Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Avengers Week: Day One

So yeah. You may have noticed a lack of Saturday Moring Cartoon Show companion blog this past weekend; no “Beta Rage” filled rant against Cartoon Planet. I was going to write one, sure, but in the end I decided to skip one this week for three reasons. #1) I was burnt-out on writing blogs after the inhumanly long Anime for Beginners fiasco (Though what little feedback I ever get was very positive about it) and I couldn’t bring myself to write anything else. And yes I know that I wrote that one on my own and it had nothing really to do with anything. Burnt-out is burnt-out, regardless as to who caused it. #2) Ever since I started this blog I’ve proven to myself that I can write a ton of stuff regularly and have it be entertaining (At least I’m told its entertaining) so I’ve been working a little harder on my novel. Yes I’m working on a novel, shut up. And yes I was working on it before I started this dumb blog. And no, nothing I write in this blog has anything to do with the book I’m working on. Long story short I dedicated more time to the book than the blog this week. Sue me. #3) I have nothing really to say about the cartoon we watched on the show that day. Cartoon Planet is not my favorite cartoon but it’s not bad enough to stay on my mind. I pretty much said everything I wanted to say about it on the podcast, so if you’re that desperate for my opinion on the matter go here and check it out or go to widr.org and search for it.


Anyway this coming weekend we’re finally doing a cartoon I’ve wanted to talk about ever since DJ Muppet informed me it was an option: Avengers: United They Stand, a terrible Marvel cartoon that absolutely failed in drawing the numbers the 90s’ X-Men: The Animated Series and Spider-Ma: The Animated Series cartoons did. Now I will have a blog about this show this weekend but because I am in my heart more of a comic book nerd than anything else I felt I needed to talk a bit about the source material before I could really explain why the cartoon was a pile of poop. Therefore I declare this week…

Avengers Week

Day One

Four of Earth's greatest heroes (And some loser) fighting Loki

Okay so where to begin? I’m sure you’ve heard of the Avengers. Published by Marvel Comics starting in 1963 it has endured to present day. Multiple spin-offs have been created over the years and even today Marvel plans on releasing at least three new Avengers titles later this year. It is a superhero team book where a band of, supposedly, “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” battle threats that no one of them could fight alone. It also has a rotating cast that so often filled with lame second stringers and supposed A-List guys who are actually still pretty lame. Let’s take a brief (God I hope it’s brief) look back at the origins of this book.

Like I mentioned it was stated in 1963. The book was created by 1960s power duo Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who also created the significantly more popular at the time Fantastic Four a few years earlier. In fact let’s look at that comic first. At the beginning of the so-called Siler Age of Comics a golf game between the editors of Marvel and rival DC Comics, as the legend goes, had a conversation about DC’s popular new book Justice League of America and how well it was doing against an Marvel book. Martin Goodman (Marvel’s editor), angry by the fact that DC was beating his company, went to his go-to guy Stan and demanded he make Marvel’s version of the JLA. Uninterested in doing anything like that Stan and Jack instead created a unique superhero team that was made of a family of sorts that bickered and yelled but always worked it out just in time to defeat the bad guys. That comic was of course the Avengers the Fantastic Four and it brought Marvel into the then-modern age. Very unique for its time it showed that Lee could think outside the box when it came to competing with DC (Jack “The King” Kirby always thought outside the box). He didn’t need to blatantly rip off DC to sell books.

So of course a few years later Lee got lazy and made a JLA clone anyway. Go figure. (Also he may have ripped off of DC on other books but that’s another topic, I’m sure).

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

And Two Other Guys

Like JLA the Avengers was supposed to feature the most powerful and popular characters in the Marvel Universe and put them all together in one book. JLA had guys like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, etc.; their entire roster of top guns in their book. So obviously you’d think that Lee would use Marvel’s top guys as well. The Incredible Hulk was one of the founding characters, which made more sense at the time because a) he was hugely popular in the 60s and b) he wasn’t nearly as destructive and child-like back then as he has been portrayed for most of his existence. Next the Mighty Thor, arguably the most powerful superhero Marvel had to offer and the only character at Marvel, at the time, comparable to the somewhat over-powerful DC heroes. Next was Iron Man, which makes some senses, I guess. At the time Iron Man was still pretty new and I’m not certain the creators had quite found his voice yet, but they needed bodies so why not? And of course Marvel’s most popular hero Spider-Man was included-

What’s that? Marvel’s most popular hero wasn’t in fact included on the team? How can that be?

It’s true! Despite basically printing money for Marvel at the time they decided not to include the Amazing Spider-Man in the Avengers book. When asked about this many times over the years Stan Lee’s usual response is “Spider-Man was an obvious loner and therefore wouldn’t fit in.” Wait, back-up: Friendly bookworm turned guilt ridden superhero Peter Parker was too much of a loner, but somehow the steroid raging Hulk was more of a team player? The same guy who literally spends the majority of the early issues being mistaken for a rampaging monster that his teammates repeatedly have to put down? But Spider-Man is too much of a “loose-cannon”? Sure Stan, sure. Spidey wouldn’t officially join the cast of the book as a full member until forty years later.

One of these guys is too unpredictable /uncontrollable to be an Avenger

The other one is the Hulk

Anyway, so we got Thor (Awesome), Iron Man (Okay, I guess) and the Hulk (Sure, why not?) but who else should we have on the team. Why Ant-Man of course! Ant-Man whose powers include shrinking and the ability to command…ants! Ant-Man who is like Aquaman without the super strength, combat training or being neigh-unstoppable while under water! Ant-Man who is supposed to be a brilliant scientist…except that Iron Man is, um, more brilliant. Huh. Why are you here again, Ant-Man?

And last but not least the Wasp! Wait the Wasp? The Wasp can shrink size too except she can also fly and shoot energy blasts? What the hell did Ant-Man bring to the table besides a goofy helmet and goofier name when his girlfriend can do similar and cooler crap than he could? How in the world did Ant Man warrant being among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes over Spider-Man? Sure the Webhead might be an obvious loner, too dangerous to be trusted (Or so Stan Lee seemed to think) but at least he can actually do something…anything.

Ant-Man/Hank Pym: The "Ross Geller" of the Avengers

To be fair there are probably a number of reasons that Stan felt Spider-Man couldn’t be on the team; I just wish I had a better explanation for it. So if anyone has one please send it my way.

Anyway the final team roster in issue #1 featured Thor, Hulk, Iron and the Incredible Shrinking Twins. Justice League they were not folks, yet they apparently were Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (I’m surprised Earth made it out of the Siler Age). By issue #2 though the roster was shaken up due to the Hulk leaving the team because he remembered that he was actually an “obvious loner” and Ant Man, realizing that he was the worst superhero of all time, decided to grow instead of shrink and became the less useless Giant-Man (More on him later). Since then it’s become something of an unfunny running gag a staple of the Avengers to have a somewhat rotating cast meaning that just about any superheroes ever has been a member of the team…including dangerous criminals, terrorists and KGB agents who promised they were reformed/were sleeping with someone already on the team.

Within the next two days I’ll tell some of my “favorite” Avengers.

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