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Nostalgia should be good

by  in Comic News Comment
Nostalgia should be good

I have ranted about nostalgia in comics before, but I’ve also mentioned that nostalgia can be fun.  We’re all nostalgic to some degree or another, but I object when nostalgia becomes the overriding force behind the creative changes in comics.  Infinite Crisis, for instance, suffered from an overwhelming nostalgia for lots of things, and that led to it being a convoluted mess.  Nostalgia led to the Green Lantern retcon, which was apparently even more of a mess than IC.  But nostalgia as a passive force, that is to say, as something that allows us simply to reminisce about fun stuff of the past – there’s nothing wrong with that.  And, let’s face it, some things were better in the past.  That’s not to say we should bring them back, but we can look at them and appreciate what has come before.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I’m going to wallow in it in this post.  Indulge me, people!

I was thinking about footnotes in comics, specifically Marvel ones, and the lack thereof in present-day comics, perhaps because they’re too “geeky” (I don’t know why footnotes are no longer in comics, but that’s as good a reason as any).  I was thinking about them because of Uncanny X-Men #475 and Brubaker’s references to a lot of various books that I didn’t read.  Several people brought up how footnotes could work, but the old way seems the easiest way to me – just do a small box on the page with the referenced issue, and put an asterisk in the text next to that which needs referencing.  It ain’t hard.

Thinking about footnotes got me thinking about the need for footnotes.  I don’t know if Marvel has a much larger or much smaller amount of books than they did, say, fifteen years ago, but it feels like they do.  Joey Q and his cronies can’t seriously believe we’re going to read all of them, can they?  So why not put out something that wraps everything up for the poor readers who like to read only a few of your books but wouldn’t mind knowing what’s going on in the vast Marvel Universe?  Something like a year-end special?  Something, indeed, like this:

Yes, it’s Marvel: 1989 The Year in Review.  I don’t know how many of these Marvel did, but I own four of them.  For $3.95, you could buy not only a satirical look at Marvel comics, but a pretty good review of everything that went on in the past year.  This was really a great publication.  It was packed with long text pieces that read like actual news stories you might find in Time.  We get arn overview of the Atlantis Attacks! story, a brief story about a man making money off Acts of Vengeance merchandise, and, surprisingly enough, a long story about a Superheroes Registration Act before Congress.  Wow - I wonder if Marvel would ever bring that back?  Captain America was against the bill, while Iron Man was for it.  Shocking!  It was implied that Reed Richards was against it.  I wonder if he’s ever reconsidered his views?  There’s an interview with the Wizard, recipes for Mephisto’s devil’s food cake (“garnish with … burning embers, the souls of the evil departed …), Ghost Rider’s crepe suzettes, and Sub-Mariner’s kelp souffle, the best- and worst-dressed of the year (Mary Jane was worst), and classified ads on the last page.  They’re all fun, but my favorite is this one:

Throughout the book there are full-page ads, too:

Yes, I like Latveria.  So sue me!  This is the back cover, by the way:

I have seen this movie, and didn’t think it was the worst movie ever.  Does that make me a bad person? 

The 1990 edition features a Kevin Maguire cover, with Cap looking disturbingly “available”:

And more ads (you know what’s coming!):

It also has a story about who died in 1990 and who came back to life, with a handy list with three categories: “Died this year” (Madame Hydra, Warlock, etc.), “Back from the dead this year” (Thanos, Ghost Rider, Deathlok, Foolkiller, etc.), and “Died and still dead (so far)” (Bucky, the original Baron Zemo, the Swordsman, etc.).  Cable and Gambit inexplicably make the best-dressed list, as does Jim Lee’s Black Widow – yum!  Jubilee is the worst-dressed female for that weird Robin costume she wore for a while.  The best ad is for Ghost Rider’s motorcycle.  We see the bike and the tag line “Some people would sell their soul for a bike like this -” and then we see Ghostie riding the bike, and underneath is written “Some already have!”  In the corner the estimated mileage for both city and highway is infinity, with the warning “Your mileage may vary.” Quality stuff, there.  There’s also a scathing review of Dazzler: The Movie.  Poor Dazzler.  No one loves her.  Except me, of course.

In a shocking move, the X-Men were on the cover of the 1991 book:

Joey Q himself gives us an advertisement for Elektra perfume:

And we also get a fantastic Galactus ad:

They added an “Inquirer” section for the really wacko stories, like the one in which half the people in the universe were killed – yeah, like that really happened – and funny bashing of John Byrne:

There’s a story about Sleepwalker and the new Thor, X-Force’s Feral is worst-dressed (well, of course – Liefeld drew her!), and there’s a review of Nightcat’s album.  Remember Nightcat?  I bet Marvel wishes they could forget her.

I don’t have a 1992 book, but the 1993 one gives us a Sam Kieth cover:

We get the transcript of two applicants for a Marvel superhero job, named Clark and Bruce, interviewing with Tom DeFalco.  It’s very funny.  Bruce says, at one point, “We’re fed up with our old bosses.  We’ve been completely loyal to them, but now they claim we’re old hat.  You know what they’re planning to do to us in order to boost sales?”  Hmmm … 1993.  What could he mean?  DeFalco asks them if they’re mutants, and then the Hulk comes by and throws Bruce into the East River.  DeFalco explains that whenever two Marvel superheroes meet, they have to fight.  “Makes Avengers meetings pretty noisy,” he says.  Bruce spends some time with other vigilantes, where the Punisher says, “[The doctor – Thomas Wayne] was probably grossly overcharging all his patients.  Doctors are scum.  They all deserve to die!“  Solo asks Bruce what kind of firepower he uses, and when he shows them a batarang, Elektra says, “What, a funny-looking boomerang?  Even Daredevil’s got a club, for Pete’s sake!”  When they finally graduate, Clark tells DeFalco it’s not going to work out.  DeFalco says, “Whaddaya talkin’ about, you made it!  You’re gonna be Marvel super heroes!  Killin’, dyin’, comin’ back from the dead, gettin’ your Annual Evil Twins … it’s gonna be great!”

We also get a gestalt on how to create Marvel characters.  As the article puts it, “Each of the 1993 Marvel Annuals has spawned a brand-spanking new character – collectively known as the Superstars of Tomorrow!  And, if these politically-correct paragons are any indication of the level creativity active in the field today, then the comic book world has a lot to look forward to in the coming years.”  We get a few, simple elements of how these heroes were created.  They include “Armor” (“Fans want something more realistic – like armor sturdy enough to withstand any force yet lightweight enough to be worn like a leisure suit and collapsed into a briefcase”), “Mutant” (“The great equalizer, the all-purpose origin”), and the final one, “Zero Imagination” (“Just watch the latest big-budget Hollywood blockbuster or hit TV show.  Then borrow, borrow, borrow!  Or just do more of the same shticks you’ve been doing for months!”)  On the next page they give us some of the heroes created using this template.  Who can forget Annex, Battling Bantam, Blood Wraith, Hit-Maker, Night Terror, and Wildstreak?  Classics all!

We get a fun, one-page adventure with everyone’s favorite pre-Revolutionary France adventurers, Les Quatres Fantastiques, with La Grotesquerie shouting, “C’est le temp pout le grand clobberie!”  We get Comrade Arachnid, with our hero thinking, as he webs his way to the People’s Tractor Factory, “But I must always remember that despite my incredible super powers, I am no better or worse than my comrades, the heroic proletariat!”  There’s an article about Marvel’s Greatest Licensing Mistakes, including “Man-Thing Ooze ‘n a Barrel,” and a parody of those old encyclopedia commercials with the kid shilling the books so you can do well in school:

I don’t know what happened to the Years in Review after that, but I never saw one again.  The point is, these were helpful books because they really did review the year, but they did so with tongue planted firmly in cheek and they weren’t afraid to make fun of everything Marvel.  You can get a great deal of information about what happened during the year in Marvel, even in the books you didn’t read, plus you would laugh.  Today Marvel and DC take themselves a bit too seriously, and with rare exceptions (Slott’s She-Hulk, Ellis’ Nextwave, that Wha-Huh? book, Giffen and DeMatteis when they write Justice League stories), no one points out the utter absurdity of superhero books or makes fun of them.  These magazines weren’t even as evil as you might think – yes, they made fun of the books, but it was always in a spirit of good humor.  Marvel wanted to let us know that they were in on the joke – yes, these books are absurd, but we all love them, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I wonder why Marvel doesn’t do something like this these days.  Their universe is so messed up these days, and it seems like a magazine like this, coming out in January maybe and costing 6 or 7 dollars, would be a nice addition to your collection.  Most of the comics from this period certainly won’t be confused with classics, but they were often fun (intentionally or unintentionally), and it’s interesting to see Marvel joining in on it.  I would love to see both Big Two companies do something like this.  I may be the only one, but I would buy it!

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