The Return of Previews Poison

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As usual, I take no credit for the conception of this witty idea--reviewing the coming attractions in "Previews." That bow must be taken by Johanna Draper Carlson--keeper of the Women in Refrigerators website and author of "Comics Worth Reading" site which I never miss. If you're concerned about Spoilers, I'd skip this column if I were you.

Aquaman used to be one of my favorite super-heroes. Drawn by the likes of Nick Cardy, Jim Aparo and Don Newton, I used to look forward to it. If I didn't see that Aquaman banner on the cover, I'd never guess that the bearded, blonde barbarian had any relation to the orange-shirted, clean-shaven, short-haired hero whose power was to command all sea life. Which is funny because in the "Justice League" he at least acts like Aquaman.

DC is filled now with alleged heroes I cannot recognize, but Aquaman poses an even greater puzzle. Supposedly, Aquaman was killed in that waste of trees "Our Gang at War With An Empty Suit of Armor." This instigated the Obsidian Age that I haven't read and cannot judge. However, it appears that nothing about Aquaman has changed. He still looks more like a Sea Hermit than a Sea King. Maybe just maybe DC has healed his hand, but the art tells two different stories. If Arthur did get his hand back, I'll want to know why Barbara Gordon is still in a wheelchair.

Robotech, which I later learned was comprised of three separate unrelated anime series, was a cartoon I used to run home from school to see. It had a beginning, middle and an end. So, why would I be interested in seeing more of it?

Gotham Central, written by Greg Rucka, focuses on the Gotham Police Department. This is basically a continuation of Rucka's "Detective Comics" which focused on the Gotham Police Department. Come to think of it, none of Batman's continuity books star Batman. Does anybody like super-heroes?

I'm hoping Ian Edginton and Staz Johnson will infuse some heroism to Batman in the second Batman/Aliens mini-series. I loved the first by Ron Marz and Bernie Wrightson, and this series has potential since the presence of Dark Horse immediately throws the story out of what DC laughingly calls continuity. Therefore, Batman need not behave as villainous as he behaves in the DCU. Batman should represent the classic hero against such an obviously monstrous menace. Ian Edginton wrote several superb issues of "Xena" and "Vampirella" if memory serves. So, yes, with great hesitation, I jot "Batman/Aliens" on my list.

DC has a lot of nerve offering readers Batgirl: Year One. What's the point? We may grow new spines in the real world thanks to stem cell technology--Bush isn't going to be President forever--but Babs Gordon will still be confined to that damn chair:

"Are you a DC reader?"
"No. I used to be, but I stopped after you expunged everything I loved about DC."
"Expunged? Dictionary!"
"It means erased, destroyed, razed to the figurative ground."
"Oh, you're just being cynical."
"Take Barbara Gordon."
"Well, we've got this keen new Batgirl series coming out!"
"Really? Oh, you mean that mute girl who looks like something Ace threw up."
"No, no, Babs Gordon as Batgirl."
"Wow! Really! You mean you had Zatanna heal her spine!"
"No, no. You see this takes place in the past."
"I've read her past adventures."
"Not like this you haven't."
"So basically, I can have my Batgirl, but if and only if, her adventures happen in the past."
"Now, where did I put my current issue of 'Murcielaga'?"
"Um--Did I mention it's co-written by Chuck Dixon?"
"The guy who had Black Canary and Huntress recognize a felon by his ass?"
"That's the man."
"You wait right here while I get a bat."

On the bright side, DC is offering the second Super-Friends collection featuring the ultra rare Black Orchid appearance. I know some of you are laughing right now, but the writers and artists including the seriously underrated Ramona Fradon basically treated the "Super-Friends" as another thoughtful "Justice League" book.

Spin-offs often influence their source material. For instance, Superman was able to "leap tall buildings in a single bound" because of the Fleischer Brothers. The radio show introduced Kyptonite into Superman lore. Think about that for a moment. The same think vexing Tom Welling in "Smallville" week after week actually was introduced in another medium seventy years ago.

Lana Lang entered the Superman books in the fifties. She remained a staple character even after Lois Lane was considered the accepted love interest of the book. Lana Lang co-anchored with Clark Kent at GBS during the pre-Crisis, and her presence was felt even before she was introduced in the Christopher Reeve movies. Annette O'Toole who now portrays Martha Kent incidentally portrayed Lana Lang.

This brings me to Superman Lost Hearts. John Byrne did not forget about Lana Lang, and to his credit, he made her as sweet and interesting as she was in the pre-Crisis. We always rooted for her because she was nicer to Clark, and at one point she refuses to learn his secret identity. She even due to her courage and lack of prejudice became a super-hero--Insect Lass--and a Legion reservist. Now that Lana is becoming more infused in the cultural psyche thanks to "Smallville," the Superman titles are addressing her history as a Manhunter. No, no, I'm kidding. She's really somebody called Girl 13. It's just another dumb old crossover between the titles that supposedly are offering different, distinct identities.

Speaking of spin-offs, when I heard Huntress would be the daughter of Batman and Catwoman in the WB series "Birds of Prey" my toe-nails cracked. I still do not like the idea of Babs being crippled, but at least in their universe it will make sense why she remains crippled. When DC gets around to it, I'll even be buying the spin-off comic book.

As a result of the upcoming series, DC promotes two semi-new and new Birds of Prey projects. I'm not going to disparage the new writer on Birds of Prey. I know nothing about him. So I cannot judge. Gail Simone takes over after he, and while I've enjoyed her work in Simpsons Comics not a force in the cosmos can get me to buy Birds of Prey unless Babs Gordon's spine has been healed.

This brings me to the most repellent thing I've seen since "Batman Forever." The Oracle doll. What sick mind conceived of a doll that is crippled? What's even more disgusting is that they impinge on your right to imagine a better world. "ORACLE....sits at approximately 4 3/4" tall in a wheelchair (the figure and wheelchair are one piece)." HOW DARE THOSE COPROPHAGOUS INSENSITIVE BASTARDS!

If you haven't read the classic original Swamp Thing DC does something right by offering a cheap trade paperback reprinting them. It doesn't atone for the crippled Oracle doll, but it's a step in the right direction.

In other Batman news, Batman: Family continues. Like I care. Ed Brubaker is taking over Detective. It tempts me. Oh, how it tempts me, but then the dreaded phrase "part one" pushes me away. Batman: Gotham Knights features the continuation of the team-up everybody has been waiting for Batman & Bane. It's the buddy cop film screaming to be made. Bane is the idiot who broke Batman's spine. Please, note, DC did not offer a crippled Bruce Wayne doll. No! They had Shondra Kinsolving heal his spine. Regardless, this team-up should be listed in the "Oxford English Dictionary" under the definition for the phrase "dumb ass."

Are you buying the “Hush?” You've got to buy the "Hush!" You're not a comic book reader if you don't buy the "Hush!" Twelve parts, people. A ready made trade paperback and probably padded that way too.

So what do Batman fans have to look forward to in December? Same-old. Same old. Thank, Rao. Batman Gotham Adventures, Gotham Girls, Justice League Adventures and Catwoman: books that have nothing to do with what passes as DC continuity.

Moving to the other parts of what's left of the DC Universe, Flash goes up against Grodd…again. Does Geoff Johns know that Grodd doesn't behave like a gorilla? The other two Geoff Johns books--Hawkman and JSA--look more promising. Elsewhere in the DC section we have Power Company and Young Justice still, thank goodness.

Will Ray be buying Wonder Woman again? Perhaps, but not in December which hosts Phil Jiminez's last issue. As tradition goes, when goeth the writer, so goeth his black bearded stereotype lesbian partner for Diana. "Wonder Woman" is a title I have stuck with for the longest time. I've missed it. Let's hope Walt Simonson and Jerry Ordway do something memorable or at least tolerable with character.

Scooby-Doo, check. No Midnight Mass? Damn!

Image offers...nothing special.

Moving on to Marvel. Hey, nothing there either!

The independent section has....Alias: Sydney Bristow! Damn. Andy Park is okay, but a back up story by Rob Liefeld? Well, it's unlikely never to come out any way. I mean where is that Bionic Man, Bionic Woman series that Rob and company were trying to sell in the nineties? What else? Hmmn....Nothing...Nothing...Jungle Fantasy? But I can legally buy porn. So I don't need that. Weapon Brown looks quite disgusting but still has better moral value than a crippled Babs Gordon doll. Bongo and CrossGen feature wonderful comic books, and Harris only prints Vampirella--an underhyped classic character--yet still somehow stays afloat.

Moonstone is a great little company I first encountered when I bought Mr. Nightmare's Wonderful World. They've put out two Phantom books that were fantastic, and this month they offer Kolchak the Nightstalker's original new graphic novel and the Hat Squad.

If I had the money, I'd buy Sterenko: Arte Noir. It's fifty bucks though and not even a hardback. The other item that caught my eye was the pre-Crisis Justice League of America tee-shirt. Somebody explain to me why Graffiti chose out of all the colors of the spectrum to make it ugly and inappropriately gray? A nice dark red or a fine sky-blue would have been so much better.

So in summary, DC has sunk to a new low. Image and Marvel haven't any new ideas, and the best books are coming from Moonstone, Bongo, Harris, CrossGen and the Cartoon Network. That's lunch.

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