Saturday, June 30, 2012

Reign of the Supermen #428: Superman, K Hunter

Source: Superman/Batman #44-49 (2008)
Type: The real deal (since retconned)Why is it that ridiculous, convoluted, over-the-top stories in the Silver Age are fine and charming, but the same thing in modern comics is considered terrible? Length? (My money's on that one.) Tooth-grinding art? Either way, if there was a place where the Superman Silver Age story telling aesthetic was alive and well in the last decade, it was in Superman/Batman. You be the judge...

"K" is a 6-part "epic" in which Superman and Batman embark on a quest to find every last particle of kryptonite on Earth because - and this is somewhat surprising - there are literally TONS of the stuff around, in every conceivable color.
So Superman gets a lead-lined suit and goes to work with his best friend in tow. On the way, we'll see...
...kryptonite that mutates people and animals (it's written by Smallville script writer Michael Green if that answers any questions).
...Joker's teddy bear in Arkham has a kryptonite heart.
...Everybody from Aquaman Jr. to the U.S. government is actually against Superman ridding the world of the only substance that can take him down.
...Magic kryptonite that makes Superman high. (There's a strange mixed message at the end that seems to make Superman endorse casual drug use.)
...Batman refusing several times to believe in magic IN ZATANNA'S FACE!
...A gun nut in rural Kansas with an easily-affordable kryptonite-powered rifle.
...A version of Doomsday with bones made of kryptonite.
...Kid Toy-Man wins the day and is rewarded with a date with Power Girl instead of Justice League membership.
...Superman goes real dark and creepy on Lana because she betrayed him to LexCorp, and enjoys listening to a tear go down her face from afar.
...And at the end, there is NO MORE KRYPTONITE ON EARTH except for a stash Superman leaves Batman in case he goes rogue. So if you saw kryptonite after this, we know who leaked it.

So you tell me... Any of those things (or combination of those things) in an 8-page Silver Age story or 22-page full-length "novel" would be a camp classic today. So why does it read like something you immediately want to qualify as "non-canon" and forget you ever read it?

BONUS SUPERMAN!

The story also features a World's Finest movie that features an off-model blond Batman (because Batman doesn't give interviews) whose production the real World's Finest spy on. The hardest thing to believe in all of "K" is that they went from filming to theatrical premiere in the space of 6 issues. So while it features a Batman who was beaten by his abusive mother with a BAT (Bruce Wayne is right to tell reporters he doesn't want origin nonsense in his superhero movies), Superman is more on point. He's even got a more textured suit.
I see Mr. Green was against the red shorts too. Well, maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. It's DC's litmus test for writers who want to work on the New52 Superman Family.

Doctor Who #221: The Mind Robber Part 5

"We obey our creator. That is all that is expected of any character."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.12 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Master of the Land and the Doctor have a battle of wits, pitting fictional characters against one another.

REVIEW: I haven't addressed how short this story's episodes have been - closer to 20 minutes than 25 as a function of stretching a four-parter into five episodes - but this one takes the record at 18 minutes, 16 if we cut out the credit sequences. That's outrageously short, and it seems to me there was plenty of opportunities to make it longer with the inclusion, for example, of a few more literary characters, a better thought-out conclusion, or an epilogue that got the Master of the Land back home. The ending, as it is, is ambiguous and anti-climactic. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

In Part 5, the characters are in rather meta-textual danger of becoming fictional characters... why I realize they already are. The Master's creative bankruptcy is apparent at every level, because when Zoe and Jamie are turned into fictions, their vocabulary becomes very limited indeed. And part of the conclusion's disappointment is that his manipulation of the Land of Fiction doesn't sound too literary. What IS fun, is the Doctor hijacking the system with his mind, allowing him to pit his favorite literary figures against the Master's. Gulliver, Karkus and Rapunzel (delightfully letting everyone climb her hair) all return, but Cyrano, D'Artagnan, Blackbeard and Lancelot are all summoned for a nicely staged sword fight on the ramparts of a fairy tale castle in space.

However, the finale fails when it comes to revelations and resolutions. The baddie is defeated by a mixture of jamming computer buttons, unplugging the writer and getting the robots to fire in the machine's direction. Any one would have done, all of them seems messy. The characters are left waiting for oblivion, until the TARDIS reassembles, undoing the damage seen in Part 1, but we never return to its interior. It's abrupt and mystifying. Speaking of which... There are frustratingly few answers at the end of this. Is the intelligence plugged into the Master a machine or something more? What the heck is its plan to kidnap everyone one Earth in order to use it as... what? The danger has all been personal up 'til now, so upping the stakes at the last minute and then not exploring it is just a waste. The real tragedy is that there was plenty of time to spare to give us a more satisfying ending.

THEORIES: Some fans of the show - though I have the distinct impression, not of The Mind Robber - have tried to write off the entire story as a dream sequence, citing, for example, the lack of any mention of it in the next episode or any other episode. The Master of the Land is presumably dropped off at an unspecified destination, but that is likewise not mentioned. Extra-canonical writers HAVE used the Land of Fiction, solidifying its place in the Whoniverse, though of course, viewers unwilling to recognize this broadcast story as canon, won't be quick to canonize the Virgin novels! For my part, The Mind Robber is no more whimsical or fantastical than The Celestial Toymaker, and a great deal more interesting and logical. And if Toymaker is canonical, then let us keep our Mind Robber.

VERSIONS: In the Target novelization, writer Peter Ling added an underground lake sequence, and Zoe transforming into Alice when she falls through the floor. The first episode (which wasn't part of his original script) is treated as a flashback in the body of the story. The original draft had a blonde Zoe, a mistake remedied when Ling was sent the tapes.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Frustratingly underwritten, it still has some nice imagery and cameos by literary favorites.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Highly imaginative, not only is The Mind Robber a nice change of pace amid all the alien invasion stories of the Troughton era, but it also bears deeper analysis. All it needed for the highest of recommendations is a better, fuller ending.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Kung Fu Fridays in July 2012

KFF's World Tour ends this weekend, and already I'm thinking about July's crop of films. What are we gonna watch? Well...

Kung Fu Panda 2 - We don't play a lot of animated films, but they ARE popular when they show up on the docket. The 6th is my birthday (which I don't celebrate) and the first day of my summer vacation (which I do), so I want to see people. Panda 2 should bring them out in droves ;-).

Let the Bullets Fly - A 1920s-era action comedy sounds unusual enough. That is stars Chow Yun-fat and racked up lots of awards in China makes it a must for one of these evenings. The plot? "A bandit arrives in a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, where he faces off against a tyrannical local nobleman." I'm up for it!

Flying Guillotine II - There's a lot of confusion still about which Flying Guillotine film is which, but from Dragon Dynasty's branding, this is a sequel to their release of Flying Guillotine, and still not directly related to the famous Master of the Flying Guillotine. I think.

Throne of Blood - My plan is to watch the BBC's 1983 production of MacBeth during the week, and then finishing off the experience with Kurosawa's classic. There's nothing like Shakespearean tragedy in the summer!

And that's what up next for my film-watching crew - Capsule reviews every following Sunday!

Doctor Who #220: The Mind Robber Part 4

"When someone writes about an incident after it's happened - that's history. But, when the writing comes first - that's fiction."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.5 1968.

IN THIS ONE... Zoe fights a superhero and the Doctor meets the Master... of the Land.

REVIEW: Visually less arresting than the previous episodes as we move into more modern literatures for inspiration, we should at least be happy that the Doctor didn't use the same trick on the Medusa he did on the Unicorn last time, i.e. "disbelieving the illusion". Unable to dispel the creature that way, he is offered two choices and rejects the one narrated for him by the Master's teletype machine, preventing that predetermined choice from turning him and Zoe into fictional characters. Ok, he doesn't fall into the trap of acting "as written", but he still plays by the story's rules by using a mirror against Medusa as Perseus did. Is that not also acting as a fictional character? There's a failure, or at least a confusion, of concept in Part 4. We finally meet the Master of the Land and his distracting spittle, and he's a prolific writer of boys' fiction plugged into a machine/entity that forces him to imagine worlds of fiction. But is he more a reader than he is a writer? After all, he's processing other people's books and guiding other people's characters. Muddled message? Or satirical jab at television scriptwriting? The writer Peter Ling, too, is using other people's characters and worlds (doubly so in this story), and having his writer looking for a replacement because he's burned out, speaks to a writerly fatigue caused by quotas and taskmasters, leading directly to creative bankruptcy.

Speaking of creative bankruptcy, the episode introduces a superhero of the year 2000 called Karkus, somehow the most prescient of creations. Comics fans, think back to that time 32 years in the future for the program, but only 12 in our past. A time of anti-heroes with unpleasant yet meaningless names, and in the movies, finally coming off the fashion of wearing bodysuits or armors with muscles drawn on them. That's Karkus all over. He looks like a Kevin O'Neil character, something out of Marshal Law. Of course, the joy of Karkus is that Zoe wipes the floor with him, with a crazy series of judo throws and wrestling holds. She's so cute and tiny doing this! I love it, and it's mostly well executed.

Ultimately, this is a story about stories, and how Doctor Who stories are told in particular. So of course, the companions must be put in some danger at the end. Not unlike the Master of the Land, sheer volume and expediency means the same old tropes must be trotted out. It's knowingly done, and "closing the book" on Jamie and Zoe is a fun fairy tale idea. But doesn't the writer and his patron Intelligence know that the biggest Doctor Who trope of all is that the Doctor always wins?

THEORIES: The implication is that the Master is supposed to be Charles Hamilton, at one point considered the world's most prolific author, who wrote a variety of serials under different pen names, including the Greyfriars School stories, St Jim's, Rookwood, Herlock Sholmes, The Rio Kid, and Ken King. Hamilton wrote some 100 million words in his lifetime, a lot more than the Master's measly 5 million word "record".

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Not quite as remarkable as the previous three episodes visually, but look, Zoe throws a superhero around. Who doesn't love that?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Diary of the Doctor Who Role-Playing Games #1 - Humble Beginnings...

By the time I discovered it, this PDF magazine was already on its 13th issue (it's now on its 18th), but being a Doctor Who RPG fan, I had to print them all out on the spot. Since then, I've read bit and pieces, but I've only recently decided to read them from cover to cover, and I'll report my findings here, as occasion permits.Issue 1 PDF - April 7th 2010
The title refers to how short the first issue is. At 20 pages (including covers), it's a far cry to the magazine's eventual standard size at 54 pages. It is nonetheless in full-color, making liberal (fair) use of full-color pictures from the show and the 'net. The black front and back covers are a bit of a pain for would-be printers, gobbling up toner even in grayscale. And notably, none of the articles have credits, which may mean editor Nick "Zepo" Seidler is responsible for all of them (he even signs the cartoon).

Editorial
I probably won't mention the editorial in future issues, but I'll use it here as an opportunity to talk about the project, its origins and its focus. What is most impressive and surprising is that the fanzine marks Zepo's Doctor Who campaign celebrating its 25th anniversary. That's quite an accomplishment! I don't know if the group started out with FASA's version of the RPG and ended up using Timelord and DWAITAS, but the 'zine will at least publish material for all three, and more besides. In fact, it hopes to take a look at every kind of Doctor Who gaming, and two years after this issue, it's possible to say it succeeds, and that a real effort is made to make fans of ANY version quite happy.

Reviews
The issue features two reviews. The first is the then just-out Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG (Cubicle 7), surely part of the impetus to create the Diary. A new Who RPG in print creates a demand for relevant gaming resources. Though it spans two pages, it feels a little perfunctory to me, and doesn't go into the things I personally felt made it special, like the initiative system. The "Retro-Review" features the War of the Daleks board game and makes me want to play it RIGHT NOW! Look at this beauty:
Oh, vintage games, why you so outside my prince range? I could definitely see myself integrating it into an actual RPG encounter as the characters scramble to get to the Dalek control chamber.

Tools
When the 'zine finds something interesting, it makes sure to let you know. In this case, there are short pieces on a custom dice service and a TARDIS control room floor plan available on the Internet. The issue's biggest feature article, however, is a Game Mastering Tips column on character death. It covers all the bases, including the added wrinkle of regeneration, and even gave an old dog like me (my role-playing "career" is as old as Zepo's Who game) a couple of ideas. The tips on fair play sidebar seem to be coming strictly from a place of Old School gaming however, and seem to infer some kind of mistrust between players and GM. One story told in the main article of 32 deaths occurring in 33 adventures harks back to those olden times, and due to the timing of the issue's publication, there doesn't seem to be a Newer School approach to the topic inspired by DWAITAS' handling of it.

Modules
One of the most useful tools gaming magazines offer, especially for an aging GM on the go, is adventure scenarios, which the Diary calls "Modules" (charmingly retro!). Issue 1 has two, neither with any stats or mechanics, making them easy to adapt to whatever system is your favorite.
-Matchstick Men: A Torchwood crossover that could conceivably be played only with Your Own Torchwood(TM), but also allows the GM to play the part of your Cardiff favorites opposite the players' TARDISeers. It's a relatively good mash-up of TW procedural and Whovian troubleshooting, though it could have used a better use of pronouns in the writing of it and avoided some awkward repetition.
-Sparkles in the Sky: You know when Doctor Who does an episode whose events inspire a work of fantastic literature? This is it, and I won't ruin the surprise for prospective players. A clear winner, it's clever and has great potential for varied tasks and emotional content. I'd give extra Story Points for figuring it out before the end and somehow playing into it. The best recommendation I can give, it that it makes me want to play.

And more
The only other feature this time around is Zepo's "Our UNIT" cartoon, a primitive drawing of a clever joke. I, for one, don't mind the naive style so long as the joke is a good one. At 20 pages, that's all there is, though I should remark on the 'zine's tradition of announcing what material can be found in the next issue, which is a great way to let us know there's more to come.

With the next ish, the page count goes up to 44, but I'll let you know what I'm done.

Doctor Who #219: The Mind Robber Part 3

"It seems they don't want us to find a way out, only a way in."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.28 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Zoe navigate a maze and meet the Minotaur and Medusa. Jamie gets his face back and climbs Rapunzel's hair.

REVIEW: If you've been following my theories about the story's meta-text, then this is where the Land of Fiction takes things up a notch. From blank page (Part 1) to word play (Part 2) now to myths, legends and fairy tales. In other words, to the earliest of fictions, before the notion of authorship was really cemented. Myths serve an educational function (they are fables or else attempt to explain a true event or phenomenon) and do not attempt to present naturalistic characters or places. Perhaps this is why they are so easy to disbelieve and deny. They are still well inside the realm of abstraction, especially compared to later fictions, including the ultimate concrete fiction, the film or television drama. But that's where we're heading. So it's with particular delight that I note how Jamie breaks the rules of the fiction he's in, comically disobeys Rapunzel, and skips ahead to modern meta-text - a teletype machine writing up the episode's script! If deconstructionism is at the other end of this journey, we may come to realize that we're on a loop from abstraction to abstraction.

So Jamie's out on his own, climbing rocks on location, escaping from wind-up soldiers and grabbing hold of a sweet princess' hair, and he's Frazer Hines again. The Doctor's embarrassment re: the first face change is notable, and it's fun to have Zoe discover what other companions have had to live with for the past couple years - he keeps a lot of things from them.

Of course, the bread and butter of the episode is all the mythological creatures and fantastic characters that put in an appearance. The Minotaur is a looming shadow, director Maloney keeping its stiff mascot-like head in a thankfully brief shot. Medusa is a wonderful Harryhausen-esque stop-motion creature with some live action elements. Rapunzel is a cute, argumentative fairy tale character who wishes Jamie were a prince. And the stranger played by Bernard Horsfall is finally identified as Lemuel Gulliver because - and this is neat - the Doctor knows Swift's book by heart, and everything Gulliver says is a quote from the Travels. Gulliver keeps appearing regardless of each episode's theme, but somehow making it work. His use of language makes him a clever part of the word play segment, and he's often been translated into a fairy tale character by those enchanted by Swift's fantastical worlds and/or missing the author's ruthless ironic tone. As we move to proper, authored literature in Part 4, he'll find a place again.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - There's conceptual depth here, and some lovely appearances by mythical and literary favorites. The antagonist of the piece needs to put one in too, now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Old 52: Human Target

If you haven't read it, it's new to you. Every month I try to supplement the New 52 with a series from the Old 52. Series I've never read, but have always meant to.When it was new: Starting as a 4-issue mini-series from DC's Vertigo label in 1999, written by Peter Milligan with art by Edvin Biukovic, it had enough success for a follow-up graphic novel entitled Final Cut in 2002, this time with art by Javier Pulido. In turn, this led to an ongoing series that lasted 21 issues, from 2003 to 2005, with Pulido and Cliff Chiang alternating on art (with Cameron Stewart filling in on #17).

Premise: The DCU's Christopher Chance is a master of disguise who specializes in taking the place of people in danger in order to prevent their deaths. Milligan's Vertigo twist on the concept is that Chance is a man with so many identities, he really has none. He loses himself in the people he plays and is in constant danger of never finding his way out.

On target: Though the Human Target corpus tells a number of 1, 2, 3 or 4-issue stories, Milligan avoids turning the series into Quantum Leap, and instead creates a 600+ page meditation on identity, not forgetting to through some thrills along the way. By splitting narrative duties between the impersonator and the person impersonated, the writer creates osmosis between them and makes various twists possible. Are we looking at Chance, or the real so-and-so? Not so easy when even Chance isn't sure, and I was surprised that even late in the game, the comic could still confound me and turn the tables on me without it seeming stale. Chance isn't alone in his quest for identity, and we meet others who have re-imagined themselves, sometimes leading to a Russian doll effect as Chance delves into his alter ego's alter ego. The mini-series is the most extreme example, as we're introduced to a new Human Target, Tom McFadden, Chance's pupil. When they start impersonating one another, it's anybody's guess who's who. Don't worry, the plots aren't so convoluted after that, but the events of the mini and of Final Cut have consequences that will take the characters to the very end of the ongoing.
The ongoing series is one that lives in the shadow of 9/11. It feels very current and somewhat controversial, and doesn't always give you easy answers. Its first arc has Chance replace a man who was supposed to be at the World Trade Center that day and faked his death. Now his second life's in danger from those he was hiding from. Guantanamo Bay, illegal immigration, homegrown terrorism, religious cults, baseball scandals... There is no fear of the topics here, and a surprising lack of what I would call "formula" despite the high concept premise. The artists each have their own unique qualities, but enough of a common aesthetic for their work to feel of a piece with the rest. Biukovic set the tone, with inventive lay-outs and panels and deconstructed images, but Pulido is really the one who took it to a whole other level, forcing the eye to small details as if we were Chance himself, analyzing every character to profile his or her life. All in all, a deep and involving reading experience. The series asks "Who is Christopher Chance?" but also "Who is the reader?". No easy answers forthcoming.

Collected? "Human Target" (2000) collects the mini-series and "Final Cut" (2002) exists as a stand-alone graphic novel, but they are collected together as "Chance Meetings" (2010). "Strike Zones" (2004) collects #1-5, and "Living in Amerika" (2004) #6-10, but #1-10 are also collected in "Second Chances" (2011). Hopefully there are plans to do a second volume to take readers to #21 even though the television show has been canceled.

Doctor Who #218: The Mind Robber Part 2

"I don't think this is the time for riddles."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.21 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDISeers find themselves in a forest of words and Jamie gets momentarily recast!

REVIEW: If Part 1 is the blank page - a medium - Part 2 brings in the building blocks used to write stories. It starts in a forest of words (the only effect that truly fails, less because of scale than because of camera angle) and makes use of words as proverbs, puzzles, riddles and puns. We're not quite yet at the point where they are ordered into a story. The fairy tale quality of each encounter may give the impression that anything can happen (which is boring), but there are definite rules to this reality. Words are signifiers and manipulating them operates some alchemical transformations. I'm reminded of the French poet Rimbaud, but that's because I'm so very pretentious. But that's basically how it works. Messages transmitted through a rebus puzzle. A pun turning a door into a jar. A sword becoming a dictionary as SWORD is re-ordered into WORDS. Even Gulliver (here only known as the Stranger) is the word made manifest, speaking only in sentences from Swift's novel and unable to completely acknowledge things that aren't a part of his pre-defined story.

A similar alchemical process is worked on Jamie, turning Frazer Hines into Hamish Wilson for a couple episodes while the former recovers from chicken pox. That's really inventive! One might imagine the production team keeping to only the first half of the idea, Jamie getting turned into a cardboard cut-out by a shot from a toy redcoat. It's cool and freaky and well shot in and of itself. But since the episode is about signifier and signified, and about wordsmithing, it makes perfect sense that they would play with "A Jamie by any other casting..." with the character. Wilson does well enough, but by making the part his own, also keeps things ambiguous. Is this the Jamie we know and love, or an impostor? Of course, we've played this game with the Doctor before...

Emrys James plays the first character in Who to be called "The Master", but adding to the confusion, he uses two separate voices, a split personality performance that reminds one of the Great Intelligence's hold on another "master", the Tibetan monk Padmasambhava. He's definitely not the former, but the latter might yield a connection. Is a Great Old One involved? Or is it rather a kind of Guardian like the Toymaker? We're reminded of him too, what with wind-up soldiers walking around (and well executed ones at that). In places, The Mind Robber seems derivative, but is it perhaps using Doctor Who tropes in the same way it uses other language elements? Whatever the case may be, it is a lot more impressive than The Celestial Toymaker ever was. First because it has an inner logic Toymaker didn't have, and second because it has gorgeous visuals like the savage unicorn, Zoe in a test tube, etc.

THEORIES: The Land of Fiction has so fascinated some extracanonical authors that they've tried, on occasion, to link back to it, most notably in the novels Conundrum and Head Games. Marc Platt's short story "Future Imperfect" for example, has Gulliver be the Time Lord Goth, sent to monitor the Doctor's activities, a choice based on the fact that both characters were played by Bernard Horsfall. While I can appreciate Goth as one of the Time Lord judges in The War Games, this is a bit much. Is he also posing as a Thal in Planet of the Daleks? Such theories quickly fall apart. Thankfully, no one has seriously attempted to link the Master of the Land with the Time Lord called the Master (except in online forums).

REWATCHABILITY: High - Visually inventive, it will have the kids playing along with the riddles and puzzles, and the adults thinking about the meta-textual concerns of the story.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dial H for Hunting

To my surprise, DC's spy character King Faraday appears in Adventure 483's second story. His career must be on the wane if he's dealing with endangered animals and poachers... And because I know those who follow this series really want to know what bully Brad is up to after he runs away in the wake of his parents' divorce, well, he might be joining a gang so long as they don't force him to take up smoking. Also: B'WANA BEAST REFERENCE ALERT!You're all caught up. Let's take a look at YOUR characters and how they might be best integrated into the DCU.

Case 29: Adventure Comics #483
Dial Holders: Chris and Vicki
Dial Type: Watch and Pendant Dials
Dialing: Vicki dials up an identity just to train herself, even if each identity has different abilities. It's not as crazy as it sounds, because the Wildebeest notices their poor fighting tactics. Vicki also floats the idea that Fairfax's superheroes are in a kind of club together whose members can fob off missions to one another. We'll see if the authorities buy it over time.
Name: Ariel (Kitty Pryde didn't hold on to it, so it's fair game)
Created by: Francisco Garcia, Age 14, from Salem, OR
Costume: A pleasant red and white number with lines running down the arms and legs. A bit nondescript, and then you have some large pouches or clasps on the belt that I'm not sure serve any purpose.
Powers: Ariel has energy powers and can fly... "like that fairy in Shakespeare's play". I'm not sure I remember the energy blasts in The Tempest, but I haven't read it in a long while.
Sighted: Near Fairfax, trained against Gladiator, fought the Wildebeest, and met King Faraday.
Possibilities: The Shakespeare connection should be explored, perhaps having Ariel (who I'm sure appeared in Sandman) play Abin Sur to a human Ariel. Unfortunately, nothing but the name screams out Fairy Land.
Integration Quotient: 10% (woefully generic in almost every way)
Name: Gladiator (I think Marvel has dibs, twice over)
Created by: Jeff Zonder, Age 11, Erica Zonder, Age 10, Josh Gubkin, Age 10, and Jenny Gubkin, Age 7, from Farmingham Hills, MI (a character created by committee?! Unheard of!)
Costume: The red, black and gold armor gets more sleek and modern as we get away from the upper body, which features a broom-brush helmet, metal shoulder guards and spiked bracers. His sash looks like a lightning bolt and he wears a strange diaphanous caplet in the stiff shape of a starburst. His "power sword" is a deeper shade of gold. Striking if baroque.
Powers: Gladiator is a fair fighter who relies on a magical power sword that can absorb energy flung at him.
Sighted: Near Fairfax, trained against Ariel, fought the Wildebeest, and met King Faraday.
Possibilities: How about playing on DC's historical characters and making him a descendent of the Golden Gladiator? Keep him in Italy, a country that surely needs superheroes.
Integration Quotient: 15% (keeping him out of the public eye and the continental U.S. might keep the Marvel villain and Imperial Guard's lawyers at bay)
Name: Black and White (cool name for a duo)
Created by: Wayne Hastings, Age 13, from Cantoment, FL
Costume: Full body suits in stark black or white, they both have boots and probably gloves of the same color. White's face is just as white as his costume, and his hair looks like white flame. Black's dark gray face is framed by flowing black hair.
Powers: White fires a white beam of light from his face. Black fires a similar black beam from hers. Both are harmless alone, but when they cross, they have destructive power. Awfully impractical.
Sighted: Near Fairfax, routing the Wildebeest and preventing him from capturing a black-footed ferret.
Possibilities: If someone could bolster their powers, Black and White could become the DCU's Cloak and Dagger. Symbiosis is fine, but they've got to do more than fire half an energy blast. If they could get enough traction to get a mini-series, it would have to be in glorious black and white.
Integration Quotient: 7% (it's all based on the name, because the powers are the pits)

Bonus Supervillain

Name: The Wildebeest (DC already has a Teen Titan by that name... Marv Wolfman, you sneak)
Created by: John Herbert, Age 15, from Wynentskill, NY
Costume: The Wildebeest wears brown and gray animal skins, and a mask of the same colors gives him a beak-like nose. A red bandolier joins the neck to the waist, red claw marks are on his thighs, and six long quills arc out of his back like skeleton wings.
Powers: He's a great hunter, tracker, strongman, acrobat, marksman, pilot and fighter. The Wildebeest equipment includes a tranquilizer rifle that can take down a rhino, a silent helicopter, and a staffed private jet.
Sighted: All around the world, from Kenya to Tazmania, capturing the last examples of endangered species to hold them at ransom for big bucks. In Fairfax's nature preserve, fought two separate superhero duos while trying to get a prized ferret. Escaped and led agent King Faraday to his secret zoo.
Possibilities: Two possible paths - full-on Kraven clone, or Wildebeest Society connection. Of course, you could follow both. They DO know that the animal of that name isn't exactly a hunter, right?
Integration Quotient: 35% (takes a little work to get him into a universe where there are other Wildebeests, but not much... I'd be more worried about the mixed metaphor)

Next ish: George Perez starts supplying the covers!

Doctor Who #217: The Mind Robber Part 1

"What does he mean, we're nowhere?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: The Mind Robber is available on DVD. First aired Sep.14 1968.

IN THIS ONE... Landing nowhere, Jamie and Zoe go off into the whiteness, and the TARDIS splits apart as they clutch the console tightly and scream.

REVIEW: Not another TARDIS malfunction episode!!! Except... This one's really awesome and visually impressive. I didn't expect the story to start on Dulkis, but we do, and we actually see the TARDIS get smothered in lava. Shunting the machine to a place outside the universe (possible at least since The Toymaker), the TARDISeers find themselves literally "nowhere", a vast white expanse that finds a way to draw them in. On our sharp modern televisions, we can of course see the studio walls, but that doesn't take away anything. The camera work keeps Zoe and Jamie small and lost. There's the bit with their costumes all in white, some groovy white robots (stolen from another show), and the TARDIS blows apart as the companions cling to a console spinning through nothingness. Zoe screaming her little head off in her curvy, sparkly new costume is one of the very best screams ever done on the show, and memorable for a variety of reasons. And for the visuals alone, the episode bears seeing.

Where similar set-ups (The Edge of Destruction, The Web Planet, etc.) have focused on TARDIS weirdness and failed, The Mind Robber's emphasis is on the characters and what draws them to the whiteness. Whatever entity is behind this tricks them by playing on their greatest desires. For Jamie and Zoe, there's a longing for home (with sweet bagpipe music underscoring the Scottish Highlands), and for Jamie at least, that would seem motivation enough. His open face and smile and protestations that the white is just mist speak to that. Zoe's just come aboard, so while her home city is a welcome sight, it's her curiosity that gets the better of her. As for the Doctor, he knows it's a trap and tries his best to block the telepathic assault, but is drawn out of the TARDIS when he sees his friends in danger/mind controlled. Did you notice? When he walks back into the TARDIS, it's white instead of blue. Is it the real TARDIS then, or a copy made of this dimension's "stuff"? Maybe we shouldn't fear the TARDIS destroyed after all.

So what's going on? I believe it's worth using a little hindsight and what we know of the rest of the serial to decode Part 1. We're about to discover that we're in the Land of Fiction, a place outside the universe where imagination becomes reality, a mind-space that needs out heroes to exist and thrive. The whiteness then is akin to the blank page - or in this medium, television's snowscapes of static - a place of potential only waiting for your imagination to give it shape. And it is quite clearly using the travelers' imaginations against them - watch for Jamie's unicorn nightmare to come true. When we see Jamie and Zoe all in white, it is an image of them becoming part of the fiction, becoming characters instead of people. And as they become characters, they become a plot device, one that traps the Doctor. In effect, their jeopardy forces the Doctor to participate in the story and become a part of it. And someone else is in control of the story.

THEORIES: When the TARDIS comes under attack, there's a sort of alarm that soon merges with the telepathic attack. Might this be an early concept for the Cloister Bell?

REWATCHABILITY: High - Visually brilliant and highly dramatic, Part 1 features iconic imagery and taps into meta-textuality. Not bad for something cobbled together to cover the shortening of The Dominators.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Villainous Journey of Mr. Terrific Continues

Sensation Comics #2 has Mr. Terrific doing stuff only he can do: On the same night, impersonate a concert violinist, a prize fighter and a human cannonball AND give each the best performance of their lives. But is he growing more and more like the Terry Sloan (sans e) of the new Earth2 series?Wait... did he just convince a guy to go with his plan when the guy's KID has been threatened?

Mr. Terrific - well above your petty concerns!

Doctor Who #216: The Dominators Part 5

"But Jamie, it's a brilliant idea! It's so simple only you could have thought of it."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Sep.7 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor tricks the Dominators into destroying themselves.

REVIEW: The villains continue to be unforgivably one-note - even *I'm* frustrated for Toba that Rago continues to stop him from satisfying his bloodlust, only to call for some destruction himself - but this is an episode in which the Doctor catches an atomic bomb in his hands, so there's that. Here, at the end of the story, the Dominators and Quarks run out of time to redeem themselves, and confirm just how rubbish they are. You can easily sneak up on a Quark and trip it up, even though it has no visible eyes. The design would have seemed to indicate it had 360 visions (those little circles could all be miniature cameras), but no, the script won't cooperate. So it's a few more cartoony deaths for them, exploding and only leaving their silly feet behind, as the Dominators stamp their feet and allow themselves to get blown up real good by their own petard. That's what you get for sending down two guys to do the job of a hundred. I mean, what if the Dulcians HAD been warlike and clever? And what happened to the Dominator fleet after this? Crashed down when they ran out of power, or tried again? I can't actually say I care one way or another.

Someone who IS warlike and clever is Jamie, whose continued guerrilla tactics are proving both exciting and useful. Not only that, but his idea is what makes the Dominators' defeat possible. Zoe is stuck in the lab assistant role, which isn't a bad place to be. The Doctor, genius though he may be, takes care of the comedy. On two occasions, he blathers on as danger looms - while holding a time bomb, and waiting for the volcano to erupt - and must be brought to order by one or another of the companions. It's the same joke as the radiation scare from Part 1, so is wearing a bit thin by the end of the episode, but at least he's doing SOMEthing to make the episode livelier. The sonic screwdriver returns, in a sense, for the first time. We saw it work as a screwdriver in Fury from the Deep, but here it actually does a lot more, digging a huge tunnel like a powerful blowtorch. It's the introduction of the Doctor's iconic "magic wand", played by the time vortex generator in The Wheel in Space.

So on one side, rubbish guest characters, and on the other, dynamic performances from the regulars. In the middle is the plot, which is at least energetic in trying to reach the end. The underground bunker previously introduced (and it's nifty periscope) makes a good staging area for the heroes' conquest. There are a lot of fireworks despite Roga trying to put a stop to it. The Doctor's body double runs through the quarry at breakneck speed. And stock footage of volcanic eruptions follow the destruction of the flying saucer. No time for goodbyes, which is good because I never want to see the Dulcians ever again.

VERSIONS: Ian Marter's Target novelization is tighter than the original serial, but I'm unaware of any changes of insignificance.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A good one for Jamie, and I can't fault the action, but the baddies have definitely worn out their welcome and inspire only apathy.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - While The Dominators has some good effects, especially up front, the one-dimensional villains, silly killer robots, and drab guest roles drag the whole thing down. What were the writers trying to say anyway? Was pacifism and/or hippies really a good target of satire in a show about an anarchist who won't use a gun? It's kind of too bad they seemed to spend all that money on it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

This Week in Geek (18-24/06/12)

Buys

A few DVDs this week, including Drive (see below), and for my Kung Fu Fridays shelf, Let the Bullets Fly, Exiled, and Running on Karma.

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Mad Men Season 4 features a new status quo that changes both the look and dynamics of the show in line with how the 1960s themselves are changing. In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, the decade must get its groove back, just as Don Draper must after the upheaval in his own life. In other words, the season is a dark descent until it finally upswings at the end. Not to say it's depressing. Peggy's story is one of feminine confidence and there's some outrageous comedy from Don's new secretary Mrs. Blankenship. It's a season in which the characters are denied things until they won't be denied no more. As with other seasons, the DVDs have one or usually two commentary tracks, but the documentary features aren't bad but ARE a little disappointing, being either padded with too many scenes from the show or having only the most marginal of relationships with the season. The history of divorce didn't need to be a three-parter, for example, and "How to Succeed in Business Draper Style" feels thin. The history of the Mustang is good, but doesn't really connect to the show, nor does the collection of campaign ads and speeches from the '64 Johnson-Goldwater election, but it's at least advertising-related.

The first half of Drive has a spare, artful sensibility that I find heartbreakingly beautiful, from the real-time police chase to the spartan romance and Driver's ambiguous, silent personality. It makes the second half all that much more uncomfortable, as sudden, gory violence and a relatively simple mob story take center stage. And yet, the contrast works within the context of the film's theme, as a man becomes a monster in order to become a hero. And what a cast! Ryan Gosling is joined by Carey Mulligan, Christian Hendricks, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman... and each actor brings their own quirks to the characters. A tense, dream-like action film. The DVD includes a making of split into four featurettes from which Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn are conspicuously absent, but Refn finally shows up in a longer interview that answers most of your questions.

Not all classic samurai films were made by Akira Kurosawa, or so I found thanks to the Criterion Collection and Hideo Gosha's Three Outlaw Samurai (1964). On the surface, the story, not just the title, seems derivative: Grungy masterless samurai side with farmers in a conflict. The similarities to The Seven Samurai ends there, however, although Three Outlaw Samurai also has memorable black and white visuals. Gosha's film is at times surprisingly and strikingly brutal, not because it is gory, but because the actors seem to suffer the impacts we see on screen. I can easily believe the booklet's claim that Gosha frequently made his actresses cry. It's also a rather cynical chanbara film, cynical about honor and loyalty and the so-called samurai code. Deconstructed heroes seem a rather modern concept, doesn't it? The only extra is the film's trailer, which includes a couple of behind-the-scenes elements.

Comics: One of the few comics I trade-wait with any kind of fidelity is Brian Wood's DMZ. Volume 11: Free States Rising, is its penultimate, and could actually serve as a proper conclusion. Incorporating DMZ #60-66, it starts with a rare flashback to pre-Civil War America, then follows Matt to what could well be the end of the war, and ends with an epilogue featuring Zee that crosses back into the guts of the series where her story intersects Mattie's. Smart, shocking and relevant as ever, no more DMZ could ever have come out and I'd have been happy with it. Of course, it doesn't end there, and volume 12 will take us to the true end of DMZ, and deal with the reconstruction. Stay tuned.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
III.ii. Critical Reception - Kline '90

Doctor Who #215: The Dominators Part 4

"You've jeopardised our mission by unnecessary softness."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.31 1968.

IN THIS ONE... Rago visits the Dulcian capital and Jamie bowls over a Quark.

REVIEW: Want the same old arguments from the same old characters? You've got it. Rago and Toba relegate our heroes to simple witnesses to their infighting, and by the time Rago gets to the capital, guess what, the council is still discussing what to do. Only there does Rago finally kill someone in an effort not to be labeled a lame duck. But very poor showing from the Dominators overall, leaving prisoners unattended, putting their best specimen, Zoe, in with the "stupid" ones by mistake, and doing a LOT of threatening for the actual amount of damage they do. The Quarks are as cute as ever, and your heart goes out to them when that poor little guy gets hit by Jamie's Ewok tactics and his little cut-out blinks out. Aww. Sure, they kill a couple people, but it seems to take a couple shots to get the job done. Is it me, or does Balan take FOREVER to die? (Is it a metaphor for the whole story? he asked, unkindly.)

Jamie, separated from the others (along with Cully), survived the previous episode's cliffhanger, and getting the leadership role does wonders for him. He doesn't give up, he's resourceful, and he's clever. He dodges Quark blasts in a relatively exciting sequence, and coordinates a boulder attack, like the Roadrunner fighting a Wile E. Coyote. It's good to be reminded that Jamie does have military experience, low-tech though it may be, and that he can handle his own.

Though leaving Zoe with the Doctor instead of sending her back out to work is a mistake, it does give the two characters a chance to interact, which they haven't done a lot of to date. She's the better companion to work things out logically, and they do answer the question of why the island is no longer radioactive, while leaving a final mystery to be solved - if the Dominator ship drank up all the radiation, what are they drilling for? There's a cute moment when Zoe does her usual know-it-all thing, and the Doctor pokes fun at her. It's a gentle joke, but he basically reminds her that he's a genius too. It's actually a little funny to have the Doctor vulgarize a companion's techno-babble instead of the other way around.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The plot and guest characters are complete rubbish, which appears to make the regulars work extra hard at keeping you (and me) entertained.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reign of the Supermen #427: Ginger Superman

Source: Action Comics #559 (1984)
Type: TransformationNot all Superman stories are created equal. Paul Kupperberg's "A Superman of a Different Color!", for example. Why he felt the need to tell the story of Superman's first haircut, I can't say, but we can probably agree that "taking away the invulnerability of Superman's hair" probably isn't the greatest transformation story ever told. And isn't Clark playing with fire here?
Even if I accept that one of Superman's powers is that his hair never grows, and that other follicular stories never led to the hairdresser's (i.e. Lois doesn't count), this one strains credulity. Ponder:

Superman is returning from outer space and stops at a lush planet in a trinary system where it is never night and nothing casts a shadow. There, he fights a big orange missing link between apes and Jimmy Olsen that tries to rip off his scalp!
Suddenly, it hits him! Because there are no shadows here, black is not part of the visible spectrum for native animals! So like a bull after a matador's cape, that hairy monster wants to destroy the offending color. Acting on it, he dyes his hair with Orange Pollen from Garnier(TM).
He could have just flown away... The creature lets him go, and he quickly reverts to his old color before he clears the atmosphere, but there's a side-effect. His hair is temporarily de-powered. Still, it can blunt scissors after just a trim.

So... What made the LEAST sense to you?

Doctor Who #214: The Dominators Part 3

"Resistance will only lead to violence." "And submission leads to slavery."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.24 1968.

IN THIS ONE... Zoe and Cully become slaves of the Dominators and the Doctor eats his first jelly baby.

REVIEW: You know what? Jamie is our audience identification figure, and when he grows impatient, so do we. Apparently, it's the Dulcian way to argue and debate everything, avoiding, if at all possible, making any kind of decision. If that's your culture, fine, but it doesn't make for very good drama and just seems obstructive to the plot. The Dominators aren't any better, though their arguments are much simpler and more polarized, with Toba finding any excuse to kill and destroy and Rago stopping him from wasting energy. Can you imagine if this had been a 6-parter as originally conceived? They say they cut out a lot of "old men arguing" by shrinking it down, for which I'm grateful. It could have been a 4-parter and I'd have been even happier.

It's not the first time a companion has had to grumble at an alien race's paralyzing brand of pacifism and/or general lack of military ability. It's been going on since Ian and Barbara met the Thals, and once forced Vicki to become a rebel leader (The Space Museum). This episode's unlikely militant is Zoe, who proves superior to the Dulcian work party in every way. Brave little soul, she even lies down on a rock begging Cully to fire at the Quarks, but of course, he misses his opportunity. Some people are beyond helping, you know? The Dulcians are such useless creatures, you almost want them to get conquered. And when a Quark finally gets shot, his cuteness means you feel sorry for the little guy. It's a good thing the Dominators are douchebags who lack imagination, because this is a story that makes you root for the monsters, and want to see bad things happen to the victims.

While Zoe does acquit herself very well as a heroine (the Dulcians fail her, of course), the Doctor and Jamie are up to a bit of slapstick comedy on their way back to the Island of Death. In attempting to change the course of the capsule, the Doctor starts fiddling with the open circuits much in the same way I used to with my old Atari 2600 joysticks when they gave out. When we cut back to them later, the Doctor's feet are sticking out of the flooring. It's crazy, and it's fun, and the boys are doing their best to make this snorefest of a story entertaining. And as mentioned above, this sequence also features the historic first appearance of the Doctor's bag of sweets, which we'll find out later is full of jelly babies. Fourth Doctor trademark, sure, but as I've previously claimed, the Second Doctor IS the most influential of them all.

THEORIES: Is Zoe so strong because she was genetically engineered? The pieces of rubble she lifts right up to her face are HUGE, and she's the last one to collapse from exhaustion (faking it). It could be that Dulcian building materials are relatively light-weight, or even that their gravity is below Earth-normal, but I'd rather like to think Zoe's genetic gifts aren't all concentrated on her brain.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Great stuff on the part of the regulars, I just wish they weren't forced to overdo it just to keep the mind-numbing SF plot afloat.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Liz Shaw Tribute

Damn it, I hate it when we lose a Companion. Taken from us too soon: Caroline John.I wish I'd made more cards of her, but her period on the show, as on this Earth, was too brief. A proper obit.

Doctor Who #213: The Dominators Part 2

"An unintelligent enemy is far less dangerous than an intelligent one, Jamie." "Eh?" "Just act stupid. Do you think you can manage that?" "Oh aye, it's easy."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Aug.17 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor plays dumb for the Dominators. Cully and Zoe get no traction with their story with the Dulcian Director.

REVIEW: As far as putting money on the screen, The Dominators continues to do that. The Dominator saucer interior has psychedelic displays and lots of detail, the Dulcian city is pictured on an intriguing matte painting and features cool deco furniture and strange brick-a-brac (what IS that top like thing on the table?), the capsule model flies through the clouds, that of the scientific base gets blown up, and Dominators can magnetically draw you to a wall (obviously done with a camera angle trick, but more fun than simple pantomime). What it's NOT putting on the screen is logic and coherence.

I'm just not sure I buy how dense both the Dulcians and Dominators are. They show a scientist who sees no reason to waste time proving facts (the HOW and the WHY are not important, apparently), and once goaded into checking on the story told by Cully, the Doctor and Jamie, conveniently forgets the story was a warning, and gleefully leads his party into the Dominators' hands. I hope he, especially, gets Quarked, but his students are just as dumb, if not dumber. Over in the city, Cully keeps insisting that asking questions has gone the way of the dodo on Dulkis, but nobody wants to believe him. So they do question, but only when it's least convenient for the protagonists. Cully's own casual reference to not knowing how a travel capsule works approaches a kind of irony, but the script's really not sure-footed when it comes to its own theme. As for the Dominators, their lack of depth is showing already. Rago is "INVESTIGATE" and Toba is "DESTROY" and the buck stops there. Rago's scientific method is up there with the Dulcians though, because he doesn't probe the Doctor after Jamie, concluding that they're the same without checking. Because he buys the Doctor's story about a cleverer caste, he does probe a Dulcian later and finds two hearts and a bigger brain. The former should tweak Whovian interest, but the latter is hard to believe.

Thankfully, the Doctor and Jamie are entertaining as they try to convince the Dominators of their cattle-like stupidity, ironically preparing them for how the Dulcians actually are. The comedy gets a bit Three Stooges in places, but these two have great chemistry and are always good for a chuckle. One does wonder if the Dominators had more difficult tests they could run, because they really start a low level. Handing Jamie a working gun and later setting the two of them loose doesn't speak well of their own intelligence either. Zoe's story isn't quite as interesting, and for some reason, her dialog seems particularly stilted and rote. Children's television style? The thread has an unfortunate moment where Cully telegraphs something that's about to happen, as if we can't follow a simple story, but also Zoe's first ever scream (a good one). You wanted to "feel" things, brainchild? You've got it.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Neither of these alien races are well thought out, but the Doctor and Jamie know how to amuse, and the effects are designs are fun.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dial H for Hate and Love

Marv Wolfman has finally found his groove I think. Where a lot of his Dial H stories have been very disposable, "Games Villains Play!" feels more relevant. First, he integrates the villain into the DCU (doing my job for me), then he makes the story personal and important to the characters (when his dad is badly wounded, Chris becomes obsessive about catching the bad guy, and almost crosses the line), he finds time for the supporting cast (bully Brad's dad leaves his mom), and he chooses to use my very favorite Dial H character of all time, Zeep the Living Sponge! Ok, this is really personal, but I once played Zeep in a superhero PbeM RPG so I have a great fondness for the character.

However, the story does have its problems for submitting readers: Over the course of Chris' obsession, there's basically a montage of encounters with the villain in which the dialed heroes are pictured and credited, but not seen in action. That's gotta be a good news/bad news scenario for the characters' creators. I've included them as well to try and give them a little more love.

Case 28: Adventure Comics #483
Dial Holders: Chris and Vicki
Dial Type: Watch and Pendant Dials
Dialing: The Dials may not allow their users to kill, or else have a sense of irony. When Chris "dials angry", he is disappointed to be given the silly identity of Zeep the Living Sponge.
Name: Zeep the Living Sponge (great name, immediately charming, I love it)
Created by: Stephen DeStefano, Age 14, from S. Ozone Park, NY (the creator of 'mazing Man and more importantly, of Hero Hotline, see below)
Costume: Zeep is seemingly made of orange sponge and has simple alien-like features with big red eyes. Up close, there is a texture to his skin.
Powers: Though Zeep is made of spongy tissue, he appears to otherwise have an anatomical structure similar to normal humans (he can be choked, for example). His only real power is to jump and bounce at fearsome speeds.
Sighted: In Fairfax, he was involved in the Games-Master's first encounter with the city's superheroes.
Possibilities: DeStefano has already integrated Zeep into the DCU by way of Hero Hotline. Zeep served on the Hotline's night shift. He's still there, hoping to one day make it to the day shift.
Integration Quotient: 100% (already there, I just want to see more of him)
Name: Thumbelina (based on a fairy tale, it's as good a name as any for a diminutive heroine)
Created by: Stephen DeStefano, Age 14, from S. Ozone Park, NY (Dial H's best performer)
Costume: A tiny heroine with a mane of lush brown hair and a pleasant costume in shades of blue, Thumbelina wears high boots and gloves, and a spiky mask, and has a subtle diamond motif going. This harlequinizing plays on her looking like a ballerina, which may be a visual pun.
Powers: Thumbelina's height seems to vary from panel to panel, anywhere from that of a Barbie to perhaps 3 inches. Whatever the case, she is always in a miniaturized state, but has the strength of a full-grown human.
Sighted: In Fairfax, she was involved in the Games-Master's first encounter with the city's superheroes.
Possibilities: Any team that wants a miniature hero could do well with Thumbelina, also raising their male/female ratio. The possible ballerina connection gives her an interesting secret identity to play with.
Integration Quotient: 45% (DC's only other "female Atom" possibility is what, Doll Girl?)
Name: Lightmaster (already a Marvel supervillain)
Created by: Jeffrey Johnson, Age 13, from Newbean, TN
Costume: Lightmaster's stolen the Flash's mask and Captain Marvel's shirt and braccers. He adds yellow suspenders with diamond studs that make him look like the King in a pack of cards, and a yellow cape.
Powers: Unknown. Presumably, he can control light and/or laser beams.
Sighted: In Fairfax, fighting the Games-Master.
Possibilities: It could be amusing if Lightmaster were someone who accidentally found a way to tap into Shazam's magic thunderbolts. He's been stealing the Marvel Family's powers steadily without meaning to. Eventually, he relents and becomes a minor, occasional player in Fawcett City.
Integration Quotient: 10% (in reality, I don't think he'd ever see use, but I kinda like my idea)
Name: Tiarra Star (is that her real name, because it's spelled "tiara")
Created by: Jeanette Fuller, Age 14, from Lake City, GA
Costume: A green leotard, over which is thrown a blue bathing suit, gloves and mask, along with mousy brown hair... That's a terrible color scheme. No tiar(r)a?
Powers: Unknown. The name does not inspire any particular powers.
Sighted: In Fairfax, fighting the Games-Master.
Possibilities: It's likely Tiarra is either a super-strengthster or an energy blaster. I'd write her up as a beauty queen who decides to fight crime, but she just doesn't have the fashion sense for it.
Integration Quotient: 2% (needs a change of clothes, quick, before I use my idea on a character called Miss Congeniality)
Name: Matter Girl (sounds like a fit for the Legion of Super-Heroes)
Created by: Perry Rhone, Age 11, from Silsbee, TX
Costume: Looks like a purple bathing suit, but well supplemented by a choker with the letter M on it, and beautiful, Grecian black curls.
Powers: Unknown. Presumably, she creates matter out of thin air.
Sighted: In Fairfax, fighting the Games-Master.
Possibilities: Despite the name, I don't see her in the Legion because she looks too mature and has non-Interlac lettering in her costume. Too bad she isn't called Material Girl, because that would actually inspire me. So... Legion reject?
Integration Quotient: 4% (looks pretty, but doesn't suggest anything interesting)
Name: Molecule Man (already a Marvel supervillain, and not an obscure one)
Created by: David Harris, Age 11, from Americus, GA
Costume: A blue suit with a helmet-like mask, a red cape, and ear pieces that send a wave form over her head to make an M and suggest a nose. There's probably more to it, but it's not visible.
Powers: Unknown. Presumably he can transmute matter (making him a good partner for Matter Girl).
Sighted: In Fairfax, fighting the Games-Master.
Possibilities: Perhaps we can save Molecule Man AND Matter Girl by making them a married couple with complementary powers. These days, a married couple working together would be positively unique.
Integration Quotient: 3% (unlikely to replace Firestorm as DC's primary transmuter, not with that name and costume)
Name: Echo (a good name, and indeed, it's been used for a Daredevil supporting character, a member of the Conglomerate, a Riddler henchman, a Terry Moore-penned series, and a variety of DC villains)
Created by: Jeffrey Albrecht, Age 23, from Rochester, MI
Costume: The red and yellow look good on a blond, and though the interior art makes her haircut a bit severe, the cover fluffs it up nicely. Good stick-on mask. The knotted X on her chest gives her a slightly preppy look, like a sweater thrown over her shoulders.
Powers: Echo can repel energy and send it back to its source.
Sighted: In Fairfax, part of the duo that finally apprehended the Games-Master.
Possibilities: Reactive powers like hers don't make her the best of superhero designs, even in a team book. Echo really needs a complementary partner, and I'm not coming up with the right pun to make him or her up.
Integration Quotient: 5% (ultimately too limited a design)
Name: Music Master (slightly villainous and unlikely to be a pun, but good alliteration)
Created by: David Austin Hunt, Age 13, from High Point, NC
Costume: In yellow and green, MM's chest notes and radio class in red, but he sports a nice twist on the Flash's ear pieces, a note instead of a bolt of lightning. Yellow bands run up the legs, invoking sheet music. Ahead of his time, the suit appears to be form-fitting armor just like Jim Lee's Justice League costume designs.
Powers: Music Master's radio turns sound into destructive energy which he channels through his suit to blast things and people. The wide green blast produced appears to have a distorted sonic component.
Sighted: In Fairfax, part of the duo that finally apprehended the Games-Master.
Possibilities: Music-related heroes, in a visual medium like comics, aren't all that engaging, and may even seem silly (no offense, Dazzler). Music Master seems to me like he could be related to another Dial H hero, Trouble Clef (a favorite from New Adventures of Superboy, I'll get to him eventually). Since I'd rather have Clef in the DCU, I'd have him start his career as Music Master.
Integration Quotient: 5% (the ridiculousness of the design would keep him from becoming the DCU's male equivalent of Dazzler)

Bonus Supervillain
Name: Games-Master (sounds strange with that plural on Games... I guess he doesn't tap into the RPG craze)
Created by: Robert A. Buethe, Age 21, from Elmont, NY
Costume: The harlequin costume speaks to his connection to the Joker (see below), and helps excuse its extreme clownishness. Mostly red and white, with a diamond-plad camp and shorts, a golden grown, a purple plastron with each suit of the pack of cards on it, and spade-shaped knee guards coming out of black boots. It works in a dated sort of way.
Powers: The Games-Master uses various game-related gimmicks to fight the forces of justice. His arsenal includes deadly gas-releasing dice, jacks that fire bullets, strangling horseshoes, a marble-firing gun, chess pieces that fire lasers, and razor-sharp checkers.
Sighted: Gary Ames used to be a hit man working for the Joker, but was captured by GCPD while playing a board game. Vowing to use games to HELP commit crimes, Ames becomes the Games-Master and embarks on a crime spree in Fairfax, stealing from game stores and companies and in the process injuring detective King. After getting away from three separate superhero duos, he is finally arrested by Echo and Music Master.
Possibilities: I think it's interesting that a former henchman would strike out on his own, much like superheroes' sidekicks do. The GM feels very DC too, as the universe is chock-full of gimmick villains obsessed with a certain theme. While he'd make a fair Flash or Batman opponent, thematically, he would work better as an opponent for one of the younger Batman Family members. A rivalry with Harley Quinn wouldn't be amiss.
Integration Quotient: 95% (already there, it's just a matter of giving him a reason to return)

But who is that guy with the trading cards on the cover? That's a story for... next time!