Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Fantastic Four Are Awesome....

But what is it about the Fantastic Four that makes them awesome?

It's quite simple really. The Fantastic Four are the most self-contained and versatile property in all of comics. You've got all of the comic-book melodrama and characterisation wrapped up within the four main characters all of whom are on the team and can be lifted wholesale and plonked down into any fantastical situation your fevered little imagination can whip up.

There's no Aunt May in Queens or Lois Lane and her precious Daily Planet to keep these guys tethered to earth. These guys are their own supporting cast. Wherever they go all they take all of their soap-opera shenanigans along with them. So Sue could be bitching at Reed for forgetting her birthday while they battle Annihilus and Blaastar in the Negative Zone. Johnny might be teasing Ben about looking like past their sell-by-date pop rocks while they search for the Ultimate Nullifier on Galactus Worldship.

You name the settings, you name the genre, there is nowhere the magic of the Fantastic Four wont' work.

All of the best FF writers over the years have figured this out and used it to their advantage. From Stan and Jack all the way through to Mark Millar in Ultimate Fantastic Four.

By way of an example let's take a single issue of Mark Millar's Ultimate run. Say for example issue 21.

This issue wastes no time in proving my theory. Mark Millar loves his super-heroes but he also wants to write a comic-book about dinosaurs? No sweat, the FF have got you covered. You want to write about dinosaurs? Just zip Johnny and Ben 150 million years into the past on the very first page and Bob's your uncle. Hell you could have the Thing slugging a Tyrannosaurus Rex right in the chops by page two and nobody would blink an eye. It's just another day at the office for these guys.Of course you have to keep things moving. You can't have the FF hanging around in one place too long. Super-hero versus dinosaur battles don't take too long to get stale and boring especially in these jaded and cynical times.

Need something fresh and different for the FF to do to keep the audience hooked? How about stopping a gang of crooks staging a kidnapping to score some ransom money?

That might be okay for lesser super-hero books like Spider-man or Superman but this is the FF baby, round these parts we crank things up to eleven! Sure we can have terrorists but not ordinary terrorists, they've got to be time-hopping terrorists!

Of course they can stage a kidnapping but we can't have them 'napping some airheaded debutant whose dad has a few bucks. No! They've got to travel 200 million years into the past and snatch the first creature that ever crawled from the sea and hold it to ransom! Derailing evolution before it begins and wiping out 200 million years of human history has got to be worth a few quid hasn't it?

See what I'm saying. You'd be hard pressed to find sci-fi shenanigans more wacky or awesome than that anywhere other than a Fantastic Four book. Mixed in with the Grimm/Storm/Richards family dynamics we all know and love it makes quite the heady comic book brew.

Phew, that's a lot of funky sci-fi stuff to digest before we're even halfway through the issue. For the non-trekkies in the audience if the sci-fi onslaught keeps up like this things might start to get a little hard going.

Luckily this is an FF book. So we can completely shift genres at the drop of a hat. How about a little horror to cleanse the palette? Okey doke, how about we have Reed manipulated into opening a trans-dimensional portal to a neighbouring dimension by an older, parallel version of himself?

"That just sounds like more damned sci-fi to me!"

Oh, did I not mention that this parallel dimension is populated with zombies who have chowed down on the entirety of the human race and are now looking to move their snacking into a neighbouring dimension? No? Well it is. Oh yeah and the zombies....they're all superheroes:

Zombie Super-heroes, lord have mercy. That's the FF for you people. One minute they're Flash Gordoning about in wacky alien dimensions and Robert Patricking it up through time then the next their Ashing the hell out of world full of zombies with their boomsticks. All in the space of one issue! Imagine the awesomeness that could be packed into two issues - or even three - or *gasp* 48 years worth of issues.

Praise you Jack and Stan for blessing us all with the comic book gold that is the Fantastic Four.

Where would we all be without them?

Friday, 24 July 2009

Yes Kids, Dad has a personal life....

...but the less you know about it the better.

(Today's paternal monkey loving comes from Day Of Vengeance #4 wherein we learn that Detective Chimp started out in life as a wild, African monkey named Bobo with a thing for having his back scrubbed in swanky hotel bathrooms by moustachioed animal trainers.)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Last Night Hulk Watched 'Down To You' On DVD

Today he's got quite the celebrity crush:

I guess he's never seen 'Shes All That' then - yick!

(Today's spot of celebrity celebration comes from The Ultimates v1 #4 wherein Ultimate Samuel L - - I mean Nick Fury casts his fantasy Ultimate Avengers movie. Johnny Depp as Tony Stark? Lucy Liu as the Wasp? Woody Allen as Bruce Banner? I think we've finally solved the mystery of the moron who cast 'Showdown in Little Tokyo').

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Spider-woman: Violent Pyschopath

If you were a Marvel editor in the late 70s/early 80s and you were tasked with coming up with the adjective for the Spider-woman series a lot of possibilities might come to mind. 'The Sultry Spider-woman' could work or even 'The Slinky Spiderwoman' would be a good choice, even 'The Bitchin' Hairdo of the Spider-woman' would be perfectly valid. Adjectives that might not immediately spring to mind might be 'vicious', 'brutal', 'savage' or 'ass-kickingest'. Unless of course you had read Spider-woman #16.

You see in Spider-woman #16 the normally sleek, sophisticated and demure Miss Jessica Drew beats the ever-loving shit out of albino, vampire-looking, bad girl Nekra (remember Nekra? She used to date Marvel's best, baboon-based bad guy the Mandrill). I mean she really whomps that chick's ass like there's no tomorrow. That kind of savage beatdown is pretty shocking to see from someone who has trouble taking out the likes of Turner D. Century.

What exactly did Nekra do to inspire such extreme brutality? Well let's see:

First in her guise as entrepreneur Adrienne Hatros she gave a desperate for work Jessica Drew a job in her clinic.

She didn't fire Jessica despite her tendency to constantly show up late and instigate fistfights with Death Cultists in the middle of the office on busy workdays.

Then she gave her a free medical and invited her to a swanky cocktail party in her luxury manor home.

What a bitch right?

Okay, okay so maybe the fact that the cocktail party was a ruse to which Nekra showed up wearing a painted on outfit, proclaiming her love for Jessica before trying to tear out her throat had something to do with it.Before you jump on your judgey high horse, you need to understand something about Nekra.

Nekra loves hate.

That's right. She loves it the way regular people love puppies or sunrises or the smell of freshly cut grass. Hate gives her the well as super-strength and invincibility.

Then along come this skank Spider-woman with her mind-warping pheromones giving people the chemically induced hots for her! Making Nekra feel all skeevy and cheap for get 'the feelings' for someone other than her one true love....hate. Personally I think it's totally understandable that she might want to strangle the slutty, toxic bitch that caused her to feel that way.

I mean really, what kind of woman uses her hypnotic musk to cause her boss to indulge in some half naked sexual harassment then gets all upset and serves the monumental ass-kicking of a lifetime when her boss tries to murder her for it?

I mean she slings the poor woman over a balcony then drops a hundred pound chandelier on her head for crying out loud! It's just not right!Luckily Nekra had the good sense to pop a pill before the fight that nullifies the effects of Spider-woman's mesmerising stench. So while all drugged up and full of hate Nekra is invincible and safe from Jessica's super-powered hissy fit.

Unfortunately for Nekra the Spider-woman is as cunning as she is violent. Once she learns that it is merely a pill keeping her from busting up foe apart like a nude piƱata she conceives an ingenious plan to guarantee a blood soaked victory.

The plan?

Well it's as simple as it is psychotic. Just repeatedly slam your opponent's head into the marble floor until the medication wears off and your love-stink saps them of their hate and invincibility.I have to admit Jessica isn't all bad though. Having pulped Nekra's skull on the marble floor she finds herself wracked with remorse and in the end does the right thing. She calls an ambulance, changes back into her snazzy cocktail dress and blames the whole thing on burglars. Classy!

Aside from the horrific, unprovoked violence and the stupidity of Marvel Universe EMTs(how jaded are they that they don't wonder why one of the victims is a half naked, albino vampire while the other is dressed for the prom) this is one of my favorite issues from Marvel's original Spider-woman series.

I always thought Spider-woman was a totally under-rated series though. The stories, while sometimes a bit clunky, were always enjoyable and the art nine times out of ten was phenomenally good (I mean look at the gorgeous cover for this issue). I guess in the days before Wizard and Previews having savage violence and half-dressed albino chicks in your book didn't guarantee you sales.

Anyway Spider-woman #16. Mind-altering pheromones, cocktail dresses, skanky albino vampires in love and pulped skulls - you should check it out.

Nuff said.