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Tuesday, January 14, 2020 

Does Marvel really want these stories to be forgotten? Don't count on it

CBR published another one of their mediocre lists of stories from past history, this one spotlighting embarrassing tales from over the years which they claim Marvel's staff would rather we forget. The list includes a Punisher miniseries called Purgatory:
Before Garth Ennis began his iconic run on The Punisher, Marvel had released this poor excuse of a mini-series. In it, Frank Castle is turned into an angel of death and goes around killing people.

The whole point of The Punisher is that he's a man on a quest to rid the world of the worst scum in New York City and avenge his wife and children. Making him some sort of gun-blazing Angel completely misses the point of the character.
Ironically, the whole premise of Frank Castle as a villain is something that'd probably be viewed as acceptable by the PC/SJW movement today. As would Ennis' own take on Frank, depicting him as a guy who'd be willing to threaten conservatives, and opposing the war against Islamic terrorism in the MAX spinoff. And they have the gall to say Ennis' run is "iconic"? For shame. Next comes J. Michael Straczynski's most loathsome Spider-Man entry of all, Sins Past:
Gwen Stacy's Death has been one of the most famous deaths in all of comics. While she hasn't been seen in the mainline universe that often, her Death is still haunting Peter to this day.

In a bizarre attempt to give Gwen some more agency, Sin Past reveals that she had an affair with Norman Osborn, AKA the Green Goblin. If that wasn't bad enough, she also gave birth to twins. The series received such a huge backlash that the kids have all but been removed from the Marvel Universe.
Why must they always say "reveals"? Why not "claims", "alleges", or "supposes"? After all, it's fiction, and the fortunate thing most overlook is that when an error is made in writing this kind of serial fiction, it is possible to change or jettison it altogether.

But does Marvel really want everyone to forget the above debacle? Somehow, I doubt it, even if it has been about 15 years since Straczynski and Joe Quesada foisted this sleazy trash onto Peter Parker's world, and let's remember: as of now, Quesada's still working at Marvel in a senior job, and if he has no remorse for all the embarrassment he caused, then you can't count on other long time staff who let this story go unchallenged to be much different, even if the twins were quietly phased out of the MCU.

As I may have noted at least a few times before, I have trouble believing Quesada rewrote this story to suit his own view, and Straczynski really didn't want to do it as per the finished product. But I do know this - those who acted as apologists for Straczynski back in the day shouldn't have, and Sins Past hopefully served as a wakeup call. The next is the third take on the Ultimates by Jeph Loeb:
After the success of Ultimates 1 and 2, Marvel decided to give the rains of the Ultimates to Jeph Loeb. While Jeph Loeb had a lot of success writing stories that starred some of DC's biggest heroes, like Superman: For All Seasons and Batman: Hush, his run on Marvel has been hit-or-miss.

One of the lowest points to his misses was Ultimates 3. In it, The Ultimates are attacked by android imposters, after a homing bullet kills Scarlett Witch. The series was not well received for its lackluster artwork and baffling plot twists, such as having Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in an incestuous relationship.
I wonder why the 3rd volume counts, but not the 1st and 2nd by Mark Millar? Because that contained an updated take on the Hank Pym-as-spousal-abuser storyline from 1981, and what's really irritating about Millar's take is the possibility that it made Janet Van Dyne out to look more like she was to blame for Hank turning psycho. How come that doesn't count? And wasn't Millar's run the place where Ultimate Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's incestuous relations were first conceived? I also question whether Loeb really had much success, if only because Hush was such an overrated story, the very kind of tale that relied far too much on quality of art than scripting (along with a busload of familiar characters), and the very kind that SJWs would use as absurd ammunition to attack how comics are developed, as though the art alone leads to bad storytelling, not the writers themselves. At best, much of Loeb's career was hit-or-miss at any publisher.

And speaking of the whole notorious Pym-Van Dyne story, the original script comes up next:
One of the most infamous comics of all time isn't something that Marvel is proud of. In Avengers #213, Earth's Mightiest Heroes began discussing whether to kick Yellowjacket (Hank Pym) off the team due to his short-temper and disobedience in past issues.

The issue sees Hank slapping his wife, Janet after she tries to calm him down. Since then, this moment has come to define Hank Pym, but it's not one of his proudest moments and has become one of the most controversial comics of all time. Definitely one Marvel would like you to forget.
"Calm him down"? That's a very awkward description of the situation. She found out he built a robot with a secret weak point as part of his plan to avoid suspension from the team, and was trying to get him to cut it out, but he swung and smacked her hard, afterwards telling her to just keep quiet so he can try his stunt and stomping out of their lab. I remember reading Jim Shooter, who developed some of this story himself, talking about it nearly a decade ago and it sounded like he was trying to place the blame more on Bob Hall as an artist than take any blame himself. As talented an editor as Shooter was, I don't think he did any favors by not taking at least some accountability for the overall management of the script and how it was illustrated. Mainly because he described it as a "right cross", when it was more the left.

Mark Waid wrote a story 2 years ago where he actually omitted this story from official canon (though let's not forget Quesada destroyed continuity long before), so maybe they did conclude in recent times it was best to jettison the controversial tale away. But that doesn't mean they literally want it forgotten, and crummy as it was to start with, it's not a good idea to deny specific moments in publishing history took place. The next example cited is Heroes Reborn:
During the '90s, Marvel decided to outsource it's most iconic characters to the likes of Jim Lee... And Rob Liefeld. In the series, the team was given full creative control, as the comics did not take place in the mainline series, but rather a pocket dimension.

While the comic sales started strong, the series was universally panned by fans. Everything that made the '90s a hellscape for comics was here in force. Designs were given insane proportions; characters were dark and brooding, and so on. The series only lasted a year, with sales beginning to decline and internal problems.
And they shouldn't have rehired Liefeld in the first place. I've assumed the reason he left for Image in 1992 was because Marvel actually did want to get rid of him, as under Tom DeFalco, they might've realized he wasn't very talented, though IIRC, as Sean Howe noted in his Marvel history book, while DC may have tried to give Liefeld some guidance for bettering his talents, any such attempts were dropped after he took up jobs at Marvel, even though he wasn't around for long, and I only know of 2-3 books where he has credits (New Mutants' last 14 issues, the first 10 of X-Force, and at least a few short stories in Marvel Comics Presents). Next comes Spidey's Clone Saga from 1995:
The Clone Saga is often considered one of the worst events in Marvel and Spider-Man history. For two years, Marvel editorial let this series stay well past its expiration date while making fans pay for the comic book version of the spoiled meat. The series followed Peter Parker as he encounters a clone of himself named Ben Riely.

It's later revealed that Ben is the real Spider-Man, and Peter is just a clone, making those who followed years of continuity with Spider-Man feel like they were slapped in the face. It's become well documented of how bad The Clone Saga was. But, to sum it all up, It was a bad idea.
And making Ben out to be the "real" Spidey was the least of its problems. No, what was the major problem happened to be Peter Parker's violent assault on Ben Reilly, taking out his anger in the most offensive way possible, which led to his accidentally injuring Mary Jane Watson in turn after she tried to tug him away from his 1st misstep (because a scientist they'd visited didn't have the guts to do the same). And when Peter snaps out of it and realizes his stupidity led to MJ suffering bleeding, he just runs off, doing nothing in that instant to see to it she gets medical attention and apologizing on the spot. Some would describe a scene like that as Peter becoming "cucked". And again, CBR's writer just has to make use of "reveal", when it makes no sense in a fictional perspective. Now, here's what they tell about Ultimatum, the "event" ending the Ultimate line in the past decade:
If you want to end the Ultimate imprint, then all you need to do was just cancel the series. You don't need to kill 85% of everyone in that universe before letting it hang around for a few years and combining it with the mainline series.

Ultimatum was nothing more than page after page of fan-favorite Marvel heroes getting killed. From having their skeletons removed to having their heads bitten off, only those who hate the Marvel Universe with a burning passion would get any enjoyment out of this book. It's such a shame that this beloved universe got mistreated near its end.
Oh, please. Don't call it "beloved" when Mark Millar made it so sleazy (if memory serves, didn't he write a scene in Ultimate X-Men where Magneto pulls gold fillings out of a president's mouth?). Though they got a point about how to end a specific title or line of books - just call it a day, without going miles out of your way to show almost everyone getting slaughtered, because that's only turning it all into cheap sensationalism. And they do have an interesting point that would apply just as easily to those who hate the DC universe: only those who hate the DCU with a burning passion would enjoy reading books like Identity Crisis, and seeing villains like Deathstroke assault one Justice League member after another in the most contrived, violent ways possible (Zatanna getting bashed in the tummy and vomiting, Hawkman getting downed by having his wings cut, even though his 9th Metal anti-gravity belt is what keeps him afloat, Flash getting stabbed and Black Canary getting a leather bag wrapped over her head, and worse, handcuffed) that weren't even consistent with prior character establishments. They next cite Punisher #59 from the early 90s:
Another regrettable moment occurred in The Punisher. Back in the early '90s, The Punisher gets into an accident and undergoes surgery to hide his identity.

However, for some reason, the surgeon decides to make him black, and he even gets pulled over by racist cops. It's not even that the comic is being racially insensitive that makes it awful; it's just so ridiculous, and it's played 100% straight.
I don't think I read this story in its entirety, but if the racist cops were the bad guys in this story, how is it being racially insensitive? I assume it was a metaphor for the Rodney King incident at the time. That said, I won't get into this topic too deep. I'll just go see what they say next about Spidey's One More Day:
Hey kids, do you want to bring the dead back to life? Just make a deal with the devil, and your loved one will come back like nothing ever happened to them. All it will cost you is your marriage. It's as simple as that! Honestly, what's left to say about "One More Day."

It's one of the most widely despised comics of all time and a complete evisceration of everything that Peter Parker stands for. Even if Peter and Mary Jane were to get re-married, it would only be a matter of time before history repeats itself.
Hmm, they may have a point there, so no argument on that. Last comes Carol Danvers' sci-fi pregnancy-teleport to the real world for Immortus in the 200th Avengers issue:
Avengers #200 has become infamous in the world of comics as the worst thing to feature Earth's Mightiest Heroes. In it, we find Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) becoming pregnant in a matter of hours and gave birth... to the man that impregnated her. A character named Marcus used his reality-warping powers to kidnap Ms. Marvel, mind control her into loving him and then infused himself into her womb as a way to come to earth. He then wiped her memory clean of the event, and she "willingly" went with him to another dimension to lead a happy life. A fact that was not truly acknowledged.

Do we need to say anything else about this? Even the creators admitted that they hated what they had done. This is easily the worst thing to happen in the Avengers that Marvel would like you to forget all about.
Well that's why Chris Claremont modified the story a few months later in the 1981 Avengers annual, where Carol informs the Avengers she'd been brainwashed by Immortus, and he actually admitted in the 200th issue he'd given Carol a "boost" from his machines, which went unchallenged by the team, who were dealing with the whole affair very lightly, so the discovery she'd been taken against her will left them all feeling extremely embarrassed, and Scarlet Witch wondered as they took off in the Quinjet later, what if Immortus had chosen her? The silver lining is that it wasn't depicted violently, but if it had been, that would've made the lenient direction taken much more offensive. If one is to deal with sexual assault in any medium, it has to be depicted with some sort of educational value, and make clear it's a repulsive act.

I also noticed in the comments the following, regarding the Pym-Van Dyne topic:
I don't think Marvel is ashamed of Avengers #213 at all.

It was truly one of the most shocking changes in personality of a character, who - up until that point - was as heroic as anyone else. And that change has affected Hank Pym ever since.
And the following reply:
I agree, Ric - and what's more I don't think that there's any reason for Marvel to be ashamed. This was all part of Hank's emotional breakdown showing that not everyone was cut out to be a hero. What you're basically saying in the article is that it's alright to show drug and alcohol abuse as plot lines but not this? I would agree if they turned round and glorified Hank's behaviour and made him a better man because of it... but they didn't. They showed just how low a man could sink and they also showed him trying to make amends for it. Domestic abuse is a sad fact of life -should we just ignore it and say that it has no place in comics? Where then do you draw the line?
Here's the rub: if they had to conceive such a story, why did an established hero wearing costumes have to be put into such a role, and not a civilian co-star or guest star? It's one thing if you're going to depict a crimefighter consuming filthy drugs, as Roy Harper did in the pages of Green Lantern/Arrow in 1971 (and shortly before, Harry Osborn in Spider-Man), but entirely another if you're going to depict them as rapists and child molestors. When a character simply devours drugs, they're just hurting themselves. When they violently assault innocent people physically, they are - what else? - hurting other people along with their reputation. Sure, fictional characters aren't the ones at fault for what writers cast upon them, but still, it can be embarrassing as time goes by, and if fans and creators are asked about all this by outsiders, it can be an embarrassment that could've been avoided if the editors had made more careful choices how to craft their tales. How does one explain all that to newcomers?

In the end, it remains a good query whether Marvel, under its current management, actually wants these stories forgotten. Some, maybe, but others, uncertain. If Quesada still hasn't apologized for Sins Past and One More Day, then you can't be sure he's repentant, even if he agreed to partially reversing the mandate cast upon Mary Jane. If they did want people to forget horrible stories, wouldn't they want to confirm Captain America's Hydra-nazi mostrosity was going to be phased out of canon too? If it's still there even remotely, they're not wishing anybody forgets. Which'll make this CBR item just another superficial cheapie that asks more questions than it answers.

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"Ironically, the whole premise of Frank Castle as a villain is something that'd probably be viewed as acceptable by the PC/SJW movement today"

He was a villain when he was first introduced in the 1970s, mostly because murder is a crime, even if you think the guy deserves it. Vigilantes who engage in pre-meditated murder are criminals. It was only later that he became a very morally-clouded hero type guy.

Staczynski says he wanted to make the kids Peter's, but editorial over-ruled him; why do you believe he is lying?

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