by Nevs Coleman

Elektra Pez Dispenser

Elektra Pez Dispencer. (Or: I think Bendis has got it right!)

Walking through the debris that is Woolworths in Crouch End, I wandered through the toy section. All the Hulk Hands have gone. There’s a bundle of WWE figures, and the fact that I could buy a Sandman action figure for a fiver filled me with happiness.

For the uninitiated, The Sandman is essentially the Anti-Hulk Hogan. Whereas The Hulkster would implore you to take vitamins, work hard, pray to the Lord and take part in physical exercise. Striding to the ring to the most patriotic nonsense Jim Johnson could compose, thousands of adoring Hulkamanics singing ‘I am a Real American!’. The Sandman would amble to the ring smoking a fag, making wanker gestures with the aid of a Singapore Cane and possibly drink a can of beer. Depending on his mood, he’d also be likely to headbutt the can til he bled or pour it down the top of a female member of the audience and lick the booze from her breasts to the strains of ‘Enter Sandman’ by Metallica. Drove Mick Foley to madness when he realised that he couldn’t get The Sandman to stay down as he was too pissed to remember the outcome of their match! Having watched the documentary ‘Forever Hardcore!’, I’m inclined to think he missed his vocation as a stand up comedian.

All in all, Top Man! I don’t think he’s ever wrestled a match sober. Obviously no place for him in Vince McMahon’s Happy Shopper version of ECW. The WWE version of Sandman couldn’t drink nor smoke and had to enter the arena to some generic rock toss somebody had knocked together. He was let go after a dull run of lamping people with his cane. Obviously, hitting someone in the face with a lump of wood is always funny, but wasn’t really the point of his character.

Down the line from the WWE toys was a Super-Deformed Daredevil and Elektra two pack of toys. Scared the crap out of me, I can tell you. Tortured Ninja Assasin armed with Sai swords grinning at me like a Cabbage Patch Doll whose just been given a lobotomy in a collectible package.

I was sorely tempted to buy it and send it to Frank Miller. Just to see what would happen.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about, Frank Miller created Elektra during his run on Daredevil back in the early eighties. As the issues went on, it became clear that Frank was far more interested in the relationship between her and DD’s numero uno nemesis, Bullseye. Their turbluent rivalary ended with Bullseye ramming her own sais into her. And that was the end of her. Those of you who haven’t read his groundbreaking run are sent to Amazon forthwith. Everyone good on that comic since has been ripping him off something fierce.

Except for a graphic novel where her ghost haunts Matt something mental, Called Elektra Lives Again, it was meant to her last appearance. Marvel promised Frank it would be the end of her story.

Until, of course, it wasnt.

The Mid Nineties was a tough time for Marvel and DC. Royally fucked by the top artists of the time walking out and forming their own company whose comics regularly outsold the majority of the Big Two’s output, both resorted to doing insane things to their lead characters. Batman got his spine snapped, Green Lantern went bollocks mental after his hometown was oblierated and ended up as a genocidal maniac, Superman died, Iron Man turned evil and was replaced by a teenage version of himself. Spider-Man was revealed to have been a clone of himself until he wasn’t. I may have mentioned this last one before. Possibly.

Daredevil, meanwhile, had it…odd.

After a couple of years in limbo and nobody knowing quite what to do with him since the lovely Annie Nocenti had put him through literal and metaphorical Hell, Matt had lost his luster and reverted to a quite unfunny ‘comedy’ comic. Until D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel began something called ‘Fall From Grace.’ It kicked off with a cover featuring a dot representing DD falling off The Kingpin’s tower. The story ran along the lines of ‘Caper featuring Techno Virus everyone wants, including Venom, Silver Sable, Morbius The Living Vampire and an evil Demon Clone of Daredevil! Big Fight ensues! Consequences not necessarily hilarious.’

And somewhere along the line, Elektra shows up.

Dressed in white and purified of the evil forces that drove her to slapping people about with funny shaped knives, she returned to fight her (sigh) evil clone. The subsquent altercation lead to Elektra killing said doppleganger and ‘her evil side returning.’ She tells Matt she has to ‘go off and rediscover herself’ (which is better than ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ or ‘iI didn’t know until I slept with you, but I think I’m a lesbian!; as a way of breaking up with someone)

Her further rediscoveries take place in her own comic, launched a few months down the line, until poor sales ensured cancelled it. Twice.

Let’s review:

Frank creates Elektra for Marvel. He says ‘I want to do the Last Elektra Story. As a Graphic Novel.’ Marvel sells many copies of Big Expensive Graphic Novel on the premise that it is indeed, ‘The Last Elektra Story.’ Marvel promise Frank that Elektra won’t be used again, EVER. People buy Big Expensive Graphic Novel. Then a few years later, Marvel bring her back. Intially as a supporting character, Then with a solo mini-series, finally with her own ongoing comic. Twice.

This was not in the sixties, where being lied to, your artwork stolen and getting no further royalities on anything you created was common work practice. This was the Nineties. Everyone was supposed to be creator rights savy. And if you wanted to keep two creators in that period happy so they’d create work for you that would sell, Frank Miller, (at that time artist and/or writer of Dark Knight Returns, Daredevil, Elektra: Assasin, Sin City, Hard Boiled and Give Me Liberty) was probably one of them.

Unless the resurrection of Elektra was some kind of revenge for Miller’s vocal assault in the eighties on Marvel for their treatment of Jack Kirby, it didn’t really prove anything except that Marvel were a bunch of hacking liars who’d reign on a promise for the price of a few dollars and that everyone who’d worked on the post Miller Elektra had been a load of arse kissing scabs who sell their brothers in ink down the line for the honour of working for the most anti-talent company in the history of publishing since Disney.

Allegedly. Your Honour.

Brian Michael Bendis is one of those people who worked on the second Elektra book. Despite my assesment of his deeds, i actually think, he’s pretty smart. In fact, Erik Larsen, who meant the following as a dig, proved WHY he’s pretty smart.

‘Yeah, he’s pretty good on the toys on the sandbox that are there, but tell me, what new characters has he created?’

It’s a point, but not the way Erik means it, I think. As part of the great clearout for me and the missus moving to Castle Kirby, I dumped a bunch of my recent Marvels. Avengers 500 all the way to the end of Secret Invasion, and rereading them afore sale, Erik’s right. Bendis moves around established characters, reinvents them, kills them. But with the exception of Jessica Jones. He doesn’t invent them. Who’ve been the major players in his regime at Marvel? Iron Man, The Scarlet Witch, Nick Fury, The Skrulls, Maria Hill. And you know what? THAT’s why he’s smart. Smart enough to realise he’s the golden boy of the moment, but that kind of thing is fleeting. John Byrne probably thought he was the big man at Marvel in the eighties and that he always would be. Where’s he now?

Blacklisted, allegedly. Knocking out anything for a paycheck and shouting on the internet. Jose Ladronn was deported from America because they weren’t willing to keep him on a book so he lost his work visa. If Chris Claremont knew he’d be booted off the comic that pretty much saved Marvel way back when, would he have spent so much time creating so rich a universe for The X-Men to play around in? Would he have created several spin off books that were all money spinners for Marvel? Claremont didn’t go to a barbeque in the early Nineties and lost his job of SEVENTEEN YEARS to Scott Lobdell. Later down the line, Grant Morrison turned X-Men, a comic that nobody except habitual drones who don’t care what they’re reading as long as its got Wolverine in cared about, into the hottest thing in town and within months of his leaving the title, his greatest trick, Xorn was turned into unreadable nonsensical rubbish. Chuck Austen, the Marvel Golden boy post Morrison is now a running joke in the pages of She-Hulk. That’s how Marvel treat people long term.

So Bendis HAS got it right, and Larsen’s missing the point. The point is even Stan Lee ended up having to sue Marvel for insufficent monies on creations he was at least partly responsible for. There’s no point assuming it won’t be your beloved creation that ends up as a major movie one day while you can’t get work beyond Genbloodynext or New-Nu-Neo Exiles. Why give them anything new? History proves that they’ll fuck you in the end.

Just ask Jack Kirby.

(2009 note. Oh, how ironic is the Disney dig now?..)

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