Monday, October 31, 2011

Elongated Art: The Elongated Man Vs. Darkseid!

Missed him, Fartseid!

Believe it or not, somebody thought it would be a good idea to portray the Elongated Man fighting Darkseid (the ultimate and most powerful villain of the DC Universe) for the Justice League Unlimited promotional art. If that wasn't odd enough, Ralph seems to have the upper hand, and we could only assume that if he decided to attack the most powerful being is because he his brilliant detective mind determined that he has the advantage.

This odd match never actually happened in the comics. There are few degrees between them: The Elongated Man inspired Mr. Fastastic, who was created by Jack Kirby, who also created Darkseid. Even shorter, Darkseid is enemy of the Justice League, of which the Elongated Man is a member. However, they never met and Kirby never even drew the Elongated Man.

I might be wrong, but I don't believe that kind of promotional art comes from Bruce Timm (creator of Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League Unlimited , and the rest of the series in that continuity), the quality does not match his pin ups. At least I don't think he does more than rough sketches, completed by other people. However, this is still a pretty good pic. Darkseid's body looks odd, but Ralph looks awesome. It's rare to find great poses for him, but they just hit the right spot with this one.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Elongated Man and Wife: Embargoed?!

As I mentioned before, the Dibnys had a brief period of hype from 2003 to 2004; however, since 2007 they have been making less and less appearances. I'm talking comics, animation and action figures. For a while, I have been suspecting that the respectable DC powers that be were avoiding him, and now I just learned something that seems to back that. Brian "Pendragon" Isaacs posted this at his blog:
"I got a chance to talk to Scott [Neitlich, AKA Toy Guru, from Mattel] at New York Comic Con about when, we the fans will be seeing Ralph in action figure form. If DC Comics has anything to say about it, it’ll be never.
"For those who don’t know, or can’t tell, Scott himself is a comic fan, and a big fan of the JLA Satellite Era. He went to bat for us collectors and got shot down. Mattel’s hands are tied, as this is a license they have to pay for.
"DC Comic’s reasoning…They don’t feel Ralph is a significant character, not deserving of an action figure, and don’t want to invest any more money into him."
(Read the full article at his blog).

Why indeed. Their importance is being recognized both by Flash and Geoff Johns, but what's the point to this scene? Why leaving the Dibnys out of this scene if there were not going to be part of another story? 
I once managed to get a direct confirmation from Dan DiDio that there are no plans for the Dibnys; however, according to Brian, this has nothing to do with him or Jim Lee, this one comes from upstairs.

Brian's proposal is to have a respectful letter writing campaign, asking to make the Dibnys part of the DCnU and Mattel's DC Universe Classics collection (I'll add DC Universe Online and Young Justice). So please spend $.44 on a stamp and send your letters to:

Diane Nelson
DC Comics
1700 Broadway # 7
New York, NY 10019-5905

It's also important to spread the word and figure out other strategies to get Ralph back. Remember that we should avoid pointing fingers; disrespect won't get us anywhere.

Here are some reasons to restore Ralph and Sue:
  • He was a member of the 3 first incarnations of the Justice League and was one of the longest staying member (about 20 years). At one point around the mid 90s, he was the member with the longest mileage. Not even Lois belongs to the JL, Sue became bureau chief (this means control outside the field, like Max).
  • They are a silver age legacy. Their most important stories were handled directly by Julius Schwartz, John Broome, Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Len Wein put Ralph in the League, Keith Giffen in JLI, Mike W. Barr created the modern version and Mark Waid and Grant Morrison gave him his ultimate mystery.  
  • They are both basic to the Flash (Barry) mythos, which is not that rich without the Gallery. During the first decade of Barry, only Iris and Wally were more recurring than Ralph (Mirror Master matched him when he got his 'tec feature). Barry's supporting cast are basically Iris, Wally, the Allens, Dexter Myles, Hal, Fiona and the Dibnys. They were on his last thoughts before he "died" and on his first thoughts after Brightest Day. 
  • The Elongated Man is a Detective Comics classic. He had the most recurring feature after Slam and the Martian Manhunter. 
  • The Dibnys belong to DC's top social circle. They knew the secret identity of anybody who's somebody (Bruce, Clark, Diana) and double dated with the Allens, the Halls, the Palmers, the Stranges, Ollie and Dinah.
  • Ralph offers diversity to the DC pantheon. He's the only hero that truly represents the classic detective genre (which TV still capitalizes in series like House, Monk, the Mentalist, the Murdock Mysteries, etc.). He's one o the few heroes that never lost the lighthearted spirit of the Silver Age. Just read the first 5 issues of his 'tec run, no DC couple has ever been as charming as the Dibnys. They are like Mad About You, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Columbo rolled into one.
  • They are not obscure yet, much less with their notoriety from Identity Crisis, Formerly Known as the Justice League and 52
  •  If Morrison pulled a series lead by Animal Man, a detective superhero modeled after Nick Charles and Sherlock Holmes writes itself. Just get DeMatteis, Barr, Dixon, Giffen, Morrison or Waid on it, I know as a fact that all of them love those characters.
  • If the Japanese managed to make a franchise out of a stretchable pirate who gets his powers from a fruit (Luffy D. Monkey from One Piece), I think a ductile detective superhero set in the DC Universe has great chances.
  • Ralph makes crowd scenes look pretty cool.
And that's right, Timm and McDuffie thought he's awesome enough to go against DC's toughest villain! 

Update - 10 / 24 / 11

Scott Neitlich released the following statement on his Facebook page:
"Okay. 100% not true. I must have made a statement (as has always been the case) reconfirming that, yes, it is still true that DC and Warner Bros has final say on our character selection, but in no way have they ever bared us from doing a character like Elongated Man! "In fact just the opposite; DC and Warner Bros. have been amazing partners, always helping us to push the limit on character selection like Lobo in JLU and Swamp Thing in DCUC!
"Ralph is in no way off limits. In fact we have already done him several times. We even did an Elongated Man figure in JLU in an outfit he didn’t even wear on the show. That is how cool he is. There always seems to be one figure “we haven’t gotten to yet” that fans have thoughts was off limits or wasn’t going to happen. Be it Martian Manhunter, Flash 1 or now Elongated Man. The answer is always; just because your favorite figure is not out yet does not mean he or she won’t be in the line one day, keep your suggestions coming!
If any websites reported a quote from me stating the opposite, I did not give any sit down interviews at NYCC, so this “quote” may have been strung together from different things orally overheard in the booth to different people. No statement of this type was officially announced or provided by Mattel or given to any site as a quote or interview. It sounds like it is a misinterpretation of a few things overheard in passing and then attributed (falsely) to me as a direct quote.
"Hope this clears this one up! Ralph is not banned in the least and we are really excited to get to him one day!"
The whole thing was the top trending topic on Sunday at Bleeding Cool, its own Mark Seifert said:
"The Elongated Man too obscure to have a new action figure? I don’t think so.  First, there’s an excellent case to be made that there are no insignificant characters in post-internet comic book fandom — I mean, Geoff Johns could turn him into one of the stars of the New 52 by ground hog day, if he wanted to.  And second, he’s not an obscure character at all.  A classic of the Silver Age and beyond.

I hope that's true. Ralph and Sue's absence in the DCnU, DC Universe Online, Young Justice's Justice League and even in the DC Universe Classics still makes me glad I wrote that letter and I hope other Elogated Man fans do the same. Ralph is still absent without a reason.

For more information, go read the  "The Mattel - DCUC - Elongated Man quagmire" at Comics-X-aminer, or read the Toy Guru's original facebook note.

Update - 10 / 26 / 11
Friend of this blog, Frank Diabolu, from the Justice League Detroit blog (among other awesome blogs, like The Idol-Head of Diabolu) noticed that the Elongated Man pic from the Bleeding Cool post about the embargo is the same that he modified from a Kevin Nowan image from 52, week 13 for his blog and that I kind of stole for this blog:
Which makes it very possible that Rich Johnston, author of that post, was tipped by this very blog before reading the original and now deleted post from Pendragon. So, if I'm right, Rich, you're welcomed, ha, ha.

Update - 10 / 26 / 11

It turns out that the outcries for Ralph and Sue's return started a bit earlier, and that the clamor is not only for action figures. Roughly at the same time, while Brian "Pendragon" Isaacs was encouraging people to demand the Elongated Man action figure, Robert Eddleman, from Panels on Pages, wrote a column asking DC to use the Reboot possibilities in favor or the Dibnys, restoring them among the living. In his words Retcon This! The Deaths of Ralph & Sue Dibny, a thought that I couldn't support more.  

Update - Nov 21, 2011

According to John Babos, DC Comics Co-Publisher, Dan DiDio conirmed on Facebook that there are no plans for Ralph Dibny, Ted Kord and Garth (Aqualad). 
A while ago I managed to get the same confirmation from him.
This is doesn't mean that they are gone forever, but at leat that, for the time being, DC's Co-Publisher claims (he could be misleading people) that there are no plans for them. He didn't say that they are gone forever.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An ear -- In the Fireplace!: Reviewing "Ten Miles to Nowhere!"

Title: "Ten Miles To Nowhere"
Issue: Detective Comics No. 327
Date: May 1964
Format: 10-page backup feature.
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciller and inker: Carmine Infantino
Main character: Elongated Man (8th appearance, last seen in The Flash #138)
Supporting Characters: Sue Dibny (4th appearance, last seen in The Flash #138)
Cameos: The Flash, Kid Flash, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Boomerang
Villains: Al and other thieves (first and only appearance for all).

Setting: Lake Champlain, Montreal (flashback), Central City (flashback).
Stolen item: 2 million dollars (60s dollars) in diamonds.
Mystery: Who drove the Dibny's car for 10 miles while they were sleeping and why?
Method: Tracking and spying. 
This is the first:
  • Elongated Man solo story (before this, he only appeared as a guest star in The Flash).
  • Elongated Man appearance in Detective Comics.
  • Elongated Man backup feature, which starts a series in Detective Comics.
  • Time Ralph is called "the Ductile Detective".
  • Time Ralph doesn't wear a mask as the Elongated Man.
  • Time Ralph gets obsessive about his fame.
Before this issue we say Ralph's interest in mysteries in Space Boomerang-Trap! (Flash #124) and Kid Flash Meets the Elongated Man! (Flash #130) and do some clever detecting in The Pied Piper's Double Doom! (Flash #138). This story has a stronger focus on him as a detective.

The feature starts with a recap of the Elongated Man. The teaser indicates that he used to be a Flash character, then, we have a cool indication of how his powers work.
The Dr. Jekyll comparison is a bit too much (Ralph changes his physiology with Gingold extract, but he's mind is pretty much the same), however, it is pretty cool and a great pretext for Infantino to go wild. It's also great to know that Jekyll exists in the DC Universe.  
Then the story starts. The Dibnys are returning from eastern Canada and they are stopped at customs in the frontier. The officer explains that there was a robbery of two million dollars in diamonds in Montreal. Gardner goes almost straight to the comic relief aspects of the story:
This sets the tone of the rest of the story and the rest of the series. There is mystery, but there's also humor and the tone is very lighthearted (even more than The Thin Man). 
Right after that, Ralph gets involved in a mystery:
It is important to notice that the third page, which features the last 6 panel that I have shown, define a lot about Ralph; he's a bit of a goof and a very methodical man. He's constantly watching for things out of place, which makes him notice that somebody has been using his car. This, of course, gets him obsessed.
This is the pattern that will be followed by 99% of the rest of the series, just as sending Sue to do some shopping while he investigates. By now, we also got a sense of the kind of woman that Sue is: easy going, witty, and a bit hedonistic and frivolous.
In this story we see one of the most commons methods that Ralph uses to find the culprit, tracking and spying, which is only logic, given the nature of his super powers.

Oddly enough, he arrives just in time to hear the villains recap their crime (this happens a lot in his stories). Which results in one of the most memorable lines of the silver age.

That has to be one of the most surreal panels of the 60s, and it lead to the first of many weird fights that the Elongated Man had with lots of nameless thugs. "An ear -- In the fireplace!" Ha, ha, ha. The first time I read it, it flew under my radar, but I instantly recognized it when I read it as the title of the blogs of a couple of other Elongated Man fans. Great superhero movies tend to make a big deal out of the simplest uses of superpowers. They don't take them for granted. Think of Superbaby lifting Pa Kent's vehicle. Even dodging a punch from local high school bully, Flash Thomson, can be awesome if properly told. I think that, before any of those flicks, this is what Fox and Infantino captured in this panel. We have those thieves, talking about the secret details of their last hit, and they see a freaking ear hanging from the fireplace! Next thing they know, something that seems like a person comes out of it and start throwing punches from everywhere, like some sort of super fast rubber octopus.
With the case solved and the villains out of the picture, the story goes back to Ralph's silly obsession.

This first issue is great for Ralph in that Schwartz finally let him shine. There is a lot of focus on his abilities, the kind that was never seen while he was second fiddle to the Flash.
I also feel that Carmine Infantino was also let shine with this story. He didn't pull that kind of dynamism with Flash. I think it also features the prettiest pics of Sue.

To me, this is one of the greatest Elongated Man stories. Yes, it has some silly, far too coincidental aspects, but there's a lot of great characterization. I believe that Ralph was one of the earliest heroes to develop a personality (back then, heroes used to be distinguished just by uniform, hair color and powers).

It's a shame that current comic writers think they need to open every mystery with a very graphic and grotesque murder scene. Being the greatest detective doesn't require to solve the darkest mysteries. Sherlock, himself, had some pretty silly cases (look it up). I have nothing against murder cases for detective superheroes, but there's a lot of potential in thefts too; The Pink Panther was all about them.
One of the highlights of the Elongated Man is how entertaining his fights were. Only stretchers can pull that kind of stuff, and it's not like there's many of them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The best of the new 52: October 2011

I have no idea about the number of issues that DC is going to release this month, and since I have no intention of finding out, I will still call them the "new 52". Anyway, here are my reviews:

Wonder Woman #2
My rating: 9.5 out of 10
I fell in love with this issue from page one. Azzarello clearly knows how to tell Greek mythology type of stories, and his gods are fascinating. Cliff Chiang art is just as cool. He makes those god physically intriguing, not to mention that the rest of the art consists of beautiful women, a sophisticated style and terrific compositions. Mathew Wilson also has to be mentioned. Colors are usually a given, but in this case, they really stand out and contribute to the mood.
So far, this series is a must. It's literally becoming legend--
--dary. Azzarello is making Wonder Woman's mythos bigger than life.

Action Comics #2
My rating: 9 out of 10.
I actually liked it better than the first one. In the previous issue, Lex helped the U.S. Army capture Superman, in this one, he is helping them "test" the resistance of Superman (ie, inhuman, anti-constitutional, torture). The characterization is great: Luthor's apathetic sadism steals the show; however, Superman, Lois and Sam are very interesting too. Rags Morales is doing the art (which is great as always), consequently they feel even more compelling and human. Morrison is pulling the same type of origin story Bruce Timm did in Superman: The Animated Series, in which a number of villains are tied to the first adventure of Superman. Incidentally, The Last Son of Krypton also ties Luthor, Metallo and Brainiac, only Grant is adding Sam Lane and John Henry Irons to the mix. Along with the previous issue, thi one forms a self contained story that serves as an introduction to a longer story arc; additionally, it leaves enough loose ends to leave us totally hooked.

My rating: 9 out of 10.

For whatever that's worth, it's not that hard to rank hi in this list; writers that actually complete a story in their issues get a great head start. In this case, OMAC faces a new threat and defeats it without isolating the story from the overall story arc (which seems considered quintessential to DC suits these days). Additionally, both Giffen's art and his co-writing with Dan DiDio, feel refreshingly retro without making the dialog hard to follow for modern audiences. I love the caption boxes, specially the one with the editor's note (they should do that in all of the 52).
With the previous issue I said that it feels like a cross between the Hulk and Freakazoid! That doesn't change with #2; however, the creative team added a tone that makes it feel like the Bill Bixby Hulk TV series of the 70s.
The only bit that might cloud my judgement is turning Maxwell Lord into a villain. However, maybe he'll go from villain to hero this time around, which is something that I'd love.

Frankenstein, agent of SHADE #2
My rating: 9 out of 10.
Great action , intiguing backstories and we get to a point. This customer is satisfied.
Classic Universal monsters against creatures from another dimension, how B-list is that! Frankenstain feels like a cross of Hellboy with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and something with Vin Dissel on it. Lemire is the Tarantino of comics; he knows that he can take any genre and make it cool as hell! Go buy it... Now!!

Swamp Thing #2
My rating: 9 out of 10.
Ok, the plot thickens. Basically we learn the nature of the evil that appeared in the first issue. It is an entity known as the Sethe, responsible all plagues throughout history. It is the anti-thesis of "the green", a realm that connects the minds of all plants and that created the Swamp Things precisely to fight it. I get the impression that, like Morrison in Action Comics, writer Scott Snyder is pretty good at dosing us information so that there's plenty of mystery to keep us hooked. We get a clear picture on the status quo of Dr. Alec Holland and the threat that he's facing; however, there are a couple of surprise twists that complicate things and we are still clueless about the way Swamp Thing is going to save the day.
Yanick Paquette's clean yet grotesque art fits perfectly the mood of this book. Comics are not normally good at hiding the face of  the evil being like horror movies (artists seem desperate to draw ugly monsters), but Paquette's art is as good as it gets in that sense.
The pacing is good, but it is still one of those books in which you sense that nothing really happened. I'm sure I would rate this story better as a trade.

Animal Man #2
My rating: 9 out of 9.
We explore the weird blood stains that appeared on Animal Man's body as well as the odd powers that his daughter, Maxine, showed at the end of the last issue. They both seem related to a real called 'the red', which seems like the animal kingdom's equivalent of 'the green' (see the Swamp Thing #2 review). Maxine is somehow aware of it; she recognized her father's blood stains as a map of it and took him there. Additionally, something weird is happening with the animals of the San Diego zoo (which seems related to the threat that Swamp Thing is facing).
There's great characterization in this one. I love the family drama that Lemire created here; average writers should take notes: We don't need to have rape, infidelity, murder or psychopathic behavior as the source of drama among the supporting cast, the simple fact that they live with a guy that is risking his life on a daily basis is more than enough. The great thing about Travel Foreman's art is that it is very detailed but it feels like he is not trying to make things appealing at all, which gives it a lot of character. It's clinical style it also very effective when it comes to illustrating the eerie bits. I can tell that this is going t form part of a great story; however, it doesn't really stand alone as an issue.

Justice League Dark #2
My rating: 8.5 out of 10.
There's great art and the story is really interesting. How does a couple satisfy their needs when one of them is a ghost who can possess people? However, there's too little going on. Maybe this will read a lot better as a trade.

Batman #2
My rating: 8.5 out of 10.
This issue follow the patented Snyder formula: small talk about something that is familiar to the main character, a bizarre mystery, a bit of action, new faces, and the introduction of a very dark, mysterious and mean villain. In this case, gargoyles, a murder victim with tooth filling with the logo of some "court of owls" legend (that somehow the missed), Batman stopping some thieves or whatever in a train, a politician that is an orphan like Bruce, and some huge ninja with a costume that resembles a black owl and survives great damage.  It's well written, but I don't feel like I'm getting something new. When it comes to Batman, new weirdos rarely do the trick. Some of my favorite Batman: The Animated Series episodes had very new odd situations and, to everyone's surprise, the villain would end up being one of the old  guys: the Mad Hatter, the Scarecrow and Spellbinder were the kings of this (there was another planed with Hugo Strange), but it was also pulled with the Joker and Two-face a couple of times. Snyder is trying to hard to stuff the rogues gallery, why not taking the dust off of guys like the Tweedles or Sterling Silvermith?

The Penguin: Pain and Prejudice #1
My rating: 8 out of 10.
In this book, we learn about the story of the Penguin and the person he became because of that: hated by everybody but his mother he became a nasty, hateful crime boss. It feels like a decent introduction for a 5-part mini series.
Taking his cue from Joker's Asylum: The Penguin, Greg Hurwitz is doing at least part what I've always said that should be done with the Penguin: to portray him as a histrionic bastard raised by a spoiling mother. Histrionic people are self-obsessed, hyperactive, manipulative and neurotic brats, with no empathy or conscience. In other words, the Penguin is the Eric Cartman of Gotham, and, if portrayed properly, he has the same chances of protagonism. Burgess Meredith, proved that, if portrayed this way, the character can even steal the Joker's thunder.  
Where I feel this story is failing, is with the dark comedy; there are tons of darkness, but no comic tone. Why am I insisting with comedy? When one is not dealing directly with them, histrionic people can be quite funny, and charming (which is why the Penguin managed to run for mayor a couple of times in the past). That is how they become overachievers. As the art indicates, this version is just too tragic and dark. The bit with the vengeance from the guy that called him fat was a bit too much, considering how trivial the offence was. It doesn't work if we're supposed to believe that the Penguin is the top crime boss of Gotham. Turning the glasses into a monocle was a bit silly as well. 

Aquaman #2
My rating: 7.5 out of 10.
There we go. Cloying emotional scenes, nothing gets done... I had the gut feeling that this series was not going to be good enough. I don't understand how are we suposed to get impressed with Aquaman if his powers are finally portrayed right, but the dialog keeps making excuses for his lack of fame? The narrative and art is spectacular, it feels like a great blockbuster, but it also feels like we're getting a piece of that blockbuster every month, which is something I do not like. Nothing is achieved in this issue and I can't really tell if the story is going to be any good.
I don't get it, if DC wants slow and impressive pacing, they should publish more graphic novels not a bunch of issues with nothing on them!

Justice League #2
My rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Superman acts like an idiot, Green Lantern and Batman call the Flash to fight him. They come to their senses and start focusing on the mysterious boxes left by the parademons. The box they have, along with another one in Start Labs actvate and transport a buch of parademons. That's basically it. Uh, and Cyborg's origin story is shoved into that last scene. So far, we arely have a JLU teaser scene.
I don't undestand it; Lee is very slow to produce his impressive art... and Johns wastes it in a couple of issues with nothing happening?
Also, the story of Cyborg is cloying, corny and feels like a lame after school special. I'm betting that he's going to be some sort of canon Mary Sue. And let me get this, his father is a scientist at STAR labs, he has coworkers that are experts on health, and yet, he talks about fitness as obsolete? I can already imagine the Carebears ending next issue, with the JL, the Parademons and Vic's old man holding hands and chanting "We Care" to fix Cyborg.

Batgirl #2
My rating: OK.
Batgirl chases some villain who murders people who survived terrible accidents just because he did just that. He is a big and strong villain, like a bit of a lesser Batman, nothing noteworthy. I'm sure I'll forget all about him after the next adventure. However, this Barbara feels too clumsy and weak when she fights him; as if even the wheelchair-bound Babs from the previous continuity could take her. The supporting cast seems a bit cloying, the art is indifferently good. The good part is that we have the witty and practical Babs back. Now with a bit more of life experience after surviving the Joker.  

Huntress #1
My rating: Meh.
Forget about it. It's not a bad-bad story, but it's hard to care about it. Women traffic is an interesting real-life issue and yet, Paul Levitz presents it as if they were traffickin cows. How about a little back story sketch of one of those girls, like in that Liam Neeson movie? And the rest is the same Huntress is just some bimbo fighting crime (ugg, and not even a decent bimbo - they are covering all her sking again) and the "big bad" is just some Italian dude that kills any henchman that fails (great, another Black Mask wannabe). No backstory for any of them either, which means this story also fails as an introduction. Yes, it might get better the next issue, but that wouldn't make this one any less boring.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ranking the stuff that makes me love comics!

What gets a 30 years old dude obsessed about comic books? At least enough to make him to blog about his favorite character. Well, that's complicated. My bet is that nerd psychology is a very complex topic; one that I'm sure I'm not professionally qualified to discuss. I could research it and post some references and quotes -- but I don't wanna. Instead, I'm going to give you my top reasons for sticking with comics.

It is not really ranked according to a measurable rationale. A lot of simplistic reasons might be ahead of great art just because they came at the right time in my life. I hope you enjoy reading about them:

20. The Venture Bros.
Pure fun for nostalgic adults, showing sad versions of characters from DC, Marvel, Hanna-Barbera, VH1 Classic, pulp fiction and sci-fi films gone hilariously and pathetically wrong. The Venture Bros. made me realize that super beings are not black and white they are probably just losers trying to feel relevant. The characters, normally failures and shadows of what they used to be, go trough their existential crisis surrounded by a surreal remix of everything I watched on TV while growing up. They also save the day now and then, but that's mostly incidental.
Created by Jason Publick, a Tick alumnus, The Venture Bros. is like The Simpsons for geeks; every line is not only loaded with sarcasm and jokes but also a condensed of vintage pop cult references from the 70s and 80s (yes, even more than Famiy Guy).  With so many Venture cosplay already happening in comic conventions, I can't wait to see how are mainsteam comics going to react to to it.
19. Identity Crisis, Hush, Batman/Superman and 52
After Batman: No Man's Land I was bored with DC Comics for a while. Understanding Comics reinfused me with love for comics, but not for DC. Our Worlds at War was so cloying, I gave up. What was Batman going to do next, anyway? Gotham was running out of disasters. But then, out of nowhere, everybody started to talk about the murder of Sue Dibny, and how great the mystery was, so I had to see what the fuss was all about. So I read it, and I loved it. It was a pull back, making the satellite era cool and relevant again. The characters that were most commonly associated with DC were at the front center again. To me, it looked like the actual DC Comics Super Friends facing their own secrets, fears and flaws.
Identity Crisis lead me to follow up with what seemed like a great DC bonanza of awesome stories in the same spirit: Batman/Superman, Hush, For Tomorrow and Formerly Known as the Justice League from before, and then with I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League, Green Lantern: RebirthCountdown, The Dark Knight Strikes Back, All-Star Superman, All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, Infinite Crisis, 52, Dark Detective, Brad Meltzer and Dwayne McDuffie's Justuce League of America run, Paul Dini's 'tec run, Grant Morrison's Batman run and Final Crisis. (Note that at the same time they were airing Justice League Unlimited). DC was shuffling it's greatest properties with the greatest talent available: Meltzer, Lee, Morales, Miller, Morrison, Dini, McDuffie, Waid, Hughes, Giffen, DeMatteis, Cooke, Johns. Yes, a lot of bad things were happening to some of the best characters: Sue, the Elongated Man, Rocket Red, the Question, Blue Beetle II, Aquaman, the Martian Manhunter and the original Ventriloquist died; Wonder Woman and Batman did some questionable things and Captain Atom and Maxwell Lord became villains. However, at the time it seemed to me that they were just making things darker before dawn. The return of Supergirl and other silver age elements seemed to indicate that with Infinite Crisis or Final Crisis
they would reboot DC to make it a brighter place with a reset. That never happened (to his credit, VP Dan DiDio did try, but he was blocked by higher powers); it was done out of time, too little, too late, too half way with Flashpoint and "the new 52" and I ended angry and disappointed, but I had a nice run and that's hard to deny.

18. Supreme
I used to think that, unlike Batman, Superman never really got his quintessential story in comics (maybe they should just adapt the Mario Puzo script and be done with it); that he doesn't have a Year One or The Dark Knight Returns. However, in the mid 00s I had the pleasure of discovering that I was wrong. Well, kinda. We can always squint and pretend that the Supreme stories by Alan Moore are it.
It seems like, at least by the 90s, Moore was a bit sick of torturing heroes with realistic tragedies that challenge their vision of what's right and wrong, so instead of a grim Superman, he made a pastiche of all the previous portrayals of Superman there had been so far.
Supreme is basically like Byrne or Jurgens' Superman facing everything he did under the most notorious writers that came before, mainly Otto Binder. In the story, we get a new Supreme entering reality after a revision; he goes through all the aspects of his past as he fixes loose ends and fights returning villains (part of the fun is trying to identify the DC characters that the supporting characters are supposed to represent). This way, the entire run, along with Judgement Day and other isolated issues, are the ultimate tribute to the process of comic superhero revision. 
17. The Tick
I wish I could say that I know the character through its comics, but I was actually among the wave of fans that met the character through the animated series, which was part of a hype of superheroes in other media. After the success of Batman: The Animated Series, X-men and comics events like the The Death of Superman, Knightfall, Maximum Carnage, there was an era in which superheroes took over Saturday morning cartoons, now with a more serious tone than the series of the syndicated era (Thundercats, He-man, etc.). And The Tick did the exact opposite, showing a metropolis overcrowded with guys in tights so tight that their butt cracks were actually visible, only they were all neurotic, delusional and utterly incompetent and impractical nutjobs. And among them, generic within their own diversity, the Tick, whose name and costume didn't even make sense, was king. He was a nice, overwhelming, bigger than life, blue  block with a Quixote attitude and a really small brain concealed by a really small head.
This cartoon was the first to show me that even humor has a place within superhero comics. Ever since The Tick, I've always been a fan of comedy with superhumans, which is probably why I just fell in love with JLI.

16. Freakazoid!
I can't believe nobody turned this property into an actual comic book! What are you waiting, DC?!
I still remember watching that first episode in shock: It was half Batman: The Animated Series, half Animaniacs, a bit Spider-man, and all surreal. Three of my favorite FoxKids shows in one!
It was fairly obvious from day one, but, eventually, I learned that it was originally about Bruce Timm, the creator of Batman: The Animated Series, pitching a series about a superhero version of the Joker, which then became more like Spider-man (which is why they have an unused Archie-like cast in the early episodes), ended as another Tiny Toons or Animaniacs type of show after he bailed and was then turned into a Monty Python type of thing. The best of the humor was done by Paul Rugg (who voiced Freakazoid) and good friend of the blog, John P. McCann.
It had it all: comedy, action, parodies, a terribly great rogues gallery, excellent art and even Henry Kissinger. What else could a kid want in a show? Laugh with me. Laugh with me!

15. Tim Burton's Batman
The 1989 Batman film directed by Tim Burton caused an epidemic wave of batmania among my generation. I got it and I got it pretty bad. I still remember the first time I saw it. I was siting a hammock with my brother and my cousin. My aunt, a good hearted spoiler by nature, was afraid that it might be too shocking for the three buggers, which is the reason we had to wait for the Betamax (it's a real thing, look it up) to come out. Along with Superman, Batman Returns, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Wayne's World any Star Wars and Back to the Future, it has to be one of the movies I watched the most.
Dark = cool. Although I still watched the wave of reruns of the 60s Batman show and Super Friends that came with the '89 batmania, anyway, but the lesson was pretty clear: the darker, the better. In the eyes of moviegoers, Burton's film lend credibility to superheroes. After it, both Batman and Superman had serious and acclaimed  portrayals outside their original medium. Animation followed the example with Batman: The Animated Series and X-men, both of which inspires a lot of similar series. There were also the Batman film sequels and the similarly dark and serious (for the 90s) TV series of The Flash and Lois and Clark.

14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
As a kid, it was the awesome cartoon about charming turtles that fight other animal mutants lead by a ninja and an alien; as an adult it became an awesome pastiche of vigilante, ninja and sci-fi genres with an over the top B-movie type of title. Reading the original comics, wonderfully redone in the 2003 cartoon, feels like a roller coaster of never ending weird adventures; an aspect that the 80s cartoon never quite capture. Batman, Spider-man and most superheroes tend to fight the same villains in the same settings all the time, the the turtles went from ninjas on rooftops, to robots in the sewers, anthropomorphic triceratops in outer space and demons in medieval times. It doesn't get more surreal than that, which is why I love that the TMNT keep returning since I first watch them as an 8 years old kid.

13. Daredevil and Batman: Year One
I don't now if they are more "realistic", but the serious tone that Frank Miller added to classic vigilantes certainly increased their coolness and the sense of danger that we get from their adventures. Pulp fiction goes greatly with vigilantes. The Batman that I got when I started reading comics in the early 90s was mostly an echo of Year One. I didn't read the real deal (Year One, The Dark Knight Returns) until the late 90s and I just read Daredevil throughout the last decade, which is why I don't rank this higher.
I'm not sure how to describe them, although Miller went over the top with DKR,  these works made superheroes feel solid, grounded and badass; something that is really hard to get from other writers. Besides, without Miller, we wouldn't have so many great stuff: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Burton and Nolan Batman movies, the post-Crisis Batman, Batman: The Animated Series, and, I dare to say, the British invasion and Vertigo.

12. Angry comics of the early 90s.
After the first time they ran Batman: The Animated Series and X-men, somebody from my classroom showed up with the Knightfall and Death of Superman translated trades (none of us understood English back then). They were Batman and Superman, the guys from Super Friends but they were "serious stuff", the "official versions", not for kids anymore (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha); which was really cool and mind blowing for the pack of pre-teenagers taking turns to read it in the class room. Knightfall caught my eye a bit more, with the run against all the villain characters I knew from BTAS and the 60s show. Then there was Maximum Carnage, The Reign of the Supermen, Fatal Attractions, Emerald Twilight and a number of trading card series, describing cool, tragic and really violent events in the lives of DC and Marvel characters, most of them incredibly pumped with skin tight costumes with lots of utility belts and coats. Yes, most of those stories are better forgotten, but all in all, they are what introduced me to comics.

11. Batman
I have to be fair with Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Vincent Price and the rest of those guys. That show was my first impression of DC Comics and the only concept I had of Batman until I first watched the Burton film (when I was 8).
I know it seems really silly now, but to a 5 years old, it looked about as interesting as it gets. And we shouldn't be too harsh on it, if something was proven by Batman: the Brave and the Bold, is that every interpretation of Batman is equally valid. Batman wasn't that different from the comics or even other TV shows of the era and it was even done by some of the finest Hollywood talent of the late 60s!
I sustain that it was a great gateway to DC comics. Bizarre villains with flashy costumes, over the top fight scenes, mortal traps and lots of riddles, what else could a kid want from a live action TV show. I liked Hulk and Wonder Woman as well but, without the colorful antagonists, I used to fall asleep after the first 10 minutes. I for some reason really liked the later when I was 14, though...

10. X-men
The power of "As seen on TV".
18 years ago, this animated series introduced me to the world of comics. As I mentioned before, it came along with a wave of trading cards and comic events that got me hooked on DC and Marvel. Batman: The Animated Series reintroduced me to superheroes, but it was too alienated within its own gorgeous and timeless universe.  X-men, on the other hand, benefited from adapting the vast and wonderful body of X-men stories from the books; consequently, it was more of a middle ground between TV animated series and comics. Its art, continuity, stories and even its season format was a lot like the X-men comics of the time, which is something that was never done before and, now that I think about it, was rarely done afterwards in another series. About every character I saw in that series had an almost identical story in the comics, so, once I fell in love with them, it made a great transition to comics, where I could get even more of that candy.

9. The Dark Knight
I must have seen this one like 5 times in theaters. Batman (1989) was great, but it missed something. I love Michael Keaton's "I'm Batman" Batman, but it wasn't quite the Batman from comics (for starters, he killed). Batman Begins captured the best aspects of the contemporary Batman mythos, but didn't cause much of an impact. Now, The Dark Knight, hat it all. It captured the best aspects from the comics, it had the perfect Batman (well, save for the voice thing), caused a huge deal of an impact and on top of that, gave superhero movies a lot of recognition. Unlike Batman Begins, to me, this sequel not only lived up to Batman: Year One, it as actually better!

8. Bwahaha
I discovered it too late around 1995, but it was so awesome to see DC Comics characters acting almost as if they belonged to a sitcom or The Tick universe (both franchises were created about the same time), that I starting collecting whatever Justice League International (JLI) issue I could throughout the rest of the 90s. Formerly Known as the Justice League (2003) and I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League (2005)became my favorite and I completed Justice League Europe eventually after that.
Just like the DC-Vertigo characters make the DC Universe more exiting by having a really serious, surreal and eerie corner; the stories of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis do the same by adding a silly side. While guys like Moore or Miller deconstructed the superhero genre by grounding its world to realism, the JLI team kinda deconstructed it with the funny aspects of reality: our daily life comic situations, incompetency, gossip, vanity, bureaucracy, etc.
Also noteworthy is that when the average hero of the late 80s was pessimistic, violent and snarky, the Justice League, despite their flaws, were kind and, deep down, idealistic. They might joke about it, but in the end, even their sleazeball manipulative boss had a heart of gold. Ralph, Sue, Max, Ted, Michael, Tora, Bea, Guy, J'onn, Karen and Dmitri are some of the best characters DC has ever seen and Giffen and DeMatteis are geniuses for this take. It doesn't matter qhe other writers did with them, I'll always go back to those stories. (By the way, their recent Booster Gold run and Justice League Retroactive: the 90s, rocked just as much).

7. The DC-Vertigo characters.
Pushed by the success of X-men and, mainly, Daredevil, DC Comics responded by hiring some serious writing talent from wherever they came. First Len Wein discovered Alan Moore, then they brought Frank Miller from Marvel (not a Brit, though), and later, after they lost both, they headhunted Jaime Delano, Neil Gaiman, Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison. The body of work these people created, constitutes a dark and very sophisticated corner of the DC Universe.
When I was 20, it seemed to me that comics had nothing to offer. It was just Batman, Superman or Spider-man going over their rogues galleries over and over in adventures that every time seemed more dull to me. But then, I got a series of great tips that lead me to the works of Moore and the guys that followed in: Swamp Thing, SandmanAnimal Man, Doom Patrol, The Books of Magic, DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore, Hellblazer, Shade, etc. Along with the wave of new stories that followed Identity Crisis, these collections allowed me to keep enjoying DC Comics for many years.

6. The New Frontier
Good doesn't mean postmodern and dark. If the guys that can make great contemporary stories with superheroes are few, the ones that can make them also heroic and bright are even fewer. I'd say that Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, Paul Dini, Dwayne McDuffie (R.I.P.), Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Alan Moore (after the 80s) and Darwyn Cooke are among the few storytellers that insist on the perpetuation of the modern (modern as in "before postmodern") and heroic portrayal that the DC superheroes originally had. Few of them work with the canon of  DC Universe. There's Waid's The Silver Age and Ross' Justice, but to me, Cooke's DC: The New Frontier is the flagship story. It was relevant, multi-layered and captured the true spirit of the DC superheroes.
I actually hoped that after Final Crisis the DC Universe would be rebooted to be more like The New Frontier or the Diniverse.

5. Scott McCloud
I'm telling you, this guy is the messiah of comics! Reading Understanding Comics opened my eyes to the full possibilities of the medium and made me a proud reader. Comics went from just being my guilty pleasure, to a form of art that I follow enthusiastically, "sequencial art".  After years of being fed whatever DC and Marvel put on the shelves, I was finally able to appreciate the greatness of a number of writers and artists: Gaiman, Moore, Spiegelman, Miller, Moebius. And I still have a long way to go; DC has occupied way too much of my time.
Now, the day the mainstream industry realises that they need to do exactly what this guy described in Reinventing Comics, (oh, boy!) the medium will start reaching its potential. We need diversity!

4. Maus
Right after reading Understanding Comics, around 2001, I decided to get on the right path and read a monthly dose of decent comics, and this was on top of my first stack. McCloud couldn't be righter, Maus is pretty much the piece of storytelling that proves that comics can be great. In somebody else's words it is "at one and the same time a novel, a documentary, a memoir, and a comic book." It's the Godfather of comics; few or no movies are as tuching or compelling as this humble story of a Jewish survior of the holocaust, written and narrated by his own son during the last days of his life. Once I started, I wasn't able to drop the book and I think I made averybody in my family read it, ha, ha.
At the same time, it's a homage to the possibilities of comics and its redemption. Its style is quite cartoony (they are all cute animals), which makes a high contrast with the harshnes and realism of the narration. Incidentally, this way it becomes the utter proof that comics and cartoons can be an effective vehicle for trascendency.

3. Super Friends, the pop art of José Luis García López and the Justice League of America. 
When I was a kid, the Super-Powers Collection with José Luis' art was everywhere. In my shirts, in my lunch box, under my pants, everywhere. I knew Batman and Wonder Woman from their live-action shows and Superman from the movies, but then one day I saw this:
It was crazy! They were all there, in one single show (even the Joker!)! I loved it, a show about a team consisting of what, to my 7 years old self, seemed like every popular superhero there was! It was like a super TV crossover, which seemed even more relevant done as a cartoon (cartoons, of course, are more important to kids than boring stuff, like live action or the World events). I also loved the colection of muscled dudes and dudettes in tights.
However, I only caught a couple of episodes before they started with the reruns of regular Super Friends, which was painfully boring to a kid of the Transformers, Ghostbusters and Thundercats era. The ones without the Legion of Doom or even real supervillains were even worse (somehow, even then I was able to tell phony made up villains from the official ones). It got better with Firestorm. And then there it was again:
(Play it, just humor me).
And there it is again, the Joker! (instead of that lousy Riddler). It had Cyborg and his really cool bromance with Firestorm, and impressive episodes line The Fear, The Death of Superman, the one in which Mr. Mxyztlk makes more Bizarro duplicates or that one with the Penguin and Felix Faust stealing Superman's powers! Man! Those were good times to be a kid! And it got better: there was an action figure collection with most of those characters!
Later, when I started reading comics in the early 90s, I was disappointed that a number of things from this show, were not there, like Apache Chief, Samurai, the Justice League roster, even Firestorm was kind of absent. Luckily, I discovered back issues some time later. To me, the perfect image of the DC heroes is still a combination of José Luis' art, the Super Powers Collection and the satellite era of the Justice League of America. To me, DC is this (no, it's not the opening theme again):

2. The Elongated Man & Wife
My weird obsession with this couple doesn't go that far back. Formerly Known as the Justice League and Identity Crisis made me notice the non Plastic Man guy that was always hanging with the league in the big events of the early 90s. I was like "yeah, I remember that guy". I didn't even knew his real name before that - Spanish translations he was known as el Hombre Elástico (Elastic Man). The DeMatteis / Giffen / Maguire made me like the Dibnys and [ïronically] Brad Meltzer made me care about them. Once I realized that the Elongated Man got his powers from a fictional fruit that grows in my native Yucatan, I got really interested and, after reading Showcase Presents: the Elongated Man, it was decided: the Dibnys became my favorite characters. Handled directly by Julius Schwartz, John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox and then Len Wein, they were rooted at the heart of the silver age. As eclectic, eccentric and hedonistic as they are, they are the best examples of emotinal intelligence DC has to offer, which is something I deeply admire. They are honest, goodhearted, creative, generous and, unlike most of the average DC characters, they are not just reactive to to the drama, they are proactive, love what they do and live a plenty life.
See what I mean?

1. Batman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe
(a.k.a. BTAS and the DCAU)
Can you believe that Bruce Timm was once rejected from DC comics? Yet, somehow, he managed to revolutionize aimation in a series that marries the Batman tradition with a sophisticated retro but fresh style. As far as I'm concerned, Bruce Timm, along with Paul Dini, Eric Radomski, Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, Glen Murakami, Andrea Romano, Darwyn Cooke, Dwayne McDuffie and many others, created an universe that is actually better and more elegant than the regular DC Universe. Superhero cartoons were never taken seriously until this series came. The content of BTAS is not just for kids, but for all ages.
As I said before, Batman: The Animated Series, made me rediscover the DC characters and was my main reason to start collecting the comics; however, I never loved them as much. After the third episode I saw I was officially obessed. For over ten years I only drew imitating the style of Bruce Timm. I made tons of turnarounds trying to adapt classic DC characters to his style. A lot of people still do the same, and even DC decided to change characters like Metallo, Supergirl or the Parasite to look like Timm's designs. I only read comics because they were the best next thing after reruns.
One of the greatest things about the BTAS universe, is that it kept coming back with different angles. First it was Batman: The Animated Series, then, with more Robin it became The Adventures of Batman and Robin, the next series; Superman: The Animated Series, repeated the original formula with a new main character, The New Batman Adventures had Batman leading a team of Gotham Knights (Robin II, Nightwing and Batgirl); Batman Beyond deal with their distant future and Batman's legacy, The Zeta Project expanded that futuristic universe; Static Shock, a series about a teenage hero dealing with juvenile gangs, became linked to this DC animated Universe (DCAU), and finally, they did Justice League, which became Justice League Unlimited and tied all the events and characters of the previous series.
There were also four movies: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-zero, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker; and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.
Justice League Unlimited was like going out with a bang. It featured a really large cast that included almost all the DC characters I wanted to see, a lot that I'd have never expected and a bunch that I didn't even know. It was like a child fantasy come true. Like Super Friends, but with better art, better writing and a hundred times more characters.
One of the coolest aspects of the DCAU is that it actually had epilogues, unlike the reguar DC universe, it told the full story of a lot of its protagonists: Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, the Joker, Harley Quinn, Superman, Grodd, John Stewart and Amanda Waller.
All this work was produced in 14 years, and all that time I kept returning and being further introduced to the characters of DC. BTAS could have been a fad, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Ghostbusters before it, but it kepts returning with series lived up to the established quality, so, the DCAU kept me hooked, loving the wonderful world of DC.