Archive for the “Five Years On” Category

There are a lot of people I probably should thank, because without their friendship, feed-back or encouragement, it’s highly doubtful that I would have kept up with this as long as I have. But the people who were particularly instrumental are Kevin, Chris, Bully and his pal John, Lisa, Melissa, Neilalien, Matt, Larry, Tom, Chris B., Gayprof, Lyle, and the rest of you who know who you are.

And special extra thanks go to Peter (who knows why), John (who knows why) and Mike (who probably wonders why).

For the above, and the rest of you, and for a limited time, I decided to celebrate and thank you with the only true sign of love that exists in this world: a mix tape. Click the below, and for a limited time enjoy a selection of in-jokes, oblique allusions, meta-commentary and personally meaningful stuff.

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Why not?

I mean, let’s be honest here, everyone has a character they’re fond of for no readily explainable reason. I mean, there are people out there who are actually Swamp Thing fans, if you can believe it. Why, exactly, I would end up with Wildcat as my favorite character is a bit of a mystery, even to myself. The first encounter I had with him was in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and that was less than an auspicious introduction.

Not only is he feeling sorry for himself, but he gets himself crippled by dumb luck. And his appearances in the next few issues are still Ted feeling sorry for himself, or other characters feeling sorry for him. And then Yolanda Montez shows up and takes his name and costume and that’s that. Now, don’t get me wrong, Yolanda was a perfectly fine character, even if she was primarily introduced to make the DC Universe less male and WASP-ish (see, nerds, it’s not just a recent thing, so get the hell over yourselves). And she certainly deserved a better fate than what she got, killed off with a bunch of third-stringers to try and convince us that Eclipso could possibly be any kind of threat. But in Crisis, Ted comes off as fairly expendable, but at least well-liked enough to not actually go ahead and kill.

That self-loathing angst he had in Crisis seems to be a fairly popular way for writers to try and get an angle on Ted. Being one of the few Golden Age heroes to still appear on a semi-regular basis, portraying him as the “past his prime” man in the midst of a mid-life crisis must seem like an obvious approach to take, especially since he lacks the deus ex machina powers of other characters that made the transition to the Silver Age and contemporary comics. I sometimes get annoyed by its over-use, but I can’t argue against it too much: it is pretty much how he was introduced into modern comics.

It’s also marked his too few appearances in other media. His appearance in Justice League Unlimited had him joining a super-powered “fight club” to prove that he still had what it takes to stay in the super-hero business, and his appearance in Batman: The Brave and The Bold had him in denial about his age, before semi-retiring to train younger heroes. It’s a valid interpretation of the character, but it’s too mired in thirty to forty year old stories involving him for my taste. I’m much fonder of the more adventurer-based, man-of-the-world Wildcat that appeared in several team-up stories in The Brave and The Bold.

My first real, ongoing exposure to Wildcat was in the 1992 Justice Society of America series by Len Strazewski and Mike Parobeck. Now this was a Ted Grant I could get behind. Light-hearted, joking, palling around with the Atom. All in all, a fairly grounded and humanistic character surrounded by god-like characters. That there seemed to be something…special, shall we say, about his relationship with the Atom didn’t hurt at all.

And pretty much from there I was hooked. I went back and scrounged up all the appearances I could, and even managed to complete a set of the “Super Squad” era of All Star Comics, just in time for DC to put out a nice two volume set. These stories, along with the Batman team-ups, form probably the core of the Wildcat “canon.” The two most important aspects of his characterization are established here: his fist-first attitude:

And his bickering with Power Girl.

This is actually a significant improvement over Wildcat’s Golden Age appearances. Irwin Hasen’s art is beautiful, but Bill Finger did tend to write him as basically a blue-collar Batman. A lot of his Golden Age charm comes from some of the lighter moments that Finger did manage to get in there, such as Ted getting the inspiration to become Wildcat, after being framed for murder by fight-fixers, from a kid reading Green Lantern comics.

Although the absurdity of a costumed crime-fighter, calling himself Wildcat, who shows up right after Ted Grant, whose nick-name is Wildcat, gets framed, and that same crime-fighter taking a special interest in the guys who framed Grant…and no one realizing the obvious, is fairly charming.

Though perhaps the loss of his allegedly comedy relief side-kick “Stretch” Skinner to comics history isn’t to be lamented.

(I’ve just doomed Stretch to getting killed off in a Geoff Johns comic by reminding the world of him, haven’t I?)

Of course, the finest Ted Grant moment is in JSA #10, when he single-handedly defeats the Injustice Society, after they interrupt his bath/phone sex with Catwoman.

Which gives us ample opportunity for the incredibly sexy Wildcat that Steve Sadowski drew in his time on the title.

Over the course of this fight, Ted runs over Count Vertigo and Geomancer with his Cat-O-Cyle, straps Icicle into a Dr. No laser table, drops Blackbriar Thorn down an elevator shaft, beats the crap out of the Golden Wasp (son of the only “super-villain” Ted really fought solo in his run in Sensation Comics), oh, and drops a statue of Ma Hunkel on Tigress, daughter of his retconned in arch-enemies Huntress and Sportsmaster…

And, of course, at the end of it all, Ted knows where his true priorities lie:

So, why Wildcat? A working class hero in a world of billionaire playboys resonates with me. An unapologetically low-power hero in a world of gods appeals to me. The accepted at face value silliness of his look and origin is exactly the sort of glorious nonsense I want from super-hero books. And, yes, even the occasionally over-done angsting over being an older man in a young man’s game gives him something unique.
Plus, artists like to draw him looking really, really effing hot.

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The first comic I can remember reading was a reprint of the Donald Duck story “No Such Varmint” by Carl Barks. Here’s the thing, my copy of that comic was lost years ago, and I have never, in the time since, found another copy of it in the same format. It was slightly over-size, bigger than a regular comic but smaller than a treasury-size comic, closer to the standard European album format, but in soft-cover and stapled. I distinctly remember it because I also had a Super Goof comic in the same format. This would have been published no later than about 1980, by the way. And no, it was definitely not the “DynaBrite” edition.

I read the hell out of this book when I got it. It combines two things that I thought were fantastic when I was at that age: Donald Duck and sea serpents. And unlike my previous comic exposures up to that point, which were newspaper strips, there was an actual narrative here, not just a gag that would maybe have made sense if I was twenty years older or it was twenty years ago. The story opens in what I’d eventually learn is a pretty stock manner for a Barks story: with Huey, Dewey and Louie lamenting the fact that their uncle Donald is a shift-less layabout. It’s kind a brilliant comedic inversion to have the children be the responsible, “adult” characters in so many stories, especially since the ultimate shallowness of their disapproval still manages to be plausibly child-like.

Donald is having none of this guff from minors and reports to them that he’s not just a bum, he’s actually got a very important job at the moment:

The boys are unimpressed. In order to get the actual plot going, they take advantage of a “Help Wanted” ad looking for test subjects. Note the clever bit of foreshadowing that Barks subtly puts there:

The Professor’s experimental process is a sort of electro-phrenological test that determines a subject’s career potential. Due to a coincidentally placed fly on the score read-out, everyone gets the mistaken impression that Donald would make a good detective, which Donald, understandably, is having none of. He’s just spent all this money to get set up as a snake charmer, for one thing. But the boys make the decision for Donald, and set up a detective agency for him.
Now that bit of foreshadowing comes into play, as we discover whose ship was lost in the first place.

So Scrooge hires Donald to find out what happened to his missing boat, and the boys drag Donald out to the last known location of the lost boat, an isolated bay with a water-filled dormant volcano along the shore-line, with Donald all the while attempting to get away and practice his snake-charming. Glass-bottom boat investigations reveal no sign of the missing ship, save for a curious depression at the bottom of the bay that looks as if someone picked up the ship. Whatever could have done that? Luckily, Donald’s noodling around with the tune for charming big snakes offers a clue:

The boys are, understandably, elated over not only finding the cause of the boat’s loss, but proving the existence of a sea serpent as well. Donald, meanwhile, has been traumatized and thinks his skills are no more useful for charming worms to use as fish-bait. So the boys steal his piccolo and set out to find the serpent themselves. Things…don’t go well.

The next day, Donald goes exploring up near the volcano and decides to test out some new tunes. In the process, naturally, he discovers the serpent’s nest and gets captured by the beast. As it turns out, sea serpents really, really like piccolo music, and the creature refuses to let Donald leave. The boys, discovering Donald’s predicament, decide to radio Uncle Scrooge for supplies, hoping to impress him by capturing the serpent and recovering Scrooge’s ship and gold. A miscommunication sees several barrels of peoper, rather than blasting powder, delivered to their camp, and the boys are forced to make do, feeding the serpent the pepper.

That face is awesome.

The hot pepper prompts the serpent to drink the crater dry, exposing the boat, which it was using as a nest liner. The boys are exceedingly pleased with themselves, until the inevitable occurs:

Of course, we actually have to get the title of the story stated:

The boys return home, defeated, with a deeply scarred Donald in tow. Once they get home the Professor’s mistake is revealed: it turns out that Donald’s ideal job is…wait for it…snake charmer! Which fails to go over well with Donald.
And thus is the status quo successfully maintained:

Now, seriously, I ask you…how could I not fall in love with comics after a story like that?

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I can’t think of a better way to kick off a narcissism driven week of looking back on the dubious achievement of maintaining a blog for five years than to look at my five favorite good-looking men and talk briefly about what their looks do to me.

Zak Spears got me through my adolescence. Seriously, what little gay porn I was able to sneak looks at featured hairless little blond boys and that look just never did anything but remind me uncomfortably of the pretty jerks I was going to school with. And then I saw Zak Spears in a video, and here was this gruff, hairy man who got as well as he gave.
I was smitten.

A good looking straight man with a sense of humor who is not only fully aware that he comes off a little gay, but revels in it? Oh, how could I help but be utterly taken in?

Boyishly handsome and funny is a dangerous combination.

I really love the old physique models. The playfulness and naivete of the images, combined with their obvious erotic undertones, is just irresistible. Ed Fury is by far my favorite of the models of that era. Again, it’s the boyish handsomeness, combined with the casual masculinity, although in Ed’s case there’s also a strong sense of humor and fun that comes through. You have to work hard to find a photo of him where he’s not smiling.

sigh…It’s those eyes.

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For those of you keeping track at home, the fifth anniversary of this site is next week.

While I do have at least one or two posts planned in commemoration, I’m opening the floor up to suggestions of what you folks who have been reading the site for all that time would like to see.

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