Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alex Toth/Super Friends Week - Wonder Wednesday Edition

Here we have Wonder Woman as rendered by Alex Toth for the Super Friends. Wonder Woman was one of the most pivotal members, as she was the lead female hero on the team. Most people don't consider the Wonder Twins full-fledged members and remarkably there were only two other female SFs and they made only sporadic appearances. Rima the Jungle Girl, as previously discussed, was only tenuously a DC super hero and appeared in only three shorts. And Hawkgirl who only ever appeared alongside her husband Hawkman in five shorts, including one where she was ridiculously miscolored.
(Although Hawkman made many appearances without Hawkgirl, including the entire Challenge of the Superfriends season.)
I read in Back Issue magazine, that one writer wrote a script that would have featured Wonder Woman and Black Canary teaming up to save Lois Lane on a Ghost Ship, but the producers had just decided to stop buying scripts from free-lancers. Here were have Toth's rendering of Black Canary... oh what coulda been!Here's an interesting artifact, an early rendering of Wonder Woman by Alex Toth, where she more closely resembles the way she was drawn in the Golden Age. Apparently, they decided to go for a more "current" look so she wound up with the Marlo Thomas That Girl flip that she rocked for over a decade.
Here we have a couple of drawings Toth did for the live action/animated commercials for Underoos. He actually employs a slightly different style and Wonder Woman is given longer, wavier hair than she had on Super Friends. This more closely resembles the way Wonder Woman was drawn in the comics of the time. It's too bad the Super Friends producers didn't allow her to be modernized on the show.

Here's a nice sketch Toth did of Wonder Woman. I think this is a commission piece.
For the final season of the show Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, Hanna Barbera finally decided to freshen up the look of the show and abandoned the 70s Toth designs for the then-current Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez designs from the DC Style Guide. The previous season, Wonder Woman's eagle logo had been switched to the new WW logo, but overall she still looked the same. The Garcia-Lopez look is more detailed and slightly less "cartoony" and she is given long flowing hair.
Wonder Woman is one of only five heroes whose origin was revealed on the show, in her case, in Secret Origins of the Super Friends during the Challenge season. Two of her enemies, The Cheetah and Giganta were included in the Legion of Doom. Her fellow Amazons appeared on several episodes, most notably in 1980's "Return of Atlantis" where her mother Hippolyta organizes the Amazons to battle a group of villainous Amazons from the lost city of Atlantis... apparently a different Atlantis than the one Aquaman was from. And in the final season, her comic book boyfriend Steve Trevor appeared. That same episode showed Wonder Woman in her secret identity of Diana Prince for the first time on the show. An action figure called Rocket Man, who bore a strong resemblance to Steve (who was an astronaut) was designed for the fourth series of Super Powers action figures, but the line was never produced, therefore the background on that character is unknown. Could Steve have made the jump from super hero's boyfriend to actual super hero himself?
There you have it! A SF-centric look at the Amazing Amazon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alex Toth/Super Friends Week - The Case of the Disappearing Bat Villains!

Above is a drawing by Alex Toth of Catwoman for The Super Friends. What's that? Catwoman wasn't on Super Friends? Correct! Legend has it, that Catwoman and The Joker were slated to be part of Lex Luthor's unlucky thirteen The Legion of Doom. However, rival network CBS (SF was on ABC, just for reference) decided to pick up a new Batman cartoon animated by Filmation. SOMEHOW, both Batman and Robin were able to appear on both shows on rival networks at the same time, but their villains were not.
So the networks/studios had to split them up and since The Joker and Catwoman were such pivotal Bat-Foes, Filmation got them and Warner Brothers, instead, included The Riddler and Scarecrow in the Legion of Doom. (The Riddler appeared in the Batman opening title sequence, his suit mistakenly (???) colored purple, but never in an actual episode.)
Above is The Scarecrow as he appeared on Super Friends. It bugs me that the "ruffle" around his neck is colored differently than his face when clearly, it's supposed to be a "sack" over his head with the chord tied around it. Observe this earlier model sheet which featured a much different take on The Scarecrow, with a long tattered trench coat, scarf and actual straw protruding. The face is more comical, though. The color scheme listed is fitting, red, blue, green, yellow, brown, tan... a hodgepodge of thrown together bits... which is what most real scarecrows are! I will say, though, that the Scarecrow in the comics is always rendered in shades of brown, so the version that actually made it to TV is accurate there, but the sketch is a unique take.

While Scarecrow and The Riddler were used instead of Catwoman and The Joker, they weren't really "replacements." In the case of Catwoman, that honor went to...
Wonder Woman's foe, The Cheetah... and good for her. It was a big career boost, as most people still consider her Wonder Woman villain #1. I never understood the first episode, though, where the Legion of Doom turned every man on Earth into a Bizarro and every woman into a... Cheetah. I mean Bizarro is this twisted, backwards-logic, crazy-talkin' creation, but Cheetah is just... a lady in a catsuit. So, like... every woman on Earth suddenly had on a cowl with cat ears? I don't see the logic OR how this benefits The Legion of Doom one iota!

The role that The Joker would have filled, was instead taken by Superman's cackling enemy The Toyman. Ironically, Toyman was slated to battle the Super Friends in a later episode, during the Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show season, but then HE was replaced by the identically-voiced Doll Maker. I don't know why the switch was made... maybe because the actual Toyman was long dead at that point... he'd actually been killed off in the comics prior to Challenge of the Super Friends! The Doll Maker possessed magic clay, which when Doll Maker sculpted into the form of any of the Super Friends, allowed him to control their minds. He was ultimately thwarted by the quick thinking and nonsensical powers of El Dorado. (There was another villain that same season, The Robber Baron, who I'd swear was a replacement for The Penguin.)

According to the Super Friends wiki, The Doll Maker is actually a comic book villain of Plastic Man's and his hideout is an abandoned factory previously owned by Toyman... which all sounds interesting, but I don't know where this info comes from, so who knows if someone just pulled that out of their fanfic-writing ass.
That's it for today! More Super Fun tomorrow!

Tune In Tuesday - Divergent

Today, I will be recommending the book Divergent by Veronica Roth. Here is Harper Collins' summary:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Okay, so... it's basically a Hunger Games knock-off. It's VERY Hunger Games. And Beatrice is VERY Katniss. Kinda plain, introverted and conflicted. This is set a little bit closer to our own time, as they still remember our society somewhat and most of the decimated Chicago landmarks are still called by their current names. And the characters act more like modern-day teenagers, sarcasm and all, and some of the factions live in conditions very similar to our own.

It's less violent... well, kinda. There's less killing, but the descriptions of the brutal initiation process are more graphic, so it kinda balances out at about the same level of violence as HG.

It's actually a little more... girlie. Unlike Hunger Games where everyone is out to kill everyone else because only one can survive, there's hope for multiple people to make it through, so Beatrice is able to form friendships, most notably with her sassy black BFF Christina. When is adding a sassy black BFF into a storyline ever a bad idea?! And there's more romance. And more than one "trying on clothes" montage. I've seriously never READ a trying on clothes montage, and here I've read TWO! And the main romantic subplot just had me squealing! I found myself mentally screaming "KISS!!!" several times!

The pacing is slightly different than Hunger Games where the first third of the book is set-up and then they jump RIGHT to the killing. In Divergent, things move a little slower and the shit doesn't hit the fan until the very end. And then it kinda ends in a cliffhanger, but I knew that was coming, so I was okay. There was one thing that happened at the end that upset me, maybe not because it actually happened, but that it was just so quick and tossed aside, like moving on... But, y'know, I don't want to spoil anything. (Let's talk after YOU'VE read it!)

I got about a third of the way into the book, which was well-written, but I was a bit conflicted because the writing style was so similar to Suzanne Collins' (and I wondered if that was deliberate or not) and the character of Beatrice had such a close "voice" to Katniss. It was one of those "I can't tell if I like this or not" things, but then it kept picking up momentum and the story kept getting more and more interesting and the relationships between the characters developed and the romantic angles kicked in and it kept getting harder and harder to put it down every time I had to stop reading! By the end, I just stayed up late and finished it up because I HAD to find out what happened!

So, if you liked The Hunger Games series, give this a shot, but know going in that it's basically a knock off. But if you can get past that (at least it's a knock off of a GREAT series, and not, like Twilight, right?), you may enjoy it just as well. Well, maybe not JUST as well, but I'm definitely on board for the follow-up books! Whenever those arrive...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Alex Toth/Superfriends Special - Day 1 SuperMANic vs. BatMANic Monday

In honor of Alex Toth's birthday last week, I'm going to do a series devoted to the single biggest influence in my life, The Super Friends (or Superfriends, depending on the season). I've written plenty about The Super Friends in the past, but there's always more to comment on! (For example, I just got my Super Friends-themed assortment of DC Universe Classics action figures... why am I not downstairs tearing those open? Devotion to you, dear readers! Please appreciate the sacrifices I make for your blog-reading pleasure!)
Today I'm going to discuss, quite frankly, my two least favorite Super Friends, Batman and Superman.
Aw that's right, bitch, I said it! These two rank BEHIND The Wonder Twins in my book! AW SNAP! BUT, what I really want to discuss is my complete lack of awareness that Batman was always more popular than Superman! I'm going to chalk that up to his live-action show and the Batmania it inspired. Seriously, it was the late 80s before I realized that Batman's comic sales kicked Superman's ass!
Prior to that, there was never a doubt in my mind that Superman was the #1 hero out there! I mean, they were the Super Friends! All comic stars were Super Heroes! You're telling me that more people love Batman than Superman? Pshaw! But... like, apparently, that's true.
I never even caught onto this with Mego. Mego Batman was the number one selling figure in the line. (Child Me: But... but... he doesn't even have any powers!) But if you look at the line, it was totally Batman-centric!
Both Batman and Robin were in the initial lineup.
FOUR Batman foes showed up in the line, Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman (not pictured). Only one Superman villain made the cut and he was a shitty representation, Mr. Mxyzptlk, rendered as an average-height fatso (the comic version is a miniature imp). Also... it's fucking Mr. Mxyzptlk. A.k.a. NO ONE'S favorite Superman villain! Gimme a bare-legged Brainiac over that shit!
Batman received TWO Playsets, the Batcave and the Wayne Foundation (sort of like Barbie's Penthouse playset, but with a giant penny and a dinosaur) and four vehicles, the Batmobile, Batcycle, Batcopter and Bat Mobile Crime Lab. (CSI: Gotham City?!)
Hell, even The Joker received a vehicle! Okay, granted, Superman doesn't really need a vehicle, but howzabout a Fortess of Solitude playset? (Yeah yeah, they made one in the 3" figure scale, but those don't count!)
Then again, Superman was kind of a dick on Super Friends, so maybe he deserved it. I mean he was constantly pushing the others aside and saying "This looks like a job for... Superman!" So maybe this was fate's way of saying, "Oh but, look! This crazy asshole in a rodent costume that has no powers, outsells you in merchandise! Suck that, Space Boy!"

Well... there has to be SOME reason, right?

MANic Monday - Model Sean Patrick Davey

I don't normally showcase models, but there haven't been many good pictures of actors or other celebrities this week and this one is super HAWT! Mmmmm... gingery!

EDIT: Please check out the site of the photographer here!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The New JLA Revealed?

This image seems to indicate the full JLA lineup come September. On the left, from the top down, we have Deadman, Atom, Element Woman and Firestorm (just one Firestorm, so I'm hoping that the dual Firestorms on the cover of his/their own title is just symbolic). On the right, from top to bottom, we have Green Arrow, Hawkman, Black Canary (maybe) and Mera.

Element Woman may or may not be a new character. Here we have her design and she apparently has the power to "control elements." Uh huh. That should have been obvious. Firestorm can already transmute elements, so I'm not sure how this new character brings anything new to the table.

Actually, I'm not sure she is a new character. Back in the Silver Age, there was briefly an Element Girl who was a feminized version of Metamorpho and had his same power set, the ability to turn her body into any element. But I don't know if Element Woman is an update of this character (she LOOKS very similar) or someone completely new. (Also, why not just use Metamorpho? He's really not that big a character that he needs a female doppelganger!)

As for Black Canary, she very clearly looks like Black Canary... the real Black Canary, that is, not the updated one on the Birds of Prey cover, leading some to speculate that this isn't her. I still think it is, though.

Overall, it's a pretty basic and classic lineup. Cyborg, Deadman, Element Woman and Mera are the only "non-classic" JLA members. Mera's presence isn't that surprising, since she's grown in popularity so much in the last couple of years. And lest you think she's redundant with Aquaman on the team, keep in mind she has a completely different power set (the power to manipulate water) and also, Hawkman and Hawkwoman were on the team together for years! Hell, Hal Jordan and John Stewart have both been active on the team at the same time!

File this under the FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK File. DC has killed off Donna Troy AGAIN!!! By her nature, she'll probably come back... AGAIN, but geez! Come on!

EDIT/UPDATE: I've read speculation that the character I referred to as Black Canary is actually either Power Girl (she DOES seem to have short hair, now that I look closer) or Zealot from WildCATS (she DOES seem to have white hair, plus fellow CATS Grifter and Voodoo are getting their own books, so it's not inconceivable.) With Power Girl... good for her, I guess, but when you already have Superman and Wonder Woman on the team, it's hard to see what niche she'll fill. And if it's Zealot, once again, warrior woman with a sword... you already have Wonder Woman who sometimes uses a sword, so what makes Zealot useful? (Also, you know which CAT I was partial to? Void! I wonder what's up with her.)

MANic Sunday, Or I'm Back

So, apparently Apple products and Blogger don't get along, so while I intended to keep up my blog last week while on vaycay, it wasn't meant to be. THIS was going to be my MANic Monday, a picture of faked pic of Jake Gyllenhaal posed a la Grace Jones.
It's fairly nonsensical. Does anyone think Jake G is a huge Grace Jones fan? He's like a decade younger than I and Grace was sorta even before MY time! (I only knew her as an actress from Conan The Destroyer and A View To A Kill. I never heard any of her music until I was in my twenties.) Also, why does Jake, of all people, keep getting his head Photoshopped onto other people's bodies? And couldn't they have found a pic of a guy with a nicer ass? Just sayin'. Nice socks, too.

So I missed a couple of big things this past week. First, legendary comic artist Gene Golan died.
He mostly worked for Marvel, but I know he also drew Wonder Woman for a time in the 70s/80sand I want to say my first Wonder Woman comic was rendered by him. I'm almost positive. Though he worked on a variety of projects, he most excelled in moody, supernatural books and is most famous for Marvel's Tomb of Dracula title.

Second, I missed the birthday of the dearly departed Alex Toth, a legendary illustrator, most importantly to me, the designer of The Super Friends!
This is such an occasion, that I am actually going to do a whole series on The Super Friends this week! Yeah, it's just an excuse to write about this series, but as you should know by now, Super Friends is probably the single most important influence in my entire life, so, there ya go.

Sadly, as my FB friends know, while we were away, our basement was flooded and in addition to ruining our BRAND FREAKIN' NEW carpet, less than a week old entertainment console, sofa, recliner, etc. I lost a TON of comics, some toys (some still in the original boxes) and most dishearteningly some original framed artwork. One was a Jem watercolor a fellow fan painted for me as a thank you for providing him with copies of the music from the show. And I lost two original pages of Super Friends comic book art by Ramona Fradon. And there's still one more room to go through that had a ton more stuff in it. As a collector, that's something that's always in the back of your head, "What if we had a fire/floor/whatever?" but then to have it really happen? Yuck. That's all I can say.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Going Green

I swear to god, it seems like David took out a calendar, noted when all the super hero movies were coming out and purposely scheduled us to go out of town those weekends. GAH! Everyone enjoy Green Lantern for me! I'm sure I'll enjoy it when I see it three weeks from now!