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“Fans come to me asking how this works or that works, and I say, ‘It’s a comic book. It’s not real.’ We already have a real world, why do you want fiction to be like that too?”
– Grant Morrison, 2010

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Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Golden Age comics. I know there aren’t many of my generation who appreciate this stuff, and I’m positive I don’t “get it” the way my grandparents did, but the mixture of innocence, desperation, and humanity I find in these old stories is quite compelling.

When my generation imagines old comics we think of Super Friends, but for all its glitter the times of the Golden Age were rather bleak. Thanks to Captain America and Wonder Woman we think the heroes of that first era were framed against the backdrop of WWII. This is not true. While it is true that Superman, Batman, and others came to stand for the American Way their personae were not forged in flames of war, but in the embers of Depression.

“We can do it!” Rosie the Riveter said that for the first time in 1942.  Superman debuted in 1938. We met Batman, Namor, and the Human Torch in 1939. Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and the Spirit first appeared in 1940 alongside most of the Golden Age crew. Wonder Woman is the only major character to appear after Pearl Harbor, and she also joins Steve Rogers in color coordination. All of these heroes were born into an era scarred by record unemployment and rising crime as the country completed a full decade of economic depression.

People were starting to lose hope and this, my friends, is the world Superman needed to save.

Superman saves a woman framed for murder.

Something I love about the early days of superheroes is the lack of super-villains. Oh, sure there were a few notable bad guys like the Joker and Wotan, but on the whole super-villains were exceptions to the norm of mob bosses, corrupt officials, and street thugs. This is what I meant when I said the Golden Age comics were desperate. America thought the problems of everyday life were bad enough to need heroes.

This reveals a real sense of hopelessness deep in the psyche of that generation. Rampant unemployment. Gang violence on the rise and crime organizing like never before. Times were desperate, and the Common Man felt he was quickly losing his place in the day-to-day life of America.

See, creators like Rob Kanigher and Len Wein saw comics as fantastical tales to thrill an audience with absurdity and bizarre scenarios. Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, C. C. Beck, and Mart Dellon saw comics as a cathartic escape from the harsh reality of violence, corruption, and black-mail.

They saw comics as a weird mixture of hope and escape.

Never mind the crude drawings and clumsy dialogue. The heroes idolized by my grandfather didn’t need to fight aliens to have meaning. Superman was great because he could stop a lynching. We believed in the Green Lantern because he could expose a mob-boss who had framed an innocent man. These heroes didn’t protect us from the unknown; what they brought was hope in the face of something very real and immediate. Put another way, the Golden Age offered escape from reality simply by solving the problems of poor Americans. I cannot imagine anything sadder or more exhilarating. So, while 1938-1950 may not have produced the best art or the most clever prose, America has arguably never seen comics that had more meaning. And that is enough to make a Golden Age.

-Jonny

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Alan Scott dons his costume to protect innocents from loan sharks.

When I was a young’un, I’d wake up early every Saturday morning to watch the crap out of some Batman Beyond. For whatever reason, a Batman in the future kind of seemed like one of the most awesome things ever (even if the show was pretty much just made up words, Seth Green, and day-glo everything). This is why following Dan DiDio’s 2007 announcement, I eagerly awaited the new Adam Beechen Batman Beyond limited series and some sweet Earth-12 action. I didn’t know what I was getting into.

It all started with Paul Levitz’s Superman/Batman Annual #4, in which Terry teams up with Superman to stop a decrepit Lex Luthor who has been lacing street drugs with Kryptonite.  The issue references the shit out of an episode of Batman Beyond called “The Call” (Superman talks about being possessed by Starro and the death of Lois Lane).  I’d assume it takes place in either the DC Animated Universe or on Earth-12. In other words, this issue may or may not be canon.

This was followed by Grant Morrison’s phenomenal Batman #700. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do before reading the rest of this paragraph. In the future, when Damian Wayne is Batman, he saves an infant Terry McGinnis from 2-Face-2. The next page (under the heading “and tomorrow”) features a shot of Terry in the Batman Beyond costume beating the crap out of a bunch of Jokerz. Essentially, Batman #700 finally plugged Terry into the main continuity of the DCU.

Now we come upon Batman Beyond #1 (of a six issue mini-series). Let’s get the review portion out of the way real fast; Beechen is comfortable writing for a DCAU character (he wrote for both Warner Brothers’ The Batman and Carton Network’s Teen Titans) and DC made an excellent choice picking him for this project. Ryan Benjamin’s art parallels that of the original series well, but I’ve yet to decide if that’s really a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, pick it up. Totally worth the $2.99 cover price.

Anyway, with the events of Batman #700, it is safe to assume that Batman Beyond is also taking place on New Earth rather than Earth-12. This book starts off assuming that you watched the show and already know who Terry is. Taking place after the Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker movie (but before that Justice League Unlimited episode where Terry finds out Bruce is his dad), this book follows Terry trailing a killer who’s been offing characters from Bruce’s past.

This does raise a lot of questions though. Morrison’s Batman #666 (released in July 2007) revealed that, at some point, Damian will witness the death of a Batman and avenge his death by taking up the mantle. In 2007, we naturally thought Batman meant Bruce Wayne. Fast forward to 2010 and we now know that Dick (not Bruce) has been Damian’s mentor. And Batman Beyond proves that Bruce is still alive in 2039 following Damian’s tenure as Batman. Holy shit. In one fell swoop Grant Morrison killed Dick Grayson and proved that Bruce Wayne will never be Batman again.

Consider the title of Morrison’s The Return of Bruce Wayne. In retrospect, this sort of implies that it is not Batman returning from the past, merely the man. And with Morrison having already touched upon the distant future of the Batman legacy in JLA: One Million (the Batman of which also cameos in Batman #700), it is safe to assume he knows where he’s going with it. The legacy appears safe in Morrison’s hands but, sorry fanboys, it looks like Bruce’s days behind the cowl are over.

-Rob and Jonny

PS: Anybody who says Grant Morrison is hard to follow can suck it.

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batmansavagecoverWith his work on such original titles as Jonny Double, 100 Bullets, and Filthy Rich as examples, Brian Azzarello is clearly a huge fan of pulp and noir style comic books. Hell, even his prior superhero work occasionally ended up tapping more into the seedy underbelly of the crime world than just straight up superheroic action (such as Joker being from the perspective of a henchman). Despite all this, when I had heard that Azzarello was both going to be writing  for legendary pulp comic character Doc Savage and making it a crossover with Batman, I was somewhat skeptical. After all, would Savage, a character who hasn’t changed one bit  since his first appearance in 1933 radio serials, work in a 2009 book?

At first glance, the oversized one-shot (illustrated by Phil Noto with an awesome J.G. Jones cover) seems a bit like it should be under the Elseworlds imprint. Batman is running around Gotham City trying to take down organized crime with not only his own cunning, but a pair of .45 pistols. Gotham is all a twitter, believing that the Batman has murdered and robbed a notorious porn producer / nightclub owner. Immediately following the death of his father, a grieving Doc Savage leaves New York City and arrives in Gotham with the hopes that taking down Batman will make for a good distraction. James Gordon is a lowly cop boozing it up in a local bar, swearing that Batman is nothing but trouble. And, perhaps most important of all, there are no superpowered heroes. Things are drastically different in Gotham City, more on par with how life was in the 1940s Doc Savage comics than in the modern DCU.

batmansavage1Without really ruining anything about this book, it’s much more of a prologue for the upcoming Brian Azzarello / Rags Morales mini-series First Wave than it is the advertised one-shot. I suppose I’d recommend picking up The Batman / Doc Savage Special if you are either a fan of Marvel’s Noir series or feel like you might end up invested in First Wave (a Batman / Doc Savage / the Spirit / Black Canary / Blackhawks cross-over? How could I not?). I’d just recommend maybe going back and reading some of the older Doc Savage books (or listening to those radio serials, which are pretty awesome) to get more acquainted with the character.



While taking a break from writing a post for tonight, I decided to flip through November 1967’s Brave and the Bold Vol. 1 #74 (hell yeah, Metal Man/Batman team-up!). And then, on page two, I found this little gem.

ohsnapbatmanLet that sink in. Batman is talking shit on Spider-Man, a character who doesn’t exist in the DCU (well, until that JLA/Avengers thing). Not only is he calling Spider-Man’s ability to, um, “flit,” a rip-off, but he’s doing it over five years after Spider-Man’s debut, long enough for Spidey’s solo series to release issue #54 that same day as this book’s release. Oh, well. Whatever. Either way…

bork3When it comes to Barry Allen and his Silver Age stories, I notice a running theme (pun so totally intended): up until the last page or two, he has the absolute shittiest luck ever. It doesn’t matter who he fights, he always ends up knocked out, stranded, incarcerated, and/or pretty much powerless until he either remembers that he can vibrate through anything or that comic book chemistry can fix everything ever. Even when teamed up with somebody as legendary as Batman against somebody as dumb as Bork (as is the case in January 1969’s  Brave and the Bold #81), he still manages to just get the shaft over and over again.

Our story begins at the Gotham City docks where street thug Carl Bork has been spotted trying to steal cargo from a ship. The captain must be crazy forgiving, because all he does is shoo Bork away. As he sulks away from the failed heist, Bork walks straight into the path of an oncoming truck and is creamed at full speed! But instead of dying like us normal folks, Bork just gets up and realizes that he is both now invincible and only able to talk in the third person (oh, that’s not going to be annoying)! He decides to try out his new found power by robbing a diner’s register. The cops show up and immediately try to shoot him in the leg (Gotham cops don’t have time to fuck around), but the bullet just bounces off!

bork1Meanwhile, Barry Allen is getting a tour of Gotham’s police lab by Batman and Commissioner Gordon when they hear the call over the radio: there’s a “rumble” at the docks! Barry and Gordon carpool to the scene while Batman “flits” and beats them there, just in time to see a lone Bork challenging Milo Manning and his gang. Milo takes a swing at the invincible Bork, who survives getting hit with a forklift and pretty much just claims Milo’s gang as his own. Batman realizes that Bork is invulnerable and, for whatever reason, decides that his fist can do what a forklift couldn’t. Yeah, it can’t. Bork shouts his catchphrase, “You can’t hurt Bork but Bork can hurt you,” and then takes out a bunch of cops and hands Batman his own ass, just in time for Barry and Gordon to show up. Bork then announces that he’s taking over Gotham and there ain’t shit they can do about it. By the way, that annoying catchphrase? Yeah, Bork says it four times within the first seven pages (five if you count the cover).

A couple of hours later, Bork has practically the entire Gotham underworld under his control and has announced his demands to the Gotham City Hall. They have 24 hours to kick Batman out of town, give over half of the city counsel seats to his goons, and give him areas of the city that cops can’t touch. If not, there’s gonna be a riot! Batman decides that Bork must have gotten his invincibility at some point during his never before mention travels all over the world and asks Barry to suit up and figure out the where and how of it all. As the Flash, Barry gets the manifests to all of Bork’s destinations and discovers that he’s been all over the damn place, including a small unnamed African nation where he impoverished all of the citizens (somehow). And as luck would have it, their president has sent some commandos to Gotham to apprehend him! Simultaneously, those same commandos open fire on Bork but the bullets just bounce off! Batman shows up and everybody runs away.

bork2During his investigation, Flash discovers that Bork was once shipwrecked on Desolation Island where the natives carved a magical sculpture of him. Oh, man, Barry is having some awesome luck! All he has to do is destroy the sculpture! He races to the island and finds the Bork statue on top of a volcano. Sweet! What could go wrong? Well, just then the volcano erupts and the whole island fucking explodes. The Flash and the statue are thrown into the air where is hit in the head with a lava rock and passes out. He lands on a big piece of driftwood while the statue gets caught in a current and is picked up by some “grizzled adventurer” in a sailboat. While Barry tries to follow the current, the adventurer gets caught in a storm miles away and the statue falls overboard. Just as the Flash finally finds it again, a tiger shark starts trying to eat it. Barry jumpkicks the shark (yeah, that’s kinda awesome), grabs the statue, and starts banging it against rocks. When that doesn’t do anything, he ties it to his back and starts running at the speed of light, trying to use friction to burn the Bork statue. He goes fast enough to end up both in the future and a different dimension, but that damn statue is still in one piece. When he’s about to give up, he decides, “Fuck it, I’m gonna shoot it with a laser.” It doesn’t do much, but it kiiiiinda burns a spot on the hand of the statue. Kiiiiinda success!

Meanwhile, Batman and Gordon confront City Hall, who are ready to give in to Bork’s demands. Batman says that Bork is just like Hitler (for some reason) and he and Gordon storm out. Apparently there are some panels missing, because the next thing you know, Batman is throwing Bork into a paddywagon while reminding him that invulnerability doesn’t mean that a jail cell can’t hold him. I, the reader, then think to myself, “Actually, it kinda does. I mean, couldn’t he just punch the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it?” One page later, Bork punches the wall a bunch of times until he knocks a hole in it. The African commandos catch up with Bork and decide that a blowgun will be able to do what machine guns couldn’t. The dart just happens to hit the same spot on his hand as the laser hit on the statue and it works. What are the odds!

Barry decides that the only way to destroy the statue is by throwing it into the sun (you know, the same way every fictional character has destroyed every fictional dangerous object ever). He straps it to his back, runs up a ramp, and vibrates through the sun with the statue, burning it to a crisp. At that exact moment, Batman punches Bork in the jaw, knocking his ass out. In the end, they send him to Africa to stand trial for being a douchebag and dicking over an entire country.

Final verdict? Barry Allen needs to get a fucking desk job and Bork needs to shut the hell up.

world_finest_1Ever since World’s Finest debuted in 1941, DC Comics has had a comic chubby for Superman/Batman team-ups. I mean, granted, they go well together what with all the differences between Bruce and Clark. But when I heard DC’s plan to bring back a World’s Finest limited series I was confused. I mean, Bruce is dead (sort of) and Clark is busy soldiering on New Krypton. So, how the hell do you showcase the world’s finest team-up when the world’s finest are kind of, well, anything but?

Apparently, Sterling Gates figured it how to pull this one off. Just because the main heroes are a tad predisposed, it doesn’t mean the other characters from their respective corners of the DCU can’t mingle a bit. Even better, Gates manages to pull out some of the lesser used heroes; wf2case in point, issue one teams up Red Robin and Nightwing (the Kryptonian son of Zod, not Dick Grayson). World’s Finest #1 is all about the duo trying to rescue a kidnapped Flamebird (Nightwing’s partner/girlfriend) from the combined clutches of the Penguin and the Kryptonite Man, who are looking to sell her to the highest bidder (yeah, that’s pretty fucking creepy).

There’s more talk than action throughout most of the book, with a lot of chatter between either Red Robin and Nightwing or the Penguin and his cohorts. I’m usually bored to tears by an overly chatty book, but Gates manages to keep this book moving, even with a lot of dialogue. Actually, my only complaint was with Julian Lopez’s art, which occasionally felt a bit wf3goofy. There’s one panel in particular of Red Robin with this giant grin lifted from a Golden Age comic. Yes, I understand he thought Nightwing was Conner and he was psyched for a team-up but, man, the guy is trying to solve his adoptive dad’s murder. Considering how pissed off Tim seems directly before and after this panel, the grin seems almost inappropriate. But that’s just me.

What the hell though, I’m going to go ahead and recommend this book. I’m excited for the other three upcoming team-ups (Damien Wayne and the Guardian, Stephanie Brown and Supergirl, and the first ever Dick Grayson Batman / Superman pairing) and issue one did have an interesting cliffhanger at the end. Slow starts be damned, I have a feeling that this book is seriously going to pay off in the end.

batjoker

So, you’ve gotten yourself some powers and established a secret identity, but if you’re gonna be a real superhero, you’re going to need an ass to kick. I mean, after a while, using your superpowers to take down petty criminals will start putting the cops out of a job. And we all know how productive bored cops are, right? When it comes to getting a foil, some guys have it lucky. All they really have to do is put on some Spandex and break up a bank robbery or two (see: the Flash’s entire Rogues Gallery). Chances are pretty good, however, that you’ll have to put a lot more effort into it. And remember, the first step to finding your mortal enemy is to always make sure that it was totally an accident!

hush-shot-x350(1) Reunite with your childhood enemy! Seriously, it doesn’t matter how much time passes, that one kid who hated six-year-old you is definitely going to resurface the second you slap on some tights and make a headline or two. It doesn’t matter which one of you was taking lunch money from the other, he still hates your guts. And since you ended up being a good guy, he’s pretty much destined to knock over liquor stores until you show up and give him a fight. O’Doyle rules!

Hal vs Star(2) Make an ex really, really bitter! We all have those exes that we really wish we could forget. Problem is, they really, really don’t want to forget us. Somehow, they will come across a crazy power source and, dammit, if they can’t have you NO ONE WILL. The list of these cases goes on and on: Star Sapphire, Lady Deathstrike, Star Sapphire, Elektra, Jean Loring, and Star Sapphire! Sorry, super-ladies, this rules does not apply to you (whoa, whoa, don’t blame me, blame the industry).

thingsilearnedfromwonderwoman(3) Get a double! Whether you get replicated via shadowy government agency, alien abduction, or the workings of a mad scientist, there’s a good chance somebody will try to clone or otherwise make a copy of you (or make a robot double of you.) I mean, who wouldn’t want a superhero of their very own? Except that’s not how comics work, like, ever. Most likely, they’ll end up with your looks, your powers, and the moral compass of a complete bastard. Then you gotta deal with at LEAST two issues of everybody thinking he’s really you and you’re a jackass. BONUS HINT: Fix this problem by taking the fight somewhere public. As soon as the first stereotype of an Irish patrolman rubs his eyes and says, “I’m seeing double!” your dignity will be restored.

kingpin(4) Foil a drug smuggling ring! Or any mob-based crime, really. The world is full of mob families, gang lords, and drug kingpins trying to make a quick bajillion dollars. These are the kind of guys who beat up old dudes for protection money and you’ll be damned if you’re gonna let these guys claim that this is their town! And when you take them down, they won’t handle it well at all: “Nobody makes a mockery of the Blah-Blah Family / Gang and gets away with it!” Let the years and years of fistfights bookended by “I’m just a businessman” speeches begin!

asm595_cov_col(5) Accidentally kill someone’s relative! Kill, indirectly cause the death of, whatever. Look, there will always be collateral damage in fights, there will be always be villains who won’t give you very many options, and, at some point, somebody will die. When this happens, their kid/sibling/second cousin twice removed will blame you. Look what Harry Osborn did when he saw what Spider-Man accidentally on purpose did to his dad! Actually, speaking of Harry…

sbll(6) Alienate Your Best Friend! Bad news. Once you don the cape and tights, your best friend will try to kill you. I know, it fucking sucks, but it’s the way it works. One too many philosophical disagreements? Accidentally destroy that laboratory you built him? Take the last beer out of the fridge? Well, great, now you’ve done it. And the worst part is, chances are pretty good that he knows everything about you and will be your worst enemy. On the plus side, it makes that “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” thing one a little bit easier to manage!

Now go forth and kick ass!


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