Tag Archives: Doomsday

No Such Thing as Monsters (Part 2)

What’s that? Where have I been? Well, there’s an interesting answer to that question. You see…..it’s a boy! No, no. There’s no need for you Unspokenites to send me blue bubblegum cigars or Superman onesies. You see, he’s nearly eighteen years old. Now, before you write in, questioning as to why Mrs. Symbifan and I have adopted a nearly grown man, let me explain. My son from my previous marriage has been living with us part-time while his room at his mother’s house is being remodeled. And since this is the longest length of time I’ve had the opportunity to spend with my only son, I’ve been taking full advantage before he’s too old to want to spend so much time with his “geeky” father. So, cease calling the FBI and lets return to the second part of this fantastic three part epic…..

Waverider sits in silent contemplation at a desk within one of the silent rooms in the place he calls home. But though the home itself appears fairly plain, it is the emptiness that surrounds it that is awe-inspiring. For this dwelling exists in a place that is quite literally out of time itself. It is known as the Vanishing Point. It is here that he considers breaking his one and only rule. A rule to never intervene in the timeline of the universe, no matter how small his involvement or how noble his cause. He studies photographs depicting the death of the hero, Superman, at the hands of the monster Doomsday. And, though the Man of Steel did find a way to return from the dead, it is a process that cannot be repeated. If the kryptonian dies this time, it is forever. Even now, as Waverider weighs his options, Superman faces that same monstrosity once again on the planet Apokolips. (So, he watches events unfold but has vowed to never intervene? Sounds like a certain Marvel character, huh folks? Though Waverider far surpasseses the Watcher in raw sex appeal…..What? A straight man can’t say that? You guys need to grow up! Moving on…..)

A battered Man of Steel stands amidst the rubble and amassed corpses left in Doomsday’s wake. As he attempts to think strategically about his next course of action, his enhanced hearing picks up a stirring behind him. He turns and sees Darkseid himself! But before many words can be exchanged, the evil New God suddenly drops face first next to Superman’s feet! (You ever fall face first after a night of drinking? Man, do I have some teenage years stories to tell! I actually remember holding with all of my might to handfuls of grass, thinking I was going to fall off of the planet! Talk about quick thinking on my part! What was I talking about?) At this time, within Darkseid’s stronghold, the Cyborg Superman amuses himself by throwing Desaad around like a ragdoll. This, however, is interrupted as the dreaded one spies a battalion of Darkseid’s elite Parademons approaching upon a viewing screen. Amused, he transfigures his robotic arm and uses it to hack into the planet’s defense systems. Using this, he amplifies the transmissions they’re using to stay in contact, and literally melts their brains! They fall from the skies like sprayed insects.

Meanwhile, Superman carries Darkseid’s near-lifeless body over his shoulder. He discovers a slab of metal amongst the debris and places the New Gods’ still form upon it. After examining the evil one’s injuries and listening to his slowing heartbeat, Superman realizes that Darkseid will soon die if something is not done quickly. But does he really want to save this monster? Darkseid is responsible for the deaths of countless victims in his long life. A dictator and genocidal madman of the highest order. Superman considers letting him die. But instead, he tears the Motherbox from his arm and places it upon Darkseid’s chest. If there is any hope at all of reviving this villain, the Motherbox is that hope. (You see, this is why it’s a good thing I wasn’t granted superpowers. I’d have let Darkseid die. Let’s say I was Peter Parker, holding my dying Uncle Ben in my arms as he drones on about power and responsibility. I’d agree and swear an oath to him, wait for the old dude to die, and then completely go the opposite way. Kneel before Spider-Man! Um…..I think I went a smidge off topic there…..I am in therapy.) Superman turns to leave the sentient computer to do its work but is surprised by the sudden appearance of Waverider as he descends from the smoke-filled skies!

Superman is usually the voice of reason for more violent heroes, their conscience given form. But in this instance, he’s plainly had enough. When Waverider tries to explain his vow of non-interference, the Man of Steel simply states that if he’s not going to be of any help, he needs to leave now. (Wow! Supes is definitely not the superhero I’d want to make mad at me! Dude may seem like a boyscout, but he has the power to rip off both of your arms before you know what happened, and make you check your own prostate for colon cancer! -Shudder!) Waverider makes up his mind in that instant. He reaches out to Superman, placing a hand on his chest. It’s then that Superman witnesses the origins of Doomsday as if he were there in person!

It began 250,000 years ago, on a distant and barbarous world. An alien to this planet, a gray-skinned creature called Bertron, and a few other human-looking scientists, began an experiment that would one day give birth to Doomsday. They used a newborn baby in these ghastly tests. The child would be shot to the surface of the planet, where the savage and bestial denizens would rip the baby to shreds upon the opening of the capsule! After this carnage, what was left would be brought back and a new child cloned from the remaining tissue. This would go on for ten years until the baby began to change on a genetic level in order to survive! Bertron called this new being “The Ultimate”. (Bertron? What’s his partner’s name, Ernieus? Hahaha! Sorry. A Sesame Street joke was uncalled for.)

Even more time would pass until only Bertron himself was the only original scientist. It had been two years since the child had been seen. In that amount of time, the population of creatures had dwindled to nothing. That was when the Ultimate came home! Using the boney spikes that had grown upon its body and it’s superior strength, this now unkillable monstrosity had returned to pay back those who had hurt him so many times! You see, somehow he remembered! The Ultimate made short work of Bertron and his colleagues and then waited upon this now lifeless planet until he would stow away upon a returning supply ship and leave the place behind forever. It would terrorize many more worlds in the coming years until coming to the planet Calton. Here it would meet defeat at long last! (Damn! And I had assumed he was returning with a Father’s Day card! Hmmm. Live and learn.)

The technologically advanced world of Calton lasted for a mere three years under the creature’s onslaught until only the capitol city remained. It was within the great hall of this city that a plan was put into action. The king and his family concentrated their very lifeforces into concentrated energy! This energy then took the form of a single, powerful entity, the Radiant! The Radiant wasted little time in throwing himself into combat against Doomsday! Doomsday had never before faced a being composed of pure energy and therefore couldn’t evolve his body quick enough! This clash of the titans would still last for a solid week until the Radiant shot Doomsday with a blast so mighty, the monster at last fell! Doomsday’s body was suited and shackled before being fired into the void of space, customary of these people as a sign of no honor. This craft would later crash land to the Earth, where Doomsday would reawaken to cause yet more destruction! (Damn Caltonians and their stupid burial rites! They could have ended the threat of Doomsday right there, while he was technically dead! But at least they covered up the creature’s…..um…..you know. Can you imagine how monstrous Doomsday is “down below”? Talk about scary!)

Just as Superman’s mind returns to present day, there is sudden movement behind he and Waverider. Turning, they see that Darkseid has awoken! At this moment however, the Cyborg Superman has decided that, since he has now eliminated all real threats to his rule of Apokolips, he will now make the common folk here fear him, beg him for his leadership. To do this, he fires warheads at the planet’s food silos! Superman takes flight immediately towards the missiles! But when he arrives, the Man of Steel realizes that he is too late! The warheads are too close to impact and their armor too dense to break! That’s when the unthinkable happens, powerful lazers hit the missiles, destroying them before they can touch down! Superman knows these lazers all to well. They are the signature attack of Darkseid himself, his Omega Beams! The evilest of all of the New Gods has just saved his people from certain starvation! (Awww! That’s sweet. Nevermind the untold deaths and torture that has been perpetrated by this sadistic monarch. This single act of heroism totally redeems him in my eyes. I did mention I was in therapy, right?) Superman doesn’t miss a step. He crashes through Darkseid’s citadel wall, straight toward a certain horrified, half-robotic supervillain!

The Cyborg Superman and the true Man of Steel now begin what’s expected to be a long, titanic battle. But instead, Darkseid fires his Omega Beams once more! Superman quickly snatches the Cyborg up and places him straight in their destructive paths! Cyborg Superman seems to disintegrate completely! But this victory is short-lived. The villainous one reforms his body using the surrounding electronics and attacks! Superman reacts on instinct. He throws the Cyborg through a wall, nearly destroying his body once again! But once more, he reforms! This time he creates a body similar to a spider-like tank! Darkseid has grown tired of these games. He unleashes the full fury of his Omega Beams, annihilating all that remains of the Cyborg Superman! Superman then lands. He spies Desaad not too far away and demands Doomsday’s whereabouts. Cowardly Desaad immediately responds that he teleported the monster to the planet Calton. The people there dealt with the creature once afterall. Waverider proclaims that this was done so long ago that Doomsday has definitely evolved past the point of being harmed by the attack that was used last time. Superman then steps forward with authority. He vows that this ends now. He will stop Doomsday once and for all!

To be concluded…..

This article is dedicated to the newest member of the Symbifan family, Eden Love Miller, my great-niece. May your life be long and full of happiness. And though this family is not kryptonian, know that our power to love one another makes us truly invincible.

No Such Thing as Monsters (part 1)

Ah, 1994. The year that brought us Tom Hanks as “Forrest Gump”, “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men, and who can forget maybe the most important invention of the era, the George Foreman Grill? Yes. Though these things were and still are important to many people to this very day, my focus was drawn at the time to DC Comics and a three part miniseries entitled: “Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey”! What could possibly be so important about this limited comic series that I would ignore the fantastic things listed above? Well, sit back and continue reading. All will make itself clear…..

Our story begins many years ago, as a very young Clark Kent stands at the shadowed entrance to his adoptive parents’ cellar, too terrified to move. He’s positive that a monster lurks there in the darkness, intent on doing him harm. His mother asked for him to fetch something for her and, as Clark is an obedient child, he slowly descends the stairs to retrieve the item. He nearly reaches the bottom before his fear gets the best of him. He runs back upstairs, into the loving embrace of his understanding mother. (Wussy. Although, I was in my mid-twenties before I went down into my basement alone. Hey, there were bats down there! Geez!) After he’s more calm, he decides that he will try this feat again. He will not be defeated by the fear of the unknown. Clark once again walks down the dark stairs. He reaches the floor and flicks the switch to the overhead light. Nothing. That’s when he hears it. The monster! Slowly, he turns. Doomsday roars into the face of a petrified Clark Kent, now a grown man and dressed in his Superman garb!

The scene then shifts. Superman is in the center of his beloved Metropolis. The creature, known only as Doomsday, strikes the hero again and again with boney, barbed fists! Blood drips from several of the Man of Steel’s open wounds! As the beating continues, he feels something he hasn’t felt since that long ago night in his parents’ cellar, terror. Terror because he remembers all to well how this fight ended. With his death. As Doomsday strikes one final time, Clark is that young and frightened child once again. One final time. And then Superman wakes up, gasping for air and covered in a cold sweat. (You think Superman has ever wet the bed? I keep picturing the force from a fire hose. What’s that? Oh yeah. The story.) Leaving his bed, he walks to his window and looks out over his city. He’s had this nightmare many times since his resurrection. He’s sick of it. The last thing he remembers being told is that the Cyborg Superman had shackled Doomsday’s corpse to an asteroid and thrust it into the cold void of space. It’s time he investigated this matter further. Time to stop these nightmares once and for all.

Meanwhile, in the vastness of space, a starship picks up strange readings emanating from a passing asteroid. Sensing that their might be money to be made, the captain orders it brought aboard. The crew complies. But when they reach the docking bay, they immediately wish they hadn’t. The creature, Doomsday, is held fast to it by metal coils! Even though the beast appears to be deceased, the captain and crew recognize it right away! Quickly, they attempt to release it back into space. That’s when Doomsday opens his eyes! Now panicking, one of the space pirates pulls a blaster and fires, attempting to knock the asteroid through the now open airlock! Unfortunately, he misfires, hitting a cable that holds the monster’s arm! (Talk about bad aim! I’ve seen stormtroopers hit their targets with more skill! Okay. So I’m a “Star Wars” nerd too. Sue me!) That’s all Doomsday needs! He rips the rest of the restraints from his body and attacks! The men spend the last moments of their lives screaming.

While Superman is telling an understandably distraught Lois Lane of his intentions to find the monster that once took his life, the space pirates’ spacecraft has broken through the polluted atmosphere of the dreaded planet Apokolips, home to perhaps the most evil and powerful of monarchs in the known universe, Darkseid! (I skipped over part about Lois without mention of her skimpy jammies. I do have some class. Not much, but some.) Scanners on the planet pick up no lifeforms aboard, so the craft is brought down automatically. A small group of soldiers enter to investigate as others stand guard outside. There’s silence for a moment until one of the soldier’s severed heads sails back out through the open door! Doomsday then emerges with uncanny speed and ferocity! The warriors of Apokolips never stood a chance! The creature rips their bodies to shreds and then leaps onward to create more mindless destruction!

Meanwhile, the carnage upon the planet Apokolips has not gone unnoticed. Darkseid himself is paying close attention. And though his posture and mannerisms are calm and collected as always, Darkseid seems off somehow. He remarks to his chief torturer, Desaad, that if the creature is not stopped by his elite warriors, a planetwide evacuation is their next course of action. (You ever notice how Darkseid always stands with his hands behind his back? What’s he doing anyway, working on fixing a wedgie?)

Elsewhere on the planet, while Doomsday tears his way through Darkseid’s elite guard like paper dolls, an easily-missed microchip suddenly becomes active on the beast’s person! An energy form then exits the device and enters a mangled soldier’s armor. The armor shifts and changes. It reconfigures itself until, a newly-rebuilt Cyborg Superman hovers in its place! The nightmare is reborn! Wasting little time, the Cyborg joins Doomsday in destroying what little remains of this sector of Apokolips! (It’s on now, Unspokenites! I’m getting goosebumps while I type! That, or I’ve suddenly come down with hives. Either way, this is thrilling!)

Back on Earth, the Man of Steel decends from the skies and touches down near an ordinary-looking house. He’s in search of the the leader of a team of time-travelers called the Linear Men. His name is Matt Ryder. In the past, this mysterious group has always found him. Never the other way around. Superman knows that this is Ryder’s childhood home. If he’s to locate the man’s future self, this is his only hope. Before he can even knock, the grown version of Matt Ryder appears with a powerful being the Last Kryptonian has met before in the past, Waverider. To say that this meeting is in vain would be an understatement. Superman pleads for any information the two can give him about Doomsday, but the reply is that the timestream must be protected and to do this, they must not intervene. Superman leaves this meeting discouraged, but he’s not defeated yet. (If I was Supes, it’d be hard not to use my powers to interrogate Ryder “Punisher-style”. I left a bit out here, but trust me, the dude’s a real jerk. I guess that’s why he’s the fictional superhero, and I’m just your average supermodel/famous writer. Hey! I can dream!)

On Apokolips,the mighty Darkseid walks amongst his panicked people. He has decided that he’s tolerated this attack long enough. He approaches the monster and fires his destructive Omega Beams from his eyes! The blast takes Doomsday unaware, hitting him full force in the back and burying the creature beneath tons of rubble! Satisfied with his grim work, Darkseid turns to leave. That’s when a bone-spiked fist bursts through the wreckage! Before Darkseid can fully turn, Doomsday rakes these barbed, powerful fists down the dark god’s spine! Blood sprays from the wounds! The beast then continues its assault until Darkseid drops, defeated! Meanwhile, this has all been projected on a monitor screen and Desaad has witnessed what he, until now, thought was impossible! He then decides that there is one last hope to save his homeworld. He must find help elsewhere. (I must now quote the movie, “Friday”, “Daaaaaamn!” That is all.)

On Earth, Superman has now called for a meeting with the Justice League. The warrior woman, Maxima, has answered on the team’s behalf. This conversation is interrupted however as Desaad’s call for help comes into focus on the League’s monitoring system. He manages to at least report that Doomsday is on the planet Apokolips and, now that Darkseid has been defeated by the creature, assistance is needed immediately! Superman watches this in horror. He then requests assistance to reach Apokolips quickly. (Maxima actually gets on Superman’s case here about denying an invitation for League membership in the past! Talk about rude! I mean, who turns down an invite to join DC’s most prestigious super-group? The nerve!)

As the Last Son of Krypton tries to locate a fast form of space travel, Doomsday drags the limp form of Darkseid as the Cyborg Superman follows, goading the creature on as he thinks out loud. He will use this beast to conquer this disgusting planet for him! He’ll be unstoppable! The two villains then begin their assault on Darkseid’s own palace. Just then, Superman exits through a loud, teleportation tunnel that the gods call a Boom Tube. This miracle of travel is created by a sentient computer that is presently attached to Superman’s arm. A Mother Box. As soon as he appears on Apokolips the hero is well aware of the devastation that has already been wrought! He soars through the air in search of any sign that will point him in the right direction. That’s when he spies him, the Cyborg Superman himself! (It’s about to hit the fan here, folks! These two hate each other more than Batman hates to be seen disappearing!)

The two clash with the might of titans! But before this battle can continue for very long, the Cyborg reveals his partner in crime via a holographic image! Superman is speechless as he stares back at the monster, known to all as Doomsday! He stares into those dark, rage filled eyes, and instantly relives the epic fight that claimed his life not so very long ago! The Cyborg uses this opportunity to his villainous advantage and blasts Superman in the back with an energy weapon concealed within his robotic arm! The hero tries to get back to his feet. He must stop Doomsday once and for all this time. (Awesome, huh? Not the scene. I mean my writing talent.)

Before the Man of Steel can stop him, Desaad lunges past both Superman and his cybernetic doppelganger! He opens a Boom Tube all his own and it begins to pull Doomsday in like a black hole! Superman roars in outrage! He won’t have this monstrosity let loose upon another unsuspecting world! He flies faster than he has ever done before, but it’s too late! The creature looks at Superman with deadly recognition in it’s eyes! And then, just like that, Doomsday is gone! Superman collapses to his knees in defeat.

To be continued….

This article is dedicated to my mom, Pam Bowen-Metz. With all of the things that she has had to deal with in her life, you’d swear she was related to Superman himself. I know she’s my hero. (And she isn’t even Kryptonian.) I love you, Mom. Always.

Madness as Futility: Ghost Rider #33

Hello, Legions of the Unspoken!  I hope the month of March is treating you very well!  March is a favorite month of mine!  Spring Training is in full gear, and we get to see the Madness of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, both men and women’s!  There isn’t a time of year like it for me, and while I am sure that all reading this agree with me that they hope the Kansas Jayhawks win it all (ROCK CHALK…for real, post who you’re pulling for in the comments!), we decided to delve into Madness of the 90’s comic book variety here at The Unspoken Decade!

I think it is illegal for us to call it “March M*****s”, due to NCAA trademarks, and if you think those cats don’t care about the best 90’s Comics Book website on the planet due to its relative small amount of influence in comparison to the monolith that they are, well these are the folks that suspended a player for NOT BEING HOMELESS, so I would not put anything past them.  They make the Age of Apocalypse look like McDonaldland.

mcdonaldland
The only tyrant that could ever truly strike fear into Apocalypse’s heart is Mayor McCheese.

The NCAA would intimidate even Dr. Doom, Juggernaut, or Magneto, but the villain of Ghost Rider #33 would not care one whit about their infinite wave of minutiae in regards to rules and regulations.  Madcap is mad, you see, and so he would appreciate our “Madness Month,” although I am not sure what he would think of being featured in it!  He would certainly appreciate the McDonaldland reference, however, as no matter how mad, depraved, or evil one may be, the idea that a mayor with a cheeseburger for a head will always bring a smile to anyone’s face, even if your face looks like this:

For not having many features, that face sure is frightening.

On the surface, the pairing of Madcap and Ghost Rider seems odd.  Ghost Rider is firmly entrenched in the occult corner of the Marvel Universe, cavorting about with heroes like Dr. Strange, Morbius, Blade, Werewolf by Night, and others.  I always wondered why they did not marry this world more strongly with the darker street level titles like Daredevil and Punisher.  They tried with the “Marvelution” when they made the Edge imprint (which I plan to take a look at in depth in the future!), but the big 90’d boom had less breath than a lungless walrus by that time.  Too little, too late, and it isn’t like we never got to see Punisher and Ghost Rider or Daredevil and Dr. Strange team up in the 90’s, but I feel like characters with multiple titles in the 90’s could have benefited by having a brand that meshed with a brand for which the character was not known.  How awesome would a Punisher Midnight Sons title or a Spider-Man title set in the cosmic corners of the Marvel Universe be?  The answer is so awesome that if I don’t stop talking about it right now then I will NEVER cease talking about it.

As I started talking about before in the prior paragraph meandered more than the Mississippi herself, on the surface, Ghost Rider and Madcap are an odd pairing.  Madcap is highly frivolous to the point of being a walking work of Dada, while Ghost Rider is the SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE and is quite grim, which I do not mean in the pejorative sense that many would use that word in, but I mean that Ghost Rider does not make a ton of jokes and is generally almost as personable as a walking stick.

What it lacks in personality, it makes up for by creeping the hell out of you.
What it lacks in personality, it makes up for by creeping the hell out of you.

Then all of a sudden, two things are obvious, the first of which is that these two characters aren’t too different once one takes a gander past the surface.  Both are nearly indestructible, both have trouble feeling, and both are engaged in a mission with a singular focus usually only seen in things that cannot think, like thunderclouds.  Madcap spreads madness, and this version of  Ghost Rider avenges the spilling of innocent blood.  There’s not a lot of subtlety to either guy, and it really works for both of them.  The other thing is how awesome the clash over their differences shall be.  Madcap believes in the idea that everything is meaningless, while GR believes that humanity must be worth something, lest he would cease avenging the innocent and start using his powers to run a furnace or something.

I am glad he didn’t go into furnacing because this is a fantastic issue, and Ghost Rider overall was a splendid title!  Ghost Rider #33 is one of the first issues of GR after the conclusion of the “Rise of the Midnight Sons” saga.  After several months of intertwined stories with the other Midnight Sons titles as well as guest stars in his own title (such as Dr. Strange saving Dan Ketch’s life in the very issue prior to this one!), this issue stands alone, and it also sets up some major changes in Danny Ketch (Ghost Rider)’s life!  This issue can also be read alone without reading prior GR issues; there’s a subplot involving ladies from H.E.A.R.T. getting attacked that would make a lot more sense had one read a few more issues, but it isn’t so opaque as to ruin the comic.

I miss the 90’s because they may have been the last era when we would get this sort of comic book, where a superhero story from the Big 2 would begin and end in the same issue.  There were still fill-ins here and yon, and these type of issues were a great gateway for someone who did not follow a title to get into a book.  For instance, I was familiar with Ghost Rider before this issue, but I didn’t follow it closely. I saw this on the rack at Kroger when I was in 7th grade, and I sat down and read it. Sitting and reading a comic book was preferable to walking behind Mom and somehow always being in the way in the flour aisle, and this cover drew me in.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 1
Oh, I forgot to mention earlier that they both have stares that cause mental illness.  My bad.

I wound up following Ghost Rider for about a year after this issue, which I do not think I would have had this comic contained some convoluted story that continued subplot after subplot that I could not catch up with while being a part of 74092980234 different stories as well.  Conversely, though, I would not have given this much of a look had I not been hooked in by the “Rise of the Midnight Sons,” so I guess it works both ways.  Normally, I hate it when things have it both ways, but this is delightful.

Speaking of delightful, how about the inside cover of this bad boy featuring an ad for everyone’s favorite animated band of mutants, the Uncanny X-Men?

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 2
Jesus, 12.95 for two episodes on VHS? Before torrents, they made out like kings. Now they only make out like bandits.

I also have to wonder about the upper-left-hand corner of this ad, where they let us know that this is an “advertisement,” as though people either thought there was a magic comic book that would open up from the INSIDE COVER of another comic book, or that this comic book page was a VHS tape, and that they had somehow lucked out and did not have to pay 12.95 for two measly X-Men episodes.

To be fair though, I would have paid.  X-Men was such a huge part of my life in 7th grade.  Everyone watched it, and by everyone, I mean all the people at the losers’ lunch table with me watched it and discussed it.  LOUDLY.  Actually, as I have gotten older, I have found out that even the kids at the cool table were watching, but I had no idea at the time.  If I had, I probably would have done much better with girls….no, no I wouldn’t have.

The issue starts off with a bang, as not only do we get GR shoving some mook through a window, but we also get existentialism from the get-go!

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 3
I feel like if we changed these two out for teenagers, and it was just a regular push instead of a choke slam through a window, this would be the start of an ABC Afterschool Special also entitled “What Does It Matter” as “WHY?” is bellowed.

Ghost Rider’s absence during the Rise of the Midnight Sons has led certain criminal elements to begin to retake their former territories.  They thought they were safe due to GR being gone, but now he’s back with a vengeance!  (Sorry, I had to!)  I do wonder how these guys dodged the attention of the other Marvel street-level folks at this time, such as Punisher or Moon Knight, whether GR was there or not, but I guess even the lowly street thugs of the Marvel Universe are more resourceful than the ones of our world.

One way or another though, they are no match for Ghost Rider, who dispatches them quite easily, and then uses his insanity-inducing gaze, the Penance Stare, to make these criminals feel the fear and pain of their victims.  That’s such a stellar idea.  The fact that you get the Penance Stare from a flaming skull face makes you feel even more sorry as well, and it gives the Penance Stare a visual that the reader not only will notice, but would FEEL.  Every time I saw GR do it, I resolved to be a better person.

However, that same visual that gives GR the edge in the form of inspiring bowel-emptying paralysis in street level criminals also makes it hard for him to assist the victims of the crimes, no matter how much he wants to.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 5
Even if the Penance Stare was nothing but shooting hellfire from GR’s eyes into someone else’s, it would still be awesome.

The beginning of the issue is very accurate; Ghost Rider and Dan Ketch are having an existential crisis.  Howard Mackie is really good on this title, and he scripts Dan Ketch very well.  Dan muses that, “There has to be more to our lives than waiting for the innocent to die.”  I never really thought about it, except possibly in the case of Spider-Man and The Last Avengers Story, about how much that must weigh on heroes.  There isn’t much for a hero to do but react, and if one is a hero, then the only reaction one would have would be to villainy.  Villainy in superhero comics involves massive property damage and massive attacks on civilians, which would result in massive casualties.  That’s got to weigh heavily on many heroes.  They are powerless to do much of anything but react, and by the time they do that, the damage is done.

Dan Ketch is also dealing with having died, so he has more on his mind than even the crisis mentioned above.  Between all that and a recent encounter with Nightmare, Dan is having issues sleeping, and I have to say that this is the best comic book page in history representing the feeling of not being able to sleep.  Bret Blevins, Al Williamson, and the colors of Gregory Wright really make me scared to lay down tonight, not due to anything monstrous in this horror/superhero mash-up, but rather because I will be haunted by floating digital numbers.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 8
The floating numbers also remind me of a 1980’s commercial, and I mean that in the best way.

Nothing is simultaneously as mocking and haunting as digital numbers when I can’t sleep, whether they be on an alarm clock from the 90’s or my smartphone today.  I want to point out that Gregory Wright got the color of the digital clock display perfect.  The numbers aren’t just red on those clocks; they’re INSANITY-INDUCING red, and Wright nails that color here, especially against the totally black background.

Seeing as how Ketch can’t sleep, he decides to do some physical training, which means hitting a bag again and again.  This is the middle of the night, and so his mom emerges to give him some life-changing news.  Before she can do that, though, Madcap becomes the envy of just about every body modification aficionado as he laments being misunderstood by the consumers of his art.

Ghost Rider - Vengeance Unbound #33 - Page 12
This is what your parents were worried would happen when they taught you not to play with sharp items.

Madcap is definitely one of the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Players with that knife stuff.  I can’t help but feel bad for him, though, because I can feel, and apparently, he cannot.  That’s more than sad.  I’d rather be able to wrap myself in all the sad times I have had rather than be unable to feel anything, no matter what teenage me said as he listened to the same Nine Inch Nails songs over and over again.

There are situations, however, where anyone would prefer not to have feelings so that they could deal with heavy stuff better.  For instance, Madcap would not really understand the gravity of the situation that Dan Ketch faces with his mom’s big reveal.

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There was probably a better time to tell Dan Ketch this besides right after he just died.

Dan needs to go on a motorcycle ride to clear his head now, which in our world would work out perfectly.  In the Marvel Universe, though, it just leads to angst for our hero and a fight with a villain to boot.  No hero ever gets to just clear their head; they are required to run into trouble and then deal with it.  I am certain that is a physical law in superhero universes.

Trouble isn’t quite the word I would use for Madcap, who is certainly the epitome of madness.  Perhaps even more so than The Joker, though, not because Madcap is crazier, but because he is indestructible.  The Joker is mad, certainly.  No one would dare call that cat sane, unless he demanded you did or else. Even then, everyone reading this article knows that all calling The Joker sane (even at his request) will get you is the “or else” he is threatening, whether that is getting drowned by a clownfish or having to eat the world’s funniest poison.  At the end of the day, though, The Joker is still cognizant that he is alive and can be hurt or killed.  Madcap is alive, but he can’t be hurt or killed.  In fact, he can’t feel much of anything.  That’s the catalyst for his madness.  If you couldn’t even stub your toe and feel that awful pain, you’d go nuts, just like Madcap.

Madcap, though, is really interested in making other people nuts.  Especially folks in Grand Central Station at rush hour.

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Madcap says there’s no reason for anything, but obviously his calling in life was to come up with different spins on the word “cop.”

Madcap’s spree spills innocent blood, and that triggers Dan Ketch to become Ghost Rider. Of course, we have to listen to Madcap’s philosophy on life before he gets there, and I wonder how much of this is madness – I mean, other than him inducing the cop to shoot innocent people; that’s firmly in the “Madness” category.

His idea that everything is pointless, however, carries some weight with many people I know.  One can question what is meaning itself for a long time, and if one can’t answer, does that make things pointless?  The folks I know who adhere to this philosophy tend to not be mad (although they are fairly morose and forlorn: think Goth Talk from SNL), but they aren’t very cheery.  They just seem to think that there can be no lasting sort of legacy, and therefore, most everything is pointless.  Yes, I know some weird people; thankfully, I find enough purpose in bringing the Legions of the Unspoken all these fantastic comic books, so I am not like them!

Ghost Rider’s staunch belief in the sanctity of the innocent really flies in the face of Madcap’s philosophy, so they decide to settle it the best way possible; they trade philosophy while punching each other.  Also, Ghost Rider looks cool as hell on that motorcycle.

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Some of them will just find other ways to destroy themselves, Ghost Rider.

Madcap has the ability to not get hurt, but he isn’t really known for much else.  He doesn’t know, say, Madness Karate, so Ghost Rider and Madcap lock up, it doesn’t last long, and it is decidedly one-sided.  Madcap has no chance against the Spirit of Vengeance!

The highlight of the fight has to be when Ghost Rider and Madcap swap stares!  Madcap’s madness inducing gaze could possibly give him the edge in this battle.

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Make you own “Hanging Around” joke here. Mine involves Counting Crows’s third album.

I really cannot describe what a huge deal it was to see Ghost Rider execute the Penance Stare in the 90’s.  I never, ever got tired of it, although I guess others did.  The idea of a FLAMING SKULL staring fire into someone’s eyes that makes said someone feel the pain of all the evil they have done fascinated me, and it continues to fascinate me to this very day.  The 90’s may have gotten some things wrong, but for a good 2-3 year period, they got Ghost Rider in a way that has never been equaled, before or since, and Howard Mackie’s writing has a lot to do with that, in addition to the great art by Mark Texeira and Javier Saltares on the book’s first few years as well.  Bret Blevins is terrific here; the art really gave GR that Horror Hero look you have to know they were going for.

But I got distracted, which is quite a rarity when super-powered beings are duking it out with madness inducing beams that they emit from their eyes!  As you can see above, Madcap’s beam has no effect on Ghost Rider at all, but the Penance Stare on the other hand…

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They should start having motorcycle lasso competitions at rodeos.

Ghost Rider follows up his Montana impression by saving the baby while telling us that the baby’s life is full of meaning.

That's a pretty tall order, Ghost Rider.  Never let it be said that GR doesn't set the highest of goals.
No blood has been spilled? Didn’t the cop that Madcap turned insane shoot like six people?

I love tying Ghost Rider’s role as the Spirit of Vengeance to protection of the innocent, and I think that is what separated him from other vigilantes like Punisher.  I mean, sure, Frank Castle saves some innocent folks, but his mission isn’t tied to that role the way Mackie is presenting Ghost Rider’s as being.  Of course, his anathema towards killing also separated him, but I like my horror heroes with a smattering of hope.  I am not sure that horror of any kind, even the awesome amalgam of horror and superheroes, works without hope.

An unexpected side effect of Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare on Madcap is that it made him feel something.  Feeling anything to Madcap is better than feeling nothing, and therefore, getting that feeling is more important than anything else.  Madcap acts in the manner one would expect, as he wants more of it.  The idea that anyone would want more of the Penance Stare put Madcap in to an upper echelon of villainy in my eyes.  I could not imagine someone wanting to feel the pain of their actions over and over again, but I also cannot possibly imagine the insanity that goes along with being unable to feel.  I mean, the effects of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation as torture are well known.  Madcap has been under these conditions for years, and what’s even worse than the fact that he wants the Penance Stare again is the fact that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to get it…

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I would call that creepy, but that would just not be a word with enough weight to describe how I feel about this image and about Madcap in general; truly very few characters personify madness the way Madcap does, and few stories would bring you the Madness you crave in the third month of the year (TAKE THAT, NCAA)!

Dan Ketch has different things on his mind, though, and on the last page of the book the genius in getting folks to pick up another comic book can be seen. The comic had a beginning, middle, and end all of its own, but it also dangled enough subplots to get you to buy that next issue.  That’s a lost art in today’s comics, where just about everything is written for the trade.  Mackie nailed it here, though:

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That is the sort of next issue blurb that hooks me every time!

Before I finish this up, I also want to point out a really cool tidbit from the letters page.  This issue of Ghost Rider came out at about the time that Doomsday killed Superman, and there aren’t many that come more innocent than The Man of Tomorrow!  So, in the bottom right corner of the letters page, we get to see Ghost Rider’s thoughts on the situation!

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We talked about how cool and brutal Doomsday was in a prior article here at The Unspoken Decade, and I think just about every superhero fan of the 1990’s would have loved to have seen Superman’s killer tangle with everyone’s favorite burning skull-faced hero?  That would have been beyond epic!  I wish that DC and Marvel had managed to do that when they were crossover happy in the 90’s!

I loved this panel; I think it is the equivalent of an Easter Egg on a DVD.  I did not have to work as hard to find it, but I also certainly was not expecting it.  Ghost Rider’s mourning of Superman also made the overall issue even more enjoyable, and I am too embarrassed to tell you of the crossovers this inspired that I played out in my action figures or in the backs of my notebooks at school when I should have been learning Algebra, which I made a “D” in that semester.  My mom was mad, but I managed to keep my comics!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the NCAA Tournament as much as I do!  I’m ready to enjoy some madness, some Cinderella teams (as long as they don’t beat Kansas!), and attempting to eat more snack food than is humanly possible as I hope for a deep run for my Jayhawks!  Stay tuned this week for Mr. Hero from Emily Scott, and Venom:  The Madness from Darry Weight!  Have a great big dance, everyone!