Friday, November 30, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus Iron Fist!

It's fun to pit characters from one company against characters from another.  After all, now that Cass doesn't exist, any fight between her and another character is strictly hypothetical, so why not be the hypo-ist of the thetical?  I seem to toss Cass up against heroes, though.  I enjoy that more than a hero-villain dust up and the results are easier to plan or predict.  A discussion I didn't bother to read on Comic Vine inspired this, the latest entry in my "Cassandra Cain versus" series.

What happens when martial artist Cass fights martial artist Iron Fist?

All things being equal, she absolutely would win with her move predictive ability and resulting defensive superiority, while matching Iron Fist's offensive skills.  Perhaps she's not as physically strong as he is, but she'd make up for that with speed and endurance.  She would also be learning his techniques as they fought, thus gaining all of his skills plus her own.

Unfortunately, all things aren't equal.  Danny "Iron Fist" Rand has a lot of supernatural/metaphysical martial arts powers that, frankly, put him out of Cass's class, so I seriously doubt she could defeat him.  Iron Fist could focus his chi and overmatch Cass in every category and she couldn't learn those things simply by observing and sparring anymore than she could learn Spider-Man's spider-sense or Mr. Fantastic's stretching ability.  Cass has a chance if she somehow provoked Iron Fist into using his "iron fist" ability, somehow dodged the strike, then counter-attacked while he was drained.

Failing that, her only course would be purely defensive-- staying out of Iron Fist's reach and then escaping.  Sorry, Cass.  If it's any consolation, I'm pretty sure you could beat Shang-Chi, master of Kung Fu, and he's no slouch himself.

And breathe out...

Well, I guess that's all for the James Gunn controversy. Gunn has issued an apology and it's up to the offended either to accept or reject it. I have been only a concerned bystander who happens to think his comments were stupid, so I can do neither of those things. I can only hope this dialogue-- one of many occurring each year, it seems-- will have a positive effect on fan discourse regarding female and LGBT comic book characters.  We'll have to come up with an amusing name for this mess when we wrap up all the year's comic book news, but for now it's time for Cass to slip back into her toxic, non-entity status where she'll only be discussed here on this lonely little blog or else occasionally mocked on The Outhouse.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

More on James Gunn and a question about sex...

The James Gunn "sex with superheroes" list fall out continues with more interesting and thoughtful commentary from Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress.*  Yeah, I found this doing yet another melancholy Google search for some new Cassandra Cain news, read it and liked what she had to say, plus she also mentions Cass's entry, so I'm linking to it here.  I'm pretty sure ol' David Cain taught Cass to kill before she was eight years old, but that aside, I have a question. 

The three essays I've linked to here each talk about how it's not the list itself that's wrong, just the asinine commentary.  I think the same, but at the same time I can't say I've spent much time pondering which superheroes I'd sleep with.  They're not real people, are frequently poorly written and the drawings of them can be grotesque-- hence the term "Escher girl," which is gaining currency-- so I can't really parse the notion of wanting to have sex with a comic book character as anything more than a joke.

Yes, I appreciate good girl art or cheesecake drawings, especially when they're by someone like the late master Dave Stevens or Adam Hughes, and like cute, appealing stuff by Rumiko Takahashi and even Bryan Lee O'Malley, but none of that makes me want to sleep with the characters no matter how awesome or cool or kick-ass they might be in the stories.  Years ago, I worked with a guy who made a lot of noise about having a huge thing for Shampoo from Ranma 1/2, but I just shrugged.  Good luck with that, man.

The closest I probably came to having these fantasies about any comic book character would have to be when I was around 14 and obsessed with Dani Moonstar from New Mutants.  We were the same age, so it seemed a natural fit.  A lot of it was tangled up with wanting to be her, but pretty soon I realized that was only slightly less likely than meeting anyone like her in real life and I moved on to crushes on actual people.  And from there to real relationships.

I just prefer my fantasy characters hooking up with each other in the stories (if they must) and keeping my reality apart from that.  Gunn makes a snide comment on his list about a drawing of Starfire ruining real women for him, and even though I know that's just a joke and not true at all, I'd have to say I feel just the opposite.  Real women have ruined funny book characters for me, so I can't really feel sexual attraction to some two dimensional image with a one dimensional personality.  Even if the character is richly written and complex, I'm still kind of, "Well, I like reading about her, but she doesn't exist and there are so many fascinating people in the real world for me to meet, so why get hung up on some ink on paper?"

Actually, I don't even have to tell myself that.

For example, I'm a big Cass Cain fan ("Really?!" you say in astonishment), but I've never given even a moment's consideration to sleeping with her.  It's just never crossed my mind.  I think she's cool, yeah.  I've had a few idle wishes that I were here so I could have wild and crazy adventures, but that's it.  That she's one of the few female characters not particularly sexualized-- her few desultory experiments with being "sexy" according to the Barbara Gordon model didn't exactly work out for her-- is hardly the point for me.  I don't feel any physical attraction to the overtly sexy characters, either.  Starfire, She-Hulk, Power Girl, Dark Phoenix, evil Mary Marvel, evil Invisible Woman, Star Sapphire, the Gen13 girls.  Nothing.

Don't think I'm saying you can't fantasize about superhero sex while being in a relationship with a real person.  You absolutely can.  I feel certain doing so is part of a healthy sexual imagination, as opposed to exclusively fantasizing about comic book characters to the exclusion of all other relationships.  I don't do it, but lists like this make me curious, as does all the sexy fan fic out there.  How many people seriously give thought to what superheroes-- or any fictional characters, for that matter-- they want to have sex with?

I'm guessing I must be the odd person out here, especially within genre fandom, but I'd really like to know.

*It's even on Huffington Post now!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

James Gunn splatters mud on Cass's cape as well!

You already know what this is about.  Some stupid poll about what superhero you want to have sex with, and film director James Gunn's notes about each entry.  It's over a year old, but journalist/essayist Susana Polo of the website The Mary Sue recently found it and tore it apart for the "slut-shaming, homophobic" junk it is.  And now it's a huge thing with a lot of people sharing their opinions.  That Gunn is the director for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film with none other than Joss Whedon's endorsement has certainly raised the stakes for comic book fans.  Whedon!

I'm pretty sure I read this very list a long time ago and thought it was a stupid attempt at rude dude humor, the kind of frat boyish junk that didn't amuse me even when I was young enough to be a frat boy, then flushed it down the memory-toilet to who knows where.  My subconscious or whatever.  Flash forward to this morning.  I fired up my work computer, did my usual quick Google search for anything new having to do with Cassandra Cain and waded into this huge stinking mess, a backed-up septic tank of a mess.  I knew I shouldn't have flushed it, but it was easier than dropping it in the garbage can and having the sanitation workers judge me.  Lesson learned.

Living 12 hours in the future here in Japan-- at least compared to my North American friends-- I'm hours late to this party.  Everyone has already said all that needed to be said.  But because I'm practically the only Cassandra Cain blogger left standing, and like Cass I never, ever quit, I'm going to weigh in just a little bit here.

Look, I love satire and absurdist humor.  I've already been in trouble with Stephanie Brown and Tim Drake fans due to my use of the latter.  Even if Gunn's intent was merely to spoof the stereotypical men's magazine take on superheroes, sexuality and gender, he's failed.  I agree with Rachel Edidin the root of his failure is his over-the-top voice is actually the in-the-middle voice of a lot of people involved in the comics industry, both professionally and as fans (as well as with her description of Gunn's commentary as "fucked up").  The kind of thing where people don't read it and think, "Gosh, I've been wrong-minded just like the guy Gunn's pretending to be and now I'm gonna change," but one where they shout, "FUCK YEAH!  PREACH ON, BROTHER GUNN!" while their next-door neighbors pound the wall they share and yell, "SHUT UP! WHAT ARE YOU SCREAMING AT?  WE KNOW YOU'RE IN YOUR APARTMENT ALONE, YOU NOISY ASS!"

And that's really sad.  Not my angry neighbors scenario, but the very real situation where what Gunn might think is out there is really quite in there.  It's really hard to top some of the crazy junk I read back in the day when I was a more active participant in the comic fan wars over misogyny and homophobia, the kind of stuff people still post on message boards all over, or the way actual comic books from certain top companies tend to deal with characters and even fans, which at times is shockingly suspect.

So while many people have already hammered Gunn and his attempt at humor or whatever it was with a lot of points I don't feel like repeating here despite agreeing with them, I also feel a strange little pleasure in having Cass talked about at all, even in a minor way.  There's rarely anything new about her online these days unless it's something stupid by me, and if Polo's tossing her name in there brings a few more people to the discussion and makes them seriously think over these issues, then as a character, she's accomplished something positive.

Also... I did not know Stephanie Brown gave birth and put her baby up for adoption.  Huh.  That's interesting.  I didn't know this because my only information about Ms. Brown comes from her appearances in Cass's old Batgirl book in which I don't believe they ever ever discussed the issue, at least not on panel.  I could be wrong.  There are a few issues towards the end of the run where I'm a little hazy on the details due to having read them only once or twice.  I tend to re-read the earlier, more kick-ass issues when Cass was on her game, and the ones drawn by Rick Leonardi because they're beautiful and I enjoy looking at beautiful comic book artwork.  So those I know more about.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus the Incredible Hulk!

This one is easy to call.  Of course Batgirl Cass loses to the Hulk, but after a year or two of experience and further training, Black Bat Cass easily takes down the Jade Giant.  It happens like this...

Okay, okay.  That was silly.  Almost as silly as imagining a fight between Cassandra Cain and the Incredible Hulk in the first place.  It wouldn't really matter which version of Cass fight the Hulk, the Hulk would win.  The Hulk defeats most heroes and villains because he's fast, gets stronger the angrier you make him (you know, by doing things like... oh... fighting him), he's indefatigable and close to invulnerable.  The Hulk is a Superman-level opponent.  He's thumped the Thing on several occasions, after all.  Cass has no business fighting the Hulk.

I do remember a comic where Batman tangled with the Hulk and slapped his ears, causing the Hulk to release him from a crushing bear hug.  A writer taking liberties.  First of all, the Hulk could literally squish Batman between his hands and second of all, I seriously doubt Batman has the physical strength to pop the Hulk's ears.  So I don't see Cass faring any better if the Hulk should somehow turn up in Gotham City.  What she would do is try to distract him and delay him long enough for the Justice League and the Avengers to come to the rescue.  The Hulk and the super-teams would destroy large portions of central Gotham in the ensuing battle, which Cass, Spoiler and the Robins would largely serve as observers of, while rescuing what citizens they could.

After the Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner and S.H.I.E.L.D. takes him away (Project Cadmus wants him for DNA testing, but Banner falls under the Marvel jurisdiction), Batman grudgingly tells Cass she did a good job, but only after Barbara Gordon shames him into doing so.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Cassandra Cain as Black Bat custom action figure...

Because Cassandra Cain has never really gotten the toy love she deserves-- most Batgirl figures have been of the Barbara Gordon variety, which makes sense because she's the character the rest of the world tends to associate with the identity-- she's been turned into some sweet customs here and there.  Here's a link to a very slick-looking Black Bat custom job.  The smirk is decidedly un-Cass-like, but the costume is perfect.  Actually, the Black Bat identity is more interesting to me as a custom possibility because of the exposed face and hair, the challenge of doing that pointy domino mask and the interesting texture and contrast of the forearm wraps.

I'm going to keep an eye out for more of these.

I love custom action figures.  When I was a kid, I was forever painting up different figures to supply cast members of whatever imaginative adventure I'd dreamed up.  Of course, mine were rinky-dink efforts compared to some of the skilled craftspeople you encounter online.  My idea of a sweet custom was taking a banged-up Kenner C3P0 and painting him blue to represent Han Solo's old droid buddy Blue Max (although he looked more like this custom) from the Brian Daley novels, or painting some greenish-gold Acroyear parts red to make the exiled king from the Marvel Micronauts comics.  A couple of years ago I accumulated the raw materials for a Battle Royale Chiaki Kuriyama 1/6th figure but realized I just didn't have the skills to finish the job (someone made a nice one from a Gogo Yubari figure, though).  These people today with their 3D printers and their Super Sculpey and whatnot occasionally produce amazing models that look better than a lot of the stuff you can buy from legitimate toy companies.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cassandra Cain Versus Delta Tau Chi!

Those crazy Deltas.  Always pulling pranks on Dean Wormer.  Always throwing toga parties.  Exploding toilets, filling the trees around campus with underwear, dumping a whole truckload of fizzies into the swim meet, having the medical school cadavers delivered to the alumni dinner.  Finally crashing the Faber College Homecoming parade and causing untold damage to the community resulting in bankruptcy of DePasto Auto Sales, plus the end of Wormer's academic career in the ensuing scandal over his high-handed tactics as a school administrator.

Yes, the Deltas defeated Dean Wormer and the snobbish WASP-types of the Omega Theta Pi fraternity who were so willing to do his dirty work and ended up in various fascistic establishment jobs such as Army officer and Nixon White House aide.  But how would they fare against DC's greatest martial artist, a young woman raised from infancy with violence as her native language?

Let's find out!

Flounder.  As easy take-down for Cass, Flounder offers little to no resistance whatsoever.  He might try to trip her up by throwing six thousand marbles at her feet, but she could easily anticipate such a move and leap to firmer footing, then swiftly close the distance, at which point Flounder has no natural defenses.  A quick grasp of his untucked pajama bottoms and Flounder finds himself vulnerable to all kinds of choke holds and close-quarter combat moves.

Pinto.  Slender and in better shape than his friend Flounder, Pinto is similarly overmatched by Cass.  His sole chance would be to disorient her with his high-pitched giggle, but there is little chance of this providing more than a moment's hesitation on Cass's part.

Stork.  Perhaps the most unusual looking of the Deltas with his odd haircut and long raincoat, Stork has no defensive or offensive techniques beyond perhaps calling Cass a "MOE-RON!"  Since this would be meaningless sound to her, she'd quickly make hash of the Stork, perhaps giving him real brain-damage to go with the assumed.

Mothball.  A generic Delta pledge, he would go down quickly having made little or no impression on Cass.

Hoover.  His main defense is to try to reason with Cass using his superior communication and persuasive skills.  However he would fail because Cass doesn't understand human language.  She would comprehend his defensive body posture, and while he's larger and somewhat more physically capable than Pinto, the fight would last no longer and the result would be the same.

Boon.  Boon relies mostly on evasion and his quick wit, neither of which would have much effect on Cass. A characteristic Boon tactic is to pretend to dance with his opponent, then to fall limp in his or her arms.  Cass could predict the final move, allow Boon to drop to the ground, then bring her foot down on his face, rendering him unconscious at once.  Alternately, she might then clamber on top of him and attempt an arm bar or an ankle lock, snapping the bone if Boon refuses to tap out.

Otter.  Otter has a certain smarmy charm and ability as a ladies' man, but Cass would dodge his sexual entreaties and malaprop double entrendres regarding cucumbers and administer a swift beating to Otter, perhaps blackening one of his eyes and disheveling the shirt underneath his sweater.  He does have a  decent right cross, but there's absolutely no chance he would get a chance to land it.

D-Day.  Fight incomplete.  Current whereabouts unknown.

Bluto.  A force of nature, and possessed of limitless endurance and the ability to rapidly chug an entire fifth of Jack Daniels in a matter of seconds, Bluto would nevertheless succumb to Cass's superior fighting skills.  She might find herself surprised momentarily by Bluto's near-superhuman resilience, but in the end she'd still find his weak point and incapacitate him in a way mere alcohol seems unable to.

The chances of Cass having to fight the Deltas are very small.  It's more likely she'd find her opponents from among the following:

The Faber College ROTC.  Led by cadet officer Douglas C. Neidermeyer and numbering among its ranks one freshman recruit Chip Diller, the ROTC aligns itself with the more authoritarian Omegas rather than the free-spirited, anarchic Deltas.  A likely scenario finds Dean Wormer calling upon the ROTC to attempt to capture or perhaps (in the case of Neidermeyer, who carries a live round just in case) kill Cass to prevent campus unrest as per a little known codicil to the Faber College constitution, and the resulting battle would end in much the same way as the infamous Blutarsky Cafeteria Incident:  with a badly injured Neidermeyer trapped underneath a pile of uniformed figures, only this time all of them in various states of semi- or unconsciousness.

Omega Theta Pi.  The likeliest opponent faced by Cass during her campus visit.  While the Deltas might welcome her as a kindred spirit as they do with Boon's on-and-off-again girlfriend Katy-- they are considered "toxic" by the college administration, these cocky, overweening children of privilege would more than likely take umbrage at Cass's appearance and instigate some sort of foolish attempt to discredit her, perhaps by luring her to a hotel room for an ambush or by ostracizing her socially.  President Greg Marmalard would prove the limpest opposition to Cass despite talking a good game.  Ultimately, he's too soft and possessed of something of a glass chin.  This fight would last a few minutes only because of the sheer number of fraternity members involved.  It would take Cass time to work her way through their house and back out into the night where she might be briefly tempted to join the pillow fight with Babs Jansen and Mandy Pepperidge at the nearby sorority house before deciding on  heading back to Gotham City for greater challenges.

Possibly driving Deathmobile, which, with slight modifications, would make the perfect Cass Batmobile.

Cassandra Cain comes back... as a Black Bat chess piece!

Being in Japan, I don't hear about these things until after everyone else so I'm like little brother, always tagging along, towing my little Radio Flyer wagon filled with dog-eared Batgirl trade paperbacks and wrinkled up comic books. So while I really don't want Cass-O-Rama to become some kind of aggregator site where I'm just compiling links to other people's blog entries and Tumblr posts about Cassandra Cain, sometimes it can't be helped.

So here we are, reacting rather late to the Eaglemoss Black Bat white pawn (#028 in the set), with a release date of March 2013 (just in time for my birthday, hint hint).  Retailing for a mere $15.99 and currently available for pre-order.  If I wasn't posting this from work I'd have snagged a photo to show it off and make this post prettier. It's a nice little piece and quite a surprise considering Cass's status as persona non grata at DC Comics.  She's got her fly-away hair, pointy domino mask, a serious but somewhat bland expression, her white forearm wraps the purpose of which eludes me and she's double-fisting some dangerous-looking batarangs so you know she's open for business.  The sculptor has given her a muscular, not-too-exaggerated physique.  That in itself is a minor miracle.

There's such a paucity of Cass-related merchandise out there-- as far as I know it consists of one incredibly ugly action figure from DC Direct, another half-assed one from Mattel, plus a Hero Clix piece, an Ame-Comi statue and an all-but-impossible-to-find teensy-tiny figure from a Batman blind-box collection here in Japan-- so this is a welcome treat for this Cass fan, and if I may be so bold, for all Cass fans.  All twenty or so of us.

 Who would've thought it? They must have been too far along in the production process to cancel it when all the buzz about Cass and Stephanie Brown being toxic started making the Internet rounds. And of course, there may still be time for someone high up at DC to buy them all and destroy them before they fall into the hands of anyone who might appreciate having a small memorial of Cass's last costumed identity. Indeed, of her very existence before they blotted her out.

Of course we have to address the elephant in the room-- apparently the set originally included Barbara Gordon as Oracle and what was possibly Stephanie Brown as Batgirl.  Those are out, but Barbara is back in as the current Batgirl.  No surprise there.  Sorry Oracle and Steph fans.  There's even less Steph merchandise out there than there is for Cass.

With #012 in the set being a rather bad-ass looking Katana, I'm going to try to get both of them and also #03 Damian Wayne Robin so I can pretend the two of them are kicking the crap out of that little snot.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cass versus the Robins!

I've shared my opinion on a couple of Marvel characters who could beat Cass.  Cass defeated?  Yes, it has to happen.  Otherwise she'd just be invincible and never in any kind of jeopardy, which renders a lot of the external conflict comics are based on pointless. But as a Cass fan, I enjoy stories where she wins.  And as the best pure martial artist in the DC universe, there are quite a number of characters she can beat.  In fact, she could probably defeat any non-powered character other than Batman himself.

Ever since Adam Beechen threw a little possible romance in between Cass and Tim Drake in Robin issues 150-151 (July, August 2006), one of my little funny things to do is draw little doodles of Cass putting a variety of hurtings on a lovestruck Tim.  Usually with the sound effect "BEECHEN!"  While this would never happen in the comics-- they're just good friends-- it's pretty much how it would play out if the two did tangle.  Because there's not a Robin past or present Cass couldn't whup with one hand tired behind her back.  Here's how I see the various Robins against Cass:

Dick Grayson?  He'd put up the best fight, but how much of one depends on which Dick she fights.  Kid Dick from the Golden and Silver Ages would last no longer than any of the later Robins-- mere seconds-- but the older Nightwing Dick could stand toe-to-toe with Cass for a while before she'd inevitably knock him the hell out.  After all, this guy substituted for Batman.  Still, there's no way we can have a Dick Grayson who's just as powerful a fighter as his mentor-- otherwise why have a Batman in the first place?-- and the comics definitively establish Cass as being a formidable foe for the Caped Crusader himself.  Therefore, Dick falls into third place in the Bat-family fighter pantheon behind Batman and Cass.

The caveat to this is if Dick cheats somehow.  He's a bit brighter than Cass, and has to be because of his status as substitute-Batman, Batman being the World's Greatest Detective.  Cass is no dummy.  She's quite smart, actually.  But Dick (despite being depicted as a complete idiot due to shaky writing at times) must be close to genius.  My reasoning behind this is while Batman would no doubt train his kid army to be as skilled as possible in all aspects of their mission, he must also realize not everyone can excel at everything.  He happens to be a polymath, but it's unreasonable for him to expect everyone else to be.  Better to have them specialize.  He started Dick's training before he figured this out and it's sort of traditional for a Robin to fill that role.  So Dick has come farthest towards the all-around standards of his teacher, but Cass is a particularly sharp knife and we do not use such a knife as a hammer and expect it to cut when we need it to later.  Cass needs a certain level of detective/brain ability but she's better as a pure fighter.

So Dick has a shot at finding some weakness of Cass's to exploit.  Not likely, however.

Jason Todd?  Alive or dead, Robin or Red Hood, Cass can take him.  He's a rawer form of Grayson, created as a mere substitute and as such, not to be taken completely seriously.  I've always questioned the need for a Robin in the first place.  Once we grant that first Robin, it takes effort to justify putting a child in danger and really puts Batman's judgement in question (even more so than disguising himself as a bat on the theory that criminals as a whole are a "cowardly, superstitious lot").  Still, most people expect Batman to have a Robin (even if you're not a comic fan, the phrase "Batman and Robin" rings a bell), hence Jason after Dick becomes Nightwing.  Hand-me-down characters get harsher beat-downs than originals.  That's just how it works.

Tim Drake?  Not even a contest.  If we posit a Dick Grayson defeat by Cass, and another one with Jason Todd, then obviously this later, lesser Robin has to fall as well.  As a youngster, Tim Drake's not even as formed an adventurer as either of the previous Robins.  Much less experienced.  Yeah, he's become a fine Red Robin, but even now there's no way he could stand against Cass and her lifetime of violence and the resultant special abilities she possesses.  In any story where he's even give her the slightest problem can be chalked up to writer error.

Stephanie Brown?  Less of a fight than even Drake.  In her own comic Cass has been shown to knock Steph out in a casual, off-handed way that smacks of zero effort expended.

Damian Wayne?  Despite his having an upbringing similar to Cass's, she eats him alive, and the indigestion she momentarily suffers is the only difficulty she encounters.  Tactical genius or not, raised by the League of Assassins and all that, he's still a child with a child's physique.  Cass also has him on skill level.  If he lives to adulthood, then we might see something amazing, along the lines of Cass versus Batman.  But given his personality, what are the chances of that?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus Spider-Man!

I spent a chunk of yesterday reading various "Cass versus" match-ups on different message boards.  One for some reason posited a cage fight between Cass and an oddly de-powered Spider-Man.  The discussion that followed was full of RPG-derived jargon and terms like "nerfing," none of which I'll go into here.  When I talk Cass-fights, I'm approaching them from a practical, reality-based standpoint (as much as possible when discussing superheroes and magical beings) and as a writer might.

Unfortunately for Cass, Spider-Man is quite a bit out of her power range.  As I previously discussed, she may even have a problem reading his body language and predicting his moves if his movements happen to incorporate anything spider-like.  This might even be something Spidey's less sensitive foes would never have noticed, but to Cass would be like an irritating buzz just inside the hearing frequencies on some slightly flawed master tape to an expert audiophile.  That's just the start of her problems.

I believe Cass would be able to land quite a few blows despite Spider-Man's own spider-sense power and his beyond-human speed and agility, but the Wall-Crawler also possesses incredible resistance to pain and injury.  Otherwise his web-swinging acrobatics would have snapped his all-to-human neck or he would have succumbed to any of the number of high-powered blows he's experienced through the years.  With her predictive senses only somewhat helpful, Cass still finds herself tagging Spidey, but unable to deal him serious  injury.  Meanwhile, she proves vulnerable to his attacks-- and remember, his strength level is well above an ordinary human's.  Spidey finds Cass very nimble in her own right and capable of dodging some of his punches and kicks, but he's pounding her a lot more than she's pounding him.

Cass might be able to learn some of Spidey's more human-like moves and attacks, but her body-- as peak conditioned as it is-- remains that of a base line human.  Cass's fantastic martial arts prowess is ultimately no match for Spidey's freakish nature and greater experience.  The resulting fight is brutal, goes on a little longer than Spider-Man might expect or like, but in the end, Cass succumbs.

And that's without Spidey having to use his web-shooters.  What if he did employ them?  Well, I don't think Cass has much a defense against those, and even if she did, Spidey could possibly whip up enough netting to gum Cass up but good.  She could probably find something in her utility belt to free herself, but not before Spidey closes for the coup de grace.

On the other hand, a likely scenario would be the cliched meet-n-fight followed by a team-up where they take down Kingpin who's allied with Penguin for some nefarious scheme that stretches from Gotham City to New York City.  If I wrote it, however, I'd just combine the two settings into just New York, with Gotham as its nickname.  No cross-dimensional shenanigans for this cross-company cross-over if you please!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How can we save Cass?

That's a question I think about occasionally.  Someone else recently asked it as well, and that got me to thinking about Cass even more.  Not many people are these days, it seems.  Most if not all of the other Cass blogs are moribund in the wake of the Save Cass event, which appears to have had next to no impact whatsoever.  So anytime someone starts a Cass discussion, I'm thrilled to start my overworked, underperforming brain calculating and scheming on this topic.  Save Cass.  How can DC save Cass?  How can we save Cass?

I'm not talking about letter writing campaigns or buying her first issue from Comixology, as worthy as the latter was.  Certainly, people should be encouraged to do both.  And to keep asking Dan DiDio and the rest about when she's coming back at every single DC panel from now until the sun consumes the earth billions of years from now.  But I'm talking about fixing Cassandra Cain as a character in the wake of this New 52 stuff.  She may eventually resurface in the DC universe, but in some subtly-- or not so subtly-- altered form.  What about the old Cass should be kept?  What should be lost?

The first thing they should ditch is the notion David Cain created a lot of other girls similar to Cass and anything that suggests that's one of her main issues with him.  Having been a lousy, abusive father is plenty enough to have Cass reject him in favor of Batman as dad of choice.  Really, after the way he crapped up her childhood and caused her to kill, then emotionally manipulated her for years afterwards when she became Batgirl, the last thing Cass should care about is whether or not Cain really loved her as a daughter or if he was spreading it around.  And even if the point is she's simply angry he did the same to others that he did to her, having a lot of would-be Casses around only dilutes her as a singular achievement.  Introducing this whole element was a major mis-step.  How stupid is it to introduce a character, position her as unique, then duplicate her in various forms a million times anyway?  I'll go ahead an answer that.  It's very stupid.

The second thing they should do is limit her dialogue.  Okay, she knows how to speak and read and write and all that good stuff.  But that doesn't mean she has to be doing so at a university or making long speeches.  Being able to talk and just not seeing much point in blabbing everything you know are different things, and there are already too many snarky, supposedly witty characters cribbed from the Joss Whedon School of Dialogue Writing as it is.  No writer ever really took Cass in that direction, but they sure made her loquacious as all get out, so it was only a matter of time.  Stop it before it happens.  Silent is scary. Silent is cool.

The third thing is drop any notion Cass wants a "normal" life.  While she probably would wish she hadn't spent her childhood being slapped around and shot, the whole "Why can't I be like everyone else?" trope is demeaning and tired.  Cass should enjoy being who she is even through the pain.  As a character she worked best when she was freaking Barbara Gordon out with her ambivalence towards things like having social life and keeping her identity secret.  That's some extreme stuff.  Not everyone wants to wear bikinis on cruise ships and fight crime as a way of meeting boys, Barbara.  Some want to blend into the night and come on like a shadow made of fists and feet and the occasional head-butt.

The fourth is you're probably not going to want to keep the death wish aspect of her personality.  It was cool for the first two years of her monthly because she just didn't seem to care a bit about her own safety, but it's something they resolved and needed to when all her secrets came out and she fought Lady Shiva to the death.  On the other hand, the alarming disregard for personal safety is something that should be played up, but in relation to her just not giving a rip for conventionality.  And also that she's totally comfortable with being a fighting machine possessed of no fear whatsoever.

Drop the "Deathstroke drugged her/she became evil for a while" storyline.  Just eliminate it completely and never speak of it again.  Writing that out of continuity by itself would go a long way towards repairing Cass as a character.

So what should be done?  Boil her down to her essence.  You can keep a lot of her character development-- learning to speak, becoming friends with Stephanie Brown, resolving her father issues by finally rejecting Cain, but at the same time, make her back into that pure silent and deadly character she was.  The girl who wouldn't quit unless you killed her.  DC doesn't even have to keep her as a Batgirl.  There's nothing wrong with introducing her as Black Bat and letting Steph be the replacement Batgirl of record.  At first I was excited about the New 52 as an opportunity for DC to do something like this and get back to basics with this character and make up for a lot of damage, especially when it seemed she'd still be a supporting character in Batman, Inc.

Oh well.  Maybe in a few years or so they can try again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cassandra Cain versus Taskmaster!

Comic Vine's discussion boards are a goldmine of super-wonky comic book discussions about who would win in practically any fight you can imagine.  Now the closest things to superpowers Cass has are her abilities to read people's body language and therefore anticipate their next moves and to learn new fighting styles in a matter of minutes just by watching.  Batman taught her stick fighting from novice to expert in about five minutes.  Now since there's no way he showed her every possible strike, counterstrike and defense in those five minutes or so, we have to assume some sort of higher function when it comes to understanding martial arts-- once she grasps the basic concept, she can use her superior skills and strangely-wired mind to extrapolate from there until she has that expert-level proficiency without having to spend years in practice.

What I'm getting at is what happens when she fights someone with similar abilities?  Like Marvel's Taskmaster?  Taskmaster can almost instantaneously learn someone's fighting skills just by watching them, which then gives him something like Cass's predictive ability.  Well, the fans at Comic Vine hash it out pretty thoroughly, but here's my take.

All things being equal, and both unarmed, I think his greater strength gives Taskmaster the edge, but if Cass can stay a step ahead of Taskmaster, she has a chance to wear him down.  Taskmaster and Deathstroke are roughly analogous, and Deathstroke has always given Cass fits.  Cass would have a better time predicting Taskmaster's moves than she did Deathstroke's because Deathstroke had some kind of funky kinetic dissonance going on that confused Cass, and she'd be learning from Taskmaster and gaining skills (while Taskmaster would peak out once he'd watched Cass's base martial artistry-- all else would be superfluously his own), but I don't think her greater speed takes his size and mass.

But Taskmaster isn't stupid, so he'd ambush Cass using his sword or fake Captain America shield.  Surprised and off-balance from the start by Taskmaster's assault, there's no way Cass develops the skill level fast enough to win even if she found a sword of her own to use.  Yes, I said Cass would beat Katana under similar circumstances, but Katana isn't Cass's match in pure martial artistry.

Unfortunately, I have to give this one to Taskmaster.  It would be one heck of a fight, though.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cass versus everybody!

What would happen if Cassandra Cain fought other comic book characters?  We've seen it in the actual comic books, of course.  I'm not talking about stories we've seen.  I'm talking stories we will probably never see in a million reboots.  Who would Cass beat?  Who would beat Cass?  The answer is, "The winner would be whoever the scripter needed it to be, regardless of logic or reader opinion."  But this is the Internet where everyone has an opinion, including this blogger.  After desperately looking for Cass news and finding nothing but a lot of hardcore comic book fans debating Cassandra Cain versus Domino (the Marvel character, not the real person played by Keira Knightley), I've decided to share mine.  I'm going to be objective as possible.  None of that "Character X loses because I hate Character X" crap that invalidates some fan's arguments.

Here we go:

Batman.  Batman wins.  Batman always wins.  Cass may be nigh-untouchable and capable of punching Batman hard enough to make him spit up blood, but Batman has the ineffable quality of simply being Batman.  Plus, if Cass could beat Batman, what would be the point of having a Batman?  In story terms, he's got years of experience on her, plus he's a smarter and would cheat if necessary.  But I seriously doubt it would be necessary.

Superman.  I know Frank Miller popularized the idea Batman would beat Superman, but in truth, Superman would smear Batman.  In that he could literally reduce Batman to a red smear at nearly the speed of light.  So if Batman beats Cassandra and Superman beats Batman, obviously Superman beats Cass.

Wonder Woman.  Much like the Superman fight, this is a person whose power level is far beyond Cass's capabilities.  Wonder Woman in a walk.

Batgirl.  Which one?  Barbara Gordon or Stephanie Brown or Helena Bertinelli, Cass takes them all, either singularly or in a group.  She'd mop up the floor with them. But she'd rather not.

Supergirl.  Pretty much the same as the Superman fight.  Minus those crystal shards from the time these two actually tangled.  To be honest, I'm thinking of classic Supergirl.  Who would still win.

Robin.  Again, any Robin, doesn't matter.  Cass would stomp their guts out.

Flash.  Cass can't fight what she can't see and probably can't touch.  Flash.

Green Lantern.  Any of them would defeat Cass by surrounding her with some kind of airtight green energy bubble and suffocating her.  Green Lantern wins.

Isis.  While Cindy Lee tries to convince Cass that Isis is really an awesome person, Cass springs completely over the ever-cheerful Larkspur High factotum, jukes past a confused Rick Mason, avoids some words of wisdom from Dr. Barnes... only to lose to Isis because Isis is MAGICAL.

Katana.  An impressive battle ends with a tired and injured Cass holding Katana captive at the point of her own katana.

Swamp Thing.  Cass would mulch and mulch and never win this one.

Teen Titans.  Any version of this group would lose to Cass.  She'd find a way to exploit their stupidity against them.  Kid Flash, Wonder Girl and Cyborg each stand a chance, but they'd trip up somehow.  Titans just aren't that bright.

Funky Flashman and Houseroy.  Funky falls foul trying to trick Cass into headlining some kind of circus act, then she whips his ass in seconds flat, then does the same to poor Houseroy.

Mr. Miracle and Big Barda.  My favorite married couple wins not because they're my favorite married couple but because Mr. Miracle escapes every trap and Big Barda is the consummate warrior.

X-23.  The female Wolverine clone with the foot claws and all that.  I like to think of her as Marvel's answer to Cass.  Even though Wolverine is the most overexposed of heroes, which means here's yet one more version of the same guy, X-23's a nifty character in her own right.  This is one I'd love to see happen.  Cass might be faster and overall a better fighter, but X-23 has healing powers and claws.  It would be a tremendous fight, but I have to give the edge to X-23.

Spider-Man.  Spidey would have to get over his initial squeamishness at fighting a young girl and pull out all the stops.  I'm not sure how Cass's "reading the person's body language" would help her with someone whose body language is kind of spidery and has webshooters.  Spider-Man would take a few blows early in the match until he wakes up and realizes Cass isn't playing around, and then his superhuman abilities would give him the edge and Cass would find herself in a sticky situation, dangling helplessly from a streetlight.

Hulk.  Cass would dodge him for a while but she'd get tired eventually, and Hulk never would.  Her only hope is evading him long enough for the Air Force or Army to come to her rescue.  Otherwise, bye bye Cass.

Iron Man.  Beats Cass from a distance.

Fantastic Four.  Sue would prove the deciding factor here.  The Thing's not fast enough, and neither is Mr. Incredible.  Johnny could possibly kill Cass from afar, but he'd never do that.  Instead, the Invisible Woman would use a variation on the Green Lantern gambit and render her unconscious, allowing the team to safely capture Cass and place her under observation until some sort of arrangement could be worked out with Batman.

The Punisher.  If he snipes Cass from 1000 yards with a 7.62 x 51mm M40A5, he has a chance.  And that's more than likely what he'd choose to do if he has advance intelligence on her.  Up close, he finds himself frustrated by Cass's lightning fast dodges and attacks and soon finds himself on the south side of Rubber Leg Street.

Silver Surfer.  By the Power Cosmic, it's the bald metallic space guy without breaking a sweat!

Uncanny X-Men.  Cass stomps her way through some of the junior members and underclasspeople, but then she has to fight the boss squad of such heavyweights as Cyclops, Storm, Colossus and Wolverine himself.  That part wouldn't last long, and if she survives, the end result would be similar to her fight with the Fantastic Four.

New Mutants.  Cass would cream Moonstar, dodge Cannonball, knock Wolfsbane out, easily thump Doug... but then she has to face Sunspot, Warlock and Magma.  She could probably dance rings around Sunspot, but Warlock proves problematic and Magma has massive ranged attacks with lava and earthquakes.  If Magik joins in, and Karma, we're looking at about half an issue of fighting, then half an issue of the kids wondering what to do with a beaten, exhausted Cass.  They'd all end up having a slumber party, I'm sure.

Wolverine.  Like the X2-3 fight, only much, much shorter.

Nexus.  No contest.  Nexus disintegrates Cass before the fight even gets started.  But he wouldn't because she isn't a mass murderer, just a murderer when crappy writers pen her stories.

Gen13.  The classic group.  They're not much smarter than the Teen Titans despite Caitlin Fairchild's supposed super-genius status, but they'd eventually win.  Eventually.  Grunge and Burnout crap out early because of their horndog tendencies, leaving Fairchild, Freefall and Rainmaker to close the deal with a series of ranged attacks until Fairchild can get in close and deal a distracted Cass a knock-out blow.

Maggie and Hopey.  Cass versus las Locas.  Despite Maggie's having dabbled in superheroics, this wouldn't last very long at all.  It would be funny as hell, though.

Judge Dredd.  If it came down to strictly hand-to-hand, Cass has the edge but Dredd would just shoot her with a heat-seeking bullet and that would be that.

Enid and Rebecca.  See "Maggie and Hopey" above.  These two girls would snark themselves into a world of hurt.

Hellboy.  Hellboy would clean Cass's clock.

Uncle Creepy.  Uncle Creepy tries to disorient Cass by drawing her into the nightmare world of his various horror stories, but soon finds she's as fearless as they come.  Fighting her way through various axe murderers, vampires, werewolves and zombies, Cass confronts Creepy and chokes him out, then scampers back to her own comic book universe.

Archie Andrews.  Cass would destroy America's favorite teen.

Richie Rich.  Not even his vast wealth could save the poor little rich boy... unless he can hire one of the potential winners from this list as his champion.

Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Incorporeal ghost boy defeats corporeal martial artist every time.  Casper couldn't frighten Cass, and he wouldn't actually fight her. He'd just drive her away with his annoying attempts at befriending her.

Okay, that's not quite everybody.  Just all the characters I can think of at the moment, plus I've run out of steam.  If you have any suggestions, just let me know and I'll give you my honest determination of winner and loser.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

At least Katana is getting her own book!

That's a little something, huh?  We can't have our favorite DC martial artist, but we can have our second, third or perhaps fourth favorite, right?

I wrote about this on my other blog back during the summer when everyone expected Katana to spin off solo-style in September.  It was a little speculative at the time, but here we are a few months later and it's official and what little I know of it so far has me interested.

Ann Nocenti as writer, Alex Sanchez on art.  I really don't know much at all about Sanchez.  Maybe I've seen his art and I've forgotten it, maybe I've never seen it, maybe he just hasn't rung my bell yet.

I'm vaguely familiar with and have always gotten a positive vibe from Nocenti because she was editing and writing back when I was going through my "golden age" of comic book readership.  At Marvel, Nocenti edited New Mutants (one of my all-time fave series), had a run on Daredevil and dropped a large number of single issue stories into their other titles and annuals.  While her work at DC doesn't seem as extensive, she's got a lot of outside-of-comics credits that I'm only just now discovering in the wake of this announcement:  film writing, travel writing, co-directing a documentary, teaching film.  Her take on Katana seems to involve some Akira Kurosawa (as I asked for in my little blog post) and Sam Peckinpah, which has me very intrigued.  I've read Kurosawa's Something Like and Autobiography and the Donald Richie book A Hundred Years of Japanese Cinema so I get what Nocenti's saying about Kurosawa's films "[sharing] the spirit of American Westerns."  If anyone happened to write a Cass Cain series ever again, I'd hope for some similar influences rather than going to the Joss Whedon well and dipping out cutesy-pie stuff.  Applying them to a character I like and who has hands down the best costume in the entire DC universe?

Well, that convinces me to buy the first two or three issues at least.  The only thing she could have done that would have excited me more would have been to toss in some Takeshi Kitano or Kinji Fukasaku for good measure.

Or casually mention Cass as a guest star.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Presto-Changeo! This comic book stuff is strange-o!

Even lurking around the outer rim of the comic book universe provides moments of mystery. Teensy, tiny moments of inconsequential mystery that provide a few moments of head-scratching amusement.  Which then expand like black holes, spinning reason along the event horizon until it’s so stretched out it becomes something entirely different.  Perhaps the beginning point passes the end point and suddenly we’re going forwards and backwards in time simultaneously before emerging on the other side in a reality where Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Wally Wood and Donna Troy still exist.  Possibly some back issue bin in a store somewhere where comics with their stories are a buck a piece.

Today’s DC-related strangeness:  Someone faked an image from Dustin Nguyen’s Batman: Li’l Gotham.  You know the one—the one where a trick-or-treater dressed like the Stephanie Brown Batgirl had her hair color changed from blond to black.  Which is already a bizarre thing for DC to do.  Leave the hair alone, earn a little goodwill back from Steph fans.  But then someone decided to rig up an image where the Stephian purple costume highlights are also black.  Which Bleeding Cool posted.  Why do something like that?

My guess is someone meant it as a joke, but we’ll never know the truth.  All I can say is, this entire episode isn’t just weird.  It’s beyond weird.  If weird were one of the inner planets, and we were some kind of NASA space probe, we’d be Voyager I.

Weird.  And stupid.  The art's still adorable, though.