Feb 27, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #8

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and Jack Kirby

Spider-Man faces the menace of the Living Brain, Peter fights Flash Thompson, and Spider-Man fights the Human Torch in a backup story drawn by Jack "King" Kirby.


DUY: The cover is interesting. The backup feature takes up the most of it, and it's being blatant with its marketing to teenagers.

BEN: Peter stops wearing eyeglasses after Flash breaks them.

DUY: It turns out he didn't need them after all, which is ... convenient. Also, first Living Brain, who's been used more in recent years, especially in Dan Slott's run.

BEN: Formerly the least exciting Ditko Spidey villain.

DUY: Technology has evolved to a point where he now provides good comic relief. Their science teacher is named Warren. Is it ever revealed that this guy's related to Miles Warren, who would become the Jackal and clone Gwen Stacy?

BEN: He goes on to clone Liz Allen.

DUY: Apparently it is, in Untold Tales of Spider-Man. Leave it to Kurt Busiek to tie that together.

BEN: I wonder if they had another brother that taught History and didn’t clone people.


BEN: I love his rivalry/friendship with Johnny Storm.

DUY: Apparently Ditko didn't like Johnny Storm at all, which is why Johnny doesn't ever really "help" him in these appearances. But I like it too, it's probably my favorite Marvel friendship.


BEN: Well, maybe the “advanced” robot shaped super-computer?

DUY: The Living Brain ages so badly that he ages so well as a silly/comedic element.

BEN: I wonder what The Living Brain’s memory capacity was, like 500 mb? Yet he had every known fact stored in his database somehow.

DUY: Would he work in a movie?  I can imagine him in a movie, hands all spinning, making bloop bleep noises.

BEN: He'd work as a joke. Otherwise he's Ultron.

DUY: Speaking of not aging well, Jack Kirby drawing Spider-Man.

BEN: That was never good.


DUY: One of the first times he doesn't win with his scientific know-how is against the supercomputer. That's a missed opportunity. And since when can Johnny Storm actually just fire light?

BEN: I know their classmates are inclined to discredit Peter regardless during his boxing match with Flash, but if you turn your head in a fight and get clocked, that’s your dumbass mistake.

DUY: And the punch was already underway.


DUY: It might be this. Ditko could really make them look funny if he wanted.

BEN: Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

DUY: I also love this one. Peter's temper is so established in the Steve Ditko run.

BEN:This, for some reason, is one of the most prominent early Spider-Man issues that has stuck with me. It’s that boxing match with Flash. I think I really wanted Peter to let loose and kick his ass.

DUY: The boxing match is a weird one in that I remember it as a highlight of those early issues too, but I don't really remember it being referenced a lot?

BEN:  I guess I used to think that he could kick his ass without them automatically thinking he’s Spider-Man.


DUY: The more Flash Thompson loses to Peter in the comic, the more he wins the comic.

BEN: I hated him as a kid, but he's a lovable goofball for me now.


DUY:  Can you imagine being used to DC Comics and their anatomically correct figures and more classically-drawn renditions of characters, then you open this and question marks are floating over Flash Thompson's head like a Looney Tunes cartoon?

BEN: It works too.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. See you next week!

Feb 25, 2019

MCU Roundtable: Ant-Man and the Wasp

With Captain Marvel coming out in less than two weeks, for the sake of completion, here's the Cube Roundtable on Ant-Man and the Wasp!

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp was released on July 6, 2018, and made $68 million on its opening weekend. As of this writing, it earned $216 million domestic and over $622 million worldwide.

LAMAR: I think releasing this between Infinity War and Endgame was a great idea. The laughs were something I needed before they pulled the rug out in the last credits scene.

DUY: I loved the cop.

LaMAR: I enjoyed the first Ant-Man and I liked this one a lot as well. Quiet as kept these probably have the best supporting cast in the Marvel films, in regard to chemistry.

DUY: Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer playing the parents of an adult character kinda just makes me feel ancient. Not as ancient as them, mind you...

BEN: Skeet Ulrich and Luke Perry already did that for me.

KAT: She still looks fabulous. And that de-aging technology keeps getting better.

LIZZY: Also, does anyone else find the whole de-aging technology just incredibly creepy? It looked more natural on Michelle Pffeifer for some reason... Michael Douglas just looked... distorted.

Quiet as kept these probably have the best supporting cast in the Marvel films, in regard to chemistry. -LaMar

BEN: What was the credits scene?

LaMAR: Ant-Man goes into the Quantum Realm again to get more energy to help repair Ghost, and once he gets it and asks the Pyms to beam him out, they get Thanosnapped.

DUY: Meaning he starts the next movie in the Quantum Realm. Which probably means it's gonna be a thing they use in the next movie.

KAT: I did notice Janet said something about staying away from the time vortexes right before he went in.

DUY: I've seen talk that Dr. Strange has actually visited the Quantum Realm. In his movie?

KAT: I think he did visit the Quantum Realm when The Ancient One sent him on that crazy head trip. It looked very similar in its trippiness. Now this might be a dumb question... but what exactly is the Quantum Realm? I get that it’s subatomic so spooky weird shit happens there that seems to defy “regular” physics (I took a theoretical physics class in college but immediately forgot everything afterwards), but how does it get defined and used in the comics world? Is it a place where time and space cease to exist so time travel becomes possible?  Also, if time doesn’t exist, why did Janet still age in there? What was she eating?

DUY: As I understood it, time and space existed, just differently.

KAT: Ahhh interesting interview with a quantum physicist who actually consulted on the movies. This interview is from 2015 so it's not even actually about the new movie, but definitely has some interesting ideas:
"Michalakis contends that the physical laws we see the universe operating under are trends in these quantum mechanical probabilities and that if you zoom all the way down, it all disappears. Gravity, relativity, time…everything.
If Ant-Man can shrink down to the smallest of the small, he will enter this nothing, this non-reality. All of time and space will be open to him. He could literally change the universe around him Dr. Manhattan-style. And he could traverse time at will."
DUY: There is no Quantum Realm in the comics. There's a Microverse, which... Ben is the expert on that one.

BEN: Microverse is just a really small universe.

A series set in the ‘60s ala Tales to Astonish could be interesting. -Ben

MAX: What's Ant-Man and the Wasp?

BEN: I think it’s a movie.

MAX: That’s what they want you to think.

BEN: I heard it’s good!

JD: I haven't even seen the first one.

DUY: My question is, would Hank Pym have been a better choice for the lead?

BEN: Yes.

DUY: I would kinda of want to see him more on Netflix, I think. I don't know how much mutliple personality disorder Hank would be interesting in a two-hour time frame.

BEN: A series set in the ‘60s ala Tales to Astonish could be interesting. Rudd is fine in his own movies, well, acceptable at least. But when he crosses over it bothers me. I like Rudd, I just never ever stop thinking of him as Paul Rudd.

DUY: He's only ever Paul Rudd.

KAT: I love Paul Rudd!! I’m so happy to have a character like him in the MCU. Wouldn’t Hank be a lot like Tony Stark and Dr. Strange? Scott feels like a refreshing different kind of superhero that adds some nice variety and levity to the line up.

DUY: Comics Hank has multiple personality disorder, and one personality is.... well, I don't wanna say evil, but yeah, he's basically evil.

KAT: I feel like there was a controversy before... didn’t he also beat his wife in the comics? Maybe not the right choice for the current cultural climate.

DUY: He lost his mind and turned irrational to the point that he built a robot to attack the Avengers so he could save them from it. In the process Janet tried to stop him and he hit her. The entirety of his character arc since then has been informed by his guilt over that one incident as well as the fear that he's going to have a breakdown again that will lead to Yellowjacket coming back out. It's interesting and psychologically fascinating, because comics Hank isn't even arrogant or overconfident like Tony. If anything, he's the inventor with the chip on his shoulder, always trying to prove himself, and on top of that he's always got to be on the lookout so he doesn't snap and turn evil. It's interesting on Janet's end too, because she married him knowing full well he was Yellowjacket and not in his right mind, because she just really wanted to be married to him.  Oh wait, I wrote a whole thing about this once.

KAT: Sounds more like a reformable villain backstory then — a little like Bucky who was always a bit afraid he might snap and revert back. And Steve who stood by his side and married him anyway — oh wait that part hasn’t happened yet.

DUY: I think the real interesting thing is just that it was written as a throwaway mental breakdown in the 60s, but the more we found out about psychology and mental illness, the more the characters (Hank and Jan) ended up writing themselves.  And also I think it's psosible that it may be the one and only relationship between two superheroes that they both admit has come from a mutually abusive place and they're both legitimately working on it. So on that end it's either not the right choice for the current environment, or it's exactly the right choice.

KAT: I feel like it’s the right choice if you’re setting out to tell a reformed villain story (audiences love those), but probably not the origin story of someone you want to present upfront as a hero.

DUY: I mean technically he's not a reformed villain; he's a hero who had a mental breakdown, and then got fixed with, like, therapy an' shit His buildup to turning bad is quite long and pronounced, but the time he spends as a "villain" is very very short. But like I said above, I think that kind of material works better on Netflix.

LIZZY: This Hank Pym was way closer to the comic book Pym than the first one, I think. The cracks showed in his psyche more in this one, methinks.

The cracks showed in (Hank's) psyche more in this one. -Lizzy

MAX: So. It's a movie, right?

BEN: Ghost was cool.

JEFF: Finally saw this and after a bit of a slow start for me I liked it. Nothing special though

RICH: I agree. Parts of it were fun, but really I thought it was kind of weak--and very predictable. It's in my bottom three for the MCU. I give it three stars out of five. Fun at times, but largely just a rehash of the first one and nothing overly new. The character of Wasp's mother wasn't especially interesting. Ultimately, I thought this was the weakest film in the series since Dark World.

MAX: So it's about a man-sized ant?

LaMAR: No, but a man-sized ant is in it though.

JEFF: That ant was the Kilmer winner.

LaMAR: Damn right.

MAX: So really, the movie should be called "Man-Sized Ant."

BEN: "Man Who Shrinks."

MAX: "Shrinky Man" has a nice ring to it. Trademark that shit.

BEN: "Ensmallens Man."

PETER: Sob, you're all talking about me again, I know it! It was very cold just so you know! And I'm Asian so I can't help it!

The Strange Case of the Names of Shazam and Captain Marvel

This is an updated version of an article I wrote in 2012.

This March and April, we're seeing two movies come out. One is entitled Captain Marvel, featuring Marvel's soon-to-be-flagship superheroine, and the other one is entitled Shazam.

It can be really confusing, especially for longtime fans, because "Shazam" is the magic word and the catchphrase of that character, not his name. But DC has a logical explanation for at least making this big move, which is that that's what people who don't read comics know him as anyway. His name, historically, has been Captain Marvel.

Now, creatively, it's a creative decision that will forever bug me to call him "Shazam" (we may as well change the name of The Who song from "Baba O'Riley" to "Teenage Wasteland"), but it's difficult to argue in terms of marketing (I would bet that the song would increase downloads if the name were changed from "Baba O'Riley" to "Teenage Wasteland").

But how did we get here? I'm glad you asked. Would you believe me if I told you that this is all the fault of a character you've never heard of, from a publisher you've never heard of?

When Captain Marvel was first created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck, he was slated to appear in a Fawcett Comics anthology called Flash Comics, to debut in February 1940. Because Jay Garrick, the original Flash, showed up in All-American Publications' (one of the companies that would merge to become the modern-day DC Comics) Flash Comics, Fawcett changed its title to Whiz Comics. Also, Beck never specified Captain Marvel's color scheme and left it up to the color separator, so there is an alternate universe where the Power of Shazam made its debut in this issue and looks like this:

Check out Marvel Family Web for more on this.

Now, here's another wrinkle in that Maybe Machine: the original name for The World's Mightiest Mortal? Captain Thunder. Not Captain Marvel. Captain Thunder. But as with "Flash Comics," Fawcett again got beaten to the punch, this time by a publisher called Fiction House, who had a character named Captain Terry Thunder of the British Army.

According to ComicVine, this guy appeared in all of 19 issues. 19!

And that's why The Big Red Cheese was named Captain Marvel, and it was as Captain Marvel that he became the bestselling hero of The Golden Age. And since you are all faithful readers of The Comics Cube (you are, right?), you'll also know that Fawcett and Captain Marvel folded in the 50s from reading this article. Which you already did, right?

All right, so Fawcett stopped publishing Captain Marvel in 1953. Thirteen years later, in 1966, publisher Myron Fass of M.F. Enterprises (Guess what M.F. stands for.) got legendary creator Carl Burgos to tell a story about an android who can detach his limbs from his body with the magic word, "Split!" That hero's name would be... Captain Marvel.

He also has a young friend named Billy Baxton.
It's not a ripoff because it's not spelled "Batson."
No, really.

That's when Stan Lee realized that the "Captain Marvel" trademark was up for grabs, and that it should belong to, you know, Marvel, for obvious reasons. So in 1968, Lee and artist Gene Colan put out the first issue of Captain Marvel.

Captain Mar-Vell was a warrior from the war-loving alien race known as the Kree. Over time he'd evolve into one of Marvel's most pivotal and symbolic heroes, if not ever developing into one of the biggest in terms of mainstream recognition. Here's his most popular costume.

Side note: I hate him. He's boring and sanctimonious.
Also a side note: I love the Silver Surfer.

This was enough for Marvel to secure the trademark to the name "Captain Marvel," which meant that DC could not use the name in promotional material. However, since Fawcett still owned the copyright to Captain Marvel, they could use the name in the stories themselves. This is why Cap's books have been called some iteration of "SHAZAM" ever since DC licensed the character in 1973.



Note that for the 1973, they were able to put "The Original Captain Marvel" under the title, but with no trademark sign beside the name. This goes against the conventional wisdom that they cannot use the name on the covers. I asked Brian Cronin why this was, and basically, DC got away with it for a year before the tagline changed. It should be noted that after the 1973 series, that first issue of The Power of Shazam  in 1994 is the only time I've seen it done since, so I'm assuming they walk a legal tightrope whenever they do it. I'm not sure. If anyone wants to clear up these details, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

Marvel, meanwhile, must continue to publish a Captain Marvel comic every few years, or its trademark will lapse. There's no rule as to the intervals, but here's a list courtesy of Brian Cronin's Comic Book Legends Revealed:

They published the adventures of the Kree warrior, Captain Marvel, from 1968 until 1979 (the last few years as a bi-monthly).

Then the Death of Captain Marvel in 1982.

Then the mini-series the LIFE of Captain Marvel (reprinting his most significant achievements) in 1985.

In 1982, Marvel introduced a new Captain Marvel (as mentioned last week), and in 1989, when no Captain Marvel book had been released for awhile, suddenly, she had a one-shot!

In 1994, once again, she had a one-shot!

In 1995, the first Captain Marvel’s son had an ongoing series for less than a year.

In 1997, Marvel published an Untold Tale of Captain Marvel.

In 2000, Peter David gave Marvel’s son another boost, with a series that lasted until 2004.

The one being called Captain Marvel now is Carol Danvers, and what a long road it took to get here.

Carol Danvers debuted in 1977 as a spinoff of Captain Mar-Vell, wearing a similar costume, but named "Ms. Marvel." For those unaware of the context, "Ms." was a feminist label in those days, and to be called "Ms." symbolized that a woman didn't belong to a man. Carol Danvers has always been a feminist. She was created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan.

What followed was a soap operatic whirlwind even by comic book standards. Carol joined the Avengers, got a new costume (probably her most famous) courtesy of Dave Cockrum:

Cockrum also designed the Phoenix costume, hence the similarities

And then the worst storyline ever happened, which I will not go into here (here's a link to it), which led to Carol losing her powers to Rogue of the X-Men, Carol leaving the Earth and becoming a new superhero named Binary, Carol returning to Earth and becoming an alcoholic under the name Warbird, and finally, Carol getting her own series again in 2006.

The promotion to Captain Marvel happened in 2012, and a year later they debuted a new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, the company's first Muslim character to headline her own comic book. Kamala grew up idolizing Carol.

An important thing to remember here is, Marvel did not get the trademark on Captain Marvel back in 1967 to intentionally screw over Fawcett and DC Comics. As Kurt Busiek points out, in 1967, Fawcett had abandoned those trademarks for 14 years. And it would be another 10 years before DC had the license to use them. Short of actually buying Captain Marvel the character, the only way to get the trademark is to create a new character. (As Busiek points out, however, a case could be made that Marvel was trying to stick it to MF Enterprises, but considering that MF was infringing on all sorts of trademarks anyway — they had a character called The Bat, for crying out loud — I'm gonna give the moral high ground to anyone who's not MF here.)

So it was, since 1973, DC has been trying to figure out a way to not use the name "Captain Marvel" for Billy Batson's alter-ego. In a 1974 issue of Superman (no. 276), they experimented with a Captain Marvel analogue hero named... Captain Thunder!

Willie Fawcett was a boy given powers by a shaman, and all he had to do was say "Thunder" to turn into Captain Thunder.

Learn more about this issue here.

Captain Thunder was also the name used by Roy Thomas and Dan Newton for their reworking of the Shazam concept in the early 80s. This was a proposed treatment that never went through, which had the exact same basic concept, except with the big change of making Billy and Cap black.

Again, thanks to Brian Cronin.

(Roy Thomas wouldn't be denied, however — a few years later, he'd create Captain Thunder and Blue Bolt with Dann Thomas and Dell Barras. I have this issue. It's pretty good.)

Most recently, in DC's Flashpoint in 2011, the alternate universe featured a darker version, also named Captain Thunder.

So there's been precedent for changing Cap's name to one that doesn't involve the word "Marvel" for almost forty years at this point. Now they're pretty much giving up and they're just gonna call him "Shazam." Again, marketingwise, it's probably the best decision, but creatively, it's... kinda stupid. Anyway —

This leads us to a few What If scenarios, so let me address them here:

What if Marvel had been the ones to license Captain Marvel? Marvel didn't have to create a new character to retain the copyright. They could have licensed The World's Mightiest Mortal and gone with him instead, most likely integrating him into the Marvel Universe. He'd have been in the hands of Stan Lee and the Marvel Bullpen (Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko were going or had gone by then), so could it have worked?

I don't think so. See, people say Captain Marvel isn't as adaptable as some of his Golden Age contemporaries such as Superman, but the reasoning for that is twofold, from where I sit. First, Captain Marvel was one of the most acclaimed — that's not the same as popular — characters of the Golden Age, so it is, by nature, held to a higher standard. It's the same reason that Green Arrow — a character who was never really praised highly in the Golden Age — is easier to develop and adapt to modern times than someone like Plastic Man — a character whose stories were and still are held in high acclaim.

The other reason for Cap's being difficult to adapt is simply this: he disappeared. Unlike Superman and Batman, who were able to slowly adapt to changing times, Captain Marvel was not. So if you bring him back, you're stuck in a catch-22: either you adapt him and get criticized for changing him too radically, or you bring him back from where the Golden Age left off and then he's outdated. There have been all of three interpretations I can think of that have lived up to it. It's hard. (Here's a ranking of all DC's takes on Shazam.)

One thing though that would have changed completely, which would be big for kids who grew up in the 80s. If DC didn't get Captain Marvel, we wouldn't have gotten He-Man. You see, in the 70s, Lou Scheimer produced two shows: Shazam and Mighty Isis.

You know what Lou Scheimer got a hold of a decade later? That's right, He-Man.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe just started out as a Conan the Barbarian property, changed for the toyline. It wasn't until Scheimer got onto the property that he got that whole "Young prince changes to a mighty hero with magic words and a bolt of lightning" thing going.

So there. If DC didn't get Captain Marvel, you would have had a different childhood. If you were a child of the 80s. Which I was.

What if DC had gone with Roy Thomas's Captain Thunder? When this article first came out in 2012, I said:

Making Captain Marvel an African-American may have given Captain Marvel a nice shot in the arm back in the day, especially as that was the era of "relevance." But ultimately, I don't think it would have mattered. I'm going to have Dream of the Endless say it for me:

Even if Roy Thomas and Don Newton came out with an excellent story, it would have stood the test of time as an excellent story, but Caucasian Billy Batson/Captain Marvel would have been brought back to the forefront. It's the same reason why Hal Jordan is Green Lantern again and why Barry Allen is the Flash again. (Remember, Alan Scott and Jay Garrick were never in cartoons or serials, while Hal and Barry were both on Superfriends, so they are the iconic versions of those characters and what they will keep reverting to).
And I now don't think it's that cut and dried. I was wrong on the 80s being the era of "relevance," because, quite honestly, every era is the era of relevance. Superhero comics from the very beginning when Superman was fighting corrupt politicians and Captain America was punching out Hitler have always commented on the world around them. (Side note: I actually curated an exhibit in college showing how comics have reflected the world around them as they've evolved.) While I think the classic version of Captain Marvel/Shazam would have always been the template, the question of what will live on in public consciousness will have been what was the most successful.

A few years ago, The Rock was cast to play Black Adam, Captain Marvel's arch-nemesis. My reaction was this: "Oh man, I wish he'd been cast to play Captain Marvel." Captain Marvel is a heroic man, the ideal adult that a child would wish to be like. What child would ever complain about being the Rock?

And finally, what if he had been called Captain Thunder in the first place? Would DC have been able to market him more strongly since 1973? Well, it's possible, but as far as I'm concerned, I don't think there would have been much of a difference. Again, Captain Marvel had a cartoon in the 80s — I knew he was Captain Marvel with the magic word "Shazam" when I was four, and I don't think it's a hard concept to get. In other words, I think the problem with the name is small, and a good story is a good story, and calling the book Shazam makes as much sense as calling Superman's and Batman's books Action Comics and Detective Comics. I don't think the negative effect of not being able to call him Captain Marvel is so big that it can't be done away with with the proper amount of marketing.

So no, I don't think calling him "Shazam" is going to make the character that much more marketable, except that calling him "Captain Marvel" might just remind viewers that that other Captain Marvel exists. In other words, the existing fanbase of Shazam, Captain Marvel, and the other Captain Marvel is split over a small bit of trivia and you just read this entire article, all because this guy exists.

You have to admit, when you think of it that way, it's kinda funny.

But most importantly, the important thing is to be civil, and I'll let Zachary "Shazam" Levi tell it here:

You can like both movies, folks. Or you can like one and not tear the other one down. It's okay. Personally, I'll be going to see both.

As a bonus, here's an image for you. Don't ask me where it's from. I just got it off of here. Here's Waverider showing us DC's Cap as the other Captains I mentioned.

And before we end, let me leave you with this house ad from Lightning Comics.

Captain Shazam? Really, guys?
Read more here.
It's a good thing that never happened, because that'd have made things even more confusing.

Feb 20, 2019

Spider-Rama: Amazing Spider-Man #7

Welcome to Spider-Rama! Each Wednesday, Ben and Duy will look at a Spider-Man issue from the very beginning, in chronological order, and answer questions for various categories, inspired in large part by one of our favorite podcasts, The Rewatchables by The Ringer. Our goal is to make it to Amazing Spider-Man #200. Will we make it? Grab your Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus or crank up your tablet to Marvel Unlimited, and then tune in every Wednesday to find out!

by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Spider-Man battles the Vulture again, and Peter and Betty Brant get closer.


BEN: Spider-Man’s first repeat villain is the Vulture, a fact that I had forgotten.

DUY: First time Peter basically says he's Spider-Man (to Betty) and isn't believed. He's joking, but it's gonna happen at least two more times in the next 200 issues.

BEN: First time Spider-Man has had to fight with a busted arm, an eventual trope.

DUY: First time he webs up JJJ's mouth.

BEN: First time Spider-Man fights a villain in the Bugle offices.

DUY: Since we're tracking the evolution of his humor as well, I'll point out that the cover blurb flat-out says that joking is part of what makes him "at his best."

BEN: Second billed before "daring".


BEN: Peter sitting on the floor talking to Betty is a scene that’s always stuck with me for whatever reason. It’s something that real people would do, I guess.

DUY: This is when they finally start playing with these close shaves with Aunt May:


BEN: Spider-Man is in full-on wisecracking mode now. I love it.

DUY: Why do secret identities work? Because if you do it right, the character you're keeping it a secret from wouldn't believe you anyway.

BEN: I prefer the concept that most people wouldn’t even consider that Spider-Man or Superman spend time as anyone else. But that doesn’t come until much much later.


DUY: The Vulture. Bad joke?

BEN: I'll allow it.


BEN: It’s probably not a great idea to give a gifted engineer access to the prison machine shop.

DUY: The Vulture gets released for being a model inmate. Can you really become a model inmate in what would be five months at most?


DUY: Spider-Man, for this one. I love his rhythm by this point and the confidence he's building.

BEN: The Vulture. It's time the elderly got the respect they earned as winged menaces. I’ve been rewatching The Sopranos, tell me Junior Soprano isn’t the real life Adrian Toomes.

DUY: That's it for Spider-Rama this week.

BEN: Thank you, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko—

DUY: —for telling us we aren't the only ones.

Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page or on Twitter. See you next week!

The Doom Patrol: The True Original X-Men

In the summer of 1963, emerged a team comprised of misfits with special powers. Abilities that make them outcasts in normal society, united by their loss, and led by a wheelchair-bound man with extraordinary mental powers. If you thought I was describing the X-Men, then you were wrong, my friend, because today we’re digging in the back issue bins for the Doom Patrol.

The Doom Patrol: The True Original X-Men
Ben Smith

The Doom Patrol debuted in My Greatest Adventure #80 in June of 1963, created by writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney, with artist Bruno Premiani. Three months later, the X-Men burst upon the scene. There has been much speculation as to if Marvel copied the concept of the Doom Patrol for the X-Men, or if it was creative coincidence. Three months isn’t a lot of time in the comic publishing world to develop and execute a comic, so I’m going to chalk it up to them tapping into the same artistic hive mind. (Editor's Note: It's possible the Doom Patrol were based on the Fantastic Four.)

Either way, as much as the X-Men have billed themselves as freaks hated by society, the members of the Doom Patrol were much more believable as social rejects than the X-Men ever would be in actuality. The original members of the team consisted of Elasti-Girl, Negative Man, and Robotman, along with The Chief.

Elasti-Girl was former movie star Rita Farr. Rita made the unwise decision to try and outswim a real crocodile while filming her latest movie, for realism’s sake. It didn’t go well for her, so she had to go over a waterfall to escape, bringing her into contact with naturally occurring gas vapors that granted her the ability to enlarge or shrink her entire body.

Larry Trainor was a test pilot flying an experimental rocket plane. The controls failed, taking him into suborbit before crashing down in a dry lake bed. Immediately after the crash, a duplicate of Larry made out of energy emerged from his body, thus was born the Negative Man. The Negative Man is capable of fantastic feats, but can only remain separated from Larry for 60 seconds before it kills them both.

Cliff Steele was a daredevil race car driver before getting into a devastating accident driving a car of his own design. Doctors were able to transplant his human brain into a robot body, making Cliff Steele a literal Robotman.

These three amazing individuals were brought together by the Chief, a man who decided to overcome his physical handicap by “mastering every field of knowledge.” He uses that knowledge to monitor dangers from all across the globe, but until now had no means to intervene when disaster struck.

The Doom Patrol’s first adventure brought them into conflict with General Immortus, who in case you were wondering, is an evil immortal General. He was after a machine that can transmute any material into atomic energy, which was inside a crashed alien ship, obviously.

The adventures that followed were just as insane, with all manner of giant creatures and nazi war criminals. During one mission, Elasti-Girl throws a torpedo at a giant sea monster.

While in another, Robotman’s face melts as he endures extreme heat to save the day.

However, this all pales in comparison to the greatest villainous organization in comic book history, the Brotherhood of Evil.

The Brotherhood consists of The Brain—

—who is, predictably, an actual human brain floating in liquid hooked up to a voice transmitter.

Not to be outdone is Monsieur Mallah, a super intelligent gorilla wielding machine guns.

The Brain’s “assistant” is Madame Rouge, she doesn’t do much in this initial appearance, and The Brotherhood is recruiting a mustached man that operates a giant robot he has named Rog, because of course.

The Doom Patrol defeat the Brotherhood, despite how awesome they are, which is a shame.

The Doom Patrol comics are not the most sophisticated in terms of writing or art, even by Silver Age standards, but they definitely make up for it by being weird or even downright disturbing. And you really can’t beat an evil brain floating in a jar of liquid flanked by an evil French gorilla.

Comics are a glorious thing.