The Watchtower

COMPLETELY OFF-TOPIC TANGENT(s)

-Ok, so you all probably know the one completely off-topic tangent I’d love to discuss (hint: I’m from Boston), but superstition forbids me from saying too much before it’s all said and done, so that will have to be for next week”¦or the week after”¦hopefully the week after.

-Nonetheless, I’ve got the latest from my Senior Political Correspondent, Jordan Geary:

So I was watching the news on the ol’ tube this morning and they announced that an issue has overwhelmingly become “the hottest topic for the 2004 Presidential election, which candidates are working hard to devote their campaigns to.” Is it terrorism? Is it the fact that no one in the nation has a job? Is it the fact that analysts have estimated that over 4,000 potentially dangerous illegal aliens are coming over the Mexican border every day? Nope. It’s the fact that flu vaccinations are harder to find and are more expensive this year at Costco. Whoop de freakin’ doo! Flu vaccines are only 50-60 percent effective anyways, so who gives a crap? It is comforting to know that there is some terrorist illegal alien guy getting my job right now, figuring on his coffee break what the best way would be to blow the Empire State Building to the moon, so long as the President makes it his priority to make some people half as likely to sneeze. If Michael Jordan can score 40 points with the flu, and Kobe Bryant can rape girls with the flu, it is obvious that the people that get it will be fine to go about their typical daily business (which I’m sure consists of basketball and rape).

As if this didn’t make it obvious enough to me that the people in America with money and power are complete idiots, the next story on TV was that the University of Kansas is spending a ton of money on what they hope will be a largely recognized worldwide event. In their words, and I am not making this up, their event will be a “Glorious tribute, which pays homage to globalization and the Japanese-American relations after WWII.” What is this glorious, expensive event? Yep, you guessed it, a tribute to the 50-year anniversary of Godzilla. Finally a college comes along that burns money faster and dumber than Connecticut College!

Thank you, Mr. Geary! We look forward to hearing from you again next week as we gear up for Election Day!

-Ok, one more rant before we get started”¦I said this last week, but if you’re not yet watching Jack & Bobby every Sunday at 9 on the WB, for the love of god, do it! It’s got amazingly driven acting from a great and diverse ensemble cast, clever writing and it addresses serious issues while remaining a fun way to wrap up the weekend. Ignore the awful WB promotional job and give this show a chance! However, I will be taping My Fat, Obnoxious Boss on Fox to watch it later because a show that has Ivy League grads who are smart and driven getting humiliated appeals heavily to my demographic: recent college graduates who are having trouble finding a job.

Onto the column proper!


Indeed I did hear from not one but TWO Black Knight fans after last week’s column; you have both done Dane Whitman’s ebony blade proud.

Keep those cards and letters comin’, and if you’re an Inhumans fan, you’ll definitely have something to say after this week”¦but first, an icon”¦

(thanks again to Micro Heroes for my cute li’l visual aids)

CAPTAIN AMERICA

I don’t read his title on a regular basis and if you asked me for a quick top five or even top ten list of my favorite characters, odds are I wouldn’t think of him, but Captain America is the epitome of what I love about comics.

Here’s why”¦

Cap is the soul of heroism; he does the right thing because it’s the right thing, because it’s what he believes in, no other reason (he didn’t gain his powers by accident and he wasn’t born with them, he volunteered for them because he wanted to be a hero”¦name me five other enduring comic book heroes you can say that about).

And he never backs down.

How many classic scenes in Marvel history center around Captain America standing unflinching in the face of impossible odds? Whether it’s walking alone into Dr. Doom’s lair even as the villain possesses the power of The Beyonder in Secret Wars or striding unflinchingly forward to face down Thanos who holds the Infinity Gauntlet and who has already killed every other hero in the Marvel Universe, Cap will not back down, ever.

This is why everybody in the Marvel Universe from Spider-Man to Wolverine respects the hell out of Captain America. He walks into a room with gods and men who can lift mountains and the minute he opens his mouth the focus is on him.

It’s similar to Superman in the DCU, but it’s different; Superman is a god, Cap is just a man. It’s easy to stand up to impossible odds when you’re invulnerable and can burn the opposition with beams from your eyes, but it’s a bit harder when all you’ve got is your shield and your courage. And unlike Batman, who is also just a man, Cap will put himself out in front of the rest of the world and be a leader, he won’t just coordinate from the shadows; his ass is on the line right alongside his soldiers.

That last bit is why it’s so important for Cap to be an Avenger, why he fits so well and why the team is better with him on it. The Avengers look better with this one of a kind inspirational figure leading them and Cap becomes said figured because of the tools he’s got at his disposal (the other Avengers), the way he uses them, and the respect he commands without being a jerk (see: Batman).

Cap is a character that doesn’t need to have an attitude, doesn’t need to be bad ass, to be cool.

This is why Mark Milla’s Ultimate Cap disturbs me so much; he’s added an unnecessary dimension to one of the best characters ever. The frightening trend I’ve noticed (and that Millar himself has pointed out) is that many Marvel Universe proper writers are starting to make Cap a lot more like his Ultimate counterpart.

Stop.

Make Cap a bad ass and you’re destroying the core of his character; he’s a guy who has the moral strength to always do the right thing and that is why everybody listens to him. I don’t need my comics universe overrun by characters like that, but I need one.

CAPTAIN BRITAIN III

Chuck Austen has had a lot of bad ideas in his time (which is kind of scary when you consider “his time” amounts to like two years), but I honestly don’t think the new Captain Britain was one of them. Kelsey Leigh wasn’t a bad idea; just a poorly timed (and poorly executed) one.

A single mother, a victim of abuse, somebody with a different worldview (European rather than American), a built in supporting cast”¦this is a unique character with some long term potential, but also a complex character that requires the touch of her creator; in other words, this is not the type of character you create and then hand off to somebody else.

Who is to blame? It’s either editorial for telling Austen he’d be on the book longer than he ended up being or Austen’s for wasting a good idea on a title he wouldn’t be sticking around on. Or it could be that the new Captain Britain was just a victim of the “nobody saw it coming” breakdown between Austen and Marvel.

I don’t think “Lionheart of Avalon” was a particularly good story, but I think Kelsey could have been a decent Avenger somewhere down the line if Austen had taken the time to develop her and her relationship with the team. As it was, Kelsey Leigh (not necessarily Captain Britain) is one idea I wish Chuck Austen had held onto a bit longer.

CAPTAIN MARVEL II/PHOTON

I’ve never understood the fascination or affinity for the character of Monica Rambeau, either by fans or from creators. Without getting too purposely hot button, she’s comics’ answer to affirmative action gone wrong.

People stick up for her because she’s a black female character who has been portrayed in such a way that she is not a stereotype. Ok”¦but strip that away, make her a white male character, or even a white female character, keeping the same powers, voice, actions, etc. and you’ve got a very bland and indistinguishable character. Standard got her powers by accident, trying to be a hero, nice and inoffensive personality character; the Avengers and comics are filled with millions of these.

But she’s black and she’s a woman and there aren’t many of those, so she immediately rockets to the top of everybody’s Avengers dream teams.

I wish there were more great black female characters, but for me it ultimately comes down to good characters vs bad characters, not black vs white or male vs female. I’m all for a black female character that I find interesting, and when it comes to Photon, this is not the case.

The fact that she got to be Avengers chairperson after being in existence only a few years and doing very little to distinguish herself lends credence to my case. She’s like a wrestler or movie star shoved down the public’s throats so hard that we know we’re supposed to like her but can’t figure out why.

Somebody tried to put out even a Photon limited series and it would tank so hard because scratch the surface and beyond some cool powers the character has literally zero personality.

My challenge to the current or next generation of writers out there is to sit down, come up with a really good idea for a character that is interesting for reasons having nothing to do with their gender or race, and then make it a black female, thus we can have a better model to put forward than Photon.

CRYSTAL

We all know the old “last panel” reveal trick that’s become such a convention in comics that we would have a collective heart attack if Chris Claremont didn’t use it”¦the whole “everybody is in trouble but somebody says from off panel on the 2nd to last page ‘not if I can help it’ and then we get a splash page of Dr. Strange or Wolverine or somebody” routine (they used it a lot on the amazing 90s X-Men cartoon too). Well I recently picked up a whole slew of Avengers comics from the early 300s off eBay and there it was in the second part “The Collection Obsession,” it seemed as if all was lost, aliens were running roughshod over New York City, Captain America got his ass kicked by an alien named Thane Ector, Sersi was captured by the same guy, the Avengers were all in rough shape, but that’s ok, because last minute help arrived in dramatic fashion in the form of”¦Crystal?!

Crystal of the Inhumans?

I mean, I can understand Lockjaw getting the cliffhanger panel, he’s freakin’ giant dog who can teleport, he rocks”¦but Crystal?

No offense, but if the apocalypse is impending, I’d at least want Karnak on my side, not the elemental chick who”¦well”¦let’s face, whose claim to fame is being a skank.

She was originally the Juliet to The Human Torc’s Romeo, young lovers tragically separated by circumstances beyond their control. It was kind of beautiful, and had Crystal forever remained that sweet girl who was unattainable, she would have had a touching place in the lore of the Fantastic Four.

Then, for reasons hard to understand, she got free of her “circumstances,” she didn’t go running into the waiting arms of Johnny Storm, she decided to pull a complete 180 and fall in love with Quicksilver.

Uh”¦ok.

Besides the fact that the grim and arrogant reformed villain Quicksilver was nothing like the free wheeling and fun loving Human Torch, it was just wrong that Crystal, a character created seemingly solely to be one half of a classic love story, ended up with another guy. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the character was so in demand that Marvel editors were like “damn, the fans need more Crystal but we can’t kill the Torc’s appeal, get me one of them there mutants and marry the girl off!”

But whatever, she’s happily married to Quicksilver, they have kid and alls well”¦right?

Wrong.

Crystal goes and has an affair with some guy in the suburbs during one of the Vision and Scarlet Witch mini-series. Just about all of the “perfect girl who I’ll never have” appeal is gone as not only did she leave Johnny at the first opportunity, but now she got busy with some average joe who was a mortgage broker or something; clearly anybody could have this chick. She was damaged goods and her powers were tame (she’d be honored to be called a second rate Storm).

When for some reason John Byrne (I think) decided to use her again as a temporary member of the Fantastic Four while The Invisible Woman was pregnant, she actually developed a personality to go with her harlot ways, and it was annoying as hell. She was all “oh Johnny, my life is so hard!” one second and then playing hard to get and being all high and mighty about being married and chiding poor Torchie for hitting on her (oh, right, because you’re Ms. Without Sin!). Crystal was that girl in high school who drove you nuts because she got with all the drunken future frat boys but then just wanted to be friends if you actually treated her well (and by “be friends” I of course mean “be a bitch to you unless she needs you for something”).

So after Crystal’s departure from the FF (and who was watching her kid all this time? Quicksilver? Nope, he had gone nuts because Crystal was such a ho and become a villain again. Maybe she left him with a relative, a grandparent? No, that would be noted megalomaniac Magneto. In-laws? Scarlet Witch and Vision were going through a rough time, what with him being taken apart and reprogrammed with no emotions and all. So I guess she abandoned all sense of parental responsibility and left little Luna with Lockjaw or something) she goes back to the Inhumans for about five minutes and then made her “dramatic” aforementioned appearance in Avengers.

I have no idea if Crystal saved the day or not (I’m going to hedge a bet and say no), but she stuck around, bringing her daughter (I guess Inhumans social services finally cracked down) and weird looking nanny. I have no idea where the reader demand was coming from for this or why anybody thought people would buy that Crystal would be the one to make the difference against anybody more powerful than Egghead.

But less than ten issues in, Crystal was already back to doing what she did best: being a gigantic slut. She came on to the friggin’ Vision, who besides being the estranged husband of her sister-in-law also had no emotions (but when it comes to Crystal, I guess any warm body, or in this case cold, metallic body, will do), but that didn’t work out because no entity with a rational analytical mind is going to take a shot on this girl. Luckily for her, her whole pure and innocent routine enraptured the equally promiscuous Black Knight and she ended up as the Betty to Sersi’s Veronica (though having written the last few paragraphs, I’m now in awe of the fact that she was the “good girl”). Somewhere along the way, Bob Harras remembered that the woman was still married and brought a once again reformed Quicksilver into the mix and let Crystal carry on an open affair with BK while Quicksilver, for reasons unfathomable to me, sought to win her back.

It ended with Black Knight and Sersi getting sucked into the Ultraverse and then Crystal and Quicksilver giving it another shot (presumably because their nanny was killed during “The Crossing” and they couldn’t find anybody else to watch Luna) for a few minutes before Crystal went with the rest of the Avengers into the Heroes Reborn universe (where I think they rehashed the romance between her and The Torch). Unfortunately, she came back, and once again tried to make the marriage work, but of course they couldn’t, Crystal didn’t make the cut for the new team of Avengers (thank you for small favors Mr. Busiek) and took her daughter back to the Inhumans hood. Since then she’s only been seen a few times as a babysitter for Reed & Sue Richards’ kids; under Crystal’s sterling influence, I’m sure Luna and Valeria Richards will be the Britney and Christina of the Marvel Universe by age fifteen.

Do you realize I just wrote two and a half pages on Crystal? I honestly never gave more than a passing thought to the character before I sat down to write this, but I now hate her with a fiery passion and will make it my personal crusade to see to it that a future Avengers storyline has her being retroactively reinserted into Hawkeye’s place and dying in that stupid explosion (or if Hawkeye’s not really dead, I dunno, have her die in place of Mockingbird, Thunderstrike, anybody!)
DARKHAWK

I really wish Bendis would put Darkhawk in the New Avengers. I’m not joking, I think the concept he’s pitched, the whole “sitting around telling war stories and getting advice from each other” thing, would be a neat arena for a character like Darkhawk.

Much like Tims Stevens and Sheridan’s favorite, Sleepwalker, Darkhawk is a character that was launched in the 90s with a bad Image name, but had a lot more going for him beneath the surface. He was a kid named Chris Powell who had an alien amulet fall into his hands, giving him great powers, pretty standard, but the neat thing was that when he accessed the powersof the amulet, his consciousness was transferred into the body of an armored alien warrior and his body was put in stasis somewhere. Chris didn’t really know what the deal was with the body he was in (I think he looked pretty unattractive), whether or not some alien was in his own body or where that body was, but he did his best to do the hero thing.

But with an origin like that, it’s natural to feel quite over your head, so it seems to me that Darkhawk would fit in perfectly asking Spidey and Luke Cage for advice for how the heck he’s supposed to cope with all this freakiness and maintain some semblance of a normal life. The fact that he probably wouldn’t want to take off his helmet for fear of his teammates realizing he was not what he seemed”¦maybe he’d pretend like he really was an alien warrior and try to keep the whole “I’m barely old enough to shave” thing a secret. It could be cool.

But Darkhawk’s first Avengers stint was nothing to write home about. He showed up in West Coast Avengers (which makes very little sense given that he’s based in New York City) and got made an honorary member of the team because Marvel was pushing his series. Since that series has long since been cancelled and his other home, New Warriors, is also gone, his sole occupation for the last decade or so has been making cameos every time they have a “a cameo by EVERY Avenger EVER!” issues, and not doing anything; seriously, I don’t think in the Morgaine Le Fay saga, during the Kang war, during Disassembled, Darkhawk has had a single line or made a single offensive maneuver (the most I remember is him being in stocks during the Kang war), I don’t think he even got to give a lame duck reason for why he couldn’t join the team at the start of volume three.

The time is now: bring back Darkhawk.

D-MAN

I’d hardly advocate him for lifetime membership, but Dennis Dunphy is a unique Avenger and one who is deserving of the fun two or three panel spotlights he gets whenever the full membership gathers en masse.

D-Man was a former pro wrestler who got his strength pumped up by one of Captain America’s enemies and was sent after Cap, but the guy had a heart of gold and couldn’t bring himself to do it, so he teamed up with Cap and formed a short lived team.

Short lived, because one mission in, D-Man plunged to his seeming death out of a plane ala Bucky. But not before Cap (then The Captain) found out the Avengers had disbanded (after Dr. Druid betrayed them) and decided to reform the team, making D-Man his first recruit. Unfortunately, that whole aforementioned plane crash happened, so D-Man never served a mission, never got an ID card, and Cap settled for half the Fantastic Four, Thor and Gilgamesh.

BUT WAIT!

The D-Man saga was far from over! For reasons not known to me (because I only picked up that one issue where D-Man blew up in a grab bag somewhere and don’t have any of the next hundred or so issues of Captain America), D-Man ended up living with the Night People, a group of displaced homeless folks living under New York City (not to be confused with the Morlocks, who were filthy mutants). D-Man grew a long beard and became their leader; the kindly goofball at last feeling needed and cared for in this new role.

D-Man made a couple of further appearances in Cap’s title, but his brief turn as a real Avengers during Kurt Busiek & George Perez’ kick off storyline for volume three was his finest hour. In the first issue, nobody wants to sit near him because he smells bad from being homeless and living underground. When the Avengers end up fighting Morgan Le Fay, D-Man is the first (outside of the Cap, Thor, Hawkeye, Wasp, Photon, Quasar, Justice core team) to throw off Morgan’s brainwashing and scores major points by nailing the obnoxious Moondragon in the bald head with a stone. After the crisis is resolved, rather than stay around and try and join the Avengers permanently, D-Man quietly takes his leave, avoiding the press and hopping down into a manhole with groceries provided by Jarvis, whom he thanks; the Avengers faithful butler muses “heroes truly do come in all shapes and sizes.”

Classic.

DR. DRUID

Seeing Dr. Druid in the Avengers is like watching your weird uncle have a mid-life crisis. This was a balding middle-aged psychologist who would put on a red jumpsuit and go chase after women half his age”¦he was just creepy; I could totally picture him salivating with a menacing smile telling his teenage niece to come sit on his lap.

His latter vice, the ladies, would lead to Anthony Druid becoming the most shamed Avenger of all time (and on a team that includes legendary screw ups the likes of Wonder Man, Quicksilver and Hank Pym, that’s really saying something).

Druid was already lusting after power in the form of the chairmanship from the minute the Wasp resigned and the less confident Captain Marvel succeeded her; Druid would offer his “advice” even when Marvel wanted no part of it. Fans already didn’t like Druid for this (and because, again, creepy uncle) so Marvel figured they had nothing to lose.

Kang’s ex-wife Ravonna posing as Thanos’ granddaughter Nebula (or vice versa”¦I’m really not sure) used some psychic powers and the ability to be hot enough to prove attractive to an unmarried middle aged man with no hair to seduce Druid into doing her bidding. After Captain Marvel was forced to leave the team after injuring herself, Druid used his psychic powers to coerce his remaining teammates (Thor, She-Hulk and the Black Knight) into making him the new chairman. He then inducted his underage trophy seductress into the team and she took them on some wacky mission into Limbo. The mission went bad, the Avengers broke free of Nebula/Ravonna/Druid and ditched the unconventional couple in another dimension. Upon returning to this dimension, the Avengers disbanded out of shame for having let Dr. Druid be their chairman (opening the door for Cap to recruit D-Man and Gilgamesh!).

Somehow, Dr. Druid found his way back to our dimension, after Ravonna/Nebula lost all use for him and he realized he couldn’t buy a red convertible to compensate in Limbo. Now sporting a full head of hair and a ponytail (Rogaine), Druid aided Captain America when he got turned into a werewolf and pitched in during the Infinity War in an attempt to redeem his mediocre name. He formed a team called Shock Force to combat supernatural menaces and they made maybe one appearance. After Dr. Strange realized that the Secret Defenders was going to kill his rep, he sought out the only sucker he knew would lead a team going nowhere fast: the Dru-meister. Sure enough, Druid led the team straight into cancellation. After that, Druid was given his own series for some reason (it was the 90s) but it didn’t go long and Marvel decided it was time to put an end to this embarrassment once and for all. They had Druid get incinerated by the zombie villain Nekra with his final words being he whining about what a waste his life had been and how unfair it all was and she basically telling him to stop whining because nobody cared.

That about sums it up.


Ok, that does it for this week, because again, I want to open with a hot button Avengers next time around in The Falcon.

I’ll either be in a pretty crappy mood or a still anxious mood next week, and you’ll know which by tonight.

In the mean time, thanks for reading.