Saturday, February 17, 2018

365 Days of Defiance, Day 364: So long, farewell

Panels from Teen Titans/Legion Special one-shot (November 2004), script by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns, pencils by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, inks by Marc Campos, colors by "Sno-cone", letters by Rob Leigh

365 Days of Defiance, Day 363: Although it's been said, many times, many ways

Panels from Star Wars: Rogue One #6 (November 2017), script by Jody Houser, pencils and inks by Emilio Laiso, colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, letters by Clayton Cowles

365 Days of Defiance, Day 362: Why don't you listen to what The Man said

(post for December 28)

"Stan's Soapbox" from Marvel comics cover-dated December 1968 (top) and October 1978 (bottom)

You'd maybe think that my favorite Stan Lee quote would be "with great power there must come great responsibility" or "'Nuff Said!" or or "Face front, true believer!" But no. My favorite Stan Lee quote is this:

Excelsior, Stan. And happy birthday.

365 Days of Defiance, Day 361: I feel it coming

I haven't featured much from this year's big-ass Marvel crossover event Secret Empire, because one, it wasn't about a Marvel super-hero becoming an undercover baseball referee as I'd originally mistook, and B) it was a really tone-deaf idea to even temporarily make Captain America into a fascist, especially this year. But I liked this page.

Panels from Secret Empire #9 (October 2017); script by Nick Spencer; pencils by Leinil Francis Yu, Joe Bennett, and Rod Reis; inks by Gerry Alanguilan, Leinil Francis Yu, Joe Pimentel, and Rod Reis; colors by Sunny Gho and Dono Sánchez-Almaral; letters by Travis Lanham

365 Days of Defiance, Day 360: Oh, Captain America, where are you now? When every thing's gone wrong somehow?

For your post-Christmas enjoyment and inspiration: probably the single most requested sequence since I started this year-long feature. I've been saving it for towards the end, because it is great, and it is powerful, and wouldn't ya know, it's more timely than ever. Just Imagine...(or, y'know, the other one's catchphrase) if Captain America had not been thawed out in 1963 (ahem, lots of clearing of throats) whatever year Avengers #4 took place in! Actually, according to the story, it's really "What If Namor Took the Scenic Route Home from His Amnesiac Years in the Bowery?" No Namor rampage in the frozen north, no slowly melting Capsicle, no discovery by the original Avengers in their Avengersub. And How About™ if the 1950s Commie-Smasher version of Captain America and Bucky were revived by a janitor who was angry at Nixon going to China? (Possibly he also hated ping pong and panda bears, but that's for the fan fiction). And Maybe Then™ Crazy Commiehater Cap convinced America to go all fascist, leading to race riots and a quickly inflicted martial law under the control of Fake Cap himself (naw, no Cap would ever do that!) And Of Course It Would Happen™ that in 1983, year of perhaps the greatest music ever, the All-Original Not-New Really-We-Mean-It Captain America Steve Rogers would be finally thawed out by a U.S. Navy submarine? Okay, you're caught up to date. Now...go!

Panels from What If? (1977 series) #44 (April 1984), script by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Sal Buscema, inks by Dave Simons, colors by George Roussos, letters by John Morelli

Instead of coming ashore to an asparagus alien shooting people with his Medusa-ray, Steve hits land for the first time in 38 years to see his beloved New York City run by a thug army of fascist-faced Capballs! That's not gonna sit right with the Star-Spangled Guy, who we can't call the Star-Spangled Avenger because the Avengers broke up not long after not finding Cap. Whoa, there's a nightmare alternate world for you, for sure! I certainly hope somebody else stopped Kang and Ultron along the way.

America under Capcism...well, it's not good. Not good at all. And there's a wall around the undesirable areas of New York. Curse you, Peter B. Gillis, for being so forward-thinking.

Steve is brought to the secret HQ underground rebellion against authoritarian "Captain America" and his Americommandos, where he teams up with insurgents J. Jonah Jameson, Spider-Man, Nick Fury, and urban guerilla leader "Snap" Wilson, known in our world as the Falcon.

Fury points out that they can perhaps put a sizable monkey wrench in the rise of an American Reich by attacking the Party Convention (aw, heck, let's just call it a Nazi rally) of the America First Party, who are intent on tightening restrictions on freedom even further. Let's pause on those words. America First. Now, where have we seen...and Cap would certainly remember...the credo "America First" being used before?

Or, perhaps you need "America First" used as a modern example? Here it is in scary contemporary context. Aw, you know who I'm reluctantly gonna quote here, right?

Ick. Get that crap outta my world and my comic books, you racist, fascist, dumbass pig.

As you might guess, this is a situation and an enemy with whom Steve Rogers will not put up. He'll not put up with them and he'll do it with his words and his fists. I'm gonna shut up and show you probably more of the comic book than is fair use, but y'all need to read this sequence, especially if you never have. The Cap of Earth-616 (and for that matter, the Cap of our world, Chris Evans) would be so proud of this Earth's real Steve here. I am too.

365 Days of Defiance, Day 359: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

(post for December 25)

A very Merry Christmas to you all, and here's your Christmas present: an ultimately successful act of defiance, even tho' it took thirty-five issues (and however many of those "Five Years Later" preceded the series) to evolve from an underground rebellion to all-out war. Let's check in on the defeat and surrender of the Dominator forces occupying and, well, dominating Earth in the year 2525 2997. Let's check in and see what the MSMoTTC (Mainsteam Media of the Thirtieth Century) has to say about that. And in a moment, a shocking rebuttal from Don-Al 71-Bot, who is clearly on the side of megas. That's "Make Earth Great Again*" *by selling it out to the creepy yellow aliens with big pointy teeth).

Panels from Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 "Five Year Later" series) #35 (Early November 1992); script by Keith Giffen, Tom Bierbaum, anf Mary Bierbaum; breakdowns by Keith Giffen; pencils by Jason Pearson; inks by Karl Story; colors by Tom McCraw; letters by John Workman

Slowly but surely Rokk Krinn and Reep Daggle have been re-forming the Legion of Super-Heroes, and against a resurrected Legion the Dominators can't stand for long. Heck, one or two of 'em ought to do a lot of the heavy lifting. We may not have Superboy in this continuity, but we've got the next best thing: Mon-El Valor Lar Gand, last son of Daxam! He'll get the lad out!

Luckily for Earth, they've got not one but two Legions fighting for their rights in spandex tights: the slightly older and wiser original, and the shiny classic Batch SW-6 clones — look, it's a long story, just go with it. The Legion is here, and they're bringing civil disobedience and giant shoulder pads back! (I just dig those middle panels, don't you?) Here's the Young Colossal Boy and Kid Ultra Boy to the rescue!

At last, the futuristic tide is turned, and the Dominator forces surrender under fire. This war and the occupation before it has taken a huge toll of lives (see center panel), but it's happened. Defiance, rebellion, revolt and revolution have won the battle. War is over, if you want it.

Imagine a joy and relief so huge that you shout and dance and cry and gasp. We've felt the pressure over three years of Legion stories bringing us back from a dismal future. We lost many (R.I.P., Blok, Dirk Morgna, and young Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, and Chameleon Boy) and we mourn them, but now is the time for celebration. (Let's not talk about what happens four months from now, okay?)

Now. I'd planned this sequence to be my Christmas post since earlier in the year, because I figured that by December, things would maybe not be much better than they were in early 2017, and we might be in need of some inspiration. The post was originally going to end with the panel above: the exuberance of successful defiance. But pal Matthew Elmslie (thanks again so much!), who runs the I'm-gonna-recommend-it-yet-again blog Legion Abstract, a celebration of all things Legionny, suggested this sequence with the addition of one more page (below) that puts the whole Earth/Dominator War in perspective, focuses upon our reasons for hope, and why, at least in the comics, the good guys win. May it be so in our world, too. Keep defying.

As always, there's a Jane Wiedlin song to express it all.

We want a better life
We won't get caught between
A world that suffers
And a world we dream of
You cannot quiet us
We just keep getting stronger
And all the walls you build
Won't hold much longer

So don't stop dancing in the fire
Our voices lifting higher

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Friday, February 16, 2018

365 Days of Defiance, Day 358: Squirrel Girl also reminds you it's okay to punch Nazis.

Panels from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2016 series) #16 (March 2017), script by Ryan North, pencils and inks by Erica Henderson, colors by Rico Renzi, letters by Travis Lanham

365 Days of Defiance, Day 357: Captain America reminds you it's okay to punch Nazis.

Panels from Captain America (1968 series) #300 (December 1984), script by J. M. DeMatteis as Michael Ellis, pencils by Paul Neary, inks by Dennis Janke, colors by Bob Sharen, letters by Diana Albers

Say, Cap, who else is really really good at punching the Red Skull? (Tune in tomorrow.)

365 Days of Defiance, Day 356: Rush, rush / I wanna see, I wanna see ya get free with me

The fun thing about choosing a favorite member of the Legion of Super-Heroes is not only that there's gosh-so-many, but there's also wow-even-more era of Legion history to choose from, so you can have a favorite from every age! My favorite original Legionnaire: Saturn Girl! My favorite of the classic era: Phantom Girl! (Or, more important, the love-struck team of Tinya and Jo, Ultra Boy!) My favorite Baxter hero: Saturn Girl! My favorite Five Years Later-LSHer: Matter-Eater Lad! My favorite animated cartoon Legionnaire: Bouncing Boy! And hey, I just all around love snake-Jeckie, modern-day Ferro, Triplicate Girl, and even Hate Face, the hero with "the face of a devil, the soul of an angel." Let's not forget Brainiac 5! Dawnstar! Gates! Shikari! Infectious Lass! False Pretenses Lad! Paste-Eater Pete! Light Opera Lass! And the poor guy who has to keep track of 'em all, Roll Call Roy!

But by far, my favorite Legionnaire of my favorite era of Legion of Super-Heroes of them all: direct descendant of the original Flash and possessor of the Speed Force in the Thirty-First Century, Jenni Ognats, XS! Because in the darkest moment of the Legion, who can better save her teammate than the fastest girl alive?

Panels from Legion of Super-Heroes (1989 series, Earth-247 reality) #123 (January 2000), script by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, pencils by Olivier Coipel, inks by Andy Lanning, colors by Tom McCraw, letters by Comicraft

As a Flash fan, I loves me this sequence even more than I hate the covers of the last nine issues of the original Barry Allen series for not even showing him running. This tier of four panels not uses speed lines and compressed panels to not only show the immense speed XS is traveling, but the pressure she's under and, in the last panel, the danger she's about to encounter...

...the danger of mind-controlled Legionnaires! And I think we all know how painful that can be. Maybe the whole schtick of this villain is that "no one can escape the Stem!" but honestly, there's always someone who's going to defy you and resist. Now it's Saturn Girl's turn.

And — I've said this before, especially in relation to Legion comics — I am a sucker for the last minute arrival of the cavalry, just as all seems darkest for our defiant duo. (Not to be confused with Duplicate Damsel.)

This segment was once again suggested by a pal who knows more about the Legion than Computo, and who certainly puts my surface-knowledge of the LSH to shame: Matthew Elmslie, your friendly host of the totally excellent Legion Abstract, which keeps the spirit well alive of the franchise seemingly forgotten by DC Comics. (Seriously, you guys: super-powered teenagers in the future. Is that not a great enough concept for you to hang one book on?) Thanks again, Matthew. And we've got at least one more Legion storyline suggested by Matthew comin' up in this last couple weeks of 365 Days of Defiance, because hey, it's the freakin' Legion!

Matthew was especially careful to suggest I include this coda from several pages later, which spells out the whole story so clearly and cleanly in teh same space it reminds you of the mission of the Legion of Super-Heroes. They do the impossible every day, one thousand years after you've had breakfast

Thanks, Matthew! Long live the Legion again!

365 Days of Defiance, Day 355: They're making history, working for victory

As Wonder Woman would gladly thump you over the head to remind you, fighting against the hordes of Hitler during the Second World War was scarcely the sole work of men. Sure, women were responsible for keeping industry running back at the home front (even for the Golden Age Stark International, since Howard Stark was too busy being neck deep in international espionage and fabulous starlets). But then there was Liberty Belle and Miss America and Spitfire and Fantomah and Invisible Scarlet O’Neil, but do you recall the most famous women of all — The Girl Commandos? It's okay if you don't, they weren't thatT famous. But they're pretty freakin' awesome. In fact, they're hot, hot, hot!

Panels from "Girl Commandoes Outwit Ratzis!" in Speed Comics #25 (Harvey, February 1943), pencils and inks by Jill Elgin (?)

Well, that mission came to a fiery and successful end, and all is well as these clever saboteurs fly back to England and OH NO WE FORGOT ONE

They immediately return to sneak into occupied France again, because one of the Girl Commando credos is no Girl Commando left behind. There, they meet and recruit Yvonne, a Frenchwoman with determination in her eye an a good left hook in her fist. This fulfills the requirements of all successful groups to have a French member at any one time: Swordsman, Crimson Fox, André Blanc-Dumont, Mlle. Marie, Frenchy, and the Frenchman. No, Gambit doesn't count. (Nor does he read or write.)

Locating where Ellen is being held, the Commandos design a subtle scheme to infiltrate and destroy a Nazi stronghold from within! Well, it involves grenades and guns, so it's not that subtle, but neither is running across the battlefield in a red-white-and-blue skintight outfit with rubber wings on your heads, 'kay?

Sure, y'all think you could take down a Nazi war factory from inside, but could you do it in skirts and stilettos? I think not. And chgeck out that amazing last panel, where Ellen and Pat escape a massive Die Hard-style explosion by running away from it. Sure, we may be trained to think that turning your back and walking away from an explosion show a lot more cool, but I'm gonna argue that running is a heck of a lot more sensible than walking, and is useful for preventing getting your hinder fried.

Go ahead, put on your well-loved LP of the Raiders soundtrack and cue it up to Indy's Theme and play it as the totally righteous Girl Commandos escape with Ellen safe, wire the factory to blow up like an especially jubilant Bastille Day gone overboard, and bring new recruit Yvonne into the fight. They had to do everything men commandos did, except backwards and in heels! Except not backwards.

"Make way for a commando, pigs!" is my new battle cry at the next Women's March.

Meanwhile, what's the effect of these deeds of derring-do done by determined dames upon the average Journalism Joe?

"Gawrsh, they shure is good-lookin', hyuk, hyuk." OH GO DUNK YOUR HEAD IN CONCRETE, SLUGGER.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Today in Comics History: This could never happen

Panel from Biff to the Future #6 (July 2017), story and script by Bob Gale and Derek Fridolfs, pencils by Alan Robinson, inks by Alan Robinson and Jaime Castro, colors by Maria Santaolalla, letter by Shawn Lee

Friday, February 02, 2018

Today in Comics Cartoon History: "One Meat Brawl"

"One Meat Brawl," a Merrie Melodies cartoon (1947), directed by Robert McKimson

Grover Groundhog Day 2018: And Now for Something Completely Different

Well, ol' Grover Groundhog didn't see his shadow this morning, because he didn't even appear, and that's because I've momentarily misplaced my Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer comics, which is a hard thing to do when they're treasury-sized. Anyway, Grover himself would like to apologize for the inconvenience, so instead he's sending his cross-company cousin from the MGM Cinematic Universe to make an appearance this year. Say hello to the nice people, Mr. Ground Hog!

Panels from the Barney Bear story "Polar Pest" in MGM's Tom & Jerry Winter Fun #5 (Dell, December 1956), creators unknown

Grover himself once again offers his sincere condolences and says look out for him in 2019, if he's not too busy partying with Angel Love again.