The Direction of Nova in Marvel Comics
The following is an independently submitted opinion-editorial that reflects only the opinions of the author. It is not necessarily reflective of the official opinions of CosmicBookNews.
When CosmicBookNews premiered, it was initially a website primarily focusing on the renaissance and resurgence of Marvel Cosmic during and after the revolutionary, critically acclaimed, fan-favorite Annihilation event. The Annihilation event marked a major turning point in the career of super-hero, Nova, who finally graduated from a B-List attempt to re-create the magic of Spiderman to an A-List, powerful, super-soldier and leader of men who literally saved the known universe from universal threats. Writer of the Annihilation event, Keith Giffen, did his research on the Rider Nova character, examined the character’s roots, discerned the appeal of the character to the character’s long-term fans, and packaged it into a classic super-heroic military science-fiction masterpiece. Nova fans worldwide rejoiced at the evolution of the character as we realized that the potential of the character – a potential that we had always known existed – had finally been recognized and realized. Even better, we learned that Rider Nova would begin a new series subsequent to the Annihilation event helmed by acclaimed veteran science-fiction authors, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.
I joined CosmicBookNews as a writer and columnist in the early days and was a regular independent contributor of comic book reviews, opinion-editorials, and regular columns such as Cosmic Quick Takes (brief reviews of SF & Fantasy comic books, novels, movies, TV shows, etc.) and Cosmic Cuties (in-depth reviews of the careers of cosmic femme fatales). In fact, Marvel frequently used quotes from my reviews of Abnett & Lanning’s Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy comic books in their solicits and on the covers of the titles to help sell the books. Those were the heady days of what I call the “Cosmic Renaissance” when the Quesada regime essentially ignored Cosmic and let the writers create a fresh, unique vision of cosmic free of the constraints typically placed on the more popular and better-selling street-level Earthbound characters like Spiderman, Avengers, etc. Cosmic was looked at as a niche that Marvel was happy to sell as long as sales numbers stayed above cancellation threshold (and they did stay above cancellation threshold). I expounded on why such a “hands-off,” non-mainstreaming process is necessary to produce a quality Cosmic product in my most recent Opinion-Editorial, The Degradation of Marvel Cosmic under Bendis, Loeb, Brevoort, and Alonso.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2008)
The quality of Abnett and Lanning’s work caught the attention of Hollywood, and, to the surprise of past and current Marvel Editorial leadership, a Guardians of the Galaxy movie based on Abnett and Lanning’s work went into production. The need to alter the original product to appeal to the lowest common denominator of movie-ticket-buyer is well-understood, though disappointing. Unfortunately, the box-office success of the movie attracted the attention of Marvel Editorial staff in a way Cosmic never had before (i.e., potential $$$), there was a rush to grab the potential cash, and it was mistakenly concluded that the best way to accrue mountains of cash was to mainstream the product to appeal to the lowest common denominator of comic book buyer.
No surprise, Cosmic descended into what I call the “Cosmic Dark Ages.” Abnett and Lanning were fired from Cosmic. Bendis took over Guardians of the Galaxy and ran it into the ground by mainstreaming it into a farcical super-hero comic filled to the brim with Earth heroes from all the major X, Spiderverse, and Avengers titles – with events occasionally set in near-Earth orbit being about as “cosmic” as it got.
Nova #11 (2007)
Worst of all, Loeb, in the most cynical (attempted but satisfyingly unsuccessful) cash-grab of all, threw out decades of Nova legacy and continuity – and in a thoroughly disrespectful slap in the face to all established Rider Nova fans, completely reversed the evolution of the Nova concepts (in another vain attempt to recreate the magic of Spiderman) by attempting to force-feed us teen, PC version of “Nova,” Sam Alexander, with Rich Rider not being involved in any way. NINO is yet another addition to the silly, tired old trope of children being portrayed as smarter as and braver than adults, anything that takes place in space being portrayed as farcical, and having the main character bumble through learning his powers. Ignored are the moral implications of giving an irresponsible, non-trained child powers of mass destruction and placing said child in the role of soldier – therefore risking his life before he reaches the generally agreed upon age of majority empowering him to make reasoned decisions about such things. All the adults in the MU are apparently idiots who appear to have no moral problems with these two issues. In any case, any new character will garner some fans – and this Alexander character, who I derogatorily dubbed “Nova in Name Only” or “NINO” in one of my columns at the start of Loeb’s NINO nonsense, has a very few (14K buyers at last count – well below Marvel’s cancellation threshold). The NINO acronym caught on, and I’m proud to say that it is recognized worldwide as a derogatory term for Loeb’s Sam Alexander usurper – to the great consternation of the little bastard’s 14K fans as well as Brevoort, Alonso, and Loeb.
NINO has further driven Cosmic into the ground with a series of bad writers, beginning with Loeb, himself. Turns out bad concept combined with bad writers and disrespect for the established fan base is a formula for failure, and in that regard, NINO has performed spectacularly with 14K buyers at last count and two team books where he was a headliner also spectacularly failing. My bet is that his upcoming Champions team book will also spectacularly fail.
Of course, when CBN reviews and op-eds called Marvel out for the decline in Cosmic quality, Marvel resorted to punishment – withholding previews and interviews from CBN in an attempt to make us stop. Want to know why other websites praise even the most cringe-worthy of Marvel’s efforts? That’s why – to avoid such punishment. CBN bravely took the punishment, told it like CBN saw it, and continues to maintain its independence to the present. The funny thing is, that despite all the feedback from fans that they want NINO out and Rider back in the role in his former capacity, all this history of NINO failure, and Rider’s comparative relative success in terms of sales over his now 40-year history (a 2016 Anniversary that Marvel has completely ignored as another slap in the face to Rider Nova fans); Marvel is hell-bent on NINO being the character they really want to sell. Which brings us to the current state of affairs.
NINO #10 sales reported at 14,766
In NINO, Volume II, #11, a poorly-written, lackluster addition to the NINO mythos even by NINO standards, we see the seeming return of Rich Rider. I bought two or more issues of each of Rider’s volume’s to support the books. I have completely boycotted purchasing of any book that featured NINO in any way – and encouraged all Rider Nova fans to do the same. Marvel and Loeb deserve the punishment of bad sales for their ill treatment of the Rider Nova character and fans, and that’s exactly what they’ve gotten with bad sales of every NINO book. Rider’s sales were mostly 30K or above throughout much of the run of his book and NINO’s sales are now half that. That means that most of the Rider Nova fans boycotted NINO and rightly so. I lifted my boycott and purchased a single issue of NINO #11 in order to write this op-ed.
NINO #11 is a culmination of yet another of NINO’s uninspired, farcical, “adventures” aimed at the average 8-year-old audience (or adults with the mentality of the average 8-year-old). The set of writers for NINO have taken cosmic characters that were originally created as serious, effective characters and turned them into uninspired buffoons barely able to put one foot in front of the other without stumbling. Starstalker, Cosmo, the Spaceknights, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and nearly every other cosmic character has been on the receiving end of this degradation aimed at the lowest common denominator of comic book buyer. Last issue, it was Starstalker once again – who is found living in a dumpster as a vagrant. Strange that a synthetic being would need to live in a dumpster, but bad writing, a non-care attitude about continuity, and a why-bother attitude about doing any research about a character and putting any real thought into story construction will get you exactly where a good character with lots of potential, like Starstalker, has ended up.
It seems NINO is on a quest to find the source of his powers and has vowed to give them up if he is unsuccessful in finding said source. I have to admit, I was rooting for him not to find the source as I’d love to see the last of NINO. With Starstalker’s bumbling help, NINO bumbles into the Worldmind’s tesseract (aka pocket dimension), and to almost no one’s surprise, finds that Rich Rider has been incorporated into the Worldmind as are all Xandarians and Nova Corpsmen when they die (a story element well known to any long-term Rider Nova fan – but probably unknown to the not too bright and ignorant of continuity 14K of NINO-loving fans). Completely uncharacteristic for a man who took membership in the Corps so seriously that he hesitated to induct new members without vetting them and thoroughly training them himself, in a fit of bad writing, Rich actually encourages NINO to continue when NINO was ready to quit. Well – I have to say, that’s the only time Rich has let me down. The well-written, cosmic war veteran version of Rich would’ve wisely let the little NINO bastard quit – or better yet, pimp-slapped him and kicked him out on the spot, “No room for whiners and quitters in this man’s army, ya little shit. Now get the fark out!” That’s a scenario I would pay good money to see.
The writer displays a shocking lack of familiarity with established Nova continuity, having the Worldmind incorrectly state that Nova powers have always come from the helmets. Prior to Loeb’s butcher-job on the Nova concepts, it was well understood that Nova powers did not come from the uniform/helmet, but were contained within the body of Nova Corpsmen. The artist also displays a shocking lack of familiarity with the Nova Uniform ranking system, portraying the Worldmind Avatar incorrectly sporting the helmet star of a Centurion when it should be sporting the helmet star of the Nova Prime. Also, like the writer, no real research is attempted by this artist as he simply lifts images from Wikipedia to portray the history of Xandar.
The encounter between NINO and Rich ends with more bad writing. Rich, again uncharacteristically – given that Rich’s own brother was the victim of kidnapping and mutilation when Rich’s secret identity was discovered by a terrorist organization – advises NINO to reveal his true identity to others. Then NINO goes home and reveals. Yeah – it’s always a good idea to let lots of others know who you really are under that identity-concealing uniform. It makes it easier for the powerful enemies you make in the vigilante business to track you and your family down to exact revenge. Honestly, do these so-called writers put any thought into what they slap down on the page?
The issue ends with a page of wholly undeserved self-congratulatory, self-aggrandizing messages from the writer/artist/editor – the likes of which haven’t been seen since (thankfully long-gone and un-missed) insufferably arrogant editor, Stephen Wacker (who was nastier to and more derisive of comic book fans than even Brevoort at his worst), edited the ludicrous mess of a comic book I call NINO. The editor promises that the last page gives a clue as to the direction of the next NINO re-launch and promises more of the same NINO beginning in December. Hoo-boy! I can’t wait. No, that’s a lie. I could wait forever for another NINO re-launch and hope against hope it never happened.
The Epilogue referred to by the editor portrays Rich Rider (or perhaps a hologram of Rich) dropping in to visit his mother in New York. What does it mean? Is Rich really back in the flesh or is it merely a “hard-light” projection? Is Rich the new Worldmind Avatar – the dominant personality ruling the Worldmind Gestalt? Let’s speculate based on all the heavy telegraphing and the history of Marvel’s treatment of Rider Nova fans, shall we?
The editor of this issue strongly hints that the re-launch in December will indeed be a re-launch of NINO. That, plus the history of Brevoort’s derisive attitude toward both Rider Nova fans as well as a large, well-functioning Nova Corps, and his stubborn, wrong-headed insistence that there should only be one “Lone Ranger” Nova in the MU plus his again wrong-headed insistence that there is no “Marvel Cosmic” – only the “Marvel Universe,” makes it highly probable that what we’ve got coming is another Earthbound, buffoonish “adventures of NINO” book aimed at the juvenile crowd and those with juvenile mentality. Given that the writer for the re-launch book is best known as a comedy writer, the book will probably be more farcical than ever. My guess is that Rich is the Worldmind Avatar who will occasionally make ghostly appearances to give sage advice to NINO who will then completely ignore said advice, screw-up as a result, then have his screw-ups improbably make the whole situation turn out right. The whole she-bang will probably also be filled with fart-joke level humor. In other words, it’s just another Brevoort and Alonso “bait and switch gimmick.” They’ve realized that they can’t sell a Nova book without the support of the Rider Nova fans, and while they’d prefer to sell a book just about NINO, they’ll throw us the bone of an occasional “ghost Rider” (pun intended) appearance just to finally legitimize and sell NINO. They’re counting on us being so desperate for Rider’s return that we’ll accept and buy ANYTHING that has him in it, no matter the quality. One of my friends likens this scenario to Batman suddenly becoming Robin’s sidekick. This is my nightmare scenario. Sad thing is, given the “zombie buyer” gene afflicting many comic book buyers, such a gimmick might actually work.
I hope I’m wrong. I sincerely do. And if I am, I’ll save all the trolls on Facebook and in the Forums, (who are no doubt chomping at the bit to sling insults at me about every point I make herein) the trouble and be the first one to come back here and admit that I was wrong.
To said trolls, no doubt sitting in their parent’s basements with raging hard-ons to tear into me about every point I make, I say, “You’ve got an entire dateless night to sit in your parent’s basement trying in vain to find a way to insult my masculinity because you disagree with me and love NINO. Indulge me for a paragraph or two longer, though, and let me describe what I’d rather see – what a good editorial team who had actually been listening to the majority of the true Rider Nova fans would do.” And when I say the true Rider Nova fans, I’m not talking about the NINO-loving trolls or the trolls who have no investment in the Nova character or mythos but who will crawl out from under their respective rocks to fill the Facebook and Forum commentary section with invective-filled insults in reaction to this article. I’m talking about the true fans who have been around since 1976, since the Annihilation event, and before Loeb’s cynical NINO butcher-job who rejoiced at the evolution of the Rider Nova character in the Annihilation event.
A good editorial team who had actually been listening to what the fans want would harken back to what Giffen discovered and tapped into when he researched the Rider Nova character for the Annihilation event. Giffen discovered that the Nova Corps were originally conceived by Marv Wolfman as Xandar’s Special Forces branch of their military, The Xandarian Star Corps. Only later was the Nova Corps ret-conned into the silly “Star-Cops” idea – but he had to contend with that ret-con. So, he wiped out the “Star-Cops” and brought Nova back to its military roots with a gritty, military-science-fiction story named Annihilation. It was a major hit because fans liked Rich’s portrayal as a combination Nick Fury and Captain America-ish character much better than his former portrayal as a Spiderman-ish character. They also liked his upgrade in power making him on par with some of the major cosmic players. And one of the great things about cosmic stories is – no matter how powerful you are, unlike on Earth where there’s an established, rigid, power hierarchy with Hulk and Thor on top; out in space, you’ll always find somebody as or more powerful than you to contend with. As to the humor element, I’m personally frustrated by this idea that anything “Cosmic” has to be funny to the point of farce. Giffen, and later DnA, incorporated plenty of humor into their stories without descending to the level of farce. It’s like the difference between the humor in the Connery Bond movies versus the Moore Bond movies. Giffen/DnA used Connery Bond contextual type humor whereas Bendis/Loeb descended to Moore Bond farcical humor. DnA kept the military-SF angle alive in their “Dirty Dozen” inspired take on Guardians of the Galaxy – again maintaining Connery Bond type contextual humor. In contrast, Bendis reduced GotG to little more than one of the Three Stooges movies set in space.
I know I’m dreaming, but wouldn’t it be great if Brevoort, Bendis, Loeb, and Alonso would just step aside, quit trying to mainstream Cosmic, adopt a hands-off policy for the Cosmic side of Marvel they’ve so brutally and artlessly butchered, and hire respected, established, science-fiction writers who know and love and respect the great classic Nova concepts to write some great new military-SF-oriented Rider Nova stories (and GotG stories)? Hell, if they’ve got to have NINO around due to some non-publicly disclosed contractual agreement with Loeb, have him have few (or better yet, no) appearances in the new Nova book and relegate him to Earth screwing up with the other teen losers on the Champions team. I can at least ignore that. And when Champions inevitably fails, maybe they can do what they should do and turn NINO into a different non-Nova-verse character – kind of like they did with Phyla-Vel – as another Quasar-fan friend of mine suggested. Let Rich soar as the Nova Prime – rebuilding Xandar’s glory with a new military-oriented Nova Corps. Get Rider Nova back to his real roots – what Wolfman always intended for the character to be. And I know this because Wolfman communicated it to me in an email I sent him specifically asking him what his original intentions for Rider Nova were. Giffen/DnA tapped into those original intentions and the sales record was vastly superior to that of any pathetic NINO volume.
If this new series is something close to what I’ve just described as my hope for what a new Rider Nova series should be, I’ll support it wholeheartedly as I have in the past. If it’s closer to the Brevoort/Alonso “bait and switch” scenario I described earlier, I will resume my boycott and actively exhort all other true Rider Nova fans to boycott as well – hopefully bringing the nightmare to an end by issue 10 or less – just like the NINO Volume II nightmare has just ignominiously ended after a short run at a sales low – due in large part to the ongoing refusal of the Rider Nova fans to forget Rich and embrace NINO – and our resolute boycotting of NINO products.
Now, cry havoc! And let loose the Facebook and Forum NINO-loving trolls and non-Nova-invested trolls to howl for my blood and hurl vain insults at my masculinity! I won’t be reading your comments, but just so I get the first and last word with said trolls, you trolls can all go fark yourselves! After all, that’s what you do best! Ha!