Friday, August 11, 2006

Hometown Boy (Marvel comics)
Marvel Team-Up #145 When: September, 1984
Why: Tony Isabella How: Greg LaRocque

The story so far...
"I love New York! So why am I going to Cleveland?!"
It's a fair question to open any comic with, but in this case Spidey has his own answer.

After embarassing photos of J. Jonah Jameson taken by Peter Parker were published by the paper, Petey boy took the wrap, getting assigned to cover the 26th Annual Convention of Electronics Engineers and Innovators Cleveland, Ohio.

Little does Parker know, another industrious young fellow is looking for a break amongst the industry leaders. A fellow named Mark Scarlotti -- aka, Blacklash!
Unfortunately for convention goers, Scarlotti isn't havin a great life, and when an offer comes in from the Maggia, he can't resist the temptation to return to a life of crime.

Previous form:
Amazing Spider-man #329: Charged with the cosmic power of Captain Universe, Spider-man dukes it out with the mystically charged Tri-Sentinel.
DC versus Marvel #4: In posession of the black symbiote, Eddie Brock made a brief appearance fighting Quicksilver and the Flash.
War Machine and Blacklash have not yet been featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: War Machine 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: War Machine 5 (Marathon Runner)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Average)
Fighting Ability: War Machine 4 (Trained Fighter)
Energy Powers: War Machine 5 (Lasers)

Hmmm.. I don't want to say we have another clear cut situation on our hands, but even without the green ponytail, Blacklash doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of men.

As you might have estimated by way of the identifying mugshot above, the Iron Man we have on our hands here is not Tony Stark, but rather his best bud, Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes.
I guess, for that reason, you might knock him down a few notches for inexperience, and while it's genesis began with a plotline, there does seem to be a vulnerability about a Jim Rhodes Iron Man that knocks hist staminda a rank lower. Even if he has recovered from his jealousy headaches.

Still, Blacklash has been punked plenty of times by the original shellhead, and this circumstance has few reasons to be an exception. Despite various weapons upgrades over the years, Blacklash remains a B-lister, at best. The technological nature of his weapons generally ensure Iron Man a well prepared victory.

Toss the symbiote baring Spidey into the mix, and you have yourself a pretty comprehensive one-sider. Blacklash's best bet against a black costume Spidey would be using his technology to spark some kind fire, and weaken the symbiote, but otherwise, this is a bout won before it began.

What went down...
After Blacklash electrocutes a security guard, causes mass damage, and generally raises some hell - Iron Man makes a none too subtle entrance, laying a big left hook on the vicious villain!

Now, either Stark wasn't sharing his notes, or Rhodey didn't study, because as Blacklash notes, he seems blissfully unaware that the Blacklash costume absorbs blunt force. A feature he's presumably lost since upgrading to leather straps...

Blacklash reckons that if IM's forgotten about his defensive measures, he might be able to sneak by with a few classic offensives. Like lashing his whip around Iron Man's wrist, before disconnecting the handle and letting fly a concussive electric charge!

With Iron Man down, it's about now that Spidey takes the opportunity to use the distraction, and switch his symbiote from casual clothes to superhero spandex!

Spidey leaps in and attempts to web his foe up, but Blacklash is able to use his whip to propel the web back in Spidey's direction. Timing his successive attack well, he utilizes bolas to tie Spidey up with a heavy gravity field generated by the device.

Having used the time to recover, Iron Man jumps back into the frey, and blasts Blacklash with a uni-beam!
The blow is enough to stun the villain, but as Iron Man struggles with the gravity manipulating device attached to his ally and his phrasing [innuendo!], Blacklash looms to his feet.

Slipping out a necro-lash from it's encasement within his gauntlet, Blacklash strikes down across Iron Man's exposed back with full power coursing through the weapon.

Spidey, freed from his shackles, keeps Blacklash busy with some creative maneuvering, while Rhodey's pal Morley tunes into the IM FM via the suit's headset.
Morley directs shellhead's direction to the sparking of Blacklash's gloves, and speculates a potential malfunction.

IM redirects his uni-beam assault, granting the heroes the front footing.
With Blacklash reeling, Spider-man swoops in for finish licks. He tears the costume from Blacklash's chest, leaving him powerless, and exposing not only his flesh, but also his fragile state of mind.

"This isn't something we can handle, Iron Man. We better wait here until they come for him."

The hammer...
Alright, I kinda cheated with the pre-Civil War team-up theme, but never the less, it is Iron Man and Spider-man who emerge victorious.

This was an issue I'd had in mind for a while now, and I was glad to finally get it onto the site. It's got a few things going for it.
First of all, it's a fun comic from twenty years ago, and it's great fun to go back there, and deviate from the earlier direction of the site, which focused more on crisper releases.

The other great thing is that it's an issue with an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand it's pure Secret Earths with a very black and white fight scenario between heroes and villain, but at the same time, as we're informed quite early on, "... This is a story, an examination, if you will, of the super-hero's opposite number... the Super-Villain." From there, we stumble into a hamfisted attempt at some kind of analysis of the motivation and psychological frailty of a second stringer villain like Blacklash.

I haven't really seen much of Blacklash since the nineties, but I'm aware that he's developed a taste for bondage, acquired a female partner in crime, and updated his look to be a little less ridiculous, even if it is essentially a BDSM outfit. [New look reflected in the Tale of the Tape. - Mistress Mike]

I don't know how the psychological profiling has changed with his sub/dom relationship, but I suppose it probably relates well to this story.
While it's not poetry, Tony Isabella at least tries to unveil some of the pathos behind the character, and deliver a fairly relatable, base motivation for what is essentially a crazy villain.

What we're essentially presnted with is a depressive individual who continues a cycle of poor decision making, and denial of his problems. Rather than actually address his situation, he deflects responsibility, and seeks others to solve his problems for him.
It's a hard fall for Scarlotti when, in the story's conclusion, he has suffered another humiliating defeat at the hands of Iron Man, and has been abandoned by everyone around him. Even his parents, who supported him through many failings, deny his existence, as Blacklash is forced to face jailtime and personal solitude.

Personal tragedy and abandonment aren't new to super villains, but it's just interesting to see the way Mark Scarlotti sabotages himself during his effort to break through in what is legitimately a difficult situation. There's an empathy to be found for what was previously, as I interpret it, a pretty two-dimensional, unsympathetic, green ponytailed super villain.

Through this issue we see him for his insecurities, his frustrations, and his neurosis. We see the way his actions could even be the result of misguided reaction to a lifetime of disappointment, even though that could maybe be a crass justification for his efforts.
Never the less, in a scene where, after being rejected by his doting mother, Mark arrives in a bar, we can see just how responsible he is, despite his sympathetic situation.

In spite of his known failings, an old friend offers him a job as a security guard, and a homecooked meal at his house.
When some, for lack of a better term, bullys, harrass him out of the bar after pouring a drink on his head, all the good flies out the window. He obsesses over his inadquacy to deal with personal conflicts, and turns back to the costume, and lashing out.

At the end of the issue when he sits alone with a city appointed lawyer, he's a weak and sympathetic character again. A character who has hit rock bottom so hard, you might even wonder if he might find solace in a padded cell.

I'd like to assume, however, that his path ultimately led to the role of sub in his relationship with Whiplash. In this strong female character, he could potentially thrive, absolved of responsibility or the necessity to think, and yet, at the same time, could potentially feel secure enough to act out his frustrations in a controlled environment.

Where am I going with this? I think it's another one of those aimless summaries that little purpose beyond discussing what is an interesting moment in a character's history, and an interesting comic in the annals.

Incidentally this issue does include two other interesting points of history - James Rhodes as Iron Man, and Spider-man wearing the black symbiote.
With Iron Man and black costume Spidery hitting theatres in the future, I figure there's plenty of time to talk about those guys.

Now it's late, my computer's dying, and I'm tired.
Never the less, the race to get up-to-date continues today, October 16.

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 4

NEXT: Stay tuned! It's round one: Captain America versus Iron Man!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome. This is the kind of comic book I grew up with. I like the early 80's Marvel stuff, and always dug Spidey in the black outfit (I still have a copy of Amazing Spider-Man 252, the first appearance of the suit).