Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Marvel March 2010 Solicitations - 1980s goodness

A light helping of Marvel 1980s influenced content for March 2010.


X-FACTOR FOREVER #1 
Written by Louise Simonson, pencils and cover by Dan Panosian.
They're back. Once they were Xavier's young charges: mutant teens who bore the responsibility of protecting a world that hated them. But time has hardened these five X-Men, forcing them to reimagine their mission and purpose. And now, the original dream-team returns to fight the one threat that's haunted them since the day they took on the X-Factor name. Join legendary X-scribe Louise Simonson as she reunites with the title and characters she made famous for an epic in the Forever tradition! 40 pages, $3.99.



CLOAK AND DAGGER #1 
Written by Stuart Moore, pencils and cover by Mark Brooks.
Marvel's most-requested duo return in this all-new one-shot, spinning out of X-Men: Nation X! Cloak -- dark, brooding teleporter. Dagger -- deadly, shining mistress of light. Having quit the Dark X-Men, Cloak and Dagger find their partnership strained as they struggle to fit in among the mutants of Utopia. But when a new menace targets Cloak, Dagger must make a fateful choice for both of them. Guest-starring the X-Men. 40 pages, $3.99.





NEW MUTANTS CLASSIC VOL. 5 TPB 
Written by Chris Claremont , penciled by Arthur Adams, Mary Wilshire, Rick Leonardi, Keith Pollard and Jackson Guice, cover by Rick Leonardi.
Mutantkind's best class takes a road trip via the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard and medieval magic madness, with evil god Loki to guide them to all the wrong places! Then, it's back to class under a new schoolmaster: the master of magnetism, Magneto! The ex-terrorist has turned teacher to atone for his crimes, but even if the New Mutants and the guest-starring X-Men trust him, the Avengers will be much tougher to convince! Featuring the Beyonder, Emma Frost and the Hellions! Collecting New Mutants Special Edition, Uncanny X-Men Annual #9 and New Mutants (1983) #35-40. 280 PGS





AVENGERS: THE CONTEST PREMIERE HC
Written by Bill Mantlo, Mark Gruenwald, Steven Grant, Steve Englehart and Tom DeFalco.
Penciled by John Romita Jr, Al Milgrom, and Bob Hall.
To return his fellow Elder of the Universe, the Collector, to life, the Grandmaster enters a cosmic wager with Death herself, using Earth heroes as their chess pieces! Heroes from around the world, including several never-before-seen, battle it out for nothing less than the fate of Earth itself in the Contest of Champions! Featuring every Earth hero, circa 1982! Then, Grandmaster causes more problems for the Avengers when he plans to wipe out all life in the universe, and he pits the Avengers of both coasts against each other to claim his prize! Starring 15 Avengers and special
guest star, the Silver Surfer! Collecting CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS #1-3, WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL #2 and
AVENGERS ANNUAL #16.
168 PGS.

1985 - X-Men and Alpha Flight


X-Men and Alpha Flight - 2 issue miniseries
December 1985
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Paul Smith and Bob Wiacek

The Canadian super-hero team, Alpha Flight, made their first appearance in The X-Men #120-121 and were featured a second time in The Uncanny X-Men #139-140. Their popularity eventually earned them their own series, which was written and drawn by John Byrne, who had grown up in Canada and had created them with Chris Claremont.

After the usual super-hero mix up that leads to a battle between the X-Men and Alpha Flight, they team up and travel to Northern Quebec to investigate a downed plane that was piloted by Scott (Cyclops) Summers and his new wife, Madelyne Pryor. They discover that Scott, Madelyne, and the other passengers have had their greatest wishes fulfilled by a mysterious benefactor. However, they’re the usual catch involving their mysterious benefactor, the Norse God of mischief Loki who is still bitter from the X-Men's adventures in Asgard earlier that year. Our heroes are forced to make a moral decision, each believing that they’re doing what’s right, and leading to the climatic, all-out battle.

There’s a lot of characterization by Claremont, who relies on his usual technique of focusing on a character’s identifiable trait. For example, Wolverine has a constant struggle with his animal/berserker side, or Cyclops has uncontrollable eye beams. Unfortunately, if you’ve read a lot of X-books, this technique quickly becomes repetitive.


Another fault is the numerous characters. The rosters of both the X-Men and Alpha Flight, as well as Cyclops, Madelyne Prior, and the rest of the crew and passengers is simply too large. This fault forces several main characters into secondary roles, like Nightcrawler .

The art by Paul Smith is beautiful and lavish. Unfortunately, Bob Wiacek runs out of time and several inkers come in to help with the last issue. These fill-ins upset the feel of the book, but the story does finish well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

1982 – The Real Story Behind Spider-Man’s Black Costume


One of the more significant changes in the Marvel 1980s was the introduction of Spider-Man’s black costume. This costume first appeared in Secret Wars #8 and would later evolve into Spider-Man’s archnemesis Venom through the 1990s.

Interestingly, the inspiration behind the new costume actually came from a fan, Randy Schueller.


Here’s Schueller original idea:


“I thought it would be cool if Spidey needed to upgrade his powers and his look, so I came up with this idea that Reed Richards had made a new costume for Spidey using the same unstable molecules that the FF costumes are made of. The unstable molecules would flow into Peter's pores and allow him to cling to walls better. I think my original idea was to increase his sticking power by 25% or something like that.”


“Anyway, I saw the new suit as a stealth version of the original costume - jet black so he could blend in with the shadows. At best, all you could see of him was the blood red spider emblem, emblazoned on his chest. (Yeah, in my design the spider was red, not white. I also gave him underarm webbing like in the original Ditko design.)”



That red costume design was also part of the original sketches of the new costume.

And seeing the success of the black costume through Venom and in Spider-Man 3, it sucks that Randy didn’t get any kind of acknowledgement either in the comic book or in the movie.

Well, if it helps: “Thanks Randy!”

See here for the full story and Randy Schueller’s point of view of what happened.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

1982 - Vison and the Scarlet Witch


Vison and the Scarlet Witch
Written by Bill Mantlo
Illustrated by Rick Leonardi (penciler) and Ian Akin/Brian Garvey (inkers)

Bill Mantlo deals with a lot of subplots which were not getting the coverage they deserved within the pages of the Avengers. His script and plot are well done, particularly the non-linearity of issue #2. Rick Leonardi’s pencils are sketchy and I’m not normally fond of them. However, Akin and Garvey’s inks add a softness and texture to the penciled art which I really enjoyed. The colorist, Bob Sharen, also does a wonderful job. And all-around good and consistent production for all four issues.

In issue #1, “Trick or Treat”, The Vision and the Scarlet Witch have stepped down from their duties as Avengers and move into their new home in Leonia, New Jersey. Jarvis gives the Scarlet Witch an ancient spell-book (recovered by Captain America #256), and unfortunately, as it is Halloween, Samhain, the eternal embodiment of all Hallows Eve attempts to free himself from the book. The Vision is kept busy battling some transformed trick-or-treaters, while the Scarlet Witch destroys the book ending Samhain’s threat.

Issue #2, “Faith of our Fathers”, has Robert (Whizzer) Frank asks the Scarlet Witch, who he believes is his daughter (see Avengers #185-187 where we learnt he wasn’t), to help him obtain custody of his son, the mutant-powerhouse Nuklo. The Vision accompanies them to the lab where Nuklo’s powers are regulated and they meet the scientist who is attempting to cure Nuklo. The scientist, however, turns out to be one of the Whizzer’s old enemies, Isbisa, and attacks them using powers that have been siphoned from Nuklo. With Nuklo’s help, they defeat Isbisa, but Robert Frank suffers a fatal heart attack.

Wonder Man guest-stars in issue #3, “Blood Brothers!”, to provide Vision with an energy transfusion to pull him out of a coma caused by the injuries he sustained last issue. Mantlo’s coma sequences are wonderful pulling in the Vision’s past, which included Ultron and the original Human Torch (whose body the Vision now occupies with brain patterns based on Wonder Man). The Grim Reaper (Wonder Man’s brother, and therefore the Vision’s as well) attacks eager to kill both the Vision and Wonder Man to satisfy his crazed lust for revenge. Wonder Man helps the Vision out of his coma and they defeat the Grim Reaper.

Magneto discovers, in issue #4 “Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself...!”, that he is the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Magneto tracks his children to the moon, where the Scarlet Witch and the Vision are visiting Quicksilver and Crystal, who have just had their first child Luna. During the battle, Magneto reveals himself as their father and the battle comes to an end when it begins to threaten his granddaughter. Mantlo does a good job handling these characters considering they all are strong, distinguishable characters, such as Magneto, a powerful mutant striking back against humanity for their ill-treatment of him, or Quicksilver, the hot-tempered misunderstood mutant who has to settle into the role of father.

Mantlo demonstrates his strengths as a writer in this limited series. Perhaps most famous for his long run on the Incredible Hulk, Mantlo works each character effortless and lets them tell their story.

Monday, December 7, 2009

1986 - Whatever happened to ... the Phoenix miniseries?


From Marvel Age Annual #2:
Phoenix 6-issue limited series
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Rick Leonardi/Dan Green.

“It is basically Phoenix discovering who she is, what she is and why she is and discovering her origin,” Chris Claremont said. “It is a much more psychologically oriented series than most.” The Limited Series begins with the results of what happens in X-Men #209. Power Pack and Franklin Richards are among the guest-stars. And the featured villain will be Spiral.


This limited series was also announced on the letter pages of the Uncanny X-Men #208, 213, and 215. It was to occur between the Uncanny X-Men #209 (when Rachel leaves with Spiral) and the Excalibur Special (where Rachel escapes from the Mojoverse and ends up in London). In the Uncanny X-Men #209, Phoenix was mortally wounded by Wolverine and then lured into the Body Shoppe by Spiral, the former assassin of Mojo.

From the letter page of the Uncanny X-Men #208:
As you have no doubt seen from this issue, Rachel's going to need all the friendship and support and affection she can get, not simply in the X-MEN but also in the upcoming PHOENIX Limited Series we have planned for later this year, which Chris Claremont will be writing and Rick Leonardi penciling. We think it'll be something as different and special as the lady herself.


And then from the letter page in the Uncanny X-Men #213, it was apparently delayed until late 1987. And lastely, the Phoenix Limited Series was promoted in the Uncanny X-Men #215 letter page:

We have a PHOENIX Limited Series in the works, written and inked by the X-MEN team supreme of Chris Claremont and Dan Green, and penciled by the aforementioned Rick Leonardi! This series should answer all your questions about Rachel and them some!


Another blurb from Marvel Age #43 (Oct. 1986):

Coming Soon: PHOENIX Limited Series
She's from a future that may or may not be ours. She's living in a past that isn't quite the way she remembers it. She's Rachel Summers, daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, Cyclops and Marvel Girl of X-FACTOR! But her mother was Phoenix, and in the Marvel Universe Scott and Jean aren't married. In fact, Scott has a son by his wife Madelyne! These are definitely not the average problems that face most young women. But then, Rachel isn't exactly average.

This is the background for THE PHOENIX Limited Series, written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Rick Leonardi and Dan Green. Rachel having retreated to current time to escape from a grim anti-mutant future, has joined the X-Men and is using her telepathic powers as the new Phoenix. But since she adopted her mother's name in the battle against the Beyonder, nothing has gone right.

The plot of the Limited Series deals with the dread villainess Spiral (remember her from LONGSHOT and, more recently, the Freedom Force?) and lots of psychological ramifications and complications. It examines how Rachel is coping with being in a past that resembles - but isn't quite - the one that proceeded her world. She will meet Power Pack in the first issue and see little Franklin Richards. In her time, Rachel is in love with a grown Franklin! Here he is a child, and she is much older than him, and this situation will cause her to do some serious soul searching.

There will also be lots of cameos and guest appearances, lots of flash-forwards, and lots of fantastic visuals by Leonardi and Green. We'll have more information on the Limited Series as its publication approaches, so stay tuned.


In an installment of Cup of Joe, Quesada had editor, Andy Schmidt contact Rick Leonardi about the project:
The series was going to be written by Chris Claremont and inked by Dan Green. Rick said it dealt with Rachel and her relationship with Franklin Richards and the Power Pack. The going logic at the time was that it got too complicated with past/present/future continuity and was subsequently shelved with I believe less than an issue having been penciled. That’s the whole story, folks, wish I had better news to report but it seems that this project was no where near completion before it was killed.


Chris Claremont wrote the script for at least the first few issues. Rick Leonardi penciled the first issue and a few pages were inked and lettered.

This Phoenix Limited Series is not the same as X-Men: True Friends miniseries published in 1999 featuring Phoenix and Shadowcat.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

1981 - Whatever happened to … Frank Miller on Doctor Strange?

In February 1981, the following house ad ran through several Marvel comics that month:

Following up after Chris Claremont and Gene Colan, Frank Miller was set to join Roger Stern on Doctor Strange with issue #48.

However, from Roger Stern:
I’m afraid that the story of why Frank never drew Doctor Strange isn’t very interesting. As I recall, Frank was under consideration for some sort of James Bond project, so he bowed out of drawing Doc — temporarily, we thought at the time — to get ahead on his other deadlines. Luckily, Marshall Rogers came along and delivered six very tasty issues. And after that…well, by that time Frank was really caught up in writing and drawing Daredevil (and later, Ronin), so we never did get to work together on Doctor Strange.


File the Stern/Miller Doctor Strange with the Stern/Miller Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – under "Things That Might Have Been"…



What?! A Stern/Miller Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? That would have been amazing…

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