Friday, June 29, 2007

Insane Comic Moments, Part 2

After reading as many Silver Age comics as I have lately, I could probably make this a weekly series in and of itself, but this one I read just a few hours ago, and it's the sort of thing that sticks in your head. (An appropriate phrase, as you'll soon see.)

In the original 'X-Men' #1, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, we open with a sequence of Professor X running the team through their training regimen. Beast has to do a difficult acrobatic routine, Angel must fly an obstacle course...then the young sixteen-year old Iceman gets a turn, but Professor X is "going easy" on him by merely requiring him to display his powers. Iceman frosts himself over with snow...and Professor X telepathically tells the Beast to chuck a bowling ball at his head while he's distracted, to "test his reflexes".

Three thoughts on that:

1) Best argument against vouchers EVER.

2) Anyone who doubts Xavier could ever become Onslaught, this is Exhibit A for the prosecution.

3) I think we know why the students all wanted a Danger Room. It was that, or Xavier just had them whip heavy objects at each other.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Hilton Family

Some have noticed that Paris Hilton shares a lot of interesting similarities with her namesake (no, no, not Hilton--although I'm sure she's had almost as many guys staying overnight...) Like Paris, she is exotic and famous. Like Paris, she is decadent and at times tempestuous. Like Paris, she is a popular tourist destination for hundreds of college students every year. (Two promiscuity jokes in the same paragraph. Am I on fire or what?) But what you don't know is that she is but one of a large brood of Hiltons, and they all share this same bizarre geographical congruity. Like who, you ask?

Berlin Hilton: Very strict, upright, and humorless, he's utterly shocked at his sister's antics. Admittedly, he has had his share of scandals in the past; he loves his beer, he likes to dress up in lederhosen, and there was the time that he wandered into Poland and refused to leave...

Brussels Hilton: Paris' little sister, she's much less famous and doesn't have the reputation, but she's just as glamourous, just as beautiful, and much less crowded with admirers. Oh, and she has a strange obsession with statuesque young boys urinating in public.

Siberia Hilton: The "unfortunate" sister of the family, she's much larger than any of the others, colder, remote, and more distant, and the only people who ever visit her are convicts. (And she's barren, but that's probably saying too much.)

Sydney Hilton: He's also been visited by convicts in the past, but he's gotten to the point where they're right at home with him. Oh, and he loves the Opera. The tabloids are salivating already...

Washington Hilton: He's got a huge, towering monument that stands proudly erect at all times. Oh, and he's willing to do just about anything for money.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Norse Gods: Masters of the Obvious

So back in 'Thor' #119, many years ago, Odin decides to send Loki and Thor on a quest together to see if he can get them to get along. (Which doesn't seem bright to me, but hey, I'm not the All-Father.) Thor lets Loki pick the crew (speaking of "not too bright"...) and we get a long scene introducing all the different people they'll be sailing with.

The list is long, but includes "Hogun the Grim," "Fandral the Dashing", "Kroda the Duellist", and finishes up with "Magrat the Schemer." At which Thor's first mate says, "I trust them not, mighty Thor!" don't trust "Magrat the Schemer"? And he's got such a good reputation! Next you'll be telling me that "Backstabbing Pete", "Pandak the Befouler of the Precious Water Supplies", and "Timfor the Locker-Looter" don't meet your approval!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Fun Comics Trivia

Comic book villains the Eel, the Plantman, the Trapster, the Beetle, and the Wizard have all been floating around the Marvel Universe for a long time now as "B-list" or "C-list" villains--really more nuisances than serious threats--and have fought heroes like Daredevil, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Avengers. But all five originally started out as nemeses of the same character...the Human Torch. They all originally debuted in 'Strange Tales', which was at the time a split book featuring the Torch and Doctor Strange, and once the Torch lost his own solo series, they became sort of "fair game" for other heroes and comics to use. (Which is also, incidentally, why the Wizard and the Trapster wound up being one half of the Frightful Four.)

So the lesson for the day? If you can't beat the Human Torch your first time out, just go ahead and retire. Because you don't have a big future in super-villainy.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Diabolical Ingenuity

I read issue #3 of 'New Avengers: Illuminati' on Thursday. The series, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a sort of "secret history" of the Marvel Universe, in which it is revealed that Mister Fantastic, Iron Man, Professor X, Doctor Strange, the Sub-Mariner, and Black Bolt of the Inhumans have had a secret cabal for decades that's been doing the "dirty work" that keeps the Marvel Universe ticking along nicely. Every issue has focused on a major Marvel event, and has proceeded to retcon in a behind-the-scenes explanation of how the Illuminati made it happen.

After reading issue #3, I found myself wondering what exactly the point of the series was. Because I really could not, for the life of me, think of one. It wasn't just that the comic was terrible (although it was.) It's that it was so genuinely pointless a story, designed around a comics plotline from twenty years ago that only continuity-obsessed fanboys remember, written solely to retcon out certain elements of the story that the writer apparently didn't like, that I could not for the life of me imagine who it was written for. Nobody but the most rabid, continuity-minded fanboy could possibly be interested in this comic, and every single one of them hates it with an absolute passion because the retroactive continuity that they're employing is so slipshod, nonsensical, and hamfisted that it'll take years to explain the new explanations.

(I've resisted explaining the issue because thinking about it makes my head hurt and because it involves explaining a ton of Marvel continuity, but here goes: 'Secret Wars' introduced the Beyonder, a nebulous omnipotent being from outside of the known universe who wanted to "understand" humanity, so he kidnapped a bunch of super-heroes and super-villains, promised them their heart's desire if they defeated their enemies, and watched the ensuing battle. The series proved popular, so they did a sequel, 'Secret Wars II', in which the Beyonder continued his studies by coming to Earth, taking human form, and interacting with Earth's super-heroes. At the end of the series, he apparently died, having taken "being human" a bit too literally, but his power flowed back into his home universe where it became a new Big Bang, creating this new universe in the image of our own. Still later, in 'Fantastic Four' #319, it was revealed that the Beyonder's consciousness survived with his power, and that it was by his will that the new universe became what it did--he found happiness by becoming a god. But he found out that the reason he could never be happy and was never complete was that he was actually part of a larger cosmic artifact called a Cosmic Cube, the other part of which was "lodged" in the Molecule Man and was responsible for him having super-powers. The Beyonder and the Molecule Man merged to form the Cube, which in later FF issues became a being known as Kosmos, who has been seen periodically since.)

(Except that this issue of Illuminati reveals that no, the Beyonder was actually an Inhuman--one of Black Bolt's species--who was also a mutant, and that he actually made a duplicate Manhattan out near the asteroid belt and interacted with elaborate mock-ups of Earth's super-people. So all of Secret Wars II, which was a crossover that ran to 42 issues and involved every single title Marvel published, in which the Beyonder resurrected Doctor Doom and cured Rick Jones of cancer...never happened. And neither did the issue where he found out he was a Cosmic Cube. Nor did any of his appearances after that.)

As I say, this left me wondering what the purpose of this comic was. If you're not a rabid fanboy, you won't care about any of this. And if you are, you will have a brain seizure and die from the sheer number of convolutions fitting this issue into continuity will require. So why...?

Then it hit me. That was the purpose of the series. Marvel has finally gotten sick of all the fanboys writing in and pointing out how they must have forgotten about issue #255 of Uncanny X-Men, in which we see Psylocke before the plastic surgery, so she can't be Kwannon, et cetera et cetera et cetera. They're tired of people pointing out their continuity errors, so they've decided to kill them all off by producing a comic whose retcons are so audaciously incompetent that comics fans will die of apopleptic fits of rage when they read them. 'New Avengers: Illuminati' is, in fact, a brilliantly conceived murder weapon, and all of fandom is the target.

So remember: Read this comic only under the influence of powerful sedatives. After all, if the writer was on drugs, you should be too.