"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Film, Comic Books
Everyone caught up? Then let’s go….
8) Todd Dezago (writer) on Marvel Age Spider-Man Team-Up (2004-2005)
Issues: 1-5 (Five Issues) Michael O’ Hare, Lou Kang, Jonboy Meyers, Ron Lim, and Valentine Delandro artists
Team-Ups: Fantastic Four, Captain America, Thor, Kitty Pryde and Storm-with Rogue half-heartedly playing the villain.
I know, I know… MASMTU (to it’s friends) is a fairly obscure and almost immediately canceled series from the failed Marvel Age line that didn’t manage to retain a single artist for more than one issue. Worse yet, the first four issues are re-makes of old Spider-man and Marvel Team-Up issues – And not the ones that made this list (With one exception.)
So, the question becomes doubly important:
Why This Run Rocks:
1) I’m not ALL that familiar with Dezago’s work (I know he’s written Spider-man before, and I liked TELOS quite a bit) but Sheeeeooooot, this is some nice scripting. Each issue is a perfect little recipe for effective comic-booking, perfectly measured, portioned, and seasoned. Let’s take a look at what each-and-every issue offers up. (A) A fast-paced plot with a definite beginning, middle, and end? Check.
(B) Humor? Plenty of it, but not SO much that it detracts from the plot.
Since this is a comic aimed at younger kids – (C) A lesson at the end about tolerance or what it means to be an American or what-have-you? Well, not EVERY issues got this, but three of the five of ‘em do.
If reading hundreds and hundreds (I’d guestimate somewhere between six and seven) of these darn team-up books has tought me anything, it’s this: Man, it’s REALLY EASY to screw these books up. You can fail to create a relationship between the two team-up-ites, concentrate too much on character or action to the detriment of the other two, you can drag the whole story down with a lame-arsed villain, you can have Hercules dragging the Island of Manhattan around with a chain… There are thousands of ways you can screw team-up books up. But Dezago DOESN’T. Given a bottom-of-the-barrel assignment that would be easy to sluff off, he makes every story work on darn near every level.
(From Marvel Age Spider-Man Team-Up # 5. Valentine Delanro Pencils. Pat Davidson inks.)
2) Surprisingly good art comin’ mostly from folks I’ve never heard of. Ron Lim did a bunch of work on Silver Surfer and the Starlin penned Thanos stories circa 1990 or so… (And here he is with a tricky-to-pull-off but quite effective Spidey/Thor page.)
(From MASMTU # 4. Scott Koblish inks.)
but the other guys flew right under my radar. But they’ve all really effective storytellers, and most of ‘em have a little bit of a Manga flavor to their work. (I like it when comics from 2004 feel like comics from 2004 instead of, say, Spider-Girl.) I’m especially impressed with JonBoy Meyers skill at cartoony facial expressions.
(From MASMTU # 3. Nathan Massengil and David Newbold Inks.)
3) Every time when MASMTUP re-tells an older Marvel Team-Up story, the remake is much, much, much(!) better. (And the Rogue/Storm original story is good too.) The first, Fantastic Four story is a mash-up of the second Stan Lee/Steve Ditko story from Amazing Spider-man # 1 and… Well, I can’t tell. # 1 wasn’t the best Spidey story ever by a long shot, but Ditko’s Spider-man is pretty much my favorite batch of superhero comics ever, so I’m too hopelessly biased to judge. I WILL say that the original story loses points ’cause it didn’t have this exchange…
(From MASMTU # 1. Michael ‘O Hare Pencils. Derek Fridolfs Inks.)
4) It works as kid’s comics. Frank Man over at Spider-fan has a REALLY good point. (He doesn’t care for the book much in general, though, the poor man.)
So as I was saying about those narration dialogue boxes…They seem to be built for adults to read to their kids or for kids who have just started reading to get past the exposition of the story and into the rising action easier. Good thinking, writers.
On the Other Hand: I’ve got one big complaint and a few nitpicks, but let’s start with a non-complaint. Sure, the stories might be a little simple and some of the humor might be a little dopey. BUT IT’S A COMIC AIMED AT YOUNG KIDS. So both of these seem like a PLUS in a lot of ways. More problematically there are a couple logical lapses (Which the Spider-fan reviewers hammer on endlessly, the boring ol’ sicks-in-the-mud) and there’s a few issues the creative team could have spend more time introducing the guest star and establishing their milleu…
But all of that pales before the real problem. Captain America looks like this.
You know who I blame? Nazis.
Jim Starlin (Artist and plotter) on DC Comics Presents (1980-1981)
Issues: 26-29, 36,37. (6 issues) Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Paul Levitz and Roy Thomas Scripters
Team-Ups: Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Supergirl, Spectre, Hawkgirl and Starman. No, not THAT Starman. Or that other Starman. Some Starman who’s all into alien politics. (I’d never heard of him before. )
Why This Run Rocks:
1) Villains. Well, at least VILLAIN. Well at least MONGUL.
Here is a list of the top five most re-used/important villains (not counting Mongul. Or Stegron) who originated in a team-up book.
1) Superboy Prime – DC Comics Presents # 87 (Although he’s not a villain in REAL life.)
2) Arcade – Marvel Team-Up # 65
3) Silver Banshee – Action Comics # 585
4) Moses Magnum – Giant-Size Spider-Man # 4
5) …. Well, apparently the Blood Brothers and the Griffin showed up before appearing in Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Feature. (Which had some Thing team-ups.) So I got nothing.
I;ve said it before, I’ll say it again. This is a problematic format to work with. As a team-up book writer, you have to incorporate the storytelling mileus of two characters into 17-22 pages, which means that you’ve got limited space to devote to the villains, so is it surprising that some of the made-for-team-up antaganists come off… A little lame? So when Starlin comes up with a villain who not only provides an effective challenge for the Pre-Crisis Superman on physical, mental, and emotional levels, but who also sticks around to turn up important player in major storylines 25 + years later… That’s kind of a big deal.
So everyone say “Hi” to Mongul and his amazing Cosmic Cube.
(From DC Comics Presents # 27. “Quickdraw” inker – Anyone know what this Quickdraw business is all about? Len Wein Script.)
2) Starlin’s a really funny cartoonist. Lookit’ Mongul piloting his giant death star in his widdle hat.
(From DCCP # 28. Romeo Tanghal co-artist. Len Wein Script.)
AND he’s a really funny cartoonist in the midst of this huge, world-shattering cosmic storyline, which speaks well to his faith in his skills. Most creators, when workin’ the “cataclysmic end of the world” angle, spend every iota of their storytelling prowess trying to convince us of the bigness and badness and epicness of their premise. Here Starlin KNOWS he can do all that, and doesn’t mind varying the emotional tone a little bit.
3) DC Team-Up! Superman and God!
(From DCCP # 29. Romeo Tanghal co-illustrator. Len Wein Script.)
Also the Spectre, and stains from where I spilled my coffee.
4) Hawkgirl (at least the comic book version) will probably never be this bad-ass again.
(From DC Comics Presents # 37. Roy Thonas Script.)
5) Sijo mentioned this in the comments as a negative but I… I kind of like Starlin’s “Huge Jerk” take on Superman. He Learns His Lesson at the end of the issue, but I can use a break from the Big Blue Boyscout every now ‘n again.
(From DCCP # 27, with “Quickdraw” again. Len Wein script.)
On the Other Hand: Starlin’s art is usually pretty solid, but these books do contain the occasional off-model character, and the humor is generally well done – But sometimes it shifts down into “annoyingly cutesy. And I had some problems with specific issues – The Starman issue is almost half exposition, and the Green Lantern team-up isn’t particularly thoughtful or… well, GOOD. But, sadly, the higher we move up the list the less I find to complain about.
Two runs that, if my countin’ fingers are working, received only one vote EACH in the comments. And that’s a darn shame. Let’s see if we can net ‘em a little love. Wednsday-ish.
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