logo
logo
logo
logo
logo
logo
logo
logo
 
BACK TO ARCHIVES

A Personal Journey Through Comics History

Sometimes this column turns into a sort of weekly journal of comics-related thoughts. I like to try to avoid that when possible. Sometimes it's not possible--occupational hazard. Barbara and I are going on vacation for a while, and I got nothin'. But I wanted to leave Jason with something... I'm just going to start writing off the top of my head and see what I get. It is to be hoped that this'll get such fly-by-night exercises out of my head for a while.

Part of the reason I can't resist is that channel TCM with Robert Osborne is currently showing all three parts of Martin Scorcese's 1995 documentary about the films that are important to him on a personal level. It's fascinating.

I can't start a column like this without talking about Tony Isabella's Moon Knight #35. Tony put more characterization into this double-sized issue than one could find in Moon Knight at its normal best or even Claremont's X-Men on a good day. He gave Storm a sense of humor. He made Colossus, Nightcrawler, and the FF seem like just... people. He showed Moon Knight as a hero not because of superhuman powers, but a man with a brain and a truly indomitable will. It had a sympathetic yet powerful villainess. It had moving tragedy and personal sacrifice. All this and The Fly, too. And Tony BALANCED all of these elements. Nothing seemed overdone. It took three or four amazing issues for me to mature enough to understand that comics books were not things that just wrote themselves, but that as much talent could be poured into them as any novel. This, however, was one of the issues that led me to realize that.

Having said that, let's talk about the X-Men. Why do I never like it when the X-Men fight? It bores me. My memorable moments from X-Men are those where people talk. Nothing happens. Scott and Jean talk about when and how they fell in love. The New Mutants hang out. Cypher talks to Warlock, or to himself. Nightcrawler stays up till three a.m. watching Errol Flynn as Captain Blood. Rogue goes to a department store and gets a makeup facial by a professional woman wearing white gloves. She reminds herself how beautiful she can be, and then goes outside where people recognize her as having saved a man earlier in the day. They guess rightly that she is a mutant. Some love her for saving the man. Some hate her for who she is, for her race as Homo Superior. They're afraid of her. She realizes how pointless her looks are when her powers keep her apart from humanity in more ways in one.

Magnus wakes up in the middle of the night screaming as he relives the survivor's guilt of his powers saving him from Nazi bullets in Germany but can't save his family. Kitty Pryde goes to a survivor's meeting of Jews who escaped from the war camps, looking for information about a lost grandparent. Her Star of David protects her from Dracula's touch. She designs her own costume and because she's just a kid, it's a pathetic, glitzy mess.

What happened to Claremont, it seems to me, is that he's tried to get back into the game with plots, when his plots were the worst thing about him. It was things like Wolverine's love for Mariko, a woman so unlike him, that made up for his plots.

There's a scene that's troubled me lately. This was from when I was in High School. I was taking Algebra in summer school because I was so bad at math and I needed to take it free from distractions like other classes. I would get off from school and I'd just learned to drive. I'd go get a couple of comics and then food and take it home. I read Avengers, X-Men. Mr. Hyde beat Jarvis and destroyed Steve Rogers' locker full of memories. Monica Rambeau, a black woman with incredible energy powers, grew into herself and her powers, gained confidence, grew into her own realistic character.

Over in the X-Men, it was the days of Spiral and Mystique. Storm had just started leading the X-Men. Jean Grey hadn't nearly come back yet. Magneto was more with the good guys than against them. The New Mutants were hitting their stride with rivalries with the Hellions, with Wolfsbane, with Illyana's demonic dark side foreshadowed and shown but not overblown. The art was wonderful. Cannonball met Lila Cheney and so did we. Nimrod was stalking them all.

Rachel, aka the second Phoenix from the future, loses a new friend, a nice guy, to Selene, the Black Queen. She tears into her in righteous fury. Wolvie shows up to stop her. "X-Men don't kill."

This is the scene which is bothering me lately. What's he talking about? Wolverine saying X-Men don't kill? WOLVERINE?

Okay. I suppose that the point is that X-Men fight and defend, but don't carry out the execution. To use the simplistic terms of the recent X-Men movie, The X-Man way is NOT "by any means neccesary." That's for the self-styled Brotherhood of EVIL Mutants.

Selene is powerful. She can eat your life and she has power over inorganic matter. How do you imprison such a creature?

But against the Phoenix, it was no contest. However, defeating is one thing. What do you do against an opponent who can be stopped but not controlled? Not kill 'er, was Wolvie's answer.

Wolverine had and has killed thousands of times. You could argue, and rightly, that Selene kills to survive. She must kill every so often to survive. But she takes the best. Wolvie kills the worst. Is it just a matter of who gets killed?

This sort of moral dilemma ran rampant in those days. In the now-classic X-Men/Alpha Flight team up, Thor's brother Loki offers humans and mutants powerful magicks that will give beneficial powers to everyone on Earth, at the expense of all other magics, including magical creatures such as Alpha Flight member Snowbird. Still, equality will have been reached. Humanity would need no longer feel jealous at the children of the atom flying over their heads.

Sound pretty worth it? Turns out that part of the "magic" of the world that would get lost in the bargin would be the 'magic' of human creativity-- which mutants, not needing the bargain to gain powers, wouldn't lose. Humans with powers would still be jealous of Colossus for his artist's gift.

I just can't stand what the X-Books have come to. I can't stand to follow them, either. That's why I look forward to Ultimate X-Men. I have hope that Mark Millar can take his favorite part of writing Authority, which is playing with the interpersonal relationships, and bring that back to the X-Books.

Now if only someone would do that for all other Marvel and DC comics.

Nope, it's not out of my system. More like this someday.