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They keep bringing Liefeld back.

I don't get it. And now they're bringing back the Heroes Reborn world? I really don't get it.

For those who don't know, here's the story. About 15 years ago (Jesus!) Magneto went totally crazy and Professor X had to take him out by wiping his memory. 10 years ago Professor X, his mind having absorbed a portion of Magneto's psyche, went crazy himself and became Onslaught. In order to kill Onslaught, all the major non-mutant super-heroes (minus Spider-Man, who was busy dealing with all his clones, and plus Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who Marvel forgot were mutants), had to absorb Onslaught's essence and let the X-Men kill them.

So far all of this is perfectly normal comic books stuff, although a little on the cheesey side and done during a low point in terms of talent at Marvel.

But then it turned out that the heroes hadn't really died. Franklin Richards, the extremely powerful mutant son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, saved the heroes by placing them in a pocket dimension.

Still nothing too out of the ordinary for comics.

While they were in the pocket dimension, however, they were turned over to Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. These are two creators who worked for Marvel in the early 90s and then left to form Image comics. Jim Lee is a great artist and a terrible plotter. Rob Liefeld is a talentless hack with absolutely no redeeming qualities. He can not draw. He can not draw. I don't mean "he's a bad artist". I mean, he can not draw.

So fan reaction to this was pretty negative. Plus, the hype at the time was that the heroes really were dead in the real Marvel Universe and they really were starting over here. This was called Heroes Reborn. I read this garbage because I had caught onto the hints that Franklin Richards (a favorite character of mine) had saved them, and for once I was right (unlike, for example, the time i thought Doom 2099 was the "real" Dr. Doom, who had escaped death in Tom DeFalco's FF run by travelling to future. I read that crappy FF run, and Doom 2099, for at least a year waiting to watch them execute my brilliant idea. Never happened.) Everyone hated this, but i guess it sold really well due to the controversy. Liefeld was even fired during the middle of this due to the negative response and the fact that he can't get a book out on time.

Eventually the heroes figured out what was going on and they "escaped" the Franklinverse, and went back to the real MU where they were assigned good writers, beginning the current long stretch at Marvel where the writing has been quite good. Heroes Reborn was more or less forgotten.

Now they are bringing it, and Rob Liefeld, back along with it. And they're involving Franklin Richards (one of my favorite characters, who's been depowered and out of use lately). Which means, god help me, i may end up getting this.

By fnord12 | March 31, 2006, 4:16 PM | Comics | Comments (4)| Link

The further wisdom of Paul O'Brien

He's talking about the comic book industry, of course, but it applies anywhere:

As everyone knows, monopolies are bad news all round. With no competition, the monopolist no longer has an incentive to keep prices low, to maintain quality of service, or to offer a decent range of products. They can just sit there and do what they feel like. Of course, this is the basic problem with unregulated competition: if you're not careful, somebody could actually win.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2006, 5:00 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Link

Super-Villain Team-Up

I finished up Essential Super-Villain Team-Up yesterday morning. The Essential books make large runs of comics available very cheaply. This book contained a run of Dr. Doom stories from Astonishing Tales, and the entire run of the Super-Villain Team-Up comic, and even included issues of the Avengers and the Champions where there were cross-overs. It's such a bargain that these books are hard to pass up, but there are some problems.

The first is that they are printed on thin newspaper-like paper, and only in black and white. For some books, especially books by classic comic artists like Dikto and Kirby, the black and white can supposedly make the art actually look better because it's not covered up by the limitations of glaring 60s comic book colors (i think the fact that it's newsprint negates that to a degree even for the good artists). For stories like Super-Villain Team-Up, the art is pretty bad and the cheesey colors are part of the charm.

The second problem is probably specific to my personal insanity. I keep my comics in chronological order, as opposed to alphabetical by title. This means, for example, that if Spider-Man appears in an issue of the Avengers, i keep that issue of Avengers in between my Spider-Man comics. This way, when i re-read my comics, they're all in the order in which things "happened." The problem with having a big chunk of comics in one volume like the Essentials is that i can't split them up if i have to. So for example, in SVTU, The Beast appears in the Avengers cross-over, and then later in the Champions cross-over. If i have any other Beast appearances that are supposed to take place in between the Avengers and Champions issues, i can't place them in their proper spots.

But that's form. What about substance? The Astonishing Tales stories start off with an interesting story that establishes the tradition of Dr. Doom battling Mephisto for the soul of his mother once every year. It's a cool concept because it focuses on the mystical side of Dr. Doom, and i have the graphic novel where Doom finally wins (with the help of Dr. Strange), so it was nice to see how it started. After that, the AT stories deal with people trying to take over Latveria - first the former king that Doom deposed, and then the Red Skull. On the cheesey side, but pretty fun anyway.

Dr. Doom is one of my favorite Marvel villains. In one sense, he's like Darth Vader, and was probably an inspiration for Darth Vader. He's the reserved, super-intelligent arch-villain, Lawful Evil in D&D terms, hidden in armor with a combination of technological and mystical powers, and in command of a country. He wants to rule the world... because he thinks he can do a better job than anyone else. And the interesting thing is that he's probably right. Latveria is a third world Baltic country that under Doom rises from third world poverty to an international power independant of both the Soviet Union and western nations. The people are shown to be reasonably well off, but stuck in a Potemkin Village type civilization. It's generally left ambiguous whether Doom's people really love him, or if they pretend to love him because he has ordered them to and they fear him. But Doom is a super-genious and super efficient, and it's entirely possible that if he were to conquer the world he could bring an era of world peace and prosperity, so he raises some interesting moral questions. These stories never deal with that. Generally, SVTU keeps it ambiguous - most of the time when comments about the people being forced to love him are made, they are made by Doom's enemies. However, there are a few times when the comments are made by the narrator or Doom himself. And Doom is sometimes portrayed the way I described above, and sometimes as a generic megalomaniac bad guy.

I think that lack of consistency has a lot to do with the number of creators in charge of this book. There was no consistent writer or artist on SVTU. None of the writers were top writers at Marvel, and most were bottom of the barrel. It was also a pretty bad time for Marvel - this was when the only really good writers at marvel were Chris Claremont and Jim Starlin. But even if it were one bad writer throughout the run, it would have been better than the patchwork storytelling that occurs when there's a new writer every other issue.

Now one would think that the concept of Super-Villain Team-Up would include Super-Villains... teaming-up. Sure, the cliche is that super-villains are always scheming and never trust each other, so i was fully expecting that the villains would team-up for a while and eventually betray each other. I also know that bad guys can never win so i wasn't expecting any great victories, either (although it would have been nice to see both of those cliches avoided). However, i was certainly expecting that there would be super villains teaming up. Never really happened. I think Marvel wasn't really all that comfortable with the concept of having bad guys as the stars of a book, which is why they never really went with the concept and kept throwing in heroes, and why they never assigned a consistent creative team to it.

Besides Doom, the other major character for most of the book was Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. He's an interesting character whose been a good guy and a bad guy over the years, but even at his worst he's always been in the "noble but misunderstood" category, not really evil. After the Astonishing Tales Doom story, SVTU starts up with Namor going to Doom and asking for an alliance and Doom refusing, and then Doom going to Namor and asking for an alliance, and Namor refusing. The logic being "We're both bastards, and you know in the end one of us is going to betry the other." I really liked that. Then Doom decides that he needed to prove to Namor that they could be partners, so he waits until Namor is in trouble (with Tiger Shark and Attuma), sweeps in and provides the rescue. It all goes well until Doom kills an Attuma flunky in cold blood, upsetting Namor's delicate sensibilities and ruining the alliance. All of which is pretty good stuff.

Then the concept goes south. Doom manages to keep Namor around by getting him dependant on some chemical that keeps him alive and playing off his sense of honor. Then Doom makes Namor do nasty things against Namor's will (like fight the Fantastic Four). All of which is more or less in character, but a little cheesy, and not the Super Villain Team Up concept i was looking for. Eventually Namor breaks free when they bring in a new super hero called The Shroud who is a total Bat-Man rip-off (complete with a Batarang and an origin involving his parents getting killed in front of his eyes after going to a play). The Shroud gets into a fight with Doom and believes he kills him, and so Namor is released from his oath.

Then the series really gets bad. Doom teams up with the Avengers to fight Krang (more Atlantean villains... yawn). Then Doom teams up with Captain America to fight the Red Skull. With Sub-Mariner out of the picture, i was expecting Doom to team up with other bad guys, not team up with heroes to fight them.

Next Magneto shows up in Latveria (acting completely out of character compared to what Claremont was doing with him in X-Men at the time) and finds that Doom has already conquered the world by releasing a chemical that makes everyone obey him. But Doom is bored (this is a recurring theme when Doom conquers the world, which i like), so he frees Magneto, and lets him pick one Avenger to team-up with to see if the two of them can overthrow Doom. Magneto, in a room with Thor, Iron Man, The Vision, The Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man, and Captain America, chooses... The Beast, who even he admits is the weakest Avenger. He first says he chose him because he used to fight him all the time. Makes sense(?). Later he says he chose him because he thought he could help Magneto convince Xavier to help them. I guess he forgot that everyone was under Doom's control. The X-Men turn out to be out of town anyway, so Magneto and Doom go to try and get help from the third-stringers known as The Champions... who are under Doom's control (duh) so they end up getting into a fight. Eventually Doom's face mask accidentally breaks open, and Doom breathes in his own controlling gas, which apparently defeats him. "Doom... must be obeyed... but i am Doom! Why does Doom not give me orders?? Why???"

With Doom also out of the picture, the story gets even worse. It turns to the Red Skull, who has teamed up with a really minor villain called the Hate Monger. But the Hate Monger turns out to be... Adolph Hitler. No, seriously. Oh i forgot: earlier, Dr. Doom teamed up with Henry Kissinger, who signs a non-aggression pact with Doom and tells the Fantastic Four to leave him alone. I'm still not kidding. Eventually Hitler and the Red Skull betray each other, and the story is over.

By fnord12 | March 14, 2006, 11:17 AM | Comics | Comments (1)| Link

There's always someone geekier than you, pt. 2

Justice League of New Jersey

By fnord12 | March 13, 2006, 2:18 PM | Comics & Ummm... Other? | Link

Watching The Watcher

My first new Marvel toy in a long time. He's not quite in scale, as you can see in the picture. He should be about the same size as Galactus, minus the helmet, as you can see here. (That's pre-diet Watcher, by the way.) But he's bigger than Mr. Fantastic, and i guess as a Cosmic Being he can be any size he wants.

By fnord12 | March 7, 2006, 9:16 AM | Comics | Link

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