Who’s Who in the DCU

Tim, now it’s your turn, we’re a well into the TV season; any disappointments, any faves?

I’m still shaking out what shows I’m sticking with and what shows I’m leaving behind, but so far I’ve had more hits than misses. Life and Journeyman have both surprised me. They’re no great shakes, but I’ve really enjoyed them so far. The biggest surprise, however, was Dirty, Sexy Money, which looked just terrible but has had a great sense of humor to propel it along. I’m on the side of “really like” when it comes to Pushing Daisies, but I can see how some can choke on its sense of whimsy. Chuck and Reaper have both failed, so far, to live up to their pilots but are still decent enough to keep me coming back.

On the negative side, Big Shots was every bit as bad as I thought it was going to be and then like, I don’t know, 13% worse. Bionic Woman has been more or less inert since arrival. Back to You is just…eh.

Returning show wise, only Heroes has proven disappointing as it struggles to find a rhythm in its second season.

Links

Broken Dial

Beyond the Threshold

The DVD Lounge

Inside Fights

Machine Gun Funk

Moodspins

Not a True Ending

Popcorn Junkies

Primetime Pulse

Retro Grading

Tailgate Crashers

Our DC Boards features debate about New Gods, Daxamites and the shake up with Batman’s Outsiders.

Tim, you linking anything this week?

No time, we got no time!

What I Read Last Week

Brave & the Bold #7 – Really fun team up. Loved the contrast between Power Girl and Wonder Woman. I loved it. Clearly Waid still has the magic touch with this title.

Whereas I remain just disinterested in this book.

Justice League of America #14 – Yeah. Um, I liked the cover. I liked the art. I liked Black Lightning playing a role. But I miss my Lex.

Me too, Mathan, me too.

Catwoman #72 – A completely heart wrenching issue. Definitely a contender for “issue of the year.” Such a good issue. I really felt for Selina in this one. Pfeifer, I’ve forgiven you for those attacking ladies.

I feel like I repeat myself every time we cover this book, but why oh why aren’t more people buying it. Zatanna’s gift to Selina alone is worth the price of admission.

Checkmate #19 – Liked the set up for Salvation Run. Even liked seeing the Suicide Squad. I really liked how everyone’s cards are on the table and how that table has been turned.

That is an awesome mixed metaphor.

Countdown #28 – I agree with the Joker “Jimmy Olsen Must Die.” Again the Suicide Squad stuff was cool. The Rogue origins were nice. Even the Mary stuff was interesting to see. But Jimmy must die.

Ex Machina #31 – Great ending. It was nice to see Pherson again. And the flashback was a nice humanizing touch. I loved the stuff with the two Russians. You’ve got to admire a guy who plans ahead.

The Highwaymen – Man, I really, really hope that this inspires a sequel and a movie. I loved this mini a lot. It had such great action sequences. I really want to see this on the big screen.

The Programme – Senator Joe rocks! He’s blew me away with his first appearance. He had me at “hello.” And poor Max, trying to deny his destiny. Professor Korovin’s tale was so well told. I completely felt him as a character. I love this mini.

Because of diversions like Korovin’s tale, I kind of wish this was a longer mini or an ongoing on some kind. It is an interesting story that nonetheless feels off because of how plot oriented a miniseries must be. It’d be nice to have a bit more room for it to breathe. Still, when your biggest complaint is too much story, the mini must be doing at least something right.

We return to D. Castillo

with all the talk of the new Justice League movie coming out… it may seem like a dumb question but who would you cast as the Justice League. It’s your turn to be casting agents… I can totally see Nathan Fillion of Firefly as Hal Jordan and Jay Hernandez from Hostel as Kyle Rayner…us latinos stick together! Who would you chose for the League? Or for that matter the Titans which they say is in development?

This is a deceivingly difficult question to answer. I mean there are so many different eras of the Teen Titans, who knows which era the alleged flick would focus on? Then when you factor in licensing issues that keep certain characters from showing up in the Teen Titans cartoon, you’ve really got to wonder which heroes would make the cut.

Perhaps we’ll revisit this question casting for different eras and different teams, but this time around, we’re casting for the membership of the cartoon show, since we know that all of those characters are available to be used in a Teen Titans project.

Robin – Don’t you kind of have to go for Zac Efron here? (Must we?) He’s the current “It” kid, and he’s physically fit. And since the role of Robin would be a physically demanding role, you’ve got to cast looking at it from that perspective. Plus, from what I hear Efron may actually have some acting talent.

Beast Boy – You need someone with a puckish quality, who can really pull off fun-loving and carefree. I think that Frankie Muniz would be perfect for the role of Garfield Logan. He’s done voice work before, so he’s ready for when Gar changes into an animal. And one of the things that I remember from Malcolm in the Middle is how expressive Frankie’s face is. And an expressive face is a must for Beast Boy.

Cyborg – The role of Vic Stone is a complex one. It’s going to require hours of make up, yet the character is going to buddy up to Beast Boy, so he’s got to be able to project emotions. Since we’re casting young, I’m thinking Nick Cannon. (The hilarious one?) He’d probably have to bulk up for the role, but I think that he’s talented enough to do justice to the tortured soul that is Vic Stone.

Raven – Obviously, I’m still fixated on American Beauty, but don’t you think that Thora Birch could still pull off being a teenager? I mean I wanted to go with Dakota Fanning, but I think that she’s just too slight physically (but everything else would be perfect). (Really? Isn’t she like 11 ½?) I think that Birch would do a great job at sullen and withdrawn.

Starfire – Starfire has to be kind of ditzy. I mean she’s an alien in a strange world. She’s got to be out of it, a bit. Of course Starfire is as well known for her physical attributes as she is for her personality. But this movie is definitely going for the PG rating, which means a redesign is in order. Given that body type retcon, I’m saying that Hillary Duff would make an excellent Starfire. I think that Hillary is probably a decent actress and this role would allow her to cut loose a little, especially if Kory get’s too caught up in the heat of battle.

You look at this cast and you can see that a Teen Titans movie would be huge. It’d break all sorts of records. Plus it’d probably have a chart topping soundtrack.

Wow. Answering that question, made me feel kind of weird. Like, there’s no way I should be that familiar with all of those names.

Tim, do you think they should make a Teen Titans flick?

I’m sort of reaching the point where I feel like just because a comic exists doesn’t mean it has to be adapted into a film property. That said, I really like the idea of the Titans and would love to see that done justice. If someone managed to put together a script that worked as something besides parody, I’d be interested.

That Bootleg Guy clearly has no fashion sense.

You’ve previously referenced and I certainly remember the mid-80s Aquaman “camouflage” suit. It was all blue and wavy and…hideous. I remember he broke it out during a miniseries in the ‘80s, but what was the story behind it? How’d he get it? Why’d he use it? (I accept that no one cares about this but me).

Oh come on, the costume wasn’t that bad. Did it have scales? No it didn’t. But then again it also wasn’t composed of two colors that look rather garish together. I like the blue costume and while it makes no sense in terms of “camouflage” it was an attempt relieve Aquaman of the stigma of being, well Aquaman.

I mean if you were Aquaman might you try to adopt a blue suit as a way of avoiding all of those “hey, it’s the guy who talks to fishes” insults that are sure to be hurled your way? Might you also grow out your hair and your beard and put a hook on your hand to disguise the fact that you are indeed Aquaman? Cut the guy some slack.

Aquaman originally put the suit on because he had to travel discreetly to the mystical underwater city of Thierna Na Oge. But it was always meant to be a temporary thing. Kind of like Superman dying and AzBats.

But the good news is that Aqualad adopted a variation of Aquaman’s camo suit when he became Tempest.

Tim, do you have a favorite of Aquaman’s various costumes?

I do and it is blue (POETRY!) So suck on that Bootleg!

Some Dude who emailed Tim has a very accommodating girlfriend.

I want to get my girlfriend a super-heroine costume for a Halloween Party and can’t think of anyone new. I’d be like Robert Downey Jr. have my girlfriend wear a Wonder Woman costume to a hotel, but I respect him too much to copy his idea. Who’s the hottest of the hot in comics right now? (besides that super sexy Gleep.)

Wait, so Gleep’s off the table?

Great, now I’ve got to wrack my brain.

Well if you dig fishnets you could go for Zatanna or Black Canary. They’ve both been considered desirable by characters and fanboys alike.

Nearly every costume worn by Catwoman is eye-catching.

The current Supergirl sports a rather cute, if highly debated, look.

I don’t know where you live, or what your girlfriend’s dimensions are, but Phantom Lady is another costume to consider. It leaves little to the imagination and doesn’t really protect from the elements, but it’s pretty basic.

Ditto for Power Girl.

If you were going to a party full of comic savvy guests I’d suggest she go as a refrigerator and say she was an ex of Kyle Rayner.

Tim, can you think of any good costumes for him to suggest to his girlfriend?
Black Mary Marvel seems to be on everyone’s radar these days and if your girlfriend’s a fan of latex, it could be a great fit for her.

Tulip’s (from Preacher) an easy costume but everyone might just pick on her all day for not wearing a costume and that’s never any fun.

I know you poo-pooed Wonder Woman, but I’m figuring you meant classic WW. Thus, the white bodysuit (sort of what she wears as Diana Prince now) and the black halter top and jacket from the mid-90’s are both still on the table.

However, I’d pull for the new Crimson Avenger. It is a spooky look that works for the holiday and it incorporates a shirt that while blood stained also exposes an ever so slight amount of bare midriff. And who doesn’t love bare midriff.

Or you can go with Stargirl. Simple costume, cute, patriotic. Just try to forget the fact that a 15 year old wears it in the comics.

Once a year, That Bootleg Guy just doesn’t get it.

Dude, what is/was the point of “Annuals”? How did they come about, why did they come about and, in 2007, do they serve a purpose?

Well Aaron, back in the day an Annual was like a yearly bonus issue. It was longer than a regular issue, self-contained and was generally a big deal. Sometimes it was one long story, other times it was composed of numerous stories. Those are the basics about annuals that have remained consistent.

But in the beginning Annuals were pretty much just reprints of stories that had originally run in the title. They were like a catch up issue to lure new readers into fold or for a regular reader to catch up on a story that they missed. They sometimes had themes beyond the title character.

Eventually the concept of the annual evolved into creating new content for the special issue. That’s when they became an event and something to look forward to. Annuals often featured different creative teams than were featured on the regular title, so it was cool to see Writer X and Artist Y doing a Character Z story.

Sometimes annuals where just an exploration of a theme. For instance the Green Lantern Corps Annuals were always full of short stories about various Green Lanterns.

In the 90’s Annuals evolved again. This time Annuals of a given year would share a common theme and sometimes an overarching storyline. Storylines like Armageddon 2001 and Eclipso: The Darkness Within were pretty successful. Even the themed Elseworlds Annuals were interesting reads. But the less said about the New Blood Annuals, the better. (Though they did give us GUNFIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

After the near collapse of the industry in the 90’s, production on annuals was cut back drastically. Basically, if you weren’t in the JLA or another high profile book you didn’t get an annual. And to makes sure that the annuals sold, they were linked like JLApe or Planet DC.

Annuals evolved again, this time becoming less “annual” and changing their name. For all intents and purposes DC’s Secret Files & Origins and 80 Page Giants were annuals. The former often featured timelines, a main story, a back up tale and profile pages and the latter were numerous short stories under one banner.

And then annuals went away for awhile.

Recently however, Annuals have reappeared. Now annuals are for setting up or concluding storylines. Action Comics Annual #10 was a means to set up the Donner/Johns era on Action Comics. Batman Annual #26 set up the upcoming return of Ra’s al Ghul. Nightwing Annual #2 tired up the loose ends between Nighting and Oracle. The aborted Green Lantern Annual was to set up the Sinestro Corps War. And the recent Wonder Woman Annual wrapped up the incredibly tardy Heinberg run on the character.

I wish that I could get excited for annuals like I used to when I was a kid. I remember being pumped when I knew that a new annual for the Flash was on the horizon. It was an anticipation that you just don’t get from the monthly experience.

Maybe one day I’ll feel that way about annuals again.

Tim, do you have any favorite annuals?

Sure do. Darkhawk Annual #1. Yeah, it’s embarrassing. But we’re all friends here so I can say that. It was the first annual I ever bought and it has a special place in my heart. I won’t be made to feel shame about that. Well, a little shame, but not a lot. A normal amount, let’s say.

As for DC ones, the GL Elseworlds one I enjoyed. Similarly, the two part Superman/Superboy (I think that’s what it was) was pretty good. For the most part though, I haven’t read many DC Annuals.

Sorry I can’t be more help.

Neil is a science geek

Anyway, Mathan, can you give me a history of S.T.A.R. Labs? Who came up with the idea? Who is behind them in the comics (didn’t they show up as one of the agencies Max Lord’s Checkmate?)?

And who works for them? I remember the Dr. who became Rampage, I think Dr. Janet Kylburn does, the McGees (from Flash), etc., but who else? (Oh and Dr. Phaedon, Kennedy, etc. from Firestorm).

Garrison Slate, like Martin Luther King, had a dream. Y’see Slate was tired of having the government have a stranglehold on scientific development. Slate’s dream was to set up labs across the country that would focus on research and development yet not be affiliated with the government. Thus Science and Technological Advanced Research Labs came into existence. He even got help from Josiah Power of The Power Company in getting things off the ground.

Eventually Slate’s dream was realized and even on a larger scale as S.T.A.R. Labs are across the globe.

As far as the link to Max Lord’s Checkmate, I’m guessing that it was just part of an icon on his screen to signify where he had pawns in play. I don’t think he was actually running S.T.A.R. Labs or anything.

In terms of some of the folks employed at S.T.A.R. Labs you’ve pretty much nailed the big names but I’ll go over the most notable members of the S.T.A.R. family.

Jenet Klyburn was probably the most famous of the heads of S.T.A.R. Labs. She was based in Metropolis, though she also had encounters with the Teen Titans.

Kitty Faulkner was also based in Metropolis. It was there when she became Rampage. She when went out West to Phoenix and helped out Starman.

Tina & Jerry McGee were both mainstays in the early days of Wally West’s becoming The Flash. One was his lover and the other was his rival, I’ll let you figure out which was which.

Karen Beecher AKA the Teen Titan Bumblebee worked at S.T.A.R. Labs.

Sarah Charles also worked at S.T.A.R. Labs and dated Vic Stone, the son of two scientists at S.T.A.R.

Oh and good ol Professor Hamilton or as we like to call him Hammy, used to work at S.T.A.R. Labs.

And those are the most well known folks who have had S.T.A.R. Labs on their resume.

Tim, do you think that working at S.T.A.R. Labs is a good gig? I mean would you have wanted to intern there?

I heard their benefits package is pretty awesome and casual Friday is waaaaaaaay causal (if you catch my drift, wink wink) so that’s tempting.

On the other hand, Superman stops by all the time and interrupts work. Yeah, we get it, he’s great, he can fly, etc etc. I’m trying to get stuff done, okay?

Remember when everything changed and nothing was the same; the day irony died? That Bootleg Guy does.

I might be imagining this, but I seem to remember Marvel incorporating 9/11 into at least one title and maybe more. Did DC ever fold in that real-life event into any of their characters or titles?

Y’know, I don’t really think so. I know that DC did a tribute for 9/11. It was a trade full of short tales and pin ups by DC talent. But I don’t think that the actual 9/11 was actually referenced in books.

Tim, am I wrong in the belief?

Nope, that’s about the size and shape of it.

Soak1313 is a circus performer

Mathan why not give me a history of Ragman in that nifty column of yours?

Well, because you asked nicely and because the character is one of my faves I’ll happily delve into the origins of the Ragman that I love so much.

When he first appeared Rory Regan was a Vietnam vet who returned to help his father, Gerry, run his second hand shop Rags n Tatters. While Rory was coming to grips with the atrocities he committed as a soldier, he did his best to help people out, often overpaying neighborhood people for what they brought in to pawn.

Now everyday after work Gerry would hang out in the yard behind the shop with three of his friends and drink. In his prime Samson was a circus strongman, but he still could perform feats of strength. Gerry’s other friends were a former heavyweight boxing championship contender and a nationally recognized acrobat. Though they’d all seen better days, they were still in pretty good physical shape.

Anyway, one day the four friends discover a mattress that’s stuffed with money. Two million dollars to be exact. They agree that the money should go to Rory so that he might be able to get his life together. So they hide the mattress among the multitude of other mattresses in the back of the junkyard.

Unfortunately the crook who initially stole the money comes back looking for it. Two other goons kill him and begin to interrogate the four friends. The old friends remain tightlipped about the whereabouts of the cash. So the goons shoot down some power lines on them. The goons say they’ll save the old men if they talk, but the stubborn old guys won’t talk.

Rory stumbles upon the scene and tries to save his father by grabbing his hand. The current passes through the four old men, into Rory and fries them all. The goons leave thinking everyone is dead. But Rory survived and the current passed the gifts of the strongman, the acrobat and the boxer on to him.

Upon awakening Rory realized he had the gifts. He then went inside and found a present his father had made for him; the costume composed of rags. Rory vowed to use his gifts and the costume to honor his father’s memory as Ragman. And as Rory he kept Rags N Tatters open to help the community.

The money was eventually found, by a blind kid who used it to fuel a fire to keep from freezing.

Eventually it was established that Ragman operated in Gotham City, which means that Ragman would have been a “community hero” like Catwoman or Orpheus.

And that, Soak1313 is the Ragman that I know and love.

Tim, which Ragman do you prefer?

The Tatterdaemon (or however one spells that) is the one I first knew and therefore he is my preference. But your version sounds find Mathan. In a not as good as my version sort of way.

That Bootleg Guy remembers a simpler time, a better time.

In the ‘80s, comics kind of marketed themselves. The Saturday morning and syndicated cartoons helped and comic books were everywhere (liquor stores, bookstores, supermarkets, etc.) Today, comics don’t nearly have the market penetration they once did and, save for the Batman/Superman movies, there aren’t many entertainment avenues for our favorite funny book characters. Do you think that comics are more concerned with maintaining their current audience or are they out there with any tactics that might attract new readers?

Interesting. I don’t know if comics are trying to maintain their current audience, but I don’t think that they’re actively trying to attract new readers.

Let’s face the fact that no area of entertainment is dealing with the internet well. Not publications, broadcast television, movies or the recording industry. I think that the internet is more of a pressing concern for the comic industry than trying to attract new readers.

I’ll readily admit that I don’t know much about being a kid in this day and age. But I can remember when comic books cost seventy-five cents and getting my mom to buy me more than one was a pretty big deal that required me to have my argument tighter than someone arguing before the Supreme Court. I can’t imagine a kid trying to convince their parent to drop $6 + for two comics now. The price is going to be prohibitive for younger readers.

I do think that in this day and age of the short attention span the trade paperback model for success is a good one. Just like we were accustomed to being able to skip songs when listening to tapes or cds (where our parents had to listen to everything for fear of scratching a record) I don’t think that the younger generation is willing to wait an entire month (if they’re lucky) for the next chapter. I don’t think they’re built for that anymore. Patience isn’t a readily found in tweeners.

But I don’t think that the current audience is going anywhere. There’s very little maintaining that needs to be done, other than keeping the product consistent.

Personally I think that the massive imposing continuity of the Big Two is the thing most hindering when trying to attract new readers. I’m a comic fan, and I’m not going anywhere near an X-Men title because that stuff is confusing. I can only imagine what it must be like for someone without a history of reading comics.

Honestly, I think if DC wants to attract new readers it’s got to either have a new universe resetting “Crisis” or it’s got to find a way to compile and release a type of Who’s Who for dirt cheap.

With a universe as imposing as DC’s there needs to be an inexpensive guide to help new readers get interested. I like to pretend that’s what we do here, but DC needs something official. DC needs something that they can hand out on Free Comic Book Day that’s a nuts and bolts edition of the universe and the characters in it. It’s got to invest in something that won’t turn a profit, but will increase interest in the entire line and the characters.

If DC decides to do a follow up to Countdown it should be 52 issues, each featuring a stand-alone tale of a character, hero or villain, but the issue should provide you with everything you need to know about said character. And the price point should be $1.99.

(For more on new fans check out the debate raging here!)

Tim, how would you get new readers into comics?

You know…I honestly don’t know the answer. I’m so off the norm given when I really started reading comics that my experiences aren’t very helpful in recruiting new readers. Plus, I think we tend to overemphasize things like price points and continuity being overwhelming (was it any less overwhelming when you snagged your first comic?) but I honestly don’t know how to “solve” it.

And that’s going to do it for us this week.

I honestly don’t know what next week will hold. Hopefully you’ll send some questions our way. You can either email me or you can post them our thread!

Before we go, here’s my question to you; What do you think DC should do to get new readers into comics?

“Put Sufjan Stevens on, well play your favorite song.”

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