Thursday, May 03, 2018

Profile: Gloss


Real name: Xiang Po
First appearance: Millenium #2, January 1988

The Guardians who created the Green Lantern Corps invested in a Millenium Project to form a group of successors on Earth, which saw 10 people gathered together to learn about the cosmos and be granted special powers. One of them was the young Chinese girl Xiang Po, whom the Guardians bestowed the power to draw energy from the Earth's "dragon lines". She'd go on to form the New Guardians group, which had a brief series in 1988-89 running 12 issues and whose cast was partly comprised of characters from the GL series, whose 2nd volume had ended in 1988.

Was subjected to the following act of discrmination: during the Justice League: Cry for Justice miniseries written by James Robinson in 2009, she was one several characters killed off by Prometheus.

What's wrong with how this was done? The miniseries was notorious for serving as a cheap excuse to kill off almost any minor character the DC editors considered expendable, including Lian Harper. All for no good reason, and just to serve as justification for Green Arrow to kill off Prometheus later...and then get into a pointless clash with the Justice League, made to look as though they have zero understanding of the terrible incident Prometheus caused. One can only wonder if it was all intended as an anti-war metaphor, since this was in the years after the war in Iraq to bring down Saddam.

And it all gave the Justice League a very bad name, while doing nothing more than throwing Steve Englehart and Joe Staton's creation Gloss, who could've had potential on her own under the right kind of writers, into oblivion as though her being fictional makes her automatically worthless. I think the New Guardians series was mediocre, but that's mainly the fault of Englehart and Cary Bates (the latter who wrote the majority of the book), not the characters, some of whom were given very unfair treatment.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Profile: Harbinger

Real name: Lyla Michaels

First appearance: New Teen Titans Annual #2, 1983

History: an orphan who survived a shipwreck, she was rescued by the Monitor (the being stuck in an eternal fight with the anti-Monitor), and became an assistant to him during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, where she would help arrange for henchmen and weapons to test the superheroes in the impending war. After her appearance in the Millenium crossover of 1988, she joined the New Guardians, who were partially connected with the Green Lantern Corps.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in the 12-issue New Guardians series, she, along with almost all the other team members, was subjected to the AIDS virus; one of the first stories in comics to address the subject that was big in the 80s. In 2004, when DC was reintroducing the original Supergirl, Kara Zor-El, to the DCU, she turned up in a guest appearance on Wonder Woman's Themyscira island, and was killed while defending Kara from the forces of Darkseid that would kidnap her for his own uses. Her corpse was later reanimated during the Blackest Night crossover.

What's wrong with how this was done? This had to be one of the cheapest paths they could go in to pointlessly kill off a character who could've still had her uses. But turning her into a living dead zombie only added insult to injury, and Blackest Night was by far one of the most disgusting, troll-the-audience publicity stunts DC could have ever conceived. And any friendship she was forming with the reintroduced Kara Zor-El was thrown out the window.

Most of the characters who were killed off at that time have thankfully been revived/exonerated since (though Harbinger's status is still unclear as of this writing). But the editors wasted tons of time pulling those stunts in the first place, and cost a lot of readership who shouldn't have been alienated in the first place.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Record: Scott Lobdell

One of the most pretentious writers Marvel employed in the 1990s to script the X-Men, Scott Lobdell most unfortunately has some bad moments in his record that served to sully what was once an effective series. I'll try to list here some of his bad efforts here.
  • As one of the writers in charge of stories spotlighting Rogue and Gambit, he did a poor, tiresome job depicting their ostensible relationship with the lady's siphoning power posing such an obstacle, it only led under his unimpressive writing to a lot of agonizing and frustration. Not to mention that in at least a few scenes where the "Ragin' Cajun" would try to come on to Rogue with physical contact, she'd jump away in fear of causing injury. The irritating long term effect of such scenes would be that it'd look like he was a sex predator, however unintentional. And at the same time, it made Rogue look absurdly scared.
  • In Uncanny X-Men #328, he scripted a tale where Sabretooth gutted Psylocke after she tried warding off his threats to Boomer/Tabitha Smith (not shown in graphic detail, thankfully). All for the sake of conceiving a tale where the formula to heal her injury would result in a dagger-shaped tattoo across her left eye.
  • In his last story for X-Men prior to Grant Morrison taking over for 3 years in the early 2000s, Lobdell's "Eve of Destruction" made Jean Grey look like a mindless robot, who wouldn't even demand Northstar stop assaulting a cardboard panel of a character named Paulie Provenzano over a pointless quarrel for the sake of filling panels. It was utterly awful.
  • When Lobdell was writing Red Hood and the Outlaws during DC's New 52 era in the early 2010s, there was trivial criticism vented over Starfire's skimpy costume. This almost obscured a much more valid complaint - she was made to sound like a brainless vagrant who was willing to have sex for the sake of almost any man she came upon, and told Roy Harper "love has nothing to do with it." This had the effect of making her come off as a subservient tool for men instead of working as her own agency and thinking for herself. It also made Tamaranians (the alien race she came from) look bad, if that matters.
In addition to the above, Lobdell even admitted he once sexually harassed a lady cartoonist at a convention, which makes it look like his mindless positions got the better of him. None of this reflects well on his resume, though he may have learned his lesson about his misdeed at the convention since. I certainly hope he did, because he still shows signs here and there he probably didn't.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Record: Gerard Jones

You may have heard, since the beginning of 2017, that onetime comics writer Gerard Jones was arrested on charges of storing child pornography in his computer equipment, and is suspected of committing an even worse offense over in Britain. Besides those revolting discoveries, I do believe his record as a comics writer has some items in it worth pondering. What he may have done wrong with any and all of the superhero books he'd written, not the least being the books he wrote for Malibu Comics, and that could be both before and after Marvel bought them out in 1994. So here, I may be able to list at least a few moments in his writing career worthy of attention.
  • In the premiere of Green Lantern volume 3, John Stewart's watching a TV news report that includes word of a child kidnapping. In light of the discoveries of Jones' crimes in real life, that's obviously not going to age well.
  • In the second issue of the series, Guy Gardner goes to a porn shop (where he finds the Tattooed Man and picks a fight with him all for the sake of making Guy look like a parody of "jingoists"). I think we can all figure out why time won't be kind to that story segment.
  • The Guardian named Appa Ali Apsa, first introduced by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams in the early 1970s as an observer for GL and Green Arrow at the time they were "hard travelin' heroes" was turned insane, deadly and villainous in the beginning story (when it was first reprinted in 2003, the given title was "The Road Back"), becoming the adversary they had to combat, and was finally killed at its end. In retrospect, I don't think this was getting off to a good start, taking a decent character and turning him crazy and murderous (he killed another character, seen in the 2nd issue). Mainly because Hal Jordan didn't seem particularly miserable they had to wipe him out. If anything, it was hardly focusing on the real villains in GL's rogues' gallery, who could've made for just as good a premise. Jones did all this just to set up a story where several colonies of races from across the galaxy would learn to live together, as though that couldn't be done.
  • In the 1st Green Lantern Quarterly from 1992, he wrote a story featuring Arisia, where the alien girl who'd boosted herself artificially to a theoretically mature age in 1986 had now reverted mentally to the age of a 13 year old. In light of the charges filed against Jones in 2017, this is why his early 90s story doesn't age well now.
  • In the 1992-93 GL: Mosaic spinoff, he wrote Ch'p, the chipmunk-like alien, getting killed by a truck on the planet Oa (a whole colony of humans was moved there by Appa ali Apsa). And I'm wondering what was so wrong with the poor little guy that they had to turn him into a sacrifice on the alter of slaying minor characters just because of how supposedly easy that was?
  • Although Jones did resurrect Katma Tui in GL: Mosaic, it was otherwise as an energy construct, and I'm not sure it was even in the same way Wonder Man/Simon Williams was. As a result, I'm not sure if Jones ever exonerated Carol Ferris properly. After all, that storyline from Action Comics Weekly in 1988 where Carol slew Katma when she was under the Star Sapphire influence was a very bad step in storytelling, and not reversing it entirely, IMO, did little to help mend a serious mistake.
  • In the first storyline or two from Wonder Man's 1991-94 series, there were some subtle attacks on capitalism, with an inventor who'd become a criminal now wanting to do business with corrupt governments overseas, all because he thought he'd been taken advantage of earlier by domestic corporations.
  • In light of the allegations against Jones, his jokes in Justice League Europe focusing on Power Girl's boobs and cleavage aren't bound to age well. (Nor for that matter is an idiotic joke he made about women sipping diet soda and becoming aggressive as a result.)
  • I'd mentioned before that Jones wrote a story starring Shanna the She-Devil in Marvel Comics Presents #70-73 during 1991? There's something else he's left in a broken heap for at least a while, but then, what good is a story that relies on horror elements when somebody like him is doing the scripting?
  • Though he never scripted the mainstay MCU's Hulk, he did write Hulk 2099, part of Marvel's mid-90s 2099: World of Tomorrow line, which wasn't very successful, and if he was doing it for the sake of exploring his whole notion of violent entertainment being "good for kids" he sure blew it.
  • One of the most notable titles in the Malibu line of superhero knockoffs he wrote was Prime, a Captain Marvel clone about a young teen boy gaining powers to turn into an adult superhero, who went after child rapists, including a school instructor. It goes without saying Jones' own arrest for sex felonies will ensure this Malibu product falls flat on its face.
  • Towards the end of his official career in superhero comics, he wrote Batman: Fortunate Son in 1999 (the title appears to be inspired by a Bruce Springsteen song), an early-days OGN tale where the Masked Manhunter and Dick Grayson, in his early days as Robin, were investigating the case of a rock star accused of blowing up a studio. The message of the yarn was apparently that rock music makes people insane. Oh, isn't that classic. I don't know what Jones was smoking when he came up with that one, but it's very ridiculous, especially now that he's been arrested for his sexual misconduct felony.
Over the past year since Jones' offenses made headlines, I've had to reevaluate some of the stories I read that he'd scripted, and concluded they weren't so entertaining at all, let alone respectable of past works that came before, and the Ultraverse books will surely wind up under an entirely different perspective now. Recalling that he won an Eisner in 2005 for his history books like Men of Tomorrow, it remains to be seen if the board of directors thought to revoke his prize, which he didn't deserve to win. He belongs in the category of overrated scribes whose personalities can easily ensure their stories wind up becoming more dated that others.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Profile: Marla Bloom

Marla Bloom

First appearance: in a backup story published in The Fury of Firestorm #24, June 1984, as part of the subsequent cast of Blue Devil's solo book that ran during 1984-86. Her co-creators were Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn.

History: the president of a film production outfit, Marla Bloom Associates, she was in charge of stuntman Dan Cassidy's movie, where a magical demon caused the effects that would turn him into the blue-skinned humanoid who'd take up a career in crimefighting. She'd provide assistance whenever possible.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: during the Underworld Unleashed crossover in 1996, Blue Devil made a deal with Neron for achieving more fame, and was given the assignment to take down a power substation. But during the day he was supposed to do so, Marla decided to go out on a scouting assignment in a helicopter for filming locations, and died in a helicopter crash, mostly because of Blue Devil's utterly foolish quest for more fortune.

What's wrong with how this was done? It was nothing more than a pathetic decision to kill off characters whose creators worked so hard to get them on paper in the first place, and following this, did Dan Cassidy do anything to get her resurrected? Apparently not, because next thing you know, he's getting Neron to make him a real devil after he's been put to death briefly during a fight. If the idea was to show him punishing himself for his grave errors, I'm not impressed. This was a story that did not have to be, yet DC's editors went out of their way to make bad use out of Blue Devil and co-stars anyway.

Since then, as far as I know, the death of Marla was never reversed. If it was, then certainly that would be an improvement. But so far, it doesn't look like that's happened, and what's resulted is a pure embarrassment.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Profile: Blue Devil

Blue Devil

Real name: Dan Cassidy

First appearance: Fury of Firestorm #24, June 1984, in a special backup story. His solo book followed the same month. He was co-created by Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn.

History: a stuntman on a movie set that bore the very name he'd take up as a superdoer, Cassidy was affected by a magic attack from a demon who thought he was a real one, and led to his costume becoming grafted to his body so he couldn't get it off, as it theoretically merged with him. But, he managed to overcome any depressed feelings and took up the usual career in crimefighting.

Was subjected to the following act of discrimination: in 1996, during the Underworld Unleashed crossover, BD became one a victim of a pure embarrassment. He makes a deal with the demonic Neron to destroy an unmanned power substation in California, all because he wants more fame and fortune, and unintentionally leads to the death of his producer buddy, Marla Bloom, who was traveling in a helicopter later in the day, when the copter collides with some power lines. Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, he's killed while seeking revenge on Neron and decides he wants to become a real blue-skinned devil, which Neron promptly fulfills. That's right, Cassidy doesn't act altruistically and actually try to get Marla's fate reversed. He just makes a mockery of his whole predicament by getting it shifted from bad to worse.

He later wound up in one of the worst stories written at the time Identity Crisis was published, a series called Shadowpact. Which didn't last long, thankfully. Later still, he appeared in the 13th issue of DC Universe Presents circa 2012, where he and Black Lightning get into a pointless clash as they're allegedly depicted trying to defeat a new take on the gangster Tobias Whale.

The catastrophe with Blue Devil is a leading example of how DC's modern managers have no faith or confidence in any of the creations they were in charge of.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Profile: Jane Foster

Jane Foster

First appearance: Journey Into Mystery #84, September 1962

History: Foster, a nurse when she first debuted, was assistant to and the first mortal love of Marvel's take on the Norse God of Thunder, Thor, in his mortal guise of Dr. Donald Blake at the time he'd originally had a secret identity. An interesting bit of trivia: at least twice she was referred to as Jane Nelson rather than Foster, as per a handful of early Stan Lee works where some accidental typos remained in place, but the family name Foster ultimately came to be the one solidified for naming her character. She may not have begun as the toughest lady cast member (admittedly, not many of the female co-stars in Stan Lee's first 2 Silver Age years did), but as time went by, she became a much more braver, determined character who wasn't afraid to put up a fight when facing danger.

Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: when she first found out Thor and Blake were one and the same, she tried to persuade Odin to make her a deity to live alongside Thor. But she failed the needed tests and Odin returned her to Midgard (Earth) with her brief powers and memories of Thor erased, though the latter returned some time later. In Thor #231 from 1975, an entity called Fear tried to manipulate her into committing suicide, and while Sif aided her by merging their life forces temporarily, she later wound up stuck in a pocket dimension the following year in issue #249. Fortunately, Thor and Sif rescued her, and in 1983, in issue #336, she married Dr. Keith Kincaid, the medic whom Thor's Blake identity was meant to resemble.

When the Civil War crossover was published, Jane was shoved into the mess as well. In the third Thor volume, after learning Donald Blake was around again, she divorced Kincaid and lost custody of the child she had at that time. In 2015, she was depicted contracting cancer and was turned into a female Thor, complete with same name as the male protagonist who bears that very name.

What's wrong with how this was done? The stories from early times were done plausibly and respectably (including a What If? anthology tale from the late 70s), without trying to turn Foster into a tool. But forcing her into the Civil War crossover was bad, and it was disrespectful how J. Michael Straczynski and company had her divorce her husband, as though nothing mattered anymore, ditto the child custody loss.

And then, there's that little matter of turning Jane into "Thor" for the sake of publicity stunts and catering to SJWs and "diversity" advocates in 2015, as though such steps alone equal talented writing. Not so at all. Jason Aaron's notions of how to go about were laughable in the extreme, and despite the attempts by leftist apologists to claim otherwise, sales did not hold up, and certainly didn't sell over 100,000 copies (and don't be surprised if plenty of those copies are gathering dust on the shelves and in bargain bins now). It was a decidedly terrible misuse of a character who deserved far better, just like the equally abused Mary Jane Watson.