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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Brief History of Gen13, Part Two

In last night's take-no-prisoners post, the ISB took a good long look at the cast of Gen13, and while most of the series revolves around Fairchild's ginormous rack, it might come as a surprise to you that the team actually did things every now and then, too.

"Things, you say? That sounds intriguing! Tell me more!"

Why thanks, imaginary head voice, I don't mind if I do! So now, grab a beverage and strap yourself in for the two-fisted finale, as the ISB runs down the entire series in the death-defying diatribe we just had to call...

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GEN13


Gen13: The Miniseries:

When I was a kid, this one was always out of my price range, and seeing as my local shop at the time consisted of something not unlike a jail cell half-full of used romance novels, I could never find the trade paperback either. Having read it last week, however, I can assure you: Young Chris was not missing a whole lot. There's an awful lot of setup involved, and it lacks most of the ridiculous charm of the ongoing, mostly due to the fact that it's a typical mid-90s Image comic.

How typical? Feast thine eyes, dear reader:



Pitt guest stars.

Gen13: The Ongoing

#1-2:

Considering that it was 1995, it should come as no surprise that the Gen13 ongoing launched with thirteen variant covers. What actually is surprising, however, is the variants that Wildstorm went with, which included a Simon Bisley Heavy Metal cover homage, an Art Adams X-Babies, a down-to-the-logo riff on Sandman, and a blank white "do-it-yourself" cover with the logo and page guides bluelined in. And come on, as far as ridiculous commercialism in comics goes, that's pretty entertaining.

Anyway, as to the story, this is where it becomes abundantly clear that the world of Gen13 is not a subtle one, right about the time that a giant, green and possibly German man in sharp-edged armor named Helmut shows up and fights the team. Also notable, Freefall goes to a dance club, runs into a creepy goth hypnotist, and ends up with her miniature magical interdimensional pet, Lockheed--sorry, Queelocke. You can tell the difference because Queelocke's green and teleports, rather than being purple and breathing fire. Totally different thing.

Highlight: The real highlight of the first couple issues is, of course, Rainmaker completely demolishing the closet with a single grope of Roxy's ass. But I posted that one last night, so instead, I'm going to go with my second-favorite set of panels from Gen13 #2:



Because if a bikini-clad Caitlin Fairchild quoting Wolverine doesn't sum up the whole series in a nutshell, then brother, I don't know what does.

#3-5:

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you must read a Gen13 story--although I can't imagine a life-or-death situation where that woud possibly be the solution--this is the story to read. It was the first one I ever got as a kid, and these issues are still some of the most ridiculously entertaining comics I have ever read. They are genius. And why?

Because this is the story where Gen13 gets shipwrecked and then teams up with Bruce Campbell and the Pirate King to fight an island full of super-hot bikini-clad ninja amazons.

If you are not freaking out right now, go back and read that sentence again. I'll wait.

Bruce Campbell in this case is represented by dashing explorer Jim McArthur, heir to the archaeologically minded McArthur Foundation, which, presumably, is not to be confused with frequent Public Radio contributors, the MacArthur Foundation. Through some sequence of events that isn't quite made clear, he ends up hiding out from the Ninja Amazons--actually a sect of immortal Coda Warriors established two thousand years ago by WildCATS mainstay Zealot--in the wrecked body of a WWII-era bomber, hand-making landmines until Fairchild crashes through his roof one sunny afternoon.

Grunge and Rainmaker end up in the clutches of the Coda, and while Rainmaker ends up chained to a wall in the dungeons, escaping with the aid of hot young servant-wench Daphne, Grunge is hauled off for breeding and ends up contracting a bloodborne pathogen that'll turn him into a space monster in about fifteen issues. That's just how they roll.

Burnout and Freefall end up being picked up by the Pirate King (Daphne's father), who, of course, is actually named Captain Morgan. Pure. Genius.

Highlight: Caitlin Fairchild: Queen of the Jungle.



Admittedly, this was the highlight of the book for an entirely different reason when I was 12, but now I just get a kick out of the fact that stepping on one of Jim's homemade landmines completely shredded Fairchild's outfit, but left her boots completely intact.

#6-7:

Jim Lee returns to the pages of Gen13 for a two-part series where the kids hit the streets of Rome and end up running afoul of the Vatican's metahuman strike force, and even as a kid, I was wondering who this guy was and hoping J. Scott Campbell would be back soon.

Of more importance than the Pope's Super-Swiss Guard, however, is the fact that Rainmaker gets drunk and ends up shacking up with Burnout for the evening, thus sparking a love triangle between Rainmaker, Burnout, and returning incestuous sociopath, Bliss. Also, this story features the debut of Gen13's evil counterparts, The Deviants, or as they were later known in their own spinoff series that was originally scripted by Warren Ellis, DV8.

Highlight: From the scene where Burnout, Bliss, and Rainmaker break into the Vatican to rescue the rest of the team comes the panel that Ragnell, for some reason, doesn't want me to make into the new When Fangirls Attack banner:



#8-9

Trance, the Trent Reznor lookalike who showed up back in #2 returns to hassle Freefall some more, and ends up turning Fairchild... eeeeeeevil!, using her to lure the rest of the kids to a downright Scooby-Doobian abandoned carnival, where his team of henchmen deliver the most thorough circus-themed asskicking since Ghost Rider #72, thus proving that Gen13 may actually be the worst super-hero team ever.

Highlight: The kids are so thoroughly in danger of being crushed by the likes of a super-contortionist that they have to rely on backup. And in this case, that backup is Anna the Maid, who reveals that she's actually a robot in the only acceptable way to reveal things here on the ISB:

A good solid punch to the jaw.


#10-11

The completely-skippable "Fire From Heaven" tie in, featuring appearances by Deathblow, Grifter, and the crappy pre-Ellis Stormwatch.

Highlight: None to speak of, although this is the story where Caitlin Fairchild finds is her long-lost father Alex Fairchild, who in turn reveals that Burnout is Lynch's long-lost son. Seriously, in this series, everyone is someone's long-lost something.

#13a-13c:

To celebrate the book's one-year anniversary, Gen13 #13 was split into three 13-page issues, each one for $1.30. At the time, I thought that was a pretty neat gimmick, but even better was the story itself, which featured a phenomenally ridiculous plot that pretty much amounted to Grunge eating some bad tacos and hallucinating for thirty pages.

The fun part, of course, was that the issue contained thirteen sets of guest stars, featuring just about everybody from Fone Bone to Wolverine, including everyone's favorite non-super-powered teens:



Highlight: Surprisingly, Archie is not the highlight of the guest appearances. No, that honor goes to an appearance by motivaitional infomercial star Tony Robbins in a page that must be seen to be believed:



#14-22:

About this time, Gen13 starts to completely fall apart, which is a good thing for you and me, because I'm pretty sure we're both getting sick of this article by now. Anyway, starting in 14, the kids enroll in college, which lasts for a record-shattering two issues before the book moves on to other things. But what a two issues they are!

Remember how I said Gen13 didn't waste time with subtlety? Well, when physics teacher Professor Insano--his actual name, mind you--shows up and is suspected of unleashing his super-intelligent war-monkey on the campus, that's pretty much just another day for the kids.

After that, it's the Christmas issues which--as I mentioned--feature the heartwarming tale of a mdiget toymaker dressed suspiciously like the kid from Where the Wild Things Are, who kidnaps Freefalll, Fairchild, and Rainmaker with the goal of impregnating them through the use of a robot body. Happy Holidays!

And finally, in the last Brandon Choi arc, half the team gets sent off into space with a highly-annoying Yoda simulacrum, returning to Earth 15 years later for a story that might as well have been called Days of Future Past--90s STYLE!

#23-59:

At this point, original writer Brandon Choi left the book, making way for John Arcudi and Gary Frank, who were in turn followed up by Scott Lobdell, who turned in runs that--not surprisingly--nobody cared about or read. Although to be fair, there is a really good Planetary preview in there somewhere.

#60-76

Yes, Gen13, once popular enough to support an ongoing series, two spinoffs, crossovers with just about everybody in the Marvel Universe, and more than a few miniseries, had fallen by the wayside. Hither came Adam Warren, dark haired and sullen-eyed, pen in hand, capable of great linework and great scripting, to tread the Arcudi run under his sandaled feet.

Yes, Adam Warren, who was known to draw more explosions on a single page of Dirty Pair than happened in all six issues of Infinity Gauntlet combined rolls onto the scene and returns the team to the La Jolla beachhouse, brings back Anna the Robot Maid, and--most importantly--returns Gen13 to its roots:

Giant Stupid Fights Where Fairchild's Clothes Get Ripped Up A Lot.


Highlight: The whole thing is gloriously over-the-top, including a scene where Grunge pictures Rainmaker and Fairchild wrestling in lingerie as they discuss Andrea Dworkin's assertion that all sex is inherently rape (yet another rejected WFA banner, I might add), and this, my favorite line in the entire series:

"In the end, Caitlin Fairchild died as she lived... valiant, courageous, and almost naked."


Okay. At this point, I realize the phrase "Brief History" has become entirely inaccurate, but there's still one more section to get through before we call it a night here at ISB HQ:

Gen13 Volume 3

The original Gen13 ongoing series ended with #76, at which time--deciding that the original team was way too tied into the 90s--Wildstorm Editorial decided to blow everybody but Fairchild up real good with a nuclear bomb and start fresh.
Now that may be pretty harsh, but honestly: you're going to get that sort of thing when you decide to name a character "Grunge." Regardless, the slate had been wiped clean, and the stage was set for a new era of Gen-Active excitement and adventure. All they needed to do was bring in a writer who knew what "The Kids" were into, someone who had a real handle on what the youth market wanted.

So of course, they brought in Chris Claremont.

And since this wasn't the mid-70s, it was a complete and utter failure.

Me, I blame the fact that they replaced a Native American character with rain-dance powers with an Asian girl who could control a psychic dragon. Yeesh.

Breathe A Sigh Of Relief, Cretins! That's The End!

...OR IS IT?!





BONUS FEATURE: Tales From The Lettercolumn!


Long before Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose cornered the market on complete and utter lettercolumn insanity, there was Talkin' Bout My GENeration. Edited by Sarah Becker--who would, in a nicely interactive touch, hold letter-based constests every few months--it was made almost entirely of:

a) People who really wanted to date one of the girls.

b) Poetry (as featured in the Gen13 Poetry Contest from issues 11 and 12)

and

c) People who were really, really mad about Rainmaker being a lesbian:



Becker's responses were, in keeping with the letters they respodned to, completely ludicrous, including one that I still remember from the first time I read it, where she answers a query as to why guys are so mad about Rainmaker's sexuality:



I had no idea what that meant in 1996, and I'm pretty sure that I have even less an idea of what it means now.




BONUS BONUS FEATURE! The ISB Reveals the Truth!


From the comments section of last night's post:

Augie De Blieck Jr. said...

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


To that, the ISB responds...

OH REALLY?!







More--And Far Shorter--Brief Histories:

| Firestorm, Part One |
| Firestorm, Part Two |
| U.S. 1, Part One |
| U.S. 1, Part Two |
| Nemesis, Part One |
| Nemesis, Part Two |

24 Comments:

Blogger McGone said...

Bonus Bonus Pwned!

8/03/2006 2:19 AM

 
Blogger The Fortress Keeper said...

I read the book up until about issue #13. I kinda equated it to an Aaron Spelling show, stupid but strangely addicting.

Never knew about the Claremont team though. How long did that last?

8/03/2006 4:42 AM

 
Anonymous Scott said...

To me, the charm of Gen13 was not so much their main series, but their seemingly never-ending bizarre one-shots and the always fun Gen 13 Bootleg, especially the Gen 13 Bootleg Annual (which I can't look up the details now because the Grand Comic Book Database is down).

Now that I think about it, didn't DC steal the Gen13 Bootlegidea for its JLA Classified and JSA Classified?

8/03/2006 10:04 AM

 
Anonymous Jack Potts said...

Chris-

You obviously worked way too hard on this thing only to have two comments, so I thought I'd weigh in to say "Great work!"

I'd love to read your take on Adam Hughes' Gen13: Ordinary Heroes mini-series. Great art and a solid tale with a neat hook. I've had to purchase two sets of that series, because I literally read the covers off the first set.

8/03/2006 10:08 AM

 
Blogger Jeff Rients said...

I know I was hating on this book in the previous post, but I have to acknowledge that the Pirates vs Amazon arc was pretty awesome.

8/03/2006 12:14 PM

 
Blogger Jon said...

The best part of the thirteenth issue, by far, was the team of Liefeld characters getting evicted from Imageland, or whatever the Hell it was called. Tiny ankles, giant shoulderpads... Hell, I think I need to scan that.

As for the Claremont team, I'm pretty sure my local shop still has a few dozen copies of the super-cheap preview issue (it was either thirteen cents or a quarter. I can't remember if they were cashing in on the Ten-Cent Adventure thing or not). So bad, people won't part with spare change for it.

8/03/2006 12:53 PM

 
Blogger Jeff said...

Hey, remember when Sarah Becker was on The Real World? Nothing she said in real life made any sense, either.

I only feel comfortable admitting I watched The Real World because that was the same time in my life that I was buying Gen13.

8/03/2006 1:33 PM

 
Anonymous Haole said...

Chris, that was some genius work on a series that didn't deserve it -- sorta like Alan Moore on Supreme, or Raul Julia in Street Fighter the Movie.

I never bought an issue of Gen13. Now DV8 -- that was some crazy shit. And Sublime was pretty hot.

8/03/2006 2:42 PM

 
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Tony Robbins hungry...

8/03/2006 4:02 PM

 
Anonymous Justin Garrett Blum said...

I remember picking up maybe...issue 5 or something of the ongoing and thinking that J. Scott Campbell was the coolest guy ever, so I looked into picking up some of the back issues but, this being the 90s, they were already, like, $20 each. So I never bought another Gen13 comic again. I guess I was easily discouraged back then or something.

I do remember liking the Gen13/Superman crossover though. That was class.

8/03/2006 4:51 PM

 
Blogger Filthy McMonkey said...

The only one I have is the Warren Ellis/Steve Dillon Annual, Which I gotta say, was pretty decent. And wierd...prolly just because of Dillon, it seemed like a leftover script from Preacher with the Gen 13 kids shoehorned in.
Gotta love superheroes in super bars stories.

8/03/2006 6:10 PM

 
Blogger ryansenseless said...

Man, I read all those Gen-13 comics too and, like you, I enjoyed it until issue 13. After that I just stopped caring.

Your brief history was awesome. Makes me ALMOST want to buy the new relaunch. ALMOST...

8/03/2006 9:29 PM

 
Anonymous Christopher said...

Okay, that first page you posted raises an interesting question:

Why did the Image Revolutionaries hate faces?

I mean, they just refused to draw faces that weren't mishapen and pinched.

I sorta get why they thought the shoulder pads and pouches and even the tiny ankles looked cool, but the rationale behind making every face pinched, wrinkled, and off-center just completely escapes me.

8/04/2006 4:06 AM

 
Blogger Martin said...

I think I only ever read the crossover with Monkeyman and O'Brien, but this is enlightening stuff.
Lest you think my 90s was all indie comics and clever stuff, I bought like 30 issues of Ghost.

8/04/2006 10:19 AM

 
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

The Ellis/Dillon annuals were collected in a trade called London/New York/Hell, IIRC. Bootleg had some fun issues, like the Simonson issue, and the Jan Strnad/Sean Shaw/Kevin Nowlan two-parter.

8/04/2006 10:23 AM

 
Blogger Jeff Rients said...

"I bought like 30 issues of Ghost."

I stopped after the issue (was it #1?) where Ghost finds her sister making a BDSM porno with mutants, Ghost fights the mutants, and lil sis chews her out for ruining a perfectly good paying gig. I figured there was no real way to top that.

8/04/2006 12:30 PM

 
Anonymous Augie De Blieck Jr. said...

Oops! You win! At least it wasn't as embarrassing as some of the other letters I wrote back in the day. (No, really, I had a letter printed in YOUNGBLOOD #3 or #4 that still makes me cringe.)

Thanks for the memories!

(For the kids at home who didn't realize it, that was Humberto Ramos filling in for issues #8-9.)

But I liked a lot of the Arcudi/Frank run on the title. It sold like crap, but it was entertaining. Adam Warren, though, did the best job on the book, thoroughly destroying it, sales-wise. Go fig.

The Gen13 Bootleg book also featured a story from Mike Wieringo. I think it started with a Mark Farmer-penned and Alan Davis-drawn three parter. Beautiful stuff.

It followed the same formula as BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, so you can't say DC's current CLASSIFIED titles are following Gen13...

8/04/2006 3:13 PM

 
Blogger William said...

Nice site! I found this post while link-hopping. VERY glad to know that I'm not the only one who spent too much time with Caitlin and the crew.

I've always wondered, though, am I the only one who thought Campbell was being ghosted for the majority of his run? I mean, sure, artistic styles evolve over time, but he seemed to go from "detailed" to downright cartoony.

The early issues paint him as a Jim Lee clone, who REALLY loved eyelashes. Just look at those things! After awhile, though, epecially when the story hit the Days of Future Past Redux arc, his work was almost indistinguishable from Al Rio. Nowadays, his work on things such as Wildsiderz is unsightly, and almost the opposite of any evolution.

Now, this isn't mean to be Campbell-bashing, but I just find it odd that this was his career-defining gig, yet it was kind of phoned in for the vast majority of the run. Nobody ever seems to mention that aspect of the series, but I knew, the minute I read the "Gen13'Zine" special, that something was amiss in the series art dept.

8/06/2006 1:05 AM

 
Blogger Chris Sims said...

If memory serves, William, by the time the outer space/dystopian future story rolled around, Al Rio and Campbell were both being credited as pencillers on the book.

I don't know if that means that one was doing roughs and the other finishes or what, but it's worth noting.

8/06/2006 1:53 AM

 
Anonymous Adrian said...

About that "zoot suit" comment: considering that everyone in Gen13 seemed to be someone's long-lost relative, perhaps Sarah Becker is really the long-lost daughter of Bob Haney?

8/07/2006 10:23 AM

 
Anonymous Paco said...

I was 15 when this series came out and the vibe of it was crazy. I loved it. It was so damn silly that you had to. This page has gotten me to get that old box off the shelf, reread some issues, and even order, no matter how bad it may turn out to be, the movie I would have killed for when I was 16. Gen 13 the movie.

8/24/2006 12:09 AM

 
Blogger karim said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.


Thanks,
Karim - Creating Power

9/24/2009 5:07 AM

 
Anonymous Generic Viagra said...

First time I watched Gen 13 I thought they were a powerful squadron, but after read its comics and watch its enemies I receive a profound disillusion.

8/27/2010 1:35 PM

 
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