There are SPOILERS APLENTY in this piece.
SPOILERS ‘R’ US!
EL SPOILERS, MUCHO GRANDE, AMIGO!
I WILL TELL YOU HOW STORIES END. IF YOU KEEP READING, I CANNOT BE HELD RESPONISBLE FOR YOU LEARNING THINGS YOU MAY NOT WISH TO HAVE LEARNED.
Because sometimes, that suspension of disbelief goes too far, this is a selection of my favourite WTF moments in modern superhero comics. Modern in my head being the last 30 years odd. All of these things happened in recent continuity, as in a period when writers and editors knew that their work would probably be collected in some format or be available as back issues. As opposed to the time in the 60’s where I firmly believe editorial staff were driven insane by being locked in boiling hot offices with poor ventilation and the stench of Indian Ink constantly assaulting their frontal lobes to the point where they thought things like this were a good idea.
Nope, this is all modern stuff, no ‘Oh, it was the Silver Age and we didn’t know any better then.’ Get-Out-Of-Free Jail cards here.
Guardians Not Too Picky About Who They Give Power Rings To.
(Green Lantern 50. Vol 2.)
I don;t think Ron Marz will ever hear the end of either DC deciding to have Hal Jordan go totally fruitloops after watching Mongul kill everyone in his hometown of Coast City, or for that matter Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend be brutally murdered by Major Force and then jammed into a fridge. But what always struck me as oddly overlooked is just how Kyle Rayner ended up replacing Hal Jordan as Earth’s Green Lantern in the 1st place.
So, Hal goes totally psycho, right? Ends up killing half the Green Lantern Corps and a few Guardians in the process. Luckily, one of The Guardians (Ganthet) escapes Hal’s rampage and manages to spaceleg it to Earth. Seattle, in fact. Looking around quickly, with the fate of The Guardians and The Green Lantern Corps in his hand, Ganthet gives this almost limitless weapon to literally the 1st guy he sees. that guy being…some artist coming out of the back way of a bar. At stupid o’clock in the morning. Ganthet literally looks at Drunk Kyle and says ‘I suppose you’ll have to do.’ It was Los Angeles,. It could have gone a lot worse, I guess.
Now, if Ganthet had intended Kyle to go back out into space to try to take on Hal, I suppose the 1st biped he saw would have made sense. But since Kyle wouldn’t even consider doing anything about Jordan for a while, since he was busy being an artist and stuff, wouldn’t it make sense for Ganthet to wait just a bit and maybe find a more suitable candidate for the power of a Green Lantern than LITERALLY THE FIRST DRUNK GUY HE SEES?
Matt Murdock Fakes Death, Pretends To Be Own Brother, Gets New Costume That Is Possibly Made Of Window Blinds.
(Daredevil 319-325. Vol 1.)
So, Um. Matt is really bad at life choices.
Daredevil is essentially about who you are when you lose everything. The chances are, if Matt Murdock’s awake, something is going to turn shitty for him. His house might blow up. Bullseye might kill his girlfriend, He might be disbarred from practicing Law. Any number of things. Sometimes, Matt handles the absolute destruction of his social life, his job, his girlfriends and such well. The Kingpin blew up everything he had and Matt rolled with it, as seen in Miller and Mazzuthingy’s classic ‘Daredevil: Born Again’ More often than not, he grows a beard and sods off for a bit until something happens to respark his self-esteem.
This became such a cliché that after the critically laughed at Shadowland took place (Where Matt decided he was Lord Of Some Ninjas but it went Wrong.), the inevitable fall out mini series featured him wandering about the desert until he happened to run into a blind child. Sunsets, full panel pages and heavily italicised words like ‘Renewed’ and ‘Purpose’ were employed. Thankfully, Mark Waid has mainly ignored all of this in his superlative run on Daredevil, which you should all be reading.
Yep, Sometimes Matt dusts himself off, sometimes he needs to burn his stuff, go off for a bit, sometimes he kicks the shit out of Wilson Fisk and declares himself the new Kingpin Of New York. And sometimes his solutions are just plain…clownshoes.
In Marvel’s increasing desperate attempts to claw back their market share from Image in the early 90’s, some ludicrous measures were taken to revitalise interest in their top books. Artists were clearly told to emulate the more popular of The Image Seven’s techniques and layouts, gimmick covers became increasingly ridiculous, In some instances, Marvel clearly went quite overboard with the whole ‘Style Over Substance’ Thing.
DC had found that just plain fucking shit up for your biggest characters tended to draw a lot of attention as well. Superman died, Hal Jordan went plain crazy and Bats got his spine popped over quite extended storylines that lead to huge pre-ordering on key issues. Marvel, never one to miss a beat decided that Fucking Up As Much Shit As Possible was the way forward. Nobody could get a break in that period. From Cap needing battle armour to preserve his detonating body, Iron Man turning evil and then replaced with his teenage self because Kang to Wolverine losing his nose to…Well, Daredevil: Fall From Grace.
I’ll be straight with you. Fall From Grace doesn’t make a lot of sense, thanks in part to Marvel editorial mucking around the writers on their planned ideas for the story. Ninjas, Venom, Shield, Morbius and even the long promised to never return Elektra show up chasing a vial that might as well be called ‘Maguffinite’. Also involved in this multi-issue pile up (With literally the worst letters page layout I’ve ever seen. And I know it seems churlish to rag on a comics letters page lay out, but this thing was literally unreadable.) was Daredevil’s Doppleganger from The Infinity War* who died for some reason or other. probably for having the worst phonetic ‘N’AWLINS’ accent this side of a drunk Gambit singing Dr John songs. Said Doppleganger was called…HellSpawn. In 1993.
Not being one to waste the potential of an incredibly bad idea when a few minutes of simple explanation would have solved the problem, Matt dresses up his doppleganger clone as Daredevil and since it’s a clone down to the face and DNA, everyone assumes that Matt is dead. There’s a funeral and everything. By day, Matt decides to..pretend to be his long lost brother Jack. By night, he pretends to be a new version of Daredevil, to cover the fact that half The Marvel Universe knew that Matt was Daredevil. Although that doesn’t really make any sense and only reinforces the notion that Matt was DD since just saying I’m the old Daredevil, I just got a new costume and stole Nightwing’s staff’ would have AAGH 90’s Marvel Logic Brain Hurts!
Thing gets face slashed. Decides He’s Too Ugly. Gets Mask. Runs Off To Space.
In a fight with Wolverine, The Thing gets his face slashed up, decides his face is too terrible to be seen by the rest of humanity and then ends up wearing a mask. Then he ends up in Space.There’s really nothing I can add to this.
Marvel And DC Universes Both Essentially Really Big Robots. Wolverine Fans Mistakenly Believe that Logan Could Have Lobo.
(Marvel VS DC 1-4)
With the best will in the world, Crossovers are pretty hard to justify. Most stories go something like ‘Random Hero A meets Random Hero B. They mistake each other for Bad Guys, Fight a bit, stop fighting and work together to take out Actual Bad Guy. End.’ and few of them go beyond that, except to be totally absurd
But by the Mid 90’s, both Marvel and DC had to do something to get interest back in their titles from those pesky Image, Valiant, Dark Horse, Defiant and even Malibu kids who were wreaking havoc across the comics landscape. Their solution? Pit the best of Marvel and DC’s rosters against each other in a series of dream matches which had only existed previously in the feverish imaginations of kids of many generations .Even better, rather than just passively reading, comic readers would be able to vote on the winners by way of ballots that could be voted upon at YOUR favourite comic shop.
And indeed they did. Things were said. Votes cast. Letters Pages were written into. Marvel & DC bypassed the whole ‘There’s actually no need for us to fight, if we stopped and thought about what we were doing for 2 minutes.’ thing by declaring that both of their universes were…um, really, really big robots has had to keep away from each other or they’d destroy each other. Thanks to the meddling of some kid called Access and an old man with a box in an alleyway They decide that the only way to deal with their endless rivalry is to set their heroes on each other. So they have many fights. At one point, Aquaman fantastically drops a whale on Namor. At the end of the actual fight issue, Reality merges due to each team just happening to win an equal number of bouts and then something interesting happens that makes me wonder what would have happened if Marvel won out over DC in the voting, or vice versa. But I’ll get back to that in a second. Bear with me. I’ve been needing to do this for nearly 20 years.
Dear The Voters Of The Marvel/DC Fights Of 1996.
Re: Your Mistaken Notion That Wolverine Is Able To Beat Up Lobo In Any Kind Of Fight.
DID YOUR PRECIOUS LOGAN EVER SLAP GOD HIMSELF ABOUT, HUH?
THE OL’ CANUCKLEHEAD COULDN’T EVEN FIND THE EASTER BUNNY, LET ALONE TWAT HIM!
LOBO PUNCHED THE DEVIL IN THE FACE. THE FACE!
I CAN’T PROVE THAT LOBO SLEPT WITH MARIKO, SILVER FOX AND JEAN GREY, BUT YOU CAN’T PROVE THAT HE DIDN’T!
MAYBE YOU CONFUSED THE WORD ‘FIGHT’ WITH ‘MOST LIKELY TO BE A BRONIE!’?
THIS NEVER HAPPENED. IT WAS A WHAT IF. LIKE YOUR FAN FICTION ABOUT YOUR SECRETLY BEING DA’AKEN ONE DAY!
Anyway, Marvel Vs DC 3 spun out into the Amalgam books.Instead of the regular Big Two books that were scheduled to ship the following week, A series of one-shots that smooshed together Marvel and DC properties hit shelves. Nobody was really ready for Assassins or X-Patrol, but some of them were pretty good. Check out Spider-Boy, Thorion, Super-Soldier or Lobo The Duck if you ever see them in a bargain bin. The whole thing ended with the two giant robots giving each other eye fucking stares and going back to their day to day business. Yes, really.
Arkham Asylum Security Good at Shouting, Moustaches. Terrible At Recognising Men in Dresses
(Robin II: Joker’s Wild #1)
Most of you reading this will know The Joker. Fruit-Loop Insane. Prone to killing you without blinking. Quite probably the worst of Gotham’s bosses to work or, given you’re more likely to be killed by having a fish full of napalm stuffed down your pants than recieve a pension plan. Still, something he does must generate loyalty from his stooges Robin: Joker’s Wild finds The Joker is banged up in Arkham Asylum. The Governor of Arkham is given word that the Joker’s MOTHER wants to see him. The Governor is all ‘Wait. By GAWD we’ll have some security around here! Something something LIBERALS something something GUNS, DAMNIT!’
Personally, if I were running Arkham Asylum and somebody phoned in claiming to be the Joker’s Mum, I’d be there with all kinds of questions. Like what’s the green-haired whackjob’s NAME? Where is he from? What kind of background did he have? All the things that would chip away at the fear of the unknown that he represents. How much of an Enigmatic force of Nature would the Joker seem if you knew his real name was ‘Derek’ or ‘Fred’?
Nonetheless, Captain Moustache decides that, yes, the Joker’s Mum can visit but with added security, and fully monitored throughout the whole encounter. So there’s the Joker sitting there in a room. In comes the Joker’s Mum. With a Bible. That is chock full of Poison Gas. Because despite all of Captain Moustache’s stern demands, nobody thought to actually search Joker’s Mum to see if they had snuck anything into the building containing any number of Gotham’s finest flamboyantly dressed homicidal citizens. Oh, and to top it all off, is this undercover operative actually the Joker’s Mum, after all this intense security checking? No. No it isn’t.
Then surely one of the higher trained DC women who could potentially mimic an older Causcian lady? There’s any number it could be who’d benefit from a favour owed from The Joker. Catwoman? Talia? Lady Shiva? Nope. None of those, either.
It was…A MAN IN A DRESS!
That’s how secure Arkham is. Some guy rings up the place, wanting to see The Joker after claiming to be his long lost mother and after some shouting, a guy in a dress walks into a room. Armed with a Bible full of Laughing Gas. Go, Criminal Transvestites, Go.
Barry Allen can’t get over his Mum dying. Wrecks DC Universe forever
If there’s a sad thing about fans of the super-hero genre, it’s their inability to accept that things have moved on. People die, get new costumes, change teams, writers leave, etc. And nowhere is that more apparent than on the internet. I can’t help but think that the final fate of Superboy-Prime looks very much like a dig at the Internet outrage that happens anytime Marvel or DC try anything that breaks the safety net of regular comic reading. (Which I can totally understand. i get the impression that modern comic fans have confused superhero comics for Archie, sometimes. You could declare that Superman is dying his hair blonde and some nutjob would probably start tweeting at the writer that he’s clearly in the employ of Satan himself and that messing with Superman is bringing us one step closer to Hell itself)
But, hey, readers like security in their fix of hot funnybook action. It’s a bit…odd when Editors have the same mind-set, though.
Final Crisis was full of WTF. Chock a block with it. I’ve read the New Gods Saga, am full aware of the relationships between Mister Miracle, Orion, Highfather, Darkseid, The Marvel Family. I even know exactly why Superman had a LionHead at one point, and I don’t have a damn clue what was going on in the pages of Final Crisis. Space Murders and then SHOUTING IN TIME! Possibly, it was significant for one reason, though.
Barry Allen came back.
I don’t know my way around DC history anymore, and one of you will have to point me right, but in OUR reality, Barry Allen was the second person to take on the mantle of The Flash. Sort of. he might have been the 1st because he met Jay Garrick (The 1st Flash.) after vibrating through dimensions and showed Jay he was inspired to be a high speed crime fighter when he read some Flash Comics featuring Jay as a fictional character because time travel and reality dimension shifts and ARGH NOSEBLEED!
So, Barry is The Flash for a good few years, being in The Justice League until Professor Zoom kills Barry’s wife. Barry goes on trial for Killing Zoom and suddenly, the Crisis On Infinite Earths happens. I don’t have enough drugs to try and fully explain Crisis On infinite Earths to you younger readers, but relevantly, Barry dies. Proper dies. No hoax, no clone, Barry outright dies. So does Supergirl, but that’s another story.
People were upset, to say the least. Apparently one of every three letters sent to the new Flash comic (Featuring Barry’s protege, Wally West in the title role.) demanded the return of Barry. Month after month, Year after year. until finally Mark Waid wrote the story that would shut up all the ‘Angry of Tucs, AZ.’ people. ‘The Return Of Barry Allen. In that Barry doesn’t return. he thinks he has, but it’s actually Professor Zoom with brain damage. The resolution of the story is that Wally stops living his life looking up to the memory as he’s clearly much better at being The Flash than Barry ever was. It’s nice to have him as a fond memory, but there’d be no need to treat him as Saint Barry Of The Fast Runnings anymore.
Which was all fine and good with everyone. Except, you know, DC Editoral circa 2006.
So, Barry returns in the pages of Final Crisis, gets his own mini-series that dumps happily on all the cool stuff that Waid established on his run and then gets his own book. Not long into that run, it turns out that all this mucking about with the time-stream that anyone called Flash seems happy to do has some consequences. Not good ones. Time is damaged. things are going wrong, people are dead are coming back. The spilt in the continuum needs more dilthium crystals and damn it, Barry, I’m a time traveller, not a Doctor. Of Time. Time Doctors. Anyway, not one.
After lots of running about, Time vomits on itself, and the Flashpoint Reality happens. Thomas Wayne becomes Batman after his son is fatally shot in an alley after watching The Mark Of Zorro. The Amazons, lead by Diana Prince, sink WESTERN EUROPE! Up is down. Dogs marry Cats. As Barry travels through the adventures of this strange new DCU, it’s revealed to him that the cause of all this malarkey is, er…
Barry’s inabilty to get over the death of his mother caused him to create the flux in DC’s reality that lead to it ripping itself into the three concurrent timelines (DC, Vertigo, Wildstorm.) He works out the problem, and after some runnning, sorts it out into the New-52 Universe. He has a word with Batman, who tells him it’s all totally fine because Bats misses his parents as well, or something.
So, remember kids, whose fault is it that Harley Quinn has apparently had a lobotomy and then ramraided a brothel with her face?
Why is Barbara no longer Oracle and instead back to being Batgirl?
Everything that has gone wrong with Starfire?
Why is Jonah Hex hanging about with Booster Gold?
Dan Slott Decides to Traumatise Spidey-Fans Just In Time For Christmas.
(Amazing Spider-Man 699.)
I suppose, in a roundabout way, this is all Mark Millar’s fault.
You see, we’ve learned a lot of things about May Parker over the years. How she met Ben Parker, that she makes good wheatcakes, that kind of thing. It’s just that nobody really thought about exploring her sexual appetites before. Until Mark decided to create a mini-series called Trouble that just happened to be about some kids called May, Richard, Ben and Mary. Teenage May gets herself into a bit of, well, Trouble due to her lack of interest in the whole ‘No Sex Before Marriage’ thing and the long and short of it is that Richard and Mary take on May’s child as their own. The child is called, um, Peter.
I’m not making this up. I remember the actual shame on the face of customers as they left the shop picking up their copies, covers boldly featuring what looked like two teenage girls in bikinis cavorting on each issue. It wasn’t reprinted for years and while Marvel have never gone out of their way to confirm that the May of Trouble is indeed the sweet old lady of the Spider-Man Mythos, I don’t believe they’ve actually denied it,
Dan Slott sure seemed to notice though.
Christmas, 2012. Marvel has just given the Spider-Verse a collective heart attack by telling them, via the medium of Amazing Spider-Man 698, that Doctor Octopus has taken over the body of Peter Parker. and that the whole thing would be resolved by Amazing Spidey 700. The FINAL issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Unlike many, I really have no problem with Otto becoming Spidey. This has all been worth it just for the issue of Journey Into Mystery where Spock is trying to pull Sif. Or the issue of Avenging where he’s stuck babysitting the FF kids. Or, for that matter, the issue of Deadpool where Wade teams up with Otto after dropping by a strip club called ‘Amazing Fantasy.’
In issue 699, Pete is stuck in Otto’s heavily damaged body and is starting to relive memories that he’s never seen before. Otto’s psyche appears to be trying to comfort him by bringing up good memories. Including that time just before Otto and May nearly got married….
Now, we don’t know for sure that what Pete is seeing what everyone thinks is in this panel. I’m at a loss to think what else it could be, though. And no, the problem isn’t so much ‘EWW OLD FOLKS ACTION!’ as it is the realisation that Pete is having to endure what will have to be his final moments of this life reliving his greatest enemy ever (Say what you like about Norman Osborn, but at least he only shagged Spidey’s girlfriend. Anyway, it’s perfectly okay to shag someone else when you’re on a break. Probably.) having carnal knowledge of his spiritual (and possibly real.) Mum. And I can’t even imagine what that’s like. I don’t have any real enemies…Except…Donald Trump? That’s it! Imagine being forced to watch Donald Trump shagging YOUR Mum, and that’s what Dan Slott gave The Spider-Fans for Christmas.
Just before he killed Peter.
* Forget it. Life is short enough.