Category Archives: 90s Marvel

A Guy Walks into a Dimensional Portal…..

Who misses Saturday morning cartoons? Come on, a show of hands. Me too. Those were the days. Remember when Elmer Fudd would walk off of a cliff and not fall until he noticed, or Jerry would hand Tom a stick of dynamite and he wouldn’t die from the explosion, but instead resemble a struck match? What if you had superpowers like that? Pretty cool, right? Well that’s essentially what Slapstick can do. He possesses the powers of a cartoon character! This is his origin story, as told in “Slapstick” #1. Enjoy, Unspokenites and as you read, try to reignite that childhood spark that lived inside of you as you watched those classic cartoons not so long ago.

Steve Harmon had never been what one would consider to be a “normal” child. In his fifteen years upon the planet, he’d always been the kind of guy that you could count on for either a dumb joke or a prank. But being the class clown didn’t exactly make him popular. Far from it. Case in point. Steve leaned back in his desk and looked to the cute girl, named Heather, seated behind him. In perhaps a way to impress her, he tells her his best inappropriate joke. It doesn’t exactly go as expected as she turns her nose up in obvious disgust. (You all know the type. The popular girl that’s popular just cuz. A high school version of the Kardashians.) But before he can attempt a follow-up joke, he’s rudely interrupted by the appearance of Don Winston, the typical school alpha male. Steve immediately goes into defensive mode. They argue about how Don turned Steve in for his most recent prank, getting him a week’s detention. Winston merely laughs the situation off and moves on.

Later that day, after detention, Steve began his long walk home from school. As he pondered his vengeance, he paid little attention to his surroundings. This caused him to collide with a clown standing on the sidewalk, handing out flyers. The clown, however, seemed completely unfazed by this. He looked down to where the boy had fallen and, with a fanged smile, handed a flyer to Steve. Looking at it, Steve discovered that there was a carnival in town. Suddenly, a fantastic idea for his revenge struck him like lightning. Leaping to his feet, he ran to prepare. Little did he notice that the clown was no longer standing there! (Probably hawking a cheeseburger under a golden arch somewhere. No disrespect, Mr. McDonald. Your food made me the man that I am today…..sob……) Steve’s best friend, Mike, spies him and approaches to talk, but Steve barely even notices him as he sprints off.

Steve rushed upstairs when he arrived home, a happy bounce in his step. When he was in his room, he pulled out an old Halloween costume and put it on. Next, he fit a purplish wig to his head. Lastly, he applied clown makeup to his face. He took the time to admire himself in his mirror before silently descending the stairs. He giggled fiendishly the whole way to the carnival. Now completely incognito, Steve wandered the grounds in search of his prey. It didn’t take long before he located both Don and Heather together. Perfect! Buying a creme pie at a nearby stand, Steve waited patiently for his two victims behind a circus tent. (A pie?! That was his master plan? I’m sorely disappointed in our boy here. I expected something like, oh I dont know, a two-by-four with nails in it to the face. And that’s just off the top of my head! I need help, don’t I?)

But when they didn’t arrive, he peeked out of his hiding place and what he saw horrified him! Don and Heather were unconscious and being dragged into the House of Mirrors by a group of sinister looking clowns! Steve waited until they passed and then grabbed the nearest weapon, a large mallet. He followed past the eerie room of mirrors until he found a room beyond that was way larger than the entire tent combined! Inside, the clowns were tossing his two classmates into an enormous portal! As they did so, they spoke of studying these humans in order to better invade the Earth from their home world in Dimension X! The Overlord will be pleased! (I’ve got it! They’re taking them to Krang. He finally broke away from the incompetent Shredder and is now using evil clowns to do his dirty work! You’re not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans? How do you sleep at night?)

When they were done with their despicable work, the clowns entered the portal themselves. As it began to close, Steve seized his moment and leaped in after them! As he did this, the Marvel Universe sensed the birth of something… Spider-man’s spider sense went wild, Doctor Strange sensed something amiss, the Silver Surfer sensed a strange power being born, the Watcher felt compelled to interfere, Reed Richards’ advanced technology went crazy, and Howard the Duck threw up! (Not sure what Howard hurling into a bucket had to do with anything, but I’m merely here to report the facts. That said…..#LeaThompsonInPanties. )

As Mark passed through the portal, a strange thing occurred. It seemed as if every atom in his teenage form was torn from him, restructured, and reassembled into something all together new! He landed in what seemed to be an underground laboratory with a loud splat! Looking up from his puddle-like form, he saw clowns surrounding him. One of them, who strangely resembled Groucho Marx, made some adjustments in Mark’s cartoon gloves and placed them on his gooey hands. He then pushed a hidden button and Mark immediately took on a more solid form. Oddly enough, he now looked like a cartoon parody of his costumed self! (Why do a lot of cartoon characters wear four-fingered, white gloves? ‘Tis a true mystery for the ages. Like what the hell is Grimace from McDonald’s lore? The world may never know. Damn! I really must want fast food!)

It was explained that this clown used to be the Scientist Supreme in Dimension X. This was back before the Overlord used his inventions to warp reality and conquer this world. The Overlord kept him in this dungeon in case he were to invent anything else that could be used in his evil conquest. Recently, however, the madman had turned his attention to Earth so that he could add to his kingdom! Humans had been taken to experiment upon and make this dream of his into a demented reality! When Mark had passed through into this world, his body had somehow been changed into a new, indestructible material! While he was unconscious, the scientist had also added more features to the gloves Mark now wore. He could push a button in them to once again look human. Also, his mallet would appear in his hand with a turn of the wrist! (Yeah. This part of the comic was pretty wordy. No need to thank me for summarizing it. I will accept cash donations though. Just sayin’.)

And then, just like that, the former Scientist Supreme of Dimension X clutched his chest in pain! He was having a heart attack! As he fell into Steve’s arms, he whispered that it was now up to him to free his dimension and his own. He spoke up in a heroic voice that he never knew he had and vowed to do just that! The scientist’s assistants handed him a map to help aid him in gaining entrance to the Overlord’s throne room. Taking it, Steve took the trapdoor into the passageway. When he was gone, the scientist stood up and declared that this trick worked every time! (Ooooh! That’s cold! That’s as cold as whoever thought up the idea of subjecting us to a new Barney the dinosaur show! It’s true! Google it!)

The being known as the Overlord resembled a hideous mockery of a jack-in-the-box! He ordered his enslaved human army onwards to conquer the Earth! As they marched, Steve began taking out the guards with his gigantic mallet from behind the stage! Others noticed this intruder and attacked. Mark took one out with gloved fingers to the eyes and a hulking clown by smashing him through a stone wall with his hammer! The Overlord took notice at this time and ordered the Scientist Supreme’s machine be used on he who would dare intrude upon his moment of impending triumph! But the machine wasn’t prepared for one such as Steve! The energy shot right back into the large device, causing it to explode when it was struck with Steve’s mallet at the same time! (I once used a hammer to vanquish an enemy. Of course that enemy was a ketchup packet and I was around five years old. Still though…..)

The Overlord’s castle began to crumble around them all! From the rubble, he looked to this odd hero and threatened his life! Steve merely grinned and smashed the Overlord back into his box and then struck him with a golf swing so hard, that the evil one flew through the crumbling ceiling and into the sky! That’s when the evil clowns turned upon him! Unable to think of another course of action, he yelled for the human captives to run! They all raced down the twisted path toward the now-reopening portal! Everyone made it through, including the clowns! But Steve swung his mighty hammer one final time, causing the portal to suck the clown army back inwards and explode! Steve turned to see his very curious best friend behind him. Maybe Mike wouldn’t recognize him. (All of this hammer swinging makes me think of Captain America with Mjolnir in “Avengers: Endgame”. Remember that iconic moment when he yelled, “Avengers assemble!” Ha! You were all moved to the point of tears. Wussies. Nerds. I didn’t cry…..much…..every time I watch it……sob.)

Wrong. Mike knew him right away by the sound of his voice. The two walked together in the wooded area near the demolished carnival grounds. And as they did, Steve’s comic-loving friend told him he should use his unique powers to fight crime. This was agreed upon quickly. But he’d need an alias. After a few failed attempts, Steve finally cried out, “Slapstick!” The rest, as they say, is history.


Flight of the Darkhawk

I remember being in Junior High. I normally had a miserable time in school, but this new, bigger environment was far worse as I have several mental disabilities. But I hadn’t yet been concretely diagnosed. People just thought I hated school. In truth, I was suffering from agoraphobia and severe social anxiety. My only happy outlet was when my grandpa would visit and take me comic book shopping at the local grocery store. At that time, I only collected horror comics and wrestling magazines. But one day, I spied a copy of “Darkhawk” #6. Intrigued mostly by his look, I brought it home. This character was about my age and had a lot of pressures resting on his shoulders. Way worse things than I was going through. I guess you could say he inspired me. More superhero comics followed soon after. But he was always my first. He was special to me. The rest, as they say, is history. Presented below is the story from “Darkhawk” #1. I hope this tale takes you on a trip back through memory lane and happier times as much as it does me. Enjoy!

It was a occurrence that New Yorkers had grown way to accustomed to. The thing you would hear first was always maniacal laughter. What followed was the sight of a bat-like glider as it burst through the clouds, a crazed goblin riding atop, and a stream of smoke left in the creature’s wake. That was if you were lucky! The goblin in question this time was the infamous Hobgoblin! And lucky for the people below, he was way to preoccupied to notice them this day. Like a missile, the Hobgoblin rockets up to an open window in a nearby skyscraper. He hovers there while the man in the office swivels in his chair to meet the goblin’s intense gaze. The man, Phillipe Bazin, never flinches as the impatient monster demands the whereabouts of the item he was hired to locate for him. Phillipe states that the Egyptian pottery was found, but nothing like what the Hobgoblin desires. The hovering supervillain enters the office window then. He fires a bolt of energy from his fingertip and shatters the ancient bowel! He moves so that his hideous face is even with Bazin’s and threatens that he’s in danger of putting him in a bad mood. (This Bazin guy’s cool as a cucumber under pressure. I mean, showing no fear at the sight of a being with a snake-like tongue and demonic eyes! I’d be terrified. I have actually. I went to a strip club once. Scary!)

Later that night, at the ruined wreckage that was once a popular amusement park, two thugs dressed in expensive suits are physically threatening a poor homeless man. They demand to know the location of a certain item. The man replies fearfully that he has no idea what they’re talking about. But before the men can get more violent, someone from a nearby limo tells them to stop. They do so immediately and enter the car. The man inside looks to the old bum and throws a wad of cash out of the car window. It splashes into a puddle. He remarks that the money is in case his memory should improve. Phillipe Bazin then orders the driver to leave. (Man, for the money needed to create a wad of cash this big, I’d be Bazin’s best friend for life. What? I gots comics ta buy!)

Our attention is then turned to the courthouse where Assistant DA, Grace Powell, rushes through the hallway, on her way to eat a very late lunch. As she rounds a corner, she’s surprised by the sudden appearance of a peculiar man dressed in a suit and wearing sunglasses. He pulls out an envelope from his inner jacket pocket. (The sunglasses are what makes this guy peculiar. We all remember the Unabomber, right? For all we know, the envelope could have exploded like on an episode of “Inspector Gadget”!) He offers it to her. She sees that it’s filled with a large sum of money. All she has to do is leave well enough alone and drop her case involving Phillipe Bazin and no-one gets hurt. Grace knocks the envelope to the ground. She replies that she can’t be bought at any cost. The man picks up the scattered cash and leaves. Grace then crawls into a corner and sits, shaking visibly. The obvious threat had left her frightened for her family’s safety.

Speaking of Grace Powell’s family, things didn’t exactly improve for her mental state upon returning home. Her two youngest boys were fighting while her eldest son, Chris, tried to tear them apart and calm his mom’s frazzled nerves at the same time. To top things off, her husband, Mike, was a beat cop and he was extremely late for supper. Chris tried to talk calmly to his mother, to make her feel better. But it turned out, this wasn’t needed as Mike came in through the backdoor. Grace threw her arms around her husband in an instant relieved. She confided in him that she was threatened at work by one of Bazin’s goons. He replied how they should both just give up their jobs, move out of the city. If the good guys only had a type of edge against all of this crime….. Chris exclaimed how he wished he could help out somehow, but this conversation was cut short by the twin boys’ growling stomachs. (Trust me, these two kids don’t need a reason to start another fight. Seriously, I lost track of how many times this happens in just this single issue! As if brothers really fight that much. I mean, there was this one time with deuling pistols at dawn as kids…..)

The meal was pretty uneventful except that one of the twins asked their father to take them to see the abandoned amusement park before it was demolished completely over the weekend. He agreed that he would have the time that coming Sunday. The kids were both overjoyed. But as Sunday came, their father and mother were both too busy with work to take them. They implored Chris to take them instead, but the teen youth had promised that the three of them would stay inside for safety. Of course, this rule went out the window when a couple of Chris’ friends arrived and wanted him to accompany them to get some sodas. (“Sodas?” What decade is this anyway that he’s so horribly tempted by a soda at their local malt shop? What’s next, a trip to the pictures to take in the newest Bela Lugosi movie? Sheesh!) The twins are less than pleased, but agree when they’re promised milkshakes upon his return.

Chris arrived home much later than expected. But instead of finding his brothers, he was greeted by the frantic face of his mother! The twins were missing! After the initial shock wore off, Chris came to the realization that they had to be at the amusement park. He calmed his mother as best he could and then set out to find his younger siblings. It didn’t take long before he located the place. Spying a homeless man, he questioned him if he’d seen two boys in the area. He replied that he had and pointed in the general direction. Chris heard his brothers’ hushed voices upon entering the remains of the funhouse. He began to scold them after they were discovered, but the sound of male voices below caught his attention. Carefully and quietly, he crept to get a better look. What he saw were men that identified themselves as associates of Mr. Bazin. They handed over a large sum of money to someone seated across from them…..Officer Mike Powell! (Man, this Bazin dude has cash coming out of his ears! I bet he never pays with a check in a supermarket. No. Only the truly ancient hold up the line with this archaic practice. Monsters!)

Mike looks at the money. But one of the gangsters decides to get a bit too mouthy, causing Mike to strike out with his fist! A shot is fired and the crooked cop ends up being clubbed in the back of the head by the butt of a pistol as he turns towards the sound. The criminals decide then to just kill Officer Powell! They aim downward to fire when a child’s voice cries out in terror! The gunman spies the cause of the sudden noise and pulls one of Chris’ twin brothers from his hiding place! He aims the weapon at the boy’s head and prepares to pull the trigger! Chris leaps from the shadows, knocking the gun flying and freeing his sibling! (Talk about an action-packed scene! I’m on the edge of my seat! And it’s not just because I slept goofy last night and my back’s out! Gotta love being in your 40’s!)

There’s a brief struggle and Chris tells the twins to run. He then throws the bribe money in the gunman’s face and quickly follows. The three of them don’t get far, however, as the floor beneath them gives way! They fall onto another level. After checking for injuries, they take in their surroundings. It appears to be a type of storage for the Hall of Horrors exhibit. The three brothers make their way through the maze of mannequins dressed up to look like gruesome fiends and monstrosities, as the gangsters make their way downwards. When they finally do appear, guns drawn, Chris thinks quickly and shoves his twin brothers into a nearby locker. He throws every item at his disposal at the enemy to distract the men until only another metal cabinet remains. Chris tears it off of the wall, using it as a barricade/shield. He then turns and spies a strange amulet sitting on a pedestal in a hole in the wall where the cabinet had been! (Things are warming up here, folks! I sense an origin story coming on! Plus, who wouldn’t stop to admire strange jewelry while their life is in mortal danger? No-one, that’s who!)

Chris grabs the strange amulet. Maybe he could use it as a weapon. He thinks about how these men want to murder his brothers. He wants to protect them. Then, as if in response, Chris Powell is no more and a strange, armored being stands in his place! (I tried this with several pieces of my mom’s jewelry as a teen. The only result was that I looked fabulous!) The villains break through just then. Wanting nothing more than to protect his family, a blast of eerie energy shoots from his chest, knocking the criminals flying! Guessing that he must be dreaming, Chris lifts the cabinet overhead, as if it were made of tissue paper, and tosses it at the men as they try to recover! Shots are then fired, but Chris dodges the bullets almost as if they’re in slow motion! The men keep getting back up and rushing him, but he throws them as simply as darts through the air!

While Chris is preoccupied, one criminal pulls loose an electrified cable from the rotting wall and tries to attack him! Instinctively, Chris dodges and hits the fuse box to the park! He drops dead moments later. Never seeing a corpse in his life, Chris pauses. ( Wussy. I remember my days, back in the ‘Nam…..) He then uses some discarded rope to tie up the remaining, unconscious goons. Chris sees his reflection in a cracked mirror while he binds the gangsters. To say he’s shocked is an understatement. His thoughts are interrupted by the twins as they cry out from the locker. His brothers can’t see him like this, he thinks. And then, in a flash, the being is gone and Chris is back! That’s when he remembers his father. Climbing back up through the hole in the floor, he finds him in a nearby room.

As his father turns to him, Chris pleads that he tell him that this isn’t as it looks. Mike looks ashamed as he replies that he can’t. He continues by asking his son to look after his mother and brothers. He leaves then without another word. Chris returns to his twin brothers and frees them. They’re less than pleased about being shoved into a musty, old locker, but he gets them home safely. He holds the amulet as he does so. The next day, Chris returns to the site only to see it demolished completely by the city. He thinks about how he’ll never know more about the amulet now as he stands there in the debris. That’s when he hears the old bum’s voice tell him that the power must be used, not abused, by a Darkhawk. Chris turns but he’s alone. (Good God! I know who the old, homeless man is! He’s Batman!)

Grace receives a call when the boys are all home. The voice on the other end tells her to leave Bazin alone or she’ll have one less mouth to feed! Enraged by this, Chris goes to his bedroom and concentrates upon his other form. He quickly transforms once again. He then vows that he will be the edge that justice needs. He will be the Darkhawk! Phillipe Bazin gets off of his phone at this exact same time and turns to the perching nightmare that is the Hobgoblin. He tells the goblin how the item was found, along with the body of one of his men, but it was lost when the amusement park was bulldozed over that morning. The men did report being attacked by a strange being. Hobgoblin swears that whoever has the relic he desires will suffer greatly before he dies.


Dedicated to my brother, Eric James Miller. He’s dealing with some tough medical problems right now and I wanted him to know just how much I love him. Take good care of yourself, bro. I’m always here if you need me. Always.

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.