I knew the weekly Random Comics Mashup this week would be a tough one when I saw three issues each of Marvel's Airplane-like book of silliness "What the --?!"; the Jackson Guice soft-core-porn-inspired "Doctor Strange"; and the "John Byrne is on acid" run of "She-Hulk". Add in the fact that one of the guest stars in one issue was Santa Claus, another was perennial "Bad Super Costume" favorite Razorback, and yet a third featured zombies fighting vampires, and I sat down at the scanner with a really bad feeling.
Hopefully this will all hang together, and by taking one (and only one!) panel from each of the ten randomly selected issues I can bring you an entertaining tale!
Five years ago, in a ramshackle section of Haiti, a dying voodoo shaman passes on his last command to his young apprentice.
A month later, outside a mansion in Manhattan's exclusive Bleecker Street ...
For Papa Jambo was found not in the jungles of that faraway nation, but the concrete urban jungle of New York City, and over the next five years he trained the young shaman rigorously until at last it is time to graduate ...
His advice is, to say the least, if not the last thing Jericho expects, still pretty far down the list.
Meanwhile, at a small mountain drilling site just outside the city ...
Unfortunately the successful completion of the drilling into the supposedly empty cavern has explosive, literally earth-shaking results.
Even as whatever it was makes its way from the formerly hidden mountain chamber, other enemies of Papa Jambo and Jericho have decided to take advantage of the quake's distraction to strike at last!
As the outer wall of the mansion is stripped away, Jericho gestures and nods as Papa Jambo had directed, and at last has the disguise long worn to protect her in a man's world stripped away, revealing not a poor frightened boy from Haiti, but the strong and lethal Hellcat!
Yet when she leaps forth, she sees the mysterious, hulking stranger from the mountain cavern has already destroyed the marauding tank, and has a shocking announcement:
To the accompaniment of a snide comment by Papa Jambo's assistant, of course.
How had the beast known Jericho was a woman, much less where to find her, and why does it seek the abomination of marriage between demon and shaman? Tune in next week to see the exciting conclusion!*
*Not actually continued next week. Or ever. Although Xemnu is kind of cute, for a "bear".
The images above are from the following comics, in order of appearance:
- "Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme", Vol. 1, No. 16, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. Roy & Dann Thomas, writers; Jackson Guice, artist; Tony DeZuniga, inking assist; Janice Chiang, letterer; Gregory Wright, colorist. The Jackson Guice "All My Women Lounge Languidly As If They Were Posing for Playboy" soft core porn-a-thon continues. What is it about vampire story lines that always involve gorgeous scantily clad women? And why couldn't Jackson Guice afford to buy a decent reference book for female poses that wasn't published by Hugh Hefner?
- "What the --?!", Vol. 1, No. 9, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group. Image from the "Hotel Galactus" story, Scott Lobdell, writer; Dave Hoover, art; Brad K. Joyce, letterer; Kelly P. Corvese, colorist. "Hotel Galactus" is definitely the best of the four shorts in this issue, with strong art and gags that are actually funny on occasion. Galactus has been forced to retire and buys a hotel, and is trying to make a good impression on the inspection agent. Hijinks ensue.
- "What the --?!", Vol. 1, No. 6, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group. "Origin of the Pulverizer" story, Doug Rice, co-writer; Hilary Barta, co-writer/artist; Willie Schubert, letterer; Linda Lessmann, colorist. I'm glad people at the time realized that The Punisher had gotten a little out of hand. OK, a lot out of hand. This parody is a fun re-telling of the character as a man bent on getting revenge on a mobster for kicking his puppy into space. Perhaps if they'd let Rice and Barta co-write the actual Punisher this way, and we'd all be less riddled with bullets right about now.
- "The Sensational She-Hulk", Vol. 2, No. 7, ©1989 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. John Byrne, writing and pencils; Bob Wiacek, inking; Glynis Oliver, colorist; Jim Novak, lettering. I am slowly figuring out that the John Byrne She-Hulk is exactly like "What the--?!", only less so. Less funny, less relevant, less intelligent, less interesting, and less clothing. Much less clothing. He's deconstructing the comic book (if you don't mind my getting all "English Lit major" on you), having the characters reference issue numbers, upcoming ads, other titles and artists, and talking directly to the reader. But it doesn't work. The point of deconstructing something, or of giving it the ol' post-modern treatment, is to say something relevant, new, or interesting about the original source material. But all this is, really, is John Byrne sticking his tongue out at people stupid enough to buy comic books, saying "I'm the God-Damn John Byrne, I can draw and write whatever I want and you'll like it, bitches!" Only I don't. Like it, I mean. It's all just so self-serving and indulgent, it's a real turn-off. Which is a darn shame, because John Byrne can flat-out draw. I wish he'd have just stuck to that instead of trying to be ironical.
- "Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme", Vol. 1, No. 19, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. Roy & Dann Thomas, writers; Gene Colan, guest artist; Heisler/Novak, letterers; George Roussos, colorist. No Jackson Guice on this one, and the languid, scantily-clad women are conspicuous in their absence. Which is downright refreshing, especially since this is that rarity in the modern comics world, a one-issue self-contained adventure. Heresy! No crossovers, no "Secret Infinity Crisis Gauntlet Wars" tie-ins, no guest appearances to promote another title, no multi-issue complicated story arc, just a nice, solid, well-told tale of killer crystal mists. "Aha!" I hear you say, "how can you have a crystalline mist, since crystals are by definition solids and mists are, like, gases, hunh Mr. Smartypants?" To which I can only say, "It's magic, home slice, eat it!"
- "Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme", Vol. 1, No. 32, ©1991 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. Roy & Dann Thomas, writers; Chris Marrinan, penciler; Mark McKenna, inker; Pat Brosseau, letterer; George Roussos, colorist. Jackson Guice again takes an issue off, this time so they can sponsor an "Infinity Gauntlet" tie-in. This issue features exciting scenes like "Dr. Doom drinks from a cup!" and "Cosmic entities lounge around talking about nothing much!" and "Dr. Strange has an argument with his wife!" Apparently understanding how lame this whole idea was (which is how you could tell it was an "Infinity Gauntlet" tie-in), they threw in a story of some one-eyed muscle-bound old man priest with the ridiculous name "Silver Dagger" who stole an eyeball from a trans-dimensional worm-god who tries to whip Dr. Strange's butt, only to have the butt-whipping turned back on him by the Misty Bands of Mordammammumamma or somesuch silliness. I don't know if it's the Sorcerer Supreme himself, but somebody sure as hell was doing drugs on that book. And it sure wasn't me, which is a pity because that's about the only way I can see that this whole thing would make any damn sense at all.
- "Web of Spider-Man", Vol. 1, No. 71, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. Danny Fingeroth, writer; Dave Ross, penciler; Keith williams & Andy Mushynsky, inkers; Rick Parker, letterer; Bob Sharen, colorist. This story of Peter Parker trying to help a retired super-hero track down his mortal ex-Nazi enemy and former girlfriend is pretty good, but betrayed by the art. It does, however, feature such well-known onomontoPOWias as "Byow", "Klangg", "Blangg", "Bwop", "Brakkatta", "Thwipp", and "B'zzaanng". I don't know what it is about that particular gun that makes an apostrophe necessary, but I have an aversion to arguing the finer points of grammar with loaded weapons. That's just how I roll.
- "What the --?!", Vol. 1, No. 7, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group. "Patsy Walker" story, Richard Howell, script, art, letters and colors. Hats off to Mr. Howell, as he takes us on a visual tour-de-force, juxtaposing the teen-adventure stylings of Al Hartley and the more modern super-hero style, flipping Hellcat back and forth between the two genres. It's not entirely original, of course, but it's very well done and quite entertaining. I kept waiting for Jughead or Archie to make an appearance, only to get eaten a few panels later. Plus, any comic that successfully incorporates "Bad Super Costume" honoree "Mad-Dog" deserves a ton of credit. Well done, sir!
- "The Sensational She-Hulk", Vol. 2, No. 36, ©1992 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. John Byrne, writing and pencils; Keith Williams, inking; Marie Javins & Glynis Oliver, colorists; Jim Novak, lettering. She-Hulk soothes John Byrne's ego, ruffled by the fact that the guy who took over writing chores from him on Fantastic Four dropped She-Hulk's love interest, by hooking up with him. I know this because She-Hulk says so, much to the confusion of both her new old boyfriend and me, the irritated reader. She also goes home and delivers a Christmas miracle to her father. Somehow I suspect this will not be turned into a very special Christmas special.
- "The Sensational She-Hulk", Vol. 2, No. 8, ©1989 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. John Byrne, writing and pencils; Bob Wiacek, inking; Glynis Oliver, colorists; Jim Novak, lettering. Remember that "Christmas Miracle" I referred to in that last entry? The one from "She-Hulk" number 36, in 1992? Three years later than this here issue? Well this is where the miracle in question is first given to the main character. See kids, this is the kind of powerful storytelling keeping the same writer on a book can bring ya! Suddenly the Creator Shuffle doesn't look like such bad corporate strategy.