About Me

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I started reading comics regularly after 'Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns'. Since then, I've become a co-host on 'The LanternCast' (a podcast dedicated to Green Lantern that's been on the air since 2008), started a new podcast covering the late 1980's DC series Action Comics Weekly (appropriately titled The Action Comics Weekly Podcast), and have been the curator of THE blog on the internet dedicated to the character of Ragman, created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert published by DC Comics starting in 1976 and currently appearing on The CW show 'Arrow' as portrayed by actor Joe Dinicol. I'm an avid fan of comics, classic rock, and speaking my mind. Welcome!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Brave and the Bold #196 - The Two Faces of Midnight!

...And we're back! With yet another SCATHING and SCINTILLATING review of Ragman!

Ok, ok. I suppose I still owe a bit of an apology to you fine folks for the "meh" review last time. But really? It was a "meh" comic, so what do you expect? This one however? This one is no such thing. AND it's a full issue story! WOO-HOO!

That's right kiddies, as you can probably tell, I shall be reviewing 'Brave and the Bold #196' from 1983. The REAL team-up issue between Bats and Rags! It's a beautiful story and, before we even GET to the plot itself, I can tell you why.

The creative team is, as the kids say, 'totes' amazing. Not only is the whole thing being supervised and edited by the incomparable Len Wein, not only is the INCREDIBLE Jim Aparo masterfully applying his skills to the art but Robert Kanigher has returned to pen the story of the character he helped create! So this reads like just another Ragman story from the original 70's series, plus Batman and with even HIGHER quality artwork! How can you possibly go wrong? Thank god the story lived up to expectations, cause I would have been shattered if it sucked.

We open on Ragman wandering the streets at exactly midnight (hey, the clock pictured in the comic says so!) as our first perspective in the story isn't Rags, it's a newspaper dancing on the wind. Here, I'll show you...

Love that. Perfect opening and you can TELL Kanigher is back when you read such lilting and vivid introductory text.

Anywho, the headline tells us of the recent terrorist kidnapping of Nina Norwood, the daughter of the tycoon of a publishing empire. Suddenly an explosion rocks the night just above Ragman as Batman comes sailing out the window and, losing consciousness, plummets into the quick thinking arms of Ragman and (as the panel itself states)...

There is no rest for the weary (or unconscious & surprised) as suddenly the terrorists (known as the DFD "Dynamiters for Democracy") come peeling out of the night to finish the job, hurling good old fashioned molotov cocktails at the dark duo. Quick thinking Ragman takes stock of the situation, catches the next flaming cocktail one handed and hurls it back at the speeding car, causing it to burst into flames and explode.

The danger addressed and averted, Ragman focuses again on Batman and getting him off the streets when suddenly a ride appears before him in the form of an ebony angel...

After collecting her fare, a kiss from Rags, Opal heads back off into the night as Ragman hoists Batman into the back of a junked car in the back lot of Rags 'N' Tatters. It's at this point that we're given a look at the history of Ragman from Rorys time in Vietnam to the thugs that killed Rory's father and his friends. One instance of note however is that there is a slight retcon that takes place. In the original story, Rorys father and his friends found the money in the mattress and left it there, the money later burned in the final issue of the original series. In THIS story, however, they take it out of the mattress and hide it elsewhere (we know not where). I find it odd that the creator of the original series would choose to change this aspect of the story. He also takes this opportunity to make Better just a little bit LESS of a bitch. (only a little)

But anywho, as Rags is helping Batman into the car, Bats comes to and relays the experiences leading up to the abrupt and fiery exit out the window. Apparently Bats was trailing the DFD and they had a hidden trip wire where they lured Batman. Trying to escape the blast, Bats leaped out and here we are. As Batman finishes his story, a car stopping outside the junkyard is heard and Batman starts to get to his feet...

Odd that here yet another retcon takes place. In the stagnant review I gave of Ragmans last appearance in 'Batman Family #20', Batman figured out Ragmans identity. But here it seems he has no knowledge of this fact. Turns out the sound we heard was Bette looking for Rory, she tells Ragman that shes been given a tip and wants Rory to accompany her so the story will help him get a job at the paper she works at. Ragman says he'll be there and disappears.

Batman wants to go to check the place that the DFD booby-trapped for clues. Ragman disagrees and Batman says he has to go because he'll be the bait that lures them out of hiding. Ragman insists and they compromise by switching costumes. So Rory runs off into the night dressed as Batman. He arrives and stakes the place out when three DFD members begin shooting at him and one tosses a grenade, Rory gets to a safe distance, but is still shaken up when he comes back to the junk yard and collapses into "Ragman" (Bruce's) arms.

So off Bruce goes to the rooftop rendezvous and a DFD plan set 48 hours from now is overheard, but not before "Ragman" gets a gun stuck to his head and Bruce overcomes him and takes him out and goes over the side of the building along with a grenade wielding terrorist. Ragman comes out ok and makes it back to the junkyard where they switch costumes again and agree to meet the following night, but not before Bats makes an interesting comment...

The next night the duo are waiting for the DFD when they show up to rob a bank, Bats and Rags foil the robbery, but realize that one of the "robbers" is actually the missing Nina Norwood!

After seeing this, Ragman and Batman go crazy and start kicking all kinds of ass. Batman carries Nina to the hospital with Ragman close on his heels...

And there you go! Now you may think I lost my wind in those final pages of review, and that's partly true, but mostly I just think the art and the dialogue speak for themselves on those last few pages, so why get in the way?

I love the minor retcons, especially BY the guy who created the original story. And I thought it was cool how they added in some references to how Ragmans costume is "almost alive" and "eerie". I can't help but think the idea to make the costume more supernatural was in the works and they were eluding to that.

Overall great story and Jim Aparo is unmatched. Loved having his artistic flair being a part of the Ragman history.

Now, classic Ragman reviews are nothing to you all at this point without classic ads, so I may as well deliver! Check out these gems! (click to enlarge)

So there you have it! Be sure to check back here next weekend for more Ragman awesomesauce (and maybe a surprise or two). Please, Please, PLEASE share the blog, comment below and follow/join the site to keep apprised of all things Ragman! I don't, as of yet, get much feedback on this blog but I'm hoping that will change but it can't without YOU! See ya next time!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Batman Family #20 - Enter the Ragman!

Alright, I suppose I owe you guys an apology. I'm a little late (OK, A LOT late) in this posting. I really do want to maintain a constant posting schedule. So why the super late post? Well, aside from personal demons, I just could not get it up for this "issue". I really and truly haven't the faintest clue why. The art isn't bad and the story isn't terrible. I just couldn't have cared less about this story.

But, I realized that, in my endeavor to cover all Ragman appearances, I'm probably going to come across some stuff I will not like. so I better get used to it and stick to my guns. Which is what I'll do here.

Now, that being said, I LOVE the cover to this issue. This issue of course being 'Batman Family' #20, the final issue of the anthology. Now, I'd like to pretend I know everything there is to know about the stuff I cover on this blog but the fact is that I don't. I know nothing about the 'Batman Family' title other than what I've heard from other fans. A few of them are quite vocal as to it's quality. I'll take their word for it. Regardless, this story took place in the last issue of the title and it seems they chose the return of Ragman to be a big enough deal to herald it on the cover.

Now THAT is some gorgeous Jim Starlin artwork. I just love the fact that the cover confrontation featuring the return of the Ragman...takes place in a junkyard. Nice little nod there. But, on to the story itself.

The story opens with Batman going all...well...Batman on some thugs looting a tenement. As the text informs us, they provide barely a workout for the caped crusader, but he takes them on regardless. After laying them out, he radios Gotham P.D.

Meanwhile, after the cops arrive, amongst a crowd of onlookers stands Rory and Bette. As Bette lines up a shot of the recently foiled looters, a man in the crowd bumps into her, throwing off the focus of her photo. Batman, all the while overlooking these proceedings, notices this and concludes the bump was purposeful thus alerting his curiosity. Our story follows Rory and Bette back to Rags 'N' Tatters and into a selfmade darkroom to develop the photographs. Via the art of exposition we learn that Bette is freelancing with Rorys help. Their story? How the local area is being neglected and turned into slums. They're hoping to "sell" the story to a paper called "The Blade"...all of which Batman overhears and plans to assist by placing a call to the editor as Bruce Wayne.

Cut to Bruce telling Gordon whats going on and updates him on HOW he came across those thugs. Apparently, while darting about the street in the Batmobile (which looks like a Porsche and nothing more) Batman nearly side swiped an entire family. Turns out, after talking to them, they were forced out of their homes, so Batman took it upon himself to go take care of the thugs that forced them out...

See? That's one Batman constant I've always enjoyed. The reaction of people when Batman just disappears on them. I have no idea why it amuses me so, but it does.

Anywho, we flash on over to the boss of the thugs forcing people out of their homes (please, there's ALWAYS a boss) then over to Rory looking over some "circumstantial but unmistakeable" pattern to the events he and Bette are covering. He heads back to Rags 'N' Tatters and discovers Bette's been beaten half to shit.

 Rory hears her story and tells her to go home and rest up (not, you know, to a freakin hospital) and that he'll take care of the rest. It's only now that the reader becomes privy to the secret history of the Ragman (that we all know by now) as the story recaps for us briefly. Then we move back over to the Batman side of things as Bruce is getting ready for a night on the town. He notices something in the yard and quickly changes back into Batman when suddenly (and according to plan) Alfred floods the yard in spotlights and the Ragman and Batman come face to face for the first time...

Rags reveals to Bats that he's actually after Bruce Wayne. Apparently Rory has learned that Bruce owns the land all of the affected buildings stand on. Bruce being the common link leads to Rory believing that he is responsible. Batman attempts to explain that they ARE owned by the Wayne Foundation, but managed by an outside agency. Rory will have none of this, punches Batman and escapes, but not before Bats discovers that Rory and Ragman are one and the same (apparently by just recognizing his voice).

Rory goes after the "boss" and breaks in on him and his cronies in the middle of a (surprise surprise) card game and takes them out. Batman joins in and explains how the original managing operation was taken over by thugs so Bruce really ISN'T responsible after all. They realize the "boss" has escaped out the back door and decide to team up to take him down. HERE is where we get my FAVORITE part of the issue. Twelve panels of complete and utter silence. Just two figures of shadowy justice closing in on the bad guy. AWESOME.

The epilogue reveals that Bette's story is published and receives great acclaim. So much so that Bruce Wayne stops by to make amends for all the bad done in his name and offers to pay for any and all damages done. Not only that, but the dashing playboy offers Bette and Rory a grant to continue their work (and thus funding the Ragman, of course).


So why did I dislike this so? Like I said, it wasn't the art. The art wasn't my favorite. And the story wasn't bad either. It's just...

OK look. This is supposed to be the first meeting of Batman and Ragman. Having never read this before, I expected something a little more....grandiose. Maybe I was just putting unrealistic expectations on the issue and it couldn't live up to them.

I think a lot of it had to do with the format. It was told very quickly to fit into the anthology format. Maybe that played into the condensed and rushed feeling that I felt throughout the book.

But hey, the cover and those silent 12 panels are definitely the takeaways from this issue. So I suppose there IS some good in everything.

I'm not sure how I feel about the whole "Bette beating" side of things. Oh, it's awful, don't get me wrong. But was it necessary? Don't forget, Bette was a bitch in the original series. Very unlikeable from the get go. Is it possible that they did this to her to try and make her a more appealing character? To give the reader a chance to sympathize with her? It's an awful suggestion I know, but I can't help but wonder if there wasn't some other reason for their choices here other than just pure storytelling beats...

Anyways, drop a comment below. Share, like and follow the blog. I love feedback. Hey, I could be wrong on this issue and this story. Maybe there's something here I'm missing. Tell me! I'd love to hear it. Regular posting is coming back. I promise. Just...had to get motivated to push through this one I suppose.