Monday, 31 December 2007

Christmas Make Over, Green Lantern Style

I wasn't going to post anything until the New Year was well under way - I'm still recovering from the excesses of Christmas and we have New Year's Eve celebrations to get through this evening. Having picked up my comics on Saturday just gone, however, I noticed something that I wanted to post about.

I'm a big fan of Green Lantern and have been since I was a kid. Over the years I've bought various comics, T-shirts, watches and action figures; my wallet has the classic logo on the front and I'm even considering getting the Lantern symbol as a tattoo on my arm. While I wouldn't pretend to be an expert on the Green Lantern Corps and its members, I'd like to think I've got a good grounding. When I was reading the Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps Secret Files And Origins #1 over the weekend which has - as the cover mentions - "bios on over 200 Lanterns!" - there were some I recognised and some I didn't, but one caught my eye.

Page 18, bottom row, middle entry is Sheriff Mardin who first appeared in Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #6. Having collected the whole of the Quarterly series when it was published in the early 90's, something struck me as not quite right about the image that was used to illustrate Sheriff Mardin's entry.

Firing up my comic database, I found the issue, flipped through it and, sure enough, found what was wrong.

Green Lantern Corps Quarterly was an anthology series, telling tales of individual Lanterns surrounded by a framing story that didn't sit in either Green Lantern or Green Lantern Mosaic that were published at the time. Issue #6 featured stories about female Lanterns or female enemies; there was the first appearance of Laira who is one of the Lost Lanterns featured in recent Green Lantern issues; Alan Scott took on the latest Harlequin; and Boodikka provided some raucous light relief.

And there was Sheriff Mardin.

In a quiet little story by Mike Baron, readers are introduced to perhaps the homeliest Green Lantern ever. Both Green Lantern and Sheriff to the world of Nyberg, the Sheriff hardly ever uses her ring, solving the homesteader's problems using her wits and practical nature.

When she does have to use the ring, she tries to avoid flying as it upsets her stomach, hence her need for a bicarbonate that she mentions in the panels on the left.

She's clearly overweight, a rotund and cheerful figure of approachable authority on a world that's so peaceful the biggest problem she faces is a native creature attacking a farmer's herd. With her wise and practical way of dealing with things, she had the potential to become the den mother of the Corps as Ma Hunkel has become to the Justice Society.

But no longer. Over this Christmas, the fat and jolly version of Sheriff Mardin as shown in Green Lantern Quarterly #6:
has given way to the slinky, sexy version in Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps Secret Files And Origins #1:
Out with the old, in with the new, apparently.

Happy New Year!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

I'm way behind on my comics reading at the moment - work went nuts in the run up to Christmas and I've barely had time to do anything. I've got a stack on comics on my desk waiting to be read (now that I've finished Alan Moore's The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier) which includes the finale to the Sinestro War in Green Lantern!

It's unlikely I'll have time to do much here over the Christmas and New Year so you all enjoy yourselves and I'll be back in the first week or so of January 2008.


Sunday, 9 December 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #12

Seriously, I considered giving myself some rules with this blog and in particular the Cocktail posts. I thought that maybe I shouldn't select consecutive issues of the same title for the Cocktail, for example, so that other titles could get a look in. But to be honest, this is me enjoying myself with comics and these posts are about the comics I've enjoyed most in any given week.

Justice League Of America #15 was just one long fight that turned out to be set before Green Arrow's and Black Canary's wedding and where Canary's orders were ignored by Batman and only begrudgingly followed by Wonder Woman. It also showed Fatality's prosthetic arm bleeds and that, after the dust settles, Batman still has zero respect for Canary's leadership by telling Firestorm he's joined the League with no recourse to Canary at all. I greeted McDuffie's arrival with cautious optimism and, a few issues in, it seems I was too optimistic.

Both Justice Society Of America #11 and the new Countdown Arena #1 were enjoyable, though it really does appear that Dale Eaglesham, penciller on JSoA, has a problem drawing Power Girl's chest. In the previous issue and this one she spends most of her time with her back to the camera as it were.

But, again, for the third consecutive issue, the title that made me smile the most was The Atom #18. Gail Simone consistently packs energy, action and humour into this title and makes me consider picking up her run on Wonder Woman.

With Wonder Woman herself still helping the Atom out, there's plenty of time for lust and awe based humour. Like others before him, Atom can't help but babble away around her, telling her - almost against his will - of his innermost secrets . . . like the dream he had where Wonder Woman and Power Girl . . .

With the town under the sway of the Ruffian - the character seen in the previous issue swapping brains and bodies - Atom is attacked by his neighbours and his best friend, Panda, who manage to subdue both him and, temporarily at least, Wonder Woman as well.

In a piece of writing that borders on genius, Panda explains that the council of Ivy Town wouldn't let them build a bonfire on which to burn the Atom, so they had to improvise.

To the Atom's consternation, his neighbours are planning to burn him on a Ted Grant Grease-Grabbin' Grill which has a little tray to catch all the fat! If you don't get the joke you not only need to read more comics but also shop for more electrical goods! As he's placed on the grill and suffering from concussion he can't help admiring the flexibility of the patented, non-stick coating!

Thankfully, Wonder Woman wakes in plenty of time, not only to rescue the Atom from a lethal grilling but also to identify the culprit and help Atom take the Ruffian down.

The big surprise is left for the last page, though, when Wonder Woman reveals that she has been judging him throughout her encounter and, at the end, offers him a seat - literally - on the Justice League.

Now if we can get Gail Simone to write Justice League Of America, all would be right with the world.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Image Problems

Looks like there's a problem with Blogger as any recently uploaded image that's clicked on returns a request to download it rather than just opening it.

It's a bit annoying as this affect the last couple of posts, both of which had images, the last one particularly.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Mangy Furriners!

As I've mentioned before, I'm in the long, long process of cataloguing all my comics. Whenever I have the time, I scan covers, add details of plots and character appearances and a whole host of other material, mainly for fun but partly to contribute to the Collectorz online database.

Doing this also gives me the opportunity to check out comics that, compared with today's, are nowhere near as sophisticated.

Denny O'Neil won awards in the 1970's for his groundbreaking work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and deservedly so. He was amongst the first to show that superhero comics could be used to tell mature and sensitive stories; sure, they have some rough edges but tales that highlighted the wrongs of drug abuse or racism weren't being told in this medium at the time.

He was also, as can be seen by Green Lantern/Green Arrow #110 from 1978, telling tales of supreme weirdness, littered with terrible cliches!

Kicked out of Arrow's house by Black Canary after Arrow's display of macho posturing irritates her, the two Greens travel to Earth orbit where Lantern, when he's plying his trade as Hal Jordan long distance truck driver, routinely parks his truck.

The idea of using space as your personal parking lot isn't the weirdest thing in this issue by far. As they reach the truck, they notice The Silver Twist, apparently "the strangest object in the known universe" which threw them into an alternate reality the last time they encountered it and this time is about to prove no different. Before that, though, Lantern has to rescue a satellite knocked out of orbit by the Twist and the figure that came out of one side of it and into another. Rescuing the satellite before it crashes into Ohio, Arrow comments that "the Chamber of Commerce would be really miffed!"

Do you not think that they'll be "really miffed" by hitting the nuclear powered satellite away from Earth with a giant tennis racket?! One minute they're saving it, the next they're throwing the damn thing away!

Determining to follow the figure in the Twist, though, they plunge into it and arrive on what appears to be Earth in the Old West, complete with sheriffs and varmints with themselves being seen as the varmints.

No sooner have they arrived than they're being shot at by some good ole boys, including the sheriff - some welcome! Their skins are saved - temporarily - by the arrival of the Clancy Bunch who have a member called Borch . . . who just happens to be a four armed alien.

Lantern ends up being shot by Borch, forcing Arrow to pick him up and get him to the saloon where, as you can see, the locals are none too friendly. The next time someone you don't know walks into your home, I want you all to say "Thet's fur 'nuff, stranger!"

They really don't write them like that any more. Something else you don't see if the old "Continued on 3rd page following" note at the bottom of the page when the story was about to be interrupted by an advertisement. Was that put there out of politeness or a vague sense that if it wasn't there, the reader would just get confused while his story about aliens and cowboys was suddenly joined (as in this case) by Batman and Robin talking about the "light, tender crust" and "delicious, real fruit filling" of Hostess Fruit Pies?

Thankfully, the sassy Miz Lulu steps in and prevents the trigger happy locals from shooting Arrow . . . though they probably would have filled him with lead if we're keeping with the story.

Miz Lulu, it turns out, is not only able to calm hotheaded cowpokes but is also something of a doctor and, despite Lantern having been shot by an alien ray gun, she's able to restore him to health.

And just in time, too, as the real bad guy - the wonderfully named Rance Clancy - shows up and challenges Lantern to a duel against the alien, Borch, in an hour's time.

How do we tell he's the bad guy? Well, other than the whole threatening and duelling side of things, just take a look at him: he's wearing black! All black as well! Not just a hat but the whole ensemble's been bought from the Bad Guy Clothing Store which only sells things in black!

Still, there's no way that the heroes aren't going to do their bit and Lantern agrees to face off against Borch and his four arms.

Having spent the last hour chatting up Miz Lulu (Hal was always a ladies' man, much like Ollie) he answers her question of "You sure you want to go through with this?" with the immortal line:

"A man's got to do what a man's got to do!"

Mixing his Western heroes, though, he takes a John Wayne quote and promptly dresses in the style of Clint Eastwood in the Dollars Trilogy, complete with serape and hat.

Stepping out of the saloon, Lantern is afflicted with another case of the cliches as he thinks to himself that things are "Quiet . . . real quiet! Maybe too quiet!"

Of course, they're not quiet for long as the four armed alien, Borch, turns up and, like all good comic book villains, explains who he is and what he's doing here. Meanwhile, Arrow finds the other members of the Clancy gang who, blackguards that they are, plan to shoot Lantern from afar.

Armed with his power ring, though, it doesn't take Lantern more than a moment to disarm Borch and leave him in the custody of the townsfolk who are now more than happy the two "mangy furriners" stopped by.

In a wonderful piece of deus ex machina writing, Arrow discovers the way out of this alternate Earth: a hole in the ground that "looks like a rift between the universes!"

What are the odds?!

Simply jumping into the hole takes them back to their own universe and the rift closes up behind them . . . leaving a reality hopping alien armed with ray guns on a world no more advanced than the late 1800's!

Miz Lulu might be wondering who those masked men were but I'd like to know where they left their sense of responsibility! Surely Lantern - as an intergalactic police officer - should have brought Borch back with them and taken him to the Guardians of the Universe?!

Ah, the 70's - simpler times . . .

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #11

"Well, cut my calories and call me skinny!" as Animal Man said back in Crisis On Infinite Earths #11. To my surprise, as well as Animal Man's, Countdown To Final Crisis gets its second Cocktail and in consecutive weeks to boot.

Teen Titans #53 was just too much - everything was crammed in with not enough room to breathe; while the series is normally excellent, Blue Beetle #21 was simply okay, possibly due to the fill-in writer; Garth Ennis's Dan Dare #1, while promising much, was simply a scene setter; amongst the other titles I picked up, the only other near contender was Uncle Sam And The Freedom Fighters #3 but, as you can see, it was Countdown that I went for.

At the risk of repeating much of what I said last week, Countdown's come in for some flak over the last six months but it appears to be shaking that off and moving the stories along, though some fare better than others - there's been no sight of Holly Robinson and the Amazons for some time now.

Mary Marvel and Eclipso managed to survive the attack by Lord Havok's ships in last issue and, it appears, Mary has finally realised Eclipso's no good for her.

Stuck on Apokolips, Jimmy Olsen's fortunes seem to swing from bad to good and right back to worse; rescued by Mr Miracle, the New God then forces Jimmy to play at one of those trust exercises that were so big in 1990's training seminars. Usually, one person gets another to fall backwards, trusting that the first will catch them, thus teaching them to be more trusting of others.

Mr Miracle's version, as shown on the right, is a lot more extreme risking the Fire Pits of Apokolips instead of the risk of falling flat on your backside. As one of the early Countdown posters said, Jimmy Olsen must die. The chances of it being at the hands of Mr Miracle, however, are fairly remote.

After the torture and beating he endured in last week's issue, Mr Mxyzptlk returns to the Fifth Dimension where he's met and consoled by his wife. Beaten to within an inch of his life, he decides to seal the entire dimension off from the Third and proclaims that he can never go back.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that at some point, Mr Mxyzptlk will actually get back to the Third Dimension. Saying something will never happen in comics is a bit . . . well, silly really. It wouldn't surprise me if a few years down the line, the wholesale slaughter of The Death Of The New Gods not withstanding, we'll see the return of a hale and hearty Big Barda, Metron, Lightray and all the others that are currently being picked off.

But I digress.

The big reason Countdown got the Cocktail this week was the apparent culmination of Trickster and Pied Piper's story. While it's been a little hit and miss and some of Trickster's jibes about Piper's sexuality have seemed more bigoted than the sort of thing long-time friends can get away with, the shocking end to their story came as a hell of a surprise. Whether this, too, is something that can be undone - like Mxyzptlk's statement of not returning will be at some point - only time will tell. Either way, it's a hell of a cliff hanger and, once again, next week's issue can't come soon enough.


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