Thursday, September 22, 2016

Interlude - "Token Marvel Guy"

This would normally be the installment of Unearthly Visions where I do a brief creator spotlight of a writer and/or artist who's work was featured in the most recent episode. The majority of of the material I covered in Episode 7, however, was by Steve Englehart and Kurt Busiek, and I think I've already waxed their respective cars enough for the moment. I still need a bit of a mental sorbet before I jump back into the shenanigans of the Williams brothers, though, so I'm just going to use this as an opportunity to ramble on little before jumping fully back into the swing of things.

I am fickle. Maybe it's a Gemini thing. I don't know, but I can admit this about myself. I mentioned back in episode 3 that the Vision has been my favorite superhero since I was about four or five, and for the most part this is true. When I was a kid, though, I had a favorite superhero the way an unfaithful boyfriend has a steady girlfriend. I'd wander, and often, but I'd always come back to the Vision. All-Star Squadron, one of the few DC titles I picked up on something resembling a regular basis, was my biggest temptation. After a single issue, I spent a week one summer with Starman, the Golden Age Atom, Doctor Fate, the Tarantula (in his original yellow and purple costume), and the Golden Age Green Lantern taking turns as my favorite character for a day or two. (Notice a pattern with capes?) I'd always eventually get bored with the others ("they meant nothing to me, I swear") and return to the Vision.

The group of bloggers and podcasters I've chosen to follow and to network with are mostly focused on DC characters. In terms just of individual characters, blogs and podcasts I follow are dedicated to Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Firestorm, the Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Batgirl, and Swamp Thing, not to mention Twitter feeds and Facebook pages dedicated to Hawkman and Supergirl.

Why did I decide this very DC specific group of internet superhero fans, to network with them and latch on to them like the kid brother from the Christmas Story following Ralphie and his friends to school from twenty feet behind?  Surely there are some fan created Marvel presences on the internet?  Of course there are. As far as blogs and podcasts dedicated to individual characters (not to Marvel superheroes as a whole), there doesn't seem to be the same sense of community. The people I follow continuously reference each others expertise in their respective characters, interview one another for their blogs, guest star on each other's podcasts, and recommended one another to new readers and listeners. It's a very admirable thing.

Inundated by this fandom of DC, and feeling the lingering tendrils of childhood fickleness, I began to question my memory. Is there a deeply entrenched love of a particular character from DC comics, maybe a Super Powers figure, or a member of one of the many teams of the 80s, that I'd forgotten, that had perhaps been melted from my waking consciousness by the spikes, pouches, shoulder pads, and giant guns of the 90s?

Not really. That's not to say that I didn't collect and don't enjoy DC comics. I do and I have. I think Crisis on Infinite Earths is far superior to the original Secret Wars. I liked Legends. I collected both JLI and JLA (Morrison). I'm a huge fan of both of Geoff John's JSA series. I even collected a few series in the new 52. I love the teams and (most of) the big events, there's just never been one individual character that I've really ever thought of as mine.

(I will say that I've had an affection for Swamp Thing over the years. I'm not including him here because I don't necessarily think of him as a "superhero", and there is already a really good blog out there about the character that I follow).

At the time I started writing this little diatribe I was reading for the first time, through the miracle and wonder that is Marvel Unlimited, a classic Avengers story that reaffirmed not so much why (because the logic is actually pretty counter intuitive), but just how much I love the character of the Vision. The issue in question is Avengers (volume 1) #165, written by Jim Shooter, with art by John Byrne.

Those of you that have read some of my earlier instalments may be surprised at my appreciation of this creative team. I've mentioned briefly here, and also on a couple of social media outlets, that there is one particular Shooter story in Avengers, as well as some decisions he made regarding certain characters in Secret Wars, that tend to color my perception of the other work that's he's done that I do like. Taken in a forest-from-the-trees view this story, and honesty the majority of his work on Avengers is very good. Also, those of your that have read episodes 3 and 4 will remember that I have a particular dislike of Byrne's take on the Vision in West Coast Avengers. As I mentioned in an earlier interlude, though, I am still a huge fan of his art in the 70s and 80s, and this is issue is an excellent example of his work from that time.

Within the issue itself, the Avengers are fighting Count Nefaria, who has gained Superman-like abilities, in the streets of New York, and are fairing poorly. The Vision is not a part of the battle. In fact, he is only shown on one page, inside Avengers Mansion, recuperating from a recent battle with Ultron in a kind of coma inside a transparent coffin-like device, with Jarvis lamenting that the synthezoid is not able to help. Just seeing him in this very limited capacity, rendered so well by Byrne, gave me a "yay, there he is!' moment. Weird?  Maybe, but I guess that's how it is when you truly have an affection for a character.

With all of that out of the way, let's take a look at what's in store for Unearthly Visions in the immediate future. Episode 8 will be coming out very soon, continuing our exploration of the Williams brothers as they pertain to the Vision. Following that will be a creator spotlight interlude, featuring interview questions with current Valiant writer Fred Van Lente, who wrote the 2010 miniseries Chaos War: Dead Avengers, featuring both the Vision and the Grim Reaper. In the weeks beyond I'll begin a discussion of arguably the most formative branch of the Vision's family tree, the Maximoff's, including the ever complex Scarlet Witch.

Until then, stay heavy Visionaries!

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