Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Joyous Yuletide to One and All!

I'm taking a break from my traditional postings this week and next week to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season. Be back here on January 9th for more geeky goodness.  Wassail!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Podcast Round-Up

As those of you who read this blog regularly know, I have recently gotten into listening to podcasts.  I thought I'd share the list of those that I either am listening too or am going to check out, just in case you would like to take a listen for yourself.  Also, if there are any not on this this that you think I might like, please let me know.

I should point out two things.  First, these are in the order they appear on my player at the moment, not in any type of ranking.  Second, most of these contain some language that is not appropriate for the entire family.  You have been warned.

The Alton Browncast - Do you like Good Eats?  If so, this the podcast for you.  Alton Brown doesn't limit his topics to food, though.  He's talked about guitars, fashion, and other things that are of interest to him.

Fantastic Fourcast - Starting at Fantastic Four #1 and going issue by issue may seem like a herculean task, but Dave Elliot takes it on with a wry sense of humor.  These episodes are short, so you can catch up pretty quick.

From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast - Going from Man of Steel (the comic mini-series, not the movie) to Infinite Crisis, Michael Bailey and Jeffery Taylor are tackling my favorite Superman month by month.  I would recommend this to anyone interested in late '80's to '90's comics, whether or not they are a fan of Superman.

Radio Free Asgard - Tom Harris tackles my favorite super hero (you did see the name of this blog, right?) with his witty reenactments of the issues.  He also will occasionally take a bit of Norse Lore and act that out for the audience, which lends a nice background to the comic stories.

Fat Man on Batman - Kevin Smith interviews the people behind the Bat, including such greats as Paul Dini, Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, and Adam West.  Definately on the saltier side, language-wise, but worth it for the background on these people.

Taking Flight - A Robin and Nightwing Podcast?  How could I resist?  Tom Panarese has an interesting take on Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake.  If you have any interest at all on Robin or Nightwing, I would give it a listen.

The Fire & Water Podcast - Yeah, I've written about these guys before, but I'm going to do it again.  Why?  Well, it's probably because Rob and Shag have a great chemistry and do some great shows.  Not only about Firestorm and Aquaman, but also about Who's Who in the DC Universe,  the Super Powers toys, DC Superheroes Role Playing Game, and Power Records, among other things.  Give it a listen.  You'll be glad you did.

The Ninjaverse - I have only listened to one show so far, but I like the chemistry of all the guys involved.  Whether you're into movies, TV shows, video games, or other kinds of geekery, I'm sure you'll find something you'd like here.

The Unique Geek - I haven't had a chance to listen to any of these episodes yet, but since Shag (of #fwpodcast fame) is involved, it should be good.

Views from the Longbox - Michael Bailey's flag ship podcast has a little bit of everything, comics, TV, personal history, Movies, comics, Con reports, comics.  You get the idea.  Very entertaining and usually informative.  Whether Michael is going solo or has one of his frequent guest hosts, it's well worth your time.

Mission Log: A Roddenbery Star Trek Podcast - John Champion and Ken Ray are going through ALL of the Star Trek episodes and movies one by one, starting with The Cage.  Highly entertaining and very informative.  While I don't always agree with some of their conclusions about certain episodes, they will definitely give you something to think about.  I would recommend it more for people that are current Trek fans, as there is a lot of detail being thrown around that might have new fans a little confused.

Star Trek Monthly Monday - This is on my list to start listening to, I just haven't gotten a chance yet.

Star Wars Monthly Monday - Part of the Two True Freaks network, Scott Gardner and Chris Honeywell cover all things Star Wars, but my favorite part is the Marvel Comics coverage.  Highly recommended for any Star Wars fans out there.

Bailey's Batman Podcast - Michael Bailey covers various parts of the Batman universe on this show, which comes out when it comes out.  It was originally an issue by issue show, but has turned into whatever topic Michael wants to cover.  Since he does so many other podcasts, I'm pretty sure his time is at a premium and this one will be back when life let's him do it again.

Green Lantern's Light - This one is on indefinite hiatus, but Michael Bradley, Jeffrey Taylor and J. David Weter were doing a great job of examining Green Lantern from the late Bronze Age on.  I would love to see it come back, and I would recommend any Lantern fans out there give it a listen.

Tales of the Justice Society of America - Michael Bailey and Scott Gardner tackle the Justice Society.  The last episode was posted in February 2012, so I think this one is done for the foreseeable future, but it's still well worth the listen.  If anyone has an interest in Earth 2 or World War II era superheroes, I would recommend going through these episodes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thor’s Day – Thor #343

Today we’ll be looking back at a classic comic from my collection.

  Series:                                 Thor (Volume 1)
Issue:                                  343
Title:                                    “If I Should Die Before I Wake…”
Art & Story:                        Walter Simonson
Colors:                                 Christie Scheele
Lettering:                            John Workman, Jr.
Editing:                                Mark Gruenwald
Editor In Chief:                   Jim Shooter
Cover:                                 Walter Simonson

In the South Bronx Fafnir the dragon is wreaking havoc, demanding that Thor come and face him.  The Eyewitness News chopper, carrying reporter Greg Glenn, follows Fafnir and broadcasts his rampage to the city.  Glenn gives voice to the question on everyone’s mind, “Where is the Mighty Thor?”  Among those wondering is Lorelei, who is lounging in her Central Park Penthouse watching the televised reports.
Thor is in Antarctic, where we left him last time, with Eilif the Lost.  Thor tells Eilif that only Odin and the Valkyries can grant access to Valhalla, but he will take Eilif’s fate into his hands.  Thor tells him to put his armor back on and follow him.  They climb one of the peaks surrounding the valley and wait for a sign.  After half an hour Thor’s Chariot and Cloudrider, the winged horse of the hero Valkyrie, whose real name is Brunnhilde, appear so that they can ride into battle together.

In Nornheim, Karnilla broods over Balder and how he sees only death around him.  She (rightly) blames this on Loki and swears to make him pay.  Haag, her servant/counselor, chides Karnilla for mooning over “a ruined warrior” and teases her about inviting Odin to dinner.  Karnilla throws her out and thinks how she wanted Balder when he was pure and unspoiled, and whether it would be worth the effort to try and bring him back to that state.

Back in Antarctica, Thor and Eilif prepare to ride, but Eilif complains that his old age has made him worthless in a fight.  Thor doesn’t like this and asks if he seeks “A cheap seat in the halls of Valhalla”.  Eilif is shamed into rising to the challenge and Thor blesses him with renewed vigor.  The mount and are prepared to leave when they see a stranger watching them.  Eilif does all the talking (as we and Thor know that this is Odin in his guise as The Wanderer) and gets his spear blessed.

Elsewhere, the smith is reaching the end of the sword’s forging and he is ready to name it.  “… and the name is – Twilight!”

In the South Bronx, Fafnir is tearing through the city, and the National Guard, when Thor and Eilif show up, giving the dragon a hammer to the head.  Using Cloudrider and the chariot, Thor and Eilif evade or block Fafnir’s blows.

We switch back to Asgard, where Heimdall stands on Bifrost and sees a darkness coming closer.  Out of the darkness comes Muninn, returned to his normal size, injured and carrying a feather in his beak.  Heimdall turns back the chasing darkness and dreads that this means some evil is awake.  And Odin is not in Asgard to help.

Back at the battle, we have the first appearance of Chuck Cherkle, giving us a play by play for On The Spot News.  Thor and Eilif are holding their own, but not making any headway, even when Thor hits Fafnir with a blow whose force is “…felt as far away as Pennsylvania!”  Eilif diflects the dragon fire, but is knocked off of Cloudrider by Fafnir’s tail. He falls to the ground with a tremendous “CRASSHH!”  Distracted, Thor is knocked out of his chariot and knocked away by the self-same tail.  Eilif emerges from the rubble, looking pretty bad off, but driven b y his duty to Thor.  He climbs, slowly, up above the dragon, spear in hand.  He dives off, using his weight to drive the spear into Fafnir’s hide, hurting him and getting swatted away for his trouble.  Thor seizes the opportunity and uses Mjolnir to drive the spear into Fafnir’s heart, killing him instantly. 

Eilif, however, is also dead and Thor is greatly upset by it.  Thor builds a pyre out of the rubble from the battle and lays Eilif on top of it, with Fafnir at his feet, like the dogs buried/burned with Vikings of old.  He then calls the storm and uses lightning to start the fire “and the pyre erupts in glory!”  The All-Father is then glimpsed with Eilif on Cloudrider being guided to Valhalla by the Valkyries.

Thor returns to him apartment as Sigurd Jarlson and has a visitor.  Lorelei, disguised as Melodi, has stopped by to thank Sigurd for saving her life by giving him a back rub.

Where it comes from: This is pretty much a straight up fight issue, with a few sub-plots advanced.  What I’m going to focus on here, though, is the worldview of the Norse when it comes to death.  There are basically three places that the dead go.  The most well-known is Valhalla, where the heroes of battle, such as Eilif, are taken to fight all day and feast all night.  This is a place of warriors and it is meant to gather an army to fight on the side of the Aesir during Ragnarok.  Another destination is Niffleheim, the primordial realm of ice.  This is where the dishonored dead; the murderers, oath-breakers and outlaws; go to have Nidhogg, who we’ve seen before, devour them.  The last place would be Hel, or Helheim, which is where everyone else goes.  I discussed Valhalla and Hel last time, so I won’t get into it again.

I would like to define some terms, though, for the non-Heathens out there.  In the Norse world-view, a “murderer” is someone who kills another human and does not take credit for it.  If you refuse this responsibility, there is no way retribution, be it wergild or some other punishment, could be rightfully leveled by the family of the deceased.  An oath-breaker is obviously someone who has gone back on their word, but when that is what holds the fabric of society together, it is a tremendous crime.  Lastly, when I refer to an “outlaw”, I don’t mean a Robin Hood type.  I mean Utgard, or outsider.  Someone who, for whatever reason, has been cast out or the tribe and is no longer considered a person.  What I mean by that is they can be killed without any retribution being taken on the killer or killer’s family.  They are called, and treated like, a wolf.

Next time we find out whatever happened to Balder the Brave.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thor’s Day – Thor #342

Today we’ll be looking back at a classic comic from my collection.

Series:                               Thor (Volume 1)
Issue:                                 342
Title:                                  “The Last Viking”
Pencils & Story:                Walter Simonson
Inks:                                   Terry Austin
Colors:                               Christie Scheele
Lettering:                           John Workman, Jr.
Editing:                               Mark Gruenwald
Editor In Chief:                  Jim Shooter
Cover:                                Walter Simonson

In Asgard we see the glittering halls of Valhalla, where the honored dead are taken by the Valkyries.  As is his habit, Odin is in attendance, toasting the heroes, but he is apprehensive as he feels a great confrontation is approaching.  The woman Saga brings him his refilled cup and she comments on Odin being distracted.  He explains that he feels that the only remaining empty seat in the hall is about to be filled, but he doesn’t know precisely what that will lead to.

In Manhattan, Thor is still on the destroyed construction site in his Sigurd Jarlson guise.  He muses with Jerry, the foreman, about Thor being back in New York when he had moved to Chicago.  They are interrupted by a worker who tells Sigurd that the lady he rescued is asking to see him.  She is on a gurney, ready to be placed in the ambulance.  They have a brief moment where she promises to repay him for her rescue.  Sigurd leaves after the ambulance leaves and changes into Thor, ready to investigate the voice that he has now heard calling for him three times.

Returning to the smith, we see him standing before a vast assemblage of beings and he calls for silence.  Using the sword, which nears completion, he banishes the darkness that is hiding Hugin and Munin.  He strikes at them, saying “Let this, then, be the first blow against the power of Asgard!”  Yet again, “Doom!” rings out.

On Earth, Thor has travelled all the way to Antarctica, where he finds a hidden valley, heated by volcanic vents, where there is an old Viking village among green fields.  He investigates and, while there are no people in sight, there is a fresh, but cool, pot of soup.  He continues on and finds a Viking grave yard, where all of the stone ships are pointing to a cave entrance.  Thor enters and is immediately caught in a spear trap when a door slams shut behind him.

In the woods of Nornheim, Balder has set up camp for the night when a stranger asks for hospitality.  This stranger turns out to be Karnilla and she provides him with provisions as well as an offer to seek her out should he ever need a friend.

Back in Antarctica, Thor avoids a series of traps and eventually meets an armored warrior.  The foe throws his spear at Thor and misses.  Thor takes him down with a single blow of Mjolnir and removes his helmet, and is shocked by what he finds.

Elsewhere, Fafnir realizes his mistake of fleeing before Thor, since he wasn’t really being hurt.  The dragon bursts from his hiding place below the river and demands that Thor be brought to him.  Across town Lorelei is brewing a love potion that, once Thor has drunk it, “…will insure that he’ll never think of anyone else again.”

Thor has revealed an old man, Eilif the Lost, in the armor.  After Thor carries Eilif out of the caves, we get the story of how he happened to be there.  Eilif’s ancestors we part of King Harald Hardraada’s army, which invaded England in 1066.  After their defeat, they fled in long ships, which were scattered by a storm.  One ship managed to make it as far South as Antarctica, sailing into a fiord that ended in a cave, which led to the valley that Thor first arrived in.  The ship was wrecked on a submerged rock and the survivors settled in the valley, building the village and turning the cave system into a training ground for warriors.  Eilif was the last chieftain of the tribe and, now that he is old and alone, he wished to call on Thor and die in battle.  He put Thor through the traps to enrage him so that he wouldn’t look too close at his opponent.  Thor claims Eilif’s life as his own and refuses to let him into Valhalla by treachery.

Where it comes from: I find it rather obvious from this issue that Mr. Simonson was (and possibly still is) unaware of Ásatrú, or Norse Paganism, which has been around in the United States since the 1970’s.  By placing Eilif in the role of “The Last Viking”, and by stating that Thor hasn’t heard this call in many years, it is implied that there are no worshipers of the Norse Gods in the Marvel Universe.  I find that pretty hard to believe, since Thor and Hercules are obviously real in that universe, that there wouldn’t be any Pagan groups worshiping those Gods.  Heck, Superman inspired a religion in DC, and he isn’t even a God.

King Harald was the king of Norway for 20 years (1046 to 1066).  He invaded England in 1066 in an attempt to take the throne from King Harold Godwinson in September of 1066, but was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.  After this victory, Harold Godwinson had to force march South to meet the forces of William of Normandy.  Many attribute Harald Hardraada’s invasion with ensuring that the Norman invasion of England was a success.  Harald did bring women and children along with his army, so Eilif’s ancestors could have made a life in that valley for 900+ years.  The family tree, however, would have resembled a trunk and the amount of recessive genetic problems that would have resulted from so much inbreeding probably account for a single old man being the only survivor.

I should point out that Valhalla is not the end-all, be-all of the Norse afterlife.  Many Heathens, then and now, would not have died in battle and, therefore, not have had the opportunity to go to join the Einherjar.  Most of the dead would simply journey to Hel and join their ancestors, where death continues pretty much how life did.  In fact, the fighting all day and feasting all night aspect of Valhalla would seem to some, myself included, to be much less desirable than being reunited with their family and watching over their decendants.

Next time the final fate of Eilif and Fafnir.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

More Thankfulness

I would like to wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving.  I am still thankful for everything that I was two years ago, but now I have something else to be thankful for.  Less than one week ago my family purchased a home.  No more renting, no more moving around.  We have finally put down roots and I intend to be in this house for a good long time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Comic Collecting - What Does It Mean?

Rather an odd question, coming from someone who has collected comics for 30+ years, but I have a reason for asking.  You see, I have always gotten comics for one reason, because I like the stories.  I like reading comics.  Recently, though, I have heard that there are some people out there that buy comics and don't read them.  I don't get that.  Saying something like, "I've got a complete run of <insert character> but I've never read them" makes me say:
It just doesn't add up for me.  Is that what collecting really is?  Have I been doing it wrong for all these years?  What do you think?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Short Review of Thor: The Dark World

My family went to see Thor: The Dark World this past weekend and, on the whole, I thought it was really good.  I did have a couple of issues with it (such as how things in a continuous fall didn't reach terminal velocity) but nothing that threw me out of the movie.  I had a good time watching it and I think it fit nicely into the Marvel Studios Universe.

Probably the best way to sum it up was through my 5 year old daughter's reaction to the final battle.  "Daddy, that was awesome!"

If you liked the first movie and/or Avengers, I would highly recommend it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thor’s Day – Thor #341

Today we’ll be looking back at a classic comic from my collection.
Series:                                Thor (Volume 1)
Issue:                                  341
Title:                                   “The Past is a Bucket of Ashes”
Art & Story:                       Walter Simonson
Colors:                                George Roussos
Lettering:                           John Workman, Jr.
Editing:                               Mark Gruenwald
Editor In Chief:                  Jim Shooter
Cover:                                Walter Simonson

This issue opens with Thor flying high above New York City and musing that it feels like he’s come home, even though he isn’t Donald Blake any more.  Thor lands at Avengers’ Mansion where he is greeted by a couple of punk, and I mean clothing style, girls.  They ask his why he doesn’t trade his long hair for a Mohawk, to which he responds, “…were I to cut my hair, my helmet would fall off.”  The next panels were blank in the original comic due to what they would have shown.  In Thor 342 these panels were printed in the letters page, showing Thor and the Avengers racing to Central Park to get caught up in the Secret Wars.

We cut to a subway station “…where even the cops don’t go alone.”  Lorelei, having just gotten off the train, is accosted by two young men.  She persuades them that if they fight, she might go home with the winner.  She walks away from the fight and into a disused tunnel.  Here she finds the dragon from the end of the last issue and tries to use her persuasion powers on him.  This backfires, however, as dragons have more power in this area than she does and she quickly falls under his spell.

Weeks go by and we find Thor arriving at S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters to ask for help in creating a civilian identity.  Thor is interrupted when he hears someone call his name like they used to a thousand years ago.  He shakes this off and Nick Fury introduces him to The Costumer.  What this disguise expert comes up with is Thor in a ponytail, t-shirt and jeans.  Fury gives Thor a pair of glasses to complete the look, which Thor isn’t all that sure of.  As they exit Fury’s office, Thor accidently knocks over a reporter named Clark who, as he fixes his glasses, thinks Thor looks familiar, but dismisses it.

Back in Asgard, Odin summons Hugin and Munin, his ravens, so that they might fly into the demons’ domain and see where they came from.  He carves runes onto their feet and they grow to massive size.

On Earth, Thor, in his new identity of Sigurd Jarlson, applies for a construction job with Nick Fury’s cousin.  The application process is interrupted when someone discovers a woman tied to the crane’s hook about 10 stories above the ground.  Thor leaps into action and scurries up the half complete building as the ground starts to shake and the crane begins to topple.  Thor catches the woman and hits the ground just as the dragon, which recognizes him, bursts from the river and collapses the building on top of Thor and the woman.

In space, the sword is progressing.  The smith calls on “the dark elf” and commands him to seek out the second son of Odin.  A voice responds from the void, “I will.”

As the building is falling around them, Thor takes out Mjolnir, which he had been carrying in a bag, and creates a void in the rubble.  He places the woman down and strikes Mjolnir on the ground, changing his clothes into his costume.  Thor attacks the dragon, who we find out is Fafnir, former king of Nastrond, who Thor had buried deep in the earth ages ago.

We cut again to Asgard, where Volstagg is searching for Balder, who is in the process of leaving Asgard as any company, no matter how friendly, has become a burden to him.  Since Agnar’s attack in Thor 338, Balder has made up his mind to lose himself in the wilderness.  Luckily, he thought to stock is larder to delay Volstagg and make good his escape.  This is all observed, through a scrying device, by Karnilla, the Norn Queen, who wishes to take Balder as her consort.

Back on Earth, Thor calls down the storm to put out the fire that Fafnir has started.  The dragon, however, panics as this reminds him of how Thor beat him previously.  Fafnir digs down and escapes into an old subway tunnel and breaking from that into the river.  The water rushes in and keeps Thor from pursuing.  He does muse on how it is fortunate that Fafnir ran, as Thor could barely hurt him, even with his strongest blow.  All of this is being watched by Loki in his hall, where he reveals that the woman Thor saved was, in fact, Lorelei.  He also states that it was worth his life “…just to see <Thor> wearing a ponytail!”

Thor, back in his disguise as Sigurd Jarlson, digs Lorelei out and is hired by Jerry, the site foreman.  Lorelei briefly wakes up, notices she has a rescuer and then falls back asleep.  Thor, meanwhile, hears the voice calling him again and this time he vows to find its source.

Where it comes from: Fafnir is best known from the Völsunga saga, and Wagner’s Ring Trilogy which is based on that saga.  A greedy dwarf, Fafnir killed his father to obtain the cursed wergild that Odin had paid the family for the death of Fafnir’s brother, Otter.  Fafnir then transformed himself into a dragon to guard his treasure, but was later killed by the hero Sigurd.  In the Marvel Universe, Fafnir was the ruler of the wicked kingdom of Nastrond.  Odin destroyed the kingdom, leaving Fafnir to die in the remaining wasteland.  Fafnir, however, drank water from an enchanted spring that changed him into a vengeful dragon that Thor eventually defeated, trapping him until he was released in Thor 339.

Karnilla is a character made up for the Marvel Universe way back in 1964.  She has been an enemy of Asgard since the beginning, but her infatuation with Balder has usually kept her from succeeding in her schemes, even when teamed with Loki.  She will begin to play a much larger part in Balder’s life very shortly.

This would not be the last time Simonson had a connection to the reporter in the blue suit.  In 1992 he wrote and illustrated Superman Special #1, which was a retelling of a Silver Age story.  In 1999 he wrote Superman: Last God of Krypton and then in 2007 he drew Superman #666.

Next time Thor meets a Viking and we visit Valhalla

Thursday, October 31, 2013

This is Halloween

Yeah, I could get back to Thor's Day today, but it's October 31st, so how about a musical interlude instead?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

William Hootkins – The Kevin Bacon of Geekdom

I have recently caught up on From Crisis To Crisis: A Superman Podcast, and I’m catching up on Views From The Longbox, and Michael Bailey has mentioned William Hootkins a few times for playing roles in many of geekdom’s biggest franchises.  Here’s a breakdown of them:

1977 – Star Wars
Porkins - The ill-fated Red 6 
1980 – Flash Gordon
Munson - Zarkov's Assistant
1981 – Raiders of the Lost Ark
Major Eaton - Confident in the country's "Top Men"

1987 – Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Harry Howler – The guy that executes Luthor’s plans to create Nuclear Man

1989 – Batman
Lt. Eckhardt – The corrupt cop that gets what he deserves
So what do we have here?  George Lucas’ biggest success story, a huge Spielberg/Lucas collaboration, a cult classic (that my wife can’t stand for some reason), the movie that relaunched one of DC’s iconic figures, and … well we’ll skip that last one, shall we?  All of these movies have big names in them and most of those cross over into other franchises.  And we’re not even talking about some of the voice or TV work the man did.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Did Earth 2 Aquaman Exist?

On the latest Fire and Water Podcast, there was a “Nerd Fight” between Rob and Shag over whether or not there was an Aquaman on Earth 2.  I’m going to look at the evidence and see what conclusions we can draw.

First some background.  Before 1985, DC Comics existed in a Multiverse.  Earth 1 was the primary universe where the Justice League of America resided.  Earth 2 was a slightly different universe where the Justice Society of America existed.  Earth 2 had many of the same, or similar, heroes as Earth 1, but this was based in the Golden Age.  For example, the Earth 1 Flash as Barry Allen, a police scientist in Central City while the Earth 2 Flash, on the other hand, was Jay Garrick, a research scientist in Keystone City.  Another example is Superman of Earth 1 was Kal-El while Superman of Earth 2 was Kal-L, but there were essentially the same person.  The first appearance of Earth 2 was in the famous 1961 story “The Flash of Two Worlds.”  Prior to that, the Golden Age heroes were not acknowledged by DC since its Silver Age reboot.

Let’s look at the 5 heroes that were continuously published, not necessarily in their own series, since the Golden Age:

Time Period
Group Affiliations
Golden Age
Rocketed to Earth from Krypton & raised by the Kents.  Became Superman after their deaths.
Justice Society,
All Star Squadron

Silver Age
Rocketed to Earth from Krypton & raised by the Kents.  Became Superboy in his teens and Superman in college.
Justice League
Batman (or Bat-Man)
Golden Age
Parents killed by a mugger.  Trained for years to become a vigilante.
Justice Society,
All Star Squadron

Silver Age
Parents killed by a mugger.  Trained for years to become a vigilante.
Justice League
Wonder Woman
Golden Age
Princess of the Amazons, formed out of clay by her mother and granted life by the gods.
Justice Society,
All Star Squadron

Silver Age
Princess of the Amazons, formed out of clay by her mother and granted life by the gods.
Justice League
Green Arrow
Golden Age
Grew up next to an American Indian reservation & emulated their lifestyle, including the use of the bow and arrow.
Justice Society,
All Star Squadron

Silver Age
Son of a rich family.  Stranded on an island and had to learn to use a hand-made bow and arrow to survive.
Justice League
Golden Age
Son of a scientist who experimented on him to give him the ability to speak to fish and breath underwater.

Silver Age
Son of the Queen of Atlantis and a human lighthouse keeper.
Justice League

As we can see, Wonder Woman and Batman have pretty much the same origin in both the Golden and Silver Ages.  Superman, except for when he started using his powers, is pretty much the same.  Green Arrow and Aquaman, however, are quite different between the two ages.  This was explained with Green Arrow, once the Earth 2 concept came about, to be because they were actually two different people, but nothing was said regarding Aquaman.  In the Silver and Bronze Ages there were a number of crossovers between the various Earths, the most famous being the Justice League meeting up with the Justice Society for the Crisis du jour.  Most of the counterparts were there, but not Aquaman.

In fact, there are only 5 comics that had the Earth 2 Aquaman.  The first is Secret Origins #7 from 1974.  While this issue has Aquaman with green gloves, as opposed to the yellow gloves worn in the golden age, it is a reprinting of his origin from More Fun Comics #73 from 1941, which is solidly in the Golden Age and Aquaman’s first appearance.  The next two issues only feature Aquaman in relation to other speaking about him.  In All-Star Squadron #31 and All-Star Squadron #53 it is explained that Aquaman is out at sea and can’t be reached, which fits right in with all of his Golden Age adventures.  In the Golden Age, or on Earth 2 if you wish, Aquaman was primarily concerned with stopping modern day pirates and smugglers.

The last appearance of the Earth 2 Aquaman is probably the most solid piece of evidence, and that would be in All-Star Squadron #59 and All-Star Squadron #60 from 1986.  In issue 59, Aquaman finally makes it to the headquarters of the Squadron and makes a joke about his lack of attendance.  In issue 60, Aquaman stands with Superman, Batman & Robin and Wonder Woman in the front of a group picture of the Squadron, but as this is where the Crisis on Infinite Earths took effect, he and the other duplicate heroes are wiped out of that history, since all the Earths were merged into one timeline.

I am by no means a comic book historian, and I’m sure that there will be some out there who will refute the conclusion I have come to, but I think that all the evidence points to there being an Earth 2 Aquaman, even if he didn’t show up in the stories much.  The amount of time is spent in the pages of any Earth 2 based comic, or when those issues were chronologically, don’t matter.  What does matter is that he was there, on Earth 2, in a book published by DC.  Therefore, even though some may not like it, I have to conclude that there was an Aquaman on Earth 2 that was separate and distinct from the one on Earth 1.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mishandling Clark Kent

Since the last issue was the end of the Beta Ray Bill story, we're taking a break from Thor this week to deal with one of my pet peeves with Superman, specifically live action adaptations.  Especially after the Reeve movies, they treat Clark Kent as Superman with glasses.  If that's the case, anyone who didn't see through it would be a complete idiot.  "Lois Lane, how dumb was she?"  I think Lois and Clark and Superman: The Animated Series were the worst offenders, at least that I can remember.

Here are some examples:

Lois and Clark - Someone finds out Clark's secret and Dean Cain doesn't do anything differently.  No voice shift, stance shift, nothing.

Same thing here.  The only difference is clothing, nothing else.

Now here are some examples of how the difference should be handled:

This one of the classic Fleischer cartoons shows Superman and Clark to be two different people, right down to the voice.

Of course the best example of this is the late, great Christopher Reeve.  The way he played the part, it would be extremely difficult for anyone to even consider that Superman and Clark Kent were the same person.  Different height, voice, mannerisms, everything.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thor’s Day – Thor #340

Today we’ll be looking back at a classic comic from my collection.
Series:                               Thor (Volume 1)
Issue:                                 340
Title:                                 “Though Hel Should Bar The Way”
Art & Story:                      Walter Simonson
Colors:                              George Roussos
Lettering:                          John Workman, Jr.
Editing:                              Mark Gruenwald
Editor In Chief:                 Jim Shooter
Cover:                               Walter Simonson

Out in space, Thor, Bill and Sif are flying down the line of ships where Bill’s people lay in cold sleep.  As they approach the end of this line they see that the demons have overtaken the last ship and are tearing it apart.  Sif jumps out of the chariot to defend the fleet and tells Thor and Bill to continue to the source of the demons while she defends the fleet.  Knowing that she is right, they obey and find a giant construct over the core of Bill’s galaxy.  Thor and Bill are attacked by the demons and we cut away. 

The giant is still forging a sword, and not it looks more like a sword, out of the star.  With each blow ringing “Doom”, monsters are awaking on earth.

Sif is fighting a losing battle as the number of demons attacking her continues to increase.  As a wave of them threatens to overwhelm her, they are hit by a broadside from the now repaired Skuttlebutt.  Sif boards the ship and they race away, trying to lead the demons away from the fleet and give Thor & Bill time to finish their task.

Back in Asgard we are treated to more of Balder’s story, as related by Volstagg to Agnar.  We are told of how Balder, once Asgard’s mightiest warrior, saw Nidhogg consuming the souls of cowards.  Among those souls are the warriors that Balder had slain over the course of his many battles, which drove him to reject his past life.  Volstagg gets off of Agnar and brushes him off, telling him that most of the Asgardians might forgive him if something were to happen to Balder, but there is one who would not.  Hogun the Grim “…would never forget … or forgive.”

Back in Bill’s galaxy, Thor and Bill position themselves on each side of the gateway.  The each aim at its center and throw their hammers, causing them to collide and destroy the structure.  Meanwhile, Sif and Skuttlebutt are losing their battle.  They decide that Skuttlebutt should self-destruct, killing as many of the demons as possible.  Just as the countdown begins, and a wave of demons overwhelms them, the demons disappear.  Sif realizes that Thor and Bill must have been successful and they have a talk while waiting for the boys to get back.

We then cut to a penthouse overlooking Central Park in New York City.  Lorelei and Loki are having a conversation regarding how Lorelei will try and seduce Thor on his return to Earth.  She asks the trickster what reward he will get out of helping her.  He responds, “It will amuse me greatly.”

Back at Asgard, the victorious warriors return to a cheering crowd.  As Bill and Thor refresh themselves, Odin and Sif have a private talk, where she reveals that Bill went through much more than he told them.  It turns out that there was a contest held to determine who would be the guardian.  Bill won out over thousands of others, then he and the rest of those determined to be physically strongest went through psychological examinations “…that left most of them dead or insane!”  The remaining candidates were put through tremendous pain when they were physically transformed into the hybrid warrior.  The only one to survive the entire process, which is irreversible, was Bill.  His new form was so hideous to his people that they could hardly bear the sight of him.  However, he would do it all over again in order to protect his people.  Odin takes all this into consideration.

At the feast later, Odin calls Thor and Bill up to the high table.  Odin makes a speech and asks them to cross their hammers.  He then performs an incantation, after which he instructs Bill to strike Stormbreaker on the ground.  Bill does and is changed back into his original form and Stormbreaker becomes a cane.  Thor realizes what has happened and that his ability to change into Donald Blake has been transferred to Bill.  Bill returns to his people and Sif, who has been restless, goes with him.  Thor and Odin discuss whether the original contest for Mjolnir was rigged, and Odin dances around an answer.

Back on Earth, a monster comes out of the sea and breaks an oil tanker in half.  The beast swears vengeance on Odin, saying “The life of your son is forfeit.”

Where it comes from: Let me get this out of the way first.  Walter Simonson, THANK YOU for getting rid of Donald Blake.  I realize that the concept served a purpose, but I never liked how Thor, mightiest warrior of Asgard, had such a huge restriction placed on him.  It was even worse that Kryptonite, really.  If he didn't touch his hammer within 60 second, he turned into a lame (and I mean the physical here) mortal.  How Blake wasn't killed in the 20+ years since his introduction I have no idea.  Getting rid of that part of the comics lets it get into some really sweeping storytelling that didn't require Thor to return to Earth every X days in order to see his patients.

One of the problems I have in this issue is with the use of Nidhogg.  While I agree with his eating the souls of cowards, I don’t agree with him being used to devour the souls of Balder’s foes.  If they were his foes in battle, then they were only cowards if they ran, but the inference here is that Balder killed them.  They shouldn’t be anywhere near Nidhogg, then, since they had an honorable death.  I think this story is just trying to shoehorn Hell into Hel.  The Germanic afterlife is not about bliss vs. torture, it is about continuing on after death and looking after your family still living.  Just because a warrior opposed Balder doesn't mean they should be tortured.  That is reserved for cowards and oath breakers.

Something else I’d like to get out of my system is the use of Midgard = Earth.  I have written before on how I read Midgard as being the dimension that contains Earth, not Earth itself.  The use in the comics, though, is that Midgard is Earth and only Earth.  While this works for kids, such as me when I discovered Thor, it’s a little too simplistic, and human-centric, for my Heathen sensibilities.  I’m pretty sure that in a universe that is known to have life on other planets, the Gods would have an interest in more than one world.  Earth may be where Bifrost opens, hence it is more important, but it wouldn't be the only place that Odin had his eye on.

Next time Thor fights a dragon, gets a new secret identity and runs into a red and blue clad boy scout.