And that was MIGHTY MARVEL MAY!


And that’s it! My top 30 favorite Marvel Comics character in minibust form. So many fun characters had to be left out (Sorry Blade! Sorry Kingpin! Sorry everyone in Power Pack! Punisher- you’re still a Spider-Man villain to me, and I didn’t have room for Norman Osborn, the ne plus ultra of Spidey villains, so you didn’t make the cut).  Marvel has been publishing for more than 70 years, have thousands of characters, and occupied most of my childhood and young adulthood.

For all my love of this vast fictional universe, in this series I’ve tried to pay homage to the creators of these characters. It’s very easy to think of the Marvel Universe as an almost organic whole, and that these stories will be there every month without fail, but without Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, John Romita, Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and so many more there would be no Marvel Universe. These people gave words and form to the imaginary heroes who have thrilled us. As a kid, I may have wanted to swing across a cityscape like Spider-Man or have the strength of the Thing. But as an adult I wish I could create something to inspire people the way Jack Kirby has.

‘Nuff said.

Advertisements

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #29: KITTY PRYDE (with LOCKHEED)

Although Spider-Man fought crime as a teenager, Kitty Pryde joined the X-Men at the young age of 13-and-a-half, and was already a prodigy and computer whiz when her mutant abilities kicked in. Her power is nothing all that formidable: she can walk through solid objects, but only for as long as she can hold her breath. While a great defensive ability, as superhero powers go, it’s not much help in the way of kicking people’s asses. But that’s not too important, because Kitty’s greatest strengths are her tenacity and her brain.

Created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne (who named her for an old friend of his), Kitty first appeared in X-MEN #129 in 1980, where she was almost recruited by Emma Frost for her rival (evil) Massachusetts Academy before Professor Xavier convinced her to come to his school instead. Under the code-name Sprite, she was the X-Men’s youngest member at the time. She became a little sister to many on the team and she developed a crush on teammate Colossus. Eventually he reciprocated.

Superheroines are often more popular for their physical attributes than their character, posed in ungainly “broke back” positions on covers to sell books to titillated adolescents. Kitty has always been a heroine first, smart, capable, and brave. The fact that she has a pet dragon from outer space doesn’t hurt, either. She grew up on the pages of the X-MEN, and it was  great to grow up alongside her and to have her as a role model.

(Edit: In an effort to beat the dreaded deadline doom last night, I uploaded pics of Lockheed with this temporary, unfinished wings. I’ve now updated the pics.)

I hope you’re down for tomorrow,  the final entry in MIGHTY MARVEL MAY.

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #25: WOLVERINE

The short, hirsute, surly Canadian Wolverine is one of Marvel’s best-loved characters (and, sadly, their most over-exposed). He first appeared in THE INCREDIBLE HULK #180 in a cameo and fully in #181 in 1974, supposedly the result of a bet that writer Len Wein couldn’t write a phonetic Canadian accent in a comic book. Luckily for everyone, he didn’t try. Artist Herb Trimpe drew the issue, but John Romita designed the character’s distinctive costume and signature claws; three, foot-long blades that protrude from the back of Wolverine’s hands.

A few years later, the character was dusted off and added to The X-Men’s roster where his job for several years was to launch himself head-first into battle and be knocked unconscious. It was during writer Chris Claremont’s tenure on the book that Wolverine changed and became a richer, more interesting character. He took years to add details here and there: Wolverine’s vague backstory as a soldier and woodsman; his history with the Weapon X program which gave him his metal-laced bones and claws; his love of Japan and its culture. He was intriguing because, unlike most superheroes, we didn’t know his origin. If Claremont did, he kept it to himself. We encountered Wolverine as his friends did: a dangerous fighter and loyal friend, but otherwise, we knew next to nothing.

Of course comics are too thuddingly obvious to leave anything about any character a mystery, so eventually all the unspoiled wilderness of Wolverine’s past was filled with garbage. He went from an interesting enigma to someone whose every moment of existence has been chronicled and cross-referenced. Until nothing of interest is left.

Here’s what you need to know about Wolverine: he comes from Canada. He is a mutant whose superhuman healing and heightened senses attracted unknown parties (the Weapon X Program) to experiment upon him, lined his bones with metal and gave him claws. He spent time in Japan, a place he feels very at home. He’s a member of the X-Men who frequently travels the world on his own adventures, usually out of a sense of obligation to others.

He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice.

I depicted Wolverine, in civilian clothes, looking tired. Because I think he would be, don’t you?

Don’t miss tomorrow’s installment of MIGHTY MARVEL MAY- it’s sure to make a big splash!

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #21: DAZZLER

Poor Alison Blaire. All she ever wanted to do was be a rock star. Poor Dazzler. She was secretly a mutant who could transform sound into light. Poor Marvel. Too late to cash in on the roller disco craze.

1980 was an amazing year, neither 70s or 80s. It was entirely transitional. Disco was over, but MTV was just an idea. Image was becoming synonymous with sound where popular music was concerned. The movie XANADU is 1980 in cinematic form. The hero Dazzler is 1980 in superhero form.

Introduced in UNCANNY X-MEN #130 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, Dazzler was actually created by writer Tom Defalco and artist John Romita, with input by Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter as a promotional tie-in between Casablanca Records and Marvel Comics. Some of the earliest development drawings depict her has a tall black woman with close-cropped hair, once again recalling singer Grace Jones. The Casablanca deal was complicated and at one point there were negotiations for a film starring Bo Derek, hot from the movie “10.” But Bo Derek came as a package deal with husband John Derek and the film died in development.

Never one to throw a viable idea away, the character was introduced in an X-Men story before being launched into her own book. In it, Dazzler was a performer first and only very reluctantly a hero second. The title was never great, but Dazzler, the character, charmed me. Ridiculous as her premise was, no matter how unlikely the occasional appearance of Spider-Man or the X-Men,  Dazzler herself was strangely earnest and compelling. She just wanted to perform for the people. Who could hate that?
Tomorrow another powerful potentate of the printed page in the next installment of MIGHTY MARVEL MAY!

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #19: MAGNETO

Hero, villain, freedom fighter, terrorist… The mutant master of magnetism: Magneto.

Created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as an antagonist for the X-Men the first issue of their comic, Magneto spent his early years as a standard archvillain, going so far as to call his organization The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. At first we knew little about Magneto’s past or motivations, and Jack Kirby’s helmet design for him even disguised his age.

Many years later writer Chris Claremont revealed aspects of Magneto’s history that underlined why he used his powers against normal humans who would oppress mutants: Magneto’s family had been killed by Nazis and he barely escaped with his own life. When his powers emerged and he was once again part of a persecuted minority, this time he had the power to fight back.

Once a friend to fellow mutant and X-Men founder Charles Xavier, Magneto rejected Xavier’s dream of peaceful coexistence with humans. Magneto felt there could only be peace if mutants ruled, and for that to happen rivers of blood had to flow.

Magneto reformed for a time, tempered by Xavier’s influence, he even assumed  a position as headmaster of Xavier’s school in his absence. But eventually his anger and frustration got the better of him, and he realized that without the extremes he represented, the more moderate Xavier would never be heard.

Although he often wars with humanity, Magneto’s motivations are easily understood by anyone who’s felt powerless in the face of injustice an wished they could reverse the polarities of power. Although a villain, Magneto’s relatable anger make him all too human.

I hope you’ll be back for tomorrow’s extra-special installment of MIGHTY MARVEL MAY.

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #17: ROGUE

When Rogue first appeared in AVENGERS ANNUAL #10 in1981, long before that internet, artists were often at the mercy of their local libraries and bookstores for reference. If a story called for them to draw the Taj Mahal or a Gemini spacecraft, they couldn’t use Google image search, so they had to do research on their own time at their own expense. Writer Chris Claremont’s script described a new villain called Rogue as looking like Grace Jones, artist Michael Golden didn’t know who Jones was. So he made Rogue up out of his imagination.

Seemingly a remorseless villain, Rogue’s mutant power to absorb other superhuman powers (as well as short-term memories) from other superhumans meant she was almost a match for the Avengers. A heroine named Ms. Marvel fell victim to Rogue’s ability and, for the first and only time, the transfer of powers and memories was permanent. Since that time, Rogue has had the basic set of superpowers in addition to her own: flight, invulnerability and super-strength… And the memories of Ms. Marvel clamoring in her head.

Rogue fought the X-Men next, but soon Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers)’s memories were impossible to drown out, and Rogue turned to her enemies at the Xavier’s School for help.

She was not greeted warmly. (Art by Walt Simonson)

Having fought her before, the X-Men were not happy to have her on the team. But gradually she became one of the longest-lasting, best loved members of the team.

With her superhuman strength, invulnerability and Mississippi sass, Rogue appears  confident and brash. But to me, her inability to come into physical contact with anyone makes her a tragic heroine, and highly vulnerable. Her capricious, criminal youth means her career as a hero is a redemptive one. She can never give back what she’s taken, but she never stops fighting to correct the mistakes of her past.

Don’t be filled with dread- MIGHTY MARVEL MAY continues tomorrow!

MIGHTY MARVEL MAY #12: EMMA FROST/ THE WHITE QUEEN

Jean Grey: What makes you such a bitch, Emma?

Emma Frost: Breeding, darling. Top class breeding.


Introduced my Chris Claremont and John Byrne in X-MEN #129 during the Dark Phoenix Saga, Emma Frost was not only a headmistress of a school rivaling Xavier’s School for (Mutant) Gifted Youngster, but as the telepathic White Queen of the Hellfire Club as well.  The Hellfire Club and its members were largely inspired by the “Touch of Brimstone” episode of THE AVENGERS (the British, Steed-and-Emma-Peel AVENGERS this time), and is herself  partially drawn from Diana Rigg’s portrayal of Mrs. Emma Peel.

Although originally part of a mutant cabal determined to rule the world, Emma has always been a wild card; a villain motivated by love for other mutants, and later a superhero motivated by self-interest.  Her allegiances shifted, but she has never been easily labeled hero or villain. Unlike Rogue, who began as a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants before reforming, Emma’s road to heroism is nowhere near as  smooth, nor would it be surprising if she changed again. Currently she is involved with the straight-laced Cyclops, leader of the X-Men, a weakness that seems to appall her as much as it does many fans.

Writer Grant Morrison did some of my favorite work with Emma (although he gave her a secondary mutation, the ability to transform into a humanoid diamond, which I think dilutes her some). From her Wikipedia entry:

…in 2001 Frost appeared in New X-Men as a teacher for the mutant population …Using Frost as a character was suggested to writer Grant Morrison on his website by a fan.

That fan was my friend Ken Kneisel, to whom this sculpture is dedicated.

Certain as the sun, there will be a new MIGHTY MARVEL MAY installment tomorrow, so please come back.