Sunday, August 30, 2020

Cerebus #15 (1980)

If the story so far had revealed that Cerebus has a vagina, I could make a hentai joke here.

The first time I encountered hentai was at an anime convention at a Red Lion Inn in San Jose in 1994 or 1995. I went to the convention by myself because I had recently fallen in love with the cartoon Sailor Moon and wanted to get some Sailor Moon LaserDiscs unless it was actually Sailor Moon dolls I wanted. It was so long ago, how am I supposed to remember?! They had a room where they were showing movies and one of the movies I watched was Sailor Moon R: The Movie. It was subtitled which was great because then I had the story memorized for all the times I watched my non-subtitled LaserDisc. But that wasn't the pornographic anime I saw! I don't even remember what that was but I watched some tentacle fucking movie late at night in a dark room with a bunch of other sweaty nerds. I didn't know that was what was going to happen though so I didn't have my dick in my hands like the other guys probably did. I was as shocked as anybody when they first find out that cartoons where women get fucked by tentacles exist! I mean, how many penises does an alien need?! I grew up thinking the little gray aliens had zero!

That Red Lion Inn was the same one where I played in a couple of Magic the Gathering tournaments. Being in a dark room with a bunch of horny anime fans was less awkward and uncomfortable than playing Magic the Gathering against Magic the Gathering fans. Most of them probably couldn't believe they were actually playing against such a cool and handsome dude. It really threw them off their game when I would say things like, "Yeah, I've touched a couple of boobs. I attack with my Serra Angel."

I know what you're thinking: "Anime, comic books, and Magic the Gathering?! This awesome dude must have owned every single Stars Wars figure too!" Aw, you're too kind! I'm blushing! But obviously I never owned Yak Face.

"A Note from the Publisher" is still being published so I guess Dave and Deni are still married.

In his Swords of Cerebus essay, Dave Sim discusses "Why Groucho?" It seems to mostly come down to this: Dave Sim enjoyed the characters of Groucho Marx as a teenager and memorized a lot of their lines. He also mentions Kim Thompson's review of Cerebus in The Comic Journal (the first major review of the series) in which Kim praised Sim's ability to make his parody characters transcend the parody to become unique creations of their own. This review gave Sim the confidence to put Groucho in the role of Lord Julius. Which worked out so well that Sim later adds Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Margeret Thatcher, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Woody Allen, Dave Sim, and the Three Stooges into the story. I'm sure I'm missing some but I can't remember every aspect of this 6000 page story. Was The Judge also a parody of somebody? Was the Regency Elf based on Wendy Pini? I don't know! I'm sure I'm missing a lot of references in Cerebus simply because I haven't experienced all the same knowledge sources as Dave Sim. Just like I'm missing a super duper lot of references in Gravity's Rainbow because nobody in the history of ever has experienced all the same knowledge sources as Thomas Pynchon.

I've been reading Gravity's Rainbow (for the first time but also the third time because I'm basically reading it three times at the same time. You'll understand when you read it) and I'm surprised by how funny it is. I don't think anybody ever described it as funny or else I'm sure I would never have stopped reading it multiple times prior to this time when I'm actually going to finish it. Although I suppose when I read Catch-22, I had done so on my own so nobody ever told me how funny that book was either. But for some reason, Catch-22 lets you know it's going to be a funny book pretty quickly. Gravity's Rainbow is all, "Here is a description of an evacuation of London which is just stage setting because, you know, the bombs have already blown up, but it makes people feel safe. And after that, how about a scene where this guy makes a bunch of banana recipes for breakfast. Is that funny enough for you?" Oh, sure, there are some funny moments like when that one guy pretends a banana is his cock and then some other guys tackle him and beat him with his own pretend cock. But there's a gravity to the scene that doesn't lend itself to the reader thinking, "Oh, this is a funny book!" But if you make it far enough, you start realizing, "Hey! I'm not understanding this!" So then you reread the section and you start realizing, "Hey! I'm laughing at this stuff! This is pretty funny!" Plus there are a lot of descriptions of sexy things that I'm assuming are really accurate because Pynchon is obsessed with details.

Anyway, I was supposed to be talking about Cerebus, wasn't I?

A Living Priest of Tarim crashes Lord Julius' bath to scold him about a party Julius is giving in a fortnight (which is the amount of time your kid has lost to a video game). I don't know why the priest has to declare he's a living priest. You can tell that by the way he's shouting and foaming at the mouth. Although this is a Swords & Sorcery book so I suppose there are many dead creatures that also shout and foam at the mouth. Sometimes I forget I'm reading a fictional book and wind up ranting and raving about stuff that I'm supposed to just assume is fine. Like when I read The Flash and nothing in it makes any sense at all because The Flash should never have any trouble stopping crime or saving people from natural disasters. The comic book should be over in two pages. Even the writers, at some point, realized how ridiculous Flash stories were and decided the only way to make them believable was to have The Flash battle other super fast people. But that just meant Flash stories basically became bar-room brawls. Two people with super speed fighting is the same as reading a story about two people without super speed fighting. Boring! Some writers even decided that maybe a telepathic monkey would make things more interesting and I suppose telepathic monkeys make everything more interesting so kudos to them. I was going to go on a long rant about telepathic monkeys but then I realized how much I love the idea of telepathic monkeys so why should I create an argument against them? More telepathic monkeys, please.

This made me laugh out loud. Not as much as the chapter in Gravity's Rainbow where the old woman forces Slothrop to eat a bunch of terrible candies. But then it isn't a competition, is it? I mean, I guess it's a competition for my time which is why I haven't written a comic book review in a week or more. Blame Thomas Pynchon for being so entertaining (and also Apex).

Baskin, the Minister for Executive Planning, has come to let Lord Julius know what the revolutionaries have revealed while being tortured. The only bit of useful information was one prisoner's last words: "Revolution...the pits." Cerebus immediately assumes "the Pits" is a location and not a summation of the prisoner's feelings about revolution which led to torture which led to his death. Cerebus, being the Kitchen Staff Supervisor, begins an investigation into The Pits. His first step: threatening the Priest of the Living Tarim. Which makes me realize I transposed the word "living" in the previous encounter with the priest and went on a digression that makes no sense to anybody who has read and somehow remembers that particular panel. I'm sure they were scoffing and snorting and exclaiming to their pet rat, "What a stupid fool loser this Grunion Guy is! Living Priest of Tarim! HA! Ridiculous! What a moronic mistake! He has made a gigantic fool of himself!"

I don't know that the almost certainly imaginary people who called me on my mistake as they read this have a pet rat but I do know there almost certainly isn't another imaginary sentient being in the room with them.

Cerebus learns that The Pits are Old Palnu that lies under current Palnu. It was destroyed in a massive earthquake long ago and the new city built over the top of it. It's like a Dungeons & Dragons module but with a lot less treasure.

This scene reminded me that I need to finish rereading The Boomer Bible: A Testament for Our Times (which is what it was called in the 90s but is just as accurate for today).

Cerebus and Lord Julius engage in another typical misunderstanding (it's not hard when only half of the people in the conversation care about making sense) which ends up with Lord Julius deciding that the location for the Festival of Petunias will be The Pits. This complicates Cerebus' job of not allowing Lord Julius to be assassinated because the assassins are most likely housed in The Pits (along with their giant snakes (*see cover)).

Lord Julius, Baskin, and Cerebus descend into The Pits to find a suitable location for the Festival of Petunias. In doing so, they wind up in a trap and confronted by a masked revolutionary of the "Eye of the Pyramid." Which is odd because you usually have to murder at least a dozen kobolds and several goblins before you reach the room with the boss in it.

Typical unbalanced beginning level module. A giant snake as the first encounter!

Cerebus manages to defeat the giant snake by crashing it headfirst into a wall. The wall winds up being a key support structure and the roof collapses. Everybody makes it out alive but the masked revolutionary evades capture. He will be back next issue to ruin the Festival of Petunias.

Aardvark Comment is still just a mostly standard comic book letters page. I'll probably stop discussing it until people start criticizing Dave. Right now it's just "This comic book is great!" and "Keep writing, Dave, and I'll never think ill of anything idea you espouse!" while Dave replies, "I owe my fans everything! I can't wait until I can stop feeling that way and start jerking off onto my art boards and selling those as pages of Cerebus!"

Cerebus #15 Rating: A. Good story, good Lord Julius dialogue, good Living Priest of the Living Tarim scenes. I wholeheartedly endorse this comic book and Dave Sim. No way a guy with a sense of humor like this is going to go off the rails, right?!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Justice League #3 (1987)

Much respect to Doctor Light who dresses for the weather.

The advert on the back of the comic book is for Oreo which might be the greatest corporate cookie ever created. I simply don't trust people who don't like Oreo cookies. "Don't trust" is my kind way of saying I despise them and they disgust me and if I could end the death penalty in America, I absolutely would except for people who dislike Oreo cookies.

I would absolutely elbow Mickey Mouse in the face if he tried to eat my Oreo cookies.

In this issue, we meet the Rocket Reds, voted by me as the worst characters in the history of comic books. They're just so "Russian through the eyes of an American who has only passing knowledge of Russian life." I'm not saying I knew much about the Russian people in 1987. If me in 1987 had to design the Rocket Reds, I would have made their suits out of concrete and had them say "Capitalist Pig! *ptui*" after every third sentence. But if the current me were in 1987 designing the Rocket Reds, they would not have been men in rocket suits. They would have been straight up super heroes created by some fucked up cosmic isotope brought back to Russia by a vengeful Laika who had miraculously survived her Sputnik 2 orbit and gained sentience, realizing that her masters knew she would die and sent her into space anyway. Also they would be dogs. And it would be revealed that sentient dogs had taken over Russia in 1959.

No, forget all that. That's more of a Planetary story.

I never thought the Russians were real people until I heard Billy Joel's "Leningrad" and I was all, "Wait. Russians have clowns?!"

Blue Jay and Friends continue to work with Bialya but to expedite their anti-nuclear-holocaust mission.

While Blue Jay and friends make plans, the Justice League hang out in Blue Beetle's Bug Ship just outside Bialyan airspace. During that time, we learn that Batman doesn't appreciate jokes.

You can't make jokes like Beetle and you can't act like a sexist, arrogant, violent asshole like Gardner; what the fuck does Batman want?!

Don't answer that question! It practically answers itself! Batman didn't like Dick Grayson because he joked too much and then he didn't like Jason Todd because he was that arrogant violent asshole. So he finally settled on Tim Drake! What Batman wants is lukewarm oatmeal!

How many times per day do you think Batman says, "I don't like your attitude, mister"?

Page 3 of Issue 3 and Batman is already to the breaking point with Guy Gardner. He threatens to punch him in the mouth but gets distracted by Blue Jay and Friends finally leaving Bialya. Batman will have to wait at least two more issues before the money shot to Gardner's face.

Beetle doesn't follow them far before they fly into Soviet airspace and he has to stop the Bug short.

Ultimately it probably would have been more satisfying if Black Canary had gotten to punch Guy in the nose.

I never "accidentally" fell on a girl with my hands growing up but thankfully a number of girls "accidentally" rubbed their boobs on me. It was always appreciated! Like that time I was playing Donkey Kong Jr. at the bowling alley and Michelle Preble was watching me with her hands on my shoulder and her boobs against my arm. Or that time at the ice rink when that girl I'd just met kept laying across my back whenever she got the chance (although I was in sweats that day so she kept forcing me to stay seated longer than I'd planned). Or that New Year's Eve (again at the bowling alley!) where Angela from the next lane over kept coming over and sitting on my lap. Or at that weird young teenage party in some garage where Dessa kept lying across my lap and then leaning against me. I can't even remember whose house that was or why I was there! I don't think I ever even spoke to Dessa before or after that! But I probably loved her forever after!

So those are probably some of my strongest memories growing up. The only way they could remain as powerful or have stuck in my head better is if they'd been attached to a catchy song like those Church of Latter Day Saints commercials or Schoolhouse Rock.

Look at these dumb commies spouting state propaganda! Idiots! Good thing Americans are immune to that!

Of course the Justice League clashes with the Rocket Reds while Blue Jay and Friends fly unhindered into Russia. Gardner, of course, can't wait. It was just a few years earlier when Stallone kicked that Russian guy's ass in the ring and everybody in every theater across America was chanting, "U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!" Although some of the bigger wusses were weeping over Apollo's death. I totally wasn't one of those guys because I didn't see Rocky IV in the theater having missed Rocky III because I went to see Annie instead.

Okay, that was a lie. I did see both of those movies in the theater. But I did skip going to see Rocky III with my guy friends to go see Annie with my girl friends because I'd already seen Rocky III once. Also, Annie was better. Yes, better than Rocky fighting Klubber Lang.

Gorbachev gets word of what's happening from Maxwell Lord because Giffen and DeMatteis are establishing just how powerful Maxwell Lord is.

This is actually a pretty good portrayal of Gorbachev. Thank the stars for his calm head and clear sight back in the 80s! Fuck Reagan.

Normally advertisements don't really do much for me but since Oreo cookies are my heroin, I'm desperately craving them now. Especially the Carrot Cake flavored cookies!

The Justice League battle the Rocket Reds for the exact number of pages to make it exciting before the Rocket Reds get the order to stand down and team up with the Justice League to help stop an imminent meltdown at a Russian nuclear power plant.

Once Blue Jay and Friends realize the power plant is about to go critical, they join in to help stop a nuclear disaster. Its hugs and kisses all the way down now!

Bald Thor manages to stop the power plant from going critical but collapses afterward. The Russians wrap him up and cart him off to help him and probably experiment on him if he survives. Blue Jay and the Silvery Brown Sorceress remain with Bald Thor while the Justice League is once again kicked out of a country where they were trying to help. They can't get United Nations backing soon enough!

When they head back to their headquarters, they find Maxwell Lord and Booster Gold waiting for them. It's time to find out who their real leader is!

Justice League #3 Rating: B+. Giffen and DeMatteis are steering the team nicely in the direction of needing to become international. As the Justice League of America, they were severely limited in their ability to save the world unless the danger came from Texas or Space. Now after two missions where they needed other nation's permission to do their job, they're ready to hear what Maxwell Lord has to say. Although nobody is ready to hear what Booster Gold has to say. It will invariably be dumb and full of future references that nobody understands.

Cerebus #14 (1980)

This is what happens to Cerebus because he still hasn't taken my advice to stab everybody he meets before they become a huge annoyance.

I'm not suggesting everybody stab everybody they meet so that they'll never have to deal with any non-stabbing drama because then everybody I meet would be trying to stab me. That sounds like a bad social contract. A good social contract is to not talk to anybody at all in public unless they work in the service industry and also maybe don't make such aggressive eye contact with people on the street? I'm just trying to get from Point A to Point B with as little human contact as possible. I wouldn't mind interacting with people except for one huge problem: most people are way more terrible than they realize. And the more enthusiastic and social a person is, the more likely that they're the real life version of Red Sophia or Elrod.

On a similar note, I really love this thing where we're all wearing masks. Now if we can just develop a virus that spreads through eye contact so we're all forced to constantly wear dark glasses, I'll be pretty fucking happy about the state of the world.

I mean I'd be happy with the state of the world in regards to what I have to deal with when I go outside (which is people trying to talk to me and looking into my eyes). I don't mean I'd be overall happy with the state of the world which is fucking terrible because a bunch of assholes think teenagers telling them they can't say retard on the Internet is worse than Donald Trump and the GOP's self-serving style of governing where they think taxes shouldn't be used to make the country better but should just go back into the pockets of corporations and Wall Street pricks and other politicians and the already extremely wealthy. Also, a lot of centrist Democrats think the same way. They're only more acceptable because they mostly aren't racist, sexist homophobes.

Now that all the snowflakes have stopped reading and went to hug their guns in consolation of my mean Internet words, I can get to the review.

In "A Note from the Publisher," Deni claims this is the funniest issue of Cerebus to date. Since it's Cerebus' first visit to Palnu, I'm not even questioning her claim. It's almost certainly true.

Dave Sim's Swords of Cerebus essay is a textual stroking of Prince Valiant creator Hal Foster's dick. Sim's mostly talking about Foster's art style but he obviously decided to mimic some of Foster's story telling style as well. See, Prince Valiant was a continuous story that ran (or has run? Is it still going by his son or grandson or something?) for decades, a story which chronicled the life of Prince Valiant and, eventually, his children. Cerebus is a comic book that didn't run for as long but whose continuing story was easier to follow and had a drunk aardvark as the main character. So there are some similarities there, right? This was also the first issue of Cerebus after going to a monthly schedule. Dave Sim would now have to do 300 issues instead of the 150-something he had been planning. Ha ha! Sucker.

This would have been a most opportune time for Cerebus to start his stabbing people upon meeting them practice.

I knew at some point I was going to have to admit this so I might as well begin with it: I don't think I've ever sat through an entire Marx Brothers movie. It's possible I have but I just don't really remember because it happened so long ago. But I need to also reveal this: I loved Groucho Marx as a kid. I've revealed before that I had a grandfather fetish as a child. I loved hanging out with old men and I loved watching old men on television. Going in Style was one of my favorite movies and I simply adored Art Carney. I also loved The Shining because it was about a young kid who got to hang out with one of my other favorite older guys, Scatman Crothers. Groucho Marx in You Bet Your Life fit into the old guy category. I don't think he was as old as the oldest men I loved but, as a young kid, he certainly seemed ancient. I think the duck that dropped down when somebody said the secret word helped a lot. But I would watch reruns of You Bet Your Life whenever I found them on television because it was like hanging out with an old man, my favorite pastime from around four to ten or so. As for Groucho's movies? I've definitely watched parts of some of them as I stumbled on them on television and realized he was in it. But I've never made the effort to start one from the beginning and watch it all the way through. I should probably rectify that.

Cerebus has wound up in Palnu thanks to a short diversion in a comic strip that appeared in The Comic Buyers Guide. He wound up marooned on an island with Lord Julius' son, Lord Silverspoon. Upon being rescued, Lord Julius decided to reward Cerebus for saving his son. I don't have the issue of Swords of Cerebus with that story so I can't comment on how annoying Lord Silverspoon almost certainly was.

Cerebus' reward is to be put in charge of Lord Julius' security forces and granted the title of "Kitchen Staff Supervisor." It doesn't make any sense because Lord Julius invented bureaucracy. He realized the only thing that can really keep a leader safe is to make sure that nobody else knows what the fuck is going on.

Oh, see? I suppose I could have just read a few more panels and realized Lord Julius explains it himself.

As Kitchen Staff Supervisor, Cerebus' job is to keep assassins from assassinating Lord Julius. Aside from that, he was pretty much free to do whatever he wanted. Unless he only thought he was free to do whatever he wanted and whatever he wanted was whatever Lord Julius was manipulating him into wanting. Lord Julius is a master of getting people to accidentally do the thing they didn't think they would ever do that Lord Julius also didn't want them to do but actually secretly did want them to do. Basically anybody who has recently spoken with Lord Julius is actively doing Lord Julius' bidding, whether they know it or not.

For some reason, Cerebus decides to take on the role of Kitchen Staff Supervisor even though it's the most boring thing he's ever done in his life. At least it's entertaining for the reader because nearly every line out of Lord Julius' mouth is a solid gag. And since I haven't really seen any of Groucho's movies, I can't say how many of the gags were stolen outright! I have to assume it's all new material and only Groucho Marx parody. Some people, in an attempt to never be fooled by anybody, never believe anything at all. I am not one of those people. I believe everything I hear until somebody slaps me and yells, "How can you believe that obviously falsified tripe, you fucking moron?!"

Assassins try to poison Lord Julius and Cerebus tracks them down to an underground group trying to free the city from the clutches of Lord Julius. When the assassin, Cerebus, and Lord Julius wind up in the same place, Cerebus outs himself as a spineless centrist.

The Centrist loves to believe that not taking sides is the only logical conclusion to any matter that doesn't seem to immediately affect their lives.

Some people are probably wondering how that previous caption is a negative criticism. "Um, yeah. Seems about right. If it doesn't affect me, why should I offer up an opinion!" And yet when a situation exists where one side is full of abusive and manipulative people controlling the reins of power and the economic purse strings of the country and the other side is being bullied, cheated, and abused by that side, not taking a side is siding with the powerful and the abusive. Even if your life hasn't been affected.

Of course, Cerebus doesn't need to take a side here. I mean, he does take a side: he sides with the people who have all the money. But he doesn't really care is the point. You'll see he retains this philosophy of rich people winning every argument later when he's Pope and gives out his wisdom that "God loves rich people which is why they're rich and hates poor people which is why they're poor." Pretty much the philosophy of evangelicals in the U.S.

Cerebus survives the battle with the assassin and then gives Lord Julius some free advice about running the country. So Cerebus kind of does agree with the assassin but also the assassin wasn't paying him anything so he deserved to be thrown five stories to his death. Lord Julius says, "You can rest assured that I'll give the matter all the attention I feel it deserves." Is there a better way to tell somebody to shove it than that? It's so elegant!

In Aardvark Comments, Dave Sim answers a letter on how to go about self-publishing. And so his role as Independent Comic Book Publishing Mentor begins! In his list of things you'll need to get together to successfully publish your own comic book, he kindly leaves out "talent." Obviously Dave understood how to go about getting something published but he also put in the hard work and had the talent to produce a comic book that began well above mediocre or average. I can't imagine a lot of self-published books began at this high of a plateau. And even if they were eventually capable of Cerebus quality, how long are readers going to give them to get there? Probably not even two issues, would be my guess.

The Single Page had a comic called "Sex Education" by April. I thought the first two panels were cute.

Cerebus #14 Rating: A+. As with Elrod and Red Sophia and The Cockroach, Lord Julius' first appearance is a banger. Dave Sim never once falters with Lord Julius' repartee. Solid gags throughout. Sim really is a master of dialogue and, to think, it only gets better.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Justice League #2 (1987)

I didn't know Orgazmo was in this comic book.

Once again, I'm surprised by how quickly an old comic book I read years ago gets to some of the stories I think of as major story arcs. These pseudo-Marvel heroes on the cover are the precursor to The Extremists whom I remember as major antagonists to this team. I don't know if The Extremists appear any time soon though. First, the Justice League have to deal with these peaceniks. Only after they've become allies with Blue Jay and Bald Thor and Brown Scarlet Witch do the Extremists finally come to destroy Earth.

The issue begins with Kevin Maguire going, "Look at these lips. You like these lips and this mouth. Well, you're gonna get lots of them! Even Maxwell Lord gets some lovely pouty face slugs!"

I'm sorry for referring to lips as "face slugs."

Batman's main goal is to get to the bottom of how Doctor Light became a member of his League. He'd already hired Black Canary so why would he need another woman in the group? Isn't a ratio of eight men to one woman good enough?! I'm counting Oberon in the number of men just to make it seem even more lopsided. Although Doctor Fate has already ditched (and will become a woman soon anyway, right?!) so, not including Oberon, that makes the ratio six to one! Getting better! Plus add Doctor Light since she was on the cover and has somehow forced her way in, a ratio of six to two! That's three to one if you reduce it! Which is practically one to one if you squint and put your fingers in your ears and go, "Nyah nyah nyah! Everything is already equal! Why are women fighting for more than they already have?!"

Anyway, my point was: Fucking Batman. What a monster!

I wouldn't think a sleeveless vest with a wacky collar layered on top of a turtle neck with elbow length white gloves would look so cool!

I prefer to concentrate on Guy's outfit rather than his misogyny and lack of intelligence and terrible haircut.

In this issue is an advert for the all new Dr. Fate four issue mini-series by Giffen and DeMatteis. So that solves the mystery of why he was sort of included in the first issue. He was basically a commercial.

Jack Ryder's gossip television show has been trying to portray the new Justice League in a negative light because that's the kind of reporting that gets eyeballs and raises revenue. Maybe if people's lives weren't so boring, they wouldn't eat up all that hot take drama shit from people like Jack Ryder and Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. I suppose I shouldn't wonder how rational people watch that shit because most people, rational or not, are just looking for somebody to repeat their inner views back to them. And Fox News has honed that ability to a razor edge. Sometimes I imagine Sean Hannity doesn't believe the stupid shit he comes up with but then I remember my high school and college friend Soy Rakelson and I think, "Oh yeah. He actually believes that shit."

I recently found this letter by Soy from our college paper. It's been in my head since 1994 when I could not fucking believe he wrote it. Poor, poor discriminated Soy, self-declared "Defender of Western Civilization."

One small note about Soy: maybe a month or two after Trump became president, he quietly disappeared from Facebook for good. I won't speculate on why but I suppose if I spent some time trying, I'd probably come up with his actual reasoning.

After Guy throws another tantrum that has to be quelled by Batman, Doctor Fate gets a scene of his own! I guess he didn't completely disappear from the comic book. At least not yet. Although, if Doctor Fate sticks around for a dozen or more issues, I'm going to feel even more shitty than I already feel about my memory.

Doctor Fate visits some purple haired guy who sees everything as gray and warns him to take back up his destiny. I don't know who it is. The only purple haired character I remember is Pariah. But what is his destiny other than to watch worlds burn? Also, he has other selves across the world reaching into people's souls. Is he Jim Corrigan? I have no idea!

Meanwhile, Blue Jay, Wandjina, and Silver Sorceress (whose costume is brown), from Earth-Marvel-Parodies (or some other new world, I suppose. In 1987, there was just one Earth left, right?), are busy dismantling Bialya's nuclear arsenal. Bialya is one of DC's evil countries. Sometimes you don't want to write a story that exists in a gray world; you just want pure black and white, good and evil. When that's the case, you have the heroes battle Bialyans!

Blue Jay and friends are here to rid the Earth of all their nuclear weapons so as to save it from the fate that befell their homeworld. The leader of Bialya sees an opportunity for mischief and power and the destruction of America, so he greets them with open arms.

Rumaan Harjavti, the leader of Bialya, teams up with Blue Jay and Friends to help guide them to other nations who have nuclear weapons that need to be disposed of. The first country he sends them to is Israel. Probably because it's close by and not because he has ulterior racist motives. Guy Gardner hears the news and is thrilled because he gets a boner imagining a world where only Ronald Reagan has control over a nuclear arsenal.

When he first mentioned Ronnie, I thought it was a mistake. I forgot how old this comic book is!

Batman is all, "We're going to stop these peaceniks from making the world a safer place!" Because if there's one story that can't be told enough it's the one where we all learn a lesson about how the ends do not justify the means, no matter how amazing the ends will be and how messy the means are. I suppose the ends justify the means if the means are compassionately thought out and done with respect for all parties' opinions! So maybe sometimes the ends justify the means? Or does the statement not work that way because the point is that you can't just make that blanket statement. Like, do you murder five million people to save one little girl's life? Probably not! Or do I have it completely wrong and everybody thinks the ends do justify the means? Anyway, Batman doesn't think world peace should be achieved through the destruction of other people's dangerous property. It's basically the same story that season one of Stargirl just told. The Injustice Society of America wants to make the world a leftist dreamscape but at the cost of 25 million lives or something. And the Justice Society is all, "Well, we really like your manifesto. We agree with all of these points. But maybe the cost is too high?" So in the end, I was left supporting the Injustice Society of America because I guess I believe the ends do justify the means?! Also, I'm fairly certain I don't like a quarter of the population so good riddance? But also maybe the entire season of Stargirl was some sort of anti-leftist parable about how you have to let people come to their own decisions about saving the world because forcing them to get on board is rude and it's better if climate change destroys the world than to force one person to believe that manmade climate change is an actual thing?

I had philosophical whiplash by the end of Stargirl season one. One character is all, "Murder is wrong!" and then goes and murders somebody and another character is all "I need revenge because this monster killed my parents!" and then he gets all merciful and lets Solomon Grundy go so he can kill other parents and the Injustice Society is all, "We'll kill indiscriminately to make the world a better place for our rich white kids!" and then their all, "A lot of rich white people's kids are going to die from our plan but that's okay because they're not ours." Also, the worst part of the show, the part of the show that I cannot forgive, is how they introduced us to Doctor Mid-Nite's sad owl back at the abandoned JSA headquarters and Luke Wilson is all, "Yeah, he's just waiting for Doctor Mid-Nite to return. It's sad, right? He just hangs out here alone super sad." And then Beth becomes the new Doctor Mid-Nite and you keep expecting the owl to befriend her but the owl never appears, ever again. Every episode, when the sad owl didn't appear onscreen, I was reminded of the sad owl. So every minute of every episode, I kept thinking, "Is the owl going to befriend Beth now?" And nothing. The season ends with the sad owl still super sad and all alone and fuck the writers and showrunners for that. I suppose they couldn't afford a CGI owl after ejaculating all of their CGI money on the five minute Solomon Grundy fight.

I just digressed so much I need to take a shower.

Guy and I are in 99.5% agreement about the dismantling of nuclear weapons. That last bit is where he thinks the U.S.A. should get to keep theirs.

Everybody treats Guy Gardner like his argument isn't even worth listening to but they're all wrong! They're just treating him like a dumb jerk! Sure, I agree that the Justice League just can't take it upon themselves to rid the world of all nuclear weapons. I mean, do I?! Hmm. I'm not so sure I do agree with that! If Superman really cared about Earth, shouldn't he martyr himself by becoming the biggest criminal in the history of the entire world by destroying all nuclear weapons against the will of every nation that has them?! There are plenty of other planets in the DCU that he could go live on after becoming a giant Earth menace! Can't he even make that small sacrifice for the safety of his homeworld?! And if his actions cause some kind of horrible repercussions that cause the world to spiral into chaos, he can probably just blame Batman.

Silver But Really Brown Sorceress questions if what they're doing is right. Bald Thor says, "In the end they'll thank us. And even if they don't, at least they'll be alive to hate us." See?! That's what I just said about Superman! He should totally take that bullet! That was not a tasteless George Reeves joke and even if somebody read it that way, it's been like a hundred years since his death!

Blue Jay and Friends tell each other their origin story as they remember how their world was destroyed by nuclear weapons and how they decided to interfere with everybody else's lives because of it. I think their origin was supposed to make me see their side of things and feel empathy for them but it totally made me rethink their position and now I totally think they need to be stopped. Because I was fine when I thought the argument was "Destroy all nuclear weapons to save Earth." But I dislike the argument, "Something bad happened to me and now I have to make sure it never happens to anybody else no matter how annoying I make myself!" It's like when somebody's dumb kid gets hit by a bus while riding their bike and then they have to get a law passed making it illegal for busses to run over kids and to name the law after their kid and to get politicians who support the law because it doesn't really change anything (being that busses running over kids was probably already frowned upon if not illegal) but it's good press and makes it look like they're doing something. Then after the dumb law is passed, the parents of the dumb kid can say things like, "My baby didn't die in vain!" Even if that's totally untrue and their baby did die in vain and the law never actually makes the world a better place at all.

Guy rushes in to stop Blue Jay and Friends all alone but fails because writers can't reward brash arrogant heroes who are mostly just big jerks. It would be unseemly.

So far, I've liked the bits with Captain Marvel but I'm still weirded out that he's a little boy in a grown man's muscular body.

Blue Jay and Friends fly into Bialyan airspace and the Justice League have to back off. But they'll get another chance to stop Blue Jay and Friends next issue when Blue Jay and Friends try to disarm Russia!

Justice League #2 Rating: B+. It gets too complicated when super heroes bump up against the wall of political conflicts. When Batman points out that the Justice League can't chase Blue Jay and Friends into Bialyan airspace without creating an international incident, some readers might start questioning how super heroes can act even within the borders of one specific country! Surely every time they commit their vigilantism, they're creating a domestic incident! Don't make me start asking questions about the fundamental nature of masked people doing whatever the fuck they think is justice without the consent of any kind of laws or political powers, comic book! This is too heady for my tastes! I guess the whole point is to eventually have the Justice League backed by the United Nations so that the reader can think, "Okay, right. So they have the authority to do whatever they want now if I'm willing to believe the United Nations has any real authority at all!" And then the reader goes on to prove the moon landing never happened and that Project Cloverleaf rains human excrement down on our heads on a daily basis for some kind of Nazi experimentation.

We Are

Imagine, if you will (because it’s not hard. Just fucking go along with this. Stop being so stubborn), driving through the American Southwest in the 1950s. You’ve got the top down in your huge steel car that steers like a child’s spring-loaded rocking horse and is painted the colors of a football team that hasn’t won a homecoming in twenty years and whose mascot is a fish nobody has ever heard of. Don’t try too hard to figure out what that reference might be because it isn’t a reference. It’s just a colorful turn of phrase to get your imagination going but in a way that isn’t directing it too narrowly. You’re free to imagine your own world, baby!

Dammit. Stop interrupting. Now I need to start again.

Imagine, if you will, driving through the American Southwest in the 1950s with that car and stuff. The stifling wind blows back your hair and tastes slightly of electricity and cancer. You’ve passed through half a dozen small two gas pump towns where old fellas greet you at the pump and their wives greet you inside at the register. Too many stray dogs to count have sniffed at the cuffs of your pants or the hem of your long skirt, depending on what you’ve decided to be wearing in the fantasy. Maybe you’re naked. What do I care?

Are you still imagining? Okay good! You’re getting a bit weary from the road (unless you’re just dizzy from the radiation in the atmosphere) and you see a town up ahead in the distance. It’ll probably have a small motel where you can unwind by masturbating frantically in the shower as you wash the dirt of the road and the gamma rays of the air from your tangled hair. But what you don’t know is that this town hides a secret. You might be too self-involved when you arrive to notice how the people are different from other communities. Like antelope at a watering hole, they glance furtively about them without even realizing they’re doing it. They’re kinder than the people you’ve met previously who have been far kinder than the people you left behind in the big city you’re imagining you came from. If you imagined you’re from a smaller place, fix that! That’s a part of the fantasy that you don’t get to control.

You pull into the motel parking lot (The Setting Sun Inn) and laugh audibly. Not the kind of laugh you’d emit upon hearing a neighbor’s anecdote about somebody at work making a huge fool of themselves but a kind of relieved chuckle. So many motels along this stretch have entered the atomic age by cutely referencing the testing of nuclear weapons that it’s a slight comfort to be staying in one that decided to keep the old fashioned charm of a name that represents the end of a long, weary day and the promise of a restful night’s sleep. Of course you only feel that way because you don’t yet know this town’s secret.

Perhaps you get lucky and your rest is fulfilling and peaceful. You wake, masturbate again, grab a quick breakfast at the diner across the parking lot (Also The Setting Sun but a Diner instead of an Inn. You might remember later how you thought it should be The Rising Sun Diner as you strode across the already too hot asphalt on your way in to grab some hash browns and gravy), and drive out of town without ever learning why the town was different from any other town you’ve driven through on your journey. You eventually make it to wherever you were headed for whatever reasons spurred you on to that destiny. Hope for a better life on the West Coast? A chance at romance? Running from the bodies you buried in the crawl space under your neighbor’s house. Who knows! None of that is pertinent to this fantasy.

But in the end, you aren’t lucky. Because if you were lucky, I would end this fantasy and you would be sitting there thinking, “What the fuck was the secret?! The secret, goddammit! What was it?! You can’t end your story like that!” So even though the secret might not be pleasant and most likely will end in the death of the main character (which is you, remember), you can’t bear to not know it. You would sacrifice the safety and happiness of your alternate timeline self simply to satiate your curiosity. What a fucking bastard.

So instead of having a restful sleep, the clerk at the front desk grabs your wrist as she hands you the key to your room. She still smiles at you but there’s an urgency in her grasp and you feel her desperate need to articulate something to this stranger who thinks they’re just passing through. And, again, you might be one of those. But the clerk feels she can’t take that chance. She’s been complicit in the death of too many strangers who weren’t let in on the town’s secret. Her fingernails begin to dig into your wrist and you pull back, maybe a bit too frantically. She’s caught you by surprise and your heart rate skyrockets. For the first time since you’ve entered this town, somebody’s smile falters. Her lips tremble and her eyes go glassy and distant. “Don’t stay,” she croaks in a voice straining to not break into a sob. You almost bolt out of the front office but that curiosity that resides in your actual chest also lives in the chest of your alternate persona in this story. You have to know. What’s going on. Why should you leave? So you ask.


But before the clerk (Ms. Waverly. Her name was Ms. Waverly. The black and gold nameplate near the little bell read Ms. Waverly) can answer, the air around her shimmers. You hear a muffled roar that seems to echo down from above as if you were at the bottom of a deep canyon and somebody was yelling from the top of the cliff’s edge. The air around Ms. Waverly streaks red and black and shimmers like the air over a desert road. A blast of warm air punches your hair back and stings your face. It only takes a second or two but in the end, Ms. Waverly is gone. The shock of the incident keeps you from noticing, at least for a few seconds, an intense pain in your right foot. You were standing back on your left heel and your right foot was still stretched out ahead of you, where you were standing when Ms. Waverly grabbed your wrist. You look down and notice blood gushing out of the front of your shoe. Not the front, exactly, but what is now the front after having lost about an inch of the toe. Your big toe has been sheered in half, and maybe the tips of several others. If you hadn’t fallen back violently when Ms. Waverly grabbed you, what happened to your right foot might have happened to the rest of your body.

You stumble out the door away from the incomprehensibility of whatever the hell that was. You run, limping heavily, toward the diner across the parking lot where two old men sit smoking on a bench outside. Their eyes open wide with fear as you stumble toward them and they do that thing you noticed earlier…that bit where they glance back and forth quickly and tense up, like rabbits having seen the shadow of a hawk. They know you’ve seen it. Their secret. You don’t yet understand it and maybe that’s a good thing. But, once again, you have to know. What just happened in front of your eyes? What took your big toe?

“Ms. Waverly!” you stammer. “She just…she…she’s gone!” One old man stands up and puts an arm on your shoulder.

“Come on, kid,” he says, possibly saying son or daughter, depending on your vision of yourself and how you present yourself to the world. “Take a seat. You’re still here, by God. You’ll be okay.” You slump onto the bench next to the other old timer who nervously chews on the end of an unlit cigar.

“A mighty shame,” he states, unemotionally and with a voice like irradiated gravel blown across the potholed asphalt of a long Southwest road. Your breaths come hard and fast and you feel like passing out. The first man, the one who stood at your approach, kneels down in front of you and begins removing your shoe. He pulls a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wraps it around your bleeding foot. The other man pats your knee and gently takes your hand in his surprisingly smooth grip.

You win the fight to stay conscious because you have to ask: “What was it? What did I see?” The old man tending to your foot looks up at you, makes eye contact, then looks over at his friend. You glance over at his friend and see him biting his lower lip, the cigar now in his free hand. He begins to speak in that voice which reminds you of a motorcycle throttling low.

“Imagine, if you will, an ocean. In that ocean float millions and millions of plankton. What they know, who can say? They’re just little creatures and their entire world is simply drifting en masse towards whatever destiny has in store for them. For what is an inconceivably small fraction of them — inconceivable because whales are so large and eat so many at a time — death awaits. There one moment. Peaceful, tranquil…or whatever the feeling of just being is to a goddamned plankton. And just gone the next. Imperceptible to the others, really. The whale is on a scale so large that the plankton, if they were sentient, couldn’t articulate what was happening. They couldn’t know the scale of the world they lived in. Imagine only knowing a world of plankton. And imagine you’re the plankton at the top of the plankton food chain. What do you have to fear? You eat them little veggie bastards getting their energy from the sun. You have nothing to fear. Except…there’s that thing that happens. That thing where your mates just up and disappear for no reason at all. Just huge swaths of them…gone.”

Your foot is throbbing but your heart has stopped racing. The old man’s story has distracted you from the terrible sight you saw earlier, even as his story offers the explanation for what you saw. He’s telling you the town’s secret the only way he knows how. By parable. Because what you’ve quickly understood from the story is that the people of the town are the plankton who have no concept of what terrible whale engulfs them one at a time. The only evidence? The occasional organic matter that comes slightly too close to the feeding but not close enough to be consumed.

These men have obviously told this story before. They recognize the moment you understand what they’re saying, and they grow quiet. You want to know why they don’t leave. You want to know how they have survived to the age they are. You want to know how they live with this terrible knowledge that their lives aren’t in any way under their own control. But what you don’t want to know is the real secret they have yet to tell you. It’s the secret they keep to themselves, and it’s the secret they won’t pass on to you as you race out of town in the middle of the night. Why burden a stranger passing through with the truth, one of them will say to the other long after you’ve fled. Why let them know that this creature…these creatures, for surely the laws of nature work the same on whatever plane this predator exists on…doesn’t merely hunt in this one small irradiated town in the American Southwest. They feed across the world.

The old man with the cigar pulls another from his shirt pocket as he watches the dust roil around your car as you back out of the parking lot across the way. He hands it to his friend and they light their cigars together as they watch your taillights disappear down the perfectly straight highway that connects their little town to the rest of the world. They inhale deeply and, as they do, they shift their glances quickly to the right and to the left, unconsciously, and constantly, keeping an eye out for some thing they’ll never see.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Justice League #1 (1987)

This is actually a more impressive line-up than I remember.

I'm pretty sure this line-up is a huge scam. I don't remember Doctor Fate interacting too much with this group and I think Shazam bows out fairly quickly. Batman probably does that thing where he acts like he's leader (even if Martian Manhunter actually is) and only helps out every sixth mission. So at that point, the line-up is already decreasing in strength and intimidation factor quickly. Adding Fire, Ice, and Booster Gold later won't really improve the team much. But I'm getting ahead of myself. My impressions from this initial cover were "Wow! Pretty interesting team!" and "What asshole fucking decided on the shit stencil font for the title?" Sorry, I cuss a lot when I'm writing on the Internet and trying to seem like a bad-ass.

The issue begins with Guy Gardner calling the other Green Lanterns jerks and suggesting, to himself, that he should be the Commander-in-Chief of the new Justice League. Some people would read this first page and think, "What an arrogant fucking asshole." But my stomach got all queasy and I giggled a little bit and I muttered quietly under my breath, "I love him."

I'm not saying it isn't composed of some truly ridiculous aspects but Guy still has the best costume in the DC Universe.

I don't love everything about Guy Gardner because most writers at the time didn't truly understand him. They made him a jerk that nobody would like because they were too cold-hearted to see the brain damaged cool guy that he really was. Guy Gardner often needed to be written by somebody who loved the character; it would have done him a world of good. He could still have been that abrasive jerk. But written deftly, those who actually cared to take the time would see his true self. Sure, that would also be an abrasive jerk! But a little bit more likable!

Stallone was pretty sensitive in a few scenes in Rocky IV!

Black Canary is second to arrive, after which Mister Miracle and Oberon show up. I never quite understood how Oberon fit into the Justice League. Wasn't he like an agent or a manager? Did Batman and Martian Manhunter need Oberon to sign off on every mission or else Scott Free would have to remain behind? I bet he was included just so Giffen and DeMatteis could make dwarf jokes.

Why would Guy choose Sneezy?! Oberon's breathing has been impeccable since he arrived!

Normally after some kind of cynical prediction about the comic book that immediately is proved true, I'd write, "Grandmaster Comic Book Reader!" But it doesn't feel right to say it in this case. I mean, Oberon is present for four panels before he becomes the butt of a joke based on his diminutive nature. And by Guy Gardner, no less! Is this why I loved him so much at sixteen?! What a terrible and typical sixteen year old white heterosexual male I was!

Black Canary (whose costume I'm just now noticing is really fucking weird) responds to Guy's awful behavior by saying, "Dozens of GLs around and we get 'Rambo' with a ring!" That's unfair to Rambo! I'm also unsure who in this story (including the writers of this story) have actually seen First Blood. Gardner is more like the authority mad Sheriff Teasle than the sensitive green beret John Rambo! Rambo should be admired as a hero, battling back against corrupt cops who think they have the right to use as much force as they want for any stupid fucking reason! It's possible they were talking about the Rambo from the second film who gets to kill more than one person because the people he's killing are Russians and Vietnamese. He does get a bit murder crazy in the second film. Or maybe they're talking about Rambo from the third film which wasn't actually out yet so I don't have to read up on it.

Next to arrive are Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, and Martian Manhunter. Martian Manhunter proves to be a buzzkill, reminding everybody how the old series ended in total death and disaster.

His view of the media is pretty spot on though.

J'onn calls up the files of Steel, Gypsy, Vixen, and Vibe before purging them completely from the Justice League computer. That's probably a good idea, like deleting old joke tweets on Twitter that were a bit racist and also boring.

Meanwhile Maxwell Lord IV watches from a distance, doing that Ozymandias thing where you watch dozens of televisions at once. I think it proves you're a genius whose done the research and contemplated all sides of an issue before making up your totally rational and logical mind about any issue. As opposed to us losers who simply use compassion and empathy to almost immediately understand the correct and most ethical path to take. Maxwell Lord IV watches all of this television and decides the correct course to take is to leave the "America" off of the Justice League of America this time. Oh, and also the "of".

Maybe this is why I liked Guy so much: because he knew the saying was "you've got another think coming." Look, I'm going to be desperately finding good reasons to have liked Guy Gardner so much when Giffen and DeMatteis are this determined to make him a huge and unlikable jerk.

Look, I was fifteen! Hardly the best time in a young man's life for qualities like compassion and empathy and fashion sense and hair styles! I'm also fairly certain it wasn't this comic book that made me like him so much. I'm pretty sure he gets knocked out by Batman with one punch before the year is over and I remember loving that scene. So I probably despised him like a good reader of Justice League was supposed to do. Hopefully he'll have some character moments during this series that will show why I wound up liking him so much as a character. Right now, he's just a complete and utter asshole.

The five panels following the one I just scanned consist of Guy once again calling Oberon "Sneezy" and then suggesting Black Canary is going to want to fuck him soon enough. Martian Manhunter tries to break it up and just winds up part of the chaos.

Okay, I'm starting to get why I might have liked him at fifteen, even after the first few pages. To a sixteen year old white male, mocking Martian Manhunter with a "Ho-ho-ho" trumps ableism, sexism, and, with this attack on J'onn for his inherent physical Martianness, almost certainly racism as well.

Guy continues to play the role of Squeaky Wheel for another page or two. I suppose if you want more on-panel time than the other heroes, you've got to be a raging asshole. I can't say I'm not entertained by it!

Captain Marvel earns a little of my love with this line as well. No shame in drinking warm milk at night!

This is only nine pages into the first issue and Guy has completely derailed the formation of the new Justice League. Was this blasphemy to previous fans of the Justice League where the team may have had some minor squabbles about various things and Batman would quit every six issues but mostly they didn't break out into brawls whenever they got together? Or were internal struggles and arguments a regular plot point? I have no idea because the only Justice League comics I read previous to this title were the terrible months where everything was breaking down and then Steel betrayed them and Vibe was killed off and Martian Manhunter felt like a huge failure. Although was Aquaman leading the team at the time? I dislike Aquaman so much, I'm just going to believe he was leading the team and that's why everything completely fell apart. He sucks.

Once per day, I think about that lousy meme trying to prove Aquaman wasn't useless by using the image from New 52 Justice League where he controls a bunch of great whites to breach and kill a bunch of parademons and I hate everybody who actually thought that was a cool moment.

Batman and Doctor Fate arrive in the middle of the Justice League brawl (which even Martian Manhunter, the only adult in the room, is taken part in) and shuts shit down The Batman way.

I guess heroes are also a cowardly lot.

Meanwhile, Doctor Light winds up being held hostage with the rest of the United Nations by some white terrorists. I felt I needed to say they were white because a lot of racist assholes can only envision terrorists one way. Also, I should always describe people as white when they're white since I don't want to be an accomplice to maintaining a world where we assume a person mentioned is white, male, and heterosexual unless they're described more fully.

Doctor Light was given a Justice League emergency beeper by a mysterious figure some time previously. This isn't revealed but I just read Justice League Spectacular #1 so I know Maxwell Lord gave her the device so that she could alert the Justice League when the United Nations was taken hostage by terrorists that Maxwell Lord IV paid. It's all about getting some early press!

There's an advert for the new Flash which I'm surprised I didn't pick up since the advert shows him having some kind of accident in a sperm bank.

Ew Flash is right!

The Justice League head over to stop the terrorist attack. At some point, Doctor Fate disappears to go do something else and I think he never comes back? Is that why I barely remember him as a part of this league? Was he just there to look cool on the cover and fool all the lovers of DC magic users?

The League storms the UN, murdering several terrorists.

Look. Manhunter either phased their heads into the solid ceiling or he smashed their skulls straight through the roof. Either way, I don't see a high percentage chance of their survival.

The Justice League capture all the terrorists and then Batman has the building evacuated, leaving just the leader of the terrorists alone in the United Nations building threatening to kill himself so that the bomb attached to his heart would detonate and kill them all. He does kill himself but the bomb doesn't detonate. And the thing is, Batman realized during the mission that the bomb was almost certainly a bluff. So he left the man alone to kill himself. Later we discover the man had a history of mental illness. So this, to Batman, is justice? Batman almost certainly realized the man was being manipulated and that he'd definitely kill himself to blow the bomb and Batman let the man do it. Batman is a fucking monster.

After the event, the media points out that the terrorists were mostly composed of 60s radical groups like the Weathermen and the Black Panthers. Which is odd because there wasn't one black terrorist in the bunch.

The issue ends with Max Lord talking to himself and admitting to being the one who staged the terrorist attack. He also knew the leader was unstable enough to kill himself for the cause and he sent him in with a bomb that definitely wouldn't blow. So he's a fucking monster as well. And Martian Manhunter is a monster, not because he's a weirdo martian, but because he basically popped the heads on a few of the terrorists. No way will I believe those guys hanging from the ceiling by their necks survived!

All in all, Guy Gardner is starting to look like a rational member of this group!

Justice League #1 Rating: B+. A better than average start to the new Justice League, building some intrigue and conflict right from the start. Who is Max Lord? What are his plans for the Justice League? Why is he acting like it's his group? Will Doctor Fate ever return? Will Oberon poison Guy Gardner? Will Black Canary and Doctor Light become best friends because they're the only women in the League? Will Guy Gardner and Batman ever come to blows? I can answer that! They will not! They'll just come to blow. One punch by Batman. And that one punch causes some severe psychological trauma to Gardner and nobody thinks he should get medical help simply because he starts acting nicer. They're all fucking monsters!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Cerebus #13 (1979)

This cover reminds me of at least three different nights in college.

One time in college, a drunk friend of mine fell UP the stairs and injured himself. One time in college, a guy down the hall invited me to drink with him and he was telling me about all the dead cockroaches he found under his dresser when he suddenly just vomited all over the front of his shirt. One time in college, I snuck into the top level of a factory in Los Banos which was really just a bunch of creaky catwalks in the dark and I stole their fire extinguisher (I did not go to college in Los Banos. Do they even have a college?!). One time in college, a girl in my Steinbeck class told me all about this cartoon she was watching called Sailor Moon and I desperately fell in love with her (and I also started watching the cartoon and super fell in love with that). One time in college, my friend Soy Rakelson looked at me confused after leaving our Lit Theory class and he blurted out, "Why doesn't he just tell us what is true?!" One time in college, my teacher wrote on one of my homework assignments "Please speak up in class more!" because it was a humanities course focusing on American History, Art, and Literature and all the dolts who did speak up in class were business majors and idiots. One time in college,, you know what. I'm not telling that story. Never mind. One time in college, I went with a friend to a meeting where they were starting a new fraternity and everybody who was starting it automatically was in but my friend just missed that cut off and when they held the vote, he didn't make the cut. He left hurt and angry and pleaded with me to stay after he left to maybe find out more information about why he didn't make it. When they asked me if I were interested in joining, I laughed and said, "Fuck that," and left. One time in college, I had to describe my Halloween costume to my creative writing teacher because she was blind (I was Alice Cooper in Wonderland). That same day in college, my Children's Lit professor just laughed when she saw me and said, "Great costume." I wish I had a picture of it. Basically I wore the Alice blue dress and smock deal and Alice Cooper's make-up while carrying the decapitated and bloody head of the white rabbit. One time in college, I got wasted on Long Island Iced Teas at the Portland Rose Festival with my thirty-something year old coworker and we wound up running around the deck of a battleship when one of the Navy guys invited us on. One time in college, I sat next to my lesbian professor of 19th Century American Literature at the movies where we laughed and joked the whole way through Demi Moore's The Scarlet Letter. One time in college, I read my version of a scene from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest in the style of Shakespeare and everybody after felt too intimidated to read theirs.

Man, some of these stories are really sad! And I've purposefully left out the thousand or so stories that would have begun "One time in college during our Warhammer campaign...".

Look, I really agonized about the punctuation at the end of that sentence but it wouldn't have been true to the punctuation's job performance to put all four periods within the quotes!

I just realized I forgot to discuss the Aardvark Comments at the end of the last issue. It seems the expansion to two pages has stuck. The only part I remember was Dave Sim explaining that because of his nervous breakdown, he actually spent four days in a psyche ward. So I guess he went way past just shitting himself.

Dave's Swords of Cerebus essay reveals one important fact: Necross the Mad was based on Exidor from Mork & Mindy.

The issue begins with a bird shitting on Cerebus' snout. That's a portent I should use more often in my roller playing campaigns. Roller Playing Games should also have a simple rage statistic. Sort of like a saving throw but it gets harder and harder to save against every time some minor annoyance aggravates the player until they simply explode, becoming so careless from rage that it reflects in all of their dice roles. Or is that simply what going berserk is for Berserkers or Barbarians? Plus, there are so many Roller Playing Games, I'm sure one of them uses those rules in their system.

Cerebus is captured by some farmers and taken to a Priest of Tarim to determine what sort of sorcerous monstrosity he is.

Cerebus pleads future violence.

The priest decides to dump Cerebus in the foyer of the castle of Necross the Mad, a sorcerer who has been plaguing the villagers of Lower Felda. His plan is that they'll simply kill each other and he won't have to deal with them anymore. Praise Tarim!

Sometimes I wish I had become a priest but I don't think I would have made it through Divinity School. I'm fairly certain everybody would frown on my constantly yelling "Pshaw!" after every few passages from The Bible.

I probably don't have to admit this because nobody was around to witness it but I just hopped up to turn on the light and then danced around humming the theme song from I Dream of Jeannie.

One time in college, I went to see Ken Kesey speak after which he and his (new?) Merry Pranksters performed a sort of The Wizard of Oz play but about climate change. It was such a train wreck that halfway through, my friend Aaron Voorhees streaked across the stage. Or kind of duck waddled across the stage since he didn't take his pants off, he just dropped them around his ankles.

The priest of Tarim has a lackey take Cerebus into the lair of Necross and it doesn't go too well.

Yikes. I'm more evil than this guy.

Sometimes I run outside in the morning to throw out garbage or something and I won't put my pants on. I figure it doesn't matter too much because I wear boxers and those are pretty much shorts. But today in the early morning hours, I was outside with my cat Gravy (on a leash) and I was up on the little hill in the backyard under the tree which enables me to see over all the backyard fences and two houses down, I caught sight of the woman there running back inside in her red panties. It was pretty awesome. I told that story because this guy's confession of looking down women's dresses reminded me of the moment and also because I wanted to tell people that I saw a woman in her underwear.

This guy also confesses to having "impure thoughts about farm animals" which I totally have never done except in a rhetorical or theoretical or maybe even philosophical conversation. What I mean is I've never thought "I wonder what it would be like to fuck a goat?" but I have said to friends "You would probably fuck a goat, right?"

Necross the Mad materializes so that he can speak with Cerebus (after disintegrating the guy who wants to fuck goats or sheep or chickens). Necross, being mad, decides to prove to Cerebus that he isn't mad. But his proof that he isn't mad is just more evidence that he is. That's what happens when you're mad; you're not the best advocate for yourself.

Necross introduces Cerebus to Thrunk, a sixteen foot tall stone golem which Necross intends to bring to life at some point. That some point is soon and not in the way Necross intended because in a few pages, Necross is going to be killed and do an emergency transfer of his spirit into Thrunk.

Okay, less of an emergency transfer and more like an accident.

The priest's mob rushes into the tower where Thrunk begins to smash them all into jelly. While that's happening, Cerebus decides it's time to leave. As he wanders away to more sane territories, Necross the Mad realizes he's trapped in the only reinforced room of his tower. But if you think that's the end of Thrunk, you haven't read Church & State yet!

Aardvark Comments just proves that a lot of people were discovering that Cerebus was one of the best comics on the market in 1979. Reading the Cerebus phone book in one sitting never allowed me to realize just how quickly this comic book finds itself and begins gaining momentum. It's truly inspired that Dave Sim, by issue thirteen, has created so many wonderful characters and written so many gags that stuck for decades inside my head. And I'm not a quote person at all! I'm more the type who thinks saying something new and unique and true to myself is dozens of times better than puking out some pop culture reference that everybody will recognize. Sure, I do it sometimes! But when I do, I do it all M. Night Shyamacock style!

Cerebus #13 Rating: B+. I've given a lot of issues A grades so I thought I would change it up. This one is actually probably an A as well. I especially loved how Thrunk complains about the bottoms of his feet being sticky after stomping all of the farmers to death. We all how annoying that is, right?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Justice League Spectacular #1 (1992)

Just off-panel: Bibbo's ice cream truck.

I probably shouldn't be reading this or Justice League Quarterly before I read the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League but what can I do? That's the order they were placed in the short box! It would be a different story if free will were not an illusion but since it is, my hands are tied. It's either read this or, um, I don't know. Die from a temporal paradox? I won't risk it!

I was looking through a bunch of my old writing and art last week and discovered a bunch of the kind of sentimental and sort of intellectual crap young people write. It's the kind of stuff you hide away and never show anybody ever and hope that when you die, it'll just get tossed in a dumpster with your old porn and Magic the Gathering cards. But it got me thinking about how brave I am! So brave! The kind of brave you wouldn't hesitate to call some jerk who signed up for the military because he couldn't live as a civilian. No, no. More braver than that! And being this super brave kind of person, I thought that maybe I should share some of this old poetry with everybody!

But not yet! You have to work up to being truly brave! So instead, I'll share this piece of artwork I did that was supposed to be the first in a lengthy and disgusting series. It's of Lord Fondlerot, a character I created for the Dwarflover online comic I used to do. He was really into fucking things and I thought, "Hey! I should do a series of drawings where he fucks every creature in the monster manual!" But instead of doing an entire series, I drew one picture and grew either bored or disgusted with the concept. So here's that one picture:

Lord Fondlerot fucking an Axebeak.

Now you're probably wondering just how terrible my poetry must be if I'm opening with that! Well, you'll see soon enough!

This issue begins with Sue Dibny still alive and visiting a Florida theme park with her husband, The Elasticated Man. Wow, remember when Sue Dibny was killed and all the heroes freaked out about their secret identities and considered doing intense brain damage to every single person who ever knew any of their identities until they found out that The Atom's ex-wife Jean Loring had gone cuckoo for Atom's cocoa puffs? She wanted them back so bad that she began threatening and murdering the loved ones of all the super heroes. It was the kind of story DC sometimes does where you read it and think, "Well, the twist at the end of that mystery was definitely worth the destruction of the most stable marriage in the DC Universe and also the death of Firestorm and Captain Boomerang! So good!" I mean it doesn't make you think that. It makes you think the exact opposite. Tom King would eventually do pretty much the same thing in Heroes in Crisis but instead of Jean Loring fucking up by accidentally killing Sue Dibny and murdering more people to cover her tracks, Wally West fucks up and kills Poison Ivy and some others and then tries to cover his tracks. But at least Tom King's had all of those entertaining scenes where the heroes are doing therapy and we get to see how much they're all suffering from PTSD. That's always a fun aspect of super heroes we never get to read enough about.

Dammit! I keep doing it. I meant it was the opposite of fun! Although I still liked it because sometimes I just like seeing other people in pain. Not in a sick perverse way where I pop a boner or something! Just in that way where you sit around all day thinking, "My life is terrible and everything is wrong and I hate my parents for bringing me into this wretched existence and the only thing that might make me feel better is to learn that Superman sometimes feels the same way."

Oh, remember when Tom King was writing Batman and he had that two issue Booster Gold arc where we got to see how fucking insane Booster Gold was from living through all of those horrible, wretched, dark alternate timelines? And the only way he can deal with the trauma and the PTSD is by making a joke out of everything? I'll have to think of that as the canon Booster Gold when I'm reading Giffen and DeMatteis's Justice League. Maybe it'll make all of Booster and Beetle's inappropriate joking more appropriate.

Back to the story, Sue Dibny, alive and well, and her husband Ralph "The Elasticated Man" Dibny are busy showing a bunch of European diplomats around the non-Disney World theme park.

See? You can tell they're European because they're all smart and shit.

The first stop in the park is to Alice's Wonderland where the diplomats are attacked by the Royal Flush Gang. They are a gang whose theme is playing cards and not expensive toilets. Their powers are the ability to ride on gigantic cards and to make poker puns.

If looking good in tight fitting costumes is also a power, it's my new answer to the question of which super power would I choose..

Ten's outfit reminds me of the days when nipples were allowed to show through tops without being erased away through some kind of editing software. The 70s were a wild decade! Sure, there were also nips on television in the 80s but the 80s, generally speaking, sucked and were a huge contribution to the downfall of America.

The King of Spades mansplaining their entire concept to the Queen of Spades.

It's true that the royal flush beats any other poker hand but I doubt Superman is going to surrender after this concept is explained to him because, in the end, they're not fucking playing poker.

It turns out Maxwell Lord paid the Royal Flush Gang to make a little trouble so the Justice League could beat them up and get some media attention. But the Justice League has apparently broken up and The Elasticated Man just isn't hero enough to save the European delegates all by himself. He might have been if the Royal Flush Gang had done what they were told and not really fight back. But why would they do that?! Wouldn't they still be in trouble with federal agents?!

Booster Gold finds Blue Beetle busy pouting in the old Justice League cave headquarters. Booster has decided to try to cheer his old buddy up although why wouldn't Booster just travel to a timeline where Ted Kord is already cheered up? Is that how time travel works in the DCU? Or did Booster already try that, it went horribly sideways, and now he's a little more fucked up in the head when he returns to the "real" timeline?

For some reason, Ice and Fire have also come down to the cave. Probably to accidentally go on a double date with Booster and Beetle.

Booster and Fire and Beetle and Ice hear a news report about the Royal Flush Gang and decide to go save Ralph. Superman also hears about the situation and heads to Florida where he's almost immediately defeated by The Royal Flush Gang. Not because they're dangerous and competent super villains but because some mysterious benefactor has give them weapons capable of knocking out Superman's powers. Maxwell Lord is not that benefactor so who could have done it? Certainly not Guy Gardner, right?! What would he want with getting the Justice League back together. Isn't he busy being Warrior or something by this point?

Power Girl, Metamorpho, and Guy Gardner all join in on the fight. The guy behind it all is that Weapons Master dude who is desperate to get a new weapon for his arsenal: a Green Lantern ring. The attack on the Royal Flush Gang fails to get him the ring so he decides to attack directly. But not in this issue! He has to wait for a regular series issue.

Ice uses Guy's ring to contact Hal Jordan because somebody finally decided this Justice League wasn't really a big league Justice League. Everybody reading it knew it for years. But I guess Dan Jurgens was assigned the task to get a new, more believably powerful League together. So Hal Jordan flies around to pick up some new members to save the day. He chooses The Flash and Aquaman which seems about right. But he also chooses Crimson Fox which seems like sliding backwards into goofy Justice League territory. Not that I totally approve of Aquaman but I have to admit he's a "serious" choice for the League.

Doctor Light also joins the party. Although why she'd keep the name of a pedo, I couldn't guess. Just become Lightwoman or something. But no! Once some jerk earns their doctorate, they just have to demand to be called Doctor.

I'm sorry. I was too distracted pointing out that Doctor Light joined the fight and how her namesake was a pervert to comment on Metamorpho acting like a huge fucking pig.

Crimson Fox beats up some guys dressed as cards and admits that she's a boring idiot whose favorite part of the game is shuffling the cards. I understand the need to think up some kind of goofy one-liner when you go into battle but shouldn't you at least try to think up one that doesn't make yourself sound like a pathetic asshole?

Weapons Master's plan failed but he figures he has enough information to get Green Lantern's ring next time. He'll then sell it to a Dominator for a few bucks and maybe some slaves.

The big hitters talk it over and decide they should start a new Justice League without the approval of the United Nations. Yeah! Who needs some stupid Earthly authority when you've got an invulnerable Kryptonian, an all powerful space cop, and the king of the seven seas! All they need is a Greek Goddess and a mentally ill furry with a long history of violent behavior and they'll have the big team back together! Booyah! I mean, without that stupid Booyah shit because Cyborg is basically a toaster at this point. Maybe. I don't know! What am I, Johnni DC, Continuity Cop?!

The heroes make one more decision: split the group into two Leagues. So once again, they're forming Justice League America and Justice League Europe. How come I don't remember this shit?! Did the comics get canceled in '92 and then immediately fired back up? I don't seem to remember two different incarnations of these teams. Maybe I should have stored my comic books in chronological order so it would all make sense.

Justice League Spectacular #1 Rating: C. I just read the letters pages and it looks like this comic book takes place between JLA #60 and JLA #61! So editorial decided the teams needed to be shaken up and the best way to do it was to disband the League in the regular series, have a special one-shot comic that gets them back together but with a different roster, and then send them back to work in the next issue of the regular series. I guess I should just shove this comic book into the middle of the regular series so when I reread it all again in my 80s, it'll make more sense! Let's close with the worst drawing of Aquaman I've ever seen:

Actually, he looks a little bit like Grunion Guy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Cerebus #12 (1979)

Is this the one where Rayek challenges Cerebus to cross the Bridge of Destiny?

I just dug up a bunch of my old poetry from my late teens and early twenties and most of it is about what you would expect from somebody that age except if they were pretty good at poetry. I'm currently not going to post any of it because I don't want teenagers reading what I wrote as a teen and being disheartened by the quality of their own lines. Also you're probably reading this for all of the insightful things I'll say about Cerebus. Or maybe you clicked on a link to read something insightful, saw that my caption confused this comic with Elfquest, called me the R-slur, and clicked away before you could find out I was just being silly.

Why didn't Dave Sim ever license Cerebus as a sugary cereal?

Deni mentions that Dave has a nervous breakdown between issues eleven and twelve. What that entails, I have no clue. I don't really know what constitutes a nervous breakdown. It probably means he shit himself multiple times in the space of a month. I wouldn't want to suggest shitting yourself only once or twice in the space of a month would constitute a nervous breakdown. That could probably just mean you had a wild month full of illicit indulgences. I've never even come close to a nervous breakdown, as far as I can tell, because I've never shit myself. Weird how you can not know the definition of a thing at the beginning of a paragraph and then make up your own definition of it and then accept your made up definition as normal by the end of the same paragraph!

Actually, I have shit myself. But it was while I was sleeping and because I was having a night terror. Also I was almost certainly no older than ten which, I believe, is an age which precludes anybody from making fun of me for it. The night terror might not seem like much of a night terror when I explain it but that's because you didn't experience it. I was dreaming that I was making my bed but I couldn't quite get it made and I was under a time restraint and things were really ramping up to a climactic end because I just couldn't get it done! Also the background in the dream was psychedelic, like the multi-colored shapes around the POWS! and BANGS! in the old Batman television show. I woke up in a cold sweat with my pajama bottoms full of shit. It was not pleasant.

I should stop trying to be more honest on the Internet. Especially since nobody is really going to know me unless I really open up about all of my deep, dark secrets that make me super interesting because I've mentioned I have them and that they shall remain a mystery. Ooh! What could they be?!

Dave Sim doesn't mention his nervous breakdown in the Swords of Cerebus essay. He just mentions that Batman and Robin, having had their parents murdered tragically, made for a funny story. Perfect fodder for parody in Cerebus!

Cerebus has found himself in Beduin refusing to forget all of the Cockroach's gold. He was so close to being filthy rich that he couldn't quite yet go back to being not filthy rich. There was surely still a way to get all of that gold and keep it and not to lose it in a river at the end of this issue at all! And if anybody could do it, it would not be Cerebus! But he was still going to try!

This conversation isn't just a contrived story plot. Cerebus has been drunk at this bar for two weeks. That surely makes his hearing this news more realistic, right?

Cerebus makes his way to the Cockroach's apartment only to discover the gold is missing. But there's a tunnel where the gold was and it leads to the Cockroach's cell which is full of the Cockroach and gold. The Cockroach demands Cerebus explain why he's entered the Cockroach Cave and Cerebus decides to mirror the Cockroach's origin story. He claims his parents were murdered and that he was an orphan.

It's not just that Dave Sim is funny; he's adept at crafting really terrific gags.

Cerebus and the Cockroach load up Cerebus' boat with the gold and then the Cockroach takes off with it as Cerebus is fetching the last bag. If Cerebus doesn't learn to stab every weird character immediately upon meeting them from here on out, I don't think he's paying attention to his own life. And then when Cerebus gets back in the boat and Elrod appears (after having told Cockroach that Elrod was after his gold), Cerebus learns the lesson about immediately murdering people twice over in this one adventure!

Before Cockroach can murder Elrod, Elrod starts with the small talk.

Such a delightfully accurate description of The Batman.

Dave Sim's dialogue is so smooth and natural and funny, I imagine he spent a lot of time cackling at his own jokes while trying to draw this comic book. Elrod responding to the Cockroach's hissing with "If I were you, I'd see someone about that slow leak, son," would have caused me to stop writing for the entire day as I patted myself on the back and kept repeating it to myself and chuckling at my own grand wit.

The guards interrupt the battle between the Cockroach and Elrod causing Cerebus to have to get involved because he's the only character that can purposefully succeed in battle. Elrod and Cockroach would have been okay but they would have had to accidentally survive the situation off-panel in a way that causes the reader to think, "How the hell did that jerk get out of that predicament Cerebus left him or her in?"

Cerebus knocks out Cockroach, threatens Elrod, and then leaves with his boat full of gold. His plan is to buy a tavern outside Beduin if his boat full of gold doesn't wind up sinking. But it does so he'll have to wait another two hundred or so issues before he winds up running a tavern and hanging with his mates.

As Cerebus rides a piece of the broken boat down the river, his gold lost under the water, he reflects on the events of the day which happened to be his 27th birthday. I don't know if that's supposed to mean anything. Was Dave 27 at the time? Was it just a bit Dave thought would emotionally cap the end of the story? Maybe it was just an easy way to put a period on the tale. Hell, if I can't even understand why this stupid comic book ends this way, why am I even bothering to try to understand Gravity's Rainbow?!

Cerebus #12 Rating: A. Some really solid gags in this thing and a decent heist story to boot. Each issue of Cerebus is like a well-crafted song on a record album. I'm always less amazed that somebody can write a catchy, hit song that's absolutely brand new than I am by the fact that they can come up with ten to twelve little mini-stories for the album. And that's basically what Sim has done up to this point. Twelve solid stories that ... oh! That's probably why it was Cerebus' 27th birthday! It's been one full year of Cerebus stories! Ha ha! Watch out now, Gravity's Rainbow! I'm figuring shit out!