Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Who's Captain Canuck?

Who's This? Remember when Nelvana hijacked Who's This? Well, it's Captain Canuck's turn! Because every nation deserves a superhero wrapped in its flag.
The facts: After the 1940s, there were no homegrown Canadian superheroes until the 70s, the most enduring of which has been Captain Canuck. Created by cartoonist Ron Leishman and artist/writer Richard Comely for the latter's own indie imprint, Comely Comix, Canuck started life in his own eponymous series in 1975. Set almost 20 years in the future when Canada had become one of the world's most powerful nations (sorry, Cap, I've been to 1993, and your future didn't come to pass), the book went on hiatus after three issues and popped back up in 1979 under the CKR banner, concluding in 1981 with 11 further issues. A final, 15th issue wasn't published until 2004 as a limited edition. Of course, Comely did return to the concept a number of times before that, with a different guy in the suit (and sometimes a different suit). The original Captain Canuck was Tom Evans. The second, Darren Oak, appeared in the Captain Canuck Reborn 4-issue mini (the real 1993), and unfinished Legacy (2006). David Semple was a bike-riding Cap in Unholy War (3 issues 2004, a fourth in 2007).
How you could have heard of him: IDW did come out with collections of some of this material, but fans might also check out the 5-episode animated web series, available here!
Example story: Captain Canuck #1, "Arctic Standoff" (1975) by Richard Comely with Dave Abbott
Later issues, drawn by George Freeman, were much less amateurish than what you're about to see, but there's something I find very cool and interesting in Comely's first effort, in particular his use of photo montage, and markers to do the color. For example, here's the first page, on which some random dude about to be blown up by Canada's enemies (the USSR?) chilling in his Arctic monitoring base.
Canada and the U.S. scramble jets, while the enemy makes contact. "Canada's new leaders" may or may not be of Soviet origin. Maybe they're just two guys with the power to threaten us with THERMO DESTRUCTION!
We're Canadian, we can't abide the heat! We can't let these two guys thermo! Call in the superheroes! And we do seem to have more than one. Also, read how things have changed in the last 18 years.
Captain Canuck and Bluefox, two super-agents working for CISO (the Canadian International Security Organization), jump into a personal subway tube that shoots them to the northern tip of Quebec, where they board a quinjet, which brings them to a snowmobile with which they will make the rest of the journey to the damaged base. It's like the Amazing Race Canada without the stupid bit in a New Brunswick Dairy Queen. Also: With awesome anime transport.
Bluefox is really edgy. He paws his laser gun when Cap isn't looking, thinks dark thoughts when riding their tandem snowmobile, and disappears when Cap is forced to fight a stray polar bear.
Well, you sort of knew something like this had to happen in every Canadian comic at some point, right? Cap's Canadian bacon is saved when a friendly Inuit, not Bluefox, shoots the bear dead. Cue clumsy collage techniques and Cap's FOURTH consecutive mode of transport.
The sequence also reveals Canuck is bilingual, because yes, if you're going to represent my country, you better speak both English and French. Thankfully, Utak speaks one of the official languages and helps them get to the base. Once Utak leaves for whatever seal-clubbing activity he's late for, Bluefox shows his hand and knocks Cap upside the head. When he comes to, he's under watch by a lot more than two Commies. Like, at least six, if we include Bluefox. Seems like we "capitalists have mismanaged [our] huge supply of resources for much to long [sic]". The Lenin-looking bad guy wants to indoctrinate us as soon as possible because communist methods  "will save the whole world!" He's WRONG, says Canuck, "by taking away ones' free agency, you put an end to real happiness and progression!" Given that the character's creators were Jehova's Witnesses (Comely talks about  it in the text page), Canuck's talk of indoctrination makes me arch an eyebrow, but I won't comment further. The comic certainly doesn't feature religious content (well, one line, wait for it). It's a simple action story. See?
Though Canuck takes a gun away from a guard and grabs the Soviet commander, he's too late to stop Bluefox from pushing the button that activates the countdown to THERMO DESTRUCTION. Bluefox is shot in the back and killed (so much for Christian values), with 90 seconds on the clock. 90 seconds to what?
NOT THE PRAIRIES!!! Consider that Comely was from Manitoba. Still, if it were me, my first reflex wouldn't be to aim a missile strike at the Maritimes. I mean, would Ottawa even care? So Canuck uses his great strength and resolve to pull big electric cables and shorts out the countdown. Hurray! Here comes the CISO cavalry to mop things up.
Oh yeah, it's the future and we were promised jet packs. Captain Canuck saved the day, but remember: "God was helping us." So Canuck is religious, that's no problem. It's not like his powers COME from God (aliens rather). Can't a creator let his faith inform his character's own? Sheesh. I do find it intriguing that the next decade's Canadian super, Northguard, is specifically Jewish. American supers don't show their faiths nearly as much. For Comely, it seems an extension of his own faith to at least acknowledge it. For Northguard, I know the creators wanted to craft something more realistic and textured than most superhero comics. It seems a bigger deal now than it probably did then.

In the 70s, Canadian superheroes became obsessed with the concept of providing Canada with a national hero that would represent, in look, power and attitude, the country's characteristics and values. The Northern Light was the first, in the early 70s, followed by Captain Canuck and Captain Canada. John Byrne's Alpha Flight, with its similar design ethos, showed up in Uncanny X-Men at the end of the decade, and in the next, we had Northguard and his sidekick Fleur-de-Lys, in a politically more realistic Canada, but nevertheless attired in the country's regalia. Canada's homegrown heroes HAD to be recognizably Canadian; we were denied anything else. It's as if all American superheroes had to be Captain America.

Who else? I'm looking for issues of New Triumph where Northguard's adventures were published. Maybe one day I can talk about this seminal 1980s Canadian hero. Kickstarter just told me Brok Windsor's Golden Age collection has reached its goal, so he'll probably show up in these pages first.

Babylon 5 #86: Between the Darkness and the Light

"Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova, Commander, daughter of Andrei and Sofie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance, and the boot that is gonna kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart. I am death incarnate and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
IN THIS ONE... Garibaldi springs Sheridan out of jail. Ivanova's last stand against Shadow-modified Earth vessels.

REVIEW: The incredible second half of this episode made me forget all about the first half's many weaknesses, so I may struggle... As expected, Garibaldi is his old self enough to want to make things right by rescuing Sheridan. Of course, he's now Sheridan's infamous betrayer so it takes a telepath's seal of approval, impossible to get unless one has Vorlon-enhanced powers, which Lyta most definitely has. Thankfully, she's on Mars, and Doc Franklin, though ready to let Number One execute his old friend wants to be sure they're not making a mistake. From there, a rescue attempt which will hinge on security being rather more lax than we'd expect at the interrogation center, but some fun use of Lyta unleashing her powers on the guards (PAINNNNN!) and getting the codes from them. Lyta is otherwise problematic, however. I laughed out loud when she grabbed a machine gun and starting shooting in the air - it seemed completely ridiculous - but scratched my head at the "comedy" scene where she wants to sue whoever ever said she was a good liar. It dawned on me then that I really didn't know who Lyta was. A tool of the Vorlons, someone who keeps getting disrespected for no visible reason, and a character that might as well be JMS' own private deus ex machina, with powers useful for moving the plot along, or ignored when they would make things too easy. But I don't think the writer or the actress really know what makes her tick, and so these scenes come off as random, getting the wrong impression from the audience. Garibaldi gains redemption not because he acts to undo the damage he did, but because he manages to be cool doing it. He would hate to "go out" as a traitor, and talks circles around the nitwits guarding Sheridan's prison. Once again stabbed in the back, it's now a symbol of his penance for what he did to his former captain. As for Sheridan himself, I do wish they'd switched out interrogators again, and that the effects of torture - and drug-induced mind manipulation! - would have had a more lasting effect on him. He empties a magazine into a dead guard and that's catharsis enough that he can then get into the captain's chair again? I hold out hope for a sequel to his treatment, but at the rate things are going (JMS still thinks it's the last season), I'm not TOO hopeful.

Back on the station, Londo and G'Kar are meeting with the League of Non-Aligned Worlds and convincing them to join their ships to Sheridan's fleet. They even provide political cover for Delenn by excluding her so no one can say she was in a conflict of interest. Nothing sinister here. Rather, we're seeing how Sheridan's greater message, his preaching the power of alliance, has reached these various alien races. Babylon 5 HAS become our best hope for peace, and even its most warlike participants are now acting on this hope, not selfishly, but out of honor and reciprocity. Sheridan showed them the way with DEEDS, not just words, and they are repaying his service and sacrifice. With the aliens banding together, in part to deny Earth the possibility of isolating itself or one day lashing back (WWII Germany-style), and Sheridan getting rescued, we may indeed believe in hope. That's when JMS sandbags us with the opposite sentiment.

Now, I do find the Shadow-enhanced Earthforce battleships a little silly. I mean, it's the darkest battle ever with those black hulls, but the urchin quills don't seem to serve any purpose except to make us understand what's going on. But it's fine. The space battle is awesome and Ivanova gets to go for broke, willing to fight to the last man so this fleet loyal to Clark can't get away. At this point, Ivanova is looking haggard, even after Marcus tricks her into getting some sleep. That fatigue only accentuates her natural irritation, and from that irritation is born the most kickass speech this show has ever had (and I certainly wouldn't expect something like that from Star Trek!). She makes good on her divine promise, but can't avoid a large piece of debris hitting her ship. Now, my limited hindsight was working overtime. I knew Ivanova wasn't part of the 5th season, but I couldn't remember why. As the large piece of debris tumbled into view, it seemed to go in slow motion. I had time to play back in my mind how she'd just gotten this awesome moment, how she'd finally acknowledged Marcus' feeling for her, and her certain departure from the program. Ivanova was going to die. I was in tears. It's heart-wrenching that she survives this moment to essentially say her goodbyes to Sheridan, that she'll survive less than a week in some hospital bed. And like Londo and the NA League, her thoughts here, at the end, are for her friend, not for herself. She begs him not to add to his guilt, that her death is not on his head, and further gets a promise from him that he'll command the Agamemnon in the final battle - a place of psychological safety, surely. Unless the warning about traitors making believed they'd joined his cause are on that very ship... Like I said, at this point, I've lost track of whatever didn't work in the first half.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A powerful and touching end to one of the main cast. I'm more than willing to overlook the episode's weaknesses.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

RIP One of Doctor Who's Best Companions You Never Heard of

Maggie Stables passed away last weekend, in her sleep, after a long illness. My heart feels swollen. I enjoyed her work a great deal and still estimate her one of Doctor Who's best companions ever.

Many fans will not have heard of Maggie, or her character Evelyn Smythe, but if you're ever going to get into the Doctor Who audios by Big Finish, you could do a lot worse than to start with the 6th Doctor adventures where he's paired up with Evelyn. Evelyn is unique, you see, standing alone as the one Doctor Who companion who started traveling in the TARDIS at the age of retirement. Obviously, the Doctor is far older than she is, but the dynamic an "elderly" companion creates is completely original, perhaps coming closest, in the oddest of ways, to the current Clara-Capaldi relationship. Evelyn doesn't always have the stamina for running, but she's wise and unimpressed by the Doctor's shenanigans, an equal, and in Maggie's performance we hear the youthful twinkle in her eye as much as the tragic tiredness she'll eventually feel after too much travel.

Maggie's been with Big Finish since the very beginning, cast in some other part by voice of the Daleks Nick Briggs in the very first release, The Sirens of Time. By the next year (2000), she had been cast as Evelyn (in The Marian Conspiracy), the first of Big Finish's original companions, and one of their most enduring. Evelyn would appear in 22 audio stories, and Maggie herself in a few more besides in other roles. While there is a "last" Evelyn story - Thicker Than Water - but she was too popular to remain benched for long, and several more stories set before her departure were released through 2011 (Industrial Evolution). I have sadly heard them all, no new Evelyn Smythe for me, but would gladly listen to her audios again. One favorite is the musical comedy Doctor Who and the Pirates, she and Colin Baker are particularly great in that. Her first appearance, as well as The Spectre of Lanyon Moor (with the Brig) and Jubilee are also highly-rated with fans.

As a tribute, I've posted my old Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG card of her character, even if I was never very happy with the blurry Photoshop. The more lasting tribute is the collection of fine audio work she produced for Big Finish, many among my very favorites. Goodbye Maggie Stables and Evelyn Smythe. I won't be alone in missing you.

Babylon 5 #85: Intersections in Real Time

"The truth is sometimes what we believe it to be, and sometimes it's what we decide it to be."
IN THIS ONE... Sheridan's interrogation.

An extremely spare bottle episode, Intersections in Real Time (damn, these titles are pretentious) is essentially a two-hander between Sheridan and his nameless interrogator, played in a single, monochromatic room with only three pieces of furniture, each act playing out as a single scene in real time. It's efficient, to be sure, but as time/money-savers, it's also plenty audacious. If Sheridan is deprived of food, light, quiet and stimuli, we too suffer a deprivation of a kind. It has the kind of Eastern Europe feel we'd associate with Orwell's 1984 or Kafka's The Trial, and in fact, dips deep into those two works for inspiration. The truth, we're told, is fluid and subjective, a theme in both aforementioned works, and the interrogator goes out of his way to both tell the truth and exemplify that idea, contradictory though it seems. A real chameleon, the interrogator can be friend or foe, devious trickster or sound counselor, and proves his point by presenting things with absolute earnestness, though they may later be proven false (the time of day, the broken Drazi, Sheridan's execution). The point is that these things feel true and so are true, though that truth can change without notice.

It's very interesting that though "subjectivity" is supposed to justify Sheridan's surrender - after all, Earth's truth is as good as any, and far less painful to believe in - Sheridan spins it the other way. He cannot win, that's the truth the interrogator wants him to accept in the end, but he can turn anything into subjective victory, in his case, a string of victories, one for each time he says "no". The people Sheridan is presented with are playing roles, mutable ones, so it's ironic for Sheridan to find his one absolute truth, his rock and foundation, is a hallucination of Delenn. The one fake person in the room is the only one he can trust, and so long as she provides sanctuary for his mind, he'll be able to resist. The strategy of resistance he exposes to the Drazi is exactly right - he need only say "no" more times than they say "you must". Or if you will, he need only hold out until he is rescued by a repentant Garibaldi or friends from Babylon 5. And if he never is, he made his peace the day he instructed his people to carry on without him, that the mission was always more important than the man. One thing that seems completely impossible is his ability to escape. Help must come from outside. But by then, what will be left of his psyche?

As the interrogation starts over with a different interrogator working from the same script - a scene evoking Kafka, yes, but also The Prisoner - we see how far Earthgov is willing to go to change Sheridan's narrative. As we move forward, I hope we see one or more new interrogators making him relive the cycle until they get it right. It would be a fitting continuation of this abstraction.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: The episode must live in the shadow of "There are four lights", but manages it with some aplomb.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A bold, Spartan episode, deliciously twisted and taking its cues from great existential and absurdist literature and television.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Who's Sunburst?

Who's This? The Japanese superhero on page 21 of Who's Who vol.XXII.
The facts: Before his Who's Who entry, Sunburst appeared in exactly one storyline, running in New Adventures of Superboy from #45 to #47 (1983), and then had a cameo in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12. He was created by Paul Kupperberg and Alex Saviuk.
How you could have heard of him: After Crisis, his history seems to have been pushed forward to more contemporary times, and (as per his Who's Who entry), Rising Sun replaced Superboy in those pre-Crisis stories. Grant Morrison introduced a new version of Sunburst in Doom Patrol #26 who is essentially Japan's answer to Booster Gold. He fights the Brotherhood of Dada, and may be killed doing so, but we don't know what his connection to Takeo Sato is. Sato is definitely a founding member of  Big Science Action though, a Silver Age Japanese JLA seen in Final Crisis (yes, with Rising Sun).
Example story: New Adventures of Superboy #45-47 (1983) by Paul Kupperberg, Alex Saviuk and Kurt Schaffenberger
To me, Sunburst isn't a particularly obscure character because his issues of New Adventures are among the first comics I ever got. I came for Dial H for Hero and stayed for Superboy. I do acknowledge that he appeared in only one story spread over three issues (plus Crisis, but everyone was in that) for him to get an entry. And remarkably, even this one story never actually happened. Maybe someone planned on using him soon, or wanted to include more ethic variety in Who's Who. It might even be that he was used as an exercise in showing how the post-Crisis universe's history could retroactively include characters who appeared with erased characters. I don't know. Maybe we can think about how Rising Sun would have fit this story as we go through it...

Clark is enjoying a Japanese superhero movie with his girlfriend Lisa (what, not Lana? Dude, you gotta find some New Adventures of Superboy in the quarter bin), specifically a Sunburst movie, Clark's favorite.
These kinds of movies have just started showing in America so... what's the date? Well, considering that Superman is an eternal 29 in 1983, his teenage adventures have to take place 14 or 15 years earlier. In fact, according to a newspaper headline, Rod Laver just won Wimbledon, which makes it either 1968 or 1969  (his two most likely titles). But the headline that interests us most is buried in the international news section:
Clark is a good boy, so he tells his folks before he leaves for Japan (and Pa Kent alone to deal with aggressive mall builders trying to force local businesses in Smallville to close). Superboy can't speak Japanese, of course, or rather, can't YET.
If you're looking for scenes that DIDN'T happen with Rising Sun, this one is certainly a contender. I can only imagine Superboy has a stash of dictionaries somewhere he can access with X-ray vision easily. Super-learning powers... activate! Lord, public school must be torture for him. After making contact with the police, Superboy goes out to find Sunburst and does, right after a jewelry store robbery. Right away, you can tell this movie hero come to life is doing what he does for some greater reason, and he's prepared to kill Superboy or destroy Tokyo to do it!
The solar powers don't hurt Superboy much, though Sunburst can shine bright enough to make the Teen of Steel see spots, but he's got other tricks in his arsenal. Some do sound a little rude though.
Cough. Cough. But is he action star Takeo Sato, or just some copycat/movie fan? Clark takes a tour of Mifune Studios (cute reference, but I still think of it as Toho), but fails to use super-eavesdropping to hear this exchange that proves Sato actually does have the powers of Sunburst.
Where IS Clark at this time? Getting lunch.
Come on, Clark. Don't you have a super-palate or something? I'm calling it: This is Scene that didn't happen to Rising Sun #2. Later, Sunburst is being told to go rob more stuff my gun thugs, and this brings him into conflict with Superboy again. This time, only Sunburst flies away from the battle. In the last chapter, we discover the mobsters are holding his parents, and that he has untold powers... like shredding paper!
And creating "eruptions" of pretty much any kind.
This isn't exactly the same as when he blew a hole in the ground and created a volcano... Well, maybe it's an application of the same power that gives him flight, hand me a No-Prize. Once again, Sunburst escapes, but this time Superboy's happy about it. See, back in chapter 2, when he was punched into a truck, he learned Sunburst's secret.
He follows Sunburst back to mob, and has a foolproof plan to prevent the baddies from tripping the button that will blow up Sato's parents. FOOL. PROOF.
Yes, that's right. His plan is to outrace the detonation signal and block it before it hits the relay antenna or the bomb. Only then does he rescue the parents and beat up the baddies. As a reward, the Satos tell him their boy's origin story, but Takeo comes out of it thinking his powers are a curse (even though they made his career, and maybe he could better protect his loved ones WITH them), but Superboy has a solution for that too. Super-hypnosis!
That's Rising Sun Couldn't Do That Moment #3, but Who's Who says he did do it. It just didn't take because Sunburst was active by the time the Crisis hit. So why not just retcon that bit? And really, why bother at all if you're NOT going to use Sunburst much at all over the next few decades? Only Morrison ever seemed interested...

Who else?
I think I'm ready to move on. Maybe save the Sun Devils for the second lap. I've done Super-Chief in Reign of the Supermen. And I'll be damned if I do every crappy Outsiders villain like Syonide. They ALL suck and would force me to read an Outsiders story. Who's Who vol.XXIII is on tap next.

Babylon 5 #84: The Face of the Enemy

"I don't know, but I think the last guy got 30 pieces of silver for the same job."
IN THIS ONE... Garibaldi betrays Sheridan. Bester activates and explains Garibaldi's programming. Franklin and Lyta bring the Shadow-modified telepaths to Mars.

REVIEW: Director Michael Vejar (my favorite) is almost impossibly restrained in the first half of this episode, but that's I think to create a greater contrast between those early scenes and the ones past Garibaldi's Biblical betrayal of Sheridan. It makes sense. When Sheridan is winning ships over to his side and it's all going "too well" even in his own estimation, the camera is steady, what it photographs is clear. It gets interesting when Sheridan goes to Mars to rescue his father with Garibaldi's help, and suddenly, the camera is on a covert mission, only with difficulty catching sight of the incognito captain. Fighting through tranquilizers and the shock of Garibaldi's treachery, Sheridan has one of the best bar brawls I've ever seen, with Vejar smacking us around with every trick in the book. It's brutal and visually impressive, making use of strobe lights, still photography, distortion, slow motion, and a rocking atmospheric soundtrack that gives the scene even more importance. Vejar will in fact use stills three ways. Here to highlight Sheridan's distorted point of view, again as fragments of Garibaldi's broken psyche, and finally as crime scene pictures leaked from the grisly murder of Edgars. There's brutality in this too, even though we're not shown the attack, and in Sheridan's treatment of course, slyly edited in with propaganda reports to the contrary.

After Garibaldi betrays Sheridan, he must betray Edgars (and by extension, Wade and Lise). He doesn't want to as he agrees with Edgars' agenda, but this is actually part of PsiCorps' programming. FINALLY, ANSWERS! The whole point was for Garibaldi to report any threat to PsiCorps, and everything that's happened has been poison fruit from that tree. His paranoia accentuated by the deep implant, he came to distrust Sheridan (who was possibly Bester's original target, seeing as he held his Shadow-modified lover), which in turn led him to people opposed to Sheridan who had plans of their own for telepaths. It seems a bit coincidental, but PsiCorps did contact Garibaldi from time to time to push him in certain directions they thought fertile. Garibaldi's instincts did the rest. As it turns out, Edgars is considering genocide. His last line of dialog is brilliant, choking on "the telepath problem", realizing he is paraphrasing the Nazis. Wonderful. After that, Bester makes contact and lets Garibaldi have all his memories back, telling the whole story we've been wanting to know. It's JMS' weakest piece of writing in the episode (assisted by great lighting and camera choices though), and I get the feeling some plans were changed given the various convolutions that must take Garibaldi out of the Shadows' hands and into Bester's, but whether you believe Bester would let Garibaldi live with all this knowledge or not, the angsty pay-off is great. Will Judas now find a rope to hang himself?

To cover a few others bits and pieces... Lyta suffering prejudice from Number One on Mars keeps the focus on telepaths, but isn't too interesting. Lyta is the show's most consistent martyr, and could join the X-Men at this point (because Wade calls the telepaths "homo superior" - which should have prompted a call from Marvel's lawyers - so they obviously exist in the same universe). Delenn is back from Minbar, and aware of Sheridan's fall through some intriguing psychic bond. But it's Ivanova's subplot that most captures my imagination. Finally she's out of the broadcaster's chair and in a position to show some badassery, and though their opponents are convinced they'll fall back with Sheridan caught, it couldn't be farther from the truth. You can lose a man, but you can't lose a mission.

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: The big betrayal on Deep Space 9 isn't as personal - Michael Eddington (yes, another Michael) betrays Sisko (also become a religious figure) to the Maquis.

- Vejar always elevates the material given him, and this is on the whole some mighty fine material. A lot of things here have been a long time coming and don't disappoint.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

This Week in Geek (22-28/09/14)


Got a couple of DVDs this week (been DVD-waiting these shows, because I can't be trusted to watch weekly TV): How I Met Your Mother Season 9 and Castle Season 6.


DVDs: In Woody Allen's most recent period of film making, there's definitely a sense that half the films at least are part of a series, and I understand them as exploring the same themes. I watched three of these this week, which I'd put in the same "series" as Midnight in Paris and perhaps even Magic in the Moonlight. Essentially, each film is shot in a different European city/region, and that place's romantic qualities - its spirit, if you will - becomes part and parcel of the action. At the very least, these films are a cinematic travelogue of beautifully-photographed places, but the locations inspire characters, themes and elements of fantasy as well. Another theme that runs throughout is infidelity - sometimes disastrous, others harmless - which may prove an annoying fascination for some viewers. In order of release then... Match Point (2005) isn't typically "Woody Allen" because it doesn't trade as much on charm and humor as most others; it's a drama/romance that takes a sharp, cynical turn at the end. But then, it's shot in a cynical modern London, where the prettiness is all outside of town, and modernity cold and incongruous. It makes sense for the lead character, a tennis instructor with lofty ambitions and the opportunity to marry into money, would so ruthlessly pursue progress. He is his city. The greater theme is luck, and how much it plays a part in one's success (or lack thereof), with a tennis metaphor well used to bring about the lead's final fate. Is London also a city on the tipping point, between ancient romanticism and amoral modernity? The ball is still in the air. As usual, Allen assembles an all-star cast, including Matthew Goode, Brian Cox, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer and Penelope Wilton (is it wrong of me to be so distracted by a Mark Gatiss cameo though?), so expect strong performances. Is it a likable film? No. Is it a respectable effort? I think so.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) takes us to Spain, where Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) meet a real live Casanova (Javier Bardem) who invites them into his bed, one where his disturbed ex-wife (Penélope Cruz) could show up in with a knife any time. The sense of place is again flawless, trading on Spain's most romantic qualities. How will these impact women of a different temperament? Vicky, who seeks comfort and stability, and Cristina, who favors spontaneity and novelty. Both will find something to love in this man, and both will find their world view distorted into a new shape, which is really the point of setting most of the film in Gaudi's Barcelona. To an outsider, like Vicki's husband, the women's feelings are incomprehensible. They make no sense. One must have Gaudi's eye to accept these illogical permutations. Cruz steals the show however, with a visceral performance well worthy of the Oscar she got for it. Fierce and sexy.

To Rome with Love (2012) is more haphazard, but again, I want to go back to the city itself and what it's particular mystique is. We're told from the outset that everyone in Rome, natives, tourists and students alike, have a story, and we're told four of these. They never connect, and one gets the impression Allen could have released them as shorts. But we're told Rome is too big, both spatially and temporally, to really be abbreviated to a single element, which perhaps led to this exploration of several facets. It's also the most "Woody Allen" movie I watched this week, with several comic neurotics vying for time, one of them he plays himself. Of the four tales, my favorite has Alec Baldwin visit a version of himself (Jesse Eisenberg) in the past (I love the magical realism of it still taking place in modern Rome, because the city is timeless) about to make a mistake with his girlfriend's best friend (Ellen Page). I think it needed a button to get Baldwin back to normal life though. Maybe. I'm not sure about that. The other stories include a mortician who would become an opera singer if only he could sing it in the shower, newlyweds separated in the bustling city who come across temporary lovers, and Roberto Benigni as a boring ordinary man who absurdly becomes the prey of paparazzi, famous overnight. The last two stories are entirely in Italian; it's not all "tourists in Italy". The comedy will bring smiles more than laughs (though Judy Davis' psychologist humor is pretty funny), but ultimately, To Rome with Love feels a little patchy and unfinished. That may be the point, but it doesn't make it entirely satisfying. Still a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours though. The DVD includes a short making of that talks to a number of people in the cast and crew, illuminating how Allen works with actors (or really, gives them a lot of liberty), but he won't speak to the camera himself.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
V.ii. The Readiness Is All

Babylon 5 #83: The Exercise of Vital Powers

"Did you know this place was named after the god of war? Its rising foretold the death of kings, the collapse of empires. It was a very bad sign. Now there are 2 million people living here." "It's still a bad sign."
IN THIS ONE... Garibaldi meets his mysterious employer on Mars. Franklin struggles to awaken the telepaths taken by the Shadows.

REVIEW: When Garibaldi and Wade talk about Mars - in conversation or voice-over - the script sparkles. This is a frontier town filled with malcontents, a hell from which Garibaldi only narrowly escaped, and where finally, he may have lost his soul. Otherwise... meh. I continue to be bored with the Garibaldi plot. There's really no point in asking him if he trusts telepaths during his loyalty test, because he doesn't trust anyone, not even himself. No new information there. And I guess that's as good a synopsis as any of why this episode does very little for me - very little new information. Garibaldi is unchanging. Lise is still a boring melodramatic soap queen. And the build-up to revealing the mysterious Mr. Edgars is patently ridiculous. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. may have been a big TV star in the 60s, but to the show's core demographic, I'm thinking he would have been best known as the voice of Alfred Pennyworth in the celebrated Batman Animated Series. His name has been in the credits, his voice has been heard since he introduced himself to Garibaldi, and there's no real gasp to finally seeing his face, so why hide him from us? Or even from Garibaldi? If you were going to reveal him to be, I don't know, a Centauri who adopted a human name and started buying up real estate, well okay, that's one thing. There's no surprise here, and great though his voice is, he gets too many scenes where he recaps things we already know about Clark and PsiCorps. Babylon 5 doesn't do clip shows, but these expository recap episodes before any big event are rather tedious when you're binge-watching the program.

More interesting is the notion that Sheridan is going about liberating Earth the wrong way. The real power isn't Clark's, but the PsiCorps', and the harder Sheridan pushes Clark, the more power the telepaths get. Edgars wants to attack PsiCorps and destroy the corrupt government from the inside, and like our heroes, his solutions are necessary evils. He does not relish inflicting pain - there's just no other way - and seems to feel deeply for the telepaths he's infected with his bio-engineered disease. And yet, there's also a ruthlessness there, as evidenced by the telepath shot to protect his secrets. Just how Sheridan's capture and show trial fits into this plan is left to a future episode, but it sets up Garibaldi's final betrayal, who will go after Sheridan's dad to lure the captain into a trap. I'm again left wondering what Garibaldi's programming is and how he can keep acting against PsiCorps if they were responsible, unless a trigger turns him at the worst possible moment. It just feels like this has been going on way too long without any kind of movement.

But who says Sheridan isn't figuring PsiCorps into his plans? The show has been very clear about how dangerous it is to cut yourself off from your friends, and though he's assembled a great alliance, keeping his plans to himself (no doubt as a reaction to the telepathic threat) is a kind of isolation that could also prove deadly. Is Edgars moving on Sheridan because he doesn't trust PsiCorps to be taken out by the White Star Fleet, when meanwhile, Sheridan has Doc Franklin working on a plan to counter the telepaths after all? We don't know, and we're not told even after Franklin is, though if he's questioning his orders (and perhaps jonesing for stims? I'm glad that's still in the performance), the plan must not be very ethical. This is the more engaging plot, but it doesn't yield a lot of answers either. Lyta helps Frankling find an answer to awakening (or perhaps we should say reactivating) the telepaths converted into Shadow pilots SOMEhow, and we're not told why Franklin must now go to Mars. It's all very hush-hush, and in an episode that already refuses to tell you what's going on, that's frustrating.

I can't help it, those Shadow telepaths make me think of the Borg every time.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - I recognize its usefulness to set up things to come, but find the Garibaldi plot boring and padded with pointless exposition and melodramatic acting.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Reign of the Supermen #547: Clark the "K"

Source: Superman vol.1 #182 (1966)
Type: The real thing (since retconned)
Continued from last week... His Clark Kent identity made useless by a blinding weapon, Superman set off to find another. His second attempt is Clark "the K" King, a British disk jockey, because hey, he likes to do accents!
A Superman based in England instead of Metropolis? And in the nowhere town of Wapshire? An interesting change of scenery and maybe one America's youth would respond to given we're at the height of Beatlemania and the British Invasion. But a disk jockey? Only if he can get the job. With no experience, how is he going to manage that? Well, all the applicants will do a show, and whoever gets the most fan mail, gets the job. (Anyone who's worked in radio - and it just so happens I have - will tell you this is an unfair competition because time of day and day of week has a huge impact on your number of listeners, but this is the Silver Age and all things appear to be equal.) Now, do you remember how Clark Kent got a job at the Daily Planet? That's right, he cheated and gave HIMSELF the first Superman interview, scooping star reporter Lois Lane. So are we at all surprised he cheats the DJ job interview as well?
I bet he also flew at superspeeds changing the channel to this particular station in that extra 100-mile radius. Because why would you be checking this station's frequency if it's never reached you before? However he did it, his broadcast reaches 10 times as many people and he gets 10 times the fan mail. Well jolly good, tally-ho and pip pip, old boy, he gets the job. And yes, that's my impression of Superman's impression of an English person. Even with half a disguise (a monocle now?), no one recognizes him as Superman because we're ABROAD, but that could soon change as Superman starts doing Britishy things like saving the queen's yacht from crashing into the White Cliffs of Dover (colored brown-orange because someone isn't reading the stories they color). You'd think being Superman when your job only lasts a couple of hours a day would be easy ("why does the crime rate peak only a certain time of day?!"), but Clark the K has other duties, like choosing the next big band:
We can't hear music on the printed page, so it's really about who has the best gimmick. The Mutations' horror masks, or the Piccadilly Jailhouse Trio's prisoner uniforms and criminal records to match? As Clark takes a break for fish'n'chips, we'll break too, because his quest for talent will bring us into contact with a THIRD Superman. Jerry Siegel's last Superman story concludes... next week!

Babylon 5 #82: No Surrender, No Retreat

"Captain's personal log, September 2nd, 2261—Enough is enough."
IN THIS ONE... Sheridan liberates Proxima III as Earth forces rally behind either his or Clark's banners. Londo and G'Kar sign a joint statement pledging their support to Sheridan.

REVIEW: If there's a word to describe Michael Vejar's direction in this episode, it's "urgency". His camera, always mobile and interesting, has a hard time keeping up with the characters, often lagging behind and trying to follow people who have more on their minds than letting themselves be filmed. Instead of the excruciatingly slow ramp-up to the Shadow War, we have a jam-packed, exciting half-an-episode getting us to the same point with Fascist Earth. Awesome. With Vejar in charge, the picture-making doesn't stop with the CG sequences, but these are also great, including a cool reveal of the White Star's new paint job, and a spectacular suicide run on the Pollux. Have we not seen Earthforce destroyers in action much before? Because they've never felt so much like GUNS to me before. Throw in a soundtrack full of urgent military marches and motivational speeches, and you have an episode that deserves to have its title be the Season's as well.

Worthy of note, Sheridan doesn't nuke anyone. Instead, we have potable strategies, both tactical and political, and that's true of the other side as well. Sheridan's fight is moral, and he demonstrates this by using words first, and keeping alien forces out of it (well, so long as you don't consider the White Stars Minbari), which will go some way proving to humans that he ISN'T under some alien influence (don't worry, propaganda fans, ISN can spin anything into anything). Finding out who the loyalists are and concentrating attacks on them (and rhetoric on the others) is paramount, but Clark's forces employ a buddy system to keep non-loyalists in check which counters this nicely. But Clark's weakness is exposed: He needs the corrupt few to keep the moral majority in check, so will always be outnumbered. One needs only motivate good people to do the right thing. We see two examples of this, mirrors of each other, when the crew of the Vesta fails to rally behind the loyalist plant, and the Herakles' stops following its corrupt captain's orders. The first instance could be misconstrued as the an effect of the same cult of personality that makes Sheridan's people support him, but the second reveals a greater truth about military ethics in Earthforce.

Vir's guilty conscience and Garibaldi's departure from Babylon 5 aside, the rest of the episode is dedicated to Londo and G'Kar, and whatever post-war relationship they might have. I love Londo here, on the one hand seeking redemption for his poor choices and doing right by his "friends", and on the other, unable to shake his selfish entitlement and need for acknowledgement. He's the one who goes to G'Kar with an open hand, with a diplomatic idea that would unite Centauri Prime, Narn and Sheridan's forces in a common purpose, but G'Kar gives him not an inch. Not gratitude, not respect, not even receipt of Londo's own thanks and respect. It's really rather poignant. Londo talks a good game, but his self-entitlement will always keep G'Kar at arm's length. In the end, G'Kar does make a concession, but out of loyalty for Sheridan and Babylon 5 (and perhaps to spite Clark's Earth Alliance, which abandoned his people early on), not to build any kind of bridge with Londo. As with the big space battle story, good people can be trusted to do the right thing in the right circumstances, but will only do so in their own time and on their own terms. Sheridan's victory (which comes at some cost, and we're reminded of the innocent nameless crew members who died at his hands) seems more decisive than Londo's, but both should be seen as a baby step in the overall scheme of things.

In DS9's "Paradise Lost", victory against corrupt Earth forces were also contingent on "turning" an opposing Starfleet captain.

REWATCHABILITY: High - The season's big center piece. Great action, visuals, dialog, acting and moral dilemmas.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Strip-Cocker (Safe for Work, I Swear!)

Boule et Bill is a popular Belgian bande dessinée, created in 1959 by writer-artist Jean Roba in collaboration with Maurice Rosy. Each album was often comprised of one-page humor strips, though I do believe there were longer tales. What I always found strange was that the dog was called Bill and the kid Boule (which means ball), but then I never came across this particular later-day album, which outstranges the strange. I know Europe is a whole other planet, but Strip-Cocker? I mean, I thought at first I was looking at the cover of some foreign-language translation, but no, that's the French (and English) title! And as you can see, Bill is dancing up a storm (though he has little in the way of clothing to "strip". That turtle sure is getting excited. Not sure about little voyeur Boule though.

I suppose there's nothing rude or inappropriate about the writer using Bill's breed - he's a Cocker Spaniel - in the title, but sheesh...

Babylon 5 #81: Moments of Transition

"We fight because it is our nature. It is the calling of our heart. Life and death are simply two possible consequences, both equal, neither valued nor feared above the other. For a warrior death is simply the release from our obligation."
IN THIS ONE... Delenn puts an end to the Minbari civil war. Bester manipulates Lyta and Garibaldi. Sheridan declares war on Earth.

REVIEW: Though the show is coy about Neroon's loyalties, I was right in thinking he was on Delenn's side all along. Not being surprised doesn't hamper my appreciation of the episode however. Delenn's plan is an echo of Sheridan's in the previous episode, using a far-reaching broadcast and not telling her closest aide what's going on, not unlike the human beau. But this being Minbar, she plays on tradition instead of paranoia, and finds the right ancient ritual to expose the Warrior caste leader Shakiri's self-serving ambitions and weakness in front of the whole planet, while also showing her own resolve, wisdom and respect. Like Sheridan, she benefits from the cult of personality, as Neroon sacrifices himself, converting to the Religious caste. It's a good thing he does, because the ritual's rules who have it mean the Warriors should rule the day otherwise (I think), and he evaporates just as I was really getting to like him. I thought for sure this would make him the leader of a new and more balanced Grey Council, but he is instead a martyr who gets an empty spot at the center of the mended Council, at least until the One Who Is to Come takes his rightful place there. So... Sheridan? Delenn herself, like G'Kar, refuses to exalt herself to a higher position.

The stuff on the station is comparatively tedious, but not entirely unpleasant. I guess I'm just a mite tired of Garibaldi getting defensive with Zack (who really doesn't deserve the abuse), and I'm only so-so interested in Lyta's hardships (not the least of which is Zack's gropey advances, not that she seems to mind). The mysteries surrounding these characters need a quicker resolution, basically. I'm nonplussed by the enigmatic Mr. Edgars, and thought Garibaldi would be on Mars by now. I guess Bester is in on Garibaldi's programming, and perhaps used his mind as a dead drop, or perhaps he isn't and has completely different plans for him. I'm fast losing interest in the whole subplot, and am rather impatient for clarifications about whatever factions are at work. All we can say for sure is that Bester manipulated events to force Lyta into his hands, and she rejoins the Corps in exchange for their access to her Vorlon-enhanced body/brain once she's dead. Really crappy how Sheridan isn't taking care of her after all she's done; I'm not even sure I buy it. But it's usually nice to see Bester, especially if he's going to have this much agency, and I empathize with him talking literature with a grunt ("the shallow end of the gene pool" means a lot more coming from him), but geez JMS, he doesn't need to explain his jokes. I dare say the average B5 viewer ISN'T splashing around at that shallow end.

Threatening to evict Lyta isn't Sheridan's only sin; there's a great deal of wrath too. Though we're totally on his side, I'm sure, his fury over Earthforce's murder of 10,000 civilian refugees pushes him towards the megalomania Garibaldi claims in driving the captain these days. At least in performance. But the fury is exciting and the music mounts. We're going to war with Earth, liberating everyone, and the fleet better not get in our way. Oh yeah. Hopefully we don't get a repeat of the Shadow war with episode upon episode of build-up while we wait for ships to arrive. There's rather more urgency this time.

REWATCHABILITY: Medum-High - Some rockin' moments for Delenn and Sheridan, but I still can't get with the Garibaldi program.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Random Thoughts on Gotham

Watched it, liked it, at least enough to write a few thoughts in lieu of a review...

1. Was it going to be Smallville or Arrow? I guess it's a little of both. The premise is Smallville's, but the mix of gritty action and soap opera is Arrow's (there's a house style forming). It's stronger out of the gate than Arrow though. The soap doesn't feel as cheesy, for starters.

2. It's called Gotham, and it really is about the town. Sure, young Gordon is the nominal hero, but the pilot sets the show up so it has conflicts in at least three arenas: The GCPD (corruption is rampant, the Wayne case), the criminal underworld (war brewing between Fish, Falcone and Penguin... there's a pun there, the latter as both avian and sea life...), and more personal affairs (Bruce and Alfred and Selina, Barbara Sr.'s gay relationship with Renée Montoya). There's really no reason the show couldn't switch focus to different characters in the Batman Family over time; I see a lot of potential.

3. The main problem people foresaw with the show as various news nuggets were leaked was that you'd have all the Batman characters interacting pre-Batman and that it would somehow feel forced or ridiculous. I'm glad to say it still works. We'll likely NEVER see a Batman in this show (except as a final image late down the line, à la Smallville), and if he inspires all the wackos to dress up, then we won't see "supervillains" either. So it really doesn't matter if there's a huge amount of interaction between the Bat Family before it should happen, because the show is its own world where we'll have to imagine what these relationships would mean for a post-Batman world, but would never have to see actually see it. It also means we'll see new characters like Fish Mooney, characters that don't have a destiny already spelled out and who can die or whatever the writers need to have happen to them.

4. Too much fan service? I didn't think so. This was the pilot and should feel special, with some characters likely to be throwaways (like Ivy, maybe even the Joker, if that's who he was referencing; could be a red herring, of course). Unlike Arrow, which throws out references to an enormous degree (especially writer and artist names), we either see the character or else get a street named Grundy (which was awesome, by the way, let's see Slaughter Swamp sometime).

5. Something I found interesting about using the various characters in this way is that it showed just how much the Batman universe is part of popular culture. Young pickpocket races through the streets, steals milk, gives it to alley cat, is never named... Who DOESN'T realize who this is? And so it goes with a lot of the characters. That universal knowledge certainly keeps the Waynes' murder elegant and efficient.

6. Trivia: Ben McKenzie (Gordon) has a previous connection to Batman... He voiced the Dark Knight in the Batman Year One direct-to-DVD release. And yeah, a Gordon without a mustache is a little disorienting at first, but when he does grow a 'stache, I bet it'll be a big season opener ker-pow moment.

7. Speaking of aging in the role, will we see David Mazouz grow up on TV as Bruce Wayne? And if the show is lucky enough to last the standard 7 seasons usually afforded network dramas, will we see take a greater and greater role in the action? The young actor is 13 now (though he seems to be playing it younger) and would be 20 by that theoretical last season.

8. Alfred as a hard-edged Cockney type? Looks like he might grow up to be Michael Caine! Speaking of interesting casting, I think Erin Richards as Barbara Sr. isn't too far from Dina Meyer as Barbara Jr. from Birds of Prey!And there are a number of times in the pilot where McKenzie gives a hang dog look reminiscent of Gary Oldman's performance in the Nolan trilogy. Not that this is a prequel to the films, you understand. Jada Pinkett Smith is the big name, and Fish is a pretty cool villain.

9. I like Vancouver as Star(ling) City, but Gotham is filmed in New York, and it's a dirty, polluted, cold and rainy New York. Nice atmosphere throughout.

10. So yes, I'll be watching it regularly, at least in the short term (by which I mean there's always a moment in the fall where I lose track of what's on TV and just give up on all the shows, then buy the DVDs). The story I'm most interested in is how much Gordon will be compromised before he's solved the Wayne murder and cleaned up the department. He managed to get out of a sticky ethical situation this time, but with Bullock breathing down his neck (and possibly Montoya and Crispus Allen as well), it's only a matter of time before he has to betray his own values to survive or keep his secrets.

Well done! Better than expected! DC properties really are better on TV than in the cinema.

Babylon 5 #80: Rumors, Bargains and Lies

"Yes, we've disagreed, even fought, but I would rather have someone who opposed me out of an honest belief in the rightness of his cause than someone who is always on my side because it was expected and required."
IN THIS ONE... Sheridan uses reverse psychology to manipulate the Non-Aligned worlds into letting him patrol their space. Delenn enters into a partnership with Neroon, seeding mistrust among their respective castes.

REVIEW: I love the con game, and I love what Michael Vejar does with the camera, so no surprise I liked this episode a lot. Sheridan's solution to the Non-Aligned worlds' refusal to let their space be patrolled by the White Star Fleet or contribute ships to that fleet, is both fun and brilliant, and I don't think it makes the League look too stupid. They're comic relief, but not acting illogically. Sheridan just stimulates their paranoia about a very real threat, and let's them do the work. Now, I guess he got Londo and G'Kar's good will behind the scenes? Or did I sleep through a scene in a previous episode? Maybe I made the wrong inference about the ellipsis at the end of their scene together. Regardless, the plan is elegant, roping in various characters to tell the League nothing's happening so they'll believe the opposite is true. Their participation becomes their own idea, with them thinking they're manipulating Sheridan. Well done.

Delenn and Neroon may be playing a similar game when they team up against their angry castes. There is such sincerity in the mutual respect they show each other, I don't want to believe in Neroon's betrayal at the end. After all, if both castes make false assumptions based on partial information (just like the Non-Aligned ambassadors did), why should we? There seems to be a lesson there. The warriors over-react and knock Neroon upside the head, and only Lennier's intervention prevents the religious caste from blowing up the ship in an act of foolish zealotry, with both sides regretting every doubting their leaders. I think that gives us permission to trust Neroon in this case (or if you'd rather, Delenn's faith in him), lets we also feel foolish. I guess I'll be disappointed if Neroon really is a short-sighted warmonger. Lennier once again comes up on top, sacrificing a piece of lung not to save the zealots from themselves, but to save Delenn the shock of knowing their betrayal. His love for her and for her unique perspective is quite touching.

Direction-wise, I love how Vejar makes his camera is always lurking behind people and things. Revealing Neroon behind his men, while Delenn is front and center creates a powerful contrast; you'd think the warrior caste would be braver. The lens whirls around paranoid delegates and loses sight of Sheridan in a mob of people. It keeps the eye consistently interested and plays up the idea that we're getting partial information, that no one gets a complete picture (though some get a fuller understanding). And while our two heroes, Sheridan and Delenn, do not consider themselves gods, perhaps the director does (if not gods, then saints, or great charismatics). Why else light Delenn with a bright light on her head so she has a halo? Why else shoot Sheridan in the center of a starburst?

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: In the Pale Moonlight will have Sisko trying to manipulate other powers into an alliance with Starfleet which less success.

- A great combination of plot, dialog and picture-making, and that's no lie.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Who's Strong Bow?

Who's This? The Native American on page 17 of Who's Who vol. XXII.
The facts: Before Europeans came to North America, Strong Bow walked the continent in more than 40 issues of All-Star Western, from #58 (1951) on. So he was one of the book's first stars after it went West, and was featured in every issue until #99 (1958). A couple of these stories were reprinted in early '70s issues of Tomahawk, but Strong Bow would then only appear during Crisis (the All-Star Squadron issue) and History of the DCU. He was created by David Wood and Frank Giacoia.
How you could have heard of him: I do not believe Strong Bow has any post-Crisis appearances.
Example story: "Giant of the Badlands!" in All-Star Western #70 (1953) by Robert Kanigher and Frank Giacoia
He certainly gets around. Strong Bow is in the Dakotas in this story, having walked from Yellowstone in the previous before moving on to the Amazon in the next... Let's just assume the stories aren't told chronologically. Walking through a village near the Badlands, Strong Bow finds it mostly deserted, and the one person he finds, a woman with a baby, calls him evil. What's going on? That's when her husband shows up.
Overcoming his opponent, Strong Bow asks for answers and learns he is supposedly the chief of a band of ruthless warriors who terrorize the braves in this village. Clearly, there must be some mistake. Strong Bow, though known for walking, jumps on the "leader of the deer" and races for the Badlands.
Wait, what?! Who's Who apparently failed to inform me that Strong Bow was a "mystic warrior" who could talk to the animals and ask for their help! Well, his entry does hint at it by showing him riding a bison, but that's about it. He gets separated from his steed when the aforementioned warrior band start raining arrows his head, and then cause an avalanche. Thankfully, Strong Bow has other animal friends.
The vulture drops him off on top of a mountain where he meets a giant who looks just like him. What is this Freudian monster and will he eventually join the Super-Friends?
Before he can be hurled to the bottom of the valley, Strong Bow shoots his giant lookalike in the eye, at which point it collapses.
Smashed like a pinata, warriors spill out of it and reveal, under threat of arrowing, that their chief drove the behemoth from inside the eye, and that eye shot, the chief was killed instantly. Why take Strong Bow's form? Seems the chief was Crooked Tongue (the brave whose name made sure he'd become evil), a recurring villain once delivered to the Sioux by our hero. Not all revenges need be this complicated. The survivors from the giant's belly are taken to the village they wronged for justice, and so ends this tale. No explanation is given for how the giant "worked" so stop asking already.

DC has done a number of western books since the 50s, but Strong Bow never appeared in them, nor could he. He's trapped in a time before the white man, and the white man era dominates most western comics. I wouldn't mind seeing a modern take on the strip though, if only for variety's sake.

Who else? I skipped over Sterling Silversmith who, though obscure enough, is a Batman villain, so never THAT obscure. No, we're moving ahead to a character so obscure, it's a wonder he made it into Who's Who at all. Especially since they couldn't actually tell his story anymore...