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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Brief History of Gen13, Part One

If you've already been through this month's Previews, you've most likely seen DC's solicitation for their relaunch of Gen13 by Gail Simone and Talent Caldwell. Because brother, I've seen it.

And I am way more excited about that than anyone has a right to be.

And it's not just because I'm a big fan of Gail Simone, either. See, I have what you might call an unhealthy amount of nostalgia for everyone's favorite Gen-Active youngsters. And while it pains me somewhat to admit this, Gen13 was the first series that I ever went back-issue hunting for to put together a run, mostly owing to the fact that it first hit the stands when I was twelve years old, an age at which a young man is scientifically proven to be unable to resist the allure of super-powered teenagers having huge, stupid fights.

It's the principle on which Marvel Comics is entirely based.

Of course, it's entirely possible--heck, let's be honest: it's more than likely--that you don't share my affection for the sensational character finds of 1994, but that doesn't mean you'll be left out of the fun this October.

No, it just means I'm going to update for two days about Fairchild's breasts. Deal with it, homes.



GEN13: WHO THEY ARE AND HOW THEY CAME TO BE


I vividly remember having a conversation in the seventh grade where I told a friend of mine that he had to read this new comic about these teenagers whose genetics gave them superpowers that were hunted by the government and he told me that that sounded exactly like the X-Men. My response, of course, was something along the lines of "No it doesn't! Shut up!"

Of course, these days, I've matured slightly, and I'm finally willing to admit that Tim was right all along: Gen13 is pretty much exactly like the X-Men. But it's the X-Men... For the 90s!

There are, of course, a few differences. Instead of having random genetic mutations, the kids of Gen13 are actually the descendents of the subjects of Gen12, which mostly included the members of Team 7--and that's way more numbers than any secret origin should have in close proximity. All you really need to know is that their parents were given superpowers by the government, so now they have them. Got it? Moving on.

Said superpowers kick in after the kids are pressganged into the covert workings of the unimaginatively-named International Operations under the guise of a suspiciously secretive scholarship program that, for some reason, requires olive green jumpsuits to be worn at all times. Anyway, IO's Torturing-Teenagers-Into-Manifesting-Superpowers Division is headed up by the evil Ivana Baiul and her henchmen, creepy incestuous brother-and-sister super-enforcers Bliss and Threshold, who run a tight ship with their standard issue Evil Psionic Abilities.

Fortunately for Our Heroes, they get a little help from IO Director-Gone-Rogue, John Lynch, and promptly escape to the La Jolla underground. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them... Maybe you can hire... Gen13.

Wait. That's not right at all. Ah, screw it, it's close enough. You get the point. Besides, we've got bigger concerns to worry about. Namely, just who these crazy super-heroes are.

Dramatis Personae


Fairchild

Our de facto main character is Caitlin Fairchild, who got to be leader of Gen13 by virtue of being the smartest, prettiest, nicest, strongest, toughest, and, of course, tallest. When her Gen-Factor power manifested, it not only made her incredibly strong and practically invulnerable, but it also changed her body shape, much like Ben Grimm from the Fantastic Four. Only instead of turning into a horrid rock monster that only a blind woman could bear to love, Fairchild got really hot.

Which was good, because before she got her super-powers, she was a scrawny Computer Science major at Princeton with a pair of glasses that took up roughly a third of her face:



That's right: She was one of those... Hey, Ogre, can you help me out with this one?

"NERDS!"


Thanks. Let's have a big hand for Donald Gibb, everybody.

Defining Moment: While I'm tempted to say that Caitlin can be summed up completely in this panel where she comes to terms with her nigh-constant sales-increasing near-nudity...



...I simply cannot deny the outright badass appeal of this scene from the awesome and ridiculously over-the-top Gen13 Annual by Warren Ellis and Steve Dillon:



Rainmaker

Let's go ahead and get this out of the way: Sarah Rainmaker is a lesbian. This does not stop her from hooking up with Burnout one night while the team's kicking it in Rome, but that's beside the point. Anyway, she grew up on an Apache reservation in Arizona, but after being taken to IO's secret lab, she developed the ability to control the weather. Mostly, though, she just shoots "bio-electric shocks" which--when amplified by her gauntlets--manifest themselves as lightning bolts from her hands, and that's pretty cool. So cool, in fact, that she rarely uses her other powers at all, which is good because if she did, you might remember that she's a Native American with weather-control powers, and if you put any thought into that, yikes.

Also, if you take it by percentage of pages, she walks around naked more often than Storm during Chris Calremont's X-Men. Weather powers apparently make you want to not wear clothes.

Defining Moment:



Did I mention she was a lesbian?

Incidentally, J. Scott Campbell's original pencils for that scene had her licking her lips in the last panel. So in case you were wondering, there is in fact a line that Image Comics circa 1994 would not cross.

Burnout

You know how every team has a "Wolverine?" You know, really cool character that stands out and that everybody likes because he's so frigg'n cool? Yeah, well, Bobby Lane is the exact opposite of that. In addition to his remarkably persistent soul patch, Burnout has the ability to burst into flames and float menacingly in the background of crowd shots, and eventually turns out to be Lynch's long-lost son, which leads to a lot of "You don't understand me, old man!" conversations. Also, he has a (slightly) unrequited crush on Rainmaker, which brings his romantic interests up to: 1) A lesbian (see above), 2) Bliss, a sociopathic supervillain who wants to have sex with her own brother, and 3) a nice young college girl who plays guitar in a local rock band, with whom he goes on one (1) date before his house is blown up and he has to go to an island to fight dinosaurs. You'd feel bad for him if he wasn't just taking up space that could otherwise be used for panty shots.

Defining Moment: Burnout doesn't really have a defining moment, but in the second issue of the ongiong series, he helped defeat a supervillain with some intense rocking out...



...and that'll have to do.

Grunge

Semi-Professional slacker and lecherous pervert Percival Edmund Chang's Gen-Factor allowed him tot ake on the physical properties of whatever objects he touched, much like Amazing Man from the DC Universe. BUt since I never spent my summer vacation looking for back issues of All-Star Squadron, Grunge will always be cooler. Plus, he eventually started wearing a belt studded with various rocks and metals so that he'd always have something handy to change into, and thus, never ended up laying on the floor in shards after accidentally turning to glass like some people.

Anyway, he also has a photographic memory, and--despite being referred to quite often as being a moron in need of a shower--managed to score with Freefall, an entire island of sex-crazed ninja amazons, and Swift from the Authority, which never fails to boggle the mind.

Defining Moment: From Adam Warren's totally awesome 3-part story, Grunge: The Movie, I give you the single greatest cover that Image Comics ever published:



Grunge getting punched in the face so hard he sees Lucky Charms while Fairchild and Freefall are in the background, naked, tied up with Hot Wheels tracks. Doubting that cover's awesomeness will only make it stronger. And what's more, the dialogue for the fight scene is made up almost entirely of quotes from poorly subtitled kung fu movies. If you ever get a chance to buy it, do so.

Freefall

Roxanne Spaulding, like Master Gee, is the baby of the bunch, usually being referred to as being around sixteen despite the fact that she a) goes to college, b) gets a tattoo, and c) spends a heck of a lot of time naked. Although admittedly, that last one's to be expected; the breakneck pace of a book like Gen13 doesn't have time for clothes, buster. She has a crush on Grunge, and also, since everyone is somebody's long-lost relative in this book, she turns out to be Caitlin's long-lost sister. And she might have psychic powers. Or not. Whatev.

Her Gen-Factor gives her control of gravity, but alas, she's a smoker, and her addiction to cigarettes allows her to be taken over by a midget toymaker in a donkey costume who wants to have sex with her with a robotic exoskeleton in--wait for it--...

The Christmas Issue.

Defining Moment: How about we let Brandon Choi's captions from Gen13 #1 handle this one?

"Born with the grace of a ballerina and the kinetic energy of a fly girl, Roxanne Spaulding looks upon the industrial discotheque as her own private refuge"


Classy!

And of course, rounding out the cast we have Lynch, the one-eyed bastard child of Nick Fury and Clint Eastwood, and my personal favorite, Anna the Robot French Maid Assassin.

It might just be the best comic ever.

TOMORROW, ON THE ISB!

Find out why it's not! You know the cast, now thrill to their best (and worst) adventures! Plus, shock follows shock as the ISB delves into the Gen13 Lettercolumn! DARE YOU MISS IT?!





BONUS FEATURE: The Greatest Picture Ever Taken


From the centerfold of the Gen13 Rave one-shot comes, hands down, the single greatest image you will see today:



Man oh man. Seriously, I've been making fun of things on the internet for like nine years now, and I have no friggin' idea where to even start here. All I know is that I want this thing as a motivational poster for the word "RADNESS."

31 Comments:

Blogger Mark Hale said...

It's a weird feeling, feeling like I need to get more Gen13 back issues. Mostly I want more of the Adam Warren stuff. I have a handful, along with Magical Drama Queen Roxy, which I need to reread some time soon, but... more Gen13. Yeah. Just feels weird.

8/02/2006 2:52 AM

 
Anonymous carla said...

Ooooh. I have that poster. At one time, it was badical.
And I have a lot of those issues. Nice to know I wasn't the only one thinking '... and Burnout." It was like they just sort of lost interest at him.
Hoorah A Brief History of Gen13!

8/02/2006 4:25 AM

 
Blogger SmoothJimmyApollo said...

Chris, I think you desperately need to check out the "Thug Connection" jam by Kool G. Rap, Papoose, and AZ. Blistering rap lyrics over a bass heavy version of the A-Team theme.

8/02/2006 5:00 AM

 
Blogger Brandon said...

I must thank you for reminding the world of the stellar career of Donald Gibb. Praise be with you.

8/02/2006 5:19 AM

 
Blogger Katherine said...

Grunge?

Seriously: Grunge?

They might as well have called it Gen1993. God. That's almost as bad as Skateman.

8/02/2006 8:13 AM

 
Blogger Philip Looney said...

I like Burnout's Soundgardsen T-Shirt.

Also, in the 2006 revamp of Gen13, I hear that Grunge is changing his name to Emo.

8/02/2006 8:30 AM

 
Blogger joncormier said...

Chris, you request it, I help make a lame version of that poster for you.

Since I don't know how to post it to the comments or e-mail it to you, I'm going to put a lame cross post to my site:

http://hypnoray.blogspot.com/2006/08/image-for-chris.html

Please take it and do what you like. It's my gift to you.

8/02/2006 8:41 AM

 
Blogger Edward Liu said...

Thanks to this post, I have a much better understanding of a lot of the supporting cast from the Brubaker/Phillips Sleeper series and the much underrated Micah Ian "I Am Not a Real Ranger" Wright's Stormwatch: Team Achilles.

And, now that I know where some of these guys came from, I kind of wish I didn't.

8/02/2006 10:39 AM

 
Blogger Batiduende said...

I am quite sure Burnout's haircut in that poster will motivate bald men... to remain bald.

Oh, and please, please, please speak about that issue of Gen 13 where the pages where drawn first without rhyme or reason and then some poor soul had to write a story on top of them.

8/02/2006 11:26 AM

 
Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

You're going to explore the Gen-13 letter's page? If I remember it correctly, especially in regards to Rainmaker, you are indeed a brave man.

8/02/2006 12:34 PM

 
Blogger Nimbus said...

When her Gen-Factor power manifested, ... Fairchild got really hot.

But...but so did all the others as well. Well, the girls did - I can't comment about the guys.

You know, that seems to be a common side-effect with gaining superpowers. Instant sex-up.

And why were they called Gen13 (other than being the next ones after Gen12)? Why did Jim Lee or Brandon Choi or whoever choose 13? I always thought it was supposed to be their age. Although they sure look older than 13.

8/02/2006 12:44 PM

 
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

And why were they called Gen13 (other than being the next ones after Gen12)? Why did Jim Lee or Brandon Choi or whoever choose 13? I always thought it was supposed to be their age. Although they sure look older than 13.

"Generation 13" was another name for Generation X. A book about generations in America came out in the early 1990s, dubbing GenX as the "thirteenth generation." Since the book sold like mad, and the GenX cohort was hitting prime look-at-me-look-at-me age, the authors followed up with an x-focused book: 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?

Grunge? That's up there with "Night Thrasher." An armored vigilante with a skateboarding motif? Ah, the late eighties. Yeah, that motif aged well. -cough- No wonder he got blow'd up recently.

If Gen13 is a pretty straight X-Men lift, is Runaways a kinda-sorta Gen13 lift? (Sounds like it to me, but I never read either book.)

8/02/2006 1:06 PM

 
Anonymous swoo said...

I think the name was originally going to be Gen X, until the X-Men spinoff of the same name (and probably anything with X in the title would have Marvel lawyer problems). Gen 13 was a less-used name for the same generation, at least in a book that came out around that time:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679743650/102-2155604-1158514?v=glance&n=283155

The 13th generation of americans, i think, but Wildstorm probably had some other rationale for the numbering.

btw, i do so love seeing Adam Warren work! am i the only one who thought his take on Gen 13 and Battlechasers was like a million times better than Campbells' or Madureiras', respectively?

8/02/2006 1:07 PM

 
Anonymous Augie De Blieck Jr. said...

Swoo is correct. In fact, WildStorm had run a couple of ads with "GenX" as the title of the book before legal minds prevailed. (I think one of the ads appeared in THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE.)

I think I'm glad now that I never had a letter published in Gen13. . .

It just never made sense to me, though, that shy nerdy quiet Caitlin would turn into an Amazonian overnight and start strutting her stuff and wearing skimpy attire. You'd think she'd have to grow into that -- that she'd still be shy and quiet, but with the She-Hulk/Wonder Woman body. That would have been far more interesting.

I think Jim Lee went to Princeton, which is also likely why Caitlin did. And the team ended up in La Jolla because, well, that's where WildStorm is based.

8/02/2006 1:11 PM

 
Blogger Kevin said...

Dammit Chris! Now I have the Lambda(x3) and Omega Mu rap stuck in my head, probably for the rest of the day. Its only fair that I share with the rest of you now...

"...We got Poindexter on the violin, and Lewis and Gilbert will be joining in. We got Booger Presley on the mean guitar and a rap by little ol' me Lamar. We got Takashi beating on his gong, the boys and the mu's are clapping along. And just when you thought, ya seen it all, along comes a Lambda four foot tall."
Remember, you brought this upon yourself (and please don't ask why I have memorized it).

8/02/2006 1:13 PM

 
Blogger Edward Liu said...

harvey jerkwater: "is Runaways a kinda-sorta Gen13 lift?"

Sort of, if by "lift" you mean "same underlying concept done a baquintijillion times smarter and better." Runaways is every teen superhero comic book without the really stupid stuff. And with a telepathic dinosaur.

If you're not buying it, then you must be some kind of damn commie or something.

8/02/2006 1:34 PM

 
Blogger Jeff Rients said...

I totally missed Gen13 during the original Image explosion, but I read one of the trades a few years back. My local library had a copy in its rather respectably-sized comics section. I also picked up Go Girl! on the same outing. Reading the two back-to-back left me with the distinct impression that Gen13 was little more than wank material for boys too young to legally buy actual smut.

8/02/2006 1:35 PM

 
Blogger Shaenon said...

I became a comic-book fan in the early 90s. Now, looking back on the comics that were actually being published during that period, I have no idea why.

I didn't even read Gen13, but I remember that Rainmaker page, because it was the subject of half the articles in Wizard magazine for about five years. (The other half was devoted to convincing readers to stock up on hideous Valiant comics.)

8/02/2006 2:17 PM

 
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I'm sorry, but you will never convince me that this comic is awesome. ...I can't even believe it lasted that long.

8/02/2006 2:41 PM

 
Blogger Blockade Boy said...

"Doubting that cover's awesomeness will only make it stronger." Haw! Just like Dana Carvey's George Michael's ass! "Accept it before it destroys you!"

Also, thanks for reminding me about the faddishly-named Grunge. I now have another candidate for my blog's Time-Travel Challenge. (Grunge to Rockabilly, perhaps?)

8/02/2006 3:02 PM

 
Anonymous Haole said...

As the unelected representative of Asians everywhere, I'm glad that they chose a non-Asian to depict Grunge in that poster. Saves some Chinese dood the lifelong fear of having it found on the internet by a co-worker and posted one day in the break room.

And I'm with Bill Reed -- this is the first time you've failed to convince me of a comic book's awesomeness.

8/02/2006 3:45 PM

 
Anonymous Paolo said...

I am so glad I spent my youth searching the quarter bins for All-Star Squadron back issues instead of this crap!

8/02/2006 4:04 PM

 
Anonymous duncan said...

Seriosuly, haterzz, I've not read the non-Warren stuff, but the Gen13 that was coming out of WS during the Authority/Planetary era was actually probably the best stuff they were publishing.

Also, as well as being a seriously underrated scriptwriter, Warren is miles better as an artist than Mad!, Campbell and whatnot.

8/02/2006 4:13 PM

 
Blogger jonni said...

D-d-did..., did you just say "Booyakkasha!"?

8/02/2006 7:28 PM

 
Anonymous Haole said...

NERRRRRRDS!!!!

8/02/2006 7:48 PM

 
Blogger Centurion said...

Funny, this being my first exposure to Gen13 and I note one thing. Maybe I'm just wierd, but Fairchild was hotter before her superpowers kicked in...

8/02/2006 8:45 PM

 
Anonymous Nobody said...

I have a distinct and vivid memory of seeing Rainmaker's defining moment while browsing a comic rack at a now out-of-business drugstore as a 12 year old.

It was a few years before I started collecting comics but it must have made an impression because whenever I think of Gen13 that page is the first thing I think of. It was great to see it again, for once not in my mind's eye!

8/02/2006 9:44 PM

 
Anonymous Nobody said...

(Sorry, I put the wrong link in the preceding comment!)

8/02/2006 9:45 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, that issue where Burnout's wearing a Soundgarden t-shirt? He gets called a 'dinosaur' by two skater punks wearing, respectively, a Nirvana shirt and a Green Day shirt.


Matt

8/03/2006 12:52 AM

 
Blogger Kitty said...

I just laughed at that Grunge cover for about ten minutes straight. AWESOMENESS!

8/04/2006 1:42 AM

 
Anonymous Generic Viagra said...

This is one of the rudest character of the comic universe, or at least that's what I think. I definitely respect GEN13 more than anyone in the world.

10/08/2010 2:59 PM

 

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