Friday, April 26, 2019

New Titans #108

I can't believe we had to wait 108 issues for Marv Wolfman's take on the trauma of rape!

The advertisement on the inside front cover is for the movie Blue Chips and I've never hated past everybody more. Shaquille O'Neal starring in a movie directed by William Friedkin with the tagline, "In your face." Maybe I'm judging this movie too harshly simply because my first thought was, "What fucking world were we living in where we decided Shaq needed a movie career?" But then, he's playing a basketball player in this movie so he probably nailed the role. I'm sure there's no difference between the way he performed his role and the way he answered press questions after a game. And I guess he was kind of funny and charming, so what Hollywood bigwig wasn't getting on the horn and yelling at casting directors, "Get me Shaq! I've got a script here for a basketball movie and he'd be perfect! Also maybe throw this genie script at him!"

Anyway, the Internet and Roger Ebert seem to think this movie wasn't too bad so maybe this isn't a hill I should die on. Not that I haven't died on a whole slew of hills that weren't worth dying on. Maybe not as many as Deathstork fans but I've still had my share. I don't remember any of those hills because I purge my memory of all the times I acted foolish so that I can continue to believe I'm the epitome of the perfect human being.

Also, maybe I shouldn't trust Roger Ebert's judgment as much as I do seeing as he began his review with this word: "Alot". Unless that indicates he despised editors too in which case I'm back to being his #130,503,227th biggest fan!

The issue begins with Starfire visiting Councilwoman Alderman in an insane asylum. Kory is dressed in torn rags because fuck you. You don't deserve a comic book that makes sense if you stuck with New Titans this long! My first thought was, "Is this a nightmare?" But I skipped ahead a few pages so that I wouldn't write a bunch of shit that didn't matter when it was revealed to be a dream and I don't think it is a nightmare. My second thought was that Kory broke in to confront Alderman but Kory mentions things the guard said to her, and references waiting for the guards to open the door leading to Alderman's cell. So she went through the proper channels for a visit and nobody seemed to care she was barefoot and wearing a torn sheet that was skimpier than her superhero costume. But then I remember this is a comic book from 1994 and even when a hot female character is dealing with the trauma of rape, the artist still must cater to the male gaze. You know how many comic book drawings of dead female heroes I've jerked off to?! I mean, obviously it's zero! That was meant to be hyperbolic and satirical!

So sexily satirical!

Comic book fans think they have it rough now, what with Tom King portraying Batman as a man who might actually have to deal with the psychological trauma of his entire life in ways other than beating criminals nearly to death. Back in 1994, we had to deal with poor misunderstood and tormented Raven turning into a rape monster just like her father! It was a hard lesson! Thankfully, the only people who had to learn it were the assholes who still kept buying The New Titans after the Wildebeest story arc.

Nightwing arrives to save Starfire from more trauma induced by Alderman's ranting. He appears in full costume because men are allowed to be dignified. Although, technically, with the way artists draw characters in spandex, Nightwing looks more naked than Starfire.

Starfire yells "Kynasf'rr!" and blasts through the wall, leaving Nightwing free to think about how Alderman said he was always second to Batman. I mean, Kory's pain is terrible and Alderman taunting her about a possible Trigon pregnancy is terrifying but second to Batman?! Below the belt, crazy lady!

Phantasm makes an appearance to say, "Trigon's seed has returned to Earth!" So now I'm thinking about Trigon's ejaculate, so thanks for that, Marv Wolfman! You dirty pervert!

Based on these two articles on the front page, I'm guessing nobody at the Globe knows what "landslide" means.

Beast Boy and Dr. Sarah Charles have a grieving session while packing up Victor's things in whatever space Victor kept his things. Garfield decides to remember things so that Marv Wolfman can show that Garfield has learned a lesson about inspiration and hope from Cyborg. Gar says, "Only [Cyborg] never complained. He just kept going on, even after what happened to Sarah Simms. Even after he realized he was going to die. He just took things as they were and changed what he could and accepted what he couldn't." Maybe I'm the one remembering things wrong but I felt like Cyborg was constantly complaining! He was constantly angry at his dad for turning him into a machine. He was constantly upset at his robot life because it didn't allow him to fuck his romantic partners. He was always saying "Booyah!" because what else is there to say when your body is a constant and painful reminder that you'll never again be human and you're bound to live a life of loneliness? I mean, I could be remembering wrong. And anyway, this plays much better. You want the dead guy to have left some kind of meaning filling the void his presence has left. Also, Garfield needed this moment to grow the fuck up.

It reveals too much about my inner character so I won't discuss the scene where I identify too strongly with Pantha's grousing about the Beast Boy/Dr. Charles scene just before Red Star almost beats the shit out of her. Those two are definitely about to fuck, right?

Roy Harper discovers that his bosses at Checkmate have found a non-Dayton Industries corporation to begin design Titan weapons systems and that corporation is run by Alexander Luthor. Not Lex Luthor! Alexander! The one with red hair and the beard. The one that was fucking Supergirl. But not the real Supergirl! The Supergirl made out of slime or computer data or something. I don't have a real clear memory of these post-Death-of-Superman Superman family histories!

And finally, Starfire travels to South America — the Tamaran of Earth, I guess? — to undergo Kynasf'rr. I don't know what that is but I bet it's sexy.

New Titans #108 Rating: B-. I almost gave this issue a C+ which is worse than a B- but feels more positive because our perceptions of things, as humans, can be fucking stupid. I was hoping for Marv to really plumb the deaths of Starfire's tragedy but instead he just scripted a few pages of Starfire nearly naked while Alderman tries to convince her to let Raven rape her again. Marv doesn't even spend much time on the Titan's grief over Cyborg since he had to deal with a bunch of Titans' bureaucracy over their current leadership and membership problems. This seemed like an issue where Marv could have really flexed some emotional writing muscle but he spent only a few pages superficially glossing over the Titans' grief and pain.

The Letters Pages!

Jeff DeMos of New York, NY, gave me a good laugh when he wrote, "Why is there a periodic need to overhaul a character that will 'change (them) forever?' Has Cyborg really become so boring and dated? Has he exhausted all possible storylines?" Why, yes and yes, Jeff! Thanks for asking the truly important rhetorical questions!

The editor's response to those obviously rhetorical questions was another good laugh: "Cyborg never became 'boring or dated.'" Ha ha! I suppose that statement is true if you consider Cyborg has always been boring and dated which means he could never become those things!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

New Titans #107

Can you imagine a team superhero series making it to Issue #107 and believing this is the line-up that will get them to another hundred issues?

I know you're all judging me for that caption. Not because you can't agree with it completely (unless you're somehow, shamefully, a Cyborg or a Beast Boy or a Roy Harper fan) but because I didn't mention Cyborg's weird new cybernetic baby legs. The cover is by Nick Napolitano who seems to be mostly a letterer now (for — forgive me — obvious reasons)? Maybe it's not the same person. I'd hate to imply that a respected letterer in the industry today once drew Cyborg with fountain pen feet and fairly decent breasts.

Although the letterer on this issue is Christine Napolitano, so maybe he stole his wife's job when DC fired him as a penciller?

Oh, excuse me! I shouldn't assume Nick was fired as an artist because of the way he drew Cyborg on this cover. I should probably assume he was offered more money to work at Image.

In my commentary on Team Titans #16, I speculated that the series could have received a huge sales boost by having Lobo as a guest star. If my memory served, I thought it might have been at peak Lobo saturation at DC. According to the ad on the inside cover, I may have been spot on.

Every successful pitch at DC in the early to mid nineties began "Picture this: Lobo [rest of pitch interrupted by sounds of editors jizzing and creaming their pants]."

The issue begins with Roy Harper enclosed in a metal box in space while he tries to explain claustrophobia to sentient software. He describes his reaction as his "sweat glands doing a world-class impersonation of Niagara Falls." The next few pages do not include Roy Harper explaining what Niagara Falls is nor does it include the sentient software saying, "Slowly I turn. Step by step. Inch by inch." If you're young and you don't understand any of that meant, just let it go. Let the old people have their moment to nod and smile nostalgically!

The sentient software haven't had an upgrade in eons ("since Noah was a pup," according to Roy Harper) so they need to copy and paste Cyborg's soul into their code. I know it sounds ridiculous but just remember that this was written in 1994 when people still believed in souls.

If I had a body for the first time in decades, due to the sudden rush of sensations, I would not want it to be in a skintight leotard.

Prester Jon's argument for mortality is that "knowing life is finite is what gives us our drive." You know what I would trade for immortality? My drive! It's barely extant anyway! I know I only have a limited time to write my Horatio Algeresque sex adventure novel, Slags to Bitches, and I still can't be bothered!

The sentient software decides to give Prester Jon his mortal body even though "it is not within [their] programming." What good is software that performs tasks it isn't programmed to perform?! It's like having a toaster thatt can suck your dick.

Hmm. Shark Tank, here I come!

Sarah's low bar for love is inspirational!

Prester Jon reveals his new body and, I believe, Baby Wildebeest reveals that he's gay.

Baby smash!

While Technis begins to destroy the Earth, Phantasm freezes up in a moment of existential crisis. He wonders if he saves people for their sake or if he's saving them because he finds pain delicious. Either way leads to the same thing: Phantasm helping people in pain to be close to their pain. So I'm not sure what the crisis is really about. The only way I see this moment making sense is if the drive is sexual so he's going into a shame spiral.

Speaking of a sexy shame spiral, I'll be right back!

Meanwhile in New York, Councilman Quirk decides to hold a press conference as the Earth is being destroyed. He's decided to lay the blame on the Titans (and just because it is the Titans' fault, he shouldn't know that!). Who does he think will see this broadcast?! Everybody in New York is being turned into digital data or running around trying not to be turned into digital data. This is the worst attempt to garner votes that I've ever seen!

The Titans manage to save the world but in so doing, everybody learns that Cyborg wants to kill himself. Booyah! That's the best idea he's ever had!

I probably shouldn't make light of suicide, and normally I wouldn't. But have you read a comic book with Cyborg in it?! They're all so boring! At least if he attempted suicide, there might be some drama or tension!

I don't think Pantha has ever seen The Wizard of Oz.

Cyborg reveals that he can no longer exist off of Technis because they've completely drained his battery. Remember, this was 1994! If some piece of technology broke down, we figured the battery had died and we threw the whole thing away. So the Titans are forced to throw Cyborg away. He's incorporated into Technis and it flies off into the universe. And Cyborg was never seen again!

New Titans #107 Rating: A+ in 1994 because it left me with the hope that Cyborg was gone for good. F- in 2019 because what the fuck, DC?! How is he a major member of the Justice League?! Oh, don't point to Aquaman as if having one boring member justifies a second!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Team Titans #16

I'm fairly certain that this is some of that 3-D art that was popular at the time. I'm also fairly certain it's a dick.

In our new ultra-modern time, it's popular to not criticize art that you think is terrible. To simply say, "It was not for me," has become the popular trend. So let me begin my critique by saying, "This was not for me!" Now all the people who believe that shitting on somebody else's hard work is in poor taste should probably head on over to a more polite website, like ... well, fuck me. This being the Internet, I don't actually know of any. I guess any that have comments locked? Or maybe Neopets?

Heck, I haven't even read this issue yet! Maybe I'll love it and then I'll have to say, "It was totally for me! Especially the cover where the disembodied face sucked the huge three dimensional cock!" I have to admit that liking this issue is a possibility although it's not a probability. You know what I'm saying!

I forgot to do my anagram of the title: "'t' Santa Time!" That's "It's Santa Time!" but abbreviated in the way a cockney lad would probably say it just before he cleans out your chimney.

Please remember not to criticize my anagrams. I'd prefer it if you just said, "It wasn't for me," and moved along. My fragile ego thanks you!

Before I even read this, I'm wondering why nobody thought to introduce Lobo to this comic book to make it better. It was 1994! I'm pretty sure Lobo was still popular and yet not so wildly popular that fans would begrudge him showing up in a shitty book like this.

This issue begins in 1885 in the American West where a posse of lawmen pursue a lost in time member of the Team Titans. This member of the Team Titans is named Gunsmoke because the Team Titans time machine must send members of the Titans to the place and time where their name fits best. That's why Metallik wound up in the early nineties. Oh, sure, they would have been better off arriving in the eighties but maybe the time machine's artificial intelligence knew that a metal band wouldn't get a record deal in the early nineties which would leave Metallik more time to pretend they're making the world a better place while really just fighting evil Team Titans teams like Judge and Jury.

"Oh no! My horse was shot straight up the asshole!"

Image Comics changed the face of the comic book industry in many ways that smarter people than me actually know about. But one of the ways that people don't talk about as much (unless they do. I don't have time to actually read about comics or research them or interact with other comic book fans in any way except to make a disgusted face when they try to speak with me!) is how, immediately following Image Comics push for creator's rights, DC decided to create and trademark characters by every name they could think of. "Here are a bunch of characters created by committee that we can get our writers to use instead of creating their own and then expecting royalties on those stupid characters we own and don't legally have to pay extra for, you Goddamned vampires! Fucking Image Comics! Suck our dicks!" Team Titans had to be a reaction to this new mindset. The premise of this terrible comic book was that thousands of superheroes from the future were sent back in time to save their future. And most of those characters had terrible names, like Redwing and Gunsmoke and Battalion and Sparkle Boy. Evidence from the letters pages suggests that this comic book was expected to last long enough that audiences would see what happened to hundreds of these teams.

About the same time this series was hitting the shelves, DC put out their summer blockbustr, Bloodlines, which was just a blatant attempt to create as many new heroes as they could come up with before writers began expecting created by paychecks. I'm not sure how well it worked though since Hitman is probably the only hero created at that time that anybody could now name. And also, maybe Garth Ennis gets a created by paycheck for him? I don't know! How should I know?! Remember that part about how I don't do research?!

In conclusion, Team Titans can be criticized harshly because it was never meant to be a work of art or a coherent story or entertaining at all. It was just a repository for new characters that DC editors could later mention to new writers when they came on board. "Oh, you don't want to create your own character that you would really be into and thus probably write a terrific story about which would help make DC a lot of money even if we had to pay you creator's rights on it! Maybe you'd rather write a story about Loose Cannon or Joe Public or Cardinal Sin?!" Years later, that editor might be wind up looking at the top selling comics of the month to discover the writer who they drove away was writing a hit comic book with Image Comics because it was the story they wanted to tell but didn't know how to tell it using Loose Cannon as the main character.

Meanwhile, Terry and Donna had a baby that didn't grow up to be an evil narcissistic time traveling world conqueror. I sort of forgot about that.

"Stop being hysterical, Donna! Listen to me, a failed history professor, when I downplay our child's potential illness!" -- Terry Long, typical man.

I can't wait until Donna's child's skin sloughs off and he's revealed to be a mutant lizard monster. Then Donna can be all, "I told you something was wrong!" And Terry can be all, "You just live for these moments, don't you?! Wonder Girl! Always right! Can't do anything wrong! Won't let her husband live it down that he failed to write his book on mythology that would have given him a tenured position at NYU!" And Donna would be all, "I never bring that up! You need to let that shit go, you stupid bastard!" And then Terry can be all, "Our child is a lizard because you probably fucked some mythological creature during those months I couldn't get an erection because I felt like such a failure!" And then Donna can be all, "Why are you still even in these comic books?!" And then my writing teacher can be all, "Is this really how you want to write dialogue? With all the 'so-and-so can be all's?!"

Oh look! I was right about Lobo still being used to increase sales. I think this was right around when Lobo was being used on any series that wanted to prove that their hero could beat the unbeatable Lobo, thus turning Lobo into a punching bag and a loser. Which maybe he always was but look at how cool he looks! And at least he's only a genocidal monster and not a pedophile like Deathstork!

The rest of the comic book seems to be Jeff Jensen's attempt at art. That's my guess because he's doing something different and that means it must be art! The final nineteen pages are narrated by Nightrider, the vampire, as he's shot by a neighbor, crawls off to die, and then infiltrates the dreams of the other members of the Team Titans. That's not the artsy part though! That's regular comic book stuff. The artsy part is that Jensen tells the narrated story through the second person point of view. I always think of it as the Choose Your Own Adventure perspective. Maybe Jensen thought the reader would actually give a shit about Nightrider if they were put in Nightrider's bloody shoes? It's a decent attempt since if Nightrider were telling the story through the first person, I would read it while constantly thinking, "Is his name really Nightrider? Did I misread that? I should go back and check where Terry says his name. Let's see. Yep! It's really Nightrider. What a terrible name! Although I'd read a comic book where he teams up with Gunsmoke, sort of like Iron Fist and Luke Cage." But since the story is told in the second person, I completely forgot to think about Nightrider's dumb name because I was distracted by the use of the second person. Instead, my thoughts were these: "What the fuck is Jensen doing?! This is so awkward! It's like when my cousin began writing essays and stories at Mission College and he wrote them all in the second person because I'm pretty sure the only books he ever read were The Cave of Time and The Mystery of Chimney Rock!"

So congratulations, Jeff Jensen, on completely succeeding at taking my mind of Nightrider's name which, I guess, means I cared a little more about his story? Not that this story where he crawls into a cave to die concentrates on him and his pain anyway. It's more a storytelling trick to catch up the reader on all of the angst and pain and turmoil the other Titans are suffering through. Poor Nightrider! He's not even interesting enough to carry the story when he's dying!

Yeesh. Mirage dreams she "gives birth" (quotes because I don't think this portrays normal birth!) to her baby, conceived when Deathwing raped her, after which her baby threatens to rape her.

After a bunch of mysterious images and bits of story that make the reader believe they've seen some clues as to the future direction of this comic book (but actually haven't seeing as how none of the dreams mentioned how they'd be cancelled in nine more issues), the neighbor who shot Nightrider clambers into the cave and cradles him in his arms. "I won't let you die," he screams to the Gods! "Even if I have to let you suck my dick!" He glances around furtively. "That's probably how your life will be saved, right?" he says as he unzips his jeans.

Team Titans #16 Rating: A+ because it was artists making an effort, I guess. But this comic book wasn't for me.