Friday, March 31, 2017

Big Bad Big Barda Blog

I was really really hoping to post this tomorrow but since I was unable to get comics this week, I had a hole to fill. I strive to maintain a sense of routine here at the site and so you are getting this post one day early.

And you may have noticed some changes here.

It has been almost 9 years covering Supergirl and so I thought maybe it was time to focus somewhere else. I have really been diving into Jack Kirby a lot lately and I have always been a fan of the Fourth World stuff and so I thought maybe running a Big Barda site would be a way to re-energize. There is a sort of murmur bubbling in comic fandom that DC needs to bring back the Fourth World characters, reinvent or reinvigorate them in the post-'New 52' continuity.

I feel like Barda is in a place where Supergirl was around 2005. We are starting to see an uptick in interest in her. She is in the 'out of continuity' but highly popular series Justice League Action, DC Bombshells, and DC Superhero Girls.

And what better place to champion a strong female character who needs the mainstream spotlight thrown back on her. After all, it isn't like Barda hasn't been a star before. She has always been an integral part of Mister Miracle stories, sure. But she has been in the Justice League and Birds of Prey too

Heck, back in the day, was going to get her own title, Big Barda and her Female Furies, had the DC Implosion not occurred.

And it isn't as if I am coming on board late. I have been a fan of Barda's since 1977. In fact, I thought a good opening post would be bullet reviewing 1977's Mister Miracle #19, a book I bought off the rack. (I know, I am aging myself.) I'll concentrate on the Barda parts of the book. I know that this was my first experience with any of the Fourth World characters. And I bought it off the spinner because it said it was the 'long awaited return' of Mister Miracle, which made me feel I was about to read something special. Back then cover blurbs like 'bold new direction' or 'the most bizarre story in years' could lure me!

And it was special. Written by Steve Englehart and brilliantly drawn by Marshall Rogers, the book was a gorgeous, heady brew for a grade school kid trying to digest one page flashbacks describing the entirety of the New Gods storyline. But I loved it. This one was so good it made me actually look for the next part, a rarity back then.

We start on New Genesis. Mister Miracle #18 had come out three years prior but this book picks up right where that one left off. Scott and Barda have just married and are enjoying their honeymoon, all while knowing that the war between their planet and Apokolips still rages.

What a mind-blowing page. Barda looks beautiful in this summer outfit, walking hand in hand with the man she loves. And yet, we know immediately that she is more than a pretty face. Rogers shows us a statue honoring her battle prowess. As a kid and even know, I love her weapons and shield there. So she isn't just a damsel in distress. She is more.

Scott bemoans not being in action but Highfather explains he can't send Scott away again (allowing Englehart to recap the Fourth World war and Mister Miracle's origin). Then Barda reminds him that it is their honeymoon. This is the time for love.

Rogers renders her simply gorgeous. She has the physical presence that Kirby would want her to have but also a softness in this environment.

But the honeymoon is short lived.

A Boom Tube opens and out pours Darkseid's assassins. Remember, this is my first encounter with these characters so I got a pretty primer. We meet Granny, Vermin, Kanto, and Dr. Bedlam. A battle rages and we get to see Barda in action. Rogers gives her the best moments with her tossing people around and even belting Granny.

Alas, outnumbered and outgunned, Scott and Barda are eventually overwhelmed. And while Scott is able to escape before being teleported away, Granny does keep Barda in her clutches. The rest of the issue is Scott tracking down the evil crew to save his wife.

So maybe in the end, Barda is a damsel-in-distress in this issue. But I was floored by this as a kid. Visually it is just stunning. The back half shows us what Rogers thought a Mother Box would look like and had Scott actually escape a death trap.

But this is the Big Bad Big Barda Blog! We should be talking about her. Will we ever see Barda star in a book? I, four one, hope so.

Maybe I am just fooling myself into believing things will change for Barda. But I felt that way about Kara too and look at how prominent she is now!


Martin Gray said...

Who doesn't love Big Barda - I hate the name though, well, the appellation 'big', it makes her sound like a dumb hick.

I haven't read this issue since it came out, wow, I'd forgotten how amazing it looked. Can't wait for our review of the next issue.

I wonder why Barda never got a girl Frenzy special.

Anonymous said...

"I was really really hoping to post this tomorrow"

Sure you did, Anj. Sure you did. ;)

I wonder if every time you pull this some readers think you're actually serious and stop coming instead of checking the calendar out.

Now, If I thought you were serious, my reaction would be: "NOOOOOOO! Please, reconsider! Your blog is a godsend for Supergirl fans!"

And I'm being serious. Just today I was lurking in another board and I saw someone claiming the usual "Superman with boobs" nonsense and then saying the -early-
New 52 Supergirl had actual personality and character development but the show "ruined" it. I couldn't help but butting into to state some facts. And then I put a link to your blog. Specifically to your "Why Supergirl" article, written way back in 2011.

You make a great work. And I and a lot of fans are grateful for it.

Anyway Big Barda is a great character. I read Jack Kirby's Fourth World several years ago and I was impressed by Kirby's imagination and the unique feeling of the story. However the argument felt disjointed sometimes, and it confirmed me Kirby needed someone like Stan Lee to rein and led direction to his imagination.

No mention to Barda helping the Trinity rescue Kara, though? Such a missed oportunity! XD

P. D.: On a day like this, 58 years ago, Action Comics #252 hit the shelves!

Doug said...

a day early...well played!

Anonymous said...

I've always liked Kirby's Dickensian flair for character names "Big Barda", "Mark Moonrider", "Mad Harriet"...whatever they sound like today, they were a huge and refreshing change of pace in the 1970's when everyone was "SomethingMan", SomeGirl or Fill-In-The-Blank least in the DCU.

Nice try faking us out Anj....and yes I bought that issue off the rack too, and I seem to recall Barda that strident woman-warrior (much more so than even the mid 1970's Wonder Woman) was thoroughly "damseled out" in this storyline. She gets better treatment in the TV cartoons by and large. I miss Steve Englehart and Marshall Rodgers vastly underrated writer-artist team IMHO.


Anj said...

Thanks all for the kind words !

Anonymous said...

I know Big Barda is taking a lot of your time nowadays, but will we see a review of Batgirl Annual soon Anj? For old times sake? :)