Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Asgardian Dynamite

Part of what I love about the Golden Age is how very low the bar was set for being a superhero. Take for example, "DYNAMITE" THOR (Weird Comics #7, 1940), whose claim to fame was wearing a belt of  dynamite into battle:

"Dynamite" Thor has a motto: "When in doubt, throw dynamite at it."  Peter Thor former Mine Owner and bomb-nut-about-town has devoted his life to throwing dynamite at spies, criminals, and America's enemies.

And of course, the story gives him a secret identity, but since the series only lasted two issues, I like to think he eventually dropped the act and flipped out on a full time basis. He'd be a wacky,outrageous character, overreacting to everyday, minor inconveniences in his own inimitable fashion! Well, that or a terrorist.

Lest we forget, "Dynamite" did have one minor superpower, not insignificant in an era when a guy got into the JSA for being a shorter costumed strongman than the other seven costumed strongmen on the team. "Dynamite" Thor had the power of being "immune to the effect of explosives", very lucky for him given his chosen mode of transport:

Yes, no Dyna-Car for this guy, who prefers to blast around town in the most maniacal way imaginable, via a series of barely-controlled concussive blasts!! I'll bet his neighbors just love this guy. No explanation is given for his "immunity" to explosives, save that he was an "explosives expert". I'm gonna take that to mean that he's blown himself up often enough that he is either A) One big callus, B) sporting an armored,  prosthetic pelvis/colostomy column beneath that colrful tunic, C) Very, very well insulated, and mind-rippingly drunk or D) Most of the above.

Whatever the case, it allows "Dynamite" Thor to look like he's merrily prancing along on a wave of cartoon fart clouds, rather than like a rapidly approaching storm cloud of hamburger and bone shards, the more likely result of lighting a freaking belt of dynamite you've strapped around your waist.

Finally, "Dynamite" shared the same weakness that afflicted a great many costumed heroes. He was not immune to a deftly-applied pie wrench upside the he head:

Well, I suppose I should take it easy on poor old "Dynamite" Thor. It's not like he's that bad, and...

Say,what's that hissing noise? Honey, are you boiling some wat

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hm...Something Went Wrong!

Meet my new favorite Golden age character: Dr. Mortal, wizened amoral science lunatic.

Dr. mortal excerpt from Weird Comics #7, scan found at Golden Age Comics.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wolverine Admits to Steroid Use

SAN FRANCISCO- In a press conference today, famed mutant superhero Wolverine admitted to steroid use during most of the 1990’s, but he also said he didn't need performance-enhancing drugs to retain his position as the X-Men’s most popular and ubiquitous member.

Wolverine, pictured in pre-steroid days

Wolverine, also sometimes known as Logan, Weapon X, Howlett, Patch, and "the ‘ol Canucklehead” is either one of America’s most beloved heroes or one of its greatest threats, depending on who you ask, but few would deny that the scrappy Canadian changed the American superhero paradigm for good when he burst on the scene years ago with a savage and uncompromising attitude toward crime-fighting. He quickly became a fan-favorite, and before long, was rewarded with his own mini-series, then his own monthly book.

"I was given a gift to scrag bad guys, bub" he once told Rick Jones on the Hero One Network. "I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do ain’t very pretty.”

But with the fame and exposure came an increased pressure to perform. Wolverine recalls that his mutant healing factor was a key element in his ability to do so much, but even so, he could only heal so fast.

"During the early '90s, I was shot, stabbed, burned, thrown into a volcano, and fired from a cannon in one month," Wolverine said. "I experienced a lot of injuries, including a bruised ribcage, an amputated arm, multiple contusions, and that one time Sabertooth disemboweled me. It was a miserable couple'a hours healin', and I figured steroids could help me recover faster."

The steroids amplified his healing factor to an almost ludicrous degree. Wolverine went from being an unusually fast healer to being nigh immortal.

“After I stared juicing up, there wasn’t anything that could kill me. In one adventure, I was disintegrated in a nuclear explosion, reduced to a charred skeleton. Well, in the time it takes to microwave a burrito, I knit myself back together well enough to fight off ONE HUNDRED NINJAS. Try doing that with a standard-issue mutant healing factor, bub.”

Another contributing factor was Wolverine’s height, which was always a source of chagrin for the proud mutant fighter.

“Squirt. Short-stuff. Runt. Midget. And that was from my teammates! Mean words hurt, people. I thought that maybe steroids could help me put on some height, too. And they did...sometimes.”

Yes, the steroids worked, but at a price. Wolverine’s appearance varied wildly during this period, and indeed, has ever since. Many wonder if the X-Man/Avenger/X-force member has indeed truly given up on performance enhancing drugs, given that he is now more in demand than ever. He replied t these accusations at he press event:

“Listen, Bub, I gave that junk up years ago. The 'ol Canucklehead don't need nothin' but his claws 'an his instincts! I’m coming clean now because I realize what a mistake I made, and ‘cause I need to face up to my responsibilities since I've become an Avenger. As of this morning, I'm apparently the new leader of Power Pack, too, so I can’t be no bad influence on little kids."

Wolverine insists that the steroid abuse left no permanent effects on his mind or body, though fans and colleagues question the veracity of such statements, given his ever-changing appearance and continued reference to himself as an "ol Canucklehead". As the superhero community struggles to come to grips with these new revelations, Wolverine remains as popular as ever. He will no doubt continue to do that which he does best, and continue to do it in about twenty comics a month.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spider-Man Movie Casting Suggestion

Mostly, I don't care. But there is one absolute MUST when casting the next Spider-Man movie:

For the love of God, KEEP J.K. SIMMONS as J. JONAH JAMESON!

Simmons absolutely became the curmudgeonly newspaper publisher in the first three Spider-Man movies, and I don't wanna see anyone else ranting about "That Wall-Crawling Menace!" in future outings. Jonah isn't that major of a player in the story anyway, so why try to shoehorn in a new actor? I liked  all three of the Spider-Man movies, though all three were flawed in different ways. Tobey Maguire made a decent Spider-Man, but I never really was sold on his Peter Parker, and Kirsten Dunst really got on my nerves by the third movie, so her MJ won't be missed. I've heard about the sparkly vampire kid being bandied about for Spidey, as well as that Arrested Development young'un, but I'm guessing they'll go with even newer young up-and-comers that I've never heard of to fill those roles in the new film. Whatever they do, let me be perfectly clear:

Future Spider-Man movie director, KEEP J.K. SIMMONS as J. JONAH JAMESON!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and Full-of-Snakes-Man

Here, my friends, is a muchly strange comic for you to be reading on the computer internets!

Indian superhero NAGRAJ (translates to “Snake King”) has enjoyed immense popularity in his relatively short existence.  And why not? Get this – he is full of tiny snakes. Microscopic snakes in his bloodstream allow him the full panoply of superhero powers, and he can create any number of handy tools and weapons from snakes, such as snake ladders, snake lassoes, and general all-purpose snake hurling. A full rundown on Nagraj can be found here.

The magic beings of a faraway planet have no regard for such pitiful Earth concepts as “copyright”, so when Victar Shakoorah is booted from the Magicians planet, he is encased in a diamond and sent to Earth, to be plopped down within about 20 feet of Bootleg Indian Superman, who is in the process of murdering "Missleman":

Friendly, murderous Superman frees Shakoora and explains: ”…Earth is like this, and I protect its people from the anti-social elements!”  Shakoora flies with Superman, briefly, before attacking and trapping him:

UFF! Then Superman tells the evil dwarf that there are other protectors of the Earth: Batman, Spiderman, and Nagraj, so Shakoora sets off to capture them as well. He makes short work of a less-than-imposing Bootleg Batman. I don't know how often this sort of thing happened, but I have to admit, I really like the idea of Nagraj randomly teaming up with, say, the Hulk, Abraham Lincoln, and/or Santa Claus at any given time.

Finally, Shakoora heads to Paris, where Bootleg Spiderman (sic) is disarming a bomb strapped to the Eiffel Tower:

Then he whisks the captured trio of superheroes off to the Gemini circus in India, where Nagraj is in attendance, apparently forcing his girlfriend to wear a dress, keeping her in her place:

Damn, he's all like: "Shut up and watch the circus, beeyotch!" Of course, any comic book reader knows that THE CIRCUS=TROUBLE, and this one is no exception. Shakoora crashes the party, riding Toofan a known rogue elephant! Nagraj immediately suits up for snake-powered action, but too late to stop an ELEPHANT RAMPAGE:

Apparently, ripping off American Superheroes isn’t enough, since wrestling legend Lou Albano (May he Rest in Peace) shows up in an inexplicable cameo as the circus ringmaster, for no apparent reason. Albano and Nagraj manage to subdue Toofan, but then the treacherous Shakoora strikes:

Nagraj destroys the rolling cage, which disgorges the unconscious Superman, Batman, and Spiderman:

Surely now the heroes will spring into action and kick magic dwarf ass, right? Not quite, as Shakoora continues to taunt Nagraj, then burns his girlfriend’s feet, then sets the circus tent on fire! Nagraj does the only logical thing, and commandeers a small choo-choo train to gather up Visarpi and the still-bound heroes and… ride around in circles, I guess?


The choo choo is blocked, and all seems lost until Nagraj starts to prayin', and ...some guy...shows up and magically saves everyone! Three cheers for Deus Ex Machina Man! Er, Imean, Guruji  Gorakhnath!!

Actually, this is maybe supposed to be be beloved Hindu Yogi Guru Gorakshanath, but frankly, I don't see the resemblance:

And so, the benevolent Guruji flew off with Shakoora, and all was well…BUT WAIT! There are still pages to fill, so as a “parting shot", Shakoora blasts Lou Albano with a spell that changes him into a raging giant! The heroes alltry to stop him, but it all comes down to Nagraj and SNAKE POWER:

Finally, he sends some snakes inside the giant to bite him internally, and defeats the giant BY KILLING HIM WITH SNAKES:

Then they all have a jolly laugh over dinner! Surely that wasn’t supposed to be the Lou Albano? Maybe that’s a common name in India?!? You can find this entire nutty story online right here, and enjoy the bootleg madness for yourself.

Good Bye friends, see you again in some delightful moments!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Negative Thinking

Doom Patrol #6 was released this week, casting a spotlight on Negative Man, and I found it to be the most intriguing issue to date. Negative Man itself is our narrator, and through the energy being’s rambling interior monologue, we get a look at how Larry Trainor came to be inhabited by a radioactive entity, how he died, and how that entity moved on to a succession of other hosts, while sincerely trying to convince itself and others that it is still Larry Trainor.

Writer Keith Giffen uses the “unreliable narrator” trick to explore a not-quite-accurate Doom Patrol timeline as seen by a being that has known his/its share of trauma and change.  After the Doom Patrol’s “death“ in Doom Patrol #121 (1968), the negative energy being went on to inhabit Valentina Vostok. Larry re-emerged in the next DP series in 1987, found mysteriously alive and well in an enemy’s clutches. This story elaborates on that point, explaining that the Larry they found was another man’s body that was genetically altered by the Chief with Trainor DNA to resemble Larry’s just enough to attract the negative being. This was supposed to have happened again, sometime after Rebis’ death at the end of Grant Morrison’s run, meaning Larry Trainor is now on his second borrowed body.

The narration is unreliable, however, in that Negative Man can’t quite acknowledge his time as Rebis. He/it seems to mix and confuse the Paul Kupperberg and Grant Morrison versions of the team, and remembers a version of the Morrison DP with Negative Man, not Rebis in the roster. Elanor Poole, the woman Larry and the negative being merged with to form Rebis is not mentioned. Some team history is lost, some altered, and some blended, and at no point are we sure if this is the “real” story. The theory that Niles Caulder has been procuring comatose, brain-dead “Not-Larries” for the entity to inhabit is certainly creepy enough to be credible, and explains how Larry survived the first “death” of the Doom Patrol, at least better than “He survived somehow.” Note that this was supposed to have occurred during the time Rebis was around, so we are led to wonder if this clone/DNA business "really happened" or if Negative Man is working from distorted memories, providing his own "retcon" for a truth he cannot face.

In other words, is a retcon couched in a false memory really a retcon, or advanced denial?

The end result appears to be a very confused, depressed, self-loathing energy being living in its fourth or fifth human shell, with a need to identify itself as the (long dead) human it first bonded with. The being feels affection for the DP, and for Rita in particular, and is doing its level best to be Larry Trainor, but it is like a copy of a copy of a copy, explaining “Larry’s” odd behavior of late. Weird stuff, and well suited to the weirdness of the Doom Patrol.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Funeral For A Stilt-Man

All of this recent Punisher talk reminded me of the time he killed the Stilt-Man, which I covered in detail way back in 2006. His death resulted in a scene pretty much exactly as depicted above in a later issue where Frank poisoned all the villains attending Stilt-Man's viewing at the Bar With No Name, and then blew up the bar and the few villains that didn't stagger away. I then remembered this hilarious, insanely detailed Ryan Dunleavy (of Action Philosophers, Comic Book Comics, and wacky MODOK comics fame) picture that I nabbed awhile back, and decided to share, on account of I am generous. 


Monday, January 04, 2010

In Which the Punisher Flattens Wolverine With a Steam Roller

Speaking of the Punisher, and my general lack of interest for the character, I'm even less a fan of the over-exposed, over-rated Wolverine. As I've mentioned, I did enjoy Garth Ennis' run on the Punisher, and issues 16 and 17 may have been the pinnacle, featutring a blackly hilarious team up with the "ol Canucklehead" as only Ennis could write it. Ennis clearly "gets" Wolverine in a way few other writers do, imbuing him with the gravitas and importance he has earned as Marvels #1 cash cow:

Heh heh. Wotta maroon.
In the story, Punisher and Wolverine are both on the trail of mob goombahs who are mysteriously disappearing, leaving only their discarded, cut off lower legs behind. Each hero suspects the other of being the culprit, and they have a classic Mighty Marvel Misunderstanding and fight, before they team up. Of course, the Punisher doesn't play well with others, so he spends the rest of the story fighting an army of revenge-crazed criminal midgets alongside Wolverine, while also trying to incapacitate Wolverine to get him out of the way. Frank first blasts Wolvie's face off with a shotgun, shoots him in the doo-dads, and nearly sets him on fire, but the rodent's healing factor allows him to shrug all that off and keep the "team-up" going. By the time the two have slaughtered all of the little would-be crimelords, Frank realizes he needs to get the nigh-indesructible runt off his back for the long term, when he spies a handy road roller:

That may be the single greatest thing Marvel printed in the last decade. Then he goes into the next room and murders a room full of amputees. That wacky Punisher!

Pages from Punisher ( 2001 series ) #17 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robetson