Posts Tagged ‘Marvel Comics’
Today’s post gives me the opportunity to introduce a new category for Bronze Age comics I’ve called: “Love for the Bronzer”.
You may not realize this, but Dr. Strange and the Man-Thing have have something in common: murderous Christians hate them.
I suppose in Strange’s case it makes a bit of sense. Since the Julio Claudian dynasty, paganism and Christianity have butted heads. Add a little Constantinian conversion, a bit of Julianian conservatism, and you’ve got a recipe that has left polytheism and monotheism standing on opposite sides of the Deity Dance Floor glaring one at the other for the last 2000 years. So when Marvel debuted their protagonist of polytheistic persuasion in Strange Tales #110, it was only a matter of time before Christianity took a stab at him, and in 1974 that’s exactly what it did. Enter the Silver Dagger, a knife-dipped-in-holy-water wielding ex-Cardinal who left the Church after being denied the Papacy. What was Dagger’s next move? Why, he became a sorcerer and took to killing off all practitioners of the mystic arts, of course!
And so it was that in Doctor Strange#1 this occult antagonist set his sights on Stephen Strange and the Sorcerer Supreme’s bombshell apprentice Clea. After three issues of fabulous story and gorgeous art the murderous mage was finally banished to unreality forever. Hooray!
What is a bit more – well – strange, is that exact same year the Man-Thing faced a similar foe. Man-Thing #s 3 & 4 featured the less poetically named Foolkiller as he attempted to rid the earth of fools and sinners with his Yahweh-bequeathed Purification gun. Foolkiller was a lost soul who got picked up in that hippie Christian Jesus Movement and found peace at last. Unfortunately, that peace was shattered when he walked in on his pastor getting drunk with some floozy. After being told to take life less seriously the Foolkiller went berserk, strangled the preacher, preserved his corpse in a shrine, received a laser gun from God (for some reason God armed this guy), loaded his gun and his shrine in a van and took off across America killing all the “fools” along the way. On one of his death quests, Foolkiller’s plot is foiled by the unwitting Man-Thing and from that point on Foolkiller has a score to settle.
Unfortunately for both Foolkiller and the Man-Thing, this swamp monster can’t exactly be killed. Foolkiller goes about his business of trying to get the local radio station to stop playing “blasphemous” music and is ultimately killed during a fight with Man-Thing when the Dead Preacher Shrine falls over and a large shard of glass pierces Foolkiller’s heart.
I don’t know if there is any connection between these two stories. The Jesus Movement was all over the US, and Protestants and Catholics were really going at it in Ireland around this time, but that’s all I can think might have inspired these two stories such a short time from each other. In any case I still effing love the Bronze Age of Comics and I’ve learned just how dangerous a knife dipped in holy water or a God-sent laser blaster can be, so it’s a win/win for me. It’s been a long time since anybody did a “Reviews & Booze” write up, so I’m gonna go ahead and recommend some red wine for this one.
I was catching up on Crisis on Infinite Earths tonight when I noticed this lovely Easter Egg. As a big Trekkie, and a fan of The Wrath of Khan in particular, this panel made me very happy.
It’s worth noting that Marv Wolfman actually wrote the Marvel Super Special comic adaptation of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 and edited the first 20 issues of DC Comics’ Star Trek from 1984 to 1985 (and doing sporadic color work thereafter) while George Perez did the covers for the first three issues of the DC Comics run.
Speaking of Wolfman and Perez, don’t forget that The New Teen Titans Omnibus Volume 1 is out today! I’m broke, but green with envy over all you who purchase it (insert your own Beast Boy joke here).
I’m listening to Entombed’s “Wolverine Blues”, released in 1993 with an exclusive mini-comic starring everybody’s favorite Canucklehead.
Though sometimes noted by serious metal fans as less of a “true” death metal record than their previous records (remember, we’re talking about a genre with a disproportionately high percentage of “classic” first records), “Wolverine Blues” is nonetheless a standout and is frequently cited as one of the better and most enduring death metal albums of the 1990s.
That the album was not written or titled with comics’ most popular characters in mind was not a concern of Earache records, which seized upon the coincidence as an opportunity to make some quick scratch. When the album was released in North America with an alternate (one might even say “variant”) cover, Earache and Marvel’s cross-promotional venture managed to cash-in yet again. Given comics fans’ willingness to buy seemingly ANYTHING in the early 90s, and record’s eventual stature as one of the all-time greats in the history of Swedish death metal, nobody on either side of the deal seems to mind that Earache and Marvel basically succeeded in turning Entombed into a late 20th century version of the Banana Splits.
The borderline “berserker” aspect of Logan’s character has been a tension explored ad-nauseum ever since Chris Claremont renewed focus on the character in the late 70s and early 80s, and it’s not like the anthropomorphizing of a notoriously dangerous Midwestern quadruped isn’t the most subtle of metaphors to begin with. But that level of juvenility has always been what made both Logan and death metal itself so appealing to early-teenaged boys, as well as a natural commercial pairing.
On the title track, LG Petrov growls out the lyrics like he’s the best he is at what he does, and what he does is pretty stupid: “Vicious mammal/the blood is my call/pound for pound/I am the most vicious of all!”
Meanwhile, in the accompanying comic entitled “Just Don’t Look in its Eyes” (written by Ann Nocenti, art by John Bolton, originally printed as a back-up story in September 1988’s Classic X-Men #25), Logan continues his illustrious history of straight-murdering a grizzly bear out in the snow, spending between three and five panels feeling bad about it, and then proceeding to straight-murder the jerk who made him kill an innocent beast. Good times.
And even if it’s not, strictly speaking, the most over-the-top brutal offering Scandinavia might have offered, the death n’ roll on “Wolverine Blues” still makes for an appropriately nauseating soundtrack to enjoying comics’ most popular (and often silliest) psychopath.
BONUS! Despite the band not wanting the album to have anything to actually do with the Marvel character, Earache still managed to get them to do an entire music video with Wolverine all over it. Warning: it’s pretty terrible (so much so, it was featured on an episode of “Beavis and Butt-head” and largely ignored by the duo).
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?
So, we all know how much I love the old Silver Age Fantastic Four books (or, well, anything Silver Age, really). It’s no surprise, then, that I got ridiculously excited when I discovered that in the mid-70s there was a short lived radio serial based on several of the Lee/Kirby issues of Fantastic Four.
The brainchild of Ann Robinson (yes, the same one who wrote that Spider-Man/Planned Parenthood PSA comic) and Richard Clorfene and Peter B. Lewis, a couple of New York City radio DJs,the Fantastic Four Radio Show came about after the two DJs realized that a Silver Surfer radio show would kinda suck. Ann talked to Stan Lee and got the rights to about a dozen characters while Lewis turned 13 issues of comics into 600+ pages of script (most of which copied the dialogue from the comic verbatim).
He managed to get Stan Lee to do all of the narrating for the series and got together a team of voice actors for the series including Bob Maxwell as Reed Richards, Cynthia Adler as Sue Storm, Jim Pappas as Ben Grimm, and Bill Murray as Johnny Storm (which is goddamn surreal to listen to). Unfortunately, Lewis decided to cancel the series after the thirteenth episode was produced, citing the fact that the only funding they got was $25,000 from Ann’s husband’s production company (and that Marvel had kinda stopped answering his phone calls).
Although never commercially released, bootleg copies of Fantastic Four Radio Show are out there. What the hel, I’ll save you a couple eBay bucks and just upload the damn thing for you. Enjoy!
1. “Fantastic Four Meets the Moleman” (Fantastic Four #1)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=zig1dj5b22
2. “Menace of the Miracle Man”(Fantastic Four #3)
3.”Coming of the Submariner” (Fantastic Four #4)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=u14k3r619x
4. “Fantastic Four Meet Doctor Doom” (Fantastic Four #5)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=0t981u167f
5. “Prisoners of the Puppet-Master” (Fantastic Four #8)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=gmag401a9r
6. “Fantastic Four Meet the Incredible Hulk” (Fantastic Four #13)
7. “Spell of the Hate Monger” (Fantastic Four #21)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=ou6i7j65dp
8. “Return of Doctor Doom” (Fantastic Four #16)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=0gbh3f26n3
9. “Fantastic Four in the Clutches of Doctor Doom” (Fantastic Four #17)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=1yy942w1ok
10. “A Super-Skrull Walks Among Us” (Fantastic Four #18)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=e5h889lb7c
11. “At the Mercy of Rama-Tut” (Fantastic Four #19)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=5u3iv3gln1
12. “The Menace of the Red Ghost” (Fantastic Four #13)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=i3y060w1f8
13. “The Submariner Strikes” (Fantastic Four #14)http://k002.kiwi6.com/uploads/hotlink?id=3k4bw0hw19
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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Oh god, another Spider-Man/Howard the Duck team-up book? Well, if that ain’t a bit of déjà vu, I dunno what is. But considering how awkward that old Steve Gerber/Darick Robertson issue was, how much better can Stuart Moore (or really anybody other than the late Gerber, for that matter) do?
The Service Organization of Philanthropic Individuals (or SOOPhI) has received the backing of Mayor J. Jonah Jameson to, uh, be super vague about whatever it is they’re out to do. Instead of explaining what their deal is, they use a brainwashed Howard the Duck and Bev Switzler to bombard the people of New York with “Jersey Shore” quotes (SOOPhi’s slogan? “It is what it is, bro”) and LOLspeak (“I can haz brainwashing?”) until they’re mindless enough to join them. Looks like it’s up to Spider-Man to swing in, deprogram everybody, and save the day.
Stuart Moore (The 99, Namor) does a surprisingly good job of writing for Howard, a task which (and I’m sure Ty Templeton can attest to) is harder to pull off than it seems. He’s really got a knack for Gerber-style dialogue and seems to embrace the same goofiness without getting completely nonsensical, a problem a lot of other writers seem to have writing for Howard. Plus, despite the fact the book is a bit of a satirization of mainstream media, Moore doesn’t outright beat you over the head with it.
The art is another story. For the first twelve pages of the story, Mark Brooks (Dark Reign: Young Avengers) does penciling and damn, the characters look fantastic. Then, in the middle of a scene, the artist suddenly changes to Ray Height (Noble Causes) and Howard spends the rest of the book looking like he’s slowly melting. Oh well.
In the back of the one-shot is a eight-page Man-Thing back-up also written by Moore with art by Joe Suitor (Marvel Apes). It’s a short story about a guy who feels that he has to take on Man-Thing to prove to his girlfriend that he’s good enough for her. While the story itself is nothing to write home about, the art is gorgeous.
Anyways, this book is much better than I’d feared. Hell, I’d go so far to say that under a creative team of Moore and Brooks, I’d be more than willing to actually pick up a Howard the Duck limited series. This book would do Gerber proud and is most definitely worth checking out.