Monday, February 23, 2009

Hostess Heroes: Captain Marvel Part 2

Oh Marv, when will you learn?
In "Captain Marvel Meets The Dreadnought" (full title "Captain Marvel Meets the Dreadnought By Way Of Flying Up Behind It, Grabbing It By The Cocyx, and Flinging It The Fuck Off Into Another Galaxy, WTF") , we actually get to see a little of the philosopher side of Marv, which helped define his cosmos-spanning adventures in his own comics. Here, upon freeing the strange and possibly retarded crew of roller derby fashion victims aboard the supply ship to begin unabashedly consuming their own cargo, Marv flies off with a heady maxim, "It is not right for Evil to rule men's destiny." This is hell of true, friend Captain Mar-Vell, and I've never seen a more appropriate time to mention it.

In the fourth and fifth panels, there's something so sympathetically awkward in Marv's posture, as though he just was not expecting this crew of sugar-hungry spastics to come pouring out of their padded breakroom at him. I don't know that I would be able to manage much more than a plastic smile and standing with my arms flat at my side if I were in a similar situation. Honestly, Marv looks like he's afraid they'll bite off a finger if he gets his hands too close to their mouths

This is also Marv at his most passive-aggressive, as he rockets off, noting that they didn't offer him any fruit pies. "It is not right for Evil to rule men's destiny" is the Kree equivalent of "Nice manners, jerks."

Marv accurately notes here, in "Captain Marvel vs Professor Sneer," that what we often think of a bullies and thugs are often just people who've had a hard row to hoe in their lives. Professor Sneer, for instance, has clearly had a long life of small, but bitter failures, of seemingly irrelevant cowardices that have failed his resolve, of pointless denials and self-fulfilling prophecies. I suppose, looking back, perhaps the fault lies with the parents, perhaps it is circumstance, perhaps it's a cold and heartless God, or worse yet a universe without God which has driven him to these extremes. Still, you have to imagine it wasn't the most dedicated of lifelong hatreds which drove him to design a ray made to kill the sun, considering all it took to bring him around was a Thermos full of fatty sugars. Sounds more like he's just hypoglycemic

If there's anything to really hate about this particular strip, it's that it puts the lie to the word "Vs." Versus, nothing, Cap's pussyfooting around this old twat. Surely Cap has laser beam hands or something, doesn't he? If the only thing preventing Captain Marvel from disabling the sun killer ray was that he didn't get the old guy's permission first, I'm not sure I want this guy protecting the universe.

There are Earth Chiefs of Staff? Who hired those guys?

"Captain Marvel Defends The Earth!" is "The Blue and The Grey" for Kree people, it is their saga of brother against brother and a land divided. Captain Mar-Vell is their Abraham Lincoln. Cancer is their John Wilkes Booth. I pray that I have gone a long way towards explaining the Kree mentality to you.

Guys. Guys. "My fists must protect the safety of the Earth children." Guys. Can we get an amendment to the Constitution or get a Papal Bull or maybe a City Ordinance passed that, like, could right away make this line the pivotal portion of the Pledge of Allegiance? In fact, this whole thing reads like an amazing new Pledge from the emotional apogee of awesomeness. Here's what I propose to replace that hoary old Pledge of Allegiance:

"It will be good to see the blue skies and green fields of Earth after the dull monotony of the outer galaxy.
My cosmic awareness warns me there is danger below.
My fists must protect the safety of the Earth children.
I will pulverize the rocks into sand.
[congregation] You changed the rocks into sand
It all happened so fast I never stopped eating this delicious golden sponge cake.
I was so busy enjoying the creamed filling I forgot to be afraid.
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.
With forever and ever for all.

I trust I can count on you to all sign my petition.

Carrying on the tradition of brainwashed children innocuously filling space from "Captain Marvel Returns to Earth," "Captain Marvel (!) and the Energy Crisis" apparently manages to uncover Fletcher Hanks from the tides of obscurity to draw an episode. Either that or Henry Darger. The Story of the Hostess Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unhealthy Snack, of the Twinkiean-Cupcakian War Storm Caused by the Purposeful Denial of Delicious Fruit Pies.
Actually, now I'm totally distracted by the idea of Fletcher Hanks illustrating Hostess Fruit Pie ads, Stardust the Super Wizard all getting his hands to turn giant and flaming-hot and cooking the bad guys up in fruit pie shells. I'm distracted by this largely because I recently read that Fletcher Hanks collection, and also because these Hostess Ads are so fuckin' awful that I'm utterly driven to distraction reading 'em. Anyway, see the panel where Captain Marvel beats the shit out of a skinny, old man? That's sugary treats for you right there, man, Marv's all acting up. I bet somebody needs a nap.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hostess Heroes: Captain Marvel Part 1

Out of the roster of Hostess Heroes, I don’t think anyone encountered as much pure batshittery as Captain Mar-Vell – and you have to understand what I’m saying here. The Hulk fought roller disco thugs and a giant malevolent artichoke, Batman chased a guy with a soul-eating piano, Daredevil fought a huge ‘tard, but only Mar-Vell fought a mouth. Just a mouth.

In “He’s All Mouth,” Mar-Vell trades quips with an enormous pink monstrosity which looks like it leapt off the clearance page of an Adam and Eve catalog. More disturbing than the gaping, flesh-color cavern of moist body parts - and for that matter, more annoying than Mar-Vell’s sudden propensity to talk in thematically doltish puns, HE IS A SPACE OPERA GUY YOU GUYS – is the villainous Big Mouth’s TINY TINY HANDS. Egads. Captain Mar-Vell is fighting Tabletop Joe. I bet tackling him in panel three felt like giving a bear hug to a pudding-covered balloon full of pencil erasers.
Marv wraps up this adventure by using Twinkies to coerce the giant HIDEOUS MOUTH BEING to help rebuild the very carnival he just destroyed. Marv negotiates with (mouth) terrorists, everyone, spread the word.
You know what would be horrible? If when Captain Marvel was lying on his deathbed, dying of cancer, and he had that last vision of fighting his old enemy Thanos, you know? If instead of Thanos, he was just fighting this thing again.
Speaking of the Big C, Captain Marvel faces the foe who gave him cancer – and a prestige format oversized graphic novel, too – in “The Big Bang!!” (two exclamation marks, because we’re not shitting around over here).
Nitro’s plan is, evidently, to “blow a hole in the middle of the ocean so big, it’ll flood the world.” A few seconds later, off-panel, he added “No, on second thought, I’ll just blow up next to a playground and make Marvel Comics unreadable for about a year.” Insidious!
Hilariously, Marvel traps Nitro and his be-jumpsuited gang inside their own headquarters with a lifetime supply of Twinkies (Well, Nitro says he can get through them in a month, which I suppose he can say now but I’d like to see him repeat that when he’s had nothing but complex plastic derivatives and preservatives extracted from vampire bats in his system for a week), and happily chirps to himself “Now – to blast his headquarters.” Marv has an impish sense of humor rarely explored in his own comic. Take note, Jim Starlin, apparently it should have been less “By the moons of Pama,” and more “Tee-hee, I just shoved a stick of dynamite up the Cobalt Man’s ass.”
In “Flea Bargaining,” Cap faces off against “the giant flea-market-eating flea.” Astonishingly, and to repeat it, it’s “THE” flea-market-eating flea, not just “A” flea-market-eating flea. It’s the giant flea who is known for eating flea markets. It’s his thing. He has a rep.
Once again, it’s Twinkies which save the day, and I guess Marv raids them out of the back of the booth where they’re deep-frying the horrible things.
Marv wraps up the adventure by power-blasting some struts holding up a net he arranged to capture the giant Hostess-Twinkie-Eating Flea (he’s switched genres, he’s like David Bowie, you just can’t pin him down to one style), while a swooning dame to his right chimes in “We’re saved, thanks to some ingenious flea bargaining – and these Hostess Twinkie Cakes.” In my imagination, he saves a couple power blasts for her.
The legendary Gil Kane pays for groceries one week by turning in an art job which is way better than strictly necessary on “Killer Bee and Son!” (Only one exclamation mark this time, because we kind of are shitting around over here now). The dumb-ass puns are back, as are Hostess Twinkies, and a really byzantine plot is hatched to defeat the bees when it turns out that knocking their heads together Three Stooges-style is all is really takes. YOU COULDA DONE THAT IN THE FIRST PANEL, MAN.
Still, I could stare at that composition in the sixth panel for hours, Kane does such a beautiful job on it. You know, I read this interview with Kane where he said he wasn’t proud of anything he’d ever done in the world of comics. Anything. Even though he’s got this panel from a Hostess Twinkies ad with the astronaut and the giant bees in it and everything. I mean, come on, there’s no pleasing some people.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Thanks to Dr.K's 100-Page Super Spectacular for the inspiration, but clearly this is what Superman was singing at the end of Final Crisis:

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