Monday, December 20, 2010

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!

Well bah my humbugs if'n it's not Christmas time...again! I've been way too busy spreading holiday cheer to do anything with Again With the Comics for the last couple of weeks, but here I am just in time for Christmas with a forgotten case from Batman's Secret Yule Files for your enjoyment. Indeed, everything that happens to Batman is in canon somehow, even that holiday playground parody favorite:

Written by: Patton Oswalt 
Drawn by: Bob Fingerman
Story scanned from Bizarro World collection, DC Comics, 2005

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Many Plans of Superman

For such a heroic guy, Superman sure is a Machiavellian schemer. We recently covered his bizarre and convoluted Plan "J" in our coverage of Jimmy Olsen's Helmet of Hate, but as Pat of the Silver Age Comics Blog points out, that's just one of three wacky, overly- complex contingency plans the Man of Steel kept up his royal blue sleeve. Here's some information about Plan "L", which basically involved Lois Lane running around Metropolis kissing all of the other superheroes! Spoiler Alert: it turns out to be a zany hoax:

Then of course, there's Plan "P", which sadly does not involve Perry White locking lips with Green Arrow, but does include bondage and Kandorians. It's not quite as wacky as the first two, presumably since Perry didn't have his own comic, and therefore no need to explain why he had been turned into a baby or a hippie, or whatever on the cover. These two panels sum up Plan "P" pretty succinctly, in all their exposition-y glory:

Given Superman's obsessiveness, I'm surprised there wasn't a Plan "C" for Clark, with dual-action hoaxiness. First, to fend off whatever threat, and second, to throw Jimmy, Lois, and/or Perry off the scent of his secret identity just by having a Plan "C".



Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Beware Morons Bearing Bunnies!

Whenever a team has a guy named "Prof" or "the Professor" on board, you know the rest of the group are bound to be a bit on the dim side. Professor Mark "Prof" Haley led the Challengers of the Unknown, and former prizefighter Rocky Davis was the dumbest of three dummies who followed him around, if only by virtue of his punch drunkenness. In Challengers of the Unknown #48, the team was checking in on and feeding their enemies, the League of Challenger-Haters, whom they were holding captive on a hidden island prison. When Rocky steps off the jet onto the barren, lifeless soil of the island, and sees a fluffy, white, cotton-tailed bunny rabbit looking up at him with it's bright eyes and twitching whiskers, he questions nothing, and sweeps the bunny up in a loving embrace.  If this were any ordinary bunny, Rocky would pet it and stroke it and hug it until it stops moving, just like all his other soft pets; but brother, this is no ordinary bunny!

And so the Challengers of the Unknown were dead forever. No, not really. The Prof figured out that the "magic" compound that Multi-Man used to save Rocky earlier was a simple acid compound, found in powder form in Multi-Man's cell and applied liberally. Then they teamed up with the Doom Patrol in a crossover that continued into Doom Patrol #102.

By the way, that League of Challenger-Haters sure do hate the Challengers, don't they? What a zany bunch. Someone should do an article about them.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Great Moments in Bad Comics: Daredevil!! In a FAT Suit.

Here's a panel From Amazing Spider-Man #287, one of the seemingly interminable Gang War storyline. A recently "Born Again" Daredevil is seen here trying to teach Spider-Man complicated moral lessons by posing as the Kingpin and allowing Spider-Man to literally punch his face off in a positively Weisinger-esque hoax sequence. Not one of either heroes' finest moments, but truly a great moment in bad comics.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Too Much Information About Jimmy Olsen's Helmet!

With friends like Jimmy Olsen, who needs enemies? Jimmy was constantly turning on Superman, or at least appearing to betray his longtime pal. Like that time when he donned the Helmet of Hate, and used Red Kryptonite to turn the man of steel into a wicked, red-skinned devil! It all began one afternoon in the Fortress of Solitude, when Superman was alerted by his allies in the bottle City of Kandor to the approach of a flying saucer manned by members of Braniac's gang. I'm not sure why it couldn't have been Brainiac himself, but maybe he had a clause in his contract excluding him from having to appear in stupid-ass Jimmy Olsen stories. Anyway, Superman goes to investigate, but is repelled by an impenetrable force field:

Stymied, Superman returns to earth, where he finds Jimmy Olsen and the only people more tragic than Jimmy Olsen, Jimmy Olsen fans, waiting for him. Superman performs a “feat of strength” for the assembled idiots, then flies off, having apparently forgotten about the Brainiac twins.

Jimmy has a job, but you’d never know it from the way he spends his day sightseeing with his band of slack jawed followers, playing in museums and having his picture taken. The fan club's next stop is the Superman Museum, where Jimmy borrows some trophies, ostensibly to write an article about them, but more likely in fact to fumble around with and break them. At the Daily Planet, he badgers Perry White into taking his picture with some of the "imitation" trophies, when he starts showing off, fiddling with a complicated alien hate-helmet which, of course, immediately takes control of his feeble brain. Grabbing a Red Kryptonite ray projector, Jimmy starts waving it around, declaring his hatred for Superman:

Superman shows up to see what all the commotion is, and Jimmy trains the red-K ray upon him. The unpredictable energies work their effect upon him, changing him from heroic and strong to an evil, weak, red-skinned devil! As all of this is happening, Boz and Grumm are observing from space, delighted at the situation. Now that Superman is a “devilish chap”, he strikes an unholy bargain with an easily tempted Perry White:

(Choke) Suddenly everyone is turning evil. Superman begins to feel his strength come back, and is regaining the power of flight, when he remembers Boz and Grumm. Soon, the Satan of Steel flies his ginger-tressed tormentor up to the alien saucer, with the wickedest proposition of all!

Boz lets lets the force field down, because, apparently, even an evil Superman’s word is his bond (?!?) and Superman and Jimmy come aboard. Although frankly, the logic is extremely murky here, since if Superman has indeed been turned evil, I would assume that would extend to any oaths he might extend to invading aliens. BUT. For the sake of this story, all appears lost, with Superman HONOR BOUND not to attack, but not so honorable that he isn't ready to press the button that will shrink Metropolis forever!

Surely Superman won't press the shiny red button?

The jolly, candy colored button...?!?

So has Superman really turned evil forever?!? Of course not, stupid. In this case, I really think the caption says it best. "UNEXPECTEDLY..."

Awp indeed, my friend. Boz and Grumm are stunned as a dozen tiny Supermen burst forth from Superman's exploding devil horns! Yes, the whole thing was just an insanely elaborate , prearranged hoax, starting with the anchor that Superman snapped to look like a “J”, initiating "Plan J", a Byzantine scheme involving prop trophies, fake racketeers, disguises, and bogus Mayoral endorsements to gain access to the alien saucer without breaking Superman's precious "word of honor"! But don't worry about Perry White getting that racketeer elected mayor; it turns out that was all part of the plan too:

So the Daily Planet only rushed out a special edition to endorse an undercover agent posing as a racketeer for Mayor of Metropolis. But Superman didn't have to lie to a couple of Braniac's flunkies, so it's all good.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Great Moments in Bad Comics: J.Jonah Jameson is Very Disappointed in You, Perry.

J. Jonah Jameson is outraged to see Perry White endorsing a crooked racketeer like Tom Remson for Mayor of Metropolis! Or maybe it's just a guy who looks a lot like Jonah. I'd like to think it's a knowing wink to Jonah from artist Curt Swan, but since this panel is from Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen #68 (1963), and the Amazing Spider-Man made his debut that same year, that would be impossible. Either way, what would possess Perry White to endorse a crook for Mayor? It's almost as if Perry made a deal with the devil...!

To be continued!


Friday, October 15, 2010

The Many, Many, Many Bizarre Transformations of Jimmy Olsen!

I've spent a lot of time here singing the praises of wacky old Silver Age comic books, but oddly enough, I have barely touched on the gold standard of wacky old Silver Age comic books: Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen. With three stories in each issue, His stories initially involved him seeking out scoops and raiding his bottomless disguise trunk, but when that wore thin, the tales got more and more far-out, leading to Jimmy Olsen’s infamous bizarre transformations.

Panels from "The Adventures of Chameleon-Head Olsen"

Bruce Banner may spend a lot more time transforming than Jimmy Olsen does, but at least he only transforms into one thing; Jimmy has morphed into everything but the kitchen sink (unless I missed an issue), sometimes repeating himself, or revisiting an especially popular identity. Olsen has turned into an Elastic Lad, a Future Brain, a Fat Boy, a Genie, a Giant, a Wolf-Boy, a Bizarro, a Human Octopus, a Human Porcupine, an Alien, a fire-breather, Invisible, a Blob, a Robot, an old man, a baby, a gorilla, and a Giant Turtle Man. And I've probably forgotten several.

With only eight to ten pages per story, not much time is wasted on setup. Bonehead Jimmy is usually fooled into drinking some dodgy serum concocted by his absent-minded scientist friend, Professor Potter, or in some cases by some random scientist he's interviewing. Next thing you know? Super Brain!

Sometimes the hapless bow-tied dullard is undone by fumbling around with dangerous artifacts brought back from space by Superman. Sometimes he's been tricked by a yet another fifth-dimensional imp, and sometimes aliens are to blame. But all incidents have one common factor: stupid, stupid Jimmy Olsen gets turned into a freakish, dangerous eyesore for 24 hours,and Superman has to devote all his resources to keeping him from killing himself and/or others.Sorry, murder and robbery victims across the world, Superman is too busy dealing with "Giant Turtle" Olsen to help you right now!

When Jimmy wanted to infiltrate the Bearded Gentlemen’s Club of Metropolis, he drank a tonic handed to him by a stranger, and rather than unconsciousness followed by rape, he actually became a Bearded Boy, in a hairy little episode which we’ve discussed here before

As if being bearded wasn't bad enogh, he got the obligatory long, white beard of old age when he became an Old Olsen, thanks to the Cabinet from Krypton:

And hey, who hasn’t swapped minds with a gorilla for a day, leaving the gorilla to caper around in their human body while they carry on with their daily business in a gorilla body? Hijinx were ensuing like crazy that one time when Jimmy got his mind swapped with a gorilla, and became the Gorilla Reporter of Metropolis!

Eventually, the silly, charming Silver Age of Superman ran its course, and Jimmy Olsen ran out of steam, creatively and in sales. Jack Kirby came to DC and revamped the title, bringing in his own brand of weirdness. Recently, DC tried to weave Jimmy's transformations into the Countdown storyline, but it wasn't remotely the same. At this point, the beat we can hope for is that Jimmy Olsen can continue to transform into an interesting character for the modern age.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Moments In Bad Comics: Jimmy Olsen Gets a Raise




Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"Milady, 'Tis the Clobbering Hour."

I gave Dark Reign: Fantastic Four a pass the first time, all the better to pick it up cheap recently. The alternate-reality hopping tale involves comes a whole slew of alternate FFs, including a Fantastic Royal Family and Chamberlain Grimm. Later, the genteel Chamberlain gets swept up into cross-time adventure with the regular FF, a cowboy FF, a pirate FF, and a World War II era FF. Then things get weird. Unfortunately, with everything else going on, and Norman Osborn in the mix, we don't see too much more of Chamberlain Grimm, but we learn that he can't fly and that he'd rather drink fine wine than grog. He is, in fact, almost out of his element engaging in  unseemly gutter fisticuffs:

Dear me, this is a most revolting development.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The New Jimmy Olsen Feature is Excellent; Could Use More Gorilla Weddings

Again With the Comics heartily approves of the new Jimmy Olsen backup feature, soon to debut in Action Comics. The new stories put a modern spin on Superman’s Pal, while reminding us why Superman would want to be friends with a goof like Jimmy  in the first place. The writing is sharp, the art is lovely, and the first story sets up an intriguing new world for Jimmy. Chloe Sullivan is introduced to the DC Universe here as well, which is a pretty big deal for Smallville fans, but lost on me. I never did take to Smallville. I like her as a replacement for Lucy Lane, though, as she challenges Jimmy in ways that echo the Silver Age Lucy/Jimmy dynamic, without all the hateful, shrewish stuff. 

Best of all, we get a glimpse of a past adventure Jimmy had as a Genie:

Which Hints that maybe his crazy old silver Age adventures haven’t been completely retconned away:

This brief flashback made me think/hope that maybe writer Nick Spencer was inspired by the classic cover to Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen #42, and rather than trying to adapt that story (which was insane and ridiculous), he "micro-updated" Jimmy the Genie to a more modern style. If so, wouldn’t it be great if the new Jimmy Olsen series featured other “neo-flashbacks”; that is, updated reminisces about, say, the time Jimmy traveled to Gorilla City with Superman and Gorilla Grodd's fiancee fell madly in love with him, leading to an unexpeted wedding:

Well, maybe not. But a man can dream, can't he? A man can dream...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great Moments in Bad Comics: On a Wing and a Swear

Atlas Comics was a short lived mid-70's publisher, born of a grudge, run as a deliberate knock-off, and dead in five months. They were also known for their early attempt at edgier, more adult material, bringing them into constant conflict with the Comics Code Authority. This page from the Brute #1 was Atlas Comics' admittedly juvenile backlash against the bluenoses. Stick it to the man, Songbird SHI7, stick it to the man.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Great Moments in Bad Comics: The Great Diaper Alien Switcheroo!


Here is Tiger Boy's true Jupiterian form, as seen in Unearthly Spectaculars #1:

And here we see Tiger Boy's true Jupiterian form, as seen in Unearthly Spectaculars #2:

While Gil Kane can draw the hell out of some aliens, I kind of prefer the googly-eyed, diapered potbellies for sheer camp value. Either way, somebody dropped the ball, alien design wise. In fact, in that same (second) issue, the script couldn't even decide whether the Canfields were from Venus or Jupiter! Thank you, Unearthly Spectaculars editor of long ago, for failing to maintain visual continuity, or apparently, even consciousness, for an episodic run of a mere two issues, thus giving me something to complain about over forty years later!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And Then There Was Hank's "Doctor Pym" Phase.

Recently mentioning Henry "Hank" Pym’s short stint as the Wasp got me thinking about his many other costumed identities, particularly his short-lived time as Doctor Pym, Scientific Adventurer. Pym changed names and personae about as often as his wife changed costumes, and his switches from Ant-Man to Giant-Man to Yellowjacket and back again have been well-covered elsewhere, but I always kind of liked the underrated Doctor Pym identity, and thought it was too bad that more wasn't done with it, hence this "spotlight" on Pym's least appreciated alter-ego, I suppose.

Pym had joined the supporting cast of Steve Englehart’s West Coast Avengers, but was despondent over his many failures as husband and hero. He was depressed and near suicide, when he was stopped by Espirita, (a.k.a. the devoutly religious superheroine formerly-known-as-Firebird, and another West Coast hanger-on). Espirita convinced Hank that he had another path, and helped him realize that while he may not fit in with the heavy-hitters, he could still have a place among the Avengers. Pym changed his focus from changing his own size to shrinking and growing other things, adopting an arsenal of miniaturized tools, weapons, and gear for a variety of uses. He even created a quasi-sentient vehicle named ROVER to travel in, which was also reducible to pocket size.

Calling himself simply “Doctor Pym”, he adopted a plainclothes look consisting first of a trench coat, scarf, and hat. Later, a multi-pocketed jumpsuit replaced the coat, and he took his place among the West Coast Team as their resident scientist. Al Milgrom’s chunky, clunky artwork insured that neither costume looked especially sleek or appealing, but a good idea was there. Doctor Pym eventually got a story arc of his own, one which took him and the WCA to Russia to face some of Ant/Giant–Man’s oldest foes, including an army of Scarlet Beetles, in order to rescue his long lost first wife, Maria Trovaya. At the end of that story, Hank quit the team to work on her recovery from sinister brain experiments, but he returned to the Avengers after Maria turned out to possibly be not Maria but a spy named Olivia, but who knows with mutants involved, who in turn eventually became MODAM.

Unfortunately, after Englehart introduced Doctor Pym, nobody else seemed to know what to do with Him. He may as well have been tech staff in the Avengers, for all he did  under other writers, (usually sitting at a console) and he was quickly absorbed into the background before eventually, quietly, reverting to Giant-Man again. I always liked the idea behind “Doctor Pym”, given Hank’s persistent inferiority complex amongst other heroes, but obviously, few others did. I think it made a lot of sense for him to highlight his mind as his superpower over his brawn, and thought that in time he could have become something akin to Brainiac-5 for the Avengers. As I recall, Pym's adopted Wasp identity did incorporate some of the miniature tools and gadgetry of the Doctor Pym era, as well as the know-it-all aspect, but again, Wasp didn’t last long either.

So Pym reverts to Giant-Man again, and the circle of life goes on. See you back here in, oh let's say, early 2012, when it ought to be time for Hank to flip out and go Yellowjacket again!