Hello there, Legions of the Unspoken! It’s that time again for a meeting of the minds with the other fantastic members of the Super-Blog Team Up! Make sure you click through and read all the great articles!
For our go-round, we decided to do an episode of The Spoken Decade, which is our term for the podcasts we do. This go round, Dean Compton & Emily Scott tackled THE RISE OF THE MIDNIGHT SONS!!!!! Have a listen, enjoy, and comment, people!
Super Blog-Team Up:
The theme for this Super Blog Team-Up is Magic! Take a look at these magical blogs!
Hello, Legions of the Unspoken! I hope that you are better than me and have enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron by now. We went to the Ultimate Marvel Marathon, only to find out that the big enchilada, Avengers: AoU, would be in 3D! I am not sure I have related this before to the Legions, but I have vertigo and therefore cannot handle a 3D movie! So we sucked it up and left early.
To date, I still have not seen the movie. I am sure I will, but to placate me until then, and to satisfy all of the guests taking a gander here due to the Super Blog Team Up, I am going to give you the top 1990’s moments for The Avengers. Now all of these moments won’t be highlights or the best stuff that happened to them, but they will certainly be the ones that stood out the most, had the most impact, and generate the most buzz, good or bad, to this day.
Aren’t you glad I warned you that there’d be stuff you hated on this list? Don’t you wish that either the warning had come sooner or that this had come later? This is legendarily bad. So bad that we are still talking about it not just as the worst moment of Avengers history in the 90’s, but it is probably the worst moment for the Avengers period. In this story, we learn that Tony Stark, Iron Man, has been working for Kang for years and is a traitor to the Avengers. The Avengers have issues defeating him, so they go back in time to retrieve a young Tony Stark to beat the current Tony Stark for them. That makes no sense, and after this story, it is almost NEVER MENTIONED again. After Heroes Reborn/Return (which we’ll see more of later in this article) Tony Stark is just back. Of course, that’s the worst thing that happened in this story. Other awful things happened, too, such as the Wasp looking like this:
9-Spider-Man joins The Avengers
This one is controversial and creates a huge schism for superhero fans. I first learned of Spidey’s status as an Avenger by the 1991 trading card above. Should Spidey be an Avenger? There are several story arcs in the 80’s dedicated to such an idea, but it isn’t until 1991 that it finally happens! Of course, it wasn’t easy, as at one point in Avengers #316 he gets offered a spot on the team, only to have said offer be rescinded.
It would be just 13 issues later when Spidey would be brought in as a reserve Avenger, complete with one of those “WHO WILL BE IN THE AVENGERS” trademark covers the group likes to do so much. Spidey even gets to stick it to J. Jonah Jameson without webbing up the Daily Bugle Publisher’s mouth.
My two cents on Spidey being one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is that he should be in…but only as a Reserve Avenger. That makes sense to me, as Spidey is always fun to see team-up with folks once in awhile, and he’d be there if the situation was large enough, anyhow. Seeing him month in and month out is just no fun, though.
8-At one point, there were 8 simultaneous Avengers-related titles on the shelf at once.
The 1990’s are said to be the decade of Image Comics and the X-Men, and rightfully so. The Avengers, however, were no slouches. Despite spending most of the decade as perceived 2nd-tier players, you could get 8 titles related to the Avengers! Of course, some of these were solo titles that were not Avengers titles, but I cannot imagine Quasar, Thunderstrike, or Wonder Man getting titles without their Avengers connection. In the opposite manner, Mighty Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America certainly could have stood on their own without any Avengers ties, but the fact that these three guys are “The Big Three” of The Avengers means that even in their own books, being an Avengers is an integral part of the character. Throw in Avengers and Avengers West Coast, and you’ve got 8 books in the year 1993 to choose from to get an Avengers fix.
7-Acts of Vengeance
This one is a bit of a cheat, as the event actually begins in 1989, but it crosses over into 1990 just enough to garner it a place on this list. If more of it had happened in the 90’s, rest assured it would have a higher spot. As it is, the idea of the greatest supervillains of the world switching partners and taking on other foes is a great one, and it led to some awesome stories everywhere from Spider-Man to Punisher, with stuff like Daredevil taking on Ultron in-between. We also got a sweet John Byrne FF#1 homage cover. As one cover blurb states, it was the “ultimate Super-Villain Team-Up”. Read that in a Vince McMahon voice, please.
Marvel was slumping from the loss of the speculator boom, and their flagship titles, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers, were slumping not just in terms of sales, but in how they were seen by the audience. As stated earlier, Image Comics, X-Men, and Spider-Man (among several properties) had taken the eminent position in the marketplace. This led Marvel to throw a Hail Mary by reaching out to Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee to re-tool these properties and bring them back to the audience as cool and hot properties. Heroes Reborn resulted in great sales, including the best selling issue of Avengers of all time, but the sales were not quite what was needed to pay the salaries of Liefeld and Lee. There was harsh criticism of the books as well, especially Liefeld’s Avengers and Captain America. About midway through Heroes Reborn, Marvel asked them to take pay cuts. Lee acquiesced while Liefeld balked and walked. After a year, the deal was done, and we’d get Heroes Return, but Heroes Reborn might be the loudest Avengers moment of the 90’s, and it almost certainly generated the most revenue in Avengers comic book history; the movies, of course, are another story.
5-Avengers West Coast Disbanded
When I started reading comics regularly, there were two branches of Avengers. This made Avengers seem awesome and very important. Avengers West Coast was also consistently more entertaining than its east coast cousin when Roy and Dann Thomas were at the writing helm, while the Bob Harras Avengers title just sort of floundered. I didn’t see the end of Avengers West Coast coming. I remember being shocked when I read about it in Wizard or Hero Illustrated or some such magazine. I was upset, and I didn’t understand why they’d trash this legacy for Force Works. I liked FW all right, but it was no Avengers West Coast to me, and while much of that grandeur surrounding The Avengers has been restored, I wonder why in the last decade of umpteen badrillion Avengers books named everything from New to Secret to Pet Avengers, why we couldn’t have gotten the return of Avengers West Coast…
4-Operation: Galactic Storm
A huge part of the history of The Avengers is the role that the mega epic plays in their history. If they didn’t have any, we could not refer to them as “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and they probably would not be the center of the movie world. The Avengers mega epic menagerie includes great stories like The Korvac Saga, The Thanos/Warlock/Mar-Vell Saga, The Kree-Skrull War (to which Operation: Galactic Storm was sort of a sequel), The Avengers-Defenders War, and more. Operation: Galactic Storm is one of the biggest editions to the cosmic cabinet that holds these mega epics…LITERALLY. The story goes on for 19 parts through 7 different titles, and it has epilogue stories that even include a Silver Surfer issue. While it is unwieldy at parts, and it was definitely stretched too thin, the ongoing saga has that epic feel that The Avengers really didn’t capture as often as they should have in the 90’s. There’s also a giant moral theme that permeates the story and the epilogues, and it also spawned a really crappy video game.
Emily Scott will be taking a closer look at Operation: Galactic Storm later this month, as we are celebrating The Avengers all month long! She will be crafting a 2-parter because that’s what passes for a mega epic around here.
I’d call Avengers Forever confusing, but that would sort of be like saying that race cars go fast. That sort of description is appallingly insufficient. Avengers Forever centers around Kang, The Destiny War, Rick Jones, Immortus, and a cast of different Avengers from throughout time as they run into other Avengers throughout time. I have read this three times, and that’s honestly the best way to put it. Actually, a better way to put it might be a love letter to Avengers continuity. It is confusing, but it is also quite a fun book, and it is beautifully done by Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino. Just enjoy getting to see cool stuff like the Avengers teaming with Killraven against Martians, as seen above, and Two-Gun Kid vs. Kang, and you’ll be ok. Try and make too much sense of it and you will have a headache that can only be destroyed by Ant-Man. Enjoy it as a romp, and well, you get a romp.
2-The Last Avengers Story
Peter David crafts a dark tale that isn’t saturated in grim and gritty nonsense that Ariel Olivetti renders in an eye-pleasing darkness that seeps into everything. The Avengers aren’t what they used to be, kids, and what they used to be was kids. David’s story highlights the inherent advantages that villains have within the superhero paradigm. He also shows us a world gone mad, heroes broken for different reasons, and the fate of the children of several of the heroes. Also, we get Cannonball in this for some reason. I guess in this timeline, he grows up to be an Avenger instead of Cable: The Sequel. In the end what passes for The Avengers gather to make their last stand against an assemblage of their greatest foes, and many of the Avengers who are left simply don’t make it, but hope remains for those who do. Darry Weight will take a closer look at this masterpiece later this month!
In my mind, this isn’t just the greatest 90’s moment in Avengers history, but this is truly the greatest moment in Avengers history, period.
That. That’s it. That panel epitomizes The Avengers. Even their heaviest hitter, Thor, is war-scarred, having battled all that Ultron has to offer. Captain America and Firestar are beaten down too. Despite the hardship, despite the war they have just gone through, and despite their fatigue and injuries, The Avengers are here to do a job, and that job is saving the world. Ultron is at his uttermost worst in this tale; in contrast, the Avengers have never been better, shone brighter, or come through against more horrendous odds. That, to me, is what The Avengers is all about. When things look bleak, they find a way. When the odds are stacked against them, they unstack them. When the worst villains show up, they get confronted by the best heroes. Those heroes are…THE AVENGERS!!!
Just want to give an honorable mention here to the Infinity Saga. I had it on the list, but it’s really more of a Marvel Universe story instead of just an Avengers one. One could make the same argument for Acts of Vengeance, but it ended in an Avengers title. and so I justified it. While the Infinity Saga did crossover into the Avengers titles, it was more or less contained within the three mini-series under the “Infinity” heading.
Thanks for enjoying our top ten! Now, Assemble with these other fine folks in the Super Blog Team Up!
Hey, folks! I hope you have enjoyed the last couple of weeks as Sparky Ryan brought you the history of the Marvel UK incursion into the states from the early 90’s. I had a great time with some of those books back in the day, and his work was a great trip down memory lane, but now your good 90’s comics aficionado and pal Dean Compton is back, and I am back just in time for one of my favorite elements of this blog…THE SUPER BLOG TEAM UP!!!!!
If you weren’t around last time or haven’t had the chance to look at the Super Blog Team Up subpage here, the SBTU (I ain’t gonna keep typing that out folks; I ain’t getting paid by the word. Hell, I ain’t getting paid at all!) is a quarterly gathering of sorts where many blogs publish on the same day about the same topic. At the bottom of my random meanderings, make sure you click the links and take a gander at what all the great folks have shared in SBTU. We all work really hard, and we all appreciate every view and comment we get. Except for the ones from spammers. It’s really sad how excited I will get when I get a notification for a comment, only to find it is poorly written spam imploring me to spend some money on something to filter out spam comments. As an aside to this aside, I think I’d like spam comments better if their grammar was correct.
But I have digressed so far that one might believe this not to be a blog about comic books at all! You’d be sorely mistaken! As I was saying about SBTU, the concept is that all of these blogs look at the same subject on the same day. This time, the subject is Team Up, Tear Down, and from the second I heard that, I could not help but think of the team up that never should have happened, but somehow tore down every preconceived notion one would have about this comic working or being good. I am talking about the time comic book hell froze over. I am talking about Punisher Meets Archie…
The dread was punctuated with the entire “why are they doing this?/oh my god, they’re ruining everything/they don’t know what they’re doing” mentality that seems to permeate every fanboy’s good sense at some point. This time, though, our cynical malaise seemed justified (to the max, as we would say in the 90’s) because how could this be readable, let alone good? I mean, it’s Punisher Meets Archie, for Christ’s sake!
The answer to the question of how could it be readable or good can be found on the credits page:
Indeed, that is the fine talent of the late John Buscema and the late Stan Goldberg combined with one of the best inkers of all time, Tom Palmer, to bring you this tale. You see, the first element of this endeavor that would have doomed it to disaster, would have been seeing the character drawn in a style dichotomous to what we usually see with them. Punisher in the Archie style would have made all the Punisher fans angrier than Hulk driving a compact car while he is stuck in rush hour traffic. Now try getting that image out of your head!
Conversely, seeing Archie done up all grim and gritty would have made Archie fans feel angry and betrayed as well. I’d come with some metaphor or simile for the anger of Archie fans, but based on their choice of comic fare, I am unsure that they get angry. I mean, nothing in that world can’t be solved with just a waltz down to the choklit shop, right?
So that solved one problem, but the elephant in the room would have to be how one would mesh such strikingly disparate worlds without compromising the integrity of either, or in Punisher’s case, without compromising what was left of the integrity of an emotionless and psychopathic mass murderer who was being used as a guest in seemingly every book at Marvel to increase sales. We talked about his ubiquity here at The Unspoken Decade when we covered Darkhawk. I mean, who could possibly bridge this chasm?
According to both of the publishers involved, enter Batton Lash:
Batton Lash concocted a premise that would work for both universes, and the only caveat that any Punisher fan might have a quarrel with is the fact that Punisher is working with the feds in order to bring in our villain, and he has agreed to bring this quarry in alive.
Being the gigantic Punisher fan I am, I understand their point. Frank Castle ain’t known for playing nice with the feds. It’s basically the real world equivalent of teaming up Kruschev and Kennedy. That’s something that just won’t and should not work; however, if one thinks about it, Punisher is always compromising. I have seen numerous Punisher team-ups with Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Captain America where Castle agrees not to kill anyone (one example being The Omega Effect). I think too often, folks think Punisher=murderer, and while yes, he is indeed a serial killer, what one should really think is Punisher=Force of Nature. While Punisher would greatly prefer to murder his adversaries, it is much more important for him to achieve his goals. This means making temporary alliances, such as the ones I named earlier (or even the times he makes temporary alliances with criminals, such as in Punisher: P.O.V. ) in order to get done whatever it is that Punisher needs to get done at that time. That’s what makes him a force of nature to me; he allows nothing, not even compromise, to stop his forward progress.
So to me, this isn’t a big deal, although again, I get why some Punisher fans cannot sign off on it.
The twist of the story, though, is almost 100% an Archie gag, and man, it is a good one.
So Punisher heads for Riverdale in search of the mookiest doppelgänger in the history of mooks, doppelgänger, and mooky doppelgängers. Of course, this leads to trouble due to our mook’s resemblance to Archie. Also, call Guinness and let them know I just set the record for more uses of mook in a paragraph.
Could it really end this quickly? Nope. This is a crossover folks, and you don’t need ‘ol Dean Compton to let you know that crossovers can’t end this fast, especially not when there are 48 PAGES! NO ADS! to fill! So in what is the biggest swerve since Vince Russo ran WCW (WARNING: WRESTLING JOKE), Archie was only shot by a water gun. In true Archie fashion, though, this instance leads him into a disagreement with Veronica!
So, in true Archie fashion, having already asked one of the ladies out, Archie goes with his second choice, Betty.
I feel really badly for Betty here; who likes being second best? Betty is a pretty lady; she’s nice, she’s funny, and she’s smart. Why does she just wait for Archie to call her AFTER he has ruined his chances with Veronica? Betty should play second fiddle to no one, and neither should anyone reading this. Learn from Betty, folks!
Punisher in the meantime, heads for Riverdale, very unaware of it and very prepared for it to be a cesspool. Even his super genius partner, Microchip, apparently has never heard of Riverdale, despite it being a suburb of New York and how, with a name like Microchip, he is required to know EVERYTHING. That’s one of the few things I learned from 80’s movies.
Of course, it takes little time for Archie’s doppelgänger to insert himself into Archie’s circle in Riverdale, and of course, what would an Archie comic be without Veronica (or possibly Betty) making Archie jealous via the most emotionally devastating weapon in the history of mankind:
THE DATE WITH ANOTHER GUY!
Emily and I often watch this show, American Greed, on CNBC that focuses on how folks scam rich people, and we both find it shocking how easy rich folks get scammed. Like, it seems that the only thing required to scam a rich person is to know one and to then ask them for money.
Mr. Lodge is no exception, as it seems that Melvin just SHOWS UP and tells him of his business exploits, and Lodge cannot unlock all of his safes and vaults fast enough. Also, doesn’t it seem like acquiring a business would be small potatoes to Mr. Lodge?
Speaking of safes and vaults, wouldn’t you like to see Uncle Scrooge and Mr. Lodge have a crossover? I have seen Mr. Lodge do regular swimming in one of those old timey swimsuits that are always hilarious, but I bet he could swim though coins just like Uncle Scrooge.
BAM! There’s the premise! They can have a coin swimming race. You. Yes, you. Call Archie and Disney and let them know about my idea and tell them to GET IT BOOKED.
Still, fun times are happening, at least until Punisher shows up and has the emo Punisher moment he always has that we all love him for. It is the one shred of humanity that makes us feel compassion for everyone’s favorite skull-chested psychopath…
Punisher’s last shred of humanity causes him to pass over a malt, which would have led him to those guys in the corner, something I believe would cause even Riverdale denizens to take notice. Alas, Pop’s dedication to the dollar and fear of government overrides his sense of danger, and those shadow punks take Archie, who is apparently upset that his second choice for a date dared not to wait for him to see if he called her. Well, Archie is about to have bigger troubles anyhow.
I wonder what Pops is hiding that he doesn’t want to be audited. Maybe Riverdale ain’t so squeaky clean after all!
While Archie’s life is in danger, the faux Archie shows up at the dance with Veronica. He quickly shows the biggest difference between him and Archie is that he’s such a giant dick that perennial dick Reggie Mantle is put off by him. If Reggie Mantle thinks you’re a creep, you must be a creep on a galaxy level. Or at the very least, the type of person Punisher likes to kill catch for the feds.
Man, Betty is awesome. She’s the only one who wonders where Archie is and what’s going on. Archie is making our crossover complete, as Punisher follows the criminals who kidnapped him. Get ready Archie, because you are about to meet The Punisher.
Yes, Archie, The Punisher.
That may be the image that makes the book. Also, Punisher would probably have had an easier time differentiating Melvin and Archie if he had, you know, OPENED HIS EYES.
Of course, no matter how ominous that panel may look, Punisher at some point decides that pointing a gun is just a smidge safer if one opens their eyes, and he realizes that Archie is not his prey.
Archie manages to get away with an assist from his pal Jughead, which I love. In the face of imminent death, Jughead and Archie are best friends, and he finds a way to help his pal. We’d all like to be that person; perhaps you can find the Jughead in you. I have done so via massive consumption of fast food. You’ll have to find your own path, however.
For real though, this is an incident that exemplifies what I spoke of when I sad that Batton Lash showed us these characters together without violating the integrity of either set of characters, and this little bit with Jughead helping Archie speaks volumes to that.
Archie does exactly what America’s favorite whitebread teen would do, or also what most sane folks would do, and that is telling the cops that Punisher is loose in Riverdale and that some mob guys have kidnapped him.
Hopefully, you have not been as big an idiot as Mr. Andrews has when he has called the police in the past.
Why are Archie and Jughead winking like they got over on the cops? I mean, not only are the cops obviously not going to help, but you asked them for help. You didn’t fool anyone.
I do enjoy the touch here where Archie’s concern is for his parents, not himself. Again, Lash shows us Archie’s character simply and naturally.
Also, that is the worst undercover cop ever. He looks like every stranger I was warned about in elementary school, and he would fool no one into believing he is not with the fuzz.
Of course, once we see Punisher interact with Riverdale’s finest, we see that maybe they don’t know much about policing, possibly because they have no crime.
Riverdale cops don’t put up with anything. They hadn’t even run the tags and they were already demanding that Microchip get out of the van! Where’s Occupy Riverdale to deal with this?
Archie goes to the dance where his doppelgänger is, and that’s when we see some gunplay and some great infiltration skill displayed by Punisher. Also, Archie and his pals are sharp, except for Jughead, who has more courage than brains, it seems.
Punisher gets emo again during his infiltration of the school, and he also stumbles upon the reason that Betty tolerates so much from Archie. Graffiti.
Melvin proves he is not Archie in another way, but the really fun thing is the little Easter Eggs stuck in everywhere. One of my favorites is a conversation between Katy Keene and Millie the Model!
But let’s not make light of Veronica sticking up for herself, or the cluelessness of Mr. Weatherbee. How can folks really confuse this guy for Archie once they are up close?
Punisher’s infiltration works like a charm, maybe too charming, as Miss Grundy basically offers to marry Frank Castle on the spot, while Flutesnoot gives Castle the cover he needs to continue to monitor this dance, as Riverdale High is expecting a new gym teacher.
Also, the caterers now have guns and are after Melvin, but you’ll have to read that to find out how that happens; I can’t give it all to you, folks!
Miss Grundy knows what she wants when she sees it! You have got to like that! Miss Grundy is also a woman who would never let you down and definitely carry her fair share in a relationship (probably more, as my beloved Emily does. Check out some of her work under the Archives!)
Punisher and Archie finally find themselves able to sort out their identity crisis, and they pool their resources, which leads to what s, in my mind, the funniest moment in the book. Archie’s War Journal. To think of it is to chuckle, but to read it is to laugh until one’s ribs ache.
There’s lots more, but if I keep going, I am just going to wind up ruining the entire book for you! The last image I shall leave you with is one of the best Easter Eggs in the book, that being the Spider-Man/Shield crossover!
Note that I said Shield, and not S.H.I.E.L.D. Shield, for anyone who doesn’t know, is an old patriotic Archie character, and I believe he is the first patriotic superhero, predating even Marvel’s Sentinel Of Liberty, Captain America himself! At this point of the 90’s Shield had been in limbo since the end of DC’s Impact Comics line (which we will definitely be covering here at The Unspoken Decade and soon!). I don’t known when the next time after Archie Meets Punisher we would see him, but I do know it would be a while. We also have Sonic the Hedgehog, which Archie licensed and published. If memory serves, it was quite successful for quite some time, and it had appeal to multiple markets, as kids like my cousin would buy it, even though they did not care for comic books in general, because it had Sonic, Tails, and all the characters from that universe in it.
It only happens in balloon form, but it happens, kids. It totally happens.
To find out how Archie, Punisher, and the gang save the day, you’ll just have to read the rest yourself. Normally I have no qualms about spoiling comic books published twenty years ago, but in this case, I don’t want to reveal all of the magic.
There’s a true art to combining franchises that is usually done in a heavy-handed manner and appears clumsy. Take a gander at the first Aliens vs. Predator movie if you need to reminded. Actually, don’t. I don’t want to ruin movies forever for you.
In this case, the amalgamation of the Archie/Punisher universes is done so effortlessly that one almost instinctively knows that this was a lot of hard work, as nothing so slick could ever be easy. Lash, Goldberg, J. Buscema, and Palmer are to be commended over and over for taking these two wrongs and making them into something right.
I also cannot help but believe that this was the genesis for Archie publications like the Afterlife with Archie zombie stories or the recent death of Archie in Life with Archie. Hell, without this comic book, we might not even have had the adult Archie stories in Life With Archie that preceded his demise.
I think this is the first time in a long time that Archie Comics stretched what an Archie comic could be, and while it may not have paid immediate dividends, it did impact the line in the future. For Punisher, not so much, as he dove right into another crossover right after this one. In fact, despite my saying that was the last image earlier, here’s one more. Check out the rest of the Super Blog Team Up at the links under the pic, and thanks for dropping by the Unspoken Decade!