Friday, August 18, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 230: Your decisions turn around and make you back and then you're stuck

Panel from Batman/Hellboy/Starman #1 (January 1999), script by James Robinson, pencils and inks by Mike Mignola, colors by Matt Hollingsworth, letters by Willie Schubert

A very special Bullish thank you to Magnificent Matt Rowbotham, who suggested and identified this panel for me!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 122: Here Comes the Sun-Eater

Remember that chilling, dramatic opening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture? Sure you do! You hadn't fallen asleep by then yet.

But, if you're at all familiar with the history of the Legion of Super-Heroes, you can stand up in your seat back there in 1979 and proudly shout to the annoyed masses: "Comics did it first!" And while they're bodily kicking you out of the movie theater, you can be proud that you were right.

Panels throughout are from the Legion of Super-Heroes stories in Adventure Comics #352-353 (January-February 1967), script and layouts by Jim Shooter, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by George Klein, letters by Milton Snapinn

Now play Jerry Goldsmith's spaceariffic Star Trek movie theme while we do our opening (comics) credits and introduce our amazing cast from one thousand years in the future! (uture uture uture uture) But grife, what are the Fatal Five doing there getting star credits alongside the Legion of Super-Heroes? Inconceivable! I keep using that word and I think it means what it is! Why, that would be like, as the narration tells us, not dating the story at all, U.N.C.L.E. making a pact with T.H.R.U.S.H.! Or CONTROL teaming up with KAOS! Or S.H.I.E.L.D.* being controlled by, well, maybe not that last one.

ONE OF THESE PEOPLE WILL DIE! (flashing arrow pointing directly to ) This is a good example of early Legion stories making great use of the Mission: Impossible concept: a specific but small group of Legionnaires pitted against a villain rather than all six hundred and eight of 'em. In this case, however, the villain is about as big as they get: a cosmic entity searching for sustenance throughout the galaies, but instead of jus' stopping by Hardee's in the Alpha Centauri Spacemall like you or I would do, it eats stars. What's more, it operates purely on instinct and is completely mindless. So, it's sort of like Galactus after a huge fraternity kegger party.

The Sun-Eater is (gasp! choke!) heading directly towards Earth's sun, apparently bypassing some other, meatier, tenderer stars on its way from the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy. It's like when you want White Castle and nothing else will do. Superboy runs a PowerPoint he's prepared earlier to show the Legionnaires what they'll be up against: victory is a totally utter, impossibility. For the Legion of Super-Heroes, this is Tuesday.

WHY ARE THERE ONLY FIVE LEGIONNAIRES AT HQ oh wait Superboy (and Jim Shooter) casually explain that the other Legionnaires are away in Dimension QK-51 (home of the Superman Meets the Quik Bunny crossover). That must be some doozy of a mission that makes them keep only five members in reserve (granted, one's Superboy; on the other hand, Projectra and Ferro) on Earth. I mean, they coulda left behind Matter-Eater Lad, the greatest Legionnaire, who would have handily ate the Sun-Eater. Burp!

Surely, you say, there must be other heroes in the galaxy considering there are entire planets whose biospheres support magnetic control or intangibility or extreme! computing! power! Well, sure there is, and stop calling me Shirley. But nobody, not the Heroes of Lallor, not the Wanderers, not even the Tiny, Tiny Avengers of Imsk (they're so cuuuute!) can come to the Legion's aide. And then there's these buncha jerks! They think they can get out of helping to save Earth just because they are only disembodied floating heads!

Incidentally, note the first caption in the panels above. A rare sliparoo from Shooter on which century LSH takes place in! (the Thirtieth). WHOOPS.

With a Legion consisting only of Superboy (almost infinitely powerful), Cosmic Boy (pretty darn powerful), Sun Boy (a dangerous thing to be around a Sun-Eater), Princess Projectra (ummmmm...) and Ferro Lad (.........), the Legion of Super-Heroes is in dire need of allies to battle the Sun-Eater. So they find and deputize the Fatal Five: Tharok (unstoppable cyborg), the Persuader (he'll beg the Sun-Eater to leave), the Emerald Empress (she'll keep an eye out for you), Mano (The Hand of Fate), and Validus (who, when he's not freaking out, has a tragic and yet-to-be-told Legion origin story!) This quintet of quirky quacksalvers are promised amnesty from their crimes if they help stop the Sun-Eater. That doubles the defense force and allows Jim Shooter to nod his very tall hat at a plot device from The Dirty Dozen Time for a soundtrack cue!

First up on our Star Search stage: Sun Boy! He's hot and fiery and full of cosmic gas! All the powers of a raging star and the ability to stand on a giant compact disc! But no savior of the universe he! So, they all give up and go home.

Now, Tharok and Validus try chopping at it and throwing lightning at it! But what works in Kitchen Stadium is ineffective in space, and they can't truly stop the unstoppable thing which cannot be stopped! Are ya sorry ya didn't go to Dimension QK-51 yet, Legionnaires?

Well, here comes the galaxy's most powerful hero (in handy compact boy form): Superboy! I dunno, Clark, use your Krypto-vision to shoot small dogs at it, or maybe super-ventriloqism to convince it our sun is out of business and not worth heading for. Because only Superboy can stand up to the power of a billion suns projecting yellow, orange, green, blue rays...D'OH! RED SUN RAYS! WHO COULD HAVE EXPECTED THAT?

Cosmic Boy / Cosmic Boy / He has got a cosmic ploy / Is he magnetic? / Listen, Jim / He'll attract any metal / Except aluminum / Alas / Sun-Eater's not made of metal / No joy

Emerelad Empress and her Eye stare at it! Aside from the Sun-Eater feeling momentarily self-conscious about its weight, it does no damage.

Eh, what the heck, let's let the Princess take a crack sending illusions at it. It surely couldn't get worse. (beat) AIEEE! It got worse!

Mano! The man with the hand that destroys everything it touches! How he goes to the bathroom we'll never know. Ah, Mano, thank you for making us laugh at "Ehahh!" again.

Well, that's everybody from both teams, so Earth's gonna die, uh huh. I would kiss your loved ones and maybe eat that ice cream in the fridge before it goes to waste...oh yeah, Ferro Lad! Forgot about him! As is often the case in the Legion, a member you don't think is gonna pull off a mission is absolutely successful! Yay Ferro! I-RON-na give you a big hug!

Now that they know the thing has a brain that looks like a mascot from the 1964 World's Fair Let's Get Charged for Electrons pavilion, they can destroy it! Tharok quickly whips up a bomb out of ordinary household items you probably have lying around your place, but who will carry it into the heart of the storm? Aw, c'mon...if you didn't know the ending of this story, turn in your Comics Predicting Badge. Even Brainiac Minus-5 saw that coming, and he's the Dumbest Guy in the Galaxy three years running from 2964-2967.

I've poked gentle (well, except for Projectra) fun at this story throughout, but in terms of emotion and defiance, the sacrifice of Ferro Lad ranks very high on my list. This tale — and this first panel showing Ferro Lad flying into the heart of the Sun-Eater to ignite the bomb himself — is justifiably iconic in comics history, and the first "real" death of the Legion (altho' Lightning Lad had died before, he came back or Proty had babies with Saturn Girl, however you wanna think about that). I admit I cried...just a little...when I first read this story, lowering the value of my copy of Adventure #353 from VG to G: waterstained.

We salute you, Ferro Lad! We will miss your honor, your bravery, your ingenuity, and your ability to hold our grocery lists using fridge magnets.

Ferro Lad, we will not see your type again. Because Shooter killed you off on purpose because you couldn't have been black.
When Jim Shooter first created the character, he intended Ferro Lad to be black, but editor Mort Weisinger vetoed the idea, saying "we'll lose our distribution in the South."

This was in fact why Shooter chose Ferro Lad to be the one to die in the Sun Eater story. "Ferro Lad, I killed because my plan was that he was a black guy, and Mort said no. Then I said, "Well, let's see. I've got this idea for a story, and someone needs to die...Ah-ha! Him!" So basically, I killed him off because it annoyed me that I couldn't do with him what I wanted." — Wikipedia

Say, remember that whoops! caption above that said "Time: The twentieth century?" Well, in a way Jim Shooter could have never predicted, it eventually wound up being true when the story was retold in Post-Zero Hour 1996. Tune in tomorrow to find out how, why, and when! (Oh, 1996. Ignore that last one.)

Cover of Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 series) #86 (November 1996),
pencils by Alan Davis, inks by Mark Farmer, colors by Patrick Martin

*Sun-Eater Heading Into Enormous Lightyear District

365 Days of Defiance, Day 229: Frank Castle, Vampire Hunter

So What If...? the Punisher armed with Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation was fighting evil vampire X-Men. What then, huh?

Panels from What If...? (1989 series) #24 (April 1991); script by Roy Thomas, Jean-Marc Lofficier, and Randy Lofficier; pencils and inks by Tom Morgan; colors by Tom Vincent; letters by Janice Chiang

The 1990s! There was no concept too high for that decade to embrace!

Seriously, do spray vampires with holy water.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Namor vs. Fake News

Panel from The Avengers (1963 series) #287 (January 1988), plot by Roger Stern, script by Ralph Macchio, breakdowns by John Buscema, finishes by Tom Palmer, colors by Christie Scheele, letters by Bill Oakley

Today in 365 Days of Comics Defiance History, Day 228: You Say You Want a Revolution

Cover of Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #7 (March 1999), pencils by Ron Frenz

Wha...? you might say in astounded, be-baffled disbelief. I'm with ya on that front! Captain America in 1781? Is this a dream, an imaginary story, or a hoax? Is it a what-if or an elseworlds or an infinities or a deviation? It is a Red Skull-changed alternate reality? Is it a comic book? (It's a comic book.) Here's the story of a lovely lady of the Steve Rogers of 1776, complete with timely mullet. He's always copying nineties-era Superman! While discussing politics and quaffing ale out of golden tankards at his local replica Revolutionary War-era Charles Cheese Inn, Steve's alerted by 1776 Foggy Nelson (or maybe it's just ponytailed Bucky Barnes) that the Declaration of Independence has been signed! Huzzah! Three day holiday weekend, woo!

Panels from Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #6 and #7 (February-March 1999), script by Roger Stern, pencils by Ron Frenz, inks by Roger Langridge, colors by Tom Smith, letters by John Costanza

Steve leaves his potentially lucrative career drawing Spyder-Manne cartoons for Ye Olde Marvelle Comicks to join the Continental Army and hey wait, has he skipped a step? What happened to getting some Super-Soldier formula and some rich, delicious Vita-Rays? Well, since they didn't exist then, and Steve already has the hardy ripped brawny body of a superhero with a really huge belt buckle, I can only guess that his Super-Serum is actually 1770s beer.

Then...KOREA! I mean, VALLEY FORGE! Hey, how come there's never been a Revolutionary War-themed group of superheroes named Valley Force? Get right on that, Mike W. Barr.

Meanwhile, six years later, on today's very date, proto-Steve actually becomes Captain Young America! He's got a mighty shield and when he hits you with it, you'll see thirteen stars!

And when Captain America throws his mighty shield, all those who are British spies must yield! Take that, Young James Bond!

236 years ago today at either dawn or when the Earth's sun is exploding, Cap faces off in a deadly duel with pistols against his arch enemy William Taurey. Get it? Get it? Still, it's better than if they'd called him Led Lurks or somethin'.

I will now digress both backwards and forwards in time here to point out that I riff on William Taurey's name with complete affection, as he is created by comic king Jack Kirby. (You can even sort of see Taurey's Kirbyness in Ron Frenz's depiction of him.) Here's the original groundwork on which Roger Stern expanded, in the classic Kirby Madbomb story of 1976:

Panels from Captain America (1968 series) #194 (February 1976), script and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Frank Giacoia (and Mike Esposito?), colors by Janice Cohen, letters by Gaspar Saladino

So yes, it's all not merely canon, it is more sincerely Kirby-canon! But patriot Steven Rogers killed Taurey in cold blood back during the duel? How could this be? With a sense of dread let's go back to the 1781 duel! Now, I was poisonally hoping Cap would pull out a series of progressively larger guns than Taurey, but as that particular Bugs Bunny cartoon would not be created for another 167 years, he plays it honestly and by the rules. Geez, Steve, you'll never get ahead in America that way.

As for how Taurey died at the hands of Patriot Cap...well, Taurey's history left out one little thing:

What? It was all just a diary entry!

And yes, Kirby lay the foundation for that, too!

Panels from Captain America (1968 series) #200 (August 1976), script and pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Frank Giacoia, colors by Don Warfield, letters by John Costanza

Well, I'm sure it's fine. And now that Cap's been unfrozen in the twenty-first century, he can just look his ancestry up on one of those websites and find out that he's related to...what, he's related to Nazis now? That can't be right! Yelling and shaking my hoof angrily: RED SKULLLLLLLLLL!!!

Happy 74th Birthday, Alfred Pennyworth! (Hope You Survive the Experience!)

Panel from Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Five (2015 digital series) #26 (June 2016), script by Brian Buccellato, pencils and inks by Mike S. Miller, colors by J. Nanjan, letters by Wes Abbott

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 227: Willkommen, Bienvenue, Batman

What If...? (©1976 a completely different company) Bruce Wayne had become a hero in the Berlin, Germany of 1939? Well, he would be millionreichsmark playjunge Baruch Wane...but at night he would oppose the Nazi government as The Berlin Batman!

Panel from The Batman Chronicles #11 (Winter 1998); script, pencils, and inks by Paul Pope; colors by Ted McKeever; letters by Ken Lopez

This Batman fights not merely against crime but also the clampdown on intellectualism and artistry. Here he is fighting to prevent writings from a dissident Jewish economist (stored on a train) from falling into the hands of the Nazis. And when you've got actual Nazis, who needs the Joker?

By the way, that's Komissar Garten in the green trench coat. "You're only one man, what can you do?" taunts Garten. Why, he doesn't know Der Batman very well at all, does he?

And now you know about the legend of the Berlin Batman. In the heart of evil, may we all be so brave and dedicated.

365 Days of Defiance, Day 226: Marvel the Vote

It's Local Election Time in the Ms. Marvel Universe! And, you know, I never realized she had that gauntlet only on her left wrist. You learn something new every day!

Page from Ms. Marvel (2016 series) #13 (January 2017), script by G. Willow Wilson, pencils and inks by Mirka Andolfo, colors by Ian Herring, letters by Joe Caramagna

Like, f'r instance, Ms. Marvel learning that some people just have ass-stupid reasons for not voting.

That's why it pays to know the facts. And here's where The Divine Ms. M. explains it all for you, debunking common misconceptions about voting. For instance, did you know it doesn't say anywhere in the rulebook that a stuffed bull can't be President? (looks in rulebook, notices it does say that. Oh well.) Anyway, for her attention to detail and knowledge with a capital K-N, they oughta call her Ms. Snopes!

So make sure you are registered to vote! Even if you voted last year, double-check it! And if you're not, you can register to vote right now so you'll be ready for the local, state, and national elections coming up. Learn and know your rights, your candidates, and your time and place to vote. Get involved and get the word out!

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's a Switch-a-Roo!

Panels from Daredevil (1964 series) #264 (March 1989), script by Ann Nocenti, breakdowns by Steve Ditko, pencils by Mike Manley, inks by Al Williamson and Mike Manley, colors by Christie Scheele, letters by Joe Rosen
and from Angel Love #1 (August 1986); script and pencils by Barbara Slate, inks by John William Lopez, colors by Bob LeRose, letters by Bill Yoshida