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...
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
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,
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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!
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.
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:
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:
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.
...OR IS IT?!
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)
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.
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...
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 |