TGH: Welcome to a very special Valentine’s Day edition of Guy Gardner! Before Emerald Twilight kicks into its action-packed (and certainly important) second half, we thought we would go back to Guy and Ice’s first date, as seen in the classic Justice League #28, and see how far things have come.
QP: For those not familiar, Justice League International is better known for being the light-hearted, fun Justice League that gave us Bwa-ha-ha and the One Punch. That said, if you’re more familiar with Guy Gardner: Warrior than you are with Justice League International, I question your personal taste levels.
TGH: Also JLI is the series that pretty much brought Guy Gardner into the spotlight in the first place.
QP: Every silver lining has a cloud.
TGH: It should be fun to compare their vision of Guy to what we ended up with several years later.
QP: And by fun, I assume you mean disappointing to see how far DC’s quality control had fallen in just a few years.
TGH: Well yeah, clearly.
TGH: You know, I gave Guy Gardner Reborn a hard time for having Guy run around blowing up Times Square, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t exactly what he’s doing at the beginning of this issue.
QP: It’s true. I guess that was just his thing. Although at least this book has the decency to pass a little judgement on it.
TGH: Yeah, nobody in the League approves of it much, even if the mayor secretly applauds it. Also Guy is going after drug dealers and pimps instead of people selling dirty magazines, which are perfectly legal.
QP: And of course, ignoring your perfectly legal legitimate massage parlors. So really, what we’re seeing is the beginning of a downward spiral.
TGH: Guy can’t wait to drink some beer and get into some heavy reading, which in this issue is a joke about what an idiot he is, and not applauding him like his own letter section does nowadays.
QP: I’d also like to take a moment and applaud that the vast majority of these panels take place in an actual, realized location, with more than just a colorful blob as a background.
TGH: True, it’s like they’re living in an actual city with actual buildings, and not just delivering lines to imaginary people.
QP: Someone actually took the time and effort to draw wood paneling and bricks and individual pieces of rubble. We’ve been seeing so much slapdash art lately that I’ve taken proper backgrounds for granted.
TGH: Guy is enjoying his handiwork when Ice comes in, and Guy decides that he’s going to do her a huge favor and take her out. I think at this point he had been trying for a while.
QP: It’s also important to note that Ice really doesn’t read like the pushover she’s depicted as later. She even snarks at him.
TGH: It’s almost like she doesn’t exist purely in service of Guy or something.
QP: Like she is perhaps a fully realized character in her own right.
TGH: Guy lowers her guard by asking her to know the real Guy, and even gives her a look like he’s being serious (which is what a good artist can convey).
QP: The two panels of just their faces there are so great. You can tell exactly what they’re thinking without them even having to say a word. This is so pre-Exposition Warrior it’s not even funny.
TGH: She agrees to the date, and Guy, being Guy, laughs to himself about how she bought his act.
QP: Elsewhere in the Embassy, Fire is reading Ice the riot act for even considering a date with Guy.
TGH: Which, you know, is perfectly reasonable, considering.
QP: Yeah. Sadly, we already know this is just the first of many conversations they’ll have about how Guy is kiiiiiind of a shitheel and Ice shouldn’t waste her time on him. But at least he hasn’t pushed her down a flight of stairs yet.
TGH: Ice in this comic just wants to give Guy a chance to be a human being, and is not just following him around as he shits on everyone like later.
QP: Characterization is such a novel concept.
TGH: Ice comes downstairs and again doesn’t put up with Guy’s attitude and makes fun of his suit after he says something shitty to her.
QP: Somehow she ends up apologizing even though he started it. This date is off to a great start!
TGH: Yeah, that and his delightful comment about her thigh cheese as they walk to their destination hints at how well this is going to end up.
QP: He’s really got a way with the women.
TGH: Meanwhile, the former Black Hand is reading a newspaper about Guy destroying all of those buildings in Times Square and is getting nervous that his adult theater will eventually be targeted.
QP: His lieutenant assures him repeatedly that they’re way too small an operation for Guy to notice them.
TGH: Guess where Guy is taking Ice on their big date?
QP: The Ice Capades would be too on the nose, I assume?
TGH: Ice wanted to see Three Men and a Baby. I guess Guy figured Three Men and a Babe was close enough. One could argue that this was a complete misunderstanding, actually, though probably not.
QP: He does his damnedest to convince her otherwise, though.
TGH: Hell, Guy can hardly read. He might not know the difference.
QP: Once the naked ticket takers show up, though, you’d think that would clue him in, judging by the smirk on his face alone.
TGH: I mean, I’m like 90% sure he knows what he’s doing.
TGH: The ticket holder reports that the superhero Green Arrow has come into the theater.
QP: I like to imagine how insulted Guy would be if he heard someone say that.
TGH: He then tries to reassure Black Hand that they’re probably on a date. Which puts Guy up there with third-rate goons on the dateability scale.
QP: Black Hand gives Guy more credit than that, adding some more notches on that scale. Guy Gardner: less dateable than a semi-reformed supervillain.
TGH: They hear a crash downstairs, which Black Hand assumes is Guy tearing the place apart, but is actually Ice beating the shit out of him after she finally, FINALLY figures out what’s happening.
QP: Her optimism and faith in humanity finally got the better of her. Guy tries to argue that if she hadn’t kicked him out of the theater she may have liked it.
TGH: He gets his hackles up pretty quickly, telling her that he just wanted to see if she was easy, but also perks up when she mentions that she felt for him.
QP: In case you were wondering how emotionally abusive relationships begin, this right here. Textbook.
TGH: You have to give the writers credit for making this pretty black and white situation at least complicated.
QP: Except Guy comes out looking like the gigantic asshole he is here, rather than some sort of misunderstood anti-hero.
TGH: Like…maybe he could not be an asshole, but he’s not there yet by a long shot.
QP: Seriously. Just very self-involved and inconsiderate.
TGH: Their argument is interrupted by a now-suited-up Black Hand, who gives them a bunch of lines that could only be spoken by someone secretly terrified of them and hoping they’ll just get scared and run away first. His posture is so exaggerated.
QP: Yeah, he’s puffed up like a cat. Guy mostly just gets annoyed that he’s interrupting their argument and punches him mid-sentence, drawing Ice’s ire.
TGH: I’m not gonna lie, I laughed at the mid-sentence truck punch.
QP: Oh yeah. “No one can withstand…” FAPPO.
TGH: Guy defends himself to Ice by saying Black Hand had a gun, but Ice says that it was some sort of toy and Black Hand clearly needs some help.
QP: Even in the middle of arguing about the pros and cons of beating up mentally unstable people, Guy is still trying to put a little shine on.
TGH: This whole page is just some great back and forth with everyone. Guy reminds Ice that his ring is fueled by ring power, which means he’s not a muscle-bound clod. Black Hand immediately refers to him as a muscle-bound clod. Then he claims that whatever he’s holding stole Hal’s ring power, which sets Guy off, since he’s implying that Hal’s power is better than his.
QP: Ice just suggests they let him shoot his little gun and see what happens, which Black Hand is not exactly thrilled about.
TGH: Black Hand suffers from some serious performance anxiety and the thing does not work at all.
QP: Apropos considering that it, well, looks a bit like a fireman’s hat, if you will.
TGH: Guy and Ice continue their argument as they walk away from him, which at this point just infuriates him.
QP: At least they seem to have cured his hero-phobia!
TGH: Guy’s just like “sorry, jerk, just send a bill for the damages.” He’s not even a blip on their radar. Black Hand’s state of mind is again perfectly shown in the next three panels of just his face, with no words needed. Inadequacy to rage in seconds.
QP: This isn’t even a Kevin Maguire issue, who’s is known for his fantastic facial expressions. This is just an artist with a basic knowledge and skill and drawing human features.
TGH: What a difference caring makes.
QP: Caring, talent, not having crushing deadlines or obnoxious editorial mandates…I’m not absolving the current artists of ALL the blame, but there are a lot of horrible variables at play in the era that Guy Gardner: Warrior comes out in that this team probably didn’t have to deal with.
TGH: Probably so, yeah.
TGH: Black Hand runs back upstairs and grabs a gun from one of his goons, then just runs down the street to find Guy, ranting and Bwa-ha-ha-ing like a maniac. Clearly he has snapped all over again. Any time you see a costumed villain running down the street with a gun, and it’s not the ’90s, you know something’s wrong.
QP: Bystanders just tell Black Hand that he looks ridiculous. They don’t even care.
TGH: The panel from his view aiming the gun is great. All of these different angles kind of help put them in space relative to each other as he catches up to them.
QP: I love that it catches that one guy mid-realization of what is happening.
TGH: I’m sadly impressed by any attempt to tell a story with the art at this point.
QP: But this book is doing a really great job of it.
TGH: Fortunately for Guy, Black Hand has the aim of someone who doesn’t use a gun.
QP: He gets pretty damn close, considering. Despite the fact that he just shot at them, Ice is still feeling compassionate. But she’s not wrong, he’s clearly become unhinged.
TGH: His stuttering and inappropriate laughing are a good clue. Guy’s not smart enough to care though.
QP: Ice says he needs help. Guy assumes punches are a form of help. He also fusses at her for making an ice shield because he doesn’t need one. Not like there’s anyone else standing behind it that’s not impervious to bullets or anything.
TGH: Seriously. HE doesn’t need it, so why would anyone need it?
TGH: Guy finally snaps, grabs Black Hand and sends him into the sky, kicking his ass as he begs for mercy. It’s actually kind of sad. Black Hand is clearly losing it and Guy won’t even let him finish a sentence.
QP: In fairness, Black Hand does seem to be working out a lot of internalized issues. But we’re obviously supposed to feel bad for HIM in this situation. Guy is an asshole.
TGH: An issue where a villain fires a gun at someone is and is the sympathetic one is a pretty big feat.
QP: And that happens in the space of about two pages.
TGH: He finally manages to surrender, and Guy sucker punches him. Then calls HIM a wimp.
QP: No honor in punching a man when he has his hands up, Guy. Not that honor is a thing he’s been particularly concerned about this issue.
TGH: Back at HQ, Ice tells everyone what happened, and we find out that after Guy knocked Black Hand out, he dragged him over to Ice to see if she wanted to beat up his lifeless body. Nice one, Gardner.
QP: And sadly, he ends the issue under the impression that she’s in love with him. Alas.
TGH: Thus begins the horrible relationship between Guy and Ice. I don’t think we see Black Hand for a while, until he gets out of therapy, then loses his shit and tosses G’nort out of the World Trade Center restaurant, but that’s a story for another time.
QP: It’s really hard to believe that that guy would go on to zombify the entire DC Universe. I mean, unless you made him needlessly edgy for no reason.
TGH: I’m pretty sure he wasn’t like this by the time Blackest Night rolled around. There had been Crises.
QP: Hal Jordan destroyed his hand I believe. I think that finally pushed him over the edge. So you can blame Hal (and Geoff Johns) for that one.
TGH: I guess now we know the history of Guy and Black Hand, except this story had way more nuance to it than whatever Guy was doing in Guy Gardner Reborn.
QP: There was just so much in this issue. And we didn’t even cover the B story. This plot would’ve taken a four issue arc to cover in Guy Gardner: Warrior.
TGH: And it still would’ve managed to cut corners.
QP: Guy being a massive asshole has a lot more depth, too, when you’re not handling his ego with kid gloves. Not having to pretend that everything he does is the most awesome thing ever makes him way more of a person.
TGH: The best part of JLI is that we’re in on the joke that Guy is completely awful, instead of being told that’s he’s rad to the max in spite of being awful. They haven’t changed his personality at all in the more recent comic, despite words telling us that they did.
QP: And he’s bouncing off a regular cast of characters that we’ve gotten to know just as well, instead of a bunch of ciphers who only exist to move the plot forward.
TGH: Ciphers who mouth off and get punched, then respect the hell out of his warrior spirit.
QP: The real world doesn’t work that way. Even the fake DC Universe world doesn’t work that way. I’m pretty sure it’s written into the basic laws of physics.
TGH: This is why Guy works better in a team book. And not as a leader. It’s only funny when he thinks he’s the leader but we all know he’s not.
QP: You can’t have Guy make any kind of a Heroes Journey without changing the fundamental parts of his character that make him interesting. And without some kind of a journey, there’s not a lot of point in having a solo book. Unless the point of said book is just punching, which Guy Gardner: Warrior certainly excels at.
TGH: I think the writers assumed that since we saw his past, that knowledge spread to the entire DCU, and now everyone knows he’s a tortured soul so it’s okay. He didn’t change, but everyone around him sure did.
QP: It’s kind of similar to the common problem with Superman stories: if the only challenges he faces can be punched through, they’re intrinsically uninteresting. I don’t expect Guy to retire to the Fortress of Solitude and come up with a chemical formula to get rid of prostitution in New York, but give it a LITTLE variety.
TGH: Maybe have a few more emotionally-taxing problems to solve, and not just fight after fight.
QP: Maaaaybe don’t shoot Guy off in a rocket to the nearest crossover immediately after having him find out his brother is not only not dead, but is a supervillain bent on killing him. Maybe give him an issue or two to deal with that heavy shit.
TGH: Seriously. There was your window. Wait, where are you going? No, not the door!
QP: In this case the writers missed the window AND the door, and just fired Guy from a cannon through the wall.
TGH: I’m kind of sad that we read this issue. Guy Gardner: Warrior is just going to be a little worse now.
QP: Just remember that no matter how bad it gets, it can never take Black Hand getting punched into a truck away from us.
TGH: Never forget.
TGH: P.S. I’m not touching the letters on this one, but props for Justice Log.
’80s Ad Showcase:
TGH: Hell yeah, Nintendo Cereal System!
QP: Two things my mother would not let me have: sugary cereals, and an NES.
TGH: It was probably terrible/the same as every other cereal but with a different box, but I really only cared about the NES ties.
QP: Did it taste super?
TGH: I don’t really remember. It was fruity. I think it was actually the same as Nerds cereal, which also even came in two bags per box.
QP: Whaaaat there was a Nerds cereal? I missed out on all the best things in life.
TGH: I apparently ate a lot of garbage as a kid.
QP: Delicious, delicious garbage.
TGH: I still have a Little Mac card that came in my box that had Punch-Out!! tips, despite not owning Punch-Out!! It was one of those cards you could turn and he’d punch a dude.
QP: You don’t see lenticular stuff very much these days. Except on gimmicky collectible comics covers.
TGH: I think all of the lenticular mines were sucked dry by the ’90s.
QP: Seems likely. Warner Entertainment has been holding on to stockpiles of it just in case.
TGH: Oh man, those Olympic sales pages were really exciting to me as a kid for some reason. All of those prizes seemed really cool. I never put forth any effort to sell any crappy merch though.
QP: Yeah, me too. I don’t think I had a clue what they were about, though. I’m assuming it’s just Junior’s First Pyramid Scheme?
TGH: You just had to sell cards to your vast network of hundreds that you’d have as an 8-year-old.
QP: Ahhh so it was a school fundraiser writ small.
TGH: It was a personal fundraiser for Thriller albums. I wonder if they’re still around?
QP: I vaguely remember seeing similar ads in the back of Seventeen when I was in high school, but I couldn’t tell you if they were still a thing now.
TGH: It’s apparently Olympia Sales now that the Olympics cracked down on them. Their website does not seem to appeal to the kids anymore.
QP: Oh copyright infringement.
QP: There is an ad to buy an NES out of the Sears catalog.
TGH: Dig that early weird-ass Bowser/koopa art
QP: Now I want to see the original concept art for Mario. Were the Goombas originally just short guys in welding helmets?
TGH: I’m going to pretend that mushroom Mario has is the original Toad.
QP: I remember having a Mario Choose Your Own Adventure Book with that particular bit of art on the cover and being confused, as that mushroom didn’t seem to correspond to any mushroom in the game that I was aware of.
TGH: There’s a site somewhere with the original Mario concept art. I think Mario always looked like that but a lot of things were off. ALSO Zelda 2 and Simon’s Quest are clearly swapped!
TGH: ALSO ALSO that is not Mario 2!
QP: It’s nice to see that Nintendo really hasn’t increased their prices much due to inflation.
TGH: Yeah, that’s still under $200 converted to today money, so not terrible actually.
QP: The ad for Bubble Bobble does not give you a single frickin clue. There are dinosaurs, and there are bubbles, and there are 100 levels. That is all you need to know.
TGH: That picture pretty much sums up the whole game, but you’d never know until you bought it. That is still one of my favorite games ever.
QP: You put monsters in bubbles? That’s it?
TGH: Yep, 100 levels of spitting bubbles at shit and then popping those bubbles.
TGH: It was Europe’s #1 game for over 3 months.
QP: Well I guess that makes just as much sense as eating pellets in a maze.
TGH: Then you kill a giant drunk elf using the power of friendship. Sorry, spoilers.
TGH: Well, that’s it for this special update. We’ll be back next week with Guy Gardner: Warrior: Emerald Fallout: Part 3.
QP: They’re really making us live up to the “colon” part of Guy Gardner Colon Warrior.
This was truly a joy to read through. I laughed so hard!