Friday, May 26, 2017
I remember people being angry when, in the midst of lost Silver Age reprints, Marvel collected WOLVERINE in the Essentials books.
“Classic Lee/Ditko DR. STRANGE remains out of print, but the dumb fanboys get their Wolverine!” (Not that the Essentials ended up skipping DR. STRANGE, of course. He eventually came out okay.) I think most of that elitism has dissipated, and the Epic Collections are steeped in the 1980s, so WOLVERINE doesn’t appear out of place.
MADRIPOOR NIGHTS opens with the initial MCP serial, starring Wolverine. The decision to do a solo book had already been made, and the regular creative team (Claremont & John Buscema) are here to introduce the new world of Madripoor.
Madripoor has become an accepted part of the X-canon, and larger Marvel Universe. The chances of it appearing in some X-related movie/TV project are inescapable. (Of course, as WIZARD told us, Claremont did nothing memorable after 1980… )
The Essentials volume just dumped readers into the first issue of the regular series. If you wanted the Madripoor backstory, you had to buy that separate “Save the Tiger!” one-shot, or assemble the first ten issues of MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS.
I actively resisted MCP as a kid, and have few regrets on that score. I did miss those Sam Kieth issues that stayed out of print for years, though.
I didn’t even know about this Romita cover until just now. Those quickie MCP reprint one-shots didn’t bother with pesky covers.
The Epic collection doesn’t skimp on the extras, so you also get the promotional material for the original WOLVERINE ongoing. The sales hook is that Logan is now unleashed, without the restraints of the X-Men’s moral code. It means Tom DeFalco’s now in charge, and he’s less squeamish at the thought of Logan killing.
Even so, Logan’s not too lethal in the opening arc. He only kills when in life or death situations, or to save an innocent. Also, there’s little-to-no blood in any of these comics.
The story has Logan entering Madripoor, following an off-panel encounter with a dying man. He’s obligated to deliver a message…or to deliver a locket. The continuity’s a bit choppy in the opening chapters. Eventually, we discover that an acquaintance of the X-Men has a new life in Madripoor, and is plotting to overthrow the local crimelord. Problem is, she wants to take his place.
The character is Tyger Tiger (just try keeping that specific order straight), a meek banker that was kidnapped by the Reavers when they realized they had too much money. Tyger was supposed to be their accountant, but the X-Men interrupted their brainwashing process. Claremont can at times obsess over minor details, and I’ve always thought this was a clever angle to play. What does a team of efficient cyborg thieves do when they have so much money they can’t spend it all? Well, what does any billionaire do?
Tyger wasn’t fully turned, but she isn’t her old self, either. Rejected by her family and the Hong Kong banking community, she’s found a new home in the seedy world of Madripoor. The makings of a great character are here, even though Tyger disappeared a few issues into the book’s run. Claremont’s setting up a parallel between Logan’s inherent dichotomy and Tyger’s identity struggle. Something could’ve been done with this, but instead she ended up a forgotten, not-quite love interest.
Wolverine sides with Tyger, taking on Roche and his major henchman Razorfist. I realize he’s just here as muscle, and is killed off quickly, but this design hasn’t aged very well.
I think we were in the final days of legless unitards being okay in comics.
At story’s end, Tyger’s in position to rule Madripoor’s underworld, and a conflicted Wolverine sticks around to act as her conscience. That’s the setup for the regular series, which had potential, until pretty much the day Claremont left the book.
WOLVERINE #1 - November 1988
I read most of these issues for the first time in the Essential reprint. The Buscema/Williams/Green art does lose something when colors are added. There’s a depth to the drawings that just doesn’t translate with color. Buscema famously hated superheroes, and I suspect Claremont’s pitch of doing the book as TERRY & THE PIRATES was his way of appeasing Buscema. Plus, Claremont wasn’t thrilled at the thought of a monthly WOLVERINE book, either. He likely was looking for a way to alleviate his own boredom.
This issue, Logan formally adopts his Patch disguise, which is literally an eyepatch. Launching a solo WOLVERINE book while the X-Men were believed dead is an early case of Marvel allowing commercial interests to overrule internal story logic. It seems like a minor issue now, but I could see Jim Shooter fighting his bosses over this. DeFalco was more of an attitude of publishing what he knew the fans wanted. And they wanted WOLVERINE, every month.
When in battle, Wolverine wears all black, and shadows magically appear over his eyes. This makes no literal sense, and I doubt Marvel was willing to claim that Logan was now wearing mascara. I bet Peter Sanderson was thrown for a loop when updating Wolverine’s Handbook entry. “Do I explain that eye trick? How?!”
Interestingly, Wolverine comes across a different courier who’s been tortured by savages, but now it’s on-panel. Coincidentally, the item he’s in charge of also has ties to Madripoor, and Wolverine’s ex, Mariko.
Mostly, the story’s an excuse for Buscema to draw what he likes, and for Wolverine to “cut loose” in a way fans weren’t used to seeing. All of this would seem pretty tame by today’s standards, though. Even when Logan’s cutting through an army of thugs, his narration spells out his specific moral code.
WOLVERINE #2 - December 1988
If you’re counting the Claremont tropes, we have a possessed hero, a few “caper”s, and one “rabbit” as a verb. Honestly, this stuff rarely bothers me. I certainly didn’t pick up on them as a kid, and the scripts don’t read as lazy to me today.
Claremont continues to introduce old SPIDER-WOMAN characters, with Jessica and Lindsay officially joining the cast. They’re tracking the Black Blade of the Yashida Clan, which connects not only to Wolverine’s rarely seen love interest, but occasional Claremont favorite the Silver Samurai.
There’s some character work amidst the action -- Lindsay gets drunk her first night in Madripoor, and discovers her bartender is from the same area of Long Island… Logan sees the possession of the Black Blade as a parallel to his berserker rages…more talk of Logan’s moral code -- Claremont rarely wrote generic fight scenes.
WOLVERINE #3 - January 1989
Essentially a Lindsay McCabe solo story, as she works to free Logan/Patch of the possession of the Black Blade.
It’s odd to think of the effort that went into creating a supporting cast for Wolverine, given that his standard solo adventures will entirely drop the concept. Probably because so much of the WOLVERINE solo book turned into fill-ins, which don’t lend themselves to large casts of characters. Then Larry Hama took over the book, and he seemed to think Jubilee was all the support Wolverine needed.
The story ends with the Silver Samurai taking possession of the Black Blade, and the story spinning a reason why this could be a good thing. Not a bad opening arc, overall, but I’m surprised that so little of it focuses on Madripoor.
I have to also give credit to the Epic team for reprinting all of the Wolverine Gallery pin-ups. The Essentials skipped most of them. One consistent trait is just how INconsistent the artists are drawing Wolverine’s hands. Sometimes he has the metal housings on his actual knuckles, sometimes he doesn’t. It’s like I’m watching the ‘90s cartoon all over again. For the record, the metal housings are on Wolverine’s gloves. He also has housings under his skin that bulge out when he extracts his claws, but ordinarily, Logan’s hands look normal.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Thursday, May 4, 2017
You know those internet lists that provide 10-15 justifications for a lofty premise? I wrote one of those.
Monday, May 1, 2017
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
My other CBR post of the week, an examination of the HBO animated series, TODD McFARLANE'S SPAWN. I tried to cover the development and all three seasons in one post, while also discussing the possibility of the long-teased, still-missing, new SPAWN series.
Monday, April 24, 2017
Another installment of Adventure(s) Time is now up at CBR. If you have any other animated episodes you'd like to see paired with ADVENTURES tie-ins, you can leave a comment or contact me on Twitter.
Also, if you're wondering if I'm only going to be posting links from now on, I'll possibly have micro-reviews of a certain series up in the coming weeks...
Monday, April 10, 2017
My latest look back on Batman: The Animated Series and its tie-in comic is now up at CBR.
I cover an episode from what could be the strongest run of episodes during the series' run. There are so many cool shadowy shots in this episode, I wanted to screencap all of 'em.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Please understand that I've summoned all of my willpower to avoid making any reference to a certain 1962 novelty song that was, perhaps, performed by Bobby "Boris" Pickett. My latest installment of Adventure(s) Time is now up at CBR. If you'd like to see Batman Adventures, or any Adventures comic really, covered in the future, just leave a comment.
Monday, March 20, 2017
My newest installment of Adventure(s) Time, focusing on the time no one seemed to care that Batgirl was receiving an alternate origin story in the tie-in comic.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Tough! Because you're getting fifteen...
(By the way, I forgot to mention what could be my favorite alternate casting from these movies. Actor David Hemblen, who was the voice of Magneto in the '90s cartoon, was reportedly one of Bryan Singer's choices to play Magneto in the film, but he was unavailable due to his commitment to Earth: Final Conflict).
Sunday, February 26, 2017
My newest contribution to CBR looks at the debut of Two-Face on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, and the sequel from the ADVENTURES tie-in comic, written by Paul Dini. If that Two-Face painting I mentioned has been published somewhere, and I've simply forgotten about it, please be kind enough to tell me.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
My latest CBR piece is on the evolution of Spawn over the years, and Todd McFarlane's efforts to revamp the title in recent months. It's possible that there might be more of these in the future, but nothing's promised.
Monday, January 30, 2017
My latest piece for CBR...I probably should've mentioned that there is an amazing double-page spread of the Scarecrow's House of Horrors in that ADVENTURES comic:
Monday, January 16, 2017
The packaging art on these old FHE videos is pretty nice. I'm assuming that Mirage was also in charge of this artwork, since all of the other merchandising art came out of Mirage. It's amusing to see just how much the PR people who cut these commercials loved Michelangelo. Even when he isn't the Turtle speaking in the clip, they dub in Michelangelo's voice!
Friday, January 6, 2017
In case you missed it, my latest installment of Adventure(s) Time focuses on Supergirl's debut in the DC Animated Universe, some of the behind-the-scenes issues it presented, and how the Superman Adventures comic completed the character arc that was cut from the show.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Things I've been working on...
Reviews of the final days of Hill Street Blues and the first season of NYPD Blue without David Milch.
And what are likely to be the final retrospectives of Wizard, unless there's a real demand to look at the post-2000 issues (or maybe Toyfare deserves a look?)
In the future...perhaps more micro-reviews of Marvel's Epic collections?