Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So, Legacy of Evil would either be on like its ninth printing; or marked way down in the remaindered bins.

Either or, but nobody knows.

Well, that's embarrassing: I confused longtime Daredevil (and now Front Line) character Ben Urich, with his nephew, one-time superhero Phil, briefly the Green Goblin. I haven't read a comic with either in a while, luckily, this one has both: Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil. It's a sharp little one-shot from Kurt Busiek and Mark Texeira.

This came out the same year that Astro City debuted, and you can see some strengths that Busiek would take with him there: a common man working in the midst of superheroes (Urich), a superpowered tough guy that's more than just a thug (Ben Raxton, longtime Spidey bit player the Molten Man; who very possibly may have been the inspiration for later AC character Steeljacket.), and a definite sense of history. Now, Busiek's a good enough writer that in Astro City when he tells you, say, the Ditko Building has been abandoned since it was nearly demolished in a battle between the Adjuster, Omni-face, and Kid Kobalt; you know what he's talking about, even if he's talking about events that never appeared in an actual comic.
I expected Molten Man to have a grill... But here, he references events that "actually happened" in years of Spider-Man continuity. Busiek works best in a super-hero universe that's more than the last crossover or facekick (not that there's anything wrong with that): events happened in the past that affected these characters. You don't need to know exactly what, so it won't kill you if you haven't read every Lee/Ditko/Romita Green Goblin story, but if you have you'll get a better view of the picture. (Think Lost: as much as I grouse about it, it would be a poorer show without the characters' flashbacks. Yeah, a poorer, five-minute long show, where they would've had to explain that stupid island by now.)

Real brief plot: while working on his book "Legacy of Evil," Bugle writer Ben Urich witnesses the kidnapping of young Normie Osborn, the son of the second (Harry) and grandson of the first (Norman), by three goblin-dressed women on gliders. Liz Osborn, Normie's mom, is given a telepathic message that Normie is being taken to receive his "birthright--the legacy of the Green Goblin!" Since Spider-Man and Liz feel like they're too emotionally involved, they turn to Ben to investigate, to see if there were any clues that they missed.

Thus begins a walking tour of the various Green Goblins' history--the third, Harry's psychiatrist Bartholomew Hamilton, is given a brief mention/brush-off, as are later generation homage/knock-offs the Hobgoblin and Demogoblin. God, Demogoblin's a dumb name.

Although Busiek tries to obfuscate the issue, the Goblin's legacy is kinda obvious if you've seen any of the movies: it's the Goblin juice that gave Norman and Harry super-strength and super-insanity. They had terrible hair before dosing up, though, so it wasn't responsible for everything. In the Ultimate universe, the Goblin-formula is tied, like everything else, to Captain America's Super-Soldier serum. I don't know if that retcon's been applied to the regular Marvel continuity, but I could almost see the Goblin juice being rolled in the Weapon X or Weapon Plus series: Cap was Weapon I, Wolverine Weapon X (ten), and the Goblins could have been maybe seven or eight.

This story doesn't just hit the old highlights, though; there's also references to later Harry stories, including ones featuring a mind-control machine used after his death to mess with Spidey. That Goblin-juice really didn't do the Oscorp shareholders any good, did it? Norm and Harry had either invented or developed for use flying gliders (that had to be pretty fuel-efficient to fight Spider-Man all over NYC) and mind-controllers and robots and had about sixty hidden Goblin-lairs in the city; and the investors never saw a dime of profit...

"Legacy of Evil" was published at just the right time, the window when Harry and Norman were both dead, or at least pretty dead for comic characters. The heroic Goblin was about to debut, but Norman would be back within two years, Harry over a decade later. Even Busiek would have a hard time doing this story now, since the retcons have really muddied up the waters there: Norman not really being dead at this time, Harry's grave is exhumed and his body found and he's back, the whole weird Norman/Gwen know, the second-to-last page actually has a moment that almost--almost--could be read to allude to that. But that's merely happenstance.
Tex channelling Romita nicely there...
Retcon #58:  Urich has known who Spidey is, for like ever.
Wait: does Ben, or say, Robbie Robertson from the Daily Bugle; characters who probably figured Spidey's secret identity through hard work and clever detecting rather than by cheating or being told by an alien parasite, still know? Or did Mephisto wipe that out, too? If so, that's some quality work...

I like Mark Texeira's art, and he does inks and colors as well here: the city and the civilians are a lot more realistic-looking, then they would've been in a traditional Spider-Man book at the time. Texeira also gets to put his spin on several classic moments in flashbacks. His Spidey reminds me of the seventies TV show, too--in a good way. Coincidentally, I picked up a spare copy of this for my brother-in-law; the same day I got the new issue of Moon Knight, also featuring Tex art on a great MK/Bullseye fight.

Anyway, big thumbs-up on this one: I liked it the first time I bought it, and it's still a good read. Check out the quarter bins near you! EDIT: "Legacy of Evil" is also mentioned in passing in this week's Lying in the Gutters! Check it out, apparently they were pretty set on Harry being dead dead at the time... Read more!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

For Comparison Purposes:

First of all, a tip of the hat and farewell, to KB Toys, which is going out of business. There hasn't been one of their stores in my area for several years, but I did get a lot of figures from there in its day. But, before they're done, I did get this from their website:
I don't do a lot of photos of carded toys, sorry.
An Art Asylum/Diamond Select Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Captain Benjamin Sisko figure. Five bucks, with postage, although I'm not sure if KB Toys still has him in stock during their clearance. Now, over at Artemis had a pretty good write-up on Sisko, so check that out: here, we're going to compare him, a 2006 figure (well, that explains the five dollar pricetag...) to the state of the 1998.Well, at least you know what you're getting at this barber...

Playmates made tons of Star Trek figures during their run with the license in the 90's, but this was closer to the end. Best guess by this point, they had made at least three Sisko's, but this one from their "Warp Factor 2" line was an incremental step up in scale, sculpting, and accessory. However, there was a trade-off in articulation: PM Sisko looks good on his chair, and that's about it. The neck is a cut joint, but there aren't joints for even the wrists.
People are taller now than they were 500 years ago, so in the 24th century is Sisko like eight feet tall?

"For comparison purposes" might become a semi-regular feature around here: there's some characters, like Batman or Spider-Man, who've had figure after figure through the years; but there are others who may only get one every decade or so, if they're lucky. And if a toy line is successful enough to get well down the line of ancillary characters. Or, if the popularity of a license wanes and then waxes again. By comparing the same character's figures from different times (and ofttimes, different companies), you can see how action figures have changed over the years. Some other time, we'll take a look at some Iron Fist figures that should help this point...

It's the Defiant: we don't need replicators, or in-scale chairs! Read more!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Timing, part thirteen.

We're probably going to go back to maybe a once or twice a week schedule, at least for the regular strips, since I'm rapidly burning through my backlog. Also, a strip or two back, Kurt randomly changed back from his Ultimate version to the regular one; and I didn't notice. Oops.

Kang is a favorite villain of mine, since he appeared in one of the first Avengers comics I ever read; and I loved Kurt Busiek's use of him in both Avengers and Avengers Forever. Kang had a figure in a Fantastic Four line a couple years back, but was virtually impossible to find: with the shelves clogged with prior FF movie toys, the wave fans seemingly actually wanted with Dragon Man, a new Invisible Woman, and Kang, was severely under-ordered. And the Dragon Man looked sweet, too. I think this Kang, from the Walmart Ares wave, is a new sculpt; but nobody seems to have both to compare...

I think I've grown accustomed to the new Sarah Connors, since the hair on the McFarlane Movie Masters Terminator 2 figure seemed far too light to me. I did have another joke for Sarah there that's maybe still forthcoming... Read more!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sure, when Kite-Man does this, he sucks; but give Deathstroke the Terminator a hang-glider and you're all like, "Awesome!"
Despite having a kick-ass action figure and other fans who made the case for it; I don't think I've ever really appreciated Deathstroke. Maybe because DC can't decide if they want him to be a super-villain (ala Identity Crisis) or an anti-hero, as seen in his own 90's series. I saw this in one of my boxes, and thought perhaps checking out his first issue would give me some insight; but unfortunately, this is Deathstroke the Terminator Annual #1.

It's one of DC's "Eclipso: the Darkness Within" annuals for 1992; sadly, since I knew more about that, the crossover material was easier to follow than anything involving the main characters, or Nightwing, who's here for good measure. Or not, as he and Deathstroke examine some wreckage scavenged from the destroyed Titans Tower:
Somewhere, Batman is shaking his head sadly...
Geez, Dick, if you feel that bad then, you must either be a complete wreck now, or utterly dead inside to the Titan's plight. In short, this issue didn't help me understand or appreciate Deathstroke (which will probably be clear, later...) and kind of made me think even less of Nightwing. (Crying over dead teammates, OK. Crying over dead teammates during a mission in front of Deathstroke and a guy that looks like Marvel's Baron Strucker, not so much.)

From "A Thousand Points of Night" Plot by Marv Wolfman and David Cody Weiss, script by Marv Wolfman, pencils by Gabriel Morrissette and Phil Jimenez, inks by Akin, Statema, and Barnett III. Read more!
Timing, part twelve.

I really, really didn't like Robert Kirkman's homophobic stalker Nightcrawler in Ultimate X-Men. Come to think of it, I'm kind of burnt out on the whole Ultimate universe. I read Ultimate Spider-Man here and there, I liked the Warren Ellis run of Ultimate Fantastic Four, and while I enjoyed the Ultimates, I'm also kind of done with them.

I watched the Ultimate Avengers DVD's with my son, which got me excited to re-read the first two series. (I'm not touching Ultimates 3 with a ten foot pole.) And I did, and then...I really, really didn't like the Ultimates anymore. They aren't likable characters. Ult. Captain America is a bit of a sexist pig and a bully. Ult. Hank Pym beat the hell out of Jan and is a total whiner. Ult. Wasp is fickle, or dumb, if she goes back to Hank. Ult. Iron Man has drinking and impulse control problems that make the 616 Tony look like a saint, and Ult. Thor just doesn't seem to have the same good nature the regular one usually does. Mark Millar seems to have a gift for making you empathize with characters you shouldn't (he does it multiple times in Wanted) but I didn't know if I should feel anything for the Ultimates.

Something else coming up this afternoon though. What? Good question! Read more!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

What's my favorite version of Captain America?
It's tough for a guy dressed like the flag to have a serious discussion about copyright violation.
Good question. It kind of depends on when you ask, but I'm pretty partial to this one:
And if you thought Bucky was too baby-faced to be Cap...
Right after this picture, the Youngest bounced that shield off two walls...A big thanks to the Oldest for the picture, and for being a great big brother:
'Superman' is running out of gas, here...
Merry Christmas again, everyone! Read more!
"How Deadpool Saved Assisted Didn't Wreck Had Christmas:"

As usual, click to unwrap, er, enlarge. Not sure of the setup? The first strip's here.

I know I'm not feeling Christmasy this year, but I'm sure it'll still have it's moments. And even if it's not the best one ever, well, it's still Christmas. Good enough.

Back to comics: I'm 90% sure of that Punisher reference, although I'm not sure I have those issues now. They're over-shadowed by the Garth Ennis run, but I loved the Mike Baron years, too. I'm not quite as sure if that gun is specifically intended to be a Striker shotgun--it came from a Spawn movie figure--but it's pretty close.

The Nightcrawler reference is to an actual issue, at least as far as Kurt going to a church for the visually impaired. I don't get the Catholic aspect of Nightcrawler, at all, no. And if at any point in X-Men: Quitting Time, there's reference to Kurt leaving the X-Men to "get right with God," I. Will. Scream. You'll hear it.

Even though I'm not a huge Spawn fan, every once in a while, the toys would jump out at me. The "Christmas Angel" is "Wings of Redemption" Spawn, and while I know it's recently been redone, I don't remember what series it's from. A ways back, certainly. Deadpool's referring to the crossover Batman/Spawn, which was maybe the first symptom of Frank Miller going off the rails, and um, one of the only and probably the last Spawn comic I remember reading.

At the top of page three, I intended to actually use non-dairy creamer for a snow effect, but ironically, was pretty much snowed in at the time, and couldn't get any. I only needed a pack of it, though: non-dairy creamer is revolting, and you should be a bit suspicious of anyone who uses it...

Still, all the best to everyone this Christmas, and a big thank you for coming by! Read more!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

You can't tell, but they have the heater going something fierce in there.
The weird thing is, I used to know all the buttons in the Mach V...
I'm waiting to see what the weather's going to be like on Christmas, but right now it's looking like if I can get out of town, I'll be OK on the highway. Best of luck to everyone driving for the holidays, and be safe.

Deadpool is rocking Orion's helmet (from the DC Direct version, although there was a recent version with removable helmet from DCUC) just because, really. Looks kind of sharp, really: if I had that, I'd wear it. Nightcrawler was going to wear Enemy Ace's goggles and helmet, but couldn't get them on over his ears. Also, I should've got more snow in the tires and everything. Ah, next time. Read more!
No "all along the Watchtower" jokes here...damnit!
I like the mask, and it seems ready-made to be a toy accessory...
On paper, so to speak, this doesn't seem like a recipe for one of my favorite Batman stories: an aged, but not Dark Knight Batman; the only Rouge's Gallery villain used is Z-list Robin foe the General; and cartoonish art more in the vein of Judge Dredd than traditional Batman. But somehow, it all falls into place nicely: "Watchtower", from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #55-57, written by Chuck Dixon, art by Mike McMahon.

Set far enough in the future for Batman to be rocking the Nick Fury/Reed Richards gray temple look; Gotham City is still a mess even with all the big bads like the Joker, Two-Face, etc. behind bars. Bats actually misses them a little, though, since now he feels "more like a garbageman" as he wades through thugs and bottomfeeders.

Meanwhile, having had some success averting financial disaster by privatizing other public services, the mayor announces plans to turn over police services for the poor Tricorner district to Vigil, Inc. Even though Gordon and Batman both think it's probably not a great idea, they admit they aren't going to be around to protect Gotham forever.

Using aerial surveillance cameras, Vigil lowers the violent crime rate for the area within six months; although that's in part to the lower rungs of criminals deserting the Tricorner area. Wondering where all the big fish have gone, Batman receives word that the General--he had been a child prodigy crimelord in Dixon's Robin, now a grown-up crimeboss with a military fixation--has a "bunker" in Tricorner.

Of course, Vigil turns out to be corrupt on almost all levels: from the patrolmen who beat to death a low-level pusher, to the deals the upper management cuts with the General and other bosses. After a savage beating, the past-his-prime Batman struggles to recover, but finally opts to take Vigil down by working smarter, not harder.
Won't a rubber bullet in the face still kill you?  Oh, I don't know...
Well, there's more to Batman's plan than this, but you get the idea...As usual, your enjoyment of gun-toting Batman may vary, but I still like this one. Read more!
Timing, part eleven.

Was that too far? Well, we'll see, the discussion isn't over yet.

I set these strips up, um, a couple of months ago. Then I couldn't get online, and then I spread them out a bit; and then the other day I was reading an issue of Trinity where Vixen asks if other JLA'ers have counterparts on Earth-3, or Earth-Evil. ("Tricksy? White Lightning?") Wonder Woman points out they probably don't, since the Crime Syndicate/League/Trinity whatever doesn't especially care for competition. Of course, at least once we have seen other evil counterparts--I know they appeared in a Justice League Quarterly, and I'm positive that's in continuity...oh, you can't see me rolling my eyes.

How about this: in the regular earth, the Trinity consider Beetle and Booster a bit annoying, a little embarrassing, and probably wouldn't volunteer to spend time with them; so on the evil Earth that's bizarro-reversed: Ultraman, Owlman, and Superwoman love the evil Blue and Gold. Hey, it makes at least as much sense as the evil money. They had the money with Benedict Arnold, right?

Read more!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Your Happenstance panel of the day:

From Aquaman #2 (1992), "Both Sides of the Issue" Script by Shaun McLaughlin, pencils by Ken Hooper, inks by Bob Dvorak.

I count nineteen enemy helmets in that panel, and Aquaman knocks them right off the page: that's an OMAC-level punch, isn't it? It's a bit cramped, though: that's from a six long-panel page. While I'm usually one for cramming as much graham as possible, opening that one up a bit might have sold Aquaman's power a bit more.

This is from the brief early 90's Aquaman, which is still remembered fondly by the seemingly dozens that read it. Of course, later Peter David would rejigger Arthur and cut off his hand and briefly give him a much higher profile, but there's still a lot to like in McLaughlin's run. Still, it's a grim one: Aquaman's still racked with grief over losing his son (killed by Black Manta) and his wife Mera (who left him thereafter), which is simultaneously interesting yet drags a bit: pretty sure both of those happened what, in the seventies?

We might take a little longer look at that series some other time, but even before David, it started to set the stage for updating Aquaman a bit: getting rid of (or at least lessening) the "hour out of water" limitation, playing up the political turmoil of Atlantis internally and with the rest of the world, and giving Aquaman some limitations in controlling fish. (He has a hard time with some sharks the next issue, oddly, David would make it piranhas: Arthur could talk to sharks, but they were pretty dim.) Still, it's a pretty grim and brooding Aquaman; who already seems to be having anger management problems, or at least wonders if he's ever going to have a problem that doesn't require punching. Read more!
Regardless of feeling neither holly nor jolly right about now, I didn't have a lot of Christmas scans set for this year; especially since, um, I'd done all the good ones I had already. Well, "good ones" may not apply to all of them: there was our first, and probably only, look at DC's Genesis crossover. That was a bit of a stinker, but then we've got a very Badger Christmas and the crank-fueled Yuletide antics of Klaus!

I also have no proof that Steve Purcell has ever done anything that wasn't completely great, continuing with a nightmarish Christmas Eve visitor in Toybox! Santa also straight represents, in one of my favorite Christmas stories ever, that's also one of my favorite Spider-Man stories ever.

Finally, a personal favorite that's also a helpful reminder for you late Christmas shoppers: don't let this happen to you:
Yeah, way better than jewelry! Why, I'm giving flammable homemade undergarments to everyone this year!

There, if that doesn't knock the Christmas carols out of your head for five minutes, I'm not sure what will... Read more!
Maybe TMCM needs his own action figure...

Man, I really enjoyed the first few issues of Shannon Wheeler's Too Much Coffee Man (the above page is from issue #4) but I haven't read it in a dog's age. I think the format has changed, right? From floppies to magazine or something? I don't know.

I was looking for this issue, though, since a while ago I was going to misquote Wheeler's line, "Unrequited love is like hitting your head against a wall that isn't there." I was probably referring to action figure distribution and hunting, though. Like, looking for Wal-Mart exclusive DC Universe Classic or Wal-Mart exclusive Marvel Legends Nemesis wave, is like banging your head on a wall that isn't there. Anyway, tons more Too Much Coffee Man at their homepage here, so give that a spin: again, haven't read it in a while, but the early stuff was right fine.

Later today: if you knock over an army's worth of soldiers in one punch in a book nobody read, does it make a sound effect? Read more!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Barring global warming, this could become an annual event over here.
Yeah, you might wanna start burning tires or something now...
It's the second annual Moon Knight Snow Day Monkeyshines Post! Wait, the last time I did this was earlier this year? When the hell did it start snowing this much around here?

It may be a bit chilly, but local roads will make you covet the Batpod even more, since that thing would probably at the very least be able to get around stuck cars a bit more easily. I've been stuck like, gah, four or five times already in maybe a day and a half. Current car has got the ground clearance of a lawnmower. Reckon a little walk to work tomorrow morning might not take any longer, and be a lot less stressful.

Of course, I don't think Moon Knight would be one for a Moonpod or Moon-cycle. The helicopter, with the crazy moon-shaped pointy ends, is about as far as Mr. Spector's ever gone with that. Now, if Green Arrow doesn't have an Arrow-pod, I'll eat my hat. Read more!
Well, I still have power, heat, and food. And comics. Lots of comics.
You may think this is as lazy as a Wendigo-Snowbird fight in a blizzard, but it's still one of the most depressing pages I can think of.

Conditions aren't quite that bad here yet, but the snow continues. Fortunately, I live pretty close to my work and a grocery store, so I shouldn't have too many more problems: I was stuck for a bit there, and my back could've done without the slippery walks and the shovelling, but it's getting better.

I mentioned before how Giffen and company rarely broke from the nine-panel grid, but they do so here with good effect. At this point in the series, the alien Dominators (from the classic DC crossover Invasion!) have been working at taking over earth for a millennium (no relation to that crossover), and while they've infiltrated the upper levels of Earthgov, things are starting to go south. The Science Police have realized they've been duped, and the Doms have been forced to detonate hundreds of power-generating "fusion powerspheres," killing thousands and starting a chain reaction that would destroy the earth later in the series. Oh, and the moon blew up and Superman was there.
'Pretend it never happened' is like the Legion crossover mantra, Cham.
Yeah, if you thought the "Five Years Later" Legion was downbeat before, this might not be the issue for you, since we also finally (about three years in!) see what happened to Rokk Krinn/Cosmic Boy and Salu Digby/Shrinking Violet in the Braal/Imsk war. Or conflict, or police action, whatever. Now, longtime Legion fans will remember the Braalians have magnetic powers (think Magneto, Marvel fans) and the Imskians can shrink--like the Wasp, but without flight, stings, or multiple costumes. So you might think the smart money's on the magnetic guys, but imagine the terror of going on patrol against an enemy that could be hiding beneath any leaf, ready to jump out with a machine-gun or bayonet. For good measure, the Imskians also deploy a "damper" that disrupts the Braalians magnetic fields, killing or maiming most of them, and that's why Cosmic Boy didn't have powers in this series. It might not be fun comics, but it's compelling. From Legion of Super-Heroes #20, plot and pencils by Keith Giffen, dialogue and story assist by Tom and Mary Bierbaum, inks and story assist by Al Gordon, colors and story assist by Tom McGraw. Damn, everyone was in on that one, huh?

Coming up tomorrow: a more uplifting, on second thought, it's not uplifting at all, but it's funny. That's something, anyway. Read more!
Timing, part ten

And, afterwards, you can blame your murder spree on a yellow alien bug! Wow, consequences are awesome! Thanks, DC Comics! (I'm not the first to point that out, but it does bear repeating.)

DC Universe Classics has new Booster Gold and Blue Beetle figures coming up, and while the DC Direct figures have done well for me, I'm looking forward to more poseable versions. Booster would've had a more conventional handgun (that's a phaser rifle from Playmates old Star Trek line, which made a ton and a half of different characters, but most had their accessories all molded in the same color...) but both of Booster's hands are fists. (A recent development: It seems funny to me, but DC Direct has more Booster and Beetle coming in a later JLI wave. I think the Blue Beetle there has a bit of a paunch belly.)

We're going to take Christmas off, at least from the regular "Timing" strip, even though I'm writing this in advance, so the next strip will be Wednesday, then another Friday. Still, over at "Lying in the Gutters" Rich Johnston noted that a lot of bloggers and sites take the Christmas holidays off, even though that's exactly when a good number of readers are at home looking for entertainment, so why not try to get some Christmas-week content going? Well, we'll try that: the goal for this week is twice weekday posts, probably one comics related, and then one toy comic or related post.

Which means I should start a Christmas post now... Read more!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Had to change the banner. Not sure I'm loving this one yet...I may be messing with it all week. Let me know if it grabs you. I may just refigure the old one...

EDIT: And changed it within the hour. Maybe this one'll stick. Read more!

Friday, December 19, 2008

How indeed?

Panel from Spider-Man #57, "Aftershocks, part one" Written by Howard Mackie, guest pencils by John Romita Jr, guest inks by Joe Rubinstein. I think during this period of clone-era Spidey, the inks were a lot heavier than usual--didn't Sienkiewicz do some inking here then? I know he did on the Batman books around the same time...

This panel, though, made me think about continuity at Marvel, versus DC. Now, with DC's barrage of retcons and Crisis's and Superboy-punches, it's pretty obvious DC does things differently: usually, they will tear the whole thing down, and start from scratch, like the Superman and Wonder Woman books in the 80's. And occasionally, things are surgically removed, like Superman's killing the Phantom Zone criminals, the old Creeper's origin, or Donna Troy's multiple origins.

But Marvel, well, Marvel tends to just build over the top of old continuity. Maybe it doesn't always line up exactly, but if you keep building, eventually you cover up all the old stuff. Now, Marvel (and it's readers) probably aren't chomping at the bit for a return to this issue's history, with the Scarlet Spider, Kaine, and another amnesiac Peter Parker wandering around. But, they could. It's still there, even if it's ignored. Grant Morrison was trying something similar in Batman, but the old stories he invoked were beyond me, further back than I had ever read.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about, done pretty well: From Iron Man #39, (third series), "Remote Control, part 3" Written by Frank Tieri, pencils by Alitha Martinez and Paul Ryan, inks by Mark Pennington and Rodney Ramos. We mentioned before that whenever an old friend is introduced in a comic, he turns out to be the villain, but this time Tieri teases it out. Whenever evidence points to Tony's childhood friend Tiberius Stone being the bad guy, Tiberius has a perfectly reasonable explanation: "Gee, Tony, I'm sorry my news channel put out an embarrassing story about you, but I don't produce or watch that nonsense. Oh, I'm sorry my bodyguard attacked you, Tony, but he was just trying to protect me. Gosh, Tony, I'm sorry I slept with your girlfriend, but she didn't mention dating you at all, she must really be mad..." (Long-suffering, and eventually murdered, girlfriend Rumiko, is passed like the mike here, just for a plot point.)

See, everyone goes for the alcoholism first, but Tony's got way more embarrassing secrets then that. An earlier issue's news expose postulated that the "Teenage Tony" that was Iron Man after the original was corrupted by Kang during "The Crossing," was really Tony's love child, and I think Tony just let that one go. Easier that way.

The point is, all this continuity doesn't have to be in every issue of every comic ever, but it can be fun when it does show up. Everything here is footnoted, which is seemingly passe now, but might point readers to old stories they may also enjoy, and is that such a bad thing? If a reader is sufficiently interested to look into a back issue or a reprint, after all, isn't it pretty likely he's going to keep reading?

Anyway, this stretch of Iron Man did some things right, like a high-society party featuring noted Marvel universe upper crust like the Kingpin, Sebastian Shaw, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (Jan was the rich one!), Warren Worthington III (the X-Men's Angel), and everyone's favorite back-from-the-dead nutjob Norman Osborn. Still, some things were pretty far wrong: a virtual-reality bit that would've been dated before the Matrix, Iron Man still using the dated 70's armor, Iron Man putting a teleporter (!) in said armor. Hit and miss, then, but not without it's moments. Read more!
Timing, part nine

Little known fact: Cable didn't bulk up until he was well into his twenties...

I like the Ultimate Nightcrawler figure, but he has a light-up feature that hinders his neck movement. Like to none. Still, the figure fares better than the character: in Ultimate X-Men, Robert Kirkman made him both a psychotic stalker and a rabid homophobe, and Ult. Kurt ended up living with the Morlocks, becoming their leader. And traditionally, Morlock leader is a job celebrated by leaving the Morlocks in their smelly sewers as soon as possible, see also: every issue with Storm and the Morlocks.

Finally, I believe Ultimate Nightcrawler, Beast, and Dazzler were killed in Ultimatum in a tidal wave, which is dumb as hell for three reasons: 1. Nightcrawler can teleport. A tidal wave, is not going to sneak up on you. He probably could've saved himself, and at least one of the others, just by teleporting up. 2. Beast had previously been killed off in Ultimate X-Men, and they had to jump through all kinds of hoops to bring him back. Good work. 3. These three die, and Angel survives. Swimming with his wings, underwater...over at 4th Letter, they remixed the hell out of Ultimatum, which is the only way I'd recommend reading it, so you can check it out if you like.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Well, I found Strontium Dog #1, but in the Quality series reprinting the old British series, the first issue isn't SD's first appearance. I think they had that in their reprint 2000 AD mag or something. I did take a second to glance at 2000 AD Online (and take a second to check it out now: I liked the Christmas cover for their Judge Dredd Megazine, reminiscent of the classic Brian Bolland covers) to see if they had any Strontium Dog reprints. No, through ClickWheel they had "only" three years worth of available "progs," weekly issues, to buy. I say "only" since 2000 AD's over 30 years old...also, since I grew up with the Quality/Fleetwood reprints, I have no idea on the prog numbering for anything. I'm sure British fans can speak glowingly of the stellar run of progs 743-812, but I can't. Sorry.

On the other hand, Strontium Dog #1 did feature a three-page story, probably a "Future Shock" although this one isn't labeled as such, from little Alan Moore, age 12. I'm joking, but even though I don't think I've seen them all, it seems like he did these forever. Art by John Higgins, here's "Bounty Hunters."

You never see this in other books.  Like, Scarlett never screams, 'That's Zartan talk!' and blows Gung-Ho's head off...

"Captain? Did our ship always have so many teeth and organs?" And judging by page three, I would guess that's exactly why Mogo doesn't socialize... Read more!
Ah, the quarter bins. Many times I've mentioned around here how much I love buying comics by the pound, but they are a valuable resource: for picking up books that I missed, books that were overpriced the first time around, that are a little dinged and scuffed but still worth reading. Or just to have something when the new shipment of Wednesday's books runs late! Yes, there is the ever-popular metric assload of snow out here, so Thor: Godsized, the new Doctor Sleepless, and Moon Knight will have to wait a bit.

But by no means did I come away empty-handed. While I didn't have time for a complete search (look, I never know when the urge to read Freex may finally strike me, or maybe I'll finally remember which issues of Danger Trail I still need) there was a batch of new quarterbook blogfodder. Including almost a longbox full of 90's Spider-Man books. Clone era.

To maximize my quarter-book value, or maybe my reading pain, my first selections were double-sized issues or gimmick covers, but several of those were "Part 1" of some nonsense, and several of these were--gasp! Fifty cents a piece. Look, the economy's tanking, I need gas, and frankly, most of those books aren't going anywhere right away. Let's run down the ones that made the cut.

The adjective-less Spider-Man #50. Featuring the first of Kraven the Hunter's surprisingly large brood of hunter kids, and Spider-Man referring to himself as "the spider" and trying to pretend Peter Parker is a separate person, so he doesn't have to deal with the pain of Aunt May's latest deathbed ailment. Yeah, this is the only one I've started so far, and I haven't even made it halfway through it yet. Maybe later.

Spider-Man Unlimited #2, "the awesome conclusion" to Maximum Carnage. Just like that, on the cover: "the awesome conclusion" with no exclamation points or punctuation. O-kay. Pretty sure I had this back in the 90's, since I remember playing the video game on Sega; but have only the vaguest recollection of reading it.

Amazing Spider-Man #400, "A Death in the Family..." Grey die-cut tombstone cover. Taking it out of the bag to check the cover price, I wonder if anyone's taken this poor, unloved thing out of the bag or even read it. $3.95. I'll read it later.

Spider-Man Unlimited #8, 16: the first is "Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider together in one Giant-Sized adventure!" (Threat, or menace?) (Why doesn't Spidey have bad guys named Threat, and Menace?) The second, "The Life--and Death--and Life of Doctor Octopus!" And they've got him in the green and orange jumpsuit, not his most flattering look. I don't know how long it took Marvel editorial to realize having an imperfect and psychotic clone of Peter kill Doc Ock, then replacing him with a female Dr. Octopus that was his protege-slash-girlfriend, that none of that was a good idea. Maybe this one will recap some of the good Doctor's other low points--it is an oversized issue, after all.

Web of Spider-Man Annual #10, featuring Shriek on the cover. Shriek's terrible, but they were at least trying to give Spidey a female bad guy other than...geez, I dunno, the Black Cat? Is that it? At any rate, I know I had the first issue of Web when it came out, and maybe an annual or two; but it always seemed like the weakest of the multiple Spidey books. I was a Spectacular fan, mostly, but that was back when it was Peter Parker and Peter David was writing, which in retrospect seems like a blip in the series run.

Adjective-less Spider-Man #57. Some kind of die-cut Spidey behind bars cover. Hmm, one of the first Spider-Man comics I ever read was around issue #215 or so? Frank Miller cover, Peter behind bars? It was better. I'm guessing #57 here is not as good, and probably part 1 of 90.

Probably the best pedigreed creative team of this lot: Kurt Busiek and Mark Texeira, Spider-Man: Legacy of Evil. OK, this one I know I have somewhere, but frankly it was easier just to cough up fifty cents for it. I will be doing a longer post on this one later, since I think it was set just right before Norman Osborn's return--he wasn't dead, he was just in Europe! Hanging out! For like twenty years! And I believe Phil Urich, longtime Daredevil supporting cast member, gets a biography published about Norman, or at least the Green Goblin. I was positive, until I started typing this, that Norman's life as the Goblin was public knowledge, but I'll have to check this and get back to you.

And, just so Spider-Man doesn't get all the publicity/abuse, I also stumbled upon Superman #302 (older, we'll look at it later), Superman Annual #10 (haunted by the ghosts of the Phantom Zone Criminals he killed, so this has probably been Superboy-punched out of continuity) and Superman: Save the Planet! I've seen other bloggers pull that one out to point out that in a book full of a bottle city of Kryptonians, a super-powered dog, and like eight different Toymen, it's getting harder to suspend belief that both Lois and Clark could possibly have jobs at a newspaper these days.

Anyway, there's every possibility of being severely snowed in this weekend...or tomorrow; so posts on at least some of these probably forthcoming soon! See you then. Maybe with scans... Read more!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

For comparison purposes:

I got the Wal-Mart exclusive Hasbro Marvel Legends Heroes Reborn Iron Man...oh, I'm so never typing that again...a while back. Since I still had the old version on the shelf, I put them together for a little look at your basic action figure from 1997 and 2008. I say, "basic," but for the time, the Avengers Iron Man from Toy Biz (we'll call him TBIM) was an upgrade: he was a slightly larger scale than usual, since Iron Man had relatively recently had a mess of toys in the line for his animated show. Like those toys, TBIM features a few vac-metallized pieces: they aren't bad, but prone to chipping, and the chest piece on mine has. Still, the big, shiny mask piece doesn't quite pull off the look of this armor.

As they say at OAFE, TBIM moves at the "big five," cut neck, shoulders, legs. For comparison, that's just one point of articulation more than say, a Simpsons figure. (EDIT: Duhr. He moves at the waist, too. Whoo-hoo!) I was going to say that little articulation is rare these days, but then again, there are some that still have even less. TBIM comes with an accessory. What said accessory actually is supposed to be, um, is anyone's guess. Some sort of charger, maybe? It's supposed to approximate the look of Iron Man #1 from 1996--the regular cover, not the one with the Hulk hands. The charger comes with little cables you can plug into ports on his knees and the backs of his hands, and is rather helpful at keeping him standing. Not shown here? TBIM also came with a little two-pipe chrome piece that attached to his back. What the hell did those pipes do, even in terms of comic-book science? No idea. I personally thought the pipes were ugly as homemade sin, and wonder if I still have them somewhere.

That said, the pipes do differentiate this model of armor from others, and from the pile of Iron Man figures I already have. The Marvel Legends Iron Man (MLIM, which sounds dirty somehow) has non-removable pipes, but they seem more on model: I'm remembering the old ones as smaller, which just made them look dumber. Let's do a quick count: 2 ankles, 2 points at both knees (4), 2 points at both hips (4), waist, chest, 2 shoulder, 2 points at both elbows (4), 2 wrists, and the neck. Let's say 21, although you may count them differently. The balljoints at the elbows and hips give a pretty good range of motion, but the shoulders are constrained by his shoulder pads. In case you still have any, MLIM doesn't have a hole in his back for a flight stand.

Side by side, they resemble each other, but MLIM is far more svelte: in particular, TBIM's hands, chest, and calves are huge; yet his waist is almost the same as MLIM. Because the chest is disproportionate, TBIM almost seems like a He-Man character, but this was the trend back in the day--the first relaunched Star Wars from 1995 were on the burly side as well. I bike a lot, and yet am still jealous of this.Oh, and while he doesn't get any accessories of his own, MLIM comes as part of the Ares Build-a-Figure wave, but his pieces are Ares' sword, dagger, and helmet; which isn't bad if you're maybe not planning on building the full figure.

I had thought I had a copy of the Heroes Reborn Iron Man #1 right handy, but I'm afraid not. I also don't recall if the redesign is all Jim Lee, who's credited as co-writer for that one, or Whilce Portacio, the artist for the first few issues. And I don't remember how long they stayed on the book, since I think they fell behind schedule. I have the damn issues, but I'm not going to dredge them up right now. The first issue was murky and unpleasant, the Hulk spends most of the series with long hair and no pants, and the asshat factor of Tony Stark was amped up to a level not even seen in the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. days.

We'll look at some Heroes Reborn Iron Man in a second, but first consider: one of the things the Iron Man movie nailed was that Tony is a bit of a jerk. He has flaws: he's a womanizer, he's a bit glib, he always seems to be pushing on to the next thing, he might be a drunk. But in the comics, aside from pounding that one note of alcoholic, sometimes writers give Tony "flaws" that are just virtues taken too far.

In the 80's, Tony was the noble businessman, concerned with making money but also with making the world a better place, and he sometimes didn't listen to his friends or employees. He also picked up an over-developed sense of responsibility like Peter Parker, whether for crimes committed with his armor designs (which led to him fighting Captain America in the Armor Wars) or for accidental deaths unrelated to him at all (which led to Tony fighting Cap in the Civil War...) Tony also developed a terrible habit of lying to or making decisions for his friends, the Avengers, and everyone else; if he thought he was in the right: when he didn't tell Rhodey he wasn't dead, just frozen. When he made the deciding vote to disband the West Coast Avengers. When he revealed his identity to the world, and when he hid it again.

Even in his cartoon, Iron Man seemingly went on a suicide mission every week; alone, since he didn't want to put his teammates in danger. Never mind that they might not have been suicide missions if Iron Man went in with half a dozen superheroes behind him. Tony's heart is in the right place, but his control freak tendencies get the better of him.

Back to the Heroes Reborn Iron Man: by the time Heroes Reborn: the Return was ready to start, Iron Man had come a long way. Tony had worked through his guilt over the death of initial Iron Man test pilot Rebel (he had a name, but I don't care enough to look it up) and seemed on his way to becoming the superhero we knew in the regular Marvel universe. And his shining moment in this series? Um, going into the negative zone for carbon dating? Since Franklin Richards had created this alternate earth (don't ask) Reed figures that testing a sample on their earth would give expected results, but taking it out Tony is stunned to realize their earth is actually less than a year old.

The Celestials are going to destroy the second earth, and the Marvel heroes that were lost to Onslaught have to return to their own, the traditional Marvel earth. Captain America and the Falcon say their goodbyes to the girl Bucky, because she was from there...and she didn't really catch on with readers. Look, if she'd been popular, they would've taken her with. And there's also apparently a spare set of Inhumans: they're seen in a crowd shot as Franklin gathers everyone that has to go back, but they weren't lost to Onslaught...and Iron Man? How will he say goodbye to this earth?

Um, by nailing Pepper Potts and bailing out? Great...well, no regrets, right? Until everyone on the way home gets a flashback to their old status quo, and some take it better than others.

I wonder what Reed Richard's flashback was? 'Science is awesome! Also, you have a family around here somewhere...'

Maybe Tony's being a bit hard on himself, but the fact remains, he hasn't made a lot of progress on most of his personal problems. On the other hand, it's not like anyone else learned anything from their time on the other Earth. Hey, is that still there? I remember seeing it in Thunderbolts years back, and pretty sure Dr. Doom conquered it as well; but Marvel doesn't seem to go for the alternate realities like this (or the Squadron Supreme's earth) as much anymore. Unless they've got zombies.

Pages from Heroes Reborn: the Return #3 and #4, written by Peter David, pencils by Salvador Larroca, and a full page of other credits. The whole series is a big reset button to sweep the Jim Lee/Rob Liefeld helmed relaunches under the rug, while simultaneously setting up new first issues for Iron Man, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Avengers. That said, even with the Celestial/Franklin Richards nonsense, David makes it a lot of fun, and I liked those new firsts. And Larroca's art is better, more readable, than most of the Heroes Reborn issues that proceeded it. There's probably a lesson here somewhere, but Tony didn't learn it, so why should we?

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Timing, part eight.

Yeah, Stryker was pretty much bought just for this bit. I know I bought the first issue of Silvestri's initial Image offering, Cyberforce; and I still have like a special or zero issue with Walt Simonson art, but that's it. Bluntly, it's the X-Men, except with cybernetics instead of mutations, and Silvestri seemed to want the years of continuity and background that X-Men has, from the first issue out of the blocks.

We all know Deathstroke, but Star is a Spider-Man looking character from Savage Dragon, that actually got a figure in the last wave of Legendary Heroes. I still haven't bought him, Ann O'Brien (from Art Adam's Monkeyman and O'Brien) or the Darkness; although oddly, I probably could still find them in town with a little legwork. Distribution locally was terrible, but drug stores have that wave of figures, somehow; like one figure per store. Huh.

"Timing" continues on Friday, and later this afternoon, a surprisingly long post on the XFL of Iron Man armors! Both were expensive on multiple levels, hyped to the ceiling, and lasted a year before disappearing forever. Don't remember the XFL? That's OK, no one remembered this armor, either... Read more!