Professor Marc’s Homework Assignment: Part Three

October 6th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

Weird Wonder Tales #3

Year: 1973
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Synopsis: Weird Wonder Tales is a collection of older Twilight Zone-type stories reprinted together. There are four of them here and none of them have much to do with that cover. No mud monsters attacking people in cemeteries here.

The closest is the first story, which begins with our female protagonist being assaulted by a fish man crawling out of a muddy canal. Things calm down immediately, as the fish man means no harm. He’s part of an underwater race of fish people and got lost. Now he’s on the surface and people run and scream from him. The woman allows him to stay at her place for the night so he can continue the search the next day. The fish man remains at the woman’s place longer than expected, but keeps giving her gifts like pearls and other jewelry. She comes to realize that this creature is in love with her. On her way to find the creature and confront it, she finds the police are in her shed, brutalizing the poor guy. Turns out that the fish man had been robbing jewelry stores for these gifts.

And then…

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My Point’s The Fount of Orphan’s Tears…

April 8th, 2007 Posted by david brothers

I went through a phase in middle school or so where I burned through the local library’s fiction section. My comics reading was down to whatever I could borrow or trade from a friend, so there was always a limit on the new comics I had. Wikipedia (going by publication dates) puts this at around 1994-1995 at the earliest, but it was more likely 1996. You can carry more books if you go for them in mass-market paperback.

I think my library had a five book limit. My mom got me a library card and we’d go up every weekend or so and I’d get five books for myself and then try to use her limit up, too. I’d read the books over the course of that week and then want to go back to the library the next weekend. It got to the point where I was finally left to bicycle to the library, probably a good three miles or so, with a backpack on my back.

I read most of Stephen King’s books, skipping only the Dark Tower stuff really. I eased through Tom Clancy, Orson Scott Card, Douglas Adams, and Piers Anthony. Clancy peaked partway through the Jack Ryan series, Ender’s Game has two divergent sequel paths and the path with the talking portuguese tree pigs or whatever is awful, Douglas Adams is okay, and Piers Anthony is good at terrible puns. I also made it through most of those Star Wars and Forgotten Realms novels, not to mention the different Sherlock Holmes books and horror titles. Oh, and David Eddings. My taste, as ever, leans more toward the pulps than the canon.

(Just as a note, I can barely stand fantasy, high or non, nowadays. I hate elves and fairies and dwarves and stupid talking magic things and dragons and pointy ears and argh. I still haven’t watched Return of the King.)

I found one series at the library, though, that I’d been wanting to read for ages. One of my uncle’s had a box of old novels that met an unfortunate end one wet summer. There was a novel or two in there by a guy named Fred Saberhagen. One of them dealt with super-science death machines called Berserkers. They were out to eradicate all life. The other novel dealt with gods going to war and the people who followed them. Saberhagen was working the sci-fi in one hand and the fantasy in another, and I was hooked completely. Moreso on the fantasy than the scifi, but the scifi was also dope.

Little did I know that the book about the gods was part of a trilogy, which was in turn part of a larger series of books, twelve in all, or maybe seventeen, but only twelve of them interested me. This was The Book of Swords. Luckily, the Hampton, VA public library had the whole shebang.

I probably tore through the series in a month, probably less. The whole thing was just wall to wall awesome. It told the tale of twelve magic swords and the effect they have on certain people as they move in and out of their lives. Sure, it had the usual lost destiny, magic, blah, blah, blah of fantasy novels, but these magic swords were the bomb. The swords were explained and named in “The Song of Swords,” reprinted here for your pleasure:

Who holds Coinspinner knows good odds
Whichever move he make
But the Sword of Chance, to please the gods
Slips from him like a snake.

The Sword of Justice balances the pans
Of right and wrong, and foul and fair.
Eye for an eye, Doomgiver scans
The fate of all folk everywhere.

Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, how d’you slay?
Reaching for the heart in behind the scales.
Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, where do you stay?
In the belly of the giant that my blade impales.

Farslayer howls across the world
For thy heart, for thy heart, who hast wronged me!
Vengeance is his who casts the blade
Yet he will in the end no triumph see.

Whose flesh the Sword of Mercy hurts has drawn no breath;
Whose soul it heals has wandered in the night,
Has paid the summing of all debts in death
Has turned to see returning light.

The Mindsword spun in the dawn’s gray light
And men and demons knelt down before.
The Mindsword flashed in the midday bright
Gods joined the dance, and the march to war.
It spun in the twilight dim as well
And gods and men marched off to hell.

I shatter Swords and splinter spears;
None stands to Shieldbreaker.
My point’s the fount of orphans’ tears
My edge the widowmaker.

The Sword of Stealth is given to
One lonely and despised.
Sightblinder’s gifts: his eyes are keen
His nature is disguised.

The Tyrant’s Blade no blood hath spilled
But doth the spirit carve
Soulcutter hath no body killed
But many left to starve.

The Sword of Siege struck a hammer’s blow
With a crash, and a smash, and a tumbled wall.
Stonecutter laid a castle low
With a groan, and a roar, and a tower’s fall.

Long roads the Sword of Fury makes
Hard walls it builds around the soft
The fighter who Townsaver takes
Can bid farewell to home and croft.

Who holds Wayfinder finds good roads
Its master’s step is brisk.
The Sword of Wisdom lightens loads
But adds unto their risk.

I can’t help but think of Dragonslicer’s verse as being an off-kilter version of “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” The Song was what really sold me on the series, I think. It’s one of those that gives you just enough information and clues as to what could happen, but leaves it open for wonderings. Sightblinder alone I could see getting some dude into some Tactical Espionage Action, and Stonecutter in the hands of a Joan of Arc-alike would be awesome!

By the way, the Sword of Mercy, Woundhealer? You heal people by stabbing them with the sword.

This series also featured what was probably the first real swerve I ever really read in a book. Click below to see what I mean, but ending spoilers await.
The books take place roughly 50,000 years after the current day. A nuclear holocaust nearly annihilated the planet, but reality was rewritten by two supercomputers. These computers created the gods and demons that haunt the populace. The demons, in fact, are anthropomorphized radioactive clouds that sicken and poison anyone who gets near them.

Cold war paranoia with a fantasy twist!

Anyway, all of this added up to what is probably my favorite fantasy series. I’d love to go back and buy the novels, though much of the series is out of print, but what I’d really like is for it to get the Stephen King/Dark Tower treatment– a comic adaptation. The story had a lot of tricks and scenes in it that would work wonderfully in a comic. Just use the Book of Swords trilogy as a backdrop and get right into the Book of Lost Swords stories. There’s plenty of fodder for new stories there, too.

When’s the last time we got a good sword & sorcery book that wasn’t Conan-related, anyway?

I think that this could be an awesome thing and I’d love to see it happen. Not very likely at all, to be quite honest, but hey– them’s the breaks.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: The Finale

March 28th, 2007 Posted by Gavok

I feel kind of silly making this article since it was supposed to be done months ago. There are several things that kept me from finishing it, but I’m going to take the easy way out. All the time I usually use to write these What If articles was really used to pretend I was writing for Lost. I love writing Sam the Butcher’s dialogue the most.

Starting it off, here’s a series of sig images I made for the Batman’s Shameful Secret sub-forum at Something Awful. I guess they worked.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 14

September 26th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

The new Marvel solicitations have been released, detailing the new What Ifs. One is based on Deadly Genesis, which doesn’t interest me since I haven’t read that yet. The other, which looks to be awesome, is Age of Apocalypse. This time, Legion did kill Magneto… but he also killed Xavier. Judging from the cover, this could be very interesting.


Issue: Volume 1, #20
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artist: Alan Kupperberg
Spider-Man death: No
Background: I myself haven’t read the Kree-Skrull War arc, but I get the gist of it from Wikipedia and the Watcher’s introduction. It doesn’t sound very good, all in all. The important parts to note are that the Super-Skrull had captured Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver with Captain America, Goliath (Pym), Iron Man, Thor and Vision off to save them. Rick Jones somehow got captured by some Kree guys as the Kree’s fleet prepared to invade Earth. In the end, Rick met with the Supreme Intelligence, who betrayed the Kree. He stimulated Rick’s mind so that he mentally projected memories of his childhood heroes (ie. the Invaders and the like) to beat up the Kree fleet. Sounds retarded, but it was the 70’s. This version of the story is far better. There’s a part of the original story where Rick Jones was brought before Ronan the Accuser. Rick stole a guard’s staff and attacked Ronan, only to do no damage. Ronan noted Rick’s courage and figured he’d make a good slave. In the Tom DeFalco version, Ronan is more pissed than amused and kills the boy with his cosmic hammer dealy. He calls for the fleet to make way to Earth and decimate it.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 11

September 15th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

Here it is, the halfway point. If my taste is to be trusted, this should be getting better, so read on.


Issue: Volume 2, #96
Writer: Chris Wozniak
Artist: Chris Wozniak
Spider-Man death: No
Background: We all know that Magneto is the father of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but even before that he had another daughter named Anya. Since the village Magnus and his family stayed in resented them and believed witchery was afoot, they set fire to their house and ended up killing Anya. Magneto tore his neighbors apart and left. His pregnant wife couldn’t take being with him and ran off. This issue talks about what would have happened if Magneto could’ve saved his daughter. The clincher? Anya was human!

Magneto’s stance against humanity stays more or less the same, but he has this need to shelter his family from bloodshed, even if he’s the one doing the slaughtering. Magneto’s wife soon gives birth to twins and Magneto is happier. Not only are they mutants, but he has a son to pass on his legacy. The years pass and we see that Anya gets the short end of the stick. She’s normal. She isn’t special.

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The Top 100 What If Countdown: Part 2

August 7th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

When it comes to doing countdowns of the best What If issue, I’m not the first. A couple years ago, Wizard magazine had their own top ten list. Here is their version:

10) What If Captain America Were Revived Today? (volume 1)
9) What If the Beast Continued to Mutate?
8) What If the X-Men Lost Inferno?
7) What If the Fantastic Four Had Not Gained Their Superpowers?
6) What If Pheonix Had Not Died? (volume 1)
5) Humor issue (volume 1)
4) What If Daredevil Killed the Kingpin?
3) What If the Hulk Went Berserk?
2) What If Conan the Barbarian Were Stranded in the 20th Century?
1) What If the Alien Costume Had Possessed Spider-Man?

Does this list coincide with my list? Not very much. Only two of those issues make it into my top ten. Three of them aren’t even on my list in the first place (I already talked about why #7 sucked). One of them is in this article.

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The What If Countdown: Some Issues That Won’t Make the Cut

August 1st, 2006 Posted by Gavok

I finally finished it. 176 issues of What If and I’ve finished reading them. My list of the 100 best is put together and the series of articles will commence.

But first… let’s just take another look at some of the issues that won’t be on the list. Some of the really bad ones.

Before I start, I’ve been asked about the clichés included with the series. In the last article, I mentioned the bit about Reed Richards being a borderline psychopath, but what else is there?

1) Spider-Man dies. A lot. Of course, this is to be expected. After all, he shows up in many, many issues. It’s the law of averages in effect here.

2) Kingpin dies. A super lot. What I said about Spider-Man doesn’t apply for Wilson Fisk. If he’s in the comic, there’s a 95% chance that he’s going to die. Then again, it’s a wonder why he’s still alive in regular continuity.

3) Loki is a puss. I can’t recall a single issue where Loki comes out a winner. Then again, there is a chance that he survived Marvel Zombies, so he has that going for him.

4) Hulk depressed! If the Incredible Hulk is the main character of a What If issue, the chances are very good that this isn’t going to end well. There are a couple exceptions.

Now to the crap. Read the rest of this entry �

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The Top 100 What If Countdown… Prelude

July 15th, 2006 Posted by Gavok

Back when I first started reading comics, in the 90’s (thunder noises), I was a bit too young to have any real income and was mainly relegated to read comics that had Spider-Man and/or Venom on the cover. One of said covers was for a What If about the New Fantastic Four, made up of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk and Ghost Rider. I had never heard of this team, but the concept was too rad not to look at, so I got the issue.

That, from what I recall, was the only one I ever did get back then. I remember passing on one about Cannonball’s brother Josh because, hell, I didn’t even know who Cannonball was. Didn’t he show up once during the really shitty final season of the X-Men cartoon?

Like many comic readers, spider-clones and evil, magnetic Xaviers pushed me away from the hobby for years. I can’t really remember when I got back into it again, but I know it wasn’t long into it that I remembered the What If series. With nearly 200 issues out there, I only looked at those based on characters I knew about. X-Men and Spider-Man mostly. Then, over time, as I started to understand more about guys like Iron Man and Dr. Doom, I’d read their stories. Then Dr. Strange and Captain America. Then Fantastic Four and Namor. And so on and so forth.

Until Wikipedia came around, these comics were some of the best ways to get background on characters and storylines. I didn’t know a thing about how Strange became a sorcerer until reading these. I didn’t know the story behind how the Silver Surfer became Galactus’ flunky, only to be given independence. In fact, most of Captain America’s backstory I’ve learned from his What If issues. So thanks for the help, Uatu the Watcher.

After realizing how many of these I’ve read, I knew I had to finish the series off. And so, at the time of this article, I have about 30 issues left to go through. Once I’m done with those, it will be time for me to reflect on it with my list of the best 100 issues. Read the rest of this entry �

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