Tuesday, September 27, 2011

OH, yeah! the Adventures of Kool-Aid Man and dreams of a better world


Okay, I remember two things: this comic had the wall-busting Kool-Aid Man, oh, yahh! The part I'd love to see again, which I may have squashed beneath these covers alongside the silly battle against the Thirsties (which is pretty serious business when you've got nothing to drink), turns out not to be in this comic, as my memory attempted to generate initially: features discussing solar panels and computers, innovations of the 1980's I was seeing for the very first time. Ha! Sorry I got these things mixed up, but I'll address this one in a future post. I thought surely we were all going to school to figure out how to be part of that futuristic tomorrow of America. Technology! So exciting to a country kid. I tried to imagine: I'd be an adult in the distant year 2000. Wow. What would the world be like, I wondered? (I'm starting to think the comic where I found those features may have been Radio Shack Science Fair giveaways. I've since figured out I elided the two giveaway comics.) The rest? That is, what was actually IN this comic? An adventure, of sorts...not as cool as the Marvel comics of the day, but hey, Mom sent off for this and gave it to me as a surprise, along with a copy for my sister, I believe. At least it has a space battle at one point: and fantastic creatures disrupting a sporting event was the kind of thing I thought about in my daydreams already by this time, so have a laugh: someone was innocent enough to get a kick out of this. I haven't listened to the guy narrate this yet, myself, but I noticed he reads virtually the whole thing. Maybe the cool futuristic information was in issue two...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Avengers: Which is Witch? The origin of the Scarlet Witch

So the movie going public has met Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man, as well as the Black Widow (and, quietly in Thor this summer, Hawkeye), all gathering in the Avengers movie coming next summer. Two characters I foresee appearing in any future sequels of that movie are the Vision and the Scarlet Witch, who you may never have seen or heard about before. You're welcome to click on my blogs from this summer and meet them in their original stories!A couple of days after reading the origin of the Scarlet Witch---my last comic books for the foreseeable future---I am struck by a similarity with the origin of the Vision.The Vision, after the last epic new telling of his origin, married the Scarlet Witch in Giant Sized Avengers #4, 1975. In 1979, new writers Mark Gruenwald and Steven Grant plotted the origin of the Scarlet Witch. The mystery of her parentage---and twin brother Pietro's---was a regular Avengers sub-plot in the years leading up to these issues, which were #'s 185-187. Her father figure, hinted in glimpses for over a year of stories, uses magical dolls to reclaim Wanda and Pietro.
Because they are also the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, mutant members of the Avengers, his plans are thwarted. Django Maximoff seems to warp reality, but in the end he can do the Avengers no harm. Pitying him---a man named Django Maximoff--- the two go back to their Balkan gypsy homeland, still baffled by the incongruent memories of their childhoods, which cross over with his reminiscences---but why does he remember them as Mateo and Ana? And what does their birth have to do with Wundagore Mountain?
I have asked Steven Grant tonight via e-mail : "did you deliberately court the similarity with the Vision's origin, in that he was touched by the pinnacle of technological evil at birth, while Wanda was touched by the pinnacle of primordial evil at birth?" The Vision is an android created by the villainous robot Ultron, who did not create, but did re-fashion the Vision into his present body and mind. The Scarlet Witch, at birth, was touched by an Elder God, a being named Chton who was one of the two original gods of Earth. The other is his sister, who infused her life with the planet and became known as Mother Earth. Chton, however, hid in a nether dimension, and bound his return to a spot on the mountain, and gave the directions subliminally through an indestructible book, the Darkhold. This book has yielded secrets of power to men throughout time. Only the scientists who owned Wundagore Mountain in the 20th century, with their creations, the evolved Ani-Men, fended off his last advance. For centuries now, a magician named Magus has guarded mankind against Chton's return in various guises, including one of the two scientists who created the Knights of Wundagore...and the midwife of Wanda and Pietro, a cow woman named Bova, who returns to heal and nurse Pietro, and explains the circumstances of the night of their birth. Her explanation also includes the man they thought was their father, Robert Frank the Whizzer, another speedster from an earlier age. The other scientist, Herbert Wyndam, became the High Evolutionary.
After a magician named Modred, a heroic mage who's been possessed by the Darkhold, gains Wanda's confidence, he then sacrifices her to be a vessel for Chton. Her brother Quicksilver and her father Django fall victim to her newly unleashed powers. When the Avengers face her, they, too become her powerless prisoners, after an intense round of combat between Modred and the possessed Witch and her team mates, who end up floating upside down in a circle above her.Through her, Chton explains his touch upon her life at birth. In her he senses a nexus for science-based mutant powers and sorcery. He suggests that he lowered her science-born abilities for a time, so that she might accept the tutelage of the witch Agatha Harkness (as depicted in AVENGERS 128-136). Now, her capacity for magic grew, helping to fashion her into the pawn he needs.


http://www.joblo.com/video/player.php?video=avengerstrlr

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cowboys and Time Conquerors: Englehart/Perez Avengers, 1975



In the 1950's, the racks were full of cowboy comics; Will Eisner's Western Picture Stories was tied for the first, along with a book called Star Ranger, in 1937. Television and the movies had a cowboy "hay day." By the mid-70's, they were mostly being reprinted rather than produced in first runs; Marvel's Westerns usually carried great covers!




Steve Englehart, while writing the Avengers superhero comic in 1975, decided to visit those thrilling days of yesteryear, with a time travel story featuring Thor, Hawkeye, and Moondragon on the trail of Kang the Conqueror. As Hawkeye had discovered, Kang figured taking the 20th century would be much easier if he started in the 19th century.





This story, in AVENGERS #142 and 143, had an old-fashioned train robbery. Thor and Moondragon disguised as passengers, anticipating the attack, mostly fended off by Two Gun Kid, the original Ghost Rider (or Night Rider), Kid Colt and a very Indian-costumed Hawkeye. The next half of the story involved an assault on Kang's fortress---a bit far out for a cowpoke. Fortunately, one hero goes in disguise, with a mind to give Kang one final, all-out battle. Kang had been popping in and out of the Avengers' lives throughout Englehart's run, so it was something of a climax.

The cowboy heroes were not quite sure what to make of their 20th century counterparts. Add to this the very non-traditional, unearthly nature of Moondragon.
Despite this, Two Gun makes a surprising announcement: he wants to go back with the Avengers, particularly his buddy Hawkeye, and see life in the future. It was a good set-up for a new "man out of time" story line, but writers following Englehart decided not to touch it, and Jim Shooter sent him back on his way in Avengers #175.

Stainless Steve may have been testing the waters, or he may have made a sentimental choice, a tip of the hat to the gun hawks and owl hoots before the end of his run.






On the newsstands, the day of the Western had ridden into the sunset. Not long after Kane left Marvel, the reprint lines were cancelled. Over at DC, Jonah Hex and his weird Western tales were still going strong; but with the exception of occasional revival efforts, they were put to pasture.

Superheroes and cowboys wouldn't mix again until 1987, when Englehart came back to West Coast Avengers.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy Halloween from the Tomb of DRACULA!




So what I'm going to do is tell you a thing or two about these stories, which are just good enough storytelling to make me smile. Tomb of Dracula was not only very different from any other comic book before it, but it was also a surprise success, sparking off a trend of ghouls and goblins and things stranger still, like the Man-Thing. How could you write a comic book with a villain as its "hero"? For one, you don't white wash him as a hero, though in his own mind, while he is not good, he is eternally justified and dedicated to survival. Once you give him an enemy like Blade, and stay far away from the rest of the super-hero world, you have an international hunt for a timeless killer, a ruthless warrior and haunted soul, with little to save his intended victims. But what will save Dracula from himself?




My first vote went to the story where the vampire hunters created by Archie Goodwin in issue three, descendants of the the novel's Victorian protagonists, lose one of their own to Dracula. Then, they get theirs back, with the first death of Dracula in the series! But as someone raised all his young life in church, the horrible sequel, as a misguided preacher raises Dracula from the grave, has a certain satisfaction of its own. He subsumes purity in Edith Harker; he subsumes piety in Josiah, a one shot character primary to issue fourteen. Now, nothing seems safe from Dracula, and the series is really off to its thematic apex.


Rachel Van Helsing and Dracula crash in the mountains. He needs blood to survive, and so he keeps his nemesis with him. Her courage and their desperate symbiosis create a thrilling tension!






It so happens the weakened Dracula becomes captive of Dr. Sun, a disembodied Chinese surgeon who can control computers with his scientifically-preserved brain---done here before they tried it on a memorable episode of Wonder Woman I haven't seen in twenty five years, easily! Anyway, Dr. Sun brings back a vampire made from a criminal named Brand to give Dracula's memories. It's the first skirmish in a war between the Lord of Vampires and the bodiless mad scientist that stretches the next two years! Now, there's a natural predator to the natural predator.


I will mention the stories in between at length, but if you want to capture the flavor of this comic and only want to try a single issue, this one, #30, has three stories, including the original, then-as-yet untold encounter with Blade a few years before. The sense of history between the characters gives it a depth achieved by few serials I've seen---my favorite sustained horror story arc in comics.
So: can I narrow this seventy-issue series down to maybe its ten best episodes? Here's a few of those choices.

Best; these, I’d talk about


Ten #12 (and really, 12-14 are one story!)
Nine #14 Resurrection! Josiah Stone? Earliest best, for sure!
Eight
#19, Rachel and Dracula alone in the mountains? Hells yeah! The train one, 17, rocks, too. 23? That one introduces Dracula's first human lover in the series, Sheila Whittier, or rather, continues her story from a special published earlier that month.
Seven #21 Dracula, Brand, Doctor Sun
A great song about a vampire!

Wonder if #30 is not actually a better read, though, than even #14 or 21. It's a three part compilation of Dracula's reminiscences, complete with a peek at the vampire hunters, moving in their separate directions in life for a time. Saddened by his emotional involvement with Sheila Whittier, Dracula thinks back to a time when trusting a woman led him into peril. The first story is the German Prime Minister plot with Lisa Stang---the behind-the-scenes intrigue at the time of Otto Von Bismark. The second features his vengeance for the little blind girl. The last is Blade's first encounter with Dracula. Written as his melancholy journal.this one is an interlude and an excellent sample of mood, storytelling, and the warped morality of its main character, who is still recognizably human in his misunderstandings and failings. If you only try one issue, this one has it all.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Integr8dfix.blogspot's History In Pictures



Hey!


Got to go weekly a while. Lots of original comics to write, original fiction to draft, original pages to draw, pitches to craft for companies next summer.




































Friday, September 2, 2011

Celestial the Queen: Mantis, Englehart, Marvel Comics Avengers 130-135





The mystery woman known only as Mantis traces the steps to places in her memories, asking questions and attempting to find people she remembers, throughout the Vietnamese capitol of Saigon. To her increasing despair, she is told she could not have been at one house when she thought; it was built but two years ago. No one in her past can be found. What future, then, awaits this woman, if everything before her now-deceased lover was a lie?




Hawkeye the Archer asks the Vision about her story even while helping Thor and Iron Man in their support of her quest. He tells of the finely-attuned, mystically-aware, aloof adventuress who came here, swearing angrily that the Libra of the Zodiac crime-lords is not her father, while he told her of the Priests of Pama, who he found while blindly staggering away with her in his arms after her mother’s murder by her uncle.


The mystery of the Star Stalker and the arrival of Kang the Conqueror both further suggest she is someone she does not yet realize. To himself, as a gentleman, the Vision keeps her repeated advances and interest, which he cannot reciprocate to her demand, as he loves Wanda.


Viet Nam, in 1974, was a politically intriguing place to depict in stories, though the war itself is not discussed so much as the world around it. Being Marvel, the three Communist super-villains are rounded up by writer Englehart and turned into an opposing set of super-heroes on their new home turf! A criminal named the Slasher uses them for refuge, the action subplot of the issue, #130, which is truly focused on the Mantis.

I really rushed over the mystery of what's going on behind that door with Agatha Harkness and her pupil, the Scarlet Witch. I'm pondering why it is she came out and initiated combat with the visiting Moondragon, who considers herself a Titan-trained goddess of human origin. Harkness approves. Wanda sorta doesn't seem herself---and what's happening, the time Jarvis tries to reach them with some food and hears a man's voice, breaks in and finds no one there? I will have to write at some future date about the story possibilities one gets with Harkness and her secret training, but I will say it is apparently to the good for the confidence of her charge. Hmm.


Celestial the Queen


The mystery woman known only as Mantis traces the steps to places in her memories, asking questions and attempting to find people she remembers, throughout the Vietnamese capitol of Saigon. To her increasing despair, she is told she could not have been at one house when she thought; it was built but two years ago. No one in her past can be found. What future, then, awaits this woman, if everything before her now-deceased lover was a lie?



Hawkeye the Archer asks the Vision about her story even while helping Thor and Iron Man in their support of her quest. He tells of the finely-attuned, mystically-aware, aloof adventuress who came here, swearing angrily that the Libra of the Zodiac crime-lords is not her father, while he told her of the Priests of Pama, who he found while blindly staggering away with her in his arms after her mother’s murder by her uncle. The mystery of the Star Stalker and the arrival of Kang the Conqueror both further suggest she is someone she does not yet realize. To himself, as a gentleman, the Vision keeps her repeated advances and interest, which he cannot reciprocate to her demand, as he loves Wanda.

Viet Nam, in 1974, was a politically intriguing place to depict in stories, though the war itself is not discussed so much as the world around it. Being Marvel, the three Communist super-villains are rounded up by writer Englehart and turned into an opposing set of super-heroes on their new home turf! A criminal named the Slasher uses them for refuge, the action subplot of the issue, #130, which is truly focused on Mantis.


In fact, in the middle of that skirmish, a hooded man drops in to kick the armor-plated Crimson Dynamo off balance---unseen by the Avengers, who will recognize him as Libra, the father of Mantis, just a couple of stories from now.



So everywhere she goes, Mantis finds a different story: bargirl, Madonna...or myth? Thor prompts her to courage, as her sadness is most unlike her; the riddle will be unraveled. She asks the Vision to accept an apology from her, too; it’s not her way to go after someone else’s man. She feels an end coming to all she has been and known---which is a death of sorts. He wants to ease her---he’s amazed to have experienced the human emotion of flattery---and if he, the android, can do this, what new feelings must await her in this changing life? But that’s just is. She was happy as she was.



Temporarily aligned with Immortus, Kang operates within Limbo, a timeless dimension that touches and exists all of time. Here, he plucks his Legion of the Unliving: Frankenstein’s Monster, the formerly deceased Wonder Man, the original Human Torch, Baron Zemo, and a fascinating pirate guy I never saw before or sense. Now, he snatches away the Avengers, trapped in this castle within Limbo. Separated, they wander the castle, embattled, for all of #132, which ends with Iron Man’s death at the super-heated hands of the Torch! The Vision, too, seems ready to perish; ironically, he battles Wonder Man, whose brain patterns as Simon Williams are the basis for his mind...and as he will discover, the Torch, the 1940’s android original, was the first to live in the body Vision now calls his own!


This next part’s hard to tell without the Giant Size issues, but the themes, I can relate.


The Avengers get Immortus on their side and win out over Kang, who slinks back to the future to again return one last time in the next year of Englehart’s run. Immortus gives Mantis and Vision a boon as thanks to the Avengers: two sticks that guide them through the mystery missing pieces of their lives, complete with narration.



In the case of Mantis, who learns about friendship in the company of Iron Man, Hawkeye, and Thor, she sees the cosmic history of the Kree people, after contact by the Skrulls. She also learns about the Cotati people, the plants who shared the first Kree world, Hala, how they built a garden to please the Skrulls, just as the Kree used the technology to build a city. She learns of the pacifist Kree, their self-defense system, their oppression at the hands of the majority, and the eventual settlement of one sect on Earth, where they became the Priests of Pama. Hawkeye muses the advent of martial arts on Earth may well have begun with these aliens! He also interjects an important idea to the increasingly worried and confused Mantis: levity. She gets a glimpse of why one may have a sense of humor in dealing with the unusual.

This galactic history intersects with her life, she discovers. The Priests have long guarded the surviving, evolving Cotati people...and she is to bear their special child, if she is willing. Upon the reappearance of Libra, the mysterious Swordsman sightings after his death is explained: the Cotati have animated a new form of his body, to ease the transition, the strange destiny, of Mantis. She leaves Earth, but her story will follow Englehart across different comics companies, and one day, she returns to a new life alongside the Silver Surfer and Fantastic Four, under his pen.


The Vision’s journey, alone, takes him through the creation and many lives of the original Human Torch; here he sees how his body gained phobias which resulted in his “freezing up” three times in battle. This is not a new surprise; in #93, Neal Adams drew Ant-Man discovering a mystery inside the Vision’s body, now revealed to be evidence of his previous android existence. For that matter, Thomas dropped a hint, too, when the Sentinel who analyzes Vision in #105 declares his body “of three decades’ vintage.”



On his first trip out in the world, the Torch is imprisoned within a swimming pool that belongs to a crime boss---echoed during the poolside last stand of Cornelius Van Lunt, whose story began this visit of mine weeks ago. He now realizes, too, he is not simply a creation “sprung fully-formed from the head of Ultron-5!” In fact, he was a popular and famous superhero, who was occasionally buried (when his powers began to build out of control) and revived (as when the Mad Thinker, “master of androids,” set the first android against the Fantastic Four. He sees his struggle against Ultron-5 while he still had the mind of the Torch, saying, while my creation was by Man and not God, who knows by what mystery one becomes alive? Has he not known something akin to experience and existence? Still unaware of his new abilities in this Vision body (re-fitted with the help of Dr. Phineas T. Horton, the original creator, at the coercion of Ultron), he is defeated, mind-wiped, and started again using Simon Williams’ patterns as a basis. So he was originally created for profit; he became a focus of Horton’s care, eventually, and respected by the great heroes of World War II. So he is somewhat beyond the conventional definitions of life and death; so he has been fundamentally re-created: in a September, as a matter of fact. Has he not found experiences of his own? Has he not known...true love?



And so, the fifth act ends: in a double wedding, between the resurrected Swordsman and Mantis, and also, between the Vision and Scarlet Witch. Wanda has dug deep, uncovered a witch’s affinity for natural fibers, understood the flow of her hex powers in a new way. Most importantly, she felt uncertain of herself, as a woman and superhero. Her tutelage under Agatha Harkness changed this---but the strength was ever her own. So, in the tradition of the comedy, after the tragedy of the fourth act, this story draws to a close with celebration and marriage. Only in the confines of fiction is that an ending---and years more of Avengers comics will depict this most unusual husband-wife team, as their adventure continues. Perhaps, when the time is right, a writer moved by their struggle to become who they were will be inspired to return them to the center of the Marvel Universe.



-----Cecil Disharoon