Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Continuing our epic run-down of who was who in eighty tw--er, three, it's time for issue #2--Baron Mordo to the Collective Man, in what sounds like the most peculiar gay porno ever really.

Let's get ready to rumble!

BARON MORDO--I saw these guys at the Boathouse and they fucking ROCKED. Baron Mordo is the grand high macha of Raspar (a non-existent but real sounding county) who decided his aspiration began an ended with being Dr. Strange's arch-nemesis, which is about as ambitious as declaring war on those kindergartners picking their nose on the swing set during recess.

BARON ZEMO--The Zemos were big into glue, and like the Plainview guy in There Will Be Blood, it has totally screwed them up for all time. His father's face got encased in a glue-filled mask, the second Baron got his face mangled with hot glue. And yet kids eat paste all the time and they laugh, ignorant of the ultimate consequences of their actions.

BASILISK--If it says "Marvel Team-Up" under "First Appearance," you can damn sure bet the character involved will not survive to the next version. The Basilisk, like so many people who used the Insty-Supervillain Origin Kit, found a rock the Kree left over and decided to become a supervillain, which says a lot about the rather scattershot invasion plans the Kree had. "Yeah, whatever, leave a few rocks around, we'll get to it."

BATROC--Yes, well. There are people who think Batroc Ze Leapair is utterly hilarious. I am not one of those people. Batroc is a tired French stereotype who gets rolled out long after there are plenty of other French stereotypes to roll out and at least inject some variety into the proceedings, but no, let's drag out Batroc to brag a lot and get the shit kicked out of him. Again.

BEAST--You would be forgiven for thinking that a guy who can play ping-pong with his feet wouldn't be able to do much on a super-team with a thunder god and a dude in a mech suit that could wreck a small country. However, at this point in time, the Beast is with the Defenders, where is only competition is either Evil Jimmy Olsen or Patsy Walker with a head cold, so really he strides like a titan among them.

BEETLE--This is Beetle Mk 2 for people keeping score--the first Beetle looked at Iron Man's example, and created a suit with big tentacle-rape hands, a bucket on his head, and fragile wings that damn near everyone tore off the minute he flew in. He apparently upgraded in time for the Handbook, which raised his jobber profile from "one of the Mulkeys" up to "Iron Mike Sharpe."

BELLADONNA--Belladonna is a woman with a gun and a scarf and a hat, which meant back then all you really needed to be a supervillain back then was a JC Penny shopping spree. She apparently annoyed Spider-Man back in the day. If you graphed out all of Spider-Man's villains and broke it up by who was trying hard and who wasn't, Hypno Hustler would fall on one side, Belladonna would fall on another. I leave it to you to determine.

BINARY--Carol Danvers, after Avengers #200: She gets her powers nicked by Rogue, angsts up a storm about it in X-Men, then gets to become even more powerful than before, so powerful, in fact, she pretty much disappears from the Marvel Universe for the next seven years or so. Can't imagine why some folks (OK, me) say she's a busted character.

BLACK BOLT--Black Bolt has an awesome costume--in fact it was one of the first that really grabbed me as being totally awesome. He also has an utterly batshit power set, in that he can zap people with Kirby dots from his antenna thing, zap people with rays from his hands, and if he so much as burps, he can destroy a city. Oh and he can can access the unknown particles in his brain and use them to mess with gravitons and make himself fly. You hear that? You could be flying right now, but your brain is too lazy.

BLACK CAT--This is before Kevin Smith decided she needed a rape in her backstory, obviously. Her entry goes in to the whole nonsense about her "bad luck" powers, which kept appearing and disappearing and getting different explanations and Dr. Strange got involved, and Joe Linsner was right, she looks more like the White Weasel than the Black Cat.

BLACK KNIGHT--Later on in the 80's and the early 90's there came among some members of the Marvel writing team a need to push Black Knight to the moon. So he ended up on the Avengers, then he got a bomber jacket and a lightsaber and by the early 90's he's banging Sersi and fighting his evil clone. It's a real American success story.

BLACKLASH--Kurt Busiek once said the name "Blacklash" was more suited for eyeliner than an Iron Man villain, and so decided he should wear a gimp mask and fly around on a Pogo Ball. I say he was way overthinking it--frankly Blacklash, whatever his name is, is merely enhancement talent, and it really doesn't matter what his name is, so long as he falls down when Iron Man punches him.

BLACK MAMBA--Black Mamba is an ex-hooker turned snake-themed villainess, and thanks to her ability to create horny illusions made out of Darkforce, that all-purpose plot-convenient substance Marvel loves to use to explain shit. People suffocate and die when her horny illusions get hold of them, but the Handbook reminds us "they do, however, die in ecstasy," so there's that.

BLACK PANTHER--Like Namor, Wakanda seems at times to be made of people who only want to overthrow or beat up the Panther, which frankly was his thing for awhile. I once read a series of stories written by Don McGregor which seemed to positively revel in the Panther getting fucked up ever more as the story went on. Once he even stepped in a bear trap and spent 25 pages trying to get the thing off while not bleeding to death. All things being equal, I think I'd chuck it all and hang out with the Avengers too.

BLACK WIDOW--This is back when Frank Miller gave her a butch cut and that grey pair of longjohns that lasted forever and a day. If I remember right this was the kind of dead season of her fortunes because no one used her for awhile there after Frank decided that Bullseye needed to beat the shit out of her so we knew Bullseye was a bad muthafucka. Sexually progressive fella, that Frank.

BLASTAAR--Blastaar (no relation to Thundaar, at least none that I'm aware of) Blastaar was able to parlay the fact that he looked like a cave troll and shot lasers out of his fingers into both rulership of a planet and also a cool-ass subtitle: The Living Bomb-burst. That guy who lay on the couch in the common area in your college doing bong hits . . .how he' doing? Ruling a planet yet? Got a cool name like the High Monarch of Marijuana? No, and you know why? He's a loser.

BLITZKREIG--Oh God. Naturally West Germany's protector would name himself after the Nazi's doctrine of "lightning War," wouldn't he? Proof that a little knowledge of a foreign language can be a dangerous thing, Biltzkreig was a member of Contest of Champions' Team Stereotype, and that means as a representative of his home country, was about 50% less accurate than, say, the German sections at EPCOT Center.

BLIZZARD--Remember back in Blacklash's entry I said that some villains are enhancement talent and exist solely to fall down when hit? Yeah, Blizzard is like that. Of course, in our more edgy and higher-developed day and age he would be a child rapist who froze kids in his basement and shot ice dicks at them or some shit because heaven forbid people put on silly costumes just in the name of stealing some fucking money.

BLOB--I have never really "bought" that the Blob is a mutant, because in my estimation "being a big fat asshole" doesn't really rise to the level of a superpower, mutant or otherwise. This is all I really have to say about the Blob.

BLUE SHIELD--When I woke up this morning, I asked myself certain searching questions about what the day would lead to for me, and where my life was going in general. It was only about . . .oh, 11 o'clock before I asked myself "Who the fuck is the Blue Shield, and why should I give a damn?" I had no answer then, I have no answer now.

BOOMERANG--Not, not that guy. Fred Myers decided he wasn't making enough money as a baseball pitcher and decided to make some real money with a bunch of trick boomerangs. This is how I like to think Kenny Powers will end up.

BROTHER VOODOO--Less known for doing anything important ever (Yes, I know they made him Sorcerer Supreme, but the hiring criteria for Sorcerer Supreme is pretty lax--I got to be Sorcerer Supreme once because I was the 12th caller.) and being the butt of Fred Hembeck's jokes, Brother Voodoo has all the powers of a brother and all the powers of a voodoo. Yes, of course he's black. I feel very bad for Brother Voodoo.

BROTHERHOOD OF EVIL MUTANTS--The thing I like most about the Brotherhood is the inherent contradiction in their name . . .they're a Brotherhood of EVIL mutants. Now if you were a truly hardcore gang of bad-ass mutants, one would imagine you would play up the EVIL part of that, but Magneto wisely said, "Nope, we're gonna balance both of them--I don't want people to get the wrong impression of my little terrorist group. It's all about branding, guys."

BULLSEYE--Bullseye had one good story in him and one good arch-enemy--Daredevil--and frankly it should have ended there. However, then a group of Frank Miller fanboys got into comics, and jammed him down the collective throat of the readership and that's why he got to be an Avenger. While Bullseye works great in his street-level milieu, I think when you take him out of that and make him an Avenger killing people on the side and pretending to be Hawkeye, well, he becomes a bit asinine.

CANNONBALL--Cannonball is your worst nightmare--a Kentucky hayseed who's "nigh-invulnerable when he's blastin." I have a number of relatives in my family who were moonshiners. They had much the same problem.

CAPTAIN AMERICA--Captain America doesn't know anything about NASCAR, Myspace, or American Idol, so I ripped the page out of the book and threw it in the bin. No, I'm kidding, because that would be an idiotic thing to put in a comic, wouldn't it? There's no way they'd even publish stupid bullshit like that.

CAPTAIN BRITAIN--This is not Alan Moore/Alan Davis Captain Britain just yet (at least I don't think so) this is "lion on his chest, flies with a Q-tip" Captain Britain. This is still light-years better than that stupid female Captain Britain that Chuck Austen came up with, but that goes without saying, doesn't it?

CAPTAIN MARVEL--This is the second Captain Marvel--I think there's 19 of them now. Monica Rambeau was a legacy hero Marvel really did try to get behind--I remember a time in the 80's when if the Avengers showed up she was on the scene and she even got to be leader for awhile, until those plans got sabotaged. I understand after that she was in Nextwave, and I ask you, pretty please, don't send me messages telling me I should read that "because it's cooler than Tastee-Freeze." I really don't care.

CAPTAIN UNIVERSE--Less a character than a plot device (not unlike the Intercontinental Championship) Captain Universe pops round and gives unlikely characters super-duper powers in the name of , . . .we, because of . . .well, you'd have to ask Steve Ditko why any of this seemed like a good idea. Being that I have entered my "grown ass man" years, I wisely stopped caring about Captain Universe when X-23 got to be Captain Universe, rather than receiving something useful, like interesting characterisation.

CELESTIALS--Giant Space Gods who are practically bristling with Jack Kirbyness and who generally show up like the Watcher when dramatic awe is needed. Also, one of them is called "Oneg the Prober." There is no possible way to spin that as a good thing, space god or not.

CHAMPION OF THE UNIVERSE--Oh fuck me gently with a chainsaw, the Elders of the Universe. Thanos once called the Elders "an ineffective and stupid lot," and he wasn't wrong. The Champion is a super-athlete, and for some reason, rather than writing any more about his boring ass, I find myself wondering who was the other member of the Kansas Jayhawks who wasn't Dutch Mantell. Who was he?

CHAMPIONS OF XANDAR--The funny thing about the Champions of Xandar, they all died two months after this issue hit, I think, jobbed out to Nebula, who was then being pushed as an uber-villain and also they weren't publishing Nova at the time anyways, so who really gave a shit? Anyways, the Champions of Xandar were a bunch of underachieving bumwads, just like every Xandarian who's ever been in Marvel comics (seriously, even Firelord and Air-Walker) when you're recruiting a high-school freshman from Earth to defend your planet, I think that says it all, really.

CHARLIE-27--BOBBY JAGGERS! That's who the other Kansas Jayhawk was! Oh, wait, hang on--Charlie-27 is a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which means that despite many an effort to change my mind, he is a punishingly dull character. I can't even read his Handbook entry without falling asleep, so I'm just going to assume that he has the powers of 27 men named Charlie and movie on to something I might give a damn about.

CIRCUS OF CRIME--So much for moving onward and upward. Like Blizzard, Blacklash, and so many others, the Circus of Crime exists less as a legitimate threat and more so people have a group of villains to beat ass on. Now, back before every bad guy had to be a slavering degenerate or ridiculously overpowered you could do this kind of thing, but as Vince Russo proved, when you try to get everyone over, you end up getting no one over.

CLOAK & DAGGER--Cloak and Dagger were two buckets of angst that rapidly became cult favorite characters who got their powers the old fashioned way--by shooting up bad heroin. Naturally, this was all explained as it activating their latent mutant powers, and they became X-Men because 300 X-Men were NOT ENOUGH to meet demand. Anyways, for all their renown, I would say that Cloak and Dagger succeed more on their striking visuals more than great characterisation--really Cloak being a brooding bucket of angst and Dagger is a happy, bright ingenue. Then again, as this is Bill Mantlo we're talking about here . . .

COBRA--I have never understood why of all the people Cobra could have fucked with, he decided to hassle Thor. "Hi, I'm Thor. I'm ludicrously strong, I can summon storms, travel through time, and when I'm bored bash people with my hammer until they stop talking. Who are you?" "Hi Thor, I am the Cobra. I can squeeze myself into a drainpipe if I have a good tailwind." This should have been a four-panel comic, and that's with serious decompression.

COLLECTIVE MAN--Being from China, the Collective Man has the ability to own most of our debt. No, wait, the Collective Man is five guys who can merge into one guy who has all the powers of five guys plus the entire nation of China, which is a pretty good deal, when you think about it. The collective man, in addition to being a groan-worthy stereotype (THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN CHINA, GET IT?) was also the last gasp of Marvel's mania for Communist supervillains/heroes. Naturally this was handled with their usual taste and sensitivity . . .

BA-BANI--Willowy, girly, dudes, the Ba-Bai are here only because Moondragon decided that being an Avenger and Defender wasn't enough and what would really put her over the top would be to conquer her own planet. Naturally, Moondragon set her sights on the Planet of the Yaoi and the Avengers had to come and get the naught naughty girl and make her double-swear to never conquer planets again. I say, given that this is Moondragon we're talking about here, they kind of deserved what they got.

BADOON--When it comes to conquering Earth, most alien races in the Marvel Universe really half-ass the job. The Badoon quarter-ass it. Generally ineffective, the Badoon somehow conquer Earth during the Guiardians of the Galaxy's time because . . uhm, well with the Guardians of the Galaxy on the case, it's not as if we're fielding the "a" squad, are we?

BROOD--So Chris Claremont saw Alien one night, calls up Dave Cockrum and says, "Hey Dave, it's Chris. Yeah, look, have you seen Alien? Yeah, with the thing coming out of the guy's stomach? Look, can we put one in X-Men this month? Oh. Oh-oh. Yeah, well, I don't want a lawsuit or anything, so let's do something kind of like an alien but give it more tentacles and make it more rapey. That should cover our asses."

CENTAURIANS--Centaurians are blue guys with a fin who act like Native Americans, because Marvel will do considerable for the orange skins, a little for the blue skins, the best they can for the green skins, but there's one they never bother with . . .the red skins. ANSWER ME THAT, MR. STAN LEE!

CENTURII--There was a Centurii named Gormok. I find that funny for some reason. In fact, most of my amusement in these Alien entries comes from their silly names, and I haven't even got to the aliens named after cheeses yet.

CIEGRIMITES--The Cigrimites are known for making kick-ass liquor, which makes all the sense in the world when you consider that they look like something you might see if you had a raging case of the DTs.

CHR'YLITES--Bug eyes, green, spindly, looks like a helicopter. Dave Cockrum, is that you?

COTATI--You know, the Cotati are weird as hell. When you consider that one of them reanimated a dead corpse in order to marry a woman and have a kid. Yes, Vegisexual necrophilia. Under the circumstances all you can think are . . ."damn that's fucked up" and "I really hope that fetish is not widespread."

Before I sign off, I'd like to suggest, in the interests of audience participation, you all submit write-ups for characters you'd like to run down. Just leave a comment, and we'll go from there. Make my life easier. I beg of you!

Meanwhile, that'll do it for another installment of the Handbook! Join us next time when we cover everyone from The Collector to Dracula, which will include Rusty Shackles' favourite character of all time, Doctor muthafuckin Strange! Who will survive? Tune in and find out!

Monday, November 29, 2010


(Before I begin this sure to be rambling discourse about a book nearly 30 years old, let me first say that the Prattle is indebted--once again--to Christoper Elam, who in bequeathing these 15 volumes inspired me to give this whole bloody-minded endurance test a go in the first place. Blame or praise should go in his direction)

It's rather fraught with peril to do anything related to the Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe at this point. For one thing, Leonard Pierce's long-lived and absolutely hilarious takedown of both the Marvel Handbook and DC's Who's Who has helped me survive many a long night and fill it with laughter, oh such laughter. Also, House To Astonish regularly does the Official Handbook to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which takes a character from the Handbook's pages and re-purposes them, often hilariously, into newer and vital characters. They're good people, and kind people, and both deserve your patronage, so go have a look. I'll wait.

Back already? Great. Now, the problem I have is the world probably needs one more write-up on this series like it needs a hole in its collective heads, plus it looks like egregious dick-riding. However, hopefully my write-up will set itself apart by dint of the following two points:

1) This is the 1983 edition of the Marvel Handbook, which, discounting the Contest Of Champions backmatter, is the OG version of this here thing, and, by virtue of its timing, is a curious historical artifact. We're pre-Secret Wars, pre-linewide crossovers as a general rule, and still wiping the sleep of the 70's from our eyes. Walt Simonson is just kicking into high gear on Thor, Byrne is hitting his stride on Fantastic Four, and Uncanny X-Men is still pre issue 200 and thus well away from in inevitable slide into madness. It's interesting to look back and see which characters were getting promoted when (yes, Team Stereotype from Contest of Champions is in here) in light of how they ended up.

2) I am covering every entry in the book, except for the Appendix. I don't care how goddamned obscure the character is, if I must struggle with my dying breath to say something witty about Mercurio the Fourth-Dimensional Man or Ten-For of the Autocron race, well, I guess I shall. Remember: I drive seven hours for fun.

Ok, so those are my hooks, and look at it this way--it's a steady flow of content!

Are you sitting comfortably? Let's begin now:

ABOMINATION--If "Emil Blonsky" isn't the most Cold War name a comic character can have, I don't know what is. "Lenin Stalindropov," maybe. Anyways, the Abomination got super-powers from radiation, because in the 1960s "superpowers" was how they sugarcoated the diagnosis of "lymphatic cancer."

ABSORBING MAN--Oh my, yes. Crusher Creel and his pet wrecking ball Testicles get superpowers from Loki, the god of mischief during his "I'm going to hand out superpowers to random jamokes in the name of really pissing Thor off" and becomes the Absorbing Man, who absorbs the properties of things in much the same way as his cousin, Mr. Clean.

EL AGUILA--Ethnically speaking, you should know a few things about comics--all Arabs are either coloured red or a weird dark grey and all people of Spanish descent have pencil-thin mustaches that John Waters quietly seethes with envy over. Comic creators don't get out much. El Aguila can zap people with electricity from his sword, but pretends that he just has a sword with an electric blaster inside, lest people find out he's a mutant, because while we can tolerate people zapping people with swords by mechanical means, you do that naturally and they will kill your ass.

AIM--The Advanced Idea Mechanics are a group of brilliant scientists who create whatever insane shit Jack Kirby thought up that could shoot big crackly dots at things. For some reason, this collective of brilliant minds elected to dress everyone in beekeeper suits. And really, if they're so smart, who are we to judge really? Maybe it's we who do not get it. None of which addresses a somewhat obvious flaw--if they get smacked in the head and their helmet gets turned around, how the hell do they see?

AJAK--At last count there were 912 Eternals gallumphing through the Marvel Universe, and of those, maybe 7 of them are at all interesting. Ajak is not very interesting, save for the fact that his lack of a neck and ridiculous hat that really knock the hell out of the conceit that the Eternals are an "advanced race."

ALPHA FLIGHT--There are about 8 characters in the Alpha Flight entry. Every one of them has died at least twice. I have a wonderful love/hate relationship with Alpha Flight, mainly due to Bill Mantlo's run on the book where they--no lie!--wanted to turn it into their version of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. Ultimately, this ended up making the book, everyone who worked on it, and most of the people who read it utterly insane.

ALPHA PRIMITIVES--The Inhumans were supposed to be this isolated group of special people who lived in a special city in the Himalayas and it took about, oh 15 years give or take for anyone to give much thought to the notion that, despite their roles as nominal protagonist status, they had a whole slave class called "Alpha Primitives," which are basically a clone race of brownshirts, which now that I think about it, was pretty much what they did in the Star Wars prequels.

AMERICAN EAGLE--Ohhhhh shiiiiiit. American Eagle is a Native American, and as such is coloured pinkish, because shut up, that's why. In case this was not enough of a give-away, he also wears a huge feathered headdress, feathers on his pants, carries arrows . . .I mean, damn. Anyways, American Eagle got his powers from a Uranium mine, which sounds like it has more a future than say, a blanket full of smallpox. He's very stereotypical, is all I'm saying.

ANACONDA--Despite what you may be thinking, this is the lesbian from the Serpent Squad, not Sir Mix-A-Lot's penis. Anaconda gets to be strong, gets gills, oh, and her arms can crush the shit out of you. She nearly drowned the Thing in her first appearance, back when the surest way to get some heat on a new bad guy was to have that bad guy beat the shit out of the Thing, Thor, or the Hulk. After Thundra, this makes the second girl who could stand toe to toe with Benjy, so . . .yeah. This means something.

ANGAR THE SCREAMER--His introductory story was called--and I am not making this up--"Vengeance in the Sky With Diamonds." That alone makes Angar, a filthy hippie with a voice that made you trip balls on LSD worth noting, even if it proves that comic writers were no more "with it" regarding hippies than they were with, y'know, Night Thrasher.

ANGEL--Oh, for the days when Angel's origin and powers could fill one page if you tried hard enough. The Angel can fly, just like everyone in the Marvel Universe, and ever since the mid-80s, a concentrated effort has been underway to make the Angel a little more meaningful as a character, hence his progression from Angel, the Archangel, to Angel Smurf, to Luminous Blue Angel Smurf, to Mutant Jesus, to Jailbait Bangin' Mutant Jesus I Hate Chuck Austen. Despite all this, the Angel has never been anything except boring as whale shit.

ANNIHILUS--Annihilus is a bat or a bug or a bug-bat who found a magic Good-N-Plenty candy and became all powerful and decided to go fuck with the Fantastic Four, because that's the kind of thing you do on casual Friday in the Negative Zone.

ANT-MAN--The founding Avengers consisted of a woman who could shrink down and zap you with laser beams, a Norse Thunder god, a big green sociopath who could rip a building apart, and Iron Man, who could also wreck shit despite the notable handicap of wearing a skirt. They were joined by Ant-Man. He talked to ants and was tiny. There are three Ant-Men now. They really didn't need to be one, far as I'm concerned.

AQUARIAN--Someone (I assume it was Steve Gerber) decided to recast the Superman story with an alien who lands on Earth as a grown man and is utterly retarded. Later on, Project PEGASUS rubs him up against the Cosmic Cube and he becomes Super Jesus. Comic books in the 70's, y'all.

ARABIAN KNIGHT--Our first member of Team Stereotype from Contest of Champions, the Arabian Knight found all his magical shit in a cave in Egypt, and decided that, "well, obviously, I will fly around on a magic carpet and fight crime." The Handbook notes "[his] belt-sash can be animated by mental command, serving as bonds, lariat, whip or climbing rope. It is made of the same substance as his flying carpet and is similarly indestructible." Nowhere in all of that does it say it holds his pants up.

ARCADE--Was Arcade the only villain who showed up in Marvel Team-Up who didn't get wiped out by Scourge? It seems so. As so many people have said, Arcade's Murderworld if often tagged as the place "where no one survives." Three decades later, Murderworld or Arcade has yet to so much as mildly injure anyone.

ARES--Ares looks so sad about having to share a page with Arcade, and who can blame him? Ares is the god of war, which means he has all the powers of war or something. The Handbook says "The javelin is his favourite weapon, although he also enjoys the sword and mace." You know, I have a hard time deciding my favourite of those three too.

ARIEL--This is Kitty Pryde, deep into her phase of never being able to decide on a code name, and so she went through a phase of naming herself after her favourite soft drinks--Sprite, 7-Up, and Fresca. I am unable to let this entry pass without mentioning the fact that Colossus banged the hell out of Kitty when she was total jailbait and then later on she got possessed by Wolverine's evil sword, and . . .wow, Chris Claremont has some serious lady issues.

ARKON--Like Mr. Spock, Arkon tends to get violent and unstable when he gets horny. Unlike Spock, Arkon expresses his sexual frustration by coming to Earth and throwing lightning bolts at people. I don't even want to think of how advanced a case of blue balls one must have to make that seem like a good idea.

ARNIM ZOLA--Arnim Zola is a scientist of genius intellect in addition to being a Nazi shithead. Zola once pulled his head off an put a radio on top of his neck for what is referred to in the DSM-IV as "some fucked-up reason." His rationale for this was that his brain would be more protected in his tummy. Arnim Zola sorely underrates the likelihood of being gut-punched and forgetting his piano lessons.

ASGARD--It's a big map of Asgard, which includes such scenic locations as Hel, Gundershelm, and The Swamp of Endless Flame. Very little on this map has probably not been used as the name of a death metal band at this point. I'm totally OK with that.

ASGARDIANS--Your importance is Asgard is in direct proportion to the utter insanity of your hat. Thus, Odin and Hela are high rollers and can not walk through doorways, while Volstagg is a fat fuck who only occasionally gets to do wicked awesome shit like beating up people. In fact, a lot of folks in the MU practice hierarchy by haberdashery.

ATLANTIS--Much like Asgard, pretty much every place name on the map of Atlantis has been plundered for the title of a progressive rock album at this point, as heard on Demon of Diamonds, Lair of the Serpent Crown and Lair of the Faceless Ones. Shit, King Crimson was SO HIGH back then . . .

ATLANTEANS--You know, for a guy who rules Atlantis, Namor doesn't really like to be around these guys, and I have a hard time disagreeing with him. Consisting primarily of douchebags, most Atlanteans fall into two groups--those in the background, and those who want to overthrow Namor for one reason or another, which is like 80% of the damn population.

ATTILAN--Attilan is the home city of the slave-holding Inhumans, apparently designed to be picked up and moved pretty easily--where is it now? The Moon? Mennonite Country? I forget. The map lists a place called the "former Alpha Primitive center," which I think is now an Applebee's or something. Goddamn Alpha Crow laws . . .

ATTUMA--Part of the 80% nation who's always trying to overthrow Prince Namor, Attuma apparently got to run Atlantis for a few years and while I'm sure this is terribly important for the three Sub-Mariner fans out there, honestly, he's just one more blue dude in a silly hat to me.

AURORA--Aurora had super-speed powers like her brother Northstar. She also shifted rapidly between a prim and proper French-Canadian schoolmarm and the team slut, which is the sum total of 30 years of her characterisation. I sometimes think Chris Claremont and John Byrne have more in common than either would like to admit.

AVENGERS--Give or take, at this point in time there are 39 Avengers in this entry. Of that, pretty much all of them, with the exception of Jarvis and Henry Gyrich, have died multiple times. Maybe 2 of them (Captain Marvel the first and the original Swordsman) have actually stayed dead. The best news is, of course, that we're still about 10 years away from Deathcry being added to the roster. Deathcry sucked, is what I'm trying to say.

AVENGERS MANSION--God bless us everyone, here is our first taste of the mad skills of Eliot R. Brown, the man who drew more technical diagrams about crazy shit that will never exist. Mr. Brown takes us on a tour of Avengers Mansion this go-round, which includes such picturesque locales as Dr. Pym's Pathology (fancy name for his babe lair) and Stark's J-8 Hi-Octane Jet Fuel (Tony's liquor cabinet) Oh and they just jam their Quinjets in a corner on the third floor like you do the hide-a-bed when guests come over for the holidays.

AVENGERS QUINJET--So apparently you can have a big-ass jet take off from your house in NYC and there's no problem with that at all, huh? The Quinjets were rolled out whenever they had a bunch of guys who couldn't fly or the people writing the book remembered they had some. Inevitably they get wrecked at an alarming rate, because that's really all they're there for.

I also noticed that these things weigh about 145 tons and are built in Wakanda, so they're built continent away and then shipped to North America. This outsourcing stuff is a bitch.


I have no idea why it seemed like a good idea to have every Alien Race attired in bikini briefs. While I suppose it's to keep the fetishists away, I doubt it worked all that well, ultimately.

AAKON--No, not that one. The Aakon are apparently a bunch of underachieving foils for the Kree, which means that they're pretty well jobber aliens--even the Handbook says they "lack genius." Damn, that's harsh.

A'ASKVARII--Apparently hailing from The Planet of the Overfiend, these guys apparently appeared in an issue of Black Goliath, one of whom was named Derath. I am too proud to make the obvious joke involving tentacles and the phrase "black Goliath," but you go right ahead.

ACHERONIANS--Their cultural traits are "self-centered, superstitious and hedonistic," which is what we used to call preppies behind their backs when this book was current.

A-CHILTARIANS--Their sole representative is named "Kraglin." I coulda sworn he was on Law and Order for awhile there.

ALPHA CENTAURIANS--One of the representatives, for some reason, is called Dynorr "The Stalker." I wonder if he gets really dickish and corrects people if they don't include the air quotes around the last bit. I bet he does.

ARCTURANS--"At present, half the Arcturan population is severely mutated due to a combination of biochemical advancements and radioactive fallout." Yeah, see, this is why the McRib only comes back for a few months . . .

ASTRANS--The Astrans have their excretory glands in their stomachs. I don't know as I am psychologically prepared for the notion of someone pulling their shirt-tail out as a prelude to taking a dump.

AUTOCRONS--One of them is named Ten-For. Oh my god, for reasons of my burgeoning insanity, the notion of a planet of aliens all named after CB codes is hilarious, though the notion of twins being named Ten-Onehundred and Ten-Twohundred is kind of sad, when you get down to it.

And that's it for this time! Join us next time for issue 2 "Baron Mordo to the Collective Man." Yes, it's a mediocrity sandwich!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Con Trek 2010: The Drive Til You Die Tour

Right, so I guess I procrastinated on this long enough. Holy cow, somewhere in between when I left and when I came back I somehow got up to seven readers? Damn--guess I should bring the content, in that case . . .

For those of you unused to how we do things here, the first week of the eleventh month, I pile into my car and drive up to Nekocon, an anime convention in Hampton, Virginia. (Last year's exciting recap can be seen here) I do it not because I'm a huge anime fan anymore (well, it's OK but in most respects like every other fandom I've been in it's kinda passed me by) but more to hang out with my friends, who are all excellent people and also because I like long road trips. They're fun.

Of course, with every year that ticks by, things have changed slightly. For one thing, I moved south earlier in the year. Like so far south I'm at the other end of the state for all intents and purposes. For all practical purposes (in the name of making a long story short) this turned a three-hour drive into a seven hour one. The actual distance traveled was 370 miles, 7 hours, I think I stopped twice each way down and I don't use cruise control, nor caffeinated myself to stay away. I have no idea why this is. Maybe it's against my religion, but that would require me to have a religion first, of course.

Anyways, seven hours is a long time to spend in a car in a general unaltered state of consciousness. The way to stave off madness (especially as I have frequently mentioned that great huge swathes of North Carolina are never ending empty lots and farmland) is this, and only this: You have to have a kick ass car mix to see you through the drive. I will not tell you what was on my car mix, suffice it to say it made the drive very pleasant and if you would like to venture a guess and speculate as to what was on it (bear in mind my music tastes are either "eclectic" or "horrid," depending on where fall in relation to me) you may do so in the comments section and we'll pretend it's "interactive."

Now, with the longer drive came more to see--kinda. My route, which is all backroads (I eschew interstate highways) I passed through most of the coastal towns that dot the landscape. While most of them are generally sleepy places, every now again again you see something that just shouldn't be. Such a thing I saw on the way up: I passed by a porn shop with perhaps the best name possible for a porn store to have: Gruntz. Think about it--the implications are just staggering, aren't they?

Generally though, my drive was fairly quiet and contemplative. If you're lucky, early November is just about the time when the leaves start to change, which means if you're driving while the sun comes up, means you have miles and miles of highway ahead of you and on either side is this natural blaze of colour flying by. It's all rather zen, except no one ever got pulled over by the cops in a zen garden.

So I crossed over to Virginia, I made the 'con around lunchtime, and the sight of the nigh-legendary Hampton Coliseum (most notably remembered for rock concerts and a particularly memorable episode of Monday Night Raw in 1998) As I have frequently mentioned in past recaps here and elsewhere, the Coliseum looks very much like a cake. No one knows why, and I will now show you what I mean:

Print photo at home
When did we start making buildings that look like cakes? More importantly--why did we ever stop?

The con proper doesn't take place at the Coliseum, of course, it just happens to be close to it. The actual con takes place here:

Print photo at home

Yes--the con is held in a great big play fort.

The Hampton Roads Convention Center is rather swanky and nautically themed, as the sails and the relentless fountains may have clued you in to. Being in the place everything is cool and elegant in a retro sort of way and walking in the one thing one is struck by is that this is exactly the kind of place where no one would let a whole mess of people in costume rampage around, scream, scream and jump on people, and do a lot of screaming.

Print photo at home
And yet . . .that's exactly what happened.

So yeah, this is all happening for three days. Plenty of excitable guys and girls, most scantily clad (well, the guys more than the girls . . .look, it's hard to explain, really) and only a few people dressed as people I recognise. I do look upon not getting a picture of the two guys dressed up as Kamen Rider W, but it's their own goddamned fault for showing up at 1:30 in the morning on Saturday night, isn't it?

As this was my first time going with a camera, it is difficult to know what the etiquette of shooting cosplayers is. So I didn't get that many great shots of them, but it was my first time with a camera so . . .yeah. One lives and learns.

Print photo at home

Shortly after this picture was taken, the Mandalorian depicted here was killed by a blind guy with a stick. He fell down a hole, screaming all the way. We here at Witless Prattle regret the loss of life.

A lot of going to a con is hanging out and finding stuff to do. Generally this involves spending money (I had no idea that there was an entire industry servicing cosplayers. Seriously, I saw more corsets in 2 days than I have in the previous one score and fifteen of my life to this point) either by commissioning artists (which I did) and buying the odd knickknack for friends and family (I get shopping lists y'all) failing that you can go to panels (I never see anybody at the panels) or if you're me and bored shitless at the end of a Friday night you sit in and watch the loudest, most hilarious Super Street Fighter IV tournament ever. Seriously, that was the most fun I ever had going deaf.

Ultimately, while the longer drive turned a previously one-day event into two days, I learned a valuable lesson--there's no great reason to go on any day except Saturday. One of my friends explained it this: Friday everything's getting started, Sunday everything's winding down.

He had a point, because Saturday, shit, as they say, got real. I started my day by actually playing a few people from the Super SF IV tournament from last night, and despite a few handicaps (not playing the game for months and playing with the 360 controller which is the shittiest controller I have ever tried to play with) I was actually able to hold my own, and even though I didn't win often, the fact that I could keep stride with hardcore players like that was rather heartening.

Later that afternoon, I was able to hook up with one of my friends and we decided to step away from the con and take in Hampton. This led to one of the greatest discoveries of my life:

Print photo at home

Not pictured--my friend and I laughing our assess off that such a thing even exists

Understand--that this is a Lego figure is not necessarily awesome in and of itself. It's the Lego decided, in their infinite wisdom, that what was missing from their half-century line of construction toys was a pimp from space named "Brick Daddy," and his thick-necked sidekick "Jawson." I feel like if I was ever to make a comic, it would need to be something like that. My appreciation for that kind of imagination knows no bounds.

However, my friend wanted to go play Tekken, and I had probably burnt my bridges there with an off-hand remark earlier in the day (That being: "If you can tap Morse code, you can play Tekken. In fact, anyone who ever had a homemade telegraph key kit from Radio Shack is a potential tournament player.") I was left to my own devices, wherein another friend came along, who is an equally splendid person and a very accomplished artist.

She's great fun to be around and every year I've gone, I've commissioned her for pics, and this year was no different. What set this year apart was the fact that rather than give her money, I paid for a picture by buying someone the deluxe edition of The Sound of Music.

You wish your life was this exciting.

In my defence, and in an unusual display of restraint in terms of indulging in my general wise-assishness, I did not say when she left to hang out with other friends that I would see her again when the edelweiss blooms. In other news, I know far more about that movie that I would have imagined. Odd that.

So, after a few exciting bits and bobs (including making a new friend that I'm supposed to play some Blazblue with sometime soon) I met up my friend, fresh from kicking telegrapher ass in Tekken, and we headed out for a post-con confab at the local IHOP (just across from a place called Harpoon Harry's, and really, we're better off with neither of us speculating about what that is) and it was there I learned that his friends shared my appreciation for the works of the Ed Wood of the Far East, Godfrey Ho:

God, I don't know why he used the soundtrack for the movie Runaway in that scene. I can't imagine why I feel the need to admit I recognized where it was from. It's late. I'm punchy.

Anyways, things so broke up after that and less than six hours later, it was time to hop in the car for another seven hours and head for home. While this wasn't the greatest time I'd had at Nekocon, the eventful and hilarious Saturday really made up for Friday's shortcomings. Next year I'll know better what to do and when to get there.

Thus ends Kazekage's recap of Nekocon 2010. But Kazekage will return in "Kazekage Against The World Crime League."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Time Is Now Again

Hey y'all.

Well, as I have done for the past 2 years, once again I announce that I'm heading to Nekocon in glorious Hampton Virginia. It did seem until fairly recently that I was going to have to give it a miss this year, which would have been sad, however, thanks to a friend of mine doing me a solid, I am able to go after all.

And as I'm actually bringing a camera, there will be pictures.

Not of me, but you know, interesting stuff.

See y'all after!