Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Batman for Quaker Oats.

'Hello, I'm Batman, World's Greatest Detective and professional badass. Before I spend an evening punching criminal scum in the soul, I enjoy a hearty bowl of Quaker Oatmeal. It provides me with the nutrients I need to bring justice to the mean streets of Gotham, and it can help you get through your busy days on the go. With such down-home goodness, it'd be downright criminal not to enjoy a bowl.

And you know what I do to criminals.'



Could there be a Chris Nolan-helmed vehicle that could contain the awesome of a pirate batman, replete with bat-pommelled cutlass and bandoleer-style utility belt?


No there really, really couldn't.

BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE drops May 12, 2010. Prepare thyself.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boba Fett mows his lawn.

Paying him a dollar every hour for the privilege.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Old Fan.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum; I'm feeling a lot less bitter and jaded about comics in general these days. Maybe it's reading all these Marvel Essential and DC Showcase trades(we'll be talking about them in April. Boy howdy will we be talking about them), but there's a feeling of optimism and fun in me in regards to my hobby that I haven't felt in a while.

It's been said by my friends that the only things I enjoy about comics are that they're out once a month and in color. It's a funny little bit of humor between friends, but I'll admit that it's a role that I don't relish. I'm the Old Fan, the one who isn't happy with all the newfangled changes and whatnot and things were better back in my day and we didn't hold to all these scary new ideas and we read our floppies with a slurpie and a smile and we liked it! We lovvvved it!

It's a funny bit to be sure, but is it really anyone you'd want to be? Hell no. Old Fan's no fun. Old Fan is a killjoy and a seething cauldron of Bitter. Nobody wants to be the spectre at the banquet.

I'm passionate about superhero comics, this is true. I wear my love of the genre on my sleeve and make no apologies for it. But at the same time I don't think I should have to go to something I don't find myself all that interested in, which is what I am when it comes to the current crossover crop. It's not that I feel they're bad per se, though I do tend to riff off their elements that I find amusingly irritating (time bullets, the death/gore parade, assorted wheel-spinning), it's just that I'm tired of playing keep-up with the whole big show all the time. It seems these days that you can't just appreciate a single title very much anymore, everything seems geared toward pumping out the crossover issues and the multi-part storylines resolved in other titles and you have to buy this book because herein everything is explained and nothing will be the same again evar(until the next time)! Simply put I began to feel my hobby becoming kind of a second job, and I didn't get down with that. I go to comics for one key factor, one essential element that I absolutely, positively must have: escapism.

A recent article over at Comic Book Resources made me think about my position on certain storyline and moves by the Big Two. If comics truly are catering to me as the graying audience, why is it that I feel more ostracized than ever? Shouldn't I be happy that everything is all about me and my desire for nostalgia trips? Well I'm not. Let me explain why.

The thing I miss about the comics of my youth aren't the fact that they were about the minutiae of the hero's background or why this is the way it is when it's really about this, we just never talked about it. . .until now(DUN DUN DUN)! What I liked about the period of comics I grew up reading was that things were changing. Barry Allen died and Wally West became the Flash. Peter Parker went from a struggling college kid to a professional photographer and husband with his own book published featuring his Spider-Man photos. Hal Jordan got older and more seasoned and was working to pass the torch to the next generation of Green Lanterns. Superman was re-energized as a dynamic character and less of Your Dad's Superhero. It was in the wake of Crisis On Infinite Earths (an attempt by DC to settle it's past decisively before moving into the present) that I went from being a kid who read comics to a comics fan. It was in those moments of change and transition that I came to love the genre with a passionate (some might say too passionate) intensity that continues unabated through to the present.

These days I don't really get that feeling of forward momentum or change. Old characters are coming back, newer and more original takes get shelved, and any outright new characters are largely brushed aside in favor of the Tried 'n True. While I still read books from the Big Two (Power Girl, Warlord, Magog on the DC side, Hercules, Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova on the Marvel) I by and large skip the mainstream titles, where the past is king. I read books like Atomic Robo or Invincible, Savage Dragon or Dynamo 5, where that feeling of movement, of dynamism is still alive to me. Does that make me an old bitter fart? I don't think so. I think it makes me someone who loves what came before, to be sure, but wants that same feeling of moving with the characters through their lives right now. I don't want the past rehashed. Acknowledged yes, embraced for all it's exuberant goofiness most assuredly, but I'm not saying 'Everything after 1989 is crap!' I'm saying that I want that dynamic feeling back in my escapism. That's what makes stuff like Marvel's The Heroic Age and DC'S First Wave line look so inviting. The chance to get in on the ground floor of something new and bold, something exciting. It's an intriguing time, to be sure, one in which storytelling possibility abounds.

Still if they could throw some gorillas with jetpacks in there? Yeah, that'd be good too. Just sayin' is all. . .


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dispatches from the Desert of the Real #1: The bus.

All right this isn't my normal comicbook ramblings and ravings and for that I apologize, but I had to get his out somewhere before memory fades and I lose all track of yet another instance in life that struck me surreal as all hell.

See, my life has these moments. Not good moments per se, nor even bad, but what they can be called is weird. Really, really weird. And today certainly qualifies as one of the stranger ones I've had in a while. Let me set the scene for you.

I work night shifts at an office in the downtown core. Parking underground costs money I do not wish to spend, and parking on the street just gets me paranoid so I've settled on the compromise of public transit. After I shower, dress, and grab a snack I take up my Bag of Holding, slip the iPod on and head down to the corner bus stop to catch my ride to work. A simple enough routine, though sometimes complicated by the usual vagaries of public transportation. Today was a bit different however, as I'd lent my iPod to my brother on Friday for his night shift job so he could listen to some tunes and podcasts, and I hadn't yet called to collect it. I was just going to hop the bus and ride, maybe read one of my Marvel Comics Essentials trades on the way to work, so I didn't think anything of it.

I get to the corner stop and begin to wait, a few other folk milling about next to the glass enclosure on the corner. As I do a young woman ambles up towards me, conversing on a cell phone. Now please understand, I am no eavesdropper. It's never my intent to listen in on someone's conversation. For the most part I was drifting along in my day to day haze of thought, thinking about how cool a Michael Jai White/Tony Jaa Power Man & Iron Fist movie would be and who the villain would be, when gradually the conversation began to impose itself on my thought processes. This woman was not speaking at a private, semi-murmur 'I'm-in-a-public-place-and-am-talking-about-private-stuff' tone. She was at her normal speaking voice, which carried quite well.

Over the course of (her side) of the conversation I learned that her friend Mary was in jail. Apparently there'd been a bit of a fracas with the local constabulary and 'the crazy bitch' was now locked up in jail. Frankly she'd seen the writing on the wall for some time, as Mary had her issues with certain controlled substances and a boyfriend that was, apparently 'a total psycho'. Details of the arrest (learned second-hand from a friend of a friend) were discussed, as well as the possibility of her being out on bail. All this said without a trace of self-consciousness, not even a casual look over the shoulder to see if anyone might be listening in. My eyes remained locked up the street for some sign of the bus, which gradually approached. I got on board and prepared for a quieter ride, as surely the confines of the bus would have her speak at a reduced volume.

Apparently not.

As the bus ride began the topic began to gradually shift to another topic, one in which the young lady and her friend began to discuss something. . .else. It took my sleep-addled brain a few moments to process the babble, but gradually it became clear.

". . .well how long does he usually last. . .?" a giggle.

". . .it must be because you're tight."

For a moment my brain had nothing. Then the little troll that handles my perversion got back from his coffee break and connected the dots for me. Oh shit. There's no way. There's no way they're talking about--

'. . .you're on birth control right? At least tell me you're on birth control."

--yep, they're talking about sex all right. Sex. On a public bus. Right across the aisle from me. With all the Nimoyian stamina I can muster from my tired frame I somehow manage to lock my facial features into a neutral expression.

". . .well the pill, the pill's okay but it makes you fat. I swear. I seen a couple of my friends take it and they kinda ballooned. Me, I'm on the patch. It's making me thinner and my boobs bigger. . .yeah, my boobs are huge now."

I thank JesusAllahBuddha that I decided not to crack open the Red Bull in my bag, for I most assuredly would have done a spit-take all over the back of the head of the sweet-looking older woman sitting in front of me. Again, this woman is making no effort to conceal her conversation. As far as she's concerned, the contents of this phone call are as safe and secure as that of a church confessional, as though some bubble of inaudibility is trailing her and ensuring that none of us can hear her speaking at a normal tone of volume within a confined space.

". . .hm? Oh, about a 34C now. Getting bigger too. What's the bra size after C?"

I am dying. I am literally dying. I run a hand along my mouth, desperately trying to hold on. I share a glimpse with a woman sitting across the aisle from me and we both exchange a single telepathic message of 'What. The. Fuck?' I'm torn between my desire for decorum and my morbid curiosity to see just how far this can go.

". . .dude, dude, you totally need to look after that shit. You can't be having a kid that has like sixteen years between you. You need it to be like eighteen, twenty, maybe thirty years. . .dude I'm 19." that last said with the conviction of a veteran of a thousand psychic wars.

I sit there, gobsmacked, shaking my head a little as the bus comes to a stop. She rises, and walks out the door, continuing to hold court with her friend and talking up the street as she walks on and the bus pulls away from the curb. For a brief moment in time I looked through a window into an entirely different world, one that is as alien to my way of thinking as the sands of Tatooine or Barsoom. It was amazing, it was astounding, and most of all it was goddamnned weird.

This is my life. God but I love it so.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I just got back from the Emerald City Comic Con a few days ago and I do plan to blog about it, but the need to write is currently buried beneath the strain of adjusting my sleep schedule twice within the span of a week and working at my 'real' job. Content to come soon, promise. As a teaser I had an absolute blast at the con, a great time had with friends in easily the most pleasant con atmosphere I've ever been in.

Talk to you soon,


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

And business? Booming.

Buy Essential Iron Fist Volume 1. It's more than worth it.


Villain Tune-Up: Lex Luthor.

'I am a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me, to push you out of the light.' Rene Belloq, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

'There's a strong streak of good in you, Superman. But then nobody's perfect... almost nobody.' Lex Luthor, Superman(1978)

A common complaint levelled by people who only have a tangential knowledge of Superman as a contemporary comics character (beyond what they've seen in movies or the impression of the Silver Age lingering in the pop culture mindset) is that Superman is impossible to write convincingly because he's too powerful. Now in the interests of fairness, this belief isn't entirely without justification (back in the '50s and '60s Superman could blow out a star like we'd put out candles on a birthday cake), but to me it seems an easy way of removing the character from consideration. Oh, Superman is obviously too powerful to be dealt with on a physical level so where's the dramatic hook?

Putting aside the fanboy rebuttals I have in my back pocket (he's no longer a living god, and there are a number of characters who--while putting up a helluva fight--he'd probably end up losing against, that the character is as much about his wits as his fists and is not nearly the caped flying brick pop culture would have you believe, etc, etc) the purest and simplest way to challenge Superman is not through a physical confrontation. Oh no. Don't get me wrong, the battling giant robot apes (see, toldja I'd get back to it. . .) rampaging through downtown Metropolis will never truly get old, but beneath the shiny veneer of all his fancy powers and the madness of alien invasion, crime waves, and other assorted madness inherent to living in a comicbook universe its all really icing on the proverbial cake. The key to challenging Superman is not physically, but morally. That's something I think it's all too easy to lose track of amidst the capes and laser vision.

Take Superman's nemesis, his opposite number, one Lex Luthor. As times have changed, so too has the portrayal of the yin to Superman's yang. At first he was little more than your traditional Mad Scientist with a Grudge, then later portrayals would see him go from a scheming, sneering meglomaniac to a tortured and vengeance-driven soul to the epitome of corporate greed and dirty dealing, to the President of the United States on DC'S Earth(political commentary anyone? Anyone? No? Okay, I didn't really want to hand it out anyway)! These days the portrayal has settled on 'Vengeful Genius/Ex-Friend of Superboy's with an axe to grind' which--for all my love of DC's Silver Age Insanity--I feel is not the way to go with the character. Hence my first installment of Villain Tune-Up, an effort to put Lex's character up on the block and examine what about him works, and what could work better.

One of the things I think I need to address, and I've seen it both in the works of Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison respectively, is this recurring point that Luthor could save the world if only he didn't feel Superman was 'holding him back'. With respect and deference to these two talented writers, I must take that notion to task. To me that idea takes away an element of Lex Luthor that I feel must be supremely critical in order for him to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the 'common rabble' of DC Villainy. Luthor is not a petulant child, at least, not in such an overt manner as that. No, Lex's mania runs far, far deeper than mere petulance and feeling cheated at not being the one to lead humanity into a new golden age. To be truthful, Lex Luthor could give less than a gnat's fart in the wind about people or the world. Lex Luthor is in the business of Lex Luthor. He is the single smartest human being on the planet(I'd say late 11th-level intelligence for the DC fanboys out there. Yeah, he's that smart, he'd have to be to hold his own against Brainiac I), and it is only the impediment of his own hubris that keeps him from completely destroying any obstacles in his path. He really could do all those things Superman says he could; cure disease, abolish hunger, design a new golden age where everyone could live in peace and utter harmony. He really, really could.

But honestly, where's the fun in that?

Luthor loves the world exactly the way it is; each continent a powderkeg, each city a firecracker, and he's the kid with the zippo lighter. Of course, as was once stated so brilliantly by his cinematic counterpart, nobody wants a war. But Lex does so love keeping the threat alive. He's grown up in a world where he is--without doubt--the smartest man in the room, the building, the city entire. He looks upon the world as his toy, his own personal Rubik's cube to solve or misalign in whatever way he sees fit. Where Superman is the benefit of order, Luthor is the threat of chaos. Where Superman is the responsibility of power, Luthor is power without responsibility. The world is his playground, his own personal rumpus room wherein he can build death ray lasers and killer robots and assorted mayhem, where he can create a multi-billion dollar corporation like LexCorp solely because he was bored and it was a rainy Wednesday afternoon and because he could. Luthor is the Da Vinci of super-villainy; criminals should be beating themselves into unmerciful pulps just to get their mitts on jotted out plans found on a diner napkin. He is, simply put, The Greatest Criminal Mind of Our Time. And he loves it.

Unlike the Joker, Luthor doesn't kill for the pleasure of it. Everyday people are far, far too beneath his notice for him to be caught up in petty vendettas or anything so declasse as sadism. No, they're toys. He's a little disappointed when they break, of course, but he's not actively looking to destroy the world or kill anyone in his path. They're there to be his audience, to see just how utterly inferior they are compared to his genius. Sometimes he even spares them, if for no other reason than it amuses him to play god. They're all such easy little equations after all, so utterly and completely predictable. Except one.


Luthor doesn't want to kill Superman. At least not all at once. No, the kryptonian is far, far too interesting a problem to just dismiss out of turn. If Luthor wanted Superman dead, chances are he'd eventually find a way to do it and make it stick. It's that ego thing, it keeps tripping him up. Why? Why does he do it? Why does he try? What's the angle? How can he be made to bend to my will, to be just another plaything to be discarded? Luthor is fascinated by Superman, to the point where--if any other of his so-called rogues gallery were to come close he'd stop them from killing him. Superman is Luthor's personal project. Killing him? Easy. Breaking him, making him see that all his cherished ideals about Truth, Justice and the charmingly quaint ideal of the American Way are just so much smoke? Therein lies the game.

Luthor's not brooding, he's not petulant, and he's not a heavy. In fact he can be utterly charming and one of the most alive people you've ever met(picture Downey Jr's Tony Stark but without a single redeeming characteristic and you'd be in the ballpark). But every time he walks in a room, even if it's just in a suit and tie, the reaction should be similar to Darth Vader's debut in Star Wars. It should be an 'oh crap' moment in a given issue. Metallo? Parasite? Darkseid? All things Superman's prepared for, knows how to deal with. Luthor is the guy who makes Superman nervous. Superman.

That's who Luthor is, at least from here in the cheap seats.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It was all a dream. . .

Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G. May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997. Game changer, innovator, genuinely awesome.

Own your words.

I don't think this one will be especially long, chiefly because it's a bit more stream-of-consciousness than my usual blog posts. There'll be a point to be made, but right now I thought it might be interesting to at least open the discussion in the hopes of finding like minds or even contrary opinions to help either confirm my own opinion or see it challenged.

I'm 34 years old. Lots of people as they creep into their middle thirties tend to deny their age but hell, I'm just happy to be here. Every gray hair on my head and line on my face I wear like a badge on my sleeve, and the state of my life taken on the whole is one that I've earned. Decent job, good friends, burgeoning creative venues. . .I'm proud of what I've accomplished and hope to do more to build from what I've already established.

As an aging fanboy coming up in the '90s and the early '00s, I noticed the growth of Internet culture; particularly in the form of Internet Forums and chat rooms. The premise of these online social watering holes is pretty simple; register in the forums, create an online name or alias, and then sign-in and talk with like-minded bodies. I used to do it a lot, and still do from time to time, though primarily I tend to utilize social programs like Facebook, Twitter, and yes Blogger for my own social hub/soap box.

The online culture is prevalent with aliases and online handles. In many ways I sometimes think it's like X2: X-Men United when Magneto asks the young kid his name, he replies with his given name and the Master of Magnetism simply states no, what's your name. To which the kid sheepishly grins and says 'Pyro'. It's an extension of our identity, or perhaps a protection of our original persona. It's intriguing stuff, to be sure.

But part of that online alias/perceived anonymity engenders standards of behaviour that are baffling at best and outright demoralizing at worst. Things are said online and from the safety of a keyboard that would never, ever be spoken in real life.

Recently I've taken to making most of my online handles reflections of my name, StacyD being the most common (though Twitter apparently already has a StacyD on hand, so I'm now StacyHD. Hugh Dooks, not High Def). Simply put, and knowing full well how corny this is going to sound, I think it's important that we own what we say. For better or worse our words reflect who we are, both in terms of what we contribute to an intelligent dialogue and who we are as a person. In an age where we can do the things our distant ancestors only dreamed of and communicate with people all over the world in a manner of moments, do we really want the epitaph of human dialogue and intelligent discussion to be 'd13 n00b?'

Gah, this is entirely too mature a topic given my usual fare. I'll be back debating Superman vs. Captain Marvel in my next post or something equally light and fluffy, promise.


Monday, March 8, 2010


StacyD's Convention Etiquette 101.

With my upcoming trip to Seattle for the annual Emerald City Comic Con and Star Wars Celebration V on my mind, I thought it'd be a worthy diversion to set down a few thoughts on proper convention etiquette. Whether you're an old hand at attending Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions or a relative newcomer, it never hurts to go over the basics and establish some guidelines. Best to have and not need than need and not have, right? Without further ado, let's jump right into it:

Convention Etiquette 101:

1) The Golden Rule: A very simple creed to live by and a positive necessity at a con, doing unto others as you'd have them do unto you is just good common sense. That doesn't mean you need to be a Pollyanna or a milksop, but just remember to be polite and pleasant whenever you can. I know it can be difficult when the line to get food stretches off into the horizon or the guy jabbering behind you on a cell phone at a panel is working your last nerve, but a little civility can go a long way.

2)Cultivate patience: Waiting in line is a fact of life at cons, whether it's for a panel, food, or even the washroom and general admittance. Focus on the destination rather than the journey at those moments you feel your patience begin to fray. Save up some really geeky questions for impromptu debates between friends, or hey, maybe even strike up a conversation with the people around you in line. You might make some new friends, and that never sucks.

3)Don't be greedy: Yes, you're here to get Wil Wheaton's autograph, you loved his voice over work on Teen Titans and the Legion of Super Heroes and you thought his guest appearances on The Big Bang Theory were bust-a-gut funny. Thing is, we the people behind you did also, and we'd kinda like to say hi and get something signed for ourselves, so could you maybe e-mail him the epic sweep of your life story so we can get a shot at a signature? I know, I know, Rule #1, but remember that we're here to see our idols as well. . .

4)Always Ask Permission: One thing about Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions that I love is getting the chance to watch local and travelling cosplayers go completely Muppet Labs and make the future today in terms of insanely awesome costumes. And they're usually more than willing to get a picture taken and strike a badass pose for you to immortalize them for your Facebook album or flickr page. Something to remember though, is to always seek their permission before you take a picture, to ensure that they're A)Not trying to get somewhere or B)Not busy. Doctor Fate may fight the Lords of Chaos and their evil machinations but Buddy Wasisname in his outfit may want to take off the helmet and get a Coke.

Also(and this is very very rare)there are certain folks within the fan base who follow those in costume in hopes of shots from. . .shall we say. . .creative angles, particularly when it comes to female cosplayers. Always asking permission and taking a tasteful picture is infinitely preferable than being seen as one of the creeps, and if you do spot something like that going on let someone on staff know. We're all here to have fun, not make people feel uncomfortable.

5)Don't be mean: Like the great Buckaroo Banzai said, we don't have to be mean. This may tie in with Rule #1, but remember that above all else we're here to have fun and hang out and exult in the things that we find to be awesome. Yes, you might have certain concerns about a given direction your favorite book has taken or the paper quality of certain releases but I'd ask that you approach the parties you hope to raise your concerns with privately, rather than getting into a panel and grinding it to a complete halt with a confrontational attitude. Also, while I may not get anime and manga fans, and while I really don't get the furries, I respect that they're having fun and just want to come to a place where they can enjoy themselves in an inclusive, friendly atmosphere. Really, didn't we get enough clique jockeying back when we were in high school? Do we really have to bring that to a place we're in control? Hell, maybe this year will be the year some plucky anime fan finds the series that turns me around in terms of my opinion on anime or manga, and I might bond with furries over my love of Usagi Yojimbo and Captain Carrot. The point is we're all out to have a good time. Grandstanding and being mean-spirited need not apply.

6)Avoid becoming Torg, the Living Log Jam: Let's face it, the aisles of a convention can get crazy busy. If you can, try to be as salmon-like as possible and get to where you're going as best you're able with as much civility as you can muster. If you have to stop for anything, try to make yourself as small as possible. Remove your Con Swag backpack and set it by your feet, and if asked do your best to move for anyone you might be blocking. Cosplayers should be aware of how much space there is in an aisle. If there's room to pose and people can get around, have at it. If things are a bit congested, perhaps suggest adjourning to the lobby. Sometimes people need to get where they're going as quickly as possible (like me after two cokes and a bran muffin) so if the aisles are moving, people can get where they need to go and stay happy.

7)Thank your vendor: Speaking as a guy who's worked both sides of a con, thank your vendors. He came here in the very, very wee hours in the morning, set up his booth, and now gets to stand on a concrete floor for about 8 hours busting his hump so you can get a shot at quality merchandise (merchandise that could be found, say, at Red 5 Collectibles!) for a decent price. They do the most gutsy thing imaginable; making their passion their profession, and anyone who suggests they have it easy is quite mistaken. Next time you buy something from one of these fine people, thank them for the effort it took to get out here and set up for you. It's just good karma.

8)Have fun: Remember that above all else, a convention is that rarest of opportunities: a chance to get together with people who understand why it's so important that the Earth-2 Superman was named Kal-L and he defeated the Anti-Monitor in one of the sickest fights ever, or that the Force is an energy field that unites and binds all living things, or that Sheridan's farewell to Delenn is one of the most heartbreaking scenes depicted on film. These are people who understand, who get it, and who prove that you're not alone for loving this stuff. That other people do too, from all walks of life from all over the world. More than anything else this love of the shared passions we have for our 'crazy books' and 'sci-fi stuff' is one of the most amazing things I've ever encountered, and it's ability to join complete strangers in bonds of shared experience is something to truly be savored as one of life's rare joys.

Oh, and if you could help me complete my run of Sleepwalker, that would be so boss.


Uh. . .yeah. . .so. . .um. . .

The word 'Damn' comes to mind. . .

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Truly Escapist Fare: The Mister Miracle Review.

One of the truly great things about this time in popular culture is the oppurtunity that arises to introduce those drawn in to the medium by movies and television to the sheer scope of comics proper. While not as household a name as his frequent partner, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby's influence on the contemporary superhero comicbook cannot be denied. The man co-created a slew of classic characters from Captain America through the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man. . .the list goes on and on. His art style was nothing if not distinctive, and the scope of his ideas ranged from the contemporary to the cosmic, often within the same issue. He stands as a giant in the industry, and rightly so.

Kirby's style was one of the first I consciously recognized even before I became aware that comicbooks were actively created by individuals, rather than simply magically materializing into a grocery store or pharmacy. I think the first time I ever encountered his art was in an issue of the comics adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, bought as part of those wonderful 'grab-bags' of comics that used be sold in department stores for about fifty cents. Another similar purchase by my parents yielded a copy of The Eternals #1, and years later when I bought a copy of Super Powers #6 at the Green Gables in Fort McMurray, Alberta, I knew immediately that this was more of the same. Kirby's art is powerful, energetic, and dynamic. If it could be summed up into a single word, it'd have to be action; things jump out at the screen, machinery looks intricate and futuristic, figures look primal and idealized, a mixture of primitive and paragon. Kirby's characters don't walk, they stride. They don't jump, they bound. Even when they're standing still there's a sense of a coiled spring ready to snap, that something is about to be unleashed and when it does it'll be sudden, intense, and amazing.

It was through the cartoon SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show that I was first introduced to Kirby's personal opus: The Fourth World. At the time I had no idea that uber-baddie Darkseid, his son Kalibak and the scheming majordomo Desaad were anything more than the creation of Hanna-Barberra and Saturday Morning, but in later years I've come to appreciate Kirby and his creations as perhaps some of the most ambitious and amazing concepts to come out of North American Comics.

The story of the Fourth World begins with an ending:

'There came a time when the old gods died! The brave died with the cunning! The noble perished, locked in battle with unleashed evil! It was the last day for them! An ancient era was passing in fiery holocaust!'

From those opening lines in New Gods #1 we're then introduced to the core concepts of this universe: That from the destruction of the realm of the 'old' gods sprung two new worlds, the idyllic and utopian New Genesis and the smoke-filled, fiery dystopia of Apokolips. New Genesis is ruled by the benevolent and wise Highfather in accordance with the will of the Source, a primeval energy said to be part of the very foundations of creation. Apokolips bends to the will of Darkseid, the despotic ruler of this grimy, industrialized and warlike planet who yearns to bend the whole of creation to his will, both through force of arms and the discovery of the Anti-Life Equation, a formula of incredible power that will give him absolute control over the whole of sentient thought. The twin realms have discovered such amazing technologies as sentient supercomputer/companions called 'Mother Boxes' and the powerful 'boom tubes' which can span vast gulfs of space and allow for near-instantanous travel. An uneasy peace has existed between the two worlds thanks to the Pact, a nonagression treaty that culminated in the exchange of the sons of both Highfather and Darkseid. Darkseid's son, the warrior Orion, was raised on paradisical New Genesis, his adventures chronicled in the central New Gods. Highfather's son. . .well his tale is the story of Mister Miracle.

Thaddeus Brown is a down-on-his-luck escape artist who hopes one last big break as the theatrical Mister Miracle will win him a wager placed years ago with a criminal. His sidekick and friend, the dwarf Oberon, is of the opinion that the stunt won't work, but Thaddeus is determined. The pair meet a mysterious young man, Scott Free(yes, it really is his name, explanations to follow) who offers to assist with their act, and displays some feats of ledgermain with eldritch, intricate-looking technology(Kirby-tech was always awesome looking) that aid him in his own escapes that seems almost. . .unearthly. When Thaddeus is killed by the aforementioned criminal in an effort to weasel out of the bet, Scott takes up the mantle of Mister Miracle in an effort to avenge his death. Scott defeats the villains handily, and goes on to become an escape artist and general magnet for trouble. You see, Scott is the only man to ever escape Apokolips. That's a blemish on the reputation of Granny Goodness, denmother of the 'Terror Orphanages' that indoctrinate the Apokoliptian youth into a life of servitude and slavery from near-birth. Scott's luck has him running up against old foes from Apokolips. . .and an old friend as well in the form of Big Barda, leader of the Female Furies--the elite female corps of Darkseid's armies--- and a fellow renegade fleeing the tyranny of Darkseid. Eventually the attacks and pursuit of the two fugitives grow to be too much, and they must return to Apokolips to earn the chance to fight for their freedom in trial by combat.

What I absolutely love about Kirby's work is his energy, the sheer exuberance he managed to put down on the page no matter the subject matter or if it was work for hire. With his Fourth World creations he was given the keys to the kingdom and could essentially tell any kind of story he wanted. And he went for it with a kind of glorious abandon that'd make his daredevil of a protagonist proud. Mister Miracle was an adventure story, but he wasn't a traditional superhero, rather a performer(based in part on stories artist Jim Steranko told of his days as an illusionist) whose unearthly origins often landed him in serious danger. His background was a tragic one, but from the beginning there's a core of optimism and goodness that grants him the potential to be far more than another one of Granny's drones. In fact, he takes her mocking label of 'Scott Free' and embraces it, turning that gesture of contempt into a credo to live his entire life by. Scott values freedom; be it his own, his friends, or the Earth's, and he'll do whatever he can to defend it. He's a compassionate, adventurous soul and easily one of Kirby's finest characters.

Another aspect of the book that I love is that the hero's 'love interest' is anything but the typical damsel in distress. Big Barda kicks ass, a warrior nearly without peer with superhuman strength and resilience. She's the brawn of the pair, where Scott relies more on quickness and his wits. A seasoned, hardened fighter, she nevertheless has a core of goodness to her that even the worst indoctrination and brutality can't squelch. She and Scott fall for each other, but the relationship doesn't feel forced, but rather a natural outgrowth of their situation and cameraderie. Kirby based Barda physically on actress Lainie Kazan, but the interplay between the two characters was apparently based--however slightly--on the relationship between Jack and his wife Roz. That lends a bit of veracity to their relationship, and it makes them feel real. Barda to me is Wonder Woman refined; a badass warrior woman who can be feminine (as in her quite revealing casual attire) but when action calls for it and there's a threat to her safety or her friends she can be utterly relentless (via her warsuit, fearsome martial skills, and her weapon of choice the mega-rod).

The stories are late Silver Age/Early Bronze Age in tone, and the dialogue sometimes veers into the territory of the cheesy, but the book is nothing if not fun. Seriously, how can you not love a book that features a villainous criminal mastermind named Virman Vundabar? Seriously, say the name and try not to smile. Kirby's art is an acquired taste to some, and I'll grant that it's not without flaw but there's just something in his characters and in the way they move, the situations they get into. . .even the covers have an energy that the current crop of 'movie poster' style covers of today just lack. If you haven't read any Kirby and want something self-contained that doesn't require decades of comicbook minutuea committed to memory, or just a fun little adventure serial with a twist of space opera, give Mister Miracle a try