Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Favourite Characters: Gangster G-Man

First created, written, and drawn in 1942 by Jack Cole for Quality Comics (later acquired by DC Comics) Woozy Winks is my man of the hour.

Appearing alongside the hero of 'Plastic Man' comics in the early 40's, (and as recently as my beloved cartoon Batman The Brave & The Bold) Woozy is a clown stooge, kind of an extra-bewildered Hardy or Costello. It seems Plastic Man was not ludicrous enough on his own, so a duo they became. The rubber man and the rudderless man.

Manifesting the adage "fate protects fools", the indigent Woozy Winks rescues a drowning soothsayer with the most minimal effort possible and is granted the boon of the protection of mother nature. No one can do Woozy a fatal harm, and it's difficult even to hold him against his will.

However, Woozy Wink's will is so weak he took a coin toss for his moral compass.

It is only when Plastic Man apprehends him in an ill-conceived money-making scheme to saw the arms off a sculptor that Woozy ends up opting instead for the life of an unrequested sidekick. Plastic Man is something of a sucker for second chances and redemption, so he accepts Woozy's parole, friendship, and "help".

Great contrast when drawn together: fat and slim, grounded and unearthly, puny and powerful. The bumbling gangster who'd rather make good as a G-Man. Provided there's somethin' in it for him. Woozy Winks can be counted upon to stumble into any murder mystery, fumble into servitude to a den of Nazi collaborators, buy any bogus treasure map, or pick the unnecessary pocket. A loyal friend on the up and square, provided someone is constantly supervising him.

Many thanks and hours of enjoyment for the loan of these antique but fresh and delightful darkly comic comics goes out from yours truly to Doctor Teeth. Please enjoy his Scotch and Comics podcast, or I shall provide you with a punch up the hooter.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Comic Review: DC The New 52

Nothing like being on the cutting edge and having the pulse of the comic book community. Indeed, I am nothing like that.

Six months since the relaunch, and what do I have to show for it? Not this massive hardcover comic book collection, with all 52 #1 issues crammed inside, that's for sure.

That I had to borrow.

I gave thumbs up to Justice League International, Justice League Dark, Aquaman, Firestorm, Mr. Terrific, Superman, Batman, Batwoman, Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Birds of Prey, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern New Guardians, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Frankenstien: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Resurrection Man, Demon Knight, Storm Watch, OMAC, All-Star Western, Static Shock, Blue Beetle, Legion of Super Heroes, and Legion Lost.

28 thumbs down to Justice League, Wonder Woman, Flash, Captain Atom, Green Arrow, Savage Hawkman, Deadman, Action Comics, Superboy, Supergirl, Detective Comics, Batman The Dark Knight, Batwing, Catwoman, Nightwing, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Green Lantern, Red Lantern, I- Vampire, Grifter, Voodoo, Death Stroke, Suicide Squad, Black Hawks, Men of War, Teen Titans, & last and least Hawk & Dove.

First, the overall mandate and tone is not to my taste. It's vile, grisly, sexist, and pandering. But it's got plenty of bad points too. Like over half the writing.

Hawkman was emblematically wrong-headed. If an amnesiac immortal with metal claws tearing out of his flesh sold comics... oh, I get it now. I just wish they'd put "Wolverine" on the cover so I could ignore it more.

Who thought ELEVEN Bat-titles was not excessive? Who wants Jason Todd alive, let alone a lead character? Why is Wonder Woman so stab-happy? When did Starfire become a dead-eyed sperm reclamation facility? How come all organizations with more than ten people are covert, evil, and practice torture? Where should I send the anthrax for ending the marriages of Clark & Lois, or Barry & Iris?

Second, major praise to the artists. Not Hawk & Dove or the Jae Lee impersonators, but credit where credit is due: these people serve their material well.

Third, I love complaining, so why are some of them unexpected surprises? Why would I like Justice League Dark (and I really did)? Or be so disinterested in Green Lantern (tired of Sinestro already)? How do you make Teen Titans unappealing (enjoy Tiny Titans instead)? And in what parallel world do I like Resurrection Man?

Finally, the format. Who would buy this? It's nearly 180 bucks. It's a brick. Too big to cart around, too heavy for a standard nerd to hold up to his sunken eyes. It's only good for smashing windows and editors. It'll still be single issues, light trades, and weightless digital comics for me, I'm afraid.

"The New 52" makes me weep for the future. But there are two dozen issues I didn't dislike. A handful I'm even buying. And if losing Lois and Iris stings, Mr. Terrific seems to be schtupping Power Girl, so it's not all bad.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Hugos: Ender's Game

1986's Hugo winner merely proves what I have always known: I love 1986.

When I was 10, everything was perfect in the world of TV, film, and fiction. If my own actual life was a never-ending sinkhole full of crap- what of it?

I was never there: I was inside books.

This book wasn't one of them, not at that time. But during my Hugo reading in my adult life I rarely turned up a story I liked better.

I give Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card the ultimate 5 stars out of 5.

Ender Wiggin is six years old, and a whiz in the skills required to kill Formics (an insectoid alien species bent on Earth's destruction). Those skills include being able to play video combat games the best of all. Bullied by the other students at Battle School, Ender nevertheless perseveres and thrives to become Earth's savior, executioner, and pawn in a final epic space battle.

It's very black and white, very simplistic. Exactly the sort of morals I was issued with. But of course, there is so much more to the problem. Earth's hero is merely another kind of victim, a soldier drip-fed only as much information as is necessary, and only from a human point of view.

There's a less forgiving but perfectly valid take on Ender's Game from Ryan. (That it is no more or less than a disturbing adolescent power fantasy.)

My great fondness for this story does not negate my disagreement with some of what the author personally believes. Card is the descendant of Brigham Young, second prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As such, he is vocally and financially opposed to legalizing gay marriage.

For a man whose books asked me to take a hard look at the Other Guy and see him as something besides an enemy, and especially to ask ourselves to REALLY question what our authorities have told us since our births, that feels, just to me, like a smidgen of hypocrisy. I'm just sayin'.

Lord knows I've never met the guy. He's probably nice. He looks nice. His books are certainly powerful. I want to like him. Or understand him, at least.

And I DO want to see his movie next year or soon. I just DON'T want any of my ticket money to end up forcing two boys to stop kissing.