Thursday, October 19, 2017

Brand New Spider-Man: the 1982 Amazing saga and its storytelling elements

One thing I love about the Brand saga in Amazing Spider-Man #231-6 is the way it begins with Spider-Man caught between Cobra and Mr. Hyde, so a main plot, initiated as a Bugle expose-in-progress, actually circumscribes the hero vs. villains plot. Cobra, newly ensconced in his sneaky and lucrative plans to rob police precincts, enjoys his ill gains in a plush apartment. His treasures fit in a vault beneath the fireplace. He glories in his new solo fortunes with the macabre Hyde no longer haunting him. The one man who holds his secret, however, is caught up in his business of trading secrets, connected to dangerous physical and corporate power.

The Brand saga mixes corporate villainy with established super-villains, drawing in Spider-Man through informant Nose Norton, but really pulling in Peter through concern for supporting cast members Ned Leeds and Betty Brant. We get maybe the best use of the Daily Bugle to date, as regular folks ply their heroism against non-powered Brand executives. We also write finis to two recurrent 1970s Spidey villains in memorable fashion. Combined with Peter’s research intern ruse, it’s a terrific use of realistic elements, and together, a very contemporary background of events.

Identity mistakes are thematic in ASM #231: from page one, we’re given an opportunity to mistake Cobra, hiding from the investigating police security, for the wondrous wall-crawler. Little of the fake-out play is necessary to the actual function of the plot, but is rather an enhancing characteristic. The huge figure tromping around looking for someone for revenge, constantly shadowed, is absolutely a call-back to the terror of the Juggernaut in the two issues before: is it possible, in his uncanny unstoppable fashion, he’s free of his concrete prison already? We are pretty much in on the third one: it’s paranoia on Cobra’s part, when he finds Norton wheedling all the money he can out of Leeds for a big tip related to Brand. This causes all the trouble that brings Spider-Man swooping in for a fairly evenly-matched battle with the possibility of collateral damage.

The plot’s begun with a set-up the year before in Peter Parker #57, which is how Marla Madison’s involved, as a scientist kidnapped by Killer Shrike while she’s exploring work at Brand. That’s also where Will O’ The Wisp really came in, too, as he had hijacked the Shrike battle suit as part of his plans to avenge himself on Brand. It’s a fine example of a phenomenon we’ve many of us noted, exemplified in what David Anthony Kraft calls his “DAK verse”- to himself, of course- inside the Marvel Universe, where characters and plots connect and build, novel-like, in later serialized work.

This allows the plot to begin in earnest with Marla, Jonah and Ned all talking over the Brand expose at the Bugle. Marla, presently billed as Bugle science advisor, has started a relationship with JJJ, too, which adds depth to his often-caricatured voice. This is the real plot, swallowed up inside what one might call a sub-plot where Cobra (interrupting Norton’s informant work in fear of betrayal) and Hyde (seeking vengeance for being abandoned) get mixed up with players going forward into the Brand saga.

Norton’s a survivor and a low-life- also, I think, the one original character brought in by Stern, who only creates one other character for his eighteen-issue run- one he’s actually created previously in Peter Parker. (You could include Alfred Bestman in the Vulture’s story...and let’s not forget Monica Rambeau as the new Captain Marvel in Annual 16.) My insight is that Stern’s highly-regarded run doesn’t lean on creating characters, but he’s quite a resourceful storyteller, nicely accompanied by Romita, Jr.’s consistent pencils.
He’s made Norton as a low-key catalyst, the sort of villain whose threat depends solely on knowledge rather than individual power. It’s not a series that depends on a regular supporting cast on the bad guys’ side, though they do bring their supporting players along in a usually faceless fashion. Nose Norton’s key to the Brand series.

That’s why he goes from being an incidental target to a man on the run in #233, titled by JJJ: “Where the #%$@! is Nose Norton?” He’s vanished with the Leeds tip pay-out (funded by the Bugle) AND the tip. A proactive decision to offer a $1500 reward for his return sparks off competition at the Bugle and draws in reporter Ben Urich, too (making waves over in DAREDEVIL). Soon he’s targeted for a set-up and assassination attempt, using the Tarantula, lying low as a smuggler since his appearance kidnapping the Mayor to kick off PETER PARKER #1. The tone’s set this time by these secretive figures, hiding their identities and location.

We’ll get an interesting cross-section of Crime throughout the series-in-a-series: regular scum-level operatives like Norton, to professional criminals like Tarantula to organized legal businessmen to rogue powers like Wisp. (Businessmen with legitimately-recognized enterprises are a favorite villain well for Stern, going back to his Brand stories in Hulk and forward with the Kingsleys. At least he doesn’t vilify Jameson- that’s usually the wrong direction.)

The professional status of the criminals of the Marvel Age had been a gradual innovation. I listened to Dick Cavett’s Watergate. The year the Brand Saga appeared, 1982, a decade after that story broke, now had writers who came of age AFTER The Tet Offense. Nixon’s tapes, filled with vengeance, break-ins, getting even, screwing the other side- the Enemies define the nefarious nature of those in power, and it’s a time of questioning those in power rather than simply defending whomever’s part of the status quo. The Fantastic four and Spider-Man in the days of Lee never fought any corporation, outside fuming over some Daily Bugle headlines. The FF face the wealthy Gideon, but usually FF enemies were too far outside the law to legally hold corporations. And Spidey faced, what, Heavenly Hair Spray?

But foreign and alien and extra-legal powers were not the boundary for antagonism, anymore: now, the institutions of American life held sinister views. Villains were outsiders to power, trying to seize it, until the 70s, when people stopped being proud of the President and the Army and Big Business- when those things began to seem Outside and Other to the actual American Way of Life.

Granted, Loki was prince of Asgard (adopted); Norman Osborn was an industrialist while he was secretly The Goblin!
So, the Tarantula. The very fact that, once he loses the advantage of surprise, Spider-Man’s grown to out-class him becomes a story point, an arc differing from Black Cat, Juggernaut, Hyde, Cobra. I note how many times the immediate past of the villains, before they appear in Amazing, gets a Stern reference. That small bit of detail sets off the idea of their lives between these appearances: it tells you life’s gone on for heroes and villains, alike.

After making the Big Apple itself Spidey’s setting for previous stories, Stern and JR Jr narrow their focus: three issues set around seedy bars, alley ways, a pier, realistic underworld settings- then the next ones center around a secret hi-tech laboratory. Finally, Spider-Man makes his stand again in The City: those high rooftops are a battleground Spider-Man has learned to utilize. It’s Home Turf. It’s where Spider-Man defeats his foes, using the city in each tale. This suddenly will change when Spidey doesn’t know how to use the city to win- against the Hobgoblin. This time, he doesn’t have a Bugle investigation to supplement his curiosity. He’ll beard The Vulture in his own lair, but more generally, Spider-man’s style improvises, using his surroundings towards numerous strategies. Stern’s run climaxes with another battle over knowledge, which ends in victory, but mystery, without closure. Happily, DeFAlco and Frenz would have a chance to do many stories with their own take on Hobby.

The (Staten Island) ferry where Peter joins Ben Urich in his search for Norton (and a $1500 reward) seems a callback to the first Tarantula battle, under Conway nearly 100 issues before, when he was merely a skilled mugger with an organized gang of robbers. His story as a failed revolutionary, under Conway, has led him to this sorry end, living in secret, smuggling for a living. He’s offered a quarter million dollars to find and encounter Norton. When I mentioned Watergate, the cover-up was of course the part of the story that had addicted morning audiences the summer nine years before the Brand Saga. A set-up to plant the idea that Norton’s selling Brand secrets- and the plan to kill Norton with private investigators- converges on Norton’s hiding place, same time as Urich and Parker. It’s a good intrigue!
Peter must slip out after the initial Tarantula attack at the bar where Norton shouldn’t have come downstairs for a beer after all. I laughed that Ben thought Daredevil’s shadow flew overheard, when it was really, as echoed by Urich and Tarantula: “Spider-Man?”It’s a cool looking fight, but an angry Spidey defeats Tarantula decisively. That’s going to set-up an awesome development, as we find out first-hand the sort of secrets Brand Corporation keeps!
Ben hopes Parker shot a photo of whether or not Norton’s seen drawing his gun first, or the investigators (hired by Roxxon, via Brand). The Tarantula’s scooped up when no one’s looking.

This is one issue that might be considered a little...padded. But I can make a case for the value of showing Peter when, not fighting crime per se, he just does something the Spider-Man way. He could’ve dropped down to street level somewhere for his change, but he’s certainly safer making the clothes change up on the Bugle roof, where he swings, musing about quitting the teaching assistant job to make better money with his Spidey/Bugle set-up. (He’s gravitating towards leaving that college world altogether over a year’s issues.)
He can’t really go down and use the front door after he’s changed. So he messes up a steel door, to the maintenance guy’s chagrin (a Bugle mishap that deserves outrage against Spider-Man!). I like how he uses the elevator cable to reach his floor, does even a well-greased cable not hurt his hand? It’s nothing, but it does show Peter’s unorthodox approach to life- I think that speaks to readers. Some of the fun IS imagining how you’d use super-powers to break out of every day rules.

And I’m not trying to introduce the subject of Amy Powell under the rubric of “padding”- I nearly forgot, she’s another new character, meant to set off a year-long subplot. I wonder if Roger knows MJ is coming back to town as he begins to set up the comedic three-way crash-up with Amy, Lance, and Pete? Amy’s encounter with Peter’s speedy reflexes plays into her ongoing calculations about the games she and Lance play to avoid a more serious commitment. It’s not a huge point, but introducing an open relationship seems a social move forward in modernizing the possibilities- maybe it’s something of interest to older readers. I can tell you anything hinting at how the adult world works was plenty interesting to me as a kid comics reader!

Now we’re halfway into the Brand story, with one new addition to the intrigue: Will O’ The Wisp starts wrecking Brand facilities-and a new inker, after stalwart Jim Mooney bows out of the strip. Here, we’ll get a preview of the team on Uncanny X-Men, as Dan Green inks an issue, with a distinct style on the faces. They’re not on ASM much, but I think of them as defining JR Jr. in this era. How about we pick up the trilogy as a group? It’s a distinct change in setting.

Summer, 1982: The trench-coated Will O’The Wisp haunts security at Boston’s Brand (Haunting, Boston Brand? If I mix up my comics companies, I’m a Dead Man).. He’s so powerful: he’s intangible at will, he can become blinding bright and hypnotize people, he can become super strong and forms a ball of destructive power, which is his mode of transportation, too!
We learn he’s an ex-Brand employee, with suggestions- many- to which they never listened. Without hurting anyone else, he blows up the central utilities core, promising more.

Being Spider-Man
Looking at the structure, Wisp gives us an action opening. Aside from a page visiting the wounded Tarantula, the entire story follows its main character, balances Peter and Spider-Man. Like the scene breaking into the elevator shaft, it’s crystal clear Peter’s always secretly Spider-Man, with the abilities in and out of costume. There are several pieces that come together to produce the Marvel newsstand champion of its day. That younger “spinner rack” and “magazine rack” crowd finding Amazing Spider-Man issues in grocery, pharmacy and convenient store outlets- and of course, newsstands- had colorful desires met in this unique package, and when it was done at all, it could delight a young reader. When it’s done at its highest quality, it’s worth analyzing! One element is the identification with Peter as Spider-Man, Spider-Man as Peter.

Being Spider-Man, being Peter Parker, is the central attraction, the preoccupation. It’s always about more than the super-fights every fan young and young at heart thrills to read. But it’s absolutely about that!
How we get there allows us to explore the elements that captivate the imagination as we move into life more from childhood: the little daily life moments, so real, with that Spider-Man approach, whether crossing town, getting a paper, or fending for dinner. People who think that something about Peter’s attitude and bad luck define Spider-Man, I suggest what really makes it his story is simply dealing with daily things that characteristic way! I think this is the basis, too, for Spider-Man the solo operative. Today, he has matured into a dream for clever vehicles and devices to sell under the Spider name, and he’s even been a team member ever since his friendships on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends! But dealing with day-to-day problems is the depiction by which an era of fans know him best, locked into the inefficiencies of having to figure out everything himself.

So here, we get Wisp opening with a bang, then build back to the suspenseful action ending.
The way everyone converges there, to create further mayhem and hazard, is quite interesting. Brand is a spider of its own kind, a Roxxon Oil subsidiary often dedicated, since at least the days of Steve Englehart’s origin of the Beast, to creating super-powered operatives. We’ve been drawing closer to it, trying to figure out what’s going on mostly from Peter’s perspective. The glimpse over to the villain’s side for the fateful moment James Melvin tells the wounded hired assassin “I can give you the power to BE Spider-Man!” is our last divergence from a plot that moves its main character right along towards a collision with Melvin (Brand), Will O’ The Wisp and The Tarantula.

Being Spider-Man, as I mentioned, is the primary point of telling or reading his adventures: this may apply widely to the various psychological shapes of general Marvel Universe characters, but I’d rather discover their features in the process of zooming in on my favorite childhood character. When the world was still filling with Sinbad, the Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers, Knight Rider, the Duke Boys, the Fall Guy, Magnum, P.I. Robin Hood and Godzilla, I played them all, but recall keeping none as my secret identity so preciously as Spidey!

So, four seasons of Spider-man cartoons, one personal appearance, a birthday cake, a funky live action TV show and 20 or so comics featuring Spider-Man: this is where I was by spring of 1982, when I first caught sight of the Cobra and Mr. Hyde’s exciting appearances at a grocery store stand somewhere Mama and her friend Sue Culberson were double coupon shopping. I’m still playing the Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four board game with my sister at this point! (Remember that one?)

A trip to Kroger unveiled the contents of ASM #234- I probably flipped to the battle! The Tarantula’s horrific fate really unnerved me. I found a later chapter of it, horrified that what had once been a man was now a monstrous man-spider. It called to my imagination, you know? He was not the kind of Spider-Man you, Anton Rodriguez or anyone would want to be!
Peter, while still struggling to survive and grow as a young adult, has a smidge of self-certainty. He’s still self-effacing, but he’s not a self-loather. The team tries to offer us elements that made Spidey great, while modernizing the approach and capitalizing on Pete’s Marvel Time history.
You have to love Peter using his identity as a student to get in the door at Brand, on a suggestion from lab partner Roger Hochberg. JJJ snaps a Havana raging at the wall crawler, and Peter’s flirted with by a sexy blonde who wants to make a Parker rival jealous – you could see these things happening over in Marvel Tales, reprinting the original Spider-Man comics at this time! Deliberate attempt to create a super-villain to stand up to Spidey: see what I mean? It’s all there.

But everything’s got a fresh twist. This time, the villain’s trying to BE Spider-Man! That’s an interesting, ominous promise; it’s not a disguise/ frame-up, but a misguided effort to make a new, villainous spider-man. It’s all going to go wrong, and whether the hazards could’ve been detected and monitored, the process halted before its grisly result, the vengeance of Will O’ The Wisp will create too much chaos. Brand, we’ll discover, accidentally made him a monster without trying; now that mistake cascades. Rodriguez was clearly a cruel, petty man, but the loss of humanity’s horrific.

Wisp, too, is trying to take Spider-Man’s place, without knowing: they are both out to take down Brand. One wants to break a few rules to use the system: Wisp wants to break EVERything! His humanity, too, seems lost. His monstrosity becomes very apparent as he menaces James Melvin at the end of ASM #235. He’s at best an anti-hero. He’s seen by Spidey as a mixed-up guy.

For the second time in the Brand Saga, Peter’s attempt to procure evidence via photography fails. He’s trying to correct the limitations of the auto-shutter by taking these pics himself in the air shaft. He wants to use his cunning for solutions, but is thrown into fighting for his life, anyway!

So, a man who doesn’t value his humanity would risk it to gain more power, a helpless pawn in an experiment disrupted by two men altered by science, struggling with their own humanity. But Peter, at least, is comfortably human, complete with its many discomforts. I like how Peter’s so busy thinking of others that he does the bachelor thing and opens an empty fridge! How cool that his niceness to neighbor Mr. Pincus- apparently no longer in country-western garb- comes back to him when Pinky needs to thaw the fridge? Peter traditionally does get these little breaks courtesy of the very friends for whom he inevitably has risked his entire life.

Peter’s humanity is what strengthens his resolve to save even James Melvin’s life, in part to preserve the integrity and soul of Wisp, aka Jackson Arvad. But he’s not in control of every element: he can pull a punch to the Wisp when he finally gets the drop on him, but he can’t stop James from firing the experimental blaster, nor Wisp from thinking he’s a traitor on Brand’s side. The revolting Tarantula emergent from his power-bath was already set on destroying Spider-Man...who is only trying to save each of them, even if he also wants to foil each plan!

Spider-Man’s battling for his life in the midst of monsters- and so, in a way more reflective of the real world, is the Daily Bugle. They, trying to do the right thing, are being stopped by who they perceive to be the good guys- the defenders of society’s status quo in its fairest sense, working by law. They have ventured into the darkened alleyways- and it’s important that Dr. Marla Madison got involved now in a couple of adventures, set in both places where these are based: the unglamorous
alleys and piers, and the fantastic, promise-of-tomorrow laboratory. Her home base for the story is that third critical setting, where in the publisher’s penthouse, Ned leads us into a meeting that both reveals the fantastic comics history of Roxxon’s schemes and encounters, but also, that collecting evidence might be foiled by this well-intentioned expose. JJJ has a worthy dilemma, after a series of them: respecting his girlfriend’s wishes to accompany Leeds to meet Norton, losing that money to Norton,
offering a $1500 reward (a real JJJ dilemma, trust me!), Urich’s encounter, and now: back away from the hard-earned story, for the sake of trying a lasting case? Jonah’s really Stern’s secret weapon.
JJJ’s actually behaving like he’s learned a thing or two, even if the Stern tenure ends with his attempt to face a past mistake. Treating events to that point as back story: this may have made Marvel seem impenetrable reading to some, unwilling to take on what promises to be many, many puzzle pieces. That is, of course, part of creating Marvels.

Where else might Stern be drawing inspiration? He’s at this point aware he’s in a contemporary environment where the primary media outlet, numbers-wise, is the NBC Saturday Morning cartoon, which he’s probably begun seeing while writing these issues, but I rather imagine he had this plot in mind, probably boiling away as he came on to the book. Wouldn’t I love to ask him? Remember, the pacing of I Love Lucy plays into all this, too- but for that three-part interview, I suggest checking out the Roger Stern Spider-Man Omnibus.

One story of which I was not aware was begun by Stan Lee and completed by Roy Thomas, the first time anyone else wrote an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, much less four: in it, Peter decides his desire for humanity and a life as a normal man- able to marry Gwen and pursue a career, family...outweighs his obligation as Spider-Man. He takes out a formula, itself not fully tested. His accident leaves him with four extra, human, arms. However grotesque, at least Peter’s spider-changes gave him human limbs. The Tarantula? What a mess! If that’s what Peter had become, at his origin or that time with the’s just the most awful way to be a spider-man, if you’ve been a man, you think? But one man performed an experiment with his all know-how and daring in an effort to stop being a spider-man. The other man is subjected to an experiment that underscores his brutal lack of concern for the know-how: he is all daring! But the monstrous deeds of his life reflect his transformation: power has made him less human.

A non-comics source of inspiration may have been the rising consciousness about technology’s fallibility, crystallized in the work of Rachel Carson, the environmentalist. Her controversial work exposing asbestos, as well as DDT and other pesticides, had been a part of the Earth Day movement that had made ecology a household word as Roger Stern came of age. The effects of industrial technology- adverse side effects, environmental ruin- are echoed in the rampant transformation.

One thing about the story in real time: at first it seems the Tarantula might be a new, monstrous form of super-villain. Only as the issues progress do we realize he’s on a collision course with a complete, inhuman change. There’s blame to spread around for the calamity, adding to the horror.

I see the King Kong parallel in Tarantula’s ending- again, so freakin’ horrible! He wanted to EAT James Melvin by the middle of #236. Yick! The fact that Spider-Man himself webbed Melvin in place to rein in the situation with Will O’The Wisp means he accidentally put the crummy corporate executive in the jaws of death! Would serve him right, too, for his part in the Tarantula’s descent to inhuman darkness.

In fact, that’s what the cliffhanger of #235 suggested! Spider-Man’s trying to keep Melvin from being murdered in his own home while reporting to his Roxxon superior. Suddenly, it’s apparent Wisp and Tarantula both walked away from the plunge into Jamaica Bay ending the laboratory confrontation. In fact, since Wisp has taken hypnotic control and posed Tarantula as his guard, Willow’s now the man to beat. The fact that Spidey’s got to reach his decency to really have any lasting victory for fairness means a moral struggle, of a sort he’s not had with anyone since the appearance of the Black Cat.

In fact, he’s been fighting pretty merciless, cold-blooded baddies lately, right up to Wisp here, who I think attracted Stern precisely because of that “must reach his conscience” element I recall when he was created by Len Wein- I’m inclined to say he was designed by John Romita? So, this time Spider-Man’s persuasive (panicky, preachy?), but for the Tarantula, there’s only enough human left in him to want Death, which he’s so long admired.

I remember those Kroger issues- I seem to have found them in two trips, though all three or two of them could’ve been out on the same magazine rack- primarily for how they made me wonder about the possibilities by which one might transform into a spider-man. There are some horrible ways indeed to become what you wanted, that’s for sure.

The fight between Spidey and the Wisp resolves with some ingenuity: no one can use a power plant quite like the wall-crawler. I love how he tricks Wisp- and Jackson Arvad is an engineer, himself, so this is quite careless- into dematerializing his form in time to send it through three banks of generators. Comics science is most often a bit dodgy but it’s fun watching the writers use it unconventionally. The emergency salvation of trapped James Melvin leaves Wisp with the decision he ultimately must face: take a life, or save it. “Perhaps I’m tired of being one of your monsters,” Wisp says in #236, while freeing Melvin from the webbed chimney. While his powers further break the rules, at least send the twisted executive to the police, confessing. When you can subvert the wills of people and you already feel isolated from humanity, it’s pretty hard not to be a monster, but he’ll try.

In closing, Stern proffers the under-rated and previously too-oft-ignored Spider Sense as the greatest and most uncanny Spider-ability. Good on for Spider-Man now realizing that’s a trade secret!
I love when he tests to see if Tarantula has it (no, just those eyes). There’s even an old-time hint of menace and emotional downturn at the Brand Corporation story close: Melvin’s been Wisp-o-Tized into confessing. But the companies are deeply entrenched with real world political power. The TV newscast? Sponsored by Roxxon Oil.

Peter’s gotten over being whiny and off-putting to people personally, and of course, now his friendships with people lead him ever to where danger lurks. Being Spider-Man seems such a necessity, this Parker can’t live without it and he’s not fighting that, even while this shapes a path in life diverging from what Peter Parker seemed most to want. Maybe that was the world he felt safe in, but ask Uncle Ben, it wasn’t so safe. I am glad, at least if he has to miss his going-away party, someone wanted to throw Pete one! It was meant as a goodbye, too, to Stern’s supporting cast over on Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, as you’ll find discussed a bit elsewhere in this book. I do like how DeFalco’s facilitating Mantlo and Stern and even DeMatteis over at Marvel Team-Up, depicting different parts of Spidey’s life, acknowledging each others’ characters and story lines where appropriate. MTU sort of becomes Aunt May’s boarding house while still giving us a bit of Bugle and its reporters- J.M.’s really into making up non-costumed folk for his stories. Debra Whitman’s dilemma about Peter’s dual identity won’t be resolved here in ASM (too bad), but her quiet fears and imaginings do take a panel. You can add a lot of depth with one intense panel- when you find a moment intense for the character, you acquire definition, right?

It was a real blast checking in on young adult Pete, though. With Stern, wrapping up that crucial first year of stories, he’s not nearly so depressed. His supporting cast is at a high-water mark, in the midst of three well-coordinated titles and a ratings success on Saturday morning, to say nothing of 7-11 Slurpee cups. Still capable of making mistakes (see: most of his relationship with Debra Whitman), but determined to pick up broken pieces with such decency and courage, just as Stan and Steve intended. Peter’s a fine hero, set in a world outside your window. Not unlike the web of a spider, man.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Spider-Man vs. Juggernaut: To Beat the Unfightable Foe!

To Beat The Unfightable Foe!

We’ve traced Roger Stern’s run on the Amazing Spider-Man through his ongoing sagas of the Vulture, the Foolkiller (from our Peter Parker retrospective) and the Black Cat. Continuing with his art team of John Romita, Junior, and Jim Mooney, Stern borrows a lost X-Men foe- another that, following his appearance here, is fully restored to the regular roster of Marvel villains-for the greatest mismatch in the title’s history. Just as I wondered where I’d get the material for my next step of the journey, I discover my local library’s 741.59 stash of graphic novels-including The Sensational Spider-Man: Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut!
If the O’Neil run was in any way considered a lackluster collection of foes, and the Wolfman run, one where Spider-Man fought enemies at a power level appropriate for his ill-fated live action TV series, Stern roars back with drama and one of several mammoth-powered antagonists-this time, perhaps the most mighty terrestrial enemy. As though very carefully timed, a quick glance at The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and especially the space-bound X-Men titles tells us what psychic Madame Web discovers: no one’s home but us arachnids.

I noted how eight panel grids, with healthy doses of sevens and nines, too, were the detailed layout of choice particularly in ASM #229. These two issues also make use of the long, thin establishment shot panel along the left borders, packing impressive volume, the illusion of great heights, into many pages. It’s peculiar to this era of jam-packed story telling, this massive amount of panels making use of twenty-two pages to lend an epic sense to the newly-repriced monthly comics. Relying on lots of tiny images of both Spider-Man and the Juggernaut rather than sacrifice story for a wealth of splashes and poster-like panels, we get rather a lot of details of the trucks and buildings- that’s right- thrown at one another.
Spider-Man’s agility’s not short changed in the slightest; in fact, dwarfed though he is in power, the wall-crawler’s nimble postures and impressive gymnastic feats express his own superhumanity. The sheer force of maneuvers like hurtling a three ton wrecking ball sets Spider-Man apart from other street-level fighters, but also builds carefully the force of the Juggernaut. In #230 the panels open up a bit more, including a huge panel of concussive conflagration framed beneath the cold steel eyes of Cain Marko. But he is not Cain Marko, as his friend Black Tom calls him- is he? His indescribable superhuman power has moved him further from human kind, to the point where he’d do something so awful as laser-welding his helmet to his costume, to insure his exercise of elemental fury remains seemingly without weakness. Changed by the Ruby of Cytarrok, he rejects his human name, and, as if his force field shunts his empathy, too, he walks away from the grievously injured Madame Web with the disregard he shows pulverized bricks.
For all the modern sophistication that seems to have accompanied the supporting cast-rich web-slinger, he’s remained a kid favorite since the beginning, and the sheer awe-inspiring scale of his struggle here- the absolute courage and determination and tall-tale compilation of mythology-like detail- has a child-like wonder. Balanced by supporting cast intrigues meant to add adult appeal, such as the open relationship engaged by rival photog Lance Bannon and observational Gloria Grant’s thoughts at the Bugle office, we get a very imaginative kitchen-sink full of urban super warfare tactics as Juggernaut stomps across town to and from his failed kidnapping mission.

There’s a strong sense of Mooney’s distinctive inks at work, as his Spider-Man stylistically resembles the classic wall-crawler drawn by the senior Romita over seven triumphant years following co-creator Steve Ditko’s tenure. I’m particularly struck by moments where a rising, springing Spidey visual also reflects the plucky hero’s attitude- under Romita’s layouts, his dynamism often provides a metaphor for moments of struggle and defeat as well as optimism and determination. The ability to draw every day objects in well-perspective space lends a strong sense of place throughout.

“Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut!”

I love the variety induced by the creepy nightmare psychic vision that opens the two-part arc. Something about Spider-Man with toes- I’m not sure how that choice was made-throws you off-balance. The floating spider motif replacing his chest insignia and the demonic silhouette of her massive attacker add to the dream-like unreality, capped by someone’s brilliant touch of Web herself now portrayed with no mouth, even as she desperately wishes to scream! Glynis Wein’s sickly green palor and washed-out colors add to the sense of illness in her seeming doom vision. It’s fitting she sees this unrelieved horror image, and no further: this foreshadows a detail at the end of #230, by which she will see the future no more.

We get the diurnal touchstones of Peter Parker’s life: he’s at his apartment when he gets the call from Madame Web, whose powers allow her to cross his Spider-Man business back over into Peter Parker’s. Then we spend a few pages catching up with everyone busy at the Daily Bugle, support characters that reach back to Stan and Steve’s day on the strip. It’s those support characters who are allowed the most opportunity to experience the natural changes and choices of adult hood- I’m thinking particularly about Betty and Ned Leeds, back together. The Bugle allows them each to have relationships, friendships, of their own, adding a layer of storytelling reality. With Ned, Robbie, Jonah and Lance all tying into the coming Brand storyline, we’ll get personable characters functioning as active parts of the action.

Even the remote, demonic Juggernaut- too powerful to be bothered with any puny human efforts at blockade, callous and bored, almost, and devoid of subtlety-has a best friend in Black Tom, who’s engineered the kidnapping of psychic Madame Web. His primary relationship in this story is to play the unstoppable criminal force, transcending the courage and cleverness of the protagonist who proves those qualities while failing time and again.
By this arc, everything that’s classic Stern/ Romita, Jr. arrives. There’s even a fresh lost love to haunt Spider-Man for now, in the form of the Black Cat- which serves to move him forward personally while keeping a familiar element in place. Same could be said for giving him a professional rival in Lance Bannon, ace photog, in place of bully Flash Thompson. That’s a good move: bullies have fallen out of style as the popular kids, but a legitimately-skilled opponent for those action pics provides a relate-able challenge for grown Pete.

We get, with this story, one more echo of classic Spider-Man- one I nearly attributed to the Death of Gwen Stacy, cited by some as the last classic component of what we think of as Amazing Spider-Man comics, but really, it was right there in the origin! He simply can’t stop the Juggernaut from getting to Madame Web. Ripped from her life support system chair, she’s of no use as a hostage, at death’s door. All he can do now is wreak vengeance, with the purpose of stopping the Juggernaut from harming anyone else, or simply walking away from the harm he’s done. It’s the narrative reflection from those two key stories that adds emotional resonance to the sheer challenge of street-level hero versus god-level behemoth, a triangulation that’s so unique and different from those stories sharing its pattern, you probably wouldn’t even see it as such.
But the tragic let-down’s not nearly the same. This time, though Madame Web’s hurt seriously (and you might not at the time have been overly attached to her), Spider-Man’s jumped from a burglar he could’ve easily outclassed past a villain who very much matched him toe-to-toe, to probably the most powerful foe he’s faced alone, and by sheer tenacity, using the city of which he’s always been a part, he overcomes- and we feel unadulterated cheer!
Check out our podcast on podbean/ iTunes! We talk to comics pros and dive into the mechanics and aesthetics of storytelling. Look out, I have a huge ASM Q & A coming with artist Ron Frenz, from the 1984-1986 run!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Personal with comics artist Ron Frenz

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More personal questions and early career stories with Ron Frenz, leading up to his full-time work at Marvel in the mid-1980s. Ron shares about growing up, formative experiences, his first actual comics for sale, and how his life of drawing came naturally to him.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Frenz With Marvel's Mighty Thor

Ron Frenz, at the end of a long night of conversation, talks Thor with me. Learn Ron's favorite aspect of telling Thor's story! Learn also the central trait to telling Thor's stories, and how he and Tom DeFalco did so in a personal favorite from their run.

Link to download, here!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Writer David Anthony Kraft on Netflix, Distribution and his new work

HEre's my guest David Anthony Kraft one more time from our August talks.

He and I are doing a big retrospective of his life and career very soon, featured in Alter Ego magazine, published by the man who hired DAK to Marvel, Roy Thomas. It's going to be so cool.

Monday, September 18, 2017

DA-Koom! 5 minutes with She-Hulk: writer David Anthony Kraft

While we're rapping about deep identification with the characters one writes, DAK and I switch over to She-Hulk. He wrote the series, passed straight to him and Mike Vosburg after #1 with John Buscema and Stan Lee doing that one The Marvel Way. DAK's approach, since this wasn't a hero seen before- and to keep her from seeming overly much like something done before-was to instead emulate the world of the Marvel Age, as the stories that originate it appeared in their forms from 1962-1965, basically. If She-Hulk were made then, what might her arc be like? How would she then be an utterly modern woman, too, to create the vibrant contrast with her and Marvel's superheroes?

You can bet there's more to say, but here's a podblast w/ DA-Koom, enjoy your DAK-attack with the original She-Hulk series writer.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

X-Men 169: Introducing the Morlocks, the hidden street people by Chris Claremont, Paul Smith

Uncanny X-Men #165 was both the debut of artist Paul Smith on the title, and a psychologically-rich characterization story. Faced with their ghastly coming death as incubators for the Brood’s larvae, the X-Men realize it’s suicide or a horrid death of self, becoming Brood themselves. While trying to find some other way- at the very least, making their inevitable deaths count by eliminating Brood World- each of them turn to their humanity: religion, friendship, romantic love. How will they respond? How does one behave? They become so vivid as people, interacting. It’s a new era for depicting their personalities outside the pulse-pounding battlefield: still suspenseful stories, but now, who they will become as people, what their adversity reveals about each of them gains a new independence from the conventional wisdom that action requires a certain amount of space each issue. It’s an environment that brings greater dimension to their villains, too. Antagonists increasingly behave like supporting characters with story arcs their own. After great action artists in Byrne and Cockrum, a new level of nuance opens with pencils by Paul Smith- the right guy to introduce: The Morlocks!

Jason Powell in his exhaustive and engaging Claremont posts on the blog Remarkable by Geoff Klock, describes Paul Smith:
 With a line as smooth as Byrne’s but softer, as bold as Cockrum’s but possessing more dimensionality, he delivers the series into an entirely different artistic realm. Inspired by the quiet versatility of his new collaborator, Claremont takes the storytelling into new levels of psychological complexity, which seemingly draws less from the tradition of superhero comics and more from the darker and more nuanced independent comics of the day.

Their rich character development as ‘people’ sets a nifty contrast when meeting a new, mysterious group of characters that represent a profoundly alienated group, a concept as outsidery as the X-Men but without the posh mansion or Blackbird or fortune. The development of the X-Men – a group of friends who are also a quasi-family, moving towards more family-like status with things like Kurt’s flirtation with marriage-promises a rich roll-out of the Morlocks as more than shadowy villains. We’ve moved from a concept like Alpha Flight, introduced to be superhero antagonists with little investment in their personalities, to this four years later, where subtle hints of their hard-luck lives and misfortune-forged bond.

So here we go: Uncanny X-Men #169, introducing a new concept- sort of the X-books’ answer to the Fantastic Four’s discovery of the Inhumans (particularly in FF #45).

A move like this evokes the invention characteristic of the blooming Marvel Age; it’s very much in the spirit of Stan Lee’s interest in humanizing characters with thoughtful stories. The differences in the feudal Inhumans, complete with a royal family in superhero costumes, and this Claremont/ Smith innovation reflect a change of the times, a kind of post-punk take on the ‘hidden tribe’ blowing up the naturalistic depiction of gritty urban reality to science-fiction proportions.

The conflict- set up as a sort of genre-requirement- also reflects the outlaw alienation of the Morlocks. We first meet them as a mystery group of mutant-powerful subterranean invaders, breaking, entering, terrorizing. There’s no mutant more antithetical in lifestyle from what we’re about to discover of the Morlocks you could choose, than trust fund baby, glamor boy, winged superhero Warren Worthington III, aka the high-flying Angel. It’s such an intentional contrast, one cannot help reading statements about economic class into Claremont’s choice of kidnapping victim. Previous stories don’t seem to indicate a great love of The Angel on the writer’s part, but Warren’s also a convenient symbol of all the Morlocks cannot have, cannot be. He’s no aspirational figure, because the Morlocks feel, as a community, resigned to the shadows underneath the capital of the World. The single broadest stroke by which their identity is painted is their shared compassion for their exiled, freakish nature.
With that comes a bitterness equal to fueling their villainy- which is aspirational in the only way they know how: rip down someone epitomizing all to which they are forever barred, recast him in chains as consort to their cunning leader, Callisto. Make him an Angel cast from the heavens. In their anger and anguish and jealousy, there is no crime that can be committed against a man who has it all that is worse than the fate in which they’ve been dumped to squirm and survive.

Now, there are problematic undertones: in today’s terms, we’re on the verge of depicting disenfranchised terrorists. The Morlocks are a deviation of the culture from which they feel excised. They are not direct victims of ongoing aggression from the establishment, but rather, of neglect, and personal exclusion, bigotry. This does upend the X-Men’s role in the series as champion of the disenfranchised- a point more often than not lost to this juncture. They are typically portrayed as superheroes in the interest of all humanity, a sort of ambassador of the emergent genetically-redefined race. From the start, their role as superheroes- an undercurrent of all superheroes- makes them protectors of the status quo. They are also protectors of mutants facing discrimination and fear, as per their mission to explore new mutant appearances via Cerebro. That story engine’s largely been abandoned at this point.

AT any rate, what do you do when those you wish to protect, those with whom you would be conciliatory, engage in violent anarchy? It’s hard to champion those who kidnap and terrorize your friends- but that’s how they’ll meet the Morlocks.


We open with Warren’s’ girlfriend Candy Southern, a nice, even brave person, returning home in a life of privilege. By the simple expediency of the very tall wall framing Candy, Smith tells us the penthouse is enormous. The scattered feathers- addressed with nervous humor in “Lover, are you molting?”- kick off the threat, the defilement- taut suspense comes immediately. She calls Xavier, a humanitarian who lives in a mansion, for help- with an automated phone system that also reflects, in 1983, status. The massive figure, who introduces himself menacingly as Sunder, looms over her, like any home intruder, promising unequivocally: “I am here to hurt you.”

Candy no doubt hoped to come home to a scene not unlike the one shared next by Kurt Wagner and Amanda Sefton. They flirt in a bubble bath, teasing an openness about marriage. His blue skin and outre yet handsome appearance represents an idyllic acceptance- happiness for someone marked by his very looks as a mutant. Danger separates them now, too- for Kurt is an X-Man. When it comes to hurrying to the aid of one of their own- as conveyed by Professor X’s telepathic communication-Kurt doesn’t even stop for clothes. Nakedness-not just bikinis on females-begins becoming a X-Men specialty, a covertly salacious means of conveying more mature themes. We see a lot more nude X-Men, only recently including male teammates.

Demonstrating his ability to cling to surfaces and most importantly, to teleport, Nightcrawler’s rescue of the waning Worthington in Sunder’s arms departing the subway halts. Candy’s sent smashing out a window to fall to her doom, save for his power. With his skill, he is fortunately within the couple miles’ proximity limit of his ability to move through extra-dimensional limbo and reappear somewhere else he can clearly visualize with a “bamf!” We get a hilarious, unceremonious dumping of Candy into Amanda’s bath, with further titillation in the form of his still-nude protesting girlfriend. They know the way to their adolescent fans’ hearts. Don’t kid yourself, it was never just the specter of Death alone that sold X-Men like nothing else. What’s better, too, than having powers and a girlfriend than to interact with both, nude? What liberation, right, in using reality-defying powers, also while unclothed?
It’s fair to say, a physical, warm relationship with an attractive person (to say nothing of the taboo where Kurt and Amanda were raised together, unaddressed here) represents as a vital an adolescent yearning as the more juvenile power fantasy.

Every serial needs a suffusion of new characters, along with a continuing development of interesting ongoing ones-we’ll get to the latter point shortly. Introductions, when I first chose a theme for this discussion, stuck out as a good one, with the care and flaws implicit in introducing the Morlocks. For one, unless you have a one-off of deep reverberating effect on the lead character, why not introduce concepts and characters that can flourish in future interactions- with your title character (s), in this case with the shared universe? Editorially: who fits what story, how do you cast them, what pieces of information do you wish to share in framing your concept, and how patient are you and how much space do you have for subtle tease-outs exploring both the concept and characters?

Claremont, of all Marvel writers, doubling down on a plotting style like Wein’s Spider-Man webs in the 1970s, loves introducing new concepts, nearly with a Kirby-esque lack of regard for the space he’ll need to develop them all. He’s already busy developing story lines for previous antagonists, now seen as quasi-supporting characters. As Powell cleanly noted, they’re all dealing with the fall out from epics past: Mystique & the Brotherhood (Days of Future Past), and the Hellfire Club (Phoenix Saga), the latter of which we encounter in their own sympathetic scene. The captions, and the silhouetted Sebastian Shaw appearing twice, make no mistake of his level of menace-how the Hellfire Club is a mutant-infiltrated opposite to the Morlocks. They seem haunted by madness within their own catacombs (also a metaphor for hidden conflict as well as the past). I don’t recall who was behind laying White Queen low, comatose as she lies beneath Tessa’ ministrations. Shaw’s musings provide a false foreshadowing, as does the look at Mystique coming soon, to increase parallels of the suggestion that Madelayne Prior will turn out to be the returned Dark Phoenix. Perhaps it’s a consciousness about space, rather than a lack of ideas, that will precipitate the X-Men’s brush-off of their alienated counterparts. It’s unfortunate that these are also unglamorous characters that echo some real life awkwardness, for anyone who’s opened their eyes in most urban American settings. In this case, their limited contact will yield disastrous consequences when the Marauders come calling around #210.

How do you set loose the X-Men on a quest for justice-when you know their foes will turn out to live not just on, but under, the streets- and not have them ideologically align with, say, the Los Angeles Police Department of that era? (You know, too, some of your readership wouldn’t have a problem with that- they like superheroes because they are extra-legal agents of law and order.) You have to make it personal; first things first, they gather in a living room to prepare their search for their helpless, endangered friend. He’s very fortunate, indeed, he has powerful, courageous friends. The fact that he is a mutant- and that’s why they’re friends-happens to be what marks him for kidnapping, adding a level to the exclusion-borne angst of Callisto and her followers.

We get a neatly layered reference, the sort Claremont did so well, where Amanda offers to guard Candy and watch after Lockheed- after all, her (sorcerer) mother taught her about caring for dragons. Every detail’s a potential story. Storm, Kitty and Kurt discuss Lockheed’s alien nature. It’s very relatable, comic relief: who is who’s pet? Appearances don’t tell the whole tale. The X-Men will have to leave their resources, their perch of privilege- the hand-held Cerebro’s only keyed to Angel, Xavier can’t penetrate the catacombs psionically, and he won’t loan them Wolfsbane – no New Mutants on missions. Descent, from penthouse to the catacombs- a clear psychological metaphor. From the point Nightcrawler exposed the cold..they’re coerced out of their safety, a plausible point of identification for most readers poised for vicarious excitement. The back cover advertises: Become a Jedi Master Without Ever Leaving Home. But in the Catacombs arena, for our mutants it’s no game!
For the second storyline in a row, the X-Men are essentially invaders, albeit provoked in both instances. In both cases, the setting introduced is integral to the concept. On the trail of the violent kidnappers, Claremont/Smith/Wiacek now introduce the Morlocks in earnest.

Strategic use of their home turf, and the mysteries of their powers, will give them an advantage. Nightcrawler recalls the token booth operator had taken sick, swarms of paramedics- “the opposition plays rough.” The rushing train, the smells: it’s antithetical to Storm, as concerned Colossus notes. Kitty’s phasing unveils a hidden door in the wall. We get Storm’s musings about life as an outcast, hints of her past-all throughout, the other X-Men will be concentrating on unraveling her thoughts, centralizing her. Kitty’s posture as she ponders Storm’s distant bitterness: introverted, sad. From the stairway’s high ground, a wave of menacing Morlocks rush down, testing the X-Men’s powers. And Kitty’s spying is betrayed to Callisto’s hyper senses- suddenly Plague’s left a touch of death, even through her intangible state. Concerned as ever for one another, as their skirmish concludes, the male X-men feel emotional distress at Storm’s careful leadership call- a revulsion she resents. Necessity’s busy pushing Ororo from serene goddess to hardened warrior, a knife’s edge removed from madness.

We discover Caliban- obscured at first, a recurrent mutant tracker introduced in #148-lives at some remove among the Morlocks. His desperation to help the ailing Kitty Pryde presents a step deeper into what will be a moral catacomb: Kitty will save herself and her friends through a Hobson’s Choice next issue, and it will embroil them all with the Morlocks again. Caliban, a decided contrast to regal Medusa, parallels the way we met one Inhuman before the rest- as an antagonist-before the rest.

Dwarfed beneath the surprisingly well-maintained tunnels-in real life, I believe they’re there to relieve flooding such as from Hurricane Sandy, beneath the subways- the three X-Men are blinded, spotlighted- then confronted with the sadistic sight of Angel, nearly naked and unconscious. Finally face-to-face, leader Callisto explains she’s chosen him, “the most beautiful Man in the world,” as her consort. Her turgid desire evokes more haunting memories from Ororo- of the time she was twelve, when a man’s advances caused her to become a runaway, an outcast, herself. Peter’s moral apprehension frames his character and invites us to further outrage in assessing these otherwise pitiable sub-city dwellers. Then she apparently begins trying to cripple his wings, as though for his own good!

This time, the nameless hordes somehow overwhelm both Kurt and Peter through sheer numbers, and some hinted hidden power leeching. Storm’s taken down with a simple slingshot and steel ball bearing, dangerous, efficient, in Callisto’s sure hands. From their darkness to Kitty’s queasy emergence from her sickened sleep, we see her deliriously confused that she’s safely at home. And if her would-be savior Caliban has anything to say about it...these catacombs will now, indeed- be home.

When Storm makes her breath-taking challenge for Morlock leadership next issue, the drama for her very soul will heighten. Moral compromise abounds, as I believe Claremont intended: he knows Rogue will come desperate and helpless to their door in #171. He does not intend for heroic choices, even right ones, to come easily. He will let the X-Men walk away from the needs of the Morlocks at their own peril. He seizes upon a sublimated fear of what we cannot do for those we might pity; only those with time and resources and will ever volunteer to make life better for real life street people. Even the sickness transferred by Plague’s touch strikes a nerve with prejudices and class distinctions, as if somehow the calamities that have befallen the less fortunate, or those they brought on themselves in addiction, might somehow infect one’s secure, healthy life.

The moral obligations don’t factor into this introduction in so large a way, but re-reading this and thinking on the social caste question- side-stepped initially by the nature of Marvel’s best-selling comic, which taught tolerance so many times in its adventures- I reflected on the hard reality on the sidewalks of my former big city life. I gave away, with my wife, over a thousand dollars on a big city street over the years: food, conversation, flowers. You rarely have the personal resources to address every single beggar. I assure you, even in temperate San Diego, it never gets easy to simply ignore the homeless, sleeping in the shadows of barely-filled condos, with needs overwhelming what any two working class people can do. It is human to shut the door to a one-room apartment, conflicted you can’t do more, grateful for what you have, hopeful you made any difference. It makes socialists or libertarians of us. Even a degree of desensitization cannot go ignored by any person of conscience.

Further, as several homeless people over time told me in our talks, the greatest threat, aside from being moved along by police, is that another street person will steal from you Why do the Morlocks work together? Even when, as Sunder states, it seems wrong to attack people you recognize as your own? They are bound by need as well as prejudice. They embody Stan Lee’s model of sympathetic villains to a T. A strip from their perspective might not have yielded action figures and lunch boxes and back packs, but even Marvel-style escapism would evolve past these halting steps.

Powell praises Smith’s psychological complexity and inventive sense of layouts; he considers his assignment to X-Men “serendipitous” to Claremont’s writing evolution prompted by his work with Miller on the Wolverine mini-series.

The two-parter inaugurated here has been convincingly deconstructed by Neil Shyminski in his essay “Mutant Readers, Reading Mutants: Appropriation, Assimilation, and the X-Men” for its dismally simplified identity politics, wherein, as Shyminski says, “[the Morlocks] are figured as villains as a direct result of their refusal to conform to non-mutant norms.”

Actually, in more prosaic plot-terms, they are figured as villains because inside of the first five pages they commit breaking & entering, kidnapping and attempted murder. But the point is well taken, nonetheless.
Once again, there’s a modern corollary in society that makes our choice of these comics relevant: one might interpret today’s mission by ICE agents as an effort to step amid the immigrant community to find the criminals within. One might find another between the sanctuary cities situation and the Morlocks. Depending on their leadership, what identity would these Morlock survivors choose: a haven for those who refuse to join a gang? A gang themselves? A force to stand against crime, themselves? What would happen to someone who wants to leave the Morlocks? They’re a durable story concept. It’s not enough that they be villains, nor victims.

I certainly wish we had more than five initial issues of Hero Duty, because early on I wanted at least one scene that mixes the legally-deputized superbeings (and one very controversial, satirical villain I created in an acrimonious moment of inspiration) with the troubles of policing in a community mixing some gang activity with illegal immigrants living beside legal ones. How does one address civil order and justice? My antagonist would, of course, go overboard taking the law into his own hands. Perhaps I can find the way to feed that modern difficulty deftly into my novel, The Butterfly. At any rate, I don’t doubt that if the Morlocks debuted today, they would be a home not only to dejected, angry outcasts. Their catacombs would be a haven to those otherwise hiding from the law, as almost certainly, criminals who found the Morlocks would’ve chosen a life with them as opposed to expatriate exile. It’s problematic territory, leaving the safety of fantasy to interact with harsh realities. Doesn’t your mind sparkle with the possibilities?