Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My comic nerd past returns.

Comics...well yes I own my share. My collection over time and has been culled and now fits nicely into 4 standard comic boxes. I had an almost 10 a month habit at one point in the late 90's. X-men. X-force, X-statix, X-man, Generation X, Sock Monkey, Batman, JLA, JLE, Azrael and some that will elude me until I go to the garage and check. But there is one comic that I collected for almost 14 years and own possibly every issue of - Nightwing.

Right now I am hearing a pin drop or sound of some shrugging. What is a Nightwing? Well for one he is a fictional DC (Detective Comics) character who has been around for 60 years or so. To put it in the simplest terms possible; Nightwing is Richard Grayson, the first Ward of Bruce Wayne. 

And now you begin to get it. 

Bruce Wayne / Batman was joined by a partner early in the history of the comic - Robin, the Boy Wonder. And what a niave and exciting world these characters populated back in the golden age of comics; where macho single men could adopt teenagers so they had some one to go and dress up in some kind of skin tight, themed and often brightly coloured costume (so you are more visable and easier to shoot at?) to fight creepy evil guys and mobsters and say stuff like 'gee whiz!'. The younger crime fighter may be refereed to as 'lad'. Why? Because that is what they did. But why did they do it and what does a Robin have to do with a Nightwing? Getting to that.

The motivation to take on an alter ego is often, in the world of comics linked to vengeance or some kind of preposterous, unfortunate and catalysing event. Bruce Wayne saw his parents gunned down in front of him in a dark alley, which is in the territory of Unlikely but plausible. Dick Grayson's mythology is a tad more fanciful, beginning as a boy who grew up in a circus - one third of an acrobatic act (with his parents) called 'The Flying Grayons'. 

The same night that an erstwhile but secretly brooding Bruce Wayne decides to take in a show at Halley's Circus, the main act falls victim to a terrible and not so accidental accident. Richard is orphaned and Bruce sees his own tragic catalyst moment relived and reaches out to a lonely boy who has had every thing taken from him. Richard lives at the mansion and life seems pretty glum until he finds out that his custodian has some issues that may overshadow his own. Like the big bat themed cave and accessories underneath Wayne Manor. 

Training, training, training. Then making some rules then breaking them. A reluctant Batman concedes he needs partner. A bright red, yellow and green costume with tiny pants. And hey, Robin is born. From his preteens well into his late teens Richard forms one half of one of the most famous duos ever - Batman an Robin. Then splitting time between his own hero team ('The Teen Titans') and being one half of the now famous 'dynamic duo' becomes to much. Guys in costumes point fingers at each other. Some yelling and 'my rules or not at all!' and then Robin Leaves the nest...well cave.

After some soul searching and frankly annoying teen angst Richard decides to assume a new mantle - Nightwing. The initial costume was one of the worst I have ever seen in any comic. Really, look to your right. It was an amalgam of  Evil Kanevil / an acrobat / Elvis impersonator. The white boots? If his goal was to cripple his enemies with laughter, then this costume helps him win without throwing a punch. Without getting too specific the initial costume was created in the 1980's. It is with the benefit of hindsight and the evolution of super hero fashion in comics over the past three decades, that makes this ensemble so amusing.

Then we have the Mullet years. The character of Nightwing evolves further and has some whacky adventures with the Titans and even steps into Batman's shoes literally as he recovers from a broken back (long story). Handing back the cowl and cape, Nightwing continues about his business. It is also during this time that DC writers decided that Richard Grayson should live in the shadow of the Bat...while also having sex with lots of human and super human women. Although the comic code would only infer this, there where enough pictures of Richard lying in a bed with his arms behind his head for the reader to get the idea. His boots were still white. Also during this time two more robins have taken on the mantle, one of which died and then came back to life years later (a stupid and long story) and the third one who is now the 'Red Robin' (actually a good move, but complicated).

Now here is where I come into the picture. It is the mid 1990's and I have just moved out of home. There was a comic book shop near my first student digs. And while figuring out what to collect, I spy a Nightwing miniseries. His mullet has become a ponytail. But the series dispenses wit the white boots and gets me hooked. The miniseries is a prelude to an ongoing series. Setting the character of Nightwing up in his own city south of Gotham (Bludhaven, yeah I know) to solve a mystery on a mission form the Batman himself. 

When you read and stick with a character though out the years you get to know what constitutes that fictional entity, what makes it great to read and when you just take the hits and wait for things to get better. For about the first year and a bit it was pretty great. Well drawn, exciting with some nice cameos and a real commitment to delving into a character that after more than a few decades was waiting to be explored. Each writer added to the series, and not always for the best. But that is instantly forgiven when you get an awesome story arc, great villain, new base or head quarters etc. Yes, I know how it sounds. But If I was talking about Sense and Sensibility and the changes Elizabeth went through that culminated in the stories end, it would be considered more intellectual. Although the word count is lower and the story less cerebral, Comics have one thing over established literature. It has twelve plus issues a year and the character changes with the writer and artist, year in and year out. That and Elizabeth had some really crap action sequences.

By the time it got round to the 12 and a half year mark it seemed likely there was another costume change on the way. Possibly the most inevitable and fitting. In a bizarre and somewhat moving story Bruce Wayne is believed dead (a very long story) and Gotham is left without a hero. Nightwing drives the Bat mobile around trying hide and fight crime from the car while trying to deal with the newest Robin, Bruce Waynes son Damian Wayne (don't ask, really complicated). Richard decides to take on the Mantle of the Bat, but on his terms. And it was with the first issue of the new Batman that I stopped collecting. I just didn't really feel like buying Batman comics. it just didn't seem right. So I closed that chapter of stopped collecting single issue comics. If I had learned anything collecting Nightwing for more than 140 something issues, I had learned commitment. And I had learned that a collection needs a begining and an end.

Or so I thought.

And so it is 2011 and Bruce Wayne returns from being MIA and starts franchising Batmen around the world. Richard remains as Gothams protector while Bruce goes on set up Starbucks...I mean Batman Incorporated (franchising the mantle of the bat in different countries and recruiting vigilantes). I go to my local comic book vendor two weeks ago, who tells me of the great DC reboot. Basically DC is rebooting their comic universe. 'Youngifying' everyone, updating costumes and even re-birthing old characters and introducing a few new ones. This offers new readers a great chance to 'jump on' but leaves old readers up in the air. Swamp Thing and Animal Man are getting their own titles, so really who knows what the people at DC are thinking. Apparently certain things will carry across prior to the reboot, but what? And it is in this craziness in a fictional world full of things of things that hold no bearing on real issues - that this happens:

Richard Grayson, who is currently Gothams Batman will be Nightwing. Again. At this point all I know is this; Bruce Wayne will return to Gotham, taking the mantle of the city's protector once more. Consequently Richard retakes the role of Nightwing and their is a plot and story arc that justifies this fairly inevitable and predicable action. But that is the logistics of something that made me really care about comics again. The comic nerd in me returned when I saw this picture. Different colour, a touch of the bat on the gloves and other tweaks to make this character look like the acrobatic ninja bad ass that he is. The action adventure that I followed for more than a decade has in inexplicably begun again. The fictional affects the factual of my life, consequently making me happy.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Down by the Bay

Another in a what will soon be a series of brief Blogs about1980's pics brings us to...'THE BAY' apparently. Which begs the question, what kind of bay? Obviously not many mean streets, or even mildly offensive ones in the vicinity of 'The Bay'. Maybe there are no roads at all near this fabled 'Bay', just canals filled with gleaming yachts with people making important calls on on brick phones and talking about the crystal clear sound emanating from their on board and exclusively new CD player. Perhaps they are looking for a boat or admiring one of several that they own with the money they made as bonds traders on Wall St. But I would like to  believe that Chad Smythe-racecar (red jacket) and Whitfield 'Whit' StPrigg (white outfit) both of whose names I just made up, are having the following conversation;

Chad: I say, when is that yacht coming past to bring us our Rick Astley tickets and take us by Yacht to the concert?

Whit: I dunno. But man, when they do, that is gonna be one smooth show (does awkward movement / gesture, pictured)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The preening pony

I have not posted on this my most sorely neglected blog for some time. So I am going to pay it some token attention by writing stuff about a whole bunch of 1980's images. And there are none quiet so ripe for mockery as this.

Where do I start? The floofy mullet? the quasi-ruby-tinted-aviators? The shirt? his lack of humility of modesty re: putting the guns on show front and centre. Most disturbing is the fact there is a baby in the far left of the shot,. A baby on the very far left as not to impinge on the lime light directed at Mr Stalone. As to guessing the vintage of the picture I am guessing between Rocky III and Rocky IV.

So why didn't anyone Sylvester Stalone seriously as an actor and director for so long?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Van Halen (June 20th, 2009)

What can I say. I really love this band. These pictures makes being in Van Halen, a ten times platinum band of the 1980's, look like a hoot. Who the hell knows what was going on when these got taken. Who even knows if these guys remeber? All that matters is that they where fricken' rocking it. 

All the guys in this band are virtuosos, but for the purposes of this blog I will focus in on one member. 'Diamond Dave' aka David Lee Roth is an amazing vocalist and can pretty much wear what ever he wants. DLR left his mark on the 1980's being one of the main exponents of 'wearing a snappy jacket contrasted against a sheer wall of chest hair'. He of course was continuing the great work in that area, pioneered by KISS front man Paul Stanley. Daves' work with Van Halen is amazing, and although I rate the band over all, Van Halen lost a little bit of bare chested magic when Dave left the band to record 'crazy form the heat'. Sammy Hagar took the vocalist job with Van Halen upon Dave leaving, and his vocal work on 5150 is a credit to him. But DLR is, in my opinion, an example of a very raw and powerful vocalist fronting a band in their prime. 

To me this band at their height was an explosive commodity, that went over the top in every sense. These four guys existed in a cocoon of rock awesomeness, perhaps oblivious to a normal life where people don't write song lyrics in Limo's on the way to the studio at 3 in the morning and create obscene guitar collections. They did this so we could look back, revel in their stories and experience an simply say - AHAAA YEEAAAH!  

Giant Otters (June 20th, 2009)

This is not photoshoped, you are looking at two South American Giant Otters. They are hands down my favorite animal. These awsome creatures usually reside running rivers or tributaries from rivers (like the Amazon River) that have been cut off and become lakes. Your average giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) is an anmazing physical specimen. The following is an extract from Wikipedia realting the physcial characteristics of this animal;

Males are between 1.5 and 1.8 meters (4.9–5.9 feet) in length and females between 1.5 and 1.7 m (4.9–5.6 ft). The animal's well-muscled tail can account for as much as 69 centimeters (27 in) of total body length. Early reports of skins and living animals suggested exceptionally large males of up to 2.4 m (7.9 ft); intensive hunting likely reduced the occurrence of such massive specimens. Weights are between 32 and 45.3 kilograms (70–100 pounds) for males and 22 and 26 kg (48–57 lbs) for females.

Otters are cute. You think of cute creatures, and and an otter will generaly make most people's top ten. But when does this member of the Mustelidae family stop being adorable? Anything close to or over a meter crosses that line. When seeing one of these Large animals thoughts of 'wow, that is just so like people' would quickly turn to 'wow , I hope it doesn't like to eat people'.

The thought of a 2.4 meter Otter is just mind blowing. Imagine if an old school seven foot Giant Otter (who had become deranged by accidentally eating a toadstool) turned up in 'Wind in the Willows' looking for a spot of 'elevensies' at Ratties house instead of the erstwhile Mole? The storming of toad hall would have involved alot of body bags and a fresh coat of paint to hide the carnage. No need to find some triffle in your larder toady, our overgrown friend is snacking on the dead and bloodeid weasles in the mass grave by we dug out by the promentry. 

Anything small, furry and intelligent is cute. If it lives in a jungle, is over a meter and can give a Jaguar a run for it's money it is something to leave alone and be in awe of. 

Bat Cave (October 18th, 2009 )

Danny Granger, a rising NBA basketball star, hails from the american stae of New Mexico. He is also a big fan of superheroes and a knowledge of engineering. So what does an up and comming baller with multi million at his disposal do for kicks...BUILD A BAT CAVE!! the folowing is an paragraph relating the lairs construction.

Depending on how you look at it, the biggest (or most interesting) news to come out of Pacers camp this off-season were the updated design plans pertaining to Danny Granger’s “bat cave” which he is in the process of creating for himself out in New Mexico. Due to state laws, the underground tunnel entrance had to be scratched (tragic), but the inclusion of rotating car platforms and a moat still seem to be a part of the what will be the final project (victory dance).


Words fail me. What fan of comics hasn't etertained this idea? If you have the means save the world. If you have the will build a Bat Cave.  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Zephyrs (June 21st, 2009)

Two images seemingly unrelated? The American National Basketball Assaociation (NBA) player Caron Butler in what is in my opinion a damn snappy retro style uniform (commemorating the original 1963 - 64 team) and a beautiful peice of 20th century locomotion. There is a link which luckiliy enough bisects my sphere of absurd interests. Let me explain.

First off, the NBA player is from a team called the Washington Wizards (one of the worst names ever). The franchise has a long history, beging in the 1961 - 62 season as the Chicago Packers. The following year they changed their name to the Chicago Zephyrs (one of the best names ever). Sadly an undeniably cool look and original name was nipped in the bud when the team moved to Baltimore, Maryland becoming the Bullets. The team moved to Landover, becoming the Capital Bullets. The next season they moved to Washington. The Washingtom Bullets won an improbable championship for the first time in 36 years in the 1977 - 78 season. In 1995 the bullets became the Wizards, and teams have continued to not run in fear from that team ever since.

Replacing a pair of steam engines in the early 1930's, the Pioneer Zephyr is most well known for the 'dawn-to-dusk dash' it undertook in 1934. It left the city of Denver packed full of celebrities of the day and arrrived safely in the city of Chicago 13 hours 5 minutes later, at an average speed of 77 mph (124 km/h). This was, at the time, a ground breaking feat for or Locamotive vehicle of it's kind.
Two fairly intersting but little known facets of modern American history, but linked by what? The Pioneer Zephyr made it's last run march 20th,1960. The Packers changed their name to the Zephyrs in the 1963 - 64 season. It is not an improbable link that the team renamed themselves after the the then recently decomishioned diesel Train. Probably because it was on everyones lips at the time, it had definite links to the city of Chicago and because of all the great and powerful metaphors a machine like that creates when veiwed in the context of embodying a sporting team. 

Or it may just be I wasted my time and the two things are not related at all. But what matters is that I bothered to make the specious link.