Monday, September 04, 2006

International House Of Bitchcakes, Part One

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Okay, then. Last week, I gave you the inside scoop on the clusterfuck crowd scene in "Marvel Super Hero Contest Of Champions" #1 (June, 1982) . Now I'd like to talk a bit more about the ramshackle, hopelessly stereotypical and thoroughly shoddy international heroes who were created (hastily, no doubt) for the book.

"In France... the high-flying Peregrine disappears from the azure skies!" But nobody really notices or cares!

The Peregrine's costume is a perfect example of the "eh, good enough" attitude that pervades "Contest Of Champions." The gray and black contrast with each other well. The proportions of the colors are nicely balanced. But otherwise, it's a pretty generic costume. I mean, he could have had a nice abstract bird-shape or some other logo on his chest, but all Marvel would spring for was a triangle. A triangle! Jeebus, at least cut a few notches in it, like Phoenix did. And I've seen that type of high-riding bird-head cowl before... on the Golden Age Hawkman, and it didn't make any more sense back then. The goober's entire face is visible below a rather teensy bird head. And it's not like he's wearing a mask or goggles or excessive mascara or anything. It's pointless. I don't get it.

Let's see... what else? Well, I did the barest smidgen of internet research, spending something like a whole five minutes on it... and yet I still couldn't find much on this guy outside of his "Contest Of Champions" appearance! All I gleaned was these two delectable little tidbits: He was mindcontrolled into becoming an assassin in an issue of "Alpha Flight" but before he could do any harm, Sasquatch punched him out or tore his arms off or sat on him or maybe just breathed on him with that killer taco breath he gets sometimes. And... one time Hawkeye told him he was a "reserve Avenger" (y'know, for when they run out of all the good ones) but according to Marvel editor Tom Brevoort Hawkeye had no authority to do that. So, Peregrine actually isn't a reserve Avenger after all. Which makes me think something like this happens at least once a month:

*ring, ring*

Jarvis: Avengers Mansion! To whom may I direct your--

Peregrine: Jharvees! Mon ami!

Jarvis: Oh, Lord.

Peregrine: Eet eez I, Le Peregrine!

Jarvis: Yes, I recognize the voice, Monsieur, but I really must insist you stop calling here. Particularly after midnight.

Peregrine: Ah! But 'ow am I to track zee sheeping status ahv my Ahvenjhairs membairsheep card, weeth all eets attendahnt preevilahjhees? Free 'ousing at Avenjhairs Mahnshee-own, mah own par-sonal Queenjhet, a glahmorous makeovair cartesy of zee Wasp... All zees shall belong to... Le Peregrine!

Jarvis: Once again, Monsieur, I regret to inform you that you are not, in point of fact...

Peregrine: Away weeth you, my seelly frahnd! As 'zo Le Peregrine would take zee wahrd ahv an 'umble sarvahnt! Eenahf tom-foolahry! Fetch your mahster, 'Awkeye, queeckly! Weeth zee sweeftness of a fahlcohn, ahs 'e swoops from zee 'eavahns to pluck zee lowlee fieldmouse frahm 'is meeserable 'idey-'ole! Do zees, ahn' Le Peregrine shahll put een a good wahrd far you!

Jarvis: I shall connect you right away, Monsieur. One moment, please. [leaves the phone off its hook and goes back to bed.]

"In Australia... the Aboriginal mystic Talisman is torn from his trance-state!" Which is just as well, since he was only keeping the other campers from cooking their hotdogs and marshmallows.

So the Aboriginies are big into pirate boots, huh? I don't mind the yellow/white combo. But honestly, the costume's styling is a huge mishmash of cliches, most of which seem to be African and Native American instead of Australian. For instance, I'm not sure why his head is shaved, except he's a dark-skinned man in a comic book and that sort of thing seems to be de rigeur.

All I could find about Talisman post "Contest" is that he showed up in a few issues of "Quasar." Doing what, I have no idea. I'm sure it didn't help his prospects when John Byrne gave Marvel a gorgeous female "Talisman" with great gams, a fetching evening gown and a big inverted Wonder Woman tiara. Didn't see that comin' with all your "trance-state" hoo-hah, did you, Australian Talisman? Where's your Moses now?

"In Argentina, a paramilitary group suddenly finds itself firing at a void where the mighty Defensor had stood!" And they're thankful the weirdly-dressed interloper has vacated the paintball range!

Defensor has one of the more attractive looks created for "Contest." It's colorful without being garish and it's certainly distinctive. That said, I'm going to have to shave off some points for:

  • The generic and meaningless starburst on his chest.
  • The lazy use of segmented metal underpants, an old Marvel chestnut (holder).
  • And the goofy helmet. Why is it shaped like that? Is it supposed to resemble a Conquistador's helmet? And if so, then why does it look more like a blue, foil-wrapped Hershey's kiss that got dropped on a tanning bed? Hell, why not a helmet that's shaped like a tri-corner hat, or like one of those big Marie Antoinette wigs?

Jeremy only has the first issue of "Contest." Internet info on Defensor is -- to nobody's surprise -- practically nil. So those of you who have actually read the story all the way through will have to tell me: just what was it, exactly, that Defensor was good for? I mean, sure, he's got a shield, but big freaking deal. Unless he can boomerang it like that gym queen Captain America (and before you start furiously typing a response, yes, I know Cap doesn't have to go the the gym -- allow me my illusions, 'kay?) or clobber bad guys over the head with it, then it's strictly defensive and therefore lame. It's like this guy I once met, Prince of Space, whose main ability was to gad merrily about while repeatedly telling his enemies that their weapons were useless against him. It wasn't heroic. It was just annoying.

So. All I could find out about Defensor's post-"Contest" career was this: he got killed by a guy named the Everyman. Criminy. Tell me, Marvel, was Defensor really cluttering up your universe so badly that you needed to whack him? He was in Argentina, for Chrissakes! He wasn't bothering anybody! *growls obscenities for an entire minute* Oh, and here's the clinker: Everyman was in his super-secret-triple-reverse-undercover identity as "Zeitgeist" when he killed Defensor. Which means Defensor was murdered by a guy dressed almost exactly like the Clock King. (And at that moment, young Brad Meltzer knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.)

"In Northern Ireland, a group of schoolchildren stare as their lives are saved from a terrorist's bomb... an instant before their rescuer, Shamrock, disappears!" No wonder she's "the most sought-after hairdresser in all of Europe!" Shamrock, where are you?

I covered both Shamrock's post-"Contest" exploits and what I thought of her costume in an earlier post, so I'm not going to waste any more time talking about her. I will say that her panel here exemplifies another way in which Marvel half-assed it with their new international heroes: none of them were shown fighting supervillains. Of the eight heroes shown on the page from which I took the above scan, four of them were fighting non-super threats, three of them are just flyin' around, and one is kneeling in front of a campfire. At least Sabra and the Arabian Knight had appeared in some of Bill Mantlo's "Hulk" stories, so they didn't necessarily need a splashy intro. But the rest of them? They're not exactly grabbing me by my lapels. The Soviet Super-Soldiers get a whole page-and-a-half where they fight the Red Ghost and Sunfire's measly panel shows him in the grip of a big green robot hand. That's excitement, people! Not that every single hero who got kidnapped was in the middle of a fight, but you'd think the newbies could have been introduced with a bit more pizzazz. That's one thing that "Planet DC" got right. Sure, it was yet another round of pointless character introduction for them, but at least they created some international villains to go with their international heroes. The "Flash" annual especially had a great deal of depth to it; remind me to cover that one day!

Tomorrow: it's gall around the world with more international heroes!

11 comments:

bittercupojoe said...

Oh! Prince of Space!

So, France has Batroc the Leaper and Peregrine. I'm wondering if it's a subconcious thing on the part of the Marvel writers or not, giving the French characters poweresets that are primarily good for running away.

HammerHeart said...

BB, about Defensor...
The generic and meaningless starburst on his chest, as you mentioned, is probably a poor artistic attempt at rendering the stylized "sun" that resides at the center of Argentina's flag. Don't take my word for it:

http://www.openbible.org/intl/ctry_details.asp?mid=1

...But as you can see for yourself, the artist REALLY wasn't trying very hard when he drew that little sun in Defensor's chest.

And the helmet is clearly an attempt to imitate the design of the Spanish 'conquistadores' who colonized most of Latin America, but in that case the artist clearly couldn't be bothered finding some visual reference for the helmet's design, so the Defensor seems to be wearing a large metallic pea on his head.

Serves them right - the next time a "south american" hero is necessary, do a Brasilian character. Our track record is much better, with Sunspot and the JLA's Green Flame/Fire. Not that their costumes were anything special, but at least they didn't wear big metal peas on their heads.

Chawunky said...

Defensor totally needs a dumpy archenemy wearing a saggy leotard who has a pointy nose and goes "HA! HA! HA! HAaaa..." a lot.

Mr. Penguin said...

I can't believe this series was such a HUGE deal when it came out. THE INVENTION OF THE MARVEL MINI-SERIES! Everyone was so convinced these were going to be the most valuable comic books ever that I bought two copies of issue #3. Yes, I'm in idiot. They are now probably worth less than the paper they are printed on. I'm sure the dude who ran the store thought to himself; "Yes! Another sucker! That's 75 more cents towards another month's rent above the Eckanar Center!"

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Supervillians for this lot.

Supervillians that MAKE THEM LOOK COOL, in ONE PANEL. Oh, that's tough.

For Peregrine, I'd swipe Zorglub from Spirou and Fantasio. Alas, the full beauty of Zorglub would take more than a single panel to adequately express, so I suppose a visual quote from the aerial chase scene in the movie Fantômas would have to suffice.

It'd be cool to see who Talisman is talking to. Maybe he's whuppin' ass in the Dream Time against the hidden, evil spirits imprisioned in the seemingly adorable Koala -- the inner Drop Bear.

An Argentine Doctor Doom type would probably have a really, really humongus ranch where he'd pretty much be a law unto himself. I love the idea of Defensor trying to figure out how to take out cyborg War Bulls as he gets snatched.

As for poor Shamrock -- let's go goofy. She has luck powers but is a real loser otherwise. I think the idea of her getting snatched while she tries to cash in a winning lottery ticket is a good single-panel gag.

Bully said...

Mr. Penguin wrote: THE INVENTION OF THE MARVEL MINI-SERIES!

True! But it was originally supposed to be a giant treasury edition. (Everything I need to know I learned from "Comic Book Urban Legends")

Necessity is the mother of reinvention at Marvel. (And remember how they kept hawking it as the first comic book miniseries, even thought DC had done several origins-style 3-issue limiteds in the late 70s?)

googum said...

Peregrine's terrible accent, is both horrible and horribly entertaining at the same time. For some reason, I seem to recall he had a talkshow or somesuch in the Marvel U: Peregrine's Perch, which I'm positive is Claremont's fault.

Bully said...

Actually, Googam, Peregrine's Perch was a talk show in the Wild Cards shared universe. Their Peregrine was a female hero who (gasp!) posed for Playboy.

Al said...

True enough Bully. And if you were a pubescent kid with the Wild Card gene, wanking over Pergrine's centerfold was enough to kick it into gear.

ABS said...

Uh, Blockade Boy - isn't your power of becoming a wall completely defensive and therefore as lame as Defensor? I mean, he obviously is no fashion genius, but at least he can, you know, move.

Blockade Boy said...

bittercupojoe: Haw! Sad but true.

hammerheart: Thanks for clearing up my confusion over the starburst. Also, a big, booming "HAW!" to the large metallic pea remark. Wish I'd thought of it.

Chawunky: Yes, but if you'll recall, the leotard wasn't saggy everywhere. "Oh God, I can see every contour...!"

Mr. Penguin: The good news is, Jeremy should be able to purchase the other two issues for cheap!

Anonymous: Those are some great ideas! And Marvel could have gone with some established villains, in my opinion. They didn't even have to be the same nationality as the heroes. Certainly Hydra or A.I.M. have some overseas operations. Or what about some aliens? I'm sure the Skrulls weren't too busy for a cameo.

Bully: Once again, you prove yourself the smartest, best-read little stuffed bull around.

Googum: Thanks; that's exactly what I was going for.

Al: Yikes.

Abs: Allow me to answer your "uh" with a "duh." Why do you think my main line of work is fashion design?