Friday, February 16, 2018

Marvel-ous Comics Parody

This is a new one for me, inspired by Hamlette's We Love Superheroes Week.  A comic book review.

In 1993, I was still reading comic books and a place opened up here in town that catered only to comic books and the like.  I came across this series, a 6 book feature that was printed by Image Comics.  It was written mostly by Alan Moore, a name that is familiar in the comic book world.  He wrote the Watchmen series which was featured in a movie a few years ago, and also created the comics on which a few other great movies were based:  V for Vendetta, From Hell, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The 1963 imprint of Image featured the six book series that was an homage to the Silver Age of comics, and had parodies of many of the Silver Age heroes of the comic book industry.   Each issue featured one (or more) characters from that era and was written in the style of 60's comics.  The parodies were almost all of Marvel comics superheroes (which explains some of the reasons why I had an attraction to it).

Book One was titled Mystery Incorporated  and featured characters who were supposed to represent The Fantastic Four.  Crystal Man and his cohorts, The Planet, Kid Dynamo and Neon Queen, had to do battle with an intruder in their secret fortress.  It turned out that the intruder had come from across time and alternate universes through a gizmo Crystal Man had created called the Maybe Machine.  The Maybe Machine was kind of like the doorway in the Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever", except that it could look into alternate timelines.  At the end of the issue Crystal Man decides that the solution to the problem is that the four must enter the Maybe Machine.

Book Two was titled No One Escapes The FuryThe Fury was based somewhat on Spiderman and Daredevil.  Initially The Fury is accompanying the delivery of a top secret package to L.A.S.E.R.'s (based on S.H.I.E.L.D.) headquarters, but is distracted by the appearance of an arch-enemy, the Voidoid.  Meanwhile, at L.A.S.E.R.'s HQ, a creature that was contained in the top secret box, an intelligent dinosaur, escapes.  The dinosaur ends up in the fray with The Fury and the Voidoid.  Things look bad for The Fury, but he has help from members of the L.A.S.E.R. squad, led by a woman named Solo, who is apparently a parody of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  (She even tokes on a cigarette in a macho way...)  Eventually good triumphs, but The Fury is curious about some of the weapons that the Voidoid had and takes them to a friend who confirms that the technology is beyond what is potential for the current day, so from whence did they come?

Book Three, Tales of the Uncanny, featured Ultimate Special Agent. aka U.S.A. (a stand-in for Captain America).  U.S.A., standing in for President Kennedy, prevents an assassination attempt on the President.  Off he goes into the school book depository only to encounter would be asassin vanishing in a burst of light, and the real Leo Harley Osbourne, the assassin bound and gagged.  He claims it was all a conspiracy, and that the real would be killers were the Communists.  And to prove it, U.S.A's Soviet nemesis Red Brain appears to do battle with our flag wearing hero.  But just as U.S.A. seems doomed to failure, the vanishing assassin reappears and disables Red Brain, then disappears again leaving behind only a newspaper, dated 1993!

The second half of the issue features The Hypernaut (a parody of Iron Man). The Hypernaut lives in a space station on the dark side of the moon.  He is plagued by an invasion of a creature from the fourth dimension   By now it must be apparent that there is something peculiar going on in the multiverse.   Of course our hero vanquishes his foe, but leaves behind the ultimate question...WHY?

Book Four was called Tales from Beyond, and featured two (count 'em, two!) heroes; The Unbelievable N-Man and Johnny Beyond.

The N-Man was an homage to the Incredible Hulk who, despite his red skin, was a true blue American, through and through.  On a mission from the government, N-Man investigates the highly radioactive Shimmering Zone, site of a nuclear test.  There he encounters Comrade Cockroach, an adversary from Red Russia.  But the center of the Shimmering Zone holds a mystery that seeks to encompass them both, a gravitational field that draws everything into it.  It is actually a portaql to another time dimension, although it is not evident in this segment.

Time is of the essence through out the series, and the segment featuring Johnny Beyond adds more mystery.  Johnny beyond is a beatnik version of Doctor Strange, who encounters a wayward soul from 1993.  She has been caught up in a time slip that seems focused on Johnny's pad, and come to find out she is the paramour of an alternate universe future version of Johnny, called by his real name, John Behan.  The episode ends with a switcheroo, with John and his girl stuck in 1963 and Johnny in the middle of some time warp.

Book Five, Horus, Lord of Light had as it's central character a take on Thor.  Horus poses as Professor Falcon, a teacher on campus who performs double duty as an educator and his duties as a god of the fabled Egyptian mythology.  When he goes to Heliopolis, a student (and infatuated wannabe lover of Professor) stows away on the sun barge.  Horus discovers an evil plan.  Someone has drugged the guardians of the barge and it is defenseless as it travels trough its night phase.  So Horus has to act as guardian of the barge.  He is successful, with the help of his mortal stowaway and returns to Earth to find a message to assemble with Infra-Man (as have several of the others).

Book Six was the final issue, called Tomorrow Syndicate, which was a take on The Avengers and collected the heroes from the previous five issues.  Included in the Tomorrow Syndicate are Horus, The Hypernaut, U.S.A., N-Man and two new characters Infra-Man and Infra-Girl, based on Ant-Man and the Wasp, respectively.  Inside Mount Rushmore is the hidden base of the Tomorrow Syndicate.  Infra-Man informs them that a weapon the Voidoid used against the Fury (see Book Two) was way too technologically advanced for this time.  But radiation from the weapon is similar to radiation points in two places in Manhattan, Lexington Avenue and Greenwich Village.  At the Lexington Avenue location, the Syndicate inadvertently stumble across the Mystery Mile (home to Mystery Incorporated; see Book One).  They discover the Maybe Machine and determine that's where Mystery Incorporated went, and that they must also enter the machine.  There they encounter a time warp and meet up with a group that U.S.A. had joined to battle Hitler in the 40's.  They also find a giant space station of sorts, which they find is the Lobby of Alternity.  They use the portals to try to find their co-horts, Mystery Incorporated, but end up in the wrong timeline at first...and second...and third...and fourth...and end up in the present day (or at least 1993, which was the present when the comic was published.)

Unfortunately this is where the span of the series ended.  There were plans for a double issue that would have wrapped up the entire series, possibly connecting these chacters with some of the then modern day comic books stars, but it failed to appear.  According to the wikipedia article on the series,  Moore was in the midst of writing the final issue when his cohort decided to take a sabbatical.  Things never got back on track, and at this point, probably never will.  But the series is still enjoyable, as is, even without the resolution.

It was fun even rereading the series for this post.  I got nostalgic once again for those comics of the Silver Age which inspired my love for comic book superheroes in the first place. 


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