Friday, September 01, 2006

Marvel Super Hero Uncomfortable Cocktail Party Of Champions, Part Five

June, 1982! Before the days of the company-wide crossover series, the closest you could get to that kind of encyclopedic grandeur was "Marvel Super Hero Contest Of Champions." That's the one where every Marvel hero (and I!) was crammed into a floating, cosmic soccer stadium (or whatever) and... stood around, chatting. Yeah, they hadn't really gotten all the kinks worked out yet. Also, the Marvel heroes turned out to be stuck-up bitches who wouldn't pay me no nevermind, so my only option was to walk around by myself, gathering top-notch gossip material. For you!

Additional dialog by Dwight Schrute! "Somebody put us here! But who? And to what purpose?" Really, the dialog here is very Silver Age DC, where heroes would dutifully line up and take turns speaking aloud various segments of a single train of thought. (See also: Donald Duck's nephews.) The spoil sport here is Wolverine, but of course, who's just aching to go buckwild in the most Comics Code-straining manner imaginable. Cyclops laughably attempts to assert some authority, little realizing that back in their own comic he was soon to be written as the Daffy Duck to Wolverine's Bugs Bunny.

So, left-to-right, kind of, we start with Iron Fist. Fun fact: the thing on his chest is the gay cousin of the thing on Doctor Strange's tunic. They only see each other when their family gathers for pagan holidays. Things were a bit tense when Iron Fist's tattoo first "came out" but the thing on Doctor Strange's tunic has finally come around and it's just like old times!

As a great woman of your era once said, "Romper stomper bomper boo!" I see Iron Man, who could be flying around, doing recon, but is too wasted and ridden with STD's to keep from crashing into shit. I see Hawkeye, who smells like grape Robitussin twenty-four hours a day and whose costume I've always thought was stupid (and I always will). I see Power Man, who won a bar bet back in '72 by twisting a hunk of steel around his head and now he can't get the damn thing off but figures what the hell. I see the Black Panther, who is secretly plotting your downfall even as we speak and looks great doing it. I can only see the back of the Falcon's head, which makes him the Nichelle Nichols of Marvel. I see Talisman, who in later years would get sick of people asking if he was "Gateway" from the X-Men comic. I see Brother Voodoo, who was already sick of people helpfully pointing out that he "seems to have something on [his] forehead." I see Sunfire, who is indulging one of his weird Japanese fetishes by sniffing the Beast's underpants. I see Black Bolt the Boring, who has a kick-ass costume but a blah personality, and who is wondering how he can get in on some of that Beast's-underpants-sniffing action. I see Hercules, the ultimate drinking buddy, about to express his moral outrage over Sunfire's behavior, and who is also miffed at the severe dearth of scantily-clad young women and/or bare-chested, hairless young men in the arena. (Leaves me out!) I see Werewolf-By-Night, who -- I shit you not -- was once popular enough to star in forty-three issues of his own comic! I know, I can't believe it either. He's just so damned boring! Especially visually! I mean, get yourself some extensions or some highlights or sumpin'. ...Hang on. Jeremy's jabbing me in the ribs. What now, kid? Oh, Jeremy says that in the 80's, Werewolf-By-Night would sometimes get more wolf-like, with a big wolf-head and everything. Well, let's see it! Oh, he's scurried off to get some of his old "West Coast Avengers" comics. *hums selections from "Wonderful Town" while I'm waiting* Okay, he's back. Huh. I dunno, he still looks pretty dorky to me. He's no Man-Wolf, that's for sure. Okay, where were we? Oh, yes. I see Doc Samson, whose costume was pretty cool, except it didn't go with that lime green mop of his at all. Would it have killed you to change up the color scheme to something more pleasing? Like yellow, black, and green? Or failing that, to dye your hair? (Red's a good choice. I mean, just for an example.) I see Wolverine, looking oddly Munchkin-faced here. Heh. He's like the world's deadliest Campbell's Soup Kid. I see Nighthawk, whose costume I kind of liked, except for the big, stiff wings with the air nozzles or whatever on them. Carter Hall never would have settled for that nonsense. I see Cyclops, whose costume is so boring it defies all attempts at embellishment. Even when you slap a stupendously enormous wraparound "X" on it, it still looks boring. I think he needs to start over from square one. In fact, I think I ought to come up with some costume designs for him! Only not right now. Maybe in a week or two. Daddy's tired.

Shanna the She-Devil? Well, there's someone for Hercules to ogle! She's turned away from you right now because you're a gross nerd and she wants nothing to do with you, and also somebody from PETA has just sloshed red paint all over her. Let's see, I've covered everybody else in this panel before, except... Mockingbird! She was way cuter with the longer hair, wasn't she? And without the "rat tail." Fun fact: in your year of 2006, the Thoroughly Eighties "rat tail" can still be seen, on rednecks and lesbians. Another fun fact: it only looks good on actual rats. Mockingbird's costume hasn't aged well. Especially the huge, weapon-concealing sleeves. Although they do impart an avian flair to the ensemble. My biggest problem is the wide stripe of white, which ends just below her bosom. Mockingbird is tall and well-proportioned, but it makes her look like she has a stumpy torso and ridiculously long legs. Like Judy Garland. And MGM's costume designers struggled with ways to make Garland's waist look like it was sitting a good fifteen inches lower on her body -- y'know, like on a normal person. They finally found a solution, but it involved a quantum math that opened a portal to a nightmarish Lovecraftian dimension. Drove half the department stark raving bonkers. The other half vanished without a trace. There were reports of cannibalism. And you don't even want to know what Hair and Makeup went through!

Nothing much to say about that final panel, except... "What awesome power is this at work??" Jeebus, Doctor Strange, you're the freaking Sorceror Supreme! Why don't you tell us? Actually from what I hear, that's all he's good for, lately. Explaining things.

Next week: even more Contest of Champions crap!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Marvel Super Hero Uncomfortable Cocktail Party Of Champions, Part Four

June, 1982: Presaging the FEMA Superdome debacle, the Grandmaster crammed every available Marvel hero (and yours truly) into hideous, spacebound Facehugger Arena. The assembled ultra-tools didn't know how to react to a fabulous-yet-manly future hero with sweet-ass facial hair, so they pretty much left me alone. Fine by me. I went into purple-and-orange "stealth mode" and evesdropped the hell out of them!

Looks like Ben Grimm found himself a backup boy toy! (Note how Quasar cringes at the Thing's touch. Speaks volumes.) Ever wonder what the Thing's "rocks" look like beneath the blue Underoos? I overheard the Human Torch and Quasar gossiping not long after this panel. Turns out our Mister Grimm is normally smoother than a slab of peanut brittle. But beware! He's a "grower," not a "shower." Also, his member has its own voice box, and it sounds a lot like Godzilla. Ew. Fashion-wise? I've never been a fan of the Fantastic Four's costumes. *dodges various bits of debris* They're pretty boring (and if some fanboy tries to tell me "They're supposed to be boring!" I'm going to reach through the monitor and pimp-slap them). Attempts to change them have usually resulted in making them even more boring. A good rule of thumb is, the smaller the logo, the more boring the costume. I'm constantly surprised by how many wonderful artists forget that. Quasar over there has a more interesting costume but it also happens to be pretty ugly. Nice headband, jerk. It could definitely use some streamlining. To the front of the panel, the Hulk is entering menopause. About his pants... I think it's freaking ridiculous how he (almost) always managed to glom onto a pair of fresh purple pants -- in a stretch fabric, no less! -- during his vagabond period. Jeremy has an issue of the Hulk comic where Bruce Banner digs in a garbage can and finds a pair of purple slacks... that used to be owned by the 3-D Man! As if that flattopped, hornrimmed square would ever wear anything that interesting. Behind the Hulk is undersea underwear model, the Sub-Mariner. I gotta hand it to him: no dialog, but the body language immediately tells you everything you need to know about his personality. Crammed in the lower right-hand corner is Doctor Strange, Lounge Lizard Supreme. (I wish he'd brought his robe with him. So I could've swiped it.) Doc's costume is one of the few old costumes out there that really doesn't need improvement, in my opinion. It's quirky but it works. Individually, the parts are quite dodgy -- liverspotted orange gloves, blue footy pajamas, undoubtedly greasy pencil-line mustache, a cape that Liberace would have dismissed as "too gaudy" -- but I'll be darned if those disparate elements don't all harmonize like the Beach Boys. Something I just noticed about the cape, by the way? It's the source of the original Byrne Doodles! You know, the scribbly crap Byrne puts all over clothing because he's too damned lazy to draw an actual pattern? Byrne's Krypton was lousy... with Byrne Doodles. Or "Ditko Doodles" I suppose I should call them. Way in the back (where she belongs) is Patsy Walker, Hellcat. Funny, I don't think of a "hellcat" as being annoyingly perky or reeking of desperation or vaguely slutty in a "high school cheerleader" kind of way, and yet Patsy somehow manages to be all of those things. Her costume is one that almost works for me, but not quite. My main gripe is that it needs something more to break up all that yellow spandex besides the obligatory 70's sash. An interesting super-logo on the chest would be nice. C'mon, Patsy, there must be dozens of teenage girls across your great nation who would send you their ideas for a logo! ("Patsy's luscious logo designed by Roberta Fleugalblatt of Parsippany, New Jersey.")

Of all the weird categories that the Marvel Folk portioned themselves into, the weirdest -- and smallest -- was the Bald Telepath Contingent. As you can see, Moondragon is trying to bullshit her way into importance with a lucky guess as to the arena's locale. ("My mental scans have done no more that ascertain that this arena is somewhere in space, Professor Xavier! Also, there are a lot of windows and I can see through them!") I gotta ask -- was that emerald swimsuit deal she wore the idea of those Titanian monks who raised her? No, honestly. It's a legitimate question, because Marvel has a rich tradition of spiritual leaders making young women dress like prostitutes. Meanwhile, Professor X, dapper as always, is subtly influencing Moondragon to remove her bra. Next thing you know, he'll ask her to wear a red wig.

Still more Contest of Champions dish tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Marvel Super Hero Uncomfortable Cocktail Party Of Champions, Part Three


So there I was, kidnapped to floating, space-bound "Exposition Arena", and none of those stuck-up Marvel super-bitches would give me the time of day. Eh, screw 'em. I'm perfectly happy just wandering around and eavesdropping. Perfectly happy! And I'll fight any man who says otherwise! *fists clench anxiously*

Even a youngster like Kitty Pride can detect the smoldering sexual undercurrents in the conversation between Colossus and... whoever the hell that other guy is. I'm thinking it might be Major Ursus, a.k.a. Ursa Major, the Russian guy who turns into a big bear-monster. (Dang it, I forgot to ask for his number.) "Perhaps I feel I can best serve the Motherland by serving the world... as an X-Man!" Oh, kind of like how American freedom is somehow protected by bombing the holy bejeezus out of a foreign land. When I was younger, I really liked Colossus' original costume, but later on I decided it was too busy. Especially with those three random triangle-things on the knees. I liked the John Romita, Jr. red-and-white redesign better -- although it could definitely use less buckles. But it was the 80's. All new super-hero costumes were required to have a minimum of eight buckles. It was in the Comics Code! Kitty is wearing the old, boring original X-Men uniform, which I kind of hate, but I see she's tried to spice things up by flat-ironing her hair. Not that it worked too well. It's about a half-percent change in humidity away from sproinging back into its normal shape. In the background, Texas Twister (sweet handlebar!) lights a celebratory cigar after giving Razorback a thorough, blood-spattered rogering behind the refreshment stand (Razorback's ass gets so much action he might as well give it a velvet rope and a couple of bouncers). Texas Twister's costume is flashy but I think it works for him. It's hard to go wrong with an Old West theme. Ursa Major (or is it?) is wearing the Marvel version of a standard Soviet military uniform so it doesn't count as a costume. So I shan't speak of it.

Hey, Captain America! Do you interrupt all foreign monarchs, or just the African ones? If you read my "Miss America" post way back when, you'll recall that I utterly loathe Captain America (mock my whiskers, will ya! Grrr...!) so I'm not going to talk about his costume, either. I've always liked the Black Panther's duds -- simple, but classic. It's got a good silhouette, too, which is important. In the background, there's muy macho Gorgon, whose costume I like just fine, although I'm mystified by the horned chrome goggle things on his forehead. Can he see though those? And if so, does that make Gorgon one of those tools who walks around with their sunglasses pushed up on their foreheads, even when it's overcast? Well, that would explain the sweater tied around his neck. I think that's the Torpedo in the back, between Black Panther and Cap. The Torpedo had a cool helmet but that was about it. Plain blue super-suit, no logo or styling of any kind on the chestal region, and the goofiest jet-gloves I've ever seen -- and I've seen a lot of jet-gloves. (I'm from the future!) And in the far right corner of the panel... the Silver Banshee?! But she's from DC! And she wasn't even created yet! And why is she wearing a Saturn hat? Hang on, Jeremy is tapping me on one of my brawny, muscular shoulders. What's that, child? Hmm? ...Oh. He says it's actually the Night Rider. Yeah, I never heard of him.

Why, here's Spider-Woman, who has one of the best super-hero costumes ever designed, and Spider-Man, who has one of the worst (although many would disagree, right, Steven?) As you can see, Spider-Woman's glider-wings (which have the magic power to appear and disappear from one panel to the next) have chosen to remain invisible. They're quite fickle, those glider-wings. Oh, and on a more vulgar note: that's not a web line.

The Son of Satan and Doctor Druid are swapping eyebrow-shaping tips! They should have asked Sasquatch. He's considered an expert by those "in the know." Actually, Daimon Hellstrom's eyebrows are naturally Satanic -- he gets them from his dad! Doctor Druid resorted to a mystical bargain to achieve those awesome Spock-brows. The price? The rest of his hair. There's a shadowy demi-god out there right now with a thick, wavy pompadour. It was totally worth it, though. I mean, who's going to hire a magician who has eyebrows like Whoopi Goldberg?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Marvel Super Hero Uncomfortable Cocktail Party Of Champions, Part Two


Picture it: June, 1982, outer space. Pretty much every Marvel super hero in existence -- plus myself -- had been teleported by an unknown person (the Grandmaster) to an unknown place ("Exposition Arena," TM the brilliant Bully). Inexorably, the assembled Marvel super tools self-segregated according to body type (robot, manimal, godlike), powers or general geographic location. It was like a junior high cafeteria, minus the tater tots. In fact, I said that exact thing to the Texas Twister right before he excused himself and moseyed over to where Razorback was standing. Then the two of them did an awful lot of whispering and giggling, with the occasional gesturing in my direction. I caught up to Razorback later that year in a truck stop men's room. I didn't hear any laughter then.

So I was the "odd man out" in Exposition Arena. That's okay; I'm used to it. Plus, it gave me a chance to do some stealth-mingling and spy on everybody! Y'know, scope out what they were wearing and what they were talking about! And then gossip about it to all of you guys, now!

For someone so vehemently anti-American-culture, it's funny how much Vanguard's hair makes him look like the lost Duke of Hazzard. That shit was shagged out and feathered to the last molecule. Also, as you can see here? He'd just dug a huge booger out of his nose and was trying to hide it behind one of his massive thighs. I'm not a fan of Vanguard's costume, by the way. It's awfully busy, and the combination of a Victorian-modest collar and gigantoid arm holes (which threaten to expose some nipple if he turns just so) is insane. Maybe a full, military-style jacket would have worked in this situation. The Crimson Dynamo, with his teeny little Dubya mouth and his pointy metal hat, also looks like a big loser. And the fact that the whole shebang is painted bright red? It's harmful to my eyes and other living things. He needs to tone it down, pronto. Throw some black on that shit. I do admire how he took the opportunity to give Tony Stark a nice verbal pimp-slap. "Obviously a sporting arena, Iron Man!" (Iron Man: "I only asked because I thought your oppressive, underhanded government might have a hand in this, but if thinking I'm stupid helps you forget how your shitty little country is falling apart, be my guest. Dickweed.") Not in this issue: a panel showing an awestruck Iron Man, with the thought bubble "This place is immense... are we in my briefcase?!"

Shamrock and Captain Britain (Crip and Blood, respectively) combine international and religious tensions with sexual tension as Captain Britain ogles Shamrock's ass... suspiciously! I did some research on Shamrock to see if she'd appeared anywhere after this and I was surprised to learn she showed up in a whole lotta comics! She even got an origin and everything! But then she broke her left foot in a slip-and-fall accident and decided it meant that her good-luck powers had run out and that she should give up super heroing. (Cut to Barbara Gordon, saying "Whiner!") As an only-in-the-comics consolation prize, she showed up in Excalibur as "the most sought-after hair dresser in all of Europe!" Swell. Now, get your bitch ass in the kitchen and bake me a pie! Oh, and leave it to Claremont to make even a tertiary character "the most sought-after *blank* in all of *blank*" No "Joe Lunchpail" types for the 'Mont! See that janitor back there? He's the most sought-after janitor in all of South America! And he's a master of Capoeira, to boot! Costume-wise, Shamrock was just kind of meh. My big gripe is with the cowl. I don't think full-head cowls are flattering on women. I prefer the kinds where at least some hair is showing. Even the half-cowls, where the women kinda look like Stephen Wright (or for you comics nerds, Vulko) is preferable to the kind that makes them look bald. Captain Britain's original duds? I liked them okay, except for the covered mouth on the cowl. What's the point? Did he have a halitosis problem? Hmm. I've seen him really tear into the fish and chips, so maybe he did! Plus, he was, y'know... English.

Hey, Iceman, I like Darkstar's new costume, too! Her old one was just a puffy-sleeved gray blouse, some tight pants, and some boots. It was very "Rhoda goes to Safeway" but not very "superhero." Iceman's costume can't be seen under his thick layer of ice -- which makes it rather pointless -- but at this point in time it was a hideous powder blue-and-white affair. I guess it's just as well we can't see it. As for the dialog, I have one word for you all: Ewww! "Thank you, Iceman. I've thought of you often -- and fondly -- since then. Why, just the other day I took a freezey-pop and jammed it right up my..."

In the dankest, loneliest corner of Exposition Arena, the Vision and Machine Man enjoy a highly efficient pity party. ("The Vision: My wife does not understand me!") The Vision's costume is one I've always hated. It's way too gaudy, given his name and personality. That big stripey girdle of his is the absolute worst. What, does he have a hernia? Oh, and I think he at least should have ditched the goofy "widow's peak" cowl -- the one that attaches to his solar gem (or whatever the hell that bindhi doohickey on his forehead is supposed to be) and which conceals his handsome crimson skull. I know it's an unpopular opinion, but I preferred his pallid, yellow-white "dead skin" look from West Coast Avengers to his so-called classic costume. I didn't agree with the whole "deprogramming and marriage break-up" deal but I thought he at least looked better then. Machine Man? Boring! For starters, he needs some kind of interesting logo on his chest. If Ikaris is a case of Kirby trying too hard, then Machine Man is a case of him not trying hard enough. That's the Shroud in the background, by the way. Looks like somebody yanked his cowl down over his eyes again! That's always happening to him. (Shroud: You guys--! Quit it! Mo-o-o-o-mmm!") Poor dumb shmoe.

Tomorrow: Part Three! (This is going to go on for a while.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Marvel Super Hero Uncomfortable Cocktail Party Of Champions, Part One


Did you know that I was part of the "Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions?" (Above panels from issue #1, June, 1982.) That's the time the Grandmaster kidnapped what appeared to be every single super hero alive on Earth-Marvel and forced a mere handful of them into Olympic -- er, scratch that! I meant to say -- "gladiatorial" combat. (Yup, it's that super-sized special originally intended to coincide with the 1980 Olympic Games, chopped up and redone as a limited series.) I was just in the wrong dimension at the wrong time. What do you mean you don't see me anywhere? I'm that one guy in that one panel in that one crowd scene, way in the back... in silhouette.

I'll admit, the situation was giving me some nasty "Super-Stalag of Space" flashbacks but I managed to keep myself together. Before we heroes found out why we were there, we mainly just milled around and made awkward smalltalk. ("Aren't these vast, windowless rooms phony?") Sadly, there was no alcohol available to make them seem funny or interesting to me. So, I just kept my mouth shut and made notes on what everybody was saying... and wearing!

Ikaris is wearing more than the minimum amount of "flair", which is sure to please his manager, Zuras. By the way, is he wearing pantaloons? I haven't seen "overpants" that baggy since Lightning Lad's day-glo orange depends! This has to be one of Kirby's worst costume designs, which is saying something. Orion's costume may be plain and ugly, but that's better than complicated and ugly. You already know how I feel about Thor's costume, so we'll skip him -- other than saying that's got to be one of the queeniest "landing poses" I've come across in quite some time. In the background, meanwhile, Rom: Spaceknight puts the moves on Jocasta ("Oh, I'm not all robot, baby! Wanna feel?") Christ, I hope Starshine and Ultron don't run into each other at Cinnabon and put two-and-two together. By the way, I always liked Jocasta's look and I thought it was a shame when she got blown to pieces. But Rom's supposedly high-tech cyborg armor is one step removed from being a Halloween costume.

"Uh-oh! Alpha Flight!" Subtext: "I hope these losers aren't going to latch onto my awesomeness and follow me around the whole time we're here. Let's see, how can I ditch them...?" I really liked the original Alpha Flight costumes -- okay, maybe not Shaman's, which had the hideous color combo of orange and green -- but for the most part they were a good example of how to carry a design theme throughout a super-team while still keeping them looking like individuals. Behind Guardian you can see the taut buttocks of Northstar, who was totally checking me out. Sorry, pal, I don't date prettyboys.

In the final panel today, the Beast and Sasquatch argue about which one is going to be the top, before going on to share grooming trips. Sasquatch swears by "Mane N Tail" horse shampoo, and uses "Clubman" mustache wax for those tricky handlebar eyebrows. The Beast was considering changing his hairstyle. But then A Flock Of Seagulls released "And I Ran" that summer, so that delayed things quite a bit. In the background you can see Iron Fist (love his costume -- LOVE IT) standing next to... a mummy? Nope, that's just Janet "Fashion Skank" Pym, who was getting a seaweed wrap at the spa the moment she got zapped over there. Aw, now she'll never tone up those flabby arms.