Marvel Comics – the 2000s

Previous: DC Comics 2000s – Gail Simone

Goodreads Shelf: Marvel

 

Back in my twenties, the prime of my life. Although I said I swore off Marvel, it didn’t take long for me to get back into the so-called ‘House of Ideas.’

It was Joe Quesada in the 2000s who headed the new era of mature storytelling for a certain biggest American comic company. He did away with the archaic comics code authority stamp, that self-censorship system imposed during in the 1950s ‘juvenile delinquency’ scare, Quesada was right to disregard, and mainline Amero comics became more like PG-13 films or prime-time television dramas. DC followed suit eventually as well, took them long enough.

I particularly had to take notice when Grant Morrison was invited to write New X-Men. That changed everything. By the by, Morrison’s first for the company (at this time, never mind the 90s Skrull Kill Krew), was Marvel Boy. Totally awesome, with high concept ideas such as a humanless corporation villain and interstellar immigration policies. And a Fantastic Four miniseries illustrated by Jae Lee.

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So, while I was already there I decided give some other X-Men a go. Chris Claremont went to X-Treme X-Men, after his return didn’t work out. I gave it a chance. Chuck Austin in Uncanny was, unfortunately, considered among the worst runs ever.

 

Geoff Johns on Avengers, as said.

 

Then, Mark Waid got to write Fantastic Four! A lot of fun, and joined by the late Mike Weiringo of Flash fame. The first family of the Marvel Universe were seen as ‘imaginauts,’ as they explored time and space and other universes. Doctor Doom got a bit of an occultic retcon, and it was well done indeed. I love when Fantastic Four is done right.

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Earth X came out in 1999, but I read the graphic novel a year or so later. Created by Alex Ross initially (written by Jim Kreuger) following DC’s Kingdom Come, the dystopian premise was a future in which everyone has super powers except for Captain America.

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Jim Kreuger followed it up with Universe X and Paradise X, and I read all with great anticipation. Kreuger told a sort of final chapter to the Marvel Comics saga, revealing every secret character by character, giving a bittersweet farewell to everyone from Spider-Man to Galactus…

 

(Do prepare to see a lot of pics with Captain America standing there inspiringly, in this blog)

 

Meanwhile, the next big thing was to be the Ultimate Universe. Starting with Ultimate Spider-Man — written by Bendis whom I rarely cared for — it was a separate reality that was supposed to reboot everything for the sake of newer readers. Unburdened by decades of continuity, the Ultimate universe started anew with fresh modern takes on the various franchises.

Marvel Millar wrote Ultimate X-Men, and it was not good at all. Millar is an interesting writer; he’s pretty much a hack and yet a very entertaining hack. These days he’s only concerned with making comics to serve as movie pitches, such as Kick-Ass and Secret Service.

There was one masterpiece that stood out. Ultimates, by Millar and brilliant artist Bryan Hitch. That is, specifically the 13-issue Ultimates and sequal 13-issue Ultimates 2.

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There wouldn’t even be the Avengers film phenomenon if not for Ultimates.

Millar was very successful at turning the Avengers into an incredibly awesome action movie franchise. Of the ‘widescreen’ style, written snarkily like the wittiest rated R cult classic, there was Captain America as WWII badass, homicidal Hulk, and biggest impact of all was Tony Stark/Iron Man as self-obsessed genius asshole. Thor as a new age guru was an interesting take. The super team and S.H.E.I.L.D. were all presented bit fascistic if you analyze too much, yet what a ride.

Very quotable. Cap: “SURRENDER??!! You think this letter on my head stands for France?” And when the villains overtake Manhattan: “The Great Satan has been liberated.”

With the climax of the first volume fighting aliens, familiar? I must admit I am definitely invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I fully give the Ultimates their do!

 

Other Mark Millar impacts included the crossover Civil War. Which will be getting a movie.

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I didn’t read most crossovers of that decade. Secret Invasion by Bendis, no way. Fear Itself, yawn. Civil War was on of those cynical ‘realistic superhero’ tales in which Captain America goes to war with Iron Man over government registration of superhumans. The trade reprint seemed worth a read at the bookstore but not buying.

Spider-Man famously gave up his secret identity at the time, siding with Iron Man and revealing himself on camera as Peter Parker. Obviously, there was a retcon soon after and that never happened; back to the ol’ status quo for Spidey.

Afterwards, Cap was assassinated and resurrected Bucky/Winter Soldier replaced him for a while. I read some of Ed Brubaker’s run, it was critically acclaimed and so on, but kind of boring with all the predictable resurrections.

 

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More than Meets the Eye: the Transformers blog

Manga Fan:

Growing up with manga

Shonen Jump

 

Does the following count as anime/manga?

 

We all know the theme song.

There was a certain cartoon — a classic American cartoon of the 1980s that happened to be brought to you by Ronald Reagan’s toy advertisement deregulation. (So THAT’S why there were so many awesome 80s shows which were basically advertisements for toys.) A certain program we all grew up with, and it had Japanese origins.

In the early 80s Hasbro bought up several toy lines of transforming robots hailing from Japan. Marvel was hired to create the backstory, as the comic company had done with G.I. Joe. Jim Shooter and Dennis O’Neil created the Autobots vs. Decepticons of the planet Cybertron premise, with all the character profiles and so on.

The show was produced by Japan’s Toei Animation, and it was a hit. Transforming robots, what’s not to love! There was also Gobots that predated it a bit, from Tonka and Hanna-Barbera, and the less said about that.

To me, the highlight was 1986’s Transformers: The Movie, set in 2005, a brilliant piece of outer space escapism that killed off Optimus Prime and had all Cybertronians facing off against the planet Unicron. AWESOMENESS.

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And I fucking hate the new Hollywood blockbuster movies. They are shit. I’m not even going to get into that. No, I am all about the Generation 1.

Going back to the post My History of Comics, when I was about 11 I moved into some relatives’ house and inherited a ton of 1980s Marvel Comics. I didn’t mention that many of those comics were the original Transformers. I had almost all the issues from # 1 to 55 written by Bob Budiansky, although there were gaps filled in later.

It was originally intended to be in the mainline Marvel Universe, and issue 3 featured Spider-Man vs. Megatron! That full issue to this day can’t be legally reprinted by other companies.

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Actually, it was fascinating to me and much better than the TV series. Optimus Prime died early on, replaced by Grimlock. Prime did come back to life. Megatron died and came back too. The Headmasters spinoff featured more complications, and it built up to an epic mythology. Even a crossover with G.I. Joe.

It got even better after 56 as writer Simon Furman took over the franchise until the final issue 80. He said that at the time Hasbro was winding down the product line and he was given free reign. He incorporated much of the futuristic film’s characters, and told of the secret origin of the Transformers. Most of those issues are rare and valuable today; I didn’t read much until reprints in graphic novels years later.

I did however eat up the short-lived 12 issues of the Generation II written by Furman. It was pure 90s Marvel, violent, and I an adolescent just loved it.

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Nowadays, it’s hard to recall that there was a time when the popularity of Transformers was uncertain. In the early 2000s, Pat Lee led a resurgence with high-quality art in the anime style, and Dreamwave was licensed to publish new Transformers comics.

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Now a proper grownup, I geeked out as only a well-read adult can. I’m too old for toys. Most of the time. There more decorations than toys. Yet will not apologize for my taste in fine literature.

The first two miniseries were actually not that great, but then an ongoing series by Brad Mick got much better. I felt they were building up to the film’s 2005 year, and then they were going to get into Arcee and the female Autobots, when Dreamwave abruptly went bankrupt and the whole thing was stopped short at issue 10.

 

Simon Furman also wrote an amazing prequel set of series, The War Within, on the ancient beginnings of the Cybertronian civil war. The art and redesigns were meticulous. Two 6-issue miniseries, but then a third one cancelled in the middle.

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IDW took up the mantle and currently publishes many Transformers comics. I hear some of them are supposed to be good. Sadly, I got burnt out on reboots and moved abroad and don’t follow.

I really should get around to reading Last Stand of the Wreckers…

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Marvel Comics – 1990s

Previous: Marvel in the 80s

Although I consider the 80s to be the peak, if I still had all those boxes you would find more 90s Marvel than anything else. It would almost be embarrassing, revealing my guiltiest pleasures of camp boys adventure stories. How fun they were.

I have since sold all my Marvels on ebay, saved others, but the memories remain. Again, Goodreads Marvel shelf

It was the 1990s comic boom, when gimmicks and crossovers and COLLECTIBLE NEW ISSUE 1! desperately pleaded you to buy multiple copies. The economy was good, everyone thought they’d get rich by selling Spawn # 1 (they wouldn’t) and I was in the thick of it. More on Image comics in a moment.

Marvel upped their crossovers like never before, and I’d like to start with Infinity War. That is pretty much the epitome of the era. Not to mention they’ll apparently make a movie of it.

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Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin, was brilliant. The villainous Thanos destroyed half of all life in the universe. It was cosmic. Jim Starlin’s space opera mythos will get its own post eventually. However, after Infinity Gauntlet concluded, the franchise was totally milked. The Infinity Watch series with Adam Warlock, The Infinity War and Infinity Crusade crossovers, it kept going. And I, at the time, loved it.

Another crossover was Avengers: Operation Galactic Storm, about an outer space war between the Kree and Shi’ar empires going to war. Perfect example of this sort of thing. 19 parts I think? It took me forever to track down each one and read the whole thing.

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What really deserves mention on this sort of thing is Spider-Man. Oh, Spider-Man in the 90s…

I actually remember going to the bookstore and seeing part 2 of Maximum Carnage and being totally enthralled. I barely knew what was going on, but they hooked me. I had to read them all.

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I was totally completist, reading all 14 chapters at full price as they came out. No hunting for back issues, it was the first time I experienced the rush of going to the comic store on Wednesday to read the latest installment.

There sure were a lot of Spider-Man comics back then. Web of, Amazing, Spectacular, Unlimited

I didn’t even understand all those characters, Iron Fist and Deathlok as well as Venom and Carnage. But I liked sensing more to the story.

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Met my best friend in the middle school cafeteria, when we noticed each other reading Spider-Man comics

Later in the 90s, Spider-Man would be haunted by the endlessly-complicated clone saga. It got less fun. Too convoluted for its own sake, and even the most diehard fans had enough.

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No wonder the franchise was eventually rebooted.

There were some actual good comics in the early 90s. Peter David’s Hulk comes to mind. Although it kept changing tone – Peter David is a great writer but he seems to make it up as he goes along – I jumped in during the Pantheon era. Fun stories like Rick Jones’ wedding, with superheroes in suits!

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A better recommendation for Hulks to read might be the awesome Future Imperfect:

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Meanwhile, in another corner of the Marvel Universe there was Ghost Rider.

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I remember a whole “Spirits of Vengeance” thing with spinoffs galore. It was no Vertigo, but I ate it up as superhero-friendly horror. Morbius the Living Vampire and whatnot. Y’know, there wouldn’t have been a Blade movie if not for those.

Speaking of movies, my original Guardians of the Galaxy was not of that blockbuster movie. The Guardians were a superteam from the 30th century, and only in the last few years did Marvel create a contemporary outer space team of misfits. Anyway, the 30th century version got their own series in the 90s. I always liked that cosmic, Silver Surfer stuff. It was obscure, not a big seller, but I enjoyed the world-building very much.

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Speaking of more obscure, the New Warriors. Where Mark Bagley, famed artist of Spider-Man, got his big break. Written by X-Men 90s scribe Fabian Nicieza, the team consisted of Marvel rejects in limbo who could be thrown together. Nova, Speedball, Firestar, some positive diverse characters thrown in for good measure; nothing else to do with them so why not make a new group? I recall it was pretty good. I like team book dynamics. The comics themselves I didn’t actually collect, they belonged to my best friend (mentioned above, the Spidey fan) and I read them all. Ah, bonding.

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That said, it’s about time I talk about actual good comics. Like, comics with heart that embrace the superhero genre but are a bit more intelligent. Comics for grownups, nostalgic they may be, but for grownups nonetheless. There wasn’t much of that at Marvel in the mid-90s, but some arose.

The great Mark Waid, very esteemed writer, had began to write for Marvel after leaving DC’s Flash and took up Captain America with Ron Garney. It was mighty good stuff.

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And then Marvel had to go and fuck with that.

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Marvel Comics – 1980s

Previously: Growing up with the X-Men

The Uncanny X-Men were my absolute favorites when I was young, but those were not the only comics I was into. I had a great love for the whole Marvel Universe, and like the mutant corner of the epic tessaract room, I too was introduced to Spider-Man and the Avengers and the Fantastic Four by living in a house full of 80s comics…

I was never a Spider-Man completist, but with SO MANY Spider-Man spinoffs out there, Marvel really milked the franchise and I read a lot. Amazing, Spectacular, Web of. At least X-Men were teams and had spinoffs, how did Spider-Man get so many titles? The classic character, of course, has among the greatest rogue’s gallery. Peter Parker was also a relatable guy, and for this reason the underdog of superheroes because the most popular flagship of a whole company.

Some say that Spider-Man lost it when he got married. I didn’t think so, I liked the continuity and growth in the character’s life. Marvel has since, as all comics readers know, retroactively rewritten Spidey’s history so he was no longer ever married. Talk about a harsh annulment!

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Speaking of Spider-Man and X-Men and more, Secret Wars was the perfect story to tie together all the superheroes. Required reading in 84, it was on of the great original crossovers. Secret Wars took all the main heroes and villains and thanks to the mysterious Beyonder they were put a planet to fight a war. Nowadays crossovers are a comics cliche, but back then it was a big deal. Certainly a big deal for me to read.

I read it out of order, finding random back issues and more until I completed the story years later. The chapter introducing Spider-Man’s new costume was hard to get — expensive (the costume was precursor to Venom) — but eventually I bought the bullet and paid.

That’s how it was back then, piecing together the Marvel Universe.

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The sequel Secret Wars II sucked by the way. Trying to be philosophical and shit, the omnipotent Beyonder went to Earth and took human form and became a lame 80s hipster. Really terrible stuff.

But Marvel could do better.

This was the era of the great writer-artists. Truly great reads.

John Byrne’s science fictional Fantastic Four, took them to the Skrull Galaxy and Eon the Living Planet and the Negative Zone antimatter dimension and the microverse. Let us not forget, the mighty Galactus.

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Walter Simonson’s high fantasy Norse epic of Thor, as Thor’s world was fleshed out in Asgard joined by Balder the Brave. The actual mythologies were utilized as Ragnarok occurred, the end of the world, with Allfather Odin himself fighting the evil Surtur.

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Later I caught up on all the tradepaperback reprints of Frank Miller’s seminal noir-eque Daredevil (note that Miller is famed for Sin City, but this was his previous mainstream work leading up to that). Groundbreaking at the time.

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That covers all the main genres of adventure stories.

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My History of Comics

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My current crop of graphic novels on apartment bookshelf, but do read up on how it all began…

Back: My hobby of comics

And now the history thereof:

Back in the 1980s, I was a weird little kid. I had an unstable upbringing, and although I was encouraged to read I didn’t really discover my passions until a bit older. I didn’t get into comics until that decade was over with, although as a small child I did typically love Ninja Turtles and Transformers without even knowing the original comic book origins.

By the time the 90s arrived, I was a hyperactive nerd with bad social skills and hailing from an increasingly-broken home. My destiny as an escapist comic geek was inevitable, it must have been. I did enjoy watching the brilliant X-Men and Batman cartoons, though I hadn’t read much of the source material yet.

Finally, my parents divorced. I remember it as a great relief.

I was about ten or eleven years old and my dad lived in Indianapolis, Indiana while my mom moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. The great question was which insane parent me and my sister were to stay with (spoiler: wasn’t going to be my mom). The answer to that question was postponed, as we were sent to stay with our loving older, richer, Jewisher relatives to live with for a year as my parents got it together and proceeded to fight each other in court.

It was an interesting year, living in a big house in actual American suburbs. Like you see on TV and everything. A taste of the good life!

But what really made it a good life was that my old relatives had an adult soon who had moved away. Their son was a comics fan, and closets upon closets upon basements in the house were filled with classic 80s and 90s Marvel comics. Lots of Star Wars toys as well, by the way.

Some of my best memories are of exploring that ol’ house. All the things I discovered…

Putting comics in chronological order. Making sense of the crossovers, filling in the gaps of storylines bit by bit. The Avengers. Fantastic Four. The story of Tony Stark losing his armor to James Rhodes, Captain America quitting, Spider-Man’s black costume, and marriage. Tie-ins to Secret Wars, Inferno, Acts of Vengeance, and more.

I lived in the Marvel Universe, I truly did.

Here’s the thing about superhero comics as hobby. To truly understand the profound continuity, you need to read a lot. Not just casually pick up an issue or even a graphic novel every so often, you need to obsessively understand everything that has ever happened to these characters over the course of decades. Hundreds of characters with their own biographies and histories and villains and to follow it all you have to basically become an expert.

Then, in the midst of figuring all this out, I started buying the latest 90s Marvel comics. Spider-Man and X-Men, of course. Crossovers like Maximum Carnage and the Phalanx Covenant. The early 90s did not measure up to the heyday of the mid-80s by any means, although as a dumb kid I was very impressed by those Image-era artists. And there was nothing better than Wednesdays at that fondly-remembered little comic shop in downtown Broadripple. It was my first. It’s gone now.

The time came and my dad moved to Cincinnati and me and my sister moved with him. Life was more or less stable from middle school to high school. But by that point, the damage was done. I could not move anywhere without finding the local comic shop and I was wired so that it was one of the most important things in my life. Soon I would meet my lifelong best friend in the cafeteria of our middle school, because we both read comics and didn’t sit with the cool kids.

But before I moved, I was given the greatest gift one could ever be given, a hundred-odd issues of 1980s-era Chris Claremont genius.

Remember what I said about continuity, about being an obsessive expert to truly understand the story? That goes quadruple for the epicness that is classic X-MEN.

Next: My early affair with the X-Men (and not that current movie shit, the original awesome groundbreaking All-New All-Different series…)

OCCUPY MORE!

Another amazing experience in Admiralty. The movement is still going strong a month later, with no signs of letting up. Perhaps it will be a permanent fixture in Hong Kong, wouldn’t that be amazing!

Another amazing experience in Admiralty. The pro-democracy/Occupy movement is still going strong a month later, with no signs of letting up. A substantial community of sharing and donations, an authentic anarcho-commune collective in a modern metropolis. It is truly working. In some ways it actually reminded me of Burning Man, yet it is even less regulated and more organic. An inspiration. Perhaps it will be a permanent fixture in Hong Kong, wouldn’t that be amazing!

At 6:00 p.m. sharp I witnessed the umbrella-opening ceremony. I wandered and learned a lot. I saw tens of thousands of campers, infinite yellow ribbons, inspiring post-it’s along the Lennon Wall – You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one – and recorded some more video which I hope to edit soon and share. I was blown away by the creativity. T-shirts, banners, sculptures Umbrella Man ad Spider-Man and more, with cute paper Totoros. Even a library. The KFC sign amused me. And I like the setup in the bathrooms, with toothpaste ad shaving cream and even has volunteers to clean up. Very nice. The most solemn moment was the ‘Dark Corner’ area where a recent incident of police brutality took place. Finally, the umbrella tree.

Recently, I’ve been reading the book “Why Nations Fail” and while I am not smart enough to understand economics on a complex level, the book explains in layman’s terms that civilizations tend to be extractive or inclusive economies. Extractive are always unsustainable and damage a country, but the elites prefer it because it is good for only them. It is very hard to change this. Throughout all of history, development in human rights (which in turn helps growth) never comes because elites politely give it away through their bureaucratic laws, but because the masses of people demand it. Period.

CY Leung’s recent comments about how democracy is bad because it will give poor people too much political power… That is straight out of the thesis of this book. Let me just say, in my own layman’s terms, fuck this guy and this system.

Meanwhile, the latest propaganda from the mainland purports that it is all a scheme from Western governments. I scoff at that, because if it was so easy for outsiders to start movements than why are the PRC-funded counterprotests so pathetic?! They keep coming up with new narratives, from it’s only bad for business to pretending it’s all about rule-of-law to now this. Of course, it is truly a matter of the elites…

Things will change. I know they will. It won’t be easy, and it’s always a struggle because an entrenched system cannot even comprehend positive change, but it does come eventually.

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