Thursday, July 17, 2008

Comics & Sports #4: A 52ian Interlude

As all geeks (looking at you, anyone who realizes the phrase "Neon Genesis Evangelion" isn't just a random assortment of nonsense words) know, every Wednesday (or, in this case, Thursday because I'm still in Central America and my computer actually died on me for like six hours before staging a comeback worthy of Lazarus himself) is that most hallowed of days, new comic book day. In the spirit of that most beautiful of days, I present a feature spotlighting the potentially awesome confluence of sports and comics.

For a whole bunch of reasons (at least two of which were mentioned in the standard intro), this week's post will be a bit abbreviated. To be honest, I'm not sure whether I can guarantee three weekly posts in my present state, but I'll do my very best. Whatever happens, I'll keep you posted.

We're going to take a break from the psychotic fun that is Centaur Comics (we've got at least one absolute doozy in reserve, so it'll definitely be worth the wait) and instead take a look at one of the most obscure corners of the DC universe. And when I say "obscure", I am not even remotely kidding.

A couple years back, DC had a weekly series called 52. It was a series featuring on lesser-known characters told in a real-time during a year without, for various reasons, most of the big guns of the DC universe. It was, all things considered, fucking awesome (although the less said about its technical follow-up Countdown, the better), and it also later served as the namesake for my other weekly feature, which most scholars agree is still its most lasting contribution.

As part of the construction of this larger universe, DC created a tie-in website that was supposedly the online Daily Planet (Clark and Lois's newspaper, for the uninitiated), complete with articles that, to varying degrees, directly described events that could be found in the comics themselves. I say "to varying degrees" because among the vast majority of articles that clearly describe events in the 52 comic there were, for some unfathomable reason, a couple of utterly horrendous fake sports articles. This is one of them.

Bring on The Thunder!

by Ajax McGilicutty, Daily Planet Contributing Sports Reporter

Before we begin, I'd just like to acknowledge that some might consider this week's entry something of a cop-out, an unacceptable deviation from the established format. Well, at the risk of being overly defensive, I would like to defend myself. The most obvious way to do that is to point out someone was, in all probability, paid to write a fake sports article to tie in with a weekly comic book series that had absolutely nothing to do with sports, especially not the story in question. And, as the ultimate "fuck you" to struggling bloggers everywhere, this probably-monetarily-compensated fellow named his fictional sportswriter "Ajax McGilicutty." The inanity of that is almost beyond comprehension. Needless to say, I fucking love it, but I feel my point has been made. I did originally intend to make a point, right?

Fawcett City, May 3 — As a former semi-pro ball player and full-time sports commentator for both the Daily Planet and WHIZ Syndicated Sports Radio I think it's safe to say that I know good basketball when I see it.

Might as well prove my geek stripes and walk you through the comic references as we see them...

1. Fawcett City is the hometown of Captain Marvel; you know, the one who's really a 10-year-old (or thereabouts) boy who turns into Captain Marvel by shouting "Shazam!" It's worth pointing out that "Shazam!" is perhaps the single most hilarious thing somebody could yell during a moment of *AHEM* ultimate passion (although certain Klingon proverbs run a close second). Of course, anybody amused by that is unlikely to find themselves engaged in coitus anytime soon.

2. The Daily Planet is, as previously mentioned, the employer of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. I'm fairly sure it's currently owned by Bruce Wayne, although this doesn't come up particularly often. I think it's more of an all-purpose excuse trotted out to explain why Lex Luthor (or, much worse, Rupert Murdoch) never bought the damn thing. Incidentally, while we're on the subject of the Planet, it might be worth wondering why the article's "author" isn't just its resident sportswriter in the comics, seventies meathead Steve Lombard, which would make a hell of a lot more sense that the unbelievably silly moniker that is "Ajax McGilicutty." Maybe they didn't have the rights to use Steve Lombard? Of course, if a random, little-read part of DC's website couldn't use one of its own company's ultra-obscure, little-used bit characters for something as passing as a damn byline...well, I might just weep a little. Also, this article references the Grizzlies later on, which would put them just below Steve fucking Lombard in terms of ease of legal use. Actually, that might make sense.

3. WHIZ Radio is the employer of Billy Batson in a number of incarnations of the character, going right back to his 1940's appearances in Fawcett Comics. Speaking of which, I probably should have mentioned Fawcett City takes its names from the original publisher of Captain Marvel, before the forerunner of DC drove them out of business on the (somewhat dubious) grounds Captain Marvel was a ripoff of Superman.

Anyway, back to sports. What incredibly point does Ajax McGilicutty have to make about basketball?

It's with those qualifiers, not that I'm a long time Fawcett City native, that I say that the Fawcett City Thunder are bringing the noise and look tough to beat in this year's basketball finals.

Holy shit. This is perhaps the most perfect distillation of bad sportswriting I've ever seen. Everything is in place...

1. The utterly spurious, unsubstantiated support ("I know good basketball when I see it")
2. The unbelievably blatant homerism ("not that I'm a long time Fawcett City native...")
3. The lame slang that may - may - have been vaguely cool in the early nineties ("bringing the noise")
4. The vague, Joe-Morgan-esque description of their qualities ("look tough to beat")

The best part is I can't even be sure what this article wants to be. Is it knowing parody written by some bored FJM fan? Is it a sincere imitation written by some bored intern who desperately wants to pitch his Vigilante revival to Geoff Johns but hasn't yet worked out how to approach Johns during lunch in a way that shows him he's cool? I have no idea, and that's what makes this so precious. It's like finding an original copy of the Declaration of Independence at a garage sale, but then discovering a DVD of National Treasure is taped to the back, complete with possibly stoned Nicolas Cage commentary.

With that all said, let's press on.

Solomon Williams' seemingly unstoppable defense has been solid all season and looks to be just as impenetrable in the post-season, with a whopping ten steals in last week's game alone.

Is defense really "unstoppable"? Sure, it's definitely impenetrable, no doubt about that, but unstoppable? I mean, if we're talking immovable object and irresistible force here, defense is obviously the immovable object. C'mon, Ajax McGilicutty, get your head in the game!

Oh, and ten steals would tie this Solomon Williams with eleven other people for second-most all-time, behind only Kendall Gill's eleven back in 1999. So "whopping" might almost be underplaying it.

Coupled with the aptly named Johnny Hooper's offensive leadership and the Thunder look flawless.

Not a sentence. That was so self-referential my mind now actually hurts a little bit. Oh, and who wants to bet the article's ghostwriter decided he had "nailed it" when he called the team's best scorer "Johnny Hooper"? That thought is simultaneously hilarious and strangely moving, like an Onion article that makes you slowly realize most people's lives really are that tragically mundane.

It's no surprise that they've already clinched their position in the next round with a 4-0 sweep over the Memphis Grizzlies.

It's nice to know that, even in the fictional DC Universe where they're the only real NBA team name-checked, the Grizzlies are still a perfectly acceptable punching bag. Some things really should be constant in all universes.

Sure you could argue that it's early in the post and you can't rule out the traditional powerhouses like the Gotham Guardsmen, or the rising newcomers like the Opal City Gems, but if you ask this reporter's opinion, something magical is happening in Fawcett City this year. Go Thunder!

And that's the end of the fake article. Weird use of "post" instead of "postseason", a couple vague allusions to two other teams that makes a mockery of the very definition of "analysis", and then a moment of total cheerleading in an article that claimed the author's opinions were based on rational analysis. Like I said, this is the perfect imitation of bad sportswriting I've ever seen.

And I still like it better than a Plaschke article. But then, you knew that joke was coming.

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