Friday, December 18, 2015

My 10 Favourite Moments from Star Wars #51-52

With that new Star Wars thing happening, I've consciously blogged a little about the franchise - about how I first saw the prequels and a six-part series about Roy Thomas & Jaxxon in the Marvel Star Wars comics (part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5; part 6).

One more blog post idea came to me: why not list my 10 favourite moments from the Marvel Star Wars comic? The problem was, so many of those moments came from the two-part "Tarkin" story in issues #51-52, as written by David Michelinie and drawn by Walter Simonson. The obvious solution? My Top 10 Favourite Moments from Star Wars #51-52!

#1: A Walk to the Airlock

David Michelinie took over Marvel's Star Wars from Archie Goodwin shortly after The Empire Strikes Back. He seemed eager to incorporate ideas from that film into the Marvel series and among these was the constant abuse Darth Vader inflicted on his Imperial officers. In this sequence, a disappointed Vader orders his subordinate to take a walk - out the nearest airlock. It's darkly humourous, as the sequences in Empire had been.

#2: Lando the Loathed

One of Michelinie's challenges would be adding Lando Calrissian to the series. Michelinie didn't get to write Han Solo and was instead stuck with the guy who betrayed him - a betrayal felt by many of the children who watched the film to judge from anecdotes shared by Lando's actor (Billy Dee Williams). Michelinie put that into play in the series: Lando would have to earn the trust of the other characters and that was one of the subplots in #51-52.

#3: Leia Doesn't Know Her Own Strength

In a very amusing scene, Luke and Leia need to obtain a set of uniforms to impersonate contractors toiling on the new Imperial weapon. Leia attempts the old trope of trying to seduce a man, only to find it backfire somewhat when the man is way too willing. Amusing moments and fun dialogue are peppered throughout these two issues and help make it feel like a story set in the same universe as the films - which, in case you've forgotten, have a lot of pretty funny moments, many of them derived from toying with familiar tropes.

#4: The Tarkin Superweapon

Walter Simonson went all-out with his design for the Tarkin weapon, a duplicate of the Death Star's superlaser weapon. It's not very Star Wars-ish in design, looking more like something which might bedevil some anime heroes, but it's an instantly impressive visual. And, as has been circulated many times, originally Michelinie meant for it to be a 2nd Death Star but was prevented by LucasFilm.

#5: The Conspiracy to Kill Darth Vader

Given the above noted sequences of Vader killing his subordinates, the idea of a conspiracy within the officers' ranks to have him killed makes perfect sense. It's not only a great cliffhanger reveal for issue #51, it provides great complications in #52 as the attempts to kill Vader inadvertently aid the Rebels.

#6: Stormtrooper Tossing

In another fun scene, Chewbacca has to shut down a shield generator on the Tarkin, much as Obi-Wan Kenobi did in the first film. Of course, this is Chewie we're talking about - he's not big on subtlety. Hence, he lobs a Stormtrooper at the generator to smash it up!

#7: Vader Walks on Air

The officers' best effort at killing Vader occurs when they blow open an airlock hatch, blasting Vader into space. And then... Vader calmly walks back inside. And he knows exactly what just happened. You come at the king, you best not miss.

#8: Lando the Loquacious

Micheline happened upon a great idea for how to make Lando work in the series ensemble without simply being a clone of Han Solo. Lando's best-identified skill under Michelinie is his love for subterfuge. Unlike Han (who audibly noted his displeasure for "sneaking around" once), Lando enjoys matching wits, bluffing and lying to his enemies. As the series would progress, Michelinie's eventual replacement Jo Duffy would make Lando's sneaky tactics even more fun and useful to the Rebels' plans.

#9: Bluffing the Stormtroopers

In the original Star Wars, the escaping Rebels had to reach their ship despite it being surrounded by guards; thankfully, a Jedi duel broke out to distract the Stormtroopers. This time, they have to create their own diversion and Luke manufactures one by hurling a makeshift grenade. Except, it's not a grenade - it's two comlinks tied together, as one of the Stormtroopers subsequently discovers. Easily the funniest moment in the two-parter.

#10: Instant Asteroid Field - Just Add Water!

Finally, as in Star Wars we have Darth Vader in his TIE Fighter and a clash with the Millennium Falcon. This time, it's the Falcon being pursued, but Luke comes up with an extremely clever trick: dump the ship's water supply! The water freezes into giant clusters of ice and appear too quickly for Vader to dodge. He has time to remark, "Well done, young Skywalker!" before the ice smashes his craft out of the pursuit.

You can buy issue #51 from Comixology right here and issue #52 here.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron creator credits

The usual caveats apply: it is difficult to know precisely who is responsible for many of the ideas which appear on comic book pages; although I attribute them to the original credited writer & artist, this does not mean the letterers, colorists, inkers, editors or people whose names didn't appear in the books did not have a significant degree of influence on the finished product. With that out of the way...
Say, look at how much Len Kaminski material made it into this film! Pretty validating for the Kaminski Krew!
Stan Lee: co-creator of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, twins Wanda and Pietro from eastern Europe; Pietro's power of superhuman speed, Wanda's vaguely-defined powers (X-Men #4, 1964); Hawkeye, an expert archer with a variety of trick arrows such as those with explosive tips; Hawkeye having a close relationship with the Black Widow; Iron Man's repulsor ray weapon (Tales of Suspense #57, 1964); The Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, a one-time enemy agent (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964); Iron Man, Tony Stark, a wealthy playboy and inventor of a suit of power armor which allows him to fly and fire various weapons (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963); Hydra, a secret society dedicated to world conquest and outfitted with advanced weapons, enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D.; S.H.I.E.L.D., an international espionage agency; Nick Fury wearing an eye-patch; Nick Fury as director of S.H.I.E.L.D.; the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, a hovering battleship and mobile base of operations (Strange Tales #135, 1965); Thor, god of thunder, hero on Earth, wields hammer Mjolnir which only those are worthy of its power can lift, commands power over the elements, wears blue costume with discs on chest and red cape (Journey into Mystery #83, 1962); Jarvis, an entity who serves the Avengers (Tales of Suspense #59, 1964); unibeam in the center of Iron Man's armor (Tales of Suspense #40, 1963); The Hulk, Bruce Banner, a brilliant scientist who transforms into an immense, monstrous creature with superhuman strength; calls humans "puny"; often wears purple pants (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); The Black Widow's red hair, black bodysuit, Widow's Bite wrist weapon and carrying explosives (Amazing Spider-Man #86, 1970); The Avengers, a team titled "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" whose ranks include Iron Man, the Hulk and Thor (Avengers #1, 1963); Baron Strucker, a German villain (Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #5, 1964); Iron Man wearing red & gold armor (Tales of Suspense #48, 1963); The Hulk having green skin (Incredible Hulk #2, 1962); Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as members of the Avengers; Captain America as the Avengers leader who notably leads the aforementioned trio together (Avengers #16, 1965); Captain America as an Avenger (Avengers #4, 1964); Captain America using a device to return his shield to his hand (Avengers #6, 1964); Quicksilver and Hawkeye not getting along with each other (Avengers #17, 1965); the Hulk's transformations triggered by his emotional state (Tales to Astonish #60, 1964); the Falcon, a costumed African-American hero who is friends with Captain America (Captain America #117, 1969); Pepper Potts, a romantic interest to Tony Stark (Tales of Suspense #45, 1963); Jane Foster, a romantic interest to Thor (Journey into Mystery #84, 1962); Captain America throwing his shield so that it ricochets and returns to him (Avengers #5, 1964); Wakanda, a remote African nation (Fantastic Four #52, 1966); Vibranium, a rare metal found in Wakanda with unusual, unpredictable properties; Klaw, a mercenary; Klaw invading Wakanda to obtain Vibranium; Klaw losing one of his hands (Fantastic Four #53, 1966); Asgard, home of Thor and the other Norse gods including the guardsman Heimdall and Thor's father Odin; Asgard connected to Earth by Bifrost (Journey into Mystery #85, 1962); Peggy Carter, Captain America's wartime love interest (Tales of Suspense #75, 1966); the Cosmic Cube, a containment device of immense power (Tales of Suspense #79, 1966); the Hulk traveling vast distances by leaping (Incredible Hulk #3, 1962); the Skrulls, extraterrestrial villains who inspired the Chitauri (Fantastic Four #2, 1962); Tony Stark providing the Avengers with their headquarters (Avengers #2, 1963)
Jack Kirby: co-creator of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, twins Wanda and Pietro from eastern Europe; Pietro's power of superhuman speed, Wanda's vaguely-defined powers (X-Men #4, 1964); The Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, a one-time enemy agent (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964); Iron Man, Tony Stark, a wealthy playboy and inventor of a suit of power armor which allows him to fly and fire various weapons (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963); unibeam in the center of Iron Man's armor (Tales of Suspense #40, 1963); Hydra, a secret society dedicated to world conquest and outfitted with advanced weapons, enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D.; S.H.I.E.L.D., an international espionage agency; Nick Fury wearing an eye-patch; Nick Fury as director of S.H.I.E.L.D.; the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, a hovering battleship and mobile base of operations (Strange Tales #135, 1965); Thor, god of thunder, hero on Earth, wields hammer Mjolnir which only those are worthy of its power can lift, commands power over the elements, wears blue costume with discs on chest and red cape (Journey into Mystery #83, 1962); Captain America, Steve Rogers, a hero from World War II who received his abilities in an experiment; Captain America wielding a triangular shield; Captain America's costume with 'A' on forehead, red and white stripes on stomach, blue chest with white star, red gloves (Captain America Comics #1, 1941); Jarvis, an entity who serves the Avengers (Tales of Suspense #59, 1964); The Hulk, Bruce Banner, a brilliant scientist who transforms into an immense, monstrous creature with superhuman strength; calls humans "puny"; often wears purple pants (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); Captain America's round shield (Captain America Comics #2, 1941); The Avengers, a team titled "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" whose ranks include Iron Man, the Hulk and Thor (Avengers #1, 1963); Baron Strucker, a German villain (Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #5, 1964); Iron Man wearing red & gold armor (Tales of Suspense #48, 1963); The Hulk having green skin (Incredible Hulk #2, 1962); Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch as members of the Avengers; Captain America as the Avengers leader who notably leads the aforementioned trio together (Avengers #16, 1965); Captain America as an Avenger (Avengers #4, 1964); Captain America using a device to return his shield to his hand (Avengers #6, 1964); Pepper Potts, a romantic interest to Tony Stark (Tales of Suspense #45, 1963); Jane Foster, a romantic interest to Thor (Journey into Mystery #84, 1962); Captain America throwing his shield so that it ricochets and returns to him (Avengers #5, 1964); Wakanda, a remote African nation (Fantastic Four #52, 1966); Vibranium, a rare metal found in Wakanda with unusual, unpredictable properties; Klaw, a mercenary; Klaw invading Wakanda to obtain Vibranium; Klaw losing one of his hands (Fantastic Four #53, 1966); Asgard, home of Thor and the other Norse gods including the guardsman Heimdall and Thor's father Odin; Asgard connected to Earth by Bifrost (Journey into Mystery #85, 1962); Peggy Carter, Captain America's wartime love interest (Tales of Suspense #75, 1966); the Vision, a green-garbed man in a cape (Marvel Mystery Comics #13, 1940); the Cosmic Cube, a containment device of immense power (Tales of Suspense #79, 1966); the Hulk traveling vast distances by leaping (Incredible Hulk #3, 1962); the Skrulls, extraterrestrial villains who inspired the Chitauri (Fantastic Four #2, 1962); Tony Stark providing the Avengers with their headquarters (Avengers #2, 1963)
Roy Thomas: co-creator of Ultron, the Avengers' enemy, a robot who disguises himself in red robes and works with Klaw (Avengers #54, 1968); Ultron being built by one of the Avengers, but turning against him; the Vision joining the Avengers (Avengers #58, 1968); Hawkeye's real name Clint Barton (Avengers #64, 1969); Ultron as a program which can survive the destruction of its body and live on in a new robot form; Ultron rebuilding himself into a near-indestructible form (Avengers #66, 1969); the name Colonel Klaue (Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #39, 1967); Quicksilver wearing the colors blue and white (Avengers #75, 1970); Quinjets, the personal aircraft of the Avengers (Avengers #61, 1969); the Infinity Gems, powerful jewels which can rest upon the wearer's brow (Marvel Premiere #1, 1972); the Vision, a synthetic man with red skin, green costume and yellow cape with a jewel on his forehead; Vision created by Ultron but turned against him; Vision's powers of flight and altering his density (Avengers #57, 1968); the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, an eagle within a circle (Strange Tales #154, 1967); the name Klaue being related to Klaw (Fantastic Four Unlimited #1, 1993)
John Buscema: co-creator of Ultron, the Avengers' enemy, a robot who disguises himself in red robes and works with Klaw (Avengers #54, 1968); Ultron being built by one of the Avengers, but turning against him; the Vision joining the Avengers (Avengers #58, 1968); Quicksilver wearing the colors blue and white (Avengers #75, 1970); Quinjets, the personal aircraft of the Avengers (Avengers #61, 1969); Iron Man and Captain America having a tense, argumentative relationship (Avengers #153, 1976); the Vision, a synthetic man with red skin, green costume and yellow cape with a jewel on his forehead; Vision created by Ultron but turned against him; Vision's powers of flight and altering his density (Avengers #57, 1968)
Bryan Hitch: co-creator of Hawkeye's sleeveless costume; Hawkeye and Black Widow as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who joined the Avengers (Ultimates #7, 2002); Nick Fury based physically on Samuel L. Jackson with visible scars around his left eye; Iron Man's armor glowing light blue in eye slits and repulsor beams; the Avengers being created by S.H.I.E.L.D. (Ultimates #2, 2002); Captain America wearing a helmet version of his mask with wings painted on the sides (Captain America: Reborn #1, 2009); the Chitauri, an extraterrestrial race who fought the Avengers (Ultimates #8, 2002); the title "Age of Ultron" (Point One #1, 2012); Hawkeye married to a woman named Laura with three children (Ultimates 2 #2, 2005)
Don Heck: co-creator of Hawkeye, an expert archer with a variety of trick arrows such as those with explosive tips; Hawkeye having a close relationship with the Black Widow; Iron Man's repulsor ray weapon (Tales of Suspense #57, 1964); The Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, a one-time enemy agent (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964); Iron Man, Tony Stark, a wealthy playboy and inventor of a suit of power armor which allows him to fly and fire various weapons (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963); the Black Widow as an Avenger (Avengers #111, 1973); Quicksilver and Hawkeye not getting along with each other (Avengers #17, 1965); Pepper Potts, a romantic interest to Tony Stark (Tales of Suspense #45, 1963)
Larry Lieber: co-creator of Iron Man, Tony Stark, a wealthy playboy and inventor of a suit of power armor which allows him to fly and fire various weapons (Tales of Suspense #39, 1963); Thor, god of thunder, hero on Earth, wields hammer Mjolnir which only those are worthy of its power can lift, commands power over the elements, wears blue costume with discs on chest and red cape (Journey into Mystery #83, 1962); Jane Foster, a romantic interest to Thor (Journey into Mystery #84, 1962); Asgard, home of Thor and the other Norse gods including the guardsman Heimdall and Thor's father Odin; Asgard connected to Earth by Bifrost (Journey into Mystery #85, 1962)
Len Kaminski: co-creator of an army of Iron Men called "the Iron Legion" (Iron Man #300, 1994); Iron Man using an artificial intelligence to design his armors (Iron Man #298, 1993); the War Machine armor, a suit of Iron Man armor colored silver and grey and outfitted with heavy weaponry, including a shoulder-mounted canon (Iron Man #281, 1992); Iron Man using modular attachments to his armor to create a larger suit better able to fight the Hulk (Iron Man #304, 1994); the War Machine armor being worn by James Rhodes with a unibeam designed for its chest (Iron Man #284, 1992)
Mark Millar: co-creator of Hawkeye's sleeveless costume; Hawkeye and Black Widow as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who joined the Avengers (Ultimates #7, 2002); Nick Fury based physically on Samuel L. Jackson with visible scars around his left eye; Iron Man's armor glowing light blue in eye slits and repulsor beams; the Avengers being created by S.H.I.E.L.D. (Ultimates #2, 2002); the Chitauri, an extraterrestrial race who fought the Avengers (Ultimates #8, 2002); Hawkeye married to a woman named Laura with three children (Ultimates 2 #2, 2005)
Kevin Hopgood: co-creator of an army of Iron Men called "the Iron Legion" (Iron Man #300, 1994); the War Machine armor, a suit of Iron Man armor colored silver and grey and outfitted with heavy weaponry, including a shoulder-mounted canon (Iron Man #281, 1992); Iron Man using modular attachments to his armor to create a larger suit better able to fight the Hulk (Iron Man #304, 1994); the War Machine armor being worn by James Rhodes with a unibeam designed for its chest (Iron Man #284, 1992)
Joe Simon: co-creator of Captain America, Steve Rogers, a hero from World War II who received his abilities in an experiment; Captain America wielding a triangular shield; Captain America's costume with 'A' on forehead, red and white stripes on stomach, blue chest with white star, red gloves (Captain America Comics #1, 1941); Captain America's round shield (Captain America Comics #2, 1941); the Vision, a green-garbed man in a cape (Marvel Mystery Comics #13, 1940)
Brian Michael Bendis: co-creator of Star Tower, the downtown Manhattan headquarters of the Avengers (New Avengers #3, 2005); Maria Hill, next-in-line to command S.H.I.E.L.D. (Secret War #5, 2005); Nick Fury as an African-American man (Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #5, 2001); the title "Age of Ultron" (Point One #1, 2012); Maria Hill working for the Avengers (Avengers #1, 2010)
Mark Gruenwald: creator of Tony Stark running a charitable foundation through the Avengers (Avengers Annual #11, 1981); Hawkeye's archery gloves (Hawkeye #2, 1983); co-creator of Wanda and Pietro's surname Maximoff (Avengers #186, 1979); the Avengers having a civilian support crew to maintain their base and vehicles (Captain America #352, 1989)
David Michelinie: co-creator of Ultron seeking Vibranium to enhance his robotic body (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #25, 1991); of Wanda and Pietro's surname Maximoff (Avengers #186, 1979); James "Rhodey" Rhodes, close friend of Tony Stark (Iron Man #118, 1979); the Falcon as an Avenger (Avengers #183, 1979)
Salvador Larroca: co-creator of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as a couple (Invincible Iron Man #15, 2009); Maria Hill employed by Tony Stark (Invincible Iron Man #8, 2009); Iron Man armor with smaller lights across chest and large swaths of yellow (Invincible Iron Man #25, 2010)
Matt Fraction: co-creator of Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as a couple (Invincible Iron Man #15, 2009); Maria Hill employed by Tony Stark (Invincible Iron Man #8, 2009); Iron Man armor with smaller lights across chest and large swaths of yellow (Invincible Iron Man #25, 2010)
John Byrne: co-creator of Wanda and Pietro's surname Maximoff (Avengers #186, 1979); James "Rhodey" Rhodes, close friend of Tony Stark (Iron Man #118, 1979); Captain America's shield being indestructible (Captain America #255, 1981); the Falcon as an Avenger (Avengers #183, 1979)
George Perez: co-creator of Jocasta, an artificial intelligence (Avengers #171, 1978); Ultron assaulting an eastern European nation (Avengers #19, 1999); Ultron leading an army of similar robots into battle (Avengers #20, 1999)
Kurt Busiek: co-creator of Tony Stark wearing a goatee (Iron Man #1, 1998); Ultron assaulting an eastern European nation (Avengers #19, 1999); Ultron leading an army of similar robots into battle (Avengers #20, 1999)
Barry Windsor-Smith: co-creator of Ultron as a program which can survive the destruction of its body and live on in a new robot form; Ultron rebuilding himself into a near-indestructible form (Avengers #66, 1969)
Gene Colan: co-creator of the Falcon, a costumed African-American hero who is friends with Captain America (Captain America #117, 1969); Hawkeye's real name Clint Barton (Avengers #64, 1969)
Robert Bernstein: co-creator of unibeam in the center of Iron Man's armor (Tales of Suspense #40, 1963); Pepper Potts, a romantic interest to Tony Stark (Tales of Suspense #45, 1963)
Steve Ditko: co-creator of Iron Man wearing red & gold armor (Tales of Suspense #48, 1963); the Hulk's transformations triggered by his emotional state (Tales to Astonish #60, 1964)
Jim Starlin: co-creator of Thanos, an extraterrestrial conqueror (Iron Man #55, 1973); the Infinity Gems bearing that moniker, being sought by Thanos (Thanos Quest #1, 1990)
Sal Buscema: co-creator of Captain America based out of Brooklyn (Captain America #237, 1979); the Falcon wearing a pair of mechanical wings (Captain America #170, 1974)
Warren Ellis: co-creator of the Falcon's grey military costume (Ultimate Nightmare #1, 2004); Iron Man assembling his armor around his body remotely (Iron Man #5, 2006)
Jim Steranko: creator of Baron Strucker as the leader of Hydra (Strange Tales #155, 1967); the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo, an eagle within a circle (Strange Tales #154, 1967)
Mike Friedrich: co-creator of Thanos, an extraterrestrial conqueror (Iron Man #55, 1973); the Falcon wearing a pair of mechanical wings (Captain America #170, 1974)
Roger Stern: co-creator of Captain America's shield being indestructible (Captain America #255, 1981); Rhodes as one of the Avengers (West Coast Avengers #1, 1984)
Luke McDonnell: co-creator of Iron Man's ability to control his armors remotely (Iron Man #174, 1983); James Rhodes wearing Iron Man armor (Iron Man #169, 1983)
Dennis O'Neil: co-creator of Iron Man's ability to control his armors remotely (Iron Man #174, 1983); James Rhodes wearing Iron Man armor (Iron Man #169, 1983)
Steve Englehart: co-creator of the Black Widow as an Avenger (Avengers #111, 1973); the Falcon wearing a pair of mechanical wings (Captain America #170, 1974)
Bob Layton: co-creator of James "Rhodey" Rhodes, close friend of Tony Stark (Iron Man #118, 1979); Black Widow's ballerina training (Solo Avengers #7, 1988)
Adi Granov: creator of Iron Man armor design (Iron Man #75, 2004); co-creator of Iron Man assembling his armor around his body remotely (Iron Man #5, 2006)
John Romita: co-creator of the Black Widow's red hair, black bodysuit, Widow's Bite wrist weapon and carrying explosives (Amazing Spider-Man #86, 1970)
Ed Brubaker: co-creator of Captain America wearing a helmet version of his mask with wings painted on the sides (Captain America: Reborn #1, 2009)
Patrick Zircher: co-creator of Iron Man creating a defense program with his armors which someone else seizes control over (Iron Man #11, 2006)
Charles Knauf: co-creator of Iron Man creating a defense program with his armors which someone else seizes control over (Iron Man #11, 2006)
Daniel Knauf: co-creator of Iron Man creating a defense program with his armors which someone else seizes control over (Iron Man #11, 2006)
Kieron Dwyer: co-creator of the Avengers having a civilian support crew to maintain their base and vehicles (Captain America #352, 1989)
Ryan Odagawa: co-creator of Friday, an artificial intelligence used by Iron Man which has a feminine personality (Iron Man #53, 2002)
Mike Grell: co-creator of Friday, an artificial intelligence used by Iron Man which has a feminine personality (Iron Man #53, 2002)
Gil Kane: co-creator of the Infinity Gems, powerful jewels which can rest upon the wearer's brow (Marvel Premiere #1, 1972)
Guang Yap: co-creator of Ultron seeking Vibranium to enhance his robotic body (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #25, 1991)
Gerry Conway: co-creator of Iron Man and Captain America having a tense, argumentative relationship (Avengers #153, 1976)
Scott Lobdell: co-creator of the red widow icon worn on the Black Widow's costume (Journey into Mystery #517, 1998)
Randall Green: co-creator of the red widow icon worn on the Black Widow's costume (Journey into Mystery #517, 1998)
David Finch: co-creator of Star Tower, the downtown Manhattan headquarters of the Avengers (New Avengers #3, 2005)
Devin Grayson: co-creator of the Red Room, the spy program which created the Black Widow (Black Widow #2, 1999)
Don Rico: co-creator of the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff, a one-time enemy agent (Tales of Suspense #52, 1964)
Tom Tenney: co-creator of Iron Man using an artificial intelligence to design his armors (Iron Man #298, 1993)
Alex Schomburg: creator of Captain America riding a motorcycle into battle (Captain America Comics #27, 1943)
Ron Lim: co-creator of the Infinity Gems bearing that moniker, being sought by Thanos (Thanos Quest #1, 1990)
J.G. Jones: co-creator of the Red Room, the spy program which created the Black Widow (Black Widow #2, 1999)
Gabriele Dell'Otto: co-creator of Maria Hill, next-in-line to command S.H.I.E.L.D. (Secret War #5, 2005)
Mike Carlin: co-creator of Captain America's shield being made of Vibranium (Captain America #303, 1985)
Paul Neary: co-creator of Captain America's shield being made of Vibranium (Captain America #303, 1985)
Frank Tieri: co-creator of Ultron recreating itself from within Iron Man's armor (Iron Man #47, 2001)
Keron Grant: co-creator of Ultron recreating itself from within Iron Man's armor (Iron Man #47, 2001)
Dave Hoover: co-creator of the name Klaue being related to Klaw (Fantastic Four Unlimited #1, 1993)
J. Michael Stracynski: co-creator of Thor's full body armor with chainmail sleeves (Thor #1, 2007)
Mike Allred: co-creator of Nick Fury as an African-American man (Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #5, 2001)
Chris Claremont: co-creator of Captain America based out of Brooklyn (Captain America #237, 1979)
Roger McKenzie: co-creator of Captain America based out of Brooklyn (Captain America #237, 1979)
Dick Ayers: co-creator of the name Colonel Klaue (Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #39, 1967)
Trevor Hairsine: co-creator of the Falcon's grey military costume (Ultimate Nightmare #1, 2004)
Tom DeFalco: co-creator of Captain America attempting to lift Thor's hammer (Thor #390, 1988)
Ralph Macchio: co-creator of the Black Widow wielding handguns (Bizarre Adventures #25, 1981)
Olivier Coipel: co-creator of Thor's full body armor with chainmail sleeves (Thor #1, 2007)
Gaspar Saladino: creator of the Avengers logo with enlarged letter 'A' (Avengers #96, 1972)
Ron Frenz: co-creator of Captain America attempting to lift Thor's hammer (Thor #390, 1988)
Paul Gulacy: co-creator of the Black Widow wielding handguns (Bizarre Adventures #25, 1981)
John Romita, Jr.: co-creator of Maria Hill working for the Avengers (Avengers #1, 2010)
Jackson Guice: co-creator of Black Widow's ballerina training (Solo Avengers #7, 1988)
Steven Grant: co-creator of Wanda and Pietro's surname Maximoff (Avengers #186, 1979)
Bob Hall: co-creator of Rhodes as one of the Avengers (West Coast Avengers #1, 1984)
Jim Shooter: co-creator of Jocasta, an artificial intelligence (Avengers #171, 1978)
Sean Chen: co-creator of Tony Stark wearing a goatee (Iron Man #1, 1998)
Walter Simonson: creator of Thor wearing a beard (Thor #367, 1986)
If you see an error or an admission, let me know!















































































Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Marvel in March!

Another of my old projects is being reprinted:

CIVIL WAR: YOUNG AVENGERS & RUNAWAYS TPB (NEW PRINTING)

Written by ZEB WELLS & ANTHONY FLAMINI Penciled by STEFANO CASELLI Cover by JIM CHEUNG

As the tide of public opinion turns inexorably against Marvel's heroes, the gears of Civil War threaten to crush the young heroes known as the Runaways. But when the Young Avengers offer their assistance, can the Runaways believe they're on the same side? The warden of the prison called the Cube wants both teams taken down — and he sends his most powerful weapon to do it: Noh-Varr, the young Kree known as Marvel Boy! Can the two teen teams put aside their differences and work together to free their captured teammates? And what happens when Marvel Boy busts loose? This CIVIL WAR tie-in has lasting repercussions for both popular teams! Plus: Look deep into Iron Man's classified files and learn all about the major players of CIVIL WAR! Collecting CIVIL WAR: YOUNG AVENGERS #1-4 and CIVIL WAR FILES #1. 160 PGS./Rated T+ ...$19.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-9572-6

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How and Why I Watched the Star Wars Prequels: An Embarrassing Anecdote

Before I can share the story of how I watched the Star Wars prequels, first I need to speak briefly about my history with the Star Wars franchise so that you might better understand why I deserved my punishment.

It would have been at my 3rd birthday that I received my first two Star Wars toys (R5-D4 & Yoda); I bought my third with birthday money (Dengar). I memorized the book & tape versions of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back from the children's cassette collection in my house. Star Wars was the first Marvel comic book I was a fan of. Even after I stopped playing with the toys, I kept filling gaps in my toy & comic collections. I went to the theatrical 'Special Edition' re-releases.

Then came college. I made a conscious decision at that time to set the Star Wars films aside because I felt I'd watched them too often and needed a break so that when I watched them next, it would seem more fresh to me. Still, I'd made no conscious decision about the forthcoming movie The Phantom Menace. I couldn't quite wrap my head around the idea that there would be an actual brand-new Star Wars movie, but I was intrigued. Except... I was a college student who worked every evening of the week and I'd moved to a new city where I had no friends. I had no one to see the film with nor much free time in which to see it. I never decided "I'm not going to watch it," but it quickly became clear I wasn't going to see it in theaters. Heck, I didn't even see the trailer (though I recall hearing about all the people who went to Meet Joe Black so they could watch it). As the online reactions came in, I began to think I'd done right to keep away from the film; people on the internet claimed it was plagued by juvenile comic relief and flat dialogue. And I came to realize then that I was okay with moving on from Star Wars. As a teenager, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life and in my listlessness, I had time to indulge many obsessions. However, by '99 I was heading towards my career and becoming passionate about that - some of my old obsessions had to be let go, and Star Wars wound up among them (comics & old-time radio were spared).

I became so detached from Star Wars that when the film Attack of the Clones came up somewhere in my online travels my immediate reaction was, "Huh, they're still making those?" The mocking reception The Phantom Menace received had all but convinced me it would be ridiculous to continue the intended prequel series. Some time after that, I began to openly jeer at Star Wars. I don't recall much of what I said, but one point I made to my friends was they had had to suffer through watching the nadir of the franchise unfold on the big screen, while I had been spared. I don't know how obnoxious I might have been on that point, but (as this anecdote will bear out) I definitely struck a nerve.

So.

Thanksgiving weekend, ten years ago: My sister and I had been visiting my brother and his wife and just finished the long drive home. It was late afternoon of Thanksgiving Monday, meaning I would be back to work the next morning. I returned to my apartment to find a message from my friend Alex, wondering if I would like to watch movies with he and our friend Craig.

An invitation to watch movies with Alex was not to be discarded lightly. Besides enjoying the company of my friends (especially with the return to work looming), Alex owned a digital projector and thus offered the best home theater option of our group. For me to refuse an invitation to Alex's, I would have to be either very busy or the movie would have to be very lousy. I phoned him up and he confirmed the evening's plans: "Do you want to see Willow and THX-1138?" I answered him honestly: "I don't really want to see Willow again but you know, I've always been curious about THX-1138." Great; Craig would be at my apartment soon to ferry me over to Alex's. If there were any hints in Alex's tone of voice - any suggestion of deceit or mockery - I completely failed to notice.

Craig arrived and we began the trip to Alex's. "It should be interesting to see THX-1138 anyway," I remarked. I didn't understand why Craig was smiling so broadly, but then he'd always been a gregarious John Banner-like fellow. Anyway, Craig had to make a detour and run an errand before we could reach Alex's and we talked about many things during the trip. At last, we arrived. Alex had already darkened the room, lowered the screen, turned on the projector and paused the film before its opening credits.

Now, that was unusual for Alex. When you went to see a film at Alex's you first had to get through the pre-show; Alex would have an image from Something Awful he wanted you to see or an article from Slashdot or a gif at YTMND. Much like the olden days when films were preceded by newsreels and cartoons, there would be some pre-entertainment entertainment. But not on that night. And how strange that the film was on a DVD (not a computer file) and the DVD already loaded and begun to play, rather than waiting on the DVD main menu.

I tell you all of this so that you might appreciate both my naivete and the amount of effort my friends indulged in.

Alex unpaused the film.

"Was THX-1138 a Fox film," I wondered to myself. "I guess so."

"Ah, Lucasfilm - of course."

Now I exclaimed something aloud; either "What?" or "Oh, no!"

I looked to my friends for an explanation and they were quick to provide it: "We're tired of you lording it over us because you've never seen the prequels, so tonight we're watching them!" They had even gone to the expense of rentals just to pull this off.

And so, I watched the first two Star Wars prequels. They definitely weren't great movies. And yet, I had to admit I could still claim I had an advantage over my friends: at least I was seeing those films for the first time - they'd witnessed them before and now had to watch them again. Regardless, I had learned a lesson about controlling my pride and for that, I do genuinely thank my friends. Even if they did make me sit through those movies.

I don't know why I'm reminded of this anecdote now, but anyway everyone - enjoy that new Star Wars movie!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

My 100 Favourite Movies

Until last week, I suppose I didn't know what my 100 favourite films were.

However, my IMDB list My Favourite Films now has 100 titles listed in it. I've listed them chronologically, rather than ranking them by any notion of quality. I would never claim they are the greatest 100 films ever made - 'cause I know some of them couldn't be. These are, simply put, 100 films which do not tire me; to me, they are absorbing films.

I've also got a 2nd place list, 3rd place list and 4th place list, just in case you've seen everything in my top 100 yet want more recommendations. There's no chance your taste in film is quite like mine, but I hope some of my listings interest you in checking out pictures you might have otherwise overlooked.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"I have heard of it, and need to see it." Usagi Yojimbo #150 review

Having reached its 150th issue at Dark Horse Comics, you may well wonder if the recently-released Usagi Yojimbo #150 is a landmark issue. How fortunate that I'm here to address your wonderment!

"Death of a Tea Master" is a self-contained story wherein a European man named Rodriguez (Spanish?) is visiting the court of Lord Odo, testing his prowess with the saber against the katana styles of Odo's men. As part of the report Rodriguez is compiling, he wishes to observe the act of hara-kiri and demands Lord Odo order his subordinate Nobu the tea master to perform the deed. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the tea master had a friend: the rabbit ronin Miyamoto Usagi.

It wasn't that long ago that Stan Sakai celebrated 200 issues of Usagi Yojimbo (added up between thre publishers). Sakai's fidelity to his creation over the decades is matched only by the likes of Sim, Aragones or the Pinis. And yet, for all the many recurring characters and relationships within the book's cast, Sakai has always kept this series very easy to jump in on, with only a handful of particularly lengthy storyarcs. "Death of a Tea Master" features no previously-met characters - anyone can begin their exposure to Usagi Yojimbo with this issue and not be left out.

Sakai celebrated 200 Usagi Yojimbo comics with a tale featuring a determined sculptor crafting 200 Jizo statues. Issue #150 has nothing as obviously celebratory, yet it is a special event in a certain way; the character of Rodriguez is perhaps the first European character seen in this otherwise all-Japanese series. Although an animal-person like the rest of the cast, Rodriguez's manner of dress, wavy hair, saber and cross (a symbol seen only once previously in the series in a story which made the point of how deep underground Christianity was at the time in Japan), Rodriguez is the first time Sakai has brought in an outsider to Japanese culture to comment upon it.

In a sense, it's strange that it's taken Sakai this long - after all, Sakai has lived most of his life in the USA, not Japan (and precisely zero years in feudal Japan). As a Japanese man in the west he's qualified to look at Japan as either outsider or insider. Although Rodriguez may ultimately prove to be an usual blip in the Usagi Yojimbo experience - perhaps there will never be another European character - it feels good to think how little of the world Miyamoto Usagi inhabits has actually been glimpsed in the thousands of pages Sakai has devoted to it thus far. Clearly, there is much more for Sakai to draw upon for stories and he need not retire the series yet (unless he's exhausted, which doesn't seem to be the case).

And now that we have had a story where someone from the west comes to observe the east, we see in Rodriguez the worst of westerners. Rodriguez operates under the pretension of honor, plying Lord Odo to his bidding by questioning the lord's own honor; he's a hypccrite, but because Lord Odo is a true man of honor, he cannot call Rodriguez out. Rodriguez plays upon the idea of the west being more innately civilized than the east, calling them "heathen" to Lord Odo's face. Rodriguez treats the life of Nobu the tea master casually; for Rodriguez - and so many in the west of the real world - eastern lands are simply a sideshow where one is entertained by the oddities of humanity.

Usagi Yojimbo is being published by Dark Horse Comics nearly every month and is available digitally at Comixology.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Creator credits for Jessica Jones (season 1)

The usual caveats apply: it is difficult to know precisely who is responsible for many of the ideas which appear on comic book pages; although I attribute them to the original credited writer & artist, this does not mean the letterers, colorists, inkers, editors or people whose names didn't appear in the books did not have a significant degree of influence on the finished product. With that out of the way...

Brian Michael Bendis: co-creator of Jessica Jones, a cynical, alcoholic, superhumanly strong private detective who was briefly a costumed super hero, now runs Alias Investigations; Jessica Jones spying on a philandering wife then having an argument with the offended husband which causes him to knock him through her office door; Jessica meeting Luke Cage at a bar he runs then having sex with him; Luke Cage with shaved head and goatee (Alias #1, 2001); of Jessica having a past with Killgrave which left her with PTSD; Killgrave's victims meeting in a support group (Alias #24, 2003); of Killgrave as a rapist (Alias #25, 2003); of Malcolm, the nearest person Jessica has to a secretary; Jessica being stalked by an adoring teenager (Alias #6, 2002); Jessica calling herself Jewel; Jessica's power of flight (Alias #12, 2002); Jessica gaining her powers in a car accident which killed her parents and brother Phil (Alias #22, 2003); Killgrave commanding a crowd of people to inflict violence upon themselves and each other; Jessica discovering she's immune to Killgrave's powers (Alias #28, 2004); detective Angela Del Toro; the Night Nurse, a medic who treats superhumans (Daredevil #58, 2004)

Michael Gaydos: co-creator of Jessica Jones, a cynical, alcoholic, superhumanly strong private detective who was briefly a costumed super hero, now runs Alias Investigations; Jessica Jones spying on a philandering wife then having an argument with the offended husband which causes him to knock him through her office door; Jessica meeting Luke Cage at a bar he runs then having sex with him; Luke Cage with shaved head and goatee (Alias #1, 2001); of Jessica having a past with Killgrave which left her with PTSD; Killgrave's victims meeting in a support group (Alias #24, 2003); of Killgrave as a rapist (Alias #25, 2003); of Malcolm, the nearest person Jessica has to a secretary; Jessica being stalked by an adoring teenager (Alias #6, 2002); Jessica calling herself Jewel; Jessica's power of flight (Alias #12, 2002); Jessica gaining her powers in a car accident which killed her parents and brother Phil (Alias #22, 2003); Killgrave commanding a crowd of people to inflict violence upon themselves and each other; Jessica discovering she's immune to Killgrave's powers (Alias #28, 2004)

Stan Lee: co-creator of Killgrave, a man dressed in purple who can control the actions of others through the sound of his voice (Daredevil #4, 1964); the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); the Hulk colored green (Incredible Hulk #2, 1962); a team of heroes banded together including the Hulk in their number (Avengers #1, 1963); people with powers called "gifted" (X-Men #1, 1963)

Jack Kirby: co-creator of the Hulk (Incredible Hulk #1, 1962); the Hulk colored green (Incredible Hulk #2, 1962); a team of heroes banded together including the Hulk in their number (Avengers #1, 1963); people with powers called "gifted" (X-Men #1, 1963); the flag-wearing super hero Captain America (Captain America Comics #1, 1941)

George Tuska: co-creator of Luke Cage, a wanted man who received unbreakable skin from an experiment; Luke wearing a yellow shirt and blue pants; of Cage haunted by the death of Reva Connors (Hero for Hire #1, 1972); Claire Temple, a woman associated with Luke Cage (Hero for Hire #2, 1972); of Luke Cage exclaiming "Christmas" as an epithet (Hero for Hire #11, 1973)

Archie Goodwin: co-creator of Luke Cage, a wanted man who received unbreakable skin from an experiment; Luke wearing a yellow shirt and blue pants; of Cage haunted by the death of Reva Connors (Hero for Hire #1, 1972); Spider-Woman, heroine Jessica Jones is based upon (Marvel Spotlight #32, 1977); Claire Temple, a woman associated with Luke Cage (Hero for Hire #2, 1972)

Steve Englehart: co-creator of Patsy Walker being capable in a fight; of Patsy's mother Dorothy (Avengers #141, 1975); of Luke Cage exclaiming "Christmas" as an epithet (Hero for Hire #11, 1973); of Patsy Walker wanting to be a hero (Amazing Adventures #15, 1972)

David Mazzuchelli: co-creator of Nuke, a government-sponsored soldier who takes red, white and blue drugs to increase his adrenaline and reduce pain (Daredevil #232, 1986); of Nuke's real name Simpson (Daredevil #233, 1986)

Frank Miller: co-creator of Nuke, a government-sponsored soldier who takes red, white and blue drugs to increase his adrenaline and reduce pain (Daredevil #232, 1986); of Nuke's real name Simpson (Daredevil #233, 1986)

George Perez: co-creator of Patsy Walker being capable in a fight; of Patsy's mother Dorothy (Avengers #141, 1975); of the Wasp costume Jessica's own costume was derived from (Avengers #194, 1982)

Sal Buscema: co-creator of Spider-Woman, heroine Jessica Jones is based upon (Marvel Spotlight #32, 1977); Luke Cage exclaiming "Sweet Christmas" as an epithet (Defenders #24, 1975)

John Romita: co-creator of Luke Cage, a wanted man who received unbreakable skin from an experiment; Luke wearing a yellow shirt and blue pants; of Cage haunted by the death of Reva Connors (Hero for Hire #1, 1972)

Roy Thomas: co-creator of Luke Cage, a wanted man who received unbreakable skin from an experiment; Luke wearing a yellow shirt and blue pants; of Cage haunted by the death of Reva Connors (Hero for Hire #1, 1972)

Joe Orlando: co-creator of Killgrave, a man dressed in purple who can control the actions of others through the sound of his voice (Daredevil #4, 1964)

David Anthony Kraft: co-creator of Patsy Walker having comics books based on her life as created by her mother (Defenders #89, 1980)

Mark Gruenwald: co-creator of Patsy Walker having comics books based on her life as created by her mother (Defenders #89, 1980)

Alex Maleev: co-creator of detective Angela Del Toro; the Night Nurse, a medic who treats superhumans (Daredevil #58, 2004)

Steven Grant: co-creator of Patsy Walker having comics books based on her life as created by her mother (Defenders #89, 1980)

Ed Hannigan: co-creator of Patsy Walker having comics books based on her life as created by her mother (Defenders #89, 1980)

Don Perlin: co-creator of Patsy Walker having comics books based on her life as created by her mother (Defenders #89, 1980)

David Michelinie: co-creator of the Wasp costume Jessica's own costume was derived from (Avengers #194, 1982)

Steve Gerber: co-creator of Luke Cage exclaiming "Sweet Christmas" as an epithet (Defenders #24, 1975)

Joe Simon: co-creator of the flag-wearing super hero Captain America (Captain America Comics #1, 1941)

Michael Fleisher: co-creator of Jessica Drew's occupation as detective (Spider-Woman #21, 1979)

Carmine Infantino: co-creator of Spider-Woman's Jessica Drew identity (Spider-Woman #1, 1978)

Frank Springer: co-creator of Jessica Drew's occupation as detective (Spider-Woman #21, 1979)

Marco Checchetto: co-creator of Oscar Clemons, an aged police detective (Punisher #1, 2011)

Ruth Atkinson: co-creator of Patsy Walker, a red-headed young woman (Miss America #2, 1944)

Tom Sutton: co-creator of Patsy Walker wanting to be a hero (Amazing Adventures #15, 1972)

Otto Binder: co-creator of Patsy Walker, a red-headed young woman (Miss America #2, 1944)

Marv Wolfman: co-creator of Spider-Woman's Jessica Drew identity (Spider-Woman #1, 1978)

Greg Rucka: co-creator of Oscar Clemons, an aged police detective (Punisher #1, 2011)

Chris Claremont: co-creator of Jeryn Hogarth, a lawyer (Marvel Premiere #24, 1975)

Terry Kavanagh: co-creator of Killgrave surviving certain death (X-Men #34, 1998)

Pat Broderick: co-creator of Jeryn Hogarth, a lawyer (Marvel Premiere #24, 1975)

Roger Cruz: co-creator of Killgrave surviving certain death (X-Men #34, 1998)

Mark Bagley: co-creator of Killgrave as a rapist (Alias #25, 2003)

Win Mortimer: co-creator of the Night Nurse (Night Nurse #1, 1972)

Jean Thomas: co-creator of the Night Nurse (Night Nurse #1, 1972)

...And from there, I welcome your corrections/additions!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Across My Desk: Sacred Hope

When books intended for disposal cross my desk I try to be attentive to the foreign language editions, always wondering if I might find a Portuguese-language title. True, it seldom happens as the University does not have a great focus on that language, but occasionally something appears and I quickly offer a donation to rescue it from neglect. These books are eventually sent to my relations in Angola to help populate the ISTEL library. Obviously, simply because a book is printed in Portuguese it doesn't mean it's useful to them, but they have so many English-language donations in their library (despite many students there not knowing the language) that I assume giving them any book in Portuguese may have a benefit to someone at some point down the road. After all, among a million-person local population, they have the largest library (and that's still not saying much).

One day I was casually preparing a book for disposal when my eye glanced over the back cover. "Um aniversario," it said. I paused. "A birthday?" I wondered. I quickly flipped through the book; English. I checked the title; English. I checked the author; ...vaguely Portuguese. I checked the country of publication; Tanzania. "Tanzania? Pretty sure they don't speak Portuguese there!" My hand wavered on whether to dispose of the book.

Finally I discovered a neat trick - one you can use in your own home - I read an extract from the book. Suddenly it became clear - this was a collection of poetry by an Angolan author which had been translated into English. Angolan poetry! I came that close to getting rid of it! Happily, I rescued it for my own collection.

The book is Sacred Hope by Agostinho Neto, who ultimately became the leader of the MPLA and president of Angola. I had never actually tried to read books written by Angolans (books dealing with Angola are uncommon in this part of the world) so here was an opportunity for insight into Angolan culture (at least, culture circa 1974).

I can't say that these poems have done much to expand my knowledge of the culture. They are primarily a litany of frustration, expressions of sorrow and outrage at the Portuguese who were then in charge of the country. Neto's thoughts seemed consumed by the struggle he was in (the poems were written from the 50s to the 70s and are very much in a singular tone). Perhaps post-independence Angolan poets had something else to say about their nation but at this time - mostly anger. Perhaps the most surprising thing to note were the many references to slavery, despite it having been abolished well before then. Neto wrote of slavery as something which was, to him, still alive. That holds up with other accounts I've read about life in African colonials - that the colonizers behaved like slave-masters.

The poetry is interesting primarily in an academic fashion and the book - well, it will stand on a shelf with my all-too-few other tomes on Angola.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Deadpool Corps: Rank & Foul reprinted again!

It doesn't matter that I stopped working for Marvel in 2012 - with eight years of work, they were bound to keep reprinting some of it - and with a Deadpool movie on the way, naturally it's time for:

DEADPOOL CLASSIC VOL. 15: ALL THE REST TPB

Written by DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI, JOHN LAYMAN, STUART MOORE, CHRIS HASTINGS & MORE Penciled by PACO MEDINA, LEANDRO FERNANDEZ, LEE GARBETT, JUAN DOE, AL BARRIONUEVO, SHAWN CRYSTAL, BONG DAZO & MORE Cover by HUMBERTO RAMOS

It's the latest and greatest volume in the increasingly flexibly named Deadpool Classic series! The ever-sociable Wade Wilson is back — rubbing shoulders with his bro Cable, laughing it up with his other bro Wolverine and forging an all-new bromance during FEAR ITSELF with...the Walrus? The "Identity Wars" take Deadpool, Spider-Man and the Hulk on a long strange cross-dimensional trip, but what twisted reflections of themselves will they see? And in the wake of Steve Rogers' return, will Wade Wilson become the new Captain America? (Spoiler: no.) Learn all there is to know about Deadpool and friends, right here! Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHO WON'T WIELD THE SHIELD #1, CABLE (2008) #25, DEADPOOL & CABLE #26, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #38, DEADPOOL ANNUAL (2011) #1, INCREDIBLE HULKS ANNUAL #1, WOLVERINE/DEADPOOL: THE DECOY #1, FEAR ITSELF: DEADPOOL #1-3 and DEADPOOL CORPS: RANK AND FOUL #1. 360 PGS./Parental Advisory ...$34.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-9690-7

Besides the profiles I wrote for Rank & Foul, I was also the one who named the book. I'm still kinda proud of that pun.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Unearthed: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #117

Today being Remembrance Day, I want to look at one of my personal favourite military comic books. The subject for today is Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #117, from 1974. Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos was, of course, the comic book which introduced the world to Nick Fury, who is better-known today for being the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Stan Lee famously claimed he titled the book "Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos" to settle a bet that he could publish anything and make it a success, but that's probably a tall tale he came up with after the fact to "apologize" for coming up with that title.

The story in #117 is titled "Taps for a Drummer!" and is written by Gerry Conway with artist Dick Ayers and inker Vince Colletta. Although Ayers had been a part of nearly all of the series run, Conway wrote only a handful of issues. Indeed, while the series would trudge on to 1981's #167, issue #120 would be the last all-new story. Even at this time, the series was frequently pre-empted by reprints.

As the story opens, Nick is running the Howlers through an obstacle course and heaps more abuse on them than usual, even performing a barracks inspection. The squad thinks this is related to his recent capture and torture at the hands of Baron Strucker but that piece of continuity will have to be forgotten as Fury and Gabe Jones are summoned to see Captain Sam Sawyer. Sawyer tells the duo about a soldier who was recently captured by the Nazis and prepared to serve as a test subject for a new viral weapon. However, that soldier escaped with a sample of the virus when Allied bombing hit the Nazi base.

Sawyer then reveals the reason Gabe is part of this briefing: the soldier in question is Danny "Drummer" Belllaman, an old friend of Gabe's who used to perform with him in a Harlem nightclub (Gabe on trumpet, Drummer on drums, natch). Sawyer wants to ensure Drummer and the vial are returned safely to Allied hands and is counting on Gabe to use his connection to Drummer to help guess where he's headed. Intelligence has already pinpointed Drummer as being in London - but he hasn't approached the Allies because he's afraid if he gives them the vial, they'll use it as a weapon themselves. Thus, Gabe's friendship will also help convince Drummer to trust them.

Drummer wanders the cold streets of London and begins to reminisce about his past, but ends his introspection by musing: "Can't worry about the past. It's today that means something... and it's tomorrow that counts! That's what they taught you, Drummer. That's what they made you learn." Nick and Gabe ask around for Drummer and eventually learn he was in a club playing the drums. Unfortunately, there are two Nazi agents also in pursuit and they reach Drummer first, opening fire at him in an alleyway. Fortunately, Nick & Gabe aren't too far behind and they battle the agents while Drummer hides amongst some ruined buildings. Drummer is surprised to see childern playing amidst the rubble, life carrying on normally in spite of the war.

Gabe finally reaches Drummer to help him, but Drummer replies, "It's time I did something for number one... and brother, that's me." The fight with the Nazis causes some of the rubble to collapse but Drummer leaps into action to save the children's lives. The collapse separates both Nick & Gabe and the Nazis from Drummer. Gabe explains to Nick that Drummer is someone who was beaten down by failure all his life, which is why his priorities have suddenly shifted. Drummer brings the children he saved back to their parents and muses over the event. "Maybe that's what it's all about... helpin' a pair'a kids... helpin' a lot of kids... If something like this virus ever belonged to either side, some kids would have to die... and the way I feel right now... I can't let that happen... and there's only one way I can stop it-- by getting rid of this junk for good!" So saying, he drinks the vial's contents.

Drummer is soon found by the Nazis, but when they demand the vial he tells them he drank it. Unfazed, they declare they'll haul his corpse back to Berlin with them and recreate the virus from his remains. Nick & Gabe arrive again and Gabe uses the blare of his trumpet to temporarily rattle the Nazis. As they scuffle, even Drummer helps out, shooting one of the agents before he can kill Nick. However, Drummer informs them what he did. "Maybe I haven't proved anything, Gabe... 'cept this: all my life people've been forcing choices on me-- but this was one choice... I made myself! Gabe-- buddy-- the pain's getting bad. Will you help me--- this one last time?" With a tear in his eye, Gabe delivers a mercy kill to Drummer.

Thoughts: This issue was my introduction to the Sgt. Fury series and it made quite a favorable impression. Although Ayers' art looks very crude (not helped in the least by Colletta's sparse inks), Conway delivered a very strong script, one which examined perhaps the most interesting of the Howlers - Gabe. Gabe, of course, is more fictional than most of the Howlers - segregation still existed in the US armed forces of World War II; in some ways, World War II helped encourage segregation in that soldiers in all US states had to lower themselves to the racist laws of the south, rather than challenge the hegemony.

Regardless, Gabe provided a means for Sgt. Fury's writers to comment on race. Few of them took the challenge, but by 1974 there were so many new African-American heroes bursting into comics that it was less provocative than it would have been before. And, race aside, it's ultimately the story of one soldier sacrificing his life for his ideals and his best friend being confronted with that tragedy. All of the moving moments in this story play out on the last page, but that last page makes the entire experience worthwhile.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Not So Long Ago 6: Aftermath

In Star Wars #8 a fan letter was printed in which a Star Wars fan - someone in love with a film which had only come out exactly two months prior - raked writer Roy Thomas over the coals for everything he felt Thomas had done wrong in his adaptation of the film. "Roy's adaptation is, to say the least, horrendous," he remarks. "Why he can't spell 'Wookie' right is beyond me." Not content with this display of his superior knowledge the fan continued with personal insults: "I think fame has gone to the Thomas head so that he thinks he can do whatever he wants." He also took aim at Chaykin because his art "seemed as if it were just hacked out and not given the time he could have given it." Editorial responded to the letter by pointing to the close collaboration between Thomas, Chaykin & LucasFilm and that, in fact, "Wookiee" was the correct spelling.

In a way, this letter explains some of the reactions to the character of Jaxxon - that is, it explains fandom's reaction. Speaking as someone who spent eight years toiling on projects such as The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, obsessed fans like to identify what the boundaries of a fictional universe are; not only are they bothered by what they thought were continuity errors in Thomas' adaptation of Star Wars, they expect additions to the fictional realm to fit in and not unduly upset what came before. To pluck a figure from the later Star Wars "Expanded Universe" (more on that below), Dash Rendar* "fits in" with the Star Wars cast, so far as the fans are concerned; Jaxxon** does not.

Although Star Wars' letters page disappeared for a few months after Thomas left, robbing us of most contemporary reactions to the story, there are few traces to be found in letters from later in the series run, as in this excerpt from a letter in issue #19:

"Separate our gang of Star Warriors and show their separate adventures. After those horrible issues with Han Solo and Chewbacca, I can understand why you might not want to do that..."

In his Alter Ego interview, Thomas delved into why he quit Star Wars so abruptly; in fact, Jaxxon played a major part:

And then one day I got this phone call from Charlie Lippincott [Lucas' right-hand man]. He informed me that George was unhappy with the way the storyline was going. I reminded Charlie that I'd cleared it in advance, but Charlie said that George thought that it was too close to The Magnificent Seven (who knows, maybe it was). What's more, George particularly disliked one of the Seven being a six-foot alien who resembled a green Bugs Bunny in space gear. In the latter instance, I had been "inspired" in part by seeing a Porky Pig-looking alien in the Cantina sequence, either in the rough cut or on some production sketches at some early point. (I don't remember if that alien appears in the finished movie, since that part of the film contained several 11th-hour inserts of other, more colorful aliens sitting in dark corners, and something may have been cut to make room for them.) I had figured my "green rabbit" Jaxxon wasn't really much weirder than a Wookiee, but obviously Geroge, as the creator of the Star Wars mythos, felt differently. I respected George and Charlie, but this line of conversation was beginning to annoy me.

No doubt a large part of Thomas' annoyance is that despite he & Chaykin being the creative team Lucas had personally headhunted to adapt his film, they received only the faintest of praise for their tireless efforts. Thomas was eager to be rewarded but received only complaints.

With Thomas gone his consulting editor Archie Goodwin stepped up as the new writer, with artist Howard Victor Chaykin replaced by Carmine Infantino. Unlike Thomas, Goodwin had serious chops in the realm of "space fantasy," having penned a few Flash Gordon tales in his day. Infantino was also a sci-fi veteran and while his unique style didn't quite gel with some fans (his Chewbacca was particularly off-model), he brought a consistency which the perpetually-frantic Chaykin had been unable to deliver. The Goodwin-Infantino team created most of the Marvel Star Wars comics 'til a few months after Empire Strikes Back, with Goodwin teaming up with his frequent collaborator (and fellow Flash Gordon fanatic) Al Williamson to adapt The Empire Strikes Back itself.

And yet, Goodwin did not sweep away that which came before. His first story arc picked up Thomas' Luke/Leia plot, sending the cast to a water world straight out of Alex Raymond. At the same time, he brought back Han's enemy Crimson Jack and sealed off that loose thread. Most surprisingly, however, is that in issue #16 he brought back Jaxxon, Amaiza, Don-Wan Kihotay and the Starkiller Kid! Goodwin did give the band a quick appearance in his first issue, #11 as they parted ways with Solo, but these characters took center stage in #16; there's almost nothing to be had of the series' regular cast, with Jaxxon and Amaiza serving as the main protagonists.

And you know what? #16 is mighty good! While #7-10 had its weaknesses, I have no reservations in recommending #16. Paired with guest artist Walter Simonson, Goodwin introduced a great new villain named Valance (who would go on to make two other appearances under Goodwin's pen, ultimately perishing in a fight to the death with Vader himself) who is after the bounty on Luke Skywalker's head. Unfortunately, the Starkiller Kid is so much like Luke that Valance's lead brings him after Han's former allies, which is a clever meta-commentary on the "wrong man" plot. Not only did Goodwin & Simonson give Jaxxon his own ship - "Rabbit's Foot" - which vaguely resembled the Millennium Falcon (continuing Jaxxon's status as something of a Han Solo parody) but they delved deeper into the Bugs Bunny references with Jaxxon menaced by men named "Fud" and "Dafi."

Thomas wrote a fan letter to Goodwin in issue #20, praising issue #16 and especially for using Jaxxon in a way which vindicated his beliefs:

When a writer (or artist, or wrieter/editor, or whatever) quits a particular magazine for whatever reason, he usually looks back in not inconsiderable horror at what "others" do to it later. ... Not so with STAR WARS, however. ... Not only has the Infantino/Austin art (and the Simonson/Wiacek art in #16) been fabulous, and probably just what the mag needed; but instead of simply ignoring or overturning the developments Howie and I had added in our necessarily interim issues #7-10, you added them to your own intriguing plotlines (such as the Water World) to come up with a series of issues after my own heart - and doubtless those of many others, as well."

... Naturally, since Jaxx the "Rocket Rabbit" was an even more beloved creation of mine, and since Amaiza was and is a great foil for him, I'm even happier with #16's story. ... Jaxx was developed almost exactly the way I wanted to see him turn out - complete to baddies with names (Fud and Dafi) that even I, the most cornball of space-opera scripters, would not have dared attempt. But you did - and you pulled it off! For some reason, I've always had an affinity for green things (as long as they were in comicbooks, not in a garden): the Incredible Hulk, the Impossible Man, and now Jaxx. My only request is that, if there's ever to be a series of Jaxx stories you don't write yourself, I get a crack at it. I was really quite fond of the fellow... and I'm even fonder of what you've done with him.

Thomas closed his letter by remarking on Goodwin's use of the correct spelling of "Wookiee" - evidently a criticism which continually vexed Thomas, as even 30 years after leaving the series he would still bring up the matter in Star Wars interviews. At the same time, another person wrote in about #16 to say (their letter in full): "Let's have no more of this."

This would be Jaxxon's last appearance in the series but he did at least go out in style. The Marvel series which continued under the pens of Goodwin & Infantino (and later, David Michelinie & Jo Duffy with artists Walter Simonson, Al Williamson, Ron Frenz & Cynthia Martin) laboured under different restrictions than the Thomas-Chaykin team; notably, Goodwin secured permission to use Darth Vader in his stories and was simply prevented from having Vader and Luke duel. Goodwin turned this into a clever plot where Vader sought the identity of the pilot he'd briefly faced at the Death Star, learning Luke's identity mere months before The Empire Strikes Back - which, whether Goodwin planned it or not, actually fit the continuity of the film perfectly.

Creators post-Empire Strikes Back had yet different restrictions placed on them with several stories being altered by LucasFilm's whims. I once mentioned to Walter Simonson how I thought his story with the Tarkin super weapon (#51-52) predicted Return of the Jedi; Simonson replied that he & Michelinie had originally meant for the Tarkin to be 2nd Death Star, but LucasFilm refused; when he asked why, they refused to say. Later, in #55, the rabbit-like Hoojibs let the Rebels make their planet their new base. Simonson told me the Hoojibs were originally supposed to be bear-like, but LucasFilm shot that down; when Michelinie & Simonson asked why, they refused to say. Simonson remarked that they began to have a pretty good idea of what would happen in Return of the Jedi simply based on what they weren't allowed to do.

Of course, the (ahem) dark side of LucasFilm came out in issue #46 when J.M. DeMatteis' pro-pacifism story was altered by LucasFilm, who demanded the story end on a coda which rejected pacifism, lest Star Wars fans think too much about the effects of violence; DeMatteis took his name off the story in protest and never wrote another Star Wars comic.

The comic book ended in 1986 and for a few years, very little was seen or heard of Star Wars. Gradually, it began to pick up steam in the early 1990s as new novels were published and as Dark Horse picked up the comic book license. This led to the Expanded Universe, a new construct worked on by everyone involved in licensed Star Wars stories which attempted to keep a consistent continuity between all Star Wars products. Some concepts from these new novels, comics and video games would even become part of the film canon as the late 90s brought about the Star Wars Special Edition films and prequels.

During the years of anticipation leading to the first prequel, a major cross-media event appeared called Shadows of the Empire, considered so important that there was even a book called Secrets of the Shadows of the Empire which delved into the project's development. In discussing the Expanded Universe and Star Wars' history with licensed projects, references were made to the Marvel Comics - and yet, of that 107 issue run, the only mention made of the series were disparaging comments about the first 10 issues: the Thomas/Chaykin run.

A notable source for early continuity glitches was the Marvel Comics series, which enjoyed a 107-issue run from 1977 through 1986. In those fledgling licensing days there was less creative control or direction for what often resembled an "alternative universe" to Lucas's saga. Campy creations emerged from the pages of those comics, such as Jaxxon, a pistol-packing six-foot green rabbit who teamed with Han Solo. The comics adventures generally had the Rebels on the run from Imperial forces, with stories revolving around the strange worlds and alien creatures encountered by the Alliance in its never-ending search for a safe haven. Sometimes even the main heroes seemed out of character. On the cover of issue 2, a rather vigorous Ben Kenobi and a husky Luke Skywalker are alternately slicing and blowing away some mean-looking aliens in some dead-end cantina. "Swing that lightsabre [sic], Ben," Luke shouts, "or we're finished!"

Well, history makes fools of us all. At the time those words were written, the architects of the Expanded Universe believed themselves to be participating in the canon of Star Wars, just as Thomas, Goodwin, Michelinie, Duffy, Chaykin, Infantino, Williamson, Simonson, Frenz and Martin had before them. However, in 2012 Walt Disney bought out LucasFim and the entire Star Wars franchise; overnight, the Expanded Universe (which, despite seeing some of its material reflected in the prequels also found the prequels in conflict with other matters) became kaput, its veritable head chopped off on the block as Disney planned to fashion its own Star Wars films with no heed for whatever the novels & comics might have said.

And thus, Disney brought the Star Wars license back to Marvel where the series relaunched in 2015 with a new #1. And sure enough, one of the variants (drawn by John Tyler Christopher) featured Jaxxon, depicting him eavesdropping on the Star Wars cast as they try desperately to hide from him. Star Wars' "old shame" had finally come home to Marvel!

Yet another variant cover appearance by Jaxxon followed, this time with Chip Zdarsky pitting everyone's favourite Lepus Carnivorous against Darth Vader himself! It seems now to be merely a question of when Jaxxon will return to the interior pages, not if.

In his Alter Ego interview, Thomas had these final words on Jaxxon, shaped in part by what he had seen the Star Wars franchise become in the 30+ years since George Lucas first chatted to him about his film idea:

I must admit that I felt somewhat vindicated years later about the specific reasons for my leaving when I heard about Jar Jar Binks in the fourth Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace. The negative reaction to that character by just about everybody in the audience over age eight dwarfed anything that George could've felt about Jaxxon the alien green rabbit. In fact, I'll bet Jaxxon would've been received far more favorably!

Thomas doesn't have any kind words for the Ewoks either. Heh-heh.

Thank you Thomas; thank you Chaykin; and thank you, forgiving reader, for journeying with me to the end of this series! May you find a Rocket-Rabbit in your happy hutch!

*= He's Han Solo with a constipated scowl.

**= He's Han Solo with green fur and rabbit ears.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Not So Long Ago 5: Star Wars #10

Today I'm wrapping up my recap of Roy Thomas & Howard Victor Chaykin's only post-Star Wars story with Star Wars #10!

This time the cover is by Rick Hoberg, one of the many artists who stepped in to help Chaykin meet the blistering deadlines while adapting the film into comics form. Here, he depicts Han & Chewbacca in combat with the Behemoth (I can't say I recall there being a giant monster in The Magnificent Seven).

The story is titled "Behemoth from the World Below" (which sounds like a recycled Conan title) and the credits do bear some comment. The dissatisfaction both Thomas and Chaykin were feeling can be seen as the script is by Don Glut, who received a fair amount of mentoring by Thomas in the 70s; this indicates Thomas had lost interest in finishing his story. Likewise, Chaykin had brought in his good friend Alan Kupperberg to "ghost" for him. It probably helped that Tom Palmer was still inking the comic as his heavy inks brought a uniformity to the art. This proved to be a turning point in Kupperberg's career at Marvel as it led to him receiving more offers of work, but as this was also the final issue by Thomas & Chaykin, there would be no more Glut or Kupperberg found in the series' pages.

In the chaos surrounding Han's team, Serji-X's Cloud-Riders and the Behemoth all fighting, Don-Wan Kihotay even turns up hale and hearty (Thomas may not have intended for him to die in the previous issue, but he did forget to depict his recovery). Not only is the Behemoth a massive lizard but its forehead fires energy blasts; it is, essentially, Godzilla. Serji-X simply ignores Han's team and tries to destroy the Behemoth; he gets the idea that the old shaman is controlling the monster and makes a power dive to get him, but Serji-X's observations seem somewhat incorrect as the Behemoth steps on both men, killing them.

As Han's forces try to take stock, Amaiza simply wants to leave as she signed up to fight Serji-X, who's no longer an issue. Han insists they fight on, which Jaxxon ascribes certain motivations to (I really need to reproduce all of the following as it's vintage Jaxxon):

Jaxxon: "Awwright, awwright already! So we know you're a little soft on that Merri female. So you two can stand around arguin' about it! But y'know how us Rocket-Rabbit types are: We just can't stand still!"
Amaiza: "Jaxxon!!"
Jaxxon: "And since I alway say, 'Never send a man out to do a rabbit's job--'"
Amazia: "No, wait, Jaxxon--!"
Jaxxon: "Heavenly hutches! Rocks knocked the gun out'a my hand!! Got to reach the crummy thing before--"
Amaiza: "Leave the blaster, Jax! And take cover between the rocks! You'll never--"
Jaxxon: "Already have, Amaiza! But did these floppy ears'a mine detect a little affection in your voice? Hmmmmmm?! Nawww! Like my mother told all eighty of us kids-- it'd never work out! Marry a nice girl from a nice burrow, an'-- Whooooeeee!! Almost didn't see that one! Maybe I ought'a get my eyes checked if we ever get out'a this mess!"

Take note of the dialogue above as it contains many things fans complain about when talking about Jaxxon: "Rocket-Rabbit," "hutches," "all eighty of us kids," "burrow." But also note this isn't necessarily from Thomas, it's from Don Glut. Jaxxon & Amaiza evade the Behemoth while the team tries to figure out a plan to fight it, but Don-Wan goes off on his own to face the beast. Meanwhile in the subplot, Princess Leia flies in pursuit of Luke Skywalker, a plot which finally takes center stage in the next issue.

On Aduba-3, Don-Wan faces the Behemoth with his lightsaber, believing he's using the Force to combat the creature; in fact, the Behemoth seems to be thrown off-kilter by Don-Wan presence. Hedji springs into action to help Don-Wan, but for his trouble he's obliterated by the Behemoth's energy blasts. Han figures out what's going on: Don-Wan's lightsaber is "acting like an old-fashioned lightning rod-- interfering with that energy beam the creature shoots from its fin!" Han runs to Don-Wan, takes the lightsaber and charges the Behemoth, thinking ot himself, "Seems I remember hearing once about a Jedi killing a monster something like this with a lightsabre." Han thrusts the lightsabre into the monster's chest and it causes a massive disruption of the energy inside the creature, causing it to disintegrate. "The Force is with us, Han Solo!" Don-Wan proudly beams.

With the fighting finished, Han's team receive their rewards but the Starkiller Kid (following in the pattern of The Magnificent Seven's Horst Buccholz) decides to remain with the villagers when he realizes Merri was impressed with his heroics and is, in fact, in love with him - much to the chagrin of Han who saved her life twice. At any rate, Han has earned enough to get the Millennium Falcon spaceworthy again and "If only for a minute, I got a little feeling of what it's like-- to be a Jedi knight!"

Tomorrow: The aftermath of Star Wars #7-10. The triumph! The tragedy! The snark! The bold! The bitter! Come back to find out how fandom, LucasFilm and the industry reacted to this tale!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Not So Long Ago 4: Star Wars #9

We continue our look at Roy Thomas & Howard Victor Chaykin's Magnificent Seven by way of Star Wars homage with Star Wars #9!

The cover (once more by Gil Kane) depicts Han, Chewbacca, Amaiza and - the Lepus of the hour - Jaxxon, the foursome in deadly combat with the Cloud-Riders. Strangely, Jaxxon doesn't seem to be wearing his shirt on the cover. Also, he's drawn rather more realistically than we've seen him in the interiors so far.

The story, "Showdown on a Wasteland World!" was again inked by Tom Palmer. The tale opens with Han and Chewie leading their six hired guns astride Banthas (when you absolutely, guaranteed have to be there in six to eight months) to the village they're to protect. En route it becomes clear Jaxxon has as much a gift for the gab as Solo himself:

"Yeah, I know, Chewie... I know! It's too quiet for me, too; I just didn't want to say anything."
"So now I guess yer gonna talk all day about how ya didn't wanna talk!?"
"You can be replaced on this mission, y'know, Jax."
"Yeah? Who by, Solo? Looks ta me like yer already scrappin' the bottom of a low barrel just to dig up this group!"

After a flashback sequence where Han recalls the events leading up to him becoming the leader of these rag-tag characters the group sees a flock of High-Hounds, giant feathery scavengers with semi-humanoid features. The team begins blasting the creatures out of the sky, granting them an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities to Solo and practice for the eventual fight with Serji-X. In the midst of the fight, Jaxxon begins putting the moves on Amaiza:

"Y'know Amaiza-- when this baby-sittin' mission's over, howzabout you an' me teamin' up? I got a hunch we could make beautiful blaster-music together."

Amaiza isn't interested: "No offense, but if I hung around with a guy who looks like a big green rabbit, folks might start to talk." Solo sees one of the High-Hounds diving at a local and springs into action in time to save her. The beauteous babe (on loan from one of Thomas' Conan plots) proves to be Merri, the daughter of the village's chief, Oncho. Han begins gathering up the locals to prepare defenses against Serji-X's inevitable assault.

Meanwhile in the subplot, Luke, C-3PO & R2-D2 find a planet in the Drexel system which seems appropriate to serve as the Rebels' new base, but mid-broadcast back to Leia, his message mysteriously cuts out. Leia decides she'll pursue Luke's trail to Drexel and discover what happened to him. Back on Aduba-3, Merri's grandfather, a shaman, tries to tell Solo about his mystical resources and some monster he believes has the power to defend the village, but Solo takes him for yet another senile old man and ignores him.

Jaxxon alerts the others to Serji-X's approach: "If what they say about us rabbits havin' good eyes is true-- then I suggest we get up off our fannies an' cotton tails-- 'cause I got a hunch trouble's on the way... big trouble-- an' it's comin' at us hard an' fast!" Serji-X demands the villagers turn over their tribute, and includes Merri amongst what he wants, enraging Solo. The fight begins and Effie the droid helps out by extending its arms to grab one of the Cloud-Riders' skyspeeder, bringing its rider directly into Chewbacca's fists. However, Effie then notices the Starkiller Kid is about to be shot in the back; despite asserting the Kid is not its master, Effie serves as a shield, being completely destroyed by the ensuing blaster fire.

Don-Wan also gets into the fray to defend Amaiza from one of the bandits, which he does quite well, striking him in the back with his lightsaber (proof that he's a real Jedi: he doesn't fight fair). However, another bandit shoots Don-Wan in the back; Solo believes him dead (he's not, likely because of his armour). Solo and Jaxxon share another exchange:

"Hey, Jaxxon! How's our ammunition holding out?!"
"Ain't complainin', Solo! An' if I run outta power, I can always kick those riders outa the clouds!"

However, the chaos of the fight takes a sudden turn as the old shaman summons forth the slumbering monster he alluded to - the Behemoth! It's now a three-way battle for the village!

Tomorrow: the conclusion in Star Wars #10!