Monday, November 30, 2009

Versus 2.1: The Cabal (Marvel) Vs. Villains United (DC) Featuring A Very Brief History Of Villainy

Borrowing liberally from Graig's clever VERSUS thread:

Marvel's Cabal versus DC's Villains United.

The debate has gone on for decades: which company, DC or Marvel, has the better villains?

DC? DC probably could lay claim to the first villain superstar team in 1947 with the aptly titled, Injustice Society.

Nowadays, DC on any given month brings you, The Joker, Sinestro, Lex Luthor, Black Manta, Lady Shiva, Deathstroke, Darkseid, just to name a very few.

Marvel, the younger, comes with the likes of the Doctor Doom, Loki, The Kingpin, The Red Skull, Magneto, Bullseye and The Hypo-Hustler...

Just making sure you're staying with me.

All incredible, all an individual danger to any hero or team who would dare challenge them.

In the mid-1970's DC Comics gave us an assemblage of villains so awesome, so evil, the could only call themselves THE SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS featuring A-list characters from DC Universe such as Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Gorilla Grodd and villains so far down the scale of "suck" they were virtually from conception, black holes of creativity such as Capt. Stingaree.

The idea of a secret society of villains was revisited in 2005 leading up to the events of Infinite Crisis and comprised of six of the DC Universe's most tactical and evilest of minds: Lex Luthor, Talia al Ghul, Black Adam, The Calculator, Dr. Psycho and Deathstroke. This team saw varying degrees of successes leading up to an all-out assault on Metropolis so vicious it took every available hero in the DCU to suppress it.

On the Marvel side of things, to my knowledge, the first truly great gather of villains occured in Avengers #6 with the formation of THE MASTERS OF EVIL, comprised of characters from the Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Marvel comics.

The Masters have used characters such as Dr. Octopus, The Scorpion, Whirlwind and Ultron in their continued efforts to defeat The Avengers.

Therein lie the problem, their motivations always seemed to come from more of a need to simply defeat The Avengers than anything else.

Until someone asked the question; "Where do you go once your enemy has been defeated?"

Answer? The Thunderbolts.

Recently, in the wake of the death of Captain America the former Green Goblin, Norman Osborn wrested control of counter espionage group, S.H.I.E.L.D. from the grasp its former head, Iron Man, Tony Stark and set his sights not just on the US but the world, forming The Cabal consisting of five of Marvel's current heavy-hitters, Emma Frost, The Hood, Prince Namor, Dr. Doom and Loki.

So, Second Printers, which of the two groups would be victorious in an all-out six-on-six battle for global supremacy?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Versus 2: Supervillain Lex versus Corporate Lex

I got directed last week to the joint blogging of Geniusboy Firemelon and GraphicContent and their analysis of the Superman 2000 pitch which Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Mark Miller and Tom Peyer made back in 1999 in a failed vie to take over the quartet of Superman titles running at the time. It's interesting reading through and through, both the look at what could have been, as well as Chad Nevitt and Tim Callahan's assessments thereof.

One particular point that really drew my attention revolved around Lex Luthor. From the pitch:
Though even he doesn’t consciously realize it, every iota of Luthor’s self-esteem was pinned to achieving that most lofty goal: to be considered the greatest man who ever lived. And he was on his way--until Superman appeared and outclassed him, triggering the scattershot sociopathic tantrum that is his criminal career.

Here’s another secret. Luthor's Lexcorp empire? All the corporate-baron stuff we see him doing routinely? Six minutes of his day, maybe less. He’s not the Kingpin. He only pretends to be.

Nevitt, in his assessment states:

I'm actually not a fan of the idea that Luthor only spends "six minutes of his day, maybe less" on Lexcorp, but I've always found that aspect of the character to be far more interesting than Luthor as supervillain. One thing I thought the creative team of Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, Joe Casey and Mark Schultz did right was making Luthor president since that demonstrates the level Luthor plays on, which is one entirely different from other villains.

I couldn't agree more. But it seems the current PTB at DC don't agree, as over the past few years, starting with the atrocious "Batman/Superman: Public Enemies" (both the comic and its animated adaptation) they have been utterly keen on bringing back the early 80's rocket-suited Luthor, and many writers with their "Superfriends fixations have been chomping at the bit to toss him in a purple jumpsuit. Though I haven't been reading it, I'm pretty sure Geoff Johns has once again retconned in the young Clark/Lex Smallville rivalry where Superboy is responsible for Lex losing his hair. Correct me if I'm wrong, just spare me the details.

John Byrne's de-powering of Superman in 1986 was right for the time, and in the midst of Reganomics, a corporate villain was apt. But that was then, this is now. Wait a tic, given the Wall Street shenanegans of recent years, an evil corporate supervillain is exactly what we need. But really, think about it. Superman isn't stupid, he's the son of a farmer, yes, but also the son of a scientist. He's able to view the world on a molecular level if he chooses, he can view people on any spectrum, he understands the world both scientifically and emotionally. But one thing Clark isn't is cunning. He, unlike Batman, isn't thinking steps ahead. Superman has generally always been reactive rather than proactive, and though he can see the world in a thousand different ways, he just can't see the world like Luthor can. Luthor can manipulate the world through his corporate structure. Through globalization and international laws of trade he can affect things in an manner that's vague and, in a sense, intangible. What Luthor can do, Superman would have a hard time to follow. Bruce Wayne might not even be able to see it. If Luthorcorp is a privately held company, which it most likely is, Luthor can keep the books off the public record and really get away with doing whatever he wants. How can the Man of Steel battle economic disruption? He can't. Through this kind of maneuvering Lex can have his way with the world outside of Superman's near omnipotent grasp.

Compared to that we otherwise have a Lex Luthor who is trying to destroy an indestructible man, time after time, going after the big red "S" with munitions and kryptonite, physical attacks that have proven time and time again ineffective. What if Superman developed Kryptonian-enhanced Rogaine® and Lex could grow his hair back? Having taken away Luthor's raison d'etre could they be friends again? I think, (especially given the interaction between Lex and Superman in All-Star Superman) that this kind of "mad scientist" Luthor doesn't inspire any fear in Clark, just pity and sympathy. Corporate Luthor, on the other hand, scared him, because he was playing a completely different game.

Give me the bald, overweight, cigar-chomping Boss Hogg-style Lex Luthor over the Purple and Green Luthor any day. It may not make for better fight scenes, but if you want drama, intrigue, and a real nasty rivalry that's what he delivers.
So Second Printers, I've had my say, which do you prefer and why?
Supervillain Lex Luthor or Corporate Lex Luthor?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Versus 1: DC Cosmic vs Marvel Cosmic

In the past four or five years both DC and Marvel have really, really stepped up their game when it comes to their planet-hopping, space-faring characters. Both have long histories exploring the cosmos but the unity of vision, the sense of "one universe", has never felt so tight.

DC had two mainstays of the galactic scene, the first being the futuristic Legion of Super Heroes. In the late 1980, with the "Invasion" event, the aliens of the Legion were brought into the modern day and made a threat. Thus was introduced the "L.E.G.I.O.N.", an intergalactic for-hire police agency which became the main thrust of interstellar trade at DC for years.

The other, naturally, was the Green Lantern Corps. The GLC, self-appointed guardians of the universe, who had their opposites in the Qwardians, and their compliments in the star sapphires of the Zamarons, and their competitors with the Darkstars. But the Green Lantern Corps invariably wound up earth-bound, numbers were constantly being reduced, down to only one in the mid-1990's.

It was recently, however, that the universe at large started getting a spotlight and it started with the "Adam Strange" mini-series that preceded "Infinite Crisis", paving the way for the "Rann-Thanagar War" and leading into the space-faring heroes (Strange, Animal Man and Starfire) of "52". Oddly enough, Jim Starlin, the chief wrangler of Marvels starbound heroes for many years (decades, even), took the reigns, bridging together the end results of "52", "Countdown" and his own strange adventures of Captain Comet, The Weird and Hardcore Station. Tony Bedard has picked up from here and forged ahead with the L.E.G.I.O.N. revival, "R.E.B.E.L.S."

Of course, the real thrill in the DC Universe has come at the hands of Geoff Johns and his revival of the Green Lantern Corps. With his impetus, all the noteworthy Green Lanterns (until recently) lived and worked in harmony. Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner co-existed and belonged with a unified purpose as space police, the real innovation was taking that literally, giving each lantern an assigned partner, and then extending the Corps to not just having an opposite in the Yellow Lanterns, but a full spectrum of Corps. Are they the police force, firemen, paramedics, army, navy, and marines of the galaxy?

Over at Marvel it started with "Annihilaton". Forget the Infinity Gauntlet/War/Crusade etc. (sorry Starlin), Keith Giffen came in and gave a bunch of tired played out characters new life, taking an old, sad Fantastic Four villain and turning him into a universe-level threat. With "Annihilation", Giffen crafted the grandest space opera perhaps comics had ever seen, (yes, even bigger than "Atari Force") while at the same time distancing the space heroes from the remainder of the Marvel Universe, then embroiled in a civil war, forging a new universe, so to speak, that wasn't so "Earth" centric. Mini series were spawned prior to the big event, giving Drax The Destroyer, Silver Surfer, Ronan the Accusor and Nova - especially Nova - brand new life.

It was Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning ("DnA")who ran with Nova and really made him something special. Richard Ryder became part Firestorm, part Green Lantern (more Kyle Raynor), taking the best of both and really going somewhere new with it. In the first year DnA created Knowhere, a space station at the edge of the universe built on the insides of a decapitated Celestial's head. Think Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5 with a Doctor Who cheekiness, and you have something special. Throw in a telepathic Russian cosmonaut dog as head of security and you have something awesome.

DnA spearheaded the next Annihilation wave, "Conquest" which reintroduced Adam Warlock amongst many other cosmic players. While Conquest's story may have faltered, the off-shoot was a revived "Guardians of the Galaxy", also by DnA, a second ongoing Marvel cosmic book which pointedly showed how the writers have a firm grasp on the spacier side of the Marvel U, even negotiating the Skrull's secret invasion with masterful form, using it as a launching pad for the "War of Kings", wherein the Inhumans take to the stars, overthrow the Kree, and wage war with the Shi'ar, creating a fault in the universe that threatens to destroy all life.

I'm a DC boy from way back and while I find the advances in the mythology of their space characters to be perking upwards, specifically around the events following the Sinestro Corps War leading into Blackest Night, the continuity hasn't been particularly tight with Johns' Lanterns obviously hogging the spotlight, but I'm finding Starlin's role in developing the DCU space adventures to be just as interesting as his "Infinity xxx" stories of 15 years ago, which is to say not at all (to me at least). Johns is a "superstar" writer and while he has time to synch with Green Lantern Corps writer Peter Tomasi, he's too busy toying with Legion and Superman and Flash and Smallville and the Shazam movie to coordinate the non-GL galaxy. The events elsewhere in the DCU generally seem less important, and thus less interesting.

True, the universe is a massive place and to have one consistent thread operating throughout might seem less than logical, but looking over at Marvel and what DnA are doing, they're making it work, making it matter, if not perhaps to the other Marvel U titles like Daredevil or Amazing Spider-Man, but it matters to their little corner. In the same way the mutant titles really operate within their own continuity, DnA have sectioned off the space titles to their own realm and are growing it as its own entity (in general over the past decade, Marvel has become really good at compartmentalizing their universe).

So what say you Second Printers? Which are you fancying more and why?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I've Come Down With A Case Of The Hopefuls

Hopeful #1: After reading Flash: Rebirth #5, if there's any justice in that world, I'm hoping Kid Flash (Bart Allen) gets a taste of his own medicine and gets Iris West ("Uh, the NEW Impulse") as his new sidekick.

Hopeful #2: When Bruce Wayne inevitably makes his return as Batman, Dick Grayson will continue on his role as Batman, taking on adventures that require more leaping across giant typewriters in abandoned warehouses. Seriously, why can't Batman be a legacy character ala' The Flash, Green Lantern, Wildcat where two generations of hero carry the name, simultaneously.

Hopeful #3: Kyle Rayner becomes recognized as the greatest Green Lantern of all time.

Hopeful #4: Since Black Canary isn't being used in the Justice League anymore and Oracle and Huntress are fairly free it's time for a Birds of Prey reunion.

Hopeful #5: Hawkman returns in an all-new series titled, HAWKMAN, where the back-up feature is The Atom.

Hopeful #6: With Nemesis, King Faraday, KOBRA, Checkmate, S.H.A.D.E., Cameron Chase, The D.E.O. & Peacemaker all running around out there, it's high time for a comic focusing on DC's vast espionage portfolio.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kyle Rayner: Adult.

It's all fiction, right?

In my four years of writing "Seven Hells!" I came to appreciate the absurdity of the comics medium. No... I came to love it. One of the things that made comes fun was re-reading old comics with a "supposedly" adult's eyes.

One of my favorite things to do was the taking of comics panels, decades in circulation, and re-purposing them, mining them for every ounce of subtext and innuendo contained within the gutters of the comics page.

And it was fun. We were able to make them ours.

And then, one day, I can't explain why, not so much.

And then it was on to something else; and that's when he came along.

That kid. The one who took the other guy's place, the usurper. The one who wasn't on The Superfriends so he's not the real one. The pretender. The one who got the ring because he happened to be in the right place (alley) at the wrong time.

Kyle. Rayner. The Lantern of the '90's. The "grunge" Lantern.

Kyle Rayner, for nearly one full decade, the only Green Lantern.

Last week, his time as a character was brought to an end and I must say, I am not unhappy for one reason and one reason only:

He went out the way he came in; simply doing what comes right. Simply doing whatever it takes to keep The Corps going.

He did it, initially, by taking the ring and the responsible of being the sole Green Lantern. With Green Lantern Corps #42, it was sacrificing himself to keep the central power battery intact, an act ensuring that the Lanterns would be able to fight on.

Once again, he did what was right.

Four years ago, I started making fun of Kyle on a weekly basis in a little thing called "Kyle Rayner: ADULT." It started out as an exercise in writers subliminal or overt (mis)understanding of who he was as a character. What we got mainly was a Kyle who would be portrayed as "green" in ever sense of the word.

At the time, it was comedy gold. Every week, as I worked hard to make fun of Kyle, without knowing, I came ever closer to understanding the character of Kyle Rayner. Rash. Selfish. Unsure. Oblivious. Cocky. Imaginative.

Kyle Rayner was YOU as if you'd been handed the last, most powerful weapon in the Corps lineage and use it to the best of your human ability.

In his first outing, he experienced horror as his his then girlfriend was killed while he wore the Green Lantern ring.

There was no Corps, no Guardians of The Universe to guide him through this. Still, he went on.

When The League needed a Green Lantern, he filled the role and the tradition of a Justice League Green Lantern. He did this on a team where he had to live up to and live down the legacy Hal Jordan had left behind.

In his time as Green Lantern, we saw him learn, grow, love, respect and ultimately, earn respect. Kyle, as a character, was allowed to become something many others never became: human. Kyle was a human character. He worked hard to simply be OK and sometimes shocked himself by doing more than he thought he could. He, not by circumstance but by deed, became THE Green Lantern. He became MY Green Lantern. In the eyes of many, he became OUR Green Lantern.

If this truly is the last we see of Kyle for a while, I'm OK with that and for two reasons; he died a hero's death. He got what deserved.

Second? It's all fiction. Right?

"Would I have killed Blue Beetle? No, I wouldn't have, but I'm not the guy writing it. It's not like they went out and took the guy out back and shot him. Any one of us could get a call a month from now saying, 'Bring him back' and you type 'Blue Beetle walks in the door' and everyone goes, "Oh, he got better!" - Keith Giffen

Saturday, November 14, 2009


So last year, I decided to pick up the first few issues of a series called 'Kick-Ass'. It was an interesting idea, but it had the same problem most Mark Millar comics have, which is to say that it relied on over-the-top, shock and awe style narrative as substitute for, you know, actual story telling. I quickly stopped reading.

Well, I guess the powers that be and I don't see eye to eye on this one, because apparently 7 issues of young people getting beaten within an inch of their lives has 'blockbuster' written all over it. I'll assume many of you have already seen this:

There's a chance this movie could end up being good, since it appears that Mark Millar didn't write the screenplay. But there's been a lot of talk among comic fans about how the print arm of the DC and Marvel entertainment empires is simply R&D for other mass market material. With 'Kick-Ass', we have a film that was probably developed at the same time as the comic, rather than having a comic inspire the film. Are we glimpsing the future of the industry here? Or is this just an example of people who think they have a clever idea trying to make as much money as possible? How the hell did this happen?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lady Cop: The Movie

In the words of Ghostface, "Her face glow like I was exposed to sunlight. She's happy, her hair, toes and nails is dumb right."

I spent the better part of two years blogging about a fictional comic book character with a particularly unnerving knowledge of VD.

Yes, you may know her as Liza. Or Chief Liza Warner to some. To those who love her, she will always be known as LADY COP.

DC Comics keeps focusing on dumb crap like Blackest Night and R.E.B.E.L.S., leaving our beloved Liza Warner to rest her sweet l'il concussed head, waiting for the chance to take her rightful place in history as the first newly elected surgeon ever to fight crime while wearing a McGruff The Crime Dog suit.

So, until DC Comics fans wake up and stop drinking their newest flavor, Blackest Night Kool-Aid, we will just make our own damn fun, won't we?!?

With The Batman movies having become a summer staple and Green Lantern soon to join it, the next character in line to receive the Hollywood treatment simply should be Lady Cop, bikini wearing ambassadors be damned.

While no actress could ever truly encompass the skill needed to portray a killer blonde devoid of a sense of self-awareness and overt sexuality, while carrying a HUGE nightstick, we'll give it a try.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Unsung Heroes Of Comics: Peter Tomasi

Before writing titles such as Nightwing, The Green Lantern Corps and The Outsiders, he edited some of my favorite titles. It's not every day an editor can make you take notice of his name.

He can when he's the editor who shepherds writer Geoff Johns onto JSA, pulls a pre-Identity Crisis Rags Morales onto Hawkman along with the previously mentioned author, cementing the JSA and its' related titles into the franchise it's become today.

He did it again with the Will Pfeifer-penned H-E-R-O, an adult take on the Silver Age "Dial "H" For Hero" concept producing one of my all-time favorite single issues, H-E-R-O #11, the story of the DC Universe's first "superhero."

Along the way he helped restore, along with Geoff Johns, Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps to glory and beyond, giving it the momentum needed to become what it is today: the engine that is DC's "event" title, Blackest Night.

While JSA and Green Lantern are the titles that most would point out as the most important of his stint as a DC Comics editor, in my mind, his most lasting legacy is his choice to install writer Will Pfeifer and artist future Green Lantern Corps cohort Patrick Gleason as the creative team on Aquaman, as they produced a six-issue run on how Aquaman and more importantly, comics should be done.

To me, what stood out the most about Tomasi's editorial stint was this: you could tell he was helping create books that he'd want to read. This intelligence and consideration shown on every page just as it does today in his own comics writing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Silver Linings: Strength - UPDATED

He can change the course of mighty rivers with his bare hands.

Pretty impressive. Once I saw him turn a lump of coal into a flawless diamond by squeezing it in the palms of his hand.

That is superstrength and all the argument needed to make Superman the strongest person in The DC Comics Universe.

To back it up, at the 3:45 mark, here's the logic I'd have used at seven years old...

I never noticed how rape-y Superman's utterance of, "Don't fight me, Mother Earth," truly sounded until just now...

Moving on...

So? Who's The Second Strongest Person In The DC Universe?

Vote early, vote often!