Monday, December 13, 2010


Thundering across the stars to provide the universe with blog content, Kazekage recaps the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe to unite the Magic Root and lead his eigh--no nine--blog followers to victory against the changing form of Issue #10--"From Shi'ar to Sub-Mariner." Witless Prattle explodes into verbiage--Lightning Strikes!

SHI'AR--For all that X-Men and the cosmic books have tried to puff up the Shi'Ar, maybe it's time to admit they ain't shit. For one thing, they seem gleefully happy to appoint as rulers people who are barking fucking insane or rulers who promptly bugger off for months at a time to go bang the bald pink monkey in the bumper car. Oh yes and they have a crystal that could end all life in the universe which, if the stories are anything to go by, is only slightly less well protected than a restroom key at a gas station on the bad part of town. Good job there, guys.

SHIELD--The Strategic Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division gets a whopping FOUR entries here, because SHIELD, like McDonald's or the movie Spaceballs, understands the concept of branding. What SHIELD seems to be lacking, of course, is any effective law enforcement skills, as we're 50 years in and HYDRA? Still around. AIM? Still beekeepin' for science, bitches. Then again, one of their chief administrators is named Dum Dum, so we really shouldn't be surprised, should we?

SHIELD UNIFORMS--Eliot R. Brown returns for vengeance with this rundown of all the ways that SHIELD agents can fuck your shit royally up, from their guns, to the garrote wire in their watch (Red Grant would approve!) and the knife in their boot. Curiously, however, I notice that nowhere in the schematic do they indicate SHIELD uniforms have pockets. Bit of an oversight, that is.

SHIELD HELICARRIER--Giving the concepts of physics and aerodynamics two blazing middle fingers since the 60's the Helicarrier is one of those iconic SHIELD things that define them as part of the MU and damn if Brown doesn't go all out making it seem if not realistic, then plausible enough for the MU. Still doesn't explain how six engines are all you need to keep that thing in the air, but when you poke holes in stuff like that, you end up with Iron Man as a living Bluetooth, and no one should want that. Ever.

SHIELD FLYING CAR--You know, cool as these things are, I swear I've seen them crash or get blown up way more times than I have seen them successfully survive a mission. That said, this seems like a pretty gnarly way to tool around town, even if the minigun in the front bumper and the missiles in the back hatch should probably not be trusted to someone like me, given as I am to constant road rage.

SHOOTING STAR--Like the Punisher, Shooting Star serves the cause of justice by busting caps in evil's collective ass. Unlike the Punisher, Shooting Star elected to slap a big ol' American star on her titties and shoot stun-stars at evildoers in the name of not killing anyone. Funnily enough, that same gun design was later used by the C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa. Shooting Star would later get possessed by a demon with nothing better to do than hassle Z-list Marvel heroes not based in New York.

SHROUD--One of the most entertaining things about Marvel is that sometimes they will get desperate and throw any crap at the wall in the name of getting a character over. Witness the Shroud, who started off as a hero masquerading as a villain, with powers which Cloak would use to greater effect about a decade later. By the time I first encounter him, he's a silent partner to the West Coast Avengers and leading a group called the Night Shift, consisting of him, Henry Winkler, Shelly Long, and Michael Keaton running a ring of hookers out of a New York morgue. I'm not really sure how being LOVE BROKERS really stems the criminal tide, however. Perhaps if they added Doctor Detroit to their ranks . . .

SIDEWINDER--Oh, HELLS yes. Sidwinder, soon after this, would head the Serpent Society, which is one of the most ridiculous, and most awesome thing Mark Gruenwald came up with. Essentially a trade union for snake-themed villains, Sidewinder offered generous cuts of the takes, health care, and, being that he could pop in and out of anywhere, a living "get out of jail free" card. It was a really clever idea that never got quite adequately explored (we had to tell do a story of the Viper turning Ronald Regan into a reptile first) Perhaps one day Marvel will let me write a Serpent Society story. Perhaps that previous sentence is the single funniest thing I have or will ever write.

SIF--Sif's entry is a page long. Under "Origin," there is one very long paragraph, all of it about Sif's hair, which goes in frightening detail about how trolls do hair-replacement surgery in Norse mythology. The next paragraph actually concerns itself with the main character, which tells me that Sif's hair is far more important than the character attached to it. The implications of this are not good.

SILVERMANE--This is the cyborg version of Silvermane, with all the powers of the Terminator and Frankie Pentangeli. Given his similarity to the robotic version of Braniac, who was rolled out very close to, I'm going to make an assumption which you may freely correct me in the comments, forgo any further attempts at witticism and just say Edward Hannigan is fucking awesome.

SILVER SAMURAI--To this day, I have no earthly idea why Capcom decided to put Silver Samurai in the X-Men: Children of the Atom game. All I know if, despite having no range and generally at the mercy of characters like Cyclops, Iceman, and the Sentinel, I always found him pretty awesome to play as. Well, until I figured out how to play as Akuma.

SILVER SURFER--Has anyone ever made hay over the fact that a guy whose superpowers (among others) include surfing is named "Radd?" Because really, someone totally should, it's right there. At the time this book was published, the Surfer was still confined to Earth and wheeled out occasionally to be real mopey about it or help out the Defenders which, didn't really help the mopiness any, I imagine.

SIRYN--Hey kids! Did you like Banshee? Well here he is with underage boobies! I'm not entirely sure what the rationale is for having a female Banshee with 20% less love of Merle Haggard giving Spider-Woman a hard time is all about, but I suspect it's to redress the flaw in Banshee's initial conception (Banshees are female spirits) which is the kind of niggling pedantic point that powers entire crossovers these days.

SKRULLS--Even before Secret Invasion, the Skrulls were the Shockmaster of invading alien races, in that they debuted with such incredible build-up only to fall flat on their face. Honestly, the Skrulls should have the whole "covertly conquering planets" thing locked down--hell, the concept is so high speed and low drag that the Founders of the Dominion would nick it (and actually be successful at it) So what's the Skrulls excuse? Why do they always--always--blow it way before the climax? And before you say "Yeah, but Secret Invasion--" ehh-eh. Secret Invasion somehow postulates you can nearly conquer Earth posing as Spider-Woman, and then you get a squeezer to the dome from the Green Goblin. Spider-Woman only has that power in Brian Bendis' mind.

SNOWBIRD--Before Snowbird banged Hercules, her most famous feat (besides the "all blank panel" issue of Alpha Flight) was dying like, 300 times. Seriously, there is nothing about Snowbird's backstory (half-ling child of gods, has baby in Arctic circle which just happens to get possessed by corpse of explorer in suspended animation, becomes Sasquatch tranny, etc etc.) I think it's time I design a Mantlo scale for accumulated plot catastrophes similar to my Claremont Scale, because when Mantlo fucked shit up, he scorched the god damned Earth.

SOLARR--The extra R means extra EVIL. Solarr was one of those reliable upper midcard guys designed for a book like Marvel Two-In-One for the Thing to slap around because he's the kind of villain who's tough enough to fight for an issue-length story, but not easy enough to get the shit kicked out of during the first three pages. I also remember he showed up on the X-Men cartoon like, 15 years or so after he got killed off and hassled Cyclops. I . . .have no idea why that would happen, but it did.

SOVIET SUPER SOLDIERS--Before glasnost, before Chernobyl, before even perestroika, there were the Soviet Super Soldiers, communist villains only slightly more enlightened than the guy from Cuba who dressed up as a red bull and hassled Ant-Man in the 1960s. Now, please understand--the Soviet Union was a huge country back then. Naturally, the Communist system being full of flaws, they only bothered to assign five guys to the job of protecting the whole fucking country, and one of them was a bear. Meanwhile, pro wrestling gave us Boris Zhukov, Krusher Krushchev, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, and Nikolai Volkoff. None of them were bears. If only the general staff had bothered to put as much effort into superheroes as they did pro wrestling . . .well, they'd probably still have been out of business. Magnum T.A. would have stopped them somehow.

SPACEKNIGHTS--I would hate to deprive Chris Elam of the opportunity to bust on the Spaceknights, especially the inelegantly named Gloriole. And he does not disappoint:

"The Spaceknights are to Rom what the alien Green Lanterns are to Green Lantern. Unfortunately, none of them are fish men, diamonds with legs, or talking celery sprouts. However, one of them IS named "Gloriole". I am told this is another word for a halo or nimbus, but it sure sounds like a hole in a bathroom stall to me. Amazingly, we can't even blame Bill Mantlo for this one!"

SPACE PHANTOM--Like Santa getting into the egg nog, Frank Miller's been into the crosshatching pens again, with just about the same results. The Space Phantom is a dweeb who is slightly better than the Skrulls at imitating people and sowing confusion and discord. In fairness, that's like saying if you are skilled enough with a Wooly Willy toy, you can make him look like Gimli from the Lord of the Rings. Anyways, the Space Phantoms role in life is to be Immortus' scapegoat for when he has to explain some continuity snag, thus proving that the penalty for (and execution of) identity theft in the Marvel Universe is worse than we can possibly imagine.

SPEED DEMON--Say what you will about James Sanders, he damn well knew no one was going to take him seriously calling himself 'The Whizzer" and thus changed his name to something a little more appropriate for a super criminal. Mind you, this never elevated him above being a curtain-jerker, but he did get to be part of the Sinister Syndicate.

SPHINX--Like the Ultimate Warrior, the Sphinx rocketed up the card and just as quickly faded. Seriously, he goes from an upper-list Nova villain to all of a sudden becoming a strong as Galactus and fighting the Fantastic Four and I have no earthly idea how any of that happened. Of course, soon after this entry, he killed himself, which was again, strange an inexplicable, but that's the Sphinx for you.

SPIDER-MAN--I suspect one of the appealing things of Spider-Man's story is (or was) that for all the good the Spider-Man does, the real story of the book is Peter Parker's learning of responsibility allows him to grow and change and become a man who can stand on his own. It was like an extended parable/soap opera for how to live--if you work hard and are kind, as Conan O'Brien said, amazing things will happen. Of course, terrible things will also happen, but that's life. By never losing hope that things will be better and being a better person and making a better world for yourself and others every day, the bad things are a little easier to live with--the important thing is that you never give up. I understand this, and I have read maybe 20 Spider-Man comics total in my entire one score and fifteen on this Earth. Why don't the people who write the books get it?

SPIDER-MAN'S WEB-SHOOTERS--I can either talk about the fact that Spider-Man's web shooters have steel nipples in them and finesse that into a Joel Schumacher joke, or I can talk about the times I've seen Spidey shoot webs as a rather silly metaphor for premature ejaculation. You choose.

SQUADRON SUPREME--Two years after this, Mark Gruenwald would turn the Squadron from the thinnest of thinly-veiled Justice League stand-ins into a classic superhero comic that's never been quite given its due (unless by "due" you mean "utterly pointless remake by JMS that he gave up on a few issues on") but it well worth your time. I covered it in an early blog post here at the Prattle. Hard to believe we're going to be on year 3 soon.

STAR-DANCER--"Shanga began a centuries-long journey through space. Traveling aimlessly, she explored distant star systems, all the while failing to properly mark her course. She eventually realised she was hopelessly lost." I understand that's exactly where Captain Janeway went wrong, too.

STARFOX--I said it before, and I'll say it again. When Mentor's two children are a death-worshipping demi-god who considers killing half the universe as something to do on a lazy Sunday when the game's not on, and a person with all the powers of rohypnol, you have problems. Astoundingly enough, despite being a superhuman date rapist, he was allowed to be an Avengers and has been disgracing Fox McCloud's good name by association ever since.

STARHAWK--While I couldn't frankly give a shit about the Guardians of the Galaxy as a rule, I stand in awe of Starhawk, because his backstory is so very very crazy. Stakar shares his body with his wife Aelta and occasionally switched between the two, making him the first transsexual who married himself--he's Glen AND Glenda. Oh, and he once saved the universe by not being able to see someone.

STARJAMMERS--Christopher Summers kicked his two kids out of a plane and decided to run around the outerspace with a furry and a guy named "choad." I could embellish that, but really . . .I think it speaks for itself.

STILT-MAN--Stilt-Man exploits one of Daredevil's weaknesses in that he's vulnerable against very tall guys, I suppose. Naturally, Stilt-Man is treated as a joke, much like El Gigante or Bill Laimbeer, both of whom also possessed the superpower of being very tall and incredibly goofy. Neither of them would be allowed anywhere near Daredevil at this point, as they do not fit in the Ninja/Bullseye/Kingpin paradigm that Daredevil must cycle through until the end of time.

STINGRAY--You know, he's kind of just a cool costume, but damn it all, Stingray is all fucking kinds of awesome to me. You have: cool name--check. Cool costume--check. Undersea character not in the Aquaman mold--big check. Stingray is totally awesome, and I wonder if Marvel would let me write Stingray . . .well, assuming they haven't killed him off when I wasn't looking. Yes, I know this is just as outlandish as the idea of Marvel letting me write . . .well, anything, but hey, at least my needs are comparatively small.

STORM--This is near or a little after the advent of Punk Storm, which was one of those radical acts that women in Chris Claremont stories do because they've endured some experience, either explicitly or implicitly related to slavery of some sort, and before now they "were never truly tested" and after "never felt so much alive." Seriously, he does this stuff all the time, and if you read between the lines, it's . . .hellaciously icky.


SUB-MARINER--Earth is 3/4 water and the thin green line between order and chaos is a douchebag in a speedo. I have never entirely understood the appeal of the Sub-Mariner. I mean, he's slightly more respectable than Aquaman (and he's certainly been killed off less often) but really, I'm not entirely sold on the character. Never have been.

SIDRI--The Sidri are proof that if you leave Kitty Pryde alone in the X-Mansion, awful things will happen, and this is no exception. I think these guys actually trashed the whole Mansion (like that's the first, last or only time that's happened) which is pretty good for a bunch of stylishly designed yet completely personality-less aliens.

SNEEPERS--The Sneepers have one of the most awesome names possible and what's even better is that their introductory (hell, maybe only story) was "The Saga of the Sneepers!" which is everything--EVERYTHING--wonderful about comics right there.

SSSTH--"Names of Representatives: Sssthgar, Ruler of Sssth." As opposed to Sssthgar, Chiropodist of Sssth.

STENTH--An obstinate, fatalistic race that flies around in city-ships that look like giant beetles, the Stenth are absolutely fucking insane.

STONIANS--Holy shit, y'all, it's an It, The Living Colossus, villain. The Stonians are giant stone goat-people, which if I'm honest would be the kind of thing that would probably push me over the edge too. Not enough to pick a fight with It, The Living Colossus (as opposed to It, The General Survey and Land Management Specialist) but yeah . . .pretty pissed off.

TAURIANS--The Taurians look like circus peanuts in the shape of a man and are described as "Melancholy." Well, if you had to live your life looking like cheap marshmallow candy, yeah, you probably would too. Poor guy--I feel bad for him.

TEKTONS--Looking like evil cats, the Tektons are apparently enslaved by the Skrulls for gladiatorial combat, which is such bullshit. I mean, the Skrulls can turn into damn near anything, why not just turn into the Tektons and do it yourselves? The Skrull Empire--half-assing god damn near everything since 1961.

THUVRIANS--The gentle, naive Thuvrians were manipulated by the Dire Wraiths in an issue of ROM to play on that oldest of SF cliches--the well-meaning but effete people who enable evil with their wussiness and their refusal to grow a pair and stand up to them jeopardizes us all. Leave it to Bill Mantlo to take the most-traveled path of least resistance.

And with that, we close out two-thirds of the Marvel Handbook! As always, if you'd like to contribute an entry, by all means holla at me in the comments and join the party. Be here next time for "From Subterraneans to Ursa Major," a book that was the "death of Phoenix" of it's day. Take off work, steal some money, do whatever you have to, but don't miss it, don't ask just buy it, don't sleep in the subway's baby and don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk!


C. Elam said...

Oh wow, I have been totally challenged! I shall pick up this gauntlet, and then probably drop it on my foot. But first...

I swear to God, I laughed so hard at the Soviet Super-Solider entry. Now I'd like all of your blog's readers to please rise and respect my singing of the Soviet national anthem.

Oh, and he once saved the universe by not being able to see someone.

The frightening thing is that I know exactly what you are talking about.

Sub-Mariner was big because he was an asshole. The early stories are pretty crazy (though not quite Fletcher Hanks crazy), and I credit Lee & Kirby with reinventing him fairly well. I mean, the guy sells better than Blackhawk or Plastic Man nowadays, and you'd think they would have aged better among Golden Age revivals.

Alrighty then, let's do this thing!

SPACEKNIGHTS--The Spaceknights are to Rom what the alien Green Lanterns are to Green Lantern. Unfortunately, none of them are fish men, diamonds with legs, or talking celery sprouts. However, one of them IS named "Gloriole". I am told this is another word for a halo or nimbus, but it sure sounds like a hole in a bathroom stall to me. Amazingly, we can't even blame Bill Mantlo for this one!

I have a few entries for #12 that I'm going to e-mail you for when you get to it. Beyond that, I have a couple of ideas for #15, too

Kazekage said...

The gauntlet was picked up and you ran with it, son. It's now up for everyone's further enlightenment.

It's amazing when you consider that I have forgotten most of the algebra and geometry I learned in school, great chunks of my English studies--just gone, really. And yet I remember all the god damned Russian wrestlers from the 80's.

I should also add here that I have met Ivan Koloff. Nice guy!

That was Starhawk's shining moment, isnt it? Thirty-some years and not doing something is what people remember about you.

The oldest one I've read is from like, the '50 Atlas stories where he was yelling "Suffering SHAD!" and stuff like that. I kinda wish he still did.

I have your ideas for #12, thank you so much for allowing me to not have to say anything about goddamned Wolverine. It's like a day off, I tells ya!

C. Elam said...

Happy to oblige!

Well, all the ones worth remembering. I got to watch Kortsia Korchenko for a few months. And I've heard that Uncle Ivan is a capital guy!

Yeah, you pretty much summed up everything I know about Starhawk right there.

I wish I could point you in the direction of cheap early Golden Age stories, but there haven't been a lot recently. Though, those 50s stories have some great Everett artwork. And awesome exclamations. Honestly, I think Subby works better in a supporting capacity in recent times, and I say this as a person who does like him.

You are quite welcome. I figured you would want to avoid him, and I have barely written about him. Think of it as an early Christmas present!

Kazekage said...

He is indeed! You wouldn't have expected a formerly godless commie to be born again, but he's awesome . . .and he damn near crushed my hand when I shook it.

Yeah, I've never known them to be reprinted at all except for in Masterworks (have they Masterworked the 50's Sub-Mariner stories yet?) I think he does too--I can't decide whether it's his character or his mileu that I find so dreary but . . .man.

And a welcome one it is!

C. Elam said...

Mmm, there are a few cheap Golden Age Subby reprints floating out there, but I'd need to research this. I'd lay money it's the stories they put him through, because I honestly dislike a lot of them. If you read that Saga of the Sub-Mariner mini, it is like a litany of constant tragedy. And it's not gotten better since then!

I forgot to mention this before, but I think Marv Wolfman inducted Martin Mull into S.H.I.E.L.D. I am pretty sure Barth Bukowski owes his existence to Fernwood 2 Night, as well as Charles Bukowski.

Kazekage said...

Man, I think you sent me the Saga of the Sub-Mariner LS awhile ago and yeah . . .it constantly seemed like he was getting overthrown or some shit. I always felt like there was mileage in the idea of Namor as an old soldier in the vein of Captain America--I mean, he fought in WWII, comes from a warlike race, essentially immortal, he should be kinda the the Martian Manhunter was in JLA--full of wisdom and tactical skill because he's been fighting all the damn time.

I . . .did not know this, and in all candor, I have no idea how to respond to it. Well, apart from the fact that Martin Mull could do no better or worse than most of the folks they have now.

C. Elam said...

To be perfectly honest, I had no idea about Martin Mull, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. either until a week or so ago. Blame it on the fact that I'm reading a book about TV in addition to the Handbooks, and seeing the name "Barth" in both places jumped out at me. I took a look at the picture and it does look like someone else drawing an Infantino version of Mull. The question is, was it intentional, or did Marv change the name after he saw the artwork? I am almost curious enough to ask him.

I am pretty sure Martin Mull and Fred Willard would rise to the top of the current hierarchy of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Kazekage said...

You should! I would be totally intrigued to know what and why he thought it was a great idea.

Given the quality of their leadership in the comics, I'm not sure they already don't.