Friday, December 13, 2013

Humbug!: The Nightmare Before Christmas

I don't know about any of you, but I, for one, am sick of Christmas.  So to share my annoyance, all this month I'll be complaining about some of America's favorite Christmas movies.  Should be funny? We'll find out!  I'll start the month out by making fun of movies I actually like, and work my way to the crap that I really loathe.

Today's entry: The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Alright, so this film is a rare opportunity, as it is both a Christmas movie AND a Hallowe'en movie at the same time, and that is all kinds of awesome.  But I can't let that prevent me from criticizing it.  Lucky for me, the film's two main protagonists are a bored, thieving celebrity and a clingy child.  And no, I'm not referring to Lock, Shock, or Barrel.

What do we know about Jack Skellington, our supposed protagaanist in this animated motion picture holiday spectacular?  He's referred to as both "the King of the Pumpkin Patch" and "the King of Halloween" in the film.  He's clearly the most popular- and therefore, most powerful- person in the city.  Literally EVERYONE loves him.  He's the head coordinator for the town's Halloween festival, which is also the chief driver of the local economy.  Jack Skellington is absolutely the most powerful person he himself knows.

And all he can do is whine about it.

Because he is a person of privilege, he can't see how great his life is.  How he became so awesome is never revealed- maybe he once was a poor local boy who brought himself up by his bootstraps, or maybe (I'm resisting the urge to say "probably") he was born into his privilege.  "Kings" are, by an large, a familial title, so it's not unlikely that his own... skeleton dad (or something) was the previous king.  Ultimately it doesn't matter, because whatever his origins, Jack's privilege blinds him now. His life as an awesome celebraty has grown boring and stale to him, and he wants MORE.

So, what does he do when he accidentally stumbles upon a new and different culture, with it's own rituals and leaders?  He uses it to fill the void he feel inside himself.  "This time, Christmas will be ours!" probably should be read more like "Christmas will be MINE!". Without even meeting Santa Claus in person, Jack decides to take his place, kidnapping him and conveniently forgetting about him until the whole thing blows up in Jack's own face.  Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

"But I never intended all this madness" Jack laments after being exploded out of the sky.  Well, guess what, Jack?  Intentions don't mean shit.  Everything that goes wrong in this film is your fault.  All of it.  On top of that, you might also be a weird pervert.  See, I know we're supposed to feel sorry for Sally whenever Dr. Finklestein is treating her like an ungrateful child, but consider this:  What if she really is just an ungrateful child?  Sure, she's in the body of an adult... rag doll.  But we have no idea how long ago she was created by the good doctor.  She certainly has child-like qualities.  Maybe she is only 12, emotionally speaking?  I know this is all guess work, so I don't want to accuse Jack of hooking up with some jailbait, but then again... I can't prove that he didn't do that, either.

And just how is it that Jack Skellington, possible sex offender and general all purpose jerkwad, could hold such sway over all of Halloween Town?  I don't want to go out and say that the entire town is run by morons, but.... the entire town is run by morons.   I mean, clearly.  The mayor openly admits to being incapable of make decisions.  There doesn't appear to be any form of city council, and there is literally a shack on the side of town where things go to get murdered.  That seems to be a well known part of City Lore, and no one has done anything about it. Ever.  Speaking of....

What's the deal with Oogie Boogie, anyway?  Like, I get that he's a sentient colony of bugs with a hive mind, that presumably feeds on other creatures to properly function.  Its weird as hell, but I read comics, so I get that stuff.  But exactly what is his legal status?  Even in a town of sentient skeletons and draculas he is especially feared, the only thing to actually be scared of in this town full of scary things.  Yet, he also has three children that he's, what, the foster father to?  At the very least, they are publicly known as his employees, despite the fact that they are minors and he is a notorious murder monster.

Still, the town seems to mostly be fine with that.  They tolerate Oogie's existence.... Until Jack realizes that he's a damn moron and Santa and Sally are in danger.  He murders Oogie, but not for being a sadistic asshole.  For being a sadistic asshole to HIS friends.  "How dare you treat my friends so shamefully!" is what he says before getting all murdery on him.  Its an inherently selfish statement; these are MY friends.  You don't eat MY friends, because they are MINE.

But is Oogie truly evil?  He's sadistic, obviously, and he enjoys playing with his (live) food, but so do cats.  I don't pretend to understand the biological process of a sentient insect colony, but if he's a monster in a basement (that everyone in town knows about) that regularly has live creatures sent down to (for his consumption), then the real villains are the snot nosed kids who sent Santa down there in the first place (even though Jack specifically told them not to).  And those little brats get off Scot-free.

I know Jack might have learned his lesson at the end, about paying more attention to your clingy goupie and maybe you shouldn't just steal other peoples things and then expect them to thank you for the privilege, but consider:  This is a Christmas movie that basically ends with Santa Claus calling out the main character for his bullshit.  That probably tells you something about your hero's journey, right there.

Next time on Humbug!:  Die Hard!  Man, at this rate I might never make it to the list of Christmas movies that I actually hate.  Maybe that'll be my Christmas Miracle this year....

Previously on Humbug!...
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Batman Returns

UPDATE: There will be no Humbug! for Die Hard, after all.  Two reasons for this:  First, real life got in the way.  And second, I just can't.  I tried, really, but Die Hard is pretty much a perfect movie.   Even stuff I'd normally complain about (like how there is exactly one lady character in the entire movie) makes a lot of sense in the context of it being a late '80s action film.  And hey, Mrs. Holly McClane is pretty damn heroic, you know?  Her life was in as much danger as John's.  So yeah.  It's just too good to mock.  I'm disappointed in myself too, believe me, but I just couldn't do it.

That being said, Humbug! was a lot of fun, and I might do it again in 2014. Only this time, I'm going to go after the movies I ACTUALLY hate, because my beloved films have suffered enough.  You know what you did, The Santa Clause.  YOU KNOW.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Humbug!: Batman Returns

I don't know about any of you, but I, for one, am sick of Christmas.  So to share my annoyance, all this month I'll be complaining about some of America's favorite Christmas movies.  Should be funny? We'll find out!  I'll start the month out by making fun of movies I actually like, and work my way to the crap that I really loathe.

Today's entry: Batman Returns!

Ok, so... this is gonna be a weird one, because I have waaay too many feelings about this film.  Straight up, this is one of my favorite movies, ever.  On the flip side, it is terrible as a "Batman" film.  There are all kinds of themes going on in this film, about duality, class, madness, and penguins with rockets strapped to their backs (it should surprise no one that I love that stuff).  But also, it makes no literal sense, and operates solely on dream logic.  Which is fine, if you're into that.  But if early 20th Century German Expressionism in film isn't your thing, its pretty simple to pull this sucker apart.  And since that's the point of Humbug!, that's what I'm going to do.

To begin with, it takes like zero effort to say that the "hero" of the film is bullshit.  That's obvious, because Batman isn't really the central character in this film.  The movie does the hard work for me!  But seriously, here's what Batman does in this film:  After the Red Triangle Gang attack the city, he shows up and beats up some bad guys.  Then, when they attack again, he blows up a clown.  Then he makes out with Catwoman, throws her into a truck, and makes out with her again a little later.  He fails to stop the death of a model, then has his car taken over by Penguin's goons.  He saves the day, but looses the girl, and can't arrest either Penguin or Max Shrek, cuz they're dead.  The end.

Dude, that is a bummer.  This is the most depressing Christmas film I've ever seen.

So, aside from the barely-there "romance with Catwoman plot", Batman has no real character arc in this movie with his name in the title. That's because its not really about him, as the opening of the film proves: this is a movie about Oswald Cobblepot, the Penguin.

In this interpretation of the character, the Penguin was abandoned as an infant by his parents for being a deformed cat-eating monster, who drools green goo and who has a pathological need to murder children.  I want to stress that this is not the traditional interpretation of the character.
 He's just a tad off-model, you see.

Penguin pretends he wants to learn who his biological parents are and stuff, but really its all a rouse to get access to the Gotham Hall of Records, to learn where every first born infant child in the city is, so that he can murder them on Christmas Eve.  The total lack of sense involved with this plan is lamp-shaded by spending half the movie focusing on Penguin being seduced by the notion of running for political office, but remember, that wasn't his real plan.  When Batman exposes him as not-really-caring-about-the-city (but not, it should be noted, for being a SERIAL CHILD MURDERER), he goes back to the "kill all babies" plan.  And when THAT happens to fail because Batman succeeds at something finally, he gives a (phenomenal) Patton Speech to a crowd of actual penguins, who go out to blow up the city.

To call the plot of this film "convoluted" would be overly generous.

Assisting/scheming against Penguin is secretly-evil business man Max Shrek.  The citizens of Gotham loves him, but every character in the film knows he's a dick, because Christopher Walken plays him.  So, you know, there's that.  There was probably a draft of this film at some point where "Gotham's own Santa Claus" got exposed for all the murders he's done, but that didn't make the final script.  So whatever.

The only person he kills on screen is Selina Kyle.  Except maybe he doesn't kill her?  Like, maybe she survives?  Or she really does die, but she gets magic extra lives from all those cats? (note: this is also not at all a thing from the comics)  Who knows, what you can be sure of is it makes her totally crazy.  And as any one in Hollywood can tell you, crazy = hot. She gets super extra hot great after getting pushed out the window a dozen stories.  And then at the end she makes out with her murderer/boss while using a taser as a sex aid.  It's... it's pretty weird, I gotta admit.
I was 7 in 1992.  And we wonder why so many people my age are into kinky shit.

Okay, so that's this Batman film, and as much as I love it, I'm the first to admit, it is terrible as a movie about Batman.  And at logic.  But why am I reviewing it?  Is this even really a Christmas film?  Well, once the film starts in the present, we're at a Gotham City Christmas Tree Lighting Festival.  And the film ends with Alfred saying "Merry Christmas, Master Bruce."  And Batman learns a lesson about... treating women with respect (I guess?), and also wow, his billionaire privilege can be a little overwhelming for a working girl, or something?  Whatever.  I say yes, because the winter/Christmas atmosphere is ever present in this film, even if it doesn't actually matter much to the plot.  Also, Batman has a long, storied history of Christmas specials, so I maintain he's a CHRISTMAS FIGURE.

Even if, you know, this particular Batman Christmas Special makes exactly no actual sense.

Next time on Humbug!:  The Nightmare Before Christmas!  After that I promise to move on from Tim Burton stuff, unless I find out he directed some late 80s Christmas Special I don't know about.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Humbug!: The Muppet Christmas Carol

I don't know about any of you, but I, for one, am sick of Christmas.  So to share my annoyance, all this month I'll be complaining about some of America's favorite Christmas movies.  Should be funny? We'll find out!  I'll start the month out by making fun of movies I actually like, and work my way to the crap that I really loathe.

Today's entry:  The Muppet Christmas Carol!

Okay, straight up, pretty much everything that I'm gonna say here I could say about any other version of A Christmas Carol.  But here's the thing:  Do any of the other versions of the story star the Muppets?  I submit that they do not.  So there.  Muppet Christmas Carol it is.  Eat it, Scrooged!

Now, don't get me wrong, "ghost Christmas story" is a rad concept.  I'm not berating that.  But lets be real about the central plot of this thing, okay?  Ebenezer Scrooge, a notorious miser and strong believer in laissez-faire capitalism, has a nightmare on the night before Christmas.  It's such a vivid nightmare that cruel, slum-owning Scrooge decides to give up being a miser and spread his wealth with his family and co-workers, for the first time in his miserable existence.  Just one bad dream, and he completely changes as a person.

Guys, that is preposterous.

Why would a man like Scrooge turn so easily?  Because he's feeling guilty about his past, because he hasn't lived the life he pictured he'd have as a young man?  Dude, that's called "real life".  You grew up, and things changed.  You ended up this way for a reason, a series of events made you into who you are.  And I'm not trying to say that there's anything wrong with personal renewal and change.  But a man like Scrooge?  Really?  His defining characteristic is that he's a miserable bastard to be around, and he seems perfectly content with that.  They literally sing a song about how he is just the biggest asshole the world has ever seen, and he seems to genuinely enjoy being a jerk to everyone.

And he has this big personal revelation because of fucking ghosts?  Ghosts he himself calls out as probably being bullshit!  Bits of cheese indeed, good sir.  I'm not saying ghosts are invalid as antagonists in a movie, but maybe you should encounter them more than once?  Isn't it just as likely something weird was slipped into your absinthe or something?  Because the simpler explanation is not ghosts, dude.  Trust me on that.

Also: why is Scrooge suddenly so worried about dying alone and hated?  Dude, that is straight up how you've lived your life, you can't honestly be that surprised at the notion.  He knows he's hated, but he just doesn't care.  But of course, because he turns to the light side through the power of the Christmas Spirit (blegh), we're told at the end that he didn't die, until he did, but at least now when he died he had friends.  Oy.

Speaking of characters and their untimely non-demise, exactly why is it that after Scrooge comes to Jesus, Tiny Tim doesn't die any more?  I mean, I understand the idea of rich people throwing money at a problem and it magically going away, sure.  But lets not kid ourselves, this is still a world before antibiotics.  What's Tiny Tim's got, T.B. or something?  He coughs a lot, so I'm going with T.B.  Yeah, no real reliable way to treat that stuff in the mid-Victorian era.  So that nonsense with living happily ever after?  Yep, no.  He dies.

Okay, alright, again, I actually really like this movie, but I'm on a mission, damnit.  And it doesn't take much effort to poke holes in this film's premise.  Plus, no Santa Claus or Batman in it.  If you're going to do a Christmas story, I feel it's inclined to include at least one of those cherished Christmas figures.  And don't give me any of that "The Ghost of Christmas Present is like Father Christmas, who is like Santa Claus" nonsense, because THAT is a facile argument, good sir or ma'am.  I do not accept it.

So yeah, whatever.  Next time the Muppets pick a Christmas story to retell, it should have Santa Claus in it.  Seriously.

Next time!  I take a cherished Christmas classic (to me, anyway), and I rip it a new one!  I call Humbug! on Batman Returns!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What If Wednesday #14: What if Sgt. Fury Had Fought World War II in OUTER SPACE?

On Wednesdays, The Amazing Justin Palm! gets drunk as shit and reviews an issue of Marvel Comics’ “What If?” so that you, the reader, can enjoy his drunken ramblings about a comic book whose sole purpose is to talk about shit that never happened, so it doesn’t matter at all. Dear Internet: You’re welcome.

Spoiler Alert: Nothing as exciting as the cover happens inside this issue.

I'm not gonna lie to you.  As I drink and read this, I am simultaneously watching cartoons AND playing video games.  I know, that seems unfair.  But seriously, this issue's concept?  I just am not thrilled with where this thing is going.  I get it, it was 1979,  Star Wars was huge, and they wanted to do a Star Wars thing (Even though Marvel already had the license to make Star Wars comics.  No, that's not a joke.).  But when on page 1 Uatu explains that "In this parallel reality space is divided into Alpha and Beta sectors... one on either side of the sun... just as your own Earth was divided into Eastern and Western fronts during your own World War II...!"  I'm just... ugh.  This is gonna get stupid real fuggin' fast.  World War II, but in space, almost as if it was a.... "Space Battles"?  No, that's not quite right, is it?

Marvel!  You literally made 107 issues of this stuff!  You were actively making the two books at the same time!

So, in this universe, in 1941, Space Station Pearl (ugh)  is attacked by alien monstrosities who are the Japanese in this universe, and I feel really racist for having typed that.  Nick Fury and Red Hargrove are astronaut solider dudes in green jumpsuits in this universe, and they fight the invading Japaliens, and space Capt Sam Sawyer (Tommy Lee Jones in Captain America, remember him?) shows up just in time to be killed in a laser fight. Then for reasons that are meant to justify this story's existence, but are mostly just silly, we spend two pages explaining that the reason technology is so much more advanced in this universe is because in our universe Leonardo da Vinci was too lazy to actually build any of his insane devices.  This is seriously a thing that happens in this comic.
 Man, our universe's da Vinci was a lazy shit, huh?

Anyway, later on, Space Sgt. Fury has formed his space Howlin' Commandos, only that doesn't make any sense, but whatever.  They're fighting space robots, who aren't at all related to the Japaliens, so I guess they are Robonazis?  Or Synthetitalians?  Whatever.  Dino has a picture of some hot chick back home with red skin, which seems to have nothing to do with the red aliens we see later (I peeked, sorry.  And the Japaliens are orange, so she's just some random girl with red skin or something?  Oy.  This comic, I tell you...),  and then Fury finds out that the Robonazis are- GASP!- controlled by some sort of computerizing machine!AND IT'S ALIVE!  (I guess?)

So, RoboHitler (I don't actually think that's his name, as he is basically a steel box on wheels that can talk, but without further context, I'm just going with it) can emit a paralyzing space gas that freezes space commandos right in their tracks, and wow, this is just so dumb you guys.  *takes another drink*   Wait, wait... I think it's actually supposed to be Happy Sam's brain in a robot body?  Making them do drills without telling them they're just drills?  They won't say yet (I haven't peeked that far), but he's ordering Fury around like Happy Sam did, so that's my new bet.  Robo-Sam tells the Commandos that they're on 24-hour call, because he expects a Betan Invasion, except for Red Hargrove, because he's got a secret mission for him to pilot.  Whatever.  Robo-Sam shoots Fury in the ass with a laser beam (yes, really) to tell him that he'll be watching, and I have never been so embarrassed for Nick Fury in my life.

He is always watching you, Sgt. Fury.  Even when you poop.

We're halfway done, and I really can not stress how silly all of this is.  This is not a What If.  This is "let's have random space adventures but we're too lazy to create new characters" or something.  It's a glorified Elseworlds, "Nick Fury... innn.. Spaaaace....".  Honestly, if they'd focused more on their flimsy excuse, "What If Leonardo da Vinci Wasn't Such a Lazy Ass?" I'd probably be more willing to go with it.  But whatever.  Let's pretend that World War II was in space and millions of lives weren't lost during the conflict.  That's in no way offensive, of course not.

We're introduced to Red-Alien-Lizard-Hitler, who's ordering Betan soldiers to butcher all non-lizard men that they encounter.  Wait, no, he's Red-Alien-Lizard-Hirohito, because they're still Japaliens, because he's sending his minions to take Midway, which is a pretty unsubtle reference to an actual Marine battle.  Oh, and then, look, it's Space Baron Strucker, who's a Betan spy posing as an Alpha Admiral, giving them secret info!  We're not supposed to know it's space Strucker yet, but his baldness, sinisterness, and the fact that this is supposed to be a Howlin' Commandos story give him away.  The Alienazi's even refer to him as "Herr".  It'd be cute, if it wasn't so stupid and vaguely offensive.

Remember kids, the difference between the Japanese and Lizard Aliens is there is no difference.

Oy vey.  Direct quote time from Space Strucker:  "The Betan is as much a fool as any of the Amerikaners to believe that they are not prepared for his approaching fleet.  In fact, it was I who let the word leak of the imminent invasion.  Ach!  My plan is perfect.  For it is inevitable that the Betan invaders will be totally defeated by the retaliating Terran ships... While Earth's forces will be severely weakened, thereby making it that much easier for my repressed HOMELAND... to RETURN to it's rightful place as RULING CLASS ON EARTH."

So, if I've got this right, the Japaliens are a threat, but Space Nazis are using them to weaken Earth's defenses so that they can take over once the Japaliens are defeated.  Right.  Whatever.

Red Hargrove flies a space ship that is totally not an X-Wing for a while.  It is the most boring thing imaginable.

The riveting, pulse pounding action that only What If? can deliver.

Fury and his Commandos are on duty in case their ship gets boarded, but it doesn't.  Space-Hirohito realizes his spy has betrayed him, which is what you get for working with Space Nazis.  Robo-Sam reveals to Fury that the Admiral in charge is a Space Nazi/Space Strucker, and if Robo-Sam knew that all along, why did he wait until the middle of a space battle to reveal this?

When Fury asks Strucker what's his deal, he basically says that he wants Space Nazism to rule the universe, and we'll all pretend this makes sense.  So as space ships blow up around them, the Howlin' Commandos start doing what they do best: Punching Nazis.  Fury pushes Strucker out of an airlock, so at least we get our "Punch Nazis out of airplanes" quota filled for the day.  The Americans... oh, I mean the Alphans defeat the Betans, Lizard-Hirohito dies, ra ra ra, democracy.  Robo-Sam admits he is, in fact, Robo-Sam, and Uatu shows up in the last panel to try and convince me this wasn't a waste of my time. It was.

"Oh god!  I had this terrible dream that I was in the worst 'Star Wars' rip-off ever!"

This issue is just dumb.  Really, really dumb.  The concept is crazy, and while I love crazy concepts, there's nothing about the execution that I can say is "good".  Like, they don't try to be silly, or funny, or interesting.  Its just a boring attempt to cash in on Star Wars.  And also to say that Japanese people are Lizard-aliens, or something.

Next time, on What If Wednesday!  What if Four Different People Became Nova?  Umm... I assume he'd be less powerful, or something?  Shit, that means that next time I'm going to have to explain Nova to everyone.  God damn it....

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thor's Day Comic Recommendations

Hey everybody!  It's Thor's Day!  In multiple senses!  So, to celebrate the US opening of what I'm hearing from England seems to be a pretty great Thor movie, I thought I'd make some reading suggestions.  You know, for people who like Thor but don't really "get" comics culture.  So if you left the movie and are in a mood for more hammer throwing action from the god of thunder (or more scheming and trickery from the god of lies, like me), here are some books you may want to check out.  And because I'm so good to you, I've included both Amazon addresses and Comixology addresses, to better serve your preferred reading methods!  (And also availability, because Marvel may be doing many things right these days, but it's print run schedule on older material is just the worst.)

I'm not gonna lie, there's a ton of Thor comics I haven't read, but I've heard good stuff about, and they are probably worth looking in.  With that in mind, here are two....


The Eternals Saga

So, this sounds promising?  I've heard it's a classic, and it's written by Roy Thomas, and it involves Jack Kirby's Eternals, so.... Eh?

If I'm being honest, I was a late bloomer to Thor, and while I can recommend lots of Spider-Man and X-Men stories from the 60s and 70s, other than the ones in the first Essential Thor volume, I don't have a lot of knowledge of early Thor.  But this looks nice.  Also, I hear that Essential Thor Volume 2 is a marked improvement.  So I don't want to say that only modern Thor is good.  That being said...

Thor: The Mighty Avenger

How much has this book gotten praised?  So much that it's waiting in my comixology queue right now, because I realized how embarrassing it was that I hadn't read it yet.  I have heard nothing but praise for this comic, which was great but canceled due to it being a "kids comic" (because most comics aren't for kids, which is a stupid policy, but whatever) and no one read it until it was over.  So, I really recommend it, and promise to read it over the weekend myself.

Now, for books I'm not just guessing at...


The Mighty Thor Vol. 1 by Fraction and Friends

I liked most of Matt Fraction's run on Thor, but this was definitely my favorite part.  Not just because its got one of those "so simple its brilliant" Fraction ideas of Asgardian gods vs. Kirby World Eating Space God Galactus, but, if we're being honest, yes, mostly because of that.  There's one scene that is probably the best non-Jack Kirby use of Galactus ever, and I can say that even though I've read Silver Surfer: Parable. 

Okay, I'm getting a little comics-jargony, sorry.  But the scene with the preacher begging Galactus (who I would argue is the closest thing to "God" in the Marvel universe)... oy.  So great.  Also, it's not all serious, because this is a comic where the Silver Surfer's lack of pants is a subject of non-ironic discussion.  How can you not like that?

Thor by Kieron Gillen

Okay, I'll be honest, this is mostly to set up my next choice, because it's by the same guy, and without knowing that, this book is a little confusing.  So let me explain.

In the mid-00's, after being missing for a while(because he was dead), Marvel brought back Thor with a brand new comic.  Only they hired a writer of much acclaim to do it, whose name I will not state, because I don't want to accidentally summon his attentions like Bloody Mary or something.  Lots of people apparently love his work, for reasons that I don't understand. My parents love that TV show he made that was not Star Trek even though it was pretending to be, they have the whole thing on dvd.  But to me, he will always be the monster who raped Gwen Stacy's corpse.

And then destroyed Spider-Man's marriage by having make a deal with the literal devil that erased it from history.

In between that he killed Spider-Man and then the next issue brought him back as a deranged cannibal monster who ate a villain's head.

He is terrible.

But a lot of people still didn't think that yet, so they had him relaunch Thor.  And to his credit, lots of people liked it and praised it.  But then he did what became standard issue for him, and he just quit the story one day, despite all the fanfare surrounding it, because it was too much work to write a monthly comic.  Soon afterwards he traded sides to DC, and proceeded to launch new visions of both Wonder Woman and Superman, only to dump them 4 months later.  I do not know why people keep giving him money.

Anyway, Gillen came in to fix the problems he had left behind, and did a pretty great job.  His best and most interesting character work was Loki, and he was so great at it that he was chosen to do his very own Loki comic....

Journey Into Mystery by Gillen

Why they didn't just call this book "Kid Loki" I don't understand, because that would have sold much better.  Anyway, Loki died saving the universe in the event book "Siege" which you already know if you read Gillen's Thor (Siege happens in the middle of his run).  He'd been brought back as a child by Fraction, and now you know everything you need to know about this book.  It's Kid Loki trying to be a good guy, because he's not the same Loki as before.  Or is he?  He is, after all, Loki. 

It's so Loki, you have to love it.  And while Comixology seems to be missing a few issues, a shinny new Complete Collection comes out in March, and you can preorder it on Amazon at the link above.  Preordering saves you money, you know.  Just a helpful tip.

Incredible Hercules Vol. 5: The Mighty Thorcules

What's this?  That's not Thor!  That's an entirely different superhero god who's father is the head of his pantheon, who goes on adventures and drinking binges and beats up bad guys with a heavy instrument!  The hell?!?!?

But seriously, this comic is so great.  All of Incredible Hercules is pretty great, but here we have a situation where Hercules poses as Thor to deal with some Dark Elves (The Bad Guys in the New Movie!  Synchronicity!)  only Thor finds out, and he's annoyed (because Hercules just generally annoys Thor on a conceptual level) so he poses as Hercules, so it's kind of like Freaky Friday or something, but with fighting gods and freaky elf sex.  It rules the schools.  It is sadly out of print and I couldn't find all of the issues on Comixology, but if you can find a copy, you should definitely get this book.

Thor: God of Thunder

The current run of the comic, Thor: God of Thunder is the most metal thing there is.  It's so metal that one Thor wasn't enough for this comic.  It's got three.  Old, Young, and Current Thor have to team up to stop The God Butcher. 

He BUTCHERS gods. 

That's his thing.  And it is amazing.  Jason Aaron is great at big concepts, and seriously, his run so far has been SO MUCH FUN.  (It's also really, really pretty to look at.  That doesn't hurt.)  And we get a new issue every month!  Yay!

And finally, the big daddy of them all:

Simonson's Entire Thor Run

This is the one.  The Thor mega-story that every Thor writer ever since has tried to replicate, duplicate, or come close to hitting the same tone.  Everyone says it's the best Thor run ever, and having read all almost 1200 pages of it, I can see why.

Seriously, so much of modern Thor comes from this run.  Beta Ray Bill, Thor's space horse pall who is also worthy of Thor's power, so he gets his own almost-Thor's hammer and gets to be not-quite-a-Thor?  He first appears here.  In the first issue.  That's Walter Simonson's opening act. 

Drastic changes happen!  Ramifications!  Thor stops being Donald Blake and is just Thor now, no silly double identities!  Loki stands for himself ! (That joke is funnier when you've read the comic)  We see how awesome the Executioner really is!  Malekith the Accursed first appears here, so you literally have this run on Thor to thank for the movie you watched this weekend!

If you don't want to pay the $150 price tag for the whole thing/it's out of print (again, Marvel, stop that) Marvel has re-released it in a series of 3 softcover trades, the third of which comes out this fall I think.  But these are totally great, and you should get them if you're a fan of the character.

And what the hell, one last entry:


Thunderstrike:  A.K.A. Early 90's Almost-Thor

Here's the thing: Comics are kind of ridiculous, and by "kind of", I mean "almost always".

So, for a while there in the late 80's/early 90's Thor wasn't Thor, he was a single (I think?) father named Eric Masterson who had Thor's life force put in his body for a while, and then when Thor was given his own body back (or something) Eric got to keep having all of Thor's powers and blonde flowing locks, received his own not-quite-a-hammer, and for a few years there was Thor and there was not-quite-a-Thor named Thunderstrike.  Go to wikipedia if you need more details, because I was like 8 when this was all going down.  I have no recollection of what those comics were like, why they happened, or why you'd ever need a not-quite-a-Thor that isn't a space horse, but there you have it.

Like I said, comics are ridiculous.  Which is why when I was going through Amazon grabbing links for you, and I stumbled upon this collection, my curiosity immediately got the better of me.  This looks so ridiculous that I want to know more.  If you're curious too, you better hurray and buy it, because I nabbed the second to last copy they have.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What If Wednesday #13: What If Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth Today?

On Wednesdays, The Amazing Justin Palm! gets drunk as shit and reviews an issue of Marvel Comics’ “What If?” so that you, the reader, can enjoy his drunken ramblings about a comic book whose sole purpose is to talk about shit that never happened, so it doesn’t matter at all. Dear Internet: You’re welcome.

Holy cats, it's been a long time since I did one of these, but I have a really good excuse:  This one took some doing to track down.  You see, it's never been reprinted, due to copyright issues.  Its a whole thing.  And when my local shop didn't have a copy, I knew I'd have to wait awhile and search for it.  But here we are, after much digging through back issue long boxes in dusty comic book stores all over the state (By which I mean I waited until I was already at Comic Con and found it in the very first place I looked), I managed to get my hands on a copy.  I am so not joking when I say I am pretty excited this story.

Okay, you guys already know who Conan the Barbarian is, because if you don't, you have clearly been living under a rock all your life.  What you might not know is that for years Marvel had the comic book rights on loan from the Robert Howard estate, which is why Marvel made a bunch of comics about him.  And that's how we get a What If where Conan the friggin' Barbarian gets stranded in New York, circa 1977.  Uh.... Spoilers, I guess?

So, after Uatu explains who Conan is for a couple pages (As if we didn't already know, Uatu.  Seriously.), we join our Conan story already in progress.  Conan has rescued some queen and this has happened in some comics I haven't read yet (one day) but WHATEVER, because there's a lady in a bar Conan wants to bang, only she's a spy and she drugs his drink, so he's taken captured and locked up in a dungeon by a beautiful by deadly femme fatale.  So, you know.  Typical Conan Tuesday night.

Anyway, some stuff happens that isn't important, but what is important is that Conan falls into THE WELL AT THE CENTER OF TIME! (emphasis straight from the comic), And that's how he gets stuck in late 70s New York.  Sure, why not.  After causing a bit of a scene by his sudden arrival (but it's not that big of a deal, because it's NYC in the Marvel Universe, so, what evs, they'll start freaking out when Galactus shows up, okay?), Conan is accosted outside of a dive bar by a group of... I guess weirdly Joker-themed glam rockers?  No, wait, maybe glam-FOLK rockers?  They seem to play acoustic, and seriously, I have no idea what is up with their outfits.  According to background signage they're a band called "Grope" and that- combined with their awful green wigs, pasty white faces, and purple and yellow outfits that defy the laws of god and man- makes me feel deeply uncomfortable.  Don't get me wrong, I shouldn't be paying this much time and attention on them, because they're only on four panels on one page of this comic (about a story that never happened, officially), but seriously.  They creep me right the fuck out.  Thankfully, Conan's grunts of rage terrify them to leave comics forever behind, never to be seen again.  Unfortunately, the damage to my soul won't heal as quick....

I'm sharing this page with you, now, because I need to spread my suffering to others.

Except that my soul is immediately cured in the next scene, because what happens next is that an old lady freaks out about Conan running around the streets of New York in nothing but boots and furry underpants, so she beats him with her purse.  I find this delightful.  And then Conan responds by stuffing her in a trash can.  Which is hilarious.  But then she screams for the police, even though SHE started this whole thing, so the cops chase after Conan, who assumes guns = magic.  Conan scales a wall and starts leaping around rooftops like he's the goddamn Batman, until he sees a taxicab, declares "Crom's devils!" and proceeds to bash it with his sword for exactly no reason.

This comic is amazing.

Luckily, the taxi's driver is the hot midriff-displaying girl from the cover, who now has a beret, and is completely unfazed by the nearly nude barbarian wielding a giant sword and attacking her only means of employment.  She's just pissed off, and wants to know if he works for the UN or something (I have no explanation for this, it's just something she says).  She is sassy, and she is driving under an expired license, and as soon as I find out her name I'll tell you, because she rules the schools.  She hides Conan in her cab (he agrees, because she has breasts, and that's good enough for Conan, by Crom), and gets the police to go away by straight up going "He went thataway."  Direct quote.  Have I mentioned she is awesome yet?

Sassy Cabbie Girl decides to take Conan home with her, to her apartment over the furniture store.  She then shows him her weights and stuff, and is basically like "Hey, you obviously work out, and I work out too, and I don't normally take strange homeless barbarian men from the distant past home with me, but.... *winkwink*"  And they are totally about to get sexy when the power goes out, and after their initial surprise at that, they DEFINITELY get sexy, and we finally learn Sassy Cabbie Girl's name is Danette, just before she and Conan get busy.

Their post-coital bliss is interrupted by a mob of looters raiding the furniture store below them, because... uh, New York in the late 70s was sort of shitty?  Danette's neighborhood is super dangerous?  Who knows.  Having refueled his rage-engine by playing hide the pickle with nubile local girl, Conan is all about bashing some skulls in now.  But Danette is all "Don't kill them!" and Conan decides that he shouldn't risk pissing off his latest lady friend too much, so he does his best not to deal any fatal damage.  A crazy dude with a bad haircut manages to grab his sword, and goes "Jus' call me Darth Vader!", which straight up MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL, (lightsabers and swords are not the same thing, kids, and there is no shortened version of the word "just" recognized in the English language), but luckily the next panel is Conan knocking him out with one punch to the jaw, which is most excellent.

Just retribution for daring to touch the only thing Conan truly loves.

Lots more violence happens, because Conan the mother fucking Barbarian is fucking awesome.  After beating up everyone (and remember, he's holding back, because the random lady he just met and boned asked him too), he FLIPS A CAR with his BARE HANDS just BECAUSE HE CAN.  It is totally great.  Then Danette thanks him for not using his sword on anyone.  Seriously.

I'm a little unsure whether this next scene makes much sense, because of the booze, but Danette has realized that Conan's not from around here (obviously), and tries to see if he recognizes anything in a picture book of famous places, to help him get home.  Sure, whatever.  Apparently an upside-down glance at the Guggenheim Museum looks likes something he knows, so naturally she decides to take him there, in the middle of the night, on a night that GANGSTERS ARE PULLING A HEIST. This comic, you guys.  SO great.

Naturally, while Danette and Conan are sneaking around the spooky museum in the middle of the night that they clearly broke into, they run into the thieves, and fighting ensues.  And then fighting escalates when Danette is shot (it just glances her arm, she'll be fine, promise).  Conan goes full on rage mode at that point, and we just kick ass all over the place for a few pages.  It's a god damn 80s action movie in here.  And nothing can stop the awesomeness that is Conan.

I forgot to tell you that "Danette" is to hard for Conan to pronounce, so he just calls her "Dan".  Hilarious.

After all of the ass has been kicked, Conan checks on Danette, who like I said, is mostly okay, and she realizes (again) that Conan doesn't belong here.  She gives him her beret, he gives her his armband thing, and as nighttime security guard gives chase, Conan makes his way to the roof, where a lightning/time storm take him back home.  It doesn't make much sense, but fuck it, its awesome anyway.

This comic rules.  I don't have much to add here.  The next Conan movie should just straight up be this comic.  I would watch it over and over again.  The fact that this comic is so hard to track down is criminal.  Call the ACLU, everyone deserves to read this.

Next time, on What If Wednesday!  The answer to a question that exactly no one has ever bothered to ask!  What if... Sgt Fury had... fought World War Two... in outer space?  What the actual hell, What If?  Guys, I am reasonably sure next time will make no logical sense at all.  So... you've been warned.  Seeya next time!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fun and Exciting Times With Jesus' Favorite Artist, Jack Chick

Jack Chick is, without question, my favorite crazy Christian fundamentalist.  Oh sure, Pat Robertson is just getting funnier the older and crazier he gets.  And Ken Hamm’s massively expensive Flintstones Recreational Park (or whatever) is absolutely precious.  But deep down, I’ll always be on Team Chick Tract.  I just can’t help myself.

See that?  That is just inherently funny!

You’ve probably seen a Chick Tract before, even if you didn’t know what it was.  There a sort of miniature comic book, about some varying form of Christianity, and almost exclusively found in public restrooms.  That’s not a joke, I’ve only seen a real one three times, and never have they been anywhere other than a toilet stall.  It’s kind of bizarre, but it works as a metaphor if you squint at it just right.

I don't have a whole lot of commentary to add here, but I found out I had a friend who didn't know about these comics, and decided that needed to be fixed.  You can find basically all of them on Chick's website chickDOTcom, although I warn that the website is a.) poorly laid out (especially when looking for the REALLY good ones) and b.) guaranteed to make you go "what da fug?" with all the ultra-crazy right wing Christo-fascism.  But in Jack Chick's defense?  His work can be oddly endearing (in a racist, homophobic, really dumb sort of way).  So I've done some looking, and I just want to share some of his work with you!

In case you're wondering, Jack Chick is worried that we may all be doomed because we've forgotten the true meaning of American Thanksgiving, an annual holiday that was established in 1863.  Who knows what kept the world safe from destruction before that point?

Here's a cheerful comic called "Camels in the Tent" that uses a racist caricature of a Middle Eastern man and a camel to explain how Muslims worship a false god, wish to take over all of Christendom, and are all terrorists:

And seriously, a 2012 revamp of an earlier strip “Hi There!”, aimed at black audiances is called “Wassup?”  I don’t even know what to say about that.
Because this is a perfectly normal way to start a conversation, I'm sure.

In “Uninvited”, the kindly old nurse at a hospice explains how all the dying AIDS patients are there because they were cursed by literal demons of homosexuality:
It's basically  revealed at the end that she was right, of course.
“Sin City” is yet another “the gays are evil” tale, which opens with what’s later called a “loving” warning that homosexuals face God’s judgment:
“Abomination” is such a loving word, after all; but seriously, that guy getting beaten down by the Villaige People?  Hilarious.
“Titanic” is, surprisingly enough, just a fairly straight forward retelling of the sinking of the Titanic, except for one thing.  Main character Chester apparently has an overbearing Aunt who just doesn’t think he goes to church enough.  When he finds a (rather annoying) note in his suitcase about the matter, he striahgt up loses his shit:
So, obviously things do not end well for him once the boat sinks:

Here’s the opening to “Satan Comes to Salem”.
Of course he did.  After all, everyone knows that two years is precisely the amount of time Satan needed to destroy the early European Pilgrims.
Umm…. No they didn’t.
No, Jack, come on.  There are no spirits to commune with.  You’re being silly-
I think it’s safe to say that Jack Chick is not very good at history, and he’s being more than a little pejorative.  I won’t repost the rest of the tract, but suffice it to say a mid-story flashback to both the birth AND death of Jesus are involved.  (Those happen in most of his strips.)
Hey!  Speaking of bullshit witchcraft, did you know Dungeons and Dragons is secret occult devil worship?  Because Jack Chick knows it!

Okay, okay, now it's starting to sound like I'm just picking on a senile old racist idiot by using his own work to point out his silliness.  Which, okay, sure.  But lets talk about my absolute favorite part of Jack Chick's Personal Theology™: What killed the dinosaurs.
Okay, straight up, you know when THAT'S how a comic starts up, it's gonna be golden.  This is the opening scene in 2007's "There Go the Dinosaurs".  The next few pages follow some medieval (or something?) peasants trying to hunt down a "dragon" that appears to be an anthropomorphic sauropod of some sort, who rushes to hide from them in a cloud.
This dinosaur is pretty dumb, because that is a shitty hiding spot, which is why it's killed and butchered off camera.  This is how Jack Chick, Friend of Jesus® chooses to introduce what I'm sure was supposed to be a very serious discussion on Young Earth Creationism.
Well, that's a bit of an oversimplification, Jack, I mean it's not as if it happened in just one day.  But yeah, basically, the generally accepted view is that-
 WELL, he certainly put me in my place, didn't he?  So, after the normal trifling matters of Adam and Eve, Snakey, Cain killing Abel, et cetera, we get to Noah's ark.  Now, you get to this point, and a lot of Young Earth apologists are all "well, maybe extinct animals just didn't get on the ark?" Which is obvious nonsense, but at least it sort of would make sense- its a good place for an out, is what I'm saying.  But oh no.  Not Jack Chick.  The Bible says two of EVERY animal, so dagblastit!, two of EVERY ANIMAL.
So, now what?  Dinosaurs-- oh, excuse me, "dragons" are on the boat.  They survived the flood.  But they still need to die out to explain why they're gone in Jack Chick crazy world.  Well, guess what?

I am delighted by this.  After all, there were only giant dinosaurs.  It's not like they ever had small dinosaurs, or horse size dinosaurs, or even people size dinosaurs.  Only gigantic dinosaurs!  So of course when the ecosystem changed because there were no more plants after the great flood, they all died from lack of oxygen!  (Wait, if there were no plants after the great flood, wouldn't every single animal species be wiped out as well?  Oh well....) (Also, what's with all the dinosaurs in this comic having eyelashes?  That is so weird to me.)
Naturally, after this amazing biology lesson, Chick starts to go off on sin and suffering and all that, plus we have yet more birth AND death of Jesus scenes in this comic strip, because as I said, he likes to draw them A LOT.  Then he finishes with the Standard Chick Track "You will be judged" and "The Bible says there's only one way to get in to heaven" pages....

... And we're done here.  He always ends on a variation on those two.  ANYWAY!  I'm just scratching the surface of the crazy here.  I haven't even talked about his hatred of Catholics, his thoughts on drinking, his irritation for disobedient children, his fear of a One World Government.  And don't even get me started on the existential dread brought up by Chick's most evil creation, Li'l Suzzy:
Nothing quite like her precocious judgmental statements and her terrifying terror eyes.

Anyway, he sure is a treat.  So if you ever see a little cartoon just kind of lying there while you use a public restroom, now you know!

 Seriously, this is the picture of a tract on his Wikipedia page.  I swear.