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Posts Tagged ‘Star Wars’

I Am So Glad That I No Longer Care About This Shit

July 15th, 2008 No comments

Announced today by Adam Pawlus of Galactic Hunter: an exclusive set of Star Wars figures based “on the Crimson Empire flashback scene in which we see Kir Kanos and Carnor Jax in training.”

Crimson Empire, for those of you who have lives, is a Dark Horse comic book about the guys who make up the Emperor’s Royal Guard: the ones with the red robes and the phallic helmets. If there’s one thing that Star Wars fans love, it’s dudes in all-concealing headgear who stand around looking bad-ass. (See: Fett, Boba.) The Royal Guard are so stone cold that they don’t do a single thing in the entire film saga. They don’t need to prove anything.

But it seems that before donning the Red Robes of Awesome, they go through a training phase in which they dress up as their favorite Power Ranger. I believe that the guy in the black robes above must be the wizard Zordon.

Click through for the full horror.

The Jedi Purge

June 22nd, 2008 No comments

Last week, I made a major lifestyle choice. No, not what you’re thinking, though it’s now legal in California. Rather, a few days back I decided that enough was at last enough. It was time to stop the madness, and take back the toyroom.

As you know, I’ve been collecting Star Wars toys since they first arrived on store shelves in 1978. Back then, I idly thought one day that eventually there might be as many as sixty or seventy different action figures based on the promised nine films, and that it would be fun to set them up in little dioramas.

I had no idea what I was getting myself in for.

By the time the original Kenner toy line ended in 1985, 96 different figures had been released. (The most figures to come out in a single year were the 17 that accompanied the premiere of Return of the Jedi.) That was more than I had originally expected, but still a pretty reasonable total. With extra “army builders” such as stormtroopers, I had perhaps 130 total.

And indeed, I did follow through with my grand plan of collecting them all and setting up my little scenes. There were usually two reactions to my display: visitors were either impressed or frightened. (Vic was unusual in that she didn’t react at all.)

Flash forward to 1995, when the line was relaunched. While the early releases were absurdly beefy, with time the sculpts improved and they began to replace their so-called “vintage” counterparts in my scenes. Eventually, I purged most of my original figures, partially because I wanted to take advantage of their escalating secondary-market value, and partially because the plastic used to make them was getting tacky with age.

When the first of the prequels premiered in 1999, I had a choice: should I continue my collection with the new characters, or just stick with the original films? I thought “Do I really want to spend another eight years incessantly running to toy stores?” But I thought “At least then it will be over.”

Hah, hah, hah.

Nine years later, the line is still going strong. Too strong. The allegedly final film was released in 2005, but there are dozens and dozens of Star Wars toys planned for the next several months alone. Some of that is due to new media projects in the works, some due to the mature collectors market which allows the creation of ever more obscure characters to serve in “exclusive” boxed sets, and some due to what I believe to be sheer cussedness on the part of Hasbro.

The latter has manifested itself in a never-ending, rainbow coalition of droids in new paint schemes. Hasbro learned that people such as myself would buy R2-D2 dozens of times over if each was a different color. (And of course, the same trick was used for the many “astromech” droids seen in the films.)

The clone troopers have been even worse. Unlike the stormtroopers of old, which came solely in white, the many squadrons of clones seen in Revenge of the Sith each had their own unit colors. (The better to market to you, my dear.) There were orange clones, red clones, purple clones (yes, really)…

Then someone got the bright idea that the ones from the film weren’t enough. It was child’s play to create brand new clone squadrons. Bring on the “exclusives!”

The poster child for this trend was last year’s 14-figure set of repainted clones and Boba Fett knockoffs. Fourteen figures–nearly as many as the most prolific year of the original Star Wars toy line–and ten of them couldn’t even claim a tie to an “official” film, comic, novel or videogame.

I surprised myself by not being suckered into buying them for the sake of completism. It was harder than it sounds; I sometimes think I’m borderline OCD. But once I passed on those, it became just a little easier to avoid other “exclusives” of similarly dubious provenance.

Still, the toys piled up, and spilled off the overcrowded shelves onto the floor. It was a mess, and the collection was becoming harder to manage. It was starting to become more frustrating than fun.

Plus, I got fucking sick of this face:

It’s what you see every time you look under a clone trooper’s helmet. Naturally enough, as they’re all meant to be identical. But still, what’s the joy of an action figure with a removable helmet if it’s always the same damned face underneath? And now they’re even giving us classic trilogy stormtroopers with that same head!

As I sat in a movie theater a few weeks ago watching the trailer for the newest Star Wars media project, an animated film based on the Clone Wars, I realized that George Lucas had learned his lesson. Last time a Star Wars trilogy ended, it was a mere two years before the merchandising empire died out. He’s not gonna let it happen this time. After the Clone Wars cartoons there’s going to be a multi-season, live-action series set in the time period between the trilogies. And of course, an endless supply of spin-off stories spinning off an endless supply of figures…and on and on and on…

So, as I said, enough is enough.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I won’t buy any more Star Wars toys. And I’m not saying that I’m getting rid of all the ones I’ve already got. But what I am doing is getting back to my roots, and as a consequence, giving up any pretense of completism.

The truth is that while I’ve made my peace with the prequels, I’ve never really loved them the way I do the original trilogy. What I’ve decided is that all those Jedi, battle droids and especially those thrice-damned clones need to go.

And so, last week I began to cull my toyroom on a larger scale than ever before. In honor of the secret command that led to the purge of the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith, I’m calling it “Order 66.”

I tore down the displays and rebuilt them from scratch with a sole focus on the original films. No more scenes with fifteen guys in identical brown robes. No more Creamsicle colored clones. And no obligation to buy every damned thing that comes from Hasbro even if it did show up in a comic book once.

The toyroom now looks great. Most everything is off the floor. And losing the prequel displays gave me more room for Lego models. I even completely reorganized the closet. It’s very satisfying.

I did keep some prequel figures: background aliens, astromechs, and the various Sith lords. Also a few favorite items, such as General Grievous’ wheel bike and the vicious Acklay beast.

As for the rest…well, that’s phase two. The next step is to sort several hundred action figures and vehicles into lots, and to dig out their respective accessories. Then, it’s on to eBay!

I know that you probably don’t realize how big a step this is for me. I’ve been collecting this crap for thirty years, and whatever frustration I and my wallet have been feeling lately, there was a lot of inertia willing me onward. I’m not exactly Rosa Parks on the bus here, but I am taking back at a little piece of my life, and it feels good.

Some Get It

April 29th, 2008 No comments

As nerd culture seeps ever more into the mainstream, it’s not surprising to see it cropping up in prime-time network TV. But it’s easy to see which shows really have geek cred and which are just posers. Last night, I saw an example of each.

First up was The Big Bang Theory. I’ve only recently begun to watch this series, mostly while I’m waiting for How I Met Your Mother to start. It’s fairly standard issue sitcom stuff: four genius nerd friends and the hot blonde who lives across the hall. But what sets it apart is the obvious care taken in getting things right. While I’m not knowledgeable enough to confirm the science/math references (the credits list a science consultant), I do know that the geek stuff is bang on the money.

Last night’s episode was about the gang purchasing the original prop of “the Time Machine” from the classic ’60s movie of the same name. I missed the first part, but I gather that the aforementioned blonde derided one of them for his “toys,” causing a crisis of faith which nearly had him selling off his collectibles to the local comics dealer. (I took comfort in the fact that he ultimately changed his mind. And also when one of the nerds called her out on her Beanie Babies and Hello Kitty shorts.)

But what really pleased me was that not only did we get a dream sequence featuring movie-accurate Morlocks (as in the photo, right), but even a dream-within-a-dream which recast them as movers wearing embroidered uniforms reading “Starving Morlocks.” (Which, if you know what Morlocks eat, is pretty funny.) Furthermore, we got references to the Golden Age Flash, the Justice Society of America, and a rare Geordi LaForge action figure mistakenly packaged without his VISOR. And, unlike the film The 40 Year Old Virgin, which decorated the apartment of an alleged uber-collector with whatever random toys they picked up from the clearance aisle at Toys ‘R Us, the props people here made sure to have an actual Golden Age Flash figure on hand.

I’m not a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, but I do enjoy that the geeks aren’t just objects of scorn. Cringe-worthy moments are rare.

On the other end of the Cringe-o-meter was last night’s Star Wars-themed episode of Deal or No Deal. I’m not a regular Deal watcher, but I do believe that the “march of the models” which begins every game is one of the things for which television was invented. And I’ll be the first to admit that my entire reason for tuning in last night was the promise of 26 Slave Leias in formation.

But, despite (because of?) the obvious cooperation of Lucasfilm, it was painful to watch. First off were all of the lame “use the Force” references, which went as far as having Darth Vader telekinetically open the cover of the “Deal” button. (Cue the “oohs” and “aahs.”) And having the Dark Lord fill in as “the Banker” was funnier in theory than in practice. He sat up in the booth, quoting random Vader lines from the films as if he was his very own fanboy. (At least the James Earl Jones soundalike was good.)

Stormtroopers entering the corporate world. Oh, Annie, how low have you sunk?

They had two Star Wars fans competing to see which one would end the game with the larger cash amount (with the winner taking all), but the confluence of real-life geekery and typical game show contestant enthusiasm led to many embarrassing moments, including the worst. Yoda. impression. ever.

Then there were the special guest stars cheering them on. Carrie Freakin’ Fisher showed up to debase herself on behalf of a woman who, as we were repeatedly told, escaped from Vietnam as a child and found a role model in Princess Leia. (The real Carrie Fisher: not quite so much a role model.) Backed up by the leader of the Rebellion and the will of the Force, the contestant achieved a stunningly low total of $13,000.

“You there! The one in the white helmet!”

Ms. Fisher was shuffled offstage before the army of Slave Leias arrived, ostensibly to avoid giving the second contestant any clue as to how much he’d need to win, but probably so that there’d be no attempt at comparing drug-and-age-ravaged Carrie to 26 hot, young Carrie wanna-bes. Instead, geek #2 had R2-D2 and Chewbacca in his cheering section. Or rather, some tall dude in a Chewbacca suit. Giving high fives. Honestly, I would’ve thought that any schmoe in a fur coat could make a decent Chewie, but this guy’s performance had me appreciating Peter Mayhew all the more.

In the end, the Lucasfilm-sanctioned event featuring real nerds seemed less authentic than the sitcom in which four actors pretended to be nerds.

Plus, those Slave Leia outfits? Not movie-accurate.

Quaking In Our Boots

April 18th, 2008 No comments

A little after 4:35 this morning, Illinois was hit with a 5.2 earthquake. It’s not the first time I’ve woken up in the middle of a temblor; I did live in California for a year. It was still pretty freaky: the closet door was rattling and at first I thought one of the cats was in there having an epileptic fit. However, they were both in bed with us. It seemed to go on for half a minute or so, and Vic and I just rode it out. Tigger purred loudly for the next hour or so.

So far, I haven’t discovered any damage, and toyroom casualties were light. Mara Jade took out Darth Vader, but both were saved by the Emperor. An unidentified Rebel pilot stumbled off the flight deck with only minor injuries. An AT-AT driver was not so fortunate, plunging a full six feet to his doom. His in-helmet recorder picked up his final cry.

I must also report the death of one of the Empire’s senior officers: Admiral Piett. A career member of the Imperial Navy, Piett’s efficient work and ability to stay in the good graces of Darth Vader saw him quickly rise to a top position within the Sith Lord’s personal fleet. He is survived by his wife Merva and his twin sons, Rix and Jaxxon. He will be missed.

Free-Roaming Turkey

November 26th, 2007 No comments

Did you miss me? Lack of time and lack of compelling interest led to lack of blogging these past couple of weeks, but I hope to do better.

I’d love to say that I’ve been up to all sorts of exciting stuff since returning from Tucson, but the truth is that it’s mostly been shopping, videogames, and shopping for videogames. Now that the holiday season has descended upon us like a five-thousand-pound fruitcake, there are all manner of shiny, happy digital worlds vying for our joystick thumbs. Because there’s just no point in releasing anything worthwhile in the ten months prior to Thanksgiving, most of the top-tier game titles must go head-to-head in the final eight weeks of the year.

I finished The Simpsons for PS2, and was happy to see the end of it. While it stopped making me motion sick, the lousy camera continued to give me a lot of trouble. I learned to work around it, but I still “died” much more than could be attributed merely to my poor skills.

I enjoyed the game’s humor and all the metatextual references to other videogames. Still, as funny as it was to suddenly find myself playing a Simpsonized version of Gauntlet, the truth is that actual Gauntlet is more fun.

I was annoyed to learn, after the fact, that the PS2 version of The Simpsons is missing a fair amount of content found on the next-generation consoles. And here I’m not just talking pretty pixels, but rather portions of levels (including some of the other game parodies) and the ability to free-roam Springfield. Sure, I realize that the PS3 and XBox 360 are more powerful machines, but the PS2 is no stranger to free-roaming games featuring massive cityscapes. (Yes, I could’ve bought the Wii version, but the reviews suggested that the designers blew it incorporating the Wii control scheme. That’s a deal-breaker for me.)

Bye bye, The Simpsons; hello, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Okay, I’ll admit it: this is a game I’ve already bought and completed twice before. I was enticed by the opportunity to play a version which fully integrates all six chapters of the film series, and which adds improved gameplay elements and Classic Trilogy characters into the prequel-based portions. There are three all-new levels, and two greatly-improved ones. (The pod race is no longer frustrating as all hell, plus I can fly a TIE Interceptor or an Imperial Shuttle in the Boonta Eve Classic.) And, best of all, Lego Indiana Jones! Remember that scene in Episode 1 when Dr. Jones and Han Solo teamed up to storm Theed Palace? Neither do I, but it sure is fun!

Categories: Videogames Tags: , ,

I Think I’m In Love

October 12th, 2007 No comments

Vic, have you considered taking up the trumpet?

Star Bores

September 24th, 2007 No comments

I just don’t get Family Guy. I know that people love it, and I know that I simply do not comprehend what they find funny in it.

Last night, I watched the season premiere, which was a double-length retelling of the original Star Wars film. And, to my absolute lack of surprise, I didn’t laugh out loud once. There were a few chucklesome moments, such as when John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra were killed by Imperial Stormtroopers and replaced by Danny Elfman, but not a single out-and-out guffaw.

For an episode which so slavishly recreated the film, lifting entire sections of dialogue and reproducing many visual effects shots in computer-assisted cartoon animation, I had expected more actual jokes about Star Wars. There were a few insider references, including a moment in which Peter (as Han Solo), boasting about the Millennium Falcon, is called out on his incorrect usage of the real-life measurement of distance “parsec.”* But most of the humor was on the level of making Obi-Wan a gay pedophile or having Artoo and Threepio share a doobie. Because it makes sense for droids to smoke marijuana.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Star Wars is sacrosanct and should never be the target of stoner jokes. As demonstrated by the recent Robot Chicken special–which was referenced at the end of last night’s episode–there’s plenty of puerile fun to be had at the expense of that galaxy far, far away. It’s just that the alleged humor of Family Guy‘s parody had little to do with the setting, characters and cliches of Star Wars. It’s a sign of desperation when the writers have Leslie Nielsen drop in to deliver a line from Airplane!, itself a parody. (And a much, much funnier one.)

In the end, the effect was like watching Star Wars recast with thoroughly unappealing characters and retold with even fewer jokes. I know that for some, Family Guy is hipper than The Simpsons, but I’d much rather have seen Homer’s take on it than Peter’s.

*I also appreciated a similar bit during the Falcon’s escape from pursuing Imperial Star Destroyers. In the original film, Han says “Don’t worry, I know a few maneuvers. We’ll lose them.” The next shot is of the Falcon moving in a straight line, which always bugged me. They did have some fun mocking that moment by having the Imperial commanders completely unprepared for Han listlessly turning to the left.

Categories: TV Tags: , ,

Midnight…Madness?

April 4th, 2005 No comments

Last Friday was a big night for me: a performance by Jon Stewart, followed by the Star Wars toy-buying frenzy dubbed “Midnight Madness.” One of these turned out to be a bit underwhelming.

Jon Stewart was very, very funny. At first, I was concerned that he was simply regurgitating Daily Show material, as some of his opening, more timely jokes were similar to remarks I’d already heard on TV. But then he got into the meat of his act, and the laughs were fresh, frequent and hearty. At one point–describing a cat in heat and suggesting that it would not be a good idea for women to try to pick up guys in a similar manner–Vicky got in such a laughing fit that I was concerned she’d pass out.

It helped my own appreciation that Stewart’s political views so closely mirror mine, though he’s more critical of cloning. The audience skewed young and progressive, and the one guy who hooted in favor of the Republicans was loudly booed. Honestly, I thought that was unnecessary. Stewart may be left of center, but he’s just as disdainful of extremists on either side of the aisle.

The show let out before 9:00 pm, which gave us plenty of time to drive home from Chicago before the beginning of Midnight Madness. I went to the Wal-Mart on Prospect, where I’d had a lot of fun three years ago prior to the release of Star Wars Episode II.

As I suggested earlier, it wasn’t so hot. It’s not that there weren’t plenty of toys; in fact, I got very nearly everything I’d hoped to find on my initial run. And it wasn’t that there weren’t rabid geeks haunting the aisle, waiting for midnight. It’s just that everyone seemed so blase about it. Last time, when midnight hit, we all started diving into box after box, gleefully pulling out our prizes and even helping to stock the leftovers. This time, we all shuffled aimlessly around until I impatiently noted that it was already past midnight, and proceeded to quietly fill my cart, unimpeded by fellow fans. The stockers even took the rest of the pallet back to storage, even though it was likely we would make a significant dent in their display.

Meijer–which had also advertised that toys would be available at midnight–was worse. There were only two people there by the time I arrived (some stragglers from Wal-Mart arrived later), and there was no new product in sight. The stock person had been delayed, I was told, and was pulling a cart from the back. Indeed, she came out a few minutes later, and began to slooooooowly put the action figures on the pegs, one…by…one.

I started to take one down to purchase, but she told me, “I have to count these first.” She continued to unenthusiastically, mechanically unpack the toys one at a time. Now, never mind that one could easily tally the items by taking the count on the side of the freshly-opened packing case and multiply it by the number of boxes. She would not be deterred, even when I said, “Look, I’m only going to buy this one.” Finally, when I’d decided that I’d had enough and walked away, she realized that she could keep my one purchase in mind when she finished stocking.

I zipped over to the Wal-Mart in Savoy in hopes of finding Grievous’ Bodyguards and the Star Wars Risk board game. It appeared that perhaps a little more hoopla had occurred there, as the sole remaining shopper was sporting a special Star Wars button. We had a nice, long talk while I pawed through the pegs, ultimately snagging two Bodyguards and no Risk game. (I did find the latter the following day at Target.)

All in all, it was pretty unexciting, though I did pick up about 15 different, nifty figures, plus the thing I’d wanted most, the Star Wars Mr. Potato Head known as “Darth Tater.” The advertised “48 Hours of the Force” never happened at our local Wal-Marts. No giveaways, no character appearances, no nothing. It wasn’t Midnight Madness…more of a mild fever.

Sith Happens

March 11th, 2005 No comments

Last night saw the television premiere of the full trailer for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. It certainly looks incredible, though I’ve been fooled before.

I approach this “final” chapter with a mixture of anticipation, dread and ennui. (Is that even possible?) Star Wars has been a significant part of my life for so long that a part of me can’t help but be excited by the opportunity to visit that universe one last time, yet, like many others, I’ve found myself generally disappointed with these prequel films.

The original Star Wars premiered at a time when I really needed it. It was 1977, and I was twelve years old and miserable. It’s a familiar story–awkward and ostracized child falls in love with a fantasy world–so I’ll spare you the details. The important thing is that Star Wars gave me something to daydream about and fueled my creativity. I spent my junior high and high school years rattling on with my geeky friends about such burning issues as whether Boba Fett was “the Other.”

When Return of the Jedi debuted in 1983, with it came the word from George Lucas that he was taking some time off from the Saga. This was a matter of great concern: would he ever complete all nine films? Would I live long enough to see them?

Years passed. I saw Lucas in person at the 10th anniversary Star Wars convention, when he promised that he would return one day to the galaxy far, far away. Though, he joked, not before he completed one more Indiana Jones film and eight more Howard the Ducks. It was funny at the time.

Still more years passed. Hasbro began making new action figures to swell the ranks of my collection. Post-Jedi continuations began to roll off a literary assembly line, but no movies were in sight.

Finally, there came the Announcement. The rumors were over, and production of Episode I was underway! Again came the anticipation and the geek chatter, but with it a certain fear. I recall a disturbing dream in which I went to the premiere only to realize that the film was terrible. Little did I know…

Meanwhile, the luster began to wear off what had been my unconditional love for Lucas and his world. First, there were the “special editions” of the old trilogy. Digitally pissing over my childhood wouldn’t have been so bad if Lucas, the film preservation activist, hadn’t attempted to ensure that his own movies would never again be seen in their original form. Then came the word that the nine films had been cut to six. Actually, there’d never been any plan for nine films, Lucas told us. Just ignore the dozens of interviews he did in 1977. Historical revisionism became one of the prime exports from Skywalker Ranch.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out in May, 1999. I drove out with my friend Doug to the Lorraine Theatre, an old movie house in the middle of nowhere which just happened to have the best sound system in Illinois. At last, I would have a chance to relive the excitement of seeing a new Star Wars film for the first time!

You can guess what happened next. About 15 minutes in, nagging questions began to invade my thoughts. “What’s with these Yellow Peril aliens?” “What the hell is Jar Jar saying?” “Why is it that no one seems to be having any fun?” “What the hell is Jar Jar SAYING?”

It was a shock. I had fully expected to stay for the second show, but found myself driving back to Champaign, wondering what had happened. Emperor Palpatine had no clothes.

My wife likes to say that George Lucas is a hack and a ne’er-do-well. I always respond, “He’s not a ne’er-do-well. American Graffiti was good.” But I find that I have to admit the part about the hack.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Lucas’ film successes have been happy accidents, owing to a combination of outside help, budget constraints and blind luck. It’s telling that as he’s gained the technical freedom to tell exactly the story he wants, the story itself has become less satisfying.

Don’t get me wrong. I still give Lucas his due; he changed the ways in which movies are made and marketed, and he’s done a great deal to further their technical advancement. And I still love Star Wars, despite his best efforts. Whatever disappointments the prequels have presented, there are moments and creations within them that are as wonderful as anything from the old films.

I believe that there are two primary reasons that the prequels haven’t engaged me as much as the classic trilogy. (Three, if you count the fact that I’m now 40 years old instead of twelve.) First, it’s difficult to relate to these new characters. A collection of nobles and royals, their interactions are formal and stilted. There’s no haughty Princess Leia or wisecracking Han Solo to prick their pomposity.

Second, and perhaps most damaging, is that the story revolves around Anakin Skywalker, a highly unlikable person whose “hero’s journey” has taken him from dull child to sullen teen and now to psychopathic Jedi-killer. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker, and later Han Solo (once I realized that Han had the cooler ship, the cooler companion, and the girl). I can’t imagine wanting to be Anakin. “Mommy, when I grow up I want to slaughter my friends and rule the Empire with an iron fist!” I’m uncertain how I feel about his adventures. Should I root for young Anakin in the Podrace? Or would it be more appropriate to hope that he suffers a fatal crash? Can I be invested in his romance with Padme, even though I know that the path inevitably leads to bitter tragedy?

Maybe that sense of tragedy is the real problem with the prequels. The first Star Wars was a ray of hope in the aftermath of the turbulent Vietnam War. These films, however, seem to verify the unpleasant truths around us: that politicians are inevitably corrupt and manipulative, that “freedom” is an illusion crafted to meet their ends. Institutions crumble and good people die. Things might work out in the end, but in this case, the end was more than twenty years ago.

31 Things I Love About Comics

February 23rd, 2005 No comments

I’m late to the party, but wanted to post in response to a recent piece that appeared on Hembeck.com. Artist Fred Hembeck highlighted a cartoon listing the one hundred things he liked about comic books and related ephemera. A number of people took up the inferred challenge to create their own lists, and many posted them on Valentine’s Day.

I tried to come up with my own hundred items, only to run into a couple of obstacles: 1) I don’t read many new comics these days, aside from the occasional Dark Horse trade paperback, and 2) an awful lot of them would relate to Superman, which would make for repetitive reading.

Fact is that I really don’t love modern comics. My tastes run mostly to Silver Age (and older) DC books. For some years, I kept up with the post-Crisis Superman, but complained that it wasn’t giving me what I wanted. Then I realized that if I wanted to read a Silver Age-style story, there are literally thousands I’ve never seen, and many of them are being reprinted in trade paperbacks. Trade paperbacks are cool because they can contain an entire multi-issue storyline, plus they’re easier to store.

I rifled through my four long boxes of comics to get some ideas for a list, but had a hard time coming up with more than a couple dozen. However, since I did the “research,” I might as well post the results.

31 Things I Love About Comics

  • 1] The Marvel Family. Captain Marvel trumps even the mighty Superman as my favorite hero, but even he didn’t come into his own until he regularly teamed with Captain Marvel, Jr. and Mary Marvel.
  • 2] Villains whose names end in “o”: Amazo, Starro, Despero, Titano, Sinestro, Metallo, and oh, so many more.
  • 3] Star Wars Tales issues #1-20. This anthology book from Dark Horse played fast and loose with “official” continuity, and included a lot of humorous takes on beloved characters. Therefore, it could not be suffered to live. (It’s now a much less interesting collection of canonical stories about the third-stringers of the galaxy.)
  • 4] Lois Lane #59, which tells of Lois’ trip to the planet Krypton, pre-cataclysm. Naturally, the matrimony-mad Lois battles Superman’s future mom Lara for Jor-El’s affections, future be damned. And in the back-up story, Batman takes time from his obsessive quest for justice to help Superman play a mean practical joke on his girlfriend. Ah, old comics at their improbable, backwardly misogynistic best.

  • 5] 100 Page Super-Spectaculars. These ’70s books featured one new story and numerous reprints from throughout DC’s vast history. Much of my knowledge of Golden and Silver Age characters was originally gleaned from them.
  • 6] Adam Strange, the starfaring Man of Two Worlds. Struck by the Zeta Beam, this daring archaeologist was teleported to the planet Rann, where his Earth smarts helped Rannian super-science overcome an endless supply of would-be conquerers.
  • 7] The Legion of Doom, from the Superfriends cartoon. For years, the Justice League spent many a dull Saturday morning adventure battling environmental do-badders. What a thrill to see them challenged by a baker’s dozen of their greatest villains!
  • 8] An immortal line of dialogue from the first Christopher Reeve Superman film: “You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” A close second (from Superman II) is “General, would you care to step outside?”
  • 9] The Micronauts. This late ’70s/early ’80s toy tie-in by Marvel painted a vast canvas of intergalactic conflict which was surprisingly adult.
  • 10] Turok, Son of Stone. Not the modernized warrior from the ’90s, but the Indian brave who found himself in a lost valley full of “honking” dinosaurs. Most of the Gold Key comics heroes (including Mighty Samson, Tragg; and Magnus, Robot Fighter) were highly entertaining.
  • 11] Lois Lane (Erica Durance) from the Smallville TV show. Enjoyably written and performed…and smokin’ hot.
  • 12] Egg Fu, the evil, Cold War computer inexplicably constructed to resemble a giant egg with a face, sporting a prehensile, Fu Manchu mustache. Arguably, Wonder Woman’s most devilish (or should that be “devilled?”) foe.
  • 13] Justice League of America #118-119, “Takeover of the Earth Masters.” While perhaps not that notable in retrospect, this tale of a massive assault by alien Adaptoids was the first JLA book I ever read, when every plot contrivance was fresh and every danger real.
  • 14] The Green Lantern Corps, policemen of the cosmos. At least before they were dismantled, resurrected, killed, reborn, etc.
  • 15] Truer Than True Romance, a trade paperback collecting old DC romance comics, rewritten with hilarious, post-modern dialogue.
  • 16] “Who Took the Super Out of Superman?” This four-part tale from Superman #296-299 was a rarity in its day, a truly epic story in which the Man of Steel’s life was split in two, and he explored whether to remain a hero or live an earthly life as Clark Kent. The final fight between Supes and nine of his arch-foes was a real page-turner.
  • 17] The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. While I buck comic fan trends by not despising the movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s Victorian-era superhero team-up, the original books are far superior. Plus, one could spend a lifetime trying to identify all of his obscure, literary references.
  • 18] Hellboy learning to love pancakes.
  • 19] Villains who are half-man, half-dinosaur: Spider-Man’s spiked opponent Stegron, and Sauron, the mutant pterodactyl who fought the X-Men.
  • 20] Star Wars Infinities. “What if?” versions of the classic movies. If you’ve ever wanted to see Yoda pilot the Death Star, here’s your chance.
  • 21] Superheroines in fishnets. Okay, so fishnets are impractical in a fight. Still, I don’t think one has to look far to see the appeal of Zatanna and the Black Canary.
  • 22] Mr. Mind, the World’s Wickedest Worm. This astronomical annelid was one of Captain Marvel’s trickiest opponents.
  • 23] World’s Finest #206. This was perhaps my favorite single comic book growing up, and I’ve read it countless times. A collection of Superman and Batman’s intergalactic, interdimensional adventures. Who says that Batman is out of place in outer space?

  • 24] Writer Alan Moore’s work for DC, notably Watchmen and “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” Moore understands the core of the superhero myth better than anyone else I’ve ever read.
  • 25] The Metal Men. This team of self-aware robots whose bodies could duplicate the properties of particular metals was highly enjoyable and occasionally educational, especially if you really needed to know the boiling point of mercury.
  • 26] Lego Spider-Man.
  • 27] Wonder Woman in “Villainy, Incorporated.” This lengthy adventure was the apotheosis of the Golden Age superheroine in all her lesbian/BDSM glory. Some folks may be in denial about the overt sexuality of those ’40s stories, but William Moulton knew what he was doing. The Amazing Amazon defended the Amazons of Paradise Island from an army of female criminals. Bondage fun–on a massive scale–ensued.
  • 28] The Silver Age Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery: Heat Wave, Captain Cold, the Top, Mirror Master, the Trickster and Gorilla Grodd. I loved the adversarial, love/hate relationship that Flash shared with his recurring foes. (You may notice a certain theme in my list; that’s because the villains tend to be the more interesting characters.)
  • 29] Krypto, the Super-Dog and the Legion of Super-Pets.
  • 30] Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker. While Warner Bros. Animation produced many well-written, stylish adaptations of Batman and Superman, this is their greatest, albeit most disturbing work. The Batman of the future squares off a resurrected Joker, and we find out just why Robin retired. (Shudder.)
  • 31] Those freaky ’60s Spider-Man TV cartoons in which the webslinger battled giant vines in alternate dimensions. They were best when the animators forgot to use the correct backgrounds, and it appeared that Spidey had just landed on thin air!

I may think of a few more, and I’ll add them at another time.

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