Daydreamers, a.k.a. Another Thing That Pissed Steve Gerber Off, is a spinoff miniseries from the post-Onslaught era of Generation X. Shortly after Franklin Richards was added to the cast of the book, the series did a “split up the cast” storyline, followed by a crossover arc. Consequently, Franklin barely made his presence felt in the series, which is a shame since very few people have ever explored the connection between the mutant child of Marvel’s First Family and the assorted X-teams. The other ignored Gen X cast members included Artie and Leech (the two younger kids at Xavier’s school who seemed to just live in a treehouse), and Howard the Duck, who gave Skin and Chamber a ride during their road trip. For no discernable reason, Man-Thing and the ultra-obscure Tana Nile also popped up in the series shortly before the cast was divided.
The six characters were exiled together after Black Tom’s attack in Generation X #25, which is where this mini picks up. Man-Thing has the team floating inside the Nexus of All Realities, and it isn’t long before Howard the Duck falls into a wacky alternate universe. This reality recasts the Marvel Universe as fairy tale and fantasy characters, so we have two of the Incredible Hulk’s multiple personalities represented as Twiddle-Dee and Twiddle-Dum, the Scarlet Witch as the Wicked Red Witch of the Southeast, and Dr. Strange as a transvestite Good Witch of the North. Meanwhile, the mysterious Dark Hunter stalks the team as they track down Howard. The debut issue is enjoyable, although the script only has a few slight laughs, and the art leans too much towards standard superhero work and not enough towards an appropriate cartoony tone. I’ve never seen such a lifeless Howard the Duck.
Across the Universe
Things get crazier, as Man-Thing suddenly develops the ability to speak. No explanation is offered this issue, although we do learn why Tana Nile ended up in Gen X’s backyard in the first place. (She came to Earth to escape her imperialistic alien race; she wanted the Avengers’ help and ended up with Artie and Leech.) The RuPaul version of Dr. Strange transports the team away from the Dark Hunter, where they land in a legally protected parody of a Dr. Seuss book. Everything must be spoken in rhyme in this reality, which the script gets some mileage out of. Because Howard refuses to go along, the crew gets thrown in jail. Meanwhile, Artie is upset with Franklin, and seems to be hinting that he’s directly responsible for the Dark Hunter. In the end, Dark Hunter invades the prison and kidnaps Artie while the team tries to escape. Howard demands Man-Thing teleport them out of this existence, as he did earlier during Black Tom’s attack (Man-Thing acknowledges that this isn’t one of his powers and he doesn’t know how he did it in the first place). While trying to follow Dark Hunter’s path, Man-Thing somehow transports them to Duckworld, the home planet Howard’s been trying to reach for years. They’re shocked to discover Howard is an icon in this world, complete with his own golden statue. If the next issue somehow ties this into the 1986 Howard the Duck movie, I’ll be thrilled.
Credits: J. M. DeMatteis (plot), Todd Dezago with Andy Jozefowiez (script), Martin Egeland (penciler), Howard M. Shum (inker), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Kevin Somers & Digital Chameleon (colors)
There is a joke about the movie, but it’s not the explanation for Howard’s celebrity status. Howard meets his parents, who reveal that his adventures on Earth have been televised for years on Duckworld. However, Howard realizes that these aren’t his parents, as Franklin begins to behave strangely in the living room. When Leech and Man-Thing start asking him too many questions, Franklin throws a tantrum that apparently kills them. Howard and Tana Nile begin to piece things together and realize that they were never traveling through alternate realities (Franklin’s powers, combined with Man-Thing’s connection to the Nexus, created the worlds), Man-Thing never spoke (it was only Franklin’s voice talking through him), and the Dark Hunter isn’t a villain after all (he’s Franklin’s subconscious).
Franklin’s dealing with the loss of his parents, and with the help of Dark Hunter, he finally makes his peace with their deaths. Not that Marvel ever expected us to believe they were dead, but it’s a little odd that this mini was published just as the Heroes Reborn stunt ended and the heroes were making their way back to the Marvel Universe. It seems like this would’ve had more impact if it were published right after the Onslaught event. Still, the emotions are portrayed rather persuasively, and the twist ending works as a legitimate surprise. I’m not sure why exactly this merited its own miniseries, unless Marvel really wanted to test the waters for a book with a kid-friendly cast. I would’ve preferred this as an ongoing subplot in Generation X, penciled by Chris Bachalo. It could’ve livened up a few issues, but I guess that space was needed for more Zero Tolerance material (in fairness, those issues weren’t that bad either). Now, does anyone know why this mini had so many guest scripters…and why two of them had no connection to the X-office?