Archive for January, 2008

Real-Life Superheroes?


I don’t know if this is cool or just really, really weird, but here ya go: People who dress up as superheroes and go out to fight crime and/or improve their communities.

By most observers’ reckoning, between 150 and 200 real-life superheroes, or “Reals” as some call themselves, operate in the United States, with another 50 or so donning the cowl internationally. These crusaders range in age from 15 to 50 and patrol cities from Indianapolis to Cambridgeshire, England. They create heroic identities with names like Black Arrow, Green Scorpion, and Mr. Silent, and wear bright Superman spandex or black ninja suits. Almost all share two traits in common: a love of comic books and a desire to improve their communities.

It’s rare to find more than a few superheroes operating in the same area, so as with all hobbies, a community has sprung up online. In February, a burly, black-and-green-clad New Jersey-based Real named Tothian started Heroes Network, a website he says functions “like the UN for the real-life superhero community.”

Once you’ve honed your body and strapped on your utility belt, it’s time to decide how to focus your heroic efforts. Within the community of Reals, there’s a buffet of choices. Some choose mundane tasks — The Cleanser strolls around picking up trash, while Direction Man helps lost tourists find where they’re going. Most Reals also lend their personages to charities, donating to food banks or organizing clothing drives.

Other Reals scoff at the idea of being a glorified Salvation Army bell-ringer and instead go looking for action. “I fight evil,” says Tothian, the New Jersey crimefighter who founded Heroes Network. “I don’t think picking up garbage is superheroic.”

Master Legend, a chrome-suited 41-year-old from Winter Park, Florida, patrols the streets looking for crimes in progress, and claims his efforts have paid off. “I’ve dumped garbage cans over crackheads’ heads, I slam their heads against the wall, whatever it takes,” the Silver Slugger says with bravado. “They try to hit me first, and then it’s time for Steel Toe City.”

I dunno — the concept of “real” superheroes, of people dressing up in costume to pretend to be superheroes, has always just struck me as severely silly. I’m a big fan of having an active fantasy life — but dressing up and playing out my fake fantasies for all the world to see? That’s a bit much.

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Sunday Leftovers

I found a couple Mike Mignola comics I’d forgotten to review last week hidden under a pile of papers, so let’s go ahead and take a look at them real quick.


B.P.R.D.: 1946 #1

A new series, written by Mignola and Joshua Dysart, and illustrated by Paul Azaceta. It focuses on the early history of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, or the BPRD. This first issue is set in post-war Berlin, split between the Americans and the Soviets. Trevor Bruttenholm, Hellboy’s “father,” has come to the city to try to catalog the Nazis’ occult research. Unfortunately, the Americans can only spare him a group of five sad-sack soldiers with little-to-no experience with research, while the Soviets have an extremely well-organized operation that’s easily snapping up all the best artifacts.

So far, the best moments involve Bruttenholm going to visit the Soviet side of Berlin, discovering how far out of his league he is compared to the Russians’ progress, and meeting Varvara, the person in charge of the Soviets’ research operation, who is apparently a vodka-chugging little girl. Later, Bruttenholm and one of his assistants visit a secret Nazi laboratory that has been deserted… or has it?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story gives a good idea of what post-war Berlin felt like, the characters are pretty fun, and the story is pretty creepy, especially at the end. Looking forward to the rest of this series.


Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #5

As much as I enjoyed the previous four issues of this comic, this one let me down a little. The evil Fu-Manchu-esque villain sticks Lobster with some mystical talisman that’s supposed to make Lobster his slave, then he gets captured by Nazis and mobsters, but escapes to pursue the Nazis as they prepare to bomb New York City from a U-boat. A pretty cool underwater fight ensues between Lobster and a Nazi. Lobster realizes that the mystic talisman is actually a conventional explosive preparing to blow up, so he ties it to the sub and destroys it. A lengthy wrap up follows.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It just didn’t excite me the way the other issues did. This may be one of those stories where the end makes better sense when you read the entire thing together. But the ending is unexpectedly vague, and the “Iron Prometheus” of the title doesn’t really appear at all in this ish.

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Friday Night Fights: Elasto-Mystical Beatdown!

If it’s Friday night, and it’s time to start releasing all that pent-up end-of-week aggression, then it’s definitely time for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, we’re going back to the only decent weekly comic DC has made in the last few years, 52. From Week 42, by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Darick Robertson, and Keith Giffen: Ralph Dibny unleashes a surprise jawbreaker on Felix Faust!


And with that, Ralph Dibny became the 3,461st DC superhero to clean Felix’s clock. That guy’s gotta be the most pathetic supervillain ever. They should just publish a series of DC heroes and villains beating the stuffing out of Felix — heck, I’m sure it’d be better than “Countdown”…

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The Swingin’ Sixties


Teen Titans Lost Annual

This is one of the maddest mainstream comics I’ve ever seen. And I mean that in a good way.

The whole story is set in the ’60s, and the original Teen Titans — Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Speedy — discover that President Kennedy has been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a doppelganger. They travel to the aliens’ planet and discover that his abductors, a bunch of mod aliens with Beatles haircuts, have brainwashed JFK into believing he’s their general in the war against the hippie aliens. Wonder Girl romances one of the hippies for a while, and in the end, everyone makes peace, Kennedy is freed from his brainwashing, and everyone returns to Earth. And at that point, there is a plot twist so brain-breakingly awesome that I really can’t reveal it to you at all. Seriously, just go buy it yourself.

This story was written by Bob Haney, the co-creator of the Teen Titans, and one of DC’s maddest writers. He wrote the story a few years ago, and DC shelved it for way too long ’cause they thought it was too freaky to sell. Since then, there’s been a revival of interest in the Silver Age’s great comics madmen, including Haney and Bob Kanigher, and DC brought the story back into play. It’s illustrated by Jay Stephens and Mike Allred, who both have a good grasp of Haney’s style of geeky psychedelia. Unfortunately, Haney died about three years ago, so he didn’t get to see his last comics work published.

At any rate, the story really is grandly fun for all the wrong reasons. Haney, bless his heart, never managed to get the hang of the way teenagers talked, but his fractured slang and purple-prose narration actually work really well for the story. It’s a time capsule of Silver Age wackiness, reminding you of how wild comics could be back in the ’60s…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Grand fun, no question about it.

But some of the other comics I picked up weren’t near as much fun.


Justice League of America #17

What an irritating, depressing comic this is.

To understand what’s happening, you should know that there’s a DC miniseries going on right now called “Salvation Row” where the government is in the process of kidnapping every supervillain in the world and shipping them off to a hellish planet on the other end of the galaxy. So in this issue, a bunch of supervillains on the run go to the Justice League for help. And in a backup story, Vixen discovers that her weirdly messed-up powers are even more weird than anyone expected.

The big problem with the main story is that, if you’re not following “Salvation Run” (which I’m not, mainly because I’m tired of DC suckering me out of my cash for more miniseries), you have no idea what’s going on. You don’t know what’s driving the plot, or even who the supervillains are (and most of the story focuses on them). The writers make no effort to give any exposition — they just assume everyone is a long-time and obsessive comics fan who already knows what’s going on. And that’s really what’s wrong with so many DC comic books these days — the continuity is impossibly convoluted, and the writers assume that everyone knows what the heck is going on. It’s a rotten way to run a comic book company, because it actively runs off new readers who aren’t hip to all the history and crossovers.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The story is okay, but I can’t help being aggravated by the way this comic seems to be written only for the fanboys.


Green Lantern Corps #20

Kyle Rayner and Guy Gardner are moving from Earth to Oa, partly to serve as members of an honor guard protecting the planet and partly to open up a bar. Meanwhile, the evil and already-very-powerful Mongul has been given a yellow power ring; he spends several pages of the story shouting at his dead sister’s decapitated and worm-eaten head.

Verdict: Thumbs down. When the most exciting moment is the supervillain having a screaming fit at his sister’s wormy skull, you know you got a booooring comic book.

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I’ve still got a handful of comics to review from last week, but things unexpectedly came up last night and gave me no time to write up some proper reviews. So instead, let’s just take a moment to thank our lucky stars that the age of 2,000-pound rodents is over.

Uruguayan scientists say they have uncovered fossil evidence of the biggest species of rodent ever found, one that scurried across wooded areas of South America about 4 million years ago, when the continent was not connected to North America.

A herbivore, the beast may have been a contemporary, and possibly prey, of saber-toothed cats — a prehistoric version of Tom and Jerry.

For those afraid of rodents, forget hopping on a chair. Its huge skull, more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) long, suggested a beast more than 8 feet (2.4 meters) long and weighing between 1,700 and 3,000 pounds (750 and 1,350 kilograms).

Although British newspapers variously described it as a mouse or a rat, researchers say the animal, named Josephoartigasia monesi, actually was more closely related to a guinea pig or porcupine.

“These are totally different from the rats and mice we’re accustomed to,” said Bruce Patterson, the curator of mammals at the Field Museum in Chicago, adding that it was the biggest rodent he had ever heard of.

An eight-foot-long guinea pig. Imagine finding that in your pantry sometime…

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The Goon Show


The Goon #20

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me about “The Goon” before? I should’ve been reading this years ago!

Background? The Goon is a big tough guy who beats the snot out of monsters from time to time. Franky is his buddy, and he has Little Orphan Annie eyes. Honestly, I think that’s all the background you really need.

Our story this time? Well, we got a moron named Ralph, and he gets eaten by monsters. His mother asks the Goon and Franky to find him, and they go looking in the burlesque house where he was last seen. After the Goon beats up a gorilla, they discover the monsters — a couple of harpies who the Goon had previously destroyed. Also, an undead magician who whines about how much pain he’s in. After this, there is a great deal of fighting.

This is classified as a horror comic, but the monsters here are awfully mild. Honestly, the entire focus of the book is humor. And this is a very funny book. I counted about a dozen gut-buster laughs in 22 pages, which is a mighty good average for any comic book.

And since so much of the story is set in a burlesque house, creator Eric Powell got to do a lot of research and interviews with burlesque performers, which he shares in the letter column. So hey, burlesque!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Seriously, this is such an utterly fun comic. I’m still madder’n heck that I missed out on it for so long.

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Hail to the King, Baby


The Evil Dead #1

You’re not reading that wrong — Dark Horse Comics went and made a comic book of the greatest low-budget horrorfest ever filmed in Morristown, Tennessee.

The plot? If you’ve ever seen “The Evil Dead,” you know it already. Ash and some of his friends go to a cabin in the woods, play a tape recording of a transcription from the Necronomicon, and bad things happen.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, it’s a fairly direct re-creation of the 1981 movie. But it’s an excellent re-creation. The artwork is really interesting, and perfect for a horror comic. I don’t know how many issues are planned for this series, or if they plan on deviating much from the movie plotline — but I don’t really care. I plan on picking up every one of these.

(And for the horror obsessives out there — I think this is definitely an adaptation of the original movie, not “Dead by Dawn” or “Army of Darkness.” So far, there’s none of the slapstick that dominated the other movies, plus some of the dialogue from the first movie has already been quoted. Of course, it’s always possible that this comic will do a bit of mix-and-match of the three movies. In fact, that would be pretty dad-gummed awesome.)

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The Spirit is Willing


The Spirit #12

Ladies and gentlemen, hats off. This is Darwyn Cooke’s final issue of “The Spirit.”

The series will continue, of course. But Cooke is moving on. And he’s given us a whole year’s worth of truly excellent comics.

Our plot this time is based on a couple of stories by the great Will Eisner, the guy who created “The Spirit” back in 1940. It focuses on the Spirit and his first love, Sand Saref, from their childhood friendship to their animosity later in life, and on a plot Sand has gotten involved in with the criminal mastermind, the Octopus, and a mad scientist named Dr. Vitriol.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Darwyn Cooke’s art is just so beautiful. Part ’40s retro cool, part modern action movie. The splash page with the title is just a wonder to behold. Go get it. Get all of these that you can.

And I’m certainly not dropping this comic yet. Sergio Aragones and Mike Ploog are taking over the writing and artwork in a couple of issues, and I have high hopes for what they can do.

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Friday Night Fights: Girlfights!

Is there anything in the universe that gets the heart pumping hard and fast like a little Friday Night Fights? Anything at all? Anything? Not likely! Well, okay, I can think of one thing that’s likely to get the blood pumping faster. Just one thing. But seriously, who could ever manage to combine Friday Night Fights with Friday Night F– What’s that? Tonight’s fight is from 2001’s Love and Rockets, Vol. II, #3 by Gilbert Hernandez? Wow, LosBros Hernandez are into the chin-hockey, too? Well, let’s see what we’ve got —




I’m sorry, I’ve completely forgotten what I was talking about.

Friday Night Fights? Seriously? Whatever. ‘Cause that pic is just, just…

Listen, I, uh, I gotta go over here for a while. Don’t follow me.

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Seeing Red


Hulk #1

The Hulk is back, but he’s not the big green goliath we’re all familiar with. It starts off with Doc Samson, She-Hulk, Iron Man, and Gen. Thunderbolt Ross investigating an unusual murder in Russia. From the looks of it, the Abomination was attacked by the Hulk, beaten senseless, and then… shot to death with a handgun?!? Unfortunately, the investigation is interrupted by Red Guardian, Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo, and Ursa Major of Russia’s Winter Guard, which, of course, leads to the inevitable fistfight. Things settle down when a lone survivor of the attack is found — a traumatized little girl who is only able to say the word “red.” Meanwhile, longtime Hulk ally Rick Jones finds himself mysteriously lost and shirtless in the Alaskan wilderness, while Samson and Ross decide to track down some answers about the Hulk by turning to the world’s foremost expert on the Hulk — Bruce Banner, still safely in custody in Nevada.

Verdict: Thumbs up, with a ton of criticisms. First: We don’t actually see the Hulk at all — just some flashbacks. Second: killing the Abomination? He’s pretty much the main Hulk villain. Everyone knows he’ll be back by Issue #6. Third: I don’t understand the animosity between Doc Samson and She-Hulk — last time I remember seeing them together, they seemed to get along fine. Seems like poor characterization. However, for all those criticisms, I still enjoyed the issue. There’s not much question about who the Hulk is this time, but it should be entertaining finding out what turned Rick into a big red musclehead.

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