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.