Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shazam! The Greatest Stories Ever Told review:


 Never let it be said that I’m not consistent. For my 100th post, I decided I would hurt the one I love, and reviewed the lackluster first volume of my favorite series; The Spirit. So it seems fitting that I’m about to follow it up by reviewing a “greatest collection” featuring a character and series that longtime readers know has been my personal whipping boy since as early as my second post: Captain Marvel, or Shazam, as DC is calling him these days for legal purposes. How does that fit in with me criticizing my favorite series?
  Because I gotta say, for a collection of supposed high points for a character I don’t particularly like; it’s a nice read.

 Now don’t get the wrong idea, I haven’t completely changed my opinions about the series; I still find the Golden Age stories overrated and the fans hypocritical (Although more of them are coming out and admitting that they only follow Shazam comics because of Black Adam, who has rapidly been gaining a Wolverine/Punisher level of idiotic fans ever since Infinite Crisis where he gouged out Psycho Pirate’s eyes), and this shares many of the same faults that mar DC’s other “Greatest Stories” volumes, but that’s not necessarily the character’s fault. I can also say, after reading pretty much every Marvel Family story available on sites like the Digital Comics Museum, I wouldn’t really consider many of these “great” stories either, but all things considered, this book has some decent stuff in it.
-Introducing Captain Marvel from Whiz Comics #2 (1940): This is the origin story, with newsboy Billy Batson being led by a mysterious figure down to Shazam’s lair and being given his power, then getting a job as a radio announcer from radio station president Sterling Morris (Who is realistically skeptical of just what a kid Billy’s age could accomplish). It’s a fun wish-fulfillment adventure, although personally I find the non-superhero fantasy elements of the story more appealing, like Shazam’s bizarre subway train and the hall showing the statues of the Seven Deadly Sins.
This story also introduces the evil Dr. Sivana, who of course becomes Captain Marvel’s archenemy (and the most overused villain of the Golden Age with the exception of Adolf Hitler). What’s most interesting about Sivana is that his plan, to extort money from the government or else he’ll disrupt radio signals so people can’t communicate, is actually fairly plausible and not too science fiction-y (It’s not like he’s threatening to conquer the world, or anything). If this story were retold today, he’d probably do the same thing, except with the internet.
 All in all, it’s fun, and hard to really complain about. You have to admire a story which sets up the hero’s origin and career, as well as introduces his employer and archenemy all in one story. C.C. Beck’s uncluttered art is appealingly childlike, but has a determined looking grimness to it at the same time. 4/5.

 -Untitled story from Captain Marvel Adventures #1 (1941):
  Billy hears a signal from some far-off alien people who have been enslaved by reptilian creatures called the Dragon Men. He travels to their planet and ends up caught up in a battle with them, and meets a scientist, his lovely daughter, a traitor and the Jabba the Hutt-like king of the Dragon Men.
 Man, I wish more CM stories were like this! This one has far more of a Timely feel to it, probably because of the lettering by Howard Ferguson and the art by Simon & Kirby. Being drawn by Kirby is probably the only reason this particular story was reprinted, but when it’s this much fun I can’t complain. Interestingly enough, Captain Marvel is referred to several times as “The Thunder God” in this story. Fun stuff. 5/5.

-The Trio of Terror from Marvel Family #21 (1948): Three owners of a failing carnival steal a book of magic from the Marvel family and end up accidentally summoning three mythological creatures by saying “Ziggoz Zarilly Goosh”. The creatures are a Satyr, the Hydra and an Aargus.

  Here’s C.C. Beck’s idea of what a Hydra looks like:

  This is what the Hydra looks like according to Greek mythology:
Almost didn't recognize you there, pal

 Man, that’s the kind of underwhelming character design only Bernard Baily could pull off. The story itself really isn’t much fun either, and the three carnival owners end up going unpunished.

 Also, “Ziggoz Zarilly Goosh” has got to be the worst magical spell I’ve ever seen in a comic book. Say what you will about Stan Lee, but at least the spells he came up with in Doctor Strange sounded cool. 2/5.

-King Kull and the Seven Sins from Captain Marvel Adventures #137 (1952): No, this isn’t a Disney rip-off from Goodtimes. In this story, a bunch of people start being dicks for no reason, and it turns out that the reason why is because King Kull (A caveman in a horned helmet who was set up to be Cap’s new archenemy in the 50’s) has brought Shazam’s statues of the Seven Deadly Sins to life, who go around tossing “sin bombs”. A fairly amusing idea a lot of humor could have been wrung out of, but instead it turns into a simple fisticuffs story when it could have been more whimsical (This is supposedly the most whimsical comic book series of all time and better than anything Eisner or Cole ever did *rolls eyes*). A waste of a good idea, because like I’ve said, I find the way that the Sins are drawn amusing and the whole “sin bomb” idea is very surreal. 2.9/10.
-Captain Marvel battles the World from Captain Marvel Adventures #148 (1953): The Earth gets fed up with people drilling holes in it for oil, so it decides to make life miserable for humans by causing weather changes and other catastrophes, all of which Captain Marvel foils without ever thinking of them as anything but natural disasters.

 Now THIS is the kind of Captain Marvel story that lives up to the hype the fans give the series, and would you believe it? It’s not famous or revered at all! But it’s still a fantastically weird, whimsical story. How could you hate something where Earth itself is the villain? It’s like all of those shitty “Nature’s revenge” movies, the difference is that not only is it actually good, it also doesn’t try and ram an environmental message down our throat. Quite the opposite, here it’s nature which has to learn to be tolerant of us! There are just no words for how awesome that is, and in today’s world of shitty environmentalist propaganda, this story is still relevant.

  Easily the best story in this book, and the best drawn of the ones done by Beck. 5/5.

 -The Primate Plot from Marvel Family #85 (1953): Several apes are seen running around the city, presumably escapees from a zoo, but instead they turn out to be diplomats from a jungle city of intelligent apes, representing King Zonga. Zonga apparently just wants access to human technology so he can increase the quality of life for his people, and the Marvels, as well as the rest of the world, eagerly helps out. However, they quickly notice that something’s amiss…
 This one had a plot twist I didn’t see coming, in fact, it might be the most original take on the old “civilization of talking animals” trope I’ve seen in a while, although it does owe a bit to The Island of Dr. Moreau. Most such stories are used just to make some heavy-handed metaphor about racism or about how humans suck, and are usually written by wannabe satirists who have read the Hounhyms chapter in Gulliver’s Travels but lack Swift’s talent. This one doesn’t try any of that shit, but instead just uses the concept for a wonderfully batshit sci-fi adventure. 4/5.
-In the Beginning/The World’s Wickedest Plan from Shazam! #1 (1973): Shortly after DC acquired the rights, they published this issue, so while it’s important in a significant sense, all it is really is a primer on who Captain Marvel is for new readers. Unrateable, really.

-Make Way for Captain Thunder! from Superman #276 (1974): This is one of the oddest stories in the volume, and technically it isn’t a Captain Marvel story at all, but it’s entertaining for those same reasons. A newsboy named Willie Fawcett wanders the streets of Metropolis, not knowing how he got there. As Superman soon discovers, Willie is from another dimension and is the alter ego of a superhero named Captain Thunder, the problem though, is that Captain Thunder is under a curse which turns him evil, but Willie doesn’t know that and instinctively transforms into Captain Thunder whenever danger is present.
  As you can tell from that plot synopsis, the character of Captain Thunder/Willie Fawcett is a pastiche of Captain Marvel/Billy Batson. Presumably this story was written before DC acquired the rights proper to the real Captain Marvel, but published afterward. Still, it’s fun seeing all of the elements of the character that were altered to distance him from the real character, like having the Shazam figure be a Native American shaman, or the Monster Society of Evil being made up of Universal Monsters:
 One also has to wonder if this was an influence on the depiction of the evil Kid Miracleman/Johnny Bates in Alan Moore’s Miracleman run. Weird story, but I’m glad they included it. 3.9/5.

-The Evil Return of the Monster Society from Shazam!#14 (1974): This story is another odd choice for an inclusion, because the entire reason it’s notable is because it features, well, the return of the Monster Society of Evil. You know those really long, shitty, overblown ‘events’ that Marvel and DC have been doing regularly since the 80’s? Well, the first one was done by Fawcett in it’s Captain Marvel titles back in 1943, involving a team up of a bunch of villains into a ‘society’ that Captain Marvel fans have declared the first supervillain team in comics (It wasn’t). The whole thing was reprinted in a huge hardcover in the 70’s, and honestly, is pretty lousy. Thus, it seems odd that this story would be chosen since none of the original Monster Society stories were reprinted or even mentioned here (except for the ‘Monster League’ parody that appeared in the Captain Thunder story). If you weren’t a comics fan and had never heard of the society, you’d be pretty baffled as to why this was included.

 That said, it’s a pretty amusing little story, mainly because of the interactions of the villains during down-time. The scene where the hulking brute named Ibac hits on Sivana’s homely daughter (Who looks like, and was later retconned to be, a clone of Sivana) is pretty funny.
Believe it or not, I know a guy who used that as a pick up line
3/5.

-With One Magic Word from DC Comics Presents Annual #3 (1984): Now we’re talking! Roy Thomas plotted this story, while Gil Kane drew it, and the result shows off both men’s talents to the max. Dr. Sivana comes up with a brilliant way of defeating Captain Marvel; since the letters in the word Shazam stand for the names of various mythological heroes and deities and their attributes (The speed of Mercury, the wisdom of Solomon, etc), Sivana alters the rock of eternity so that Captain Marvel takes on the negative qualities of those heroes and thus susceptible to defeat. He then steals the powers of Shazam for himself, and Superman must stop him.
 This is a great example of playing with the mythology behind a character without resorting to parody, and it still makes for a perfectly good action story at the same time (And you can’t fault Gil Kane when it comes to action). I mean, it makes sense, if you want to defeat a superhero who gains his powers from a source, and you can’t destroy the source, why not change it so it affects him negatively? Admittedly not much is done with the idea of Captain Marvel taking on the negative qualities of the Gods (He mostly just gets cocky and gets trapped under rocks), but it still works. There are also some amusing moments of Sivana, having turned himself into a being similar to Captain Marvel, continually renaming himself with a different military rank (Major Sivana, Colonel Sivana and onward). Easily the second best story in the book. 5/5.
-Where Dreams End from L.E.G.I.O.N ’91 #31 (1991): Captain Marvel accidentally winds up in an alien bar and runs afoul of Lobo (Lobo, for those who don’t know, is DC’s  ridiculously over-the-top parody of characters like Wolverine, who stopped being a parody of such characters and became the poster boy for them). This story is played for laughs, but the main joke; the contrast between the sleazy Lobo and the good-natured Captain Marvel, wears thin quickly. I think this story may have been trying to make a point about feuding generations of comics fans, but I’m not sure. Very choppy and hard to follow at times. 3/5.

  -Yeah--This is a face only a Mother could love…from Power of Shazam #33 (1997): Captain Marvel meets up with a young fan of his who was horribly disfigured in a fire caused by a supervillain named the Arson Fiend. Captain Marvel then begins searching for a way to help the boy restore his face.
This is a rather sweet-natured story for one that begins with a shock moment (Full page shot of the boy’s ravaged face saying “Yeah-this is a face only a mother could love…though even she can be frightened by it if I catch her off guard”). This features lots of cameos by regular villains and supporting characters from the short-lived Power of Shazam series from the 90’s. Some of these characters had appeared in the Golden Age, but only became really prominent in this series, thus, you kinda feel like you stumbled into a long-running series that isn’t really new-reader friendly. But you know what? It actually makes me interested to read more of it.

  While I have to admit this story did cause a few “awwww” moments from me (particularly the ending), I also can’t help but feel it’s kinda shameless and manipulative, like a “Very Special Episode” of some lame sitcom trying to be relevant. For example, the creator credits aren’t listed until the end of the story, as if to say “Hey! Did you like this one? Well, here are our names so you can be sure to remember them when time for the Eisner awards roll around!”. Also, if that burned kid never appeared in any stories after this (I can’t find any info online) and was only used for this story, then shit I was right. Still, it’s a lot less tawdry than most such stories are, and maybe it’s a good thing the kid never came back; later writers might have turned him into a vengeful supervillain or something. 3.9/10.

  -Out of the Dark Cloud from Adventures in the DC Universe #15 (1998): Billy finds himself transforming in strange new ways each time he says Shazam, and starts trying to find the reason why. Could the very deities he calls upon have something to do with it?

  Another story which has fun with the deities that form the “Shazam” name. It’s mostly for fun, and works quite well. At first I thought this story was from Jeff Smith’s recent All Ages Captain Marvel series, since he wrote the intro to this volume, but it’s actually from a short-lived series featuring “animated’ versions of DC characters featuring Bruce Timm-style artwork. 3.5/5.

 Well, well. Count me surprised. While I can’t say that this volume made me a fan of Captain Marvel, it does contain some enjoyable stories. I’ve come to the conclusion that the appeal of the character for modern readers lies less in what his stories were actually like, so much as that he and his stories represent what some fans tend to wish comics were like when complaining about how dark modern comics are, just like how some folks romanticize the 50’s as a simpler time even though it really wasn’t. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Captain Marvel has sort of a built-in nostalgia factor for people who’ve never read the original stories, thus, this feeling of innocent, wistful adventure brings out a kind of sentimentality in modern writers when they tackle the character or create tributes to him, and it creates a similar feeling in those who read such stories. Captain Marvel was the best-selling character of the 40’s, thus, regardless of quality, he became the poster child for “innocence” in comics.
  You do have to wonder though if future generations are going to feel somewhat similar towards Rob Liefeld and Image-style comics though, after all, they were also the best-selling comics of their time.

 Also, I’m going to give props to DC for not reprinting any Black Adam stories to hook the fanboys with (Actually, prior to the 90’s, there were hardly any stories featuring that character). They also deserve credit for not playing up Jack Kirby’s story, or including samplings of Jeff Smith’s recent series. These “Greatest Stories” usually do things like that (Featuring first appearances of popular villains regardless of quality, hyping up a story worked on by a famous creator even though it was his only work on the character, or pushing a new series) and stick out like a sore thumb. This volume is refreshingly free of that.
  So yeah, considering how terrible “Greatest Stories” volumes can be, and my reticence about the character, I’m going to admit….I liked it. 4/5.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Spirit Archives Vol.1 review

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SPOILERS!
 
 While not nearly as infested with self-righteous PC-police wannabes as Scans_Daily, Comic Book Resources is no slouch in the “easily offended” department. Witness the utter war zone that the comments section turned into after someone did a post about Urban Legends concerning Will Eisner. There were quite a few gems of ignorance spouted off by both sides, but none stuck out as much as these two:
 Regardless of whatever the second person thought looked so “boring as hell” about The Spirit (“Jamall” huh? Who is supposed to be the racist again?), as well as the first’s completely ridiculous “examples” that he cites as proof that no one likes the series, I must concur that if someone picked up Volume One of The Spirit Archives, they would be hard-pressed to see what all the fuss was about regarding Will Eisner and his masked detective.

  Of course, the real appeal of The Spirit was never the concept or the character of Denny Colt, it was the way Eisner used the set-up as a jumping off point for anything and everything. In this volume, that aspect isn’t quite so apparent yet. Nevertheless, this volume still offers up the pleasure of watching comicdom’s greatest talent trying to find his voice.

The first story, “The Origin of the Spirit” begins with Denny Colt asking Commissioner Dolan for a head start at tracking down a mad scientist with an on-and-off accent named Dr. Cobra, but ends up drenched in chemicals and apparently dies. However, Dolan soon receives a visit from a shadowy figure called “The Spirit” who also asks for a head start in locating Dr. Cobra. Of course, the Spirit is really Denny, who was put into suspended animation by the chemicals. The Spirit and Dolan team up to capture the villain.
“It was not by any means an earth-shaking story” said Maggie Thompson of this story in 1974’s The Comic Book Book, and she was right. There are plot holes galore, like why Denny would be so threatening to his friend after taking up his new persona, or how he managed to avoid being embalmed. Eisner often joked about how when creating The Spirit, he didn’t want to make him a superhero, but the editor refused to print the strip if The Spirit didn’t have a costume, so Eisner added a mask as a concession. That must have been a slight exaggeration on Will’s part, because Denny wears no mask in this story, yet oddly enough, we are expected to believe that his identity is concealed even though he dresses exactly like he did when alive, and even funnier, we are expected to believe that Denny can strike terror into the hearts of evildoers just by…looking at them. It would be somewhat plausible if he had a mask, but he doesn’t, so why are the crooks afraid? Since neither of them had met Denny, you can’t even say it was a result of the terror they feel at seeing a supposedly dead man walking. Also, how DOES The Spirit claim rewards for captured criminals if Dolan takes the credit?
 It was an inauspicious, but at the same time inoffensive beginning of something great. Eisner seemed to be trying to make the Spirit a Shadow-like figure (he declares “I am the spirit of good—but I can also be the spirit of evil!”), and the weird scenes of crooks being terrified of him, as well as a panel of his face that has a lot of lines in it (suggesting it had been extensively redrawn), suggests that Eisner may have originally intended for him to have been horribly disfigured by the chemicals (like the pulp Shadow), but re-drew it because it would seem too grim for a newspaper comic. The art is moody, if somewhat crude (in fact, Eisner’s juvenile work on Hawks of the Seas is superior), and while there are none of Eisner’s trademarks on display, he does draw a nice layout of Dr. Cobra’s lab, and gets in a few clever lines (“Bet a nickel I know who you’re thinking about”, “Here’s your nickel”).

  The next story introduces Dolan’s nerdy daughter Ellen and her fiancĂ© Homer Creep, who decide to examine the mental ward at the hospital, and encounter Dr. Cobra, who convinces them to help him escape (even though he really doesn’t seem to need their assistance). Of course, Cobra joins up with his old gang, before getting into a climactic shootout with The Spirit. Dolan throws a banquet in the Spirit’s honor, where Denny takes off Ellen’s glasses and lets her hair loose, before kissing her. Ellen then starts to fall for the Spirit.
 This is somewhat closer to what the strip would become, as there’s a “twist” humorous ending, even if it is just a standard “she was beautiful all along” one. The fight with Dr. Cobra is also fun, with the villain blowing himself up with a grenade (Hey? Isn’t that a more famous Spirit villain’s signature weapon? Who is to say a disfigured Dr. Cobra didn’t later decide to base himself off another slimy, boneless animal…). The scenes of Spirit climbing over rooftops and doing a high-wire act on clothesline wires shows some signs of Eisner’s later topsy turviness. Denny also has his mask now (and a gun, which we won’t be seeing much more of, probably because of the syndicate guidelines.) He also shows signs already of being a chick magnet. Ebony White, who appeared in one panel in the first story, also appears here in a slightly larger role, unnamed, but already ungrammatical and superstitious. Otherwise, it’s an utterly generic hero vs. villain story, not sufficiently better than anything in mainstream publisher’s comics. Close but no cigar.
One of Eisner's first interesting uses of perspective

 The next story however, “The Black Queen”, and even more so the fifth strip “Johnny Marston” are where we first get glimpses of the masterworks that would come later.

 The eponymous “Black Queen” is a female lawyer who charms the juries with her beauty (“Even if they found him holdin’ the gun, she’d find a loophole in the law and prove he’s not guilty” says a reporter) and gets a murderer named Slot Gorgan off. Meanwhile, budget cuts have left the local schools with no more free lunches. The Spirit tries to kill two birds with one stone by shaking down the Queen and her mob for donations; he then kidnaps them with the help of Ebony White, then kidnaps the DA, the judge and the witnesses to restage the trial, where he tricks Slot into confessing. Slot is re-tried legally, but the Queen still manages to get him leniency because he donated to the school lunch fund.
 
 A story chock full of humor, action and social commentary. It’s amazing how well set up this all is, in just one panel, the two main conflicts of the story (Slot’s trial and the school lunch problem) are established seamlessly in the first panel. Eisner shows how ahead of the curve he is here, exploring how people really would react to the Spirit’s wildly illegal Robin Hood-esque tactics, and although in typical Golden Age fashion the Spirit is celebrated as a hero and the kidnapped jurors are thankful to the Spirit, the ending shows just how well such tactics would really hold up in court, which is nada. Slot still gets re-tried for the same offense, but only because he knows if he doesn’t confess himself, the Spirit is waiting for him.
 Eisner would often call the Spirit a “Robin Hood figure” in the stories, even long after he wasn’t depicted as such, but clearly he is here. I always thought that was typical comic book hyperbole until I first read this story in one of the Kitchen Sink reprints. He comes off almost as a common thug in some panels, and his whole scheme here, forcing a mock trial, is something that comic book villains usually do, not heroes. Denny Colt is a scary, scary man at times, which may be why Eisner decided to officially make Ebony a sidekick in this story, for comedy relief purposes.

  The Black Queen is also an interesting villain. She’s clearly intended to be attractive in a ‘sexy librarian” sort of way, but Eisner’s legendary skills at drawing girls haven’t fully matured yet. Still, I love the basic idea, and it’s a bit depressing that the Queen would be reduced to a typical supervillainess in her next appearances. She still counts as The Spirit’s first great femme fatale, and I even included her on a list of intended “major” villains who flopped.
 The next story, “Voodoo in Manhattan” has a pretty typical Scooby Doo-type plot, and although perfectly enjoyable, it’s the strip that follows which foreshadows what Eisner would be capable of, even more so than “Black Queen”.

  “Johnny Marston” features a guy whose wife lies at her deathbed. The only thing that can save her is a trip to a hotter climate, but Johnny is so poor that the only reason he even has a doctor is because the doctor is an old family friend. Johnny bitterly turns to gambling, and although he wins, the casino owner forces him to play one more game, a rigged game. Johnny fights back, but gets knocked out and left for dead. The Spirit finds him and soon decides to win Johnny’s money back. Can the Spirit be successful before Johnny makes the biggest mistake of his life?
 First of all, I love the image of the Spirit in a top hat and tuxedo:

  However, the really important thing about this story is that it marks the first time Eisner would do something that would make him famous: The story’s true protagonist is not Denny Colt, but an average guy caught up in an undertow of crime. Within only two pages, Eisner has piled on the pathos so heavily for Marston that the reader feels they’ve known him their whole lives. Sure, the vast majority of panel time is focused on the Spirit, but it’s Marston the reader cares about. Eisner’s best Spirit stories weren’t truly Spirit stories, but human stories, and this is the first of the kind.

 It’s schmaltzy, and depends on a gigantic suspension of disbelief (the Spirit can win at every single game at the casino for several nights in a row), but the final panels still make for a genuinely touching moment:
 
 The rest of the stories are mildly enjoyable adventure and detective stories, particularly memorable being a story which pits The Spirit against a Joker-like madman named Mr. Midnight ( a story whose atmosphere is somewhat ruined by garish coloring and the presence of the ridiculous, but thankfully short-lived “auto-plane”), and the later stories which focus on Ellen and Homer Creep (who seemed to be being set up to be Spirit’s new comedy relief sidekick for a while) are fun if you ignore some of the more over the top sexism. Also worth mentioning is a story where a miser commits suicide in order to frame The Spirit for murder, which displays some genuine emotional weight in the rift it causes between Dolan and Colt, although the subsequent stories treat this conflict as an on and off deal, with cops even taking orders from The Spirit at times. Also entertaining is a two-parter involving a talking ape and a “devolved” woman, which feels rushed but succeeds at evoking pathos for the ape.

  Other stories however, like “The Morger Boys” and “Ogre Goran” (which wastes waaay to much time setting up the disfigurement of the villain) are the type of slap-dash, forgettable affairs that you could have found in a dozen contemporaneous comics (in fact, that “Morger” story, about a bunch of identical criminals, was handled far better in Batman’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum stories). Even the better adventure and detective stories display no more real craft or imagination than your average Superman story of the era, with the very sedateness of the Spirit’s gimmick working against him. The stories do improve towards the end of the volume though, such as “Slim Pickens”; a grim story about a wannabe thug about to be paroled who meets a hot-shot gangster who tells him his life story, and “The Leader” about a Nazi obsessed with the notion of the strong dominating the weak; a philosophy he soon comes to regret when he realizes how physically weak he himself is compared to his hulking subordinate officer, whom he can no longer control when they get stranded at sea with little water and their respective military rankings become meaningless.

 A big skeleton at the feast for modern readers will no doubt be the character of Ebony White. Truth be told, he actually isn’t all that prominent in these stories, and he’s portrayed as a valuable mechanic. On the other hand, whereas Eisner would later establish that Ebony was drawn that way because he was a child (after introducing a few realistically drawn African-American characters and sidelining Ebony’s equally offensively-drawn friends), here his age is more ambiguous, with him being shown to be a member of a black city council and being of driving age. Thus, the implication isn’t that he’s a child, but a childish adult. His superstitious beliefs are also played for comedy more than they later would, and the redeeming qualities Eisner would later give him weren’t developed yet. For those who care, I’d have to say that this volume shows Ebony at the height of his offensiveness.

 Ultimately, the vast majority of these early stories aren’t sufficiently better than most of what was being put out by other publishers, but what sets them apart is Eisner’s willingness to experiment, to do something more than simple adventure or detective stories. He doesn’t succeed more often than he does, but the ambition is there. For simply watching how Eisner grew as an artist, this volume is indispensable for longtime Eisner fans, just not really essential for anyone wanting to get into his works. Nevertheless, it still rates a respectable 3.1/5 in my book.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Amazon Boobs IV: In Space!


 
 I have lived more lifetimes than any creature in any universe can imagine, I have seen the vast gulfs of space, seen countless galaxies begin and end, I’ve seen suns that were freezing and lives that were through, ended thousands of stories that will never be known, lost in the cold vastness of infinity.

Yet all of this means naught to me, it is all matter to either be ignored or fed upon, for all that matters to me is sustenance, for I am he who hungers: Galactus!
 Well my herald, have you found any signs of intelligent life in this galaxy?
 I have scoured this galaxy my liege, and I have found, on a planet called Earth, one whom I believe is the recorder of his planet’s history. Possibly he is the only one of his race, possibly there are more, possibly he could even inform me if there are other planets that harbor intelligent life in this galaxy. But I must inquire further.
 Make haste my herald, for Galactus hungers…
 My senses, sharpened by years of flight through space and contact with psychic energies, have allowed me to connect with all kinds of energies on this planet….and I have just intercepted a force known as…the internet. I listen now to the thoughts of he whom I take to be this planet’s wisest being…he who blogs:
 Right now he prepares a post called “Amazon Boobs IV: In Space”. I listen!
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 Okay folks, because the views on my stat counter demanded it, here it is! My fourth, and hopefully last, look at the cesspool of stupidity which is the review sections of Amazon.com.
  Three times before you have felt the terror, known the madness, lived the horror. But this, is the one, you’ve been screaming for.

 Brace yourselves my gentle readers; this isn’t just going to be me making fun of a few fairly normal folks who are uninformed about comics history, these reviews come from the worst of the worst, the kind of people who, if there was any justice in this world, would have ended up in the Darwin Awards books years ago or guest-starring on an episode of Cops with their shirts off.
  Our first fine specimen of humanity is this anonymous fellow whose biggest problem with Superman’s 90’s cartoon is that Superman isn’t as powerful in them as he used to be portrayed. Most people like seeing a more relatable Superman, but apples and oranges.

 No, the real problem lies in the reason this guy doesn’t want to see Superman depicted as weak: He thinks it will cause his son to grow up thinking Superman is weaker than Wonder Woman.
  I’m dead serious:
 It’s not the only time he’s made this complaint either, so it’s probably not just a joke:
 What a sexist asshole, I feel sorry for his son.

 Oh, and oddly enough, I don’t see any outraged ‘geek feminists’ screaming their heads off about his reviews, writing 3,000 word essays about how much they hate him that they force their followers to reblog on Tumblr. Why is that? Guess they must be having one hell of a discussion about their favorite slash pairings on Scans_Daily.

 Older Superman material isn’t without its share of nay-sayers either. Apparently the ’78 movie has plot holes that are capable of killing people:
 I’ve encountered terrible plot holes in movies, but not murderous ones! Hell, if that was true, M. Night Shyamalan would be one of the great mass-murderers of history.
 Next we have someone who attacks Batman: A Death in the Family because it depicted a war going on in Lebanon, which the reviewer chalks up to the writers never having gone there:
 Yeah, because it’s not like there was conflict going on there in real life when the comic was written. May as well complain about Germany being depicted as under a hostile dictatorship in the 1930’s.

  Next up, Batman comes under attack not for being a tool of the establishment attacking those poor Lebansese, but for…taking the Lord’s name in vain:
Well, I gotta admit it’s a new one when it comes to criticizing All-Star Batman & Robin.

  But it’s not like DC properties are the only ones who get stupid reviews, Marvel movies get hate too. But before we move onto those, let’s take one last look at DC’s most famous property: The Avengers!!

 Wait---The Avengers is a DC property? Apparently so, according to this guy:
 Well, I can’t say I disagree with his argument; most of DC’s movies did fail because of The Avengers….because Avengers outgrossed them. But who am I to argue with the wisdom of a Power Rangers fan?
 Non-Avengers Marvel properties get hate too, like poor Spider-Man:
 I can’t help but agree with this fellow though, The Amazing Spider-Man was a pretty crappy sequel to the Raimi films, why, it almost felt like it wasn’t supposed to be a sequel at all! Almost like it was supposed to be *GASP* part of its own new continuity!

 Moving away from the modern world of Hollywood and all its reboots and remakes, it’s time to take a trip all the way back to the 50’s:
 It was a simpler time, full of white-picket fences, Disneyland, TV dinners, rampant bigotry; you know, the good old days.
 But there was a dark shadow hovering over America, the shadow of comic books!!!

  Thankfully, there was one man who courageously fought against their pernicious influence. This lone, brave man wrote a book called Seduction of the Innocent, exposing the evil he saw. One man: The name’s Wertham. Fredric Wertham, M.D.


 Okay, seriously, while ‘ol Fred has been unfairly been portrayed as some sort of right-wing nutjob by comics fans over the decades, he’s also had a lot of people who vehemently defended him. Some are on Amazon:

Wertham did do many admirable things; he was one of the first involved in the civil rights movement, opened up a free clinic for children in Harlem, testified in the Brown Vs. The Board of Education hearing and was friends with Martin Luther King. Great stuff, and yes, it is what he should be remembered for. Still, when you take time off from serious causes to devote your time to bullshit, bullshit tends to be what you get remembered for.

 However, it’s gotten to the point in recent years where it’s become “hip” to defend Wertham, and his defenders take it to a ridiculous extreme, suggesting that, because Wertham helped fight racist laws, then comic book fans who hate Wertham must all be racists.
  So in other words, Wertham’s defenders try and fight ignorance by spreading more ignorance.

 However, if everyone who hates Wertham and likes comics is such an awful racist and everyone who loves Wertham and hates comics is such a shining example of tolerance and social justice, then why do Wertham supporters leave comments like these? Here is a response to a positive review of Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent. It’s also the only place you’ll ever see the Lone Ranger and Tarzan described as realistic role models:
 I had no idea the guy who writes Billy the Heretic wrote reviews for Amazon.
 Joking aside, from now on I’m going to pull out my screencap of this anti-Semitic fuckwad’s gibbering every time some pro-Wertham troll starts acting all high and mighty. I’ve never seen anything this bigoted coming from Wertham’s detractors who are supposedly such horrible bigots.

  And now for the coup de grace, even though it’s been covered by Least Helpful.com, I just couldn’t resist this gem:
 Oh, man. Who wants to bet these people who go around calling everything “fake” (or “fake and gay”) on the internet are all just overcompensating for some really stupid scam they all fell for when they first got online?

  Well that’s it for tonight folks. I gotta log off. My head is killing me, and I’ve had this creepy feeling as if I’ve been being watched the whole time I’ve typed this. Dealing with Amazon reviewer stupidity will do that to you though.

~
Well my herald, have you found any signs of intelligent life besides that one being whom you observed? Galactus needs more than one inhabitant if he is to feed!
No my liege, after observing that man’s thoughts, I have concluded that other than him there is no intelligent life on Planet Earth.
 Damn! Did they call this the Milky Way Galaxy for nothing? Onward my herald, for Galactus hungers!
 So long as we get away from this planet, that’s fine with me! (DC’s The Avengers? Seriously?)