Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2 (October, 1992)

One of the more popular posts in this blog's history was an April Fool's joke in 2009 regarding the announcement of a Bloodwynd mini-series by Bart Sears. I crudely cobbled together some art from the short-lived Ominous Press, and yet somehow, not only did the post get some traction, but I've even seen the featured art turn up elsewhere. Could have saved myself some time and just used some of Sears' Bloodynd art from the Eclipso event, but I guess it was worth it for the attention.

There certainly isn't much for Bloodwynd to do in the actual story, besides mill about in the background with a host of other non-essential heroes. His eyes peer over the throne on the cover. You can see him looking over Nightwing's shoulder in one of the splash pages where the remaining heroes confront the eclipsed ones before they're teleported by their master/possessor to the moon. He's standing around while the dust literally settles, mostly on Bloodwynd's cape. There's a nice overhead shot of his standing with the heroes as they reconvene to plan strategy. It was nice to see Sears draw members of the Suicide Squad Bronze Tiger and Nightshade, as well as my boy Blue Devil in the same splash. With Ben Turner, you can play the world's worst variation of Where's Waldo with "spot the Black guy." Looking over the Will Payton Starman's shoulder. Wearing a spacesuit in a craft with Booster Gold and the Element Man, the latter treated to Bloodwynd's first line of dialogue. "Each of us must follow his own concience on the matter, Metamorpho... wherever that may lead!" That ship is later grounded by an eclipsed Mon-El, reinforcing Metamorpho's stated desire to outright kill Eclipso.

Quoth Jamiroquai, "Everybody's Going to the Moon" (what, you don't own the Titan A.E. soundtrack? Your loss.) The heroic force walks into Eclipso's lunar palace like chumps, where he's powerful enough to immediately eclipse everybody when they get ticked at the eclipsed Starman for using his shapeshifting powers to conceal his condition until now. Once again, Bloodwynd's blue-tinged possessed head is seen over Nightwing's shoulder. I'll have to incorporate that pairing into my slashfic on Reddit*. Along similar lines, Eclipso got all Brian Yuzna with the meat sacks under his sway, until Superman and all the light-based/sun-tech characters break down the door. Eventually, they zap all the heroes until they're liberated, and Bloodwynd is seen standing in front(!!!) of Metamorpho (I ship it!) Bronze Tiger continues to stand behind a lower class of character who have to be way further in the foreground, because he's pretty tall. Pantha's head makes a cameo appearance, along with the rest of her still-attached body, which is my preference for Pantha. She's not a Highlander.

Starman made the ultimate sacrifice of having his trademark passed to the next legacy while seeming to be dead before inevitably being resurrected. I didn't see Bloodwynd standing behind anyone else, probably because they focus on injured people on cots and tables. Bloodwynd isn't one of those, so I'll take it as a win. Brought to you by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, Bart Sears, and a bunch of inkers.

*Please don't tell me that Reddit is not a preferred avenue for slash fiction. I don't know or want to know to what degree my joke is reflected in reality.

Monday, February 13, 2023

The Adventures of Superman Annual #4 (1992)

In one of his annuals, Superman became possessed by Eclipso, known as being "eclipsed". During the night, Eclipso could force the Man of Steel to do whatever he pleased (like putting Captain Marvel in the hospital,) but had to hide him from sunlight, or else Eclipso would lose his hold. Booster Gold, Fire, and Ice acted as Justice League America during this period, with Bloodwynd's whereabouts unexplained. The necromancer simply reappeared mid-story among the rest of League America at their headquarters as they gathered with Baby Wildebeest to determine the current location of the compromised Man of Steel... living inside an active volcano?

Aquaman, Metamorpho, Black Canary, Justice League Europe, Hawkman, Nightwing and L.E.G.I.O.N. all convened onto Kīlauea to plan their confrontation with the Man of Tomorrow. They were soon joined by Guy Gardner, who in his first solo Reborn mini-series tricked Lobo into helping his acquire Sinestro's Qwardian power ring to replace the Oan one he'd surrendered to Hal Jordan. Lobo's L.E.G.I.O.N. boss Vril Dox kept him from exacting his revenge until the more pressing matter at hand was addressed.

Dox & Hawkman chose Bloodwynd, Guy, Fire, Lobo, Strata, Booster, Metamorpho, and Phase as being best suited to withstand the volcano to reach Superman. "...The mystical nature of my powers serves to repel the molten lava from my body!" Boy, Martian Manhunter sure would benefit from a power like that! Reaching the Kryptonian, sans conscience and reserve, Lobo is swiftly felled by super-speed, full strength punches. Gardner fares a bit better, but is still bounced right out of the volcano. Bloodwynd and company try to rush Superman, but he repells them, in part by using Strata's crystaline body to repel powers like Fire's back at her teammmates like Bloodwynd. Not sure why plain fore would have an impact when freakin' lava didn't, though.

Bloodwynd exclaimed, "The sun is sinking beyond the horizon!" I hope he pronounces "horizon" like Ludacris. Anyway, without solar energy, the heroes would be unable to exorcise Eclipso from Superman's body. The heroes, led by a revived Lobo, continued to contain Superman in the dusky night after they're all blown out of the volcano by an eruption. All those lesser powered heroes focused on evacuating villagers, while Bloodwynd was felled by a freezing blast from a black diamond. "Allow me to show you the darkness of the human heart, 'hero'."

Superman had dismembered The Element Man and was poised to slay Ice when Guy Gardner returned to the scene. He had been ordered by Dox to collect actual solar matter, and though he protested at great length and volume, the ex-Green Lantern finally came through. It still took a while to drive Eclipso out, including a fall back into the volano, but ultimately Big Blue emerged restored. While most of the heroes next traveled to the moon to spy on Eclipso's lunar castle and get rooked by an eclipsed Starman masking his possession, Superman stayed behind to do science stuff, as you do. Well not you. Nobody would want Superman to hang back in that situation, but they had to pad out another annual and set up his disappearing before the grand finale in Eclipso: The Darkness Within #2. "In Blackest Night" was by Robert Loren Fleming & Bob McLeod.

I started covering Bloodwynd appearances in 2008, the second year of the blog, and about 16 years after his debut. It's been nearly that long since I started the posts, and I more or less abandoned them the following year. Part of it was a misguided plan to cover a bunch of the Eclipso annuals simultaneously and link between the posts. Part of it was also trying to cover the main Justice League America series at the same time on my Atom blog. Also, "The Death of Superman" was coming up, and I've never owned or read the whole thing (although I think I now have the cheapie trade collection on my bookcase.) I didn't even read all of the Superman annuals from the Eclipso event. I just found a partially completed draft of the first paragraph of this post sitting in a queue since 2012 and added this coda with the intent to fill in the middle. I think maybe I got tired of linking out to all the referenced characters. Mike Kooiman's old Cosmic Teams site apparently 404'd last year, but at least he wrote The Quality Companion for TwoMorrows in the meantime. Nobody ever asked me to write The Martian Manhunter Companion. I've clearly wasted my life.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Conjurors #1-3 (April-June, 1999)

There's a popular assumption that conservatives are bad at comedy, because you can't punch down from a position of authority without working against most of the populace's interests. I don't entirely buy into that, as evidenced by both sides having traction for laying claim to George Carlin, still one of the greatest and most prescient comedians to ever live. Comedy thrives in finding lines and then crossing them, and lines divide two ways. Most of my favorite funny people of the '80s landed on the wrong side of my personal line, but they're as much a product of their time as anything, and changing times change the context of the humor. If you don't adapt, and social norms have definitely trended leftward since peak neoliberalism, you get left behind and easily treated as though you never were funny to begin with. Carlin's dancing back and fourth across that line is where his immortality lies. Based on comedy routines alone, Bill Cosby wouldn't have been cancelled today, but Pryor and Murphy would have.

I think a similar if much less well reasoned or researched argument could be made that conservatives can't do high fantasy. You can point out plenty of regressive politics in the genre, which is why I'll put most of my weight on the "high" part of the claim. A lot of fantasy is just historical fiction married to a romanticized vision of feudal existence, when the men were men and the women were chattel. Bill Willingham capped his career and popularized unto cottage industry taking fairy tales and forcing them into a hard reality modern world. Chuck Dixon & Eduardo Barreto's Elseworlds mini-series Conjurors mini-series tracks similarly. It posits a world reliant and fidelitous to magic in the same way ours is to technology. It gets muddy from there, because I suppose medicine overlaps with mysticism, so they seem to have all the same stuff we have. Actually, they have all the same buildings and clothing and everything else we associate with mid-to-late 20th century life, emphasized by increasing globe-trotting toward the end, and flashes of cosmic consequences at various points in the world. One of the defining principles of conservatism is a belief that we pretty much got everything right, so the status quo should be defended. Conjurors is more like Harry Potter, wherein a micro-community practices magic in secret, except here it's the broad public default. A boy might get busted reading Popular Science during school hours, but he's still dressed like Beaver Cleaver in a classroom lined with individual desks and a marm at the helm. But with wands, see? At the end of the book, all the magic users deprived of their sorcery have ready access to airplanes and helicopters to meet at Machu Picchu. Despite the shift from our world to a magical one taking place in pre-history, it is still recognizably our world, only mildly stunted in its stigmatized technology by a few decades at most.

I remember the mini-series arriving with a bit of a stink on it. It debuted outside the top 100, outsold by the $5.95 Doctor Midnite prestige format mini-series that would have typically been used for an Elseworlds. This was a $2.95 double-length floppy, and there's no break point in any of the issues to indicate that it was ever a six issue mini-series, not that it wouldn't have also been a telling format change. DC Comics simply did not produce books like Conjurors the way it actually came out. Also, Chuck Dixon was still a draw, but with mainstream audiences, mostly on books involving well armed, non-powered urban vigilantes, not the Vertigo crowd. Dixon is a justifiably well regarded scripter, but this isn't his wheelhouse, and it shows.

The book co-stars Zatanna, except it's Jennifer Morgan from The Warlord instead. A stage magician who is part of the 10% of the population naturally gifted with real magic, who spends much of her free time playing detective within the mystical community. There's a guy who vaguely resembles the Jared Stevens Fate with his rad long hair and eye tattoo... but he's a stage magician called Brother Power. It feels like people never gave or revoked approval for the familiar character types, maybe because Paul Dini had dibs on Zee, and Fate was getting aced to launch JSA? And wouldn't stage magicians be like paying to watch mathematicians or engineers at a blackboard? Could 10% of the population even support the magic needs of the other 90%, and does that mean the kid was in a classroom of only the 10% adepts? That's the initial pleasure but overall frustration of this mini-series. You spend the first issue trying to figure out which established IP have been shoehorned into a generic, often inappropriate role in a world where you're constantly second-guessing the premise. But then in the second part, Dixon gives up and just goes back to his comfort zone with the Challengers of the Unknown running around in a bi-plane on an rugged adventure. That schoolboy ends up offering a big information dump, and then just lingers on the periphery to react to stuff until the whimper of a finale. Why even?

I bring all this up because I only bought Conjurors second-hand as a discounted set to eventually cover it here for its novel inclusion of Bloodwynd, who appears in costume on a square inch in the background of the first cover. In the actual story, he's a bald black guy in a business suit who captures a spirit in a bottle. Eventually, the spirit escapes, and sends Bloodwynd out a skyscraper window to fall head first to his death. He was basically JLI-era Dr. Mist, but I guess Bloodwynd had more *snicker* commercial cache? Or more simply, THIS IS THE REMIX, so the entirely gettable Mist uses somebody else's moniker. And then is disposed of off-panel, because the status quo dictates that the best kind of inclusion is tokenism.