Issue(s): She-Hulk #14, She-Hulk #14, She-Hulk #16, She-Hulk #17
In truth, these issues read exactly like Howard the Duck comics to me, but since my opinion of the Howard the Duck comics is actually really low, that's not a good thing.
Things do get off with a promising start by introducing a guy from a splinter faction of the Watchers called the Critics.
He's found a cosmic disturbance.
This relates to the anomly that caused She-Hulk trouble last issue. At the beginning here, She-Hulk locates the device.
She sticks her hand through it, and it comes out in Howard the Duck's fridge.
Later, Beverly Switzler comes home. She's currently employed as a ninja which... i guess is a kind of comic book satire?
She-Hulk later goes to her friend, Dr. Brent Wilcox, who is a physicist (Reed Richards could not be located for unspecified reasons but i have this circa the FF's time-travel adventure).
Wilcox looks into the anomoly with a microscope and discovers... the Baloneyverse.
And that's where i checked out. It was going to take a hell of a lot to bring me back from "flip the pages and skim the text" mode. And it never did manage that.
The Critic whisks Howard the Duck over to She-Hulk, presumably just to get the plot moving. Howard's arrival causes Wilcox to fall into the anomaly, and She-Hulk, with Howard in tow, goes in after him.
In the Baloneyverse, She-Hulk first is changed back into Jennifer Walters, and then into a fully Hulked out version of the Hulk.
They're then pulled out of the Baloneyverse by the Critic.
The experience in the Baloneyverse puts Jen Walters in a temporary status where she turns into the grey, monstrous hulk when the sun goes down (like the current grey Hulk, which is based on his status in the earliest issues of his comic). But that status will be removed from Jen as easily as it's added, and without any deep explanation, so it's really not worth thinking about. All that matters is that She-Hulk, Howard, Wilcox, and Weezie Mason all fly west ahead of the sun and to get She-Hulk into the vault that Bruce Banner used to use to keep his Hulk side locked up (circa Hulk #3).
It turns out that there are kids hiding in the vault as well, but as with everything else in this story they don't seem relevant to anything else. They use their magic warts to free She-Hulk from the vault (as far as i can tell, the only point of this was to allow the "Secret Warts" title of the issue)...
...and then She-Hulk falls into a jacuzzi which removes the excess gamma radiation or whatever and restore She-Hulk to normal, except now she's grey instead of green.
There's also something going on with an old man who used to be the Golden Age character called the Terror (who previously appeared in Mystic Comics #5-10).
While all of this is going on, we occasionally cut away to the Critic who complains about how pointless it all is.
I was ready for the Critic to be, like, a criticism of comics critics or something. Instead i just find myself agreeing with him.
The Terror eventually winds up with She-Hulk and the others.
Now, it turns out that the anomaly and the Baloneyverse nonsense is the work of Doctor Angst, the leader of a group of super-villain parodies that previously appeared in Marvel Treasury Edition #12. He begins to re-recruit the other members of his group. As you'll see in the comments on the Treasury entry, it's speculated that these villains are very specific parodies of Marvel characters. The two most obvious ones were Tillie the Hun, based on Red Sonja, and the Spanker, based on the Punisher. Sitting Bullseye, as a commentary on the death of Thunderbird, makes sense if you just look at his name, but his origin is that he's a white ex-CIA operative that tried to infiltrate a Native American firewater bootlegging operation and got caught and branded. And Doctor Angst and Black Hole don't really seem to be about specific characters at all; again, especially if you look past their names. But since Spanker and Tillie did seem like dead-on parodies, i still wonder what the intention was for the others. Another thing i wondered about was, if the villains were meant to express Gerber's disdain about the lack of originality of the characters he was mocking, did the fact that Red Sonja and the Punisher turned out to be viable characters alter his perception of them in any way?
Sadly, there are really no clues to be had on either of those fronts. Spanker ("Fred Hovel") is more of a Punisher parody than ever...
...but i'm not getting anything from the other characters. Tillie had been spending time as an aerobics instructor.
Black Hole has been working for a carnival.
And Sitting Bullseye has been running a survival course.
And Doctor Angst is described as the Master of the Mundane.
Talk of a "New Universe" briefly got my attention, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere (and the New Universe would have been a stale target by this point). None of it suggests any kind of specific parodies to me.
Meanwhile, She-Hulk and crew go through a bunch of random alternate universes, with commentary not worthy of Mad magazine.
This all ends in a fight with the villains...
And eventually Black Hole is used to suck up all the extra dimensions being released by Doctor Angst.
As the Critic says, a shaggy dog story. But just because you have one of your characters acknowledge that it was a pointless and boring ramble doesn't make it ok.
I've often said that i never quite got Howard the Duck, and it kind of befuddled me because the books have so much critical acclaim. Like, what am i missing? But after having read these, i'm feeling a little better about my inability to grok that series. It was one thing when i was reading books written in the zany 70s. Between references that were before my time and a tone that i could accept as being relevant in a "you had to be there way", i was willing to accept that there were things about the series that would just always be over my head. But i was there for the 90s. And the level of humor in this series is at best juvenile and at worst non-existent. It's really just unfunny wacky nonsense.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showBeverly Switzler, Black Hole, Blonde Phantom, Brent Wilcox, Critic, Doctor Angst, Howard The Duck, She-Hulk, Sitting Bullseye, Spanker, Terror (Golden Age), Tillie the Hun
A later comment suggested that Black Hole was based on Nova(which I never thought of, but now agree with).
The first issue is named after the infamous Batman Phone-In-To-Kill-Robin story "A Lonely Place of Dying", and the 3rd issue was named after "Green Arrow:The Longbow Hunters".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 29, 2015 7:57 PM
A Lonely Place of Dying was the storyline that introduced Tim Drake. A Death in the Family was the story with the "phone in to kill Jason Todd" gimmick.
Posted by: Robert | May 29, 2015 9:46 PM
"And Doctor Angst and Black Hole don't really seem to be about specific characters at all"
Doctor Angst, Master of the Mundane is pretty obviously a Doctor Strange parody, even if it's just in a superficial way. He got a similar-looking sorcerer costume, a fake Eye of Agamotto, and even an arrow reminiscent of the demon motif. (and it's pointing at "sorcerer" just to make sure we understand who this costume was based on)
Posted by: Nate Wolf | October 23, 2017 6:22 AM
As fnord notes, commentators in the entry where these characters first appeared thought it likely tat the Band of the Bland they were originally spoofs of 1970d-era characters Gerber considered lame or derivative. The consensus there was:
Dr. Angst = Modred the Mystic, then being used as a mopey failure hero in Marvel Chillers, and thus spoofed as a "boring" version of Dr. Strange
Here, I'd guess Gerber is being self-indulgent, but also using them to gently mock late 1980s "Dark Age" stock antihero characters: lots more boring sorcerers have shown up, the "bad grrls" craze was kicking off, the Punisher becoming a marquee character, and loads of grizzled tough guys. The Black Hole is here because he was in the original story. It's a stretch, but maybe he's a shot at Quasar.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 23, 2017 6:58 AM
I'm not buying that the Black Hole is a parody of Nova- Marvel Treasury Edition 1 came out the same month as issues dated January 1977 as I understand it (but was dated January 1976). Nova's first issue was dated September 1976. With the lead time back then, I'm not sure Gerber would have had enough time to write a parody of Nova in the story.
Posted by: Michael | October 23, 2017 8:22 AM
Whatever these issues' failings, and there are many, we can commend Gerber on the prescient Trump-hate of the Trashiverse panel.
Posted by: cullen | October 23, 2017 9:48 AM
I don't know -- I never saw those characters of parodies of anything in particular -- but Omar makes an awfully convincing case. As for Nova, Wolfman had been at Marvel for several years at this point, and he'd created "Black Nova" way back in 1967, so it's not much of a stretch to suppose that Gerber knew about Nova before it was published. Also, there's a similarity between Black Hole's origin, struck by a grain of dwarf star matter from space while playing hand-ball in Brooklyn, and Nova's, struck by a power-transferral ray shortly after playing basketball in Long Island.
Posted by: Andrew | October 23, 2017 9:50 AM
Gerber would also have had a motive to take shots at Wolfman, who was evidently the person pushing his friend Don McGregor to add guest-stars to his Black Panther series in Jungle Action, and would soon shove McGregor off of Power Man. This was during Wolfman's tenure as EiC across 1975 and into early 1976.
And, according to Sean Howe, Wolfman was feuding with Gerber and Steve Engelhart in 1975 as well in an effort to assert stronger editorial control around that time.
All of that, plus knowledge of upcoming characters, might have been why, with Wolfman stepping down as EiC by February of 1976, Gerber decided to take a shot at Wolfman's yet-to-be-published fanzine character., Nova.
One more tidbit: Black Nova's origin was a bit different than the Marvel Nova: instead of being empowered by a space-ray, Black Nova was a heroc alled the Star who had "power pills" fused to his body by a teleporter ray, and was thius redesigned by Len Wein as "Black Nova." Oh, and one of his villains was an all-powerful villain called the Celestial Man...whom Wolfman's fanzine buddy helped redesign into Nova. And, of course, Wein's Defenders villain Nebulon reused the name "the Celestial Man."
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 23, 2017 5:58 PM
Sorry, some of that was garbled: In his fanzine days, Wolfman created a hero called the Star, who used "power pills," and a villain called the Celestial Man. A teleporter accident fused some of the pills to the Star, and others were taken by the Celestial Man, who split the Star into two beings and absorbed one. The remaining half of the Sat was redesigned as "Black Nova" with Len Wein's input.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 23, 2017 6:09 PM
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