Monday, October 26, 2009

Marvel's Tragic Loves

There's no doubt that being a hero and having a girlfriend do not go well together in the Marvel Universe. While heroes like Superman can marry Lois Lane and live happily ever after, Marvel thinks their heroes are much cooler when being dragged through emotional barbed wire. Here are some of the more famous "tough love" scenarios:

1. Daredevil and Elektra

This one has to start the group simply because it was probably handled better than any other. Matt and Elektra were lovers, and then years later ended up as enemies. Neither really wants to hurt the other, but at the same time they can't seem to live and let live.

Elektra's death soon after her initial appearance was a real shocker to comic fans everywhere. The storyline seemed to just be taking off and full of potential when suddenly she was killed by Bullseye.

Of course, who stays dead in comic books, right? So a few issues later she's back and has been pretty much ever since. And yet they still can't seem to hook up. It's a tragic ongoing love story that probably will never have a happy ending.

2. Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy

Why do I list this one above Peter and MJ? Because Peter willingly chose to give up MJ forever to save Aunt May, while Gwen's death was unwanted. She was arguably at the height of her popularity with Spider-Man fans and the doorway seemed open for a bright future.

For the time, Marvel took a big risk in killing her off. They hadn't really taken a chance like that with a big character up to that point. Her father, Captain Stacy, had been killed earlier which set up this "I blame Spider-Man" sub-plot that had great possibilities. Unfortunately, she never found out that Peter was Spidey before she was killed.

Of course, Marvel had to completely destroy her memory a few years ago by bringing in this stupid storyline where she had actually been Norman Osborn's lover and had his children. But that's Marvel for you. They love to do horrible things to childhood memories in the name of "pushing the envelope".

There are still those today who think Gwen should have been left alone and MJ should have been the one killed. Who knows which would have ended better though? Maybe she got out while the getting was good.

3. Bruce Banner and Betty Ross

While Spider-Man's enemy killed his girlfriend, it was Banner himself who had a hand in killing his own wife. After years of being exposed to radiation by being around Bruce, Betty found out she had gamma radiation poisoning and was dying.

The Abomination found out about Betty's condition and hastened things along with a blood transfusion of his irradiated blood and she was dead. We never liked her father that much, but this may have been one of those cases when the daughter should have listened to dear old dad and stayed away from the giant green man.

There are a lot more wonderful Marvel relationships that didn't end well that I'll hit in future posts. For now, who do you consider a tragic relationship for Marvel that I didn't mention?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

We hit CGC comics just a couple of weeks ago, so let's hit something else near and dear: toys! Action figures, accessories, vehicles, and secret bases...every little kid's dream.

As a recent visitor to 3 different comic book conventions this year, I've seen the frenzy toy collectors go into when looking for "that figure". You know which one I'm talking about. It's the one they need to finish the collection, or that rare one that everybody else seems to be searching for.

To make it worse, each package has to be perfect! If there's a single dent, split, tear, or crack in any part of it, it becomes worthless to the collector. Now keep in mind, these are the exact same guys who mercilessly taunted Beanie Baby collectors years ago.

When I was growing up, I never once considered the future value of some figure my parents bought me. I didn't lovingly cradle in it in its case and think, "I'll hold on to this for years and sell it someday." Nope, as soon as I got to the car with it that package was in a hundred pieces and I was having fun the way God meant that toy to be used!

Looking back on it now, I do realize how much those Star Wars, Mego Superheroes, and GI Joe figures would sell for today...but they were worth that much to me back then as I saved the world time and again from whatever super villain I happened to create. My grandmother would carefully sew costumes for my Mego figures which allowed me to have heroes like Nomad (the blue and yellow version), Stingray, White Tiger, and a lot of other characters that still haven't seen figure form.

Today I still collect toys, and I still open them to display them (some of the time). I have a fairly nice JLU collection, along with the DC Universe stuff. Marvel isn't having the best showing recently, but that's probably because they haven't had much come down the pike. Still, even with my desire to have a good collection of cool toys (at this moment, I am surrounded by 13 different Galactus figures and statues and I'm on a constant scan of Ebay for new ones), there are some lines I won't cross.

Spending $100 on a figure just doesn't grab me. Toys rock. Toys are cool. But they are still just essentially toys. They're plastic and paint. I've seen frenzied comic con fans go crazy trying to talk down a collector who has some special Batman figure for $125, and they end up paying $100 for it anyway.

I watched a guy at the SDCC this year telling someone else that he didn't have any money left to eat on, but at least he had this year's exclusive Green Lantern figure. My friends, to me that is going too far. While I'd love to get my hands on a Hal Jordan Blue Lantern figure as much as the next collector, I do value that whole "eating and paying the bills" thing more. Toys are meant to be fun, right? Hasn't Buzz Lightyear taught us anything in 2 movies?

Don't get so uptight! Why does it have to be perfect anyway? You're just going to either sell it to someone else, or stick it in a box in the attic somewhere.

The first season of "Big Bang Theory" had a wonderful moment that poked fun at comic geek collectors everywhere. Leonard is selling off his comic collection and his friends circle like sharks trying to grab the Golden Age Flash figure so they can complete the JSA collection. He holds up a Georgi LaForge action figure and threatens to open it if they don't get out of his way. Everyone treats this as a hostage standoff at that point. It's hilarious! And unfortunately, it's true for some folks.

So what about you? Does your heroic taste move beyond comics and into another area? What's the most important figure in your collection, or the one you'd most like to have?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vengeance of the Moon Knight - Is Marvel Finally Coming Around?

I am a Moon Knight fan. Even when I first read his stories in the back section of the magazine format "Hulk" in the 70's, I knew this dude was cool. He was like Batman in so many ways, but somehow just a little edgier because he had 3 different secret identities.

When Marvel announced two years ago that they were bringing him back, I subscribed to the title as soon as possible. I was excited to see this hero coming back, though Marvel warned he would be "a little more violent". That was an understatement. The title was so graphically violent (including a scene where Moon Knight literally rips Bushmaster's face off with his teeth) that I canceled the subscription and dropped reading the title altogether. Call me a wimp if you want to, but I grew up in an age where heroes were heroes and didn't have to kill someone just to prove they were big and bad.

And now along comes Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1. I was a little leery about giving the title a try, but boy am I glad I did! Marvel has set this character up to be everything he was meant to be by giving him this code against killing. Now he just wants to take the bad guys down without seriously hurting any of them, and it's a breath of fresh air from the ultra-violent crap Marvel has been putting out lately.

Issue 1 starts out with Moon Knight stopping a bank robbery in broad daylight with such flair and panache it makes Batman look like an amateur. My favorite scene is him riding an overturned van down the street like a surfboard. And issue #2 even brings in the Sentry for Marvel's ultimate "This is our Superman and Batman" type of confrontation. I know this might be considered a second-rate comparison team, but I still love it! The characters are similar, yes, but different enough from their DC counterparts to give us some cool possibilities. While I really like the Sentry character, we're almost five years into him as a regular hero in the Marvel universe and Marvel still hasn't figured out what to do with him so I imagine he's not long for this world anyway. Still, it's good to see him in action again.

Now issue #3 is bringing Bushmaster back, so I'm holding off on subscribing again until I see if this whole "no killing" rule is written in stone or if Marvel is just toying with us before making the character so gruesome it's sickening. But I hope Marvel has decided to make this a trend and finally give us one title that we can read without seeing tons of blood and gore all over every fight scene.

DC consistenly out-performs Marvel with its core heroes. Batman does not kill (unless Grant Morrison writes him) and hasn't for decades, and he remains one of DC's most popular characters. It's not necessary to make him a killer to make him cool, and DC has proven that time and again. Why can't Marvel pick up on this and realize a hero who slaughters every group of thugs he faces isn't that cool?

So for now, I'm giving Marvel a big thumbs up for doing a great job with the first two issues of this title. Now let's see if they can actually use restraint and give us a hero to root for without him killing everything that moves. I don't care how much he gets compared to Batman by the press, let us enjoy him!

What about you? Do you feel comics are too violent today and need to dial it back just a little for the average reader?

Monday, October 5, 2009

CGC Comics - Comics Under Glass?

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but real world has been overwhelming lately with work, school, and a week-long survival training camp (just for fun). Anyway, I'm back and let's talk.

What's so fun about a comic book? Why, reading it, of course! When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to get to the car and start reading that new book. Most of the time I had already read several in the supermarket (these were the days before comic shops) and clutched my colorful treasure carefully all the way to my room, where I would study each action-packed panel with joy. I had no idea of the value that comic might one day fetch if I kept it in pristine condition. My concern was mostly just enjoying the book at that moment.

Flash forward to today, and I still look with glee as I open the mailbox to pull out my latest comic acquisition. They may have boards and bags, but I can still pull them out and read them.

Then along comes the CGC...

After saying I would never own a CGC comic, I broke down and purchased one on Ebay a couple of months ago just so I could say I had one. I have to admit it was cool because it seemed like I had a museum piece or something, even though it was just an old Batman comic. Here was this treasure forever captured in time. It had a grade, and it would stay this perfect forever.

Then I realized I had never read this particular issue before, so I had no idea what the story was about. This prompted another trip to Ebay to find a used copy of the book as a reader copy so I could find out if the story lived up to the cover (it did).

And this brings me to my argument: Are CGC comics really worth it? Is a serious comic book collector one who spends hundreds of dollars on a comic he can never read, or is he the person who is fine with a bag-and-board dented copy of a book he can lovingly recall from memory?

This is where it gets sticky. I can see the point of having CGC comics, and have about a dozen now for various reasons. They might be an issue of a hero I really liked, or they might be a particular issue that was special to me (my very first comic book, graded and on the bookshelf in my bedroom). But at the same time I realize I'll never be able to read these books. For all I know, it's just the covers and some other comic is inside!

Baseball cards don't have this problem. They are slabbed, but you can still read both sides with no problem. Only comic books and magazines have this problem. Does this make us seem really dumb to people who aren't collectors?

So what do you think? Are you willing to pay inflated prices for a book just so you can have it "under glass" and never be able to read it? Or is it all just a big scam to you?
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