Welcome back to Separated at Byrne-th Month, where every Saturday we're taking a wide-eyed peek at some of the cover pastiches, homages, and parodies of the man with the mouth, the person with the pencil, Mister John Byrne. You may choose to like him or lump himhe's a controversial figure among fandom. Me? I like his artwork, don't subscribe to many of his views, and try to keep my little befurred behind off the Byrne Robotics discussion group. That said, the man's gotta lotta fans, but even he takes a misstep in the comic book field now and then. Case in point: the much-reviled Spider-Man: Chapter One maxiseries, which was supposed to re-invent the Spider-nibbling origin of Mister P. Parker for the modern age, 25 years past his introduction. Unfortunately, much of fandom rejected it soundly (quite soundly, judging from the grumbling still heard in many corners about it). Me, I liked some of it, didn't care for it all, but enjoyed it as an alternate take on the first adventures of that guy with the Spider on his chest. Possibly one of the errors Marvel made in marketing it was making any suggestion whatsoever that this was now the official origin of Spider-Man of Earth-616: us fans don't like retconning of Lee/Ditko stories, no sirree we don't! A few years later Brian Michael Bendis took an alternative and much-expanded look at Spidey's origins, but by this time, Marvel had learned its lesson: the story and this Peter Parker were safely webbed up in an alternate (and ultimate) universe. Byrne's series might be overlooked now, but his artwork is bright and energetic, and there's some lovely homages to the work of Ditko, and, in the case of the covers below, an imaginative reinventing of a scene from an alternate angle, which gives us a dynamic and fresh look at an iconic Kirby/Ditko cover without slavishly copying it. Shall we look?
L: Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963), art by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko
R: Spider-Man: Chapter One #2 (Late December 1998), art by John Byrne
(Click picture to chapter-size)
Stop! Spoiler warning! Do not read any further unless you've already read today's Amazing Spider-Man #591. It's the one where J. Jonah Jameson becomes mayor of New York and....
darn darn darn darn darn darn
Sorry 'bout that. I'm not very good at spoiler warnings. Anyway, I had the comic's surprise revealed early for me anyway when I first saw this morning's edition of AM New York, New York's free daily and the fastest growing tabloid newspaper in the field of being left behind on the subway to clutter up the seats. "Mus' be a slow news day," mused I as I sipped my Vanilla Frappucino on the F train from Brooklyn to Manhattan and surveyed the startling front page headline of AMNY that the guy in the spider-mask dangling upside down in the middle of the car was reading:
Golly! New York gots itself a new mayor! And I didn't even have a chance to vote. Grabbing myself a copy of the complimentary paper as it blew through the subway car, I couldn't believe my little black button eyes to see that J. Jonah Jameson has been elected Mayor of our Fair City. Golly! Well, that'll make an interesting change. I'm very supportive of his economic recovery and savings plans, as well as his urban renewal and financial bailout for the city's struggling newspapers. I'm can't say, however, that I'm entirely fond of his Spider-Slayer platform.
(Click picture to Ed Koch-size)
Still, it oughta make for a fun series of storylines. I really liked the concept of Lex Luthor as President, until it went kinda off the rails in a big slam-dash crash of green and purple battlesuits at the end. (Makes Nixon's departure look classy, don't it?) And hey, everybody loved that storyline with Green Arrow as mayor of...um...er...Green Arrow City, Arizona, I think. I can't wait to see what's up next for The Big Apple's new Hizzoner. I can confidently predict: more fines levied against people in blue and red spandex.
Still, makes ya think, don't it? What other Marvel Universe characters would be interested in politics, and in which cities do you think they'd make good mayors? Why, I've pondered that very same thing, and I think it would go something like this...
Iron Man: Mayor of Detroit, Michigan
No man is better suited for rejuvenating the failing automobile industry than ace technofuturist Tony Stark. Why, after four years of Mayor Stark, we'll all be driving flying cars and listening to Motown as we cruise with the tops down and a quart of rich, buttery Kentucky bourbon in the cupholder.
Thor: Mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin
Thor enthusiastically approves of this frigid, frozen northern city which is home to the descendants of the bloodthirsty Vikings who first made him a household name, second in popularity only to Hagar the Horrible. Mayor Odinson especially respects the warrior ethics of the Packers, and is often seen to have traded his winged helmet for a rubber cheese hat.
Wonder Man: Mayor of Hollywood, California
In a day, age, and especially the state when actors like Reagan, Eastwood, Sonny Bono, and the guy from Conan the Barbarian can hold high office in California, what's preventing a bona-fide superhero from becoming Mayor of this world center of glitzy, glamorous, entertainment? He knows the industry and its players inside and out, and there's no one better suited for keeping Lindsay Lohan in line than Simon Williams. Nobody.
Jean Grey: Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona
A classic choice: both she and the city are hot and fiery, tempestuous and energetic, both can survive and even thrive in dangerous, barren climates that would beat down lesser beings, and both have murdered an entire planet of asparagus people. In the primary debates her opponents may have argued that she's ineligible for mayorship because she's dead, but just remember: by the time you get to Phoenix, she'll be rising.
Dazzler: Mayor of Branson, Missouri
Branson features celebrity acts who were briefly popular about thirty years ago, have never successfully revived their careers, but who still maintain a small but fanatic fan following. A perfect match.
Namor: Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida
Miami's well-organized elderly community almost elected one of their own as mayor, but their votes were split between octogenarian candidate May Parker and retroist Turner D. Century, guaranteeing a waterslide victory for Namor McKenzie. He's the ideal man for the job: he'll keep the waterfront safe, he understates the plight of immigrants who have lost their country, and he looks great walking around the city in a Speedo.
Hawkeye: Mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada
You might have thought a perfect fit for Vegas would be former Sin City muscleman Joe "Hulk" Fixit, but think about it: Clint Barton, former circus performer, is right at home in this world of showmanship and spectacle, and there's no better spokesman for the little city that was born on crime and grew on the science of taking a chance than ex-crook and flamboyant marksman Clint Barton. Nobody tries harder to impress us than Hawkeye; no city tries harder to dazzle us than Las Vegas. And hey, he knows his way around fabulous leggy showgirls.
The Thing: Mayor of Rock City, Tennessee
The Punisher: Mayor of Mayberry, North Carolina
Because what this town needs is some law and order, and no one will clean up this stinking, corrupt, crime-ridden heckhole faster than Frank Castle. In a town where the law used to have but a single bullet, Mayor Castle will make the town drunks and the crooked barbers sorry they stepped down the street for a slice of Aunt Bee's lemon pie. Also, Mayor Castle is very much looking forward to taking Thelma Lou out to a picture show.
The Kingpin: Mayor of Springfield, USA
Because Mayor Fisk is the only man who can stand up to the town's ruthless nuclear-power baron. Because he's the only mayor who can wipe out Fat Tony's gang in a single sweep. Because he's the only mayor who's more corrupt than the current mayor. And because he has vowed that he will bring down and utterly break Pie-Man.
Mary Jane Watson: Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana
Hey, who did you think I was gonna nominate...Gambit? Non chance, cher! Nola is a party town, and it needs a party girl who understand the Crescent City's need to express itself with dancing, carousing, singing, and inexpensive plastic beads. She's also a socially conscious, caring woman who can bring her own special sympathy and healing to this shattered city. And she can make one mean crab etouffee. I'd vote for her on her campaign slogan alone: "Faisons-y face, tigre: laissez les bon temps roulez!"
Hi, everybody! It's me, Jane Wiedlin, pixiesque pop star, all-in-good-fun fetish model, cartoon voice actor, alien Starfleet communications officer, comic book creator (it's coming, I promise, one of these days!) and most important, friend of Bully, the little stuffed bull who's fun to hug and cuddle! That's why I was happy to step in and guest-write a post on his popular blog when he called me on his speed-dial and squeaked "Help, Miss Jane!" For that little fluffy guy, I'd do anything.
You've seen some of the very fashionable and flair-filled hats I wear up there in the paragraph above. But what you may not know about me is my intense and incisive interest and expertise in military history, most specifically the military history of Earth-616! When I'm not on tour or hanging out on a jet runway with my best friends, I like to relax with the latest Marvel comic book or a classic graphic novel (from your local comic book shop, of course! I, Jane Wiedlin, am not only anti-fur, I'm also vehemently anti-Scans_Daily!). On my free time I enjoy cataloguing and writing detailed histories of the high-grade military weaponry of Marvel-Earth, the Jane's Recognition Guides, which you may have seen in your local bookstore or displayed at a sales booth at one of the many comic book conventions I enjoy attending every year.
Tonight Bully thought you might enjoy taking an advance peek at my upcoming newest book in the series:
Jane's Recognition Guide to Inconspicuous Nazi Weaponry of the Fourth Reich features all the most subtle and secret stealth technology of mad Nazi scientists in their quest to resurrect their evil rule on Earth (616)! Wanna peek along with me at some of the great examples? Sure you do!
First up: You can sure tell that Thoom the Big Evil Nazi Robot is a baddie, can't you? Well, for one, the big swastika on the chest, but don't miss the giant metal claws of fire-belching or the super-aerating cleats on his big metal boots. He's evil! Still, you can't help but adore those simply delightful little booties, can you?
All panels are from Tales of Suspense #72-74 (December 1965-February 1966), script by Stan Lee, layouts by Jack Kirby, finishes and inks by George Tuska, letters by Sam Rosen and Artie Simek
This super-science Nazi robot has been programmed with over one thousand intricate battle moves, plus he can also do the Hokey Pokey!
Sadly, the giant stompy robot cannot accurately catch a Frisbee. Another triumph for the secret Wham-O scientists working for S.H.I.E.L.D.!*
Another infamous Nazi war machine you'll encounter in these pages is the sinister and death-dealing Giant Flying Manta Ray! How can you know this usually-peaceful denizen of the deep is evil? Well, duh, check it out...swastika decals again. (And those things are really hard to get on without ripping them.) Also, every Manta Ray also includes an exact scale model of the University of Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Pride of the Crimson Tide! I'm guessing those Nazi big-brains at ConHitlerCo are a little obsessed with electric football. That game never worked...the little guys always just wandered around at random while the whole thing buzzed. That is evil!
What's more, the Giant Manta Ray and the Big Nazi Robot are specially built to connect together using the science of Mega Bloks, the evil bastard cousin of Lego! Also, apparently, magnetism, because, as Diet Smith has told me more than once, the nation that controls magnetism controls the universe! Then, he soared off in his flying garbage can. Half the time I have no idea what that guy is on about.
You think they were evil before? Ha! That's like Charlotte Caffey thinking that she's the youngest one of the Go-Go's! No, together, they're twice as powerful, like some evil issue of Marvel Two-in-One starring, I dunno, Doctor Doom and Typeface! That's pretty evil, even by Nazi scientist standards.
Special S.H.I.E.L.D. pencillers are immediately summoned to draw detailed blueprints of the Nazi war machines:
As if that's not thrilling enough, Jane's Recognition Guide to Inconspicuous Nazi Weaponry of the Fourth Reich will also feature the monstrous, Geneva-Convention-shattering debut of...the Giant Flying Metal Skull of 1960s Character Actor Walter Matthau!
For a triple threat, these three titanic terrors of the Teutonic throngs combine, not unlike Voltron, to form one giant and incredibly inconspicuous Nazi war machine! One that looks like a massively-shoulder-padded macro-encephalitic dwarf, but a war machine nevertheless!
Still, like all the machinery of mayhem you'll find in Jane's Recognition Guide to Inconspicuous Nazi Weaponry of the Fourth Reichthe Fuhrer's Flying Fortress of Fear, Das Dethbüs, the Bombastic Biergarten and the Himmlernbergthis particular Nazi no-good-nik has an Achilles heel that you'll learn how to exploit, right in the pages of my book!
Simply apply one (1) Captain Lemonhead supplied with blowtorch!
It's shoddy craftnaziship like that which ensures Hitler, his successors, his evil clone or his army of undead Nazi vampire werewolf women will never succeed in their war against humanity, except in the literature of Harry Turtledove.
So this is Jane Wiedlin saying goodnight America and all the ships at sea, and rush out to your nearest bookstore (if it's a Borders, you better really rush) and buy Jane's Recognition Guide to Inconspicuous Nazi Weaponry of the Fourth Reich! Also, buy bonds where you work or bank!
Entitlement. It's all the rage in fandom. We all know how a character should be written and what kind of adventures he should be having, and by gosh by golly, we're going to let everyone know. We're going to tell all the folks who work at the local comic book store, whether they want to hear or not, and if they're going to gossip about our plans to wrest Batman from the sinister palms of Grant Morrison and finally write him right, well, that's the price we pay. We've got the entitlement to post comments on the Internet, to write blogs about it, to post screeds on comic book discussion boards, and blast it, if things don't change, that's the last time we ever buy Marvel/DC comics again! (We're serious this time!)
So you might think that true fanboy entitlement is a recent development that arose when AOL started distributing those shiny silver coasters to every man, woman, child and stuffed bull on the planet Earth and we all hunkered down to peer at our computer screens to interconnect with the rest of fandom. For truly, how could a real sense of outraged entitlement take place until we could be part of the global World Wide Web? Huh? Huh? Huh? Huh?
For the answer to that question, let's set the Time Toaster for the year 1962, the very dawn of the Marvel Age, and flip open the pages of Fantastic Four #3...careful! Put on the white cotton gloves first!...to the letters page, to see this friendly compliment from Stan 'n' The Gang to all their faithful readers. Ever the enthusiastic figurehead, Stan gallantly compliments the readers, telling them they're "a cut above average":
...before a friendly, Marvel-Yellow box tells us that Fantastic Four has proved so popular right out of the gate that old Willie Lumpkin is getting lumbago bringing all that fan mail to the Bullpen, and Stan (or, more probably, Flo Steinberg) simply doesn't have the time to answer each letter personally. If they did, why, there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to create The World's Greatest Comic Magazine, would there? Sounds reasonable to me, doesn't it? Sounds reasonable to you too, I bet. Sounds reasonable to everyone...or so you'd think!
Two issues later in the letters column of FF #5, enter Mister William J. Marcolongo, with what I do believe is the First Example of Entitlement of the Marvel Age:
In the words of the Smilin' One, sheesh! The editorial reply is humorous and polite enough, but even during these early glory days of what would become one of the great comic book empires of the twentieth century, Stan has just had his firstbut by no means his lastrun-in with the great fanboy plague known as entitlement.
(Later that day, of course, Stan sent Kirby down to Philadelphia, where Jack beat the little whiner up and took his lunch money. Haw!)