MONTHLY PUNCH-UP #21 (September 2007)
CAPTAIN MARVEL versus MACRO-MAN
"Once Upon A Time...!" (DC)
Where: Legends #1 When: November 1986
Why: John Ostrander & Len Wein How: John Byrne
From one Ostrander [Suicide Squad #2], to another!
I guess we're loitering around the eighties a bit more than usual on the Infinite Wars, but with good reason!
I did have something else in mind for this month's quick fix, but it occurred to me that it might have come across [Hawkman #24] that I was anti-Captain Marvel, too busy being caught up in Black Adam hype.
Okay, so maybe I am caught up in Black Adam hype, but that doesn't mean I can't Shazam with boy Billy! Red and yellow is A-OK with me, chief!
Here we have, so I'm told, Captain Marvel's first DC appearance after the reboot event, Crisis on Infinite Earths, which gave DC the opportunity to arrange their house in order, under the pretense of streamlining and starting over.
Like a Civil War some twenty years later; Legends would bring together characters of varying status within the DC Universe, and put them under a microscope of cynicism and mistrust of the superhero element. Of course, why anyone would feel the need to cast a net of cynicism over stories about a pre-pubescent host of a politically charged talkshow, escapes me. [Wink, wink]
Captain Marvel finds himself an unwitting pawn in a game played on the cosmic scale. Darkseid has solicited the aid of Glorious Godfrey and Doctor Bedlam to begin Operation: Humiliate! Under the guise of social commentator, G. Gordon Godfrey, Darkseid's agents on Earth undermine the public trust in heroes, and sets about creating a maelstrom of social unrest surrounding Earth's heroes.
When the lights go out on the set of Billy Batson's talkshow, he sneaks away to let out the mighty cry -- SHAZAM! -- that turns him into the barrel chested symbol of good, Captain Marvel! Flying out into the light of day, he discovers the towering menace of the golden suited Macro-Man on a wanton path of destruction.
With the power of Hercules in his stead, Cap taps the giant menace on the shoulder, only to greet him with an uppercut that sends him aiborne!
In this new world, Marvel is still coming to terms with his fantastic new powers, startled by the godly strength housed within his mighty form.
He follows to the top of the building where Macro-Man came to land, but much to his dismay he is greeted by a giant-sized dismissive backhanded fist!
Cap makes a hard landing on the building rooftop, finding himself piledriven through it by the following fist of the gigantic Macro-Man. He pushes Captain Marvel along a destructive path, forcing the inhabitants of the building to flee.
Unable to free himself of the giant's grip, Captain Marvel decides to make a strategic change back into his pint-sized alter-ego, hoping to wiggle free with a smaller frame.
Calling upon the mighty lightning bolt of the Wizard Shazam, Billy Batson bares witness to a shocking scene! The bolt, though successful in changing him, strikes the super-sized Macro-Man and sets him aflame!
A living towering inferno, Macro-Man stumbles around amongst the wreckage he caused, until finally falling from the roof to a fatal conclusion on the ground below.
Billy Batson, unfamiliar with the immense power he has been granted, is shaken by his actions, unaware that the fatal strike came not from his lightning bolt, but the dastardly actions of Darkseid! With this dark act, the villainous Darkseid reaches across space to sway Batson in favour of Godfrey's anti-superhero stance, believing first-had that unchecked superpowers exist for the worse.
Obviously Batson got over it, and continued to super into the present, where, as seen in Hawkman, he has since been characterized as having a more personalized interaction with the intelligence and powers of the gods he represents. Brainwave, in Black Reign, described it quite literally as chattering voices, which presumably would've known their powers well enough to inform young Batson of his innocence in this particular case.
It's an interesting situation to play out, though. I think it was certainly a positive attempt to position Captain Marvel in the contemporary setting of the late eighties, which was certainly building on the feet of clay models popularized at the time [Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns]. I actually kinda enjoy the notion of a Captain Marvel affected by modern times, but I think there's a strong validity to the popular argument that "Shazam" is probably best represented as a voice of fantasy and wholesome simplicity.
I'm particularly pleased to hear Captain Marvel mentioned at the heart of the initiative to revamp the Johnny DC kid's line of comics. I really think this is one of those no-brainer moments, even though I would question the monetary success of the project. It's clearly going to come down to the appeal the project has with adults, although, these will presumably be afforded the luxury of existing Johnny DC titles, which regularly dip well below the cancellation line in the direct market. I'll certainly be watching that development with interest.
In wrapping up, it's another case of the past reflecting the future.
I've had a recurring discussion with various people about their disinterest and boredom with superhero comics as they are today. We can see how they're repetitive, but I think it's at least worth acknowledging that no matter how simple a Civil War issue was, it is representative of the developing genesis of these ideas, and certainly the craft involved.
Like the life we live in, these themes of distrust and fear of abstract nouns will continue to permeate through the social consciousness as long as they benefit one man's agenda, or carry any factual justification. We can't fight it, maybe as a creative community we should feel comfortable with embracing it, but likewise, maybe we should steer it away from Captain Marvel and the family-Shazam.
Captain Marvel and murder plots? May be a see-no-evil situation...
The Fix: 4.5 The Issue: 6
Winner: Captain Marvel (w/ Darkseid)
The Top Five...
#1 Spider-man (-) (13) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Galactus]
Win Percentage: [71.43%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#2] Current Ranking: [#1]
With four months to go of Infinite Wars Season 2007, the top five starts to heat up as the coveted year-end number one spot becomes the all important goal! Eight weeks and holding: Spider-man.
Spidey seems to be the indominatable force, and with some big shake-ups coming up - including a streamlined three-times weekly single title and some superstar creators on board - things aren't slowing down!
Spider-man Family remains one of my favourite reads, and is arguably the best value for money you can get off shelves, from Marvel or DC. And if 2006 was anything to go by, the dominant character has a great chance to hold it out!
#2 Batman (-) (19) (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Ra's Al Ghul]
Win Percentage: [83.33%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#1] Current Ranking: [#2]
A clean segue to Batman, who like Spidey, dominated 2006.
Things haven't slowed down at all for the Dark Knight, who bridges the gap between the top spot and the rest of the pack.
The comics suffered a slump for my tastes, but big things are stirring for Batman, including a new initiative to bring Ra's Al Ghul back to the land of the living. Not only that, but with The Dark Knight now less than a year away, we can be sure to see plenty of Batmania in the lead-up.
I don't know if Batman's had a strong enough year to be the guy to topple Spidey, but if you're betting at home, he's the odds favourite. He was our top character last year, but things have become much more active in the Infinite Wars in 2007, and it may have become a younger character's game!
#3 Black Adam (-) (4) (DC)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Captain Marvel]
Win Percentage: [100%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#n/a] Current Ranking: [#11]
Black Adam narrowly avoids elimination from the top five with a solid, if contrived, victory over arch-nemesis, Captain Marvel. He comes into the five for a fourth week, the most unlikely inclusion.
Without a doubt one of DC's most valuable players in 2007, Black Adam might be losing steam heading toward 2008. With 52 now well and truly behind us, Adam is easing into a starring mini-series with mixed reviews. Likewise, the follow-up to the weekly series that made him famous (again), Countdown, seems to be rolling along at a shakey pace, with Adam enjoying a smaller role.
I've enjoyed the character a great deal, and like Daredevil last year, he's probably the sentimental favourite. I don't know if I have the materials to sponsor his position, but it's still good odds that Black Adam's stock will tick somewhere around the top ten come the end of the season.
#4 Wolverine (+1) (13) (Marvel)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Galactus]
Win Percentage: [47.62%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#4] Current Ranking: [#4]
With frustrating endurance of a mutant healing factor, Wolverine not only avoids elimination from the top five, but moves up a spot, sharing in the success of the Marvel Zombies mega-entry.
The X-Offices will be abuzz with the various Endangered Species and Messiah Complex crossover events happening. I don't really know a whole lot about any of them, and I can't say I have any interest. Wolverine as a stock remains connected to me mostly through the dangling interest of New Avengers.
Still, never say never! A sudden Sabretooth-craving turned into a string of X-hits for the Infinite Wars last month. There's every chance something will steer me in the direction of the claw wielding Canuck. But I wouldn't count on it.
#5 Iron Man (RE) (8) (Marvel)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Galactus]
Win Percentage: [62.5%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#3] Current Ranking: [#3]
Another one to salvage a win from the Marvel Zombies entry. Iron Man bumps Captain America out of contention for the top five, proving to serendipitously be an absolute prick.
Positioned at the very top of the Marvel universe, things feel like they're slowing down for Tony Stark. Of course, there's no way that can be right, because like Batman, a major motion picture is on the horizon, and beating out Ra's, the Mandarin made his return recently in the solo-title. So things are looking good.
Looming crossovers keep the character simmering, and I pass yellow and gold comics of interest every time I flick through any longbox. It's impossible to make any kind of call for certain, but this might be a temporary dip for the Iron Man stock, before he shoots back to prominence in 2008. A solid investment!
1. Spider-man (-) (M)
2. Batman (-) (DC)
3. Iron Man (-) (M)
4. Wolverine (-) (M)
5. Hulk (+4) (M)
6. Captain America (-1) (M)
7. Mr. Fantastic (+3) (M)
8. Venom [Symbiote] (-2) (M)
11. Black Adam (-) (DC)
12. Invisible Woman (+4) (M)
13. Human Torch (+1) (M)
15. Thing (+6) (M)
16. Thor (-3) (M)
19. Luke Cage (+77) (M)
20. Wasp (-2) (M)
22. Silver Surfer (+16) (M)
26. Kitty Pryde (+20) (M)
27. Yellowjacket [Hank Pym] (+21) (M)
31. Rogue (+18) (M)
35. Batroc (+55) (M)
36. Flash [Barry Allen] (+44) (DC)
37. Storm (-6) (M)
38. Iron Fist (+55) (M)
39. Angel (-8) (M)
41. Deadpool (-16) (M)
50. Hawkman (-7) (DC)
53. Dr. Doom (-1) (M)
57. Nova (+110) (M)
58. Lyja (+113) (M)
66. Deadshot (DC)
96. Burnout (Wildstorm)
97. Maul (Wildstorm)
98. Jean Grey (-1) (M)
100. Scarlet Witch (-2) (M)
118. Mr. Hyde (-29) (M)
119. The Wrecker (+171) (M)
123. Jubilee (+76) (M)
124. Hawkeye (-30) (M)
125. Professor X (-30) (M)
126. Venom [Mac Gargan] (-9) (M)
127. She-Hulk (-9) (M)
128. Super-Skrull (-14) (M)
150. Penance (-10) (M)
180. Gladiator (new) (M)
194. Angel Salvadore (new) (M)
195. Black Panther (new) (M)
197. Colleen Wing (new) (M)
198. Dazzler (new) (M)
199. Dr. Octopus (new) (M)
200. Stilt-Man (new) (M)
201. Brainwave (new) (DC)
202. Green Lantern [Kyle Rayner] (-30) (DC)
209. Green Goblin [Norman Osborn] (+74) (M)
210. Moleman (-) (M)
250. [Black] Goliath (-29) (M)
300. Electro (-29) (M)
324. Captain Cold (new) (DC)
325. Sasquatch (new) (M)
326. Annihilus (new) (M)
327. Defile (new) (Wildstorm)
328. Constrictor (new) (M)
329. Mr. Sinister (new) (M)
330. Paibok [Power-Skrull] (new) (M)
331. Ra's Al Ghul (new) (M)
332. Galactus (new) (M)
333. Manticore (new) (DC)
334. Captain Marvel (-161) (DC)
335. Sabretooth (new) (M)
339. Rhino (-27) (M)
347. Attuma (-37) (M)
348. Azraeuz (-37) (DC)
349. Brick (-36) (DC)
350. Lizard (-36) (M)
351. Magneto (-36) (M)
#34 Thor (Marvel)
Class: [Super] Last Opponent: [Hulk]
Win Percentage: [36.36%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#10] Current Ranking: [#16]
He's been dead for a few years, but when you're the Norse God of thunder, that's no big thing. Having survived Ragnarok, Thor's back, and he's been quietly going about his business reestablishing Asgard on land he purchased in Oklahoma -- that is, until now.
Donald Blake, Thor's former alter-ego, has returned to existence, freed from the void in which he was trapped until Thor broke the cycle of the Furies. Heeding Blake's words, all Thor wants to do is find his fellows, scattered in hiding across Earth, and reestablish the Asgardian guard -- but Iron Man has other ideas.
In the upcoming Thor #3 it looks like Tony Stark's about to get his, finally having to answer for the treachery committed in Thor's name with the cybernetic clone that killed Black Goliath. Of course, Stark has the audacity to be the one to initiate proceedings, approaching Thor with the 'sign-or-fight' ultimatum.
It might be a while before it's reflected accurately in the Infinite Wars, but we enjoyed featuring Thor in the Heroes Reborn features, and now that he's officially back in action, Thor is open for business once more.
#224 Ra's Al Ghul (DC)
Class: [Meta] Last Opponent: [Batman]
Win Percentage: [0%] Features: 
Season 2006: [#n/a] Current Ranking: [#331]
Features in the Infinite Wars have been all Marvel lately, and I have to admit, when it's come to selecting a subject of interest the last couple of months, it's been difficult. I mean, it's not like DC are making huge announcements left and right, and pushing returns of potential A-list characters and movie franchises, like Thor -- right?
Well, okay, in that respect, maybe we should've talked about Flash, because he is making headlines for rumors of Ryan Reynolds stepping up for a JLA movie.
Then again, that's not really what it's about, and I think that's a huge compliment to DC comics right now. They aren't grabbing the headlines Marvel are, but that might just be because they're busy keeping their eyes on the ball.
Ra's Al Ghul is heading back to life in the Bat-books, and that's exciting!
It was a Ra's related quick fix that narrowly missed out with the last minute switch-out of interest in Captain Marvel. It's a return of a very similar scale (and timeframe) as Thor, but somehow it's staying under the radar, and flicking through upcoming issues of titles like Countdown, maybe that's because DC are finally exibiting the kind of investment in their second-tier properties that a fan would ask for. Of particular excitement? Karate-Kid meets Equus! Insane!
Whoof! That's all she wrote, finally!
A quick glance to the clock reveals I'm running late, but you know what? I'm not gonna apologise because we're positively oozing content over the past few months, continuing the white-knuckled pace that's seen something like four-times the content of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths-classic.
All that, plus we've got to get one last mention in of the BrokenFrontier.com review for The Kirby Martin Inquest #1, which is available online at Nite Lite Theatre via ComixPress. You can follow the details and get yourself a full-sized comic (barely any ads!) for the low, low small press price of $2.99.
People actually have been buying, so if that doesn't guilt you into making the purchase, I'll put a little humanity into it and just say that I'd greatly appreciate it. It's probably a more fulfilling way to continue to fund the on-going adventures of the Infinite Wars than a PayPal donation -- but hey! Since you bring it up, feel free to throw lavish amounts of cash at me out of nothing more than the goodness of your hearts!
It's been a big month and with any luck we'll keep up some of that pace moving through September. I've already got some picks in mind, and maybe even a little something new up my sleeve. Something of a two-in-one, you might say.
Plus, we're finally nearing the end of our Monday Marvel Ultimate Alliance features, which showcase the villains of the super-fun video game. This month is all about evil doppelgangers, so it's a bit of a deviation from the norm in that respect, before we wrap up the business end of things next month with DOOM!
I must send shout-outs to When Fangirls Attack and Bahlactus, who have each been kind enough to help raise awareness about the Infinite Wars. Their respective initiatives certainly helped us reach some of our own quotas, I must say.
I forgot to mention during the month that I'd finally gotten around to adding another rather appropriate name game. It should probably be something a bit more clever, like four minutes, but for the time being you've got a whole TEN minutes to scratch your head over the multidue of members of the Fantastic Four. If you've been watching closely this month, you'll have picked up some of the more obscure members, particularly a certain pair of one-issue members who should arguably be excluded under some kind of alternate reality rule.
I'm not quite sure where I'm going with any of this, my brain is positively fried from overload, and the fun doesn't stop. I'm hard at work on KMI #2 through the lettering and design stage with some groovy work from Chris Fason [Hero Happy Hour], and as always pencils and inks from the good Pedro Cruz.
Pedro and I have been talking about co-creating something together that's based on one of the daily sketches he's been posting (and that I'm posting for him while he's away). I won't tell you which one, but that should let your imagination run wild. I will say, it's a much more fun and fantasy based project than KMI, and will hopefully dazzle in a whole new and exciting and funky way.
I'm going to wrap it up before it becomes any more like a glorified commercial here, and try to steer things back in time for the next entry. As always, be encouraged to drop a comment to ask/demand/querey anything that comes to mind, and get the word out there. Talk a little about the Infinite Wars. Wear your battle badge with pride, and use us like the reference-site filthy whoring whores of Hoggoth we are!
And if you're with Marvel or DC, put in a good word for me...
August Hit Count: [4458/30915] (+240)