Monday, April 29, 2024

Wonder Woman Annual #8 (September, 1999)

Paul Kupperberg took over as editor on Wonder Woman with the same issue Mike Deodato, Junior had his first fill-in (there were another four before his run started.) I'm not sure if that was happenstance or design, but it marked the beginning of Wonder Woman finally being taken seriously as the third leg of the "DC Trinity." You'd think I would then have a positive view of his stewardship, but this also marked the point where the William Messner-Loebs run started to be taken out of his hands. With Deodato off to greener pastures, creative chores were passed on to John Byrne, for a Kanigher-indebted regressive trio of years. Not the most desirable of assignments, the book was claimed by Dark Horse writer Eric Luke. That lasted a couple of not fondly remembered years, despite showcasing early work by Yanick Paquette. Its main legacy was the start of Adam Hughes' long run as cover artist. Kupperberg's departure marked the passing of a poorly regarded period for the faithful, as other editors delivered unto them the much-flowered Phil Jimenez and Greg Rucka.

Maureen McTigue mostly inherited Kupperberg's decisions, though she did bring us Matthew Clark and a blip by Brian K. Vaughan. On the other hand, she gave Doselle Young three of the more painful Wonder Woman comics of the modern era. Through some bizarre magic, he then manage to score an Authority spin-off when it was still the most talked about book on the stands. Arguably, The Monarchy contributed to putting a stop to that (along with a tepid, timid relaunch of the main title, and similarly dire companion book in The Establishment. The end of the title was also the end of the career, which made more sense than the career itself, because Doselle Young just failed on comic book writing fundamentals, never mind personal taste.

Exhibit A, for "Ape," as in "JLApe: Gorilla Warfare," the very tongue-in-cheek final crossover featuring the "Magnificent Seven" JLA's world's greatest super-heroes in solo annuals, and the team book's as a collective. The one where they marked each chapter on the covers by dangling additional bananas off a bunch off the logo. Most of these books knew what they were, getting by on the novelty of seeing iconic characters in ape form, full of puns and lighthearted storytelling. This book is a very serious story, about very serious gorillas, tackling a very serious concern, with a very serious lack of craft.

I'm not going to beat myself up going beat for beat with this thing, in part because the story jumps around in chronology incompetently, and I'm not going going to work out the sequencing. The overview is that magic-wielding religious zealots from Gorilla City trespass deep into Tartarus via Themyscira in search of... the Rakshasas? As in Hinduism? But we're going to Greco-Roman Hades? And we're doing this by having the gorillas somehow detect and compromise the island of the Amazons beyond its mystical other-dimensional concealing barrier and holding the ferryman Charon hostage at conventional gunpoint? But most importantly, we're playing this 100% straight, even as a group of investigating Amazons follow their trail of banana peels? Lord, give me strength.

A poor choice of words, because the writer is apparently a noted public representative of atheism with a point to make. Despite all odds, even those calculated by key Gorilla City scientist Luk-Nutt who is part of the expedition, the apes transgress Doom's Doorway, activate a giant King Kong/Godzilla hybrid, and through the apparent simian sacrifice of one of their own unleash the malevolent Rakshasas. Along the way, Wonder Woman was joined by Artemis, simple enough, and Akila, the new incarnation of Shim'Tar, the great warrior mantle of the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall, who was apparently sent to Man's World for being to weak but was educated as an engineer at Oxford who merged her science with the Shim'Tar armor and apparently assumed that role under protest from herself and the Banas at the insistence of Hippolyta, and also she's the only Amazon that wears eyeglasses. I think? That's what I gathered from the sprinkled references throughout the story about this new character. Oh, and also, they bring Nubia back after twenty years since her last published appearance and another six as part of a continuity wiped out during Crisis on Infinite Earths. In a JLApe annual?!?

Deep breath. Nu'bia is an Amazon who like Wonder Woman earned through a contest the right to defend Doom's Doorway so long ago that she mistakes Diana for Antiope, but wasn't present any of the other times over millennia when threats to Doom's Doorway were shown in the comics, just since the Post-Crisis reboot. But now, the threat posed by the sorceress-priestess Abu-Gita and her gorilla charges is great enough to rouse her to duty. But also, she maybe lives underwater in the Styx and maybe can turn people to stone like Medusa (unclear) and this is all a side-mission to her because "she's on her way to rescue her ex-boyfriend Ahura-Mazda from his immortal enemy, Ahriman." Like, dude, that's a lot to scribble in the margins of your monkey people narrative. And as with Hinduism, there are (admittedly few) living adherents to the Zoroastrianism you're playing fast and loose with in a story about the lost loves of comic book Amazons. But again, an atheist with a message. Apparently, the belief of Abu-Gita and her charges in a Gorilla City religious faith that is revealed by Luk-Nutt's research to be a mishmash of ideas cribbed from human society was so strong as to warp reality itself to their shared delusion. At Luk-Nutt's insistence, Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth on both Luk-Nutt and Abu-Gita to dispell the falsehood of gorilla religion for the objective reality of... immortal Amazons that worship the Greek Pantheon? So Young is as bad at atheist rhetoric as he is at all the other writing? And then Luk-Nutt chooses to take up with Charon's ferry service for unknown reasons and tenure? Also, somewhere in this, the JLA Annual happened that left Diana in gorilla form, but Luk-Nutt knew that her divine origins would inevitably reject the change, which happens after something happened to the Wonder Sphere that necessitated Wonder Girl fly Artemis to a skyscraper in New York City to fire an arrow at Wonder Ape that somehow prompts her reversion to human form? That was a whole tangent that had nothing to do with anything besides only having Diana be an unsexy ape for two pages, mostly in shadow. I told you that I wasn't going to untangle this thing, titled "The Thin Gold Line," because of the lasso part, I guess?

On paper, the art team of Brian Denham and Jon Sibal must have also seemed like a coup. Both had been at Image Comics' Exteme Studios since 1993-94, working with Alan Moore on 1995's Violator vs. Badrock. Denham was tapped to relaunch Antarctic Press' Warrior Nun Areala in 1997, and offered the his own contribution to the bad girl fad with 1998's American Woman. Jon Sibal was Rob Liefeld's inker on Captain America and Michael Turner's on Fathom. I don't know if it was deadline doom or a light paycheck, but their work his is maybe a career low. Most pages look unfinished, with many panels of rough layouts treated as finished, and a scandalous amount of silhouettes. The rushed nature of the work does an already poorly constructed story no favors. This is an ugly and embarrassing book in comparison to the other JLApe annuals, much less in their career and comics overall. Many of the artists working on these books are young, green, and didn't last in the field, but they clearly put in their best effort and many were quite good at drawing gorillas. Denham and Sibal are still in the industry to varying degrees a quarter century later, and their best work was yet to come, but here they failed to meet that minimum threshold. These are some sadly rendered simians.

JLApe: Gorilla Warfare
  • JLA Annual #3 @ The Idol-Head of Diabolu
  • Batman Annual #23 & Aquaman Annual #5 @ Justice League Detroit
  • Wednesday, April 3, 2024

    DCOCD Podcast Episode 60- Trial of the Amazons

    It's been about 1½ years since I've done anything with Wonder Woman blogging, and a smidge longer since I last podcast about her, so this month should mark a substantial uptick in Amazing Amazon output. First up, I was recently a guest on Flanger's DCOCD Podcat, alongside Tom Panarese of Pop Culture Affidavit. On DCOCD, "your favourite Australian podcast hosts will discuss a DC Comics Event, as they occur in chronological order..." This is actually my second Themysciran discussion on the show, as Dr. Anj of Supergirl Comic Box Commentary once pulled together an emergency episode when Flanger was briefly stranded in the United States. It just speaks to my neglect that I never got out a post about DCOCD Podcast Episode 11- WONDER WOMAN: THE CONTEST. So hey, if you missed it in 2018, that's two new shows for you! I'm unusually kind toward "The Contest,"* and exceptionally cruel toward "Trial of the Amazons," so consider this your due warning... You can listen to DCOCD 60 HERE!

    * It's still the 11th ranked DC event on their ladder. "Trial of the Amazons" is... not.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2022

    What If... Marvel Comics Had Licensed Wonder Woman in 1984?

    Way back in 2011, former Marvel Editor-In-Chief blogged about a time when DC Comics were seemingly so incapable of selling their iconic heroes to a modern audience, that a Warner Brothers mucky-muck tried to license them to Marvel. The story has been disputed, but when Newsarama recently revived the tale, it got my wheels spinning. For the article, they bashed together old Marvel trade dress with DC logos and stock art for Batman and Superman. I wanted to see what a 1984 Marvel Wonder Woman cover would look like, and so did my own bashing.

    So right off the bat, the deal was supposedly offered in 1984, with probably no earlier than 1985 release dates. The class Marvel Comics Group banner was retired in 1983 for a more subdued Marvel logo in the corner box. That wouldn't be very fun, so this look is automatically anhistorical. I also wanted a "new" period logo, choosing a 1983 variant that was used on something like six non-consecutive Wonder Woman covers. However, I was only willing to put so much time and effort into this thing, so when I only found a transparency of the 1982 logo used for the Thomas/Colan run, I slapped that on instead.

    I spent about an hour looking through artwork that could serve for the cover, which lead to the Ron Frenz corner box art. Even though Frenz spent a number of years at DC, his art style, crossing together both Buscema brothers, felt quintessentially Marvel. It was also a mostly white background, with elements that ended up being more work to remove than I'd hoped.

    I finally decided to start Googling other period Marvel artists, and got a solid hit with a painted Bill Sienkiewicz piece. It looked like a period Wonder Woman, and Sienkiewicz did a lot of painted covers for Marvel in the early '80s, this one particularly recalling his Dazzler run. I wish I'd made the logo smaller to give everything, but especially the corner box image, more room to breathe. I was a bit sloppy and rushing, so it is what it is.

    The most obvious creative team for a book like this would be Louise Jones or Mary Jo Duffy on scripts with maybe Mary Wilshire or Cynthia Martin art. Realistically, Marvel probably would have gone with either an all male or mixed gender creative team. To give the title more of a distinct flavor, being a relaunch and all, I went instead for rookies Ann Nocenti and Bret Blevins. Both had done work at Marvel, but not a lot, though I don't see why Marvel would have that much an easier time attracting name talent than DC. Better to find a hungry young team. I figure their book would have skewed more dark fantasy than Simonson mythology, and also be more urban. Something like the abortive Greg Potter run at DC, without all the really gross and creepy stuff. Definitely a "This isn't your grandma's Amazing Amazon" bold new direction. Given that my alternatives were a Perez-aping CAF artist or the gory Red Sonja-esque Frank Miller cover to LOC #1, I figure you guys got off lucky with this.

    Monday, August 1, 2022

    Wonder Woman Giant 2020

    Episode #22

    Look for us on iTunes, Anchor or the Internet Archive, where you can also directly download an art-tagged MP3.

    Not quite two years later, Frank returns with special guest Jeffrey Brown (They/Them), who has also been waiting a couple years to hear this audio. A lengthy, roaming conversation on all things Amazing Amazon, including omnibuses, animation, and action figures.

    We don't have a Magic Sphere, so if you want to communicate with us about the podcast...

    Monday, August 23, 2021

    2021 “Justice League Extreme #1” Artemis fanfic commission art by Brad Green

    Make no mistake, this piece was an extremely complicated ask. I've gotten a ton of commissions over the years, and part of why that usually works out for me is that I don't give a lot of "art direction." I trust the artist, and I'm looking to see their vision manifested through my chosen subject. I only expect them to have fun and give me something that will make me happy, which happens more often than not. This was entirely different. I've done several jams, which requires a lot more specificity, and there's usually several contributors who get stuff wrong or simply muck things up. While more involved, that's still usually down to "keep your part in scale with everyone else and have your subject otherwise interact well with the others." Regardless, there's typically one or more parts that have to get buried by better work, or else stand out like a sore-- something. But this commission was different from that as well. It was one guy, trying to do all that I ask from solo & jam commissions, spread out across seven subjects, plus background & colors. On top of that, because it's for a fan fiction project with a dense, arcane continuity, I'm layering a bunch of weird alterations without any existing reference on top of everything else. Huge ask.

    1994's "The Challenge of Artemis" saw Diana replaced in the pages of Justice League America for a few issues during one of its least popular periods, until the Bana-Mighdall was killed off at the end of the story arc. During this period, Diana was running around in a much-maligned jacket and bike shorts ensemble designed by Brian Bolland. Artemis never really had a proper costume, wearing generic Amazon garb in her earliest appearances, the classic Wonder Woman suit for a few months, an unfortunate green number in a little read literal revival mini-series, and mix-and-match variations since. Artemis is mostly defined by an enormous "Blond Ambition Tour" ponytail, arched eyebrows, and melee weapons (favoring a battle ax or bow & arrows.) While Diana's C + C Music Factory look was dated-on-arrival, it's firmly grounded in the period I wanted referenced. So, I forced Artemis into the second hand thrift store threads, using her one-time nom de puella mala of Requiem.

    If you look at the initial thumbnail, while being at the technical center of the image, Artemis is easily the most minor element in the drawing. She's a modest portion of whipped sour cream cheese filling in a spiral of beef, all breast and rump. I otherwise liked the layout, but I specifically requested that Artemis be given more prominence and dynamism. The artist complied by moving Artemis up to the front row and giving her a lasso, seeming ready to choke a beh. I was content with the change, though Artemis was still oddly passive, and I suspect the artist thought so, too. Unprompted, Green ditched the lasso (barely touched dangling off her belt for most of Artemis' Wonder Woman tenure, except for when the White Magician killed her with it) and shifted her pose a third time. For reference, most of the postures were set in the thumbnail, with only the Eradicator flipping positions (as a direct result of the changes made to Artemis.) I think Green recognized that Artemis mattered to me more than most, and I also feel that he wanted to keep at her until she finally felt "right." I'm happiest with this final take, offering more of Artemis' confidence and attitude, battle ready, and better reflecting her continuity.

    “Justice League Extreme #1” by Brad Green

    Wednesday, November 11, 2020

    Year of the Cheetah: Priscilla Rich in The Silver Age

    Episode #21

    Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or the Internet Archive, where you can also directly download an art-tagged MP3.

    Frank returns after a mere five months off to post an actual second episode in the same "Year of the Cheetah," featuring another guest cameo from Wonder Woman: Warrior for Peace podcast's Angela! The 2019 release of Wonder Woman 1984 is looking more like 2021, so we guess Warner Brothers plans to hold out until we at least finish covering the appearances of the original incarnation of the Cheetah. Gee, we hope it doesn't hurt their pocket money in the meantime. Our coverage includes Priscilla Rich's two published stories set on Earth-One during the Silver Age of Comics, Wonder Woman #160 & 166...

    We don't have a Magic Sphere, so if you want to communicate with us about the podcast...

    Thursday, June 18, 2020

    Year of the Cheetah: Priscilla Rich in The Golden Age

    Episode #20

    Look for us on iTunes, ShoutEngine or the Internet Archive, where you can also directly download an art-tagged MP3.

    Frank returns after another year & a half's sabbatical to find... the Wonder Woman: Warrior for Peace podcast had returned from its own year of absence. To celebrate our both running again, Angela has an opening cameo to foreshadow her continuing appearances in a series of Cheetah-centric episodes to tide you over while Wonder Woman 1984 keeps being delayed. I bet Warner Brothers wish they'd just released the sequel back in November of 2019 as originally planned. But we're more interested in prequels today, as we travel back to the earliest stories of the original incarnation of the Cheetah. We cover every one of Priscilla Rich's published Golden Age stories set on Earth-Two, including Sensation Comics #22 & 36, Wonder Woman #6, 28, 196, & 230, Comic Cavalcade #11, Crisis on Infinite Earths #5 & 9, and DC Special #3. Most especially, we survey the Wonder Woman newspaper strip from November 20, 1944-March 30,1945, the most exhaustive and involved version of the initial Cheetah saga.

    We don't have a Magic Sphere, so if you want to communicate with us about the podcast...