Monday, July 11, 2005

THOR #499 Marvel Comics, 1996 (PART ONE)

Brace yourselves.

I'm about to introduce you to Thor #499, which is just breathtakingly bad. Be warned, gentle reader, for if you are not prepared for it, the sheer awfulness of Thor #499 will hit you like an unexpected punch in your bathing suit area. This book is so bad that I cannot adequately cover it all in one post. That's right - this is the first two-part review here at Dave's Long Box. That should tell you something.

Making a book this shoddy, this God-awful, is a team effort. The blame or credit cannot rest on one person's shoulders. In this case, the culprits are writer William Messner-Loebs, artist Mike Deodato, Jr., and editor Bobbie Chase. I'm going to leave the letterer John Babcock out of this. He did what he could do. Before I slam their work any further I'd like to offer my usual cowardly disclaimer and say that Mike Deodato is capable of producing nice work. I am actually a big fan of William Messner-Loebs, who was one of the workhorse writers of the eighties-nineties that seemed to write everything. Loebs had a fantastic run on Wonder Woman, and his comics in general were wry and fresh, often exploring what happens when the mundane meets the fantastic. So, props to Loebs, I wish him well.

However... This issue SUXXIT.

A little background here: Mike Deodato was one of the hottest new artists in the 90's. As the kids say, Deodato "blew up big time" on the aforementioned run on Wonder Woman, and he was suddenly in high demand. He worked on a ton of books and I think he stretched himself too thin, because his work started to look really rushed and slapped together. He even started putting out stuff with art by "Deodato Studios," using other pencillers who aped his style. I'm not saying that he didn't draw this issue, but the thought crossed my mind. Eventually I think Deodato pulled his shit together and now he draws Amazing Spider-Man, and draws it well. But for a while there, it was pretty bad...

Here's the thing: Mike Deodato is Brazilian, and likes to draw his women "Rio style," i.e., in thongs. He speaks Portugese, or maybe Spanish, I don't know. If you're Bobbie Chase, the editor of Thor #499, you have got to know this. Right?

Not so much.

"Making a book this shoddy, this God-awful, is a team effort."

Take a look at the cover. Yikes. Aside from the awful coloring and the freaky-in-a-bad-way dragon thing, look at the purple ass on that woman. She's got a Deodato thong on, but the chaste Norteamericanos at Marvel can't have that filth on a comic book cover. The time-honored solution for such situations is to De-Nudify the cover. If you color a naked ass purple, it's not naked anymore, right? The De-Nudifying happens throughout the entire book, to hilarious effect.

Hey, what's up with that goofy dragon, anyway? It looks like Deodato used a Boris Vallejo calender for photo reference or something. And it sure is big. Call me a cynic, but I think somebody was in a rush and didn't want to draw backgrounds...

Let's move on to the comic itself. (Aren't you glad I'm breaking this up into two parts? Seriously, how much can one guy write about a bad comic book? Quite a bit, I guess.) Here's the story, in a nutshell. Thor is transported to the strange "fictional" Asgard of Wagner's Ring opera, which is populated by twisted, gold-hungry versions of the Asgardian gods we know and love, including an evil Thor. Joining him on his adventure are his father Odin, who is a drunken amnesiac, and three women; NYPD Officer Kim Gaunt, as well as Sylvia and Annie, who both hate each other.

I've identified the three women for easy reference. Take a look:

I forgot to mention that when they get transported to Wagnerian Asgard, our characters are inexplicably dressed in horrible medieval disco clothes. The women's clothing changes subtly throughout the comic, victim of Marvel's De-Nudifying program.

And HOLY SHIT! What is Thor wearing? Is that like, a boob guard held on by a string of pearls? He looks like he just jumped out of a cake at a bachelorette party.

Sylvia rightly points out that, "I look like a Cimmerian hooker." It's true, but is that good writing? It seems sort of out of character for her to make a Conan joke. Not to be a dick, but how many women care enough about Conan to bust out with the Cimmeria joke? I think Bill Loebs just had this funny line that he wanted to throw in, so he just made her say it even though it doesn't make sense, which is always lame.

Okay, moving on. Our party is attacked by dwarves on steroids. Annie is molested by dwarves and screams "Eeeek!" Despite their animosity, Sylvia runs to Annie's assistance, clobbering a dwarf with the battle cry "Taste five years of dance aerobics!" It's supposed to be funny. Work with me here.

The dwarves grab Sylvia and "vanish - like the very air!" I don't know, does air actually ever vanish? In the next panel (below) Annie, the brunette, is bummed because the dwarves allegedly took Sylvia, the blonde.

"Sylvia..." she says. "They took her."

Ummm, I hate to be the one to point this out as opposed to, say, the editor of the frickin' comic book, but Sylvia is right there! In the same panel!!! The dwarves on steroids didn't take her at all!!!


God help me, it gets worse.

Disco Thor leads Kim, Annie, the missing Sylvia, and a drunken Odin across this weird "mirror universe" Asgard. The green caption box is Thor's narration - he's bitching about his drunken dad. Annie feels guilty for hating Sylvia, who saved her from the trolls. If only she could tell Sylvia how she feels... IF ONLY SYLVIA WERE IN THE SAME PANEL AS HER!!!

Gasp in awe:

And man, what is up with the coloring?

Perhaps Wagner visualized Asgard with purple skies and bright orange clouds and the artist is just being faithful. Mike Deodato is credited as "artist" for this book, so I'm assuming he (or Deodato Studios, n'cest pas?) is responsible for the coloring job on Thor #499. It's about as subtle as a velvet blacklight painting. Plus, none of the characters notice the HUGE DRAGON in the sky behind them - possibly because it's obscured by a word balloon.

God, it hurts. It hurts so bad that I must give it "The Pain Award:"

If I have the energy I'll be back for Part Two tommorrow, wherein we discuss the De-Nudifying Effect in greater detail. Until then.


Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, that whole run of Thor wasn't very good. I'm ashamed to admit that I bought a few of them (on average, every other issue), mostly on account of the T&A factor that Deodato brought to the book. I deserved to be parted from my hard earned dollars.

I don't recall reading this book though, which is a shame as it looks to be quite horrible. I'll have to dig out the Thor box tonight and see if it's in there.

Total tangent, but your review of a bad comic makes me think of what I thought was one of the worst comics I had ever read. It was an issue of Wolverine, printed around 2000. I remember Wolverine sitting in a bar with a bit sword, meeting some monk who tells him of a plan to control the minds of New Yorkers through speakers which have been installed all over the city. If anybody recalls which issue that was, I would appreciate it if you could refresh my memory. :)


Anonymous said...

If he's Brazillian, he speaks Portuguese. Of couse, he may speak Spanish as well. Either way, it doesn't seem like he spoke whatever language the script was in. Having a 'kidnapped' character in a every panel is such a mind-blowingly stupid mistake that I am in awe. The editor obviously wasn't editing. Even if you discover that at the last moment and can't re-draw the panels, you paint over her with a background (or a suitable crazy Asgardian plant).

As an aside, you think the Asgardian Congress ever held committee meetings looking into steroid use among dwarves?

Woody! said...

I knew this was a "special" comic when I saw you were devoting more than one part to it.

Anonymous said...

You know, I heard Bobbie Chase wasn't the most popular of editors unless you were Peter David. This issue was a good reason why.

The irony is, Deodato's run kicked off with Warren Ellis' brief run, which was the only non-Simonson Thor worth a damn.

Anonymous said...

Joining him on his adventure are his father Odin, who is a drunken amnesiac, and three women; NYPD Officer Kim Gaunt, as well as Sylvia and Annie, who both hate each other.

Thor is one lucky person.

PS what is it with the 'Thor logo'? (right under the Marvel logo)
Maybe the result of a scan of a foil cover?

PPS Did the relationship between Sylvia and Annie progress later on? Such 'undertones' were more than present in these few panels.

Anonymous said...

Holy shit, I can't believe they even published that.

Wait - yes I can.

Greg said...

I must own this comic. I don't care how much it costs. It can't be more than a quarter, right?

thekelvingreen said...

Okay, it wasn't too bad until we got to the "They took Sylvia" bit. That's just unforgivable. I'd like to say that Nu Marvel don't do that kind of thing, but there have been some utter howlers of late.

I haven't read this issue of Thor, but I do have a set of the Deodato/Warren Ellis issues that immediately precede this issue. And while I respect Mr Coyle's opinion, those didn't make a great deal of sense either. Something about Thor dying of the flu because some old bloke living in the sewers of New York has somehow convinced the world tree Yggdrasil (which, handily, is also in the sewers of New York) that Ragnarok has occurred and so Thor shouldn't exist in a post-Ragnarok world. Or something. Also notable for an early appearance by the Chain Smoking Englishman Archetype Ellis would go on to use in every single comic he'd ever write from that point on, and Thor shagging the Enchantress every three pages for no apparent reason.

And what's with Thor's dialogue from this era? Gone is the cod-Shakesperean stuff, but I'm not so dure I like this "hip" wisecracking version.

thekelvingreen said...

Of course, by "dure", I mean "sure".

Bill Reed said...

I have this comic. I forget how much I paid for it... no more than fifty cents. Anyway, it was so mind-numbingly awful, I never actually finished it. I've only really skimmed the bugger.

Thanks for diving on that grenade for me.

B2 said...

When I saw that first panel in which the hot chicks are debuted, I thought you had plugged in those new captions ("Cimmerian hooker"?!?!). The joke was on me.

That said, any bad comic can be redeemed by three Cimmerian hookers.

Brian Cronin said...

Deodato would let the reader know if it was REALLY him by signing his name Deodato Jr.

If it didn't have the Jr., then it was one of his studio guys (who included Marc Campos, who became the penciller on Extreme Justice).

"Deodato" once drew 8 comics in one month.

As for the logo, Marvel was experimenting with 3-D graphics for the logos.

That is why it is not showing up well.

Anonymous said...

I had one of those Ellis/Deodato issues (wasn't the story called "Worldengine" or something like that?) at one point in my life. IIRC, it was during or shortly after Ellis's great EXCALIBUR run, which is probably why I picked it up. I hated it. Don't really remember why, I just remember it giving me such a bad impression of Deodato's art that even to this day I refuse to pick up anything he works on. Strangely, I don't have that attitude toward Ellis, so my hate was probably squarely on the art. It was like a totally incompatible cross between the Image-era Marc Silverstri and Barry Windsor-Smith. Really, it hurt my eyes. Maybe it was one of those Deodato Studios things, or maybe it was a horrible ink job. I should check out ASM and see if he's gotten any better.

Also, IIRC, Ellis's arc came at the same time as The Crossing, didn't it? Weird how whenever the Avengers fall apart, Marvel decides to do a Ragnarok in the THOR title. Come to think of it, wasn't Simonson's Surtur Saga at the same time as Stern's Under Siege Avengers arc?

BTW, what the hell happened to Thor's costume during this time? In addition to the boob guard, he seems to have forgotten the "shirt" concept (ODIN: Where's thouest shirt, my son? THOR: Bite me, geezer. ODIN: Loki wouldst wear a shirt! And he wouldst have mead!). And is that a chastity belt? Also, where's Mjolnir? Waitaminnit, is this even Thor, or does issue #500 reveal him to be the Gay Fabio?

Anonymous said...

"Also, IIRC, Ellis's arc came at the same time as The Crossing, didn't it?"

I believe so, and a good chunk of The Crossing was drawn by Deodato and his studio. Unfortunately, a good chunk of it was also written by Terry Kavanagh. Avengers: The Crossing is one of the worst comics in the history of bad Marvel comics.

"Weird how whenever the Avengers fall apart, Marvel decides to do a Ragnarok in the THOR title. Come to think of it, wasn't Simonson's Surtur Saga at the same time as Stern's Under Siege Avengers arc?"

The Surtur saga was initially resolved about 18 months before the Under Siege arc; Thor was busy in the "Mutant Massacre" X-Men arc, where he returned to NY and found Angel crucified in the sewers, during "Under Seige".

thekelvingreen said...

Yeah, the Ellis/Deodato thing was "Worldengine".

Jeff R. said...

I'll bet dollars to donuts that the original line was "Taste five years of jazzercise", which, while not Shakespeare, at least sounds like something somebody would actually say, and then editorial made them change it into the horrifying form that wound up in print.

thekelvingreen said...

"Jazzercise" does sound a bit dirty.

Anonymous said...

I may be wrong... but I'm assuming the purple sky and orange clouds are the effects of the sun setting? If not... then maybe it was due to that giant flying dragon's gas problems.

Anonymous said...

really funny. and hey, we speak PORTUGUESE down here in brazil.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the Cimmerian era a part of Marvel's history? They published Conan comics for a long period and treated it as occurring in the distant past of the MU. Various items and characters from Conan comics have popped up in the present day (eg the Serpent Crown, Kulan Gath) and the spirit of Red Sonja once possessed Mary Jane Watson.

So the line about "Cimmerian hookers" is, from Sylvia's perspective, not a pop culture reference but a historical one.

It's still a dumb line.


Anonymous said...

Good god that comic looks horrible. Fortunately for me, I'd given up on THOR before then. And that cover reminds me of "Dragon Fire" by Boris Vallejo. I put the two side-by-side, and it is reminiscent of it, but if that was Deodato's inspiration (and I'm not saying it had to be), at least he didn't completely rip Boris off.

dave said...
Total tangent, but your review of a bad comic makes me think of what I thought was one of the worst comics I had ever read. It was an issue of Wolverine, printed around 2000. I remember Wolverine sitting in a bar with a bit sword, meeting some monk who tells him of a plan to control the minds of New Yorkers through speakers which have been installed all over the city. If anybody recalls which issue that was, I would appreciate it if you could refresh my memory. :)

I'm way late to the game here, but that would be WOLVERINE 177-178 (AUG-SEP '02). Just bloody awful.

Anonymous said...

Thor's costume here is like a cross between the 'New Adventures of He-Man' He-Man & retcontastic JLA member Triumph.

Battery Licker said...

i'm crying i'm crying! for the love of god make it stop!


John said...

The website has this issue online! They also have the whole Ellis/Deodato run available.

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