Tuesday, August 20, 2019

CAPTAIN AMALGAM! Part 16 of the Blog History of ALL the Captain Marvels!

Before we get too far away from the 20th century, there is one short-lived Captain Marvel and several related characters we should mention for the intriguing possibilities of these characters as well as the groundbreaking means by which they were created.

By 1995, the comic book boom had pretty much busted. The excitement engendered by the birth of Image and Valiant Comics, the Death of Superman, and the reveal of the new Batman after Bane broke Bruce Wayne's back had run its course. Sales were dropping, comic book shops were closing, and independent companies were dying off.

Marvel Comics itself, having been acquired by Ronald O. Perelman in 1989, went public that same year, spent hundreds of millions of dollars under Perelmen buying up or into companies that produced toys, stickers, trading cards, and other comic books, and a distribution company, and by 1995 found themselves under mountains of debt.

Since the success of Marvel's Contest of Champions, and Secret Wars, and DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths, company-wide crossover events had become the go-to attempted circulation boosters for both Marvel and DC. Furthermore, comics fandom was always a-chatter with theories and speculation on what would happen if superheroes from the two big rival companies were ever to meet.

With this no doubt in mind, DC and Marvel got together and launched DC Versus Marvel, a crossover between both companies! In this 1996 4-issue miniseries, (with one "#0" free preview giveaway issue), fights were staged between comparable characters of the two companies.. This included Superman vs. The Hulk, Batman vs. Captain America, Aquaman vs. the Sub-Mariner, Wonder Woman vs. Storm, and Captain Marvel vs. Thor. (Marvel Comics' Captain Marvel, still technically Monica Rambeau, only appeared n one panel, and Genis-Vell, the all-but-official inheritor of the title whose comic had recently been cancelled did not appear at all).

There was an extra gimmick to this series, though, that did engender greater reader interest, and that was that for the matches between the bigger names of each company, the winners would be decided by reader vote! For better or worse, however, Captain Marvel vs. Thor was not one of those matches.

I suppose this was as logical a matchup as one could imagine. Both of them being of godly power and with a lightning and thunder theme. And though they threw in a one-panel gag that acknowledged how one character was a rip-off of the other, DC's Snapper Carr and Marvel's Rick Jones razzed each other.

The fight was won by Thor in a conclusion some Captain Marvel fans felt unsatisfying. But that was not the last appearance of a Captain Marvel in the DC-Marvel co-production.

The story that contained these battles was extended to bring the two universes, Marvel's and DC's, together in an amalgam not just of the worlds, but of the characters and the companies. Superman and Captain America became "Super Soldier." Batman and Wolverine became "Dark Claw." Wonder Woman and Storm became "Amazon," and Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel became..."Captain Marvel."

The conceit of the concept was that it was a line of comics called "Amalgam Comics," and that these "amalgamated" heroes had been around all along, in place of the ones with which we were familiar. There were backstories and publishing histories of each character with made-up titles of comics combining titles of existing comics. Captain Marvel fit into this paradigm easily.

Though only seen briefly in two published comic books and a few trading cards, he had a secret identity and backstory. His alter ego was young Billy Mar-Vell, who upon saying the alien word "Kree!" would "super-scientifically" transform into Captain Marvel, with a white suit, green gloves, boots, briefs, and yoke, and green lightning bolt logo on chest. He had powers of super-strength, super-speed, invulnerability, and flight.

As he was only one of a bunch of heroes in "Judgement League: Avengers," he didn't get much to say or do, but he did express disdain and distrust of aliens and "metamutants." This disappointed me, as all other Captain Marvels had actively fought against prejudice in some form or another.

The fictional history of this character included him first appearing in "Whiz Marvels #1,"  being a founding member of the "Judgement League: Avengers" and  present in the "Secret Crisis of the Infinity Hour" (a crossover epic that was never really published, but key story points were related in a series of trading cards) when "American Girl"  (a pastiche of Ms. Marvel and Supergirl named "Carol Barnes," a combination of Carol Danvers and Bucky Barnes) sacrificed herself to save the universe. 

For her part, "American Girl" was a successor to "Super Soldier," the living legend of WWII, and his fellow hero, "American Belle" (herself a pastiche of Marvel's Miss America and DC's Liberty Belle).

And speaking of Carol Danvers, a character by that name was the alter-ego of Amalgam's "Huntress," a former US secret agent super-spy with a crossbow (an amalgam of DC's Huntress and Marvel's Hawkeye, along with elements of Carol Danvers' Marvel Comics history) who filled a sort of "Batwoman" role to Dark Claw.

Rick Jones was not left out of this. He appeared in an amalgam with his DC counterpart/inspiration, "Snapper" Carr, as Snapper Jones, a.k.a. "Bismouth," a member of "Magneto's Magnetic Men" who appeared in an eponymous comic. He was super villain, an  amalgam of Tin, a member of DC's Metal Men, and Toad, a member of Marvel's Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

Apparently, he was created by Magneto, killed, revived, gained sentience, told to live a human life, and became a street musician.
(Incidentally a Steve "Snapper" Jones was a star basketball player in the American Basketball Association who became a popular broadcast announcer)


Another miniseries involving the Amalgams came out in 1997, titled Unlimited Access. In it, the character of "Access," a normal Earth Human who wound up with the power to amalgamate characters from the DC and Marvel universes, created more of these amalgams, only some of them with less apparent relevance between the component characters.

The Captain Marvel-related character here was "Captain America, Jr," (appearing in Unlimited Access #4) whose alter ego, Freddy Rogers, could transform into his hero by shouting "Uncle Sam!" His powers appeared to be based on characteristics of United States presidents, including the strategy of Eisenhower and the trickery of Nixon. He only appeared in this one issue.


Next for the DC Marvels: Society, Leagues, and crises, crises, crises!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

GENIS, PHYLA, AND MONICA: Marvels in the New Century (Part 15 of the blog history of ALL Captain Marvels)

As the first decade of the New Century ground forward, Marvel Comics found itself with several Captain Marvels and a seeming lack of ability to make any of them "stick."

The most game, and outrageous, attempt, was Peter David's version of Genis-Vell. To catch us up on his status at the time, here is the "splash page" from an issue of that era...

Genis-Vell, as written by Peter David, had gone mad from his constant "cosmic awareness." He also had omnipotent power. This made him a self-described "mad god." He killed himself to end it all, but it didn't stick. He wound up convincing Entropy, (one of the Cosmic Entities of the Universe), to kill his brother Eternity, thus ending the universe. The only survivors were Entropy, Epiphany, Genis-Vell, and Rick Jones. The resultant nothingness was boring, so Rick and Genis convinced Entropy to remake the universe exactly as he knew it, and Entropy became the new Eternity.


This was actually the origin of Marvel's next Captain Marvel. Try to stay with me on this...

In this new universe, things were ever so slightly different. Genis-Vell was not quite as insane as he was in the original universe. However, the Genis that had existed in the past of this new universe that was just created (complete with a past and everything, so the experience for Genis and Rick Jones was rather like picking up a familiar book and opening it in the middle) was replaced by the Genis that had existed in the original universe (the titular character in this eponymous comic book).

Also in this new universe, Genis-Vell's mother Elysius, who had died in the original universe, was alive here, was aware of the Universal Recreation, and did not like the new Genis-Vell. So she cloned Mar-Vell again, this time into a female named Phyla-Vell, artificially aged her  (as she had Genis-Vell), gave her nega-bands, and made sure she had her father's cosmic awareness. She was to replace Genis-Vell as "The New Captain Marvel."

The obligatory conflict ensued, and when the dust settled, Genis-Vell claimed that he was no longer insane and would work to improve himself and make the universe a better place. Was this the truth, or was he now just going to hold his insanity closer to the vest? Only time would tell.

Or would it? Genis and Rick went on to have a few more adventures, one that proved to make him the most tragic superhero ever. It was a time-travel story that led to him deciding to kill his baby son in his crib to  prevent him from growing up to be a super-powered evil galactic emperor. This story confirmed that he would marry and have at least one child with the reformed super-villain, Songbird.


The series was cancelled with the following issue, in a finale that revealed that Rick Jones actually knew that he was in a comic book. In that final issue, it was also revealed that Phyla was a lesbian and she hooked up with the psychic superhero Moondragon, daughter of Drax the Destroyer.
Expediency, one of the "Friendless," personifications of aspects of the universe, informs Genis-Vell of the end of his series.

Matthew Younker wrote a great little article about Genis-Vell's insanity for PopOptique.

Genis-Vell then joined the team of reformed super-villains known at the New Thunderbolts (in their self-titled series), of which Songbird was a member. He was killed by the team's giant, Atlas, in a manipulated rage over a her, then came back to life with a new power set and took on a new name, "Photon."

This last part pissed off Monica Rambeau (again), but in a discussion over beers, she decided to call herself "Pulsar."

Genis eventually proved to be an unstable element in the space-time continuum and was torn into pieces and sent to the far corners of space and time by Baron Zemo. He has not been seen since, despite not yet having married Songbird.


Phyla, meanwhile, spent a brief time as a Captain Marvel, but then gained the quantum bands of  Quasar, Defender (not "protector") of the Universe, and took on that mantle. She served with the Guardians of the Galaxy and went through more drama (at one point, Moondragon actually became a real, space-faring dragon, and the two became the hottest cross-species lesbian superhero couple in comics). She was involved in several company-wide crossover events with the Guardians. Eventually she changed her name to "Martyr," and ultimately got killed. Twice.
Phyla-Vell getting killed by Magus, the future, evil version of Adam Warlock.

Monica reappeared as the leader of a new, satirical superhero team, NextWave, Agents of H.A.T.E., in their eponymous, possibly-not-in-canon 12-issue limited series.

In 2009, she appeared in a mini-series titled Marvel Divas, a sort of Sex and the City take on the friendship between several female superheroes in New York City.

Then, in 2013-2014 she became the field leader of the Mighty Avengers, a new version of Marvel's premiere superhero team, this time led by Luke Cage, Power Man, and notable for having not one member who was not female or a person of color for a time.

More about Monica Rambeau, and how she teamed up with Carol Danvers, to come!

Part 14: Power of SHAZAM!
Part 13: The Legacy of Mar-Vell!
Part 12: The New Beginning for SHAZAM!
Part 11: SHAZAM's World's Finest Crisis!

Part 10: The Marvelous Miracleman!
Part 9: Miracleman! The Marvelous Revival of the British Captain Marvel Rip-Off!
Part 8: Marvelman!
Part 7: Death and Energy!
Part 6: Whatever Happened to Carol Danvers?

Part 5: The DC Revival!
Part 4: Marvel's first Marvel!
Part 3. I Gotta SPLIT! XAM!
Part 2.  The Silver Influence
Part 1. The First Marvel and the World's Mightiest Lawsuit