Not so great Society (JSA #1, plenty of spoilers)
I keep trying to type something on JSA #1. God clearly doesn't want me to, as he keeps throwing not quite lethal disease microbes and high school Christmas concerts and various other things at me just when I feel like I might be able to sit down for longer than ten minutes at a time and get it done. But, it's 8:31 in the evening and I've been home from work all day with this appalling flux and I seem finally to be on the mend. The kids are all elsewhere and SuperFiancee is in the back bedroom, trying to recuperate from her own bout with the same killer shit that laid me low yesterday, last night, and most of today. (To complete that score card, while SuperFiancee seems to have the variant of the bug that I caught, and is mostly laid low by profound diarrhea and stomach upset, Super Dependable Teen seems to have picked up the Super Adorable Kid strain, as she started throwing up this morning and kept doing it until early in the afternoon.)
Anyway, enough of that depressing real life shit, let's move on to some depressing, disappointing fantasy life shit instead:
JSA #1, by Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham is... well, what the hell is it? Depressing, sure, and disappointing, yes, but why? Where did it fall down so badly? How did it so comprehensively fail to live up to even the most basic expectations I might have for a Geoff Johns JSA issue? Let me count the ways:
Page 1 - World War III? Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do. See, I knew this was going to be a problem when they announced that they were going to shift the entire DC Universe ahead a year following Infinite Crisis, and then fill in that missing year in a weekly comic running 52 issues over the 12 months -- while, of course, simultaneously continuing to publish their regular monthly titles, all now set after the events of the miniseries.
I knew that they weren't going to be able to pull it off, and, well, here we are, jumping headlong into a much awaited first issue of an ongoing series that apparently takes place three months after something called World War III, an event that is seemingly pivotal to the Justice Society, and I don't know a goddam thing about it, because the miniseries hasn't gotten that far yet.
This is unacceptable, and pisses me off no end. Page 1 of the new Geoff Johns JSA series, and already I have no fucking clue what's going on. Not a good way to start out a book I've been looking forward to this much.
Page 1 also strongly indicated something I may or may not mention again -- when I'd heard that Dale Eaglesham was drawing this book, I was very pleased, but I must have been somehow mistaking that name for the name of an artist who is actually competent at his craft. Now, I realize that it's tough to draw a team book in which the team itself has 15 or 16 visually different characters, who are all of wildly differing ages, genders, and, to the extent that DC Comics is capable of doing so (not very much) ethnicities. And maybe artists weren't exactly lining up for the gig, and perhaps anyone who could actually do it well couldn't do it very fast. But whatever the case, Eaglesham sucks, and putting a nice Alex Ross cover on the front of the issues is only going to underscore and exacerbate just how badly he sucks.
How does Eaglesham suck? First, the only way you can distinguish any of his characters is by their costumes; in terms of faces and physiques, they might as well be clones. I'm not kidding about this; Liberty Belle has the exact same face and physique as Stargirl, and that's a problem that is repeated everywhere you see two or more members of the JSA standing near each other in the same panel or even on the same page.
Now, being unable to tell one character from another other than by clothing, gender, and/or race has been a constant problem in superhero comics since the Golden Age, but contemporary artists have made great strides towards correcting this visual issue, and there's no excuse for anyone drawing a high profile comic like this who cannot visually differentiate between an acrobatic 16 year old high school student with a magic stick and a mid 20s former superspeedster who dresses like a crimefighting equestrienne.
Beyond that, Eaglesham can't keep his faces balanced in close up if they're at anything other than a straight up 90 degree angle to the top and bottom borders of the panel. Look at Mr. America's face on page 6, panel 5. Why is his right eye blacked out by shadow? Is it because otherwise we'd notice Eaglesham can't keep it in proportion to his left eye? I think it is.
Speaking of Mr. America, why does he have this kind of Confederate flag thing going on with his cape in the splash panel on page 4, with the white stars on the blue stripe on the red background, but he's completely lost it by his next appearance in costume where we can see the detail, on page 15 (I think it's page 15, jesus, could we have some page numbers, please?) It's not that I like the Confederate flag look, and I imagine some editor spotted how similar it was to the racist supervillain's Confederate flag look and changed it from that point forward, but, you know, we can't go back and clean up the preceding artwork too? This is just sloppy.
And then there's that horrible, horrible, horrible pose Eaglesham forces Hourman and Liberty Belle into when they first show up to confront Damage... and I could go on and on, but never mind. Put Rags Morales on this book, NOW.
Page 2 - The JLA kisses the JSA's collective ass. I suppose they should, the JSA hasn't murdered anyone recently, or wiped out anyone's memories. All this, plus, Alan Scott has an idea. I guess that idea is for the JLA to track down a lot of JSA legacy heroes so they can be inducted into the new JSA, but you kinda have to figure that out for yourself, since Johns never bothers to make it clear.
And lest you think this is a minor quibble, ‘making things clear’ is the primary bullet point on the job description of anyone who writes or draws comic books, or who in any way attempts to communicate any kind of idea of any sort to any other human being whatsoever. If you aren’t making stuff clear, and you’re lucky enough to be in a job where you get to tell stories for a living, you have fundamentally failed to perform your basic tasks. And not making things clear is probably the fundamental reason, which keeps coming up over and over again, that I was so grossly disappointed by this particular comic book.
Page 3 - Introducing the new Mr. America. Does this mean there's never been a Golden Age Mr. America? We don't know. Nobody tells us. The new Mr. America is fine with beating and torturing a confession out of somebody he just knows is guilty of raping and murdering a 15 year old girl, making him pretty much the John Ashcroft Superhero Of The Year for the post 9/11 JSA. Why is it I think the JLA won't have to kiss the JSA's ass on moral grounds for very much longer...?
When we first see the new Mr. America, his cape is somehow attached to the shoulders of his shirt, and his shirt has a white collar with blue stars on it. A few panels later, the cape itself has a red collar with blue stars. C'mon, guys, this is the JSA here. Take a few more months, get the bugs worked out. Maybe by then we'll all know what the hell World War III was.
Let me dwell for a moment on this new Mr. America character. In many ways he seems to be the heart of this particular story, and as such, the way he’s written, what we are told about him, and what we aren’t, seems to almost entirely sum up all the bad, sloppy, lazy writing in this issue.
Page 3 is his intro, but page 4 is a splash page, showing Mr. America walking through a door, with swirling snow all around him, his cape blowing in the wind, his name in a big logo in the only caption on this page up at the top, above his head. He looks cool as shit and dramatic as hell… well, given what he’s wearing, anyway. There is no other text whatsoever on this page, other than the title and credit sequences at the bottom, and therefore, there is a lot of room for captions. Here’s what would have been good writing at this point:
CAPTION: My name is actually Trey Thompson the III, and I am the second Mr. America. My grandfather, the first Trey Thompson, was also the first to wear this costume and bear this name. He gained renown as a Nazi fighter in WWII, both on the home front and behind enemy lines in Europe. He often worked side by side with the original Justice Society of America.
CAPTION: Those were dark times, but in many ways, it seems to me that these are just as dark. Evil no longer wears a uniform. It has a thousand faces. And the horrors I have seen enacted here in my lifetime rival anything that my grandfather ever fought.
CAPTION: But evil now still has one thing in common with evil then – it still fears justice.
The text may suck – I’d never in my life claim to be as good a writer as Geoff Johns – but the reader needs this information. For those of us who have been around long enough to be aware that Mr. America is actually a Golden Age Nazi fighter, this tells us that, yeah, the new guy is a legacy hero, and thus, has a legitimate place in any JSA title, even if we’ve never heard of him before. It also tells us that the JSA has a history with, if not this particular individual, then at least with the Mr. America identity. This will be important, later on in the issue, when the new JSA is abruptly confronted by the new Mr. America in extremely melodramatic (if, unfortunately, monstrously cliched) circumstances.
It also makes many things much more sensible. Mr. America's costume, and, for that matter, his name, are products of another time, and stick out like sore thumbs in a contemporary superhero context. But if he's a legacy hero, carrying on his grandfather's tradition of superheroics blah blah blah, well, we can at least understand why someone with no superpowers at all is willing to dress up like the illegitimate child of Zorro and Betsy Ross, and attempt to fight supervillains armed only with his gay little Clark Gable mustache and a friggin' bullwhip.
Otherwise, you know, he just seems a tiny bit silly.
Anyway, he's just walked into a crime scene in a private home, where a woman and two kids have been killed by some unknown bad guy. The FBI is all over the place, and an APB has been put out on the missing husband. Mr. America pulls off his mask as he falls to his knees. The APB won't be necessary -- he's the missing husband. Oooh. I got chills.
It’s not that the sequence isn’t emotional and moving. It’s more that it reads like seventeen different clichés smashing into each other at the intersection of Say, Isn’t This Familiar Street and Whoa, We’ve Seen This All Before Boulevard, and then exploding. You feel for the guy, but, at the same time, you’ve seen stuff like this so many times at this point that you’re bemused by the sheer repetitiveness of the data.
Page 6 -- here's a bunch of young legacy heroes who will be in the new JSA. Say, didn't Jesse Chambers used to have super speed? How did she become the new Liberty Belle? We don't know. Nobody tells us. (This is going to become a very familiar refrain.)
Page 8 - Hey, here's the JSA's three oldest members looking at a bunch of photos of prospective recruits, just like the JLA has been doing for the past three issues. Very original.
Page 9, panel 2 -- That's the Golden Age adult Robin from Earth-2, right between Power Girl and the Star Spangled Kid. What the fuck? Does Eaglesham even know who he's drawing as he tributes the cover of an old issue of the Levitz/Wood ALL STAR? Does DC have any editors who realize he's just drawn a flashback panel featuring a character that can't possible exist in the current continuity? Or that care? This is retarded and ridiculous.
Page 9, Panel 3 -- Apparently, Atom Smasher's head does not grow when the rest of him does. Sand looks pretty awful, too. Folks, this is just not professional quality art here. RAGS MORALES. NOW.
Page 9 and 10 - Wildcat is going on and on about how he doesn't get attached to people, he's a loner, he just trains the new kids and lets them go on their way. Say, is some long forgotten family member of his going to show up at the end of the issue? Stay tuned.
Page 11 - Atom Smasher is fighting some goon named Rebel. Wait! We turn to page 12 and Rebel is calling Atom Smasher 'Damage'! What the fuck? I was promised Atom Smasher! Why is that lame dumbass Damage wearing Atom Smasher's costume? Say it with me... 'We don't know. Nobody tells us.' Jesus, this is getting old.
Rebel advises us, as he's jumping up and down on Damage's head, that he's heard things about Damage -- how Damage wears that mask out of shame, because the Reverse Flash destroyed his face, and when it happened, Damage cried like a little bitch. Now, Reverse Flash did indeed punch Damage in the face about three thousand times in Infinite Crisis #1, and maybe it did ruin Damage's face, and maybe he even cried like a little bitch about it, but if so, well, it's the first we've heard about it to this point. Some people call this sort of thing 'retroactive embellishment of a previously established story arc', but others (like me) just refer to it as 'bad writing'.
Damage then shows himself to be entirely worthy of the New Age of Superheroics, as he uses his explosive punches to (a) utterly pulverize Rebel's kneecap, (b) knock Rebel into the side of a police car, wrecking it and (c) punch Rebel through a brick wall, shattering Rebel’s teeth as well, setting him up nicely for his new career as jailhouse punk.
Well, Rebel's a brutal villain, and he needs to be dealt with in a brutal fashion. I guess I'm just old fashioned, yearning for the days when superheroes subdued their enemies with minimum necessary force and turned them over to the authorities without involving any permanent maiming in the process. And I'm especially nostalgic for the times when, after maliciously crippling their opponents, superheroes didn't then walk up to said fallen enemies as they writhe in agony on the ground and say "Hey, Rebel. Now who's crying like a bitch?"
Remember those times? When heroes were actually better than the villains they fought? Whew. Long time ago, huh?
Page 15 - Hourman and Liberty Belle show up to recruit Damage into the new Justice Society. Apparently, Damage is the son of the original Atom. Apparently, the Teen Titans and the Freedom Fighters have already offered him membership, and he's turned them down. I say ‘apparently’ because, well, I had no idea, but, I admit, I’ve stayed as far away from anything to do with this character as I possibly could, so I’m kind of annoyed that DC is sticking him into JSA where I’ll have to deal with him. He's like, all broody; a snarling, defiant young punk with a baaaaaaad attitude. God, this is exciting. We've never seen this before. What a brilliant, fabulous dynamic to introduce into the JSA. What an amazing internal conflict -- the wild kid who badly needs mentoring, but who will resist it every step of the way. I can't wait to see this storyline get started... again.
Page 16 - Hourman badly needs a shave. His wife lets him go out to fight crime like that?
Page 17 - Back to Mr. America. He's figured out who killed his wife and sons. It's some loser villain named Catalyst. Apparently, Catalyst is now busy murdering Mr. America's younger brother, and some woman we never learn anything about at all. Mr. America beats Catalyst to within an inch of his life and advises him he'd better talk -- before he can't. Because now, Mr. America has nothing left -- but justice.
Boy, it really sucks to be related to Mr. America in the first issue of the new JSA title, I guess.
Let me take a moment here to say how mildly appalled I am to be reading a comic book in which a supervillain has just viciously slaughtered two entirely unknown people, and the writer only bothers to identify one of those people, and then, he doesn’t even do it by name. This is, apparently, Mr. America’s younger brother, who merits no further identifier, and the large bosomed woman who has just been killed with said younger brother doesn’t even deserve that much individualization. It’s just ‘okay, here’s the hero’s little brother, and some dead ho, now we’re moving on’. I understand that the Modern Age comics audience is desensitized to this sort of thing, but, still… it strikes me as rather callous. I mean, at least the little brother will become part of Mr. America’s heroic motivation and get a recurring mention in his origin flashbacks from this point on. The mysterious dead woman? We’ll never know a thing about her. Wife, girlfriend, casual boink, someone who dropped by to watch DEAL OR NO DEAL because the younger brother gets better reception on his TV? We have no idea. And we never will.
Page 20 -- hey, it's Mary Jane Watson. No, wait, this is a DC book. Okay, who's the redhead? Well, she's gabby. And pushy. And seems to have no friends. And... wait, wait... oh, she's going to jump off a building. But... Good Lord, man... she seems to have some kind of tornado powers. Oh, here's Mr. Terrific and Power Girl, recruiting her into the new JSA. Seems she's Ma Hunkle's grand daughter Maxine, and she got kidnapped and experimented on by T.O. Morrow, and ever since then, she's had these strange tornado powers. And, wow, she's REALLY gabby.
My guess is, she’s going to be the redhead in the odd looking, very 40s-esque green costume we see on the cover. What her code name is going to be, we don’t know, because, well, Johns either can’t be bothered, or isn’t allowed, to put that much plot into one issue. Still, I have no real problem with the character as she seems to be shaping up.
Page 25 – although we won’t actually see him until page 26, this is the beginning of the new Starman’s intro. How can I adequately describe how badly I hate this character? Well… first… and primarily, I guess… he’s ‘crazy’. I cannot tell you how much I despise ‘crazy’ characters. Mental instability is a crutch for crappy, lazy, dumb ass, archly self aware writing. It basically lets a writer put any kind of dialogue into a character’s mouth that the writer wants to, allows any inconsistencies in characterization or behavior to be acceptable, because, you know… the character’s crazy!
It is, and always has been in comics, TV, and other generally lazy entertainment media, a creative cop out. Nobody ever does any actual research on real forms of mental illness. when a character is ‘crazy’ in comics or on TV or even in most movies, they do not have panic disorders, or phobias, or OCD, or post traumatic stress disorder. They are not schizophrenic. They may be ‘psychotic’, but that’s very nearly a subjective term that can mean pretty much anything the writer wants it to, which, again, is why writers like the ‘crazy’ characters.
So, I already intensely dislike Starman, because, you know, he’s craaaaaaaazy, meaning, he sings and dances and tosses out apparent non-sequiturs and generally acts dopey, and all this is is a crutch to let him behave in a whimsical fashion while continuing to be mysterious, because he’s actually frickin’ Supernova, and DC just doesn’t want to tell us who Supernova is yet.
And I hate that.
I will tell you who Starman is not… he’s not the adult Star Boy from the Legion. That’s a head fake. Johns is working a little too hard on that one for me to buy it. Who I suspect he is, is… Hourman (the new, android Hourman). But I could be wrong. I could even be wrong about him being Supernova. But I’m not wrong about him being craaaaaazy, and I swear to God, the next time some craaaaaaazy character works in another cutesy dialogue reference to “52”, I’m gonna buy a Raggedy Andy doll, name it Keith Giffen, and then run the lawn mower over it. It’s cheap therapy, but it works.
I should also note, if it turns out that I’m right about who Starman actually is, I’ll like him a lot better, but then I’ll want DC to either let Tom Peyer write JSA (wouldn’t that be the shit) or let him write a new Hourman series.
The Starman intro is encouraging in one way, though; it doesn’t feature any nameless dead female victims. There’s a female victim who needs to be rescued by a big strong male hero, but at least she has a name and a profession, and while she may be a useless dingbat female cliché (the pushy female reporter trying to make a name for herself covering a superhero), she’s not “tragic superhero’s dead wife and/or tragic superhero’s younger brother’s dead mystery female acquaintance who just happened to be in the room when a crappy supervillain showed up”. This is a big step up for female characters as portrayed up to this point in this story, and I for one applaud it.
And it keeps getting better… well, kind of. Two pages later, Starman has returned to his loonie bin, and we are introduced to his psychiatrist, a comely young lass (well, this is superhero comics; female characters can generally be safely assumed to be comely young lasses nearly by default, unless they’re Ma Hunkle or Aunt May or something) who immediately starts hitting on Dr. Midnite.
I say this is a step up, because not only does this comely young female character actually survive more than two sequential panels of this harrowing story, but she is also being depicted as an intelligent, reasonably competent professional, and astonishingly enough, she’s not wearing a miniskirt or a top that shows her cleavage. Mind you, she’s behaving in an overtly sexually aggressive way because, you know, that’s the way all us fanboys fantasize hot women should behave towards us, and if they won’t, then at least we like it when they behave this way towards our fantasy surrogate characters. (Although the new Dr. Midnite has never been a fantasy surrogate character of mine; I mean, does he ever do anything besides stand around in the JSA medical lab and look learned?)
However, for all that this seems to be an advance over how female characters have been treated to this point in this story, we have to then take a big step back again, because this character has no name.
I cannot underscore this enough: you have to give your characters a name. If you don’t give your characters a name, it is by default and without any possible doubt bad writing. This is true in any medium. Unless your character is supposed to be iconic and mysterious and unknown, like the Smoking Man in X-Files, you have to give them a name. The Horned Rim Glasses Guy in Heroes? Needs a name. The dead wife, dead sons, dead younger brother, and dead anonymous chick in the Mr. America arc in this issue? Need names. And the hot psychiatrist chick who wants a mouthful of Midnite? Give her a name, please. I’m just sayin’.
Also, I’m not wild about the dynamic of the female professional psychiatrist who can’t help the crazy superhero, but, you know, here comes the big strong male superhero doctor who doesn’t even specialize in mental disorders, and we just presume he can… why? Because he’s got a pet owl?
And no, this wouldn't bother me if there were any examples in this story of the opposite happening, which is to say, a male character being depicted as ineffective or incompetent to do his job, and requiring help from a female character. However, that simply doesn't happen. Throughout this issue, women get killed, women get into trouble, women find they can't do their jobs adequately... and A Man Steps In. Or, women just stand around looking all sweet and dependent while their big strong husband catches the thrown police car and does all the talking to the new JSA recruit. Either way, women do not seem to be being portrayed as anything remotely like equal partners in the new JSA.
Page 30 -- back to Wildcat, hitting a punching bag. Does Wildcat ever do anything besides hit a punching bag? Having asked that vital question, I'm led to pose another -- how is it that Wildcat, out of every person who has ever been a member of the JSA, has managed to survive this long? I mean, he's a frickin' boxer. He has no super powers. He has no advanced technology. He has no magical devices. He's, frankly, not very bright. So how is it that, when the JSA goes into pitched combat with people like Extant and Parallax and The Anti-Monitor and the Injustice Society and Solomon Grundy and like that, frickin’ Wildcat doesn’t get killed? This is even sillier than superheroic archers. At least Hawkeye and Green Arrow can stay a few hundred yards from the melee and still be effective. Wildcat runs up to the huge humanoid supernova and punches it in the mouth! How is this guy still alive?
Anyway, we’re back with Wildcat. GL and the Flash show up and tell him he has to come with them, right now. So he does.
Page 31 – Mr. America also needs a shave. He’s brooding about his dead family, who still don’t have names. He’s waiting for the person who hired the dipshit supervillain to kill them to show up. The person shows up. We don’t get to see who it is. Yay.
Page 32 – Maxine shows up at the new JSA HQ. Did someone blow up the old JSA HQ? I guess this is more stuff we aren’t supposed to know about yet. Obsidian is the new JSA security guard! Um… okay, well, I hope he makes more than minimum wage.
Page 33 – It’s the new JSA! Well, about half of them. The other half we don’t get to see because 38 pages of story still isn’t enough for DC’s best writer to actually introduce everybody pictured on the goddam cover, or even tell us the names of everybody he did manage to shoe horn in. I don’t know. Maybe if we didn’t spend like half the issue on the adventures of a non member who is going to apparently die on page 30, a half dozen more pages at a shot on pointless fist fights and crazy superhero introductions featuring nameless hot psychiatrist babes, 3 single page splashes, and 4 double page spreads, Johns could squeeze in some actual story about the actual fucking team that the actual fucking comic is about . But, maybe not. Maybe I’m just kidding myself.
Page 34 – It’s all coming together. A badly battered, bleeding, probably (hopefully) dying Mr. America is vaulting across rooftops like nobody’s business in his torn, bloody costume, trying desperately to get somewhere so he can warn someone that he was only the beginning. Wildcat, GL, and the Flash are hurry-hurry-hurrying somewhere else. The various other JLA members are chit chatting.
Page 35 – Mr. America is falling towards someone’s skylight. It can’t be the JSA’s skylight, because then Obsidian would be kicking his ass for trespassing without the proper identification. But maybe Obsidian is watching Breaking Bonaducci, I don’t know. God knows it would beat reading this thing. Anyway. GL and Wildcat and the Flash see some young kid walking out of tenement. Mr. America falls through the skylight. Who’s that, Wildcat wonders?
Page 36 – Hey, it’s a double paged spread. The mystery kid lights up a cigarette. Somebody – we don’t know who, and honestly, who cares, really, right? – says from off panel “His name is Tom”. Then, Mr. America falls bleeding and hopefully dead into the middle of the JSA conference table! Whoa! Shocker! Never seen anything like that before! Guess Obsidian is sleeping on the job after all. And, finally, somebody from off panel – again, we don’t know who, and again, who really cares; I mean, it’s not like it’s important that we know who actually speaks what dialogue, it’s not like that would be good writing or anything -- advises Wildcat “He’s your son.” OH! BURN! Get it? Wildcat’s son’s name is Tom? Tom… Cat? ROFLMAO!!!! Jesus, that’s funny! I mean, OMG!!!!
Then there’s a house ad. Because we wouldn’t want to sacrifice a house ad to an extra page of story in a $4 comic, no way.
Then there’s a ‘Coming This Year In JSA!’ page. Four panels. One has the new Sandman who looks like the old Sandman! Yay! The next one is part of the head fake about the new Starman. No way. The third one is pretty clearly a hoax, a dream, or an Imaginary Story. (What was the middle thing…?) The fourth one features Kingdom Come Superman, which is horrible, horrible, but… well, no, it’s just horrible, horrible, and that is all.
So, what do we end up with for our four dollars? 38 pages in which nothing much happens except some guy we don’t know gets his entire family killed, beats up a crappy supervillain, and gets his ass kicked; plus, some other guy I couldn’t care less about wearing Atom Smasher’s costume beats up on some dumbass bad guy I’ve never heard of before for no reason that is ever explained to us. Some other guy I couldn’t care less about rescues some chick I don’t know from a helicopter crash, then flies through a plate glass window on his way back to the nuthouse where he lives. And in between all these riveting action sequences featuring characters I don’t know and wish were dead or at least being published by Dark Horse so I wouldn’t have to trouble myself with them, doing inexplicable things for no clearly or even vaguely articulated reason, the remainder of a very large cast essentially stands around exchanging wry quips with each other while the men flex and the women swoon.
So, we have mass slaughter of nameless non-supporting characters, mindless violence, mindless chick rescuing, blather blather blather blather blather, and a double cliffhanger ending we can hardly bring ourselves to care about because none of the characters involved in it have managed to rise above two dimensional status for the entire preceding 38 pages.
But, hey, there’s hope – next issue, we might actually get to see the three characters on the cover who didn’t even manage to make it into this installment. Yay!
Plus, Kingdom Come Superman! ::ralf::