Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Top 10 Peacemaker Covers

"A man who loves peace so much that he is willing to fight for it!" It's the sort of conflicting concept that seems to turn off readers. Leftists see a man packing a gun (a whole arsenal, actually) and recognize a hawk, while right-wingers could do without all that hippie talk getting in the way of explosions. Despite being a diplomat by day, Christopher Smith had the capacity to maintain a sunny grin while watching people burned alive in the usually more staid Silver Age that inspired the creation of the Comedian, so conservatives should have more readily embraced him. Instead, Peacemaker was ahead of his time at Charlton, then behind the times at DC, hopelessly goofy in his bucket helmet and jetpack. To make up for it, DC went the "mature" route of making the character a delusional homicidal maniac who heard the voice of his dead Nazi father (among others,) which even in the heyday of the anti-hero was laying the trauma on too thick to be entertaining. Smith ended up on the receiving end of a massacre perpetrated by Eclipso, then got replaced and retconned a few times, but to my knowledge has yet to find purchase in the New 52.

Honorable Mentions
Peacemaker #1 (1988)
Peacemaker #4 (1988)
Eclipso #13 (1993)

Dishonorable Discharges
Charlton Premiere #3 (1968)
Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #17 (1986)
Checkmate #23 (1989)

10) The Peacemaker #4 (September, 1967)
Goofy and plainly off-brand in its amateurish composition, but not without a modest goofy charm.

9) The L.A.W. (Living Assault Weapons) #3 (November, 1999)
This was an attempt by two guys who started their careers at Charlton, Dick Giordano and Bob Layton, to give back to the Action Heroes. It was a firm flop, much too flat and retro for its own good. The best thing about Peacemaker is his unique look, so of course it was decided to bring out a new guy in brassy armor that resembled a henchman Iron Man would crumple up on his way toward a respectable opponent. If I remember correctly, this guy was a medic and more of a dove, which isn't what anyone honestly looks for from a guy in this racket. At least this spotlight cover was laid out well.

8) Vigilante #36 (December, 1986)
A blatant rip-off of the infamous Frank Miller cover where the Punisher plugs Daredevil, it's still cool and dramatic to see the anti-hero so thoroughly bust a cap in a straight-laced type less crazy-ass altruistic serial killer.

7) Showcase '93 #6 (June, 1993)
Mike Zeck excels at military hardass swagger, but is undone by the most boyish of fellow heroes and an unfortunate coloring choice.

6) The Peacemaker #2 (May, 1967)
It's a poor man's Blackhawk cover, and nobody wants a static headshot cover from Peacemaker, but it's alright amidst slim pickings.

5) Peacemaker #2 (February, 1988)
Half the covers in this mini-series were so miserably botched as to seem designed to repel audiences, Producers-style. This stock, serviceable image was fantastic by comparison, like pitting Jacob Zuma against Idi Amin in an election.

4) Eclipso #11 (September, 1993)
Audwynn Jermaine Newman isn't even anyone's favorite Bart Sears knock-off, but when you've had as few opportunities to strike a pose in full Chromium Age spectacle as Peacemaker, you cherish the ones you get.

3) The Peacemaker #5 (November, 1967)
Peacemaker is well suited for battling mutants in a dystopia, and it makes me wonder if that fauxhawk influenced OMAC.

2) The Peacemaker #3 (July, 1967)
For once, the bucket helmet doesn't seem out of place, and you have to appreciate the subtext of the subhuman "other" threatening the provocatively attired white woman while waving his phallic knife obliviously into the scope of a gunfight. Freud called to point out that sometimes a comic book cover is totally not just a comic book cover.

1) The Peacemaker #1 (March, 1967)
Doubled as a superb house ad, and would have also made a fine euphemistic cutaway from a queer orgy scene. And the rockets' red glare...

Cornucopia of Top Comic Covers
The Top 10 Peacemaker Comic Book Covers

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Atom: Big Little Man

Doll Man was introduced in 1939, probably the first shrunken super-hero, and I suspect inspired by the 1936 Todd Browing horror flick The Devil-Doll. While never really an aspirational concept, Doll Man had visually interesting adventures. Coupled with the success of the 1957 sci-fi classic The Incredible Shrinking Man, it's easy to see where Julie Schwartz would get the idea to revamp the diminutive Golden Age DC hero the Atom as an even smaller scale Tiny Titan. Despite solid stories and fantastic art, the Atom never caught on in a big way. After a few years, he partnered with the similarly flailing Hawkman, until their shared book was cancelled not too terribly long after. Previously, the Atom had anticipated the creation of Marvel's Ant-Man, and both became more famous as insecure members of super-teams than as soloists. The Justice League of America was the Mighty Mite's primary vehicle in the 1970s, where he married Jean Loring, just as Hank Pym had Janet Van Dyne in the Avengers.

Recognizing that shrinking alone wasn't a marketable novelty anymore, creators had physicist Ray Palmer become trapped among a race of six inch tall alien barbarians in the early '80s, riding a wave of popularity in the sword and sorcery genre. When that faltered, DC tried to sell a hard-edged Post-Crisis revamp, but it lacked the talent and direction of contemporary efforts company marketing unfortunately directly compared it to. A positive step was made in making the Atom a spy, but there was little follow through. He was soon back to being the uptight old fogey Silver Ager, then de-aged to lead a lame Teen Titans relaunch. Re-aged, the Atom puttered around the periphery, until his suddenly murderous ex-wife Jean Loring turned him into a bit of a pariah. At least she was the one who was ruined as a character, as opposed to Hank Pym, who will forever be the wife-beater with emotional problems of the Marvel Universe.

Infinite Crisis launched a new Latino Blue Beetle, and chased that with an Asian Atom who was soon joined by a Latina Question. I've argued a number of times that a Chinese scientist with the power of shortness is a cluster of stereotypes just waiting to be mocked by general audiences, but Ryan Choi had a good-natured everyman charm that many responded to. His solo book only lasted two years, but given the state of the industry, that reads as more of a success than Ray Palmer's previous attempts at an ongoing. Still, Ryan Choi was killed off for shock value, giving Ray Palmer the chance to hanging out with all the white guys who were reclaiming their mantles (often from minorities) in the early '00s, like Hal Jordan, Barry Allen and Oliver Queen.

Despite running an Atom blog, I'm not especially interested in the premise. There are a bunch of other underwhelming shrinking characters in comics, and Ant-Man is far more relevant to the Marvel Universe than the Atom is to DC's. Al Pratt was rather dull, his legacy Damage was annoyingly emo, Atom Smasher was the poor man's Colossus, and Ryan Choi was just an Asian Peter Parker-- The Walking Dead if it starred Glenn. No, what I am is a fan of Ray Palmer, and specifically one take on the character. I hate it when Ray questions his value and place in the universe. The Atom of Gardner Fox and Gil Kane was an alpha male working to tame the one a-type gal worthy of his good looks, athletic prowess, and superior brain. His ego was quiet, but inversely proportionate to how small he could shrink. That guy vanished in the '70s, but resurfaced in the '80s through the Sword of the Atom. I love Ray Palmer for his convoluted history, his brutal effectiveness, and for being so intense for such a little guy.

Ray Palmer is everything that's supposed to be appealing about Hal Jordan, if Hal wasn't the flip-flopping, pandering, backstabbing Mitt Romney of comics. Speaking of which, I think comic books need a non-white Green Lantern, if only because Jamie Foxx can swagger in a way Ryan Reynolds can't and get a response from international audiences. I don't see the relevance of Barry Allen or Wally West as the Flash when the biggest Latino hero in the present DC Universe is Vibe. I would vastly prefer Connor Hawke as a zen archer than Oliver Queen and Clint Barton battling over which can be a more perfect duplicate of the other (or more often lately, how well Green Arrow can stand in for Batman on the CW.) On the other hand, like Aquaman, the Atom isn't an especially desirable role to play, and wouldn't even necessarily be recognizable as anything but a white dude. A female, Asian or not, begs immediate comparison to the Wasp. Latinos and Asians suffer enough short jokes without a hero to associate the jab with. I could see an East Indian, though that would be more fun with John Jones, since his Silver Age tales were constantly on the verge of breaking out into an outrageous Bollywood musical number. The best bet at pulling off a racial shift would be African-American, since that would run contrary to a lot of old cultural biases, and would be a damned sight finer than Cyborg's token role in the Justice League. A white Ray Palmer has already been introduced in the New 52, and while he need not become the Mighty Mite in this continuity, I hope he either wholly owns the role or is completely divorced from a truly All-New Atom of color who creates their own legacy without his assistance. I still want my type of Atom to be manifested, because there are far too many Shrinking Violets already. Regardless of race, if the Atom lacks punch and cannot truly separate from the packs of human dolls out there, he'll just repeat the same failures as the tired old one.

Post-Racial DC Comics?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2010 “The Atom's Family: Ant” animation-style fan fiction by N:TAS

Click To Enlarge

N:TAS DCU: The Atom's Family: Ant 10-12-10

"NightwingTAS" continues his Atom animated series concept cavalcade from the Super Buddies message board by reaching across the aisle...
"Bobby Whit had a hard life,his mother and father died in a drive-by from his father's connections to gangs when he was real young. Bobby was sent to live with his Uncle Eddie, who loved him a lot, and vowed to make sure he didn't leave hiim down the way he felt he had Bobby's father. As he got older Bobby realized he wasn't like everyone else he was getting stronger, his Uncle Eddie told him that his Grandfather was a Strongman in the circus and his Grandmother an acrobat. One day Eddie was kidnapped by the same gang boss that killed his father.

Eddie worked at STAR Labs and the boss wanted a project he was working on, but Eddie refused. Bobby found the message the gang had left behind and in anger he grabbed a statue to throw it and a secret door opened up. In the door was old costume, and a type of watch. Bobby looked at the the watch and accidently activated it when he did a swarm of ant nanites covered his body in a hard nanite net costume. Eddie was amazed by this, the nanites were powered by a dwarf star that allowed Bobby to shrink and return to his normal height at will. Bobby found his uncle but by the time he got there it was too late, his Uncle Eddie severly injured. Bobby brought the gang down, finally putting the man responsible for his parent's deaths behind bars.

Back home Eddie told Bobby about his brief stint as Ant and how he planned on using the nanite tech to become the Ant again, but now the nanites had bonded with Bobby's neural net, which had effectively become like the Queen Ant and controled the nanites by thought, and his leg was too damaged. Eddie agreed to train Bobby and allow him to become the Ant, and would lend him support from their headquarters which they dubbed the Ant Hill."

"Hard life?" "Parents killed in a "drive-by?" Raised by Uncle Eddie? Excuse my race-sense tingling, but I'm interpreting that to mean that when the mask comes off, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are going to be shocked to find Cuba Gooding Jr. at their dinner table. The origin recalls elements of Cyborg and the Jason Rusch Firestorm, but the costume absolutely screams Irredeemable Ant-Man. Might as well create a talking anthropomorphic mouse to hang out with Swamp Thing at the Corridor of Continuities. It also bugs me (*pun*) that Eddie was just sitting on this technology, which the stumble bum Bobby inherits by virtue of an immature display of anger. Maybe if Eddie was already injured, and had developed Ant with Bobby's father, so that it was more of an inheritance? I do think incorporating nanites into the shrinking mechanism is cute, as it forces tiny things to become tinier in order to shrink a second party, which is amusingly comic-booky in its logical illogic.

The Hawkman & The Atom Family mixer continues this week with Zauriel of Hawkworld @ Being Carter Hall