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CSBG Archive

Year of the Artist, Day 207: Todd McFarlane, Part 1 – Coyote #11 and Infinity Inc. #16

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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Todd McFarlane, and the story is “Slash” in Coyote #11 and the issue is Infinity Inc. #16, the first of which was published by Marvel (under Epic Comics) and is cover dated March 1985 and the second of which was published by DC and is cover dated July 1985. The scans of “Slash” are from the trade paperback Coyote volume 4, which was published by Image in 2006. Enjoy!

Yes, it’s time for McFarlane. According to the INTERNET (which is always, always right!), “Slash” is McFarlane’s first published work (and the credits for the issue seem to back this up), but the following month, his first issue of Infinity Inc., #14, showed up (I don’t own that, though), so I’m not sure what he drew first. But I have “Slash,” and I have his third issue of Infinity Inc., so let’s check ‘em both out!

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McFarlane drew the “secret origin” of Slash, the Soviet agent who showed up in the main “Coyote” story. She was just a regular Russian woman named Dunya Rulitskaya who got dragged away by the KGB for … well, for some reason. She argues with the colonel, who has two dudes kill her. I won’t show that page, but I’ll show the one where she argues with the colonel! We see already that McFarlane enjoys a cartoony style that would suit him well going forward. The colonel’s frog-like face is very proto-McFarlane, with the wide nose and thick lips. It’s a caricature, sure, but it gets the idea of a disgusting Soviet soldier/bureaucrat very well. Dunya, on the other hand, is very much not cartoony – McFarlane draws her as a bit of a classical beauty, with her hair dropping languidly around her face, her eyes half-closed and darkened by smoky make-up, and her lips full and inked just enough to be sensual. It’s a nice drawing, even though it doesn’t fit her words at all. Panel 4 is better, as McFarlane opens her mouth and arches her eyebrows, while Art Nichols (who inked this) hatches along her cheekbone to make her face harsher. The thugs in Panel 6 are also proto-McFarlane types, as they’re a bit less cartoonish than some of McFarlane’s later nameless punks would be, but the first guy, especially, has very wide and simplistic features. I should point out the cigar smoke lazily wending its way across the panels. This is a trope to which McFarlane would return.

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Dunya is killed – sort of – and this is her journey toward heaven, from which she is yanked back as we learn that the Russians have figured out how to “trap one’s life force between this world and the next.” Sucks to be her, I guess. McFarlane’s layout on this page is pretty cool – we get the tunnel of light, and Dunya moves through it before something rips her away, sending her spiraling through the void and back to her body. I imagine a lot of the scuffing – the tunnel in Panel 1, for instance – is due to Nichols, but McFarlane’s details are still very nice. The enlarging eye in Panel 2, with more blood coming from it in each successive drawing, is a cool touch (Dunya got stabbed in the left eye), and the blockage of the tunnel is quite neat, too. Petra Scotese colored this, and she uses a lot of white to achieve that “negative” effect as Dunya is torn away from the tunnel, while McFarlane and Nichols don’t overuse lines so that it’s clear Dunya is a spirit at this point. It’s a nifty page.

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Oh, yeah, and Dunya – or “Slash,” as I guess she’s now called – can’t die, because the Russians made clones of her and can transport her life force into a new body when she – unsurprisingly – tries to kill herself. This is a pretty awesome idea – I mean, it’s so freaking COMICS!!!! that it works, you know? But we’re not here to talk about the bizarre secret origin of “Slash,” we’re here to talk about McFarlane’s art! McFarlane, we can see, had a pretty good handle on layouts and packing a lot of information onto a page – see more of this below – even though there are a few problems. The first panel shows Dunya’s point of view when she opens her good eye, and the distorted colonel looking down at her is just the thing you want to see when you open your eye after you think you’ve committed suicide. The drawing of the colonel in Panel 2 is a bit strange – McFarlane is cramming him, Slash, and two of Dunya’s old bodies into the space, so the colonel puts his arms around Slash but McFarlane draws his right hand as if it’s growing out of Slash’s shoulder. In Panel 4, we get another good shot of the colonel, with Nichols’s inking providing a bit of roughness to his toady face. A cigar magically appears in his hand in Panel 5, burning Slash’s hand, and while the cigar appears suddenly, it’s a nice callback to the smoke in the page I showed above. McFarlane does a nice job with Slash’s face in that panel, as he contorts her face in pain but remembers to leave the eye socket unchanged, as the muscles presumably have been burned away. Panel 7 is the confusing one, because it’s such a close-up and we’ve only seen Slash use her power from her own point of view, so we don’t really know what this black, spiky thing is (a sea urchin? an echidna?). McFarlane makes sure to draw the ragged skin around her eye, but it’s still so close in that it’s tough to figure out what’s going on. Even in the main story, when Slash uses this power, Englehart and his artist (in this case, Chas Truog) opted not to show it too graphically. So this is the first time we see it building in her eye socket, and McFarlane, I think, goes too close to make it as powerful as it needs to be. The death of the colonel (who’s also a clone, so it doesn’t stick) and Slash’s gaze down at his body are also crowded, even though we can see clearly what’s going on. The final panel on the page is a bit odd. Scotese’s bright colors and use of white again turns it a bit “negative,” which obscures the lines a bit, but Slash’s face looks elongated, and I’m not sure why. Above the strand of hair swirling over the panel, we see what looks like her eyes and nose, but then, below that, we get a big gap between the nose and her mouth, which is open in pain. Is this supposed to be two separate images of Slash as she “explodes” (which she doesn’t really, but her face gets messed up), or are we supposed to infer that her face is splitting apart so violently that it stretches? I’m going to go with the second explanation, based on the narrative box, but it’s not terribly clear.

As I noted, at about this same time, McFarlane began working on Infinity Inc. for DC, and so I figured I’d combine the two comics into one post. Yes, I know that’s cheating, but I’ve cheated before this year, and that’s just the way it is! Let’s take a look at this book, which was much higher-profile and presumably got McFarlane the gig drawing The Incredible Hulk.

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Whether McFarlane drew this issue or “Slash” first doesn’t really matter, except to note that this is less cartoony, which might be because it was a more mainstream book and conformed more to a DC house style. I’m not sure – I wasn’t reading comics in 1985, and I don’t own a lot of issues of Infinity Inc., so I don’t know much about the standard artwork of this time period. This is the first page, and it’s interesting for a lot of reasons. First of all, the perspective is a bit wonky, as McFarlane doesn’t quite get the net angled correctly, but that’s a minor thing. Jade isn’t even looking at Hector, but she still tells him that he shouldn’t tickle his fiancée, even though there’s absolutely no indication that he’s tickling Lyta at all. Meanwhile, Lyta isn’t supposed to be using super-powers, which is fine, but McFarlane draws her as if she was shot out of a cannon instead of jumping up to block the shot. Hector, at least, is bent in a way that makes him look like he’s trying to spike the ball. Jade is ostensibly part of the game, but she has her back to the action and appears to be fixing her hair while talking to Rose, who hasn’t joined the game but appears to be standing on the court. Of course, there’s the fact that all this dialogue manages to get said in the second or so that Lyta and Hector contend for the ball, but that’s an old comics thing, and it’s Roy and Dann Thomas’s fault, anyway. Still, McFarlane does a nice job with Jade – her body is nicely proportionate, as she has reasonable breasts, waist, and legs, while everyone but Lyta actually looks like they’re playing volleyball. The layout remains a bit weird, though.

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Hey, it’s some more cheesecake – why not? The entire layout of this comic is bizarre – for some reason, McFarlane randomly drops the members of the team into the pages, outside of the flow of the rest of the comic and in full costume. Only Lyta appears in costume in this entire issue, so maybe McFarlane was reminding us of who all these people are, but it’s just weird. Nuklon’s appearance here is one of the less intrusive drawings of the team – on one page, Jade is simply lying on her side in between two rows of panels. Anyway, as we’ll see, this is fairly typical of the comic – McFarlane packs a lot onto each page. Is this a consequence of Roy Thomas, with whom I’m not as familiar as I should be but whom I know has a bit of a reputation for verbosity, writing this comic? I don’t know, but McFarlane has quite a bit to do, and he’s not completely successful. I’m not entirely sure why Lyta and Yolanda are hugging in Panel 5, but because of space constraints, they look very awkward doing so, as if they bumped into each other and are trying to prop each other up. Ted Grant, behind them, looks like he’s cheering them on (MAKE OUTTTTT!!!!! he thinks, fist-pumping all the way), and it’s unclear why he even needs to be there. Yolanda disrobes awfully quickly, and I suppose McFarlane could have had more room if he didn’t devote so much space to her preening, but there it is. Once again, McFarlane draws a good female form. She’s not ridiculously chesty, and her waist and legs are in line with her torso. I do like how he just adds small inset panels of the men staring at her, even though whoever is saying “Take … your time” (maybe it’s Ted?) seems awfully skeevy.

I should point out that Tony DeZuniga inked this, and it’s an interesting combination. DeZuniga tends to rough up whatever penciler he’s inking, and we see that he adds some hatching to Ted’s face in Panel 4 and some thickness to Hector’s hair at the bottom of the page. We can see a bit of “McFarlanism” in the thin panel of Northwind whistling at Yolanda (the wide eyes and nose), but DeZuniga uses heavy blacks even on that drawing to keep it from being too cartoony.

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The group decides to use superpowers, and Lyta spikes the ball so hard that it tears through the net, causing the man who wants to marry her to get so angry that he goes for a drive. I mean, I get being competitive, but really, Hector? A couple of things stand out here besides another packed page. We get another “hero standing outside the panels” as McFarlane drops Hector in his Silver Scarab outfit onto the page, but at least he’s looking sad and lonely after he yelled at Lyta. McFarlane adding the hearts falling and breaking is an odd but clever touch, as it reminds us that comics can and should do strange things that we don’t see in movies. Down at the bottom, Lyta holds two kangas she got from her mother – Wonder Woman – as an engagement present. We’ll get back to the kangas. Anyway, as this is early McFarlane, the people are much less cartoony than they would later be (which is why I wonder when he drew this as opposed to “Slash,” because the colonel already looks like a later McFarlane character), but there are small hints – in Panel 9, the one with all the characters, Nuklon’s face has shades of later McFarlane characters like Peter Parker. Again, I don’t know if McFarlane was simply trying to fit in and was suppressing his natural inclinations toward more cartoonish characters, or that was part of his evolution.

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This issue features the dramatic debut of Mr. Bones, who would get a much-needed makeover over a decade later in Chase. I mean, I know it was 1985, but sheesh. McFarlane gives us a dramatic first panel, as a mysterious wind swirls Lyta’s hair and DeZuniga gives it some nice thick strokes while also darkening Lyta’s eyes a bit. Then we get the entrance of Mr. Bones, with his cape billowing around him, his giant collar, his thigh-high boots, and the “X” of bones on his chest. DeZuniga does some hatching on Bones and Lyta to roughen them up a bit, with the hatching on his cape and the small marks on his skull. People must have responded positively to Mr. Bones’s cape, because boy howdy, did McFarlane run with this.

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Once again, we get a packed layout, but it’s not hard to follow. Lyta grabs the second pole of the volleyball net and we don’t see it, but Lyta explains it in the dialogue. He and DeZuniga do nice work with the details. In Panel 2 – the close-up of Bones’s face – DeZuniga does nice hatching to make him look more, well, bony. Bones rips the pole out of the ground and swings it at Lyta, which is a bit awkward. It’s far enough away that McFarlane can get away with being a bit sloppy, but Bones’s hand is holding the pole with the fingers down, which would seem very hard to do. When Lyta grabs the pole, it creates a panel border, and then we get the bottom panel, where we get a decent progression. Once again, the capes are a bit nuts, but not as nuts as later in his career. In the final panel, you can see a larger-than-normal moon, but it’s not as large as some moons that McFarlane would later draw!

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One of the kangas that Lyta got as a gift attacks Mr. Bones and touches his exposed hand, which kills it. I remember reading old Wonder Woman comics in reprints when I was a kid, and the kangaroos were a bit odd-looking but still looked like kangaroos. I don’t know if their depiction had modified over the years, but those are the worst-looking kangaroos I’ve ever seen. Why McFarlane didn’t get some actual photographs of kangaroos and use those, but these kangas … man. Anyway, McFarlane again has to cram the page with panels, but notice, say, the panel where Bones hits Lyta with his elbow. It’s supposed to be happening quickly so we get speed lines and some blurry stuff, and I wonder if McFarlane laid it out very sketchily and DeZuniga drew more than just the inking. It wouldn’t surprise me. McFarlane shows that he has some idea about perspective, as the final panel works pretty well. We still don’t see a lot of distinctive McFarlane, but it’s nice work.

McFarlane drew Infinity Inc. for a while (just about two years) before jumping over the Marvel, but I don’t own the later issues of his run. So I’ll move on tomorrow to … well, that’s a good question. I’ll have to see. You know you want to come back to check it out, and I know you want to head on over to the archives!

31 Comments

Yeah, he would continue to do a lot of that thing of having Infinity Inc members just hanging out outside the panels in subsequent issues. It was weird.

Andrew Kolvek

July 26, 2014 at 2:45 pm

McFarlane also drew issue 47 of All Star Squadron, also dated July 1985, though I believe he did this well before his work on Infinity, Inc. and got him the job on the book.

I’m perfectly willing to chalk the stylistic differences up to editorial–”this is a backup story in a creator-owned work; go wild” vs. “this is a mainstream super-hero comic and one of our attempts to compete with the X-Men; let’s have it look like an 80′s-standard comic.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mr. Bones in full costume before. Anyone else think he looks like the Black Terror?

Infinity Inc. is one of the few McFarlane runs I’ve never seen. His art is a total guilty pleasure for me. I just love it. I own The Amazing Spider-Man omnibus collecting his and David Michelinie’s run on the series. His evolution as an artist on that run alone could fill a few days here.

I’m torn between liking McFarlane with and without an inker. On The Incredible Hulk his inkers seemed to reign him in appropriately but on Amazing he seemed to have already found the right groove on his own and they stifled him a lot. At that point he was right to do it all on his own. And then of course there’s McFarlane AS an inker over another penciller…where he completely dominates the work. I think in some ways that helped Greg Capullo be as strong an artist as he’s become…he had to work hard to shine through McFarlane’s inks for years! (I’d love to see you cover Capullo at some point also).

I’m interested to see which examples of Todd’s work you choose to showcase this week. I always look forward to this column!

tom fitzpatrick

July 26, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Funny enough, I don’t remember the “Slash” part in COYOTE, but I do remember SCORPIO ROSE back-up by McFarlane as well as the INFINITY, INC. run.

This was my first McFarlane exposure. Then afterwards he did a stint on The Incredible Hulk with PAD, and ASM with David Micheline. These first few years were actually decent art from McFarlane, which ended with Spider-man.

First year of SPAWN wasn’t bad, but after that McFarlane pretty much stopped being the artist and more like the inker.

McFarlane has always been an excellent pin-up artist, and even moreso in his early work where he adds these static images in the borders. At the time I was young and thought it extremely creative; now I find it annoying and distracting.

Jeff Nettleton

July 26, 2014 at 4:35 pm

One of the things I think you will find, when examining McFarlane, is that he is a very good graphic designer. As you point out in the Coyote story, he looks at the comic page as a whole image, rather than the panels as beats within the story. That’s also what makes him a not-so-great storyteller, in my eyes. He spends more time on the look of the page, rather than telling the story.

By his own admission, he was bored working on Infinity, Inc. That was Roy Thomas’ baby. Thomas was verbose, though not as bad as, say, Don MacGregor. However, he pretty much had full control on Infinity, Inc. and All-Star Squadron, more or less. As for the art before, the book debuted with art from Jerry Ordway, who took it through it’s first extended storyline, which went through the first ten issues. He was followed by Don Newton, who was chomping at the bit to do something related to the Justice Society. Unfortunately, Newton (a tremendously under-rated artist) died suddenly of a heart attack. Thus was a young Todd McFarlane thrust into the role of penciller.

McFarlane wasn’t fond of Thomas’ scripts, so he would amuse himself with the page layouts, often having the characters framing panels. I think there is at least one issue where it looks like one of the character’s is holding the panels up. He also had their character icons (scarabs, atoms, etc) running around the border of the page. I can understand his boredom, as Thomas indulged his own quest to revisit old JSA stories from All-Star Comics. Sometimes, the digression into the path overtook the story in the present.

I thought McFarlane was at his best with Mr. Bones and Helix (his band of misfits). Thomas didn’t slip so much into the past and the villains were an interesting bunch, and McFarlane’s cartoony leanings suited them well.

By the way, Mr. Bones’ costume is meant to be an homage to the 1940s Nedor character, the Black Terror. McFarlane updated it a bit, with the thigh boots and went to town with the cape. It took me a few panels to realize that he incorporated the Terror’s skull and crossbones including Mr. Bones’ skull in the design (hence just using the crossed bones on the chest). McFarlane also followed this up with Batman: Year Two, following the departure of Alan Davis (who did the first part, in Detective Comics #575).

You may think Bones needed an update, but I don’t think you appreciate him enough. Just look at that dramatic debut! How awesome is his first sentence?!

Ethan Shuster

July 26, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Wow, it really does look like McFarlane is more copying other styles instead of creating his own.

I think one of the most interesting McFarlane stories is that he did the art for G.I. Joe #60 before anyone really knew him. Then he followed it up with issue #61, but that was somehow considered unacceptable, and someone else drew the final version instead. McFarlane’s version of #61 then was released as G.I. Joe Special #1 after the series ended.

But it’s crazy to think his art was rejected a few years before he became so big,

I loved Infinity Inc. at the time, and remember when MacFarlane took over. I was totally blown away. It was the first time I was inspired to look up the name of the artist. To this day I remember it fondly.

In 1999, I interviewed MacFarlane on another subject, but brought up Infinity Inc. just for fun. He didn’t seem to think so highly of the series. Basically, I asked him (jokingly) when he was going to bring out toys based on Infinity Inc. and he laughed and said I was probably the only person who would buy them. Then we discussed the series for a few minutes. He was a nice guy.

Papercut Fun: I will look at a lot of different inkers on McFarlane, because that’s part of what made his work interesting – seeing how different inkers changed his pencils.

I’m not sure I’ll do Capullo. I wrote him down, but I haven’t checked yet to see how much of his work I own. I know I have a big gap before he started on Batman, so I’m not sure where his style changed so much. If you’re right, it’s on Spawn and, I guess, Haunt, but I’m not super-keen on getting those. I might, though!

Jeff: Interesting point about his graphic design. You’re right, though – it makes his pages look like complete works of art, but occasionally to the detriment of his storytelling.

Poor Roy Thomas. Just wanting to do his own thing and indulge his love of World War II era comics, and those artists kept getting in his way! :)

I did forget about Black Terror. I’m not as well versed in 1940s heroes as I should be!

Ethan: I didn’t know he drew an issue of G. I. Joe. That’s a bizarre story, because even this early, you could tell he knew what he was doing.

Apropos of nothing, I saw McFarlane today at the convention. I should have jumped the line to tell him about these posts! Maybe he wouldn’t have appreciated them, though …

tom fitzpatrick

July 26, 2014 at 8:33 pm

@ Mr. Burgas: Just as well, some of these comments may be considered destructive and negative criticism of his past (and maybe present) works, if not positive.

It’s been said that McFarlane has a thick skin so maybe he wouldn’t care one way or the other. He has had a lot to deal with in the past 20 years (two major law-suits that I know of, a toy & comic company to look after).

It’s almost amazing that he still keeps his hands into SPAWN,

McFarlane was and still is BY FAR the best of the original Image guys, though he still always had the same issues with anatomy, proportion, perspective, texturing, and feet. At least he could do detail work well enough to make attractive artwork though. Most of his contemporaries had a problem with just not drawing everything ugly. He was also the best character designer out of the bunch. Designs like Clown/Violator still look half decent, and Spawn’s mask is still iconic even if the rest of the costume has too many spikes and too little feet to be taken seriously.

I have the whole run of Infinity Inc (53 issues, 2 Annuals, and a Special one-shot), and Todd’s layouts were scattered with stuff all over the place. Plus his style was a lot more “cartoony” than it was when he started Spider-Man.

ahhhh McFarlane, really like this period

Up to around the time he did Hulk 345 (when he began inking himself) we will see some real evolution to his story telling.

I rlike thoses Infinity inc issues.. but i prefer the ones inked by Montano, where we have abetter view at McFarlane’s art..

I really like the Gi Joe issue, where he still maintain a little cartoony style.

I really am less a fan of his work on Spiderman…

And really like Spawn (up to issue 100..where due to overall cost of monthly comics..there were cuts ^^)

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The frippery around the panels never worked for me. From memory it got busier as time wore on. And I also recall some utterly awful work from McFarlane’s time on II. The group had so much promise. After the super All Star Squadron then the opening arcs and their fantastic story and art the series stalled. Then COIE killed it. Such a shame.

The first pages show some classic McFarlane features, like the cartoony face, but as I’ve never seen the Infinitve Inc pages I find them surprisingly mainstream like, not the usual weirdness I expect from McFarlane.
He was one of the first artist who lured me over to give superheroes a try, and lo and behold, after nearly 25 years I am still here.
By the way, I mostly dislike how others ink him, it never feels natural , it is good that he started to ink his own work.

Andrew Kolvek

July 27, 2014 at 5:26 am

I believe the powers that be at Marvel were not too keen on his frenetic layouts on G.I. Joe, so they had his second issue redrawn by another artist who would be more in line with what was previously done. As he became more popular, his unpublished issue 61 was published as G.I.Joe Special 1 after the last issue of the Marvel series.

Ethan Shuster

July 27, 2014 at 7:41 am

Greg: I think those G.I. Joe issues were 1987, and even those look more like his signature style than this issue here. It could also be that his version of #61 actually wasn’t very good or was rushed or something, but I’d have to go back to my comics to remember.

Ethan Shuster

July 27, 2014 at 7:55 am

In that first Infinity, Inc image that net really does throw it all off. If you imagine that net completely straight with no attempt at an angle, I think the panel would make perfect sense.

how does anybody read that header panel and not want to click on this article

Jeff Nettleton

July 27, 2014 at 10:20 am

@Dimo1
While he was at DC, McFarlane said he was being mentored by Dick Giordano, who he credited a lot with helping his art, as well as John Romita Sr, at Marvel. I think, once he got away from those influences, and answering to editors, he kind of just went back to what he was doing before, though with more refinement.

McFarlane did an interview with the Comics Journal (a publication that was not his biggest fan). Going into it, I thought he was going to be a big punching bag, and they did hit him with criticism, and he agreed with a lot of it. He basically said “This is what I do and it makes me a lot of money,” and you couldn’t really argue the point any longer. He accepted his weaknesses; but his audience didn’t seem to mind so he was going to follow the same path. It wasn’t too much later that he scaled back the comic stuff to focus more on the toys. I forget if he had bought the baseballs yet or not. So, yeah, he doesn’t seem to sweat the criticism of his work. Me, as I said, I think he is a great graphic designer; just a poor storyteller (and horrible writer). I would tend to agree that he was probably the most complete artist of the Image founders, though I think Jim Valentino, removed from the superhero world, is under-rated.

I remember reading something from Peter David somewhere (I want to say in the foreword to the collected Peter David Hulk issues) where he said that an editor asked if he could work with a young McFarlane on Hulk, and (paraphrasing) David said sure, since even though he saw nothing remarkable about his art at the time, he was new at writing and figured he had no right to refuse another new creator a chance. So, the impression given was that McFarlane was at that point thought of as a just another serviceable young artist. And really, on Hulk, you can see that McFarlane changed by leaps and bounds even in the course of the issues covered in that trade paperback. But, I’m sure you’ll get to the Hulk stuff soon enough…

You know, I’ve always imagined Mr. Bones’ rhyming fetish as being nursery-rhyme style (and therefore annoying). But looking at these panels, I’n now thinking of it as him rapping all the time, which is just hilarious.
Now let’s see if I can carry that newfound perspective over to Etrigan.

Jeff Nettleton

July 27, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Well, the character was revealed to be African-American in a later issue, so why not?

I’ve never seen Mr Bones before but at first look he does remind me of a more famous McFarlane creation!

Jacob T. Levy

July 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Alas, poor Infinity Inc. I knew them, Horatio.

Silver Scarab: Dead, then ghost puppet Sandman, then dead-dead, then reborn as Doctor Fate
Fury: Motherand retconned out of existence; fiance is an annoying loser; he dies; she marries him anyway; she’s trapped in a dreamworld with only him for company for years; weird stuff happens; then coma.
Northwind: forgotten about until brouht back as unintelligent
Obsidian: joins second-worst Justice League; often evil; used as a security camera; becomes an egg
Nuklon: manages to get an even worse code name, turns semi-evil and very stupid
Star-Spangled Kid: dead
Jade: often depowered; suffers indignity of dating Kyle Rayner; attracts Solomon Grundy as a stalker; died; Black Lanterned; joins third-worst Justice League
Wildcat II: never again as cool as during her debut panels in Crisis; killed as cannon fodder in a stupid story

All of them: introduced to be the Earth-2 Teen Titans just in time for Earth-2 to disappear; used as legacy-of-the-Golden-Age characters on the unified earth after the JSA disappears, until DC decides that earnest legacies are terrible and it’s better to have kewl ones like Fate; by the time Johns decides that legacies are what the DCU is all about, have mostly been rendered unusable and anyway are rendered irrelevant by return to glory of very old Golden Age JSAers. Subsequently completely wiped out when the DCnU’s Earth-2 gets a timeline that starts the JSA now-ish.

By contrast, Mister Bones (who had, in addition to a terrible costume, one of the worst origins ever): Became awesome in one of the best series of the 90s (Chase), remained awesome in one of the best series of the 2000s (Manhunter), and *still* remained awesome, even surviving into the DCnU, in one of the few good DC series of the 2010s (Batwoman).

Jacob T. Levy

July 27, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Oh, right:

Doctor Midnight: died along with Wildcat
Hourman: cancer, drug addict.

@ Jacob T. Levy:

To me, Infinity, Inc. is part and parcel of the broader “why does DC Comics hate itself so much?” question.

They were, on the whole, a pretty nifty second tier super team. None of them was really ‘the lead’ and you didn’t absolutely have to know the whole history of Earth-2 to appreciate them. Silver Scarab was the most traditional hero, but he was also a hot-tempered tool. Fury is pretty the prototype “strong female character” when in action, but she is in a terrible relationship. Obsidian didn’t start as gay man, but it does make him more interesting. He also has nifty powers. Jade made a nice foil for Fury. Nuklon loses the game of code name roulette, but he was kinda interesting and had a classic power set that no one in the contemporary DCU really ‘owned’. Only Northwind felt like a classic half-baked legacy hero, but Thomas at least tried to spice up his back story.

McFarlane felt like just the sort of breathe of fresh air that the title needed. It was briefly kind of exciting in the way the Image guys later made various Marvel books exciting. The problem was that McFarlane wasn’t a huge fan of working with Thomas, the COIE came along to upset the apple cart and the title never recovered. Like BATO, it was a ‘coulda been’ that gets treated like a ‘never was’. It is a shame.

@Jacob T. Levy:

[list of angst, death, and tragedy]

So, basically they were typical DC characters.

Except Mister Bones, who apparently had a rather un-DC history of survival and triumph? Sure you didn’t leave out any drug additions, removal from history, stuffed his grandmother in the freezer, retconned into having one or more mental illnesses, or anything else of a similar DC bent?

Capes alive! Infinity Inc was my favourite childhood DC comic, but it was hurt badly by Crisis. Mr Bones was a great character except for his need to rhyme. Etrigan… Wheelie… I always find it annoying when characters speak in rhyme. I think Roy Thomas was going for a ‘rapper’ archetype, and it makes sense when Bones is showboating, but even in quiet moments and later in the series in a particularly tragic storyline he just keeps on rapping.

And @Billy – During Infinity Inc. (as well as having that weird rhyming vocal tic), Mr Bones was a drug baby, kidnapped and raised entirely indoors, has invisible skin and looks like a skeleton, can’t touch anyone because he sweats cyanide, was used as a weapon to kill Skyman and thusly framed as a murderer, before having to go on the run. So the fact that his life after that is not too bad might (arguably) be deserved.

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