Sep 2, 2013

Back Issue Ben: The X-Men vs the Micronauts

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here

The X-Men vs the Micronauts
The pinnacle of underlying sexual deviancy in Bronze Age comics
Back Issue Ben

If you were to come up to me on the street and ask me who were the two most important writers of the ‘80s for me, well first of all, why are you just approaching me on the street like that? Secondly, who is ever out on the “street” anymore? This isn’t New York City, unless it is, and in that case, carry on. Regardless, my mumbling and probably incoherent response would probably bring forth the names of Bill Mantlo and Chris Claremont, followed by a little two-step, and then I throw down a smoke pellet and run. You’ve been warned, citizens.

So, based on the promise of inappropriate sexual deviancy, I tracked down the X-Men and the Micronauts mini-series published in that year of our Lord, 1984. To my surprise and delight, I discovered that Claremont and Mantlo co-wrote this series. Pretty much the only thing that could make this more fitting for a Back Issue Ben retrospective is if John Byrne murdered a baby deer and used its blood to pencil the issues.

You might be asking yourself, “Who are the Micronauts?” but I have you covered on that end my friends. You need only look here for the answers you seek.

If you’re asking yourself who the X-Men are, then most likely you are an irrational X-hater like Duy Tano, and you should punished in some humiliating, yet poetic, kind of way. (I deny all this. It's not my fault the X-Men suck. -Duy)

With that out of the way, let’s do like Duy does when he’s camped out at the lion cage at the local zoo, and sexually harass this comic into submission! (No evidence of this claim exists. Screw you, Smith.)

The X-Men and the Micronauts #1. Writers: Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo; Penciler: Butch Guice; Inker: Bob Wiacek; Editor: Bob Budiansky

Our story opens in the Microverse, where the Micronauts speed into action inside their spacecraft the Bioship (which apparently appears to be Biotron, only larger and a spacecraft).

The ‘Nauts are approaching the Fringes, which mark the outer edge of the Microverse, where many frontier worlds are being devastated by an unknown enemy. The Micronauts arrive and engage the unknown enemy, releasing an army of Baron Karza’s former Dog Soldiers, who they now appear to command.

The battle is fierce. Shockingly, the diabolical dictator Baron Karza is not only alive, but has allied himself with the Micronauts against their common mystery foe.

The Micronauts personally enter the fray, while Karza stays behind. Bioship expresses a desire to join him comrades, but Karza urges him to try to use his sensors to locate their unknown enemy. Bioship is able to identify unknown alien emanations, originating from Earth.

In the battle raging outside, the enemy makes his first appearance, clad entirely in golden armor.

With but a snap of his fingers, an entire world is destroyed.

Bioship is able to raise shields in time, but everything and everyone else has been eradicated in the explosion, except for the Micronauts, held captive by their golden foe. Karza orders a swift retreat.

At Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, the X-Men are spending a relaxing day out by the pool (Storm is looking quite good in the water).

After a brief scolding of Kitty about her psychic defenses, Professor X prepares to test his newest students, dubbed the New Mutants, in the Danger Room. A sudden explosion in the control room incapacitates Xavier. Baron Karza has arrived, having traced the source of the Entity’s (bad guy in the golden armor) power to Xavier.

The New Mutants aren’t too keen on Karza killing Xavier, and try to fight him off, leading to a classic Karza projectile hand-choke, that I personally can never get enough of. The X-Men eventually join the fracas, with Karza laying down another hand-choke on Wolverine.

Kitty Pryde phases in, and tries to phase through Karza, assuming him to be an electronically controlled toy (they all assume him to be an actual Micronauts toy, which is still apparently a product in the Marvel universe).

All she accomplishes though, is extreme pain. In the aftermath, Karza finds his mind transferred into Kitty Pryde’s body, and Kitty likewise into Karza’s, only she remains imprisoned and unconscious within.

With everyone else unaware of the shift, Karza schemes on how to use this switch to his advantage.

Bioship arrives and brings a halt to the hostilities, and after a time skip, finishes bringing the X-Men and a revived Xavier up to speed on the events in the Microverse, and how the Entity’s power was traced to them.

Karza remains inside the body of Kitty Pryde, but maintains remote control over his body, and uses that to help in briefing the X-Men, as well as continue to deceive them about the mind swap. Xavier agrees to help the Micronauts against the Entity, and after Bioship shrinks the team down to the appropriate size, they head off to the Microverse, leaving Xavier behind to worry.

My brain thoughts: Some of the Microverse space battle scenes, as rendered by Guice, had a bit of a Ditko on Rom type of flavor. That could be considered a compliment or an insult, it all depends on your own personal flavor. Not to get too ahead of myself, but there is pretty much no way that the Entity isn’t some kind of evil manifestation of Xavier’s psyche. If you’ve read X-Men comics for more than 15 minutes, you know some evil version of Xavier is always busting loose and causing trouble. He pretty much does more harm than good at this point, that kooky bald mind-reader.

The X-Men and the Micronauts #2. Writers: Bill Mantlo and Chris Claremont; Penciler: Butch Guice; Inker: Bob Wiacek and Kelley Jones; Editor: Bob Budiansky

The Micronauts find themselves in a “realm of nightmare,” where they are quickly separated from each other. Each member finds themselves subject to their worst fear, with Bug changing into a literal bug.

Fireflyte loses her voice. Acroyear is confronted by the loss of his beloved Cilicia, who gives birth to an albino son, just like his traitorous brother Shaitan had been. Huntarr’s fears of being a monster are confirmed when he is accepted by the monstrous residents of this dimension.

Princess Mari, finds herself playing out her former identity as Marionette, as she uncontrollably performs a “lewd dance” to the gawking male onlookers. (If you’re taking notes, that is sexually suggestive incident #1.)

Commander Arcturus Rann lives out his greatest fear, finding the dead bodies of the team he has sworn to protect and lead.

Having successfully broken them, the Entity snatches them out of this nightmare dimension, and restores them to normal, enslaving them to his will.

Back at Xavier’s school, the Professor is asleep slumped over a computer console, while in the background, Dani Moonstar gets a towel whip to her bikini’d ass, courtesy of Sunspot. (Incident #2.) The Entity is shown to have a momentary bout of weakness, juxtaposed against an image of the sleeping Xavier. (Is there really any question about the ultimate answer to this mystery villain’s identity at this point?) The Entity remakes the Micronauts in his image, outfitting them in the yellow-and-blue costumes of the original X-Men.

Elsewhere, Karza and the X-Men arrive at Homeworld, where the X-Men immediately question their alliance with an individual that would rule his people in such a way.

I’m always good with “simpleton” being thrown about,
especially in the direction of Colossus.

Karza proposes to send the X-Men on to battle the Entity, while he and Kitty remain on Homeworld, to strategize further efforts. The X-Men refuse to leave Kitty behind, still unaware that Karza’s mind is in her body.

Karza teleports his body to Homeworld, where a now aware Kitty Pryde remains trapped inside, unable to speak or control it. Karza’s chief scientist, DeGrayde, takes the momentary lack of response from Karza’s inanimate body as the perfect time to declare it his time to rule, before Karza silences him with a holographic astral projection.

Bioship nears their intended destination, and ceases to function, coming in for an abrupt landing.

The X-Men disembark, and are shocked to discover themselves on the front lawn of a facsimile School for Gifted Youngsters. Still miniature in size compared to their surroundings, they make their way inside, where they are confronted by a clearly evil version of Xavier and his twisted Micronauts, still dressed in the yellow-and-blue X uniforms.

The two teams battle, but the X-Men are no match for the Micronauts at their reduced sizes, and are quickly defeated. The evil Xavier transforms back into the Entity, as he prepares to enslave the X-Men in the same way that he did the Micronauts.

Back on Homeworld, heralded by a mighty scream, Kitty Pryde has gained control over the form of Baron Karza.

My brain thoughts: As you may or may not have noticed in previous editions of Back Issue Ben, the ‘80s was rife with incidents of writers slipping in sexually suggestive situations that a younger reader probably would not notice, but are readily apparent to one as seasoned as myself. This series would be one of the many examples where they take those subtle hints to another level. More on this later.

The X-Men and the Micronauts #3. Writers: Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo; Penciler: Butch Guice; Inker: Bob Wiacek; Editor: Bob Budiansky

Both the X-Men and the Micronauts are now under the thrall of the mysterious Entity, and are dispatched throughout the Microverse to attack and defeat Baron Karza’s armies.

Back on Earth, Xavier recoils in pain as he mentally feels each mind that is snuffed out of existence.

With the most recent army defeated, Kitty Karza, is taking far too much joy in killing their opponents (perplexingly so, since they are his soldiers). When the rest of the team stops her from slaughtering the beaten soldiers, the Entity shows up to scold them for not joining her. When Rann offers up an explanation, he finds himself killed and turned to ash by the Entity, as a lesson to the others that the Entity is not interested in conquest, but in death.

He is immediately revived, with a stern message of total obedience having been sent to everyone present.

Back at the mansion, Xavier screams in his sleep, and falls from his bed. The New Mutants come in to check on him, return him to his bed, and worry about his continued unconsciousness.

The Entity destroys the planet they are currently standing on and makes sure the scene is transmitted back to Baron Karza. On Homeworld, Kitty Pryde, now in control Karza’s body, orders DeGrayde to scan the area to determine if the X-Men or the Micronauts survived. The sudden and uncharacteristic concern for the lives of others plants doubts in the mind of DeGrayde. Kitty walks off to lament her current situation (even wondering if she should “blow her brains out” at one point).

Meanwhile, the real Karza, still in the now barely clothed body of Kitty, wakes up to find herself a special guest of the Entity. He approved of her bloodlust in battle, and ensures that she is well rested, as he wants her to be “fresh for this evening.” (Incident #3.)

Wolverine wakes up to find himself and the rest of the X-Men and Micronauts imprisoned in a dungeon, their lack of ruthlessness a sign of their less than total commitment to the Entity.

Back to the mansion, a concerned Dani Moonstar is taking care of the still unconscious Professor X. She is suddenly overtaken by another presence, which turns out to be Xavier, freeing himself from imprisonment in his own body, by using Dani’s body as a conduit to shift his mind onto the astral plane and face the Entity head-on.

The Entity, interrupted from his apparently sexual advances on the half-naked teenage girl (incident #4), meets his enemy on the astral plane.

With the Entity’s mind having vacated his body, Kitty Karza wastes no time in stabbing his motionless physical form, and is left to wonder if victory could be that simple.

The Entity and Xavier duel in psychic combat.To the surprise of no one, the Entity is revealed to be the manifestation of the dark side of Xavier’s mind, his evil thoughts given form while he slept.

With the evil Xavier’s power at its absolute peak, he easily defeats his “good” half.

The X-Men and the Micronauts try to find a way out of their imprisonment, only to walk into the crosshairs of Kitty Karza, who is manning a large gun.

Once again, back at the mansion, the New Mutants express their concern over the still sleeping Xavier. While inside the mind of Xavier, “a madman has taken his place.”

My brain thoughts: Kitty Pryde was first introduced in Uncanny X-Men#129 as a very young teenage girl, and has been sexualized pretty much ever since that point by writers and fans alike. This is not something I will ever understand. (It gets worse. -Duy) Baron Karza trapped in the half-naked body of Kitty Pryde and being seduced by the evil side of Professor X is so absurd it’s funny, but also extremely creepy and weird. Personally, I can appreciate the moment for is absurdity, because I find almost anything funny, especially since only fictional characters are at stake, but I can also understand how this might be offensive to another reader. More on this later.

The X-Men and the Micronauts #4. Writers: Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo; Penciler: Butch Guice; Inker: Bob Wiacek; Editor: Bob Budiansky

Wait, really? How did this
get through the Comics Code?
Forget the Code. How'd it get through
Marvel in general? -Duy
Professor X, his body now controlled by the manifestation of his dark side The Entity, wheels his way into the room of Dani Moonstar, asleep at her desk in what appears to be a t-shirt and panties. (Incident #...forget it, you get the idea, and it all goes off the rails here.)

The Entity psychically enters the body of Dani, all the while thinking to himself, “Poor Charles! What pleasures he denies himself. Being surrounded by such pretty young playthings—so soft, supple, such easy prey to my insatiable lusts.”

Next, as the caption box explains, Dani wakes up and screams, as “psychic fingertips play a sensual caress across her very soul,” until she collapses to the ground “in the throes of indescribable…pleasure.”

The Entity asks Dani if she liked it. Dani, now clearly portrayed as under his control, replies in the affirmative. The Entity promises more of the same, as long as she assists him in dominating the rest of the New Mutants.

(Okay, so if you weren’t able to piece everything together there. Evil Xavier clearly gave a teenage girl what was probably her first orgasm. An orgasm so powerful and consuming that she fell completely under his control, and agreed to do whatever he wanted as long as he promised to give her more. I am not going to comment further on this one.)

Meanwhile, Kitty Karza still has the X-Men and Micronauts in the sights of her large gun, but Wolverine senses the danger in time, and Colossus protects them all with his body. Nightcrawler teleports up and knocks Kitty down with one swift punch.

Kitty Karza phases away, and suddenly the planet is being bombarded above by the arrival of the real Kitty, in Karza’s body, as she attacks the Entity with his armada.

Kitty phases down the planet below, where she confronts Karza in her body, and projectile hand-chokes him/herself.

The X-Men and the Micronauts come bursting through the wall, misinterpreting the situation at hand.

Fortunately, the real Professor Xavier is on hand, trapped in the mortally wounded form of the Entity, to explain to everyone about the mind switch between Kitty and Karza.

Back on Earth, the Entity prepares to utilize Cerebro to amplify his powers, and bring about the total destruction of the entire Microverse. Commander Rann mentally prods Bioship to reawaken, and sends him after the still attacking forces of Baron Karza. Fireflyte senses the Entity’s attack on the Enigma Force itself, endangering the entire Microverse.

More worlds are destroyed, along with DeGrayde and Karza’s fleet.

The X-Men and Micronauts escape the destruction, by returning to the Earth and the School. As they try to figure out what to do next, Kitty Karza apparently had time during all of this to create a personalized costume, and Storm seeks comfort in the arms of Kitty trapped in Karza’s armor.

And a little too close to his red metallic nipples if you ask me.
They are quickly interrupted by the mind-controlled New Mutants, and the battle is begun.

Nightcrawler stays by the side of Xavier, trying to keep the dying body of the Entity that he is trapped in alive. Xavier pleads with him to let him die when the time is right, but for now to ensure that Bioship continues to keep the body alive.

Bug pulls Dani’s hair while Wolverine stabs her in the butt.
Dani Moonstar got the short end of the stick in this mini-series.

Xavier prepares to once again wage psychic combat against his evil half, currently occupied with destroying the Microverse.

As Xavier tries to weave his way back into his own mind, we of course get an obligatory panel of Jean Grey, because Jean was the greatest woman that ever lived, and we should never, ever forget her.

Lockheed, sensing the mind switch, attacks Karza in Kitty’s body, which results in the Entity deducing that they have switched bodies (because that’s the only reasonable deduction to make). Now, the Entity forces them into battle against each other, with more projectile hands a’flyin’.

They try to convince Kitty to phase through Karza again, with Fireflyte assisting with her powers. The distracted Entity finally notices the presence of Xavier inside his mind, and following an explosion, Kitty’s mind is restored into her own body.

Surrounded by lava and fire from the battle, Nightcrawler is forced to flee with the Entity’s body, leaving Xavier very little time to survive. The battle rages between Xavier and the Entity inside their shared mind. Xavier’s body slumps over in pain, the victor undetermined.

Outside, the New Mutants cease their attack, no longer under the control of the Entity — it appears Xavier may have won.

Bioship lays dying. With the Micronauts trapped on Earth, and the X-Men still trapped at miniature size, Bioship could perhaps fix one situation or the other, but only at the cost of his own life. Fireflyte believes she can sing them back to the Microverse, and Biotron heroically opts to restore the X-Men, ending his own life in the process.

The X-Men and the Micronauts say their goodbyes, and Fireflyte sends them back to the Microverse. Xavier recovers, and explains how he tricked the Entity into thinking he was initiating a massive stroke in his own body, forcing the Entity to retreat back into his golden armor-clad body, just in time for it to die.

Professor Xavier hopes to find a way to atone for the atrocities carried out by his evil side. Meanwhile, in the Microverse, the adventures of the Micronauts continue on.

My brain thoughts: I have to say, the only thing that made this series interesting to read was the inappropriate sexual content. I don’t know if that’s an argument for such things, but…I guess it shouldn’t be.

My final brain thoughts: Marionette stripping, towel whipping, evil Xaviers, suicidal thoughts, simpletons, half-naked Kitty, and extreme orgasms.

As I mentioned before, superhero comics in the ‘80s were overflowing with suggestive sexual activity. This is almost certainly a byproduct of dirty old men writing about teenage characters, and the limits in what was acceptable to portray in comics of the time. Writers of the time really seemed to enjoy slipping in anything and everything they could.

Let me be clear before I go any further on this particular topic, that I am in no way qualified or educated enough to give an informed opinion on this subject. I, as usual, pledge to provide you my opinion with as little research and credibility as possible.

Like I said, I find the audacity and absurdity of these situations to be funny. After all, these are fictional characters, and no real women were harmed in the creation or consumption of those comics (assuming young minds were not so warped by the material into performing criminal acts later in life). But I also understand how invested fans can be in these characters, to the point where they can seem like real people. (I, for one, felt my stomach turn when the Black Cat started kissing Daredevil.) Nobody likes to see their favorite characters get violated, like in the cases of Ms Marvel and Mockingbird. I definitely don’t find it entertaining to read about any character treated in such a way, and don’t think it’s appropriate for the medium. Stick to Tigra on a leash and go no further than that. But these kinds of things only get trickier to sort out when mind control and teenagers are involved. (I’ll give Claremont and Mantlo the benefit of the doubt and assume they were trying to titillate teenage readers with teenage girls. It’s just unfortunate that creepy old Xavier was involved in any way.)

I was very prepared to come down very hard on what happened to Dani at the beginning of issue 4, until I relayed the event to Mrs Back Issue Ben, and she responded with:

“Dirty. I like it.”

So, maybe we’re just a couple of weirdos. All I can really say about it now, is that if this stuff offends you, then by all means, it is horrible stuff. If you find it funny, then conversely, feel free to smile about it. If it arouses you, then you need some very serious help with your life, my friend.

To close out, let’s take a quick look at some of the more questionable incidents in comic books of that era:

  • THE NEW TEEN TITANS, teenage Terra involved in a sexual relationship with the completely not-teenaged Slade Wilson (as written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by George Perez)
  • Ms Marvel and the Marcus storyline in AVENGERS (Jim Shooter and George Perez)
  • Donna Troy’s mental manipulation by the Titans in THE NEW TEEN TITANS, and her admitting later on that she missed the love that she was forced to feel (Marv Wolfman and George Perez)
  • The obvious S-n'-M-inspired (Blogger won't let me use ampersands. -Duy) costumes of Starfire and Emma Frost (Claremont, Wolfman, Byrne, Perez)
  • Superman and Big Barda mind-controlled into making a porno in ACTION COMICS (John Byrne)
  • Tigra, mentally controlled into servitude by Kraven the Hunter, in MARVEL TEAM-UP (Claremont and Byrne)
  • The mental corruption of Jean Grey by Mastermind, into unleashing her innermost hidden desires and uninhibited behavior, in UNCANNY X-MEN (Claremont and Byrne)
  • Terry Long, just in general (Satan himself)

In conclusion, as you can see from the evidence above, Claremont, Byrne, Wolfman, and Perez were some dirty, dirty old men.

Also, please never, ever, ever bring back Terry Long.

That is all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments on The Comics Cube need approval (mostly because of spam) and no anonymous comments are allowed. Please leave your name if you wish to leave a comment. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.