Friday, July 30, 2021

I have to wonder if Spidey gave the Surfer the hassle about this later.

Weirdly, Marvel's used "When Carnage Comes Calling" on the cover before, and it's feels like a Silver Age cover caption, and I'm not sure that works for a serial killer like Carnage? From 2000, Peter Parker: Spider-Man #13, "Living in Oblivion" Written by Howard Mackie, pencils by Lee Weeks, inks by Robert Campanella. 

Carnage takes down Spidey and Venom, in a seeming waking dream, or really loud fantasy. As plain serial killer Cletus Kassidy, he might not have been as tough without his symbiote, but promises a guard they will be reunited. Spidey later notes that previously the Silver Surfer had imprisoned Carnage in "a supposedly unbreakable shell of ethereal energy," which Spidey almost seems to think would have been permanent. (Would that have been too much? Maybe for somebody other than Carnage, but...) Venom had taken the Carnage symbiote away after that; but Cletus is still dangerous, escaping after a prison bus crash, out to "paint the town red!" Somewhat literally: at first glance, Cletus appears to have killed some cops and covered himself in their blood, but there are paint cans behind him. 

Spidey spends most of this issue pining for his wife Mary Jane, unaware that Aunt May has just been told that her plane has...something bad. Something we're not told here; I think it had just disappeared, or at least MJ had, since I think Marvel might've been testing the waters. Mary Jane was a beloved supporting character, Wizard fan-favorite, poster girl; but did Marvel already want to backtrack away from married Peter Parker? And I think it set up a sort of narrative cul-de-sac: the larger world and his supporting cast believed Mary Jane was dead, but Spidey refused to buy it and followed leads and red herrings to try and find her. There's also a sense that Peter is sick of being Spider-Man: he knows he's needed, but was burned out on the treadmill of recurring villains. That would build up to PP: SM #16, which we saw briefly some time back, where Spidey hangs a lot of lampshades on some of the repetitive elements in his stories. (It's an idea that I'm not sure you can use with Spidey without breaking him?)
Back to Carnage, covered in red paint in the streets of NYC, and calling out Spider-Man and Venom: one of the Kingpin's goons tries to get this red nut off the boss's car, but the Kingpin points up, indicating Spidey coming in. Claiming to still have some of his "other's" strength, Cletus throws a hubcap at Spidey; but gets taken down quickly, as Venom silently watches. Spidey resolves to take back his life with Mary Jane and swings home, just in time to get the bad news...
Aside: Aunt May has a couple lines about Peter; about him being frail, and wanting to hold him as when he was a child; that are somewhat infantilizing? He's a grown-ass man! I'm not sure how long MJ was MIA--her Marvel wiki page didn't even bring this stretch up. But Mary Jane shows up on the cover of PP: SM #29, which I'm going to assume really happened and wasn't a fakeout? It was after Mackie's run ended and Paul Jenkins took over. And Lee Weeks is, as always, pretty great here: feel like he's an artist that doesn't get mad love, but is so reliably solid in everything that he should be appreciated more.

Also this issue: A "Fast Lane" Spidey insert and a Spidey "Got Milk" ad! Yet it wasn't a high-water point for the actual book. 
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Thursday, July 29, 2021

The free comic apparently didn't seal the deal, but I appreciated it?

I'm nowhere near the first blogger to bring today's book up; but it's one I have fond memories of unrelated to the issue itself! From 1980, Superman in "The Computers That Saved Metropolis" Written by Cary Bates, pencils by Jim Starlin, inks by Dick Giordano. Cover and prologue art by Ross Andru.
This was a giveaway comic from Radio Shack, with Superman doing his level best to pitch the TRS-80--which, according to that article, was outselling the Apple II until 1982! For some reason, my dad, a junior high principal, had this in his office; and I probably read it a hundred times; yet I don't think I've ever seen a TRS-80 in person: our schools had Apples. It's weird to imagine a world where instead of Apple Stores, Radio Shacks are still a thing...there would be more cheaply made remote-control crap, anyway.
The bad guy here isn't the competition, though; it's Major Disaster, who for years (possibly until just now...) I thought he had been created specifically for this comic: he first appeared in Green Lantern #43 in 1966. Besides having a sweet A-V set-up--presumably a kickback from the good people at Radio Shack--MD had a fairly decent scheme, using a tornado to seed Metropolis with "microscopic Kryptonite crystals!" Not to merely kill Superman, or weaken him, but to impede his control of his powers. As he lays out his blackmail demands, Disaster also knocks out computers citywide, to keep Superman from getting help from them...lot of math involved in being Superman, apparently. But, the two little TRS-80's and some punk kids might just help him save the day.
Superman captures Major Disaster, and brings him in on live TV that then turns into an ad for TRS-80's. But he also announces that the Kryptonite crystals had worn off, which seems like a mistake: it worked pretty well short term there. And Kryptonite was easier to find in those old issues than...geez, than this comic. I feel like I must have picked up another copy in the last forty years; but I'm not positive. Now, if I could find another copy of Captain America and the Campbell Kids, another one from dad's office. It had art by Kupperberg, Trimpe, and Romita; but I think Starlin and Giordano is a bigger get. Wonder if they got a free TRS-80 out of the deal...I'm going to go ahead and guess no.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2021


Since we're using movie Black Widow rather than a comic one, I think she's a lot more sarcastic than usual? I'm also not sure if she's planned everything out here, or not, or just doesn't care to explain to Moon Knight. And he's probably not super broken up about that, either.

I also haven't kept up on all the casting for the upcoming Moon Knight show, but I'd love to have a figure of Marlene. Supporting characters add a lot: it still kills me how there hasn't really been a proper Lois Lane figure. I say that and now McFarlane will make a bondage version or something...
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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

I probably read this when it came out, and probably read the title for some time after this; partially on goodwill for the Simonsons, partly because comics were cheap then. From 1988, X-Factor #26, "Casualties" Written by Louise Simonson, pencils by Walter Simonson, inks by Bob Wiacek. 

This has the "Fall of the Mutants" crossover banner on the cover, but the bulk of it was over: this issue would be largely about reabilitating X-Factor's reputation, in-universe and metatextually. They had defeated Apocalypse, or at least driven him and his Horsemen away, returning Archangel to their side; but when Beast disabled the colossal Ship it had done a lot of damage before crashing in the Hudson River. This was that stretch where the human-looking Beast had super-strength, but using it made him stupider. Or more stupid? There is a great panel in What The--?! #3 lampooning his problem there...(Written by Kurt Busiek, art by Kyle Baker.)
As the team helps rescue efforts across the city, Beast was eaten up by guilt, Archangel was consumed with rage, Cyclops mistakes an endangered bystander for his presumed-dead and long-abandoned wife Maddie and confesses how he failed her, and Marvel Girl gets exhausted telekinetically carrying everybody around. Still, their efforts seem to prove their goodwill to humanity, who hails them as heroes with a bona-fide parade. (Meanwhile, unnoticed by the team, the X-Men were about to fight their final battle in Dallas, and Maddie tells Scott to find their son.)
One of the cops tailing X-Factor through the story suggests they could stay on the downed Ship, since it wasn't going anywhere (yet) and humans were electrically barred from entering it. Jean takes Scott to bed, no longer willing to "let anybody's ghost stand between us." Later, the team gets new costumes, from a grateful tailor they rescued earlier. (How he got their measurements, who knows? Maybe he was a mutant.) And Apocalypse watches, thinking the power would corrupt X-Factor soon enough...which seemingly leads back to the cover, as the team seems to be giants, towering over the Statue of Liberty and the city. Was their real fall to come?
Love the Simonsons, and see what they're trying to do here, putting to bed some of the book's problems: no more mutant-hunter cover-story, no more will-they won't-they with Scott and Jean, trying to make them unequivocally heroes. I'm not 100% sure it worked, though; I'm still mad at Cyclops, but he's had to do like three image-rehab tours since then.
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Monday, July 26, 2021

Yeah, just climb around on that thing's corpse, that seems safe.

Despite its origins as a toy tie-in, this book tried to get away from the traditional (and hackneyed) space-opera; yet this issue's cover seems inspired by the "Space Jockey" from Alien. From 1985, Micronauts #11, "Failures of the Heart" Written by Peter B. Gillis, pencils by Kelley Jones, inks by Danny Bulanadi.
Attempting to breech the Spacewall separating them from their usual section of the Microverse, the 'Nauts had suffered a devasting loss the previous issue: confronted by a Time Traveler, Commander Rann had felt something amiss, evil about it, and ordered an attack. That failed, as the Time Traveler devastated the fleet of their allies, the alien Confluence. Marionette had been injured, her legs paralyzed; while Rann was left old, and seemingly broken. When the remaining Confluence make to return home, Rann asks to go with them, since he could not fight the Enigma Force. He wanted to spend his remaining days communing with the so-called Dreaming Star; which Mari thinks is him quitting on the team, her, life, everything. She's furious at Rann, but just didn't want to lose him.
Acroyear steps up in the aftermath of Rann's departure; conveniently in time for them to scan Acroyear ships on the other side of the Spacewall. His wife Cilicia and their people still were sore over the destruction of their homeworld Spartak in the war against Baron Karza, and considered him a traitor. Still, separated by the Spacewall, neither of them could do anything about it. The Acroyear people did still owe Mari an oath, so Cilicia agrees to aid them for that if nothing else; and advises of a massive structure on the Spacewall itself. Within it, Bug finds a massive corpse, and Huntaar uses his unusual (and somewhat disturbing) powers to let it speak through him: an advanced alien race, millenia ago, strove to breach the wall, but never could, eventually succumbing to genetic mutations and dying out.
Still, the station had built up power for centuries since, enough to breech the wall? Or enough for Acroyear to take a shot across the bow of the Acroyear fleet, to get their attention: he just wanted to ask Cilicia if she still loved him. Unfortunately, the shockwave from the Enigma Force catches up to them, damaging the alien station, and Acroyear is forced to make a final betrayal: using his royal command codes, to order the Acroyear fleet to retreat and avoid destruction. Still, knowing it was the right thing to do, Acroyear returns to the Micronauts; only for them to be confronted by Scion, who demands leadership of the team...!
I think the entire team had pretty severe PTSD at this point; although I don't think that was widely recognized as a thing at the time. Rann would return, and Scion would be a jerk for the rest of the run, but I think Acroyear would struggle to get a final bit of closure before the series wrapped and Marvel lost the rights to him.

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Friday, July 23, 2021

Do wolves make for good coats? His girl seems to dig hers, but she may just be creepy...

From 1988, Badger #36, "Dire Wolf" Written by Mike Baron, pencils by Ron Lim, inks by Jay Geldhof. Cover by Mike Zeck!

 Badger goes to help out his friend Midge, who is trying to keep Ronson, the insane wolf-trapping descendant of an insane wolf-trapper, from running her off her ranch. Picking a fight with the local goons at a bar, Badger gets chased by the stereotypical redneck pickup, but is saved by a giant dire wolf. That doesn't mean it's friendly, though...
Ronson seems like he could be a match for Badger: he looks like Bluto in a wolf vest, with a vampire-looking girlfriend. There weren't a ton of recurring bad guys in this book, though. And there's a couple serious moments, as Midge isn't sure what to make of Norbert's Badger persona or his enthusiasm for "funny knives." This is also pretty early Ron Lim art, but he was pretty good then too!
Quick one today, so start the weekend early! Have fun.
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Thursday, July 22, 2021

They didn't use "One Nation Under Grodd" in this one? I mean, it's RIGHT THERE.

Admittedly, it may have been used before. From 2009, Superman/Batman Grodd #63 "Night and Day" Plot by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, script by Mike Johnson, art by Rafael Albuquerque. 

Batman is the lone resistance to Gorilla Grodd, who not only controls just about every mind on the planet, but has also finally successfully seeded earth's atmosphere with synthetic Kryptonite, driving Superman (and Lois, and a few others) off-world. While children are occasionally able to resist, they are immediately discovered by Grodd, who sends kill-squads out for them: Batman saves a child here, but knows he's only bought his family a few days at best. 

Deep in the sewers of Gotham, Batman still works to undo the Kryptonite saturation. While Bats is able to resist by virtue of the assorted meditations and disciplines he'd learned over the years, the aged Alfred resists just by virtue of being a really good butler. But when he suffers a fatal heart attack, the moment of grief breaks Batman's concentration, like sending up a flare for Grodd to find him, and his squads do, capturing him. He is brought before Grodd, who keeps the uncontrollable but broken Joker as a jester; and the reprogrammed Luthor as an administrator. Grodd says removing resistance from Luthor had been tough, but that wasn't going to work on Batman, so he's going to kill him in front of a stadium full of mind-controlled drones. Grodd laughs at the thought of Batman inspiring them to resist; but Batman says "inspiring" wasn't his job... 

Superman had received Batman's message: he had found an antidote to the synthetic Kryptonite. Grodd looks a little worried at first, but doesn't give up; and while he talks a big game, that fight honestly goes two pages longer than it should. Either Supes is letting Bats get some hits in, or they're playing to the crowd to break the mind-control. With Grodd beaten, Superman will take Grodd into exile, then help earth rebuild... 

OK, so by now you're waiting for the reset button: Alfred dead? Can't be! Oh, and the rest of the JLA, too; but it was too big of a status-quo change. This one was just a simulation, run by Batman on his new servers. Alfred is both annoyed by Bats ignoring another meal, but also finding this a touch "morbid." Still, Bats packs it in for the night, asking Alfred to reheat what was probably a gourmet meal once. 

 Grodd gets the cover this time around, since this was some kind of villain month? I thought Solomon Grundy got the cover for this series on that one, but may have just been thinking of a later issue. The GCD is down as I type this, but maybe we'll see before it posts. (And it's back, I was thinking of a later one!)
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Wednesday, July 21, 2021


I started this before watching Black Widow, but I watched it the day it came out. (I don't know if I'm going to spring for the charge for every Marvel movie, but a couple other people will watch it with me, so it's probably worth it.) It's not bad; although there were a couple characters I don't know if I'd be so forgiving of in the name of "family." And I did enjoy the post-credit scene--what is her game? 

What I know of Russian history is pretty bare-bones, so Vilyuysk gets picked out of geographic convenience. It may not be the case anymore, but I'm used to "Siberia" being shorthand for "workcamp death-prison" from a million TV shows, movies, and comics. There's probably not any A.I.M. bases there, though. Probably.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

OK, you could probably save all of my personality on a floppy disk, but I'm kind of dull.

I'm also not thousands of years old, and my voice isn't quite as cool as his...honestly, Optimus may sound more human than I do; I get accused of being a machine all the time. Anyway, from 2006, IDW's Transformers: Generations #7, reprinting Marvel's 1987 Transformers #24, "Afterdeath!" Written by Bob Budiansky, pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey. Reprint cover by Nick Roche; and the controller on it is far too modern; but I'm not sure any of the computer stuff in the original story was drawn with any references, either; both computers and video games may as well be sorcery at this point...
This may have been about when I fell off buying Transformers as a kid: young energy researcher Ethan Zachary unwinds after work by using the massive screen and supercomputer to play games, but when Megatron and Optimus confront each other over the energy plant, his game becomes a battlefield. Captured, Ethan had overheard Optimus suggest that Megatron wouldn't want to risk destroying the plant before getting whatever it was he was after, so Ethan proposes they fight it out in the game. I would've been 100% onboard if this meant Megs and Optimus were going to settle things with a match of Super Smash Brothers or whatever, just to see them with tiny controllers in their hands...wait, what head-to-head fighting games were there in 1987? Karate Champ? Or the first Street Fighter.
Instead, Optimus and the Protectobots and Megatron and his Combaticons are loaded into the game. (This was well before the concept of the Transformers' "sparks," so they were basically considered programs here?) Megatron had also proposed raising the stakes: for him and Optimus, if they died in the game, they died in real life, and both are rigged to self-destruct at the press of a button. The Protectobots give a good showing of themselves, making allies within the game to help them beat their opponents. But, when Megatron cheats to reappear after falling to his death, Optimus is forced to cheat himself, "sacrificing" innocent bystanders to defeat him, something he could never have done in real life. He tells Ethan to press the button and destroy him, and he does!
The victorious Decepticons help themselves to the research center's work; while the Protectobots solemnly return Optimus Prime's body to the Ark. But, Ethan still had Optimus saved...on a 5¼-inch floppy disk!? That is insulting. Standard floppy was about 1.44 MB, assuming Ethan had the higher end 2.8 MB, which would get you what, maybe not even 30 seconds of Transformers: the Movie? In lowest-possible def. Optimus was also killed in that, just the year prior; so the continuity was already getting iffy, but would continue merrily along it's own path for years to come. Read more!

Monday, July 19, 2021

I'm willing to give Halloween 2 a pass for it, but otherwise...

If you watch a ton of cheapass B-horror films--and I certainly do!--you are going to see a number of them contain a scene where a character is either watching, or switches past, Night of the Living Dead. Because of a copyright foul-up, it fell into the public domain, so anybody can use it, and seemingly does. (I don't know if this page with examples is still updated, because it should be full to overflowing...) I don't usually have a problem with "they're coming to get you, Barbara!" but I don't love this one.
From 1997, What If? #95, "Broken Soul" Written by Ivan Velez Jr, pencils by Eric Battle, inks by Steve Moncuse. 

At this point in What If?, not only was the Watcher no longer presenting the stories, but the covers rarely seemed to have the simple pitch-line of prior issues. It somehow makes the book more insular: instead of having the Watcher watch--er, walk you through how things went down in this universe, you're just expected to already be buying and consuming every single book Marvel puts out! This one is, um, what if Mephisto corrupted Danny Ketch to destroy Ghost Rider? Mephisto knows the rules for Ghost Rider, that his host must be of his direct lineage; and knows how to manipulate that: speaking to Danny from childhood, through "his trusted teddy, Mr. M," Mephisto appears to turn Danny bad. (Unless he always was here, I guess.) At age 6, Danny sets a fire that kills his parents, primarily because he locked them in. By age 17, he's on his way to the police academy, as well as an accomplished serial killer. (Jennifer Kale, no!) Danny's sister, Barb, has just found out what she long suspected: she and Danny had been adopted; and they even have an older brother, who, miles away, is having nightmares of flames engulfing his own kids: Johnny Blaze.
Barb writes a letter to Johnny, who reads it, then tears it up. She tries to explain to Danny, who reveals his own secret: he's lost track of how many people he's killed. After he kills Barb, Mephisto's voice guides him to a mysterious motorcycle, and orders him to touch it. The Ghost Rider appears, but not the traditional black-clad rider: this one's in red, with a crazier skull that would probably be a pain in the ass to draw on the regular. Finding Barb's body, the Rider is distraught, then furious when attacked by the caretaker's dogs. (Small-c caretaker, not the recurring character!) Unable to "control my own violence," the Rider knows something is very wrong, and turns back into Danny. Mephisto advises him, he now has "the power to destroy at your leisure and to forever escape harm and recrimination." Now, Danny could murder, then let out the Ghost Rider, who would appear at the scene of a murder, and be unable to find anyone to blame for it. The "Spirit of Vengeance" was becoming the "spirit of scapegoats," and powerless to do anything about it. While Danny enjoys his beautiful wife, great job, and "extracurricular activities," Mephisto has one more job for him: take care of his older brother.
The ghost of Barb attempts to warn Johnny, but too late, as Danny has already turned on the gas and blown out the pilot light. The Blaze family barely escapes with their lives, but now face the insane Danny. (Aside: I could not for the life of me remember Johnny's wife's name, or if she was ever named, but he married Roxanne Simpson, right? What are his kids' names? Why do they seem to have not grown at all this issue, which has to take a couple years from when we first see them to the trailer fire? And why do the kids have to share a bunk in the trailer?) After catching a knife in the hand, Danny swears he'll be back to murder them later, but now they have to deal with the Ghost Rider! Who, doesn't put up a lot of fight, instead asking Johnny to kill him. With the Rider dead, Mephisto's fun is over, since Danny is left alone, in an empty void, for eternity. Well, that's worth a chuckle for him, at least. 
This stretch of What If? continues the book's longstanding tradition of "and then everybody died!" but usually in a more amped-up, grimdark manner. I really should blog #98 one of these years...
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Friday, July 16, 2021

Nine feet tall? Maybe if you count the ears.

Also, the reprint cover obscures things, so at first glance I always think Peter is shooting up around nine o'clock there. From 1980, Marvel Tales #117, reprinting 1975's Amazing Spider-Man #140, "...And One Must Fall!" Written by Gerry Conway, pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt.
Peter Parker has been captured by the mysterious Jackal and his new muscle, the Grizzly, who are working on the assumption that he would be able to get in touch with Spider-Man. They knock him out, then prepare for "--the operation!" With which, they will be able to control him forever! Sounds pretty dramatic, but it's just a brace-manacle clamped onto Peter's arm, that transmits a message: if he tries to remove it, or doesn't find out who Spider-Man is, it will shake his arm apart! Wait, was Peter not wearing his web-shooters? Or his costume? Did the Jackal just not notice? Whatever. Peter's able to get that thing off him with an acetyline torch like three pages later.
This issue is probably more remembered for the introduction of Peter's new apartment, and new neighbor, Gloria Grant. Still, Spidey visits J.Jonah Jameson, to wheedle out of the newsman why the Grizzly had tried to kill him: he had been a particularly brutal pro wrestler, and JJJ had ruined his career. That gives Spidey two answers: he's able to find the Grizzly by checking out gyms until he finds the one he's tearing up for a grudge. Secondly, is the Grizzly that tough? No, he's wearing a rather tearable, terrible costume, and an exo-skeleton to juice him up: without it, he's "just a flabby has-been," which is one of the meanest Spidey zings I can remember. Spidey still plans on settling up with the Jackal, but next month he had Mysterio to deal with. Huh, glancing at that cover, I almost thought I'd blogged that one, but didn't find it? (Spooky voice) It's an illusion! 

Also: is it funnier that Jonah is mad he threw an expensive shoe at Spidey, or a cheap one? Was $50 high-end for a shoe in 1975? Discuss.
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