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 #26: PRINCE NAMOR, THE SUB-MARINER

They say we like people for their good qualities and love them for their flaws. There may be no Marvel character who better exemplifies this principle than Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Appearing in the very first Marvel comic, MARVEL COMICS #1, in a story written and drawn by a young Bill Everett. (Namor’s title, the Sub-Mariner, is pronounced mr-nr, as in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” as opposed to as in submarine.)

From the beginning, Namor was a contradictory, angry mess. The offspring  of a human sailor and an Atlantean mother, Namor was amphibious, with Caucasian skin tones (as opposed to his mother’s blue skin), pointed ears and elven eyebrows. He possessed superhuman strength and endurance, which made sense since he lived deep underwater and wore only tiny swim trunks, but he also had a feature unrelated to his human or Atlantean heritage: tiny wings on his ankles which allowed him to fly. It’s an entirely whimsical, Golden Age idea which makes no logical sense, even in a world where radioactive accidents grant more superpowers than they do cancer. But the strange detail made him master of land, sea, and air.

But there was no place Namor was truly at home. Although a prince by birthright, Atlantis considered him a half-breed, and the surface world wanted no part of him, either. So he was a belligerent brat, attacking Manhattan with tidal waves and monsters from the deep over perceived slights. When the US entered World War II in real life, Namor decided he hated the Axis most of all the airbreathers.

In the 1960s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby revived the Sub-Mariner, initially as a villain, when the Human Torch found Namor living as an amnesiac vagrant in a flophouse. Although he hadn’t aged, years on dry land had erased his memory, but one good dip in the ocean set him back to his petulant, pompous self.

Constantly vacillating between mankind’s defender and its greatest foe, Namor is somehow nonetheless an engaging character.  Like a beloved drunk who gets violent when he’s had too much, Namor’s friends in the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, all embrace him when he calms back down.

I depicted Namor with gills, which John Byrne introduced in his Namor series of the 1990s. He also eliminated the wings and suggested too long in either environment triggers Namor’s mood swings, which struck me as over-explanation. The Hulk is the repressed, raging id of  a bookworm scientist, unleashed with the force of an atomic bomb. Namor? He’s just moody.

I hope you’ll swing by for tomorrow’s installment of MIGHTY MARVEL MAY!

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 #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.