Last of the O HOT MUmas
Some of you may be familiar with Calamity Jon Morris‘ nifty OHOTMU Reduxe project, where he’s solicited a raft of talented inksmiths to offer up their interpretations of that unforgettable nerdcyclopedia of the 1980s, the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. If you aren’t, then get familiar with it — and click on all the links below!
It’s a great look back at the original art, and a showcase for a ton of excellent new artists. But it only focuses on the visuals, and thus loses out on all the demented text that warped a generation of comic book geeks with its sheer silliness and made us into the useless spandex junkies we are today. A few years back, I wrote an entry-by-entry analysis of that very text, so I decided, why not
glom on to Jon’s success enhance Jon’s hard work by adding a few excerpts from my humble scratches in the margins of the Nerd Bible? Why not indeed.
ABSORBING MAN. The Absorbing Man was once an agent of “They Who Wield Power, a cabal of power-seekers from El Dorado”. Shouldn’t that be ‘They Who Want to Wield Power’? Or ‘They Who Seek Power but Don’t Have Any Yet, the Bunch of Schmucks’? Let’s not put the cart before the horse, there, El Doradudes.
EL AGUILA. El Aguila’s occupation is listed as “wealthy swashbuckler”, which is good work if you can get it. Also, he has the mutant power to generate an electric jolt while in contact with conductive metal. There must have been a lot of freedom-fried niños on the merry-go-round when that particular power manifested itself.
ALPHA PRIMITIVES. This was the Inhumans’ slave race, and when they are finally granted their freedom, “having no culture and no knowledge of recreation, many of them have gone about their tasks as usual”. Of course. How convenient for the Inhumans. Also, it is claimed that they are all of a generic neuter sex, when they are quite clearly all dudes. I think they were some kind of dastardly Marvel metaphor for black people.
AMERICAN EAGLE. Jason Strongbow, an American Indian superhero, uses that traditional Navajo weapon, the crossbow.
ANGAR THE SCREAMER. This is one of those supervillains that probably seemed a lot more menacing back in the Manson Family days. He’s basically a hairy smelly hippie from San Francisco who makes you have a crazy psychedelic freakout by singing scary rock music. This must have all been quite terrifying in 1967.
ARABIAN KNIGHT. I’m sorry. I just can’t talk about this yet. It’s…it’s too soon. What was a goddamn Bedouin doing in a cave in Egypt, for Christ’s…I’m sorry. I can’t go on.
ARKON. Arkon was some extra-dimensional fuck-knuckles who carried around a sack full of lightning bolts, some of which could open up a portal to other worlds and others that could “shatter a medium-sized mountain”, and yet he still cooked up some hare-brained scheme to trick the Scarlet Witch into casting a spell that would open up the gate to Earth so he could steal nuclear power. Okay then.
ARNIM ZOLA. Arnim Zola had a huge TV image of his own face embedded in his torso, and a video camera for a head. He was a gratuitous Nazi, and was known as The Bio-Fanatic. Goddamn you, comics.
ASP. From the Asp’s biography: ”Deploring violence, she has never learned traditional methods of hand-to-hand combat”. This is a peculiar choice for a women who chose a career as a professional assassin.
BARON MORDO. “Physical teleportation across time rather than space is the most power-draining type of journey of all.” Thanks for clearing that up, Marvel.
BARON ZEMO. If you live in a comic book and you’re a baron, you’re evil. That’s all there is to it. It’s the most sinister of all aristocratic titles. Something about possession of a barony poisons a man’s soul. If you’re a king, a prince, a lord, a duke, an earl, or even a goddamn count, you might be good, or you might be bad. But if you’re born a baron, you might as well start practicing your evil laugh in kindergarten, because your course is set, my friend.
BEAST. In most of the OHOTMU entries, the incidental art was of the character using his or her powers in some flashy way — blasting a bad guy, tearing an iron door off its hinge, something like that. Beast, in keeping with his I-get-no-respect condition, is shown playing ping-pong, alone, with his feet. I guess that’s the price you pay for always hopping around saying “Oh my stars and garters!”.
BELASCO. One thing I remember about Belasco, other than that he was boring and stupid and had a name that sounded like a breakfast drink, is that his henchman was this giant demon named S’ym who looked like a huge killer aardvark. The writers must have thought this was terribly clever. I wonder if S’ym is still around, and if he’s turned into a batshit-crazy fagbashing woman-hater?
BLACK BOLT. I love that Black Bolt’s real name is “Blackagar Boltagon”. If only this naming convention was commonly followed throughout the Marvel Universe. We could follow the exploits of Spidergath Managron, Humanor Torchanel and Incrediblag Hulkagus.
BLACK PANTHER. In the original OHOTMU, Black Cat, a shitty Catwoman knockoff, gets two pages. Black Knight, who not only sucks but is a total fringe character in the Marvel Universe, gets three. And what does T’Challa, a major character, who had his own title, who is a fucking Avenger, and who is one of the first and best black characters in comics history, get? One lousy page. Pathetic.
BLOB. Blob’s powers stem from being a big fat guy. You have to like that. Plus, his name is Fred J. Dukes, and he can shoot bullets at you by sucking them into his flab and flexing them back out. The original text says “the Blob does not truly possess superhuman strength”, right over a bit of Byrne incidental art of him knocking Colossus on his ass by tearing a concrete floor to bits with his bare hands. Nice continuity, fellas.
COLOSSUS. He’s Russian…and he’s named Rasputin! Oh, comics. Even when he wasn’t made of “organic steel”, Colossus was 6’6″ and weighed 250 pounds, which raises some disturbing questions about his relationship with the teeny-tiny Kitty Pryde. No wonder she dropped his ass for Doug Ramsey; she probably felt like a smart-foam pillow with Colossus. The text claims that “his endurance and speed are somewhat greater in armored form”. How you turn your skin into solid steel and this makes you faster I’m not sure, but I bet Kitty was grateful for it.
DIAMONDBACK. Diamondback was yet another member of the innumerable Serpent Society. She didn’t even have snake powers; she threw razor-sharp fake diamonds, which seems a lot less cost-effective than rocks. She was completely ridiculous, from her magenta hair to her crush on Captain America, but she gave Mike Zeck an excuse to draw enormous tits.
DOC SAMSON. Now, if you had a big flowing shock of Fabioesque, albeit green, hair, and a really tight red t-shirt with a wide neckline and a yellow lightning bolt on the chest, no matter how comfortable you were with your sexuality, people might think you were a little whoopsie. So naturally, he changed it to a sleeveless red pleather vest, leather pants, fingerless gloves. And no one ever called him by those names ever again.
DOCTOR OCTOPUS. Despite the fact that he was really sort of a loser as villains go, Marvel fans always had a soft spot for ol’ Doc Ock, and I am no exception. He managed to become a classic Spider-Man foe despite being, essentially, a fat nerd with a bowl haircut, a pair of Coke-bottle glasses, and an overactive waldo. We are informed in the text that the robo-arms of ol’ Doc Ock where lined with “lamb’s wool padding”, and you know that ain’t bad.
DOCTOR STRANGE. In the origin section, it mentions that after his auto accident, Stephen Strange “swiftly degenerated from recluse to drifter to drunken derelict”, which, in addition to accurately describing my own personal career arc, raises some interesting questions: when, exactly, can you tell that you’ve stopped being a drifter and become a drunken derelict? Is it the increase in booze? Or do you just get tired of drifting around, look at whatever street corner you’ve settled down on, and go, well, this is it: I’m a derelict now. Yeah, I used to be a drifter, but I got tired of all the travel.
DRAGON MAN: “Dragon Man has the intellectual capacity of a domestic dog”. Sure, but what kind of domestic dog?