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Thursday, March 19, 2015

X-amining New Mutants #86

"Bang! You're Dead!"
February 1990

In a Nutshell
Rusty & Skids battle the Vulture & Nitro. 

Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Rob Liefeld
Inker: Bob Wiacek
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The Vulture arrives at the home of the Tinkerer, angry at the inventor having purloined the Vulture's design for this flying harness, but the Tinkerer explains he was hired to make the wings to enable the Vulture to break out of prison, and to instruct the Vulture to attack Speedball after he escaped. But Vulture scoffs at the notion, instead focusing on his primary goal: freeing Nitro. Back at the prison, Rusty and Skids commandeer a truck, intent on stopping Vulture, despite Skids' reservations about helping humans. Later, Vulture and Tinkerer arrive at the Albany Courthouse where Nitro is being tried, and Vulture swoops in, grabbing the canister containing Nitro. On the roof, Tinkerer works to open the canister while Rusty and Skids arrive below. They climb up onto the roof, with Rusty launching himself at the Vulture just as Nitro is freed.


In the sky above, Rusty burns off Vulture's wings, sending them both crashing to the roof and knocking out Rusty as Nitro begins powering up. But just as he's about to explode, Skids tackles him, using her force field to absorb most of his blast, leaving Skids weak and causing Nitro to disintegrate. Meanwhile, in Asgard, the New Mutants are healed via the Elixir of Life, but they learn that with the Rainbow Bridge shattered and Asgard adrift in the Negative Zone, they have no way of getting home. Back in Albany, Freedom Force arrives on the scene, taking everyone into custody despite Rusty's frantic insistence that Skids needs medical attention, with Crimson Commando telling the gathered media that Rusty and Skids were working with the villains. Later, the Mutant Liberation Front blows up an federal energy research facility, with their leader declaring that for every day Rusty and Skids remain captives, another symbol of humanity's prosperity will be destroyed!

Firsts and Other Notables
Rob Liefeld joins the book as the new regular artist this issue, and arguably no artist has had as big an impact on an X-book as quickly as Liefeld does on this series, soon becoming a co-plotter, then effectively ousting Louise Simonson and plotting everything himself (with Fabian Nicieza scripting), creating two brand new characters who will each end up headlining several solo series a piece (and one of whom currently has his own movie in the works), and shepherding the series' transformation into X-Force, the first issue of which briefly held the title of the best selling comic of all time, all within the next fourteen issues of New Mutants.

While there will be plenty of occasion to mock his art, I also can't deny how alluring it was to me as a kid, reading this material for the first time. I read these issues as back issues, but I still looked forward to when the Blevins art (and especially the Shoemaker/Isherwood fill-ins) gave way to Liefeld. Everything just seemed bigger when Liefeld (and many of the other future Image guys, like Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio) drew them, like the camera had been zoomed in on the action so that nearly everything was a medium-range to closeup shot, and the pages burst with energy, the action often busting right out into the gutters, as though the panels themselves couldn't contain the art.

Of course, I realize now a large part of that was a deliberate effort to mask flaws: characters constantly drawn in mid-to-close shots don't need feet, and with the figures filling more of the panels, it's easier to skip out on drawing backgrounds entirely. But while I see that now, all the flaws, the wonky anatomy, the fact that everyone has the same squinty face, repeated, often nonsensical design elements like thigh belts, the obvious swiping from other, mostly better, artists, they were completely lost on me as a dumb-ass kid, and I ate it all up, including Rob Liefeld's work, with the biggest of spoons.

The final page of this issue introduces the Mutant Liberation Front, a team of mutant terrorists filling the "Brotherhood of Evil Mutants" void left in the wake of Freedom Force's creation. Most of their members are in shadows here, but we see Wildside (whose weird triangle shaped hair will become something of a hallmark of the early 90s X-books), Strobe and Zero in full. The MLF will serve as the chief antagonists of the Cable-led New Mutants through the end of this series and into X-Force, and will continue to appear in various iterations well into the 90s.


We also see the arm of their leader, who will shortly be revealed as Stryfe, and a one panel sneak peak of Cable, both of whom appear in full for the first time next issue.


The cover of this issue, drawn by Liefeld and inked by Todd McFarlane, is an homage to Amazing Spider-Man #2, the first appearance of the Vulture, with Rusty subbing in for Spider-Man. The cover signature notes "after [Steve] Ditko".

After two issues sporting the "Acts of Vengeance" tag, this issue finally puts the tie-in center stage. In addition to the Vulture, who's been flitting about the series for the last few issues, the Tinkerer, another old Spider-Man villain, appears in this issue, along with Nitro, the villain credited with causing the cancer that killed Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and who later triggered the events of "Civil War" by blowing up a good chunk of Stamford, Connecticut during a battle with the New Warriors.


In perhaps another thinly-veiled message from Simonson, it's implied that Loki arranged for Vulture's escape from prison so that he could attack Speedball, an idea Vulture quickly ignores, saying battling someone like that is small potatoes and not worthy of the term "vengeance" (also, in another little coincidence, Speedball was one of the New Warriors present in Stamford when Nitro blew up, and he became ridiculously emo as a result).


Freedom Force pops up in this issue (consisting of Blob, Pyro and Crimson Commando), spinning events to paint Rusty and Skids as being in collusion with Vulture and Nitro, and referencing their recent losses at the hands of the Reavers as examples of what happens when mutants go bad. They'll continue to hang around for the next few issues.


A Work in Progress
The New Mutants injured during the battle with Dani last issue are healed thanks to an elixir provided by Hogun the Grim.

Boom-Boom is also starting to come around on Asgard, saying it's not so bad there.


501 Genes
Not that plenty of other artists, including Bret Blevins previously on this series, aren't guilty of this on occasion, but one issue into his run and Liefeld is already skimping on the backgrounds, often putting the characters against solid backdrops of color in lieu of drawing in details.


Later, Nitro and Vulture yell at each other with their eyes closed for some reason.


Human/Mutant Relations
Skids continues to question the idea of helping save humans from Nitro, with Rusty again arguing that it will make for good publicity for mutants, the public seeing two of them risk their lives to help regular humans, and the press at Nitro's trial will afford them an opportunity to expose Freedom Force's plans for the Inferno babies (which is here said to be to train them for combat).



Rob Liefeld on being hired on New Mutants.
"I remember the day that [Bob Harras] called me. I had just got up, and it was 8:30 in the morning my time, and I was making some toast, and I got this phone call. The voice said, 'Hi, Rob, this is Bob Harras.' And he wanted to see if I wanted to take a shot at a fill-in or something for The New Mutants. My response was, 'you really have to ask? Sure!' So he asked me to do some sample pages for him, and he was pleased with them. He is the editor I've been working for primarily at Marvel. I can't say enough good things about Bob. Bob showed tremendous faith in my work and that it was going to improve. He immediately gave me an X-Factor job to do, and that turned into an X-Men assignment and then I did the (1989) New Mutants annual for him. The New Mutants was the book I wanted the most. I see a lot of untapped potential in this book."

Sanderson, Peter. The Mutant Report: Rob Liefeld Interview." Marvel Age #86. March, 1990: 10-11

Rob Liefeld on working with Louise Simonson.
"Her plots are wonderful. They are so easy to draw from. She gives you everything you need."

Sanderson, Peter. The Mutant Report: Rob Liefeld Interview." Marvel Age #86. March, 1990: 11

Teebore's Take
Though the main story is an "Acts of Vengeance" tie-in and the vast majority of the New Mutants only appear in a few pages that serve as an epilogue to the Asgard story, this is one of the most significant issues of the series, for one reason and one reason alone: Rob Liefeld. Yes, the era of squinty eyes, poor anatomy and disappearing feet is here, but love him or hate him, there's no denying the singular impact he has the third artist with a distinctive style to leave his mark on the series. The issue itself is fairly routine: the Rusty/Skids/Vulture subplot gets top billing and a resolution, and while Skids' sudden disdain for humanity feels a bit forced, there's a definite gut-punch to Rusty and Skids saving the day only to have their efforts twisted by Freedom Force, especially in light of Rusty's earlier optimism that stopping Nitro will win them an opportunity to tell their story to the press and some good press for mutants as a whole.

But in hindsight, all of that feels like an afterthought, the tying up of a loose thread from the B.L. (Before Liefeld) era. It's the closing panels of the issue, as the Mutant Liberation Front is introduced and the arrival of Cable is teased, that Liefeld's presence is truly felt, as the newly christened regular penciller already begins shaping the future of the book. Those last few panels herald the beginning of the book's fourth and final iteration, one that will ultimately transform the series, in just fourteen issues' time, into something nearly unrecognizable relative to this issue, while elevating it, for a time, to one of the industry's best-selling and buzz-worthy titles.

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Ship lands in New York in X-Factor #51. Next week, "Acts of Vengeance" Part 4 and Excalibur #19.

Collected Editions

55 comments:

  1. And it...begins. Yes, we all loved it at the time, but so much awfulness in the art. Just looking at that cover. Yikes!

    The one saving grace to art has to be Bob Wiack's inks.

    "and arguably no artist has had as big an impact on an X-book as quickly as Liefeld does on this series"

    The 90s certainly begins with this issue and the next one, that's for sure.

    "The final page of this issue introduces the Mutant Liberation Front"

    I will say this, conceptually, one of the better ideas Liefeld (or Simonson? Or both?) introduced to the title. Of course, the execution was hit or miss, but lots of solid potential with the idea of this group that never gets fully realized, sadly.

    "Speedball was one of the New Warriors present in Stamford when Nitro blew up, and he became ridiculously emo as a result)."

    Civil War: Front Line has to be one of the shittiest mini-series written in the last decade or so. But, that is neither here nor there...and poor Speedball. He suffered almost as much as some of the X-characters did once CC left.

    "Freedom Force pops up in this issue (consisting of Blob, Pyro and Crimson Commando)"

    They certainly have been busy during AOV, haven't they?

    I wonder if it would be possible to report how much the title was selling from month to month. I'd be curious to see how much of a sales boost Liefeld gives this title, in the short and long term. It would also be interesting to know when the tipping point is for him to get more power over the title than Simonson...

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  2. '"Bob showed tremendous faith in my work and that it was going to improve."'
    Ouch

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  3. The cover of this issue, drawn by Liefeld and inked by Todd McFarlane, is an homage to Amazing Spider-Man #2, the first appearance of the Vulture, with Rusty subbing in for Spider-Man. The cover signature notes "after [Steve] Ditko".

    And, ironically, one of the few Liefeld homages that's actually an homage, rather than a swipe. I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunity to talk about that particular aspect of Liefeld's career.

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  4. Yeah, I also liked Rob Liefeld's work back then. I didn't read NEW MUTANTS at the time, but I picked up some of his X-FORCE in back issues and thought he was great.

    Weird thing is, I didn't like Todd McFarlane as a kid, but I liked Liefeld. Nowadays I still don't like McFarlane, but I think Liefeld is even worse.

    That said, as you yourself point out, Teebore, there's just something about the nonsensically gleeful abandon with which he draws everything that was super-appealing to a 12, 13, 14 year-old.

    Also, I've always found it kind of funny that Liefeld's first big smash-hit character is a middle-aged guy with a receding hairline. Cable really goes against the idea that superheroes need to be young and/or attractive in order to appeal to kids.

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  5. I remember the art in one scene this issue was bizarre- the idea was supposed to be that Rusty set the Vultures wings on fire but in one scene there's fire surrounding Rusty's hand and in the next the Vulture's wings have mostly disappeared.

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  6. While Liefeld has some pretty bad traits and comical tendencies, like the lack of backgrounds and huge hair, I feel that his arrival in New Mutants gave new life to a book I regard as pretty boring.

    As a kid reading back issues in the early 90's, I had little interest in the New Mutants. They just felt too much like a kids book, where the X-Men felt more grown up. A good part of this was the art. Coming to comics during the boom and before the Image exodus, followed by those artists' lasting effects on art in comics, the older New Mutants artwork just looked clunky and awkward.

    Another thing that contributed to my lack of interest was that New Mutants didn't really contribute much to the greater X-Mythos. Even the New Mutants contributions to the crossovers were never really required reading.

    Looking back through the issues today, these feelings are still valid. Liefeld brought action poses and hot looking characters to the book. When combined with the greater magnitude the stories brought to the X-Books story arc, this issue and Liefeld's place on the book made it pop more, give it a more mature feel and just make it more exciting.

    I feel like, as with most comic series, there is a split between those that grew up from kids with the book and had an emotional connection to the New Mutants status quo and those that read most as back issues. The former usually doesn't like this period and hates on Liefeld more, while the latter appreciates the change the book took on.

    Regardless, I think its hard to argue that the 15 issues from now until its end represent the most thrilling stretch in the book's lifespan.

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  7. I hate Liefeld as much as the next guy but I think it looks not so terrible here. I agree that it gives the book some much-needed energy. (Not hard to do, at this point.)

    I kind of think that under different conditions, Liefeld could have built out the stylistic tics that gave his work such a distinctive voice in the beginning and maybe become an interesting artist.

    (Already hate those dumb ass curly forehead thingies he gives everyone instead of hair, though.)

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  8. // 501 Genes //

    Yay! 8^)

    That splash page is the best Liefeld art I've seen by a factor of, let's say, infinity. (Actually, Hawk and Dove had its moments purely thanks to Karl Kesel, although I haven't read that in ages; maybe I should say "best Liefeld art for Marvel".) No doubt Wiacek is a big factor.

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  9. I've been waiting for this day since you began doing New Mutants reviews. Aside from Bill Sienkiewicz's run I felt the book was pretty stale overall - It was either too kid-friendly or felt like nothing more than the Junior X-Men whose adventures were less interesting than those of the X-Men or X-Factor. With Liefeld onboard and the introduction of Cable it finally gave the book its own voice and put it in an interesting direction.

    I was also under the impression that Liefeld and the other Image guys were trying to copy Jim Lee. After all, Lee was the biggest superstar out of the Image guys. But what I didn't realize is that at this point Lee had only just begun his regular X-Men run, and I doubt the Lady Mandarin arc was on the stands as Liefeld was drawing NM #86 - Hell, Liefeld's first X-Men work on #245 was before Lee even came onboard. I realize now that the Image guys were probably doing their best Art Adams impressions, and I see a lot of Adams' influence in Liefeld's art. And McFarlane had been drawing comics for several years at this point, so if anything the Image guys were probably following his lead.

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  10. Ah, yes, The Coming of The Rob. It's actually kind of sad to hear him talk so nicely about Louise, since (a) history makes you wonder if it's a lie and (b) she still seems to be hurt by her ouster in interviews today.

    "I will say this, conceptually, one of the better ideas Liefeld (or Simonson? Or both?) introduced to the title. Of course, the execution was hit or miss, but lots of solid potential with the idea of this group that never gets fully realized, sadly."

    Agreed. Re-reading these made me see that the MLF being demoted to mooks to pad out the X-Cutioner's Song really wasted a good idea, what with the international branches and opportunistic tendencies & manipulations (as we see in this & the next issue with their "recruitment" of Rusty & Skids). Much like the Hellions, they're another great team (albeit a mostly evil one) that should've been used better.

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  11. One of the biggest appeals of the Liefeld era was all the EXTREME! characters. We readers hadn't seen too many super-heroes/anti-heroes and super-villains that had the Liefeld look. Who were they? Where did they come from? What was their story?

    Cable, Deadpool, Domino, and the MLF were more of their time than anything else we readers were being shown at Marvel and DC and suddenly those older characters like the Avengers and Fantastic Four looked a lot more stodgy. When they got jackets and Liefeld pouches it was embarrassing.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  12. I recently bought that old TPB collection of New Mutants 87 through ...94, I think. I never actually read it though. (I tried.) Now I guess it's time to bite the bullet, so I can read along with you over the next couple months.

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  13. we see Wildside (whose weird triangle shaped hair will become something of a hallmark of the early 90s X-books)

    Nevermind the hair, but the_stupid_spots on people's one or both eyes! It's like somewhere there's a cellar where poor Jonathan Ohnn is being stretched on the wall and whimpering "please... no more..." while getting relentlessly harvested for to create some more new Liefeld characters.

    It was like in the one where Ross became the resident musician at the Central Perk and played his old electronic stuff and his every song ended with the "tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-explosion" sequence.

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  14. Mike Loughlin: Who were they? Where did they come from? What was their story?

    Spoil me, people: did any of the rank and file MLFers besides Dragoness ever get any on-panel backstory from a) Liefeld b) anyone?

    Not that I didn't like the (upcoming) Dragoness bit, which could be seen as just one example of those stories of a mutant who Charles Xavier failed to reach, and maybe less is more really here, and it's not really like we ever got a recruitment montage for the Marauders let alone the Riders of the Storm from Claremont.

    There's going to be folks popping out of nowhere, but then again that's not exactly new thing in comics. I'll be thinking about if it's rather that nothing imaginative or un-clicheic will be getting done with them than the lack of origin they bring.

    Also, no kidding: my new phone just tried autocorrecting 'clicheic' into 'Claremont chic'. There seems to be a learning curve cutting both ways here.

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  15. Nostalgia alert! New Mutants 86 was the very first X-book I ever read (yes even before X-Men.) This is the book that introduced me to the concept of a mutant (something I previously applied to gross sewer monsters and the like.) So I have a certain fondness for it. Even disregarding that, I think this is a good issue (and WAY more interesting than the Asgard storyline.) While, in hindsight, Skids was rather out of character, I couldn't help but feel for her stance, since as we saw by the end she and Rusty got a raw deal. Ironically enough, New Mutants were examining human/mutant relations more than the parent book at the time (and in a slightly more nuanced way to boot. Notice that the human paramedics wanted to help Rusty and Skids, despite being "terrorist." A far cry from the one-dimensional jerks we'd get later on in the x-books.)

    About Liefeld: it's weird but as much as I'm a "Liefeld-basher" today, I ate that shit up back when I was a kid. As a (ugh!) "tween", I thought this type of art was the X-TREME ideal for comic book drawings. Ironically I would soon reverse my Liefeld appreciation once X-Force formed, showing that this art had a VERY short shelf-life. Even looking at it now, I'd have to concur with other posters that the art here is at least a dynamic change of pace. I wonder if that was Weezie's influence? It's weird because even though they reportedly didn't get along, i think they somehow brought out the best in each other. Indeed I notice several letters that said that Rob somehow " woke up" Simonson's writing.

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  16. @wwk5d:
    I will say this, conceptually, one of the better ideas Liefeld (or Simonson? Or both?) introduced to the title


    Yeah. There's always a use for good group of evil mutant terrorist types as foils, something that's been lacking since the Brotherhood transformed into Freedom Force.

    Civil War: Front Line has to be one of the shittiest mini-series written in the last decade or so.

    True dat.

    I wonder if it would be possible to report how much the title was selling from month to month.

    I've been trying to track it, but all I've ever had to go on was the Statement of Ownerships, and those have grown more sporadic (both in terms of being printed in the issues, and in terms of the scans of the issues I'm using including the letters pages), and the Comics Chronicles' sales figures don't start up 'til the mid 90s or so.

    If anyone knows of a good resource for sales figures from this era, I'm all ears.

    @Cerebro: I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunity to talk about that particular aspect of Liefeld's career.

    Indeed. Though everyone should feel free to point them out in the comments, as I tend to miss all but the most obvious ones.

    @Matt: Also, I've always found it kind of funny that Liefeld's first big smash-hit character is a middle-aged guy with a receding hairline

    That's a really good point. And come to think of it, the only overly sexualized character of his creation is, what, Domino? And she's not ever really as sexed up as Ninja Psylocke.

    @Zephyr: The former usually doesn't like this period and hates on Liefeld more, while the latter appreciates the change the book took on.

    That certainly could be the case. I'm one of those who came to this series as back issues, and I definitely appreciated hitting the Liefeld issues.

    Regardless, I think its hard to argue that the 15 issues from now until its end represent the most thrilling stretch in the book's lifespan.

    That said, now I'd argue that the Sienkiewicz issues (at least up to the Dazzler/Gladiator issues) is equal to or greater than the Liefeld run in terms of thrills and sheer energy, whereas as a kid his work just seemed weird and confusing to me.

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  17. @Ben: I kind of think that under different conditions, Liefeld could have built out the stylistic tics that gave his work such a distinctive voice in the beginning and maybe become an interesting artist.

    Yeah, if he had stuck around with Marvel & DC (and not gotten so popular he quickly reached a point where no one could tell him what to do) and worked with a strong editor, definitely. But when you form your own company and make boatloads of dough doing what you've always done, there's little incentive to stop doing that thing.

    @Ian: I realize now that the Image guys were probably doing their best Art Adams impressions, and I see a lot of Adams' influence in Liefeld's art.

    Indeed. I've read a lot of interviews with the various Image guys, and a lot of them, especially the younger ones like Lee and Liefeld consistently cite Art Adams as a huge influence.

    @Mela: It's actually kind of sad to hear him talk so nicely about Louise, since (a) history makes you wonder if it's a lie and (b) she still seems to be hurt by her ouster in interviews today.

    True. I'm inclined to think he's being honest in that interview. The whole thing reads like someone genuinely excited to have his first regular gig on a book he likes. I think it's a testament to just how quickly he became a superstar that in less than a year he could go from "she's great to work with!" to having the power to say "get her out of here, I want to do what I want!"

    @Mike: Cable, Deadpool, Domino, and the MLF were more of their time than anything else we readers were being shown at Marvel and DC and suddenly those older characters like the Avengers and Fantastic Four looked a lot more stodgy.

    Good point. A lot of the stuff the Image guys heralded that we associate with the early/stereotypical 90s are laughably cliche now, but when they first showed up, they were like nothing else out there.

    @Jason: I recently bought that old TPB collection of New Mutants 87 through ...94, I think.

    Yup. It runs up to "X-Tinction Agenda". That's actually one of the very first tpb's I got when I started reading comics. I got it for my birthday one year and was super excited to finally read the issues it reprinted since so many of them were way to expensive at the time for me to buy as back issues.

    Hopefully you can grit your teeth through it. :)

    @Teemu: Spoil me, people: did any of the rank and file MLFers besides Dragoness ever get any on-panel backstory from a) Liefeld b) anyone?

    Not really, that I can recall. Reaper, post-M Day, I think, and maybe Tempo at some point? But I think that's about it, and certainly, none of them ever become what you'd call richly developed characters.

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  18. Teebore -- "Hopefully you can grit your teeth through it. :)"

    All the characters will be. Jason can do it too.

    Funny thing is, Marvel reprinted that collection as a hardcover a few years back and, as a full-grown adult who now actively dislikes Liefeld's art, I bought it. I, too, have never read the issues it contains.

    "And come to think of it, the only overly sexualized character of his creation is, what, Domino?"

    I might say Feral, too, with the open-front costume she wears. He certainly sexed up Boom Boom, though. There was this image of her from one of the Marvel Swimsuit Specials which appeared in an ad in several comics around the time, I think for one of those mail order places. As a pubescent youngster, I loved that picture.

    Teemu -- I like the veiled reference to the Spot. You're like the Dennis Miller of comic book references.

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  19. Hah, Matt, before you shell any more obscure reference points at me, I have to own up that the Spot falls clearly into my first year in Marvel and thusly carries the same reverence for me that other people might have for example for Gambit. I nothing short of love his initial show of villainous competence against Spidey, only to be changed into realization of lack of any villainous motivation the minute Spidey gets his first punch in.

    Hilariously my fellow readers didn't quite agree with me on this one as for some years to come after his initial showing the Spot came to dominate the 'worst villain' category in the yearly reader questionnaires. Though not quite as clearly as Marshal Law did the 'worst hero' still years and years after our MARVEL book with monthly-switching star published the loving Marvel tear-up ”Marshal Law takes Manhattan".

    It pleases me to find out that the Spot seem to have resurfaced later on in the best tradition of a new creator coming in and bringing back a villain he himself loved reading from the book when he was a young fan fifteen or so years ago.

    Perhaps the best character ever created by Herb Trimpe.

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  20. I'm sorry but to this day I don't believe that Todd McFarlane just inked the work he did with Rob. It looks like he had a hand in it, the artwork has his style all over it. Maybe Rob was influenced by Todd, but the work just confuses me. Like the cover to New Mutants #87. That looks like Todd did the entire thing besides Boom Boom's face because it has the signature Rob Liefeld look. I don't know its just something I've been pondering for years.

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  21. @Jonathan: While, in hindsight, Skids was rather out of character, I couldn't help but feel for her stance, since as we saw by the end she and Rusty got a raw deal.

    True. And to be clear, her anti-human schtick certainly doesn't come out of nowhere - she's already been shafted by the government at this point, so some resentment is understandable. It just reads, in hindsight, a bit too much like Simonson trying to setup the eventual MLF defection (which ultimately gets retconned into being brainwashing anyway) than a believable development of her character.

    In other words, it's a bit too much too soon, even though some anti-human attitude at this point is understandable.

    Notice that the human paramedics wanted to help Rusty and Skids, despite being "terrorist."

    Nice catch! I totally missed that. You're right too that at this point, both NM and XF are doing way more with the human/mutant relations than UXM is.

    @Matt: All the characters will be. Jason can do it too.

    Ha! Nicely done.

    I might say Feral, too, with the open-front costume she wears. He certainly sexed up Boom Boom, though.

    I considered Feral, but even with the open front costume, prepubescent Teebore could never get past the triangle hair, fur, and bad attitude, so I never considered her "sexy". Boom-Boom definitely gets sexed up by Liefeld, but I was being somewhat pedantic in thinking only of Liefeld-created characters. Expand it to include characters like Boom-Boom whom he didn't create but did leave a significant artistic mark on, and there's definitely more than Domino (and possibly Feral, depending on your personal predilections :) ) to consider.

    @A: I don't believe that Todd McFarlane just inked the work he did with Rob. It looks like he had a hand in it, the artwork has his style all over it.

    To be fair, he could have just inked and still lent a fair amount of his style to it, especially if the initial pencils were really loose. A lot of artists' styles can change dramatically depending on their inker (and how heavy the hand of their inker is).

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  22. I've learned from authoritative sources that inkers are mainly tracers.

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  23. @Teemu: That kid in Chasing Amy is not an authoritative source. :)

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  24. @Austin: To be fair, he could have just inked and still lent a fair amount of his style to it, especially if the initial pencils were really loose. A lot of artists' styles can change dramatically depending on their inker (and how heavy the hand of their inker is).

    Absolutely. That's what I believe happened in these collaborations - compare Cable on the cover of New Mutants #87 (which McFarlane inked) to Cable 14 issues later in X-Force #1, it seems like what you said holds true.

    @Teemu:I've learned from authoritative sources that inkers are mainly tracers.

    That's what I always thought, but in this case it always struck me as odd because of the nuances of Todd's penciling and much it differs from Rob's.

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  25. Oh and also great job here guys! I stumbled onto the site months ago by the luck of Google and I've been a fan ever since.

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  26. "All the characters will be. Jason can do it too."

    HI-YOOO!!!

    "Funny thing is, Marvel reprinted that collection as a hardcover a few years back and, as a full-grown adult who now actively dislikes Liefeld's art, I bought it. I, too, have never read the issues it contains."

    Apart from the format (went with the softcover), the whole paragraph applies to both of us. (I bought it because I wanted to read the set-up for a story from Hama/Silvestri's Wolverine.)

    It's funny, all of these coincidental parallels between you and me. We truly are like a pair of X-characters. Twins ... alike in so many ways ... but forced to become enemies ... because of love.

    (Your love of Bob Harras, of course.)

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  27. @A: I stumbled onto the site months ago by the luck of Google and I've been a fan ever since.

    Thanks, and welcome! Glad the breadcrumbs I leave for Google at least led somebody here. :)

    @Jason: It's funny, all of these coincidental parallels between you and me. We truly are like a pair of X-characters. Twins ... alike in so many ways ... but forced to become enemies ... because of love.

    It's enough to worry a body. I just hope that when quarter is asked, it's given.

    ...mind, body and soul.

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  28. Teeb: That kid in Chasing Amy is not an authoritative source. :)

    Right. Next you'll surely discredit the guy who pointed out that the rebel forces blew up thousands of innocent buillders and contractors with the second, still under-construction Death Star.

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  29. There's certainly enough Liefeld at the core of this cover to spot his tendencies, like how Rusty's left arm and left leg don't quite taper enough before the fist (oh my stars 'n' garters, that fist) and foot, but, yeah, McFarlane probably saved it to whatever extent it was saved.

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  30. Jason -- "(Your love of Bob Harras, of course.)"

    Are you sure it isn't your love of Chris Claremont trying to describe music through prose?

    But seriously, we have had very similar experiences with comics in our lives. Except for the fact that you've read "Xenogenesis" and I havent. Yet.

    Teebore -- You truly are the best there is at what you do. One might say this blog is the focused totality of your comic book fandom.

    ...Is there a blog out there called "Focused Totality"? There must be, right?

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  31. Looks like there was, but it hasn't been updated since 2007. Funny!

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  32. http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2011/07/07/drawing-crazy-patterns-the-focused-totality-of-psylockes-telepathic-powers/

    Focused!

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  33. About the fan service, I do remember there being some concern (via letters to the editor) that the the girls were looking a bit too "mature." Around this time it's like they went from 12 to 25.

    Jason: We truly are like a pair of X-characters. Twins ... alike in so many ways ... but forced to become enemies ... because of love.

    Now that's just silly! if you were like X characters you would be clones.

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  34. Jonathan Washington: Now that's just silly! if you were like X characters you would be clones.

    So... where's the original then? In cryogenic chamber underneath Nebraska orphanage?

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  35. You're like twin sides of the same coin...and, as enemies, will face each other on the field of battle - possibly an illegal underground arena where the rich and elite of society come to live out their hedonistic fetish fantasies and bloodlust with - no quarter asked, and none given. And should the loser not be cast off into the abyss of oblivion he so richly deserves, then he will be owned - body and soul! - by the victor.

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  36. Lempo soikoon! I hope - I ray - you von't ent up overtoink it, ystäväni.

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  37. @Teebore

    That said, now I'd argue that the Sienkiewicz issues (at least up to the Dazzler/Gladiator issues) is equal to or greater than the Liefeld run in terms of thrills and sheer energy, whereas as a kid his work just seemed weird and confusing to me.

    I have not read all those issues despite owning a few. Just not a fan of the artwork. I do agree it looks better now then when I was a kid.

    However, my thrilling argument is tough to one up. I can name a bunch of dynamic and impactful events that happen it the upcoming New Mutants run. What occurred in that run?

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  38. The Sienkiewicz run was in fact quite thrilling. Many were thrilled by Rob Liefeld not drawing any of it, for example.

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  39. @Teemu: Next you'll surely discredit the guy who pointed out that the rebel forces blew up thousands of innocent buillders and contractors with the second, still under-construction Death Star.

    Independent contractors know what they're getting into. Gotta listen to their gut.

    @Zephyr: . I can name a bunch of dynamic and impactful events that happen it the upcoming New Mutants run. What occurred in that run?

    The Demon Bear Saga, which is arguably the single best story to come out of New Mutants, the arrival of Warlock and a classic downtime/characterization issue ("Slumber Party"), an admittedly lackluster Cloak & Dagger story, and then the introduction of Legion (which I would argue *is* the series' single best story).

    I love the energy of the next dozen or so issues and the establishment of a new direction for the series (which it desperately needed), and I love me some Cable, but in terms of objective quality I'd put "Demon Bear", "Slumber Party" and "Legion" up against "Cable shows up", "Rictor kinda fights Sabretooth" and "Cable & Wolverine fight then team-up because the 90s" any time.

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  40. Unfortunately the black mark against the Sienkiewicz run is that it was drawn by Sienkiewicz during his "sucky artwork" phase.

    (I'm sorry, I just really don't like his lame abstract style. And his Professor X eyebrows still give me nightmares.)

    Interesting to note -- though not all the comments are specifically related to him -- that Liefeld's first issue, even twenty-five years after the fact, prompts the biggest comment count I think I've ever seen here!

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  41. Oh, Matt. Why do you want to hurt me?

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  42. @Matt: I'm sorry, I just really don't like his lame abstract style

    "I'm sorry, I just really don't like his *awesome* abstract style."

    There. I fixed that for you. :)

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  43. After going through some of the issues again, the art from Seinkiewicz has its own unique qualities. Like I said, I appreciate it more now. His covers are still pretty bad looking imo, they don't exactly scream read this comic.

    I think the interaction between the teams and greater X-Universe that was especially highlighted in New Mutants at that time was its best factor. Writing quality and cohesion are points that are hard to argue with, as I would say that Claremont is the best writer New Mutants ever had.

    If "Demon Bear" is said to be the best story, this is where I just can't get on board. As with my criticism of FoTM in X-Men, demons as villains are just lame and don't contribute anything to the greater X-Mythos or theme.

    The "Legion" arc is better, I agree, but with nearly half it taking place on the astral plane with Xavier, it is not that exciting. At least it has impact on the X-Mythos, if not the theme. As a related note, the best X stories come when Xavier is not around, imo.

    The Liefeld run introduces Cable, Stryfe and the MLF, not to mention Domino and Feral (for good and bad), puts the New Mutants into new individual uniforms, adds romantic intrigue, kills Warlock, sees Wolfsbane transform and leave, Cannonball continues his ascent towards leadership, they begin to take on the X-Books hardest edge (arguably, as the X-Men never quite realized their potential due to editorial), and the book ends.

    And as forced as some of the cameos like Sabertooth and Wolverine are, its definitely more exciting to see them in the book striking action poses than Nurse Frielander, Tom Corsi and Cloak and Dagger talking.

    Ultimately, the book just feels more dynamic.

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  44. I believe that is what is referred to as style over substance...and some of those "poses" will be unintentionally the most hilarious thing this title will have seen.

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  45. Teebore: Independent contractors know what they're getting into. Gotta listen to their gut.

    Alright, alright, you win. I see you have played Kevin-fu before.

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  46. Jason -- "Oh, Matt. Why do you want to hurt me?"

    What part of "evil clone" didn't you understa-- Oh. Shoot. That part hasn't been revealed yet. Never mind, carry on.

    Teebore -- "There. I fixed that for you. :)"

    Well, art is subjective... I just wish I was never subjected to that particular art.

    Though I thought I was much fairer on Sienkiewicz here than when I tossed around vitriolic insults a few years ago as you covered the actual issues! I think I even said at the time that his work on NEW MUTANTS made me physically ill, made me want to tear up the comics, etc. I can go overboard with hyperbole sometimes...

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  47. @Matt: // Well, art is subjective... I just wish I was never subjected to that particular art. //

    Ha! That's a pretty choice line. And, yeah, art is subjective, but Sienkiewicz's work attracted me back to the book after I began to stray. I know we discussed this at the time, Matt, and if I recall right you're more into Sal Buscema than I, but as much as I liked Bob McLeod on full art I thought that Buscema/McLeod was meh and Buscema/Mandrake was blechh. So those Bill Sienkiewicz covers definitely hooked me at 13 years old, and more importantly I think his presence invigorated Claremont. "Slumber Party" is exactly what I thought New Mutants should be doing. While I much prefer the Demon Bear saga to the Legion stuff, both played to the artist's strength in visually representing the landscape of mental, emotional, or mystical struggles, externalizing the internal, even if, sure, he could exaggerate too far. My favorite level of Sienkiewicz abstraction is when he draws near photorealistic figures, then squares off the edges and erases some of the detail lines. Plus those painted covers are, overall, stunning and definitely stood out on the racks back in the day.

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  48. @wwk5d

    I believe that is what is referred to as style over substance...and some of those "poses" will be unintentionally the most hilarious thing this title will have seen.

    We are talking about comics here. Style is a big part of substance. While the run referenced by Teebore has better writing (Claremont), I say the Liefeld run has bigger (hair) and better events.

    The artwork is pretty subjective as people mentioned. I am giving credit to Swcz for his unique style, some looks good, some is abstract and comical. Some of Liefeld's stuff looks good and some is bad and comical.

    At the end of the day, I would rather look at Boom Boom, Cable and Sabertooth than Dani Moonstar, Professor X and the Demon Bear.

    @Blam

    Regarding covers, those painted ones certainly have their own style and I guess did standout from other titles on the rack. I just don't think they scream read me as I originally stated.

    Give me #87 with "Watch out Muties!!" "Here comes the man called Cable!!" or #90 with all the New Mutants looking badass, Warlock popping out and Cable, crossbow in one hand, smoking gun in the other. I want to buy those issues.

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  49. Yes, but did he sell any jeans?

    Zephyr: And as forced as some of the cameos like Sabertooth and Wolverine are, its definitely more exciting to see them in the book striking action poses than Nurse Frielander, Tom Corsi and Cloak and Dagger talking.

    Funny, but I'd like to think I'd be more drawn to the latter, should I not be mildly familiar with the stuff (and being so, I definitely am). Give me a Claremont quiet issue any day over Extreme!Cool! proto-Image 90's stuff.

    Should Sabretooth and Wolverine be wearing SM-gear in disturbingly sexualized surroundings, though...

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  50. About 'Style over Substance', I totally approve that, as long as there is chrome, mirror shades and cybernetic limbs in the mix that's taking place in near-future. Cybernetic limbs alone is a no-sale. Jacking in, not jacking off, that sort of thing.

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  51. Little known fact: until Rob Liefeld came along, "style" was actually spelled with an "I" rather than a "Y".

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  52. "The "Legion" arc is better, I agree, but with nearly half it taking place on the astral plane with Xavier, it is not that exciting. At least it has impact on the X-Mythos, if not the theme."

    Curious. What do you mean by "if not the theme"? The "Legion" arc is the one wherein everyone assumes the white American Jack Wayne is the hero, while the Muslim is the villain, and then they learn that in fact Jamal is trying to heal David's mind, while Wayne is a villain.

    Would you argue that that reversal of expectations based on race ... is *not* thematically appropriate for an X-Men comic?

    (And is it *less* thematically relevant than, say, the introduction of Domino and Shatterstar?)

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  53. "We are talking about comics here. Style is a big part of substance."

    True, but some (much better) artists can have a great mix of both, like Alan Davis.

    "At the end of the day, I would rather look at Boom Boom, Cable and Sabertooth than Dani Moonstar, Professor X and the Demon Bear."

    And that's fine. To each their own. I'm going to look at the latter and appreciate the artistry of it all, while laugh my ass off at the horribleness of the former.

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  54. @Teemu

    What, no love for utility belts?

    Also, I like a quiet Claremont issue as well, but they are not exactly bursting with excitement.

    My main point was that this was an exciting time. I never said it was the best for character development.

    @Matt

    Lol, astute point. Cable was only available in big media markets until Liefeld came along as well.

    @Jason

    My terminology of X-Mythos basically refers to the tapestry of events that had a recurring place in the X-Books until I stopped reading around 330. In this case, Legion has a place in the books in other events (Muir Isle Saga and the AoA setup).

    The theme I refer to is that of human/mutant interaction and the Dream. I would say that some of the Legion stuff has relevance, so "if not" was more in saying that it was more X-Mythos relevant than thematically.

    And though I came late to your blog, the prose you wrote and your insight to theme, Claremont's metaphors and the behind-the-scenes activity was absolutely awesome. Your comment here reinforces that knowledge and helps me to appreciate the larger story.

    My personal favorite arcs are usually ones that touch on both of these key elements (and don't include much Xavier or any demons). That doesn't mean I don't acknowledge others and can understand why people like them.

    Also, I am obviously not going to argue Domino, Feral or Shatterstar are more thematically relevant. Cable though?

    @wwk5d

    To be fair, Liefeld wasn't exactly writing at this point. I admit, it got pretty bad once X-Force came around and he had full reign (bigger hair, less dialogue, fading backgrounds... T&A got bigger too, as an adolescent, I did appreciate that).

    Horrible is a strong word. Comical fits much better, imo.

    Glad you guys aren't crushing me too hard, I understand my opinion might not be the most popular among X-Book aficionados. Just maybe I get some of you to come over to the Dark Side, like when Magneto crashed Illyana's funeral and "invited" X-People to join.

    Colossus anyone? You don't have to have your head screwed up though...

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  55. Zephyr: Also, I like a quiet Claremont issue as well, but they are not exactly bursting with excitement.

    My main point was that this was an exciting time. I never said it was the best for character development.


    The excitement point I can sign under. It was something new alright, compared to the same-old-same-old the others were doing. It's just... well curious really how much the editorial went in with it, giving almost overnight the plotting rights for total newcomer artists. Was there perhaps some continuous in-house fighting with the editors and the established writers to whom the editors had to play the second fiddle to, until suddenly they found they had some hotshot artists in their hands whom they could use to tilt the power balances in their own favor, or what?

    I would kind of like to compare it to the 90's Euro dance music genre. Suddenly a totally new thing came along, pushing aside what was being done in the 80's, getting noted and selling records. Likewise I got noted just a slightly too late that under the colorful topping there was very little underneath after all; all the deeper nuances hithertofar associated with music were shining with their absence. Haddayway's What is love is a classic alright, but it's not with a small dose of irony that it fills the dancing floors of today.

    The sad part is of course that it drew the markets from under what could be called "proper artistry", and we were stuck with the beast we had so foolishly embraced.

    Especially with Liefeld, once he's doing his YOUNGBLOOD it becomes painfully obvious that the thing that helped him deliver with the New Mutants was that the characters were real characters that his betters had breathed full of life before him. Take that away and it's just posing and being dropped from an aircraft to assault an I-don't-care.

    Glad you guys aren't crushing me too hard, I understand my opinion might not be the most popular among X-Book aficionados. Just maybe I get some of you to come over to the Dark Side, like when Magneto crashed Illyana's funeral and "invited" X-People to join.

    The 90's X-pansion makes it damn hard to write away your opinion as the wrong one, because lots of fans were living it at the time. Of course we're picking up the easy scene points when they're just floating out there, but it's not like most everyone didn't start reading at that time or go along with it, feeling an amount of invigorated even with the very real excitement you talked about.

    Personally I'd like to claim I didn't connect to the "new normal" so much, and to an extent I wouldn't be exactly lying (Hama's WOLVERINE was great of course, especially the early bit), but for the longest time I couldn't have put my finger on what was kind of off with it. Only very recently I had Claremont himself to point it out to me, when reading of his feelings about reading post-Claremont X-Men: "who are these people with familiar names doing totally unrecognizable and uncharacteristic stuff I'm reading about?"

    The toys were the same that Claremont were made to back onto the shelf at his departure, but the new kids who got them were playing totally wrong with them. And he had been the one to play with them from the moment of unpacking really, the first one to put on the accessories on them (admittedly sometimes black leather SM ones of his own crafting :D ). Other titles had had numerous writer changes in the meantime, and that was a thing that happened, but with UNCANNY it was/is nigh-impossible to stomach.

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