Tag Archives: Comics

Marvel Holiday Special 1991

I’m sure that there are a variety of ways to measure the outsize place of Christmas among contemporary American holidays. Spending, obviously. TV specials perhaps. Holiday-specific music.

Personally, at least, I could also add the amount of once-per-year paraphernalia that I pull out of storage for a while, then put back away for 11 months before repeating the process, year upon year. The lights. The little tree. Christmas music CDs. Santa hat.

And Christmas comics.

This may be the least typical of my various personal Christmas traditions. I have as many as two dozen Christmas-related comics, either as individual floppies or as part of collected editions. It seems like I may as well pull them off the shelf at Christmastime, if ever. In recent years it has begun to feel a bit like I’m doing so mainly for that reason, more than for enthusiasm to read the stories again; I have read most of them so many times, and Christmas seems to roll around again a little bit sooner each year at this point.

Still, like the little tree, like my 20-year-old string of colored lights, it’s now part of Christmas to bring them out. Perhaps especially in the case of one Christmas comic, which I have had even longer than those lights… I realized this year that the first of several Marvel Holiday Specials released in the 1990s is now a full quarter-century old.

Cover of 1991 Marvel Holiday Special

Wraparound cover art by Art Adams. Purely decorative; no such scene appears in any interior story.

Good lord.

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Doom vs Hope (Dr. Doom, that is)

Dr. Doom was one of my favorite comic book villains almost from the very start.

I have forgotten whether Fantastic Four #200 was the first or second issue of the series that I acquired, but it was certainly among my earliest purchases, generally, when I began collecting comic books beyond the Transformers series. It was a splendid superhero book, and obviously I perceived greatness in its villain, and I still do. Many have written appreciations of Dr. Doom over his half-century existence, and I could happily reiterate the character’s established strengths. Instead, though, I want to focus on an aspect that I’m not sure I have seen highlighted before, at least not from this angle.

Cover of FF 200 by Kirby and Sinnott

I bought this as a back issue of course, probably around 1990

A couple of weeks ago, fellow alumnus of Fantastic Four fandom Sean argued that recent adaptations have mislaid the optimism which is as much a key to the concept as elemental superpowers or familial bickering. I thought it was a very valid observation about the Fantastic Four as characters and series. (I have not seen the films, though I suspect the analysis hits its target there as well.) More recently, this proposal inspired a sort of corollary involving the series’ premier villain: part of what makes Dr. Doom a great foil for the FF is a contrasting pessimism intrinsic to his own character.

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The Economic Puzzles of Dwayne Wade

Conversations about professional athletes’ salaries hold a strange fascination for me. Probably because they are, fundamentally, strange; where else in our society do we have anything like this? When else do Americans discuss money and merit, ownership and labor, “fairness,” and the limitations of income-maximization as motive, in contexts that are frank, detailed, personal and public? Wrangling to assemble an elite team in leagues with both free agency and a salary cap has become a completely ordinary part of sports comment, no different from starting lineups or officiating. Then there’s the odd fact that one of the most vibrant and assertive examples of organized labor pressure left in America involves wealthy athletes, many of them multimillionaires, as its worker side of class struggle.

Of course this is interesting. Sometimes disgusting, and still interesting anyway.

Recently, one particular salary storyline has been nagging at me; I believe I have finally teased out an insight or two worth recording. In recent weeks Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade has been signaling dissatisfaction with Heat owner Pat Riley’s salary offering. One can read further detail elsewhere, but basically I feel like a reader comment on one story summed things up best. After Dave Hyde referred to Wade’s “sacrifices” over his Heat career, erikszpyra asked “What past sacrifices really? The man has made over $100 million in contracts and endorsements from basketball, along with 5 trips to the Finals with 3 rings. What did Wade give up that warrants crippling the Heats [sic] chance to rebuild?”

Now, this situation by itself is just par for the course with pro sports coverage. Few phenomena have ever provided more perfect or obvious demonstrations of the obnoxious remark that, once one is securely rich, “money is just how you keep score.” Still, I can’t help marveling at what seems like a massive instance of missing the whole point. Dwayne Wade certainly has “fuck-you money” many times over, and from a working class perspective it seems like he should be long past the point of spending even a second caring about more money, and simply doing whatever he wants with his life. I’m familiar with the “hierarchy of needs,” yet I still can’t help asking, why is he expending effort on this? Why not just forget it, and live life on his terms? He’s competitive and likes to win, fine, great; consider what really constitutes winning in life. If he wants to play basketball, just play basketball.

It’s possible to think of reasons why Wade might want something that even his current wealth can’t purchase. That’s always possible. Absent any information to this effect, though, I will presume that he is not driven by aspirations to build the world’s largest pyramid or start his own space program. Likewise, it’s possible that Wade is fanatically dedicated to some charitable or activist cause, and eager to wrench as much money as possible away from less selfless rich people so that he can direct it to a disadvantaged population instead. If so, I submit that we definitely ought to read more about this, as such an example is at the very least worthy of popular discussion. Nonetheless, absent evidence, I presume that this does not explain Wade’s anxiety about getting more money while financially able to satisfy most personal needs for many lifetimes.

My impression is that, basically, getting more money is a significant part of what Dwayne Wade wants to do with his life right now.

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Have superheroes outgrown publishers?

This week I caught one or two references to DC (in theory amid a coordinated effort by various arms of the Time-Warner octopus) planning “A New Super Hero Universe Designed Just For Girls.” For what it’s worth, I side with those asserting that, while this may represent an attempt at doing the right thing it’s wrongheaded in practice. Friend Sean already said most of what I would, so just go read his blog if you want more direct comment.

Reading further discussion of this initiative, today, has sparked one or two indirectly related thoughts, though. Primarily, I’m scratching my head trying to think of other examples, besides the DC and Marvel superheroes, of attempts to twist and stretch entertainment concepts to fit so many different niche markets. Am I missing any major parallels? And if not, is this as I suspect evidence that this effort just isn’t really practical?

Thinking about it, the DC and Marvel superheroes probably are cultural anomalies in at least a few ways. The earliest, e.g. Superman, Batman and Captain America, have been actively published for about eight decades now. I suppose Captain America was off the shelves, briefly… but even his renewed run, along with other Silver Age characters, are now past a half-century. Of at least one new comic, every month, year in year out year in year out.

What else is similar to this?

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Elric, Arkwright, Warlock

A modest follow-up to this recent post, here’s something that has been on my mind for a while to explore. What are the connections between the frosty, soul-stealing cosmic saviors of Michael Moorcock, Bryan Talbot and Jim Starlin?

Elric, Arkwright, Adam Warlock

From left, Elric by Russell; Arkwright by Talbot; Warlock by Starlin

As noted earlier, I took a liking to Starlin’s version of Adam Warlock in the early 1990s, later tunneling back to discover the pair’s 1970s outing. For many years, this was about all I knew of such things, my comics reading being largely obsessed with Marvel.

Then, maybe sometime around 2002, I discovered The Adventures of Luther Arkwright. (Probably inspired by Warren Ellis’s praise at artbomb.net, which site is unfortunately now so broken that it seems impossible to access anything beyond the homepage.) While this work was incredibly eye-opening… there were yet familiar aspects. Aloof, ruthless superman (with 70s feathered hair), cosmically appointed a universal savior, in which role (unlike an even earlier occupant of that job) he may figuratively save souls but literally steals them… I couldn’t help wondering if this was more than coincidence.

For several years, I gave it little more thought, though, until I stumbled upon The Metatemporal Detective Agency. This novel introduced me to Michael Moorcock’s sprawling fantasy oeuvre, out of which I soon latched onto the character of Elric. Probably, I must suspect now, because here was another character I recognized as familiar and to my liking.

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Warlock & The Infinity War

One curiosity of moving deeper into adulthood has been discovering what works remain interesting, and what things fade.

It feels natural enough, in some sense, that enthusiasms of adolescence and earlier may eventually be “outgrown.” But a variety of things that delighted me into my mid-20s have lost their charm, even though I don’t feel as though I’m categorically more of an adult now than I was, then. At the same time what’s left behind as still appealing, in my mid-30s, can be at least as baffling as the attrition around it.

I was reminded of this dynamic once more by the juxtaposition of two stories at The Outhouse. (A news-and-satire site arguably informed by a similar tension of nostalgia and “oh, wow, this is really bad” in everything it publishes.) While neither project is new, within two days I was informed that Kevin Smith is planning Mallrats 2, and reminded that Marvel has two films queued up with the title of Infinity War.

Boy, if you were intentionally trying to pair up two things that I gleefully, even obsessively loved for years and now just… don’t… I doubt you could do better than Mallrats and The Infinity War. Despite which, it has occurred to me that even amid the bleak, blasted-out post-enthusiastic landscape of The Infinity War, there is yet another survivor: after most of 20 years, I still think rather highly of certain antecedent stories of IW star Adam Warlock.

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Cynical Girl

I think it’s time to write something relatively cheery, again. At least, it’s time to try. But can I do it? Can I come up with something that is not informed by negativism, can I actually just be happy about something for even a moment?

These may be destined to remain open questions, I suspect. Because there’s probably a little yes and a little no in posting a warmhearted celebration of…

CYNICAL GIRL

Our hero.

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Spider-Man on Saturday Night Live

So, by way of a long introduction, for a while now I’ve been thinking about posting some commentaries about some of the entertainments I own, particularly comics. While I hardly buy them lately, I have hundreds of them here, and I also have this blog… and it might be worthwhile sitting down to offer up some notes now and then, particularly on some of the lesser known items.

We’ll see how much more I feel like pursuing this idea, in time, but for now let’s open up the issue that has been the most persistent in demanding a post such as this… let’s open up Marvel Team-Up #74.

Spider-Man and the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players!

I have no idea what Belushi is saying here, to his unseen antagonist, Marvel C-list villain The Silver Samurai.*

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All the manga in Japan

One ray of sunlight amid the gloom: I’m starting to think about a trip to Japan later this year. Perhaps I can write more about this later. At the moment, though, it has inspired a small diversion…

In the spirit of the What If series by Randall Munroe, and prompted by a (mostly) joking suggestion from comics’ #1 fan, I feel like investigating

What if I bought all the manga in Japan?

This feels like a question that pleads to become a catchphrase, at the very least; move over “all the tea in China.” I am confident that “all the manga” offers, at the very least, a valid synonym for “a lot.” As for greater precision than this…

Obviously it’s complicated. In theory there should be a real answer, in that I’m thinking about real physical objects; if we took all of the manga in Japan right at this moment and counted it up, it should be entirely possible to determine its weight and volume, at least. (Price would be much more complex even in theory.) There is some inevitable gray area, though, introduced by questions of “what counts as manga.” That of course is just theory, never mind practice.

In practice, to cut to the chase, I’m largely just going to make some things up and try to come up with a figure that (once more with Munroe as my model) at least offers some order-of-magnitude accuracy, probably. If nothing else, I’m curious whether it’s conceivable that “all the manga” could be loaded into a single container ship. Or even some plausibly low number of them. It wouldn’t shock me… but then again I could be way off. Let’s start estimating…

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Let technology do that for you…

Continuing my long-term archiving project, I just stumbled upon this doodle from… I don’t know. Whenever the iPhone4S and those “I found four locksmiths near you” commercials started running.

It's meant to be funny (kind of).

Ha ha… ha… ha?