Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Future Zoo: Review of the Invisible Eagle, By Johnathan

Man, I love thinking up new things to review. Since I just kicked off the 'First Impressions' series I might as well start this one, too. 'Future Zoo' is going to feature the wild and wacky creatures of the Thirtieth Century. Since most of the beasts so featured only appear for a couple of panels the review will be short, which will make for a nice break. Plus, as if that wasn't enough, I'll be starting another series of wee reviews featuring the astounding technology of the future as well. It'll be astonishing!

Okay, so we're kicking things off with the Neptunian Invisible Eagle, from Adventure Comics No. 247, the very first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Superboy's on his way to save a rocket ship that's sprung a leak as a part of his initiation when he hears some exposition:

I guess that finding the eagle is slightly more urgent than a rocket running out of fuel, but seriously: if the vehicles of the future can't stand up to a collision with one bird then standards have gone way down hill. Where is the chicken-cannon of yesterday, ye mighty men of the future? Your hubris shall be your downfall when next the ducks do migrate.

Anyway, why the hell is this invisible thing in a zoo? That's just stupid - you could probably fit like four regular eagles in its cage, and being visible, they're way more interesting.

That's not a bad plan, Superboy! You probably could have done it with your ice breath but, you know, full marks for effort. As for you, Invisible Eagle:


The issue also featured some Generic Sea Monster action, notable mainly as an illustration of the fact that Saturn Girl's powerful telepathic was originally used mostly to control various monsters:

As far as sea monsters go, this one's pretty cute.

And helpful! Sea monster, you're JOHN APPROVED.

Review of First Impressions: Slam Bradley, By Johnathan

Oh, dang. I dropped the ball. There was a vote for Slam Bradley and I did Command Kid anyway. Well, far be it from me to disappoint little abs, whoever he or she might be. Here comes the first in yet another series of reviews. I've got basically the entire run of Detective Comics here and I'm determined to read them all. This means that I'm going to come across all kinds of long-running DC characters as they make their very first appearance. Whee! So every time I encounter someone like Batman, the Joker or whoever I'm going to review the first impression that they made.

Today it's Slam Bradley, all the way from Detective Comics No. 1!

First off, let me say that this review is packed full of 1937 America's idea of what Chinese people looked like. There's really no avoiding them in the comics of the time. Sorry if it offends. Just for the record, I don't believe in a nation of vivid yellow, murderous, pajama-clad pony tail-havers. I've advanced to hating the scheming Communist hordes.

The above page isn't a preview of the rest of the comic, by the way. Slam Bradley comics start in media res, usually with Slam in the middle of a fight.

Slam knows how to talk to the ladies:

Sarcastically. So: Fact 1, Slam Bradley likes to fight. Fact 2, he's not impressed by wealth. He's an irreverent rogue with a ready wit.

He's also got Shorty following him around. Shorty's a mail-order detective, a sub-genre that popped up a lot in the Thirties and Forties but has since died out. He's also possibly the best sidekick of all time, the prototype for all of the half-cowardly, half-courageous second bananas to follow. Subsequent to this adventure he dresses better, too.

Fact 3: Slam Bradley likes fighting more than he likes poodle-dogs. Also, "Jumpin' blue blazes." is pretty good.

For this comic only, Slam is a bit of a jerk to Shorty, who only wants to be partners with him:

Anyway, Shorty ends up guarding the dog, and so is in a position to tell Slam when the owner-lady gets kidnapped by the Chinese for some reason.

Fact 4: Slam Bradley loves fighting so much that he will fight anything, even a store display:

What? That's not true, Slam! I'm almost certain that it isn't! The friggin' Manchu Dynasty made people grow their hair funny, that's all. Dude probably just wants you to stop pulling on it like that. Jerk.

Okay, pretend that in this next panel Slam is fighting someone other than horrible ethnic stereotypes. Ready? Go go go!

Possibly the best fight ever, right? I mean, screw swinging someone around by the leg. Were I in any position to demand things of DC Comics I would demand that Batman do this to someone post haste. Like, he's fighting evil hippies or something. That would be boss.

In any case, everything ends well. Shirtless Slam rescues the dame, Shorty proves himself by capturing the bad guy:

... and Slam and Shorty become BFFs:

Uh, that's a little creepy, Shorty.

So, disregarding the stereotypes (which are NOT APPROVED), I really enjoyed Slam and Shorty's first appearance. The fact that Slam is just in the detective racket because he loves to fight is terrific. Plus, Shorty is frequently funny when he's supposed to be funny, something that was almost vanishingly rare in comics for far too long. Therefore, Slam Bradley is


Review of the Super-Human Detritus of the Thirtieth Century, Part 11, By Johnathan

Bam! I'm back and only a day later than I said! Since nobody offered an opinion otherwise it's time for another trip into the far future - witness the 30th Century adventures of: Command Kid!


Command Kid, like Dynamo Boy, is actually a super-villain who cleverly wrangles his way into the Legion for his own sinister purposes. Command Kid, in fact, was the very first to do so, so sucks to Vorm's asthmar.

Command Kid's plan basically rests on the fact that no other villain has tried this kind of thing before and so the Legion are completely unprepared for it. Basically, he heads to Earth, captures some crooks and waits to be invited to join up. Sure enough, along comes Superboy:

I must say, pretending not to know what the Legion is is a good touch. Plus, it prompts Superboy and pals to finish building a theme park by way of a demonstration of their powers:

Aw, look at the happy children. And then Lightning Lad makes it rain so the children are cool, plus rollercoasters are twice as fun when you're wet! Sun Boy's little cry for attention there is one of my fave things ever, by the way. I'll bet he does that a lot at parties. "So you like the punch, huh? Well, call me if you'd like it boiling hot!" or "Psssh. If I went to India I wouldn't just look at the Taj Mahal - I'd burn it down!"

So this comic (Adventure No. 328, for those who care to know) has a couple of running themes and since I'm way too lazy to address them in a chronological examination of the issue here they are all lumped together.

The first one is the coolness of Command Kid's powers.

This is the stunt that got ol' CK into the Legion:

Okay, tricking crooks into thinking that their car is a monster surrounded by police isn't bad. Looking at that first panel, though, I kind of thought that his power might be 'cootie-hands'. Hell, I'd buy a comic featuring a guy whose very touch was feared by criminals everywhere, lest they succumb to the dreaded Girl Germs.

Anyway, so: monsters. What else you got, Kid?

Illusory fire... okay. I guess that that's kind of cool. Not very imaginative, though. Bah, what do I know - he's probably saving the really cool stuff for later.

Dammit, more monsters! Command Kid is incredibly lame! Plus, his power only seems to work on groups of three. Plus, he's got terrible hair. Seriously, though. The way I understand it, he can make people see anything he wants. Myself, I'd have sent a ten-foot tall silver Abraham Lincoln with a machine gun after them. And also he's smoking a cigar.

Okay so it's not the best idea ever, but it's better than fire or crappy dragons.

Theme number two? People pointing out his questionable tendencies:

This is basically just some heavy foreshadowing of the fact that he turns out to be a bad guy, not unlike his terrible hair, bad costume or the title "The Lad Who Wrecked The Legion".

An immodest teenage boy? Well, I never!

So... he has an ego and a temper? Guys, you just described Wildfire. And Wolverine. Hell, you just described half of the heroes created after 1975. Still, I guess there weren't as many super-heroic dicks running around back then.

Third theme? Clues:

Hell if I know what they mean, though. Let's check 'em out:

He doesn't like gold jewelry...

He's not fond of golden anniversary presents...

He avoids gold kryptonite...

Well, I'm stumped.

The final theme is that Command Kid is up to something.

Somehow, Command Kid's power of giving people the heebie-jeebies instills various Legionnaires with feelings of inadequacy. He captures nine guys and everyone's moping around like Proty died. Star Boy's so depressed that he takes some roofies when Command Kid says he can make him more powerful:

I don't know about you guys but to me, that sounded ominous. But fine, Star Boy feels a little underpowered. That's natural, right? He did used to be as powerful as Superboy and he sure can't make people think that they're surrounded by flames or monsters or whatever.

Sun Boy, on the other hand, has no excuse. Sun Boy! You generate heat! You can surround people with fire! That's half of what this jerk does! Don't take the pill!

Anyway, Sun Boy takes the pill. Then everyone else gets depressed:

Oh ho! Command Kid sees a chance to gather more unconscious Legionnaires to his fur-collared green bosom. First, though, he'll have to get rid of the really powerful guys that are hanging around, so he comes up with what is possibly the weakest lie ever:

Seriously: "Another dimension plans to invade, check them all."? In the pre-Crisis DC Universe, that's like distracting the police by calling them up and reporting that a murder has taken place in a house, so they'd better check all of the houses. Superboy and his posse fall for it, though, just like they always do.

... and then everyone else succumbs to the temptation of being unconscious on a concrete slab while waiting for an arrogant jerk to do unspecified things to them. Actually, put like that it doesn't seem so bad. Where do I sign up?

Things look grim (and red), destinies are being sealed...

... and then Saturn Girl and Element Lad show up and put a stop to things. Way to ex machina, guys.

Oh, I get it! He's allergic to gold!

The rest of the comic's pretty much devoted to Saturn Girl and Element Lad telling everyone how they figured out Command Kid's secrets. Turns out that, through the futuristic wonders that are security cameras, they saw all of the clues and figured out the whole 'Command Kid doesn't like gold' thing.

They call planet Preztor and get in touch with a man with just fantastically bad hair. I mean... wow. Maybe Preztor is an enlightened planet where nobody judges anybody else based upon hairstyle, but man. I just can't live up to those kind of standards.

So it seems that Command Kid was possessed by a demon.

Also, the demon was allergic to gold, which doesn't really exist on Preztor. Okay, so why does the demon come to Earth, then, Mr. Hair?

Gah, why do I hate him so much?

That's possibly the best line ever, Triplicate Girl. Indeed, I can hardly believe it either. Dude should have stayed on his own planet, away from all of the gold. I'm sure that he could have gotten some demons into a few regular folk, then lured the Legionnaires to his gold-free land. Friggin' amateurs. Why aren't I a super-villain?

Nice exposition, kids. That demon is actually pretty creepy looking, I must admit. Command Kid still had a lame plan, though.

And that's that. Command Kid's gone and Element Lad makes a terrible prediction. It would have been cool if he were right, though - Legionnaires fighting possessed muthas all across the galaxy, never knowing who the enemy is, getting all paranoid and bickering a lot. It could've been like a bright Sixties version of those grim storylines from the Eighties and Nineties like 'The Great Darkness Saga'. Plus there probably have been at least one more Legionnaire that would've been made up specifically to die by the hands of of Demono or whoever the head demon turned out to be.

Ah, well. Command Kid is NOT APPROVED.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Review of Long-Lasting Computer Problems, By Johnathan


Now that I'm back on track, though, well, just you wait and see.

Tomorrow's either going to feature Command Kid or Slam Bradley, and if you have a preference then leave a comment. Otherwise you'll take what you get.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Review of Some Robots, Part 4, By Johnathan

It's that time again: time to make critical assessments of fictional robots that were created forty years ago. We must be silent no longer! This time we're going to look at the Gas Gang - a group of evil robots based on... gases. When you get right down to it, this is an odd idea, even for The Metal Men. Let's take a look:

As you no doubt guessed, the Gas Gang were built by Doc Magnus, during a period of time that he spent as a robot, which I'm sure that we can all relate to. Since the strange space gasses or whatever it was that transformed him that particular time also made him evil (as so often happens), he set the Gas Gang on his beloved Metal Men.

I'm pretty fond of the Gas Gang because they're just total assholes. A lot of other Metal Men foes were world-conquering tyrants or twisted scientific geniuses or were in love with Tina for some reason, but the Gas Gang is mostly concerned with beating the holy hell out of the Metal Men. They're refreshingly uncomplicated, the robotic equivalent of spinach salad.

They also die oddly:

That's right, the Gas Gang - beings composed primarily of gas - are evaporated out of existence. Which, uh, seems... weird. Is there a new state of matter between gas and plasma that nobody's taken the time to tell me about? Super Gassey? Xtreme Gas? Gas Plus Plus? Whatever it's called, the Gas Gang go down like chumps.

Gas Gang Roll Call!


I always think of Chloroform as the leader of the Gas Gang, but this is possibly because he attacks first. I've got to say I've got some issues with Chloroform's design. I mean sure, he's got a great face, but he also doesn't have any arms. Arms that would be useful in a fight against robots. Robots that don't breathe and therefore can't possibly be affected by chloroform gas. Right?

Oh. I'm wrong. The Metal Men breathe, apparently. And chloroform makes you laugh before knocking you out, a fact that the Metal Men crew were quite impressed by, as seen here:

See? Arms are useful! The above image actually marks Chloroform's first appearance, on a one page collection of factoids.

Anyway, my real problem with Chloroform is that he looks like a nutmeg grater that my grandmother owns, like Evil Robot Doc Magnus had originally started work on a gang of robots called the Spice Squad (Nutmeg! Cinnamon! Pepper! Oregano! Onion Salt!) but then realized that that was lame. Rar! I am Chloroform! I have no arms! I'm riddled with holes! I dispense gases that should have no effect on shape-changing uber-bots! I'm kicking your asses! Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame.

Nonetheless, nostalgia for that nutmeg grater compels me to say JOHN APPROVED.


By contrast with Chloroform, I do very much enjoy Oxygen's design. He's got cute little limbs and an adorable hose arm. His angry little pressure gauge face is just precious. Plus, I need him in order to live. However, he shouldn't be able to do this:

Iron reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form rust, right? Well, tin, gold and platinum don't do that! They're known for it! Rar! Johnathan smash! Johnathan get worked up about scientific inaccuracy in forty-year-old comic and bitch on the internet! Johnathan sulk in comfy chair for a while!

I do love the way Oxygen looks, though. Plus the little valve that's poking up from his shoulder kind of resembles a grinning face, like Oxygen has a tiny sidekick. "Come, Thread Head, let us improbably rust some things! Take that, aluminum!"




The Carbon Brothers don't get to see much action, which is kind of a shame. Carbon Monoxide actually has a rather clever design, being represented as a Bunsen burner, of the type that offed so many scientists before they discovered the wonders of ventilation. However, he should have absolutely no effect on the Metal Men.

Carbon Dioxide is represented as a chunk of ice and would probably be really effective against some of the more brittle metals like Tin or Mercury, if any of the other members of the Gas Gang had fists with which to punch them. As it is, he's just a minor irritant. Also, he's a solid.



From the same facts page that spawned Boxin' Chloroform. Check it out:

"You're cool, Carbon Dioxide! So cool that I'm going to need multiple skin grafts! Love the hat, though."


Oh lord I love Gangster Carbon Monoxide. Gangster Carbon Monoxide is possibly the best anthropomorphic personification of a gas that I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty. Gangster Carbon Monoxide should have been a Silver Age Batman villain, seriously. They could've defeated him with ionic air purifiers. Post-Crisis he could've turned up in Swamp Thing or something as a champion of the auto industry. Grant Morrison would kill him off somehow but then another writer would get nostalgic and he'd show up in an airtight cell in Arkham Asylum. He'd totally team up with Parade Hater Horace. It would be glorious.



Helium's pretty boring, frankly. He looks like a dirigible, which is thematically appropriate, but all he really does is grow, see?

I didn't even know that that was a property of helium. In fact, I don't think it is. Helium could just as easily been Just Plain Air, which would have been cheaper, at any rate.

In the Gas Gang's second outing (in which they are resurrected by a sane Doc Magnus to combat an insane amalgam of most of the Metal Men) Helium proves himself a bit more useful:

I'm not sure why he chose to inflate the Metal Man-Woman by sticking his nozzle into the only female mouth on the thing but it creeps me out slightly (I am pleased to see that Chloroform Mark II has arms, though). It's a tribute to Doc Magnus' genius that he can invent a robot composed primarily of gas and manage to simulate human perversion, but damn.