Sunday, May 20, 2012

Big Barda : Death, Lies and Videotapes

Since THE NEW 52 has introduced its new version of Darkseid in the pages of Justice League I wanted to take some time for a COMICBABE BATTLE SPOTLIGHT at Big Barda. Keeping in mind how they relaunched Power Girl only The Source knows what they will come up with for her.


Now there are lot of comic readers out there who are not familiar with Big Barda which is why first we´ll do a little history recap. And yes, one of the reasons I always liked Big Barda is that she has a big rack.

If you have read this blog in the past you already know that I am a big advocate of more bigbreasted women in comics and if not you know it now. I always found it strange that with all the talk about diversity in comic characters it always centered on certain socially accepted minorities instead of just representing everyone. There is always a big brouhaha when there is a new gay character or Spider - Man is suddenly black but where women and bodytypes are concerned the common consensus is alway that you can make them as different as you want as long as you stay under a certain breastsize. And don´t get me started on women who are portayed as sexual beings, thanks to RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS we know that Today´s writers can´t do that without sinking to the levels of stag magazines. Not that there´s anything wrong with superhero comics written that way but then it should be advertised as such so it can reach the corresponding target audience.


Back to Big Barda, when I was still compiling the needed material for my COMICBABE BATTLE posts I found it astounding how little good pictures there were of Big Barda. It seems that most readers were more interested in Black Canary or Wonder Woman and though I don´t want to slight Wonder Woman I always found Big Barda to be more fascinating.


I guess Wonder Woman would feel right at home on Apokolips.

Yes, she had a bigger cupsize and she was basically a blackhaired version of Power Girl. But unlike Power Girl she was supposed to be built like a shit brickhouse from the beginning. And where Wonder Woman was taught on a paradise island to fight for peace ( by bashing people´s heads in ) Big Barda was raised in a total warfare nightmare to be the ultimate weapon of destruction and rebelled against it.

And where Wonder Woman was always this perfect unattainable ideal of a woman Big Barda was more of a cross between a feisty ladytrucker and a centerfold. Women always say you can´t find somebody like that in the real world but I´m not giving up hope ( The hot woman below who looks very much like Big Barda is glamour model Ana Rica. It´s from her visit to ComicCon 2011 where she conducted some interviews. You can find that video and many others here and her pool shark photo set where she wears a similar dress here - some videos / pictures NOT SAFE FOR WORK !!! ).


Now Big Barda is of course part of Jack Kirby´s FOURTH WORLD, one of - if not THE - greatest saga in comic history. Since I´m not exactly swimming in money and DC still hasn´t decided to shower me with review copies I have to rely on my recollection of what I have read so far in spanish and german translations. I´m also using what I have written so far about her on this blog as well as what other bloggers have phrased more eloquently then me. I´ll try to give credit where I can still remember where I got the material from.

Now, the short recap for those comic readers unfamiliar with the FOURTH WORLD : it is a big saga that was written and drawn by Jack Kirby and ran through the series NEW GODS, FOREVER PEOPLE, MR MIRACLE and SUPERMAN´S PAL JIMMY OLSEN. The main gist of the story is the war between New Genesis, a planet that could be described as an utopian paradise where godlike beings live


and Apokolips, a planet three seconds away from destruction. A polluted, stinking, fetid orb, burning, most natural resources spent and populated by the most evil beings in the universe ruled over by an allpowerful despot who subjugates all his subjects. They have no freedom, no purpose in being other than to live and die for the glory that is Darkseid.

Now there came a point were both sides had to realize that to continue this war would mean the utter destruction of both planets so they had to live in peace. And to seal this non - agression pact they both exchanged their sons, Highfather´s son Mister Miracle ( a.k.a. Scott Free, you just have to love the names Jack Kirby came up with ) was raised in the firepits of Apokolips and Darkseid´s son Orion ( destined to fight against him according to a prophecy ) had to control his savage nature to adjust to the peaceful way of life on New Genesis.


I don´t want to get into too much detail here and if you´re interested there´s an excellent crashcourse on Comic Alliance about The Mythology of Jack Kirby´s NEW GODS .

Back to Big Barda, she was born and raised on the hellhole of a planet called Apokolips and soon became the leader of the female Furies. When she met Mister Miracle, Big Barda began to question the order on Apokolips and when Auralie, a woman Big Barda had arrested was basically electrocuted ( her crime was getting funky and with that I mean dancing ) Big Barda decided to help Mister Miracle when he made his big prison break. She herself stayed until she had completed her training and then ditched the joint tout de suite like a bad habit, next stop : Earth !

Which couldn´t have been timed better because Darkseid had just selected her to breed the next generation of warriors and, not above indulging in the perks a top position provides, he was just too eager to supply the male genetic material himself - the old fashioned way. No need for any advanced biotechnology here. You can say what you want but Darkseid sure got an eye for hot babes and he knows that it´s always important to take time for the nookie.


Big Barda picture above courtesy of JoeHentai

As I recall Big Barda´s mother also had the same position ( no pun intended ) but that´s what you get when your name is Big Breeda. Knowing Darkseid´s tendency to use his power for hitting on the ladies it would be no surprise if he had gone a few rounds with Big Barda´s mom in the midnight olympics tournament himself. Which would make his decision to spawn the next race of warriors with Big Barda extra creepy. But hey, nobody ever said Apokolips was a nice place.

Big Barda´s personality was based on Jack Kirby´s wife while her physical appaearance was based on real life singer / actress Lainie Kazan as you can see by the striking resembleance ( especially by the picture right beneath )



but what the heck was the deal with the Megarod ?


Now for a much more complete analysis of Big Barda as well as a correct synopsis of her beginnings here´s what I blatantly swiped from her entry on Joel Bryan´s awesome blog WHEN COMIC BOOKS RULED THE EARTH which I really should read on a regular basis :

She’s big. She’s Barda. Put them together and what have you got? Big Barda, the warrior woman of Apokolips. Born and bred for war, Big Barda discovers her humanity thanks to the tutelage of the sensitive Scott Free and from the tragedy of Auralie, the beautiful dancer. Apokolips was not meant for delicate things such as they, so Barda helps Scott escape. Otherwise a dutiful soldier, Barda remains behind and rises in the ranks to become an officer in Darkseid’s fearsome Female Fury force, second only to the gruesome Granny Goodness.

Alliteration rules!

What does comics master Jack " King " Kirby say about her? This :



And Jack should know; after all, he invented her. Yes, she is tough. And oh my brothers and sisters, she is strong. But how strong is strong in Barda’s case ? Take Jack’s advice and see her. See how she exercises. Look at her as she windmills during her morning calisthenics. She’s tall and muscular and completely unashamed of her body.

So after seeing her doing her warm - ups on the damp grass of an early morning in spring, you’re thinking Barda must be athletically strong like one of those volleyball players, Olympic swimmers or track and field stars she somewhat resembles. A jock. A healthy young woman, maybe works out on the Weider machines down at Bally Health and Fitness, loves early morning runs when the dew shimmers on the spiderwebs lacing the azalea bushes.

Pssshh ! What the hell's wrong with you ? We're talking about Big Barda here. You’re thinking small ! Check this out :



There. Now you’re catching on. That’s how strong Barda is. Not only can she lift a Civil War - era cannon, there’s a chance she might actually damage it. Our human weapons need to be protected from Big Barda.

But how did Big Barda enter our world ? Let’s go back a couple of months :



Mr. Miracle #4. Scott Free allows himself to get caught in one of Darkseid’s deadly traps. Wait… that’s redundant. All of Darkseid’s traps are deadly. No matter. One of Darkseid’s minions - with the somewhat on the nose name Bedlam - has poisoned an entire building worth of nobodies and driven them insane. Paranoia strikes deep, as a group of filthy, degenerate singing hippies once warbled. Indeed it does, you hairy pinko creeps. Deep enough that Mr. Miracle finds himself in serious trouble.


And into the situation comes Barda. Bold and beautiful, fearless and prejudiced against little people :


Her language is as blunt and hurtful as that futuristic mace with which she smashes the kitchen table. Hmm… her choice of weapon is interestingly phallic, especially considering the gender - role reversal Jack Kirby later plays at in her relationship with Scott Free. Big Barda swings a giant penis substitute, a visual symbol of the traditionally masculine power she freely wields, an authority usually reserved for males. She and Scott are both soldiers. Not that Scott is by any means a wuss, but he couldn’t hack it and Barda is the one who became an officer. So she gets the big metal schlong to wave around and smack fools with.

Barda is also something of an amateur psychologist, but her diagnostic methodology is extreme even by Dr. Phil’s inexact standards. No, she’s not exactly sympathetic to the mentally ill. She also prescribes a non - traditional therapy :



That's kind of like the time I was visiting my therapist and she told me, " Look, jackass, my diagnosis of you is you're batshit crazy ! Prescription : high risk behavior ! " It worked ! Someone might try to prosecute Barda for practicing psychology without a license. And to that person, I say, " Good luck, brother ! You'll need it ! " Probably going to end up with a cracked skull.


Despite her military background, Barda is not one to ignore the arts. In this she resembles that ideal warrior, the samurai, who frequently mastered more delicate forms such as calligraphy, painting and the serene perfection of the tea ceremony along with swordplay and tactics. In this capacity, Barda’s also a drama critic :


Sure she’s a little harsh, not really up on her Shakespeare ( probably because she was so busy training her body to be a living weapon... she can kill you with her baby toe ), but at least she bothered to review their performance. There are local theatricals that never draw press attention, so these amateur thespians should feel honored. A negative notice from Barda is still a notice.

Finally she reunites with Scott. At this point they’re still in “ just friends ” mode, but Kirby hints at their personal histories. Scott makes a disparaging remark, then immediately checks himself because he’s generally an insightful kind of guy :



One theme running throughout the Fourth World stories is that of one’s intrinsic nature. Orion is seen as the protector of New Genesis, but his true nature as a son of Apokolips comes through. Likewise, despite having been subjected to the rigors of Apokoliptian military training from earliest childhood, Scott Free never fully relinquishes his inner pacifist. As for Barda, let’s let those who know her best, her colleagues as it were, give us their opinions. Bedlam ?


As is often the case with new characters, Barda’s first appearance lets us appreciate her at her purest. In just a few action - packed panels, Jack Kirby gives us the essence of the character. Ruthless. Rough around the edges. Barda is not a diplomat, Barda is not a negotiator. Barda is action personified. She is violence on two legs. Fortunately, there’s also something innately good about her, something her friendship with Scott caused to blossom and flourish.

Do you really think some sleazy porno guy could mindwash this Big Barda into appearing in his pervy videos? Do you think some cosmic killer could pull this Big Barda's heart out? I laugh to scorn such notions. As does Big Barda.

She still really has a problem with little people, though :



Here's some deathless Jolly Jack copy summing up the Big Barda phenomenon :


Oops ! Sorry, that was actually a note from Professor Vundabar and his Murder Machine. Nice guy, that Vundabar. Not so sure about his Murder Machine, though. So... what's next for our warrior woman ?


Pancakes ! Let's eat !

IT´S THE END OF THE FOURTH WORLD AS WE KNOW IT

It´s no secret that after Jack Kirby ended his tenure on the Fourth World DC never really knew what to make of it. Yes, the characters appeared in some stories and there were a few attempts to do some bigger arcs involving them but while the best stories in the DC universe often had their roots in the war between New Genesis and Apokolips basically they only scratched the tip of the iceberg.

Don´t get me wrong, Darkseid is one of the DC universe´s best villains, as can be seen in the first storyarc of the new Justice League title by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee ( which I only got this week in the hardcover from amazon so I really can´t comment on the quality of it ) and the animated version of the Justice League also had it´s most epic times when Darkseid appeared but those moments are very far and inbetween.

So it really wasn´t a surprise when DC published DEATH OF THE NEW GODS when FINAL CRISIS came out. The only problem was that FINAL CRISIS, COUNTDOWN and DEATH OF THE NEW GODS all told the same story while also totally contradicting each other. Which never is a good thing.

Those three stories can´t possibly co - exist, just judging from the different roles Karate Boy and Una play but if I have to choose one of them to be canon then it definitely is DEATH OF THE NEW GODS.


Because COUNTDOWN is just too different from issue to issue and the only highlight are the issues by Tom Derenick who really should be on a regular title after his great stint on SHADOWPACT. Okay, there was one issue which was extremely well written by Paul Dini, Adam Beechem and Keith Giffen. It even has art by Jim Starlin even if it doesn´t look quite as good as on DEATH OF THE NEW GODS.

It´s issue 05 and the reason why it´s so brilliant is that it tells you a story you already know. Maybe I´m stupid or the writers on this were brilliant. My money is on the later. Now there might people who are not familiar with the particular story that is told in the issue but every fan of the particular character ( it´s not one of Jack Kirby´s most prolifient works but it has lots of fans of which some are famous comic book creators ) should know it. I should know it.

From the cover which is really a dead giveaway to all the story elements every piece is something that should tell me which story this is. But I only started to realize that in the last few pages and I was really sure when I read the last caption. Well played Sirs.

Now another problem with COUNTDOWN is that it plays into too many titles so you don´t get the feeling that you have all the pieces. Like with the many tie - ins to CIVIL WAR you get the impression to miss big parts of the story which leaves you unsatisfied. So I can´t really recommend the series. If you want you should at least read issue 05. There might be some other cool issues but so far none comes to mind and that is not a good sign.


Why DEATH OF THE NEW GODS you might ask.

Isn´t the Fourth World one of Jack Kirby´s greatest stories that should never be undone ? Yes it is. Isn´t it a really bad idea by DC to kill off the whole franchise and all the great characters involved like Mr. Miracle and Big Barda ? Yes it is. Wouldn´t it be better if it had never happened ? Yes it would.

The reason why it is still my favorite of the three and the one I would pick if I had to choose is Jim Starlin. Nobody destroys universes like Jim. Back when he was at Marvel he did it on a regular basis and he always did it with style. As he did on DEATH OF THE NEW GODS. There are really only a few writers who can write stories about gods really good. Oh, that doesn´t mean that somebody like Dan Juergens can´t write Thor but it will always read like Superman with a hammer.

The gods of the Foruth World - that´s opera. Big opera with lots of pathos and deceit and lies and death. Above all death. Walter Simonson is one of the few who understands that as his run on Thor as well as his fantastic ORION series showed and another one is Jim Starlin.


Jim Starlin writes death like no one else and the more the better. Which doesn´t mean he can´t do the quiet little deaths like in DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL but the bigger the better. A world, a planet a whole universe - that´s when he really starts to run true to form.

Which is the reason why even if DEATH OF THE NEW GODS kills of the Fourth World you wouldn´t want anyone else to do it. The story is rooted deeply into DC lore and even if you don´t have to know it all to understand it it´s nice for the hardcore fans. COSMIC ODYSSEY is one of the stories that are referenced as the reason why Superman and Orion are at each other throats and I really liked that. As well as the fact that as the story progresses Superman reaches the limits of his powers. He´s often seen as a god by mortals but the New Gods are real gods so compared to them he´s ultimately like a child.

It is no secret that Darkseid was the blueprint for Thanos at Marvel and after decades of writing Thanos Jim Starlin really knows how that character thinks.


Which is not that different from Darkseid. Aside from the story - which is also a murder mystery which is also one of the reasons why I like the series - there is also the art by Jim Starlin who hasn´t looked this good since MYSTERY IN SPACE. So even if DEATH OF THE NEW GODS was the final chapter of the whole Fourth World shebang until this date, it´s a glorious last ride into the jaws of death.

THE SUPERMAN / BIG BARDA SEXTAPE SCANDAL

Yes, there is probably still at least one of these naughty tapes of home entertainment out there in the DC universe from what some people call one of DC comics worst stories EVER while for other people it´s Big Barda´s finest hour.

The story takes place in Action Comics issues 592 and 593 and I bet when DC asked John Byrne to revamp Superman they never dreamed he would take their new slogan DC COMICS AREN´T FOR KIDS ANYMORE to such heigths. Or new lows.


While the covers look harmless enough in the first issue Big Barda falls under the influence of a character called Sleez ( for apparent reasons ) and has to dance for his amusement with not much clothing


and do other horrible things that are only mentioned. I never thought about it at lenght when I first read the issues but remember : the guy´s name is Sleez.


And in the second issue she almost becomes the star of a porn film co - starring Superman which is only prevented by the timely intervention of Barda´s hubby.

Now there have been thorough post coming to the conclusion that the Barda / Superman tape is probably still out there since in the story there is a guy distributing them all over Metropolis and calling it his bestseller. And I really would like to point to a special part of the story as the high point ( or low point depending on if you think it´s hilarious or gross ) but there are just so many that it would be hard to single one out. I mean, there´s the part where Superman who doesn´t know Big Barda at that point of his career thinks she´s a prostitute because she wears a lot of make up, Darkseid himself breaks into Mister Miracles house to give him a copy of the tape just to see him squirm or Superman and Big Barda pretending they don´t remember anything about doing the tape because Mister Miracle is on the scene. Who - even if he believed otherwise - couldn´t do a lot about it against Superman.

But I bet the whole tape thing comes up if Mister Miracle and Big Barda are having an argument. I mean, who doesn´t know the situation: you´re debating about some silly nonsens or other and before you know it the sextape argument is on the table again.


Anyway, back in those days that Byrne guy sure was hardcore with his revamp of Superman. Talk about trying everything to bring more readers in. Ah, the glory days of comicbook gold when you could get away with such stuff as long as the cover was harmless enough. At least she doesn´t wear her cleavage armor in the story. Or her red metal bikini.


Ooops, she does. Okay, my bad. But there are enough websites where you can read about the story ( like on Weird Comic Thing : Big Barda Tape or a much more detailed look on Comic Alliance´s Bizarro Back Issues : The Superman Sex Tape ) and you either love it or hate it.


Big Barda picture above courtesy of AnyaUribe

And that´s all we have time for now so we end this spotlight on Big Barda. Let´s hope she will come back at a better time as she didn´t always have it easy.


Since this post has been all about big Jack Kirby and his creations here´s a video I thought I had already posted but apparently did not about one of the greatest masters - if not THE greatest - of comics.



New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

3 comments:

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Ahh, great Barda article -I posted a link on CBO. All that cleavage and I just finally got a copy of the Grosser Hansrudi Wascher Buch! Now I just need to find sellers of Mykros in Germany who'll sell to the UK!

Kirby certainly knew how to draw the women and Barda was ALL woman!!!

Joel Bryan said...

Thanks for the shout out! You've produced the ultimate overview of Big Barda!

SUBZERO said...

Thank you for your excellent post on Big Barda. And nice blog by the way. I hope I can read a few more articles in the future ( still got two posts to finish ) and keep up the excellent work.