Apr 24, 2014

A Sense of Wonder: Thor: The Mighty Avenger

On Thor: The Mighty Avenger
A Sense of Wonder
by Duy

A while back, my brother said to me that he played The Avengers on home video for the kids — that's my 15-year-old nephew, my 8-year-old niece, and two of the other kids who are always at the house — and they were just watching intently the whole time. So I asked that second one, my niece Fiona, which one her favorite Avenger was. Her answer was Thor, meaning she's a girl after her uncle's heart. So I asked her if she wanted me to read her some Thor comics, and she said yes, the same way I used to (and still do) read her some Golden Age Shazam/Captain Marvel comics, but I figured, what would I read her? Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic's run isn't "cute" enough for her (she likes to call things "cute"), Walt Simonson's run is (I think) a little too dense in terms of words, and I considered the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby original run until I opened my Masterworks and remembered how much 60s-era sexism and racism there was.

Fortunately, there was one universal answer: Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee, a stand-alone book with its own self-contained continuity. I've been meaning to get it for a while, since I love Samnee (Daredevil is one of only two titles I'm still getting on a monthly basis), and Fiona wanting some Thor to read just made me pull the trigger.

I bought it first thing on a Wednesday morning, on a holiday. I went to my family's house, and she and I read it, with me reading the words and her doing the sound effects. We finished it in a day.

There's a lot to like in Thor: The Mighty Avenger, which sets the Thunder God in contemporary times, banished to Earth by Odin for reasons unknown and taken in and given a home by Jane Foster. For one thing, the art is pretty incredible. Samnee's got a style where you can tell what each character is feeling even if all the panel contains is a hollow outline of a figure with two dots for eyes and a quick line for the mouth (which Fiona kept pointing out to me every chance she got — she's related to me, after all), and man, it really helps. Some scenes are completely silent. The entire book starts out with these first two pages.

Look at how much is established in those pages. From Jane's loneliness to her sense of awe and wonder at a simple rainbow, Samnee's able to convey it with simple facial expressions and gestures. These are some inspired artistic choices — the everyday act of putting your pinky on your lip when you're in awe is still something many comics artists forgo. Samnee's mastery of body language is evident in Mighty Avenger.

In fact, it's possible that even after so many issues of Daredevil, where Samnee pulls out trick after trick and fancy layout after fancy layout, it's in Mighty Avenger that I really appreciated him and his hold on fundamentals the most. Keeping layouts and compositions simple really highlighted his gestures and facial expressions. At no point, ever, does anyone say anything to the effect of "Thor loves to fight," but Samnee gets it across each time with a simple smile or smirk.

It's not just Samnee, either. Roger Langridge does a good job with this kind of texture. It's no accident that Thor ends up watching The Wizard of Oz (which Fiona loved so much, because she loves that movie), right at the part where Dorothy's about to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Mmmm. Sammich.

There's a genuine romance to Mighty Avenger and it's centered, of course, on Thor and Jane Foster. Thor's desperation to get back to Asgard and his growing acceptance for Earth is a focal point, and it doesn't happen without Jane.

And if you couldn't figure it out from that dialogue, Roger Langridge is pretty good with words. And he's also pretty good at moments, too. In case you've been thinking "This is just for kids!", well, first I'd say there'd be nothing wrong if that were true, but also, there's enough in there to provide a fun, layered experience for all ages.

And of course, there's just some great fistpumping, adrenaline-rushing action throughout the book. With guest stars like Captain Britain and Giant-Man (whom Fiona eagerly calls "Brian" and "Henry") and Wasp and Iron Man and Captain America, there's no shortage of punching, and boy, does Thor love to punch things.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger isn't perfect. For one thing, it was cancelled four issues early and some of the main questions were never answered, such as why Odin banished Thor from Asgard in the first place, or who the hell Krask is (he's this guy, so don't feel too bad about not getting that big reveal), and I actually think it starts off a bit slow. But the characters make it. The moments make it. It's a comic that looks simple on the surface but has true, genuine beauty, and it's a comic about that very thing, about how things that seem simple on the surface, that you take for granted each day, can still fill you with wonder and awe, if you only stop to look.

A half hour after reading Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Fiona came up to me with her iPad and, with a smile on her face, said, "Look. I made a Rainbow Bridge in Minecraft." So, thank you, Avengers the movie, for giving me the impetus to buy Thor: The Mighty Avenger. And thank you, Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and company, for bringing me and my niece closer together, with the Marvel character that I'd be happiest doing it with.

You can get Thor: The Mighty Avenger here:

Apr 23, 2014

The DC Property Warner Brothers Should Bring to the Big Screen

I'm a basketball fan, and a part of being a basketball fan is believing that more than having the best abilities, talent, and skills, it's important to find yourself in the best situation. You can't just put the best available players together (see the 2011 Miami Heat or the 2013 Los Angeles Lakers); you have to take into account skill sets and make sure they all complement each other (see the 1996 Chicago Bulls, or any San Antonio Spurs team since 1999).

This also applies to comics. You can't just pair up a hot artist with a hot writer and have them work on anything you want. It has to be a project on which their skills would complement each other. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created one of the greatest comics of all time in Watchmen, but their skills would not have come together on a project like Swamp Thing, as Gibbons' line is too clean for a muck monster. You can put Jim Lee on Batman: Hush, a collection of money shots of Batman and his cast, but Superman: For Tomorrow is a harder sell, because it requires a lot of subtle emotion, never Lee's strong suit.

In that same vein, it's true for movies. Look, I know there are fans of DC's movies, and more power to that, but here's what we know for sure, moving forward: Man of Steel was polarizing as hell, and Man of Steel made $668 million while Thor: The Dark World made $644 million, trouncing Superman overseas. Is $668 million and beating Thor by %24 million a box office failure? Of course not. But, would you be happy with those numbers, if you consider the fact that we're talking about Superman, a worldwide icon of 75 years? Would you be happy with mixed reviews and mixed crowd reaction? I wouldn't be. It's something along the lines of the economic concept of capitalization rates; yes, you're making a good return on investment, but is it really the best return on investment you could be getting? I don't think so. You're leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.

Warner Brothers doesn't lead the movies in the superhero genre, just as DC doesn't lead the superhero genre in the comics industry, but heck, you could even say that in the long term, they may not even be number 2. Marvel's pretty far ahead, with their movies all planned till 2028 and their TV shows all locked up, but look at the landscape, and you see that Sony does have a plan with the Spider-Man universe, however weird it is (Travis has joked, or perhaps not-joked, about the Sony version of Avengers being Maximum Carnage, which would be both weird and awesome), and Fox has the entire X-Men and Wolverine franchise to bank on, as well as the Fantastic Four to launch. (And what are the odds they'll cross over eventually? Pretty good, right?) On the other hand, David Goyer's said that Warner Brother really has no plan for their universe.

So I've been thinking about it, and thinking about it, and thinking about it, and BOOM, just like that, my brain fixed Warner Brothers' problem (yes, I'm going to go ahead and call it a problem, even if their higher-ups probably don't think there is one). And, while my brain was at it, it fixed a DC Comics' problem. Basically, it comes down to this. Warner Brothers should shelve Batman and Superman for a while and focus on...

...The New Gods.

Slow down, Superman and Batman fans. Take a deep breath. Work with me. We'll get through this. Take a seat. Let's talk this out. What do we know?

Well, let's take a quick look at what's worked for Marvel. Marvel kicked off this incredibly impressive run with Iron Man, a character who the world probably knew by name and by look prior to 2008, and aside from a transcendent performance by Robert Downey Jr., I think one of the main drivers for this has been the fact that Iron Man has a very strong technological focus, in this, what is probably the best age for technologically focused movies. Not to say that any movie with technology in it is going to be a smash hit, just that it helps to connect with today's audience more readily.

Who am I kidding, of course it'd be a hit regardless.

Another of Marvel's out-of-nowhere successes is the Thor franchise. I say out of nowhere because, for the longest time, I'd heard and read that pulling off Thor was impossible, that it would be too corny, too hokey, and, most of all, too expensive. (I wish I had a source for that last one, but I distinctly remember reading a piece that said making a Thor movie would cost at least $400 million, around 2005.) That's certainly no longer true, and we've seen several works of fiction go the mythical route since. Yes, the fantasy thing had been a genre that led to Hollywood success since Lord of the Rings, but now we're seeing comics like Loki: Ragnarok and Roll and two Hercules movies in the same year? Come on, you can't tell me none of that is on the success of Thor and Tumblr's love for Tom Hiddleston.

While I'm at it, let me mention Almighty Thor, which features Kevin Nash as Odin.

Acting: So much more respectable than pro wrestling.

Okay, so we've got two franchises about technology and mythology, and guess what? The New Gods of the Fourth World meet at the intersection of those two genres. Taking place after the birth of the gods that replaced the old ones (so, heck, starting a New Gods film would metatextually declare war on Thor and Marvel Studios, which may not be that far off), the Fourth World looks at technology and the evolving role it takes in our everyday lives. The mixture of fantasy and sci-fi in the New Gods is simultaneously disarming and arresting, and should be intriguing enough to a new audience.

But wait, you say, no one knows who the New Gods are! No one will care!

Well, you can't really convince me that the general moviegoing public cared so much about Iron Man before Robert Downey Jr. got to him, or even really knew who Thor was before 2011. But, even if you could, they are making Guardians of the Galaxy. That is a movie that's being released this August, and even got a big "World Premiere of the Trailer" thingymabob on Jimmy Kimmel. In other words, it's okay if people don't know who these characters are. Most movie franchises start from scratch. Heck, if anything, the biggest problem the New Gods would have, in terms of public consciousness, is how similar it is to Star Wars (main protagonist, protecting the Source/Force is the son of the main antagonist, who is either named Darkseid or is with the Dark Side), and you could probably easily combat that by pointing out how the New Gods came first.

The New Gods would be a big, sprawling epic. You've seen how Marvel used three (actually four, but we're not going to count the Hulk) franchises to eventually dovetail into Avengers, but that kind of storytelling engine was the type Jack Kirby was working with (and didn't really get a chance to go through with) in the early 70s with the New Gods. Working with four titles, the only real connection between the four titles was the presence of the main villain, the Lord of Apokolips, Darkseid.

"When you cry out in your dreams, it is Darkseid that you see."

Darkseid himself should be a good enough reason to do this. Not only has Darkseid's status as a villain favorite been cemented in his appearances in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited, but his status as a top villain in DC Comics has never been fully realized, for whatever reasons (the reasons actually being that he's always getting beaten down handily, but we won't go there). Putting Darkseid in a different medium would give him a fresh start and may revitalize him in the source material.

Plus, there's also this: Darkseid is the inspiration for Thanos, who is likely going to be the main villain of Avengers 3, and do you, DC fans, really want Thanos on the screen when Darkseid isn't on the screen? Come now.

The main thrust of the Fourth World Saga is the actual New Gods epic. In the wake of the destruction of the old gods (or... Ragnarok), two worlds are created. One, Apokolips, ruled by Darkseid, is all about drudgery, despair, and slavery. And the other, New Genesis, is about hope.

In an effort to achieve peace between the two worlds, Darkseid and Highfather agree to exchange sons. Darkseid's son, Orion, raised in New Genesis, is the perfect protagonist for a Warner Brothers movie. As Man of Steel shows, Warner Brothers thinks that highlighting destruction on an epic scale is the way to go, and Orion is sufficiently conflicted, angry, and violent. He'd be perfect for Zack Snyder's action sequences, and Kalibak is the kind of antagonist that would be good for a first movie.

Ooh, look, a video!

In addition, let's not forget Warner Brothers' obsession with shoehorning "depth" and "allegory" into their movies, even if it makes no sense and is the conversational equivalent of that dude who likes to shoehorn in trivia and facts that have nothing to do with the topic at hand just to show off how much he knows. We're talking about a studio that has Superman assuming Jesus Christ poses, has Superman and Batman at age 33, and throws the word "inspire" around a lot without actually showing Superman inspiring anyone. Yes, in short, I think Warner Brothers is a studio that very much falls short in the "show, don't tell" department, and one of the reasons for that is because they keep trying to shoehorn in these themes instead of just letting the material speak for themselves.

(Someone, somewhere, right now is selectively reading this and complaining that I'm calling depth and allegory bad things. Bank on it.)

Well, if they're going to insist on doing that, then we may as well give them source material where all that stuff is built into, and that's New Gods, right there. There's the whole mythical/religious aspect as it is, and the idea of how technology plays into that, and all the imagery you can use with that.

But even the names of the characters are allusions or metaphors. Darkseid and Orion are self-explanatory, but Highfather's name is Izaya, after the Biblical Isaiah, while Darkseid's other son is named Kalibak, reflecting his beastly nature, after Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Darkseid' main torturer is Desaad, after the Marquis De Sade. And Highfather's son who was given to Darkseid as part of the peace pact? His name is Scott Free.

Scott Free is the second main character of this epic. Born to Izaya and handed over to Darkseid, Scott was raised in the terrible orphanages of Apokolips and then found his way out, with the help of his future wife Big Barda to become Mister Miracle, the world's greatest escape artist!

Reason # 450 to do New Gods: Big Barda.

Scott would certainly be a unique superhero, and that's important if you want to stand out in the market. Superman has such a generic power set (granted, it was originally his power set) that the producers decided to really showcase his level of power to show how he stands out. Orion's got the same power set, for the most part, so how do we make another movie stand out? Well, we'll make him an escape artist, flanked by a Fourth World Amazon (and sometimes multiple Fourth World Amazons)!

So now you've got two movies with Darkseid as the main thread connecting them, and then there's a third! The Forever People, created to be New God hippies and representatives of counterculture...

...okay, I have no idea what you could do with them that wouldn't look incredibly dated — Grant Morrison tried updating them in Final Crisis to make them not-hippies but more contemporary, but that would date itself quickly — but it's got a dude named Mark Moonrider, a big bearlike dude named Big Bear, and a beautiful dreamer named Beautiful Dreamer. Warner Brothers pays people stuff to figure this out, right?

(Pay me, Warner Brothers. Hire me. I make a mean cup of coffee and can photocopy documents like no one's business.)

Also, if nothing else, the Forever People go to Happyland.

There was an evil amusement park in LucasArts' Monkey Island video games.
Damn it, George Lucas, stop aping the New Gods!

So we've got a sprawling multilayered epic with the ultimate villain, a story that creators love so much that it keeps getting revived in the comics, but is so unwieldy that it never finishes at a level that people find satisfactory. It's got everything in it: Shakespeare, the Bible, mythology, and the kitchen sink. These things are right in the Nolan/Snyder superhero wheelhouse, and the New Gods would provide them with the best situation to tell the stories they want to tell.

And when you take the world by storm with Orion, Mister Miracle, and the rest of the New Gods? That's when you unleash Superman.

See, Superman's tied into the New Gods, mainly because part of the contract when Jack Kirby was hired by DC was that he worked Superman into his epic, but also because Darkseid has been a pretty prominent Superman villain since 1986, and was even his ultimate villain in both his 90s cartoon and in Justice League Unlimited. In those cartoons, Darkseid was the one villain Superman was willing to cross the line for, and remember, we now have a Superman with blood on his hands. So when Darkseid and Superman come face to face, it will be a knockdown, dragout fight that will, hopefully, take place at a location where civilians can be taken to safety instead of having 7-Elevens thrown around them.

I've long thought that including Superman in the New Gods epic diluted the Fourth World, and I still think that in terms of comics, that's true. But in the movies, it would only go to show Darkseid as a true major threat. It would take several movies to build up, but a New Gods movie franchise, eventually featuring Superman, would have the themes that fall right into Nolan and Snyder's collective wheelhouse, and are characters that fit what they want to do, minimizing their need to sledgehammer every single bit of symbolism as much as they can, and it wouldn't be so polarizing. It's not a perfect solution, but like Monta Ellis going to the Dallas Mavericks and saving both his career and their season, it's as good a situation as you're going to get.

So forget the Justice League. Warner Brothers should use the New Gods. There, I've solved eight years of movie planning for what should be the number 2 studio in the superhero genre. I'm a genius. Or completely nuts. Of course, it will never happen. Warner Brothers will continue to make movies about Superman and Batman, and sometimes other people that we'll forget about in a couple of years (hello, Green Lantern), and there won't be much in the way of variety of tone and theme. They'll polarize the audience, who Zack Snyder will blame for every underperformance, and we'll look back on all this in 2028 and wonder how it is that Black Widow eventually eclipsed Superman on the worldwide popularity scale. And I'll be sitting in my living room, looking at this article, thinking "If only they went with the New Gods, like I said!", right before I stand up and go outside and tell kids to get off my lawn.

Is Duy on the mark? Or is he just insane? Or do you actually like DC's movies and think they're good enough that you want to throw a pie at his face? Let us know in the comments. Meanwhile, you can find some New Gods stuff here:

Apr 21, 2014

Gwen Stacy and the Challenges of Comic Book Continuity

Gwen Stacy and the Challenges of Comic Book Continuity
Ben Smith

Gwen Stacy was the first true love of Peter Parker’s life. Love interests have come before and since, but there can be no doubt, Gwen was the first and the best. Betty Brant may have been the literal first girlfriend, but that relationship never progressed beyond a grade school crush. Liz Allan was always embroiled in a variety of ulterior motives. Many would argue the merits of Mary Jane Watson, having been married to Spider-Man for twenty years in real time. Carlie Cooper, despite what some naysayers would wish, has joined the pantheon of the many loves of Spider-Man.

Comic book continuity is a tricky thing. At many times a wonderful storytelling tool, and just as often an albatross that drags everything down. The problem with the history of a comic book character is that it shouldn’t be all inclusive, but many fans like to treat it as such.

I like the following quote from former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, after having been asked how the ladies in Spider-Man’s life have impacted him as a character (from Back Issue magazine):

“That’s a question for readers. Such matters are best assessed from beyond the fourth wall. I’ve been backstage too much. A parade of writers followed legend/genius Stan on Spider-Man. Some made contributions to the character and some did much damage. Often, the good and the bad things have had to do with how the current romantic interest was handled. I tend to ignore what the bad puppeteers did with the puppets. Readers, fans, however, seem to love to contemplate and debate everything that made the pages, weight them equally, and make everything fit.”

Not every comic ever published needs to count. I share the sentiments of Mr Shooter, and I include the stuff I enjoy, the stuff that can’t be ignored, and then disregard the rest. It doesn’t all fit, because it’s impossible to make it all fit. Thousands of different writers and artists have worked on a character on the level of Spider-Man. They can all approximate a similar take, but it’s all going to be different, and it’s not all going to be good, despite the skills of the creators involved. There are just as many fans that like to reference panel five of page six of issue number whatever as incontrovertible proof that a character can or can’t do something. Never mind that there may be a panel somewhere else that completely contradicts that. It’s all relative, and it should all be relative to each reader’s personal continuity.

Spider-Man, as a character, has had his ups and downs, but I feel is pretty consistently depicted throughout the years. Scrape away all the topical references of any era, the presidents, the music, and the fact that an open-air radiation experiment probably wouldn’t happen at any point in the past ten years, on the sliding time scale. Peter Parker is relatively the same as a character. He’s evolved and grown (some argue he doesn’t) but he’s still recognizable. The biggest differences you can see between “puppeteers” is in the handling of the supporting cast, I believe. That’s where the biggest changes often are.

Now, to bring this all the way back around full-circle, a lot of readers that don’t prefer the character of Gwen Stacy as a love interest, like to reference the years she spent as a constantly crying drag of a girlfriend. While that interpretation is certainly valid based on some of the comic books she appeared in (Stan Lee certainly got in a rut with the character, which I also like to chalk up to the overall depiction of females in comics at that time) that is not the way I choose to remember the character. My personal continuity is dominated by the feisty and sassy bombshell from the very first Steve Ditko–drawn appearances of the character.

In Gwen Stacy’s very first appearance, she’s hanging out with Harry Osborn and Flash Thompson on the first day of college. Peter Parker, distracted by his ailing Aunt May, snubs the trio, which will cause him nothing but trouble in the days to come.

Gwen tries to give him the benefit of the doubt, even noting how bright and attractive she finds him.

Harry and his crew want to play a prank on Peter in chemistry class, using Gwen as a distraction. Gwen reluctantly plays along, but storms off in anger when Peter pays no attention to her.

The next day, Peter is still distracted, but Gwen still wants to believe he’s a decent guy deep down.

Later on, Gwen tries to approach him once again (along with the immortal line “Peter Parker is the only boy I’ve met who hasn’t given me a tumble”) but is spurned once again.

Gwen is furious again, even throwing out a “unmitigated nerve” in his direction. (This only serves to reinforce the theory that beautiful women are attracted to the guys that ignore or are mean to them.)

Days and issues later, having finally saved his Aunt May from death, Peter Parker can finally attend class without distraction. He’s confused to discover that he’d already long burned the bridges of his new classmates, to include the beautiful Gwen Stacy, who has every guy on campus drooling over her.

Seems like this whole misunderstanding could be handled
with five simple words, “My aunt was gravely ill.”

Gwen still is intrigued by Peter, but gets angry again when he won’t even give her a cursory glance in chemistry class.

Later on, Gwen’s friend Sally jumps into the fray, inviting Peter to party at her place. This confuses Gwen even more, as she has had no luck getting him to pay attention to her thus far.

Unfortunately, Sally says the wrong thing, leading Peter to give her the brush-off.

In Amazing Spider-Man #36 (incidentally the only Steve Ditko issue of Spider-Man I had as a kid, I was so pleased to have such an old comic, and it was one of his worst) Gwen spots Peter at the Space Exhibit they are both attending.

Unfortunately, Peter never spots her, frustrating her yet again, and then she thinks him a coward when he runs off to change into Spider-Man.

After fighting off the menace of Norton G. Fester, Peter finally spots Gwen and tries to engage, but she is already disgusted by his cowardice.

After that, Gwen is in full on hate mode, mocking Peter for his seeming lack of physicality.

The next time they cross paths would prove to be the most significant to date, as Peter and Gwen would angrily flirt with each other for the first time. So far Peter has represented the only boy that has shown no interest in her, and doesn’t praise her with every word.

Peter dismisses an intervening Flash Thompson like the nuisance he is, impressing Gwen to the point that she even starts defending Peter to Harry.

This next page is potentially even more significant than the next encounter between Peter and his college classmates. Of the many theories thrown about over Steve Ditko quitting the book he co-created, one of them involves this page. (I know the disagreement over the identity of the Green Goblin is the most popular theory, but I just don’t believe it. Stan had acquiesced so much control of the book over to Ditko, to the point of even giving him published plotting credit, that I just can’t see Stan even knowing or caring about Ditko’s plans on the book.) The theory goes that Ditko’s politics had increasingly seeped into the book, with Peter being portrayed more and more as an angry young man, which stood in stark contrast to the readership that Stan and publisher Martin Goodman were cultivating. The rumor was that the friction between Goodman and Ditko over the content of the book was getting hostile, with an accommodating Stan stuck in-between. This page shows Peter angrily dismissing college protestors, which happened to be the exact type of readers that Stan had been so gleefully recruiting. According to the theory, this was the last straw for Goodman, and he ordered that Stan reel Ditko in on the book’s content. Ditko refused, quit, and that is how that story goes. (My personal opinion, it was probably a number of things that caused Ditko to quit, but most significant in any disagreement is money. Spider-Man was making a lot of it, and Ditko wasn’t seeing what he probably determined his fair share.)

Back in class, Harry is mocking Peter yet again, leading Gwen to later wish they’d all get off his case. (That would be the last appearance of the Ditko Gwen Stacy.)

Next time out, John Romita Sr has taken over as penciller of the book, and we get our first glimpse at his definitely more attractively drawn Gwen Stacy. It appears Gwen has finally convinced them all to play nice, but unfortunately Peter is lost in his head again, and he misses his first chance to become a part of the group.

Peter makes his first inroads to becoming a part of the group in the most honest of ways, genuinely consoling Harry, who was upset over his relationship with his father (the aforementioned soon to be revealed Green Goblin).

Gwen is practically ecstatic about the prospects. Even Flash begins to wonder if he’s been wrong about Peter all this time. Who would have guessed that a genuine act of kindness toward Harry Osborn, would wind up being the spark that led to Peter and Gwen falling in love.

After that, Gwen and Peter’s relationship would advance into dating, love, and total commitment. Peter’s life as Spider-Man would always be pulling him away, leading him to danger, leaving Gwen left behind to cry or lament over her absent love. Unfortunately, before Stan could realize this was happening way too often, it became an annoying character trait, one I choose to ignore. The trend was eventually broken, and Gwen became a much more dynamic character again. Almost too much, because with her interesting again, and the relationship going so well, there was only one way for it to go next, and that was marriage.

Gerry Conway, had different ideas…

You can read these stories here:

Apr 19, 2014

Firelord: Comics' Biggest Loser

I've been reading comics for a long time, and one of the first comics I ever collected was Silver Surfer. And one of the first things you learn reading Silver Surfer is this:

Firelord Is Comics' Biggest Loser
by Duy

Firelord is Pyreus Kril, a native of the planet Xandar. A graduate of the Nova Corps Academy, he's supposed to be a competent fighter. Pair that up with him being a herald of Galactus, just like the Silver Surfer, which imbues him with the Power Cosmic, and he should really be unstoppable. I mean, the Power Cosmic is right up there with Mjolnir and Silver Age Superman as "capable of whatever the plot needs," yeah? It grants the user superstrength, superspeed, the ability to function in space, the ability to transmute stuff, and all other sorts of powers that makes it sound like it was put together by a five-year-old.

And yet, he sucks. I wish I could find a better choice of words, but there really isn't any. He sucks. Firelord is an incompetent fighter. Here's him getting his ass handed to him by a souped-up Nova in New Warriors #42. And sure, Nova at this point is probably unstoppable, but no one else in this entire story gets their ass handed to them.

Here's Firelord getting called in to be part of the cavalry in Infinity Gauntlet #5.

They all get wiped out, though, so when Dr. Strange needs to bring them back, he brings back only three out of those five. Okay, I can see Strange not bringing Doom back, since Doom is evil and would probably be out for himself, but Firelord being omitted? The only reason for leaving him out would be because he'd ruin everything, right? Having him around is like negative points.

They got Starfox to replace Firelord. Starfox, whose power is being
really persuasive. And also, being a sleazebag. That's gotta hurt.

Recently, I was reading the Thor vs. Thanos trade paperback, and I was describing it to my nephew, and I said that Thanos has, in his corner, Mangog, with the power and rage of a billion billion souls. Thor, meanwhile, had Firelord, and my nephew laughed, because what, they needed to make things harder for Thor by teaming him up with Firelord?

Firelord's actually pretty useful in this one, though, mostly by staying out of the way.

"I can't possibly be of any direct help! At all!"

Here's Firelord from Silver Surfer #71, getting overwhelmed by a bunch of tiny aliens, from which the Surfer has to save him.

Several issues later, he's under mind control during the Infinity Crusade, and he has to fight the Surfer, who just kind of slaps him around.

Of course, the best example of how terrible Firelord is, is in Amazing Spider-Man #270, where Spider-Man just beats the crap out of him.

This isn't even Firelord's fault. A bunch of humans got on his case because he was eating pizza, which really was more of a reason for him to win the fight or at least not get his ass kicked, but no, he lost, pretty badly.

Lots of overly serious comics fans spend an inordinate amount of time talking about who would beat whom in a fight and assign rules to their arguments like "Bloodlust on" or assign acronyms like "CIS" for "character-induced stupidity" to disregard any character flaws, thus distilling every character to a mere collection of powers and arbitrary stats. Those fans like to take this story down and cite it as an example of bad writing, the argument being that Spider-Man shouldn't have been able to lay a hand on Firelord at all and that it was just an overreaching example of Spider-Man getting built up.

And you know what? Maybe they're right. I can kind of see where they're coming from... if Firelord were anything other than an incompetent, incapable, altogether terrible wielder of the Power Cosmic. No amount of power is going to make up for being an idiot.

Let's fast forward 1000 years into the future, where Firelord is the Protector of the Universe and Nikki from the future Guardians of the Galaxy has a crush on him.

 Wait, is he saying we have all been guilty of thinking we love someone because of an ideal we've built in our heads, or is he saying that we've all been guilty of loving Firelord because he's the best-looking man we ever saw?

Damn, Firelord, you're not just a loser. You're also a jackass!
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