Wednesday, June 30, 2010

...the less said the better.

There it is, guys and dolls...the picture that launched ten thousand (and counting) comments, tweets, and such: the controversial redesign and reboot of Wonder Woman which was announced yesterday, causing the Internet to explode.

In the course of the interview, new writer J.M. Straczynski was quoted as saying:

"What we also haven’t seen before is her new look, the first significant change in her appearance since the character debuted in 1941 (not counting the mod look used briefly in the sixties, about which the less said the better)."

Put aside that he's conveniently forgetting the black and gold biker shorts and jacket look Wondy sported in the 90's, it was the backhanded dis to the Mike Sekowsky-era Wonder Woman run that irritated me. What a cheapjack, unnecessary swipe at a decades-old run, and oh, how brave and bold (see what I did there?) it is to knock a man's work who's kinda dead now and unable to respond.

But it did set me thinking- even though I recently read all of the Emma Peel-era Wondy stories recently thanks to the trade paperback reprints, am I letting my rose-colored memories of my childhood interfere with my objectiveness and common sense (and yes, I realize that I didn't actually read many of those stories until the TPBs came out- work with me here, OK?)?

So whaddaya say that we go back in time, and take a look at a fashion show- specifically, a display of the hideous and kitschy clothes that the de-powered Diana Prince wore under Mr. Sekowsky's tenure, shall we? And these are taken from Wonder Woman #'s 178-193 (1968-1971):

After issue #184, the experiments with color pretty much stopped, and she wore various outfits of white for the rest of the run, when she wasn't in disguise. Editorial must have decided that she needed some kind of costume-like motif, for identification if nothing else. Her Brave & the Bold appearances at around this time featured her in white outfits as well.

Those are some godawful hideous outfits, aren't they. Heaven forbid that anyone would ever look back to that era for inspiration.

Anyway. What do I think about the new outfit and direction? I said most of what I think on Twitter yesterday:

I've seen worse redesigns, and Wondy is difficult, I'll concede, but that outfit is SO 1993.

Which is approximately when Lee stopped growing as an artist, come to think of it...

There were a dozen better Wondy revamps to be found at Project: Rooftop. Just sayin'.

So, they're going in a "Cougar Town" direction with Wondy, then. That's what the outfit suggests...

Well, let's face it- I wasn't buying Wonder Woman anyway, I've never really been a big fan although there were periods (like the one above, as well as the brief Kanigher/Andru stab at doing a WWII retro style Wondy, as well as Gail Simone's recent arc that brought back DC's version of Beowulf) when I found her interesting, by and large I am quite happy not being all that invested in whatever direction they choose to take her. And even though I've kinda liked some of his recent Brave and the Bold stories, JMS can go eat one as far as I'm concerned. Mr. Hipster Funny Man.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A brief word, if you will.

Just a quick post to let you all know that I have finally disabled the Haloscan/JS-Kit comments that I had on this blog for many years, until someone got greedy and decided to extort money from its users. Anyway, I backed up my comments back in March or so, thinking I would disable then, but it's taken me until now to figure out how to do it successfully. So, that means I've lost a handful of comments since (including one by Paul Chadwick, which I was equal parts proud of getting and shocked by) and for that I apologize.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

RIP Al Williamson

Illustrator AL WILLIAMSON died this past Saturday at the age of 79. Now, I heard the news that day, but I wasn't really thinking I'd eulogize him. Don't get me wrong- I knew full well who he was- one of the greats, with a graceful style in the great newspaper strip tradition. A consummate craftsman, certainly in the discussion when it comes to the all-time greats. But at the time, I had no real emotional connection because I couldn't think of anything he'd done that particularly moved me one way or the other since I'd been reading comics. I remembered him being one of the Warren stable in their glory years under Archie Goodwin. I also recalled his work on features like Flash Gordon and even recalled reading Secret Agent X-9 in the Louisville Courier-Journal (or was it the Louisville Times? I forget), and I also remembered a ton of ink jobs on comics I didn't buy very much, if at all, like Marvel's Star Wars adaptations and other comics. His byline was always appreciated, but I never sought it out.

Ah, but I was wrong!

After reading Steve Bissette's remembrance today, it hit me- he drew one of my absolute favorite Warren stories, the wickedly funny "The Success Story", page below:

Click to read it inflated-ego size. If nothing else, when I first read it at the tender young age of six or so, it introduced me to the concept of "ruling panel borders", and that stuck with me for years. To this day I have a reluctance to rule panel borders. Go here to read it in its entirety.

And then, and then it REALLY hit me. Bissette's mention of Williamson's interaction and mentoring of the likes of Tom Yeates and Rick Veitch jogged my memory- Williamson drew a story in the multi-artist fourth issue of Timespirits, from a Steve Perry script! Below are two of his pages, click to read them dino-size.

So there you go. You never know sometimes, what kind of connection you could have with a man's work. There have many great tributes already- I linked to Bissette's above, and here's Tom Spurgeon's, as well as a roundup of most of the others.

As I so often seem to say when someone of this magnitude passes on, and it's happening more and more these days- we're running out of great ones and we won't see their like again.

Pic of Al above found here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Harry.

Today would have been the 69th birthday of HARRY NILSSON, so here's a posthumous BSBdG.

Favorite album? Hard to pick just one. If pressed, I'd cite 1972's career-killer Son of Schmilsson, and I also have a great deal of fondness for 1974's Pussy Cats with John Lennon.

Underrated? I'd say 1976's Sandman, but others may disagree.

At any rate, he left us far too early (he was only three years older than I am now when he passed in 1994!), and I wish the people in charge would get the documentary, as well as the album he was working on when he died, out in my lifetime.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Still I am Mightiest of Them All!" Part 3.

Continuing my glacially-paced look back at a randomly-chosen run of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Mighty Thor #'s 144-168 (1967-69) . Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to it.

#146: "If the Thunder be Gone"
If you recall, last issue we left the depowered-by-Odin Thor as he was the unwitting pawn of the rascally Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, who planned to hypnotically enlist Thor's help to steal a gigantic golden bull. This time out, the plan takes place. We see Thor at the beginning, still unaware that he's joined the C of C, rehearsing by lifting a giant barbell, with Princess Python on one end and two of the Acrobats (did they ever get names? I dunno) on the other. The Ringmaster walks up and presents Thor with an unusual gift: a replica of his own costume. However, when the Thunder God dons it, it looks exactly like his own duds. Which begs the question- why couldn't Thor just go back to his house and get his real one? Perhaps he did before the evening's performance, don't know. Anyway, we get a little exposition and also some internal monologuing by our hero; he's bummed that he's been reduced to working in a carny, but he's determined to make the best of it.

Showtime! And another fun Kirby full page panorama:

Now, I don't know much about the business of running a circus, even back in 1967, but I don't see how Ringy ever gets a permit to pitch his tent, given his criminal record due to encounters with at least Spider-Man and the Hulk. Oh, well, I guess he can use his freaky hat and hypnotize the necessary parties, so there's that. Let's assume that's the case and move on.

The crowd is skeptical that it's the real Thor they're seeing, so Ringy has him throw his hammer through a granite barrier. Even de-powered, Thor has the strength to shatter the target, but when the crowd keeps heckling, asking why Thor's hammer doesn't return, Ringy hypnotizes them all into seeing it fly back into his hand. I suppose he suggests it to them, though Lee didn't have him actually speak the words. While scanning the crowd, Thor sees Jane Foster, who, if you'll recall, was Don Blake/Thor's love interest for the bulk of the early issues, before Kirby and Lee really got cosmic and mythological. She's with another guy, though, but since Thor's had some Sif action, he's not all that concerned, instead thanking Odin for "(managing) to ease the aching of her heart". Nice guy, that Thunder God. After the show, Ringy gets down to business and tricks our guy into looking at his hat once more, putting him in a trance so he'll help them steal that gigantic golden bull. The heist itself is a nifty example of Kirby action; while I'll always associate Ditko with the Circus of Crime, Kirby draws them in action very well. Here's how it goes down, click to see jumbo elephant size:

The guards finally extricate themselves from the coils of the Princess' python, and open fire. Ths shots startle Thor and break the hypnotic spell, and he drops the statue, pinning Princess Python against the wall. And that's how this issue ends- the police warning Thor to give up, or they'll fire; Balder, Sif and Odin looking on from Asgard (and Papa pretty much washing his hands of the outcome, nice parenting skills there), and the Princess kinda yelling/asking him to kindly get the two ton bull off her. Next issue: "THE WRATH OF ODIN!", which prompts me to ask exactly what he's got to be pissed off about.

If you'll recall, the Tales of Asgard feature ended last issue, and rather than continue it, Stan and Jack decided to showcase the still-fairly-new Inhumans, who they had introduced in 1965 but really, other than a few appearances in Fantastic Four, not much had been revealed about their beginnings. We see one group of humans (?) that are far advanced in comparison to their primitive fellow beings; eventually it's shown that they had to hide themselves away, creating a super-advanced city, yeah, that's right- Attilan, a city dedicated to research and knowledge. The whole Terrogen mist as a power-activator notion is shown here as well (for the first time? I'm not 100% sure but I think so), as we are privy to a conversation between two scientists and their leader Randac. The scientists can't decide if unleashing the mist on the primitive people will advance them or kill them all in a horrible Randac volunteers to step into the mist. No mention of the Kree connection or any of that stuff, so I'm assuming that all was thought up later. This is all Lee dialogue, for sure, but I think it's fairly obvious that Kirby's responsible for everything else...if you squint your eyes, this looks (and reads, just without the normal Kirby dialogue) like an early issue of New Gods or 2001- see example at left. Not long ago, I read a couple of the Inhumans' later exploits, credited to Kirby on both art and script, that wound up in Amazing Adventures around 1969 or so, and I was surprised by how different the dialogue scanned; it didn't read like Lee's at all, but wasn't like the Kirby dialogue style we all have come to know so well via his Fourth World series and subsequent efforts. Maybe someday I'll get around to putting some pages from them here. Anyway, that has nothing to do with the issue at hand except to show how restless the King was getting, even as far back as 1967, and I'd say that these were the first few steps towards his declaration of independence from Marvel.

Next, we find out if the police shoot Thor full of holes, and if Princess Python ever gets out from under the bull.