Marvel Two-In-One #4: Doomsday 3014

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Cover date: July 1974

Writer: Steve Gerber

Penciller: Sal Buscema

Inker: F. Giaoia

Letter: C. Jetter

Colorist: P. Goldberg

Editor: Roy Thomas

Continues from: Marvel Two-In-One #1,#2 and #3, Fantastic Four #5 (sorta, Doom’s time machine is pivotal to the plot)

This feels a little slight, perhaps due to the double page splash that eats up the page count with little plot advancement. However, it does have the BADOON.

The Badoon are an alien race I was unduly fascinated with as a teenager as the Marvel RPG provided stats for them, but no picture. I knew all the other aliens mentioned from comics I had read at the time, but the Badoon eluded me for decades until picking up the reprints of this and the Defenders. They didn’t live up to the exoticism those FASERIP stats had given them.

More importantly to the Marvel Universe, this issue is where Gerber begins to reintroduce the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Created by Arnold Drake and Gene Colan in a one shot Marvel Super-Heroes story in 1969, they had remained unused since, until Gerber revived them in this book, The Defenders and Marvel Presents.

This issue starts with Ben and Wundarr visiting the Central Park Zoo. Ben takes his eyes off Wundarr for a second and the manchild has let out all the animals. You’d think after the Lizard’s frequent escape parties at the reptile house they’d have better security at this point.

This interferes with a date Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers are taking in the park, so he suits up and becomes Captain America. And to add to the coincidences, Namorita happens to be walking through the park with her friend Annie.

After everything gets sorted, Ben invites Steve and Sharon back to the Baxter Building to explain what’s going on with Wundarr. During this Ben accidentally switches on Doom’s time machine and summons a princess from over 1000 years in the future.

She explains that she is Tarin, and that she comes from the year 3014, when the Badoon have enslaved the solar system. Captain American wants to head to the future to help out, and Ben & Sharon want to go with him. So Reed sends the three of them with Tarin back to the future. Where they are immediately ambushed by a pack of ZOMS. The Badoon, taking a page out of the Dalek playbook, have created these Zoms, men turned into living machines to serve the aliens.

The heroes do OK against them, but then the unoriginally named “MONSTER OF BADOON” shows up and lays them out. As the three heroes are dragged off, Tarin look on from a hiding place swearing vengeance as we end the issue.

NEXT ISSUE: THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY! (not those ones, the original ones)

The most Chris Claremonty Chris Claremont comic in the career of Chris Claremont?

I really like Marvel’s Excalibur. Well, I really like bits of Marvel’s Excalibur. Namely any issues that have the involvement of either Alan Davis or Warren Ellis. There’s some real bleak periods, particular the section between the time when Davis was writing and Ellis took over. But the gap between Davis dropping out as artist and him returning to take over the comic contains a lot of odd stuff. Three of those odd issues are Claremont’s then swan song on the title – a story called Girls School From Heck.

It is possibly the most Chris Claremonty Chris Claremont comic in the career of Chris Claremont.

Part 1 alone contains the following:

  • Nazis
  • Gender-switched Heroes
  • Margaret Thatcher being mind controlled by Mesmero
  • The gender switching, bondage gear wearing Nigel Frobusher version of the Vixen.
  • Teenage Kitty Pryde being held and kissed by the headmistress of the all girls private school she’s been enrolled in (this may be on artist Ron Wagner, as the dialogue doesn’t match the picture.).
  • The School is a St Trinian’s parody.
  • Courtney Ross (really her facist extra dimensional double Sat-Yr-9) spying on Kitty playing hockey. This is following up an old subplot where Kitty was being groomed by Courtney. For what, we never really found out. Of course it was full of lesbian subtext in Claremont’s hands, less so under Davis. Maybe someone realised it was coming across a little creepy having an adult appear to be trying to seduce a teenage superhero?
  • Kitty’s clothes getting torn playing hockey.

Part 2 adds:

  • Gratuitous swimwear scene with Nightcrawler and Rachel
  • Excalibur being mind-controlled
  • Kitty doing martial arts.
  • Use of obscure Chris Claremont characters, here it is Major Debra Vavara Levin and a Russian spy who apparently we are supposed to recognise, but doesn’t get named (it’s Colonel Alexi Vazhin apparently). Also: they show up solely to foreshadow a story in a different comic.

Part 3 adds:

  • The recurring Dr Who reference that is Brigadier Alysande Stuart.
  • The creepy incestuous Nazi twins known as Fenris.
  • Meggan transforming into a ludicrously jacked body builder version of herself. 
  • People walking in on other people undressed (in this case Meggan and an American Football team).

I’d forgotten those last two were Claremontian tics until going through this again. The most obvious example of the jacked up transformation is the barely comprehensible Polaris loses her powers storyline that happened in Uncanny X-Men

These are pretty mediocre comic books, no where near the lows the book would reach, but following the initial Claremont/Davis run, they were not good enough.

Finally, if you want to check out a blog dedicated to investigating one specific tic/fetish of Claremont, I recommend Chris Claremont: Mindcontrol Central, where you can learn just how much Chris Claremont loves mind control. This post is amateur hour compared to what’s going on over there.

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Secret Invasion #2

Oh god, it’s House of M all over again. A whole lot of nothing happening.

Issue 1 of Marvels latest cash grabbing crossover had a lot of vim and vigor to it, with a fairly cohesive narrative and nippy pace. With this issue all that ground to a halt, the story mired in its dialogue and turgid action scenes.

Conversely the issue of accompanying issue of Mighty Avengers zipped nicely, with the actual Avengers story taking place in Secret Invasion we get more flashbacks to what Nick Fury’s been up to.

Marvel are yet to find a happy balance in storytelling in these crossovers. The central Civil War mini series didn’t work as single story as it was acting more as the background to events in the ongoing comics. House of M and Secret Invasion do have the main stories in the mini series, but the stories are stretched out beyond their natural length to the detriment of monthly pacing and the ongoing titles that they span out of are left treading water – Claremont’s Rachel Grey/Psylocke gubbins in Uncanny X-Men during House Of M, Mighty Avengers current transformation into a Nick Fury comic and New Avengers recent Skrull history lesson.

If Secret Invasion had kept the pacing of that first issue this would be a whole lot of fun. Instead with a pacing more suited to a weekly schedule it looks like the reader is in for another underwhelming event comic from Bendis.

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Superhero Colour Theory

There was something mentioned on Comics Should Be Good a couple of years back regarding Superhero comics and the colours used in the sixties.

It was pointed out how many of Spidey’s foes are dressed in Purple and Green. Now, from my rusty colour theory knowledege, these are two of the secondary colours. Spidey himself is Red and Blue, primary colours. Which makes me postulate is there a relationship between superhero characters and primary colours, and conversely supervillain characters and secondary colours?

If we look at the main characters in Marvel’s sixties comics we see the following:

  • Spider-man – Red/Blue
  • Fantastic Four – Blue, Torch is Red on occasion, and Thing is a mix of Orange and Blue. It’s note worthy that the most monstrous character breaks from the primary colours.
  • Iron Man – Yellow, then Red/Yellow
  • Captain America – Blue/Red
  • Thor – Blue/Yellow/Red
  • Ant-Man/Wasp – Red
  • Nick Fury – Blue
  • X-Men – Blue/Yellow
  • Daredevil – Red/Yellow, then Red.
  • Doctor Strange – Blue/Red/Yellow/Orange – if there is a connection between colours chosen and the popularity of  a character, could it be argued that the use of too many colours relates to the lesser impact Strange had as a character?

As you can see mostly primary colours, however there are 2 notable exceptions:

  • Hulk – Green (and purple trousers)
  • Namor – Green

However both characters could frequently be found behaving in less than heroic manners in the sixties. Indeed, literally painting the Hulk with the colours of villainy adds to his outcast nature. Would a Blue, Yellow or Red Hulk have worked as well?

Now let’s look at Spidey’s villains:

sp20 sp15 sp14 sp13 sp11sp06sp05sp04sp02sp09

A few notable exceptions – Sandman (green top, but blue trousers – sand often coloured yellow), Electro (green and yellow. Yellow is the colour of electricity of course), and Rhino – plain ol’ grey. Chameleon – (assorted disguises, note he had a purple costume in the 94 cartoon).

Other Marvel Secondary Coloured Villains:






Notable exceptions: Red Skull (Red, obviously), Loki (Green and Yellow), Magneto (Red and Purple)

But as you can see, a lot of purple and green was used for villains. (and a smattering of orange). Whether this was intentional, coincidence or printing related, I’m not sure it matters, because I think it works. And possibly if more colour theory was used in designing new characters we’d have ones that catch on with readers.

Some later date I’ll take a look at DC characters, because this theory holds out over there a lot too (especially Batman and Superman).

Scans from http://comics.org/

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Bland New Day

OK, that subject title may be a little harsh. It came from a google.jp search that got someone to this website. Amazing Spider-Man #546 is a perfectly fine comic. It just has a few problems that kind of grate.

First off, there is a lot of infodump here. Slott seems to be setting up a large number of future plot threads all at once, as well as establishing the new status quo for the character. And it’s a bit overwhelming. Particularly when combined with McNiven’s art.

McNiven is my biggest problem with this comic. His art just doesn’t work for me here, the detail is actually distracting from the amount of information Slott is trying to convey. On a panel by panel basis he has some great layouts, but it all looks a little too busy for the story. His art worked wonders on the vacuous framework that was Civil War, but things move faster here, and in the end it feels rather tiring to look at his art AND read all the dialogue Slott’s providing (often a lot in a tiny panel – are they doing this comic “Marvel Style”? If so I’m more inclined to blame Slott for not working his dialogue to McNiven’s panels.).

Also: the “nerdy” new love interest for Peter is really too attractively drawn for her character. For all the complaints about Spider-Man being married to a super-model (MJ being a super-model seemed something born out of general pop-culture trends of the time), replacing her with someone with model looks WHO JUST HAPPENS TO WEAR GLASSES seems stupid and shallow. It gives the comic the aesthetic of a dumb Hollywood teen movie. John Romita Sr. style comic book sexiness please, rather than this aseptic glossy magazine prettiness.

Phil Winslade’s art in Bob Gale’s Aunt May back up strip is much more in line with what I want to see on a Spidey comic. Winslade’s art increasingly reminds me of Gene Colan. I’m sure it was there before, but I’m only noticing it now since I’ve seen uncoloured Colan art in various Essentials. What it boils down to is that I’d like to see Winslade do a main story on the book.

Script-wise, a little too much is given to running through Spidey tropes that seem a little old to longtime Spidey fans. The Aunt May and job hunting stuff seemed out of place 40+ years down the line from his first appearance, particularly now when the material that did that originally is so freely available. The Osborn entourage stuff seemed a little bit like a clumsy stab at modernity at first, but at least it felt a little new. The villain, Negative Man, was interesting and the stuff with Jonah at the end was the high point of the book. Overall there was a little too much housekeeping and pipe laying, and note enough story.

Of course the advantage of the new format is we don’t have so long to wait for the next issue and so what flaws there are, aren’t left to stew. McNiven’s art on it’s own looks great, so I’m hoping when the script moves towards following the flow of a story, rather than acting as an establishing issue, it will run at a pace that suits McNiven’s style.

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Rambling Pre-Emptive Thoughts About Spider-Man: Brand New Day

I saw this splash page that recaps the status quo of Spider-Man in the post-One More Day Marvel Universe and it got me thinking.

Now, the whole One More Day malarky doesn’t bother me too much as I’ve not read Spider-Man regularly since the Micheline/McFarlane era. So it’d be churlish to complain about changes to a comic I’ve not been a reader of. However, I am intending to read Brand New Day. I like Spider-Man (read the Spectacular Spider-Man Essentials last year, which is just getting to where I came in on the character via 80’s Spidey UK reprints), I like a lot of the writers involved and I like the format they are planning. I’m not too fussed about the supposed “retcons” implied by the ending of the OMD story, as I can see an easy way they can get round that (Mephisto has only altered the present not the past. This particularly makes sense as in Marvel, Time Travel Doesn’t Work Like That. The line about people remembering Spider-Man unmasking, but not who it was, suggests memories have been altered rather than the timeline).

Plus, and here’s the main thrust of post, the Bob Gale’s script on that splash feels very forward looking. The best way to deal with the OMD ending is to say, these are the changes, this is how everything is now, let’s move forward. The big mistake would be to do a series of surprise reveals of Things Aren’t What You Expect like the Harry reveal. It’s a rare chance for a superhero comic to sever itself from the approach of writing stories tied to past events. However, I don’t expect it to last…

In one of the Flaming Carrot collections it’s discussed how superhero stores are invariably tied heavily to the character’s origin. All of their actions are coloured by what made the hero a hero in the first place. To avoid this, Bob Burden made Flaming Carrot a hero without an origin (well… he read 5000 comics in one sitting), giving us a diverse range superhero stories that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. The best way to use a character’s origin in subsequent stories is to use it thematically, which various Spider-Man comics have used to great effect over the years. For instance, the villains that really resonate in Spider-Man are the ones that in someway reflect Spider-Man/Peter Parker himself. Venom, I think was the last Spider-Man villain that was successful – the suit and echoes of Peter in Eddie Brock resonated with Spider-Man. The attempt at recreating the success of Venom in Carnage fails, the character having resonance with Venom rather than Spider-Man. A psychotic serial killer with an alien suit isn’t a Spidey villain, a depressed, disgruntled, jealous journalist with Spider-Man’s OWN alien suit, that has resonance with the character, regardless how poorly the character might have been (over)used down the years.

The bad way to use an origin is to tamper with the origin, to generate cheap shocks by creating reveals that were never there in the original material. Such is the problem of inherent in corporate superhero comics. Eiichiro Oda can pull a reveal regarding the origin of an One Piece side character from 7 years ago and it will make sense, doesn’t feel cheap and gives the reader a genuine surprise. Mid-nineties Spider-Clones and 21st century spider totems feel tacky and disconnected from the original character.

In the case of long running characters I think it’s possible to amass a number of origin stories, namely those stories that made such an impact they noticeably changed the tone/types of stories you could tell with the character. I’d argue that as well as the radioactive spider/Uncle Ben origin story, the death of Gwen Stacy and the marriage to MJ are origins of a sort too. I can see arguments for the reveal of Norman Osborn as the Green Goblin as an origin too.

And so, the problem I can see them having with Brand New Day, is that One More Day is essentially yet another new origin story for someone to be tempted to use it as a theme for future stories (and I can see two potential ways they can already), and then, eventually, tamper with the events of the story. The fact that the story was so reviled gives it a sense of inevitability that we will see that Everything Was Not As It Seemed.

But for now, I can ignore that.

Slott, Gale and Guggenheim tend to write superhero stories I like to read.

And it’s Spider-Man, Spider-Man is cool.

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CIOASIISAG Part 9 – Marvel Super Heroes

These are probably the RPGs I’ve run the most, and written the most material for a campaign for. Which is astounding considering how poor the actual rules are.

Obviously the pull of these games to me was the Marvel license. I’d liked Marvel comics as kid, starting with a Spidey/Ghost Rider UK reprint as a treat as a kid after having to go to London for various tests (the other treat being a Battle Of The Planets transfer kit). Then various second comics picked up in school fairs/jumble sales and the occasional present from my grandmother. Finally there was the UK printing of Secret Wars, Secret Wars II and Spider-Man and ZOIDS.

I kind of forgot about them when I went to secondary school, until WH Smith’s started getting US Marvel comics in. Which coincided with when I got into RPGs. So TSR’s licensed Marvel RPG was a natural draw.

Now the rules were based around this colour coded chart. You rolled percentile dice, the cross referenced the roll on the chart against the value of the statistic you were using. They used this system on various other non-D&D games that TSR released at the time. One of the Gamma World editions used it as did their Conan RPG and Star Frontiers. Possibly the Indiana Jones RPG too. I don’t think Top Secret/SI did, but I could be wrong. I’ll look it up when I get to that one.

Some people liked this system, but I found it a pain. I dislike games with unnecessary work, and cross referencing two numbers on a chart definitely count as too much work. But I still kept hacking away, trying to get a decent campaign going, because I had such Marvel love. And this really was a game for Marvel lovers.

It was essentially OHOTMU the RPG, particularly the Advanced version and it’s supplements. Most of it’s supplements were vast depositories of statistics for Marvel characters both prominent and obscure. And on top of that there were the Gamers Guide To The Marvel Universe books that at the time were arguably better than the information provided by Marvel at the time. At one point I had all but 5 products published in this line (I’ve since disposed of a lot of that material via eBay) and here’s the products I’d recommend if you were interested in playing:

Marvel Advanced Set – The core rule book. The rules aren’t particularly clear and you’ll end up winging a lot of it. Plus there’s not that much scope for character variety.
Ultimate Powers Book – An expanded character creation book. You’ll end up rewriting the character type table, as frankly it’s barking mad, but the range of powers and the rules to use them are expansive.
Realms Of Magic – This was for the Basic set, but the magic rules in the Advanced are, if anything, even worse than the Basic’s. This supplement completely replaces the magic rules and makes them workable.
The MT Modules – This was a 3 part time travel themed campaign by Ray Winninger. A great adventure with a superb meta-gaming climax.
The MX Modules – This was a 4 part campaign based on The Nightmares Of Futures Past story from the X-Men. It’s clever trick is to set the adventure in your hometown. Of course this trick works better when you are in America. I had to pretend Spalding was in Massachusetts when I ran it.
Deluxe City Campaign – This is the only supplement that actually gets around to telling you how to run your own campaign. I think TSR must have thought you were only going to play their published supplements.

Most of these can be downloaded in PDF form for free at MarvelRPG.net

It should be said a lot of my criticisms of the game are in hindsight, back when I started playing I was a lot less critical of game mechanics and more interested in settings. But I do think those flaws held me back in every getting a campaign really off the ground in my first gaming group. I’ll talk about my long-term Marvel campaign when I get around to talking about the SAGA rules Marvel RPG, but here’s some teenage brain spill about the characters we created at secondary school.

AXE-MAN – This was the first character I created using the Basic set. His power was that his hand turned into an Axe. I was 13, this seemed cool to me then. I believe he was a mutant and that his background was that he had been asked to join the X-Men but was thrown out for being too cool.
TWISTED SOULS – This was the superhero team that my players in my first group came up with they were:

MR MYSTERY – a robotic Rorschach clone, with Hank Pym powers
ACE OF SPADES – a mystic swordsman
TWISTER – a mutant with wind based powers
and there was a Captain Marvel-type whose name I forget. The twist was that he was a cat who turned into a human superhero.

THE WRESTLER – a teleporting wrestler
MEK-A-NEK – a blatent copy of the He-Man character
ALIEN SKATER – The HR Giger creation. BUT ON A SKATEBOARD!

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