Sunday, December 1, 2013

Every comic book documentary you must watch


Well, not all of them, but at least I have your attention now.

After watching PBS's wonderful "Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle" I was left with an itch for more documentaries like that. However, there were much fewer than I would have imagined. So, here are some of the best.

Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle   

Produced by PBS, this is basically a three-hours intensive "History of Superheroes 101".  It is split into three episodes.
The first part, "Truth Justice and the American Way", deals with the origins of the superhero genre, how they represent the American dream, and their ties to the World War II era.


"Great Power, Great Responsibility" is about the silver age resurrection of the genre after Frederick Wertham crippled the comic book industry. This part explains the influence of the atomic age and the cold war on superheroes, as well as their new troubled lives and the transition into the bronze age.


Finally, "A Hero Can Be Anyone" covers the modern era, showing their more mature tone and how popular culture has embraced superheroes in recent years.



If you want to see a better description of the special, here are their creators in their Comic-Con 2013 panel:

Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked

This is History Channel's take on the superhero tradition. Everything you need to know in an hour and a half.



Tales from the Crypt - From Comic Books to Television

After watching all those documentaries, we get the big picture of American comic book superheroes, but our understanding of American comics is still quite incomplete. A big missing piece would be the history of EC Comics and how its explicit content lead to the creation of the Comics Code Authority that censored content during the silver age. This 2004, CS Films documentary covers all the basics. 


Overstreet's World of Comic Books

This one is pretty funny. It was done in 1994 and apparently, back in those times the comic book industry was booming like it was during the golden age. I can't help but think about what was about to happen back then.
I think it's worth seeing not only because we get the perspective of a slightly different era, but also because it features a lot of guys we wouldn't be able to see in more recent documentaries.


Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Here we have some focus on the history of superheroines and their influence on feminist movements. Before watching this I had no idea women actually cared that much about Wonder Woman. Good for them.


Super Heroes United - The Complete History Of The Justice League

Among various extras in the Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) DVD, Super Heroes United presents the history of DC's premier team. As a Justice League documentary it rushes through all the eras, leaving out important stuff, like the roster of the satellite era, for instance. However, it does a good job presenting the DC transition from golden age to silver age, something that was missing in documentaries like Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle.


I'll continue adding videos to this post as they become available.

If you have any recommendations for this list, please make a comment about them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Elongated Articles

Hi, everyone,

I've been really busy with work and life in general, and it seems that the situation is going to stay like that for a long while. Luckily, other bloggers have not forgotten about Ralph and Sue.

WTF, DC? Elongated Man/Digital Comics


Whoever writes WTF, DC?  decided to do a nice recap of the Dibny tragedies and their current status. A pretty neat job; the auhor nailed all the highlights and reminded us that DC still owes us an explanation: Why?

Why indeed.
Perhaps that was intended as a saga that never materialized. Perhaps TPTW were not Dibny fans. We're unlikely to get to know now.

I agree that Identity Crisis put the Dibnys on the map. And that was front and center in a way that I don't think they have ever been. Barry went with a bang on Crisis on Infinite Earths, Hal did the same on Zero Hour and somehow, the JLI's comic relief got his moment as well. After that, Blue Beetle II, and Booster Gold followed. However, despite the peak moments of fame that those stories provided for their protagonists, they normally don't sit well with their fans, which is why Barry and Hal eventually returned and why people like the author of WTF, DC? still expect the return of Ralph, Sue and Ted in the New 52.

If I had to do some constructive criticism on the article, I'd say it needs to go back a bit more, before JLI, when Ralph became mostly comic relief. His past as supporting cast of Flash, mystery solver and the idea guy of the JLA (mostly after Batman left) could have been mentioned.

DC Couples

Here's an interesting pick of four of the most iconic and solid DC couples.

As far as I can track it's origin, the original poster of this image seems to be Mecha Rebekah, from Tumblr. Maybe she drew it too.

A bio thingy

Frank Diabolu just sent me this. He received it from Shag. Further than that, which is not much, I have no idea of its origins. Enjoy it, anyway.


25  characters still missing from the New 52

And finally, here's a list of characters that still need to return in the new DC continuity. After even Year One has gone out the window, the common opinion seems to be that the new Ralph and Sue should just pop up with a somewhat clean story. I insist, detective fiction sells greatly on TV and books, so, it should do fine in comics (more so now that DC has no couples).

Friday, April 5, 2013

Carmine Infantino dies.

To the world of comics it can be said that a legend passed; to the world of the Elongated Man and Flash it must be said that the legend, Carmine Infantino, passed away at age 87.

He created the Elongated Man, Sue Dibny, Flash, the Rogues, Grodd, Batgirl, Animal Man, King Faraday, Pow Wow Smith, Detective Chimp, Black Canary and Captain Comet, and contribute to Adam Strange and the first Flash, and revamped Batman during the 60s. As you can appreciate, one can't possibly think of silver age without getting mental images of his art. Not only he was prolific, but his style truly capture the style of his era. As an architect, seeing his interpretations of modern an googie architecture is quite an experience. And the same goes for fashion enthusiasts. I didn't live through the 60s, but no artist gets the vibe of the shows and movies of era like Carmine.

R.I.P.

Since the experts teach best, here's some Infantino 101 from the master Ty Templeton: http://tytempletonart.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/carmine-infantino-and-roger-ebert/

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

RALPH DIBNY: THE WORLD-FAMOUS ELONGATED MAN #1 & 2

So, this are the first two installments of my fake Elongated Man solicitations. 

The details of the series' setting are in the previous post. All you need to know is that it's 1962, the Dibnys are done with their nomad days and they have decided to settle in NYC, right at the building from the pic. 

The plots are not detailed, but there are enough elements there to guess who did it. The culprit and his fate will be explained in future fake solicitations. Enjoy.


RALPH DIBNY: THE WORLD-FAMOUS ELONGATED MAN #1


The Dibnys in front of their new home (no, not the Guggenheim, the other).
Art by yours truly.

Issue #1 on sale MAY 12 • Issue #2 on sale MAY 26 • 40 pg (#1), 32 pg (#2), FC, $2.99 US
Written by KEITH GIFFEN and J. M. DEMATTEIS art by JOSE LUIS GARCIA LOPEZ. 
"The World Famous Elongated man Vs. the NYC garbage collection system"

Cold open: Ralph has solved a mystery in Paris involving L'Escargot, his old enemy from the "Europe '92" mini. When he finishes explaining how he cracked the case, the villain retaliates by pushing his car down a cliff, destroying all of Sue's clothes and their stuff. So, Ralph is like: "That's it, the Dibnys are getting a home!". (If it was a show, this is where the opening theme would start).

The Dibnys are back in Manhattan, and this time is for good. As they settle in a luxurious apartment at Manhattan's Upper East Side, Sue goes on a crusade against Professor Head** , a. k. a. Egghead, the former supervillain who terrorized Gotham with a doomsday machine, and their obnoxious neighbor from across the hall, who plays loud music and seems to be stealing her newspaper. Meanwhile, Ralph starts investigating with The Super-Heroes League of New York* ways to reduce the general crime of the metropolitan area, which quickly leads him to deduce that there's a single person controls it. However, his research is interrupted when the League is asked to work on a series of high-tech robberies. It looks like somebody is making an improved version of Egghead's Doomsday Machine...  

This issue features 2 Garfield-like comic strips of Frazier, Central Park's Own Terrier, by FRANK CHO.

RALPH DIBNY: THE WORLD-FAMOUS ELONGATED MAN #2

Frazier, Central Park's own terrier. Click to enlarge. 
Art by yours truly, Rafa Rivas.
(And yeah, I totally stole the plot from a Jim Davis).
On sale MAY 26, 32 pg (#2), FC, $2.99 US
Written by KEITH GIFFEN and J. M. DEMATTEIS art by JOSE LUIS GARCIA LOPEZ. 

This issue opens with 2 Garfield-like comic strips of Frazier, Central Park's Own Terrier, by FRANK CHO. That dog's pranks on hobos have no shame, ha, ha.

"The World Famous Elongated man Vs. the NYC garbage collection system, Part II"

Professor Head is quickly clears himself from the high tech thefts, and provides technical information. So the questions are still who, how and why. Ralph suspect's the Central Park hobos did the high tech robberies, so he spies on them, which leaves him to the shocking discovery of the real culprit. 

Meanwhile, Professor Head might not be a super-criminal anymore, but he's still a lousy neighbor from across the hall, and Sue's war with him escalates when she finds out that he's also their nightly loud upstairs neighbor.

NOTES:
*The Super-Heroes League of New York: Also known as the Super Buddies, an association of New York-based superheroes who offer free services to the community. The list is really long, but the common suspects include Power Girl, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red (exchange member) and Guy Gardner. It is managed by the sleazy Maxwell Lord, along with L-Ron and Oberon

**Professor Edgar Head: Their obnoxious neighbor from across the hall, who plays loud music and seems to be stealing Sue's newspaper. (It's right there in the plot, didn't you see it?).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Superheroes and their mythos

I have often wondered what makes a new comic book character (or a returning one that had faded) stick around. So far, my conclusion is that a breakthrough run will make him relevant; however, a rich mythos is key to make him stay past the first writer. Think about it, what do Batman, Superman, Spider-man, the X-men, have in common that characters like Aquaman and specially the Martian Manhunter lack? They all have a great rogues gallery, well known supporting cast, popular technology and locations.

Ok, it's fan-made, but you get the idea. (Art by Jeff Pina).

The problem with B-listers is that writers always try to create new elements for their mythos without embracing and revamping classic ones. They often move forward those characters, which is correct, without taking a look to the basics. When somebody mentions Batman, concepts like the Joker, Robin, Alfred, The Bat-cave, the Penguin, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, the Bat-signal and Gotham City come up immediately; when somebody mentions the Martian Manhunter... Exactly. This is why it would be good to revisit Professor Hugo, Mr. V or the Idol-Head of Diabolu in addition to creating new guys like Ma'alefa'ak. Aquaman would be an example of somebody in the middle, he has a fairly developed supporting cast and setting, but when it comes to his rogues gallery, most people draw a blank after two of them.

Now, Ralph is an animal of another species. Like Sherlock, all he needs is a sidekick (Watson, Sue) and interesting mysteries to solve. Most detectives share a similar formula. This is why writers were always able to recreate the vibe of his original series way after it ended. However, given that Ralph is a superhero, and I have nothing better to do I decided to merge the case-driven detective formula with the mythos-driven superhero formula to produce a series of fake solicitations. Here is the mythos I conceived for him:

SETTING
The Dibnys hard traveling years are over, so, they decided to settle in New York City, at the Dearbon Building, property of Sue's parents and located on 5th Ave. in front of Cantral Park and the Guggenheim. However, old habits die had, so half their adventures will take place all over the world. Frequent destinies include Waymore, NE birthplace of Ralph, and Yucatan, birthplace of the Elongated Man.

In this case, the fake stories are set in the fake Earth-J, named after Julie Schwartz, where its still the 60s and most of the DC heroes are just debuting.

SUPPORTING CAST
Ralph and Sue basically know everybody who is anybody in the DC Universe on a secret identity basis. Ralph is very specially tight with the Flash and Batman; however, only a handful of characters get to appear in almost every adventure of his fake series.

Sue Dearbon - Ralph's wife and sidekick. She's very plucky and talented. She is an authority on fashion, mystery writing and computer hacking.

Frazier - See the villains section.

J. J. Dearbon - Sue's dad and landlord. He came from Ireland with nothing on his pockets and now he's one of the richest men in the world. He has a loud, big bear type of jolly personality. However, he can be quite greedy ans is always exploring new ways to make money all around the world.

Caroline Dearbon (neé Astor) - Sue's clueless mother. Despite being very perceptive, she's quite clueless and she's normally sitting around in a perpetually good mood making unintentionally hurtful but honest comments.

Chief Clancy O'Hara - Cousin of Gotham City's Miles O'Hara, the clueless, stubborn and short tempered police chief of NYC, he calls the Elongated Man when crimes become unsolvable.


THE COMMON SUSPECTS
I figured common suspects would ruin the mystery, but even Sherlock has a Moriarty, right? Ralph has stated that he avoids supervillains on purpose for his own safety reasons, but how about a crowd of lovable thugs like Batman used to have in the 60s?

There's just one true villain here, and that's the big mystery of the first season, the rest are just con men and petty people.

???? - The "Moriarty" I was talking about. Just like Ralph solves mysteries for the thrill of the challenge, his enemy should manipulate all crime in the Eastern Seaboard just for fun. In the first big arc a number of villains will be introduced and Ralph will have to find out his identity.

Frazier - Ralph and Sue's old pet dog comes back with a twist. He's the Thin Man's Asta gone narcissistically wrong. In this fake continuity he's a Westie, since I don't think a Jack Russell can pull evil or has the required personality. If he was a regular villain, he would be too much for any superhero, but being just a dog, his silly instincts hold him back.

Egghead - Think of characters like Frasier Crane, Hackman's Luthor, Megamind, the Brain (from Pinky and the Brain) and, of course, the real deal, as portrayed by the great Vincent Price. He used to be a supervillain in Gotham, but now he's reformed and lives at the Dearbon Building along with the Dibnys, so his role is mostly that of an obnoxious neighbor and radio talk-show personality.

Miss Bacon - Egghead's infatuated secretary. She types for the posterity almost anything his eggocentric boss says. Their relationship is quite unprofessional, if you know what I mean, and she enjoys hinting people about that.

Mistress Sinestra - A local TV personality with secret witch powers. Basically a cross between Magica De Spell, Elvira and Fran Fine. She's obsessed with fortunes, spells and curses, so she's a constant pain for the Dearbons.

The Elongated Evildoer - Martin Beene. One of the few notable original enemies of Ralph. Obsessed with the Elongated Man for no good reason, he discovered a way to elongate things that he has touched. However, since that's a silly power, this time he comes back with regular stretching superpowers. He knows more than Ralph about stretching, but he's quite incompetent as a criminal, which frustrated him even more.

The Clinton Boys - 3 of them used to be "the Untouchables", who battled Ralph, Superman, Robin and Hawk and Dove, but they reintegrated with their family in Hell's Kitchen to become the largest gang of thieves / carpet cleaners (don't ask) in the NY metropolitan area.

M. M. Pennypacker - More of a frienemy of J. J. Dearbon, Sue's dad. He's his evil counterpart from Australia; the Flintheart Glomgold to his Scrooge McDuck. The main source of his wealth is news media, which is how he manages to stay clean depite being a crook.

Average Joe - Joseph Jones, and average looking man. He commits clean, practical crimes leaving no traces,   the perfect challenge for Ralph.

Rajah - A magician / hypnotist from the old Elongated Man stories. Magicians make great challenges for detectives, so this one is a natural.

L'Escargot - France loves the Elongated Man, and believe it or not, this guy is one of Frances biggest super criminals (true story, look it up).

Kukulk'caan - An ancient alien who once enslaved the Mayans. He created the gingo fruit that gave Ralph his super powers and his ship keeps attracting aliens to Yucatan.

Maximo Molina - Yet another megalomaniac trying to conquer the world, this one acts like an eccentric hacendado from Yucatan. Basically the local Prince John.

Edgar Moriarty - This creepy guy is the head of Scotland Yard. However, his family name makes him an obvious prime suspect.

The Grünewappen family - They are secretly the wealthiest family on Earth, but their status is threatened by the rise of a new criminal mastermind of Europe.



RECURRING CHARACTERS

The Super-Hero League of New York - Also known as the Super Buddies, an association of New York-based superheroes who offer free services to the community. Ralph and Sue work here in order to use its resources. The list of members is really long, but the common suspects include Power Girl, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice, Rocket Red (exchange member) and Guy Gardner. It is managed by the sleazy Maxwell Lord, along with L-Ron and Oberon.


Billy Warner - Ralph's #1 fan from the old stories. He lives in Astoria, Queens and wants to become a master detective like his idol. His body also reacts to gingo extract with elasticity, only he promised Ralph not to use his powers until he becomes a pro.

The Flash - Ralph's bro. He often calls when a mystery gets too complicated at Central City or visits just to hang around.

Batman - The other Worlds greatest detective. They often have to team-up when mysteries get too complicated.


The Croatoan Society - A league of Detectives who gather annually to solve paranormal mysteries. The original members were Ralph, Detective Chimp, Edogawa Sangaku, Dr. 13 and Tim Tranch. Sherlock Holmes, the Question, Filo Molina and the Dog joined eventually.

P. I. Butch "Dog" Douglas - NYC's former top detective. He's not that talented as a detective, but he makes up for it with dog-based super powers.

Speedy Gonzalez - Yucatan's champion, and the first speedster and superhero Ralph met. His powers also comes from a fruit, in this case Yucatecan chilli pepper.

Don Eduardo - Ralph's host in Yucatan. He's old and very knowledgeable on everything about Yucatan, so he serves as the resident guide. He's a great host, but is set in his conventional ways, so he finds Ralph's shenanigans obnoxious.

Filo Molina - A friend of don Eduardo and Yucatan's top detective. He's a retired trauma doctor who solves crimes on his free time.

Amos Hurd, the Millionaire Cowboy - A friend of Ralph from his old adventures. Pretty much the J. J. Dearbon of Texas.

The Justice League of America - The elite super-hero team of America, so, obviously, Ralph belongs to it. Its roster includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Robin, Green Lantern, Flash, the Martian, the Green Arrow, Atom, Hawkman and Black Canary. Zatanna joins along with Ralph, and eventually it will also include Hawkwoman, John Stewart, Firestrorm, Cyborg, Samurai, Apache Chief, Black Lightning, Supergirl, Enchantress and Platinum.



Thursday, January 31, 2013

More Elongated art!



This image by Mark Stutzman deserves its own post I have to know the history behind it. I guess the trinity had to go for the Best next thing after Batman in whatever that adventure was (apparently a commission for a Fusion Toys puzzle series). Oddly enough, Ralph was a lot closer with Batman and only teamed-up once with Wonder Woman.


Blackest Night - the Atom & Hawkman #46


Hawkman and the Atom #46, art by Ryan Sook.

I believe this one was done by Willis Bulliner. And I guess that's Ralph saluting TPTB for his fabulous role in the New 52.

WHO’S WHO: The Definitive Podcast of the DC Universe, Volume VII

In the land of the E, the Elongated Man is king.
Firestorm Fan's  Shag just wrote a review of the VII volume of Who's Who. This is relevant, well, firstly because Shag is a friend of this blog, and secondly, because that issue covers D to E of the DCU phone book, which means the Elongated Man gets his bio there.

The fun thing is that the rest of the D-E characters are not famous enough to top Ralph on the cover, but still make a very nice crowd. I'm particularly fond of the Enchantress and Dolphin (talk about fan service, the water must be really cold!). I tend to prefer silver age independent heroes over the rest.

Ralph's entry is okay. It's always nice to see Carmine's art, and his characterization is spot on; however, he could have put a little more thought into it. It feels like "I'm old, life is short, waving with a weird spaghetti arm. Whatever. What's next?".

There might not be big shots like B Batman, S Superman or L Lex Luthor (I guess D Darkseid appeared in the previous issue) but the chat in the comment section of the post is very animated anyway.


The Enigma of the Elongated Man and the rest of the missing characters!

#1 & #21 of Buxton's list. Chunk, btw, is yeat another missing Flash character.

Den of Geek's Marc Buxton has written a fine list of the missing characters in the new DCU, which puts the Elongated Man's situation in perspective. Check it out at http://www.denofgeek.us/books-comics/45461/25-characters-still-missing-from-the-dc-new-52

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Curious Case of the Nate Bellegarde Challenge!


Nate Bellegarde is -- well, I have to confess, I didn't know who Nate Bellegarde is up until yesterday, when I ran into his Elongated Man request. A little googling showed me that he's a really talented artist with a mix of superhero style with and indie vibe (or at least that's my take). He's a pro since he was 16, which means he is also a natural with uncanny talent.

The best thing about him is that for $5.00 USD, he'll take requests at his... "Sketchblog". No. Wait... That's "Bletchskog" (nice trick!). I'm already negotiating a challenge for him (and so should you).

His Ralph is one of the best I've ever seen, he really looks like a rubber man and his insightful expression is spot-on.