Waiting for Quasar
John Seavey at MightyGodKing has a nice regular feature called Things I Love About Comics that is meant as a balance to his natural impulse to complain about comics (sounds familiar). His subject for this installment is Quasar. And it's nicely timed because now that i am on the home stretch of my back issue add, i'm looking forward to adding new years again, and one of the books i am anticipating is Quasar. But it'll still be a while before i get to Quasar (which begins in 1989), so that's why i'm writing this here and now.
It's actually surprising to me that i'm looking forward to Quasar. I do own nearly the entire series already (and i'll fill in whatever i'm missing before i get to the applicable years), but it was never a favorite of mine. Not even close. I dislike Quasar the character. His powers are too derivative of the Green Lantern, and his personality is (deliberately) a whitebread by-the-books stuffed shirt. Works well in a group situation, but not very interesting as a solo character. And i already have Captain America for that. I'm also not a big fan of Mark Gruenwald's writing. I think as an editor, or as a sort of plot inspiration guy, there was no one better. But i find his writing very flat and often marred by his goofy appreciation for DC Silver Age stuff.
That said, i love his appreciation for the continuity of Marvel's shared universe. And as John Seavey notes, Quasar was the book where he really went crazy exploring that continuity:
I loved the series because Gruenwald looked at the Marvel Universe, the grand patchwork creation of hundreds if not thousands of hands, and saw infinite vistas to explore. Tiny little loose ends that most other fans forgot about... he saw as a chance to tell a story that was waiting for someone to do it justice. Forgotten characters like the Stranger or Maelstrom were interesting and compelling when seen through his eyes, and he couldn't wait to show you why.
Now, as i said, i already own, and have read, most of the series. But the way it went was i probably bought the first dozen or so issues in real time, and then just bought any issues that crossed-over into "events", and then filled in the gaps from the bargain bins much later. And more to the point, i was coming in from the perspective that i got into comics reading Roger Stern's Avengers and John Byrne's FF and other books from that period and so i obviously knew everything there was to know about the Marvel universe, and all the loose ends and weird corners Gruenwald was exploring were unknown to me and so that aspect of the series would have been over my head. Which would have made Gruenwald's plots just seem weird to me instead of explaining past weirdness.
But what's happened since then is that almost every time i'll review a comic that features a dangling plotline or a strange seemingly one-off character, someone will leave a comment saying "That gets wrapped up in Quasar" or "This guy appears again in Quasar". And that's really built up my anticipation. In some cases i already knew it, but often not because with my backissue adds i'm reading the source stories for the first time. The point is that a scene like the one below is going to have a lot more impact on me now after my work on the Timeline than it would have in 1990.
Now i still don't expect to love the series from a "craft" point of view for the reasons i mentioned above. And this is where i wish that Gruenwald was editing/guiding the series and Roger Stern had been writing it (of course, i'd read Roger Stern writing the Blue Shield and love it). But this is where we get into that weird distinction i make between a comic being "good" and a comic being a fun addition to the Marvel universe.
Thinking about my other objection - to the character of Quasar - i started wondering if basically a series like this had to have a straight-laced character as the lead. Someone has to play the straight man in the world of weird. When Dan Slott did something vaguely along these lines in She-Hulk, for example, it came across as pure satire and was more dismissive than reverential about continuity, and that's not what i'm looking for. So maybe it had to be a character like Quasar.
But then i thought... why not do this with the Fantastic Four? You've got a great combination of characters there - Mr. Fantastic can be completely straight-laced while the Thing can goof on everything, with the Invisible Woman and Human Torch playing more moderate roles. And it plays right into their theme of being Imaginauts. And the Fantastic Four book has really been directionless for a loooooong time. Now i know past writers have attempted the "explorers" route or brought in random elements of the Marvel universe (i'm thinking of Hickman's use of Dire Wraiths and Kymellians and such), but it's usually in a way that's superficial, and more to the point, as a means to create new stories. And as weird as it may sound, i'm looking for something more subtractive. Tie up loose ends. Explain other stories that didn't make a lot of sense (Bendis' Secret Wars II retcon?). Basically turn Fantastic Four into what Quasar was - the Marvel Continuity Clean-up book.
Now before you say that it wouldn't sell, consider that "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" is already sitting at an embarrassing #60 on the sales charts. This is a book that used to be Marvel's flagship title but it's been in the doldrums for years; decades, even. Marvel can't cancel the title because of its significance, but at the same time it's perceived as being a traditional, old fogey sort of title. So why not just embrace that and do it whole hog? There are still enough of us traditional, old fogey sort of fans out there (in fact, it's probably a larger part of Marvel's audience than they'd care to admit) that would buy the book and if it created a positive buzz from us cranks it might even climb up the charts a bit. If not, you haven't lost anything. And include copious annotations that refer to trades people can buy to see what original stories the FF are "investigating" and you've got an instant sales tool.
Anyway, don't know how i got off on the Fantastic Four. Looking forward to reading Quasar is the point.
By fnord12 | August 1, 2013, 10:46 AM | Comics
You still may not be able to recognize everyone. The upper right is the version of Starman then being published at DC (written by Roger Stern) and below him is supposed to be a version of the Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen) who, at the time, was dead.
i need my underlings to start referring to me as "The Over-Mind".
That does look like DC's Starman but the guy below him looks more like Marvel's Makkari to me.
I think you're right. I thought it was 'Buried Alien' who eventually wore a red costume. I didn't look closely enough. I just knew there was no way fnord would know Starman, and focused on that.
It'll never happen, but I recommend that fnord read James Robinson's STARMAN series from the nineties if he ever gets the chance. I know, 'tis the faintest of hopes.
Yes, it's a very faint hope, but that was a great book. And, it does exactly what fnord says he likes about Gruenwald and loose ends. Too bad fnord doesn't know what those loose ends are.
Reference from SuperMegaMonkey : chronocomicMark Gruenwald starts off his second year on the title with what can be seen as a mission statement for the series. These four issues take the idea of exploring the corners of the Marvel universe to the extreme, showing us weird characters long forgotten. As i wrote a few couple years earlier... Read More: Quasar #13-16