Friday, March 5, 2010

Olympic Memories with Shaman - Revisiting "The Underworld Olympics '76" - Part 2


Fear me!!! Fear Tanaraq, one of the mystical Great Beasts of Canada’s north and deadly enemy of Alpha Flight heroine Narya.

It is Tanarq'a undefeatable form Walter Langkowski takes on when he transforms into Sasquatch. And today Tanaraq has possessed Langkowski's body to better wreak havoc on this week’s Comicanuck Olympic blogging!


Prepare for boredom, frustration and rage as I describe in minute detail why the Vancouver 2010 closing ceremonies reeked of suck, except for letting Catriona Le May Doan get a second chance at lighting the torch. Sniff! That brought a tear to many a Great Beast’s evil eye.

And Tanaraq must confess the Michael Bublé number is growing on him. Tanaarq can appreciate a good rampage of over-the-top madness, Busby Berkeley-style -- though Tamaraq is afraid of giant beavers. But then, who isn't?

First I shall make fun of the audience ponchos – Gah! What is this? Ancient Sarcee magic, binding my mouth, gagging Tanaraq’a mighty roar -- mmmfffttt!!??

Fear not, gentle readers of comicanuck. There are more than two of you, right?

I, Michael Twoyoungmen, better known as Shaman, mystical defender of Canada and founding member of Alpha Flight, have temporarily contained Tanarq’s raging sarcasm with a magical gag. As the Binder of Spirits, the Breaker of Dark Spells and former Talisman, I shall banish the Great Beast and free Waletr Langkwski’s spirit later.

But for now we shall take some time to discuss more of the Underworld Olympics ’76!

Like Walter, I too, followed this DC Comics storyline with interest. After a rollicking J. L. Garcia Lopez romp in Batman 272, we turn to the Batman 273 for second round of this criminal Olympiad.

“The Bank Shot That Baffled Batman” opens with the European team disrupting a Revolutionary War reenactment for Gotham’s bicentennial celebrations. As Walter, er Sasquatch mentioned in his previous post, the US was experiencing a fervor of patriotism between their birthday and the Olympics happening so close to home on their home continent.

Writer David V. Reed starts the proceedings with an ideal opening – a unique action sequence that reels the reader in and creates a lot of questions. Disguised as redcoats and using real bullets the team wounds several Gotham Colonial Minute Men, steal their cannon and add insult to injury by planting a British Union Jack in place of the good old star and stripes. Consider your reader's curiosity peeked! Upon rereading, this approach works just as well today as it did for my nine-year old self back in 1976.

It’s funny to see Batman helpless to stop the event because he’s stuck in orbit around the earth on monitor duty in the Justice League of America satellite. It’s too bad the JLA HQ doesn’t have say, some way to contact other Justice League heroes to ask for their help in such an emergency.

Come to think of it, no radio would make being on monitor duty kind of pointless wouldn’t it? Then again, Artist Ernie Chau’s (Ernie Chan) cramped version of the satellite doesn’t even have a chair. Batman is huddled on his butt hugging his knees to his chest like a kid quietly watching cartoons downstairs early in the morning hoping they don't wake their parents.

But I digress.

One fun aspect of Batman one-off stories of this period, is that attempts are made to give some sense of Bruce Wayne’s working life. In this issue we see Bruce “swamped” with paperwork at a bank we presume he owns or perhaps serves on the board of directors.

Just those two panels are enough to give the sense that Batman’s secret identity has a life of his own and isn’t just pulled in when Batman needs entry to somewhere undercover or a writer needs temporary soap opera elements to drive a story.

I have found many writers (myself included) find it easier to write relationship stuff rather than writing a credible story around Bruce’s business acumen and responsibilities.

It’s lucky for the bank that Bruce is working late because as the European team arrives with a mysterious deposit. To their shock, the bank is held up by a local gang. To the gang's shock, they're holding up Batman's bank. And he's pissed.

Despite Batman’s interference the gang get away with cash and one of the European team’s safety deposit boxes. Batman tracks the gang but Underworld Olympian Boris Chomsky, utilizing his KGB training, follows him. Boris bashes our hero’s Bat noggin and escapes with his stolen box. All Batman sees through a haze of wracking pain (caused less by the bum on the head than by trying to move with anatomy so hopelessly squashed and stretched by his artist) is Boris’ shoe soles as he dives out the window.

When Boris returns the stolen safety deposit box to the bank, a suspicious Bruce Wayne confirms Boris’ villainy when he spots the baddie’s shoes. Batman slips into the vault that night and opens all of Boris’ safety deposit. Bats assembles the contents into the missing cannon, which is “easily reassembled if you know how”. (Perhaps this is another hint at Bruce Wayne’s downtime as a Revolutionary War re-enacter?)

Batman replaces the cannon parts in their boxes and lies in wait for the Olympians to arrive again. We then discover Batman’s priorities will always lie more his curiosity and a rollicking good yarn than say, Bruce’s need to keep his bank from being blown up. The caped crusader's 'plan' involves waiting for the crooks to sneak into his vault, reassemble the cannon and let them fire an artillery shell through the roof of the bank so he can track it’s trajectory!

The issue comes to a quick close as Batman makes short work of the remaining team and is once again left to wonder over this senseless, Gotham crime spree with the international flavour.

Wait! My spiritual warning signs portent great danger nearby. But where... WHERE??!!

Oh no! Tanaraq is rending my mystical mouth guard and throwing my own power back at meeeee!!! Argh! Tanaraq is--

-- Free! Raaaaaarrrrwwwwllll!!!

Flee in terror , puny mortals!

Your magic gag was no match for my evil bite force, Shaman! Your love for this four–part Olympic tale is proof of your lack of taste as a child. There is so much to despise between these Bat-covers! Let us first talk of the scoring system for these so –called International Crime Olympics!

In Batman 272 we see each challenge is scored out of a hundred divided up into three phases, with penalties assessed for partial failure. Bah! The only proper penalty for failure is to be ripped apart by my mighty talons! But what can you expect from mere humans? Listen to this human explain the scoring from the first so-called adventure in this Underworld Olympics.

Yes, yes, So far, even Tanaraq follows despite his low percentile scores in monster finishing school. Phase One is worth 45 points but after losing 25 points for pathetic-ness the South American fools only score 20. Phase Two is worth 30 points and Phase Three is worth the remaining 25 points. At least Tanaraq thinks that's what the ugly, chewy-looking, Chairman/head bookie with pointy stick says.

Tanaraq is lost but pretty sure the score is out of... um....

A total of 100 possible points, Tanaraq! Why don’t you buy yourself a calculator?

Silence, Shaman!

Tanaraq is a Great Beast and devourer of worlds! He has no need of basic, human calculus! And the tiny buttons on crappy calculators rip apart under the tapping of my razor sharp nails.

Yet, without such technology, Tanaraq finds the scoring in Batman 273 even more confusing. First, fleshy, bow-tie wearing human says Round One for the European team's challenge will be worth 20 points.

Then smoky, bald-head tells us Round Two is worth twenty points. Then chatty, moron man says Phase Three is worth 10 points, which in Tanaraq'a dark, beasty netherworld still equals fifty. Seriously, isTanaraq right, or is Tanaraq right, here? So now the total challenge is not scored out of 100 like it was only last issue?

Okaaaaay then.

To quote Nelvanna of my cursed, immortal Gods of the North enemies -- What the…?

But at the end of the book, after Batman kicks Olympic butt, this juicy sack of blood man adds the European team's points up to 80 (out of fifty) and takes them down to fifty! Which should mean they have a perfect score. Except they don't because, the score isn't out of fifty now. It's out of something else. Pi perhaps? Gaaaarrrrr! Math is hard!!!

To many numbers, Tanarag must flee this place. And don’t get Tanaraq started on Ernie Chan! Seriously, Tanaraq will raze this town if you even ask. Gaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!

O-M-G. I thought he'd never buzz off.

Perhaps I’d better go after Tanaraq. He's disappeared into what’s left of the still-partying Olympic Village here in Whistler, BC and these late night party people would be fools to party with a Great Beast. More on the Underworld Olympics next time!

So farewell for now. And remember, Shaman says may your spirit guide always lead you on the shortest path to home.

Beavers Up!

And please do not ask why an ancient Canadian Northern monster
is speaking olde English... or Tanaraq will eat your house!

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