Monday, April 26, 2010

I’d like to dedicate this song to Seafire...

As mentioned before, Keane is my all-time favourite band. So, I was taken aback when my local radio station featured ‘Somewhere only we know’ (incidentally Keane’s most covered song) in their Old School, New School segment (where they compare songs by the original artists with covers done by other artists and open the phone lines to listeners).

Anyway, my first reaction (before even listening to the New School version by Laura Michelle Kelly) was “Sacrilege!” (I’d never heard the two versions played back to back before)

By the way, Miss Kelly has gotten rave reviews for her role in the production of Mary Poppins on London’s West End and that’s no mean feat. So, she's not talentless...

Anyway, judge for yourselves.

First listen to the Old School version (by Keane):

Then, listen to the New School version (by Laura Michelle Kelly):

My thoughts afterwards: I still prefer the original, but I’m biased.* I liked parts of Miss Kelly’s performance, but it sounds more like the opening number of a musical than anything else. In addition, she may have had really good musicians and arrangers working with her, but Keane consists of a lead vocalist with a very distinctive voice who’s also a great songwriter (Tom Chaplin), a genius composer/songwriter on keyboard/piano (Tim Rice-Oxley), and a talented drummer who knows how to elevate a song with his contribution (Richard Hughes).

Okay, so what does this have to do with comics or Seafire for that matter?

I just realised that considering Kelly’s musical theatre background plus my opinion of the three members of Keane, it was tantamount (at least in my eyes) to taking DC’s Trinity (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) as a collective and comparing the group with Marvel's Dazzler.


Seafire, as you may or may not recall, was a commenter who really came out to defend Dazzler when I got down on her a while back nad I'd like to read seafire's blog. So, this is an attempt to say, "Seafire, dude or dudette, you defended Dazzler with such passion that I'd like to read your comics blog."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trading Card Regrets and random thought linkages

I have a few trading card sets lying around the house and one of my big regrets is that I didn’t buy more of the DC vs. Marvel collection, because (a) they were awesome, (b) they were drawn by a variety of top-notch artists, and (c) some of those two-character images might never be seen again due to respective continuities (characters dying or being replaced).

Case in point:

Blue Beetle (Ted Kord) and Spider-woman (Julia Carpenter), as drawn by Jim Calafiori.

Speaking of Spider-woman, in a post in which I referred to the Jessica Drew version of Spider-woman, I misquoted the Great Spider-man Paradox. By the way, both Spider-women exist at the same time on the same Earth with no trouble at all and there is/was even a third Spider-woman in the Marvel U – hint, hint, DC? Cough...Blue Beetle...cough...

Anyway, I went through an old file (really a big collection of pieces of paper) and discovered the Hypothesis’ original formulation. For one thing, it’s not called the Great Spider-man Paradox, but rather The Great Spider-Hawk Exception. There are extra hawk bits that I omitted.

Here is The Great Spider-Hawk Exception:

Spider-man is a great (some say iconic) spider-themed character. Hawkman is a great (some say iconic) hawk-themed character. Once a great themed character exists, it is nearly impossible to create a similarly themed character (whether related or unrelated to the original great themed character) that works at even a minimum level. However, the vast majority of spider-themed and hawk-themed superheroes (of just about every comic book universe) work exceedingly well.

Until next time, make mine multiple heroes with the same name!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Novels and Short Fiction about Superheroes: A Universe-building detour

Okay, another post about superhero novels so quickly? Yes, it’s unusual for me, but I’ve done readers a bit of a disservice by not pointing them to Michael Carroll’s Young Adult works set in his ‘The New Heroes / Quantum Prophecy’ universe.

I felt that it was important to highlight Mister Carroll’s work, because (due to the time-consuming nature of writing novels) novelists general don’t stick to building and expanding universes when it comes to superheroes. George R. R. Martin’s Wildcards is a notable exception.

The New Heroes or Quantum Prophecy series began with the novel, The Quantum Prophecy a.k.a. ‘The Awakening’ (2006). There were two follow-ups entitled Sakkara a.k.a. ‘The Gathering’ (2006) and Absolute Power a.k.a. ‘The Reckoning’ (2007). You can find abridged information about the trilogy here.

The author has also released Superhuman, a collection of short fiction focusing on untold stories taking place in the decade spanning the three novels. No reviews. pity. Here is some info on from the author's website. Strangely, this short story collection has the same name as the fourth novel in the series.

Friday, April 16, 2010

From Justice League Titans to Justice League Kinda Sorta...

So, now the JLA will be Batman (Dick Grayson), Supergirl, Donna Troy, Jade, Starman (Mikaal Thomas), Congorilla and Jesse Quick? Then, Doctor Light and Gypsy join up later? Congorilla and Starman are the new Blue and Gold, with the former getting a Scottish accent as well as some Wolverine (healing factor) and Maul (emotion-based size*) powers? Who created Congorilla and is he/she okay with these changes? Are these just retcon-later-if-don't-like-it changes? Why am I asking so many questions relating to Congorilla? Robinson didn't know he couldn't handle a large roster beforehand? Did Robinson know what he was getting into with a Didio-sanctioned league?

*Note: Those refer to Congorilla growing to King Kong's size...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Real Didio-Johns Conspiracy: Whose line is it anyway? (a.k.a. Base Pairs of Evil)

Three  or four years ago, if you googled Geoff Johns AND Green Lantern, a good third of your results would be of the ‘Johns mistreats Kyle Rayner to prop up his dreamboat Hal Jordan’ variety. While there is some merit in such assertions of conspiracy, those speculations were in reality mere misdirection.

The truth is that everything that’s happened over the last four or five years is part of a much bigger (misguided and ultimately doomed to fail) conspiracy. Call it slight of arc, if you will.

Now, I’ll keep this brief. To understand the conspiracy, you must follow these steps:

1. Close your eyes. Note: Only do this step if your Zen is strong!

2. Picture three different JLA group photos (the original line-up; the Big seven roster; and a mash-up between the original line-up and the Big seven roster). There’s considerable overlap, right? Also note: keep legacy characters “generational secret-identity neutral” (for the Big seven and Mash-up pictures).

3. Now focus on the two or three heroes at the centre of the Big Seven and Mash-up pictures.

4. Now focus on the blond guy with the green pants front and centre of the Original line-up.

5. Now focus on the two heroes just left or just right of those heroes referred to in Step 3 (in the Big Seven or Mash-up pictures).

6. Now focus on the same two heroes. Again, take note of their positions.

This is the essence of the conspiracy....drum roll please:

Medium Term: Didio and Johns want to move the heroes referred to from Step 5 and 6 (Barry Allen and Hal Jordan) to where the heroes from Step 3 (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) are standing. Basically, it involves removing those standing at the centre of all 3 photos as well as those who might organically slip into those spots or steal the show (as we see below).

Green Lantern: Rebirth (It began)
Identity Crisis (Step 1 in Ralph’s downward spiral, because the conspirators galled by the fact that he has a rather surprisingly prominent spot in the Original line-up. If you got outshined by elongated man...Well, you couldn’t come back from that)
Flash: Rebirth (It continued)
Countdown (Killing a hero who was popular, independent of and Hal)
52 (Another Step in the removal of Elongated Man)
Final Crisis (Getting J’onn and Aquaman out of the way temporarily)
One year later (We need the Trinity! What? Out to lunch?)
New Krypton (I wonder where Supes is? He was supposed to be on monitor duty...)
Batman (gone)
Wonder Woman (not in the picture anymore – excuse the pun)
Cry for Justice (temporarily discredit the only other remaining [read: not dead or not missing/displaced] senior member – a guy who actually doesn’t feature much in as many JLA photos as you’d think...Travelling hard is for suckers, anyway.)
The New JLA line-up (Who are the only senior guys left here? Hmmm, lemme think...I give up)
Blackest Night (The Hawks out of the picture for most of it...Another opportunity for and Hal to shine.)

Before I tell you why, here’s the low-down on my classification system:

In terms of this particular classification system, there’s a first string and then there’s second string of heroes. Nothing new here.

First string are your top heroes, your JLA and some JSA, and be divided into first line (basically DC’s Trinity) and next line and sometimes even line after next (the latter two subcategories are the rest of the first string or top heroes).

There are no subcategories under second string, because once you’re second string, your life is over :)

Okay back to the conspiracy:

Barry and Hal (or rather Flash and Green Lantern) are the next line, but the conspirators think “next line” would sound better if there were no other candidates for that subcategory.

Although the Long Term objective was never to replace the Trinity (in terms of heroic status), it was to make the “next line” (Barry and Hal) more elite in the minds of readers. That’s easier to do with no competitors for next line slots or, put differently, a greater divide between next line and the line after next.

It is doomed to fail in the long term, because three regimes down the line there may very well be people at the reigns of DC who don't worship Hal and Barry quite as much. In fact, such a scenario is extremely likely.

Transmission over.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Missing Link: Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Popularville...

I was planning on putting up this Missing Link post anytime between now and July, but then bumped it up to the front of the line when I remembered the common animal-related thread between regular commenter LissBirdsAbout Me section and the neat little description of her blog (Philosophical Inquiry and...Yes, that’s it). The final push came when I read the comments to Lissbird’s A Guide For Writing the Rebooted Martian Manhunter Part 10 and, in particular, her own comment:

You should've seen me when I tried to read an X-Men comic. That I did give up on, because even a cursory peek at Marvel's database showed that the histories of all those characters is way too complex and convoluted for me to keep straight, and there wasn't any character that I cared enough about to go through all that research.

Well, Liss, maybe you were a little hasty in giving up on mutantkind. Check out who’s mentioned last on this list. In addition, I was going to do a separate post for this link, but then I saw the character both posts have in common. So, I just had to include it. It’s funny what overlook when you’re not specifically looking for it, isn’t it? I would love to see number 6 and 9, by the way.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

J’onn, I am a.k.a. Separated at birth (a.k.a. The Battle for the Pants and the Right to wear a Chest Gem thingy)

In the blue corner, I give the Alien sporting long pants...J’onn J’onzz!

In the red corner, I give Majae Mauler...leader of the Primortals...Primaster!

Funny thing is I had predicted a convergence in fashion styles between these two characters years ago when Primaster first appeared in Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals form the now defunct Tekno Comics. Of course, J’onn’s green skin and blue cape appeared more than 35 years before, so he was the original.

However, I managed to call the fact that JJ would some day want Primaster’s long trousers and chest gem and that the Man-hunter from Mars would (regrettably) lose the trademark ‘pimp daddy’ collar.

It sucks to be right 15 years on. Just to be clear, I’m just sad about the collar...Now only Alan Scott has a pimp-worthy collar.

Some Post-Blackest Night observations

I’ve purposely waited a week to make any comment on the Blackest Night finale and the series as a whole. But now that I’ve gathered my thoughts, I can reveal my major peeves about the crossover:

1] Hal Jordan is the ultimate hero of this piece.

I saw it coming before Blackest Night started, but I had hoped Geoff Johns would surprise me. However, he still views Hal Jordan as the coolest guy in the universe and probably has several t-shirts to prove it. At this stage Johns needs a Hal Jordan blow-up doll really bad and I might spring for a hotel suite so he can it out of his system.

2] Deputizing Lex Luthor and co into the rainbow corps.

Disliking Lex as a Lantern isn’t surprising to me, since I hate most of the non-green ring-wielding variety of corps. There, I said it. I only like the Red and Yellow lanterns, but I think there should only one red ring and one yellow ring. Maybe red and/or yellow rings could it seek out different wearers on different occasions. The red lantern story could not only be a ‘who is the angriest hero/villain in the DCU at a specific moment in time’, but could also explore ‘why hero/villain is so angry’ and that’s already two sides of a story. Ditto the Yellow ring. Alternatively, maybe DC could make The Quest for the One True Red Lantern their next big event and then The Quest for the One True Yellow Lantern could follow that.

Back to Lex: I thought they tried to make him relevant to a story that was a bit beyond his circle.

The other deputies? The thing with Scarecrow becoming a Yellow Lantern is perhaps an interesting idea, but it could cause DC more problems than they can handle if made permanent. The Star Sapphire Wonder Woman seemed really unnecessary.

3] They didn’t resurrect Ted Kord.

This was also predictable since bringing Ted back would reverse what That Writer has done and whatever That Writer does is considered DC canon the instant he does it. Johns is smart enough to not undo anything That Writer writes or suggests to others to write, because that would be heresy and threaten to split DC in two.

Also, while alive Ted Kord was one of the heroes who spent the least amount of time on-page with Hal Jordan EVAR. Go back through your back issues. You’ll see I’m right. Now, if Ted had begged to be on Jordan’s JLE way back and sucked up to Hal, Hal would’ve talked to him more and in turn Johns might’ve liked Ted more. Since Hal is the cool kid and doesn’t talk to Ted, Ted must not be cool enough to resurrect in Geoff John’s opinion.

Although, Ted is back in some form in Booster Gold...

4] The whole Kendra-Shayera thing

I’m not going to say a lot here. I shall however say this: I love Kendra and have always sort of hated Shayera. Don’t ask me why, because Shayera isn’t anywhere as annoying as Donna Troy. Kendra's got so much spunk while (for me) Shayera is just sort of there.

Here’s hoping Brightest Day pans out well.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Missing Link: A Nostalgic Look back at a Universe lost...

The year was 1994. A year or so before, the comics industry had been turned on its head by ‘greedy little punks of Image’ or ‘the second coming of comic creativity’, depending on who you asked.

The dominant player in the market, Marvel, was seeing evil shadows in every obscure corner. Smaller publishers were springing up everywhere Marvel bosses looked, but one of Marvel’s eyes was ever aimed in DC’s direction to scope out their fiercest competitor’s next move.

Fear makes even market leaders do strange things and Marvel was no exception. The Marvellous Ones found out that DC had been in negotiations to buy the Ultraverse line of superhero comics (originally started around 1993 by Malibu Comics). So, in a move motivated by the threat a combined Ultraverse-DCU would represent, Marvel scooped up the Ultraverse.

For those who don’t the Ultraverse from a bar of soap, their most recognizable character was Prime.
I'm number one 

Some of you may also remember a Nightman television series, which was pretty dodgy. Well, his comic book incarnation (created by Steve Englehart) was a lot better that the minimal budget version from tv-land.

There was even a short-lived animated series based on their flagship superhero team, Ultra-Force.

Better yet, the Ultraverse created their own unique four-hero team called The Solution that was quite far removed from the Fantastic Four. Their members included Tech (their leader), Dropkick, Shadowmage, and Outrage. See, really different from Stretcho and co. It can be done.

There was also Strangers, a team or group whose premise and origin is strikingly similar to a recent hit tv show as this post explicitly suggests. It also gives us insight into why these heroes haven't graced any comic pages again.

Anyhoo, when Marvel took over, they arranged crossovers and new titles (including a new Marvelized version of Exiles).

Key to doing the REVAMPED titles was filling the Ultraverse with Marvel hero expatriates for some reason. In fact, they went really overboard in a lot of instances.

Of course, they hadn’t anticipated the collapse of the funny-book market around 1995. In typical Marvel fashion, a decision was made to euthanize the Ultraverse (even though sales were reasonable).

A while back, I came across this post, which REALLY mirrors my experiences with and sentiments about the Ultraverse. Of course, I lost the link some time ago, but now I've rediscovered it. It’s a bit of fanboy nostalgia about a universe gone too soon.

Of course, the the fact that Mickey Mouse and the gang have taken over Marvel, has some people wondering if we'll see the Ultraverse again.