Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Justice Society of America #5 (1992)

I sincerely thought the Ultra-humanite story was over last issue.

I guess when you break a guy's nose in comic books, he doesn't know to stay down. I've never broken my nose. I've never broken any bone in my body! Although I've had some truly horrific accidents while biking down mountains and some seriously close shaves that probably caused half of my timeline other selves' stories to end. But just like the Ultra-humanite, I have continued to force my story past the logical conclusion! Everything after 37 has really just been gilding the lily. Euphemistically, I mean. The lily is my penis.

While I've got you here, you should check out my book reviews too!

You might be thinking, "What happened to Pickle Boy? Is this Pickle Boy?" Well, it isn't Pickle Boy and he's being punished for hijacking my blog and lying about my having killed myself. Why would anybody believe that kind of nonsense?! I'm into suicidal ideation not actual suicide! Sheesh!

On a separate topic, does anybody know how to get toxic sludge out of your hair?

Did he though? He just looked like he always looked: nerdy.

Don't you hate it when, at the first sign of physical injury, the genie that used your body as its home immediately begins hitting up a new potential body to inhabit? I wouldn't begin planning the funeral as soon as one of my loved ones was hauled away in an ambulance. Mostly because I hate planning things. It's so much work. I'm sure my sister could do it.

How did we not know Alan was gay? Only a queen can throw this kind of subtly devastating shade.

If you weren't following me on Alan's shade, it was leaving the "Ultra" out of "Ultra-humanite." It seems obvious to me but you can never tell what people on the Internet are going to purposefully misunderstand in pursuit of their own agendas!

Ultra-Humanite, having only received the slightest of broken noses, orders his men and animal-men to attack the Justice Society.

Asks the guy who loves to shit in people's mouths.

The way The Atom hesitates while asking the question in the previous panel shows he understands the irony of the question.

Alan's face is engulfed by a half-man, half-dragon which causes his construct to disappear. Probably because he loses concentration and not because his face is covered. I didn't mean to suggest that Green Lantern's constructs obey the laws of toddler Peek-a-boo. When this happens, Jesse falls out of the sky and is caught by Wally West. Jay watches and thinks, "Oh, to be in my twenties again!" And then as Wally and Jesse are introducing themselves, he's all, "You two can flirt later!" It's almost as if this old guy only sees Jesse as somebody's romantic interest. That's a well written old white male!

Jesse Quick says the speed formula, 3X2(9YZ)4A, and turns into a naked red blur. What kind of formula is this? What do the variables represent? Why isn't there a right side to the equation? Does this possibly replace a variable in the speed formula of s=d/t? Oh shit. Sorry. I forgot I was reading a comic book! Never mind.

The Ultra-Humanite's hybrid army gets routed by a super hero force containing three speedsters. But he doesn't realize there's no better hand in super hero poker (aside from maybe four speedsters? I guess a speedster flush and a speedster straight and a speedster full house too. But now I've let the reality of poker rules ruin my stupid joke), so he goes all in by summoning a giant version of his old ape self. I guess if you want to defeat three super quick and agile heroes, it's time to call in the huge, bumbling, slothful giant monkey.

For being on the cover, the giant ape spends more panels on its back defeated than actually battling the JSA. The only casualty on the good side is Wildcat blowing out his knee by simply standing around and existing as an old person. Seriously, it sucks. The body can just go fuck itself sometimes. I mean, I wish it could. But I guess that's why manual stimulation is so popular.

Meanwhile, Hourman goes to an AA meeting because he was addicted to Miraclo. Now he's found out his son Rex has cancer due to taking Miraclo. I bet it was developed by Monsanto. Can I say that without getting sued? Not that I care. Fuck Monsanto. Who could have guessed that a corporation whose name is a cross of Monster and Giganto would be evil?! Not like my new company, Murdatan. Our company motto is "I'd kill to get a chance to sell my soul to Murdatan!" Our product is none of your business.

After leaving the Ultra-humanite's fate to the police (along with a folder full of evidence of Ultragen's crimes), the JSA visit Johnny Thunder in the hospital. He tells them what he's been up to so that they can have a plot point to work on next issue. He's discovered that the Bahdnesian people are missing from their island! For everybody thinking "Who?" and "What the fuck?" and "I don't really give a shit about the JSA. Why would I care about the Bottlenesions?", they're Johnny's genie's people. And I guess they need to be found for some reason? I guess it's good that somebody somewhere cares what happens to the local populace of a place that's suddenly gentrified (even if it is only a fictional character from a comic book published in 1992). Because you certainly aren't going to find anybody like that in Portland, Oregon.

Justice Society of America #5 Rating: B. The Ultra-Humanite's story was over last issue. This issue just detailed his story's death throes so that the artist could draw a giant ape, I guess. It wasn't worth it at all. But it was better than the other half of the comic book where a bunch of old men crowd into a hospital room to visit another old man. My favorite part was where Wildcat and The Atom's dialogue bubbles were mixed up so that it looked like that they enjoy role playing each other in conversation.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Cerebus #6 (1978)

Is The Secret a story about Cerebus manifesting reality because that's what he winds up doing pretty near constantly, right? Like Elrod and the Regency Elf and the Black Tower and his relationship with Jaka and running a tavern?

I just developed a massive migraine thinking about doing reviews for the Latter Days Woody Allen issues and had to lie down for three weeks.

Based on the cover alone, I have no idea which Cerebus story this is. Is it the one where he first meets Jaka and gets drunk on Apricot Brandy? Or is it the one where we learn he's a hermaphrodite and there are three aardvarks? No, no! Probably too soon for that! Dave didn't yet realize he wanted smart and interesting people reading his comic book; he was just looking for us fantasy loving fools hoping for some chainmail bikini side boob with a little black and white barbarian battle gore to go with it.

Although for people wanting side boob and gore that was also in color, there was a better option out there: the four collected Elfquest volumes. Especially Volume Four! Elf orgy, baby! Skywise dicks like five elf maidens at once! Although how that's possible, I don't know. It should have been Nightfall taking five elf cocks at once. Maybe six. They're small!

Deni announces in the "A Note from the Publisher" bit that she and Dave are getting married! Is that exciting enough for an exclamation point even though we know it ends in tragedy? Is divorce a tragedy? Probably not on the scale of, say, the sinking of the Titanic. But then again, was that really a tragedy? I know a lot of poor people died but don't forget a lot of robber barons did too! If there had been a Schoolhouse Rock song about Astor and Guggenheim and Straus drowning when the Titanic sunk, it probably would have been my favorite Schoolhouse Rock song. The chorus (and maybe title!) would have been about Archibald Butt and, sadly, that, as opposed to the "Eat the Rich" theme, is probably why I would have liked it so much.

In Dave Sim's Swords of Cerebus essay, he explains how he came up with Jaka. She represented every girl Dave ever had an unrequited crush on. Not that he knew the crush was expressly unrequited since he never actually spoke to any of the girls he had a crush on. He decided stalking was easier. I get it! That's exactly how somebody who thinks women as objects is a much more attractive package than a woman who can express their own agency and beliefs!

Dammit. That last statement hurt my feelings because I also had a problem expressing my feelings toward the ladies. Although that time Marilyn Mendoza came up to me in the library and said, "I hate being stared at," I did stop staring at her! It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life but I stopped! I didn't stop obsessing about her and wishing we could do whatever it was two people in love did to each other (hold hands and drink milkshakes out of one straw while staring in each others' eyes?). Eventually she, apparently, couldn't take not being stared at anymore so she began talking to me again. She also slipped me a note that said, "I love you anyways," and she tried to give me one of her school pictures unsolicited and she convinced her friends to take the phys ed class I was in and she asked for the rose I had on my desk that I was going to give her for her birthday but had chickened out giving it to her. And if that doesn't convince you that by not staring at her, I won her affection because you're a cynical jerk who still thinks the rom-coms where the guy wins the girl through sheer determination is a pox on society (which, I mean, it kind of is but that admission goes against my real life experience I'm relating), this is what she wrote in my 9th grade yearbook:

Sure, it sounds like a 9th grade Yearbook form letter! But check out the kind of jealous shade thrown at Kim and the "Luv ya kid!" up the side!

If you're wondering how I didn't immediately sweep her up in my arms after reading this and declare my undying adolescent love (You know? The kind of undying love that only adolescents can have which, also, dies rather quickly), it's because my friend Sal noticed the "Luv ya kid!" which I had failed to notice. This was halfway through summer and Marilyn wound up going to a different high school than I did. Although Mr. Edwards in my Spanish 2 class called her name for attendance on the first day of 10th grade! Stupid cruel life!

After that slight confessional, you'll realize why I was primed for the Cerebus/Jaka will they/won't they drama to come.

Cerebus has arrived in Iest and quickly meets a dying man who may or may not have expressed to him The Secret. Judging by the way the guys who were chasing and/or killed him, E'lass and Turg, are fantasizing about a future full of gold crowns, my guess is The Secret is the location of some treasure and not the means to bend the universe to your will simply by desiring shit. They believe Cerebus has learned The Secret so Turg tries to beat it out of him. But as we, the enraptured and attentive readers, have learned from the previous five issues, Cerebus can't be bested in battle. And since force doesn't work like it almost always does 100% of the time which is why America's diplomatic policy is "Don't even tell us your problems because we'd rather just beat the shit out of you until you shut the fuck up," E'lass decides to get Cerebus drunk. People always blab secrets when they're drunk! Which is why I try not to write more than 35% of my reviews while drunk. That way, you can't tell when I'm actually confessing to some gross misconduct I engaged in in my youth or I'm just writing a satirical joke about how reckless and terrible young men are in general.

This scene makes me think of Bill Cosby which makes me think of the Picture Pages song which makes me sad that I can only now sing it as, "Picture pages! Picture pages! Now it's time for Picture Pages! Time to grab your condoms and Rohypnol!"

I'm ignoring the spelling error because I'm above petty gripes.

Once Cerebus is drugged, E'lass turns Cerebus' attention to the dancer, Jaka.

Love at first sight of side boob.

Cerebus climbs on stage to watch Jaka dance and nobody cares because he's an animal. Animals can get away with murder around pretty women! They can sniff their crotches and paw at their breasts and put their tongues straight up their noses. It's like, if you're going to scold me for doing it, maybe scold animals for doing it too? Be consistent in your messaging, women! Is it funny and slightly embarrassing when your crotch is sniffed or is it the actions of a sex pest?! Would it help if I wore a dog costume everywhere I went, especially yoga?

I'm going to pretend this doesn't read like a Cerebus getting an erection joke so that I appear more intelligent and sophisticated.

Jaka tells Cerebus he is cute. Jaka also refers to Jaka in the third person exactly like a princess from Palnu wouldn't. But that's what makes her stripping disguise so excellent! What also makes it excellent is that Dave Sim didn't really know who Jaka was yet. Which is fine! It's much harder to come up with a 300 issue story all at once and then remember it and then write it exactly as you conceived it without changing and updating it as you learn and grow with the work. It's much easier to write an off the cuff story about a stripper and a barbarian and unrequited love. It doesn't make it any less entertaining because it wasn't pre-planned. Also, the fun thing about comic books is when a writer takes a story from the past and recontextualizes it. That's why Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison have always been so popular! That's all they fucking do!

A brawl breaks out because Cerebus is in a bar. It's the kind of thing that has to happen once the protagonist walks in a bar. And you can even role-play your very own bar brawl in my introductory Places & Predators module, "Welcome to Poorchaghoul!"

While Cerebus is distracted by the brawl, E'lass and Turg go backstage to threaten Jaka. If she doesn't get The Secret from Cerebus, they'll make sure she never dances again. So that's how the Cirinists eventually take over Iest! Jaka decides not to help them and instead of breaking her legs like the reader assumes their threat means, they bring in the Cirinist matriarchy to take over and outlaw dancing! They're so clever!

Jaka lies to Cerebus and tells Cerebus E'lass and Turg will kill her if she doesn't help them. But that's not what they said at all! Oh, those wily women and their words and sex appeal! Cerebus, desperate to drink apricot brandy out of one of Jaka's orifices (is the belly button an orifice or is it more of a scar? Let me check the dictionary definition: "an opening, as of a pipe or tube, or one in the body, such as a nostril or the anus." Woah, dictionary! You couldn't have chosen a different second example?!), beats the shit out of E'lass. After that, things get sexy (if you're into woman-on-animal action).

Unbeknownst to Cerebus, rich is the last thing Jake wants to be again. Her dream is to settle down with a cuck with a Messiah complex while dancing illegally for rent until she gets her boss killed. Now that's the life!

Cerebus lays out his future plans with Jaka once they're rich. You can read about those adventures in Going Home which won't happen for another two hundred or so issues. Because before that happens, Cerebus has to come down from his Rohypnol trip, forget about Jaka, become Prime Minister, remember Jaka, be rude to Jaka, become Pope, lose everything, live as a guest in Rick and Jaka's apartment, travel through space, talk to "God," and finally run a bar and lose all of his friends.

While shopping for a present for Jaka, Cerebus sobers up, forgets about Jaka, and decides to get unsober again as quickly as possible. Meanwhile Turg and E'lass get their comeuppance. It's such a great comeuppance that I think they never again appear in Cerebus. I could be wrong but I think they basically get replaced by the more entertaining McGrew Brothers, Dirty Fleagle and Dirty Drew.

Cerebus runs into Jaka one final time but doesn't remember her.

Deni said this final page was her wedding present from Dave.

In "A Note from the Publisher," Deni writes, "This issue is special to me in that the ending is my wedding present from Dave. No joke!! It's different and when you read it, I think you'll understand." Dave, in his essay, writes, "I can remember trying to come up with the ending for a few days. I knew that Cerebus would have to snap out of it eventually. It was at that point that I realized the essence of the problem. I had been thinking of Cerebus' point of view of the situation, but I hadn't stopped to consider how Jaka was reacting to him." So Deni's wedding present from Dave Sim was to give a female character in his book a point of view? To give her agency? To show her as not an object of Cerebus' lust but as a human being with feelings of her own? Nice one! And it was cheap!

This month's Aardvark Comment contains a letter from Elric creator Michael Moorcock! Holy smokaroonies! He was entertained by Elrod but just wanted to point out that Elrod looked nothing like Elric based on Moorcock's writing. It was really based on an artist's rendition of another artist's rendition of Elric and the first rendition wasn't based on any written description at all! I have a vague memory of reading the Elric books and referring to the cover and thinking, "Is that supposed to be Elric? Weird."

This issue begins the one page of reader art that Sim pays $150.00 for. This one is of a kid doing art while his "lacks discipline" report card lies at his feet. I think Dave Sim might have screwed up this first one because there's no attribution other than the artist's signature which you can't really make out. I'm sure he'll correct that next issue since he made a correction from the previous issue here: he added the rest of the Swords of Cerebus essay that was missing last issue.

Cerebus #6 Rating: A-. This is a solid effort and begins to really show Sim's plotting ability and narrative control. It's got a lot of good jokes in it as well, both in dialogue and slapstick forms. One thing I haven't mentioned is just how good Dave Sim is at slapstick. It might seem like the easiest humor to work into a comic book but it takes some really well-crafted writing and careful planning of action across panels which not a lot of writers and artists can pull off. It really helps that Dave's doing both so that one or the other job isn't the cause of it all falling apart. Also, it was Jaka's first appearance!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Justice Society of America #4 (1992)

Ultrahumanite exhibits all the characteristics of a man happy to be reunited with friends: cheerily laughing, bright happy expression, hands on hips, weirdly-shaped massive hard-on.

Forgive me for the erect penis joke but I felt it was in the tradition of Grunion Guy. You might find it funny if you knew how uncomfortable it made me to type it and how worried I was for a second that my mother might see it. But then I realized that if my mom saw it, it would mean my mom read Grunion Guy's blog, and then I almost threw up. That would be so embarrassing!

Normally I would be on the side of the Justice Society of America because they are the good people with the good values. But how good are their good values if they are trying to stop a job creator and upstanding corporate citizen like Ultrahumanite who is just trying to run his Ultragen business the best way he knows how: with stormtrooper bodyguards to defend labs where they experiment on animal-human hybrids? Anything that hurts corporate profits is a bad thing for capitalism and the Justice Society of America should know that, being that they have "America" right there in their name. Although they also have "Society" in their name and that is a bird whistle for socialists.

The bird whistle is the dog whistle of the left because it is more pleasant to listen to and it isn't aggravating or obnoxious and it makes the world a better place for everybody (except people who hate birds and probably own guns to shoot those stupid birds. Stupid birds. So dumb).

Oh no! Nobody warned these old timers that we aren't doing prison rape jokes anymore!

Wildcat has some great words of wisdom in that previous panel. It is the most scienciest science statement I have ever read (unless it was the mathiest math statement): "If X did not happen, Y would have happened! Thusly I have proved we are better than you! QED! In your face, Ultrahumanite!" Whenever I would lose a game of Dungeons & Dragons with my friends Bullpup and McGroover, I would say, "Oh yeah? Let's see you make a delicious sandwich!" Then they would back down and they would be all, "Yes, you are correct, Pickle Boy. You are the better friend with the most useful skills and we are only good at pretending to slaughter Kobold families for copper coins." That's pretty funny if you realize Dungeons & Dragons is about adventurers invading the lairs of creatures to steal their material possessions!

Doctor Mid-Nite does not quip with the others because he might be dead. Do not forget these guys are really old! It does not matter how many muscles they have or what kind of cardio breathalyzer tests they can pass; they still have super old bones and a lifetime of clogged arteries. One slip or the slightest bit of extra exertion could mean Stroke City or Brokenhipsville for these cool cats! That is old person slang! It is very humorous!

Now they goof on his stutter? I am beginning to wonder who the real villains are in this story!

Look how happy the Ultrahumanite is! And these old guys have been nothing but bitter, cynical old winds from the butt! Plus he is a successful businessman and scientist who has created life! It sounds like he has turned over a new leaf now that he no longer has to steal bodies. I am not ignoring the laboratory full of hybrid creatures; I'm just going to assume that they were all volunteers until it is proven otherwise. You cannot go through life never eating the buttered bread that fell on the floor buttered side down!

Ultrahumanite decides to recount his past for some reason. This made me laugh because I was thinking, "Yeah! They are old men. They cannot remember stuff from so long ago and also they have enlarged prostates!"

But which is actually worse: making fun of somebody's disability or sympathizing with Nazis? I've got some hard questions to answer!

Some things are unforgivable but one thing I think we can all agree to forgive is a hot woman who sided with the Nazis.

How does a huge ape body reflect the Ultrahumanite's desires? Please do not answer, "He loves to copulate with monkeys," because that's what I an suggesting by the question and you would look like one of those fools on Twitter who thinks they are hilarious by restating somebody's joke in a less subtle manner.

Ultrahumanite continues to explain how he became such a pillar of the business community. It is as boring as you would expect a PowerPoint presentation from a business man would be. That was probably the joke!

Why is not the trademarked name "PowerPoint" two words? If you are going to bother capitalizing the second "P", you might as well just separate the words. Maybe it was somebody's online name when they were fourteen years old. It is always a smart decision to just run the two words together rather than separating them with an underscore. And it is easier to read when the second word is capitalized (as opposed to every other word capitalized or just the consonants. I do not understand young people). Nobody remembers to put underscores in when searching for a name online!

"Ultrahumanite! You are experimenting on innocent people, ruining the environment, causing unknown amounts of damage to the populace of every city where one of your labs operates but Ted Grant and the world just want to know one thing: was that hot Nazi body the real you because 'Rrrrrow!'"

You think I am making a joke but I don't joke about things that I don't joke about and one of those things is that Ted Grant has previously expressed interest in cultivating an intimate relationship with hot Nazi Ultrahumanite. Specifically, he said earlier that she "swept him off his feet." He only used that phrase so Al could make a joke about how they were hanging upside down so the sweeping off of feet is still happening. But I think, in his heart, he wanted to say, "She made me spontaneously become a man every time we wrestled. Is that okay under the Hays Code? Can I get away with that amount of innuendo?!"

The Ultrahumanite has to go deal with The Flash who has literally suddenly appeared. Weird how the word "literally" is never actually needed when it is used properly. I guess using it in a hyperbolic and exaggerated fashion is really its only job.

While Ultrahumanite is gone, Doctor Mid-Nite "double joints" his wrists to escape. I'm pretty sure Grunion Guy's wrists were double jointed by the amount of times he wrote about masturbating. He was a crude jerk but I still hope he rests in peace in that pauper's cemetery down by the toxic sludge factory.

Doctor Mid-Nite takes on the guards while The Atom and Wildcat rush out to save The Flash who is The Flash and almost certainly does not need saving. While Doctor Mid-Nite is beating up the guards, he suddenly becomes a stand up comedian. Was I wrong to assume he was an actual doctor? Is that just his stage persona? I would tell you why his jokes were funny if they were but I cannot figure them out. Why is this an old joke (and if it is, why would he even retell it when it is nonsense): "I know you're out there because I can hear you breathing"?

The Flash gets encased in some living green goo that absorbs heat and kinetic energy which might also be a definition of heat? I'm just a sandwich maker slash writer's assistant who has never once showed an ounce of curiosity about the real world so forgive me for languishing in my ignorance. At least I own a thesaurus.

Back in Gotham City, Jesse Quick appears for a page or two to remind everybody that she exists. "Hello! I am the hot daughter of the infomercial guy! I have also deluded myself into believing a mathematical equation gives me super speed! It makes no sense!"

Jesse takes some papers proving that Ultragen is breaking laws so the JSA has the right to beat the crap out of its CEO. For comedic effect, they have a little more confusion over Ultrahumanite's pronouns (which, to be fair, he has not expressed any preference for and doesn't seem to mind using whatever pronouns match the gender he seems to be expressing) before rushing off to punch her in the face. I don't know what pronouns to use either but she was a super hot Nazi so let's just go with that one.

See? She is a scientific genius!

At first I was all, "Oh, big deal! So The Flash is trapped in goo!" And then the Ultrahumanite was all, "You cannot breathe without oxygen!" And then I was all, "Oh no! I had not thought of that! Somebody save him, preferably an old guy from the JSA or I will feel cheated out of my hard earned buck twenty-five."

I keep laughing at that previously scanned panel and how Wildcat and The Atom are hiding behind trees the way characters do in comic strips. So ridiculous! It is even funnier if you remember that they are old men! I bet you are laughing a lot more now!

Doctor Mid-Nite arrives because he "smoke bombed" with his previous stand-up gig. Get it?! If you understood the play on the word "bomb" there and that I meant the fight against the guards when I said "stand-up gig," you would be cracking up like crazy!

Yeah. A smoke bomb! We all know that is where he keeps them!

The Flash breaks free and Doctor Mid-Nite punches Ultrahumanite in the nose, breaking it. Ultrahumanite is so vain that he falls to the ground, defeated! And that is when the Calvary arrives! That is funny because I used the wrong word and now you are picturing a crucified Jesus riding up on a horse to save the day instead of Green Lantern, The Flash, and Jesse Quick arriving on a Green Lantern construct!

Justice Society of America #4 Rating: A. I have not read as many comic books as Grunion Guy but this one seemed pretty good in comparison to the ones I have read, like WildC.A.T.S. #1 and pick any issue you want of Youngblood.

One more "What gender is Ultrahumanite?!" joke for the road!

Alan felt this was the kind of thing a heterosexual would say. It's funny because he "New 52" comes out of the closet later!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Cerebus #5 (1978)

It seems improbable that this comic book would run for 300 issues.

The United Kingdom has way too much history for such a small island. And being American, I know about 3% of it. I know there were some kings and queens, some named Elizabeth and others named George and then some guy named Oliver who fit in there somehow despite not being a king or queen. I know there are four nationalities that make up the country: Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and the boring one. I know there's a dragon on the Welsh flag and their language has too many consonants, probably because they spent so much time in mines. I know the Scottish only eat deep fried Mars bars. I know the Irish had some troubles because some of the Irish aren't British or something. And I know all the stupid political crap the American Republican party are going to do because they simply follow the Tory playbook a few months to a year after the Tories have pulled some racist bullshit. And it's not just the Tories! Seeing what the centrist Labour party members did to sabotage their own party is simply a window into what our centrist Democrats would love to do to the Leftists (and may have done! But they just haven't been exposed yet like the jerks in the Labour party). Also, and this might not seem like British History so much as a personal experience, I once fist bumped Jimmy Carr after he made a joke about me fucking pigeons. That was only one of the many times he took the piss out of me at the show. But I knew what I was getting into when I purchased front row tickets for Jimmy Carr.

All that being said (terribly summed up and horribly accounted), I knew even less when I first read this story at 21. I didn't know the "Pigts" were a pun on "Picts." I just thought it was a stupid name for a loin cloth wearing tribe of people named after breakfast foods. That was good enough for me! But maybe this issue will be even funnier if I read the Wikipedia entry on Picts! Or scan the entry, at least. Or, at the very least and the most probable option, click on the link, read a few sentences, and realize I don't really care that much.

I should probably read more non-fiction so that I actually know things about the world rather than reading another Lando Calrissian book until I know all the rules to Sabacc.

In "A Note from the Publisher," Deni Loubert explains how this issue of Cerebus caused a lot of stress between the publisher and the artist due to money concerns. But in the end, Deni put in a lot of her money and solved the problem. I guess one of the few things Dave found possible to believe before breakfast was that his spouse would support him both financially and emotionally while he pursued his dreams.

Dave's Swords of Cerebus essay went on for more than one page in its original printing and whoever reprinted it here forgot that there were a few extra paragraphs. So it's reprinted incomplete. That's okay because the bulk of it is about all the shortcuts he takes in drawing rain and shadows and how it's evident, as you progress through the story, how much sloppier and lazier his art becomes. But at the end, Dave Sim supplies a Gil Kane quote which made him think long and hard about how he was developing the story of Cerebus. I'd like to scan the quote but it's cut off halfway through because, as I said, somebody forgot the second page of the essay. Luckily I just happen to own the second volume of Swords of Cerebus, so I'll just type it out in a block quote.

"The difference between a comic book and a novel is not labor, not effort, it's the values. In other words, there are no meaningful values in a comic book. The people in comic books are two dimensional people going through the most elementary kind of situations, not enough to sustain anybody's interest beyond an adolescent. A novel has characterization, it has suspense, it has a structured situation full of substantial values that will hold the interest of an intelligent person. That's what I mean. Those values, if they're properly translated — Harvey Kurtzman translated them into comics. His comics were literate, they were intelligent, they were humane, they were interesting, they were funny, they were everything."

There's a second paragraph to the quote but it just brings up more inaccurate things that can be debated ad nauseam. I could argue with a lot of what Gil Kane says but he sort of argues my point at the end anyway with his discussion of Harvey Kurtzman. Basically, it depends on the author and what the author wants to bring to the comic book. Sure, characterization of a character that isn't really supposed to change much because the fans want what the fans have been getting (Batman, for instance) can be tough to pull off. But Gil Kane gets at my main problem with comic book fans who follow characters, buying any story their favorite is a part of: the characterization and story are entirely dependent on the current writer. And some writers just don't fucking care about anything except shitting out another script so they get paid. You'll find a lot of good examples of those kinds of writers in the beginning years of DC's The New 52 as they pretty much hired all of the worst writers from Marvel to launch some of their New 52 titles. Comic books make it easy for writers to write two dimensional characters and be satisfied with the garbage they produce. Fans just want another Batman story. Just stick Harley Quinn in there and it'll sell fifty thousand copies easy. Who cares who writes it as long as they always make their deadline. But that's not a flaw of the medium of comic books! That's a flaw of the writers and/or fans!

The main takeaway with the Gil Kane quote is that it was nice that Dave Sim read it and thought about it and applied it to Cerebus. Maybe, at later points, he applies it too much! But if it got Dave to thinking about a larger story and a greater world chock full of characters with different ideologies and beliefs and motivations, I'll allow it to exist without being too hard on it.

That's a lot of words. I need to shove a picture in here already.

This is what Page One of a Cerebus comic book looked like before Gerhard. "Pretty fucking awesome," you curse like a sailor. Later, by page four when the horizon has disappeared and the rain is simply ruler-straight vertical lines, you'll be thinking, "When the fuck does Dave hire Gerhard?"

Cerebus has found himself in the Red Marches where he's about to learn a little something about Cerebus from a bunch of long haired shirtless dudes. It's almost like when I was 17 at my first Iron Maiden show surrounded by sweaty shirtless men while I listened to Iron Maiden sing "Sun and Steel" and I thought, "Is this history?" Then later they sang "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and I was all, "I am learning!"

I'm so glad I'm writing on the Internet so I don't have to hear anybody say, "What are you talking about? How are those two things alike, you moron?!" Besides, I said it was "almost" like, imaginary jerkos!

The nearly naked men convince Cerebus to follow them back to their underground kingdom so he can meet Bran Mak Mufin, the greatest military leader in all of Estarcion. Plus he has an aardvark fetish so he's really going to want to meet Cerebus, no matter how badly Cerebus smells.

See, the joke in this issue (which Dave mentions at the beginning of the essay I didn't scan) is that Cerebus' fur smells terrible when it gets wet. It's pretty funny if you think about how bad that could be! Like, really bad! Ha ha!

If he's so fucking great, why is he only the penultimate swordsman? My guess is because of Cerebus!

Look at that rain! That's the rain of an artist who doesn't fucking give a shit! When the fuck does Dave hire Gerhard?

Bran Mak Mufin takes one look at Cerebus and has the kind of orgasm you have when you realize the prophecy has finally been fulfilled. Man, those are the best orgasms.

We could use a few good Pigts these days.

I'd forgotten this aspect of the Pigts. One thing I do remember is that Bran Mak Mufin was my favorite member of Cerebus's cabinet as Prime Minister. Wasn't he the only one to ever try to do the right thing? And doesn't he eventually walk away because of how terrible they're all acting? Or does he only finally leave when he believes they're going to be defeated, thus exposing the weakness of his own faith?

Bran mentions the Black Tower Empire which, I'm assuming, is an empire which first caused the Black Tower to ascend, something Cerebus will manage later.

We learn Cerebus is 26 which probably made me feel good when I first read this in that way you feel youthfully immortal when the protagonist of the story is older than you. Now I'm twenty years older than that and I can tell you the feeling is best described as enervating.

Bran Mak Mufin offers to let Cerebus rest so they can talk refreshed in the morning. While trying to sleep, Cerebus hears some strange noises and heads off to investigate.

Notice the Cerebus-shaped heads on the walls. The Chosen One is about to discover he's the protagonist of this story.

I know there's a shot of a huge aadvark statue coming up that I could have scanned instead. I'm working my way up to that revelation!

Cerebus spies on a large gathering of Pigts (no more than fifty since that's the size of Bran's army) to learn that he's the reincarnation of some ancient God-King worshiped by the Pigts. The prophecy even says that he will come to them in his 26th year! Holy smokes! You couldn't write this kind of prophecy!

For a moment, Cerebus is tempted to assume the role of the Pigts' Redeemer God. I guess this is his "last temptation" moment. But his narcissism wins out over his greed. He would rather be Cerebus the Unique than Cerebus the Guy Who's Just Another Version of that Other Long Dead Guy. He smashes the statue that I forgot to mention and flees the Pigts' nonsense, heading towards Iest.

Nothing to say about Aardvark Comment. Just some aardvark lovers getting their aardvark love on. It was embarrassing.

Cerebus #5 Rating: B+. This issue is the first to give an inkling of something bigger happening across a longer story. It's still before Dave Sim decided he was going for 300 issues dedicated to the growth of the titular beast. But any time you can make the scope of the protagonist's world bigger, it makes for a more compelling story. I'm definitely more compelled after this issue!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Justice Society of America #3 (1992)

In this issue: old guys versus monkey monsters! I don't know how this issue didn't win a Harvey.

This comic book might have won a Harvey. What am I? Wikipedia? An adult capable of doing research? No, I'm a lazy, cynical, piece of shit who purports to be a comic book critic but who really just uses the medium as a confessional. And most of my confessions are lies to make me sound cooler than I really am! Which is still pretty cool, actually.

This issue begins with an old guy stowing away on an Ultragen train car while suffering from sever cramps or possibly even a heart attack.

Is this a super hero comic book or an Alfred Hitchcock movie?

Now that I'm an older man (not old! Just older!), I don't fetishize old men like I did when I was five. But I'm guessing, at 21, I still had a bit of that zest for old man content. What else could drive me to purchase ten issues of this comic book about old men whose glory days are long past but they keep trying to relive them as their wives sit at home rolling their eyes?

The stranger stumbles into Doctor Mid-Nite's offices. I guess he's named that because his medical practice stays open all night? The man has something wrong with his stomach. Judging by the strange colored splotches all over his clothing, I'd say he ate too much chili. Or he's bleeding out from a gut shot. Both are probably pretty painful but I can only speak for one. You'd be surprised which one.

No you wouldn't. I was just trying to sound cool again.

The mystery man from the end of the last issue was Johnny Quick and, judging by how much I'm now yawning and how my head keeps nodding forward, I'd like to apologize for claiming that revealing his identity would have been more exciting and sold more of the third issue. Len was right to conceal his identity.

While the Justice Society were keeping Ragnarok from happening, Johnny Quick got a gig endorsing nutritional supplements on late night television infomercials. He was laughed at by scientists when he tried to figure out why his nonsense formula made him so fast. They were all, "You know that's idiotic, right? We can do actual science tests to find out why you're fast. It's probably the Meta(l)gene, you know?" But Johnny didn't want to hear their scientific mumbo-jumbo (which might make him an ignorant jerk in our world but he lives in the comic book world where science can't explain everything and I sometimes why it even bothers to try to explain anything. I mean, X-ray vision? The power of flight? Helmets that grant magic powers by possessing the wearer with an ancient Great Old One of Order? Batman visiting heaven and Constantine visiting Hell? It's like an Anti-Vaxxer's dream reality come true). Instead, Johnny decided to visit a bunch of religious kooks who deal in utter nonsense every day. Unlike the scientists who needed proof and evidence of how his power worked, they were happy to say things like, "Oh, yeah! Your formula is a magic mantra that focuses your chi!" and "It's a message from God to grant you magic speed powers for being such a morally upstanding human being!" and "What exactly do you want to hear and how much will you pay me to hear it?"

So after realizing that his super power came from believing in himself, Johnny Quick decided to tell everybody else to believe in themselves too! Did he invent The Secret? Because, as a narcissist, I understand why The Secret is so compelling! Doesn't everybody want to believe that they themselves are the reason all the best things happen to them and also want to believe that everybody who is poor or sick or devastated by random tragedy did it to themselves like big dumb suckers who just weren't strong enough to believe in themselves?! Obviously the only reason I didn't fall out of a tree and die when I was twelve years old was because I believed so strongly in myself and not because I was just another lucky asshole who somehow survived childhood.

That's enough about Johnny Quick for the entire ten issues of this comic book that I own. I'm never fucking mentioning that jerk again. I don't care if he becomes super important to the plot! I'm erasing him from history right now!

Although I'll probably still discuss Jesse Quick when she turns back up because she's hot.

Oh what the hell. One last parting shot at Johnny!

Maybe if you spent less time trying to find the secret to your nonsense formula and more time trying to find Libby's clitoris, you'd still be together! By the look on Ted's face, I bet he could have helped!

Doctor Mid-Nite arrives to let everybody know that their favorite jazz musician died in his arms last night because he was too blind to save him. Probably. But what he discovered was that the man, Reggie, had signed up to become a test subject for Ultragen! He was locked away with a bunch of half-man, half-animal creatures as Ultragen searched for a drug that could make people youthful again.

Apparently what the writer is saying is that corporations are the new Nazis. Maybe that's why I bought ten issues of this comic book! Because I was all, "Yeah! This analogy is so apt! Fucking corporations think they can get away with whatever they want! Where's my current girlfriend so I can mansplain this shit to her?!"

I don't want to get too cynical here but what else am I supposed to do when a comic book asks me to just buy into this whole Doctor Mid-nite thing. So he goes blind when a grenade goes off in his face. But he discovers he can still see in the dark because, you know, fuck you and comic books and all that shit. We've already established that science doesn't live here. But I don't have a problem with that! Okay, great! So he can see in the dark but not in the light. His reaction to this is, "I should use this new power to fight crime! I just have to wait until a bank robbery happens in the middle of the night with a new moon perpetrated by a bunch of robbers who forgot their flashlights and whiz bang! I'll have the advantage!"

I know, I know! He invents dark glasses so he can see while pretending to be blind. I guess that helps him catch muggers who prey on blind people. And then he created smoke bombs which are conceivably his best idea, creating pockets of dark where he would have the advantage against the criminals. But it's not like his eye-sight based super powers gave him the ability to fight well or gave him invulnerability in case of a lucky shot in the dark or allowed him to protect other people at the scene of the crime from stray bullets fired wildly out of the area of effect of his smoke bomb! Doctor Mid-Nite's whole deal is so implausible that it breaks even my capacity for disbelief while reading super hero comic books. It simply makes me think, "This guy sounds like a bad idea from a desperate writer looking for another big super hero hit." Which is what it was! Which is why it breaks the entire comic book! I'd be okay if it simply made me think, "This guy's an idiot with a dumb idea! It's going to get him killed! Ha ha! That'll probably be funny!"

While Doctor Mid-Nite is conferring with the Justice Society about what to do with Ultragen, Ultragen is raiding the his free clinic. Luckily Johnny Thunder just happened to be stopping by, probably to get a check-up on his genie. He gets shot and his genie appears to help when a young girl comes up and is all, "Oh hey! I recognize that genie! It's a Badnesian Hex Bolt!" And the genie is all, "Yes, I am! Do you want me to inhabit you for awhile so I can get rid of this old guy (who isn't that old for some reason? Probably a reason that has to do with me living inside of him?)" I just feel like, with Jesse Quick appearing earlier, this series is headed toward creating a younger JSA so the older members can simply fall into the role of mentors.

The Atom, Wildcat, and Doctor Mid-nite head off to investigate Ultragen's experimental laboratory and they make a discovery that causes me to literally kill myself because I was too stupid to call it.

This is Grunion Guy's assistant Pickle Boy. I think I'm supposed to make a naughty joke caption here? Like, um, "What is that guy's pee-pee doing inside that kangaroo?!"

Justice Society of America #3 Rating: Does anybody know how to get blood out of shag carpeting? Also, if a person's will is found written on used tissues (hopefully for his nose), is it legally binding because I don't want to inherit this blog and all of its debt.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cerebus #4 (1978)

Elrod! So soon? Be still my quivering loins!

I may not have understood a lot of Dave Sim's historical references when I read began reading this series in my early twenties but I sure as hell got all of his Looney Tunes references! I read the Elric books the summer after my first year of college. I was eighteen. I would have begun reading Cerebus a year or two later. I was definitely reading it by 1992 when I was volunteering with the Santa Clara Junior Theater helping backstage because I passed the first Cerebus phone book around to anybody I could convince to read it by telling them about the characters stowing away on a ship and hiding in some barrels where one of the characters says, "Nobody here but us mice!" and Elrod pipes up with, "Squeak, I say, squeak!" Goddammit that still makes me chuckle.

That was my long-winded and autobiographical way of saying that I understood the Elrod/Elric parody!

I sometimes think of the first 25 issues of Cerebus as being less than the rest of the series. I suppose because they're a lot of individual stories coming just before the huge 25 issue High Society story arc, they can seem trifling and inconsequential. But we're only on Issue #4 and we've already been introduced to Red Sophia and Elrod of Melvinbone, two of the series most iconic characters. And examples of what Dave Sim does so well: characterization, parody, and mimicry. Sure, Red Sophia is basically just an exaggerated mash-up of Red Sonja and Pepé Le Pew. Of course, Elrod is just a blend of Elric and Foghorn Leghorn (mostly Foghorn Leghorn with an outer glaze of Elric). But he does their voices so well and makes them completely his own, fitting their foibles and eccentricities into Cerebus's world. And Dave Sim is funny. He can be absolutely hilarious.

And is it next issue already that we'll get The Roach (it is not. Next issue is Bran Mac Muffin!)? I mean, can you name a comic book that got off the starting block faster without any actual planning?!

Deni Loubert announces that she and Dave have moved in "A Note from the Publisher" and not much else. Well, she does exclaim how she forgot to write her editorial. I'm getting the feeling she doesn't really give a shit about these notes and just wants to get on with the real work of getting the stupid comic distributed.

In his Swords of Cerebus essay, Dave Sim admits to having never read an Elric story so I guess I probably never had to bother with it either! Although knowing the author's name, Michael Moorcock, helped score some pretty good points in Scattergories on occasion.

Speaking of Scattergories and not Cerebus, I once played the game with Sam Adams (ex-Portland Mayor and also my Uncle-in-Law. He also played the assistant to Kyle MacLachlan's Portland Mayor in Portlandia). The category was "type of dance" and the letter rolled was an "L". So my answer was "Lap". Sam sneered and said, "Classy." At least it scored me points and I didn't have to cheat the way Sam and his mom did!

That was the Brush with Greatness story I would have told on David Letterman if time and experiences and space were different.

I realize a lot of you are living your worst online life because you view everything on a phone so, really, don't bother trying to read this. Although maybe it's actually easier to increase the size of on a phone! Stupid laptop. I hate you now!

In this essay, Dave Sim mentions how someday he's going to write an issue with Elrod, Lord Julius, and Cerebus locked in a closet. I'm pretty sure that eventual story is the one I mentioned earlier about the mice. I believe the story takes place between High Society and Church & State, maybe Issue #50/51 or something weird like that? When they're fleeing Iest after Cerebus's run as Prime Minister ends? Anyway, it was a great idea and a well executed and hilarious sketch.

The issue begins with some guy dying mysteriously to some cursed gem he stole. But never mind his story. It's over and it probably wasn't very interesting anyway. The gem, however, continues on until it winds up in Cerebus's clutches. Cerebus has arrived in Serrea to spend the last of his gold (remember, he never keeps his riches for long) gambling and drinking apricot brandy. I called it Peach Schnapps in a previous review because, have I mentioned, my memory is utter shite?

This is also the first appearance of Cerebus's vest. Dave Sim says so in that essay I scanned. But I'm sure I would have commented on it without the prompt because he's so fucking adorable. Plus his snout is nearly to its regular shape and size. That means he's maturing into an adult Earth Pig.

After picking up the gem, some strange shit begins to go down.

Cerebus could have been meeting the stripper love of his life but instead he's battling weird magic figments of his imagination.

Remember that thing about my terrible memory? I can't remember if Death was an imaginary character brought on by the aardvark's strangeness mixed with the gem's magic. But I do remember Elrod was some kind of illusion created by this confluence of events. One of the saddest moments in this entire series for me was when Elrod blinks out of existence. I can't say how long I was in denial about that but, month after month, I kept hoping that he'd come back in another of Dave's retcons to make sense of past stories that didn't fit his vision of Cerebus's current world and story. I kept hoping that a bedraggled Elrod would wander into Cerebus's bar in Guys having once again somehow eluded death or capture or nonexistence through his strange blundering overconfidence.

Maybe my hope in the reappearance of Elrod was what really kept me reading until Issue #300!

Death's plan is to have the Crawler (that's the squiddy, octopus, vagina-stand-in thing) drive Cerebus into Death's clutches. But Cerebus has a knack for winning battles by knowing when to retreat and when not to retreat. Previously, he would have died in the wizard's tower while hunting the flame jewel if he had attacked the skeleton; this time he realizes that if he keeps retreating, he will lose the battle so he presses the attack. Four issues in and I now have total confidence in Cerebus's strategic mind. He can't be defeated even by what amounted to a Great Old One! At least according to Death's description of the beast. I'm not sure Death is the most trustworthy of narrators though. Also, is he really Death? Seems like a crazy character to introduce four issues in.

How many issues was Gaiman's The Sandman on before readers were introduced to their next huge comic book crush, Death?

Death realizes he can't manipulate Cerebus to force Cerebus to bring him the gem. So he searches for somebody he can manipulate.

Or does he create one? I suppose that spark is the moment Elrod comes into existence.

The first half of this issue was lacking in, as Dave says, "Ha-ha." And true to form, it wasn't that great. Standard sword and sorcery fare with Cerebus battling a monster and magical forces intervene in the barbarian's life. Death isn't much of a character and the monster wasn't much more than any of the listings on a typical wandering monster chart. But then Cerebus wanders into the market to meet one of the top three characters in the series! No wait. Maybe top four because I just remembered another character I love. Whoops! Make that top six. No, no, top seven maybe? Top ten? Christ I forgot about all the characters in Guys who read that Wankerman comic book which puts Elrod in, what? Top twenty, maybe? And do we count all of The Roach's incarnations as one character or several?! Anyway, he's a pretty good character.

Is this the most iconic entrance for a character ever? You know what? Don't answer that. I already said that I hate debating other comic book nerds.

Oh man. I'd completely forgotten about how Elrod refers to Cerebus as the kid in the bunny suit. Which provides for some great imagery later when we see their first encounter through Elrod's eyes.

It must have been tough living in barbarian times and also this fictional world because, once again, Cerebus finds himself drawn into a sword fight for practically no reason. I mean, there were probably more reasons for every other fight he got into, like the one against the shadow beast and the one against the skeleton and the one against the wizard and the one against the Boreleans and the one against Klog and the one against the army hypnotized by the succubus and the one against the succubus and the one against Red Sophia and the one against Thugg the Unseemly and the one against Feras and the one against the Crawler. This fight happens because he just tries to ignore Elrod and Elrod is all, "Look at my hat! It's tall and pointy!" Remember that joke from Dave's essay where he said it made him laugh a lot? Yeah, it was pretty good.

Elric's sword was black but it was not called "Seersucker." It was called, um, Black Razor? No wait! Stormbringer!

Speaking of Black Razor, does anybody remember the names of the other two magic weapons that could be found in S2 White Plume Mountain? If so, I'd like to steal your lunch money and give you a swirly.

A minor bit of explication happens on the next page which describes Death's motivations for seeking the gem currently in Cerebus's possession. It's the Chaos Gem and would be the 13th magic gem in Death's collection. That would enable him to kill even more people than he presumably already kills. I figure he's eventually going to kill everybody anyway so what's the hurry?

Elrod's sword shatters when Cerebus blocks his first blow and Elrod decides maybe they should team up instead. Cerebus has yet to say a word as Elrod talks enough for the two of them. Also, it's a Foghorn Leghorn parody and Foghorn's foils usually have little to say. Half the character is in the bluster and overblown confidence.

Elrod gets them both in trouble with the guards and hauled off to prison.

Maybe I loved Elrod because he reminded me so much of my gaming group's role playing encounters.

Cerebus breaks his chains in prison and escapes while Elrod continues to shoot his mouth off. He's useless for anything but talk, evidence, I suppose, that he's nothing but an illusion. I'd like to believe Dave Sim retconned Elrod into being some kind of magical, illusory creation because I don't like to believe that any writer plans that kind of stuff. Why even consider if he's a real being or not this early? But Dave Sim has that bit in the Swords of Cerebus essay where he says, "He always pops up, seemingly from nowhere, with no explanation of how he got out of the fix we left him in (Aha! You hadn't noticed, had you) and an entirely new vision of the best direction for his life to take." It's almost like he's winking at us and nudging us with his elbow, daring us to guess that there's something not right with the character. Maybe Dave Sim only came up with the "Elrod is an actual cartoon character" after a few more Elrod appearances.

Cerebus throws the gem in a well, figuring it must be bad luck, and Death walks off dejected that his plan failed. Who's he going to manipulate into climbing down a well?! I mean, The Roach would probably do it. But it seems like Death's heart wasn't really into killing everybody quicker anyway. He probably realized it was just too much extra work.

And that's it for the story! Not much in Aardvark Comment except for this list of creatures Cerebus has fought which I did not know existed before I wrote out my list earlier or else I would have simply used it and missed out on some of them.

Also, Frank Thorne wrote another letter.

Cerebus #4 Rating: B+. Dave Sim was correct in his essay about not much really happening in this issue. It's a lot of Death hoping for some gem for some reason which he never gets and nobody ever notices he's even trying, and Elrod going on and on and on about himself. It's a good first appearance by Elrod but he's definitely better utilized when he has actual dialogue with other characters. I loved this issue so don't take it the wrong way when I say my favorite part of this issue was probably when Dave mentioned of Wendy Pini. Elfquest was my favorite thing from 6th to 9th grade. Wendy Pini and Dave Sim have this thing in common: they're two of three comic book creators whom I went out of my way to get to sign my books. The other one was Terry Moore. And I guess you could include Richard Pini but I just think of him as a subset of Wendy.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Justice Society of America #2 (1992)

I just got super depressed thinking that the Justice Society would probably watch Fox News and have a Blue Lives Matter flag in their headquarters.

Shit. Why isn't that a comic book now? Super hero teams have a history of getting their "crime alerts" from watching breaking news on television. What if there were a super hero team who got all of their tips from Fox News? Hmm, I suppose people have already done plenty of "What if super heroes were fascist?" stories. We probably don't need a new spin with a team of male heroes with huge block heads who called themselves QAnon.

This issue is called "Days of Valor" and subtitled "I Don't Really Fucking Care About the Justice Society." That means somebody will probably pretend to be military and I'll write something like, "Good. Who fucking cares? I'm so bored. Let's all pretend to be vets!" What's so wrong with stolen valor anyway? If somebody wants to act like they were in the military for a few free pancakes at Denny's, what's the harm?!

This issue begins with some kid picketing a corporation called Ultragen and subsequently getting his ass kicked by some Ultragen security guards.

I literally thought the bald guys were just background subway riders until I turned the page and one is all, "Let's get involved, Ted!" and the other one was all, "No way! We should get security, Mouthshitter!"

It's actually Ted "Wildcat" Lastname that wants to get involved but my dialogue didn't work as well if I worked with the truth. Also I just remembered Ted's last name is Grant. I could fix it but I'm nothing if not transparent! I'm typing this in my boxers right now!

Ted beats the guys up a bit until one of them pulls a gun on him. That's when The Atom steps in to make a rather indelicate threat.

I have to admit, I thought I would make a fisting joke before one of these geezers.

The Ultragen bullies run off because they want to keep their holes stable. Before leaving, Ted gives the kid his business card because Ted believes all problems can be solved by beating the shit out of them. I disagree. I'd say it's more like 95% of problems.

Ted and Al are on their way to the first meeting of the retired from retirement Justice Society of America. They've all aged to about sixty years old now so I can't imagine they're going to be doing a lot of crime fighting. Maybe they'll sit around talking about HAM radio and drinking Hamm's beers while eating cold slabs of ham on Wonder bread. Old people sure love things with the word "ham" in it! I wonder if their headquarters is in Gotham?

Al "The Atom" Lastname just did the math for me and the members of the Justice Society should actually be 70 years old. But instead they're 60. So, you know, I'm totally flabbergasted by that difference. Whoa. They're so young. This team is off-the-charts exciting.

The only people at the meeting are Wildcat, The Atom, Green Lantern, and The Flash. Everybody else came back to actual lives while Alan and Jay came back to wives they apparently don't want to spend much time with. The Hawks call in from Egypt where they, too, have just gotten on with things.

I don't think you guys are supposed to reference stuff that happened in the Vertigo universe! Now kids are going to go pick up The Sandman which will lead to Swamp Thing which will lead to Shade the Changing Man which will lead to The Extremist which will lead to kids seeing titties!

The Hawks have to rush off to battle a mummy so Carter consents to let Alan take over as leader of the JSA, in whatever form they eventually choose to engage. The Atom finally relents and decides maybe it'll be fun to get together with the guys to play cards and smoke cigars and pretend they're helping. They're interrupted by Alan's wife calling to tell him to turn on the JSA Mission Debrief Machine. That's the television set to a local news channel. Turns out there's a riot going on nearby!

The old men all get into costume and rush off to protect the protesters getting their asses kicked by Ultragen stormtroopers. It's just like fighting Nazis! Probably. What do I know what fighting Nazis was like? I'm sure it was just pointing a gun at some tarted up Germans and firing wildly. I meant to express that in a way that shows I think American troops in World War II were doing the right thing unlike troops in other wars.

The bad guy leading the Ultragen troops is the bandaged guy who sent the big underground monster to attack the JSA at their retirement party. I'm sure he's one of their old foes. Probably Per Degaton since I don't recognize him.

Green Lantern is taken out by a riot gun that shoots chunks of wood. That's too convenient to be a coincidence! This guy must have expected the JSA to break up the riot.

Jeez, dude. Calm down. All they did was stop your guys from beating up a bunch of protesters. You still got the protest to stop by intevening.

This bad guy is super angry at the JSA for almost no reason. First off, Superman stopped him from killing them at their retirement party. So why is he angry at the JSA? He was attacking them and they didn't even foil his plans. Superman did! Next they stop his goons from beating up protesters but, due to the riot, the protest still ends. But now that he's all worked up, I guess he'll have to enact yet another plan to destroy the JSA rather than just sitting on his pile of money running the world through Ultragen. It's always this burning need to get even that is the downfall of these stupid villains.

When the JSA get back from their impromptu mission, they discover some guy they recognize hanging out in their headquarters. I don't know who it is because I guess the mystery was supposed to get me to buy Issue #3? This is one of the problems I have with comic books. Some writers think withholding information is what keeps people hooked. But I think giving more information works better. I bet revealing who this guy is, and readers being familiar with him, would have been more enticing than ending with a big "Who is this mystery man?!" ending. But then I don't write comics for a living so I guess maybe I don't know what I'm talking about?

The bottom line is I bought Issue #3. So fuck. Past Me disproved my point. The asshole.

Justice Society of America #2 Rating: C. Still pretty average. I can't imagine past me was this intrigued by this comic book. I think I just kept buying it out of sheer momentum, still hoping that maybe, eventually, I'd see what the allure of the Justice Society was.

Cerebus #3 (1978)

Time for some good chafing gags!

I love Cerebus. Once I began buying the monthly issues, I stuck with it until Issue #300, no matter how bored I had become with Cerebus's explication of Genesis. I stuck with it because it had entertained me so much and because I loved the idea of a comic book series with a character who grows and changes and eventually dies as an old, decrepit, huge delusional mess. Or was he delusional? Yeah, I think he was. By the end, I think we're supposed to realize Rick was the protagonist? Whoops! I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm still in the issues where I don't have to think too hard about anything and can just sit back and laugh at jokes about chain mail bikinis and a woman who will only fuck somebody who overpowers her physically!

What I meant to say before I interrupted myself like usual, I kept with the series because I loved so much of it. Not all of it, of course. Who could love all of it?! Dave Sim was writing things that kept himself interested and wasn't too worried about, say, keeping the audience that loved Church & State while writing Melmoth, or expecting people who loved Guys to be enthusiastic about Coming Home. I appreciated this comic book so much that it's the only reason that I kept purchasing monthly comic books as I entered my thirties. I had gotten to the point where my brain was having too much trouble remembering all the different comic book story lines with a full month long gaps between each twenty-four page bit of story. So at some point just past the year 2000, I decided I'd stop reading monthly comics altogether after March 2004, the final issue of Cerebus. After that, I kept up with Fables and Walking Dead via collected editions. But I was done reading monthlies (until The New 52 somehow dragged me back in to do that blog project!). So yeah. I was (and still am!) a huge Cerebus fan. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to be critical of the series and the writer. Dave Sim makes a lot of mistakes and I'm going to have a lot of fun pointing them out! You might not think they're mistakes but I ask that you hold your comments until the end (you know, my review of Issue #300!) because why would I want to argue on the Internet with other huge comic book nerds? We're the worst!

One person I'll never criticize because I don't think they ever do anything wrong: Gerhard! That fucking work horse nails it throughout the entire series!

Nothing much to say about Deni's "A Note from the Publisher" since all she says is how she has nothing to say. I was hoping she'd admit to rubbing one out over one of Dave's finished Red Sophia pages but my horrible male nerd projections about how women act once more didn't come to fruition. How is it everything I learned about women from female comic book characters turned out to be so wrong?! I refuse to believe it's because most of them were written by men. Men are so rational and logical! They wouldn't have steered me wrong!

I should probably do a little research on Frank Thorne.

Frank Thorne was best known for his work on Marvel's Red Sonja. Yes, I lifted that directly from Wikipedia. But I typed it myself! Another thing I learned from Wikipedia (I'd do more research than just Wikipedia but I don't want to wind up on YouTube where I'll not only learn about Frank Thorne's artistic history but also that the American Democratic party runs a pedophile sex traffic ring and also something about cannibals? I mean, it sounds like something I'd like to believe!) is that Thorne wrote a book called How to Draw Sexy Women. So, you know, he's probably one of my heroes?

Frank Thorne is currently 90 years old and he might have the most adorable picture of anybody on Wikipedia.

I want to be best friends with him right now. Six year old me would have been over the moon in love with him (I had a Grandfather Fixation when I was really young that probably had nothing to do with my father leaving when I was two).

This issue not only introduces Red Sophia but also the wizard Henrot. That's an anagram of "Thorne"! Red Sophia is an anagram for "Hi! Do Rapes." I don't agree with that at all. I'm just the anagram messenger. I'm also not suggesting that Dave Sim knew what he was doing anagrammatically! I mean with the Red Sophia anagram. He definitely meant the Henrot/Thorne one!

Cerebus has returned to civilization but now needs some quick cash because one thing Cerebus always needs is quick cash. He's only wealthy a few times and those times don't usually last long. He goes to see Henrot (who allegedly gets his power from two of the five Spheres of the Gods! So now we kind of know more about those things even if it is just a rumor) to question him about any paying mercenary gigs.

You might think the missing word in Henrot's dialogue was a mistake by Dave Sim but later we'll probably learn in, I don't know, Issue #143 that Henrot's first language is Borelean to account for this seeming error.

Cerebus doesn't usually take assassination or torture jobs because he finds them distasteful but he needs the money. Sure, he'll take any job that has him killing people in battle or invading private wizard's towers to murder the owner and steal the owner's stuff. But assassination and torture? So wrong!

Once Cerebus takes the job, he learns that he was to take Henrot's daughter, Red Sophia, along with him. The target besmirched her honor so she needs to watch him die slowly and painfully. Is this where the MeToo hashtag goes?

Red Sophia drawing tutorial: Draw some big tits, some big lips, and a big mass of hair. Connect them with some kind of woman shaped lines. Ta-da!

Red Sophia chatters incessantly and dances around while Cerebus carries all of the gear. It's funny because female characters get to represent all women instead of being a unique character! Ha ha! Women really do talk a lot, right? And they're always all, "Carry my purse for me!" And guys are all like, "Stifle your emotions like a normal person! Carry your own purse! Stop dancing around whimsically and try to act tough and cool like regular people do! Play some sports already! Take care of me like you were my replacement mother!" In the "A Note from the Publisher," Deni wrote that since the first issue (remember the first issue? So many issues ago!), Dave had wanted to write a story where Cerebus interacts with a female. She doesn't say Dave wanted to write a female character. He just wanted Cerebus to interact with a female. So I guess that's what this is! Cerebus interacts with a female stereotype who is also a sex fantasy. Not because she's hot but because she constantly tries to fuck Cerebus throughout their adventure! What sword and sorcery reading nerd didn't dream of that three or four times a day in a dark room?

I'm being harsh on Sim because it's more fun than lavishing praise on him. You can tell Sim realizes the inherent problems with Red Sonja because that's the bulk of his parody. The problem isn't Dave's take on the character; the real problem is simply the character Red Sonja! In 1978, Sim was already commenting on the ridiculous armor artists draw on women (there will be chafing jokes!)! And in this story, Dave Sim expresses how ridiculous it was to create a female character who was raped and then given great fighting skills by some Goddess with the catch that she can never fuck a man unless he beats her in fair combat. Just looking at it from a guy's point of view, I'd probably be all, "You know what? I don't want those powers. Could you maybe just strike down the asshole who raped me and let me not have to attempt to beat up every woman I'm attracted to?"

Is that enough hot takes on Red Sophia? Cause I want to get to the part of this review where I can admit that I fucking love her so much. Later Cerebus meets Elrod who is really just Foghorn Leghorn. I'm pretty sure Red Sophia was less Red Sonja than Pepé Le Pew. I know, I know! There are probably some sensitive reasons why I'm not supposed to like Pepé too! But he was my mother's favorite Looney Tunes character!

Anyway, I can't blame Dave Sim for making his first female character about 75% stereotypes of women. He's still a young writer! You've got to give him about another 183 issues to really clarify his stance on the interactions between genders! I'm sure it'll be more layered, nuanced, and rational.

Cerebus might be an Earth Pig but he's not a chauvinist pig. He doesn't take sexual advantage of Red Sophia here; he just makes her carry all the gear. It's a good joke that I'm ruining by explaining it instead of scanning in the punchline!

Just for comparison, let's take a look at a modern interpretation of Red Sonja by Ed Benes. I bet just that artist's name alone gives male comic book nerds a chubby. Not a full on hard on though. Those are probably reserved for hearing the name "Frank Cho."

What do they teach in art school? Women can turn 180 degrees at the waist? Not that I'm complaining! Dark room, here I come!

Oh shit. I forgot I was reading this comic book! Okay, um, so Red Sophia attacks Cerebus for besmirching her honor. Or Cerebus attacks Red Sophia for knocking him into a bush with her ass. Maybe it's a little bit of both. Anyway, Cerebus defeats her so Red Sophia begins throwing her ample bosom at Cerebus every chance she gets. Cerebus is not interested for some reason. Maybe it's because he stuck a sword in his vagina when he was younger? That happened, right? Or was that a flashback about him having his period? Now that I'm thinking about it...what the fuck is this comic book? I think maybe I hallucinated some of it!

Cerebus isn't a fucking slut, man! He doesn't just fuck any hot woman whom he defeats in battle! He needs to fall in love and/or get completely wrecked on Peach Schnapps. So he has no interest in Red Sophia. I suppose a woman trying to kill you is a bit of a turn off. And then later, when she gets you into a fight with Thugg the Unseemly, it's less of an aphrodisiac than you might think.

I think Borelean might be Red Sophia's first language as well. I mean, she is Henrot's daughter.

The Letterer part of Dave Sim has already fucked up twice this issue. I bet he was too busy having his sword and sorcery fantasies in a dark room to pay close attention to the script. This is probably why Dave Sim eventually gave up masturbation.

Later, Red Sophia feeds Cerebus granola and it totally cracks Dave Sim up. He said so in the Swords of Cerebus essay! Didn't you read it? I, for one, prefer the joke on the following page about Cerebus being a cannibal. Or an aardvark who eats human meat, anyway. I think that's close enough to cannibalism. We learn later that aardvarks can have offspring with humans so I feel like the aardvarks in this book are less sentient funny talking animals and more severely deformed human beings.

Red Sophia's tent. If this we were well into Mothers & Daughters when this tent made an appearance, I'd think Dave purposefully drew it this way. Since we're only on Issue #3, I think he was just feeling horny when he drew it.

If at any time during this review I've referred to Red Sophia as Red Sonja, just remember that English is my second language. I'm Borelean.

I apologize to Dave Sim for earlier suggesting that Red Sophia was simply a bunch of female stereotypes mashed together into a character. As I said, I love her. I figured I probably started loving her after she makes several more appearances but I'm pretty sure this is the page where I knew needed more Red Sophia in my life.

How can you not be completely charmed by the "I'm pretty good at hand-holding" line?

This is a good reminder that I shouldn't be judging early Dave Sim by Issue #186 Dave Sim and beyond. He should always get the benefit of the doubt and, even after #186, he should retain it. I need to be reading the material both with fresh eyes as if reading it for the first time and with the knowledge of the whole in an attempt to understand it better. This scene is just so fucking charming that I hate that it might be ruined for many people based on their "knowledge" of Dave Sim. I put knowledge in quotes because, really, how many people who think of Dave as a misogynist have actually read Cerebus or Tangent? How many have just heard they're supposed to despise him because he's been called a misogynist?

I mean, sure, you just have to read a bunch of his Biblical explications to understand you're dealing with something other than neurotypical! But it'd be nice if more people came to their Dave Sim conclusions themselves instead of just jumping on the bandwagon. I'm not saying people who think he's a misogynist aren't automatically wrong! Dave thinks they are but come on. He eventually gives out a lot of slack with which to make quite a few nooses to hang himself with.

Um, okay, back to not judging Cerebus based on future Dave's rants about the Marxist/feminist/homosexual axis!

Cerebus and Sophia finally reach the target where Cerebus discovers that the target, Tanes Feras, loves Sophia. And just like that, he figures out how to get rid of Sophia while also torturing Feras (possibly to death? Time will tell!). He commands Sophia to marry Feras because she must do whatever he asks. Sure, she thought it would involved his super long tongue and her metal-chafed butthole. But that's the great thing about love! It doesn't care what you want.

Henrot seems to accept this conclusion for now. He'll definitely be back later. And so will Red Sophia. I can't wait!

The map of Cerebus's world by Deni's brother, Clovis. He ran out of ideas when he got to "Ocean Sea."

I'll have to remember to keep referring back to this map throughout the series. Although I'll probably only need it for the first twenty-five issues. And then maybe after Mothers & Daughters.

Nothing noteworthy in Aardvark Comment this month. Just some Canadians saying things like, "Glad to see a Canadian comic book from Canada about Canada!" Which is confusing because I didn't realize how much of Cerebus was representative of Canada. I've really got to rethink my Canadian stereotypes. Now I'll be sure to picture Canadians as 50% Cerebus and 50% Joey Jeremiah.

Cerebus #3 Rating: B+. Sim's art remains a bit more on the amateurish side than the professional side. But that's to be expected. Already you can see improvements in the consistency of Cerebus's look and I think maybe his snout is already getting shorter and girthier. This was the first issue where he drew a woman so I can't fault him for drawing a blow-up doll in a chain mail bikini. Why would I? I'd never fault anybody for drawing a blow-up doll in a chain mail bikini! I also just thought up a new category to search on eBay. This issue begins to show where Sim really excels: his characters. The first two issues basically highlight Cerebus dealing with a few generic characters. But Red Sophia (and Henrot to a lesser extent) captures the spotlight this issue. Ignoring some of the shallow aspects of her character creation (if you even believe those exists. Don't take my super-professional critical opinion on it!), she's really rather charming and a competent foil for the Earth Pig. Just knowing that she's the tip of the iceberg in the gallery of recurring characters excites me more than those fantasies I keep having in my dark room.