Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Whole Damn Thing: THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE (1983) #12

The Whole Damn Thing, A Witless Prattle production. Starring Kazekage as the recapper, an innocent victim of blind justice. Sent a complete run of the original Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe . . .resolved to recap every single listing in every single issue . . .reprieved by fate when people guest recapped entries for him. Free to toil at the job of recapping entries about losers like Vance Astro . . .free to run before the relentless pursuit of his nine blog followers asking for more content. Tonight's episode: "From Valkyrie to Zzzax."

VALKYRIE--Like Jane Russel in The Outlaw, the Valkyrie wears a metal bra, which, given how cold the Nordic countries are, was probably hell in the winter, really. In any event, the Valkyrie has an astoundingly convoluted history, beginning when the Enchantress imitated her, her mind got shared by Barbara Norriss and Samantha Parrington and . . .oy. Anyways, the Valkyrie filled the role of utility infielder in the Defenders, which is where they send you when even contemplating writing about your continuity problems gives normal folks a headache.

VANCE ASTRO--It's weird, but when you take a character out of a milieu where he's been given copious amounts of character development, wherever and whatever form they end up in, they will lose all of the aforementioned character development. Cannonball went from seasoned leader in X-Force to acting like he had a frontal lobotomy when he was "promoted" to the X-Men. The same thing happened to Vance Astrovik/Marvel Boy when he went from being Justice in New Warriors to being "promoted" the Avengers, where he decided to act like a starstruck cretin. Vance has a certain extra wrinkle, as he was Vance Astro when he first appeared and he was never interesting at all, really.

VANGUARD--


VANISHER--[Featuring Special Guest Star Chris Elam as "Dead Before Credits!"] The Vanisher's real name is "Telford Porter", which is perhaps one of the most strained pun names I have ever encountered. He is mainly noted for the being the second villain the X-Men ever
fought, and the first to dress in a costume made of bathtub mats.

VERMIN--Vermin is a strange old character. Initially created to be a Captain America villain, he eventually got shunted over to Spider-Man, because if anyone's used to beating people up based on dodgy connections to animals, it's Spidey. It's his "thing."

VIPER--The Viper has, over her many years, accumulated more weird plot barnacles than I can possibly recount here in this little blurb. First, she was chief of HYDRA, then the Serpent Squad, then she somehow got involved with the friggin' Space Phantom then she was Spider-Woman's mother and Wolverine's wife and that's far too much convolution for a character whose superpowers are "tits in green leather" and oh dear God I need to lie down now.

VISION--The Vision has forever been dragged down now by his association with the Scarlet Witch, I think, and his own history's gotten so messed up in the name of making her crazier maybe it's time they were both put on the bus, because once you've knocked up a mutant sorceress despite being hung like a Ken doll, it's all downhill from there. Also, if out there in the Internet somewhere there is Vision/Wanda slashfic called "Even An Android Can Come!" please do me a favour and never ever tell me. I don't want to know.

VULTURE--The Vulture used to be simplicity itself--geriatric gets beat up by Spider-Man. Near as I can figure, since then they had another Vulture, then the Vulture became an energy vampire and . . .God, what else? Given the state of mind of most people writing Spider-Man now, he's probably a child molester or something because comic books are Serious Fucken Business.

WAKANDA--Wakanda is one of those awesome fake comics places that it so utterly eccentric as to be wonderful. You have a wealthy, hi-tech African nation ruled by a king who dresses up as a big black cat, their major export is sonic-sensitive metal, and most of the people who try to usurp him very helpfully dress up as white gorillas in grass skirts. Oh, and it's off scenic Twisted Visions Lake. I have a summer house there myself. The view is maddening.

WASP--[Chris Elam Raids Again!] I actually like the Wasp a lot. Well, more specifically,
I admire the way she evolved over time from infuriating stereotyped token female into a solid B-list heroine. All that character development nonsense ended about a decade ago, as the new wave of Marvel creators seem mainly interested in discussing her ladyparts and killing her off. You know they are grown-up because there's sex and death and oh God who are we kidding really?

WATCHER--I forget whether it was Wizard or the late and much missed Hero Illustrated who said this, but it's easily one of the most trenchant commentaries on the Watcher ever: "The Watcher shows up, says he can't interfere and then does stuff anyway." The other is from Paul O'Brien, who said something to the effect that the Watcher is usually trotted out as a cheap attempt to lend weight to a story that doesn't necessarily merit it. They're both right, really.

WEREWOLF--His named Jack Russel, get it? GET IT!?! I never quite understood the title Werewolf-by-Night, really. I mean, aren't all werewolves by night by the very definition of Werewolf? Mind you, an evil part of me likes to imagine Werewolf-by-Night was a horror movie that inspired a bunch of goofy sequels like Werewolf on Spring Break, Werewolf in the Hood, and Werewolf 4: In Space. Some of these may have actually happened, now that I think of it.

WHIRLWIND--When starring in the Ice Capades lost its luster for him, David Cannon decided to become a supervillain and resolved to pursue his dream, whether it made any god damned sense for him to do so or not. So he got himself a big egg-shaped hat and became the Human Top, and upon getting the shit beat out of him (justifiably so) by Ant-Man, decided that what was holding him back was how ridiculous the name Human Top was and decided to change it to Whirlwind, confident that success was right around the corner for him. He's been getting his ass whipped like pudding in a mixer ever since.

WHITE QUEEN--I've always kinda felt that some of Emma Frost's bitchiness was due to the corset. From what women who've worn them have told me, they're hella uncomfortable, and the fact that you faint when you wear them too long you faint was even a plot point in that pirate movie. This would make anyone cranky. Then again, at this point Emma was yet another example of Chris Claremont's progressive views on women--that is, women dress like sluts and are dominatrix telepathic rapists.

WILL O' THE WISP--OK, so is this that Jeff Hardy move? No, that's Whisper in the Wind. The Will O' The Wisp, in addition to having one of the most unwieldy names of all time has a shockingly undefined power set and is a Spider-Man villain for some reason. Generally, this kind of villain would be more at home in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, which had quite a line in rolling out brainfucked villain after brainfucked villain there for awhile, and yet . . .he comes from the main title. I can't explain it either.

WIZARD--Doctor Doom uses his jealousy of Reed Richards to spur him on to become despot of a country, master sorcerer and unparalleled scientist. The Wizard used his jealousy of Reed Richards to put on a ridiculous hat and fly around throwing Frisbees at people. Obviously, in both cases, this is deeply pathological behaviour, but to my knowledge "looking fucking ridiculous on purpose" isn't in the DSM-IV.

WOLFSBANE--Lord, if Tigra blazed the trail for furries, then Wolfsbane was their Kitty Pryde. Completely fucked up by the twin difficulties of being Catholic and Scottish, Wolfsbane had fortune vomit on her eiderdown once again when she learned she could turn into a wolf, which really helped with the whole "hellfire and brimstone" thing, so much so she was pursued by a mob with torches and Frankenstein rakes, which near as I can tell, doesn't happen in Scotland outside of the movie Doomsday. Scots, feel free to write in and set me straight!

WOLVERINE--[Chris Elam No Gyakushu] Look, Wolverine was cool once. Those days are over.
He has been pimped out more than a five dollar hooker. He is just one more ridiculous plot contrivance - say, "the Bottle Country of Madripoor" - from topping the Silver Age Superman for sheer ludicrousness. Wolverine was never my favorite, but he needs a white anti-matter cloud sweeping away the vast majority of his convoluted and contradictory history for him to be bearable again.

WONDER MAN--Chris Sims and I don't agree on much, especially when the words "Bill Mantlo" come up, but hell, even we can see eye to eye on the fact that Wonder Man totally suuuuucccccccks. There have been many and sundry attempts to make Wonder Man in any way shape or form interesting and none of them have succeeded to any great degree. Whether he's alive, dead, dressed like a Christmas Tree, or a big collection of Kirby dots, Wonder Man has all the personality of used dishwater and is so much less compelling.

WRECKER--I've said before Loki's plans to annoy the piss out of Thor aren't exactly the most tightly thought out in supervillain history, and no greater example can be found than the senses-baffling origin of the Wrecker: Loki summons Karnilla and the Wrecker busts in on Loki's hotel room (!) knocks Loki out, puts on his hat, and Karnilla, who's too vain to wear her fucking glasses, mistakes the Wrecker for Loki and decides to magic him up with super-strength. "Now possessed of magical power that gave him super-strength, the Wrecker embarked on a brazen Wrecking spree," as opposed to those quiet understated wrecking sprees that we never hear about, I guess.

WRECKING CREW--Ole, Gene, and Arn Anderson comprise the "classic" Minnesota Wrecking Crew, despite the fact that some or all of them are not, in fact, from Minnesota. However, these are the mooks who form the Ginyu Force to the Wrecker's Captain Ginyu and share his powers thanks to hopelessly improbable happenstance of all three of them grabbing the Wrecker's crowbar at the same time they got hit by lightning. I don't know about you, but that shit happens to me all the damn time.

X-MEN--Over and above the fact that the X-Men set such a sturdy template that even Harry Potter's ripped it off, have you ever noticed that the X-Men are 1) basically a street gang and 2) comprised in large part of former villains and shit like that? I ask because I always thought there was mileage in the idea that the X-Men are together because they can't be anywhere else--they've burned their bridges in "normal" society and despite the fact that they're fucked up, they have each other. You could probably get a lot out of that . . .more than them fighting vampires, I'd say, but whatever.

X-MEN MANSION--The perfect place to wait comfortably for someone to attack you, the X-Mansion is a pretty swank pad, all things considered, though one wonders why so much of the X-Mansion seems to involve leaving little cubby holes for Professor X to hide in while he pretends to be dead for the 90th time, or rooms designed to kill the X-Men. Professor X is not exactly what one might consider worthy of teacher accreditation by the state of New York, is all I'm saying.

X-MEN JET--Chris Claremont is totally in love with the SR-71, and who can blame him? The thing looks so badass Cobra even made their own version. But Chris Claremont also loves the Shi'Ar even more and has used Shi'Ar technology (which is apparently entirely backwards compatible with, y'know, a jet) and has also used Shi'ar technology to justify all sorts of goofy things, from the Blackbird to the Danger Room. Why he didn't think to use any of that technology to keep the fucking Mansion from being destroyed roughly 90 times since then, I have no idea.

YMIR--More dangerous than Frosty the Snowman and Jack Frost (the one that molested Shannon Elizabeth in the tub, not the one that was Michael Keaton reconnecting with his son after he died) combined, Ymir is a big ass pissed off giant made of ice who swings a mighty club at people and looks like he frequently yells at people to get off his goddamned lawn.

YONDU--[Chris Elam's Counterattack] I have been asked to remind you that Kazekage hates the Guardians of the Galaxy and would like to see all of them hit by a bus. Yes, a space bus. Yondu is a blue guy with a red fin on his head that brought a bow to a raygun fight. Wait, how did he not die three panels into his first appearance?

ZEUS--It's probably different now, but this Zeus is probably not as much of a bizarre serial rapist as the actual Zeus from mythology was. Essentially a redhead fatass in a skirt, Zeus has done little of consequence yet somehow managed to merit a full page entry in the Handbook. I think they just wanted some more "Z" entries, myself.

ZODIAC--And you thought those star scrolls at the gas station were innocent fun. The Zodiac is a vast crime syndicate that thinks it's great fun to dress up as their Zodiac sign (just like David St. Hubbins' girlfriend wanted to do with Spinal Tap) and commit crimes based on their Zodiac signs. Like 99% of of all things astrological, they failed and failed spectacularly. One of the very few elements that Kurt Busiek neglected to plunder on his run on Avengers, which I always thought was an odd omission, but now I suspect because it's just too damned ridiculous to get to work properly.

ZZZAX--If ever one character has inherited the legacy of the pre-FF era monster comics, for awhile there, I think it was the Hulk. Zzzax has all the hallmarks of this--he's got a ridiculous name, he looks like the slightly jagged stock monster look, and has little in the way of mission statements, besides "break shit." As this is pretty much the standard MO of the Hulk as well, he's a natural antipode for ol' jade-jaws.

FOR THE FIRST TIME, FOR THE LAST TIME, ALIENS!
XANTHA--The Xantha are the most fucked alien race I've ever read about in 12 issues of this damn thing. Their planet gets destroyed by a rogue comet, then they only have a two spaceships left, then they get shrunk down so all of them will fit on the two spaceships. However, if they're not the right size to operate them, then what the fuck are they going to do?

XARTANS--I never quite understood what was up with Zartan's head . . .think. Was it a do-rag, or his hair, or . . .what? Oh, hang on, these are the cut-rate Skrulls, not the ruler of the Dreadnoks. Curiously enough, they actually have the same schtick . . .imitating people with near-perfect disguises. Mind you, they decided to try this with Thor, which wasn't the ideal guy to pull a subtle invasion ploy on, as Thor's method of dealing with problems boils down to smashing them with his hammer, just like Triple H.

XERONIANS--"Name of Representatives" Randau ("The Space Parasite.")" The Handbook helpfully notes that most Xeronians don't have Randau The Spice Parasol's powers of draining life energy because they weren't doing shit like eating the bleach under the kitchen sink or whatever the fuck Randy the Spunk Paratrooper did to get his powers.

YIRBEK--"Yirbek" is one of the most wonderful words, isn't it? The Yirbek are asshole alien conquerors, because every time you run into a bunch of reptile aliens, they are invariably evil, see that poor schlub in the cheap Godzilla suit Kirk fought on Star Trek.

YRDS--"Cultural Traits: Humane, guilt-ridden, shortsighted." I guess this would mean Tommy Dreamer is a Yrd.

Z'NOX--If the Skrulls are the Shockmaster of the Marvel Universe, the Z'Nox would be the Gobbledeygooker. Built up as the baddest motherfuckers in the galaxy, the Z'nox show up ready to murder the shit out of the planet, only to get driven away by Professor X shooting a big beam of love into their brains and causing them to pussy out and leave. The Z'Nox haven't been heard from since, and really no one's in a hurry to see them again, I imagine.

BONUS APPENDIX MADNESS!
TAPPING TOMMY--Whenever the words "Marvel Comics" and "Musical theatre" combine, everyone loses. For the two examples of this, I cite Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and Tapping Tommy, a villain so shitty he didn't even make the Appdendix (for comparison, Tagak the Leopard Lord, whose superpowers are "blind, likes cats" got in) Tapping Tommy is considered one of the lamest Marvel Villains ever, even by the standards of Defenders villains like Nebulon encouraged people to find their inner bozo, the Headmen enacted the most ridiculous world-domination plot ever to involve brain-switching, Doctor Strange getting in touch with his inner Rush fan, and Moondragon just plain being Moondragon, that's a tall order. Tapping Tommy embarked on the most idiotic plot to hassle Nighthawk and the Defenders ever. The Hulk would later head-butt him for this, and if anyone ever deserved that more richly, well, I don't know them.

That's all for this time, AND the living heroes of the Marvel Universe. Join us next time for the coda of this here little rock opera as we begin the Book of the Dead and Inactive, who comprise only two issues this go-round (this will soon balloon to five issues in the Deluxe Edition, and as the idea of characters dying in comic books got more ridiculous along with the body counts they stopped separating out the dead character altogether) If you'd like to kick a corpse or two around for next time, feel free to drop something in the comments and we'll add it in for next time. Join us next time for "From Air-Walker to Man-Wolf!" Oh Lord, these are people who died, died . . .and went inactive. Join us then, won't you?

3 comments:

Robin Z said...

as i was scrolling down on the aliens bit, i thought i read the words "YRDS - Tactical Gladiator" and thought man, did he really make a strained turbografx 16 joke? no, that was me, sorry.

C. Elam said...

I have very little to add that I didn't already say in guest recaps, but I am glad I saved you the extra aggravation of having to conjure something else to say about Wolverine. Because seriously, five dollar hooker.

I was thinking the other day, wasn't Wonder Man originally presented as being on par with Tony Stark? Granted, that didn't work out too well for him, but you'd think he'd be a LITTLE more on the ball than he has been. I suspect his brain didn't make it back from the dead.

I do, however, want to go on record as the only fan of the safari jacket look ever.

Kazekage said...

Robin--Dammit, I wish I did now, even if the few times I did play Veigues Tactical Gladiator, I wrecked the damn robot completely on stage 2.

Chris--I really have nothing to say about Wolverine, really. I mean.

Yes, he was, however, for all the missteps Tony Stark has made, he never--ever--thought dressing up like a Christmas tree was hip, so that's one on him. All you need to know about Wonder Man is that he thought banging the Scarlet Witch was a good idea, and look how that turns out.

I thought the safari jacket was cool right up until I saw Roger Moore rock one in Octopussy. It kinda hobbled the cool factor for me.