The Watchtower


Now I’m not saying that me and my seven year old neighbor should definitely star in a big or small screen version of Teen Titans, but”¦


So there has of course been much furor over the past week about the Presidential election and I’m sure many of you have been glued to your computer screens waiting for this edition of The Watchtower to come out in order to know how your role model voted and felt about things.

First off, I voted “Yes” on Question 1 for the Newton district of Massachusetts; tough call, tough issue (whatever it was), but I went with my gut and did what I felt I needed to do.

As far as the Presidential election, yes, I voted Kerry, but I was not exactly distraught when it became obvious that just wasn’t going to happen.

Did I want Bush out? Oh heavens yes; the man terrifies me and having spent an eighth of his term thus far abroad in Europe, I have experienced first hand the ridicule he has earned us in the eyes of the rest of the world. If nothing else (and there was much else), I wanted Bush out so we could hold our heads at least mid-level in the rest of the world again. As a recent college graduate and somebody who aced two intro level Econ classes last year, I also hoped to see Dubya dumped because it would help my chances as far as the national economy.

But, on the flip-flop side, John Kerry is no saint. Having lived in Massachusetts most of my life and having a father who works closely with all our elected officials, I’ve gotten to know John Forbes pretty well over the years (even met him a couple times) and while I do think he had some good ideas, I’m not sure how confident I was in his conviction to execute them or his overall persona. He came off very well during the debates, but that has more to do with his debating background than anything else.

Yeah, I think Kerry would have been a better choice for America, but at the end of the day it would have been simply the lesser of two evils; I wouldn’t have been doing cartwheels regardless of who won. As a country right now, we want a guy who can “make it all better” like JFK, Reagan or even Clinton, and neither of these guys were going to be that guy; maybe in four years (when I’ll most likely vote Republican).

If nothing else, four more years of good material on The Daily Show.

But while that’s all I have to say about it, here’s senior political analyst Jordan Geary with more:

I gotta say, its been a week and I don’t really feel any different having Bush be the President than I would had Kerry won. Some kid blew his brains out on the site of the World Trade Centers recently to protest the Bush election victory. What an idiot. Obviously Bush was thinking to himself, “Man, this is a great job, and I am such a heartless dictator. If only some little kid killed himself, THEN I would see my faults and resign!” I can t believe we share our planet with these freaks. In this guy’s mind, he figured he was going to make some big statement. Sorry, kid, your deat’s biggest news coverage is me.

The only thing I would really say has been bugging me since Bush has been re-elected is that his MOST annoying trait is still active. No, it s not his inability to speak publicly (That’s great!). No, it s not his squinty eyes (I actually like that Clint Eastwood look). It’s the fact that the one word that he has been forced to say more than any other these past four years HE IS STILL UNABLE TO PRONOUNCE CORRECTLY! I don’t give a crap about accents or Texas roots. If you gotta say one word enough times, you annunciate the hell out of that bad boy. What is the name of this phantom word? Terror. My LORD why can’t he say it correctly?! I never thought I would say this, but it is worse than those people who say car-mel instead of car-a-mel ! He says, Terr. He can t make it a two-f in-syllable endeavor:

My fellow citizens, we gotta stop the Terr.
This axis of evil is obsessed with Terr.
We will fight and catch these Terr-ists .

I hope for your sake we don’t fight the “Terr-ists”, Dubya, cuz the way you say it, it sounds like we gotta fight and catch Tourists.

Actually, I wonder if I could use that as an excuse to kill a French guy.

Thank you, Mr. Geary”¦as always, Jordan’s opinions in no way reflect my own, but the guy makes me laugh.

Oh, and given the subject of this column for the past several weeks, you are probably all wondering what I thought of the wrap up to Avengers Disassembled. Head on over to the message boards and my take is on page 8 of this thread with many other people’s opinions preceding and following it.

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


I know enough about the history and continuity of Marvel comics to know that Hellcat’s brief Avengers stint predated Kitty Pryde joining the X-Men by a couple years, but if I didn’t know better, I’d have to point to the former as a fairly poor attempt to replicate the success of the latter. Following the boost Uncanny X-Men got from young Kitty, the spunky teen girl joining the team became a lot like floundering sitcoms adding a cute kid to try and reinvigorate itself.

Hellcat didn’t work as an Avenger because unlike the X-Men, the Teen Titans or the Fantastic Four, the Avengers aren’t a “family,” they’re a group of professionals (this is the same reason Gypsy isn’t one of the staples of the equally professional Justice League) and any successful business knows you don’t get ahead by hiring a squeaky clean and perky young girl to serve as one of your Vice Presidents.

But far more interesting than Hellcat’s short and undistinguished Avengers stint is the history of Patsy Walker, the girl behind the mask, which literally spreads across just about every corner of the Marvel Universe and spans the Golden Age to today. Considering the humble beginnings of the character, it’s mind boggling and kind of amusing and even cool to look at some of the situations she ended up in.

Patsy Walker actually made her Marvel debut in a 1950s romance comic named after her that followed her Archie-esque exploits in a small town getting into innocent and wacky adventures as a teenage model.

Romance comics didn’t have much of a shelf life at Marvel after the super hero revival of the 1960s (except of course for Mark Millar & Terry Dodson’s seminal 2003 work, Trouble), so Patsy, along with a veritable universe of stars with names I don’t know went the way of bell bottoms and the New Universe.

Flash forward to the 70s and the Avengers need”¦want a new young female member to fill the void left by”¦um”¦The Scarlet Witch”¦so in a bizarre turn of events, writer Steve Englehart (I’m pretty sure he was the writer at the time, if I’m wrong I apologize) turned to the vast pool of available Marvel characters and decided that Patsy Walker was going to be his new heroine. Patsy was reintroduced as a twenty something who had married young to Brand Corporation scientist Buzz Baxter (who went nuts, became a super villain and died). She befriended The Beast while his alter ego Hank McCoy was working at Brand and ended up inheriting the old costume of The Cat (Greer Nelson, later Tigra) and went from former model to super hero.

Now, if you’re thinking that I’m mocking Englehart for choosing Patsy Walker over hundreds of other potential characters, you’d be wrong; I think it was a gutsy and creative choice that opened the door for some neat stories. I don’t think Avengers was the place for Hellcat/Patsy, but she went on to be a fixture in the Defenders, which was far more of an appropriate “family” atmosphere, so I applaud her handlers.

But after a good long run with the Defenders as a mainstay of the team, that’s where things started to get freaky. It was probably weird enough for the one or two fans of the old school Patsy Walker who read Avengers to find her a young married woman, but her romantic life over the next few years was about to go straight to (resist”¦resist”¦resist”¦CAN’T!) to hell.

While in the Defenders, Ms. “American as Apple Pie” Patsy Walker fell head over heels with her teammate, Daimon Hellstrom aka The Son of Satan.

I know what you’re thinking, “oh, that’s so cute, they both have allusions to eternal damnation in their codenames”¦” ok, maybe, except for the fact that Son of Satan was no codename, brotha was in fact the son of the devil himself (just like Nightcrawler)!

If there was ever an odder couple than a bubbly staple of Marvel’s romance comics and the moody, dark heir to the f’n throne of Hell, I encourage you to e-mail them to me.

Neither Patsy or Daimon were heard from for most of the 80s (presumably they were enjoying marital bliss”¦in hell”¦I’m begging Marvel to put out a mini-series of the family holidays of the Hellstrom marriage, with the Walkers meeting Satan for the first time and playing bridge and stuff”¦this is South Park level comedy I’m offering up folks), but in the 90s, when Marvel was handing out ongoing series like Tim Stevens hands out candy to little kids he doesn’t know, Hellstrom got one and he and Patsy were back in the spotlight.

Unfortunately for Patsy, Daimon didn’t turn out to be the best husband, being inherently evil and all, and in a move about as far from the rosy pages of the original Patsy Walker comic as you can get, Patsy became maniacally depressed and after being committed to a mental institution, committed suicide with the help of the cosmic entity Deathurge.


Hellstrom went on to kill his old man and inherit his pad and a few years later, manipulated Hawkeye into leading the Thunderbolts into Mephisto’s realm to rescue a soul they thought was Mockingbird’s, but was actually Patsy’s.

Patsy wanted nothing to do with Daimon anymore and decided to return to her small town roots and get back to the business of being an American Sweetheart. In a feat I find both incredible impressive and simultaneously terrifying, Kurt Busiek brought back every single obscure character from Patsy’s 1950s series and wrote an Avengers Annual revolving around Hellcat and some Avengers liberating her town from a bunch of demons. What followed was a mini-series by Englehart trying to reinvent Patsy once more as a supernatural hero, but it didn’t take and she was last seen back with the Defenders in their short-lived revival.


Many have called him “a poor man’s Thor,” or “Thor #2,” or “the strong mythological guy who’s on the team when Thor isn’t,” but aside from being the JV Avengers, demigod, Hercules is also one of my favorite all time members and if I could only have one strong man on my dream team, it would most likely be him over the Norse dude, Wonder Man, Namor, et al.

Herc has been described as the “frat boy quarterback” of the spandex set and this entirely accurate summation of his character is exactly what makes him so endearing. Moreso, it’s the zany juxtaposition of a guy who speaks like he’s straight out of Camelot but then goes and gets hammered with a bunch of construction workers and complains about a chick (The Wasp) being the team leader when he has not a working brain cell but lots of muscles that makes Hercules awesome. How can you not love a guy like that?

I guess Thor also has the whole “I talk like a sissy but I’m all man, baby” thing going on, but at the end of the day, he’s still got those prissy blond locks and would rather go wax melancholy in Asgard than hoist back the brews; Hercules is a man’s man who doesn’t have time for preening and posturing.

I also have great affinity for superheroes that truly enjoy their “jobs” and there are few who have as much fun doing what they do as Hercules. While Captain America is getting all grim and gritty trying to figure out how to win, Wonder Man and Justice are having stage fright and Wasp is picking out her costume, Hercules has this big broad grin on his face like a kid who just opened his Christmas present (though Hercules is an Olympian and thus almost certainly did not celebrate Christmas, I am no unable to shake from my mind young Herc, already with full manly beard at age seven, opening his present from Zeus and finding eighty five deadly armed thugs for him to fight and being happy as a Greek clam).

Hercules also always makes for a fun team dynamic regardless of who his teammates are. No matter what women are on the team, you can guarantee Hercules will hit on them, but not in that Hawkeye or Black Knight suave “hey baby, what’s your sign”¦wanna see arrow/sword?” kinda way, I mean Herc is more of the knock ‘em out, laugh heartily and drag them by the hair caveman style to his quarters type guy.

He’s also good with his male teammates as he views the Avengers as a sort of high school sports team on which he is the big man on campus. He defers to Captain America like everybody and their Aunt May, but when it comes to another opinionated strong guy like Namor or Thor, Herc will needle and bait them until the throwdown is on, but still goes out for beers so they can recount their bruises at the end of the day. If he’s on the same roster as a shrimp like Black Knight or Quasar, he’ll thrust them into the “little buddy” role and take them out for beers at the end of the day. The lesson here: all days with Hercules end with beer!

Aside from all this, Herc also has one of the most underrated battle cries in the Marvel U with “Receive the gift!” and he is the only demigod I know who had the cajones to say “Forsooth, that Gambit fellow doth get many ladies with his unshaven stubble, I shall follow suit!”

Hercules is the man’s man Avenger; I’m raising my glass to you, big guy.


Writing an entry on the Hulk in the context of this column is a pretty tough proposition. The problem is that he has a long and storied history but was only with the Avengers for the first two issues of the book and thus said history has little to do with the team, and I’d rather not waste such a large chunk of column talking about him as a result.

Instead, I’ll talk about why The Hulk would never work as a long term Avenger whether he’s dumb or intelligent: he’s too damn powerful.

The Hulk’s specialty is going berserk, and when he does, it generally takes the entire Marvel Universe to have even a prayer of reining him in. He used to single-handedly give the original Avengers lineup grief on a semi-regular basis in the early days; if Thor, Iron Man and Giant Man (not to mention The Wasp and later Captain America) can’t contain him, what hope would losers like The Melter, The Radioactive Man and other johnny-come-losers the original Avengers faced have had?

Even against tougher foes like Ultron and Count Nefaria, the battles would have been a lot more one sided and a lot more boring with The Hulk on the team.

Over in DC back in the Silver Age when Superman was nigh unstoppable, writers of both his solo titles and especially Justice League of America would constantly have to use the deus ex machina of everybody having Kryptonite and/or wielding magic so that Supes wouldn’t outclass the rest of the team on every mission by doing it all by himself. This would have happened with The Hulk in Avengers as well, as you know every writer would have resorted to the “he’s pissed off and sides with the enemy before coming back and saving the day in the end” card time and time again, which would have been cool for one or two issues.

Yes, I know that The Hulk was technically a member of a team in The Pantheon, but that was in his own book and they were all supporting players; it was “Hulk & His Amazing Friends,” which is exactly what Avengers would have been had Hulk stuck around.

Yes, I know he was a Defender, on a lineup that also included Dr. Strange and The Silver Surfer, two other guys way too powerful to be on a team”¦come to think of it, how the heck did that series ever work? I mean, I know it didn’t have incredible staying power, but it went over a hundred issues in its first run; how did they pull that off when any one of those three should be able to handle most foes let alone the three working in tandem. Any old school Defenders fans e-mail and let me know how it was possible.

Regardless: Hulk as Avenger=bad idea.


Tony Stark completes the trinity of “reader accessible/relatable Avengers” along with Captain America and Hawkeye.

“WHAT?! How can Millionaire playboy Tony Stark possibly be a character readers can relate to?!”

Simple: Cap is the guy we would all be if we had sterling morals, Hawkeye is the guy we would all be just generally and Shellhead is the guy we would all be if we were blessed with absurd amounts of money.

Everybody argues Spider-Man as the great example of Marvel’s flawed and realistic heroes of the Silver Age, but I’d point to Iron Man as a character on the same level if not greater in that sense.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate rich people, for the most part they’re swell (some suck, but you can say that about any group), but the fact remains that people born with a silver spoon in their mouth are more prone to be a) cocky, b) control freaks and c) prone to fits of extravagant and reckless behavior.

In comics we have too many pure hearted and altruistic rich folks. Again, some wealthy people are very invested in charities and in making the world a better place, but few don’t also take the time to enjoy the spoils of their fortune.

Comic books’ other preeminent rich dude, Bruce Wayne aka Batman only sees his wealth as a means to an end: aiding his war on crime.


Tony Stark on the other hand is da bomb; he makes being a billionaire seem dangerous, stressful and FUN!

Listen, Tony is a good guy, he puts on his Iron Man armor one leg at a time and goes out and risks his neck to save the world daily. Sure it took a piece of shrapnel embedded in his chest to spur him into initial action, but since then he’s more or less (depending on whether or not you count “The Crossing”) been a tried and true hero with his heart in the right place (oh snap! What a metaphor!).

But when Tony’s off duty, he uses his immense wealth to kick back and have a good time, often getting himself in big time trouble in the process. Everybody knows how Tony’s stressful day job (running Stark Enterprises, not being Iron Man) combined with a taste for the finer things led him to the bottle (and made for many high quality stories”¦as well as many jokes by Wizard and many not so good stories once the idea had been done to death). My favorite drunk Tony scene was in the early 200s of the first volume of Avengers when Cap, Thor and Wasp come to one of his townhouses to ask why he’s quit the Avengers and he just stumbles around in a drunken stupor until Jim Rhodes, who is filling in as Iron Man but doesn’t know that these folks know Tony’s secret ID, flies in and everybody wearing a costume has an awkward moment of silence until Tony collapses to the floor laughing.

Tony also loves the ladies; Bruce Wayne feigns loving the ladies, but it’s all to make his secret identity seem more plausible, and when night falls he’s more comfortable with boys in tights. Not Iron Man, he’s had more ass than J.Lo. Another classic Avengers moment came from around the same period as the last one I described, when Tony suddenly noticed (after years of working with her”¦millionaire playboys are not noted for their powers of deduction) that The Wasp was hot and, with her hubby Hank Pym in jail, she was suddenly available. Wasp/Jan didn’t yet know about Tony/Iron Man’s secret identity, so he was able to woo her as Stark as if he were an old friend without her being any the wiser. Cap (who did know Tony’s secret) gave his old friend a lecture in morality only to be blown off by the playboy. Thor (also cognizant of the Iron Man/Tony connection) was far more subtle, guilt tripping Tony by saying something like “well, if you think it’s right, I’m sure it must be”¦” Tony eventually relented that he was doing something immoral (though not before tapping that pint sized keister) and revealed his identity to Jan, leaving her in tears at the deception. So in the end, Tony does the right thing”¦but guilt doesn’t stop him from having a new nameless young beauty on his arm by the end of the issue.

C’mon, you know it’s wrong, but how cool is that?

Tony is also ridiculously self-assured of his own decision making ability and will often make spur of the moment calls that affect all of his fellow Avengers without taking any time to consult them; he can be a manipulative son of a gun as well. Both of these were on display when he conned the Avengers West Coast into thinking he was vouching for them in the meeting with the East Coast branch to decide the fate of their team, then swerved them all by voting to disband the team in order to free them up for his own team. Of course that team ended up being Force Works, so Cap was probably thinking “put that in your pipe and smoke it, Stark” a few months later, but it was still ballsy as hell.

Iron Man is the ultimate guilty pleasure character: you know you’d love to live his life, being more or less a prick and still being a hero, but financial and moral realities prevent you from doing so.

He’s the complete counter to Captain America (with Hawkeye being the half way point), which is why the two are best friends and why both are essential to any good Avengers lineup.

Ok, I only got to four this week, but I’m feeling good about the four I did and I think I want to go quality over quantity rather than attempt to bulldoze my way through one more (who, for the record, would be Invisible Woman, and I’ve got some thoughts on her but want to formulate them a bit more before I put fingers to keyboard).

I’ve gotten mostly positive feedback on this feature, but I’d like more feedback from regular readers, positive or negative, if only because this gimmick stands to run quite a few more columns (though I expect I’ll do the prerequisite end of year columns next month whether I’m finished with this or not) and I want to know if people are turning away left and right at its awfulness; let me know via e-mail or on the message board.

As it stands, next week will feature the aforementioned Invisible Woman as well as Jack of Hearts, Justice, my exhaustive search for any Avenger whose name begins with a K, and much much (well, not too much) more.

In the mean time, thanks for reading.