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for Thursday, May 28, 2009

Batman: False Faces

I've been reading Brian K. Vaughan's spiffy Ex Machina in trade paperback and enjoying it immensely. That led me to read Batman: False Faces [DC; $14.99], which reprints Vaughan's earliest DC work.

Sadly, I was doomed to disappointment.

The two longest stories in the book have good premises, but neither knocks it out of the park. They barely dribble past the pitcher's mound. Forgive me, but it's baseball season and thus you must allow me my baseball references.

In the three-part "Close Before Striking," we learn the origin of Batman's "Matches Malone" identity when the long-believed-dead real Matches Malone returns to Gotham City. I might have been willing to accept the neophyte Batman's sloppiness that led him into accepting Malone's death without verifying it, but the story then degenerates into another one of those insane Batman tales I loathe with every fibre of my being. It's not Batman who's insane; it's the editors, writers, and publishers who embrace that version of the character. There's some decent writing in this serial - notable in exchanges between Nightwing and Oracle - and the Scott McDaniel art was okay, but the end result was still an inferior story.

The decent premise of the two-part "A Piece of You" was that Wonder Woman was born from mystic clay and Clayface is made of some kind of weird clay. So Clayface absorbs the Amazon to gain her godlike powers. Past that premise, it's a mediocre story with heavy-handed sister bonding and so-so art.

Moving on...

"Mimsy Were the Borogoves" is a done-in-one story wherein the Mad Hatter turns Man-Bat into the Jabberwock. It's a goofy premise that never quite works, but it does have some fine art by Rich Burchett and John Lowe. Though this is sort of damning the tale with faint praise, it's the best story in the book.

Filling out the book is "Skullduggery," a five-page vignette that introduces a new villain - the Skeleton - who has never appeared in any DC comic since. His modus operandi appears to be misdirecting Batman and the cops into thinking his crimes are the work of other villains as prelude to some larger effort. But the fragment never delivers any real sense of impending doom.

Batman: False Faces is a disappointment and so earns a mere one out of five Tonys.




Ruff and Reddy

A few months back in this column, I waxed nostalgic about a cartoon I loved as a kid. In response, my dear friend Gaff - you may know him as a top colorist for DC Comics back in the day - sent me this note:
Cartoon Network ran some Ruff 'n' Reddy stories a few years the wee hours. They were just as cleverly written as we'd expect them to be. I was surprised to see that they were in color, or, at least, it was color prints being shown, considering that the contemporaneous Crusader Rabbit was in black and white.

In 1957, it was HannaBarbera's first series. They syndicated the cartoons to local stations which is where you would find the local kiddie show hosts showing them along with their own comedy skits. HB's success led to their launching Huckleberry Hound in syndication in 1958, and when Kellogg's signed on as the sponsor, the opening and closing to Huck's show were redone to feature the Kellogg's cereal characters. Plus HB did commercials for Kellogg's in the show; you can see some of these in the DVDs of Huckleberry Hound that came out a couple of years ago.

Huck was followed by Quick Draw McGraw in 1959, and in 1960, Yogi Bear got his own series while The Flintstones debuted in prime time. Top Cat in 1961 also joined the primetime lineup, as did The Jetsons in 1962.

1963 didn't see any new debuts, though Flintstones continued, and would last to the end of the 1965-66 season. 1964 was a big year: Jonny Quest debuting in network prime time, Magilla Gorilla debuting in syndication, and syndicated standalone cartoons Lippy the Lion and Hardy-Har-Har, Touche Turtle and Yippy, Yappy and Yahooey.

1966. The Saturday morning cartoon field opened up following the bombastic Batman ratings. We saw Frankenstein Jr. (a ripoff of Gigantor) and The Impossibles and so many, many more...

Dem's was the Days.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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