Friday, October 21, 2005

CLANDESTINE #8 Marvel Comics, 1995

ClanDestine was a short-lived Marvel comic created by writer/artist/ninja master Alan Davis about a family of immortals with incredible powers who are the descendents of an indestructible knight and a genie.

The Destine family live in secret, guided by the “Relative Stranger Protocol” that demands they keep their powers on the down-low – which tidily explains why the regular Marvel super heroes have never interacted with them. In the series, strange assailants begin attacking the Clan, forcing them to band together with their progenitor, Adam Destine, who just returned from a self-imposed exile in outer space. There’s a great sequence in one of the books where The Silver Surfer finds Adam Destine drifting through space in a hippy VW bus, sitting behind the wheel staring blankly into the void. I loved that scene.

Anyway, it’s a pity that Alan’s creation didn’t endure – because it was a bright spot of creativity in Marvel’s publishing line-up at the time. It lasted for twelve issues, and then there was two-part X-Men/ClanDestine crossover, one last desperate attempt to kindle interest in the reading public. Alas, ClanDestine retired to four-color limbo, to make way for a Bishop mini-series or some shit. But hey, if kids want to read about Bishop and his hair extensions instead of this work of art, who am I to say that’s wrong?

Stupid fucking kids ruining comics for everybody…

In case I haven’t mentioned this previously, I am a huge Alan Davis fan. He’s a frickin’ master, particularly when paired with inker Mark Farmer, as he is in this issue. Everything about his work is quality – panel layout, page design, the sure-handed mix of words and pictures, the precise line-work – quality, I tell you. Alan Davis rarely missteps, and ClanDestine #8 is no exception.

"...if kids want to read about Bishop and his hair extensions instead of this work of art, who am I to say that’s wrong?"

In this issue, patriarch Adam Destine and his kids Dominic and Walter reminisce about heroic deeds in times past. It’s basically three short stories held together by a somewhat thin framing sequence, but the stories are well-crafted and fun. That’s right – fun.

In the first story, Dominic recalls a strange adventure in the 60’s when he performed as a magician/escape artist. Dominic is this exotic immortal whose senses are so hyper-developed that it’s often painful to him. Isn’t there an issue where he gets all drunk/high after eating a piece of chocolate? Dominic is an excellent character with a unique design – he sort of reminds me of Nightcrawler, The Creeper, and Ziggy Stardust.

Here's Dominic performing as “Hex” in swingin’ sixties New York:

A mysterious puzzle box that opens and unfolds if handled a certain way? Is it ever a good idea to screw with one of those?

Dude! Dominic! Put the box down! Haven’t you seen Hellraiser?

That was the only Hellraiser picture I had handy. Hey, what can I say? Pinhead and I hooked up one night during the 2000 ComiCon in San Diego. Let me tell you though, Pinhead + ether + IcyHot = one crazy evening. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a Cenobite in the depths of an ether binge.

Moving on: Dominic gets sucked into trippy Ditkoland, a psychedelic landscape that should be familiar to Dr. Strange readers. To make things worse, a bunch of Mindless Ones chase after him.

Run Dominic, run!

Appropriately, Dr. Strange shows up to bail Dominic’s ass out with his Crimson Bands of Cytorrak. Alan Davis draws an elegant Dr. Strange, complete with the patented spotty gloves. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not Dr. Strange if there are no spotty gloves. Behold:

That’s my favorite story of the three because, dude, it’s Alan Davis drawing Dr. Strange. What could be better?

How about… Alan Davis drawing giant Nazi robots?

The panels above are from the second of the three stories. Walter Destine tells a tale set in WWII, when he had a front-row seat for a big battle: The Invaders (Captain America, Namor & The Human Torch) versus a giant Nazi robot. During the battle the robot manages to take out The Invaders, and Walter has to transform into his big blue hulk form and kick some Nazi robot ass.

Nothing wrong with that. The third story is the least interesting, but it’s still well-done. Adam Destine recalls a time during the middle ages when he encountered some mean aliens scouting on Earth in preparation for an invasion. The aliens try to kill Adam, but don’t have a lot of luck:

Adam manages to defeat the aliens, who, thinking that the indestructible Adam is a normal example of the dominant species on Earth, call off their invasion plans. Hah! Stupid aliens.

Well, there you go. A nice, self-contained little bit of comic book goodness. It’s a pity that ClanDestine was cancelled. Thanks, everybody that read Bishop or whatever instead of this!


Hate Filled Poster said...

I picked this series up for cheap on e-bay about a year ago and loved every issue.

Anonymous said...

I think this blog should be titled "This guy read all the same books you did and thought you were the only"

ClanDestine is awesome. Er, Airwolf. People who are interested may have some more luck finding ClanDestine vs. X-Men, which is a good intro to the characters AND has Alan Davis X-Men in it.

I'm surprised no one ever wanted to develop this propery further. It's kind of....British in that peculiar way that is hard to describe.

thekelvingreen said...

You're lying Dave, this can't be a 90's Marvel comic, because it's actually good, and the art doesn't copy Jim Lee!

I feel bad for Alan Davis. A mega talent, and utterly underappreciated. Everything he touches seems to get cancelled, so I worry for his upcoming Fantastic Four: The End.

Why they don't pay him a huge chunk of money to take over Avengers so Finch will stop stinking it up, I don't know.

And Clan Destine was one of the Marvel UK titles I completely missed and which apparently is one of the highlights of Marvel's 90's output. Must try to track it down.

Anonymous said...

The first few issues plus the X-Men crossover were collected; I think they called the tpb "Clandestine vs. X-Men" in an attempt to drum up sales.

I've been a fan of Davis since I bought Excalibur #42. ClanDestine was one of the most entertaining super-hero comics of the '90s (I know, that's like being the world's tallest midget). If you happen by issues 9 on, they were not done by Davis, and must be avoided at all cost.

#8 was my favorite issue of the series as well. Alan Davis is so good, he _almost_ made the most recent Claremont X-book readable. Almost.

phrank of dixieland said...

You enjoyed a comic from the mid-90's? What's the world coming to?

I was a young teen in the mid-90s, so I thought that was how comics were. Looking back, I wonder how I ever stayed with comic books when I was reading that garbage.

And did I catch a "The Creeper" reference in there? Is that in regard to Morrowind or is my mind fogged in anticipation of the new game?

David Campbell said...

That's right, I forgot! The last issues of ClanDestine didn't have Alan Davis art and sucked.

BTW, The Creeper I was referring to is the colorful DC character - I believe he was a Ditko creation. He had the same flamboyant yet weird superhero Mardi Gras vibe that Dominic has.

Mark W. Hale said...

Clandestine is one of my favorite sereis from the 1990s and I consider it a gem in my collection, along with the Alan Davis issues of Excalibur. That shit probably saved my comics-reading life as a teenager during that dark, dark time.

Peter said...

Alan Davis rocks the house. His Scarecrow and Catwoman back when he drew BATMAN were awesome. His visual storytelling skills in EXCALIBUR were unparallelled. His all too short arc on Busiek's Avengers looked amazing. When he was the Legion cover artist, they rarely looked cooler. I can't say enough nice things about Alan Davis. Thanks to Alan for continuing to grace us with his work--but I really hope he'll get an ongoing title I'm interested in reading.

How about Dan Slott and Alan Davis on Amazing Spider-Man? That'd make me buy it again without even thinking.

Anonymous said...

I know I shouldn't say this, but I'm not crazy about Alan Davis's work. I think it's okay, and I recognize the level of crafstmanship, but I'm generally not impressed. I don't think he's a hack by any means. I just don't think he's great.

Everything he draws seems too round and soft and smooth. He doesn't spot blacks strongly enough for my liking. His characters often don't seem forceful or powerful or heroic enough. And the general texture of his work seems to lack grit.

I'm sorry. I know this comment will probably draw scorn and ridicule. And if I were a wiser man, I would leave it as an anonymous message.

In my defense, this is not an attempt to troll the good comic book fans who enjoy this website. I'm not some fawning Jim Lee fanboy out to whip people into a frenzy. But my favorite artists (Mignola, Nowlan, Hester, Toth, Fegredo, Hamner, Steelfreeze) all move me with their dynamic design sense, their brilliant use of negative space, and their command of dramatic contrast. In comparison, Alan Davis leaves me cold.

I know. I suck.

A stupid dissenting opinion in the wilderness,

David Campbell said...

Roel, you are a communist.


Sort of.

Anonymous said...

"Well, there you go. A nice, self-contained little bit of comic book goodness. It’s a pity that ClanDestine was cancelled. Thanks, everybody that read Bishop or whatever instead of this!"

And right there you have the story of the '90s in mainstream comics.

Aztek? cancelled.

Skrull Kill Krew? cancelled.

Untold Tales of Spider-Man? Cancelled.

SR Bissette's Tyrant? cancelled.

And on and on. Fuckin' 90s.

thekelvingreen said...

Yeah, Davis on Spidey might work. He'd be better Ultimates artist than Joe "three and a half issues max" Madureira and a better Avengers artist than David "my hands don't work" Finch.

Those Busiek/Davis Avengers issues were beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I think the lack of a regular Dr. Strange series drawn by Alan Davis may in fact be the cause of everything that's wrong in the world today. I mean, look at that Dr. Strange. That's what Doc's supposed to look like. It would sure beat the living crap outta that recent Strange mini-series thing.

Greg said...

The neatest thing about Davis (beyond the fact that ALL his characters do that "two-middle-fingers-together-with-the-index-and-pinky-fingers-out" pose and the fact that ALL his characters smile all the time (even Batman!) is that he's a pretty good writer, too. He wrote the issues of ClanDestine as well as drew them. He needs to write AND draw more. ClanDestine was weird because it was one of those very interesting titles that popped up, got no publicity, and disappeared. Weird but excellent.

Anonymous said...

I remember picking up the first 2 or 3 CLANDESTINE issues when they first came out, back when I was relatively new to comics and had no idea who Alan Davis was (beyond knowing that he and Claremont created Excalibur, which didn't mean a whole lot to me in my teenage fanboy "Gambit is so AYRWULV!" phase). I think Hero Illustrated or something did a piece on it, and me probably thinking this was some new X-book, I gave the series a try. I remember thinking, "Who thinks this lame grampa crap is cool?"

Teenagers are idiots.

Someday (maybe tomorrow) I will track down the dozen or so issues of CLANDESTINE and rediscover it with the enlightened culture of elderly taste. What I remember of it, that to which my ignorant youth recoiled--mainly the quirky Britishness and careful pacing--I would now relish with all the delight of a good Monty Python sketch.

Roel, I was in the same mindset about Davis about five years ago. I still am, in certain respects. I went from almost pure hatred of Davis's art to almost adoration in the span of one series (specifically, THE NAIL). Much like I did with Frank Quitely after WE3 and ENDLESS NIGHTS. The thing is, I think Davis has a style that fits a very precise kind of story and characters. He's not really for the X-Men or Batman or the Legion, nor the likes of Ellis or Miller. He is for the fantasy and the surreal, for that which actually is soft and a little hazy and not planted firmly in a world of technology and realism. IOW, maybe APOCALYPSE: THE TWELVE wasn't the best idea for him.

Oh, and Dominic looks totally like Nightmare. Which works out fine in the Ditkoland of Doctor Strange and pathways that look like tree limbs. Alan Davis would so totally rule on DOCTOR STRANGE. Imagine him and Grant Morrison and then try to keep your senses unshattered.

Anonymous said...

Nice Hunter S. Thompson reference. Keep up the great work.

Peter said...

Considering Roel's favorite artists include some of my own faves alongside Alan Davis, I think it's cool how all those guys don't go for the ultra-realistic look.

As far as I'm concerned, realism in comics kills the visual sense of wonder. I'll like it sometimes, especially if it's painted stuff (different kind of wonder then) but "realistic" art like current Hitch and Land, now that is what leaves me cold in turn.

I think a Morrison/Davis Doctor Strange would be amazing too. Or just Davis doing both story and art.

And Dave, my store owner owes you a thank-you, since just seeing that pic of the Doc made me buy the second Essential Dr Strange volume today when I picked up my new books, heh. Sometimes all it takes is a good image to make me buy something (in this case, I got a strong craving for more Doc, and since it's got tons of Gene Colan art, I'm very, very happy indeed)

Lastly: "Ayrwulf", that is hilarious :D

Johnny Bacardi said...

I'll probably never forgive Davis for the trainwreck that was Killraven, but he is a top-notch artist and while I completely ignored this book when it came out, I must say it doesn't look too bad.

My bet is that Dominic's appearance was inspired by Bowie in Labryinth...

CalvinPitt said...

Can someone explain the spots on Doctor Strange's gloves? What is blood? Some mystical ink or demon ichor?

And yeah, it did look pretty nice.

Bully said...

Q: Why does Doctor Strange wear leopardskin gloves?
A: So that he's easily spotted.

Woody! said...

In Dominic's defense, Hellraiser wasn't out in 1960s swinging New York. Wait, but Doctor Strange was? Crap, I've waded too far into the continuity pool!

Anonymous said...

Dave, I read the first couple issues of ClanDestine when they came out, fell off the book in the mid-90's glut of books, then picked up the rest maybe a year ago out of the quarter bins. I may be wrong, but I think a young Brian Hitch did the last couple issues.
Alan Davis brightens up any book he's on: his run on Excalibur is still some of my favorite comics ever. I think he might of dropped out of Excalibur and ClanDestine because of a page rate issue: leaving in England, at the time he couldn't make a living on the American wages. Or I could be way off on that one...

Bully said...

In Dominic's defense, Hellraiser wasn't out in 1960s swinging New York. Wait, but Doctor Strange was?

I actually wondered about when I first read this story, but then I figured out "time works differently in the Mindless Ones' Realm." That could well be a Doc from later in Marvel Universe history.

Or, somebody made a mistake.

Where's my no-prize?!?

thekelvingreen said...

Chuck T:
I may be wrong, but I think a young Brian Hitch did the last couple issues.
Bryan Hitch pencilled #11, with Glenn Dakin writing. Pino Rinaldi pencilled #9-10 and 12, again with Dakin.

Anonymous said...

You are correct! He did get all high off a piece of chocolate.

Jon said...

Davis' work on JLA: The Nail is great stuff, too. Another Nail's pretty good, but the original's got Ultra the Multi-Alien and Elongated Man setting the table at Martha Kent's house. That's hard to beat.

Anonymous said...

I must admit: I also like Alan Davis. A distinct style. But his stories often carry too far. I mean, he did great work on Excalibur, but I think there was too much involved with different dimensions. I liked it, but I can imagine many other readers didn't.

That was a problem with ClanDestine, too. Also, the characters lacked something. They didn't really catch me. Just some tinly little bit was missing to give these characters and edge, so they would be seen as distinct and remembered as important. His artwork is damn great though.

Anonymous said...

Just in case anyone cares, the new ClanDestine mini series started yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Never liked the art much.
Have to agree with one previous comment, art is too soft, leaves me thinking 60's flower children.
The background story was so-so, the comic didn't last long enough to gain any kind of liking for the characters.
Been a comic reader for almost 30 years and I have read just about everything at one time or another.
I can't imagine how someone could say that the story was great and can't wait for the next one, or make some statement about how it was a shame the teenagers didn't give it a chance... it had less than 20 issues.. how can u long for a book with less than 30 pages with 12 issues?