Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Fairer Sex, Part III: Go Girl! #4

You do that. You….uh…go, girl

Go Girl! was published in 2000 and lasted a scant five issues under the Image banner. Before it faded from view, it caught the attention of Dark Horse who republished all the stories in one trade in 2002. The trade was so successful that two other trades of unreleased work were produced; Go Girl! The Time Team in 2004 and Go Girl! Robots Gone Wild in 2006.

Go Girl! is the fruit of artist Anne Timmons and writer Trina Robbins. Trina is something of a comic book legend. Her nine non-fiction books have documented the women’s movement in comics as well as how women are presented in comics. In books like From Girls to Grrrls, which covers the early inclusion of female comics in the male dominated comic book industry, she shows both her encyclopedic knowledge of the business as well as her own personal opinions of it. And comics is an industry Trina ought to know well. She has been an active part of it since before I was born (well, maybe just by a little bit). She edited the first ever all woman comic book titled It Ain’t Me Babe in 1970. Trina has involved herself in promoting a decidedly female presence in comic book industry and is herself a skilled artist and writer. Heck, here’s a fact that even Wertham should be impressed with: Trina designed the original Vampirella costume for Forrest Ackerman and Jim Warren. HERE’s a link to her site.

So what do I make of Go Girl!? The book is an odd blend of kitschy old-school storytelling in a modern setting, a strange combination that makes certain scenes unintentionally funny. Our tale follows Lindsay Goldman, the daughter of the original 1970’s superheroine Go-Go Girl. Lindsay inherited the power of flight from dear old Mom and now she fights evil as Go Girl. That’s almost right. Take out the “fights evil” part and replace it with “is present when mysteries solve themselves” and you might get a more accurate picture. We start this tale called “Summer fun, some’re not” with Lindsey and Mom going away to a dude ranch. Lindsay takes time to say goodbye to her friend, Haseena.

Neither Lindsay or Haseena are lesbians, but this panel makes them appear more clingy than week-old lovebirds. Then the next page makes an unintentional poke at Lindsay’s powers.

So wait, she can fly but she’s not super-strong or anything? Heck she doesn’t even appear to have the strength of a normal 15 year-old. Most girls that age CAN carry a suitcase without breaking it open every five steps. 

Notice that the art has an almost genuine golden age feel to it. It’s like a comic book “Leave It To Beaver” with modern references.


Lindsay’s Mom fills the young Go Girl in on why they are headed out to the dude ranch. It seems that it’s run by an friend of hers from her superheroing days, Liz a/k/a Right-On Sister. Liz and Go-Go Girl haven’t seen each other since before Lindsay was born. Her Mom split up the team to get married. Liz is also hiding something from our Mother-Daughter pair, but more on that later. First meet Liz.

WOAH! She’s Oprahed out! That’s not what she’s hiding by the way, it’s just an observation. Liz blames her weight gain on her cooking because she “just loves her own baking.” After this next panel, I’m inclined to agree.

Note that’s suppose to be a pecan pie. With what appears to be a flakey crust on top. Who the heck makes a pecan pie like that? And you don't usually a la mode pecan pie. I think anybody could gain a few pounds eating Liz’s baking if her recipes call for adding extra carbohydrates to already fattening desserts. As we’ll see, all these desserts are just a way to beef up her guests so she can snack on them as well. Ree-hee-hee!

Not only has Liz developed a taste for human flesh, she also has an evil henchman a’la Manos, the Hand of Fate. Here he is trying to sneak up on Go Girl as she gets ice cream for her pie. Of course he is foiled by her skilled ninja training.

Meet “Hoss”, Liz’s amnesiac, burly Caucasian sex toy and handyman. Don’t believe me about the sex toy part? Listen to the thinly veiled allusion in Liz’s description here.

Hoss “gets the work done”. I’m sure he does, Liz. I’m sure he does. How far do we have to look before we find that secret room where you hide the leather ass-less chaps you make him wear when guests aren’t around? Enough of my baseless accusations and back to Liz feeding the pair enough pie to keep them from getting airborne for weeks.

When suddenly!

The ranch hand explains that three more head of cattle have gone missing overnight. And not only that, but their bodies are missing along with their heads. *pauses for effect* It’s at this point that Liz comes clean to Lindsay and her Mom.

That’s right, she’s fattening you up with pie to replace those three cows she just lost. Ok, so really she wants your help in finding her cows. Or at least that’s what she’s telling you…

That night, Lindsay decides to take a brief fly around the farm. Any young farm boys out on a clear night like this would get some excellent upskirt views of Lindsay’s flyover. Maybe a miniskirt isn’t the best outfit to go flying in?


The only person who would see her bloomers is Hoss, who is out for his nightly bit of craziness.

He seriously does not like having sex with Liz. The next day is a day of discovery for Lindsay and her Mom. Lindsay finds a strange radio and evidence of tire tracks leading away from the spot where the cattle graze. Lindsay’s mom makes a discovery too.

Hansel and Gretal warning bells should be going off by now. It would be funny if Liz didn’t seem to be force feeding her Mom subliminal messages every time we see them together. Like she does here:

How long till she lights the oven and pushes Lindsay’s Mom in? Days? Hours? Lindsay decides she doesn’t care to watch her Mom make a pig of herself, takes that crazy radio she found and goes flying. The radio doesn’t work, but she soon has fun racing Shep, Liz’s collie.

That’s when it happens. Lindsay runs into the cattle rustlers who are stealing Liz’s cows. Lindsay rushes in to take care of the dastardly villains.

And cold-cocks herself on a low hanging branch. Knocks her butt flat out, too. I’m betting she’s not quite ready for a rogues galley of super powered criminals all gunning for her. I’m not sure if she’s ready to walk around without adult supervision, if you want to know the truth. Note that the dog runs for help.

“What? Timmy’s fallen down the well? Again? That’s the third time this week.” This is a scene lifted directly from the Lassie TV show. I have no clue what Right On Sister’s powers are, but talking with animals seems a stretch. Oh, and right before Shep burst in what was Lindsay’s Mom doing? Still eating pie. I’m beginning to wonder if the pie isn’t laced with some kind of addictive substance. Next she makes a startling discovery.

Fatty, fatty, fat, fat! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. So they take Liz’s jeep right after Liz picks up her shotgun. It’s for the best, since I don’t think Lindsay’s Mom could get airborne with all that extra weight she’s packing.

Meanwhile the cattle rustlers are still trying to figure out what to do with Go Girl. These guys stand around saying “What do we do now?” until Liz shows up and draws down on them. But wait! The cattle rustlers say they didn’t steal all the missing cows. So what happened to them?

Oh, yeah. Those space aliens. Wait a minute! What?

I’m not saying this plot development comes from totally out of left field, but it really, really does. I mean, we all saw the flying saucer on the cover, but who believes that covers ever show what goes on in a story. Anyway the aliens show up and start taking some of the cows.

It’s at this point that Go Girl does something useful for the first time in the whole issue. She uses the strange radio to communicate with the aliens and learns why they are taking the cattle.

So they traded aliens shaped as cows for real cows except they didn’t trade the correct number and/or some of the alien cows might have been cattle rustled. Confusing and not exactly the way I’d think an advanced race from the stars would go about learning our customs, but whatever. It’s about this point that I start to wonder if Liz or Lindsay’s Mom had any milk to go with their pies.

Oh, and Hoss was an alien. Notice the look on Liz’s face when she realizes she’s been sleeping with an alien all this time. I wonder if she’s worried about having a mixed race baby?

All’s well that ends well. Liz gets her cows back but loses her “handyman”. Lindsay and her Mom head back to the city with the gift of a pecan pie, which is way more credit than they deserve. The smugglers are never seen again, so we assume that Liz ate them or baked them up into that pie she gave Lindsay’s Mom. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Guide to Werewolves, Part 2: Robin Plus Fang #2

 DC proves that they have no idea how to cross promote either

In the quest for additional market share, DC introduced a new series in October of 1996 that took a unique twist on the standard superhero team. It was to be a team of teenagers with powers and abilities beyond those of normal men. Normally they would be hated and hunted by the ordinary public so they were forced to masquerade as a Rock and Roll band. Sounds almost X-Men-ish, doesn’t it. I’m sure that DC hoped for sales of that nature. However, the final twist on all this was that these young “heroes” who were hated and feared by the normal populace were hated and feared for a very good reason. They were monsters!

The team book was called Scare Tactics. While the concept was novel for comics (I think The Groovy Goulies, Monster Squad and Drak Pack did the same things on TV in the 1970s-80s), sales of the book must have tanked pretty quickly. So in December 1997, DC tried to jumpstart the title's flagging sales by cross-promoting the book with one-shot team-ups featuring Scare Tactics members and some of DCs more popular characters. Catwoman got paired with Scream Queen, the team’s vixen-ish vampire. Impulse joined up with Grossout, a young boy who had been mutated by a meteor into an 8-foot tall tumorous hulk with an eating disorder. Superboy got to know Slither, a kid that’s been genetically altered into a reptile with a venomous bite. Robin, meanwhile, was introduced to Fang, the resident werewolf and the group’s unofficial leader. Each book featured a backup origin story showing how Fate assisted Scare Tactics in breaking free of the secret government R-Complex who held them all captive and a two page write-up on the origins of each team member to help spur interest in the main title. These team-ups took place between issues 9 and 10 of the Scare Tactics series. The series was cancelled on issue 12.

So how does this tie-in fair? Not so well. The idea is for Robin to meet Fang and his alter ego Jake but not realize they are one in the same. Also his impression of Fang is that he’s a rock star who wears a costume, not that he’s a supernatural creature. In essence the storyline is to make Robin appear slightly dim-witted for comedic value. In the right hands this might make for an enjoyable story yet the execution here is so flat-out boring that it comes off as dull and uneventful. While Robin does get in a few kicks, it is Fang who is shown as some kind of werewolf powerhouse. A powerhouse who’s mere presence causes hordes of werewolves to flee in panic, especially if the writer has painted himself into a corner.

And who might that writer be? None other than Chuck Dixon, longtime friend of all things Bat. Dixon’s resume reads like a pull list for a fanboy of the Dark Knight. He’s written Batman, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Nightwing, Robin’s limited and ongoing series and a bunch of other Year One/limited series for various Batman Family members. So you go into the book expecting Robin’s character to be spot-on. For the most part, he is. It’s the shoehorning him into this particular story where we run into problems. Mainly because he has very little to do.

We start “The Lycanthropy Bop” with Jake a/k/a Fang running down an alley in human form. Jake is one of the new fangled (sorry, pun not intended) werewolves who can change form at will and are not subject to “Full Moon Fever.” This kind of cheapens the whole idea for me. Jake’s being chased by a bunch of guys on motorcycles when Robin happens to swoop in. He lends a hand, or maybe I should say that he lends a batarang.

No, actually that panel isn’t too bad. At least Robin is drawn fairly well. I’m settling in for what I hope to be an enjoyable story at this point. And I might have, had this just been a straight Robin story. But we have to throw in Fang at this point.

Ahhh, that’s a fine bit of foreshadowing there. See the thugs don’t know he’s a werewolf, yet they say they are going to beat him like a “dog” and “his own mama won’t recognize him”. I’m hip to the inside joke here, Mr. Dixon. Oh so clever. Should I stop with the sarcasm? 

Anyway, Jake and Fang both sport what was considered in the 90’s as the latest in “edgy youth” wear: black leather biker jackets, torn blue jeans, scruffy almost-goatee (for Jake anyway) and A NOSE RING. I guess my sarcasm button is stuck in the on position today. Am I really so out of touch that I didn’t notice the “boys with nose rings” fad? Girls, yeah. I’ve seen lots of girls with nose rings. Not so much the boys. Maybe it’s just me showing my middle American level of attention to style. I think it just looks silly. And if you think it looks silly here, wait until you see it on a werewolf.

I had a protractor in middle school shaped exactly like Robin’s mouth in that panel. Be glad this panel is underneath several really good shots of Robin kicking most of the biker gang’s butts or I wouldn’t be so forgiving. That “Aaarrrooo” sound can be none other than Fang making his first appearance.

Aw! And what an appearance it is. I have a problem with the drawings of all werewolves in this book and I’ll state it very plainly right now. Their ears are too damn goofy. This is not a Wallace and Gromit movie. He’s not a werebunny. Why give him ears longer than his head? Note that he retains the nose ring while in werelepus form. How very “edgy”.

Robin finishes up the bandito gang members he’s wailing on and goes to find the young man he saw being pursued. Lucky for Jake, he’s had time to mop up the few that tailed him and transform back into human form. Otherwise Robin might have thought that Easter had come early this year.


Did I mention that Robin in this series is being portrayed by Keanu Reeves? “Whoa” indeed Robin. I thought you were trained by the Dark Knight himself? Since when did a guy stepping out of a doorway cause you to be shocked?

Jake/Fang relates a very abbreviated backstory about how there’s a $50,000 pricetag on his head because he wouldn’t kill someone. Jake leaves out the fact that the bounty is being put up by members of his fiancĂ©e’s clan following her death, or that they are werewolves or that he was kicked out because he wouldn’t sacrifice someone to their elder god in exchange for the eternal youth of all the clan members or that he himself is a werewolf. Robin doesn’t catch on to any of these omissions and agrees to help him find his friend Nina, a/k/a Screamqueen. The page ends as a sniper sights down on Jake’s chest.

Meanwhile our beat-up biker gang heads back to the guy who sicced them on to Jake. They are upset because the job was suppose to be easy and not include any giant fanged bunny attacks. Or something along those lines.

There’s far too much cleverness happening in this panel. Not only do we have the pun about Fang “playing rough”, we also have this pig creature christened with the overly appropriate name of “Swindon”. I’m taking it on faith that it’s pronounced “Swine-done”. Anyway the bikers aren’t too happy, but their displeasure is quickly squashed as a new and mysterious biker set rides into town.

Meanwhile, Jake is shot through the chest and plunges three stores off the balcony of a building while Robin just stands there. And then is left for dead while Robin goes to beat up the “false face” goons responsible. Does this sound even remotely like the Robin character in the Bat books? I curious to know how often Robin just abandons a shooting victim to go crack some heads. The “behind the scenes” reason is that Jake isn’t dead and this allows him to turn into a werewolf to go kick butt. Robin can’t see this change if the joke at the end of the story is suppose to work, so it’s written that he just leaves Jake sprawled on the pavement instead of rushing to render aid. And all this so that they can make what will amount to a single quip out of Robin not knowing that Jake/Fang are one in the same. It’s plotting like this that causes fans of a character to bash their heads into solid objects.
Much to Robin’s surprise, Fang appears and starts messing up the false-facers. Two of them seem to get the jump on Robin, until he turns the tables on them in a nicely done panel sequence.

What you can determine here is that if Chuck Dixon were free to write a really good Robin story without the added complication of shoehorning in a werewolf and the additional baggage of the Scare Tactics back story, we would get an above average Robin book. Also the art chores by Anthony Williams and Andy Lanning are great for Robin action, even if they tend to draw rather silly-looking werebeasts. Jake catches up to Robin here uninjured and back in human form. Robin asks him zero questions about how he survived the fall and the gunshot wound. None. Trained by Batman yet not even curious. And the fact that Jake’s clothes look similar to the wererabbit’s?

Hope you the reader are not tired of the writer having to come up with ways to separate these two when Jake has to change. Because we’ve got one more coming up.

We switch back to Swindon getting roughed up by no less than six werewolves. These …er, guys? turn out to be Jake’s cousins who aim to take Jake into the fold or kill him for the reward. Swindon squeals about where Jake can be found and they promise not to turn him into pork roast.

Meanwhile Robin gets to know Jake a bit more while they hang out around one of Gotham’s bridges. Jake claims to be a roadie for the musical group Scare Tactics, which wins him points with Robin. He even mentions that Fang is a real close friend, Fang being the bass player in the group. It’s just about this point that Fang’s cuz and his biker boys show up. Robin starts duking it out while Jake confronts his extended family. When his cousin hears that Fang won’t come back willingly, he musters up his boys to put a silver bullet in him. Since Jake will need to turn into Fang to fight back, that means that Robin must make an unplanned exit. Running out of ideas, Dixon throws the boy wonder off a bridge.

Fang transforms and gets a reaction shot that almost rivals a panel from Rabid Rachel. Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh, but just look at the side of his head and ears in that panel. That’s not a wolf, it’s a donkey.

Robin falls on a garbage scow, while Fang is about to eat a silver-plated slug. Fang fights them off for a bit but the odds are too uneven and he’s caught. So all is lost, until suddenly without any warning or explaination…

Robin’s back! Guess he flew from the boat back to the bridge. Robin can fly, can’t he? No? Then how did he get back?…never mind, I’m sure it’s not important in a book where he can’t even figure out that Jake and Fang are the same guy.

A two panel battle ensues and then all the werewolves run away like sissys. Not because there is a logical reason for six or more werewolves to be brought down by one of their own and a teenager with martial arts skills. But they run away because of page constraints. It’s so obvious, the editor could have put in a note saying “We’re sorry but we don’t have enough space to show what happened here. Enjoy the joke on the next page at Robin’s expense and the -nine page backup feature and the two extra written pages about the Scare Tactics team that we are forcing on you, dear fan of Robin.” Oh and that joke is something too:

After these two panels, Batman walks into the room and slaps Robin in the face. Hard. I know I would have. Robin’s face in that last panel makes me think he would really like to punch the writer at this moment. And in the end, Jake rides off on one of the motorcycles into the moonrise.

But what of the backup feature? Could it some how redeem the book from its own awful, uncomical finale? The short answer is no. The long answer involves a guy named Anthony breaking the future Scare Tactics out of the secret government facility where they’ve been taken captive. He gets some help from fate. I mean from Fate.

Fate fights a delaying tactic and is killed. Or left for dead, maybe. I think in some way I’m hoping he was killed for desecrating Dr Fate’s objects of power. Either way this is the first and last we see of him. Then Anthony realizes he’s alone with the teen monsters and that they are all counting on him or some nonsense.

With all these tie-in’s, you’d think that Scare Tactics might have picked up enough readers to avoid the ax. Unfortunately it didn’t. Nor did killing one of them off in issue 11. When even character death didn’t pull their numbers up, the band was sentenced to the discount bins after a 12 issue run.