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Monday, November 28, 2005

Where They Went Wrong: The Legion of Monsters

Here's a phrase you probably don't hear too often: I'm thinking of getting myself a run of Marvel Premiere.

FACT:  Karate Killer showdowns are awesome.From what I can gather, it's a lot like DC's First Issue Special, a sort of catch-all title for whatever Marvel felt like putting out at the time. You might get a year's worth of Iron Fist, a couple issues of Satana or the inexplicably-named Woodgod, and then the story where Black Panther takes on the Klan. How could that possibly go wrong?

That's the feeling you'd get from seeing the covers, anyway. In practice, it doesn't always work out.

Take, for instance, Marvel Premiere #28:

Don't be fooled.I was re-pricing these the other day while I talked to Tug, mostly remarking on how awesome the covers were, when he saw it sitting in the stack.

"Hey! You ever read that one?!"

He was pretty excited about it, so I took a look.

"No, I haven't... It looks pretty good, though."

"Yeah it does, but it's not. It's terrible. You could probably get a whole ISB entry out of it."

And as it turns out, I could!

Coming at you from the heart of 1976, this story's by Bill "The Thrill" Mantlo and Frank "The Shank" Robbins, with Marv Wolfman credited as "Vizier & Editor." Who knew?

I actually read it a couple of days ago and had a hard time finding my copy tonight sp that I could write about it, and I was starting to think that the only things I'd be able to say was that a bunch of supernatural characters teamed up and fought a mountain, and that it wasn't very good. Not a lot of detail, sure, but a far more accurate summation than the "most spine-tingling team-up of all" promised by the cover. Here at the ISB, though, we're not content to just tell you how bad it is. No, our goal tonight is to uncover the exact point that things went sour for this little shindig, in hopes that such mistakes can be avoided in the future.

Here's how it goes down: A mountain erupts into being in the middle of Los Angeles, a city that's currently playing host to Johnny (Ghost Rider) Blaze, Morbius the Living Vampire, and Jack "Werewolf By Night" Russel. Naturally, these three decide independently to check it out, what with it interrupting Morbius trying to drink Werewolf By Night's blood. It also makes a disturbance down in the Nexus of All Realities, and since Man-Thing's bored enough to try stealing fish from a drunken hobo, he decides to check things out, too.

Of course, that's when the giant golden alien on a giant golden horse shows up.

Yes, He Who Is Called The Starseed!--who, like most mid-70s Marvel characters, doesn't actually have a name, just something he's called--shows up, and Johnny Blaze immediately develops a man-crush on him, despite the fact that he's a total dick:

Also, "brother-son?" Now that's just creepy.

As it turns out, Starseed is from Earth, and he's been out in space for a couple million years and just wants to chill out. But then Morbius tries to drink his blood and, well, everything goes downhill from there. Ghost Rider screams like a woman and runs away, telling his bike that he loves it because Man-Thing is scary. Then, despite the fact that he gets in a pretty good backhand--we find out that giant golden aliens are no match for werewolves in green pants, and the Starseed goes down like a punk, with dialogue that makes you want to punch him in the face again and again:

Then, just to prove that he really is a total dick, he uses his cosmic powers to momentarily turn everyone back into their alter-egos, giving Ted Sallis and Michael Morbius thirty seconds of relief from their cursed lives of unending torment and pain, just so they realize how much it sucks when they turn back into monsters after four panels. What a jerk.

Then Ghost Rider walks his bike back to LA. The end.

So, where exactly did this issue go wrong?

If you said it was Ghost Rider standing around crying instead of burning someone's soul away with hellfire and cackling about it as he rode off on a motorcycle made of pure hellfire, you're surprisingly wrong. The real mistake of Marvel Premiere #28 was putting such a lousy story up against an ad like the one for Big Jim's P.A.C.K.!

Who cares about Morbius when they could be having the adventure of a lifetime alongside the mysterious Dr. Steel and his badass dragon tattoo?! Not me, that's for sure.

Plus, right after you see Ghost Rider dragging his Champions-era Skull Cycle down the highway--without ever resolving the fact that there's a mountain in the middle of Sunset Boulevard--there's an ad for Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Super-Hero, the single greatest super-hero themed rock opera of all time, featuring a curiously Dick Van Dyke-looking Stan Lee.

Or, you know, it could've been Ghost Rider openly weeping. Yeah, I'm going to go with that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wolfman by Night's real name is Jack Russel?!!!


Oh I liked the rest of your post too.

11/28/2005 12:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, first time visitor with a dumb question: was it Marvel Premiere or Spotlight that had these horrible Man-Wolf stories where he had a sword and a bow (a bow for christsake! Who gives a werewolf a bow? I had nightmares about it until I saw Courtney Love with a crossbow, but anyway) and the same basic plot as DC's the Warlord...oh, God, I think I have to find those issues just to get them out of my system.

12/01/2005 12:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was Marvel Premiere that had Manwolf. It was George Perez's first work for Marvel, so its not too bad. In the 40s I think.

12/02/2005 4:26 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

Hope you stick around for a while, Chuck, and thanks to whoever answered that question. I wouldn't have known, since pretty much all I know about Marvel werewolves is that sometimes they wear green pants, and I don't like it when they do.

12/02/2005 8:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Starseed looks like Michael Jackson to me.

12/02/2005 11:55 PM

Blogger The Davids said...

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5/17/2006 2:44 PM

Blogger Bill S. said...

And isn't the advertisement drawn by Jack Kirby, too? Kirby never would've had Ghost Rider weeping openly.

10/31/2006 2:13 PM

Blogger Scipio said...

"Big Jim's Pack"?

I'm certain I rented that movie...

11/04/2006 10:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, I think there's plans to revive this concept soon...

1/15/2007 11:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The BASIC concept is cool. The execution is the problem.

2/01/2007 11:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


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3/16/2007 3:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cover is cool, and it could have been a great comic. Sadly, it wasn't. I actually bought the comicbook as a kid in a used book store on the cover alone. I would love to see the quartet in good stories.

4/07/2007 1:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still have my Dr. Steel action figure. He was awesome. I played with him so much his tattoo got a bit faded.

6/18/2007 10:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The funny thing about Big Jim's Pack is that this was an attempt to make him less boring than he already was. Big Jim's original incarnation only did sports, if I remember correctly. I think original Big Jim wore a red sweatsuit and had levers that you could use to shoot a basketball, kick a football, and swing a bat. (Or maybe I just hallucinated that after breathing the vapors from his polyurethane molding, not sure.) Anyway, Big Jim's Pack was a major advance forward in coolness. I didn't like "action figures" enough to get any of them, but that ad was so cool that I can recall talking some other kids into playing. Of course it really wasn't so cool at all, so that only lasted for about five minutes. Maybe we knew deep down that an Indian character named Warpath was just wrong. Or, maybe that any character named Big Jim was just creepy.

8/05/2007 12:17 AM

Blogger Martin Gray said...

That He Who Is . . . guy, he reminds me of another of Marvel's best characters, the fabulous Aeroika from Defenders:


In the fine tradition of He Who Is . . ., Aeroika had an enemy named Unnameable.

5/14/2008 9:01 AM

Blogger Martin Gray said...

Oh, and Marvel's idea of what constituted a 'legion' was even worse than DCs.

5/14/2008 9:02 AM

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