This week's Mashup, wherein I take one (and only one!) panel from each of ten randomly selected comic books in an effort to make some sort of coherent story, deals with women overcoming stereotypes to kick butt, a horned-helmet space pirate, and sexually ambiguous references from the Black Canary. How can you not read it?!
On a little-used moon base on a backwater of the galaxy, three dirt-fingered old hands question the motivation of the new female recruit on the secluded -- and highly illegal -- pirate mining operation based there.
Little do they suspect that the woman is actually a spy, Field Agent Samantha "Sam" Coburn, of the Alien Legion Intel-Corps, who is there to unearth the identity and location of the infamous space pirate known only by his codename ...
Sam quickly makes contact with the most promising recruit to hit the Legion in a decade, hot-shot teenage marksman and Galaxy-class athlete J'Onn J'Onnson, giving him the location of the pirate who'd killed his father fifty years before.
A week later, with the raid ready to go, assault shuttles are in place and an eager J'Onnson awaits the order to land.
While the main attack begins, J'Onnson makes a commando raid on the pirate base's headquarters, desperately hoping to find "Rosebud" at last.
Ironically "Rosebud" -- actually the viking-helmeted pirate lord Prinn Longnose-- is even then leading the counter-attack on the Legion forces, having learned through an informant that the son of his long-dead enemy had finally come for him.
As the battle rages, Prinn "Rosebud" Longnose becomes enraged, desperate to kill his hunter before anyone else gets the chance.
Even as the words hang in the heavy atmosphere of the moon, however, J'Onnson appears, blaster in hand, taking steady aim, putting the lie to the shouted order as Prinn at last takes his final breath.
With the mop-up complete, J'Onnson debriefs with Sam.
Wherever pirates lurk, they are learning to fear the deadly blaster of J'Onn J'Onnson, Alien Legionnaire!
The images above are from the following comic books, in order of appearance:
"Sweet Sixteen", Vol. 1, No. 5, ©1991, Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. Art and Story by Barbara Slate, Letters by Patrick Owsley, and colors by Laz.
Apparently Marvel tried in the early Nineties to expand back out into non-super-hero books. This is a series of very short "stories" centered on a haughty princess, a humble potter who loves her, and various other poorly-drawn folks who inhabit this corner of the Roman Empire. I know it's Roman because they only use Roman Numerals throughout. Which is almost as irritating as the art and the "stories". I keep putting that in scare quotes because they're really more like vignettes than stories, with little purpose and less interest. Seriously, it's no wonder girls don't like comics if this is the kind of drivel written for them.
"Showcase '96", No. 12, story "Roots", ©1997, DC Comics. Tom Peyer, writer; Derec Aucoin, Penciller; Martin/Branch, inkers; Adrienne Roy, colorist; Ken Brubenak, letterer.
This is the second or third time this issue has turned up. I don't know why so many people were eager to dump it, since it features a neat story about Brainiac Five, always one of my favorites. I'm a sucker for Legion stories. And for stories wherein the villain is defeated by means of hitting him over the head with a tree branch.
The second story deals with Jesse Quick, the "fastest woman alive", losing her powers because she's stressed out. Seriously. Can you imagine that story being written for a male character? Lois:"Superman, we need you to defeat Luthor!" Superman: "Sorry Lois, I'm so worried about the subprime mortgage mess, my super-powers are just pooped!"
Finally, there's a great little story about King Farraday and Sarge Steel, two characters I knew nothing about, stopping some hijackers. Dick Giordano's inks really make Stuart Immonen's story come to life (he was both penciller and writer), and the tale's a lot of fun.
"She-Hulk", Vol. 2, No. 21, ©1990, Marvel Entertainment Group. Steve Gerber and Buzz Dixon, writers; Tom Artis, guest penciller; Jim Sanders III, inker; Jim Novak, letterer; Glynnis Oliver, colorist.
This issue is a gold mine. You'll be seeing lots and lots of panels from it all week, because not only does it feature the always-slightly-ridiculous She-Hulk herself in all her muscle-bound soft-core-porn garter belts and torn clothing, but the blond-wig-wearing "Abominatrix", the incredibly silly "Captain Rectitude", and some of the best out-of-context dialog I've found yet. I don't know why John Byrne took the issue off, but I am very very happy he did.
"American Flagg", Vol. 1, No. 8, ©1984, First Comics, Inc. and Howard Chaykin, Inc. Howard Chaykin, artist and writer; Ken Bruzenak, letterer; Leslie Zahler, colorist.
I've gotten an awful lot of issues of "American Flagg" in the Great Random Comics Pile, and it's always a challenge for this particular sort of mash-up. Chaykin's dialog and visual plotting are very dense, it's hard to chisel out bits for anything else. And the weird shading he uses -- is it pencil left in place to print? -- makes copying the art difficult. The stories feature so many characters it's hard to keep track of who's who, especially when I'm reading them all out of order and sporadically, from week to week.
Having said that, I've finally plugged enough of the holes to get a sense of what the book's all about, and I can see why it made a splash in the early Eighties. It's very raw, very uncensored, very in your face. There's a lot of racial, political, and sexual content that must have been quite shocking at the time in comic-book form. Now, however, it all seems a little too much. The story's there, but it's so burdened down with the dense narration and heavy visuals that it's hard to really get into.
And people have sex with a lot of hot Nazi conspirators. I don't know if that's good or bad, but for what it's worth, there it is.
- "American Flagg", Vol. 1, No. 11, ©1984, First Comics, Inc. and Howard Chaykin, Inc. Howard Chaykin, artist and writer; Ken Bruzenak, letterer; Leslie Zahler, colorist.
"The Batman Adventures: The Lost Years", No. 5, ©1998, DC Comics. Hilary Bader, writer; Bo Hampton, penciller; Terry Beatty, inker; Rick Taylor, colorist; Tom Harkins letterer.
I have to say, I really have enjoyed this and the other "Batman Adventure" comics based on the animated series with Bruce Timm's distinctive styling. The stories are very clean, very pure, very engaging, particularly after wading through the incredibly dense and "Adult" stuff like "American Flagg". These are comics like I remember falling in love with as a kid, and if I had children I'd definitely be getting the series for them. This particular series tells the story of how Dick Grayson became Nightwing, which I'd actually never read before. It's pretty cool, featuring Dick traveling the world to find instruction from a variety of native mystically-inclined tribespeople in an effort to complete his training.
"The Alien Legion", Vol. 1, No. 1, ©1984, Carl Potts. Carl Potts, creator; Alan Zelenetz, writer; Frank Cirocco, penciller (can we please all agree on the proper way to spell penciller, please?!); Terry Austin, inker; Bob Sharen, colorist; Jim Novak, letterer.
I really like space opera, and I loved the "Legion of Super-Heroes", so this series seems like a natural fit for me. The story's pretty much what the title suggests, the French Foreign Legion in space, and it works pretty well. It has a very "Sergeant Rock" feel to it, too, which is always a good thing -- tough officers kicking butt and taking names, surly recruits being chivvied along by the veterans, and all with a nice leavening of sociopaths who chose Legion service over prison. Good stuff.
"Sergio Aragones' Groo the Wanderer", Vol. 2, No. 32, ©1987, Sergio Aragones. Sergio Aragones, art and writing; Stan Sakai, letterer; Luth & Cohen, color.
If you've never read an issue of "Groo", you really should. The epically stupid barbarian's adventures are genuinely funny, and Aragones' frenzied, busy, hectic, incredibly detailed art just really sings. Awesome book.
"The Batman and Robin Adventures", No. 17, ©1997, DC Comics. Paul Dini, story; Joe Staton, pencils; Ty Templeton, dialog; Rick Burchett, inks; Linda Medley, colors; Tim Harkins, letters.
Having just earlier sung the praises of this series, this particular issue is a bit bland. It may be that I just don't find the Mad Hatter all that interesting as a villain, but the whole storyline is just a bit too "Just So" for me. Still, there's plenty of villain-smacking goodness to go around. One thing I like about this series in general is that Robin genuinely kicks butt. He's not just a sidekick, he often is at least as effective as Batman in terms of actual combat, more than once saving his butt from the fire. It's quite different from the early days, when the Joker accurately labeled him "Robin, the Boy Hostage".
I also can't believe this is inked by Joe Staton, although his style certainly fits with an animated world. He's very much restrained here by Timm's overall style, though, that his originality doesn't really come through. Which, I have to say, is probably a good thing -- all of the work here is much better than his Green Lantern rubber-faced Corps days, or his early "E-Man" stuff. Sometimes, limits on a creative person actually help make him or her better than they would be otherwise.
- "American Flagg", Vol. 1, No. 10, ©1984, First Comics, Inc. and Howard Chaykin, Inc. Howard Chaykin, artist and writer; Ken Bruzenak, letterer; Leslie Zahler, colorist.
“The second story deals with Jesse Quick, the ‘fastest woman alive’, losing her powers because she’s stressed out. Seriously. Can you imagine that story being written for a male character?”
I can imagine it happening to Spider-Man. 😉
Touche! It just seemed like there were a lot of stereotypical “women are weak” types of stories in this batch and it was getting to me.