold for more than $5. It is worth the purchase.

And that is my review of Secret Origins #10. A while ago, I did a bunch of reviews here on DC Fantasy comics from the early 1970s. I may go more that vein soon!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

1979 The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show Opening Theme

All my life, there's been comics. I was cool with cartoons like most kids, but comics always came first. That's how I could tell the real comic book super-heroes from the "fakes" like the Blue Falcon, Mightor, Space Ghost, and Birdman. That's also how I knew Plastic Man was a "real" super-hero, but a Benedict Arnold who acted like the worst kind of fake.

First off, until someone takes Hack/Slash to animation, a forward slash in a title does not sound like good cartooning. Second, the title announces itself as "comedy/adventure," which is fine if you're Big Trouble in Little China and both come naturally. Typically though, it just means the "laughs" are tepid and the action isn't taken seriously, as was the case here. Third, the cartoon continued the huge mistake perpetuated since DC started publishing Plastic Man in the '60s of treating Plas as a zany oddball in a straight world. It pretty much kills any dramatic heft or depth in the character, and in more recent years has rendered him the most noxious of obs. The original Jack Cole comics are so great because Plas is the heroic straight man in an insane world of catastrophe, heinous deeds, and nutty scams. You're glad the Pliable Paladin has the flexibility to bend around and contain the crushing weight of man's inequities. In the cartoon, Plastic Man is just an annoying dork trying way too hard to be funny and failing miserably. Fourth, the cartoon traded sleazy hustler Woozy Winks for the klutzy pinhead Lou Costello impersonator token sidekick Hula-Hula. Fifth, they saddled Plas with the Southern Belle bimbo Sue Dibny wannabe Penny who produced Baby Plas, who in itself was the six-six-sixth. Finally*, they had that absolutely wretched live action Plastic Man for interstitials during cartoons, even though his voice in no way matched that of the animated Plas, and he was so sleazy that he made you want to punch his face off. I watched some of his work before writing this, and all these years later, I still want to commit acts of violence upon this person, just to make him stop talking.

I suppose the point of all that was to say that I hate The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show more than most any other super-hero cartoon and I've hated it longer than most anything else in this life. I'm not sure which I heard of first-- this show or Nazis. I think I've hated this show longer than the concept of an (admittedly stylishly dressed) army of real life genocidal madmen who murdered millions. It also made me hate Plastic Man for many years, but the character is much cooler than this, so please try to forgive him for having a bad show that somehow managed 130 episodes in two seasons.

While I've got you here, I'll throw in the opening to 1980's The Kid Super Power Hour with Shazam! Only thirteen episodes were produced, so unlike Plastic Man, there weren't enough to re-run consistently in syndication throughout my freakin' childhood. In fact, I maybe caught this show once or twice as a kid, and the rest was on YouTube as an adult who didn't get much out of them. Still, Captain Marvel's another fun character who once was among the big guns, but DC rarely gets them remotely right after decades of ownership...

*Okay, one more-- a jet? Who thought a jet was a good idea?