Friday, December 31, 2010

And now, as we look to 2011 . . .

. . .and the beginning of GUNMETAL BLACK'S second decade, we look to the future by announcing the last few bits and bobs of the year-long Tenth Anniversary, because I totally don't toot my own horn around here.

The main thing to roll out, of course, is the GUNMETAL BLACK Wiki, which now, after months of work can move from the "beta" stage to "public beta" stage (adding articles as I type this). If ever you looked at the ten years and ten million or so words of GUNMETAL BLACK and wondered just what the hell all this amounted to, well now, I have a handy reference guide to the care and feeding of my fictional universe, its characters, it's vehicles . . .hell, everything I could think to put in.

For those of you who might say "Well, hang on, I read the stories, what do I need this for?" Well, to offset the fact that there is some mild (and not so mild) spoilage in the articles in the Wiki (can't be helped) I have also added in bits that are exclusive to the Wiki--because there's tons of little details about the GMB Universe that I will just not be able to cover in ten novels and however many short stories so far. So I figure this is a way of fleshing out my universe by other means.

And no, the project I just finished at the Prattle had nothing to do with the idea for this . . .well, except considering how much I love the Handbooks and like minded reference stuff there was no way I wouldn't do something like this given half a chance.

Anyways, enjoy it, enjoy GMB (there's lots!) and enjoy yourselves as we kick off the next decade in ways even the pedants who say the new set of ten starts at "1" and not "0" can agree on. Happy New Year everyone! Join us in 2011 when Witless Prattle unexpectedly begins its third year of posting (to everyone's--especially mine's--surprise)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Longtime followers of this blog (well, both of you) will remember that I am a huge fan of Chris Onstad's Achewood, and have reviewed Dark Horse's previous two hardcover collections here and here. And just in time for Christmas, and to be at the very bottom of my backlog which as of this entry will be finally cleared, Volume 3 has arrived.

Volume 3 continues the reprinting of Achewood's early years, including the second major arc the strip went through--the eternally depressed Roast Beef fleeing for the moon and only being wooed back by his love for the TV show Cheers (I am not making this up) in addition to a cast member getting shot, another cast member being possessed by the spirit of Billy Idol, the coining of the neologism "rad chiles," original text pieces written by Onstad and a collection of earlier Achewood strips (pre-what Onstad considers to be the beginning of the strip proper) and a running commentary from Onstad reflecting on his work in various oblique and often hilarious ways.

As these are still the early days of Achewood, while Onstad is growing closer to fleshing out his cast and experimenting with longer-form storytelling, in general we're still very close to Achewood's early days as a surreal strip about animals in Calfornia crazy as hell, and this means that rather than Achewood as it is now (wherein in the longer-form stories, weeks can go by without a major gag in the classic sense) so even in longer-form stories things will stop for a laugh in each installment.

In terms of the art, Onstad is getting a bit more ambitious--panels are larger and there's more detail as he reaches closer and closer to the Achewood style we know today where the surreal humour is often concomitant with ambitious panel design and storytelling flourishes. We're not at "Cartilage Head" or "Lash of Thanatos" territory just yet, but these are the first stirrings of Achewood evolving into something other than Just Another Webcomic.

In short, I highly recommend this book. For those of you new to Achewood, the continuity is still formless enough to be able to get in on and some of the jokes are inspired/insane enough to stick in your mind for years and years (hell, "Rad chiles" became a notorious joke and it was just an alternate take of a strip.) and it's well worth your time to check out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Read This--BATWOMAN #0

Well, now that everyone else on the Internet has had a turn at reviewing this, why not me?

I raved about the first Batwoman collection here earlier this year, and even though writer Greg Rucka was not on board for the series launch, the presence of J.H. Williams III on art was (and this makes me sound rather shallow, I know) what made the difference--like it or not, it's the unique visual style and atmosphere that he brings to the book and the title character that elevates it above being Just Another Batman Family Book, or to be even more snarky, a Batman book for people who didn't much care for Batman books.

This issue--less a story in and of itself and more a "introduction and re-introduction" (which is what first issues used to be, and then zero issues were and the 1/2 issues were . . .well, that's another rant) wherein Batman observes Batwoman in action as well as in her civilian guise. It's a sound enough conceit and disguises that this is pretty feather-light in terms of story, but as it's a vehicle to introduce or re-introduce Kate Kane to comics readers.

Art is split between Williams and Amy Reeder. I'm not familiar with her work, but I like her style a lot because she deliberately doesn't try to imitate Williams' style--Reeder tends to be more detail-oriented with slightly sharper, but softer expressions. The split is accomplished in a very interesting fashion--Williams handles all the Batwoman stuff, Reeder handles the Kate stuff. Each page is split down the middle and while the two styles threaten to clash, they complement each other surprisingly well (I'm very impressed with the composition of the page wherein the two stories link with Kate and Batwoman both kicking the holy hell out of someone--it's a really beautiful page) and I think this pairing will serve the book very well.

As a quick mention while I'm talking art, Dave Stewart is back on colours, and good thing too. The man knows his reds.

Writing-wise . . .well. I think I'm going to reserve judgment for now. Batwoman #0 is an astoundingly verbose book if you're coming off Elegy and reading this--Rucka's economy and use of dialogue to impart information is sorely missed. However, as it's an introductory story written from the perspective of an outsider who is providing an in-depth analysis of the character, I find myself wondering how else you can really do it. The main niggle I have with it is Batman is a pretty dull narrator (that "it's the way her eyes burn . . .they tell me she won't be a victim again" line is . . .unfortunate) honestly, and . . .well, my enjoyment of Batwoman proportionate to how much of Batman's stuff gets pulled into it. In general I find Batman books to be really homogenized and dull at the moment--there was a momentary peak there with Batman and Robin under Morrison, but it didn't last. Rarely are Bat-books allowed to create their own style and voice as strongly as Batwoman has. As I said elsewhere--I dread the day we see Batwoman vs. the Joker, but if we must, it better be damn good and not the same Joker stuff we've been getting since Killing Joke.

Okay, drifted off-point there. While I've been a bit hard on the writing here, I would tip my cap to Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman for only bringing up Batwoman's sexuality twice, and only then as a sort of tossed-off detail that doesn't ever threaten to make her, y'know, Northstar. Not that one couldn't make it a good story without it becoming didactic (witness Elegy) but it's easy for it to be an exploitative detail or become the defining issue of the character and that would be a shame, as it's been previously shown with this character that she can walk that fine edge without falling over into "she's Batman but has boobs, likes girls. OOOH!"

Time (and issue #1, which is on the way soon) will tell, but I think we're off to a good start. I've already added this to my pull list (and this is after several months of having no comics on my pull list at all) and I'm recommending it. It's well worth your time.

Friday, December 24, 2010


All irregularities will be handled by recapping the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Transuranic, heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned, but they decided they had better things to do than recap out of date references for comics, so Kazekage got the job.

Well, we're here at last. After 15 issues, God knows how many wisecracks, personal insults, pro wrestling references, veiled allusions to forgotten TV series, and general surliness, we have reached the finished line. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe's final issue is the "Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphenalia," and lordy is is kinda boring. Really, all this stuff should have been stuck with the regular entries (and would be later) but for now, space was at a premium and there was a lot of stuff they were desperate to fit in the regular book so this was the compromise they reached. And I don't mind telling you, it's damn hard to find witty things to say about Paladin's stupid fucking gun.

ANT-MAN'S HELMET--I would not have guessed so much damn technology was required for someone to communicate with ants--I would have assumed there was more bribing with sugar involved, but of course, I bow before the curious genius of Eliot R. Brown. I don't know what a "piezo-electric speaker is, but it sounds nasty.

BLACKLASH'S WHIP--And now, a word problem for you--if Blacklash can make his whips into nunchaku or spin them around to bullet-deflecting speeds . . .what, if any, effect will this have on Iron Man not being able to beat the shit out of him anyway? Explain your answer in the space provided below.

BLACK WIDOW'S STING/LINE--I am reasonably certain that the Black Widow carries in her wrists two machines that do the same thing as a taser and a bit of string, but as with many things that pull double-duty, shit is far more complicated than it has any right to be, honestly. And where the hell are all these anchor points just off-panel that they swing from, anyways?

BOOK OF THE VISHANTI--Okay, while Eliot R. Brown can fudge the technical details of Iron Man's Armor and shit like that, when you get to mystical artifacts like this, the best you're gonna get is an attractive drawing of a book and a bunch of happy crappy that amounts to "If Doctor Strange ever needs to pull something out of his ass, it might be from this book! Or maybe a crystal ball! Or maybe even Clea's hoochie-cooch!"

CAPTAIN AMERICA'S MOTORCYCLE--"No-Lube Twin Belt Drive?!" Cap, you are one saucy bitch.

CAPTAIN AMERICA'S SHIELD--If ever you wanted to know just how the straps in Captain America's shield hook to the shield itself, well, this is the entry for you! Thrill to such exciting legends as "Molded-In-Place Finger Accommodates Grommet-Held In Place By Spring Steel C-Ring!" I have no idea what any of that means but mother of fuck it sounds boring.

CEREBRO--In the best tradition of 1960s technology, Cerebro used to be the size of a CB Radio, and for all we know, it might have actually been one. You can't know the mirth I feel imagining Chuck in a trucker hat doing the 1970s equivalent of a/s/l checks on the Citizens Band . . .you really can't.

CYCLOPS' VISOR--Given this is some Professor-X technology and given the Prof's tack record with same, it's surprising to me that this hasn't caught on fire or tried to eat Cyclops' face off or something. This is a fascinating entry for me, because Eliot R Brown has come up with the most bewildering Rube Goldberg/Heath Robinson way for the damn thing to work, when he could have cheated and just said "it works by cybernetics. Fuck, what doesn't?" I don't know whether to admire that dedication, or live in terror of what evil it could be used for.

THE DARKHOLD--I have an issue of Darkhold around somewhere--it's the one where someone uses one of the spells on its pages to make himself immortal, but only as a swarm of worms, which was a bit of a shock to read in a mid-list Marvel book (was it Comics Code approved? Do I care enough to look for it? I really don't.) Anyways, the whole thing was played for laughs, if you can imagine that. Then again, if you've seen the movie Squirm, I can't say that you'd have to imagine it all that hard.

DEATHLOK'S GUN--I'm sure Deathlok's gun is deadly and all, but when I look at it, all I see is a water pistol. In fact, I may have had that particular water pistol when I was a kid, and I didn't have the excuse of being a murderous cyborg from the future. No--my only excuse was that I had money to burn and the siren song of Ja-Ru called to me at the right time.

DEATHLOK'S BIONIC SYSTEM--I'm sure that probably Deathlok can do more than my digital camera, but as my digital camera is not implanted in my fucking skull, that means I win. Fuck Deathlok and his "Memory Access Input-Output Digitzer." That's not even science.

DOCTOR DOOM'S ARMOR--OK, over and above the fact that the good Doctor 1) wears fucking nuclear batteries to power this thing 2) has a rocket underneath his cape that will cause his cape and matching skirt to burst into flame apparently the whole thing is fueled by "lox." Yes, I know it means "liquid oxygen," but the idea of Doctor Doom flying through the air powered by smoked salmon is way fucking funnier, frankly.

DOCTOR OCTOPUS' ARMS--The impressive thing about this entry is that Brown actually comes up with a logical "out" for why Doc Ock's arms are miles long in one scene and barely longer than his regular arms in the next--they compress and extend. It sounds a good deal more logical than "arms vary depending on what artist is drawing them. Because shut your fucking mouth, that's why."

DOCTOR SPECTRUM'S POWER PRISM--[Chris Elam: San Daikaijū: Chikyū Saidai no Kessen] To me, this is the most hilari-sad entry in the entire 15 issue series. Dr. Spectrum was the
only member of the Squadron Sinister who didn't get his own entry in the main body of the book. And yet, we have this. HIS WEAPON GETS AN ENTRY, BUT HE DOES NOT. "Yeah, I'm sorry, Doc, we have certain standards we need to meet. Oh, but your talking hunk of crystal can

DOCTOR STRANGE'S AMULET--The equivalent of the Undertaker's urn in that it is either the source of his power or just an accoutrement that helps sell the whole deal (depending on who's writing it), the amulet apparently punctures illusions and does anything else the plot requires be resolved quickly.

DRAGONFANG--The Valkyrie is a Norse demigod or whatever, right? And yet she got a sword from a wizard named Khaji-Dha. There are several things wrong with that sentence, but the real interesting thing about this is: The notion that Valkyrie got her sword from an Egyptian sorcerer who has the same name as one of the Blue Beetles power-up phrase is actually the most logical thing that's ever happened to her.

THE EVIL EYE--[Chris Elam Kaijū Daisensō] Probably the only thing that keeps Dr. Spectrum
from suicidal thoughts is that there is an entry for the Evil Eye on the next page. Though it passed through other hands, it was primarily the weapon of Prester John. And not even Dr. Spectrum knows who the hell Prester John is.

FALCON'S WINGS--Who knew that all you needed to fly was anti-gravitons up the ass and a few fans hidden in mylar wings? Totally brainfucking Da Vinci's notions of the ornithopter, the Falcon's flight harness was designed by T'Challa of Wakanda, who is the guy you usually call when you want to kick science in the balls and take its milk money.

FANTASTIC FOUR SIGNAL DEVICE--Dammit, if they used it in Fantastic Four once, they're gonna use it forever, even if it doesn't make any goddamned sense. In a world where the Avengers can talk to each other through their membership cards and Reed Richards thinks up subdermal communicators using a network established through the Negative Zone during his wank-off sessions, who the fuck is still using a flare gun who hasn't been stranded at sea? Besides, flare guns are dangerous. Did "Smoke on the Water" teach us nothing?

HAWKEYE'S SKYMOBILE--You would be forgiven for wondering why the Avengers needed someone who shot arrows at people when they have a team that generally consists of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and lately, Spider-Woman and Her Amazing Friends. Marvel understood this would be an issue as well, and decided to give Hawkeye his own flying moped. Because that was really all that was holding him back. "Yeah, now that I can fly, I'm gonna shoot a net arrow at Red Ronin's FACE!"

HAWKEYE'S QUIVER AND BOWS--The saddest bit of this is that we don't get the added thing from the Deluxe Edition that listed all his trick arrowheads, like the Putty arrow, the sonic arrow, the TNT arrow, the shock arrow or even the Hello Kitty Vibrator arrow (Mockingbird loves that one--"lay back and think of the Phantom Rider, dearest! K-TWANG! BZZZZZ! "Try not to chip any teeth, Bobbi--I'm off to the Lionel Ritchie concert!")

HOBGOBLIN'S BAT-GLIDER--I actually think that part of the way the various Goblins sell their crazy to the world at large is by flying around on this thing, because mother of God there is nothing about it that doesn't look like you could fall off and die, so anyone who totters about on it has got to be out of their mind.

IRON MAN'S BRIEFCASE--The thing which launched a million stupid stories in the new millennium, it is apparently not "realistic" for Iron Man to walk around with his armor in a briefcase, but it's totally OK for him to shit it out through his pores or whatever tedious "I skimmed Popular Science one day while waiting for my anal douche and this was the best I could come up with" Our Finest Comic Minds have come up with lately. Is this more or less stupid than "A god that thrives on fear itself. And the more you fear him, the stronger he becomes, and he launches a war on earth, scaring everyone and turning each person into a weapon feeding Fear?" It's a trick question--they're both utterly pathetic.

IRON MAN'S ARMOR--I hate to shatter your illusions, but Iron Man's armour? Not made of iron. It's actually "genetically-engineered metal affinity bacteria which assemble themselves in specific orderly arrays, then expire, leaving behind various metallic deposits which form all the metal shapes and micro-electronic circuits." But Iron's easier to remember and 90% of selling a product is branding, so you see where I'm going with this.

IRON MAN'S HELMET--This may be too much Iron Man even for me. Iron Man actually had stereo sound in his helmet as early as 1983, which was pretty forward-thinking of him, really. He also had something called "relative thickness of logic circuitry," which I think afflicts a number of comic writers these days as well.

KLAW'S BLASTER--Looking like some hideous amalgam of a sex aid, a satellite dish, and a mixer, Klaw's blaster features a "Sonic anti-modal modulator bell," which doesn't really fill in the blanks of why he dresses like a retarded luchador, but what the hell, it's only half a page, can't cover everything.

MACHINE MAN'S ROBOTIC SYSTEMS--Someone at Marvel wanted to make a series about a robot who has long stretchy limbs and all the powers of Steve Austin (the bionic guy, not Stone Cold) and holy shit did Eliot R. Brown write them a god damned epic. There is more text on this page explaining how Machine Man's eyes work than I will write total in this final entry. I'm . . .I'm kinda scared now.

MANDARIN'S RINGS--[Chris Elam Nankai no Daikettō] Look, seriously Marvel, call us about the revamp of the Mandarin as a sentient orange. A power mad fruit wielding 10 alien rings of immense plot convenience is no more ridiculous than many of your current crop of books.

MOCKINGBIRD'S BATTLE-STAVES--Look, while I appreciate that a woman who goes into battle with two sticks that combine to make an even bigger stick is cool and all power to her, but frankly when you look at the interior of them, they look like one big pogo stick, and really, how good is that going to serve you outside of a Toys R Us?

MOON KNIGHT'S CRESCENT DARTS--The funny thing is that when the Deluxe Edition rolls around Moon Knight has like 20 things he can throw at people, all of which are far more interesting than the crescent dart. To the book's credit, however, there's actually a lot of interesting stuff here about how the damn things are supposed to keep level and fly straight that you really didn't need, but I guess it's nice to have.

MOON KNIGHT'S TRUNCHEON--I was unaware that Moon Knight had a truncheon, or that it was basically nunchaku that turned into a grappling hook. That's . . .that's actually pretty rad when you get down to it. I think by the time of the Deluxe Edition he just went around whacking people with an ankh, which is interesting on a symbolic level, but not so much when compared to nunchaku. Now, ankh nunchaku? I'm all for that.

NOMAD'S STUN DISCS--Somewhere around the late 80s early 90's Nomad worked out that throwing peanut butter can lids at people wasn't going to get him anything save the holy fuck beat out of him (seriously, Nomad jobbed all the time back in the day. Even to Porcupine kicked his ass) and finally graduated to guns, although I don't remember him actually shooting anyone with them, which is . . .yeah, pretty in keeping with Nomad's competence on display thus far.

ODIN'S SPEAR--Gugnir is the Spear of Heaven, which sounds hella awesome, except when you read deeper into the text and find out it has no special powers, which is a bit like how kids who bought those first Air Jordans must have felt when it turned out they didn't make you awesome at basketball.

ORB OF AGAMOTTO--As discussed earlier, 90% of selling a product is branding, and who better to demonstrate this than more of Doctor Strange's tchotckes? They're all named after some crazy mystic entity or whatever burbled to the surface of the creator's brain while they were hitting the bong. The Orb allows Doctor Strange to peer into other dimensions, or just watch Clea fucking around at the Continental Congress, a little feature that meant he didn't need cable anymore. Their relationship is fucked up, is all I'm saying.

PALADIN'S GUN--There is so much Star Trek-esque technobabble on the various bits of Paladin's gun I'm shocked it doesn't shoot vaguely scientific blatherskite at people. Between the "phased ultrasonic transducers" and the "waveform shaping cavity" I notice they forgot to include a trigger on the thing, opting instead for a "trigger capacitance micro-switch," which I'm sure was far more user-friendly than JUST PULLING A FUCKING TRIGGER LIKE A NON-ASSHOLE MIGHT DO.

PSYCHO-MAN'S CONTROL BOX--[Chris Elam Kaijū Sōshingeki] Being the means through which this DJ lays down his fresh beats of FEAR, DOUBT, and HATE. Sometimes, he
even plays Vanilla Ice songs on it, when he wants to harness all three.

QUASAR'S WRIST BANDS--[Chris Elam Kaijū Daishingeki] he diagram includes the note "Meridian of Gigahertz Radio Wave Activity". I know the definitions of all of those words, but I'm not sure this phrase actually means anything. Especially when applied to fancy bracelets from Uranus.

RINGMASTER'S HAT--You know, I have an app on my phone that does the same goddamned hypnotic thing as the Ringmaster's Hat. You hear me, y'all? I have the same powers as the leader of the Circus of Crime (and it was free at the app store, which should tell you something right there) and I didn't even have to wear a stupid fucking hat to have them.

ROM'S ARMOR--The funny thing about Rom is, for awhile there it seemed like no one could agree on what kind of feet the dude had. I mean, the toy has those weird chicken-feet, Frank Miller drew them as looking like cabinet handles on the cover of ROM #1, and then here they're kinda . . .well, normal, except for the vent-things on them. That is far more of a consideration of the feet of Rom: Spaceknight than you probably thought you'd get when you read this. Trust me: I was surprised too!

ROM'S ANALYZER--[Chikyū Kogeki Meirei: Chris Elam] You can always tell when something has no connection to reality when Eliot R. Brown just says "Fuck it" and draws it without any annotations or cutaways. Rom's Analyzer is based on a toy, so technically there is a reality to it. It's just not one that will detect Dire Wraiths reliably.

ROM'S NEUTRALIZER--[Chris Elam Nisen: Mireniamu] I wish whoever had typeset those "Designed By" things on the entries had gotten in a mood and included "Designed By P'Akka Brozazz" on all the Rom ones.

ROM'S TRANSLATOR--[Chris Elam Shōmetsu Sakusen] How many times did Rom use this? Once? It looks to me like the bastard child of an accordion and a Casio keyboard. In many ways, I would have enjoyed Rom more if it had been.


SHIELD GUNS--I'm not the biggest fan of the current "write Nick Fury as a manipulative bastard" trend nowadays, but I have to say, anyone who has a gun that fires needles at people and then gives it mother of pear handgrips is just showing you what an utter prick they can be. I don't even know if I intended a pun there or not.

SILVER SURFER'S SURFBOARD--For all we know, Galactus created the Silver Surfer's board out of an old Popsicle stick he had lying around. The entry says the board "apparently taps ambient cosmic energy in the same wa the Surfer does." See, kids? The people writing this damn thing didn't have any more of a fucking clue how this shit worked than you did and they managed to con you into reading it away. You think about that.

SPIDER-MAN'S BELT CAMERA--I have never seen Spider-Man use his belt camera. I have an idea why--given the contorted poses Spider-Man gets into nowadays, I can't imagine that he takes pictures of anything other than his own groin, and the only way JJJ's gonna buy those is for his "private collection." Never mind to use this particular thing (or the spider-flashlight he sometimes has) he has to lift up his shirt, which means that somewhere out there there is a guy in a spider-man suit blazing his nips and "taking pictures" at the same time. Nothing ever came from a flashlight mounted at crotch level that didn't involve an arraignment and years of counseling afterwards.

THE ULTIMATE NULLIFIER--Folks, the Ultimate Nullifer has never nullified one goddamned thing in it's existence, ultimately or otherwise. Not one thing (alternate realities don't count) The few times I've seen it, Reed Richards showed it to Galactus to make him shit his pants and run from Earth ("My favourite Pez dispenser! YOU FUCKS!") and in the Infinity War, when they gave it to Quasar, who totally fucked up using it, as usual. Really, the god damned thing's more trouble than it's worth, when an Infinity Gauntlet is available at every corner store (seriously, the Hood has the Gauntlet now? You're fucking kidding me.)

STILT-MAN'S ARMOR--[Chris Elam Daikaijū Sōkōgeki] Here Eliot Brown puts more thought into Stilt-Man than any person in history, and God bless him for it. It includes the notation "Loud Hailer", which is apparently a real term. I am in awe.


WOLVERINE'S SKELETON--[Chris Elam Daikaijū Sōkōgeki] Somebody somewhere learned the human skeleton from this diagram. I want to know if it was you. (seriously)

WONDER-MAN'S JET-BELT--[Chris Elam Tōkyō Esu Ō Esu] It doesn't say who designed it. I would assume it was Anthony Stark, since if it was Wonder Man himself, it would have crapped out and died in its first appearance. Then again, would that have been bad?

WRECKER'S CROWBAR--[Chris Elam Fainaru Uōzu] There is nothing special about this crowbar, except that it is now MAGIC. The thing that boggles my mind is that it is illustrated with the technical terms for all the portions of the crowbar. That means readers of this entry may know more about crowbars than people who actually use them.

ADAMANTIUM--The fun thing about Adamantium is that they always say it's completely unbreakable and can't be bent, then had to retroactively come up with all the ways to explain how it had been bent and broken in various stories, so they came up with shit like Molecular Rearrangers, Secondary Adamantium and Carbonadium to get around all that. This is exactly what these Handbooks are for, which depending on how you feel about these kinds of workarounds is either glorious or absolutely horrible.

VIBRANIUM--Did they just name two different things the same thing and try to finesse it later? Like penguins, there are several different types of Vibranium--the Vibranium you find in the Antarctic is some kind of metal-destroying compound, while Wakandan Vibranium absorbs sound, which sounds like they just took two things they'd named the same thing and went "uhm . . .different vibrations," put their heads on their desks and hoped no one would call on them for the rest of the period. I'm also entertained by the little paragraph at the bottom which walks you through why Vibranium is not an element, citing the Periodic Table and the radioactivity that comes with the higher atomic weights of the higher elements on the table which is a lot to drop on a reader just to tell them that this fake thing you made up is a different kind of fake thing that would go on the real thing there.

And we're done! What began on a whim however many days ago I started this has come to an end. I hope I have enlightened you, educated you, and perhaps helped you to answer the major questions of out time, such as "Why are we born?" "What happens when we die?" and "In the song 'Batdance,' just what the fuck does Prince mean about 'the sho-nuff get off to make the Devil go go?'" I probably didn't, but all the same . . .some thanks before we roll up out of here: Thanks to Rusty Shackles for letting me borrow his withering hatred for all things Doctor Strange; To Chris Elam for pinch-hitting on a number of these and letting me come up with ever more obscure citations under his entries; To the illustrious Diana Kingston-Gabai and the redoubtable RZM for their continued support; thanks to the surprising number of followers I picked up during the run of this feature. Thank you all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


It began in the future. A time machine, called the original Official Marvel Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Ten blogger followers hungry for content. Now he is among us--a special breed of blogger. He has one weapon--withering sarcasm. With it, he will travel through the entire run, commenting on every entry, knowing he cannot go home until he has recapped them all. His name is Kazekage, and this is his story.

Mixed emotions here at the Prattle as issue #14 is the last but one of our run of Marvel Handbooks. This time we tie up the Book of the Dead and Inactive in a somewhat verbose little tale called "From Marvel Boy to Zuras." You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear R2-D2 beep, like this.

MARVEL BOY--If I hadn't exhausted every laughing clip last time, I would post another one here. The 1950s screamed out for a hero and all they got was a guy in little shorts who had all the powers of a flashlight wielded by Kenny from the Gamera movies. Later, he would return for vengeance in Fantastic Four because no one would give him a bank loan to get back to Uranus (hee hee) and he ended up killing himself, and. . .man, they just didn't give a shit about Fantastic Four back then, did they? Anyways, this all turned out to be moot because Marvel Boy eventually came back in Agents of Atlas and it turned out the guy that died was just some mook from Uranus (hee hee) who . . .well, it's best not dwelt upon, really. Far too confusing for a guy in Daisy Dukes with the superpowers of a a pair of headlights.

MIMIC--Like the Mafia, when you're in the X-Men, you're in for life. Unlike the Mafia, this extends to death and undeath as well. The Mimic's died like 90 times or something, and while he's really not much of a character in his own right (He's basically Flash Thompson if Flash Thompson was a gestalt of all the original X-Men. However, because the prevailing mood in comics these days is that "everything that ever happened in comics is all equally important," the Mimic can never really die and as such they hauled him out to be one of the Dark X-Men (a redundancy if ever there was one) and tried to explain his villainy because he was bipolar or something and . . .god, if the Mimic, a living continuity backwater from the bleakest days of early X-Men can be brought back, can Mekano and the Locust be far behind? I hope so!

MISS AMERICA--No, not the one from Battle Fever J, she was Japanese pretending to be American, I . . .think. Anyways, Miss America was a Golden Age superhero (one of the last really successful ones, I think, if my history's right) whom Roy Thomas (you were expecting Steve Gerber) hauled out of the mothballs to be in the Invaders and also to explain the parentage of Nuklo, who . . .y'know, I'm not really sure what was ever the point of Nuklo, really.

MORBIUS--A living, breathing, loophole in the Comics Code, Morbius was a "Living Vampire," as opposed to the other kind, which was bad. Morbius, like Nova, Ghost Rider, and Spider-Woman was part of an initiative around the time of the Shooter Era that is a title ended, the goddamned door slammed shut on them and they would never--ever--come back. Of course, they came back later, but at the time they believed in definitive, final endings at Marvel. He's not the first guy we'll see who was a victim of the policy or the last--this just happened to be the the most opportune time to mention it because I have frighteningly little to say about fucking Morbius.

NEBULON--The only man Sub-Mariner ever kissed like he meant it, Nebulon is actually a big puke-green lamprey thing that impersonated Namor's consort and they sucked face. Somehow, this all tied in to Nebulon's plans to be a guru or something, but I think that Nebulon's lasting legacy was to be Steve Gerber's thumb to the eye in regard to all these highfalutin' cosmic entities that were beginning to bung up in the Marvel Universe in the 70's

NIGHTHAWK--The Defenders really needed a Batman to ride herd on the general crazy-ass nature of the group, someone with a tough, non-nonsense attitude to rein in the lunatics, manic-depressives and the Hulk. What they got was a knockoff of a knockoff of Batman and thus, the future course of the Defenders was charted. Oh, and the girl he nearly killed in a drunk driving accident united with a team of psychics who exploded his brain. I think I missed the PSA that said that could happen when you drive drunk, but it's very important, obviously.

NOVA--Someone--and I wish I could remember who--said once that every decade, Marvel tries to re-create Spider-Man. Nova was the 70's attempt, Speedball the 80's, and Darkhawk the 90's. Nova was surprisingly beloved by a certain subset of comic creators in the 90s (Erik Larsen must have goddamn near adored him) and actually had a bit of renaissance recently with the Cosmic Marvel stuff here in the new millennium.

OMEGA--A lot has been written about Steve Gerber's Omega the Unknown, and even though I've never read it, if I could perhaps get my hands on reprints, I would totally be into it judging by what I've read about it. Generally the story of a young child growing up framed around a superhero story, Omega was a different kind of book that was too good to last, and really an idea worth exploring. It's a shame that the indie/superhero division is so sharp sometimes, as you can tell a lot of stories in the superhero genre that don't necessarily have to involve fights and tights. Not every concept maps on to outre superheroic takes of course, but why not make it happen?

PATRIOT--Everything I know about the Patriot I know thanks to Stuckey's. Because I stopped at a Stuckey's just before the NC/Virginia border and got one of those 3 comic packs that you used to find everywhere and man, the cool shit you used to find in those! Oh sure, occasionally, you got some shitty Charlton book jammed in the middle, but sometimes you struck gold--I got a reprint of Michael Golden's Micronauts and this issue (and a shitty Charlton horror comic) of Captain America, wherein the Patriot died in his bed while Cap watched and oh yeah, the Porcupine upgraded his armor. Some damn good Mike Zeck art there, if I remember right.

PHANTOM EAGLE--Proof That Kazekage's Critical Capacity Is Dubious, Part 134: I once bought Marvel/DC: All Axess because I was promised a dogfight between Enemy Ace and the Phantom Eagle. This is the kind of stuff that appeals to me, superheroes in the First World War. Apparently, his story was later tied up in Ghost Rider because . . .well . . .I'm not entirely sure why, really.

PHOENIX--I think Jean Grey's either tied or exceeded the time she's been dead the first time. I have nothing to say about Jean Grey in any meaningful sense (not that that's ever stopped me before) but I will tell you this--the Phoenix costume is some totally bitchin' design. It's striking, sleek, works in "Good" and "Evil" modes equally well, and has worked so well that I don't think anyone has managed a better costume for her since.

PIP THE TROLL--Jim Starlin once referred to Pip as "a generally useless troll," which is really not giving him a lot of credit, as he once defeated a giant pimp called Pro-Boscis the Procurer (THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED) in an issue of Warlock one time, which is easily the biggest upset since Sky Low Low and Little Tokyo beat Andre in that handicap match at the Garden back in '81.

RED GUARDIAN I--Captain America got a shield. Captain Britain got a magic Q-tip that allowed him to fly. The Red Guardian . . .threw his belt buckle at people. Now, while this would seem tactically disadvantageous, I remind you that this was noted Fabulous Freebird Buddy Jack Roberts' weapon of choice in a six-man no holds barred Badstreet match with the Von Erichs. We here at the Prattle are satisfied when a weapon has undergone Freebird testing, as it's clearly been proven effective on the baddest street in the whole USA.

RED GUARDIAN II--FACT: Being in the Defenders will fuck your life up hardcore. Witness the sad tale of the Red Guardian, who comes to America with dreams of being on a major superteam and ends up on the Defenders, then decides to hook up with the Presence, whom she had a lot in common with--primarily their fatal levels of radioactivity. She would disappear from comics I think until Kurt Busiek used her and the Presence in the Avengers, because Kurt Busiek, that's why.

RED RAVEN--The boys at House to Astonish have made great hay over the fact that Red Raven may in fact be Marvel Comic's most idiotic hero, and that's even in comparison with characters who are genuinely developmentally disabled. Here's why: Red Raven was an orphan child rescued by a race of bird people, all of whom have big wings which allow them to fly. He has no wings. Remember that, it's important. The bird-people raise him until the age of 21 where he finally declares "I sense I am not like you!" OH GOD NO, YOU THINK? WHAT TIPPED YOU OFF, THE LACK OF WINGS?!? FUCKING MORON. Anyways, the Red Raven appeared maybe three times total when this issue was published--once in his own comic in the Golden Age (it was immediately cancelled, because even by the standards of the Golden Age this was pretty horseshit) then in X-Men in an issue best called "perfunctory" (because . . .well, Roy Thomas) and in Sub-Mariner, where he politely goes apeshit and dies. I beleive he's come back since then, but I really don't feel like exploring it because I have written far more about Red Raven than Red Raven deserves.

SATANA--Tarot before Tarot was even a glimmer in Jim Balent's eye, Satana combines two things comics fans can't get enough of--titties and witchcraft. Satana is the sister of the Son of Satan, but that was downplayed because "Satana, Sister of the Son of Satan" contravened the 1971 Alhambra Alabama Alliteration Act. Satana, near as I can figure walked around looking evil and doing evil shit and looking hot and I think she's back to life now or something because again, if Tarot has taught us anything is that comics survive because they allow our imaginations to take flight in fictional worlds of purest imagination. Also: titties and witchcraft.

SHANG-CHI--Another Stuckey's story: I got a copy of Master of Kung-Fu in one of those 3-packs (the other 2 were a Marvel Two-In-One featuring the Serpent Squad and some Buck Rogers comic by a company I can't remember) and ohhh shit, did Master of Kung-Fu have some sweet sweet art back in the day. They had all these big page spreads bordered by what looked like temple carvings, plenty of shadows, and yet the action was crisp and well-choreographed . . .damn, it was good.

SON OF SATAN--Long before Warren Ellis tried to make him into his version of a Vertigo book. Damion Hellstrom attempted to live a normal life despite the fact that his name was Damion, he had hair that looked like horns, and the word "hell" was in his name. Five minutes after that didn't work he decided to go for the whole son of Satan thing in the only way he knew how--by putting on tights and gadding about in ways King Diamond would have been ashamed of. Naturally, he ended up in the Defenders with all the other troublemakers and he married Hellcat, which was . . .yeah, that was gonna end well.

SPIDER-WOMAN--Many years ago, Jessica Drew, who will always sound in my mind like Val from Knot's Landing for some reason (might this be Witless Prattle's most obscure reference ever? I think it just might!) got one of the most confusing origins it's possible to have in the Marvel Universe, threw on a pair of tights, and decided to become Spider-Woman. To know her is to fear her, and to gaze upon her camel toe is to see all the possibilities Brian Bendis sees in the Marvel Universe every single day.

SPIRIT OF 76--Man, that bicentennial shit got right our of fucking control back in the day, didn't it? In one of the most Roy Thomas of all retcons, William Nasland went from breeches and tricorner-hat wearing persuader in the war against evil to replacement Captain America, only to be killed by an android. It's a good thing he didn't make it to modern times, really, because if he'd been rocking the Spirit of 76 thing, Clea would have molested him so hard the room would stank.

SPITFIRE--Marvel Comics SCIENCE punches you in the face with the origin of Spitfire: Woman gets bitten by Baron Blood, woman gets blood transfusion from original Human Torch (who has blood now because shut the fuck up, that's why) and woman gets super-speed powers because Marvel Comics had a handful of female superheroes back in the day and only one had superpowers, I think. This gleeful defiance of even the most basic logic or sanity is why despite all my complaining, I do love comics.

SWORDSMAN--I have a theory, and it's a great one. I think that sometimes the Avengers just assume that you are an Avenger if you hang around the Mansion long enough, meaning that the Avengers by-laws are only slightly more involved than that of a game of pickup hoops. Such is what happened with the Swordsman, who was a bad-guy of long standing who ended up joining basically because he was all hot for Mantis, and their love soon went in a weird direction when he died and his corpse was reanimated by a big green plant-alien and then she took a shot in her baby bunker and this whole thing is really skeevy, innit?

TERRAX--Hey, have you noticed Galactus' choices for manpower are epically stupid? Because Terrax should be a great example of this. Sick and tired of having his heralds have a sudden attack of conscience rebel against him, Galactus searched far and wide for an utter bastard, found one and gave him godlike power . . .and then he rebelled anyway. Once again, ladies and gentlemen--Galactus: Failure at Everything.

THANOS--In about six years, of course, this would be utterly irrelevant, but here's a bit of trivia even I didn't know about until recently--apparently Thanos was initially intended as a knockoff of the New God known as Metron rather than Darkseid. Mind you, he eventually became more identified with the other, but vacillates back and forth between the two--during the later 90's Starlin tended to write him as a more aggressively amoral version of Metron (he even had the funky chair) Nowadays, he seems to be more blatantly a Darksied stand-in, which is kind of a shame, as Thanos has a few stories where he's a somewhat sympathetic heel. I should review those sometime, I think.

3-D MAN--Fuck me with Godzilla's dick, I have NOTHING to say about the god damned 3-D Man. Why in the name of god has the 3-D Man been constantly trotted out when I have not met ONE person who has even the slightest affection for him? Seriously--he's an ersatz character that exists solely because the 1950s needed superhero coverage in the Marvel Universe, and because Everything is Important Whether It's Good Or Not, we get this trotted out every now and again and pushed down our throats. Does that mean we have to plunder all of John Byrne's "lost generation" characters year after year as well? Because I don't know if I could take that.

THUNDERBIRD--Thunderbird, as required under the Iron Eyes Cody Identification Act of 1974, wears fringes and a feather in his hair in case you forgot that he was Native American. Just in case the visual cues weren't enough, he seemed unable to go two sentences without mentioning he was an Apache, which is the kind of thing Chris Claremont would do years later when Mirage burst on the scene and reminded us all she was Cheyenne just in case we forgot about it.

THUNDERBOLT--Man, that Thunderbolt gets a larger entry than Thunderbird really puts things in perspective, doesn't it? Anyways, Willie Carver get hit by lightning and the only hope to save his life is a cobalt-ray treatment (cobalt was everywhere in the Silver Age. There was nothing it couldn't do) and got super-speed as a result. Oh, and his aging also got super-accelerated because again, cobalt. He eventually accomplished his mission just in time to age to death, which is pretty damn convenient timing, yeah?

TORO--Back in the wistful days of the Golden Age, apparently heroes had a really good sidekick referral program, because no sooner did they burst on the scene, than they got a sidekick with the same powers and appearance, save for being a bit shorter. Naturally, Toro reappeared in the Roy Thomas Invasion of the 70's and was immediately killed because apparently the pattern was "be Golden Age/50's hero, show up in Fantastic Four, die." I don't pretend to understand it.

TORPEDO--The rule in ROM, apparently is, if you guest star, you're fine, but if you're allied with Rom in his own book, your ass is fucking dead. A loose plot thread from one of those early proto-crossover stories they did in the 70s, the Torpedo joins up with Rom to defend the West Virginia town Rom worked out of and gets his brain sucked out by the Dire Wraiths. Eventually his suit gets nicked by the Dire Wraiths and by the hero(es) known as Turbo back when the Dire Wraiths (who had been fully and completely destroyed and no mistake) came back. It was a weird time.

WARLOCK--Everything I have to say about Adam Warlock I think I shall save for another time when I can talk about it in detail. I will, however, refer you to Adam WarRock and the Infinity Watch, which is awesome and completely worth your investment of time and money and who I really should have called upon to freestyle his way through one of these Handbooks instead of doing it myself, but uh . . .I don't really know the guy personally.

WHITE TIGER--When Tommy lost the Green Ranger powers, Zordon . . .oh wait, this is the other guy. Appearing in a comic with one of the greatest titles ever, The Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu, the White Tiger was the Captain Planet of the Sons of the Tiger, as he possessed all the power that big green gaudy jewelry can confer, which is apparently a lot. The funny thing about this is the whole "team contributes to the powers of the ultra-cool secret member) would be used again in Team America.

WHIZZER--Look, I'm not sure how long ago the slang began, but god almighty, if you're going to call yourself "The Whizzer," don't dress in yellow--you're just asking for trouble. That being said, the Whizzer was one of those Golden Age characters that Roy Thomas brought back, apparently to explain the parentage of Quicksilver and the Scarlet With, and then Nuklo got involved and the whole thing turned out to be a big red herring, and I really don't understand why he thought it would be a good idea to dress up like fast-moving urine. I really fucking don't.

VAMPIRES--In yet another of those big "slam the door down with finality" things, every Vampire that ever was or would exist (minus one) Doctor Strange apparently decided he'd had enough of Dracula's bullshit and found the one book in the world that had a page titled "In case you want to kill all vampires, read this" and Dracula burst in just in time to get dead, dead, dead. I think this lasted all of . . .seven years? Then it got reversed because Strange's brother got turned into a vampire. I never knew he had a brother.

YELLOWJACKET--Everyone's favourite fuckup makes an appearance on his way to becoming so irrevocably broken that it'd be better if he jut stopped appearing in things, but now he's Giant Man again because Everything is Very Important, Whether It Was Good Or Not.

ZOMBIE--As you might expect, the Zombie is actually Batman. No, that's not right. He's actually a Steve Gerber riff on an old Atlas-era horror story that came about because Marvel wanted horror magazines to compete with Warren and hey, why not zombies?

ZURAS--Zuras is an Eternal, and considering how soporifically dull the Eternals are, I was amazed to find out he was dead, because if they hadn't told me, I would hardly have been able to tell the difference. Anyhow, he's dull, and this is near the end of the book and I have nothing more to say about the motherfucking Eternals except I'm glad this is the last time I have to write about one.

AFTER DEATH IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE--This is a quick article about the various death gods who come under Death in the whole hierarchy of . . .the whole dying thing. I have nothing of any great consequence to say about any of them, except why is Yama, the Oriental death god coloured green? Put your hands down, I was speaking rhetorically.

Well, that's all for the penultimate edition of the Official Hanbook of the Marvel Universe. Next time we wrap it all up with one last look at the Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphenalia. Sounds exciting doesn't it? If you'd like to sit in on one last episode and have something meaningful to say about how Cyclops' eye beam thingy works, leave a comment here and we'll slot you in for next time. Join us for one last loving look, won't you?

Monday, December 20, 2010


He was a blogger, and good at his job, but he committed the ultimate sin and tried to recap the entirety of the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, a book that nearly killed him with the accumulated workload and the quest for content. Now having ten blog followers to entertain, he prowls the badlands, and outlaw blogging for Witless Prattle. A blogger. Kazekage

Lucky Thirteen
time here as we round the final installments of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. For this time and next, we'll be looking at the Book of the Dead and Inactive, a little exercise that seemed a whole lot more fruitful in the good old days when comic book death was substantially rarer and stuck around longer.

It's worth noting here exactly what death in the Marvel Universe meant back then. For one thing, in the first installment of the Handbook the Dead and in the Inactive get lumped together, because a) there were a hell of a lot of inactive characters and not many notable dead ones and b) being inactive apparently was a lot like "might as well be dead." In the Deluxe Edition following this the ranks of the Dead (no inactive this time--they get slotted in with the living) balloons to five double-sized issues, only half of which you can really blame on the Scourge.

Nowadays, the dead characters are mixed in with the living, as with the constant deaths and resurrections have reduced even the illusory finality of comic book death into something of a joke. In fact, pretty much every time I came across a character who'd died and come back, I couldn't stop laughing, and as such, I decided to convey that to you as you the reader read the recounting of who was dead and gone in eighty-two eighty-three.

--That one boring-ass herald of Galactus (but not the only one) the Air-Walker is noted for a few things: one, dying twice--once before we'd even seen his ass and two, apparently he was Firelord's gay lover or something due to a recent retcon. To be frank, none of this really did much to give him any meaningful characterisation.

ANCIENT ONE--Doctor Strange's boss, the Ancient One is whatever the Chinese equivalent of a Magical Negro would be, and even after dying, he would show up and drop off the odd bromide to Doctor Strange. Though none of it involved making sure that Strange never dated a girl who looked at powdered wigs and breeches and got juiced like a cranberry. Possibly he should have.

BANSHEE--Banshee has always--always--had a raw deal. There was the whole "speaking in a cod-Irish brogue that the Lucky Charms leprechaun would be ashamed of," the whole "being in the X-Men and doing little of consequence before losing his powers," and then there was the whole "being the bitch boy of various hare-brained plots in X-Men" from "I'll make the X-Men a bunch of Nazais" to "I'll get killed just to show everyone what a serious motherfucker Vulcan is!"

BARON BLOOD--In addition to being a great late-era Mario Bava movie, Baron Blood is a vampire who worked for Germany in World Wars One AND Two, because he was just that evil. Further proof of his utter bastardness was his scheme to wait until his brother, Union Jack was old and decrepit so he could kill his ass, which is pathological prickishness. Unfortunately he didn't count on Captain America cutting his fucking head off with his shield, which, it should be noted, was a major blind spot in his plan.


BARON ZEMO--For all he got done in continuity, Baron Zemo should probably be more well known for his screw-ups than his successes. Let's see . . .he gets his mask glued to his head with his own paste, which somehow allows his eyes and breathing to work because comic books. Then he tries to kill Cap and Bucky, but only kills . . .wait, he didn't even kill Bucky. Oh, and Captain America finally kills him by reflecting sunlight from his shield because his shield is reflective at the right moment. On the other hand, he did form the Masters of Evil, so that's . . .something, I guess? Maybe he knew the best way for a chickenshit heel to protect himself was to build a stable of monster heels for prospective babyfaces to get through--hell, it worked for Robert Fuller.

BLACK KNIGHT--In addition to being an awesome pinball machine (as was its sequel, Black Knight 2000) the original Black Knight is one of my favourite Marvel characters of all time--hell, I even bought the Marvel Masterworks collection of the old Atlas series. I can't way the two succeeding Black Knights have been as interesting, but yeah, he was pretty rad.

BLOODSTONE--I had a friend in college who thought Bloodstone was awesome because he kept shotgun shells on his safari jacket. It's hard to argue with him. Apparently Bloodstone saw the whole "getting a jewel embedded in his chest" thing as a sign and decided to go kill the fuck out of some monsters. The guy in Die Another Day got dozens of jewels in the face and went out like a bitch in one of the lamest Bond movies ever. You tell me--who made the right call?


CAPTAIN MAR-VELL--Man, that whole thing with Mar-Vell allegedly coming back only to end up being a Skrull during Civil War was pretty damn foolish, wasn't it? If he was actually Mar-Vell it would have just pissed Starlin fans off who liked Death of Captain Marvel and saw it as a perfectly natural end-point for the character. New fans are going to feel gypped when the character you advertise as the lead in the series . . .is later revealed to be a fraud. Never mind, the people who liked Civil War ain't gonna be Captain Mar-Vell fans. That's two different audiences and never the twain shall meet. What do you gain when you pull shit like this? I really want to know.

CHANGELING--Scott Lobdell is not known for his sharp observations, but this gem from Age of Apocalypse describing Changeling's utterly imbecilic hat is a great one--"You can look like anything you want, and you chose to look like that?"


DARKOTH--Darkoth is one of those bat-shit insane characters I wish was still alive today. Apparently Ben Grimm's Air Force buddy gets accused of being a spy (though he's actually trying to ferret one out) and Doctor Doom decides to make him look like Satan and Barney banged out a child. Then Diablo gets hold of him and makes him even more evil and magic-y and then he ends up dying over solar generators for no immediately explainable reasons. Once again we have a character constantly repurposed and upgraded in the most insane way possible, and really, I'm OK with that. Oh, and also he came back to life and took over Limbo. Sorta. It's very confusing, but then so is everything about him.

DEATH STALKER--Frank Miller's initial Daredevil story is not what you'd call great, and Death-Stalker here is a great example of why. A Z-list Daredevil villain back when all Daredevil villains that weren't borrowed from other books were Z-listers, Death-Stalker's experimental ray malfunctions and puts him out of phase with Earth and this naturally makes him lose his god damned mind. Ultimately, this motivates him to hire the Ani-Men (whom he then kills) and try to kill Daredevil. Unfortunately he forgets the first rule all intangible characters learn in the Marvel Universe--don't materialise in anything solid. For a character planning revenge for 50 issues or so, he kinda fucked it up when it counted.




EGGHEAD--Man, when your entire raison d'etre is to be Hank Pym's (CLIT-PUNCHER!) arch-nemesis, you live in Failtown, population fucked. Egghead once chased Ant-Man around with a giant anteater. Now, mind you, the rest of the mad scientists about this time were inventing far more esoteric things just for the sake of setting up protection rackets. Oh, and also, to be real, Egghead really didn't have to do anything in the end, did he? Hank Pym (CLEEET PUNCHAAA!) would fuck up all on his own if left to his own devices.

FOOLKILLER--Steve Gerber basically imagined the Punisher as a brain-dead fanatic and came up with a slightly more religious Rorschach. The Foolkiller was yet another of those weird satirical things that spun out of Man-Thing and somehow took on a life of its own. I think he also destroyed the Defenders' HQ sometime or another, but as with Egghead, given the Defenders' tendencies, they would have ended up doing themselves anyways.



GIANT-MAN--Originally named Black Goliath, I think Giant-Man was played by Jim Brown in the movie. I kinda feel sorry for Giant-Man because dude got raw deal after raw deal. First he has to be Black Goliath, and as required by the Tyroc Act of 1972, mean he had to gad about at 50 feet high in a midriff-baring outfit. Then, there's also the fact that he's Hank Pym's Black Gallagher. Oh, and he got cancer somehow and lost his powers, then he got them back, then they forgot about him and then that Thor clone killed him in Civil War (like being in Civil War wasn't bad enough) Once again, the brown man gets a raw deal.


IT THE LIVING COLOSSUS--The Marvel Universe equivalent of Ultraman to the near Baltan levels of Marvel Monsters, It began life a giant statue that was meant to be a parody of Communism. The creator of the statue meets a bunch of crab monsters who swap their brain with the statue and run riot over the countryside. Eventually it gets to America and a bad guy takes over it, steps to the Hulk, Hulk brings pain, statue destroyed. Yeah, haven't we all been there?




LILITH--Like all of those girls best termed daddy's little princess, Lilith wore the most ridiculous tiara imaginable, and like all girls dubbed daddy's little princess, she rebelled against her father. In this case, of course, her father was Dracula, which meant she had to throw on tights and be the "good" vampire to his "evil" vampire. If vampirism hadn't been an issue, she woulda just flashed her tits on a "Girls Gone Wild" video, I imagine.

MANTIS--Oh God, Steve Englehart, what have you wrought? Possessed of one of the most annoying speech tics that this one has ever heard, Mantis joined the Avengers as designated team slut with a minor in team bitch. Soon after it turns out she was the Celestial Madonna, which meant she was going to bear the Celestial Messiah because sometimes "female empowerment" means "You have the Lucky Uterus," I guess. Oh, and because it wasn't weird or icky enough already, her husband is a reanimated corpse posessed by aliens. This is all true, I swear.

MAN-WOLF--Okay, so being J. Jonah Jameson's kid is hard enough. Being an astronaut is difficult to--they're some of the most highly-trained people on the planet. But when you come back as a werewolf and then you're a bad-ass weapon-master werewolf guy who is called (un-ironically) Stargod, then you, good sir, are completely, bewilderingly, hilariously awesome.

ANI-MEN--The Ani-Men are Marvel's Suicide Squad, as damn near every time they show up, they get killed, but ironically enough, not by the hero they're up against. I can't imagine that this has not filtered down into the underworld now, which must make recruiting a bitch. "Here, dress up like an animal in tights . . .no, it's not a fursuit . . .no, I promise you won't die . . .look, you'll make a lot of money, and a lot of guys get their start as Ani-Men and . . .hello?"

CHAMPIONS OF LOS ANGELES--I once read the entire run of the Champions, and I'm not even sure what they one the championship for, or which one it was. Given their geographic location, I would more than likely assume that it's the Western States Heritage Title.

FREEDOM'S FIVE--Freedom's Five were the costumed heroes fighting the good fight in World War One, which, knowing what I know about that war (a lot) I assume means they stood around in hip-deep mud, suffered from extreme shellshock, and died of typhus or influenza. The only one I've ever heard of is the Phantom Eagle, and even then, only because he kept showing up in the Book of the Dead.

HOWLING COMMANDOS--I have a theory--Like the Flying Hellfish, the Howlers had a pact--whoever made it big would hire the other guys as senior officers in their enterprise. How else to explain the fact that 90% of SHIELD's upper level management is ex-Howling Commandos? I'm not saying it's a Freemason-like conspiracy, I'm just saying it's an example of "it's who you know."

INVADERS--There are 30,000 superhero teams dating from World War II and 90% of them are Roy Thomas' fault. In yet another installment of his never-ending quest to Make It All Make Sense, Roy Thomas gathered the greatest heroes of Marvel's Golden Age (and the Whizzer) and they all went off to go tell momma snaps at Hitler. I think they actually brought them back in the Jemas days in the present, actually. I didn't read it . . .could never get past the sight of Union Jack in the really stupid gas mask.

KID COMMANDOS-- . . .oh, and I think they also said that Golden Girl was . . .like, raped by U-Man or something? I mean, what the hell is that about? Was it a valid story point? Did it add anything to anything? Did it even make U-Man look more of a threat? I doubt it--the man wears big fish-fins on his face and a swastika, which is scientifically proven to be unable to be threatening ever.

LEATHERNECK RAIDERS--I can't explain why, but the fact that one of the Leatherneck Raiders is named "Jaques LaRoque" makes me happier than any nomenclature should.

LIBERTY LEGION--God DAMN. Bucky was apparently the Wolverine on his day, because he was simultaneously a member of the Invaders, the Kid Commandos, and this group. Yeah, yeah, I know--so was the Whizzer, but he barely counts. I wonder how the amount of World War II was handed out to these guys--you know, if you're in the Invaders you get to step to Hitler and at the very bottom tier you're going after Mussolini or something.

DEATH--Death is usually portrayed as a girl in the Marvel Universe, but not this one, or that one. Generally Death has two functions--to be an abstracted personification of the state of non-living and also for Thanos to dream about boning, even if he is resolved to get cockblocked for all eternity. But not Eternity. That's another guy and that would be weird as hell.

That'll do it for this installment of the recaps. As always, if you'd like to kick a corpse around or have anything meaningful to say about Rom's Analyzer, leave me a little sump'm sump'm in the comments section and I'll hook you up. Join us next time for more dead, more inactive, more morbidity. It's the perfect Christmas gift!