The Threshold

Spotlight Sunday 12.10.17

Another close contest this week, but with a narrow margin of victory, there are spoilers ahead for…

Deadman #2
Writer: Neal Adams
Artist: Neal Adams
Cover: Neal Adams
Rated T+
$3.99
DC

“I will SO kill you. I don’t need my hip.”

The thing that stands out as most bizarre for me with these Neal Adams books is the dialogue.

The plots take some odd twists and turns, and contain some head-scratching elements, but they’re relatively straightforward and they at least make a kind of sense. In the hands of a more competent/less eccentric writer, they could make for interesting if ultimately forgettable stories.

But the dialogue…

It’s not even (just) that people, in general, don’t talk the way the characters in the books talk; it goes well beyond just using strange turns of phrase and figures of speech that are not at all recognized figures of speech. It’s that he presents established characters speaking in a way that is so utterly inconsistent with what we know about the characters and how they talk.

Going back to Batman: Odyssey, which is somewhat infamous for Batman saying, “Such a thing. Such an octopus of a thing,” I think about the manner in which Talia al Ghul, the refined and highly-educated daughter of Batman’s deadly foe, Ra’s al Ghul, greeted her beloved Dark Knight Detective: “C’mere, you big ol’ hero you.”

If you’ve ever read anything featuring Talia, I ask you, can you honestly imagine her saying something like that?

Or how about Batman telling Aquaman, “You are one scary dude,” as he did in Odyssey? Even setting aside the question of whether or not that is an honest and sensible sentiment, there is nothing in the world that could make Batman utter that phrase.

Nothing, of course, except for Neal Adams.

In any case, in this issue, Deadman makes his way to the address Batman provided him last issue, where the late Boston Brand is confused to find that the Sensei is not there, and that it is home to a nice young couple and their baby. While he admires the cuteness of the baby, the Sensei’s spirit appears and attacks Deadman, who is shocked by the fact that the Sensei is able to actually cause him physical harm, despite the fact that both of them lack any kind of physicality. As they struggle, Deadman notes that the baby appears to be dying, which causes the Sensei to cease his assault and dive back into the baby.

As those of us who have read Odyssey know, the baby is the Sensei, who, after being fatally shot by Batman was restored to life, and to infancy, and then given to the couple to raise, allowing the Sensei to have a second chance at living a better life.

As much as Deadman hates the Sensei, once this becomes clear to him, he realizes that he can’t kill a baby, and so his quest for vengeance is at an end.

Well, kind of – he still wants to kill Hook, and, unfortunately, he doesn’t know where to find him. That is, not until the Phantom Stranger shows ups and tells him that he should go back to where it all began, which is to say the circus where Boston was killed.

Also, and this goes back to the bit about characters saying things they would never say, this happens:

What. The. Fuck? That is…I can’t imagine the Stranger even knowing that stupid old gag, let alone actually busting it out.

Anyway, Deadman heads back to the circus, where he learns that his twin brother has kept the Deadman act, er, alive, though he’s actually expanded it to include two other trapeze artists, and, collectively, they’re known as the Deadmen.

Boston spies on Cleveland for a while, and is surprised to learn that their parents are in the audience for tonight’s performance, though Cleveland’s wife and daughter aren’t exactly thrilled, as they’re convinced that Mr. and Mrs. Brand are bad people – which, I mean, they named their sons Boston and Cleveland, so they kind of have a point – who are only showing up because Cleveland is going to do the triple flip in that evening’s performance.

Apparently, the elder Mr. and Mrs. Brand plan to steal it. Somehow. I’m not really sure how you go about stealing a move that that a trapeze artist makes, especially when the very name of the move tells you everything involved in performing it. This isn’t exactly “The Transported Man” from The Prestige, after all, where there’s some mystery as to how it’s performed. You just…do…three flips.

Anyway, Cleveland doesn’t want to hear it, and tells his wife and daughter that they’re WITCHES and to leave him alone, then angrily storms off to do his performance.

Floating there invisibly, Boston wonders what it means that his that his parents are there, but that doesn’t come up again in this issue, and he never actually bothers floating over to see them in the crowd or anything. He also seems puzzled by his sister-in-law and niece’s negative opinion of Boston and Cleveland’s parents.

While Cleveland is performing his act, and is just about to complete that triple flip, history repeats itself, and a shot rings out. The target isn’t Cleveland, but rather his fellow Deadman, who is supposed to catch Cleveland after the completion of the flip. Even as the man is dying, Boston dives into him and keeps the body going long enough to catch Cleveland, then jumps into the body of the third member of the act as he lets the dead Deadman’s body fall to the floor.

While he’s in the body of the other aerialist, he points in the direction that the shot came from, then flies off in that direction, thinking about how the person he was just in possession of and caused to point in that direction was pointing that way, as if…I…

Anyway, I’m not clear if it’s supposed to be Hook again. Adams himself doesn’t seem to know, as he asks the question himself in a caption.

“Does he have a hook, Boston Brand…holding his gun?”

The answer is no, because he has two hands, but…he looks like Hook? And the vicious beating that Boston delivers to him, using the body of Tiny, the ironically-named circus strongman, seems excessive if it isn’t Hook, as does the gruesome final fate that Boston sentences him to.

Whoever the assassin is, after getting shot a couple of times by Boston when he was in possession of a security guard, and then having his hip shattered by Boston after he jumps into Tiny (see the opening quote), he realizes that he’s facing Boston Brand.

Despite his protestation that, shattered hip or not, he could so too kill Boston, even though Boston is already dead, the assassin is no match for Boston/Tiny, who tosses him into a nearby lion’s cage.

The Phantom Stranger appears, and Boston realizes that the Stranger had set things up for Boston to kill the assassin…because reasons, or, as the Stranger puts it, “One hand washes the other.”

…k.

Anyway, apparently the Stranger wants to take out the League of Assassins, but can’t act to do so directly, so he’s got Boston doing his bidding.

As they discuss this, The Spectre appears out of nowhere, and seems quite upset with the manner in which Deadman disposed of the assassin, which seems odd, given that it’s exactly the sort of twisted, grisly way the Spirit of Vengeance would deal with a murderer. Hell, it’s positively tame compared to the sick shit that The Spectre has come up with to kill people.

Before The Spectre can let the assassin out, Etrigan appears and warns about the danger or opening the cage, what with the lion and all. Spectre calls Etrigan a “wretch,” and tells him to get out the way.

He pulls the half-eaten killer out of the lion’s cage and demands that Etrigan provide “a healing rune,” but Etrigan says no, in verse, of course, and the Stranger says, “It’s too late. He’s dead. Ya might want to cover him.”

Sigh

The Spectre accuses Boston of being manipulated by the Stranger, the Stranger cops to it, and Boston jumps out of Tiny’s body and tells them all to go to hell. (Etrigan replies, “Been there, done that!”)

And…yeah. That’s it.

The art, of course, is as good as the writing is bad, but it’s just wasted on this…mess.

I really don’t know what more to say about it, though I do want to call out one more odd dialogue-writing tic that Adams has: people saying “you” in an extended way.

In one instance, in his Superman book, it made sense, kind of, in that Lois called Clark a dirty rat. It didn’t really make sense in the context of the conversation for her to do that, but in any case, it makes sense for someone to say “Youuuu” when following it up with “dirty rat.”

Here, after Boston shoots the assassin while possessing the security guard, the assassin (and, again, it’s not clear if it’s meant to be Hook, and “assassin” is how Boston keeps referring to him), says, “Youuu should have shot me in the head, you idiot. I’m covered in Kevlar.”

That “youuu” seems really important to Adams, as the letterer draws special attention to it:

The first issue had a glow-in-the-dark cover, or at least a variant cover that glows in the dark. (Mine doesn’t glow)

This one also has a bit of a gimmick; the inside front cover is blank except for a picture of a leaping lion, so if you open the book and hold the cover up to the light, you see the lion leaping in that big blank, smoky area. Kind of neat, I guess.

In any case, that’s that for this issue. We’ll see what kind of depths of wackiness the next issue manages to plumb.

Recommended Reading:

Ehh, just read something. Not sure anyone has been particularly interested in this feature anyway. Is it something you want me to keep doing?

Bonus:

As the current storylines wrap up, I’ll most likely be phasing this out, too, unless there’s some popular demand for it. (Don’t let there be popular demand for it.)

Anyway, Superman #36 brings us the conclusion of “Imperious Lex,” in which we find the warring factions on Apokolips all coming together into conflict, and the reunited Super-Family trying to manage the chaos. Lex, meanwhile, is still conveniently unconscious, and so remains unaware that he inadvertently dragged Lois and Jon along for the ride when he kidnapped Superman and brought him to Apokolips.

Meanwhile, the prophet who foresaw a man from Earth ascending the throne in Darkseid’s place, and initially thought it was Lex, before realizing that it was Superman, decides to take a different tack in order to get Superman to acknowledge his destiny. Rather than trying to force Superman to adopt the ways of Apokolips, he chooses instead to get Apokolips to adopt the ways of Superman.

With Kalibak dropped down into one of the now-extinguished Fire Pits, and Granny locked up in jail, Superman realizes that he must set aside his biases and admit that he can play a role in providing hope and guidance for the people of Apokolips the way he does for Earth, because no one deserves to be written off completely. He provides them some guidance in finding a way to govern themselves, and after promising that he’s just a Boom Tube away should they ever need him, he returns to Earth with Lois, Jon, and (the still-unconscious) Lex in tow.

After Lex (finally) regains consciousness, Superman is there to apologize for ignoring all of Lex’s earlier requests for help. Lex isn’t in a forgiving mood, and demonstrates this by ripping the S shield from his armor and incinerating it, and the evil grin on Lex’s face lets us know that this is the moment in which Lex makes the full heel-turn and is going to become the villain we all know he is and that he’s meant to be.

In the “Rebirth” continuity, I’ve never actually been clear as to why Lex adopted the S and Superman’s colors for his armor in the first place. Prior to “Rebirth,” it was ostensibly to honor the life of the recently-deceased “New 52” Superman, but now that he never existed (and therefore never died), I don’t know what the reasoning was behind it. I guess to adopt the symbol in a way that shows that anyone can be a Superman?

In any case, that’s all over with, now.

And so is this week’s Spotlight Sunday.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and be sure to come back for the next Weigh In Wednesday.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Weigh In Wednesday 12.6.17

DC heroes bring a holiday message of hope…that this special will be better than the one for Halloween, at least the people of Apokolips don’t have to even consider voting for Roy Moore, Boston Brand is still dead and Neal Adams is still…well, Neal Adams, Sonja’s quest comes to an end, good love remains unsafe, Barbarella (psychadela) proves an unlikely source for my long-needed comic written by Mike Carey fix, and a black and white collection of stories by Steve Niles provides a monstrous showcase for the work of the late, great Bernie Wrightson.

Sure, it’s not like you’re determining who will sit on the throne of Apokolips or anything, but voting for what I should write about in the next Spotlight Sunday is simple enough, with no Boom Tube required. Cast your vote by 12 AM Eastern on December 10th.

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • DEADMAN #2 (DC) - Now, any lingering doubt that Deadman was deliberately murdered in cold blood, and not as a test for the Hook to join the League of Assassins, is put to rest once and for all! (30%, 3 Votes)
  • SUPERMAN #36 (DC) - “Imperius Lex” finale! Votes begin to be cast in Kryptonian blood as Apokolips’ hordes of hellish residents choose a new leader to occupy Darkseid’s throne. (20%, 2 Votes)
  • BARBARELLA #1 (DYNAMITE) - Earth's star-crossed daughter is back! (20%, 2 Votes)
  • THE MONSTROUS COLLECTION (IDW) (TPB) - One modern horror mainstay combines with one legendary master in this showcase of Bernie Wrightson’sbeautiful black and white art. (20%, 2 Votes)
  • DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2017 #1 (DC) - Join Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash as they deliver powerful messages of hope like only The Worlds Greatest Super-Heroes can! (10%, 1 Votes)
  • VIOLENT LOVE #10 (IMAGE) - CHAPTER 10: “MY SUNDOWN” (0%, 0 Votes)
  • RED SONJA #11 (DYNAMITE) - Their search comes to an end as Sonja, Holly and Spike discover the mysterious Hyborian expert Professor Wallace in the most unexpected of all places. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).  And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Spotlight Sunday 12.3.17

After one of the more decisive – surprisingly so, all things considered – victories of late, there are spoilers ahead for…

Bettie Page #5
Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Bane Wade
Cover A: Joseph Michael Linsner
Rated Teen+
$3.99
Dynamite

“I never thought it was shameful. I felt normal. It’s just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous.” – Bettie Page

After a prolific career as a model, Bettie Page – often referred to as Betty – disappeared from the public eye, but the dark-haired beauty known for iconic bangs and her not-exactly prudish catalog of work didn’t disappear from the minds of her fans.

When the late Dave Stevens created The Rocketeer, the high-flying hero’s best gal was a young model and actress with dark hair and bangs named Betty, and with that, a new generation of fans was born. Stevens wasn’t the only artist to find inspiration from Bettie Page; I’m fairly certain that my first, er, exposure to her was via the pages I’d seen of The Rocketeer, but it’s possible that I might have first seen her in the work of Olivia, for whom Bettie was also something of a muse.

When Disney brought Cliff Secord (The Rocketeer’s alter ego) to the big screen, they brought Betty along for the flight, but, concerned about potential legal ramifications, renamed her Jenny, and modified her character a bit. (Which is a shame, because I, for one, would have loved to have seen Jennifer Connelly vamping it up Bettie-style.)

Many others who sought to capitalize on Bettie’s fandom were considerably less concerned about issues of legality, and the mysterious Ms. Page was front-and-center in comics beyond The Rocketeer, where she had fun, playful, mildly salacious – especially compared to her actual, er, body of work – adventures, illustrated by some of the great “good girl” artists.

Bettie is fun to draw, and, as I’ve said in the past, I think that if you do any sort of pin-up/”good girl” art, you’re legally obligated to draw Bettie Page at least once. Here’s one of my legally-required humble contributions to the genre:

Sometime in the early ‘90s, Bettie Page resurfaced. Her “disappearance” wasn’t exactly mysterious: she had simply quit modelling and had no idea that she had created or retained such a loyal following. Upon discovering that she was alive and lived nearby, Dave Stevens reached out to her, and the two became good friends. Stevens fought to ensure that she got at least some part of the profits her image had generated for others, and served as something of a caretaker for her, even going so far as to drive her to the bank to deposit her Social Security checks. Page and Stevens both died the same year, although the much-younger Stevens preceded her in death.

In any case, as is evidenced by the existence of this comic, Bettie still has her fans.

The conceit of this new series is that Bettie’s “secret diary” has been discovered, and the comic is recounting the exciting events of her secret life in 1951. It leans considerably less-heavily on the sexy outfits and light bondage of some of her other comic adventures, focusing instead on her involvement in Cold War-era intrigue and fifth column conspiracies of a Hollywood B-movie nature.

This issue is kind of a wrap-up of her initial adventure, which found her on the run from the Feds, who had busted in on one of her photoshoots, ostensibly in response to the shoot’s violation of obscenity laws.

The line about losing her clothes is more of a case of telling rather than showing.

As she finds herself at a secret Air Force base on her way back to New York from LA, losing patience with the intrusive tests the government is performing on her and their refusal to answer questions, she learns that the raid was just a ruse, as the Feds were actually after the necklace she was wearing for the photoshoot, which was the key to this experimental flying saucer, which is how – seemingly by coincidence – she ended up in Hollywood, caught up in a plot to use a mind-control device and the aforementioned flying saucer to sow panic throughout the country.

With that sorted, Bettie is eager to get back to New York, but some giant, mutant scorpions have other plans. Mostly they plan on attacking the base. After Bettie heroically leads the scorpions into a trap, the issue ends with our beloved and heroic pin-up queen being offered the chance to become a full-fledged secret agent.

I mostly started reading this comic out of my fondness for Bettie – who has also appeared in some recent new Rocketeer comics published by Dark Horse, one of which featured Bettie putting on the leather jacket and strapping in to the rocket pack, an image that has proven popular with several cosplayers – and because one of the covers for the first issue featured an homage to an iconic image from the original Rocketeer comics, illustrated by Terry and Rachel Dodson.

L Stevens, R Dodsons. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that Stevens was my first exposure to Bettie Page; I distinctly recall that page being advertised as a poster in one of the old Bud Plant catalogs.

While it’s been mildly entertaining, I’m not certain I’m going to continue reading it. I haven’t actually added it to my pull list at the comic shop, so it’s mostly been a matter of me remembering to look for it when new issues come out, so even if I don’t deliberately stop reading it, the odd are that one of these times I’ll forget to pick it up, and then I’ll fall behind, and then I’ll just give up on it. (That sort of process of attrition is how I stop reading a lot of comics, actually.)

My biggest complaint is the art. I liked the artist on the first issue, but since then, it seems, they haven’t been able to hold on to a regular artist. And while the art on this issue isn’t bad, it’s just…well, if you’re going to produce a comic about a pin-up queen, it seems like you’d want to have an artist who excels at that style of art.

Admittedly, this series doesn’t really focus on the tongue-in-cheek sexiness of some of Bettie’s other adventures, but even so, as much it seems in character – at least for the Bettie who lives in the imaginations of her fans – for her to be a full-speed-ahead spitfire who’s not about to take any guff from anyone, Charlie, as she’s presented here, there’s no denying that the visuals are part of her appeal.

“Black bangs, seamed stockings and snub-nosed 6″ stilettos. These are Bettie Page signatures, anyone who dons them wears her crown. Although the fantasy world of fetish/bondage existed in some form since the beginning time, Bettie is the iconic figurehead of it all. No star of this genre existed before her. Monroe had predecessors, Bettie did not.” – Olivia De Beradinis

In this issue, there’s a sort of half-hearted attempt at sexiness, as she ties the shirt of her borrowed military fatigues in a midriff-baring knot, but…ehh.

It’s not bad art, but it just doesn’t fit. Given that the Dynamite lists a different artist entirely on their site, it’s possible that this was something of a rushed, fill-in job. I don’t know; I’m not familiar with either artist. (It could just be a pseudonym the artist is using in the actual book’s credits, for all I know, and for all that I’m too lazy to look into it any further.)

The ideal alternative to a “good girl” artist is to go more cartoonish. Something similar to the style of Bruce Timm, or the late Darwyn Cooke (Aw, now I made myself sad. Well, sadder; I was already sad thinking about the loss of Dave Stevens), or J. Bone, who provided the art for one of the variant covers.

One thing I find interesting is that the comic is rated Teen+, but because this is a comic from Dynamite, there are always multiple variant covers for each issue, some of which are photo variants, featuring pictures of Bettie, including some of her nude photos. Granted, those variants aren’t just sitting on the shelf for anyone to grab, but I just find the contrast mildly amusing, particularly given, as I mentioned earlier, her comic book adventures tend to be incredibly tame in their sexiness compared to her real-life adventures.

My other, nit-picky complaint is that who nowhere along the line did anyone catch that they kept saying “hangers” instead of “hangars.”

Still, despite my complaints about the art, and the proofreading, or lack thereof, I do like this narrative approach to Bettie Page, as it presents her as a Lois Lane-esque, tough-as-nails crusader who runs towards danger rather than away from it, and who looks good in heels, while taking out heels with a good right hook, and with something of a nod to the kinds of Bettie Page comics that have come before, without going all-in with the silly salaciousness.

So, I guess we’ll just have to see if I remember to grab #6 when it hits the stands.

Recommended Reading:

THE ROCKETEER: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES – This remastered and recolored collection of the complete run of comics by creator Dave Stevens is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen. Buy it!

BETTIE PAGE BY OLIVIA – Well, not so much recommended reading, I suppose, but…Bettie Page by Olivia. What more do you need?

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and be sure to come back for the next Weigh In Wednesday.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Weigh In Wednesday 11.29.17

Super Pets lead the Super Sons on a super adventure, new talents are showcased, Zatanna goes kcab ot loohcs, John Wick leaps from the screen to comics, Bettie Page makes her way back to New York, and Dylan’s demon drives him deeper into his war with the Russian mob. Cast your vote below by 12 AM on December 3rd, and then come back on Sunday to see how you did.

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • BETTIE PAGE #5 (DYNAMITE) - Bettie takes on giant radioactive monsters as she tries to make her way back to NYC. She's got this. (50%, 5 Votes)
  • MYSTIK U #1 (DC) - A young Zatanna Zatara, under the guidance of Rose Psychic, enrolls in a mysterious university that teaches its students how to master their unique brands of magic. (20%, 2 Votes)
  • NEW TALENT SHOWCASE 2017 #1 (DC) - The latest graduates from the DC Talent Development Workshops show off their skills in stories starring some of DC’s greatest characters. (10%, 1 Votes)
  • SUPER SONS ANNUAL #1 (DC) - “SUPER-PETS UNLEASHED”! The World’s Furriest team Krypto and Titus—together at last! (10%, 1 Votes)
  • JOHN WICK #1 (DYNAMITE) - Who was John Wick before he became the Baba Yaga? (10%, 1 Votes)
  • KILL OR BE KILLED #14 (IMAGE) - The shocking conclusion of the third arc of BRUBAKER & PHILLIPS’ bestselling series! (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

Trying something new this week with the featured image. What do you think? I’m not making an effort to try to influence the vote; I’m just selecting what I think is the most interesting cover (which you can’t judge a book by).

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).  And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Spotlight Sunday 11.26.17

Not exactly a landslide, but this week the Spotlight shines on…

Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Volume One
Writer: William Moulton Marston
Artist: Harry G. Peter
Cover: Michael Cho
$24.99
DC

With a hundred times the agility and strength of our best male athletes and strongest wrestlers, she appears as though from nowhere to avenge an injustice or right a wrong! As lovely as Aphrodite – as wise as Athena – with the speed of Mercury and the the strength of Hercules – she is known only as Wonder Woman, who she is, or whence she came, nobody knows!

In the interest of full disclosure, this is a relatively weighty tome, collecting a total of nineteen comics, so I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet.

Still, there are some high (and low) points I can hit upon, based on what I have read, and on the general tenor of these early adventures of the Amazing Amazon.

Much has been written about Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston – who wrote under the pseudonym of Charles Moulton – a psychologist who created the systolic blood pressure test, which is a component of a polygraph test.

Most of what’s been written about him focuses on the more…salacious aspects of his unconventional romantic life, and how they influenced his work on Wonder Woman.

I’m not going to delve into that here other than to note that when people talk about the preponderance of bondage imagery in the early Wonder Woman adventures, they’re not kidding, as there is plenty.

Marston believed in a principle of “loving submission,” in which the chaotic, wild impulses of masculine nature are restrained by the “love allure” of women.

Marston created Wonder Woman as something of a counterpoint to the male heroes of the day, intending to provide girls with a role model who could go toe-to-toe with the male heroes, but who followed a belief system that was less dependent on resolving conflict through the simple expedient of socking someone on the jaw (though she did plenty of that).

As he wrote in an issue of American Scholar:

 “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”

In the stories contained in this volume, most of the standard parts of Wonder Woman lore are present from the get-go, though many are not introduced until several issues in.

Still, to recap: On a hidden island, the Amazons live eternally in a utopian paradise, led by their queen, Hippolyte, far away from the world of men. The Amazons are smarter, stronger, faster, and just plain better than any man, and the best of them all is the princess, Hippolyte’s daughter. One day, a strange plane – one that’s considerably less-sophisticated than the kind of planes the Amazons have – crash-lands on the island. The pilot – the first man in history on Paradise Island – is rescued and tended to by the princess, until one of the Amazon’s informs Hippolyte that her daughter is falling in love with the handsome Captain Steve Trevor, and Hippolyte orders her daughter to stay away.

Learning that Steve had crashed while in the course of chasing after evil men, Hippolyte decides that an Amazon should return Steve to man’s world so that he can complete his mission. A tournament is held to decide which Amazon will be granted this honor. Though her mother forbade her from entering the tournament, the princess disobeys, and, in disguise, easily defeats the competition. Though Hippolyte is sad to see her daughter go, she gives her blessing, and so Wonder Woman makes her way to the world of men.

After arriving, and bringing Steve to a hospital, she kills time waiting for him to recover by performing in a stage show in which she demonstrates her skill at deflecting bullets with her bracelets, as she realizes that she needs some money, and a promoter approaches her after she foils a robbery. Once she receives word that Steve has awoken, she decides to give up show business. The promoter has other ideas, and tries to abscond with her share of the till but…well, she’s Wonder Woman. She gets her money.

Unable to get close to Steve, she spots a crying nurse who looks a lot like her (Except she wears glasses, which makes her something of an uggo.)

Turns out that the nurse – a woman by the name of Diana Prince – has a problem that Wonder Woman can solve with her recent earnings, as the nurse doesn’t have enough money to join her fiancé in South America (which is why she was crying). In exchange for providing enough money to allow her to relocate, Wonder Woman takes her identity. (As an Amazon, she is, of course, qualified to perform any and all nursing duties.)

I knew that was how she acquired – like, literally acquired – the Diana Prince identity, but I had forgotten until rereading that first adventure in man’s world. And while it’s quite the coincidence that the former Miss Prince is also named Diana, it’s worth noting that apparently Wonder Woman herself wasn’t named Diana until she left Paradise Island – before she left, Hippolyte told her to refer to herself as Diana. (On the island, she was only ever called “Princess” by the other Amazons, or “Daughter” by Hippolyte.)

With the new civilian identity in place there is some aping of the Superman/Clark/Lois love triangle, as Diana Prince finds herself unable to compete for Steve’s affection with her more glamourous alter ego.

This actually becomes something more of a thing here than it did in the Superman comics, as Diana Prince finds herself spending a lot more time dwelling on her jealousy of herself (as Wonder Woman) than Clark did in his role as his own rival. (I mean, he did that, but not to the same extent.)

From there, Steve and Wonder Woman – and Diana Prince – have various adventures, encountering the evil Dr. Poison and various other Nazi spies. Every adventure ends with Steve coming out as the apparent hero, greeted by an adoring public, but objecting to the adulation and insisting that all the credit goes to his beautiful angel, Wonder Woman, though his objections go unheeded by all.

(Except for Diana Prince, who is well on her way to wanting to scratch that Wonder Woman hussy’s eyes out!)

After Steve leaves the hospital, Diana follows, getting herself hired on as the assistant to Steve’s boss, Colonel Darnell. She still can’t get Steve to spare plain old Diana Prince a second glance, though, as he only has eyes for Wonder Woman.

In addition to making enemies, Wonder Woman also picks up some allies in the form of Etta Candy and the Holiday College Girls. (In one adventure, they help her rescue Steve from the Nazis holding him prisoner by just showing up at the secret hiding place and asking the guys there to dance, then, when Wonder Woman gives them the signal, they handcuff all of the men.)

The introduction of Etta kind of comes out of left field, as Wonder Woman just shows up at the college looking for her. Apparently, in some off-page conversation, the former Diana Prince told Wonder Woman all about this patient she’d had named Etta Candy.

It’s…well, there are a lot of odd little moments of, “Oh, uh, okay, if you say so” like that in the storytelling, but comics were still in their infancy, so it’s difficult to judge them by too harsh a standard.

While the invisible plane – here referred to as simply “transparent” – is present from the start, so far the lasso, which is an obvious nod to Marston’s work in lie-detection, has not made an appearance. There is actually a bit in one story in which Wonder Woman (as Diana Prince) determines that someone is lying by checking her blood pressure (an even more obvious nod).

It also takes several issues for Wonder Woman’s weakness – having her bracelets chained together by a man – to be revealed. I had forgotten about the specificity of it – I thought it was just being bound by a man that caused her to lose her strength – and was surprised to see her easily break free from a rope than some men bound her with in one of the earlier issues.

What I find particularly interesting is that as much as Marston’s ideas ran counter to the prevailing mores of the time, he was still very much a man of his time, and for all his high-minded ideas about the essential superiority of the feminine, his work in Wonder Woman remained very much informed by the stereotypes and sexual politics of the day.

For example, as someone else would put it decades later, “(Wonder) Women be shoppin’.”

Of course, while it seems almost Victorian by contemporary standards (and definitely by the 1990s’ thongtastic standards), Wonder Woman’s original outfit was rather scandalous for the time, which is something that many people comment on, either approvingly (men) or disapprovingly (women).

The “skimpiness” of her outfit (and also some of Wonder Woman’s confusion/consternation about how much clothing people wear), brings to mind the not especially sly or subtle commentary of the fact that Dr. Poison initially disguises herself as a man to be taken seriously, despite her – admittedly evil – genius. The commentary kind of falls apart, however, once the ruse is revealed and her key weakness is her vanity…kind of. It gets a little weird here, as Wonder Woman gets Dr. Poison to cooperate – they need an antidote for some U.S. soldiers she poisoned – by threatening to strip her naked and march her to Washington in full view of all assembled, and of any yokels they encounter along the way. She seems less concerned at the prospect of people seeing her dirty pillows, though, than the prospect of losing face in front of her troops.

It’s unclear to what extent the stereotypical behavior of women is the result of editorial interference and which is straight from Marston, and, if it is from Marston, it’s additionally unclear as to what his intentions are. After all, despite some of the odd bits of loose story logic and continuity, it’s clear that most every aspect of the stories serves some illustrative and educational purpose and is written with intent. (Indeed, that focus on “the message” could go a long way towards explaining the lack of focus on a coherent narrative; it’s a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has watched any sort of explicitly Christian movie, or really any sort of PSA.)

So, is it just a kind of blindness on Marston’s part in which, despite his otherwise revolutionary ideas he’s not able to get past some of the commonly-held notions of gender essentialism that leads him to include things, for example, like women – even Wonder Woman – feeling threatened by the presence of other women, and instantly viewing anyone who’s at all pretty as a rival? (Wonder Woman avoids this with Etta because, being overweight, Etta is viewed as being non-threatening in that regard.) Or is it instead some kind of commentary about the type of behavior women should learn to avoid?

In many ways, Etta comes a bit closer to being the kind of ideal woman that Marston aims to describe; she’s smart, strong, not overly-concerned with the shallower aspects of life, will stand up for what is right, is quick to support other women rather than tear them down, and is not afraid to reach out and take hold of what she wants out of life. Of course, what she wants out of life is candy, but even so.

Ultimately, reading old comics like this – any old comics – is largely an exercise one undertakes for academic purposes, or to mine for potential story ideas that build on some forgotten ideas from the past, or just for the sake of goofy fun.

And comics like these are fun, if you can get past all of the head-scratching and head-shaking, and even if you’re not a comics historian, it can provide an interesting glimpse into the past, not necessarily as it was, but as the people who lived in it imagined it to be.

Recommended Reading:

WARGOD:  WORLDTAMER – In case you weren’t aware, I’ve got a new comic of my own that I’m working on. Check it out. (Please?)

WONDER WOMAN: A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS – Collects more than 400 pages of the iconic heroine’s best stories, from her first appearance by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter, to her mod ’60s redesign by Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky, to her present-day adventures by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. Other legendary talents featured include George Pérez, Darwyn Cooke, Robert Kanigher, Gene Colan, Phil Jimenez, Mike Deodato, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone and more.

WONDER WOMAN UNBOUND: THE CURIOUS HISTORY OFTHE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS HEROINE – I haven’t read this, but I really enjoyed the author’s book about Lois Lane, so it’s probably worth checking out.

Bonus:

Action doesn’t make it into this Bonus section, as a new arc has started, so that just leaves Wonder Woman #35.

Honestly, this isn’t a bad issue, but I’d kind of prefer to keep reading the goofy old stories.

In any case, as this is another issue that moves away from the main storyline and focuses on the past, Diana herself doesn’t directly appear in this. Last time, the focus was on Grail. This time it’s Jason, and we see his story, as he learns that he has powers, that the simple fisherman raising him is neither his father nor a simple fisherman, and that he, himself, is the son of Zeus and Hippolyta.

We also see that his brother, Hercules, stops by every so often to teach Jason how to fight, and that he feels a growing sense of resentment for Wonder Woman, whom he recognizes immediately as his sister, as she is able to operate freely in the world, whereas Jason is forced to live in hiding, with his one attempt at being a (masked) hero, leading to him getting a major talking to from his “father.” Ultimately, Hercules stops visiting, and Jason’s “father,” the immortal Glaucus, takes his leave of Jason, stricken by the periodic wanderlust that comes upon him every century or so.

The issue ends with Jason, aboard the fishing boat Glaucus left him, getting his first real taste of battle as he encounters the villainous Deep Six, the aquatic servants of Darkseid.

That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and be sure to come back for the next Weigh In Wednesday.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Weigh In Wednesday 11.22.17

Jon at the comic shop: a play in one act.

(Jon walks up to the counter and sets down his stack of comics. He pulls out Doomsday Clock #1, which had been auto-added to his pull list, and sets it aside.)

Jon: NO.
Comic Shop Employee: No?
Jon: Absolutely not.

(End)

Anyway, it’s Weigh In time. Vote for something below by 12 AM Eastern on 11/26/2017, and I’ll write about whatever wins. That’s how this works.

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • WONDER WOMAN: THE GOLDEN AGE VOL. 1 (DC) (TPB) - In these Golden Age tales that introduced Wonder Woman to the world, Diana heads into adventure. (33%, 3 Votes)
  • BATMAN/THE SHADOW: THE MURDER GENIUSES (DC/DYNAMITE) (HC) - Collects BATMAN/THE SHADOW #1-6 and a story from BATMAN ANNUAL #1. (22%, 2 Votes)
  • ACTION COMICS #992 (DC) - “AFTER EFFECTS”! Crippled by the events of “The Oz Effect,” Superman struggles to regain a sense of hope for humanity. (22%, 2 Votes)
  • ANGEL SEASON 11 #11 (DARK HORSE) - Angel, Fred, and Illyria are finally ready to face what waits for them--as long as they all can let go of the past . . . (22%, 2 Votes)
  • WONDER WOMAN #35 (DC) - “TIMES PAST” part two! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • THE DEMON: HELL IS EARTH #1 (DC) - Jason Blood and Etrigan: the best of enemies, destined to spend eternity bound together. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • BATMAN BEYOND #14 (DC) - Terry dons a brand-new Batsuit, but before he can even get his bearings, the return of a familiar foe may spoil his homecoming before it even begins. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • THE KAMANDI CHALLENGE #11 (DC) - It’s the penultimate issue of this acclaimed round-robin series, and the mysterious Misfit has imprisoned Kamandi on his mothership. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop, featured in the play above. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Spotlight Sunday 11.19.17

No clear winner this week, which would normally mean that I would cast the tie-breaking vote, but I decided to do something different and say a little something about each of the three books that shared the votes.

After all, according to the dumb rules I arbitrarily decided upon for the Bonus feature, I already had three other books I had to say something about anyway, so why not just do six short things rather than one long and three short?

Or something.

Some spoilers ahead for…

Super Sons #10
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Jose Luis
Cover: Jorge Jimenez, Alejandro Sanches
Rated T
$3.99
DC

This is a (mostly) one-and-done filler issue between arc, so it does more place-setting than anything else, revealing that Jon has added flight to the list of his still-manifesting Kryptonian powers. To mark the occasion, Superman and Batman build a secret, underwater HQ for the Super Sons (which Jon, over Damian’s objection, dubs “The Fortress of Attitude”), and tell the boys that they will be called upon to attend to crises and evens that rank relatively low on whatever scale the Justice League uses to quantify such things. Also, Batman has decided that Damian is done with being home-schooled and enrolled him in the same private school that Jon attends (the West-Reeve School).

Best bit in the issue, which spends a fair amount of time contrasting parenting (and childing) styles, is this exchange:

Damian: Did you tell your dad about the Titans and the magician?

Jon: …well, maybe it slipped out at some point. We kinda don’t keep a lot of secrets.

Damian: Well, I do. Everything’s on a need-to-know basis.

Jon: Yeah, well, you don’t live in a house with a parent who has super-hearing and super-mind-reading.

Damian: Your father can’t read minds.

Jon: I’m talking about my mom.

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day
Writer: David Croatto
Artist: Tom Richmond
$14.99
MAD

Apart from my parents, the two biggest influences on my early moral and intellectual development and my sense of humor were Superman (and comics generally) and MAD.

So combining the two – which, honestly, happened fairly often in the pages of MAD, as Supes was a regular target for spoofing – has an obvious appeal for me.

This book is a parody of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which is a book that I’m familiar with only by name. (As I’ve mentioned, as a kid, I read comic books and MAD Magazine – and some of its imitators – not kids’ books, so this one never crossed my path.)

It’s…mildly amusing, containing the sort of things you might expect, like Superman accidentally putting his costume on inside-out, and ripping his cape on a chair while he’s stuck on monitor duty. Everybody has one of those days. Even Superman.

This motivational poster in the background was the best bit in the book:

The Mighty Thor #701
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: James Harren
Cover: Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson
Rated T+
$3.99
Marvel

After Jane – as Jane – appealed to the magic of friendship, Volstagg put down the hammer of the War Thor, and began the long, slow process of healing from his trauma, but, alas, the call to battle that the hammer continued sending out to him proved to be too much for Volstagg to resist, and so, the War Thor rose again. This time, however, it was in response to the threat posed by the Mangog, a Thor enemy of old who exists to hold the gods themselves accountable. The War Thor meets the Mangog on the field of battle in the space that was once home to Asgard, but for all his strength, and even with the unleased fury of an entire universe that was held inside the Ultimate Mjolnir, he is not capable of defeating so powerful a foe. The Mangog shatters Mjolnir, and Volstagg is set adrift in the void by Malekith, who directs the Mangog towards Asgardia, the new home of the Norse gods. Meanwhile, the war wages on, as we see the forces of Malekith’s Midgardian ally Roxxon fighting the forces of Vanaheim.

Last issue, Karnilla sacrificed her own life to protect the lives of the Norns from Malekith and his allies, but she finds that dying was totally worth it, as it means that she can at last be with her beloved Balder, who now reigns as the king of Hel. Their reunion is…well, can you call it “short-lived” when one of the people involved is dead? In any case, the forces of Musphelheim choose that moment to launch their offensive on Hel, as Balder and Karnilla flee for their…lives? Death is so confusing!

Recommended Reading

Given that there was no consensus this time around, there’s no easy way to decide on a theme for Recommended Reading. Do any of you even care about this part anyway? I suppose my recommendation is “Read some comics.”

Bonus:

Trinity #15
Apparently Batman meant what he said: he’s going to kill everyone. And he does. For a little while, anyway. Turns out that dying is the only way to shake off the effects of the Pandora Pits, so he kills Red Hood and the Outlaws, then brings them back to life. (He stops, then restarts, their hearts.)

Together, they head to the Pits, Batman kills and revives everyone else, and they all wail on Circe. Then Ra’s – presumably immune to the Pandora Pits because he’s died and returned several times already – climbs out of the Pit and stabs Circe in the back in retaliation for her doing that to him, then tosses her in, and takes off in the confusion. As Circe sinks into the pit, she realizes that she’s going to experience the death that she’s feared for so long – immortals, after all, fear death more than anyone, she says – and she muses on the pointlessness of hope. Then she sees that Wonder Woman, tethered by her lasso, has come diving in to save her, and the issue ends with all of the heroes outside the Pit working to pull Diana and Circe free.

Wonder Woman/Conan #3
After escaping the pirate ship, Diana and Conan fight a shark, then float for days on a raft while Conan has more flashbacks about Yanna, the mysterious girl he knew from an all-woman tribe, and whom he still believes Diana to be. His flashbacks don’t flow in a linear order, so, as he had encountered the girl during two consecutive summers, it’s never quite clear which encounter we’re seeing. In any case, while they’re adrift, the Corvidae reveal themselves to Diana and Conan, and explain that they selected the two greatest warriors of any age and brought them together to watch them fight each other for their entertainment. So far, given that Diana and Conan refuse to have a conclusive battle, they remain unentertained, and they try to force the issue. (Also, it was a side effect of being pulled out of her own era by the Corvidae that caused Diana to lose her memory.) They still won’t fight each other, so the Corvidae decide that they’re just going to go slaughter all of the people back at the arena where Conan and Diana were supposed to fight in the first place. Once they make their way to land, Conan and Diana head out to try to save everyone from the Corvidae’s wrath, and in the flashback, we see that Yanna had told Conan of her plan to run away from home, and young Conan had pledged to go with her.

The Wicked + The Divine #33
I’m not going to spoil this one, because the surprises are too good.

Okay, one spoiler: Persephone is in hell – which is to say, is a huge pain in the ass – because she blames herself for her parents’ deaths. She wished so hard to be part of the Pantheon, being willing to sacrifice anything, that she assumes that when her wish came true, the sacrifice she made was her parents’ lives, given that they died. (I mean, I get the self-loathing making her awful, but she’s still a pain.)

Looks like the book is going on hiatus, as the “next” shows a special – focusing on the Pantheon of 1923 – that’s not coming out until February.

That does it for this week’s oddball Spotlight Sunday. There was a little bit of something for almost everyone, but ultimately no one was left satisfied. Democracy in action, I guess.

Thanks to everyone who voted, and be sure to come back for the next Weigh In Wednesday. (And do a better job of voting this time so that we can avoid a repeat of this.)

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Weigh In Wednesday 11.15.17

New comics: I got ’em.

Pick one from the list below by 12 AM Eastern on 11/19, and I’ll write some stuff about whichever one gets the most votes in the next Spotlight Sunday post.

Seems simple enough.

 

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • SUPER SONS #10 (DC) - The debut of the Super Sons’ new secret headquarters! (33%, 2 Votes)
  • SUPERMAN AND THE MISERABLE, ROTTEN, NO FUN, REALLY BAD DAY (MAD)(HC) - It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the WORST DAY EVER! (33%, 2 Votes)
  • MIGHTY THOR #701 (MARVEL) - DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR Part 2. The Mangog comes to Asgard! But is one Thor enough to take down the Ultimate Judgment? (33%, 2 Votes)
  • EAST OF WEST #35 (IMAGE) - “THINGS FATHERS DO WITH THEIR SONS” We catch up with Death and Babylon. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #33 (IMAGE) - "IMPERIAL PHASE II," Conclusion There's only one thing all Imperial Phases share. They end. Ours does too. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #3 (DC/DARK HORSE) - Conan saved the island princess he’s chained to, but even as Diana’s memories start to return, their situation grows ever more dire. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • TRINITY #15 (DC) - “DARK DESTINY” finale! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • SUPERMAN #35 (DC) - “IMPERIUS LEX” part three! Steppenwolf, field general of Apokolips, enlists Superman’s son Jon into his Canine Cavalry. (0%, 0 Votes)
  • DOCTOR STRANGE & DOCTOR DOOM: TRIUMPH AND TORMENT (MARVEL)(TPB) - Collecting the original tale of this unlikely pairing, as well as some additional material featuring the two doctors. (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 6

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).  And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Spotlight Sunday 11.12.17

Maybe one of these days you’ll actually vote for me to write about one of the best new mainstream comics out there, but in the meantime, alert yourself to the spoilers ahead for…

Action Comics #991
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic
Cover: Rick Bradshaw, Brad Anderson
Variant Cover: Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn
Rated T
$2.99
DC

Before we dive into this issue, there’s an issue of another sort that I want to briefly address.

In recent weeks, across multiple industries, there has been something of a surge in reports of inappropriate sexual behavior by men. As every new story breaks, it seems, another soon follows in its wake, as the victims find the courage to come forward.

In many cases, the incidents and behaviors described have been something of an “open secret” for years, and sometimes decades, but we seem to have reached a point at which we are no longer willing to let the problem be swept partially under the rug, and we’ve started the process of having some very difficult and long-overdue conversations.

It should come as no surprise that the comics industry has its own share of “open secrets,” and following the publication of an article at Buzzfeed, DC has suspended Group Editor Eddie Berganza, finally addressing a secret so open that even I knew the article was about him before I clicked on it.

One of the worst aspects of the Berganza case is the way DC sought to “resolve” the problem: they promoted him. Rather than addressing the actual problem – Berganza himself – their solution was to enact a policy that ensured that he would have no women writers, editors, or artists reporting to him. Given that he was the Group Editor for some of the biggest, most popular comics at DC – including the Superman family, which is why I mention this here – that meant that women were effectively barred from working on the most popular and well-known characters in DC’s stable.

The frustrating thing is that it “worked,” in that since one of his more publicly-known acts several years ago there have been no new reports of Berganza engaging in inappropriate behavior with women…because he was prevented from having the opportunity to do so, but the cost of that “success” has been closing the door on talented creators “for their own good.” He was rewarded for being a creep, and women creators – and comics readers who were prevented from seeing what those creators might have done – were punished for his sins.

I’m glad to see that DC has finally taken some action, sorry that it’s taken so long, and hopeful that it’s a sign that we can start making some progress towards addressing not only the behavior, but the systems that allow it to continue without consequences for the men who commit these terrible acts.

Okay, so on to the actual issue at hand…

For more than a year now we’ve seen the machinations of the mysterious Mr. Oz happening in the background – and sometimes right up-front – here in Action as well as some of the other books in the Superman family. While we’d been forced to wonder about who this hooded man wielding a staff that looks kind of like a scythe with an upturned blade is, and what he’s up to – Is he friend or foe? – the one thing that’s been abundantly clear is that he’s very powerful and potentially very dangerous.

The power and the danger were amply-demonstrated by the fact that he was able to pull Doomsday out of the Phantom Zone and personally imprison him, and we learned that he had similarly captured and imprisoned Mr. Mxyzptlk for years.

Whatever his motivations may be, this does not seem like a person you want to mess with, or that you would want to have messing with you.

At long last, however, the identity of Mr. Oz has been revealed and he is…Jor-El, Superman’s father, the man who sent Superman to Earth as a baby from the doomed planet Krypton.

How is this possible, given that Jor-El died with everyone else when Krypton was destroyed? Well, it turns out that he didn’t; as Jor-El prepared to face the end, after sending his son off into space, Jor-El was pulled away by some mysterious force, but not before seeing his beloved Lara consumed in the flames of Krypton’s destruction.

He was transported to Earth, the same world he had sent his son to, but was too consumed by despair to seek him out. Appearing in a war-torn country on the other side of the world, the despondent Jor-El was tended to by some kindly people who shared what scant resources they had with him. In time, as they informed him that they could no longer run the risk of keeping him or spare the extra food, their kindness broke through Jor-El’s depression, and he ventured out to acquire some food for the family, stealing it from the headquarters of the local warlord.

However, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished, and, hoping to secure a better future for his family, one of the kids in the family ratted Jor-El out to the warlord, who, in turn, rewarded the kid by letting him watch the warlord’s soldiers kill his family.

Whether it was just the rage he felt, or the exposure to sunlight from finally going outside, Jor-El’s powers – specifically his heat vision – manifested in that moment and he killed the soldiers and the warlord. After that experience, the mysterious force that had saved him from Krypton’s doom transported him away once more, to a place where he was forced, A Clockwork Orange-style (or, I suppose, Robot Chicken-style), to learn all of the terrible truths of human history.

Having seen the worst of humanity, once he was set free, Jor-El decided that he’d sent his son to the wrong planet, and set about creating the Mr. Oz persona and putting some plans in place.

Specifically, those plans were to take his family – Superman, Lois, and their son Jon – to another, better world, a place called Bliss, where everyone has super-powers, and neither Superman nor Superboy would ever have to hide who they really are. (When Jon asks how his mom will fit in there, given her lack of powers, Jor-El – if that is who he really is – states that Lois’s amazing mind is her super-power.)

And that bring us to where this issue picks up. The world is, currently, a powder keg ready to go off, thanks in no small part to the actions of Mr. Oz and his followers. Mr. Oz/Jor-El asserts that he hasn’t really done anything; he’s merely orchestrated events in such a way that humanity has to choose its fate, and, as he predicted, it’s choosing…poorly.

Since first Mr. Oz first revealed his identity to Superman and told his story, Superman has been flying all around the world trying to put an end to the trouble his dad started. In the real world, one such incident kind of proved Jor-El’s point – a couple of issues back, Superman saved a group of refugees from being shot by someone who was caught in the throes of ahem “economic anxiety.” This was met by howls of protest from assholes who were complaining about Superman saving people from being shot.

WTAF?

Anyway, while Superman was away, Jor-El appealed to his grandson, Superboy. Jon is actually named for both of his (human) grandfathers, but, I think this encounter with Jor-El is his first contact with any of his grandparents. (I think Sam Lane is dead in current continuity. “Rebirth,” man. You never know for sure what the status of anything is.)

As something of an aside, in an earlier storyline, Jon was in the thrall of Superman villain Manchester Black, a telepath who was trying to shape Superboy into the kind of do-whatever-it-takes “hero” that Superman refuses to be. Lois broke Black’s hold over Superboy the way only a mother could: by using his full name. “JONATHAN SAMUEL KENT!”

Even a Superboy freezes when his mom busts out his middle name.

In any case, with the family reunited, Jon tells Superman that he needs to hear Jor-El out, so Superman accompanies Jor-El to his otherdimensional lair to hash things out.

Jor-El talks about there being a huge threat coming that will destroy the Earth, one that’s insurmountable even for Superman – and is, presumably the mysterious force/being that plucked Jor-El from Krypton – and that he’s been pushing humanity to show its true face so that Superman would be willing to turn his back on them and flee to safety with Jor-El.

(I’m not going to talk about what the mysterious force/being most likely is, because it’s stupid and it makes me mad, but you can google “DC Comics Doomsday Clock” if you want to learn about something stupid.)

Whether or not he really is Jor-El – Superman remains unconvinced – he clearly knows his alleged son about as well as Zack Snyder does if he thinks Superman turning his back on Earth is an option that’s on the table.

So, of course, they fight. In the course of the fight we learn that the injury that Jor-El suffered before he was transported from Krypton – some debris lodged in one of his eyes – has given him a power that Superman doesn’t have, and can’t withstand: Kryptonite vision.

Whether it was a result of his body adapting to the Kryptonite permanently embedded in it on its own, or the tinkering of that mysterious force, Jor-El himself is largely immune to the effects of Kryptonite, as was demonstrated a few issues back when he ripped out Metallo’s Kryptonite heart and held it in his hand. (Much of his time prior to this storyline had been spent capturing and eliminating threats to Superman.)

Shaken by seeing what he’s done to his son as he lashed out in anger, Jor-El pauses long enough for Superman to yoink away his staff and break it in two, saying that’s he’s detected a strange toxic energy emitting from it that he believes has been affecting Jor-El’s mind.

Turns out he was right – sort of. The staff was affecting Jor-El’s mind, twisting his perspective on the world, and allowing him to control the minds of his human followers who were branded with the mark of Oz, but it was also easing the pain from having chunks of Kryptonite permanently embedded in his skull.

Despite the pain, however, Jor-El sees things more clearly, and understands how wrong he’s been, and Superman begins to accept that this may indeed be his father. However, their reunion is short-lived, as the mysterious force appears to pull Jor-El away. Before disappearing, Jor-El tells Superman to keep Lois and Jon safe, and to prepare for the fight that lies ahead. Though Superman tries to hold on to his father, the force is too strong, and as Superman demands that the being behind it reveal itself and tell him what it wants, Superman suddenly finds himself returned to Metropolis with Lois and Jon.

It’s a climax that feels a bit rushed and, well, anticlimactic, but the issue has a strong ending, as Superman stands atop the Daily Planet and Lois asks if Jor-El was right about Earth being doomed.

Is Earth doomed? Maybe, but as long as Superman is around, it won’t go without a fight.

This was a decent issue, though as I said, it felt like the climax was a bit rushed. There was never any real chance of Superman giving in to Jor-El’s bleak and hopeless view, but it might have been interesting to have an issue or two in which he seems to go along with it, working to win his father over to his cause, possibly agreeing in exchange for Jor-El easing up on his efforts to speed up humanity’s efforts to jump into the abyss. The climactic scene of Jor-El being pulled away could have remained, and, indeed, would have landed with a lot more force. It seems like a missed opportunity, and was, perhaps, the result of an editorial mandate as they rush towards the upcoming ugh event.

As powerful as it is, that strong ending, as a result of the rushed denouement, feels somewhat out of place, and kind of…unearned.

The “toxic” energy of the staff affecting his brain – particularly when there was the existing option of the Kryptonite – felt like an out-of-nowhere cheat.

There wasn’t really any need for either explanation; Jor-El had undergone sufficient trauma to explain his bleak worldview, both before and after Krypton’s destruction. As he told his story to Superman, he revealed that Krypton’s doom was not the straightforward matter of the Science Council not believing that Krypton was about to explode that Superman had been led to believe.

Some members – most notably Jor-El’s father-in-law – did believe him, but they weren’t willing to accept his solution of evacuating the planet. His father-in-law destroyed his designs for a fleet of space arks and demanded that he get to work on a futile attempt at saving the planet itself. Working from memory, Jor-El then set to the task of building a ship that would at least save his son.

My other complaint is that Lois didn’t really get a chance to take a crack at changing his mind, as her interaction with Jor-El was incredibly limited. If anyone could have pulled it off, it would have been Lois.

Still, overall, it was an interesting shake-up to the status quo, and while when it comes to the whole Doomsday Clock thing I’m just…NO.

Ahem Anyway, it made for a mostly well-crafted story that cuts to the heart of who and what Superman is, which is to be expected from Superman-writing veteran Dan Jurgens, that is unfortunately hindered by the (yes, this again) confusing continuity of “Rebirth” and the upcoming ugh event, and it did finally provide an answer to at least part of a mystery that’s been going on for quite some time.

There had been a lot of speculation about who Mr. Oz really was, though I didn’t see anyone guessing that it was Jor-El. For my part, given his name, the manner in which he dressed, his connection to the long-talked about ugh event looming in the near-future, and the bank of screens with which he monitored the world, I suspected that he was…well, I don’t want to say, because I don’t want to talk about the ugh event. I’ll just say that, while I’m not mighty, I’ve looked upon DC’s works and despaired…

The art is decent, if a bit too loose for my tastes, with a good storytelling flow, though it is worth noting that Dan Jurgens, who is a talented artist in his own right, provided the breakdowns. Which is to say that he sketched out the overall layout, though just how detailed that work was or wasn’t, I can’t say. I don’t see much of a hint of Jurgens’s distinctive style, though, and the heavy lifting was on the actual penciller. Once again I see the hints of the “house style,” even though Bogdanovic does stray a bit further afield than some other artists do. (Mostly in terms of the “looseness” that I alluded to.)

Recommended Reading:

INVESTIGATING LOIS LANE:  THE TURBULENT HISTORY OF THE DAILY PLANET’S ACE REPORTER – I’m pretty sure I’ve recommended this before and you didn’t pay any attention that time and probably won’t this time either but it’s a good book, dammit.

DC UNIVERSE BY ALAN MOORE – I recommend this one in particular because it includes the classic “For the Man Who Has Everything,” a story that gives us a glimpse of what Superman’s life might have been like if he had been raised by his birth parents. Also, a bunch of other great stories by Alan Moore.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN: SAGA OF THE SUPER SONS – A bit of Silver Age insanity from the mind of Bob Haney. Is it a hoax? A dream? An imaginary story? No! But it is a gas, daddy-o!

Bonus:

Not many votes for it this issue, but I’m going to wrap up this storyline, I guess, so in Wonder Woman #34 we see another family reunion in the form of Diana being reunited with her long-lost twin, Jason.

The twins have a nice chat, during which Jason reveals that he’s been waiting to meet her, and that he’s glad that she doesn’t have the same nose (he’s got quite a schnoz) that he does, but, like her, he’s got some powers like hers, and some that are different. After they finish catching up, Grail makes an appearance, and Diana learns that their happy reunion was a sham and that her brother actually hates her and is working with Grail. It ends with Jason telling a battered Diana that they’re not going to kill her just yet, as they have a need for her, but that when the time comes, he’ll do the job himself.

That’s it for this Spotlight Sunday. Thanks to everyone who voted, and be sure to come back for the next Weigh In Wednesday.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one). And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!



Weigh In Wednesday 11.8.17

A family reunion may turn bad for Wonder Woman (so, basically, just a typical family reunion), the horrible (typical) family reunion theme continues for Superman, it’d take a Miracle for Scott Free to get off, er, scot-free, and AH! gives us a tale of comics’ most famous BFFs (Best Frenemies Forever).

All this and…well, all this, in this week’s Weigh In. Cast your vote by 12 AM Eastern on November 12th, and then come back for Spotlight Sunday to despair or gloat, depending on how things turned out for you!

Which comic should be featured in this Spotlight Sunday?

  • ACTION COMICS #991 (DC) - “THE OZ EFFECT” part five! After being revealed as [REDACTED], Mr. Oz makes his last moves against the Man of Steel and his family. (50%, 5 Votes)
  • MISTER MIRACLE #4 (DC) - “King and Gerads draw upon the magical lunacy of the Fourth World, while delivering a modern opener that feels like fireworks in the brain.”—Gail Simone (20%, 2 Votes)
  • BETTY & VERONICA BY ADAM HUGHES (TPB) (ARCHIE) - Yeah, I don't normally read Archie books, but...it's by AH! (20%, 2 Votes)
  • WONDER WOMAN #34 (DC) - “CHILDREN OF THE GODS” part three! Wonder Woman and her brother, Jason, finally come face-to-face! (10%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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TPB = Trade Paperback, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

HC = Hardcover, a volume containing a longer original story, or collecting multiple issues of a regular comic.

Special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).  And support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon!