Vinyl Diving: St. Paul

Starman-Will-Payton-DC-Comics

Akin to the combing of back issue bins and hitting yard sales looking for comics missing and obscure (the Will Payton Starman is a character who had long a series running almost 4 years, yet I had never encountered until I began my greatest journey: sorting 100 long boxes of comics) is the refound interest in vinyl.

I’m no aficionado, nor do I even own a record player/ turntable, but I appreciate combing through stacks with friends who are.

And, I have taken it upon myself to randomly grab something no one has heard of, purchase it, and put it on said turntable, without any research.

This brought me in contact with St. Paul.

The first notes hit, and I chimed in, it sounds like The Time.

Want to know why?

Because, St. Paul was a member. Paul Peterson’s nom a play on his residence in St. Paul.

stpaul-album-cover

He has a Prince connection, having been hand-picked by the Purple One to join the Time, he was in Purple Rain, and is still making music today.

His daughter is making music even.

In Dance ‘Til Dawn, I state, and I mean it: every song is a piece of art. We owe to ourselves to expose ourselves to new artists and art. It may not change your life, but it might give you something you can hold onto.

 

 

 

Whatever Happened To… Vigilante?

Imagine my giddy surprise when I stumbled across the following:

Screenshot 2017-03-28 13.31.43

The shiny cover, the thicker paper, the amazing costume…

Vigilante_Vol_1_1

This Vigilante spring from the Wolfman+Perez Teen Titans and has always been a favorite of mine. I quickly read the article, not really caring much about the Arrow TV show (sorry CW), but maybe it is something I should revisit (TBF: not likely to happen, I powered through Iron Fist because it was only 13 episodes, slogging through multiple seasons of a show I have tried several times doesn’t have much appeal, and my time is not that free). So, I had to wonder, is my lack of DC loyalty depriving me? A quick wiki-check quickly informed me, that no version of this character in the awesome costume has been significant in DC since 2008.

I will be the first to complain about comics being too grim and gritty nowadays, and likely the tale of a lawyer conflicted about villains running free, and standing on his own to enact his own brand of justice might seem a good fit, these books, like so many books of past ages, told stories about the heroes and the men behind the mask.

When was the last time that Bruce Wayne dealt with a whole bunch of Bruce Wayne stuff. When was the last time a 22 page comic juggled multiple plotlines and resolved them all?

It just doesn’t happen these days… but obviously, some working on Arrow shares my love and regard for Vigilante. Is DC missing out on a great tie-in comic?

 

Whatever Happened 2: Electric Breakdancing Superheroics

This will likely be the last in our short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence).

Why is this the last? After this column, it won’t matter anymore. We will have broken the code. AoG Editor Mike and I have been donning the tinfoil caps researching this one. We broke the 52 Issue code of New 52, and we predicted some sort of Convergence type event.

Of course, like any Uri Geller wannabes, we are right sometimes and wrong other times. Battleworld did not end up being Nu-Earth for example. But, you gotta at least try: a defeated Clock King is still right at least twice a day.

Rebirth news has been trickling out, and Mike has every available resource dedicated to compiling this information. #wheresbluebeetle

pantyfiend_logoNot every product launch can be Qwikster or Pantyfiend.com.

Confused? These two products never got off the ground, or were kiboshed pre-launch, or immediately post-launch.

The year is 1986, what the DC Universe needs is a Hispanic, breakdancing superhero.

#relevant

Many look back fondly on the Justice League Detroit era. It sure wasn’t West Coast Avengers. (I don’t recall Del dropping any JL: Detroit lyrics).

dazzlerBut sometimes, ideas need to evolve and change.

Because, the roller-skating superhero isn’t always going to remain relevant.

Tangent: When was Guy Gardner’s haircut ever relevant?


 

Justice_League_of_America's_Vibe_Vol_1_1(Be sure to follow the links for full details!)

Vibe is DC Comics Newest Keystone Series, 2013

So, that didn’t necessarily work out too well.

Going back further, 2009.

Geoff Johns: (…)we want to turn Vibe into a pillar of the DC Universe, just like Green Lantern has become a pillar. Our goal is to elevate the Vibe Universe.

(UPDATE: see comments below, apparently the above was an April Fool’s joke: “VIBE REBIRTH article was a April Fool’s Day gag coordinated across several sites years before Vibe actually came back. The crazy thing is we were right about Geoff Johns involvement! Ha!”)

But, look at the name of that series: Vibe: Rebirth. What event slash non-event is coming up soon? Rebirth.

I figured it out.

The case for:

The power players at DC want to make Vibe relevant.

Rebirth!

Given the speculation that part of the post-Rebirth publishing will be tie-ins to the TV and Cinematic DCUniverses, well, FlashU has Vibe already. OK, it’s not Vibe, but unless they are going the Hank Henshaw as Martian Manhunter route, it has to be Vibe, right?

And of course, Vibe was featured in a Convergence series.

Acotilletta2--Luke_CageThe case against:

Vibe was approaching offensive stereotype upon his launch. He has not necessarily been written well enough to move past this, ala Luke Cage.

George Pérez: Oh, I sincerely say he’s the one character who turned me off the JLA. If nothing else, every character that was introduced was an ethnic stereotype. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Come on now!” These characters required no thinking at all to write. And being Puerto Rican myself, I found the fact that they could use a Puerto Rican character quite obviously favorable since the one Puerto Rican characters in comic that existed, the White Tiger, is no longer a viable character. But having him be a break dancer! I mean, come on now. It’s like if there were only one black character in all of comics, are you going to make him…

The facts:

Sometimes hype is just that, hype. Sometimes the ending of a TV show can suck, because the buildup is too much, or just out-and-out falsehoods. (Lost? Mad Men?) Sometimes cheese is just cheese.

I know Mike will be thanking me if Vibe is part of Rebirth and Mike’s DC is brought back. And although I have a pretty decent track record of predicting some of this stuff, as of right now, there is no indication Vibe will be featured.

Whatever Happened To… The Hopeless Saga?

The latest offering in our short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence).

This week, I am going to look at Dennis Hopeless’ Avengers Arena and Avengers Undercover. But, before I do, some background on me. A couple weeks ago, I was discussing a certain award nominated film I saw in theaters, and I was complaining about it, how I thought the last ⅓ really fell apart. My coworker pointed out that I frequently criticize everything, and asked me if I could name 7 movies that I do not have an issue with. I gave her a list much longer than 7, but as I was coming up with my list, I did have to cross some out, because, as much as I liked a movie, I did have some issues with it.

Spring Breakers

Of course, I am free to criticize whatever I want, just as you are. The reason I bring this all up, is that I would like you to consider my opinion on Hopeless’ 2 title, mini-saga of YA superheroic  angst under the auspices that I really appreciate what he was trying to do and some of the decisions he made. I tend to appreciate when an artist tries something new, even if it is flawed, this is more daring than rehashing some of the same old ideas.

So, what then, is my take on what Hopeless was trying to do? Avengers Arena is Battle Royale, with Marvel Characters. Or is it Hunger Games? Wait, you might point out, how is that original? Because, in Big Two comicbooks, characters rarely die. Certainly, even more rare is a series flat out telling the reader that characters will die. And Avengers Arena delivered. 6 out of the 16 characters competing for their lives died. There were a couple false positives, characters shown to be dead, who were later revealed to not have died, or were returned from death. But at the conclusion of the series ⅜ of the characters were dead!

Putting on my critical hat, the main issue I had was that of the 16 characters fighting for survival, 6 were created just for the series (mind you, I love the idea of Braddock Academy), and 3 were hardly used (of late) minor characters, thus leaving 7 characters that had been relevant in the recent Marvel U. It is hard to get attached to a character when it is likely they will die. During the publication of the series, AoG Editor Mike and I would often discuss this series, and wonder if the whole thing was going to be a dream, or some other type of cop-out.

Kudos to Mr. Hopeless for not copping out.

But, I know that I would have been far more invested in the series had it used more recently used younger characters: They pulled several from Avengers Academy, a series I enjoyed; some of the Runaways were present, characters I had a connection to; no Young Avengers; no X-Academy students; not even any Young Allies. To play pundit, I would have offered up a formula of 10 recent characters, 3 characters who had not been used much (New Warriors was a roster full of these characters, and was a title relaunched during the run of Avengers Undercover), and 3 new characters. With the new characters, give us a reason to care about them. Give them personalities, let us love or loathe them. And, anyone who knows me, knows I love new characters, and to be fair, many of the new characters were sort of legacy characters. But none of them had the charm of Shamrock.

Onto the Villain: Arcade

Arcade is a classic Marvel villain. He has been a Fantastic Foe, an X-Foe, a Spidey-Foe, and even had the gall to pit himself against Doctor Doom!

If you don’t know Arcade, you are probably saying, wow, he must be really powerful.

NOPE!

He is a genius with a penchant for creating death traps.

In my game designer alter-ego, he is a character who, in most superhero rpgs, is a foe easily beaten by the lowliest of heroes. To say he is an inspiration is not entirely true, but villains like him certainly are. Yes, he sometimes has tech gadgets to aid him, but at the end of the day, he is a themed villain, and that is pretty awesome.

Additionally, he had an iconic look: white suit, colorful bowtie, bad font selection.

When it was revealed that Arcade was the foe behind Avengers Arena, I started believing it wasn’t all a dream or some such nonsense. Arcade played for keeps. Unfortunately, his attire and styling changed in unfortunate ways.

And then Avengers Arena ended. I know there were petitions going around the interwebs asking it to be cancelled. Some research indicates it was only meant to be 18 issues, whether that is party-line rhetoric or the truth is inconsequential to me.

This led us to the second chapter in what I am calling the Hopeless Saga: Avengers Undercover.

“The characters who survived Murderworld came out the other side much different than they went in. Those psychological scars from the “Arena” weigh heavily on all of the kids. They don’t fit so well into their old lives. They no longer feel like they belong and they’re all looking for a way to get back what they’ve lost. All of this leads them down the path of Avengers Undercover.”

And, what an interesting premise it was, these fragile young heroes now had to deal with life after Murder World, all the while plotting and scheming and trying to figure out what their next steps will be.

There were some really cool ideas here, and I loved seeing all the villains in Bagalia and at The Hole (hidden supercriminal bar). The choices these characters make are interesting and compelling and a very logical outgrowth from their time in the Arena.

And it was cancelled. Hopeless had planned for 15 or more issues and had to wrap up his story after 10 issues.

But, the story ended.

That was two years ago.

Hellstrom, who was written as a very dark grey member of the Masters of Evil has now popped up in Dr. Strange, his look much worse than Arcade’s in Arena. And Nico is a member of A-Force.

Where is everyone else?

Or, bringing the whole discussion back to the basis for this article, is there any fallout? Is this an idea that should be explored again. Whatever the current iteration Marvel is called now has many young heroes: Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Nova, Nightmask, Starbrand, Moon Girl, Miles Morales, and they are headlining some books of their own and starring in others, their youth being a not insignificant part of their story lines. But what about all the young adult emotional angst of Cammi, Death Locket, and Hazmat?

The case for:

Marvel’s current slate of titles covers many corners of the universe, with youth oriented books, and some books having a more global feel.

The two titles covered 28 issues over a span of more than two years. There have been significant, important runs of comics that were significantly shorter.

Revisiting this idea would cement the fact that when Arcade is involved, people die.

The case against:

Neither title sold particularly well.

Marvel has plenty of other young heroes.

The facts:

Nico is a member of A-Force, so, it is possible some of this history is still present, and could be revisited.

X-23 is the new Wolverine, and even has her own title.

Arcade is (in theory) still out there, so perhaps he is working on his next great plan. Although there is no official sequel to Lord of the Flies; Hunger Games, and Battle Royale both did have follow-up works.

There very well could be something to be said for letting this dark corner of the Marvel U lay dormant for awhile, and then revisiting it.

Whatever Happened To… The Strangest Team-Up Ever?!?

The latest offering in our short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence).

After tackling 2 DC characters, we take a look at one of the most intriguing team-ups in recent years: Dr. Strange and The Punisher!
imageBefore we delve too deeply into this odd pairing, some short clarification of the rules for this exercise: the character(s) needs to not be featured in the post-event universe; a character’s status prior to the events is not the be-all and end-all. The former I bring up, because during our pitch meetings for this series, Winter Soldier was on the whiteboard as a potential headscratcher of an omission, but, then Marvel announced Thunderbolts featuring none other than America’s favorite sidekick turned mind-wiped assassin, turned man on the wall, and AoG Editor Mike had a nerdgasm. The relevance of the latter point will be discussed below.

The Strange-Punisher team-up is not one with a long storied history, having actually only come to prominence during 2014’s Original Sin event. But, oh, how sweet it was. Some research into this duo uncovered that the seeds for this idea have been in the collective hive-mind of Marvel editorial for some time.

The case for:

–     Dr. Strange is a revered Marvel character, who has had multiples iterations of a solo series, as well as having been a member of some teams and non-teams, significant and not-so-significant (Secret Defenders). As iconic as he is, finding a publication niche for him and sustaining sales seems to have been an issue on-and-off. Punisher of course was one of the original breakout anti-heroes of comics, having had numerous solo series, going into space, killing everyone in the Marvel U. and so on. Their team-up brought two very dissimilar characters together in fun and surprising ways, allowing both to shine, while at the same time putting them outside their comfort zone.

–     Although they were not featured prominently in any Secret Wars books, obviously I was not the only one tickled and intrigued by this new relationship, as they were brought together again in the first issue of the Battleworld anthology.

–     Punisher is an icon, not just Frank Castle, but the Punisher brand. Although he did not headline any Secret Wars tie-ins, he, or rather, the Punisher brand, was a presence in many: Castle makes an appearance in Issue 1 of the main series.

There is a Sheriff Punisher in King James’ England, a Punisher saved Wolverine in Old Town, the Egyptia Punisher who served at the Shield discovered an Ultron that should not have been, two Punishers faced off in Ultimate End, Punishers were an arm of law enforcement in Civil War and Old Man Logan. And if you have read the main series, you know that Doctor Strange was a prominent character.

–     The pairing of these two has been an idea since March of 1991: What If: Wolverine was Lord of the Vampires?

–     Punisher was a big brand for Marvel, and will be featured in season 2 of the Daredevil Netflix series.


The case against:

–     Dr. Strange has his own solo series.

–     Dr. Strange has his own (miscast) solo movie coming in the MCU.

 

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–     Frank Castle, the Punisher, is dead (see rules of the article, above: a character’s status prior to the events is not the be-all and end-all).

 


 

The fact remains that Punisher was a huge draw, and Strange could use the bump in sales!

The Winter Soldier “man on the wall” series was ambitious, the idea was solid, but with Bucky running the Thunderbolts now, I think it is safe to assume that this current iteration of the Marvel U. is ignoring that idea. But, the idea of Strange and Punisher tripping the realms astral, seems like an idea with so much potential in terms of art, storytelling, and developing and maturing both characters. Currently, Dr. Strange has his own title, and is “awesome facial hair bro” with Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man, and Punisher is still dead, as far as we know. But maybe Strange will run across him in his mystical travels? I would bet Castle will be back, but I wish it was teamed up with Strange. Strange needs his approach to problem solving dealing with all the mystical threats he is encountering and would mellow him out, while reigning him in. The new Marvel Universe is full of interesting choices (LBH, the new Spider-Man is just like Iron Man, and the stories feel like Iron Man stories), but I would implore Marvel to give Punisher and Dr. Strange a chance.

 

Whatever Happened To… The Rabbit Of Tomorrow

The next in a short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence).

This week we take look at the lovable lapin, and Earth-C’s writer and artist for the JLA (Just’a Lotta Animals) comic, Rodney Rabbit, a.k.a. CAPTAIN CARROT!

Created by Roy Thomas, Scott Shaw! , and Gerry Conway, Captain Carrot made his first appearance as a preview in the top selling comic at the time, the New Teen Titans, and had a well-loved 20 issue series in the mid 80’s. But are funny animal comics even relevant anymore?

The case for:

–       Captain Carrot (and his Zoo Crew) parodied the DC Comic character roster at the time, telling fun, lighthearted stories that are much in the vein of current DC You titles like Starfire, Gotham Academy, Bizarro, and Bat-Mite.

–      Captain Carrot represented DC’s awareness to the relevancy of funny animal comics being produced for more mature readers, a big comicbook trend in the 80’s.

–       Rodney was a writer and artist at the DC Comics of Earth-C (think of the parody possibilities: Dan Dog-dio, the hounding co-publisher!).

–       He was a star in Grant Morrison’s Multiversity, and a clear favorite to draw for many DC artists.

–       Zatanna’s pet rabbit Lucky is actually Rodney’s son.

–       Captain Carrot was a big part of DC’s Final Crisis, even having his own miniseries during the event.

–       He’s a founding member of “Operation Justice Incarnate,” and helps keep the DC Multiverse safe.

–       Is basically Superman, but with the cutest buck-tooth grin. (And his greatest weakness is that his powers run out 24 hours after he chews on a Cosmic Carrot.)

–       Marvel has had recent success with two anthropomorphic animal characters headlining their own series: Howard the Duck and Rocket Raccoon.

–       Wizard Magazine #151 already imagined what a modern retelling of the Zoo Crew might look like:

The case against:

–       His original name (Roger Rabbit) was changed to Rodney partway through his first series in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit from Gary Wolf (and later, Disney), which led to a fair amount of reader confusion.

–       Though he’s sprung up here and there in the DC Universe prior to Convergence and Multiversity, references to Captain Carrot were made mainly as an in-universe joke…

–      Except for that whole Threshold comic, starring Captain K’Rot. Yuck!

 

The fact remains that Captain Carrot starred in both a Convergence series and in the Multiversity miniseries…

And, despite the number of times he popped up in the backgrounds of almost every issue of Convergence, he’s not in the new DC Universe.

It seems unlikely that Captain Carrot or the Zoo Crew would show up in an ongoing series, even with the new, more humorous tone that many DC comics are taking on. Captain Carrot was never a one-off joke like other funny animal superheroes of the 80’s, and he’s had about as many series as Power Girl, Stargirl, or other B-list heroes. The most frustrating thing about DC’s apparent lack of Rodney is the fact that he seemed to be played up as an important character in Convergence, yet his crossover title with Harley Quinn ended up with the clown blatantly killing our hoppy hero. That’s not such a dignified way to go for a rabbit who represented truth, justice, and the Animerican way.

 

Whatever Happened To… The World’s Weirdest Hero

This is the first in a short series about comicbook characters that have been orphaned by the recent reboots in both the Marvel and DC Universes. Characters that were featured before the reboots, or even featured prominently during the Big Events (Secret Wars and Convergence).

This week we take look at that most pliable, polymorphic, anti-pedantic crusader for good, Plastic Man!

Jack Cole’s creation, who has been the focus of study by prestigious Pulitzer winning author and artist Art Spiegelman has not yet made an appearance in the DCYou. Is it a crying shame? Who cares about Plas anyway?

The case for:

–       He is one of the first superheroes still around, introduced three years after Superman, and arriving on the scene before Wonder Woman and Aquaman and well before Martian Manhunter.

–       Had his own cartoon.

–       Is a favorite of Alex Ross, Ethan Van Sciver, Grant Morrison, and Frank Miller.

–       Was profiled in The New Yorker.

–       His solo series by Kyle Baker won 5 Eisner Awards and 1 Harvey Award.

–       Cool enough to be namedropped by Alan Moore in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Black Dossier.

–       Frequent animated Brave and the Bold team-ups.

–       Is very, very powerful, this according to Batman.

The case against:

–       When DC editorial forgot they owned the rights to Plastic Man, Elongated Man was created, filling much of the same niche. And even with all the reboots, they still haven’t gotten rid of Dibny! A case could even be made Dibny is more significant to DC history, his inclusion pivotal to several major storylines.

–       Prior to Convergence, was not a significant part of the DCNew, although he had some appearances.

The facts remain though, that Plastic Man headlined a Convergence series.

And now, he is gone, like so much of DC comics interesting history. It is, of course, possible that he has yet to make an appearance, but I am not particularly hopeful. Personally, I most enjoyed his time in the JLA after Morrison’s introduction, and would love to see him used in a similar capacity: seemingly a goofball, but behind his doofy demeanor lies an incredibly deductive detective; a powerset and level of power matched by few (when Martian Manhunter went bad, Plas was the only one who could stop him!); visually fun to look at.

The insistence on tying him to the Freedom Fighters and often other C-List (in terms of name recognition and story-line significance) Gold and Silver Age heroes means that more often than not, he is doomed to obscurity.