SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
I was going to try and do in depth reviews of every issue of Simoson’s legendary run on Marvel’s Thunder God. Then I realized that really, who was I kidding? I do have some thoughts related to the first year’s worth of the run, though (337-350, to be exact. It’s a baker’s year!). That as close as I care to get to depth, thank you.
Spoiler Disclaimer: I’m gonna go ahead and talk about certain plot details from this comic run that is almost exactly as old as I am. So, if you haven’t read it yet (I can’t act all that snobby, since I just started reading it last week), you may want to sit this one out.
I like Beta Ray Bill as much as the next hammer wielding space horse afficionado, which is quite a bit in case you didn’t guess. That said, I wonder how many people would consider him a “Mary Sue” were he introduced today? He beats Thor in combat twice (although under mitigating circumstances) and Odin and Sif develop crushes on him almost immediately after meeting him.
Hell, I wonder how many people were up in arms over him at the time? I know that one of the reviewers in Amazing Heroes hated him, going by the Watchmen special issue I got off ebay, but what about the rest of fandom? Most of the token complaint letters they’ve printed so far are more about people not liking Walt’s art.
Speaking of those letter, it was pretty funny that even before the internet became the place for comic fandom discourse, people would make melodramatic proclamations that a new creative team had ruined their favorite comic, and that they were dropping it forever after having followed it for decades. Nice to see some things are timeless!
Anyway, I think Simonson stays on the good side of making his pet character shine at the expense of everyone else in the cast, but I can see people not agreeing.
The use of “Doom!” during the build up of the Surtur storyline is highly reminiscent of Hellboy, even if Mignola uses it in a different way. John Workman’s lettering on this book in general is a sight to behold. I’m not usually a lettering fetishist (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but Workman’s right up there Ken Bruzenak and Todd Klein as someone who adds something to every comic they work on with their lettering.*
As Harvey Jerkwater pointed out, part of Simonson’s appeal is that he does not hesitate to put a cap in a plot’s ass. His two examples are great, and you can see even some of that tendency in the early stages of his Thor. That said, I would have loved it if he’d dragged out Thor drinking Lorelei’s Golden Mead for months, mainly because it amused me that she kept getting cock blocked by Thor running of to fight monsters for a couple issues. So, yes, I am saying that he should have played it more like a sitcom. That would have mixed well with Norse mythology and Marvel Comics bravura, right?
This isn’t comics related, but man, there were a lot of ads for video games in these comics. It’s quite an eye opener to see that, especially the ad for Super Mario Bros. on the Atari. I think I knew that existed and stored it as a bit of trivia that I buried somewhere deep in my subconscious along with the names of the characters on C.O.P.S. and most of my college education. It’s kind of hard to believe there were so many consoles before the NES (and that Frogger was made for all of them). It’s really a trip to be reminded that Nintendo’s mascot appeared on someone else’s console.** It’s like Tucker Stone says; you miss out on these kinds of details when you buy old comics in trades.
I am kind of regretting not doing that, though. Although the comics are in great shape for their age, but the visual quality can vary pretty wildly. Also, there’s the space and aesthetic reasons to get the trades (or just wait for the eventual Omnibus). That said, the guy who sold them to me on ebay did send them in two large shopping bags, and there’s something very cool about grabbing another issue of them after I’ve finished one. And there are the ads and letter pages; those are nice extras.
One of the few things that didn’t work for me is the joke about Nick Fury giving Thor glasses when he asked him to hook him up with a new secret identity. I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve seen a lot of those jokes before, though, and I honestly don’t know if Thor bumping in to Clark and Lois just to drive the point home made it funnier or lamer. Is it possible to find something half funny, half whince inducing?
And hey, did Simonson ever draw a SHIELD story? If not, why the hell not?
Bemusement at Superman allusions aside, that’s pretty much it as far as complaints so far. When you have to go to the throwaway gag well to find something bad to say about a comic, I’d say it lives up to its reputation. Also, given that I wanted Simonson to make a running gag out of Lorelei’s love potion, I probably shouldn’t be picking on anyone’s comedic chops, especially since Dr. McNinja*** is a part of his legacy.
*Stan Sakai and Dave Sim would be part of that list if I’d read enough of Usagi Yojimbo and Cerebus. Oh, and Chris Ware’s pretty okay at it, too.
**Well, beyond CDI, but I like to pretend that never happened. Just like Nintendo. And all sensible people, really. And Donkey Kong also muddles things there.
***You really need to read the alt text to get the reference there. Or know that Walt Simonson was Chris Hastings’ professor in art school.
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