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Drawing Crazy Patterns – Cannonball Explaining That He Is Near Invulnerable When He is “Blastin’”

In this feature, I spotlight five scenes/moments from within comic book stories that fit under a specific theme (basically, stuff that happens frequently in comics). Here is an archive of all the patterns we’ve spotlighted so far.

Today I will spotlight Cannonball’s propensity for explaining how his powers allow him near-invulnerability…

Enjoy!

The New Mutants debuted in Marvel Graphic Novel #4 by Chris Claremont and Bob McLeod and even early on, he was nearly there in how to describe his situation…

In New Mutants #1, he describes himself…

In New Mutants #2, he expresses himself in nearly the classic fashion…

He continues in New Mutants #3…

New Mutants #4…

and New Mutants #5….

New Mutants #6 is the first issue he doesn’t actually talk about how he can’t be hurt/is invulnerable while he is blasting. #7 goes right back into it, though…

Amusingly, in the famous New Mutants #21 (Warlock joins the team) with art by Bill Sienkiewicz, Sam does not only say it again…

but later he makes a point of telling Sunspot…

That just amused me greatly. Not only can he not stop talking about how invulnerable he is, he makes sure to let others know that they’r NOT invulnerable. Classic.

Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

26 Comments

Glenn Simpson

July 15, 2012 at 7:15 am

Yeah, he pretty much makes sure we know that a whole lot.

All I can think of is that that is not necessarily a power that most flight-powered heroes have, so they feel like we need to know.

Despite the fact that if Angel crashed into something and wasn’t hurt, we’d just assume he didn’t really hit it hard enough to hurt himself, in “action hero” style.

Jim Shooter claimed that when he came into power, one thing that used to bug him was that Claremont didn’t treat every issue as if it were someone’s first. So in one issue of X-Men, Storm might be called Storm, Wind Rider, Goddess, Weather Witch, and it would not be clear which term was actually her code name. Also, he wanted it to be explicitly clear every issue what everyone’s power was, as it was always assumed that the reader knew. So he claims he told Claremont these rules.

It’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t in Shooter’s stories, but I feel there must be some truth in this one because when I reread my old Uncanny X-Men’s his tics of constantly repeating everyone’s powers each issue weren’t there in the beginning. If anything I noticed he tended to underexplain things. I like the idea of Shooter giving him some advice and Claremont just going overboard with it.

For the last one that was Sunspot’s thing.They would remind him or he would think to himself that he was super strong but not invulnerable.

“Jim Shooter claimed that when he came into power, one thing that used to bug him was that Claremont didn’t treat every issue as if it were someone’s first. ”

It’s absolutely this. And I wouldn’t even say it’s going overboard. Remember that there weren’t any recap pages in those days, plus Claremont was laying the groundwork for these characters. It’s not Spider-Man or Wolverine he’s writing, it’s characters that are almost entirely new.

Ah really get annoyed by reading ‘Ah’ instead of “I” fifteen times in each panel…

Of all of Claremont’s stock power explanation phrases (“if ah touch you ah’ll absorb blah blah blah,” “focused totality of my psychic yadayadayada,” etc.) this one has always been my favorite. Why? Mostly because it’s just really goofy, I guess.

As far as the Sunspot thing, I remember that being a recurring theme for a bit, too. Usually it was Sunspot thinking it to himself, but his friends did enjoy pointing it out regularly, too. Pretty much the same reason that T. mentioned.

The “Ah” for “I” treatment seemed pretty arbitrary. Cannonball from Kentucky and Rogue from the deep south had it but other characters from the south had no accent at all. Mark Twain would weep.

And I wouldn’t even say it’s going overboard.

Maybe overboard isn’t the right term. What I mean by overboard is how literally Claremont took the advice, the lack of subtlety, the way he tries to shoehorn it into the dialogue in a way that just ruins the flow and calls attention to itself. Stan Lee used to be better at doing the same thing in a way that just flowed with the rest of the dialogue. For example a villain would shoot at Spider-Man and he’d move out of the way in a flash. The villain says “no one can be that fast” and Spidey responds “they can be if they have the proportionate strength and speed of a spider, buddy!” and keeps it moving. Claremont does it more like his filling a quota of one explanation an issue, in a more transparent, awkward way. That’s what I mean by overboard. Perhaps unsubtle or transparent would have been better.

Well, ah may just be sayin’ this ’cause ah’m pretty near invulnerable when ah’m blastin’, but ah for one do like ta explain the focused totality of mah powers evur’ tahm ah open m’mouth ta speak. Maybe that’s just the way ah was raised back in Kentucky with my 128 brothers and sisters, even ‘fore I learned about all them mutant powers ah got, lahk blastin’, and bein’ pret’ near invulnerable when ah do it, an’… well, ah make a pretty mean potato salad too, not to be boastin’ or nothin’.

Man, I hated the overuse of that back then. And while I’m not a telepath and can’t prove it, I really don’t believe people think in accents. That he’s not thinking “I”.

Amazing comic, I have the Sienkiewicz run framed on the wall. (In one of those nifty frames that hold a bunch of comics and display the cover of the first issue)
I also hate when they write “Ah”, I don’t mind “y’all” since that’s a lexicalized phrase, but “Ah” is just a patronizi g way of spelling a way to say “I”.

I think it would have been helpful if Sam made up a little ditty about his only other defining characteristic and he sang it to himself while flying. Something like “Ah’m a hick, ah’m a hick, ah’m a hick…”

There was a period in The Avengers (I think maybe when Shooter was writing it) where Wonder Man would just not shut up about how he hit “almost as hard as Thor’s hammer.”

I don’t know but I will say I marked out for Cannonball’s powers when he used it to defeat Gladiator during Joe Mad’s run….

Matthew Johnson

July 16, 2012 at 8:06 am

“The “Ah” for “I” treatment seemed pretty arbitrary. Cannonball from Kentucky and Rogue from the deep south had it but other characters from the south had no accent at all. Mark Twain would weep.”

Fortunately, he quit reading X-Men when Dave Cockrum left…

I love Cannonball’s question in the first panel “I’m invulnerable when I use my power, but if I’m not using my power can I be hurt?”

The thing that’s so Claremontian about the “Ah”s is that it’s only a list of certain words that he uses an accent on. (Like how Colossus will only use a few Russian phrases.) “Practically invulnerable when Ah’m blastin’” should be more like “Practic’lly invuln’ruble when Ah’m blastin’” The variant in #4 “Ah can’t be hurt when Ah’m blastin’” is the most consistent.

Yeah, all X-Men were drawing crazy patterns back then. I can totally understand Jim Shooter’s point of view. But why oh why wasn’t anybody clever enough to suggest recap pages back then? (Or would there have been any objections to recap pages?)

Rogue really gets on my nerves when she over-explains to her fellow X-men why it’s a good thing that they didn’t just touch her by accident. They know, Rogue… they know…

I like how, in the panel where he’s carrying the woman, he’s doing his usual “Aw-shucks” country-boy talk, but when whe asks about her son he says “He’ll be along directly…”

Who the hell talks like that except college-professors and Beast? Talk about a 180-shift between word-balloons.

“Ah tell ya’ what, darlin’, ah sure am glad ’bout mah invuln’rabilty wahl ah’m blastin’!”
“What about my son?”
“The lad should arrive presently. Fancy a spot of port?”

It appears shoehorned to us in retrospect, and especially reading collected works. But picking up comics at the newsstand back in the day, you would have been hard-pressed to notice or care.

Travis Pelkie

July 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

As to T’s point: I heard directly from Shooter himself at a con a couple years back that he wanted some sort of short, to the point explanation of each character’s powers. Either Shooter told Claremont, or made a note in the margin of the script, to call Storm “mutant weather witch”. Claremont hemmed and hawed, as he didn’t particularly want to use this exact description. Shooter said, fine, but come up with something to use. Claremont apparently went off, thought about it, and came back, saying that he couldn’t come up with something better.

As to whether that was the way Claremont would remember it…

Mind you, Roger Stern was sitting right by Shooter, and I believe he was the XMen editor at the time. I’ll have to ask him next time I see him if Shooter was accurately remembering that.

and buttler FTW, as is often the case.

Great story Travis. And I second buttler FTW.

I think many people at Marvel did the same thing as far as regularly recapping powers, but I think what made Claremont’s stand out so much was that he created and repeated stock phrases to do it.

It appears shoehorned to us in retrospect, and especially reading collected works. But picking up comics at the newsstand back in the day, you would have been hard-pressed to notice or care.

It was less noticeable monthy than in trade paperbacks, for sure, but it was still noticeable to longtime readers nonetheless. For example I remember me and my friends joking about the “psychic totality” thing in the 90s. I also remember Rogue’s catchphrase of “nigh invulnerable” too back in the days, but that phrase probably stuck out more because of usage of the word “nigh.” I remember wondering what it meant and who on earth uses it on a regular basis nowadays.

TJCoolguy – that “directly” thing actually makes sense to my (Texan) ears. Actually, my father (a 70 year old Black man from the straight-up deep South “country”) talks like that all the time. He still calls the couch the “divan” and stuff too. It’s kinda funny.

Also amusing (to me at least) is the fact that my point of relation to Cannonball is a 70-year old Black man.

Wait…maybe that’s the key, I mean, he’s an External, right? :)(ducks)

In “Power Man and Iron Fist” Luke would usually mention his steel-hard skin out loud, but Danny would be assisted by captions that explained how he focussed chi until it was “like unto a thing of iron”, whatever that means. Both of these happened just about every issue, and I loved it every time.

“Stan Lee used to be better at doing the same thing in a way that just flowed with the rest of the dialogue. For example a villain would shoot at Spider-Man and he’d move out of the way in a flash. The villain says “no one can be that fast” and Spidey responds “they can be if they have the proportionate strength and speed of a spider, buddy!” and keeps it moving.”

One of the things everyone tried to duplicate but never could. In the early X-men issues, it would always be in character and logical. For instance, if Cyclops had to explain his powers it would be in a worried manner, Beast would say it in a self-depreciating manner, and Iceman would outright make a joke about it.

The rule in the 80s was rigid though. In about half of those panels Cannonball’s invulnerability seems irrelevant, so why mention it at all? Also, if it WAS relevant, shouldn’t the art have shown that?

Yeah, they really drove that point into the ground. Every X-Man seemed to have some stock phrase to describe themselves and their powers, but Cannonball was one of the most annoying. That stuff actually drove me away from mutant books after a while.

And, of course, they eventually took that one aspect of his powers and made it absolute. Where a single punch from Sunspot was once enough to stun him, he later became completely invulnerable to any injury. The most ridiculous case being in Secret Wars II when he plowed through some of Marvel’s most powerful characters without any ill effects. It finally took the combined might of the whole group to take him out. Pretty ridiculous.

Was New Mutants #3 published in 1946? Stars whirling around his head? Really? I think by 1983 even Jimmy Olson had decided that schtick was a little too Daffy Duck.

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