Thursday, December 9, 2010


The year is 1983, and Marvel launches the first of the Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe. In an unexpected gift, Witless Prattle and its blogger, Lewis "Kazekage" Smith receives a complete run of the series and having nothing better to do, elects to recap the entirety of the Handbook . . .twenty-seven years later.

NAMORITA--Hey kids! Do you like the Sub-Mariner? Well here he is with underage tits! Again! Why the world was crying out for a junior Sub-Mariner when the original acts like a petulant child all on his own I must confess I'm not quite sure of. However, Namorita did ultimately come into her own in New Warriors. Of course, she's now more infamous for being one of the initial victims of Civil War, because God knows, even though comics these days are lousy with people who were fans before they were creators, the New Warriors fans haven't risen up through the system yet. Hence, they're nothing but cannon fodder.

NEKRA--Nekra gets her powers by being angry, and if the picture is be believed, being almost completely naked. Nekra used to hang out with the Mandrill, before leaving him to get busy with the Grim Reaper, which was an altogether healthier relationship if you leave out the necrophilia and the voodoo. Oh, and she also killed Dr. Druid and burned him up in a garbage can, so really, we should all appreciate what a solid she did for us there.

NICK FURY--I think I liked Nick Fury before he became the face of the omniscient, very likely corrupt government. The main problem I have with Fury being our incarnate fears of the gub'mint post 9-11 is that it detracts from all the stuff I read Nick Fury for--flying cars, elaborate battle sequences, and that goofy-ass flying wing suit that actually ended up being a practical thing. Pretty rad.

NIGHTCRAWLER--Call me a purist, but Nightcrawler's original suit is pretty well-pitch perfect--it's a very striking combination of colours, there's not a lot of unnecessary details to weigh it down, and every time they give him a new one, it never gets anywhere close to the sleek perfection of the first run-through, no matter how much Marvel thinks we're too stupid to know who's an X-Man and who isn't unless they have an X emblazoned everywhere on their clothes.

NIGHTMARE--I have no idea when or where Nightmare first became a tranny, but damn if it hasn't gotten out of hand. Never mind that, but despite the fact that no one can seem to settle on just what the hell gender Nightmare is, he/she/it somehow has an extended family, one of whom, the Dreamqueen, decided to harass the living fuck out of Alpha Flight which, really, is like picking on someone way smaller than you, innit?

NIGHT RIDER--A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man, who does not exi--oh, wait, it's the guy on the horse. This is one of the first time's we'll see this, but not the first time this issue--apparently, Jim Shooter didn't tolerate two characters with the same name. In this case, the Night Rider would soon become the Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze having been given his walking papers) He would latter be called the Phantom Rider and then, thanks to some time-travel related chicanery, he would date-rape and drug the hell out of Mockingbird, who paid him back by letting him drop off a cliff . . .like you do. I should add that none of this makes him at all interesting, really.

NIGHTSHADE--I like that Nightshade is played up as being a brilliant scientist because the barely-there leather bikini is not exactly what you'd call a tip-off to her intellectual credentials. Oh yes, she can apparently create "scientifically created werewolves," which is yet another example of Big Agra fucking with the natural order. Always buy your werewolves organic, dammit.

NIKKI--I knew a girl named Nikki, I guess you could say she was a sex fiend. Unfortunately since this Nikki is a Guardian of the Galaxy, which is about as erotic as wet toast, I'm afraid that story will have to wait.

NITRO--Used to be, Nitro was known for being the bad guy that inadvertently killed Captain Mar-Vell. Nowadays he's known for being the jackass who started that whole godawful Civil War business by blowing up a school. The problem with this whole mess is that it 1) assumes that widespread property damage was heretofore bloodless and thus "unrealistic" that in so many years of wholesale superhero throwdowns no one so much as got a bump on the head and 2) institutes a double standard that says "oh yeah, the other times were really really bad but this one drove us over the edge." Generally it's something best not to bring it up one way or another, but like any slow child, most comic creators these days just can't resist picking at a scab . . .

NOMAD--Time has not been kind to Jack Monroe, has it? He's the Bucky of the commie-smasher Captain America and turned nominally good even if he was unstable, become Nomad and played "edgy antihero" for awhile, turned evil, turned evil some more when be became scourge (playing out a frighteningly accurate simulacrum of Paul Kirk's deal over at another company) and the original Bucky comes back and kills his ass in what was, frankly, mildly unnecessary and served as a rather empty way to prove what a badass the Winter Soldier is and frankly was a bit of a missed opportunity, because their role as Cap sidekicks gone bad would have been an interesting thing to play with for awhile. Oh well, it was still a mostly good story . . .

NORTHSTAR--One of the problems with making an "issue" character is that anything and everything about that character becomes ineluctably tied into that core issue. On its face, a gay character is not a bad thing (witness the new Batwoman, whose sexual orientation is only one element of her character) it's when the character's gayness becomes an all-encompassing thing that it becomes an issue. Witness Northstar, who had several interesting backstory points, all of which have been swallowed up with the revelation (finally--there was a lot of hemming and hawing before they felt confident enough to just come out and say it) that he's gay. Thus, any time Northstar shows up, you can rest assured that you are about to get a faceful of didactic. Well, either that or he's gonna get killed off again.

NOVA--Like Night/Ghost/Phantom Rider, Nova inherited the name of the Richard Rider Nova, who would soon get his powers back when he hooked up with the New Warriors. However, that aside, Frankie Raye is one humdinger of a doozy of a character. She manages to get the exact same powers as the Human Torch, replace the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four, and then, under rather . . .dodgy . . .storytelling logic, becomes Galactus' herald. Yes, she decided she would rather be an accessory to the death of billions of people (assuming Galactus ever had his shit together enough to actually eat a planet, which he never does, remember?) rather that date Johnny Storm one more day. This . . .means something.

ODIN--As we have said countless times, if you want to get anywhere in Asgard, your hat better look like a deer fucked an art installation. Odin accomplishes this handily. For all that Odin's ruler of the gods and shit like that, Odin really isn't that much of a hands-on manager which probably explains why damn near every Asgardian seems to be plotting to shank his ass at the first opportunity.

OLYMPIANS--These are the Greek/Roman gods, of course. Compared to their Asgardian cousins, they're positively sedate, except for the usual troublemakers, of course. One of the nicest things one can say about the Gods of Olympus is that thanks to the statue of limitations, pretty much anyone can jam the entire pantheon in and it costs nothing. Discount gods, bitches!

ORKA--God bless the Brand Corporation, whose corporate slogan seems to be "Increase the Flash Gordon noise and put more science stuff around." The Brand Corporation was responsible for more instant villains during the 70's and early 80's than anyone, and Orka is a ne plus ultra example. For some reason, it was assumed that taking an Atlantean and turning him into a superpowered whale-man would get them someplace. Science: All about coulda, not shoulda.

OVERMIND--Lord, if ever there were a character fit for the Defenders, it's the Overmind. Once he was a Fantastic Four villain, then he screwed up the Squadron Supreme's planet and then, of course, he was allowed to join the Defenders. Apparently the Defenders have really lax hiring standards because they'll accept the Overmind, and as we learned last time with Moondragon, the Defenders will even accept people into their ranks who will eventually get them all killed.

OWL--So you have a guy with a funny haircut and claws on his wrist. They're both given to violent outbursts. One is a jobbing villain who parlayed being tubby and flying around--very slowly--into harassing Daredevil back when you could do so without being the Kingpin, Bullseye, or a ninja, and one became the most ubiquitous characters in Marvel Comics.

PALADIN--This is before Paladin adopted a more slimmed-down version of the umpire uniform he's wearing right now. I have no idea who Paladin is apart from the odd appearance in Avengers, but given his attire, I have a feeling his main power is to bore the holy shit out of people with line and verse about the infield fly rule.

PEREGRINE--Oh, I'd missed my Team Stereotype! Le Peregrine (French for "Biftec") is the French version of the Falcon, which means he flies around, like 99% of other superheroes ever. Also, he knows savate (just like Batroc and every single person in France, it seems) which means he can fly around and kick people in the face, which seems to be something that would make one or the other unnecessary. On the plus side, at least he lacks Batroc's stupid pencil-thin mustache.

PLANTMAN--You gotta wonder what the hell Plantman was thinking. Apparently it seemed like a grand idea to dress up like a vegetable in a cape and go harass the Human Torch but . . .he's like, made of fire. And fire is not good for plants, so . . .yeah. Didn't really think this through.

PLUNDERER--When it comes right down to it, when your last name is "Plunder," you're pretty much limited in terms of career options, I'd imagine. It's either run around in a loincloth (Ka-Zar) harass Captain Planet, or become Ka-Zar's arch-nemesis as this guy did. Well, I suppose there's always porn, but there's nothing about the name "plunder" that doesn't sound like someone's coming out of it with sore buttholes. Damn I hope no one reads this while eating lunch.

PLUTO--You know, he doesn't look anything like the cartoon dog. Pluto apparently was hot shit back in the day when Thor banged around beating god ass, but now he's just another bald dude with a funny mask.

POLARIS--Man, Polaris' second costume, despite being as Dave Cockrum-y as all hell, was all kinds of awesome. I hate that they made he go back to the green bathrobe. Anyways, everything I said about her boyfriend Havok also applies to her, if not moreso, because god damn if she's not getting possessed, mind-controlled, manipulated, or written by Chuck Austen as the worst psycho-bitch since Robin Green, like, all the time. And who had the brilliant idea to actually make her Magneto's daughter? It was kind of meant to be a red herring all along because to make it blatant is obvious, stupid, and . ..well, I guess not everyone got that.

POWER MAN--Yeah, rather than go in the obvious things I telegraphed last time, I'll go ahead and say this . . .my seminal Power Man moment was when he masqueraded as Stagger Lee and then captured the North American heavyweight title, and this was after he'd been blinded by Freebird Hair Cream. It was epic.

PROFESSOR POWER--Once again I doubt the acreditiation process in the Marvel Universe. Anthony Power turns his son into a cyborg and sticks his brain inside it despite the notable handicap of him being A GOD DAMNED HISTORY PROFESSOR, which means would be expected to know about as much about robotics as a box turtle would know about the Kama Sutra.

PROFESSOR X--I am dubious of Professor X's teaching credentials as well, partly because he seems to gleefully enjoy fucking with people heads, and partly because I've never seen him teach anything that didn't involve spinning robot arms and lasers in the Danger Room, which is not exactly the place, one imagines, where one would hear about the Magna Carta.

PROJECT: PEGASUS--So, apparently in an effort to solve the energy crisis, the US builds a big ol' underground fortress, ostensibly for energy research, but in practice a combination supervillain jail, hangout for the Thing, and a place to rub space aliens up against Cosmic Cubes. My tax dollars at work.

PSYCHE--This was back when damn near no one in the New Mutants could decide on a code name. Danielle Moonstar picked this name because of her short-lived shtick of offering people a juice box and pulling it back saying "SIKE!" Of course, Professor X wouldn't let her get away with such an egregious misspelling, and so the name stuck until someone thought "Mirage" might be more accurate. Well either that or "obvious Native American stereotype who constantly reminds us she's Cheyenne whether it's germane to the subject or not."

PSYCHO MAN--Tell me something: When Psycho-Man finally figures out that there are more than three emotions, does he just get a bigger remote? Is it a universal thing--does he have to add more codes? I want to know and by "want to know" I mean "I really don't give a shit and am just making conversation."

PUCK--Puck started out an acrobatic dwarf in the mold of Nightcrawler and the Beast. Of course, comics being comics, it was later revealed that the reason he was a dwarf is because he was carrying the spirit of a Arabian demon in his body which caused him to lose a few feet in height. This kinda thing is why you either love or hate Bill Mantlo.

PUNISHER--I've never really warmed up to the Punisher, and not for the obvious reasons that he's a Regan era exemplar or a Mack Bolan knock-off . . .he's just never really been my "thing." I wonder if some of it is down to the fact that he's a hard character to sustain (as he shoots to kill, recurring arch-nemeses are generally worthless) and his actual character as such is hard to get unless you go all Garth Ennis and make him the straight man in a violent cartoon.

PUPPET MASTER--As with all things, sometimes you have villains who stick around because they've always been there and the fucking Puppet Master is an example out of that. He's not very interesting, only has a tenuous connection to a member of the Fantastic Four's supporting cast and his shtick happens so often it should be the first thing people think of: "What that? Darkhawk's acting mind-controlled? Well, let's find the Puppet Master and beat his ass again."

PURPLE MAN--Speaking of mind control. One of the most tiresome thing about comics being Serious Fucken Business is that so much of what the people who create them seem obsessed with is stuff like "Hey, is the Thing's cock made of rocks too?" Witness the Purple Man. Once a ZZZZZZZZ-List Daredevil villain, then hauled out of obscurity and wouldn't you know it, he's got one sex slave and convinced one of the Fenris twins to skin his sister and oh Jesus fucking Christ you twits, grow the fuck up already.

PYRO--Pyro, like most of the Brotherhood who is not Mystique, exist for the simple expediency of providing a soft place for an X-Man's fist to rest. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course--lord knows you need jobbing villains, especially in the X-Men where you have way too many X-villains suffering from dramatic power creep. Sometimes you need to slap a guy around for a month or so, I remember my uncle saying to me once. He was a philosopher. And a transvestite kleptomaniac, if I read his arrest reports right.

QUEEGA--Queega are weird aliens with halo and a blindness ray (not alien technology--we all have halogen lights now and they're very annoying when shined in your face, aren't they?) and decided on their first trip here, hey why not harass Daredevil? I'm sure if they returned to the pages of that book today, they would find some way to shame and humiliate Daredevil and it would drag on and on for thousands of issues and I still wouldn't care.

QUONS--I like the fact that apparently you can come from a socialist planet of aliens and still be called "The Monster from the Lost Lagoon." I wonder what their national health service is like?

RAJAKS--"Rajak pirates will wipe out all life on planets in order to plunder them of valuable resources." Well, they sound like real cocksuckers, don't they?

REPTOIDS--Being that they have a name like "Reptoids," obviously they look like humanoid sheep. I kid, I kid. Actually the reptoids are part of Korvac's crew of alien heavies, but

RHUNIANS--Thor apparently has not shortage of aliens who live to try to fuck with him. But I don't care "sufficiently advanced" you are, if you're actively antagonizing a super-strong Norse God who can fly through space and his best friend is a hammer you are basically throwing an apiary full of angry bees at a pissed-off grizzly bear because Thor will fuck your shit up.

RIGELLIANS--And then there are times when you run into aliens where they must just be suicidal. Rigellians are 3'2" on average and are frequent arch-nemeses of Thor, and by "frequent arch-nemeses," I mean "Thor considers them roughly as inconvenient as a hangnail."

R'MALK'I--Sometimes, Jim Starlin writes philosophical stories that take place on a broad, universal canvas full of trippy imagery. Then sometimes he draws talking stalks of celery wearing bikini tops. Drugs have been cites as an explanation for both of these things . . .

ROCLITES--I remember when the Thing fought one of these guys--well, two of them, anyways, because they were called "The Blood Brothers." Well, turns out they're vampires, and they try to bite the Thing and the Thing is like, "You must be stupid," and beats the shit out of the both of them. The Thing is awesome.

And that's it for this week! As always, if you'd like to pinch-hit an entry for me and make my life generally easier, just leave me a comment! Join us next time, as we rock on and on to the break of dawn with issue 9 "From Quasar to She-Hulk." It'll be fun, just like always!


C. Elam said...

Paladin is a hired gun who often does work for free. Obviously, an idiot. I used to own one of his earliest appearances in Daredevil before they unleashed Frank Miller and 4 billion ninjas on it.

Can I say that you are my hero for that Power Man summary? Because you are. I WAS sort of bummed when Iron Fist turned on him and took the title with the aid of a loaded glove. But it later turned out to just be a plant guy pretending to be Iron Fist, so it was cool.

I confess that I love Polaris, but I think it's mostly a love in theory. She's a character mishandled on downright cosmic levels. I dunno how you can botch "hot green-haired chick in tight outfits" as a concept, but SOMEHOW...

I think Psycho Man just put the ones on there that he liked and said "To hell with joy and sadness, I just want some FEAR, DOUBT, and HATE, bitches!" At least he didn't add "HORNINESS", though given current comics, I shouldn't give people ideas.

You know, I saw the Queega and laughed because I imagined the plot of that entire issue just from the entry. "We have a ray that causes blindness!" "Ha ha, SUCKERS!" *punches them all in face*

Oh, I also laughed because they look freakin' ridiculous even for the aliens in this section, which is a mighty mean feat indeed.

Kazekage said...

So Paladin is like Galactus and Thanos and god knows how many people in the MU who are notorious for doing one thing, and then never quite accomplish that one thing. There's a lot of that in the MU.

That was an early Christmas gift--considering the inexplicable overness of Power Man and the fact you're such a Mid-south fan . . .the whole thing came together perfectly. "Cowboy" Bill Watts' run on Power Man & Iron Fist was really underrated, I think. Especially "The Battle of New Orleans" arc.

Yeah, I always felt like if I ever got a shot at the X-Men (chances of that happening? LESS THAN LESS THAN ZERO) I would give Polaris one hell of a push and do what I could to kind of separate out that whole pattern of mishandling. This assumes the damage has not already been done, but . . .

Maybe it's like an iPod--he went for the low-grade model and you only get three emotions. Oh God Chris, DON'T give them ideas . . .

Yeah, I keep thinking that's the least well thought out alien invasion plan ever, isn't it? And yet, I'd still read it over Secret Invasion

It's the halos, isn't it? ISN'T IT?!?!?

C. Elam said...

Occasionally, Paladin did things in an attempt to bone the Wasp. I don't think that quite panned out for him either.

In the annals of stupid alien invaders, the Queega managed to find the ONE SUPERHERO in the ENTIRE WORLD who was immune to their secret weapon and thought, "Yeah, that guy!" If they have counterparts in the DC Universe, they headed straight for Dr. Mid-Nite.

The halos don't help their cred as fearsome monsters, no. It makes them all look like they just had a bright idea, which is clearly just out of their grasp.