Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Hi, I'm Kazekage, and I don't have a pet cat named Cringer. Fabulous amounts of blog content were revealed to me when I received a complete run of the The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and decided to recap it. When I considered all the work that would be involved, I said . . .

. . .and did it anyway. This then, is the story of that fateful decision.

SUBTERRANEANS--Attacking from the underneath, the beasts from beneath, the Subterraneans come again and again, burning you up like the Lava Men. The Moloids are under the command of the Mole Man and job like the Mulkeys whenever they can, knocked to the floor by the Fantastic Four once more in their never ending war. The Tyrranoids (yellow humanoids) should avoid testing the patience of the Hulk by attacking him, because he'll send them packing in once again, ripping up a mountain like an earthquaker . . .and burying them alive, like the Undertaker.

SUNFIRE--Man, Sunfire is one of those characters everyone feels like they need to do something with, but you wonder if he's really worth it in the end. Having two character modes--"Unbearable asshole" and "grudging team player"--and little else makes it awfully difficult to build a story around him. The closest he's come to any sort of relevance that I can remember is that Joe Madureria Age of Apocalypse redesign that they have been trying to shoe-horn into the main continuity for fifteen damn years now. When changing your clothes is all anyone wants to do with you . . .

SUNSPOT--Remember when every time Sunspot used his powers, someone would say "You're strong, but not invulnerable?" Say what you will about Chris Claremont, he made damn sure these little phrases stuck in your brain and whatever else you knew about the character, you knew in an instant a defining element about them, and thus your brain filled in the blanks. See also--"focused totality of my psychic powers." Between that and an allegedly witty intro captions . . .I'll go with "focused totality" every time.

SUPER-ADAPTOID--I've never been entirely certain exactly what makes the Super-Adaptoid so "super," as nearly every time he's out of the box, he gets the shit kicked out of him. I think it's partly because he would replicate the most bogus shit the Avengers have--if you can copy Giant-Man, Hercules, or Thor . . .why are you making Captain America's crappy shield and Hawkeye's arrows? Obviously super-intelligence is not in the package.

SUPER-SKRULL--Speaking of characters living far far down to expectations, the Super-Skrull, like the Skrulls, has never really broken through into the top tier, and this despite the fact that he has all the powers of the Fantastic Four PLUS super-hypnosis. Maybe the problem is that he looks too Skrullish. If it were me, I'd have him look like the Thing on fire all the time. That's kinda rad. I need to draw that, I think.

SUPREME INTELLIGENCE--Proof that investing absolute power and one's political future in a council of people is a bad idea, the Supreme Intelligence is a collection of the Kree's finest minds, which immediately proved their brilliance by deciding to look like a giant green jellyfish with a face. What's more, the Intelligence has served the Kree by either manipulating them, or trying to kill the fuck out of them over the years, which is exactly what you want your chief executive to do, huh? I've said it before and I'll say it again--being ruled by a giant green head doesn't work.

SURTUR--Either before or after this, the initial big fight with Surtur and Odin had gone down, which was one of those epic moments in Walt Simonson's run on Thor, although my favourite is the all splash page fight between Thor and the Midgard Serpent.

SWARM--While I'm a little tired of the cult following that MODOK has, I'm totally on board with the love for Swarm, because Swarm is fucking demented.: A Nazi war criminal is skeletonized and manages to find the one set of bees to basically become his body. Yes, a living Nazi beehive. It's barking goddamned mad and wonderful at the same time.

TALISMAN--Here's a sad fact of comic life: If you're in comics and from Australia, you're either gonna be Crocodile Dundee or an aborigine. Talisman is not Crocodile Dundee, and he is also the first hero I know of who combines the bold choice of a loincloth and buccaneer boots. Also, I suspect that he is the only male for whom "panty flash" is part of his arsenal.

TASKMASTER--This is OG Taskmaster, not Ghostface Killah Taskmaster or "I don't think he's supposed to be Spawn" Taskmaster. I always thought Taskmaster was pretty awesome because he had a cool look and a cool hook--he was the guy who trained all the mooks that bad guys inevitably had to hire to make up the numbers when the Avengers burst in.

TATTERDEMALION--Who says comics can't teach you anything--it's because of them I learned what the hell "Tatterdemalion" meant. Not that the character himself isn't fascinating in a weird way--apparently his power is that he messes up shit and smells bad. This made him an ideal candidate, of course, to join the Shroud's Night Shift, and I'm pretty sure has done nothing of consequence since.

TEXAS TWISTER--I'm hesitant to make any hasty judgment about the state of Texas, as what I know of them leads me to believe they have no sense of humour and are heavily armed to a man. That said, the Texas Twister is proof that Texas can do better. He's a guy dressed up as a cowboy . . .and he spins around a lot. On the plus side, he can't get dizzy. On the downside, he looks like a dad-burned fool.

THENA--Oh boy, another Eternal. The most intriguing thing I can say about Thena is that she's been banging the Deviant warlord Kro for ages and ages, which is the kind of jungle fever only Jack Kirby could possibly dream up. You are free to speculate whether "Eternal come=Kirby dots" if you choose, this blog is above such things.

THING--The thing about . . .uhm, the Thing, is that he's surmounted the sort of hopeless sludge of pathos that writers today seem to think is the cornerstone of a great story, to the point where he's actually become kinda cuddly. Think about that for a second--by carrying you through his darker moments and actually showing why it's Ben Grimm who matters and not what he looks like, they managed to make a craggy rock-monster cuddly because he's such a good guy. Think about that for a second.

THOR--Unless you're Walt Simonson, I tend not to care much about Thor's current status--there's some sort of delicate balancing act that has to be done for a good Thor comic and I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is. Thor generally though, is a badass and one of the cornerstones of the Avengers for a reason--he's another facet of Marvel comics as embodied in its premier superteam: He's the fantasy character, Captain America is the link to the Golden Age, Iron Man is the science hero (so is Hank Pym, but fuck him) and the Hulk is a callback to the monster comics that came before the Silver Age Marvel stuff. I never really put that together until recently, and obviously it's coincidental . . .but very serendipitous.

THOR'S HAMMER--Has there ever been a Thor comic where he's actually hammered a nail with Mjolnir? I only ask because there's been 60-70 years of Thor comics and you woulda thought someone would have gone there by now.

THUNDRA--The Aja Kong of the Marvel Universe, Thundra is a holdover from one of those painfully alegorical stories from the 70's which tried to extrapolate relevance by embodying the issues of the day in fictional avatars. Thundra represented a parallel Earth where feminism took over and came to our Earth because that were stop her Earth from being taking over by men, which were the enemy. Yes, it's the first day of a women's studies course . . .gone horribly wrong.

TIGER SHARK--OK, it's never a good sign when a character's villain's a supporting casts are more interesting than the character themselves, is it? Tiger Shark looks utterly badass despite rocking the purple and orange and even though he jobbed near-constantly to the Sub-Mariner, he's still generally well-regarded in ways that say, the Piranha, is not.

TIGRA--The original Omaha the Cat Dancer, Tigra is possibly responsible for more furry crushes than I care to imagine. Unfortunately, I don't think she's ever been much of a character in her long history in the MU. Her Cat identity gets repurposed as Hellcat, and as Tigra she has two roles 1) look hot 2) be the Beast when the Beast isn't around. Oh, and there was that foolish storyline where she was knocked up with a litter of Skrull kittens. I sorta wish that someone had said "Uhm, y'know, that idea is kinda stupid and really really sucks. What else have you got?"

TITAN--The source of more trouble in the universe than you can possibly imagine, Titan is home to Thanos (kills various percentages of the universe for the lulz) Starfox (date rapist) Genis-Vell (occasionally goes nuts, destroyed universe a couple times) Moondragon (bitch on wheels/planetary despot) and Phyla-Vell (dated Moondragon and it's all been downhill for her from there) In light of that, could we possibly dub Titan the Detroit of the Marvel Universe? I rather think we might!

TITANIUM MAN--Oh shit, "Boris Bullski" is such a Cold War name it belongs on a pro wrestler depending to be Russian. The Titanium Man is one or Iron man's arch nemeses, who shows up to be a monster heel like Andre the Giant or the Great Khali or something and thus make Iron Man's ultimate victory over him that much more impressive because Iron Man is generally not put in the role of scrappy underdog.

TOAD--Oh man, I remember gleefully the time they tried to make Toad a mastermind and he led his own Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in X-Force and it fooled no one. Much as we may wish it were different and hope that every character might someday be elevated to a higher level, the Toad is, was, and will always be the creepy sidekick Magneto told to go play in the airlock on Pryde of the X-Men.

TOMORROW MAN--So, bored megalomaniac Arthur Zarko travels back in time to find weapons so he can conquer the world, because anyone smart enough to pull off an elaborate time-travel scheme is obviously brilliant enough for world domination. However, it doesn't say much for your intellect when the first person you try to do this with is Thor. Thankfully, Thor's first response when he sees him is to fall down laughing, which is probably the only goddamn thing that saves his life.

TRAPSTER--When your name is "Paste-Pot Pete," you were obviously the guy who ate the white paste in Kindergarten. This set the course for the Trapster's live, naturally, as the man came up with a brilliant, revolutionary new adhesive . . .and decided the best use of his time was to go and hassle the Human Torch rather than make a killing selling it to college kids to huff.

TRITON--I haven't had the opportunity to rip on the Inhumans for holding slaves in ages, it seems like. Triton has all the powers of a fish in underpants and all the charisma of the wood pulp his page is printed on. Oh, and like the Inhumans, he owns slaves and really didn't seem all that bothered by it for a long time which . . .is a little suspect, I think.

U-FOES--Here's what I don't get--if you're smart enough to try to replicate the creation of the Fantastic Four and charismatic enough to persuade three other idiots to go in the rocket ship with you and all of it ends up working, well . . .why is the first person you start some shit with the Hulk? Is there a frequent demand for suicide by Hulk in the Marvel Universe?

ULIK--It's hard to find good Thor villains. He's a god, and as such it presents problems--you're way too strong to slap around the Tomorrow Man, but Gozer will speak to you. Still, there are only so many opponents who can have parity with Thor. Beyond that you end up with godlike being so powerful that Thor is completely outclassed yet wins anyway. Ulik circumvents this problem neatly by being a simple as a Thor villain can possibly be--he's a mean troll with brass knuckles who will fuck your shit up. No further embellishment needed really, is there?

ULTRON--I could have sworn Hank Pym was a goddamn biochemist, will someone tell me what the FUCK he's doing thinking he can build a robot? Ultron is what happens when a little Freud goes the wrong way--somehow Hank Pym managed to build a robot that wanted to kill him and bang the Wasp. Then he made a robot version of the Wasp so he could bang the robot. Oh, and he's crazy and genocidal, except that he wanted to bang a human woman and . . .y'know, I feel like hypocrisy is actually the worst of his crimes, somehow.

UMAR--Funnily enough, everything you need to know about Clea's desire to bang one of America's Founding Fathers can be traced back to her mom, here. Let's see . . .goes around looking trampy, calls herself "The Unrelenting," has a quasi-incesty relation ship with her brother, the BK Griller . . .yeah, I can't imagine how Clea came out of things so well-adjusted, can you?

UNICORN--Stand back! Milos Masaryk has a raging erection and he's not afraid to use it. Ok, well, maybe not, but man, even for a commie villain, the Unicorn (not to be confused with Unicron--they're both orange, but only one eats planets) is fucking crazy. Apparently the Russians, by now running low on things which mapped naturally onto the tenets of communism, decided that what would really help their cause was to give a guy a costume, a jetpack, and let him boast that he could shoot people with his (*snicker*) "power horn." As concepts go it's slightly less flawed than New Coke . . .but more flawed than collective farming.

UNION JACK--Union Jack has an awesome costume, doesn't he? Sort of retroactively created to be the United Kingdom's answer to Captain America, Union Jack differs in one major respect--he has a gun and a knife, and that's all. Meaning that when Batroc decides to get cute in New York city, he may get a trash can lid to the face a few times, but pull that shit in London and it's two through the done and Batrog gets field-stripped like a deer.

UNUS--For all that you may mistake this blog for a Comics Journal-esque repository of refined discourse, I'm about to take the delicate porcelain of your expectations and throw it to the floor and shatter them: For a long time, few things cracked me up more than thinking "Unus the Untouchable" was "Anus the Untouchable." The scary thing about it is that it still fits the character perfectly. I mean, would you want to touch a guy named Anus? Oh we can blame it on his forcefield, sure, but we know what this is really about.

URSA MAJOR--No, this is not Ivan Koloff--he was the other Russian Bear. Ursa Major had the ability to transform into a bear, or since this is Soviet Russia we're talking about here, maybe he was bear that transform into people! What a country! Anyways, Ursa Major was a member of the Soviet Super Soldiers and contributed much with his ability to piss every time he lumbered around and steal communist pick-a-nick baskets.

TRIBBITITES--"The Tribbitites are commonly called 'Toad Men." OH FUCK NO, REALLY?!? I would never have guessed. They look like frogs, they even have "Ribbit" in their god damned named names. How could anyone make such an obvious fucking mistake?

TSILN--Man, I thought I had a bad day today. The Tsiln, in addition to having a name that makes my spell-checker throw up in its mouth a little, apparently grow 30 feet tall. Naturally, Thor was out scooping up troll shit or something and the only person around who could fight it was . . .Spider-Man. The funny thing is, having a fist fight with a 30 foot tall alien is still more plausible to me than Mephisto magic'ing away a marriage.

TSYRANI--Uhm, apparently the the Tsyrani had something to do with the Shi'ar and their representative is The Matriarch Elhalyn, and I gotta tell you, if it's not Chris Claremont, it's an amazing simulation.

UL'LULA'NS--The Ul'Lula'ns, in addition to looking like a lamprey and Cthulhu fucked, are a living example of that one thing they would love to take back, but never can. You see, Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, the Avenging Son . . .he kissed the Ctulhu/Lamprey love child. He can run the fuck on to Lemuria or wherever, but he can't run from the truth.

VEGANS--Now are the vegans the ones who don't eat any animal products or what? I'm kind of out of touch and . . .oh wait, no these are just giant aliens that Giant-Man slapped around one time. Man, I'm sorry for opening up that can of worms now.

VORMS--"The Star-Stalker was a mutant and hence possessed powers (such as the ability to fly through space and drain energy) that other Vorms lack. Yeah, well we all have our "first time on mescaline stories" here, pal. Move along.

VRELLNEXIANS--"They maintain some commercial trade and (captured alien) slave trade." Oh good, more Inhumans, then.

XANTAREANS--Here's a simple rule I've twigged to, reading these alien entries--if your alien is built like the Hulk, there is a better than average chance that he fought the Hulk. If he looks like some other strange kinda alien, then he was probably a Thor villain. The Xantareans fall into the former category.

That's it for this time. As always, if you'd like to get on board with this and throw a slam or two at a venerated Marvel character, just drop me a comment here and we'll slot you in. Join us next time for the finale of the extant Marvel Characters at that time, yes, it's "Valkyrie to Zzzax!" All this and god knows what kinds of smartass comments will result and the capital of Nebraska is LINCOLN!


C. Elam said...

Don't think I didn't notice that Subterraneans entry. I salute you for even trying that once.

The Taskmaster was rad from the moment I first saw him, and I'm amazed it took so long for people to exploit this even a little. He seemed like a pretty chummy guy for a super-villain, too.

I'm hesitant to make any hasty judgment about the state of Texas, as what I know of them leads me to believe they have no sense of humour and are heavily armed to a man.

Speaking as someone who lives about an hour or so away from it, there is a truth to this.

Did I ever tell you that Marvel sort of blew the "big reveal" that Ultron had Hank Pym's brain wave patterns in an issue of the comic based on that one Avengers cartoon?

The part I liked best was that Namor was pissed off enough to MENTION it, just in case there was any lingering doubt.

Kazekage said...

Yeah, I was planning to do a whole entry of freestyle raps on these, but I did that one and thought . . ."Man, there's no way I could make this work."

I know, right? I remember thinking that costume design was insanely awesome, even though looking at it now it's hopelessly impractical (seriously . . .all that hardware and a cape? He should barely be able to stand?) but dammit, cool is cool and cool cuts you a lot of leeway.

You said it, I didn't. ;)

I . . .did not know this. When did this happen?

Yeah, because it's not like Namor would otherwise trigger people's latent homophobia, right? Poor guy. Every time he gets married, his wife dies, and he never says anything. But he will fess up to kissing a lamprey.

C. Elam said...

Re: the Ultron thing. I am pretty sure it was Avengers United They Stand #1, and it came out roughly at the same time as the Ultron story that Busiek/Perez did in Avengers #19-#22. My memory is that this comic came out like a week or two prior to the reveal in the "real" Avengers book, but said the same thing.

I have always operated on the assumption that it was just bad planning that caused the cartoon book to scoop the "real" book. Oh, and that particular Avengers series is much better than it had any right to be, given that it was just a tie-in to a forgotten cartoon.

Kazekage said...

Jesus Christ, Avengers: United They Stand You know, if the new Avengers cartoon had only been, y'know animated and didn't recycle the same "suit-up" animation . . .it would have been more awesome already. Thankfully it's several orders of magnitude better.

That said, I hear the comic was orders of magnitude better than the cartoon, but then it'd have to be, wouldn't it?

Bad planning? At Marvel? Preposterous! I won't hear of it!

C. Elam said...

Yeah, the comic series was loads better than you'd think. I attribute this almost solely to the vastly underrated Ty Templeton.

I know! It is completely shocking and unprecedented!

Kazekage said...

I remember reading an article chastising the comics intelligentsia for pillorying the comic for the sins of the show, actually . . .