Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Dancing In Superhero Comics: Outlawed!

It's the summer of 1980. Paul McCartney and Wings, followed by Billy Joel, top the charts in the States; Sister Sledge and the Eurythmics do the same in the UK; the punk era has exploded some years before and has largely been replaced by the upcoming New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, at least in the UK, though there are the beginnings of the New Romantics starting to swan around as well.

Firestorm has just joined the Justice League of America, sponsored for membership by none other than Superman himself and the League's satellite era was fast approaching its height.

With all this in mind, how does the two-part story that introduces Firestorm - which ran in Justice League Of America #179 and #180 - to the League begin?

By taking us to the disco, baby!

That's right - the nightmarish dance craze of the 1970's lives on in "New York city's hottest new disco." A new disco in 1980? Had no-one told Gerry Conway that disco was dead on its arse by 1980?

Apparently not as we're introduced to Rosco Remington in his high collar, purple suit, shirt open to the navel and - of course - medallions, in full foot swinging, butt shaking glory.

The late 70's and early 80's were a different time, obviously. Can you imagine Geoff Johns, Bill Willingham or Grant Morrison starting a story in a disco?

Actually, Grant Morrison's a maybe on that one . . .

Anyhow, the disco setting is merely laying the groundwork for what may be one of the League's strangest foes, a woman who prowls the discos of New York looking for young men to bewitch and steal away for her own nefarious purposes.

Trouble is, this time she's picked on Rosco, the brother of a friend of Ronnie Raymond (who is, of course, one half of Firestorm) I know what you're thinking - I mean what are the odds that she's going to pick someone who vaguely knows someone who happens to be a superhero?

When Ronnie hears about Rosco going missing, he's understandably concerned unlike his friend, Cliff Carmichael who seems convinced that Rosco's packed in the disco dancing and taking up fox hunting.

Rosco's brother - who is inexplicably wearing a bow tie - knows he's wrong though as "dancin' is Rosco's life!"

It might be worth mentioning that Carmichael, the boorish foil of Ronnie's college years, would later go on to be The Thinker, a full blown supervillain who would battle Firestorm time and again.

If only he'd been as interested in disco as Rosco was, things might have been very different . . .

The gang head down to the disco and find someone who saw Rosco leave with the villain of the piece - the beautiful model Sabrina Sultress, also known as . . . the Satin Satan! They decide to visit her at her penthouse in Charon Building (get the reference, folks?) and see if they can find Rosco. After all, his brother's convinced that something's wrong: "Rosco - - stopped dancing - - for a girl? Uh-uh, no way, not Rosco!"

Yeah, like any teenage boy would stop dancing for a model who wanted to take them back to her penthouse . . .

Within moments, Firestorm's appeared and got himself snared by the Satin Satan but manages to hit the emergency League communicator which is how the League get involved with a disco dancing sorceress/model in the second part of the tale.

Following the emergency signal, the League crash into the Satin Satan's penthouse and, after trashing the place while battling a magical demon left to protect it, Green Arrow stumbles across a portfolio and recognises the penthouse's owner.

No sooner has Green Arrow realised who they're up against than Batman remembers her nickname: "They call her the Satin Satan."

There follows another trip to a disco but this one is a roller-disco called Hell On Wheels which seems appropriate on more than one level.

As a side note, I was tempted to scan that picture in but it seems there's only so much disco my PC can handle.

Within this hell, the League battles the Satin Satan's minions - disco dancers that she had turned into animated mannequins. Realising that the model is a sorceress, it's largely up to Zatanna to battle her, freeing the captured Firestorm who, in turn, transforms the mannequins back into the mustachioed, flared collar and cuffs wearing dancers that they are.

The final showdown between Zatanna and the Satin Satan reveals that the model has apparently been possessed by Sataroth, daughter of Satanni and once Zatanna removes this evil spirit, Sabrina Sultress returns, explaining that it was the demon who drove her to commit the crimes.

So everything wraps up fairly neatly and Firestorm's first case with the League is a success.

But wait - Gerry Conway obviously likes his villain and thinks the Satin Satan is too good to waste as the last panel shows:
Has the story truly ended after all . . . ?

Yes, thankfully - the Satin Satan is never heard from again.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #16

Salvation Run #4No hesitation in picking this week's Cocktail - two gorillas fighting on the cover, one beating the other with the disembodied brain of the other's lover? What's not to like?

Booster Gold #0 was a Zero Hour tie-in (fourteen years after the mini-series finished! And people moaned about Last Son and Who Is Wonder Woman? taking a while to complete!) and was a treat though not as good as the series has been; Suicide Squad #6 showed once more why the DCU needs John Ostrander writing a monthly title again; everything began to go pear-shaped in Countdown To Final Crisis #11 for our heroes; and Boodikka's retconned back story in Green Lantern Corps #21 was something of a scene setter and didn't really do much. There were a couple of other titles I picked up, including Green Arrow And Black Canary #5 with its cleavage-laden flashbacks but it was easily Salvation Run #4 that won out this week.

Despite the emphasis on the gorilla fighting in the first line, there was more to this issue that giant simians beating the crap out of each other.

Glasgae kiss - Grodd style!Martian Manhunter's presence on the prison planet has been discovered by Catwoman and his cover identity of Blockbuster appears to have aroused the suspicions of Lady Vic; members of Luthor's team quarrel and are calmed down by the man himself who promises Deadshot and Bane "an even million apiece when we get back home"; meanwhile Joker's group has its own frictions with Bolt demanding to be fed and Kid Karnevil saving Joker's life so that he can kill him at some point and skin him alive; and Vandal Savage takes four ladies and finds the Safe Zone where he intends to build paradise.

That said, it is the gorilla battle that takes centre stage in this issue with Monsieur Mallah approaching Joker's group under a truce to privately discuss with Grodd the idea of them ruling both groups of villains. Rejecting his idea, Grodd insults Mallah leading to a fight during which Grodd beats Mallah half to death with the Brain's jar, killing the pair of them in the same attack.

Farewell, GroddMallah gets his shots in (literally) before the end, using a pistol to shoot Grodd in the chest several times. Wounded, Grodd slumps to the ground on the edge of the cliff where the Joker finds him, in pain and in need of help.

It's no surprise that, with a kick, the Joker sends him plummeting over the edge. You'd think, by now, people (and apes) would learn that the white skinned fella in the purple suit can't be trusted.

The chances of Grodd having died are - to my mind - minimal. It's something of an unwritten rule that if you don't see the body then there's always a chance they'll come back and with three issues left to go, I doubt this is the last we've seen of the "proud child of Gorilla City!"

I really like Matthew Sturges's writing on this series - he's taken over from Bill Willingham seamlessly and with the ape-fight (have I mentioned there are gorillas fighting each other?) Salvation Run has reached new heights. Maybe Ostrander isn't the only writing who needs an ongoing monthly in the DCU?

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Who'd Like A Cocktail? #15

I know I missed last week's post but I had friends visiting and as much as I like comics, catching up over a few beers kinda takes precedence.

Anyhow, this week's Cocktail was relatively easy to pick - Justice Society Of America #12 was excellent as always, The Boys #15 made me laugh out loud, the Manhunter: Unleashed trade paperback showed just why that title needed to be saved from cancellation, Countdown To Final Crisis moved into its last three months with #12 and The Trials Of Shazam has (thankfully) almost finished with #11. With all that, though, it was once again The Atom that came out on top, this time with #20, Gail Simone's last issue as writer.

As I've said before (specifically Cocktail numbers one, nine and twelve), Simone's writing on this series has made me smile with almost every single issue and to see her move on and wrap everything up is both a joy and a little sad.

Trapped by his nemesis, Dean Mayland, The Atom is at the . . . er . . . mercy of the alien plant called a Black Mercy. Feeding off its victims, the Mercy induces a catatonic state where the victim lives out their dreams and fantasies before they die. When first introduced in the Superman story For The Man Who Has Everything, the Mercy had Superman live out a fantasy of being back on Krypton where he struggled to help his father save their world.

The Atom, as any self respecting young man in the DCU would, imagines himself the beloved of his ex-girlfriend Jia, Wonder Woman and Giganta. I'm only surprised that Power Girl wasn't among the happy homemakers as well . . .

Another difference between Superman and the Atom while under the Mercy's influence is that Ryan is fully aware that he's living a dream and doesn't really care. The small snippets of dialogue that he mutters while under its influence - "What? Even my dad respects me now? Unexpected!" - are fleeting but again show Simone's lighthearted touch even when her main character is in peril.

While still dreaming, the mastermind of Ryan's troubles (and the source of the weirdness in Ivy Town) reveals himself: an embittered Chronos who, despite having sold his soul for greater powers of time, was still defeated by Ryan's predecessor, Ray Palmer.

It is he that has been the guiding hand behind Dean Mayland's attacks upon the Atom and now he wants to see Ryan dead and Ivy Town destroyed, just so that they'll be on Palmer's conscience.

As is to be expected, help arrives from Ryan's friends, specifically Panda and The Head. With their help, the Mercy's removed from Ryan's chest and - after Mayland reveals his true form as a being with a Cthulhu-type head - the Atom's able to defeat both him and the giant, rampaging monsters that threaten Ivy Town.

While this one paragraph summary can't do the battle justice, the line "And that's how I rode an ancient sewer-dwelling cancer god as he devoured my favourite giant Kaiju rubber suit monster come to life." sums up everything you need to know about the battle for Ivy Town.

I'll miss Gail Simone's writing on this title - it's been uniformly splendid (with the exception of The Ruffian's faux British dialogue) - and it'll be a shame not to have it any more.

Unless I start picking up Wonder Woman . . .


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