Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Five Favorite Marvel Legends (That I Own)

While my Marvel Legends collection doesn’t come close to rivaling my Flash figure army, I do try and grab one for the home team whenever I’m at a convention or see a sale at a toy store, a task made pretty easy by the fact that I really dig this line.

Though I don’t have the cash to be the completist I’d like to be when it comes to Legends, I’ve still got my favorites and the ones I either found cheap or can’t remember why I bought them (well, I got Emma Frost and X-23 for Megan because she liked them; I’m not sure why I have a Beta Ray Bill—oh right: BECAUSE HE’S A HORSE WITH THOR’S POWERS).

This is the part where I ask my friends who know way more about toys and how to write about them to humor me…

I’ll be honest: I’m not as over the moon about the Nova figure as I should be given that it’s a Nova figure, however, as I just said, it’s a Nova figure, so it’s still pretty awesome and thus gets an honorable mention. I also dig that they went with the classic costume.

I waffled a few times on whether DD was number five or not, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that at least 60% of what makes the figure cool is the neat stained glass window display I can hang him on my wall with, so it’s almost like he used a performance enhancer.

You can’t pose or move The Thing around much, but you don’t need to because he’s a big, bad ass looking rock dude who stands out amongst your collection no matter where you plop him down. One of my favorite head sculpts of the whole series, as something about those eyes and that scowl really capture the character perfectly. Also, his broken wall backdrop is generic, but for whatever reason, it works.

Despite no particular interest in the character himself besides a barely cursory one, I think Captain Marvel’s blue, red and gold costume is easily one of the best designs maybe of all time, so a figure that gets it right as this one does is a guaranteed hit for me. Little details like the starburst and Nega-Bands being just the right shade of gold to stand out but not overwhelm are the icing on the cake. I also like that he’s pretty easy to pose and you can go with either the arms akimbo or “looking off into space” look (I chose the latter).

Another great costume that thrives on simplicity, another translation Marvel Legends did seamlessly. You’d think a basic black and white color scheme would be tough to screw up and easy to ace, but the way the lines on Bullseye’s suit jump out rather than blend in, particularly around his neck and shoulder, show how the right craftsmen can use the simplest tools to make magic. That super-pissed off look is the biggest component to both making the figure pop and also infusing the character’s personality right in there; there’s an even angrier variant out there, but this one does it for me.

One of my favorite characters, another of my favorite costumes, and thus of course one of my favorite Marvel Legends (and among the first I ever got). Unlike some of the other figures I just mentioned, Hawkeye does have a lot of intricacies to his look, and the folks who made the figure are exacting down to every nook, cranny and piece of chainmail; something as seemingly trivial as using rubber for the flap that hangs off his tunic rather than a harder plastic really makes a difference—don’t ask me why. But the best thing about Hawkeye is, of course, his accessories, which include a full quiver of trick arrows highlighted by one with a tiny Ant-Man hanging off it. The one downside to Hawkeye is he’s a bitch to pose, but once you get the right one, if you just leave it alone, he looks great.

As with most material possessions I value above other similar objects, I probably can’t tell you precisely why Iron Fist is my favorite Marvel Legend that I own, he/it just kinda is. Again, great costume, but not necessarily better than Captain Marvel’s or Hawkeye’s. He also has a cool pose—vintage Kung Fu—but not so much cooler than others. The flame fist accessory is a nice touch, but it’s no Ant-Man arrow (he also comes with more flames that I’m not sure how they fit on the figure, so they’re just lying around my house somewhere). Yet, for whatever reason, when I look at all my Marvel Legends, Iron Fist is the first one that catches my eye. Maybe it’s that yellow and green are such an odd and ostentatious color scheme? Maybe it’s that he’s got a big ass collar and giant v-neck? Who knows, but I know what I like, and I like this figure.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lynn Phegley Watches "Lost" - 3 Episode Extravaganza!!!

My mom's name is Lynn Phegley. She teaches music to elementary school kids in Grand Blanc, Michigan. She likes classic Hollywood musicals, trashy romance novels and "Sex In The City."

And for some reason she's seen damn near every episode of "Lost."

This week, our ongoing "discussion" is back with a special three-fer installment discussion the past few episodes that I've been unable to blog due to work and computer malfunctions (more on that tomorrow...I think). Surprisingly, I think mom's kind of starting to enjoy this in the last few weeks. Maybe. Sort of.

Thanks as always to this site for the screencaps.

Let's begin.


[Me: "So, now where we're at is that Desmond knows about the parallel universe."]

"No he does not! That's not what he knows. Anyway, I think he's just going along on the Island no matter what. 'OK, now this' and 'OK, now that.' That's a goofy idea you have. Desmond as the fixer? I don't think so. I think it's the physicist. 'The Physicist In The Library With The Candlestick!' That's what they did with this story. They played a game of Clue, and at the end they went ' was the candlestick.'"

[Me: "But now Desmond is going to go around in the Flash Sideways and get John Locke and Ben and Jack and whoever to remember The Island and get all back together."]

"That's what you think is going to happen? They already got everybody back together in another universe! That's no good. The flash world isn't real. Oh, good grief. I think you're insane. You haven't been right about anything this season. You didn't know they were in Hell!"

[Me: "They're not in Hell."]

"I'm in Hell! Watching this stupid show! All the people at school say, 'If we weren't invested in this, we'd quit watching.' This was so boring, I couldn't believe it. Sitting through this for an hour is like torture."

[Me: "How is this boring? We've got Charlie and Desmond who were once best friends and now are antagonizing each other and driving off a dock. We've got Eloise telling Desmond to leave well enough alone. Who knows why she knows everything."]

"It's because she's a mother. Mothers know everything."


"It's kind of unusual who's showing up from the past."

[Me: "Well, the fans have been asking for Libby for a while, but they said the actress wouldn't do it."]

"Hm. Well, it was kind of interesting tonight at least. I guess. I mean, he hit Locke with a car. That was strange. Did you get my text? Did you laugh or did you cry? I didn't think it was too exciting this week, but it was kind of interesting at least. Last week was kind of a bore. Tonight I liked better.

"But like I said, if this was a novel I would have skipped to the end and then go back to read it. I skip to the end, you know. But I guess it'll keep me here another week."


"I agree with Jimmy Kimmel. He said something like, 'I watched Lost...I don't know what really happened, but I watched it. I don't know what's going to happen to anybody, but I'm going to keep watching it.' That's exactly how I feel. I was up watching Jimmy because of Kate Gosselinwho got kicked off 'Dancing With The Stars.' That poor woman has no personality!

"That one thing at the end was right, Locke goes, 'You're with me now.' I think that what's his name, Sawyer, had it figured out, but then Jack went cuckoo bird and jumped off the boat."

[Me: "But Sawyer and all them got double-crossed!"]

"Those people are the pawns in the situations. There's the Widmore pawns and then there's Kate and Sawyer and the pilot. At least Jin and Sun got back together. And crazy Claire is with them! There's something bad going to happen there.

"I think with Sayid...well, whatever happened to Desmond. Did he kill him? Desmond asked 'What about the woman you love? What will she say?' and that was all they showed, right? I blinked off for a moment. I was playing solitaire on my iPhone.

"[This show now] it's interesting, except there's something about the sideways reality, too. Before we didn't notice, but it kind of had more of a timeframe. It's just like one week. Something was said about 'One week ago I was in Australia.' That's important somehow, but I have no idea what it's all supposed to mean."

Earth's Mightiest Sketch Blog: Captain America

Jack Kirby's design for Captain America's costume has always been one of my quiet favorites in comics. That it was conceived so much in an ultra-patriotic era of jingoism yet has remained consistently popular and rarely been deviated from speaks to the strength of just how cool it looks. Who else but Kirby could make a guy wearing an American flag a pop icon outside the United States?

I did kinda a quickie sketch on this one, basically just taking a Gabrielle Dell'Otto Secret War cover and stripping down all the tricky details that make him a professional artist and me a guy drawing in my sketchbook...

I'm pleased with my effort, but I think a lot of that owes not only to aping Dell'Otto, but, again, the inherent quality of that Kirby design; it's just tought to screw up.

I will say this sketch showed me that Captain America just doesn't work as well for me in black and white or grey tones. I can do without the chain mail or glint off the cowl, but there's something about the balance of the red, white and blue that really does make it pop.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Coulda Beens

Writing the other day about Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk’s various attempts to inject new blood into the Marvel Universe during their Web of Spider-Man run got me to thinking about the other various characters to debut in the 90’s (and earlier) heralded as “the next big thing” who either promptly went nowhere or settled comfortably into a role as the occasional guest star or reserve team member.

Comics is of course littered with literally thousands of concepts that never achieved the success their creators intended and you could probably sustain a blog for years on those alone (I’m sure somebody out there does). I can think of a few in particular though that I thought had squandered potential or came along either at the wrong time or wrong place to go all the way (and I’m not just talking about X-Treme); some of these characters have enjoyed a modicum of success, but certainly nowhere near what could have been.

I’ve spoken of my affection for Richard Dragon before, which runs alongside my thing before Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, and both mostly amount to this: there are guys out there in the DC and Marvel Universes who aren’t particularly well-known or “A-list” but who are better in hand-to-hand combat than their more well-known contemporaries. Same deal goes for Bronze Tiger, but he’s also got the added benefit of a far more interesting and conflicted back story as a former compatriot of Dragon who was captured and brainwashed by Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins, forced to become a killer, actually beat Batman, then broke free and sought redemption as a member of the Suicide Squad. Now there’s enough there for a solo series to run at least a couple arcs in my opinion, but if not, why would “guy who beat Batman” not be enough to at least get the Justice League to read your resume? Yeah, there’s the whole “former assassin” thing, but that just adds to the potential drama.

Once he shed his persona as a substitute Thor and gained his own heroic identity, Eric Masterson had the misfortune of receiving a horribly dated 90’s costume complete with sleeveless leather jacket, pierced ear and pony tail—and I’m convinced this had far more to do with his lack of longevity than anything else. Because when you look at the idea behind Thunderstrike—a “street level” Thor who has the power of a god but walks among mortals and deals with legitimate issues—it’s a solid one that I think could have been made to work given more of a chance. Masterson was also already a pretty well-liked character during his time headlining the main Thor title, so he had something of a built-in fanbase; again, it was just bad timing. Thunderstrike came along at a time when the market was barely supporting one Thor title, let alone ready to propel another to success, and again, little things like the visuals just didn’t earmark the character for long-term success. Nowadays, with the Thor franchise more viable, I think Eric Masterson or Thunderstrike could fill a nice niche role bridging Asgard and Earth.

I never really followed any Valiant title too religiously, but if I had, I think it would have been X-O Manowar (or Harbinger, but probably X-O Manowar). When you take just a cursory glimpse at the character, he’s Iron Man but with the ultra cool twist of the dude in the armor being a freaking caveman who went into suspended animation for centuries and woke up in our time to become a businessman and super hero with his alien battle armor; he’s Captain America and Iron Man plus elements of Venom and Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer all mixed together! The guy also just looked rad, so if his IP is lying around out there somewhere, somebody with some cash and motivation should give it a look.

While original Spider-Woman Jessica Drew has been the recipient of a tremendous popularity resurgence in recent years, I always thought her successor, Julia Carpenter, had as much if not more going for her and it’s too bad she’s more or less in limbo now. During a period in Avengers lore when most of the female team members got short shrift in the 90’s, Julia was portrayed as professional and confident and I always felt it was a nice moment when the main team shut down the West Coast branch yet invited her to stay on (and then she turned them down). Her being a single mom who was committed to raising her daughter not fully divorced from her costumed career also made her unique in those halcyon days. She’s also got neat psychic web powers plus a dynamite costume, so surely there’s a place for her somewhere outside of Canada?

For years, the second character known as The Ray has coasted on the fact that Joe Quesada originally designed him with an awesome look both powered-up and just in costume to remain at least on the periphery of the DC Universe whether as part of the Justice League, Young Justice or the Freedom Fighters. However, those who followed Ray’s somewhat surprisingly long-lived solo series in the 90’s probably had higher hopes for him to become a breakout star on his own, much as I did. In addition to the great visuals Quesada gave him, Ray also had a nice stretch of character development by Christopher Priest that included major daddy issues with his Golden Age heroic father, a childhood that saw him raised in virtual isolation, and a doomed love life that somehow included a fling with Black Canary. Ray has that nice balance of legacy and uniqueness that I feel like should translate to another shot in the spotlight, or at least a prominent role in one of the two Justice Society books.

Now it may seem somewhat unfair to place Stryfe on this list due to the fact that he was a primary villain in a semi-major X-Men crossover less than a year ago, but nonetheless, the guy was a big-time personal favorite of mine—and many other—as a kid, and I think we all had bigger things mapped out for the Chaos Bringer in our heads. He made such a blockbuster debut in X-Cutioner’s Song (ok, technically he had been around a few years at that point, but just as an ancillary X-Force villain, not a real deal X-Men baddies) that I think we were all pretty sure we had the next Magneto or Apocalypse on our hands. Yeah, his name was a bit corny and he lacked the big picture motivation of the other villains I just mentioned, but Stryfe was a step above the generic schemers populating the X-books at the time based on his deeply personal connections to characters like Cyclops and Jean Grey and the motivation he derived from therein. He was hugely powerful, spoke like an over-the-top lost work of Shakespeare and when rendered right his thousand-angled costume looked bad ass. However, after his big crossover tour de force, he settled back into being just Cable’s personal nemesis, and then died a couple times without much fanfare before fading from collective memory. His return in Messiah War was much-welcomed from where I sat and he was handled perfectly by Duane Swierczynski, Chris Yost and Craig Kyle, but I hope there are more plans for him beyond sitting in an apocalyptic future somewhere, since even if his full potential may never be realized, Stryfe is too good a bad guy to let rot on the vine.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Web of Warrant

For those who thought this post would be about the 80’s glam metal band, I apologize. It’s more tangentially about this guy.

I had certainly not thought about short-lived Spider-Man sorta-villain Warrant since I first encountered him back in 1994, but Jim Beard’s Archrivals feature on the shared history of Spidey and The Lizard last week brought him back into my life somehow. I’m astonished to learn from Comic Vine that the guy actually made five more appearances outside of the ones I own (some in Handbooks and stuff, but still), but we’ll circle back around to him in a bit.

As I’ve covered in part here before, my comic book buying habits back around the time I was 12-13 were pretty haphazard for lack of a better term. I had my perennial favorites like the X-Men titles, New Warriors, Superboy and the like, but aside from that, I was prone to sampling any super hero stuff that jumped out at me, typically in staggered chunks. What I mean by that is I’d buy Thor for a few months because a cover caught my eye, then when I saw a logical jumping off point, I’d ditch that and replace it with something else I wasn’t reading like Green Lantern.

There were some books I’d stay pretty consistent with just because as a still relatively new fan they felt like stuff I needed to be reading; I’d always have at least one Superman book on my “pull list” (I didn’t actually use a pull list, but let’s imagine), one Avengers, one Justice League and so on (oddly enough I never remember collecting any Batman titles on the regular, just ancillary stuff like Robin and Catwoman).

Amazing Spider-Man was my token Spidey book. I’d never been that into the character (though in finally reading the original Stan Lee-Steve Ditko run for the very first time over the past couple weeks, I’ve starting to develop a genuine appreciation—a topic for another day), but felt he was integral enough to comics and the Marvel Universe that I should at least follow his flagship title. Also, I loved (and still do love) Mark Bagley’s art.

However, one comic I was onboard with was Infinity Crusade, Jim Starlin’s annual Marvel cosmic crossover, so I ended up picking up a lot of random titles I wouldn’t normally give a glance (hello, Darkhawk) on the basis that they tied in. Spidey’s Infinity Crusade crossovers took place in Web of Spider-Man, so I grabbed those issues; and strangely enough, I ended up sticking around for more than a year on the tertiary (maybe) title of a character I was pretty meh on to begin with.

When Web of Spider-Man kicked off in 1985—replacing Marvel Team-Up as the third monthly Spidey title alongside Amazing and Spectacular Spider-Man—it carved something of a niche for itself by featuring stories of a slightly darker and more psychological bent written by guys like Peter David and James Owsley (the future Christopher Priest). This direction didn’t last more than a year or two before it just became another Spider-Man book during a time when those happened to sell well (one of the earliest comics I ever remember owning is Web of Spider-Man #39, featuring Spidey against The Looter by Fabian Nicieza and Alex Saviuk).

By 1993, Web took a backseat not only to Amazing and Spectacular with their longer pedigrees, but also the simply-titled Spider-Man which had been launched amidst much fanfare by Todd McFarlane and the new quarterly book Spider-Man Unlimited. It was then that I encountered the series in the midst of the Infinity Crusade, written by Terry Kavanagh and still being penciled by the venerable and talented Mr. Saviuk.

I give credit to the creative team, the editors, or whoever was responsible at the time, but they sure as heck convinced me to hang with Web even after the trippy Infinity Crusade tie-ins (which featured Spidey hallucinating on another planet that he is battling oddly-costumed versions of his supporting cast who are in reality an odd potpourri of characters like Sasquatch, Moon Knight, Quicksilver and Archangel—long story). They did this by promoting the heck out of each subsequent story arc, planting seeds the way a good episodic ongoing series should and then hyping the hell out of stuff in the letters pages, in Marvel Age, and son on.

And the thing is it was stuff that should not have mattered to me in the least! I’m not really a Spider-Man guy, what do I care what’s going on with The Sandman or The Lizard? Yet these folks were good at what they did, because when it made all the sense in the world for me to kick my $1.50 to She-Hulk or Detective Comics, I ended up staying with Web of Spider-Man far longer than intended.

Perhaps equally noteworthy to what a solid hype job the people running Web of Spider-Man did monthly was how despite some generally decent stories and well thought-out origins, the new characters they were cranking out on the whole really went nowhere beyond their introductory arc.

First up after Infinity Crusade was the introduction of the new villain Sandstorm, a sort of next generation Sandman who also incorporated the powers of Thor (?) adversary Quicksand to be three times as sandy or whatever. It was a noble attempt at creating something new out of the well-worn ashes of the old, but I pretty quickly forgot about Sandstorm (as did the rest of comicdom as I’m fairly certain he never appeared again), recalling more how Web’s new inker, Stephen Baskerville, added a dimension to Saviuk’s pencils I’d never seen somebody in his position do before, giving me a whole new appreciation of that particular craft.

Again, another good chance to jump off with Sandstorm having come and gone, but the build was already in overtime for “The Savaging,” a story that promised to “change The Lizard forever.” I don’t think I had even ever read a story with The Lizard at that point in my life, but for whatever reason, I was hooked once more.

I actually quite enjoyed the lead-in prologue to “The Savaging,” where Lizard killed Calypso in the back-up story, but the main had Spidey and a personal favorite of mine, Night Thrasher of the New Warriors, having their only team-up I can recall against The Shocker, another villain I knew zilch about but he’s got a rad costume.

“The Savaging” proved a bit of a let-down for me (which shouldn’t have been terribly surprising given my aforementioned apathy for all fictional parties involved), made memorable by some really good art and the introduction of the guy who kicked off this trip down memory lane, Warrant, an oddly-designed stock mercenary character who nonetheless remains burned into my memory to this day.

I skipped Web of Spider-Man #112, which was part of the “Pursuit” crossover with the other three Spider books and a sign of things to come both in terms of structure and tone (Spidey had just lost the robots he thought were his resurrected parents and was headed down a dark path—another long story). However, #114 had not only Gambit and The Black Cat in the first part of a new story called “Live and Let Die,” but also a silver foil cover! It was 1994 and you didn’t say no to stuff like that.

Gambit bolted Web after that first chapter, but “Live and Let Die” was actually a neat little mystery featuring another new villain, the armored Façade, who was teased as being any of several candidates thrown out through the arc. Frustratingly, Façade’s identity was not revealed by story’s end and in fact I know I’m not the only one who still thinks about it to this day as one of the Handbook-style specials (I believe the Dark Reign one) featured an in-joke about Façade on the intro page though he, again, has not appeared since.

I quit Web of Spider-Man with the conclusion of “Live and Let Die” in issue #116, which also happened to be Alex Saviuk’s swansong as series artist after like six years. I was gradually phasing into buying less at the time and the Spider-Man titles were also adopting the mid-90’s Superman structure of telling stories spread over the course of all four monthly books as opposed to each having their own direction, so I wasn’t really into that (it was also the start of the Clone Saga, though that wasn’t really a factor for me).

Random though it was, I look back on my year-long run as a reader of Web of Spider-Man kinda fondly. It was an odd little book that didn’t really have a place by the mid-90’s, but guys like Terry Kavanagh and Alex Saviuk did their damndest to carve one out anyways. Sure, Sandstorm, Warrant and Façade never became household names, but credit for trying to add something new into a mythos as rich as Spider-Man’s and give something back to the Marvel Universe.

Now to track down Terry Kavanagh and find out who the heck Façade is once and for all…

Friday, April 23, 2010

Art Attack: July 2010's coolest covers

July is a pretty huge month as we celebrate the birthdays of both America and one of her greatest heroes, Rickey Purdin.

Looking at the comics upcoming this summer, it's gonna be a good one, and there are 25 covers that have me particularly psyched for July.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #639 by Paolo Rivera
BATMAN: ODYSSEY #1 by Neal Adams
BATMAN: THE WIDENING GYRE #6 by Bill Sienkiewicz
BOOSTER GOLD #34 by Kevin Maguire
DEADPOOL CORPS #4 by Rob Liefeld
DETECTIVE COMICS #867 by Peter Nguyen
GORILLA MAN #1 by Dave Johnson
MADAME XANADU #25 by Mark Buckingham
THE MURDER OF KING TUT #2 by Darwyn Cooke
SCARLET #1 by Alex Maleev
SECRET AVENGERS #3 by Marko Djurdjevic
SHADOWLAND #1 by John Cassaday
SUPERMAN #701 by John Cassaday
UNCANNY X-MEN #526 by Terry Dodson
USAGI YOJIMBO #130 by Stan Sakai
VENGEANCE OF THE MOON KNIGHT #10 by Francesco Mattina
WOLVERINE: WEAPON X #15 by Ron Garney
X-MEN: LEGACY #238 by Leinil Francis Yu
YOUNG ALLIES #2 by David Lafuente
Deadpool, Rob Liefeld and the cover to Guns N Roses' Appetite for Destruction all together again--for the very first time?! 90's-tastic!