Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Of mutants, muggers and Mephisto. Oh my !

Yesterday I wrote that I´m not sure if I can post something new before Christmas so typically - just to prove me wrong - Today I have some free time and find myself in front of the laptop. So I thought why not take a look at how our favorite comic superheroes spend the festive season ?

Yesterday I posted the entire story from THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD 148 but Today I want to get as many Christmas stories as possible into this.

Naturally there will be a pretty long link section since everybody is doing Christmas stories at this time of the year and I have to admit many of these posts are better than anything I could come up with. I also want you to check out my fellow link partners from the blog roll. That said there will be a lot of comic book pages in this post, I just hope this doesn´t turn into another one of these superlong posts. Yeah, right. Keep dreaming, Subzero. Ahhh ..... don´t stop, Janet. There´s plenty of room in my bed beside Mariah Carey, Halle Berry, Beyonce, Tylene Buck, Akira Lane, Miko Lee Jessica Nigri, Yaya Han ..... oh, that´s not what you meant ? Sorry.

Ahem, back from what I want for Christmas to the Christmas stories and I think it´s best if we start with the Christmas stories I already covered.

My first full on Christmas post was last year when I wrote about UNCANNY X - MEN 230 and Marc Silvestri´s incredible run on the book in general. I hope I can continue with that topic very soon and that I can read the UNCANNY X - MEN : INFERNO PROLOGUE omnibus ( bought it ) until then.

In the story the X - Men are making themselves at home in the Reaver´s old headquarters in Australia when Longshot gets mindfried by all the stolen loot the Revers stashed ( Longshot has the ability of psychometry which means he can read objects ). After a discussion if they should do this they decide to return the stolen goods to their rightful owners. 

While I´m a big fan of that period of the book I´m not quite sure why the X - Men never told the other mutant teams that they were still alive.

For those that don´t know this period, in the previous FALL OF THE MUTANTS storyline the X - Men went up against a mega powerful magic entity called The Adversary with the help of Roma and seemingly died in Dallas, where the big battle took place saving the whole world once again.

Which the X - Men have done a number of times. Mostly in secret without anybody knowing. But this time they did it in front of the tv cameras.

So after the X - Men had given their lives while defeating The Adversary Roma managed to bring them back. With the world at large thinking of them as the mutant heroes who sacrificed themselves and the team now impossible to detect or record on electronic devices thanks to a gift from Roma the X - Men decided to use the new Status Quo to their advantage.

Which I totally get. Public opinion is a very fickle thing and even if the X - Men may be hailed as heroes Today it doesn´t take long until the winds of change swing to the opposite direction and bring back old prejudices and anti mutant hysteria. So it´s better that Joe Public doesn´t know the X - Men are still alive and kicking. On the other hand the argument that the X - Men are protecting their loved ones by not telling them is pretty thin. And with the hindsight of all the trouble this caused it was a really bad idea. I guess it´s one of these things like the fault of communication in all those Hammer movies. I have seen a dozen since Halloween and every time a lot of grief and unnecessary deaths could have been avoided if people talked with each other instead of thinking that if they ignore Dracula nothing bad will ever happen. But that´s the topic for a few posts next year. Right now I only want to make it clear that things like INFERNO would have been only half as devastating ( although possibly also half as entertaining ) for them if the X - Men hadn´t kept their survival secret.

Another famous X - Men story is DEMON from UNCANNY X - MEN 143 by the classic dream team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin.

The story is kind of HOME ALONE meets DIE HARD / GHOSTBUSTERS with the X - Men as Kitty Pryde, who is relatively new on the team at his time, gets to stay alone at X - mansion while all the other X - Men are away for the holidays. Which gives Kitty free run of the house but also poses a big problem as she has to fend of an N´Garai demon. The story is Kitty´s baptism of fire ( although you could argue that was the DARK PHOENIX story in which she had to come in and rescue the team ) and it´s - like most of this quieter solo stories the title is so famous for - full of nice character moments like Kitty catching Colossus under the mistletoe.  

So we´ve seen what the X - Men usually do on Christmas but how does somebody like Daredevil spend his time on the day of Christ´s birth ?

Well, in the case of DAREDEVIL 253 called Merry Christmas, Kingping ( which I mentioned in this post about the MARVEL VISIONARIES - JOHN ROMITA JR book ) he spends it ridding the streets of a pair of vicious muggers and celebrating with all the clients of the free legal advice clinic.

It´s a really good story but so far it was only available as part of the MARVEL VISIONARIES book which for some strange reason Grand Comics Database fails to mention in their list of where the story was reprinted.

Which is another reason why I will continue with the posts now that I have bought four more volumes from this line. Because not all databases list really ALL the comics where certain stories are reprinted and you might miss out on some bargain books which I´m always glad to let my readers know of. Now if you want to read this story - as well as another great Christmas story I will get to in a moment - and don´t need the oversized hardcover treatment of the MARVEL VISIONARIES Disney is releasing the Epic Collection A Touch Of Typhoid on January the 26th which collects all the issues starting with DAREDEVIL 253 going all the way to issue 270. That´s a big junk of Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr comic goodness.

I know I´m a comic whore as someone once said because I always find a comic worth buying in a comic box no matter how much junk is in it.

And I keep bitching about the Marvel Epic Collection trades, that they are too expensive, that you can´t read them very easily. I also keep buying them and my resistance is wearing down, especially after receiving the last volume I ordered together with the two brilliant IRON MAN collections Stark Wars and War Games which may very well be the best volume they ever released next to Thor - War of the Pantheons. Of course I´m talking about POWER MAN AND IRON FIST - HEROES FOR HIRE which reprints one of the best Marvel series from the Bronze Age ever in all of it´s recolored glory. A few months back when I got a whole bunch of ESSENTIALS that included LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN vol 2 and POWER MAN AND IRON FIST vol 2 and this new trade fills almost the entire gap between those two. I also have the ESSENTIAL IRON FIST volume which is almost reprinted in the The Fury of Iron Fist Epic Collection ( they skipped the last issues because they´re in the POWER MAN AND IRON FIST Epic Collection ).

Man, POWER MAN AND IRON FIST that´s blaxploitation meets martial arts in the best way. Luke Cage and Daniel Rand have one of the best buddy buddy relationships in comics despite - or maybe because of - coming from totally different backgrounds. We start with John Byrne, then have a few artists inbetween like Mike Zeck and Trevor Von Eeden before we come to Kerry Gamill and when he becomes the regular artist it´s on !   

Kerry Gamill´s pages are so dynamic, his storytelling so precise and his anatomy so flawless that it´s almost like he was born to draw martial arts comics. I remember how excited I was when he became part of the art team during John Byrne´s revamped SUPERMAN titles in the eighties.

It´s such a shame that he left the world of comics, he did great work for DC and Marvel. I really have to continue with my SUPERMAN posts. And speaking about Marvel the Epic Collection Heroes for Hire gets my utmost recommendation. I think I will probably buy the next volume ( whenever it does come out ) even though I have most of the issues in the black and white ESSENTIAL version now because this looks just so good in color.

Okay, before we got totally distracted on this tangent we were talking about another Daredevil Christmas story within the A Touch of Typhoid Epic Collection which is DAREDEVIL issue 266, A Beer with the Devil.

If I had steadily continued with the LIKE A BOOK OUT OF HELL posts we would have already covered this because the story takes place after all the events in the INFERNO mega crossover event. Matt has lost Karen Page - again - and as usual it´s his own fault. So he spends the day in a seedy bar as Daredevil, drinking and wallowing in his own misery which is one of the things he does best. To be fair, it hasn´t been the best year for Matt Murdock as the Kingpin destroyed his life with the help of Typhoid Mary which was much more successful than his attempt in BORN AGAIN. And if this whole emotionally and physically taxing rollercoaster wasn´t enough he had to deal with Hell´s Kitchen becoming invaded by hordes of demons during INFERNO. No wonder he´s going to burn all his remaining stuff ( which does not work with Captain America ) and go on a tour of suburban America hard travelling hero style a few issues down the line.

But for now Daredevil is nursing his beer at the bar and like in a lot of SPIRIT stories the focus of most of the issue is on the other customers which includes an aged woman with delusions of past grandeur, a guy who still bitches about his divorce which happened many years back and a couple of brothers who start to argue. During all this an alluring woman enters the bar, sits next to Daredevil and starts flirting with the hero. 

Well, we assume that it´s a woman because that´s how she presents herself to Daredevil, a woman who has just betrayed her husband, but other people in the bar see her as a guy or a menacing mugger which tells the reader right away that something is not right about this whole set up.

While she is trying to seduce Daredevil and testing the boundaries of his morals things heat up in the bar, voices are raised, the customers get more desperate, tempers flare up and most noticeable the argument between the two brothers escalates until one of them kills the other.  

Daredevil was oblivious to all this because he was tongue wrestling with the mystery woman / man and when Daredevil tries to confront her to find out why she orchestrated all of this she reveals himself as Mephisto.

Who pops up quite a lot in my posts lately. Coincidence ? In any case I remember that John Romita Jr´s drastic redesign of Mephisto didn´t find approval with everyone. I didn´t mind but I also like the classic look.

During INFERNO we saw a version of Daredevil that preserved against a sea of demons apparently through the force of his indomitable will.

But that fight has taken its toll on Matt and after being devastated in body as well as in mind he has nothing left to offer any resistance to Mephisto who grows to enormous size, wrecking the bar in the process.

For Kaiju Mephisto Daredevil is just a tiny speck of red garbed flesh that amuses him because he dresses up as him. He judges and punishes other people while ignoring his own sins which will sooner or later make him a subject of M once he has died for real ( he was resurrected in INFERNO ).

John Romita Jr´s Mephisto was really different and I don´t think we have seen Mephisto grow in size before. Which makes total sense because he´s the devil and can do anything. Or A devil. Knowing that Daredevil will be his sooner or later Mephisto promises that this was not the last encounter between them and lets him fall. As Daredevil regains his senses the bar is undamaged although I doubt that everything that happened - like the death of the brother - has been reversed. I just don´t peg the devil for being so nice. In any case Daredevil gets picked up by the elderly woman and the guy who was bitching about his divorce and the three of them go to a nearby soup kitchen for Christmas dinner. It´s a really great story with stunning artwork by John Romita Jr and inker Al Williamson as well as a lot of realism which might have something to do with the fact that it was based on a real Christmas experience Ann Nocenti had .

Speaking about Mephisto, when last we saw him he was busy with the machinations during the Soul Shroud Saga like in THOR 443 where Eric Masterson went to hell ( quite literally ) to get Thor´s hammer back.

The next issue was quite a change of pace as the Eric Masterson Thor goes up against the Grinch ..... or rather the Groonk how he is called for copyright reasons in the story titled " How the Groonk stole Christmas ! ".

Eric is doing some last minute Christmas shopping for his son Kevin and he is so lost in thought that he doesn´t notice how a woman passes him by until she is mugged. I always liked the more mundane aspects of Eric´s life as a single parent even though I know that some people didn´t like the character because of it. But it was different then what had come before and it brought a nice human touch to the story like here where both, Eric and the woman, are so absorbed by their own thoughts and problems thinking the other one doesn´t have a care in the world.

Eric immediatelly goes after the perpetrator - still with Kevin´s present tucked under his arm - but he is already gone. Eric is surprised that he still has Kevin´s Christmas present as Thor but I think he should be happy that the transformation didn´t just blow the whole thing to smithereens.

Eric returns to the crime scene where he learns two things. There has been a whole series of incidents where somebody or something mugged people although the person behind this only steals one gift, not always the most expensive one. And Eric overpaid for Kevin´s Super Jammers toy. 

In the end the Groonk turns out to be a benevolent character who stole the presents for a community of people living in the sewers who occupy the part of New York´s sublevel labyrinth that´s not populated by the Morlocks. On one side it is weird that all these people live down there without ever meeting each other. On the other side it is a big city and the tunnels cover a lot of ground. In any case Eric has to make a judgement call and decides to leave the Groonk alone. He doesn´t want to deprive the people who live down in the sewers of their protector. Which doesn´t sit well with Captain America because Eric can´t really explain why he let the Groonk go without also revealing the existence of the underground community, And I think that it speaks volumes about Eric´s character that he prefers to be chewed out by Captain America than break his promise.

Even though Eric doesn´t have it as rough as Daredevil in our previous story his Christmas day has been far from perfect. His apartment has been wrecked though thankfully Captain America offers him to bunk at Avengers mansion, he spent a lot of money on a present trying to impress his son which turned out to be needless since his son loves him anyway and he still felt like a bum compared to the stuff his ex - wife´s new rich husband bought, he couldn´t catch the bad guy and he got another lecture from Cap. It seems the only good thing that happened is that his friend Susan finally awoke from her coma. But when he arrives at his apartment he finds his son who managed to assemble almost the entire supporting cast including Jerry Sapristi and Herkules to celebrate Christmas together.

And I´m afraid that on that rather kitschy note I have to wrap things up for Today. I wanted to include a lot more stories but it´s already starting to take too long to load this post. Maybe we can continue with this topic Tomorrow and if not I´m wishing you a Merry Christmas in advance.

What´s that ? You want to know what Spider - Man does on Christmas since his cover is on the top of this post ? Well, if he´s not busy rescuing Misty Knight from muggers he´s going up against baddies like Stegron

Since I had to end Today´s post abruptly the link section is rather short but I don´t want to close without mentioning COMICS ALLIANCE´s post on UNCANNY X - MEN 143 and CRUSHING KRISIS which another indispensable list about Collecting Iron Fist comics as graphic novels ( he means trades and hardcovers ). To read more Christmas stories fellow blog DIVERSIONS OF THE GROOVY KIND has posts on CREEPY 105 , JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 139 , TEEN TITANS 13 and BATMAN 219 , SON OF TOMAHAWK 138 , FORBIDDEN TALES OF DARK MANSION 15 , HOT WHEELS 6 , MARVEL TWO - IN - ONE 8 , NICK FURY - AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 10 , DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES 147 and many more archived. Enjoy !

We can´t speak about blaxploitation meets martial arts without talking about the best - or cheesiest of them all depending on who you ask ( your mileage may vary, as they say ) - movie from that genre THE LAST DRAGON which I saw under the title EL ULTIMO DRAGON in Spain. The movie is so great that a mexican wrestler named himself after it.

One of the reasons why I decided to include this movie in the video section is that together with martial arts classic KARATE KID the movie celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and was released on Blue Ray

To think that there are entire generations of people out there who have never heard of Bruce Leroy or " the glow ", oh, the sheer horror of it !

The film features Taimak in the lead role ( there is an interview on BLACKFILM where he talks about The Last Dragon : 30 Years later ) and while it has its lengths in some parts the final payoff is great. Spoiler.

The movie incorporated the music of Motown Records and the hits that spun out of it were Rhythm of the Night from El Debarge and The Glow.

The female lead was played by Vanity who had her best scene not in THE LAST DRAGON but in NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE, a 1986 vehicle for John Stamos who wears the perm to end all perms. From all the " teenager turns super secret agent " movies this is one of the worst examples and John´s transformation of totally useless, lovestruck / horny teenager to strong and confident adult after having sex with Vanity is ridiculous ( although I have to admit that I have no first hand experience for having sex with Vanity so this is total speculation ) but it´s worth watching if only for the parts with Sexbombe Vanity. If you want to watch it you can find the movie on YouTube but don´t blame me, it´s your funeral, pal.

To close things here´s a video of Daredevil 266, A Beer with the Devil.

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1 comment:

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Excellent post. 1970s and 1980s perms and bubble perms. Saw a music video from 1984 last a nightmare gone wrong. Thankfully I never had a it too late now?