Saturday, September 29, 2007

Justice League of America Movie

This week's Entertainment Weekly has an article about the potential Justice League of America movie, which may be fast-tracked for summer 2009 release. George Miller is already signed on to direct, and rumors have been abuzz for a couple of weeks that Jessica Biel could be playing Wonder Woman.

The EW provides some details about the film's script, by Kieran and Michele Mulroney, which will feature an origin story for the team. According to the article, "what we've seen remains faithful to the comic book that first appeared in 1960."

So, does that mean we'll be seeing something like this?

Probably not, as this reference indicates: "The plot revolves around villainous businessman Maxwell Lord and involves cyborgs called OMACs (One-Man Army Corps) ..."

While that means we'll be getting this OMAC:

I think we can all agree that a movie where the Justice League formed to fight this OMAC--

--would be AWESOME!

One of the main focuses of the article is the worry that this movie might damage existing francises, like Batman and Superman, or delay other potential franchises, like Wonder Woman and The Flash. However, as one anonymous source stated, "'I don't think you can cannibalize superheroes. The audience has an insatiable appetite for them right now.'" (insert Marvel Zombies joke here)

Unfortunately, audiences don't have an "insatiable appetite" for superheroes, or else they would be flocking to comic stores en masse to get weekly doses of them in between movie releases. Clearly, though, Hollywood studios cannot get enough of superheroes, and it remains a perennial mystery why comic stores can't translate that popularity into a surge in comic book sales.

Here's the team's line-up, according to the script:

This line-up does remain pretty faithful to the original series, with the substitution of John Stewart for Hal Jordan in the Green Lantern position--a change consistent with the Justice League cartoon, and one that is not real objectionable.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Horrifying Gender Politics of Charlton Romance Comics

Anyone who reads more than a handful of comic blogs knows that Charlton Romance Comics provide a reliable and bottomless font of craziness for the modern blogger. The main reason for this, I would argue, is their truly horrifying gender politics. Now, no one would expect Charlton Romance Comics to be a bastion of progressive feminism, but these comics, even in the late 60s and 70s, must have seemed desperately reactionary. Below are a few one-page gag stories that illustrate some of the horrifying positions that Charlton took on gender issues of the day.

Charlton was pro-homophobia:

Charlton was pro-stalking:
What kind of world is this where a man can call a window cleaning service to wash his neighbor's windows from the inside?

Charlton was anti-Equal Rights Amendment:

Actually, I'm not sure what to make of the message of this last one. The woman seems happy because she has achieved equality, but sad because that equality has now made her unattractive to men. Her "happiness," therefore, is tied directly to her submissive role in the patriarchal order, and now that the hierarchy has been leveled, her culturally determined definition of "happiness" has evaporated, leaving her in a state of fear and trembling in the face of her new-found independence and the notion of self-determination. Rather than face this fear, she yearns to return to a simpler time when choices were made for her.

Images from Teen-Age Love 95 (1973), Time for Love 39 (1974), and I Love You 112 (1975), respectively.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Screwed Again

The MacArthur Foundation just announced the recipients of their 2007 "Genius Grants," and for yet another year, those fuckers screwed me over. I really thought I had it wrapped up this year, what with the blog and all. In my mind, I had already spent the $500,000 for this year.

As the article details:

[Recipients] include a biomedical scientist, a blues musician, a forensic anthropologist, an inventor, a medieval historian, and a spider silk biologist. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future. Each received a phone call from the Foundation with news of $500,000 in “no strings attached” support over the next five years.

It should also list, "an English professor who occasionally blogs about comics and other stuff he likes." Bastards.

Seriously, though, congratulations to all the deserving recipients, especially Jonathan Shay, whose book Achilles in Vietnam is one of the best books I ever read on the subject of war trauma and has been a significant influence on my own research (research, apparently, not deserving of notice by the big shots at the MacArthur Foundation).

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Human Pet of Gorilla Land

I've often expressed my admiration for comic stories featuring gorillas, and one of the masters of such stories is Carmine Infantino, co-creator of Gorilla Grodd in The Flash. One of his gorilla masterpieces, though, is the short story "The Human Pet of Gorilla Land," originally published in Strange Adventures 108 (1959) and reprinted in From Beyond the Unknown 14 (1971-1972).

In the far future, space-patrolman Dan Fuller answers an APB for two "Jovian confidence men" name Klobe and Groster. As is common in DC sci-fi comics of the 50s, the future is not much different from the present, except that most things have the prefix "space-" attached to their names.

The Jovian's land on a previously uncharted planet, where the natives are giant intelligent gorillas who communicate telepathically through "thought stones."

The gorillas turn out to be friendly, and the Jovians decide to take advantage of them by working out a deal: in exchange for a load of thought stones, the Jovians will provide the gorilla with new "pets." One of the major selling points, it appears, is that the pets come in a wide selection of colors.

The Jovians, however, offer only a "vanilla" sample, if you will, in the form of space-patrolman Dan Fuller.

A young gorilla lad takes on Dan as a pet at a pet store in the city of "Gorilla Land." (I find it funny that John Broome imagined that a planet of intelligent gorillas would name their cities after their own species. That's like having cities named "Human Town" and "Personville.")

I love the little domestic scene laid out here: dad reads the paper, mom knits, and junior plays with his new pet. However, the fun is only short-lived, as Dan manages to get ahold of junior's thought stone and convinces him that he is a sentient being and not a pet.

Soon, Dan and junior are off on junior's scooter to track down the Jovians.

That one-wheeled scooter is a perfect example of Infantino technology. Note, also, that Dan's size in relation to the gorillas seems to change from panel to panel.

Junior and Dan capture the Jovians, and the story's penultimate panel sets up some nice potential irony: it is now the Jovians who will be locked in a cage.

However, Dan, unable to imagine outside of his own anthrocentric perspective, decides to reward junior by subjecting another creature to the circumstances that Dan himself found unbearable:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Manliest Indigestion

Below are pictures of all the animals I ate tonight:

Actually, I'm not completely sure what I had was meerkat. I may be wrong about that.

It feels right now like there's a wild kingdom in my belly, and the rattlesnake and alligator are fighting it out for supremacy.

And, for the record, only the chicken tasted like chicken.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things I Love 4: Trailers from Hell

I don't know how long this site has been up, or if everyone has heard about this before me, but, holy crap, I love Trailers from Hell. If you're not familiar with this site, it was started by director Joe Dante and features contemporary horror movie creators commenting on old genre movie trailers. Current contributors include Dante, Mary Lambert, John Landis, Sam Hamm, Allan Arkush, Mick Garris, Larry Cohen, and Edgar Wright. Here's Edgar Wright's commentary on the great trailer for Mario Bava's Danger: Diabolik:

(I love the Tor Johnson/Looney Tunes mash-up for their logo.)

The trailer selection is pretty diverse, including B-movies, Hitchcock films, and many non-horror movies. My favorite so far is Joe Dante's commentary on the trailer for The Innocents, which is my single favorite horror movie of all time (though Robert Wise's The Haunting is a close second). Dante makes the point that this sophisticated, psychological ghost story is given a crappy trailer that makes it look like a sensationalized B-horror movie. Here's the link.

You may also, if you so choose, watch the trailers sans commentary.

The site promises to update three times a week, and I couldn't be happier about that.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's a Woman's World!

There are occasions where my academic research pursuits and my interest in comics fruitfully overlap, most notably in the representation of gender issues. And other than runs of Lois Lane covers from the 1970s, nothing has made the my academic brain explode more than this story: "It's a Woman's World," written by John Broome, drawn by Bob Oksner and Bernard Sachs, and originally published in Mystery in Space 8 (1952) and reprinted here in From Beyond the Unknown 11 (1971).

Now, those of you familiar with the Silver Age comic writing of John Broome, most notably in Green Lantern, know that the scripter had an ambivalent, at best, relationship with feminist issues of the day. He was responsible for creating Carol Ferris, one of the first female business executives on comics, but she spent most of her work time trying to figure out ways to date Green Lantern while also facing constant sexual harassment from one of her employees, Hal Jordan. So, we can imagine his view of a future Earth completely dominated by women to be, as we say, problematic.

This efficient 8-page story begins with a history lesson of how the matriarchal order of the 33rd century came to be.

This whole page is worthy of further study. First, Broome's predictions about the future do not seem terribly optimistic for women, and they certainly don't bode well for Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign. Broome imagines that first, in 2980, a woman will be elected "President of the Earth Federation," and then, 20 years later, women will then replace men in other key power positions. So, rather than have a gradual shifting of power that moves through a position of equilibrium and equality, the evolutionary change from patriarchy to matriarchy is sudden. By the 33rd century, the business world, politics, the military, and athletics all become dominated exclusively by women, while men, as the penultimate panel notes, are relegated to "the roles of domestics and housekeepers." (And, if Greg's cute little shorts ensemble is any indication, they are also objectified.)

However, the seeds to undermine the matriarchy are planted in young Greg Dexter's head, as he wonders why he must stay at home and vacuum while women get to do fun things like go to rocket cadet school. While Greg tries to imagine a different world, news breaks of an invasion from the planet Thebor, and a call goes out to volunteers for special training to deal with Thebor's harsh environment. Greg sees this as an opportunity and quickly volunteers, though his request is met with scorn and rejection because men do not have the natural abilities needed to succeed in combat.

After persisting, Greg receives admittance to the training program, but only to prove once and for all that men can't handle the rigors of military life.

As one might expect, Greg's first day at the academy is met with wolf whistles and catcalls, though Greg doesn't seem to mind the attention.

In fact, he seems to invite it, thus further perpetuating the "he was asking for it" sexual harassment defense 400 years into the future:

Greg manages to successfully complete all of the training, but when the raid on Thebor takes place, he's left to "guard the ship" while the women attack the target.

The attack, of course, goes horribly wrong, and Greg is the only one left to save his senior officer, Captain Stella. The rescue immediately warms up Stella to the heroic qualities of men:

(I also love the idea that, in the future, women's military uniforms will include fishnet stockings. At least the women are wearing flats and not heels.)

Upon returning to Earth, Greg is treated like a hero. Now, one would expect that Greg's heroism would be a big step toward equality of the sexes; however, that is not the case:

Instead, the patriarchal status quo is restored, with women returning to their submissive domestic positions and men returning to their dominant roles. In fact, Stella seems particularly glad to lose the yoke of leadership in the end.

Below are some of the letter-page reactions that appeared in From Beyond the Unknown 13, in response to the reprinting of this story. As you can see, the response was strongly negative, and 1971 readers found the story to be reactionary.

Friday, September 14, 2007

This Is the Burden We Bear

This week, a major chain bookstore opened in the city where I live, for which I am very grateful. I'm especially grateful because on the store's opening night, I won the $50 gift certificate door prize.

And I knew exactly what I was going to get with it:

I figured the giant hardcover Planet Hulk collection was a good purchase because it's something I've wanted, though I've been reluctant to drop the $40 to actually get it. Plus, I have a discount card for this particular chain, which offers 20% off of hardcovers. Or so I thought.

When I was ready to check out, I set the book down on the counter along with my gift certificate and my discount card. I then asked the male clerk, "Will I be getting 20% off with this?"

The clerk proceeded to flip the book around in his hand for a bit, and then said, "No. The 20% off only works on ADULT hardcovers. This will get the 10% discount."

Before I could reply, a female clerk came by, looked at the book, and said to me, "Are you buying this for yourself?"

"Yes," I responded.

"Really?" she returned, disbelieving.

"Yes, really." At this point, I wished that Ph.D.s were issued some kind of badge or ID card that I could flip out at moments like this so that I could dramatically add, "And I'm also a doctor!" But, unfortunately, I don't have any such visual aid, and I desperately wanted something to show that this is a perfectly viable purchase, even for a person with a high level of education.

So, I thought, here we are.

Meanwhile, the other clerk completed ringing up the purchase and announced, "Your total comes to $34.55."

Though I'm not very proficient in math, I quickly realized that the difference between the actual cost of the book and this number was more than 10%.

"It looks like I did get the 20% off after all," I said, trying not to gloat, but wanting to leap in the air, landing in a wide stance with my finger pointing and shouting, "Ha Ha! Charade, you are!"

The clerk squinted at the screen and then pulled back in disbelief, saying, "I guess so. Huh. I wouldn't've thought this would be considered 'Adult.'"

Not feeling the least bit vindicated, I took my purchase and left the store, longing for the dark, uninviting, porn-shop-like atmosphere of my local comic store, where the clerks may be judgmental, but at least they don't judge the maturity level of my purchases.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Help Out 7-Year-Old Dr. K: Conanagram!

Here's another entry from the Marvel Superheroes Fun Book that 7-year-old Dr. K didn't even try to do. I wasn't much of a Conan fan at the time, though my younger brother was. He even had the Mego Conan doll, if I remember correctly. Throughout this Fun Book, there are some puzzles done in red pen that look suspiciously like my brother's handwriting at the time. I suspect he may helped himself to my book--something we often did with each other's possessions in order to get on the other's nerves. Since he was a Conan fan, though, I'm surprised that he didn't take a shot at this puzzle. At 5 years old, however, this codebreaking puzzle may have been too much for him.

Seven-year-old Dr. K didn't have many friends who read comics, though he had a lot of friends whose dads read Conan. I don't know if this was a general trend with the series--that a lot of adults read Conan but didn't read other comics--but it certainly was common in my experience.

I don't get the dune buggy joke in the text of this page, but I can imagine, if I owned a dune buggy in the 70s, I probably wouldn't want to find Conan on the hood of it.

Post answers and 70s Conan memories in the comments.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

DC Comics News from Baltimore Comic Con

Newsarama and other comic news sites have been covering the announcements from the DC Comics panels at Baltimore Comic Con this weekend, and some of these announcements are pretty exciting. Two announcements in particular are truly surprising.

--Sergio Aragones as the new writer on The Spirit. Of all the names that went through my head as suitable replacements for Darwyn Cooke on this series, Sergio was not one of them. However, I can't think of a choice now that would make me happier, other than re-animating the corpse of Will Eisner. This choice does show a certain dedication to this book by DC: getting someone of Sergio's talent and pedigree indicates that DC sees this as a kind of boutique property for comic aficionados. I'll be curious to see who DC signs on for the art, though.

--John Milius and Billy Tucci on a Sgt. Rock miniseries. I'm neither here nor there on Billy Tucci's art, but having the director of Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn and the inspiration for Walter Sobchak write Sgt. Rock is totally awesome. I just hope there are scenes where characters drink deer blood; where Bulldozer refuses to fight because, as he told that Kraut a thousand fucking times, he doesn't roll on Shabbas; and where Easy Company teams up with Nazis to fight Nihilists because, as Ice Cream Soldier says, "Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Rock, but at least it's an ethos."

I'm also pretty excited about Sergio Aragones's Bat Lash miniseries, especially because of the announcement that classic Western artist John Severin would be pencilling. Here's one of my favorite John Severin Western covers from Frontier Western 4, featuring the Ringo Kid:

I'm also curious about Jim Shooter's return to The Legion of Super-Heroes. I grew up on his Legion stories, so I'm tempted to try this out, though I've been pretty unenthused by this current iteration of the Legion as revamped by Mark Waid. I like Waid as a writer, and the stories are pretty good, but I don't feel the same sense of connection to the characters in earlier versions. Perhaps Shooter will help build that connection better.

An announcement that I'm on the fence about is the new Vigilante series written by Marv Wolfman. I'm a proud owner of an entire run of the 80s series (one issue containing a letter written by a young Dr. K), but I've never been able to read it all--I tend to get bogged down in the Paul Kupperberg issues where the Vigilante mantle keeps changing hands. I may try this out for a bit, but the more likely scenario is that this will get lost amid too many other books that I'm interested in coming out at the same time.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Dr. K Lego Avatar

From this site via Phil Looney's Poptown blog, here is my frighteningly accurate Lego Avatar. Honestly, this could be used as a Wanted poster, with a more than reasonable expectation of catching me.

Also, in case anyone was wondering, I do always carry around a copy of the book I co-edited on British author May Sinclair. Sometimes, I even take it to bed at night.

And another, further point of accuracy: I color co-ordinate my ties and coffee mugs. That is just how I roll.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dr. K’s Awesome Chicken Salad

As the Other Dr. K is often loathe to tell me, many of my recipes and general culinary choices usually result in, to put it bluntly, diarrhea (or, to put it euphemistically, the runs, the trots, or the green-apple two-step). This scene most frequently occurs in restaurants: after I order the buffalo chicken platter on the hottest setting, the Other Dr. K will squeeze her eyes shut, shake her head, and say, “You know you’re going to pay for that later.” And she is invariably right.

I tell that little TMI anecdote as a warning to precede the following recipe. To paraphrase the package of WOW! potato chips, “this chicken salad recipe may cause intestinal cramping and loose stools.” However, I would also like to add that without eating food like this, I probably never would have made my way completely through a single DC Showcase Presents volume. In fact, I have Zaxby’s and their nuclear chicken strips to thank for helping me get through the entire Phantom Stranger collection (in fact, "reading The Phantom Stranger" has become a euphemism in our house).

1-7 oz. bag or can of diced chicken, drained (the bags may say “no draining necessary,” but they are liars. If you don’t drain the liquid from the bag, you will have soggy chicken salad.)

1 hard-boiled egg

½ cup chopped celery

10 seedless grapes, halved


Brown Deli Mustard

Curry Powder


Garam Masala (These three spices can be affectionately referred to as the "Gut-Buster Trifecta")

Salt ‘n’ Pepa (Push it real good!)


1. Hard boil the egg. This is something I can never do right the first time. The egg always ends up breaking in the pot. Therefore, I can’t give good advice on this. The only thing I know to do is put the egg in the pot first, then add water and bring to a boil. This takes about 15 minutes--more than that if you have to start over again as I always do. In which case, some swearing will be involved.

2. Dump your drained chicken into a mixing bowl.

3. Add the soft ingredients: mayonnaise and mustard. I tend to eyeball my amounts here, but it usually works out to between ½ and ¾ cup of mayonnaise and 1-1 ½ tablespoons of mustard. Mix together.

4. Chop your celery and grapes and add those to the bowl. I like the texture of the celery in chicken salad, and the sweetness of the grapes goes well with the curry. The other day, I ordered a chicken salad sandwich from a restaurant, and the sandwich only had one grape in it. That was a crime.

5. At some point in the process, it is necessary to quote Jack Nicholson from Five Easy Pieces. If no one else is around, it may also be necessary for you to do both parts: Nicholson and the waitress.
“I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.”
“A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?”
“Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.”
“You want me to hold the chicken, huh?”
“I want you to hold it between your knees.”

Here's the scene itself:

You may also be tempted to sweep everything off of your table or counter to duplicate the scene's climax. This I would not recommend.

It is, however, immensely important to the quality of the chicken salad that you quote this scene accurately. Many people misquote Nicholson’s dialogue as something like,
“I want a chicken salad sandwich, hold the chicken salad.”
That’s just ridiculous and foolish, and it will ruin your food.

6. Crush your hard-boiled egg with a fork and put the pieces in the bowl.

7. Add your spices. I don’t include measurements for these either, as I just shake them into the bowl in an amount that looks about right. My best advice: shake it not so much like a Polaroid picture, but more like somebody’s gonna pay ya.

8. Add salt ‘n’ pepa to taste. Repeat “Ooh baby baby, baby baby” while mixing everything together.

9. Let stand in the fridge for at least an hour. This lets the flavors mix together, or "marinate," if you will.

Sometimes, I also add shredded cheddar cheese (which I shredded myself, natch). I have no preferences as far as bread is concerned. These are choices you will have to make on your own when the time comes. It may be difficult, bu I will not be there for you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Find

Lying in the Gutters originally linked to this story, about a fun comic collection find at Neptune Comics, a comic store in Waukesha, Wisconsin (not far from the childhood home of the Other Dr.K).

This story has been linked around a bit over the weekend, probably because comic fans often dream of finding a similar huge, valuable collection in some previously unknown place. As a collector, I never had a really big find like this, but I have had some tremendously lucky moments.

One time, several years ago, I was at an antique show in Indiana, and a woman had a stack of comics at her booth with a sign reading "$2 each." I leafed through the stack to find about 75 comics, all from the 1950s and in widely varying conditions. There were a lot of war comics(including Quality issues of G.I. Combat and Blackhawk), Atlas and other Westerns, and a few horror and romance titles. I made an offer for the whole stack, and the woman gladly accepted.

Among the gems in this stack were a couple of rare Jack Kirby comics from his Mainline company:

As you can see, both of these comics suffer from foxing, and neither is in great shape. This was the case with most of the comics, though a couple of the G.I. Combat issues were later graded as Very Fine.

Many of the books had some great art, including stuff by Matt Baker, Alex Toth, and Russ Heath. Here are a couple of great Russ Heath covers, from Battlefront 26 and Western Outlaws 3:

I ended up selling most of the books a few months later, though I kept the issues of Blackhawk, an issue of Two-Fisted Tales, and a bunch of beat up reading copies. My favorite item in the stack, though, was this comic, which I won't be parting with:

This is Eerie 2, with an amazing Wally Wood cover. Wood also does a corresponding interior story.

The Neptune Comics story linked above involves the owner of the collection coming into the comic store, but I wonder how often stories like mine happen, where an average collector just comes across a "find." I'd be curious to hear other stories.

Enter: The Legionnaire Part 2

The team-up that began in Karate Kid 15 continues in Kamandi 58!

As we left off last time, Karate Kid was being loaded into a machine that would project his consciousness into a film, and both he and Kamandi were about to become a part of the Bruce Lee classic, Enter the Dragon.

While the fighting continues, Kamandi provides Karate Kid with some hasty exposition, letting the Legionnaire know that they are indeed starring in a movie that has already been made. Soon, the scene shifts from fighting to something more Karate Kid's style:

It seems, from Kamandi's above assessment of cinematic history, that the only movies to survive the Great Disaster were those in Chris Sims's collection.

Meanwhile, Canus and Bloodstalker are fighting the lobster men in an attempt to free the heroes. During their fight, however, they accidentally bump the projection equipment, sending the heroes into a quick succession of different movies:

Lucky for them, one of the movies was not Audition.

This causes the lobster men to react in the same way as the audience did at the last Halle Berry movie I saw:

Indeed, Perfect Stranger lacked both "movin'" and "groovin'".

Karate Kid and Kamandi manage to escape with the help of Kamandi's posse. Karate Kid is still stuck with the dilemma he had when the story started, though: he needs to get back to his own time to find a cure for "Diamondeth."

Luckily, Kamandi's friend Pyra has the powers of deus ex machina, and literally creates a new time sphere out of "vortex energy" to return Karate Kid home. Conveniently, this expense of energy makes it impossible for her to cure Diamondeth as well.

I don't have the issues of The Legion of Super-Heroes where Karate Kid returns to the 30th century, so I don't even know if the Iris Jacobs/Diamondeth plot is resolved. The next time I saw her was in Brave and the Bold 198, where Karate Kid makes the ultimate dick move by returning to the 20th century to invite Iris--who, we must remember, participated in dicy experiments that turned her into an indestructible killing machine in order to impress Karate Kid--to his 30th century wedding with Princess Projectra. That is cold!