Archive for Spirit

Friday Night Fights: A Spirited Battle!

Listen, man, I’ve had one heck of a week. I had to get out of bed, like, five times since Monday, and I had to go to work, and they didn’t let me play video games at all! What is up with that? Don’t they realize how important it is for me to play video games as often as I can?

Also, speaking of video games, none of y’all bothered to just show up at my door and give me a free Centipede coin-op machine. I give and I give, and no one will donate free Centipede machines to me, except for the ones that dispense actual centipedes, and I don’t want those at all!

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight, we’re heading all the way back to the August 10, 1947 edition of “The Spirit Section,” a small tabloid-size comic book that used to be included in newspapers back in the ’40s and ’50s. This is from a story called “Sign of the Octopus” and it was written and drawn by the great Will Eisner. Here, the Spirit wakes up from an impromptu nap, goes off to get some water, and gets a little lullaby, courtesy of Crusher, one of the hired goons of the Octopus.

Mmmm, all that plus spaghetti for supper! Sounds great, Mr. Spirit!

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Crazy Alien Freakz


The Brave and the Bold #20

Green Lantern and the Phantom Stranger are still investigating the strange goings-on at a distant alien planet where something slaughtered a whole city of people. They find a single survivor, from a species that instantly wraps itself in an indestructible cocoon whenever it’s startled. He says the culprit was a godlike monster called the Purge, which seeks to exterminate all life on the basis of a really twisted belief in peace, love, and harmony. The Phantom Stranger gets victimized by a dream-creating plant that really shouldn’t have been able to affect him, GL gets ambushed by another Green Lantern who’s been taken over by the Purge, and back on Earth, a corrupt corporation is planning on killing a sick child who may be the only person able to save the universe.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This one is an absolute indecipherable mess from beginning to end.


The Spirit #24

The Spirit is on the trail of someone who’s killing off Vietnam War vets. Obviously, this is all going to lead back to something that happened to them in ‘Nam, so the Spirit takes a trip to Asia to do some snooping. Will the Spirit be able to discover who the killer is in the Cambodian jungle, or is he going to wind up with a bullet in his back?

Verdict: Ahh, thumbs up, but just barely. The mystery is fine, but it’s a shade predictable, and I like the Spirit better when he’s prowling the mean streets of the big city…

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Bad Spirits

Wondering why the recent film version of “The Spirit” did so bad? You might look into Neil Gaiman’s Law of Superhero Films:

Had a conversation with Paul Levitz the other day about Gaiman’s Law of Superhero Movies*, which is: the closer the film is to the look and feel of what people like about the comic, the more successful it is (which is something that Warners tends singularly to miss, and Marvel tends singularly to get right) and the conversation went over to Watchmen, which had Paul explaining to me that the film is obsessive about how close it is to the comic, and me going “But they’ve changed the costumes. What about Nite Owl?” It’ll be interesting to see whether it works or not…

As Neil points out, this very neatly explains why people didn’t like Frank Miller’s film of “The Spirit,” despite liking the films of Frank Miller’s “Sin City” and “300.” The “Sin City” and “300” films looked just like Miller’s comics, but the “Spirit” film looked nothing like Will Eisner’s original “Spirit” comics.

You can apply this to other comic-based movies, too. Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movie closely replicated the feel of Lee and Ditko’s classic Spidey comics. Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” got the vital essence of Tony Stark on celluloid. Tim Burton’s “Batman” movies succeeded because they got the look and feel of the popular parts of the Batman mythos on the screen, while Joel Schumacher’s “Batman” movies failed because they just got the unpopular “Batman” TV show on the screen.

Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” would seem to be exceptions to the rule — both films always felt like comics revisions more than comics tributes, but they work perfectly all the same.

Oh, and speaking of “The Spirit”: Rather than watching that movie, maybe you should get acquainted with some “Spirit” comics by Will Eisner and Darwyn Cooke instead…?

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Wholly Spirit

Wow, two comics came out this week about “The Spirit”! Sure, that means DC and Warner Brothers are trying to drum up some interest in the Spirit movie that’s coming out in December — might I add, the Spirit movie that’s coming out in December and looks like unmitigated garbage.

Ahh, but on to the comics for now…

The Spirit #23

Ooh, lookit! A cover by Joe Kubert! BONUS!

Anyway, in this story, the Spirit travels, with Commissioner Dolan and his daughter Ellen, to a dude ranch for a little Wild West R&R. Along for the ride: a wealthy industrialist, his unfaithful trophy wife, and his scheming assistant. When the industrialist is murdered, will the Spirit be able to pin down the murderer, even with the “assistance” of a dimwitted sheriff and a mysterious Indian?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier’s version of the Spirit is often too silly and not rooted deeply enough in the grime and grit of the city, but this is excellent storytelling, along with an enjoyable (if a little obvious) mystery.

The Spirit Special #1

This is the real deal — four classic stories from Will Eisner himself, creator of the Spirit and one of comics’ greatest storytellers. The stories range from 1947 to 1950 and are perfect examples of Eisner’s pulpish, gritty film-noir style. We get one story featuring the villainy of the Octopus, a story about an assassin gunning for the Spirit, and a two-parter telling the story of Sand Saref.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is beautiful, vital stuff. The most uncomfortable part of the entire thing is the story that includes the Spirit’s sidekick, Ebony White. While the modern incarnation of the character is a perfectly normal kid, the version from the ’40s was a crude minstrel stereotype. Modern opinions on the character consider him an unfortunate element of the story who still managed to transcend the era’s racism, to some degree. But it may still make you really uncomfortable reading him.

Aside from that, again, it’s an amazingly beautiful comic, and I recommend it highly. Get it and see how a true master put his comics together.

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Beetles, Birds, and Spirits!


Blue Beetle #32

Tons of stuff happening here, but let’s keep the summary short. We get an extended origin of the new Dr. Polaris, Jaime gets a stern talking-to about endangering the trust El Paso had put in him by agreeing, even under pressure, to work with the Border Patrol, and Jaime, his dad, and Traci Thirteen try to track down Intergang and fall into a trap.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Some great stuff here — Jaime’s dad beats up someone with his cane, Traci isn’t able to mystically summon anything but carrots, and everyone gets off a number of excellent one-liners. The new Doc Polaris seems moderately interesting, but he’s mostly monologuing here.


Birds of Prey #123

Barbara is stuck face-to-face with the Joker, the guy who crippled her — and he doesn’t even remember who she is. The cops scare him off, and Babs and the rest of the Birds need to figure out why the Silicon Syndicate has joined up with the Joker and how they can shut them down. And to do so, they actually partner up with Barbara’s rival, the Calculator, with Infinity masquerading as a metahuman version of Oracle. But the team may be walking into a trap set by a bunch of very powerful and very creepy villains…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice standoff with Babs and the Joker. A few good villains waiting in the wings, though I suspect several of them wouldn’t be much good in a fight…


The Spirit #22

The Spirit investigates the murder of a magician and tries to determine what trickery was involved.

Verdict: Thumbs up, just because I’m a sucker for stories about magicians, sleight-of-hand, and all that stuff.

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Change We Can Disbelieve In

DC Universe Decisions #1

DC gets into election season by tapping conservative Bill Willingham and liberal Judd Winick to write about the impact of politics on the world of superheroes. An unknown villain is mind-controlling campaign workers into turning themselves into suicide bombers to try to assassinate a quartet of presidential candidates. The Justice League mobilizes, with everyone assigned to guard a candidate, either publicly in costume or undercover. Green Arrow breaks an unofficial superhero taboo by endorsing the liberal candidate he’s guarding.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This one already had an uphill battle, due to half of its writing team being an incompetent dope who is never happy unless he’s killing random characters. Yes, I mean Winick. Jeez, I hate that guy. Anyway, the investigation into the would-be assassin is entertaining enough, I suppose. We don’t really get much insight into the political beliefs of our superheroes — everyone knew Green Arrow was a liberal, and it was a pretty good bet that Lois Lane, daughter of a general, would be conservative. Perhaps a bit weirder is that Lois has no clue whatsoever about her husband’s political beliefs, and he absolutely refuses to tell her. Wow, that’s a really awful depiction of married people, don’tcha think? Superman keeps incredibly pointless secrets from his wife, and Lois Lane, big-time investigative reporter, can’t figure out what her husband thinks about the important issues of the day.

Captain Britain and MI:13 #5

Captain Britain is getting adjusted to his new powers, and Faiza Hussain and the Black Knight talk to Faiza’s overprotective parents, finally winning them over to accepting her new powers by showing off the shiny magic sword she pulled from a stone. Spitfire revels in her control over her vampiric nature, and everyone welcomes the team’s newest member, Blade. Hold it, Blade? Yeah, turns out he was brought up in England. Hey, wait a minute, Blade really, really doesn’t like vampires, does he?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A conditional thumbs up, as long as Spitfire gets outta this okay. I love the characterization they’re doing for Faiza Hussain — she’s really turning out to be a very appealing character.

The Spirit #21

A former crime boss named Buzz Viviano is facing regular attempts on his life in prison, and his old gang kidnaps Ellen Dolan, daughter of Commissioner Dolan and girlfriend of the Spirit, to try to get Viviano released. The Spirit has a makeup artist disguise him as Viviano so he can track down the gang and rescue Ellen. Unfortunately, the gang actually wants Viviano dead, so a nice big fight erupts. Ellen gets away, meets up with a cycle gang and enlists their help. The cops release the real Viviano, hoping he’ll lead them to the rest of the gang. The whole thing ends with a fairly epic brawl between the Spirit, the crooks, the bikers, and the cops, with Ellen enthusiastically joining in the mayhem.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The fight at the end is lots of fun, and the rest of the story is pretty good, too.

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The Last Night on Earth


DC Universe: Last Will and Testament

It’s the night before the final battle against Captital-E Evil, and all the superheroes expect to get slaughtered. So everyone’s spending their last night trying to take care of the things that are most important to them. Superman goes to visit his dad; Batman hangs out with Robin and Nightwing; Wonder Woman and Donna Troy perform some ancient warrior rituals; Rocky Davis, of the Challengers of the Unknown, of all people, acts as a confessor for various superheroes; and Captain Cold does some good. But most of this issue is devoted to Geo-Force’s obsession with Deathstroke. Can he finally figure out a way to kill the assassin he blames for the death of his sister?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Way, way too many pages devoted to a C-lister like Geo-Force? With maybe two or three pages for the real heavy hitters? No, sorry, this was complete, useless garbage, and I’m mad at myself for buying into yet another load of crossover-inspired bilge. My life is actually worse for having read this comic.


The Spirit #20

The Spirit investigates a murder at an aquarium — one that was apparently carried out by innocent dolphins! The Spirit has some severe doubts about the official story, and he enlists Ebony’s aid by getting him to apply for a job at the aquarium. But when some of the dolphins are stolen in the dead of night, what could really be going on here?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The mystery here is properly intriguing, and Spirit’s interactions with Ebony and with Ellen Dolan’s class of pint-sized students are lots of fun. Some elements of the solution to the mystery seem a bit unlikely, but nitpicking a mystery in a comic like this is a little unfair…


Wonder Woman #23

Wonder Woman has to keep the demonic D’Grth from destroying the world, all while struggling to maintain her own humanity after the loss of her soul. Meanwhile, Tom Tresser has really stepped in it this time. He’s called in a DMA strike team on Agent Diana Prince’s apartment, unaware the albino gorillas inside are on the side of the angels. Donna Troy shows up to help out, but Tresser is still going to have to risk arousing the suspicion of his bosses by calling off the strike team.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but it’s a near thing. The fight against D’Grth is pretty good, but dangit, Tresser is just an irritating character. And as bad as he screwed things up, it’s really pretty unbelievable that he was able to keep his job or stay out of prison.


The Flash #243

Missed at least one issue of this one. In the interim, it appears that the Flash’s daughter, Iris, has aged into an old woman because of her out-of-control speed powers. Can the science of Gorilla City determine a cure for Iris and her brother Jai in time, or are the Flash’s kids doomed?

Verdict: Kinda hard to say, ’cause I have no idea what happened in the previous issue. I got no clue how Flash took care of Spin, and I got no clue what’s up with the Nzame. I think I’ll give it a thumbs up, though. The kids weren’t irritating, and Flash got to do some actual superspeed running, which it seems like he does mighty little of these days. Even better, the kids’ powers appear to have stabilized, so maybe the comic will stabilize, too.

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Death Plays to Win


The Spirit #19

We get a trio of stories in this issue. First, the Spirit recounts how he bested a childhood bully and earned a lifelong friend. Second, Spirit tries to track down a one-handed criminal called El Leproso who may have turned over a new leaf. And finally, a comic book writer has been murdered, and three different artists claim sole responsibility. Can the Spirit figure out who the true killer is?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is really a lot better than most of the Aragones/Evanier “Spirit” stories have tended to be, and I think the shorter stories are what’s responsible. Instead of trying to pad out 22 pages with lame jokes, we get shorter, more compact stories. I approve wholeheartedly, and I hope they keep the comic going in this vein.


Green Lantern Corps #26

Our core Corps members have been captured by the yellow-ring-powered Mongul and implanted with fear-inducing Black Mercy plants. Mongul lectures Mother Mercy about trying to betray him, then leaves like a sucker, while Mercy frees the GLs again. A terrific battle ensues, but the victory is finally won by the smallest of the Green Lanterns, Bzzd, an intelligent alien insect. Unfortunately, things don’t turn out so great for Bzzd, and the latest rings from both the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps both seek out Mother Mercy…

Verdict: Thumbs down. Mostly a slugfest. We lose good characters like Bzzd, Mongul, and Duel. It all ends up feeling like I wasted my time reading it.


The Brave and the Bold #15

The cover just shows Hawkman and Nightwing, but Green Arrow and Deadman are also included in this team-up. Nightwing sends nearly all the world’s superheroes off to fight Trigon, but it’s just a ruse to get them off-planet when he hears Deadman’s story about Annuttara and his ghostly assassins. Yeah, Deadman is still alive — Green Arrow hadn’t really killed him, he just shot him and threw him off a mountain to give him a chance of getting back to warn the world’s heroes. But Nightwing doesn’t like the risk of getting a bunch of superheroes possessed and killed by ghosts, so he sends everyone away except for Hawkman, whose experience with past lives makes him an expert on ancient civilizations and ancient magics (Really? Whatever).

Meanwhile, in Nanda Parbat, Green Arrow is being horribly tortured and deformed by Annuttara, but Nightwing, Hawkman, and Deadman (who’s able to take solid form inside Nanda Parbat) attack, take out the ghost assassins, and try to free the imprisoned Rama Kushna. But they may have no chance of success after Nightwing throws himself off a cliff…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, good teamwork. And I thought it was pretty cool how Nightwing and Deadman, both former circus acrobats, got to trade some carnie lingo back and forth…

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Friday Night Fights: Orking the Joker!

It’s the next-to-the-last round of this latest series of FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS! And we all know what that means, right? Yep, only another week of me having to bleach the color out of my comic scans. Huzzah!

Tonight, I’m treating y’all to a coupla panels from January 2007’s Batman/Spirit crossover, by Jeph Loeb and Darwyn Cooke, as the Spirit, dressed in Batman’s cape and cowl, socks the Joker in the breadbasket.



I often find myself shouting “ORK!” when I get socked in the breadbasket. I assume everyone does, right?

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Real Genius


Genius #1

A couple weeks back, I got to interview Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin, the writers of the latest entry in Top Cow’s “Pilot Season,” and last week, their new comic, “Genius,” finally came out.

The story focuses on Destiny Ajaye, a teenaged girl who’s managed to organize the gangs of Los Angeles into a trained army. She then takes all these different gangs, declares war on the LAPD, and gives the cops a good, solid, hardcore smackdown.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Love the characterization on Destiny — part tough-as-nails gangsta, part non-stop thinking machine. I love the way her thinking is visualized for the reader — a bunch of X’s and O’s and arrows denoting how far ahead she’s thinking. And Afua Richardson’s artwork is pretty much divine — could someone please get her some more work in the industry? This is really wonderful stuff — hope we get to see more of it.


Birds of Prey #119

The Birds set up shop in the mega-wealthy city of Platinum Flats with a front company called Clocktower Systems. Huntress takes down an armored goon who calls himself Carface. But the folks in town think the Birds are the ones attracting supervillains to the city, so they’re not interested in giving them a warm welcome. Meanwhile, the Visionary, the bad guy who runs the local crime syndicate, puts the squeeze on the big-budget high-tech firms, Barbara is temporarily working with the supervillain hacker called the Calculator, and Manhunter’s gig spying on Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Speedy comes to an abrupt end.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of stuff happening. Carface is pretty funny, and the revelations about Calculator are pretty interesting. Also, umm, what’s Manhunter’s problem? She deserved the boot in the face, and there ain’t actually any way she’s gonna manage to beat up Black Canary.


The Spirit #18

The Spirit travels to Egypt and back on the trail of mystery involving a bunch of mummies.

Verdict: This seems to be DC’s most inconsistent series — sometimes good, sometimes rotten — but this time, it’s getting a thumbs up. The mystery is pretty good, the action is fine, and the humor works pretty well, too. The bit with Spirit getting through the airport security check without ever having to take off his mask was pretty cute.

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