Sunday, November 12, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 243: A heart full of joy and gladness will always banish sadness and Stryfe

The Nineties! They were big, bold, and brassy, filled to the brim with epaulets, guns, and pouches, an age where large men with invisible feet roamed the scratchy, scratchy earth. But no matter the style of the nineties, you have to give 'em this: heroes were heroes, and they did the right things:

Panels from What If...? (1989 series) #69 nice [What If Stryke Killed the X-Men?] (January 1995), script by Mariano Nicieza, pencils by J.R. Justiniano, inks by Roy Richardson, colors by Kevin Tinsley, letters by Janice Chiang

365 Days of Defiance, Day 242: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Panels from Black Panther (2016 series) #11 (April 2017); script by Ta-Nehisi Coates; layouts by Chris Sprouse; finishes by Goran Sudzuka, Walden Wong, Karl Story, and Roberto Poggi; colors by Laura Martin with Larry Molinar, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Paul Lounts; letters by Joe Sabino

365 Days of Defiance, Day 241: Nomad's Land

There's many great scenes and panels of resistance and defiance in the relatively recent and Kirbyesquely epic "Trapped in Dimension Z" saga of Captain America. Here's one of my favorites from the very last pages of the arc's very last story, when we find out what has happened to Steve's adopted son Ian since Cap escaped Arnim Zola's deadly dictatorial regime:

Panels from Captain America (2013 series) #10 (October 2013); script by Rick Remender; pencils by John Romita Jr.; inks by Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, and Scott Hanna; colors by Dean White and Rachelle Rosenberg; letters by Joe Caramagna

365 Days of Defiance, Day 240: Kirby Says: Don't Ask, Just Punch a Nazi!

(post for August 28, 2017)

Today is Jack Kirby's One Hundredth Birthday. Happy Birthday, Jack!

Self-portrait from Forever People #4 (August 1971), as reprinted in Kirby: King of Comics (2002) by Mark Evanier; pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Vince Colletta

I've spent this year focusing on mostly fictional acts of defiance and rebellion from the pages of our favorite medium, but let's take a moment on Jack's birthday to salute this actual hero of a man who not only drew supers who would punch Nazis and their sympathizers, he would put his money where his mouth was in real life:

from Kirby: King of Comics (2002) by Mark Evanier

The only sad thing about those paragraphs is that the last sentence is no longer true.

We need Kirby more than ever, but alas, he's departed from us. His absence leaves us all a little poorer, but he's left behind his work, his words, his art, and his ideas to continue to inspire us. So now's your time to step into the shoes of the King and try to carry on his legacy. Imagine. Create. Write. Draw. Believe. Resist. Rebel. Defy. Be a king.

365 Days of Defiance, Day 239: The more you say / The more I defy you / So get out of my face

Recently I showed you modern-day (well, contemporary to the '70s when the story was published) Agent Peggy Carter express her expectoral dislike of Nazis, but that was not the chronological first appearance of Peggy tellin' those jackbooted fascists to take a long walk off a short pier. Here's a sequence that, despite its publishication in 1966, takes place over twenty years before during the Big One, WWII! (Hey, how come it's not "the Big Two," then?) Peggy, the cannily-named Agent 13, has been captured by Nazis whuo demand she betray her beliefs, her country, and her boyfriend, a little-known guy called Captain America! There's no gobbing, but it still doesn't go well for her captors.

Panels from "If a Hostage Should Die!" in Tales of Suspense #77 (May 1966), script by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby, pencils by John Romita Sr., inks by Frank Giacoia, letters by Sam Rosen

That Peggy is a spitfire! Even when she's not spittin'.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 238: Teach your children well

Panels from Journey into Mystery (2011 series) #630 (December 2011), script by Kieron Gillen, pencils and inks by Richard Elson, colors by Jessica Kholinne, letters by Clayton Cowles

Friday, August 25, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 237: Yipes! Stripes!

Sometimes defiance is simply refusing to do what "The Man' tells you to, and to heck with the consequences.

"Park Lark" from Reggie's Wise Guy Jokes #14 (August 1970), creators uncredited

Thursday, August 24, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 236: Spartacus in Heaven

Also in JLA #41, source of yesterday's big Aztek moment — that's a big moment for Aztek, not a moment when Aztek suddenly became giant, like Apache Chief. But wouldn't that have been cool?

Anyway, here's where Hawkman Zuriel actually convinces the angels of the Shining City to stand with him and defend Earth from Mageddon. Hey, how'd he get back to Heaven to do this? He let himself die in the previous issue. Now that's commitment.

Panels from JLA #41 (May 2000), script by Grant Morrison, pencils by Howard Porter, inks by Drew Geraci, colors by Pat Garrahy, color separations by Heroic Age, letters by Ken Lopez

How awesome is JLA #41? So awesome that there's even another great scene of defiance in it. Yeah, you know the one I mean. It's so epic, I'm gonna save it until December. Don't forget to come back then and every day in between because I'm really trying to catch up, honest.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 235: Kobayashi Aztek

Yesterday I mentioned that Aztek's initiation into the JLA paralleled that classic ancient fable of the Kobayashi Maru, an unwinnable tactical situation in which we learn that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life. And with considerably more adrenaline! If Aztek's first day in the Justice League was the beginning of Star Trek II, then this issue of JLA is the climax of that movie, with considerably more superheroing and less "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN"ing.

Panels from JLA #41 (May 2000), script by Grant Morrison, pencils by Howard Porter, inks by Drew Geraci, colors by Pat Garrahy, color separations by Heroic Age, letters by Ken Lopez

Oh Aztek my Aztek, you were too good for this world — which you saved.

Thanks to the wonder of Grant Morrison, JLA #41 is actually chock-full o' moments of ultimate defiance. We'll look at another great one tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 234: Highway to the Danger Room

Oh no! (he said, excitedly, because it's a Grant Morrison story and virtually anything could happen) The Justice League has been destroyed! By Darkseid! He's always pullin' that! Also, he's burning the American flag, so expect a stern rebuke from the right.

Panels from Aztek, The Ultimate Man #10 (May 1997), script by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, pencils by N. Steven Harris, inks by Keith Champagne, colors by Mike Danza, letters by Clem Robins

Now what are you going to do?!? No, this is not a Choose your Own Adventure story. (If you face Darkseid with a Mother Box, turn to page ten. If you escape back in time, turn to pahe 45. If you light a firecracker in Darkseid's pants, turn to page 906.) It's actually a dilemma for Aztek, the Pontiac mid-size the Ultimate Man! What will you do, Aztek, what will you do? (If you stab Darkseid with your pinty pointy helmet, turn to page 108.)

Surprise! It's all a Danger Room-style simulation overseen by the tactical master of the JLA (hold on, gotta turn my head and laugh a little)...Green Lantern. The Kyle Rayner version, with crab mask and all! Turns out this was part of the initiation test to join the Justice League (A), and Aztek's tactical plan has passed with flying colors. Other parts of the initiation test not shown here include tugging on Superman's cape, taking one punch from Batman, and going to all-you-can-eat night at Golden Corral with Wally.

The test is, in fact, a Kobayashi Maru of sorts. Unlike the real Starfleet thing, it is winnable — not by reprogramming the simulation, but by sheer force of the fact that nobody ever really dies in superhero comic books. These rules may not apply in dreams, imaginary stories (aren't they all?) or Elseworlds, but that's not because of the power of Aztek's conviction but rather of Warner Brothers merchandising.

Just as in Star Trek II, just like James T. Kirk with the glasses and all, this chapter of Aztek's short but illustrious career opens with a Kobayashi Maru test and ends not to soon after with him having to face the real deal. Join us tomorrow to see how we face death is at least as important as how we face life, Aztek.

Monday, August 21, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 233: Doomsday

It's easy to overlook the accomplishments of the Distinguished Competition in the 1960s, when Marvel's House of Ideas was outpacing DC at nearly every step in storytelling and art. But I think one of the most groundbreaking stories of the late '60s, and one frequently overlooked when summing up the most powerful moments in comics, is the end of Doom Patrol #121:

Panels from Doom Patrol (1964 series) #121 (September-October 1968), script by Arnold Drake, pencils and inks by Bruno Premiani, letters by Ben Oda

Madame Rouge and Captain Zahl have already killed Monsieur Mallah (intelligent talking ape villain) and his hetero life-partner The Brain ( on wheels), so you know they mean business when they trap the Original Doom Patrol on a island, zap away their powers, and offer them an ultimatum with a two-minute deadline to decide who will die: the population of Codsville, Maine! Population 14, most popular dish: Cod-on-a-Stick. (I'm not making that part up, though its canonicity is disputed.)

Well, what did you THINK the Doom Patrol was going to say? They choose death to save the people of Codsville. So how do you think they're going to escape this deathtrap?

Whoa. They...they didn't.

There's a lot of heroes in comics who have sacrificed themselves to save humanity — The Flash, Phoenix, Ultimate Spider-Man, even Superman...but I think the Doom Patrol were the first. And remember this: it was during an age where the revolving doors had not yet been installed on the afterlife, where dead pretty much meant dead. Sure, DC could have revealed the next month that the Doom Patrol had burrowed themselves to safety, or used time travel, or clones, or robots (well, aside from Robotman)...any number of quick escape tricks that comics would turn into cliches for still being alive or returning from the dead.

But they didn't. Dead meant dead in that, and the Doom Patrol was really dead. Their ultimate act of defiance became the greatest sacrifice of all.

And who was to blame? Zahl? Madame Rouge? The Monitor, who I presume was watching all this and marking down in his little book that when the Crisis came, he'd have to grab the DP from 1967 instead? Nope! To paraphrase a classic rock 'n' roll song that was being recorded probably just around the time the Patrol kicked their mutual buckets:
I shouted out, "Who killed the Doom Patrol?"
When after all, it was you and me

J'accuse! says Doom Patrol creator and destroyer Arnold Drake directly at us, beating Buddy Baker to that trick by 22 years. I'mma gonna assume that in the background artist Bruno Premiani isn't quite as accusatory of you and me, or, at least, those of us who are named Charlie.

It's kind of late to be blaming us for not buying the book, but that's the general tone of DC's final column in this final ish of Doom Patrol. The snarky last panel and this editorial kind of haunt the otherwise pitch-perfect ending of the team; DC of the period frequently took that tone with its readers, which I imagine is one of the reasons the friendly, cheerful, buddy-tones of Stan Lee were more popular during this period.

In the end, like every comic book hero except Bucky Barnes and Uncle Ben, the Doom Patrol "got better." Robotman was back when an all-new Doom Patrol premiered in the pages of Showcase '77, Negative Man returned after a stint of being replaced with a Negative Woman (no MRA jokes, guys), and the Chief just rolled along back to have his beard hunted (again, actual canon!). Even Elasti-Girl showed up once more in the movie The Incredibles a John Byrne series that existed mainly to wipe out the world of Grant Morrison.

But for a moment, in their final moment of defiance, these four heroes gave up their lives without hesitation to save not even the world, but fourteen people they never knew. And the world wept for them, and honored them. We salute you: Niles Caulder, Rita Farr, Larry Trainor, Cliff Steele: the Doom Patrol.