Archive for September, 2011

Deconstructing “Red Hood and the Outlaws” – Part 1: Red Hood

2011/09/30

When the first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws went on sale a week and a half ago, it was met with mixed reviews. Many readers new to the post-Flashpoint DC Universe found it quite enjoyable, while several longtime fans – myself included – were appalled with the changes made to some of the main characters.

Behold the book that set female empowerment (and certain aspects of continuity) back more than 30 years.

Though writer Scott Lobdell has gone on record stating “that the legacy of all the Teen Titans teams over the years will be respected”, some of the creative decisions he’s made thus far make the sincerity of this claim seem more than a little suspect. And what better way to illustrate this point than by providing a brief overview of the characters’ backgrounds, determining the degree to which their paths have crossed in the past, and determining whether or not working together as a scrappy team of antiheroes fits in with their established histories and personalities?

We’ll begin the first entry in this three-part series with the eponymous Red Hood.

Jason Peter Todd (Robin II/Red Hood II)

Jason Todd first met Starfire at some point after he was orphaned and taken in by Bruce Wayne but well before he became the second Robin. Needless to say, she made quite a first impression on the then 12-year-old boy during their first encounter way back in The New Teen Titans #33 (July 1983).

Being a kid = Having Starfire's bust at eye level = FREAKIN' SWEET.

Since I’m pretty sure that at least some of you are probably wondering why he has red hair instead of his usual black right about now, we might as well kill two birds with one stone and delve deeper into his past. Or, more correctly said, pasts.

Back when he was first introduced and well before he became the metaphorical red-headed stepchild of the Batman Family, Jason was a literal red-headed child, namely the son of aerialists Joseph and Trina Todd. Together, the three of them were collectively known as “The Flying Todds”, a world-renowned trapeze act.

It's not every day that you get a ringside seat to see your own origin story being ripped off.

That strange sensation of déjà vu you’re getting right now is probably due to the fact that Jason’s past is essentially a carbon copy of Dick Grayson‘s, right down to the circus extortion scheme, acrobat parents being murdered by a criminal (in this case Killer Croc), being taken into stately Wayne Manor as Bruce Wayne’s ward, and trained to become Robin. When he first assumed the mantle of the Boy Wonder after six months of intensive training – and, it should be noted, without Batman’s prior consent – in Batman #366 (December 1983), he took a crucial step to ensure than the changeover would not be immediately apparent to the casual observer.

Perhaps today IS a good day to dye. 😛

After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Jason Todd’s origin was retconned to the one most contemporary audiences are familiar with: that of the streetwise punk kid who had the cojones to steal the tires off the freakin’ Batmobile.

Remind me again why Batman thought adopting this kid was a GOOD idea?

In keeping with his new hard luck lifestyle, his parents in this revised continuity were Willis and Catherine Todd, the former a henchmen of Two-Face‘s who ended up being killed by his employer, and the latter an addict who died of a drug overdose shortly before her (adopted) son’s encounter with the Dark Knight.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, editorial misplaced the memo about his natural haircolor and it became permanently black.  Still, this little bit of trivia wasn’t completely forgotten, as Grant Morrison revived this idea in Batman and Robin #5 (December 2009) and Judd Winick took the ball and ran with it when he took over the reigns as writer.

Either Jason Todd's been using an extremely toxic brand of hair dye or the chemicals in it don't mix well with the ones from Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits.

As Robin, Jason only participated in two Teen Titans missions, the first being a botched covert operation to Zermatt, Switzerland to prevent American and Russian ambassadors engaged in peace talks from being assassinated by Cheshire. It also happened to be the first time he encountered Roy Harper, who was still using the superhero name of Speedy at the time.

Bonding over spandex: the unlikely beginning of a superhero bromance.

His second and final outing had him and his teammates invading the small European country of Zandia to rescue Raven and, ironically, Nightwing from Brother Blood and his evil Church of Blood. This also marked the first (and only) time that he and Starfire ever worked together before their reunion in Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Give it a couple of years, kid, and you'll get your shot with her.

While he got along well with the Teen Titans, Jason’s relationship with Batman became increasingly strained due to the three rs – rage, rebeliousness, and recklessness – and his impulsive risk-taking culminated in a severe beating by the Joker with a crowbar…

Spare the rod, spoil the child.

…and being blown up in a warehouse explosion in Ethiopia during an ill-fated reunion with his biological mother, Dr. Sheila Haywood.

Remember when comic book readers actually had some clout at DC Comics?

Needless to say, after being retcon punched back to life in his own coffin by Superboy-Prime six months after his death, digging himself out of his own grave with his bare hands, spending a year in a coma, another year wandering city streets as a brain-damaged amnesiac, and yet another year in the care of Talia al Ghul before being tossed into a Lazarus Pit and having his full health and memories restored (though this “cure” may have had the slight side effect of leaving him batshit insane if Ra’s al Ghul can be believed), Jason was understandably less than thrilled when he discovered that his murderer was still alive and terrorizing the streets of Gotham City.

Talk about getting up on the wrong side of the Lazarus Pit.

That’s when he decided to go back and continue the job he’d started in his tweens: fucking with Batman and beating the crap out of him. And what better way to do that than going on a world tour to hone his martial arts abilities and learn some new practical skills, assuming the Joker’s original masked identity of the Red Hood, working out some repressed anger issues…

Payback with interest is a bitch.

…instigating a gang war with Black Mask‘s underworld empire, cleansing Gotham City’s streets of its criminal element by using lethal force, playing psychological mind games with his former mentor by stalking him and dropping hints about his true identity, and forcing him into two separate confrontations that remained unresolved?

Playing tag in Gotham City is serious business.

Eventually, he expanded his vendetta to include pretty much every member of the Batman Family, and the fact that the Dark Knight managed to diss Jason from beyond the grave following his “death” in Final Crisis in his holographic last will and testament…

Batman ALWAYS gets the last word. Even when he's DEAD.

…probably didn’t help his sunny disposition any.

The Continuity Verdict

Considering that Jason Todd once usurped Nightwing’s identity and ran around New York City killing criminals, his continuing to screw Dick Grayson over by continuously screwing Starfire is in keeping with his reputation as an unrepentant asshat.

Didn't Michael Keaton figure out that chicks dig masks 22 years ago?

The real problem here isn’t his personal feelings towards his teammates – he never had a beef with either one of them, after all – but the fact that they should be holding a grudge against him. Since Nightwing is one of Roy Harper’s best friends – if not his best friend – and the love of Starfire’s life, it’s extremely unlikely that they’d be willing to work with him at all. While the latter’s long-term memory lapse (as ridiculous as it is) at least acknowledges the issue, the former has no such excuse for his behavior since, by his own admission, he’s fully aware of the bad blood between Jason and Dick.

With best friends like this, who needs enemies?

One additional loose end worth mentioning is the uncertain fate of Sasha, better known as Scarlet, the female sidekick he recruited during his second, well-publicized anti-crime campaign as the Red Hood. At the end of Batman and Robin #25 (July 2011), the two of them were seen flying off in a helicopter together, headed for parts unknown. What exactly became of her remains a mystery.

Maybe she's been shipped off to the same place that DC Comics has been sending all the fat chicks and handicapped women.

Well, that’s it for this installment. Join us next time when we take a closer look at just how badly Scott Lobdell fumbled the ball with Starfire’s character. Be warned: it’s not going to be pretty sight.

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The Lunar Archivist’s Sketchbook – Part 1

2011/09/28

Before we begin, let’s get one thing straight: this latest series isn’t a showcase of my own personal artwork but rather of the sketches and commissions that I’ve amassed over the last 16 years of attending comic book conventions.

In celebration of today’s release of Aquaman #1, we’ll start things off with one of my personal favorites: a sexy sketch of DC Comics’ Dolphin by Martin Egeland. Enjoy! 🙂

Comic Book Sexual Innuendo – Part 21

2011/09/24

Think there’s nothing worse than your foster father dropping by unannounced and presenting you with a pornographic video starring your brainwashed wife? Well, you’d be wrong. Because your foster father could be Darkseid.

So Darkseid sends his minions to Earth on PORN RAIDS? That's AWESOME!

This shameful moment in Fourth World history has been brought to you by Action Comics #593 (October 1987) by John Byrne and Keith Williams.

Tales From the Convention Floor – Part 1: Sgt. Slaughter

2011/09/20

This past weekend, at the 2011 Montreal Comiccon, I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Remus, better known to children of the 80s as Sgt. Slaughter, a member of the World Wrestling Federation (since rechristened World Wrestling Entertainment) who served as the inspiration for the character of the same name from G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Dr. Mindbender and Destro’s second attempt to clone a Cobra Emperor was an unmitigated disaster.

In spite of his fearsome reputation and towering stature, the good sergeant was friendly and polite. He also didn’t bark at people in that intimidating, raucous voice that he’s invariably seen using on television and in the cartoons. (Whether this counts as a relief or a disappointment is strictly a matter of opinion.) His strength, however, is no exaggeration; shaking hands with him was akin to sticking my extremity into a vice.

As anyone who’s read his Wikipedia entry knows, information on Sgt. Slaughter’s private life is distinctly lacking. Now, while I’m not a nosy person by nature, there’s one nagging question that’s bothered me for years and which I felt compelled to ask: did he ever serve any time in the actual military? His response:

“(I served) six years. In the U.S. Marines.” – Sgt. Slaughter

So now you know. And knowing’s half the battle. 😉

“The Battle” T-Shirt by Nerduo

Get your own version of “The Battle” t-shirt by Nerduo here.

Basement Dwellers, Open-Mindedness, and Whining on the Internet

2011/09/16

Ever since the following panels appeared in last week’s issue of Justice League International #1 (November 2011) by Dan Jurgens, Aaron Lopresti, and Matt Ryan, it’s been making the rounds on message boards and Internet forums.

Subtlety, thy name is DC Comics.

This is, of course, an obvious reference to the continuing online debate over whether or not the 2011 reboot of the DC Universe was a good idea.

In all fairness to Dan Jurgens, his mouthpiece in the above exchange, Booster Gold, is quite clearly advocating the position that it’s the job of the writers to win over the unhappy members of the fanbase by producing a quality product. In fact, many online posters have been openly mocking the haters and claiming that, if you happens to be offended by this line, that’s only because it hits a bit too close to home. If you take a closer look at the subtext in the aforementioned panels and the latter argument as a whole, however, there are several unfortunate implications that may or may not be immediately apparent:

1. Basement dweller: This is an ad hominem attack, pure and simple. An attempt is being made to link dissenting arguments with a negative lifestyle in order to discredit them, the assumption being that someone who is an (implied) basement dweller could not possibly come up with legitimate criticism. This is, of course, ridiculous.

2. Open-mindedness: The base assumption here is that all ideas have equal merit and should thus carry the same weight when it comes to making decisions. Again, this is pure drivel. If a patient develops cancer, he can choose to either undergo chemotherapy or hope to be healed through the power of prayer. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that both options most definitely don’t deserve the same amount of consideration.

3. Whining on the Internet: It is widely assumed that complaining about something on the Internet is inherently useless and pathetic and therefore automatically beneath consideration. This is the same flawed argument that’s being made in Point 1 – i.e. guilt by association – and, as with most things in life, how seriously you’re taken depends on what exactly it is that you do. Ranting, raving, and engaging in character assassination on a message board, for example, is an exercise in futility while making clear, concise, logical, and well-researched arguments on a website and spreading the word through social networking is far more productive and stands a far better (albeit admittedly limited) chance of appealing to the masses and making your voice heard. (And in case anyone’s wondering, that link was an attempt at self-deprecating humor, not ego-stroking.)

4. Ignoring the protestors: Let’s make one thing clear: DC Comics is not a democracy. Anyone who’s in a position of power over there did not acquire it by the popular vote of the fanbase. They were hired or appointed. As far as I know, most of the decision-making lies in the hands of a six-member executive management team, specifically Jim Lee, Dan DiDio, Geoff Johns, John Rood, Patrick Caldon, and Diane Nelson. Whatever they say goes, and, while they might take the opinions of longtime fans and their own in-house creators into account, they do so at their own discretion and are under absolutely no obligation to do so.

That last point, I believe, lies at the heart of why fans are so vocal and upset: over the past ten years or so, several unpopular decisions have been forced through due to executive meddling that have been detrimental to fan-favorite characters. While Hal Jordan‘s return to the role of Green Lantern and the revival of the Green Lantern Corps has been a tremendous success, others such as the Flash and Green Arrow have suffered tremendously, with increasingly desperate attempts to fix the very messes that editorial mandate created in the first place only making things even worse. Unfortunately, the only options fans have to voice their displeasure are either complaining on major online message boards in the hopes that the Powers That Be at DC Comics will listen or to vote with their wallet and stop purchasing anything unless conditions improve.

And since the former is being widely dismissed by parties on both sides of the issue as the ravings of comic book fandom’s lunatic fringe, I guess there’s only one choice left, isn’t there?

Congratulations, DC and Dan DiDio, you’ve succeeded in dragging this closed-minded basement dweller into the new digital era of comic books. I will most definitely be reading more of your titles in the future than I have in the past 27 years of collecting.

I simply won’t be paying you a dime for any of them.

The Internet, after all, has far more practical applications than simply being a place to whine. 😉

Cool Convention Swag: “Neigh and Proud” Print

2011/09/12

In the words of the artist herself: “I just wanted to make something cute which applies to the show in a joking way, and supports a cause I respect greatly.” Mission accomplished, I’d say. 🙂

“Neigh and Proud” by Elizabeth Lee

Check out more of Liz Lee‘s great artwork at her deviantART account, Liz Lee Illustration, or Nimbus the Dragon.

Not Your Daddy’s Trap Jaw

2011/09/08

For those who thought that Skeletor‘s henchmen from the old He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon couldn’t possibly be scary, I would like to submit the following evidence to the contrary:

"Hi boys and girls! It's time to change your sheets!" 😛

This awesome Trap Jaw mask comes to you courtesy of the ghoulishly creative minds at The Devil’s Latex.

Strange Moments in Cartoons – Part 3

2011/09/04

In Tiny Toon Adventures – Episode 33: “Spring in Acme Acres” (November 6, 1990), when Cupid (Elmer Fudd) foists his job of spreading love and romance across Acme Acres upon the dim-witted and incompetent Concord Condor, the results are nothing short of disasterous.


Babs Bunny and Montana Max become a couple…


Elmyra channels her inner Rat Fink and chases Hampton Pig


…and Calamity Coyote goes from being pursuer to pursuee thanks to Little Beeper‘s newfound affection for him.

Wait a second.

Calamity Coyote and Little Beeper are both male. And Cupid’s arrows clearly evoke feelings of romantic love, as we can see from our other two mismatched male/female pairings. But then why would…

Oh.

Oh my.

Well now. That certainly puts a whole new Freudian spin on the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner dynamic, now doesn’t it? 😉


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