Mon, 31 May 2010
Here we are, drawing to the end of another month. You listeners sure have been awesome, and I want to thank you sincerely for giving this show the attention it's gotten.
The usual rogues are joined for the final time this month by Jeffrey Taylor (of From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast). The books this week are Amazing Spider-Man 12 and 13, so we're wrapping up the amazingly creepy Betty Brant saga as the chase by Dr. Octopus comes to a close with the unmasking of Spider-Man, and then seeing the first appearance of your favorite fishbowl head, Mysterio. And there's even a special cameo appearance in the show around the 1:00 mark.
Also, the blooper reel is extra long. Well, just cuz. You'll see.
Here's a funny Flash moment, making an arse of himself.
Also, there is some speculation in the episode on when Mysterio gets a name. Looked it up and that's going to happen in 1983 with Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe 7.
Well, that's it for May. I've been trying to decide what kind of release schedule I want to follow. Though I may change later, for now I'm gonna follow the "pattern" (using the term loosely) that I've been using so far, so expect Episode 10 on or around June 16.
Don't forget that we welcome your feedback and will read it on the air (unless you ask us not to, of course), on this episode or on the X-Men Blog. So send us an email, follow us on Facebook, or leave a review on iTunes. And we'll see you in June with Amazing Spider-Man 14-16 and Annual 1, as well as Tales to Astonish 57. Hang loose, Webheads!
Sun, 30 May 2010
Today on the X-Men Blog we are taking our first detour away from our main title, The X-Men, and catching a guest-star appearance of the Angel in Tales of Suspense 49. For those who don't know, Tales of Suspense was an anthology book that Marvel had been publishing since 1958. The first issue featured such suspenseful (hehe!) tales as "I Dared to Explore the Unknown Emptiness!" and "Prisoner of the Satellites". But with superheroes on the rise again in Marvel's repertoire, Stan Lee decided in late 1963 to test a new idea as the lead strip in Tales of Suspense. Six months earlier, he'd done the same with Thor in Journey into Mystery and the Ant Man in Tales to Astonish. Now, we had the Iron Man, an excellent example of a superhero with a pretty cool gimmick and intriguing origin, whose stories ended up being very uneven in quality. With the rise of Iron Man popularity since 2008, I think it's important to point out that if you take a look at his whole history, the character has seldom been good and only rarely been great. But this was 1963. Everything Marvel did turned to gold, and so people were reading Tales of Suspense because, even though it wasn't as awesome as The Fantastic Four or Amazing Spider-Man, many found it more interesting than the other companies' books.
So, history lesson over. The punchline is that Marvel wanted to use the popularity of Tales of Suspense to promote their new book The X-Men. (One might wonder if it weren't the reverse, with the Angel's apperance meant to increase Tales of Suspense sales, but when Stan Lee was writing this book, the first issue of the X-Men hadn't even hit stands yet.) Hence, we have issue 49 of that book with Iron Man going up against the Angel.
I find the cover kinda amusing. Here, the Angel has just walloped Iron Man, who is now falling, presumably to his doom. Can you imagine this happening in the next Iron Man film? A guy with wings, clocking armor-clad Robert Downey? He'd bust his hand!
Open up to the opening splash, and the change from Kirby cover to Ditko interiors is a little jarring. It's the same concept but different execution, and frankly I prefer the cover, no offense to Mr. Ditko. We get a sales advertisement for The X-Men on both, and the splash also mentions The Avengers, which had debuted at the same time as The X-Men.
Our title is "The New Iron Man Meets the Angel!" Notice the word "new". Last month had debuted Tony Stark's new streamlined red-trimmed costume. Obviously, Lee and Ditko are still excited about this.
(page 2-4) The Angel is flying over a Stark factory, on his way to wherever, when Iron Man looks up and sees him. Iron Man tries to warn the Angel away because there's about to be a nuclear explosion, but the Angel thinks he's saying, "Hi!" So he goes down to be friendly and they're both caught in the blast. This has the effect of turning the Angel EVIL, so when Iron Man's power gives out, the Angel does nothing to save him. Iron Man is only able to land safely because of magnetic repellers in his ass. He goes off to his lab to recharge.
So here we have another excellent example of retarded uses of radiation as a comic plot device. Instead of KILLING HIM!!, as radiation ought to do... or even turning him into a mutated hulk or something, the effects of vicinity to an atomic explosion are ... basically an attitude adjustment. And a tendency to rant about EVIL MUTANTS, which is gonna get really annoying here in a minute. And the topper here is that Iron Man says the effects are "just as he suspected". How was vilifying radiation in your plans, Tony?
Also, why the hell is there an atomic explosion going on in the Stark factory? That's definitely not a good thing! Maybe there's some story there about a meltdown that Stark couldn't stop, so he just evacuated everyone as Iron Man, and now he's about to get out of there himself.
And someone help me out here. I haven't read a lot of Iron Man. Most of the recent Fraction stuff, and his first 60 or so stories in Tales of Suspense, and that's it. But I never got the impression that he was able to withstand an atomic explosion. Is this just Lee and Ditko neglecting the impact of what nuclear blasts really do? Or is this an ability that manifests again later, when storytelling is a bit less ignorant of this sort of thing?
If there's one thing that a bad guy can do that will turn me off is rant about how EVIL he is, which is what the Angel starts to do here. A believable villain is going to believe he's doing something for a legitimate reason. Maybe the reason is as simple as self-gain at the expense of the rest of the world, but it's a reason. No person honestly thinks of himself as "evil". And so when the Angel gets on this kick, I sigh.
Oh, and gotta love the days when Stark was always having to get back to his Lantern to charge his ring, right?
(page 5-8) At Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, the Angel is telling the other X-Men that he's leaving. They first try to talk him out out of it, then they try to fight him down until the Professor can get there, but the Angel gets away. (During this, cut away for two panels to show Tony removing his armor.) Xavier arrives and tries to mentally call the Angel back, but A is having none of it. Xavier is dismayed that he has failed, but decides they must stop the Angel and orders Cyclops to contact the Avengers.
Some random thoughts here. The Beast says that the Angel was one of the first X-Men and that they two started together. This will be contradicted later by the "Origins of the X-Men" backup stories. The first two X-Men were Cyclops and Iceman, and if you're only talking about a group of five, not being in the top two makes you not one of the first.
If we're gonna view this story partly as an advertisement for The X-Men, then I say giving each of the members a chance to show his powers is a pretty good idea. Too bad the Angel bests each of his teammates without trying.
We see the rants about the evil mutants. I'll show you what I mean:
"We're the good mutants! Haw...big deal! I'm gonna find the bad ones...the ones that wanna rule the Earth! The ones we're supposed to fight! ...and I'm gonna join up with them! That's where the action is!"
"But now the fun's over! The next time we meet, I'll be fighting on the side of the other mutants.. the ones who want to destroy mankind!"
"You don't scare me anymore, mister! The only ones I'll be taking orders from, from now on, are the other mutants...those you call the evil ones!"
And Professor X doesn't help:
"But before we make any such decision, we must finish the job at hand! We must stop the Angel! For if he joins the evil mutants, bringing with him his X-Men training, we may find they are too powerful even for us to challenge!"
So yeah. Lots of evil mutant rants. Very annoying.
Xavier is kinda touching with his worrying about his ability as a teacher if the Angel could have gone this far off the rails. Evidently, there's nothing in the Angel's thoughts the Professor saw to indicate this is an artificially-induced state of mind.
(page 8,9) The call goes out to the Avengers. But everyone's too busy to answer but Tony.
This is a short scene, but I thought it worth mentioning by itself. For those who don't know the early Avengers chronology, the Hulk was a part of the team for the end of the first issue and most of the second. He took off at the end of the second issue because he didn't feel he had the trust of the rest of the team. And that issue had hit a month earlier. So I'm not sure why he's included here. Maybe Lee didn't realize exactly where the Hulk's role on the team was headed when he wrote this. Actually that seems very likely. You know and I know that the Hulk didn't rejoin the team, but that doesn't mean Stan knew that would be the outcome at this time.
Thor is being Don Blake. I wonder how that's going to work in the movie. That's the part of the movie I'm most curious about -- how they're going to integrate the mortal identity into the swords 'n' sorcery tale they're spinning.
Hank Pym is out with his teenage sidekick, being a dirty old man.
And that leaves good old Tony Stark. We also see some cute Happy/Pepper banter here. The early versions of these characters crack me up. Soooo different to who they will become later. Well, Happy's dead now, and Pepper's practically a cyborg, so...
Iron Man's armor is so cute here. The yellow parts seem to be basically a fine wire mesh. They just fold down like cloth sleeves, but pop into place with magnets in the joints. Very clever. Very 60s! but very clever.
Another interesing point. The narration says that Cyclops is using "a secret wavelength used only by the X-Men and other specially licensed crime-fighting organizations". Sooo, the X-Men are licensed here? I mean, we know that Xavier has a contact in the FBI, but we also know that's kept on the down low. The mutants were allowed to help with the Vanisher problem, so maybe they've made contacts with someone. But I really have to think that if the various superteams had a special wavelength like this, they would use it more often to communicate and have parties and not get into fights every time they meet, y'know?
(page 10-18) The last half of the story is basically one act. The Angel explodes some TNT in the air, and some more near a cruiseboat, and soe more near a bridge, trying to get the attention of the evil mutants, but it doesn't work because the evil mutants see that it's the Angel doing this and suspect a trap. Iron Man shows on the scene and convinces the police to hold off their efforts until he's had a chance to bring down the Angel. They tussle in the air, and Iron Man gets locked in a hangar but gets free. Then Iron Man carries the Angel high up into the air until his transistors cut out. As the Angel sees Iron Man falling to his death, his brain kicks in and he saves Iron Man. Then Angel is normal again so he goes back to the X-Men and everyone is happy.
So, if I wanted to get the attention of evil mutants, I'm not sure exploding TNT in various places would be the best way. It's not exactly very communicative. And you're just as likely to attract the attention of the authorities, or any number of other good and bad guys. The funny thing is that the narration tells us he actually does succeed in getting the attention of some certain "evil mutants" somewhere but that they know who the Angel is, so they don't come out because they think there's a trap.
I just wanna mention at this point that we *will* be meeting the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants shortly, in The X-Men 4. It's obvious as blood writing on the wall that Stan Lee is playing with the ideas that will lead to that group's introduction. He's a little too blatant about it, and it's the sort of foreshadowing you'd expect to see in The X-Men, not in another book's guest feature.
I don't have a lot to say about the actual fight, so skipping to the final air scene, Iron Man is retarded. He gets the notion that this state of mind of the Angel is reversible. And further, that his falling to his doom is going to be the trigger to snap the Angel back to his normal self. I'm so glad he knew that would work, because obviously it worked so well for him back on page 4, right? I mean, I guess....since Iron Man says the explosion was the result of a test, I guess we can say by some crazy comic book Stan Lee logic that Tony knew more about the nature of the blast than I've been giving him credit for so far...as far as its effects and their durability and reversibility. I guess. But I don't really want to.
Also, does Iron Man have some of the absolute weakest armor at this point, or what? I mean, he just recharged before this fight, and tussling with the Angel was enough to drain his power? Really? Wow, I hope you don't have to fight Ultimo tomorrow or anything, Iron Man.
More adorable Xavier with his "So I did not fail! My X-Men training program is successful!" It's so nice to feel validated, isn't it? You keep training mutant children to fight bad guys, ok?
Iron Man makes the comment to the Angel that they might fight side-by-side someday rather than as enemies. And I wanted to be all cool and clever and say, "As a matter of fact, yes! And it happens in such and such issue!" Only I have no idea when they fight together for the first time. There are some stories coming up that have them both in the story, but not fighting together or against each other as far as I know. I don't know when their first team-up is.
So, that basically wraps up this issue. There are a couple more stories, one with the Watcher and a text story. You might think you want to know about them, but I promise they're not worth your time.
So, that's it! I think I mentioned last time that The X-Men 3 is coming up soon, with the Blob, but I actually have one other I want to do first. So we're gonna hit The Avengers 3 for a short post, and then I'll have The X-Men 3 coverage. See you then! Please leave a comment below if you read! (My ego needs feeding.)
Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 8:06pm EDT
Mon, 24 May 2010
Welcome back, X-fans, to the second installment of the X-Men blog. Today, we'll be looking at The X-Men 2, which introduces to us the Vanisher, and I have a confession to make about this book right up front. I had the trade paperback Marvel Masterworks of the first ten issues of this series when I was a kid, maybe 12-ish. I didn't read it too many times because it wasn't what I was expecting, and I just didn't enjoy the stories a whole lot at the time. (Give me Ditko Spider-Man over Kirby X-Men any day, was my thought at the time...and still kinda is, but not to such an extreme.) And somehow, I didn't get how the Vanisher's power worked. It's right there in the script, and we'll see it in a minute, but I just didn't get how someone's power could be to vanish, but then he wasn't still touchable. I remember specifically going into this story for rereads and thinking, "Ok, this time, I'm gonna figure out how ths guy works." In my mind, I was thinking he was like a male villain Invisible Girl, when actually, he's more like Nightcrawler. Ah, well, so I was a little retarded. Weren't we all?
No? Just me? Well, fine, nobody likes you anyway.
...ahem. SO! The X-Men 2. That's what we're talking about. The cover is fun, and if you didn't already know these characters, it'd seem kinda surprising, even laughable (though not in a derogatory way). How can a guy in a wheelchair take on this supervillain, who is "unbeatable"? Cuz after all, "Nothing can stop the Vanisher!"
Open it up, and what an awesome splash page. Very dynamic. Very exciting. Where are these guys running off to? And... wait... Marvel Girl, what are you doing? Why do you have both feet out in front of you when you're running? Oh, oh, are you jumping, maybe? Jumping over the ice? You look kinda dumb doing it. But the rest of you guys? Y'all are awesome.
(page 1-4) The X-Men are hurrying to "answer an urgent mental summons from their mysterious leader, Professor X". They start together, but they take separate routes home. The Beast does some sign hopping and wall crawling before hopping a train. The Angel is attacked by horny teengirls but is saved by Marvel Girl, so he picks her up and flies her away. Cyclops and Iceman are just walking down the street when they see a construction site where a wall is about to collapse on the workers, so Cyclops blasts it to powder. The constructions workers thank them, and they leave, hitching a ride with an ice cream truck to the mansion.
Notable scripting error at the bottom of page 2, where the Angel says "Dr. X" instead of "Professor X". That reminds me of a story of a filmmakers shindig in England in 1963. Sydney Newman was there and was talking to Sean Connery. Connery was talking about his upcoming role in "Dr. No", and Sydney got so dismayed because he had a new children's drama coming on the BBC in a few weeks called "Doctor Who", and he was afraid people would get the names confused. And though I know some people did, I think Newman was safe for the most part.
Ok, so when they got the mental summons, they were all together in the city. But they immediately split and went their separate ways in order to get back to the school. I'm trying to decide if this makes sense or is silly. How'd they get in the city in the first place, and why are they in costume? Some unwritten adventure against evil, maybe? But if they all came on the train, maybe they should all take the train back. It seems the Angel has the right idea, assuming his flight speed is pretty fast, and the Beast does the most logical thing (though a bit flamboyantly), but Cyclops and Iceman just decide to walk it? It's a good thing that icecream truck came along....or something.
Marvel Girl's powers are kinda weak if she can only move what she can physically carry. That's not exactly gonna help her in fights, is it?
Iceman's powers are kinda cool here. He basically works some quickfreeze magic on the gloves, like liquid nitrogen. Though in my head, the glove doesn't become ice cubes, merely superfreezes and breaks apart. Good thing you didn't superfreeze his flesh there, Bobby.
(page 4-7) Professor X calls the X-Men before him in the mansion. Cyclops and Iceman start to apologize for being late, but Xavier cuts them off, saying he followed all their progress mentally and needs no explanations. By way of "throught projections" on a wall, he shows them "the newest menace to mankind", the Vanisher, who had robbed a bank earlier that day. The Vanisher had asked police directions to the bank so that he could rob it. Playing along, thinking he is crazy, and planning to nab him as soon as the crime is done, the police escort him to the bank. He pulls a gun while inside, takes the money, and then vanishes before he can be caught, leaving the police baffled. Iceman reacts to this by exclaiming they'll handle him and showing off his "machine-gun ice pellets", which makes everyone else dive for cover. Marvel Girl uses her telekinesis to propel the pellets back at Iceman, who hides behind a shield. The professor calls a halt to the antics, says that he believes the Vanisher is a mutant, and that it's time for specialized training in the Danger Room.
So, I don't think we ever see Xavier do a home movie thought projection again. I'm gonna interpret this as his causing everyone else's brain to see these images, rather than actually projecting them slideshow style.
Haha! Iceman got a demerit! I think I may keep track of these...
The Vanisher scene is just...weird. So, the cops give him crap for wearing a costume, but decide to go along with his robbing the bank. I have a hard time thinking someone could walk up to a cop and say, "I'd like to rob the bank. Can you show me where it is?" and not get some immediate retribution. Then it shows him with the gun on the next page. If wearing a costume isn't illegal, and stating intention to rob a bank isn't illegal, pulling a weapon certainly is. They should have belted that guy immediately, gotten him from behind, and cuffed him. Sure, he may have vanished at that point, but not with all the money.
Yay Danger Room! First mention of the name, although conceivably that's where they were training last issue as well. But actually the script makes it sound like the Danger Room is a special training place separate from where they usually work. Let's see what happens.
(page 7-10) The Angel is asked to catch a high-speed missile as if it were the Vanisher, but he isn't fast enough. The Beast dodges some metal hands, only to fall into a pit. But it is narrow enough that he is able to slap his hands on the sides to stop himself from falling. He then pushes against the walls to propel himself out. Marvel Girl catches him and sets him down gently.
So, Lee and Kirby seem to have drastically altered their interpretation of Professor X already. Xavier is speaking aloud throughout these scenes. His only thought transmissions were when the X-Men weren't in the room with him. This makes more sense to me. Also he seems to have gained control of his arms, throwing switches, gesticulating while talking, and even lighting a pipe.
(page 10,11) The Vanisher pops up in the Pentagon, teases a general and his aide that he plans to steal some continental defense plans, then pops out again. His activities are reported in the paper, so lots of gantster thug types flock to him.
Can I take this moment to talk about how horribly retarded the Vanisher's outfit is? I have soooo many problems with it. The material seems to be some sort of crinkled taffeta or something. Then there's the poofy hood. WTF! Who wears a poofy hood? It's not just a hooded cloak thing, which might be cool. But no, it's like a stiff poofy hood that surrounds his head and stands out for several inches to either side! Blargh! And. And! It's pink. Pink with a purple cape and gloves. And a black snakey thing going down the middle. Gaawwd, that's awful. I have always hated the Vanisher's look here. One of the worst-dressed villains in comic history. If you know of worse, comment below, with links to pics if you have any.
But there it is on page 11. The explanation of the Vanisher's powers: "I have the ability to teleport myself to any place I can think of...at unimaginable speed!" And for some reason, I never got it as a kid. Sure, I understand now, but I don't know when it clicked. The first time I read this as an adult a couple years back? Or earlier than that? I don't know.
The Vanisher refers to himself as a member of Homo superior. Magneto used that term last issue, though I didn't comment on it. How do all the evil mutants know this is what they're called? Is there a newsletter you subscribe to? Any way I can get a copy?
The Vanisher doesn't say *why* he wants the plans, only that his next move after the theft will be the theft will be the most DARING move in the history of crime. Hmmm... Maybe he'll give them to the Chameleon to pass on to his Commie buddies. Continental defense plans ---> ??? ---> profit
(page 12-13) The X-Men are still training for the oncoming confrontation. Marvel Girl is lifting a very large, heavy ball, but her telekinetic powers start to give out while the ball is above her, so Cyclops blasts it. Iceman gets envious of Marvel Girl's gratitude. Professor X mentally calls Fred Duncan with the F.B.I. Department of Special Affairs and gets the lowdown on the Vanisher, so he and the X-Men head for Washington, D.C.
Some interesting bits of X-Men mythology are brought in here that are later abandoned with no explanation. I'm talking about Xavier's contacts in the FBI. No explanation is given here for their origin. The reader might presume last issue's save at Cape Citadel gave Professor X some superhero cred with the authorities. In actuality, his relationship with Duncan predates the X-Men and we'll be coming back to it when we get into the "Origins of the X-Men" backups about 30 issues down the road.
And I'm sorry, but Marvel Girl, if you know you can't lift heavy things very easily, then why did you move the stupid ball over your head? Usually when I'm having difficulty lifting something, the last thing I do is carry it in a way that it could crush my skull.
So did Iceman hit puberty since last issue? Cuz now all of a sudden, he feels left out when Jean is expressing her gratitude for Cyclops' save. Maybe he caught Cyclops calling her "gorgeous" earlier while he was doing his stupid machine-gun ice pellet stunt. (Which, by the way, was kinda out of character for Slim, according to later developments of his character.) Now as Cyclops saves the day and is a little flirty with Jean, Iceman decides he needs an ice horse thrown at him.
So Xavier can send thought messages out, but can't receive without assistance. He's given Fred Duncan some sort of forehead strap that will let him send thoughts back to Xavier from Washington. I like how Xavier hears of the Vanisher's threats to steal the continental defense plans, and he says "I suspected that might be his next move". Really? You heard he robbed a bank and you suspected that the Pentagon was his next stop? That's some awesome logic there.
There's a new vehicle being used for the trip to Washington. A McDonnell XV-1 Convertiplane, which looks like a helicopter that might also have water applications. I don't think the Blackbird comes in until Claremont.
(page 14-17) The Vanisher pops into the Pentagon and takes the oh so important continental defense plans, and pops out again. He continues to reappear and disappear on his way out, frustrating the guards. The X-Men meet him on the steps. Each of the team gets in at least one shot, and the plans are recovered, but only temporarily. And the Vanisher ultimate pops out again, plans in hand. This, of course, makes everyone think the X-Men are useless.
The Vanisher's powers are used to good effect throughout this issue. He just enjoys tantalizing everyone, which is awesome. I'm not gonna forgive his fashion choice, but he knows how to be villainous.
And the X-Men made a valiant attempt here. I can't fault their efforts. The only thing I think they could have done is huddle over the briefcase like a football once they'd captured it, so he couldn't reach it.
The reaction of the public is typical of New York public in Lee's writing at this time. The team fails, so everyone hates them. But you know, I think that's pretty typical of people. I present the LOST finale as example. Some of those who didn't get every detail answered to their satisfaction accuse the writers of base incompetence across the board. So, yeah, I'd say Lee got it spot on. (Don't argue with me on Lost. If that doesn't describe you, fine. That's why I said "some".)
(page 17-19) The X-Men are watching the news when the announcement comes across that the Vanisher is demanding ten million dollars in exchange for the plans. The X-Men begin to deride each other until Xavier calls them to attention and says he'll be entering the game now.
Ok, so now we know that the Vanisher had more of a plan than we got from Magneto last issue. Magneto captured a military base very nicely, but we have no idea what he was going to do next. The Vanisher stole some crucial plans, and he's holding them hostage for ten million dollars. That's smart. He gets points. In fact, I'll give him ten million points. Add that to the negative infinity he has for his costume choice, aaaaand he's still in the red.
Xavier gives some coaching here, which is good. Cuz really, I thought the X-Men fared pretty well against some guy who can just teleport at the blink of an eye. And the Vanisher really didn't give them much time to react. Good job, X man.
(page 19-22) The final act has Professor X calls the White House (presumably Agent Duncan again) to make them aware of his plan, and the X-Men arrive on the Capitol Hill to confront the Vanisher and his gang of thugs. Taunts are thrown before the X-Men part to reveal a simple man in a wheelchair behind them. The Vanisher forgets how to control his power and then forgets his entire identity due to the professor's mental attack, but everyone else in attendance is oblivious to this (excepting the X-Men, of course). The mutant teens round up the gangsters in short order, and the militia is flabbergasted to find a wheelchair-bound civilian in attendance. The heroes offer to escort him from the scene.
In retrospect, it seems kinda amazing that Stan Lee would have pulled this card as quickly and easily as he did. Theoretically, every single menace the X-Men face could be defeated by Professor X's mental attack, barring some plot device granting immunity. Regardless, it does work here, and it's a rather unusual form of attack in that there is absolutely no evidence of anything happening. Perhaps the only real way to beat someone who can vanish from his captors' hands at will.
Punnage from superheroes while they're battling thugs is always funny. Right?
Professor X's closing remarks are a bit trite, though. "Always remember, my X-Men!.. The greatest power on Earth is the magnificent power we all of us possess...the power of the HUMAN BRAIN!" Well, that's all well and good, Teach, if you have a super-powerful mutant brain. Otherwise, my brain is much better at beating Minesweeper than Mutant Menaces.
And this brings us to the end of the second issue of The X-Men. Please comment below with your feelings on the book and/or my review. Next issue, the Blob! See you there!
Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 9:15pm EDT
Mon, 24 May 2010
Here we are, born to be kings, we're the princes of the universe! In other words, Amazing Spider-Man Classics is back for more of Spider-Man's classic adventures. Continuing this month with Jeffrey Taylor (co-host of From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast), Jon, Bertone, and the Donmeister bring to you the unfolding saga of Betty Brant.
Amazing Spider-Man Classics is devoted to covering every main Spider-Man book as well as every guest and cameo appearance we can find. This time, Amazing Spider-Man 10 and 11 are up, with a stop along the way for a cameo in Strange Tales 119. This wraps Spidey's first full year of publication and launches a second.
Unfortunately, Jon found his childhood violated by the ideas presented concerning Dr. Octopus and Betty, not to mention Betty and her brother Bennett. Are these the same stories I read as a 6-year-old? Here are some fun unscripted images to illustrate what I mean:
So, that wraps up another episode. By the way, are you liking the X-Men blog? Let us know what you think! You can contact the show via email, follow us on Facebook, or leave a review on iTunes. And join us next week as we wrap up our May episodes with Jeffrey.
Sun, 23 May 2010
So here we are. The first issue of The X-Men, with its famous snowball-throwing Iceman, eyebeam-shooting Cyclops, attack-launching Angel and Beast, and ... dancing Marvel Girl? What is she doing back there? I can't really tell. Looking mostly useless as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, Marvel Girl is often the odd girl out on this team. A bit ironic that she becomes the most powerful of the group so far down the road. Or is that spoiling? Hmmm... spoilers. You know, I'm gonna approach this blog as if you were I. That is to say, you have quite a bit of general knowledge of characters and the paths they take without necessarily knowing the specifics of all the stories. If something were to be seen as a spoiler to me, then I will leave it as unrevealed to you. Seems fair to me.
So back to The X-Men 1. (While access to the issue is not required, I'm also not going to be doing much in the way of inserting art into this blog. I'm gonna have to assume that, if you want it, you have an original, reprinted, or digital copy of the issues I discuss. As fun as it might be to include panels, if I were to do so for every panel I find of informative or humorous note, a) that would take forever to crop and upload and encode the images, and b) it might be so much content I'd verge on copyright infringement. So, have your book with you as we go or just go with what I have here.) We see right on the cover Marvel's efforts to sell this group to their readers. They're emblazoned as "IN THE SENSATIONAL FANTASTIC FOUR STYLE!" because, of course, The Fantastic Four was Marvel's lead title at this point 19 issues into its run. And the banner "THE STRANGEST SUPER-HEROES OF ALL!" will be seen, in one form another, for much or all of this book's intial run. (I think it's all, but I'm not gonna go check every single issue right now.)
Open up, and look at that Jack Kirby art. Simultaneously dynamic and....boring. Is it bad if I say that? I'm not a Kirby-hater. I just think there are some artists later who are going to do amazing things with these characters, but right now, looking at this art from 1963...I don't know. Yes, the characters are in dymaic poses. This is definitely a step up from Wayne Boring's work on Superman in 1955. But at the same time, it feels very dated to me.
(page 1) We see Profesor X sitting in his chair, calling his students to him telepathically. And in response arrive Cyclops, the Angel, the Beast, and Iceman.
The setting for pretty much the entire X-Men franchise is set right away in the first panel -- "an exclusive private school in New York's Westchester County." There will be turmoil and location changes later, and in recent years, this school got completely destroyed. But you can't think of the X-Men without thinking of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. It doesn't have that name yet, but this is the place.
(page 2-7) Class is now in session, and one by one, each of the X-Men is tested by Professor X. The Beast does obstacle course gymnastics with his over-sized, extra agile hands and feet. The Angel flies about, darting through attacks, but is hit by one blast. Yet he recovers and is able to hover in mid-air before falling. Iceman is told by Professor X that he has a five-minute recess by Professor X. He decides to spend it clowning around, but Professor X was testing him and has the Beast throw a bowling ball in his direction. Iceman is alert and is able to fashion a U-shaped chute to deflect the ball right back at the Beast. Professor X then tests Cyclops' ability to control his optic blasts by having him attack the Beast and Iceman without injuring them. Professor X then has the Angel join the others' efforts to subdue Cyclops, and it turns into a playful brawl before Professor X commands them to stop.
Ok, first, I realize that for the sake of the medium, we're never going to see extensive training of these guys. But theoretically, a class day involves much more than a single test of each student's abilities. There's no way these guys are going to get very good at that rate. That being understood, we get some awesome ways for each X-Man to showcase his abilities at the start of the comic.
Note that there is no origin story given here. That was part of Stan Lee's idea when he decided to use the mutant gimmick as an explanation for the X-Men -- these guys were all born with their powers, or at least born with the genetics that would manifest their powers at some point. Therefore, there would be no need for radioactive spiders, cosmic rays, magic hammers, atomic blasts, or heart-threatening shrapnel wounds. The origin stories that would eventually develop told of the circumstances surrounding the manifestation of those powers, not the source of the powers themselves. But Stan wanted to get right to the story of these teens. So let's talk about that.
Professor X is obviously intended by Kirby to be basically a powerful brain in an almost non-functional human shell. The Angel and Cyclops arrange his recliner and leg blanket for him, and the Professor makes several mentions of how well the students can read his thoughts and spoken words will soon be completely unnecessary. It'll be interesting to note if this interpretation holds through all of Kirby's run on the title. I honestly can't remember.
Iceman is such a kid in this issue. Very playful and childish. Icing up the Beast's arm (which is actually a very bad idea), dressing as a snowman, and in a few pages mocking the older boys' wolfish behavior toward Jean. It's almost like they're playing him off as closer to 12 than 16 or 17. Later, his origin story will contradict this.
(page 7,8) Professor X's command to halt was due to the imminent arrival of new student Jean Grey. The X-Men change into civvies to greet her and we learn their names as Hank McCoy (the Beast), Bobby Drake (Iceman), Slim Summers (Cyclops), and Warren Worthington the Third (the Angel). Professor Xavier introduces himself to the girl, and introduces Jean Grey to the team, including her nickname of Marvel Girl.
It's worth pointing out three things at this point. First, this is Professor X's first time to speak. Second, Cyclops's moniker is not yet Scott Summers. He's just Slim, a nickname that almost becomes derogatory in later usage, like when it's coming from Wolverine.
And finally, Jean Grey seems to have no knowledge of Professor Xavier or his school. This is one of the first and most blatant of retcons introduced by Chris Claremont, when he does her backstory in Bizarre Adventures 27 (1981).
(page 9-11) Jean demonstrates her powers, but when she gets a little too much attention from the older three boys, she sends Hank into the ceiling and then onto a couch. Finally, Xavier outlines the mission of the team for Jean and the reader -- they're out to stop the evil mutants, one of whom is becoming active even now.
So Hank's a complete jerk here. Never in all my days has it even been appropriate to steal a kiss from the cheek of a pretty girl on first meeting her. At least not in the States. I understand cheek kisses might be more common in Latin or some European cultures, but this is Westchester County, NY.
I can't help but wonder if Jean wasn't intentionally given a non-physical power. In fact, all of Marvel's superheroines right now have powers that are completely removed from their bodies' own strength. The Invisible Girl has her invisibility and force fields. The Wasp shrinks down and makes little pussy zaps that never seem to do any good whatsoever, at least not in the Avengers books (I haven't read a lot of the Tales to Astonish from this era). And Jean Grey has telekinesis. Is Stan Lee deliberately steering clear from girls having physical strength? And is that choice based in sexism or in a desire to avoid Supergirl-ish characters? Hmmm... As much as I respect Stan, knowing what little I do about his worldview at this time, I fear it might be sexism, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
(page 11-15) Magneto is in a secret laboratory near Cape Citadel, a fictitious military base in Florida. After months of planning, he is ready to launch his initial attack against the human race. When they launch "the mightiest rocket of all", he uses his magnetic power to knock it off course so that it plunges into the sea. This hits the news the next day, starting a rise of suspicion of sabotage. That afternoon, Magneto takes control of a machine gun and a tank and begins firing on the soldiers remotely through magentism. He then writes a message in the sky, commanding the base be surrendered to him. When no move of surrender is made, he uses an energizer to amplify his powers and opens a missie silo, which causes the missile to be automatically launched, and Magneto then causes this missile to land in the ocean. The base is now on full alert, but Magneto is able to walk in, and using magentic fields as defense and offense, he takes control of Cape Citadel.
Ok, yes, this scene is a great demonstration of the nature and magnitude of Magneto's power. I'll give you that. But I have sooooo many questions.
Why is Magneto pushing missiles into the sea instead of actually hitting sites with them? Not very terroristic, is it? What was "the mightiest rocket of all" supposed to do had he not tampered? Go into orbit? Make a circle and come back? Why the hell was there a LOADED MACHINE GUN at a missile launch site? Complete with sandbags as a defensive shield for the operator? And the tank, too, what the frak was it doing there, armed and ready to go? Is this really how the military works? I have a hard time believing that.
The message in the sky is one of those tropes of comics that I won't always complain about, but since it's the first time, I'll mention it here. Is there really enough dust in the air to write a huge message visible from below? If there were, wouldn't the air be generally more cloudy than it is? I have the same problem with Iceman's ice powers, pulling enough moisture out of nowhere to coat things in ice. In any case, Magneto now owns a military base. Good job, Mags. But now what are you going to do with it? (page 16) Back at the school, Jean Grey has tried on her costume, complete with cowl, and the guys are all peering around the corner mooning over her. She gets upset and shoos them away.
Ok, it says she's "in a dormitory room". So either a) she changed in her bedroom and is now in the living space of her private quarters and the boys are intruding, or b) she's in her one-room dormitory (which is what I think of when I hear "dormitory") and the guys are absolute perverts for snooping in on her while she's changing. I'm not sure which it is, but it's pretty uncool of them in any case.
(page 16,17) Professor Xavier summons the X-Men and fills them in on the situation at the Cape. They all suit up and travel by car and plane to Florida.
There are so many things that are weird here. First of all, we don't really know how long each of the X-Men has been training in the school. We find out later in what order they were recruited, but still don't really know how long it's been between or since those recruitments. The one we DO know is Jean Grey. Marvel Girl arrived yesterday. She's had enough time to settle in and get her outfit, probably run through a handful of training exercises with the boys, but that's it. And he's sending them all out to take on an "evil mutant". But hey, I guess if Batman can send Robin into danger, why not?
Warren says, "You're speaking ALOUD! That means it's important!" Again with the idea that the professor is simply a superbrain in a body-shaped jar. And Jean has the thought that "I never saw the professor like this before ... so grim, so intense!" That would really make more sense coming from ... oh, ... ANYbody else. She's only been there since yesterday. It only makes sense if we take into account the Claremont retcon of her past history with xavier.
Iceman is cute. "Hah! I can get ready faster than the rest of you! All I haveta do is ice up and put on my boots!" Of course, at this point, Bobby looks more like a two-legged snowman than the Iceman we'll come to know and love later. So I guess we know that when he goes out, it's in his plain clothes.
The Angel bothers me. This whole idea of him binding up his wings and just wearing clothes over them totally doesn't fly. On the one hand, they'd be bulging the back of his shirt very noticeably. On the other, can you imagine the cramping he must get? Like when you're riding in a car for hours and can't stretch your legs. Pretty soon all you want to do is just stretch those muscles. It has to be that way with his wings.
It says that the X-Men are driven in a specially-built Rolls Royce. Specially built how? So that Xavier can drive it? And if not, then who the hell is driving these guys? I guess I have to go with the paraplegic teach driving the car. Do such things exist, does anyone know? In a similar vein, their plane is remotely controlled by Xavier's thought impulses. I guess Slim hadn't finished his pilot's training yet. I'm glad they go to manual flight later, so much more believable. But I give them an A for effort at making these guys seem like they have cool tech.
(page 17-23) The X-Men arrive at the cape, break through Magneto's force field surrounding it, and avoid or deflect missiles, metal rubbish, and a vat of flaming rocket fuel in their efforts to get at Magneto. At last minute, he is able to fly away "by means of magnetic repulsion" casing another magnetic forcefield behind him so that the Angel can't follow. The base is returned to military control, and Xavier congratulates his X-Men as they fly back to New York.
After all the intros and setup, of course the fight is going to be quick and dirty. My problem here is that we have absolutely no clue what Magneto was planning to do with his missile base. Presumably he wanted it for the same reason I would want it -- to blow some people up. But whom, and was that his only purpose? He'd had months of planning, and believed humankind should no longer dominate the Earth. This effort was to show his power. Well, I guess that worked. But you kinda folded your hand kinda easily, Mags, y'know?
Basically, in the fight, each of the X-Men gets a chance to throw a super-punch or two. Cyclops blasts the field with his optic blasts and blasts a hole in the ground as protection against the rocket fuel explosion. Iceman stops the hunter missiles, and though the description makes no sense ("just as the hunter missiles are attracted by heat, so are the Iceman's grenades attracted by the missiles' speed" wtf??!!), his efforts are effective. The Beast catches a missile with his feet and then Marvel Girl hurls it into the sea. The only one who gets short shrift here is the Angel who has problems keeping ahead of the missiles and has to be bailed out by his teammates, and then he's taken down by all the metal debris hurled by Magneto.
The close of the plot is noteworthy because here, the X-Men are in good graces with the government, or at least with the military commander at Cape Citadel. Assuming this event gets reported by the media, it's a feather in their cap. The anti-mutant hysteria that will later become a recurring theme with the X-Men is not found here.
And that basically closes out my first X-Men Blog entry. I hope you enjoyed it. I'm gonna try to get several entries up this week to catch up to the books covered in the Spider-Man podcast. Leave comments below, even just a "I read it" if that's all you have time for. This is fun for me, and I hope it's fun for you.
Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 6:11pm EDT
Wed, 19 May 2010
Hey everyone. This is Jon Wilson from Amazing Spider-Man Classics. One of the things that I wanted to do, when I was playing around with the idea of a Spider-Man podcast, was an X-Men podcast that would be like a sister show. The two would follow each other along and keep pace chronologically with one another. But the sad truth is I just don't have the time or energy to manage a group for such a feat. And I'm not sure how successful I would be as a solo podcaster. (You should hear my early attempts at solo Spidey and X-Men shows back before ASM Classics got up and going. And by should, I mean shouldn't.)
But I thought, hey, maybe I don't have to do audio. Maybe I can do a text blog instead. Actually, I literally had this idea two minutes ago, opened a window, and started typing.
So the first thing to say is why? Why is doing an X-Men journey so important to me, and why is it lumped in my head together with Spider-Man? Well, probably the easy answer is that I was a child of the early 90s. And that meant some really good (imo) animated series for both Spider-Man and the X-Men. When that opening music came on, I knew I was in for some good times. And though I probably had vague notions in my head of who and what the X-Men were before that cartoon, it was that series that cemented the concept in my brain.
Interestingly, I never followed X-Men comics as a kid. I always felt like there were so many books with so much back story that I didn't feel confident jumping in. You had Wolverine with his Weapon X story, with the goggle helmet and all the wires plugging into him. You had Cyclops and Jean and the Dark Phoenix story. Angel and Archangel. And the list goes on. These characters have gone on so many journeys over the years, and even now, I'm only just getting to know some of those stories. Since getting back into comics a couple years ago, I've been trying to read every Spider-Man and X-Men book from the beginning. And since I've been reading lots of other books along the way, I've so far only managed to make it to 1981. On the one hand, that's almost 20 years of comics. On the other hand, I wish I'd gotten farther by now. Especially for the X-Men. Since the X-Men we know and love today didn't really have their genesis until 1975, I haven't actually read that much. (As opposed to Spider-Man, where I feel like I've already seen at LEAST a couple major eras for the character and am coming up on something of a second golden age for him with the 80s.)
So yeah, I want to give the X-Men the same treatment I'm giving Spider-Man, but sadly I don't have the resources to do it. So I'm gonna try to do a second best thing with this blog. I feel I express myself better in text anyway. Unfortunately, I'm starting out behind. I wish I'd had this idea back around episode three of the show. So, give me a little wiggle room for catch-up, and then I'm going to do my best to have X-Men blog posts published around the same time as the Spider-Man books that were published at the same time. So we can see how the characters developed at the same pace.
Some of you may want to read the books before I blog, so I'll always try to let you know what I'll be discussing next time. And of course, this one's a no-brainer. First book up is The X-Men 1. See you soon.
Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 11:56am EDT
Mon, 17 May 2010
Here we are with a new month and a new round of classic Spidey episodes. This month, Joshua, Donovan, and I have joining us Mr. Jeffrey Taylor, co-host of the world-renowned From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast. This is a special occasion for me because his and Michael Bailey's work over on that show is what got me into comic book podcasts in the first place and helped to inspire the show you are looking at now. So I strongly urge you to check them out if you haven't already.
Amazing Spider-Man Classics is devoted to covering every Spider-Man book, as well as every guest or cameo appearance we can find. This week, we kick things off with a look back at a Golden Age villain of the Justice Society, Evil Star! Wait... I mean, Electro, who is Spider-Man's villain. Sorry, I get confused some times. But can you blame me? If you think Jeffrey's DC-ness is influencing my brain, just look at this guy...
We give a nod to a cameo in The Avengers 3, and then we have a ball of a time discussing Amazing Spider-Man 9, along the way speculating on Betty Brant's affection for her brother. We're talking real Star Wars love here.
We're also reading email this time around. If you feel led by the Spidey Spirit, please drop us a line with your comments, questions, and explanations. Also, we encourage you to leave reviews on iTunes, join our group on Facebook, or even leave a comment here. Thanks for listening!
Fri, 7 May 2010
What? You're back? You must be looking for some classic Spider-Man goodness. Well, this week serves up the goods for Amazing Spider-Man 7 and 8. Jon, Don, and Josh are joined again by Zach Henderson from Teenage Wasteland: An Ultimate Spider-Man Podcast, as we wrap up our April episodes (even though it's May now cuz Jon had laptop problems). You'll get the Vulture's return, the stupidest robot in the history of robots, and Spidey crashing a party in order to score some team-up action. Strange Tales 115 also gets some brief attention, because Amazing Spider-Man Classics is committed to covering every Spider-Man book, as well as every Spider-Man guest or cameo appearance that we can find.
Note: The blooper reel contains some discussion of a religious icon that is rather indelicate in its humor. Feel free to turn off the podcast during the closing music if such talk may offend you.
Now, who wants some out of context theater? We let our imagination run wild with these.
Thanks again for listening. We'll be back later in May with a new guest co-host to help us tear into Amazing Spider-Man 9-13.