Friday, March 27, 2015


Say what you will about Keith Giffen’s and J.M.DeMatteis’ landmark run on the assorted Justice League books of the 1980s, but it’s almost undeniable that the strength of the books was threefold; they invested heavily in character, they were genuinely funny (in a medium which sometimes struggles with humor, to understate the issue), and most importantly, they knew when to stop being funny. Amidst the “BWA-HA-HA”s and KooeyKooeyKooeys, there was Despero, Max Lord’s brush with death, Guy and Ice’s romance … it was a good balance.

An example of when the balance wasn’t maintained, though, might reside in Mister Nebula, one of the League’s daffier baddies and a series of jokes relentlessly pounded into the audience, like it or not.

Sass-mouth at work.
The book had a fascination with bringing characters modeled after Marvel heroes and villains over to the DC Universe, from reviving the thinly veiled Avengers copies The Champions of Angor to introducing the Extremists, based on Marvel’s top villains, to the ill-conceived General Glory and a Silver Surfer parody coyly dubbed The Scarlet Skier.

The Skier turned out to be the herald of a Galactus-alike, Mister Nebula, a titanic being of limitless power who journeyed from world to world and redecorated the place … poorly. Using garish colors and clashing patterns, Nebula left entire worlds looking like the opening scene to Terminator but with Liberace’s wardrobe instead of killer robots.

Born Kirtain-Rodd (woooo) on an alien world many millennia ago, the eventual Mister Nebula was a designer of religious temples. When two Lords of Order, St’nn and Jakk (woooo-ooooo), stopped by to appreciate the tribute to their glory, Kirtain-Rod ruined it by sass-mouthing them mercilessly. One eye-blast later, Rodd finds himself imprisoned in a notably Ditko-esque universe of mad colors and shapes.

The time in the alternate dimension changes Rodd, so that when he emerges after limitless ages through a tear in the dimensional boundaries, he emerges with the immense power of a god. Fast-forward a few pages into his origin and he’s adding tassles and chintz to every planet south of Saturn.

The big problem with Mister Nebula is up for debate. To start with, the gag isn’t really that funny, and it becomes less funny with every page on which he appears.

Another problem might be the less-than-sensitive portrayal of the character as, if I may, a mincing queen. Nebula/Kirtain-Rodd is definitely intended to be sassy and effeminate, prissy, and just generally modeled after a whole raft of gay stereotypes. This leads to a familiar problem is you happen to be a wrestling fan and remember Golddust’s original run – was he the bad guy because he did bad things, or was he a bad guy because first and foremost he teased non-hetero characteristics?

You can ask the same question about Mister Nebula, and the answer is happily “He’s gone and we never have to deal with him ever again.” Hopefully.

I challenge you to imagine the New52 version of this.

1 comment:

Chris Wuchte said...

I know there's a lot of love for the Giffen/Dematteis run - at the time, it was easily one of my favorite comics. But in re-reading it sporadically over the past year or so, I find the silliness can be grating.

I haven't reached the Mister Nebula story yet, but I've already had my fill of comical robots and egomaniacal supervillains who can't stop making over the top speeches. Reading a number of issues in one sitting emphasizes all that in a way reading it monthly didn't.

It's especially annoying when it looks like they've stumbled onto a potentially compelling, serious plot, but then catch themselves and inject something goofy into it. A little variety would have been appreciated.

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