The Earth Moved

With the possible exception of the Warren or Conan black and white magazines the sex act was not usually shown in main stream comic books. Not in Marvel and definitely not over in DC. There was plenty of risque’ poses, editorial swimwear and the usual skimpy costumes but depictions of the act where usually not shown. When it came to showing sexual acts comic books used the equivalent of a Bollywood romance scene, just when things got intense everybody would suddenly start dancing. This changed a bit with the Steve Gerber run on Guardians of the Galaxy in the 1970s.

The Guardians of the Galaxy were a team of genetically modified humans bred to survive in harsh extraterrestrial conditions who existed in an alternate Marvel Universe where Earth and the solar system was was conquered by the Badoon. Charlie was dense and powerful, Martinex was made of crystal could exist in extreme cold and Nikki could live in extremely hot environments. Vance Astro was an astronaut who had lived in suspended animation while traveling at sub-light speeds and was the link to the heroic past. He would later change his possible future by meeting his younger self and activating the boys’ latent mutant powers. The young Vance would then join various groups to include the Avengers. The non-humans of the group included Yondu, a warrior from another world and later, Starhawk, a mutant who shared a single body with his adopted sister.

The Guardians first appeared back in 1969 in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 and after a 1974 guest-appearance in Marvel Two-In-One #4-5, were later revived as a regular feature in Marvel Presents #3 in 1975. Their story was directly related to a throw-away tale in the original Silver Surfer series. One of the great things about the 70s and 80s was that often when a series was canceled the story would continue or be concluded in other titles. This was back when sales for even a failing book were much larger than some of the top-selling books of today. The fan base who wanted to read a character’s adventures was large enough that it would not harm a title to have a guest-appearance form a failed book and could even boost sales. The Dark Fist story in Iron Fist by Claremont & Byrne concluded in Marvel Team-Up and was all the better for it. Captain Marvel saw the end of a space saga finish in another title, giving readers closure. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of those stories that also finished their arc elsewhere. Their story continued as guest-stars in various magazines, really coming to an end with the Korvac Saga in the Avengers title. There was a later series that I don’t look back on with fondness because of the slavish adherence to 90’s Marvel characterization and by relying heavily on elements of the X-Men, including the Phoenix. The series also adhered to the maxim that “Every Super Hero Team Needs A Wolverine” by introducing Logan’s many times great-granddaughter as a despotic villain.

The series was best in the 1970s, when Marvel was freaking crazy and would publish anything no matter how odd, to see what worked and what didn’t (Spider-Man and Doctor Strange being examples). The mid-70s were a good time for Marvel as they attracted older readers seeking a deeper context than what other companies would be giving in comparison. While I dislike hippies in general the modern sell-out professional hippie of the 70s was a different breed and wrote some darn good comics.

It was in Marvel Presents #7 (Nov 1976) that Steve Gerber created a blip of controversy with his run. While fighting the Badoon the Guardians came across the Topographical Man, a planetary-sized humanoid creature who fed on exploding galaxies. The TM was also an energy vampire, and absorbed the psyche of Vance Astro while he did battle with one of its avatars. Various alien races had also come to live on the planetary creature, though they acted more like prisoners of hell than willing settlers. At the same time Vance was fighting an avatar, Nikki was being convinced by a cult to commune with the Topographical Man in order to convince it to stop its plans of destruction. Nikki allowed herself to be strapped into a machine that separated her spirit from her body and she went to have a chat with the big guy.

But a few moments after being introduced to the Topographical Man, Nikki decided words were cheap and instead of communing proceeded to have hot sweaty space sex with it by bringing the spirit of Vance Astro to the fore of the creature’s consciousness. The idea was that an act of love and creation would destroy a creature of anti-life.

GotG_Marvel Presents 07a

The mind of Vance Astro was all for it as the sexual tension between the pair had been building for a while. Nikki was very uninhibited and since Vance was unable to remove his space suit for fear of dying, he was the safe boyfriend she didn’t have to commit to, which made Vance a little crazed. Nikki and Vance wasted no time and got busy, much to the delight of the planetary population who had a front row seat to the spectacle. When I read this I really felt for those doomed people that had unfortunately settled on the equator. At least they died quickly.

GotG_Marvel Presents 07b

As far as the sexual imagery goes, if not for the entire context of the story I would have suspected they were really sneaking in scenes of soft core porn rendered by artist Al Milgrom. Note the positions of the couple, the almost-obscured ecstatic grin Nikki displays in the first panel of the second page and the jet of energy from the Topographical Man’s abdomen. But Gerber draws the reader away from the idea of titillation as the sexual themes continue beyond the art. True, the same effect could have been achieved by Nikki and Vance having a dialog, holding hands and agreeing to chose life instead of death, but that would have made for some boring pages. The climax of the story, literally, was an orgy of death for an entire civilization as they changed form into some new entity. The scene was probably handled as well as could be expected given the medium and the era.

Bear in mind that this was before the internet and the near instant critiques and analysis that accompanies and sometimes precedes the release of a book. If a reader desired a professional or semi-professional review of a title one had to wait for an industry magazine, fanzine or rely on the local comic book store. Marvel Presents #7 was one of those books that had the proprietors talking and the customers buying. I witnessed at least a few sales pushes emphasizing the covert sexual content over the story (I saw similar tactics with Conan) but that was the rarity. The story was not of the“tee-hee, lookit her underwear” style that permeates many current titles but instead portrayed a mature act in a way that didn’t insult either the younger reader that might miss the subtext or the older audience that would understand it.

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Bring Jugger Grimrod to 616

Why? Because of the marketing truism that “Every super hero team needs a Wolverine.”

I wish it wasn’t a fact, but it is.

Even die hard fans of Logan are weary of him being everywhere all the time. As a rule fans recognize X-23 for what it is, Logan with breasts, and despise the character with a passion usually reserved for Arana and Girl-Scorpion. Saberclaw is in Avengers Next and being in an alternate future probably isn’t available for a role in the regular Marvel Universe. Plus, he’s stupid. So it is time to bring in some old fresh blood in, and that is from Jugger Grimrod!

Grimrod isn’t doing anything at the moment and he could use the work! Jugger is a member of the Alien Legion, a book about an interstellar police force made up of various extraterrestrial soldiers that first appeared in the 1980s. Before L.E.G.I.O.N., I might add.

Grimrod is hard core. Like Wolverine, Jugger is a bad ass killing machine. He is animal in nature, morally ambiguous and likes copious amounts of booze and drugs (Attention, Marvel! That is good for years of preachy subplots right there!). He is also the best at what he does in his universe. And also like Logan he has claws.

Alien Legion v2 #016 - Snic

Sure, Jugger sports a single blade that is in the cuff of his battle armor but it extends with a ‘snic’ sound, almost like the one’s Logan sports. I don’t know what it is made of but the blade can just about cut through anything and Jugger uses it about once an issue. He even used it on family members just like Wolverine.

Alien Legion v2 #016 - Jugger and Dad

Marvel could do worse than transport Grimrod to the 616 realm. Instead of creating a new Wolverine rip-off just use one you already have in stock. Fans will show less cynicism that way. With the Annihilation story line there is the perfect opportunity for Grimrod to appear. Being a science fiction character who is also a space-pilot Grimrod could easily accidentally slip into the 616-verse what with all the dimension-hopping and haphazard Negative Zone warps opening up all over the place.

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Blogchix get no respect

Here is my rambling rant-response to this post at Dance of the Puppets.

One of the unfortunate things I see on the net often mirrors something that happens in retail with some customers. A customer will make some assertion about something they are not satisfied with and then keep pressing forwards with it. They continue to pursue a problem that was quickly fixed as they requested (and more besides). In no time at all the customer has escalated a situation to absurd levels because pride does not allow them to stop or step back.

Something similar is what I believed occurred between Marionette and Scipio. That’s how it looks to me, but then I’m not inside either of their heads so it may be something that they will have to disagree to agree on.

I have always seen Scipio’s comic blogging site as an extension of and part of his business. If I was in a similar place I would feel reflexively defensive or proprietary about a shtick that I might see appear on another site. One problem at the non-professional level of blogging is that the participants are not taken seriously and are seen as a community of amateurs. Often, original content is seen as fair game for others to exploit beyond the spirit of fair-use. Questions would arise, and I think fairly so, in regards to familiar content showing up when it was not part of any recent blogging activity or an example of ‘sharing the joke’.

When I started the Head Injury Project documenting Hal’s mishaps in a flickr set I was concerned I would be annoying or stepping on the toes of a blogger I liked. In the beginning I acknowledged the entire project started because Scipio generated the idea. As far as I know, he didn’t have a problem with me doing it. If he did I would have shelved the idea at the time so I am grateful he didn’t. Hal’s injuries are one of those amusing artifacts of the comic book market of the era. Companies could recycle ideas knowing that an event would not likely to be recognized by readers a few months after it was printed due to the majority of sales being from impulse buyers. The images are there for posterity and I don’t mind if anyone uses them as long as they recognize the effort that went into finding, cropping the panels and posting them. I only update it now as I come across samples during normal reading or unless someone points one out. I should check all my old JLA books for examples but I get cross-eyed reading all those Silver Age books in one sitting.

As far as I can tell (geography, reader counts and site hits aside), comic book bloggers are actually a kind of a small and interconnected community. There are many, many of them out there on the net but the relationships among them are actually kind of limited and nearly incestuous. I may have that assumption entirely wrong but from someone not using my blog for business promotion that is how it looks from my side. Wherever I look I see the same names repeatedly appear. That means I either don’t search far enough out from familiar environs or the community is as localized as I think it is, regardless of geographic location. Nearly every comic book site in what I call the Local Group of the Blogverse kind of feeds off the others a little bit. A certain post will pique interest in a subject and everyone will enthusiastically join in on the fun, picking up and running with ideas, memes and subjects until the gag ages and another replaces it.

Like most bloggers I have experienced seeing a few posts on other sites that were similar to some of mine, but the out-of-context panel game has a small board to play on so I mentally file it as coincidence. I’ve also seen a few that were direct swipes (not just from text-mining for spam) and one that I believe was an honest error in re-posting by a 3rd party who did not know where they got the image from. I pointed it out to the re-poster only because it required some extensive photo-manipulations on my part (extensive for me, because I am not that good at it) and because I was feeling sensitive that day about recently discovering many of my posts cut and pasted onto spam sites and linked to bogus home loan scams thereby giving the impression that I condoned what was being sold. There was even one instance of entries being buried 4 pages deep on what was represented as a “comic book news site”. Normally not a problem with proper linkage but search results took the user clicking through not to the article and not to my site but to the main page, which was selling back issues of comics for improbably low prices.

In a March 2006 post Marionette riffed on and expanded on a concept that has since grown beyond it’s origins (though still ‘belonging’ to Scipio) that many found humorous and contributed to. Recently a similar post was made. To be honest, when I saw Scipio’s recent entry I assumed he had re-posted something of his own from the past for some reason because the gag seemed familiar. The ensuing reaction from Scipio seems a bit much for a good-natured ‘gotcha’ from her as a result of two very different bloggers address a variation on a theme several months apart.

To “come down off the fence” as someone put it, Scipio’s comments to Marionette were insulting and dismissive. It would have been more productive to see a response more in the line of “Hah? Gosh darn it, how about that! Small world, indeed.” instead of a mean-spirited sniping referencing greater site hits and readership over the other (and therefore intrinsic worth and greater justification to exist). The community we are all a part of is small, the thematic sources are limited and the type of humor 90% of bloggers employ is similar enough in style that some duplication of posts is inevitable. The comments by Scipio were rude and uncalled for, especially as they were directed to someone who made the mistake of thinking they are a welcome part of the community when it seems to have been made clear that they were in reality only merely tolerated. I’ll remember that for the future.

I’m not going to remove any links or stop reading the work of either Scipio or Marionette as a result of their disagreement as some have pledged to do. One real fight between Fake Internet Friends is not enough to make me consider missing out on good content of two intelligent, funny and insightful authors. The poor attitude displayed by Scipio will however, factor in any personal decision I make to patronize his retail establishment in the future either online or in person. I’m hoping that all the friendly blogging relationships I’ve experienced so far are actually stronger and more respectful than the most recent event has depicted them to be.

I’d appreciate any rational discourse on the subject tangentially. Say, on how some bloggers are treated by the mainstream or more established players. For example, do feminist or inexperienced bloggers often get the short end of the respect stick and gets treated like the new kid who just wants to have fun and tries to join the Magic: The Gathering games at the local RPG store.

Understandably, Scipio has locked the thread against comments at his site and I have less a problem with that than others do. I understand that he must weigh what is good for his business, which his blog represents like it or not, and the usual free discourse that most visitors expect in a public forum. I think he did the right thing for his site since I suspect any further discussion there would have rapidly degenerated into internet screaming matches with posts written all in Caps. Any discussion of the event itself should please take place over at Marionette’s blog, which still has the relevant thread open for comments.

Tags: Thunderdome

Guess I need a new search engine

I just noticed that the results from a Google image search now features a cleaner ‘streamlined’ page format. Gone is the text that tells me what the image is, where it is from and the size. Now just an abbreviated title appears. Instead of just simply looking to see if you received the desired results of your search the user is now required to mouse-over the image to expand the information about the entry.

It isn’t a big deal for some, but going from a 5 second glance to a 30 second physical investigation using a mouse is irritating and counter-productive for us multi-tasking office types. That wasted time adds up, I kid you not.

If this was some sort of settings change on my end, I didn’t make it and can’t find where to restore the superior view to what I had previously. This looks like another instance of some suit taking up space in an office trying to justify their existence in a company by fixing what ain’t broke.

Update 2/234/07: Looks like a lot of people didn’t like the new layout because I noticed yesterday the old format was back.

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Pulp Daredevil

Detective Natchios recoiled, her usually deep whiskey and cigarettes voice scaling up momentarily until she caught herself and successfully suppressed a shriek of alarm. She tightened her grip on the service revolver and silently cursed herself for showing weakness. She did not know why she had lost her composure at the sight of the score of grisly trophies secured by copper nails to the the wall of the dark stairwell. Perhaps the eerie atmosphere of the fugitive Murdock’s secret hideout had frayed her usually iron nerves. She had witnessed more terrible visions over the span of years as a law officer and the thought of being frightened by Murdock’s machinations angered her.

“Foggy” Nelson tipped back the brim of his bowler hat and closely examined the horrible gallery. “Faces, stripped from the bone and tanned. Preserved. Their eyelids missing. Now do you believe me, Detective? This Murdock is involved in the practice of a dark and terrible magic.”

“I believe he is a mad man. I am beginning to wonder if you are not also.” Gun thrust before her, Detective Natchios continued down the stairwell heading towards the source of light at the bottom. The consultant followed, although more slowly.

“Surely, your world view has been re-defined, Madam. What of the Snail-less Shells? The Burlap Monkeys? You have witnessed them yourself this very night. Our narrow escape from the Rude Jostlers in the empty park this morning certainly confirmed beyond any doubt to me the existence of a shadowy world.”

Reaching the final step of the stairwell, Detective Natchios turned upon the portly man. “All I have seen are the skeletons of dead beetles and the movement of curtains by a draft. Inconsiderate patrons of a public recreation meadow does not constitute proof of the existence of demons. Murdock is no wizard. He is a misguided fiend who murders and defiles innocent women in the insane belief their eyes can restore blindness caused by exposure to mustard gas in the Great War. Now be silent and remain still, for we are here.”

Stepping cautiously the Detective peered around the door frame, observing awell lighted parlor of Victorian fashion. In the center of the room stood the prey to her hunt, leaning on an ivory cane with his back turned towards her. He was bent over a large tome on a heavy stand of dark, ornately carved wood, studying a page intently. Even from her vantage point several meters distant the detective could see the object of careful examination was heavily illuminated with fanciful illustrations like a bible out of antiquity. Offended that such a devilish, diseased creature would dare to read a bible, Detective Natchios she stepped into the room, leveling her revolver. “Matthew Murdock, you are wanted murderer.” Detective Natchios exclaimed forcefully. “I am taking you into custody!”

Slowly, Murdock turned. He appeared unconcerned by the presence of the officer of justice and seemed to enjoy the startled reaction as Detective Natchios viewed his horrible, seamed face. Murdock smiled, a ghastly grimace of insane mirth that did not reach his terrible eyes. Blood-shot orbs, too small for the sockets in which they fitfully rested in spun and writhed, gazing about in wildly differing directions as if they were slaves rebelling against their masters. “The Lord in heaven! Your eyes!” Natchios gasped. The scene was made all the more shocking as Natchios realized one eye was jade green and the other, a piercing cerulean blue.

Murdock laughed. “No, Detective. Not my eyes. I borrowed them, however reluctantly, from their former owners. Alas, as ever, the frail jelly are beginning to fail me once again.”

Sick with horror and finally understanding that Nelson, the foolish “expert” in the supernatural forced upon her by her superiors was not such a fool after all, Detective Natchios attempted to squeeze the trigger of her pistol . She was determined to end the madman’s reign of terror as of tonight. But her hand was unresponsive and she found it very difficult to draw a breath. A strange paralysis seized her limbs as if they were in the grip of some unseen force. From behind her Detective Natchios heard “Foggy” Nelson, enter the room and shut the door behind him.

“Hello, Matthew.” Nelson said jovially. “I hope you approve of my choice. She has such lovely eyes.”


fin

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