Archive for the ‘Regular Features’ Category
Look, baby, we know we’ve been distant lately. It’s just that, well, things looked like they were starting to get a bit stale. You know how we are! We had to go out! “Sow our wild oats” or whatever the expression is! But we realized that, after all that, the only place we really wanted to be was with you. So, internet, will you take us back? Will you forgive us for our… Ah, jeez, what do you call it… Wanderlust?
You DO? Aw, internet, you’ve made us the happiest blog in the world!
So, what exactly have we been up to since whenever the hell we last posted? Aside from constantly watching Spider-Man: The ’67 Collection and suffering from Flashpoint and Fear Itself-induced not-giving-a-shit, not a whole hell of a lot. Seriously, we didn’t even end up making it to SDCC this year or anything (I’m gonna go ahead and blame the cast of Glee and Hall H, which seems like the internet’s excuse du jour).
Basically, expect semi-regular posts picking back up within the next couple days or so… If I feel like it.
Who’s Phyllis? None of the credits help. Maybe somebody’s mother or girlfriend? I do love a good mystery. If any readers know about this Easter Egg I’d love to know.
In 1977, Marvel came up with a pretty fantastical (and most likely drug-induced) idea. Comic books are always talking about their multiverses, where somebody at some point did something drastically different and changed that universe’s reality forever. Essentially, the writers wanted to nerd out and ask the big, cringe-worthy-fan-fiction-inducing question: “What if?”
With Uatu the Watcher playing narrator, the writers told tales of what might have been which, considering the breadth of what could be asked with this concept, had a tone that ranged anywhere from goddamn ridiculous to downright grim. Even so, it seems like a huge chunk of issues were dedicated to what would happen if Character X had/had not killed Character Y. Over the years there have been two regular volumes (followed by many, many series of one-shots, most being event tie-ins), a parody series titled What the–?!, and (although they’d probably deny it outright) inspired the DC Comics Elseworlds imprint.
Considering the almost 200 issues of the series, most of which are pretty terrible (I think there’s a reason nobody who wrote any of the 90′s What If? issues were ever heard from again), it’s hard to figure out what’s actually decent. Man, good thing you got me here to force my opinion on you. TOP FIVE TIME, Y’ALL.
7. What If? Vol 1 #10 (…Jane Foster Had Found the Hammer of Thor?) – Originally, in Journey Into Mystery #83 Donald Blake went on vacation to Norway by himself. Here, he instead takes Jane Foster and she’s with him when he gets attacked by those weird aliens from Saturn. She beats him to finding Mjolnir and transforms into Thordis (which, considering that who Donald Blake is has no bearing on who Thor is, makes no sense). She goes around fighting Loki and more aliens in typical Thor fashion. While Thordis is off creating the Avengers, Blake saves the drowning Sif and falls in love with her. Odin realizes that this is all wrong and gives Mjolnir it to Donald, turning him into Thor. And then this gets all daytime soap opera on us. Poor Jane is now crazy-bummed, losing both the powers of Mjolnir and the man she loves to the Asgardians. Odin decides to fix this by granting Jane goddess status and marrying her, making Jane Foster the stepmother to the man she used to love (seriously, that’s like Lois Lane ending up boning Pa Kent). Yeah, gross.
6. What If? Vol 1 #13 (…Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth Today?) – Okay, I’ll admit that the only stuff I know about Robert E. Howard’s Conan franchise I learned from that movie where he punches a camel in the face (in other words, I don’t know jack shit). There are three things that make this issue of What If? great to me. First, Roy Thomas and John Buscema, the regular writer and artist on the more mature Savage Sword of Conan title, handle this issue. Second, everybody in the present either mistakes Conan for Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger (a full four years before the movie, mind you). And lastly, Conan spends his one day in the present beating the shit out of a lady cab driver’s car with his sword, immediately going back to her apartment and fucking her, and foiling an art heist at the Guggenheim. That’s one hell of a day, Conan.
5. What If? Vol 2 #24 (…Wolverine Was Lord of the Vampires?) – Most of the second volume of What If? is just so terribly, terribly 90′s. Every issue seems to either deal with Wolverine or the Punisher and, well, this issue is pretty much about both of ‘em. During the fight with Count Dracula from Uncanny X-Men #159, Dracula ends up biting Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, and Colossus who go out and start turning all of the heroes and villains into vampires. Realizing that Doctor Strange is the only one who has the power to stop his horde, Wolverine sets out to kill him and succeeds. Apparently death doesn’t really stall Strange, whose spirit launches Plan B: possessing Frank Castle, giving him the Eye of Agamotto and Cloak of Levitation, and going crazy with garlic grenades and a Super Soaker full of Holy Water. To top off the ridiculousness, this issue got it’s own What If? treatment 13 issues later in the story “…Wolverine Was Lord of the Vampires During Inferno?”
4. What If? Vol 1 #26 (…Captain America Had Been Elected President?) – In Captain America #250, the New Populist Party offered Cap the chance to run for president as a third party candidate and he declined. But what if he’d have run against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election and won? After Cap reveals his secret identity to the world, President Rogers spearheads a massive movement to replace America’s dependency on foreign oil with solar power. He then supplies solar powered weapons to the some revolutionaries in the South American country of San Pedro, hoping to free them from some oppression or whatever. After accepting an invitation by the revolutionaries, it is revealed that their leader is actually Red Skull, who has hacked into the solar energy collecting satellites and turned them into giant laser beams. Cap manages to smash the Red Skull’s controls causing the laser beams to blow them both to bits. Okay, yeah, Captain America’s dead, but look on the bright side! In this reality there was never a President Reagan!
3. What If Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers? #1 – Now, this one is just terribly depressing. With Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, the men behind ALIAS, handling this issue you know it’s gonna be good. Following her horrific eight months as a slave to the Purple Man, Jessica Jones is asked to join the Avengers, to which she agrees. Rather than working for The Daily Bugle and having a child out of wedlock with Luke Cage, Jessica winds up marrying Captain America and bringing Wanda’s mental breakdown to light before House of M can ever happen. However, what really makes this story great is that instead of being narrated by Uatu, those duties are given to Bendis himself, drawn conversing with a random patron at a diner in New York City while a forlorn looking Jessica Jones dines behind them.
2. What If? Vol 1 #14 (…Sgt. Fury Fought World War Two in Outer Space?) – In this dimension, it turns out that Leonardo DaVinci’s flying machine actually worked and, therefore, humans were waaay more advanced in the field of flight by the time 1941 rolled around. December 7, 1941, Space Station Pearl is attacked by a bunch of kamikaze lizard men. Later on, Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan host a conference in the Space Station Midway where it turns out that Baron Strucker has been the admiral of the fleet of space stations the whole time, trying to promote Space Nazism while working with the lizard men. It’s cool though, because Sgt. Fury gets rid of Strucker the same way every badguy in any fight on a spaceship has died: getting flushed out of an airlock. The best part of the story has to be the tagline on the cover: “First Star Wars– Then Battlestar Galactica– And now!!!”
1. What If? Vol 1 #11 (…The Original Marvel Bullpen Had Become the Fantastic Four?) – This is by far one of the goofiest issues of any comic I’ve ever seen, made even stranger considering it was written and drawn by Jack Kirby. A mysterious box shows up at the door of Marvel HQ and is opened by Stan Lee, believing it to be a box of cigars. Instead, it’s a small gamma bomb that douses the whole of the staff with radiation, giving Stan super-stretchy powers, Kirby the rocky skin of the Thing, Sol Brodsky the ability to control fire and fly, and Flo Steinberg (at the time Stan Lee’s secretary, later publisher of Big Apple Comix) the powers of invisiblity. After finding another of the boxes, the foursome meets Namor and discover that the boxes were planted by the Skrulls who plan to take over the world from their new undersea base. Kirby and Namor punch a hole in the base’s hull, defeat the Skrulls, and THE END. So, I guess the big question is how the hell did Jack Kirby draw this with those new big, orange sausage-fingers of his?
Hello, Readers! Jonny here.
In my many readings and explorings of the Information Super Highway (that’s the Internet to you “Web2.0” Kiddies) I discovered a Golden Age gem from January 1941 called “The Red Comet” that was published in Fiction House’s Planet Comics.
Planet Comics started in January of 1940 as a monthly magazine collecting, as did most comics of the time, several stories by many authors and artists. Though detectives and superheroes were all the rage in ‘41, Planet Comics catered to a slightly different niche with space odysseys. Known for stories with strong female characters and Good Girl Art, it seems Planet Comics was destined to become the sort of thing collectors drool over and popular culture forgets.
Anyone who follows my infrequent posts knows I have a soft spot for the Golden Age, but for all my love I cannot deny this stuff is crude. Imagine my surprise when I found “The Red Comet” by Arthur King (which may or may not be a pseudonym for Cy Thatcher, Rudy Pallais, and Alex Blum). All of the basic pitfalls of the Golden Age are here and yet there was something more. A lot more.
Within the pages of Planet Comics #10 I found a story that was probably intended to be heroic fantasy, yet ended up written and drawn as one of the most gorgeously Philip K. Dick-style dystopian stories I’ve read in a comic. I can only assume this wonderful transformation was due to the author’s own classist world-view and the three color limit placed on an artist with a remarkable eye for action. If you can, I strongly recommend finding your own copy of Planet Comics #10. If not, I will recap below.
Our story begins as the Red Comet himself bears witness to a landmark in science: the reanimation of a corpse. As a panel of probably-important-people and the Red Comet watch, the body of Tony Scaro is reanimated and “birthed” from the cold womb of a machine. The naked Tony awakes in a strange room. Confused, he asks for clothing.
Now, if I were the Red Comet or a scientist in Future Earth, this would be the part where I rush up to Tony Scaro and say something like, “Welcome to the future! It’s totally awesome here and you’re invited to join us in our perfect society! Enjoy this complementary Future Robe!” Instead this is where the comic starts to get effed up. Rather than addressing Tony directly and welcoming him to his new life in the future, the Red Comet towers above him in demigod-like form and announces Tony is a “low type” from the 20th century.
The scientists – still refraining from actually talking to Tony who has been dead for possibly hundreds of years and has no idea what the hell is happening – decide he will be permitted to “wander where he pleases” but will remain under close observation. For God only knows how long, Tony wanders Future Earth alone, all but naked, and under constant surveillance by unseen forces. Not surprisingly, this wears on Tony and he begins to long for his previous life and friends.
Coinciding with a break in surveillance, Tony commandeers a space ship and heads to Jupiter because, well, why the hell not? Apparently a good space-pilot, Tony lands on Jupiter and is brought before its dictator: a man most ominously named Kil. We can only assume that Tony is the first Earth person in ages to land on Jupiter, because Kil decides to inform Tony of his plans to go to war with Saturn. He then requests that Tony kill statesmen on Earth because that will get Earth to ally with Jupiter against Saturn for some reason. Tony jumps at the idea, and at this point I can’t say I blame him.
Back on Earth (and I’m guessing a few weeks later), the population starts to freak out as many prominent statesmen are murdered. Finally, the Red Comet shows up to announce that he’s discovered more info on Tony Scaro’s past and it turns out Tony was a notorious murderer in his day.
So far in the story I was totally on Team Tony in his rampage against the elitist Future Earth society that would so callously bring a man back to life and then send him naked into the wild after deeming him of inferior social status. Upon learning Tony’s brutal past I started to find him less sympathetic. Then I remembered: THEY DIDN’T KNOW HIS MURDEROUS PAST WHEN THEY FIRST CAST HIM OUT.
Damn, the future is full of dicks.
Receiving a tip from one of Kil’s inside men (wait, if he had insiders in the Earth government already why did he inform the random, naked mystery man from space of his plot? Anyway…) Tony steals another ship and makes for Jupiter with the Red Comet in hot pursuit. This time Kil is less enthusiastic and starts shooting at Tony, fearing that he’ll lead Earth’s forces to Saturn.
Crash landing on one of Saturn’s moons, a fierce battle ensues between Tony and the Red Comet.
Here is where my sympathy for Tony and my hatred for the Red Comet was nearly at full pitch. After winning the battle, Red Comet heads for Jupiter to find out why they were so quick to shoot at Tony. Please remember that Red Comet knows absolutely nothing of Kil’s plan. That becomes especially important when – without talking to anyone on the planet first – he grows to a giant size and single-handedly destroys Jupiter’s fleet that is sent to meet the invading Earth super-being.
Seriously, this guy is a twat.
Back on earth, Red Comet and the scientists decide that Tony Scaro’s violent 20th century ways are incompatible with the awesome Future ways and decide to put him in stasis forever. For this feat of heroism and benevolence the population of Earth praises the Red Comet.
As I said, I’m pretty sure all this horror and dystopia was unintentional. I think we were supposed to be cheering for Red Comet as he fought the murderous Tony Scaro and destroyed the fleets of wicked Kil. But as I read Planet Comics #10 all I felt was horror at the elitist disregard for humanity displayed by the supposedly advanced people of Future Earth. This was probably greatly assisted by the fact that we know and see so little of Red Comet. He only enters the story when somebody’s ass needs kicking which makes him come off as some sort of Gestapo henchmen for Fascists yet to come. This coupled with truly astounding artwork made for a supremely (if inadvertently) enjoyable read. I know I’ve made light of this comic, but again I must emphasize that I was totally enraptured as I read it and I must insist that anyone who enjoys Golden Age stories find a copy of Planet Comics.
Until next time, happy readings!
It’s December, and we all know what that means. STUPID OVERPRICED CHRISTMAS COMICS! And with the random holiday specials comes the totally awkward stories where Santa rolls around with your favorite superheroes. They’re generally throwaway stories that nobody buys and, well, really hold no bearing on continuity. So what’s the point? Well, occasionally, you strike gold. SO MUCH GOLD. Here are my top five Santa Claus comic cameos. And, um, apologies to your childhood.
(5) Bloom County: In 1981, PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) went on strike demanding better wages and a shorter work week, prompting Ronald Reagan to fire and/or imprison over half of them. Apparently, Santa’s elves were inspired. In newspaper comic Bloom County (dated 12/15/81 – 12/24/81), after Santa rejects the demands of PETCO (Professional Elves Toy-Making and Craft Organization) for higher wages, a hot tub in the locker room, and “short broads,” the elves go on strike. Once again, Reagan steps in, fires all of Santa’s helpers, and replaces them with out-of-work air traffic controllers. Yeah, it’s dated political humor, but it’s still pretty fucking funny.
(4) The Special Edition Warrior Winter Wonderland Pin-Up Book: After getting fired from the WWF in mid-1996, the Ultimate Warrior didn’t have much. How the hell was he supposed to make money as a ranting, painted idiot if he wasn’t on TV? Enter his company, Ultimate Creations, and its terrible pseudo-philosophical 4-issue comic series, Warrior, written by the Warrior himself. After it’s cancellation, Ultimate Creations decided to release one last book, The Special Edition Warrior Winter Wonderland Pin-Up Book. Good lord, is this thing bizarre. Essentially, it’s two pages of Warrior-style rambling (“nobody fucks with a Santa savior”) followed by page after page of your least favorite 90′s artists drawing the Ultimate Warrior in Santa garb (including a Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover). This book is most infamous for it’s final pin-up by Jim Callahan of the Ultimate Warrior putting on Santa’s pants while a half-naked Saint Nick lies passed out next to a bottle of whiskey with… Wait. Holy shit, what is that splattered across Santa’s chest?
(3) Sandman #7 (er, sort of): To be fair, this story almost never even was. Originally slated to be Sandman #7, the series got cancelled just after the release of #6. Then, this story was supposed to end up as the second half of Kamandi #61, except that series got cancelled after the release of issue #59. Finally, this story was released in 1978′s legendary black-and-white photocopied Cancelled Comics Cavalcade #2, a full two years after the last Sandman story was published.
Anyways, yeah. The Silver Age Sandman’s best pal, Jed Walker (the Earth-1 counterpart of Kamandi), has been challenged to prove to Titus Gotrox, an old millionaire, that Santa is real. If he succeeds, the man will donate $1,000,000 to charity in Jed’s name. With the help of Sandman, Jed is whisked away to the Dream Stream to meet Santa. Unfortunately, the old man’s nephew, Rodney, doesn’t want to get screwed out of a million busks worth of inheritance and follows. Upon arrival, Sandman discovers that Santa has been kidnapped by the Seal-Men, a race of half-seal/half-human creatures, who are pissed off that Santa gave them gloves for Christmas the previous year, even though their race has flippers. Santa says “sorry” and everything is fixed (that was easy). They get back to Santa’s workshop to discover Rodney pointing a gun at Mrs. Claus. Sandman hits him with some sleep dust (that was also easy) and everybody goes home.
(2) Hellblazer #247: I know that John Constantine isn’t one to shy away from trying a new drug, but this is just fucking weird. In October 2008′s Hellblazer #247, while attempting to prevent a cannibalistic mystic named Mako from obtaining some super-evil artifact called the Hell Mirror, Constantine travels to Bari, Italy, breaks into the Basilica di San Nichola, digs up the skeletal remains of ol’ Saint Nick, and has it ground into bone meal. After using the ground up icon in some weird thaumaturgical incantation ritual, he decides to hang onto it for a bit. And when he gets back to his apartment, what does he decide to do with the Santa dust? Same thing you or I would do, obviously. Roll up a Coca-Cola advertisement, snort Saint Nick like cocaine, and make the obligatory “white Christmas” joke! Classy, Andy Diggle. Classy.
(1) The Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special: As much as I love Keith Giffen, I can’t stand the Lobo character. Even so, when I discovered he had a Christmas-themed one-shot in 1991, my morbid curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out. Good god. Lobo is hired by the Easter Bunny to assassinate Kris “Crusher” Kringle after all of the holiday mascots decide that Christmas is overshadowing their respective holidays. Lobo takes the job and books it to the North Pole, only to be attacked by the elves. After they are all massacred by “The Naughtiest One,” he faces Santa (armed with a pair of razor sharp shivs) and his gorilla sidekick, Kong. Lobo ends up decapitating Santa, shooting Rudolph (who is apparently a mutant now), and is about to leave when he discovers Santa’s list. The comic then ends with Lobo dropping atomic bombs down the chimneys of everybody labeled “nice.”
Normally I wouldn’t give a number one spot to something that’s just so, well, 90s. But this gets better. In 2002, some guy named Scott Leberecht, a student working on a project for his American Film Institute director’s studies program, decided to do a $2,400 live-action adaptation of this comic starring Butterfinger from Hudson Hawk and the guy who voices Shikamaru on Naruto. And, fuck, it is horrible. How horrible you ask?
BEHOLD! THE LIVE-ACTION LOBO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL STUDENT FILM!
Much like the old characters from Charlton, Fawcett, Milestone, and MLJ Comics, DC has recently acquired the full rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents team and is folding them into the DCU in their own title. Before I get into a review of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, however, I should probably tell you a bit about their extremely convoluted history.
Created by artist Wally Wood, the team originally appeared in November 1965′s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 published by Tower Comics. For a while the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. (acronym for The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves) Agents consisted of NoMan, Dynamo, Lightning, and Menthor, four heroes who were given powers by an invisibility cloak, a strength-enhancing belt, a speedster suit, and a telepathy helmet respectively. Only problem was that the power-granting items also slowly killed their users. Other heroes came and went (like Sea Devils rip-off sister team, U.N.D.E.R.S.E.A. Agents) before the series ended at issue #20 and Tower Comics folded.
For years, the team remained dormant (aside from a British publisher, L. Miller & Son, Ltd., reprinting the original issues in black and white sometime during the mid-70s) until John Carbonaro bought the rights in 1983 and planned on rebooting the series (with the aid of David Singer) on his own JC Comics. Unfortunately, he and Singer had a serious falling out and Carbonaro only got as far as two issues before JC Comics fell through. That same year, Texas Comics released Justice Machine Annual #1, the only issue they ever produced, which featured a team-up story between the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and their in-house superhero team, the Justice Machine.
In 1984, Singer and Deluxe Comics claimed that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were now in public domain (bullshit!) and began releasing a series under the name Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents with a fantastic line-up of artists including George Pérez, Steve Ditko, Keith Giffen, and Jerry Ordway. Unfortunately for him, Carbonaro still owned the rights and sued the shit out of Singer and Deluxe Comics, ultimately winning the suit and putting them out of business in 1986.
In 1987, Gary Brodsky, son of Marvel legend Sol Brodsky, attempted to release a four-issue black-and-white limited series through his own Solson (Sol’s Son, get it?!) Publications. One issue was released before the company went belly-up (probably because most of their books were either right-wing propaganda or anti-feminist screeds). FUN FACT: Following the demise of Solson Publications, Gary decided to make a series of videos teaching guys how to pick up women with titles like “Alpha Up and Rock Her World” and “How to Be a Prick Women Love.” Seriously. Look at his fucking website.
Rumor has it that in the 1990′s Rob Liefeld claimed the rights to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and wanted Dave Cockrum to release a series on Liefeld’s Extreme Studios before it fell through. If that’s true, it’s a bit strange considering that Carbonaro still owned the rights to the superhero team, going so far as releasing a final story in 1995 in Penthouse Comix’s (yup, that Penthouse) OMNI Comics #3.
Finally, some time during the early 2000′s, Carbonaro and DC Comics struck a deal and a DCU T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book was in the works. Well, it would have been, except Carbonaro shot down every idea DC presented to him. See, DC really wanted to shake things up for the team while Carbonaro decided that nobody from the original team should die (despite the fact that the whole point of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was that their powers would ultimately kill them). Aside from a few DC Archive hardcovers and a couple of statues, nothing really came of it.
On February 25, 2009, John Carbonaro died. July 2009, DC Comics announced at SDCC that they were moving forward with a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents book. Yesterday, it came out.
So, how is it?
Written by Nick Spencer (Shuddertown, Existence 2.0), T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 tells the story of the United Nations scrambling to replace the recently deceased Lightning and Dynamo following a trap set by S.P.I.D.E.R. (the villains from the original Tower Comics run). Without explaining too much about the original team, it sets up the premise that the original NoMan and the new replacement members must save Raven (another Tower Comics character) from S.P.I.D.E.R. It’s surprisingly engaging, considering that the team hasn’t had a proper canon story since the 80′s outside of Penthouse (man, how I wish I were joking). As odd as it sounds, the book does a good job establishing the team without giving the its members a proper introduction, instead focusing on the staff behind the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (so, I guess whatever “The Higher United Nations” is). Plus, the art by the single-named duo of CAFU (Vixen: Return of the Lion) and BIT (Batman and the Outsiders) is pretty damned good (if you can overlook the fact that everybody looks like they’re wearing crazy amounts of eyeliner).
Here’s hoping that where the Red Circle books kind of petered out, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents can take a seat next to the rest of the DC Comics greats.
Right around the transition from the Silver Age to the Bronze Age, comics loved to start getting into some real serious shit, both in regular series and non-canon PSA comics presented by third party organizations. Marvel cranked out more of these than anybody so a crazy amount of these involved your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. A lot of these PSA comics managed to score some industry greats too, what with Danny Fingeroth telling us about epilepsy awareness, Bill Rosemann getting kids to respect power tools, and Howard Mackie and Al Milgrom warning us about proper tooth brushing habits (yeah, all of these are real books).
But forget those stories. This is far and away my favorite of all the bizarre Spider-Man PSAs, Spider-Man Vs. The Prodigy, in which he faces his most heinous villain yet: teenage boners!
In 1976, Planed Parenthood decided that there were way too many kids running around, fucking the bejeezus out of one another. One call to Marvel later and we end up with one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read, written by Ann Robinson (who I’m pretty sure wasn’t normally a writer, but the lady in charge of Marvel’s licensing) and penciled by the legendary Ross Andru.
Our PSA starts with Spider-Man climbing the Pan Am building and talking smack on Dr. J when he notices a bunch of teenagers filing into a helicopter. Immediately, Spider-Man gets suspicious. These kids don’t look upper class and look more like “they should be home listening to their new Henry Gross albums.” It’s worth noting that Ann Robinson was married to record producer Tommy West, the guy who produced Henry Gross’ albums around this time. Promoting your husbands’ albums in a quip made by Spider-Man in a free book distributed to kids by Planned Parenthood? Classy!
We cut to a giant mansion where a space alien from the planet Intellectia monologues about his plan to get on national television and use his “magnetic monotone” (according to the caption, his spaceship has shitty shields and the radiation absorbed while passing through the Earth’s ionosphere caused him to get the power to have a persuasive sounding voice) to brainwash America’s youth into making “stupid mistakes.” And what is his plan? Telling them to fuck, kidnapping the babies, and taking them back to Intellectia for child labor!
Back at the Pan Am building, Spidey decides to attach himself to the helicopter and hitch a ride to wherever it’s going. Of course, it ends up at the mansion. As soon as the helicopter lands, the kids are ushered into a classroom where the alien begins teaching them that grown-ups tell them to wait to have sex because they secretly don’t want kids to have a good time. He then tells the kids that unprotected wanton sex is the only way for a teenage boy to “prove hes a man.” And when hes questioned by some of the kids about how that goes against everything their sex ed teachers said, he just replies that getting pregnant is good for you because it “Clears up acne.” After finding out about his upcoming appearance on national television, Spider-Man has heard enough. He makes a totally not-at-all dated Marcus Welby, M.D. joke and springs into action.
Well, Spider-Man doesn’t get far before he’s spotted by the machine gun-wielding guards who chase him onto the roof. Spider-Man crouches down and pretends to be a gargoyle (seriously) but that doesn’t work because the guards aren’t complete idiots. Spidey knocks them all out between panels and makes his way to the mansion’s private TV studio. He waits outside for the broadcast to start and then smashes the window and rips off the alien’s mask revealing to the world that he actually just kinda looks like a green Sinestro. After Spider-Man wags his finger at the alien for a couple panels, he decides that he needs to “end the power of the Prodigy” (the first time the alien is given a name) and shoots webbing down his throat. One thumbs up to the camera later and the story abruptly ends.
The last three pages of this 18 page book are dedicated to Spidey Facts about everything sex and advertisements for other Planned Parenthood literature with weird titles (what the hell is The Sex Alphabet?). Man, people in the 1970s believed some weird shit. My favorites are that “masturbation won’t make you insane” and that “doctors are both men and women and so are nurses.” You know what? Here. I’ll just show you that whole awkward page.
So, there you have it. The best of the worst of the Bronze Age Marvel comics PSAs. You know, for being as awkward and as terribly written as this book is, Ross Andru still seems to have given it his all. At least it has that going for it, right?
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Even if you’ve never read or seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, chances are pretty good you know about HAL 9000 and his shenanigans. Something you probably didn’t know, however, was that it apparently took place on Earth-616.
“What the hell are you talking about?” asked the entire Internet.
Well, from 1976 to 1982, Marvel would occasionally release comic book adaptations to TV shows and movies written and illustrated by some industry heavyweights under the banner “Marvel Treasury Special.” The first book to carry this banner was the 84-page 2001: A Space Odyssey, written and drawn by Jack Kirby (released a full 8 years after the film’s release).
In December 1976, Kirby began writing a ten-issue limited series also called 2001: A Space Odyssey which expanded on the story a bit. July 1997′s 2001: A Space Odyssey #8, tells the story of Dr. Oliver Broadhurst’s experiments regarding artificial life. After a bunch of his robots suffer existential crises and lash out, General Joeseph Kragg orders him to destroy the whole lot. Unbeknownst to him, fellow scientist Abel Stack has stolen robot X-51 (aka Aaron Stack aka Mister Machine aka Machine Man) and is in the process of removing his self-destruct mechanism when the flip is switched, killing Abel. The military shows up and captures X-51, but he is immediately freed and granted sentience by one of those big monolith things. The rest of the limited series is all about X-51 running away from Kragg’s men, ending in September 1977.
But Kirby wasn’t done yet. April 1978 saw the release of Machine Man #1, continuing the story of X-51 evading Kragg. In issue #4, Earth gets invaded by an alien robot named Ten-For (Kirby loved him some alien invasions) and X-51 jumps in and defeats him. Kragg decides that X-51 isn’t that bad a robot after all and, by the books cancellation with December 1978′s Machine Man #9, they were BFFs.
In April 1979′s Incredible Hulk Vol 1 #234, Hulk’s buddy Trish Star gets kidnapped by a bunch of thugs, one of which is wearing a purple jumpsuit. Since Hulk is a blathering idiot, he immediately sets out to fight X-51 (proving that everything up till now takes place on Earth-616). Incredible Hulk #235-237 are standard “Hulk vs. Hero X” fare (couple issues of fighting and then everybody walks away).
After the conclusion of that storyline, Marvel renewed the Machine Man series under Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko with August 1979′s Machine Man #10. Dr. Broadhurst attempts to repair the damage caused by Hulk and, in doing so, takes away all of X-51′s offensive weapons. Tom DeFalco took over for Marv Wolfman with issue #15 and immediately started integrating more Marvel characters into the title. The series ended with February 1981′s Machine Man #19 (which was also first appearance of Jack O’Lantern and had a pretty rad Frank Miller cover).
X-51 made a couple other appearances including Marvel Two-In-One #92-93, in which he falls in love with Jacosta juuuust in time for her to get blown up by Ultron. Later, in March 1983′s Invincible Iron Man Vol 1 #168. After Obediah Stane beats Iron Man in the previous issue, Tony Stark has gone back to drinking. Just as Tony reaches shit-faced levels of drunkenness, X-51 shows up to ask for help. Tony’s immediate reaction is suiting up and beating the crap out of X-51.
In January1988′s The Avengers Vol 1 #287, X-51 is told by Fixer that Jacosta will be resurrected if he fights against the Avengers alongside a bunch of other robots. Of course, Fixer is screwing with him, and by issue #290 he’s switched sides. Later, he helps out again in Avengers: West Coast #83 and becomes a reserve member.
Nothing really happens until Cable and Machine Man Annual 1998 and Bastion and Machine Man Annual 1998, in which he helps the X-Men fight Bastion and accidentally ends up full of Sentinel technology. In August 1999′s Uncanny X-Men #371, SHIELD agents capture Machine Man with the intention of using parts of him to create Deathlok. They do, but in X-Men Annual 1999, Red Skull attacks the SHIELD helicarrier housing Machine Man. He saves the day but is seemingly destroyed in the process.
He’s not. In September 1999′s X-51 #1, a federal agent named Jack Kubrick (subtle!) tries to beat the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in recovering X-51′s head. Mystique decapitates Kubrick, but his headless body picks up the head of X-51 and puts it on his own shoulders. He spends the next few issues fighting off the Hellfire Club, learning about his new powers (specifically, self-repairing nanobots), and dealing with the fact that the Sentinel technology gives him the urge to kill mutants. In X-51 #7, X-51 gets blown up in a gas station explosion and, when his nanobots piece him back together, he’s completely purged of Sentinel technology. The series ends with July 2000′s X-51 #12, where the Celestials (another Kirby creation) send down a big black monolith (full circle!) and whisk X-51 off into space.
He next pops up in March 2006′s phenomenal Nextwave: Agents of HATE #1, written by Warren Ellis. It is revealed that the Celestials didn’t actually take too kindly to X-51 (“You are total ☠☠☠☠”), and dump him back on Earth. Upon his return, he develops a cynical attitude towards humans and a taste for beer. joins up with Monica Rambeau, Tabitha Smith, Elsa Bloodstone, and Captain ☠☠☠☠ and battles their former boss, Dirk Anger, and his Broccoli Men.
In October 2007′s Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #18, he joins her new Initiative team, Operation: Lightning Storm, but that group disbanded in Ms. Marvel Vol 2 #27.
Aside from these appearances, Machine Man has popped up in some non-canon places. Aside from being the main protagonist of both Marvel Zombies 3 and Marvel Zombies 5, he also got a limited series in 1984 written by Tom DeFalco. It took place in an alternate future on Earth-8410 but,despite being extremely boring, was extremely popular.
So, yeah. From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Marvel Zombies. Everything you ever wanted to know about a character you never asked to know anything about.
If you wanted to get laid in the mid-60s, it was easy. All you needed was a Vespa, a fistful of amphetamines, and a firm grasp on all things British Invasion-y. DC Comics, in their infinite wisdom, decided to cash in on mod culture with Swing With Scooter, a book about Scooter, a Paul McCartney clone, quitting his band and moving to the U.S. to live life as a normal teenager. Plus, the book was written by Jack Miller (creator of Rip Hunter) and drawn by Joe Orlando, one of the greatest artists to ever work on Daredevil! There’s no way this could go wrong unless, oh, let’s say John Lennon claims the Beatles are “more popular than Jesus” thing and the British Invasion going belly up. So what is DC to do? How about replace Miller and Orlando with Henry Boltinoff and Henry Scarpelli and turn the whole damn thing into another fucking Archie clone? Perfect! Here’s November 1968′s Swing With Scooter #15 (a triple-feature!).
Well, before we get too far into this, I guess you should know who all Scooter’s friends are. Sylvester’s the klutz who overeats (Jughead?), Kenny’s the player (Reggie?), Penny’s the rich brunette who wants to fuck Scooter (Veronica?), Cookie’s the not rich girl who wants to fuck Scooter (Betty?), and Malibu’s the vampire (um, Morbius?). Yeah, one of these things is not like the others.
Anyways, our first story (titled “Will the REAL Princess Please Step Forward?”) starts out poolside at Penny’s place. She gets a letter that Koobla Kin, the sultan of oil-rich Salti-Arraba, and his daughter are coming to visit. Everybody is psyched about it (with the exception of Malibu, who’s pissed that Salti-Arraba isn’t a democratic country) and decides to welcome the sultan by being as culturally insensitive as possible. Donning some Arabian costumes, the gang heads outside in time to greet the sultan, Sherry (his Americanized daughter), and Prince Amid (the overweight douchebag oil tycoon the sultan’s forcing Sherry to marry). Let the stereotyped hijinx begin!
Later on, Sherry reveals to Scooter that she doesn’t want to marry Amid, instead pining for Nikel Oozee, the guitar player for some garage rock band. Since Scooter has to get involved with everything, he calls up Oozee who immediately writes a song for, runs away with, and marries Sherry (well, that was fucking easy). Of course, the second Sherry’s gone, Amid shows up asking for her. Scooter decides to deal with this in the weirdest way possible, dressing up in a harem costume and running around flirting with the prince. Of course, this dumbass plan is ruined when the prince rips off Scooters’ pants (hello, international incident).
Koobla Kin captures Scooter and the gang, telling them that he’s going to have them tortured and executed. Fortunately for them, Koobla’s adviser runs in to tell him that Amid’s 17 oil wells all dried up (at once?) and that he’s broke. Malibu tells the sultan that Oozee’s band just got their sixth gold record (who he didn’t mention this sooner, I’ll never know) and he’s rich as fuck. In celebration, the sultan decides the kids won’t get brutally murdered, and runs off to drum for Oozee. A-yup.
Our second story, “Lover, Lover, Run for Cover,” is pretty much the same joke over and over again for about six pages (at least it’s Joe Orlando’s art again). Kenny wants to fuck some new girl in town named Ginger. Not having it, the gang and Ginger decide that he’s due for a good old0fashioned cockblocking. They go back to her place where Scooter and Cookie lie in wait, disguised as her parents. They run away, but Ginger wants to look at some house for sale. The real estate agent (Sylvester in disguises) mentions marriage and, once again, they run away. They decide to get a soda and head to a local diner, where the gang’s set up a wedding rehearsal. It just so happens, Ginger’s pro-wrestler brother, Ferdinand, is there as well. Kenny insults Ferdinand who then jumps on the back of Kenny’s Vespa and the story just kinda ends there. Moral of this story: Scooter and his friends are dicks.
Story three! “Sink or Swim!” Scooter and Penny come home from a school and discovers that his Aunt Hatta bought a elephant-shaped vase thing. Because this is an Archie rip-off, it is promptly smashed. They run to the local shop to buy a replacement but, much to their dismay, the shopkeeper says it’s “very rare” (despite having a ton under the counter) and wants $80. Since Scooter apparently spent all his rock star money on blow, he’s broke. Fortunately, Penny’s dad, J.P. Moneybucks (subtle) has a job opening as a lifeguard on his private beach. After flat out refusing, he gives him the job anyways. Problem solved!
Or so you’d think. For no real reason, Sylvester and Malibu decide to get him fired by throwing a fake shark in the water and pretending they need rescuing (how that’d get him fired, I don’t know). Before they have the chance, Moneybucks finds the fake shark and confiscates it.
Meanwhile, back on the beach, Penny is putting the moves on Scooter and Cookie is jealous. She decides to get his attention by pulling a Sandlot and pretending to drown. As soon as she gets out in the water, though, a shark fin pops up. For some reason, Scooter assumes it’s the fake shark that nobody had yet mentioned to him and he rushes out to “make like Aquaman.” He punches the shark in the head and brings Cookie to shore just in time to see Moneybucks walk up with the fake shark. For some reason, Moneybucks just gives him the $80 and fires him. Scooter and Penny go out, buy the vase, and set it back up just in time for Aunt Hatta to talk about how ugly it is and throw it in the trash. Cue this sound clip.
So, yeah, even after the Archie-fication of Swing With Scooter the book lasted until issue #36. And it’s not like DC didn’t know what they were doing, Scarpelli had all ready been doing some more-cartoonish style work in books like DC’s own Stanley and His Monster and Dell’s Bewitched and Beverly Hillbillies books. Funny thing is, before Swing With Scooter, he’d only done one Archie story, a one-page in February 1968′s Archie’s Pals ‘N’ Gals #44. It wasn’t really until around 1987 that he really started working with the Riverdale crowd, including the cover for 1994′s bizarre Archie Meets the Punisher crossover (hell yeah, I did my research). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to listen to The Kinks and read way, way too much Jean-Paul Sartre.
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“Fans come to me asking how this works or that works, and I say, ‘It’s a comic book. It’s not real.’ We already have a real world, why do you want fiction to be like that too?”
- Grant Morrison, 2010
Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Golden Age comics. I know there aren’t many of my generation who appreciate this stuff, and I’m positive I don’t “get it” the way my grandparents did, but the mixture of innocence, desperation, and humanity I find in these old stories is quite compelling.
When my generation imagines old comics we think of Super Friends, but for all its glitter the times of the Golden Age were rather bleak. Thanks to Captain America and Wonder Woman we think the heroes of that first era were framed against the backdrop of WWII. This is not true. While it is true that Superman, Batman, and others came to stand for the American Way their personae were not forged in flames of war, but in the embers of Depression.
“We can do it!” Rosie the Riveter said that for the first time in 1942. Superman debuted in 1938. We met Batman, Namor, and the Human Torch in 1939. Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and the Spirit first appeared in 1940 alongside most of the Golden Age crew. Wonder Woman is the only major character to appear after Pearl Harbor, and she also joins Steve Rogers in color coordination. All of these heroes were born into an era scarred by record unemployment and rising crime as the country completed a full decade of economic depression.
People were starting to lose hope and this, my friends, is the world Superman needed to save.
Something I love about the early days of superheroes is the lack of super-villains. Oh, sure there were a few notable bad guys like the Joker and Wotan, but on the whole super-villains were exceptions to the norm of mob bosses, corrupt officials, and street thugs. This is what I meant when I said the Golden Age comics were desperate. America thought the problems of everyday life were bad enough to need heroes.
This reveals a real sense of hopelessness deep in the psyche of that generation. Rampant unemployment. Gang violence on the rise and crime organizing like never before. Times were desperate, and the Common Man felt he was quickly losing his place in the day-to-day life of America.
See, creators like Rob Kanigher and Len Wein saw comics as fantastical tales to thrill an audience with absurdity and bizarre scenarios. Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger, C. C. Beck, and Mart Dellon saw comics as a cathartic escape from the harsh reality of violence, corruption, and black-mail.
They saw comics as a weird mixture of hope and escape.
Never mind the crude drawings and clumsy dialogue. The heroes idolized by my grandfather didn’t need to fight aliens to have meaning. Superman was great because he could stop a lynching. We believed in the Green Lantern because he could expose a mob-boss who had framed an innocent man. These heroes didn’t protect us from the unknown; what they brought was hope in the face of something very real and immediate. Put another way, the Golden Age offered escape from reality simply by solving the problems of poor Americans. I cannot imagine anything sadder or more exhilarating. So, while 1938-1950 may not have produced the best art or the most clever prose, America has arguably never seen comics that had more meaning. And that is enough to make a Golden Age.
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