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Marvel Land!

This past week saw my semi-annual family outing to Disneyland, in honor of my oldest boy’s seventeenth birthday.

(If your seventeen-year-old consents to going to Disneyland with you, the only response is “yes.” This may well be the last time I enjoy Disneyland with my boy).

We had the usual time — it was a good day — and it was relaxed enough that we visited some out-of-the-way corners of the park, including the Marvel attractions that have been shoehorned in to the “Innoventions” pavilion … a kind of spare-parts collection on the rump side of Tomorrowland, occupying a building that hasn’t quite had a purpose since America Sings packed it in back in 1988. Now it’s full of Microsoft stuff and … of interest to me … artifacts from Marvel’s recent movies.

Front and center was the Iron Man Hall of Armor.

Iron Man at Disneyland

(photo by Collider)

I’d seen these suits when they made the tour at San Diego Comic-Con, but it was nice to get close to them in the sparsely-attended exhibit. There was a motion-capture gimmick where you could stand in line and seem to “suit up” in the armor on a large view screen. My boy started listing the obscene gestures he’d make were he to get on camera, so rather than have security tackle him, I contented myself with snapping an illicit photo of The Flash inside Tony Stark’s holy of holies and hustled everyone onto the next display …

The Flash photobombs Iron Man!

… which was the Treasures of Asgard throne room.

From the outside, it looked like a short line-up to view various props from the movies. I remembered the big Asgard throne from Comic-Con a couple years ago, so I figured it was worth checking it out for my family, who liked the film.

Treasures of Asgard

Turns out that behind the doors were more prop exhibits and a little show. The voice of Anthony Hopkins gave us a potted history of Asgard and Midgard* (*Midgard = Earth), then a mole fogger and some disco light whisked us away to the Realm Eternal.

Yes … at the end of our Rainbow Bridge was one of those awkward autograph encounters with a Disney princess, but in this case the princess was a kid in a Thor suit (who did a fine job, but still — awkward). We snuck out while he was signing autographs for a couple kids who seemed convinced that they’d really gone to Asgard.

Thor at Disneyland

(Collider, again)

Overall, Marvel has little presence at Disneyland. It feels a bit like the characters are sleeping on the couch. But from little things do mighty exhibits grow, and Disney has a tradition of repurposing film props as attractions (in fact, one of the original “rides” when Disneyland opened in 1955 was a walk-through of sets from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea). In time I expect we’ll be able to experience Marvel rides at Disneyland, just as you can presently adventure along with Indiana Jones and Star Wars/Star Tours. My preference would be for Disneyland to level the nostalgic-but-underutilized Tom Sawyer’s Island and replace it with Marvel’s Manhattan.

In the meantime, Flash got to photobomb Odin’s throne room.

Flash In Asgard!

Good times.

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Flash Gallery

Visit my Flash Gallery on Pinterest.

flying SAUCER, not flying TORPEDO, you guys! sheesh!

Read my column about FlashFlashback 1956!

(View all Longbox Graveyard Pinterest Galleries HERE).

Top Ten Manliest Superheroes!

Longbox Graveyard #54

Comic book heroes are usually rendered in an impossible physical ideal, but today’s superheroes go beyond Olympian physiques and into some crazy realm where even their muscles have muscles. Trying to pick the fittest and strongest amongst them is a mug’s game. Even Forbush Man looks like he’s been working out!

Manliness is something else entirely. You need a lot more than a square jaw and chiseled abs to join this particular club — you need a manly attitude, too. And since we’re talking comic books, we’re looking for exaggerated manliness, while stopping short of being — ahem — too manly. Stubbly chins, stogies, and gravelly voices all count for a lot. So does pimp style, womanizing, and a tendency to think with their fists.

It also helps to be kinda sorta a regular guy, or at least as regular as you can get while infused with gamma radiation, cosmic rays, or a super-soldier serum.

Who is the manliest superhero of them all? Joining me for today’s oh-so-serious nerd debate are Tom Mason, comic book scholar extraordinaire (and when he isn’t doing more important things, you can find him over at Comix 411). Also here is Chris Ulm, last seen at Longbox Graveyard as a part of my WonderCon panel, and also my co-host for the blog I did on Deathlok several weeks ago (and it occurs to me that Deathlok is pretty damn manly, too, but dead men are excluded from consideration).

(Both of these gentlemen will join me at my upcoming Comic-Con panel, so if you don’t like their choices below, c’mon by our panel and throw rotten fruit at them).

Our goal is to come up with a list of the ten manliest superheroes, but knowing these guys, it’s going to be a chore to stay on target …

PAUL: Who gets an honorable mention before we get to the list?

ULM: Aquaman might get my vote — the fact that he has the sheer swinging stones to show up riding a seahorse and spends his time talking to sea-spiders says a lot about his confidence — he obviously doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks — not even Batman.

PAUL: Not Aquaman, no — not since he went sitcom on us. Plus he let his wife push him around during that family RV vacation. No one can be hectored by his spouse and make the list. That’s the reason Spider-Man doesn’t make it — Gwen Stacy, MJ, and Black Cat are the holy trinity of comic book girlfriends but Peter’s a mommas boy and he’s whipped.

TOM: Everyone knows Flash and Atom are whipped.

PAUL: Flash is SO whipped! I spent half a review column on Iris bugging Barry about being late and not the man Flash is and blah blah blah. It goes beyond the Lois Lane trope into some kind of power exchange fetish play.

TOM: Flash has never appealed to me because of this weird henpecked way they wrote him in the Silver Age. I like strong female characters, but they made Iris some kind of naggy harpy and turned Flash into a guy who was constantly fretting about getting in trouble. The whole recurring “Barry’s late again” with Iris standing in a doorway checking her watch is just too much. All those 60s DC editors, especially Weisinger and Schwartz, always put out comics with these bizarre male-female dynamics that seem mean-spirited and misogynistic and out of touch with reality.

And the Atom, the Ray Palmer one, is another weird 1960s domestic drama, with a guy who has the powers of a man but’s just six inches tall. I’m not buying it and no one else is.

ULM: Speaking of little guys, Ant Man has to go to bars explaining that he’s … Ant Man. And he STILL nailed the winsome Wasp. That’s MANLY. If he had manned up and just stayed Ant Man, he’d definitely get my vote. After all, he did create Ultron in his spare time. But since Henry Pym keeps changing his name like a giant pussy (“Oooh, check me out: I’m YELLOWJACKET! I’m GIANT-MAN now!”) he’s off my list.

plus, being a dick does NOT make you manly!

TOM: How about a lady’s man like The Spirit?

PAUL: The Spirit is interesting. Because of the femme fatales?

TOM: I think yeah because of the femme fatales. He’s got chicks falling all over him – most of them are evil and trying to kill him and he doesn’t catch on until it’s almost too late, but they keep a’coming. And he likes it. After fifteen beautiful women have tried to kill you, you might get suspicious of #16, but The Spirit welcomes her with open arms. That’s a special kind of guts, or the biggest lack of self-awareness for at least seven pages of every eight page story.

PAUL: By that criteria we’d have to include Daredevil. He notched up Black Widow, Electra, and pre-crackwhore Karen Page. Plus he holds his own with crap powers, and wears a costume only a blind guy would think is cool (and pulls it off).

TOM: What about Green Arrow? No powers, but he took stupid equipment and made it work. He’s got some manliness/sexist issues that often threaten to overwhelm him, but for awhile he had a love arrow for Black Canary.

PAUL: Good one, it crossed my mind, I suppose every case I make for Daredevil would apply here too.

TOM: Exactly. Plus, Green Arrow has very strong opinions about a lot of life issues and isn’t afraid to point his finger into anyone’s chest for emphasis. It takes a special kind of man to make an arrow with a boxing glove on it. Oliver Queen is always ready for a fight.

PAUL: All right, I’ll put The Spirit, Daredevil, and Green Arrow on the list at number ten. It’s my list and I can break the rules!

10) The Spirit, Daredevil, Green Arrow (half-mad chick magnets)

If stupid gear is going to score manly points, how about Guy Gardner? Moe haircut. Bad attitude. Jerkwad. But no way is anyone manly enough to pull of a Green Lantern costume.

Anyone else?

TOM: Fawcett’s Capt. Marvel is like the Tim Tebow of super-heroes. He gets the job done, but he’s not going to clear out the biker bar in the middle of the night.

PAUL: How about that other big boy scout — Superman?

ULM: Superman technically should get credit for being manly because one can only imagine the damage a swarm of super-sperms could do to Metropolis. That alone should give him high standing in the manly sweepstakes. However, as an alien, technically he’s not a man, so forget it.

PAUL: Superman’s seemed a little limp to me since that Brandon Routh picture. I don’t much like Zack Snyder but if anyone is going to give Superman a testosterone injection, he’s the guy. Though I expect he’ll go all 300 and make Superman just a little … too manly.

TOM: Superman’s now this wistful nostalgic character content to sit atop tall buildings, smell flowers and pick out shapes in the clouds. He’s like Dr. Manhattan in the early parts of Watchmen. He’s like Xanax in a cape now. At least in the old days, Jimmy would turn himself into a giant turtle or Lois would throw herself out the window to make his life interesting.

ULM: Since you mention Jimmy …

PAUL: We didn’t. C’mon, I need someone for number nine.

TOM: How about Lobo?

PAUL: Never read Lobo. Whaddya think?

TOM: Lobo is technically some kind of alien freak biker badass. He doesn’t take crap from anyone and doesn’t fight fair. He’s manly in the same way that a Hell’s Angel is manly at 2am Sunday. He would totally own Burning Man and those people would follow him anywhere.

PAUL: I’d put him on the list but Ulm’s already disqualified Superman for being an alien. And if a motorcycle was enough to get you in I’d pick Ghost Rider. With that flaming skull head, he’s like a living tattoo on the back of a mass-murderer’s neck. Leather. Hotline to Satan. Charter member of the Legion of Monsters. Problem is that Nick Cage has played him twice and he’s also a charter member of the Champions, the lamest superhero team of all time.

TOM: How about Wildcat? My understanding is that he is/was a boxer. He’s got no super powers except brute strength and a mean right hook, so he’s a little like Batman in that regard (but without any gadgets). I’d say it’s manly for a guy to put on a cat costume to fight crime. That’s the nine lives of brass balls.

PAUL: Plus I think in one of DC’s innumerable reboots, Wildcat is the guy who taught Batman how to fight. OK, I don’t know if he belongs or not, but we’re not making a lot of headway so he goes on the list.

9) Wildcat (are YOU going to tell him he’s NOT manly?)

Wildcat seems like a regular guy, too. Like Ben Grimm. Ben’s got the stogie and you could drink beer with him and he’d pay. He’s got the New York street kid gang thing going on. Test pilot. He’s approachable but too much like your uncle to make the list.

ULM: The manliest super-hero is Thundra. You know she has penis, but maybe you’d still date her for the story …

PAUL: Sorry, you need to have a Y chromosome to make the list.

Thundra is NOT amused!

OK, since this is going nowhere fast I’m going to just start putting names on the list. Like … Black Panther. So, so cool. African king. Many wives. Pimp style and for awhile he was a hip hop guy (maybe still is). Downside: Token Avenger.

8) T’Challa (but you can call him Black Panther)

If pimp style counts, then we have to consider Sub-Mariner. Goes to work in his underwear (and when he doesn’t he wears the Pimp Suit and pulls it off). Perpetually pissed off. Royal blood. Has a giant octopus for his wingman. Fought Nazis AND the Japanese. Attacked New York a bunch of times. Downsides — Shares many of Aquaman’s negatives, he’s a Pretty Boy, plus couldn’t steal Sue Storm from Rubberman and he’s a fish. And if being a fish or an animal knocks you out, then there goes Howard the Duck, who has a stogie and no pants, but there was definitely something happening with Bev.

And it’s apropos of nothing, but I think we have to include Thor. Divine hammer. Muscles out to here. Can drink the whole mead hall under the table, got the whole viking thing going on. Downside: Cute little wings on the helmet and talks funny. Pretty. But I thought the movie last year did a decent job of making Thor seem like a regular guy, that he wouldn’t cockblock you or make you feel like a sidekick. He’s got those Warriors Three always hanging around and they don’t seem any worse for it.

7) Thor (long hair, thees and thous, but still manly)

I guess Gods are in, while aliens are out. Any other edge cases I’m forgetting?

ULM: What about Black Bolt? He is the ultimate version of the tall silent type. Apart from the occasional tear slowly crawling down his cheek, he keeps his lips zipped and only opens his mouth to destroy ancient Kree cities.

PAUL: Not sure I’d pick him over someone like Orion of the New Gods. He’s heir to the throne of a deathgod. Bad dad issues. Messed-up face and wants to fight everyone. But all the New Gods are kind of sissified — not as bad as Seraphim, but still …

How about someone more down-to-earth. Like Luke Cage! First, he’s Luke Cage! Should have been played by Samuel L. Jackson, but now he’s too old. Defends the ghetto and has a steel chain for a belt. Curses by saying “Christmas!” Downside: Curses by saying Christmas!

6) Luke Cage (Christmas!)

Who am I missing?

TOM: Judge Dredd?

PAUL: Dredd definitely, completely forgot about him. He’d in the running for #1 if he had even one lady on his dance card. His one-dimensionality holds him back, if you consider being the fifth manliest superhero being held back. He wears that helmet to bed, you know. Not sure if that helps or hinders his case.

5) Judge Dredd (he is the Law … which means no time for the ladies)

And if ladies are part of the equation, then you have to give it up for … Iron Man. Fought the Commies, and he’s a merchant of death.

ULM: Iron Man. Heart condition. Drinks. Smokes. Womanizes. Builds cool shit in his garage. Drives fast cars. Hangs out with thunder gods, super-soldiers and Nick Fury. Most importantly, Tony Stark has man-servants like Happy Hogan to do his taxes and drive him around to bang super-models. C’mon — is this really a contest? Think about what Bruce Wayne does in his spare time — obsess about crime and train young men to be his “ward.” NO CONTEST.

PAUL: Yeah, but there are some drawbacks, especially as he compares to Batman. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are a push on the millionaire playboy thing, but Batman scores points for working without a net. How manly do you have to be to take on bad guys in what is essentially the battlesuit version of an F-15? Plus, Batman has the stubble while Tony has that pencil-thin mustache. And he can’t hold his booze.

Still:

4) Iron Man (manly enough for this room)

But technology only gets you so far. Guts counts for more than gears, and Wolverine gets points for the stogie, the hair, the tortured past, and the chip on his shoulder — more than enough to make up for the showtunes thing.

3) Wolverine (despite the Hugh Jackman thing)

Keep the stubble and the attitude, remove the Canadian thing, and add a whole bunch more women and you get …

2) Batman (despite the Val Kilmer thing)

Man points up for the gravelly voice and stubble (when Jim Lee draws him at least). Major playa with disposable starlets and supervillainesses like Cat Woman. Put a bun in the oven with Talia al Ghul, and probably Talia Shire too. No real powers. Loses points for hanging out with Robin.

manly pajamas

ULM: Really, all this stuff is just throwing you off the track. The real manliest man is JIMMY OLSEN. Yes, the alter ego of multiple super-heroes through the years including (but probably not limited to) Mr. Action, Giant Turtle Boy, Elastic Lad, Flamebird, Speed Demon, Insect Guy, Morbidly Obese guy, Gorilla, Viking guy, etc.

When not solving crimes in one of these guises, Jimmy has to always be on call and kowtow to a his “best friend,” a homoerotic alien fixated on a crazy woman desperately climbing the office ladder of a two-bit newspaper. Non-stop drama with no escape in sight. The fact that Jimmy Olsen is not swinging over a drain makes him, by far, the manliest super-hero in any universe.

PAUL: Sorry, Ulm, I’m not buying it. Maybe you could squeeze Jimmy in at number ten with that kind of logic but you missed your chance. We’re talking about numero uno now, and that means just one person …

1) Nick Fury (Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

He’s number one and it’s not even close. Eye patch. Stubble. Stogie. Actually IS played by Samuel L. Jackson. No super powers but he’s still The Boss. Pretty sure he nailed Madame Hydra and he had that tragic lost love in the old Sgt. Fury comics.

played by Samuel L. Jackson AND the Hoff? THAT’S Manly!

TOM: Also, Nick fury has the Infinity Formula so he will live forever.

Nick’s got a special kind of manliness. He fought Hitler, founded a secret agency, built a secret base that hovers in the air, he gets to boss around the superheroes despite having no actual powers, and he carries a gun, even when he’s on his giant secret hovercraft base. I’ll say it again: He bosses around the Avengers, and they like it.

PAUL: Damn right they like it. And you know why? Because Nick is MANLY, that’s why, manlier even than Giant-Sized Man Thing!

And that’s the list! Thanks to Tom and Ulm for their wise contributions (notwithstanding the whole Jimmy Olsen bit).

Agree, disagree …? Sound off in the comments, below!

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #55 — The Amazing Spider-Man

LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS

Flashback 1956!

Longbox Graveyard #41

Reviewing comics over half a century old doesn’t qualify as breaking news.

But here’s a news Flash, anyways.

The modern incarnation of the Flash burst to life in Showcase #4, with a cover date of October 1956.

Let’s think about 1956 for a minute.

Doris Day was singing Que Sera Sera, and Elvis Presley released his first gold album. Ike was in the White House, the Soviets were in Hungary, the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, and playwright Arthur Miller was in Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn must have found brains REALLY sexy

Frank Miller hadn’t been born yet. Humphrey Bogart hadn’t died yet. It’s was a year before Sputnik, three years before the Barbie doll, and maybe most important, five years before Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny rode that rocket into space and changed everything about comic books.

There wasn’t a lot going on in comic books at the time (the smart guys were doing newspaper comic strips). Will Eisner had already wrapped up the Spirit, EC Comics was a smoking crater in the ground, and the superheroes of the day were golden age relics like Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman, with the Last Son of Krypton more familiar as a paunchy black & white TV star than a comic book hero. The cool kids were more interested in science fiction anyway — Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet, and B-movie classic Earth vs. The Flying Saucers all bowed in 1956.

It was to reach these saucer-watching, Elvis-listening, distracted youths of 1956 that DC Comics reimagined the Flash. They ditched the old Golden Age geezer in the air raid helmet and introduced a sleek new character design — The Scarlet Speedster! — and made their hero a chemist and “police scientist” who was a thoroughly modern man. With hindsight our beloved Barry Allen seems remote, square, and worse than your dad, but if you’re a kid in 1956, he was a vision of carefree adult freedom. Respectable, single, doing something cool for a living … yeah, sure, you wear a tie all the time and you’re whipped by your nagging girlfriend for arriving late for one tedious dinner date after another but it’s 1956, man! Beatlemania is still eight years away.

More to the point, your correspondent is still six years away. I was born in 1962, and came of comic book age in 1974, which makes me … really old. But not old enough to remember 1956. Not even old enough to imagine what 1956 might have been like. And because of that I can’t really review Flash. This “new” kind of superhero is half a century old and there’s no real way for me to appreciate what a fresh take Flash must have seemed smack dab in the middle of the button-down 1950s. If I’m reviewing a later Silver Age Marvel book like the Silver Surfer or the Avengers I can kind of get in the neighborhood — those books and those times weren’t so terribly far removed from my own youth. I feel like I can give them a fair shake from a then-and-now perspective. But the 1950s might as well be another planet, culturally, from the times I really knew and understood.

1956 also brought us Flash-Matic tuning (absolutely harmless to humans!)

So this review is a little different.

Reviewing the hero. As a superhero, the Flash is in the Hall of Fame, comfortably at the bottom of the top tier, or the top of the second tier, depending on your point of view. The story of the scientist bathed with chemicals and gifted with super-speed is part of our popular culture. He’s been in print forever, he’s had his cartoons, you could find him on pajamas and a lunch box (at least once upon a time), and your mom could probably pick him out of a lineup. He’ll get a movie when Warners shakes off their Green Lantern hangover. Yeah, DC has screwed up his comic a bunch of times (most notably sacrificing Barry Allen to the Moloch of Continuity in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths), but the modern Flash mythos is pretty strong and the character is nothing if not resilient. The Flash is going to be fine. He’s plenty of people’s favorite hero. I like him well enough but haven’t read a new Flash book in twenty years.

I have no idea who most of these guys are

Reviewing the comics for their own day. Well, see above, as regards my inability to truly understand the 1950s. About the best I can do is infer the impact of the comic by looking at the world around it — like detecting the presence of a black hole by looking for wobbles or distortion elsewhere in space. And to judge by the romance books, sanitized horror books, war books, westerns, and funny animals on the rack those days, then, heck yeah! The Flash must have been like someone spiked the lemonade.

Reviewing the comics for our day. Showcase #4 is a museum piece and a precious cultural artifact. The price guides say you could ask six figures for a top graded copy (good luck getting that, though!). As the herald of the Silver Age of comics and the introduction of a classic character, this is an Important Comic.

It is also a goofy comic. A very goofy comic.

The stories will melt your mind, so I won’t bother to summarize them. Suffice to say they are from that blissful pre-continuity era when the creators were clearly making things up as they went along. Aliens who grow every second! Ancient conquering robots buried beneath the earth! Spring-heeled supervillains who leave birthday presents all around town. And super-intelligent gorillas hailing from a secret African city.

(yes, that’s Gorilla Grodd)

That same sense of wonder is harnessed to create the modern world of comic books. You can see the story conventions of later books take root on seemingly every page. I was particularly struck by how “Science!” (exclamation point is mandatory) is invoked to justify everything. It’s like some bizarre inversion of Clarke’s Law, where any magic, however outrageous, will be accepted as science if sold as such to 1950s tweeners.

For instance, because heat causes mirages, then the same must be true of cold. Science!

And of course the Flash’s uniform expands on contact with air. It’s just like one of those Navy life rafts. SCIENCE!

In this last bit we see another common storytelling trick from this series that has lasted into the present age — using multiple panels in a kind of slow-motion to show us Barry’s various speed tricks. This triptych storytelling style is additionally notable because it is possibly unique to the comic book form.

It is first seen when Barry is discovering he’s received the gift of super-speed …

(and this was half a century before Toby Maguire pulled the same stunt in the cafeteria scene from Sam Raimi’s delightful 2002 movie, Spider-Man, by the way)

… then the technique is used to show how Barry thinks faster than the rest of us …

… and finally as a means for the audience to keep up with Barry as races through the sound barrier and beyond.

As well as emerging storytelling conventions, all the assumptions of old time comics are on display in The Flash, such as when Barry gets his obligatory teen sidekick in Flash #110.

Yep, that’s Wally West in the miniature Flash costume. In our current century, where all the subtext is on the outside, you can read all sorts of improprieties into Barry’s interest in young Wally, but for 1950s readers it was innocent, wish-fulfilling fun.

It really is treacherous to read too much into these Silver Age comics, but the relationship between Barry Allen and Iris West deserves special consideration. I understand the tropes. Lois Lane was an oblivious pain-in-the-butt for Clark Kent, so they went to the same playbook for Barry and Iris. But Iris is a genuine harpy. The way she picks on Barry … well, I’m tempted to believe there’s some kind of sadistic power exchange going on here. Barry is so whipped in this relationship that the only explanation is that he likes it this way.

Being “the fastest man alive,” the series wrings a lot of irony out of Barry being late all the time, and having Barry arrive late for another dinner or lunch with Iris is the go-to, wink-at-the-camera formula for concluding several stories in this series. But the hectoring Barry absorbs from Iris goes beyond an adolescent sense of dating (it must be like dressing up and going out with your mom!) and into a realm where it’s genuinely hard to understand why Barry puts up with it. Carmine Infantino draws elegant and fashionable women (and no one fills an evening gown like Iris West), but there’s a limit.

Consider this sequence from Flash #111, where Barry first puts up with Iris complaining that she’s being dragged to a lecture …

… then gets blasted by Iris becase she was bored, and thinks the lecturer was a crackpot (and to be fair, who could believe those lame-ass cloud monsters?) …

… but then, abruptly, Iris throws Barry over for this doctor she wouldn’t have known existed if Barry hadn’t introduced her to him. Mee-OW!

It’s probably nothing. Or maybe writer John Broome was working through issues. Or maybe this is just another example of the weird sexuality (identified by Grant Morrison in Supergods) that characterized the Mort Weisinger era at DC.

I prefer to believe that Barry put up with it because he was a playa. The Fastest Man Alive usually plays it right down mainstreet, but in Showcase #13 he flirts with the continental rule, getting a kiss on behalf of the ladies of Paris …

… before racing across the Mediterranean for an Egyptian booty call.

Look, when your only weapon is super-speed and about the best you can do is race Superman to a tie, then you’ve got to strike a blow whenever you can. And if that means that the Flash is the Fastest Man Alive in more ways than one, then who am I to deny him?

But that’s another one of those modern reinterpretations of an innocent adventure strip from a lost age. There’s a certain charm to an era where a kiss was a grateful North African princess was just a kiss from a princess.

I’m not convinced we’re better off today, for all of our sophistication and more worldly entertainments. This is a fun and nostalgic run of Flash comics, full of character first introductions and history. It’s worth slowing down to enjoy the Flash.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: #42 Panel Gallery: Jack Kirby’s Gadgets of S.H.I.E.L.D. (And HYDRA Too!)

Top Ten DC Comics Characters

Longbox Graveyard #12

A couple weeks ago, Brian Cronin’sComics Should Be Good” column at Comic Book Resources ran a DC/Marvel Top Ten survey. The idea was to name your top ten favorite characters for both DC and Marvel comics. (And the results are starting to appear).

While this isn’t exactly a Marvel vs. DC thing, the effect is the same: blogging red meat! It’s more meaningless than even the average comic book blog, it fills up column space, and it gets fans riled up over all the distinctions-without-a-difference in voting for the different clowns who have worn the Flash costume through the years. It’s a cheap stunt: an easy-to-write column designed to drive clicks.

I find it appalling and I disapprove.

Here are my picks.

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You Might Also Like: Top 10 Marvel Comics Characters

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DC Comics Top Ten

#10 Dr. Fate

Just for the headgear. I don’t give a damn about the character, but I love the helmet. Put Dr. Strange in that helmet and I’m all-in.

huh, looks like Dr. Fate grew boobs when I wasn’t looking

#9  Mister Miracle

Yes, he’s ridiculous — an exiled god from an dysfunctional home who wears a red-and-yellow costume and masquerades as an escape artist? But he was the favorite character of a friend I lost to childhood leukemia and I don’t care what you say, the core of the New Gods mythos would make a dynamite motion picture.

(But no Funky Flashman!)

#8  Superman

Love the character — the iconic man of tomorrow standing guard over the ideal big city metropolis. I enjoy the Superman mythos with its bottled cities, science villains, and flying dogs in capes. The character and world are inherently optimistic and utopian, and ultimately, Superman is the only superhero that really matters.

I just never want to read his comics.

is that a rocket in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?

#7  Wildcat

Yes, Wildcat. Again, because of the headgear. And also because I think the character is ripe for revival. Wildcat is a prizefighter and you have to try like hell to mess up a boxing story. Stick to the boxing movie formula and even a story about Hugh Jackman fighting with robots looks like a good idea. Mix the sweet science with a fatal disease, the mob, a dame, an orphan, and a little bit of that Barton Fink feeling and I smell a winner!

Plus, Wildcat rides a Cat-O-Cycle.

#6  Aquaman

I don’t care about the comics character — no one cares about the comics character — but the version of Aquaman who frequently appears on the Batman: Brave And The Bold cartoon series is a scream.

Fast forward to 3:50 in this video to see the true Aquaman … the poor schmuck stuck on an RV vacation road trip with his undersea family.

#5  Hawkman

Headgear fetish, part three.

note preference for Golden Age “full beak” Hawkman (these things are important)

#4  Swamp Thing

Frankly you could throw out the first six names on this list. I’ve never been a DC guy and I had to grope around to come up with my ten names. That I put Wildcat on the list and passed up a chance to show Power Girl in her white t-shirt shows how much I am slipping.

Let me correct that.

there you go … Power Girl, plus Superman and Wildcat (yes, Wildcat)

With Swamp Thing we come to the first of the DC characters that I hold in truly high esteem, and not merely because he is the most successful of a host of muck monsters reaching all the way back to The Heap. This admittedly second-tier character has twice been touched by genius, first with Bernie Wrightson’s brilliant character design …

… and then by Alan Moore’s seminal run on the book, which changed the character (and comics) forever. (Moore’s Swamp Thing will eventually get a Longbox Graveyard column all it’s own).

Wrightson’s design is worth a closer look. Swamp Thing’s powerful, hulking build gives him a strong presence on the page, but the character sports subtle touches that lend him uncommon visual depth. Exposed roots on Swamp Thing’s back and shoulders offer highlight points where artists can add visual flourishes and kinks (following artists would have his body sprout moss, roots, and flowers to dramatic effect).

Swamp Thing is just on this side of uncanny valley, with a face that is recognizably human, but sporting craggy brows and a characteristic nose-and-face design than can by turns be human and warm or a mask of skull-faced terror. A classic comic book monster design.

#3  The Flash

My favorite of the Silver Age greats, though I will confess I liked him best as a cartoon character. The sunlit and nostalgic memory of my youth casts the Flash as a safe, colorful, reassuring science hero who was both the fastest man alive and the smartest guy in the room. I particularly loved the “swishing” sound effects deployed every time Flash went for a sprint.

In filling out the ballot over at CBR I probably invalidated my submission by just listing, “The Flash,” instead of “Barry Allen Flash.” But really, is there a greater single indictment of comics than having to identify which Flash you mean when you say, “The Flash?”

C’mon.

And apropos of nothing — instead of the turgid Green Lantern-style disaster that DC is bound to bring to the screen, the Flash movie should be lightly comedic (more The Mask than The Dark Knight) and should star Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen.

You’re welcome.

#2  The Joker

DC in general and Batman in particular have a pile of great villains, and I probably could have filled out this list with bad guys alone (and another cheap blog idea has just occurred to me) … but the Joker is clearly DC’s finest villain, and likely would be so even without his apotheosis through the talents of Heath Ledger a couple years ago.

The brilliance of the Joker is in his versatility. He started life as a knock-off of Conrad Veidt, and has survived Jokermobiles, Cesar Romero’s mustache, and Jack Nicholson’s check-cashing to emerge as everyone’s favorite mass-murdering mental patient. The Joker’s bizarre plots resonate more deeply than your run-of-the-mill megalomaniac bent on world conquest. He’s unpredictable and always a twisted delight, seemingly just as at home whether he’s stealing a kid’s report card or putting Batgirl in a wheelchair. You can’t keep a good clown down!

#1  Bat-Mite

No, my favorite DC character is Batman, of course, but where’s the fun in admitting that?

And since I’m tumbling to the blogging cheap trick of a top ten list, I might as well go balls deep and drag this thing out for a second column … so you’ll have to come back in a couple weeks to see my Top Ten Marvel Comics characters!

In the meantime, I’d be delighted to see a nerd skirmish break out in the comments section about YOUR favorite DC heroes along with excoriating indictments of why I was a Philistine to leave (insert character here) off my list!

UPDATE: Mars Will Send No More has posted a rebuttal over at his epononymous blog! Check it out!

NEXT WEEK: #13 The Stuff of Legends — Thor!

LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS

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