Monday, December 31, 2012

Incredibly, against all expectations, there was Cass to be had in Tokyo!

Whenever I'm in Tokyo, I try to find American comics (or even Japanese comics translated into English).  The best place for this is Blister, a small comic book store in Hamacho.  They're only open a few brief hours during the week but we managed to fit in a stop there during our busy holiday ramble.  And what did I find?

The Batgirl:  Destruction's Daughter trade paperback collection and yet another copy of Batgirl: Fists of Fury.  I believed DC let all their Cass Cain Batgirl collections go out of print-- and also that I'd bought the last Fists of Fury available in Japan earlier in the year-- but these two may actually still be alive out there somewhere.  Seeing them was a happy surprise.  Since I have sworn to buy everything Cass I come across that I don't already own, I immediately bought Destruction's Daughter, even though I find for everything cool within there's something equally lame.  Fists of Fury is superior in almost every way.  That's not to say Destruction's Daughter is all bad.  We'll discuss this at a later time.

How much did I pay for this gem?  A mere 2000 yen.  As of today, that's 23.29 USD, three bucks and change over the SRP.  In Japan, when we're talking imported comics, that qualifies as a bargain.  I'm not sure how much Fists of Fury was retailing for this time around.

There are no copies of the monthly series at Blister.  If there had been, I would have bought all of them.  There are plenty of the Stephanie Brown Batgirl and the New 52 Batgirl to be had.  This is because they're of a more recent vintage and I'm not into them.  For me, it's Cass or nothing.

Tower Records in Shibuya and Kinokuniya in Shinjuku had no Cass books whatsoever.  Perhaps she's a guest star in something with Robin or Red Robin or Batman, but I'm not into any of those, either, so I didn't check.

In related news, I finally signed up for Comixology so I can participate in some of these pro-Cass campaigns.  It's difficult for me to wait for the official days, though.  I'm seriously considering just jumping the gun and buying some digital Cass while I'm all fired up about her again!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A more traditional Cass with Enid Coleslaw from "Ghost World"

Did I show you this one already? I drew this sketch on an Intuos PTK-650 pen tablet. The ape is from a Frazetta painting for some old issue of Creepy magazine, that's supposed to be Uncle Fester standing there, none of the figures relate to each other and there's no narrative. Unless you supply one! Go ahead! Have fun! Somebody has to make up stories about Cass now that DC won't let any of their writers. Just don't try to make any money off them because that's some kind of infringement. Copyright? Trademark? What am I, a lawyer? I'm barely an artist!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Will it be a Cass Christmas?

I'm off for Tokyo today.  You know, Tokyo would be a fantastic setting for a story where Cass takes on the yakuza.  I just typed that sentence and I'm already envisioning several set-pieces-- an all-out fight in a pachinko parlor in Kabuki-cho, a night time roof-top battle above some other part of Shinjuku, an outing with Steph to Roppongi where they meet some sleazy American dudes at a dance club and deal with them in a humorous way, more comedic relief in Harajuku where Cass experiences rori culture then things take a turn for the violent and weird when she fights a pair of amarori assassins, concluding with a thrilling climax atop the Tokyo Sky Tree.  We need a cohesive plot to tie all of that together, right?

It would beat the pants off that Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine mini-series.

I doubt there's a single Cass-related item for sale in Tokyo these days.  You know why?  Because I BOUGHT THEM ALL!  But I'll take a look and buy whatever I see, then tell you about it here.

Happy Holidays to all you Cass fans out there!  And good will to the Steph supporters!  And a Happy New Year to DC!  Bring both of those characters back and make the season bright!

Cass's back!

Here's an old one. Well, a year or two old. I think. It's another sketchbook drawing (markers) of my version of Cass. I blooped one up using the clear marker. Not a good idea.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Cass voice silenced...

We're about a month away from the Fight On, Cass target date (January 26th), but sadly I have to report the disappearance of Support Cass!/Cass Cain Campaign, the Tumblr dedicated to the last effort to re-interest DC in Cass by inspiring people to buy a digital issue of her series.  I just tried to visit the site and it is gone, gone, gone.  Like Cass herself.

It's a little bit of a downer.  Cass gets a mention here and there, usually as an aside in an item discussing Stephanie Brown, Wally West or Donna Troy and the occasional think piece or fan art, but there's just not a whole lot of Cass buzz out there at the moment.  At least not much I can detect from over here in Japan.

It's really difficult to gauge how much of a fanbase the character has left.  I can count four I've interacted with recently, plus Zechs (assuming he's on the level) which gives me a hard number of six (including myself).  Let's go ahead and figure on a few more based on some of the message board posts I come across (these are harder to tally because they require deeper Internet sleuthing than I'm able to devote time and effort to; I'm not Oracle, for crying out loud, but then, neither is anyone else these days).

So.  Two dozen?  Or is that being optimistic?

Well, I'm going to keep on.  That's what Cass would have done if she hadn't been eliminated from continuity.

I found the Gail Simone announcement kinda anti-climactic...

Look, I'm happy for her.  I really am.  So ends a strange episode, and it's as smart a move on DC's part as firing her was a stupid one.  But I don't think the announcement Gail Simone is back writing Batgirl to be "Internet breaking."*  Gail Simone taking Dan DiDio's job would be Internet breaking.

*No, I didn't think she would be doing a Steph/Cass team book.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cass and/or non-Cass news for 12/21/12 (or Doomsday as the case may be)

Just doing my daily Cassandra Cain news search and I find but the ever-reliable Jude Terror taking the piss again.  This time it has something to do with Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool teasing a big DC announcement involving Gail Simone.  Terror jokes it can only mean Simone will be writing a Stephanie Brown book.  Cass gets a shout out.

Man, that Jude Terror is mean!  He's just plain mean!*

*Thank heavens he gives me something to write about here.  Cass news is sparse these days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cassandra Cain Versus the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad Vol. 2

We pick up our story in Tokyo, where Cass has beaten O-Ren Ishii and her bodyguards, the Crazy 88.  An angry Batman flies in to scold her and drag her reluctantly back to Gotham City.  Undaunted, Cass flees and after a brief night-time chase, eludes her mentor.  She knows she's risking a complete break with the man who has rapidly become a second father to her, but she's driven by her need to pursue these unusual and deadly people who remind her so much of herself.  Inside Cass rages a crisis of identity.  Using her own resources, she slips back across the Pacific and into the U.S. only to meet...

California Mountain Snake (Elle Driver).  California Mountain Snake briefly lulls Cass into a false sense of security by posing as an ally, but when the moment is right, strikes.  What follows is another sword fight, but Cass has developed katana expertise beyond anything California Mountain Snake can handle.  Cass ends the fight by temporarily blinding the one-eyed killer with a bright light, slipping behind her and shoving her into a filthy dumpster.  She closes the top and uses a small metal torch from her utility belt to seal it shut.  As Cass slips away, we hear California Mountain Snake raging and pounding away helplessly inside her dark prison.

Black Mamba/The Bride (Beatrix Kiddo).  Following up on information gleaned from Cass's defeated foes, Oracle reveals to Batman the location of the comatose Black Mamba.  Batman heads there hoping to intercept Cass who must also have access to this information.  Sensing something sinister at the facility, and backtracking the patient's origins, Batman begins to piece together the puzzle of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.  When Cass finally does show up, Batman realizes he must let her work through her issues.  Grimly, he gives her approval to confront Bill himself.  If she can find him.  Because of the strain it's caused in their relationship, it's the most he's willing to do.  Oracle chides him for testing the girl and Batman questions his own motives.

But not before Black Mamba recovers from her coma during a course of events that exactly follow those in Kill Bill Vol. 1.  A freed California Mountain Snake makes her aborted attempt on Black Mamba's life.  Black Mamba kills her tormentors and regains the ability to walk and fight.  Cass confronts her before she heads off to wreak vengeance on the Deadly Vipers and Bill.  Realizing Cass is after Bill as well, Black Mamba cannot allow her to defeat him before she takes her own shot.  The two fight, a long, running battle that takes place over the rooftops near the hospital a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with Black Mamba pursuing Cass just as Shu Lien did Jen Yu.  Both combatants believe the other knows where Bill is hiding.  They're fairly evenly matched, with Cass holding a slight advantage.  When the truth that neither knows where Bill is comes out, they stop their match and Black Mamba exacts an honor vow from Cass that they will meet again when it is all over and settle their differences once and for all, but that she must be the one who kills Bill.  Cass is shocked because she had only thought of bringing Bill to justice for his crimes and once again, she sees a reflection of the self she could have been.  In her confused state, she allows Black Mamba to slip away and experience the events of the Quentin Tarantino film.  Deciding she has to redeem herself in Batman's eyes, Cass breaks the vow she's only just made and grimly follows Black Mamba from a distance.

Bill.  Pursuing Black Mamba, Cass returns to many of the locations from the previous volume, only too late.  She witnesses the carnage left in Black Mamba's wake, becoming increasingly distraught at what she feels resulted from her failure to stop her when she had the chance.  She fears Batman will never forgive her for her lapse.  It's a horrible nightmare trip for her, a dark journey through an underworld she might once have easily inhabited herself.

After encountering the maimed Sofie Fatale and learning Bill's whereabouts, and having a phone conversation with him-- one-sided, of course, because Cass can barely understand what he's saying-- where Bill attempts to work his own charms on her and bring her onto the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad as its newest recruit (using the same logic he employs on Beatrix Kiddo in the film), Cass has an epiphany and now knows she has to save Bill from Black Mamba even though she considers him a very bad person indeed.

Unfortunately, she's once again too late and can only helplessly watch Bill's final moments.  Although she can't fully comprehend the feelings that pass between Black Mamba and Bill, she does know there are some things beyond her limited emotional experience.  Now having learned the full story and what the Deadly Vipers did to Black Mamba when she was The Bride, Cass offers a truce.  Seeing the now at peace Beatrix Kiddo reunited with her daughter sends Cass winging back to Gotham City to repair her relationship with Batman.  And to begin her own search for her elusive mother.  Of course the rigid Batman isn't too happy with her performance, but Oracle convinces him to back off for now.  There are some things about Cass that are also mysteries to them.

Yeah, kind of anti-climactic, huh?  Oh well, they can't all be winners.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad Vol. 1

It had to happen.  After briefly considering a fight between Cass and Mr. Kotter and his Sweathogs, I found myself thinking back to all those times-- possibly hundreds-- when I've suggested Cass's Batgirl series should have been more violent and tragic, along the lines of a Kazuo Koike work.  Lady Snowblood, for example, which provided Quentin Tarantino with some of his Kill Bill inspiration.  From there it was a simple imaginative leap to what I modestly call the Fight of the Century.

Cassandra Cain versus Bill and his Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

Forget Vinnie Barbarino and Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington (for now).  Let's follow Cass around the world as she battles the most proficient team of professional killers ever known, each with his or her own murderous specialty.  Except for Bill himself and Beatrix Kiddo, who appear to be polymaths of death.

To be quite honest, there is no way an assassination squad operating on the highest levels like the Deady Vipers would ever confront Cass mano-a-mano.  Realistically, Bill would just have O-Ren "Cottonmouth" Ishii snipe Cass from a distance, fight over.  But even to accept the existence of people like these-- Cass aside-- requires suspension of disbelief.  And once having done that, we demand they put their skills on full display for our amusement.  And anyway, the possibilities contained within this scenario give me chills.  And they're multiplying.  I'm losing control.  Because the power this fight is supplying is electrifying!

Copperhead (Vernita Green).  Bill sends Copperhead, expert in both hand-to-hand combat and knife-fighting, after Cass first.  Copperhead wisely chooses to ambush Cass and their fight is a vicious one.  Copperhead is good, damn good, but she finds herself unable to land anything more than ineffectual glancing blows, and Cass manages several wicked strikes to let Copperhead know she's open for business.  At this point, Copperhead escalates the conflict with throwing knives, which Cass dodges.  As Copperhead tires and grows more desperate, she begins to make mistakes and Cass soon takes advantage, slipping inside Copperhead's guard, disarming her (breaking her wrist in the process), then putting her to sleep with a choke hold.  To Cass's surprise, Batman points out Copperhead actually managed to slice her just once, a shallow wound easily bandaged and not likely to cause any loss of speed or mobility.  Ashamed, Cass silently vows to do better next time.  Next time comes quickly...

Sidewinder (Budd).  Bill's brother Sidewinder is a more pragmatic fighter and comes after Cass with a shotgun loaded not with rock salt but with 12 gauge 00 buckshot.  Unfortunately for him, Copperhead's failure has cost the Deadly Vipers the vital element of surprise and Cass combat-rolls underneath the blast and comes up fighting.  Sidewinder is forced to use his shotgun as a club, but Cass has her opponent off-balance, landing a flurry of blows the tough Sidewinder almost manages to shrug off.  Years of alcohol abuse have dulled his combat edge, though, and Sidewinder succumbs faster than Copperhead.  A hotel room key leads Cass and Spoiler to Sidewinder's temporary lodgings, a seedy motel in a run-down Gotham City suburb.  There, among Sidwinder's possessions, Cass finds a katana.  Batman traces it to Hattori Hanzo and even though he forbids Cass to pursue the matter further and instructs her to shelter in a secret hideaway while he himself deals with Bill's assassins, Cass disobeys, but not before incapacitating Spoiler to keep her friend out of danger.  It's off to Okinawa for Cass.  Despite her lack of language skills, she's able to engage Hanzo in a quick "conversation" at his sushi restaurant and learns the next Deadly Viper to try her hand will be none other than...

Cottonmouth (O-Ren Ishii).  Just as the Bride's fight against Cottonmouth provided a violent spectacle at the end of the first Kill Bill, so must Cass's because it involves scores of black-suited gangsters doing their best to be the immoveable object in front of her unstoppable force.  O-Ren Ishii holds court at the the House of Blue Leaves, a large izakaya where she's protected by the Crazy 88 and serenaded by The 5678s.  Cottonmouth has learned the fates of both Copperhead and Sidewinder via Sophie Fatale's line of communications to Bill, and believes herself ready.  Cass infiltrates the izakaya and lays waste to the Crazy 88 in a spectacular fight scene that puts the one in Kill Bill Vol. 1 to shame, only with much less blood.  Incredibly, Cass kills not one single member of the gang, a feat that takes her longer than it did the Bride in the movie simply because Cass shows restraint.  She's able to knock out Gogo Yubari after a fast and furious scrap, and prepares to confront Cottonmouth, who is armed with her own katana.  This forces Cass to reluctantly use the one she took from Sidewinder, which she carried with her to force Cottonmouth to tell her more about the man who commissioned it (beyond what she's already learned from Hanzo).

They duel with blades flashing and ringing, with Cass outmatched at first but quickly learning to anticipate Cottonmouth's moves.  Soon she's pressing her attack and has Cottonmouth at a disadvantage.  With Cass suddenly distracted slightly by the possibility her opponent might also be her mother, Cottonmouth is able to wound Cass with a vicious slash.  This turns out to be a huge tactical mistake on Cottonmouth's part; with no chance to land a killing blow, a retreat to fight another day would have been the smarter move.  The cagey yakuza boss quickly realizes it, but too late.  Now fully committed to the contest, Cass disarms Cottonmouth and renders her helpless.  Sofie Fatale then reveals more information in order to free her boss from Cass's clutches, not suspecting that Cass would never kill, at least not on purpose.  Now fully apprised of the conspiracy against her, Cass leaves the defeated Cottonmouth to lick her wounds and plan for her own revenge.

End of Vol. 1!

Monday, December 17, 2012

I've come to the conclusion Adam Beechen must be a really nice guy...

In looking for more Cass news this morning, just a smidgen, just a dab, a dot, a teensy, tiny piece of anything-- like that little mouse in the classic Chuck Jones adaptation of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, who sniffs the last remaining crumb before a fuzzy green hand with sharply pointed fingers like Winsor-Newton sable-haired brushes comes into the frame and plucks it away-- I found a review of Adam Beechen's Batgirl: Redemption Road trade collection.  The critic goes into some character analysis I skimmed and found intriguing.  Unfortunately, I don't have time to read it in detail right now.  We'll discuss it at a later date.

But what makes this Cass newsworthy is down in the comments we can see Cass Fan #1 Nathaniel get into a discussion with none other than Adam Beechen himself.  Nathaniel and I have had our qualms about Beechen's Cass characterization for years and with Redemption Road in particular.  I haven't had time to pick over their give and take, either, but from a quick scan it's very congenial and full of a lot of enlightening info that will probably help me fill post after post here at Cass-O-Rama.

It's an impromptu interview you as a Cass fan simply must read.  Yes.  Required reading.  I just need some leisure time to give it my full attention and draw more conclusions other than Beechen shows an amazing amount of good humor and puts an awful lot of thought into his responses, especially when you consider how reviled his writing of Cass has been over the years.

One of my favorite things is when two people disagree and discuss said disagreement in a completely rational, friendly way.  I'm not very good at it.  I'm a bit too... shall we say... passionate.  So as a frothing-at-the-mouth loony, it's neat for me to see their ideas batting together like colorful helium balloons at a party rather than like two boxers slugging it out inside the square circle and all those tough guy cliches.

Have I grown up?  Or has this whole getting married thing softened me?  I'm like Cass when she first learned to understand spoken language and it fritzed up her fighting skills!  Oh no!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The news for Cass Cain so far this week is... no news!

I just did my daily Cass search and no one is talking about her today.  Unless it's buried in some message board discussion, in which case I haven't read it because who has the time?  Even for a dedicated Cass fanatic like me there's only so much detective work I can do.

Here at work.

If I had the day off I'd do a few Cass doodles and post them here.  I have a new "Cass vs." fight coming soon.  It's one I consider the best yet, although I'm partial to the one where I have her fight the 4077th MASH for reasons known but to my subconscious.  Look for more of those whenever an impish mood strikes (and I have the time to indulge), plus reviews of every single issue of Batgirl starring Cass.  Sometime this week or over my winter break I'm going to edit some old essays I wrote about Cass-- and take out things I now believe to be wrong or stupid-- then post them here, too.

Content suggestions are very welcome.  Got an aspect of Cass you'd like to see explored, discussed, pondered, mistaken, confused or rendered impossibly obtuse?  Let me know and I'll take care of it for you.

And finally-- the best thing that's happened around here is someone commented.  Madeleine M., you made my weekend!  Comments on this blog are slightly less rare than Cass Cain appearances in the New 52.  And that means they're very much appreciated.  I tried to reply but Blogger's acting a little funny.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus M*A*S*H

Imagine a time-displaced Batgirl finding herself dropped into the war-torn hills of 1951 Korea.  Or, if you prefer, the pretend war-torn hills of 1970s southern California.  What would happen if Cass found herself at war with the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital?  Of course, I'm talking the TV version, not the Robert Altman film.

Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce.  Hawkeye doesn't present much of a physical challenge to Cass.  He's either exhausted from hours of meatball surgery or else hung over from some down-time debauchery involving home-brewed martinis and a nurse or two.  Or else he's waxing maudlin over some heartbreaking aspect of the Korean War.  Hawkeye isn't much on fighting and generally refuses to participate in calisthenics, preferring more leisurely pursuits as golf, womanizing and being sanctimonious.  Cass has Hawkeye down and out of the fight faster than you can write "Dear Dad" or order ribs from your favorite barbecue restaurant back in the States.

Captain John "Trapper John" McIntyre.  This depends on what era of M*A*S*H Cass encounters.  But in order to explore this possibility completely, we have to consider all the characters.  Trapper John is slightly more a physically challenging specimen than Hawkeye, but is similarly worn down by the rigors of combat medicine and likely drunk as well.  Cass soon disables him and moves on to her next opponent.

Major Frank Burns.  Burns talks a good game, but he's generally craven and ineffectual.  When his facade of military authority gives way in the face of Cass's inability to understand Burns's verbal orders and bluster, the hapless and largely incompetent doctor falls to his knees and pleads for mercy, citing his wife and children back home.  Cass can't understand this either, and rocks Burns to sleep with a quick multi-punch combo or roundhouse kick to the head.

Captain B.J. Hunnicutt.  Replacing McIntyre, Hunnicutt attempts to fool Cass with one of his ingenious practical jokes, and with a fall-back plan to distract her with a heartwarming anecdote about his beloved wife Peg.  The joke provides just enough of a delay to allow Hunnicutt to dye his hair and mustache bright red and then ride off on his motorcycle before Cass can grapple with him.  The Peg anecdote would not help, so it's just as well Hunnicutt never has to use it.

Major Charles Emerson Winchester III.  Large-framed and patrician, Winchester deploys condescension and pretentiousness in an effort to thwart Cass's relentless assault.  Undaunted, Cass presses her attack.  Fortunately for the Boston-born Winchester, Cass is somewhat gentled by his desperate ploy of having a small group of North Korean prisoners serenade her with classical music.  As a result, Cass uses a relatively painless choke-hold to subdue him.

Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan.  Cass's most formidable foe amongst the 4077th personnel, but her Regular Army ways and training are still no match whatsoever for Cass's almost superhuman martial arts skills.  Fearless to a fault, Houlihan witnesses the pathetic display by Burns and, angered at his mentioning of his stateside family, takes the fight to Cass only to fall within seconds.  In her unconscious state, Houlihan dreams of her former husband Lt. Col. Donald Penobscot and wearing a bloody wedding dress while tending to wounded G.I.s.

Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly.  Possessed of a predictive ability that rivals Cass's, Radar manages to avoid Cass's first assault, but soon must engage her mano-a-mano.  Resorting to his little-used basic combat training and then using his teddy bear as a cudgel, Radar is barely a blip in Cass's path.  This fight is the second shortest, after the Burns match-up.  Cass pauses a moment to kiss Radar's forehead and experiences a pang of regret.

Lt. Colonel Henry Blake.  Laid-back and avuncular under ordinary circumstances, yet ervous and high-strung in a fight, Blake nevertheless attempts to defend himself with his service pistol.  Cass quickly disarms him and sends him packing, where he meets his fate over the Japan Sea.  Eyes tear up across the nation, but Carol Burnett offers a happier alternative the next night.

Colonel Sherman T. Potter.  A toughened former cavalryman and veteran of both World Wars, Potter is way too aged to fight Cass one-on-one.  Still, the conscientious commanding officer bravely refuses to surrender his post or abandon his people.  After reluctantly but shrewdly calling in an artillery strike on the hospital camp itself, which Cass survives by hiding in a slit trench, Potter mounts his horse Sophie and attempts an old-fashioned cavalry charge.  Horse and rider succumb to a whirlwind Cass counterattack, but in deference to Potter's advanced age and brittle bones, Cass again relies on relatively painless techniques against the colonel.  Sophie she allows to wander free.  Under the guidance of Dr. Sidney Freedman, and in order to facilitate his recovery, Potter later therapeutically paints a portrait of Cass from memory.

Nurse Kealani Kellye.  She confronts Cass with an impassioned speech about feeling unappreciated and ignored, but Cass can't make heads or tails of it.  Confused, Cass simply slips around her, leaving Nurse Kellye to look within and discover her own path to self-esteem.

Corporal/(later) Sergeant Maxwell Q. Klinger.  Master of disguise Klinger dons traditional Korean women's dress borrowed from his wife Soon-Lee and the two of them escape back to Toledo and set up housekeeping, relieved at Klinger's not having to get his ass kicked.  After the war, they invite Cass to dinner where she's entertained by their body language as the marrieds bicker over the results of Klinger's latest somewhat shady money-making scheme.  Cass is able to convince Bruce Wayne to bail them out financially and they live happily ever after.  For the most part.

Colonel Flagg.  The menacing yet obtuse counterintelligence officer is the most competent fighter Cass must face at the 4077th.  He accuses Cass of Communist subversion and tells her in a clipped voice about causing his own father to have to wear orthopedic shirts, but once they begin to fight it doesn't take Cass too long to penetrate Flagg's defenses and land a knock-out blow-- a straight kick to the chin.  Regaining consciousness later, Flagg tells no one he's the wind, then leaps out a window and breaks his leg while attempting to escape and report on Cass's activities to his superiors.  Cass secretly thinks of him as alarmingly similar to her mentor, Batman.

First Lieutenant/(later) Captain Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahey.  Come on!  What are you thinking?  Cass doesn't fight Father Mulcahey.  He does attempt to physically restrain her at one point and angrily denounces her propensity for violence, but they don't exactly tangle.  He's present at the Klinger dinner later where he tipsily commends Cass for her "jocularity."  She has no idea what the word means.

Check out the sticky sweet cinnamon bun that is the drawing of Li'l Cass and Li'l Steph

My evil heart revolts at these things, but even I have to admit this is as adorable as... well, whatever you think is adorable.  Sometimes you just have to give into the cuteness.  Especially this time of year when hearts larger and less shriveled than mine are merry.

I have no idea what "Sugar Rush Racer" is.

More reaction to the Gail Simone firing...

DC Women Kicking Ass has a sharp take on DC's abrupt and low-class firing of one of their top writers and New 52 cheerleaders, but it's one of the comments that inspired I found intriguing.  Here it is:

 "I think Marvel or any other company would welcome her with open arms." --jayb3 

 If Marvel is smart, they'll immediately announce they've offered a top-flight title to Simone.  I have no idea what her reaction to that would be and I wouldn't want to speculate, but the evil Texas businessperson side of me can't help but hope something like this happens.

In fact, if I were J.R. Bryan, Stetson-wearing editor-in-chief of Marvel, I'd be on the phone with Simone today with a Southern-accented sales pitch along these lines:

"I want to hire you right this minute.  We've got an idea that Dani Moonstar and Xi'an Coy Manh are so sick of all the factions and in-fighting among the X-Men they've decided to buy a van and travel these United States lending a helping hand to those in need.  Kinda like that ol' Lee Van Cleef-Timothy Van Patten show The Master, only awesome because you're writing it.  Other than that basic concept, you've got carte blanche to do whatever you want, set the tone, add other members to the cast, no one's off limits, slap any title you like on there and we're gonna give you a big PR push in the media and at the conventions.  How 'bout it?"

I predict at least 50k in sales.  At least.  And I do know Ms. Simone is a lot classier than I am.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gail Simone off Batgirl...

Not Cass Batgirl, obviously.

You know, I haven't read that much of Gail Simone's comic book writing.  A few issues of Birds of Prey and one of the new Batgirl, a smattering of her decent but not world-beating Gen13 relaunch, and that's it.  I hated, hated, hated her "Angel of the Bat" proposal for Cass Cain.  It just seemed forced and wrong.  Sometimes sending a character off on an unexpected tangent works, and that just wasn't going to be it.  It was too much like "Frank Castle, Demon Hunter" or whatever it was Marvel did to the Punisher for a while before they took him back to his roots and made the character relevant again-- with two crappy movies to show for it, two more than Cass will ever have.

But I have read a number of Simone's message board posts where she's engaged with other creators-- sometimes contentiously-- and fans and she's often been my hero of the moment.  Scoring points, fighting the good fight, taking the high road and other such cliches you use when someone impresses you with his or her discourse.  People dig her writing, but professionals and fans also like her as a person and with good reason.

Gail Simone was the one saving grace in all the reboot turmoil, all the clumsy re-configuring of continuity and the whimsical explanations for various inconsistencies and character omissions.  Plus the largely ugly costume updates.  Yikes.  And with her dedicated fan base, she was the one person who could have possibly taken Barbara Gordon from Oracle back to Batgirl with all the problematic changes that involved-- essentially killing off a character/concept with a lot of symbolic importance for a number of readers, pushing aside another fan-fave character-- without a comic fan apocalypse.  Without having hundreds of fans storm the DC offices as if it were the Bastille (the regime in control of which the upper management there is increasingly resembling).  Even with her involvement it was a near thing.  Through it all she displayed nothing less than class.  Just a first rate performance as a creator being scrutinized under the harshest of lights, in a pressure-filled moment.  Grace under pressure.

She's doing it again under much worse circumstances right now, too.

I have no idea what goes on at DC Comics.  I'm not a fan of the New 52 and just about the only current character I like at all is Katana (with the best costume at DC now that Black Bat is defunct).  They don't seem to make many decisions aimed at bringing me back as a reader, unless it's something to do with their back catalog and, frankly, Marvel and Dark Horse both own them there.  The creator turnover lately has been troubling.  There's probably some good reason for dumping a writer from a title that's aces with both the critics and the money-paying fans.  As a non-professional, non-industry, outsider type person I can't imagine what that might be.  But I do think firing someone (especially someone who's had DC's back the way Simone has for the last few years) via e-mail is a tasteless move by someone who knows full well what being fired in a tasteless move feels like.  He's also managed to wreck the next writer and probably scuttle the book entirely.

Anyway, that's my take on this.  The next few days should be quite interesting!

Cass lives in the Previews catalog!

Well, in chess piece form.  Yes, it's the fantastic little Cassandra Cain as Black Bat chess pawn we've talked about before.  You know, in the imaginary conversation between this blog writer and you, the blog reader.  Bleeding Cool adds another voice to the pro-Cass din and clamor that even now grows from... oh... twenty people to almost thirty.  What I like about the Bleeding Cool article is how they point out what a great costume she has as Black Bat.

I'd suggest a couple of changes-- ditch the claw-fingers and pull that hair back into a more practical bun to keep it out of her eyes (she's a fighter, for crying out loud and would be very pragmatic about such things)-- but I have to agree.  Wonderful costume design.  Simple and dramatic.  You can hardly go wrong with basic black and the white hand wraps are a nice contrasting visual element it would be fun to draw as blurs when Cass unloads on some poor thug or villain or super-miscreant.  I like to draw Batgirl Cass mask-less, so a costume with an actual face is a plus as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

One of the nicest things ever written about Cassandra Cain

I love this!  I do a Cass Google search every single day in hopes of finding exactly these kinds of things.  In this case, it's a short, friendly-voiced essay that explains exactly why DC needs Cass now more than ever.

You know, it's kind of a downer to be practically the only pro-Cass voice still out here, trying to keep the character alive in fandom.  Every so often I see a little light in the darkness, like "Fight On, Cass" the other day and now this.  Just a random comic opened, out tumbles Cass, new fan.  It's similar to how I became a Cass fan.  I impulse bought an issue of Batgirl at a supermarket and found myself instantly hooked.

And I have to echo Ms. Chan's final sentiment-- please bring back Cassandra Cain, DC!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

January 26, 2013-- Another pro-Cassandra Cain campaign!

There are only two places that regularly talk about Cass these days and if you're reading this, then you've found one of them.  The other is The Outhouse, which usually pokes satirical fun at both Cass and Stephanie Brown's fanbase in Sean O'Neal-Onion A/V Club-newsfeed-style posts by someone calling himself Jude Terror.  Terror, as his nom de guerre implies, practices a type of slash-and-burn humor.  Since I sometimes do the same thing and because I try to be laid back about these things and poke fun at myself as well, Terror's posts aren't anything I get upset about.  At least he's writing about Cass.

Zechs, however, seems to be genuine.  Either that, or he is weaving the silken web of deceit into a cloak of devilishly subtle satirical artistry (in which case I must kneel and kiss the ring of a true master).  Here's Zech's new pro-Cass suggestion, which will probably prove about as successful as the Save Cass Campaign from last fall but is worth a shot because at this point anything is better than nothing.

Come January 26, 2013, Zechs asks all Cass fans everywhere to go to Comixology and buy Batgirl #37.  Why that issue and not #1 again?  Because it's Cass's birthday (I need to go back and read this again because I'm not sure if that's her biological birthday; I'm pretty sure in #36 she and Batman arbitrarily chose another day as a kiss off to bio-dad David Cain).  It's also the final issue by Kelley Puckett and Damian Scott.  Zechs also has a few other smart reasons contrasted with last August's Support Cass Day.  If you're in, you should try to publicize this far and wide, on your blogs, your Tumblrs, various message boards.  Reach out to other Cass fans and stir things up.

So, are we up for this?  All twenty of us?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Brave and the Bold: "Imasucker Proxy" edition

That's right.  Comic book fandom.  It's May 2006.  Anyway, for a few more minutes it is.  Come midnight it's gonna be June.  A whole 'nother feeling.  A new issue of Robin.  The future.  Yeah, ol' DC Comics fixin' to put out one more comic and everybody hopin' this one be a little more giddy, a little more gay because Cassandra Cain gonna make her post-"One Year Later" debut.  Yep, all over town champagne corks is a-poppin'.  Over at DC's offices the big shots is dancin' to the strains of Gwen Stefani and Pussycat Dolls.  Down at the comic shops, the little folks is a-watchin' and waitin' for that new comic magazine to drop.  They all tryin' to catch hold of one superhero story.  To be able to say, "Right now!  This is it!  I got it!  Cass is back!"  'Course, by then it'll be past.  But they all happy, everybody havin' a good time.  Well, almost everybody.

They's a few lost souls floatin' around out there.  Now, if ya'll ain't from comics fandom, we have something here called "the Cass fan."  Got a way of bein' chewed up by editorial and creative decisions so that they don't want no celebrating, they don't want no cheerin' up, and they don't care nothing 'bout no Tim Drake.  Out of hope, out of rope.  Out of time.

This here is Joel Bryan from Cass-O-Rama.  That comic book he's steppin' out of is the home of one of those Cass stories.  It's Robin's home.  How'd he get so high?  And why is he feelin' so low?  Is he really gonna do it?  Is this Cass fan really gonna jelly up the sidewalk?  Well, the future, that's something you can't never tell about. But the past, that's another story...

One thing I did after I graduated from Muncie College of Business Administration was come up with an out-of-continuity version of the Teen Titans.  You know, for kids.  I loosely on the old school 1960s version of the team, but updated with 2000s style concerns and a warm and optimistic vibe rather than dark and cold.  I drew a lot of character design sketches and even plotted the first six or so issues.  Lots of goofy hijinks but plenty serious elements, too.  Life isn't all fun and games, and I didn't want to deny that.  Bullying, sexism, racism, drug abuse, homophobia, the search for identity and loneliness are all very real.  I wanted to address these social issues, but show some smart, can-do, community-involved teens handling them as best they could.  Not that tired cliche of "trying to find [their] place in this world," (generally used as an excuse for a lot of would-be tragic self-destructive behavior and acting out) but the other one about "trying to make this world a better place."  And we put a little sand inside to make the experience more pleasant.

I guess my dream Teen Titans are kids who act as a super-powered Volunteer Committee, one committed to improving their world rather than the stereotypical sullen, confused, angry, selfish, rebellious type teens who end up fighting their adult mentors and all that.  Kind of an antidote to the confused, angsty Supergirl and villainous Cass then current in DC continuity.

But it needed a set-up.  My idea was having ultra-smart, ultra-capable but sometimes in-over-her-head Supergirl learning about the silent Batgirl of Gotham City and trying to befriend her, despite being warned off by Batman and even Superman.  For her part, Batgirl is just confused about the whole concept of friendship.  You can't beat anyone with it, so what good is it?  She's also not sure she deserves friends-- this Cass is still wracked with guilt at having murdered, afraid Batman will find out about it and fighting that infamous death wish.  All of this just makes Supergirl that much more determined to become her friend.  She can't leave well enough alone.

This part of the story is probably derivative, but I wanted to plunge both characters into an almost impossible situation.  Darkseid, sick of Superman and wanting to crush the Man of Steel's spirit by hitting him where he's most vulnerable (his human, caring heart) and expand his own power base, sends some of his soldiers to kidnap Supergirl.  They find her during one of her attempts to communicate with Batgirl.  A fight, and Supergirl is overcome via some sort of device that saps her of her self-confidence and self-worth, leaving her somewhat de-powered.  They overmatch Batgirl and toss her aside but fail to reckon with her unstoppable will to fight on no matter what.  Just as the minions of Apokolips leave in a Boom Tube, Batgirl leaps in.

Once in Darkseid's presence, Batgirl confounds the tyrant but can't elude his soldiers.  She's tossed to the Female Furies for whatever use they see fit-- a training dummy or pet.  Meanwhile, Darkseid and Desaad place the weakened Supergirl in a machine meant to bombard her with despair long enough to break her will.  Then they plan to rebuild her psyche in the corrupt image of an Apokolipsian warrior and use her against Superman.

Batgirl spars with the Female Furies and comes off worst, but finds herself fascinated by their warrior ethos.  She comes to admire them and desperately wants to join their ranks.  She won't take no for an answer even if it means death.

Supergirl, suffering inside the machine where she's experiencing the death of Argo City over and over-- Darkseid wants to teach her the meaninglessness of hope-- suddenly comes to a calm place where she meets none other than Christopher Columbus, who claims he's there as a hero guide.  Supergirl is aghast.  Why couldn't it be Superman, Wonder Woman, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Indira Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Patti Smith or anyone but Christopher Columbus.  She calls him out for being the bringer of disease and misery for so many Native Americans.  This Columbus protests he's not the Columbus of history but rather the idealized one from out-dated school books and outdated history lessons.  The heroic one divorced from reality that millions of American schookids used to look up to.  He's not even speaking Italian, for corn's sake.

Supergirl is less than convinced and still none too happy to have even the Platonic ideal of Columbus as her spirit guide, but it can't be helped.  Their confrontation rekindles hope inside her and she realizes as long as she has even one little spark, one little ember of positive thinking left, she can stoke up the fire in her heart.  Regaining her strength and mustering an amazing amount of willpower and innate self-confidence-- anything is possible-- she bursts from the machine and destroys it in the process.

Darkseid knows he's failed and his only recourse is the kill Supergirl.  Pursued by his armies, Supergirl takes flight.  She fully believes she has no chance of survival, but she's going to give it all she's got and create a legend among the battered spirits of Apokolips in hopes of inspiring them one day to revolt against Darkseid and throw off his chains of oppression.

Superman, having discussed with Batman the situation between the two girls, has gone looking for Supergirl and traced the Boom Tube particles back to Apokolips.  He shows up in time to find a Batgirl joyfully waging her own futile combat against the Female Furies.  Batgirl has found her own place of hope, which, ironically, is one of strife and warfare she is bound to lose in the end.  Superman helps her rout the Furies, who grudgingly give ground and declare their respect for Batgirl as a having "potential" for greatness.  With Batgirl safe, Superman is able to quiz her-- after a fashion-- about what's happened.  He leaves her in the care of the Furies while he flies off to rescue Supergirl.

Supergirl is fighting her last stand.  She's defeated dozens of Darkseid's best and now Darkseid himself is about to unleash a final, annihilating force against her when Superman appears.  Together, the heroes defeat Darkseid, with Superman telling his young cousin how proud he is of her.  Darkseid leaves to plot again.  A quick rendezvous with Batgirl and the three head back to earth.

Batgirl and Supergirl forge their friendship, which will lead to the formation of a new Teen Titans team.  Then they go their separate ways.  For now.

And that's the story of how Joel Bryan climbed waaay up to the one hundred and forty-ninth issue of the Robin comic, and then fell all the way down but didn't quite squish hisself. You know, they say there was a man who jumped from the one hundred FIFTIETH issue? But that's another story.

Cassandra Cain makes the list of "DC Comics's Most Divisive Characters"

Sort of.  She gets a passing mention as one of the "Forgotten Characters," along with Donna Troy and Wally West.

Now, you may be too young to remember, but there was a time when she was an active character and dividing fans.  It was around the time of "One Year Later," when I was blogging about her and a few others here and there were also adding their pro and con views on Cass.  I remember one particularly trenchant and well-written anti-Cass piece entitled "Of Course She Is" or something along those lines.  It was one I obviously disagreed with-- and I've forgotten the specifics now but you can probably Google it and bring them to my attention for what it's worth so many years later-- but those were days when mighty voices made thunderous noise from their blog mountaintops and even those of us in opposition did listen to the din and tremble before launching our own lightning bolts. gives good ol' Stephanie Brown her own entry but you know what?  I don't see her so much as divisive as uniting.  I made a little joke about her a while back, a Steph fan took it to her own blog and she and her friends decapitated it and kicked the head around like a soccer ball.  Roasted the body and displayed the charcoaled bones on their sacred purple bat-shaped altar.  That's how I learned that my, my, you do not want to mess with Steph fans.  The list even talks about Steph as being symbolic for those not too pleased with the whole of DC's New 52.  Rally 'round the Steph, people!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus a marker drawing!

This is a marker sketch from my own little sketchbook. I did this many years ago, back when DC decided Cass was an evil Dragon Lady with an eye for Robin. To wash away the stink of that ill-chosen storyline, I designed my own Cass, one who wore a version of the original Barbara Gordon Batgirl costume with a short cape as merely an accent piece and no mask whatsoever because she just did not give a damn about hiding her face.  I can't remember the model I chose for this drawing.  The post just felt appropriate.