Sunday, March 15, 2015

At 13th Dimension: 13 Comic Book Julius Caesars! Plus, Caesar in the Marvel Universe!

Today, it's all about Caesar! Caesar, everybody!


Panels from Batman '66 #21 (digital comic, November 2013), script by Tom Peyer, pencils and inks by Derec Donovan, colors by Tony Avina

No, no, no, wrong Cesar. I've made another one of my silly mistakes. I meant Julius Caesar.


Panels from "Julius Caesar at Yankee Stadium" in Hit Comics #30 (Quality, November 1943), pencils by Sheldon Moldoff

That's why today at 13th Dimension, my pal John celebrates the 2059th anniversary (2059? I think that's the gift of haggis) of the Death of Julius Caesar, the so-called Ides of March, with 13 Comic Book Julius Caesars! That includes the one that wore a toga. And twelve others! I helped out by clipping the panels out of comic books.

John didn't include, however, the vast history of Julius Caesar in the Marvel Universe, because it's just too darn big a story. Why, if you check his page in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Caesar chalks up an amazing one billion and three Earth-616 stories, including all those issues of Guardians where he was Rocket Raccoon's drinking buddy, his stint as a supporting cast member of Skrull Kill Krew, and the short-lived miniseries Julius Caesar: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.* But let's start with perhaps the first Marvel appearance of Caesar (if not his eponymous salad or birthing method), way back in the Golden Age of Timely Comics!


Panels from Ideal #1 (July 1948), creators unknown




Ideal was a short-lived (five issues) Timely series. It looks like Stan Lee's attempt to copy the success of Gilberton's Classic Illustrated comics: the first four Ideal stories were subtitled "A Classical Comic" and featured the adventures of historical characters from roast-a-riffic Joan of Arc to played-by-Sean-Connery Richard the Lion-Hearted, until it changed to an all-romance format as the long-running series Love Romances. (As opposed, natch, to Hate Romances.) Therefore, I'd guess ish #1's spotlight on Antony and Cleopatra technically isn't part of the Marvel Universe, but it's my column and I say it is so yah boo.


Caesar (played by National Treasure Patrick Stewart) gets put into the friend-zone by Cleopatra, Queen of Denial. Ouch! No wonder he starved himself to have that twenty-two inch waist, huh? Although that in no way explains his elaborate tablecloth toga. Is that the Caesar tartan, Julie?


Caesar and Cleo never saw each other again after about page six of this comic. Moral of the story: keep in touch via Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or your social media of choice.


From this point in (Marvel) history, Caesar is frequently seen through the eyes of others. Here he crosses paths with Nova-nemesis The Sphinx...


Panel from Fantastic Four (1961 series) #212 (November 1979), script by Marv Wolfman, breakdowns by John Byrne, finishes by Joe Sinnott, colors by Carl Gafford, letters by John Costanza

...and the man known as Maha Yogi aka The Mad Merlin. Not to be confused with the Brady Kids arch villain, the Mad Marlin.


Panels from Incredible Hulk (1968 series) #210 (April 1977), script by Len Wein, breakdowns by Sal Buscema, finishes by Ernie Chan, colors by Glynis Wein, letters by John Costanza

Here we see another nigh-'un-immortal being known as Cole (historical inspiration for the Old King? Must look this up later), who also sees Caesar being stabbed in the Senate. Judging from the sight-lines, he and Maha Yogi musta been looking right at each other. Awk-ward!


Panels from Cable #96 (October 2001), script by Robert Weinberg, pencils by Michael Ryan, inks by Ted Pertzborn and Harry Candelario, colors by Avalon Studios, letters by Richard Starkings

yes, even Robert E. Howard's delicious breakfast sandwich Bran Mak Muffin Morn encountered Caesar, and so violently that his caption box got hit by an earthquake!


Panel portion from "Men of the Shadows!, Part 4" in Savage Sword of Conan #106 (November 1984), script by Roy Thomas, pencils and inks by Gene Day

Why, even Dr. Stephen Strange meets Julius Caesar! Thankfully, Caesar, unlike Benjamin Franklin, doesn't try to put the moves on Clea. Maybe because he has his own Clea-patra right there with him. I will now pause while you all audibly groan at that pun.


Panel from Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #33 (September 1991), script by Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas, pencils by Chris Marrinan, inks by Mark McKenna and "friends", colors by George Roussos, letters by Pat Brosseau

Huh wha WAIT when the Sam Scratch did Doc Strange meet Cleopatra? Surely it wasn't that time Wong got him hooked on Tinder?!? No, actually, it was early in Doc's career, when he still couldn't afford an entire comic book to himself and had to sublease along with Johnny Storm inside Strange Tales.

No no no, that's not the mysterious woman from the beginning of the New 52 who turned out to be Pandora...it's Cleopatra! And apparently she's been shopping for robes at Brother Blood's garage sale.


Panels from "The Lady From Nowhere" in Strange Tales (1951 series) #124 (September 1964), co-plot and script by Stan Lee, co-plot and pencils by Steve Ditko, inks by George Roussos, colors by Stan Goldberg (?), letters by Sam Rosen

So long Cleopatra! You shall never be seen by a Marvel Superhero again!


Oh, except for Iron Man.


Panel from "The Mad Pharoah!" in Tales of Suspense (1959 series) #44 (August 1963), plot by Stan Lee, script by Robert Bernstein, pencils and inks by Don Heck, letters by Sam Rosen

But these are all taken-out-of-chronology tales of Cleopatra. As we've seen in the works of Shakespeare, Cleopatra died at the hands of the Anti-Monitor a snake in 30 BC. But that never stops a Marvel Comics characters. So what did Cleo get up to after that?

Why, she became one of several handmaidens of Venus.


Panels from Venus #1 (August 1948), creators unknown (inks possibly by Lin Streeter (?))

Cleopatra, beautiful Egyptian queen! Helen of Troy, stunning inspiration for that one episode of Star Trek! Salami, delicious deli lunchmeat! They're just three of ten handmaidens in Venus's starting game line-up of handmaidens! That's five maidens per hand; one per finger. I'm gonna guess they all work in shifts.


Venus's ten handmaidens never appeared in Agents of Atlas, and I think we're all the poorer for that omission. Here's a further handmaiden happearance that fills in some more of the missing maidens: Madame du Barry, Juliet Britney Capulet, Isolde, and Circe. Hey wait, isn't the Marvel Universe Circe actually Sersi of the Eternals? I'm not buying that a Jack Kirby heroine is simply moonlighting as a handmaiden. Especially once we see Venus hired them mainly to answer her fan mail.


Panel from "Beauty for Everyone!" in Venus #9 (May 1950), pencils by Werner Roth (?)

And she makes them work all night. I'm pretty sure that's against the Handmaiden Labor Law of 72 BC, Venus.


Then all the handmaidens are recruited to give their "special gifts" to Etta Candy, apparently. Cleopatra's gift to this mere mortal? Her "personality." Yep, yep: I'm so sure Caesar and Antony were all up there interested in her personality.


HAPPY ENDING EVERYBODY


A couple new additions to the Legion of Super-Handmaidens in Venus #11 brings the canonical named number up to the previously stated ten with scraping'-the-bottom-of-the-mythical barrel Liti (who?), not-suitable-for-the-Comics-Code Bilitis, and Psyche. Frankly, at this point I woulda picked Lauren Bacall, Pam Grier, and RuPaul to fill out the roster, but I'll leave that to the inevitable All-New Handmaidens of Venus reboot series coming in 2016.


Panels from "The End of the World!" in Venus #11 (November 1950), pencils and inks by Werner Roth

Eventually, of course, just like her interdimensional lover Jonah Hex, Cleopatra's body is stuffed and displayed in a museum.


Panel from "Whacks' Museum" in Crazy (1953 series) #3 (February 1954), pencils and inks by Bill Everett

Wait, I've gotten a little off the track. Enough Cleo, more Julius! Because now, the true origin of Julius Caesar! Who met the Fantastic Four. Well, hasn't everyone?


Panel from Fantastic Four (2013 series) #5 (May 2013), script by Matt Fraction, pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Mark Farmer, colors by Paul Mounts, letters by Clayton Cowles

So, as the story goes, work with me on this one, turns out that in 46 BC, Caesar's faithful steed Jumbo the Elephant tossed him head-first into a sharp pointy rock. And I think we all know how painful that can be. Luckily, and at least for the Marvel Universe, expectedly, a pink smoke alien took over his body and his life. Yep, National Inquirer readers, you were right: Julius Caesar was a space alien!


So yes, the Fantastic Four was there when Caesar was daggered to death all these years ago. Which begs the question: just who in the Marvel Universe wasn't there at the Senate on the Ides of March? I think if you look carefully, you can see Hawkeye and Howard the Duck hanging out in the background.


Shakespeare tells us that three beggars (Valeria's in the cart with Caesar) carted the ex-emperor's corpse out of the city, which, if you consider that his Roman play was first performed at the very end of the sixteenth century, Ben Grimm's entry in The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe should read "First appearance: Julius Caesar, 1599." take that, Namor!


After that, Caesar settled down to a life in the Marvel Universe of becoming an ultra-rich super-industrialist billionaire we never had heard of until Bendis mentioned him later in the issue.


Then he, in perhaps one of the greatest comic books of the twenty-first century, invites the Future Foundation to a pool party.


Panels from FF (2013 series) #9 (August 2013), script by Matt Fraction, pencils and inks by Joe Quinones, colors by Laura Allred, letters by Clayton Cowles

Caesar then becomes a tutor to the kids of the FF. Why don't they have desks? Has Reed Richards not invented desks yet?


Panel from FF (2013 series) #11 (October 2013), script by Matt Fraction, pencils and inks by Mike Allred, colors by Laura Allred, letters by Clayton Cowles

He bonds with Maximus the Mad over breakfast...


Panel from FF (2013 series) #12 (November 2013); story by Matt Fraction, Lee Allred, and Mike Allred; script by Lee Allred; pencils and inks by Mike Allred, colors by Laura Allred, letters by Clayton Cowles

...boils down the story's complicated Kirby-science, Stan Lee-style...


Panels from FF (2013 series) #13 (December 2013); story by Matt Fraction and Lee Allred; script by Lee Allred; pencils and inks by Mike Allred, colors by Laura Allred, letters by Clayton Cowles

...until he gets replaces by Space Alien Sun Tzu. Well, that'll happen.


Panel from FF (2013 series) #12 (November 2013); story by Matt Fraction, Lee Allred, and Mike Allred; script by Lee Allred; pencils and inks by Mike Allred, colors by Laura Allred, letters by Clayton Cowles
Panels from FF (2013 series) #14 (January 2014); story by Matt Fraction and Lee Allred; script by Lee Allred; pencils and inks by Mike Allred, colors by Laura Allred, letters by Clayton Cowles

So, there ya go: the tangled, torturous history of Julius Caesar in the Marvel Universe. Me, I'm hoping he eventually shows up in the pages of Squirrel Girl, but for the moment, the comics pages contain quite a few Caesarian Sections to enjoy.

So, don't forget to check out a baker's dozen more comic book Caesars in John's "Beware the Ides of March: 13 Comic Book Julius Caesars" over at 13th Dimension, and please join me here next year when I thoroughly examine the history of Julius Caesar in the Archie Universe!


Panel from "Ben Who?" in Reggie and Me #55 (May 1972), script and pencils by Al Hartley, inks by Joe Sinnott, colors by Barry Grossman, letters by Bill Yoshida



*Sovereign High-Rankin' Imperial Elegant Latin Dude

4 comments:

Bernard Sax said...

Why are all these time travelers always in Egypt and Rome within a couple decades of each other? Why is no one ever in Ankgor Wat? Or Timbuktu? Or Macchu Picchu? We've got a lot of civilizations here aliens!

Arynne said...

According to Richard of Gloucester, time-tourists are always bothering him, too. They keep asking him if he intends to kill his nephews. They were asking him that before he even had nephews. Fortunately, they always leave when he mentions Doctors.

Bully said...

Bernard: I think everybody keeps goin' back to Roman times because it means comic book creators don't have to research a whole new era! Haw!

Arynne: now I need to find a comic book with Richard of Gloucester in it!

Blam said...

Great piece, Bully! "Valeria's in the cart with Caesar" is going on my list of favorite secret-agent pass codes.