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.
AIR-WALKER--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.
DRAX THE DESTROYER--
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!