Showing posts with label publisher: Marvel Comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publisher: Marvel Comics. Show all posts

Sunday, June 2, 2013


As part of the 30 Days project, I’ll be reviving Gone&Forgotten for a short article every day throughout the month. It’s June 2, and Your Humble Editor is revisiting a previous subject, it’s…

I covered Secret Wars 2 many years ago in this very same blog and walked away from that one dissatisfied; I actually enjoy most of the comics which I review on this site (Solson excluded, across the board, hanging’s too good for’em), if not for raw enthusiastic incompetence then at least for an ambition which trumps ability. In my review of Secret Wars 2, I came away only with a keen, baffled sense of unease. The only high point of the review, by my recollection, involved me trying to cuss the staples right off the spine.

Recently, tho, I came across a comment regarding Chris Tucker’s portrayal of Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element - legitimately one of my favorite films – which gave me pause to reconsider Secret Wars 2. Specifically, the author suggested that Ruby Rhod was Besson's vision of the heterosexual male sex symbol of the future, a complete inversion of the macho, gruff, silent hero as portrayed in that same film by contemporary action hero Bruce Willis.

Luckily The Beyonder understands our human concept of "holding it"
I’m not saying I subscribe to the theory completely –I’ll save the specifics for the blog I run about arguing the semiotics and portrayal of race in Luc Besson films, which is to say nowhere – but at the very least it was an epiphany. I understood for the first time was author/editor Jim Shooter was trying to accomplish.

That put me in the mind of this: When The Beyonder chooses to incarnate himself in a human body in Secret Wars 2, he makes a duplicate of Captain America’s alter-ego, the blonde, blue-eyed brick shithouse Steve Rogers. He takes the body of this classically handsome, muscular idealized hetero-masculine male figure and spends the remainder of the series and crossovers either inverting or caricaturizing its paradigm. By the end, he’s got Rogers’ beefy body jeri-curled and decked out in bleach-white pleather tracksuit so that he looks like an enormous singular white male Klymaxx immediately following an enormous multiple white male climax.

This is how the story meetings went
With the idea that Shooter was tickling the underside of paradigm, Secret Wars 2 seems to have been intended as a broad cultural and social satire - the immediate Trust Fund offspring of the thoughtful and lurid work produced under the influence in the 1970s by Bullpen writers like Moench, Starlin and Gerber. If there are any significant distinctions between the purple prose of Marvel’s Seventies catalog and Shooter’s pet crossover project it lies in the scope, scale and the fact that all those other writers spent their teenage years expanding their consciousness with mind-altering drugs and Shooter spent his teenage years being terrorized by Mort Weisinger.

As a satire, its ambition is breathtaking, not only because it audaciously takes place as a multi-issue major crossover involving the company’s best-selling books well inside canon, but also because of the scale of the cultural and philosophical parody; Suburban domesticity, the entertainment industry, fandom, fast food, limousine liberalism, agnostic holisticism, asceticism, a potshot at airplane seats and that’s just in the first issue.  He’ll go on to cover pop culture, conspicuous consumerism, solipsism, hedonism, existentialism, criminal ethics, abortion (!), spiritual morality, secular ethics, transcendentalism and generally the folly of the human condition while making hay of the tropes of the super-hero genre all in the company of well-meaning but tunnel-visioned human helpers (including a watered-down version of Funky Flashman who was himself an amped-up version of Stan Lee so … Stan Lee).

That none of it is done very well is almost beside the point, the ambition is so tremendous as to be noteworthy. A major round of applause for a glorious catastrophe, Secret Wars 2…

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A short'un: DIE CUT!

He looks like he's wearing the Epcot Center.
There is no end to the list of possible contenders for the title of the Nineties-est character ever – certainly Rob Liefeld’s Cable might just be the pouched and shoulder-padded patron saint of the breed, with the only possible also-rans being every single other character Rob Liefeld created since then including up to now. For my money, though, no one character had more potential – wasted potential, mind you, but it was the Nineties so almost no comic lived up to its potential – to hit the heights than Marvel UK’s Die-Cut.

He is the picture perfect Man of Tomorrow for the Mylar Age – he’s got a cybernetic eyepatch, a solid-gold shoulder-pad the size of an Ikea Billy bookshelf, wires and knives and blades bigger than baby deer and guns that appear to be metal cylinders with no trigger or chamber, plus somehow his feet were always off-panel. Always. Even his name was a combination of two things which you wouldn’t want to have happen to you, just like “Deathstroke” (As an aside, when I was a kid I’d never heard the word ‘deathstroke’ before … in fact, I still haven’t, it’s usually ‘killing stroke’ … so I didn’t understand that they meant ‘killing stroke’ when they called the guy Deathstroke, and I just assumed … you know … because one of his eyes didn’t work and half his mask was blacked out, I assumed he’d … like, had a stroke. I thought that he was the super-assassin guy who’d had a stroke, and they called him Deathstroke because maybe he could still kill you even though he’d had a stroke? I was a complicated kid, and maybe not too smart. I read comics, after all).

Even though he was a product of the often-impish chaps at Marvel UK, a character as unambitiously over-the-top and egregious as Die-Cut amazingly was not handled tongue-in-cheek. Nowhere was there the charm of Death’s Head or Dragon’s Claws, which is a shame because this guy was freaking asking for it.

As a matter of fact, Die Cut was a product of the general dumbing/Americaning-down of the Marvel UK line, some promotion called “Pumping Iron” which I’m assuming is a Britishism for “Shooting Heroin” or “Shrooming Balls” because it was all a muddy, psychohorrific series of bellowing and castration-paranoia. Die Cut specifically even emerged from the ruins of the aforementioned charmer, Death’s Head, as a former backup schizophrenic personality of the lame-as-hell sequel Death’s Head II who subsequently - for reasons I ern’t gonna bother with here - manages to get himself his own vat-grown body and add another bland, screaming face to the line-up of how boring the Marvel UK imprint had become.

Special Cover Enhancement by Mrs.Mulligan's
Second Grade Class, Daybridge Elementary,
Akron OH. Go Jaguars!
Worst of all, for a guy who is actually NAMED “Die Cut” at a time when comics were apeshit about die-cutting things and you would imagine would lend himself to some amazing die-cut cover opportunities, his debut die-cut cover … sucks so incredibly bad.

I was originally going to mention Die Cut only as part of a larger series on the worst gimmick covers of the 90s (which is yet to come, stay tuned), but in the end he was such an impassable mass of fucking awful combined with a shit-bucket of terrible that he has to receive some stand-out attention. His first issue cover, more than anything else, is just mindboggling. I’m sure, with very little effort, anyone reading this could come up with a half-dozen at-least-halfway decent ideas about how to make a die-cut cover for a character named Die Cut work. A cut-out logo, a silhouette, the iconic shape of his signature weapon (look below), a body of cybernetic wires and gears, the international sign for “urinal” … lots to be done!

What they did instead was wildly hack at the cover so it looked … jagged. Not even like Die Cut had cut it, but like a guy had shown up in the comic shop before anyone else got there and cut up the thing with safety scissors. He didn’t even do a good job, some of the jagged edges are going the wrong way and you end up with a triangular piece that rips right off if you’re not careful with it – luckily, who wouldn’t be careful with a mint condition copy of Die Cut #1, right folks?

It’s even really hard to know where to start – or stop – with Die Cut. Here’s one for you – his name is Czorn Yson. Actually, now I want to stop.

Guys, I want to give you one more thing about Die-Cut – he was so-named because he had a big dumb enormous sword spot-soldered to the gauntlet on his left arm (and presumably you would die if it cut you). This thing was one of those phony-baloney super-weapons from the Image era which was so poorly defined as to effectively make it all-powerful, because this sword could cut through not just every known material, but also energy (I guess that answers the particle vs wave debate) and through dimensions and also could surgically excise memories. Buh-fuh-what? But wait, bear with me, best of all – it was called his “Pscythe”. I am not shitting you. Can you envision a word which looks more like you smashed “piss” and “shite” together? It’s a summary weapon. Brilliant.

Aaa-aaah, he'll save every one of us!


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