Friday, October 27, 2006

Guy Gardner Meme

As previously mentioned, it's Guy Gardner Week over at Dave's Long Box. Dave's vacation started today, but fear not... he decided to keep everyone busy in his absence by starting a Guy Gardner meme: "What is Guy saying? You make the call!" On the left is my own humble contribution.

While Dave clearly provided us with the classic, psychotic version of Guy to work with, I have to admit that my fondest memories of Gardner are from his Justice League International days, after he suffered a severe blow to the head that resulted in a major personality shift, and the emergence of the nauseatingly kinder, gentler Guy Gardner.

This of course led to the classic sequence of JLI covers (from issues 18 and 19), wherein Guy reverts to type just in time to face the intergalactic mercenary Lobo. Of course, this was back when Lobo was still an obscure and enjoyable character, before the fanboys completely missed the point that he was intended as a parody of such "ultraviolent" Marvel characters as Wolverine and the Punisher, after which his massive overexposure as DC's resident badboy antihero began in force.

Apparently, Lobo's appeal was as lost on Keith Giffen as Rorschach's popularity with fans was on Alan Moore. Which reminds me of a funny Lobo anecdote I posted on my Simpsons blog a few months back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Justice League Paraphernalia

Justice League T-Shirt
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
I hardly ever wear comic book-related t-shirts anymore, but since I seem to have the Justice League on the brain this week, I decided to dig this one out of the closet and wear it to work today. Seemed like the proper apparel for When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny week.

I'd never really considered it before, but there seems to be a fairly arbitrary collection of Leaguers depicted here, pulled from the ranks of Justice League Europe, Justice League International, and Justice League America. While I'm positive this was never the line-up for any specific team, I suppose they could have all been active at the same time back in the days when the JLA, JLE, Justice League Task Force, and Extreme Justice teams were all running around and swapping members at random.

Also, for a more classic, old-school Justice League roster, check out this Super Powers Birthday Card that I had stored along with the JLI Postcard set.

Postcards from the Justice League

So after Ambush Bug appeared on the cover of last week's issue of 52 (Week 24), I began reminiscing about the 1980s-era DC Universe... you know, back When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny.

Back in those days, the ground zero for mirth in the DCU was of course Justice League International (brought to us by the incredible creative team of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire).

I still remember discovering JLI in the summer of 1988. It was already on issue 14 at that point -- the premiere of intergalactic supervillain Manga Khan -- and its witty dialogue and irreverent take on superheroes really struck a chord with me (and sent me on a quest to find all of the back issues, of course).

Back then my friends and I played a number of roleplaying games, including the superhero-themed RPG Villains & Vigilantes. JLI was the first comic I'd ever read in which the superheroes behaved the same way we did during our V&V games (which is to say, immaturely). As a group there weren't many things we took seriously, and pretending to save the world definitely wasn't one of them.

Thinking back on the good old days inspired me to dig deep in my closet, past the stack of comic boxes, where I found, tucked away in an envelope inside a cardboard box full of family photographs, my Justice League International postcard set (which I duly scanned and posted on Flickr for everyone to enjoy). Released in the late '80s, each postcard was drawn by Kevin Maguire, inked by Joe Rubinstein, and colored by Steve Oliff. (Not surprisingly, no one took credit for the questionable text on the back of the postcards, which is chock-full of awkward sentences and exclamation points).

And although none of the postcards from my JLI set ever actually fell into the evil clutches of the U.S. Post Office, I like to think of them as missives from an earlier time; souvenirs from before DC Comics' search-and-destroy mission to murder, debase, or retcon every "fun" character from an earlier epoch that didn't demand that everyone wearing brightly-colored spandex costumes have such a grave demeanor. If you think I'm exaggerating, you can check out Wikipedia's extensive list of offenses against the heroes and supporting cast members of Justice League International. Suffice it to say that the Brave New Continuity of Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and 52 has not been kind to them.

I have to wonder about the motivations behind these editorial decisions. Are there people at DC who feel that the DC Universe must be humorless in order for their comics to be taken seriously... as if you can't be serious about comedy? Are there professionals in the comics industry who are still defensive about the comics medium, and who feel that the only way to silence the critics is to show them just how deadly serious comics can be? (I think Steve Gerber may have put it best in his "Ooh! Dark!" blog post).

Anyway, I hope these postcards manage to bring back some fond memories for fans of the JLI's better days, before the tone of the DC Universe, and these characters' lives, switched from comedy to tragedy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Guy Gardner Week

Guy Gardner
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
It's Guy Gardner Week at Dave's Long Box! So far we've got Guy Gardner vs. Batman ("One Punch!"), Guy Gardner vs. Jim Shooter, and Guy Gardner vs. Airline Passenger.

So go read about Guy's glory days from the '80s, "When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny" (my theme for the week).

And to commemorate Guy Gardner Week, here's a postcard from the 1988 Justice League International set.

Helmet of Fate: 52

In 2007, DC will be publishing a number of Helmet of Fate one-shots which will lead up to a new Dr. Fate series by one of my favorite writers, Steve Gerber (best known as the creator of Howard the Duck). In the one-shots, Fate's helmet will take a tour around the DC Universe, passing through the hands of a number of the DCU's magic-oriented inhabitants. (More details at Newsarama).

The helmet seems to have taken an unexpected detour on the cover of this week's issue of 52 (Week 25), proving that, as magic artifacts go, this one's pretty versatile.

Monday, October 23, 2006

When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny

Ambush Bug in Who's Who
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
I think most comics fans experience a pole shift every few years. Something happens... either in their personal tastes or in the comics industry... and their DC/Marvel preference polarity is reversed. This phenomenon doesn't include the hardcore fans who stick with their favorite publisher for life, of course, declaring no matter what that the opposition sucks ass and always will. Those guys are a breed apart. For the rest of us, DC and Marvel seem to go through phases, or eras, that determine which company's output we read more of.

These days I read more Marvel than I do DC. I think it was back in 2000 when Cap'n John turned me back onto comics after I'd spent a few years away, and the tool he used was the Daredevil: Visionaries trade paperback, collecting the first eight issues of Kevin Smith's run on the series. Shortly after that I began to follow all of Marvel's then-new Ultimate Universe, and it wasn't long until I was embarrassed to realize that I'd returned to the Marvel Zombie tendencies of my youth.

And although I'm following fewer Marvel titles now than I was then, I find myself gravitating back toward independents rather than back to DC. Because while there are a few outstanding DC books, like Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman series (which, tellingly, exists in its own continuity), these days I find the DC Universe to be a bit tedious.

Based on the events of Identity & Infinite Crisis, I can only assume that there was an editorial mandate somewhere along the line to eradicate humor from everything they publish. And I consider that extremely unfortunate, because for me the heyday of DC Comics (post-Silver Age, at least) was the '80s.

That's right: The era of the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire Justice League and, of course, Giffen's Ambush Bug... the halcyon days when laughter could still be heard in the DC Universe. Which is why I was extremely surprised last week when, in the humorless aftermath of the various Crises mini-series, Ambush Bug turned up on the cover of DC's 52: Week 24. Maybe there's hope for the DCU yet.

For the story behind the picture of Ambush Bug above, click on it and read the caption for it on my Flickr page.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead

Although I'm not a fan of Marvel Zombies (I realize I'm in the minority here, but while I love superheroes and I love zombies, for the most part I find that those are two great tastes that don't taste great together), I was happy to see Robert Kirkman receive the award for Best Comic Book for Marvel Zombies at Spike TV's 2006 Scream Awards this week... especially since he was the writer of two of the series nominated: Marvel Zombies and The Walking Dead (the other three nominees were All-Star Superman, Ex Machina, and Civil War).

While the Marvel Zombies series doesn't do anything for me (except for the covers... those are hilarious), Walking Dead is one of my all-time favorite comics. It also has the distinction of being the only series that I've only read in trade paperback format; knowing how much more I enjoy sitting down with an entire story-arc, I've avoided buying or reading any single issues, no matter how great the temptation.

Described by Kirkman as "the zombie movie that never ends," I think Walking Dead would make an awesome television series. Forget Jericho... post-apocalyptic scenarios are missing a crucial element if there aren't any undead stumbling around the landscape. interviewed Kirkman after the Scream Awards, claiming (and I assume they're correct) that this was the first time a comic book award was ever televised. You can check out the video on GooTube. Pictured above are the Walking Dead Torso Statuettes (click to enlarge) from The CS Moore Studio, due out in 2007. They're also planning a statue of the series' protagonist, Rick Grimes, based on the sketch to the left.

The long-awaited fifth Walking Dead trade, The Best Defense, was released at the end of last month (as I noted on Z Week), despite reports that it had been pushed back to December.

Monday, October 09, 2006

GooTube: It's Official

After Google and YouTube both declined to comment on last week's Wall Street Journal rumors, Google announced today that it is purchasing YouTube for 1.65 billion dollars in stock.

I'm guessing they probably won't combine YouTube and Google Video into a single service called GooTube... but they should.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival

The pictures from the 2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival are up on my Flickr page. The turnout for the event was good, the response was positive, and the evening was a blast.