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And now, writer Gerry Conway speaks directly to you, the fan and/or critic…

§ February 9th, 2022 § Filed under justice league § 13 Comments

…in regards to this whole “Justice League Detroit” business:

from Justice League of America #238 (May 1985) by Gerry Conway, Chuck Patton and Mike Machlan

Don’t look at the filename for that picture of Vibe.

§ February 2nd, 2022 § Filed under justice league § 9 Comments

I typed a lot about comic industry predictions and stuff over the last month, so let me pop in here with something Current and Now to tell you…


…that courtesy the DC Universe Infinite app, I’m finally reading straight through, for the first time, the 1980s Detroit-era Justice League of America and you can’t stop me.

This iteration of the team, which lasted ’til the end of the series’ run in 1987, was introduced in Annual #2 in 1984. I didn’t pick that up, which was weird because, being a fan at the time of “anniversary” and annual issues, I usually bought all of them. And for JLA I picked up #1 in ’83, and #3 in ’85, but skipped the second. …Which I did finally read and, well, I liked the set-up, with JLA founding member and current chairman Aquaman disbanding the team after a disastrous adventure in which all the League’s Big Guns (Supes, Bats, etc.) were otherwise occupied. He then reforms the League with members who can devote all their time to the team, including superhero veterans and a handful of newcomers.

The execution overall is…acceptable, with utilitarian art, and stories that are entertaining enough if sort of average-ish. Now I have read issues from this run before, mostly the Crisis on Infinite Earths tie-ins (which would explain why I picked up Annual #3, which is one) and the Legends tie-in issues that concluded the series. Those final issues were particularly good, as I recall, by a different creative team that the one that began this era of the book. But we’ll see how I think about them once I read them in the full context of the run. I suspect I’ll still like them.

I will note I was unduly excited to come across a pre-Crisis appearance of the Monitor and Harbinger I hadn’t seen before in one of the earlier issues. Even after all this time Crisis shenanigans can still pluck my little nerd heartstrings.

Once I get through ’em all I’ll try to report back here. Will I turn into the World’s Biggest Fan of Vibe?

Stay tuned and find out!

In which I finally reach some measure of self-awareness at the end, there.

§ October 29th, 2021 § Filed under george perez, justice league, publishing § 8 Comments

So I’ve been using the DC Universe Infinite digital comics service mostly to try to catch up on many of the comics I picked up but couldn’t read during the earlier and particularly bad months of my eyeball issues, when I wasn’t really able to read anything. I’ve also been using to dip a little farther back into DC’s publishing history, reading some Golden Age books, a lot of the earlier Silver Age Green Lantern (boy, does Hal call Tom that name a lot), and finally reading the entirety of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad run (which I missed during its initial publication). And I keep hoping they’ll add more late ’70s/early ’80s Superman comics to the catalog.

Anther purpose to which I’ve put DC Universe is revisiting some old favorites from my youth, my own copies either buried deep in the remainder of the Vast Mikester Comic Archives, or long since tattered into unreadability and discarded. One of those stories was the “Secret Origin of Red Tornado” two-parter that ran in Justice League of America #192 and #193 in 1981, when I was 12 years old.

I pointed out one short sequence in my last post, where I discussed the occasional brief focus of a team book on developing characters that had no other home on that stands. Now granted pretty much the entire focus of this story was on Red Tornado, but you know what I mean. Getting a little character development in for Reddy’s supporting cast because, you know, where else is that going to happen. (At least not until his own mini-series a few years later.)

Another bit of character development for someone who didn’t have his own title (but was featured in a back-up series in another comic at the time) was this, where the Flash admonishes Firestorm for prematurely (and loudly) giving up on a teammate for dead:

That sequence has stuck with me for a long, long time. Particularly this panel just before it, with Superman giving ol’ Flamehead the super side-eye:


You could just feel that burn of shame on Firestorm’s behalf. And in retrospect, it isn’t necessarily some tossed-away sequence to fill pages and create conflict between members of the team…this was written by Firestorm’s creator, who was also writing those back-ups over in The Flash. As such, it feels like an important part of the character’s development and not just something you could ignore because it didn’t happen in one of his “real” (i.e. solo) stories. I don’t think I appreciated this at the time, but now that I’m older (definitely) and wiser (jury’s still out) I certainly appreciate it now.

Another thing I appreciated about this comic, then and now, is just how much backstory got crammed into this comic. Well, “crammed,” relatively speaking, since this stories did run 52 pages over two issues (at only 50 cents a pop, even) so there felt like there was plenty of space. But there was a good chunk of the narrative given over to expository info needed for the reader to realize the importance of just what’s going on around here.

I mean, we get a retelling of Red Tornado’s beginnings:

We learn about the villain T.O. Morrow, his origin, and what he’s been up to since his last appearances:

There’s some bonus Adam Strange stuff, tying into the current story:


…and that’s not even all of what’s being shown and explained in this book. And it all reads very smoothly. As I said, I was 12 when this came out. I’d been reading comics for a bit, but I didn’t know much about characters like Firestorm and Red Tornado at the time, I certainly didn’t know T.O. Morrow, and while I knew Adam Strange mostly from being featured on the early Nickelodeon program Video Comics, I didn’t really know from the Tornado Tyrant.

It would seem like this is a lot to hit a kid relatively new to comics and some of these characters/concepts, but I do recall finding it absolutely fascinating. Finding out there was a history to these characters, still being referenced, still mattering, that happened long before I entered these worlds, gave the proceedings a depth that they would not have had otherwise. It’s a style of presentation that would shortly have me doing deep dives into Roy Thomas’s DC work, and its reverence for Golden Age tales.

I wasn’t put off…I was attracted by the idea that there was more to learn about all these characters and the worlds they lived in. I know, and I knew even then, that the shared universe at DC (and Marvel too) was built by Many Hands and inconsistencies abounded, but part of the fun was seeing what fit and what didn’t. It’s a feature, not a bug.

I’ve spoken about Crisis on Infinite Eaths before, and how its attempt at codifying and streamlining the DC Universe was compelling reading at the time…perhaps one of the very few times a comic book series had you genuinely concerned for the fate of those involved. It wasn’t until after patch after patch after patch was applied to that firmware upgrade that it began to sink in that the trip Wolfman and Perez took us on was, maybe, not really necessary. Reboots and relaunches began to pile on, and that long history for these characters began to evaporate.

The repeated relaunches of Legion of Super-Heroes threw away all their history in exchange for brief high bursts of first issue sales and slow declines. X-Men, a comic once read by, you know, everyone, splintered into endless spinoffs and relaunches, with no one easily able to follow the thread of stories and characters.

I know there are attempts to redress the shallowness of their fictional worlds. Nearly every crossover event at DC is about trying to make Crisis never-was, with the latest iteration being “every story matters,” however that’s going to work.

This whole post reads like “why aren’t comics like they were when I was a kid,” which comes awfully close to lumping me in with those “comics were never political!” people, and nobody wants that. Comics are always evolving and changing and trying to find their place in a world where they’ve been largely supplanted by, ironically enough, their own enormously popular TV and movie adaptations. There is still lots of good work being done with them, and I still love reading (and selling!) them.

But I do miss the feeling I had of dipping into some comic I hadn’t read before and realizing there’s a whole world here that I’m only barely experiencing in this one issue. Maybe I’ve read comics for too long to have that happen now. Or maybe I’m assuming too much, and that kids do have that same wonder, just not with the same types of comics I read. There’s someone out there whose first volume of Naruto is number 81 and being intrigued by what they’ve discovered, the same way I was 40 years ago, when I decided to pick a comic off the rack that promised secrets to be revealed about Red Tornado.
 
 
 
 

images from Justice League of America #192-193 (July & Augst 1981) by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and John Beatty

The best shrug in comics.

§ October 27th, 2021 § Filed under george perez, justice league § 9 Comments

I actually have a lot more to say about the Justice League of America story this sequence comes from, which I will get to next time. But, for today let’s just enjoy this small bit of domestic humor featuring the android superhero the Red Tornado, his partner Kathy, and their adopted daughter Traya as they deal with the little girl’s recalcitrance at mealtime:


That’s one of the best parts of superhero team books, particularly when it’s done well as in the above excerpt. They allow some brief moments with characters that otherwise have no other outlet. There was no Red Tornado ongoing series…if you were Reddy’s biggest fan, this is what you got. A few panels every month, if you were lucky.

Imagine being a big Wolverine fan at a time when his primary print endeavors were in a book he shared with other characters who also only appeared in that book. You waited a month between issues to get a few pages with the character. And that’s with one of the more popular members of the X-Men. Imagine being a big Bouncing Boy fan and waiting month-to-month for him to be featured in Legion of Super-Heroes. Sometimes all you got was a panel, and not even a speaking part.

The way comics publishing has been of late, things haven’t been quite so dire…lots of third/fourth/fifth/more-string characters eventually do get their own titles, even if just briefly. So, if you’re a fan of a member of a team book who just gets a small amount of attention there, eventually you’ll receive at least a little more quality time with your fave. Red Tornado got his own series. Wolverine certainly did. No Bouncing Boy solo title yet, but I still hold out hope.
 
 
 
 

images from Justice League of America #192 (July 1981) by Gerry Conway, George Perez, and John Beatty

Remember when my Swamp Thing posts were all like “HEY, SWAMP THING’S HAND IS IN AN ISSUE OF INFINITE CRISIS.”

§ March 26th, 2018 § Filed under justice league, pal plugging, swamp thing, television § 4 Comments

An Addendumdedumdum to My Most Recent Post: it is now The Future, so I may now reveal the truth behind that No-Prize. It is, in fact, a No-No-Prize, a simulacrum, a deliberate reconstruction of what how a No-Prize may have appeared, constructed by a friend (not Rob, as previously theorized) who shall go nameless here lest Stan the Man himself call down the Merry Marvel Marching Society upon him for such perilous perfidy. Anyway, said friend assembled the pics, slapped ’em on envelopes, and sent them to me and at least one other person just for laffs. YOU GOT ME, FRIEND I AM PROTECTING FROM THE MARVEL ZOMBIE HORDE.

• • •

So the only comic news this week is the revelation that Swamp Thing is returning to the funnybook pages (like, again…he’s always up to something, somewhere, since he’s come back to the regular DC Universe). He’s going to be a member of the revived Justice League Dark title, along with Zatanna and Detective Chimp, as God intended:

…yeah, that’s a new look for him. Saw someone on Twitter (can’t remember who, now) commenting that he’s basically been made to look like Alan Moore, which, okay, that’s kind of funny. Anyway, I’m looking forward to this and the other dozen or so new Justice League titles DC is releasing in the wake of that movie’s success.

• • •

What’s that? You want more Swamp Thing news, you say? Well, you’ve come to probably the right place, as there are a couple of new toys, or at least new to me, that just came to my awareness thanks to being pointed out by pals on the Twitter (and images for which I “borrowed” from this good person’s Twitter feed. First up is one based on the Justice League Action animated series appearing on a Cartoon Network near you.


And then this second one is from the “DC Super Friends” line:


Interesting that both feature Swamp Thing with his traditional weapon of choice, the Huge-Ass Club. Anyway, I suppose I’ll have to track these down, too, even though I’m trying to buy less doodads and tchotchkes but there’s always the Swamp Thing Exception Clause in my life contract as I pass through the other end of middle age.

• • •


Here’s a thing I somehow missed back in the toy stores of yore, but now reproduced in the new popular digital format all you kids are into: the handheld Swamp Thing game from Tiger Electronics, in all its emulated glory.

Anyway, while all you nerds are playing your funnybook game, I’ll be over here playing this manly sportsman-like Electronic Quarterback from Coleco (which, all kidding aside, I actually did play back in the late ’70s, as a friend owned it — I had a basketball version, for some reason, though that specific game appears not to be amongst the emulated here).

• • •

So I did watch SyFy’s new Krypton show (as discussed previously) and…yeah, it seemed interesting enough. At first, it seemed like it was going to go the Smallville route of making the Superman story unnecessarily complicated for the sake of getting any kind of compellingly-watchable TV show out of all this nonsense. But of course this pushes everything far enough back that Superman himself, as we know him, while offstage (for now) and the target of some kind of time-traveling threat, is relatively untouched by the proceedings. In Smallville, despite knowing that yes, this was just a different interpretation of the character, it was difficult to draw a line from what we were seeing in that show to what we knew about Superman. Just…too many weird continuity shenanigans. That’s more the problem with my fanboy brain than anything the producers were doing, admittedly. In Krypton, though, actual events on Krypton are enough of an open book that I could theoretically avoid any such issues.

And I say “theoretically” only because I’m way behind on the few shows I do watch, and adding one more to the pile isn’t going to help matters any. I watched this first one more out of curiosity, but I expect I won’t end up watching any more ’til it’s on a streaming service or discs I can rent from Netflix. I will reiterate that directly connecting the events of the show to the “present” of Superman’s time was the gimmick needed to get me at least somewhat interested, more than just giving us A Game of Space-Thrones That Is Sorta Connected to Superman, Eventually.

• • •

Hey, my old pal Brandon is doing a little research for a collector’s guide project he’s working on, regarding “all your favorite giant rubber animals, dinos and monsters […] Toys by Imperial Toy, Chitech, Dor Mei & more!” If you’re on the Twitterers, you can follow that link and direct-message him there. Or if you’re not on the Tweetings, you can email me and I can pass along your contact information. If you can help him out, please do! Thanks!

Please enjoy this first draft of my review of that JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time DVD.

§ January 24th, 2014 § Filed under cartoons, justice league, movie reviews § 8 Comments


[Some minor SPOILERS AHEAD]

So I was clued in by one of Johanna’s recent posts that there was a new Justice League animated feature that was going to be available exclusively at Target stores, which seemed to come as a surprise to pretty much everybody. According to this interview with the director, there was a desire for a DC superhero cartoon that maybe skewed a little younger than the usual DC Direct films that could be marketed alongside the toylines, and this was the result.

They really want you to know that this is an “original movie,” since it not only tells you so in a blurb directly printed under the title, but this sticker is affixed to the front of the package as well:


And this sticker is slapped on the box too, reminding you about Superman’s 75th anniversary last year:


As for the cartoon itself…it’s entertaining enough, with plenty of superhero versus supervillain action and a simplistic time-travel plot. The Legion of Super-Heroes are involved, kinda sorta, with Dawnstar and Karate Kid as two potential members of that future super-team who find themselves in the present day, trying to prevent Lex Luthor from using Legion villain the Time Trapper to destroy the Justice League. Dawnstar is given, in addition to her traditional super-tracking powers, some kind of magical glowy energy-healing ability that seems to primarily exist to provide a quick ending to the climactic battle of the movie. Karate Kid’s ability to spot structural flaws are given enough of a flourish to be a visually-interesting super power, and his martial arts skills are given a good showcase in a battle with Robin.

The character designs are New 52-inspired, with too many seams and not enough red trunks:


…though Superman doesn’t have that terrible collar, which is a plus. Bizarro does have red pants in this cartoon, in case you were worried. I should note that Superman’s design, from his costume to his facial features, do fluctuate somewhat throughout the feature, which is a little distracting.

One of the major highlights in the story is when everybody time travels back to Smallville, with the villains attempting to prevent the Kents from rescuing baby Kal-El, and the heroes trying to keep history on track. It’s a very funny, slightly surreal sequence as the good guys and bad guys play keep-away with Baby Kal, who is repeatedly referred to as “Superbaby.” This Silver Age fan approves.

While mostly enjoyable, if slight, there are some minor quibbles with the film, such as Robin’s characterization as a bit of a petulant child (meant to be comic relief, and probably funny to the target (heh) audience, but may grate on old people like you and me). Plus, the Time Trapper’s ultimate gambit, to apparently…wreck stuff around Earth with time vortices, I guess? — doesn’t seem like much of a final battle beyond giving heroes one last action scene to show off their stuff.

One surprising positive: this dude shows up, and though my initial reaction was “oh, no,” he’s actually one of the more entertaining parts of the film:


Yup, that’s the jester-ish Toyman from the ’70s Super Friends cartoons, redesigned into apparently being some kind of robot-toy-thing himself:


…and a brief shot of a display in a 31st century museum gives us his extremely depressing fate:


The original Toyman of the ’70s cartoons was mostly just annoying. I want to know more about this Toyman, who is less annoying and more creepy and / or goofy.

Bonus features on this disc include two of the original Super Friends episodes, both involving some kind of time travel, and I haven’t watched them yet because I’m sure I’ve seen them before and therefore they have already stolen away enough of my life.

Overall it’s a fun cartoon, despite some minor issues, and hopefully will lead to more all-ages original animated features based on DC properties. …By which of course I mean “Swamp Thing.”

Frankly, if I were Kim Luc, I’d still tell those jerks to go jump in a lake.

§ March 6th, 2012 § Filed under justice league § 14 Comments

Dude, whoa:


That’s a dick move right there. And that guy in the yellow shirt…just look at that smug bastard. Kim Luc should just pop him one.

Anyway, Superman happens to be flying by and, having overheard this meeting of the Junior John Birch Society, decides to step in:


And I guess everyone’s learned their lesson, and fast, because sometime between that first scene and Superman finishing his gentle admonishment of these misguided children, “JLA FAN CLUB” was hastily scrawled on Kim Luc’s shirt.

And yes, Red Tornado is colored yellow. I don’t know, maybe Superman’s telling it wrong and the kids somehow now think a character with “red” in his name is mostly yellow. Also, not revealed by Superman? Every member of the Justice League? Totally Communist. Oh no! An ironic comeuppance for those three character members of the JLA Fan Club from Anytown, U.S.A.

This is from The Secret Origin of the Justice League of America mini-comic that came packaged with some toy or ‘nother in the 1980s…you can read more about it here.

According to the sketchbook material in Justice League #1, the costumes could have been even more unnecessarily complicated.

§ September 2nd, 2011 § Filed under justice league, retailing, this week's comics § 18 Comments

So yes, we sold out of the first issue of Justice League, the vanguard title for DC’s rebootalaunch, and orders have already been placed for the second printing. Had a few new faces come into the shop looking for it, had plenty of our regulars pick it up, and have been receiving calls from out-of-towners trying to track it down as their local suppliers ran dry. That kind of momentum isn’t going to keep up, of course, as media coverage dwindles and first-issue fatigue starts to set in as wave after wave of debuts hit the racks…but at least it shows some interest is there, and that DC’s new publishing initiative isn’t falling flat on its face saleswise from the get-go.

An interesting thing I’ve noted is the number of people asking when those next #1s were due to come out, and how surprised they were when I told them DC would be releasing several #1s every week for the next month. So apparently DC was successful in getting the word out there that there was a new Justice League #1, that there would be more #1s to follow, but not when they were coming? Or perhaps I just had a string of folks who happened to miss that bit of info. Or even more likely, people were still in denial that they have 51 more first issues headed their way. “Tell me it’s not true…it can’t be true!”

About the Justice League itself…well, yeah, as our intro to this new DC Universe continuity, it’s a little underwhelming. Superheroes meet, they fight, we get teased with the supervillain threat, oh hey there’s Superman, and suddenly “to be continued.” All very by-the-numbers, with nothing to intrigue or inspire the imagination. I mean, it looks okay, with Jim Lee turning in a respectable art job on this issue, even if Superman’s new costume continues to appear unnecessarily rejiggered. And I’m calling “no way” on Batman being able to yank Green Lantern’s ring off his hand without GL noticing. I mean, come on.

DC’s other release this week was Flashpoint #5, the conclusion of the whole crossover event hoohar that introduced this new DC Universe. I hadn’t read any of the previous issues of the mini, and the only tie-in minis I read were the Frankenstein series (which seemed to have very little to do with it) and Project Superman (the reasons for which I explained previously). However, having read plenty of superhero comics in my life, I don’t feel like I missed anything by not reading the first four issues of the series. I can pretty safely extrapolate how they got to this point, I think. But anyway, the only reason I did pick up Flashpoint #5 was for the Swamp Thing cameos. …Yeah, I know.

I was discussing DC’s new publishing strategy yesterday with a longtime customer of mine, and he was wondering when DC would switch everything back to the way things were, including continuity, issue numbering, etc. My response was that if things went badly enough that this new strategy clearly wasn’t working, this wouldn’t be the kind of problem that would be solved by reverting to the old issue numbers and the old DCU. As I said on this site before, this whole thing smacks of a “nothing left to lose” decision, that is was either this or “might as well shutter the publishing arm and give our characters to the movie and TV studios so they can make real money with them.” No idea if that’s actually the case, though this article [EDIT: link dead] makes it seem like it is.

At the very least, DC’s efforts are generating some activity and discussion among our customers, and that certainly doesn’t hurt. Whether it helps in the long run…well, let’s hope so.

Revised March 2021

And now, the greatest insult ever.

§ October 25th, 2010 § Filed under justice league § 13 Comments

from Justice League of America #141 (April 1977) by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin & Frank McLaughlin


Your project for the week: you must call someone an “insolent squirrel” at least once. Like your boss. Or your spouse. Try it, it’s fun!*

* Not responsible for resulting job loss or divorce. Will totally take credit if you get punched in the nose, however.