Saturday, May 13, 2006

Melbotis Mailbag: Emergency Edition

RHPT writes:

Dear Mel,

The Mysterious M has gathered her 8 closest friends from high school in Nashville this weekend, and four of them have made camp at our house (with 4 more arriving tomorrow as reinforcements). They have overrun the house - now with women's undergarments strewn around the house [and not in the good way] - and cornered me into the office with nothing but a laptop, internet connection, two cats, and left me without food or water. Please send help.

Dear Randy,

By the time we'd get to Tennessee it would be far too late. You're on the right track with the internet connection. Beware: You can't actually stay in the room the whole time or, by the end of the weekend, the stench will be unbearable .

My recommendation, take M's momentary distraction as your cue to hit your local comic shop. It will give you a chance to get out of the house and you can finally spend some quality time (and money) looking at comics without M worrying about when you're coming home.

I also suggest possibly hitting Best Buy and/ or your local record store.

If money is an issue, you say you have two cats. It's time to teach those cats to dance. Not only will it fill the time, you can also bid your guests a nice fairwell with a small dance number. Afterward, you go on the road with those dancing cats, Randy. You'll take the world by storm.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Melbotis Mailbag!

Yes, Leaguers, it's once again time for Melbotis Mailbag! The assembled might of League HQ is here to assist you in answering all of the questions which plague you.

Natalie writes:

Here's a question for your mailbag:

Do men identify with and/or aspire to be superheroes because of their innate desire to fix every problem they come across? Do you think a superhero that just listened to the problem and didn't jump right in with a solution or a fix would be considered a failure?

-Natalie, who contrary to indications pointing otherwise is not bitter and jaded. Yet.

Natalie, my dear, it sounds as if there's a subtext suggesting you're asking something completely different from the stated question, but since I'm not exactly clear on what that question is, I will take this on at face value.

This is a little boring, but I think the answer to your first questions is: Yes. Dudes would like to be able to resolve problems easily and efficiently. This is not just ridding the world of crime, but also changing a tire, mowing the lawn and making cheeseburgers. Thus, the pneumatic wrench, the powered lawn mower and the gas grill.

Moreover, I think a lot of people wish they had greater ability (ie: superhuman ability) to resolve problems they know they cannot solve as a flesh and blood mortal. Also, men like to wear tights. We don't talk about it much, but notice the pants on football players, the outfits on winter olympians and the speed suits on swimmers.

In answer to your second question, I think you have to draw a clearer picture of "listening", and when that might be appropriate. For example, Batman probably isn't going to want to take some share and care time with a guy about to stab someone 47 times in a dark alleyway. Iron Man isn't going to hang about listening to why Kang the Conqueror should get to rule all of history.

I do think that you'll find in Superman comics that The Man of Steel generally gives everybody an opportunity to put down their weapon and give up, or at least figure out what's going on in any situation before he starts slugging people. Superman knows who he is, and so does everyboy else, so you do get an opportunity for people to pause when he shows up to, say, foil a bank robbery.

Superheroes are a largely reactive bunch, not terribly proactive. I don't think they'd necessarily be considered a failure for trying to stop and think out a situation or learn the motivation of a perpetrator. I do think if you read most comics, the characters are either placed into a position where they MUST immediately react to a clear and obvious threat. Many a comic story has been written regarding a superhero walking into a situation throwing punches first and asking questions later, only to learn that they may have taken the wrong side.

Usually superhero teams will not just go running around slugging people, there usually is some discussion of appropriate plans of action with all viewpoints considered. For good examples of this, I suggest JLA and JSA comics.

The next question was submitted by Steanso, no doubt, to see what I would be willing to print. At the risk of any potential future employer deciding this post makes me unfit for employment, here we go.

Steanso writes:

Dear Melbotis,

Can you please explain the cause and the cure for the chafing, burning sensation that Jeff Wilson experiences in his crotch region whenever he participates in any extended outdoor activity? I have suggested that the sensation may be a biproduct of the hormones which the doctor has given him in anticipation of his gender reassignment surgery, but Jeff seems skeptical about this being at the root of his problem. For the good of Crackbass and of everyone who gets stuck watching him jiggle his junk, please help.


Dear Lord.

Well, it was just a matter of time before the bi-curious antics of Steanso and CrackBass spilled over into LoM territory. I confess that neither my information nor the database at League HQ had any immediate answers. We do know that in the old west cowboys would use something called "crotch powder" to keep themselves from chafing from the hours and hours in the saddle. I assume this is merely talc.

My suggestion, do not let anything go to chance. You must assist CrackBass in applying liberal amounts of baby powder and/ or Gold Bond Powder to the offending region.

If that doesn't work, try some tough actin' Tinactin.

Remember, Steanso, only you can make a difference.

That's all for this evenings's mailbag! Keep those letters coming.

Do you like Spider-Man? And evil samurai? And the movie Desperado?

Because if you do, Leaguers, have I got some awesomeness for you, courtesy of Doug.

Go here.

Beware... when you come back, you will never be the same.
Some Interesting Tidbits

Justice League Heroes will be coming out soon. If you own a console and you do not buy this game, you are some sort of weirdo.

Here is a page where you can download the trailer.

You can even play The Flash, J'onn or Zatanna. Now that, Leaguers, is a Justice League game.

If I had to guess, they're going to be fighting the White Martians.

The final episode of JLU will air on Saturday night. I'll probably post more about this on, but this show surpassed all expectations. Unfortunately, it's a lot more expensive to make a new cartoon than just buying some Japanese stuff. (Thank you, Cartoon Network, for Bobobobobo)

The Superman Homepage is reporting that a Superman documentary entitled "Look, Up in the Sky" will air on A&E in June. I will keep you all posted.

Comic Book Resources has it's 10th Anniversary. If you like comics, you should be visiting this site.

It's the 10th Anniversary of Kingdom Come, the groundbreaking work by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. This comic helped redefine the superhero comic for the last ten years. You can find echoes of this work in both Infinite Crisis and Civil War.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Melbotis's Bubble of Blechhhh

Last night after dinner and AI, Jamie asked me to look at Mel's incision where he had his surgery. I guess earlier in the day she'd had a look and it appeared he was getting some fluid build-up behind the scar.

I pulled up his shirt and a bubble the size of my fist was right behind the scar. Mel was happy as a clam and appeared not to notice.

Our vet was long closed so we rushed to the 24 hour clinic a few miles from the house. The place was run suspiciously like a people ER. The only difference being that they weren't worried about getting sued, I guess, because the nurse in triage looked at Mel's bubble and said, "I'm going to save you two hours of wait. Go home and put some hot wash cloths on the bubble for fifteen minutes. Do this twice tonight. Go see your vet first thing in the morning."

I have no idea what this was supposed to do, but we went home and put hot wash cloths on Mel's bubble. I made arrangements to miss work in the morning, made appropriate e-mails and checked on Mel who was, still, happy as a clam.

This morning he woke up and the bubble was slightly larger. I went for my run and at 8:05 I called the vet to get an appointment. We were to go in at 10:00.

I took my shower and got cleaned up, checking on Mel through the window to see how he was doing. He was pretty much standing in the yard happily wagging his tail.

Jamie came home from dialysis, scarfed down an Eggo and we were ready to roll. Mel came inside, and I immediately noticed his bubble was gone. He had a small rupture in his scar that was no longer bleeding, where, I assume, he scratched open the bubble or it just popped. Either way, he'd drained the darn thing.

We still drove him to the vet where they added some staples to his scar and told us that, apparently, what he'd had was "serum". I'm still not sure I'm buying their answer, but it's just bodily liquid that can form at a surgery site.

Bottom line, Mel is fine and I missed 3 hours of work. And somewhere in our yard is a puddle of Mel's blecchhh...
Infinite Posting

If you're wondering why things have been a little quiet lately, I've been working on some sort of rambling review of DC Comics' last few years worth of effort.

It's really, really long. I am sorry.

Still, I would feel remiss if I did not point to my post as both an explanation and excuse for why so little has been showing up at The League.

Go here to read about Infinite Crisis, etc...

Monday, May 08, 2006

52 Website

DC launches a new comic series, 52, this Wednesday. This series will be 52 issues in duration, released once a week, and covering 52 weeks in the life of the DCU.

A crazy idea, so we'll see if DC can pull it off.

To learn more, go to DC's new 52 website.

If you get a chance, look it up and explore. There's actually some pretty funny stuff in there if you've been following DC comics lately. Check out the "Dollers & Sense" story and "Ask Dr. Expert" for some really geeky stuff.
Suggested Reading:

TST has given me her permission to re-direct you to her site. She recently completed the 95th day of a 95 day eating disorder recovery program.

Her comments are honest and enlightening, and I highly recommend her blog as reading to all Leaguers.

Read here.

Melbotis Mailbag

Hey, ya'll... We have two very different letters sent in to the Melbotis Mailbag as well as a question from the Mellie Noms. I will still be digging back through the Mellies Noms to answer all of your questions.

Steven submitted this with his Nominations:

In the future, The League should not ________
Use vaguely Biblical and/or archaic, beautiful language to describe infertility or other personal ailments. It has had a searing effect upon my mind:
"Now, it's more or less public knowledge that Jamie's insides are a rocky place where my seed can find no purchase."

This sentence is both beautiful, cruel, and sad; it has etched itself into my mind.

I wish I could take credit for this one, Steven, but I can't. While somewhat accurate to describe our personal childless status, I lifted this from the opening of the Coen Bros. classic, "Raising Arizona" as H.I. McDonough realizes that his beautiful wife, Ed, is barren. Nobody has a talent for dialogue like the Coens. I believe the exact line was "At first we could not understand why this woman, who looked as fertile as the Tennessee valley, could not bear children. But the doctor explained that Ed's insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase."

I apologize for any discomfort.

As Steanso or CBG could tell you, "Raising Arizona" is just about one of my favorite movies of all time. If you haven't seen it in a while, I think you should watch it as soon as possible.

Doug writes:

Dear Melbotis,

Why doesn't the League have an ATOM feed? My other friends' blogspot blogs all have them. Is it a preference you have to enable? RSS and ATOM feeds are neat.



Well, Doug, Mel has no idea what you're talking about, but he does ask "Am I a good boy?" The answer is, "Yes, you are a good boy!" to Mel's question. The answer to your question is more complicated.

I looked into an RSS feed a long time ago with the help of Steve G. Harms. It turns out Really Simple Symdication is a @#$%ing lie. The tools I looked at kept spitting me code that didn't seem to do anything. I would plug it in here, I would plug it in there, and nothing happened. Nothing. I couldn't figure out what was up, so I quit.

Also, I'm not really clear on what the point is of RSS. I sit in front of a computer all day for a living and I work in an online media environment, and I'm still a bit confused as to what RSS is supposed to be doing for me in general, let alone in relation to a blog. It seems a little bit self-important for The League to be blasting you guys to come read our latest navel-gazing hoo-hah.

Jim D. writes in with a comic related question.

Are really good stories that are told prior to a continuity reboot somehow tainted because they are no longer in the continuity?

What Jim is talking about is some serious comic-nerdy stuff, so I'll try to explain.

You can refer to my prior post on Continuity here for a primer on continuity in comics.

Every once in a while a comic will get stale, an idea worn thin, or become implausible or goofy as time marches on and the comic reading and writing populace becomes more sophisticated. (I use the word "sophisticated" with no small amount of reservation.)

Thusly, a company may decide to "reboot" a character. The most famous instances of such a reboot actually belong to the Big 3 at DC: Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In 1986, after a company wide event known as Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman were each assigned to top-shelf comic creators who were asked to re-tell their origin with a modern sensibility.

I'll stick with the Superman reboot as it probably had the most long-standing changes to the origin and character.

John Byrne re-told the story of Superman's origin in "Man of Steel", a 6-issue limited series that was then followed up with the appropriate changes in Superman, Adventures of Superman and Action Comics. Prior to Man of Steel, Superman had been a Super-powered youngster in Smallville who took on the name "Superboy", fought crime and natural disasters and generally had some nice adventures as a teen-ager in an idyllic Kansas small town. Whenever he felt like it, Superboy would join up with a gang of teen-age Superheroes in the 30th Century known as The Legion of Superheroes.

Also, the motivation for Lex Luthor's anti-Superman-scheming ways could be found in Superboy. Apparently Lex and Superboy had been pals, with Lex helping Superboy out as a child-genius scientist. Lex had a fire in his lab, and Superboy blew it out, spraying chemicals on Lex's head which caused her hair to fall out. Being a vain little goon, Lex decided Superboy was jealous of him and had caused the entire scenario to humiliate him.

Superboy had his own comics, appeared in Adventure Comics for years, and also was part of the cast of the fan-favorite Legion of Superheroes.

Byrne wished to look to the original version of Superman who had not, in 1938, spent time as Superboy, and struck Superboy from the record. Needless to say, Byrne removed the Lex hair removal bit from Superman's history. Lex was now a corporate tycoon who despised Superman for exposing some of his criminal activity and humiliating him (ie: arresting him) in public. Lex also went bald the year Superman appeared in Metropolis. I think the suggestion was that the stress got to him.

This decision to rework the Superman mythos forced the cancellation of Superboy comics as well as Legion of Superheroes. Legion would need to be rebooted as Superboy was no longer part of their lore. Further, Krypto was struck from existence as Krypto had been Superboy's pet pup on Krypton, and had appeared mainly in Silver-Age Superboy comics.

Are the stories from the first 50 years of DC/ National's history "tainted" by the decisions in 1986? I can't see how you can they aren't. After all, those stories no longer "exist" in the minds of the Superheroes wandering the DCU. Or, at least, they didn't until Infinite Crisis #4. So, God knows what the next 20 years will look like.

It's my opinion that the Crisis events were a small bit of genius on the part of the DC editorial staff. Continuity could continue, characters could advance, and it didn't necessarily throw the baby out with the bathwater in retelling the story of the DCU. But you also didn't need to worry about reading every issue of "Superman's Pal: Jimmy Olsen". In a way, in the DCU, it's ALL continuity. It just depends on which aspect of the universe you're looking at, be it the 1939 version of Superman or some version of him from the animated series.

I guess the question then is: Are the pre-reboot stories still enjoyable?

Again, this is my opinion, but: Yeah. I like reading the stories from the 1950's and 60's and being allowed to know that they're a product of their time and place. The stories can serve as a relic of a bygone era and still be strip-mined by today's creators for the best parts. Sure, the format is simple, and the stories geared at kids, but there's a bit of raw energy there and a puzzle-solving nuance that's all but gone from comics these days. (You couldn't show Superman beating the tar out of people in the 1950's thanks to threats from parents' groups, so he HAD to do something).

The fusion of past and present is exactly what's making Grant Morrison's "All-Star Superman" such an amazing comic read.

In the meantime, other comics such as re-boots of the Superboy concept and Legion of Superheroes have struggled endlessly since they were written out of existence. Something happened there that took the wind out of the sails of both concepts, and it's left both franchises gasping.

The Smallville TV show mixes the heroics of the Superboy comics with the costumeless alien coming to terms with a destiny that Byrne described. Legion of Superheroes has had, I believe, three separate launches since 1986. Most likely because Paul Levitz, who once wrote "definitive" Legion stories is now running DC. It will be interesting to see if folks regain interest in the Legion again with "Superboy and the Legion" coming to TV this fall on Cartoon Network.

In the end, you have to answer the question for yourself. How do you, as a reader, feel about these decades of pre-1986 DC comics? You can mine them for comics history or dismiss them as the past.

I do think the reason DC appeals more to an older readership than the teen-ager audience (who seem to enter comics invariably through Wolverine and Spidey) is due to an adult's sense of perspective and understanding of the importance of history. Marvel is getting there. In the past two or three years they've really learned to take a look at their roots and have made some hand-waving about their own "golden age".

I guess, as a rule, reboots do need to be kept to a minimum. It is difficult to keep up with character change after character change, as well as plot alterations, etc... The rules of continuity still apply. Editors need to show the greatest amount of foresight possible when re-writing the histories of their characters or you stand to lose your long-standing leadership all together.

Again to the Superman case: Superman's fan base was expected to grow with the reboot, but in the intervening years, that's not really happened. A lot of folks were put off by the drastic changes Byrne brought to the character. Despite Berganza's shaky record as an editor, he was willing to reintroduce elements of the Silver-Age of Krypton. I'll be curious to learn Superman's new status-quo in the upcoming year as Infinite Crisis once-again provides opportunities to alter the character's past to reset and look to the future.

On a personal note: I do buy collections of older comics. I do enjoy the stories. I highly recommend readers pick up what they can afford of the old stuff. Most of it doesn't show the same cinematic quality of modern comics, but the comics are also usually a lot denser in plot and generally a fun read.

That's it for today's Melbotis Mailbag. Don't forget to keep sending in those questions.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Comics, Summer of Superman and Rollerderby

Hey Leaguers!

Friday I finally got my hands on some of the toys being released with the upcoming film, Superman Returns. I got "Truck Lifting Superman", "Crystal Smashing Superman", "Bulletproof Superman", and "Zipping into the Air Superman". Pictures to come.

Anyhow, the toys got me all in a tizzy because they really are some fairly decent toys for a movie tie-in. And, man, do they class up the living room.

Saturday I got up around 7:00 and tried to break up my usual run/ walk/ lope/ frighten the neighbors routine by bringing Lucy along. What I learned is that Lucy is not a good running partner as she thinks it's a race. Sure, she's faster than me, but she just kept getting yanked around on the leash when she tried to pull forward. Deciding that I'd prfer not to wind up dragging a dead dog through the neighborhood, I slowed my pace to a walk and all was well.

I was doing some cleaning up of the Fortress of Nerditude when Dedman called.
"The League!"
"I've been to Free Comic Book Day! I got you a back issue of Superman versus Santa Claus!"
Well, I was, of course, deee-lighted that Jim D. was taking advantage of Free Comic Book Day at his local retailers, and I felt a bit down about my own decision NOT to partake in FCBD. You see, The League has a lot of comics. A LOT of comics, and picking up free comics doesn't hold a lot of appeal when you already have tons of comics, some of which are in a stack waiting to be read.
"Hey," I asked Jim, "Find me JSA #39. It's the only hole in my run on JSA."
He called back two minutes later. He'd found it. WHOO-HOOOO!!!!

So Jamie and I stepped out of the house to redeem a coupon for a free cat toy at PetsMart (we had to pick up dog food, anyway). While eating my mediocre salad at Chili's, I kept stewing over my decision NOT to go to FCBD.

Finally, en route to League HQ I turned to Jamie (who was driving) and asked "Can we go to Mesa?"
Jamie is the bestest wife ever. Most wives, as I understand it, somewhat tolerate their husbands' eccentricities. Jamie's willing to drive.
So we drove up to Mesa and after overshooting by, oh.... three miles, we turned back and made it to the Atomic Comics in Mesa where comics scribe Ed (Captain America) Brubaker and Michael (Gotham Central) Lark were participating in a signing. These two guys are now jointly working on Daredevil in the wake of the ground-breaking Bendis/ Maleev run, so I guess that's why they got pulled in together.

At any rate, there was a really long line when I came in, and I knew we had about a 50/50 chance of seeing the line and turning around and walking back out the door again. I sort of wandered around the comics, trying to figure out what the situation was, and quickly realized neither Lark nor Brubaker were in the store. I guess they'd taken lunch.

I grabbed a Daredevil and a back-issue of Gotham Central for them to sign, and finally asked a store employee what the deal was. "Is that the line for Lark and Brubaker?"
"No. They're on break. Those are people trying to get a sketch from (blah-blah-blah)."
"So where's the line for those guys?"
"There isn't one."
Okay, so in my head, the way Reedo or Steanso might spend some time worrying about meeting, say, Ween, I had been sweating it that meeting these two guys would be an insurmountable task. I turned to the girl checking me out at the counter and said "So, look... I've never been to a signing before. I don't know how this works. Is there a gratuity expected?"
"They don't want you to kiss up to them."
I paused, realizing this girl did not know what the word "gratuity" meant.
"You know," she continued, "They're just guys. Treat them like you would anybody else."
Well, The League has crippling social anxiety in non-work related environs, and so I just sort of shrugged and said "So I can be a complete jerk."
The girl was confused.
The guy pointed me to a sweaty guy in his forties (we're all seaty, it's AZ in the Springtime) and said "Go stand with him. I guess we'll start the line there."
So I stood with the sweaty guy, pretty excited to be second in "line", or "Blob" as I suspected it would become as it was not a great place to queue.
"So who's this 'Lark' guy?" Jamie asked. I pulled out the Gotham Central issue I'd bought and flipped through it, expalining to Jamie how, yes, it's a little retro, but Lark's work has a certain naturalism and how he really draws the best Batman of the past five years and blah, blah, blah...
Then this guy walks up to the blob of five of us and says "Are you looking to get your comic signed?"
"Yeah-" I'm about to tell him to get in line BEHIND me.
"Cool. I'm Michael Lark."
So, anyway, I guess Michael Lark heard my elevator speech on the virtues of his work. Which can't be all bad.
"So," I said, flipping through his original page art (I loved his 'Pulse' stuff and it was in there). "You're not actually from here?"
It turns out Lark is from Dallas and also, despite only being in PHX a short time, ALSO finds PHX butt-ugly and lame. Nice guy. Seriously. It was a little weird because, I mean, what am I going to do? Sit there and tell him how much he kicks ass? That just seemed a bit off.
Brubaker showed up and happily signed my comic, but it sounded like he'd an altercation with the store staff over dropping the F-Bomb in conversation with a fan.
Not really having anything to add to the conversation, I said my thank-you's, took my Daredevil and Gotham Central and scooted out.
I did, however, totally forget to grab any actual free comics.
What blew me away was that these guys are big in the comic industry. Especially Brubaker. I mean, Brubaker writes Cap and X-Men and stuff. At a Convention, he'd be huge. For some bizarro reason (and I choose not to question why) there was nobody in lien to see them, but there were like 20 teenagers in line with their moms waiting to get a sketch from (bla-bla-blah).

Last night we headed North to Casey at the Bat, a sports complex off Union Hills in Phoenix to see the Surly Girlies take on the Bad News Beaters. Sadly, my favorite player was not actually playing last night, but the Surly Girlies must have been putting in some serious overtime at practice because they looked great.

They played at an outdoor in-line rink which is usually used for some sort of in-line hockey, as near as I could tell. It was open air and pretty darn nice. Lots of people, most of which were Surly Girly fans, batting cages and some sort of miniature golf course.

Hippie's Revenge (#069) was probably the star of the evening, but Denise Lightning (#23) and Kiddah Kilah (#17) stepped up as well.

I think I did have a moment of clarity as one of the Beaters went down and the announcer had us all applaud her as she left the track. "Let's all hear it for 'Chesty Molesty'!" And two hundred people applauded wildly.

Perhaps due to the open air envirnoment, the crowd was pretty sedate. Music was provided by The Route 66 Killers who were a step above the last group to play and brought their own belly dancer to perform along with them. For good or ill, the dancer wore an ape mask, which I think Jamie found a bit distressting.

Lots of kids show up for these events, and so it was kind of fun to see five or six boys and girls dancing to some surf punk along with ape-dancer.

Anyhow, the Surly Girlies demolished the Beaters. The final score was 174-144, but I suspect the Surly Girlies gave up some points in the 3rd period, or else they finally got tired. Of course, with the way the clock was off and the score board seemed to change just randomly from time to time, who knows?

The announcers, looking to get some crowd involvement, did take time out to annoucne the final score of the Lakers/ Suns game (which, sadly, I already knew thanks to my Blackberry).

Oh, and Justice League Unlimited kicked-ass.

All in all, a good Saturday.