(Editor's Note: "The Cosmic Triune" is a series of opinionated articles focusing on Marvel Cosmic.)
The Cosmic Triune
The Decline of Marvel Cosmic under Alonso, Brevoort, Quesada, Whacker, Bendis, and Loeb
In preparation for this article I re-read the very first Marvel Cosmic comic I ever purchased – The Mighty Thor #227. It was published in 1974 with a cover price of 25 cents and I remember seeing it on the wire spinner rack in my home town’s mom and pop drug store. I was fascinated by the cover art of Thor, Hercules, and Firelord, and the blurb promising me an epic adventure with our heroes and Galactus fighting Ego The Living Planet. If you’ve never read it, it’s a top notch Cosmic story that holds up well to the present day. It’s the story that made me a Marvel Cosmic fan – and – I would point out that the story takes place in deep space, has absolutely nothing to do with Earth, respects the space-based characters, and talks up to the readers as if they’re adults. I also reviewed Nova Volume I, Nova Volume IV, DnA’s Guardians of the Galaxy series, Starlin’s Infinity Gauntlet, Giffen’s Annihilation mini-series, Englehart’s Star-Lord origin story, and DnA’s Thanos Imperative mini-series as I consider these to be some of the best representations of Marvel Cosmic done right.
In February of 2011 I wrote an Opinion-Editorial called "Marvel Editorial to Cosmic Fans: We’re Just Not That Into You" and in August of 2011 I wrote a follow-up Op-Ed called Re-lauching Marvel Cosmic. In "We’re Just Not That Into You" I described how latter day Marvel Editorial has disrespected and disappointed Cosmic Fans with their decisions about handling Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy; prompting a Twitter response from Marvel’s Tom Brevoort objecting to points I made in the article and prompting Mr. Bendis to block CBN from his Twitter feed. In "Re-launching Marvel Cosmic," which was published in response to Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy being put on “hiatus” with a promised quick return, I made suggestions about how Cosmic could be re-launched to better appeal to today’s Cosmic fans. In response, Mr. Brevoort tweeted that I should just start reading Green Lantern.
After reading Loeb’s two Point One “Nova” (in name only) stories, watching Loeb’s treatment of “Nova” (in name only) on his Ultimate Spiderman cartoon, reading Bendis’ treatment of Guardians of the Galaxy (in name only) over the last three issues of Avengers Assemble as well as Bendis’ re-telling of Englehart’s Star-Lord origin story in the latest Point One – and comparing these efforts to the best of true Marvel Cosmic as identified above, I have some reactions to share.
If you take a look at the August 2011 "Re-launching Marvel Cosmic" Op-Ed – which basically identifies the most appealing elements of true Marvel Cosmic – and you compare it to what Marvel Editorial, Bendis, and Loeb are currently doing, you’ll see that they’re basically doing the opposite of everything that in the past made Marvel Cosmic great.
First, let’s consider Loeb’s juvenile treatment of – and I can barely write it without feeling sick – Nova. In fact, to minimize the pain, I’ll hereinafter refer to Loeb’s treatment as “Nova In Name Only” or “NINO” for short. As all true Cosmic fans know, Wolfman’s 1976 conception of Nova was street-level Spiderman-ish at first and toward the end of the run, he was moving Rich Rider toward more maturity and toward being more of a space-based character true to his origin story. That’s not just my opinion or my analysis of The Man Called Nova series; Mr. Wolfman confirmed to me in a personal communication last year that he was going to move Nova to more mature space-based storylines had the series not been cancelled. Later, Nova became the stand-out character in the New Warriors series and had two follow-up series where his earlier street-level Spiderman-ish characterization was retained by the writers of those series. Then, Keith Giffen gave us Annihilation and everything changed for the better.
Giffen is quoted as saying that at first he didn’t understand Nova’s appeal. Then he read through all the previous material and he understood what all us Nova fans – including Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – had known all along. The appeal was never the teenage Spiderman-ish routine. The appeal was the potential – glimpsed in several Nova storylines and realized in a few – for a space-based para-military character that capitalized on the themes from popular science-fiction franchises of the past several decades such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and various video games. Giffen’s re-characterization of Nova gave us a mature, confident, space-based, powerful para-military leader that the Nova fans wholeheartedly embraced as the realization of the potential we always knew the character possessed. DnA retained this penultimate Nova characterization for most of their Nova Volume IV tenure which has been embraced by Nova fans as the best Nova series since Volume I. So, for any bloggers and any Editors who condescendingly dismiss the complaints of true Nova fans in response to Loeb’s NINO as typical fanboy outrage about re-booting or re-characterization; I say in response that Nova fans have a history of embracing re-booting/re-characterization when it’s for the better; and only complaining when it’s for the worse. NINO is for the worse.
Sad thing is – Loeb’s NINO is worse than re-booting or re-characterization. It’s basically a hi-jacking of the character. He takes some of the more interesting concepts from the true Nova’s history, modifies them in a manner disrespectful to the character’s continuity, waters them down to Earth-based street level, dumbs them down to juvenile level, and transplants them into an immature, obnoxious, un-likeable teenager named Sam Alexander. I’m feeling sick again. Gone is our powerful, mature, confident, para-military leader. He’s been shoe-horned out of the way by bad Editorial decision making and replaced with a teenage Peter Parker-ish, powered down, ineffective teen twit that even the USM cartoon’s Spiderman doesn’t like. Sam wouldn’t make a good sidekick much less a true leader.
Truth is, Loeb doesn’t understand Nova. He’s just trying once again to re-create Spiderman. It won’t work. In this latest foray with Diamondhead, for the first time in 36 years of Nova fandom I was rooting for Diamondhead to win. And it’s basically the same story as when NINO faced Terrax. He basically gets his ass kicked, accidentally “wins” the fight, then runs off to find The Avengers. Pathetic. Mr. Loeb – you don’t understand Nova and Nova fans. Your NINO is several orders of magnitude inferior to the original 1976 characterization. Your NINO is un-necessary as Giffen gave Nova fans the Nova we had always wanted. Your NINO is the “Nova” that no true Nova fan EVER wanted. Your NINO is extremely disrespectful to the 36 year history of the character and to all long term Nova fans. I used to buy two or more issues of every Nova comic to do my part in keeping sales high and the series going. I won’t buy a single issue of NINO, and I hope it dies a quick cruel death and is quickly forgotten. No Nova is better than NINO.
Now let’s consider Bendis’ take on Guardians of the Galaxy. Or shouldn’t it be re-named Guardians of the Earth since Bendis has now made them Earth-based? Or maybe he should just re-name his take Guardians of the Caribbean since he refers to Ship as a “pirate ship.” Disney would probably love the conflation of two of its properties and see it as a way to make sure the Guardians of the Galaxy movie is a success. I’m being sarcastic so don’t jump me about that last comment in the forums.
Don’t go pointing at the Point One Star-Lord origin story and telling me how good Bendis’ take is. I agree that that story was well done. But that’s a re-telling of a good Englehart story from the 70’s. Bendis’ original take is exemplified in the last three issues of Avengers Assemble where the Guardians of the Galaxy play second fiddle to The Avengers in taking down Thanos who puts in his most bumbling performance as a Cosmic Cube seeking villain since the dreadful and infamous story where he fought Spiderman and Hellcat for a Cosmic Cube while flying in the “Thanos Copter” and ended up being led away in handcuffs by the NYPD. So Tony Stark is smarter than Thanos and The Elders of the Universe? Really? So, Star-Lord, Drax, and Rocket Racoon deliver lines reminiscent of bad 1980’s cop movies/TV shows? Also, stilted dialog, poor characterization, and complete disrespect for the concepts introduced by DnA that made their take on GotG good enough to attract the attention of Hollywood. Did I miss anything? Oh yes – I did. What the hell is Tony Stark doing as part of the team? Stealing the show if I guess right. And again, to bloggers and Editors who would accuse me of DnA fanboy-ism; I invite you to read any of my reviews of their work on Nova and GotG. I think they did the best take on Nova and GotG ever, but I was by no means easy on them. I also did not follow their work on Heroes for Hire, Villains for Hire, or New Mutants, and I flat out didn’t like Annihilators.
Mr. Bendis – you don’t understand Guardians of the Galaxy or Science-Fiction. Your take on GotG would have been average for popular science-fiction in 1955, but it’s not even close to good popular SF now. And by the way sir, science-fiction fans prefer the shorthand “SF” and not the condescending term, “sci-fi.” Keep that in mind for your future interviews with your fanboys at Newsarama who should know better. The galaxy/universe are big places and Earth is an insignificant part of the galaxy/universe. Your reduction of concepts epic in scope dealing with the awe and wonder of the universe to parochial, Earthcentric, street-level tripe is disrespectful of the concepts that made DnA’s GotG take great. There was no need to do this. We already had a version of GotG very different from the original and embraced by the fans. We didn’t want your “Cosmic Avengers.” We wanted “The Cosmic Dirty Dozen.” I won’t be buying your take.
The upshot is that Marvel Cosmic is no longer truly cosmic. It has been reduced to hackneyed Earthcentric, small scope, street level, trite super-hero concepts with the characters just happening to have some connection to space. This is “pseudo-cosmic” at best. So, until Marvel re-embraces the concepts that once made Cosmic great, I suggest that we refer to Bendis’ and Loeb’s efforts as “Marvel Pseudo-Cosmic,” and I urge the 40,000 or so loyal and true Cosmic fans to join me in boycotting Marvel Pseudo-Cosmic. Pseudo-Cosmic is not better than no Cosmic at all. It taints true Cosmic. It corrupts good and true Cosmic concepts. It needs to go away quickly and be forgotten lest it become as much an object of derision as the “Thanos Copter.”