Characters Appearing: Dream Queen, Jade Dragon, Madison Jeffries, Manikin, Ox (China Force), Rabbit (China Force), Rat (China Force), Sasquatch, Snake (China Force), Vindicator (Heather Hudson)
Alpha Flight #66
Issue(s): Alpha Flight #66
The wall breaker in this issue is the weird character Manikin, who i haven't paid too much attention to (i don't think i ever really even itemized the four characters that he summons). It seems like the spark of the idea was to kill the guy off, since he was Mantlo's creation and i don't think was particularly well received by fans or wanted by other creators (indeed, the character won't be seen again for 30 issues after this).
But Manikin finds out the plot, and rebels.
Manikin calls Mantlo a sadist.
And then he "quits", ruining Mantlo's plot.
Now, before you get the idea that this entire issue is a metatextual criticism of the comic book art form, by page 9 we do get back to the usual Mantlo histrionic melodrama.
Heather Hudson reveals that she's stuck in her Vindicator suit, and the contrivance is that instead of first going to her fiance, the guy who can control electronics, she flies off without telling him to find Manikin, because she's decided that this is a medical problem and Manikin is the only doctor who will do.
At this point Mantlo gets pretty aggressive towards his character.
Madison Jeffries does catch up with Vindicator and is unable to remove the suit, for whatever reason, so it is down to Manikin.
And Mantlo (overtly) makes sure to make Heather crazy, for "plot tension".
Again, there's some interesting things going on here, but it's still Mantlo writing.
"Heather, no!", indeed.
However, Manikin manages to avoid the death his creator intended for him.
And in the end, we learn that it wasn't really Mantlo at all, it was the Dream Queen.
But it was still Mantlo, the same way it was still Chuck Jones in Duck Amuck even though the episode ended showing Bugs Bunny as the animator.
Responses to this unusual storytelling approach range from bemused to violently negative, and the impression i get from the responses is that the majority of people writing in were negative but they wanted to run a few positive letters ("Phew! We were waiting for a relatively benign letter like yours..." and "We may not all have to resign after all!"). The letters also remind me that the most immediate inspiration for the breaking of the fourth wall was the Moonlighting television show.
Some other happenings in this issue: Sasquatch, rampaging through the "far North" while letting off steam about his loss of fortune to his ex-wife, stumbles across a lode of gold, "more than enough to put Alpha back into business for a century!".
And China Force officially debuts, showing up to either break the Jade Dragon out of Canadian custody, or kill him.
While this is a special issue and certainly feels like it could be a goodbye story, it's interesting to see Bill Mantlo still developing subplots.
Mantlo at this point had already scripted 1988's Invasion series for DC, a pretty big deal in the sense that it was pretty much the only comic work he did outside of Marvel (i've found an 8 page story in a 1979 issue of Creepy, published by Warren, but that's it). More to the point, the writer that was once one of the most prolific at Marvel and the go-to fill-in guy was down to just this one title at this point, and we've speculated that Mantlo was only still on this title because of contractual reasons. Mantlo was also already working as a public defender at this point, and the amount of time that would have required may explain why the quality on this series declined so much. It's worth remembering that the earliest issues of Mantlo's run, while they may not have been John Byrne level, were actually pretty interesting creepy horror stories, but it got steadily worse as it went on. With his departure here, Mantlo was (as far as i know) out of comics entirely. And then in 1992 he was hit by a car while rollerblading, resulting in irreparable brain damage.
I've given Mantlo a lot of shit on this website for his scripting style, his overly melodramatic plotting, and other goofy stuff that he's done. But he's the textbook example of what this site is in a sense about; the idea that the individual stories might not be that great but what they contribute to the larger Marvel universe makes them cool and important. And Mantlo was definitely a huge contributor. And it's nice to see him ending his career here with something of an artistic stretch and a more personal voice, even if it still isn't a great comic.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Mantlo was never my favorite or even close to favorite writer (at the risk of being rude, was he anyone's?), and his Alpha Flight run sucked big time, but I (sort of) enjoyed his Spectacular Spider-Man and Hulk runs. They had obvious problems (scripting indeed was a big one), but taken as a whole, they were solid, enjoyable runs. I wonder if he would have worked on anything if he had not suffered his accident, and I'm glad he got a credit on Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | September 8, 2014 4:13 PM
I, too, really loved most of Mantlo's Spectacular Spider-Man run. It's a shame that what I've read of his other work does not stand up as well.
Posted by: TCP | September 8, 2014 5:23 PM
Look at it this way, fnord- you've still got some Mantlo stories you still need to review, like Cloak and Dagger/ Power Pack- the Afterschool Special- I mean, Shelter from the Storm.
Posted by: Michael | September 8, 2014 7:53 PM
From what I've seen from this page, I can say that Mantlo was someone who was willing to try different sorts of things, even if some would consider some of his ideas more "novelty" or "gimmicks". Many of them endure: White Tiger (in a way), Cloak and Dagger, Rocket Raccoon, ROM and the Micronauts...but then again he also gave us things that just seem funny in respect like Razorback, Team America and the (vastly underrated and really needs more respect) Hypno-Hustler; heck even some stuff he did do with the mainstream heroes like the Hulk's pardon and then subsequent de-evolution back to savagry at least was something different. No Mantlo won't be remembered as a great but he probably to me is just a good idea man, and idea men have good and bad ideas that can stand the test of time.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 8, 2014 8:16 PM
I liked Razorback, really. Yeah, it's a goofy, goofy idea built mainly to capitalize on the CB angle, but I'm a sucker for heroes that are just sort of likeable goofballs.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | September 9, 2014 10:54 PM
Poor Bill Mantlo. Have you ever read through this?
I had never been aware that Mantlo had initially made early recoveries after his accident. Truly sad.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | October 21, 2014 12:15 AM
There have been a number of updates and changes since that article - while I can't vouch or say everything is 100, it's important to note that Marvel has given a great deal of credit and attention to Mantlo in the years since the reporting was done on that piece: http://toylab.blogspot.com/2014/08/bill-mantlo-creator-of-rocket-raccoon.html
Posted by: cullen | October 21, 2014 2:51 AM
It's almost like they knew a movie coming out with one of his creations might garner some unwanted negative publicity. At any rate, better late than never...but still late.
Posted by: Robert | October 21, 2014 1:51 PM
@ cullen and Robert: +1
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | October 21, 2014 3:28 PM
Amazing Heroes #156(1/89) has the first post-Marvel interview with Mantlo, done shortly after being fired off Alpha Flight. It's short but interesting: he claims that he was taken off Alpha Flight when he told Carl Potts he wanted off the book and wanted a solo character book instead(which he didn't get), he claims he was taken off Hulk when he complained about Sal Buscema getting stale, and ditto for Cloak & Dagger when he complained about Bret Blevins being an inappropriate choice. He explains the origin of Shooter's feud with him as the result of Mantlo's organizing Marvel writers into a "union"(probably not a professionally organized one) to get negotiations and contracts and avoid arbitrary reassignments and firing(Shooter was assistant editor then and opposed this, but Mantlo won out in this in 1978). He also claims that Shooter's refusal to offer a settlement to Mantlo in 1986-7 was the main reason why Marvel higher management dumped Shooter, as it was clearly unprofessional legal behavior rather than a creative dispute. He did state that he wanted to write for the post-Shooter Marvel again, especially on Cloak & Dagger, and that he had an additional Spider-Man/Cloak & Dagger Graphic Novel coming out(no idea if it ever did).
However, he does make some strange statements and omissions. Plagiarism issues aren't mentioned at all. He says that the following writer on Hulk got a "new artist", but since both were John Byrne, he winds up sounding rather strange. He also says that editor Carl Potts was "the only editor to fight to keep me", but earlier in the interview says that Carl was the one who ultimately dumped him from Marvel.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 12, 2015 11:11 AM
I think Mantlo is embellishing here. No other account that I've read mentions Mantlo as a cause of Shooter's firing. The editors were clearly refusing to give Mantlo work under both the late Shooter and the DeFalco regimes and considering how low the sales for Alpha Flight were falling, Potts really had no choice but to fire him.
Posted by: Michael | January 12, 2015 8:12 PM
Mantlo does list both Graphic Novels as upcoming.
I believe Shooter's opposition to a settlement with Mantlo is also cited in the Comics Journal's coverage of Shooter's firing, but I don't think it was called the central reason for it. I personally think that Mantlo's reason is a bit more plausible for the firing--creative micromanaging could seem to upper management to be merely differing opinions, but opposing a legal settlement when it's in a business' best interests to do so would be a red flag about the opposing person being a company liability.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 13, 2015 8:03 PM
Well, that was a weird issue, but I actually liked it, unlike the rest of Mantlo's Alpha Flight. Metafictional plots are always welcome for me, and I like when people try something different and write a story about this. The resulting story may be good or bad, but it's always interesting.
Posted by: Nate Wolf | January 27, 2017 2:54 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|