Monday, July 04, 2016

Real Name: Amentep
First Appearance: Whiz Comics #2 (February, 1940)
Fight Club Ranking: #DNR

Featured Fights:
- Yet To Be Featured on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.

Usually Hero of the Week borrows from something topical going on in the world of superheroes, but this week I'm dipping exclusively into self-indulgence! There's nothing in comics or movies that can overwhelm the brimming positivity I feel for today's retro inspired spotlight: Ibis!

I was fairly sick in recent weeks. It was an ungodly hour, freezing cold, and the power had just gone out. Unable to sleep, and with few options at that hour, I decided on a whim to read a few issues of The Power of Shazam! by torchlight. It was exactly the unadulterated joy the doctor ordered!

There's a lot to like about the mid-nineties reboot of Captain Marvel and the Marvel mythos, but starting my reading deep into the first year, I was particularly taken with Ibis!

He's the type of character you used to see a lot. A well dressed man in a suit, with a turban, and mastery over the mystic arts! In the case of Ibis, his origins date back to Ancient Egypt -- another standard trope of fiction in the process of being forgotten. His limitless powers are owed to the Ibis Stick - a talisman granted to him by the god Thoth, when he was a Prince.

In the retelling of The Powers of Shazam!, Ibis never wanted much from life and grew bored, opting to sleep as though dead to awaken in more exciting times. A thousand years later he got his wish in the 1940s, joining the adventures of a Golden Age of heroes! The rest is history, but so was Ibis, since he decided to take another long nap. It's the intervention of Mary Marvel that brings him back for a fresh spin in heroics and boredom.

Disinterest is one of the traits that separates Ibis from his various equivalents. As the world bends to his effortless influence, he greets nearly every request and reaction with a sigh. A good man, but bemused. Unfathomably, after a couple of issues he's single-handedly restored key pieces of the Marvel mythos, defeated The Seven Deadly Sins of Man, and agreed to replace the Wizard Shazam at his post on The Rock of Eternity. A whirlwind of action crammed into forty-odd pages!

I can imagine an uninitiated reader seeing Ibis as a mistake. A character whose powers are so vague, all encompassing, and instantaneous - he shouldn't exist. There's certainly a frivolity to how he helps resolve problems and create fiction in a matter of panels. Placing him in the seat of The Rock of Eternity strikes me as the perfect way to have it both ways. He's more than an adequate replacement for The Wizard -- better than retiring Captain Marvel himself -- but remains out of the way.

In some ways, this encapsulates what leaves me disenfranchised about today's DC Comics. The New 52 dedicated so much energy to laying waste to was built up in the messy decades following the Crisis on Infinite Earths. It even repeated some of the same mistakes! In the end, the only plan was to leave DC Comics with less, until their new world accumulated its own baggage.

In the rush to appease new readers supposedly crippled with fear of history, the publisher forgot that you don't really need to worry about it. Sell the strength of the past, write modern issues in modern ways. Let sleeping dogs lie, ripe with potential to be awoken when the time suits. Have it all!

Perhaps Rebirth will bring back Ibis, or at least elements of his time. Perhaps not. Either way, I got a lot of enjoyment out of reading those issues by torchlight. I'm feeling much better now, too.

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