Monday, October 30, 2006

Hello LiveJournal, Whatever the Hell You Are!


And I for one want to welcome our new LiveJournal overlords...!

We got a nice spike in traffic today, thanks to BeaucoupKevin (see sidebar) and the LiveJournal community. I've been a regular reader of Kevin Melrose's for quite awhile now, and appreciate the link.

LiveJournal kind of mystifies me. Not a blog, not a message board, but a bizarre fusion of the two? Not that there's anything wrong with that. When I have a hard time with a concept, I put it into comics terms: LiveJournal is the Blogger of Earth-2.

That MODOK gallery thing was actually the second laziest post I've ever done. This was the first. Anyway, Again With the Comics is more than just Sexy MODOK pictures. Who else but Again With the Comics rips the lid off the comic book industry and dares to tell you the TRUTH about:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Character Obscura: Nowhere Man

Nowhere Man made his first and only appearance in Animal Man #27-32, the six-issue Peter Milligan tale that followed Grant Morrison's initial run. In Milligan's story, Buddy Baker, a.k.a. Animal Man, wakes from a three month coma to a world that is like his own, but strangely different. A different man is president, Marvin Gaye is alive and well, Hitler was captured and tried. In Buddy's own life, his happy marriage is all but over.

To make matters worse, Buddy is quickly conscripted to protect the President from the Angel Mob, a family of psychotic, superhuman children. His partner: the molecularly displaced freak known as Nowhere Man.

Nowhere Man survived a tormented childhood to join a traveling freak show, where he found happiness and love for a time. He eventually got involved in making seedy blue films with two other third-raters, the Front Page and the Notional Man, and got on their bad side stealing their profits.

Nowhere Man's bizarre speech is a result of using a technique of intercutting his speech with William S. Burroughs quotations to make his molecularly displaced thoughts at least partially intelligible. He talks funny.

He turned out to be a good guy, and a friend to Buddy. Eventually, Animal Man found his way back to his own reality, and Nowhere Man was left behind on that strange shadow world. We haven't seen him since, but I can't see any good reason that he couldn't show up in the contemporary DC Universe. Everyone else is popping up in 52, why not Nowhere Man?

Many Happy Returns

The last couple of weeks of comics have seen the welcome return of a few old faces. Regular readers will, I'm sure, be stunned to learn that I also dig the swanky new model EGG FU, an update of the most racially offensive Wonder Woman villain of all, (and that's really saying something). Here he is, souped up and ready for the new DC Universe, courtesy of 52: Week 25:

Groovy. Now he looks downright creepy. Nice redesign, and what a great reveal for the mastermind of the "kidnapped scientists" subplot. He's a soured, cracked egg. With pinchy things.

Over in Nextwave#9, Number None has brought to life the Not Brand Ecch cast of Forbush Man, Charlie America, Giant Sam, and the frankly Indigestible Bulk:

That Warren Ellis, what a scamp! In Civil War:Choosing Sides, we get the return of Howard the Duck:

I have mixed feelings about this one. I liked this story, got a genuine laugh or three, and thought that Ty Templeton did as good a job as anyone who isn't Steve Gerber ever has of capturing Howards voice. I'm actually a big fan of Templeton and artist Roger Langridge, who did a fine job, with an especially cute Bev.
But. I think Howard is one of those characters best written by his creator. I don't see why Gerber couldn't have written this, and I'm mystified as to why they can now draw Howard looking more-or-less like his original form again. In his last Gerber-penned miniseries, Howard was transformed into a mouse of all things to avoid Dinsey mandated appearance changes. In this story, he's wearing pants but otherwise basically looks like himself. I don't get it, but I didn't hate this.

My five-year old son is now fascinated with Owlman and Ultraman, as seen in Superman/Batman Annual #1:

He spent a good part of this snowed-in afternoon playing Owlman, but he assured me that "Owlman is good now, Daddy!" fifteen or sixteen times.
He's Batman crazy, and he kind of gets that Owlman is the Evil Batman, but I doubt he gets the alternate earth stuff yet. He has his own copy of JLA: Earth 2, so he knows all about the Crime Syndicate of Amerika. I always enjoy seeing the CSA, as I'm a total mark for "evil versions" of Superheroes.
I'm happier than a bouncing Julie Schwartz head to see the return of Ambush Bug to the DCU in 52: Week Twenty-Four:



Finally, Again With the Comics always welcomes your return, dear reader!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Behold...The BATMAN CREATURE!!

"STOP SHOOTING! THAT CREATURE IS...BATMAN!"
Listen to Robin! Believe it or not, that creature is Batman! "The Batman Creature" is the lead story in Batman #162. It's a sixteen page story, but most of it is unbelievably boring, until the BATMAN CREATURE makes his fantastic debut. Regular Batman is too hung up on being all dark and mysterious. You'd never catch him chowing down on a big basketful of fruit in the middle of the sidewalk. The Batman Creature, however, is ID unleashed, wildly uprooting trees and climbing buildings with a refreshing lack of moral compass. In short, Batman has to play by the rules, but Batman Creature is free to run BUCK WILD, baby!
AAARRROOOO!!! indeed, my friend. AAARRROOOOO!!! indeed.

The story starts off with A bunch of tedious, non-Batman Creature stuff. There's this mad scientist guy, Emil Borroc, and he's invented a machine that somehow transforms animals into ferocious beast men, and he's using them to rob banks:


That's a wacky out-of-context panel for ya, right there. Batman and Robin foil a bank robbery by two of the beast men, and for page after page, Batman and Robin fight the beasts and follow one back to Borroc's lair. There, he battles Borroc who scrambles to his transformation ray and finally, finally turns Batman into the eerie BATMAN CREATURE:

The Batman Creature goes wild, rampaging through a neighborhood before heading into Gotham. Once in the city, he wastes no time invoking the hoariest cliche in the book: the King Kong pastiche. If I had a buck for every cartoon, comic, TV show, or movie I've seen pull that hokey routine, I could retire a happy man.

"HEY! THE BATMAN CREATURE ISN'T ATTACKING BATWOMAN! HER TEARS SEEM TO HAVE MADE HIM DOCILE..."
So of course, beauty, in the form of Batwoman, has to tame the beast. Batwoman calms the big lug down and he enjoys several refreshing baskets of fruit. The only problem with this is that while all that fruit's going into the Batman Creature, it'll be coming out of Bruce Wayne later...!



Soon... Perhaps the most mind-bending assemblage Gotham has ever seen:


Finally, they end up back at Cockeye McCrazyteeth's lab in what may be the greatest page in comics history. How can you top the Batman Creature locked in mortal combat with Tiger AND Rhino - in a DUEL to the DEATH? Only by having the Batman Creature bludgeon the the tiger to death WITH THE RHINO!!!

Finally, Robin makes the biggest mistake of his career: Changing the baffling BATMAN CREATURE back to stupid, dull old regular Batman. The whole thing went downhill after that, and Batman hasn't recovered since, in my opinion. Really, if you can't see that "The Batman Creature" is the seminal version of the Batman legend, then I don't know what to tell you.

P.S.
Due to the reality changing events of Infinite Crisis, I choose to believe that this story happened in actual Batman continuity.


ATTENTION RHINOS: Batman Creature will JACK YOU UP.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Reading Roundup

The last couple of weeks have been kind of light for new releases, as Marvel's Civil war delays continue. I've picked up some new titles, revisited an old one, and caught up on a mini-series I skipped the first time around. Consider these all recommended.

E-Man: Recharged brings back the energy-being turned super-hero for the fourth or fifth time since his introduction in 1975. I first became aquainted with Alec Tronn with his First series - that is, with his second series published by First Comics in the '80s. This was a good done-in-one introduction to this unique character and his peculiar supporting cast. Published by Digital Webbing, $3.50.






I've been reading Toupydoops since the first issue. Set in a world where comics are cast and produced like movies, Toupydoops suffers through a series of dead end jobs while striving to make it in comics, acting as s substitute kindergarten teacher in #4. Published by Lobrau Productions, $3.50.








Chip Zdarsky's Monster Cops was fun. In it, Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman are reformed from their menacing ways and now serve as beat cops in the small city of Metroville. They go up against a poncey Anne Rice type of vampire, meet Vampirella, and Frankenstein learns to love his hands. Get your mind out of the gutter. Despite a brief cameo by the Prison Funnies gang, this is as "all-ages" as anything Zdarsky has done, and I had no issues letting my 5-year old look at it.
Published by Legion of Evil Press, $4.00.





I'm pretty sure that if I'd been in the Vietnam War, I'd have gone completely insane almost inmmediately. That's pretty much what happens to Pvt. Billy Everette, who gets the "Private Pyle" treatment in Vertigo's the Other Side. He starts seeing dead men, and his gun starts whispering to him before he even leaves boot camp, so I'm sure he'll have a blast in the jungle. The story also follows the parallel experiences of Vo Binh Dai, a Vietnamese conscript who fully expects to die. Also: Happy, the Dancing Rainbow Unicorn!

Okay, I made that up about the unicorn. Cameron Stewart provides art, and he shows why he's become a favorite in this issue. Good, if bleak, stuff.


I also got ahold of DC's Space Ghost miniseries from a couple of years ago for cheap. At the time, this caught some flak for trying to do Space Ghost all grim & gritty, but I have to say, it was pretty good. I liked the art by Ariel Olivetti, and while it starts out dark, Space Ghost comes to a happier place by the end. The story gives us Space Ghost's origin, introduces Jan and Jayce, as well as explaining how SG came to care for them. A very different Zorak shows up to cause problems as well. The text page on the last issue promised more to come, and I wouldn't mind seeing that at all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Again With the Comics: Foremost authority on Doctor Mayavale


I just found out that Again With the Comics is the #1 Google hit for Doctor Mayavale. That's a bit of all right, as the Brits probably don't say. To celebrate the occasion, here's a page from Legion of Superheroes #268 featuring Dream Girl giving Mayavale the ass-kicking he so thoroughly deserves:


This issue was published shortly before Paul Levitz started writing the book, and predates his recasting of Dream Girl as one of the smartest, most competent Legionnares. She even served as team leader for several years, acquitting herself quite well.

You go, (Dream) girl! And to think, it all started with Doctor Mayavale!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We're all MODOK now.

George Tarleton started a fad. What a great Cameron Stewart cover for MARVEL ADVENTURES: THE AVENGERS #9. I love that cute l'il Spidey MODOK. The look of steely determination on Captain AmeriDOK's face is perfect, as are all the others. Freakin' fantastic.

With this and MODOK's 11, we seem to be experiencing a MODOK renaissance, and I say it's about damn time!


MODOK fever - Catch it!





Saturday, October 14, 2006

Who is the CIVIL WAR traitor?

SPOILERS and speculation follow:



Marvel’s Civil War: Front Line #7 revealed a new player in the ongoing milieu: A mystery man working in league with Norman Osborn a.k.a. the Green Goblin to override control of the villain by Tony Stark’s pro-registration camp. The shadowed man hands Osborn another vial of serum, and the two strike a bargain: the serum will suppress the nanites that keep the Goblin’s whereabouts and emotional intent at all times, rendering him effectively invisible. In exchange, the Goblin will act on the mystery man’s behalf at the right time and place.


It almost has to be one of the major players on the pro registration side. Tony Stark is out, unless he can somehow grow and ungrow a goatee at will. The shadowing in this picture makes it look like mystery man might have a mustache, but it’s hard to say:


Hank Pym seems too obvious, and he has cracked up before, spectacularly so. He’d probably be the first one they’d suspect, not the last. There aren’t too many heroes on that side left that would be all that shocking. Nobody’s gonna care if Doc Samson betrays them.

I’m guessing Reed (Mister Fantastic) Richards. On at least three different occasions during CW, Reed has told the story of his Uncle Ted, and how his outspoken, eccentric nature clashed with the House Un-American Activities Commission. His Uncle fought the system and was destroyed professionally and personally. Reed always follows up by saying that right or wrong, it was the law, and his uncle was wrong not to comply. I don’t think that that’s what he learned from Uncle Ted at all. He probably learned out that if you’re gonna fight the system, be quiet about it.

So I’m guessing this is Mister Fantastic here in shadows, secretly undermining Stark. I wonder at his sinister demeanor in this sequence though:


If it is Reed, is he just playing up to the big bad super villain, or is something else going on here? Ambition? Revenge? Control? That doesn’t sound like Reed. He might have something more ambitious than just opposing the SHRA. What if Reed decided the whole mess might just be better off with him in charge? What if he grew tired of fools and incompetents in charge of the world? What if Mister Fantastic…went bad?

Probably not gonna happen. And I may be wrong about it being Reed. Feel free to present your own crackpot theories, or shoot holes in mine, in my comments section!




Friday, October 13, 2006

AAAaaahhhhhh!!! MODOK's 11!!

TREMBLE in abject HORROR, MICROBRAINS...!


Mentioned in this weeks JOE FRIDAYS column: an upcoming new Supervillain Team-Up series by writer Fred Van Lente featuring MODOK leading a hand picked band of supervillains in the greatest heist ever!

(Weeping) It's like a dream I never dared dream... f-finally coming true!

For those of you new to Again With the Comics, MODOK is the shit. The perfect, most demented* creation of Jack (King) Kirby, MODOK may well be the greatest comic book character of all time.

I am not alone in my devotion to MODOK.




On this second cover, I see The Chameleon, Mentallo, Werewolf By Night(?), Some...lady?, and maybe the Living Laser.



The third cover features the Spot and awesomeness, two elements that I don't believe have ever coexisted before.

With his sweet ass bowl cut and his awesome mental skills, MODOK towers above us all. I don't even hold a grudge for the time he took over this blog. He's been woefully absent from Marvel comics, so I'll be first on line for MODOK's 11. The addition of 10 more obscure old Marvel supervillains is only icing on the cake!






*Actually, Kirby's Kraziest Kreation is probably Paranex, the Fighting Fetus...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Forgotten Fantastic Four

In the mid–80’s when Steve Englehart took over the writing of the Fantastic Four, he was tasked with reviving interest in the book. He chose to do so by changing the membership of the FF in a new way: Reed and Sue Richards would take a prolonged leave of absence to try to give Franklin a normal life, while Ben would lead a FF of his own choosing. The new lineup consisted of The Thing, The Human Torch, Crystal, and Ms. Marvel.



I especially liked this combination, as I don’t mind seeing the FF shaken up every once in awhile for variety. This grouping was to be short lived, as internal Marvel politics and editorial wishy-washiness would break up Englehart’s new group in short order.

The lineup change gave Englehart the opportunity to do some interesting new things with the individual team members:



THE THING: Ben Grimm was in charge of the FF for the first time, and responsible for choosing his new teammates. That he took in a sort-of-ex-girlfriend, as well as Johnny’s ex-girlfriend was telling of the sting he was feeling from Johnny and Alicia’s recent marriage. The new team was only just getting established when disaster struck. The Thing and Ms. Marvel, trapped on a runaway shuttle, were exposed to cosmic rays. Ben was mutated further and his companion was exposed for the first time in her life. Ben found his strength level dramatically increased, enough so to defeat the Hulk in battle. I really liked this take on Ben as team leader, helping Sharon through her trials, and in this new spiky form. I think the "pineapple" Thing design was eventually deemed too hard to draw, and Ben was depowered for a time, then returned to "normal".


MS. MARVEL / SHE-THING: Sharon Ventura came to Ben Grimm for help. She was recently held captive and brutalized (rape was implied about as explicitly as they were allowed back then), and she comes to the FF in a shattered mental state. Unable to touch or even be near men, she joins the FF with Grimm as her anchor. Initially, she was drawn to him because she didn’t see him as a man, which obviously didn’t go over too well with the big guy. When she and Ben were caught in the cosmic ray storm, she mutated into a She-Thing. Initially overcome with horror, she spent the better part of an issue attempting suicide, before finally coming to terms with her condition, and finally embracing it. With her grotesque appearance, she finds she is no longer afraid of men, and doesn’t’ miss being objectified. Finally, The Things came together as a romantic pair. The She-Thing actually remained for a few years when Ben was reverted to his human form, briefly working with Reed, Sue and Johnny as “the Thing” of the FF. Sharon’s story is certainly fraught with dicey sexual politics, and I’d be interested to see what bologdom’s best feminist writers think of her.


CRYSTAL: The Exquisite Elemental came to the team freshly divorced from her crazy husband Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver. She presented a temptation to Johnny Storm, who had only recently married. She was taken from the book before anything interesting could happen. There was to be an Inhumans graphic novel, and Crystal was to be part of the Inhuman royal family in it. Ridiculously, this one shot story caused the powers-that-be to have Englehart write her out of the FF and return her to Attilan. After only ten issues, the new FF lost a member, just the first of many complications that truncated Englehart’s run.


HUMAN TORCH: Johnny Storm had recently fallen in love with, then married Alicia Masters, the Thing’s former girlfriend. Ben was holding a grudge when he brought Crystal onto the team, and her presence caused Johnny no small amount of frustration, especially when a long epic involving the Beyonder took him away from Alicia for an extended time. "Alicia" would eventually be revealed to be a Skrull in one of the stupidest retcons ever to see the printed page, but at the time, she was assumed to be the real deal. Not surprisingly, The Torch clashed with Ben, but generally accepted his leadership role over time.

Which is not to say that Ben had much time to be the leader. Shortly after Crystal was extracted from the book, Tom DeFalco replaced Jim Shooter as editor in chief of Marvel. DeFalco has always been a very retro-minded writer, and under his oversight it was decided that the Fantastic Four would immediately return to the original lineup of Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben. Englehart returned the status quo, writing under his protest penname, “John Harkness”. A showdown with the Frightful Four was followed by several issues of a weird dream sequence in which Englehart…seemed to be working out some issues. He left shortly after, replaced by Walter Simonson, who kept Sharon around for most of his run.

This particular version of the FF only shared one real adventure, a saga that took them from the underground realm of the Mole Man, to the Savage land, and off into the Negative Zone and finally a confrontation with the Beyonder. I don’t feel like they ever really got a chance to shine. There’s a place in Marvel’s publishing schedule for untold tales, such as Fantastic Four: First Family and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and I sure would like to see some writer give their take on an untold tale of the Forgotten FF. Joe Casey, are you listening?



Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Change ahead for THUNDERBOLTS


Interesting things are going to be happening in Marvel's THUNDERBOLTS title soon, as Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr. take over writing and art of the title.

Thunderbolts is a book I’m predisposed to like, being populated solely by obscure Marvel super villains. It initially got a lot of mileage from a jaw-dropping surprise at the end of the first issue. Since then, it's not always been the best comic, but every time I think I'm done with it, they do something awesome, and I'm back on board.

I'm intrigued by the Team lineup Ellis has chosen. I can see why he picked these characters, as they seem in line with his sensibilities. He's kept a surprising number of the earlier team: Moonstone, Songbird, Radioactive Man, and Swordsman are all present. New members include Green Goblin to lead. I always hated that they brought Norman Osborn back, but if he is back, I guess they may as well put him to good use. I really dig the new Mac Gargan version of Venom, and Bullseye I can take or leave. Then there’s Penance, a new mystery figure. One big sick family!

No Mach IV unfortunately. Now I feel like he’s got a target on his back. Let’s hope Nicieza kills him off, and not Ellis. Getting waxed by Fabian is basically a year-or-so time out before you’re hopping up out of a containment pod or some damn thing.

Ellis is a good choice for writer, but I’m not too bowled over by Deodato as artist. His work has always been very inconsistent, as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully Ellis brings out his best, but we’ll see. Should be interesting!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Character Obscura: Torque

BEWARE...THE BASS-ACKWARDS MAN!!


You know what would suck about being Torque? Everything. Eating would be a nightmare, and you may as well kiss chili dogs and sloppy joes goodbye. Standing on line for anything would redefine the term "awkward silence", and trips to the dentist would be...problematic. It's no wonder he's crazy and evil.

Torque was an attempt to give Nightwing a grotesque villain on par with Batman's rogues. I like the palindrome thing, too. I think he had a lot of potential, but he was barely used before being killed off in a controversial storyline.

I don't know what the whole story was there, but I think it's a shame to waste a good character for no good reason. I always liked Nightwing better on his own, and I liked that he was starting up his own life with his own enemies, out of Batman's shadow. Torque could have been Nightwing's Joker, but I guess it's not to be. I suppose they could always say that Evil Superboy reality-punched him back back to life. Yeah, that's the ticket.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Regarding Comments

Comments are now open to everyone. I was tweaking my settings and saw that I had my comment system set up to accept comments only from others with a Blogger account. That's not fair, so I fixed it, and anyone can now leave feedback! If you've yearned to praise my brilliance, or debate the finer points of MODOK continuity, now's yer chance! Please keep in mind, this is a no trippin' zone. Be nice!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Re-reading FLEX MENTALLO Part 2

This is the Second part of a four-part look at the out-of-print 1996 Flex Mentallo miniseries from Vertigo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Here's part one.


The second issue opens with Wallace Sage in the throes of a bad acid trip. He’s still on the phone, relating a dimly remebered childhood dream. Flex Mentallo continues his quest for The Fact while reminiscing about his old foe, the Mentallium Man, and the many strange transformations he has undergone in past adventures. He encounters a junkie in the thrall of a drug that briefly gives him superpowers before he collapses, babbling. Flex then visits a strange bar where learns of the existence of the Legion of Legions, a forgotten group of crime fighters who may be behind the strange goings-on. As he leaves the bar, he encounters the Mystery Pilgrim, a faceless panhandler who tells him of a teleport tube nearby that will take him to the sattelite HQ of Faculty X and the Legion of Legions. Meanwhile, Wallace Sage continues his monologue, struggling with repressed childhood memories. Something traumatic happened to him years ago, but he can’t remember what it was.


Flex Mentallo in final battle with the deadly Mentallium Man and his orbiting heads of Shocking Pink, Silver, Ultraviolet, lethal Black M and Lamb & Turkey Mentallium spheres. "Part-man, part-robot, part product of a world that wouldn't care, he was surely one of the most terrifying faces in my rogue's gallery."


I like how the ceramic town is drawn all wavy, as if underwater.


I just like the way Quitely staged this page.


A junkie's bad trip, or a vision of things to come?


Some Weisinger-esque Flex transformations.


Killer Kitten: The last word in revealing costumes.


Weirdness in space. A very eerie, chilling sequence.


Quitely delivers in the drunken ranting old man department, too. I love the background details on this page.


Part 3 to come.