Bad Comic Panels #1: “…a diseased version of Hell!”

A diseased version of Hell

The above image is from Superman: At Earth’s End, an Elseworlds comic from 1995. The comic itself is terrible: sometimes approaching “so bad it’s good” territory, but not often; most of the time it’s just boring, senseless, and the supposed “moral” is not only self-contradictory (“guns are bad”, therefore Superman saves the day by shooting every bad guy with a huge freaking gun… but guns are still bad, mmkay?”) but doesn’t even make sense in the context of the comic. But then there’s this panel, where Superman says the brilliant line that is the topic of this post:

“Someone has turned the Gotham City bunker into a diseased version of Hell!”

Now, yes, the quote is obviously stupid and makes no sense. Linkara said it best: “because a regular version of Hell is just so pleasant!” But I challenge you, dear readers, to consider the following: what could be going through the writer’s mind as he thought of that line and put it to paper? What kind of diseased version of a strange, warped mind could consider that comparing something not simply to “Hell”, but to “a diseased version of Hell”, a good idea? Was he doing it for fun ((I hope!)), just like the authors of the Doom Comic ((totally deserving of a post here, in the future))? Or did he actually think that this comic was enjoyable to read and had a thoughtful, worthy message?

Oh well. It was the Nineties. 🙂

P.S. – he also thought it was a good idea to have one robot talk in binary — but saying the zeroes and ones out loud, which certainly makes sense in terms of data efficiency — and another robot talk in R2D2ish. Need I say more? 🙂

Comics: recap captions and lampshade hangings

If you’re a TV Tropes regular, you’ve probably seen this panel before:

Uncle Scrooge - recap caption lampshade hangingYou can find if, of course, in the page for the As You Know trope: the one where character A explains to character B, in detail, something that character B already knows — sometimes even beginning with the words “as you know” — as exposition for the reader / viewer. The above panel, however, is also a perfect example of another trope: Lampshade Hanging, where the characters acknowledge the presence of a trope; by doing so (“this is like a bad horror movie!”, the character says…), the reader / viewer usually tends to “forgive” the author for the use of an unrealistic trope, even if just unconsciously.

Anyway, while reading Steve Englehart’s run on West Coast Avengers, yesterday I found another perfect (and humorous) example of both “As You Know” and “Lampshade Hanging”, and I can’t resist sharing it here:

West Coast Avengers - 'as you know'

Get it? The “joke” here is that their conversation is totally unrealistic; people don’t talk about things they both know perfectly well with all those expository details, almost as if expecting the other not to know what they’re talking about. Instead, the conversation is solely for the benefit of the reader… and the author even acknowledges (or “lampshades”) that in the caption box!

Of course, any real Marvel fan would need no introduction to those two: he or she’d instantly recognize Daimon Hellstrom, the son of Satan a-demon-who-used-to-be-Satan-but-was-changed-to-a-pretender-so-as-not-to-offend-the-religious-crazies, and Patsy Walker, formerly from Marvel’s 1940s romance comics, and later a superheroine in her own right. But I digress…

Now reading: Steve Englehart’s “West Coast Avengers” run

I’ve read a lot of Englehart’s Marvel stuff in the past, including, of course, his runs on Avengers and Defenders, but this is my first time reading this:

West Coast Avengers #1 West Coast Avengers #2

Loving it so far; it’s far more “crazy” than most superhero group books (though it’s not really a “humor” book the likes of Giffen and DeMatteis’ JLA), and both the characters and their characterization are great; it’s the first time I found the Grim Reaper (Wonder Man’s brother) interesting; I always groaned every time I saw him on a cover, since, to me, he was a boring villain with boring powers ((he was a normal human who carried a technologically advanced weapon in the form of a scythe — thus the name –, which had powers as the plot required and therefore he would always defeat all the Avengers single-handedly, until the last page or so where something would conspire to defeat him)) and a boring motivation ((“you let my brother die! no, wait, you defiled my brother’s memory by having an android around with his brain patterns! no, wait, my brother is back, but he’s not exactly like my mental image of him, therefore it’s not really him and you’re mocking his memory again! no, wait…”))). It also seems to be subtly much more “mature” than most mainstream comics of its era; in fact, I’m surprised that Marvel let Englehart do all he did just in the first 5 or so issues (one word: Tigra). According to Englehart, there was indeed editorial interference (including rewriting his dialogue), but that was at the end of his run (and a good reason as any other to leave a book, I guess), which is still more than 30 issues from now.

Anyway, highly recommended; it’s the kind of “laid back” comics you don’t see these days (where everything must be deadly serious! The end of the world! A crisis!)