Friday, December 14, 2007

The Big X-Mas Blackout (Marvel comics)
Marvel Holiday Special (1992) When: January 1993 Why: Richard Howell & Stan Lee How: Steve Lightle & Al Milgrom

The story so far...
They say Christmas 'tis the season to be jolly, but for Electro, it's just an annual reminder of his many failings as a man and electrically charged superpowered villain.

Not content to see out the holidays without lashing out in an act of senseless violence, Electro storms Rockefeller Centre to interrupt the ceremonial lighting of the tree.
To punish the society that failed him, Electro blacks out the Centre, with the promise of more power drains to come all across New York.

With his night out with Mary Jane ruined: enter a red garbed hero with a Christmas miracle! The spectacular Spider-man's making a list to check twice, and Electro's front and centre on the naughty list, but will it be coal for the villain, or will it be an early present and lights out for the wall-crawler?

Previous Form:
Spider-man (#1): Holds victories over Kraven, Scorpion, Green Goblin, Shocker, Rhino, & Lizard.
Electro (#345): Was defeated by the Avengers as one of the Sinister Twelve.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Electro 5 (Marathon Man)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Powers: Electro 6 (Mass Destruction)

- For embittered electrician, Maxwell Dillon, a simple power line repair would turn out to be a life altering event. When struck by lightning, Dillon underwent an inexplicable mutagenic change that saw his body become conductive and charged with the electrical energies of the storm!

Able to generate, store, and absorb electricity, Dillon lashed out at the world as a super powered petty criminal called Electro!

Dillon's inferiorities would soon see him somewhat fixated with his major Manhattan foil, Spider-man. It would be their on-going feud that would allow him to further hone his powers to varying degrees, allowing total mastery over electricity and electrical charge. At his most powerful this can go beyond projected bolts, to include levitation, and various electrical phenomena, such as limited magnetism.

- A bite from a radioactive spider should have killed highschool nerd, Peter Parker, but instead it would irradiate his own blood, granting him extraordinary powers.

Spider-man possesses the enhanced strength, speed, and agility of a spider. Adding to his arsenal, a precognitive spider-sense that warns him of pending danger, and self-made webshooters, which have since been replaced by a further mutation.
Unlike his previous mechanical build, Spidey's organic web-shooting ability has been shown to be nearly endless, likely reliant upon biological factors.

The Math: Spider-man The Pick: Spider-man

What went down...
Just as the Rockefeller tree lights up the city, and tree, plunge into darkness. From within the gloom emerges the crackling visage of the green and yellow garbed villain -- Electro! From high atop a building he delivers his decree.

Fortunate for the folks below, Spider-man leaps to the rooftop to confront his old foe. Electro has a disgruntled yuletide greeting for the web-slinger in the form of a massive electrical bolt he narrowly leaps away from.

As Spidey disappears into the night on a web-line, Electro boasts over the crowd that Spider-man's bravado was little more than a show. While he decrys Spidey's cowardice, the wall-crawler does some climbing inside the giant Rockefeller Christmas tree, giving Electro time to work himself up into a frenzy of over-confidence. Then, from within the tree, he launches his attack!

A hail of over-sized baubles puts an end to Electro's pontifications, but his silence proves to be a symptom of his growing rage! Charged up to maximum power, Electro unleashes his energies on the tree, blasting wildly in an attempt to flash-fry Spider-man!

With nowhere to hide, Spidey leaps through the rain of electrical bolts, and connects with a double-boot to the face! Pumped up on the electrical juice of the city, Electro proves unphased by the physical assault.

Spider-man dances around his opponent whose power seems only to continue to grow, swirling into an electrical storm that sounds both of them.

Electro blasts at near point blank distances, promising to put an end to Spider-man's superheroing career once and for all.
Doing his best to distract, Spider-man throws a steady stream of his trademark quips. Unable to close-in on his opponent, Spidey desperately throws a web-line toward the Centre tree, hoping to snare a weapon: which he does!

As Electro builds to cosmic levels of energy, Spidey swings the world's biggest Christmas ornament from the top of the Rockefeller tree, bringing it crashing down atop the Christmas villain!

With Electro out cold; Spidey leaves him char broiled for authorities, returning to his beloved wife. Together they enjoy the cheer of the Christmas tree lights as power resumes in the city of New York, and the people return to their merry times.

The hammer...
Your winner, and still holiday season champion, Spider-man!

As much as I'd love to exchange in lengthy pleasantries (and probably will, anyway), I've got to bang this one out, because by Infinite Wars time it's a little late, and we've got a special deadline to meet -- because it's the last week in this round's Friday Night Fights, brought to you by he who hungers, Bahlactus!

For anyone wondering about the Infinite Wars schedule over the holidays, we'll be doing our best to make sure there's plenty of content prepared ahead to pepper across the month. That will include all the regular features (described in the menu), as well as December's Fantasy Fights fun times!
Speaking of the aforementioned fun times, be sure to scroll back up to the top of the right-side menu to take part in the frivilous fun of a poll! Revel in pointless interactivity, brought to you by Secret Wars on Infinite Earths!

Despite a whole stack of regular features, we're trying to keep things free flowing in the holidays. Electro's one of those characters that's been begging for representation for quite some time, so this Christmas themed short story from Marvel's 1992 Holiday Special seemed like the perfect time to go there.

I'm not sure there's any great philosophy or essay to be derived from Electro.
Hideously unlikely costume, reality-defying powers, two-dimensional characterization. He's really the quintessential example of the 1960's Stan Lee recurring supervillain. There's a thin layer of psychological turmoil that typically binds villains like these, and while this 90's script plotted by The Man never outright describes Electro's motivations or thought processes, we've inflected a little with our own take.

Looking at two of the most prominent rogues galleries of villains - Batman and Spider-man's - I think you can observe a study of quality vs quantity. Sure, both have lengthy lists of zealous enemies, but examples aside, Batman's villains are much more deeply entrenched in psychological motivation.

When writing The Kirby Martin Inquest; which has been noted in reviews as an ambiguous superhero book; I approached the character of White Ghost with a philosophy of the modern superhero. In the same way I intend to propose wealth and will as contemporary superpowers; I think the Bat-villains celebrate the idea of a similar level of social liberation, and mental illness as the dark side of superpowers -- the [contemporary] enabling counterpart to being doused in chemicals, or bitten by a radioactive spider.

Conversely, Spider-man's villains succeed, I think, largely on the basis of excess. As much as the two groups share commonality of gimmickery, the lethal foes [of Spider-man] represent brightly coloured exercises in building around a superpower. Whereas, the bat-villains seem more grounded in building around the human disfunction, and not surprisingly draws influence from the pulp genre that Batman was born out of.

I suppose, if we're undertaking a one-sided conversation, we could suppose that this is an example of the distant effect of Superman; whose adventures coloured the superhero genre for decades to come with it's success in perpetuating brightly coloured costumes, more than anything else.

Ultimately I think both sets of antagonists supply a reader/writer with plenty of ammunition for the kinds of stories we spend a lot of time talking about. Amidst the many requisites and rules of comics writing, the ability to logically bring characters back is a must, and it's wriggling into satisfying logics that derive their fiction from the conceits of the past that makes characters like Electro so effective -- even on the level of defeat/imprisonment/escape.

I'm assuming we're about to see this theory realised well in Ed Brubaker's Daredevil, where the series appears to be turning against some of our previous criticisms, to showcase more of the urban criminal element. Characters like the Wrecker and Razor Fist not only service this ideal, but pay eerie homage to things we've discussed in the past -- like shifting the Wrecker to this corner of the universe, away from his usual association with the Thors and Avengers.

And hey, if you want to see more stories like those featured in the Infinite Wars, why not make a Christmas donation to the PayPal? Ooohhhh, see what I did there? Yessir. Smooth operator.

Jokes aside, you can also find links to my work in The Kirby Martin Inquest at Nite Lite Theatre, where ComixPress are ready and waiting to receive your online order for the first issue. I'm hoping we can have the second issue ready early in 2008, while I've also been working on a three-page short story starring supporting KMI character, The Russian Man.

The short explores more about the mysterious villains, exploring his feelings about the home he's made for himself in America, whilst pitting him against a terrorist. I think it's an interesting study of the character, but it's hard not to have reservations about people's reaction to something like this.
Exactly how the short will be released is uncertain at this point. I've got a lot of ideas about printed collections, but these things tend to be at the whim of other contributors, so you might see that as a webstrip, or KMI back-up. If you have an opinion there, be encouraged to make it known.

In the meantime, one last shout out to Comic By Comic, where Rich unwittingly inspired a bit of Photoshop distraction. This is my thanks for his thanks for the banner I tooled together. Glad he likes it, and Rob didn't shiv balls nasty.
Maybe one of these days I'll make myself a better banner. :-p

Happy holidays folks, and stay tuned for a little Sunday Street Fighting!
(And remember to vote in the poll!)

The Fight: 3.5 The Story: 3.5

Holiday Specials tend to have a stigma for being sub-par stories, and while this one probably does little to change that trend, I can't help but take note of panels depicted here. Lightle's pencils fluctuate between the mediocre, to the graphically inspired, probably benefitting from Milgrom's finish. Be sure to soak in the delicious contrast of the blacks used in yellow/white panels above!

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