Hank Pym and Mental Illness
By Angela Kucera
It’s hard for me to get on the current anti-Hank Pym train because yeah, he’s done a lot of bad shit in the past…but name one superhero who hasn’t. Oh wait, you can’t, because they’re all extreme versions of regular real humans.
But like, he is canon bipolar.
In an actual comic, Avengers A.I, Hank Pym is a superhero who openly has a severe mental illness, and the comics show that he is working on managing it in a realistic and compassionate way.
[[MORE]]
So yeah, fuck Hank Pym of the past who did bad shit, and definitely fuck Ultimates Hank Pym who is such a terrible character than even thinking about how he’s written is triggering.But when you say “fuck Hank Pym” over and over and over, without mentioning that his current character is a person who has been diagnosed with a highly stigmatized mental illness, you’re also sneakily saying “fuck everyone who has a severe mental illness”. You’re saying “fuck everyone who struggles to manage them with normal stresses and bullshit,” let alone the unimaginable stresses and bullshit that come with being a major superhero in a super fucked-up comic book world.I’m not saying to disregard the fact that he beat Jan Van Dyne (his wife at the time) and I’m not saying that we should throw a celebration for his Ultimates counterpart (who does not have bipolar and is just a horrible abusive man.) I’m just saying that this entire echo chamber of FUCK HANK PYM that came out after Ant-Man was announced feels a whole lot like FUCK THE BAD CRAZIES.Being bipolar doesn’t excuse his past, but Sam Humphries’ take on Hank in Avengers A.I., is an accurate and kind view of bipolar disorder.  Humphries understands how it takes your day-to-day life and turns it into a series of mazes and puzzles that you can’t solve. It’s really important. He doesn’t try to erase anything that Hank did, but he shows that there’s more to a person’s mental illness than holding them forever and eternally accountable for things.

This version of Hank Pym is incredibly important, a piece of representation of people who, in this medium, are normally ignored or thrown under the bus, cast as villains and trash you wouldn’t spit on if you were paid to.Fuck the bad things Hank Pym has done, and the fact that Marvel is doing another series of movies featuring non-disabled white dude main characters.But don’t say fuck Hank Pym without also acknowledging that you’re just as easily saying “fuck people with mental illnesses that I don’t understand” and “fuck people who really need someone to understand and support them.”I’m bipolar. I’ve been unmedicated and over-stressed, and let me tell you, if I had superpowers? I would have done worse things than Hank ever could. This illness, this disease? It owns you. No matter how hard you try, sometimes it’s going to win. And when you finally beat it back, you’re not going to like who you were or what you did. That’s the reality of it, and that’s the reality that Avengers A.I. shows.It’s really weird to be a a person with bipolar and also a victim of domestic violence but who also supports Hank Pym. I should hate him, I should be president of the “this man is a bad man” club, but I can’t. I can’t forgive him or forget how he hurt Jan, but I also can’t turn my back on the first accurate and positive representation of myself in the entire comics medium.
I’ve been reading comic books for half my life now, and this is the first time i’ve seen myself in them.
Don’t get so excited over hating him that you throw away what he represents to a lot of very underrepresented people.Because yes, he’s a white cis hetero male, but he’s also disabled.He is disability representation, and even if it’s super neato cool to hate him, don’t hate what he means. Don’t erase his disability, because last I checked, there aren’t enough disabled superheroes to throw away every one that it’s socially cool to unquestionably shit on.Hank Pym gets more shit than fucking Batman, and Batman goes around literally beating mentally disabled people.

Hank Pym and Mental Illness

By Angela Kucera

It’s hard for me to get on the current anti-Hank Pym train because yeah, he’s done a lot of bad shit in the past…but name one superhero who hasn’t. Oh wait, you can’t, because they’re all extreme versions of regular real humans.

But like, he is canon bipolar.

In an actual comic, Avengers A.I, Hank Pym is a superhero who openly has a severe mental illness, and the comics show that he is working on managing it in a realistic and compassionate way.

Read More

TV FATIGUE
By Mike Balderrama
Mike discusses the new shows hitting our tvs this fall. Is it all too much?
[[MORE]]
—-
Dear fellow BoomTubers;
This past months have been a big win for comics, right? Production has gone forward for CW’s The Flash. NBC picked up an order for a Constantine series—and the first look at Matt Ryan as everyone’s favorite Hellblazer is making the rounds. Fox issued some more details about their upcoming Jim Gordon-centric Gotham series, including the casting of a young Selina Kyle and younger Bruce Wayne. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D actually got better, and a spin-off was announced.
So why am I not impressed?
Better yet, why do I find all of this so jarring and potentially troublesome?
I credit a lot of my early connection to comics through my childhood TV viewing habits. I want to say it was TBS that would air reruns of Zorro AND Batman ‘66. How cool is it (in retrospect) that those two were side-by-side as a block? That fateful movie night that cost Bruce Wayne his parents (and possible motivator to don a mask, eh?) happens to be Mark of Zorro. [Self Editor’s note: I’m sure some TV exec really thought about the synergy back in the early 90s]. It was from there that I picked up superhero comics after my dad showed me the Richard Donner Superman. It opened the door to coming home to watch the very first airing of Batman: The Animated Series, let alone demand action figures and weekly trips to the comic book store.
I remember when my dad and I found out about the WB’s Smallville. We were so excited. For the four seasons that aired while I was in high school, the two of us made a weekly appointment in front of the TV. For the Christmases that followed when I was in college, we’d buy the previous season’s boxed set, and marathon over the holiday. Comics and TV seemed to fit. Sure the stories themselves were silly, but the weekly serialization of it, the kryptonite-powered monster-of-the-week and over soap-y couplings made for a fun time.
Fast forward to today, and I’ve become increasingly disconnected from the televised comic book format. Even Arrow—a show I definitely enjoy for all of the similar Smallville reasons—falls by the wayside in my usual TV viewing habit. I’m not harping too hard on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D when I say that it just isn’t catching me the way I used to drop everything, or program my VCR to pick up the latest show.
The more I write this, the more I worry it edges into “gah, all you younguns these days! Back when I was young, TV used to mean something!” Not my intention at all. Nor is it an indictment of how popular culture’s mainlining of comic books undermines the principles of the comic book format No, I’m more worried about where we go from here.
The minute I put down the tenth book of Sandman, I wanted to see it made into a movie. Then, I finished the HBO miniseries Rome (by Bruno Heller, who interestingly enough is at the helm for Fox’s Gotham), and determined the only sensible way I could possibly dream of seeing Dream in audio/visual format could be a premium cable show. Now we’re getting rumors of Joseph Gordon-Levitt trying to recruit writers for a movie. Now I find myself wanting to just return to appreciating the comic.
We all loved The Dark Knight, but the backlash against The Dark Knight Rises and the darkly dark Man of Steel has forced comic fans and cinema-goers alike to give a skeptical eyebrow raised at the upcoming Affleck attemt at Bruce Wayne in the sequel to M.o.S. A new Marvel movie every quarterly looks to build the foundation for a periodic team-up flick every two years. Chris Evans is locked into three more movies as Captain America, but Mr. Winter Soldier Sebastian Stan just put pen to paper for nine more movies. Nine.
Are we are flooding the market with comic book franchise pieces because the wider public demands this continuous onslaught? Or are these decisions being made from the larger entertainment executive motivator: quick cash grabs from historically successful franchises that guarantee a spike in Nielsen ratings or box office gross?
I fear that the television momentum will burn out after this next round of programming across all the basic cable networks. I worry that by the time Marvel’s phase 4 rolls around, and DC gets a Justice League film in pre-production, no one will care. I can only imagine that as these efforts charge forward, more and more comic book creators will be pulled from making comics and thrown into making television or movies.
Geoff Johns, you can stay over on that side, considering you consulted on Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern.
There is a beacon of hope amidst this potential scenario: we get to see a comics renaissance as seen through a new generation of creatives. New writers, new artists, new visions for old-guard characters, and innovative new budding franchises. Just look at how Boom! Studios has delved into a previously untapped pool of talent from the webcomic frontier to head their various imprints of Cartoon Network shows like Regular Show or Adventure Time.
Or maybe this is what my problem is: I know that for every Dark Knight film that’s been made or for every Gotham we  eventually get to see on the small screen describing some new interpretation of Bruce Wayne, I will see zero—I repeat, zero—Kamala Khans kicking ass Ms. Marvel-style.

TV FATIGUE

By Mike Balderrama

Mike discusses the new shows hitting our tvs this fall. Is it all too much?

Read More

WONDERLAND CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
By Steven Miller
In this pitch, we take a look at an often unexplored area of the DC Universe.
[[MORE]] —-
Say what you will about the New 52 re-launch (I will say it’s terrible), but DC Comics has always had some very memorable villains. In fact, one of my all-time favorite Superman stories is the Action Comics storyline that was focused around Lex Luthor (The Black Ring).  And really, there hasn’t been much published by the company that was more of an overall success than Brubaker’s Catwoman stories. Don’t even get me started gushing on Secret Six…probably THE villain book.  It’s typically pretty rare to get any stories that really dig into the motivations, psyches, and experiences of these characters; mostly, they end up just being set pieces so Batman doesn’t go too long without punching someone. This is exacerbated in big event stories and “greatest hit” books like Batman’s Hush. So why don’t we ever push past the origin story? Wouldn’t we have more opportunities to engage in the struggle with a better understanding of why they fight? A while back, I read Gotham City Sirens and Streets of Gotham and was enchanted by Jenna Duffy, the Carpenter. She has only made a few small appearances, but I think she would be a perfect perspective to explore the richness of the DC Universe in a very different way.
Jenna’s van in Gotham City Sirens by Paul Dini and Guillem March.
For those not familiar, Jenna Duffy is a con artist who makes her way to Gotham City, finding herself joined up with the Mad Hatter’s new Wonderland Gang. Created by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen, Jenna has some special talents; she’s great at building things. She takes on the Wonderland persona of The Carpenter and serves with Hatter for a while, but it ultimately doesn’t work out. However, Jenna’s skillset is something uniquely in demand in Gotham in that she can build a really awesome death trap. She starts getting work around town constructing new hideouts and lairs for Catwoman and Ivy, among others. Ultimately she is run out of town by Batman, and that’s the last we see of her (with the exception of Dustin’s Lil’Gotham book). And that’s where I see our story beginning.
From Dustin Nguyen’s Lil’ Gotham
I see Jenna expanding her networks after leaving Gotham and heading back to Keystone City, becoming the designer for villains. Her book would rarely include any heroes, except for off-model dramatizations of them being maimed by lasers and alligator pits.  There would be a lot of splash pages highlighting the unique features of the spaces she reinvents, in a diagram-like way (remember those awesome old charts that showed the layout of the Bat Cave?)
Secrets of the Batcave by Frank Springer from Batman #203.
This book, titled Wonderland Construction Company, would focus on the jobs Jenna and her crew take on. She would act as general contractor and build a new version of the Wonderland Gang, only as a legitimate team of designers and builders for the underworld:
Alice  - Alice is a licensed electrician who moved from South Dakota to Keystone City to find work. Alice and Jenna got kicked out of a nightclub together and have been friends ever since. (photo reference)
Queenie – Queenie is the lead interior designer for Wonderland.  Queenie tried to start up a new Royal Flush gang, but it didn’t really work out.  (photo reference)
Rabbit – Rabbit handles the finances for Wonderland, as well as supply purchases.  He previously freelanced for Intergang. Rabbit is gay and once had a fling with Two-Face after a particularly eventful coin toss.  But maybe don’t mention that to Harvey Dent. (photo reference)
Jaberwocky – Acts as draftsman for floor plans and death trap construction (used to date Cheetah for like a minute). Oh, he’s also from Australia or something. I don’t really know. He sounds like Boomerang. (photo reference)
Walrus – Walrus is a semi-pro wrestler from Midway City. After an injury, he became a licensed plumber and joined up with Wonderland. He’s the reason Carpenter and Alice got kicked out of that bar in Keystone. (photo reference)
Jack and Ace  – Jack and Ace are twin brothers (Ace is actually 3 minutes older) and the millworkers for Wonderland. They worked for Black Mask for a while, but he freaked them out too much. They were also part of Queenie’s Royal Flush Gang that literally lasted for about 14 hours. (photo reference)
Jenna and her team aren’t inherently evil like many of her employers, but hey, a girl has to eat. We get to see her try and understand the villains around her and consider the potential consequences of the jobs that she takes on.  She would spend time developing dossiers about the villain’s heroes to better understand their strengths and weaknesses so that she can fortify and safeguard the lairs against certain intrusions (such as lead lining for Kryptonians, hallways that fill full of flames for Martian Manhunter, understanding patrol patterns, etc.).
From Gotham City Sirens

In the first storyline, I see the Wonderland Construction Company heading to the channel islands of California to stabilize some sea caves for Black Manta. While the crew explore the caves and create an estimate, Jenna spends the day shadowing Manta and getting to know him, his daily activities, and needs. We are then treated to the presentation, where we see an off-model Aquaman getting shredded in a grinder and injured by the various other traps. The gang begins construction and we get to know the team a bit, we discover that Alice likes Rabbit, but Rabbit has a thing for Walrus. We learn about their backstories (as well as their minor affiliations to other villains) and what lead them to joining up with Jenna, the Carpenter.  Manta shares with Jenna about why he is really so mad at Aquaman. Jenna becomes a sort of counselor. Carpenter and Rabbit spend an afternoon at the beach spying on Arthur and Mera. Finally they get down to work and complete construction, but Manta doesn’t want to pay. They fight briefly, but Manta is so enchanted by the detailing on the buttresses, that he relents. Manta asks Jenna out to dinner…she declines, as she…has to wash her hair tonight.
In the next story, Wonderland gets contacted by Mirror Master, who is looking to have his own mirror maze in Central City. They take the job, but soon discover that the Rogues are feuding, and construction is constantly sabotaged and attacked by Mirror’s former allies. Mirror Master wants his maze to be Rogue proof, and so Carpenter and Rabbit begin to spy on the Rogues, only to be caught by Captain Cold. He explains his side of the story, and Jenna realizes they are not communicating. The Wonderland Crew begins the process of rebuilding the relationships between the Rogues while building the mirror maze. By the end, the Rogues are friends again, and MM doesn’t need the maze anymore.
As they continue to become more notable, they work on the House of Mystery (as well as the House of Secrets) and head back to Gotham to revamp an abandoned ice cream factory for Mr. Freeze. It’s revealed that Carpenter is funding the Mad Hatter’s clinical and psychological treatment. Their friendship went deeper than anyone realized.
In one arc, the team’s conscience gets the best of them, and they attempt to go straight. They work on an an upscale mansion in Metropolis and do production design for a new play in Coast City. The owners of the mansion murder each other and their children attempt to stage a coup at Lexcorp; the actors start to bizarre accidents leading to the death of several cast members. The team realizes that their skill set is so specifically macabre and villainous that their design sensibilities cause villainy.

During a dry spell, they leak some information to the Birds of Prey about a handful of lairs they have worked on in the past. Just enough so they get destroyed and need repairs. Ultimately Wonderland feels guilty about it and choose to do the work pro bono.
Then there’s the time that the Creeper busts into the lair of Scarecrow, and is really impressed with the workmanship. He finds a business card on the desk and calls up Wonderland so he can have a lair as cool as Batman’s. It’s a truly disturbing experience for the crew.
They even get tubed to Apokolips to make some upgrades to Granny Goodness’s X-Pit. The only problem is that Granny won’t pay up if they themselves can escape.
Beyond fears about not getting paid, or being killed to protect the secrets of the hideout, they also have to worry about getting supplies at wholesale. There are scenes of them wandering through Home Depot, and also heists of S.T.A.R. Labs in order to get that super laser diode for their latest death trap modifications and bathroom upgrade. We are also given some tips for our own DIY hideouts:
The fuel reserves on fire pits double as great heating for bathroom tile
Cleaning your shark tank in 14 easy steps
How to remove blood stains from stone masonry
Calibrating your death ray
Curb appeal
How to make your torture chamber open concept
Granite vs. butcher block
Upgrading your wiring for electromagnetic force fields
Carpenter always seems to have her own secrets, however. She is always working on blueprints that no one else can look at, and she has a safe room in their office that no one else is allowed to enter. What is she hiding? What is she planning? The secrets will unfold as we unfold the secrets of the Wonderland Construction Company and the villains of the DC Universe.
This is the Wonderland Construction Company.

WONDERLAND CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

By Steven Miller

In this pitch, we take a look at an often unexplored area of the DC Universe.

Read More

KAMALA KHAN AND THE BAD WISH
By Ben Rawluk
Who doesn’t think about having super-powers? There are the powers of convenience, the ones you idly imagine having in the midst of something that could be going smoother or faster. Flight. Teleportation. Super-speed. Maybe, while you tear your house apart looking for something important that may be long gone, you wish for Superman’s full spectrum of super-senses, or clairvoyance. I tend to fixate on two: telepathy and shapeshifting.
[[MORE]]
Telepathy is a given. It speaks that horrible little invasive impulse, particularly among writers. Reach into people’s heads and yank out their secrets. Or nudge their feelings, like a great and terrible editor from on high. But the other one, shapeshifting, that’s the super-power that I want all the time. It speaks the insecurity, the self-hate, the almost suffocating frustration when your body turns against you (and it always, always does). Shapeshifters are not bound by their bodies, but the other way around—sometimes to the point of madness, their bodies responding to every shifting emotion or insecurity in a way that fixed flesh can’t even manage.
I think about this for two reasons. One is that I hate my body. Or: I am very alienated from my body. My body does what it wants, it responds to stress how it wants, regardless of whether or not its reactions create more stress. It’s been a tough year, a year that moves through my body like a shark. Even doing as much as I can to work with my body, it reacts how it wants to react. There is no negotiation. Sometimes I wish I could tear pieces off, whole hunks of flesh, replace them with stainless steel. I can’t do that. But sometimes I also dream of shifting my body as I need, taking a deep breath and concentrating, a tsunami cresting across my body, smoothing out the wreckage and redistributing the landmasses. The other reason is Kamala Khan.

Kamala is a brand-new super-hero, part of Marvel’s Marvel NOW relaunch. Kamala Khan is the brain child of G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring. Kamala is the first Marvel heroine to be a Muslim woman written by a Muslim woman, with her own series. She’s a teenaged girl transformed into a superhuman being by the Terrigen Mists, a plot-device tied into the pubescent rites of adulthood dreamed up by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Inhumans. She’s the centre of the new Ms. Marvel series, an unapologetic fangirl of Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. She’s also a shapeshifter.
Carol Danvers was the original Ms. Marvel, a female counterpart to the Captain Marvel of the time, Mar-Vell. She was essentially your standard brick—strong as anything, invulnerable, flying. Some sensory powers. She also struggled with her own identity for a long time; she spent years in a coma thanks to the X-Men’s Rogue, her very soul and powers ripped from her. She became the energy being called Binary, and then Warbird, then Ms. Marvel again. Moonstone stole her identity and became the Ms. Marvel of the Dark Avengers. More recently she’s received a promotion and become one of the heavy-lifters and highest profile super-heroines.
And while Kamala doesn’t have the strength, can’t channel the energy of suns, possesses no mysterious seventh sense, she has inherited Carol’s shifting, perplexing, alienated sense of identity. She struggles with who she is, how the people around her—both her Muslim family and the people around her, the white kids at school who think that her sneaking out to a party is an excuse to trash her family in front of her. She admires Carol Danvers. She wants—or thinks she wants—to be Carol Danvers. At least right then, right in that moment. Because Kamala is a teenager, is a human being, constantly shifting. “I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated. I want to be you.”

And then she succumbs to the Terrigen Mists, and awakens within a cocoon, transformed and transfigured. She wakes up looking like Carol Danvers. Carol Danvers back when she was Ms. Marvel, when her costume lent itself to wedgies, her skin as white as snow, her hair like gold—Kamala gets her bad wish.


Usually there’s a consequence when you get your bad wish. We know how that goes. For Kamala, it isn’t ironic, it’s not some trade-off; it’s just the realization that being someone else all of a sudden doesn’t feel right. She doesn’t actually want to be blonde or white. That was just an impulsive thought, the exhausted response to a night of micro-aggressions. Her flesh isn’t her own all-of-a-sudden and being someone else is like her skin is “one big muscle…tensed up.” Her first night with super-powers is mostly spent trying to get them under her control. And saving someone’s life, of course. The thing that I like about Kamala, and how Wilson writes her first night as a super-teen, is that Kamala is an incredibly versatile shapeshifter right from the get-go. She can change her appearance—replicating Carol Danvers “right down to the horrifying realization that super-hero costumes don’t include underwear.” She can expand and contract her body—shrinking down to the size of a cockroach or incredibly large. And she can expand and contract her body out of proportion to itself. She can rescue a jerky classmate from drowning by extending one massive, massive hand like a trawler. She can cover great distance by rocketing upwards onto stilts of her own flesh.


That last aspect is where Kamala gets really interesting to me. Because for a shapeshifter, she is pretty quickly shown to want to hold onto herself pretty tightly. From what we’ve been shown, Kamala retains her own features, mostly uses her power by warping her dimensions. The only time we’ve seen her change into someone else—always Carol Danvers—it’s in reaction to her classmate, Zoe Zimmer—a pretty blonde White Mean Girl stereotype if there ever was one. Kamala’s own Flash Thompson. When Zoe’s around, Kamala’s flesh tightens like a “fake smile” and she’s taking on protective colouration. That’s what I like about how Kamala’s power has been depicted so far. It’s not about her own insecurities—which are there and I can relate to—but the way she’s made to feel uncomfortable in her own skin by those around her, the nasty little impulse she has in the moment to change herself for them, despite liking who she is and where she comes from, mostly, even if she’s exhausted and frustrated by herself, too. Shapeshifters are not fixed, and their insecurities and confidence isn’t, either—Kamala is shown as always in flux, not even sure which face she’s wearing (there are moments when you forget briefly what your body might look like, or are reminded abruptly that there’s something different about it). Kamala is neither rigid nor running from herself, she is prey to her own impulses and changing moods, something that fascinates me and horrifies me about shapeshifting. It’s never really wish fulfillment.


Image Credits: Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, Marvel Comics

KAMALA KHAN AND THE BAD WISH

By Ben Rawluk

Who doesn’t think about having super-powers? There are the powers of convenience, the ones you idly imagine having in the midst of something that could be going smoother or faster. Flight. Teleportation. Super-speed. Maybe, while you tear your house apart looking for something important that may be long gone, you wish for Superman’s full spectrum of super-senses, or clairvoyance. I tend to fixate on two: telepathy and shapeshifting.

Read More

THE BATMAN BIBLE: PART 4
By Ben Rawluk
Welcome back to our celebration of Batman’s 75th Anniversary! If you didn’t catch the first 3 parts, check ‘em out! Ben is exploring classic Batman with The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told. Enjoy!
[[MORE]]
—-
XVII. THE ORIGIN STORY, WITH EMBELLISHMENTS
The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told tells the story of Batman’s origin four times. Growing up, that simple fact ballooned in my mind until Batman became, essentially, all origin story.  We must constantly revisit his trauma, a moment he’s trapped inside, because it is the moment where “Man who dresses up in bat-costume and hits people” makes sense as a coping strategy.

We do not (yet) see the act directly. “There’s No Hope in Crime Alley,” like both “The Origin of Batman” and “The First Batman” before it, presents Batman’s origin in retrospect, a flashback delivered in a quivery montage, no panel borders to distract from the immensity of it. But while the previous two explorations explodes what’s happening—they ask questions about the killer and they ask questions about Thomas Wayne—this one does none of that. We see Batman move through Crime Alley for the sake of protecting one woman, one specific woman, an aging woman named Leslie Thompkins.
Leslie would become important later, would leave a mark on Gotham of her own, she’d grow younger and tougher. Here she is very old and very feminine. She is the woman who holds Bruce shortly after the initial trauma. She is not presented in a way that suggests she’ll be a lasting character—she is simply another detail. But Batman tends to build families, and she will be a kind of matriarch eventually.
Within this particular story, she’s not the interesting element, though. Crime Alley is still Crime Alley. Bruce Wayne has never used his fortunes to clean it up or rehabilitate the area, has never turned an eye towards lifting people out of poverty. Crime Alley is the sick heart of Gotham, petrified in its disease like Bruce is locked in that hallucinatory origin moment. You can have Batman weaving through Crime Alley, beating up criminals before they can hurt an old woman, but he never does anything to stop them from being criminals, and he’s only in the neighbourhood—he only seeks out Crime Alley—because it is a kind of anniversary for his trauma.

XVIII. BAT-PROSE
There are prose stories in the Bat-canon. “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” is one of them, written by Denny O’Neil—one of these Batman writers—with selected illustrations by Marshall Rogers. They draw a link to the crumbling noir stories that birthed the Bat, the dime novels starring the Shadow from which he is born.
I think I actively avoided this one as a kid. It wasn’t like “Man-Bat over Vegas,” where the art creeped me out. I had a short attention span, I wanted to see Batman, the layout of the prose is not great.
I find, looking at it now, a workman-like story. Working in prose means that Batman has to detect more than hit. Some of Rogers’s illustrations are great, employing evocative angles, or they would be—if they weren’t cluttered with prose. This feels very much like a victim of poor design sense, of trying to transmit one medium through another.

XIX. THE BAT-UNDERCURRENT
It has actually been a while—by this point in the book—since Bruce Wayne really had a girlfriend, in the mold of Julie Madison, rather than the tensely coiled interactions with Catwoman.  Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers introduced Silver St. Cloud, and Silver shows up in “The Deadshot Ricochet,” a story which simultaneously a done-in-one but also playing out a larger soap operatic storyline. I have more recently encountered other pieces of this larger narrative—the story following it chronologically features in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told, a kind of Satanic Anti-Bible that might be worth a dark-glass essay upon at some point—but the in media res feeling of the story really contributed to my developing mind’s perception of the whole book as a continuous stream.
While the story itself focuses on an encounter with an assassin called Deadshot, it also teases an ongoing plot with Rupert Thorne being haunted by the apparently spectral remains of good old Hugo Strange from way back in the “Monster Men” days—again, Gotham is never as anathema to the supernatural as some may claim—and we have the Joker’s crimes teased to us. And most importantly, Bruce’s relationship with Silver is under way and rather complicated.
Mostly because they play out the essential drama of the secret identity while allowing their characters to be intelligent. Silver works out that Bruce and Batman are the same person. Bruce knows that she has worked it out. Neither of them says anything. At the time, this nagged at me. More recently when I was able to see a few pieces of the larger picture, I got to see that this plays out for a little while and severely damages their relationship.
At the same time, Dick Grayson is a young man now—still wrestling with Bruce in the Batcave, of course, which is how the story opens—and has romantic dilemmas of his own. Again, this story teases us with apocrypha from outside the obvious narrative; Bruce ribs Dick for spending so much time with Wonder Girl and the Harlequin.  This was a billion years before Wikipedia, before search engines. We didn’t have a computer in the house. It was a year or two before I read my first Teen Titans comic. I was presented with a young woman in a red leotard who might be related to Wonder Woman, and a female version of the Joker—and these two were potential lovers for the Boy Wonder.
Even before I actually heard the words Joker’s Daughter—which isn’t even true—all I had to go on was this eerie little headshot of Caesar Romero has a teenaged girl, vying for Robin’s affections.  Between that and the extended melodrama with Silver, along with Dick’s extended wrestling match with Bruce in their tights—the story has a charge to it, something that connected to the sparring flirtation with Catwoman.

The rest of the story is dramatic and sharp—Deadshot is an old, Silver Age one-shot menace who comes back with some oomph, fighting Batman in the close quarters of a conference centre that includes a gigantic electric typewriter, Deadshot ultimately caught in a giant typewriter ribbon. It walks that line, again, between the newer grit and the older, storybook atrocities of Gotham.

XX. THE IMP
Occasionally, an extra-dimensional imp figures into things, demanding that he be recognized as part of the canon and demanding stories about him. The Bat-Mite appears in the DC Offices one night, and wants recognition. Much like the bible, the book was—and Batman is—a creation of many voices, overlapping, perhaps recording the words of an ancient, omnipresent Ur-Batman.  “Bat-Mite’s New York Adventure” is about that. It’s a reminder of that.
I did not have a fucking clue about Bat-Mite when I was a kid.
He was funny and weird and magical, and those were three things that I loved as a kid, and still love as an adult. He is more of a groaner now, of course, but I can see why I liked him. As I’ve said, Batman is a magical character for all the “real world” posturing that goes on—look, he has answer for everything, can recover from any attack, has an unlimited budget—and on some level, Bat-Mite’s presence alleviated some of the frustration that this was a verboten idea.
And, yes, the story—as much as it was a story—was the first clear moment where I recognized that comic books were made by people, by a group of people. In particular, it highlighted all the less-appreciated roles in production. It wasn’t about the writer or the penciller, roles that have taken on mythic qualities by 2014. It was the letterer and the inker and others. And they popped up—summoned by Bat-Mite—in the middle of their lives. One of them was walking his dog.
It is, ultimately, an odd choice for the book, particularly given that opinions surrounding characters like Bat-Mite within the context of the Batman Mythos. I do think it’s a good if disingenuous choice, given DC’s general attitudes towards their employees, particularly in light of some of the issues surrounding Bob Kane taking the credit for Batman as a whole, never mind that Bill Finger did most of the actual work and even Kane was eventually supplanted by ghost artists whose work he was being credited for. “Hey,” the story seems to say. “Bat-Mite is part of this, like all of these people, working to build you Batman.”

XXI. NEARING THE END OF DAYS
I tend to care about esoteric villains.  I am an obscurist, which is probably one of the many common malaises to grip the comic book reader, particularly among nerds my age. Batman has some notable villains, perhaps the most famous villains among people outside of the fandom.  Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman.
There are also the also-rans.
The thing is, because this was my book, my canon, it had a big impact on how I viewed the hierarchy of Gotham’s worst monsters. Because of it, characters like Deadshot—who had one appearance prior to “The Deadshot Ricochet” and its revamp of him—have exaggerated importance for me.
Among them is Calendar Man. People don’t really give a shit about Calendar Man. He was used in The Long Halloween as a red herring, I believe. But I love Calendar Man. I love Calendar Man explicitly and solely because of “A Caper a Day Keeps the Batman Away.”
You have to love a villain who changes costumes with each crime.  The old jerk concocts a week’s worth of themed crimes, each one based on the pagan god for which each day is named. Partly it was my love for mythology, partly it was the fastidiousness.  You don’t just pop off a crime spree like that. It takes months and months of planning, and then months and months of gathering materials. You need to come up with a week’s worth of themed costumes and the weaponry to go with it—you need to build yourself a spacecraft for Monday (Moon Day), an eight-wheeled motorbike and laser-blasting eyepatch for your turn as Odin on Wednesday. You have to build Thor’s hammer from scratch.
And what does that budget look like? Where does he get his money from? These bad guys are always neurotic, he’d have to be constantly spending money to make money—to make more money.
Thing is, there are a lot of these guys. Gotham is crawling with two-bit super-crooks. They come up with a gimmick and pull some kind of spandex on, thinking they can get one over on the Batman.  It can never be about being successful. They aren’t going to win. If the Joker can’t win, well… Calendar Man can’t win. But.  But Calendar Man can be memorable, and funny, his gimmick can demonstrate some skill. And that’s why I love Calendar Man.

XXII. THE ORIGIN STORY, REVISED FOR A BETTER WORLD
The nagging question that underlines the birth of Batman, the constant visitations to the origin is: would you change it?  Could you change it?  What if that was possible?
The fourth and final visit that The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told makes to the origin story is “To Kill a Legend.” It is notable for several reasons: firstly, that it shows us, once more, Batman interacting with the DC Universe at large; secondly, that in doing so it takes advantage of the science fiction element that it constantly wearing away at the surface of the bat-eared cowl; and thirdly, that it dares to dream of a world where Batman isn’t built on a foundation of trauma.
By this point, Batgirl exists without trauma; her exposure to doom is coming, but not yet here. Dick Grayson saw his parents die but has grown up under the care of a Batman Family.  But Bruce—
Bruce wakes up from the nightmare of his origin story again, and tries to work out the tension by punching bad guys, only to be overwhelmed by a mystery mist that brings with it his sidekick, who was supposed to be out of the country.  And along with Robin comes the Phantom Stranger, disco magician, fallen angel, sideways talker.  He introduces the idea of parallel worlds, repeating the same pattern.
They are given the option to save the Bruce Wayne of another world from that fundamental trauma.
So they go.  They wind up on a parallel Earth with a parallel Gotham.  They investigate.  There’s no star equivalent to Rao, no Krypton.  No super-heroes, no heroic mythology.  The little Bruce Wayne of this world is a brat.  Dick begins to question the mission—without Batman, what does this world have to protect it?  Bruce goes after the original killer, Joe Chill.  But he’s nowhere to be found, dead.  And Lew Moxon, who hired Chill… Batman’s interference changes the time table.  He has to panic, to rush, to save the Waynes—
He does.  He stops the crime.  The Waynes live.  Dick and Bruce are escorted back across the worlds.
The most important element of the story is the very end, after they’ve passed on through the mists.  We don’t stay with them, despite the perspective of the story holding with them throughout; we linger on the alternate world as the bratty Bruce Wayne is changed, transformed by his near-fatal experience.  He witnessed a strange man in a cape save his family and is drawn to that image like the other Batman was drawn to Zorro.  He begins to study, he begins to train.

THE BATMAN BIBLE: PART 4

By Ben Rawluk

Welcome back to our celebration of Batman’s 75th Anniversary! If you didn’t catch the first 3 parts, check ‘em out! Ben is exploring classic Batman with The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told. Enjoy!

Read More

THAT 90s AVENGERS CARTOON
By Steven Miller and Mike Balderrama
Mike and Steven chat about the bizarre and short-lived FOX Kids Avengers cartoon.
In case you want to watch along with us: (link)
[[MORE]]
—-
Mike: Hello, BoomTubers! Steven and I got together earlier this week in order to subject ourselves to that short-lived series The Avengers: United They Stand. Some of you might remember it on the Fox Kids Saturday morning cartoon block back in ‘99. If you don’t remember, I won’t blame you, considering it got canceled only four months later. Well Steven, we just finished episode one. Initial thoughts?
Steven: Alright, well we should go ahead and start by talking about the credits. They’re amazing right? It’s so whispery…it’s like a Ying Yang Twins song. (::Avengersss::)
Mike: Oof. Stack this up to the Joe-Perry-of-Aerosmith stylings of that other Fox Kids delight Spider-Man, and you’ve got a steamy playlist that begs you to dim the lights.
Steven: The costumes are really quite awful, even by 90s standards. It’s like Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee decided to collaborate. I’d also like to point out that the credits have a pretty large spoiler. Vision is the main villain in this first episode, but he’s with the team in the credits. Another curious piece is that Wonder Man is credited, yet he spends 10 out of 13 episodes in a coma.
Mike: Also, let’s note how Wonder Man is credited with Falcon, rather than his own intro card. I call foul! Ant Man, Wasp, Hawkeye and Vision get singled out. What’s the deal? Can we also pause to appreciate how everyone lines up for the title, then the camera pans up to Captain America, Iron Man and Thor? “Oh hey, you probably came to see these guys, didn’t you?”

Steven: Yeah, it’s pretty rough. So the episode starts and we get into some exposition about Ultron and why he’s creating Vision. It doesn’t make a ton of sense beyond the fact that Ultron is super non-plussed about his own experience.  Is that cannon? I don’t really know if I’ve actually ever read any Ultron stories.  Why is he so emotional when he is trying to destroy humans because they are emotional? I don’t understand who he is showboating for in this scene, since it’s just him and a robot he created. Destroying computer screens to prove a point to himself? There’s a logic flaw there. Another logic flaw is that his machinery has a lot of buttons that he doesn’t use. He just zaps everything.
Mike: I don’t know a lot about canon, and I definitely steered clear of Age of Ultron. I guess I’d hope for him to be an analog of some Amazo stories on the DC side. Well, rather, that Diniverse version “Ivo’s Android” that shows up in Justice League Unlimited. Mostly, I want Robert Picardo being awesome all the time. Is that so much to ask?!
Steven: No, I don’t think it is. That’s why Star Trek: Voyager was created, right?
Mike: Sorry not sorry, Whovians. Picardo is my The Doctor.
Steven: We finally transition into the introductions of the team. I love that this group appears to mostly be the West Coast team, yet they are still in New York. There’s also a quick montage to remind everyone that the Avengers actually have some cool members, but they’re NOT IN THIS SHOW.
Mike: Pretty sure those are all Heroes Reborn drawings by Liefeld. Can we also give some finger snaps to the fashion-forward newsmedia? That green suit, with the yellow mock neck shirt and purple triangle priest collar? Straight out of some Batman Beyond future if you ask me.
Steven: Look, I’m sorry, but I don’t think this series and I are going to get along…Hank Pym as a leader? GTFO.
Mike: I feel you, Steven. This whole relationship dynamic out as a kids cartoon is so…weird. Fact is, this show comes out over a decade after Hank infamously strikes Jan, had (multiple?) nervous breakdowns, attempted suicide, and also shacked up with Tigra. Yet here we are. Yeesh.
Steven: The voice work is just an abomination in this thing. Really phoned in. There’s also a few actors from the X-Men cartoon. Tigra is voiced by the same actress as Rogue and she maybe doesn’t do a lot to differentiate the voices. The only difference is that this time, Tigra IS the long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs. (link)  Also, what’s going on with the choice for Hawkeye’s voice?  It’s actually the same actor who voiced Gambit (figures), but he ACTUALLY sounds a lot more like Wolverine. I had to double check IMDB to make sure it wasn’t actually Cathal Dodd.
Mike: I hope watching this show doesn’t make me imagine that voice when I’m reading Fraction/Aja’s Hawkguy…
Steven: I was thinking the same thing. It was so off from any version of Hawkguy that I’ve ever seen or imaged. Also, let’s have a moment ofsilence over Wanda’s voice.  Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Steven: …

Steven: It’s just…so incredibly offensive. I can’t really get over it.
Mike: Why did Wonder Man smash through a wall? Why is his head so tiny?!

Steven: He’s like a misshapen Street Shark. Not jawesome at all.
Steven: Their suit-up scene also really needs some work…it should be more like Sailor Moon. Everything should be more like Sailor Moon. You know, it’s almost as good as the CGI suitup from Iron Man. (Link)
Mike: I like how Hawkeye gets a bigger belt to cover his smaller belt.

Steven: That did make me giggle a bit.
Steven: So they start fighting a bunch of robots and Falcon accidentally gets involved when a hole gets blown into his apartment.

Steven: Note the music gets a little jazzy when Falcon gets introduced. Dat Saxophone. It’s maybe a lot more offensive than Wanda’s voice.  And also, do the Avengers really not know who Falcon is?
Mike: Hey, this is a pre-9/11 society, man. The concept of superhero registration isn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar.
Steven: I’m still soaking in the costume designs and…you know.. it’s actually not a terrible re-imagining of the Ant Man helmet, but it doesn’t really work.

Mike: I don’t think you’d want to wear that thing while operating heavy machinery…Totally messes with your peripheral vision. (Vision joke unintended). Still, he’s channeling some Big Bad Beetleborg-ery.
Steven: At least the Beetleborgs had that Elvis dude. We just get the Janet Van Dyne.
Mike: Not to mention Afterthought Jarvis a little later in the show!
Steven: So basically we get into the plot, where Ultron is bating the Avengers AND trying to kill the president. They fly into action in what’s supposed to be a Quinjet, I think, but it’s really just a repainted Blackbird jet from X-Men. I guess they were too lazy to draw an original ship for this show.

Mike: I’m counting at least 15 different merchandising tie-ins during this initial action sequence, especially Hawkeye’s sweet ride. Also, what the hell, Tigra! You pull your hammy in the first 5 seconds of fighting?
Steven: I really appreciate that apparently Tigra and Falcon make actual animal noises when they fight. The stock lion roars don’t make any sense.
Steven: So they actually do save the president, but the president is mad that Falcon is actually the one who save them, not the Avengers, and I have to say that I agree. I mean, all those Avengers trying to save him and an outside interloper who just  happened to have the wall of his apartment blown up is the actual savior? That’s pretty harsh.
Steven: I get the president caper is supposed to be dramatic, but Vision could have killed the president in the first 10 seconds by phasing through him and wandering off into the woods.
Mike: Seems like Ultron’s convoluted plan didn’t actually require the President dead? OH! And it’s taken me 11 minutes to figure out who Ultron sounds like: Lemmy from Motörhead. Right? “Return to base!” sort of sounded like “Ace of Spaaaades!”
Steven: Eh, Ultron has much better reverb.
Mike: Anyone else convinced the President’s guest in the helicopter was a mistress or something? Took them til the end of the fight to emphasize it’s his daughter. I guess I tried to remind myself of Clinton-era scandals whilst watching.
Steven: Also how are you going to tell me that Hawkeye could ever maneuver with a bow that size?

Mike: Kind of gives off a NERF vibe. Might just be hard plastic.
Steven: We are then treated to a dressing down by…some guy.
Mike: Everyone in that conference room is so angry. Why is everyone so angry?! So much yelling and throwing plaques. Odd choice to make the inventor of the modern helicopter as the representative of the president. (Sikorsky. Look it up). I found myself laughing at how Pym “does science” to the drone: pop his helmet on and just cut a shoddy rectangle out of it. Nice one, buddy.

Steven: Basically they get yelled at by someone who’s pretty inconsequential, and apparently  they answer directly to the President who said that Hawkeye has to leave, and they have to recruit a dude who might not want to be an Avenger. Cool.  Fortunately, Ultron has plans for more busses to turn into war machines (but not that War Machine…he’s busy on another Marvel cartoon brought to you by Fox).

Mike: This is the problem when your police force’s cruisers look like the Gadgetmobile: basically ANYTHING could be a robot in disguise.
Steven: I’m glad that we have Ultron to narrate the plot to us, because otherwise it would just be really awful. If you’re a robot talking to a robot, is anyone talking to anyone at all? I’d also like to point out that Ultron built a stasis tube for Vision that he can only reach by building a mechanical arm that will transport his disembodied head. That makes no sense at all.

Mike: You can effectively write off any robot villain that would do the following: put your base of operations by the water (especially if you have sensitive circuitry to protect), and keep the huge transparent panes of glass on the ceiling so any superhero flying by could peek inside. Clearly you know nothing about lair planning (shoulda called The Carpenter (link)).
Steven: So flash forward into battle, it doesn’t go very well again, because these are the worst Avengers and apparently Fox liked to do shows about ineffectual superheroes (Cyclops and Jean, i’m looking at you). Falcon’s nephew gets pretty quickly fridged by some debris.

Mike: Wow, A:UTS doesn’t pull any punches…Let’s just straight up murder a kid, then follow it up with Wonder Man laying on the snark. I wonder how this meaningless battle messed with the universe’s NYC citizens. I mean, you’ve got ambulances converting to death machines before your very eyes, all while the Avengers’ X-Jet Quinjet listlessly hovers above. Not enough time to linger on the destruction. Gotta get back to the mansion—it was all a diversion!
Steven: It certainly was! Falcon’s nephew had to maybe die for nothing, but that’s okay, because a few minutes later into the confrontation, Wonder Man takes an energy blast for Ant Man, and is apparently dead, too. Which is actually kind of odd, since not only is Wonder Man nearly invulnerable, but his body can also manipulate ionic energy.

Mike: Did you notice how Pym’s helmet changes when he goes from Ant Man to Goliath? No more robo-mandibles. Also, my statement on poor peripheral vision (this time pun intended since the dude couldn’t see that attack coming after being surrounded by robot drones) still stands.
Steven: Welp, Wonder Man is dead anyway. Blown to bits? Wanda screams out for him. CLIFFHANGER! So yeah, that’s the first twenty minutes or so.  So Mike, what did you think overall?
Mike: maddening
Mike: I’m gonna go with horrifying trainwreck on this one, Steven. The voice acting is so growly—and Batman Begins doesn’t show up for another 6 years! Also, the Hawkeye outfit just makes me sad. The red H on the mask, mixed with purple and black—aesthetically loud and nauseating. I actually opted to finish the two-parter and hoo boy. It gets even worse. It had a lot of potential: a cartoon portraying a B-Team trying to assert themselves as a legitimate and effective team despite egos and conflicting priorities? Sure. I get that. Too much of it gets swallowed up in lazy dialogue, ham/stereotype voice acting, and merchandising tie-in. I want to do a survey of all branded toys in the mid to late 90s where they try and sell you a “Sky-Cycle.” You guys, it’s a motorcycle that flies! You want this! (That Superman Super Coupe is included in the roster). How about you, Steven? Overall reaction and final thoughts?
Steven: It was bad. But I want to watch more. Please help me. Make it stop.
Mike: Friends don’t let friends join a team with Hank Pym as the leader. Take care of yourselves, and each other, BoomTubers.

THAT 90s AVENGERS CARTOON

By Steven Miller and Mike Balderrama

Mike and Steven chat about the bizarre and short-lived FOX Kids Avengers cartoon.

In case you want to watch along with us: (link)

Read More

SUPERGIRL IN THE 31ST CENTURY
By Ben Rawluk
Ben pitches a comic in which Superboy can become the person he wants to be. Romance ensues.
[[MORE]] —-
With special thanks to editor Danielle Olivia Vitolo  and featuring artwork by the amazing Daniel Irizarri .
A while back I wrote a piece about the Legion of Super-Heroes, because I am a Legion nerd—which is kind of a stupid thing to be. The Legion gets rebooted and cancelled and mutilated regularly. Their connection to Superman and his dynasty is similarly dependent, fluctuating based on editorial fiat. Most recently, DC simply cancelled it outright for the sake of starting up another Justice League series, a Justice League series that takes place in the same far future as the Legion but features space-age versions of the Justice League of today. I have not been able to stop thinking about my version of the Legion with its sexually diverse roster, gender suddenly very fluid for them—in some cases outright performative, with characters like Ayla Ranzz, who operates as a drag king version of Lightning Lad (something based on Legion canon).
I also thought a lot about my version of Kon-El—Superman’s clone, one of the four replacements who showed up while Superman (Kal-El) was “dead”—who rocketed into the future one day and figured out she was actually a girl, a Supergirl, taking the appropriate future-drugs to transition her body overnight—and then having to return to the Twenty-First Century with the drugs wearing off and severely-edited memories.
And then I started to think about some of the stories I wanted to tell.
DC would never do this, not under their current model. They would never threaten one of their two most important dynasties by making a prominent member like Kon-El trans. They would never seek to re-imagine the future like this. These people still think hiring Orson Scott Card is a good idea up until the press gets really bad.  But still.
I’ve thought a lot about how Kon would rename herself. “Kon-El” is a name given to her by Superman himself, and that carries a lot of weight. Kryptonian names are fiercely patriarchal, with men having a given name (Kon) and a house name (El). Women, meanwhile, have a given name and the full name of their father (Kara Zor-El). I went through a lot of options, because I feel like respecting Superman’s heritage would be important to her rather than outright abandoning it. “Lara” came up as a given name, because it’s Superman’s birth mother’s name, and mothers are generally ignored by certain dynasties at DC.
In the end I settled on Lara Kon-El as her full Kryptonian name, because she gets to honour her heritage and honour the role Superman played in her development as a hero—without simply taking his name.
But, of course she doesn’t live in a world of Kryptonians, and mostly goes by a human name. I decided that Connor Kent would be replaced by Laurel Kent. Laurel Kent was originally a descendent of Superman and Lois in the Legion’s time, until she was revealed to be a robot. So it goes. “Laurel Gand” was later introduced as a Supergirl stand-in when the writers were told to sever all connections to the Superman Dynasty, never mind the devastating effect that had on Legion history.
I picture Lois suggesting the name, after Laurel comes out to her and Clark one night.
And so, Laurel Kent drifts back and forth through time, trying to decide whether it is better to stay in one world or another—one world with her heritage in it, the other with options for making her life easier.
These are two of the stories I’d tell. They’re “Superman Family” ones, because the Superman Family were always getting entwined with Legion affairs and spilling into the future, and Laurel is still the clone of Superman, still rocking the famous fade haircut.

I. THE SUPERGIRL WAR!
Because there already is a Supergirl, remember? Kara Zor-El? Cousin of Superman? Grew up in Argo City, a Kryptonian town that rocketed right off the planet during the final cataclysm? And Kara is probably going to have words with Laurel over possibly maybe co-opting her name in the far future. Because the thing about Krypton is that while it was super-advanced technologically, they were still a culture where women had to take their father’s entire names, and Krypton has always been written by very, very cisgendered, heterosexual men. You can kind of run with that a bit and assume a level of transphobic disorientation might linger. I don’t want to make Kara a bigot by any stretch, I love Kara, but there’s something to be said for giving her an imperfect reaction, because Kara and Clark are people, and people are not always perfect in their reactions.
Clark is very accepting, though. He’s just that kind of guy. He falls down a bit and starts to draw a comparison to that time he was a woman thanks to Red Kryptonite—but only for twenty-four hours—and then Lois kind of has to give him a look and then Clark goes to bustle away in the kitchen for a few minutes.
But that happens after.  Before that, Kara is hanging around with Kon-El, who has recently started spending a lot of time in the future and doesn’t really want talk about it.  Connor is non-committal about the whole experience.  Always a bit of a hot-head and craving the chance to flex her powers in a super-advanced world (Earth is a bit like the Stone Age for a girl raised by Kryptonians), she stows away on Connor’s next time-trip and ends up witnessing the transformation produced by Profem pills. She meets the Supergirl of the Future—
And she’s angry about it. Because she’s Supergirl, and she’s uncomfortable with a “suddenly” female second cousin. Kara’s also disoriented from being wrenched out of her own time, too. Plus the Legion are kind of in the middle of a crisis at the moment, facing a Thirty-First Century Psycho-Pirate who is trying to use Black Kryptonite as a power source for manipulating emotions.
Because, you know, as soon as Kryptonians start showing up the Thirty-First Century, suddenly mad scientists are hard at work synthesizing new versions of Kryptonite again. Lex Luthor gleefully giggles in his damn grave.
Yeah, it doesn’t end well for anyone.
Conflict is almost always physical in the world of supercomics. Not always—sometimes you get Phoenix slicing through someone’s delusions, or Hal Jordan mind-probing John Stewart. But conflict is almost always processed through physicality, through perfect super-bodies slamming into each other at high speeds. This is not always a bug, of course, but a feature; like old mortality plays, abstractions can be argued in front of us by proxy.  So Kara’s confusion and surprise and angry get amplified, and Laurel’s own fears ramp up as well and they start to fight.

And thus the Legion has two problems to face: a lunatic criminal unleashing empathy plagues across New Metropolis and a pair of mind-controlled Kryptonians taking out of their frustrations on each other.
Because there are so damn many of them, the best Legion stories tend to break them off into small squads when facing a larger issue (and of course, there are always members who are off-world, dealing with other threats across the galaxy), so that means you can have them deal with both problems at the same time.  The question that the Legionnaires face is how to distribute those teams, when there are certain members who are the best choices for both problems—how do you screen the minds of two angry, disoriented Supergirls crashing through buildings, potentially destroying the Earth’s polymer shielding? But at the same time, how do you block the villain’s manipulations long enough to take him out physically?  If no one can get close enough to hit him without being robbed of their willpower…
Luckily, the Legion always has Brainiac 5, who can coordinate at high-speeds using his twelfth-level mind. The Supergirl War is broken up by the Legionnaires with physical power or invulnerability on their side—Ultra-Boi and the ethereally genderfluid Apparition, alongside Element Lad and Chameleon.  The Psycho Pirate is defeated by the Legionnaires best suited to dealing with his powers—specifically the telepathic Saturn Girl and Tellus, along with Sensor Girl.
Afterwards, they cure the Supergirls and Kara is pressed to make up with Laurel.  She’s still uncomfortable, particularly with the notion of someone taking her name—and it’s hard to reconcile how she sees the world according to her Kryptonian upbringing with what she’s confronted with now.  She finally agrees to let Laurel use the name Supergirl when she’s in the Thirty-First Century, to be “The Supergirl of the Future,” she is willing to call her Laurel rather than Connor or Kon—and this, to Kara, is a compromise she will make.  She asks Brainiac 5 to return her to the Twenty-First Century and while things seem settled between them, Laurel is uneasy.
Laurel stands on the roof of the Legion Tower, gazing across the skyline of New Metropolis, lit by endless neon and stars and satellite glare from above.  Eventually, Brainiac 5 returns and he stands beside her for a while.

II. JIMMY OLSEN’S SUPER-FIRST DATE!
The Legion has always been populated chiefly by teenagers—unless it’s an imaginary story, a projection, unless it’s five years later—and much of Superman’s Silver Age adventures read like Marilyn Monroe comedies in flight; Jimmy Olsen was always ending up in the future, going on awkward dates with Triplicate Girl and Shrinking Violet or whoever.
And Laurel gets to date. Kon-El has always had an active love life; first with Tana Moon, then the notably bisexual Female Fury called  Knockout, and eventually Cassandra Sandsmark, the second Wonder Girl. But in addition to coming out as trans, Laurel is exploring her sexuality too, admitting an interest in boys as well as girls. If you’re integrating components of Supergirl with Superboy, Laurel’s love life expands! Because a super-strong girl like Laurel might find Brainiac 5 interesting and who doesn’t have a crush on Ultra-Boi? Not to mention that at least two-thirds of Triad—a Legionnaire from the planet Cargg who can split into three selves, each with differing and fluid self-identity—think Laurel’s pretty cute. Romantic subplots and shenanigans have always been important to the Legion, and I can imagine having a lot of fun with that.
But, in the midst of her explorations, there’s also Jimmy Olsen.  After coming out to Jimmy Olsen on the roof of the Daily Planet—they’ve been hanging out, having adventures, for a while now—Jimmy’s first reaction isn’t shock, but rather his typical ease.  He grins and thanks her for trusting him, then asks the important question: Can I see the future?
I mean, how else is he going to get Mr. White to take him seriously as a reporter unless he can get a really sweet story?
So Laurel shows Jimmy the future.  She pops the Profem pills once they step onto future soil and changes, “introduces” him to Supergirl—and then they go on a whirlwind tour of the solar system.  I want this to have the slow burn feel of something that starts as an adventure and ends up as a date, with the pair of them realizing they like each other more than they thought.  Laurel is opening up, and Jimmy—who is, let’s face it, pretty bisexual, with maybe a thing for Kryptonians—is quite sweet, once he stops trying to take pictures of space-whales in migration across the stars.

There is, of course, some conflict.  Brainiac 5 gets jealous and follows them on their date on the grounds that Jimmy Olsen absolutely must be protected at all times lest he die and accidentally alter the timestream—because Jimmy definitely lives out his days in the Twenty-First Century. It says so in the history books. So maybe he should keep his grubby caveman paws off of Laurel.  And then later the three of them stumble on a Venturan cabaret where the Emerald Empress is performing her drag act, using the Emerald Eye to hypnotize people into giving over their valuables. Drama ensues.
It is, in its way, a nice date.  Laurel drops Jimmy off on the rooftop of the Planet at the end and he asks her on a second date, this time in the present day.  Laurel can already feel the Profem fading from her system, though, screened away by time travel, and while she hovers in the sky, she starts to feel her body shifting again and feels uncomfortable.  Dating Jimmy would mean spending time in the present, and increasingly she doesn’t want to do that.  She likes being on the Profem; she’s come to realize a lot about who she is, and she’s still getting used to have the option of relieving dysphoria.  It’s hard to feel intimate with someone if she’s struggling with the tunnel-vision inherent in forgoing the Profem while back home.  Jimmy says he doesn’t really care how she looks, he has a good time with her, but she admits that she cares.
Increasingly, Laurel doesn’t want to be in the present day.  It’s her home, it’s where her family live—Jimmy and Lois and Kara and Clark, not to mention Dubbilex and Roxy, or her ex-girlfriend Tana—but the relief offered by Profem is intoxicating and the Legion are genuine friends who understand her and can offer support. It’s like moving away from your hometown, to a new city with more people in the same situation as you.  A lot of my ideas around this ongoing Legion storyline would be about Laurel coming to realize that she has no interest in going back (although if her family want to journey to the future and see her, that’s great!) and wants to make a life for herself in the Thirty-First Century. After this story, we’d see her trying to integrate into future more fully, running into the administrative headaches of time travel.
She kisses Jimmy Olsen one last time and grins—warmly but uncertainly—before triggering the time-bubble and disappearing.

SUPERGIRL IN THE 31ST CENTURY

By Ben Rawluk

Ben pitches a comic in which Superboy can become the person he wants to be. Romance ensues.

Read More

Write For Us!

Hi Boomtube! We’re starting our Fall staff recruitment drive! Interested in writing, social media, or graphic design? Check out our recruitment page or email us at hello@theboomtube.com if you’re interested in being part of the team!

So, was Matt overhearing someone’s television or did Mark Waid confirm the existence of Jack Donaghy in the Marvel 616?
From Daredevil #6 by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin

So, was Matt overhearing someone’s television or did Mark Waid confirm the existence of Jack Donaghy in the Marvel 616?

From Daredevil #6 by Mark Waid and Marcos Martin

LIFE OF RECORD: CREATING COMICS TO CHRONICLE SUCCESS AND FAILURE
By Mike Balderrama
2008 was an odd year.
I graduated university, and had a solid 5 months of unemployment before getting a museum desk job. Sitting at home while hunting for a job definitely took its toll. But after getting the hang of things at the museum, the dawn of 2009 seemed to look pretty bright. I needed to commemorate it, to really push myself to appreciate the ups and downs of my life—create some written record. How about journaling?
[[MORE]]
—-
Well, I’m awful at writing journal entries. They always seem so emotionally disconnected from my day. Who am I writing for, anyways? Some future civilization that could laugh at the way I consistently misspell “traveling” with 2 Ls? No. If anyone was going to laugh at my life, I should be the one in control of the humor. I loved comics, I loved to draw, but I often times hated the work I created, especially after putting a sketchbook down for a while. I always worked in pencil, only inking things I found worthy of the time and investment (I lose inking pens easily), so combine that with the quality of paper I’d pick up, you can count on smudges galore!

First panel ever
So I made up an arbitrary New Years resolution that’s made a lasting effect on my daily life.
Acquire a sketch book.
Acquire a set of ink pens.
Only draw with ink. No pencil sketches.
If you think you’ve “screwed up” keep drawing.
Fill every page. If you skip, go back and draw.
You can only buy a new sketch book if you filled every page.
Right off the bat, it felt like a chore—some sort of self-imposed punishment. “Who does this?!” “Ugh! It’s so hard!”  “I want to start over!” All of these things I said out loud, and even put down on the page in messy inked lines. My first few pages had a very strict grid—almost trying to confine the inspiration for fear that I’d abandon it like I had in the past.
Then my great uncle died.

I was angry, upset, frustrated, worried—a whole slew of emotions aimed at a whole series of people, where compartmentalizing just did a complete disservice to the process of grieving. I could see the border lines begin to wobble and shake, and the very next page was completely text. It was a letter I’d never send to a loved one I didn’t speak to ever again after that. Gone were the hangups about whether I was doing this right. I was doing what needed to be done. Comics became less about being a good story and more about being my story. My hang ups, my emotions, my perspective.
What I inadvertently found myself doing was making a mixed media journal. Like it or not, I was journaling.
That’s the beauty of journal comics. They could be the most mundane observations about the day, but when they’re in a pictographic format, I found I could swallow the truth a little easier when looking back. Exposed nerves, pain, frustration—they’re all challenging concepts that you have very little perspective of in the moment they’re manifesting. I have whole sketchbooks devoted to me going back and forth about the merits of loneliness, of yearning for that person beyond my reach, of going through hardships in those relationships I did have. I still pull them out to this day and use them to help process my present-day roller coaster times.
I didn’t just revisit them for drama advice. I came for reminders of the joyful things that enriched my past. That promotion I got, or when I finally got accepted into grad school—all of these little personal victories came through the encouragement and support of my close friends, all of whom found a place in the comics I’ve drawn.

I was lucky to work at a space that was focused on art and design: my time working the front desk of the museum enabled me to whip out my sketchbook and pens to create a series of workplace True Tales pieces that morphed into their own mini-comics I’d share with staff. Then, I picked up something really special: Jeffrey Brown’s Funny Misshapen Body. If there’s a corpus that really codified for me what i wanted out of my experiences, Jeff Brown’s work delivers.
It’s funny, it’s confessional, above all, it’s honest.
We each read comics for very different reasons, right? Some of us do it for nostalgia, for escape, for humor, for catharsis, maybe even for a familiar perspective or a completely new one. Underneath it all, we’re looking for truth. This is the very elemental thing that I believe writers struggle with when writing comics: am I telling the truth. Maybe it’s a story about super-human mutants saving the world, but the types of successful X-Men tales resonate because the characters often times go through the same shit average people do.
If the challenge is on all of us to be perfectly honest with each other, it begins with staying true to the self. That comes out through writing, by creating, by refusing to shy away from the difficult or ugly parts of our lives. I couldn’t continue self-editing in erasable pencil, it has to be in messy permanent ink.
I’m 6 sketchbooks in, and I don’t have any plan to stop. I think all of us could benefit from starting.


 

LIFE OF RECORD: CREATING COMICS TO CHRONICLE SUCCESS AND FAILURE

By Mike Balderrama

2008 was an odd year.

I graduated university, and had a solid 5 months of unemployment before getting a museum desk job. Sitting at home while hunting for a job definitely took its toll. But after getting the hang of things at the museum, the dawn of 2009 seemed to look pretty bright. I needed to commemorate it, to really push myself to appreciate the ups and downs of my life—create some written record. How about journaling?

Read More

MARVELS
By Steven Miller
This week I spent some time reading and reflecting on Marvels, the graphic novel by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. It’s a story that has always had a lot of hype, but admittedly I chose to avoid it due to my ambivalence to the work of Alex Ross. I appreciate the work he does and find much of it to be beautiful, but I always find it hard to be excited by his panels. Kingdom Come never had much impact on me. Maybe it’s the uncanny valley? But alas, I was having a bad day, and it was for cheap at the local used toy store, so I grabbed Marvels on a lark.
[[MORE]]
—-
Marvels tells the story of Phil Sheldon, a freelance photographer that sometimes worked with the Daily Bugle, as he witnessed the appearance of Marvel Comics heroes on the scene for the first time. Through the eyes of a non-powered human, we gained new insight on World War Two, the coming of Galactus, and the death of Gwen Stacy. Marvels explores what the world would be like if heroes and villains were real, how exciting, terrifying, and dangerous the world would be. How could any of us really live, knowing that aliens and deadly robots hide around every corner?
If we’re to believe the interpretations of most stories in comics, the general population seems to be mostly oblivious to what’s really happening in the world, of course the heroes step in and avert disaster. Yet even if I lived in the suburbs, i’m sure i’d notice the sky turning colors, or purple robots crashing through my neighbor’s roof, or my neighbors disappearing after the Skrull invasion. But we don’t ever think about that, we don’t ever get to explore that point of view. Which to me, is what makes Marvels so brilliant. We always see humans fearing mutants from the perspective of the mutants. But we don’t really take time to think “you know, this team has a guy who destroyed New York City like..2 years ago, and didn’t that Russian girl try and sink us all into hell?” It’s a valid point. Even if we’re not afraid, we’re left with an existential crisis. Evolution is leaving us behind. How can I believe in one true God, when Thor just stopped by office building from toppling over? How do I live knowing that the destruction of Earth is perpetually being halted by a single group of people?
One motif that Busiek repeatedly touches on in Marvels is the idea that heroes are loved when they’re stopping the apocalypse, and then instantly despised, feared, and vilified. When humanity comes back out the other side, they are always quick to say they would have figured it out, or it wasn’t that bad, or it was all a hoax. Yet the heroes keep coming back and helping, despite the vitriol. We see this over and over in the stories we read, and it’s something I’ve never really thought about too deeply as a trope. Our fictional heroes are in an abusive relationship with humanity.
This got me thinking. What if they didn’t come back? What if all of the super-powered heroes walked away? Or never got involved at all?
I think a lot about Star Trek and the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive is a Federation rule that states Federation officers are not allowed to interfere in the development of alien planets. Philosophically, it was deemed too dangerous and disastrous to get involved as an outside party with advanced technology and knowledge. Yet time after time, the Federation found ways around that policy, to change the course of events around them.  Sometimes it probably wasn’t always for the best. Certainly, in the Marvel Universe, there are a lot of important events influenced by the superhuman community. There would be no Ultron without Hank Pym, the Skrull may have never been interested in Earth without the Fantastic Four. Yet, without those same beings, Galactus may have eaten Earth, or it would be ruled by the Skrull,  or just straight up destroyed by the Phoenix Force. So just imagine the Marvel world if Avengers, mutants, and irradiated beings stepped away to live outside of the human community?
What would be more terrifying than people among us with incredible abilities? Imagine those incredible people observing from a distance, watching us, judging us, but not doing anything to help us. Leaving us alone to destroy ourselves.

MARVELS

By Steven Miller

This week I spent some time reading and reflecting on Marvels, the graphic novel by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. It’s a story that has always had a lot of hype, but admittedly I chose to avoid it due to my ambivalence to the work of Alex Ross. I appreciate the work he does and find much of it to be beautiful, but I always find it hard to be excited by his panels. Kingdom Come never had much impact on me. Maybe it’s the uncanny valley? But alas, I was having a bad day, and it was for cheap at the local used toy store, so I grabbed Marvels on a lark.

Read More

DOOMED!
By Kira Kristine
Listen, I know it’s in style right now for villains (and heroes and anti-heroes) to have a complicated, emotional backstory to explain why they are the way they are, but have you considered the option of a villain who’s just a great big bag of dicks because why not?
Dr. Victor Von Doom can be that villain for you.
[[MORE]]
The malevolent dictator of the fictional Eastern-European nation of Latveria doesn’t care about anything much other than his own person bizarro agenda which usually involves taking over something or getting revenge on someone. Sure, he had a crappy upbringing, but geez, so did like 80% of the heroes in the Marvel universe. Hell, a lot of real life people have terrible childhoods and very few of them grow up to be malevolent scientist dictators.
The source of his ridiculous evil probably stems from his mom selling her soul to Mephisto in exchange for super-intelligence and a monarchy for her son, then still in utero. Having your genius come directly from the devil probably doesn’t do a whole lot for your inherent morality, so if there’s any outside influence that lead Vic down his villainous path, it was that.
After his mom got killed or whatever by Mephisto, Vic was adopted and eventually went to school in America with Reed Richards, who honestly doesn’t seem like he’d be great at working on team projects, and Vic is left scarred after a Scientific Experiment Gone Wrong when something explodes in his face.
Because he’s ridiculous, he decides that he needs a permanent metal mask on his face, goes to freaking Tibet and commissions a magical suit of armor and proceeds to put it on before it’s done cooling, because HEY WHY NOT. So now what was some facial burn scarring that probably would have mostly faded after time and maybe applying some Neosporin if he really wanted to cover it up was made 800 times worse for literally no reason.
"Literally no reason" is probably the phrase that best describes Dr. Doom, in general. He just kind of does things, usually as evilly as possible, and to hell with anyone else or the consequences. One time he killed somebody just because he’d been working with the Fantastic Four and didn’t want to seem like he’d gone soft.
The first time we meet Dr. Doom, the villain, he kidnaps Sue Storm in order to lure the rest of the Fantastic Four to his hideout and blackmail them into working for him. I know this was during the dark ages but this kind of Snidely Whiplashery was the best they could come up with.

Thankfully, not a whole lot has changed since he first appeared on the scene, twirling his figurative mustache. In a memorable recent appearance in Children’s Crusade, he was engaged to a memory-addled Scarlet Witch in a plot to steal her powers because power-stealing requires a solid commitment like marriage.
His first act after obtaining Wanda’s abilities was to make himself into a chiseled, glittery Handsome Guy straight out of the Shoujo-iest Shoujo manga. (Sans mask of course, which begs the question, why he couldn’t have just not put on a fucking boiling hot metal mask in the first place, because again, his initial facial scarring was not that bad, and since he’s a goddamn genius in a world full of goddamn geniuses, I’m pretty sure he could have figured out a way to smooth his face out if it was that important to him.)

Anyway, following his prettification he just up and kills Cassie Lang, because somebody’s gotta die, I guess, so we might as well push Scott Lang’s character development along or something.
When this plan eventually fails thanks to the efforts of The Good Guys, he takes responsibility for all of Scarlet Witch’s actions, not because he cared about Wanda catching any flak, of course, but because ONLY HE, DOOM, HAS THE POWER TO CREATE SUCH A SCHEME. THE SCARLET WITCH WAS ONLY A PAWN IN DOOM’S GAME.
All of this might come off as a sarcastic, ironic appreciation, and it’s not. I legitimately love Dr. Doom. You can keep your Lokis; Dr. Doom is my dream supervillain husband. It might be a pure distillation of comics as escapism; Vic is pretty cut-and-dried. You might not know his master plan, but there’s not a whole lot of gray area when it comes to his goals, even when he’s working with The Good Guys. It might be that he’s just so cartoonishly evil, so balls-out egotistical and megalomaniacal that it goes over the top and loops back around so that it’s over the top again, but at the same time he legitimately cares about his mom and risks his life repeatedly for her well-being. There’s the level of mystery to him with his hilarious mask and armor and magic and science. He’s grumpy and shout-y, he talks in third person, and he’s too smart to wholly rely on people and instead builds robot duplicates of himself. ROBOT. DUPLICATES. OF. HIMSELF. MULTIPLE ONES.

Also he’s a Star Trek fan and that’s extremely important in any relationship.
Image Credit: Fantastic Four #5 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; Avengers: The Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung; Unknown Marvel

DOOMED!

By Kira Kristine

Listen, I know it’s in style right now for villains (and heroes and anti-heroes) to have a complicated, emotional backstory to explain why they are the way they are, but have you considered the option of a villain who’s just a great big bag of dicks because why not?

Dr. Victor Von Doom can be that villain for you.

Read More