Saturday, December 31, 2005

"Greeting A New Year"

I wouldn't call myself a control freak, but I DO like things in my life to go in some sort of regular order. Most of the time, I can steer such aspects of my personal life to lead generally along that path, but occasionally, "things just happen" which cause them to go array.

This has happened this year in particular, because the things that have happened, are things outside of my means to correct. If you have elderly parents, you can't expect them to always be well. If you have a sucky sort of job, then you can't expect that to always go well either. Nor is marriage ever always the proverbial bed of roses, even if you've been married nearly 20 years to that same person.

When all of these misc. difficulties in life happen all at once, it can cause a person to get depressed no matter how bright an outlook he tries to maintain on life. And that's what's happened to me.

I've had a very hard time enjoying this Christmas Holiday, and although I can work to correct some of the things that are getting me down in the upcoming year, there are other things I find inevitable. Not being able to correct such is pretty frustrating at times.

And most everyone has had these problems, ARE having these problems, or WILL have these problems. It's just part of life.

There are people who have it much worse than I, so at least I can appreciate my own problems not being as bad (because, it's true, things can always get worse). And I appreciate the fact that some of the things I worry about, have yet to ever happen. It reminds me to live more in the moment, for losing one moment of sleep over things yet to come profits no one.

So with this oncoming New Year upon us, I want to wish only the best of things life can offer on everyone. May your sorrows be few and your tragedies be none. May you always find a smile on your face, and no weight upon your heart. May the sun shine upon you and all darkness leave your mind.

And let's ALL appreciate life.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"Happy Birthday, Stan!"

A Happy Birthday to Stan ("The Man") Lee! I hope it's his best one ever!

(Photo from Fantasy Masterpieces #1, 1965.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"God Bless Us, Everyone"

Here's wishing everyone only the most Super Christmas they've ever had.

(Illustration by Al Rio; "Supergirl" Copyright DC Comics.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

REVIEWING: "The Secret of Barry Allen" TPB

Before I get into this review, I'd like to comment on something else.

The other night my wife and I were watching the animated Frosty the Snowman, and right in the midst of Paul Coker designs and Jimmy Durande songs, I got to wondering that if a "magic hat" can animate a lifeless snowman, what would happen if said hat was placed upon a dead human? Would it bring him back to life? Would it create a zombie? And, since Frosty doesn't actually have a brain, wouldn't it make him some sort of mindless, ice monster, waving his twisted, gnarled limbs as arms and murmering from his black coal "mouth" a frightening I'll be bacccckkkkk! I'll be baccccckkkkk!!" wich would scare the bejesus outta any child that tried to animate such? Those dead, unpupiled eyes staring deep into the child's soul just awaiting another chance to reap ravok in a mid-winter night's dream.'s just one of those wonderful joyous holiday thoughts I have at this time of the year. (*ahem*)
And now, back to the show.

Perhaps DC Comics should just go ahead and use Frosty's magic hat on the corpse of Barry Allen and be done with it and resurrect him from his "Crisis on Infinite Earths"'s death because they certainly won't let any of their readers of the current FLASH title ever forget him.

But this 2005 DC Comics trade paperback collection of reprints isn't just all about Barry Allen. It reprints issues of the current Flash series #'s 207-211,213-217 leaving out #212 (probably because it had nothing to do with the issues before of afterwards from it being an odd issue out or some writer being too lazy to meet a deadline).

In fact, it's not until the second half of this TPB that we get into the theme of Barry Allen, really. The first part revolves around the former Kid Flash, Wally West, dealing with the fear of someone harming his wife because they know his real identity, and an attack by one of his villians has caused his wife to miscarry their unborn offspring(s). But this whole "situation" had been solved when Hal Jordan, the current resident host body of "The Spectre" (and why DC won't let the best version of the silver-age Green Lantern alone, Lord only knows), erases everyone's memory of Wally ever having been the Flash in the first place (including Wally and his wife, Linda, as well).

This had been on the request of Wally to The Spectre, but he didn't realize what an impact it'd have on him personally, or his wife (who leaves him after rediscovering his secret ID as The Flash to get her head together). In fact, not only did West not know he was The Flash, but neither did anyone in the "heroic society" including the Justice League of America (which rather upset them all).

In this first storyline, West tries to find where Linda's gone away to and ends up distancing himself from the JLA companions until some of his old aquaintances and "friends" like Batman and Nightwing (the former original "Robin the Boy Wonder" and fellow old team-mate from "The Teen Titans") help set him straight about things. And, finally he reveals his ID once again to the JLA and other costumed heroes he knows.

In fact, in the entire DC Universe, about all it seems one needs to obtain the knowledge of anyone's secret ID of their heroes, is to claim to be one yourself. Get into the JLA, even as a back-up occasional member, and one obtains a wealth of knowledge. Let's dearly hope none of these heroes turn evil or the use of this knowledge will really cause the proverbial shit to hit the fan, someday.

Now, most of this Identity Crisis is all due to "The Elongative Man" (Ralph Digby)'s wife, Sue, being recently murdered by a super-villian, just because he knew (as well as the public at large) that Digby WAS The Elongative Man, and this is all related to the current DC crap so many fans of the company are disgusted over almost as much as that storyline some years ago of "The Death of Superman".

Then, we get into the real theme of this collection, "The Secret of Barry Allen", which begins when "Green Arrow" gaves West a letter which Barry Allen had left him in case of his death. In the letter, Allen explains an act in which he had some shame and requests West to do this last favor for him.

Allen's guilt lay with where he had "Prof.Zoom" magically lobotomized by the magician, "Zatanna" after he thought Zoom had killed his own wife (Iris). Later on, Iris returned, but Zoom stayed in this mindless state. So Allen didn't want yet another of his old villians, "The Top", to end up that way as well because he'd taken that villian to Zatanna also, but instead of wiping out his mind completely, he eliminated the evil traits and turned The Top into a hero. This eventually didn't set as well in The Top's mind as Allen had hoped; in fact, it finally drove the former villian crazy and caused his death. But, old villians are hard to kill. The Top's mind was evidently so powerful that he kept coming back possessing the minds of others, and was as crazy in each form every time.

Allen wanted West to track down The Top and have Zatanna restore his old criminal mind, and make things as they were before.

Of course, West succeeds in doing this.

Sounds pretty confusing? Actually, the whole storylines make fair sense, and there's no real way for me to explain all the "goings-on" by just reviewing this TPB; you'd just have to read it all yourself. I must admit that there's some nice little cameos by the GA Green Lantern, Metamorpho and others. One thing, or, I should say, a statement the writer (Geoff Jones) made that I found pretty much just incorrect, was that the reason the original GA Jay Garrick "Flash" wore a helmet as part of his costume was because it was a World War I relic which belonged to his father, and I think most fans would agree that instead this part of his attire was designed after the winged helmet worn by Mercury of the ancient Roman gods.

And along the way we get to see many of The Flash's old rogues like "Captain Cold", and "Gorilla Grodd" (and a buncha others), plus a few of his old villians that have reformed (???) and now heroes???? Well...that's probaby yet to be seen.

Oh yeah...and the artwork's not bad either; some Turner , Sciver and Porter covers and interior Porter artwork which is more than simply passable.

And of course, a happy ending as Wally West's wife, Linda returns.

P.S.: (Please excuse any typos this time around folks. This makes 3 weeks of work without a week day off!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"T'was the Night Before...ummm...Happy Holidays"

Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck How to live in a world that's politically correct? His workers no longer would answer to "Elves," "Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves. And labor conditions at the north pole Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul. Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety, Released to the wilds by the Humane Society. And equal employment had made it quite clear That Santa had better not use just reindeer. So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid, Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid. The runners had been removed from his sleigh, The rust was termed dangerous by the E.P.A. And people had started to call for the cops When they heard sled noises on their roof tops. Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened His fur trimmed red suit was called, "Unenlightened." And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows, Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose. And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation, Demanding millions in over-due compensation. So half of the reindeer were gone, and his wife Who suddenly said she'd had enough of this life. Joined a self-help group, packed and left in a whiz, Demanding from now on her title was Ms. And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion That making a choice could cause so much commotion Nothing of leather, nothing of fur Which means nothing for him. And nothing for her. Nothing that might be construed to pollute Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot. Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise Nothing for just girls, or just for the boys. Nothing that claimed to be gender specific. Nothing that's warlike or non-pacifistic No candy or sweet...they were bad for the tooth. Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth. No fairy tales, while not yet forbidden, Were the Ken and Barbie, better off hidden. For they raised the hackles of those psychological Who claimed the only good gift was on ecological No baseball, no football, someone could get hurt, Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt. Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe, And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away. So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed. He just could not figure out what to do next. He tried to be merry, tried to be gay, But you've got to be careful with that word today. His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground; Nothing fully acceptable was to be found. Something special was needed, a gift that he might Give to all without angering the left or the right. A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision, Each group of people, every religion. Every ethnicity, every hue, Everyone, everywhere...even you. So here is that gift, its price beyond worth May you and your loved ones enjoy...peace on earth,.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Stuff Happens"

Another pretty hectic week. After working ten days straight without a full day off, I thought I might get a little rest come Friday night. But..."things happen" and this was just not meant to be.

About 1:45AM I got a call from my 81 year old mother saying that she was in great pain above her hip region. This automatically scared me of course because, you see, my mother has had three operations over the years to replace a socket in that hip. When she was born that socket wasn't fully developed, and very early in her life he had to have an operation for the placement of an artificial one. This has caused her to have to wear a built-up shoe to be able to walk. This has never slowed my mother down, though; in fact, she over-taxes herself all the time.

The last such operation was about three years ago and all has been going well, but a couple weeks ago she tripped over her dog while walking thru a dark room. It didn't seem to hurt her hip, however. So when she called I automatically thought her pain may have been a result of that fall.

So I get down to my folk's house within 10 minutes or so, get her dressed and take her to the ER. They x-rayed her, but found "nothing out of place", and finally the doctor decided it was just arthritis. They gave her a shot for pain and sent her home. I got back home around 5AM, but naturally I was wide-awake by then and never went back to bed until around 8:30 last night.

I went and got her a prescription for the sourness filled yesterday, and spent the better part of the day helping her out. Called her this morning and she's still very sore, so tomorrow I may have to take her to her doctor. Not really sure what he could do about such a thing though, save just prescribe more pain medication.

Otherwise, at work, the Christmas rush is in full swing with everyone trying to get in those last minute presents. I think I've finally got all my shopping done except that I'd like to find my wife one more thing this year. And, at this time of the year, I look forward to my Christmas bonus at work. This is usually pretty good, and part of which I normally use to pay off some bill, but the remainder I try to save back for the Christmas Sales Days they have at the comic shop I occasionally frequent where all store items are marked 25% off. In previous years I've always bought me at least "one good book" to add to my collections, and a couple hundred bags/backing boards trying to catch up on items not in my collections of comics, then a few misc. comics of my Want Lists. Sometimes I even buy me a DVD that was otherwise a bit too expensive to purchase when it came out new.

I did win me two nice silver-age comics recently on eBay auctions: Fantastic Four (V1) #'s 52 & 53. These weren't on any particular "want list", but they're a couple of my favorite FF's from the mid-1960's Lee/Kirby era, with #52 having the first app. of "The Black Panther", and #53 having his first origin story. I always thought BP's original costume with the short cape was pretty neat! I notice in the current series they've reinstated such a costume (as it should be). Something about that short-type capes that add to the design, much like the original cape the Golden-Age Captain Marvel wore that I've always liked.

No huge Christmas plans for me or mine this year. I'll actually have (or, at least I think I will,) both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off this year, but that's only because Christmas comes on Sunday this time and it'll be my weekend not to work anyway (so I probably won't get paid extra holiday pay for it). My wife and I will more than likely eat diner at my folk's and another meal at her dad's (as usual). This is the normal routine for us at this time of the year.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

REVIEWING: "Doom Patrol" (2004 Series)

Doom Patrol (4th. Series/2004-2005; total of 18 issues published monthly). Written and illustrated by John Byrne; published by DC Comics. (NOTE:This review will probably contain some spoilers of the series, so for those who haven't read this title and want to read it fresh in the future, I suggest to quietly exit stage right.)

When I first read that John Byrne would be doing the current series of Doom Patrol, I must admit that I had mixed feelings about it. I was thrilled to learn that the original team would somehow return, but I also recalled all the other things that Bryne had previously worked on, and some of those never suited me.

Such as his Man of Steel limited series where he pretty much re-wrote Superman's history "in his own image". Can't say I was ever crazy about his issues of Wonder Woman either, although I thought he handled She-Hulk okay as long as one took it as purely a satirical title.

I think I liked his work the best on Fantastic Four , and Alpha Flight, and his issues of Namor weren't that bad. (It was nice to see him draw "Iron Fist" again after several years.)

But...The Doom Patrol. Now there's a title I'm VERY picky about. It was always the odder titles that DC produced in the 1960's that were my favorites over the mainstream super-heroes. My favorites were: Blackhawk, and The Easy Co., Challengers of the Unknown, and my VERY favorite was (you guessed it) The Doom Patrol.

So I was afraid from the get go that Byrne would try to re-create this team along what he thought it should be.

Now that this current series has come to a close with issue #18, I can't say that it's been even my second favorite of the four that's been produced; not even my third favorite. My very favorite is and will always be the original run which started in My Greatest Adventure #80 which title changed eventually to the team's name and ran until #121, with a brief revivial in the 1970's of three reprint issues finally ending with #124.

My second favorite is, perhaps surprizing to many, NOT the Vertigo series, but the one produced in 2001 which ran 22 issues, by John Arcudo & (most of the time)Tan Eng Huat. Towards the latter issues in this run, the title became pretty interesting, and most issues are both witty and cleaver (there's even a great fill-in issue "art-wise" by Rick Geary). And the reason that the second/Vertigo series isn't my 2nd. favorite is because after Morrison began on the title, it ceased to actually BE the Doom Patrol, but more the mystical and metaphysical adventures of "Cliff" (aka: Robotman). They were well written, but it just wasn't DP, and "why' they even kept that as the title is beyond me as it had little of nothing to do with Arnold Drake's original creation.

So, the DC, and later, Vertigo title is my third favorite, leaving Byrne's run on the far end of my picks.

And the reasons "why" to me are obvious. He started out fine, with the original team characters, but for unknown reasons to me added new members as if the original crew wasn't enough to support the title. And the original cast of DP should have been enough. We had Elastic Girl (Rita), Robotman (Cliff), Negative Man (Larry) and The Chief, all fine players and far beyond needing any extra members to distract from the stories they all held and were part of their origins. We didn't need some teenage girl added to the mix which just reminded me of another "Kitty Pride" from The X-men, nor any 4-armed ape which had the mind of one of her friends, or some energy being thrown into this mix. This only made what glimpses were saw of the original members weak.

We then saw Byrne try to formulate a romance between Rita and Cliff, and stating that Rita was a teenager when Cliff had his original accident destroying his human form. That this was the reason Rita sought out The Chief, just to be near Cliff because she was just such a fan. That the "crush" she had on a race car driver as a teenager has blosomed into a true love. How convenient. So she was just in "the right time at the right place" when she herself was exposed to "strange" gases giving her powers she could join up with the team? (I don't think so. Just a bit too contrived, there.) This romance continued right thru the final issue, with the Chief finally giving Cliff an android form which could feel temperatures, or the touch on his skin. He really needs a name change now to Android Man.

And Byrne starts Negative Man out as this weird skeleton-like being, (which I never liked), which he never corrected until the final issue bringing back the more conventional form. In fact, he had to build up all of this plot from several previously published issues of JLA just to get to the point of the series. By the time the actual title was released, this team already had a history, and had he began the team fresh from issue No.1 and gradually built the personalities of the characters, perhaps now it wouldn't be getting cancelled.

Of course, Byrne did have a LOT of trash he had to get out of the way before he could begin the title. In the original series, the last original team story in #121, all the members were killed, except we discover later on that Robotman's mind survived, and he went thru various incarnations for a good twenty years off and on of stories, from three issues of Showcase to misc. guest-app's over the years and was the only original team member to appear in what I would call a real story instead of some flashback sequence or one-shot deal or off-the-wall version (like DC's Silver Age, or Tangent experiments).

But, after such corruption by DC of the original team, perhaps it would have just been best to have ended it with the last issue of the Vertigo title and "let it be".

Modern writers can not capture the feel of comics that were produced in the silver-age without updating them to be realtive to today's reading audience. And because of that, such an effort proves to be just a futile gesture no matter how well it's written. So, I don't blame John Byrne entirely. He gave it the ol' college try, and since it WAS Byrne, the readers (including myself) knew what we were getting into by reading them.

(And, it was good, at least, to see Metamorpho in various guest-appearances.)

So... "for a while" (all in all), it was nice to see these characters back in action once again. But, I sincerely hope, that now DC will let them rest in peace.

P.S.: (A Special Thanks and "tip o' de hat" to "Johnny Bacardi" for picking up several issues of this run for me at the comic shop so I could finish reading the run!)