Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Justice League #6 (1987)

Unless Captain Marvel lights that boulder on fire, his plan isn't going to work.

The Gray Man continues his attack on language by modifying every noun with the word gray. I'm surprised at how depressed I got just reading that word over and over and over. I was weeping and rending my garments screaming, "Just spell it with an 'e' one time! JUST ONE TIME!" But he never did because he's The Gray Man and not The Grey Man. I don't even know what the fucking difference is. I'm pretty sure if you search my blog, I just switch back and forth between spellings, even in the exact same sentence. But I won't do that here because he's The Fucking Gray Man With an A! Get it?!

That joke was just for Doom Bunny who doesn't even read my blog anymore so now nobody gets it at all. I'm so depressed!

Know what's even more depressing? The Gray Man is an old man wearing a turtle neck who's full of rage from being forced to sit and watch life go by without any laughter. If this comic book wasn't written in 1987, I'd swear it was an analogy about Fox News viewers.

Just try to tell me that your first thought wasn't, "That dude's been watching too much Fox."

Quite a few years ago, I met up with an old friend of mine whom I met when we were like ten or something. We met in Los Angeles where he was getting yet another surgery on his eyes after having his eyelids burned off due to a roadside bomb in Iraq. After that happened, he not only found God but Fox News as well. I blame the trauma from the explosion and the survivor's guilt from being the only survivor and the fact that Christians and Conservatives constantly virtue signal their love of the military. So he found his new tribe. Anyway, we had adjoining rooms at the hotel and I was watching Comedy Central and laughing my ass off so he wandered in at some point through the shared door and said, "What the hell are you laughing at? I'm just in there watching Fox News." And that, for me, was sadder than the fact that my friend had been blown up in a bullshit war and traumatized for life. It was salt in the wounds. I mean, why the fuck would you choose to watch Fox News when on that same device that plays that fucked up shit are channels where you can enjoy cartoons and humor and old fucking game shows?! WHO CHOOSES THAT SHIT?!

Maybe The Gray Man is both a victim of Fox News and Fox News itself because his power is to create duplicates of himself that go out into the public and steal the hopes and dreams of everybody they encounter. He manages to do it to one entire town and also to everybody on the Justice League. But Doctor Fate teleports them outside of space and time when The Gray Man is distracted. The only two who get away are Captain Marvel and Martian Manhunter because they were smashing rocks over each other's heads instead of trying to stop The Gray Man.

I suppose The Gray Man was probably meant to represent something other than Fox News since Fox News didn't exist yet. But what he was meant to represent is pretty much what Fox News has done to its audience. Life has lost all joy for The Gray Man. He's exiled to the sidelines, powerless, useless. All he can do is watch and get angry as other people go about their lives enjoying things that he can't enjoy. He can't enjoy them because he's been forced by the Lords of Order to remain outside of existence so he can collect dream stuff. Fox viewers can't enjoy themselves because they believe all of Hannity's and Carlson's and Ingraham's lies about liberals and how we're constantly trading babies for blow jobs from Satan and calling guns "cunts" and jerking off on the American flag (in a disrespectful way and not in a loving way like how they do it).

The point I'm trying to make is that Batman failed. Batman left the only two Justice League members with powers outside bashing each other with rocks after he knocked unconscious the one with the most powerful weapon in the universe. I suppose Black Canary could still scream or something but we all understand that that power is shit. Oh, I forgot about Doctor Fate. He can do magic and Batman was lucky he wasn't still enthralled by The Gray Man. Unless Doctor Fate magicked them all to Hell and then I suppose nobody is lucky?

Justice League #6 Rating: C. This comic book wasn't just average it was gray average with a side of grey.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Cerebus #18 (1980)

This is the kind of cover that probably kept me thinking this book was too adult for me and that I should just stick to Groo and Elfquest.

In Dave's Swords of Cerebus essay, he explains how he didn't know what the fuck he was doing when he was writing this story and I'll tell you a secret: it fucking shows. He explains how he wrote one idea but realized that idea wasn't going to work and then wrote some other ideas but they weren't going anywhere and then he went back to the first idea and wrote a small novella which still wasn't going to work so then he tried some other idea but couldn't really get anywhere and pretty soon his week that he plans for writing was over and he just had to start drawing one of the scenes. So he picked one and strung it out and then he needed a new scene and took the Lord Julius epilogue and stick that on page 5 and 6. By that time, he sort of had a new idea with the help of his brother-in-law and even though that new idea was pretty lame, what more could he do?! He doesn't admit that his new story is lame; I think he thinks he really pulled one out at the last minute. But it's really kind of lame.

I get it though! He's written seventeen previous stories (plus some Cerebus stories that appeared in other magazines) and they were all pretty good and working toward building a portrait of Estarcion and Cerebus and some kind of weird aardvark mystery. He was due to slip up some time! I'm just glad he was honest about how the writing part when all wrong and since he couldn't fall behind on the art, he had to just kind of start drawing and hope for the best. I suppose in that regard, the comic wasn't so bad. It told a coherent story that moves Cerebus' plans for the invasion of Palnu ahead and Dave even gets some funny jokes in. But as far as the extended story goes, not much happens? Cerebus and the T'gitans took over Fluroc by murdering everybody in it and then needed more money for troops and they got more money for troops by conning a merchant that came to town. That's it! That's the whole story!

Did we need this story? Probably not! But did we really need any Cerebus story so far? Almost certainly not (with the exception of all the stories that showcased new characters!). But what I really liked about this comic book was the Aardvark Comments section! Things are really getting good finally! It's not just a few nerdy nerds nerding it up for Dave Sim.

I mean, it is some nerdy nerds nerding it up nerdily!

The first letter is what I'm assuming was the introductory or cover letter from Marvel's Jim Shooter when he sent out contracts to prospective employees.

Is this the worst thing Jim Shooter ever wrote? Sadly, it is not.

If you're one of those people who like to describe 95% of everything as "cringe," you'll love Dave Sim's response:

Remember, this was 1980 and "written blackface as hyperbolic response" was probably just something taught in creative writing classes.

Casually whistling past the terrible method of his response the way you simply steer the conversation away from racist tirades every time your grandfather speaks up at Thanksgiving dinner, this feels like the first time Sim really calls out the two big publishers and how they conduct business. It'll become a hallmark of Dave Sim in his crusade for independent publishers. And this sarcastic and also racist response (I can only whistle nonchalantly for so long!) isn't his only response in this Aardvark Comments. But as his first response, I'll assume it's the most closest to how he truly feels about Marvel and DC. In 1980, he's already calling them out on their practice of stealing their employees' intellectual properties. Okay, "stealing." The contract is to make the "stealing" legal so they don't wind up in constant lawsuits and can continue to offer the artists whose creations make them scads of money little to no future compensation on their efforts. Dave Sim could think of no other attack on Marvel than to pretend he's a caricature of a slave. I'm not in disagreement with Dave here and, believe me, in 1980, I almost certainly wouldn't have thought the mintrelesque response was anything but a clever way of making his point. Although I was also 9 in 1980 so I probably would have had to ask an adult why the fuck Dave was writing like that.

But as I said, there's more! The next letter is a bit of a response to Dave's crusade against the Big Two Corporations. And from his peers!

I guessed I missed the comments in Issue #15. I'd better go back and see what the Pinis were talking about.

Here's what Dave said in Issue #15's "Aardvark Comment": "Maybe Marvel can turn its corporate back on you. As they never grow tired of explaining, fan sales make up a very small fraction of their profits. They don't think much of your taste in comics, artists, writers or anything else." It's a little hard to parse this comment being that I don't know what was happening in comic books in 1980 concerning the fans and Marvel but doesn't this sound a lot like the Comicsgate argument of today? That Marvel doesn't give a shit about what its "real fans" want? Anyway, back to the Pini's letter.

The Pinis' letter reads like Elfquest trying to talk Cerebus out of gutting a merchant. I suppose when you point out that artists and writers working for Marvel and DC are idiots for not publishing their work as an independent, I can see how they might get upset with you. I'm sure Richard and Wendy had a number of discussions with Marv Wolfman where Marv would say things like "I'm not dumb! You're dumb!" or "I'm not a piece of property! You are!" or "I'll show you who's a slave to the man! I'll kill Cyborg!" After that, the Pinis were probably all, "You know what? Criticizing work-for-hire in the comic book arts just isn't worth all these Marv Wolfman tantrums. Let's just bite our tongues."

After a couple of letters from some nerd groupies in which Dave laments the target audience of comic books, he responds more in length to the . . . well, wait. Let's first look at his response about his core audience!

I'm offended! I always fix it immediately when a headlight goes out.

I mean, after seventeen issues, "Aardvark Comment" is finally getting interesting! Okay, so now to Sim's actual response to Wendy and Richard Pini.

Dave Sim being serious. Probably.

I'd like to point out the end of this letter in which Dave states fairly plainly the main theme of criticism behind Eee! Tess Ate Chai Tea for nearly a decade: "I just don't happen to think that the system in operation now is the best thing for this medium and that it is not the most conducive way to get the best from the creative talents that exist. Quite the opposite, it seems to encourage half-assed efforts in order to guarantee that you are not surrendering your rights to something of value. And how many of us, Steve Gerber included, could know in advance that our ducks were of any value?" This was as true in 1980 as it is now. It's just that in 1980, it was much harder and a lot more work to retain the rights to your creations through self-publishing. So most comic book writers and artists were doing their best work at DC and Marvel. What other reasonable choice was there? Dave and Deni have discussed multiple times across the last dozen and a half issues how hard self-publishing has been for them. Now imagine a company like Image exists or a place like Kickstarter. Creators now know to save their best ideas for places that will give them full control and full potential earnings on their creations. DC and Marvel can't help but be full of writers doing half-assed jobs with their half-assed ideas and saving their truly monumental and mind-blowing work for Image or another, now more easily accessible independent publishing venture. This was in 1980 and Dave Sim was seeing creators screwed out of future royalties on ideas that wound up making fortunes for the parent companies. Some people accept this as business as usual and would be able to garner no sympathy for a creator stiffed out of royalties. But those people are unimaginative, pitiable, and sad. Something being legal has never in the history of everything been a convincing argument that that something is ethical, moral, or just fucking compassionate.

Hopefully this "Aardvark Comment" begins to stir some serious discussion with Cerebus readers because I'm eager to read a lot more of Dave's thoughts about comic book publishing and fandom. Eventually there won't be a whole lot of separation between the comic book and the letters page. I mean, when the author inserts himself into the story as both some sort of omniscient being and also another fictionalized author, it gets hard to separate what you believe from the ideas expressed within the story.

Cerebus #18 Rating: B-. That rating was for the lackluster story! The "Aardvark Comment" page gets an A! Oh, and I forgot to mention "The Single Page!" Imagine my surprise when I turned the page and saw this:

Tim Kreider in 1989! (Remember, this is from the 1989 Bi-weekly reprints of the 1980 Cerebus #18.)

You can just see Tim's eventual style in these early characters. The main male character is basically a baby-faced version and immature style of his eventual renditions of himself.

This is from Tim Kreider's book of essays and cartoons, We Learn Nothing.

I can't recommend Tim Kreider's essays and cartoons highly enough. Read his books, We Learn Nothing and I Wrote This Book Because I Love You and maybe search the Internet for a cache of his old cartooning website. You probably won't be disappointed. I say probably because I've learned that a lot of people on the Internet aren't exactly like me like I expect you all to be. Idiots.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Justice League #5 (1987)

This cover sets up the one-punch punchline.

This is the only issue of Justice League that anybody remembers. When people bring it up, they say, "Do you remember that time Batman knocked out Guy Gardner with one punch?" And then the other person says, "Oh yeah! That was hilarious! Batman committing violence against his teammates was a hoot!" Then they would stand awkwardly in silence trying to think up another funny plot point in the run of this series, avoid eye contact, shrug, and wander away without another word. Because does anybody remember what the actual plot of this issue was? If you say "Yes," I will call you a liar simply because I don't want to believe that people exist who can actually remember the early years of their life. Also I refuse to understand that this comic book could have been read any time other than 1987.

Here's the plot which some of you might remember once I begin to explain it: a gray man thinks gray thoughts and grays gray grays all over the gray state of Graymont. Doctor Gray receives gray transmissions from gray gray gray gray and grays up gray.

Now do you remember why you didn't remember it?

The Gray Man captures Doctor Fate and sends his Gray Replicants to steal the dreams of everybody in the world. The Justice League computer (which has done most of the tough thinking for the team in all of the previous issues) declares the Justice League has 52 hours to save the world. Whoa! 52! This was totally foreshadowing, right?! Fuck me. Now I'm like one of those assholes who believe in predictive programming! I know, I know! This isn't even close to the same thing as that but I just wanted to point out that people who believe in predictive programming are assholes.

How come Doctor Fate, a Lord of Order, is considered a super hero? Fuck order. Order isn't justice! Order is just sweeping the disgusting shit under the rug and spraying Lysol to cover up the stink of decay! Fuck Doctor Fate! Also, I'm really fucking hating his high-waisted shorts.

This is foreshadowing the time Doctor Fate became a lady.

The Creeper also makes an appearance because his alter ego, Jack Ryder, is busy working up the dumb-dumbs into an anti-super-hero frenzy for the coming Millennium. I call them "dumb-dumbs" because they're the kind of people who watch angry pundits on television and then believe everything they say because it's nice to feel something when you're older even if it is unbridled rage at nonsense. But in reality, I think civilians in the DC Universe have a right to be angry at super heroes because of teams like the Teen Titans who do nothing but battle their fathers while New York gets destroyed in the conflict. I mean, I might be like, "Sure, I understand the collateral damage because otherwise the Earth would have been taken over by cannibalistic singing plants." But I'll never be like, "Oh, I don't mind that all of my stuff and my pet is underneath this rubble because Raven has finally broken free from her father's clutches."

The Justice League winds up in Stone Ridge to save the world and, if they're forced to in order to accomplish that first thing, rescue Doctor Fate. The Creeper joins up with them since they have room for one more while Guy Gardner sleeps off his concussion back at Justice League headquarters. I don't want to point out the minor issue of Batman punching a guy with brain damage into unconsciousness and then leaving him alone except that I just pointed it out and so I guess I did want to point it out? Batman is a dick.

Justice League #5 Rating: A! Look, it gets an A rating because this issue has the only memorable scene in this whole series! Unless that scene where Lobo attacks is as iconic. Or that part where Black Hand interrupts Guy and Ice's date. Goddammit! I'm ruining my own argument by remembering other things that happen later! Fucking brain. This is the last time you betray me, you asshole! Where did I put my trepanning drill?!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cerebus #17 (1980)

Oh! This is the issue where we learn that the toughest motherfuckers in Estarcion are priests!

What is the statute of limitations for stealing from nuns because have I got a story for my memoir!

That's as close to an anecdote as I have for a comic book cover with a priest on it. At least I think that's a Tarimite priest and I think that was an anecdote (albeit a mysterious one!). It's been awhile since I've read Cerebus and I've certainly never seen most of these covers.

You know how you can tell most Christians have never read The Bible? Because they're still Christian. I swear to fucking Christ it's the most ridiculous motherfucking thing I've ever read and I've read the later Xanth novels!

I don't detect any hint of animosity or marital regret in Deni's "A Note from the Publisher." That just means I didn't find anything worth discussing since I'm inherently a 7th grade gossip.

Dave Sim's Swords of Cerebus essay discusses sitcom television and how important it is to keeping everybody's minds diluted to the point of inefficacy. His major point is that it's easy to watch a four hour block of sitcoms without your brain coming up with one thought of its own. Obviously that's the lure of television. But what's not so obvious to most people is that it's not the show or the writing or the sitcom that's keeping you from having your own thoughts about them (although, granted, some aren't worth any thoughts at all). It's the block of time spent sitting and watching them one after the other. If a show offers an intelligent story line commenting on the troubles of our daily lives, the viewer has not time to process what they have just seen. They simply move on to the next show dumped into their viewing trough while whatever they just watched is dumped out the back of the brain to make room for the next character slipping on a banana peel causing Mr. Roper to smile mischievously at the camera because obviously that's what a gay person would do. This way of watching television mindlessly was probably more pertinent to the last century; now we are in full control of everything we watch and have ample time to pause a show or movie and discuss important and relevant bits rather then letting them simply disappear in the flicker of afterimages. Although, we sort of live in a binge culture now and watch entire shows in one sitting so we can move on to the next one. I miss the amount of discussion to be had during the week while waiting for the next episode of Wiseguy or Twin Peaks or Three's Company. Okay, maybe not that last one. What was there to discuss about that show other than why the fuck a landlord had any say in the roommate two women choose to share their apartment with?!

If you read Dave Sim's essay, right now you'd be wondering, "How the fuck did that essay cause you to write those thoughts?!" Look, a digression isn't a digression because it's pertinent to the current narrative! Lay off me!

Oh, I guess this one isn't the one with the bad-ass priest (is that even one? Who can tell anymore? My brain is Swiss porridge); it's the one with the terrible German accents.

Cerebus left Palnu with a horse and eight bags of gold. When this issue begins, it's three weeks later and he's down to just the eight bags of gold. The horse had a minor accident which left Cerebus dragging bags of gold across a landscape turned muddy from torrential rains. To get out of the rain so that this issue doesn't devolve into multiple "Gee, what stinks?!" jokes, Cerebus purchases a hovel from some peasants for four pieces of gold. That's where he's relaxing when the big dumb German guys come knocking on his door.

Cerebus learns that the Germans (or T'gitans or something. I feel like they're not really ever mentioned again. Not like the Hsifans or the Pavrovians) are about to invade Palnu which piques Cerebus' interest because Lord Julius was a huge pain in the ass and it would probably be funny to see his fall from power. Or maybe Cerebus just has ADHD.

The guy on the cover I thought was a priest is some guy named Commander Krull. He's grim and large and dour and he's the kind of guy I thought of as a grown man when I was a kid. I will soon be 49 and I learned years ago that I'll never think of myself as the way I used to picture grown men. That's not a bad thing! I'm just commenting on the delusions that grow within the minds of children. When I was a child, I'm sure I subconsciously categorized every grown man in my life as "Man" or "adult male." I believe there was always a bit of fear that came along with the adults whom I though of as Men. It's probably why I loved old men so much because they were somehow broken through the other side of "Man" and were back to being child-like. If you're confused by my definitions of what I thought a Man was, I'd say it would have been people like Mr. Cunningham or James Evan Sr. or Pa Ingalls or Grizzly Adams or Sgt. Carter from Gomer Pyle or Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins. Men who didn't register as "Men" were Bert from Mary Poppins (hell, just about any character Dick Van Dyke played. He was too playful to be a Man), Jack Tripper, Gene Wilder as anybody, Roddy McDowall as anybody, Lenny & Squiggy. Maybe I was just intimidated by men with broad shoulders?

It's sort of sad that one of the main qualities that made a male figure in my life "manly" was if they intimidated me. And yes, for those of you who actually think about shit I just wrote that you just read, Mr. C scared the bejesus out of me.

This is the face of a man who grew up thinking, "I have to be masculine or I am nothing!"

Just to be clear: I don't give a fucking toss about masculinity. All that nonsense about what makes a man a real man is simply philosophical wanking of the most boring kind. But that doesn't mean you aren't inordinately influenced by that shit while growing up, especially when your father left at two and all of your adult male role models were on television. I may have been intimidated by Mr. C and James Evans Sr and Pa Ingalls but thank fucking Christ for them because I knew at least three adult males cared about me for a small amount of time each week!

Cerebus realizes Krull, disguised as a priest, has snuck out of the town for reinforcements. Cerebus' big plan is to not let that happen! My instincts are to call him a genius even though the plan seems pretty obvious. That's probably because Cerebus is a fictional character and I can lavish praise on him without feeling jealous and petty and upset that nobody is calling me a genius. I mean, why aren't they? Have I not criticized enough comic books to be regarded as a genius? Am I misunderstanding the definition of the word?!

Cerebus uses the priest disguise against Krull. Genius!

Like when he defeated the leader of the Eye of the Pyramid in Palnu, Cerebus uses trickery instead of force to defeat Krull. I mean, both are knocked out by a rock to the head which I suppose is force but Cerebus uses tricks to get the opportunity to smash rocks into their heads.

Having defeated Krull, Cerebus and the T'gitans conquer Fluroc, putting pressure on Lord Julius to raise an army quickly (since his current army is on the Onliu border which is, I suppose, super far away and stuff). I guess next issue Lord Julius and Cerebus go to war! I can't believe I don't remember this story! I mean, I remember the Krull encounter but I'd forgotten it had anything to do with Cerebus waging war against Palnu.

Another excerpt of Michael Loubert's "The Aardvarkian Age" appears this issue. It's as dry as reading an Associated Press rendition of a historical event. I'm not sure why I thought these things would be entertaining when I got to them. Cerebus is funny; why isn't the history of the world of Estarcion?!

Aardvark Comment isn't interesting yet. It's still people praising this little rinky-dink comic book operation for surviving over a year. I can't wait until Dave starts pissing off fans and then arguing with them!

Cerebus #17 Rating: B. This story seemed incomplete. Probably because it's just the first part! But also it seemed anti-climactic or a hodge-podge of semi-related scenes. It was like a sketch show! It had some pretty solid jokes but overall I just kind of felt like I'd have been better off spending the time eating a box of Oreos.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Justice League Annual #1 (1987)

Martian Manhunter has five thousand different super powers compared with the one super power of the rest of the team (Black Canary's sonic scream. The other "super powers" are just technological accessory based).

If this comic book isn't about Martian Manhunter's addiction to Oreo cookies then what am I even doing with my life? The only reason I love Martian Manhunter is that he loves Oreo cookies and I view him as the father I never had. Whenever I had a problem growing up, I would think, "What advice would Martian Manhunter give me?" And that's why I was so fat in Junior High School because the answer was always "Eat more Oreos."

I know Martian Manhunter's eventual addiction is to "Choco's" but fuck Choco's. Fuck them like every other off-brand Oreo cookie. They fucking suck.

Speaking of things that suck, this dick isn't going to suck itself. Now picture me pointing at the comic book because I need to read it. That's how I begin reading all of my comic books. And I say it loudly so the neighbors will think, "Oh boy! That guy next door isn't a nerd at all! Total sex maniac!"

The "Hunting the Manhunter" blurb on this cover reminds me that Millennium is coming up and I think I hated that? No, no. I'm sure I loved it! There are two things I couldn't get enough of in my teen years and comic books was the second one of them.

Kord Industries has bought some property in the middle of Ultra-Nowhere, South America, and some of its employees have gone off to scout the location.

Wasn't that the episode with the shape-changing hottie who loves sucking the salt out of men? You know what I'm talking about. Also she was probably a male monster posing as a female monster. Proof of that theory is that every single episode of the first season of the original Star Trek could also have been the name of a gay bar.

Inside the abandoned research facility, the Kord employees encounter pretty much the same thing Kirk, Spock, and the other one encountered:

Vampire John Travolta! It's possible I'm misremembering the Star Trek episode.

While on monitor duty, Guy Gardner discovers that large groups of people on four different continents seem to be under the control of a single will and Batman asks Martian Manhunter, "Do you think this is League business?" What the fuck else would be, Bat-Turd?! A new Internet fad like planking or the Harlem Shuffle? I mean, it totally could be that except that the Internet doesn't really exist during this story. I mean if you want to be a pedant about it, I suppose the teenage Internet across college campuses. But nobody likes a pedant so just shut the fuck up and live in my reality while you're reading my stupid comic book review. Just take the fucking Red Pill and relax! Except don't do that because the idea of The Matrix Red Pill has been co-opted by the worst of humanity who think they're somehow the most logical and philosophical people on the planet when they're really just awful monsters rationalizing all of their mean desires.

How did people come away from reading this comic book hating Guy Gardner and not also despising Batman?

The Justice League splits up into teams of two to cover the mass hypnosis issues in Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, and Los Angeles. I'm not sure Batman knows how to balance teams because he sends Doctor Fate and Martian Manhunter together while leaving Mister Miracle with Blue Beetle. Here are my teams: Guy Gardner with Blue Beetle because Blue Beetle is effectively worthless and Guy Gardner has the most powerful weapon in the universe. Batman would go with Black Canary because her sonic scream is sort of like a bat's echo location. Martian Manhunter would go with Scott Free because they're both aliens. And Booster Gold would team up with Doctor Fate because their outfits match.

Blue Beetle and Mister Miracle head to L.A. with some, um, problematic dialogue? I think?

This is an "anal sex/everybody in Hollywood is gay" joke, right?

With newer comic books, a scan of 620 pixels (basically the width of the main column of the blog (although I think the width changed when I added the Goodreads app. I should probably fix it so the 620 pixel pictures stop bleeding off into the right-hand frame (if you're reading this on Tumblr, just ignore it. Just ignore everything since Tumblr fucked up their code and now I can't even center pictures or get the captions to sit snugly right up underneath the scans))) was usually enough to read the dialogue clearly. But with these old comics on newsprint, they're fuzzier and the font seems much smaller. Sorry about that but I won't betray my artistic integrity by scanning less than the full panel! At least not in this case is my defense against the pedants who can easily find many examples of me doing exactly that.

First Black Canary is treated like shit by Batman and now she teams up with Booster Gold who can't stop hitting on her until she reminds him she's a competent limb-breaker. This must be the kind of comics Comicsgaters wish we could return to! "Remember when women were treated as sexual objects and not one member of the Justice League was Black and constantly said, 'Booyah!'? What great times!"

Black Canary and Booster Gold become John Travolta Vampire slaves almost immediately because Batman chose the improper team pairings. It's bad enough that Batman would fail at making proper pairings but it's extra bad when Batman is being written by a writer and the writer made that choice. I mean, how do you pass up the opportunity to team Booster Gold with Doctor Fate?! They would look so fucking good together!

Batman and Guy Gardner (you know how you can tell Hal Jordan is the real Green Lantern? Because people will say "Green Lantern" when discussing him instead of "Hal Jordan") wind up in Tokyo where Doctor Light is all, "Hello, boys! I'm a vampire now!" Then she blinds the fuck out of them because Batman forgot to put on his Bat-sunglasses.

Batman steals this move from Doctor Light in the next regular issue.

Doctor Light kisses Batman and he's all, "Yeah, yeah. Okay. Okay. I get it. Being a vampire is pretty awesome. No wonder writers write vampire versions of me every other year or so."

I don't think the editors briefed Willingham on what Beetle's Bug can and can't do.

Beetle lands at Kord West and is immediately swamped by John Travolta Vampire's thralls. So he does the thing he does in nearly every comic book except the one where Maxwell Lord shoots him in the head: he runs away. But he doesn't run fast enough and winds up possessed aboard the Bug with Mister Miracle. The story hints that Miracle gets possessed just after the scene changes but he's Scott Free, the world's greatest escape artist! I would guess he'd be the one to save everybody else but judging from the cover, it's Martian Manhunter who keeps from getting possessed.

In Australia, Doctor Fate wades into a group of infected people because he's a gigantic arrogant prick. He's all, "I'm a frickin' Lord of Order, assholes! I know a spell that can get to the root of this problem!" And then the Vampire John Travolta is all, "I'll kill Kent Nelson if you don't leave his body." And Doctor Fate is all, "Well, J'onn, I've gotta go! Nice hanging out with you! Ta ta!" Which leaves Martian Manhunter as the only person left on Earth who isn't infected (or at least the only person left who is in this story). I bet that's pretty lonely. But Martian Manhunter is used to being lonely. I wonder if he's capable of making his right hand into a female martian so he can fuck it?

Martian Manhunter has no idea what he's dealing with so he puts on Doctor Fate's helmet to gain all of the other powers that he didn't already have without it. But only for a few seconds because Superman would never be able to get an erection again if he found out Martian Manhunter had all of his powers and could also do magic. J'onn wears the helmet just long enough to learn what Doctor Fate learned about the contagion: it's a sentient cell! It's smart cancer! And I guess Vampire John Travolta was Patient Zero. Now J'onn just has to figure out how to fight Smart Cancer. I don't even know how he'll defeat it because I just looked up Smart Cancer in the Who's Who to read about its weaknesses and wouldn't you know it? There's no entry for Smart Cancer! Maybe it was in an update that I don't own. Like that version of Who's Who that was just loose pages to stick in a binder! I have that one too but it's possible I just didn't buy all of the expansion packs.

Martian Manhunter heads to the source of the contagion to meet Smart Cancer head on. What he finds is a boss from Castlevania.

When you have thousands of people at your disposal, is the most effective way to use them shoving them together into one giant person?

The first thing Smart Cancer's Granfaloon does is try to smash J'onn with its people fist. In effect, it's smashing a dozen people head first into the ground so that dirt sprays up all over the place. So I guess a dozen or so people are now dead, right? It's not like Smart Cancer gave them invulnerability to massive head wounds.

I think this panel is the one where all the Justice League editors through their hands up in resignation and sighed, "I guess the Justice League is ridiculous now."

Martian Manhunter realizes, like me, how fucking stupid Smart Cancer is to put all of its people in one gigantic people-shaped basket. Since all the minds are linked, he realizes he can throw the Fate helmet on one of the people and Doctor Fate can possess Smart Cancer. It works but only for a limited amount of time. Doctor Fate can't hold that many people under his sway. But Doctor Fate does know who can control Smart Cancer: the martian! He can shapeshift his cells into some kind of prison or something. I don't know. It was explained in the most basic medical and scientific terms but they were still beyond my attention span. In the end, Martian Manhunter contained the Smart Cancer in him and that's where it lives now? Oh, and speaking of "the end," check out this clever and titillating final panel:

"Why's it gotta be the ass of the only woman on the team?" I say while pulling my pants down.

Justice League Annual #1 Rating: What?! I don't rate annuals! I mean, maybe sometimes I rate annuals. This one was okay. It was sort of interesting but I was disappointed that Vampire John Travolta wasn't the actual enemy. I hope Smart Cancer fights its way out of J'onn and makes another appearance later.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Cerebus #16 (1980)

Cerebus is going up the stairs while Lord Julius is going down them. In the same direction.

Cerebus is often touted as the greatest independent comic book of all time (for various reasons) but I'd like to point out that Elfquest told an incredible story with beautiful art in just 20 issues as opposed to 300. Plus it had an elf orgy. Also, I know it continued on after the first 20 issue story arc but we can ignore the rest of the story because there was never another elf orgy and also the rest of the series concentrated too much on Skywise's fear of dying which was totally valid but was often used as a foil to make Cutter seem braver and more loyal to his wolf roots but really just showed he was stubborn and dumb and totally didn't fuck as many elf maidens as Skywise did.

Cerebus does have some sex in his comic book but since the first sex he has is when he rapes Astoria, I don't think anybody was really clamoring for any more of that. I mean, sure, some people were! I didn't mean to erase the sickos and perverts out there. Sorry, jerks!

I'm sure the "A Note from the Publisher" bit by Deni seemed like a good idea when starting out on a harrowing self-publishing journey like that of Cerebus. But it quickly became a space where Deni just says, "Self-publishing is fraught with hardships and also this is a really good issue! I won't spoil it! Goodbye!" I won't be sad to see the divorce happen! That's an okay thing to say because it already happened, right? It's not like my wishing for the end of their marriage in 2020 somehow brought about the end of their marriage in the early 80s. Is it? I never took a college course on cause and effect so who the fuck knows? Unless that Critical Literary Theory class was about that?! Oh my God! I think I understand it now!

Dave's finale to the "Swords of Cerebus" essay that has been broken up over the last three issues describes how he was consciously drawing the Eye of the Pyramid cult leader's gigantic penis while drawing the snake. Sorry to report, though, that he's being sarcastic. Apparently Dave is above using phallic imagery to make a point about patriarchal themes. Only fucking hacks do shit like that! Take that, whoever wrote fucking Beowulf!

Even if Sim can't see the humor in everybody assuming he made a giant snake dick joke on purpose, he can still be extraordinarily funny with the least of materials.

This issue takes Cerebus to his first fancy dress party (that's a costume party for all of you people who aren't British (which is also me but only because I was born a citizen of the United States of America who didn't have a choice but knew it was a huge mistake as I was learning about Monty Python's Flying Circus and Dave Allen at Large in elementary school and The Young Ones in junior high and Red Dwarf in college)). Cerebus changes out of his vest and puts on his costume: a furry black jumper (that's sweater for all of you people who aren't British (which is also me but only because I was forced to watch mostly American popular entertainment until the advent of YouTube and now I mostly just watch Taskmaster over and over (by the way, is Taskmaster as good for people who don't know all of the "contestants" or do I enjoy it more because I recognize and like almost all of the people on the show?)). Lord Julius is dressed as an, um, a, uh, Estarcion matador? I have no context in which to guess what he is.

Certain people like Cerebus because he says what's on his mind. I purposefully used an anonymous subject here so you can't prove one of those people is me.

Lord Julius has a follow-up joke that leaves the reader thinking, "I guess all Pavrovians are fat?" That's Dave Sim continuing his work on Estarcion continuity! Remember how Pavrovians are the, um, you knows of Estarcion! You know the nationality I'm thinking of! The ones that are all the things people usually find insulting! Come on, you know who I'm talking about. The dumb fat arrogant stupid naive gullible ones! Yes, that's it! Americans! Try to remember Dave is Canadian. You have to think of Americans through Canadian eyes (which are the equivalent of smart, cynical Americans)!

E'lass and Turg have gotten tickets to The Festival of Petunias so they can steal the Wyndmel Diamond. They're the duo composed of a giant muscular man and a little bitty shrimpy guy who last encountered (and were beaten by) Cerebus in Issue #6. E'lass is dressed like some kind of small dirt dwelling creature so I hope Cerebus gets offended by his costume and stabs him in the throat. There isn't enough random slaughter in this book about barbarians.

I haven't wanted to fuck a fish this badly since The Littler Mermaid.

I suppose I could have said "since Splash" in that last caption to seem more normal and less perverted but then you'd know I was lying.

The assassins make a move on Lord Julius but Cerebus comes up with a plan to stop them that involves inducing the Palnu elite to throw herring-and-onion dip at them. Is that a parodied scene from Duck Soup or Conan the Barbarian? In the confusion, the lead assassin slips out through a secret door and E'lass, having just stolen the diamond and becoming increasingly paranoid that somebody saw him, slips through it as well. Cerebus and Lord Julius follow, having noticed the assassin but not E'lass. Most of the pursuit's tension comes from E'lass believing Cerebus remembers him and is now going to use the excuse of this new crime to murder him. It's more tense than I've even described because I really need Cerebus to murder somebody in this Swords & Sorcery book already. Reading this book waiting for a murder is like firing up a porn video on your laptop with your dick in your hands and realizing after five minutes that the video is almost over and was just a teaser for a pay porn site.

Cerebus threatens to quit his job just before battling the assassin so he can negotiate a term of 8 bags of gold and a horse in exchange for killing the assassin as a pension before he goes. Julius agrees and Cerebus takes out the assassin with a rock to the head. I mean, I guess it's a murder so yay? But I was really hoping for some stabbing. Meanwhile E'lass lives through the cliché of the criminal whose paranoia gets the better of him and he tosses the diamond into a huge pit so he doesn't get caught only to discover that they never knew he took it anyway. Everything is wrapped up quickly and thoroughly with Cerebus given money and motivation to move on from Palnu.

Dave complained about his heavy use of cliché in this Palnu trilogy and I have to say I agree with Dave. But I only agree with Dave on this point! Don't take that out of context and start raving on Twitter that Grunion Guy agrees with Dave's Issue #186 rant about girlfriends being illogical which is also secretly a rant about a guy who needs to get laid so badly he puts up with partners he probably wouldn't even be friends with and then finally just decides orgasms are evil and religion is super awesome but only if you smash all three People of The Book religions into one bland mash paste of ancient dogma.

In the epilogue, Lord Julius receives a letter from his niece Jaka in which she expresses delight in possibly seeing Cerebus again. I guess Dave learned from Howard the Duck that comic book nerds really love for their anthropomorphic heroes to be fucking statuesque women. Perhaps every guy develops a fetish of being with a woman whose breasts are at head level due to being hugged constantly by their female relatives when they're ten years old.

Deni's brother Michael's first installment of the "Aardvarkian Age" essays appears in this issue. It gives more details to the various nations of Estarcion and their inhabitants' culture, ruling styles, and brutality of their armies. I thought I'd be more interested in this than I actually wound up being. Maybe I thought it would be funnier? Instead, it's just a bunch of facts about made-up kingdoms to make them sound more believable by making them more like European countries in the Middle Ages. If this entire bit were just lifted from a history of Europe with the names of actual countries replaced by Estarcion countries, I wouldn't even notice. Mostly because I know nothing about European history. As I've always said, "Those who know about European history are doomed to repeat it, boring every single other person at the cocktail party."

Dave apologizes for the quarter price increase of the comic book in the Aardvark Comments pages. Why, I hadn't even noticed! Probably because this is the Biweekly reprint issue and I purchased it as a collection off of eBay. Some people write in and discuss how Cerebus is a very fine and funny comic book. I nodded along in agreement as I read the letters. I only touched my private area twice while reading and neither time was for pleasure.

The most surprising thing about "The Single Page" is that it clearly states who the comic was authored by: Kent Featherly. I don't know why so many of these single page comics aren't more clearly labeled. Isn't part of the reason for having them exposure for the artists drawing and writing them?! Not putting an effort to let a large audience know who you are and how they can read more of your work just sounds like something I would do. By the way, you should play this game I wrote, Starship Troopers: The Game. You can find it on the hard drive of my laptop.

Cerebus #16 Rating: B. Look, it was funny and well drawn and all that. But even Dave said it relied too heavily on cliché plot devices. I've got to lower the grade when even the author points out some of the story's flaws! And I'd probably have come to the same conclusion without having been influenced by Dave Sim because I'm like the best Internet comic book critic who isn't a critic and isn't actually reviewing comic books. Also I almost forgot this evidence: I'm a Grandmaster Comic Book Reviewer! Nobody else can make that claim and if they do, they're plagiarizing me and I'd like you to point them out to me so I can send them a threatening email in which I pretend to be my own lawyer who is really good at suing dumb-dumbs.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Justice League #4 (1987)

Do I want to know what Booster Gold was just about to do to Captain Marvel?

I don't want to think that a bunch of rape just happened and a bit more is about to happen but what can I do? I'm a product of my culture! Thanks, patriarchy and growing up in the 80s!

At the end of the last issue, Maxwell Lord IV and Booster Gold managed to break into Justice League Headquarters and not get their asses kicked by Batman. One of those is an impressive feat and the other one is absolutely fucking ludicrous. You can work out which is which because I've done all the math I can for one lifetime. If I have to figure out the volume of a reservoir by derivating the limit to an infinitely small progression one more time, I'll fucking probably get better at math. And who wants that? Also, you might be able to tell by my horrible description of a math problem that my final grade in a math class (Calculus freshman year) was at best a C. I suppose that's what I get for listening to Skid Row tapes on a mono tape player with one ear bud during class.

The mention of Oreos is the first time I've ever fantasized about being on the Justice League.

For me, J'onn will always be addicted to Oreos and not "Chocos." Stupid fucking Chocos. What the fuck are Chocos?! No way they're better than Oreos, even if they are cartoon food. And you have to admit, cartoon food always looks fucking delicious.

Batman decides the best course of action is to give Maxwell Lord the bat stink eye until he caves and tells them why he's insinuated himself into a position in the Justice League. But Maxwell Lord is all, "I don't take Bat shit from nobody!" That causes Booster Gold to feel uncomfortable, having hitched his star (costume reference!) to a madman, and leave the Justice League Headquarters by the front door. Which is on the side of a mountain. And which has, for security, a couple of pylons with some sort of microwave between them.

The days when I would climb to nearly the top of the Redwood trees in my elementary school are far behind me but I'm still pretty sure I could hop that white pylon.

The Royal Flush Gang (in disguise!) short out the fence because they can't be bothered to hop over when nobody is looking. The fence shorting out cuts the power to the entire headquarters which might seem like a flaw but who am I to say? Batman works in mysterious ways! It's probably meant to kill all the power so that everybody knows the fence was shorted out and somebody not powerful enough to hop or fly over has just broken in!

In the dark, Guy Gardner makes Batman ears with his fingers and Batman gets pissed. I don't know why either of those things happen! I get Guy Gardner is a jerk but why make fake bat ears in the dark?! He's Batman! You know he can see you! Also, um, why do it in the first place?! What kind of an insult is that?!

Booster Gold follows the Royal Flush Gang and finds them hiding behind some rocks getting into their costumes. It's not as sexy as "people getting undressed to get into a different outfit" might suggest to perverted peepers like me. I meant like you. It basically amounts to them taking off their overcoats, putting white powder on their faces, slipping on the domino masks, and throwing crowns on some of their heads. Also there are only four of them so it's the worst Royal Flush I've ever seen. I guess Ace will stop by later to make me think about terrible things like previously mentioned.

To stop the battle getting out of control and possibly killing some of the nearby press (even if Batman wouldn't give a shit about that), Batman turns on a gigantic force field bubble surrounding Justice League Headquarters Mountain. Well, at least that's something. Four issues in and while it seems like the Justice League saved the day once, they really only saved the day from Maxwell Lord's fake terrorist situation and now they're battling villains whose sole purpose is to target the Justice League. Seems like they're shaping up to be about on par with the New Teen Titans.

Batman tells the League to stand down while Booster fights the Royal Flush Gang alone. I guess this is his real interview for the League. He defeats Queen, King, Jack, and Ten pretty handily but even so, if I were Batman, I'd pass on Booster as a member because he tells a lot of really lame jokes during the fight. And the League already has Blue Beetle for that role.

And then Ace shows up.

Booster Gold now knows which way Ace dresses.

Ace is a robot so he might not have a penis. Although I've never seen an image that says "I am a man with a gigantic penis and you will rue the day you met me!" than that previous scan.

If Ace is a robot and he's programmed to defeat every member of the Justice League, does that mean he's Amazo? I suppose it means he's going to be defeated by Booster Gold or Doctor Light, since whoever programmed him didn't know they were on the Justice League. Like that moment in The Return of the King when that lich lord guy is all, "No man can defeat me!" And then the knight takes off her helmet and her glasses and her hair tie and she's all, "I'm no man nor librarian! I'm a woman and an object of lust!" Then she kills him and Aragorn falls in love with her. Meanwhile Frodo is showing her panties to the other hobbits so they think he scored.

Ace defeats everybody but Batman, Booster Gold, and Blue Beetle. He doesn't defeat Blue Beetle because Blue Beetle knows better than to try to fight him. And he doesn't defeat Batman because he doesn't get a chance before Booster Gold picks him up and tosses him toward the Justice League Force Bubble. Beetle unplugs it and plugs it back in just in time to cut the robot in half! Spectacular! What a ploy! I wonder if they would have done that with a living being?! Probably.

In the end, Booster Gold is asked to join and Maxwell Lord takes it upon himself to become the press liaison of the Justice League. Batman isn't happy. He's so not happy that he's probably going to sock Guy Gardner in the jaw next issue.

Justice League #4 Rating: B-. The jokes were all terrible. Except the joke where Booster described everybody's dialogue as terrible because that's a great J.M. DeMatteis self-own! Some writers aren't aware when they're writing terribly. But Giffen and DeMatteis know when they're writing terribly and then refuse to write better. They just make a joke about how bad their writing is and move on. I have to admire that level of laziness in your craft!