Friday, August 12, 2005
MARVEL PREMIERE featuring 3-D MAN #36 Marvel Comics, 1977
At what point in time, ever, has 3-D Man been cool? Has there ever been an appearance of the character in print that just made people say, "Damn -- 3-D Man! I get it now!" Has there ever been a definitive 3-D Man appearance? A 3-D Man: Year One?
If there is a definitive appearance, a high-water mark for 3-D Man, perhaps it is Marvel Premiere #36, by Roy Thomas, penciller Jim craig, and inker Dave Hunt. This issue is the second of a three-part series introducing 3-D Man, a retro character that fought crime and aliens in the Fabulous Fifties. He seems like on of those corny old superheroes that were created in the 1950s, but in reality he's one of those corny old superheroes that were created in the 1970s. Roy Thomas always had an urge to inflict his pulp nostalgia on the youth of America, and 3-D Man is a classic example. I'm not sure if the youth of America in the summer of '77 were really yearning for an old-fashioned (aka ridiculous) hero who fights crime in an era before they were born. I know I wasn't.
What were 3-D Man's powers? Did he have the uncanny ability to appear three-dimensional??? Wait - never mind, everyone has that power. Actually 3-D Man was three times as strong and fast as a top athlete, allowing him to perform incredible feats, like shooting a stream of urine fifty meters. Well, they never actually show him pissing fifty meters, but I'll bet he could.
3-D Man also had a snappy red and green "3-D" outfit that was sort of a color version of Frank Gorshin's outfit in the classic Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." He also wears 3-D glasses, appropriately. Due to his strange dimensional powers or a printing error, the color yellow often crept into 3-D Man's red and green outfit, as seen in this panel below:
"Come on Scrapper! Take him from behind!"
"That's my specialty, boss-man!"
In this issue we get a recap of 3-D Man's literally unbelievable origin. Test pilot Chuck Chandler gets kidnapped by the shapeshifting alien Skrull while flying an experimental rocket. He escapes, but gets hit with strange radiation and crashes the rocket in the Mojave Desert, conveniently close to his nerdy brother Hal Chandler. Most radiation gives you terrible sickness, but this particular type of radiation traps Chuck in Hal's glasses. In times of great need, Hal can summon forth his brother 3-D Man - from his glasses.
Okay, that is just fucking stupid.
In addition to the fascinating origin story, this issue's plot focuses on 50's rock star Vince Rivers, who is actually a shapeshifting Skrull alien who plans on using his music to make people riot and tear shit up, sort of like Limp Bizkit at Woodstock II.
Here's a panel that introduces readers to Vince Rivers and Hal Chandler's reactionary father, who apparently has a poor grasp of metaphor:
Hal thinks there's something awry with Vince Rivers, and it's not the "rocket in his pocket," so he decides to check out the show. Here's a backstage exchange loaded with vernacular dialogue between Vince Rivers and his promoter, the disc jockey Doc Rock. A cop interjects, asking Vince to "hold down the swivel hips."
Vince rocks the house and swivels his hips and the kids go WILD! They start rioting and trashing the place and using coarse language. 3-D Man intervenes, smashing Vince's alien amplifier, the source of his riot-inducing powers, and saving the day. He will then go on to become a comic legend universally beloved by fans.
There you have it. 3-D Man. If it had actually been created in 1958, it would get a pass from me and I'd find the character charming and quaint. But since he actually was created in 1977, he's just stupid. I know, my bias is not really logical or fair, but I am Dave, I embrace the contradictions within me.
What can I say? I'm an ass.