Archive for January, 2010

Alphans in Official Index to the Marvel Universe #13

January 30, 2010

Official Index to the Marvel Universe #13
2010

Note: The cover shown looks different than the solicits because this is the actual cover, not the solicited cover. As the series progressed, the writers ended up covering slightly different issues than predicted. The covers in this series include three reproduced comic covers side-by-side, each representing the comic in the series indexed. It had been the first issue of each series, but not for this issue. In this issue: Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. #28, Amazing Spider-Man #534 and Uncanny X-Men #495 are shown. Inside, the series begins indexing the X-Men at issue #490.

The Official Index to the Marvel Universe contains detailed synopses of individual comics, including all of the relevant data pertaining to the comic as well as a thumbnail of the cover art, 2 issues per page (roughly). In this issue, Mister Jeffries appears on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #514. Also, Northstar appears on the cover of the 2nd printing variant of Uncanny X-Men #511 and the cover of Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1.

This issue also confirms Northstar’s identity in Uncanny X-Men #510, where he was shown in one panel, unnamed. It also reveals two previously unknown appearances of Mister Jeffries! One is Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1, an issue already collected for Northstar’s appearance and the other is a NEW issue not previously collected: Uncanny X-Men #513, where he’s identified from the script as one of the characters in the background as a silhouette.

Sasquatch cameo in Silver Surfer Annual #1

January 27, 2010

Silver Surfer Annual #1
1988

Back when Annuals were 64 page extravaganzas and before trade paperbacks made square-bound issues nearly extinct, this fun issue was the first annual chugged out of the Silver Surfer’s 1987 series. It was all over the place, containing a 30pg feature story, two five-page vignettes, eight one-page pinups and a two-page Galactus poster. They just don’t make comics like this anymore, folks. The feature story, “Adam”, was part of a company-wide event, “The Evolutionary War” that ran across many of the Summer Annuals, of which this was the third episode. Sasquatch appears in two panels in flashback to the events of Alpha Flight #10.

The Silver Surfer approaches Earth and notices a disturbance in the van Allen belts. Suddenly, the Super Skrull materializes, and gives “his side” of the story. He quickly recounts the events of Alpha Flight #9-10 in his own words:

…I was transformed into primal energy! And when, long after-ward I was drawn back to Earth, I was told I had become part of the radiation belts circling your world! My reformed body was subject to spasms of great pain–I realize now I had contracted the Betrayal–what do you call it on Earth?– — Cancer! But rather than help me–cure me, or send me home to be cured– –the monster called Sasquatch sent me back to the radiation!

Of course, he leaves out the fact that he brutally killed four men and one woman, all scientists at the Mount Logan Cosmic Ray Research Station, and was in the middle of trying to kill Walter when Sasquatch turned the tables on him. Minor detail, eh?  Well, I guess there are always two sides to every story, but this is just so twisted.  Readers unfamiliar with the original story would be in for quite a shock should they follow the editor’s footnotes referring them to the corresponding Alpha Flight issues!

space space space

Joe Staton (left images) did an excellent job re-creating Byrne’s pencils (right images), copying the panels nearly perfectly.

 space space

Puck and Sasquatch appear in What If? Secret Wars #1

January 26, 2010

What If? Secret Wars #1
Feb 2009

This ought to be issue #2 since there already was a “What If? Secret Wars” issue in the second series (#114) but far be it from THIS blog to pick nits, eh? “What If… Doctor Doom kept the Beyonder’s Power” brings us back to the classic 1984 mini-series in which Doctor Doom temporarily had the power of the Beyonder. Puck and Sasquatch appear in single panel cameos.

The story is presented in a non-linear sequence that brings us to various points in this alternate time line that show Doctor Doom doing his Doomy thing – conquering entire races, defeating the good guys, putting the mack on Susan Storm, you know, the usual. The order of presentation of the story is so jumbled up that it would be impossible to piece all of it together without numerous tag lines from Karl Boller to frame nearly every panel. It gets out of hand on one page, which is a direct panel-by-panel homage to The Watchmen (see Chapter IV page 1 of that series), but Doom eventually sacrifices all of his power to save the entire Earth and he reverses Global Warming.

During the portion of the story where Doom is defeating all the good guys, a super insurgency group of heroes assemble at the Baxter Building to oppose his conquering ways, led by a very pregnant Invisible Woman. In the foreground, just behind Luke Cage and in front of Hercules, you can see Puck, but since he’s facing the podium, away from the reader, you can only see the back of his head. A blue-ish figure in the lower left might be Sasquatch, but is more likely The Beast.

A sequence of panels showing the insurgency follows and in one of the battle panels, as the heroes engage simultaneous incarnations of Doom, Sasquatch can be seen charging ahead in a desert environment. The particular assemblage of heroes in the charge is a random assortment: Scarlet Witch, Black Knight, Havok, Doc Samson and the Black Widow, so it appears as if the Invisible Woman teamed Sasquatch with some fairly heavy hitters.

Karl Bollers does an excellent job writing a story that successfully matches in scale the one thing in the Marvel Universe that is as conceptually immense as the Beyonder’s power: Doom’s ambition! Much thanks to him as well for including Alpha Flight members among the insurgency. They likely are completely wiped out by Doom, but at least it’s done in a heroic and meaningful way.

Alpha Flight is ALL WRONG on FUNday!

January 25, 2010

In the 18th episode of FUNday, we look at a very interesting panel drawn during the Mantlo era that, well, sums it all up! It’s ALL WRONG! Haha, let’s see what happens in:

Marvel Age #59
Feb 1988

Marvel Age was a monthly series featuring previews of upcoming comics, news articles about various subjects, advertisements, humorous pieces, and the occasional interview with creators and Marvel staff. Long removed from the Internet age, it was a great way (sometimes the ONLY way) to get news about what was going on in the world of Marvel Comics. Cartoon Box, Shaman (as Talisman), Heather, Northstar, Snowbird and Puck appear in this issue on the back cover.

This issue was concurrent with Alpha Flight #55 and solicited issue #56 in the section, “Marvel Coming Attractions”:

ALPHA FLIGHT #56 – What could be worse than Box going insane? How about Box going insane while he’s as big as a space ship – and his teammates are aboard?! “Warped ” is written by Bill Mantlo and penciled by Jim Lee. Direct Sales only. $1.00.

Alpha Flight had switched over completely to the Direct Sales distribution method in issue #52, meaning it would not be found on newsstands, but sold only in comics specialty shops. Direct Sales proved more profitable for certain books than others because they could not be returned by retailers for credit. Publishers were freed from the risk of unsold copies, which would be kept by the comic shops as back issues, and could pass that savings on to the Direct Sales outlets by offering a greater discount than Independent Distributors would get.

Well, that’s not so much fun, is it? Just business, but here’s some funny business: the calendar! The back pages of many Marvel Age issues featured a comical calendar with staff birthdays, one-liner jokes and parodies of various Marvel characters. The back cover of this issue had a calendar for November 1987 featuring cartoon Alpha Flight wishing Alpha Flight writer Bill Mantlo a Happy Birthday on the 9th. In addition to a missing balloon tail (there are six Alphans and five tails), the six Alpha Flight members shown are ALL WRONG! Remember that this issue was concurrent with Alpha Flight #55 and by that issue, the very man honored in this panel, Bill Mantlo, had made some significant changes to each of the characters:

  • Box – Mister Jeffries took over the “Blue” Box armor from Roger Bochs (who died in issue #49) in issue #46, and would transmorph it into the dark red/silver armor in issue #49 (although it debuted on the cover of issue #48). Showing “Blue” Box makes no sense as neither Roger nor Jeffries were using that armor at the time. If it’s from the past, it’s not clear which Box is shown there.
  • Shaman – Michael had left Alpha Flight in issue #45 and disappeared off this Earthly plane, not to return until the Dreamqueen issues much later. He was known as Talisman at the time, of course.
  • Heather Hudson – Heather put on the E-M suit in issue #32 and would keep it on as Vindicator. It wouldn’t make sense to show her out of costume. One possibility is that there’s a coloring error and that sections of her all-white clothing ought to have been colored red, but even then, it’s yet another error.
  • Northstar – Jean-Paul had been tricked by Loki to visit Alfheim, the Land of the Elves in issue #50. He wasn’t around at all during issue #55.
  • Puck – Judd had left Alpha Flight for Tibet in issue #50 as well. But that’s not even what’s so wrong about the image: at the time, Puck was tall!!! He returned to his full height in that issue. You gotta love the little head poking up from the panel border, though, heh.
  • Snowbird – Killed by Heather in issue #44. Dead.

At no point had this particular assembly of Alpha Flight members existed simultaneously. Credits for the calendar are w-Mike Carlin, a-Ron Zalme and c-Paul Becton, all of whom are excused for not keeping track of Alpha Flight’s members because no one could keep track of all the changes Mantlo had made to the team between issues #29 and #55. Unless you’re an Alpha Flight Collector!

A footnote in Alpha Flight history in Incredible Hulk #606

January 24, 2010

Incredible Hulk #606
Mar 2010

It’s not really the six hundred and sixth issue of the series because Marvel played some numbering shenanigans when they started over at #600 but if you make a big deal out of it, HULK SMASH!!! This issue is part of the “Fall of the Hulks” storyline and begins with a ticker-tape parade through the canyon of heroes in Lower Manhattan to honor Skaar, son of the Hulk for recently saving New York from an attack of big ugly nasties from Sakaar. This reminds Bruce Banner of a similar honorific: the Hulk Amnesty in Incredible Hulk #278-279 (Dec 1982-Jan 1983). Vindicator (Mac) appears in one panel in flashback to the Hulk Amnesty.

The Hulk Amnesty took place during one of the periods when Bruce Banner was in control of the Hulk and retained his intelligence while in Hulk form. After defeating the U-Foes, the general population showered praise upon him, and forgave him for all previous HULK SMASH!!! An enormous group of super-beings from all over the world (and other worlds), including Alpha Flight, gathered in New York to honor the big green guy in a protracted ceremony with gushing outpourings of love and admiration. Alpha Flight made a few cameo appearance in those issues, including a single panel with the team members at the time (Marrina and Puck were members in the proper chronology of the Hulk Amnesty issues but weren’t created until Alpha Flight #1 came out shortly after in 1983).

The Hulk would not stay in this incarnation for long; he became savage again, split into two parts, turned grey, was reassembled back into one part, turned green again, [insert here a few hundred issues worth of the same sort of splitting, turning colors and going from smart to savage in mind-numbing iteration], eventually sent to another planet only to return with the purpose of killing everyone and is now split again, and oh, there’s a Red Hulk, too. So, that whole Amnesty thing seems a bit far off now.

As seen in the inset from that panel, the image above is printed with a hint of the half-tone method of printing used back in 1982 for the original issue, and is a nice touch, though we’ve seen this nice touch used before recently in Dark X-Men: The List #1 to show a flashback to an 80s era comic. Greg Pak adds an additional nice touch by using a nearly lost technique to refer readers to previous issues: the editor’s footnote! These were fairly popular back then (they were invaluable for finding guest appearances of your favorite characters before comic book blogs were invented) but have since been deprecated by Joe Quesada, the current Marvel Editor-In-Chief. However, this tribute to the footnote won’t go unmentioned!

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Note: there is a variant cover for this issue by Marko Djurdjevic and a 2nd printing variant with interior art by Paul Pelletier.

Incredible Hulk #606 – Marko Djurdjevic variant
Incredible Hulk #606 – Second printing variant

Alpha Flight Collector has been attacked!

January 24, 2010

Which is usually a bad thing… except when the “attack” is a listing in a blogroll! Much thanks to Maddie from Women in Comics, a compilation of articles on gender in comics and comics fandom for listing Alpha Flight Collector this week!

Vindicator in Weapon X: First Class #1

January 22, 2010

Weapon X: First Class #1
Jan 2009

The First Class series takes place in continuity just after Kitty Pryde joined up with the X-Men, and this three-issue series focused on Wolverine and his time with the mysterious Weapon X program. The First Class series is rated A (Appropriate for readers Ages 9 and Up), so there’s no bloody claws scraping against anyone’s liver nor chopped up eyeballs, sorry. Vindicator (Mac) appears in one panel during an unspecified time as a memory shard.

Logan and Professor X sit down to try and repair the tangled, hazy maze of lost memories in Wolverine’s head. They travel to his inner mindscape where they encounter what looks like a combination of a neuron architecture and a spelunker’s nightmare. Among the twisted landscape are memory shards containing images of various times in Wolverine’s life, in the form of jagged panes of glass. One of these panes shows Mac zooming by in his EM suit along with Wolverine.

Professor X, in the same panel that contains the memory shard, indicates:

Unfortunately, we don’t know how many of these memories are your own and how many were falsely implanted inside your mind during your mental conditioning with the Canadian government.

Therefore, it’s not clear if this memory shard contains an actual memory or a false one. Unfortunately, by including Mac in the same panel as this text, it perpetuates the myth that Mac was involved with some of the funny business at Department H, but we know that whatever happened there, he wasn’t involved.

It’s also not clear exactly when this memory takes place. From the way Mac and Logan are shown in the shard, it looks as if they’re on the same team, going in the same direction somewhere, not fighting each other, so it likely refers to any time after Wolverine reconciled with Alpha Flight in Uncanny X-Men #139-140, but not too long after that because First Class takes place roughly during Uncanny X-Men #138-#150. Note that Wolverine is wearing a jacket with a Maple Leaf patch, which suggests it’s supposed to be during the time when he was still with Department H, but that’s not possible because Wolverine expressed surprise that Mac could fly in Uncanny X-Men #109. However, due to the scrambled nature of Logan’s memories, the veracity of any portrayal of any event in a memory shard in his head is impossible to pin down for sure.

Note: this issue has a variant cover by Michael Ryan, who also did the regular cover.

Weapon X: First Class #1 – Michael Ryan variant

Alpha Flight panel in X-Men Forever #15

January 21, 2010

X-Men Forever #15
Mar 2010

Chris Claremont’s reimagining of the X-Men, which continues after X-Men #3 in 1991, takes place in a universe that happened so long ago that readers need a guide to refresh their memories of that era. Luckily, at the end of the main story, there’s an 8pp roundup of what was going on in the Marvel Universe at the time. On the page, “Meanwhile…”, a panel taken from Alpha Flight #101 (Oct 1991) shows the team assembled at Mac’s grave, again, along with accompanying text.

The page following the 8pp roundup is a full page advertisement for trade paperbacks that contain many of the highlighted stories. Notably absent from the advertisement is a trade paperback containing the Alpha Flight series, which, at the time of this post, has not been collected in a tpb past the 8th issue. The advertisement sours the roundup from an interesting educational segment (or a trip down memory lane for us old guys) into a blatant shill for your tpb dollars. The same 8pp could have been a new 2nd story or even a preview of the next story arc instead of re-printing old material as a giant advertisement, but Alpha Flight got into the roundup, so it’s more sweet than sour.

The accompanying text to the right of the panel reads:

Canada’s premier heroes in Alpha Flight had newly reaffirmed ties to their government; they were briefly rejoined by the long-dead Vindicator (James Hudson), only to lose him again during a confrontation with Galactus. Still led by Guardian, the team included Puck, Sasquatch, Northstar, Aurora, Windshear, Diamond Lil and the mystery man Weapon Omega.

Note that Aurora was listed as a member, but at the time, she had resigned from Alpha Flight (issue #95), reassigned to Gamma Flight as a counselor in the psychiatric unit. In issue #98, she had seemingly been teleported away by Laura Dean (Pathway), which explains why she’s not in the panel above. The Weapon Omega listed above is not Michael Pointer, but Kyle Gibney, a.k.a. Wild Child. He wouldn’t resurface until issue #102, which explains why he’s listed as a member of that era but not in the panel. Finally, Box (Jeffries) appears in the panel, but wasn’t listed as a member for an unknown reason.

To the far right are two other Alpha Flight associates: the bald General Jeremy Clarke and Department H’s Liaison Kerry Patrick, who is very much not bald at all. It isn’t exactly clear why the team showed up to the memorial service in costume. The most puzzling was Walter, who seems to prefer Sasquatch form for funerals.

Hailing frequencies open, eh?

January 19, 2010

X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain #2
Mar 2010 (JAN on cover)

The X-Men Noir universe greatly expands in this issue, the second of four in this series. Fred van Lente introduces new X-Men and, similar to the others, they don’t appear to have any actual superpowers, but are based heavily on their 616 counterparts. Puck appears in a few panels as first mate aboard the junk Mariko.

While the Angel is being drugged, branded, tossed into jail by Emma Frost and attacked by the bad guy X-Men, Captain Logan and his first mate Puck wait aboard their ship in Genosha Bay for the rendezvous which never comes. Puck is shown manning a radio, all dressed up with nowhere to go. He calls down to Logan who has fallen down, drunk and unable to give orders. Puck then decides to radio Cyclops in New York to get some ideas what to do.

Hailing frequencies open, eh?

Unlike his appearance in the previous issue, this Puck seems to have it together and makes a respectable but minor appearance.

Note: this issue has a variant cover, also by Dennis Calero.

X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain #2 – Dennis Calero variant

Fred Hembeck Destroys FUNday!

January 18, 2010

In our 17th installment of FUNday, the weekly look at the lighter side of collecting Alpha Flight, we get yet another incredible book by the genius Fred Hembeck!

Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe #1
Jul 1989

Originally set as a follow-up to the Fantastic Four Roast, this hilarious classic features tons of characters from the Marvel Universe, including none other than the great Fred Hembeck who appears as himself. Everyone dies, of course, as you can tell from the title, and luckily, Alpha Flight died too! Northstar and Guardian appear in single panel cameos as ghosts. Puck and Sasquatch’s name appear on headstones, and all the rest die behind the scenes.

The general plot is that the big guy at Marvel (who was Jim Shooter at the time) had an evil twin who conned Fred Hembeck into writing a story to kill off the entire Marvel Universe. That actual story was written in 1983 but not published until 1989, by which time Jim Shooter had left Marvel. The 1989 version had to be re-framed to make sense and ended up as a narrative read by The Punisher, who is really Stan Lee in disguise. In the narrative, hero and villian alike face the most absurd deaths with just about every possible wisecrack, gag and fast-paced silliness that only Fred Hembeck can deliver. At the end, Stan Lee tosses all the pages into the trash.

At the beginning of the narrative, a number of heroes rise out of a graveyard as legless ghosts. Two of the tombstones bear the names “Sasquatch” and “Puck”, but the characters don’t appear in the book. Sasquatch’s tombstone can be found in the lower left and Puck’s is in the upper right of this image.

Later, while Cap and Iron Man (Jim Rhodes at the time) discuss their situation while waiting to be processed in the afterlife, Northstar appears very tiny in one corner as a ghost.

After the Fantastic Four are crushed by a boulder and sent to the afterlife, Guardian appears, also as a newly risen ghost. Note that at the time this story was written in 1983, Guardian had not yet been considered dead in Alpha Flight #12 (cover date Jul 1984). By the time this comic was published in 1989, he was still considered dead, but would return to Alpha Flight in 1990. This wasn’t the only sort of thing that dated the 1983 portion of the story, but similar to having Jim Rhodes in the armor, smart Hulk, etc., the changes that occurred betwixt writing and publication would have been obvious to the sophisticated reader in 1989.

Should you want to know more about the timing of the writing and the epic near-fail of how this issue almost never got published, along with several unpublished pages, and the original cover, check out the very long story of it all on Hembeck’s site. You can also see this page (with the tombstones above, a published page). Notice how I put the links at the end of the post so you wouldn’t jump off right off the bat and wander about on some other site, never to return to this one? Clever, eh?