Monday, December 31, 2012

Anatomy of a Doom Patrol Villain

"Anatomy of a Doom Patrol Villain" from Doom Patrol vol.2 #47 (DC, 1991) by Grant Morrison, Richard Case and Mark McKenna
Sure, I read Paul Kupperberg's DP in the late 80s, at first partnered with Steve Lightle and later Erik Larsen, but it was just an okay comic. Then, my small town newsstand stopped getting it. When I moved to Moncton, I checked out what happened to the book and OMG it had become this wonderful and bizarre thing and I had to have all the issues IMMEDIATELY. More than anything else in my life at the time - including college courses - Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol was responsible for getting me into libraries and bookstores and digging into all manner of strange texts. It was an amazing run, filled with nightmare creatures and all kinds of oddities. Villains would speak in anagrams, acronyms and exquisite corpses. Beautifully surreal. Morrison reinvented the Squad's members and added new ones, like Crazy Jane and Danny the (transvestite) Street, the latter of which would play a role in bringing the story to a transcendent finish.

Of course, the book continued afterwards, jumping to the nascent Vertigo imprint, with relative newbie Rachel Pollack at the helm. I appreciated much of what she tried to do with the book, but the team, or indeed, my brain, would never again be the same.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Robotman Schematic

"Robotman Schematic" from Doom Patrol vol.1 #94 (DC, 1965) by Arnold Drake and Bob Brown
There have been 5 volumes of Doom Patrol, so that's gonna be a big part of this week. Hope you like the freakiest team in comicdom as much as I do! The one constant has always been Cliff Steele, Robotman, so I thought I'd start things off with his blueprint. Has Science invented "flexible ceramic metal" yet?

Volume 1 started at #86, picking up from My Greatest Adventure's numbering, where the team premiered 6 issues previously. Writer Arnold Drake, with no regard for the future (he was moving to Marvel), killed the team off in #121 when the book was canceled. Even so, the last issue included a plea for readers to show interest in a revival. It wouldn't happen for 9 years, when Robotman was shown to have survived. The new Doom Patrol was featured in Showcase and in various guest appearances, but it would take 10 years before they'd get their own series. Continued tomorrow.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Doom Force EXTREME!

"Doom Force EXTREME!" from Doom Force Special #1 (DC, 1992) by Grant Morrison, Ian Montgommery and Brad Vancata
I don't know why Grant Morrison felt the need to do an Image (or specifically, a Liefeld) pastiche, and at over 50 pages, the joke becomes tired rather fast, but it nonetheless offered a couple weird and fun, ahem, images. The Living Mountain and his little ski-lift. The Chief as a head in an ice cube in a glass of pink lemonade. That sort of thing. The thing is, when you're laughing at Youngblood, the actual comics are just as funny for the same exact reasons. Doom Force was unnecessary, though it did have a billion percent more imagination going for it. And yes, I realize it features an over-obvious Wolverine clone with silverware instead of claws.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Doctor Is In

"The Doctor Is In" from Doctor Mid-Nite #1 (DC, 1999) by Matt Wagner and John K. Snyder III
As the Who's Who podcast made note, the orthographically-challenged Dr. Mid-Nite must have been of particular interest to Grendel creator Matt Wagner because he drew the entry and later wrote his Prestige-format mini-series. But maybe he was mostly a fan of Mid-Nite's look, because he wasn't the Golden Age original, and was played more as a Shadow figure, with a pulpy ensemble cast. Let's just say it's a good thing the mini had John K. Snyder III art (Wagner's own would have been cool too).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

More Than Enough Dr. Fates

"More Than Enough Dr. Fates" from Dr. Fate vol.3 #22 (DC, 1990) by J.M. DeMatteis and Shawn McManus
The Eric & Linda Strauss Dr. Fate series was one of those things I picked up in bulk when I moved to a town with a comic book shop, along with Animal Man, Doom Patrol and LEGION. What they all had in common was being unlike anything I'd read from the spinner racks where I came from. Dr. Fate didn't go Vertigo, like my first two examples, but it might have done. A mystical hero, a literate approach, and Shawn McManus who would eventually work on Sandman. Perhaps it was Petey the Demon and other comedy characters that kept it from attracting the imprint's attention. Of course, like a lot of DeMatteis stuff - including Moonshadow, which he did for Vertigo - it goes all metaphysical and pretentious at the end. After 2 years' worth, Fate's mantle was passed on to Inza, and to William Messner-Loebs. I read it, but it was nowhere near as memorable for me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chaotic Dr. Fate vs. the Phantom Stranger

"Chaotic Dr. Fate vs. the Phantom Stranger" from Dr. Fate vol.2 #3 (DC, 1987) by J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen and Dave Hunt
Volume 2? Yep, volume 1 is a reprint of First Issue Special and some Flash back-ups. In Fate's first original book, DeMatteis (who would go on to write the monthly, come back tomorrow) changed the premise, turning it into something of a Shazam story, or maybe a Firestorm one (though Kent and Inza were already merging 5 years earlier). 10-year-old Eric Strauss and his stepmother Linda merge into the Dr. Fate entity, and are monitored by Nabu in Kent Nelson's body! For readers wanting to see Kent Nelson's adventures - maybe coming off his appearances in All-Star Squadron or even Justice League - this probably seemed like a bad idea. However, perhaps the cool Keith Giffen art took the edge off, and it did spawn a monthly I really loved. More of that in 24 hours' time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Iceberg Island

"Iceberg Island" from Doc Savage vol.1 #2 (DC, 1987) by Denny O'Neil, Andy Kubert and Adam Kubert
Ever since I discovered Doc Savage books at my local library when I was a kid, I've tried to be a fan and failed. I mean, I've enjoyed the books I've read, but if you would ask me to name the guys in his crew, I'd be hard-pressed. And it's the same each time I try to get into a Man of Bronze comic book series. I don't know what it is with me. It doesn't stop me from trying, and when looking for a book to read, I'll often think that maybe I should pick up one of those Doc Savage books on my shelf (even the ones I've already read, I've recalled little in the way of detail). Sell me on him if you like.

DC's done three volumes. The mini-series by O'Neil and the Kubert Bros. (above), which was successful enough for DC to launch a monthly. It lasted two years, though Mike Barr replaced O'Neil after 6 issues. The monthly gave Savage a grandson and moved the stories into the present day, which was probably controversial. And of course, there was a more recent attempt in the First Wave family of pulp books. Again, I wanted to get into it and simply couldn't muster enough interest to invest in it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What's the 411?

"What's the 411?" from Dial H #1 (DC, 2012) by China Miéville and Mateus Santlouco
Why aren't you reading Dial H?! You've gonna get it cancelled and it's brilliant! If you've ever been a fan of the other versions of Dial H for Hero, this is for you! It takes place in Littleton, just like Robby Reed's adventures. It's featured return appearances by villains AND heroes from the Robby AND Chris & Vicki eras. It's weird and gritty and nutty like H.E.R.O. And if you weren't a fan of Dial H for Hero fan, no problem. It reminds me most of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, with weird, weird, weird creations and an exploration of what it means to have variable identities. Am I not selling it hard enough? That's YOUR hand on that phone. Are you going to dial the number? READ THIS BOOK!

It's all I want for Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Slash Option: Batman and Poison Ivy

"Slash Option: Batman and Poison Ivy" from Detective Comics vol.2 #14 (DC, 2013) by John Layman and Jason Fabok
A natural pairing. Batman does love a bad girl. I wasn't reading New52 'Tec until Chew's John Layman started writing it. I must say, his opening story had some nice twists and turns. The book is back on the pull list. I do find the art a bit "technical" for my tastes - I like my Batman a bit more expressionistic - but it's still well done. A preference, not a complaint.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


"Trash" from Detective Comics #613 vol.1 (DC, 1990) by Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle and Steve Mitchell
Such a long history! This is, after all, the title DC Comics is named after. So where to grab the splash from? I only read it intermittently, and as I may have said before, I can't resist Norm Breyfogle's Batman. Around this time, he was doing a lot of metaphorical splashes like this one, in the style of Eisner's Spirit. I really love them. They are not, despite the title, "trash".

Friday, December 21, 2012

Medieval Dinosaurs

"Medieval Dinosaurs" from Demon Knights #2 (DC, 2011) by Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert
Paul Cornell approached his Middle Ages the way Kirby did all those years ago. I mean, the legends about dragons inspired by DINOSAURS? That's completely crazy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Song of the Demon

"Song of the Demon" from The Demon vol.3 #6 (DC, 1990) by Alan Grant, Val Semeiks and Denis Rodier
The Demon's longest and best run was Alan Grant's (and later, Garth Ennis), a series that lasted 5 years and that started with pleasantly cartoony Semeiks art. The look he gave Etrigan worked very well with Grant's  black comedy, as the Demon became more of a trickster and mischief maker, while supporting cast member Harry Mathews became a seat cushion with a face. That sense of the absurd has, in retrospect, always been part of the character, ever since his adventures opened on a shot of Space Camelot.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Free from Blood

"Free from Blood" from The Demon vol.2 #4 (DC, 1987) by Matt Wagner and Art Nichols
The second Demon series was a 4-issue mini by Matt Wagner that took its cue from a recent appearance in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. Glenda Mark tries to exorcize the Demon from Jason Blood, and there's plenty of rhyming... maybe too much. While it was pretty good, I do wish Wagner had brought his more stylized Grendel art to it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Kirby's Camelot

"Kirby's Camelot" from The Demon vol.1 #1 (DC, 1972) by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer
Oh yeah, I really should finish reading this Omnibus! The Demon probably isn't Kirby's best DC work - he famously didn't care for the "horror" assignment - but looking at his Camelot, it could have easily fit into his Fourth World. Arthurian legend was never so spacey. And Etrigan the Demon has become one of DC's most memorable characters. He's had many series over the years and guest-starred in many, many others. Living in Gotham City is probably a plus too. Definitely a favorite with me too, whether he rhymes or not. This first series lasted 16 issues, but there would be more to come. This is going to be the Week of the Demon at Your Daily Splash Page.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Oh Crap!

"Oh Crap!" from Deathstroke the Terminator #4 (DC, 1991) by Marv Wolfman, Steve Erwin and Will Blyberg
I was kinda planning to do both the Terminator and the Hunted (which the series turned into after Zero Hour), but you know what? I really don't like Deathstroke that much. When it started, it at least had some pleasant art, and I picked up a few issues on the strength of Wolfman's writing. You know, as a New Titans spin-off. End of the day, it's still Deathstroke and I couldn't stick with it outside of the odd Annual (and yet, his Elseworlds is still one of the weakest).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

That's It?

"That's It?" from Deathstroke #2 (DC, 2011) by Kyle Higgins, Joe Bennett and Art Thibert
There have been a few Deathstroke books, only the latest simply called "Deathstroke". We'll see more in the days to come. Look, I don't HATE Deathstroke. I liked him a lot as Slade in the Teen Titans cartoon. Everywhere else though... Well, the name is stupid. He was better off as the Terminator, probably, lawsuits and all. And he had a number of other strikes against him too... was given his own book during the tiring rise of the anti-hero, was the father of super-lame Jericho, etc. The new series wasn't bad, what I read of it, but wasn't enough for me to keep reading. Good thing too, because I would have had to drop it once they handed it over to Rob "Kiss of Death" Liefeld.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Precarious Statuary of New Genesis

"The Precarious Statuary of New Genesis" from Death of the New Gods #1 (DC, 2007) by Jim Starlin and Matt Banning
Who understands what DC was trying to do with the New Gods before Final Crisis? I mean, you've got Morrison working on your big event, and all he's asking is that these Fourth World characters not be used elsewhere because they were at the center of the story he was preparing and would start with their deaths and reincarnations. And it should have been easy, since the New Gods weren't really being used anywhere at the time. So what happens? They show up in Countdown (to Final Crisis) and get killed there. And they ALSO show up a mini-series all about their dying (again) in which Starlin brings back some of his "I never read a damn Fourth World comic in my life" elements from Cosmic Odyssey. So the New Gods dies three times in the space of a year, and... who the hell knows? I'm not even sure my account is correct so confused I was. I've probably got it wrong. Some nice splashes from Matt Banning though.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mothers' Day

"Mothers' Day" from Deadshot vol.1 #3 (DC, 1988) by John Ostrander, Kim Yale and Luke McDonnell
If you're gonna read John Ostrander's Suicide Squad, and you should, don't forget the Deadshot mini-series that sprang out of it. Deadshot has to deal with his family issues while Marnie, his therapist who's got unprofessional feelings for him, tries to optimistically get him back in pocket. It's a hardcore look at arguably the best character in the Squad, so expect more nihilism than badassery. Never read the mini-series from 2005, so I'll have to let you fill me in on that one.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deadman Rises

"Deadman Rises" from Deadman vol.2 #1 (DC, 1986) by Andrew Helfer and José Luis Garcia Lopez
In addition to three mini-series with subtitles (Love After Death, Exorcism, and Dead Again), and a Vertigo series with a very slim connection to Boston Brand, there have been three series called Deadman. The first reprinted his strips from Strange Adventures, most with art by Neal Adams. The third, lasting 9 issues in the early 2000s, I never picked up. So the one I best remember is the second, a four-issue mini with gorgeous art by José Luis Garcia Lopez (if ever there was an heir to Neal Adams) and which finally allowed Boston Brand to catch up to his killer. Now that Deadman is a star again (again? for the first time?), I hope people go back to check out those original stories.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How Wildstorm Is Treating the DC Universe

"How Wildstorm Is Treating the DC Universe" from DC/Wildstorm: DreamWar #3 (DC/Wildstorm, 2008) by Keith Giffen, Lee Garbett and Trevor Scott
Somehow a metaphor for Jim Lee introducing his Wildstorm properties into the proper DC Universe. This mini-series should have served as a warning for what might happen when NOT the WS characters, but the WS TONE, would become part of the DCU. The mini-series is basically needless punch-ups between heroes, right? Was it all a dream? Is the New52?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


"Amalgam!" from Marvel vs. DC #3 (Marvel/DC, 1996) by Ron Marz, Dan Jurgens and Josef Rubinstein
The fights were total bullcrap, of course. I wrote a rather colorful critique a few years ago. The only real coolness factor was the Amalgam idea, which saw Marvel and DC characters merging into neat (or clumsy) combo characters. The best Amalgam books? I liked Spider-Boy, Super-Soldier and Challengers of the Fantastic. The worst? Uninspired stuff like Legends of the Dark Knight, Amazon, and Magneto and the Magnetic Men.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Challengers-Style Archaeology

"Challengers-Style Archaeology" from DC Universe Presents #7 (DC, 2012) by Dan DiDio, Jerry Ordway and Ray McCarthy
DCU Presents, the New52's anthology series, a good place to reboot certain characters and see if they stick, has been, unsurprisingly, a mixed bag. The Challengers of the Unknown certainly had the best art, but the story turned into this weird serial killer thing and never used the immortal words "living on borrowed time". Or did I pass out while reading? Paul Jenkins' Deadman story was pretty good, but Boston Brand was already appearing in a couple books, so hardly what this series was made for. Vandal Savage got a DC version of Silence of the Lambs, not bad. About then I started skipping any feature that didn't interest me (like Kid-Flash). Blue Devil and Black Lightning could be good though...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

MMO Luthors

"MMO Luthors" from DC Universe Online Legends #26 (DC, 2012) by Marv Wolfman, Howard Porter and Livesay
The one true superhero MMORPG, City of Heroes, closed up shop last week, and I haven't heard terribly good things about DCU Online, one of the would-be pretenders to the throne. If you played, tell us what you thought. If you read the comic based on the game, tell us what you thought too.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Golden Age Splash

"Golden Age Splash" from DC Universe: Legacies #2 (DC, 2010) by Len Wein, Andy Kubert and Joe Kubert
Though Legacies had some good art, its retelling of DCU history, apparently the definitive post-Final Crisis one, had three major problems. First, its framing tale was entirely derivative of Busiek's Marvels. Second, this history would all come crashing to an end in the oncoming Flushpoint, a major tell-tale that the New52 wasn't quite as planned as some would like us to believe. Third, it was announced to come out side by side with a new series of Who's Who, and that never came. Can I hold it against Legacies? I've decided I can and will. But an ongoing Who's Who in the post-Final Crisis universe would have been a major pain for New52 architects...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wonder Woman in Vietnam

"Wonder Woman in Vietnam" from DC: The New Frontier #2 (DC, 2004) by Darwyn Cooke
I hardly need to sell anyone on Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier. It won a trifecta of comics awards (Eisner, Harvey, and Shuster), was collected in both standard and Absolute editions, and was even made into an animated movie. It takes place in the 1950s and acts as a bridge between Golden Age characters and Silver Age ones, and its Wonder Woman, pictured above, is a lot of fun. Kind of like DC's version of Marvel's Hercules, when you think about it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Ride of Your Life

"The Ride of Your Life" from DC One Million #1 (DC, 1998) by Grant Morrison, Val Semeiks and Prentis Rollins
Why did an event called DC One Million take place in the 853rd century? Because that's when, theoretically, Action Comics would have hit issue #1,000,000. I suppose that's still true now that the numbering has been rebooted, right? I just don't want to do the math.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Resurgence of Blackbriar Thorn

"The Resurgence of Blackbriar Thorn" from DC Comics Presents #66 (DC, 1984) by Len Wein and Joe Kubert
Told you the day before yesterday I had a soft spot for Blackbriar Thorn comics. What it is, actually, is a soft spot for the late days of DC Comics Presents. DCP #59, in which Superman teams up with the Legion of Substitute-Heroes against a not-yet-full-on-parody Ambush Bug was the first comic I ever bought with my own money, and the weirder the team-up the more likely I was to buy future issues (or pick up old ones from bargain bins). Among my favorites, the ones with OMAC, Freedom Fighters, Kamandi, Bizarro, and Swamp Thing. Basically, once they'd done all the big names once or twice, it turned into a weird tour of the DC Universe. Loved it. Consequently, the next Superman team-up book, post-Crisis Action Comics, was a deep disappointment to me. Too many headliners!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What do the Blackhawks, Deadman and Woozy Winks Have in Common?

"What do the Blackhawks, Deadman and Woozy Winks Have in Common?" from DC Challenge #8 (DC, 1986) by Gerry Conway, Rick Hoberg and Dick Giordano
They were all in DC Challenge, the 12-issue series that had different creative teams on each book leaving the next with an ever-impossible cliffhanger/continuity mess to continue and/or resolve. As part of DC's 50th Anniversary celebrations (like the better-remembered Who's Who and Crisis), the participants could use any characters in the DC catalog... and DID! See above for one of many examples. Over the year, the series also featured, in addition to DC's big names, Adam Strange, Congo Bill, Viking Prince, Detective Chimp, and Je'mm Son of Saturn. And that's just the most offbeat of each of the first 5 issues.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Spectre vs. Blackbriar Thorn

"Spectre vs. Blackbriar Thorn" from Day of Judgement #1 (DC, 2005) by Bill Willingham, Justiniano and Walden Wong
Ever since I first saw him drawn by Joe Kubert in DC Comics Presents (the issue that teams up Superman and the Demon), I've liked Blackbriar Thorn. Here he is fighting the Spectre in the mini-series that saw the creation of Shadowpact. It was also a lead-up to Infinite Crisis, had Jean Loring as Eclipso, and am I right in remembering that the Blue Beetle scarab was sent to El Paso just in time for Jaime Reyes to find it? Only the latter really bears mentioning.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Sentinels of Magic

"The Sentinels of Magic" from Day of Judgment #1 (DC, 1999) by Geoff Johns, Matt Smith and Steve Mitchell
The Sentinels of Magic is a much better name than Justice League Dark, but I guess it's not as marketable... I never bought into Day of Judgment's premise. It was, to me, just another in a long line of events that mismanaged the Hal Jordan character. Turning him into Parallax was ridiculous in the first place, killing him was the only out, but not a great one. Bringing him back as the Spectre, and retiring Jim Corrigan, meant we LOST a character, not gained one. Hal wouldn't stay the Spectre for long anyway, and I don't think the character did very well as an identity taken on by various people over the last decade. It looked good, and wasn't badly written, but with hindsight especially, it stands today as an editorial exercise in getting a particular character from point A (where it should never have gone) to point B (status quo) by going through point X.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where Kate Spencer, Manhunter, Shops

"Where Kate Spencer, Manhunter, Shops" from Darkstars #0 (DC, 1994) by Michael Jan Friedman, Mike Collins and Ken Branch
Back during the FIRST wave of Green Lantern popularity, when the franchise grew to include a GL Corps Quarterly and a Guy Garder book, DC also added Darkstars to the schedule. The Darkstars were a competing intergalactic police unit created by the Controllers, cousins to the Guardians. Today, they'd be a colored Corps of some kind. It wasn't a bad book, though I didn't collect it for long. The art was variable and I wasn't made of money. Apparently, the Controllers abandoned the project, which made most Darkstars lose their powers, but a few remained who had independently-powered suits, and these sacrificed themselves by the end of the series (#38). In the last half-decade, we've seen their legacy in a clergy group in Jim Starlin's Mystery in Space stuff, and of course, as the poached uniform worn by Kate Spencer, Manhunter.