Saturday, April 29, 2006

Justice League Unlimited—Ancient History

The Upshot: Hawkman returns with Shadow Thief and discover the true nature of his relationship with Hawkgirl.

When Hawkman was first introduced into the JLU universe in last year’s “Shadow of the Hawk” episode, we were excited at first but the winged wonder’s initial introduction proved to be a disappointment and Saturday’s “squeal” Ancient History which again featured Hawkman fell equally flat with us—despite the fact that Ancient History was co-scripted by DC Comics’ reigning “continuity doctor” Geoff Johns.

By way of background: Before Johns came along, the entire Hawkman franchise was stuck in continuity limbo and risked oblivion or worse…another reboot…following DC’s inexplicable and unexplainable transformation imposed on the Hawkmen—both the Golden Age Carter Hall and the Silver Age/Modern/Post-CRISIS Katar Hol—during the events of 1994’s Zero Hour and later in the Hawkman title of the mid-1990s.

In 2001, Johns rescued the Hawkman character in the pages of JSA by brilliantly incorporating the Carter Hall’s origin of a reincarnated warrior/lover to Hawkgirl with the Katar Hol’s background of the alien from Thanagar while preserving the existence of both Hawkmen within DCU continuity.

It was a bitter disappointment to find what worked in the pages of JSA and later Hawkman’s own book failed so badly on screen in Justice League Unlimited.

In JLU, Carter Hall discovers he and Hawkgirl/Shayera Hol are reincarnated lovers—two Thanagarian law officers who crash landed in Ancient Egypt some 8,000 years ago. Using their technology they became rulers of Egypt with eyes on the rest of the world.

Ancient History unravels this concept a bit more. The episode opens with Green Lantern chasing the Gentlemen Ghost before he was quickly captured with the help of Hawkman. It was cool to see the Ghost…even if it amounted to just a cameo.

Before you know it, the Shadow Thief has captured Green Lantern, prompting Vixen to gather Hawkgirl and round up Hawkman at the Midway City Museum. There captive GL is held like bait and the Shadow Thief attacks….quickly capturing the two, plus Hawkman.

Tied to the Absorbacon, that piece of Thanagarian technology introduced in Shadow of the Hawk, its telepathic interface gives them a vision of Ancient Egypt under the rule of Katar and Shayera Hol.

As the Hawk Pharaoh became wrapped up in his kingdom, Shayera fell in love with Katar’s top general, John Stewart’s ancient counterpart. Discovering the affair by seeing them together from afar, Katar storms off muttering 'I wish they were dead.'

Hath Set, Katar’s chief advisor, voiced expertly by Hector Elizondo, promptly dispatches the lovers via poison. When Katar found the bodies, he promptly drank the poison (Kool-Aid????) as well.

The “transmission” completed, Hawkgirl appears to believe what Carter Hall had been telling her. It turns out, however that the Shadow Thief was really Carter Hall’s dark side—which took form when he first touched the Absorbacon back in Shadow of the Hawk.

Hawkman fights and reincorporates the Shadow Thief into himself and flies off thinking he and Shayera aren’t destined to be together after all.

Back on the satellite, GL finally tells Shayera about his trip to the Batman Beyond (alternate) future when he and Batman met Warhawk—their son in that (alternate) timeline. Shayera looks very hopeful thinking this means they'll get back together—But John Stewart says he “wont’ be destiny’s puppet” and declares he’s staying with Vixen.

In a touching ending, Shayera goes to see Batman and asks him 'tell me about my son...'

Ironically, the worst thing about the Hawkman JLU episodes has been Hawkman himself.

Actor James Remar’s flat rendition of flowery dialogue that may have worked on the printed page but not spoken aloud was just the start of the problem.

The main problem was that this Hawkman with this Hawkgirl just didn’t work.

JLU’s Hawkgirl was introduced and has acted as a solo character from the start—the writers built her up not as the female version or counterpart of “the hero” (which is half a step above sidekick) but as a fully formed individual. And it worked.

Shayera’s romance with GL John Stewart also worked for this reason—it was believable because it was based on the personas and the character development advanced during the series.

In the “real world—DCU continuity—we can’t even recall a single scene (pre or post-CRISIS) where John Stewart and Shayera Hol (or even the Golden Age Shiera Saunders/Hall) so much as shared a scene, let alone had met and knew each other.

And now, it appears they never will since Shayera/Hawkwoman was killed off so needlessly during the Rann-Thanagar War. More’s the pity given the DCU John Stewart’s eye for the alien (read extra-terrestrial) babes—first his wife, fellow GL Katima Tui and later the Darkstar Merayn Dethalis.

One more thing that nagged us: In the JLU universe, Thanagar is an actual Hawkworld—Hawkgirl’s wings are real and a part of her, not artificial wings on a harness using the gravity defying Nth Metal (like her mace). Yet Carter Hall, an Earthman, developed Nth Metal wings and donned a harness (the classic look) without explanation or comment.

File JLU’s Hawkman under “nice try.”

As we keep count, the Ancient History marked the 11th of the 13 remaining JLU episodes before the series goes dark—next comes the 2 part series finale Alive and Destroyer. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Pittsburgh Comicon—Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner

As you may have been able to tell from our most recent two posts, FanBoyWonder and Kemosabe enjoyed ourselves quite a bit at the Pittsburgh Comicon last weekend.

Although we are still waiting for our pictures of the event to come in, we’ll wrap up our coverage of Pittscon with an accounting of the panel given by “the first couple of comics” Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner.

It was a pretty relaxed session overall. JP did most of the talking about his various projects, including the one he’s working on with Amanda—but they were both very nice to the fans.

So nice in fact that FBW left the session feeling bad that we really haven’t liked the majority of JP’s work, including his work on Hawkman and our most recent panning of his Crisis Aftermath: The Battle of Bludhaven mini-series.

We weren’t all that familiar with AC’s work but our introduction with her rendition of Power Girl in JSA Classified issues 1-4 left a very favorable first impression to be sure—plus Kemosabe and FBW agreed that AC was pretty easy on the eyes (we love you Mrs. FBW…please don’t hurt us).

Among upcoming projects they are working on include a yet-to-be announced limited series which will spin out of DC Comics’ 52 weekly series. According to JP, the yet-to-be revealed character will be introduced mid-way through 52, sometime between issues/weeks 30-40.

We did our best to squeeze a few hints and got JP to reveal that this character isn’t exactly new but a dramatic relaunch of a previously existing character.

“I can say that she existed in the Teen Titans at one point, but it’s not exactly her,” said JP.

Upon further cross-examination, we got JP to reveal that the female character was from the Wolfman/Perez era of the Titans. Look for Power Girl to guest-star in the first issue.

JP is also working on The Secret Six, the sequel to last summer’s smash mini-series Villains United with writer Gail Simone. JP, who is inking the book, praises artists Brad Walker for his pencils on the book.

JP hasn’t gotten any scripts for the book but based on the artwork he’s received, the Six are doing a lot of globetrotting and Simone is working up to something big.

Another project JP talked about is the Freedom Fighters, which he is co-writing with frequent collaborator Justin Gray. JP praised the art by Daniel Acuña as “stunning.”

Kemosabe asked how he planned to develop this team since readers last saw the Fighters in Infinite Crisis, they were dead, dying or bleeding—including the lovely Phantom Lady who was impaled through the chest.

Suffice to say, he said, the team as been “completely re-worked.”

Among the characters JP spotlighted included The Human Bomb—everything about him is completely explosive and everyone but Doll Man is afraid of him, while the new Phantom Lady is all attitude.

Uncle Sam is embodied as the spirit of America. If you believe in him, JP explained, he has the power to do it—the ultimate power of positive thinking.

JP explained that he and Grey are trying to accentuate the positive by showing what works in America. He didn’t provide this example but we likened it to something like they way Marvel Comics’ Captain America used to be.

JP says they have eight issues to make it or break it.

BTW: Mile High Comics’ Newsarama has a preview of Freedom Fighters here….

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pittsburgh Comicon—George Perez

On Day Two of the Pittsburgh Comicon, FanBoyWonder and Kemosabe hit the floor as soon as it opened where we found ourselves waiting in a blessedly short line in front of the table of master artist George Perez.

This was a big moment for FBW. We were not quite 10-years old when we picked up DC Comics Presents #26 with the sneak preview of the New Teen Titans during the summer of 1980. Marv Wolfman’s script and Perez’s art blew us away as we met Starfire, Cyborg, Raven and Changeling for the first time while we became reacquainted with Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and of course, Robin.

New Teen Titans was the first comic book that we really connected with on an emotional level—not the least of which because they were sidekicks, kids who longed to be taken seriously when with their grown up mentors. They would become a team and eventually a family and FBW was along for the ride for every issue.

We’ve since enjoyed just about every other project he’s done. Even if the script was sub par, Perez could make it work through superior and richly detailed artwork. So you can imagine that we were a little wary that the man would not live up to our expectations of the legend.

Not to worry, GP was very gracious and most obliging as he chatted up with the fans, including FBW. Our chat was brief as he was conscious of the growing line in back of us but memorable none the less.

We inquired with GP about the on-again/off-again New Teen Titans: Games graphic novel that he and Wolfman had reportedly picked up again following his stint on the instant classic JLA/Avengers cross-over. “Put off indefinitely” he told us.

Why? Because DC Comics has been giving him too much work—a mixed blessing indeed.

FBW complemented GP on JLA/Avengers, noting it was the best work of his career. We also noted we have been enjoying his covers for JSA and when we lamented about the recent news of the book’s cancellation, GP speculated that DC will relaunch the book because it’s too popular and sells too many copies—from your lips to DC Comics’ Executive Editor Dan DiDio’s ears George!

We had GP sign two books for us. First, was the CRISIS on Infinite Earths slipcase hardcover from 1998—this was the flawed edition that was recalled by DC but we snapped up a copy before the recall took effect. (see the cover pictured above) With his signature, we hope it will boost its value—that was investment for Brianna the Girl Wonder’s college fund.

For love, we had GP sign our copy of Justice League of America issue 195 featuring a pull out poster a “reunion picture” of the Justice League and Justice Society, circa 1981. We will be framing that one.

We had to scoot before we could ask him about his latest project—the new Brave and Bold team up series with Mark Waid but here’s an interview GP gave at Pittscon with Mile High Comics Newsarama about the project among other things

Also, it seems only fair to plug his website

In our brief remaining moments, I noted to GP that the current Infinite Crisis has, if nothing else, succeeded in making his work in the original CRISIS that much better by sheer comparison.

I repeated to GP my often blogged argument that he penciled (with inkers Dick Giordano and later Jerry Ordway) all by himself 12 consecutive monthly issues of CRISIS, including two double sized issues and every issue on time—compared to the committee of artists (including help from Perez) who have been struggling to put out an issue of this 7 issue “monthly” mini-series every six weeks.

Ever the gentlemen, GP didn’t comment but he didn’t disagree either. Thanks George.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pittsburgh Comicon—Howard Chaykin

FanBoyWonder and best pal Kemosabe caught up with current Hawkgirl artist Howard Chaykin at his booth on the first day of the 2006 Pittsburgh Comicon.

Lucky for us, our wives (and jobs) had given us that Friday off so the convention hall was relatively empty when we approached his booth. He very obligingly chatted with us for about 20 minutes discussing Hawkgirl and his upcoming Green Lantern project—the two part Green Lantern: Collateral Damage, featuring GL Guy Gardner.

On Hawkgirl, HC said he is having a blast working with his friend of 30 years Walter Simonson.

FBW complemented HC on his take on Kendra Saunders One Year Later—more mature and grown up; although he said he’s been trying to make her look younger—think a “more buxom Keira Knightly.”

As of our chat at Pittscon, he said he had five issues in the can with an open-ended commitment to stay on the book.

Look for subtle changes to creep in with Hawkgirl’s costume—particularly in the helmet, which he said he hates. He’ll eventually make it look more like Hawkman’s mask. Also, look for a surprise revelation about the workings of Hawkgirl’s uniform and wing-harness.

Meanwhile, HC told us he is eager to return everybody’s favorite Guy to respectability after years of playing the buffoon during the Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League.

He said that he envisioned Guy Gardner as a military professional--as a Green Lantern, he’s a part of an elite peacekeeping organization—hence the military haircut rather than the Moe-cut that made him look the clown.

Remember, noted HC, Guy is a trained attorney, not many people remember that. He said he envisioned Guy as a world weary character—think Dennis Leary.

The premise of Green Lantern: Collateral Damage: In the aftermath of the Rann-Thanagar War, G’nort—the former GL (G’nort??????????) requests that Guy as the official Green Lantern Corps troubleshooter to act an intermediary between two hostile factions.

As we recall, HC—who is both penciling and inking—the two part series already has one issue in the can and is well on his way to finishing the other. Look for a release date for on or near Christmas 2006.

HC told us he’s resisted attempts by both DC and Marvel at exclusive contracts, as he enjoys the freedom of working for both companies.

All in all, this comic book veteran was very gracious with his time and insights to a couple of fanboys who don’t often get to mix it up with creators. Thanks Howard.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Pittsburgh Comiccon—FanBoyWonder style

FanBoyWonder and our best pal and Kemosabe John Micek have returned from our trip to picturesque Monroeville, PA—just outside of Pittsburgh for the 2006 Pittsburgh Comic Con.

It was FBW’s first comic book show in a few years and our first ever big show featuring artists and merchandise and the whole she-bang.

In addition to spending a whole lot of money acquiring (or in many cases re-acquiring) comic books and other goodies, we made full use of the creator panels and took the time to meet the some of the featured artists.

As we noted, this was our first show so we had not frame of reference but during the first two days we were at PittsCon, they appeared to have a good turn-out.

The highlight for FBW meeting veteran artist George Perez, while Kemosabe met up with comic book art legend Howard Chaykin. Both guys were very cool cats.

Here’s a list of our PittsCon booty:

Justice League of America (first series)—issues 200, 240
DC Comics Presents—30, 55
Brave & Bold—168, 170, 181
World’s Finest—254
Secret Origins—3
Action Comics—549
Wonder Woman (first series)—235
Jon Sable Freelance—11, 14, 17, 19-23, 25, 27-28, 33, 41
Dr. Fate (first series)—8, 15-16, 18-19, 21, 24 (which completes our collection)
The Immortal Dr. Fate (mini-series)—3

Other purchases:
Two Justice League Unlimited DVDs (The seller didn’t say where the videos came from and I didn’t ask); a Green Lantern baseball cap, and a Wonder Woman Tee-shirt for Brianna, the Girl Wonder.

But the best acquisition was non-comic book related—the DVD of the original Police Squad television series. YES!!!!

Meanwhile, look for upcoming posts featuring breakdowns of our chats with Perez and Chaykin, along with convention pics, as well as news upcoming DC Comics projects.
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