web stats

CSBG Archive

Gimmick or Good? – Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #1

SilverSable1_coverIn this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the foil cover for Silver Sable and the Wild Pack #1…

Silver Sable & the Wild Pack (published June 1992) – script by Gregory Wright, art by Steven Butler and Jim Sanders III

Since we’ve been getting at least one brand new series or reboot nearly every week for the past month courtesy of the All-New Marvel Now initiative, I thought it would be fun to go back to the early 90s when the “House of Ideas” was pumping out new series after new series – many of which featured characters that wouldn’t even show-up in a team book these days, not to mention their very own solo book.

Case in point, Silver Sable and her team of mercenaries, the Wildpack. First created by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz during their underappreciated run on Amazing Spider-Man in the 80s, Sable, a bounty hunter from the fictional European state of Symkaria, spent the bulk of the late 80s and early 90s making appearances in other heroes’ books until the powers that be at Marvel decided she had enough cachet to carry her own series in 1992. To commemorate the first issue, the front cover featured a somewhat garish silver embossing (her name is Silver Sable, after all).

But what about inside the comic?

I guess I should put a disclaimer up top here that, despite the fact that I’m a pretty hardcore Spider-Man fan, I’ve never understood the fascination with Silver Sable, and I remain equally perplexed that she was ever viewed as being popular enough to command her own series that lasted 35 issues. The thing I’ve always liked best about Sable was the story of her origin – DeFalco and Frenz allegedly were going through a deck of flash cards featuring different animals, and were inspired to create a number of villains and supporting characters for ASM using these cards (like Sable and Puma) [Confirmed in this old Comic Book Legends Revealed - BC]

Generally, I’ve long found Sable to be a very bland and boring character. Yes, it’s always good to have more female heroes (or anti-heroes if we’re being honest), who can take care of themselves and not have to rely on all of the men who inhabit the Marvel superhero universe, but I can’t recall a single story that featured Sable prominently where she wasn’t acting like an emotionless robot worth investing my time and money to read about.

SilverSable1_01

In Silver Sable and the Wildpack #1, Gregory Wright doesn’t deliver much in terms of his script that compels me to change my opinion about the character. There’s no personality to Sable throughout this comic. The story just meanders from one “mission” to the next, culminating with an eventual team-up with Spider-Man (because of course Marvel was going to throw him into another character’s first issue to make sure that people picked it up), where even Spidey tells the Symkarian mercenary that she has no sense of humor.

Let me be clear: it’s not that I’m confusing unemotional focus with a lack of personality. Sable’s dialogue is stilted and rigid and serves no other purpose than to disengage the reader. In the comic’s opening sequence, Sable is fighting with someone who the reader is initially supposed to assume is another assassin (but it turns out to be a training exercise to recruit future Widpack members). During the battle she says such robotic things as “You’ll have to excuse me – I have a victory to claim.” Even when she quips, there’s no liveliness or originality to what she says. Like how after she hits one would-be male opponent in the family jewels she jokes, “I had assumed your brain was in your skull.” Oh yeah, I get it … because men only think with their genitals. What a clever joke that I’ve never heard before ….

And when she doesn’t sound like a Schwarzenegger action flick, Sable says and does things that make her come across as extremely unlikeable. When she learns that HYDRA terrorists seized a dormitory filled with daughters of famous political leaders (and Sable’s niece), she expresses disinterest about the prospects of saving the day unless there’s a “financial offering.”

SilverSable1_02

Granted, this series was released during the rise of the anti-hero in comics, and this kind of aloofness and questionable morality led to the stratospheric rise of such characters like Wolverine, Ghost Rider and Punisher, but there’s nothing about Sable’s characterization here that comes close to convincing me to invest my $1.50 every month to continue reading about her exploits. She’s even a jerk to her own teammates, financially penalizing them after they almost interfered with her eventual rescue mission at the aforementioned school dormitory. I guess the money Wildpack teammates like Sandman received from Sable was pretty good because, otherwise, why would any of these guys stand by her?

There’s nothing all that fantastic about the Steven Butler/Jim Sanders III art team, though they manage to produce a couple of fun spreads that feature some token 90s hero-posing. Butler also seems to have taken a page out of the Ron Lim notebook by adding a shimmering effect to Sable’s costume.

SilverSable1_03

I guess I shouldn’t expected a comic from the early 90s to convince me to reconsider my feelings about a character I was lukewarm about to begin with, but Silver Sable and the Wildpack is a pretty forgettable read all these years later. I wonder if there are any current new Marvel Now series that we might end up saying the same kinds of things about 20 years after the fact.

Verdict: Gimmick

38 Comments

“Marvel decided she had enough cache to carry her own series in 1992″
“I remain equally perplexed that she was ever viewed as being popular enough to command her own series that lasted 35 issues”

She was never popular, the title was a failed attempt at diversity. They wanted to have a female led book. I’m pretty sure they had zero non-licensed books with women in the lead.

“I guess the money Wildpack teammates like Sandman received from Sable was pretty good”

Didn’t he specifically join the Wildpack because it paid better than stealing?

I actually dig the art. And the SS costume. Maybe lose the headband. Or maybe add another headband!

Always thought this was a mini… never read it.. and never saw it at the shop after issue 2 or 3 …

Glad I wasn’t the only one that felt this way about Silver Sable, never understood the interest in her. Coincidentally I was going through an old box of tat today my mother had found in her attic and among them was an #8 from this series and the first issue of the sable & fortune miniseries from 2006. Completely different eras, completely different creative teams but still the character seems to have no personality and the stories are pretty generic.
Is there a good era for her at all?

I completely own the fact that this is one of my favorite books. I’ve read the series through at least a half-dozen times. Having read her earlier appearances, I don’t know how she got a book of her own (but I bet being a pet character of Tom DeFalco while he was EiC has something to do with it), but I’m glad she did. Based on this one issue, I completely understand the poor opinions, but the book was a gem. Frankly, I wish there were more like it.

I completely agree. I wouldn’t want to hang out with her, much less work for her or buy a monthly comic of her.

Funny about the flash-cards origin, I’d never heard that one before. I always assumed that Puma was a mainstream Marvel Universe “version of/ homage to/ outright ripoff of” Steve Englehart’s character Coyote.

The reason that there even was a Silver Sable ongoing, like so may other bad Marvel comics in the 90s, is that they were trying to flood the market with their product & leave no room for other, smaller companies [Image, Valiant , Dark Horse, Malibu, etc, etc.] They were publishing hundreds of titles a month and comic book stores only have so much display space. So, if the biggest & most popular company puts out a book, it is most likely going to take a space away from a lesser competitor.

So, you will see a lot of bad comics from Marvel in the 90s as they tried to crush their competition.

I enjoyed all 35 issues of the Silver Sable and the Wild Pack marvel comic book series.
I care nothing about Mark Ginocchio putting it down.
I was (and still am) glad to have bought them.

I am also grateful that I care nothing about current marvel comic book series with the marvel characters Carol Danvers, Jessica Drew, Natasha Romanoff, Kamala Khan, Misty Knight, Bobbi Morse, Anya Corazon, Anna Marie, Wanda Maximoff, Janet van Dyne, Lorna Dane and Jennifer Walters.
I’ll happily buy Daredevil, Red Sonja, Classic Battlestar Galactica and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, instead

To me, Silver Sable and the Wild Pack was a GREAT series. Go Gregory Wright. Go Steven Butler. Go Gordon Purcell.

I bought a chunk of this series off eBay for $5, and the only reason it’s worthwhile is the characterization of Sandman. Flint was much more of a character than anyone else. I think that proved to me that the problem was with Sable and not Wright’s work.

I am also grateful that I care nothing about current marvel comic book series with the marvel characters Carol Danvers, Jessica Drew, Natasha Romanoff, Kamala Khan, Misty Knight, Bobbi Morse, Anya Corazon, Anna Marie, Wanda Maximoff, Janet van Dyne, Lorna Dane and Jennifer Walters.

Yeah! What a bunch of losers!

Bring back Shanna the She-Devil!!

I just looked up the availability of this series. While viewing the covers, I can’t help but think that the “put [character X] in the issue to boost interest and sales” was the mantra for the whole run. The price spikes near the issues with Deadpool. There’s an Infinity Crusade crossover. Sable rarely gets the cover to herself, because she’s too busy teaming up with hot 90′s properties like Venom. Mark is right; 20 years on, this just looks desperate.

I always heard that the story behind Puma was that he was an attempt at a then-modern update/reimagining of Kraven the Hunter, since he’s got the whole hunter thing going for him.

Bill Williamson

March 7, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Ultimate Sable was cool.

akkadiannumen

March 7, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Yeah, this one is pretty easy. Pretty much the definition of crappy. I don’t know if it got any better after #1 but it would be interesting to find out. You’re half-right about Sable’s personality but you failed to mention that it’s also in keeping with how she had been generally portrayed up to that point. The writer simply failed in making that personality work. He should have changed it a bit, some more depth would have been nice. I remember a story (not sure where from but I think it was a 90’s story with crappy art so it could have been from this series) that showed how hard she trained since childhood, how much she idolized her father and how he was almost never there for her and how that made her a cold bitch on the surface and a lonely girl that wanted to be loved by her father deep down, trying to emulate him and/or outdo him, making him proud while protecting her country. Something like that would have been better for the first few issues but The Powers That Be probably asked for an action book and that’s what he delivered.

“I remain equally perplexed that she was ever viewed as being popular enough to command her own series that lasted 35 issues”

It’s not a simple matter of popularity (the fact that you don’t know that is rather “perplexing” :p). Yeah, it’s usually one of the main reasons why a character gets a series but it’s never the only one and in some cases it’s not even on the list of reasons. There are quite a few popular characters that have never had an ongoing of their own. As a matter of fact, CBR made a poll about X-Men characters in that situation yesterday.

In the particular case of Silver Sable, I’m guessing it was a combination of factors: her being a well-established female character with a decade of history which could be used (like her long-standing association with Spidey), she was one of the few well-known (relatively speaking) anti-heroes Marvel had. No need to create a new main character. She wasn’t popular so there wouldn’t be much of an outcry if changes were to be made to her. She had never had much development so there was plenty of room for it. She had her own team and they were mercenaries!! OHHH!!! Exciting!!! Probably a few more like what shiznatikus said about DeFalco having a soft spot for her.

akkadiannumen

March 7, 2014 at 9:10 pm

@sean: “They wanted to have a female led book. I’m pretty sure they had zero non-licensed books with women in the lead.”

Wrong. There was She-Hulk. It was just one book but it was awesome. Worth 7 average books, at the very least. :)

@sean: “Didn’t he specifically join the Wildpack because it paid better than stealing?”

No. At that point, he had reformed and been pardoned. He had even become a reserve Avenger (for a short while). Stealing wasn’t an option anymore.

I have to say that I picked up a few issues of this back in the day and, while I did drop it fairly quickly, when held up against many of the other titles that were being published at that time it holds up decently. Especially in regards to the art. In the splash page with Spider-Man, it reminds me of the period of time that Mike Manley was trying out his “Liefeld” phase on Darkhawk, but for the most part it is pretty solid I think. It is reminiscent to me of Mark Bagley in fact. All in all, while I wouldn’t consider it a gem (or even particularly above average), it rates above a gimmick for me.

akkadiannumen

March 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm

I forgot to address the last part of this sentence:

“I remain equally perplexed that she was ever viewed as being popular enough to command her own series that lasted 35 issues”

It happened at the beginning of the 90′s boom. Back then it was far easier for the lower-rung titles to sell in comfortable numbers (the fact that the top-sellers were doing fantastically well also helped) and publishers were willing to take risks and keep things going to see what worked and what didn’t. And considering even horrible pieces of crap sold relatively well it was a good gamble. And it wasn’t just speculators, there were a lot of actual readers that bought compulsively trying to get it all. Shit, Liefeld sold MAJOR STINKING CRAP labeled as comics, kept releasing crap after crap letting down readers and retailers alike and still managed to continue to sell well. And he wasn’t alone. His example probably encouraged a lot of people. “If that guy can get rich selling such sewer-worthy material, then I can do it as well”. He could have a made another bundle making a How-To-Get-Rich-Quick-Doing-CRAP video. :D

akkadiannumen

March 7, 2014 at 9:56 pm

“It is reminiscent to me of Mark Bagley in fact. ”

Yeah, that’s probably why when he improved a bit they used him on Spider-Man during the Clone Saga. He did a good job there.

Dude, Sleepwalker #19 when?

@Anon – yeah, Sleepwalker #19 will be on the list eventually. The beauty of this feature is it really could go on and on until Brian decides enough is enough.

I only really know Silver Sable from her appearances in the ’90s Spider-Man animated series, where she was voiced by Mira Furlan and interpreted as a Nazi-hunter, which gave her a more sympathetic motivation that being purely in it for the money. (Not sure if that was part of her comics backstory or not.) She wasn’t that outstanding a character there, but being played by Delenn from BABYLON 5 was kind of a big deal (although that show had a lot of name actors doing guest voices).

(And by the way, pet spelling peeve — the word meaning prestige, distinction, or high status is cachet, not cache. Cache is pronounced “cash” and means a hiding place or the material hidden in it.)

Maybe it’s because I’m very predisposed against Tom de Falco, but I never liked Silver Sable. Very bland character. Still, the artwork is better than what I expected from a 1990s Marvel series. Clean artwork in a anti-hero 1990s Marvel book, amazing!

What I’m getting from this critique is, maybe the series could have been better-received if they used a different writer than Wright. If they got someone who knew how to make the DeFalco-established personality work in a way that appealed to a lot of people, then perhaps the character wouldn’t come off as bland and so beholden to the current trend of the time.

What do you think about that, Mark?

Acer – the impression I get from this column is that Mark didn’t like Sable much even as created by Tom Defalco.

@acer @T yeah Sable would be a hard sell for me no matter what though if memory serves she only appeared in her first and only appearance with DeFalco which was fine.But under Michelin was when the character really took a turn for the worse. By design she’s a cold, disengaged character. Even Slottt couldn’t make her someone I wanted to read about during Ends of the Earth.

[…] titles debuting over the past few months, I thought it was apropos to journey back to 1992 to the silver embossed Silver Sable & The Wildpack #1 by Gregory Wright and Steve Butler/Jim Sanders […]

I followed this series for quite awhile, and even had the naiveté to include it in my store’s pull list. Oh, what they must have thought of me.

I do recall the series exploring her relationship with her father, which fleshed out her character more. The Wildpack were an unusual collection of characters (Sandman, Battlestar, Crippler, various others), but many of them stole the show when highlighted. Maybe this is just the time period, but I also appreciated how Silver Sable is sexy but not outright sexualized. There are no boob or belly windows or assy costumes (looking’ at you, Psylocke).

Silver Sable has a good basic concept, but she was simply not developed at all.

@acer @T yeah Sable would be a hard sell for me no matter what though if memory serves she only appeared in her first and only appearance with DeFalco which was fine.But under Michelin was when the character really took a turn for the worse

She had several appearances written by Tom Defalco, not just one. I can recall four I think. First appearance drawn by Ron Frenz, another issue where she headlined the book and Spider-Man didn’t even appear, drawn by Rick Leonardi, and a two-parter drawn by Ron Frenz with the Sinister Syndicate.

To be fair, everyone is flat and one-dimensional and takes a turn for the worse under Michelinie’s pen. You should never judge a character by how Michelinie writes them. He was the first writer to ever drive me away from a Spider-man book, at a stage in my life where I was such a Spider-Man fanboy I would happily read anything with Spider-Man in it, no matter how bad or how obvious a cash grab. One great thing about Michelinie though is he taught me to start paying attention to writers and credits, because before then I never really looked at or cared much about who wrote comic books, I just followed characters. He was the first guy who really made me appreciate that different people were involved in writing these things and that there were big variations in quality among them.

How interesting. It took a writer you hate to make you realize what’s behind comic book creation. I don’t think I remember when I became aware of individual writers and pencillers. It was probably through the distinctive artwork of someone I loved, like John Byrne or Sal Buscema, of or someone I hated, like Frank Robbins or Bill Sienkiewicz for the hate.

Now I like Sienkiewicz, but for a kid, his art wasn’t groundbreaking, it was just ugly and difficult to follow. And Frank Robbins isn’t so bad, it’s just that he is VERY distinctive.

I was always into art, and it was what I first noticed about comic books, but Marvel comics had such a strong house style that it was very rare for an artist to drive me off of a book. Some artists I definitely liked more than others, but for the most part I found all comic art at Marvel, which I read exclusively in my youth, to be at the very least serviceable. So I was haf-ass about keeping track of artist names. The first artist whose name I really kept track of I think was John Romita Jr., whose work I loved. Also, I may be exaggerating a little, because I did have favorites among writers before I came across Michelinie’s work, like Ann Nocenti and Roger Stern and Chris Claremont (plotting not scripting). However I just treated those names like a bonus, not as a crucial component of whether I’d enjoy the book. Michelinie though was the first time I actively disliked a comic writer’s work to the point that I would eventually start putting the comic back if I saw they had written it. It was the first time I found writing to be so bad that it actually sucked me out of the enjoyment of the comic. I first encountered him during his Web of SPider-Man run with Marc Silvestri and it was the first time I had to force myself to finish a Spider-Man book. Marc Silvestri’s pencils and Kyle Baker’s inks were what got me through that. When he came onto Amazing everyone sounded like a 70s Hanna Barbera character and I was out.

This was, admittedly, a rather mediocre first issue. However I did pick up a number of later issues, and they were much better. Gregory Wright actually did a good job developing Silver Sable, examining what she was like underneath her guarded, emotionless, professional exterior, explaining why she was the way she was, and showing that she did possess a sympathetic side.

I remember buying the first couple of issues or so. Butler and Sanders provided some decent artwork which kept Sable looking fit and sexy, yet realistic.

Didn’t last long though. Going by the covers alone, her hair began to grow longer even as her anatomy became more Image-ized. By the last issue, it was all yet another mess of Liefeldian proportions, the exact sort of overkill which eventually drove Marvel into bankruptcy.

One of my favorite series from the era.
One of the areas it got into was the politics of the Marvel Universe, with Sable as a world leader and thus dealing with Dr. Doom as the leader of the neighboring country. Later Priest would deal with similar ideas in Panther…
Also brought in Peter David’s Foreigner as Sable’s ex-husband with a wonderful Mr/Mrs. Smith vibe.

CLB: The comic origin is that the Wild Pack was created as a nazi hunting organization, but by the 90′s, not so many nazis left to hunt, so it became straight out mercenary, which was the major source of export income for the country.

I actually used to read these comics as a little girl. I remember buying the first one for it’s shiny cover, though by that time I started reading it, her series was coming to an end.

I guess the storylines weren’t too complicated or dark for a little girl to follow. And therein lies the problem….. If a little girl could dig Sable’s storyline and have her overprotective mother even let her read it, you know there was not enough going on in that book to entice a strong adult following.

Her character reminds me of a more greedy Lara Croft with her wealth, confidence, thrillseeking, and daddy issues. But she is a little bland, maybe because she is usually seeking profit for whatever she does and is talking buisness so her chatacter really never opens up in her own books or in any other. I’m not a huge fan of how she died either.

I still like her though and I will be making my Silver Sable costume for the next Comic Expo I attend.

Huh, a quick google shows there hasn’t been a lot of Silver Sable cosplay. You should stand out. Hope it turns/turned out well.

And I always liked Silver Sable, and thought the art on the title was pretty good. It was a bit by the numbers comic booking, but certainly no worse than most of what hits the shelves today.

staiedglassscarlet

August 30, 2014 at 7:43 am

I really liked this series and I think she is due for a renewed interest. I hope she gets a film from Sony due to her Spidey ties. I think it could bring something different to the superhero film table. There were some good things in the 90s.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives