Archive for February, 2009

The Supercar of my Dreams

I’m not a big car guy. I don’t get a thrill out of car shows, there is nothing duller to me than looking at your new car’s engine, and the only reason I ever go to a car dealership is if I actually want to buy a car. Sure, I like having a car to get me around town, and I think there are a lot of really pretty but wildly unaffordable sports cars out there, but I just don’t get a kick from automotive ephemera.

However, having said that, this car makes me want to touch myself inappropriately.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the 1938 Phantom Corsair. It was a prototype, created by Rust Heinz, second son of the guy who owned Heinz Ketchup, among other things. As far as I can tell, he built only one of them, showed it at the 1939 Worlds Fair, planned to sell them for about $14,000 (a huge price tag back in the ’30s), then died in a car accident in ’39. All plans to produce more of the Corsairs died with him.

The Corsair’s aluminum panels were hammered into shape and fastened to a tubular frame.  A layer of cork, at some places 1.5 inches thick, was applied to the inside of the body, then sealed with rubber.  The 1936 Cord L-head V-8 engine and 4 speed front drive transmission were fitted, along with the suspension and some instruments and other mechanisms.  Inside the vehicle, Heinz installed monitors for everything, including direction and altitude.  An overhead panel contained switches and indicator lights, and gauges filled every space of the instrument dash, which ran the width of the interior.

The front seat could accommodate four, and two in the back seat sharing space with beverage cabinets holding spun aluminum tumblers and decanters.  Other touches including a hydraulically operated hood, and push-button solenoid door buttons that actuated small panels above the door to flip up when pushed.  Tinted safety glass – a rarity then – was used for the windshield.  The bumpers were on telescopic mounts designed to increase impact protection.

Man, do I want that car. I know, I know, it’s priceless, there’s no way anyone could afford to buy it. But holy guacamole, do I want that car. I don’t know if I’d ever drive it — who’d want to run the risk of someone hitting it?

Here’s the other thing — you may have seen articles recently about so-called “real-life superheroes” who dress up in spandex and run around cities either doing charitable work or pretending to fight crime. Normally, that’s the kind of thing that just makes me roll my eyes. It’s wildly, wildly silly. But if I had that car — if I had the 1938 Phantom Corsair… I don’t know that I’d be able to stop myself from going out, buying a black trenchcoat, black fedora, and a nice, vintage gas mask, and then go cruising around town looking for an excuse to fight crime. Who wouldn’t?

The car itself probably qualifies as a superpower all its own. Rolling up to the curb in that would either send the bad guys running for the hills or dropping what they were doing to take some pictures. “We were gonna rob the bank, but we had to stop and stare at this beautiful black car that pulled up…”

Oh man, I want that car.

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Stories within Stories

PS238 #37

We get a break from some of the recent epic drama with a nice, relaxing transition story. The superpowered students have been given a creative writing assignment and are reading their only-somewhat-fictional stories to their classmates. The hyper-patriotic USA Patriot Act has a self-glorifying story that earns him the wrath of some of his classmates, Tyler Marlocke tells a story about the heroic and M.I.A. Moon Shadow (Tyler’s secret alter-ego), Toby Marlocke (Tyler’s superpowered clone) has a fantasy tale about the perils of great power, and Guardian Angel tells about her insecurities now that her powers don’t work right anymore, and Zodon recounts how his latest giant robot was a total failure… or was it? All that, plus preparations are being made for the school’s big soccer game against the rival Praetorian Academy, and Tyler has to decide whether he wants to become Moon Shadow again.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice breather before the upcoming drama with the villainous Praetorian Academy. The artwork is grand fun, too — two of Aaron Williams’ kids helped provide the drawings that accompany the superkids’ stories.

Booster Gold #17

Booster is still lost in time. He’s now stuck in the same time period when he literally ran over the Flash and Kid Flash with the Time Sphere, temporarily marooning them in time. Booster also has to contend with Chronos, a second mysterious time traveler, and the need to get a non-powered Barry Allen to a very important appointment with his origin story.

Verdict: Thumbs down. With two different Booster Golds and two different Barry Allens, this issue falls into a trap that a lot of time travel stories eventually run into — it’s just too danged confusing.

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Friday Night Fights: Love Stinks!

Oh, sure, sure, tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. We’re all soooo excited. All you rassafrackin’ lovebirds are gonna be running around, buying each other dinner and roses and cards and, and waffles or whatever. Well, some of us happen to enjoy our happy, single, sitting-around-the-house-and-watching-PBS, eating-Fudge-Choco-Chip-ice-cream-out-of-a-bucket, not-actually-very-lonely-and-certainly-not-listening-to-people-in-the-other-apartments lifestyles quite well, thank you very much.


Definitely time for Friday Night Fights. Definitely.

Tonight’s lovesick brawl comes to us from June 2000’s Superman #157 by Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, and Cam Smith. Things are not currently all sweetness and light in the home of Clark Kent and Lois Lane.


But I guess all relationships go through their rough stretches.


Well, maybe not that rough.


And that was probably unnecessary.


And to add insult to injury, turns out that’s not really Lois. (Gee, ya think?) It’s actually the big, gruesome Parasite, and in this storyline, he’d been impersonating Lois for weeks, maybe a month or two. And it’s possible that, at some point during all that time, there were… relations. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… but it just can’t be healthy to sleep with someone called the Parasite, can it?

(No time for love, Dr. Spacebooger)

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The Many Deaths of Batman


Batman #686

This is the one everyone was anticipating this week — “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” with writing by Neil Gaiman and art by Andy Kubert. How to describe it? All of Batman’s friends and foes are showing up at a sleazy bar in Crime Alley for a memorial service for the Dark Knight. Joe Chill is running the bar, Alfred is serving pie, and Batman is simultaneously mouldering in the casket and watching the proceedings invisibly. On top of that, the Riddler is played by Frank Gorshin, the Joker is played by Mark Hamill, and the one-armed Oliver Queen from Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” puts in a brief appearance. Clearly, this is not your standard funeral. Catwoman and Alfred both give eulogies recounting stories from Batman’s career and how he died — both stories are unusually implausible and mutually contradictory. What’s going on here?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is primarily an exercise in Batman nostalgia, a bit like Grant Morrison’s run in “Batman RIP,” but this is less focused on Silver Age ephemera and more on everything from the Golden Age up. We get snippets from the original Batman origin, subtle shout-outs to neglected Batman co-creator Bill Finger, and artistic styles based on famous Batman artists of past decades. Catwoman wears costumes from the Silver Age, as well as her original cat-headed costume. Alfred’s story, telling about how Batman’s rogues gallery really came to be, is full of reminders of the Bat-legacy. This is good, it’s definitely worth the $4 price tag, and the second part of the story is still to come.


B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #2

The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense has taken a small division of soldiers to a monastery on the Chinese border to look for Liz Sherman and her kidnapper, Gilfryd. While Abe Sapien, Kate Corrigan, and Andrew Devon are invited into the monastery, Johann Kraus and the soldiers have to wait outside. Liz is in a trance, and Gilfryd reveals to the team that she is the only hope for the world’s survival — the Frogs and their monstrous allies are massing in unstoppable numbers, with plans to kill everyone on the planet. And first on their hitlist? Johann and the soldiers outside.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The “B.P.R.D.” series is getting more and more epic with every issue. As much as I’ve always loved Mike Mignola’s artwork, I think I’ve actually been more impressed with what an outstanding writer and storyteller he’s become over the last few years.

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The All-Star "Hero Sandwich" Tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday!

A very merry 200th birthday to Abraham Lincoln! Let’s celebrate by taking a look at some of the scenes from Lincoln’s life:













And my favorite quote from Honest Abe: “Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!”

Man, what a statesman.

(It’s Charles Darwin’s 200th, too, but there are relatively few comics covers with Chuck’s picture on them, so he’ll just have to settle for being the poster child for Scientific Awesomeness.)

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Little Green Girl

She-Hulk #37

The Man-Elephant is back (snicker) and he’s gotten a lot more powerful — powerful enough to knock the She-Hulk around easy. Only thing is, it’s not She-Hulk, it’s her Skrull pal Jazinda in disguise. Where’s Shulkie? She’s getting bailed out of prison by Mallory Book, her old nemesis at Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway, and having happy reunions with her old friends at the law firm. And it looks like she’s going to get her law license back again, so she’s leaving the bounty hunter biz. About time, too.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This title is about to be cancelled, so they’re trying to return things to the old status-quo as quickly as possible, so this is a somewhat clumsy switcheroo. However, I still enjoyed how it was done (and the very welcome reappearance of Mallory Book makes it clear that she was too good a character to be abandoned for so long). Not sure how many issues are left, but I’m looking forward to at least one more courtroom escapade before this title goes away.

Secret Six #6

Well, Ragdoll’s sister is the extremely twisted and creepy and mutilated and naked Junior. Eww. Ewww, ewww, ewww. The Six release Bane and, for whatever reason, don’t kill Junior, though they know she’s going to be gunning for them for as long as she can. After the team leaves, Jeanette tells her story — she’s a banshee, made immortal and attuned to death when she was a servant of the notorious Erszebet Bathory, medieval serial killer and vampire. We also learn that the Mad Hatter, a former member of the Secret Six, is now plotting nastily against them. And at a roadside rest stop, Deadshot makes some very, very surprising decisions.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not sure what I think of Jeanette’s weirdo origin story, but wow, Deadshot sure does drop a big reminder that these guys are all supposed to be villains, not superheroes. Can’t wait for the next issue.

The Age of the Sentry #5

Marvel’s tribute to Silver Age lunacy continues. In our first story, we visit the distant future as Sentry and the Guardians of the Galaxy (a weird combo of Marvel’s original Guardians of the Galaxy, DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes, and a bunch of modern-day characters with a futuristic retrofit). The team has been instructed to help assist a pregnant planet. A what?! Yeah, it makes no sense, but that’s the Silver Age for ya. In the second story, the Sentry’s life is manipulated by shadowy children, who send a robot Sentry to break up his date with Lindy Lee, and try to set him up with the Sentress. Finally, we discover the identity of the mysterious and half-glimpsed parent who’s been telling his son stories about the Sentry’s adventures.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Any story that includes the Boy Blob, the Interstellar Mailman, fruit-pie-loving hippies, and a stoned Dr. Strange has got to be worth reading.

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Dirk West

I’d like to start a semi-regular series now about people from Lubbock who work or worked in comics, cartooning, and animation. There are actually a lot more than you’d expect, but let’s start off with someone who just about everyone in Lubbock knows about: Dirk West.

Dirk West was born in Littlefield, in 1930, but his family moved to Lubbock before he’d had his first birthday. He eventually attended Texas Tech, where he drew cartoons for the University Daily. After graduating, he appeared for three years as Uncle Dirk on a local children’s television show, but gave it up when his new advertising agency grew large enough to need all of his attention.

In the early 1960s, West began contributing sports cartoons to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. He drew two cartoons a week during football season, with each cartoon appearing in the sports section of the newspaper.

West’s cartoons were — and to a large degree, still are — wildly popular in Lubbock. He created Raider Red to represent Tech’s Red Raiders. Nearly all the other characters were mascots from other SWC teams. His cartoons were West Texas institutions for decades and were even appreciated by rival schools, even if just because they helped get their players psyched-up to try to beat the Red Raiders.

West entered politics in the 1970s, serving several years on Lubbock’s Parks and Recreation Board and city council and being elected mayor in 1978. By most accounts, he was a good mayor, but he disliked politics so much that he refused to run for a second term. After getting out of the government biz, he returned full-time to cartooning and his advertising agency, which he continued clear up to his death of a sudden heart attack in 1996.

So far, he’s the only cartoonist on the West Texas Walk of Fame.

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Death and Taxes

Well, after this weekend’s angst over the economy, you’d think I’d be completely uninterested in dealing with finances, but no! As it turns out, I decided to go ahead and get my taxes done. Wasn’t too bad — as always the biggest pain was spending half-an-hour entering in all the info. Still, I’ll be getting refund — enough to pay another month’s rent — so it was all worth it.

And speaking of taxes…

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #32

Wait, what’s superheroics got to do with taxes? Well, the Avengers owe them — in fact, they owe a lot of back taxes and penalties. Isn’t there some accomodation that can be made between the Avengers and the IRS? Well, sure — all they have to do is track down a bunch of supervillains, like Whirlwind, Man-Bull, the Absorbing Man, Bullseye, and Oog, and get them to pay their taxes.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Funny stuff. The Hulk keeps getting lost, Man-Bull can’t figure out the tax code, Oog, a giant hairy monster, strolls around New York City in a beret, and Luke Cage can’t get his momma to leave him alone.

Adventure Comics #0

Basically, this is a reprint from Adventure Comics #247 in 1958, with the first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes, along with a short story about Lex Luthor trying to escape from prison with a reprogrammed Brainiac.

Verdict: Thumbs up. For one thing, it’s just a dollar. Just a dollar! Second, it won’t do you no harm to read the first appearance of the Legion, even if it is an extraordinarily silly Silver Age story. Finally, the backup story, though ultimately completely forgettable, does reveal something very interesting and ominous about the Guardians of the Universe and the soon-to-appear Black Lanterns.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1

This is a comic series based on the new “Brave and the Bold” cartoon on Cartoon Network, with Batman teaming up with other characters from around the DC Universe. This issue starts out with Bats helping Aquaman take out Carapax, followed by Batman traveling to London, where he and Power Girl fight a giant monster created by Lex Luthor.

Verdict: I’m going to give this a thumbs up, because the story was fine and it kept me entertained, but I probably won’t be picking up future issues of this title. I can’t say it really appeals to me very strongly. Still, I do love the characterization of Aquaman as a very jolly but somewhat dim egomaniac.

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Fear of Falling

I try not to post about politics very often. Sure, I enjoy politics, but this is a comics blog, and most of its focus should be on comics. And I do more than enough whining about job-hunting as it is. Nevertheless, I found this graph online yesterday, and I felt like sharing.

Go ahead and click on that graphic so you can see a larger, more legible size.

And here’s a post from Time Magazine’s “Swampland” blog about the graph. The graph was put together by Nancy Pelosi (rolls fainting couch in) and prepared from numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The blue line represents job losses during the 1990 recession; the red line is from the 2001 recession. The green line is the current recession. It’s measured in months since the peak job levels and in thousands of jobs.

Now take a close look at that green line. Focus on it. Think about what that line means to you. It’s the first steep drop on a roller coaster, it’s Jason Voorhees swinging a machete, it’s the look on Wile E. Coyote’s face just before the anvil hits. It’s pulling the cord on the emergency parachute and getting nothing. It’s terminal velocity.

It’s scary as heck for me ’cause I’m job-hunting and there aren’t many jobs out here. But it should be scary for you, too. That’s not a line that’s suddenly going to bounce back up to normal levels. That’s a line that’s going to keep plunging hard for at least another few months before it starts to level off. If it starts to level off.

If you’re lucky, that line won’t impact you or your family at all. But even if you’re lucky, it is absolutely going to impact people you know. It’s looking like this is going to be a nasty time.

And if we’re not careful, it’s going to be dominated by nasty people, too. There are folks out there who apparently think that, if only the recession will go on long enough, their party can get back into power, or they can nab some big Neilsen ratings for their radio shows. There are Congressthings that want to cut food stamps, ’cause hey, the best way to fix the country has gotta be more hungry people, right?

The problem with this is, again, the green line. That green line is falling pretty fast, and it hasn’t shown a lot of respect for what party the unemployed may belong to. A recession that lasts 4-8 years and extremely steep job losses may be, in theory, a boon for some political parties, but in practice, it means millions of people out of work, falling into poverty, exhausting state and charitable resources. It means more people having to choose between paying rent and buying food, between keeping the electricity on and getting those chest pains checked out. It means more homeless families, more sick and dying kids, more shuttered businesses.

Anyone who says they want a long recession, for any reason, is either (1) not really thinking about what a long recession means, (2) lying for some stupid reason, or (3) a sociopath. And those people should either (1) start thinking, (2) stop lying, or (3) go away, never touch national economic policy or chainsaws, and start taking their meds.

So this is going to be an excellent time to crank your empathy and compassion meters up as high as they’ll go. The last thing I wanna hear is that any of y’all are kicking people while they’re down. I’m not saying y’all gotta give a ton of money to charities, ’cause a lot of y’all can’t afford even that. But I am saying it’s time for all of y’all to start thinking as compassionately as possible about your fellow human beings, regardless of their social status.

The jobless, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the oppressed — if you’re lucky, they won’t be you or anyone you know. But luck is an awfully rare item these days. There but for the grace of God, goes all of us…

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Mosquito Attack!


My dad sent me this picture from a WWII-era army training manual about how to avoid malaria — it was illustrated by Ted Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. My dad got the manual when he was a kid and his family moved to the Panama Canal Zone. The whole pamplet is pretty amusing, but it ain’t kid stuff either — it was designed to educate adult soldiers, so it’s not a bunch of “Cat in the Hat” silliness.

Anyway, soon afterwards, by sheer coincidence, this made the news:

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who now devotes his time to philanthropic activities, found a way to get the attention of top names in science, technology, business, entertainment and academia on the topic of malaria, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Addressing the elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Long Beach, Calif., he suddenly yelled to the crowd: “Malaria is spread by mosquitoes. I brought some. Here, let them roam around. There is no reason only  poor people should be infected.”

With that, he proceeded to unscrew the lid on a jar and unleashed a swarm of mosquitoes to a stunned audience.


The skeeters weren’t carrying malaria, but what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on that wall. (Pun completely intended)

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