Category Archives: DC Comics

Dream Come True (Part 1)

midsummersnightmareGreetings, Legions of the Unspoken! It is I, your loyal Symbifan, back with the first installment of my newest article just in time for my birthday! And what better way to celebrate than to share my passion with you, the readers, for the timeless DC classic Justice League: A Midsummer’s Nightmare?! No better way! So, without further ado….

rco009_1467648953Our tale begins with recent Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, taking a break from writing/drawing a new page for his assigned comic book project. He seems to be having some difficulty deciding exactly which direction he wants to take with his story. And I mean, who can blame him with a lame character name like….Green Lantern?! Wait! Whaaaaaat?! (Sorry, Family Guy moment!) Anyway, he becomes discouraged and decides to go out for a cup of coffee. While his editor is blowing up his answering machine in his apartment, he meets up with a friendly neighbor lady and talks about his slump. They both enter the coffee shop, purchase their drinks, and say their goodbyes as she leaves for work. It’s a pretty typical day until she shoots off into the air and shapeshifts into a bird to join the hundreds of other flying people milling about their average work days! (Insert Twilight Zone music here!)

We then cut scene to The Daily Planet where reporter Clark Kent, sporting a stylish ponytail (What do ya want? It was the 90’s!), is currently enduring a lecture his from publisher, Perry White, about his work on a recent article about superpowered people (AKA “metahumans” to you Marvel mutant nuts). As Perry gets frustrated and storms off, Clark admits to a co-worker that he actually requests these types of stories, but when he attempts to write them, they seem less “real” to him.

RCO012_w_1467648953_kindlephoto-11141688At that moment, another co-worker enters with a gift for Perry, a paperweight. This is when Clark panics as the rock strikes a stunning resemblance to kryptonite! He quickly excuses himself and bolts though the office. As he make his escape, he hears several names spoken in other conversations that seem familiar to him. The readers know them to be the secret identities of some of DC’s other costumed adventurers. As he ponders what this means, we once again cut scene, this time to Wayne Manor.

RCO014_1467648953_kindlephoto-16583370This scene begins with Bruce Wayne reading the local newspaper and looking rather distressed. His assistant, Lucius Fox, senses his boss’s distress and exclaims that this must be due to the front page story about a bad business deal Wayne Enterprises was recently involved in. Wayne shows little interest in this and shows Lucius the back story about a recent horrific murder in the fair city of Gotham. (Big surprise, right?!) Bruce then orders his assistant to cut a check to make sure the survivor of the crime (A boy named Jason Todd! Cool huh?! I mean, huge fan of the Red Hood right here! There was this one time…..oh yeah, the article! Sorry! So embarrassing…..) want for nothing for the rest of his days. Lucius then remarks that Wayne can’t save everyone that has been a victim of a violent crime. To which Bruce replies in what I’m guessing is his dark and terrifying “Batman voice,” “Yes Lucius. I can.”

We are next transported to a scene of great danger and panic. A red-garbed figure streaks through an inferno at speeds so great that lightning follows him! As he runs, he thinks about how he is too late but doesn’t remember what for. He also thinks that there should be others with him. Who? He thinks he spies another in the flashing energy. He reaches out. This is when Wally West wakes up for school. Late again for class. What a slowpoke, he thinks.

RCO019_1467648953_kindlephoto-17448482I bet you “wonder” who’s next! (See what I did there? I just gave you a clue. Okay. Bad joke. Um….moving on.) We now find ourselves at the Themyscira School for Girls. The students are in the process of playing tug-of-war with a large rope, overseen by Headmistress Diana Prince. As the game begins, one girl pulls so hard that literally all of the other students are thrown as if the weighed no more collectively than a feather! Yes. They have a metahuman in their midst.

RCO022_w_1467648953 (1)_kindlephoto-33518579The girl, obviously frightened at the large mutated arm that has just replaced her average one, panics and smashes it through a tree! Diana, without thinking, flips through the air and blocks all of the girls from the onslaught of splinters with her bracelets! She then lassos the girl with the rope and forces her to calm down. Afterward, both headmistress and student both recover from the incident, utterly confused.

Meanwhile, in the boardroom of the Red Tide Tuna Company, (Anyone else think this company is in desperate need of a name change?!) the members of the board discuss their Vice President of Environmental Concerns, Arthur Curry. There’s a catty back and forth about how Arthur was only appointed his job and title to save the company from an inevitable lawsuit. It seems Arthur had lost a hand while working for the company.

RCO025_1467648953_kindlephoto-37120101While this juvenile exchange is taking place, Arthur’s chair is of course empty. He is still within his office. He knows how they feel about him. What a joke he is to them. While deep in thought, he looks out his office window and sees the large groups of environmental protesters. He thinks about how he, in actuality, belongs with them.

We now set our sights upon the red planet of the Milky Way Galaxy. That’s right, Mars. But it seems as if this barren and uninhabited wasteland is anything but as a Martian child is pictured running down the red dunes toward her mother. The child exclaims that she was told today in a learning ceremony that there may just be life on other planets. She then asks if such a thing could be possible and if her father believed this.

RCO027_1467648953_kindlephoto-37213557That’s when her father scoops her up in his arms with a smile and replies that he only believed in what he could see or touch but that it mattered little to him as long as these “aliens” never interfered with his happy life. (All I can say is, Martians need to invent a little something called….clothes! I mean, the red strap over the chest hardly hides anything! Have some shame, people!)

RCO028_1467648953_kindlephoto-71064149Meanwhile, we see a purple-haired, yet pixelated (You read that right. Pixelated! As if having purple hair isn’t enough!) man strolls right past what seems to be military guards in a presumably secret compound. He walks between the guards without notice and, in fact, right through the door as if he were a ghostly apparition! He descends the stairs beyond where a male in a helmet resembling a skull and tattered clothing sits. He is strapped to a high-tech chair in heavy restraints. The purple-haired man speaks with a smile to the prisoner about how the appearance of metahumans coming into their power is on the rise. He then asks what the strange captive has to say about this. The trapped man cries out in pain as if in reply.

RCO032_1467648953_kindlephoto-71150222We then rejoin reporter Clark Kent as he is finding cover during a metahuman battle in the center of Metropolis to record his thoughts into a handheld tape recorder. The carnage is truly epic as the two superpowered gangs tear up the city, putting countless civilians into harm’s way. While the battle reaches its height, a stray energy blast from one of the attackers hits the large golden globe above the Daily Planet building! As the landmark explodes into shrapnel, Clark has a flashback of another time. Of another life. He leaps into action, saving several civilians. The rubble narrowly misses them. An onlooker, seeking to save the hero, starts lifting a piece of the building’s wreckage. He finds no one because Clark has taken to the skies!

We then reenter the home of Bruce Wayne. As Bruce watches the news with obvious disgust, his parents enter the room! (Okay, DC! Now you’ve gone too far! That’s right, folks! The parents of Bruce Wayne are alive and well! Has the world gone utterly mad?! Has it?!! I’m sorry, but my mind is officially blown! Excuse me a moment while I take my meds…..)

RCO040_1467648953_kindlephoto-89388935(Okay. I’m back and feeling like my old Symbifan self. Continuing on….) His parents, completely unaware of Bruce’s shock, blather on and on about how he should give up his charity, travel the world, and basically enjoy his fortune. It’s then that his mother unknowingly snags her pearl necklace on the statue of a bat-like creature within the study. As she lifts her head, the necklace snaps and pearls fall everywhere. That’s when Bruce Wayne remembers and starts to wake up. He immediately starts looking for the secret entrance into the Bat Cave behind an old father clock. He finds nothing! He then turns and sees the awe-inspiring form of the Man of Steel hovering there in full costume! He tells Wayne to wake up. That he believes in him.

RCO042_1467648953_kindlephoto-89460374But before Bruce can say much in reply, a group of metahuman looters scale the gate to Wayne Manor, looking for an easy score! They picked the wrong mansion! Superman rushes out and easily dispatches of these young upstarts until one meta, in invisible form, tries to sneak up the Last Son of Krypton.

RCO047_1467648953_kindlephoto-89534572Before Superman can react however, a Batarang cracks the hoodlum in his see-through skull! The Batman has officially returned! (Time for a “World’s Finest” team-up, y’all!) The two speak seriously on the state of this nightmare of a world. It is decided that if they’re going to triumph this time, there going to need help.

End part one.

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Cut to the Chase by Emily Scott

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken! Emily Scott here with yet another tantalizing round of telling you about a comic that never got to fully explore its potential! Come one, come all and gather ’round to gasp at the abandoned character development! Marvel at the missing resolutions! And if you’re very brave, try your hand at wildly speculating where the unexplored plot points would have eventually lead!

I kid, but as the links demonstrate, a lot of interesting and worthwhile comics never got the chance see how good they could really get, and each one makes me a little sad and wistful, even as I’m simultaneously glad I got to discover them at all. As fans of, say, Firefly or The Clash will tell you (whether you want them to or not), it can be rough to contemplate what might have been with any art that speaks to you, but as the links also demonstrate, good art goes away abruptly all the time, and there’s no use being histrionic or too sentimental about it. Sometimes you read a fun comic, and then there isn’t any more of it, and it’s a bummer. Such is the case here. So without further ado and sans the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, let’s cut right to the Chase. (You knew that was coming. Hell, I made it the title of the article.)

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Anyone else really want to know what Martian Manhunter is watching?

Chase, a DC comic published from the beginning to not quite the end of 1998, follows one Cameron Chase, a rookie agent with the Department of Extranormal Operations. (Its name calls to my mind the opposite of what it’s meant to. I picture of bunch of agents in suits investigating, like, really normal things. EXTRA normal things.) Its ten issues, mostly written by Dan Curtis Johnson, drawn by J. H. Williams III, and inked by Mick Gray, paint a character who feels very of her time but also slightly ahead of it.

Chase is cynical but determined, brave and unafraid to take action, but flawed in more than enough believable ways to keep her far away from fulfilling any Strong Female tropes. She might not feel quite as novel a character in a time when even non-comic readers know the name Jessica Jones, but in 1998 there was a dearth of female characters in any medium written complexly enough to wear their strengths and their weaknesses equally well, and there’s still one now. I may have gotten some 90s nostalgia reading Chase, but there’s not much about it that couldn’t have just been written today and still feel pretty fresh.

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Someone getting kneed in the groin never goes out of style as a reliable source of comedy.

There also aren’t a ton of characters who can slot right in to as many different settings as Chase can, but that’s one of the benefits of a perpetually put out character. She feels just as natural rolling her eyes at Batman or scoffing at the Teen Titans as she does sneering at weird mystical creatures or quipping at an Artificial Intelligence. Her scorn makes her feel relatable in unrelatable situations, where you could see why a detachment from her surroundings would make her a top notch investigator. She has a disdain for the superhero (pardon me, metahuman) world in particular, and her choice to inhabit that world anyway and the ways in which she belongs there more than she knows seemed as though they would have been pivotal emotional conflicts had the title continued.

chase-ny
I am retroactively sad for 15-year-old me that Vampires of Angst is not a real band.

Chase’s first mission finds her in Ohio investigating a case that would fit right into today’s world (well, today’s world if people had superpowers). Jerry, a high school kid sick of getting picked on by a chadbro actually named Chad, is set off by the sight of his crush with his tormentor and unleashes a pyrokinetic blast. Chase and her handler, Agent Sandra Barrett, track Jerry down, and Barrett tells him he will be sent to a training facility for “talented” youth, a decision that does not sit well with Chase. (This is another conflict that seems like it also would have been expanded on in further issues had there been more. There are references to a list generated by standardized testing used to identify children who likely have powers, and in a later issue, you see a newspaper with the headline “Govt. kidnapping super kids!”)

Chad ends up dying from his injuries, and the town shows up to Jerry’s cell out for his blood. Jerry escapes with another pyrokinetic blast, and Chase finds him by correctly guessing that he is heading for his crush’s house. Before Jerry can do any more damage with his abilities, something inside Chase reaches out and dampens Jerry’s fire. Chase decides not to tell anyone how she was able to counteract his powers, considering she is still new to the DEO, has already had an ideological disagreement with how they handle metahumans on her first mission, and has wholly negative feelings about those with powers anyway. And, you know, shadowy government agencies, real or fictional, don’t always have the best track record at handling things they don’t understand particularly well. So probably a good call on her part.

Chase’s next mission sends her off to South America to investigate an Artificial Intelligence called the Construct that had taken up residence in a temple and was a day away from taking over the world’s computer network when the Justice League shut it down. Amanda Waller informs Chase that there is still a heat output in the temple and sends her to investigate with, you guessed it, the Suicide Squad!

chase-and-suicide-squad-besties
This panel tells you just about everything you need to know about how well they work together.

The mission goes about as well as you would expect, with the Suicide Squad amusingly annoying the piss out of Chase, then deciding to go with Plan B (escape) when the conflict between some insurgents and the soldiers holed up in the temple prevent them from accomplishing their objectives. Chase attempts to stop them, which leads to her power-dampening powers flaring up on Copperhead, and she falls down a cliff and ends up in the custody of the soldiers. Those soldiers turn out to be form Soviet Intelligence, who are apparently just kind of bored since  the Soviet regime collapsed and scavenging for information in the temple. They stick Chase into the Construct’s interface, since they don’t know what it will do to a human, and she is informed that the Construct has infiltrated the Soviets’ armor with plans to take over the world’s systems next.

Chase does manage to escape with that valuable information after kneeing her captor in the crotch (see above), so it’s not a total wash, but she assumes incorrectly that her next assignment, babysitting the Teen Titans, is a punishment for the previous mission’s failure. Her misconception is corrected by the DEO’s director, Mister Bones, who she discovers is a talking skeleton. (Am I the only one who would read a title that’s nothing but a walking, talking skeleton engaging in mundane bureaucratic tasks to work his way up the ranks?) Bones tells her that a lot of European law and intelligence agencies are suddenly willing to exchange information with the DEO now, and since no good deed goes unpunished, Chase’s reward is to guard just the sort of people she can’t stand!

The real star of this issue, however, is not its titular character, any of the Teen Titans, or even Booster Gold, who shows up seemingly for no other reason than to rag on the Titans for his action figure being better than theirs. No, the real star of this issue for me is the villain, spoiling for a fight, and ready to introduce the world to his new group of henchmen, the Clockwatchers. It’s time (I said it) for the Clock King.

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Could he be wearing any more timepieces?

To be honest, there’s nothing beyond a really cool design that makes me like the Clock King so much, and his team gets handled pretty quickly by the Teen Titans and Chase’s still-hidden power. He and his Clockwatchers are mostly played for comedy, which is all worth it for the scene where they squabble about taking the bus:

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If this were really New York, nobody would be staring at them, no matter how many guys with clocks for faces were on the bus.

Chase is injured in the fight, and while she is laid up in the hospital, we get the chance to hear a story about one of her pre-DEO P.I. exploits, an encounter which Klarion the Witch Boy. This issue also gives us a closer look at the characters who make up Chase‘s supporting cast, her superhero obsessed sister Terry who has been displaced by an earthquake in Gotham, a vagrant named Knob with a penchant for the paranormal, and Chase’s boyfriend Peter.

I enjoy the way her relationship with Peter is handled because it is a prominent part of her life and interferes with and buoys the rest of her life in realistic ways. So often females characters are entirely defined by their romantic relationships or those relationships are presented as impediments to some mythical idea of “having it all,” so it’s always refreshing to see the situation handled with more nuance. When they bicker, it feels lived in, and the shadow of past grievances can be heard in their words. Peter may flirt dangerously with being something of a useless boyfriend cliche who only serves to, like, hold her back, man, but he always seems to be pulled back before he can cross that line. He  may not be crazy about, you know, getting a job, but he proves his worth with some 1337 haxor skills, and when he argues with Chase about her work with the DEO, it feels like the words of someone who truly cares rather than someone trying to keep her down.

chase-disappointment
But for real, look at that guy.  He’d be Mr. November on a calendar of dashed expectations.

Chase’s relationship with her family and the particular nature of her opposition to superheroes is explored in the next issue when she and her sister are stuck on an elevator. Chase is tired of hearing about the stories in her sister’s superhero tabloids and snaps, revealing a tragic past her sister is wholly ignorant of. Their dad, who Terry was lead to believe died in a benign way, was in fact a mask who belonged to a group of do-gooders. He was known as the Acro-Bat, which is both a great and a stupid name. What is just a great name is the moniker of the group of masks he belonged to: The Justice Experience.

chase-justice-experience
Who’s signing the petition with me for a Major Flashback solo title?

It’s kind of hard to blame Chase for being embarrassed by this piece of her family’s past, considering her dad is the only one of his friends who looks like an out-and-out dweeb, amirite? These wannabe heroes got into a fight with a villain group called the House of Pain (You’re hearing Jump Around in your head right now, aren’t you?), and a woman was caught in the crossfire and died. The man who loved her was less than pleased with the Justice Experience, as you might imagine, and he begins to take them out one by one. The comic goes from “Haha, look at these silly vigilantes in their silly costumes,” to, “Oh Jesus Christ, that’s brutal,” real quick when you see the aftermath of his revenge.

chase-jaws
C’mon, bro, you could have just gotten a knife or something. Like are you actually eating him? That’s next level revenge.

The Justice Society of America veterans are eventually enlisted to take care of this threat, sparing anyone else from being maybe sort of eaten, but leaving lasting scars of Chase’s psyche. Terry is understandably indignant that no one told her the truth sooner, but she doesn’t hold it against her sister very long. That’s good news for Chase because she will need all her focus on her next mission, which sends her to Gotham, to properly verbally cut Batman down to size, once of my favorite things in the title.

The gist is there is a new drug mutating its users, who now look demonic. The DEO and the DEA have been experimenting with thyroidal mutagens, which only one corporation in Gotham is licensed to use. Chase sees Batman skulking around the place, and when they return together the next day, they discover the doctor who designed the mutagen went missing with the drug in the days after the earthquake. The doctor had been growing increasingly paranoid that the government wanted to steal his work to create superheroes and supervillains. They find two more kids who’ve been mutated, and Batman turns up to stop them. Chase shoots one of them who is about to get the drop on Batman, and he has, what she will later describe in a way that makes her one of my heroes forever, a Bat-Tantrum.

chase-buzzkill-batman
“You’re….welcome?”

I’ve got to go with Chase on this one. I first read this comic right after seeing the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, and I was so tired of Matt Murdock’s smug sliding scale of morality, that I was happy to see someone pretty sane just take some decisive action without wringing her hands a whole bunch about it. I understand why the taking of a life is a huge moral dilemma in a lot of comics (and obviously in a plenty of real world scenarios), but it seems like it’s usually someone on the Punisher’s level of not ok that you see characters fall on this side of things. Seriously, though, if you ever see a large demon creature trying to rip me apart, you certainly have my permission to do whatever it takes to stop them without spending a lot of time considering if they might be able to be changed back.

The doctor escapes, and the mutagen is recovered, at which point we find out Chase’s presence has been a cover for her real mission, which is to find out if Batman is a lone nut. Since she had previously met him in her first appearance, in Batman #550, she is able to confirm that it is the same man and not a group of men all using the mantle Batman.

chase-cover-stort
Yep, would still read a comic of nothing but this guy smoking and muttering to himself while he does paperwork.

Chase uses the pretense of trying to find the doctor to stay in Gotham, and Peter continues to be marginally useful with hackzor assistance to try and smoke Batman out. He eludes their attempts, at which point we find out it was actually the Oracle they were tracking all along. She warns Batman, who is already aware the Chase is spying on him, which he probably can’t be too upset about, considering he is already spying on her. Oh, those kooky spooks!

Chase attends a party at Gotham Broadcasting, where she uses all her secret agent and private eye skills to come to the startling conclusion that Batman must be the guy in charge of GBC, since Batman has to be using its satellite. Well, in all fairness the guy was standing next to Bruce Wayne. Ok, seriously, in all fairness, that man is the Sentinel, Alan Scott, so it’s not like she was completely off base on the whole him being a superhero thing.

Chase encounters Batman again, where she learns some less than savory stuff about the agent she was working with on the case, and Batman delivers the world’s most hypocritical advice about revenge not healing the death of a parent. At least, it would be the world’s most hypocritical advice if it were actually Batman and not Alan Scott doing Batman a solid.

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Even knowing it’s not Batman, I still am getting riled up.

Chase….chases him across the top of some buildings to tell him just how wrong he is, and “Batman” falls through a roof. Chase considers taking his mask off while he’s dazed, but decides not to, saying that her actions haven’t been motivated by hatred but a desire to keep anyone else from going through what she went through. Her proof her intentions are good will be to keep his identify safe. We find out the ol’ switcheroo was Nightwing’s idea to throw Chase off the scent of both Wayne and Scott’s identities, but Batman, of course, has to be the smartest guy in the room, saying that he knew Chase didn’t really want to know but she had to discover it for herself.

And that’s about that for Chase the title, even though Chase the character would make plenty of other appearances in other titles. As I said earlier, I’ll do no bemoaning there’s not more. It was good, I enjoyed it, and you probably would too. Chase has also recently been portrayed on Supergirl by the fantastic Emma Caulfield, so she has been far from forgotten even if her solo title was regrettably short lived. What will hopefully not be short lived is your enthusiasm for the subject of my next article, Valiant’s Magnus, Robot Fighter. How can you not be enthusiastic for something with such a great name? See you then, Legions!

 

You Will Believe a Boy Can FLY!

526477-fly1As a kid, who didn’t want to be a superhero? I know I did! I think that was the appeal to The Fly character by DC’s Impact line of comics. Journey back with me to an age where comics were fun. An age where comic movies weren’t the norm, big event titles were more of a summer thing, and heroes didn’t murder other heroes. But first, a little history on our bug-eyed friend.

The_Fly_1,_Impact_Comics,_August_1991_by_Mike_Parobeck_and_Paul_FrickeThe Fly was originally created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for Archie Comics’ Red Circle line in 1959. After cancellation he was revived in 1984 under the same banner for a short time. The incarnation of the character we will be looking at will be The Fly of the 90’s. In 1991 DC had acquired the rights to all Archie superhero characters and released them under their Impact line. Though the line only lasted until 1993, many fans (including myself), still look upon this era fondly. All of the Impact characters were fun in their own way, but to me, one always seemed to stick out….The Fly!

629781Jason Troy wasn’t a troublemaker but he wasn’t exactly an honor student either. He was your typical kid. Average in most ways but full of imagination. It was during his high school Mythology class that he was found playing video games during a lecture. Caught by the teacher, he was given the assignment of creating his own superhero based on one of the Earth’s most humble creatures. Jason chose a fly. (Some punishment, huh?) The teacher was so impressed with his work, he rewarded Jason with a fossil of a fly trapped in amber. Soon after receiving this, it was discovered that the fossil possessed the strange power to in fact transform Jason into the character of his design….The Fly!

629331Wasting no time, The Fly flew into action against an attacking superpowered arsonist downtown, easily defeating him in combat! Excited but curious, Jason reverted back to normal to speak to the teacher. After all, who else would know the mystery of the fossil better than he? Upon his return, it was discovered that no one had ever heard of the strange Mythology teacher! Confused, Jason left school and embarked upon his new career as a superhero! The Fly fought many fun and unique villains throughout the title’s run. He even joined the premiere superhero team, The Crusaders, with other heroes such as The Shield, The Comet, The Jaguar, etc.

But, during a battle alongside these heroes, The Fly, along with several other heroes, disappeared into another dimension. It wasn’t until years later that he reemerged, a man! He was soon married to fellow Crusader, The Jaguar. That was about it. In 1993, all Impact titles were cancelled due to low sales. We were never to learn the secret of the mysterious fly trapped in amber. Sad. But, rather than focusing on the negative, let’s look at all of the amazing adventures he gave us. How, for a short time, all of us around the same age as the Jason Troys’ character felt what he must have felt with the power to pummel supervillains, to meet and fight side by side with other heroes, and most of all….to fly! For the short time that title lasted, we knew what it felt like to be a superhero ourselves.

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