Sunday, December 31, 2017

Today in Comics History: Clark Kent and Lana Lang freeze to death

Splash page from DC Comics Presents #92 (April 1986), script by Paul Kupperberg, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by Dave Hunt, colors by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Helen Vesik

The 1978 2017 DC Calendar of Super-Spectacular Disasters: New Year's Eve Endings

Throughout the year we've seen the heroes of the DC Universe face off against a dastardly, devilish diaply of do-(no)-gooders determined to destroy the Dearth...I mean, Earth...with a diversity of devastating disasters! All our favorite heroes and Hal Jordan have stopped the conveniently-separated-by-months plots dead in their tracks, but who is the Mastermind of all these sinister scenarios? Could it be the Riddler? Ra's al-Ghul? Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man? It's Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, isn't it?

"December 31" from The 1978 DC Calendar of Super-Spectacular Disasters (1977), art by José Luis García-López

Batman has figgered the identity of Chief Criminal thanks to clues fed into the Justice League Crime-Solvin' Computer and Dance Dance Revolution Machine, and he quickly snaps into action and detects, as the calendar tells us: "a villain The Batman must capture while Superman tries to pull the moon back into orbit. (Oy, he's always doin' that.) None of which explains why, in the calendar's cover portraying this mind-shattering scene, Batman is ridin' on the moon harness. You are literally useless in this situation, Batman! Sheesh. Go punch somebody, Bruce.

But what of that astonishing computer result that we've been waiting for this year? All year. (Eh, must be an Amiga.) I've been filling in the blanks as instructed by each month on the calendar throughout 2017 just as some of you must have done all during 1978, and what we've come up with. Who is the evil supervillain genius behind the year of Super-Spectacular Disasters, huh? TA-DA!:

Or, if you clean it up a little bit and assume I missed some spots throughout the year, because it's a bit more difficult with hooves:

Hooray! You know, I knew it was gonna be Luthor, but honestly until last month I didn't have any idea how the computer display was going to portray his name. Fun, huh? Off to jail for you, Lex Luthor! You may have only killed thousands of people during your Year-Long Reign of Disasters, but I'n sure you'll be out in a couple weeks because the guards at the prison gave you a ball-point pen and a baloney sandwich. Anyway, Happy New Year, and may your 2018 be Super-Spectacular with zero disasters!

365 Days of Defiance, Day 365: A Better World

"Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon...everything's different." — Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes

And there we are.

I've run late all year on this feature, and I've finished it up late — whatever the date at the top of this post says, t'ain't December 31, it's several days through March 2018. Y'all have been remarkable patient with me backdating several posts at a time instead of putting them up every day like clockwork, like a good blog should. But it's been a hard year. It's been a hard year for me, and I know it's been a hard year for you. There are sometimes when I put down my little fuzzy head and cry. You might too. And that's okay, because we both get up eventually and get back to life. We get back to speaking, to posting, to protesting, to donating, to helping, to voting, to defying each in our own ways.

Panels from Final Crisis #7 (March 2009), script by Grant Morrison, pencils by Doug Mahnke, inks by a whole lotta guys, colors by not so many guys, but still a lot of 'em, letters by Travis Lanham

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation." — Robert F. Kennedy

We'll never punch the Red Skull. We'll never sass off to Galactus. We'll never kick Darkseid in his little blue skirt and push him into a Boom Tube. But we can be inspired by the guys who did that. By Spider-Man, by Captain America, by Superman, by Green Lantern, by Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl and Black Panther and Shuri. Our heroes don't do the work for us, but they show the way. And remind us: the work is never done.

Panels from Fear Itself #7 (December 2011); script by Matt Fraction; pencils by Stuart Immonen; inks by Wade Von Grawbadger and Dexter Vines; colors by Laura Martin, Justin Ponsor, and Matt Milla; letters by Chris Eliopoulos
(Click picture to length of 2017-size)

"No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world." — Robin Williams

We don't know what the future will hold (and that future hasn't been written yet, no how, no way), but we do know this: we know that the future will judge us harshly is we're on the wrong side of history. You know what the wrong and the right siide is here. Surely you want your kids and their kids, and those in centuries to come all the way up through the Legion of Super-Heroes and beyond, to look back and say of us "nevertheless, they persisted?"

Panels from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2015 series) #4 (March 2016), script by Ryan North, oencils and inks by Erica Henderson, color by Rico Renzi, letters by Clayton Cowle

"Be the change you want to see in the world." — Mohandas Gandhi

Let this all radicalize you rather than lead you to despair. Let's not, like the dog in the burning house, sit back and sip coffee. This is not fine. This needs action. Need a suggestion on what you need to know and how to get started? StayWoke is an excellent reference to bookmark and return to, and their Resistance Manual is a continuingly updated prime source for activism, resistance, and protest. As StayWoke says: There are more of us who support equity and justice than who oppose it.

There is hope. There is a chance. We need to remember the "final words" of the man who started this all for us in his four-color defiance, a man who came from another place but taught us to fight for all humanity.

Panel from Superman (1939 series) #156 (October 1962), script by Edmond Hamilton, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by George Klein, letters by Joe Letterese

"We all have the potential to move the world, and the world is ready to be moved." — Harry Chapin

It's a message of encouragement and optimism championed by even very nearly the complete polar opposite of Superman, a cynical, hyper-violent, sex-addicted, kangaroo-shagging, tank-driving child of post-Apocalypse Earth. Even she knows the score.

Panel from Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank #3 (August 2016); script by Alan Martin; pencils, inks, colors, and letters by Brett Parson, additional colors by Ned Ivory

"But it's up to us to make it okay. It's time to be positively rebellious and rebelliously positive. As long as we stand up for what we believe in, don't give into anger or violence, look out for the little guy, keep an eye on the big guys, refuse to keep our mouths shut, and just generally try not to be dicks, every little thing is going to be all right." — David Tennant

"Can't we give ourselves one more chance
Why can't we give love that one more chance
Why can't we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love
'Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (people on streets) edge of the night
And loves (people on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure"
— Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, "Under Pressure"

Cover of Ms. Marvel (2016 series) #25 (February 2018), art by John Tyler Christopher

Isn't it love, after all...that makes the world go round?

Panels from Marvel Graphic Novel #5 [X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills] (1982), script by Chris Claremont, pencils and inks by Brent Anderson, colors by Steve Oliff, letters by Tom Orzechowski

"I used to be on an endless run
Believe in miracles 'cause I'm one
I have been blessed with the power to survive
After all these years I'm still alive

I'm out here kickin' with the band
I am no longer a solitary man
Every day my time runs out
Lived like a fool, that's what I was about, oh

I believe in miracles
I believe in a better world for me and you
Oh, I believe in miracles
I believe in a better world for me and you."
— The Ramones, "I Believe In Miracles"

Saturday, December 30, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 364: So long, farewell

Panels from Teen Titans/Legion Special one-shot (November 2004), script by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns, pencils by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, inks by Marc Campos, colors by "Sno-cone", letters by Rob Leigh

Friday, December 29, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 363: Although it's been said, many times, many ways

Panels from Star Wars: Rogue One #6 (November 2017), script by Jody Houser, pencils and inks by Emilio Laiso, colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, letters by Clayton Cowles

Thursday, December 28, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 362: Why don't you listen to what The Man said

"Stan's Soapbox" from Marvel comics cover-dated December 1968 (top) and October 1978 (bottom)

You'd maybe think that my favorite Stan Lee quote would be "with great power there must come great responsibility" or "'Nuff Said!" or or "Face front, true believer!" But no. My favorite Stan Lee quote is this:

Excelsior, Stan. And happy birthday.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 361: I feel it coming

I haven't featured much from this year's big-ass Marvel crossover event Secret Empire, because one, it wasn't about a Marvel super-hero becoming an undercover baseball referee as I'd originally mistook, and B) it was a really tone-deaf idea to even temporarily make Captain America into a fascist, especially this year. But I liked this page.

Panels from Secret Empire #9 (October 2017); script by Nick Spencer; pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, Joe Bennett, and Rod Reis; inks by Gerry Alanguilan, Leinil Francis Yu, Joe Pimentel, and Rod Reis; colors by Sunny Gho and Dono Sánchez-Almaral; letters by Travis Lanham

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 360: Oh, Captain America, where are you now? When every thing's gone wrong somehow?

For your post-Christmas enjoyment and inspiration: probably the single most requested sequence since I started this year-long feature. I've been saving it for towards the end, because it is great, and it is powerful, and wouldn't ya know, it's more timely than ever. Just Imagine...(or, y'know, the other one's catchphrase) if Captain America had not been thawed out in 1963 (ahem, lots of clearing of throats) whatever year Avengers #4 took place in! Actually, according to the story, it's really "What If Namor Took the Scenic Route Home from His Amnesiac Years in the Bowery?" No Namor rampage in the frozen north, no slowly melting Capsicle, no discovery by the original Avengers in their Avengersub. And How About™ if the 1950s Commie-Smasher version of Captain America and Bucky were revived by a janitor who was angry at Nixon going to China? (Possibly he also hated ping pong and panda bears, but that's for the fan fiction). And Maybe Then™ Crazy Commiehater Cap convinced America to go all fascist, leading to race riots and a quickly inflicted martial law under the control of Fake Cap himself (naw, no Cap would ever do that!) And Of Course It Would Happen™ that in 1983, year of perhaps the greatest music ever, the All-Original Not-New Really-We-Mean-It Captain America Steve Rogers would be finally thawed out by a U.S. Navy submarine? Okay, you're caught up to date. Now...go!

Panels from What If? (1977 series) #44 (April 1984), script by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Sal Buscema, inks by Dave Simons, colors by George Roussos, letters by John Morelli

Instead of coming ashore to an asparagus alien shooting people with his Medusa-ray, Steve hits land for the first time in 38 years to see his beloved New York City run by a thug army of fascist-faced Capballs! That's not gonna sit right with the Star-Spangled Guy, who we can't call the Star-Spangled Avenger because the Avengers broke up not long after not finding Cap. Whoa, there's a nightmare alternate world for you, for sure! I certainly hope somebody else stopped Kang and Ultron along the way.

America under Capcism...well, it's not good. Not good at all. And there's a wall around the undesirable areas of New York. Curse you, Peter B. Gillis, for being so forward-thinking.

Steve is brought to the secret HQ underground rebellion against authoritarian "Captain America" and his Americommandos, where he teams up with insurgents J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man, Nick Fury, and urban guerilla leader "Snap" Wilson, known in our world as the Falcon.

Fury points out that they can perhaps put a sizable monkey wrench in the rise of an American Reich by attacking the Party Convention (aw, heck, let's just call it a Nazi rally) of the America First Party, who are intent on tightening restrictions on freedom even further. Let's pause on those words. America First. Now, where have we seen...and Cap would certainly remember...the credo "America First" being used before?

Or, perhaps you need "America First" used as a modern example? Here it is in scary contemporary context. Aw, you know who I'm reluctantly gonna quote here, right?

Ick. Get that crap outta my world and my comic books, you racist, fascist, dumbass pig.

As you might guess, this is a situation and an enemy with whom Steve Rogers will not put up. He'll not put up with them and he'll do it with his words and his fists. I'm gonna shut up and show you probably more of the comic book than is fair use, but y'all need to read this sequence, especially if you never have. The Cap of Earth-616 (and for that matter, the Cap of our world, Chris Evans) would be so proud of this Earth's real Steve here. I am too.

Monday, December 25, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 359: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

A very Merry Christmas to you all, and here's your Christmas present: an ultimately successful act of defiance, even tho' it took thirty-five issues (and however many of those "Five Years Later" preceded the series) to evolve from an underground rebellion to all-out war. Let's check in on the defeat and surrender of the Dominator forces occupying and, well, dominating Earth in the year 2525 2997. Let's check in and see what the MSMoTTC (Mainsteam Media of the Thirtieth Century) has to say about that. And in a moment, a shocking rebuttal from Don-Al 71-Bot, who is clearly on the side of megas. That's "Make Earth Great Again*" *by selling it out to the creepy yellow aliens with big pointy teeth).

Panels from Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 "Five Year Later" series) #35 (Early November 1992); script by Keith Giffen, Tom Bierbaum, anf Mary Bierbaum; breakdowns by Keith Giffen; pencils by Jason Pearson; inks by Karl Story; colors by Tom McCraw; letters by John Workman

Slowly but surely Rokk Krinn and Reep Daggle have been re-forming the Legion of Super-Heroes, and against a resurrected Legion the Dominators can't stand for long. Heck, one or two of 'em ought to do a lot of the heavy lifting. We may not have Superboy in this continuity, but we've got the next best thing: Mon-El Valor Lar Gand, last son of Daxam! He'll get the lad out!

Luckily for Earth, they've got not one but two Legions fighting for their rights in spandex tights: the slightly older and wiser original, and the shiny classic Batch SW-6 clones — look, it's a long story, just go with it. The Legion is here, and they're bringing civil disobedience and giant shoulder pads back! (I just dig those middle panels, don't you?) Here's the Young Colossal Boy and Kid Ultra Boy to the rescue!

At last, the futuristic tide is turned, and the Dominator forces surrender under fire. This war and the occupation before it has taken a huge toll of lives (see center panel), but it's happened. Defiance, rebellion, revolt and revolution have won the battle. War is over, if you want it.

Imagine a joy and relief so huge that you shout and dance and cry and gasp. We've felt the pressure over three years of Legion stories bringing us back from a dismal future. We lost many (R.I.P., Blok, Dirk Morgna, and young Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, and Chameleon Boy) and we mourn them, but now is the time for celebration. (Let's not talk about what happens four months from now, okay?)

Now. I'd planned this sequence to be my Christmas post since earlier in the year, because I figured that by December, things would maybe not be much better than they were in early 2017, and we might be in need of some inspiration. The post was originally going to end with the panel above: the exuberance of successful defiance. But pal Matthew Elmslie (thanks again so much!), who runs the I'm-gonna-recommend-it-yet-again blog Legion Abstract, a celebration of all things Legionny, suggested this sequence with the addition of one more page (below) that puts the whole Earth/Dominator War in perspective, focuses upon our reasons for hope, and why, at least in the comics, the good guys win. May it be so in our world, too. Keep defying.

As always, there's a Jane Wiedlin song to express it all.

We want a better life
We won't get caught between
A world that suffers
And a world we dream of
You cannot quiet us
We just keep getting stronger
And all the walls you build
Won't hold much longer

So don't stop dancing in the fire
Our voices lifting higher

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 358: Squirrel Girl also reminds you it's okay to punch Nazis.

Panels from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2016 series) #16 (March 2017), script by Ryan North, pencils and inks by Erica Henderson, colors by Rico Renzi, letters by Travis Lanham

Saturday, December 23, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 357: Captain America reminds you it's okay to punch Nazis.

Panels from Captain America (1968 series) #300 (December 1984), script by J. M. DeMatteis as Michael Ellis, pencils by Paul Neary, inks by Dennis Janke, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Diana Albers

Say, Cap, who else is really really good at punching the Red Skull? (Tune in tomorrow.)

Friday, December 22, 2017

365 Days of Defiance, Day 356: Rush, rush / I wanna see, I wanna see ya get free with me

The fun thing about choosing a favorite member of the Legion of Super-Heroes is not only that there's gosh-so-many, but there's also wow-even-more era of Legion history to choose from, so you can have a favorite from every age! My favorite original Legionnaire: Saturn Girl! My favorite of the classic era: Phantom Girl! (Or, more important, the love-struck team of Tinya and Jo, Ultra Boy!) My favorite Baxter hero: Saturn Girl! My favorite Five Years Later-LSHer: Matter-Eater Lad! My favorite animated cartoon Legionnaire: Bouncing Boy! And hey, I just all around love snake-Jeckie, modern-day Ferro, Triplicate Girl, and even Hate Face, the hero with "the face of a devil, the soul of an angel." Let's not forget Brainiac 5! Dawnstar! Gates! Shikari! Infectious Lass! False Pretenses Lad! Paste-Eater Pete! Light Opera Lass! And the poor guy who has to keep track of 'em all, Roll Call Roy!

But by far, my favorite Legionnaire of my favorite era of Legion of Super-Heroes of them all: direct descendant of the original Flash and possessor of the Speed Force in the Thirty-First Century, Jenni Ognats, XS! Because in the darkest moment of the Legion, who can better save her teammate than the fastest girl alive?

Panels from Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 series, Earth-247 reality) #123 (January 2000), script by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, pencils by Olivier Coipel, inks by Andy Lanning, colors by Tom McCraw, letters by Comicraft

As a Flash fan, I loves me this sequence even more than I hate the covers of the last nine issues of the original Barry Allen series for not even showing him running. This tier of four panels not uses speed lines and compressed panels to not only show the immense speed XS is traveling, but the pressure she's under and, in the last panel, the danger she's about to encounter...

...the danger of mind-controlled Legionnaires! And I think we all know how painful that can be. Maybe the whole schtick of this villain is that "no one can escape the Stem!" but honestly, there's always someone who's going to defy you and resist. Now it's Saturn Girl's turn.

And — I've said this before, especially in relation to Legion comics — I am a sucker for the last minute arrival of the cavalry, just as all seems darkest for our defiant duo. (Not to be confused with Duplicate Damsel.)

This segment was once again suggested by a pal who knows more about the Legion than Computo, and who certainly puts my surface-knowledge of the LSH to shame: Matthew Elmslie, your friendly host of the totally excellent Legion Abstract, which keeps the spirit well alive of the franchise seemingly forgotten by DC Comics. (Seriously, you guys: super-powered teenagers in the future. Is that not a great enough concept for you to hang one book on?) Thanks again, Matthew. And we've got at least one more Legion storyline suggested by Matthew comin' up in this last couple weeks of 365 Days of Defiance, because hey, it's the freakin' Legion!

Matthew was especially careful to suggest I include this coda from several pages later, which spells out the whole story so clearly and cleanly in teh same space it reminds you of the mission of the Legion of Super-Heroes. They do the impossible every day, one thousand years after you've had breakfast

Thanks, Matthew! Long live the Legion again!