Category Archives: 90s Marvel

Beacon of Hope

Hello, boys and girls! Are we all ready for storytime? You are? Good. Gather around and sit down crisscross-applesauce. I have a story that’s perfect for children. It’s about a colorful and cheery alternate dimension. It was called the “Age of Apocalypse”. Doesn’t that sound fun? Great! Well, I have your permission slips, so let’s begin……

In a reality of darkness and misery, a tyrannical mutant madman, Apocalypse, ruled all. Humanity either lived their lives in servitude to the mutant race, or in the death camps. Death was a luxury that didn’t come soon enough. Legion, the son of Professor Charles Xavier, had slain his father by mistake. Since this was done through the use of time travel, the timeline had become this living nightmare. (Sounds like a trip to your local Wal-Mart, doesn’t it?) On this particular stormy night, Nathaniel Essex, also known by the name Mr. Sinister, stands at a window, deep in thought. The setting is what appears to be your average out-of-the-way family home in Omaha, Nebraska. But appearances can be deceiving.

Sinister is one of Apocalypse’s elite, a so-called Horseman. You’d think he would revel in that fact. But even one as cold-hearted as he is knows that this madness must end. He turns and strides to a hidden elevator. He enters and rides it down countless levels until he stops at an emense, high-tech laboratory. The Horseman smiles to himself as he approaches a large tube near the lab’s end. He then punches in a numerical code known only to himself. With a hiss, a young boy emerges! Yes, Mr. Sinister has been preparing. He has collected the right DNA samples, tweaked them as he saw fit, and created Apocalypse’s downfall. The child is his greatest achievement. A living weapon. (Is anyone else relieved that the shadowing conveniently covered up the boy’s no-no bits?)

The child cautiously and nervously looks around at his surroundings. He stops in front of Sinister and peers up at the imposing man. The boy is not greeted with affection, but instead, Mr. Sinister turns to his monitors and studies the boy’s readings. Satisfied, he turns back and notices that his young creation is shivering. Sinister replicates a pair of pajamas and the child quickly dresses. Scratching his chin in contemplation, the Horseman ponders what to call this young mutant boy. After a moment, he states that he will be called Nate Grey. “Grey” as in the last name of the boy’s “mother”, and “Nate” from Mr. Sinister’s own natural first name. He is the only father this boy will ever know after all. (It could be worse. Sinister’s first name could be “Fifty-Shades-Of”. I know that doesn’t make sense! Stop judging me!!)

This moment is interrupted, however, by the large screen upon the wall flickering to life. Sinister hastily hides Nate behind him as the Beast’s image becomes clear! The furred mutant wastes little time for pleasantries. He remarks that he has detected a sudden power surge where Sinister now stands. Sinister says very little in his defense and the Beast disappears with an evil smirk. Then turning to check on Nate, he discovers that the boy is missing! Nate wanders, looking in wonder at the strange and sterile corridors. He enters a room by chance and his mind shows him that mutant children were once housed and taught here. They were captives and orphans like himself. Merely kept alive to test their future potential. Those chosen would use their abilities in order to serve Apocalypse. Those that were not chosen…..The scene disappears and Nate continues onward. (Reminds me of grade school. The parallels are uncanny! At least we had recess though, right?)

Angered and perhaps a bit frightened, Sinister tore through room after room as he called out the boy’s name. And as he did, he grew more and more frantic. Finally, energy exploded out of the Horseman’s raised arms, nearly destroying the kitchen area! (Damn! Well, someone’s not getting a “World’s Best Sort-Of-Dad” coffee mug on Father’s Day with that attitude!) Nate’s tiny voice came from behind the villain. Obviously afraid, he apologized and claimed that he had gotten lost. Later, Nathaniel Essex would show Nate Grey the horrors of this Apocalypse-ruled world from the relative safety of a lab monitor. Nate stared at the pens in particular. But before Sinister could finish his sentence, the two of them disappeared!

Mr. Sinister stood with a look of utter shock and disbelief upon his pale face! They were both now in a different place entirely! They were standing upon a catwalk above an area used to sort out humans from mutants. The strong from the weak. The pens seen earlier from the lab monitor in fact! A terrified young woman hunched near them attempts to stop armored guards from taking her aunt from her! Sinister reflexively tries to shield Nate with his own body! But shockingly, the guards run right through them as if they were no more than spirits! Nate however, grabs one of the armored goons by his belt! Anger flashes across the boy’s face as he utters one word, stop. Realization then hits the Horseman. The boy was doing all of this with his mind! Even more impressive was that he didn’t even know he was doing it! (Whoa! Talk about power! Sinister had better be careful how he disciplines Nate after this! He may just end up on the business side of a spanking instead!)

Mr. Sinister was prepared however. By concentrating, they reappeared within the lab. Nate whirled his head to his “father” then in rage! He demanded to know why he had returned them! Sinister had very little to say in response as a look that somewhat resembled fear crossed his face. (I don’t know what’s more shocking here. That Sinister was at a loss for words, or that he looks like he may have just wet his metal pants!) Nate looks back at the screen. He looks at the girl from earlier. Mr. Sinister notices how she holds a patchwork teddy bear. He fabricates it with the merest tap of computer keys. Nate looks at the bear lovingly and embraces it. Nathaniel Essex observes this scene in silence.

Mr. Sinister would return young Nate Grey to his growth chamber that night. He would explain that this was because the boy was not yet ready. Sinister whispers a goodnight to his creation. But as the metal doors seal to the pod, Nate whispers to the Horseman a sweet goodnight back. Sinister takes a moment before he realizes that the boy’s mouth didn’t move! A weapon he had created, yes. But a weapon against whom? Sinister visibly shudders as he ponders the possibilities.

End?

Avenging Hero…..in a Tutu

What’s hideously deformed, smells of toxic waste, and wears a ragged pink tutu? Yo mama! Ha! I kill myself sometimes! Ahem. Seriously though. If you answered, “The Toxic Avenger”, you’d be right on the money. The Toxic Avenger was created in 1984 as a black comedy/horror/superhero film for Troma Entertainment. Though the movie was low-budget and highly ignored upon it’s release the following year, it is now considered to be a cult classic. It spawned three sequels, a comic series by Marvel, and even a cartoon series, “The Toxic Crusaders”. That’s just to name a few of it’s major accomplishments. I first saw Toxie at home, on a rented VHS tape, when I was just a little boy. (And I turned out to be a completely well-adjusted individual. Kinda.) I’ve watched and re-watched it over and over again since and a large movie poster even adorned my bedroom wall. He was a large part of my childhood and is thusly held in high regard in my heart to this very day. That said, on with the story…..

Carrying only a mop, the creature crawls through the disgusting refuse of the barren junkyard. Confusion taints his every thought. Where is he? Who is he? All he remembers with clarity is excruciating pain. He happens upon a beaten-up, old car. Looking at his reflection in the vehicle’s broken window, he sees a grotesque monster looking back at him! He lets loose an unearthly roar that echoes throughout the garbage dump! Not far away, a trio of street thugs jump at the frightening sound. Leaving the warmth of their flaming barrel, they check their guns and go to investigate. The monster’s body is suddenly bombarded with an intense tingling. He somehow knows that evil approaches. (I get that buzzing feeling too. It’s usually caused by too much caffeine and followed by a sugar crash that involves me snoring away for hours. The only evil that follows is a stomachache and a mad dash to the bathroom.)

The punks round the corner and spy a humanoid form in the shadows. They waste no time in leaping from their hiding place and firing semi-automatic rounds into their intended prey! The three slowly approach their bullet-ridden target. It’s then that they realize that it was only a discarded mannequin. They question one another as to who cried out then. Their answer comes from a monstrous growl from behind them. The creature stands there revealed, spinning his mop like a weapon! (I totally did this move with a broom once. No lie! I mean, I quit after I nailed myself in the junk and went up a whole octave, but I did it!)

With a swift swipe of the mop, the trio are simultaneously disarmed! Another swipe takes all three off of their feet! The nameless monster lifts one of the thugs effortlessly over his head and shoves him into a nearby stack of tires! He then kicks the screaming man off of the peak of the junk pile, sending him crashing below! He’s then seemingly crushed to death by the tons of hastily stacked trash that topple down from the force of the impact! Seizing this moment as an opportunity to attack, another of the punks breaks a large chunk of wood over the creature’s head! He quickly turns, completely unharmed and now slightly irritated. The thug is thrown down into a festering pool of toxic waste! The man-beast then runs toward the bubbling chemicals (Probably 7-up. Hate that stuff unless I’m sick. Great! There goes my sponsor!) and reaches in to finish the fight. What he pulls out is nothing more than a charred and smoking skeleton! The monster turns then to see the last of his attackers run off, screaming into the night!

The evildoer leaps into a car and speeds off! The monster, in hot pursuit, runs after the car and into traffic! The creature then hails a passing cab. The driver pulls over, takes one look at his prospective passenger, and exits from the vehicle’s opposite door as fast as his body allows! The beast gets into the driver’s seat and floors the gas! He follows the thug’s car throughout the busy city streets until the creature hits a ramp at such a high speed, that he sails through the air until the cab crashes onto the roof of a nearby shop! (Man! That’s really hard to do! I only did it once or twice as a teen. Yep. Pretty rare.) The monster crawls, unharmed, from the wreckage. It then hears the terrified cries of the people down below. They’re scared of him. He leaps down from the roof, roaring in outrage! The concrete shatters where his feet impacted the ground! The people run away in a panic! Confused and frightened himself, he runs too.

We now shift our attention elsewhere. The scene is the Tromaville Home for the Blind. A scantily clad young woman with spiked hair and white facepaint covering half of her features speaks to the owner of the building. She asks him, with an obvious lack of tact, if he’ll sell the building to her boss for the purpose of tearing it down to make room for a toxic waste dump. Understandably angry at this, he orders her to leave the premises immediately. Amused, she does so. When she gets outside, she gives a loud whistle. Trucks full of gasoline begin driving in! (Awww! She’s sorry. She’s going to make up for her bad attitude by throwing a large barbecue! Oh! I do hope there’s weenies!)

Men exit the trucks, attach hoses, and begin dousing the entire building with gas! When it’s sufficiently drenched, the girl lights a match and tosses it onto the walkway to the entrance! There’s a large explosion as the Home for the Blind is engulfed in a firey inferno! (Okay. Everyone be calm. It does now appear that there will be no weenies.) The drivers then pull out guns and begin picking off the survivors that run from the burning facility! A load roar is then heard! One of the gasoline trucks is suddenly lifted and hurled at the shocked gunmen! The monster walks through the fire, towards an armed survivor of his awesome attack! The man panics and grabs the nearest fleeing blind person. He holds a sawed-off shotgun to her temple, threatening to take her life if he isn’t allowed safe passage out of here!

The creature implores him to let the poor girl go. Touched by this show of chivalry, the blind girl introduces herself as Claire. But before the man-beast can reply, she ducks down and rams her elbow into the henchman’s ribcage! He drops the gun! The monster seizes this opportunity. He punches a hole nearly clean through the villain’s head! (Umm. Call it a hunch, but I don’t think the guy in the picture above is gonna make it. I mean, I’m no doctor…..) The monstrous hero suddenly feels something strike him in the head. He turns and sees that the city’s denizens are pelting him with stones. Scooping up Claire in his powerful arms, he flees the scene as quickly as he can.

While this is going on, a sinister businessman orders his henchmen to dump more toxic waste into the filtration system of the pools at the Tromaville Health Club. When one of these goons dares to question why, the man replies that he wasnts to impress his uncle when he arrives. Meanwhile, the strange monster and Claire sit at the city dump. Things seem to move rather quickly between the two as she suddenly professes her love for her hero and desire to live with him. Overjoyed, he decides that his appearance and current encounters with the people of this city will unfortunately force him to reside right where the two lovebirds currently sit. Claire surprisingly agrees and the man-beast begins the hasty construction of a makeshift shelter. (Wow! Chicks. You show women the slightest bit of interest, and they immediately want to move in together. Am I right, fellas? Sheesh! Oh, if you happen to be a female that’s reading this, I immediately recant my previous statement. )

The two new lovers hold one another in the confines of their junkyard shack. Claire suddenly kisses her man. It’s then that he springs to his feet as his memories all suddenly flood in at once! His name is Melvin Junko! (Whew! Thank God! I was getting so sick of trying to find synonyms for the word “monster” and then alternating them! Though calling this huge guy “Melvin” isn’t much better!) Claire is understandably concerned. She asks Melvin if he’s okay. He replies that he is and that he now remembers how all of this happened to him. She begs that he tell her. He agrees and begins his tale.

Melvin Junko was your average, nerdy, ninety-eight pound weakling. He was the local janitor at the Tromaville Health Club, a place where only the beautiful and popular would congregate to show off ther perfect bodies. Needless to say, Melvin stuck out like a sore thumb. There was a girl that frequented the club that had always caught Melvin’s eye. Her name was Linda. Linda was living proof that beauty on the outside could definitely mask pure ugliness within. One day, as poor Melvin was mopping up around the pool area, the owner watched him with obvious disgust. He called Linda to his office and a nefarious plot to humiliate Melvin was concocted. (Man! That’s messed up! As an obsessive comic book fan, I call to all of the nerds of the world to rise up against our popular oppressors! The time for retribution is nigh! Or we could just complain the injustice of it all a bit and then play our Dungeons & Dragons in defiance. Dibs on the Drow elf!)

Linda approached Melvin that afternoon. Acting apologetic about her past dealings with him and aroused by his mere presence, she asked him to meet her in a back room later to be romantic. Overjoyed, Melvin agrees. There’s one catch however, it seems she’s only turned on when men kiss her in pink ballerina outfits. Too excited to question this strange request further, Melvin speeds off to change while she waits. (One might question Melvin here. Did he not suspect a practical joke? Need I remind you that she’s a sexy blonde, sporting a bikini, and he’s your average dumb man? I thought that might clear things up.) A few fumbling moments later, and with his prized mop in hand, he emerges to find the girl of his dreams waiting for him. Grabbing his pile of clothes suddenly, she runs out into the common area of the health club! A very panicked Melvin Junko gives chase! But what he finds when he exits the door is the laughing faces of literally everyone in the club! Even his boss chuckled and pointed!

Poor Melvin did the only thing his embarrassed and horrified mind could think of. He ran away. Unfortunately for him, the amassed bulky bullies gave chase until Melvin jumped from the nearest window! The fall wasn’t too bad height-wise. It was what he landed in. A truck that was hauling toxic waste had stopped directly underneath that very window! A bolt of lightning then struck the very barrel he was inside! Moments later, the young man slowly tried to crawl from the industrial byproduct! His flesh burned and bubbled as he did so! His hair ignited and fell out as his muscles grew and swelled with each painful step! No-one tried to help. What could they possibly do even if thry had been that compassionate? The monstrous form that was once Melvin Junko then sought refuge in the only place he could, the garbage dump. (The flashback has now ended. I now return you to your regularly scheduled movie adaption comic, already in progress.)

The monster now turns to Claire and announces that Melvin Junko died that night. From this day forward, he would be known as the Toxic Avenger! With this dramatic proclamation, he suddenly feels his body quake like it did earlier! Evil is near! That’s when a tank, driven by the punk that escaped him earlier, busts through the shack wall! Well, that’s the end of issue numero uno. If you were intrigued by my narrative and wish to find out what happens next, go buy a copy of issue two yourself! (I can’t do everything for you after all! Ha!)

Some items that I, your humble Symbifan, possess: (A Toxic Avenger novel signed by his creator, Lloyd Kaufman, and a figure of Toxie that my son just presented me with tonight, bought with his very first paycheck.)

Domino Effect

Greetings and salutations, Denizens of the Unspoken Universe! The Symbifan is back in the hizzy! (That’s my failed attempt at humor. Don’t worry. There’s more to come.) I thought I’d return to the Marvel Universe for this article. But not the Marvel Universe you know and love. No. For this particular article, I dare to ask the question…….”What if?”

This story begins as most tales of alternate realities begin, with the Watcher! The Watcher is a cosmic being blessed/cursed to bear witness to important events in the history of the Marvel Universe, yet he can never intervene, no matter how much he is compelled to. (So he’s pretty much a godlike peeping tom with excuses as to why he can’t step up like a real man. Oh! Burn!) But the Watcher not only sees one universe, he sees all of them from his hidden perch atop the Earth’s moon. It seems that in most cases, history can and will change drastically as the result of one single changed event. Like so…..

In the Marvel Universe we know a frail, yet patriotic, young man from Brooklyn, Steve Rogers, would become the only super soldier when the scientist who created the unique serum, Dr. Erskine, was shot to death by a German spy. But things in this universe went down slightly different as Rogers was fast enough to push his creator to safety, causing the bullet to miss its intended target! This moment would change this universe forevermore. (You ever try to say “super soldier serum” five times fast? It’s impossible! Did you try it just now? Ha! Made you do stuff!)

The U.S. government would now go on to create severel more super soldiers with Rogers, AKA Captain America, and a young Nick Fury leading them. Before long, World War II was at an end, with America being the ultimate victor of the conflict. The war over, Rogers and Fury began their long journey home. However, their ship was attacked by some remaining Nazi U-boats. Only Steve would survive to return to the States. (Seems a bit shifty to me. Hmmm.)

Steve Rogers would return as the biggest hero in American history. He would go on to create more super soldiers to serve in his world police force, S.H.I.E.L.D. His popularity grew until he was even elected as President for an unheard of three consecutive terms. It all seemed like the beginning of a fantastic new era for America. But all was not as it seemed. President Rogers had a twisted idea of “human perfection”. His ideas of a “master race” mirrored Nazi beliefs as his men began to exterminate not only those that he saw as potential superhuman threats to his dream, but citizens that were deemed as “undesirables”! (Like people that don’t reply when you say, “Excuse me.” Ugh! That really toasts my buns!)

One of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s most feared soldiers/hunters was a man named Frank Castle. He wears devastatingly powerful armor, created by a man named Tony Stark. With it, hes been dubbed the Iron Man. It’s during his mission to execute the famed Sub-Mariner in the North Atlantic that a startling discovery is made…..a block of ice that seemed to contain the frozen body of Captain America! (Cap just seems to be destined to enter the new world with horrible brain freeze no matter what!)

Iron Man uses Namor’s confusion to his advantage, stunning him with several repulsor blasts. He then hauls The Sub-Mariner and the frozen man onto a waiting S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft. Namor is placed within a containment cell while a quickly-melting Captain America is laid out on a slab. Castle gets involved in a heated conversation with the two super soldier pilots, making him completely unaware that the man dressed in red, white, and blue has opened his eyes! (It’s on now! Yeah! Go, Cap! Sorry. I got a little too hyped there. It’s all of the caffeine admittedly.)

Captain America’s time frozen in ice has done little in slowing his fighting prowess! He quickly not only disarms and defeats the soldiers, but Iron Man as well! He then quickly frees the aquatic prisoner. They move in on Castle. Cap is quickly brought up to speed on the recent state of his beloved country and that it seems as though he is the cause of all of this horror by Namor. Castle states that he was only following orders as Cap is his childhood hero. Rogers then asks if this is the America that Frank truly wants to fight for. His reply is to incinerate the two super soldiers! Namor flies into a frenzy! This man can hardly be trusted! Captain America separates the two and states that they all have a common goal here. If this war is to be won, they will all need to work together. Both men agree and the Avengers are born! (Frank Castle with Iron Man armor is the stuff of nightmares. Just sayin’.)

The trio commandeer the S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft and use the computer systems aboard to search for others with extraordinary skills to aid them in their cause. This search takes them to the vast wilderness of the world’s 51st. state, Canada. They exit the ship and it doesn’t take long before they find the one they’re looking for, a mysterious man from Cap’s past that goes by the name, Logan. Logan wastes zero time for pleasantries, but instead attacks! As he fights, his body goes through a strange metamorphosis, sprouting long, white hair all over a huge, monstrous form! (Hey! My hair’s turned white too. I want super strength to go along with it! Of course, my hair’s the side-effect of raising two teenagers.)

The Avengers throw everything at the rampaging beast, but to no avail! Logan roars that he’ll destroy anyone who works with a monster like Steve Rogers! That’s when Cap finally says that he’s the real Captain America and that if he joins them, there will be no shortage of super soldiers to maim and kill. And just like that, Logan replies that he is now known as the Hulk and that he’ll join them. (That didn’t take long. I don’t want to say that Wolverine’s a psycho, but maybe some medication wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.)

Unfortunately, the Avengers would arrive too late to recruit their next man. Hank Pym and his wife had been murdered. Their bodies still lie on the floor. But before they can take their leave, Iron Man catches a burglar as he’s breaking into the house! The burglar says that his name is Sam Wilson and that he detests having to steal in order to live. But in this country, a black man’s lucky not to be sent to a death camp, let alone get honest work. Captain America is then struck with inspiration. He hands Wilson one of Pym’s costumes and pills that Pym was going to use to alter his size. Sam takes these items and becomes the mighty Giant Man! (What’s that you say? Where’s Scott Lang to take up the mantle, like in the Ant-Man movies? Isn’t Pym supposed to be an old man? Read a comic, people! Damn!)

(I omitted a part here involving Magneto that I felt served no purpose to the present story. I am not, nor have I ever been, a mutant-hater. That is all.) The team uses Castle’s security clearance to gain access to the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. But as they rush by, they witnesses great power humming within a nearby room. Looking in, they see a man with long, blonde hair and body armor, shackled with energy cuffs! The super soldiers are seemingly attempting to drain not only him, but the power from a large hammer held firmly in his grip! Cap and his allies spring into action, fighting off the soldiers and freeing the prisoner! He claims that he is the Norse god, Thor, and he will help them.

While more super soldiers enter the room, Iron Man shouts that Cap needs to find the room that holds the super soldier serum and destroy it. With the heroes covering his escape, he follows Castle’s directions to navigate the humongous helicarrier. He finds many soldiers along the way, but always he triumphs and moves ever onward. Soon, he finds the lock to the correct door. He scans his fingerprints. The device confirms that he is the President of the United States and opens. Inside, even Captain America must gasp. Standing there is none other than his un-aged creator, Dr. Erskine! (Crap! I want some of that de-aging serum! I pop more than Rice Crispies when I stand up!)

Cap approaches the older man. To his surprise, the good doctor is beyond pleased to see him. He comments how proud he is of him and his good work. How his serum helped in saving America. That’s when the forlorn superhero turns on a wall of television screens. The several news channels report on the horror that the United States has truly become. And at the center of it all, President Steve Rogers. Dr. Erskine then drops to his knees and sobs. He had been blissfully unaware of the outside world for decades. This sad moment is interrupted however by the sudden appearance of President “Steve Rogers” with a loaded gun! (That’s heartbreaking. Decades with no t.v.? How can he be expected to keep up with the such educational programs like DC’s Peacemaker, starring John Cena? Those monsters!)

Captain America doesn’t have to wait long for an explanation on just who his doppelganger is. He is none other than the Red Skull! The Skull was thought dead near the end of World War II, but he had his top scientist place his mind into a cloned body of Rogers! He then ordered Nazi U-boats to fire upon Cap and Nick Fury’s ship, trading places with the real Captain America in the confusion! The rest, as they say, is history. (Don’t you just love when the villain explains their entire master plan? It’s idiotic in practice, but us readers enjoy the explanation. Villains: Catching up slow comic fans since forever. Amen.) The Red Skull then tells a distraught Dr. Erskine that he’s no longer needed. The Skull has figured out the super soldier serum for himself!

The Red Skull aims the handgun directly at Cap’s face! But Erskine moves suddenly in front of the hero, taking a bullet to the chest! A bullet that perhaps should have hit its target so very long ago. (As Metallica might say, “Sad But True”. What? I already admitted earlier that I was old!) Enraged, Captain America throws himself at his evil double! The two scuffle until the true patriotic super soldier picks up the cloned madman and hurles him into a power generator! The body convulses and sizzles until it falls lifeless to the floor! But the threat has not yet ended. Cap returns to his allies. The battle continues to rage between super soldiers and the Avengers!

More and more heavily-armed super soldiers continue to flood into the room! The heroes know in their hearts that they won’t survive this fight. But, like true warriors, they’ll go down fighting! That’s when Captain America calls out a battle cry that seems to empower his loyal comrades, “Avengers assemble!”

Time passes as time does, and America slowly begins to become what it was meant to be, a home for people of all races and religions to come together as one people. And though the heroes that fought to make this dream a working reality once again perished during that epic battle so long ago, the people will never forget their sacrifice.

Well, that’s it. With this story now concluded, this very tired Symbifan is gonna go to bed. Later, alligators! After awhile, Loki Crocodiles! Lol! Until next time.