EP0046: Nightwing, Volume 4: Blockbuster

Dick Grayson goes through relationship problems, which are far worse than Nigthwing having to battle a boatload of supervillains.

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Host: Nightwing takes on a ship full of supervillains, from stem to stern, and then faces his former espionage colleagues in a battle for his life but could the worst thing going for Dick Grayson be his relationship problems? We’ll tell you all about it next as we look at Nightwing volume 4 Blockbuster straight ahead.

[Into Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best Comics in the universe from Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

Host: During the New 52, Dick Grayson went through an era where he was no longer a superhero or Nightwing but rather a secret agent for Spyral because spies are known for their very punny use of names. However, with D.C. Rebirth, Dick Grayson returned to the role of Nightwing at the first book better than Batman. It’s really good but in current adventures you can probably start reading with Nightwing Volume 2 book, Back to Bludhaven. In that book he came to Bludhaven, got a job at a community center and came upon a group of washed up young super villains who were trying to avoid falling back into the life of crime and also were a bit phobic having been defeated by Batman and Robin in the past so they moved to Bludhaven for a fresh start. Among them is Shawn, who as a super villain operated as the Defacer. Dick fell in love with Shawn and she is actually kidnapped at the end of the 2nd volume and rescued in the 3rd volume. During that period, it was thought that Shawn was pregnant, but her pregnancy test was not confirmed. So, with that history in mind we take a look at the Volume 4 of the D.C. Rebirth Nightwing Blockbuster and we’ll talk about the two arcs as action pieces and then talk about the relation stuff that went around it

Nightwing Blockbuster; This one focuses on Roland Desmond, who is actually the brother of Mark Desmond, the original Blockbuster. Tiger Shark is the big fish, if you will, in Bludhaven, the boss of the city and does not like Nightwing’s presence and wants Blockbuster to take care of him. However, Blockbuster appears to Nightwing offering him a chance to take down the villain, Tiger Shark and really this is a case of Blockbuster trying to play both sides against the middle and it’s an interesting maneuver. He actually ends up leading Nightwing into a trap where he is aboard a ship full of supervillains who have been brought on by Tiger Shark and are supposed to turn the tables on Nightwing.

I actually like a lot about this storyline. One thing that I will highlight; I think the Blockbuster character is interesting in the way that that character develops in his plan plays out is kind of fun to watch. I also think that I like how Tim Sealy, the writer of the book, handles this guest supervillain or I should say all the super villains on the boat because a lot of them were somewhat obscure, particularly if you weren’t expert in every aspect of the D.C. Universe and sometimes when you have a book it gets kind of overloaded when you have so many supervillains stars where you’ve got to explain who this super villain is and all of their background. However, you don’t really have that with Nightwing and the idea advanced by Seeley is that Nightwing was required to learn very basic sketches of the various supervillains that he and Batman might encounter so that they would be prepared and so you just get this very quick thumbnail sketch. What’s the nature of this villain? What’s the nature of the threat that he poses? Cool, let’s fight and it’s just handled very quickly in a way that doesn’t bog down the story. So, I really like that aspect of this and I also like how it shows Dick’s heroism when it’s revealed that all of the supervillains’ lives are at stake and Dick has to make a decision as to what he’s going to do and of course, he tries to save everyone. It’s a good story I think there are some nice twists along the way and I enjoyed it pretty thoroughly.

In this first story, Dick is aided by a former super villain and a hacker, Gizmo, to help in his investigation of who’s bringing weapons into the city from the Second Hand, a group of illegal weapons sellers. At the end of the story, it’s found out that Gizmo has been killed and the Second Arc, Spyral, involves him going to investigate and to find who killed Gizmo and bring them to justice and this involves a team up with the Huntress as they have to go overseas to find who’s behind the Second Hand and therefore who’s behind Gizmos killing. I think this is an interesting story because it does end up them having to deal with their time with Spyral and once again we’re given a good story with good use of continuity. You do not have to have read Grayson, The Spy Series to understand this book. They give you enough information so that you understand the characters without being overwhelmed with too much continuity. It might make some readers curious to go back and read Grayson. It didn’t quite do that for me. I also think that the villain revealed in the final issue is a nice touch. Not a great villain but pretty solid and there’s some good back and forth between the villain and Grayson and it’s a good solid story.

The relationship issues in the book, particularly how Shawn is handled, is a separate thing I think from the action story. Certainly, it’s going on throughout this. As the book begins, Dick and Shawn are still together. However, she really wants him to get a job and I have to admit I’m somewhat confused as to how it happened that he lost his position, so she could get a position and she wants him to interview for a job so that she would have confidence that Dick Grayson would be there, would be in Bludhaven because he had a job to get to. And actually, at the beginning of the book he resists going for the job interview because he is really concerned about this spread of these very dangerous weapons that were based on alien technology getting on to the street of the city and feeling he had to dedicate his time to being Nightwing and he had his backpay from Spyral to rely upon so it wasn’t like he was going to be out in the street if he didn’t get a job. But Shawn insisted and harangued him into doing agreeing to do the interview and he agreed to do the interview but things came up so he didn’t do the interview and she was upset and thought that he was relieved that she wasn’t pregnant and then he delivers this response. He says “One of the things that made me fall in love with you is that I can be honest with you. Another one is that you know exactly who you were. The anger that the Pigeon manipulated to make you into the Defacer now motivates you to help people but it’s not gone. That anger still defines you. I’ve spent so much time making sure I’m not driven by tragedy, by revenge, by anger. It’s important to me. Having that pregnancy scare, and everything we went through, made me realise I want my child to learn that from me but sometimes, sometimes I wonder if our kid would learn the opposite from you, Shawn.” This is one of those statements that has a lot of truth into it because I think anger does drive and define Shawn as a character. However, this is one of those things that is very stupid to say. No matter how much you feel that you can be honest with her because it’s a very harsh and cutting thing and it’s the type of thing that will end up breaking up the relationship, which it does when he returns from fighting Blockbusters. She says it’s over, there is nothing to say and then after that they learn of Gizmo’s death and she blames him for that. I don’t know if she ever says that directly to his face. It’s not reflected in the comic but it may be something that Dick assumes is the case.

When Dick leaves Bludhaven, Shawn really meets up again with the Pigeon who at first, Shawn assumes is trying to get her into a legitimate art project but then finds out that it’s more crime and villainy the Pigeon is trying to drag her back into and she resists but then she goes along as the stress of the job that she has really starts to get to her. Her frustration, her rage, her anger, her grief over the death of Gizmo. The only thing that stops her from a full, fledged return, is somebody else actually about to make that same mistake and it reminds her of her responsibility and actually at the end of the book she decides she wants to get back together with Dick but is given a really heart-breaking conclusion to the book. I won’t spoil it but it is a very sad conclusion. Nobody died, but you can understand what this does to her.

I actually like Shawn as a character and this group of ex supervillains. It does show the challenges you face in trying to change the direction of your life and there are a lot of people out there like Shawn who have been through some very difficult circumstances in their lives and they are trying to change, trying to do better with their lives but they’re constantly dogged by habits and attitude that have them make poor and self-destructive decisions and I think that does make her a well-rounded character, a very tragic character. She was never a major heavy hitting supervillain, never the sort of mistress of evil type character. She struggles on the good side of leisure too and I honestly hope that it works out for the best and she definitely struggles and even though she’s made some bad decisions and I think did some things in terms of some of her demands on Dick that weren’t really fair, I still like her and found myself cheering for her at the end of the book and heartbroken right along with her for what the way it ended.

I will say I wouldn’t recommend this book for kids. There are some things, there’s graphic sex or anything else like that but there are some things implied and really good parental discretion is advised here. Still I will give this book a rating of classy. Writer Tim Seeley tells a good story with some compelling characters and manages to use continuity without clubbing the reader over the head. Which makes for a very different sort of comic. The art is fairly good and Nightwing continues to be one of the more solid series in the D.C. Rebirth line.

Alright, that’s it for now. If you do have a comment, send it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Be sure and rate the show on iTunes and follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy and check out the website classycomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham signing off.

EP0045: The Flash, Volume 5: Negative (Review)

The Flash’s power is out of control and the wonky artwork isn’t helping.

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Transcript below:

Another volume of The Flash is out. Does that mean more sorrow, suffering and anguish for Barry Allen. Find out as we look at The Flash: Volume Five Negative, straight ahead.
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EP0044: Amazing Spider-man: The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection Volume 4 (1983 -1984) (Spider-Man Newspaper Comics)

Spidey teams up with Sub-mariner, investigates video games that turns Aunt May evil, and then gets involved overly complicate spy scheme.

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Transcript below:

Spiderman will see you in the funny pages. Join us as we take a look at The Amazing Spider-Man: Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection 1983-1984 straight ahead.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

While other superheroes have been around longer, Spidey has had the longest career in newspaper strips. Spider-Man [Superman] appeared on the funny pages from 1938 to 1966. Spider-Man started being published in newspapers in 1977 and continues to appear to this day for forty-one years and counting. The newspaper strip is a nice read currently if you’re a fan of Spider-Man but hate the whole ‘one more day, sell marriage to the devil’ storyline, as that never happened in the newspaper strip; although Stan Lee who was writing that and still has some creative input on it, decided to just without any deal with the devil just go ahead and revert Peter to being in college and not married; and essentially he got a lot of letters from fans saying they didn’t like that, so he just reversed it back and the whole thing of the months of strips in which he was back in college was just a dream. If only the main Marvel Comics leadership were so responsive… At any right though we’re taking a look at strips from 1983 to ’84 which were before the marriage, which would actually occur in both the comic strip and the comic books simultaneously. [That] lays ahead.

This book has two years of strips and you’ll notice compared to our previous look in an American Comics Library release, The Star Trek Book, there are a lot less stories in here. In fact, this book covers two years and we only really deal with four and a half stories.

The first one finds Peter being sent out along with a reporter by Jamieson to investigate some strange goings on at the Bermuda Triangle. It also turns out that Jamison sent along a oceanographer. Peter’s shock turns out to be a woman. Peter says, “You’re Sam Taylor, our oceanographer?” And she replies, “The ‘Sam’ is for Samantha, and it’s Dr. Taylor to you.” “But you’re a young, beautiful girl!” And she says, “And you’re a male chauvinist cretin!” Peter says, “Did I say something wrong?” The reporter says, “Does Reagan like jelly beans?” The answer is ‘yes’ for those of you not around in 1980s, and Peter tries to apologize in a later script and he says, “Look, I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot. If I said anything to upset you…”, and she says, “Woah, don’t flatter yourself. You’re not important enough to upset me. Males like you are a dime a dozen.”

So, of course, after that opinion clearly, unambiguously stated, Peter gets the message and he spends the rest of this entire strip pining after Samantha. However, this is all interrupted when they are captured by Namor who happens to be in the middle of an Atlantean civil war. This is a very interesting story in that it becomes much more a Namor story than it does a Spider-Man story. But I love Namor and it’s great to see him given this exposure in the newspaper strip, and as Peter does get the help – though he doesn’t change into Spider-Man for the effort, so he’s got to be discreet about it, particularly since there’re people on board who could notice his secret identity. But I like this one pretty well.

The next one it finds Mary Jane having returned to New York about the same time Peter gets back from his trip, and she has a new career selling computers because that was the big new thing back in the 1980s. And of course since it’s the ’80s and since there are computers and there are computer games there is an effort to go ahead and hijack the video games and use video games to turn people EVIL, and so many members of Spider-Man supporting cast get caught up in the web of crime that is afflicting the youth of the 1980’s including Aunt May who is caught trying to steal coins from the arcade change machine. And when she’s caught and thrown out she says, “Serves me right for trying a penny ante scam instead of going for the big bucks!” And Peter asked her, “I don’t get it. What turned you on to video games?” And she says, “Every time I’d babysit the kids asked me to play. Now I’m hooked”.
“But you never stole in your life, why start now?”
“Because I felt like it, and don’t preach to me!”
This story definitely gives some perspective – it is a true 1980s ‘Computers, video games will turn us all evil’, and I won’t say that there’s not some need for caution, but this is one of those charmingly 1980s stories that are fun to read in their own right.

Next up is a story which doesn’t sound like there’s a whole lot to it. Essentially a racketeer is going on trial and he’s upset at J. Jonah Jamison who got him locked away, so he hires an out-of-town assassin to kill Jamison. That sounds like a pretty simple plot but it really gets extenuated because the assassin drives recklessly and hits Peter on his bike, and Peter hasn’t had time to get a helmet so he gets amnesia. And because both he and the driver end up in the crash he ends up getting the assassin’s wallet, and he ends up thinking that he may be an assassin, a killer – and the thought haunts him as he wanders the city having no idea who he really is. He ends up running into Mary Jane who doesn’t do a whole lot to allay his fears that he is an assassin. He says to Mary Jane, “Answer me! Do you know how I make my money?” And she puts her hand on his cheek and says, “Sure my little sharpshooter. You just aim and click” which confirms Peter’s fear that he is actually a murderous assassin and he also decides that Mary Jane is a pretty evil person for thinking that this is all funny and fun, and her being fine with him being an assassin. He does eventually regain his memory and he goes after the mob boss, and you would think this storyline is headed for a conclusion.
But no. When he gets the mob boss arrested he finds himself captured by his moll Dolly who has designs on taking over the mob while the boss is in jail – which leads to some tension as he and Dolly are attracted to one another even while he detest her criminal schemes. And what makes this story so enjoyable is that it does go on for eight months’ worth of strips, but there are so many twists in there. It’s, I think, what an adventure story should be when you’re looking at the comic strips where you’ve got a story that is very intricate and is making changes, but you don’t really start fresh with a new scenario for months and months on end. And this is a really good example of how to do that.

Of course, the story has a bit of a derailment in the Mary Jane and Peter relationship. She actually sees Peter driving around Dolly who has a hold on Peter because she knows his secret identity, and Mary Jane reaches some conclusions that they have a thing for each other. Peter tells Mary Jane that it’s not what it looks like even though we do have a couple of strips where Peter and Dolly kiss. So, it actually kind of is what it looks like. But with Dolly’s death Peter waits awhile and then proposes to Mary Jane who declines to go and take a job in London, which is actually a similar reason for why when Stacy left Peter to go to London as their relationship was escalating and heading in a serious direction. So, sending her to London is kind of the default Stan Lee solution where a girlfriend relationship with Spider-Man is getting a little bit too serious.

The next story finds Jamison offering a fifty thousand dollars reward for information leading to the secret identity of Spider-Man, and an impostor comes forward to claim the prize; and Jamison, being the shrewd nose-to-the-grindstone businessman he is, will not hand over the fifty thousand dollars until the guy comes in through the window without actually having to demonstrate any other Spider-power. Plus Jamieson systematically dismisses Robbie’s objections to why this guy doesn’t seem like he’s Spiderman. That guy is a down-on-his-luck, blue collar person who just wants to get some money to take care of his kid. Unfortunately, he failed to think of the idea that Spider-Man has some enemies out there who would like to kill him, including an ex-con with a metal arm whose sister Peter meets and of course falls in love with, because that’s what happens in this newspaper strip – and she is worried that her brother is going to get himself killed going after Spider-Man. So Spidey has got to do what he can to keep his impostor safe and also to keep this criminal safe.
This isn’t a bad story – it also does highlight a fact that Aunt May is lonely and highlighting the fact that many elderly people get lonely. The solution to this is odd because Peter has her watch the impostor’s son and this makes her feel more needed and useful – though in the previous video game strip she referenced that she was already being hired by people to babysit, so that’s a bit of a plot hole.
The issue of terrorism was making the news in the 1980s and the final story actually centers around that. There is a fictional terrorist group called Dar Herat that has a plan to take over the world: 1. Capture Spider-Man; 2. Get Spider-Man to tell how he became Spider-Man; 3. Create your own army of Super Spider-Men to take over the world! It’s a plan but before this can happen Spidey is kidnapped by government agents who are determined to play a game of Keep Away with the terrorist. One of them is a super-spy named Smitty and the other is a very serious, no-nonsense agent named Alana who, again, without a regular girlfriend, Peter is hopelessly smitten over, but yet dialog like this while Alana is trying to explain to Peter why he is wanted by the world’s most deadly terrorist organization. Peter says, “Could you come closer, Alana. I think I’m hard of hearing”, and she says, “Be serious! Their leader, Dr. Mondo, has ordered you captured at any costs.” “I’m…I am serious,” Spidey says; “You’re not married are you?” And she says, “No, because most men I meet are as obnoxious as you!” And again she makes clear that she doesn’t appreciate him as a man and is really put off by his constant refusal to stay on task when talking about the fate of all mankind.
He does get the idea that the way he’s speaking to her as Spider-Man has really put her off of him, and so he decides to go undercover as Peter Parker to interview her to get an exclusive story for The Bugle, and approaches her with the same flirty line of dialogue that she rejected as Spider-Man, expecting without the cool costume to get a better result. I actually got to the point reading this that I found myself talking back out loud to the book, “She is not interested in you!” I also think Stan Lee is trying to play this for as much humor as he can, particularly when you are in a newspaper strip that is known for the Sunday funnies. But at times it’s just in this particular context doesn’t work well, and some of the jokes don’t age particularly well such as when she says, “Our research revealed that Dr. Mondo isn’t satisfied with terrorism alone”, and Spidey said, “Maybe if they added a weekly bingo game”…

OK. So, enough about that part of the story save that we have four months of this story and it has a lot of scenes of them meeting in rooms, of them anticipating that the terrorists are going to do something, and the terrorists meeting in other rooms planning to do something. So, I think this could have used a bit more pace to it because it does feel padded out, even by the standards of this strip. It also raises some question whether Smitty is actually working with the terrorists and wouldn’t, and I don’t know if the suspicion is ever given correct given sufficient grounding in this. I will say that this actually ends up unresolved because this goes from the first of January of 1983 to the end of December of 1984 and stops there; and the solution is sometime in 1985 so we don’t know how Smitty gets out of this or whether Smitty is a traitor.

In addition to the comic itself one other neat feature of this is that it does include an introduction which provides some insight into how the comics are produced, and there is a limit to how much a story can actually move when telling a comic strip story that is a seven-day a week story because some people will only read the Sunday strip – either because their paper only carries the Sunday strip or because the person only gets the newspaper on Sundays. So, you can’t have a ton of movement in plot where people who just read one Sunday at a time get lost, and you probably also have some newspaper syndicates that only carry it Monday through Friday, so your Sunday strip cannot move things massively forward, and often the Monday strip will recap at least the ending of the Sunday strip. So, it’s important, those are sort of the limitations when you’re reading this sort of newspaper strip and you’ve kind of have to be OK with that to actually enjoy it. If the format really bugs you then you’re not going to get a whole lot out of it.

Despite the problems I will give this collection a rating of Classy. I really like the Namor story and I like the eight month story involving the racketeer who wanted to kill Jamison; plus I thought the whole video game story had a lot of 1980s charm to it even if it was a bit silly. I didn’t like the last strip as well and I don’t particularly care for the approach to Peter’s love life that Lee was taking in the strip at this point. But I still found myself enjoying this quite a bit, so I’ll give it a rating of Classy and I really look forward to the next volume from 1985 and ’86. Alright. That’s all for now. If you have a comment email it to me: classycomicsguy@gmail.com; check out the website at classycomicsguy.com, and follow us on Twitter @classycomicsguy. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

EP0043: Heroes of the Public Domain: Tomboy

A look at a 1950s character who became the first teenage superheroine. (Check out Tomboy’s Adventure in Captain Flash.)


You’ll believe a teenaged girl can hold on to the outside of an airplane in flight. Find out more as we look at a hero of the public domain, Tomboy, straight ahead.
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EP0042: Essential Miss Marvel, Volume 1 (Review)

Before she was Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was Miss Marvel. We take a look at the entirety of her 1970s run in the Essential Miss Marvel, Volume 1

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Graham: Before Captain Marvel aka Carol Danvers hits the big screen next year, learn about her heroic origins as we discuss the essential Miss Marvel Volume one straight ahead.
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EP0041: Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension

The Universe is in peril which means it’s time for a massive Doctor Who event with at least five Doctors playing an active role and so many guest stars.

Transcript follows:

The universe needs saving and it’s up to the Doctor, a bunch of his past selves and a whole lot of friends in the massive crossover event Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension straight ahead.
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EP0040: Green Lanterns Vol. 4: First Ring

Jessica Cruz gets the worst instructor ever while Volthoom plots revenge eons in the making.

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Transcript below:

Jessica Cruz gets the worst training officer possible. We’ll tell you all about it in Green Lantern Volume Four: The First Ring, straight ahead.
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EP0039: Understanding the Eras of the DC Universe

Golden Age, Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, New 52, DC Rebirth. We take a look at the eras of the DC Universe.

Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, New Fifty-Two. DC Rebirth. What do these terms mean for the DC Universe? We’ll talk all about it straight ahead.

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EP0038: Back to the Future: Untold Tale and Alternate Timelines

Learn some untold tales from Back to the Future as told by Back to the Future co-writer Bob Gale.

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Today we’re going back in time. It will be a look at Back To The Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines straight ahead.
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EP0037: Green Lantern, Earth One, Volume One

In this alternate universe tale Hal Jordan is a space miner who find finds a Green Lantern ring that’s running out of power.

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It’s a new spin on the classic story of the Green Lantern. Find out about it as we review Green Lantern: Earth One Volume One straight ahead.

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