Friday, February 29, 2008

Book Two: Strange Adventures
Chapter Five: Fun City (DC)
DC: The New Frontier #2 When: April 2004
Why: Darwyn Cooke How: Darwyn Cooke

The Story so far...
It's a hot night in the desert, sports fans, as we bring you the title bout of the century live from Las Vegas! The champ faces an up and coming fighter with a natural ability that may not have been seen since Grant himself rose through the ranks to become champion!

Some critics claim Ted Grant is getting too old for the ring. At thirty-eight years of age, Grant stands twelve years the senior of the challenging Clay, but nobody can ever count out the fighting spirit of this man they call Wildcat.
This scrapper has survived against overwhelming odds, seemingly sharing the mythic nine lives of his feral counterparts!

Nobody can question the skills of this young challenger, but Wildcat Grant is known for drawing upon an almost superhuman reserve of strength, composed of little more than human grit and determination. Be he the underdog, or the Wildcat, one thing's for sure, it's going to be a great show as the champ defends his title in what seems like a meeting of the old and new guards in boxing!

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Mike Zeck & Jerry OrdwayARTWORK: Darwyn CookeStrength: Wildcat 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Wildcat 2 (Average)
Speed: Wildcat 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Wildcat 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Wildcat 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Wildcat 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Wildcat 1 (None)

- Though not specifically super powered, Ted Grant has risen through the ranks to become one of the most respected senior members of the Justice Society of America. As Wildcat, Grant for a time possessed a mystic nine lives which kept him in fighting condition and prevented the aging process, while also protecting him from several fatal accidents. Such accidents included the apparent final life, where he was killed by Jay Garrick in order to free him of mystic influence.

A former World Heavyweight boxing champion; Grant holds his own with his fellow superheroes by a combination of Olympian-grade speed, agility, fitness, and endurance. Though versed in boxing, Grant's legendary fighting skills are so broadly respected to have been sought out by a variety of students, including; Batman, Black Canary, Catwoman and Starman.

- Clay appears as an unnamed and relatively non-descript fighter in the pages of Darwyn Cooke's, DC: The New Frontier. Though fairly evasive, it's by no stretch of the imagination that the character represents 1960's up-and-comer, Cassius Clay, soon to be better known to the world as Muhammad Ali.

The character appears as a large, slick moving young fighter designed to be an obstacle to Ted Grant's crown as Heavyweight Champion. As such, he is shown to be a highly competent and powerful fighter, despite being set up for the fall.
This early glimpse at Ali likely lines up with Cooke's taste for factual period nostalgia throughout the series, casting allusions to the boxing great, without resulting in likeness legalities.

The Math: Wildcat Ranking: Draw (NR)

What Went Down...
The story takes an abrupt turn from action in Gotham [Men are from Mars!], to steer to a marquee boxing showdown in Las Vegas! Amidst the cheering crowd are wealthy socialites; Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen; accompanied by their glamorous dates, Dinah Drake and Selina Kyle.

Joining the fight in the seventh round; the champ is already feeling the pressure from his younger challenger. Grant suffers a knock-out blow which reaches the count of eight, before he's saved by the bell of the round's end.

Clay's blow sufficiently rocks Wildcat into next week, forcing his ringteam to bring out the smelling salts and a stern talking to. Grant's team manages to bring him out of his dreamstate daze, but things still look grim for the defending champion. Recognising his predicament, Grant sees about summoning a strength unique to a man who stands valiantly besides gods; shoulders above even the elite fighters of the mortal realm. For the next round he is the Wildcat.

To the shock of commentator and spectator alike; Grant launches himself into the eighth round with the gusto of a madman. Technique goes out the window as the Wildcat unleashes himself on an unsuspecting youngster, throwing punches with wanton regard for his own future in the match. This is do or die!

"Plan B" comes at Clay with all it stands for. All the heroic deeds, all the triumphs over adversity, and all the near-death experiences that have coloured Wildcat's career not only as a boxer, but as a member of the JSA as well.

Wildcat winds up and throws a devestating right! The challenger goes down!
Camera bulbs flash throughout the arena, capturing the moment of Wildcat Grant's victory over upstart challenger, Clay! The crowd goes wild for the aging defender, who is content to be their champion one last time.

The Hammer...
It's without hesitation that I boldly give to you, your winner by way of knock-out, Wildcat!

Sadly things on the Infintie Wars haven't been running as smoothly as they usually do, which means if you've been jonesing for more of our usual style of commentary and battle blogging, you've been starving. Fortunately for you, there are people who know exactly what you're going through, and by way of the cosmic meme, you can head over to the thoroughly suitable, Friday Night Fights: Knock-out Edition!

Even without the Infinite Wars representing, Bahlactus serves up a cosmic dose of flapjacks and fisticuffs combed from the entire blogosphere, which should more than make up for our slack!

I'd love to tell you delays have been rampant because I've been attending functions like movie premieres, but alas, it's nothing that glamorous.
Then again, that doesn't mean we can't talk about movie premieres, and it's a good thing too! The hotly anticipated DTV animated feature, inspired by this very Darwyn Cooke story, was released on DVD on the 26th!

Justice League: New Frontier has been in the works for quite some time, and as is typically the case, the fanboys were positively frothing at the mouth for a chance to see one of their favourite stories come to life. I don't know why I'm using such distancing terms here, because as jaded as I can sometimes be, I too am silly for the prospect of an animated New Frontier!

Emphasis should be placed on the new title. The inevitability of directorial decisions and editing means this mammoth graphic series is condensed down with the user-friendly conceit to guard the representating of the Justice League characters featured throughout the series. Given some of our other recent discussions [A League of their Own, An Apelaxian a Day...] this shift isn't at all inappropriate for our own ends, but may leave some of the niche audience attracted to the original minutia of New Frontier a little cold. Not that it isn't a little understandable, and maybe even expected.

The DVD boasts what I always look for in a purchase, and that's not just extras, but extras that really invest in the source material. I was recently bitterly disappointed by the purchase of Resident Evil: Extinction, among other things, for it's lack of extras connecting the film franchise to it's lengthy history in the video games. This is far from the case for New Frontier, boasting a range of documentaries (and cartoon episodes) relating to the history of the Justice League, and the production involved in taking the comic to the cartoon. Being quite a bit behind on purchases like these, I'll be keen to see if, amidst the Justice League history talk, there's any mention of the origin we've been discussing in the already mentioned Secret Origins features.

Talking about New Frontier again services a lot of things.
As always, our vague attempts to reflect the zeitgeist of the moment remains driven by all mediums, not the least of which is a New Frontier comic book special shipping this week, but also the film. Also contributing to this entry is another opportunity to rectify our mishandling, or lack of representation, of a good many DC heroes who deserve a ranking in the Infinite Wars!

When FRANK MILLER does it, you never hear the end of it. Hey, where's THE FRIGGIN WILDCAT memes?...Wildcat's a great character!
He isn't a [god damn] Batman, but those comparisons are obvious not just because of the dark, eared cowl, but the fact that he joins the elite few heroes without powers who can mix it up with the best of them. Wildcat's power, for lack of a better term, is that he's a great fighter, and in incredible condition.

In that respect the character, along with this story, really speaks to some of my favourite stories in comics starring The Phantom, another golden age character without powers. Actually, as I love to discuss with American fans, the Phantom predates a good many costumed heroes, despite being something of the forgotten son in the United States.

Nostalgia in comics is pretty rampant these days, and the Golden Age really manages to maintain a chic cool in the fanboy community. There's a status that goes along with having a perspective and knowledge of these classic stories and characters, I think that really goes to the heart of what makes comics great.
We've talked recently a bit about intimidation and fallacys in new reader culture [An Apelaxian a Day...], but I think that constant contingent of Golden Age characters, as much as they can be erroneously off-putting to some, really drive home the strength of comics as a beautifully perpetual medium.

Darwyn Cooke and his work, not just on New Frontier, but on many other instantly recognisable short stories and brief features, continues to push that point. His penchant for a bygone era of heroes is embodied not only in the overt visuals of his cartoon-influenced style, but even in the undertones of his themes and story telling techniques. Cooke really marries the ideals of classic comics, animation, and contemporary comics in a way that is undoubtedly worthy of the critical acclaim his work has begun to garner.

I'm pressed for time and in desperate need of a good sleep, so I can't really get into the kind of depthy conversation I might like to, but if you're one of the many diving into the DC Universe through New Frontier, drop a comment!
This story has really managed to have an effect, rightly or wrongly, on readers of all walks in comics, including the uninitiated. I would agree that it's a fantastic entry point for examining the origins of characters like Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, and even the holy Trinity; Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman.

I'd love to hear how you feel about the story, in comic or film format, and if you have that vantage point, even how you feel about the deviations from one to the other. I think, as is typical of these animated features, you can see a lot of chef's keen to steer the broth, and there are going to be disappointments that you see in just about any corporately driven adaptation. I don't doubt New Frontier will be fantastic, but at the same time, nobody should feel guilty for noting these differences, or sharing them. So come one, come all!

Before I go, I will note, I've already spotted a few hiccups in the translation that I'm disappointed by. Batman's absolved of his role in triggering John Jones' pyrophobia during the Cult fight scene, likewise, Batman's ambush of the Martian Manhunter in his apartment puts the characters on more level footing. MM loses some of his trademark naivite, I think, while Batman's ambushing menace is also lost to the mutual exchange, fading to a now silly and unnecessary reaction from a disturbed Martian Manhunter.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 7

As you might have gathered from the THREE seperate reviews focusing on this issue, it's easily my favourite. As fantastic as it is though, this is but a tiny focus on a much, much, much larger story. In fact, the New Frontier universe has become part of the DC Multiverse, which means we might even be able to hold out hope for even more specials revisiting the series! If you like what you've seen and what to dive in to the original, there are now several ways you can do it, all provided below! By using Amazon links for your purchases you help sponsor future features on the Infinite Wars, so if you're thinking about it, go for it!

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