It began in the future. A time machine, called the original Official Marvel Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Ten blogger followers hungry for content. Now he is among us--a special breed of blogger. He has one weapon--withering sarcasm. With it, he will travel through the entire run, commenting on every entry, knowing he cannot go home until he has recapped them all. His name is Kazekage, and this is his story.
Mixed emotions here at the Prattle as issue #14 is the last but one of our run of Marvel Handbooks. This time we tie up the Book of the Dead and Inactive in a somewhat verbose little tale called "From Marvel Boy to Zuras." You will know it is time to turn the page when you hear R2-D2 beep, like this.
MARVEL BOY--If I hadn't exhausted every laughing clip last time, I would post another one here. The 1950s screamed out for a hero and all they got was a guy in little shorts who had all the powers of a flashlight wielded by Kenny from the Gamera movies. Later, he would return for vengeance in Fantastic Four because no one would give him a bank loan to get back to Uranus (hee hee) and he ended up killing himself, and. . .man, they just didn't give a shit about Fantastic Four back then, did they? Anyways, this all turned out to be moot because Marvel Boy eventually came back in Agents of Atlas and it turned out the guy that died was just some mook from Uranus (hee hee) who . . .well, it's best not dwelt upon, really. Far too confusing for a guy in Daisy Dukes with the superpowers of a a pair of headlights.
MIMIC--Like the Mafia, when you're in the X-Men, you're in for life. Unlike the Mafia, this extends to death and undeath as well. The Mimic's died like 90 times or something, and while he's really not much of a character in his own right (He's basically Flash Thompson if Flash Thompson was a gestalt of all the original X-Men. However, because the prevailing mood in comics these days is that "everything that ever happened in comics is all equally important," the Mimic can never really die and as such they hauled him out to be one of the Dark X-Men (a redundancy if ever there was one) and tried to explain his villainy because he was bipolar or something and . . .god, if the Mimic, a living continuity backwater from the bleakest days of early X-Men can be brought back, can Mekano and the Locust be far behind? I hope so!
MISS AMERICA--No, not the one from Battle Fever J, she was Japanese pretending to be American, I . . .think. Anyways, Miss America was a Golden Age superhero (one of the last really successful ones, I think, if my history's right) whom Roy Thomas (you were expecting Steve Gerber) hauled out of the mothballs to be in the Invaders and also to explain the parentage of Nuklo, who . . .y'know, I'm not really sure what was ever the point of Nuklo, really.
MORBIUS--A living, breathing, loophole in the Comics Code, Morbius was a "Living Vampire," as opposed to the other kind, which was bad. Morbius, like Nova, Ghost Rider, and Spider-Woman was part of an initiative around the time of the Shooter Era that is a title ended, the goddamned door slammed shut on them and they would never--ever--come back. Of course, they came back later, but at the time they believed in definitive, final endings at Marvel. He's not the first guy we'll see who was a victim of the policy or the last--this just happened to be the the most opportune time to mention it because I have frighteningly little to say about fucking Morbius.
NEBULON--The only man Sub-Mariner ever kissed like he meant it, Nebulon is actually a big puke-green lamprey thing that impersonated Namor's consort and they sucked face. Somehow, this all tied in to Nebulon's plans to be a guru or something, but I think that Nebulon's lasting legacy was to be Steve Gerber's thumb to the eye in regard to all these highfalutin' cosmic entities that were beginning to bung up in the Marvel Universe in the 70's
NIGHTHAWK--The Defenders really needed a Batman to ride herd on the general crazy-ass nature of the group, someone with a tough, non-nonsense attitude to rein in the lunatics, manic-depressives and the Hulk. What they got was a knockoff of a knockoff of Batman and thus, the future course of the Defenders was charted. Oh, and the girl he nearly killed in a drunk driving accident united with a team of psychics who exploded his brain. I think I missed the PSA that said that could happen when you drive drunk, but it's very important, obviously.
NOVA--Someone--and I wish I could remember who--said once that every decade, Marvel tries to re-create Spider-Man. Nova was the 70's attempt, Speedball the 80's, and Darkhawk the 90's. Nova was surprisingly beloved by a certain subset of comic creators in the 90s (Erik Larsen must have goddamn near adored him) and actually had a bit of renaissance recently with the Cosmic Marvel stuff here in the new millennium.
OMEGA--A lot has been written about Steve Gerber's Omega the Unknown, and even though I've never read it, if I could perhaps get my hands on reprints, I would totally be into it judging by what I've read about it. Generally the story of a young child growing up framed around a superhero story, Omega was a different kind of book that was too good to last, and really an idea worth exploring. It's a shame that the indie/superhero division is so sharp sometimes, as you can tell a lot of stories in the superhero genre that don't necessarily have to involve fights and tights. Not every concept maps on to outre superheroic takes of course, but why not make it happen?
PATRIOT--Everything I know about the Patriot I know thanks to Stuckey's. Because I stopped at a Stuckey's just before the NC/Virginia border and got one of those 3 comic packs that you used to find everywhere and man, the cool shit you used to find in those! Oh sure, occasionally, you got some shitty Charlton book jammed in the middle, but sometimes you struck gold--I got a reprint of Michael Golden's Micronauts and this issue (and a shitty Charlton horror comic) of Captain America, wherein the Patriot died in his bed while Cap watched and oh yeah, the Porcupine upgraded his armor. Some damn good Mike Zeck art there, if I remember right.
PHANTOM EAGLE--Proof That Kazekage's Critical Capacity Is Dubious, Part 134: I once bought Marvel/DC: All Axess because I was promised a dogfight between Enemy Ace and the Phantom Eagle. This is the kind of stuff that appeals to me, superheroes in the First World War. Apparently, his story was later tied up in Ghost Rider because . . .well . . .I'm not entirely sure why, really.
PHOENIX--I think Jean Grey's either tied or exceeded the time she's been dead the first time. I have nothing to say about Jean Grey in any meaningful sense (not that that's ever stopped me before) but I will tell you this--the Phoenix costume is some totally bitchin' design. It's striking, sleek, works in "Good" and "Evil" modes equally well, and has worked so well that I don't think anyone has managed a better costume for her since.
PIP THE TROLL--Jim Starlin once referred to Pip as "a generally useless troll," which is really not giving him a lot of credit, as he once defeated a giant pimp called Pro-Boscis the Procurer (THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED) in an issue of Warlock one time, which is easily the biggest upset since Sky Low Low and Little Tokyo beat Andre in that handicap match at the Garden back in '81.
RED GUARDIAN I--Captain America got a shield. Captain Britain got a magic Q-tip that allowed him to fly. The Red Guardian . . .threw his belt buckle at people. Now, while this would seem tactically disadvantageous, I remind you that this was noted Fabulous Freebird Buddy Jack Roberts' weapon of choice in a six-man no holds barred Badstreet match with the Von Erichs. We here at the Prattle are satisfied when a weapon has undergone Freebird testing, as it's clearly been proven effective on the baddest street in the whole USA.
RED GUARDIAN II--FACT: Being in the Defenders will fuck your life up hardcore. Witness the sad tale of the Red Guardian, who comes to America with dreams of being on a major superteam and ends up on the Defenders, then decides to hook up with the Presence, whom she had a lot in common with--primarily their fatal levels of radioactivity. She would disappear from comics I think until Kurt Busiek used her and the Presence in the Avengers, because Kurt Busiek, that's why.
RED RAVEN--The boys at House to Astonish have made great hay over the fact that Red Raven may in fact be Marvel Comic's most idiotic hero, and that's even in comparison with characters who are genuinely developmentally disabled. Here's why: Red Raven was an orphan child rescued by a race of bird people, all of whom have big wings which allow them to fly. He has no wings. Remember that, it's important. The bird-people raise him until the age of 21 where he finally declares "I sense I am not like you!" OH GOD NO, YOU THINK? WHAT TIPPED YOU OFF, THE LACK OF WINGS?!? FUCKING MORON. Anyways, the Red Raven appeared maybe three times total when this issue was published--once in his own comic in the Golden Age (it was immediately cancelled, because even by the standards of the Golden Age this was pretty horseshit) then in X-Men in an issue best called "perfunctory" (because . . .well, Roy Thomas) and in Sub-Mariner, where he politely goes apeshit and dies. I beleive he's come back since then, but I really don't feel like exploring it because I have written far more about Red Raven than Red Raven deserves.
SATANA--Tarot before Tarot was even a glimmer in Jim Balent's eye, Satana combines two things comics fans can't get enough of--titties and witchcraft. Satana is the sister of the Son of Satan, but that was downplayed because "Satana, Sister of the Son of Satan" contravened the 1971 Alhambra Alabama Alliteration Act. Satana, near as I can figure walked around looking evil and doing evil shit and looking hot and I think she's back to life now or something because again, if Tarot has taught us anything is that comics survive because they allow our imaginations to take flight in fictional worlds of purest imagination. Also: titties and witchcraft.
SHANG-CHI--Another Stuckey's story: I got a copy of Master of Kung-Fu in one of those 3-packs (the other 2 were a Marvel Two-In-One featuring the Serpent Squad and some Buck Rogers comic by a company I can't remember) and ohhh shit, did Master of Kung-Fu have some sweet sweet art back in the day. They had all these big page spreads bordered by what looked like temple carvings, plenty of shadows, and yet the action was crisp and well-choreographed . . .damn, it was good.
SON OF SATAN--Long before Warren Ellis tried to make him into his version of a Vertigo book. Damion Hellstrom attempted to live a normal life despite the fact that his name was Damion, he had hair that looked like horns, and the word "hell" was in his name. Five minutes after that didn't work he decided to go for the whole son of Satan thing in the only way he knew how--by putting on tights and gadding about in ways King Diamond would have been ashamed of. Naturally, he ended up in the Defenders with all the other troublemakers and he married Hellcat, which was . . .yeah, that was gonna end well.
SPIDER-WOMAN--Many years ago, Jessica Drew, who will always sound in my mind like Val from Knot's Landing for some reason (might this be Witless Prattle's most obscure reference ever? I think it just might!) got one of the most confusing origins it's possible to have in the Marvel Universe, threw on a pair of tights, and decided to become Spider-Woman. To know her is to fear her, and to gaze upon her camel toe is to see all the possibilities Brian Bendis sees in the Marvel Universe every single day.
SPIRIT OF 76--Man, that bicentennial shit got right our of fucking control back in the day, didn't it? In one of the most Roy Thomas of all retcons, William Nasland went from breeches and tricorner-hat wearing persuader in the war against evil to replacement Captain America, only to be killed by an android. It's a good thing he didn't make it to modern times, really, because if he'd been rocking the Spirit of 76 thing, Clea would have molested him so hard the room would stank.
SPITFIRE--Marvel Comics SCIENCE punches you in the face with the origin of Spitfire: Woman gets bitten by Baron Blood, woman gets blood transfusion from original Human Torch (who has blood now because shut the fuck up, that's why) and woman gets super-speed powers because Marvel Comics had a handful of female superheroes back in the day and only one had superpowers, I think. This gleeful defiance of even the most basic logic or sanity is why despite all my complaining, I do love comics.
SWORDSMAN--I have a theory, and it's a great one. I think that sometimes the Avengers just assume that you are an Avenger if you hang around the Mansion long enough, meaning that the Avengers by-laws are only slightly more involved than that of a game of pickup hoops. Such is what happened with the Swordsman, who was a bad-guy of long standing who ended up joining basically because he was all hot for Mantis, and their love soon went in a weird direction when he died and his corpse was reanimated by a big green plant-alien and then she took a shot in her baby bunker and this whole thing is really skeevy, innit?
TERRAX--Hey, have you noticed Galactus' choices for manpower are epically stupid? Because Terrax should be a great example of this. Sick and tired of having his heralds have a sudden attack of conscience rebel against him, Galactus searched far and wide for an utter bastard, found one and gave him godlike power . . .and then he rebelled anyway. Once again, ladies and gentlemen--Galactus: Failure at Everything.
THANOS--In about six years, of course, this would be utterly irrelevant, but here's a bit of trivia even I didn't know about until recently--apparently Thanos was initially intended as a knockoff of the New God known as Metron rather than Darkseid. Mind you, he eventually became more identified with the other, but vacillates back and forth between the two--during the later 90's Starlin tended to write him as a more aggressively amoral version of Metron (he even had the funky chair) Nowadays, he seems to be more blatantly a Darksied stand-in, which is kind of a shame, as Thanos has a few stories where he's a somewhat sympathetic heel. I should review those sometime, I think.
3-D MAN--Fuck me with Godzilla's dick, I have NOTHING to say about the god damned 3-D Man. Why in the name of god has the 3-D Man been constantly trotted out when I have not met ONE person who has even the slightest affection for him? Seriously--he's an ersatz character that exists solely because the 1950s needed superhero coverage in the Marvel Universe, and because Everything is Important Whether It's Good Or Not, we get this trotted out every now and again and pushed down our throats. Does that mean we have to plunder all of John Byrne's "lost generation" characters year after year as well? Because I don't know if I could take that.
THUNDERBIRD--Thunderbird, as required under the Iron Eyes Cody Identification Act of 1974, wears fringes and a feather in his hair in case you forgot that he was Native American. Just in case the visual cues weren't enough, he seemed unable to go two sentences without mentioning he was an Apache, which is the kind of thing Chris Claremont would do years later when Mirage burst on the scene and reminded us all she was Cheyenne just in case we forgot about it.
THUNDERBOLT--Man, that Thunderbolt gets a larger entry than Thunderbird really puts things in perspective, doesn't it? Anyways, Willie Carver get hit by lightning and the only hope to save his life is a cobalt-ray treatment (cobalt was everywhere in the Silver Age. There was nothing it couldn't do) and got super-speed as a result. Oh, and his aging also got super-accelerated because again, cobalt. He eventually accomplished his mission just in time to age to death, which is pretty damn convenient timing, yeah?
TORO--Back in the wistful days of the Golden Age, apparently heroes had a really good sidekick referral program, because no sooner did they burst on the scene, than they got a sidekick with the same powers and appearance, save for being a bit shorter. Naturally, Toro reappeared in the Roy Thomas Invasion of the 70's and was immediately killed because apparently the pattern was "be Golden Age/50's hero, show up in Fantastic Four, die." I don't pretend to understand it.
TORPEDO--The rule in ROM, apparently is, if you guest star, you're fine, but if you're allied with Rom in his own book, your ass is fucking dead. A loose plot thread from one of those early proto-crossover stories they did in the 70s, the Torpedo joins up with Rom to defend the West Virginia town Rom worked out of and gets his brain sucked out by the Dire Wraiths. Eventually his suit gets nicked by the Dire Wraiths and by the hero(es) known as Turbo back when the Dire Wraiths (who had been fully and completely destroyed and no mistake) came back. It was a weird time.
WARLOCK--Everything I have to say about Adam Warlock I think I shall save for another time when I can talk about it in detail. I will, however, refer you to Adam WarRock and the Infinity Watch, which is awesome and completely worth your investment of time and money and who I really should have called upon to freestyle his way through one of these Handbooks instead of doing it myself, but uh . . .I don't really know the guy personally.
WHITE TIGER--When Tommy lost the Green Ranger powers, Zordon . . .oh wait, this is the other guy. Appearing in a comic with one of the greatest titles ever, The Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu, the White Tiger was the Captain Planet of the Sons of the Tiger, as he possessed all the power that big green gaudy jewelry can confer, which is apparently a lot. The funny thing about this is the whole "team contributes to the powers of the ultra-cool secret member) would be used again in Team America.
WHIZZER--Look, I'm not sure how long ago the slang began, but god almighty, if you're going to call yourself "The Whizzer," don't dress in yellow--you're just asking for trouble. That being said, the Whizzer was one of those Golden Age characters that Roy Thomas brought back, apparently to explain the parentage of Quicksilver and the Scarlet With, and then Nuklo got involved and the whole thing turned out to be a big red herring, and I really don't understand why he thought it would be a good idea to dress up like fast-moving urine. I really fucking don't.
VAMPIRES--In yet another of those big "slam the door down with finality" things, every Vampire that ever was or would exist (minus one) Doctor Strange apparently decided he'd had enough of Dracula's bullshit and found the one book in the world that had a page titled "In case you want to kill all vampires, read this" and Dracula burst in just in time to get dead, dead, dead. I think this lasted all of . . .seven years? Then it got reversed because Strange's brother got turned into a vampire. I never knew he had a brother.
YELLOWJACKET--Everyone's favourite fuckup makes an appearance on his way to becoming so irrevocably broken that it'd be better if he jut stopped appearing in things, but now he's Giant Man again because Everything is Very Important, Whether It Was Good Or Not.
ZOMBIE--As you might expect, the Zombie is actually Batman. No, that's not right. He's actually a Steve Gerber riff on an old Atlas-era horror story that came about because Marvel wanted horror magazines to compete with Warren and hey, why not zombies?
ZURAS--Zuras is an Eternal, and considering how soporifically dull the Eternals are, I was amazed to find out he was dead, because if they hadn't told me, I would hardly have been able to tell the difference. Anyhow, he's dull, and this is near the end of the book and I have nothing more to say about the motherfucking Eternals except I'm glad this is the last time I have to write about one.
AFTER DEATH IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE--This is a quick article about the various death gods who come under Death in the whole hierarchy of . . .the whole dying thing. I have nothing of any great consequence to say about any of them, except why is Yama, the Oriental death god coloured green? Put your hands down, I was speaking rhetorically.
Well, that's all for the penultimate edition of the Official Hanbook of the Marvel Universe. Next time we wrap it all up with one last look at the Book of Weapons, Hardware, and Paraphenalia. Sounds exciting doesn't it? If you'd like to sit in on one last episode and have something meaningful to say about how Cyclops' eye beam thingy works, leave a comment here and we'll slot you in for next time. Join us for one last loving look, won't you?