New Mutants #81
Issue(s): New Mutants #81
Waaaaaiit a minute! You're telling me that if Louise Simonson (or someone on the art team) misses a deadline, we can have a Chris Claremont issue? Quick, someone go back in time and steal her typewriter or something.
Ok, that probably wouldn't work. This is actually an inventory story, with Terry Shoemaker coming in to draw the framing sequence. I imagine there weren't a lot of these laying around.
The story focuses on Magma and Empath, but frustratingly doesn't deal at all with the threads that Louise Simonson dropped back in New Mutants #62. It does find an interesting nugget in the fact that Magma, as a citizen of a lost Roman colony, is a worshiper of the Greco-Roman pantheon, and she's got a living example that her faith is true in Hercules, who walks the Earth with the Avengers. This comes up when Empath calls her religion pagan in comparison to his own Catholic god.
Uh, hold on. Empath believes in God? Empath, the guy who uses his emotional manipulation powers to essentially rape people? Maybe this story does follow up on the events of New Mutants #62 by showing that Empath has repented and found religion. That would explain why he thinks it's ok to harass Magma about her religion. No one is more zealous than the newly converted.
Ok, the main story. The New Mutants go to the movies and see the movie that Hercules starred in.
The reaction is not positive.
I say the movie Hercules starred in because i think it's the movie from circa Thor #128. I say that in part because of Sunspot's comment about the guy playing Pluto, which would be more humorously ironic if it was indeed the actual Pluto.
Herc is also wearing his old costume, whereas he'll be wearing his He-Man outfit for the rest of this issue, so it's not meant to be a current movie.
But regardless of whether or not it was that movie or a different one, Magma is torn. She also thought the movie was a bomb, but she's upset to see her gods mocked so much. So that night she prays for guidance, and guess who shows up?
But when Magma turns on the light, she sees it's just the guy from the movie, and thinks that it's a joke that her fellow New Mutants are playing on her.
The other New Mutants are weirdly uninterested to find a strange man in their house. The fact that he's the actor from the movie is noted, but that fact that he's also a member of the world famous Avengers goes without comment.
Hercules' feats of strength do not convince the group of super-powered mutants that he's a god, and the other Olympians find it amusing to not help Hercules prove himself, even though it was Zeus that sent him there in the first place.
But Hercules does manage to convince Magma to stick around with him for a while and go hang out in the city. On the way there, the subject of him being an Avenger is finally broached, with Magma saying that she finds Thor more credible.
Hercules doesn't make that great an impression of himself, especially when they wind up in a bar and Hercules starts flirting with the local ladies, but things change when a fire breaks out nearby and Hercules and Magma help out.
The guy calling out there winds up in the hospital due to smoke inhalation, and then he dies, and his death humbles Hercules. And it's actually that that convinces Magma that he's for real.
Don't worry; the guy that died gets taken to Elysium by Zeus.
So that's the story. Back in the present day, Empath tells her that it's faith, not definitive proof, that is important, but Amara is happy to have met one of her gods.
It's nice that Claremont found the connection point between Magma and Hercules, and it's fun to see Hercules stomping around trying to prove that he's really a god. I'd say there's a lot left not clearly addressed, like the idea that the New Mutants don't seem to recognize Herc as an Avenger, or Magma accepting Thor but not Hercules (is it more that she's not as happy with what she's found in Herc?). And there's the fact that this story creates and then resolves a conflict between Empath and Magma that isn't at all related to the bigger questions around their relationship or the fact that the last we heard, Magma was being forced into an arranged marriage. Artwise, it's, well, a fill-in, but for both story and art it's a nice calmer change of pace than the frantic Simonson/Blevins Asgard story that surrounds it.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This technically could have been placed along with New Mutants #77 through New Mutants #????? (who knows when the Asgardian adventure ends) since it only features Magma and Empath in the framing sequence and they're not part of the Asgardian story. But for simplicity i've placed it in a separate entry. As for the main story (which i don't worry about for placement since it's just Amara's telling of events; it may not be 100% accurate), the MCP places it directly after Hercules' appearance in New Mutants #40 (which is a little weird considering how the New Mutants don't seem to recognize him at first) and therefore between Avengers #266-267 for Herc. However, the MCP place the other Olympian gods here after Avengers #285. I have a feeling that's a mistake, or maybe time works in mysterious ways in Olympus.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
New Mutants #87 is when the Asgard storyline ends and they return to Earth.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | November 5, 2014 1:51 PM
The problem is that Acts Of Vengeance takes place during that period. It makes it cumbersome to split it up.
Posted by: clyde | November 5, 2014 2:06 PM
Considering it was probably a low-budget Hercules movie from the "1960s", its lucky that it is getting a re-release for the New Mutants to see in the first place.
Posted by: Ataru320 | November 5, 2014 3:18 PM
I thought I saw a listing somewhere that the main story took place between New Mutants 44-45 (it had to have taken place before Mutant Massacre which is just before Under Siege in Avengers so the Herc appearance would match up there as well.) That would also account for Dani and Rahne's appearance as well.
Ataru, I suspect Herc's movie would have been produced in the 80s, since Rahne mentions nudity, something that wasn't that common in 60s flicks (but was was put "full-frontal" in the type of cheesy Italian B-movie rip-offs this flicks seems to be emulating.) Indeed, this might be a send-up of the critically-derided Hercules movies that appeared in the early 80s. OUR Hercules does bare a resemblance to Lou Ferrigno.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | November 5, 2014 4:25 PM
Uh, of course Empath believes in God. It is nearly a prerequisite for self-important people.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 5, 2014 8:05 PM
I think the idea is that Amara doesn't want to believe this is Hercules because she's idealized him in the stories she's heard about him and the reality is a disappointment. That doesn't explain the attitude of the other New Mutants, though- we've met *Loki* but this can't possibly be the real Hercules.
Posted by: Michael | November 5, 2014 8:10 PM
Empath is from Spain, and since Claremont usually tied his characters to religious beliefs from their native homelands, it makes sense that he'd be Catholic. The basic concept of this sort of personal differences between people isn't easy to communicate, and I won't say this story succeeded [indeed, I'd forgotten this issue even existed] but it's a decent attempt and is, what, only the third or fourth time Amara's ever actually gotten something to do? And that's including her introductory "New Mutants" issues.
I think the point about Hercules vs. Thor (coming soon to a theater near you!) is the "I've been to Asgard" line. In Roman (and Greek) mythology, you could run into gods anywhere, and they could do anything. Asgardians turned Amara into a dwarf. It doesn't affect her faith, which is the (vague) point the story is about. "I know Hercules. I worship Hercules, and you sir, are no Hercules."
My problem is, never mind his Avengers affiliation, isn't that the same costume he was wearing when he beat up Magneto right in front of the X-Babies? Doug's still alive and sharing popcorn with Shan, so this adventure didn't happen all that long after they were rescued from the Massachusetts Academy. How quickly they forget.
I hardly have a trained eye for these things, but there look like several different art styles in these scans by the way. Definitely a fill-in issue, although the scripting in the first framing sequence definitely reads like Claremont (in a good way) I could speculate that Weezie or Blevins or whoever had fallen behind, and Claremont was asked to throw together a fill-in story. Given that the kids were already in Asgard, he did his best to make it fit thematically, set it in current continuity with the framing story, then take us back to when he was writing it [except for that Doug and Shan thing. Huh???] Then the story was drawn by whoever Marvel had available at the moment. This is just speculation.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 5, 2014 10:17 PM
Further commenting on the placement of the flashback story, it must take place between #35 (when they returned from Asgard with a thin Shan) and #46 when they embarked on a multi-issue time-and-space adventure that lasted through #51. Magneto grounded them in #52, and in #53, released them from being grounded long enough to attend a party at the Hellfire Club, which ended in #54 with Shan leaving.
It probably didn't occur during the period when they were recovering from being killed by the Beyonder, a period which, it should be noted, involved Dani receiving her own crisis of faith and being saved by a short visit from the Frog of Thunder. For someone who takes his characters as seriously as Claremont, I think it was at least somewhat on his mind, at least with these characters. Rhane had been having similar problems too, even before Xavier left, as was Nightcrawler after meeting the Beyonder face-to-face.
Because I can't leave well enough alone, I have to wonder if this somehow colored his ideas for Storm, an African goddess [Kenya is mostly Christian - Lutheran, Catholic and Quaker - and Muslim.] She's part of a long line of matriarchal priestesses. An alternate version of her became a sorceress in Limbo. She's apparently part of a fictional Cheyenne mythology, if her relationship to Forge is any example (not to mention Otherworld.) And she was almost the Asgardian goddess of thunder too.
And I can't help thinking that, although it's not specifically religious, one of the most important turning points in her life (as written by Claremont) is when she realized she was hosting a Brood embryo and questioned whether or not it was right to kill it, even at the cost of her own life. Then she killed it at the cost of her own life. She was then saved by becoming effectively an embryo of a giant benevolent purple space-faring sperm cell that nurtured her back to life and a physical body.
I know I keep saying it, but this site is increasingly proving that if Claremont's subtext isn't disgusting you on a fundamental level, he's not doing his job.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 5, 2014 11:04 PM
Somebody tell Empath the dashing Spaniards who went into South America left it as we have it today or as it stood in the late 1980's; full of unstable regimes and narcotics dealers, with plenty of discontent for the Shining Path to exploit. Meanwhile, the people of Nova Roma lived peacefully for millennia, causing little problem for the Aztecs, Incas, etc.
Also, explain to Empath that not only does Spain stand outside of the G-8, no Spanish speaking country has membership in the G-8 or ever has; yet oddly Japan has stood as a member since inception as the G-7. The Japansese, you may recall, mostly adhered well into the 20th century to their indigenous pantheon. Also, the Japanese had their Izanagi Boom, from 1965 to 1970, named after said member of their pantheon. In addition, it may stand that Japanese researchers contribute more to science including medicine than Hispanic researchers. Further, sex crimes in Japan stand as rather low despite abundant pornography.
Latinos, I know this does not represent your fault.
Posted by: PB210 | November 7, 2014 9:35 PM
Update; tell Empath that the Japanese shoguns had the Spanish in their country executed and that prevented perhaps Japan from ending up as in the same state as the Spanish-speaking countries.
Posted by: PB210 | November 7, 2014 10:59 PM
PB210, the executions of the Spaniards was part of a larger campaign of religious persecution against Christians. I realize that you might have meant it this way but the idea that religious persecution is sometimes acceptable has Unfortunate Implications.
Posted by: Michael | November 8, 2014 10:23 AM
Sorry, pb210, I mean "might not have meant it this way".
Posted by: Michael | November 8, 2014 10:23 AM
"PB210, the executions of the Spaniards was part of a larger campaign of religious persecution against Christians. I realize that you might have meant it this way but the idea that religious persecution is sometimes acceptable has Unfortunate Implications."
Well, if not acceptable at least fortuitous; think of it if you know of this either way; did the Japanese shoguns or other authoritarian or harsher governments target homosexuals for death? Travel west of the Urals mountains and consider how many Moses style governments have.
"My point is that Japan good, Spain bad is just as simplistic as Spain good, Japan bad. All humans are capable of good and evil".
Some thought systems, less absolutist, end up causing less overall destruction. Japan, for example, stayed isolated for hundreds of years while Spanish speakers spread intolerance.
Posted by: PB210 | November 8, 2014 2:18 PM
Oh, so I see- a "bad religion" being persecuted, with some of its adherents dying, is fortuitous but a "good religion", like Shintoism, being persecuted is a tragedy. Do you have any idea how destructive that attitude is?
Posted by: Michael | November 8, 2014 3:14 PM
Ok, we are way off topic. Let's shut this conversation down, please. Sorry i didn't do so earlier.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 8, 2014 4:05 PM
I suspect this was a long-unused script rather than a real-time fill-in. A NM letter column during the original Claremont run mentions an upcoming "Magma meets Hercules" story, but the artist named was Mark Beachum.
Rahne's "no clothes on" doesn't refer to actual nudity--given her conservative background, a string bikini probably qualifies as "no clothes" to her.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 8, 2014 5:28 PM
Yeah, it looks like the framing sequence was added later- that happened a lot in those days.
Posted by: Michael | November 8, 2014 5:36 PM
I don't think the framing sequence was added later. The scripting reads like Claremont, and it's very well done, building to the "I've met mine" punchline. And the vagueness of the closing sequence (which I only have memories of, because fnord didn't include it, proof that he is evil!!!!!!!!!)
This is complete speculation, but I think Claremont wrote a fill-in issue, I think he did so knowing how fill-in issues worked, and had enough respect for the New Mutants to make it fit into their current continuity. Further, I think one of the reasons that he was so supported and protected as a Marvel writer was that he had so many potential stories ready to go. Weren't we promised miniseries about Storm, Rachel, Kitty and so on, which never happened?
It's an obvious idea for a story, especially for someone who takes his characters as seriously as Claremont did. Amara worships Roman gods, so how does she react to Hercules? She's already met Asgardian gods, so it's a "Mad Libs" plot at that point. Claremont had the idea years ago, but I think this was a fill-in, aware that it was a fill-in, going back to the period when he actually wrote the title, and doing the best he could with the results. "The kids are in Asgard and I'm asked to come up with a quick story, what do I do? Oh, there was that Amara vs. Hercules idea I always wanted."
The Phoenix miniseries is the only thing that comes to mind right now, but Claremont planned a lot of spin-offs that never happened. The Magik, Wolverine, Wolvie/Kitty miniseries are things he actually finished. Coming from the freelancer 'I've got a real job lined up so I'll be gone in six months' approach [Claremont intended to be a serious actor] it wouldn't surprise me if he was bombarding his editors with ideas for stories, especially since the Marvel Method encouraged it.
I think he deliberately wrote a normal "fill-in" issue, he pulled the most obvious idea off the shelf, and wrote the framing sequence to accommodate the current continuity.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 8, 2014 9:02 PM
I'm pretty sure this was an inventory story. The main story is by Louis Williams with a framing sequence by Terry Shoemaker. Almost whenever you see an out of continuity story with a framing sequence, the main story is an inventory story and the frame is designed to fit it into the present day. That doesn't mean Claremont didn't script the whole thing, and maybe even all at the same time when it was determined that this was going to production. But i think it was plotted and given to the artist a while earlier, and if the Dreaded Deadline of Doom didn't show up we would have seen this in Marvel Fanfare or something. It also seems odd to me that they'd go to their star writer for a rush fill-in at this point in his career. I'd imagine that if Bret Blevins was running late but there was time enough for another penciler (or two) to draw an entire issue, they'd get Louise Simonson to crank out a plot over Claremont, if only just so for consistency since she's the regular writer. Add to this the fact that Mark points out this story was announced much earlier.
Another possible clue is that if you look at Terry Shoemaker's output for Marvel, a lot of it is fill-in work (with Spellbound being one major exception, and with much better looking art than his other work). He seems to have been a go-to guy for fill-ins. Louis William's output for Marvel, on the other hand, seems to stop in early 1988 with the exception of this story and (another?) inventory story published in Marvel Fanfare around this time.
All speculation on my part, of course, and ChrisW may just as well be right.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 8, 2014 10:36 PM
I agree that this was an inventory story. It's purely my speculation that one of the reasons Claremont became such an important Marvel writer was that he actively came up with ideas for stories that could be done later, and this issue became a story that he was actually called upon to write. 'Weezie or Blevins are running late, how about finishing that Amara-meets-Hercules story that you were interested in writing years ago'?
Like killing Rogue instead of Dazzler, this is probably one of those things we'll never get a proper answer for, but I'm going to stick with the theory that Claremont wrote this story on the spot as a fill-in issue. The art looks quite different from page-to-page, but it's all as exploitationist as the latest stuff from Silvestri, or (saints preserve us) Jim Lee.
I think many people helped to rush the art out by the deadline, and Claremont helped Bob Harras out by writing a story he'd wanted to do for years. And at least Claremont had enough experience to know what a fill-in issue should look like. At least Amara found her faith in Hercules. Claremont and Marvel, not so much.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 10, 2014 2:21 AM
I say Claremont wrote the whole issue (whether he plotted it earlier or not) mostly based on the pacing of that first scan, which is clearly intended to lead up to Amara's triumphant "I've met mine" rejoinder. The dialogue rings truer to the characters than anything Weezie had written [especially between these two] and there's a lot of it, all Claremont hallmarks. Maybe the basic plot was written earlier and Claremont wrote the framing sequence, maybe Claremont plotted the framing sequence when he was told this issue was happening whether he took part or not.
Sudden thought: It's possible Marvel was paying advances for plots, and as the self-proclaimed "god-emperor of the mutants," it wouldn't be surprising in the least if Claremont was supplying as many plots as he could. (And with that title, how could he not turn his thoughts towards the actual dieties?) Neil Gaiman mentions in the "Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader" introduction that DC had paid him an advance long ago for a Batman story that never happened, and when they called him up to write this particular story, he asked if they were just calling in their advance. Marvel surely worked differently, but the same principle would still apply. Claremont turned in a plot ages ago, and when Marvel decided to use it, didn't let them do to this story what they had done to that 'where Illyana went the night Warlock showed up' fill-in issue that had been printed a year or so earlier, and wrote the framing sequence to make it a better story.
And I would say the placement of the main story is closer to #35, where Doug suddenly gets a look at the newly-skinny Shan. Even though that's still weird.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 11, 2014 10:31 PM
ChrisW, you keep saying Claremont wrote the whole issue, but i'm not sure what you mean. I don't think anyone disagrees with that. What's i've said is that Claremont wrote the plot to the main story some time in the past, then he plotted the framing sequence and scripted the whole thing when the story was pulled in for the fill in. That's generally how it works (it's also possible Claremont scripted the main story in the past, but i think less likely). What you seem to be arguing against is that someone else wrote the framing sequence or something, and no one's saying that.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 11, 2014 10:41 PM
I think I'm mixing up a couple of points, mostly that it had been announced long before, and the name "Louise Williams" whom I've never heard of anywhere else, so I'm thinking of another generic name, "Louise Jones" and filling that in wherever it seems appropriate, because she's much more familiar. If that means someone is saying Louise Simonsen wrote the framing sequences, then dammit, that's what they're saying and I'll fight anyone who says such a thing!!!!!
Seriously, I think I'm more irritated/intrigued by the fact that this story worked much better as a fill-in than almost any other I've read, in-line with current continuity yet it had been announced so much earlier, that I'm more focused on the merits (or lack thereof) of the story than anything else. Why couldn't Claremont have written #63, which was horrible, and served the same purpose as this story. Lousy scripting, lousy framing sequence, long-promised yet totally unfulfilling when we actually saw it.
Posted by: ChrisW | November 11, 2014 11:00 PM
Amazing Heroes #139(mid-April 1988) announced this story for New Mutants #67, but with no mention of Shoemaker. Evidently the story got bumped(I'm guessing that the pre-Spyder story was running long), so that pretty much confirms the status as inventory story.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | November 22, 2014 3:21 PM
What's interesting here, is that as so many titles are going full on cheesecake (especially MacFarlane's Amazing), in the panel where Amara is kneeling in front of Hercules, they had the decency to have her in some baggy clothes.
But the pencils during the "watching the movie" scene are just horrendous. What exactly is going on there between Doug and Xian? And that's the worst drawing of Rahne's face I've ever seen.
I agree, by the way, with Mark Drummond. Rahne's "Yon lady has no clothes" is probably directed at the bikini. This is Rahne, after all.
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 13, 2015 9:12 AM
Doug and Shan are doing exactly what it looks like they're doing. Because 17 year-old war refugee/rape survivors/mind control victims are so attracted to 15 year old middle class blond boys. Maybe it's the way that she gained and lost 300 pounds in such a short amount of time.
Really, someone needs to corner Claremont in a dark alley and ask WTF he was doing around this period.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 13, 2015 2:40 PM
...and here I thought the art (which probably came before the dialog) was trying to convey that Doug was reaching for Xian's tub of popcorn and she was covering it up.
The intended dialog being something like:
Xian: Hey, get your own!
But by all means, let's go with the out-of-left-field romantic entanglement.
Posted by: Dan H. | September 14, 2015 4:54 PM
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