Friday Funny Pages: What Is Going On Here?

 

Bad touch Batman!

Batman and Robin.  There are countless homosexual innuendos that spring up surrounding this dynamic duo, everyone has heard them before.  Sure it’s amusing, and some people prefer Batman without Robin because it prevents such awkward moments from cropping up in the comics.  Personally I’m a big fan of a Batman with Robin, I like Batman to have that youthful counterpoint to his brooding aged pessimism.  Generally Robin is a little more easy going and provides a bit of comic relief to the stark, grim nature of Batman.  Of course that comparatively jovial tone can be over done, and when taken too far Robin becomes annoying.  It all really depends on the writer, and which version of the Boy Wonder is being portrayed.  Overall though I like to see the one two punch of Batman and Robin taking out a villain.  The partnership creates the possibility for more complex story telling and allows the character of Batman to execute more dynamic crime fighting maneuvers.

Now, about this panel.  I really don’t know what the hell is going on here, but this is one of the most awkward panels I have ever seen.  I would like to thank David Tavolier for submitting today’s image.  As soon as I saw it I knew it was perfect for Friday Funny Pages.  There are several things that are disturbing about this.  1: Shirtless Robin.  What was just going on here?  2: Batman in full gear.  When you put Batman in his full costume in front of a shirtless boy it just gives off a creepy vibe.  His costume ceases being a superhero disguise, and suddenly seems more like some kind of S&M suit.  3: Batman has “experience.”  Hand on the shoulder, leaning in saying, “If you want to talk to someone who’s had experience in that area . . . ”  Yikes!  4: Robin is peering into your soul.  The Boy Wonder’s direct eye contact with the reader is unsettling.  Is it perhaps a cry for help?  5:  This image wasn’t questioned.  I mean, come on!  The artist drew this panel and didn’t think, Hmmmm this might come off wrong?  I’m convinced they knew what they were drawing, they knew I needed a good Batman rape scene to go along with my Superman rape scene from a few weeks back.  So thanks for that, and thanks for providing more fodder for the Batman/Robin gay joke extravaganza!

 

That is all!

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Friday Funny Pages: It’s Funny Because It’s True

     The next panel in our Friday Funny Pages crossover series is this one from Batman VS The Hulk!  Written by Len Wein and drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, this team-up might at first seem like an odd pairing, and perhaps it is, but this was actually one of the more interesting (and occasionally more strange) crossovers in the Crossover Classics collection.

     This panel shows us how this Batman/Hulk feud got started, and like any good hero battle it was initiated by the malcontented actions of a sneaky villain type.  Here we see the Joker playing his cards right, as always, and calmly explaining to the dimwitted Hulk why he and his thugs are attempting to “borrow” a powerful gamma powered laser, why it isn’t theft, and how the mean ol’ Batman is trying to get in his way.  As we see in this panel the Joker calmly explains the situation to the Hulk, and to big jade jaws it seems to make sense.  In the Hulk’s defense however the Joker kind of has a point.  The Hulk finds himself in a new town, we all know he’s not the brightest hero on the Avengers, and he sees some type of kerfuffle going down.  Then the smiling happy guy tells him that the brooding guy in the dark clothes is the bad guy, who would you believe?  Clown man or scowl face?  Hulk smash scowl face!  And of course a fight ensues and as we’d expect there is a lot of property damage and Batman reveals his usual bevy of handy resources that he has to deal with such a powerful threat.       

     Those damn villains are always starting some shit!  Last week you will remember that Doctor Octopus and Lex Luthor had joined forces against Spider-Man and Superman, this time it’s the Joker and obscure Hulk villain the Shaper of Worlds!  There’s a crazy plot revolving around gamma guns used to strengthen the Shaper of Worlds and a double-cross from the Joker who simply wants to steal the Shaper’s cosmic powers and reality warping properties in order to humiliate and defeat Batman once and for all setting himself up as king of the world.  In the end the heroes win the day of course but not before the Joker wields the incredible powers of the Shaper of Worlds making for some crazy, trippy fight scenes as the Joker bends reality to reflect his twisted psyche.

     All in all I just like this panel because it is mildly amusing, and makes perfect sense with these characters, the Hulk tries his darndest to do the right thing but someone is always playing mind games with the big guy and getting him into trouble.  Overall this was a decent crossover that wasn’t a completely stereotypical multi-publisher encounter.  Next week get ready for more crossover action as two of Marvel and DC’s “teenage” hero teams mix it up!

That is all!

Comic Books Through the Ages, According to Me

Several posts back I talked about the new age of comic books, the current era, which has been quite unique in its style and media presence.  I called our modern comics era the Mercury Age due to its fast paced storytelling and penchant for drastic change.  Today however I would like to go through and further define the various stages of development of the comic book industry as I see them, and offer up my suggestions for the eras that have for the most part gone undefined.

The Golden Age of Comics– 1930’s to early 1950’s

The Golden Age is very familiar with most comic book fans, it is the age that started it all.  The Golden Age produced many of the icons of comics that are still around today, characters that are pillars of the entire industry.  Detective Comics was the powerhouse of the day, and established the indelible style of that company.  I would describe this era as a highly imaginative time where creators worked hard to set their characters apart from other heroes.  However though the character designs were very stylized and unique the plots of this era seem fairly interchangeable.  Initially almost all superhero characters dealt exclusively with street level crime, gangsters, corrupt businessmen, etc.  Even supernatural and science fiction elements that were employed by villains dealt primarily with petty crime or personal gain.  During the time of World War II comics of course gained a very distinct patriotic tinge, practically becoming propaganda.  This worldly shift in tone lead to a larger scale in the stories being told.  Having the comics take place overseas or showing heroes aiding the war effort on the home front helped broaden the superhero scope.  Inspired by the media of the time this era can best be described as radio dramas with pictures, heavy on narration and very flat, interchangeable stories.  Though the individual heroes were quite outlandish there came to be a general pattern which most comic books ascribed to.  With the advent of television this style of storytelling became less and less popular.

Golden Age Green Lantern before the changes of the Silver Age

The Golden Age Comics: Radio Dramas with pictures.

The Silver Age of Comics– 1950’s -1960’s

After a short lull in comics after WWII when there was no longer the need for such enthusiastic patriotism there came a reinvigoration of comics with a new focus; high adventure in the atomic age!  New characters were popping up all over with origins dealing with radiation and scientific achievement.  Old characters were being altered and reinvented, doing away with vague mystical elements and tweaking powers and origins to include more plausible, science based logic.  The cold war and the space race kick started some of the most outlandish and memorable tales in comics history.  The mysteries of space and the wonders of atomic power fueled the imaginations of comic book writers and the nation as a whole.  Fear and wonder during this time were also put to use selling alien invasion stories and horror comics.  Several comic book publishers rose and fell during this highly creative era, which saw the rise to prominence of Marvel comics which had its own golden age during this Silver age.  Here is where the concepts of continuity and the development of in-comic universes began to solidify.  The various publishers tightened their focus while at the same time widening their scope laying out their own distinct views of the world as it was in their comic book stories, during this period there was a discovery through storytelling.  The comic book industry was still figuring itself out and didn’t exactly take itself serious, but there were crucial developments in style, art, and writing.  Overall I would describe this era as high concepts, with low execution.

The Fantastic Four propelled Marvel Comics into the Silver Age

The Bronze Age of Comics– 1970’s – early 1980’s

An important time in comics.  This era saw a greater development of the comic book industry and its established characters.  During this time writers spent a great deal of time explaining earlier concepts and aided the various universes to flesh themselves out with a great sense of continuity.  There was a desire to experiment during the bronze age.  Established characters were put into new and unusual circumstances and new characters were introduced who had more socially relevance, continuing the evolution of the stories told in comic books.  A new time of zaniness emerged, reminiscent of the Golden Age, but with a much greater self awareness.  There was a more satirical tone during this time, with more social commentary not often found in comics prior.  Social change and political unrest were rampant in the country at this time and though these issues are not always directly addressed in the comics of the Bronze Age there was a much greater use of comics as a platform for addressing cultural concerns.  The two major comic book universes at Marvel and DC were broadened to their greatest scope.  During this time comics start to become a more commercial outlet featuring movie comic book adaptions and other comic book tie-ins.  The comics of this time range from street level crimes, to interstellar wars, to mystical realms, and classic horror stories.  There are many new developments during this time but the major work of this era deals with building up and reinforcing the established comic book universes, while at the same time providing greater insights and cultural awareness.

The Bronze Age brought humanity to the super human

 

The Tarnished Age of Comics– 1980’s -1990’s

Here is where we get into uncharted territory, this time period is most commonly referred to as simply the modern age of comics, which I believe at this point is a bit passé.  Here begins a time of pessimism and realism in comic books.  The same familiar comic book universes that were established in the decades prior were now given a distinct patina across their once shining exteriors.  During the tarnished age the comic book industry starts to mature, due in part to an increasingly older readership.  Comics are no longer simply kids stuff and those who read comics as kids continued reading and were interested in more complex stories.  This is an age of darker tales, more realistic premises, dynamic events, and humanistic plots that do not shy away from depth, complexity, or social commentary.  Continuity becomes more important than ever and a new generation of readers and writers delve into angsty character driven plots.  This period is also tainted by company arrogance from the big comic publishers, which are at this point are becoming large corporations.  This era saw the height of the commercialism of comic books and the extensive use of variant covers, and special rereleases to boost sales.  Fueled by the booming collectors market for older comics publishers believed they could make a substantial profit by encouraging their readers to buy up the plethora of exclusive and “hard to find” printings that were being cranked out.  This lead to a comic book collectors bubble of sorts which eventually imploded discouraging comic fans and nearly bankrupting the bloated comic book industry.  This of course lead to a rise of new upstart comic publishers that attempted to break away from the corporate mindset of the old guard at Marvel and DC allowing their writers and artists to retain all rights to their creations and allow for a wider range of subject matter and grittier, more mature reads. Dark Horse and Image comics are byproducts of this era.

One of the most memorable moments of the Tarnished Age

The Mercury Age of Comics– 2000’s to present

This is the age that is still in development, an age like no other.  I call this age the mercury age due to the fast paced mutability of the comics industry nowadays.  Comics are now completely corporatized; both DC and Marvel are now parts of enormous corporate media conglomerates.  The smaller comic book publishers like Dark Horse and Image are now firmly established as the alternate choices for fans who are tired of the “same old thing” while also providing some of the most creative and dynamic comic books and graphic novels.  Independent comic writers now gain substantial popularity and notoriety, so much so that they are highly sought after to be part of the creative teams on titles at the big two publishers, effectively turning the tables on the once dominate superhero genre.  In the mainstream DC and Marvel universes small intimate character driven stories are all but forgone in favor of larger cross title arcs that have a wider impact.  Few titles, even books based on single superheroes, actually deal with just one hero instead they incorporate any number of various characters from across their respective universes.  Characters are dealt with more realism than ever.  With the advent of the internet and the fast paced flow of information in our modern day, comic books have learned to adapt along these lines as well.  Superheroes no longer simply fight crime, the characters are portrayed with a great sense of self awareness and the characters are written with more concern for how they are portrayed in the media and with a greater understanding of manipulation of information technologies.  At this point there seems to be a greater inkling that everything has already been done in the superhero genre and so therefore the landscapes of the major comics universes need to be shaken up.  This is one of the most prominent features of the mercury age, change, death, events, additions, and topsy turvy stories that skew the idea of the status quo and continuity dominate the comics landscape.  To make things interesting and to develop original plots creators seem urged to tear apart the established universes, and effectively deconstruct the superheroes.  However the changes made in these events are often inconsequential, fleeting, and either quickly reversed or completely forgotten about almost immediately afterward.  Congealing and separating like mercury.   

Event books dominate the comic book landscape of the Mercury Age

 

Independent comics take their place in the industry during the Mercury Age

As I’ve said these are simply my thoughts on the subject, and though I might seem to be casting some kind of judgment on certain time periods, I’m really not.  I can respect all points in history of the comic book industry and I understand that it is a constantly evolving and changing medium that will/must find new ways to attract more readers.  Also these definitions are of course in broad general terms and there are countless examples of titles from each era that go against those generalizations.  If you don’t agree with what I’ve laid out here, or have some additions/corrections you’d like to make, feel free to leave me your thoughts in the comments.  Since there is probably no chance that I will ever be able to contribute directly to the developing comic book universes, maybe there is a chance that I can indirectly affect the business by defining these previously undefined eras.  So if you agree with what I’ve got here do me a favor and start dropping the phrases “Tarnished Age” or “Mercury Age” into your everyday conversations with your fellow comic book fans and when they give you a confused look just pretend like it’s an established thing, and that they should already know what you mean.  I don’t need any credit, let’s just get this started!

That is all!