Monday, July 31, 2006

I don't know if I've mentioned it yet here on the blog, but I'm a huge Evan Dorkin fan. I remember seeing promo art for Pirate Corp$! in Amazing Heroes, years and years ago, and thinking it was unlike anything I'd seen in comics yet. And ska must be the coolest thing ever!

Well, maybe not. But Dorkin has done reams of funny, funny stuff; from Milk & Cheese to Bill & Ted to Fightman (and if you missed Fightman's guest-spot in Agent X: be sad.) My only complaint with him is that I got a bunch of his stuff all at once: the Hectic Planet books, a lot of Milk & Cheese; and I completely gorged, a piggish little feast of comics goodness.

The only trouble is, Dorkin isn't as productive as I would like. And to flog a dead metaphor, I didn't just pick the trees bare, I stripped the bark too; and would have to wait a long time for new stuff from him. He's on the short list of creators whose writing I like as much as the art but I want both (like Adam Warren or Walt Simonson). He's also someone I will always buy new material from, sight unseen. He's earned it.

Why this particular panel, though? Ah, it'll make sense tomorrow...

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

From a DC house ad, in Batman #323, 1980. I have no idea what's going on this issue, but I really wanna know now.

I haven't read a ton of Hex, the occasional issues here and there and then the Vertigo series. But, like Sgt. Rock or the Creeper, it's a character I'm glad DC produces every so often, something a little different than the usual super-hero fare. And Hex pretty much has it all over the Marvel western stuff. (Sgt. Rock is cooler in a WWII setting, but Fury is cooler than Rock from the Steranko stuff. I will brook no discussion on this.)

This is my hundredth post according to blogger. Since I post from flickr, I have to string them together for longer posts, so who knows? I mention it only because it's making me feel guilty dogging it here, but I've got some kind of summer cold, something I thought was only in old Spider-man comics. More stuff tomorrow. If anyone has Jonah Hex #36, pipe up!

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

I suppose PETA would be on Batman if he punched that cat...

So, after a cat-themed museum robbery, and on admittedly circumstantial evidence and one guard's sighting; Batman shows up to bring in the retired Selina Kyle. He asks her, "for old time's sake, come along with me quietly!" Oh yeah, come in without a fight like Catwoman did every other time...wait a minute.

Retired or not, Selina still has game: in a dress, that from this angle looks like a hoopskirt, she manages to hold off Batman with a cat--

All right, let's look at that first: Batman trained for how many years? I'm pretty sure in appearances prior to this, we've seen Batman fight off lions, tigers, and bears. (Sorry.) He had established cat-punching skills, is what I'm saying. Maybe that cat had some of the same training.

I know some of you, the cat people in the audience, are probably thinking if you threw Mittens or Captain Tabby or whatever the hell you name those things at my head, and you might be right, but I'm not Batman. Also, I bet you'd really have to throw your beloved cat. Hard. Catwoman gives him a nice soft lob, and the cat does the rest.

OK, let it go. While Batman's...engaged...Catwoman escapes by swinging away on the same Bat-rope Batman swung in on. Huh? I'm pretty used to the animated series, more 90's style Bat-grapple things; not ropes that apparently, Batman once left lying around Gotham the same way Spider-Man leaves webbing everywhere.

(A thought occurs: how come no one just follows the webbing? I know it dissolves, but you could find a line before it does. I suppose you'd have to be able to see the webs in the dark, then have an idea of his path from building to building...what do you mean, you wouldn't need to, we already know who he is?)

Rrr. So, either Batman didn't bring another rope, or Selina disappeared like the ninja. Or Bats was so impressed he forgot to go chase her, which I would kind of enjoy, honestly. Maybe Bats had to make sure the cat was captured before going after her, because if that cat could give him that much trouble, it could probably take out a Gotham SWAT team. However this happened, I'd leave this one off of the highlight reel. Or the report to Commissioner Gordon. In fact, if Selina did end up in jail, I would try to have her put in solitary: if this incident got out, next thing you know Penguin, Killer Croc, and Man-Bat are throwing penguins, crocodiles, and bats at Batman's head.

From Batman #323, "Shadow of the Cat!" Written by Len Wein, art by Irv Novick and Bob Smith.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Huh.  Batman's ears seem big in that second panel.  Odd.
Holy entendre, Batman! For a comic from 1980, this seemed surprisingly risque when I re-read it. Maybe I just have a dirty mind. But, and I believe Grant Morrison may be the first writer in years to play up this point of Batman's character; you would have to be one smooth man to:

A. Blindfold an unconscious Catwoman to bring her back to your Batcave,

B. Leave said Catwoman, naked and still unconscious, while you do the labwork,

C. Give her a spare costume, that you had been keeping in your "trophy room."

If you can do all that, without seeming like either a creepy, creepy stalker, or an obsessional sexless freak; then you sir, are a goddamn liar.

Anyway, this is the pre-Crisis, pre-mindwipes, pre-baby Catwoman. At this point in the comics, she was on the verge of reforming, and was dating Bruce Wayne. She would eventually start seeing him on the Batman side of things, but of course that would also change about 80 issues later in Miller's Year One. Since then, Selina's been a prostitute, a thief, a villain, a vigilante, a mother, brainwashed, mindwiped, and had a huge rack even by comic-book standards. Guess what most fans think of first?

Well, that's an unfair dig: the 90's Catwoman books were as much of their time as any of her other appearances, and every incarnation of the character has picked and chosen aspects of the previous characterizations as needed. Regardless, she only really looked good in this costume when Alan Davis drew it.

From Batman #324, "The Cat who would be King!" Written by Len Wein, art by Irv Novick and Bob Smith.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

What, that you've been an LMD for how long?
Of course, if I made that joke now, it'd be a Skrull.
We interrupt our...whatever I had planned for today. Seriously, I swear I had something else going, but this just leaped out at me.

Today on my lunch break, I biked over to Target, since I hadn't been in a while and I've been hoping the new Ultimate Nightcrawler figure would be out. It wasn't, but there was the ever-popular metric assload of toys at severely cut prices. Some were oddball items in the Superman Returns and Pirates 2 toy lines. Others were entire lines like Super Hyper Monkey Robot Go, or whatever the hell the name of that one was.

I was mostly in for the Marvel, and had enough spare change rattling about to get the Captain America Megamorph. (I also got my oldest boy the Ghost Rider one, but I'm saving it for Christmas or something, so if you see him, keep it under your hat.) For those of you who aren't toy junkies, it's a Transformer-style toy; a Captain America robot who turns into a complicated helicopter. It's not a bad toy, but not quite a great one either: the transformation took me a while the first time, and isn't as smooth as current Transformers. The disc launcher is a little on the feeble side, and some of the plastic is or is likely to warp a bit. It did come with a minature Cap to ride around in it, and a dedicated mini-comic.

Now, you may assume that the comic would just be a little bit of fluff: an eight-page ad for a toy, designed to get you to buy another toy. Well...yeah, pretty much. I mean, that's what it was made for. But it also features a great meta-line from Doc Ock, the theft of the Statue of Liberty (if you don't miss that kind of thing in comics, I feel sorry for you) and more consistent characterization of Cap, Tony Stark, and probably Doc Ock, than seen so far in Civil War. At least, I assume so: The Captain America Megamorph was $3.76 at Target, so I bought it instead. Even with the "return" of Thor, and even as curious as I am to see how Thor returning on Iron Man's side makes any sense at all, the toy seemed the better deal. (The toy was cheaper.) Or at least less likely to make me feel like a chump for buying it.

And if you think Captain America, Living Legend of World War II, Sentinal of Liberty, doesn't deserve a giant robot in his likeness that turns into a...helicopter with feet; then you are a goddamn communist. Or something. Giant robots rule. I usually bike to work, partly because I'm too cheap to buy gas, partly because I'm afraid of getting fat, lip service to the environment; yes, a rich tapestry of reasons. But if you gave me a giant robot that belched plutonium waste, I would drive that mothertrucker to work every day. And stamp on cars.

One last thing: even if the comic is a little piece of "fluff," how many copies were distributed? There was a different issue in each of the Megamorphs, but even counted individually...I don't know. But I think the answer might be surprising. This issue was written by Sean McKeever, pencils by Lou Kang, inks by Pat Davidson.

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Back in the day, when Cap and Tony didn't knuckle-kiss each other.
Yeah, I've totally changed my mind, and would 100% sell out any and all beliefs for a giant robot.  Hell, even a mid-sized one.
Suck. I was going to say, "If Tony built me a giant robot, I'd support about any damn thing he wanted!" But that's not true, is it?

Leaving fictional super-hero registration and giant robots out of it for a second, just by thinking about it for a few minutes I could see where my lines are. There are some things that are just wrong, and I wouldn't support for cash, power, all the tea in China. I might sell out someday, but I'll never support hate, or the abuse of those who can't defend themselves, or "us vs. them."

Of course, it would be easier to affect real change from within if I had a giant robot...

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Yeah, that Jean Loring was always crazy, huh?
The trouble with having an 'instant' costume, there.
The reason I may often harsh on Identity Crisis is that I really, really liked it up to the last issue. Hell, I remember reading the first six on my lunch break the day the last issue came out. But, I was reading for the short game, that of the murder mystery. Brad Meltzer's story was more about a murder that reveals a coverup, then exposing the coverup. Who killed Sue Dibny is an afterthought.

The old Power of the Atom series also has a subplot from the previous series, where Ray no longer used his old size-changing belt; so he gives it to Jean's new husband, Paul. How Jean ends up with it, I can't say, but the whole series is pretty much Superboy-punched out of the continuity now. Like that time Atom was turned into a teenager. Zero Hour, man, good times.

Also, I could buy Jean, as the ex-wife of a Justice Leaguer, still having security from and some access to the League. But how would she have the secret identities and family information of so many heroes, including Robin, who wasn't a League member or directly affiliated? Especially since Robin almost definitely wasn't affiliated until long after Ray had left. Did Jean get the information from the newsletter or something?

Why am I still harping on this? Mostly, I'm just mad at enjoying the series so much for it to disappoint me so much in the end. Like a bad breakup, I find myself wondering if I shouldn't have seen it coming, if I should've stopped myself before it got too serious. It's a breakup so bad I don't even go to the old hang-outs, in this case, the DC Universe proper. (I'm starting to revisit, but Meltzer burnt me pretty bad, so I'm holding off on his JLA.)

I do wish the new Atom series well, and it has a few things going for it: Gail Simone, and new villains. If you see him fight Chronos, take it off your pull list, the book's got three issues left...

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Seriously, Identity Crisis would've made more sense if Strobe had been the killer.

Back in action! Yes, I may have driven for 6 hours today, and I may smell like unbagged comics and children's tylenol, but I'm here with new content; because the world needs to know what I think of comics from twenty years ago.

So, I did have a great time on vacation and seeing my relatives and swimming and skiing and so forth...but, that's not what this blog is for, is it? Back at my parents', I did find a box of comics; which was like a little time capsule of what I was reading about 15 years ago. (Give or take: some were purchased as back issues then.) You ever find those? 9 times out of 10, it's most likely a batch of early 90's X-Men, or early Image books: books that were printed in such crushing numbers that everyone has them.

I didn't have time to re-read all the comics I found, but I did snag a few for blog purposes. These panels, for example, are from Power of the Atom #13, "Rattling the Cages," written by Bill Messner-Loebs, pencils by Graham Nolan, inks by K.S. Wilson. I was reading it in high school ( old...), and it was the short-lived relaunch of the Atom, who had previously had a couple of successful but dead-ending "Sword of the Atom" limited series and specials.

(Previously: the Atom, his marriage over, had found a shrunken hidden city in the Amazon, and married a woman there, leaving his life in the outer world and Justice League behind. In the first issue of Power, the city is destroyed, and his wife and new friends are presumed dead. Ray Palmer has no choice but return to his old life in Ivy Town, which is complicated by his ex-wife, her new husband, and the tell-all biography he had allowed to be published before he left. That's what happens when you burn your bridges, kids!)

I liked this series, and consider it a bit underrated. The art isn't maybe as flashy as might have been needed, but the story worked pretty well. This issue was guest-written by Messner-Loebs, who would go on for a stretch of Flash and Wonder Woman, and he keeps all the previous subplots from Roger Stern going.

One of those subplots was that Ray was having trouble readjusting to polite society, after living the life of "Atom the Barbarian" in the Sword of the Atom series. He was a college professor, that could conceivably stab any given villain in battle, and Ray had trouble accepting that. Mostly.

This issue also features the Atom vs. a sub-dural hematoma ("You got that from TV, right?"), Ray bonding with his ex's husband while Jean wonders what's going on, and a brawl at a writers' party. Good stuff. I'm not sure if Messner-Loebs wrote the brawl as based on an actual incident, or wishful thinking; and there's a thinly veiled Capote in there for good measure.

One last complaint: if you're going to write something like Identity Crisis, it's certainly unreasonable to hold you to every little bit of continuity for a character with over thirty years of publishing history. That said, it would be nice if you held to more than a couple of Justice League of America issues. Or just break clean: there was a Crisis, things are different now. Done.

Enough. More fun tomorrow, kay?

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Friday, July 21, 2006

On vacation, out to lunch!

Hmm, aside from my wife, the whole family looks a lot older now, and this photo was only taken on Thanksgiving. Yeah, I really did dress up for the occasion. Shut up. The kids, of course, are getting bigger; but I'm getting gray at the temples, like Nick Fury or Reed Richards. It's hair not found in nature, I'm sure of it. I blame all the comics.

Anyway, the lot of us are on vacation, to the untamed wilderness of Montana! Wait, did I say "untamed"? It's nicer than my house, with a better internet connection. Bah! But, have a good weekend, and see you when I get back.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The one about the Blazing Skull.
If I was mean, I'd say, 'hey, an Alex Ross cover that doesn't look like someone he knows!'  But, I'm not going to do that.
Every so often, when Marvel makes a movie or licensing deal, a news article will point out that Marvel's library of characters is said to be upwards of 5000, which is pretty impressive, until you start to think about the actual list. A lot of that could be taken up by supporting characters alone. That sounds foolish, but you try and publish a comic with Debra Whitmore as a character and see what happens. (She was a love interest in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, and also appeared in the cartoon. Any day now she'll appear in Ultimate Spider-Man so Bendis can do something horrible to her, no doubt.)

Still, Marvel does have some neat characters that are well underneath the radar. Some of them are ideas that might not deserve or be able to sustain their own comic, but might work well in another format, like Blade. Who would have thought that could carry three movies and a TV show? Don't get me wrong, I liked the movies just fine, but in his first appearance he was wearing what looked like green scuba goggles. Nightvision goggles my arse.

Others are characters who should appear in one-shots or the occasional period piece. Which finally brings us to today's book! Midnight Sons Unlimited #9. This book was intended to be a showpiece/inventory burner for the "mystical" characters at Marvel: Ghost Rider, Blaze, Morbius, maybe Dr. Strange. The only reason most people would remember this particular issue, if at all, was because it had an Alex Ross cover.

The cover features lesser known characters the Destroyer, the Blazing Skull, and Union Jack. I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how and why Alex Ross did the cover. Inventory piece from before he got big? For fun? As a favor to the creative team? Boat payment due? Love letter to the work of Roy Thomas? Did he do the cover first, and the writer had to punch out a story based on it? That last one seems particularly unlikely, but maybe. Dan Slott wrote the main story, and James Fry did the pencils. Fry I was familiar with from his work on DC's Star Trek books. I like his style, kind of cartoony, but still good for likenesses. And Slott would go on to bigger things, as he's currently the writer of She-Hulk, the Thing, and GLX. I must underline that this was a quality package for a book that was primarily a dumping ground for unused Man-Thing short stories.

I'm a little ashamed to admit this, as a total Marvel nerd, but I'm really not that familar with the Blazing Skull or the Destroyer. A version of the Skull appeared in Gruenwald's Captain America and another in the last Invaders series; the Destroyer is the one with pinstripe pants and not the one from Thor; and I think they both appeared from Rick Jones' head during the Kree/Skrull War years and years ago...and that's all I've got, honestly. The cool thing is, Slott writes this up in a way that it doesn't matter if you've ever heard of these characters before, without having to eat up more pages than needed with exposition and origins. Tricky. It's something you notice when done wrong, more than praise when done right.

January 1945: A band of Nazi spies attempts to set up a transmitter on the Statue of Liberty, only to be stopped by the Blazing Skull. Skull looks like Ghost Rider, but in a red, mystery-man style costume of the period. The ringleader escapes in a plane that would be way to big to be inconspicuously landed next to the statue, or to take off quickly, but let's just say Skull is busy tying up the Nazis while rappelling one-handed.

The Skull's secret identity is Mark Todd, reporter for the Daily Globe, one of those comic newspapers that seems to have a circulation of 15 million, and like four employees total. Based on the Nazi's captured codebook and transmitters, he finds the next strike will be at a club in London; which gives Mark time to recap his origin on the plane ride over. It involves "Subteranean Skull Men" and "The burning Mask, which eventually became part of my own face!" but Mark doesn't seem really bent out of shape about it. Weird stuff happens.

Crashing the club, Mark is stopped by Lord Brian Falsworth, who's organized a fundraiser party that night. Mark convinces him that the club is a target pretty easily, so it's evacuated before a buzzbomb hits. The destruction is being filmed by armored Nazi the Iron Cross, (who looks so much like Iron Man you wonder what Tony's dad did during the war...) who has an old-style movie camera mounted on his shoulder.

Long-time Marvel readers would recognize Falsworth as Union Jack, who helps the Skull fight off Cross, and they recover the camera. And exchange information about their powers.

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Well, it's no dumber than getting lightning powers from fighting Thor.

Watching the film, Union Jack recognizes the buzzbomb launchsite, and can use his new plane to get Skull there. He sets up a rendevous with the Mighty Destroyer! Skull is less than impressed: "The only allied mystery-man who's set up camp inside enemy territory!" Um, ok. I don't know if Slott got that from anywhere, or set it up himself, but it's a nice touch, and reminds me of DC's the Golden Age.

I wrote the title up there, and was dumbstruck again by how dumb that was. I should look it up to make sure I'm remembering correctly, but I'm stuck for time: Union Jack got lightning powers, from an encounter with Thor--that's Marvel Universe Thor, who was being brought to the German side by Hitler, in an old Invaders comic. The story itself had it's moments, but if surviving a fight with Thor could leave you throwing electrical bursts around, I hate to think about how many lightning bolt slinging lunatics would be running around the Marvel U.

Anyway, for his part at their first meeting, the Destroyer isn't thrilled with the Blazing Skull, either.

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It's a valid point, Destroyer, but you don't have to be a dick about it.

Destroyer gives the Skull the what-for, tying him up with one of those wireguns they only used in the 40's--the manufacturer must've gone under after the war, leaving Destroyer, Tarantula, and the original Sandman high and dry. Destroyer turns Skull over to the Iron Cross, who keeps calling Skull "little geist" and helpfully explains the master race's master plan, involving the new V-3 missile and secret transmitters. During this speech, Destroyer ditches out, but is spotted returning. Grabbing a "flammenwerfer" from a guard--wait, who guards prisoners with a flamethrower? Sure it's probably a violation of terms of war at all that, but it doesn't seem that practical--the Destroyer says in German, "Once and for all I shall prove my loyalty to the reich, by incinerating this accursed American!" Then Flame on, Burning Skull!

Of course, that doesn't hurt the Skull, and he and Destroyer start busting up the place. The Nazis attempt to launch the missile Destroyer sabotaged, but Skull slaps the transmitter on Iron Cross. End of base.

Back in America, Mark's editor points out the Nazis still have a spy ring, and possibly a hidden missile base in the Atlantic; but they don't know how the spies are getting out the launch codes for targets. Why is this the newspaper's job again? Didn't we have an army during the war? Luckily, the newsboy is listening to the Masked Raider radio program, and Mark recognizes his decoder ring from the Nazis he stopped on Liberty the statue of Liberty on Ellis? Yet another tidbit of information I could look up, but no time! Consult your local library or something. The Nazi code book matches landmarks to codewords, which is how they will set the target for the last V-3. While they put the clues together Scooby-style, the masked saboteur that escaped earlier unmasks and goes to work at the radio station: he's the actor that voices the Masked Raider.

Changing into the Skull (but not changing into the costume, oddly) Mark steals a police motorcycle and hightails it over to the radio station, while a clever ad from evil Exxon-analog Roxxon plays. There's also a cameo of Billy Batson. Skull probably had to take the cycle for the Ghost Rider fans in the audience, but it also makes for a fun sequence as he takes up the stairs to the nineteenth floor. That must be one bigassed stairway...I don't ride, but it seems like that would've taken longer than if you ran the stairs yourself, but then you wouldn't have the satisfaction of running over a Nazi spy and launching him and the bike out the window. Only afterwards, while he hangs onto a flag, does Skull wonder, "Boy, I sure hope that's the right guy!"

A quick-thinking radio technician reads the Masked Raider script's secret message, since the program was still on the air. Skull still has a transmitter, and it starts beeping. Swinging from a flag, to a window washer's platform (they are everywhere!), he races to a cab, then steals a plane to get the transmitter out of the city. The missile hits the plane with a huge explosion, but the Skull had bailed out. He's spotted on the docks, but has already turned back to Mark Todd, who gives the reader a wink at his page one story.

Oddly, this was before Dan Slott hit the more mainstream Marvel of Great Lakes Avengers, She-Hulk, and the Thing; all of which I've only read in passing, but there will be more Dan Slott stories covered here. See if you can guess!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Geez, there's about a million things that could kill Batman, but you don't hear him whining about it.
Great Rao, Supes seems whiny in that panel. I swear I can hear Cartman's voice there...From World's Finest Comics #270, "A Hole for Killing!" Written by Gerry Conway, art by Rich Buckler and Romeo Tanghal.

World's Finest Comics ran for a long time with Superman-Batman team-ups, which must've been a challenge for the writers, who would have to come up with something for Batman to do. After all, back then, Superman could rotate the whole continent a little to the left if he needed too.

One of the standard plot answers was to have Batman around to protect Superman from kryptonite, or magic. On rarer occasions, there would be a detective-style puzzle that Supes needs Batman's help with, but even the "Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" revolves around Batman protecting Superman from kryptonite.

In this panel, Metallo, "the man with the Kryptonite heart!" had escaped from Superman Island, a flying super-maximum security prison where Supes kept captured super villains. (Although, I think Luthor was usually in the state pen, probably because he had no powers. And so he could escape every twenty minutes.) The prison floats "over an unknowing (and uncaring) southwest," and I'm not sure that's a great idea, since if the Parasite got loose over Arizona, it could be years before anyone in the DCU would notice. And did they have an ACLU in the 70's? That's the sort of thing I should look up, but moving on.

I was kind of surprised to be reminded how much John Byrne changed Metallo in the revamp, since in this issue, he's more of a gang leader, has a green full-head mask, and he and his crew have costumes that look like Kobra Kult Surplus ("Naga sssssayssss, ssssave!"). Orange and green, man. You had to show up pretty early in the DCU to get a good color scheme, apparently. (Actually, it occurs to me Marvel's Hercules' classic costume is orange and green, but he rocks. So there.)

Short post today, since I'm working on something for this dumb site. Word balloons and lettering continue to elude me, and I need a better camera for more tomfoolery. We'll see...

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Charles was going to say "Not after getting all your students reduced to their component molecules"

The Marvel Legends action figures come packaged with comics, and this latest batch included Havok. The comic included was X-Men #97, a Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum classic, but the outside cover was from issue #58, kind of a neat one from Neal Adams. All of this, and a very nice toy, but we're talking retcons today. Sorry, Havok.

In Ed Brubaker's X-Men: Deadly Genesis, he tells of the previously unmentioned "1.5" team. After the original X-Men (minus Beast, plus Havok and Polaris) were captured by the living island Krakoa; but before recruiting the new team of Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler et. al; Professor X trained a group of mutants under Moira MacTaggert's care. This team, including the long-hinted third Summers brother, was more or less wiped out.

This was an interesting enough story, and a good springboard for Brubaker's upcoming Uncanny X-Men run. But it also creates some plot holes. For example, Moira is rightfully good and pissed about Xavier getting her students killed, yet she's back at Xavier's school to help out by issue #96, about three issues later. How the hell...

Moreover, in another retcon, Moira and Xavier were nearly married at some point before all this, then broke it off. So, Xavier was able to talk his ex-fiance into lending him her students for a suicide mission; then getting Moira, a Scots Guard trained, multiple-doctorate geneticist, to come back to work for him as a housekeeper. Which means:

A. Professor X has been controlling Moira's mind, on a pretty regular basis, for a very long time.

B. Moira sincerely regrets breaking up with Charles, and would do anything to get him back. Anything.

C. Professor X has the strongest pimp hand in the Marvel U.

So, if you're a writer planning to retroactively insert a big revelation into even a supporting character, that has been in a book since 1975: reread the character's appearances, with your revelation in mind. Think about whether it makes sense in that context, or if it's too impossible that your big reveal wouldn't have either come up before now, or caused that character to act differently in the past. Of course, with characters that can either control or wipe minds, you can get a little more leeway there.

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Pretty good advice from a guy in a loincloth.

Brubaker also revealed that Krakoa, the Island that Walked like a Man, didn't talk like a man: that was Professor X further trying to cover his ass, by using his powers to make everyone think the island was yelling and talking shit. The Prof's talents apparently don't lie in improv, but this is a retcon I can live with, as it both makes more sense and makes Krakoa creepier. But, even that goes against more continuity!

Excalibur #31, Scott Lobdell writes and Dave Ross pencils, "No Man Is an Island (But No Island Is a Man Either So It Works Out)", and I have to quote the synopsis from Grand Comics Database: "Nightcrawler flies off for a little R&R but crash lands on an island that is the home of (I'm NOT making this up) the Son of Krakoa, The Living Island (from Giant-Size X-Men #1); Mayhem and general silliness ensues."

Now, they have got to see some crazy shit over at the GCD, but this issue was so weird whoever scanned it in had to verify the synopsis. I like Lobdell's Nightcrawler; and he wrote a lot of funny, throwaway stories. I believe he also did stand-up at one point, which kind of figures: when his stories work, they work pretty well; when they don't, they die up on stage. This one has it's moments, but Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid couldn't fit that one into continuity. (Professor X was in space, so he couldn't have run Son of Krakoa's dialog, although it is funny to think of him sitting there, completely out of material, trying to make quips while Kurt fought an angry giant frog.)

In conclusion: new story kicking off limited X-series and 12-issue regular arc by hot new writer, trumps the continuity of one issue joke. Fortunately, Marvel's continuity works not unlike the Simpsons, and possibly my own: "This was our best vacation ever. Now, let us never speak of this again."

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From Justice League of America #161, written by Gerry Conway, art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin.

When Zatanna freaks out, everyone is surprised.

When Zatanna freaks out on Hal, no one is surprised.

Huh. And that's the secret origin of the JLA's sexual harassment seminar. Well, these things happen, and it's not like anyone got mindwiped or received any sort of comeuppance...

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Striking a blow against sexual harassment by...striking a blow, I guess.

Superman hates "dipping your pen in the company ink," apparently. But, if every office had one guy that was willing to stand up and cold cock the hell out of a harasser...I would totally stop calling in sick the day after company parties. Hell, I'd come in early. With popcorn.

Just kidding, Green Lantern fans. Although, both of these issues (the second is Justice League of America #127, "The Command is 'Chaos!'" Written by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin on art) have Green Lantern controlled or influenced by the villain through his power ring. And on the cover of #127, Superman clocks Hal again. With Canary, Batman, Flash, and Green Arrow in the background cheering. Wildly.

If my best friends did something like that, I'd, I dunno, go all evil and try to change the timeline or something...

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Today, Cap shows Jesus exactly how he feels about the separation of church and state:

Not fooling around today, I see. From Captain America Annual #7, "The Last Enchantment!" Written by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Brian Postman, inks by Kim DeMulder.

Actually, that's Wundarr, the Aquarian, not Jesus that Cap's manhandling. Today. I'm not sure where I first heard him referred to as "Marvel Jesus," but I still wish I could take credit for that one. It might be from Facedown in the Gutters, but if anyone knows, speak up.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

This is a lazy Sunday post that has everything to do with my comic buying habits, and nothing much to do with anything else, so I'll understand if you wanna skip this one...

Still here? Well, all right then.

So, my wife and I are trying to clear out our outstanding debt. We don't have that far to go, but it's a tough process and we're both making a lot of sacrifices. I'm clearing some of the books on my pull list that haven't been wowing me lately, trying to get down to the bare minimum. (Yes, I know "none" would be the bare minimum. Shut up.)

At the Comic Book Shop, I told them I was going to drop Army of Darkness, because it's been kind of spotty, and Ash's character seems to become more of a cartoon (than he already was) every issue. Maybe I'll be back on in time for next storyline, we'll see. They mentioned I could get a copy of my pulls, and I hadn't looked at one in a while, so I said sure.

Two pages. That sounds awful, but the computer doesn't take out cancelled series, or completed limited series. (Which makes sense: if you bought the last Creeper series, for instance, you might pick up the new one if it turned up in your box. If not, you could throw it back.)

Running through the list, I was struck by how many books I had that come out sporadically at best, like Optic Nerve or Dork. Those average maybe an issue a year, at best. I also picked up what seems like a lot of three issue limiteds, like Red or Chosen or Two-Step. I didn't have Seaguy on my list, though, I must've just got it off the shelves.

I've also ridden a lot of titles into the ground. Before I moved here, I may have been the only one in town with any Milestone books on my pull list: Static, Xombi, Heroes. The Minx. Power of the Atom. The Will Payton Starman. Green Lantern Corps, the old series. A lot of the 2099 books. Excalibur (the old one.) Morbius. The first run of Moon Knight. West Coast Avengers. Manhunter, the Mark Shaw one. Ghost. That's just off the top of my head.

So, without explaining any of that to my wife, and because I thought it would be funny, I showed her my list, all 63 titles and items. That went about as well as you might think, and nothing says "domestic dispute" like pulling a potato peeler out of your shoulder...

I'm joking, of course: my wife is remarkably almost tolerant of my comic and toy habit. I'm lucky to have her, and I love her very much. She also just promised to poison instead of stab sweet, I guess.

Running through the list, for no reason:

American Century: Cancelled. I like Howard Chaykin's stuff, usually. I've been getting Hawkgirl here and there, and it seems a little slow.

Army of Darkness: Dropped. Maybe when Busiek's on it--he's coming up, isn't he?

Authority: So dropped. I really didn't like the ending of Brubaker's limited. And bringing an A-list staff to this book, just means you politely asked them for an issue or two sometime in the next five years.

Black Widow: I like her limited series. I don't think a regular series would be the way to go on with that character, or Fury.

BPRD/Hellboy books: A given, always entertaining. BPRD may actually surpass Hellboy soon.

Captain America: $1.99 my ass, it's been on the list for a long time, through a lot of highs and lows. Thankfully, it's currently on a high.

Captain America and the Falcon: Cancelled. Whatever happened to the Falcon series? I like Christopher Priest, although he sometimes gets a little too complicated for his own good.

Chosen: Mark Millar still has a pretty good average with me. This series was also about the right length, but I don't think I'd be back for a sequel.

Dark Horse Extra: A little freebie, with newspaper style strips. Long gone.

Deadpool: Then Agent X. I have kept up on Cable/Deadpool only in passing. The issues I've read have been good, I just don't like Cable.

Defenders: The recent limited series. God, I have a lot of Defenders though, mostly from the quarter bins.

Desolation Jones: When it comes back, I'm in. Ellis rarely misses for me.

Dirty Pair: Adam Warren rocks! He's done some Fantastic Four stuff that made me think he should have the book.

Dork!/Milk and Cheese/Hectic Planet: Evan Dorkin is awesome, but puts out about an issue a year anymore, which kills me. When I first discovered his work, I was able to junk out on a ton of it, like Fight-Man or Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic. It's made the waiting even worse.

Down: Four issues, OK. Probably would've gone over better, if it had come out when it was supposed to.

Enemy Ace: War in Heaven: I really like the Enemy Ace character, and Garth Ennis tells the story of him in World War II really well.

Fell: Hell yeah.

Formerly Known as the Justice League: This just makes me sad now.

Fury: Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. So good, I hate George Clooney now. (Allegedly, he was considering a Nick Fury movie, read this, and rejected it. Clooney sucks.)

Fury: Peacemaker: Not as good. Like Punisher: Born, Ennis and Robertson as well, this also goes out of its way to show how much the characters like the war.

Ghost, vol 2: I was thinking, between the various volumes, and one-shots, limiteds, and so forth; Ghost had a very good run for a female-lead comic.

Guns of the Dragon: Limited, Bat Lash and Enemy Ace vs. Vandal Savage and Communism. Fun.

Gunwitch: Outskirts of Doom: Did Brereton disappear? Done with this, and don't know if I'd get Nocturnals again.

Jack Cross: Actually, I've never bought this.

Jay and Silent Bob: Burnt out on Kevin Smith. We'll see about Clerks 2.

Man with the Screaming Brain: Bruce Campbell and Hilary Barta. Check out the movie, the comic's a "director's cut," like if they'd had an unlimited budget...

Mark Millar's the Unfunnies: MIA. Meh.

Marvel Universe Pirate Nightcrawler Bust: Crap, I'd better save up for this.

Millenium Series Hellboy Action Figure: The movie figures just crush this one.

Ministry of Space: 3 issues, took forever, and I was thinking the twist was drugs.

Next Wave: Love it. Don't see it being around next year, but hope I'm wrong.

Nightcrawler: Not bad, should've been better. Twelve and out.

Optic Nerve: Again, 1 a year or so. Getting burnt out on it, though. That may be an odd thing to say about a book coming out once a year, but the issues are starting to run together for me.

Paradise X: the Heralds: I read all of Earth/Universe/Paradise X, and if you have all the Marvel Handbooks, some very specific back-issues (particularly of Thor and Marvel Two-in-One), and a good grasp on Marvel continuity; it's a good read. If you don't, damn, I don't know, it might as well be in Sanskrit.

Planetary: Not many issues left.

Preacher: Long gone, missed.

Punisher: Good, with moments of greatness.

Red: Three issue limited. If any justice, it should be made a major motion picture with Patrick Stewart.

Scud the Disposable Assassin, Tales from the Vending Machine: I liked these and La Cosa Nostroid: that one started as a lot of mob movie cliches and giant robots, and became a don's struggle for legitimacy, with sidetrips into insanity, betrayal, and revenge. Then Fireman Press disappeared years ago, and never wrapped up the storylines. Still mad about that one.

Silver Surfer: If you never believe another thing I ever say, believe this: the last 12 issue Surfer limited was terrible. The writers tried something new, but it didn't work at all. The new Annihilation one, is holding up OK, but it really shines in comparison.

Sin City: Hell and Back: Is Sin City going to come back? Do I want it to?

Space Ghost: I liked this. Shut up, that's why.

Toyfare, Twisted Toyfare Theatre: Filling my needs for toy info and obscure Marvel jokes every month!

Transformers, Evolutions Heart of Steel, Stormbringer: My boy's. The regular series will be back in the fall, which is kind of nice not having all the books at the same time.

Truth: I love Kyle Baker, but this one didn't work for me.

Two-Step: Three issues of fun.

Ultimate Extinction: Rushed ending.

Ultimates 2, Annual: And then I'm out before I get any Ultimates 3 on me. In the same vein as Authority, I've enjoyed it, but are there any characters here that aren't bastards?

Wanted: I liked this, but never need to see it or the characters again.

Warren Ellis Black Gas, Necromancer, Wolfskin: I usually like the Avatar stuff he's done, although it seems a tad spendy.

WE3: 3 issues was perfect here.

And then there's a lot of stuff I just buy off the rack, like Moon Knight or Uncanny X-Men, that I might not pick up every single month, but usually. This way, even though Brubaker's X-Men looks great, if he wants to do a very special issue where Warpath talks about his feelings, I can bag out.

I used to work in a mall, and picked up books there to read on my lunch breaks. Iron Man, Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, and more. None have been added to my pulls, but I still check in now and again.

I also dropped Daredevil and Powers a year ago: reading single issues from Bendis just wasn't connecting with me. Daredevil seems like it's picking up again, so maybe I'll reconsider eventually. But, my apologies for a post about nothing, and actual content tomorrow. What have you dropped lately?

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From "The Power of Iron Man!" Reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes #37, Plotted by Stan Lee, scripted by Roy Thomas, pencils by Jack Kirby (Gene Colan did the first two pages then got sick!) and inks by Dick Ayers. Sub-Mariner and Iron Man duke it out again, in a fight that seems a lot more even than the recent thrashing Tony received in the Illuminati issue.

The story opens with Iron Man and Namor both refreshed and ready to go: Namor after taking a dip, Tony with a new armor. It's a couple pages in before the reason for the fight is revealed: somehow Namor thinks Iron Man is responsible for keeping him from catching up to Lady Dorma, who he thinks has betrayed him. Instead of continuing after her, Namor has to take it out on Iron Man; since he's Namor and this is a Marvel comic.

This is about the end of Iron Man week, and I really enjoyed looking back at some of the old highlights and lowlights in his history. Sometimes I don't agree with the direction the character is taken, but he usually comes back to center soon enough. And I figure the movie will probably change his origin again anyway...

I may still come back to "Vegas Bleeds Neon," which was the last three-parter before the Secretary of Defense storyline. But for now, the Happenstance method will probably go back to Random. So, what's coming up next? Geez, your guess is probably better than mine.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Last time, Tony Stark was presumed dead, and Jim Rhodes was the new CEO of Stark Industries and the new Iron Man. And no one sent the memo over to the Avengers West Coast. Iron Man #286, "Dust to Dust," written by Len Kaminski, penciled by Kevin Hopgood, inked by Mike DeCarlo.

Even though he had knocked out Spymaster, Blizzard, Blacklash, and the Beetle; Jim was getting no slack from Hawkeye, Wasp, Dr. Hank Pym, or the Living Lightning. As Hawkeye puts it, "Avengers...dissemble." Hank, currently neither shrinking or growing as with his previous superhero identities, gives Iron Man a friendly handshake. A friendly handshake that shrinks him to action figure size. Lightning is the only one there who didn't know that Stark was Iron Man, but he gets behind trashing the presumed imposter. While they fight, Spymaster begins reviving his team; and Kathy Dare, the woman that shot Tony Stark and set his demise into motion, prepares to kill herself.

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Since shrinking Iron Man seems to have just pissed him off and made him a smaller target, Pym tries a trick I love: enlarging pocket change to the size (and presumably, weight) of manhole covers as he throws them. I have no idea, even in the terms of comics, how the physics works on that one. I just think it's neat.

Jim's almost beat, when Spymaster's team attacks the Avengers...because they had so much success fighting Iron Man. They don't get off to a great start, as even a six-inch Iron Man gives them a hard time...yet another completely innocent sentence that sounds utterly wrong there. Wasp is stunned and going down, giving Jim the opportunity to save her, and prove himself. Wasp is able to bring Iron Man back to normal size. Good lord, those sentences were even worse.

Meanwhile, Hank's down, Hawkeye's about to get shot in the head, and the Living Lightning, who could probably just electrocute everyone there and sort them out later, is chasing the Beetle. I'm surprised Hawkeye didn't make him wear a "Trainee" name tag after this.

Once again, Spymaster talks when he should shoot, and Jim clocks him again. The fight is then brought to a halt as Kathy Dare shoots herself. She was a pretty hated character, but killing yourself in the middle of a superhero fight seems like the biggest cry for attention in the world, and sad. Jim wonders if this is somehow is fault. In the meantime, Hank shrinks and polybags the villains.

Later, back at his office at Stark Industries, Rae LaCoste asks Jim out to dinner; the doctors wonder what the hell is going on with Stark's brainwaves in the cryofreeze, Tony has another flashback to his childhood and building proto-Iron Men out of erector sets, and Tony's cousin Morgan Stark plots his revenge. All this on the next episode of Soap...

Seriously, I love this run. Jim would eventually taking up the name War Machine, and get his own series. Not as good. Towards the end of it, as Iron Man was entering "The Crossing" (shudder), he would get a new alien suit of "Eidolan Warwear," or somesuch. A busy, busy costume. It didn't just violate the Ron Frenz Rule of Costume Design, it should have had to tell the neighbors it had moved into the area after its second strike. (See details!)

He would lose the armor shortly after that, then much later get a black and white series. That I believe came out on 091101. Written by Chuck Austen. Damn, Marvel, don't stack the deck against Jim too much. (To be fair, his first run had it's moments, the second three-issue series is a hopeless muddle.)

Currently, Jim is occasionally seen in Iron Man, and was in Christopher Priest's The Crew, which was interesting but tried way too hard to set up an increasingly complicated plot. And he was in Marvel vs. Capcom. Yeah. And we'll always have Force Works...

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Friday, July 14, 2006

One characteristic of Tony Stark's that has remained more consistent over the years, is that he's a control freak. To put it mildly. Eventually, though, no matter how strong your stranglehold on the world, there will come something you will have no control over: death, and then what happens to the world after your death. And Tony had a plan for that.

Today's panels are from Iron Man #285, "Ashes to Ashes" written by Len Kaminski, penciled by Kevin Hopgood, inked by Andrew Pepoy. The issue starts with Tony Stark's funeral, so it's understandable how you might think Tony's plans aren't working out so well, but read on...

Shot by the stereotypical psycho-ex around issue #245, Tony had been in a wheelchair for a bit, then using his armor to be able to walk as Iron Man, then correcting his spinal injury with a microchip, then pretty much blowing out his nervous system. The whole thing was a bit of a throwback to the days when he had to wear the chestplate to keep his heart beating, but between that, the alcoholism, the shooting, and fighting as Iron Man; it just got to be a bit much.

Tony knows he's in bad shape, so he makes some arrangements. First, he turns over both Stark Industries and the mantle of Iron Man over to longtime friend (and former replacement IM) James Rhodes. Although he doesn't have the business experience, Tony trusts him to do the right things. Moreover, instead of just drunkenly throwing a secondhand suit at Jim (rereading the issues, I saw he was usually called "Jim" this time around, instead of "Rhodey") like he did last time, Tony gives him a suit more specifically built for his strengths, a modified version of the "War Machine" armor. Tony then "dies," and is placed in cryogenic freeze, until such time as he can be cured and brought back. Only a couple of Tony's doctors know the plan, to the rest of world, including Jim and the Avengers, Tony is dead. He would have a variety of flashbacks while in deep freeze, to work out his daddy issues, and foreshadow his inevitable return.

This isn't a long run of comics, but it's one of my favorites: Jim Rhodes has a great arc, unsure of himself as a CEO, but getting more and more confident. And his Iron Man is very different than Tony's. In a tight spot against any given villain, Tony would be thinking something like, "If I reroute power away from the structural integrity field, I should be able to set up a magnetic resonance to shake him." Jim would just punch him in the face. Work to your strengths, is the lesson you should take away here.

The best illustration of this would be Coach Spymaster's attempt to take scrubs Blizzard, Blacklash, and Beetle; and turn these benchwarmers into a team that could beat Iron Man. Part of their training is watching their old fight videos, presumably to desensitize them to their inevitable beating, but also to see their mistakes. I can't imagine how depressing that would be, to watch yourself lose over and over again, long enough to realize, "Of course! Every time I feint left, he hits me with the repulsor rays! It's so obvious now!"

So, Team Spymaster attacks Stark International during the scattering of Tony Stark's "ashes," which were probably old coffee grounds. (Also, I'm pretty sure Stark had a chip or two or shrapnel or something in him; shouldn't Jim have noticed they were missing?) After starting a fire and trapping civilians for a diversion, the team is pretty psyched (and surprisingly casual) when Iron Man arrives, figuring they now knew all of his moves. All of Tony's moves. It must completely suck to be 100% prepared to duck under that unibeam blast when it comes, only to get punched in the face, repeatedly, with a big metal fist.

Spymaster, utterly unsurprised by this turn of events, had a weapon in reserve: an electromagnetic pulse weapon, which reduces the mightiest weapons system on earth, to about 200-300 pounds of deadweight on Jim. Confident he's won, Spymaster takes his time gloating, giving Jim time to get up and clock him. Tony would have had to clever his way out of this, Jim sucks it up and muscles through.

Still stuck in the armor waiting for it to reboot, the first thing Jim sees when it comes back on is the Avengers West Coast, who don't know squat about this "Iron Man," and are really, really pissed about it. Ironic, since Jim was the first Iron Man to serve on the West Coast team, during their debut mini-series. (There's a good scene in there, where Tigra thinks she's talking to the Iron Man she knew. Rather than mislead her, Jim "unmasks," by taking off his glove, to reveal he's black, thus not Tony Stark.)

Running a little short on time today, so the next issue tomorrow!

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Earth's cattiest heroes!

For many comics fans and writers, the hero's secret identity is a bit of a sacred cow. Actually, that's an apt cliche, because it's been milked for about all its worth. It can be a very good means of creating drama, and I would personally keep mine; but it also often leads to plots that are just tired. Lying to your one true love about your secret identity, tired. Having seventeen different villains who know your id, but none of them expose you because that would ruin their fun, tired. Brainwashing villains, society, your love interest to protect your identity, tired. What about brainwashing your friends? Pre-Identity Crisis, that is.

Iron Man/Captain America '98 Annual, "Life and Liberty," plot by Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern, script by Mark Waid, pencils by Patrick Zircher, inks by Randy Emberlin. This was the year Marvel did team-up annuals across the board, so you had things like X-Man/Hulk or Dr. Doom/X-Men, most of which were glorified fill-in issues, and completely disposable. However, with the regular writing staff of both Cap and Iron Man, and a penciller that would do more Iron Man issues, this one counted.

We begin with Cap and Iron Man using a force-field bubble to get to the beach of a Caribbean island undetected, or a homage to American Gladiators. Whichever. It doesn't especially work, as they're attacked as soon as they hit the sand by automated cannons and A.I.M. fliers. Yeah, I'm just going to call them AIM from here on in, OK?

I have more mockery for AIM, Advanced Idea Mechanics, scheduled for later, but for those of you who haven't seen them, I guess "evil Microsoft" would be the best description. Or is that "more evil Microsoft"? Think a bunch of geeks who originally were the lab rats and tech monkeys for HYDRA, then they branched off into their own little terrorist group, with yellow beekeeper uniforms and MODOK and ray guns and crap. They've never been that effective, but really, if your IT guy decided to try and take over the office, he could probably bring your computer to a standstill, but you could probably beat the tar out of him.

Cap and Iron Man aren't having a huge problem dealing with AIM, but are sniping at each other like an old married couple after one of them ate the last eggo and didn't mention anything about it, even as I was getting out the toaster and the syrup...and on that note, cue the flashback:

Earlier, Cap had made his way to the center of another AIM installation, on the trail of Mentallo, who was using AIM's scientific knowhow to amp up his telepathic powers. Using a dogpile of beekeepers and a force-field "filched from the brain of Reed Richards!" Mentallo is able to hold Cap off as he gains control over everyone on earth, about six billion people...which kind of seems like more trouble than it's worth, really: I really, really don't need to know what's going on in the head of Julie Sue Podunk, of Bumsphuck, AR.

But, as Tony Stark puts it, Mentallo "overcounted by one." Who? Professor X? Jean Grey? Cable? The Vision? No, Tony himself, tired of the constant mind control, wore a watch full of circuitry to protect himself from mental domination. Granted, he did it so he couldn't be taken over while in his armor, but maybe that's the sort of invention you might want to share with the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, etc. Tony gets sucked into Mentallo's "Cyberastral Realm," which is probably a lot like the movie Johnny Mnemonic. Not because of the cyberspace, Mentallo just liked the movie. He starts to take Stark apart and pulling secrets out of his head, but is shocked to realize Stark is Iron Man, which gives Tony the opening to knock him out. I dunno, I don't think Mentallo could've maintained control over everyone for very long if he's that shocked by that; because he was bound to run across more shocking things in people's heads. Shocking, icky things.

With Mentallo down, Iron Man has access to and control of everyone on earth, and to his credit he doesn't automatically make everyone shape up and fly right. (I would have made everyone, everywhere, mail me a dollar. And buy more comics. "Stop killing each other" was down around number seven on my list, next to "Go ahead and eat pork, why not?") He does take the opportunity to erase the knowledge of his secret identity from Mentallo's mind, and everyone else on the planet, as he destroys the mind-web and releases everyone.

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Cap snaps back awake to find Mentallo in a coma, and S.H.I.E.L.D. mops up the AIM soldiers, finding several hostages that were hooked into Mentallo's machine. Cap is left wondering what happened, until Iron Man calls an Avengers meeting with a very specific lineup: Cap, Thor, Wasp, Giant-Man, Wonder Man, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, who probably shouldn't have been affected...Iron Man reveals himself to be Tony Stark, and everyone present realizes they already knew that, as he "was able to tell you fast enough so the revelation restored your old memories." He makes plans to tell Hawkeye as well, when Cap takes him aside to ream him out. Cap takes the Batman in Identity Crisis high ground: Tampering with people's minds is just wrong, and Tony is once again putting his secrets and agenda ahead of the rights of others, violating their freedoms. Just like in the Armor Wars, Cap says.

In Tony's defense, he had recently received and was still recovering from an asskicking that landed him in the hospital, as the direct result of Spymaster learning his secret id. He takes offense at the Armor Wars crack, and points out that the Space Phantom previously had erased the world's knowledge of Cap's identity. (The editorial footnote cites Avengers #107, which I've read but don't recall, so I guess it worked. Sometimes Cap's id is a state secret known by no one, sometimes it's known to various and sundry secrety government agencies like SHIELD, the Commission, and the IRS, sometimes everyone knows.) Cap points out that wasn't his idea, but Tony says he still benefited from it. The two continue arguing and thinking the other is being a dick about the whole thing, until they're interrupted by a call from SHIELD.

The hostages' DNA showed an "aberrant pattern," which is the first thing the government looks at in recovered hostages. Iron Man recognizes it, asks the computer for the whereabouts of a Dr. Mark Cushing, and they're off in a quinjet two panels later. Not fooling around today, I see. Despite having had a meeting five minutes ago, the rest of the Avengers are busy, so only Cap and Iron Man go. They probably heard your argument and ducked out, guys: it would be the least fun plane ride ever, with both of them going "I'm right, aren't I? Tell him!" the whole damn way.

Having beat most of the AIM intruders, Cap and Iron Man find yet another Marvel hidden society, the gold skinned citizens of Zenith City. Their "voice of the groupmind" Jason introduces them, and explains that with the Avengers' help, they have beaten the rest of AIM's forces. Jason takes him to the body of the last Dr. Cushing, who's on display like Lenin. Cushing had been a scientist working for Tony, who walked with two arm-brace canes, that was trying to revive a biomechanics project previously shut down by Tony. Tony pointed out that he stopped that research because preliminary testing showed subjects couldn't stop the treatments without dying, and that the brain implants had the unfortunate side-effect of "an invariable tendency to synchronize--compromising the subject's individuality in favor of a hivemind effect!" Just like every message board I've ever seen...

Cushing walks out on Stark, saying he'd "never know the price the weak would gladly pay for strength." He found the funding, bought an island, and did it himself; turning the sickly and weak into gold-skinned hotties. Unfortunately, the research was funded by AIM, who tortured Cushing to death to try to find the secret of the process. With Cap and Iron Man's help, Zenith City was now free, but Cap points out MODOK isn't going to just let them go. And MODOK doesn't, instead activating the override, taking over the citizens again. The citizens are as buff as Cap and have mind-rays to zap Iron Man, so they aren't doing great. (By the way, I remember when MODOK was killed in Captain America #313, and then his corpse blown up in Iron Man #205, but if anyone can tell me what issue he came back in...)

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(Apologies for the shadowy lettering on this one: Suffice to say, it's MODOK's standard rant.)

MODOK is laughing his giant ass off, and uses the amassed power of the Zenith citizens to create a giant energy MODOK--not as stumpy, but no neck,round head, same terrible hair. Iron Man takes one for Cap and ends up thrown across the island. MODOK is finally going to get even with Cap for all the times Cap wrecked his plans, so Cap surrenders. MODOK is frankly shocked, but it was a ruse, and Cap turns his energy shield back on in MODOK's hand, disrupting it; and Iron Man finishes him off.

Badly beaten, Iron Man then turns his attention to freeing the citizens. A mental projection from Jason points out that the AIM Navy and Air Force, apparently, will arrive on the island in minutes, and that casualties are inevitable, AIM will use them for world domination, communications are jammed, and so forth. Iron Man manages to adjust the radiations of the Zenith process, so that when it's stopped, the citizens will survive, but in their pretreatment states, that is, sickly. This would deprive the world of dozens of gold-skinned centerfolds, but they would be of no use to MODOK.

Jason says they would rather die than give up "physical and mental perfection," and since they are a big group mind they all agree. Iron Man takes that cue to drop due to his injuries, leaving the decision to Cap: "Subvert the will of the people, or watch them die when AIM reaches the island." Cap pushes the button, and Jason's mental image disappears.

With the Zenith radiation down, AIM leaves, SHIELD arrives, the people of Zenith are helped back into a society that refers to them as "shortbussers," and Cap and Iron Man feel like losers. Cap admits to being a hardass on issues of personal rights; yet when Iron Man reveals his id to Pepper and Happy Hogan (two of his longest standing friends) and sees a brief hurt look in their faces, Tony can finally see Cap's point. "Sometimes we do have to make complicated choices, but we don't have to like them."

I liked this comic, but I have to admit, I prefer the days when an issue or topic of discussion can be brought up, and if not solved, at least discussed, in the space of a single (larger) comic. Instead of a 70 part crossover. And that Cap and Iron Man were able to shake hands as friends in the end, which seems pretty unlikely in the wake of Civil War. Maybe I'll be wrong, but it's too early to say. The cover of Black Panther for Storm and Panther's wedding, with Cap and Iron Man glaring at each other at the actual wedding, doesn't bode well.

It's also problematic to reconcile this issue's Iron Man, with the Iron Man that gave up his secret identity seemingly on a lark about 50 issues later. (The more I look at that page, the more I think Tony did it less to save the dog, and more to piss off his girlfriend!) Then getting the same character to point C, government registration stooge, seems less likely. He was willing to do this to save his secret identity, now he thinks everyone should give theirs up? I don't know. What do you think?

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Wrong, just wrong. It's partially the art, the angle, and the implication; but Tony's silver armor's mask looks scowlier? More scowlie? Than other armors seen to this point. And in the third panel, the Fixer is enjoying himself maybe a bit too much...From Iron Man #202, "The Savage Goes West!" Written by guest Danny Fingeroth, guest art by Paul Ryan, regular inks by Akin and Garvey again. Guest starring Ka-Zar (or, "Marvel Tarzan") with brief cameos by Zabu and Shanna the She-Devil.

Off topic for a moment, but bear with me: Years and years ago, well before this "internet" you speak of, I become a big fan of the movie Robocop. In this strange, primitive time, there was no internet fanbase or website or discussion groups; or even DVD commentary inside a year of the movie's release. So, I read a lot of Starlog magazines for info on the making of the film, the direction, and the effects. Had to be hardcore back then, tell you what. No point and click for us, we had to get up and actually look for things. Kids today...

Rob Bottin--a great name to be working on that film!--created the Robocop suit. In a Starlog interview, he pointed out that you had to have a (relatively) skinny guy like Peter Weller in there, rather than a more traditional action hero of the time like Schwarzeneggar. Otherwise, "He'd look like the Pillsbury Doughboy in there." Years later, when Schwarzeneggar put on the Mr. Freeze suit for Batman and Robin, the prophecy was fulfilled.

Fascinating, I'm sure, but what does any of that have to do with Iron Man? Well, I'm getting there. Tony Stark is a fairly well built guy, and with a suit of armor about what, an inch thick around almost his entire body? Maybe a little less, but Iron Man should look noticeably larger, more bulky, than just about anyone. But the character is often seen in the company of Thor and Captain America, who would be so buff as to make unarmored Tony seem scrawny...

In the sidebar for links is, an excellent source for information and reviews of action figures. In a recent review of a Predator action figure, it was noted that in toys, the Predator's head often seems a trifle oversized, but that's probably close to the "real-life" model. When played by a person, the mask of a Predator head has to fit over an actor's head, therefore it would be larger. That's why sometimes, an action figure version of Iron Man will either seem a bit pinheaded if unmasked, or have a helmet like a bucket if the head is scaled correctly.

So, while I think Iron Man should be bigger than he usually appears, that may be because in contrast to the Titanium Man or Fin Fang Foom, even a big guy in armor is still going to seem "normal" sized. Or it could just be artistic license. Or, Iron Man's first armor looked like armor, and looked clunky, so it's been "streamlined" to where it is today. Or artistic laziness. You decide! Maybe Tony shouldn't be an in-shape guy, but more of a stereotypically nerdy physique, less defined, more thin. Yeah, I'm sure that would fly for the movie.

More Iron Man week to come, but a couple brief housekeeping notes: after I post this, I'll be adding some more links to the sidebar. Also, check out the Comic Book Shop, which is celebrating its 18th anniversary this weekend! A big congratulations and thank you to Craig, and he always has a comics list and news every week, so check 'em out.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Just a short one today: it's occurred to me that if I was going to do Iron Man week, maybe having the issues I wanted to scan in hand would've been a good idea...Luckily, I had several copies of this, as it's been reprinted a few times, Joe Rubinstein inking and Jim Starlin contributing "Other Manual Labor" for "The Final Threat," Avengers Annual #7, 1977.

Back in those days, Iron Man was definitely second only to Thor as most powerful (regular) Avenger. From the Kree-Skrull War, to this battle against Thanos, Iron Man was able to...apparently, cover huge distances at nigh-relativistic speeds in space, use repulsor rays to deflect ionic cannon fire, fly like a missile to destroy small interstellar space fighters; and all in the same armor that back on earth, he had a hard time using to beat the Termite. Huh.

Nowadays, Marvel is just starting to get back to hijinks in space, with the Annihilation books. But, if Iron Man's going to take it into space, he needs to have his specialized, high-end space armor; since it's more efficient, more powerful, and makes for a neat toy. And fighting Thanos' ships, that would be about four issues itself.

More Iron Man tomorrow, even if I have to go rebuy those issues...

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Monday, July 10, 2006

So, the internet was abuzz a couple of weeks ago, when Spider-Man revealed his secret identity in Civil War #2. If I understand it correctly, Iron Man revealed his as well. For like the fifth time.

The above scene is from Iron Man, volume 3, #55/400. (Meaning 55 of the current series, 400 if counting from the old system. There's been another first issue since then, too.) Story and art by Mike Grell. Grell is best known for his DC work, mainly Legion of Super-Heroes and his creation, the Warlord.

This was the second story in the issue: at a press conference to account for his Iron Man-related disappearance for the last two weeks, Tony Stark has another fight with his long-standing on-again, off-again girlfriend Rumiko Fujikawa. To cover with his stockholders, Tony also makes hints to an upcoming 'big announcement,' to be pulled out of his ass at a later date.

At a reception afterwards, the news crew in attendance spots a group of bank robbers about to make a speeding getaway over some kid's dog. Tony leaps over the side of a balcony, armors up on the fly (!), and smashes the getaway car to save the dog. (In the next panel, as Iron Man hands the grateful child his dog, in the background the cops can be seen handcuffing a robber that was thrown through the windshield. Now that's tough on crime!)

Ignoring the string of coincidences leading to the reveal, there's a lot weird about this. In Kurt Busiek's run, a lot is made about keeping Tony's identity secret (more on that later!); and in Quesada's short run, there's a dream sequence issue where it's revealed, to horrible consequences. Moreover, I think during Busiek's run, it was established that the armor was about the size of a steamer trunk, and Tony would summon it from the trunk of his car. Now, it's briefcase sized again. That last part I'm OK with, really: ever since the Ultimates, the armor has gotten bigger, bulkier, and requires a support staff roughly equivalent to an aircraft carrier's. I may have just missed or not remember the issue with the changeover, however.

And the armor up sequence would probably look great on film.

I recently went back and read Grell's run, and I liked it a lot. I'm not sure why he left the book, as he did mid-storyline; but his issues generally had Iron Man doing...wait for it...heroic stuff. Something to be said for that.

But, my larger point here is really a question: why were people surprised to find out Tony Stark was Iron Man? Maybe I'll just have to suck it up and actually read that Civil War issue. Still, more Iron Man tomorrow, and hopefully we'll get to some of my favorites. As soon as I find them.

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