Send a Bracer Down the Plank: An Adventure with The Canadian X-Man

Growing up, the Marvel vs. DC debate seemed as basic as choosing between Coke and Pepsi. Today, most of my favorite comics are DC owned titles, but my first collection was hand-me-downs from an uncle, and most of those were Marvel. I loved those comics into fingerprinted, dog-eared pieces, and what remains of them live in a Comics Defense cardboard box at my parents’. Someday I’ll retrieve it. Either way, that earliest collection left me with a permanent soft-spot for Spider-Man and the X-Men. Wolverine, in particular, held on as a favorite character long after I defected to Batman, Detective Comics, and Nightwing.

I recently acquired a small collection of Marvel Essential trade paperbacks from an old friend: Doctor Strange vol. 2, Marvel Team-Up, Human Torch vol. 1, and Wolverine volumes 2 and 3. Between that and the movie release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, it seemed like a good time to dig up some nostalgia and reacquaint myself with the Marvel Multiverse, starting with my old favorite. I realize now Wolverine comics have a campy charm all their own. Larry Hama’s colorful dialogue brings ridiculous characters to life in a fun and believable way. The action sequences are over the top, and Logan’s tough-guy with a heart-of-gold persona is always good for a chuckle. Something the bluntness and colorful idioms feel like home.

It would be easy to dismiss the comics collected in Essential Wolverine 2 & 3 as juvenile and overly macho. They are over-the-top campy, often convoluted, and frighteningly full of Women in Refrigerators and problematic cultural stereotypes. They’re also witty, humorous, and heartbreaking. Despite the problems, many issues and story-arcs shine through. Great writers like Larry Hama and D.G. Chichester are able to bring Wolverine alive in ways that highlight his struggle as a survivor and his self-destructive commitment to justice. During Chichester’s three issue arc “Wonkeywrenching”, Logan rescues the daughter of a wealthy logging company owner from militant environmental justice terrorists. I was pleasantly surprised by an ending in which Logan refused to let the logging baron off-the-hook for deforestation profiteering.

So what did I get out of Wolverine? I’m really not sure, just like I’m not sure what I can get out of the Canadian Club whiskey I bought to go with him. There’s not much use to cocktails when you have a mutant healing factor: Logan’s body processes alcohol almost as fast as he can drink it. In Wolverine #31 he downs single-malt scotch. In #65, he pounds a boilermaker and chases it with a fistfight he wins by snapping his jaw and eyeball back in place after giving his opponent a free punch. Canadian Club doesn’t hold-up in cocktails—its bland flavor can’t standup to a quality bourbon or rye. But sometimes when I want to forget work with a stiff drink and a thrilling story, beer is really what I crave. Cocktails are novel, exciting, and challenging, but sometimes a shot and a beer is still the perfect drink. These classic Wolverine comics feel the same way: a tried and true way to escape. Seeing Wolverine tear through horde after horde of ninjas/military grunts/dumb thugs is supremely satisfying, especially given his tortured history. Wolverine is fun because he gets to unleash all of his character’s worst qualities in the fight to reclaim the bits of humanity that have been stolen from him. Sometimes, we all need to stop being so (self)conscious and live in the moment. Some of the best moments in my life have been savored with the strategic help of a shot and a beer, just like some of my fondest childhood comic memories come from poring over Wolverine’s outrageous and hyper-macho pages. For the first time in decades, I’m finding myself wondering what kind of adventures Wolverine is currently embroiled in. Today was my one day off before I get back to the hourly grind, and I still have Canadian whiskey to finish in honor of my old pal Logan. I’m going to down a boilermaker and find out what other joys I can dig up from panel-to-panel.

P.S.
Research tells me that Wolverine’s very first solo adventure was a four-part run written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Frank Miller in 1982. I dunno about you, but I think I have the newest addition to my “Must Read Comix” list.

P.P.S.
I enjoyed my boilermaker(s) for this re-introduction to Wolverine with ShinerPremium and Canadian Club Whiskey. I suppose if you’re really crazy about the Ol’ Canuckle Head you might want a cheap Canadian brew like LaBatt Blue.

 

SAM LLOYD, ROB MASCHIO, JOHNNY KASTL

CnC Brain Trust Special #1 Spectacular!

Holy nerd extravaganza, Batman! A brand new ongoing series on the real-life events behind the Cocktails and Comics cyber-facade: Brain Trust Special #1!

(Spoilers!)

The minutes:

  • Jean Paul Valley is a boring, derivative character who only served to artificially extend the life of an otherwise great storyline (Batman: Knightfall).
  • Andy Kubert’s Damian: Son of Batman 4-issue miniseries jumps off from an imagined future first created by Kubert and Grant Morrison in Batman Vol. 1 #666; Bruce Wayne is dead and Damian assumes the mantle of the bat. Ass-kicking ensues.
  • Prince Oberyn Martell was far too likable and therefore could not possibly survive more than a season on HBO’s Game of Thrones. He had become such a fan favorite that his final scene in “The Mountain and the Viper” was akin to watching a horrible, horrible remake of The Princess Bride in which Inigo Montoya is brutally murdered juuuuust before he achieves his long-awaited revenge.
  • Knob Creek’s 120-proof Single Barrel Reserve is a vile substance on its own, but drinkable (even pleasant?) in a 2:1:1 ratio with limoncello and amaretto.
  • WP_20140607_007Cherry Heering is a liqueur that serves well as the sweetener in a whiskey sour. A 2:1:1 bourbon-lemon juice-Heering ratio is recommended. Adjust the sweet and sour quantities to your taste. And don’t forget the egg white and soda for that gorgeous frothy head!
  • The Muddler is a new villain of our own creation; he’s a down-on-his-luck bartender who wanders the clubs and dives clobbering those poor souls unfortunate enough to drink (or serve) bad cocktails. His clobbering device of choice is an excessively over-sized hardwood cocktail muddler.
  • Chris McMillian is a walking library and national treasure of American cocktail history. Check out this video of his take on the mint julep, which should probably be the only julep you ever make. I mean really — how many barkeeps do you know who recite prose from the 1880′s as they prepare your drink?
  • Behold! the elusive sharktrain, CnC’s Master of Sazeracs, whose first post to the blog we await with bated breath.

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  • The cocktails of the evening included: the Sazerac, the Perfect Strange, the Mint Julep, and the Cherry Whiskey Fizz. Look for the recipes in upcoming posts!
Uptown Pizza goes with everything
Uptown Pizza goes with everything

 

Comic booooooooks
COMIC BOOOOOOOKS… and a mint julep

 

Perfectly Strange: Mixology History & Variation

It’s been far too long, dear readers.  Working at history museums during the spring field trip season sapped my desire to write over the past few weeks.  Fortunately, it’s also helped me realize I love studying history, be it academically, occupationally, or in this case, alcoholically.  Since joining this adventure I’ve researched, mixed, and sipped five types of drinks: the Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, gin & tonic, gin martini, and Sazerac.  All five drinks have competing origin stories stretching back to the 19th century, and all have the numerous variations you’d expect from recipes with a century-plus of history.  Reading these origins and spin-offs online has been almost as much fun as enjoying the drinks.  Almost.

In the comic book department, I’ve been slowly progressing through Marvel’s Essential Doctor Strange, Vol. 2.  The more I read, the more I knew Dr. Strange needed a cocktail to go with him: something intriguing, exotic, and full of history and lore.  That drink hit me taking in the menu during happy hour at The Sample Room a few days back: the Sazerac.  Rye whiskey (or if you want the chronological progenitor, cognac) sugar, Peychaud Bitters, and a lemon twist (squeezed into the glass then discarded, according to purists) strained into a chilled glass washed with absinthe and ice.

Problem is, Peychaud Bitters are hard to find.  They’re definitely not stocked at my three main liquor stores.  Neither is absinthe.  I finally found the closest thing on my 3rd try: Absente Absinthe Refined.  Made with real Artemisia Absinthium Wormwood, Absente is the right proof (over 90) for real absinthe, but boasts additional sugar and coloring, presumably in lieu of more complex traditional distillation methods.  Besides that, I’m not sure the Sazerac is the right drink to capture/pair with Doctor Strange.  While absinthe has the legendary history you’d expect from a figure like Strange, I’m not sure he’d be a big absinthe drinker.  He’s a modern American doctor, not some 19th century bohemian artist.  What’s more, he’s a New Yorker: Manhattan has been his home both before and after becoming Master of Mystic Arts.  But that’s too simple for an illustrious Master of Black Magic.  Surely Stephen Strange’s tastes must be more refined, more exotic, than the basic Manhattan.

Enter David Wondrich, cocktail historian and author of Esquire Magazine’s the Wondrich Take.  Classic cocktails, much like comics, have long histories complete with reboots and spin-offs.  And according to Wondrich, the Manhattan has plenty of spin-offs, including the Sherman.  The Sherman is a Manhattan, much like Dr. Strange, but modified with only one dash of Angostura bitters, a dash of Orange bitters, and three dashes of absinthe.  Just enough of the mystical powers of the over-proof green fairy to unlock its flavors. The Sherman feels right with Dr. Strange, but it’s still a Sherman.  Lucky for us, we haven’t varied from the traditional Manhattan vermouth formula.  To turn our Sherman into a Dr. Strange, cut your amount of sweet Vermouth in half and replace the other half with Dry Vermouth.  Now you have a Perfect Sherman, or better yet a Perfect Strange.  Garnish with a lemon twist if you can, but if you love Maraschino cherries knock yourself out.  Half of the fun of comics are the twists, and cocktails were made for improvising.  And yes, this drink does use every bottle currently in my cabinet.  So what?  What makes Dr. Strange Vol. 2 so interesting is its combination of superhero comic cliché, surreal art, and florid cosmic horror prose.  It’s the perfect amount of Strange: both the comic and cocktail are mutations on familiar traditions.  Enjoy responsibly, for as Lovecraft (Or perhaps Roy Thomas? Stan Lee?) warns on the opening page of Dr. Strange #183, “We live on a placid island of ignorance, in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far…”

Why yes, that is a lime you see garnishing this Perfect Strange. I used all my lemons in prototypes of this drink before I got to taking a photo. I was getting Strange and improvising, so sue me.
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Because It’s Not Funny: Why No One Should Ever Read “The Killing Joke” Again

Andrew:

Reposting a previous blog from Sure as Shiretalk re: misogyny in superhero comics. #YesAllWomen

Originally posted on Sure as Shiretalk:

I bought this comic sometime in 2008 or 2009, during its most recent resurgence to popularity. As The Dark Knight‘s release date approached and Heath Ledger revealed it as a source of inspiration for his upcoming performance, Moore and Bolland’s 1988 one-shot (re)surfaced as the definitive depiction, “easily the greatest Joker story ever told.” The Killing Joke is a bizarre, brutal carnival ride of a comic book to be sure, but it doesn’t add anything meaningful to the characters it involves and torments and maims.

It does a lot of subtracting. It robs a beloved heroine of her dignity and the use of her legs. It lowers the Batman to the Joker’s level of depravity. And it diminishes the value and complexity of one of the most compelling villains in comic books.

Why does anyone like this comic? Why did I like this comic?

Until sometime last year…

View original 1,343 more words

Futures End #0-3/Batman Eternal #5-7/Limoncello Lemonade

The-New-52-Futures-End-full(Spoilers. But they’re pretty lame ones, so don’t fret too much.)

DC Comics’ official page for Futures End #4 poses lots of questions.

“Where is Red Robin? Who wants to steal from the world’s most famous man? And whatever happened to Stormwatch?”

But unless I’m very much mistaken, they answered all of these questions as main plot points in Futures End #1-3 (tending a dive bar in New York City; Terry McGinnis aka Batman Beyond; it blew up, respectively).

So I have a few questions of my own:

Why is Green Arrow “dead”? (Again?) And more broadly, what does “death” even mean in superhero comics? (Answer is almost always: Nothing. Nada. Fuck all.)

Why should I care about Frankenstein? Why is he featured so prominently in 2 of the 5 issues thus far, and more pointedly, is DC pushing him on us because that movie sucked so hard?

(Almost forgot that existed, didn’t you?)

And one perpetually nagging query: What’s with Batman Beyond’s face? Especially the mouth region. Like… you can see his teeth and inner mouth and stuff, but the mask completely covers his jaw and mouth and lips… I don’t understand. Somebody please explain.

Anyway — Futures End #0 was so promising. It was all Terminator-meets-Days of Future Past, and as usual, the goddamn Batman was the last man standing. Mr. Terrific seems intriguing so far, despite the fact that the “T” could just as easily stand for “Tool.”

Though I really want to like this series, I remain ambivalent. Oddly enough, the same is true of Batman Eternal.

BatmanEternal7Again, strong start followed by filler. I mean, Oswald Fucking Cobblepot is the cover image for Eternal #7. Can we be done with Penguin already? Nobody fucking cares. Least of all Batman.

Is a weekly series just too ambitious? Or maybe “bloated” is a better word. With an eternally (heh) rotating creative team, Eternal and Futures End are perhaps suffering from that cliche about the box of chocolates. One person’s pineapple truffle is another’s rum nougat. (Or vice versa…?)

Eternal #5 features art by Andy Clarke, who pretty much knocked my socks off. Looking forward to more issues from him — his images are simultaneously sharp as glass and just a little rough around the edges.

On to the drink! Today was really the first summery day here in Minneapolis, and I was craving some lemonade. I bought some limoncello for the Bourbon Pom drink I posted a while back, so I figured I could use some of that up. So — I give you the limoncello lemonade. (It’s limoncello with lemon juice and ice.)

1.5oz Il Tramonto limoncello

juice of one lemon

ice, slightly crushed

Combine in a glass. Stir. Add ice.

Yup. So I was lazy. It’s a lazy kind of day. Good way to get rid of limoncello if you have no other use for it, but I’d highly recommend that Bourbon Pom if you’re looking for a little more pizzazz.

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Batman Eternal, American Vamp, and the New Old-Fashioned

Holy expendable income, Batman! I’ve bought a lot of comics lately. From left to right:

Scott Snyder has revived his American Vampire series, and based on the strength of his writing for Batman I’ve decided to give it a go. I’m three issues into the original run of 34 (#1-5 featuring Stephen King as co-writer) and it’s pretty killer so far. Smart, fresh, and definitely not your granddaddy’s (nor your teenage sister’s) vampire story.

Issues 1-3 of the Batman Eternal series, which just started this month and, if Batman #28′s preview was any indication, seems pretty promising. (Can you tell I dig Scott Snyder?) Got these on a recent outing with the other CnC dudes to The Source Comics and Games.

The three latest additions to Andrew’s Batman Comics CanonJLA: Crisis of ConscienceInfinite Crisis and Batman: Battle for the Cowl.

And just for kicks, here’s what I’m drinking to warm myself up after a day chainsawing in the cold, rainy, miserable Minnesota spring thus far:

Maple-Orange Old-Fashioned

2oz Knob Creek Kentucky straight bourbon

1tsp Grade A maple syrup

Fee Brothers orange bitters

Combine all in a pint glass with ice, stir; strain over large ice cube into a rocks glass.

I loooove maple and orange together (especially orange zest on French toast or in pancake batter). You can also fix this sucker with Knob Creek’s Smoked Maple bourbon and just use simple syrup instead of maple. Garnish with an orange wheel if you’ve got one on hand.

IFC 2014 Debrief: Stress, Hospitality, and Why I Fix People Drinks

Recently Linz and I engaged in a spot of friendly family rivalry: IFC 2014, the second annual Bacher-Murray clan cooking competition. For the uninitiated, “IFC” stands for “Iron Fucking Chef,” because the Bachers and the Murrays are just that badass and also because they do not shy away from a healthy dose of profanity.

Delicious food was cooked and eaten by all eight of us, but food isn’t what we concern ourselves with on this blog, is it?

1964846_10202626828406875_323227882_nLinz and I cooked a Mediterranean/Mexican fusion falafel salad, and to fit that theme I tested and carefully selected a few “featured” cocktails to go with the meal: the Lion’s Tail, which you’ve already read about on this blog, an as-yet unnamed beverage incorporating citrus and pomegranate, and a non-alcoholic version of the same (basically a pomegranate lemonade). I chose these flavors for their respective ties to both Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines.

I do like cooking. Not as much as Linz, but maybe I’m getting there. Cocktails have been kind of a “gateway drug” to cooking — in recent weeks I’ve started looking forward to getting home from work, having a shower, fixing myself a nice drink and attempting whatever awesome-sounding recipe Linz has pulled out of the internets.

So of course I like fixing drinks for myself. But I have just as much (or more) fun fixing them for other people. After the hurricane of throwing together an appetizer, a full meal-sized salad, a dessert, and three different cocktail choices between eight people in an hour or less, I can say with some certainty I don’t think I’d like being a bartender. But they also say we sometimes learn best when under stress.

I had fixed both the Lion’s Tail and the Bourbon Pom before, so I knew they’d hold up well — especially since their flavors are pretty apparent just looking at the ingredients, so it was easy for folks to choose something they’d enjoy.

On the other hand, the pomegranate lemonade was a new one for me, in that I had never fixed it before the last five minutes of our allotted cooking time. I didn’t know whether it would be heavy on the sours of the citrus or the bitters of the pomegranate; whether it would be too sugary or too watery.

I went into it pretty much blind, and I was pretty nervous about the results. But it went over well, and I’m glad I thought to provide the non-alcoholic option; it meant our diners could enjoy the same flavors present in the Bourbon Pom without the booze. Even if only one person selects that beverage (as was the case), it’s still worth the effort and whatever stressing out I might’ve done about it at the time.

(Later that weekend I fixed one for myself, and it is pretty tasty.)

So yeah, I like drinking in general. But the low-cost, high-return of mixing cocktails for our friends and family has become a rewarding hobby, and like cooking, it’s a skill I can apply to a lot of different contexts.

Without further ado, Andrew and Lindsay’s IFC 2014 Cocktail Menu:

The Lion’s Tail

2oz Buffalo Trace bourbon

1/2oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

1/2oz lime juice

1tsp simple syrup

1-3 dashes Angostura bitters

lime wheel/wedge

Shake all ingredients over ice; serve straight up or on the rocks in your glass of choice (I recommend a double Old Fashioned) and garnish with the lime.

Most recipes will tell you to strain this drink, but fruit juices produce a nice frothing effect when shaken that separates in the glass almost like a freshly-poured Guinness. The greater the quantity of fruit juice, the greater the effect; pour it right away before the drink settles out in the shaker. The end result is a smooth, creamy head over a spicy, boozy bourbon drink. Delish.

FNC-Lions-Tail

Next up: the Bourbon Pom, so named for the brand of pomegranate juice I found in our grocery store.

pom2oz Buffalo Trace

1.5oz pomegranate juice

1Tbsp Il Tramonto Limoncello

1Tbsp lemon juice

lemon twist

Shake all ingredients over ice; strain or pour straight up/on the rocks.  Again, to get that nice foam on top of your drink just pop the top off your shaker (right away!) and pour straight into your glass. Crack that lemon peel over the top to release some more of those lovely citrus oils.

Careful with your measurements on this drink — the first time I fixed it, I put in an OUNCE of limoncello instead of a tablespoon, and the result was waaay too sweet. Like, lemon-drop candy sweet.

And last but not least, the non-alcoholic pomegranate lemonade.

3/4 – 1 cup cold water

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

1.5Tbsp lemon juice

1.5Tbsp simple syrup

lemon wheel/wedge

Combine in a tall glass, throw in a few ice cubes, and stir — carefully! Your average pint glass is full to the brim with these quantities, so either scale it down or be sure to put it in something a little more spacious. Again, garnish with your slice of citrus.

The Roosevelt/Batman: Venom

No, I’m not drinking a 60-proof cocktail this early on a Sunday. But I fixed this drink last night while putting the finishing touches on the post. The Roosevelt (named for Teddy, I’m told) is a stiff drink with spiced rum, dry vermouth and OJ. I’ve been wanting to try it for a couple weeks now, and a rum cocktail seemed to fit here since one of the locales in today’s comic is an island-nation in the Caribbean. Here’s the recipe I threw together (ratios from liquor.com)

kraken_bottle1.75oz Kraken Black Spiced Rum

0.5oz Martini Extra Dry vermouth

0.25oz orange juice

1/4tsp granulated sugar

orange twist

Combine all in a shaker over ice, shake and strain to your garnished glassware of choice (technically I guess it belongs in a martini glass).

This is officially the first cocktail I’ve mixed that I just plain didn’t enjoy. It’s very dry and very boozy — the former is not necessarily a criticism, but the latter definitely is. I like my drinks to have a bit of a kick to them, but the presence of alcohol in this concoction is just overwhelming, and somehow the rum’s spicy flavors are most decidedly AWOL in a drink that contains roughly 65% spiced rum. And what the hell is the OJ doing in there? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I thought maybe I could track down a recipe with more forgiving ingredient ratios, but to no avail. IF for some reason I were to fix this drink again, I’d either switch to a sweet vermouth, use simple syrup instead of sugar, or both (granulated sugar will not dissolve in solutions of high alcohol content, and this drink is about 30% alcohol). I might even up the vermouth to 0.75 or 1oz to bring that proof down a bit.

On first glance the Roosevelt sounds intriguing, but without some serious tweaking it remains a seriously flawed beverage in my mind. I struggled to get to the bottom of the glass, and so did my spouse/drinking buddy.

Luckily, legendary Bat-writer Dennis O’Neil comes through for us in this 5-comic arc from 1991. Originally published as Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20, Batman: Venom tells an early story of the Batman’s career in which his failure to rescue a young girl sends him into a guilt-ridden addiction to the super-steroid code-named “Venom” — the same drug that will one day fuel his nemesis, Bane.

venomIn this tale, Batman is vulnerable and repulsive; a miserable, whining junkie who almost becomes a murderer for a handful of steroid pills. And yet Venom stands among the most powerful reasons why Batman can throw down with the gods and supermen of DC Comics.

Concerning mystery, intrigue, and feats of derring-do, Venom has it all. From street punks to super-soldiers, from death traps to dangerous obsessions, Denny O’Neil showcases the breadth of Bruce Wayne’s abilities and pathos. To overcome his chemical and psychological dependency on the story’s eponymous super-steroid, Batman locks himself in the Batcave for A MONTH. Emerging from pretty much the most hardcore cold-turkey ever, he heads to the Caribbean and kicks over an island full of James Bond-style paramilitaries. And did you ever wonder who would win in a fight between the Dark Knight and a great white shark?

(It’s not the shark.)

But it would be a mistake to consider Venom nothing more than D.A.R.E. lesson starring some 007 villains. The comic’s morality tale on substance abuse is the most apparent and least interesting element of the story.

Lacking the strength to free a young girl from a collapsing sewer tunnel, Batman begins to doubt his own efficacy, despite his many years of mental and physical training. “I was too weak to save her…. I wasn’t strong enough,” he says. After some trepidation, he starts popping “Venom” pills to dramatically increase his muscle capacity so the tragedy with the girl in the sewer will never happen again.

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“Where iss it, where iss it: my Venom, my Venom? It’s ours, it is, and we wants it.”

In other words, Batman goes looking for superpowers. In a dream sequence, the comic juxtaposes his failure to save the girl with an image of Superman — suggesting that if Batman had super-strength, the girl would still be alive. Or so Batman’s nightmares would have him believe.

Superheroes usually have a weakness, something that confounds them or deprives them of their fantastical powers. It’s the Achilles’ heel transposed into modern comic mythology and generalized into a genre trope.

(Achilles and Superman are in many ways cultural analogues, and so are the former’s heel and the latter’s Kryptonite.)

Examples abound; it is, after all, a trope:

Each Green Lantern ring always has some kind of substance over which it has no power (wood, anything yellow, etc.). And of course, if you take the ring away, GL is basically the definition of “Average Joe.”

scan10
The only amusing scene in Frank Miller’s All-Star Batman and Robin

Martian Manhunter is mortally afraid of fire; it’s deadlier to his species than any other hazard he and the Justice League typically face.

Even mere-mortal heroes like Green Arrow or Iron Man are pretty much just snarky, rich douche-bags when stripped of their signature weapons and armor.

But… not so the Batman. Take away the high-tech suit, the gadgets he’s invented, the custom-made cars, the most powerful computers on the planet, and… he’s still the goddamn Batman. All the tech is just for the sake of expedience and/or looking scary. Bruce Wayne is a force to be reckoned with because of his knowledge, experience, and training — in other words, because of his identity. No matter the situation, Batman is always 100% as cunning and dangerous as ever.

Duel to the death with a horde of ninjas? Cakewalk. After all, Batman IS a ninja — he just doesn’t need swords or mystical powers or a horde of other ninjas for backup. And, you know, he’s an expert in every single form of hand-to-hand combat on Earth.

Buried alive, drugged unconscious and tied in a straight-jacket? The goddamn Batman will dislocate his own shoulders, tear out of his restraints, punch through the lid of the coffin, hunt you down and make you eat the dirt you buried him in.

Mano a mano with the Man of Steel? Well, here’s the thing: Clark Kent fights fair, while Bruce Wayne fights to win. And because super-intelligence apparently isn’t included in the Kryptonian superpower package, Batman is always three or more moves ahead of Supes. Game over, Clark. Game over. And by game over I mean you’ve just been electrocuted, shell-shocked and decked in the face by the guy wearing the Kryptonite ring you gave him.

hush12sr91

Fanboi rant over. You just can’t hamstring Batman the way you can other heroes. He’s got weaknesses, sure, and this comic dives headfirst into his struggles with survivor’s guilt and his own fallibility, but the point is Batman doesn’t have “superpowers” because being Batman IS the superpower.

Venom gives us a most unwelcome taste of what happens when Batman goes looking for supernatural abilities to compensate for the fact that he’s fallible — and the cost is terrible. The cost is his integrity, his incorruptibility. Not to mention the respect of his friends and readers.

The irony is he’s so critical of himself that he equates his fallibility with his lack of superpowers, when of course we know Superman and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and all the rest are just as fallible as anyone else.

TL;DR – Batman: Venom is a typically dark and self-reflective Dennis O’Neil Bat-story that functions well on its own, even as it foreshadows the emergence of Bane in the Knightfall story arc.

And skip the Roosevelt — if you want a dry, boozy drink, just double down and fix yourself a Martini. Or if you’re dead set on rum, grab a Daiquiri or a Dark ‘n’ Stormy — they do a much better job of showcasing all those delicious spiced rum flavors.

Sandman Overture #1

The second issue of Neil Gaiman’s new Sandamn series hits stores today. I must admit, when I first heard talk of a new Sandman monthly, I was skeptical. How do you revive one of the most imaginative, innovative, and memorable comics of our time? As both a Gaiman and Sandman fanboy, I had to pick-up up the first issue to find out. I was rewarded with an answer to my question as soon as I turned to the first page: Dream is Endless. Gaiman’s mythology allows for infinite variation. As long as there is consciousness in the universe, Dream of the Endless will shape the unconscious imagination.

J.H. Williams III’s art shines in this first issue. His work is some of the most vivid and intricate I’ve ever seen in a monthly comic. It’s the perfect eye candy for this sprawling story. If you’ve never read the full Sandman series, do it. There’s never been a better time to start. Then make sure to pick-up the first two issues of Sandman: Overture. Judging by #1, they’ll be worth every penny. If you really need any extra motivation, check out this sneak preview of issue 2 here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/showbiz/neil-gaiman-sandman-overture/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

Up Next: Gaiman and Batman Surrealism!

P.S.
While I’ve never known Morpheus to be much of a drinker, I enjoyed his latest story with a Beefeater gin & tonic. Why? Because even though Dream is more immortal than any God, he’s also British-as-fuck.  And so are gin & tonics.  I’ve always taken my G&T’s with a lime, but Beefeater recommends lemon for their brand, so why not mix it up?  Lemon makes for a brigther, crisper cocktail–just enough tartness for a pleasant pucker. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, limes are the classic garnish for a reason. Or you can get crazy and try an Evans ( that’s lemon and lime). What’s most important is the gin: next time you’re craving a G&T, skip the Seagram’s. You don’t have to go top-shelf, just grab a London dry gin. London gins don’t have any extra sweeteners or colorants, so you know your gin will have that fresh, pure, juniper berry character. Mmm.

Comic Books and Star Wars Machete Order

Check out this story, aired March 20 on NPR’s All Things Considered. Machete Order is an alternate viewing order of the Star Wars films that aims at keeping the focus on Luke Skywalker’s story, using Episodes II and III as an extended flashback to the rise of Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire (completely eschewing The Phantom Menace). I read the original post a while back at nomachetejuggling.com, which in part inspired my own “remix” of Batman comics. Key words from Machete Order creator Rod Hilton:

“I think, you know, for a lot of people, ‘Star Wars’ is part of their culture. It’s part of how they grew up. In a way, fans – this is going to sound weird, but fans kind of own ‘Star Wars’ as much as George Lucas. They’ve taken it and put it into their minds, put it into their hearts in a way that maybe a filmmaker alone just can’t do. And so I think it’s really about – it’s sort of just remix culture. It’s, I as a fan can improve on this thing I love.”

Myth-making is certainly not a thing of the past, nor is it exclusive to long-lost kingdoms of faeries and goblins and magic rings. Many authors, critics, and fans (myself included) would argue that superhero comics are to modern American culture what mythology, specifically oral traditions such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, were to ancient Greece, with two major differences in how modern society receives these narratives:

1) Mass media homogenizes consumption — we all read it or watch it in exactly the same form, and often within in a relatively brief window of time. The printing press and the film camera have flash-frozen the slow erosion of some contours of a story and the raising up of others  that was integral to the oral transmission of many classical and medieval myths. The rise of fanfiction in the 20th century (one of many Star Trek firsts!) has brought some audience participation back to the scene, and as with most things the internet has only facilitated the explosion of fans’ forays into their favorite fictional worlds.

2) Modern capitalism gets people all hung up on the notion of trademarks and copyrights. Can we even imagine just not knowing who wrote and directed Star Wars in 1977? Or who it was that spent quite literally his entire adult life writing and rewriting poems and prose about a mythical land called Middle-earth? In 2008′s Iron Man, Jeff Bridges’ character Obadiah Stane has this to say to Tony Stark concerning intellectual property:

“You really think that just because you have an idea, it belongs to you? Your father, he helped give us the atomic bomb. Now what kind of world would it be today if he was as selfish as you?”

Obie might be a total douche, but his comments have a delicious meta-relevance to comic books themselves. What kind of a world would we live in if the only people who were ever allowed to pen a Batman story were Bob Kane and Bill Finger? Or if the same could be said of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for Superman? Without other writers and artists to carry on the characters and solidify their enduring popularity, superhero comics might have been long dead by now.

So… Why shouldn’t fans have the same shot at touching up, tweaking, or even outright creating new stories about their favorite mythical heroes and villains? As Hilton states above, we put a lot of time and love into these characters, even if we’re not given any credit for taking part in their ongoing evolution.

I’m not arguing that the original creators shouldn’t receive credit or compensation for their work; nor am I arguing that others should receive compensation for taking poetic license with something they didn’t create.

But what I am saying is that if George Lucas makes a shitty movie or three, I’m not gonna watch them, regardless of what he says or how he feels overall about his brainchild. The same is true (perhaps more so) of comic books. There are some really shitty Batman comics out there, and I refuse to let them taint my interpretation of the character.

Hence — AD’s Batman Comics Canon (WIP). Check it out here.

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