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Choice words from the author about this week’s comic.

DC’s Got A New Logo; Perfect to Hide Their Shame

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Reboots have reigned in Hollywood for most of the last decade.  From a business standpoint it makes sense—take a proven franchise, familiar characters, add CGI, and begin printing money.

The financially beleaguered comic book industry has taken the same approach from time to time.  Marvel launched its Ultimates line as a way to cast off decades of continuity and start characters anew, but kept their core Universe intact.

In 2011 DC turned their reboot up to 11.

The publisher of Batman and Superman, didn’t simply create an alternate line, they rebooted their core line and in doing so wiped the slate clean…sort of.  Titles like Action and Detective Comics, which have been published for nearly 75 years, have started over at #1.  Long story short, an event miniseries called Flashpoint has “changed everything forever.”

If you don’t own thousands of comic books, here’s a how things were for DC’s two most iconic characters before Flashpoint:

Batman is actually on his 4th sidekick.  Dick Grayson, the original Robin, had taken up the mantle of Batman in Bruce Wayne’s year long absence.  When Wayne returned he had Dick continue, allowing Batman to be in more than one place at once.  Jason Todd, the 2nd Robin, had been killed by the Joker – resurrected – and became the Red Hood.  Tim Drake, the 3rd Robin, had matured and become Red Robin.  The 4th and current Robin is Damian Wayne, son of Bruce and Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul.  Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) was Oracle, basically the research and communications arm of Batman Inc.  Barbara had been confined to a wheelchair after the Joker shot and paralyzed her in Alan Moore’s classic The Killing Joke.

Superman (Kal-El/Clark Kent) was married to Lois Lane, and had been for years.  His adoptive father, Jonathan (Pa) Kent, died several years ago, but his mother Martha (Ma) Kent survived.  Lex Luthor fought Superman for years, briefly served as President of the United States, had an orange power ring (similar to Green Lantern’s), and had most recently fallen into the Phantom Zone.

And here is how it is now:

Batman’s history is largely intact.  Bruce Wayne is the only Batman; he and his four Robin sidekicks have been operating in secret for years.  Batman is still friends with Commissioner Gordon, but is openly hunted by the Gotham police.  Barbara Gordon was Oracle for a time, but she recovered and has become Batgirl again.

Superman was never married to Lois Lane.  Clark Kent’s adoptive parents both died and then he moved to Metropolis.  He is a bachelor, works as a reporter, is friends with Jimmy Olsen, and just donned the “S.”  In Action Comics, which is set several years in the past, Superman wears jeans and a t-shirt with an “S” on it, plus the classic cape.  Superman is hunted by the army, under the orders of General Sam Lane (Lois’ father) and Dr. Lex Luthor.  Superman takes place in the present and his costume is more of a Kryptonian battle armor.

In sum, the results of the relaunch are mixed.  In some cases, like Batman and Green Lantern, things have mostly stayed the same.  In others, like Superman and Justice League, continuity has been completely erased and things are truly starting from scratch.

Of the series I read regularly, the new Batman and Action Comics are very good, but I think this is more of a credit to the writers of those series than the fact they have been relaunched.  Scott Snyder, current writer of Batman and Vertigo’s excellent American Vampire, just finished a great run on Detective Comics before the relaunch.  His Batman would be a good story with or without changes to continuity.  Similarly, Action Comics works because of Grant Morrison’s writing.  Superman’s long continuity and seeming invulnerability were seen as a barrier to good Superman stories.  Morrison’s All Star Superman from a few years ago was amazing, and really showed what could be done with Superman in the hands of a good writer.  In Action Comics, Superman can’t fly and isn’t invulnerable, but he is “more powerful than a locomotive,” can “leap tall buildings in a single bound,” etc.  Morrison presents him more like an alien Hercules, showing what he can do with action packed trials.

Contrasting those series are Superman and Justice League.  The writing in Superman makes me feel like I am reading something out of the 70’s.  Not cool retro 70’s either—lame predictable 70’s.  Rather than feeling modern, it seems more like the character has been set back decades.

Justice League is poorly executed for DC’s flagship team comic.  It’s consistently cliché and strains the reader’s credulity.  For instance, despite the fact they had been operating for years, the series shows Batman and Green Lantern meeting for the first time and grudgingly deciding to team up… to track down the dangerous alien Superman.  Of course they find him, battle it out, and eventually figure out they are all on the same side.  Batman’s portrayal in particular bothers me; he is brilliant and experienced, yet knows nothing of Green Lantern and upon meeting Superman tries to take him down with tear gas and a taser.

It’s a trite and predictable scene—“What my taser is ineffective against this alien super-being who is physically capable of leaping over towering buildings?”  It’s disappointing that DC handles Batman so ham handedly in Justice League.

Batman through all the books he’s in is a good metaphor for the reboot in its totality.  A reboot can’t make poor story telling good, nor can it hamper the writing of good storytellers.  In the end, all that is different is the same.

Doc Xavier

I Can Haz $4 Mic?

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Yes you can haz $4 mic!

 

New isn’t better.

The first generation Xbox 360 headsets were simple and efficient.  The mute and volume controls were easily accessible.

Then came the “Chat Pad” that no one bought.

Most manufacturers followed Microsoft’s lead and began placing the mute and volume controls inline rather than as they were originally designed near the control pad.

Not only is inline placement a poor choice, but the audio-jack was clearly designed to fit snuggly in the QWERTY Pad rather than in the controller itself.  As a result the mics often don’t fit well and are prone to static.

I hate this design.

There’s a $4 fix.  My old mic broke so I was shopping Amazon and came across these little gems.  They’re Prime Eligible, cheap, work well, and best of all have the original control set up.

You’re welcome readers.

Operation Crappy Arcade Port

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Some wounds don’t heal.  Let me tell you about a little boy, his Christmas money, and more than 25 years of resentment.

*Ahem*

Once upon a time I got $50 for Christmas.  

I took it to Toys R Us and bought Rush N Attack.  

The game was horrible.

I should have bought Bionic Commando. 

My brother bought Metroid.  His game was awesome.  

He was smaller than me.  

He learned about sharing.

The End.

At least my story has a happy ending.

Cheers,

Jack

P.S.  I’m playing Dark Souls this week.  A quarter century later and I’m still a glutton for punishment.

I wonder if my brother bought Rage…

Writer’s Block

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Jim and I started Unicorn Soup at almost the same time Baby Indy was born. This posed a problem, I needed to produce scripts but had no time.

The only free time I had were those few precious minutes I’d sneak away for my shower, and most of that time would be eaten up doing my best Kevin Spacey impersonation.  Thanks be to whatever forces crafted the brain that, “Eureka!” moments occur.

There’s some magical power in the mind–not to get too college dorm on you, but I do often wonder what’s rumbling away in our subconscious.  What innovations, discoveries, and art is bubbling away just out of the reach of our waking brains?

Oh and, “What if the color I see as blue is really what you see as red?”  Blah, blah, blah.

Back to the comic.

During those first few months I produced a lot of scripts, virtually all of them like Archimedes before me.  I would tap the “Eureka!” script out at my laptop still dripping wet. Okay, so not just like Archimedes but you get the idea.

On top of that, I had a cat to contend with.  I don’t recall anything about a cat in the Archimedes legend.  As anyone with a cat knows, cats love keyboards yet loathe their productive use.

So there I’d be wet, fending off my cat, and praying the baby wouldn’t wake up before I’d gotten my idea down. My wife found me this way a few times, but never really said anything. Either she’s incredibly tolerant of aberrant behavior or, given the sleep debt we were running at the time, too exhausted to give a shit what her idiot husband was up to.

I’m banking on the latter.

The things we do for our art.

Cheers,

Jack

Locust Vasectomies

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Thank God for party chat.

In the Year 2000–I hung up my WoW subscription and bought an Xbox.  Yes, I played Wow.  I’ll pause while you snicker.

There was no party chat when I got into Xbox but there were loads of DickyDoo’s.  It’s a pleasant and insular time we live in, with a nice group of gaming friends I don’t think I’ve spoken to a random in over a year.  Those early days of XBL were rough… crammed full of Fred Durst badititude and X-treme everything it’s a wonder most of us made it.  I hung in there, despite the DickyDoo’s, by trying to change the social environment.  I wrote posts that were equal parts bold and naive on the XBL forums.  I called for a kinder gentler gaming environment.

“Rape” should be banished for the gaming lexicon!  Racial, gender, and sexually pejorative terms tossed out!

Obviously, my campaign was a stunning failure.  My posts were thoroughly trolled, flamed, and bogged down by the L33Ts.

But, did I really lose to the avalanche of DickyDoo’s?  I’m writing comics and casting their caricatures as horrible pervs

Game… Set…Jacky-Boy.

If the L33Ts do get you down or make you feel icky by associating in the same hobby, here’s a gaming feel good story for you.  The journal Nature has published a brief piece that lauds players of fold.it for having helped with a real scientific break through.  The players sequenced a difficult protein sequence in a mere three weeks, overcoming a problem that was stifling research into HIV and other retro-viruses.

Maybe my nerd brother can interpret the piece for me when he gets a chance… in any event, it’s certainly a Huzzah moment for Good Guy Gamers everywhere.

Cheers

Noisemaking Plastic Junk

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I’m filling in for Jack this week, as he’s having back problems that prevent him from sitting at the computer and being funny. I’d like for everyone to take a minute and think some warm, healing waves in his direction.  You don’t need to know where he is, just focus them on the monitor or a convenient USB port, and the magic of the internet will do the rest.  Just address them to Jack in your brain.  Miracles of modern technology, right? What an age we live in, etc. and whatnot.

Speaking of which, please find enclosed above our comic about technology, about how kids’ toys are specifically designed to annoy parents, and how some parents still play with toys, only our toys are way cooler. Or something like that, I didn’t have time to read it closely. Although, that is a pretty cool spatula.  If I had that, I’d spatula everything not nailed down.  Fried eggs would be at least 15% more delicious!

My mother’s first present to my first child? A blinking plastic monstrosity that bleated incessantly at exactly the right frequencies to cause me to grind my teeth down to brittle nubs. Thanks, grandma! Don’t think I don’t know exactly what you were thinking!

There Can Be Only Dumb

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Netflix ruined “The Highlander.”

Without instant streaming I’d never have watched that embarrassment of a movie again.  It’s likely I’d have wandered through the rest of my life saying things like, “Christopher Lambert kicks ass!”  He very well may kick ass, but those movies don’t.

If there’s a movie you loved as a child and you stumble across it.  Keep stumbling.  It’s a bad movie.  Don’t tell your spouse to watch it.  She’ll laugh at you… and you’ll deserve it.  You may even owe her a “Steel Magnolias” penance.

Think, “The Wizard” is awesome?  I sure did, turns out it’s a 90 minute Nintendo commercial complete with plugs for Nintendo Power Magazine.  Yes, it’s got child acting savant Fred Savage, but it’s still awful.

Wait… was Fred Savage a good actor?  Or do I just remember him as a good actor because Winnie Cooper talked to him?

No more blogging, I’m going to see if “The Wonder Years” is on Netflix–that show kicked ass!

Jack

Laser Death Sentence

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I’m behind a day on the blog accompaniment to this piece.  Mea culpa–my back has been out from picking up Baby Indy.

Despite telling him that he’s letting lower organisms show up his species, he’s still not making a lot of progress on the walking front.  I know, I know he’s only four months old.  Honestly though, isn’t four months of lounging about enough for these babies?

Other parents tell me that their babies are just as free loading.  I’m not an Evolutionary Biologist, but I think that babies and their “inability to walk” are destroying the food chain advantage our species has spent 5864 years cultivating.

I just pray that the cow I had for dinner never realizes that it takes our young nearly a year to do what their young do within minutes.

From what I’ve read online this “I’m going to destroy my father’s back because I’m too lazy to walk” stage is just a phase.  Like post-college liberalism or pre-death conservatism the only lasting harm is in a shoe box full of embarrassing photos and perhaps a few stupid hats.

Jack

P.S.  Everything in this weeks comic actually happened.  Except the incineration.

Birthing Class

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This week’s comic was inspired by the classes my wife and I took before Baby Indy was born.

I did learn some useful stuff in those classes, and some weird stuff too.

Like, I learned that women of all backgrounds seem to relish stories of berserker women mangling their husbands during a contraction.  I’ve never seen an audience so rapt, as our class of pregnant women when the nurse told stories about bedridden women in full stirrups lashing out…

“So he reminded her again that she’d made a pledge not to take any pain meds during birth, and told the doctor she could tough it out.  Before we knew what was happening, she’d gotten a hold of the forceps…”

“Another time, a husband arrived still wearing his golfing glove.  Apparently, he’d decided to play-out the hole rather than come directly to the hospital.  Once we got her to let go, his hand lacked anything you could call a digit.  It was really more of a mashed fleshy flipper…”

Thank God my wife loves me and she spared my hands.  I’m pretty sure I could run a dual axis controller with flippers–though I’d prefer not to have to.

Cheers,

Jack

The Vault

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If you haven’t played Borderlands… SHAME!

Oh shameful gamer, you have deprived yourself of a really entertaining co-op experience.  Perhaps even worse, you didn’t have the background knowledge to get this week’s Unicorn Soup comic.  So here’s some crummy exposition.

Borderlands is a game predicated on the well known fact that gamers love collecting shinier, bigger and flashier stuff.  All this collecting leads your protagonist to the mysterious “Vault” where players are led to believe there’ll be amazing stuff.  In the end though, the Vault isn’t crammed full of guns it’s crammed full of an angry space… well, you saw the alt-text this week.

It looks like a vagina with teeth.

To purge that visual, here’s a teaser trailer released this week at Gamescom…it’s not very long so you may have to watch it several times to get the teeth thing out of your head.

Cheers,

Jack

Borderlands 2: Official Teaser Trailer