Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dave's Totally Awesome X-Men Team That is Better Than Yours

Since I am a geek, and I did the same thing with The Avengers, I thought I would share my thoughts with you about what the ideal X-Men team line-up is. Believe me, I have pondered the subject on many a sleepless night whilst lying on my bed listening to Tangerine Dream, thinking about the perfect X-Men combo.

I limited myself to seven X-Men, and picked characters who were both iconic and fulfilled a role or archetype on the team. In order for an X-Men team to be worth a damn, you have to have a couple people who can fly, a telepath, a super-strong guy, a martial artist, a scout, and somebody who can attack from a distance. Bonus points if you have a scientific genius.

Here you are, then. Heed my wisdom.

(The cute little pictures of the X-Men come from Ze Ball Breaker's Micro-Heroes Site. Merci, Ball Breaker!)

Cyclops - You have to have Cyclops along to fly the Blackbird and grit his teeth a lot. Plus, you need the long-range offensive capability of his optic blasts, which also come in handy if you’re out in the woods and need to kill and cook a bird or a squirrel. Somebody has to watch the plane. Cyclops, you're in.

Marvel Girl – No, we're not going to call her Jean Grey, she's Marvel Girl. All the X-Men get dumb names, and she should be no exception. We’re including Marvel Girl because she’s incredibly powerful and she keeps Cyclops under control. Every team needs a mind-reader and force-field maker. Still, her usefulness is offset by the fact that you have a 1 in 6 chance of her going apeshit crazy on any given mission.

Wolverine – There is an X-Men bylaw that says Wolverine must be included on every team. Our team needs a rebel, a bad-ass, a Lorenzo Lamas-type. Plus, Wolverine’s healing factor and unbreakable bones make him a great punching bag. Let the bad guys beat on Wolverine while Cyclops picks them off from 200 yards - that’s my strategy.

Colossus – Send Colossus in first. The big metal-skinned Russian was born to absorb punishment, and is handy when obstacles like buildings are in your way. His motto should be, “Behind me, comrades!”

Rogue – The super-powered spandex-clad Southern belle Rogue is almost as strong and tough as Colossus, and she can fly, too! You have to have flying people on the team to carry stuff. Plus, she has a cute accent and a pert, bulletproof bosom. Look, but don’t touch, sugah! I heart Rogue!

Nightcrawler – He is on the team because he is the fucking coolest ever, end of story. A stealthy wall-crawling martial artist teleporter with a prehensile tail and a German accent? Der Komissar’s in town, baby!

Storm – Her eyes kind of freak me out, but her mutant weather powers are so multi-faceted and powerful that she has to go on the team. You never have to worry about watering the plants or about your golf game getting ruined by thunderstorms if Storm is on the team.

So there you go, a fairly standard roster of X-Men. These are characters I would hope to see if I was reading a classic X-Men story. You could throw Beast in there and I'd be extra-happy.

But What If...? What if Marvel Comics hired Dave Campbell to write the X-Men next Thursday (my schedule is open, BTW, Marvel)?

I would have a completely different line-up. Because I am not a famous writer it stands to reason that I wouldn't get the first pick of characters to staff my new X-Men team. That's fine, I can handle it. But can YOU handle my Unexpected X-Men Line-Up?!?!

The Unexpected X-Men would be a team of wacky misfits led by the most unexpected X-Men of all –

Doc Samson.

Hell, yes. Doc. Samson. Not a lot of people know that Doc Samson is a mutant, but it’s true. Gamma radiation triggered latent mutant powers within Leonard Samson, The Hulk’s psychiatrist, turning him into a green-haired super-strong he-man. Anyway, Doc Samson leads my X-Men dream team. Stop laughing, Doc Samson in my hands would make you weep at the beauty of it all.

Forge – The mutant weaponsmith with the Steaven Seagal look, Forge would come in very handy on my team as a sort of portable Q Branch, supplying Doc Samson’s crew with all kinds of high-tech gear and sage yet cliche wisdom. Plus he could fly the Blackbird.

Warlock – Who doesn’t love Warlock, the shape-shifting techno-organic alien from the early days of The New Mutants? He’s cute and handy, too! Self likes selfriend Warlock!

Sunfire – Sometimes you need to burn some shit with the heat of the sun’s core, and that’s where Sunfire comes in. An X-Men for the briefest period of time, this Japanese mutant has a fabulous costume and can fly, too. He's like the Human Torch, but with dignity.

Darkstar – This Russian mutant controls the extra-dimensional Darkforce and can fly. I've always liked her costume. She’s hired.

Domino – The team’s resident martial artist ass-kicker, Domino has probability-altering powers (she’s really lucky) and a cute little black patch over her eye. Forge can supply her with all kinds of crazy weaponry and make playlists for her. Plus: leather.

Northstar – He’s super-fast, he can fly, he’s French Canadian – what more can you ask for? Quicksilver wasn’t available to fill the Team Asshole position, so I nominate Northstar.

The only thing my team is really missing is a telepath, but what they lack in psi-power they make up for in Doc Samson. And you don't need to read minds to know that Dave Campbell's Unexpected X-Men would kick ass, Wolverine or not! I mean, who would you take in a fight - Northstar or Wolverine? I think the answer is clear.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Previous X-Posts

I'm cheating today and am just putting up links to old posts that are related in some way to The X-Men.

I'm lazy like that.

Obnoxio the Clown - Scarier than The Brood - Obnoxio is a clown whose mutant power seems to be making everything he does unfunny. Watch in disbelief as he flabbergasts The X-Men and insults your frontal lobe.

New Mutants #18 - Spooky demon bear? Bill Sienkiewicz art? Sign me up, brother.

The Sentinel Bra - Just what it sounds like.

New Mutants #40 - Magneto vs. The Avengers - WHO YA GOT?! My money is on the guy who can move the North Pole.

New Mutants Annual #3 - Warlock vs the Impossible Man = Hilarity.

Star Trek / X-Men - Spock break dances in this.

Colossus #1 - I'm really interested in buying a boat. Nothing fancy, I just want a 14'-16' aluminum boat with an outboard so I can tool around the Sound with my girls. I live on a frickin' island - I should have a boat. I want a boat.

The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans - It's a star-crossed 80's supergroup team up! I just messed my drawers!

The X-Men #32 - Holy crap, the X-Men were chatty back in the day!

X-Men: Phoenix – Legacy of Fire - I felt dirty after reading this.

X-Men Unlimited #5 - I guess the suits thought the costumes in this comic were a little too skimpy, so they did a little post-production work. A classic example of the "de-nudifying effect."

Wolverine & Captain America #1 - Forge and Warbird appears - quality does not.

Monday, April 24, 2006

THE UNCANNY X-MEN #200 Marvel Comics, 1985

Here’s another excellent comic from one of my favorite X-Men era – the mid-Eighties. The Chris Claremont/John Romita Jr period was a golden age when Wolverine was still cool, Magneto was a good guy, Storm had no powers, and the Annuals didn’t suck.

The Uncanny X-Men #200 was in heavy reading rotation with Young Dave. How could I not love this comic? This double-sized comic book was packed with fastball specials, powered armor, Claremontian speechifying, explosions, and with deeds both noble and base. Plus, this issue focused on Magneto, who for a brief time was my Favorite Character Ever.

Magneto is the mutant Malcolm X to Professor X’s Martin Luther King, an arch-villain with incredible energy powers and a serious persecution complex. Claremont crafted a compelling storyline in the X-books of the mid-Eighties about the debt of honor that compels Magneto to take over as headmaster of Xavier’s School. I did a post once about New Mutants #40, a classic story from the Good Magneto Period when The Avengers try to arrest him. Young Dave loved any story with Magneto in it.

"...the fastball special f#$%ing rules..."

Incidentally, I have to force myself to pronounce his name “Mag-neat-o.” For years, I pronounced it “Mag-net-o,” like it appears. I don’t know, Mag-neat-o just sounds so… so… Let’s just say it’s not a name that inspires dread.

Anyway, this issue is “The Trial of Magneeto,” wherein Magneto is brought before the World Court in Paris (they moved it from The Hague because in 1985 Claremont vacationed in Paris, not Brussels) for crimes against humanity. He’s being defended by an Israeli ambassador with help from Professor X. The trial is spawning massive anti-mutant protests across Europe.

You see, Magneto has seen the error if his ways and has vowed to set aside violence in his quest for mutant rights. That is, intentional violence. If you screwed with him he would still wrap you up in a lamp post or pull the iron from your blood. Magneto decides that in order for human-mutant relations to go forward he must take responsibility for his crimes; minor shit like sinking a Russian sub and blowing up a city (it was empty at the time, except for all the cats).

The X-Men are transported to Paris by the Norse god Loki (it’s a long story) and reunite with their mentor, Professor X. It seems that terrorists in sci-fi body armor have been attacking military installations and whatnot across Europe, and leaving the messages: “Free Magneto! – The X-Men” and “I F*#$ed Your Mom – The X-Men.”

Professor X wants his X-Men to track down the culprits while the trial proceeds, but they are understandably leery of helping their archenemy...

But they are the X-Men and they will do whatever the hell Xavier says, and they’ll like it. Is the team called the Cyclops-Men? No, it isn’t. So shut your hole, Summers, and do what the bald man says.

Our band of mutants clash with the hi-tech terrorists of Fenris, who are led by the Strucker twins, mutants with a serious thirst for vengeance against Magneto and Xavier for impugning the family honor (it’s a long story) and a seriously creepy V.C. Andrews-type relationship. There is a ton of superpowered ass-kicking in this book because it is double-sized – and that always translates into double the fun.

Look! Colossus smash!

The X-Men clash with Fenris troops several times during the book, including a final battle that starts on a tour boat in the Seine. During the fight, Colossus and Wolverine bust their custom move, the fastball special. Basically, super-strong Colossus uses unbreakable Wolverine as a projectile weapon and hucks him at bad guys.

Man, the fastball special fucking rules.

It turns out that the battle on the Seine is merely a diversion that allows the mutant Strucker twins to attack the courthouse and try to kill Xavier, Magneto, and the defense attorney, who they also hate. The brother and sister team can shoot energy blasts as long as they are holding hands or otherwise fondling each other. They would be played by Angelina Jolie and her brother in a movie.

Magneto steps up and confronts the twins, defending the lives of the humans who may execute him for his crimes. The coolness of the whole scene is significantly undermined by Magneto’s outfit, a deep purple sleeveless unitard with matching opera gloves. Throw a big white “M” and a poofy cape and you have yourselves one goofy-ass costume.

The courthouse caves in and the battle is carried to an ancient chamber below. The twins are defeated, but Xavier and Magneto are washed away in a huge subterranean flood. Magneto rescues them, using his powers to pull them up into a rose garden, where Xavier succumbs to a chronic heart condition.

Before Xavier "dies," he entrusts his school and his dream of human-mutant harmony to Magneto. For his old friend, he agrees to embrace Xavier’s vision and carry on his mission. It’s a great scene.

Of course, the impact is lessened somewhat by a deus ex machina in the form of Princess Lillandra of the Sh’iar Empire, who whisks Xavier away in a beam of light so that he can be healed by space aliens. It kind of turns the whole “carry on my dream after I die” scene into a “mind the shop while I’m gone, will you old chap?” scene. Oh, well.

The X-Men turn the rest of the Fenris terrorists over to the gendarmes and clear their name and all is well. Boy, are they going to be pissed when they get back to the mansion and find Magneto drinking their milk and eating their cookies.

Friday, April 21, 2006

THE UNCANNY X-MEN #205 Marvel Comics, 1986

(Crap! X-Men Week did not start strong this week, so I must extend it until May 1st! Annoying work and sleep got in the way this week. Stupid sleep...)

Uncanny X-Men #205 was the comic that made Young Dave think, “Man, wouldn’t it be cool if Wolverine had his very own monthly series?”

I wish I could travel back in time and stop Young Dave from thinking that. But back in the Eighties the only place you could get your Wolverine on was in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men or the occasional mini-series. Marvel caught on and launched a Wolverine series in 1988, and then proceeded to put him in EVERY SINGLE BOOK THEY PUBLISHED. Be careful what you wish for, eh, hoser?

This issue, a stand alone Wolverine story (guest-starring Katie Power of Power Pack!) by Chris Claremont and artist Barry Windsor Smith was so good that Young Dave couldn’t help but want more. When it was published in 1986, a perfect, precarious balance existed between Wolverine supply and demand. Windsor Smith returned to Wolverine with his legendary and lavishly illustrated “Weapon X” storyline in 1991-1992 in Marvel Comics Presents.

In “Wounded Wolf,” the cybernetic killer Lady Deathstrike and a trio of cyborgs hunt a wounded Wolverine through a Christmastime blizzard in New York City. Only the chance intervention of plucky five-year-old Katie Power of Power Pack saves Wolverine’s back bacon. The spirited girl keeps Wolverine one step ahead of his pursuers until his healing factor kicks in. Then he guts them like fish, the end.

We begin in a place called The Body Shop, where the revenge-crazed Lady Deathstrike has just been turned into a hideous adamantium cyborg by the mysterious six-armed Spiral. Now properly equipped for some Wolverine-killin’, Deathstrike teams up with Cole, Reese, and Macon, three Hellfire Club mercs with all kinds of crazy high-tech shit sticking out of them. Can Wolverine defeat these four super-enhanced killers?


Of course Wolvie comes out on top in the end, but in the beginning of the book, when he runs into Katie Power by chance in New York City, he’s in bad shape. He is hurt so badly that he has been reduced to a guttural, animal state. I get like that on the toilet sometimes. Seriously, I turn into frickin’ caveman William Hurt from Altered States. Not pretty.

I’m oversharing again, huh?

Let’s move on. Wild & wounded Wolverine grabs the girl and hoofs it off into the driving snow. He knows his hunters are not far behind. I’m not 100% clear why Wolverine grabs Katie Power. Warmth? A Human shield?

Most of the book takes place at night in heavy snow, and it’s full of dazzling lighting effects and moody coloring – all achieved without the fancy Photoshop lenses those kids use these days. Even printed on crappy newsprint you can appreciate the level of inventiveness and detail in Windsor Smith’s work. He is The Poo.

Young Katie and Wolverine are tracked down in a big construction site by the hunters. They move in for the kill, but Wolvie’s healing factor has repaired his previous damage and now it’s Go Time. He makes Katie cover her eyes, because what Wolverine does isn’t very pretty.

Wolverine dismantles the three cyborgs, ginsu ninja style. What kind of idiots follow Wolverine into a dark construction site, anyway? People that don’t need their intestines.

After taking out the trash, Wolverine carves up Lady Deathstrike. Sure, she gets a few good hits in, but the outcome is never in doubt. You gotta know that if you come at Wolverine with something sharp, he’s going to fuck you up real bad.

But will he kill you? Depends. Here, he leaves Lady Deathstrike unraveling like spaghetti in the snow, begging for death, for mercy. Wolverine sheathes his claws. Mercy?

“Earn it.”

That makes for a great ending but may not be so smart, because Lady Deathstrike comes back like, twelve more times and even shows up in one of the movies. Should have just ended it on that snowy December night in ’86, Wolvie.

Anyway, Wolverine comes and gets Katie Power, who has probably been watching the whole thing and is now traumatized for life.

I think that’s a nice ending.

Claremont always did a good job contrasting Wolverine’s noble, gentle nature with his batshit-crazy killer instincts, and this story is no exception. Throwing cute little Katie Power into the mix really helps lighten the story and sort of lets the reader into the narrative, if that makes sense.

Uncanny X-Men #205: Claremont knew what he was doing. Windsor Smith, who co-wrote the story, definitely knew what he was doing. “Wounded Wolf” is a great X-Men story, and reading it reminded me of that fragile time when Wolverine was still totally bad-ass.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The X-Men and Me

I first started reading X-Men comics when I was fifteen years old, in the year 1984. I was just re-discovering comics at the time and was only dimly aware of the X-Men.
I first remember hearing about X-Men when my friend Todd Kaneko was describing to me his two favorite superheroes, Nova and Wolverine, while we played the time-honored game Who Can Hold the Burning Napkin Longest at Rose Hill Jr. High. To Young Dave, Wolverine sounded intriguing and “edgy,” while Nova sounded like a total pud. Kaneko always had uneven tastes.

Anyway, I was in a comic book store in Bellevue when I overheard these two kids talking about Uncanny X-Men #183. The cover (pictured) shows the steel-skinned Colossus from The X-Men brawling with the indestructible villain Juggernaut in a tavern while his teammates Wolverine and Nightcrawler kick back and watch.
The conversation sounded something like this:

Kid #1: Why are these two guys just watching them fight?
Kid #2: These guys are pissed at this guy because he’s being a dick. They’re letting them fight to like, teach him a lesson or something.
Kid #1: Look, he’s drinking a beer.
Kid #2: I know. Wolverine’s cool.
Kid #1: So they’re pissed at this guy?
Kid #2: Colossus.
Kid #1: Why?
Kid #2: I don’t know, I just skimmed through it. There’s a bunch of talking at the beginning. He’s a dick to this one girl I think, and it pisses them off.
Kid #1: So they’re going to let this bad guy beat him up?
Kid #2: Yeah.
Kid #1: That’s cool.

It did sound cool. So I bought The Uncanny X-Men #183, my first X-Men comic, that very day. It cost me eighty-one cents total.

And I was hooked. I started during the Claremont / J Romita Jr era, which to this day are still some of my favorite stories, then I got as many of the Claremont / Byrne issues as I could. As a geeky Dungeon Master I appreciated the vastness and complexity of the X-Men universe, which is a superhero sub- all of its own, and as a hormonal boy I appreciated the emphasis on operatic emotion, macho derring-do, and chicks.

I collected the “core” X-Men books and the spin-offs like New Mutants and Excalibur, as well as any specials or crossovers I could get my hands on. I drew pictures of Cyclops and Nightcrawler on my PeeChee folders. I had a dream line-up of X-Men, which I will share with you later.

Then, gradually, the bloom on my mutant love faded. There were too many X-books, and they were starting to suck real bad. I discovered girls.

Occasionally these days I will make a foray into the world of the X-Men if something catches my fancy, but I no longer count myself as a die-hard mutant fan. Plus, a guy could go broke buying all those goddamn books.

Still, every once in a while Marvel will entice me back to the heroes of my pubescent years. I’ll read an X-Men comic by somebody like Grant Morrisson or Joss Whedon and I will remember why I liked the whole idea of mutant misfits in the first place, and I will remember a time when the coolest thing in the world would have been having retractable three-foot long blades popping out of my knuckles.

Wolverine's Motto

Sorry, I just love this picture so much I had to use it again.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

X-Men Week is GO!

It had to happen sooner or later: X-Men Week here at Dave's Long Box! That's right, for the next seven days it's going to be 100% wall-to-wall mutant action!

Yes, it's time for me to summon the focused totality of my blogging powers! Time for me to be the best there is at what I do - and what I do isn't very pretty! You will love X-Men Week, body and soul, and if you don't - your choice, bub. And your funeral!!!

Sorry, just trying to get in the spirit. I'll try to keep the Claremontisms to a minimum this week.

And look! X-Men team leader Cyclops is here with our official X-Men Week banner! Cyclops is an intense fellow.

To me, my X-Men!!!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

And Lo, There Shall Come A Taxman!

It's Tax Day here in the States, and so I shall not post anything of substance and will focus instead on getting that 1098 form completed. As is the custom here at Dave's Long Box, I leave you instead with a random picture that has nothing to do with comics whatsoever.

Man with huge sausage: discuss.

Friday, April 14, 2006

PASSOVER Maximum Press,1996

A happy Passover to all my Jewish homies out there. In honor of the holiday, I present the comic Passover, from Maximum Press and the year 1996.

I got this comic back in the day so that one day I could teach my daughters the story of the Jews’ deliverance from bondage. Imagine my surprise when I found that Passover the comic and Passover the holiday have very little in common. I know, you’d think I would have figured that out by the cover alone. I thought maybe they were just embellishing the Passover story a little with the scary angel with the bloody axe. You know, jazz it up for the kids.

But no.

Apparently this comic is about the Angel of Death, who is responsible for the ten plagues that afflicted Egypt and goes by the name Passover.

That is stupid. That’s his name? Passover? What did all the other angels call him before the ten plagues? I guess Passover is a better choice than Lord of Boils or Frogsummoner, but still – lame.

Passover the comic book character first appeared in Avengylene #2, which I do not have. Some day I will plug that hole in my collection. Apparently Maximum thought that Passover was worthy of his own one-shot, and so here it is.

I’m not going to bore you or myself by recapping the story, but I will take a bunch of panels out-of-context for comedic purposes, making the comic look even dumber than it is. Dave’s Long Box: Fair & Balanced.

I take issue with Passover’s whole look. Sure, he has a gold helmet that makes him look all imposing, and he has butch glowing red eyes, but that’s where the coolness starts and stops.

The rest of him? He has big fluffy dove wings and wears a skirt over his pants. He’s got this weird bib thing going on, and he stole Thor’s boots. It’s not a flattering ensemble. Below Passover demonstrates a new cheer routine he cooked up with some of the other angels. Bring it on, Passover!

I like to think that Passover is doing his routine to the eighties aerobic wave hit “Dancing in Heaven” by Q-Feel.

And what the hell, does Passover have cute little ears on his helmet? Little nubbins? Tiny little goat horns? Please God, tell me what those things are!

I’m going to use that line the next time I want to get off the phone: “Mom, I’d love to talk but I gotta go – a great evil has been reawakened.” It’s better than “the steaks are burning, bye!”

As a matter of fact, Passover has a lot of quality dialogue that would translate well into cocktail party banter:

Happy Passover, y'all!

“They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat
They tried to kill us, we were faster on our feet
So they chase us to the border
There's a parting of the water
Tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat”

-What I Like About Jew, “They Tried To Kill Us”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bears on a Sub

Big shot people send me shit all the time because I’m so cool.

Case in point: I recently was sent some early promotional material from the sequel to the soon-to-be-released thriller Snakes on a Plane, starring Samuel L Jackson. Apparently the studio is so confident the film will be a success that they are already filming a follow-up.

(That’s a set-up for comedy hilarity, isn’t it? Watch in awe as I show that no joke is too obvious, no content is too tired here at Dave’s Long Box.)

Bears on a Sub continues the nail-biting, bladder-voiding suspense of Snakes on a Plane, only this time, a pack of rampaging polar bears tears shit up on the USS Honolulu nuclear submarine!

Samuel L Jackson returns as FBI Agent Nelville Flynn, who is transporting a diabolical eco-terrorist prisoner aboard a nuclear sub to Greenland for a completely legal secret trial.

Unfortunately the madman has coated the hull of the sub with polar bear pheromones, and when the sub comes up for air, three rutting polar bears attack!

Now, these super-predators are loose onboard the Honolulu, stalking the crew and eating their faces and groins. Masters of camouflage, the bears pick off their prey one by one and it is very scary because think about it, man - what would be worse than getting trapped inside a submarine with polar bears?


Okay, yeah, mandrills would be pretty bad, I'll admit it.

Anyway, only one man stands between the polar bears and the submarine’s nuclear arsenal:

Samuel L Jackson.

If he can keep his groin from getting eaten, he’s going to show these motherfuckin’ bears who is at the top of the food chain!

Bears on a Sub – a new depth in cinema!