Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poetry

Separated.


Words fail me.

My voice seems a weak, discordant thing.

Mangled, quiet, confused.

Echoing in my head repetitively.

Betrayed by words

Frightful things

Can kill you

But never in your power

A source of deception

Self-deception

Delusion


To own a thing by naming it

To capture its essence in a sound

Reduced the sound to abstract symbols

And train your mind to think the word was greater than the reality.


----


Alone.


I live a life with a cardboard cut out.

A place holder.

An imaginary friend

Who I forget is there.


I lie in bed at night with pillow on either side of me

Large pillows that feel like another body next to me

Which ever side I want to sleep on

I have a pillow to hold.

I can't sleep without the sound of a running ceiling fan.

It drowns out all other sound

Like a heart beat or another breath.


I never cook

But I love to cook.

I love to experiment with cooking.

But when you don't have much money

And only yourself to feed

There is no need to impress anyone

And I don't feel the same sense of satisfaction

From delighting my own taste buds.


I take a lot of pleasure from the emotions of others.

I live vicariously through them.

I love to watch TV shows or movies with friends.

Their laughter makes things funnier

Or maybe I'm just laughing at how hard they are laughing.

Women get more emotionally involved with films.

It is fun when they become emotionally attached to entirely fictional events.

I'm a little too detached, I think.

Without company, television and movies aren't much fun.


The conversations I miss most of all.

Our conversations seemed to go on forever.

Or is my memory wrong?

Were there many uncomfortable silences

Or periods when we were just plain boring?

I don't remember it that way.

I remember long-winding conversations spiraling to and from every point

From irrelevant pop culture to social observations to spiritual philosophy

Nothing left unexplored

And no end in sight.


The mornings are always disappointing.

I never remember a dream

But wake with my mind racing

On trivial things

The same things I think of when I'm awake.

Morning wood tempting me

I sometimes resist.

But usually I lie deep under the covers

My sore eyes struggle to focus on the alarm clock

I wake up way too early.

I always wake up way too early.
Waking, like sleeping, is a waiting game.

Staring at the clock for hours

Negotiating the minutes in my mind

But I always wait as long as possible

Gathering the blankets close around me to protect me from the morning air

Finally, I crawl out of bed frozen and with a haze in my brain.

I stumble into the bathroom

My eyes adjust to harsh white light.

I try to focus on the tub

And spot the daily trail of ants seeking water.

I try to drown as many as possible with the shower head.

It's an ugly way to start the day.

And I spend the time thawing

Trying to prepare for a new day

And knowing that when it is over

I have this to look forward to the following morning.


Showers are a much better thing to share.

A cramped, awkward, and dangerous shower shared

Is far better than a spacious one alone.

Someone to wash your back for you

And tweak your nipple when you aren't expecting it.

Warm, wet bodies.

Nothing quite like the sensation of a warm, wet, naked hug.

And is it my imagination

Or are people more beautiful in the shower?


----


Vanilla girl


She's a good girl.

I love her deeply.

The sweetest laugh.

Adoring eyes.

The brightest smile.


She thinks the world of me.

And attributes to me wisdom

That I doubt I have.


She holds me with affection

And fears I'll one day leave.

I hold her closer.

Protecting her like porcelain.


But all I want

What I really need

Is for her to hold me down.


I don't need much.

I don't want much.

A word.

A whisper.

Not a slap

But a tug on the leash.

A subtle reminder

That she holds me

Owns me.

Not because I let her

But because my heart does.


Only then can I be free.


That she would but think to claim me.

That she would choose to have me.

If she could only know

The power she possesses over me

If only she would claim it.


I long for the strength of surrender.

The feeling of purpose and dedication.

With the love that such a close bond must engender.


But I can only love you as a father does

Protecting but never nurturing.

Always guiding, but never guided.

Always responsible.

Always carrying the burden.


----


Floundering

What a wonderfully descriptive word

Like a fish lying on the dock

Desperate to return to the water

But not possessing a single muscle capable of navigating the alien landscape.

By chance alone

His floundering might enable him to reach the water

But when chance and strength fail

The fish stops struggling

Only a few flips and flops

More instinct than ambition

Until it is just trying to breathe

Eyes open

Always.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fantasy Comics

When I was a kid, I loved sword and sorcery tales... or "fantasy" as it was referred to in an overly simplistic way. (Really, aren't they all fantasies?) Maybe it was growing up in the country with acres to tromp across and sticks to act as swords, or maybe it was the hero's journey and exploring the world.

In any case, I would rarely write any similar stories, but mostly worked in science fiction or superheroes. But there are a couple ideas I've had bouncing around in the back of my head for a while...

The first is the story of a child hero who used to travel to a magical world of war and wonder (i.e. Harry Potter, Alice, or the Narnia kids). However, after puberty hit, he found that he could no longer return to that world and was stuck in his normal boring life where nothing he did really mattered. He tried to convince people of his childhood adventures, but all that came of that was being put on medication. So now our hero is in his late teens/early twenties and plagued by depression when the barrier between worlds starts to come down and evil creatures from the other side invade his world.

I'm not sure how I want to tell this story. I was thinking about having a different protagonist. Possibly a young girl who finds the young man and he acts as her guide. So his sub-plot would be about trying to reconcile who he was with who he is.

I was also thinking about how this world crosses over with ours. I was watching a special feature for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus when Terry Gilliam said something that interested me about how the villain of the piece corrupts the beauty of the fantasy world... and in the sketches, you can see a great staircase leading down to a beautiful river where a beautiful girl in a gondola is slowly floating down to an area in the river filled with scum, a tire, a shopping cart, and assorted other junk.

It occurred to me that the story could be about a battle between the fantasy world of childhood and the corrupt pragmatism of the "real world." Sort of "what it could be" versus "what it is." In that sense, it would fit the theme of the male lead personally and the story becomes something of an attempt to recapture the imagination he lost... possibly through the girl, if she is the protagonist.

The other idea I have falls along similar lines, but not so similar that I could combine the two. I've often questioned why the creatures of the fantasy genre are confined to medieval history and wondered what would happen if you followed such a world through the Renaissance, the Age of Exploration, the Wild West, and straight into present day. I imagined elves confined to reservations and "integrated" elves forming gangs in inner cities or just becoming bums. Then you would have dwarves, trolls, ogres, etc. When teenage girls get into magic, they really can fuck things up. There is a black market for things like unicorn horns or dragon's scales.

The protagonist of this story would be a cop, but in this world, the cops are like paladins. They look pretty much like a normal cop, but they know magic and carry enchanted items. Their badges have been enchanted with powers of protection, so when they refer to it as their "shield" it has a double-meaning.

Like the other one, I'm not sure where this would go, but I'd like to keep it in the crime genre with tongue-in-cheek fantasy references. The villain I imagine would be a sorcerer either collecting ingredients or carrying out a hit list. Maybe there would be an FBI investigator stepping on our hero's toes.

Anyway, I think these would both work well as comics and I'm surprised there aren't more fantasy comics. The genre lends itself to the medium very well with visually distinct creatures, heavy doses of action, and the ability to include lengthy exposition or character development.

Food for thought.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day dream

I've been having a reoccurring day dream where I'm a caveman at the dawn of man with pretty much nothing to separate me from any other animal. Not a single square inch of the Earth has been colonized, built upon, or even irrigated... not that I would know it. It is a time before words, much less laws, where all is feeling and emotion. There is no marriage or dating. We lie with whoever we want with no preconceived expectations. We hunt, fight, and live... but do not think. Not in the traditional sense. We feel and live by our emotions unrestricted by logic and reason.

Then I give that caveman a shave, separate him from his tribe, place him in an office and set him in front of a computer to answer tech support calls all day.

I have another reoccurring day dream. I'm a caveman raging and smashing everything around me because I don't know how to get home. I punch the computer screens. I overturn the desk. I stand on the rubble and scream furiously.

And everyone looks at me like I'm wrong.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wonder Woman and the Philosophy of Submission


Comicbookresources.com has been running a continuing article on Wonder Woman, supposedly to draw interest to the prominent, but rarely popular, character. Of course, I've ignored most of it, only glancing about for an article that talks about her controversial origins.

And I finally found one. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Everyone talks about Disney princesses...


... and what kind of example they set for young girls.

Well, what about Disney princes and young boys?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Meditations on Douglas Horton

"Being sorry is the highest act of selfishness, seeing value only after discarding it."

"Change occurs in direct proportion to dissatisfaction, but dissatisfaction never changes."

"Materialism is the only form of distraction from true bliss."

"No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys."

"The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Value of Math


I keep using math to make my work day seem shorter.

I'm two hours in.

There are three hours until lunch and three hours after that.

I'm a quarter of the way done.

I'm two hours away from the middle of the day.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marvel Comics and the Cowardice of Public Opinion

Marvel Comics lost a lot of my respect in 2006 with their political allegory event "Civil War." The plot of the story was that Congress passes the Super-Human Registration Act requiring all superpowered people to register their real name with the federal government or face imprisonment. The superhero community, accustomed to anonymity, are split between those who comply with the law and those who resist it.

It was a difficult year in the middle of a disastrous presidency and the story responded to many of the themes in the public consciousness. Like Jack Bauer's famous torture scene in 24, a lot of attention was placed on fiction as the barometer of our social values. Whether it was questioning torture, wiretapping, or foreign policy in general, the nation was asking how much of our civil liberties should be compromised for the sake of safety. It's an important question that deserves serious introspection, which it failed to deliver in almost every way.

The seeds for this event were set in earlier comics after the Avengers were disbanded. 2004's event comic was called House of M, featuring a reality in which mutants ruled the world, which ended with the near extinction of the species. This effectively removed mutants from the topic of discussion with the X-Men remaining neutral during Civil War.

This is important for one major reason. A major theme in the X-Men books is the Mutant Registration Act, a similar bill requiring mutants to register their identities and powers with the federal government. The X-Men have opposed it for some fundamental reasons. Primarily, to reveal oneself as a mutant (even with a government agency) is to place the individual in grave danger from prejudice and retaliation. Secondarily, there is the fear that registering mutants is one step away from drafting them for military service.

It would be hard to address the Super-Human Registration Act in a neutral way when the X-Men have been fighting the same thing as a form of prejudice for years. So rather than address the truth of the world they had created, they took the mutants from the playing field.

Leveling the playing field wasn't restricted to mutants. Spider-Man had recently joined the Avengers and, after losing his apartment and Aunt May's home, moved his family into Stark Tower. Tony Stark gave Peter a job and took care of him, so when Tony sided on the pro-registration side, Peter did the same.

On this, I call bullshit. Spider-Man's secret identity has been a vital part of the character since the very beginning and he has seen, time and time again, how dangerous it can be when people learn his secret. Furthermore, he has often been on the wrong side of the law and should know that is where he is most valuable. Of all the superheroes, he should be most opposed to a registration act. Even if he chose to register, he would still fight for the rights of others because he knows what it is like to be scared and on your own.

But Spider-Man is the Marvel Universe's everyman. We all see ourselves as Spider-Man so he is "neutral." In Civil War, he first sides with Tony Stark and even reveals his identity (which received much publication in the mainstream press) only to change his mind and join up with the resistance. Less than a year later, his identity would be secret once again due to magic.

When the event finally started, Iron Man represented pro-reg and Captain America represented anti-reg. While having Cap represent the resistance was a surprise, it didn't seem to be out of character considering Cap comics from the seventies and eighties which showed that Steve Rogers is willing to fight his leaders when he believes it necessary. The story ended with a big superhero brawl in New York City when Captain America is attacked by firefighters who point out the damage being done by the fight. Seeing the destruction, Captain America surrenders.

Despite having Captain America and Spider-Man (eventually) side with the anti-registration side, I think this was an especially insulting story to the liberal viewpoint. Even though the writer, Mark Millar, is a socialist, the story is a creation of media and reflects the cowardice of the media when they try to be politically neutral. Instead of allowing the events to unfold naturally, they gerrymandered their universe to create equal support on both sides of the issue.

At a time when real life civil rights were being trampled, Marvel Comics had the gall to say, "Fighting amongst ourselves isn't the answer." If this comic came out in 2002 or 2003, I would have expected that and maybe even understood, but in 2006, the patriotism of 9/11 had died down, but was still being used to justify the most inhuman activity. And as our pop cultural connection to morality and heroism, Marvel Comics essentially said, "Obey your country. Obey the law."

Two years later, following the aftermath of Civil War, the government and hero teams were infiltrated by alien shapeshifters seeking to destroy us from within. It was a sign of distrust from within the system following eight years of Bush's America. Immediately following, we were given Dark Reign, the current status quo in the Marvel universe where the villains have taken over and become the heroes. It is a truly cynical look at our system...

Just in time for a Democrat in office.

Marvel Comics isn't unique in this. I have noticed a growing number of films and television shows demonstrating a feeling of suspicion and paranoia toward the government. I'm reminded of a similar trend in the mid-nineties following the Reagan/Bush Sr. years where paranoia directed at the previous administration was most vocal in the Clinton administration. X-Files was the pinnacle of government paranoia in pop culture and The Matrix might have brought it up another notch or two.

So, the way it seems to work is that when there is a Republican in office, everything is gray and we need to put aside our differences for the common good. When there is a Democrat in office, the government is filled with corruption and is conspiring against us. Even when all evidence suggests that it should be the opposite.

So, Marvel Comics, I'm accusing you of political cowardice mandated by your bottom line. I'm sure you see no ethical conflict in this and you view me as just another politically-biased consumer, but I see you, through your greed, as justifying and supporting the civil rights abuses of the Bush administration, if only by your willingness to raise the issue and your inability to address it honestly. I also think that although Dark Reign was probably planned long before the presidential elections, your belated moral stand against corruption from inside the government fuels the illegitimate and dishonest paranoia against our current president.

If you are going to make events around important social issues, please be honest about it or else just stick to telling stories about guys in tights hitting each other. That seems to be more your level.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stephen Leacock quotes

I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so.

It takes a good deal of physical courage to ride a horse. This, however, I have. I get it at about forty cents a flask, and take it as required.

There are two things in ordinary conversation which ordinary people dislike - information and wit.

Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl.

Each section of the British Isles has its own way of laughing, except Wales, which doesn't.

He flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Genius

I'm writing a new series. I don't really want to, but I'm having trouble with my other projects. Astonishing Adventures is like moving a bad couch. I just can't get a good handle on it. Most Modern (the indie project I have yet to even talk much about) is a bit too whimsical and social, so it seems like something I might be able to write when my life is a bit more... well, whimsical and social.

Stargame work is on hold for me. I can't really be the one to push this along. I have an opportunity to pitch something to an assistant editor at Marvel, but the idea I had is getting worse and worse the more I think about it.

The only idea I'm really enjoying right now is a project that I've entitled "Genius." It's the story of Adam, a young college graduate whose mother died of a brain tumor while he was young, so the boy decided that he was going to find a cure for cancer. From these noble ambitions, he studied pharmacology and managed to get a job as a lab assistant at a leading pharmaceutical company.

As for his personal life, it isn't much: a roommate, his ex-girlfriend, and occasionally he talks to his dad on the phone. He has lived by the philosophy that the best way to solve all problems is by being the smartest man in the room and always looking for a smarter room.

The plot begins when Adam is accidentally exposed to a concentrated dose of an experimental drug named G3N5. After the initial exposure, he is sent to the hospital where he is given a clean bill of health... with the exception of a slight fever. Naturally, they send him home to recuperate.

At first, nothing seems any different, but he gradually starts noticing little things. At one point, he plays a game of chess with his neighbor, a champion who he has never beaten, and defeats him fairly quickly. He guesses that it was just luck, but as he goes through the supermarket, he realizes that he has calculated the cost of his cart including tax before reaching the register.

Before long, he is making money as a pool shark and a card counter or staying up all night reading Wikipedia, WebMD, and eHow. He learns a lot in a very short amount of time, but the knowledge makes the ignorance of others all the more obvious and frustrating. When he tries to learn about his own condition, he discovers that his company has been involved in many such accidents and is secretly doing research on pharmaceuticals for the military and designer drugs for the extremely wealthy. When the company realizes what happened to him, they frame him for murder and leak to the media that his mind has been deranged by chemical exposure.

Essentially, this is a "man on the run" story about the strengths and limitations of intellect. What does a man do when he is the smartest person on Earth and can't find a solution to his problems? It should prove a good topic for analyzing intelligence and drug use.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

X-Men Primer - Part 7

If you are confused now, you will hate this blog entry. Although Uncanny X-Men remained the number one selling comic throughout the '90s, there was considerable fan backlash to increasingly complex and confusing stories which either went unresolved or worse, poorly resolved.

While there are definitely some high points in this six year period, for the most part it will be remembered as the era that took the X-Men from the undisputed champion of comic book sales to just another comic book property.

And with that sterling introduction, we go to...

X-Men Prime

When we left off, we had just visited the dark alternate reality known as the Age of Apocalypse which was resolved in X-Men Omega. In order to capitalize on reader interest and refocus the franchise, they came out with another in the Greek character cycle. This was called X-Men Prime.

X-Men Prime brought us back to the regular world of the X-Men to show how things have changed... which is not all that much, aside from Cannonball moving from X-Force to become an official X-Man. The center piece of this issue is when Hank's girlfriend, the reporter Trish Tilby, goes on the news to report that the Legacy Virus has spread to humans. This causes an immediate backlash of anti-mutant paranoia which results in a young mutant being beaten to death by an angry mob.

But more meaningful for the reader is the introduction of the Age of Apocalypse refugees including Hank McCoy's infamous counterpart now known as Dark Beast (or sometimes Bete Noir), Nate Grey, Sugar Man, and Apocalypse's son, Holocaust. For reasons that escape me, the writers decided that Dark Beast and Sugar Man ended up twenty years in the past where Dark Beast created the Morlocks while Sugar Man was responsible for mutant slavery in Genosha.

Holocaust reappears in the present as little more than an extremely powerful skeleton. He is found floating above the Earth by the Acolytes who take him in, but this quickly results in a battle between himself and Exodus which destroys Avalon. As the space station collapses, Colossus takes the brain-dead Magneto to an escape pod and launches him to Earth.

Meanwhile, in X-Man #5 (the only title to survive the crossover), Nate Grey appears in Switzerland where he is naturally confused about the state of... well, reality. Fortunately, he meets a sexy redhead who can explain it to him. Unfortunately, that redhead is Madelyne Pryor. She is later revealed to be a psychic projection from Nate's subconscious creating a mother figure, but that never made much sense to me.

I really enjoyed the series at the time, but I have to say it never really went anywhere. I found Nate much more interesting than his gun-totting, futuristic counterpart. He is essentially just a lost and confused teenager with psychic powers to rival both Professor X and Jean Grey, but coming from an extremely violent world where hope is dead to a... less violent one is an interesting idea that was never fully explored.

Over in Uncanny X-Men, Beast, Bishop, and Psylocke are out in Jersey watching Pulp Fiction in its original theatrical release when they are interrupted by a meteor which turns out to be Juggernaut who was punched here all the way from Canada. When they ask him what happened, all he says is "Onslaught."

In other X-Men news, a series of attacks on humans and Morlocks lead the X-Men to discover an off-shoot of the Morlock's called Gene Nation. This crew was led by Marrow, a girl possessing external bone growths which could be used as weapons. The legacy of Marrow was not impressive. After a botched assassination attempt, Callisto flees to the X-Men where former Morlock leader in absentia, Storm, suddenly decides to defend her people. This leads to a duel between Storm and Marrow echoing her original fight with Callisto, however, this time she removes Marrow's heart. Marrow eventually recovers, having an extra heart as part of her mutation. She eventually comes under the tutelage of Callisto who tries to curb her extremist tendencies.

In Mexico, the escape pod carrying Magneto is discovered by a nun who nurses him back to health. Magneto, fortunately, seems to be suffering from amnesia. Even stranger, when his beard is shaven, it is revealed that he is much younger than before... approximately the age of most of the X-Men. After discovering his magnetic powers, he takes the name Joseph and heads off to find the X-Men, figuring he should seek out other mutants.

Meanwhile, Rogue is going a little crazy after kissing Gambit. She is aware of some dark secret, but not aware enough that she actually knows what it is... leaving the distinct impression that the writer doesn't know either. All that becomes clear is that it has to do with Mr. Sinister.

Back in Uncanny, Sabretooth finally makes his escape, attacking whoever he can in the process. The brunt of the damage is suffered by Psylocke who lies dying in the medlab while Angel looks on helplessly. At Wolverine's assistance, the two of them go to Chinatown to seek a mystic oriental cure for their mystic oriental comrade. With the help of Dr. Strange and Gomurr, they reach the Ebon Vein. Sacrificing a piece of his soul, Warren gives Betsy a new life and nifty tattoo.

But to me, this just made Psylocke even harder to explain. But it did make her darker and, in comic book math, dark = cool. The only real change to the character was her ability to meld in and teleport through shadows.

By the way, Sabretooth was recovered and sent to X-Factor where he was implanted with a control chip and put on a short leash. Between him and Mystique, it seemed that X-Factor was turning more and more into a team of mutant prisoners with their actions dictated by human concerns.

Meanwhile, Hank McCoy finally met his doppelganger when the Dark Beast captured Hank, locked him in a basement and hide him behind a brick wall. During this time, he died his fur blue and became a spy in the X-Men, although I'm not entirely sure why.

Over in Wolverine, fans were teased by this image of Wolverine with hoses attached to him evoking the image of the experiment which gave him his adamantium skeleton. The story follows Apocalypse's servant Ozymandias and Cable's son Tyler (yes, the Summers line gets even more complicated) as they attempt to graft adamanatium back onto Wolverine's bones. Along with some evil programming, they intended to make him Apocalypse's new Horseman of Death. Logan is apparently no equine fan because he rejects the adamantium, shooting it across the room as unbreakable spikes. In the process, Logan mutates into a creature more beast than man and unable to say much other than "grrr."

This follows a really bad habit in comics of offering something that everyone wants only to surprise you with something no one wants. The next few issues featured appearances from Daredevil's Elektra as she tried to reform him, but eventually this whole plot sort of fizzled out (most likely due to public backlash) and Logan just sort of became normal again.

In other mutant affairs, the Friends of Humanity, an anti-mutant hate group, were now stronger than ever as they announced the candidacy of Graydon Creed for president of the United States. The X-Men began to infiltrate the group and investigate their ties to the US government, particularly in a powerful new player by the name of Bastion.

Onslaught

The X-Men finally meet Onslaught when he launches an attack on the mansion. He takes them out fairly easily before revealing his true identity as Professor X. Over the course of this massive crossover which spills through almost every title in the Marvel Universe, it is explained that when Professor X wiped Magneto's mind, something new was created in the amalgamation of their psyches... a destructive entity based on the worst of both men. He consumed other psychics and absorbed their powers, particularly those of Nate Grey and the Fantastic Four's first born, Franklin.

The Onslaught Saga comes to a conclusion when the Avengers and Fantastic Four unite to take him down. Onslaught is destroyed, but in the process, so are all of Earth's greatest champions, namely Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four, and a few other Avengers. Soon after, Xavier surrenders himself to the law thereby taking responsibility for his actions.

This storyline was created as a lead-in to Heroes Reborn, an event designed to boost sales by outsourcing their properties to Image Comics. It was an interesting strategy to say that someone else can handle their characters better than them, but I imagine this had a lot to do with their recent bankruptcy filing. For one year, Image Comics produced Fantastic Four, Avengers, Captain America, and Iron Man using their top talent including Jim Lee and Rob Leifeld. For the most part, this was a failure although I personally enjoyed Fantastic Four quite a bit.

In the aftermath of Onslaught, public anti-mutant sentiment reached brand new heights. Most humans blamed all mutants for the death of their heroes making the Friends of Humanity in general, and Graydon Creed in particular, more powerful than ever. The X-Men continued to infiltrate the group, pretending to be mutie haters, particularly Bobby "Iceman" Drake who had become Graydon Creed's right-hand man. Yet after his father, a long-time mutant hating bigot himself, went on television in support of mutants following the Onslaught incident, Creed had his father beaten and killed, then left Bobby in the woods to find his father's body. He didn't know who Bobby really was. He just figured, like father like son.

This roughly coincided with the return of Warren's feather wings, which I can only imagine was due to the fact that real feathers look so much cooler than metal ones. Of course, the trade-off is that it once more makes Warren's powers seem comparatively weak to all of the other opponents they run into. It is a balancing act that they are still working on to this day.

Joining the X-Men following the Onslaught Saga was the mysterious Joseph who took to wearing a generic X-Men uniform and not adopting a codename. He soon became close to Rogue, echoing their relationship in Age of Apocalypse, and creating a love triangle with the now estranged Gambit. Using his magnetic powers and the Professor's alien technology, Joseph manages to give Rogue something Gambit never could... a normal kiss. The moment is soon interrupted by the Shi'ar Imperial Guard's Gladiator who transports them to an alien ship headed for deep space... but more on that later.

In X-Factor, Creed's candidacy comes to an abrupt stop when he is assassinated. Although this image implied Mystique's guilt, I'm not sure that the truth was ever revealed (can't even find it on Wikipedia), however the suspicion was clearly laid at Bastion's feet. This is probably just another plot hole that was more or less forgotten about.

Operation: Zero Tolerance

In the aftermath of the assassination, Bastion manages to institute Operation: Zero Tolerance which involves using Sentinel cyborgs called Prime Sentinels. These were placed in both volunteers and unwitting victims to capture or kill mutants across the country.

Things go bad pretty fast. Half the X-Men are gone in space and the other half get captured in the initial attack. It's even worse for X-Factor who is slaughtered by Sabretooth when he finally manages to escape. While the title limped on for another year, it might as well have been canceled here.

Interestingly, all hopes for stopping Bastion were laid on Iceman who formed a ragtag group of X-Men consisting of any mutant he ran across. The first was Dr. Cecilia Reyes, a force field projector who was recruited by Xavier long ago, but rejected his offer, having no interest in fighting people for a living. Instead, she chose a background in medicine which was destroyed by the Prime Sentinel attack. Before long, they were joined by Marrow, who had reconsidered her life choices with the help of Callisto and a chance encounter with Spider-Man. With the timely assistance of SHIELD and the US government, they manage to stay alive long enough for Bastion to be arrested and imprisoned. All in all, it is not their finest hour.

The Trial of Gambit

Meanwhile, at the Shi'ar homeworld, Rogue, Joseph, Gambit, Beast, Bishop, and Trish Tilby arrive at the far side of the galaxy only to discover the Shi'ar taken over by their old enemies, the Phalanx. In a battle that isn't worth mentioning, they won and returned to Earth... but became a little lost on the way... especially Bishop who did some unholy boot-knockin' with Deathbird then traveled the galaxy and ended up in the future for a while. In my opinion, he should have stayed there.

The other X-Men were soon captured by some old friends of Gambit who had never appeared before and would never appear again. They were hired to take Gambit to a cave in Antarctica where they once again encountered the android called Nanny. Here Gambit was held on trial for crimes against the mutant race by someone wearing the familiar guise of Erik the Red. In the course of the trial, it is revealed that Gambit was hired by Sinister to form the Marauders, leading directly to the Mutant Massacre that killed the Morlocks. Upon seeing what they had done, Gambit managed to save only one mutant, the child who would grow up to become Marrow. During the trial, the X-Men manage to escape, but leave Gambit behind. This show of disapproval lasted roughly two issues, but as they left, the identity of Erik the Red was revealed as Magneto... leading everyone to wonder just who the hell Joseph is.

The Slightly New, Slightly Different X-Men

Following Operation: Zero Tolerance, the team once more reformed, now with the addition of Cecilia Reyes, Marrow, and a character with the unfortunate name of Maggott. The character was never popular, his powers sucked, and he didn't last long, so the less said about him the better.

As for Cecilia Reyes, I always liked her and wish she had become a bigger part of the X-Men. Considering how often they sustained serious injury, it only made sense to have a full time doctor on staff. It was also fun seeing an X-Man who didn't really want to be an X-Man, but didn't have a whole lot of choice.

Marrow, on the other hand, quickly took over the role of the untrustworthy member of the team. Her feral nature brought to the group something that Wolverine had long lacked... an edge born from unpredictability. This was shown in one of the first issues when Wolverine picked a fight with Marrow to prove he is the alpha male. However, this backfires when she sticks one of her blades in his throat...

He got better.

Although Marrow quickly became unpopular, I kind of liked her. There was something to be said for her punk rock personality. Her own healing factor seemed to me more like a side-effect of her painful bone growths making her survive on pain. Sure, she could be a real bitch, but she had a pretty good excuse.

Mutant X

With the quality of the books falling by leaps and bounds, X-Factor and Excalibur were canceled, but for some reason, the adventures of Havok continued in a parallel universe under the title of Mutant X. The premise of the book was that, after an explosion where he was presumed dead, Havok awoke in another universe where he was leader of the Six, this universe's equivalent to the X-Men. Here Storm was still a vampire after her encounter with Dracula giving her the name Bloodstorm, Ice-Man's powers were out of control freezing anything he touches, Warren was called the Fallen (more demon than angel or machine), Hank was a mindless creature called Brute, and Havok himself was married to Madelyne Pryor.

Although the series started strong with a lot of promise, artist Tom Raney soon left and the writing skills of Howard Mackie gave us little more than random moments of "look at who is different in this world!"

The Mostly Old, Mostly the Same X-Men

Less than one year after the X-Men roster changed, it changed again as Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Colossus returned to the X-Men from Excalibur. By this point, Maggott and Cecilia had left leaving Marrow the only new X-Men.

In their first adventure, they are pitted against mutants claiming to be the X-Men and looking very much like an amalgamation of other X-Men characters. Their one claim to fame is that they are led by Xavier. However, we soon discover that he isn't really Xavier, but Cerebro having gained sentience and creating his own X-Men. Before long, the X-Men run into the Brotherhood of Mutants now run by the real Xavier who used their help to engineer his escape. They team up, destroy Cerebro, and now Xavier is back. All-in-all, a most forgettable adventure.

The Magneto War

The real story begins in the Magneto War when Magneto regroups his Acolytes and creates a giant machine to soup up his magnetic powers. Fortunately, the X-Men aren't the only ones out to stop him. Unfortunately, this story is mainly used to tie-up the Joseph plotline with a new character called Astra who supposedly cloned Magneto as a young man to make him younger and more powerful so that he could kill Magneto. Joseph dies reversing the damage done by Magneto, but is soon forgotten and never mentioned again. The only lasting reprecussions of this storyline is the decision by the UN to grant Magneto control over Genosha as a mutant safe haven... provided, of course, that he stop trying to destroy the world.

Well, the X-Men aren't happy about it, but they are soon whisked off to another dimension before landing in the Skrull homeworld of the past just as Galactus is about to eat the planet. If the words "Skrull" and "Galactus" don't register, don't worry about it. The only notable event here is Marrow being put in a Skrull healing chamber while fixes her mutation problem making her both pretty and nice. All-in-all, she becomes much less interesting. The X-Men hop into a Skrull ship and return to Earth, placing themselves in suspended animation so as to return to Earth in the appropriate time period.

The Twelve

They soon find themselves in another attempt to wrap up continuity as Apocalypse gathers "The Twelve" referring to twelve mutants that were important in some way when they were mentioned in a small piece of dialog over ten years ago. In the story, Apocalypse gathers the twelve as ingredients for creating his perfect vessel. Magneto and Polaris represent the magnetic poles; Storm, Sunfire, and Iceman represent the elements; and... well, I'm already bored. Wolverine is once more chosen as Death, but this time it works and he gets back his adamantium, to the joy of fans everywhere. Nate Grey is chosen as the vessel, but Cyclops leaps into the way thereby becoming Cyclopalypse who is either temporarily destroyed or defeated and runs off weakened.

The Return of Chris Claremont

Soon after, Marvel creates big hype with the return of Chris Claremont to the X-Men, but it turns out to be the biggest disappointment of the year. Whatever skills Claremont had had in his heyday had atrophied resulting in one dimensional characters, insubstantial villains, and way too much repetitive narration. Particularly jarring were the character summaries in every issue which became tedious to read over and over again. It was not an auspicious return.

Counter-X

Meanwhile in X-Force, Generation X, and X-Man, then hot writer Warren Ellis, fresh off of his groundbreaking work on The Authority and Planetary, is brought in to refresh these three failing titles. Unfortunately, his independent style mainly clashes in all three titles and before long, Generation X and X-Man are canceled. Nate Grey falls into comic book limbo, Generation X disbands, and X-Force... well, that's a story for the next blog.

Dream's End

Claremont's run soon winds to a close with Dream's End, a storyline centered around Senator Robert Kelly's bid for the presidency and Moira MacTaggert's attempts to cure the Legacy Virus. Both plans are interrupted by the Brotherhood of Mutants who kill Moira and blow up Muir Island. Professor Xavier's mind holds on to her as she slips away, leaving him with the cure that she had finally found, the only caveat being that it requires the sacrifice of a mutant life as the catalyst. The X-Men succeed in defending Kelly from the Brotherhood long enough for him to call for equal mutant rights, but he is immediately shot and killed by an angry human bigot. In the following story, Colossus injects himself with the cure for the Legacy Virus, sacrificing himself with the memory of his sister close in mind.

Eve of Destruction

Soon after, Cyclops returns from his amalgamated state with Apocalypse. Using their mighty psychic powers, Jean and Cable separate Cyclops from Apocalypse thereby returning things more or less to "normal." He returns just in time to launch a stealth attack on Genosha as Magneto rallies his mutant population for war with the human race. The fight is ended with Wolverine's claws severing Magneto's spine and leaving him, once more disabled... for the time being.

Next

The current and (in my opinion) greatest X-Men era. Come back soon for the conclusion to this X-Men primer... unless it ends up too long and I have to split it into two.

LINKS

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Part 8 (coming soon)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Astonishing Adventures: Mini-Profiles 2

Well, I thought I'd post another one of these mini-profiles to get myself energized to work on AA some more. As usual, the pictures below are NOT the characters, but representations I've managed to find through copious amounts of internet scouring.

Colonel Britton

When the Nazi's began bombing London, the British military recruited their most accomplished soldier into their special operations program... a precursor to a superhuman military force. The officer was also given the codename: Colonel Britton and an appropriate costume to encourage troop morale.

Although he is, in many ways, an Anglicized version of Captain America, the name comes from a popular radio broadcaster in Britain at the time.

Dr. Nefarious

Doctor Nefarious is an amoral eugenicist and experimenter who secretly works for the US government. His villainous identity was created as a smoke screen when the government began enlisting the Mechanist to clean up his mistakes. He is a strict Darwinist who believes that science is an extension of the natural process. Everything he does it justified by the natural order of things.

The Fairy Queen

My most recent creation. She possesses the ability to summon brightly colored fairies that do her bidding as well as reflect her mood. They may be real or they may be figments of her imagination, but either way, they can swarm an enemy like giant wasps.

G-Man

In a way, G-Man is ahead of his time because his name is completely ironic. He is J. Edgar Hoover's number one agent and he has been assigned to oversee the mystery man phenomenon. His real name is Dex Corrigan, but he took the name G-Man as a dig at the ridiculous names that the others take. He lacks the true adventurous spirit of a mystery men and will undermine their work if Hoover gives the order.

Lilith

Lilith is the assistant to Dietrich von Frankenstein, descendant of the original Victor von Frankenstein. She is hauntingly beautiful and brings a chill whenever she enters a room. One cannot help but feel close to death when she is around. If she has any special abilities, she does not show it. Most people think she is the creation of Dietrich, but the opposite is closer to the truth.

Miss Mercury

Another recent creation, Miss Mercury is a teenage super-heroine with some minor power or trinket that enables her to play with the big boys. As a junior member of the Allied Hero Brigade, she is kept from the worst of the action and assigned to one of the others at all times. She often travels to the states to promote war bonds, working women, rationing, and is involved with projects to reduce juvenile delinquency.

Pendragon

Hidden behind a full face mask marked with the royal lion crest (not seen because this isn't really him, natch), few people know who he really is, but like his name suggests, he is the returned Arthur Pendragon who was awakened in Avalon after England was threatened by the Nazi forces. His dialect is extremely old fashioned and he often does not understand "modern" ideas, but he is every bit the warrior you would imagine... with or without Excalibur.

Spitfire

This blonde tomboy is possibly the most talented officer in the RAF. She was there when the Nazis first attacked. Most of her friends are dead, but she is still shooting down Gerries over London. When the Allied Hero Brigade is formed, she is assigned as their senior pilot. Her name comes both from her personality and her plane.

The Templar

An old world aristocrat from Eastern Europe, the Templar is, as his name suggests, one of the Knights Templar who gained immortality from drinking from the Holy Grail... however not all of his mystic endeavors has been as successful. He is a practiced magician whose face was horribly scarred and hidden behind an iron mask.

Tigress

One of my favorite creations, Tigress is a high society socialite and daughter of a big game hunter. After her philandering husband donates a female tiger to a local zoo (supposedly in her honor), she starts to obsess over it. One day, it breaks out of the zoo and attacks her, but her husband shoots it. This is the moment of her breakdown. She sees herself in the noble, captured animal. She kills her husband and becomes a jewel thief.

Titan

One of the first to join the official US supersoldier program, Titan uses a special growth formula to exponentially increase his mass. Unfortunately, the drug is highly addictive and unstable. He is a good man who is a bit naive and completely unprepared for the demon he invited into his body.

Vesper

The daughter of a four-star general, Mary Jane was accidentally exposed to a chemical which made her invisible. Using this new power and the fighting abilities she learned from being in a military family, she took the identity of Vesper to fight criminals and spies. In her day job, she is a rising, young New York model. After joining the Allied Hero Brigade, she and the Enigma fall deeply in love.

There are more characters yet to be revealed, but for them, I don't have any pictures that are even halfway decent.

UPDATE: I have one more to add to this list.

Clara

The Mechanist created a Mechanical assistant by using his experimental "electronic brain." Unlike a computer, this system functions via complex electrical impulses that build their own pathways. As a result, their mental faculties are somewhat limited and they can exhibit seemingly random behavior. Whether this is a glitch or an evolutionary property is up to debate.