Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Review of a Test, By Johnathan

I've been sitting on this one for a while, for no particular reason. No idea where I first got it from but I recently saw it again while reading Metal Men No. 19, from April 1966, so I'll say there. This was one of DC's ways of acknowledging the social upheavals of the Sixties:

That's right, DC beats Cosmopolitan by at least a decade for so with this. People could test their Brotherhood Quotient long before being able to do so with their Drama Quotient (D.Q.) or Commitment Quotient (C.Q.).* Yes, every funnybook reader in the Americas could stop reading about Superboy for a minute and figure out whether they were racists or not.

I've chopped the page that this originally appeared on up so that we can examine them individually. Let's begin, shall we?

*Actual tests that have appeared in Cosmo, says my minimal research.

I almost wish that this weren't Part A of the test, because it's a doozy. Aside from the awesome rating system - which another time I might have written an entire review of (though I must say: Mr. So-So looks a bit more like Mr. Quietly Terrified) - these categories are reasonably insane. I understand that the point of the test is to get the kids to thinking about the ways that they look at other folk, but some of the juxtapositions are sort of mind-blowing.

"Kids! How do you feel about spiders? Hate 'em, huh? Well, do you hate Jews more or less than that? Uh-huh. What about Cabbage? More or less repulsive than Negroes?" (Was that still considered an okay term? Let's see... Wikipedia says yes.) I can just imagine the brainstorming session: "Okay guys, we need a list of things that people might not like - whatcha got?" "Cabbage." "Gypsies." "That damn music those long-hairs play at all hours." "Catholics." "Hey!" "Uh... Baptists, too."

On to Part B:

I believe that all men are created equal... except for the fact that Caucasians have a much greater density. Thus, in any given gathering of disembodied heads a cluster of craniums will form around the very whitest - typically a blonde - and more racially diverse heads will orbit the resultant Orb of Paleness.

Part C:

I do! But does one-on-one basketball played in what appears to be a basketless circle of asphalt actually qualify as a sport? If so, does it require a referee? Both teams appear to think the answer is no, but we'll let the council decide once they finish discussing the budget and emerge from town hall.

Part D:

"We stand out front and point at him, if that's what you mean."

I don't know, maybe it's because I live in Halifax, but that looks like a swarming gearing up to take place. If I moved to a new neighborhood and a crowd of wildly different-sized kids started lurking outside? I'd be creeped out. If this was a picture of about a second earlier I bet the poor red-headed kid would be in the process of being pushed out the door by his mother. Kid looks sickly, too - probably won't last that long.

How'd we score?

"Chee, Billy, maybe it was wrong to firebomb alla them houses. I guess we got some thinkin' to do about our attitude twords our fellow man, huh?"

Ah, but seriously. This thing's pretty easy to poke fun at in our supremely enlightened, racism-free (I almost typed that without laughing) times, but consider that it was produced at a time when things were still nowhere near even the flawed equality that we have today, most likely by a middle-aged white guy or group of white guys and probably with the best of intentions rather than as a cynical marketing ploy. I mean, it's not like they were sprinkling positive ethnically diverse characters all over the place but at least they tried. I'll throw 'em a JOHN APPROVED.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Review of Some Robots, Part 2, By Johnathan

Boy oh boy do I have big news! Remember how last time around I showed you the first appearance of Silver and Copper as made-up extra Metal Men? How they were just kind of standing on a beach, all generic and miscoloured? Well evidently they realized that they hadn't made too good an impression the first time around because Silver and Copper are back! They both made repeat appearances in the "Metal Facts & Fancies" section of Metal Men comics and kicked a fair bit more ass in their second times at bat.

Here's Silver:

Beating the hell out of some germs! I like the diseases-as-gangsters motif, though it'd be even better if they had, like, cilia on their faces or gross snotty-looking speech balloons or something. Silver herself ain't bad, though I'm not sure I like the granny panties that she has riveted on there. What I do like is that the requisite Metal Men headpiece is a nurse's hat - very thematically appropriate. (On a side note: I had one Metal Men comic when I was kid and I had no idea what was up with Tina. Like, I thought that she was Silver, because Tina = short for Platinum isn't the first assumption an eight-year-old makes. Plus, I thought she might've been Jewish, because whoever was drawing her made her little hat look a lot like a yamukle).

Anyway, Silver's still JOHN APPROVED

Copper came back too, and guess who she's dating?

Tin! Tin's got a girl he didn't even build! And what a girl! Copper's a stone fox, fictional robot-wise. She's got a crazy miniskirt with sleeves on, a neat headband-influenced hairdo - i think I see a dimple, even. This robo-lady's definitely JOHN APP- hold on...

What's this?

Huh. A smelter-wedding. Haven't been to one of those in years. Good to see the old traditions kept alive. Anyway, as I was saying, Copper's JOHN APPROV- huh.

Oh, gross. That's just wrong. No wonder Doc Magnus doesn't want to marry Tina. Bronze is apparently going to be the Metal Man that comes out of storage once a year to scare children on Hallowe'en. I blame the Comics Code Authority - they were probably all like "You can't melt a boy-robot and a girl-robot together and get a functioning individual, it'll challenge children's sexuality. Next thing you know two kids'll be crawling into a furnace so they can melt together. You're gonna have to make this thing look like an abomination, sorry."

Pre-melting Copper is JOHN APPROVED. Bronze is NOT APPROVED.

Last one!

Now supposedly this panel is about Copper and Silver, but I just see Copper, who has apparently gotten over the divorce from Tin by forming a rock band and switching genders again. That's the kind of emotional resiliency that gets one metal (Copper) into the upcoming Metal Men comic while other metals (Silver) just sit and tarnish gently.

Though I'm not sure what a metal Beatles-analog has to do with heat conductivity, I do enjoy seeing that old classic "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" being played. You don't hear it much any more but it was one of the top songs of the Sixties in the DC Universe, along with "Baby, Baby, Baby" and "Yeah Baby Yeah." The crowd of swooning metal gals is a nice touch, too . Say! maybe they're fainting because of the heat! That's where it all comes together!

The Copper Beatles are JOHN APPROVED.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Review of the (Best Ever)s, By Johnathan

Time to get back to my roots: making fun of out-of context comic book panels. Because I obsessively seek structure, today's theme is gonna be "Best (something) Ever." Here goes:

Best Alien Race Ever:

These guys:
They're from Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes No. 202 and I think that they were trying to make the Earth all polluted to that it'd be fit for them to take over or something. Whatever. Their lame plots do not interest me. What makes them great is that they look like crazy blue-haired space-hippies. They've got pink-and-white jumpsuits and little fangs! Plus, they have that mustache thing (which Blockade Boy assures me is called "friendly muttonchops") and Mega Man boots! They're absurdly muscular, so it kind of looks like they'd be good in a fight - but how can anyone that looks like that be good in a fight? They look like Hanna-Barbara characters, man.

That these guys could struggle past their sheer ridiculousness and advance their culture to the point that they could attempt genocide is nothing short of miraculous. Kudos to you, you cosmic dipwads.


Best Advice Ever:

Advice for a villain, that is. This here's another Legion panel, from Adventure Comics No. 325. The Legion visited Khann, the criminal's planet, looking to arrest this brain:

Good old Atro - always dispensing helpful advice. Of course, though there might be no witnesses left after you blow up the planet, there is going to be one clue: the recently-blown-up planet! I mean come on, Atro! You think that nobody's going to be interested in finding out who blew up a planet? Hmm?


Yeah, whatever, Atro. Nuts to you. NOT APPROVED.

That other guy though, the one laughing, "Billions will die! So what, eh? Ha, ha!" definitely wins a JOHN APPROVED for Best Sociopath in a Cameo Role Ever.

Best Hand Signals Ever:

Way back in the day, Shade, The Changing Man No. 6 featured this panel:
Now I know that these two were coordinating an escape attempt via sign language and facial expression, but I can't help but interpret their conversation thusly:

He: "Hey, baby - you wanna rock out?"

She: "Word."

Steve Ditko, man. Guy was ahead of his time. JOHN APPROVED.

Best Use of a Super-Computer Ever:

Adventure Comics No. 342 gave us this look at how the Legion of Super-Heroes spends their free time:

Dancing, games, hedonism! "We're having the big computer decide who'd have the most fun kissing whom."? Man, that's kind of messed up. I mean fine, you're all teenagers, but you hang out together all the time - this kind of thing can only escalate. The next time Star Boy walks by they're going to be all, "We're having the big computer assign us random sexual partners for the night."
"Come join in the fun! The big computer's teaching us about daisy chains!"
"We're all going to make love to the big computer!"


Best Background Character (Lederhosen-Clad) Ever:

From What If No.22, which was about Dr. Doom not being evil or something:

Those are the characters in the background at Dr. Doom's wedding, where everyone's happy because their country's not ruled by an evil megalomaniac. These are some pretty great Latverians, but that little kid in front is the best. Let's take a closer look:

You sure won't, kid. You sure won't.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Review of Some Robots, Part 1, By Johnathan

Ah, the Metal Men. They, in all of their vaguely-educational glory, are my latest semi-obsession.

Assuming that someone who's not a comic book nerd is reading this, a quick description of the Metal Men and what they stood for:

The Metal Men were a group of robots created by Dr. Will Magnus. Thanks to a bit of technology called a "responsometer" they were astonishingly human-like, with genuine personalities and everything. As the name suggests, they're all made out of a different metal, and they're obsessed with that metal. Seriously, check it out:

That's their first appearance but really, they talk like that all the time. Every second sentence is about melting points or ductility or something like that. Luckily they're entertaining as hell, so it doesn't get old. Metal Men fans note: the third sentence out of Mercury's mouth is the "liquid at room temperature" bit.

The Metal Men are cool on a lot of levels: first, they've got real personalities - they're not just a bunch of clones of every other super-team of the 1960s. Tin's inferiority complex and Mercury's arrogance were especially unusual for heroes of the time. Plus, Tina the Platinum robot was in love with Doc Magnus, which led to sufficient dramatic tension to fuel a battleship.

But enough about the Metal Men! Entertaining as they are, they're not the focus of this series of reviews. Rather, I'm going to write about the other elemental robots who appear in the series, because there are a lot of them. They creep in around the edges, whether as antagonists or as bit characters in the little "Metal Facts" sections that appeared in every issue.

The very first of these characters came as a pair:

Aw, look at them. So generic. Not only did Copper and Silver have some lousy character design problems, they evidently had the wrong names - I'm pretty sure that that's what the Romans are so surprised about. Still, there's one thing that this panel did well: set precedent. It said "why show the kids boring lumps of metal when you can anthropomophise? And robotiform?"

For that reason, Copper and Sillver are JOHN APPROVED.

This one's interesting. It's from a page about gold and features three Metal Men-as-knights in the centre, flanked by a couple of Generic Metal Dudes (GMDs). I gotta say, when I started writing this review I thought it'd be easy to figure out who these guys were supposed to be, but after ransacking half of the Alchemy sites on the internet I don't have much. GMD on the left might be Antimony and GMD on the right might be Arsenic, but probably not. Darned artists forty years ago... didn't they realize that someone would obsess about that sort of thing someday? Plus, Gold is looking kind of fat.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Review of the Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century, Part 9, By Johnathan

That's Alaktor, and that's his Marvel Belt, failing dismally. Alaktor later claimed to be a super-villain who was just using the Legion tryouts as a means to sneak into the Legion clubhouse and steal a time machine, but I think that that's just an excuse. He was totally just covering for his embarrassment over the tryouts - there's no way that he meant to press the button that made his belt go 'ROAR.' Dude screwed up and then improvised some evil to cover for it.
Sure, Alaktor. Sure. Master of worlds. Admit it - that camera was there for one reason: to take cheesecake pictures of the Legion ladies.

As evidence of Alaktor's inherent lameness I offer a quick rundown of his 'evil' plot:

He planned grab three of the most evil characters in history (Hitler, Nero, Dillinger) and transplant their minds into the most powerful of the Legionnaires. I have three problems with this plan:

1) Choice of allies. Hitler, Nero and Dillinger? Jeez, guy. These are the best you could come up with? Hitler, sure. He was straight-up evil, but really, did you expect him to be a staunch and loyal ally? Same goes for Nero - most of his evil consisted of doing horrible things to those closest to him. I can think of about a dozen Roman emperors who'd've been a better subject for cramming into Mon-el's brain, evil assistant-wise. Dillinger? Sure he robbed a lot of places and shot a lot of people, and sure he was reputed to be fantastically well-endowed (not inherently evil but I'm sure it could be turned to evil ends) but definitely not in the top three evil people of all time. Basically any other three people would have been better allies than these guys, who horribly betrayed him in about three seconds flat:

Dude, you totally should have known this would happen.

2) If you're putting someone's brain into Superboy... why not your own? Seriously, why do Hitler favours? Just take over the Kryptonian and leg it. You're set!

3) Dude, you have a machine that can switch peoples' minds. I'm pretty sure that that's worth something. There's really no need to give Nero superpowers. Just open an amusement park or a novelty bordello or sell it to an unscrupulous billionaire who wants to live forever - you'll be astonishingly rich! You'll be able to afford pants!

So saddened by Hitler's betrayal. So, so pathetic. Alaktor, you and your Marvel Belt are


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Review of the Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century, Part 8, By Johnathan

I've had the pictures ready for this one for like a week now but just couldn't bring myself to write it. "Why?" you ask, in tiny, review-starved voices. I'll tell you why: it's because today I'm reviewing three of the most boring-ass characters in the occasionally spotty history of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I'll let Sun Boy introduce them:

You might notice a lack of thirtieth-Century zazz to their names. Not a Querl Dox or Reep Daggle in the lot. This is because they were created by fans of the Legion, whose names were warped into futurespeak. I'm sure that Bob Cohen was thrilled, but Bobb Kohan just doesn't do it for me, hero-name-wise.

One of my biggest problems with these characters is the way that they're drawn - they just bore the hell out of me. Look at Nightwind and Lamprey: identical comic book bimbos with different dye jobs. This was a pretty lousy period in terms of Legion art - nobody even bothered to think up a kicky little eel logo for Lamprey. They didn't even make Crystel Kid's hair look all faceted. Lame.

Is Nightwind hitting on Blok?

As you might have guessed, these three placemats applied for Legion membership at the same time as Blok and failed mightily. First, though, they listened to him tell his origin story. After a while, an emergency call comes in and the applicants are taken along due to the fact that not enough Legionnaires are on hand. Gah! I'm boring myself! I hate these three so much!

They fly to the emergency, sporting all of the colours of the rainbow.

And get squashed like bugs in about four seconds. Hey, weird - I've been looking at these three's lame costumes a lot more than I'd like (you know, so I can complain about them) and I just noticed that Lamprey's breasts change size in, like, every panel. It's kind of eerie - maybe it's one of her powers?

When I finished this comic I was under the impression that this was the last I'd seen of these lame-ass characters. They'd shown up and tried their best and been dismal failures. I wasn't even curious about their powers. Then, just eleven issues later (LSH No. 283, if you really want to subject yourself to it) they show up again. It was like Reverse Christmas.

This time, we get to see their fantastic powers:

Crystal Kid fires gooey-looking beams that turn things into crystal, yawn. I mean... yawn.

One second.

Took a little nap there. There is nothing exciting about turning things to crystal, especially in the Legion. Plus Element Lad can already do that, so this kid shouldn't have gotten within five hundred metres of the place. Plus:
He's super over-confident. And:
His power only works as long as he's concentrating on it, which seems like adding insult to injury. "Sure you've got a lousy power, kid, but at least it doesn't work very well, right?"

Wildfire takes a dip in the surprisingly deep Legion fountain, where he encounters Lamprey, who has all of the standard "underwater hero" powers (that's superstrength, plus the ability to swim) and electricity-shooting:

I'm not sure if she's ever seen a lamprey eel - my guess is no, as they're almost indescribably hideous. In any case, her powers are somewhat better than poor Bobb's. There is one drawback, though:

It's not just a case of artistic license - she really is firing rings of electricity. Moreover, those rings are big enough that Wildfire can step right through them (Though not very well. By my reckoning he's about to get ringed in the knee, thigh and crotch). Plus it's implied that she's not too good at maneuvers out of the water, which puts the kibosh on roughly 98 percent of Legion missions.

Nightwind flies and fires wind out of her feet. She gets some credit for not wearing clothing that is the same colour as her skin but that's about all I'm willing to grant her.

So anyway, Wildfire trashes the three of them. Then this happens:

The girls try to kiss Wildfire and he goes nuts! Personally, I think that it's because he saw that wink thing. Nightwind's wink is terrifying! That one staring white eye? Gives me the heebie jeebies. He says it's because of his Tragic Past, but I don't buy it.

Anyway, what with the terrible costumes, the lame powers, the stupid names and the fact that they mostly get their asses kicked and listen to exposition (Wildfire tells them a story too), these three jokers are:


But finally getting them out of the way? That's JOHN APPROVED from here to Tuesday. So... for two days.