Sunday, August 31, 2014

Eighties August 8 part VIII: Most Memorable Moments

By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)

It's the final entry of the Eighties August 8... What better way to cap off this week + 1 day long trip down memory lane than by listing some of best moments of the decade? The following by no means encapsulates the most important things that happened, but they are among the ones that still resonate today*. Here goes, and thanks for reading!

8) - "Professor Xavier Is A Jerk!" (Uncanny X-Men I#168, April 1983)




Truer words were seldom spoken.

Shortly after the X-Men were believed dead following an outer space mission, professor Charles Xavier assembled a class of, well, new mutants. When the X-Men returned, Charles was overjoyed, but he immediately decided to demote Kitty Pryde to the New Mutants. Xavier felt she was too young to run with the senior and needed to study with her peers. Needless to say, Kitty did not agree.

So, for most of Uncanny X-Men I#168, Kitty tried her best to persuade the professor. Flirting, beating him at chess, throwing titanic temper tantrums... But nothing worked. That is, until she unexpectedly ran into a Sidri warrior in the mansion's subbasement and managed to defeat him. Xavier happened to monitor her thoughts during the fight, which led him to realize that mentally, she was well beyond her years and could stay on with the X-Men.

What makes this moment so memorable isn't so much the fact Xavier acts like an insanely unreasobable prick (this, after all, is the man who faked his own death, put everyone who cared for him through hell and then just came back). More importantly, it showed how the status quo at Xavier's would, ahem, *mutate*  now that there were two groups of mutants running around. And while it does make a bit of sense for Xavier to want a 14 year old training with people her own age, he of all people should know Kitty was well beyond her years.

After all, the X-Men sent her to kill him when he was possessed by a Brood.


7) - Scourge Massacre (Capain America I#319, July 1986)



Who knew even Mark Gruenwald's love for continuity had its limits...

The legendary writer, editor (and for a brief moment penciller) Mark Gruenwald was an avid fan of continuity. He always loved using the little guys others would often overlook, he even made sure no one could forget those also-rans by profiling more than a fair share of them in the Official Handbook Of The Marvel Universe. But sometimes, enough is enough...

Allegedly fed up with the fact there were too many villains running around that were either too silly, one note, out of date or otherwise inexcusable... He came up with the Scourge of the Underworld, a mysterious vigilante who only targetted the losers of the supervillain community. First appearing in Iron Man I#194, eventually, Captain America became aware of the Scourge's activities. But various other writers used the Scourge to wipe out bad guys in their own book as well. We lost Bruno Horgan, the original Melter, in Avengers and John Byrne had Scourge take out Basilisk in Fantastic Four. 

Before Captain America was able to stop the Scourge (well, *that* particular Scourge), he'd committed a major massacre at the Bar With No Name, a joint supervillains preferred to hang out at. Firebrand (Gary Gilbert) had called a meeting to discuss the Scourge situation, unaware their bartender was the capekiller himself. Scourge opened fire and the death toll was staggering: Cheetah, Commander Kraken, Cyclone, Foolkiller, Grappler, Hellrazor, Hijacker, Jaguar, Letha, Mind-Wave, Mirage, Rapier, Ringer, Shellshock, Steeplejack, Turner D. Century and the Vamp.

Thank god Gamecock lived to tell the tale, though.


6) - Jarvis Stays On After The Mansion Siege (Avengers I#280, June 1987)




The Mansion Siege has to be one of the Avengers defining moments.

Baron Helmut Zemo assembled a virtual army of supervillains, including the entire Wrecking Crew, Moonstone, Beetle, Screaming Mimi (and other future Thunderbolts). Their goal was simple: crush the Avengers... Their approach was a carefully planned strategy that allowed them to actually invade and take over Avengers Mansion itself. During the assault, the Avengers' butler Edwin Jarvis was captured and brutally beaten by the sadistic Mr. Hyde.

In the end, the Avengers managed to defeat the Masters but Jarvis had sustained severe injuries. The brutal beatings he bravely endured left him with a limp, mostly blind in one eye and with possible brain damage. Avengers I#280 told the tale of how Jaris dealt with the situation, for the first time giving the team's faithful manservant center stage. And oh boy, did he shine.

It's hard to believe the issue wasn't written by Avengers regular Roger Stern. Instead, it was
Bob Harras who wrote this fill in issue, indirectly proving he had what it took to take over the title full time in the early 1990s. Harras had Jarvis reflect on what he'd been through during his time with the Avengers, the many emotional ups and downs of he'd been privy to... As well as finally coming to terms with the fact he'd gotten hurt on the job and there was no promise it wouldn't happen again.

In the end, Jarvis called Tony Stark to tell him that in spite of all the inherent dangers... he was planning to stay on as the team's butler, thus prroving he was indeed one of Earth's mightiest.


5) - Armor Wars (Iron Man I#225-232, December 1987 - July 1988)




"Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds"

Doctor Robert Oppenheimer's words after witnessing the detonation of the first atomic bomb mirror, in an eery way, how Tony Stark must have felt once he realized others had gotten hold of his technology to build weapons armors of their very own. As soon as he learned various allies and enemies were using his inventions for their own, he set out to rectify the matter. Over the course of six months, Tony engaged all the alleged thieves in an event that became known as the first Armor Wars.

The Armor Wars took place well over 25 years ago. However, it remains as relevant today as it was then, perhaps even more so. After all, Stark's desire to ensure his rivals didn't benefit from his work mirrors the way major brands like Apple and Samsung are engaged in legal battles about the fact who ripped off who.

In the end, Tony managed to take down baddies like Beetle and the Controller a peg or two, but his overly zealous determination also brought him into direct conflict with his long time Avengers ally Steve Rogers. Stark didnt think twice about knocking him out in order to achieve his mission, which set up a rift between the two heroes that'd last for years.

4) - Storm accidentally robbed of her powers (Uncanny X-Men I#185, September 1984)




Like most moments that change everything, it was never supposed to happen.

Really, truly... Henry Peter Gyrich was actually aiming for Rogue... But when he fired the mutant power cancelling Neutralizer in the pages of Uncanny X-Men I#185, he accidentally hit Storm, who immediately lost her weather control powers and fell to the ground.

Storm losing her powers was a seminal moment. Not only in the character's development, but also in that of the X-Men as a whole. Ororo had served as the team's leader, her elemental abilities making her the team's de facto powerhouse. Without them, who was she, really? The loss of her mutant gifts came on top of a growing feeling of isolation she'd been experiencing following an extended period off world.

In the long run, the loss of her weather control abilities proved to be essential. It forced the "goddess" to come down from her proverbial moutain top. Forced to cope without them, she finally, painfully came into her own as Ororo Munroe, not Storm. After a brief visit to Africa, she returned to the X-Men again, proving her worth by defeating Cyclops even without her powers and resuming her leadership role once again...with gusto.

Inevitably, her powers were restored and she regained her full combat potential. Still, it was a lesson for all of us: Storm isn't defined by lightning, hail or mists...The woman is far more deadlier than the elements she commands.

3) - Hulk banished off world by Doctor Strange (Incredible Hulk I#300, October 1984)



Why didn't anyone else ever think of this before?

Incredible Hulk I#300 marked the climax of Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema's 2.5 year long running storyline. First Bruce Banner, almost accidentally, achieved his fondest dream: controlling the Hulk. Then, he received a full presidential pardon, allowing him to start a new life before it all went to pot.

Following the Secret Wars, Hulk returned with Banner slowly losing control of the emerald behemoth. Eventually, it was revealed that Dr. Strange's old enemy Nightmare was responsible for this gradual degradation. He figured Hulk would be the perfect pawn in his ongoing fight with Earth's sorceror supreme. Hulk eventually lost all aspects of his humanity, reverting to the inhuman, brutal beast that threatened to raze New York at the start of this issue.

Now mindless, Hulk (in)directly fought all of New York's heroes. Power Man & Iron Fist were quickly dismissed, as was the Human Torch (the only FF member available). The Avengers lasted a little longer, but proved equally unable of dealing with the green goliath. In the end, Doctor Strange made a decision that, in retrospect, could have been made ages ago: simply banish the Hulk and allow him to find a new home in one of the myriad alternate dimensions.

In the end, he returned... But the Hulk's adventures on the Crossroads of Infinity as he made his way back were undeniably defining moments for both the mythos and the monster.

2) - Invisible Girl loses her second child (Fantastic Four I#267, June 1984)



John Byrne doesn't really care for children.

When he took over Fantastic Four, John Byrne initially proposed to kill off Franklin Richards. If for nothing else, it would make for some interesting stories. Editorial decided against it, but Byrne didn't hear a 'no', merely a challenge to get creative. Sure, Marvel maybe said Franklin couldn't die... But nobody mentioned anything about a second child.

So, the Invisible Girl found herself pregnant again after a prolonged sojourn into the Negative Zone. A story that, incidentally, ended with Franklin severly injured at the hands of Annihulus... Proving Byrne enjoys both having his cake ánd eating it. Franklin eventually made a full recovery, but Sue's pregnancy was complicated, thanks in no small part because she conceived in a universe with warped laws of nature. Reed might have been able to save her and the child, but just when her problems started, the FF members were forced to participate in the first Secret Wars.

By the time he returned, Sue and his offspring's fate were pretty much sealed. The various, violent cosmic radiation surges proved too much for Reed and other experts like Walter Langkowski, Michael Morbius, Bruce Banner and even Doctor Octopus to deal with. Despite their best efforts, Susan Richards-Storm's second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. The tragedy was a gut wreching moment in and of itself. But, it also proved to be a watershed moment in the evolution of the Invisible Girl.

Losing a child set her on the way to becoming noticed as a woman... Invisible or not.

1) - Ms. Marvel chews out the Avengers (Avengers Annual I#10, August 1982)



"You screwed up, Avengers."

Chris Claremont wrote Avengers Annual I#10, quite rightly considered by some to be the death of the Silver Age. Though, at first, it was little more than a rebuttal of the travesty that took place in Avengers I#200. In this issue, Ms. Marvel gave birth to a child called Marcus, one she mysteriously conceived and carried to term within days... And then the baby matured into adulthood within a day or two as well, announcing he was Ms. Marvel's outerdimensional lover, who manipulated her into birthing him into this plane of reality.

As if that wasn't enough, Markus insisted Carol accompanied him back to Limbo. The Avengers cheerfully saw them off, acting all goofy like Golden Age Superman extras would in those weird stories where people got mutated or turned evil thanks to the kryptonite color of the week.

But not this time. Carol eventually broke free, came back to Earth a broken, violated woman only to lose her powers and memories to Rogue. Eventually, she confronted the Avengers about the way they they treated her. The blessed myth that superheroes can do no wrong really and truly got debunked when Carol took her former teammates to task for the cavalier way they'd allowed Markus to take advantage of her. Dozens of scholars have debated the Ms. Marvel controversy. But at the end of the day: the Avengers did nothing to prevent one of her own from becoming an outerdimensional love slave.

Carol's rape at the start of the decade, no matter how crude, served as a clarion call. Heroes were by no means infallible, and sometimes their stumbling led to the best stories.

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*Naturally, these picks are solely based on my own, anything but unbiased preferences. Think I'm wrong or an absolute idjit for leaving out your particular fave? By all means, join the conversation!

3 comments:

  1. Hey, there's Sue's baby! Good choice for this list.
    Again, these are nice, non-obvious choices. The Scourge moment in particular was a favourite of mine back in the day.
    Thanks for all the countdowns. A great way to remember the decade.
    david p.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Again great list. The only memorable moment I would have tried to include would be Angel having his wings cut off during the Mutant Massacre.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This was a great countdown! I'm genuinely going to miss reading these every day. Anytime you want to do this again, I'll be happy to read it!

    ReplyDelete

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