Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

X-amining Uncanny X-Men #190

"An Age Undreamed Of"
February 1985

In a Nutshell 
The X-Men find themselves in a world transformed by the evil wizard Kulan Gath.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Romita Jr. & Dan Green
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Kulan Gath has transformed New York City into a medieval world of magic under his control. In Washington, DC, Val Cooper briefs the NSA on the situation, revealing that anyone or anything who crosses the mystical barrier around the city is transformed into their historical equivalent. As a result, any hope to prevent the spread of Gath's spell and save the world may reside with the handful of transformed superheroes that have been spotted inside the city. In New York, Storm awakens a prisoner of Kulan Gath's Morlock guards. Attempting to escape, she fights with Callisto, the captain of the guard. The pair end up in the river, where the current takes them through the magical threshold, returning them to normal. Meanwhile, Kulan Gath taunts the imprisoned and mutilated Dr. Strange as he magically fuses Professor X and Caliban into one being, who summons the New Mutants.


Gath ensorcells the young mutants, save Warlock, who is unaffected by the spell and flees. Uptown, a group of Morlocks harass Amara and Rachel, but they are saved by an untransformed Selene, who uses Rachel to telepathically contact Storm and Callisto. She asks for their help in defeating Gath, and casts a spell that will allow them to retain their identities inside the city. Storm and Callisto sneak back into the city through the Morlock tunnels. Elsewhere, an untransformed Spider-Man is hunted by the New Mutants. Seeking refuge in a tavern, he's aided by the transformed Avengers and X-Men, but the group is soon overwhelmed by Gath's troops. Spider-Man is captured and taken to Gath, but Selene, along with Rachel and Amara, appears and destroys the rest of Gath's forces. However, Selene is then seemingly captured by Gath himself. Storm and Callisto arrive and lead the assembled heroes into the Morlock tunnels. Discussing Gath's intention to increase his spell so that it encompasses the entire world, they agree to fight back and try to stop him, despite the huge odds against them.

Firsts and Other Notables
The villain of the story is Kulan Gath, an evil sorcerer and enemy of Conan the Barbarian who was last seen crossing paths with Spider-Man and Red Sonja in Marvel Team-Up #79, part of Claremont and John Byrne's run on that title. That story crossed over Conan's universe (known as the Hyborian Age) with the central Marvel Universe. The story ended with Gath imprisoned inside the necklace from which he was inadvertently released last issue.


Between last issue and this one, Gath has cast an massive spell that has transformed Manhattan into a world much like that of Conan's. Val Cooper's briefing in the opening pages lays out the rules of Kulan Gath's spell: anyone or anything within the vicinity of it, or entering into its vicinity, is transformed into its sword-and-sorcery counterpart. People maintain their memories and their relationships, though both are rendered in the context of the modified world.

Spider-Man, the Avengers and Dr. Strange all guest star in this issue.


The Morlocks appear as Kulan Gath's personal guard (with Caliban horrifically merged to Xavier), marking their first appearance in the title since issue #179.

Similarly, Warlock, despite being left out of the story currently unfolding in New Mutants, appears here for the first time since New Mutants #22, in his most active role since New Mutants Annual #1. He is once again shown to be able to assume a relatively human form, and narration asserts that despite being an alien, he is in fact as much a mutant as his teammates.


Of the various characters in the story, Dr. Strange is left untransformed because he was able to briefly counter Gath's spell, but he was then captured. Warlock is unaffected due to his alien nature. Selene is untransformed thanks to her own sorceress abilities, which she claims predate even Gath. And Gath leaves Spider-Man untransformed and thus aware of how the world has been altered, as punishment for Spider-Man foiling his plan in their last encounter.

The corner box on the cover gets briefly monkeyed with again, as New Mutants Cannonball, Mirage, Magma and Wolfsbane are added. 

The Chronology Corner 
The New Mutants appear here following New Mutants #25 and Rom Annual #3. The Avengers appear following Avengers #251, Spider-Man appears following Marvel Team-Up #150, and Dr. Strange appears following Incredible Hulk #300.

A Work in Progress
Gath's spell took effect fairly quickly after the events of last issue, with Professor X and the X-Men still in the city, as well as Rachel and Amara, and catching Storm before her ship left for Africa.

Even before she crosses the barrier and reverts to normal, Storm senses something wrong about her barbarian condition. 


As Kulan Gath takes control of the New Mutants, an unaffected Warlock realizes his best course of action is to flee, something he realizes he's been doing a lot of lately.


An untransformed Selene appears wearing the Black Queen garb, something which doesn't go unnoticed by Storm.


The gradual softening of Callisto begins here, as despite her hatred of Storm for usurping her position as leader of the Morlocks, she is angry about the attack which led to Storm's loss of power, telling her the Morlock's take care of their own. 


I Love the 80s
As in last issue, the Statute of Liberty remains under construction/renovation. 


An ad for a VHS tape collecting the first five part GI Joe miniseries that kicked off their cartoon series features as one of its selling points the low, low price of only $39.95 for the tape. Holy crap you guys, remember when videos were that expensive? Nowadays I could buy the entire first season of the show on DVD for significantly less than that.


Claremontisms
Discussing whether the X-Men can help stop Kulan Gath, Val Cooper does the classic Claremont self-interjection, saying "I hope -- I pray -- so, with all my heart". 

Illyana uses her Soulsword, which is, that's right, the "ultimate expression" of her power as a sorcerer. 


Artistic Achievements
Romita Jr. doesn't exactly get (or deserve) a lot of credit for the various costumes he designs for various X-Men characters during his run, but in an issue that requires all new looks for everyone, he does turn out some fun designs for the transformed characters and, really, the entire world (the opening double page splash is in and of itself is pretty amazing, with some great inks from Dan Gree).


There's also a neat bit throughout the issue involving Spider-Man's dialogue. It's made clear that all the transformed characters don't speak or understand English, so all of Spider-Man's dialogue is framed in the "< >" symbols used to visually denote that a character is speaking in a foreign language.


Human/Mutant RelationsAt Val Cooper's briefing, one member of the NSA objects to Val including the X-Men amongst the list of heroes caught in Gath's spell.


A general, however, recalling the Holocaust, admonishes the anti-mutant rhetoric. 


For Sale
Who wants some Trans-bots?!?


There's an ad for the Marvel role playing game (the first, I believe) as well as the board game classic, Risk. 


Teebore's Take
The story that unfolds in this issue and the next has long been one of my favorites. Not because it's groundbreaking, or innovative, or incredibly well crafted. It's simply good old-fashioned comic book fun, the kind of story you can really only find in serialized superhero comics. It marries the anything goes, big ideas aesthetic of the Silver Age ("Sword and Sorcery X-Men!") with the more grounded approach and consistent characterization of the Bronze Age. Heck, it even features dialogue on the cover, something that wasn't quite entirely passe yet in 1985, but getting pretty close to being so.

Also, much like the Casket of Ancient Winters stuff in earlier issues, I also really appreciate that Claremont realizes the scope of his story would logically include other New York based superheroes, so he includes them, the Avengers, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange alongside the X-Men, New Mutants and Morlocks (apparently the Fantastic Four were out of town; maybe poor forgotten Daredevil was as well). The end result is a fun, dense, character packed story with some genuinely creepy imagery that manages to imagine a whole new world and tell a complete story in just a pair of issues. These days, a story like this would be a six issue miniseries followed by months-long ramifications unfolding in multiple titles (think House of M); here, it is just business as usual, an example of the Bronze Age at its most fun. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, we wrap up the Cloak and Dagger story in New Mutants #25, and next week, Uncanny X-Men #191 concludes the Kulan Gath story.

24 comments:

  1. Good story! One of my favorite things about it is that it's pretty much the very last time that this vintage Romita Jr. draws Spider-Man. Plus I like when Spider-Man co-opts an issue of X-Men now and then (see also during "Operation: Zero Tolerance" -- the second time I've mentioned that issue in a blog comment today, strangely enough).

    I'm not such a fan of Spidey's fate in this story, though. But I guess we'll get to that next issue.

    Now I'd like to move on to a big question to which I've never found a satisfactory answer: who owns the rights to Kulan Gath?? According to the internet, he was created by Roy Thomas as a Conan character. His Wikipedia page says he is not owned by Marvel (I know Wikipedia is always suspect, but still). But Kurt Busiek and George Perez used Gath in Avengers, I believe after Marvel had lost the Conan rights. Furthermore, Dynamite has used him in their Red Sonja comics, despite the Conan license sitting with Dark Horse (and from what I've read, those two companies do not like to cooperate with regards to their Hyborian properties). And on top of that, Marvel continues to reprint his appearnces in X-Men and Avengers at will.

    He can't be public domain yet, unless he was never copyrighted by anyone? I don't know exactly how copyright law works, so that may not be possible.

    I don't know why this question burns my soul as it does, but I have always really wanted to know the answer.

    And now some comments on the ads... This seems to be the point where we're getting to ads I remember and/or had interest in.

    "Holy crap you guys, remember when videos were that expensive?"

    I have some recollection, though I obviously wasn't too in tune with money yet at age six. But I remember that videos in general were considered luxury items if you wanted to own them. Renting (or recording TV broadcasts) was the way to go. As a kid, I believe I owned exactly one single official VHS release, which was randomly the Transformers episode "S.O.S. Dinobots". Speaking of which, does anyone remember when videotapes were released with one single 22 minute episode of a cartoon series on them?? That was insane.

    Anyway, the point is that I owned very few tapes, but I rented tons and tons of cartoons from the local video store (and that's another one -- remember before Blockbuster showed up, when there was such a thing as a mom-&-pop video store?).

    "Who wants some Trans-bots?!?"

    Wow, that's clearly Starscream (or Skywarp or Thundercracker) and Megatron. I know bootleg Transformers existed back then (I had a bootleg gray Shockwave that my dad got me on a business trip), but I had no idea they were advertised in mainstream comics. I wonder if Hasbro sent any cease-and-desist letters to the "Trans-Bots" people?

    "There's an ad for the Marvel role playing game..."

    As noted before, I played the heck out of this game. Got into it around the fifth grade, and played off and on with my friends throughout middle school, high school, and college. Those were some amazing times. No, wait. They were Monstrous (75). Dare I say they were Unearthly (100)??

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Matt: who owns the rights to Kulan Gath??

    I have no idea, and all the theory/speculation I would have added to the discussion you covered, so I got nothing.

    Speaking of which, does anyone remember when videotapes were released with one single 22 minute episode of a cartoon series on them?? That was insane.

    I do remember, and yes, yes it was.

    There was a mom-and-pop video store near my grandparents house, and every time I visited I'd go there and rent a pile of videos. It's pretty much how I saw the debut or early episodes of stuff like GI Joe, Transformers, Voltron (the debut episodes being more value, of course, because they were usually five part miniseries, versus the tapes that, as you say, contained merely an episode or two on them).

    I can still picture that video store, long gone, and the sound of the plastic clamshell case the tapes were in. That "f.h.e" logo on the GI Joe ad is one of those images from childhood seared into my brain.

    As great as things are these days in terms of access to old and current media, between cheap DVD production and stuff like Neflix and whatnot, part of me misses the experience of walking into a video store and marveling at all the different movies before picking up a stack of tapes for the week or weekend.

    I wouldn't trade the way things are for the way they were, but I still miss that experience, and I miss that my kids won't ever be able to experience it. I saw a ton of great movies just because of the way the tape on the shelf or a poster in the store jumped out at me, and you really can't recreate that experience nowadays.

    Sappy nostalgic meanderings over...

    I know bootleg Transformers existed back then ... but I had no idea they were advertised in mainstream comics.

    I wondered if those were bootlegs, or whether there was some cost involved with (or potential punishment for) using the name Transformers in ads, even if you were advertising the legitimate product?

    But yeah, those are probably just bootlegs being advertised by a standalone store or mail order business.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "I saw a ton of great movies just because of the way the tape on the shelf or a poster in the store jumped out at me"

    And a lot of crappy ones as well...

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Dr. Bitz: And a lot of crappy ones as well...

    The glass is always half empty, isn't it? :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is a fun story, and I love that splash page of transformed Manhattan. It's issues like this, along with the X-Men vs. limited series, that make me think it was around this time that somebody in editorial said "hey maybe we should start having the X-Men cross over with properties to give them a boost," instead of random team-ups with Ka-Zar or Iron Fist supporting characters. It's still self-contained, but this is practically a Spider-Man book as much as it is an X-Men book. I also love stories like this when they have a big stakes, an anything-can-happen tone, and are kept to 3 issues or less (preferably 2).

    "Now I'd like to move on to a big question to which I've never found a satisfactory answer: who owns the rights to Kulan Gath??"

    Okay Matt, I am an attorney, although not a patent/IP attorney, but let's see if I can answer your question. A quick trademark search brings up nothing, which isn't all that surprising. As for copyright, Gath's first appearance in any printed media is a Marvel comic, which would seem to indicate that Marvel had the rights to the character at some point, except I'm not sure what specific deal Marvel had when it came to original characters based on licensed properties- it seems like a mixed bag, as the Dire Wraiths and Shuma Gorath seem to have made their way into Marvel's IP hands, but some other characters, including Gath, seem to have been left unclaimed. The additional wrinkle is that Michael Moorcock collaborated on that issue and brought his character Elric in, so he may have some rights to the character as well, although only if the character was not work for hire. It appears the rights to Gath and various other characters were sold to Red Sonja LLC, who own both the copyright and a trademark filed in July 1985. As part of that arrangement, I believe Marvel kept the right to publish Gath's appearances in Marvel books. It looks like Red Sonja LLC was created as a sort of off-shoot of Conan LLC, likely in preparation for the movie, but Conan characters and properties were later sold separately, which is why Sonja LLC had a lawsuit with Conan and Dark Horse about whether they had a right to use Hyborea. Regardless, Marvel's license to publish old stories remained, and they apparently didn't mind bringing him back in the early 2000's on the Avengers. Confusingly, the only registered copyright use of Gath is as part of a list of 3,387 Marvel copyrighted characters that he appeared on in 2002, but I think that's probably a mistake, as Marvel hasn't tried to claim ownership of the character.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, thanks, Dobson! That is one of the most informative posts I think I've ever read on the internet.

    I agree that who owned what with regards to Marvel's licensed books is weird. As you note, Marvel owns the Dire Wraiths and other Spaceknights from ROM, but at the same time, Hasbro owns the rights to pretty much everything Larry Hama ever created in G.I. Joe. And I know that Jim Shooter specifically put the character Circuit Breaker in an issue of Secret Wars II before her debut in Transformers specifically so Marvel, rather than Hasbro, could copyright her (which seems like "playing dirty" to me).

    Anyway, I appereciate your research and explanation!

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a good story, although, as Matt wrote:

    "I'm not such a fan of Spidey's fate in this story, though. But I guess we'll get to that next issue."

    That almost ruins the whole two-parter for me. Excess cruelty in a super-hero comic never sits well with me.

    Still, shaking the X-en mileu up with an alternate universe almost always works. Between Days of Future Past, this story, and Age of Apocalypse, the X-books have a decent track record. I didn't read the recent Age of X, but I didn't hear good things.

    I don't give JR Jr. kudos very often, but good on him for redesigning the characters and making Dr. Strange look so nightmarish.

    Re: bootleg Transformers: I distinctly remember seeing a box set of the Aerialbots at CVS. Upon closer inspection, the transformers logo was nowhere to be found on the box and they had axes and swords for weapons.

    "And I know that Jim Shooter specifically put the character Circuit Breaker in an issue of Secret Wars II before her debut in Transformers specifically so Marvel, rather than Hasbro, could copyright her (which seems like "playing dirty" to me)."

    Marvel UK did the same thing with Death's Head, having him debut in a one page strip printed in the backs of multiple titles before he showed up in Transformers.

    - Mike Loughlin

    ReplyDelete
  9. Mike L. -- "Excess cruelty in a super-hero comic never sits well with me."

    Yeah, that about sums it up for me, too. As I said, I had planned to voice my objections in next week's comments, but I'll just toss it out here right now, anyway (28 year-old SPOILER ALERT): what does killing Spider-Man add to the story? It shows us how evil and sadistic Kulan Gath is, but doesn't the torture alone accomplish that?

    More to come next week...

    Mike L. -- "Upon closer inspection, the transformers logo was nowhere to be found on the box and they had axes and swords for weapons."

    I know plenty of Transformers used medeival-type weapons, but for some reason the thought of the sleek, mostly futuristic Aerialbots wielding swords and axes cracks me up.

    Mike L. -- "Marvel UK did the same thing with Death's Head..."

    Oh yeah, I forgot about that. At least Marvel has gotten some extra mileage out of Death's Head over the years. Outside of the Secret Wars II appearance, Circuit Breaker never showed up anyplace in the Marvel Universe. All she's done is make it harder for companies like IDW to reprint the full Marvel run without working out special deals. Speaking of which, not using her in the Transformers/Avengers crossover they did a few years seemed like a waste to me.

    Also, and now I'm getting into full Transformers nerd mode, since Hasbro owns the Transformers and has the Marvel license, why haven't we seen a Cicruit Breaker figure as part of the Marvel Legends or Marvel Universe line? I'd buy one! In fact, the past couple years, Hasbro has done Transformer/G.I. Joe crossover toys as Comic-Con exclusives the past few years (A Joe Skystriker painted as Starscream with a Cobra Commander figure as the pilot, for example). Why not a Joe/TF/Marvel crossover utilizing Circuit Breaker somehow?

    (Can you tell I'm a fan of Circuit Breaker? Maybe her only fan...)

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Matt

    "Can you tell I'm a fan of Circuit Breaker? Maybe her only fan?"

    Speaking as the only guy who likes Maggott, I hear you. Someday, the world will recognize his great.. er, okayness!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I believe the Transbots were not bootleg Transformers. They were the original transformers who were not yet named and perhaps not yet owned by HASBRO. Jim Shooter told the story on his blog. Links here:

    http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/06/secret-origin-of-transformers-part-1.html

    http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/06/secret-origin-of-transformers-part-2.html

    If I remember correctly, all VHS tapes were insanely expensive until the Tim Burton Batman movie came out. It was price at the very low price of $19.99 instead of the hundred plus dollars other tapes were. Within a few years, price for tapes came down to $20 for top titles and under $10 for less. It wasn't too much longer that became even lower, and then DVDs were released and the prices plummeted.

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  12. Chris -- "I believe the Transbots were not bootleg Transformers. They were the original transformers who were not yet named and perhaps not yet owned by HASBRO."

    You're correct, except that Hasbro's Transformers hit the U.S. the year before this issue came out, in 1984. But this could be an outdated ad, I suppose. I hadn't considered that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Matt - "I'm not such a fan of Spidey's fate in this story, though. But I guess we'll get to that next issue."

    Same here. It kind of colors the story a little too much for me, because I remembered being really disturbed by it as a kid. Plus he goes out like a punk.

    ReplyDelete

  14. This is one of my least favorite covers ever — in terms of covers that actually tried to be something, anyway (as opposed to covers from publishers and/or artists that had little to no creative aspiration to begin with). Not only is the Xavier/Caliban hybrid just creepy, but even within that context the whole design scheme looks dated, too, and the letters are terrible.

    If last issue's cover said "You don't know any of these characters but the girls are showing some skin and you'll find out what all these power bolts being thrown around are about inside!" this cover says "You are guaranteed to have nightmares but we threw in Spider-Man and the Avengers for your troubles and oops no cover should ever be orange!"

    Isn't the issue kind-of chock full of better visuals to springboard from, like the X-Men and Avengers posing in their new ensorcelled outfits or even battling one another? They never really fought in the issue, true, but that never stopped Marvel before.

    Meanwhile, Kulan Gath taunts the imprisoned and mutilated Dr. Strange as he magically fuses Professor X and Caliban into one being, who summons the New Mutants.

    We really needed a better segue into those Xavier/Caliban transformation panels and Kulan Gath's soliloquy to the captive Doctor Strange, 'cause it felt like I was missing a page if not an entire issue.

    People maintain their memories and their relationships, though both are rendered in the context of the modified world.

    Or so Val Cooper says, but under-the-spell Callisto doesn't seem to consider Ororo the leader of the Morlocks nor even necessarily to have met her before, and Captain America talks to Storm like he's hearing about the X-Men and mutants in general for the first time.

    Warlock, despite being left out of the story currently unfolding in New Mutants, appears here for the first time since New Mutants #22, in his most active role since New Mutants Annual #1. He is once again shown to be able to assume a relatively human form, and narration asserts that despite being an alien, he is in fact as much a mutant as his teammates.

    That was news to me. I'm glad that you called out his absence from the Cloak & Dagger storyline in New Mutants, too, which felt odd.

    And Gath leaves Spider-Man untransformed and thus aware of how the world has been altered, as punishment for Spider-Man foiling his plan in their last encounter.

    Honestly, I wondered if we were supposed to assume that or if there was some fluke that we learned about next issue (me having almost zero recollection of these issues since first reading them in 1984-85).

    The corner box on the cover gets briefly monkeyed with again, as New Mutants Cannonball, Mirage, Magma and Wolfsbane are added. 

    Do you think that was to make the New Mutants' appearance a bigger deal, or just to beef up the previous issue's paltry head count? 'Cause Rachel and Professor X would make sense as additions.

    Gath's spell took effect fairly quickly after the events of last issue, with Professor X and the X-Men still in the city, as well as Rachel and Amara, and catching Storm before her ship left for Africa.

    I was surprised by Storm still being there because it seemed like she was really about to leave when the X-Men were seeing her off.

    Warlock realizes his best course of action is to flee, something he realizes he's been doing a lot of lately.

    Like I pointed out at the time, It's his frickin' origin story.

    ReplyDelete

  15. As in last issue, the Statute of Liberty remains under construction/renovation. 

    Now with 20% more scaffolding! So that's progress. Maybe Xavier should hire this crew to repair the Danger Room.

    Illyana uses her Soulsword, which is, that's right, the "ultimate expression" of her power as a sorcerer.

    At least a couple of the rapid-banter exchanges between Ororo and Callisto were Claremontisms, too ("Do you believe her?" "No." "Trust her?" "Never.")

    It's made clear that all the transformed characters don't speak or understand English, so all of Spider-Man's dialogue is framed in the "< >" symbols used to visually denote that a character is speaking in a foreign language.

    I liked that quite a bit, too.

    At Val Cooper's briefing, one member of the NSA objects to Val including the X-Men amongst the list of heroes caught in Gath's spell.

    The next guy's usage of "filthy mutie vermin" is suspect in such an official setting in such a packed room, no matter how strongly held his views and how comfortable he feels in his position.

    I wonder what the obviously relettered captions in the last panel on Pg. 4 as Val responds used to say.

    Am I the only one who thinks that The Scarlet Witch's outfit is more modern than the one she wore before the spell?

    A general, however, recalling the Holocaust, admonishes the anti-mutant rhetoric. 

    That ain't just any general — It's Lech Walesa! Or maybe Bela Karolyi.

    Who wants some Trans-bots?!?

    "Little plastic robots that look like girls but have boy parts underneath!"™

    There's an ad for the Marvel role playing game

    It was so disappointing, all the more confoundingly because it was put out by TSR. I don't think I ever played Villains & Vigilantes, but Champions and the DC game from Mayfair were much, much better. Sorry, Matt!

    apparently the Fantastic Four were out of town; maybe poor forgotten Daredevil was as well

    He was locked in Sir Wilson Fisk's dungeon after Karen Page sold him out for a hit of Belladonna.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Blam -- "Isn't the issue kind-of chock full of better visuals to springboard from, like the X-Men and Avengers posing in their new ensorcelled outfits or even battling one another?"

    Tom Raney's cover to the X-Men Classic issue reprinting this story does pretty much exactly what you suggest. It's full of exaggerated 90's anatomy, but even so, I think it sells the story better than Romita's original cover.

    Blam -- "It was so disappointing, all the more confoundingly because it was put out by TSR. I don't think I ever played Villains & Vigilantes, but Champions and the DC game from Mayfair were much, much better. Sorry, Matt!"

    Having played other superhero RPGs over the years alongside and after Marvel, I do agree that it's not the best system (though I found Mayfair's DC Heroes to be nigh-incomprehensible). But back then, all my friends and I wanted was to play in the Marvel Universe, and TSR's game was set there, with tons and tons of books and box sets supporting it, so it was our game by default.

    If I was gaming nowadays, I would just find another superhero system I liked better and use it for Marvel, but back then I was not so adventurous.

    ReplyDelete
  17. @Dobson: It's issues like this, along with the X-Men vs. limited series, that make me think it was around this time that somebody in editorial said "hey maybe we should start having the X-Men cross over with properties to give them a boost"

    Yeah, this is definitely the era where we're starting to see that Marvel has noticed that the X-Men are selling books like hotcakes, and try to use them to boost other books, instead of vice versa.

    Thanks for the investigation and rundown of the Kulan Gath copyright! I remain infinitely fascinated by the various in and outs of who owns what when it comes to comic book characters like that.

    @Mike: I didn't read the recent Age of X, but I didn't hear good things.

    I'm actually reading it now (because I'm always so far behind on stuff). It's not bad. Pretty much just a watered down AoA, though to its credit it's not aspiring to be anything as sweeping or dramatic as that. We'll see how it ends, but so far, it's biggest sin is being largely inconsequential.

    good on him for redesigning the characters and making Dr. Strange look so nightmarish.

    It could just be a personal thing, but the whole "no mouth" thing he does with Dr. Strange here and with Selene next issue has always creeped me the hell out.

    @Matt: Can you tell I'm a fan of Circuit Breaker? Maybe her only fan...

    Ha! I'm not sure if you're reading any of the current Transformers stuff from IDW, but Transformers: Regeneration One picks up where the Marvel series ended (like the Joe series by Larry Hama that does the same thing), and is written by Simon Furman w/art by Andrew Wildman.

    Anyways, the first story arc featured Spike using Circuit Breaker's tech to fight Decepticons as Circuit Smasher.

    But this could be an outdated ad, I suppose. I hadn't considered that.

    I was thinking that too. Or perhaps even an ad specifically for the pre-Hasbro Transformers from Japan, since I believe the ad was for a second hand comic book/toy store, as opposed to a generic "find these at your favorite retailer!" type ad put out by the manufacturer.

    @Chris: If I remember correctly, all VHS tapes were insanely expensive until the Tim Burton Batman movie came out.

    Huh. I never realized the Burton Batman movie marked a turning point in home video sales like that. Interesting. I definitely remember having a copy of it on tape.

    ReplyDelete
  18. @Blam: This is one of my least favorite covers ever

    Yeah, this one is pretty bad. Next issue's is a little better, but still nothing to get excited about either, despite the strong images to pull from, as you suggested. Even the X-Men Classic covers for this story are pretty blah, though at least they feature the characters in their transformed looks.

    Or so Val Cooper says, but under-the-spell Callisto doesn't seem to consider Ororo the leader of the Morlocks nor even necessarily to have met her before, and Captain America talks to Storm like he's hearing about the X-Men and mutants in general for the first time.

    Hmm, good point. There's some truth to what Val says, but you're right that it's not entirely 100% accurate either.

    That was news to me.

    Warlock's role in this story really stuck out at me this time. He behaves here very much like he's been around for awhile, but I never realized until now just how untrue that was at the time, with this story really giving him the most screen time yet.

    Honestly, I wondered if we were supposed to assume that or if there was some fluke that we learned about next issue

    Gath does makes it clear in this issue.

    Do you think that was to make the New Mutants' appearance a bigger deal, or just to beef up the previous issue's paltry head count?

    I'd guess the former, for the reason you suggested (there being better options to fill the space if that were the only goal).

    Like I pointed out at the time, It's his frickin' origin story.

    Heh. At this point we've seem him do little else aside from runaway.

    Maybe Xavier should hire this crew to repair the Danger Room.

    They'd certainly get it done faster, at least pre-Shi'ar robots.

    At least a couple of the rapid-banter exchanges between Ororo and Callisto were Claremontisms, too

    Yes, they were. I'm looking harder than ever for them and still missing them...

    Am I the only one who thinks that The Scarlet Witch's outfit is more modern than the one she wore before the spell?

    Now that you mention it, you're right.

    He was locked in Sir Wilson Fisk's dungeon after Karen Page sold him out for a hit of Belladonna.

    Ha! That does sound about right. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Teebore -- "...Transformers: Regeneration One picks up where the Marvel series ended (like the Joe series by Larry Hama that does the same thing), and is written by Simon Furman w/art by Andrew Wildman."

    I was reading IDW's Transformers stuff until the ongoing series started with horrible Michael Bay inspired artwork from Don Figueroa. Though I had already kind of given up halfway through All Hail Megatron, but I stuck that series out due to the amazing Guido Guidi. His Transformers look like they stepped directly out of the old cartoon.

    The IDW universe was great and very interesting when Furman was the sole writer. Then IDW started running things like modern Marvel, with multiple writers, artists who deviated from established character models at will, coordinated "events", and other things that made me drop the line in frustration.

    I have been reading and loving Hama's G.I. Joe continuation however, and I picked up the first trade of Regeneration One, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I'm psyched for some Furman/Wildman Transformers action, though.

    ReplyDelete
  20. @Matt: I have been reading and loving Hama's G.I. Joe continuation however, and I picked up the first trade of Regeneration One, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

    The "continuation" series (for lack of a better term) are the only titles from IDW's Joe and Transformers lines that I've been reading, but I've been enjoying them both.

    ReplyDelete

  21. @Matt: If I was gaming nowadays, I would just find another superhero system I liked better and use it for Marvel, but back then I was not so adventurous.

    I'm pretty sure I set up DC and Marvel characters with Champions. And then when DC's game came along, while I mostly ran a campaign with a friend set in the DC Universe with some new focal characters, I translated Marvel characters into it too. The weird thing about Marvel's game — like I said, especially being made by TSR — was how Mickey Mouse it was (no decades-later-acquisition-by-Disney pun intended). Maybe research showed that there wasn't as much crossover between RPG fans and comics fans as one might think, although in my own experience while not all my gaming friends read comics most of my comics-reading friends were into gaming. Mayfair's DC game was much more familiarly stats-oriented, although it got a little ridiculous when powers or abilities were ascribed to technology as well as people and so, like, everyday cameras had telescopic vision.

    @Teebore: Warlock's role in this story really stuck out at me this time. He behaves here very much like he's been around for awhile, but I never realized until now just how untrue that was at the time, with this story really giving him the most screen time yet.

    Although I'm totally with you on how strange Warlock's there / not there status is, his origins and powers and acclimation to Earth society pretty much ignored unless or until they're the focus of a story, my "That was news to me" comment was actually about the designation of him as a mutant. His deal seemed to be related to his alien species, period.

    @Teebore: Gath does makes it clear [that he exempted Spider-Man from the spell] in this issue.

    I might have missed something, but the only relevant line to me comes when he says to Doctor Strange, "Everyone else, save the accursed Man-Spider, has been transformed by my enchantment." And I didn't read that as him being responsible for the anomaly — rather, it comes across as an observation that frustrates him. Contextualized by the knowledge from elsewhere that he's responsible, I can see it as gloating or just villain-plan exposition; otherwise, at least for me, this dialogue didn't/doesn't get the point across.

    ReplyDelete
  22. @Blam: my "That was news to me" comment was actually about the designation of him as a mutant. His deal seemed to be related to his alien species, period.

    I forget when/which it is, but I believe there's an issue which eventually establishes that Warlock is a mutant due to the fact that he fled his planet rather than face his father in combat, the first of his race to do so.

    Which comes, of course, after issues like this one which established that he is in fact a mutant, something which was done because I think Claremont (or editorial) believed at this time that they couldn't have someone be a member of either team without strictly being a mutant.

    So basically Warlock's mutant power is cowardice, and all the other cool, useful stuff he can do is just a result of his being an alien.

    I might have missed something, but the only relevant line to me comes when he says to Doctor Strange, "Everyone else, save the accursed Man-Spider, has been transformed by my enchantment."

    I could have sworn there was line from Gath somewhere in the issue that made it clear he left Spider-Man unchanged and why, but I can't for the life of me find it, so I apparently just imagined it and unintentionally read Gath's line to Dr. Strange with the hindsight afforded me by having read the rest of the story.


    ReplyDelete
  23. @Teebore: I could have sworn there was line from Gath somewhere in the issue that made it clear he left Spider-Man unchanged and why, but I can't for the life of me find it

    Could it be the next issue which starts with Spidey shackled to the shape of X with Kulan taunting him before his troops?

    Anyway, it's kind of obvious that the shenanigans here are at least as much about Kulan's revenge on Spidey as about his getting world domination. What better that to leave the cursed Man-Spider unchanged, with the knowledge that Kulan could be won by removing the necklace but unable to communicate it to anyone.

    About Peter's demise in the story, what is this here but an examination about what Spider-Man is all about in a world free of rule that the hero/valuable property has to live on to fight/profit? For all the torture Peter never submits to Kulan. His spirit just can't be broken no matter what, and Kulan letting him die is nothing but the ultimate acknowledgement of that, no matter how Kulan tries to dress it into his empty bravado. "You seize to amuse me", hah, yes, no amusement to you, Kulan!

    Plus, in the end when the time is right Peter succeeds to tell the resistance about the necklace and it's all due to him that Kulan goes down. It's not Peter's fault that there was no healing power or Jubilee there to help him when he pulls himself off the cross.

    (Technically this was a next issue matter and addressing comments there, but it's kind of important to understand why Spidey remained unchanged so it's here now)

    ReplyDelete
  24. My least favourite issue of this era, and from what I remember, Claremont's as well.
    I will agree that is a good example of Bronze Age compact storytelling. As Claremont once said, if you did write a 'miss' here and there, there was a completely different story on its way next month!

    ReplyDelete

Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Am mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!